It has been my wish hitherto in my narrative to suppress myself as it were, and only to let the events speak and the mighty forces be seen which, arising out of and strengthened by each other's action in the course of centuries, now stood up against one another, and became involved in a stormy contest, which discharged itself in bloody and terrible outbursts, and at the same time was fraught with the decision of questions most important for the European world.
The British islands, which in ancient times had been the extreme border-land, or even beyond the extreme border-land of civilisation, had now become one of its most important centres, and, owing to the union just effected, had taken a grand position among the powers of the world. But it is nevertheless clear at first sight that the constituent elements of the population were far from being completely fused. In many places in the two great islands the old Celtic stock still existed with its original character unaltered. The Germanic race, which certainly had an indubitable preponderance and was sovereign over the other, was split into two different kingdoms, which, despite the union of the two crowns, still remained distinct. The hostility of the two races was increased by a difference of religion, which was closely connected with this hostility though it was not merged in it. As a general rule the men of Celtic extraction remained true to the Roman Catholic faith, while the Germanic race was penetrated by Protestant convictions. Yet there were Protestants among the former, and we know how numerous and how powerful the Catholics were among the latter. Besides this, moreover, opposite tendencies with regard to ecclesiastical forms struck root in the two kingdoms. It was now the principal aim of the family by whose hereditary claim the two kingdoms and the islands had been united, not only to avert the strife of hostile elements, but also to reconcile them with one another, and to unite them in a single commonwealth under its authority, which all acknowledged and which it was desired to extend by such an union. This was a scheme which opened a great prospect, but at the same time involved no inconsiderable danger. Each of the two kingdoms watched jealously over its separate independence. They would not allow the dynasty to bring about a common government, which would thus have set itself up above them, and would have established a new kind of sovereignty over them. While the crown sought to enforce prerogatives which were contested, it had to encounter in both kingdoms the claims advanced by the holders of power in the nation, whom in turn it endeavoured to repress. The quarrel was complicated by a conception of the relations of the crown to foreign powers answering to its new position, and running counter to the national view. At the same time very perceptible analogies to this state of things were offered by the religious wars, which began to convulse the continent more violently than ever, and aroused corresponding feelings in the British isles. The dynasty which tried to appease the prevailing opposition of principles might find that, on the contrary, it rather fomented the strife, and was itself drawn into it. This in fact took place. Springs of action of the most opposite nature and antagonisms growing out of nationality, religion, and politics, which could not be understood apart from one another, co-operated in giving rise to events which do not form a single continuous course of action, but rather present a varied and changing result, due to elements which were grand and full of life, but still waited for their final settlement. It is clear how much this depended on the character and discernment of the king.
At one period of his youth James I had been accustomed to vary his application to his lessons with bodily exercises. At that age he had divided his days between learned studies and the chase of the smaller game in Stirling Park, accompanied in both pursuits by friends and comrades of the same age; and he retained during all his life the habits he had then formed1. He spent only a couple of months in the year in London, or at Greenwich: he preferred Theobald's, and still more distant country seats like Koyston and Newmarket, where he could give himself up to hunting. Even before sunrise he was in motion, surrounded by a small number of companions practised in the chase and selected for that object, amongst whom he was himself one of the most skilful. He thought that he might vie with Henry IV even in field sports; but he was not hindered by his fondness for these amusements from continuing his studies with unwearied application. He was impelled to these not, strictly speaking, by thirst for general knowledge, although he was not deficient in this, but principally by interest in the theological controversies which engaged the attention of the world. He more than once went through the voluminous works of Bellarmin?; and, in order to verify the citations, he had the old editions of the Fathers and of the Decrees of the Councils sent him from Cambridge. In this task a learned bishop stood at his side to assist him. He endeavoured with many a work of his own to thrust himself forward in the conflict of opinions. He had the vanity of wishing to be regarded as the most learned man in the two kingdoms, but he could only succeed in passing for a storehouse of all sorts of knowledge; for a man who overestimates himself is commonly punished by disregard even of his real merits. These may not meet with recognition until later times. The writings of James I wore the pedantic dress of the age; but in the midst of scholastic argumentation we yet stumble upon apt thoughts and allusions. The images which he frequently employs have not that delicacy of literary feeling which avoids what is ungraceful, but they are original and sometimes striking in their simplicity. Naturally thorough and acute, he labours not without success to prove to his adversaries the untenableness of the grounds on which they proceeded, or the logical fallacy of their conclusions. Here and there we catch the elevated tone of a consciousness that rests upon firm conviction. Even in conversation he sought to turn away from particulars as soon as they came under discussion, and to pass to general considerations, a province in which he felt most at home. In his incidental utterances which have been taken down, he displays sound sense and knowledge of mankind. It is especially worth noticing how he considers virtue and religion to be immediately connected with knowledge—the confusions in the world appear to him for the most part to arise from mediocrity of knowledge2—and how highly moreover he estimates a sense for truth. He finds the most material difference between virtue and vice in the greater inward truthfulness of the former. King James delivers many other well-weighed principles of calm wisdom: it is only extraordinary how little his own practice corresponded with them3. When in one of his earlier writings we mark the seriousness with which he speaks of the duty incumbent on a king of testing men of talent, of measuring their capacity, and of appointing his servants not according to inclination but according to merit, we should expect to find him in this respect a careful and conscientious ruler. Instead of this we find that he always has favourites, whose merits no one can discover; to whom he stands in the extraordinarily compound relation of father, teacher, and friend, and to whom he allows a share in the power which he possesses. He could never free himself from a ruinous prodigality towards those about him, in spite of resolutions of amendment. How soon were the costly objects flung away which Elizabeth had collected and left behind at her death4! How many possessions or sources of revenue accruing to the crown did he allow to pass into private hands! Any regulation of his household expenditure was as little to be expected from him in England as in Scotland. Like the princes of the thirteenth century he considered that the royal power assigned him privileges and advantages in which he had a full right to allow his favourites and servants to share. Not seldom the most scandalous abuses were connected with these: for instance, when the court was to be provided with the common necessaries of life during its journeys, it was required that they should be delivered to it at low prices: the servants exacted more supplies than were wanted, and then sold the surplus for their own profit. In grotesque contrast with the disgraceful cupidity of his attendants is the exaggerated conception which James had formed for himself of the ideal importance of the royal authority, which at that time some persons attempted with metaphysical acuteness to lay down almost in the same terms as the attributes of the Deity. He had similar notions about his dignity and the unconditional obligation of his subjects. Even in his Parliamentary speeches he did not refrain from expressing them. He made no secret of them in his life in the country, where he met with unbounded veneration from every one. It was remarked as a point of contrast between him and Elizabeth, that while she had always spoken of the love of her subjects, James on the contrary was always talking of the obedience which they owed him on the ground of divine and human right. And people recognised many other points of contrast between them besides this5. When the Queen had formed a resolution, she had never shrunk from the trouble of directing her attention to its execution even in the minutest details. King James did not possess this ardour; for he could not descend from the world of studies and general views in which he lived, to take a searching interest in the business of the government or of justice. He had indeed been known to say that it was annoying to him to hear the arguments on both sides quietly discussed in a question of right submitted to him; for that in that case he was unable to come to any conclusion. The Queen loved gallant men and characters distinguished for boldness: the King was without any sense of military merit, and felt uncomfortable in the presence of men of enterprising spirit. He thought that he could only trust those whom he had chained to himself by favours, presents, and benefits. The Queen served as a pattern of everything which was proper and becoming. James, who restricted himself to the intercourse of a few intimate friends, formed attachments which he thought were to serve as the rule of life. He himself was slovenly; in England, as formerly in Scotland, he neglected his appearance, and indulged in eccentricities which appeared repulsive to others, and were taken amiss from him. Even at that time there was a common feeling in England in favour of what is becoming in good society; and although the feeling was for a long time less deeply engraved on men's minds, and less sensitive to every outrage than it became at a later period, men did not pardon the King for coming into collision with it.
Hence this sovereign appeared in complete contradiction with himself. Careless, petty, and at the same time most unusually proud; a lover of pomp and ceremony, yet fond of solitude and retirement; fiery and at the same time lax; a man of genius and yet pedantic; eager to acquire and reckless in giving away; confidential and imperious; even in little matters of daily life not master of himself, he often did what he would afterwards rather have left undone. With all his knowledge and acuteness, the high flight of his thoughts was often allied to a moral weakness which among all circles did serious injury to that reverence which had hitherto been reserved for those who held the highest authority, and which was partly bestowed even on him. It could not seem likely that such a man should be able to exercise great influence on the fortunes of Britain.
He did however exercise such an influence. He gave the tone to the policy of the Stuart dynasty, and introduced the complication in which the destiny of his descendants was involved.
In the first years of his reign in England, so long as Robert Cecil? was alive, King James exercised no deep influence. The Privy Council possessed to the full the authority which belonged to it by old custom. James used simply to confirm the resolutions which were adopted in the bosom of the Council under the influence of the Treasurer: he appears in the reports of ambassadors as a phantom-king, and the minister as the real ruler of the country6. After the death of Cecil all this was changed. The King knew the party divisions which prevailed in the Council: he let its members have their own way, and even connived at the relations they formed with foreign powers for their own interest; but he knew how to hold the balance between them, and in the midst of their divisions to carry out his own views. In those country seats, where no one seemed to take thought for anything except the pleasures of the chase and learned pursuits, the business of the state also was carried on in course of time with ever-increasing ardour7. The secretaries about the King were incessantly busy, while the secretaries' chambers in London were idle. Great affairs were generally transacted between the King and the favourite in the ascendant at the time, in conferences to which only a few others were admitted, and sometimes not even these. The King himself decided; and the resolutions which were taken were communicated to the Privy Council, which gradually became accustomed to do nothing more than invest them with the customary forms. If it be asked what the object of the King's efforts was, the answer must be that it was to set the exercise of the supreme power free from the controlling influence of the men of high rank to whom the King had deferred on his first accession. This was generally the aim of the great rulers of that century. This had been the principal end of the policy of Philip II? of Spain during his long political life:—however the Kings and Queens of France may have differed on other points, they were all, both Henry III? and Henry IV?, Mary de' Medici? while she was regent, and Lewis XIII? so soon as he succeeded to the exercise of power, at one in this endeavour. James, who was a new sovereign in one of his kingdoms, and almost always absent from the other, had more difficulties in his way than other monarchs. Wherever it was possible he proceeded with energy and rigour. People were astonished when they reckoned up the number of considerable men who served him in high offices, and were then deprived of them. He laboured incessantly to make way for the impartial exercise of justice in the King's name throughout Scotland, in spite of the privileges of the great Scottish nobles as its administrators. In his ecclesiastical arrangements in that country, he was fond of insisting on his personal wishes: in cases of emergency indeed he made known that all the treasures of India were not of so much value in his eyes as the observance of his ordinances; and he threatened the opponents of the royal will with the King's anger, to which he then gave unbridled indulgence8. As he looked upon the Church of England as the best bulwark against the influence of the Jesuits which he feared on the one side, and that of the Puritans which he hated on the other, it was naturally his foremost endeavour to fortify his power, and to unite the two kingdoms with one another by the promotion and spread of the forms of that Church. The essential motive of his system of colonisation in Ireland was the wish to establish the Church, by the aid of which he designed to subjugate or to suppress hostile elements. In England he imparted to it a character still more clerical and removed from Presbyterianism than that which had previously distinguished it: he wished it to be as much withdrawn as possible from the action of civil legislation. But in proportion as he supported himself on the Church he fell out with the Parliament, in which aristocratic tendencies and sympathies with popular rights and with Puritanism were blended with a feeling of independence that was hateful to him. He once said that five hundred kings were assembled there, and he thought that he was fulfilling a duty in resisting them. The most momentous questions affecting constitutional rights in regard to the freedom of elections, freedom of speech, the limits of legislative power, and above all the right of granting taxes, were brought forward under King James. And on every other side he saw himself involved in a struggle with hostile privileges and proud independent powers, from whose ascendancy both in Church and State he was careful to keep himself free, while at the same time he did not proceed to extremities or come to an absolute rupture. He was naturally disposed, and was moreover led by circumstances, to make it a leading rule of conduct, to adhere immovably to principles which he had once espoused, and never to lose sight of them; but, having done this, to appear vacillating and irresolute in matters of detail. His position abroad involved the same apparent contradiction. in the midst of great rival powers, and never completely certain of the obedience of his subjects, he sought to ensure the future for himself by crafty and hesitating conduct. All the world complained that they could not depend on him; each party thought that he was blinded by the other. Those however who knew him more intimately assure us that we must not suppose that he did not apprehend the snares which were laid for him; that if only he were willing to use his eyes, he was as clear-sighted as Argus; that there was no prince in the world who had more insight into affairs or more cleverness in transacting them. They say that if he appeared to lack decision, this arose from his fine perception of the difficulties arising from the nature of things and their necessary consequences; that he was just as slow and circumspect in the execution as he was lively and expeditious in the discussion of measures; that he knew how to moderate his choleric temperament by an intentional reserve9, and that even his absence from the capital and his residence in the country were made to second this systematic hesitation; that, if a disputed point awaited decision, instead of attending a meeting with the Privy Councillors who were with him, he would take advantage of a fine day to fly his falcons, for he thought that something might happen in the meanwhile, or some news be brought in, and that the delay of an hour had often ere now been found profitable.
It was then through no mere weakness on King James's part that he conceded power to a favourite. In a letter to Robert Carr? he describes what he thought he had found in him, viz. a man who did not allow himself to be diverted a hair's-breadth from his service10, who never betrayed a secret, and who had nothing before his eyes but the advantage and good name of his sovereign. The greater share that he secured for such a man in the management of affairs the greater the power which he believed that he himself exercised in therein. The favourite who depended entirely on the will of the king and knew his secrets, he supposed would be both feared and powerful as a first minister, and would pave the way by his influence upon the state for the carrying out of the views of the sovereign. He thought that he could combine the government of the state and the advance of monarchical ideas, with the comfort of a domestic friendship with an inferior.
James himself brought about the alliance, which we noticed, between Robert Carr, whom he raised to the earldom of Somerset, and the house of Howard. By the union of the hereditary importance of an old family that had almost always held the highest and most influential offices, with the favour of the King which carried with it the fullest authority, a power was in fact consolidated which for a while governed England. Henry Howard, Earl of Northampton?, the Lord Treasurer Thomas Howard, Earl of Suffolk?, and Robert Carr were considered the triumvirs of England11. In the midst of this combination appears Lady Frances Howard?, the daughter of the Earl of Suffolk, whose divorce from Essex and marriage with Somerset had sealed the political alliance between the two families. She was young and beautiful, with an expression of modesty and gentleness, but at the same time stately and brilliant, a fit creature to move in a society that revelled in the enjoyment of life, in the culture of the century, and in the possession of high rank. But what an abyss of dark impulses and unbridled passion sometimes lies hid under such a shining exterior! The Lady Frances had once sought to draw Prince Henry into her net. Many said that she had employed magic for this purpose; indeed they assumed that the early death of the Prince had been brought on partly by this means12. Her marriage with the king's favourite was, if this be true, only a secondary satisfaction of her ambition, but yet a satisfaction which she could not forego. Somerset had an intimate friend, whose advice and services at a former period had been very usefull to him, but who opposed this marriage and fell out with him on account of it—his name was Overbury?13. Lady Frances swore to effect his death. We are revolted at the licence which personal hate enjoyed of misusing the power of the state, when we read that Overbury was first brought to the Tower, and then had creatures who could be relied on set about him there, with whose help the victim was removed out of the way by means of poison. Lady Frances was not the only female poisoner among the higher classes of society. This mode of assassination had spread in England as it had done in Italy and at times in France. In these transactions the most abandoned profligacy allied itself with the brilliancy and the advantages of a high position, but they foreboded a speedy ruin. The authority of Somerset awakened discontent and secret counterplots. He was naturally turbulent, obstinate, and insolent, and had the presumption to behave in his usual manner even to the King whom he set right with an air of intellectual superiority which revived in the King's breast bitter recollection of the years of his childhood. James put up with this conduct for a while; he then, against the will of the favourite, set his hand to raise to a level with him another young man, for whom he entertained a personal liking: at last the misunderstanding came to an open rupture. And at the same time an accident brought to light the circumstances of Overbury's death14. All Somerset's old enemies raised their heads again, and proceedings were instituted against him and his wife which terminated in their condemnation15. The King pardoned them, to the extent of allowing them to lead a life secluded from the world; they resided afterwards in the same house, but, as far as is known, in complete separation without even seeing one another.
Shortly before this event Henry Howard had died. Thomas whose wife was accused of exercising a pernicious and corrupt influence upon affairs, lost his office of High Treasurer. The place of Carr was occupied by the young man above referred to, whom Carr's adversaries had combined to push forward, George Villiers, a native of Leicestershire, where his family had lived upon their own ancestral property from the time of the Conquest. After the early death of his father, his mother, a Beaumont by birth, a lady still young and full of ambition and knowledge of the world, had educated him not only in the training of English schools but in French ways and manners, and had then brought him to court. He differed from Carr in being naturally good-tempered, and of a courteous obliging disposition, which won the heart of every one16. Although no one doubted that he would be spoilt by a higher position, yet people thought that he could never become malicious like Somerset. Lord Pembroke? and Archbishop Abbot? both gave him a helping hand in his rise: the latter moved the Queen also, although she was not without scruples, to aid in it. Villiers was a man after the King's own heart, well-formed, capable of intellectual cultivation, devoted: in consequence of the favour and confidence of the King the youth, who after a time was created Duke of Buckingham, acquired a ruling position in the English state. The old Admiral Effingham?, Earl of Nottingham, resigned his office in order to make room for him: some other high officials were appointed under his influence and according to his views; in a short time the white wands of the royal household and the under-secretaryships and subordinate offices had been transferred to the hands of his adherents and friends.
But foreign as well as domestic relations were affected by this change. Somerset had stood in the most confidential relations with the Spanish ambassador: he was accused of having betrayed to him the secrets of the state from his office17. His wife, if not himself, was thought to have drawn money from Spain. Probably the intelligence of this behaviour, which came to the King's ears, contributed most to the downfall of Somerset. This event did not in itself involve a change of policy. In the advice which was given to the young favourite from a well-informed source, it is presupposed that the good understanding with Spain would continue: but it was now possible for the adversaries of this power to bestir themselves again. Some of the most conspicuous men of the other party, such as Winwood?, the Secretary of State, would even have been glad if open war with Spain had immediately broken out.
The mutual opposition between these powerful tendencies, and the men who made them their own, brought the career of Walter Ralegh to a close.
Somerset was Ralegh's personal enemy, and had gained possession of his best estate. After his fall Ralegh was liberated from the Tower. He still lay under the weight of a sentence which had been pronounced against him on the occasion of the plot which bears his name. He might have purchased its removal; but he was assured by the most influential voices that he had nothing more to fear from it; and he thought that he could apply the money more profitably to the execution of the great design which he had long ago formed, and which he had never for an instant lost sight of during his captivity. A story was then afloat that after the destruction of the kingdom of Peru the descendants of the Incas had founded another kingdom between the Amazon and the Orinoco, the Dorado of the Spaniards. It was Ralegh's ambition to open to his countrymen this region which would be easily accessible from the coasts, of which he had formerly taken possession in the name of England. The old reputation of Ralegh's name procured him sufficient support for his expedition, not only from the merchants, but also from wealthy private individuals; and the King gave him a patent which empowered him to sail to the ports of America still in possession of the heathen, in order to open commercial intercourse with them, and to spread the Christian, especially the Reformed, faith among them18. In July 1617 Ralegh set sail from Plymouth harbour for this object, with seven ships of war and a number of small transports carrying about 700 men.
It was presupposed that in such an enterprise all hostilities against the Spaniards would be avoided. When the Spanish ambassador complained of this expedition undertaken by a man who had already on one occasion been very troublesome to the Spanish colonies, the Privy Council answered that Ralegh was pledged by his instructions to do no damage to the Spaniards; and that 'if he violated them his head was there to pay for it19.' The King himself repeated this answer to him.
Ralegh in fact guarded against any collision with the Spaniards on his voyage. He was said not to have taken a single Spanish vessel, and he directed his course without stopping to Guiana, the goal which he had set before himself. But the Spaniards had become powerful there, although not until after his former visit. From Caraccas they had conquered the natives, who were engaged in internal wars, and had firmly established themselves at a short distance from the coast. What was likely to happen if they opposed the forces which Ralegh landed to search for the gold mines which he had formerly seen there? Ralegh remembered full well what a danger he ran if he engaged in a struggle and fought with them: he knew that he was thereby forfeiting his life. But on the other side, was he to return without fulfilling his purpose, and to burden himself with the reproach of not having told the truth? Worst of all, was he to fail in effecting the object which he had entertained all his life long, and not to achieve the discovery on which he staked the future glory of his name? It was perhaps the greatest moment in a life that almost always lifts itself above the ordinary level, when the thirst for discovery gained the victory over considerations of legality and the danger involved in discarding them. And well might he have hoped that not only pardon but praise would have been accorded him, if he had actually obtained possession of the gold mines, by whatever means. He commanded his men when they advanced inland to behave to the Spaniards as the Spaniards behaved to them. A collision was thus unavoidable. It took place at S. Thomas, which was destroyed, but the Spaniards nevertheless had completely the superiority: Ralegh's only son was killed; and the captain who had the charge of the expedition was so disheartened that he committed suicide. These disasters involved the utter failure of the expedition. His crews, who were naturally insubordinate, quarrelled among themselves, and on the voyage home the fleet dispersed. Ralegh came back to England without an ounce of gold, and without having effected any result whatever: he appeared in the light of an adventurer who had wantonly desired to break the peace with Spain. And when the ambassador of this power asked for full and signal satisfaction, in order to restore the good understanding which Ralegh's enterprise had at once interrupted, was it to be expected that the King should take under his protection the man who had not complied with the conditions prescribed to him, and whom for other reasons he did not love? And moreover the pulse of free generosity which befits a sovereign did not beat in the breast of King James. He consented that the old sentence of condemnation, for fifteen years suspended over Ralegh's head, should now be enforced against him. It had been pronounced against him for entering into a secret alliance with Spain; an attack on Spain led to its execution. Ralegh and the King exhibit a contrast between ambition that scorns danger on the one side, and caution that supports itself by the forms of law on the other, such as even in England has hardly ever been so sharply drawn. The King could not possibly get any good by his conduct. The position of England in the world depended upon the resistance that she offered to the preponderance of Spain in both the Indies and in Europe. The King detached himself from one of the chief interests of the nation when he allowed a felon's death to be inflicted on the man of lofty genius, who had undertaken, by an ill-advised attempt it is true, to give effect in America to this feeling of world-wide opposition. James thought that his welfare lay in maintaining the peace with Spain. But we know that at an earlier date he had entered on a course adverse to Spain, and that even now he had not entirely renounced it. What confusion must eventually follow from this divided policy[223a]!
During these years there had been persons at the helm of state in most countries, who either from natural disposition or from a calculation of present circumstances had cherished peaceful views. In spite of all the activity of Spanish policy, Philip III? and his minister Lerma? clung to the principle that the rest needed to restore the strength of the exhausted monarchy must be granted to it. The Emperor Matthias? owed the crown he wore to his alliance with the Protestants: his first minister Klesel?, although a cardinal, was a lukewarm Catholic, and a man of conciliatory views in general. The Regent of France, Mary de' Medici?, had surrendered the warlike designs of her husband when she entered on the exercise of sovereign power. Christian IV? of Denmark held similar views. He declined the proposals of the Poles, which were aimed at a renewal of the war against Sweden: he preferred, with the approval of his council of state, to proceed with the building of towns and harbours in which he was engaged.
Hence it was possible on the whole to carry out a policy such as that maintained by James I. It corresponded to the tone prevalent among the other powers.
From time to time it seemed probable that the opposing forces which were contending with one another in the depths of European life, would burst forth and shatter the peaceful state of affairs. For the advancing revival of Catholicism roused the hostile feelings of Protestants, while the union of the German and the independent feeling of the Italian princes resisted the extension of the alliances of Spain. In the year 1615, on the Netherland frontier, and in the year 1616 on the boundaries between Austria and Venice, warlike movements began which threatened to prove the commencement of a general struggle: but these were disputes of an essentially local nature, and peaceful dispositions still maintained the upper hand.
But in the year 1617 and 1618 a question arose which no longer allowed this state of things to continue. It concerned the imperial dignity of Germany, but it exercised so powerful a secondary influence upon affairs most thoroughly English that even in a history of England a short discussion must be devoted to it.
The increasing weakness of the Emperor Matthias rendered his speedy end probable; and all preparations were already being made in the house of Austria to secure the succession of the Archduke Ferdinand of Styria? to the imperial throne, as well as to his own hereditary kingdoms and provinces. No arrangement could in itself have been more suitable in the nature of things. Ferdinand was the most vigorous scion of his house; and both the German Archdukes laid their own well-founded claims at his feet. A resignation on the part of Philip III of the claims which he inherited from his mother was thought indispensable: but even this created no difficulty. It was merely stipulated that Ferdinand should indemnify him for resigning them; and this he was willing to do. It only remained that the crown of the German Empire should also be assured to him. The Archdukes were eager for an immediate negotiation on the subject, and were already certain of the support of the spiritual electors.
It is clear however that the succession was not merely a change of persons. The place of the peaceable and moderate Matthias would be filled by one of the most devoted pupils of the Jesuits in the person of Ferdinand, who had made himself terrible to the Protestants by an unsparing restoration of Catholicism in his own country. Moreover the alliance between the German and Spanish line, which had been loosened in the last few years, was to be consolidated into a union resting on common interests: so that it seemed likely that Austria would enjoy a supremacy like that which had been established in the time of Charles V?. The letters which passed between the members of that house, and which had accidentally been divulged, excited surprise by the note of general hostility which they struck, while the share of the Palatinate and of Brandenburg in the election was treated in them as a formality which could be dispensed with in case of necessity20.
It is quite intelligible that the Protestants should be agitated by this discovery, and should entertain the idea of opposing the election of Ferdinand. Not that one of them thought of acquiring the throne for himself; they did not resist the election of a Catholic emperor as such, but they wished to guard against the resumption of the combination between the Austro-Spanish power and the prerogatives of the imperial crown. At first their eyes fell upon Duke Maximilian of Bavaria?, whom they would by this means have for ever detached from that power. The Elector Frederick controlled the jealousy which, as Elector Palatine, he felt for a branch of the same house, and went to Munich in order to prevail on his cousin to consent to this arrangement; for, according to the plea advanced on grounds of imperial right, the imperial crown could not be allowed to become hereditary in the house of Austria. He hoped that the Archbishop Ferdinand of Cologne?, the brother of the Duke of Bavaria, would support him, and that his influence would win over the other spiritual electors also. The Union and the League would then have combined to oppose the house of Austria.
But meanwhile open resistance to the claims of this family had already broken out in its own provinces. While the Emperor Matthias was still alive, the Archduke Ferdinand, through the combination, as prescribed by Bohemian usage, of an election with the recognition of his hereditary claims, had been acknowledged future King of Bohemia, and had been already crowned, on condition that he would not mix in public affairs before the death of his predecessor. But immediately after the coronation people thought that they could discover his hand in every act of the government. Cardinal Klesel?, the man in whom the greatest confidence was reposed, especially by the Protestant portion of the Estates, had been overthrown owing to the influence of the Spanish ambassador. In opposition to the influence thus exercised, 'against the practices and snares of the Jesuits,' as the phrase ran, the zealous Protestants who, when Ferdinand was accepted as King, had been thrust into the background or had retired, now obtained the upper hand in the country, and proceeded to open insurrection while the Emperor Matthias was still alive. This Prince was the first who was overturned by the collision of the two parties, whose enmity was again reviving, and between whom he had thought of mediating. He was bitterly disappointed by his failure. After his death the Bohemians thought themselves justified in refusing any longer to acknowledge Ferdinand as their King, and in seeking on the contrary for a worthier successor to the throne, on the ground that in Ferdinand's election the traditional forms had not been accurately observed, and that he was undermining all religious and political freedom. Their eyes had even fallen on Catholic princes; but as the motive which prompted their resistance was certainly the religious one, their attention was still more drawn to the most eminent Protestant prince in their vicinity, Frederick Elector Palatine?, who as head of the Union was himself the principal opponent of the election of Ferdinand as Emperor.
On the very first steps taken in this matter, the King of England was affected by these movements. We learn that, on the occasion of the overtures made by Frederick, Maximilian of Bavaria had been moved to write to James I, and to express to him his satisfaction at the family connexion which had sprung up between them. The interest of the Palatinate and of England seemed one and the same, especially as the King was still considered a member and protector of the Union. The presumption that the son-in-law of the King of England would find support from his power, contributed greatly to the importance which the Elector at this moment enjoyed.
But at the same time it was evident in what an embarrassing position James I was now placed, and that not only on account of the danger threatening the continuance of peace, which he thought no price too high to secure: his hands were tied not merely by this general consideration, but by another special reason as well. He was at that moment seriously engaged in a treaty for the marriage of his son? with a Spanish infanta?, which was to carry out the long-talked-of alliance between his family and the Austro-Spanish line.
The first overtures in regard to the present Prince of Wales had been made by the Duke of Lerma? to the English envoy, Digby?, to whom he opened a proposal for the marriage of Prince Charles with Mary, daughter of Philip III. The Spanish ambassador, Gondomar?, had then taken the management of the affair in hand. We should do him wrong by supposing that he wished to deceive the King. Gondomar rather belonged to the party who looked for the welfare of the Spanish monarchy in the maintenance of peace, especially with England. The scheme of the marriage was part of the system of powerful alliances by which it was sought to prop the greatness of Spain. Even the uncertain rumour of this scheme, which was instantly propagated, sufficed to agitate the Protestant party in Europe and in England itself. The King declared that he moved only with leaden foot towards the proposal which had been made to him; and that, if it were seen that the alliance was dangerous to religion or to existing agreements, it should never take effect. But even the Secretary of State, Ralph Winwood?, who repeated this declaration, disapproved of the scheme, as did also the whole school of Robert Cecil. They had wished to marry the Prince to the daughter of a German line, perhaps to a Brandenburg princess; and the States General offered their money and their services in order to win the consent of any such princess, and to convey her to England. Many would have preferred even a domestic alliance after the old fashion. Opposition was also offered on the part of the Church of England. Archbishop Abbot? only delayed to urge it until the conditions of the marriage should come under discussion. But the King likewise had the approval of influential voices on his side. It was considered possible to conclude the marriage, and yet to preserve the other alliances of the country. People thought that England would in that case be only the more courted by both parties, and that the peace of the world would rest on the shoulders of the King.
But what a contradiction was involved in the ascendancy which these ideas obtained? The hereditary right to the crown of Bohemia, which the estates of that country would no longer acknowledge, belonged to the house of Spain. It was intended that the Elector Palatine should step into its place by election; and this prince was son-in-law to the King. After James had married his daughter to the head of the Protestants in Germany, he conceived the thought of marrying his son to the member of a family which had made the patronage and protection of Catholicism its special calling. It seemed as if he was purposely introducing into his own family the disunion which rent Europe in twain.
The negotiations in Germany after a time resulted in the victory of the house of Austria, which in spite of all opposition carried the day in the election of the Emperor. The Elector Palatine acknowledged Ferdinand II without hesitation. But almost at the same moment he received the news that he had himself been elected king by the Estates of Bohemia. It cannot be proved that he was privy to this beforehand: even the rumour that his wife urged him to accept the crown because she was a king's daughter meets with no confirmation. They were not so blind as not to perceive the enormous danger in which the acceptance of this offer would involve them. In reply to a question of the Elector, his wife answered that she regarded the election as a divine dispensation, that if he determined to accept it, which she left entirely to his consideration, she for her part was resolved to undergo everything that might follow from it. We must not regard as hypocrisy the prominence which the prince and the princess alike gave to religious considerations. Such was the fashion of the times generally, and especially of the party to which they belonged.
The Elector Frederick however did not yet declare his decision. The question of the acceptance of the crown of Bohemia was debated from every point of view by the very councillors who had just been present at the election of the Emperor. Their decision was in favour of the prince inviting first of all the advice of his friends in the empire, of the States-General, but especially of the King of England, and making sure of their support21. The Bohemian envoys, who most urgently requested an immediate answer, were put off with the reply that the Elector must first of all be certain of the consent of the father of his consort. Count Christopher Dohna was sent to England to persuade King James to give it. He was commissioned to deliver to him a letter from the Princess-Electress in which she most urgently entreated her father to support her husband and to prove his paternal love to them both.
King James came now face to face with the greatest question of his life, which summed up and brought to light, so to speak, all the cross purposes and conflicting political aims among which he had long moved. A word from him was now of the greater consequence, as the States-General declared that they would act as he did. But what was his decision to be? He was not unmoved by the thought that the prospect of possessing a crown was opened to his son-in-law and grandchildren. On the other hand he was greatly impressed by a representation which the King of Spain forwarded to him, that his right to the crown of Bohemia was indisputable as in fact the Spanish line had a contingent claim to the succession—and that he would contend for it with all his strength: on which King James said that he also as a great sovereign had an interest in seeing that no one was deprived of his own. The theories of James I about the hereditary rights of princes, the electoral rights of the Estates, and the influence of religious profession in these matters, presented themselves to his mind together with his wishes on the question of the aggrandisement of his dynasty. He remarked that it not be allowed that subjects should presume to fall away from their sovereign on a question of religion; he even feared that this doctrine might react to his own prejudice on England. In these considerations the balance evidently was in favour of a refusal. James would have deserved well of the world if he had given utterance to that refusal, and had decisively dissuaded his son-in-law from accepting the crown. And from his oft-repeated assertions at a later period, to the effect that the Elector had proceeded on his own responsibility, we might think that he had expressed himself in definite terms in favour of a different course.
In reality however this is not the case. He condemned the revolt of the Bohemians against Matthias: in regard to Ferdinand it was his opinion that they should prove from the old capitulations their right to declare his election and coronation invalid, and to proceed to a new election, in which case he would himself support them22. He expressed himself in such a manner, that even members of the Privy Council received the impression that he would approve of and even support the acceptance of the crown when once it had taken place. Christopher Dohna relates that in the negotiations at that time he one day declared that his master, the Elector, was ready to refuse the crown if the King required him to do so; and that James replied, 'I do not say that'.23
Monarchs are set in authority in order that they may pronounce definitive decisions according to the best of their own judgment. It is sometimes their duty to take a decided line. James, who hitherto had always stood between different parties, could not nerve himself at this eventful moment for a firm and straightforward resolve. In the monstrous dilemma in which the various questions at issue were becoming involved he could not come to any decision. The kindest thing that can be said of him is that at this moment his nature was not equal to the requirements of the situation.
Count Dohna, following the example of James's councillors, concluded from his expressions that he was not only not opposed to the acceptance of the crown, but that he would allow himself to be enlisted in its favour, and would support it. And there is no doubt that this view exercised a decisive influence upon the final resolution of the Elector Frederick. He certainly was already strongly inclined to accept the crown in opposition to his more clear-sighted and sagacious mother, but in agreement with his ardent wife: but he had not yet uttered the final words when Dohna's report came in24. When he learned from this that the King was not decidedly unfavourable, the Elector thought that he recognised a dispensation of God which he would not decline to carry out. In the presence of his councillors at the castle of Heidelberg he declared to the Bohemian ambassadors that he accepted the crown; and soon afterwards he set out for Bohemia. In October 1619 (Oct. 25 /Nov. 4) he was crowned at Prague.
What unforeseen consequences however for himself and his friends, for Germany and for England, were destined to spring out of this undertaking!
In London, where the popular party had already from the first fixed their eyes on the Princess, this step was welcomed with the most joyous approval. It was represented to the King that the most brilliant prospect was thus opened to his family; that on the next vacancy his son-in-law, who already himself held two votes in the electoral body, could not fail to be chosen Emperor; and that England would by this means acquire the greatest influence on the continent. It was expected that these feelings for his family, and the successful issue of events, would work together to detach him again from Spain.
James on one occasion, on receiving the news of the confinement of his daughter, drank a bowl of wine 'to the health of the King and Queen of Bohemia. He went so far as this, and people thought it worth while to record the event; but he could not be brought to acknowledge Frederick openly. He was not satisfied with the proof of their right advanced by the Bohemians: in conversation he advocated the right of Austria.
Spain and the League, as was inevitable, joined forces with Austria. In the first instance the Palatinate itself was the object of their joint attack. How could men have helped thinking that King James would resolutely take the inheritance of his grandsons under his protection? The Union invited him to do so, reminding him of the obligation imposed on him by his connexion with them mentioned above: they said it was no favour, but justice which they demanded of him. But James replied that he had pledged himself only to repel open and unjustifiable attacks, but that in the present case the Palatinate was the attacking party, and that Austria stood on the defensive. The Union presently saw itself compelled to conclude a treaty with the League, which left that power free to act against Bohemia. The Palatinate however was not secured thereby against the Spaniards25. To effect this, it would have been deemed advisable to make an attack from Holland on the Spanish Netherlands; for if a single fortified place had been occupied there, the Palatinate would have had nothing more to fear from Spain. But to this measure also James refused his consent: he thought that this would be equivalent to beginning war, which he did not wish.
The general sympathy of the nation was strong enough at last to cause a large English regiment of 2500 men, under Horace Vere?, to be sent on the continent, in order that the Palatinate, on which the Spaniards now advanced, might not become utterly a prey to them. The Earls of Essex and Oxford, who had contributed most to raise the regiment, themselves took part in the campaign. They were joined by many other young men of leading families, who wished to learn the art of war. But they had received from the King positive commands to commit no act of hostility. The troops of the Union, who showed themselves quite ready to fight the Spaniards, were withheld by the threat that in that case the King would recall these troops instead of sending two more regiments to join them, the hope of which he held out to them in the event of their obedience. It was enough for the King that the English troops occupied the most important places. Vere held Mannheim, Herbert Heidelberg, Burrows Frankenthal; while the greater part of the country fell into the hands of the Spaniards.
Europe had reason to be alarmed at the advantage which accrued to the Spanish monarchy from this affair. The Tyrol and Alsace were already promised them to form links between Lombardy and the Netherlands: the possession of the Lower Palatinate completed their chain of communication. The action of Spain and England presented a marked contrast. Spain, while it forsook Lerma's? policy, held together all its friends—Germany, Austria, the League, the Pope, the Archducal Netherlands—and combined their forces for joint action on a large scale; while King James, in clinging to the policy of peace, let his allies fall asunder and crippled their activity.
But if James so acted in the case of the Palatinate which he wished to save, what might be fully expected in the case of Bohemia, with regard to which he openly declared, after some hesitation, that he could take no further part in its affairs? The new King found no hearty obedience among the Bohemians, partly because they found themselves deceived in their expectation of being assisted with troops by the Union, and with money by England. But worse than all, the ill-disciplined soldiery being without pay, broke out in mutiny: they were almost more ready to help themselves to their arrears by an attack upon the capital than to defend their sovereign or their country. On the other hand the soldiers of Austria and of the League, well paid and well disciplined, were spurred on by zealous priests. On their first attack they scattered the troops of Frederick to the four winds (November 1620). It would not have been impossible for Frederick to wage a defensive war in Bohemia; but regard to the danger into which the Queen would have been thrown in consequence prevented the attempt. That one day cost them both crown and country.
It is impossible to describe the impression which the news of this defeat produced in London. The King was held blameable because not a single soldier commissioned by him had been found beside his daughter to draw the sword in her defence. This was attributed either to culpable negligence of his own affairs, or to the influence of the Spanish ambassador. Not Gondomar? himself, who was too shrewd to act thus, but certainly his friends and Catholics generally, let their joy at this event be known. The citizens responded with manifestations that were directed against the King himself. A placard was put up in which he was told that he would be made to feel the anger of the people, if in this affair he any longer followed a policy opposed to its views.
James I could no longer put off the question what steps he was to take. The tidings reached him at Newmarket, where he was spending the cold and gloomy days in hunting. He broke off this amusement and hastened to Westminster, in order to attend council with his ministers.
Towards the end of December a meeting was held, in which the secretary Naunton? depicted the whole position of the foreign policy of England, and drew from it the conclusion that the King must above all arm, as in that case he could carry on war, or at least negotiate with firmness and some prospect of success. King James himself brought the affair of Bohemia under discussion. He complained, and seemed to feel it as an injury to his paternal authority, that the Elector Frederick even now continued to make the acknowledgment of his right to the crown of Bohemia a condition of his accepting the mediation offered by the King. Viscount Doncaster?, who had just returned from a mission to Germany, fell on his knees before him, in order to remark to him that Frederick deserved no blame for clinging to a right which he supposed to be valid: that his refusal was not addressed to James as a father, but as King of England26. James I distinctly stated afresh that he could not and would not espouse the cause of his son-in-law in Bohemia. But by this time not only was Frederick's new crown as good as lost, but his whole existence was endangered; the greater part of his hereditary territory was in the enemy's hands. James declared with unusual decision that he would not allow the Palatinate, which would one day descend to his grandchildren, to be wrested from them; that he was resolved to send to the Continent in the next year an army sufficient to reconquer it. It might be asked if this measure also would not inevitably lead to a breach with Spain. King James did not think so. He thought that he could carry on a merely local quarrel, and yet at the same time avoid a war on the part of the one power against the other. He did not intend to attack the King of Spain's own dominion, so long as that sovereign did not meddle with his.
But however that might be, whether he was to begin war, though only on a limited scale, or whether he wished to prosecute negotiations with success, in any case it was necessary for him to arm. But for this purpose he required other means besides those of which he could dispose at his own discretion.
We already know the antipathy of James to the Parliament, which had become a power to which, as soon as it was manifested in a newly assembled House, the power of the King was obliged to bend. James had already often felt the ascendancy of Parliament. The schemes of union with Scotland, which filled his soul with ambition, had been shattered by the resistance of that body. The exclusively Protestant disposition which prevailed there had made it impossible for him to give a legal sanction to the favour which he entertained for the Catholics, and which his views of policy naturally disposed him to show. He had been obliged to desist from the attempt to secure financial independence by surrendering the feudal privileges of the crown. The Parliament raised claims which the King regarded as attacks on the prerogative of the crown: even his advances to it had been met by a stubborn resistance. In the ordinary course of things he would never again have summoned Parliament together.
This complication in foreign affairs then arose. All parties, including even the King himself, were convinced that England must step forth armed among the contending powers of the world: and that, not in the fashion of the last expedition, so little in keeping with the situation, when private support and tacit sympathy found the means, but on a large scale, as the position of the kingdom among the great powers demanded. But without Parliamentary grants this was impossible. The summoning of a new Parliament was therefore an incontestable necessity.
But on the other hand there was not wanting reasons for hesitation, for it could not be disguised that concessions would be inevitable. King James saw that as plainly as any one, and declared himself beforehand ready to make them. In contradiction to his former assertions he gave out that he would this time allow grievances to be freely alleged, and would give his best assistance in removing them. He said that he wished to meet Parliament half way, and that it should find him an honourable man. From the investigation of abuses the less was feared because the late opposition was ascribed to a factious resistance to Somerset's administration. But that favourite had since fallen: and of the leaders of that opposition several had gone over to the government, and some had died27. The declared purpose of arming for the re-conquest of the Palatinate was in accordance with the feelings of the nation and of the Protestants: no doubt was felt that it would win universal sympathy.
This was in fact the case. The most favourable impression was produced when the King in his speech from the throne (January 30, 1621), which was principally taken up with this subject, declared his resolution to defend the hereditary claim of his grandchildren to the territories of the Palatine Electorate, and the free profession of Protestantism; to compel peace if it were necessary sword in hand; for which objects he claimed the assistance of the country. Parliament did not hesitate for an instant to express its concurrence with him in these designs. Two subsidies were granted on the spot, and the resolution was carried into effect during the continuance of the debates, a step which was altogether unprecedented. The King thanked the Parliament for this extraordinary readiness, which would, he said, increase his importance both at home and abroad.
But this did not prevent Parliament on the other hand from bringing forward its claims with all possible energy. The power of granting money was the sinew of all its powers. The necessity of asking assistance from Parliament in urgent embarrassments, which the Tudors had avoided as far as possible, now appeared as pressing as ever. Was it not to be expected that demands should call forth counterdemands? And the opposition in the previous Parliament rested on a far wider basis than that of hostility to Somerset: at the present election also the candidates of the government were rejected in most of the counties and towns28.
The commission appointed for the investigation of abuses did not deal only with those which were acknowledged to be such. The principal question rather concerned the competence of the crown to confer such privileges as those out of which the abuses originated. Under the lead of Edward Coke?, the great lawyer, Parliament adopted a principle which secured for it a firm standing ground.
Coke, who moreover did not think it necessary to ask the King's consent for liberty of speech, because this was, he thought, an independent right of Parliament, vindicated the position that no royal proclamation had validity if it contradicted an act of Parliament or an existing law. He took his stand on the times of the later Plantagenet and of the Lancastrian kings: and he considered that the form which the relation between the government and Parliament then assumed was the only legal form. But the government of James I had granted extraordinarily obnoxious privileges—for instance, the right of setting up taverns with a restriction on the entertainment of guests by private individuals, or by the old inns; and again the right of arresting acknowledged vagrants. But the most obnoxious grants were those of patents for the monopoly of some trade, which were annoying to the whole mercantile class, and brought profit only to a few favoured individuals. Coke argued that the patents were either in themselves illegal, or injurious in their enforcement, or both together. While he proved to Parliament its forgotten or disregarded rights, Coke won the full confidence of both Houses alike: the Upper and the Lower House made common cause. Thus the system of government as it had been developed under the Tudors and continued under the Stuarts was encountered face to face by another system, which rested upon other precedents and principles.
And people were not content with merely declaring the patents invalid; they called those to account who had got possession of them, and even the high officials who had contributed to issue them. A general commotion ensued: every day fresh information came in and fresh complaints were drawn up29.
The Lord Chancellor Bacon? had been already brought into danger by this affair. He had assisted in introducing monopolies of different manufactures under the pretence that work would be found for the poor by means of them. It was well known that in matters of this sort he had for the most part followed the suggestions of the Prime Minister?. While Bacon was defending the ideal mission of the monarchy, he had the weakness to identify himself too closely with the accidental form which authority just at that particular moment took. In return he found on the other hand that the attacks really aimed at the government recoiled in the first instance upon him. In reality they were directed principally against Buckingham. In order to save him from destruction, suggestions had been made to the King that he might prefer to dissolve Parliament, as it seemed plain that he had far more reason to expect harm from the attacks than advantage from the grants made by that body. Buckingham saved himself only by coming forward against the monopolies himself, in accordance with the advice of his ecclesiastical confidant, Dean Williams?. Claims had been made against two of his brothers also on account of the monopolies. Far from taking them under his protection, he said on the contrary that his father had still a third son who was determined to root out abuses; and that not until the present proceedings had been taken had he recognised the advantages of parliamentary government. Upon this, the leading men with whom Williams had formed a connexion, desisted from attacking the First Minister. It even came about that a person of high rank, accused at the bar of the House of Lords, who had let fall an expression, comparing Buckingham to old favourites of hateful memory, was obliged to retract it with considerable ceremony. But a victim was required: one was found in the Lord Chancellor Bacon.
Although condemned by law and morality, an evil practice still prevailed of receiving presents of money in official transactions. The sums were known and have been registered, by means of which Gondomar retained the services of a number of statesmen in the interest of Spain. How many similar abuses in the control of the Treasury had been brought to light only a short time before! Even the great philosopher, who in his writings is so zealous against bribes, contracted during his administration the stain of receiving them. That he might stand on an equality with the great lords, he incurred inordinate expenses, which these bribes assisted him to meet. Edward Coke was wholly in the right when he exclaimed that a corrupt judge was 'the grievance of grievances30.' Two-and-twenty cases were proved in which the supreme judge, the Lord Chancellor of England, had taken presents from the parties concerned. Lord Bacon made no attempt to justify his conduct; he only affirmed—and this appears in fact to have been the case—that in his decisions he never was influenced by the presents that had been made him. When he was called to account for them, he acquiesced himself in the justice of the proceeding, for he allowed that a reform was necessary, and only deemed himself unfortunate in being the person with whom it began. The Lords pronounced sentence upon him that he should never again fill an official position, nor be capable of sitting in Parliament, and that he should be banished from the precincts of the court.
Apart from its importance as affecting individuals, this event is very important in the history of the constitution, which now returned to its former paths. That the Lower House again as in old times was able to procure the fall of one of the highest officials, is an evidence of its growing power. That the First Minister and favourite allowed his intimate friend to fall is a proof of the weakness of the highest authority, which moreover ought itself to have attacked abuses of this kind. Bacon justly remarked that reform would soon reach higher regions.
But while Parliament, which the government had no inclination to withstand openly, thus obtained the ascendancy in domestic matters, it was also already turning its eyes in the direction of foreign affairs. These were times in which a warm religious sympathy was awakened by the advance which the counter-reformation was making in the hereditary dominions of Austria, as well as in France, and by the persecutions which befel the Protestants in both countries. The Spaniards were again engaging in war for the subjugation of the Netherlands. In Parliament, on the other hand, it was thought necessary to combine with the Republic, and to equip a fleet to assist the Huguenots, and even to attack Spain, in order thus to make a diversion in favour of the Palatinate. At the very time of the opening of Parliament the ban of the empire was pronounced against Frederick Elector Palatine amid the sound of trumpets and drums in the Palace at Vienna. This was regarded in the whole Protestant world as an injustice, for it was thought that Ferdinand II had been injured by Frederick only as King of Bohemia, and not as Emperor: and on the same grounds the English Parliament was of opinion that the execution of the ban ought to be hindered by force of arms; and it showed itself dissatisfied that the King sought to meet the evil only by demonstrations and embassies.
We can easily understand that the attitude of Parliament aroused the anxiety of the King. He caused the debates on the war to be put a stop to, remarking that they infringed his prerogative, for which great affairs of this kind were exclusively reserved. And yet, so extraordinary was the complication of affairs that the declarations made in Parliament were not altogether displeasing to him. In June he adjourned parliament, without formally proroguing it. What was the reason of this? Because Parliament had brought in a new bill containing the severest enactments against Jesuits and Catholic recusants. The King refused to accept it, as by this means the persecution of Protestants in Catholic countries would receive a new impulse. But he was also unwilling to express his refusal in a final shape, because he knew that the wish to hinder the adoption of harsh measures against the Catholics would exercise an influence upon the Spaniards in their negotiations with him31. If he had proceeded to a prorogation, he would have been obliged to reject the laws; and he preferred to keep the prospect of them still open, which he was able to do by resorting to the form of an adjournment. He made it a merit in the eyes of the Spaniards that, far from increasing the severity of the penal laws, he did not even enforce them in their existing form, when moreover, if enforced, they would bring him in a large sum. But he was glad to see that people feared that he might do at some future time what at present he had refrained from doing. When he promised the Parliament on his royal word, that he would call it together again without fail in the autumn, he was also influenced by the consideration that he intended the Spaniards to look forward with fear to the resolution which might then be taken. He was greatly pleased that Parliament before dispersing drew up an energetic remonstrance against the persecutions of the Protestants all over the world, and especially against the oppression of his children. Not that he wished to give effect to it: on the contrary he adhered to the policy of assisting his son-in-law only by means of diplomacy: but he desired that the Spaniards should fear a war with England, and he thought that anxiety on this point would induce them and their friends to show themselves conciliatory and respectful.
Sir John Digby?, who was commissioned with the negotiations at the Spanish court, was referred by that power to Brussels and Vienna; and in fact he received favourable answers, not only from the Infanta Isabella? in the former, but even from the Emperor himself in the latter city. The Emperor held out to him the hope that the matter would be reconsidered at a future assembly of the Estates of the Empire, which he intended to convene at Ratisbon. But meanwhile warlike operations and the execution of the ban held their course undisturbed. In Bohemia the counter-reformation was carried through with extreme severity. Four-and-twenty Protestant nobles and leaders were executed, and their heads with hoary beards were seen exposed on the Bridge at Prague. Silesia hastened to make its peace with the Emperor: the Princes of the Union laid down their arms, but they did not yet make their peace by this means. Tilly? took possession of the Upper Palatinate, and then turned with his victorious army to the Lower Palatinate in order to complete the subjugation of this province, notwithstanding all the protection of England. On the Lower Rhine the forces of the Spaniards and of the States General confronted each other in arms. Under these circumstances the Princes, who were invited, refused to appear at an Assembly of the Empire32, for none of them thought that he could leave his home without incurring evident danger. The Infanta Isabella too in Brussels declined to conclude the truce which Sir John Digby proposed.
While affairs were in this position, Parliament resumed its interrupted sittings in November 1621. Dean Williams?, who after Bacon's fall had received the Great Seal, opened the session with a request for the immediate grant of new subsidies, which he said would be required even before Christmas. He promised that in the coming February, when they resumed their sittings, the other affairs should be brought under discussion33.
On this occasion as on a previous one, the King wished for nothing more than a renewed and stronger demonstration. Even now he lived and moved in a policy of compromise between opposite views. While his son-in-law was being robbed of his country in the interest of Spain, he adhered to the wish of marrying his son to a Spanish Infanta: he thought that he would bring about the restoration of the Palatinate most easily by the influence which this new alliance would confer. But he thought that his friendly advances should also be accompanied by threats, and he wished to be placed by the grants of Parliament in a position to arm more effectually than before. It would have been in accordance with his views, if Parliament had repeated its former declarations, according to which it was ready to put forth all its power in his behalf, in order to place him in a position to compel by force of arms what might be refused to his peaceful negotiations. It is worth noticing in all this that James not only met the wishes of Parliament because he required support, but that he also encouraged the disposition which it showed in favour of Protestantism, in order to avail himself of it: he thought that he would always be able to control it. But how often has a policy been shipwrecked, which has thought to avail itself of great interests and great passions for some end immediately in view!
How could it be expected that while religious parties on the continent were meeting in a struggle for life and death, the English Parliament would approve of the wavering policy of James I, which aimed at compromise and had hitherto been without results34? Quite the contrary: starting with the view that England was the centre of Protestantism and must avert the dangers which assailed it, Parliament declared itself ready, it is true, to pay the King new subsidies, but not until the following year, and on the presumption that he should have accepted and ratified the bills for the welfare of the people which had passed the House35. They thought that the common danger to religion arising from the alliance between the Pope and the King of Spain had been brought upon England also by the indulgence hitherto shown to the recusants. Parliament invited the King to draw the sword without further circumlocution for the rescue of the foreign Protestants; in the first instance to break with the power whose army had carried on the war in the Palatinate, but above all to marry the Prince his successor to a lady of the Protestant faith.
The King wished to avoid war because he was anxious lest he should be constantly compelled by Parliament, owing to his repeated want of subsidies, to make fresh concessions, which would affect and diminish the substance of his authority. The Parliament wished for war because it expected that such a proceeding would furnish it with great opportunities for establishing its power.
As soon as the rival powers encountered each other on this ground, all agreement between them was at an end. Parliament interfered still more vigorously than before with the affairs which the King reserved for himself: it wished to induce him to adopt those very measures which he was resolved to avoid. He was expected to break with that power with which it was his principal ambition to become most closely connected. He was expected to take the sword in order to defend the common cause of Protestantism. He was expected to put an end to the indulgence which he had hitherto shown to his Catholic subjects; to do what ran counter to all the expectations which he had raised at Rome and Madrid; and what perhaps, considering the strength of the Catholic element in England, was not without danger to the maintenance of quiet at home. Meanwhile the payment of the subsidies, which he required at once in order to maintain his political position, was indefinitely deferred. Although it was not actually stated, yet it was quite clear that Parliament made the validity of its grants dependent on his compliance with its advice. And on what important matters was that advice offered! The King complained that his prerogative was openly infringed by it; that Parliament wished to decide on his alliances with other sovereigns, and to dictate to him how to conduct the war; that it brought under debate questions of religion and state, and the marriage of his son: what portion of the sovereign power, he asked, was left to him? On the competence which Parliament claimed as its hereditary right, he remarked that it had to thank the favour of his ancestors and himself for this: that he would protect Parliament, but only in proportion to the regard which it showed for the prerogative of his crown.
If we had to specify the moment in which the quarrel between the Parliament and the Crown once more found its full expression, we should choose this36. The Parliament, which had dissolution in immediate prospect, employed its last moments in making a protest, in which it again affirmed that its liberties and privileges were a birthright and heirloom of the subjects of the English crown, that it certainly was within its power to bring under debate public matters affecting the King, the State, the Church, and the defence of the country; and that full liberty of speech without any subsequent molestation on that account must be secured to every member in the exercise of these rights.
The King would not forego the satisfaction of punishing by arrest a number of members who were peculiarly hateful to him; he declared the protestation null and void, and struck it out of the clerks' book with his own hand. In a detailed exposition of his view of these transactions, in which he gives the assurance that he will still henceforth continue to summon Parliament, he emphatically repudiates this protestation, which he affirms to be drawn up in such terms that the inalienable rights of the crown are called in question by it, rights in the possession of which the crown had found itself in the times of Queen Elizabeth of glorious memory. He affirms that as King he cannot tolerate any such pretensions.
Parliament demanded the policy of Queen Elizabeth; King James demanded her rights. The privileges accorded to the crown and the opposition to Spain had formerly gone together: the surrender of the latter under King James served to supply Parliament on its part with a motive for making an attack upon the former.
The cause of Parliament was of great importance, even when it stood alone: deeper impulses and fresh life and vigour were first imparted to it by its combination with foreign policy and with religion.
It is a general consequence of the dynastic constitution of the states of Europe that marriages between the reigning families are at the same time political transactions, and as a rule not only affect public interests, but also stir up the rivalry of parties: this effect however has hardly ever come more prominently into notice than when it was proposed to marry the heir to the throne of England with an Infanta of Spain.
We have remarked that the scheme originated in Spain, had already been once rejected, and then had been mooted a second time by the leading minister of Philip III?, the Duke of Lerma?. It formed part of Lerma's characteristic idea of fortifying the greatness of the Spanish monarchy by a dynastic alliance with the two royal families which were able to threaten it with the greatest danger, those of France and England. This design brought him into contact with a current of policy and personal feeling in England which was favourable to him: but at the same time the great difficulty which the difference of religion presented, came at once into prominence. Not that it would have been difficult for King James to make the concessions requisite for obtaining the Papal dispensation; on the contrary he was personally inclined to do so: but he feared unpleasant embarrassments with his allies and with his subjects. Count Gondomar?, the ambassador, assured the King that he should never be pressed to do anything which violated his conscience or his honour, or by which he might run a risk of losing the love of his people37.
On this, negotiations which had already been opened for the marriage of the Prince with a French princess were broken off. Besides, the intermarriage with the house of Spain appeared to be far more deserving of preference, as being likely to pacify the feelings of English Catholics, who were accustomed to side principally with Spain, and even to promote the calm of the world, as Spain was a more prominent representative of the Catholic principle than France. It was thought advisable to leave the conditions of the dispensation to be arranged in the sense indicated by negotiation between the Papal see and the Spanish crown.
But a new and serious hindrance now arose in consequence of the embarrassments caused by the affairs of the Palatinate, in which the interests of the two dynasties came into immediate collision with one another. It is clear that King James could not marry his son to an Infanta of Spain while a Spanish army was taking possession of his son-in-law's territory. He therefore made the restoration of the Palatinate a condition of the marriage. All his tortuous efforts were directed to combine the latter object with the former, and at the same time to avoid a disadvantageous reaction upon his domestic policy.
While he invoked the Protestant sympathies of Parliament in order to give weight to his demands, he nevertheless checked them again as soon as he was in danger of being forced to make war, or even to resume the measures against the Cathollcs, which might displease the Spanish court. Whilst he made the Spaniards aware that if he were refused the consideration he required, he would throw himself entirely into the hands of his Parliament and proceed to extremities, he at the same time employed every means of effecting a peaceful accommodation, by which he would then at once be saved the necessity of making concessions to Parliament. The most active negotiations were opened in Brussels with the Infanta Isabella?, upon whom the issue seemed most to depend. James I had sent thither Richard Weston?, the man whom Gondomar himself declared to be the most appropriate instrument for this affair; and an agreement was concluded with the personal co-operation of the Infanta, which held out expectations of the restoration of the Elector. On the side of the Palatinate and England everything was done to promote the conclusion of this agreement, and to ensure its execution. The expelled Elector was induced to recall Mansfeld? and Christian of Brunswick? from the Upper Rhine, where they were then moving vigorously forward, lest the treaty should be obstructed by their operations38. He himself removed to Sedan, in order not to arouse the suspicions of the House of Austria by his residence in the Netherlands. In the summer of 1622 he had no other troops in the Palatinate but the English garrisons; and King James engaged that, if the treaty were concluded, he would take arms himself against the allies of his son-in-law. But while expectation was directed to the conclusion of the contract by which the Elector should be re-established in his country, the League advanced against those strongholds which the English held in his name. Neither Heidelberg nor Mannheim could hold out. The English troops were obliged to bend to necessity and to march out, although with the honours of war. Only in Frankenthal did they still maintain themselves for a while. When Weston at Brussels complained of this conduct he was actually told that the League must have everything in their hands first, in order to restore everything hereafter. He was astounded at this subterfuge, and asked for his recall.
In England the friends of Spain fell into a sort of despair at the course of events. For what could follow from it but open war between the King of England and the Emperor? But on whose side would Spain then be found? Would that power pledge itself to fight to the end against every one, even against the Emperor, in behalf of the treaty when concluded? To prevent England from coming into closer alliance with France, the government of Spain had planned the marriage and opened direct negotiations: would it now, when its cause appeared to be advancing, withdraw in violation of its word of honour? Even the Privy Council represented to the King that he was bringing dishonour and danger on his country. The Duke of Buckingham, who also had himself been in close agreement with Gondomar, and was considered to be the man who held the threads of politics in his hand, regarded the increasing discontent as dangerous to his own position39.
While affairs were in this situation and these impressions afloat, a plan for bringing this uncertainty to an end was embraced by the King, the Prince, and the Duke, in those private discussions in which the general course of affairs was decided. It was determined that the Prince, accompanied by Buckingham, should visit Spain himself, in order to bring about the marriage and arrange the conditions. None of the Privy Councillors, not even Williams?, who on other occasions was in their intimate confidence, knew anything about this plan. It pleased the King's sense of the romantic, that as he himself had formerly brought home his newly married wife from the icy North, so now his son should in person win the hand of his bride in the distant South. But however much in earnest the King was in the matter, we learn that he still contemplated the possibility of failure. He once said to the Duke of Soubise?, that if the marriage came to pass, he would take up the cause of the Huguenots in alliance with Spain: but that if he did not succeed in his design they might still reckon upon him, for that his son would contract a marriage with a French princess, which would procure him great influence at the French court40.
On March 7, 1623, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Buckingham arrived in Madrid, with an escort including Cottington? and Endymion Porter?, both of whom afterwards enjoyed great influence. Their arrival was not altogether welcome to the ambassador in residence there, Digby?, now Lord Bristol, who would rather have retained this important business in his own hands: but the Spanish court and the nation itself found a certain satisfaction for their pride in the personal suit urged by the heir-apparent of one of the most powerful kingdoms for the hand of the younger Infanta.
At first the Prince of Wales could only see the Infanta as she drove past along a sort of Corso in the Prado. He was then presented to her, but the words which she was to use to him were written down for her beforehand; for she was to receive him merely as a foreign prince without any reference whatsoever to his suit. Some surprise was created when the principal lady of the court one day condescended to say to the Prince that the Infanta in conversation gave signs of an inclination for him. In the country no doubt was felt that the marriage would come to pass, and the prospect was welcomed with joy. Often did a 'Viva' resound under the windows of the Prince. Lope de Vega? dedicated some happily expressed stanzas to him; and splendid shows were given in his honour41. All that was now wanting was an agreement as to the conditions.
This depended however in large part on the resolutions which might be arrived at in England. Conditions affecting religion were laid before King James, which he might certainly have hesitated to approve. It was not only that the Infanta was to be indulged in the free exercise of her religion—for how else could the consent of the Spanish clergy or a dispensation from the Pope have been hoped for?—nor even that the children born from this marriage were to be educated under her eyes for the first ten years of their life, for this seemed the natural privilege of a mother: but the presumption that the children might become Catholics involved wide consequences. It was stipulated that the laws against Catholics should not apply to such children, nor prejudice their succession. Still more displeasing however were some other articles of general import, which were carefully kept back from the knowledge of the public. They amounted to this:—that the laws against the Catholics should no longer be carried into execution, and that the Councillors of the sovereign should be pledged by an oath to abstain from enforcing them42. The King met with some opposition to these articles in the Privy Council. But he said that the question was not whether they were advisable, but whether they were not necessary at a time when part of the domain under dispute, and the Prince himself, were in the hands of the Spaniards. And moreover they did not amount to a complete concession to the wishes of the Catholics, for they spoke only of tolerating their worship in private, not in public: the articles were in harmony with the old ideas of the King. James solemnly swore to the first articles, on July 20, in the presence of the Spanish ambassador; and immediately after him the members of the Council took the same oath. The King alone then pledged himself to carry out the second set of articles.
An extensive alteration had already taken place in the treatment of the Catholics. Priests and recusants had been discharged from prison and enjoyed full liberty. An injunction was issued to the preachers and to the Universities to abstain from all invectives against the Papacy. Men had to see individual preachers who transgressed these orders thrown into prisons which had been just emptied. The families which openly expressed their hitherto secret adherence to Catholicism were already counted by hundreds.
Then came these transactions. What was learnt of the articles was enough to spread universal dismay among the Protestants, but they expected yet worse things. They thought they saw a pronounced Catholic tendency becoming ascendant in the conduct of affairs. An universal danger seemed to be hanging over the religion which they professed. Every one hastened to church to pray against it; the churches had never been more crowded. The second ecclesiastic in the country, the Archbishop of York?, put the King in mind that by his project of toleration he was encouraging doctrines which he had himself proved in his writings to be superstitious and idolatrous. At this time moreover religious profession and political freedom were most closely connected: all these penal laws which the King was removing had been passed in Parliament, and were the work of the legislative power as a whole. The Archbishop reminded the King in conclusion that when he annulled the statutes of parliament by royal proclamation, he created an impression that he thought himself at liberty to trample on the laws of the land43.
The wishes of the King did not lean so decidedly in that direction as people assumed. Buckingham and the Prince, who recommended him to take the oath, remarked to him, among other observations, that his promise that Parliament should repeal the penal laws against the Catholics within three years would be fulfilled, if he merely exerted himself to the extent of his strength for that object, even if it should prove impossible to attain it44. In general everything was merely preliminary, and depended on further agreement. The Prince entreated his father to transmit to him the ratification of the articles, that he might decline them or not according to circumstances. He even wished that, in order to put an end to the dilatoriness of the Spaniards, his father should make an express declaration that any longer delay would compel him again to enforce the penal laws against the Catholics45. All these announcements, which filled the Catholics with joy and hope, but the Protestants with dejection, mistrust, and anxiety, were however only political agencies, and were intended to serve a definite end. The object was in the first instance to put an end by this means to all delay in sending the Infanta to England.
Although some religious scruples were still awake in the minds of the Spaniards yet they presented no further obstacle. The conditions for granting a dispensation which had been prescribed by the Pope to the Spanish Court, had been accepted; the Spanish ambassadors had been satisfied: the only question now was whether the Infanta should be conveyed to England at once with the Prince on his return, or in the following spring. As formerly the Tudors so now the Stuarts appeared to be taking their position as a dynasty in Europe in connexion with the Spanish monarchy.
Only one difficulty remained, that connected with the Palatinate; but at the present moment it was more serious than ever.
In his negotiations King James started with the supposition, that the Spanish court could control the Imperial, and bring it over to its own point of view. The inclusion of the German line in this dynastic combination was contemplated. A proposal was made that the eldest son of the expelled Frederick should contract a marriage with a daughter of the Emperor, which would make the task of reconciliation and restitution far easier.
The Emperor however had to take other interests into consideration; not only those of the Duke of Bavaria, to whom he was so deeply pledged, but those of the whole Catholic party, which thought of seizing this occasion to establish for ever its ascendancy in the Empire. The Emperor, who was also instigated by Rome to this step, solemnly transferred the electoral dignity previously held by the Elector Palatine to Maximillan of Bavaria in February 1623, with the intention of satisfying him, and at the same time of obtaining a majority of Catholic votes in the electoral body. It has indeed been assumed, both then and at a later time, that Spain, only bent on deceiving England, had agreed to all these proceedings. But in fact the Spanish ambassador? had opposed them most strenuously at Ratisbon in the name of his king, as well as in that of the Infanta Isabella46. He prophesied with accurate foresight new and inextricable embarrassments as the consequence. The Papal Nuncio complained that the resistance of the ambassador weakened the Catholics and emboldened the Protestants. But his remonstrance had no effect on the Emperor. After his previous experiences Ferdinand II had no more fear of his adversaries, least of all of King James, who would certainly not in his old age make his first appearance as a warrior and try the doubtful fortune of war. He thought besides that he always consulted his security best when he had nothing before his eyes but the advantage of the Catholic Church.
The negotiation about these matters took place just at the time when the Prince of Wales was in Spain. There no one despaired of finding an arrangement with which the Prince could still be satisfied. It was thought that, when the Palsgrave Frederick had been reconciled with the Emperor, and admitted into his family, the electoral dignity might be enjoyed in turn by Bavaria and the Palatinate, or that a new electorship might be founded for Bavaria. The Imperial ambassador, Count Khevenhiller?, however rejected these proposals, for no other reason than that King James was not the proper person to make arrangements for his grandson. He did not accept the supposition that the youth, whose education it was proposed to complete in Vienna, would join the Catholic faith, for he said that his mother would never allow that. He set aside the expectation that the Imperial court might send to Spain a full authorisation to negotiate for the marriage. He moreover affirmed that, if the Imperial court wished to secure its influence in Germany, it could not allow the opinion to gain ground that it depended on Spain and was guided by her.
And in Spain also, after the fall of Lerma, which was brought on by this affair, the old aspirations after the supremacy of the world had again obtained the upper hand. It is true that at the moment a feeling prevailed in favour of maintaining peace on the very advantageous footing which had then been obtained. Cardinal Zapata?, Don Pedro of Toledo?, and above all Count Gondomar?, who had at that time been made a member of the Council, declared before that body that Spain ought to have no higher political aim than to secure her union with England. These were men of experience in European affairs, who recollected the evils which had sprung from the policy of Philip II. But there were others who were again seized with the old ambition, so interwoven with Catholicism, and who would not separate themselves from the interests of the Emperor at any price—men like the Marquis de Aytona, Don Augustin Mexia. And Count Olivarez?, under the influence of the Imperial ambassador, now espoused the same opinion, a man who, as favourite of the King and chief minister, filled the same position in Spain that Buckingham did in England. At the decisive meeting of the Council, he stated that the King of Spain would not venture to separate from the Emperor, even if he had been mortally affronted by him: if he could stand in friendly relations with the Emperor and the King of England at the same time, well and good; but if not, he must break with the King of England without any regard to the marriage: this step was demanded of him for the preservation of Christendom, of the Catholic religion, and of his family. He added that a marriage between the young Count Palatine and a daughter of the Emperor was only to be thought of, if the former became a Catholic: that the complete restoration of the father was by no means advisable; and that he ought to be dealt with as the Duke of Saxony had been dealt with by Charles V47. Olivarez carried the Council with him in favour of this policy. The strictly Catholic point of view, which had been asserted by the German line of the house of Austria, was again adopted as the rule of policy in Spain.
This was a resolution that decided the destinies of Spain. That power again renounced the policy of compromise which it had observed for a quarter of a century. The young King Philip IV and his ambitious favourite revived the designs of Philip II, or, as the former once expressed it, of Charles V: to the restoration of Catholic ascendancy in Germany they sacrificed the friendship of King James, which was of inestimable advantage to the monarchy, inasmuch as it kept the coasts of Spain free from all danger of attack from the English forces48. Olivarez was too violent, too young, and too illinformed to have any clear conception of the influence of these relations.
But as in great transactions every step has consequences, it is clear that the Spanish predilections of King James, and the policy founded on them, were thus brought to an end. For maintaining these it was necessary not only that they should be advantageous to the Catholics in England, but that they should be equally serviceable to the Protestant interests in Germany, which in the present instance were his own: otherwise he would never have found rest again in his own country, or his own family, or perhaps even in his own breast. He had asked for the reinstatement of his son-in-law in the electorship as well as in the possession of his hereditary dominions, or at least for the hearty assistance of Spain in effecting this object49. And the Prince of Wales shared these views. He once said to Count Olivarez that, without the restoration of the Elector Palatine, the marriage was impossible, and the friendship of England could not be expected. The Spaniards did not think fit to impart to him the resolution which had been taken in the Council of State; but still this implied a new direction given to the course of affairs which could be followed although it was not talked of. The Spaniards contented themselves with dwelling on the necessity of sending the youthful Count Palatine to Vienna for education: as to his father, who was under the ban, they held out indeed a prospect of the restoration of his dominions but not of his electoral dignity. The Prince declared that it was not to be imagined that his brother-in-law would be content with that and would agree to it50. And how was even as much as this to be obtained from the court of Vienna? It was now certain that in the affair of the Palatinate Spain would not interfere with decision. But besides this, the resolutions which had been taken in the Spanish Council of State must lead to much wider consequences.
The miscarriage of the negotiations has been ascribed to the misunderstanding between Olivarez and Buckingham; and it is no wonder that such a misunderstanding arose, for the latter was conceited and irritable, the former imperious and assuming. But these causes are only of a secondary character; the root of the failure lies in the political, or in the combination of the religious with the political relations of the two countries. While in England Protestantism was moving in a direction opposed to the intentions of King James, and could hardly be held down, it was met by the Catholic interest in Spain and Germany, which was fully conscious of its position. Now these were the powerful elements which divided the whole world: the strife between them could not be adjusted by political considerations.
It is hardly necessary to state further how Buckingham, who regarded the somewhat unmeaning delays of the Spaniards as affronts, and who would have had reason to fear for his authority in England in the event of his prolonged absence, now urged the return of the Prince. Charles concurred with him: King James, who moreover was impatient, as he said, to see the two men whom he most loved about him again, commanded it; and the Spanish court could not object. Yet no estrangement arose in consequence, nor was the proposal for the marriage withdrawn. The Infanta was treated as Princess of Wales; and Philip IV in a letter once styled the Prince of Wales his brother-in-law. The Papal dispensation, for which they had long been kept waiting, at last arrived; and the marriage ceremony might have been performed any day. The other negotiations also still kept advancing. King James then once more demanded an express declaration with regard to the affair of the Palatinate. He wished to know what Spain thought of doing if the Emperor refused to accede to the agreement that was to be made between the two powers. The answer of the Spaniards was evasive: how could it have been otherwise? But the English would not advance further without better security. The Prince sent to request the ambassador not to use the full powers, which he already had in his hands, until he received fresh orders51. King James declared that the marriage could not be solemnised till the Spanish court consented to take upon itself obligations with regard to the Palatinate.
After the Prince had taken leave of his Spanish escort, and had gone on board an English fleet at Santander, whither it had put in to fetch him away, contrary winds, or, in the words of a contemporary narrative, 'the brothers Boreas and Eurus,' for a while delayed his departure. We are assured that people in England never regarded the weathercocks and the direction of the smoke and of the clouds with more painful anxiety than at that time. Even among the dependents of the royal house many almost gave up the Prince as lost; for who, they said, could trust the word of the Spaniards? The Protestant part of the population thought that he would at least be compelled to abjure his religion. At last the wind subsided. On October 5, after an absence of almost eight months, the Prince arrived in Portsmouth, and the day after in London. The universal joy with which he was received was indescribable: all business was at a standstill; the shops were shut; nothing was seen but waggons driving backwards and forwards, laden with the wood intended for the bonfires which blazed at evening in all the open squares, at all corners of the streets, even in the inner courts, but were most brilliant and costly at the Guildhall52. The joyful acclamations of the multitude mingled with the sound of the bells; people congratulated each other that the heir to the throne had returned as he had gone, and that without the Infanta; for this marriage had never been popular; but above all, that he returned rather confirmed than shaken in his religion. They praised God for his deliverance out of the land of Egypt. Even Buckingham, who was not loved at other times, enjoyed a moment of universal popularity.
Nevertheless the effect which would have been most welcome to the majority, that of banishing all thoughts of an alliance with Catholic powers, and of causing a wife to be sought for the Prince among Protestants, was certainly not produced, for the King had long been revolving another plan. The combination with Spain, although it had best corresponded to his wishes and ideas, had nevertheless been only an experiment: when it miscarried, he was predisposed to return to the thought of an alliance with France. The Prince, on his way through France, had already seized the opportunity of seeing the Princess, his possible bride, while she was dancing, without being remarked by her; and the impression which she made upon him had been by no means unfavourable.
Instantly on his return from Spain Buckingham opened communications with Mary de' Medici?, Queen of France, and that through means of a Franciscan monk, who could not be suspected, and who presented himself to her while she was at dinner. Buckingham made secret overtures to her, intimating that he wished to resume the old negotiations for an alliance between the royal families of England and France, for that he was a Frenchman at heart53. As the Queen expressed herself favourably inclined, Henry Rich?, who then bore the title of Lord Kensington, and afterwards that of Lord Holland, was sent before the end of the year 1623 on a secret mission to France in order to set the affair in motion. Rich was one of the most intimate friends of Buckingham, and to a certain extent resembled him in character.
In this affair Buckingham had two circumstances in his favour. It was the main ambition of the Queen-mother to see her daughter on the throne of the neighbouring kingdom. The preference accorded by the English court to an Infanta of Spain over a daughter of France had had a painful effect upon her: she was the more gratified when that court now resumed the negotiations which had been broken off. Nevertheless she did not embark on so delicate an affair, the failure of which was still possible, without the necessary reserve. The French court could not but ask for religious concessions in favour of the Princess, as Spain had for the Infanta: but on the very first approach to the subject it hinted that it would not urge the King to such strict pledges as had been demanded on the side of the Spaniards54. The second influence in Buckingham's favour was the political. The advance of the alliance, and of the power of the Spaniards, especially their establishment in the Palatinate, aroused the jealousy of the French. The opinion, which Cardinal Richelieu so often emphatically expressed, that France, everywhere enclosed by the power of the Spaniards, might some day be prostrated by it, was generally held. The interests of his country seemed to be deeply interested when England, from whose close connexion with Spain the greatest danger was to be apprehended, separated herself from that power, and showed a disposition to adopt a policy in harmony with that of France. Henry Rich assures us that so universal an agreement had never been known among Frenchmen as was shown at that time in the wish to ally themselves with England. Already agents of Mansfeld? and Brunswick? were seen at Court: an intended mission to Maximilian of Bavaria? was given up on the representation of the English ambassador. Envoys from the expelled King of Bohemia also soon arrived, in order to gain the co-operation of the French in his restoration. The negotiations with England actually began: they were directed to an alliance and a marriage at the same time: in each case it was made a preliminary condition that England should openly and completely break with Spain.
But this condition could not be fulfilled in England quite easily and without opposition.
And how indeed could it have been expected that the members of the Privy Council, who had followed the King in the direction given to his policy in favour of Spain, if not without any reserve, yet with an ardour which might be turned to their reproach, would now, as it were, turn round, and follow the example of the favourite in entering on another path? A commission chosen from their body was appointed in order to take into consideration the complaints made by Buckingham about the behaviour of the Spanish court. But the report which Buckingham made was by no means so convincing as to win their concurrence. He rather depended on impressions, which had no doubt in his own eyes a certain truth, than on facts which might have served as evidence for others as well. The commission declared itself almost unanimously against him55. Its sentence was, that Philip IV had seriously intended to marry his sister to the Prince; and that in the affair of the Palatinate he had behaved, if not as a friend, yet at any rate not as an enemy. The first part is undoubtedly correct; with regard to the second however, neither the members of the Privy Council had any suspicion, nor had Buckingham himself any real information, that the Spaniards had made the interests of Austria in the Palatinate so decidedly their own. The Council was moreover in an ill humour with the favourite on account of the arbitrary authority which he arrogated to himself. When Lord Bristol? came to England in the beginning of the year 1624, and then laid all the blame on Buckingham himself, a party was formed against the latter, which sought to overthrow him, and was even thought to have already secured a new favourite, with whom to replace Buckingham, just as he had formerly stepped into the place of Somerset. It was remarked that the friends and adherents of Somerset?, who had always been on the side of Spain, came together and bestirred themselves. It was clear, and was generally said, that if relations with Spain were not broken off, the minister must fall. As people expressed it, 'either the marriage must break or Buckingham.'
In this danger Buckingham resolved on a step of the greatest significance, in order to be able at once to attack the Spaniards, and to meet his rivals at home. He turned to those who had for many years demanded war with Spain on principle, the popular and zealous Protestant party. The King assented to his request for the summoning of a new Parliament, of which he had in fact for other reasons already given notice. As was to be expected from the connexion of affairs, the result of the elections corresponded with the views of the last Parliament. Men like Coke?, who had been called to account for their attitude at that time, were re-elected two or three times over. The ruling minister now regarded them even as his allies.
What an indescribable advantage however for the supporters of the claims of Parliament was this change! As the ill-success of the German policy of the King in the year 1621 had turned to their advantage, so now they profited by the failure of his negotiations with Spain. The political leanings of James I in favour of Spain, which they had originally opposed, had led to embarrassments in which the First Minister himself invoked their aid.
But not only did party rivalries display themselves at this important moment, but a general opposition also arose on constitutional grounds. The Earl of Carlisle? represented to the King that he had been visited by members of Parliament, no mere popular leaders or speakers, but quiet men and good patriots, who feared God and honoured the King: that he had learned from them that the agitation observed in the country had principally arisen because the last grants of Parliament had not been met by any favours on the part of the King, but on the contrary the expression of opinions displeasing to him on the part of certain members had been subsequently punished by their arrest. Carlisle reminded the King that nothing could be more hateful to his enemies, or more strengthening and encouraging to his friends, than the removal of these disagreements; that no king had ever had better subjects if he would but trust them; that if he would but show them that he relied on their counsel and support, he would win their hearts and command their fortunes; and that the people would then work with him for the welfare and honour of the State56.
These views prevailed when Parliament was opened on the 19th of February, 1624. Hitherto it had been one of the principal grievances of the King that Parliament wished to have a voice in affairs that concerned his state and his family. The new Parliament was opened with a detailed account from Buckingham of his negotiations with Spain, which affected both these interests, and with a request that Parliament would report on the great questions awaiting settlement57.
The answer of both Houses was, that it was contrary to the honour of the King, to the welfare of his people, to the interest of his children, and even to the terms of his former alliances, to continue the negotiations with Spain any longer: they prayed him to break off negotiations on both subjects, with regard to the Palatinate, as well as with regard to the marriage. It was hailed as a public blessing that the conditions accepted for the sake of the latter would not now be fulfilled. At this moment Buckingham's wishes were on the side of this policy; for otherwise he could not have advanced a step in his dealings with France. But the King had not so fully made up his mind. He had approved the overtures made to France: but when he was now asked to break with Spain, the power which he most feared, and whose friendship it was the first principle of his policy to cultivate, there was something in him which recoiled from the step. Buckingham acknowledged for the first time that he was not of the same mind with the King. He said that he wished to tread only in one path, whereas the King thought that he could walk in two different paths at once; but that the King must choose between the Spaniards and his own subjects. He asked him whether, supposing that sufficient subsidies of a definite amount were at once granted him, and the support of his subjects with their lives and fortunes were promised him for the future, so far as it might be necessary—whether in that case he would resolve to break off the matrimonial alliance with Spain. He asked for a straightforward and definite answer, that he might be able to give information on the subject beforehand to some members of Parliament. It is evident that this was no longer the attitude of a favourite, who has only to express the opinions and wishes of his prince. Buckingham came forward as a statesman, who opposes his own insight to the aims of his sovereign. He says that if he should concur with the King, he should be a flatterer; that if he should fail to express his own opinion, he should be a traitor. In this matter he could rely on the support of the Prince, who, without estranging himself from his father, still appeared to be less dependent on his will than before58. The result was that James I again gave way. He named the sum which he should require for the defence of his kingdom, for the support of his neighbours, and for the discharge of his own debts. Parliament, although it did not grant the whole amount demanded, yet granted a very considerable sum: it agreed to pay three full subsidies and three fifteenths within a year, if the negotiations were broken off. At the beginning of April Buckingham was able to announce to Parliament that the King, in consequence of the advice given to him, had finally broken off negotiations with Spain on both matters.
Other and further concessions of the greatest extent were coupled with this announcement. The King promised that, if a war should break out, he would not entertain any proposals for peace without the advice of Parliament. It was of still more importance, for the moment at least, that he declared himself willing to allow Parliament itself to dispose of the sums it had granted. He said that he wished to have nothing to do with them: that Parliament itself might nominate a treasurer. These likewise were admissions which Buckingham had demanded from the King59: but it may be supposed that he had a previous understanding on the subject with the leaders of the Parliament. He also represented to the King that the removal of the old grievances was an absolute necessity. The monopolies to which James had so long clung, and which he had so obstinately defended, he now in turn gave up; while the penal laws against the Catholics, to which he was averse, were revived.
This was an intestine struggle between the different powers in the state, as well as a question of policy. Parliament and the favourite made common cause against the Privy Council, which was on the side of Spain.
Among his opponents in the Privy Council, Buckingham hated none so much as the Lord Treasurer Cranfield?, then Earl of Middlesex, for Cranfield, although raised from a humble station by Buckingham himself, had the courage to resist him on the Spanish question60. By his strict and successful management of business, Cranfield had won the favour of the King, who believed that he had found in him a second Sully?. It seems that Cranfield himself had intended to effect the ruin of Buckingham: but Buckingham was too strong for him. Certain accusations, which were partly well founded, were made available in bringing him to trial by Parliamentary means, and in removing him from his office like Bacon; for he had incurred the enmity of many by his strictness and incorruptibility. The King professed to regard this case as even worse than the former, because Bacon had acknowledged his guilt, while Cranfield denied all guilt. The doctrine of the responsibility of ministers was by this means advanced still further, for it was now becoming more dangerous to fall out with Parliament than with the King.
The authority of Parliament in general made important strides. It now threw paramount weight into those deliberations which concerned the general affairs of the kingdom, war and peace, and the royal family. What became of the principle on which the King had hitherto taken his stand, that the decision of these matters must be left exclusively to his discretion? Parliament again assumed the attitude which three years before had led to its dissolution.
It was not possible that James I could look on all this without displeasure and uneasiness. Sometimes the thought occurred to him that Buckingham had not been the right man to conduct the negotiations with Spain. The words escaped him that, if he had sent the Lord Keeper Williams? with his son instead of Buckingham, his honour would then have been saved, and his heart would now beat more lightly. He did not approve of the decided turn which was being given to foreign politics. He was once heard to say that he was a poor old man, who in former times had known something about politics, but who now knew nothing more about them.
It seems indeed that he had fancied that he could still continue to hold the balance between parties: so at least those who knew James understood him. He had no intention of allowing Buckingham's fall, as the enemies of that nobleman wished, but he perhaps thought of finding a counterpoise for him: he did not wish to let him become lord and master of affairs. On the other hand Buckingham, by his connexion with the leading men of the Lower House, had already won an independent position, in which he was no longer at the mercy of the King. He may perhaps be set down as the first English minister who, supported by Parliament and by public opinion, induced or compelled the King to adopt a policy on which of his own accord he would not have resolved. In conjunction with his new friends Buckingham succeeded in breaking up the Spanish party, with which he now for the first time came into conflict: his adherents congratulated him on his success61. In court and state a kind of reaction against the previous importance of this party set in. The offices which were vacated by the fall of Cranfield were conferred on men of the other party, the kind of men who had formerly been displaced under the influence of Gondomar. Seamen were acquitted who had shown the same disregard for orders as Walter Ralegh had once done, and preparations were made to indemnify Ralegh's posterity for the loss of property which they had suffered. The Spanish ambassadors at court availed themselves of a moment of ill humour on the part of the King, to whom indeed they had again obtained access, to call his attention to the loss of authority which threatened him on account of Buckingham's combination with the leading men in the Parliament. But in what they said they mingled so much falsehood with the truth that they could be easily refuted; and Buckingham successfully resisted this attack also.
People still perceived in the King his old indecision. He consented, it is true, that Mansfeld?, whom he had formerly helped the Spaniards to expel from his strong position on the Upper Rhine, should now be supported by English as well as French money in a new campaign to recover the Palatinate. But nevertheless he wished at the same time to enjoin him as a condition to abstain from attacking any country which rightfully belonged to the Archduchess Isabella?, or to the crown of Spain62. So far was he still from undertaking open war against Spain, as his subjects hoped and expected. And though he acceded to the negotiations with France, yet in this transaction the very circumstance which displeased the majority of his subjects—namely that he was hereby making an alliance with a Catholic power—was acceptable to him. For even then he would not have consented at any price to have interfered in the general religious quarrel merely on religious grounds. He felt no hesitation in promising the French, as he had the Spaniards, not only freedom of religion in behalf of the future queen, but even relief for his Catholic subjects in regard to the penal laws imposed by Parliament. Yet he could have wished that they had contented themselves with his simple promise. One of his envoys, Lord Nithisdale?, was himself of this opinion. On the other side it was remarked that perhaps the Catholics, of whom he also was one, might be contented with a promise from their sovereign, on whom their whole welfare depended, but that the French government could not, as it must have a dispensation from the Pope, which could not be obtained without a written assurance. James I at first declared himself ready to give such a declaration in a letter to the king of France?, and La Vieuville?, who was minister at the time, expressed himself content with that. But after his fall and Richelieu's accession to power this arrangement was rejected. It was in vain that the King's ambassadors held out a prospect that the letter should be signed by the Prince and by the chief Secretary of State; the French insisted that the King should ratify not only the treaty, but also a special engagement which they themselves wished to frame and to lay before Urban VIII?. The English plenipotentiaries at the French court, Holland? and Carlisle?, were still refusing to agree to this, when King James had already given way to the French ambassador in England.
The agreement, in the form in which it was at last concluded, was in some points more advantageous for England than that with Spain had been. While the latter stipulated that the laws which had been passed, or might hereafter be passed, in England against the Catholics were not to be applied to the royal children, but that these on the contrary were still to be secured in their right to the succession, an agreement which, as was mentioned, opened a prospect of an alteration in the religion of the reigning family; this supposition was avoided in the contract with France. But it was agreed on the other hand that the future queen was to conduct the education of her children, not merely till their tenth year, as had been stipulated with Spain, but till their thirteenth. She herself and her household were also to enjoy a higher degree of ecclesiastical independence; the superintendence of a bishop was even allowed them. It was the ambition of the Pope to demand not much less from the French than his predecessor had demanded from the Spaniards as the price of bestowing a dispensation for the marriage of a Catholic princess with a Protestant prince; and it was the ambition of the French court to offer him, or at least to appear to offer him, no less. In the special assurance above mentioned James gave a promise that his Catholic subjects should look forward to the enjoyment of still greater freedom than that which would have been conferred on them by the agreement with Spain. They were not to be molested for the sake of religion, either in their persons or in their possessions, supposing that in other respects they conducted themselves as good and loyal subjects63.
The English ambassadors took exception to single expressions: the King himself passed lightly over them. He was mainly induced to do so by the absence from the agreement with France of the most offensive and burdensome clauses which had been contained in the secret articles of the treaty with Spain. On December 12, 1624, the treaty was signed at Cambridge by the King, and the special assurance both by the King and by the Prince.
James I wished to see his son married. At the Christmas immediately following he greeted him according to English fashion with the tenderest expressions: he said that he existed only for his sake; that he had rather live with him in banishment than lead a desolate life without him. He thought that the treaty of marriage which had just been concluded would establish his happiness for ever.
An alliance between France and England for the recovery of the Palatinate was now moreover in contemplation. From the first moment the French had acknowledged that this would be to their own interest, and had promised to assist in that object to the extent of their power. Nevertheless they hesitated to conclude an express agreement for this object; for what would the Pope say if they allied themselves with Protestants against Catholics? At last they submitted a declaration in writing, but this appeared to the English ambassadors so unsatisfactory, that they preferred to return it to them. The French said that this time they would perform more than they promised. Although exceptions of many kinds might be made to their performances, yet they were really seriously bent on doing as much as possible for the recovery of the Palatinate. Just at that time Richelieu? had stepped into power, and he expressly directed the policy of France to the destruction of the position which the Spaniards had occupied on the Middle Rhine. In spite of the obstructive efforts of a party which had both ecclesiastical and political objects in view, he concluded the arrangements for the marriage of the Princess to the Prince of Wales without any delay, even without waiting for the last word of the Pope.
By this means the connexion which the King had formed in earlier years seemed once more to be revived. The Duke of Savoy? and the Republic of Venice supported Mansfeld's preparations with subsidies of money. The States General took the most lively interest in the warlike movements in Germany, on which the Elector of Brandenburg? also set his hopes. The King of Denmark? offered his help in the matter with a readiness which created astonishment. While the English ambassadors were busy in adjusting the disputes that were constantly springing up afresh between him and Sweden, he gathered the estates of Lower Saxony around him, in order to check the swift advance of the Catholic League64. Of the members of the old alliance the princes of Upper Germany alone were absent. It was hoped that the Union would be revived by the efforts of Lower Germany, and above all that its head, the Elector Palatine, would be restored to his country.
Induced by the failure of peaceful negotiations for the restoration of his son-in-law, James allowed greater progress to be made in the direction of war than he had ever done before. He took an eager interest in the preliminaries and preparations for war, even for a naval war. But would he ever have proceeded. to action? While preparing to attack the Emperor and the League did he intend to do anything more than make a demonstration against Spain? In truth it may be doubted. He never allowed his English troops to attempt anything for the relief of Breda, which at that time was still blockaded by the Spaniards65.
And in his alliance with France he certainly still held fast to his original principles.
The marriage of his son to a Catholic princess, and the indulgence towards the Catholics to which he thereby pledged himself, express the most characteristic tendencies of his policy. Notwithstanding all the concessions which he made to Parliament, he still refused to grant many of the demands which were addressed to him. The special agreement which he made with France corresponded to the conception which he had formed of his prerogative. By means of it he imported into relations controlled by the law of nations his claim to give by virtue of his royal power a dispensation even from laws that had been passed by Parliament.
After, as well as before, this event his idea was to control and to combine into harmony the conflicting elements within his kingdom by his personal will; outside his kingdom, to guide or to regulate events by clever policy. This is the important feature in the position and in the pacific attitude of this sovereign. But the blame which attaches to him is also connected with it. He made each and everything, however important it might be in itself, merely secondary to his political calculation. His high-flying thoughts have something laboured and flat about them; they are almost too closely connected with a conscious, and at the same time personal, end; they want that free sweep which is necessary for enlisting the interest of contemporaries and of posterity. And could the policy of James ever have prevailed? Was it not in its own nature already a failure? A great crisis was hanging over England when King James died (March 1625). He had once more received the Lord's Supper after the Anglican use, with edifying expressions of contrition: a numerous assembly had been present, for he wished every one to know that he died holding the same views which he had professed, and had contended for in his writings during his lifetime.
The prince who now ascended the throne was in the bloom of life: he had just completed his twenty-fifth year, He had been weak and delicate in childhood: among the defects from which he suffered was that of stammering, which he did not get over throughout life; but he had grown up stronger in other ways than had been expected. He looked well on horseback: men saw him govern with safety horses that were hard to manage: he was expert in knightly exercises: he was a good shot with the cross-bow, as well as with the gun, and even learned how to load a cannon. He was hardly less unweariedly devoted to the chase than his father. He could not vie with him in intelligence and knowledge, nor with his deceased brother Henry in vivacious energy and in popularity of disposition; but he had learnt much from his father, at whose feet he loved to sit; and his brother's tastes for the arts and for the experimental sciences, especially the former, had passed to him. In moral qualities he was superior to both. He was one of those young men of whom it is said that they have no fault. His strict propriety of demeanour bordered on maiden bashfulness: a serious and temperate soul spoke from his calm eyes. He had a natural gift for apprehending even the most complicated questions, and he was a good writer. From his youth he shewed himself economical; not profuse, but at the same time not niggardly; in all matters precise. All the world had been wearied by the frequent proofs which his father had given of his untrustworthiness, and by the unfathomable mystery in which he enveloped his ever-wavering intentions: they expected from the son more openness, uprightness, and consistency. They asked if he would not also be more decidedly Protestant. He showed, at least at first, that he had a more sensitive feeling with regard to his princely honour66. He had expected that his personal suit for the hand of the Infanta would remove all difficulties on the part of the Spaniards, even those of a political character, which obstructed the marriage. They had paid him every attention suitable to his rank, but in the business which was under discussion they had not given way a hair's breadth: it rather appeared as if they wished to avail themselves of his presence to impose harder conditions upon him. He was deeply affronted at this. When he found himself again among his countrymen on board an English ship, he expressed his astonishment that he had not been detained after he had been so ill-treated67. Quiet and taciturn by nature, he knew while in Spain how to disguise his real feelings by appearing to feel differently: but we have seen how on his return his whole attitude with regard to affairs in general, both foreign and domestic, in matters which concerned his father and the Parliament alike, assumed an altered character which corresponded to the general feeling of the nation far more closely than the policy previously pursued.
In the last days of James doubts had still been felt whether he would ever allow a marriage to take place between his son and a French princess, and large sums had been wagered on the issue. Charles I at once put an end to all hesitation. He did not allow himself to be induced to defer his marriage even by the death of his father, or by a pestilential sickness which then prevailed, or by the lack of the desirable preparations in the royal palaces. He wished to show the world that he adhered to his policy of opposition to Spain. He even allowed the privateering, which his father had formerly suppressed with so much zeal, to begin again. The royal navy, for the improvement of which Buckingham actively exerted himself, was put in a complete state of efficiency, and the money granted by Parliament was principally employed for this purpose.
But to enable him to undertake war in earnest he required fresh grants. It was almost the first thought of the King after his accession to the throne to call a Parliament for this purpose, and that the same Parliament which had last sat in the reign of his father68. He bent, although unwillingly, to the necessity, imposed by the constitution, of ordering new elections to be proceeded with, for he would rather have avoided all delay: but he entertained no doubt that the Parliament, as it was composed after the elections, would give him its full support. After what had taken place he considered this almost a matter of course.
On June 18/28, 1625, Charles I opened his first Parliament at Westminster. He reminded the members that his father had been induced by the advice of the Parliament, whose wishes he had himself represented to the King, to break off all further negotiations with Spain. He said that this was done in their interest: that on their instigation he had embarked on the affair as a young man joyfully and with good courage: that this had been his first undertaking: what a reproach would it be both for himself and for them if they now refused him the support which he necessarily required for bringing to a successful issue the quarrel which had already begun!
And certainly if war with Spain had been the only question, he might have reckoned upon abundant grants: but the matter was not quite so simple. Parliament thought above all of its own designs, which it had not been possible to effect in the lifetime of James I, but which Charles had advocated in the last session. If the new King inferred the obligation of Parliament to furnish the money required for a foreign war from the share it had had in the counsels which had led to that war, Parliament also considered that he was no less bound on his part to fulfil the wishes that had been expressed in regard to internal policy. In the very first debate which preceded the election of the Speaker, this point of view was very distinctly put forward. The King was told that in the last session he had sought to remove all differences between Parliament and his father, and to induce the latter to grant the petitions of Parliament: that if he had not succeeded then, that result had been due only to his want of power; but now he had power as well as inclination: what he before had only been able to will, he now was enabled to effect, and everything depended solely on him69. It had been especially the execution of the Acts of Parliament directed against the Catholics which the Parliament demanded, and which the Prince in his ardour against Spain had then thought advisable. His father had refused to grant this: it was now expected that he should grant it himself. They expected this from him as much as he expected from them a subsidy sufficient for carrying on the war. It may be asked, however, whether it was possible for him to give ear to their wishes. The complication in his fortunes arose from his inability to comply.
If Charles I, when Prince of Wales, had wished to identify his cause entirely with the aims of Parliament, he would have been obliged to marry the daughter of a Protestant prince. But this was prevented by the political danger which would then have arisen in the event of a breach with Spain. Neither James nor Charles I believed that they could withstand this great monarchy without an alliance with France. Political and dynastic interests had led to the marriage which had just been concluded. But by this a relation with the Catholic world had again been contracted which rendered impossible a purely Protestant system of government such as Queen Elizabeth desired to establish. A dispensation from Rome had been required which expressed even without any disguise the hope that the French princess would convert the King and his realm to the old faith70. The marriage could not have been concluded without entering into obligations which were in open contradiction to the Acts of Parliament. Those obligations were not yet fully known, but what was learnt of them caused great agitation. Charles was reminded of a promise, which he was said to have given at an earlier time, to agree to no conditions on his marriage which might be prejudicial to the Church existing in England. Men asked how that promise had been fulfilled; and why any secret was made of the compact which had been concluded. Would not the Queen's chapel, they asked, now serve to unite the Catholics of England; or would they be forbidden to hear mass there? In a forcible petition Parliament asked for the execution of the laws issued against Papists and recusants71.
Charles I was not in a position to be able to regard it. It was not that he had any thought of curtailing the rights of the English Church or of entering on any other course in great questions of general policy than that which had been laid down in conjunction with Parliament. His marriage also was a preparation for the conflict with Spain; but if it was not so decidedly opposed to the common feeling of the country as a Spanish marriage, yet it was far from being in accordance with it. The pledges which had been given on that occasion prevented the King from adopting exclusively Protestant points of view, and from identifying himself completely with his people.
But there was another reason for the King's adherence to his agreement. He was as little inclined as his father had been to allow the Parliament to exercise any influence on ecclesiastical affairs. Much unpleasant surprise was created at that time by the writings of Dr. Montague?, in which he treated the Roman Church with forbearance, and Puritanism with scorn and hatred. Parliament wished to institute proceedings against the author. The King did not take him under his protection; but on the request of some dignitaries of the English Church he transferred the matter to his own tribunal. He regarded it moreover as an undoubted element of his prerogative to dispense with the statutes passed by Parliament, so that the concessions which were expressed in the marriage compact appeared to him quite justifiable.
We see how closely this affected the most important question of English constitutional law. The universal competence of Parliament is here opposed to the authority of the King, strengthened by his ecclesiastical functions. And we understand how Parliament, in spite of the urgent need created by itself, hesitated to fulfil the expectations of the King.
It could not absolutely refuse to make any grant: it offered him two subsidies, 'fruits of its love' as they were termed. But the King had expected a far stronger proof of devotion. What importance could be attached to such an insignificant sum in prospect of so tremendous an undertaking as a war against Spain? The grant itself implied a sort of refusal.
But the Lower House also attempted to introduce a most extensive innovation in regard to finance. The customs formed one of the main sources of the revenue of the crown, without which it could not be supported. They had been increased by the last government on the ground of its right to tonnage and poundage, although, as we saw, not without opposition72. The constitutional question was whether the customs were properly to be regarded as a tax, and accordingly dependent on the grant of Parliament, or whether they were absolutely appropriated to the crown by right derived from long prescription: for since the time of Edward IV, tonnage and poundage had been granted to every king for the whole period of his reign. The controversies arising on the subject under James had brought to light the daily increasing importance conferred by the growth of commerce on this source of revenue, which certainly assured to the crown, if not for extraordinary undertakings, yet for the conduct of the ordinary business of the state, a certain independence of the grants of Parliament. The Lower House was now disinclined, both on principle and under the painful excitement of the moment, to renew the grant on these terms: it therefore conferred the right to tonnage and poundage on the King only for a year. But the import of this restriction was plain enough. The popular leaders were not satisfied with granting the King very inadequate support for the war, but they sought to make him dependent even in time of peace on the good-will of the Lower House. The resolution was rejected by the Upper House, and it appeared to the King himself as an affront. For why should he be refused what had been secured to his predecessors during a century and a half? The granting of supplies for life he regarded as a mere form, which after such long prescription was not even necessary. He thought himself entitled, even without such a grant, to have the duties levied in his own name as before.
These were differences of the most thoroughgoing character, which had descended to Charles I with the crown itself from the earlier kings and from his father. The change of government, and certain previous occurrences caused these differences to come into greater prominence than ever; but they received their peculiar character from something in his personal relations which had also been transmitted from the father to the son.
Or rather, we may say, James I would certainly have been inclined to get rid of Buckingham as he had formerly got rid of Somerset: under Charles I this favourite occupied a still stronger position than he had held before. Between the two men personally there was a great contrast. In the favourite there was nothing of the precision, calmness, and moral behaviour of the King. Buckingham was dissolute, talkative, and vain. His appearance had made his fortune, and he endeavoured to add to it by a splendour of attire, which later times would have allowed only in women. Jewels were displayed in his ears, and precious stones served as buttons for his doublet. It was affirmed that on his journey to France, which preceded the marriage of the King, he had taken with him about thirty different suits, each more costly than the last. It was for him as much an affair of ambition as of sensual pleasure to make an impression upon women, and to achieve what are called conquests in the highest circles. He revelled in the enjoyment of successes in society. Moments of lassitude followed, when those who had to speak with him on business found him extended upon his couch, without giving them a sign of interest or attention, especially when their proposals were not altogether to his mind. Immediately afterwards however he would pass from this state to one of the most highly-strained activity, for which he by no means wanted ability: he then knew neither rest nor weariness. He was spurred on most of all by the necessity of making head alternately against such powerful and active rivals as the two ministers who at that time conducted the affairs of France? and Spain?. He was bound to Charles I by a common interest in one or two of those employments which fill up daily life, for instance by fondness for art and art collections, but principally by the companionship into which they had been thrown, first in the cabinet of James I, who weighed his conclusions by their assistance, and afterwards in their journey to Spain. The Spaniards, who were accustomed to treat persons of the highest rank with respect and reverence, were greatly scandalised to see how entirely Buckingham indulged his own humours in the presence of the Prince. He allowed himself to use playful nicknames, such as might have been often applied in the hunting-seats of James or in letters to him, but which at other times appeared very much out of place. He remained sitting when the Prince was standing: in his presence he had indeed the audacity to consult his ease by stretching his legs on another chair. The Prince appeared to find this quite proper: Buckingham was for him not so much a servant as an equal and intimate friend. It would have been impossible to say which of the two was the chief cause of the alienation which arose between them and the Spaniards. Rumour made the favourite responsible for this estrangement: better informed people traced it to the Prince himself. The intimacy formed during their previous association had been made still closer by the policy which they pursued since their return from Spain. Many persons hoped notwithstanding that, in spite of appearances to the contrary, an alteration would take place with the change of government. But on the first entry of Charles I into London, Buckingham was seen sitting by him in his carriage in the usual intimate proximity. His share in the marriage of the King increased their friendship: they both equally agreed even in the subsequent change of policy. Buckingham had allied himself most closely with the leaders of the Puritan opposition in Parliament: by their support principally he had broken up the party favourable to Spain. But in return for these services he had now not the least intention of doing justice to their claims. If it had depended on him, still greater concessions would afterwards have been granted in favour of the Catholics than in fact were made; for Catholic sympathies were very strongly represented in his family: he himself had far less feeling in favour of Anglican orthodoxy than the King. And when the rights of the prerogative were called in question, he again espoused them most zealously, seeing that his own power rested on their validity. He looked at the Parliamentary constitution from the point of view of a holder of power, who wishes to avail himself of it for the end before him without deeming himself bound by it, so soon as it becomes inconvenient to him. He cared only for success in his immediate object: all means of obtaining it seemed fair.
The continuance of the session in London was at that time rendered impossible by the pestilential sickness already referred to, which every day increased in severity. Buckingham, who although pliant and adroit yet had no regard whatever for others, wished to keep Parliament sitting until it had made satisfactory grants. While the members, and even the Privy Council, wished for a prorogation, he urged with success that the sitting should only be transferred to Oxford. Thither the two Houses very unwillingly went, for there also symptoms of the plague were already showing themselves; and each member would have preferred to be at home with his family. And when Buckingham came before them at Oxford with his proposal for a further grant, the ill-humour of the assembly openly broke out. He was reproached with the illegality of his conduct in asking for a grant of subsidies more than once in a session; the members said that if this was the object of their meeting they might well have been at home73. But they were not content with rejecting the proposal: they said that if they must remain together, they would, according to former precedent, bring under debate the prevailing abuses and their removal.
Buckingham had been warned that by now changing his demeanour he would run the risk of forfeiting those sympathies of Parliament, which he had won by his Protestant attitude. In the very first session at Oxford an event took place which set religious passions in agitation.
Before the departure of the Parliament from London Lord Keeper Williams? had promised in the King's name that the laws against Catholic priests should be observed. Immediately after the Speaker? had taken his seat at Oxford, a complaint was made that an order for the pardon of six priests had been since issued. Williams had had no share in it; he had refused to seal it. It had been necessary to complete it in the presence of the King, who was induced at the urgent request of Buckingham to give his assent in pursuance of the conditions of the agreement executed with France. This conduct however, the failure to execute laws that had been ratified, especially after a renewed promise to the contrary, appeared to the Parliament an attack upon its rights and upon the constitution of the country. The ill-feeling was directed against Buckingham, whose exceptional position was now the general object of public and private hatred.
This was a time in which the power of a first minister in France, who came forward as the representative of the monarchy, was winning its way amid the strife of factions, and above all in opposition to the claims of aristocratic independence. What Concini? and Luynes? had begun, Richelieu with a strong arm carried systematically into effect. Something similar seemed to be at hand in England also. It had been the fashion of James I to give effect to his will in the state by means of a minister, to whom he confided the most important affairs, and whom he wished to be dependent solely on the King himself; and Charles I, in this as in other matters, followed his father's example. Buckingham became more powerful under him than ever. At the meetings of the Privy Council the King hardly allowed any one else to speak: without taking the votes of the members he accepted Buckingham's opinion as conclusive. And yet it was apparent at the same time that this opinion did not deserve preference from any worth of its own. The public administration, so far as it was influenced by him, and his special department, the Admiralty, furnished much occasion for just censure; and the general policy on which he embarked appeared questionable and dangerous. He was coarsely compared to a mule which took its rider into a wrong road. Oxford suggested to men's minds the recollection of the opposition which the great nobles had once offered to Henry III. People said that they might perhaps have been to blame in form, but not in substance. It was wished that Charles I might also govern the state by the help of his wise and dignified councillors, and not with the aid of a single young man. Parliament, the great men of the country, and those who filled the highest offices, were almost unanimous against Buckingham. The Lord Keeper Williams told the King openly at a meeting of the Privy Council at Oxford, that nothing would quiet the apprehensions of his Parliament but an assurance 'that in actions of importance and in the disposition of what sums of money the people should bestow upon him, he would take the advice of a settled and constant council74. The misconduct of the favourite in not applying the money granted to the objects for which it was voted, was exactly the ground of the complaint urged against him. Not only the real importance of the points in dispute, but also the intention of driving Buckingham from his position, led Parliament to reject all his proposals.
The King's adherence to his resolution of supporting his minister greatly affected the state of affairs in England, which even at that time presupposed and required an agreement between the Crown and the Parliament.
Buckingham attributed the rejection of his proposals in Parliament to personal enmity; and this he thought he could certainly overcome. Williams, who in the time of James I had been entirely in the confidence of the King, was after a time dismissed, not without harshness, and was replaced by Thomas Coventry?. The post of Lord Keeper was again filled by a lawyer who troubled himself less about political affairs. Parliament was not prorogued, as the rest of the members of the Privy Council wished: the King agreed with Buckingham that it must be dissolved. The Duke hoped that new elections, held under his influence, would give better results. He did not doubt that another Parliament might be hurried away to make extensive grants under the pressure of the great interest opposed to Spain. But in order to effect this object it appeared to him necessary to exclude from the Lower House its most active members, who were his personal antagonists. He adopted the odious means of advancing them to offices which could not be held compatible with a seat in Parliament. In this way Edward Coke?, who revived and found arguments for the constitutional claims of Parliament, was nominated sheriff of Buckinghamshire, and Thomas Wentworth? High Sheriff of Yorkshire. Francis Seymour, Robert Phillips?, and some others, had a similar fate75. When the lists were submitted as usual the King unexpectedly announced these nominations. Some peers, whose views inspired no confidence, were not summoned to attend the sittings of the Upper House.
Perhaps too much weight has been attributed to the circumstance—but yet it proves the discontent which was widely spreading—that at the coronation of the King, which took place during these days, the traditional questlon addressed from four sides of the tribune to the surrounding multitude, asking whether they approved, was not answered from one side at least with the joyful readiness usually displayed76.
On February 6, 1626, the new Parliament was opened at Westminster. It made no great objection to the exclusion of some of the former members, as the means by which this had been effected could not be regarded as exactly illegal. Among the members assembled an ambition was rather felt to prove that their opinions and resolutions were not dependent on the influence of some few men. For all Buckingham's efforts to prevent it, on this occasion also those opinions were in the ascendant which he wished to oppose. In the place of the members excluded others arose, and at times they were the very men from whom he feared nothing. A great impression was made when a personal friend of Buckingham, his vice-admiral in Devonshire, John Eliot?, came forward as his decided political opponent. He first brought under discussion the mismanagement of the money granted, which was laid to the charge of the First Minister. With this was connected a transaction of great importance which affected the general relation between the Parliament and the Crown.
In the year 1624 a council of war, consisting of seven members, had been nominated to manage the money then granted. They were now summoned to account for it. Although this measure appeared an innovation, yet the government could do nothing against it—it had even consented to it: but Parliament at the same time submitted to the members the invidious question, whether their advice for the attainment of the ends in view had always been followed. King James had said on a former occasion, that if Parliament granted him subsidies, he had to account to it for their disposal as little as to a merchant from whom he received money; for he loved to lay as much emphasis upon his prerogative as possible. How entirely opposed to the prerogative were the claims which Parliament now advanced! It is clear that if the members of the council should make the communications they were asked for, all freedom of action on the part of the minister and of the King himself would be called in question.
The members of the new council for war were thrown into great embarrassment. They answered that they must first consult the lawyers on the subject, and the King conveyed to them his approval of this declaration. He informed them that he had had the Act of Parliament laid before him: that they were bound to submit to questions only about the application of the money, but about nothing else: he even threatened them with his displeasure if they should go beyond this. The president of the council for war, George Carew?, called his attention to the probability that the grant of the subsidies which he demanded from Parliament might be hindered by such an answer: it would be better, he said, that the Council should be sent to the Tower,—for it would come to this,—than that the good relations between the King and the Parliament should be impaired, and the payment of the subsidies hindered. Charles I said that it was not merely a question of money, and that gold might be bought too dear. He thanked them for the regard which they had shown to him; but he added that Parliament was aiming not at them but at himself77.
The controversy about tonnage and poundage coincided with this quarrel. The grant, as has been mentioned, had been obtained only for a short period. Parliament was incensed, that after this had expired, the King had the customs levied just as before. 'How,' it was said, 'did the King wish to raise taxes that had never been voted? Was not this altogether contrary to the form of government of the country? Whoever had counselled the King to this step, he was without doubt the sworn enemy of King and country.'
Parliament declared to the King that if he insisted on those subsidies which were absolutely necessary, it would support him as fully as ever a prince had been supported by a Parliament, but in Parliamentary fashion, or, as they expressed it, 'via parlamentaria78.' The claims of Parliament included both the right of granting money in its widest extent, and the supervision of its application when granted. The King considered that a grant was not necessary in respect of every source of revenue—for instance, not in respect to tonnage and poundage, and was determined to keep the management entirely in his own hands, and to submit to no kind of control over it.
Many other questions, in which wide interests were involved, were brought forward for discussion in Parliament, especially in regard to ecclesiastical matters: the proceedings of the High Commission were attacked again. But the question of the widest range of all was the decided attempt to alter the government and to overthrow the great minister, which gave perhaps the greatest employment to the assembly79. It was directed against the favourite personally, for he had now incurred universal hatred, but at bottom there also lay the definite intention of confirming the doctrine of ministerial responsibility by a new and signal example.
How quickly was Buckingham overtaken by Nemesis; that is to say, in this, as in so many other instances, how soon was he visited by the consequences which in the nature of things attended his actions! First, owing to his influence the establishment of that council for war had been granted which now gave occasion to the demand for Parliamentary control: and next, he had allowed the fall of Bacon, and had most deliberately overthrown Cranfield? by the help of Parliament. These were just the transactions which endangered his own existence by the consequences of the principles involved in both cases alike.
The King was certainly moved by personal inclination to take the part of his minister; but he was also moved by anxiety about the application of these principles. He complained that without actually established facts forthcoming, on the strength of general rumour, people wished to attack the man on whom he bestowed his confidence: but Parliament, he said, was altogether overstepping its competence. It was wishing to inspect the books of the royal officers, to pass judgment upon the letters of his secretary of state, nay, even upon his own: it permitted and sheltered seditious speeches within its bosom. There never had been a king, he affirmed, who was more inclined to remove real abuses, and to observe a truly Parliamentary course; but also there had never been one who was more jealous of his royal honour. The more violently Buckingham was attacked, the more it appeared to the King a point of honour to take him under his protection against charges which he considered futile.
The Lower House did not take up all the points in dispute which the King proposed for discussion. It excused some things which had occurred to the prejudice of the royal dignity, but in the principal matter it was immovable. It asserted, and adhered to its assertion, that it was the constant undoubted right of Parliament, exercised as well under the most glorious of former reigns as under the last, to hold all persons accountable, however high their rank, who should abuse the power transferred to them by their sovereign and oppress the commonwealth. They maintained that without this liberty no one would ever venture to say a word against influential men, and that the commonweal would be forced to languish under their violence.
The impeachment was drawn up in regular form by eight members, among whom we find the names of Selden?, Glanvil?, Pym?, and Eliot?. On the 8th of May it was carried by 225 votes to 116 to send up to the Lords a proposal for the arrest of Buckingham.
In the Upper House, the members of which were by no means more favourable to the Duke, and feared the nomination of a large number of peers, Lord Bristol independently brought an accusation against Buckingham relating to the failure of the Spanish marriage. The conduct of which he is accused may rather have shown ambition and foolish assumption than any real criminality; and Buckingham's defence is not without force. The Lower House, to whom it was communicated, nevertheless expressed their opinion that a formal prosecution must take place. It seemed that Buckingham must surely but sink under the combined weight of various complaints.
But the King would not allow matters to go so far. Without paying any regard to the wish of the Lords to the contrary, he proceeded to dissolve this Parliament also (June 15, 1626). In the declaration which he issued on the subject, he said that he recognised Joab's hand in these estrangements: but in spite of them he would fulfil his duty as king of this great nation, and would himself redress their grievances and defend them with the sword against foreign enemies.
The opposition between Parliament and the Crown did not develop by slow degrees. In its main principles at least it appears immediately after the accession of Charles I as a historical necessity.
In reviewing so important a conflict as that which had broken out at home, it almost requires an effort of will to bestow deep interest upon foreign affairs in turn. But not only is this necessary from the connexion between the two, but we should not be able to understand the history of England if we left out of consideration its relation to those great events of European importance which absorbed even the largest share of public attention.
Charles I had undertaken to do what his father avoided to the end of his life,—to offer open opposition to the Spanish monarchy and its aims. Like Queen Elizabeth he took this step in alliance with France, Holland, and the Protestants of Germany and the North, but yet not in full agreement with his own people. This was due mainly to the circumstance that France had become far more Catholic under Mary de' Medici? and Louis XIII? than it had been under Henry IV?. The offensive alliance between France and England now developed a character which rather irritated than quieted the religious feelings which prevailed in England.
On the first shocks sustained by the close alliance which had existed between the Catholic powers, the Huguenots in France rose in order to recover their former rights which had been curtailed. But the French government was not at all inclined to give fresh life to these powerful and dangerous movements: on the contrary it invoked the assistance of England and Holland to put them down. For the great strength of the Huguenots lay in their naval resources, and without the help of the maritime powers the French government would never have been able to overcome them. And so imperative seemed the necessity of internal peace in France80, if she was to be induced to take an active share in the war against Spain, that the English and Dutch were actually persuaded to put their crews and vessels at the disposal of the French government, which then used them with decisive results. The naval power of the Huguenots, which had formed so large an element of the fighting strength of the Protestants, was broken by the assistance of England and Holland. Queen Elizabeth, in the midst of her war with Philip II, would certainly never have been brought to this step, and even now it roused the bitterest dislike. It was found that the execution of the orders issued met with resistance even on board the ships themselves. A light is thrown upon the ill-feeling at home, when a member of the Privy Council, Lord Pembroke?, tells a captain who resisted this mutinous spirit, that the news of the insubordination of his crew was the best which he had heard for a long time, and that it was welcome even to the King: that he must deal leniently with his men, and only see that he remained master of the ship81. But what an impression must doubtless have been produced on the population of England, which still stood in the closest relation to the French Reformed! Sermons were delivered from the pulpits against these proceedings of the government.
But if the active alliance of France against Spain and Austria was secured by this immense sacrifice, what could have appeared more natural than to employ the whole strength of that country for the restoration of the Count Palatine, which the French saw to be advantageous to themselves, and for the support of German Protestantism? In pursuance of the stipulations which had been made the King of Denmark? was already in the field: his troops had already fought hand to hand at Nienburg in the circle of Lower Saxony with the forces of the League which were pressing forward into that country. He was strong in cavalry but weak in infantry: the German envoys who were present in England insisted that gallant English troops should be sent to his assistance, and that the fleet which was ready for service should be ordered to the Weser; for that the support which the fleet would give to the King would encourage him to advance with good heart. And then, as they added with extravagant hopefulness, the King of Sweden, who had already offered his aid, would come forward actively, if only he had some security; the Elector of Brandenburg?, who had just married his sister? to the King of Sweden, would declare himself; the Prince of Transylvania?, who was connected with the same family, would force his way into Bohemia: every one would withstand the League and compel it to restore the lands occupied by it to their former sovereigns, and to the religion hitherto professed in them.
But Buckingham had as little sympathy with the German as with the French Protestants: his passionate ambition was to make the Spaniards directly feel the weight of his hatred. For this purpose he had just concluded an offensive and defensive alliance with the United Provinces; even the great maritime interests of England were themselves a reason for opposing Spain. At all events, in the autumn of 1625 he despatched the fleet, not to the Weser, which appeared to him almost unworthy of this great expedition, but against the coasts of the Spanish peninsula. Orders were given to it to enter the mouth of the Guadalquiver, and to alarm Seville, or else to take the town of Cadiz, for which object it had on board a considerable number of land troops; or, finally, to lie in wait for the Spanish fleet laden with silver, and to bring home the cargo as a lawful prize. Buckingham proceeded on the supposition that the foundation of the Spanish power and its influence would be undermined by the interruption of the Spanish trade with America, and that in the next year the Spaniards would be able to effect nothing. He dld not perceive that this would have no decisive influence on that undertaking on which in the first instance everything depended, that of the King of Denmark, as meanwhile in Rome, Vienna, and Munich, native forces, independent of Spain, had been collected. But while he preferred the more distant to the more immediate end, it was his fate to achieve neither the one nor the other. In December 1625 the fleet returned without having effected anything at sea or on the Spanish coasts. On the contrary it had suffered the heaviest losses itself.
The discredit into which Buckingham fell with those whom he had desired to win over, and whose wishes were fixed on the struggle with Spain, is exhibited in a very extraordinary enterprise which sprung up at this time, and which had for its object the formation of what we may almost call a joint-stock war company. A wish was felt to form a company for making war on Spain, upon the basis, it is true, of a royal charter, but under the authority of Parliament, with the intention of sharing the booty and the conquests, as well as the costs among the members82.
By the late enterprise moreover the means had been wasted which might have been used for supporting the German allies of England. Left without sufficient subsidies in his quarrel with Parliament, the King was unable to pay the arrears due both to the seamen who were returning from Spain, and to his troops in Holland. He could not repair his fleet; he could hardly defend his coasts: how could he be in a position to make any persevering effort for the conduct of the war in Germany? The King of Sweden asked for only £15,000 in order to set his forces in motion; but at that time this sum could not be raised. The King of Denmark was the more thrown on England, as the French also made their services depend on what the English would do: but Conway?, the Secretary of State, declared himself unable to pay the stipulated sum. Could men feel astonished that the Danish war was not carried on with the energy which the cause seemed to demand? Christian IV had not troops enough, and could not pay even those which he had. The cavalry, which constituted his main strength, had on one occasion refused to fight, because they had not received their pay. He himself threw the chief blame on the English for the defeat which he now sustained at Lutter; and which was the more decisive, as meanwhile Mansfeld also, who wished to turn his steps to the hereditary dominions of Austria in order to combine with the Prince of Transylvania, had been not only defeated, but almost annihilated. The armies which were to have defended the Protestant cause disappeared from off the field. The forces of the Emperor and of the League now occupied North Germany also on both sides of the Elbe.
To Germany the alliance with England had at that time brought no good. It may be doubted whether the Elector Palatine would have accepted the crown of Bohemia but for the support which he thought to find in England. This affair had a great part in bringing on the outbreak of the great religious conflict. But James I sought to retrieve the misfortune into which the Elector had fallen, not so much by employing his own power, as by developing his relations with the Spaniards; and thus he had himself given them the opportunity of establishing themselves in the Palatinate, and had caused the Catholic reaction to triumph in Upper Germany. Without the instigation of England, and the great combination of the powers in East and West hostile to the house of Austria, the King of Denmark would not have determined to begin war, nor would the circle of Lower Saxony have aided him. On this occasion as on others in England the interests of its own power outweighed consideration for the allies. The policy of the English had formerly been ruled by their friendly relations with Spain: it was now ruled by their hostile intentions towards that country. All available forces were employed for their purpose, and the movement in Germany was left to its fate.
Meanwhile another consequence of the breach with Spain came to light, which King James had always feared. In order not to be forced to fight both great powers at once, Spain found it advisable to show a compliance hitherto unprecedented in the affairs of Italy, in which France had interested herself. After this the irritation against the ascendancy of the Spaniards evidently abated in France. For in alliances of great powers it is self-evident that their political points of view, if for a moment they coincide, must nevertheless in a short time be again opposed to one another. How should one power really seek the permanent advantage of another?
At that time also, as on so many occasions, other relations arising out of the position of the leading statesmen as members of parties, produced an effect on politics. Cardinal Richelieu met with opposition from a zealously Catholic party, which gathered round the queen mother, and considered the influence of Spain to a certain degree necessary. This party seized the first favourable opportunity of setting on foot a preliminary treaty of peace, to which Richelieu, however long he hesitated, and however much he disliked it, could not help acceding.
Quite in keeping with this understanding between the Catholic powers was the partial recoil of Protestantism in England from the advances which it had made to the Catholic party. The French who surrounded the Queen were so numerous, that a strong feeling of opposition on religious and national grounds was awakened in them by their contact with the English character. They saw in the English nothing but heretics and apostates; the Catholics who had formerly been executed at Tyburn as rebels they honoured as martyrs. The Queen herself, upon whom her priests laid all kinds of penance corresponding to her dignity, was once induced to take part in a procession to this place of execution. It is conceivable how deeply wounded and irritated the English must have felt at these odious demonstrations. To the King it seemed insufferable that the household of his consort should take up a position of open hostility to the ecclesiastical laws of the land. Personally also he felt injured and affronted. We hear complaints from him that he was robbed of his sleep at night by these demonstrations. He quickly and properly resolved to rid himself once for all of these refractory people, whatever might be the consequence. The Queen's court was then refusing to admit into it the English ladies whom he had appointed to attend on her. The King seized the opportunity: he invited his wife to dine with him, for they still had separate households; and after dinner he made her understand by degrees that he could no longer put up with this exhibition of feeling on the part of her retinue, but must send them all home again, priests and laymen, men and women alike83. This resolution was carried out in spite of all the resistance offered by those whom it affected. Only some few ladies and two priests of moderate views were left with the Queen; all the rest were shipped off to France. There they filled the court and the country with their complaints. Those about the Queen-mother assumed an air as if the most sacred agreements had been infringed, and any measure of retaliation was thought justifiable.
Marshal Bassompierre? indeed set out once more for England in order to bring about a reconciliation. Though ill received at first, he nevertheless won his way by his splendid appearance and by clever talk and moderation. In a preliminary agreement leave was given to the Queen to receive back a number of priests and some French ladies84; and Buckingham prepared to go to France to remove the obstacles still remaining. But meanwhile the feeling of estrangement at the French court had become still stronger. The agreement was not approved: and the court would not hear of a visit from Buckingham, as it was thought that he would be sure to use the opportunity afforded by his presence to stir up the Huguenots. Richelieu thought that the dispute with England had been provoked by his enemies in order to break up the friendly relations which he had established. But nevertheless he too did not wish to see Buckingham in France, for he feared that the English minister might side outright with his opponents.
Personal considerations of many kinds co-operated in producing this result, but it was not due mainly to their influence. The religious sympathies and hatreds at work had incalculable effects. While the opposition between the two religions again awoke in all its strength, and a struggle for life and death was being fought out between them in Germany, an alliance could not well be maintained between two courts which professed opposite religious views. The current of the general tendencies of affairs has a power by which the best considered political combinations are swept into the background.
The paramount importance of religious movements not only prevented a combination between France and England, but also brought both Catholic powers into closer agreement with one another, as soon as their immediate differences had been in some measure adjusted. Father Berulle? had promoted the marriage of a French princess with the King of England in the hope of converting him; but now that he became conscious of his mistake, he lent his pen to a project for a common attack to be made by the Catholic powers upon England. The domestic dissensions in that country, which again aroused Catholic sympathies among a part of the population, appeared to favour such a project. An agreement on the subject was in treaty for some time. It was at last concluded and ratified in France in the form in which it was sent back from Spain85.
Although it is not clear that people in England had authentic information of these negotiations, yet the advances made by the two courts to one another, which were visible to every one, could not but cause some anxiety in the third. The English were always anxiously considering what Philip IV might have in view for the next year; at times even in Charles' reign they feared another attack from the Belgian coast. What would happen if France lent her aid in such an enterprise? It was known at all events that the priests exhorted her to do so. That France and Spain should make a joint attack on England appeared to be most for the interest of the Catholic world86.
Another ground for anxiety in England was from that resolution to revive the French naval power, which Richelieu had already taken in consequence of his late experiences. He bought ships of war, or had them built, and took foreign sailors into his service. Charles I perceived this with the greatest displeasure. He regarded it as a threat against England, for he thought that the French could have no other intention than that of robbing England of the supremacy that she had exercised from time immemorial over the sea which bears her name. He declared that he was resoIved to prevent matters from going so far.
A great effect was produced by a very definite misunderstanding which now arose between England and France, and affected naval interests as well as the question of religion. Of all the French Huguenots, who had been compelled by their last defeat to seek peace with the King, the citizens of Rochelle felt the blow most deeply. They had at that time been hemmed in on all sides, and were especially harassed by a fort erected in their neighbourhood. They had been assured that at the proper time they would be relieved of this annoyance. They had not an express and unequivocal promise; but the English ambassador, who had been invited to mediate, had guaranteed to them, after conference with the French ministry, such an interpretation of the expressions used as would secure the wished-for result87. But just the contrary took place: they were constantly being more closely shut in, and more seriously threatened with the loss of that measure of independence which they had hitherto enjoyed. They turned to Charles I. They would rather have acknowledged him as their sovereign than have submitted to such a loss, and he felt the full weight of his obligation to them. But, if he desired to grant them assistance, it could only be rendered by open war.
When the English resolved to undertake an expedition against the Island of Rhé, the prevention of the fall of Rochelle was not the only object in view. It was rather considered that nothing could be more desirable and advantageous than the command of this island in the event of a struggle with the two powers. For Biscay could be reached in a voyage of one night from thence, and the communication between the Netherlands and the harbours on the north-east coast of Spain could at any time be interrupted by the possessors of the island, which might be used at the same time for keeping up constant communication with the Huguenots, and for giving the French power employment at home88. The Huguenots had already taken up arms again, and Rochelle displayed the English banner on its walls. Charles I intended to use Rhé as a station for his fleet, but to cede the general sovereignty over it to Rochelle. A successful result here might serve to infuse new life into the Protestant cause.
In order to achieve so great an end the King thought it admissible to levy a forced loan, and thus to collect those sums which Parliament had promised him by word of mouth, but had not yet formally granted. We shall have hereafter to consider the resistance which he encountered in this attempt, and the various arbitrary acts to which he resorted for its suppression; for they formed one of the turning points of his history. At first he actually succeeded so far, that a fleet of more than a hundred sail was able to put to sea for the attack of Rhé and the support of Rochelle. It was considered in raising this loan that a war with France had greater claims upon popular support than any other. In the present doubtful state of affairs a decided advantage gained in such a war might even now have exercised great influence upon the internal state of the kingdom.
At this juncture Buckingham assumed a position of extraordinary importance. After the repeated failures of the Protestants, his undertaking aroused all their hopes. Directed against both the Catholic powers, it must, if successful, have directly benefited the French Protestants, and indirectly the German Protestants also by the effect which it would inevitably have produced. But it was besides one enterprise more undertaken by the sole power of the monarch: it was carried out independently of any Parliamentary grants properly so called. It represented the principle of a moderate monarchical Protestantism, combined with toleration for the native Catholics, among whom Buckingham endeavoured to find support. His was a position of which the occupant must either be a great man or perish. Buckingham, who had no equal in restless activity, and was by nature not devoid of adroitness and ability, nevertheless had not that persevering and comprehensive energy which is required for the performance of great actions. He had not gone through the school of those experiences in which minds ripen: and for the want of this training his native gifts were not sufficient to compensate. He was so far fortunate as to gain possession of the Island of Rhé; but Fort Martin, which had been erected there a short time before, and on which the possession of the island depended, defied his attacks, and he was not skilful enough to intercept the support which was thrown into the fort in the hour of its greatest danger. The defence of the French certainly showed greater perseverance than the attack of the English. Buckingham did not know how to awaken among his men that fiery devotion which shrinks from no obstacle, and which would have been necessary here. And the measures which were arranged at home were not so effective as to bring him at the right moment the reinforcement he needed. In November 1627 he returned to England without having effected his object. He left behind him the French Protestants, and Rochelle especially, in the greatest distress.
Charles I had no intention of proving false to the promises which he had given them, any more than he wished to allow the King of Denmark to sink under his difficulties. But what means did he possess of bestowing help either on the former or on the latter?
After the battle of Lutter he had told the Danish ambassador, that he would come to the assistance of his uncle, even if he should have to pawn his crown. How heavily his position weighed on him at that time! While he had undertaken the responsibility of contending for the greatest interests of the world, he was obliged to confess, and did so with tears in his eyes, that at present he hardly had at his disposal the means of defraying the necessary expenses of his daily life.
The King of Denmark advised him to call Parliament together again, and make the needful concessions, in order to obtain such subsidies as would enable him to give vigorous support to his allies. Charles I in the first instance took umbrage at this, because it was good advice from an uncle and an elder, as if some blame were thereby cast on him: by degrees he became convinced of the necessity of this measure.
It was quite evident from the events of the last few years that the King would not be able to maintain the position he had assumed, without active support from Parliament.
In the heat of controversy about the supplies to be granted and the liberties to be confirmed by the King in return, it was once harshly said in the Lower House during this Parliament that it was better to be brought low by foreign enemies than to be obliged to suffer oppression at home. The King answered by saying no less abruptly that it was more honourable for the King to be straitened by the enemies of his country, than to be set at nought by his own subjects.
So much more importance was attached by both sides to domestic than to foreign struggles. But after the last failure both parties had come to feel how much the honour of the country and religion itself suffered from their dissensions. Among the politicians of the time there was a school of learned men, who had studied the old constitution of the country, and wished for nothing more than its restoration. They were seriously bent on establishing an equilibrium between the royal prerogative and the rights of Parliament. Among them were found Edward Coke?, John Selden?, and John Glanvil?; but Robert Cotton? may be regarded as the most distinguished of them all, a man who had studied most deeply, and who combined with his studies an insight into the present that was unclouded by passion. To Cotton we owe a report presented by him to the Privy Council, in which he explains that the government should proceed on the old royal road of collecting taxes by grant of Parliament, and indeed should adopt no other method; while at the same time he expresses the conviction that Parliament would be satisfied, if its most pressing anxieties were dissipated. He says that he himself would not advise the King to sacrifice the First Minister, for that such a step had always had ruinous consequences: he thought moreover that the old passionate hostility against the Duke need not be feared, if he came forward himself as the man who had advised the King to reassemble Parliament89. We learn that the King did not determine to summon it, until the most prominent men had given him an assurance that Buckingham should not be attacked. Moderation in the attitude of Parliament, and security for the First Minister formed as it were the condition under which the Parliament of 1628 was summoned90.
On March 22, five days after the beginning of the session, the deliberations of the Lower House were opened by the remark from the Speaker, that they must indeed grant subsidies to the King; but that at the same time they must maintain the undoubted rights of the country. Francis Seymour?, who had now again been returned to Parliament, at once expressed himself to the same effect. While he acknowledged that every one must make sacrifices for king and country, he showed at the same time that it was a sacred duty to cling to their ancestral laws. He proceeded to say that these laws had been transgressed, their liberties infringed, their own selves personally illtreated, and their property, with which they might have supported the King, exhausted. He proposed therefore to secure the rights, laws, and liberties transmitted from their ancestors by means of a petition to the King91.
Whatever be the tone of opposition which this language betrays, it fell far short of that adopted in the former Parliament. Men had come to an opinion that certainly no money should be granted unless securities could be obtained for their ancient liberties; but at the same time that the King should not be induced to grasp directly at absolute power, for that this would lead at once to a rebellion of uncertain issue92. Men were resolved to avoid questions which could rouse old passions. This time it was not insisted that the penal laws against the Catholics should be made more severe: Parliament waived its claim to alter the constitution of the Admiralty, and to appoint treasurers to manage the money granted to the King: it showed deference for the King, and said nothing of the Duke. But a commission was appointed to take into consideration the rights which subjects ought to have over their persons and property. Already on April 3 resolutions were proposed to the House, by which it was intended that some of the most obnoxious grievances which had lately arisen should be made for ever impossible, such as the collection of taxes that had not been granted, and restraints imposed on personal liberty in consequence of refusal to pay93.
Charles I also now took up this question. Through Coke his Secretary of State, who was also a member of the House, he issued an invitation to them not to allow themselves to be deterred by any anxiety about liberty or property from making those grants, on which, as he said, the welfare of Christendom depended; 'upon assurance,' Coke proceeds to add, 'that we shall enjoy our rights and liberties, with as much freedom and security in his time as in any age heretofore under the best of our kings; and whether you shall think fit to secure ourselves herein, by way of bill or otherwise, so as it be provided for with due respect to his honour and the publick good whereof he doubteth not that you will be careful, he promiseth and assureth you that he will give way to it.'
This is indeed a very important message. The King approves of an inquiry into the violations of old English right and prescription, which had taken place in his reign. He consents that a bill to secure their observance should be drawn up, and gives hopes beforehand of its ratification. Charles I, like James, had constantly been anxious to prevent grants from being made dependent on conditions; but something very like this occurs when he backs his invitation to a speedy grant of subsidies by a promise to approve of the petition submitted to him for certain objects.
On this five subsidies were without delay unanimously granted to the King, with the concurrence even of members like Pym?, who systematically opposed him. It was now only necessary that both sides should agree on the enactments for doing away with the abuses which had been pointed out.
The principal grievance arose from the conduct of the King, who in his embarrassments had imposed a forced loan at the rate fixed on the occasion of the last subsidies, and had sent commissioners into the counties in order to exact payment, just as if he had been armed with the authority of Parliament for this object. Many had submitted: but not a few others high and low had refused to pay, not from want of means but on principle. The King had thought this behaviour a proof of personal disaffection, and had had no hesitation in arresting those who refused: he had even taken steps to assert his right to do so as a matter of principle. Much notice was attracted at that time by a sermon preached by one Sibthorp?, in which plenary legislative authority was ascribed to the King, and unconditional obedience was demanded for all his orders if they did not contradict the divine commands. Archbishop Abbot? had steadfastly refused to allow the printing of this sermon, which he regarded as an attack upon the constitution: eighteen times in succession an intimate friend of the King went to him to urge him to give leave94. As the Archbishop refused to comply, he received orders to leave London, and was struck out of the High Commission: the sermon had been printed with the permission of another bishop. So earnestly bent was the King at that time on pressing his claim to override the necessity of a parliamentary grant in moments of emergency.
He had now however retreated from this position. Abbot had obtained permission to resume his seat in the Upper House, and so had Lord Bristol?. When, in consequence of the above-mentioned declaration in Parliament, a project was now decided on for securing the legal position of the subject, especially the rights of property and personal freedom, which had been infringed by the previous proceedings, the King expressed his agreement loudly, explicitly, and repeatedly; in general terms he gave up his claim ever to proceed again to a forced loan. No one was ever to be arrested again because he would not lend money; and in all other cases where arrest was necessary the customary forms were to be observed.
At this point however another question arose touching the very essence of the supreme power. The Lower House was not yet content that an abuse like that which had occurred should be merely removed: it wished to destroy it at the root. It was not satisfied with the promise of the King that he would never in any case punish by arrest, unless he was convinced in his conscience of its necessity. They wished to put an end to this discretionary power itself, of which his ministers could avail themselves at pleasure. Parliament demanded that henceforth no one should be arrested without assignment of the reason and observance of the forms of law.
This question led to a discussion of points of constitutional doctrine before the House of Lords, between the representatives of the Lower House and Sir Robert Heath?, the Attorney General, in an argument which deserves our whole attention.
The Lower House appealed to that article of Magna Charta, by which the arrest of free persons was forbidden except on the judgment of their peers, or according to the law of the land: and by the law of the land it understood the judicial process and its forms. Sir Robert Heath would not admit this interpretation. He thought that the expression in no way forbade the King to restrict the liberty of individuals in extraordinary cases for reasons of state; and that this restriction could not be avoided, when it was desired to trace out some conspiracy or treason. If the cause were to be assigned he thought that it must be the real cause, which could be proved before a tribunal; but how often cases arose of such a kind that arrest would have to be ordered under some other pretext, until the ring-leader could be laid hold of! It was very true, he said, that such a power might be seriously abused, but it was the same with all the rights of the prerogative: even the right of making war and peace, and the right of pardon might be abused, and yet no man wished to take these from the crown: it always was, and must always be presumed, that the King would not betray the confidence of God, who had placed him in his office.
Not without good reason did Edward Coke call this the greatest question which had ever been argued in Westminster. It was proved to him that he himself as judge had followed the interpretation which he now condemned. He answered that he was not pope, and made no pretensions to infallibility. He now firmly maintained that the King had no such prerogative at all.
We can see how opinion wavered from a speech of Sir Benjamin Rudyard?, who maintains on the one hand that it is impossible to find laws beforehand for every case, but that a circle must be drawn within which the royal authority shall prevail; while on the other hand he lays emphasis also on the danger arising from the plea of mere reasons of state, which he said would only too easily come into conflict with the laws and with religion itself. The best arrangement according to him would be, if Parliament were held so often that the irregular power, which could not be broken at once, might by degrees 'moulder away.' A copy of this speech with observations by Laud is extant in the archives. Laud calls attention to the contradiction which lies in first acknowledging the necessity of liberty of movement on the part of the government, and then notwithstanding considering it to be the destination of Parliament by degrees to absorb its power, as it was at present exercised95.
And certainly it may have been the idea of the moderate members of the House of Commons, gradually to break up such a power as that exercised by the minister and favourite, by coming to a better understanding with the King, and at the same time by strictly limiting his arbitrary authority.
The impression however gained ground that even the indispensable functions of the supreme authority would be restricted by the enactments proposed. The right of arresting persons dangerous and troublesome to the government was just then exercised in France to the widest extent; Cardinal Richelieu could never have maintained himself but for his quick and energetic use of it. In all other states, as well republican as monarchical, it was a weapon with which the government thought that it could not dispense. Was it to be dropped in England alone? And that too at a moment when the opposition of factions was constantly becoming more active? In fact the impression spread that Parliament, not content with full promises from the King, while it checked abuses, was impairing his authority.
In the Upper House, where there was a strong party in favour of the King's prerogative, these and similar considerations influenced votes. Men were agreed that abuses like those which had occurred must be for ever put a stop to. Even the proposals introduced for securing individual freedom were not properly speaking rejected: but it was desired to limit them by a clause to the effect that the sovereign power with which the King was entrusted should remain in his hands undiminished for the protection of his people. The Lower House however would not accept any such addition: for the provisions of the Petition would thus be rendered useless. They foresaw that what those provisions forbade would pass as lawful in virtue of the plenitude of the sovereign power: yet the expression 'sovereign power' was unknown in the English Parliament: that body was familiar only with the prerogative of the King, which at the same time was embodied in the laws. The Upper House on this declared that it did not think of departing from the Oath by which each one of them was pledged to maintain the prerogative of the King. Even in the Lower House the members were reminded of this, and no one raised his voice against it; for who would have been willing to confess that he was withstanding the lawful prerogative of the King? The only question was as to its extent.
This question now presented itself to the King himself. Was he to accept the proposal of the Commons, and to content himself with a general reservation of his prerogative? It is very instructive, and forms one of the most important steps in his career, that he thought it advisable to inform himself first of all what rights in this matter he really possessed. On the 26th of May, just when the heat of the quarrel was most intense, he summoned the two Chief Justices, Hyde? and Richardson?, to Whitehall, and submitted to them the question whether or not he had the right of ordering the arrest of his subjects without specifying the reason at the same time. On this the Judges were assembled by their two chiefs in the profoundest secrecy, to pronounce on the question. They decided that it certainly was the rule to specify the reasons; but that there might be cases in which the secrecy required made it necessary for some time to withhold them. A further question was then followed by a decision of the same import, that the judges in such a case were not bound to give up the prisoner even if a writ of habeas corpus were presented. Charles then proceeded to a third question, to which no doubt he attached the most importance. If he accepted the petition of the Commons, did he surrender for ever the right of ordering imprisonment without assigning a cause? The judges assembled again, and on the 31st of May, after deliberating together, they gave in their answer, signed with their names. Every law, they said, had its own interpretation; and so must this petition: and the answer must always depend upon the circumstances of the case in question, which could not be determined until the case arose; but the King certainly did not give up his right beforehand by granting the petition96.
At a later time and in another epoch these questions were finally settled in a different way. The Judges of this time decided them in favour of the power of the time. If we might apply a parallel, though certainly one borrowed from a very different form of government, we might say that the fettah of men learned in the law, the sentence of the mufti, was in favour of the King. In this, as in other respects, a difference is found to exist between the constitutions of the East and those of the West: such a sentence in the West does not finally decide a case; but even here, nevertheless, it always carries great weight. Charles I felt that according to the existing state of the law, he did not exceed his rights by maintaining the prerogative which he had hitherto exercised. The last decision raised him even above the apprehension of losing it by acceding to a petition which was opposed to it.
He could not however resolve on this step without further consideration.
To accede to the petition, and at the same time to reserve in his own favour the declaration made by the Judges, was an act of duplicity, which he wished to escape by giving an assurance couched in general terms.
On the 2nd of June he came down to the House in full assembly, and had his answer read. Its tenor was, that the laws should be observed and the statutes put in force, and his subjects freed from oppression; that he the King was as anxious for their true rights and liberties as for his own prerogative.
But it is easily intelligible that these words satisfied no one. They appeared to one party as dark as the sentence of an oracle; to the other they appeared useless; for the King, they said, was already pledged to all this by his Coronation Oath[246a]: such long sittings and so much labour would not have been required to effect such a result as this. The answer however was not ascribed to the King, whose deliberations remained shrouded in the closest secrecy, and who on the contrary was thought to agree with the substance of the petition, but to the favourite, who was supposed to find such an agreement dangerous for himself97. It was remarked that two days before making this declaration the King had been at one of the country seats of the Duke, and had held confidential conversations with him. It was thought that there, under the influence of the Duke, the declaration had been drawn up, which contained nothing but words that might easily be explained in another sense, and which did not even make any mention of the petition at all. It was fancied that Buckingham even wished to hinder the King from coming to a genuine understanding with his Parliament, which might be disadvantageous to his interests98. His opponents thought that he was at the root of all previous misfortunes; and what might they not still expect from him? He was credited with wishing to alter the constitution of England, to excite a war with Scotland, and to betray Ireland to the Spaniards. In spite of all that the King might have originally expected, they determined to make a direct attack upon such a minister. Popular susceptibility knows no limits in its anxieties or hopes, in its likings or hatreds. Even thoughtful and serious men allowed themselves to entertain the opinion that the prosperity of England at home and abroad was as good as lost: the former was lost if people were content with the answer given, the latter if they refused to make the grants demanded, or even if they made them but left the administration in those untrustworthy hands in which it was at the present time. On one occasion these feelings gave rise to an unparalleled scene in Parliament. Those bearded and sedate men wept and cursed. They feared for their country, and each one feared for himself, if they did not get rid of the man who possessed power, while on the other hand it seemed to them impossible to do so. Some could not speak for tears: violent exclamations against the Duke prevented the continuance of the debate. But not only were complaints heard: the expression was also heard, that men had still hands and swords, and could get rid of the enemy of King and country by his death. They proceeded at last to deliberate on a protestation which was resolved on after that debate, and they had gone so far as to name the Duke, and to declare him a traitor, when the Speaker who had quitted the House came in again, and brought a message from the King, by which the sitting was adjourned to the following day.
No course seemed to be left for Charles I but to dissolve this Parliament immediately as he had dissolved its predecessor. But what would then have become of the grant of money, which was every day more urgently needed? Like the Petition, it would have fallen to the ground. Before the end of the same day, June 5, a meeting of the Privy Council was held, in which it was resolved to calm the agitation by accepting the Petition of Right. We do not learn if on that occasion the scruples of the King were discussed or not; but as his questions to the judges already betrayed his inclination to such a course, so now he actually resolved to plunge into the contradiction which he had wished to avoid, and accept the Petition while at the same time, in accordance with the sentence of the Judges, he would reserve for himself the future exercise of the right therein denied.
On June 7 the King appeared in the Upper House, where the Commons also were assembled. The Lords were in their robes, and the King sat upon his throne while the Petition of Right was read. It was directed against some temporary grievances, such as forced billeting and the application of martial law in time of peace, but principally against the exaction of forced loans, or taxes which had not been granted, and against the imprisonments which had been so much talked of. The King, as had been desired, uttered the formula of assent used by his Norman ancestors. His words were greeted with clapping of hands and acclamations. The King added that he had meant just as much by his first declaration; indeed he knew well that it was not the intention of Parliament, nor even in its power, to limit his prerogative: for that this would be strengthened by the liberties of the people, and consisted in defending those liberties99.
The excitement of the House was taken up by the city. The bells were rung, and bonfires were kindled; and a rumour obtained credence that the Duke of Buckingham himself had fallen, and was expecting his reward on the scaffold. Of what an illusion were men the victims! The King clung to Buckingham as firmly as ever: in granting the Petition he did not mean to surrender a jot of his lawful prerogative. We have seen what he thought of his right to make arrests. In resigning his claim to levy taxes that had not been granted by Parliament he did not mean to be restricted in his claim to tonnage and poundage, for he thought that, unless these were collected, the administration of the State could not be carried on at all, and in the late controversies his right to them had not come under discussion. Some of the higher officials, the Recorder ? and the Solicitor General?, confirmed the King in this view: and to many of his opponents in Parliament it was pointed out that they had previously entertained the same opinion.
The Lower House on its part allowed the bill, by which the grant was made, to pass the last stage; but it could not be moved by advice or warning to desist from the great Remonstrance, in the composition of which the House had been interrupted. In this, mention was made of the Arminian opinions which were now making way in England, and which appeared to Parliament to involve a tendency in the direction of Romanism: but it complained principally of the connivance, which in spite of all ordinances was still constantly extended to the recusants, so that Catholicism, especially in Ireland, had the fullest scope. And the State, it was said, was in just the same plight as religion. The government was introducing foreign soldiers, especially German troopers, and was meditating the imposition of new taxes in order to pay them. In the midst of peace a general was commanding in the country. Trustworthy men were being dismissed from their offices; Parliament and its rights were contemned: was it intended to 'change the frame both of religion and government100?' But the source of all evil was the Duke of Buckingham. The remonstrants begged the King to consider whether it was advisable for himself and for his kingdom to allow him to continue in his high offices, and to keep him among his confidential advisers101.
As we gather, the Lower House attached weight to the circumstance that it did not raise a complaint, nor even strictly speaking a protest, against the continuance of Buckingham's authority, but simply preferred a request that the position of affairs should be taken into consideration. But the King was greatly offended even at this. He replied that he had hitherto always believed that the members of the Lower House understood nothing about the affairs of State, and that he was now greatly strengthened in his opinion by the purport of this representation102. Buckingham prayed the King to cause unsparing investigation into the charges raised against him to be made, for that such a proceeding would bring his innocence to light. The King offered him his hand to kiss, and addressed to him some friendly expressions. But the Lower House was incensed afresh at the bad success of its representation, and proceeded to adopt an express remonstrance on the subject of tonnage and poundage. In order to save himself from again receiving such an address, the King declared Parliament to be prorogued on June 20.
Although it was assumed just at that time that a genuine understanding between the Crown and the Parliament had been brought about in this session, yet this assumption is certainly a mistake. At the beginning of the session suspicious controversies were intentionally avoided. A basis was obtained upon which union between the two parties seemed possible: the great Petition of Right was drawn up, on the whole in concert with the government. When it was discussed however, a demand was set up affecting rights which the King would not forego. He surrendered them in his eagerness to obtain the proceeds of the grants made to him, but not without secretly reserving his rights in his own favour. Then other old differences also came to light again in their full strength. An open disagreement broke out: in haste and with tempers irritated the two parties separated.
For some years nothing had surprised foreigners who came to England so much as the wide severance between the government and the nation. Upon the one side they saw the King, the favourite, and his adherents; upon the other every one else. The King had lost much of the popularity which he had enjoyed when he ascended the throne; but a genuine hatred was directed against the arbitrary government of the Duke. Although it had been repressed out of regard to the King, it had again broken loose: the less practical result it produced, the more it filled all hearts.
Burdened with this hatred, and with the ground shaking under him, Buckingham was nevertheless revolving the largest enterprises in his brain. He repelled with scorn the charge of still keeping up an intercourse with Spain; that was contrary to his obligations to the Protestants. He himself, so he said, had concluded the alliances between England and Denmark and the States-General; and he wished also to abide by them. Without doubt overtures had been made on the part of Spain, and had been responded to on the part of England; but their relations had in fact been such as had led to no result. On the contrary, negotiations with France, which certainly offered some prospect of success, had been opened through the mediation of the Venetian ambassadors resident at the two courts. The English were ready to waive all other points at issue if the other side would resolve to show some indulgence, especially if they would conclude some tolerable arrangement with Rochelle. The forces of both powers would then undertake the war against the Spanish monarchy, and against the advance of the Emperor in Germany. The French army would turn its steps to Italy; the English fleet would go to the aid of the Danes: it was expected that these attacks would exert an enormous influence in all directions103. Buckingham was still engrossed with designs against Spain, in spite of secret but only pretended overtures to that power. He intended to attack the Spanish monarchy at the source of its greatness, in the West Indies; and by a combination of forces on the Continent to wrest the Palatinate from it, and thereby to destroy the position which it had won on the Middle Rhine. A strange ambition, although in keeping with the age and with his personal character, appears to have been connected with this design. It had entered into his head to marry his daughter to the Electoral Prince Palatine, and perhaps to give his daughter the appearance of a higher rank by getting himself declared independent prince of some West Indian conquest—Jamaica had attracted his ambition104:—a hope not altogether chimerical; for he was still all-powerful with Charles. Foreigners were astonished that he undertook the most extensive negotiations before he had given his sovereign notice of them. Not unlike James I he cherished the hope that the threatening attitude which he took up, even if he did not strike a blow, would dispose the French to make concessions and would restore the former understanding between them. If this were not the case, he was determined to undertake the relief of Rochelle with all his energies.
The condition of the English navy was such that he might reasonably promise himself success. We have credible information according to which Buckingham had made it half as large again as it had been in the time of Elizabeth. He had increased it from 14,000 tons burden to 22,000: he had put the dockyards and magazines at Chatham, Deptford, Woolwich, and Portsmouth into good repair; and a number of large vessels had been built under his orders. Already in May an English squadron had made an attempt to relieve Rochelle: but the commanders on that occasion would not undertake the responsibility of exposing the ships entrusted to them, to the great danger which threatened them if they made the attempt: they were apprehensive of being called to account. Buckingham was not fettered by considerations of this kind. He had had engines of extraordinary dimensions constructed, which it was expected would rend with irresistible power the mole in front of the harbour, by which Rochelle was cut off105. And who shall say that success would have been impossible?
Buckingham felt the hatred which men entertained towards him, but thought that he should still turn it into admiration. He wished to atone for the faults of his youth, and, as he said, to enter on new paths traced on the lines of the ancient maxims and ancient policy of England, in order to bring back better days106. He had to a certain extent made himself the centre of Protestant interests. Every one expected that he would proceed without delay to the relief of Rochelle, for which all preparations had been made. The destinies of the world seemed to hang upon his resolutions. And he had just received better tidings from that town: no one had ever seen him fuller of strength and energy. At this culminating point of his life he was smitten by a sudden and horrible death. As he stepped out of the dressing-room in his lodging at Portsmouth, and was crossing the hall, in order to mount his carriage and drive to the King, he was murdered by a stroke from a dagger.
The murderer might easily have escaped, for the house was full of men, among them many Frenchmen, on whom the first suspicion fell. While all were crying out for the villain who had murdered the Duke, the murderer said, 'No villain did it, but an honourable man. I am the man.' Men saw before them a lean man vith red hair, and dark melancholy features. His name was Felton?: he had served in the last maritime expeditions, and had formerly been passed over when there was a vacancy for promotion. He could not endure to be placed below men who had never borne arms, merely because they were in the Duke's favour. The strongest impression had been produced on him by the Remonstrance107, which censured similar transactions, and at the same time represented the Duke as the enemy of religion and his country. Felton was one of these men, who from the way in which they combine religious and political opinions are capable of anything. In this respect he may be compared with the assassins of William of Orange, Henry III, and Henry IV ; except that he came forward in behalf of the opposite side, and in his case there is no mention of any participation of a minister of religion. A paper was found on him in which he pronounced that man cowardly and base who was not ready to sacrifice his life for the cause of his God, his king, and his country. In his lodging there was another, on which he had put down some principles, which he seemed to have drawn from one or two books, and which make his intentions somewhat clearer. It is there said that a man has no relations which place him under greater obligations than those which he has with his country; that the welfare of the people is the highest law, and that 'God himself has enacted this law, that whatsoever is for the profit or benefit of the commonwealth should be accounted to be lawful108.' He was believed, and rightly, when he affirmed that he had no accomplices: the slight put upon him, he said, had inspired him with the thought, the Remonstrance had strengthened him in it: 'On my soul,' he repeated, 'nothing but the Remonstrance.' He thought that he might remove the man out of the way who obstructed the public welfare. And he looked with some feeling of sarcasm at those who testified their horror of him when he was led by: 'In your hearts,' he cried out, 'you rejoice in my deed.' There were some in fact who really displayed such a feeling: the crews, who had once already wished to mutiny, disguised their sentiments least; over their beer and pipes they gave the assassin a cheer. Others lamented most that an Englishman should have been capable of assassination. Felton himself was afterwards convinced that his principles were false. He was told that a man had other still nearer and deeper obligations to God, and to his own soul, than to his country; that no one should do the smallest evil for the sake of the greatest good109, much less then a monstrous crime like his in behalf of a cause which to his blinded eyes appeared good. He at last thanked his instructors for their lesson, and only asked in mercy to be allowed before his execution to do penance in sackcloth with ashes on his head, and a cord round his neck, in presence of all the world.
In public King Charles never lost his calmness of demeanour for a moment. He appeared to accept the event as a dispensation of Heaven; but afterwards he shut himself up for two whole days, and gave way to his sorrow.
The expedition against Rochelle now put to sea under the command of the Earl of Lindsay?. But the captains did not properly obey their chief: orders which had been planned and issued remained unexecuted: the fire-ships, which were intended to break through the defences of the enemy, were ill-managed. The intention was then formed of waiting for a higher tide, in order to attempt another attack; but meanwhile the very last resources of the town were exhausted, and it found itself obliged to capitulate. England's position in the world was immeasurably lowered when Rochelle was conquered by Richelieu. What further schemes of maritime supremacy had Buckingham latterly connected with the maintenance of this town! The ideas of Buckingham vanished as completely as if they had never been: the ideas of Richelieu became the foundation of a new order in the world.
Krempe also fell, which had hitherto been deemed impregnable, the spot which, with Gluckstadt, was still the principal stay of Danish independence, and to which Buckingham's attention had been constantly directed. It is thought that about 8000 men would have sufficed to relieve it, but as they were not forthcoming, the fortress fell into the hands of the enemy in November 1628.
And Charles I, instead of placing himself in a position to repair these losses of his allies, embarked on a new domestic quarrel with the Parliament.
As the customs had not been fixed by the advice of Parliament, and tonnage and poundage had not been regularly granted at all, some London merchants had refused to satisfy the Custom House. On this the Lords of the Treasury laid their property under seizure. Of course the persons affected declared this proceeding also illegal, and filled the country with their complaints. On this occasion it was not, as almost always hitherto, the want of an immediate subsidy, but the necessity of removing this constitutional difficulty, which caused Parliament to be assembled in January 1629. People might flatter themselves that after the death of Buckingham, who had been the object of the principal hostility of that body, an agreement would be more easily effected.
The plan drawn up by the Privy Council was in the first instance of a conciliatory nature. The right of granting money in general was to be acknowledged, even in the case of tonnage and poundage: the levying of this tax up to the present time, however, was to be justified, on the ground that other kings had collected it before it had been granted. If Parliament, after this general acknowledgement of its right, should still persist in refusing the present King what former kings had enjoyed, he would be exculpated: not the government, but Parliament would in that case have to bear the blame of the breach which would arise in consequence110.
This was the tenor of the King's speech at the opening of the discussion on January 23, 1629. He asked for tonnage and poundage, less on the strength of his hereditary right to it, than on the plea of custom and necessity. He would always consider it as a gift of his people; but after their scruples had been removed by this declaration, he expected that an end would be put to all difficulties by a grant such as had been made to his ancestors. It was offensive to him that any one contested his title to a tax, without which his state could not be kept up. In the assembled Privy Council he declared that a temporary grant was derogatory to his honour. He said that he would no longer live from hand to mouth: he had as little disposition to suffer from want, or to allow the privileges of his crown to be wrested from him, as he had had thought of infringing the liberties of his people111. Secretary Coke?, a member of the House, brought in the requisite bill without delay, and proposed the first reading.
The assembly, however, consisted of the very men who had thought that through the Petition of Right they had set up a fundamental law for ever, but had since then become conscious how little they had effected by that means.
An unpleasant impression had already been made on them by the printing of the Petition of Right without the expression of simple approval, but with the restrictive declarations which the King had at first made112. But besides this it was seen how little the King intended to be bound to the literal meaning of his words, for arrests without definite assignment of the reason had again taken place. The Star Chamber, which was already regarded as a court of doubtful legality, had imposed harsh and arbitrary penalties which awakened loud murmurs. The political opinions of one or two clergymen had caused general agitation. A preacher named Roger Manwaring? gave utterance to extreme Royalist views. He defended forced loans, and contested the unconditional right of Parliament to grant taxes. From some passages of Scripture he deduced the absolute power of the sovereign, so that properly speaking no contract at all could, in his opinion, be made between king and people113. Parliament had called him to account for this, and had punished him by fine and suspension; but the King remitted the sentence. Another clergyman of kindred views, Montague?, whom we have already mentioned, had been advanced by the King to the bishopric of Chichester, though, as deserves to be noticed, not without encountering opposition. For at the elections the old forms were still observed. Before the commissary of the Archbishop confirmed the election, which had taken place at the King's commands, he invited those present, if they knew anything in the life and conduct of the bishop-elect which could hinder his confirmation, to declare it. What had never been done on any other occasion was done then. An objection against Montague was presented in writing on the ground that doctrines occurred in his books which were irreconcilable with the existing institutions of England. The matter was brought before a court of justice, which, however, dismissed the objection as proceeding from a man who did not belong to the diocese of Chichester. The royal confirmation had then followed114. But must it not have been irritating to Parliament that the very men were promoted about whom it had complained? Its complaints seemed rather to serve as a recommendation.
Besides this a Jesuit institution had been discovered in the immediate neighbourhood of London, and had then not been prosecuted with all the severity which Parliament thought requisite. People complained that the number of Papists was increasing every day; that in the counties, where before there had been none, they were now reckoned by thousands. Mainly at the instigation of Sir John Eliot, the Lower House issued a declaration, that it desired to hold the Articles of the English Church in the sense in which they were understood by the writers, whose authority was recognised in that Church, and not in the sense of the Jesuits and Arminians, which was repudiated.
The question of tonnage and poundage came before the House while it was labouring under the irritation kindled by this discussion. What the government desired, the establishment of this tax on a legal footing, was also the wish of Parliament; but Parliament wished the matter to be settled in a way different from that intended by the King. Parliament desired to make the right of granting taxes a genuine reality, and henceforward to fix the duties in detail. The first reading of the bill brought forward by the government was rejected, on the formal ground that tonnage and poundage were subsidies, for granting which a resolution must be taken before a bill on the subject could be brought in115. Parliament espoused the cause of the London merchants, who had certainly suffered in support of its claims, and demanded that the proceedings of the Treasury should be reversed. For they maintained that the collection of tonnage and poundage was as much a breach of the fundamental principles of the realm, as the raising of any other tax that had not been granted would be. Or could any one, they asked, grant what he did not possess? If tonnage and poundage already belonged to the King, he did not need to have it granted him. The arrangement proposed by the government was rejected altogether: and everything else which was inconsistent with the literal meaning of the petition was also declared illegal.
The King was incensed at the political, as well as at the religious attitude of the Lower House. A treatise in his own handwriting is extant, in which he expresses himself on the latter subject. 'You take to yourselfs,' he says, 'the interpretation of articles of religion, the deciding of which in doctrinal points only appartaines to the clergy and convocation116.' He added that His Majesty—for he loved to speak of himself in the third person—had a short time before announced his intention of maintaining the integrity of the religion of the English Church, and its unity, and that after much reflection, in agreement with the Privy Council and with the bishops: that as the Commons had the same object in view, he was surprised that they were not content with this announcement, and that they did not at all events state wherein the King's declaration did not content them: for that the King was the supreme governor of the English Church after God.
At this very time an order was issued to the Treasury, and to the collectors of customs at the ports that tonnage and poundage should be henceforth levied, just as it had been in the latter years of James I; and that every one who refused payment should be punished.
In this way the King embarked afresh on a course of the most unequivocal hostility towards his Parliament. But that body did not intend to give way. It would not be deterred from drawing up a fresh remonstrance, in which it made use of the strongest expressions to give point to its claims. In this it was said, that whoever furthered Popery or Arminianism, whoever collected or helped to collect tonnage and poundage before it was granted, or who even paid it, the same was an enemy of the English realm and of English liberty. This was a strange combination of ecclesiastical and financial grievances and pretensions. But the course of the transactions had established an intimate relation between them. In regard to both the Commons again took up as hostile an attitude towards the ministers of that day, as they had formerly taken up towards the Duke of Buckingham. The Lord Treasurer Weston? was the special object of their hatred on both accounts. For it was said that he was a rebellious Papist—nay even a Jesuit:—did not his nearest kinsmen belong to that order?—and that he was now giving the King pernicious advice, hostile to the rights of the country and the dignity of Parliament. Proceeding on the principle that the collection of tonnage and poundage was a breach of the constitution, preparations were made for calling to account the officers engaged in this process. Nor would men have been content to stop at the subordinates; they would have reached even the highest.
In this session the moderation which had been for some time exhibited in the former dropped out of sight: the contempt shown to the Petition of Right had called forth a spirit of bitter, violent, and unbounded opposition. When the King, in order to prevent the formal passing of the Remonstrance, proceeded in the first instance to have the session adjourned, a scene of tumult and violence was witnessed, to which the annals of former Parliaments offered no parallel.
The Speaker of the House, Sir John Finch?, one of those men who had passed over from the side of the Commons to that of the King, announced to the assembled members after the opening of the sitting on the 2nd of March, that the King adjourned the House till the 10th. But this was the very hour when Sir John Eliot, who had drawn up the new Remonstrance had with his friends intended to carry it through Parliament. The House declared it illegal for the Speaker to make himself the mouthpiece of the royal will: and when he tried to withdraw, he was held on his chair by a couple of strong and resolute members. The Usher of the Black Rod?, whose business it was to declare the House adjourned, had already appeared in the ante-room; but the doors of the hall were shut. In this tumult the Remonstrance had to be read and voted on. The Speaker refused to have anything to do with it, although it was declared to be his duty to put it to the vote. Sir John Eliot and Denzil Holles must have delivered the sense of the Remonstrance orally, rather than read it properly through: but even in this fashion the majority of the House made known their assent, and in this way the immediate object was attained, as well as the circumstances allowed. On a threat that the doors should be broken through, they were now opened, and the members left the chamber117.
An extraordinary act of disobedience, considering that it was intended to be the means of securing the legal forms of Parliament! It was the last step in this stage of the proceedings. It involved an open breach between the two authorities.
In later times the responsibility for this act has been thrown on the King. Contemporaries of moderate views, and who favoured the Parliament, were of opinion however that the responsibility rather lay with those fiery and crafty men who had possessed themselves of the control of Parliament. For they thought that the King had seriously striven to compose the quarrel: that people might well have accepted his first declaration, and that the greater part of the members had been inclined to do so; but that the seeming zeal of some few for the liberties of the country had, unfortunately for England, prevented them from yielding118. It is difficult to suppose that the strength and depth of the opposition would any longer have permitted an adjustment. It was now fully apparent at all events that the King and the Lower House could no longer work together.
In the Privy Council the opinion was once more expressed, that Parliament should be treated with indulgence. This was the wish of the Lord Keeper Coventry?: but the treasurer? recommended the strict enforcement of the prerogative, and the King sided with this view. Not only was the dissolution of Parliament pronounced, but just as Henry VIII and Elizabeth had done, Charles I proceeded to punish the members who had offended against his dignity in their speeches. He first of all decided not to call Parliament together again. He declared that he had now abundantly proved that he loved to rule by the help of Parliament; that he had been compelled against his wish by the last proceedings to desist from the attempt, and that he would not renew it until his people had learnt to know him better. He said that he should consider it presumption if any time were prescribed to him for reassembling Parliament; that Parliament ought to be summoned, held, and dissolved, solely at the discretion of the King.
The great advantage of Parliament in this conflict consisted in its ability to appeal to legal precedents of past centuries in its favour. What had once rendered the continuance of the ascendancy of Parliament impossible, the danger into which it had plunged the common interests of the kingdom, was now forgotten. The laws of those times had not been repealed, but had only been modified and curtailed in its own favour by the sovereign power, which had grown strong since that time. Every position, new or unusual at the moment, which Parliament maintained was, if not laid down in former ordinances, yet at all events so logically inferred from them, that it appeared customary and in accordance with primitive law. If on the contrary Charles I maintained the prerogative which his father had exercised, and which Queen Elizabeth and the House of Tudor in general had possessed, he was placed in the awkward position of appearing to act without the countenance of the laws. He now resolved to govern, at least for a time, without the aid of Parliament. Many of his ancestors had done exactly the same; but since their time attachment to parliamentary government had become part of the national feeling. It now appeared not only to represent fully the liberties, but also especially the most popular religious tendencies of the country.
Whether under these circumstances the King would have succeeded in giving effect to his ideas, even if more peaceful times had ensued, was from the beginning extremely doubtful119.
1Ant. Foscarini, Relatione 1618: 'Il re litiene questa sorte di vita nella quale fu habtuato, e spende tutto il tempo che puo nella caccia e ne studi.'
2'Crums fallen from King James' Table, or his Table Talk.' MS. in the British Museum.
3Wilson, James I, 289: 'He had pure notions in conception, but could bring few of them into action, though they tended to his own preservation.' Wilson, Weldon, and the notices in Balfour, are certainly all of them deeply tinged with party feeling. The elder Disraeli is quite right in rejecting them: but his own conception is very unsatisfactory. Gardiner (1863) avoids unauthenticated statements; but the views of James' character which have grown up and established themselves owing to the commonplace repetition of such statements, control his representation of it.
4Foscarini: 'A due sorti di persone dona particolarmente, a grandi et a quelli che gli assistono che sono quasi tutti Scocesi, e non vaca cosa alcuna della quale possino cavar utile, che non la demandino, e nello stesso momento obtengono.'
5Harington: Nugae Antiquae i.
6Niccolo Molino, Relatione 1607: 'A abandonato e messo dietro le spalle tutti di affari li quali lascia al suo consiglio ed a suoi ministri, onde si puo dire con verita ch' egli sia principe di nome e piu tosto d'apparenza che d'effetto.'
7A. Foscarini 1618: 'In campagna gli viene di giorno in giorno dal consiglio che risiede per ordinario in Londra dato conto di quanto passa et inviatigli spacci e corrieri: tratta e risolve molte cose con il consiglio solo de suoi favoriti.—Risolve per ordinario in momenti et havendo seco segretarii per gli affari d'Inghilterra, per quelli di Scotia e Ibernia comanda ciascuno di essi, quanto occorre e vuol che si faccia in tutti i suoi regni.'
8Calderwood, vii. 311, 434. &c.
9Girolamo Lando, Relatione 1622: (S. M. è) inclinata all' ambiguita et alla dimora non gia per naturale complessione impastata di foco, colerico et molto ardente, ma perche vuol daisi a credere di cavare della protrattione del tempo cio, che desidera—conli scemi dell' ira tenendo pure quelli della mansuetudine.'
10'Unmoveable in one hair that might concern me against the whole world.' James to Somerset, In Halliwell ii. 127; certainly one of the most important documents in this collection.
11Narrative of Abbot in Rushworth i. 460.
12A. Foscarini, 1615 Nov. 13. 'Si mantiene viva la voce e sospetto del principe defonto.' Nov. 20, 'Avanthieri parti il re, che per questo accidente e per le gravi dissensioni ed odii che regna in corte si mostia molto addolorato.'
13The personal motive of the estrangement might have lain in Overbury's speech to Somerset, mentioned by Payton during the trial: '"I will leave you free to yourself to stand on your own legs." My lord of Somerset answered his legs were strong enough to bear himself' (State Trials ii 978 ) He wished to show that he could dispense with Overbury.
14According to Wilson, Ralph Winwood was informed by a confession made at Vliessingen. From a letter of Winwood extracted by Gardiner (History of England ii. 216) we only learn that Winwood received the first intimation: he reckons it as a proof of the Justice of the King of England that he allowed the investigation to be made.
15Somerset intimated that he possessed secrets the disclosure of which would compromise the King: and there is nothing, however conjectural or infamous, which has not seemed to some among posterity to be probable on this ground. James I says, "God knows it is only a trick of his idle brain, hoping thereby to shift his trial. I cannot hear a private message from him without laying an aspersion upon myself of being an accessory to his crime." (Halliwell ii. 138.)
16Girolamo Lando, Relatione 1622, praises him for 'apparenza di modestia, benigni e cortesia,—bellezza, gratia, leggiadria del corpo, a tutti gli esercitii mirabilmente disposto.'
17'Che le lettere piu importanti del re sono passate in mano di Spagna.' Ant. Foscarini, Nov. 13, 1615. There is a letter of James I of October 20 which likewise supposes acts of treachery of this kind. What is true in this supposition we now learn from Digby's letter, in Gardiner, App. iii. 2.
18'To the south parts of America or elsewhere within America possessed and inhabited by heathen and savage people.' So run the words of the commission: it is therein said expressly, 'Sir Walter Ralegh being under the peril of the law.'
19Dispaccio Veneto Feb. 10, 1617: 'Che le cose erano concertate che S. M. cattolica non avrebbe occasione di liceverne disgusto—che era fermamente del re, che il Rale andasse al suo viaggio, nel quale se avesse contravenuto alle suoi instruttioni—haveva la testa con che pagherebbe la disubbidienza.'
20Memorial of the Archduke Maximilian of Feb. 1, 1616, in Lunig, Europaische Staatsconsilia i. 918. It is clear from this that the anxiety of the members of the Union with regard to the Venetian war was not so groundless as it might otherwise appear. The Archduke lays before the Emperor the question whether 'in the event of the continuance of the Venetian disturbances he would use the opportunity to bring a numerous force into the field, and maintain it until the laudable work had been everywhere set in train, and had been prosecuted with the wished-for result.'
21Reasons for hesitating advanced by the Privy Councillors of the Prince Elector, in Moser, who calls them prophetic, Patriotisches Archiv. vii. 115. The Palatinate 'will not well be able to decide anything certain and final: she has therefore made everything depend on England and the States General, and has asked them, as well other her friends and potentates in the empire, for trusty counsel and declaration of what they will do in every case by her'.
22'Non approbare che in vita del imperatore li populi si sollevassero, ma che bene consigliava dopo morte dassero in luce le loro ragioni del jus eligendi sopra nullita dell' elettione di Ferdinando, con elegerne un altro, nel qual caso offeriva anche l'ajuto et il soccorso suo.'
23S. M., se non assenti all accettare della corona, non disse ne anche mai all ora di dissentire: che anzi alla venuta di lui in questa corte offerendole al nome dell' istesso suo signore, che quando ella havesse voluto, l'averebbe anche lasciata, egli rispondesse: io non dico questo.' Girolamo Lando, Feb. 5, 1621.
24Dohna mentioned that 'the leading English councillors held that, if the Prince Elector would but soon accept the crown, the King on his part would soon declare himself and give his approval, which accordingly threw almost the greatest weight into the scale' Secret Report in Moser vii 51.
25From the documents relating to these proceedings, it is proved that Spinola had received instructions in June 1620 to gain possession of the Palatinate, that assurances however were given to King James even in August that nothing was really known of the object of his expedition. Senkenberg iii. 545 n.
26Dispaccio Veneto, 8 Gennaio 1621.
27From a letter of Bacon to Buckingham.
28Lando, Relatione: ' Se bene procurò S. M. di ristringere e captivare fino l'autorità che hanno li communi d'eleggere li deputati, benche in qualche citta e provincia gli è riuscito, nell' unlversale non ha potuto, rifiutati i prlvatl del favorito del consiglieri il lei.' Lando describes the Parliament as 'republica altretanto mal pratica, quanto molto pretendente.'
29 Chamberlain to Carleton, March 24 . 'They find it more than Hercules' labour purgate hoc stabulum Augine of monopolies, patents and the like' (St P.0.).
30 Chamberlain to Carleton: 'All men approve E. Coke, who upon discovery of those matters exclaimed that a corrupt judge is the grievance of grievances.' Chamberlain relates that an officer of the Court of Chancery, when accused on account of varlous irregularities, exclaimed that he would not sink alone, but draw others after him.
31 Buckingham on one occasion very aptly characterises his policy and its danger: 'So long as you waver between the Spaniards and your subjects, to make your advantage of both, you are sure to do with neither.' Hardwicke Papers i. 466.
32 'The princes denied their appearance.' (Digby, Recital of his Speech, Parl. Hist. v. 483.) So that the notice by Struv, rejected by Senkenberg (Fortsetzung Häberlins xxv. para 80) is nevertheless correct.
33 A gap in Williams' speech at this part, occurring in the Journals and in both Parliamentary Histories, is to a certain extent filled up by a letter of Chamberlain to Carleton of Nov. 24: 'intimating that that they should forbear needless and impertinent discourses, long and extravagant orations which the king would not indure.'
34 Lando, Relatione: 'Non potendosi accordare con spiriti discordanti dei proprii impressi di non lasciarsi levate un punto dell' autorita.'
35 John Locke to Carleton, Nov. 29: 'They have put up a petition, that this may be a session and laws enacted, that the laws made against recusants may be executed, so that the promise of the subsidy seemeth yet to be conditional.'
36 Chamberlain to Carleton on December 22. The Parliament, on recciving a message enjoining the speedy continuance of their business, answered the King two hours after it had been brought before them: 'but with all for fear of suprise gave order to the speaker and the whole house to meet at four o'clock: where they conceived sat down and entered this proposition enclosed which is nothing pleasing above and for preventing where of there came a commission next morning to adjourn the Parliament.' Cf. the Commons' protestation: Parl. Hist. v. 513.
37 Letter to Gondomar, as it appears, from Buckingham himself, Cabala 236. "You promised that the King should be pressed to nothing that should not be agreeable to his conscience, to his soul, and the love of his people."
38 So writes Richard Weston to Buckingham: 'The prince elector hath conformed himself to what was demanded, that the count Mansfelt and Duke of Brunswick, the pretended obstacles of the treatie, are now with all their forces removed' Sept 3, 1622. Cabala 201. How difficult this was for him we see from a letter of Nethersole to Carlisle, Oct 18, 1622. 'The slowness of resolution of this side may move H. Mag. [the King of Bohemia] to precipitate his before the time, which will be then to lose the fruits of two long years patience.'
39 Valaesso: 'Temendo di se stesso e di [illegible] l'oggetto di tutta la colpa e forse delia pena.'
40 Valaresso . Disp. 19 Luglio 1623.
41 A true relation of the arrival and entertainment given to the Prince Charles: in Somers' Tracts ii 625.
42 Arcana quatuor capitula ad religionem pertinentia: in Dumont v. ii 442. Thelr contents also appear in the Spanish reports.
43 'That you now take unto yourself liberty to throw down the laws of the land at your pleasure.' Cabala 13.
44 The Duke and the Prince to the King, 6 June. Hardwicke Papers 1. 419.
45 Instructions received from His Highness June 7, 1623: in Clarendon State Papers 1 xviii App.
46 Protestation of the Conde Oñate, in Khevenhiller, Ann. Ferd. viii 66.
47 From Khevenhiller's letter, Ann Ferd. x 95.
48 In a Letter of Pope Urban to Olivarez, this passage occurs: 'Diceris in Britannico matrimonio differendo religiones dignitatem privatis omnibus rationibus praetulisse.'
49 'We have expected the total restitution of the palatinate, and of the electorship.' James to Bristol in Halliwell ii 228.
50 Prince Charles and the Duke to James, Aug. 30, 1623. Hardwicke Papers i 449.
51 Prince Charles to the Earl of Bristol. Halliwell 229.
52 'True mirth and gladness was in every face, and healths ran bravely round in every place.' John Taylor, Prince Charles his Welcome from Spaine: in Somers ii. 552.
53 Mémoires de Richelieu. Ranke, Franzosische Geschichte v. 133 (Werke xii. 162).
54 Kensington to Buckingham: 'Neither will they strain us to any unreasonablenesse in conditions for our Catholics.' Cabala 275.
55 Hacket, Life of Williams 169. 'Scarce any in all the Consulto did vote to my Lords satisfaction.'
56 The Earl of Carlisle to His Majesty, Feb. 14, 1624. He signs himself 'Your Majesty's most humble, most obedient obliged creature subject and servant.'
57 Valaresso already observes this, March 8, 1624: 'Nell' ultimo parlamento si chiamava felonia di parlare di quello, che hora si transmette alla libera consultatione del presente.'
58 A. Valaresso, Dec. 15, 1627: 'Col re usa qualche minor rispetto; agli altui da maggior sodisfattione del solito. Parla con piu liberta della Spagna.'
59 Of all Buckingham's letters to the King, without doubt the most remarkable Hardwicke i. 466: 'Risolve constantly to run one way.'
60 Valaresso, April 26. La persona merita male perche certo fu d'affetto Spagnola.' He accuses him of a 'Somma scarsezza di pagare.' Chamberlain says of him at his appearance on the scene October 1621: 'whom the King, in his piercing judgment, finds best able to do him service.'
61 Robert Philips to Buckingham, August 9, 1824. Cabala 264: 'You have to your perpetual glory already dissolved and broken the Spanish party.'
62 'Not to attempt any act of hostility upon any of the lawful dominions or possessions of the king of Spain or the Archiduchess.' He then at any rate supposed certain cases in which this might take place. Hardwicke Papers i. 548.
63 Escrit particulier: 'qu'il permettra a tous ses subjects Catholiques Romains de jouir de plus de liberté et franchise en ce qui regarde leur religion qu'ils n'eusseut fait en vertu d'articles quelconques accordés par le traité de mariage fait avec l'Espagne, ne voulant que ses subjects Catholiques paissent estre inquiétés en leurs personnes et biens pour faire profession de la dite religion et vivre en Catholiques pourvu toutesfois qu'lls en usent modestement, et rendent l'obéissance que de bons et vrays subjects doivent à leur roy, qu'il par sa bonté, ne les restreindra pas à aucun sentiment contraire é leur religion.' Hardwicke Papers i. 546. The English ambassadors complain that the word 'liberté' had been inserted by the French without first informing them.
64 Conway to Carlisle, Feb. 24, 1624-25: 'In contemplation of H. Majesty the king of Denmark hath come to the propositions—upon which H. M upon good grounds hath made dispatche to the king of Denmark agreeing to the kings of Denmark? propositions.' Hardwicke Papers I. 560.
65 Valaresso: 'Non è possibile di rimoverio di contravenire alle tante promesse verso Spagnoli et alle sue prime dichiarationi.'
66 ' Lando, Relatione 1622: 'Tiene presenza veramente regia fronte, sopraciglio grave, negli occhi e nelli movimenti del corpo gratia notabile, indicante prudente temperanza—di pensieri maniere costumi commendabilissimi attrahenti la benevolenza t l'amore universale.'
67 Thus Kensington states to the Queen-mother in France: 'He was used ill, not in his entertainment, but in their frivolous delayes, and in the unreasonable conditions which they propounded and pressed upon the advantage they had of his princely person.' Cabala 289.
68 Consultation at St. James's on the day after he ascended the throne (March 28). 'That which was much insisted upon was a parliament, H. Majesty being so forward to have it sit that he did both propound and dispute it to have no writs go forth to call a new one.' Hacket, Life of Williams ii. 4.
69 Speech of Sir Thomas Edwards, St. P. 0. (not mentioned in the Parliamentary Histories). It is there said 'He did not only become a continual advocate to his deceased father for the favourable graunting of our petitions, but also did interpose his mediation for the pacefying and removing of all misunderstandings. God having now added the posse to the velle, the kingly power to the willing mind, enabled him to execute what before he could but will.'
70 Letter from the Pope to the Princess, Dec 28, 1624: 'Cogitans ad quorum triumphorum gloriam vadis, fruere interim expectatione tui.'
71 'Some spare not to say that all goes backward since this connivance in religion came in, both in all wealth valour honour and reputation.' Letter of Chamberlain, June 25, 1625.
72 'Tonnage, a duty upon all wines imported; poundage, a duty imposed ad valorem on all other merchandises whatsoever.' Blackstone, Commentaries i. 315.
73 'Whosoever gave the counsel (of the meeting in Oxford) had the intention to set the king and his people at variance.' Nethersole to Carleton, Aug. 9, 1625: a circumstantial and very instructive document (St. P. 0.).
74 Hacket ii. 20.
75 Arthur Ingram to Wentworth, Nov. 1625 (Strafford Papers, i. 29), names besides Guy Palmer, Edward Alford, and a seventh, who had not had a seat in the last Parliament, Sir W Fleetwood.
76 Ewes in Ellis, i 3, 217. The Dutch ambassador present in England, Joachimi, to whose letter I referred, does not seem to have mentioned it.
77 A memorial of what passed in speech from H. M. to the Earl of Totness, March 8, 1625-26; St. P. 0. The King says 'Let them doe what they list: you shall not go to the Tower. It is not you that they aim at, but it is me, upon whom they make inquisition. And for subsidies that will not hinder it; gold may be bought too dear.'
78 Correro: 'Questo termino di via parlamentaria vuo1 dire libere concessioni secondo la loro dispositione e di haver cognitione in qualche maniera delli impieghi.'
79 'Ils disent' (so it is said in Ruszdorf, Negotiations i. 596) 'que tout alloit mal, que les deniers qu'ils ont contributé ont été mal employés: il falloit toujours et avant toutes choses redresser et regier le gouvernement de l'état.'
80 Z. Pesaro, April 25, 1625: 'Che la conservatione della pace in Francia sara il fondamento del beneficio comune, che li rumori civili in quella natione sariano il solo remedio che Spagnoli procurano alli loro mali.'
81 'That the King and all the rest were exceedingly glad of that relation which he made of the discontent and mutiny of his compagnie.'
82 M. A. Correro: 'Trattano di formar una compagnia per la quale possino con l'autorita del parlamente e privilegi reggi attaccare con una flotte il re di Spagna per dividere l'interesse della spesa e l'utile delli bottini e delli acquisti nelli compagni che ne averanno parte (27 Mayo 1626)'
83 Letter to Joseph Mead: Court and Times of Charles I, i. 134.
84 According to Ruszdorf, who was well acquainted with Bassompierre, the latter represented 'hoc facto regem obligatum nihil esse intermissurum, quod ad conservationem fortunate illius queat conducere.'
85 Siri, Memorie recondite vi. 261.
86 Letter to Joseph Mead, March 16, 1626: 'It still holds that both France and Spain make exceeding great preparations both for sea and land.—The priests of the Dunkirkers are said to preach that God had delivered us unto their hands.' (Court and Times of Charles I, i. 205).
87 I refer for the fuller explanation of these transactions to my History of the Popes and my French History. My meaning is very fully recognised in an essay in the Revue Germanique, Nov. 1859.
88 Beaulieu to Pickering. ' It lieth in the way to intercept the salt that cometh from Biscaje and serveth almost all France, and what so ever cometh out of the river of Bourdeaux: besides it commandeth the haven of Rochelle.' (Court and Times of Charles I, i. 257).
89 The Danger wherein the Kingdom now standeth and the Remedy, written by Sir Robert Cotton. Jan. 1627-8.
90 Aluise Contarini, Feb. 10 1628: 'La deliberatione di convocare il parlamente è nata—dalle promesse, che hanno fatte molti grandi, che non si parlera del duca.'
91 'Those rights, laws, and liberties, which our wise ancestors have left us.' So run the words in the draught of the speech contained in a memorandum in the St. P. 0. under the title, 'Speeches of some in the Lower House, March 22, 1628.' In Rushworth and in both Parliamentary Histories two reports are given which differ from one another.
92 'Assoluto dominio destruttivo dei parlamenti con azzardo di sollevatione.'
93 'To draw the heads of our grievances into a petition, which we will humbly, soberly, and speedily address unto His Majesty whereby we may be secured.'
94 Abbot's Narration in Rushworth i. 459.
95 'The end is, to make the other power, which he calls irregular moulder away.' (St. P. 0.) In Bruce's Calendar, 1628-9, p. 92, more particular reference is made to this document.
96 Memorandum of Nicholas Hyde, Chief Justice of the King's Bench, in Ellis's Letters, ii. iii. 250.
97 Nethersole writes to the Queen of Bohemia as early as in April: 'the duke can neither subdue this pailiament, neither by fear nor favour,—is almost out of his senses to find that it gained credit with His Majesty.' (St. P. 0.)
98 Al. Contarini, 17 Giugno: 'Attribuendone la cagione al duca per i suoi interessi di voler il re padrone disgionto dai popoli unito solo con lui, et per le pratiche di Spagnoli guidati in generale da cattolici et in parlicolare da Gesuiti che praticano quella cosa.'
99 Parliamentary History viii. 202.
100 Parliamentary History viii. 227.
101 Ruszdorf ii. 547.
102 Al. Contarini: 'Che sempre suppose ne havessero poca cognitione, ma che adesso credeva, che non havessero niente affato.'
103 Al. Contarini, Aug. 14, 1628. 'Carleton mi soggionse che certamente la flotta si volgerebbe in ajuto del re di Danimarca, quando piu non fosse necessaria in Francia.'
104 The first intimation of this design occurs in an anonymous letter to the King, which probably belongs to the year 1623: Cabala 223. In the correspondence of the ambassadors the project is assumed as certain.
105 Ruszdorf: 'Magnus apparatus instituit, quibus sperat structuram et molem rumpere.'
106 From the letter of Dudley Viscount Dorchester, in Bruce's Calendar.
107 'The Remonstrances in the last Parliament and that the duke was the cause of the public grievances, it came into his mind that it would be a good service to God and the Commonwealth to take him away.' Relation of the Duke of Buckingham's death. (St. P. O.)
108 From the report of Duppa [St. P. O.), which admirably supplements that which is given in the State Trials iii. 370.
109 'That the common good could no way be a pretense to a particular mischief.'
110 Rushworth i. 654: 'To avow a breach upon just cause given, not sought by the King '
111 Fragmentary memoranda of a sitting of the Privy Council at the beginning of February 1628-29. (St P. 0 )
112 Statement of the printer. Parliamentary History viii. 247.
113 His declaration before the Lords. Parliamentary History viii. 208.
114 We learn this from a letter of Nethersole to the queen of Bohemia, Jan. 28. (St. P. 0 )
115 Nethersole to the Queen of Bohemia: 'That what at the first propounding seemed a very reasonable motion was at last upon this reason that the bill is in truth and is intituted a bill of subsidy.'
116 Monograph declaration of Charles I. (St. P. 0.)
117 Information in Star Chamber. Rushworth i. 675.
118 Autobiography of Sir Symond d'Ewes i. 405, 'Being only misled by some Machiavellian politics who seemed zealous for the liberty of the common wealth.'
119 Observation of Contarini, March 16, 1629. 'Quello che importa è il parlamento si è conservato nell' inteio possesso dei suoi privilegi, senza cader un tantino: il re per queste due volte ha ceduto sempre qualche cosa.'