Makers of History
BY JACOB ABBOTT
NEW YORK AND LONDON
HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS
Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1848, by
HARPER & BROTHERS,
In the Clerk's Office of the Southern District of New York.
Copyright, 1876, by JACOB ABBOTT.
The history of the life of every individual who has, for any reason, attracted extensively the attention of mankind, has been written in a great variety of ways by a multitude of authors, and persons sometimes wonder why we should have so many different accounts of the same thing. The reason is, that each one of these accounts is intended for a different set of readers, who read with ideas and purposes widely dissimilar from each other. Among the twenty millions of people in the United States, there are perhaps two millions, between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five, who wish to become acquainted, in general, with the leading events in the history of the Old World, and of ancient times, but who, coming upon the stage in this land and at this period, have ideas and conceptions so widely different from those of other nations and of other times, that a mere republication of existing accounts is not what they require. The story must be told expressly for them. The things that are to be explained, the points that are to be brought out, the comparative degree of prominence to be given to the various particulars, will all be different, on account of the difference in the situation, the ideas, and the objects of these new readers, compared with those of the various other classes of readers which former authors have had in view. It is for this reason, and with this view, that the present series of historical narratives is presented to the public. The author, having had some opportunity to become acquainted with the position, the ideas, and the intellectual wants of those whom he addresses, presents the result of his labors to them, with the hope that it may be found successful in accomplishing its design.
I. HIS CHILDHOOD AND YOUTH 13
II. THE EXPEDITION INTO SPAIN 34
III. ACCESSION TO THE THRONE 58
IV. BUCKINGHAM 81
V. THE KING AND HIS PREROGATIVE 107
VI. ARCHBISHOP LAUD 131
VII. THE EARL OF STRAFFORD 155
VIII. DOWNFALL OF STRAFFORD AND LAUD 177
IX. CIVIL WAR 203
X. THE CAPTIVITY 234
XI. TRIAL AND DEATH 261
PORTRAIT OF HAMPDEN Frontispiece.
TOWER OF LONDON 1
CHARLES I. AND ARMOR BEARER 10
QUEEN HENRIETTA MARIA 11
WINDSOR CASTLE 22
THE ESCURIAL 55
ST. STEPHEN'S 76
LAMBETH PALACE 133
WESTMINSTER HALL 187
STRAFFORD AND LAUD 199
THE KING'S ADHERENTS ENTERING YORK 221
THE LANDING OF THE QUEEN 228
CARISBROOKE CASTLE 254
RUINS OF CARISBROOKE CASTLE 265
KING CHARLES I.
HIS CHILDHOOD AND YOUTH.
Born in Scotland.—The circumstance explained.—Princess Anne.—Royal marriages.—Getting married by proxy.—James thwarted.—Getting married by proxy.—James thwarted.—James in Copenhagen.—Charles's feeble infancy.—Death of Elizabeth.—Accession of James to the English crown.—Second sight.—Prediction fulfilled.—An explanation.—Charles's titles of nobility.—Charles's governess.—Windsor Castle.—Journey to London.—A mother's love.—Rejoicings.—Charles's continued feebleness.—His progress in learning.—Charles improves in health.—Death of his brother.—Charles's love of athletic sports.—Buckingham.—Buckingham's style of living.—Royalty.—True character of royalty.—The king and Buckingham.—Indecent correspondence.—Buckingham's pig.—James's petulance.—The story of Gib.—The king's frankness.—Glitter of royalty.—The appearance.—The reality.
King Charles the First was born in Scotland. It may perhaps surprise the reader that an English king should be born in Scotland. The explanation is this:
They who have read the history of Mary Queen of Scots, will remember that it was the great end and aim of her life to unite the crowns of England and Scotland in her own family. Queen Elizabeth was then Queen of England. She lived and died unmarried. Queen Mary and a young man named Lord Darnley were the next heirs. It was uncertain which of the two had the strongest claim. To prevent a dispute, by uniting these claims, Mary made Darnley her husband. They had a son, who, after the death of his father and mother, was acknowledged to be the heir to the British throne, whenever Elizabeth's life should end. In the mean time he remained King of Scotland. His name was James. He married a princess of Denmark; and his child, who afterward was King Charles the First of England, was born before he left his native realm.
King Charles's mother was, as has been already said, a princess of Denmark. Her name was Anne. The circumstances of her marriage to King James were quite extraordinary, and attracted great attention at the time. It is, in some sense, a matter of principle among kings and queens, that they must only marry persons of royal rank, like themselves; and as they have very little opportunity of visiting each other, residing as they do in such distant capitals, they generally choose their consorts by the reports which come to them of the person and character of the different candidates. The choice, too, is very much influenced by political considerations, and is always more or less embarrassed by negotiations with other courts, whose ministers make objections to this or that alliance, on account of its supposed interference with some of their own political schemes.
As it is very inconvenient, moreover, for a king to leave his dominions, the marriage ceremony is usually performed at the court where the bride resides, without the presence of the bridegroom, he sending an embassador to act as his representative. This is called being married by proxy. The bride then comes to her royal husband's dominions, accompanied by a great escort. He meets her usually on the frontiers; and there she sees him for the first time, after having been married to him some weeks by proxy. It is true, indeed, that she has generally seen his picture, that being usually sent to her before the marriage contract is made. This, however, is not a matter of much consequence, as the personal predilections of a princess have generally very little to do with the question of her marriage.
Now King James had concluded to propose for the oldest daughter of the King of Denmark and he entered into negotiations for this purpose. This plan, however, did not please the government of England, and Elizabeth, who was then the English queen, managed so to embarrass and interfere with the scheme, that the King of Denmark gave his daughter to another claimant. James was a man of very mild and quiet temperament, easily counteracted and thwarted in his plans; but this disappointment aroused his energies, and he sent a splendid embassy into Denmark to demand the king's second daughter, whose name was Anne. He prosecuted this suit so vigorously that the marriage articles were soon agreed to and signed. Anne embarked and set sail for Scotland. The king remained there, waiting for her arrival with great impatience. At length, instead of his bride, the news came that the fleet in which Anne had sailed had been dispersed and driven back by a storm, and that Anne herself had landed on the coast of Norway.
James immediately conceived the design of going himself in pursuit of her. But knowing very well that all his ministers and the officers of his government would make endless objections to his going out of the country on such an errand, he kept his plan a profound secret from them all. He ordered some ships to be got ready privately, and provided a suitable train of attendants, and then embarked without letting his people know where he was going. He sailed across the German Ocean to the town in Norway where his bride had landed. He found her there, and they were married. Her brother, who had just succeeded to the throne, having received intelligence of this, invited the young couple to come and spend the winter at his capital of Copenhagen; and as the season was far advanced, and the sea stormy, King James concluded to accept the invitation. They were received in Copenhagen with great pomp and parade, and the winter was spent in festivities and rejoicings. In the spring he brought his bride to Scotland. The whole world were astonished at the performance of such an exploit by a king, especially one of so mild, quiet, and grave a character as that which James had the credit of possessing.
Young Charles was very weak and feeble in his infancy. It was feared that he would not live many hours. The rite of baptism was immediately performed, as it was, in those days, considered essential to the salvation of a child dying in infancy that it should be baptized before it died. Notwithstanding the fears that were at first felt, Charles lingered along for some days, and gradually began to acquire a little strength. His feebleness was a cause of great anxiety and concern to those around him; but the degree of interest felt in the little sufferer's fate was very much less than it would have been if he had been the oldest son. He had a brother, Prince Henry, who was older than he, and, consequently, heir to his father's crown. It was not probable, therefore, that Charles would ever be king; and the importance of every thing connected with his birth and his welfare was very much diminished on that account.
It was only about two years after Charles's birth that Queen Elizabeth died, and King James succeeded to the English throne. A messenger came with all speed to Scotland to announce the fact. He rode night and day. He arrived at the king's palace in the night. He gained admission to the king's chamber, and, kneeling at his bedside, proclaimed him King of England. James immediately prepared to bid his Scotch subjects farewell, and to proceed to England to take possession of his new realm. Queen Anne was to follow him in a week or two, and the other children, Henry and Elizabeth; but Charles was too feeble to go.
In those early days there was a prevailing belief in Scotland, and, in fact, the opinion still lingers there, that certain persons among the old Highlanders had what they called the gift of the second sight—that is, the power of foreseeing futurity in some mysterious and incomprehensible way. An incident is related in the old histories connected with Charles's infancy, which is a good illustration of this. While King James was preparing to leave Scotland, to take possession of the English throne, an old Highland laird came to bid him farewell. He gave the king many parting counsels and good wishes, and then, overlooking the older brother, Prince Henry, he went directly to Charles, who was then about two years old, and bowed before him, and kissed his hand with the greatest appearance of regard and veneration. King James undertook to correct his supposed mistake, by telling him that that was his second son, and that the other boy was the heir to the crown. "No," said the old laird, "I am not mistaken. I know to whom I am speaking. This child, now in his nurse's arms, will be greater than his brother. This is the one who is to convey his father's name and titles to succeeding generations." This prediction was fulfilled; for the robust and healthy Henry died, and the feeble and sickly-looking Charles lived and grew, and succeeded, in due time, to his father's throne.
Now inasmuch as, at the time when this prediction was uttered, there seemed to be little human probability of its fulfillment, it attracted attention; its unexpected and startling character made every one notice and remember it; and the old laird was at once an object of interest and wonder. It is probable that this desire to excite the admiration of the auditors, mingled insensibly with a sort of poetic enthusiasm, which a rude age and mountainous scenery always inspire, was the origin of a great many such predictions as these; and then, in the end, those only which turned out to be true were remembered, while the rest were forgotten; and this was the way that the reality of such prophetic powers came to be generally believed in.
Feeble and uncertain of life as the infant Charles appeared to be, they conferred upon him, as is customary in the case of young princes, various titles of nobility. He was made a duke, a marquis, an earl, and a baron, before he had strength enough to lift up his head in his nurse's arms. His title as duke was Duke of Albany; and as this was the highest of his nominal honors, he was generally known under that designation while he remained in Scotland.
When his father left him, in order to go to England and take possession of his new throne, he appointed a governess to take charge of the health and education of the young duke. This governess was Lady Cary. The reason why she was appointed was, not because of her possessing any peculiar qualifications for such a charge, but because her husband, Sir Robert Cary, had been the messenger employed by the English government to communicate to James the death of Elizabeth, and to announce to him his accession to the throne. The bearer of good news to a monarch must always be rewarded, and James recompensed Sir Robert for his service by appointing his wife to the post of governess of his infant son. The office undoubtedly had its honors and emoluments, with very little of responsibility or care.
One of the chief residences of the English monarchs is Windsor Castle. It is situated above London, on the Thames, on the southern shore. It is on an eminence overlooking the river and the delightful valley through which the river here meanders. In the rear is a very extensive park or forest, which is penetrated in every direction by rides and walks almost innumerable. It has been for a long time the chief country residence of the British kings. It is very spacious, containing within its walls many courts and quadrangles, with various buildings surrounding them, some ancient and some modern. Here King James held his court after his arrival in England, and in about a year he sent for the little Charles to join him.
The child traveled very slowly, and by very easy stages, his nurses and attendants watching over him with great solicitude all the way. The journey was made in the month of October. His mother watched his arrival with great interest. Being so feeble and helpless, he was, of course, her favorite child. By an instinct which very strongly evinces the wisdom and goodness which implanted it, a mother always bestows a double portion of her love upon the frail, the helpless, and the suffering. Instead of being wearied out with protracted and incessant calls for watchfulness and care, she feels only a deeper sympathy and love, in proportion to the infirmities which call for them, and thus finds her highest happiness in what we might expect would be a weariness and a toil.
Little Charles was four years old when he reached Windsor Castle. They celebrated his arrival with great rejoicings, and a day or two afterward they invested him with the title of Duke of York, a still higher distinction than he had before attained. Soon after this, when he was perhaps five or six years of age, a gentleman was appointed to take the charge of his education. His health gradually improved, though he still continued helpless and feeble. It was a long time before he could walk, on account of some malformation of his limbs. He learned to talk, too, very late and very slowly. Besides the general feebleness of his constitution, which kept him back in all these things, there was an impediment in his speech, which affected him very much in childhood, and which, in fact, never entirely disappeared.
As soon, however, as he commenced his studies under his new tutor, he made much greater progress than had been expected. It was soon observed that the feebleness which had attached to him pertained more to the body than to the mind. He advanced with considerable rapidity in his learning. His progress was, in fact, in some degree, promoted by his bodily infirmities, which kept him from playing with the other boys of the court, and led him to like to be still, and to retire from scenes of sport and pleasure which he could not share.
The same cause operated to make him not agreeable as a companion, and he was not a favorite among those around him. They called him Baby Charley. His temper seemed to be in some sense soured by the feeling of his inferiority, and by the jealousy he would naturally experience in finding himself, the son of a king, so outstripped in athletic sports by those whom he regarded as his inferiors in rank and station.
The lapse of a few years, however, after this time, made a total change in Charles's position and prospects. His health improved, and his constitution began to be confirmed and established. When he was about twelve years of age, too, his brother Henry died. This circumstance made an entire change in all his prospects of life. The eyes of the whole kingdom, and, in fact, of all Europe, were now upon him as the future sovereign of England. His sister Elizabeth, who was a few years older than himself, was, about this time, married to a German prince, with great pomp and ceremony, young Charles acting the part of brideman. In consequence of his new position as heir-apparent to the throne, he was advanced to new honors, and had new titles conferred upon him, until at last, when he was sixteen years of age, he was made Prince of Wales, and certain revenues were appropriated to support a court for him, that he might be surrounded with external circumstances and insignia of rank and power, corresponding with his prospective greatness.
In the mean time his health and strength rapidly improved, and with the improvement came a taste for manly and athletic sports, and the attainment of excellence in them. He gradually acquired great skill in all the exploits and performances of the young men of those days, such as shooting, riding, vaulting, and tilting at tournaments. From being a weak, sickly, and almost helpless child, he became, at twenty, an active, athletic young man, full of life and spirit, and ready for any romantic enterprise. In fact, when he was twenty-three years old, he embarked in a romantic enterprise which attracted the attention of all the world. This enterprise will presently be described.
There was at this time, in the court of King James, a man who became very famous afterward as a favorite and follower of Charles. He is known in history under the name of the Duke of Buckingham. His name was originally George Villiers. He was a very handsome young man, and he seems to have attracted King James's attention at first on this account. James found him a convenient attendant, and made him, at last, his principal favorite. He raised him to a high rank, and conferred upon him, among other titles, that of Duke of Buckingham. The other persons about the court were very envious and jealous of his influence and power; but they were obliged to submit to it. He lived in great state and splendor, and for many years was looked up to by the whole kingdom as one of the greatest personages in the realm. We shall learn hereafter how he came to his end.
If the reader imagines, from the accounts which have been given thus far in this chapter of the pomp and parade of royalty, of the castles and the ceremonies, the titles of nobility, and the various insignia of rank and power, which we have alluded to so often, that the mode of life which royalty led in those days was lofty, dignified, and truly great, he will be very greatly deceived. All these things were merely for show—things put on for public display, to gratify pride and impress the people, who never looked behind the scenes, with high ideas of the grandeur of those who, as they were taught, ruled over them by a divine right. It would be hard to find, in any class of society except those reputed infamous, more low, gross, and vulgar modes of life than have been exhibited generally in the royal palaces of Europe for the last five hundred years. King James the First has, among English sovereigns, rather a high character for sobriety and gravity of deportment, and purity of morals; but the glimpses we get of the real, every-day routine of his domestic life, are such as to show that the pomp and parade of royalty is mere glittering tinsel, after all.
The historians of the day tell such stories as these. The king was at one time very dejected and melancholy, when Buckingham contrived this plan to amuse him. In the first place, however, we ought to say, in order to illustrate the terms on which he and Buckingham lived together, that the king always called Buckingham Steeny, which was a contraction of Stephen. St. Stephen was always represented in the Catholic pictures of the saints, as a very handsome man, and Buckingham being handsome too, James called him Steeny by way of a compliment. Steeny called the king his dad, and used to sign himself, in his letters, "your slave and dog Steeny." There are extant some letters which passed between the king and his favorite, written, on the part of the king, in a style of grossness and indecency such that the chroniclers of those days said that they were not fit to be printed. They would not "blot their pages" with them, they said. King Charles's letters were more properly expressed.
To return, then, to our story. The king was very much dejected and melancholy. Steeny, in order to divert him, had a pig dressed up in the clothes of an infant child. Buckingham's mother, who was a countess, personated the nurse, dressed also carefully for the occasion. Another person put on a bishop's robes, satin gown, lawn sleeves, and the other pontifical ornaments. They also provided a baptismal font, a prayer-book, and other things necessary for a religious ceremony, and then invited the king to come in to attend a baptism. The king came, and the pretended bishop began to read the service, the assistants looking gravely on, until the squealing of the pig brought all gravity to an end. The king was not pleased; but the historian thinks the reason was, not any objection which he had to such a profanation, but to his not happening to be in a mood for it at that time.
There was a negotiation going on for a long time for a marriage between one of the king's sons, first Henry, and afterward Charles, and a princess of Spain. At one time the king lost some of the papers, and was storming about the palace in a great rage because he could not find them. At last he chanced to meet a certain Scotchman, a servant of his, named Gib, and, like a vexed and impatient child, who lays the charge of a lost plaything upon any body who happens to be at hand to receive it, he put the responsibility of the loss of the papers upon Gib. "I remember," said he, "I gave them to you to take care of. What have you done with them?" The faithful servant fell upon his knees, and protested that he had not received them. The king was only made the more angry by this contradiction, and kicked the Scotchman as he kneeled upon the floor. The man rose and left the apartment, saying, "I have always been faithful to your majesty, and have not deserved such treatment as this. I can not remain in your service under such a degradation. I shall never see you again." He left the palace, and went away.
A short time after this, the person to whose custody the king had really committed the papers came in, and, on learning that they were wanted, produced them. The king was ashamed of his conduct. He sent for his Scotch servant again, and was not easy until he was found and brought into his presence. The king kneeled before him and asked his forgiveness, and said he should not rise until he was forgiven. Gib was disposed to evade the request, and urged the king to rise; but James would not do so until Gib said he forgave him, in so many words. The whole case shows how little of dignity and noble bearing there really was in the manners and conduct of the king in his daily life, though we are almost ready to overlook the ridiculous childishness and folly of his fault, on account of the truly noble frankness and honesty with which he acknowledged it.
Thus, though every thing in which royalty appeared before the public was conducted with great pomp and parade, this external magnificence was then, and always has been, an outside show, without any thing corresponding to it within. The great mass of the people of England saw only the outside. They gazed with admiration at the spectacle of magnificence and splendor which royalty always presented to their eyes, whenever they beheld it from the distant and humble points of view which their position afforded them. Prince Charles, on the other hand, was behind the curtain. His childhood and youth were exposed fully to all the real influences of these scenes. The people of England submitted to be governed by such men, not because they thought them qualified to govern, or that the circumstances under which their characters were formed were such as were calculated to form, in a proper manner, the minds of the rulers of a Christian people. They did not know what those circumstances were. In their conceptions they had grand ideas of royal character and life, and imagined the splendid palaces which some saw, but more only heard of, at Westminster, were filled with true greatness and glory. They were really filled with vulgarity, vice, and shame. James was to them King James the First, monarch of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, and Charles was Charles, Prince of Wales, Duke of York, and heir-apparent to the throne. Whereas, within the palace, to all who saw them and knew them there, and really, so far as their true moral position was concerned, the father was "Old Dad," and the son, what his father always called him till he was twenty-four years old, "Baby Charley."
THE EXPEDITION INTO SPAIN.
The Palatinate.—Wars between the Protestants and Catholics.—Frederic dispossessed of his dominions.—Flees to Holland.—Elizabeth.—James's plan.—Donna Maria.—Negotiations with Spain.—Obstacles and delays.—Buckingham's proposal.—Nature of the adventure.—Buckingham's dissimulation.—Charles persuaded.—James's perplexity.—He reluctantly yields.—James's fears.—Royal captives.—Buckingham's violence.—Angry disputes.—James's distress.—Charles and Buckingham depart.—Charles and Buckingham's boisterous conduct.—Arrested at Dover.—Arrival at Paris.—Princess Henrietta.—Bourdeaux.—Entrance into Madrid.—Bristol's amazement.—Charles's reception.—Grand procession.—Spanish etiquette.—The Infanta kept secluded.—Athletic amusements.—Charles steals an interview.—Irregularities.—Delays and difficulties.—Letters.—The magic picture.—The pope's dispensation.—The treaty signed.—Buckingham is hated.—He breaks off the match.—Festivities at the Escurial.—Taking leave.—Return to London.—The Spanish match broken off.
In order that the reader may understand fully the nature of the romantic enterprise in which, as we have already said, Prince Charles embarked when he was a little over twenty years of age, we must premise that Frederic, the German prince who married Charles's sister Elizabeth some years before, was the ruler of a country in Germany called the Palatinate. It was on the banks of the Rhine. Frederic's title, as ruler of this country, was Elector Palatine. There are a great many independent states in Germany, whose sovereigns have various titles, and are possessed of various prerogatives and powers.
Now it happened that, at this time, very fierce civil wars were raging between the Catholics and the Protestants in Germany. Frederic got drawn into these wars on the Protestant side. His motive was not any desire to promote the progress of what he considered the true faith, but only a wish to extend his own dominions, and add to his own power, for he had been promised a kingdom, in addition to his Palatinate, if he would assist the people of the kingdom to gain the victory over their Catholic foes. He embarked in this enterprise without consulting with James, his father-in-law, knowing that he would probably disapprove of such dangerous ambition. James was, in fact, very sorry afterward to hear of Frederic's having engaged in such a contest.
The result was quite as disastrous as James feared. Frederic not only failed of getting his new kingdom, but he provoked the rage of the Catholic powers against whom he had undertaken to contend, and they poured a great army into his own original territory, and made an easy conquest of it. Frederic fled to Holland, and remained there a fugitive and an exile, hoping to obtain help in some way from James, in his efforts to recover his lost dominions.
The people of England felt a great interest in Frederic's unhappy fate, and were very desirous that James should raise an army and give him some efficient assistance. One reason for this was that they were Protestants, and they were always ready to embark, on the Protestant side, in the Continental quarrels. Another reason was their interest in Elizabeth, the wife of Frederic, who had so recently left England a blooming bride, and whom they still considered as in some sense pertaining to the royal family of England, and as having a right to look to all her father's subjects for protection.
But King James himself had no inclination to go to war in such a quarrel. He was inactive in mind, and childish, and he had little taste for warlike enterprises. He undertook, however, to accomplish the object in another way. The King of Spain, being one of the most powerful of the Catholic sovereigns, had great influence in all their councils. He had also a beautiful daughter, Donna Maria, called, as Spanish princesses are styled, the Infanta. Now James conceived the design of proposing that his son Charles should marry Donna Maria, and that, in the treaty of marriage, there should be a stipulation providing that the Palatinate should be restored to Frederic.
These negotiations were commenced, and they went on two or three years without making any sensible progress. Donna Maria was a Catholic, and Charles a Protestant. Now a Catholic could not marry a Protestant without a special dispensation from the pope. To get this dispensation required new negotiations and delays. In the midst of it all, the King of Spain, Donna Maria's father, died, and his son, her brother, named Philip, succeeded him. Then the negotiations had all to be commenced anew. It was supposed that the King of Spain did not wish to have the affair concluded, but liked to have it in discussion, as it tended to keep the King of England more or less under his control. So they continued to send embassies back and forth, with drafts of treaties, articles, conditions, and stipulations without number. There were endless discussions about securing to Donna Maria the full enjoyment of the Catholic religion in England, and express agreements were proposed and debated in respect to her having a chapel, and priests, and the right to celebrate mass, and to enjoy, in fact, all the other privileges which she had been accustomed to exercise in her own native land. James did not object. He agreed to every thing; but still, some how or other, the arrangement could not be closed. There was always some pretext for delay.
At last Buckingham proposed to Charles that they two should set off for Spain in person, and see if they could not settle the affair. Buckingham's motive was partly a sort of reckless daring, which made him love any sort of adventure, and partly a desire to circumvent and thwart a rival of his, the Earl of Bristol, who had charge of the negotiations. It may seem to the reader that a simple journey from London to Madrid, of a young man, for the purpose of visiting a lady whom he was wishing to espouse, was no such extraordinary undertaking as to attract the attention of a spirited young man to it from love of adventure. The truth is, however, that, with the ideas that then prevailed in respect to royal etiquette, there was something very unusual in this plan. The prince and Buckingham knew very well that the consent of the statesmen and high officers of the realm could never be obtained, and that their only alternative was, accordingly, to go off secretly and in disguise.
It seemed, however, to be rather necessary to get the king's consent. But Buckingham did not anticipate much difficulty in this, as he was accustomed to manage James almost like a child. He had not, however, been on very good terms with Charles, having been accustomed to treat him in the haughty and imperious manner which James would usually yield to, but which Charles was more inclined to resist and resent. When Buckingham, at length, conceived of this scheme of going into Spain, he changed his deportment toward Charles, and endeavored, by artful dissimulation, to gain his kind regard. He soon succeeded, and then he proposed his plan.
He represented to Charles that the sole cause of the delays in settling the question of his marriage was because it was left so entirely in the hands of embassadors, negotiators, and statesmen, who involved every thing in endless mazes. "Take the affair into your own hands," said he, "like a man. Set off with me, and go at once into Spain. Astonish them with your sudden and unexpected presence. The Infanta will be delighted at such a proof of your ardor, courage, and devotion, and will do all in her power to co-operate with you in bringing the affair at once to a close. Besides, the whole world will admire the originality and boldness of the achievement."
Charles was easily persuaded. The next thing was to get the king's consent. Charles and Buckingham went to his palace one day, and watching their opportunity when he was pretty merry with wine, Charles said that he had a favor to ask, and wished his father to promise to grant it before he knew what it was. James, after some hesitation, half in jest and half in earnest, agreed to it. They made him promise that he would not tell any one what it was, and then explained their plan. The king was thunderstruck; his amazement sobered him at once. He retracted his promise. He never could consent to any such scheme.
Buckingham here interposed with his aid. He told the king it was perfectly safe for the prince to go, and that this measure was the only plan which could bring the marriage treaty to a close. Besides, he said, if he and the prince were there, they could act far more effectually than any embassadors in securing the restoration of the Palatinate to Frederic. James could not withstand these entreaties and arguments, and he finally gave a reluctant consent to the plan.
He repented, however, as soon as the consent was given, and when Charles and Buckingham came next to see him, he said it must be given up. One great source of his anxiety was a fear that his son might be taken and kept a prisoner, either in France or Spain, and detained a long time in captivity. Such a captive was always, in those days, a very tempting prize to a rival power. Personages of very high rank may be held in imprisonment, while all the time those who detain them may pretend not to confine them at all, the guards and sentinels being only marks of regal state, and indications of the desire of the power into whose hands they have fallen to treat them in a manner comporting with their rank. Then there were always, in those days, questions and disputes pending between the rival courts of England, France, and Spain, out of which it was easy to get a pretext for detaining any strolling prince who might cross the frontier, as security for the fulfillment of some stipulation, or for doing some act of justice claimed. James, knowing well how much faith and honor were to be expected of kings and courts, was afraid to trust his son in French or Spanish dominions. He said he certainly could not consent to his going, without first sending to France, at least, for a safe-conduct—that is, a paper from the government, pledging the honor of the king not to molest or interrupt him in his journey through his dominions.
Buckingham, instead of attempting to reassure the king by fresh arguments and persuasions, broke out into a passion, accused him of violating his promise not to reveal their plan to any one, as he knew, he said, that this new opposition had been put into his head by some of his counselors to whom he had made known the design. The king denied this, and was terrified, agitated, and distressed by Buckingham's violence. He wept like a child. His opposition at length gave way a second time, and he said they might go. They named two attendants whom they wanted to go with them. One was an officer of the king's household, named Collington, who was then in the anteroom. They asked the king to call him in, to see if he would go. When Collington came in, the king accosted him with, "Here's Steeny and Baby Charley that want to go to Spain and fetch the Infanta. What think you of it?" Collington did not think well of it at all. There followed a new relapse on the part of the king from his consent, a new storm of anger from Buckingham, more sullen obstinacy on the part of Charles, with profane criminations and recriminations one against another. The whole scene was what, if it had occurred any where else than in a palace, would have been called a brawl.
It ended, as brawls usually do, in the triumph of the most unreasonable and violent. James threw himself upon a bed which was in the room, weeping bitterly, and saying that they would go, and he should lose his Baby Charley. Considering that Charles was now the monarch's only child remaining at home, and that, as heir to the crown, his life was of great consequence to the realm, it is not surprising that his father was distressed at the idea of his exposing himself to danger on such an expedition; but one not accustomed to what is behind the scenes in royal life would expect a little more dignity and propriety in the mode of expressing paternal solicitude from a king.
Charles and Buckingham set off secretly from London; their two attendants were to join them in different places—the last at Dover, where they were to embark. They laid aside all marks of distinction in dress, such as persons of high rank used to wear in those days, and took the garb of the common people. They put on wigs, also, the hair of which was long, so as to shade the face and alter the expression of their countenances. These external disguises, however, were all that they could command. They could not assume the modest and quiet air and manner of persons in the ordinary walks of life, but made such displays, and were so liberal in the use of their money, and carried such an air and manner in all that they did and said, that all who had any intercourse with them perceived that they were in disguise. They were supposed to be wild blades, out on some frolic or other, but still they were allowed to pass along without any molestation.
They were, however, stopped at Dover, where in some way they attracted the attention of the mayor of the town. Dover is on the Channel, opposite to Calais, at the narrowest point. It was, of course, especially in those days, the point where the principal intercourse between the two nations centered. The magistrates of the two towns were obliged, consequently, to be on the alert, to prevent the escape of fugitives and criminals, as well as to guard against the efforts of smugglers, or the entrance of spies or other secret enemies. The Mayor of Dover arrested our heroes. They told him that their names were Tom Smith and Jack Smith; these, in fact, were the names with which they had traveled through England thus far. They said that they were traveling for amusement. The mayor did not believe them. He thought they were going across to the French coast to fight a duel. This was often done in those days. They then told him that they were indeed persons of rank in disguise, and that they were going to inspect the English fleet. He finally allowed them to embark.
On landing at Calais, they traveled post to Paris, strictly preserving their incognito, but assuming such an air and bearing as to create the impression that they were not what they pretended. When they reached Paris, Buckingham could not resist the temptation of showing Charles a little of life, and he contrived to get admitted to a party at court, where Charles saw, among other ladies who attracted his attention, the Princess Henrietta. He was much struck with her beauty and grace, but he little thought that it was this princess, and not the Infanta whom he was going in pursuit of, who was really to become his wife, and the future Queen of England.
The young travelers thought it not prudent to remain long in Paris, and they accordingly left that city, and pressed forward as rapidly as possible toward the Spanish frontier. They managed, however, to conduct always in such a way as to attract attention. Although they were probably sincerely desirous of not having their true rank and character known, still they could not resist the temptation to assume such an air and bearing as to make people wonder who they were, and thus increase the spirit and adventure of their journey. At Bourdeaux they received invitations from some grandees to be present at some great gala, but they declined, saying that they were only poor gentlemen traveling to inform their minds, and were not fit to appear in such gay assemblies.
At last they approached Madrid. They had, besides Collington, another attendant who spoke the Spanish language, and served them as an interpreter. They separated from these two the day before they entered Madrid, so as to attract the less attention. Their attendants were to be left behind for a day, and afterward were to follow them into the city. The British embassador at Madrid at this time was the Earl of Bristol. He had had charge of all the negotiations in respect to the marriage, and to the restoration of the Palatinate, and believed that he had brought them almost to a successful termination. He lived in a palace in Madrid, and, as is customary with the embassadors of great powers at the courts of great powers, in a style of the highest pomp and splendor.
Buckingham took the prince directly to Bristol's house. Bristol was utterly confounded at seeing them. Nothing could be worse, he said, in respect to the completion of the treaty, than the prince's presence in Madrid. The introduction of so new and extraordinary an element into the affair would undo all that had been done, and lead the King of Spain to begin anew, and go over all the ground again. In speaking of this occurrence to another, he said that just as he was on the point of coming to a satisfactory conclusion of his long negotiations and toils, a demon in the shape of Prince Charles came suddenly upon the stage to thwart and defeat them all.
The Spanish court was famous in those days—in fact, it has always been famous—for its punctilious attention to etiquette and parade; and as soon as the prince's arrival was known to the king, he immediately began to make preparations to welcome him with all possible pomp and ceremony. A great procession was made through the Prado, which is a street in Madrid famous for promenades, processions, and public displays of all kinds. In moving through the city on this occasion, the king and Prince Charles walked together, the monarch thus treating the prince as his equal. There was a great canopy of state borne over their heads as they moved along. This canopy was supported by a large number of persons of the highest rank. The streets, and the windows and balconies of the houses on each side, were thronged with spectators, dressed in the gay and splendid court dresses of those times. When they reached the end of the route, and were about to enter the gate of the palace, there was a delay to decide which should enter first, the king and the prince each insisting on giving the precedence to the other. At last it was settled by their both going in together.
If the prince thus, on the one hand, derived some benefit in the gratification of his pride by the Spanish etiquette and parade, he suffered some inconvenience and disappointment from it, on the other hand, by its excluding him from all intercourse or acquaintance with the Infanta. It was not proper for the young man to see or to speak to the young lady, in such a case as this, until the arrangements had been more fully matured. The formalities of the engagement must have proceeded beyond the point which they had yet reached, before the bridegroom could be admitted to a personal interview with the bride. It is true, he could see her in public, where she was in a crowd, with other ladies of the court, and where he could have no communication with her; but this was all. They arranged it, however, to give Charles as many opportunities of this kind as possible. There were shows, in which the prince could see the Infanta among the spectators; and they arranged tiltings and ridings at the ring, and other athletic sports, such as Charles excelled in, and let him perform his exploits in her presence. His rivals in these contests did not have the incivility to conquer him, and his performances excited expressions, at least, of universal admiration.
But the prince and Buckingham did not very willingly submit to the stiffness and formality of the Spanish court. As soon as they came to feel a little at home, they began to act with great freedom. At one time the prince learned that the Infanta was going, early in the morning, to take a walk in some private pleasure grounds, at a country house in the neighborhood of Madrid, and he conceived the design of gaining an interview with her there by stealth. He accordingly repaired to the place, got admitted in some way within the precincts of the palace, and contrived to clamber over a high wall which separated him from the grounds in which the Infanta was walking, and so let himself down into her presence. The accounts do not state whether she herself was pleased or alarmed, but the officer who had her in charge, an old nobleman, was very much alarmed, and begged the prince to retire, as he himself would be subject to a very severe punishment if it were known that he had allowed such an interview. Finally they opened the door, and the prince went out. Many people were pleased with this and similar adventures of the prince and of Buckingham, but the leading persons about the court were displeased with them. Their precise and formal notions of propriety were very much shocked by such freedoms.
Besides, it was soon found that the characters of these high-born visitors, especially that of Buckingham, were corrupt, and their lives very irregular. Buckingham was accustomed to treat King James in a very bold, familiar, and imperious manner, and he fell insensibly into the same habits of intercourse with those about him in Spain. The little reserve and caution which he manifested at first soon wore off, and he began to be very generally disliked. In the mean time the negotiation was, as Bristol had expected, very much put back by the prince's arrival. The King of Spain formed new plans, and thought of new conditions to impose. The Catholics, too, thought that Charles's coming thus into a Catholic country, indicated some leaning, on his part, toward the Catholic faith. The pope actually wrote him a long letter, the object of which was to draw him off from the ranks of Protestantism. Charles wrote a civil, but rather an evasive reply.
In the mean time, King James wrote childish letters from time to time to his two dear boys, as he called them, and he sent them a great many presents of jewelry and splendid dresses, some for them to wear themselves, and some for the prince to offer as gifts to the Infanta. Among these, he describes, in one of his letters, a little mirror, set in a case which was to be worn hung at the girdle. He wrote to Charles that when he gave this mirror to the Infanta, he must tell her that it was a picture which he had had imbued with magical virtue by means of incantations and charms, so that whenever she looked into it, she would see a portrait of the most beautiful princess in England, France, or Spain.
At last the great obstacle in the way of the conclusion of the treaty of marriage, which consisted in the delays and difficulties in getting the pope's dispensation, was removed. The dispensation came. But then the King of Spain wanted some new guarantees in respect to the privileges of Catholics in England, under pretense of securing more perfectly the rights of the Infanta and of her attendants when they should have arrived in that country. The truth was, he probably wished to avail himself of the occasion to gain some foothold for the Catholic faith in England, which country had become almost entirely Protestant. At length, however, all obstacles seemed to be removed, and the treaty was signed. The news of it was received with great joy in England, as it seemed to secure a permanent alliance between the two powerful countries of England and Spain. Great celebrations took place in London, to do honor to the occasion. A chapel was built for the Infanta, to be ready for her on her arrival; and a fleet was fitted out to convey her and her attendants to her new home.
In the mean time, however, although the king had signed the treaty, there was a strong party formed against the marriage in Spain. Buckingham was hated and despised. Charles, they saw, was almost entirely under his influence. They said they would rather see the Infanta in her grave than in the hands of such men. Buckingham became irritated by the hostility he had awakened, and he determined to break off the match entirely. He wrote home to James that he did not believe the Spanish court had any intention of carrying the arrangement really into effect; that they were procrastinating the affair on every possible pretext, and that he was really afraid that, if the prince were to attempt to leave the country, they would interpose and detain him as a prisoner. King James was very much alarmed. He wrote in the greatest trepidation, urging "the lads" to come away immediately, leaving a proxy behind them, if necessary, for the solemnization of the marriage. This was what Buckingham wanted, and he and the prince began to make preparations for their departure.
The King of Spain, far from interposing any obstacles in the way, only treated them with greater and higher marks of respect as the time of their separation from his court drew nigh. He arranged great and pompous ceremonies to honor their departure. He accompanied them, with all the grandees of the court, as far as to the Escurial, which is a famous royal palace not far from Madrid, built and furnished in the most sumptuous style of magnificence and splendor. Here they had parting feasts and celebrations. Here the prince took his leave of the Infanta, Bristol serving as interpreter, to translate his parting speeches into Spanish, so that she could understand them. From the Escurial the prince and Buckingham, with a great many English noblemen who had followed them to Madrid, and a great train of attendants, traveled toward the seacoast, where a fleet of vessels were ready to receive them.
They embarked at a port called St. Andrew. They came very near being lost in a storm of mist and rain which came upon them while going out to the ships, which were at a distance from the shore, in small boats provided to convey them. Having escaped this danger, they arrived safely at Portsmouth, the great landing point of the British navy on the southern shores of England, and thence proceeded to London. They sent back orders that the proxy should not be used, and the match was finally abandoned, each party accusing the other of duplicity and bad faith. King James was however, very glad to get his son safe back again, and the people made as many bonfires and illuminations to celebrate the breaking up of this Catholic match, as they had done before to do honor to its supposed completion. As all hope of recovering the Palatinate by negotiation was now past, the king began to prepare for the attempt to conquer it by force of arms.
ACCESSION TO THE THRONE.
James prepares for war.—He falls ill.—Suspicions.—Death of James.—Accession of Charles.—Different ideas of the nature and end of government.—Hereditary succession illustrated by an argument.—Property and prerogatives.—Hereditary succession an absolute right.—Three things hereditary in England.—The Stuarts.—Parliament.—The Legislature in the United States.—The nature of Parliament.—The nobles.—The House of Commons.—Its humble position.—The king's power over Parliament.—His responsibility.—An illustration.—James's message to Parliament.—Its high tone.—Privileges of the House of Commons.—The king's prerogatives.—Charles's contest with Parliament.—Present condition of the Commons.—Its vast influence.—Old forms still retained.—Will probably be changed.—Effects of a demise of the crown.—All offices expire.—Westminster.—The Strand.—Temple Bar.—Somerset House.—James's funeral.—Marriage of Charles.—Imposing ceremonies.—Arrival of the bride at London.—Her residence.
King James made slow progress in his military preparations. He could not raise the funds without the action of Parliament, and the houses were not in very good humor. The expenses of the prince's visit to Spain had been enormous, and other charges, arising out of the pomp and splendor with which the arrangements of the court were maintained, gave them a strong feeling of discontent. They had other grievances of which they were disposed to complain, and they began to look upon this war, notwithstanding its Protestant character, as one in which the king was only striving to recover his son-in-law's dominions, and, consequently, as one which pertained more to his personal interests than to the public welfare of the realm.
While things were in this state the king fell sick. The mother of the Duke of Buckingham undertook to prescribe for him. It was understood that Buckingham himself, who had, in the course of the Spanish enterprise, and since his return, acquired an entire ascendency over Charles, was not unwilling that his old master should leave the stage, and the younger one reign in his stead; and that his mother shared in this feeling. At any rate, her prescriptions made the king much worse. He had the sacrament administered to him in his sick chamber, and said that he derived great comfort from it. One morning, very early, he sent for the prince to come and see him. Charles rose, dressed himself, and came. His father had something to say to him, and tried to speak. He could not. His strength was too far gone. He fell back upon his pillow, and died.
Charles was, of course, now king. The theory in the English monarchy is, that the king never dies. So soon as the person in whom the royal sovereignty resides ceases to breathe, the principle of supremacy vests immediately in his successor, by a law of transmission entirely independent of the will of man. The son becomes king by a divine right. His being proclaimed and crowned, as he usually is, at some convenient time early in his reign, are not ceremonies which make him king. They only acknowledge him to be so. He does not, in any sense, derive his powers and prerogatives from these acts. He only receives from his people, by means of them, a recognition of his right to the high office to which he has already been inducted by the fiat of Heaven.
It will be observed, thus, that the ideas which prevailed in respect to the nature and province of government, were very different in England at that time, from those which are entertained in America at the present day. With us, the administration of government is merely a business, transacted for the benefit of the people by their agents—men who are put in power for this purpose, and who, like other agents, are responsible to their principals for the manner in which they fulfill their trusts. But government in England was, in the days of the Stuarts—and it is so to a great extent at the present day—a right which one family possessed, and which entitled that family to certain immunities, powers, and prerogatives, which they held entirely independent of any desire, on the part of the people, that they should exercise them, or even their consent that they should do so. The right to govern the realm of Great Britain was a sort of estate which descended to Charles from his ancestors, and with the possession and enjoyment of which the community had no right to interfere.
This seems, at first view, very absurd to us, but it is not particularly absurd. Charles's lawyers would say to any plain proprietor of a piece of land, who might call in question his right to govern the country, The king holds his crown by precisely the same tenure that you hold your farm. Why should you be the exclusive possessor of that land, while so many poor beggars are starving? Because it has descended to you from your ancestors, and nothing has descended to them. And it is precisely so that the right to manage the fleets and armies, and to administer the laws of the realm, has descended, under the name of sovereignty, to him, and no such political power has descended to you.
True, the farmer would reply; but in matters of government we are to consider what will promote the general good. The great object to be attained is the welfare and happiness of the community. Now, if this general welfare comes into competition with the supposed rights of individuals, arising from such a principle as hereditary succession, the latter ought certainly to yield.
But why, might the lawyer reply, should rights founded on hereditary succession yield any more readily in the case of government than in the case of property? The distribution of property influences the general welfare quite as much as the management of power. Suppose it were proved that the general welfare of your parish would be promoted by the division of your land among the destitute there. You have nothing to oppose to such a proposition but your hereditary right. And the king has that to oppose to any plan of a division of his prerogatives and powers among the people who would like to share them.
Whatever may be thought of this reasoning on this side of the Atlantic, and at the present day, it was considered very satisfactory in England two or three centuries ago. The true and proper jurisdiction of an English monarch, as it had existed from ancient times, was considered as an absolute right, vesting in each successive inheritor of the crown, and which the community could not justly interfere with or disturb for any reasons less imperious than such as would authorize an interference with the right of succession to private property. Indeed, it is probable that, with most men at that time, an inherited right to govern was regarded as the most sacred of the two.
The fact seems to be, that the right of a son to come into the place of his father, whether in respect to property, power, or social rank, is not a natural, inherent, and indefeasible right, but a privilege which society accords, as a matter of convenience and expediency. In England, expediency is, on the whole, considered to require that all three of these things, viz., property, rank, and power, in certain cases, should descend from father to son. In this country, on the other hand, we confine the hereditament to property, abrogating it in the case of rank and power. In neither case is there probably any absolute natural right, but a conventional right is allowed to take its place in one, or another, or all of these particulars, according to the opinion of the community in respect to what its true interests and the general welfare, on the whole, require.
The kings themselves of this Stuart race—which race includes Mary Queen of Scots, the mother of the line, and James I., Charles I., Charles II., and James II.—entertained very high ideas of these hereditary rights of theirs to govern the realm of England. They felt a determination to maintain these rights and powers at all hazards. Charles ascended the throne with these feelings, and the chief point of interest in the history of his reign is the contest in which he engaged with the English people in his attempts to maintain them.
The body with which the king came most immediately into conflict in this long struggle for ascendency, was the Parliament. And here American readers are very liable to fall into a mistake by considering the houses of Parliament as analogous to the houses of legislation in the various governments of this country. In our governments the chief magistrate has only to execute definite and written laws and ordinances, passed by the Legislature, and which the Legislature may pass with or without his consent; and when enacted, he must be governed by them. Thus the president or the governor is, in a certain sense, the agent and officer of the legislative power of the state, to carry into effect its decisions, and this legislative power has really the control.
By the ancient Constitution of England, however, the Parliament was merely a body of counselors, as it were, summoned by the king to give him their advice, to frame for him such laws as he wished to have framed, and to aid him in raising funds by taxing the people. The king might call this council or not, as he pleased. There was no necessity for calling it unless he needed more funds than he could raise by his own resources. When called, they felt that they had come, in a great measure, to aid the king in doing his will. When they framed a law, they sent it to him, and if he was satisfied with it, he made it law. It was the king who really enacted it. If he did not approve the law, he wrote upon the parchment which contained it, "The king will think of it," and that was the end. The king would call upon them to assess a tax and collect the money, and would talk to them about his plans, and his government, and the aid which he desired from them to enable him to accomplish what he had himself undertaken. In fact, the king was the government, and the houses of Parliament his instruments to aid him in giving effect to his decrees.
The nobles, that is, the heads of the great families, and also the bishops, who were the heads of the various dioceses of the Church formed one branch of this great council. This was called the House of Lords. Certain representatives of the counties and of the towns formed another branch, called the House of Commons. These delegates came to the council, not from any right which the counties and towns were supposed to possess to a share in the government, but simply because they were summoned by the king to come and give him their aid. They were to serve without pay, as a matter of duty which they owed to the sovereign. Those that came from counties were called knights, and those from the towns burgesses. These last were held in very little estimation. The towns, in those days, were considered as mere collections of shopkeepers and tradesmen, who were looked down upon with much disdain by the haughty nobles. When the king called his Parliament together, and went in to address them, he entered the chamber of the House of Peers, and the commons were called in, to stand where they could, with their heads uncovered, to hear what he had to say. They were, in a thousand other ways, treated as an inferior class; but still their counsels might, in some cases, be of service, and so they were summoned to attend, though they were to meet always, and deliberate, in a separate chamber.
As the king could call the Parliament together at any time and place he pleased, so he could suspend or terminate their sittings at any time. He could intermit the action of a Parliament for a time, sending the members to their homes until he should summon them again. This was called a prorogation. Or he could dissolve the body entirely at any time, and then require new elections for a new Parliament whenever he wished to avail himself of the wisdom or aid of such a body again.
Thus every thing went on the supposition that the real responsibility for the government was with the king. He was the monarch, and the real sovereignty vested in him. He called his nobles, and a delegation from the mass of the people, together, whenever he wanted their help, and not otherwise. He was responsible, not to them nor to the people at large, but to God only, for the acts of his administration. The duty of Parliament was limited to that of aiding him in carrying out his plans of government, and the people had nothing to do but to be obedient, submissive, and loyal. These were, at any rate, the ideas of the kings, and all the forms of the English Constitution and the ancient phraseology in which the transactions are expressed, correspond with them.
We can not give a better proof and illustration of what has been said than by transcribing the substance of one of King James's messages to his Parliament, delivered about the close of his life, and, of course, at the period of which we are writing. It was as follows:
"My Lords spiritual and temporal, and you the Commons: In my last Parliament I made long discourses, especially to them of the Lower House. I did open the true thought of my heart. But I may say with our Savior, 'I have piped to you and ye have not danced; I have mourned to you and you have not lamented;' so all my sayings turned to me again without any success. And now, to tell the reasons of your calling and of this meeting, apply it to yourselves, and spend not the time in long speeches. Consider that the Parliament is a thing composed of a head and a body; the monarch and the two estates. It was, first, a monarchy; then, after, a Parliament. There are no Parliaments but in monarchical governments; for in Venice, the Netherlands, and other free governments there are none. The head is to call the body together; and for the clergy the bishops are chief, for shires their knights, for towns and cities their burgesses and citizens. These are to treat of difficult matters, and counsel their king with their best advice to make laws[A] for the commonweal and the Lower House is also to petition the king and acquaint him with their grievances, and not to meddle with the king's prerogative. They are to offer supply for his necessity, and he to distribute, in recompense thereof, justice and mercy. As in all Parliaments it is the king's office to make good laws, whose fundamental cause is the people's ill manners, so at this time.
[Footnote A: Meaning advice to him how he shall make laws, as is evident from what is said below.]
"For a supply to my necessities, I have reigned eighteen years, in which I have had peace, and I have received far less supply than hath been given to any king since the Conquest. The last queen had, one year with another, above a hundred thousand pounds per annum in subsidies; and in all my time I have had but four subsidies and six fifteens[B]. It is ten years since I had a subsidy, in all which time I have been sparing to trouble you. I have turned myself as nearly to save expenses as I may. I have abated much in my household expenses, in my navies, and the charge of my munition."
[Footnote B: Species of taxes granted by Parliament.]
After speaking about the affairs of the Palatinate, and calling upon the Parliament to furnish him with money to recover it for his son-in-law, he adds:
"Consider the trade for the making thereof better, and show me the reason why my mint, these eight or nine years, hath not gone. I confess I have been liberal in my grants; but if I be informed, I will amend all hurtful grievances. But whoever shall hasten after grievances, and desire to make himself popular he hath the spirit of Satan. I was, in my first Parliament, a novice; and in my last, there was a kind of beasts, called undertakers, a dozen of whom undertook to govern the last Parliament, and they led me. I shall thank you for your good office, and desire that the world may say well of our agreement."
This kind of harangue from the king to his Parliament seems not to have been considered at the time, at all extraordinary; though, if such a message were to be sent, at the present day, to a body of legislators, whether by a king or a president, it would certainly produce a sensation.
Still, notwithstanding what we have said, the Parliament did contrive gradually to attain to the possession of some privileges and powers of its own. The English people have a great deal of independence and spirit, though Americans traveling there, with ideas carried from this country, are generally surprised at finding so little instead of so much. The knights and burgesses of the House of Commons, though they submitted patiently to the forms of degradation which the lords and kings imposed upon them, gradually got possession of certain powers which they claimed as their own, and which they showed a strong disposition to defend. They claimed the exclusive right to lay taxes of every kind. This had been the usage so long, that they had the same right to it that the king had to his crown. They had a right too, to petition the king for a redress of any grievances which they supposed the people were suffering under his reign. These, and certain other powers and immunities which they had possessed, were called their privileges. The king's rights were, on the other hand, called his prerogatives. The Parliament were always endeavoring to extend, define, and establish their privileges. The king was equally bent on maintaining his ancient prerogatives. King Charles's reign derives its chief interest from the long and insane contest which he waged with his Parliament on this question. The contest commenced at the king's accession to the throne, and lasted a quarter of a century: it ended with his losing all his prerogatives and his head.
This circumstance, that the main interest in King Charles's reign is derived from his contest with his Parliament, has made it necessary to explain somewhat fully, as we have done, the nature of that body. We have described it as it was in the days of the Stuarts; but, in order not to leave any wrong impression on the mind of the reader in regard to its present condition, we must add, that though all its external forms remain the same, the powers and functions of the body have greatly changed. The despised and contemned knights and burgesses, that were not worthy to have seats provided for them when the king was delivering them his speech, now rule the world; or, at least, come nearer to the possession of that dominion than any other power has ever done, in ancient or modern times. They decide who shall administer the government, and in what way. They make the laws, settle questions of trade and commerce, decide really on peace and war, and, in a word, hold the whole control, while the nominal sovereign takes rides in the royal parks, or holds drawing-rooms in the palaces, in empty and powerless parade. There is no question that the British House of Commons has exerted a far wider influence on the destinies of the human race than any other governmental power that has ever existed. It has gone steadily on for five, and perhaps for ten centuries, in the same direction and toward the same ends; and whatever revolutions may threaten other elements of European power, the British House of Commons, in some form or other, is as sure as any thing human can be of existence and power for five or ten centuries to come.
And yet it is one of the most remarkable of the strange phenomena of social life, that this body, standing at the head, as it really does, of all human power, submits patiently still to all the marks and tokens of inferiority and degradation which accompanied its origin. It comes together when the sovereign sends writs, ordering the several constituencies to choose their representatives, and the representatives to assemble. It comes humbly into the House of Peers to listen to the instructions of the sovereign at the opening of the session, the members in a standing position, and with heads uncovered.[C] It debates these suggestions with forms and in a phraseology which imply that it is only considering what counsel to give the king. It enacts nothing—it only recommends; and it holds its existence solely at the discretion of the great imaginary power which called it into being. These forms may, very probably, soon be changed for others more true to the facts; and the principle of election may be changed, so as to make the body represent more fully the general population of the empire; but the body itself will doubtless continue its action for a very long period to come.
[Footnote C: Even in the case of a committee of conference between the two houses, the lords have seats in the committee-room and wear their hats. The members from the commons must stand, and be uncovered during the deliberations!]
According to the view of the subject which we have presented, it would of course follow, as the real sovereignty was mainly in the king's hands, that at the death of one monarch and the accession of another, the functions of all officers holding their places under the authority of the former would cease. This was actually the case. And it shows how entirely the Parliament was considered as the instrument and creation of the king, that on the death of a king, the Parliament immediately expired. The new monarch must make a new Parliament, if he wished one, to help him carry out his own plans. In the same manner almost all other offices expired. As it would be extremely inconvenient or impossible to appoint anew all the officers of such a realm on a sudden emergency, it is usual for the king to issue a decree renewing the appointments of the existing incumbents of these offices. Thus King Charles, two days after his father's death, made it his first act to renew the appointments of the members of his father's privy council, of the foreign embassadors, and of the judges of the courts, in order that the affairs of the empire might go on without interruption. He also issued summonses for calling a Parliament, and then made arrangements for the solemnization of his father's funeral.
The scene of these transactions was what was, in those days, called Westminster. Minster means cathedral. A cathedral church had been built, and an abbey founded, at a short distance west from London, near the mouth of the Thames. The church was called the West minster, and the abbey, Westminster Abbey. The town afterward took the same name. The street leading to the city of London from Westminster was called the Strand; it lay along the shore of the river. The gate by which the city of London was entered on this side was called Temple Bar, on account of a building just within the walls, at that point, which was called the Temple. In process of time, London expanded beyond its bounds and spread westward. The Strand became a magnificent street of shops and stores. Westminster was filled with palaces and houses of the nobility, the whole region being entirely covered with streets and edifices of the greatest magnificence and splendor. Westminster is now called the West End of London, though the jurisdiction of the city still ends at Temple Bar.
Parliament held its sessions in a building near the shore, called St. Stephen's. The king's palace, called St. James's Palace, was near. The old church became a place of sepulture for the English kings, where a long line of them now repose. The palace of King James's wife, Anne of Denmark, was on the bank of the river, some distance down the Strand. She called it, during her life, Denmark House, in honor of her native land. Its name is now Somerset House.
King James's funeral was attended with great pomp. The body was conveyed from Somerset House to its place of repose in the Abbey, and attended by a great procession. King Charles walked as chief mourner. Two earls attended him, one on each side, and the train of his robes was borne by twelve peers of the realm. The expenses of this funeral amounted to a sum equal to two hundred thousand dollars.
One thing more is to be stated before we can consider Charles as fairly entered upon his career, and that is the circumstance of his marriage. His father James, so soon as he found the negotiations with Spain must be finally abandoned, opened a new negotiation with the King of France for his daughter Henrietta Maria. After some delay, this arrangement was concluded upon. The treaty of marriage was made, and soon after the old king's death, Charles began to think of bringing home his bride.
He accordingly made out a commission for a nobleman, appointed for the purpose, to act in his name, in the performance of the ceremony at Paris. The pope's dispensation was obtained, Henrietta Maria, as well as the Infanta, being a Catholic. The ceremony was performed, as such ceremonies usually were in Paris, in the famous church of Notre Dame, where Charles's grandmother, Mary Queen of Scots, had been married to a prince of France about seventy years before.
There was a great theater, or platform, erected in front of the altar in the church, which was thronged by the concourse of spectators who rushed to witness the ceremony. The beautiful princess was married by proxy to a man in another kingdom, whom she had never seen, or, at least, never known. It is not probable that she observed him at the time when he was, for one evening, in her presence, on his journey through Paris. The Duke of Buckingham had been sent over by Charles to conduct home his bride. Ships were waiting at Boulogne, a port nearly opposite to Dover, to take her and her attendants on board. She bade farewell to the palaces of Paris, and set out on her journey.[D]
[Footnote D: See portrait at the commencement of this volume.]
The king, in the mean time, had gone to Dover, where he awaited her arrival. She landed at Dover on the day after sailing from Boulogne, sea-sick and sad. The king received his bride, and with their attendants they went by carriages to Canterbury, and on the following day they entered London. Great preparations had been made for receiving the king and his consort in a suitable manner; but London was, at this time, in a state of great distress and fear on account of the plague which had broken out there. The disease had increased during the king's absence, and the alarm and anxiety were so great, that the rejoicings on account of the arrival of the queen were omitted. She journeyed quietly, therefore, to Westminster, and took up her abode at Somerset House, which had been the residence of her predecessor. They had fitted it up for her reception, providing for it, among other conveniences, a Roman Catholic chapel, where she could enjoy the services of religion in the forms to which she had been accustomed.
Charles's accession.—Leading events of his reign.—Buckingham.—His influence over the king.—General system of government.—His majesty.—Every thing done in the king's name.—The Privy Council.—It represents the king.—Constitution and functions of the Privy Council.—Restrictions on the royal power.—A new Parliament.—The new Parliament meets at Oxford.—Difficulties commence between the king and Parliament.—Demands of Parliament, and the king's answers.—The king and the Commons both in the wrong.—The king promises every thing.—His insincerity.—Commons not satisfied.—Parliament dissolved.—New one called.—Subterfuges of the king.—Parliament again dissolved.—The breach between the king and the Parliament widens.—Impeachment of Buckingham.—The king interferes.—Another dissolution.—Buckingham's reckless conduct.—The Round Robin.—Return of the English fleet.—The officers and men desert.—Expedition to Spain.—Buckingham's egregious folly.—The expedition ends in disaster.—Buckingham's quarrel with Richelieu.—He resolves on war.—The French servants dismissed.—War declared against France.—Expedition to France abortive.—Another projected.—Assassination of Buckingham.—The king not sorry.—Buckingham's monument the universal execration of his countrymen.
Charles commenced his reign in 1625. He continued to reign about twenty-four years. It will assist the reader to receive and retain in mind a clear idea of the course of events during his reign, if we regard it as divided into three periods. During the first, which continued about four years, Charles and the Parliament were both upon the stage, contending with each other, but just at open war. Each party intrigued, and maneuvered, and struggled to gain its own ends, the disagreement widening and deepening continually, till it ended in an open rupture, when Charles abandoned the plan of having Parliaments at all, and attempted to govern alone. This attempt to manage the empire without a legislature lasted for ten years, and is the second period. After this a Parliament was called, and it soon made itself independent of the king, and became hostile to him, the two powers being at open war. This constitutes the third period. Thus we have four years spent in getting into the quarrel between the king and Parliament, ten years in an attempt by the king to govern alone, and, finally, ten years of war, more or less open, the king on one side, and the Parliament on the other.
The first four years—that is, the time spent in getting really into the quarrel with Parliament, was Buckingham's work, for during that time Buckingham's influence with the king was paramount and supreme; and whatever was done that was important or extraordinary, though done in the king's name, really originated in him. The whole country knew this and were indignant that such a man, so unprincipled, so low in character, so reckless, and so completely under the sway of his impulses and passions, should have such an influence over the king, and, through him, such power to interfere with and endanger the mighty interests of so vast a realm.
It must not be supposed, however, in consequence of what has been said about the extent of the regal power in England, that the daily care and responsibility of the affairs of government, in its ordinary administration, rested directly upon the king. It is not possible that any one mind can even comprehend, far less direct, such an enormous complication of interests and of action as is involved in the carrying on, from day to day, the government of an empire. Offices, authorities, and departments of administration spring up gradually, and all the ordinary routine of the affairs of the empire are managed by them. Thus the navy was all completely organized, with its gradations of rank, its rules of action, its records, its account books, its offices and arrangements for provisionment and supply, the whole forming a vast system which moved on of itself, whether the king were present or absent, sick or well, living or dead. It was so with the army; it was so with the courts; it was so with the general administration of the government, at London. The immense mass of business which constituted the work of government was all systematized and arranged, and it moved on regularly, in the hands of more or less prudent and careful men, who governed, themselves, by ancient rules and usages, and in most cases managed wisely.
Every thing, however, was done in the king's name. The ships were his majesty's ships, the admirals were his majesty's servants, the war was his majesty's war, the court was the King's Bench. The idea was, that all these thousands of officers, of all ranks and grades, were only an enormous multiplication of his majesty; that they were to do his will and carry on his administration as he would himself carry it on were he personally capable of attending to such a vast detail; subject, of course, to certain limits and restrictions which the laws and customs of the realm, and the promises and contracts of his predecessors, had imposed. But although all this action was theoretically the king's action, it came to be, in fact, almost wholly independent of him. It went on of itself, in a regular and systematic way, pursuing its own accustomed course, except so far as the king directly interposed to modify its action.
It might be supposed that the king would certainly take the general direction of affairs into his own hands, and that this charge, at least, would necessarily come upon him, as king, day by day. Some monarchs have attempted to do this, but it is obvious that there must be some provision for having this general charge, as well as all the subordinate functions of government, attended to independently of the king, as his being always in a condition to fulfill this duty is not to be relied upon. Sometimes the king is young and inexperienced; sometimes he is sick or absent; and sometimes he is too feeble in mind, or too indolent, or too devoted to his pleasures, to exercise any governmental care. There has gradually grown up, therefore, in all monarchies, the custom of having a central board of officers of state, whom the king appoints, and who take the general direction of affairs in his stead, except so far as he chooses to interfere. This board, in England, is called the Privy Council.
The Privy Council in England is a body of great importance. Its nature and its functions are, of course, entirely different from those of the two houses of Parliament. They represent, or are intended to represent, the nation. The Parliament is, in theory, the nation, assembled at the king's command, to give him their advice. The Privy Council, on the other hand, represents the king. It is the king's Privy Council. They act in his name. They follow his directions when he chooses to give any. Whatever they decide upon and decree, the king signs—often, indeed, without any idea of its nature. Still he signs it, and all such decrees go forth to the word as the king's orders in council. The Privy Council, of course, would have its meetings, its officers, its records, its rules of proceeding, and its various usages, and these grew, in time, to be laws and rights; but still it was, in theory, only a sort of expansion of the king, as if to make a kind of artificial being, with one soul, but many heads and hands, because no natural human being could possibly have capacities and powers extensive and multifarious enough for the exigencies of reigning. Charles thus had a council who took charge of every thing, except so far as he chose to interpose. The members were generally able and experienced men. And yet Buckingham was among them. He had been made Lord High Admiral of England, which gave him supreme command of the navy, and admitted him to the Privy Council. These were very high honors.
This Privy Council now took the direction of public affairs, attended to every thing, provided for all emergencies, and kept all the complicated machinery of government in motion, without the necessity of the king's having any personal agency in the matter. The king might interpose, more or less, as he was inclined; and when he did interpose, he sometimes found obstacles in the way of immediately accomplishing his plans, in the forms or usages which had gradually grown into laws.
For instance, when the king began his reign, he was very eager to have the war for the recovery of the Palatinate go on at once; and he was, besides, very much embarrassed for want of money. He wished, therefore, in order to save time, that the old Parliament which King James had called should continue to act under his reign. But his Privy Council told him that that could not be. That was James's Parliament. If he wanted one for his reign, he must call upon the people to elect a new Parliament for him.
The new Parliament was called, and Charles sent them a very civil message, explaining the emergency which had induced him to call them, and the reason why he was so much in want of money. His father had left the government a great deal in debt. There had been heavy expenses connected with the death of the former king, and with his own accession and marriage. Then there was the war. It had been engaged in by his father, with the approbation of the former Parliament; and engagements had been made with allies, which now they could not honorably retract. He urged them, therefore, to grant, without delay, the necessary supplies.
The Parliament met in July, but the plague was increasing in London, and they had to adjourn, early in August, to Oxford. This city is situated upon the Thames, and was then, as it is now, the seat of a great many colleges. These colleges were independent of each other in their internal management, though united together in one general system. The name of one of them, which is still very distinguished, was Christ Church College. They had, among the buildings of that college, a magnificent hall, more than one hundred feet long, and very lofty, built in a very imposing style. It is still a great object of interest to all who visit Oxford. This hall was fitted up for the use of Parliament, and the king met the two houses there. He made a new speech himself, and others were made by his ministers, explaining the state of public affairs, and gently urging the houses to act with promptness and decision.
The houses then separated, and each commenced its own deliberations. But, instead of promptly complying with the king's proposals they sent him a petition for redress of a long list of what they called grievances. These grievances were, almost all of them, complaints of the toleration and encouragement of the Catholics, through the influence of the king's Catholic bride. She had stipulated to have a Catholic chapel, and Catholic attendants, and, after her arrival in England, she and Buckingham had so much influence over the king, that they were producing quite a change at court, and gradually through all ranks of society, in favor of the Catholics. The Commons complained of a great many things, nearly all, however, originating in this cause. The king answered these complaints, clause by clause, promising redress more or less distinctly. There is not room to give this petition and the answers in full, but as all the subsequent troubles between Charles and the people of England arose out of this difficulty of his young wife's bringing in so strong a Catholic influence with her to the realm, it may be well to give an abstract of some of the principal petitions, with the king's answers.
The Commons said:
That they had understood that popish priests, and other Catholics, were gradually creeping in as teachers of the youth of the realm, in the various seminaries of learning, and they wished to have decided measures taken to examine all candidates for such stations, with a view to the careful exclusion of all who were not true Protestants.
King.—Allowed. And I will send to the archbishops and all the authorities to see that this is done.
Commons.—That more efficient arrangements should be made for appointing able and faithful men in the Church—men that will really devote themselves to preaching the Gospel to the people; instead of conferring these places and salaries on favorites, sometimes, as has been the case, several to the same man.
The king made some explanations in regard to this subject, and promised hereafter to comply with this requisition.
Commons.—That the laws against sending children out of the country to foreign countries to be educated in Catholic seminaries should be strictly enforced, and the practice be entirely broken up.
King.—Agreed; and he would send to the lord admiral, and to all the naval officers on the coast, to watch very carefully and stop all children attempting to go abroad for such a purpose; and he would issue a proclamation commanding all the noblemen's children now on the Continent to return by a given day.
Commons.—That no Catholic (or, as they called him, popish recusant, that is, a person refusing to subscribe to the Protestant faith, recusant meaning person refusing) be admitted into the king's service at court; and that no English Catholic be admitted into the queen's service. They could not refuse to allow her to employ her own French attendants, but to appoint English Catholics to the honorable and lucrative offices at her disposal was doing a great injury to the Protestant cause in the realm.
The king agreed to this, with some conditions and evasions.
Commons.—That all Jesuits and Catholic priests, owing allegiance to the See of Rome, should be sent away from the country, according to laws already existing, after fair notice given; and if they would not go, that they should be imprisoned in such a manner as to be kept from all communication with other persons, so as not to disseminate their false religion.
King.—The laws on this subject shall be enforced.
The above are sufficient for a specimen of these complaints and of the king's answers. There were many more of them, but they have all the same character—being designed to stop the strong current of Catholic influence and ascendency which was setting in to the court, and through the court into the realm, through the influence of the young queen and the persons connected with her. At the present day, and in this country, the Commons will be thought to be in the wrong, inasmuch as the thing which they were contending against was, in the main, merely the toleration of the Catholic religion. But then the king was in the wrong too, for, since the laws against this toleration stood enacted by the consent and concurrence of his predecessors, he should not have allowed them to be infracted and virtually annulled through the influence of a foreign bride and an unworthy favorite.
Perhaps he felt that he was wrong, or perhaps his answers were all framed for him by his Privy Council. At all events, they were entirely favorable to the demands of the Commons. He promised every thing. In many things he went even beyond their demands. It is admitted, however, on all hands, that, so far as he himself had any agency in making these replies, he was not really sincere. He himself, and Buckingham, were very eager to get supplies. Buckingham was admiral of the fleet, and very strongly desired to enlarge the force at his command, with a view to the performing of some great exploit in the war. It is understood, therefore, that the king intended his replies as promises merely. At any rate, the promises were made. The Commons were called into the great hall again, at Christ Church, where the Peers assembled, and the king's answers were read to them. Buckingham joined in this policy of attempting to conciliate the Commons. He went into their assembly and made a long speech, explaining and justifying his conduct, and apologizing, in some sense, for what might seem to be wrong.
The Commons returned to their place of deliberation, but they were not satisfied. They wanted something besides promises. Some were in favor of granting supplies "in gratitude to his majesty for his gracious answer." Others thought differently. They did not see the necessity for raising money for this foreign war. They had greater enemies at home (meaning Buckingham and popery) than they had abroad. Besides, if the king would stop his waste and extravagance in bestowing honors and rewards, there would be money enough for all necessary uses. In a word, there was much debate, but nothing done. The king, after a short time, sent a message to them urging them to come to a decision. They sent him back a declaration which showed that they did not intend to yield. Their language, however, was of the most humble character. They called him "their dread sovereign," and themselves "his poor commons." The king was displeased with them, and dissolved the Parliament. They, of course, immediately became private citizens, and dispersed to their homes.
After trying some ineffectual attempts to raise money by his own royal prerogatives and powers, the king called a new Parliament, taking some singular precautions to keep out of it such persons as he thought would oppose his plans. The Earl of Bristol, whom Buckingham had been so jealous of, considering him as his rival, was an influential member of the House of Peers. Charles and Buckingham agreed to omit him in sending out the royal writs to summon the peers. He petitioned Parliament, claiming a right to his seat. Charles then sent him his writ, but gave him a command, as his sovereign, not to attend the session. He also selected four of the prominent men in the House of Commons, men whom he considered most influential in opposition to him and to Buckingham, and appointed them to offices which would call them away from London; and as it was the understanding in those days that the sovereign had a right to command the services of his subjects, they were obliged to go. The king hoped, by these and similar means, to diminish the influence against him in Parliament, and to get a majority in his favor. But his plans did not succeed. Such measures only irritated the House and the country. After another struggle this Parliament was dissolved too.
Things went on so for four or five years, the breach between the king and the people growing wider and wider. Within this time there were four Parliaments called, and, after various contentions with them, they were, one after another, dissolved. The original subject of disagreement, viz., the growing influence of the Catholics, was not the only one. Other points came up, growing out of the king's use of his prerogative, and his irregular and, as they thought, illegal attempts to interfere with their freedom of action. The king, or, rather, Buckingham using the king's name, resorted to all sorts of contrivances to accomplish this object. For instance, it had long been the custom, in case any member of the House of Peers was absent, for him to give authority to any friend of his, who was also a member, to vote for him. This authority was called a proxy. This word is supposed to be derived from procuracy, which means action in the place of, and in behalf of, another. Buckingham induced a great number of the peers to give him their proxies. He did this by rewards, honors, and various other influences, and he found so many willing to yield to these inducements, that at one time he had thirty or forty proxies in his hands. Thus, on a question arising in the House of Lords, he could give a very large majority of votes. The House, after murmuring for some time, and expressing much discontent and vexation at this state of things, finally made a law that no member of the House should ever have power to use more than two proxies.