The Reign of James I
James Enters England - Receives Foreign Embassies - Lavish Distribution of Honours - Conspiracy against him - "The Main" and "The Bye" - Trials of the Conspirators - Execution of Watson, Clarke, and Brooke - Reprieve of Raleigh, Cobham, and Gray - Conference with Puritans - Persecution of Catholics and Puritans - Gunpowder Plot - Imprisonment of Earl of Northumberland - New Penal Code - Character of Anne of Denmark - Insurrection of the Levellers - Theobalds made over to Queen Anne by Cecil - Attempted Union of Englareignnd and Scotland - Story of Arabella Stuart - Death of Prince Henry - Carr, the Scotch Favourite - Divorce of Earl and Countess of Essex - The Countess marries Carr, who is made Earl of Somerset - Rise of Villiers, the new Favourite - Arrest and Trial of Somerset and his Countess - Murder of Sir Thomas Overbury - Disgrace of Coke - Transactions with Holland - Synod of Dort - Episcopacy introduced into Scotland - Visit of James to Scotland - The Five Articles.Pages: <1> 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
We open a new volume with a new dynasty, and an entirely new order of things. The direct line of the Tudors ceased in Elizabeth, and the collateral one of the Stuarts introduced the kings of Scotland to the English throne. After all the ages of conflict to unite the two kingdoms under one crown, it was effected, but in the reverse direction to that in which all the monarchs of England had striven. They had not mounted the throne of Scotland, but Scotland sent her king to rule over England. With, Elizabeth and the Tudors terminated the reign of unresisted absolutism; with James commenced that mighty struggle for constitutional liberty which did not cease till it had expelled this dynasty from the throne, and placed on a firm basis the independence of the people.
With great haste various messengers flew to Scotland to announce the demise of Elizabeth; the winner in the race of loyalty, or, in other words, of self-interest, being, as we have seen, Sir Robert Carey, to whom the artifice of his sister, lady Scrope, had communicated the earliest news of the queen's decease. He reached Edinburgh four days before Sir Charles Percy and Thomas Somerset, who were despatched officially by the council Meantime, on March 24th, 1603, Cecil assembled thirty-five individuals, members of council, peers, prelates, and officers of state, at Whitehall, and accompanied by the lord mayor and aldermen, proclaimed James VI. of Scotland James I. of England, first in front of the palace and then at the High Cross, in Cheapside.
There were some who were apprehensive that the accession of James might be opposed by the noblemen who had been so active in the death of his mother. But these had taken care to make their peace with the facile James, whose filial affection was not of an intensity to weigh much in the scales with the crown of England. On the contrary, his accession was hailed with apparent enthusiasm by all parties, for all parties believed that they should reap decided advantages from his government. The persecuted catholics felt certain that the son of the queen of Scots would at least tolerate their religion, as he had many a time privately assured their agents. The puritans were equally confident that a king who had been educated in the strictest faith of Calvinism, would place them in the ascendant; and the episcopal church - as it deemed, on equally good grounds - rejoiced in the advent of a prince who had protested to its friends that he was heartily sick of a religion which had domineered over both his mother and himself with an iron rigidity. The populace, in the hope of a milder yoke than that of the truculent Tudors, gave vent to their joy in loud acclamations, by bonfires and ringing of bells, while Elizabeth was lying a corpse, scarcely cold, on her bier.
James, who was in his thirty-seventh year, was transported at the prospect of his escape from the poverty and religious restraint of Scotland, to the affluence of so much more extensive an empire, and one only impediment checked his flight southward - the want of money for the journey. He sent a speedy message to Cecil for the necessary funds, and also added a request for the transmission of the crown jewels for the adornment of his wife. The money was forwarded, but the jewels were prudently withheld till he reached his future capital. Once in possession of the means of locomotion, James did not conceal his pleasure at escaping from the control of his presbyterian clergy, and the haughty rudeness of his nobles, to an accession of wealth and power which he imagined would make him as absolute as Henry VIII., a condition for which he had an intense yearning. Now was the time for the English ministers to have taken from him a guarantee for the maintenance of the constitution, as secured by Magna Charta, and for the redress of the gross abuses which had accumulated under the Tudor government. But Cecil and his compeers were too much concerned for their own especial aggrandisement, to take any precautions for the public benefit; and the new monarch was suffered to enter on his functions as if there were no constitutional restraints at all, a neglect which soon led him to boast of his royal right to do whatever he pleased.
On the 5th of April James commenced his journey towards London, but however much he rejoiced in the prospect of his new kingdom, he was in no haste to reach the capital. The moment that he set foot in England he seemed to have realised the full luxury of his new sovereignty, and announced to those about him that. they had indeed at last arrived at the Land of Promise. At Berwick he fired a piece of ordnance himself in his joy, which seemed for the moment to have raised him above his constitutional timidity; and he then sate down and wrote to Cecil, informing him of his progress, and of his intention to take York and other places on his way. As he intended to enter York and pass through other towns in state, he pressed on the obsequious minister the necessity of forwarding to him coaches, litters, horses, jewels, and all that was requisite for regal dignity, as well as a lord chamberlain; and he forthwith appointed to that office the lord Thomas Howard. He informed the minister that the jewels as well as dresses which he required were such as were necessary to enable his wife to appear as queen-consort in her new realm, which he again urged should be sent to York to await the arrival of her majesty, who did not accompany him, as she expected her confinement, but was to follow as soon as convenient. James, moreover, desired them not to delay the funeral of the late queen on his account, - it was a ceremony which ho preferred being exempt from; and accordingly Elizabeth was deposited in Westminster Abbey without further procrastination. James also ordered coins of gold and silver to be struck, after the manner of former English kings, against the day of his coronation, and proceeded lazily on his way, rarely passing a gentleman's house without taking up his quarters there, with his constantly increasing retinue, and hunting, and living on his host as long as there were the means. Many families did not recover the debt into which this plunged them, for ages. At Houghton Tower, near Blackburn in Lancashire, after remaining some time, on looking out of the window one day, and not observing a fine herd of cattle in the meadow below, which he had seen at his coming, he demanded of the owner where they were. His host replied that they were all killed and eaten by his majesty's followers. "Then," said James, "it is time to be going." He staid three days at York, and did not reach Newark till the 21st of the month. Cecil had met him at York, and accompanied his progress; and as he rode forward the people crowded around to welcome their new sovereign with the most hearty acclamations. To express his satisfaction to the gentry, he made almost every man of any standing who approached him a knight; so that by the time he reached London he is said to have created two hundred and fifty, and before he had been in England three months, seven hundred knights, a profusion which took away every value from the gift.
At Newark James startled the public by an act of absolutism. A pick-pocket was detected in the very act, who had accompanied the court all the way from Berwick, wearing he appearance of a gentleman, and had thus reaped a good harvest. James ordered him to instant execution without judge or jury, and when some one ventured to remark that his was not the English practice, he replied, "Do I not make the judges? do I not make the bishops? Then, God's wounds! I make what likes me, law and gospel." On the 3rd of May, having been nearly a month on the way, he arrived at Theobalds, the magnificent residence of Cecil, whither flocked to him numbers of the nobility and gentry, amongst the most zealous of whom appeared Francis Bacon, who was as thorough a courtier as he was a philosopher. He wrote to the Earl of Northumberland a very flattering account of James, yet clearly indicating Iris faults, "Your lordship," Says Bacon. "shall find a prince the furthest from vain-glory that may be, and rather like a prince of the ancient form than of the latter time. His speech is swift and cursory, and ill the fullest dialect of his nation; and in speech of business short, in speech of discourse large. He affecteth popularity by gracing them that are popular, and not any fashions of his own. He is thought somewhat general in his favours, and his virtue of access is rather that he is much abroad and in press, than that he giveth easy audience; he hasteth to a mixture of both kingdoms and nations, faster, perhaps, than policy will bear."
The truth was that James, who made himself very free and easy in his immediate circle, greatly disliked exposure to the mob, and dealt about his smiles and knighthoods to get rid of his throngers as soon as possible. By the time he had reached Berwick he had knighted three persons; at Widdrington he knighted eleven, at York thirty-one, at Worksop in Nottinghamshire eighteen, at Newark eight, on the road thence to Belvoir Castle four, at Belvoir forty-five. Yet gracious as he was and agreeable as he wanted to make himself, his new subjects did not behold his person and manner without considerable astonishment. The fright which his mother had received before his birth by the murder of Rizzio, is supposed to have had a mischievous effect on both his physical and moral constitution, and the absurd practice of swathing children in that age, from which large numbers perished, added, it is imagined, its untoward influences to his gait and carriage; for this son of the beautiful queen of Scots is described by a contemporary, "as of a middle stature, more corpulent through his clothes than in his body, his clothes being ever made large and easy; the doublets quilted for stiletto proof, his breeches in great plaits and full stuffed. He was naturally of a timorous disposition, which was the greatest reason of his quilted doublets. His eyes large, ever rolling after any stranger who came into his presence, in so much as many for shame left the room, as being out of countenance. His beard was very thin; his tongue too large for his mouth, which made him drink very uncomely, as if eating his drink, which came out into the cup on each side of his mouth. His skin was as soft as taffety sarcenet, which felt so because he never washed his hands, only rubbed his fingers slightly with the wet end of a napkin. His legs were very weak, having had, as was thought, some foul play in his youth, or rather before he was born, that he was not able to stand at seven years of age; that weakness made him ever leaning on other men's shoulders." His ungainly person and his equally uncouth dialect, no little amazed the stately courtiers of Elizabeth, who, however, paid him the most devoted homage, as the dispenser of the honours and good hoped for.
At Theobalds Cecil had the opportunity of studying James's character and of ingratiating himself with him. A new council was formed, and whilst James introduced six of his own countrymen, Cecil recommended six of his partisans to balance them. Whilst he had corresponded with James he had managed to fix in his mind a deep and ineradicable aversion to the men whom he himself regarded with jealous and hostile feelings - Raleigh, Cobham, and Grey. It was in vain that they paid their court, they were treated with coldness, and Raleigh, instead of receiving the promotion to which he aspired, was even deprived of the valuable office of the warden of the Stannaries. It is supposed that Cecil had represented these statesmen as having made overtures to Spain for the support of another candidate for the throne, Northumberland was equally the object of Cecil's dislike, but Bacon was warmly in his favour, and the king received him graciously. The Scotchmen who received immediate admission to the royal council were the duke of Lennox, the earl of Mar, the lord Hume, Sir George Hume, Bruce of Kinloss, and secretary Elphinstone; the Englishmen were Cecil, the earls of Nottingham and Cumberland, the lords Henry and Thomas Howard, and the barons Zouch and Borough.
On the 7th James set out for his capital, and at Stamford Hill was met by the lord mayor and aldermen of London in their scarlet robes, followed by a great crowd, and with these he entered the city, and proceeded to the Charter-House. He immediately caused a proclamation to be made that all licences and monopolies granted by Elizabeth, and which had excited so much discontent, should be suspended till they had been examined by the council; that all protections from the crown to delay the progress of justice in the courts of law should cease, as well as the abuses of purveyance, and the oppressions of saltpetre makers and officers of the household.
These announcements were calculated to inspire the hope of a reign of justice, but with the peculiar art which James possessed of neutralising his favours, they were quickly followed by an injunction against all persons whatever killing the king's deer or wild-fowl; James being passionately fond of hunting and sporting, and apprehensive that during the absence of the prince inroads would be made on his beloved game.
From the Charter-House he proceeded, according to routine, to the Tower, and thence to Greenwich and back to Whitehall, at every step making more knights and creating peers. He had sent for the earl of Southampton to meet him at York, and he now restored both him and the son of his friend the earl of Essex to their honours and estates. Mountjoy and three of the Howards were raised to the rank of earls; nine new barons were created, amongst them Cecil, who was made lord Cecil, and afterwards viscount Cranbourne, and finally earl of Salisbury. Buckhurst and Egerton were promoted; and eventually, besides his seven hundred spick-and-span new knights, he added sixty-two fresh members to the peerage. So extravagant was his distribution of honours that a pasquinade was affixed to the door of St. Paul's, offering to teach weak memories the art of recollecting the titles of the nobility. The people, moreover, were disgusted to hear the new monarch, who claimed to be a man of first-rate learning, speak with contempt of the talents and character of their late queen, Elizabeth had in her last days fallen deeply in public opinion by her treatment of the earl of Essex, who had been in secret alliance with James, but they were not prepared to hear her disparaged for ability by her successor. Had he condemned her memory, which he might with justice, as the oppressor and murderess of his mother, little could be objected, though his own exertions to save, that mother had not been of a very energetic kind, and he had been willing to become the pensioner of the royal assassin; but his treatment of her memory as of a weak and mediocre ruler only tended to revive the acknowledgement of her remarkable intellectual and diplomatic powers.
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