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The Reign of James I page 15

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The licenses to public-houses he agreed to revoke, but he demanded a perpetual revenue in lieu of the income thence derived. This the commons refused, alleging that he had no right to impose that tax in the first instance; and they further demanded that the feudal burthens of tenure by knights' service, wardships, and purveyance, should cease. As to the first, James absolutely refused compliance, on the plea, that he would not reduce all his subjects, "rich and poor, noble and base, to hold their lands in the same ignoble manner;" but as to wardships, the marriages of infants and widows, and some other odious services, including purveyance, he was willing to barter them for a sum of money. The sum which he demanded was three hundred thousand pounds per annum. The commons only offered one hundred thousand pounds, but by a long course of haggling, like chapmen in a fair, the king descended to two hundred and twenty thousand pounds, and the commons rose to one hundred and eighty thousand pounds. Here the matter paused till James moved a dissolution, when the commons advanced to two hundred thousand pounds, and the king accepted it. But here again the king and his advocates had boasted so much of his being above the law, and of his power to quash, of his own will, any statute to which he had consented, that the commons were cautious in their proceedings, and they had, moreover, to determine out of what funds this revenue should be raised. These discussions had now driven on the session to the middle of July, and it was agreed that they should vote one subsidy, and one tenth and fifteenth for the present session, and defer the final settlement of the other grant till the next.

The interval was employed by James and his ministers in attempts to corrupt some of the members of the opposition, and thus to enable him to concede less and obtain more; but the commons had employed the time in weighing the slippery nature of the man with whom they had to deal. His continual boasts of his superiority to all laws, and of an actually divine power of dispensing with all his most solemn obligations, made them doubtful of the possibility of binding him to any terms; and the growing extravagance and rapacity of both king and courtiers deepened their fears.

When they met they were in a far less complying humour than when they separated. They insisted on seeing the promised reforms before they voted the two hundred thousand pounds. James was growing desperate for money; his coffers were empty, and the officers of the crown were clamorous for their arrears of salary. He therefore sent for them to Whitehall, and a deputation of about thirty members attended. The king demanded of them whether they thought that he was really in want of money, as his treasurer and the chancellor of the exchequer had informed them? "Whereto," says Winwood, "when Sir Francis Bacon had begun to answer in a more extravagant style than his majesty did delight to hear, he picked out Sir Henry Neville, commanding him to answer according to his conscience. Thereupon Sir Henry Neville did directly answer that he thought his majesty was in want. 'Then,' said the king, 'tell me whether it belongeth to you, that are my subjects, to relieve me or not?' 'To this,' quoth Sir Henry, 'I must answer with a distinction: where your majesty's expense groweth by the commonwealth, we are bound to maintain it, otherwise not.'" Sir Henry reminded the kin^ that in this one parliament they had already given four subsidies and seven fifteenths, which was more than any parliament at any time had given, and yet they had no relief of their grievances. James demanded what these grievances were - as though he had not heard them enumerated often enough before - and desired Sir Henry to give him a catalogue of them. He adverted to the difficulties of obtaining justice in courts of law, to the usurped jurisdiction in the marches of Wales, and would have gone through the whole list, had not Sir Herbert Croft interrupted him.

Finding that nothing was to be drawn from the resolute house, James again prorogued them for nine weeks, in order to try every means of drawing over to him individual members. But these efforts were as abortive as the former: the commons were determined not to part with their money till they had a guarantee for the redress of their grievances, and James about this time lost his two right-hand men, Bancroft and Cecil. Bancroft, indeed, had died in November to the last stanch in his exhortations to James not to give up the High Court of Commission; assuring him that though the lords had thrown out the bill, the commons would bring it in again, and that nothing but unflinching firmness would defeat them. Cecil died on the 24th of May, 1612, He was grievously chagrined at the failure of his favourite scheme for setting the king above all his difficulties. In default of that, the old expedient of the sale of crown lands was resorted to for the raising of money, and privy seals for loans of money were despatched into different counties. Meantime James was subsisting on a subsidy of six shillings in the pound granted by the clergy, and both king and ministers were in terror lest the privy seals should be "refused by the desperate hardness of the people." They raised, however, one hundred and eleven thousand pounds.

The end of Cecil has been supposed to have been hastened by these anxieties; but probably he was worn out by the incessant cares which have pulled down other ministers besides him; for in his last moments he said to Sir Walter Cope, "Ease and pleasure quake to hear of death; but my life, full of cares and miseries, desireth to be dissolved. He had sought benefit at Bath, but without effect, and died at Marl-borough on his return. Like his father, he had great talents, applied in a cold, treacherous, and ungenerous manner; but compared with the vile and unprincipled debauchees who succeeded him, he might be termed respectable.

We must now introduce the story of a lady who has had repeated mention already - Arabella Stuart. Lady Arabella was descended from Henry VII.'s eldest daughter Margaret like James himself, and therefore was to him an object o suspicion. Her proximity to the crown had drawn upon her the attention of both princes and conspirators at various times. When she was only about ten years of age, Elizabeth used to show her at court as the person she meant to make her heir. This she did to provoke James, whose pretensions were nearly as odious to her as those of his mother. But in after years Elizabeth treated her with extreme severity. James, indeed, contributed to tins, by asking her in marriage for his favourite, Esme Stuart, duke of Lennox, who was Arabella's cousin, also of the same royal descent. Elizabeth was extremely chagrined at such a proposal, reprimanded James sharply, forbade the marriage, and imprisoned the unoffending maiden. Again, Raleigh and Cobham were accused on their trial of having designed to depose James and place her on the throne in his stead. Lady Arabella did not wait to be questioned on the subject, but on receiving a letter of such purport from Cobham, immediately sent it to the king, and only laughed at the proposal. Again her name was mentioned in the gunpowder plot. James does not seem to have had any fear of her on these occasions. But he was more afraid of aspirants to her hand than of conspirators; and had, no doubt, settled in his mind that she should never marry. Like Elizabeth, he repulsed all offers of the kind both from subjects and foreign princes, lest from the marriage should issue claimants to his throne. Cecil took care, 011 the death of Elizabeth, to secure the person of Arabella till James had been proclaimed, and had taken possession of the throne. The king himself appeared disposed to act liberally towards her, except in not permitting her to marry. He settled a pension upon her, allowed her apartments in the palace, and she was recognised whilst the princess Elizabeth was in her tutelage as first lady of the court. The year after James's accession, the king of Poland sent an ambassador to demand her in marriage; but even Poland was not distant enough for royal fears. Next came a proposal from count Maurice, titular duke of Guilders, but James would not listen to it; and lady Arabella, who was a clever woman, made it her policy - both under Elizabeth and James - to appear averse to any marriage whatever. She devoted herself to literature, poetry, and even theology, which became fashionable at court from the predilections of James.

Queen Anne appears to have had a great regard for the lady Arabella, who was handsome, of a lively and affectionate disposition, and ready to enter into all the taste for masques and pageants which distinguished her royal mistress. She was, in fact, the great ornament of the court of James; but her attractions were only the more dangerous to her safety, considering her descent. The feeling that she excited increased James's alarm, and she was kept under the close surveillance of Elizabeth Cavendish, the countess of Shrewsbury, who was her aunt. The countess appears to have treated her with much harshness, and James to have paid her salary very badly. On the whole, no situation, with ail its splendour, could be more miserable than that of lady Arabella. No wonder, then, that she sought to escape from it.

In her childhood she had been acquainted with William Seymour, the son of lord Beauchamp. They now met again at court, and their early attachment -was renewed and rapidly grew into love. The lady Arabella was now watched and harassed more than ever by her shrewish guardian, lady Shrewsbury, and matters came to such a pass betwixt them that James was obliged to interfere. He paid up the arrears of her pension to enable her to pay her debts, and to soothe her, made a present of a cupboard of plate, worth two hundred pounds. The chief cause of lady Arabella's discontent, says Lodge, was supposed to arise from her pressing necessities; but there was a deeper cause, the restraint upon her affections; and it was not long before some officious court spy conveyed to James the alarming intelligence that there was an engagement of marriage plighted betwixt Seymour and lady Arabella. Seymour was also descended from Henry VII., and such, a marriage in prospect was enough to terrify James beyond conception. He instantly summoned the offenders before his council, where they were severely snubbed, and forbidden to marry without the king's permission. They both promised to abandon the idea, but this was only to disarm suspicion till they could effect their marriage. In July, 1610, it was discovered that they were already wedded, and James issued an immediate order for their arrest. Seymour was committed to the Tower, and Arabella to the keeping of Sir Thomas Parry, at Lambeth.

The youthful couple were so much pitied that they did not find it difficult to meet. Seymour bribed his keeper so effectually, that he suffered him frequently to go out of the Tower, and he met lady Arabella in the garden at Lambeth, and even in the house, unknown to Sir Thomas Parry. Meantime, the friends of the young people were not inactive. They used all the means they could imagine to soften the mind of the king towards them; and the queen, who loved Arabella, and received the most eloquent letters from her, praying her to exert her influence in her behalf, did her utmost to procure the liberation of her and her husband. Unfortunately, whispers of their stolen interviews reached James, and he sent instant orders to guard Seymour better, and to remove lady Arabella to Durham, where she was to in the keeping of the bishop. When the order reached lady Arabella, she positively refused to go; but the officers carried her forcibly out in her bed, placed her in a boat, and rowed her up the river. Spite of her resistance, her keepers set forward on their journey; but by the time that they reached Barnet, her agitation of mind had thrown her into a fever, and the doctor called in declared that nothing but the discontinuance of the journey could save her life. He waited on the king himself, and assured him of this. But though James confessed that carrying her away in her bed was enough to make her ill if she had been well, he was peremptory in his commands that she should proceed. To Durham she should go, he said, if he were king, To this the physician replied that the lady would obey if the king required it. "Obedience!" repeated James; "is that required?" But when his first anger was over he relented, and allowed her to remain for a month at Highgate, in the house of the earl of Essex. There she was closely watched; but on the 3rd of June, 1611, the very day that the bishop of Durham set out northward to prepare for her reception, she effected her escape.

The plan of flight to the Continent had been carefully concerted betwixt herself and her husband in the Tower, through the medium of two of Seymour's friends. It was arranged that Arabella should get away in male attire, and Seymour in the garb of his physician. A French vessel was engaged to lie off Gravesend to receive the fugitives, and carry them to the Continent. All was in readiness, and Arabella, says Winwood, "disguising herselfe by drawing a great pair of French-fashioned hose over her petticoats, putting on a man's doublet, a man-lyke peruque, with long locks, over her hair, a black hat, black cloake, russet bootes with reel tops, and a rapier by her syde, walked forth between three and four o'clock with Mr. Markham. After they had gone on foot a mile and a halfe to a sorry inne, where Crompton attended with their horses, she grew very sicke and fainte, so as the ostler that held the styrrup said that gentleman would hardly hold out to London. Yet being set on a good gelding a-stryde in an unwonted fashion, the stirring of the horse brought blood enough into her face, and so she rode on towards Blackwall."

Lady Arabella found boats and attendants ready to row her down to Gravesend, where she expected to find her husband. But Seymour had not been quite so expeditious in making his way out of the Tower. He had, indeed, effected it, and was on his way, but lady Arabella, on getting on board, found that he had not arrived; and the French captain, aware of the serious nature of his commission, grew afraid, and spite of Arabella's entreaties, dropped clown the river towards its mouth. Seymour, on arriving and finding that the vessel had sailed without him, engaged the captain of a collier for forty pounds to land him in Flanders.

No sooner was the news of Arabella's flight from High-gate conveyed to court, than the utmost consternation prevailed. A messenger was despatched to the Tower to order the strictest surveillance of Seymour, who brought back the appalling tidings that he also had escaped. The terrors of a new conspiracy seized James and the courtiers. It was soon assorted that it was a design of the king of Spain and the papists; that the fugitives were to be received in the Netherlands by the Spanish commander, and were to be brought to London at the head of a catholic host.

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