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The Reign of James I page 16

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Couriers were hurried off in all likely directions to intercept the culprits, and the Thames was astir with ships and boats to discover them on board any vessel there. Spite of this sharp pursuit, the collier put Seymour safe on shore in Flanders; but lady Arabella was not so fortunate. The French vessel was chased, and in mid-channel brought to, and after some resistance, boarded, and the unhappy princess seized, brought back, and secured in the Tower. Meantime James had written very angry letters to the archduke of Austria and the authorities of the Netherlands, as well as to the king and queen-regent of France, accusing them roundly of being accessory to the plot, and demanding them to send the fugitives back.

For o. time lady Arabella bore her confinement better than could have been expected, She declared that she did not mind captivity for herself, so that her husband had escaped. Yet not the less did she appeal to the generosity of James for her liberty, nor relax her efforts to that end through the kind offices of the queen. But all such endeavours were useless: James had had too great a fright to risk anything more. He sent the lady word that as she had eaten of the forbidden fruit, she must now pay the penalty of it. All hope of moving the relentless soul of the royal pedant gradually forsook her, and then her splendidly sensitive mind gave way. She became a pitiable lunatic, and died in her prison on the 27th of September, 1615. James had thrown the countess of Shrewsbury into the Tower at the same time with the lady Arabella, on suspicion of being a party to the scheme; but that high-spirited lady refused to give an answer to any interrogatories put to her, notwithstanding menaces of the star-chamber and heavy fines. On the death of lady Arabella she was set at liberty.

In pursuing the fate of this ill-used lady to its close, we have passed over another tragedy, that of the popular but dissipated king Henry TV. of France. Notwithstanding his adoption of Catholicism, from motives of policy, it was believed that his heart was still with the protestant cause, and the death of John, duke of Cleves, Juliers, and Berg, which occurred in 1609, gave him an opportunity of serving that interest under the plea of political necessity. The duke of Cleves had died without issue, and the emperor of Germany seized it as a fief of the imperial crown. The electors of Brandenburg and Saxony, and the duke of Neuberg, also laid claim to it. Jealousy of the already too powerful and ambitious house of Austria, combined against it the protestant princes of Germany and Holland, and they were joined by Henry of France on the same political ground, whilst the king of Spain, the archduke, and other catholic and kindred princes, supported the claims of Austria. James of England engaged to furnish four thousand infantry, and the king of France the same. The protestant princes of Germany and Holland were to supply nine thousand foot and two thousand horse, and it was agreed that the elector of Brandenburg should be acknowledged as the real heir.

Meantime Henry IV. did not confine himself to his quota of four thousand infantry. The moment appeared to him favourable for extending his own territory and power, and he appeared at the head of a splendid army of thirty thousand men, with a great train of artillery and camp supplies. Rumour was very busy on the appearance of this great force, that Henry was for apostatising a second time, or rather now going back to his original faith; and the priests diligently propagated the belief that he meant to make war on the pope, and restore protestantism. These representations seem to have excited the brain of a mad young friar, of the name of Francis Ravaillac, who stabbed him in the streets of Paris, three days before his intended departure for the campaign. The murderer was put to the torture to force from him his accomplices or instigators; but he persisted to the last in denying that he had any, but that the idea was wholly his own. Three times before had the life of Henry IV. been attacked by assassins; in 1593 by Pierre Barrierre, in 1597 by Pierre Ouen, and in 1605 by Jean do 1'Isle. Ravaillac succeeded, and suffered the reward of his deed in a terrible death, This horrible tragedy renewed the terror of the catholics in England, and both the parliament of England and the council of Scotland called on James to secure himself by fresh persecution of the catholics. The Scottish council saw in the French assassins the frogs foretold in the Revelations, to be sent out by the devil against the head of the church, and prayed the king to protect his precious life by fresh guards whilst he indulged himself in hunting.

Whilst James was earnestly engaged in suppressing any rival claims to the crown by persecuting to death the lady Arabella, he was equally busy in endeavouring to secure a succession in his own family. Though he persecuted the catholics as a most dangerous, sinful, and abominable body, he had no objection whatever to marry his children to catholic princes, because those catholic princes were by far the most considerable in Europe. He made overtures, therefore, for the marriage of his son Henry, and his daughter Elizabeth, both to France and Spain. Queen Anne was most bent on the Spanish matches for both son and daughter, and was therefore vehemently suspected of popery, though her motives were the same as those of her husband - the rank and prestige of the alliance.

Prince Henry was the darling of his mother and of the nation: in person, temper, and aspirations the very opposite of his father. All persons, and especially all princes, who die young, are remembered with a peculiar affection, and their virtues are exaggerated, and live in memory as the roots of brilliant hopes cut off by fate. Time has not allowed the adverse influences of life, and especially of royal power, to corrupt them, and to darken the fair picture. Had Henry VIII. died young, he would have left a regretted name as a model of chivalric spirit and generous enthusiasm; yet we have no right to predicate that Henry, prince of Wales, the eldest son of James, would have developed into a similar monster. Our business is to describe him as he was - a handsome, brave, and right-minded youth of eighteen. He possessed none of the timidity nor the bookishness of his father. He was fond of all sorts of martial exercises - pitching the bar, handling the pike, riding, and shooting with the bow. Though extremely fond of horses, he was not, like his father, addicted to the chase, revolting from its cruelty. Pie seemed to have set before him as models Henry V. and the Black Prince, models which might have led him to inflict serious evils on his country had he lived, by the spirit of conquest. Young as he was, he displayed all the tastes of such a hero. He fired off cannon with his own hands, and had new pieces cast on improved models. He conversed with unceasing pleasure with engineers and men who had seen distinguished service, and he imported the finest horses from the Continent that could be procured. In his private character he was serious, modest, and devout. He attended the best preachers, and listened with a quiet sobriety, in striking contrast to his father, who was always excited when listening to a preacher, and wanting to preach himself. Henry abhorred profanity and swearing, and had a box in each of his houses at Richmond, Nonsuch, and St. James's, to receive the fines for swearing from his household, which were rigorously levied, and the money given to the poor.

As these traits became known, the people flocked after the prince in a manner which greatly piqued his father, who could not help exclaiming - "Will he bury me alive!" The reformers conceived great hopes of him, and there was a prophecy regarding him in every one's mouth: -

Henry the Eighth pulled clown abbeys and cells,

But Henry the Ninth shall pull down bishops and bells.

Had James succeeded in obtaining the Spanish Infanta for Henry, he would have effectually neutralised this popularity. But though Henry did not stubbornly oppose his father's plans, he is said to have declared amongst his own friends that he had made up his mind never to marry a popish princess, and the puritans had the firmest faith that he never would.

It was regarded as a good sign that the young prince had a great aversion to his father's favourites, and especially to Carr, who was rapidly rising, and was just now created viscount Rochester. His mother, who partook in this aversion, strengthened him in it with all her influence. But Providence had not destined him the crown of England: he was now attacked with symptoms of premature decay. It was supposed that he had grown too fast for his strength, having reached the stature of six feet at seventeen, and his chivalrous exercises had been too violent and imprudent for such rapid growth. He was accustomed to take his exercises in the greatest heat of summer, to expose himself to all sorts of weather, and to bathe for a long time together after supper. Whilst James was planning marriages for him, the prince was fast hastening out of the world. The Spanish match still lingering, after years of negotiation, James listened to a proposal of Mary de Medici, the widow of Henry IV., and now queen-regent of France, for a wedding betwixt prince Henry and the princess Christine, the second daughter of France; and soon after the duke of Florence sent an ambassador extraordinary to London, offering his daughter with some millions of florins for her dower, and asking the princess Elizabeth for his son and heir. But James, not succeeding in arranging a marriage for his daughter with a catholic prince, the spirit of the nation showing itself so averse to a popish alliance, had consented to her marriage with Frederick, count palatine of the Rhine. Her suitors were numerous: amongst the most distinguished were the prince of Piedmont and the young king of Spain. Both James and the queen were bent on placing Elizabeth on the throne of Spain, but the pope's nuncio in Spain, not less than the protestants in England, strenuously opposed it; the former deprecating the introduction of a protestant princess into the Spanish court. In the spring of 1612 the health of prince Henry began to fail. In the October of that year the count palatine arrived in England to complete his marriage with Elizabeth, who was still only sixteen. Henry roused himself to receive his proposed brother-in-law; he rode to town from Richmond, and most imprudently, in his infirm state of health, engaged in the sports and pastimes of the occasion. On the 24th of October he played a great match at tennis with the count Henry of Nassau in his shirt. He had been suffering from typhus already, and this brought it to a crisis. He was seized in the night with a violent pain in his head, and an oppressive languor; yet the next day, being Sunday, he would rise and attend two services, one in his own chapel at St. James's, and another at the king's in Whitehall. The text of the preacher at St. James's was remarkable: - "Man, that is born of a woman-, is of short continuance and full of trouble." In the afternoon, after dinner, ho was compelled to yield to the complaint, and hastened home and to bed. By the 29th lie was so ill that there was a great dismay amongst the people, and this was immensely aggravated by a lunar rainbow, which appeared to span that part of the palace of St. James's where the sick prince lay. The most fatal auguries were drawn from this phenomenon.

The fever now assumed a putrid form, and was declared by the medical men highly infectious; and his parents and sister were debarred from entering his room. He grew daily worse, was highly delirious, calling for his clothes and his arms, and saying he must be gone. On the 5th of November, the anniversary of the gunpowder plot, James was informed that all hope was extinct; and unable to bear his feelings so near the scene of sorrow, he hastened away to Theobalds; but the queen would only retire to Somerset House, whence she sent continual messengers to inquire after her son's symptoms. The prince had entertained a romantic admiration of Sir Walter Raleigh, declaring that no prince but his father would keep such a bird in a cage, and he had joined with his mother in entreating for his liberty. To Sir Walter the life or death of the prince was life or death to himself. The agonised mother was now seized with a desperate desire to obtain from Raleigh a nostrum which he possessed, and which she had herself formerly taken in a fit of ague. Sir Walter sent it, with the assurance that it would cure any mortal malady except poison.

The prince had been informed that day, in a lucid interval, of his danger, by the archbishop of Canterbury, and had given the primate his confession of faith. He then called repeatedly, "David! David!" for David Murray, his confidential servant, but when asked what he wished for, only said, "I would say something, but I cannot utter it." Murray at length understood that he wished some letters in his cabinet to be burnt, and complied with his wish. After taking Raleigh's nostrum he seemed to revive for a time, but again became worse, and expired at eight o'clock on Friday night, the 6th of November.

Perhaps a more extraordinary 5th of November was never passed than that one preceding Henry's death. The people were assembled in dense crowds around the palace, eagerly listening for news of the prince's condition, whilst all around them were the noises, the firing and the bonfires, of the celebration of the gunpowder plot. They were still remaining there the following day, and when the cry of the prince's servants was heard in the palace on beholding him dead, the people howled, groaned, stamped, and wept in agony. The catholics, on their part, regarded the death of the first-born, of the royal house as a manifest judgment for the persecution of their church.

The violence of the queen's grief exceeded that of the people. For some hours after the taking of Raleigh's nostrum, she heard accounts of his rapid improvement, and then came the news that he was as rapidly sinking, - was dead. She fell into the most violent paroxysms of grief; and recollecting Raleigh's assurance that his specific would cure all ailments but poisoning, she declared that the prince was the victim of foul play. Henry had shown the most uncompromising aversion to Carr, the favourite, and she called to mind the evil visage of his agent, Sir Thomas Overbury, and believed that he had been employed to poison him. This led to a post mortem examination, which clearly demonstrated that no poison had been used, but that the prince died from natural causes. The words of the queen, however, flew far and wide, and in that age of superstition, and of violent antipathies, originated the most atrocious rumours, in which the reputation of James himself was not spared.

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