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The Reign of James I page 2

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Whilst James was receiving the welcome of his English subjects, he was not free from domestic trials, of no trivial kind. His queen had always struggled against the rule of state by which the heir-apparent of Scotland was token out of the hands of his own mother, and placed in those of, a state guardian. Prince Henry, now ten years old, had been placed as a mere infant in the care of the earl of Mar, in Stirling Castle, where he was educating under the learned Adam Newton; and James had himself written a book, which he called "Basilicon Doron; or, His Majesty's Instructions to his Dearest Son, the Prince," for his especial guidance. But queen Anne preferred the dictates of nature to those of state policy, and never ceased to importune the Icing for the society of her children, of whom now she had three - Henry, Elizabeth, and Charles. Weak as was James in many respects, he was, like most weak men excessively stubborn; and on this head he stood firm against all the entreaties of his spouse. He contended that in Scotland it had always been the policy of the nobles to possess themselves of the heir, and then destroy the reigning king, that they might hold the power through a long minority. That, owing to such causes, there had been no fewer than seven successive minorities of the kings of Scotland, stretching from the reign of Robert III. to his own time, and that he himself had been thus set up against his own mother. That he owed his life and crown to the very plan which he was now enforcing. These were strong reasons, but nature in the mother was still stronger; and, foiled as she had been till now, no sooner was James in England, and the earl of Mar summoned to attend him, than Anne presented herself at Stirling, and demanded her son of the countess of Mar. That lady, however, was inexorable in the discharge of her high trust, and a great contention arose betwixt the faction of the queen and that of the king. Despatches were forwarded to James both from the countess of Mar and from the queen. For a time he refused to yield, but finding that the agitation of the queen had led to the premature birth of a son, which was dead, and to the serious illness of the queen, he gave way; and Anne, when sufficiently restored, set out with the prince Henry and the princess Elizabeth, the second son Charles being left behind at the queen's palace of Dunfermline, under the earl of Fife.

The progress of Anne of Denmark was one continuous fete, as thronged as that of her husband, and certainly much more poetical. Lady Bedford and lady Harrington had voluntarily travelled to Edinburgh to pay their respects to her; and at Berwick a number of other ladies, attended by the earls of Sussex and Lincoln, and Sir George Carew, were in waiting for her, with the required dresses and jewels. From York, where silver cups heaped with gold angels were presented to her majesty and to the young prince and princess, and where, on her departure, the corporation, all in their robes, escorted her out of the city, she advanced, through Grimstone. Newark, and Nottingham, to Dingley, near Leicester, at which place the little princess Elizabeth separated from her, and was conducted to Combe Abbey, near Coventry, the seat of the Harringtons, to be educated under the care of the ladies Harrington and Kildare.

At Althorpe, the seat of Sir Robert Spenser, the queen was received on the eve of Midsummer-day, with "The Masque of the Fairies," the first of the splendid series of Ben Jonson, who from that day became the queen's especial poet; and whatever were the faults of Anne of Denmark, she was the friend and advocate of genius. As the queen advanced there came before her satyrs, queen Mab with all her fairy suite, and the son of Sir Robert, a boy of twelve years, leading a dog as a present to the prince, and followed by a troop of other boys dressed as foresters. Then came a troop of hunters, and another of morris-dancers, all making suitable addresses in verse. Thence the queen went to Sir Hatton Fermor's, where the king met her, and there was a great flocking thither of courtiers and gentry; and so they progressed from house to house till they reached Windsor, where the king held a solemn chapter of the garter, and made prince Henry, the duke of Lennox, and other nobles, knights of that order.

After this the court removed to Westminster for the coronation, which took place on the 25th. The weather had been intensely hot, and it now set in as rainy. To spoil the pleasure of the people, the plague was raging fiercely in the city, and the inhabitants were by proclamation forbidden to enter Westminster. No queen-consort had been crowned since Anne Boleyn, nor had any king and queen been crowned together since Henry VIII. and Catherine of Arragon, and therefore the restriction was the more mortifying. Queen Anne went to the coronation "with her seemly hair down hanging on her princely shoulders, and on her head a coronet of gold. She so mildly saluted her new subjects, that the women, weeping, cried out with one voice, 'God bless the royal queen! Welcome to England, long to live and continue!'"

That week there died in London and the suburbs eight hundred and fifty-seven persons of the plague. On the 5th of August James ordered morning and evening prayers and sermons, with bonfires all night to drive away the pestilence, not forgetting to order that all men should praise God for his Majesty's escape that day three years before, from the Go wry conspiracy; and on the 10th of August he commanded that a fast, with sermons of repentance, should lift held, and repeated every week on Wednesday so long as the plague continued.

James's pride was soon gratified by the flocking in of ambassadors from all the great nations of Europe, soliciting his alliance; and on the first intimation of their approach he appointed Sir Lewis Lewknor master of the ceremonies, to receive and entertain these distinguished persons. This was the first establishment of such an office in England. First arrived, from Holland and the United Provinces, prince Frederick of Nassau, son of the prince of Orange, attended by the three able diplomatists, Valck, Barnevelt, and Brederode, James, with equally high notions of the royal prerogative, had not the sympathy of Elizabeth with the struggles of protestatism abroad, and therefore regarded the revolted Netherlander as rebels and traitors, and did not fail amongst his courtiers to pronounce them so; and more particularly as they owed the English crown large sums for their assistance, which they appeared in no hurry to pay. He, there-fore, framed various excuses to defer their audiences till the arrival of the envoy of the archduke of Austria, count Aremberg, who was not long in appearing, bringing the agreeable news that the archduke had liberated all English prisoners, as the subjects of a friendly power. Two days after Aremberg's arrival, the celebrated Rhosny, afterwards still better known as the duke of Sully, reached London. Aremberg was in no condition to negotiate on any positive terms till he received instructions from Spain; and Rhosny seized time by the forelock, by distributing amongst the courtiers sixty thousand crowns, a considerable sum of which found its way into the queen's purse. He prevailed on James to make a treaty with Henry IV., in which he engaged to send money to the states in aid against the Spaniards, and join France in open hostilities should Philip attempt to invade that country. Rhosny, delighted with his success - for Henry feared nothing more than James's making peace with Spain, and leaving him to assist Holland alone - returned to France. But a little time convinced the French court that nothing in reality had been secured by it, for James had no money to send to Holland had he been really so disposed, which is doubtful, and that he merely temporised with them as he had done with different states before.

Meantime the court of Spain, notwithstanding the activity of France, was slow in deciding the course of policy to be adopted towards England under the new king. After the decided hostility towards it under Elizabeth, and the signal defeats experienced, pride forbade Philip to solicit a peace, lest it should look like weakness. And, indeed, Spain had never recovered from the severe blow received in the loss of its Armade, and the other ravages of its ports and colonies by the English, added to the loss of a great portion of the Low Countries; and this consciousness made it more tardy in its proceedings. But whilst, engaged in prolonged discussions on this head, two Englishmen arrived at the court of Spain, whose mission was of a nature to bring it to a decision. These were Wright and Fawkes, who were soon to assume a conspicuous position in th-3 strife betwixt the catholics and protestants of England. Previous to the death of Elizabeth, Thomas Winter had negotiated with the Spanish court a plan for the invasion of this country, which had been abandoned on her decease. Now, however, the scheme was revived, and these two emissaries were despatched to sound the present disposition of the court of Madrid. This direct appeal from the conspirators seems to have startled the Spanish government from its wavering policy. It was not prepared for anything so desperate, and replied that it had no cause of complaint against James, but, on the contrary, regarded him as a friend and ally, and had appointed the Conde de Villa Mediana as ambassador to his court.

This was decisive, and the way now seemed open towards a more friendly tone betwixt Spain and England; but there appears at the same moment a secret and mysterious correspondence to have been going on betwixt Aremberg, the agent of the archduke of Austria, and a discontented party in England. Northumberland, Cobham, and Raleigh were ill at ease under the disappointment which they had met with in their hopes of favour at James's court. Northumberland had been to a certain degree graciously received and even entertained with promises by James; but he felt that whilst Cecil was so completely in the ascendant there was little hope of a cordial feeling towards him in the Monarch's heart. Cobham and Raleigh were undisguisedly in disgrace, and were shunned by the courtiers as fallen men. The three friends, therefore, entered into intrigues with the court of France through the resident minister Beaumont, and Rhosny, the envoy extraordinary. For a time their suggestions were listened to, but the apparent success of Rhosny with flames put an end to all further overtures, and there Northumberland was prudent enough to desist. But Cobham and Raleigh, disappointed of court favour, and burning with resentment against Cecil, whom they felt to be the cause of their disgrace, went on, and plotted for the overthrow of the crafty minister. Rhosny, the French envoy extraordinary, had, whilst in London, done his best to inspire James with distrust of Cecil; and there is little doubt that this was at the suggestion, or with the co-operation of Cobham, Northumberland, and Raleigh. When Northumberland drew back, these two held communication with Aremberg, to whom they offered their services in promoting the objects he sought on behalf of Spain and: the Netherlands. Aremberg, who did not know what was going on at the Spanish court, communicated the proposal to the archduke, who instructed him to give a favourable answer. What the scheme proposed by Cobham and Raleigh precisely was seems never to have been known; but we may suppose that in return for aid from the archduke, these ambitious men were to attempt the removal of Cecil by some means, and on their succeeding to power, the exertion of their influence with, the king on behalf of Spain. This was designated by those in the secret as "The Main" conspiracy; but there were also another going on simultaneously, of which these gentlemen are supposed to have been cognisant, but not mixed up with. This was called "The Bye" conspiracy, and was composed of an extraordinary medley of the discontented, the most determined of whom aimed at nothing less than the seizure of the king, and the government of the country in his name, for their own party purposes.

The grand cause of discontent was the disappointment of both catholics and puritans in James. Before his coming to the English crown he had held out the most nattering expectations to the catholics that he would grant them toleration, whilst the puritans calculated on his presbyterian education for a decided adhesion to their views. But no sooner did he reach England than he threw himself into the arms of the high church party, declaring that it was the only religion fit for a king. To the catholics he declared he would grant no toleration - rather would he; fight to the death against it; and he took no pains to conceal his disgust at the presbyterian clergy amongst whom he had spent his youth. The antagonism of catholic and puritan was forgotten in the resentment against this disclosure of the king's disposition. Instantly plans were cogitated to avenge themselves of the royal perfidy, as it was termed, and to secure themselves against the threatened storm. Sir Griffin Markham, a catholic gentleman, of no great property or influence, concerted with two priests, Watson and Clarke, the means of raising the catholics against the government. Watson had been sent into Scotland, to James, on behalf of the catholics, before the death of Elizabeth, and he represented now indignantly, that James had given them, through him, the most solemn promises of toleration, which he had now broken. He, therefore, threw himself with the greatest heat into the conspiracy: he drew up an awful oath of secresy, and he and Clarke travelled far and wide amongst the catholic families, calling upon them to come forward in the name of their religion and their property.

But their success was trivial; few or none of the catholics of weight and station would engage in the enterprise. Failing there, Watson turned his attention to the puritans; and with them he was more successful, by artfully concealing from them the paucity of the catholics who had joined the conspiracy, and the full extent of his own intentions. Lord Grey of Wilton, who was a leading puritan, and had his discontent from the same causes as Cobham and Raleigh, was induced by Watson to join the conspiracy, under the impression that a strong catholic body was engaged in it. He agreed to furnish a troop of a hundred horse, but he was 'not long in discovering that he had been imposed upon, and advised the conspirators to defer the execution of their design to a more favourable opportunity.

The conspirators proposed to meet during the darkness of night at Greenwich; but the reflection that there were three hundred armed gentlemen within the palace, made that appear too hazardous; they, therefore, altered their plan, and concluded to seize James as he was hunting at Han worth, and where he was accustomed to call for refreshment at a gentleman's house. The plan, as communicated by Watson to the conspirators, was to assemble in a numerous body under pretence of presenting a petition to the king as he went out hunting, seize the king, and convey him to a place of safety, where they were to extort from him a declaration of liberty of conscience. With the king in their hands, they would then wreak their vengeance on Cecil and Sir George Howe; and it was afterwards charged against them in the indictment, that they meant to make Watson lord chancellor, Brooke, the brother of Cobham - who was a most unprincipled man, and has been suspected of being Cecil's spy and tool on the occasion - lord treasurer, Markham secretary, and Grey earl marshal. Probably this was the scheme devised for them by the accusers, for it appeal's too wild for belief; but be that as it may, the 24th of June was the day named for the attempt, when the refusal of lord Grey caused it to be abandoned, and the bodies separated with much mutual recrimination.

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