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The Reign of James I (Continued)


Marriage of the Princess Elizabeth - The King's Favourite, Carr - Imprisonment of Overbury - Marriage of Carr - Rise of George Villiers - Murder of Overbury - Conviction of the Earl and Countess of Somerset - Fall of Coke - Transactions with Holland - Restoration of Episcopacy in Scotland - The King's Visit to Scotland - The Five Articles - Affairs in Ireland - Religious Discontent there - Flight of Tyrone and Tyrconnel - Revolt of O'Dogherty - New Plantations-Persecutions for Religion in England - Power of Buckingham-Voyage of Sir Walter Raleigh to New Guiana - His Failure, and Execution - The Palsgrave made King of Bohemia - Exposure of Officers of the Crown - Impeachment and Disgrace of Bacon - The Palsgrave and Elizabeth driven from Bohemia - Impeachment of Floyd for rejoicing in it - Williams Lord Keeper-The Primate shoots a Gamekeeper - Struggles with Parliament - Punishment of Members - Proposed Spanish Match - Romantic Journey of Prince Charles and Buckingham to Spain - Match broke off - Threatened War with Spain - Parliamentary Prosecution of the Earl of Middlesex - Plot against Buckingham - Aid sent to the Palatine - Match with a French Princess - Death and Character of James.
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The princess Elizabeth was the only surviving daughter of four; she was now about sixteen, and the death of her brother delayed for a short time her marriage with the elector palatine.

This match had never been agreeable to queen Anne: she longed to see her daughter queen of Spain, and resigned that prospect with deep regret, to see her the mistress of a petty German state. She had stoutly opposed the match till her son Henry had shown his decided approbation of it, and only vented her chagrin in private, by occasionally calling Elizabeth "goodwife" and "Mrs. Palsgrave." After her son's death she showed more cordiality to the palsgrave. The court was ordered to go into mourning for twelve weeks; but at Christmas James commanded the mourning to be in satin, and on the 27th the young couple were affianced, the bride still in her mourning. The king was present, though he was brought in a chair, for he was too gouty to walk. The queen kept her chamber. On the 14th of February, St. Valentine's Day, the marriage took place in Whitehall chapel. Both king and queen were present, the king in a splendid black suit, the queen in white satin. It was the first royal marriage celebrated according to the form of the Book of Common Prayer, and the whole court was in a blaze of splendour. The king, queen, and prince appeared literally covered with the crown jewels; no one under a baron was permitted to it. Elizabeth wore a robe of silver tissue, with a coronet of gold on her head, and her hair flowing in rich luxuriance down her back as low as her knees. Her brother and the Earl of Northampton acted as her bridesmen, each conducting her by a hand; whilst twenty bridesmaids of her own age, dressed in white and embroidery, followed, bearing her train. The princess appeared smiling as she ascended the platform in the royal chapel, but from some cause, most probably an hysterical excitement, she began to titter, and being unable to restrain herself, soon burst into a loud laugh. The company were startled, and many regarded it as an ill omen, which the events of a few years appeared to confirm. When the bride departed with her husband, the queen sunk into a state of indisposition which threatened serious consequences, and was ordered by her physicians to seek the waters of Bath.

From the death of Cecil we may date the reign of favourites, which continued so long as the king lived. That cautious and able minister was too fond of power himself to allow it to pass into the hands of much weaker men. James, whilst Cecil lived, had indeed no lack of favourites, on whom he lavished affluence and honours; but his cunning minister had the address to prevent him giving them places of real power and responsibility. James therefore, so long as Cecil remained, was content to make his favourites his companions, and left Cecil to conduct public affairs; but no sooner was Salisbury in his grave, than James became the slave of his favourites, who in reality ruled both him and the kingdom.

The first of these was Robert Carr, or Ker, a young border Scot of the Kers of Fernihurst. Pie had been some years in France, and being a handsome youth, "straight-limbed, well-formed, strong-shouldered, and smooth-faced," he had been led to believe that if he cultivated his personal appearance, and a gaiety and courtliness of address, he was sure of making Ins fortune at the court of James. Accordingly he managed to appear as page to lord Dingwall at a grand tilting match at Westminster, in 1606. According to chivalric usage, it became his duty to present his lord's shield to his majesty; but in manoeuvring his horse on the occasion it fell, and broke his leg. That fall was his rise. James was immediately struck with the beauty of the youth who lay disabled at his feet, and had him straightway carried into a house near Charing Cross, and sent his own surgeon to him. As soon as he could get away from the tilt-yard, he hastened to him himself. He renewed his visits daily, waiting upon him himself, and displaying to the whole court the greatness of his sudden regard for him. "Lord!" says Weldon, "how the great men flocked then to see him, and to offer to his shrine in such abundance, that the king was forced to lay a restraint, lest it might retard his recovery."

The lad's fortune was made; and though James, in conversing with him, found that he was very ignorant - the whole of his education having been directed to his outside - that did not abate his regard, but he condescended to be at once his nurse and schoolmaster. "The prince," says Harrington, "leaneth on his arm, pinches his cheek, smooths his ruffled garments. The young man doth study much art and device; he hath changed his tailors and tiremen many times, and all to please the prince. The king teaches him Latin every morning, and I think some one should teach him English too, for he is a Scotch lad, and hath much need of better language."

James found that Carr had been his page in Scotland, and that his father had suffered much in the cause of his mother, Mary Stuart; these were additional causes of favour. On Christmas-day, 1607, he knighted him and made him a gentlemen of the bed-chamber, so as to have him constantly about his person. Such was his favour that every one pressed around him to obtain their suits with the king, He received rich presents; the ladies courted his attention; the greatest lords did him the most obsequious and disgusting homage. Carr, however, had an eye to pleasing the public, and therefore, Scotchman as he was, he turned the cold shoulder to Ms countrymen, and associated with and favoured the English; probably, too, finding this the most profitable. Those about him were almost wholly English; and his affairs were in the hands of one Sir Thomas Overbury, a man of an evil look, and with a countenance said to be shaped like that of a horse. The dark ability of this man supplied the lack of talent in his patron, and became a mine of wealth to Overbury himself. Even Cecil and the earl of Suffolk strove to avail themselves of his services; and when Cecil quitted the scene, Carr, through Overbury's management, carried all before Mm. In March, 1611, he was seated viscount Rochester, in April, 1612, he became a member of the privy council, and was invested with the order of the garter. The earl of Suffolk succeeding to Cecil's post of lord treasurer, Carr stepped into Suffolk's office of lord chamberlain, at the same time discharging the duties of the post of secretary by the aid of Sir Thomas Overbury. The favourite's favourite, however, was no favourite of the king, who was jealous of having so much of the time and confidence of Carr occupied by Overbury, and this feeling was probably much heightened by the queen, who had an instinctive aversion to the man. On one occasion the queen succeeded in obtaining his expulsion from court, for alleged discourtesy to her, but he soon returned; and though the king appointed Sir Ralph Win wood and Sir Thomas Lake to occupy jointly the office of secretary of state, yet Carr, by the king's favour and Overbury's ability, remained lord paramount in the court; Overbury himself being the avenue to every favour. On the 21st of April, 1613, he boasted to Sir Henry Wotton of his good fortune, and his flattering prospects, yet that very day saw him committed close prisoner to the Tower. Adept as he was in all court intrigues, he had yet committed an irremediable blunder, and awoke a spirit of vengeance which nothing but his blood could quench. This spirit lived in the bosom of a beautiful girl of not yet twenty years of age.

Lady Frances Howard, the daughter of the earl of Suffolk, had been married at the age of thirteen to the Earl of Essex, the son of Elizabeth's unfortunate favourite, who was only a year older. It was a match promoted by the king out of regard, as he said, for the memory of the young earl's father. The ceremony being performed, the bride returned to the care of her mother, and the boy bridegroom proceeded, under care of a tutor, on Ms travels, At the end of four years he returned, and claimed Ms wife, whom he found the beauty and pride of the court. But whilst he was enraptured with her loveliness, he was mortified to find that she treated him with every mark of aversion. It was only by the stern command of her father that she consented to live with him at all, and he soon discovered that in his absence her affections had been stolen away by the profligate favourite Rochester, who had won her even from another and a royal suitor, prince Henry. In short, a criminal connection had long existed betwixt her and Rochester.

This discovery, and the constant bickerings which took place betwixt the earl and countess, made Essex willing that a divorce should be obtained. There were others who were glad of this expedient: lady Howard's father, lord Suffolk, and the earl of Northampton, lord privy seal, saw in her marriage with Rochester a mode of putting an end to the rivalry which existed betwixt them, and the king was equally eager for this result. But to Overbury the scheme boded the destruction of his power, which would be at an end if Ms patron coalesced with his enemies. He therefore commenced a determined opposition to the match. He it was who had written the glowing and eloquent love-letters of Rochester, and had promoted the liaison to the utmost of his power; but he had never dreamt of its leading to a marriage, which must work his own ruin. He therefore represented to Rochester the odium of such a marriage; the base and abandoned character of the woman, who might do for his mistress, but was not to be thought of as a wife. When he found that his arguments did not produce the effect which he wished, he took the dangerous step of menacing, and declared that he could and would throw an insuperable bar in the way of the divorce from Essex, without which there could be no marriage. This bar was undoubtedly his knowledge of the adulterous connection which had existed betwixt the parties, and which must ruin the countess's demand of a separation.

The master of deep policy could not see the rock upon which he was running, and which would have been very clear to him in another person's case. Rochester repeated to the countess all that he said, and the rage of a sinful woman, proverbially fierce as hell, seized upon her. She vowed that she would have his life. In her first fury she offered 1,000 to Sir John Wood to kill him in a duel, but her friends interposed, and suggested a less hazardous and less criminal way to get Overbury out of the way, which was to send him on an embassy to France or Russia. If he accepted the office, he would be detained abroad till the divorce was effected; if he refused, it were easy to construe his conduct into a contempt of the king's service, and get him confined.

Overbury was sounded on the subject of a mission to Russia, and listened to it with apparent pleasure; but the young beauty could not thus satisfy her revenge, and at her instigation Rochester affected to feel his projected absence intolerable. He declared his presence and counsel were indispensable to him, and he promised to satisfy the king, if he agreed to decline the offer. No sooner did Overbury consent than Rochester, so far from excusing him to the king, represented his conduct as not only disobedient to his majesty, but as insolent and intolerable to himself. James was only too glad to clear the court of the hated man; a warrant was immediately issued, and Overbury was committed to the Tower. By the arrangement of Rochester and the earl of Northampton, the lieutenant of the tower, Sir William Wade, was removed, and a creature of theirs, Sir Jervis Elwes, was installed in his place. Under the care of Elwes, Sir Thomas Overbury was at once cut off from all communication with the outer world. Neither servant nor relative was permitted to see him; he was already dead to the world, and the world was soon to be dead to him.

The dangerous man secured, the measures for the divorce commenced. The countess petitioned for it, alleging serious grounds, and her father signed the petition. But no one was more forward and determined in carrying this disgraceful transaction through than the king. He appointed without delay a commission to try the cause. The commissioners were Abbot, the archbishop of Canterbury, the bishops of London, Winchester, Rochester, Ely, Lichfield, and Coventry; Sir Julius Caesar, Sir John Barry, Sir Daniel Dunne, Sir John Bennet, Francis James and Thomas Edwards, doctors of civil law.

The earl of Essex was only too glad to be rid of his virago, and consented to anything, even to the most humiliating imputations on his manhood. The real causes of the vile business were sufficiently notorious; and the primate, though at the head of the commission, revolting at being made a tool for the accommodation of aristocratic licentiousness^ strongly opposed the divorce. But James took him sharply to task, telling him, in so many words, that it was his duty to resign his own judgment and follow that of his sovereign, "If," he writes, in a most imperative letter, " a judge should have a prejudice in respect of persons, it should become you rather to have a kind of implicit faith in my judgment, as well in respect of some skill I have in divinity, as also that I hope no honest man doubts the uprightness of my conscience; and the best thankfulness that you, that are so far my creature, can use towards me, is to reverence and follow my judgment, and not to contradict it, except where you may demonstrate unto me that I am mistaken or wrong informed."

But James did not content himself with recommending implicit obedience, he influenced and controlled the proceedings, and intimidated the judges by all means in his power. His zeal was quickened by the receipt of twenty-five thousand pounds from Rochester, at a moment when his officers were at their wit's end for money. But do what he would, he could not bend the integrity of the primate, who to the last resisted the divorce, and three of the doctors of law supported him. The bishop of London also voted with him, but the rest of the bishops and civil lawyers voted for the divorce, which was carried by seven voices against five. The bishop of Winchester showed himself so servile on the occasion, that the king knighted his son, who was ever afterwards clubbed by the people Sir Nullity Bilson. The other judges and bishops who voted according to his wish were also rewarded by James, and the sentence of divorce was pronounced on the 25th of September.

The public at large, to whom the facts of the case were no secret, condemned the whole proceeding in no measured terms, and this reprobation rose into actual horror when the news oozed out, that the very day before the verdict for the divorce, Sir Thomas Overbury was found dead in his cell. He was buried in all haste, and with profound secrecy, the officials diligently propagating a report that he died of a loathsome and contagious disease: the public entertained no doubt of his perishing of poison.

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Pictures for The Reign of James I (Continued)

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