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The Reign of James I (Continued) page 11

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Sir Walter then prayed for a short time to settle some matters of worldly trust, assuring the court that he desired not to prolong his life one minute; "for now," he said, "being old, sickly, disgraced, and certain to go to death, life is wearisome to me." The time was refused, but pen, ink, and paper were allowed him.

Instead of being taken back to the Tower, he was lodged in the gate-house in Westminster, and that evening his wife was allowed to take her last farewell of him, and on going away she told him that they had granted her the disposal of his body. Sir Walter smiled, saying, "It is well, Bess, that thou mayest dispose of that dead, that thou hadst not always the disposing of when alive."

Having made up his mind to meet death, Sir Walter no longer evinced any shrinking from it. He was calm, courageous, and even cheerful. Tounson, dean of Westminster, was sent to him in the morning to administer to him the sacrament, which he received reverently, and declared that he sincerely forgave all men, even Stukeley, who had so basely betrayed him. "He was," said Tounson, "the most fearless of death that was ever known, and the most resolute and confident, yet with reverence and conscience. When I began to encourage him against the fear of death, he made so slight of it that wondered at him. When I told him that the dear servants of God, in better causes than his, had shrunk back and trembled a little, he denied not, but gave God thanks that he never feared death, and much less then; for it was but an opinion and an imagination; and the manner of death, though to others it might seem grievous, yet he had rather die so than of a burning fever." And this was the testimony of a clergyman sent to him by the crown, not the one whom he wished himself.

He then proceeded to take his breakfast, which he seemed to enjoy as if it were an ordinary morning of his life, did not omit to take his customary pipe after it in most perfect composure; and when they brought him a cup of sack, and asked how he liked it, he replied gaily, that it was good drink if a man might tarry by it.

At eight o'clock on the 29th of October, he was conducted to the scaffold in Old Palace Yard. There was such a crowd assembled, including numbers of the chief nobility, that it was difficult for the sheriffs to get him through. He saluted the lords, knights, and gentlemen whom he found upon the scaffold pleasantly; and perceiving the lords Arundel, Northampton, and Doncaster, at a window not far off, he said that he would strain his feeble voice so that they might hear what he had to say. B at lord Arundel said they would come down to him, which they did; and after saluting them one after another, he proceeded with his address, speaking from notes which he held. He denied ever having any plot with France, or that he had spoken disloyally of his sovereign; and as to his going to Guiana, his sole object had been to benefit his majesty, his country, his associates, and himself, by the gold which he knew to exist there, and some of which he had actually handled. At that point he turned to the earl of Arundel, and reminded him that on his taking leave of him on board of his ship, the earl had made him pledge himself neither to turn pirate nor omit to return faithfully; and he appealed to him whether he had not kept his pledge. The earl admitted that he had.

Lastly, he addressed himself to what undoubtedly lay heaviest on his mind: the charge of his promotion of the death of Essex, and his rejoicing in it - the circumstance which had lost him the favour of the people. "It doth make my heart bleed," he declared, "to hear such an imputation should be laid upon me; for it is said that I was a prosecutor of the death of the earl of Essex, and that I stood in the window-over against him, when he suffered in the Tower, and puffed out tobacco in disdain of him. I take God to witness that I had no hand in his blood, and was none of those who procured his death. I shed tears for him when he died, and, as I hope to look God in the face hereafter, my lord of Essex did not see my face when he suffered, for I was afar off in the armoury, where I saw him, but he saw not me. I was heartily sorry for him, though I confess I was of a contrary faction, and helped to pluck him down. But in respect of his worth I loved him, and I knew that it would be worse for me when he was gone, for I got the hate of those that wished me well before; and those that set me against him, afterwards set themselves against me, and were my greatest enemies. My soul hath many times since been grieved, that I was not nearer to him when he died, because I understood afterwards that he asked for me at his death, to have been reconciled to me."

The sheriff, as the morning was cold, offered, before he said his prayers, to take him down to a fire to warm himself; but this courtesy he declined, saying, that within a quarter of an hour his ague would come upon him, and then his enemies would say that he quaked for fear. He made a most beautiful prayer, and then rising and clasping his hands, said, "Now I am going to God." He took the axe, passed it on his hand, felt the edge of it, and said with a smile, "This is a sharp medicine, but it will cure all diseases." He took a friendly leave of all the nobles and gentlemen present, and entreated the earl of Arundel to pray the king that no abusive writings might be published to defame him after death. Then laying his head on the block, he waited for the stroke. But the executioner delaying, he said to him, "What dost thou fear? Strike, man!" At two strokes his head was severed, and thus the mean, pedantic James, destroyed one of the most remarkable men of his age and nation.

Sir Walter Raleigh was a genius of that universal character, which seems capable of almost any achievement to which it aspires. He was equally distinguished as a scholar, an eloquent orator, a beautiful lyrical poet, an historian of wonderful scope and industry, a warrior, a traveller, a statesman, and a courtier. He had charmed the heart of the great queen Bess, and long shone in the midst of her brilliant court as one of its gayest, most graceful, and gallant cavaliers. He had shared in the glory of dispersing the Armada, had explored the secrets of chemical art, had been the friend of Sidney and Spenser, and the patron of other men of merit. But with all his brilliant qualities, he had great and undoubted defects. He was capable, in the rivalries of ambition, of petty jealousy and vindictive feeling. That he compared himself to Mordecai as he marched out of the Tower on his liberation, preparatory to his last adventure, and Carr, the fallen earl of Somerset, whom he left a captive in it to Haman, was, perhaps, pardonable, for Carr had robbed him and his children of their patrimonial estate. But his conduct to Essex was a lasting stain, and he was made to feel it so by the true estimate of the people.

In his last hour he expressed his profound regret for his conduct, and solemnly protested that he had no hand in his death. Yet there remains a letter addressed by him to Sir Robert Cecil, which proves positively that he contributed all in his power to his fall, and that he confessed "he helped to pluck him down."

Whilst, however, we cannot avoid perceiving the blots on the character of Sir Walter, we should be unjust to him not to remember the extreme looseness of moral principle of the age, and especially of the courts in which he lived. The hollow and murderous policy of Elizabeth, the mean, shuffling nature of James, were not things likely to act favourably on those who immediately surrounded them. The narrow spirit, the cold, dissolute, and grasping diplomatists and courtiers which abounded under such monarchs, were prolific of corruption even to superior natures; and we may assert that Raleigh, under more elevated and pure influences, would have risen to a much nobler tone of mind. Had James, instead of cooping him up in prison, and chilling him by its ominous shade, given a fair and honourable field to such a man, we should have undoubtedly to narrate splendid deeds and a fairer fame, as the natural fruit of them. Judged by the pure and lofty standard of morality of the gospel, Sir Walter Raleigh was marked by serious faults; judged by the morality of his age, we must pass upon him a milder judgment.

It is to the honour of queen Anne that she always pleaded for justice and liberal treatment to Sir Walter. As she was the friend of Jonson and Bacon, so she, as well as her son Henry, always admired the chivalric character and brilliant talents of Raleigh. One of her last efforts was to save his life. Though she was herself fast sinking, she was not insensible to the earnest appeal -

"Save him, who would have died for your defence!

Save him, whose thoughts no treason ever stained!"

She not only implored James to pardon him, but even condescended to write with her failing, feeble hand, to Buckingham, entreating him to use his far more effectual influence with James.


"My kind Dog, - If I have any power or credit with you, I pray you let me have a trial of it at this time, in dealing sincerely and earnestly with the king, that Sir Walter Raleigh's life may not be called in question. If you do it so that the success answer my expectation, assure yourself that I will take it extraordinarily kindly at your hands, and rest one that wisheth you well, and desires you to continue still, as you have been, a true servant to your master.

"Anna R."

A facsimile of this letter, which is still preserved in the Advocate's Library, Edinburgh, has been published by the Maitland Club, and does the highest honour to queen Anne of Denmark; who, whatever may have been the foibles of her character, displayed many fine qualities, which would have refined into still nobler strength, had she been yoked to a fitting husband. She only lived about four months after this; she had been rapidly declining, and died at Hampton Court, March 2nd, 1619.

The death of the queen was speedily followed by other and graver family troubles. James had contrived, with much shuffling and loss of honour, to avoid war for sixteen years. lie now saw himself dragged into a hopeless contest by the folly of his son-in-law, the elector of the Palatinate. Frederick, the elector, was a protestant of the Calvinistic school, and the protestants of Bohemia, anxious to prevent the catholic emperor of Austria acquiring their crown, offered it to him, which he was imprudent enough to accept. James was thunderstruck by the news, and instantly avowed that the elector had entered on an enterprise which would involve him in utter ruin. To enable the reader, however, to understand the question, we must take a brief review of the antecedents of the case. Bohemia, a country inhabited by a branch of the great Sclavonic race called Cteches, had early imbibed the doctrines of protestantism. These protestants had been visited by the vengeance of the pope, and their most distinguished leaders, Stekna, Milicz, and Janowa, had, in the fourteenth century, been compelled to escape into Poland. But persecution there, as everywhere else, only augmented the zeal and numbers of the protestants. At the close of that century, Anne, queen of Richard II. of England, a Bohemian princess, dying, many of her countrymen who had attended her in this country returned, carrying thither the Bible and the principles of Wycliffe. John Huss set about to translate all the writings of our great reformer into Bohemian, and is supposed to have been assisted in this by Hieronymus, or, as he is more commonly called, Jerome of Prague, who had studied in Oxford. These distinguished men were burnt at the stake in 1414, but their death only added fresh intensity and fresh disciples to their doctrines. In 1526, Bohemia, which had till then been an independent kingdom, became united to Austria by the marriage of Ferdinand I. to the daughter of Lewis II. From that moment there were bitter persecutions, for the house of Austria was bigotedly catholic. The people resisted the imposition of the papal yoke by the Austrian princes, and insurrection and carnage were the consequences. At length the emperor Rudolph was obliged to cede to the sturdy Bohemians the right of enjoying their own religious faith; and it was stipulated that they should be at liberty to erect churches on the crown lands. The Calvinists, the most resolute sect of the Bohemian protestants - for they were divided into Calvinists and Lutherans - declared the church lands were, in fact, crown lands, and began to build churches on estates belonging to the archbishop of Prague and the abbot of Braunau. These prelates appealed to the emperor Matthias, who decided against the protestants; and an order was issued to pull down again the churches both at Prague and Braunau. At Braunau. the people made resistance, and some of their leaders were thrown into prison. This created a great excitement, and count Henry Matthias von Thurn, the head of the evangelical church, called an assembly of the protestants at Prague, on the 6th of March, 1618, to take measures for the maintenance of their privilege?: but the enthusiasm with which this step was attended, from all parts of the country, greatly alarming the Austrians, menaces of punishment were issued by imperial brief against those who took part in it. This roused the wrath of the people, who. headed by count Thurn, on the 23rd of May, 1618, marched to the royal palace, and seized Martinitz and Slawata, the viceroys, and their secretary Fabricius, and hurled them out of the window of the council chamber, which was eighty feet from the ground. These men, and Martinitz especially, had been the servile tools of the Austrian court, and had thereby excited the hatred of the people. They refused the rites of marriage, baptism, and burial to all who would not consent to become catholics; they were accused of having drawn up the menacing letter which, came signed by the emperor, and of hunting the protestants into the catholic churches with dogs. Luckily for them there was plenty of mud in the palace ditch, and they escaped with their lives.

This bold deed kindled a flame throughout all Bohemia, Moravia, Lusatia, and Silesia. Thurn sent forth a proclamation, assuring the protestants that the die was cast; that they had nothing but vengeance and oppression to expect from Austria; and therefore the time was come to throw off the Austrian yoke, to resume the independence of Bohemia, and make common cause with the protestants of Germany and the Netherlands. The people flocked to Prague; the palace was occupied by the troops of the different provinces; an oath was taken from the magistrates and officials to obey the states alone; the taxes were ordered to be paid only to those appointed by them; the Jesuits were chased from the country; a council of thirty members was elected to assume the government, and Thurn placed at their head. All this passed with lightning rapidity, and caused the utmost consternation in Vienna.

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