The Reign of James I (Continued) page 15
There was a glad and universal embrace of the proffered lenity by the catholics. The doors of the prisons were opened, and the astonished puritans saw thousands on thousands of the dreaded papists once more coming abroad. There was instantly a cry of terror and indignation from John O'Groats to the Land's End. The pulpits resounded with the execrations of enthusiastic preachers on the traitorous dealing of the court, and the depicted horrors of catholic and Spanish ascendancy. James trembled, but ordered the lord-keeper Williams and the bishop of London to assure the public that he was only seeking to gain better treatment for the protestants abroad, whom the continental princes declared they would punish with the same rigour as James had punished the catholics in England, unless the British severity was somewhat mitigated. That, moreover, there was no danger; for the recusants, though out of prison, had still the shackles about their heels, and could at any moment be remanded. This, without satisfying the puritans, undid all confidence amongst the catholics. They recalled the habitual duplicity of James, and felt no longer any security; and when Gondomar boasted in Spain that four thousand catholics had been released in England, those catholics only remarked, "Yes; but we have still the shackles about our heels, and may at any moment be thrust again into our dungeons."
To silence the vehement outcries of the preachers against his release of the catholics, he issued orders that no preachers should indulge in abuse of either catholics or puritans, fondly hoping that the latter part of the prohibition would appease the reformers. But the puritans were too knowing to be caught with so poor a bait; and they were too able to reply to any attacks on them to need any other protection from mere invective. They therefore denounced more loudly than ever the royal leaning to popery. Harassed on this side, James was as unmercifully goaded on another. Abroad, the protestants cursed his miserable neglect, or more miserable support of his son-in-law; who, with his wife, James's daughter, was existing on a Dutch pension at the Hague; and the catholics ridiculed him as freely. They introduced him
into burlesque plays in the theatres, and at Antwerp, according to Howell's Letters, a player enacting a courier, rushed hastily on the stage, crying - "News! news!" On being asked what news, he replied "that the count palatine was' likely to have a tremendous force in the field; for the king of Denmark had engaged to send him a thousand, the Dutch ten thousand, and the king of England a hundred thousand." "Thousands of what?" demanded those who acted the spectators. "Oh!" replied the courier, "the king of Denmark's are red herrings, those of the Dutch are Dutch cheeses, and the king of England's are ambassadors." They exhibited all kinds of caricatures of the unfortunate monarch. In one he had his pockets and his purse turned inside out, in another he was fighting with an empty scabbard instead of a sword, in a third with a sword that a whole crowd tugging at could not draw, and in a fourth James was carrying a cradle after his daughter, the ex-queen of Bohemia, who was wandering homeless with her child on her back.
His only consolation was that the Spanish match now seemed really to progress. On the 5th of January, 1623, the twenty articles securing the freedom of her worship to the Infanta in England, the cessation of persecution of the catholics, and the exercise of their religious rites in their own houses, were signed by James and prince Charles. The dower of the princess was to be two millions of ducats. The espousals were to take place at Madrid by proxy, within forty days from the receipt of the dispensation; and the princess was to set out for England within three weeks, under the care of Don Duartre of Portugal. The time for the final consummation of the marriage, and the intervals betwixt the several payments of the dower, were all fixed, and Gondomar and Bristol congratulated themselves on the completion of their arduous negotiation.
At this crisis, however, arrived two Englishmen at the earl of Bristol's residence at Madrid, - under the names of John and Thomas Smith. To the ambassador's astonishment and chagrin, on appearing before him, they turned out to be no other than the prince of Wales and Buckingham, who had arrived in disguise, and with only three attendants. But how this extraordinary and imprudent journey had come about and been carried out, requires detail. It was said to have originated with Gondomar; that it had been planned on his visit to London the preceding summer, and had since been stimulated by Ms letters. He is said to have represented to the prince, who complained of delay, that all obstacles would vanish at once if he were to suddenly appear and press his own suit. The idea caught the imagination of the prince, and was warmly seconded by Buckingham, who not only longed to seek adventures amongst the beauties of Madrid, but also hoped to snatch the accomplishment of the match out of the hands of Bristol, whom he hated, If it were really the scheme of the wily Spaniard, he must have prided himself greatly on its success; a success, however, which produced its own ruin.
When the plan was first opened to James by Charles and Buckingham, he gave in to them without much hesitation, so much did he desire to have the affair settled. But on thinking it over alone, he was immediately sensible of the hazards and the impolitic character of the enterprise. He therefore desired the prince and the favourite to give it up, pointing out, with great justice, how much they would put themselves in the power of the Spaniards, what advantages they would give them over them, and what a storm of anger and alarm would break out at home as soon as it became known. The two knights-errant bade him dismiss his fears, that all would go well, and that they had selected Sir Francis Cottington and Sir Endymion Porter to attend them. James approved their choice, but commanded Cottington to tell him plainly what he thought of the project. Cottington, who did not seem yet to have been let into the secret, on hearing it, fell into a violent trembling, and declared that it was a rash and perilous adventure; whereupon James threw himself upon his bed in an agony, crying - "I told you so,- I told you so before. I shall be undone, and lose baby Charles." The prince and Buckingham were outrageous at the behaviour of Cottington, and handled him severely, but after all, James, with his usual weakness, gave his consent, and the travellers set forward on the 17th of February, 1623.
They had a number of adventures. Besides Cottington and Porter, they were attended by Sir Richard Graham, master of the horse to Buckingham. They gave a piece of gold to the ferryman at Gravesend, which immediately made him suspect something of the quality of his fare. At Rochester they came again into difficulty; and scarcely were they beyond it, when they saw the French ambassador approaching in the king's coach, and to avoid him, leaped the hedges and cut across the fields. At Canterbury the mayor was not satisfied with their appearance, and Buckingham, taking off a false beard, confessed who he was. Their post-boy, on the way to Dover, discovered whom he was driving, for he had been at court, and they were obliged to purchase his silence. Betwixt Boulogne and Paris they were again recognised by two German gentlemen, who had seen them with the king at Newmarket. At Paris they went boldly to the court and saw the royal family at a masque without any one knowing them. Charles wrote and told the king this, and that the queen of France was the handsomest lady at court, which made him the more anxious to see her sister, the princess of Spain. He and Buckingham had also walked all about Paris unrecognised, except by an English maid who had been in London, and said, "Certainly that is the prince of Wales," but did not follow him, or attract notice to him.
Sir Edward Herbert, afterwards the celebrated lord Herbert of Cherbury, the English ambassador, was greatly astonished to hear that the prince had been in Paris, and was gone forward on his way towards Spain. He hastened to inform the French secretary of state of the fact, and take measures for his security. No sooner did the secretary see him, than he said, "I know your business before you tell me it - your prince has this morning departed for Spain." He said that he should suffer no molestation, but he trusted that he would hold no communication with the discontented Huguenots by the way. Herbert begged that no one might be sent aft or him, but the secretary replied that that would not be polite, that some one must follow to see how the prince had fared on his journey. This was enough for Herbert: he lost no time in despatching a courier after Charles, to warn him to avoid all intercourse with the protestants, and to make the best of their way out of France;
for that their presence there was well known at court, and a watch was dogging their steps, though the minister had promised no interruption should take place. At Bayonne, on the frontiers, they had some little difficulty, being stopped and examined, but were suffered to pass, and reached Madrid safely towards the end of March. The next day their attendants, whom they had outridden, arrived.
Lord Bristol had despatched a messenger immediately on the prince reaching his house, informing the king that his son and friend were safe in Madrid, after a journey of sixteen days. Meantime, strange rumours began to run about the Spanish capital, that some great man from England had arrived, supposed to be the king himself, and it was deemed best to make the fact known to the court themselves. They sent for Gondomar, who hurried off to court with the welcome news. There were first private but stately interviews, and then a public reception. The prince was first privately conducted to the monastery of St. Jerome, from which the Spanish kings proceed to their coronation, and was then wrought back publicly by the king, his two brothers, and be elite of the Spanish nobility. Charles rode at the king's right hand through the whole city to the palace, when he was conducted to the apartments appropriated to him. He lad then a formal introduction to the queen and Infanta. Charles had two keys of gold given him, by which he could pass into the royal apartments at all hours, yet Spanish etiquette did not allow him to converse with the Infanta except in public. Tired of this restraint, Charles determined to break through the court formality, and speak unceremoniously with his proposed wife; wherefore, hearing that Donna Maria used to go to the Casa de Campo on the other side of the river to gather May-dew, he rose early and went thither also. He passed through the house and garden, but found that the princess was in the orchard, and betwixt him and her a high wall, and the door strongly bolted. Without further ceremony he got over the wall, dropped down, and seeing the princess at a distance, hastened towards her. But the princess, on perceiving him, gave a shriek and ran off; and the old marquis, her guardian, falling on his knees before the prince, entreated him to retire, as he should lose his head if he permitted it. Accordingly he let him out and rebolted the door.
Great were the public rejoicings, however, on account of this chivalric visit. The king professed to feel himself greatly complimented by the reliance of the English prince on the Spanish honour, on the earnestness it evinced in the prosecution of his suit; and the people as firmly calculated on his conversion to the catholic faith. The prisons were thrown open; presents and favours were heaped upon him; the king insisted on his taking precedence of himself, and assured him that any petition which he presented to him for a whole month, should be granted. There were bull-fights, tournaments, fencing matches, feasts, and religious processions, held in his honour and for his amusement.
But meantime at home, dire was the consternation when, it was known that Charles had gone off with slight attendance to Spain. It was stoutly declared that he would never escape alive from amongst the inquisitions and monks of that priest-ridden country, or if he did, it would only be as a papist. The freedom of comment on the occasion in the pulpits, caused James to issue an order through the bishop of London, that the clergy should not in their prayers "prejudicate the prince's journey, but only pray to God to return him home in safety again to us, and no more." Whereupon a preacher, with an air of great simplicity, prayed that the prince might return in safety again, and no more - that is, as it was understood, without a catholic wife. Yet to pacify his subjects, the king informed them that he had sent after them two protestant chaplains, together with all the stuff and ornaments fit for the service of God. And he added, "I have fully instructed them, so as all their behaviour and service shall, I hope, prove decent and agreeable to the purity of the primitive church, and yet so near the Roman form as can lawfully be done. For," says this stem persecutor of Catholicism, "it hath ever been my way to go with the church of Rome usque ad aras"
In so very complying a mood was James at this moment, that when these chaplains asked him what they were to do if they met the host in the streets, he replied they must avoid meeting it whenever they could; when they could not, they must do as the people did there. And poor James soon found that he had need of all his moral pliability. The Spanish court, as might have been foreseen, once having the prince in their power, resolved to benefit by it. They soon let the prince and Buckingham know that the pope made great difficulty about the dispensation, and the papal nuncio was sternly set against it, and it was inquired how far the prince could go in concession. Buckingham wrote, therefore, to the king, in these ominous words: - "We would gladly have your directions how far we may engage you in the acknowledgment of the pope's special power, for we almost find, if you will be contented to acknowledge the pope chief head under Christ, that the match will be made without him."
This was asking everything, and James was brought to a stand. He wrote in reply, that he did not know what they meant by acknowledging the pope's spiritual supremacy. He was sure they would not have him renounce his religion for all the world. "Perhaps," he wrote, "you allude to a passage in my book against cardinal Bellarmine, where I say that if the pope would quit his godhead and usurping over kings, I would acknowledge him for chief bishop, to whom all appeals of churchmen ought to lie en dernier ressort. That is the farthest my conscience would permit me to go; for I am not a monsieur who can shift his religion as easily as he can shift his shirt when he cometh from tennis."
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