The Reign of James I (Continued) page 16
That Buckingham would have advised Charles to abandon his religion for the achievement of his object, had he dared, there is little question, for his mother was an avowed papist, and was his constant prompter in his course. Before leaving London, the two adventurers had obtained the king's solemn promise in writing, that whatever they agreed to with the Spanish monarch, he would ratify; so that well might James be alarmed at their suggestion. Charles, in fact, did not hesitate, in reply to a letter from the pope, to pledge himself to abstain from every act hostile to the catholic religion, and to seek every opportunity of accomplishing the reunion of the church of England with that of Rome. The letter - which lord Clarendon truly says, "is, by your favour, more than a compliment" - may be seen in
the Hardwicke papers. Charles afterwards said that it was only a promise that he never meant to keep; we may therefore see that already his father's notions of king-craft had taken full possession of him, and, with a naturally serious and conscientious disposition, produced that fatal mixture of determination and unscrupulous insincerity which ruined him. Instead of a firm resistance to the palpable schemes of the pope and the Spaniard, and a truthful candour which would have convinced them that they had no chance of moving him, he led them, by his apparent acquiescence, to believe that they could win him over; and when they had carried him beyond the bounds of prudence, and much beyond those of honesty, he had no alternative but to steal away and repudiate his own solemn words and acts. Is it at all to be wondered at that neither foreign nations nor his own could ever after put faith in him? The Jesuitry of absolutism of the father had already destroyed the son, by perverting his moral constitution. It is very probable that Charles also acquired a strong taste for ecclesiastical pomp and circumstance during this visit, and its religious shows and ceremonies, which falling in afterwards with the ambitious taste of Laud, also tended to direct him towards the same "facilis decensus Averni."
James had despatched after the prince a great number of people, to form a becoming attendance on the heir of England. Others flocked thither of themselves, and especially catholic refugees, who swarmed in the prince's court, and particularly about Buckingham. The Jesuits did their best to convert them, and certainly were encouraged by every appearance of success. Though James had sent what he called the "stuff and ornaments" for public protestant worship, we are informed that these were never used; for though he had the earl of Carlisle, and the lords Mountjoy, Holland, Rochfort, Andover, Denbigh, Vaughan, and Kensington, besides a great number of other courtiers, and their dependents around him, they had no public worship, as if they were ashamed of their heretical faith, or feared to offend their catholic friends. The prince contented himself with bed-chamber prayers. The consequence was, as Howell, who was there, wrote, that the Spaniards, hardly believing the English Christians, and seeing no evidence of worship, set them down for little better than infidels. This occasioned great discontent amongst the more conscientious of the retinue, and they did not hesitate to avow their religious belief, and their contempt of the popish mummery which they saw around them, which led to much scandal and anger. Archy, or Archibald Armstrong, the famous court fool, whom oddly enough James had sent as well as the church plate and vestments, seemed to think himself privileged by his office to say what he pleased, and he did not hesitate to laugh at the religious ceremonies, and argue on religious points with all the zeal of a Scotch presbyterian, as he was. Others even proceeded to blows. Sir Edward Varney, finding a priest at the bedside of a sick Englishman, struck him under the ear, and they fell to fighting till they were thrust asunder.
This state of things would not have been tolerated so near the inquisition except for the great end in view - the belief that Charles would become a catholic. Gregory XV. had written to the inquisitor-general to this effect; - "We understand that the prince of Wales, the king of Great Britain's son, is lately arrived there, carried with a hope of catholic marriage. Our desire is that he should not stay in vain in the courts of those to whom the defence of the pope's authority, and care of advancing religion, hath procured the renowned name of catholic. Wherefore, by apostolic letters, we exhort his catholic majesty that he would gently endeavour sweetly to reduce the prince to the obedience of the Roman church, to which the ancient kings of Great Britain have, with Heaven's approbation, submitted their crowns and sceptres. Now, to the attaining of this victory, which to the conquered promiseth triumphs and principalities of heavenly felicity, we need not exhaust the king's treasures, nor levy armies of furious soldiers, but we must fetch from heaven the armour of light, whose divine splendour may allure the prince's eye, and gently expel ail errors from his mind. Now, in the managing of these businesses, what power and art you hare, we have well known long ago; wherefore, we wish you to go like a religious counsellor to the catholic king, and to try all ways which, by this present occasion, may benefit the kingdom, of Britain and the church of Rome. The matter is of great weight and moment, and therefore not to be amplified with words. Whoever shall inflame the mind of this royal youth with the love of the catholic religion, and breed a hate in him of heretical impiety, shall begin to open the kingdom of heaven to the prince of Britain, and to gain the kingdom of Britain to the apostolic see."
It was easy to foresee that this absurd journey would lead to these determined attempts to regain the rich islands of Great Britain to the catholic church. The catholics everywhere regarded the rupture to have been occasioned by Henry VIII.'s protestant marriage, and nothing appeared so likely as that a catholic marriage would heal it. It was not so easy to foresee that Charles, at the age of twenty-three, should so consummately act the hypocrite. He wrote to the pope, in reply to a most gracious and paternal letter from his holiness, calling him "Most Holy Father," telling him how much he deplored the division of the churches, and longed to restore union. Gregory was dead before this extraordinary epistle arrived at Rome, but Urban VIII., the new pope, lifted up his hands in joyful astonishment on reading it, and "gave thanks to the Father of Mercies, that on the very entrance of his reign a British prince performed this kind of obeisance to the pope of Rome." Having apparently so favourable a subject to operate upon, Olivarez now told Charles that the treaty entered into through the earl of Bristol had been rather for show than use, and that now, as the prince and his able adviser were there themselves, they would make a real and effective compact. Accordingly, in spite of the strenuous remonstrances of the two British ambassadors against re-opening the question already settled, Charles and Buckingham permitted it; and the Spanish minister found little difficulty in introducing several new and more favourable clauses. There was, in fact, a public and a private treaty agreed to. By the public one the marriage was to be celebrated in Spain, and afterwards in England; the children were to remain in the care of their mother till ten years of age, the Infanta was to have an open church and chapel for the free exercise of her religion,
and her chaplains were to be Spaniards under the control of their own bishops. By the private treaty it was engaged that the penal laws against catholics should be suspended; that catholic worship should be freely performed in private houses; that no attempts should be made to. seduce the princess from her hereditary faith; and that the king should swear to obtain the repeal of the penal statutes by parliament.
When this treaty was sent home, James was struck with consternation. He had pledged himself to Charles and Buckingham not to communicate any of their proceedings to the council; but the present responsibility was overwhelming, and he therefore opened his difficulty to the council. After making what the secretary of the council calls "a most sad, fatherly, kind, wise, pious, manly, stout speech as ever was heard," the lords of the council came to the conclusion, though reluctantly, and with fear, that the prince's honour must be maintained, and the oath to keep the treaty taken. This, however, was only the public treaty; James kept the private one to himself, and swore to it separately.
Having got the English court, as they supposed, thus secured, both the pope and the Spaniard raised their heads still higher, and showed that they meant to exact the utmost possible concession. In Spain the papal dispensation for the marriage was already in the hands of the nuncio, but he refused to deliver it till the king of England, according to his oath, had obtained the repeal of the penal statutes by parliament; whilst in England James refused to go a step further till the marriage was celebrated, and the first instalment of the dower paid. When the king's resolve was known, it was conceded that the marriage should at once take place, but that the princess and the dower should remain in Spain till the stipulated indulgence to the English catholics was obtained from parliament. James refused this, and sent word that the marriage must be celebrated and the prince bring home his bride, or come without the wedding: this brought the Spaniards down a little. The ambassadors in London assured James that a royal proclamation would satisfy them; but he replied that a proclamation without the added sanction of parliament was no law; that, however, he would issue an order for catholic indulgence under the great seal. This they were obliged to be satisfied with; but when it came to the lord-keeper Williams, he refused to put the great seal to it, as a most dangerous act, without precedent.
As there was no prospect of a speedy settlement, Charles, who had probably grown tired of a princess surrounded by such a hedge of difficulties and delays, desired his father to send him an order for his recall. It would appear as if the prince had planned the mode of his retreat, for the preparations for the marriage of the Infanta went on, on the understanding that she was to continue in Spain till spring. James was apparently occupied in preparing grand wedding presents for the bride, and a small fleet to bring her home. This, if carried out, must have been very onerous to him; for he had made already doleful representations to Charles and Buckingham, of the exhaustion of his treasury by his remittance of five thousand pounds, and three thousand pounds for their "tilting stuff," &c. At Madrid the marriage articles were signed and confirmed by oath, the Infanta assumed the title of princess of England, and had a court formed of corresponding importance.
Never was the marriage so far off. Charles and Buckingham had resolved to steal away and abandon the whole affair. They felt that they were regularly entrapped through their folly; and other causes rendered a speedy exit necessary. Buckingham - vain, empty, and sensual - had given way without caution or control to his licentiousness and love of parade. To make him more fitting for the companion of his son, James had raised him to the rank of duke since his departure. His extravagance, his amours, his haughty bearing, and unceremonious treatment of both his own prince and the grandees of Spain, astonished all Madrid. He introduced the very worst people, men and women, into the palace, and would sit with his hat on when the prince himself was uncovered. His behaviour in the presence of the king of Spain was just as irreverent, and the minister Olivarez was so incensed at his insolence that he detested him. He had the soul of an upstart lackey under the title of a duke, and was never easy unless he could outshine all the grandees at the Spanish court. He was perpetually importuning the king to send over orders, jewels, and money. Georges and garters were sent over in numbers to confer on different courtiers, and the constant cry of Buckingham's letters was Jewels, jewels, jewels. He represented how rich the Spaniards were in jewels, and how poor those looked which they themselves already had. He described the prince as quite poor in his appearance, compared with the Spanish splendour. "Sir, he hath neither chain nor hatband, and I beseech you consider first how rich they are in jewels here; then in what a poor equipage he came in; how he hath no other means to appear like a king's son; how they are usefullest at such a time as this, when you may do yourself, your son, and the nation honour; and lastly, how it will neither cost nor hazard you anything. These reasons, I hope, since you have already ventured your chiefest jewel, your son, will serve to persuade you to let loose these more after him: - first, your best hatband, the Portugal diamond, the rest of the pendent diamonds to make up a necklace to give his mistress, and the best rope of pearl, with a rich chain or two for himself to wear, or else your dog must want a collar, which is the ready way to put him into it. There are many other jewels, which are of so mean quality as deserve not that name, but will save much in your purse, and serve very well for presents," &c.
The prince quite aware that he had entangled himself in engagements that he could only keep at the risk of his father's crown, and Buckingham equally aware of the hatred which he had excited in a proud and vengeful nation, the two agreed to put the most honest possible face on the matter, and get away. Charles, therefore, presented his father's order for their return, and pledging himself to fulfil the marriage according to the articles; nay, appearing most eager for its accomplishment before Christmas, they were permitted to take their leave, loaded with valuable presents. The king gave the prince a set of fine Barbary horses, a number of the finest pictures by Titian and Correggio, a diamond-hilted sword and dagger, and various other arms of the richest fashion and ornament. The queen gave him a great many bags of amber, dressed kid-skins, and other articles; and Olivarez also presented him with a number of fine Italian pictures and costly articles of furniture. In. return, Charles gave the king diamond-studded hilts for a sword and dagger, to the queen a pair of rich earrings, and to the Infanta the string of pearls recommended by Buckingham, to which was attached a diamond anchor, as an emblem of his constancy. He affected the utmost distress at leaving his bride only for a short time, and the princess ordered a mass for his safe journey home.
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