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The Reign of James I (Continued) page 5


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The lieutenant had carefully acted on this plan, and had provided two servants, each with a cloak on his arm, to stand behind Somerset, so that if More's representations did not after all prevent Somerset speaking out to the discredit of the king, they should throw the cloaks instantly over his head, and drag him from the bar, from all consequence of which proceeding he promised to protect them.

These singular precautions, which betrayed an awful terror on the part of the king of some withering exposure from the exasperated favourite, so far prevailed, that Somerset stood upon his trial with apparent calmness, but refused steadfastly to plead guilty. Bacon, on his part, was careful in stating the charges against him, to do it so mildly that the prisoner should not be excited to any dangerous pitch. Somerset never mentioned the king, but he defended himself! resolutely, and with consummate ability. He analysed the whole string of charges brought against him, explained, away whatever appeared to tell most forcibly to his disadvantage, and for eleven hours prolonged the trial, and the intolerable agony and suspense of the king, who, during the whole time, was in the most pitiable condition of terror. "But who had seen," says Sir Anthony Weldon, in a passage which is fully borne out by the letters of More, the lieutenant, "the king's restless motion all that day, sending to every boat landing at the bridge, cursing all that came without tidings, would have easily judged that all was not right, and that there had been some grounds for his fears of Somerset's boldness; but at last, one bringing him word that he was condemned, all was quiet."

In the course of a few weeks James actually granted a pardon to the murder and adultery-stained countess, on the plea that she was not tried as a principal, but as an accessory before the fact; though all the facts of the case go to show that she was the chief instrument and instigator of the murder of Overbury. He also offered the same grace to Somerset; but the proud, though fallen favourite, haughtily refused it, saying that he was an innocent man, who, therefore, needed no pardon, but expected a reversal of his sentence.

Time, however, showed him that the favour of the prince had passed on to others, and that his enemies were working for further injury to him; he therefore condescended in the autumn of 1624 to petition for the pardon formerly rejected. It was granted on the 24th of October, with a promise of the restoration of his property. James, meantime, allowed him an income of four thousand pounds a year, and protected him from the infamy attaching to his condemnation. He would not allow him to be expelled from the order of St. George,, nor his arms to be reversed in the chapel of that saint at Windsor.

The guilty earl and countess are said to have retired together into the country, not to the felicity of innocent affection, but, as it was said, to mutual hatred and recrimination. The countess died in 1632; the earl, who never recovered his estates, lived on thirteen years longer. Their only child, Lady Ann Carr, who was born in the Tower, was married to William, the fifth earl, and afterwards duke of Bedford, and became the mother of the celebrated lord William Russell, who perished on the scaffold under Charles II. Out of such a soil can rise such plants; nay, even the daughter of this infamous couple is declared to have been a woman of the purest and noblest character; and so carefully was the horrible history of her parents kept from her, that it n ever reached her ears till a few years before her own death. The earl of Essex, so cruelly treated in this revolting affair, lived to lead with high distinction the army of the commonwealth.

Fast on the fall of Somerset followed that of the chief justice Coke. He had rendered distinguished service to James in hunting out the evidence and bringing to punishment the favourite and his wife; but he had neutralised this benefit by his haughtiness and opposition to the royal authority in other respects. Coke and Bacon had pursued two opposite systems of policy in their courses towards the highest honours of the state. Bacon had affected liberalism, and a championship of popular rights, which the higher he rose the more he sacrificed to the pleasure of the monarch. There was a profound flattery in this, for it seemed to give an additional value to his growing attachment to the crown, that it was won from his original bias towards the people. On the other hand, Coke commenced as a thorough-going supporter of the prerogative, and as his abilities were pre-eminent, and his prosecution of state offenders unrestrained by any scruples of conscience, he did the work of that despotic prince with a gusto and a ruthlessness which highly delighted his employer. No lawyer, except Jefferies, in a later age, ever indulged in the same unsparing abuse of those against whom he was retained. His disposition was not merely unfeeling, it was truculent, and the insolence of his language was beyond all former experience. When let loose on a victim, he certainly was no respecter of persons; an Arabella Stuart or a Raleigh were abused in a style which would not now be tolerated towards the most abject criminals. But when Coke had reached the summit of his ambition, and thought the height to which he had climbed secure, he began to display the inherent pride of his nature, by assuming an independence of manner, and a haughtiness of opinion, exhibited even towards the throne, which astonished and irritated James. In the commons he openly opposed the claims of prerogative, came out in defence of popular rights, and ended where Bacon had begun. From abject servility he rapidly passed to daring opposition. On the subject of the late benevolences, he stood forward as a patriot in the commons; in the case of Peacham, that which was prosecuted as treason, Coke declared was only defamation; and in that of Owen he agreed with the prisoner that he had committed no treason by saying that the king, if excommunicated, might lawfully be killed, because the king not having been excommunicated, the opinion could not apply to him. These declarations, both in parliament and on the bench, roused James to a keen resentment, and this was continually augmented. He set his own court of the king's bench above every other, and threatened with the penalties of praemunire the judges of the court of chancery, and all other judges who should grant relief in equity after judgment had been pronounced in the king's bench; and he extended the same menace to all suitors who sought for such relief. The judges of the courts of admiralty, of high commission, of requests, of the duchy of Lancaster, and even the presidents of the councils of the north, and of Wales, felt their jurisdictions invaded and repressed by his pretensions. The court of star-chamber even, hitherto above all law, was called in question by him, and its power to levy fines in many cases denied. He went farther, and, as in the case of Owen and Peacham, dictated to the privy council, and contradicted the very sovereign to his face.

All this was beheld with infinite satisfaction by Bacon, whose eyes were steadily fixed en the chancellorship, which Ellesmere, lately created viscount Brackley, could not, from his age, long retain. Coke once out of it, it must fall to Bacon.

It would seem as if at the very time when Coke was hunting down his former benefactor, Somerset, the secret decree had gone out from the king against himself. Somerset was condemned on the 25th of May, and on the 30th of June Coke received an order from the king to absent himself from the council chamber, and not to proceed on his circuit, but to employ himself in correcting the errors in his book of reports. He had outraged James's sense of his own supreme authority, by opposing him in the matter of commendams and bishoprics, and had, moreover, contended with Villiers, the new favourite, respecting a patent place at court. Long before he received this startling order for the suspension of his diplomatic and judicial functions, the archbishop, the chancellor, and Mr. Attorney-general Bacon, had been employed by royal command to collect charges against him, so that, as we have observed, his fall must have been decreed before or whilst he was working out that of Somerset.

He was now charged with concealing a debt of twelve thousand pounds, due from the late chancellor Hatton to the crown; with contempt of the king's authority in declaring from the bench that the common law would be overthrown by proceedings in equity, or by claims of prerogative; and for disrespect to the crown in the affair of the commendams.

The charge regarding the money Coke refuted when brought before the council, and confirmed his case by a decision at law: as to the second charge, he explained it as in no way reflecting on the king, and for the third, he humbly solicited his majesty's forgiveness. James professed to retain the highest regard for the lord chief justice, and intended, on his showing a proper humility, to continue to him his favour; but when Coke brought in his report on his book, and maintained that he could only find five trivial errors in it, James, in great anger for his "deceit, contempt, and slander of government," dismissed him from the bench, and made Montague, the recorder of London, chief justice in his place. Coke, with all his harshness and cutting style to others, felt for himself keenly, and is said to have wept like a child on receiving his supercedeas. Bacon displayed anything but a philosophical magnanimity on the fall of his great rival. lie not only joked with Villiers on the disgrace of the great man who had offended the favourite, but he wrote a most insulting letter to the fallen judge, which was particularly odious from being garnished with the cant of piety.

Bacon now looked confidently towards the chancellorship, and in March of the following year Brackley resigning from age, the great seal was transferred to him, with the title of lord-keeper. Sir Francis had reached the elevation to which he had so long and so ardently aspired, by a slavish advocacy of the most unlimited claims of prerogative, and, as far as in him lay, the restriction of constitutional liberty, - a mortifying instance of how completely the most transcendent talents can be united in a nature ignoble and mercenary. Indeed, the conduct of Bacon on this occasion was vain and weak to a pitiable degree. Though he had now reached the mature age of fifty-four, and drew an enormous income from his grants and offices, he was so profuse of expenditure, that he was a needy man, pressed with difficulties, which he saw in the chancellorship an exhaustless means of dispersing. His vanity burst forth to such a surprising extent, that he assumed all the state of a Wolsey. He rode to Westminster Hall on horseback, in a gown of rich purple satin, and attended by a crowd of nobles, judges, great law officers, lawyers, and students, rivalling even the splendour of the king.

Whilst these affairs were progressing at home, the credit of James abroad had sunk very low. At the conference for effecting a truce betwixt Holland and Spain, held at the Hague - a conference which established the independence of the Low Countries - the English ministers had been made to feel the ignominy of their position, compared with the dignity of the ambassadors of Elizabeth. Prince Maurice told them openly that their master dare not open his mouth in contradiction to the king of Spain; and their allies, the French, in consequence, assumed a superiority throughout the negotiations which mortified deeply the English envoys. Nor was that the only slight which James's truckling policy brought upon him abroad. He was anxious to ally his son to the court of Spain, notwithstanding the intense aversion of his subjects to the idea of a catholic princess. But he was saved from incensing the nation by a Spanish marriage: Spain declined the offer. He next applied for the hand of Madame Christine, sister to Louis XIII. of France; but here again he was met with the contempt which his meat?, and insecure character merited: France preferred the suit of the duke of Savoy. It was never before the fortune of England to have to go begging to the continental states for wives for its princes: they had hitherto been only too officiously pressed on its acceptance. Yet James, as if incapable of feeling such insult?, continued his assiduous and humble court to the courts of France and Spain. Soon after the refusal of the hand of the French princess, the weak king of France, who had been retained in a state of pupilage by his mother, Catherine de Medici, and her favourite Concini, marshal D'Ancre, had the Italian assassinated by Vitry, one of the royal guards. This took place in open day, on the drawbridge of the Louvre; and Louis, who was watching the proceeding, immediately showed himself at a window of the palace, shouting to the people, "Praised be the Lord, now I am a king!" and the officers of the guard advanced through the streets with a preconcerted cry of "God save the king! The king is king!" Yet James of England, insulted, despised, and rejected by this assassinating king of France, who was too weak to do more than escape out of the hands of one favourite into those of another, and was very soon more completely enthralled than ever by the duke de Luynes, made all haste to congratulate Louis on his black act, and to pay a high compliment to Vitry, the murderer. This we have on the express authority of Winwood, the secretary of state. Writing to Sir Guy Carleton, the ambassador in Holland, he says: - "But what opinion private particular men, who aim at nothing else but the advancement of their own fortunes, have of this action, his majesty is pleased to approve of it, which doth appear not only by the outward demonstration of his exceeding joy and contentment when first he received the news thereof, but also by letters which, with his own hand, he hath written to the French king. And besides, Mr. Comptroller, who hath charge in all diligence to return into France, hath express orders to congratulate with the marshal de Vitry, for so he now is, that by his hands, the king, his master, was delivered out of captivity."

We must now trace the proceedings of James in Scotland and Ireland, where he was anxious to establish as thoroughly his principles of church and state supremacy as in England, and where the seed he sowed rapidly grew into the same harvest of bloodshed and revolution as in this country.

The church of Scotland, as established by Knox and his contemporaries, was, like the country from which they brought the idea, a republic. It acknowledged no head but Christ; nor any concern which the state had with it, except to furnish the support of the ministers whose lives were devoted to the civilisation and religious improvement of the community. The minister and the lay elders of a parish constituted the parochial assembly, which governed all the spiritual affairs of that little circle: a certain number of these assemblies constituted a presbytery, which heard all appeals from the parochial assemblies, and sanctioned the appointment, suspension, or dismissal of their ministers; Beyond the presbytery extended the provincial synod, and the general assembly claimed the supreme management of the affairs of the church under God.

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Pictures for The Reign of James I (Continued) page 5

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