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The Reign of James I (Continued) page 8

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As to the religious grievances, no concession was made, and scarcely had the deputies reached home, when a proclamation appeared, ordering all the catholic clergy to quit Ireland on pain of death. When parliament met again, in 1615, there was an outward air of conciliation; the two parties avoided the grand subjects of discord, except that both houses joined in a petition that catholic barristers might be permitted to plead. The attainders of Tyrone, Tyrconnel, and O'Dogherty were confirmed, as well as the plantation of Ulster, and all distinctions betwixt the two races of the Irish, that is, the native Irish and the Anglo-Irish, were abolished by statute, and a liberal subsidy was obtained.

We have now brought up the affairs of Ireland to the date of those of England, but to prevent the necessity of recurring to them again during the reign of James, we will proceed with the few additional facts which marked the period.

The conciliatory air did not long continue. The lord-deputy Chichester made a cautious attempt to enforce the fines for absence from church, beginning with a few timid persons in each county, who, by conceding, might influence others. In 1623 lord Falkland, then lord-deputy, repeated the proclamation, ordering all catholic priests to quit the kingdom on pain of death; but they only retired into the mountains and morasses, and defied his authority. James saw that it was useless to hope for success in his scheme of crushing out Catholicism, till he had planted the whole island after the Ulster fashion, and this was set about in good earnest. Commissions were issued for the examination of all grants and titles, and by the most iniquitous proceedings, scarcely a single foot of land was left unexempted from the claim of forfeiture to the crown. It was found that the proprietors of the vast counties of Connaught, Galway, and Clare, had been induced to surrender their titles to Elizabeth, on condition that they should receive fresh ones, and that they had paid three thousand pounds for the enrolment of these titles, but had never got them.

On this discovery James was advised to claim the whole island, with the exception of the small portion which he had himself planted; but the owners declared on all hands, that they would defend their lands with their swords rather than admit such a claim; and James, who was no hero, preferred getting a sum of money. His pretensions were commuted for a double annual rent, and a fine of ten thousand pounds He, however, went on and planted the coast betwixt Dublin and Wexford, then the counties of Leitrim and Longford, and finally those of Westmeath, and King's and Queen's counties. In this procedure all law and justice were set aside. James gave orders that three-fourths of the lands should be settled on the original proprietors, but no regard was paid to this. Few of the old possessors obtained above a quarter of their lands again, and many were stripped of every acre which they had inherited from their fathers. Whole septs were removed to the parts most distant from their native localities. Seven such septs were transported from Queen's county to King's, and menaced with instant death by martial law if they dared return. Sir Patrick Crosby received the seigniory of Tarbert, on condition that he leased out one-fourth of it to those unhappy exiles, but very few of them got anything; and, in a word, Carte declares that the injustice and cruelty then committed, are scarcely to be paralleled in the history of any age or country.

Such was the condition of Ireland as left by James. He imagined that he had pacified it; it was only the sullen lull before the storm, which burst forth in the days of his successor with a fury only the more terrible from its temporary suppression.

During the king's absence in Scotland, lord Bacon had shown such arrogance in the council, that he had disgusted everybody. He had appeared to imagine himself king, took up his quarters in Whitehall, and gave audiences in the great banqueting house at Whitehall. Mr. Secretary Win-wood was so incensed at his presumption, that he quitted the council-chamber, declaring that he would not enter it again till the king's return; and he wrote at once an account of Bacon's proceedings, assuring the king that it was high time that he returned, for his throne was already occupied. The vain, foolish conduct of the lord-keeper was watched by an eye which owed him no favour, and a spirit smarting with envy, which was relentless in its revenge. Coke, by offending the favourite, lost his position, but he now saw a way to turn this opposition to Buckingham against Bacon. Buckingham, since his rising into favour, had taken care to promote the fortunes of his friends and relatives. He had cast his eyes on the daughter of the fallen chief-justice Coke, by lady Hatton, the widow of queen Elizabeth's dancing chancellor, who was likely to have a large fortune from her mother, and he determined to obtain her for his brother, John Villiers, a sickly and nearly idiotic youth. Coke, who despised the favourite, and was at feud with him respecting the already mentioned patents of office, opposed the match, which was neither agreeable to the young lady nor her mother. But when Coke found himself deprived of his office, and his insulting rival, Bacon, advanced, he bethought himself that by the means of his daughter, he had the powder of regaining the good-will of the favourite, and pulling down the arrogant lord-keeper. Before Buckingham had left for Scotland, Coke had had a private interview with Buckingham, in which he agreed to consent; to the marriage on condition of regaining his honours and position in the council and on the bench.

During the absence of the court in Scotland, and white Bacon was in the full blow of his assumed greatness, he discovered this compact, which boded him nothing but destruction. Without delay he incited the lady Hatton, who was in almost everything violently opposed to her husband, to make haste and secure her daughter by secreting herself in the house of Sir Edward Withipole, near Oxford, and by contracting her in marriage to Henry de Vere, earl of Oxford, for whom the young lady really entertained a regard. Coke, enraged at this flight, and at the attempt to marry his daughter contrary to his own plans, applied for a search-warrant to enter the house where she was secreted. Bacon refused it, but Winwood was only too happy to grant it. Coke, supported by twelve armed men, made a forcible entry, and carried away his daughter. On this, Bacon procured the new attorney-general, Yelverton, to file an information against Coke in the star-chamber for a breach of the peace. Bacon also wrote to the king and the favourite in Scotland, representing to Buckingham that it was by no means to his honour or interest to ally his family to that of Coke, a fallen, disgraced man, and disliked of the king, and especially as much better matches might be found. To James he represented the trouble which Coke had given to his majesty, his fondness for opposing his wishes, and the disturbances there had been in the kingdom and courts of justice so long as he had been in power. He added that now everything was quiet, and that his majesty knew that he had in him an officer always anxious to do his will.

The answer of the king struck him at once to the earth. The great philosopher was not aware how far the compact with Coke had really gone; and when he read the king's letter, reprimanding his presumption, accompanied by another from Buckingham, in which he rated him for his officious meddling, and telling him that the same hand which had made him could unmake him, he saw the gulf into which he had plunged. At once he wrote off to both monarch and minion, imploring the humblest pardon for his unworthy offence, which he would now do all in his power to wipe away. Accordingly, he stopped the proceedings before the council and in the star-chamber against Coke, and assured lady Hatton and her friends that he could not assist them in a course so opposed to the wishes of the young lady's father.

On the return of the court, Bacon hastened to pay his homage to the proud favourite; but he was then made to feel how much it is in the power of a base and little-souled man in favour, to humiliate the most gigantic mind when it forgets its own dignity. The great renovator of science, the proud and vaunting lord-keeper, was made to wait for two whole days in the lobby of the upstart. This is Weldon's account of it; - "He attended two days at Buckingham's chamber, being not admitted to any better place than the room where trencher-scrapers and lackeys attended, there sitting upon an old wooden chest, amongst such as for his baseness were only fit for his companions, although the honour of his place did merit far more respect, with his purse and seal lying by him on that chest. Myself told a servant of my lord of Buckingham, it was a shame to see the purse and seal of so little value or esteem in his chamber, though the carrier without it merited nothing but scorn, being worst amongst the basest. But the servant told me they had command it must be so. After two days he had admittance. At his first entrance he fell down flat at the duke's foot, kissing it, and vowing never to rise till he had his pardon; and thus was he again reconciled. And since that time so very a slave to the duke and all that family, that he durst not deny the command of the meanest of the kindred, nor yet oppose anything. By which you see a base spirit is even most concomitant with the proudest mind; and surely, never so many brave parts, and so base and abject a spirit, tenanted together in any one earthen cottage, as in this one man."

Buckingham condescended to forgive the suppliant lord-keeper: the marriage was accomplished, and Bacon soon after, that is, on the 4th of January, 1618, was raised to the dignity of lord chancellor, with a pension of twelve hundred pounds a year, and the title of baron Verulam. So that he threw no obstacle in the way of the marriage, both James and Buckingham preferred his pliancy to the sturdy spirit of Coke.

The consequences of this forced and unnatural marriage were as deplorable as the means of effecting it were vile. The brother of Villiers was created viscount Purbeck; but no title could give him a sound body or a healthy intellect. It was not long before he was pronounced utterly mad, was shut up in an asylum, and Buckingham took possession of his wife's property under pretence of managing it for lord and lady Purbeck, but spent it for his own purposes; and Coke's daughter, outraged in all her feelings as a woman, and her rights as a subject, became a degraded and abandoned character.

Buckingham now reigned supreme at court. He had rapidly risen from a simple country youth into a baron, viscount, earl, and marquis; he was a member of the privy council, knight of the garter, had been a master of the horse, and was now lord high-admiral; the earl of Nottingham, the brave old Howard, the hero of the Armada, laving been compelled to resign to make way for him. He and his mother disposed of all places about court, n the church, in the courts of law, and in the government. Peers, prelates, and men of all degrees courted humbly his favour, and paid him large sums of money for the places they sought, or agreed to annuities out of their salaries and emoluments. The king seemed to rejoice in the wealth which flowed in on his favourite from all these corrupt services, and could not bear him out of his sight.

Let us take Weldon's account of this state of things: - "And now Buckingham, having the chancellor or treasurer, and all great officers his very slaves, swells in the height of pride, and summons up all his country kindred, the old countess providing a place for them to learn to carry them-selves in a court-like garb." The old countess, as Weldon calls her, was far from old, but a woman yet in her prime, and of singular beauty, and of as notorious wickedness, She was another Elizabeth Wydville, in looking out for all the rich heirs and heiresses, and marrying her kin to them. The brothers, half-brothers, cousins of Buckingham, were all matched to rich women, and the women were matched to the eldest sons of earls, barons, and men of largest estate. And where there was no title, such was soon conferred. The madman that they hung on Coke's daughter, as we have seen, was made Lord Purbeck, another brother was created earl of Anglesea. Fielding, who married Buckingham's sister, was made earl of Denbigh, and his brother earl of Desmond. Cranfield, who married a female relative, was made earl of Middlesex. But the most shameful case of all, perhaps, was that of Williams, dean of Westminster, a paramour of the countess's, who was made bishop of Lincoln, and allowed to retain not only the deanery of Westminster, but the rectories of Dinam, Waldgrave, Graf ton, and Peterborough; the prebends of Asgarbie and Nonnington, besides other dignities, so that, says Heylin, he was a perfect diocese in himself, being bishop, dean, prebendary, residentiary, and parson, and these all at once. Other livings and bishoprics were sold as highly as these were freely given. Fotherby of Salisbury paid three thousand five hundred pounds for his see, and all other dignities and benefices in the church were equally at the disposal of this upstart and his venal, lascivious mother. "There were books of rates," says Weldon, "on all offices, bishoprics, and deaneries in England, that could tell you what fines and pensions were to pay." He adds, "that Buckingham's female relatives were numerous enough to have peopled any plantation. So that king James, that naturally, in former times hated women, had his lodgings replenished with them, and all of the kindred, and little children did run up and down the king's lodgings like little rabbits startled out of their burrows. Here was a strange change. That the king, who formerly would not endure his queen and children in his lodgings, now you would have judged that none but women frequented them. Nay, this was not all; but the kindred had all the houses about Whitehall, as if bulwarks and flankers to that citadel."

All the relations in turn, as soon as settled thus about the court, commenced selling offices, but the countess surpassed them. Lord Dover, in his comments on the origin of the British peerages, says that all the titles of that date, as those of the Spensers, Fanes, the Petres, the Arundels, Cavendishes, Sackvilles, Montagues, &c., were purchased for sums of money, or were obtained by the vilest favouritism. Where wealthy people were not inclined to buy, they were compelled to it. Such was the case of Richard Robartes, a wealthy merchant of Truro, who was forced to purchase the title of baron Robartes. Even the most distinguished ministers were not safe from the all-absorbing favourite's lust of wealth. As he had compelled the old hero of the Armada, Howard earl of Nottingham, to give up his post of high-admiral to him, he now charged the earl of Suffolk, the father of the infamous countess of Somerset, with peculation, and had both the earl and countess thrown into the Tower. The earl petitioned the king, telling him that so far from having enriched himself by peculation, he was forty thousand pounds in debt. This had no effect on Buckingham, who had him fined thirty thousand pounds; but this afterwards was compounded for seven thousand pounds, which was pocketed by Ramsay, earl of Haddington, one of James's favourites, and the earl and countess set at large. Lord chief-justice Montague purchased the post of lord-treasurer, but in less than a year it was taken from him, and given to Cranfield, earl of Middlesex, who had married one of the "kindred."

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