The Reign of James I (Continued) page 9
Buckingham himself, in time, seemed to clothe himself with half the offices in the country. He became warden of the Cinque Ports, chief justice in Eyre of all the parks and forests south of the Trent, master of the King's Bench Office, high steward of Westminster, and constable of Windsor Castle. In his person he was lavish and showy even to tawdriness. He was skilled in dancing, and therefore kept the court one scene of balls and masques. He had his clothes trimmed at even an ordinary dance with great buttons of diamond, with diamond hatbands, cockades, and earrings; "he was yoked with manifold ropes and knots of pearl; in short, he was accustomed to be manacled, fettered, and imprisoned in jewels."
Whilst the silly, doating old king was thus suffering the court to be overrun with the vermin of his favourite's relatives and retainers, and all offices of government and religion, and the business and revenues of the country to be thus shamefully sold, or thrown away on them and their customers, he was as keen as ever to discover some petty delinquency. A trial for adultery took place, in which Sir Thomas and lady Lake were accused of defaming lady Exeter. The defendants produced a written instrument, purporting to be a confession of her guilt in the handwriting of the countess of Exeter herself, and that she had given it to them in the presence of lord Boos and his Spanish servant, Diego, at Wimbledon; and Sarah Swarton, a chambermaid, deposed that she had stood behind the hangings at the window where the interview took place, and saw and heard all that passed at that confession. This was a kind of case which called forth all the spirit of the detective in James. He despatched a messenger to lord Roos in Italy, who, with his man Diego, swore on the sacrament that the whole tale was a fabrication. James now professed to have discovered by indubitable signs that the instrument was a forgery, and mounting his horse without informing any one of his object, he rode to Wimbledon, and satisfied himself, from the shortness of the hangings, that the legs of the maid would have been seen, and that therefore she was not there. The maid Swarton was condemned in the star-chamber to do penance in the church of St. Martin, and to be whipped at the cart's tail. Sir Thomas and lady Lake were fined ten thousand pounds payable to the king, and five thousand pounds payable to the calumniated countess, and besides to be imprisoned till they made their submission.
But one of the most interesting and painful events of the reign of James, and one which does him little credit, now occurred. Sir Walter Raleigh, deprived of his beautiful estate of Sherborne, in Dorsetshire, "which he had beautified with orchards, gardens, and groves, of much variety and delight," as we have seen, to gratify the favourite Carr, had remained in the Tower from the time of his trial in 1603, that is, thirteen years. His captivity was rendered less severe by the presence in the Tower of other prisoners of intelligence, and more than all the rest of the earl of Northumberland, whom we have already noticed as collecting round him in his prison men of science and literature, and thus converting his cell into a palace of knowledge and refined delight. Northumberland was another of those men who delighted in learning, whom a king really wise and learned would have delighted to honour. But James's love was not a love of learning or literature on its own account, it was a love of himself. It was the vanity of passing for a sagacious and learned king which he possessed, and not the sagacity and the learning themselves. Therefore, so far from cherishing science and learning, and loving the possessor of them, James was too shallow to comprehend the one, and so egotistical that he hated the other. Northumberland had been in prison ever since the year of the gunpowder plot, 1605, eleven years, a victim to the suspicions of the king and the tyranny of the star-chamber, for no participation in the plot was ever proved against him. Amongst his visitants and pensioners were, as we have stated, the most profound mathematicians of the age, Allen, Hariot, Warner, "the Atlantes of the mathematical world," Burchill, the celebrated Greek and Hebrew scholar, and other noted characters. Amongst them Sir Walter found the pleasure of cultivating inquiries which his busy public and court life had before kept unknown to him. He commenced a series of chemical experiments, and the celebrated Lucy Hutchinson, who was the daughter of Sir Allen Apsley, lieutenant of the Tower, in the preface to her interesting life of her husband, colonel Hutchinson, says, "Sir Walter Raleigh and Mr. Ruthin, being prisoners in the Tower, and addicting themselves to chemistry, my mother suffered them to make their rare experiments at her cost, partly to comfort and divert the poor prisoners, and partly to gain the knowledge of their experiments and the medicines, to help such poor people as were not able to seek physicians."
In these chemical inquiries, Sir Walter imagined that he had discovered a universal panacea. The queen in an illness had taken it, and appeared cured by it, and afterwards, as we have seen, tried it in the case of prince Henry, but without effect.
Sir Walter next turned his attention to history, and commenced a history of the world, a gigantic undertaking, but no doubt one that offered great consolation to the mind of a prisoner for life, from the very fact of its immensity, thus promising to him a constant forgetfulness of his captivity, and a busy discursiveness amid the peoples of the whole world. Such men as Burchill, who was not only a great classical scholar, but distinguished Latin poet, could furnish him with books and translations, by which means he has displayed so vast an acquaintance with Greek and rabbinical writers. Raleigh commenced his history for the instruction of prince Henry, who had a great regard for the author, and the death of that prince, in 1612, gave a check to the undertaking, and the whole which Raleigh completed, extends from the Creation to about a century and a half before the Christian era.
The fall of Carr, in 1614, and the rise of Buckingham, awoke new hopes of liberty in Raleigh. His friends made zealous applications to the favourite, which for a time produced little effect, because the true persuasive with the greedy Villiers family was not applied. Meantime, Raleigh managed to interest secretary Winwood in a grand scheme which he had for discovering and working gold mines in Guiana. Raleigh, as our readers are aware, was of a romantic and adventurous turn. The admirals Drake, Hawkins, and Frobisher, with whom he had had the honour of defeating the grand Armada, had brought home immense treasure from the Spanish and Portuguese territories of South America. Raleigh himself had been engaged in the scheme of settling Virginia in North America, in the year 1584, when he procured a patent from Elizabeth - a copy of one granted still earlier to his half-brother, Sir Humphrey Gilbert - with full power to discover and settle any heathen lands not already in the possession of any Christian prince. In consequence, he had equipped various expeditions to the coast of Virginia, which, however, had all proved failures, and Sir Humphrey Gilbert, who conducted one of them, lost his life at sea. Sir Walter's enterprises, which had cost him much money, were immediate failures, failures to himself and his associates, but ultimate successes to the country, for they led to the settlement of that great northern American continent.
But still earlier, in 1595, he had made a voyage to Guiana. The glories of Drake and the other piratical admirals, and the wondrous legend of the golden empire of Guiana, with its inconceivable affluence, and the reported splendours of its capital, Manoa, called by the Spaniards El Dorado, or the golden city, inflamed his imagination. He sailed thither, touching at Trinidad, as if on his way to Virginia; and the Spaniards, deluded by this belief, entered into friendly relations, and bartered various commodities with him. But suddenly Raleigh, watching his opportunity, fell on the garrison, killed the guard, and secured the person of Berrio, the governor, whom he carried away as guide to Guiana, Berrio having already settled a colony there. This transaction, which was in the true spirit of Drake and the rest, who acted in those regions as if the Spaniards were at war, though they were at entire peace with England, was one of the charges afterwards brought against him. To this Raleigh replied that Berrio, at Trinidad, had formerly made prisoners of eight Englishmen, and that to leave him at his back when he was about to ascend the Orinoco, was to have been an ass. Whether the story of the eight Englishmen was true or not, it was clearly no business of Raleigh's, and the real motive was partly the last assigned, to secure so dangerous a person as Berrio, and at the same time so valuable a guide. In fact, Raleigh, with all his genius, was never renowned for very scrupulous ideas of right and wrong, and shared in all the loose maritime notions of the age.
Thus provided, he sailed for the Orinoco, and advanced up it three hundred miles in boats. He seems to have heard many wonderful rumours of gold mines, and cities built of gold and silver, and embossed with precious stones; but he discovered no magnificent Manoa, with pinnacles blazing with diamonds and rubies, nor any gold mines, only signs of gold in the mountains beyond the Spanish town of St. Thomas. He gave out to the natives that he was come to relieve them of the Spaniards, and by their assistance explored the country for a month, when the waters of the mighty Orinoco rose so suddenly, and with such impetuosity, that they were carried down at the peril of their lives to their ships.
On his return Raleigh, though he brought no riches, brought marvellous descriptions of them. Though he had seen nothing but a pleasant country and friendly natives, he did not hesitate to publish the most amazing stories to draw fresh colleagues to the enterprise. Pie described the country and the climate in colours of heaven, and as for its riches, "the common soldier," he said, detailing the discovery of the large, rich, and beautiful empire of Guiana, with relations of the great and golden city, Manoa, "shall here fight for gold, and pay himself, instead of pence, with plates of half a foot broad, whereas he breaks his bones in other wars for provant and penury. Those commanders and chieftains that shoot at honour and abundance, shall find here more rich and beautiful cities, more temples adorned with golden images, more sepulchres filled with treasure, than either Cortez found in Mexico, or Pizarro in Peru."
Probably Raleigh believed all this himself, on the faith of the natives; but though several expeditions went out, nothing of the kind was discovered. But these failures in no degree abated the enthusiasm of Raleigh. He represented to objectors that the adventurers sent out were ignorant alike of the locality and of the art of conciliating the natives. Were he permitted to go, he would make Guiana to England what Peru was to Spain.
His glowing descriptions at length captivated the imagination of Winwood, who did his best to excite the cupidity of James on the subject, and not without effect, for he began to speak of Raleigh as a very clever and gallant fellow. The scheme suited James extremely well, as he was always in want of money, and Raleigh asked for nothing, not even a ship to accomplish the enterprise, but guaranteed to the king one-fifth of the gold. Still there was one obstacle; James dared not issue the desired commission without the approbation of the favourite, and this Raleigh arid his friends were obliged to purchase by a present of fifteen hundred pounds to Buckingham's uncles, Sir Edward Villiers and Sir William St. John.
In the month of August, 1616, Sir Walter issued from his thirteen years' captivity in the Tower, and commenced preparations for the voyage. Plenty of adventurers and co-operators were found: the countess of Bedford advanced eight thousand pounds, and lady Raleigh sold her estate at Micham for two thousand five hundred pounds. A fleet of fourteen sail was equipped and manned. But before Raleigh could get out to sea, the Spanish ambassador, Gondomar, had caught wind of the real destination of the squadron. The Spaniard was a deep politician, who assumed an air of gaiety and freedom which won on the courtiers, and not less on James, whose vanity he flattered to the utmost; often speaking false Latin, that James might correct him, he would reply, "Ah, your majesty speaks Latin like a pedant, but I only speak it like a gentleman." On making the discovery, Gondomar rushed into the presence of the king, exclaiming. "Pirates! pirates! pirates!"
James, who was always paralysed at the very idea of war, sent in a hurry for Raleigh, took back the patent which he had granted him, and altered it with his own hand. He strictly prohibited the adventurers from invading any territories in possession of his allies, especially of the king of Spain, but commanded that they should confine their enterprise to countries still in the hands of the heathen. They were allowed to trade and to defend themselves if attacked, but not to act on the offensive. He, moreover, demanded from Raleigh a memorial under his own hand, of the places with which he meant to trade, and the force he carried out. All this James is said to have shown to Gondomar, so that, fully forewarned, he despatched a squadron with troops to St. Thomas, of which his brother was governor.
In all this, it is clear that Raleigh was imposing on the king. This Raleigh himself admits in his address to lord Carew: - "I acquainted his majesty with my intention to land in Guiana, yet I never made it known to his majesty that the Spaniards had any footing there. Neither had I any authority from my patent to remove them thence." But this was a point on which Gondomar could and probably did enlighten James.
After the guarantees given by Raleigh, Gondomar appears to have ceased his opposition; having, moreover, taken measures to guard against any attack in Guiana. On the 28th of March, 1617, the fleet set sail, but owing to bad weather, was obliged to put into Cork, where they lay till August, and did not reach the coast of Guiana till November 12th, after a troublesome voyage of four months On arriving, two of his ships were missing: disease had reduced his men to a state of miserable weakness, forty-two on board Raleigh's own vessel having died. He himself was disabled for active service, and to his mortification he learned that a Spanish fleet was cruising near in order to intercept them. He wrote to his wife, that reduced as they were, he deemed himself in sufficient force to accomplish the enterprise if the care taken at home to let the Spaniards know of their numbers, had not caused all approaches to be fortified against them.
<<< Previous page <<<
>>> Next page >>>
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 <9> 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21