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Reign of Charles I. page 34


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The fall of Strafford carried terror through the court. Many began to think of flying while it was time. Cottington had given up his office of master of the wards, and lord Save and various other noblemen of the popular party were introduced into the ministry. The marquis of Hertford was made governor to the prince, the earl of Essex lord chamberlain, the earl of Leicester the lord-lieutenant of Ireland, in place of Strafford. The king was wholly averse to the new ministers, but hoped to win upon them as he had done upon Strafford, Loudon, and Montrose; and indeed, after their appointment, a bolder and more independent spirit seemed to awaken in the lords. They threw out several bills sent up from the commons, amongst others, one for excluding the bishops from their house. Essex, though a great reformer, was by no means averse to the hierarchy, and always obliged his servants to accompany him to church, and kept a chaplain who was a thorough conformist. The lords did not object to the bishops and clergy in general being excluded from the star-chamber, the privy council, and the commissions of the peace; but they contended that bishops had always formed a part of their body, and that the commons might next take it into their heads to exclude barons.

The commons, however- pressed on the lords a bill for the abolition of the two greatest engines of tyranny in the country, the star-chamber and the High Commission Court, and these, with another for a poll-tax for the maintenance of the armies. The lords passed them, but Charles hesitated. He had given up much this session: the right of prorogation without consent of parliament, thus making parliament perpetual if it pleased; the right to demand tonnage and poundage without the same consent; he had limited the forest laws; granted to the judges their places during good behaviour; and withdrawn the commission for the presidency of the north as illegal. But to give up the civil and ecclesiastical inquisitions, those ready and terrible torture houses of the crown, went hard with him. The poll-tax he passed at once, because he thought it would be unpopular, but he refused the others. The commons came to a resolution that he should pass all three or none; and the tone of both parliament and the public was so menacing, that on the 5th of July he gave his consent, and put an end to those un-English abominations.

The terror of the court was on the increase. Mary de Medici, the queen's mother, was glad to get away, the only obstacle being the want of money; but the commons, glad to be rid of her, granted her ten thousand pounds, with which she departed, and got as far as Cologne, where she died shortly after. The earl of Arundel went with the queen-mother as her escort, and remained abroad collecting antiquities and works of art and science in Italy. The queen herself made another attempt to escape from the dangerous vicinity of parliament, and begged to be allowed to accompany her mother, and to seek the restoration of her health, which it was alleged had suffered much from anxiety, and from rumours and libels about her. To this, however, parliament was too prudent to consent, knowing well that Henrietta's real design was to arouse a spirit of sympathy for the king in France, and bring aid from that quarter, A deputation of both houses, therefore, waited on her to dissuade her from this intention, promising all means at home for the benefit of her health, and she graciously acquiesced.

The commons having granted the king six subsidies, and tonnage and poundage for the year, he now proposed to proceed to Scotland to hold a parliament. He was aware that a reaction had taken place there. The marquis of Montrose had exerted himself to form a party amongst such noblemen and gentlemen as had grown to regard the popular leaders both in Scotland and England as bearing too insolently on the prerogatives of the crown. He had prevailed on nineteen noblemen to subscribe a bond, pledging themselves "to oppose the particular and indirect practices of a few, and to study all public ends which might tend to the safety of religion, laws, and liberty." They were careful that the language of this bond should not clash openly with that of the covenant; but the real design did not escape the vigilance of the committee of estates. They called on Montrose and his associates to clear themselves, and obtaining the bond, burnt it publicly. Notwithstanding this, the confederates opened a secret correspondence with the king, and assured him of their confidence of victory over the covenanters, if he would honour the parliament with his presence, confirm his former concessions, and delay the distribution of offices and honours to the end of the session. But this correspondence also was discovered. Walter Stuart, the messenger of Montrose to the king, was seized near Haddington, and the letter of the marquis to the king, with various other suspicious papers, were found concealed in the pommel of his saddle. Montrose, lord Napier, Sir George Stirling, and Sir Archibald Stuart, were arrested, examined, and sent to the castle of Edinburgh.

These events rendered Charles still more impatient for his northern journey. Not only Traquair, and the other four of his officers who had been excepted from pardon as incendiaries, but these, his new allies, demanded his assistance. By the beginning of August the treaty of pacification was signed by the Scots. They had received an engagement from the English parliament for the payment of a balance of two hundred and twenty thousand pounds of "the brotherly assistance." Charles had granted an amnesty and an act of oblivion of all that was past, having cost the kingdom about one million one hundred thousand pounds, and both armies were ordered to be disbanded. The parliament, however, looked on this journey with no friendly eye. They were quite satisfied that nothing but necessity kept the king quiet. That he was intriguing with the reactionary party was become notorious, and that the Scotch army being disbanded, he would seize on any opportunity to undo whatever he could of his engagements. Even amongst his own friends, the wily old bishop of Lincoln, Williams, whom the king, in the absence of Laud, and the loss of Stratford, had taken into favour, and who was soon to be archbishop of York, advised Charles to keep away from the Scots. He assured him that they would ferret- out any secret negotiations that might pass betwixt himself and the royal party, and make the English commons acquainted with it; and that he would do much better to remain, and employ himself in corrupting and winning over as many as he could of the parliamentary leaders. The commons insisted on his appointing a regency, if he should go, to act during his absence; but he consented only to the naming of a commission. It was not till the 10th of August that he got permission for his journey, and he was not destined to depart without having another proof of the animus of the house of commons. On the 4th, serjeant Wild presented to the lords a bill of impeachment against thirteen of the bishops - Laud's name being put among them - for their late manufacturing of canons and constitutions contrary to law. They made their grant of a benevolence to the king an offence under the name of a bribe, and by this means, though they had not been able to exclude all the bishops from the upper house for ever, they excluded these thirteen for a time.

At length Charles was enabled to set out. He had made the earl of Holland commander-in-chief of the forces, much to the disgust of the friends of Essex, who was appointed commander only of those south of the Trent. He was attended in his coach by his nephew, Charles Louis, the nominal elector palatine, the duke of Lennox, now duke of Richmond, and the marquis of Hamilton, rather ominous associates. The king had not been gone a week, however, when Holland having quarrelled with the queen, and the king having refused to make a baron at his suggestion, by which he would have got ten thousand pounds, sent a letter to the house of lords, obscurely intimating some new practices and designs against parliament. The lords communicated to the commons this letter, and the two houses immediately appointed a commission to proceed to Scotland, ostensibly to procure the ratification of the late treaty, but really to keep watch over the king and his partizans. To this duty were named the earl of Bedford, lord Edward Howard, Sir William Almayne, Sir Philip Stapleton, Mr. Hampden, and Nathaniel Fiennes. The king endeavoured to get rid of this unwelcome commission, declaring it needless, and refused to sign the commission when sent to him; but the parliament still pressing it, he allowed the commissioners to proceed to Scotland to attend him; all of whom did so except the earl of Bedford.

Charles had set out with the resolve to win over as many of his enemies as possible, and to please the Scots at large, thereby to raise up a counter influence to that at home. At the northern camp, which was not yet broken up. he did all that he could to corrupt the officers, went to dine with old Leslie, the Scottish general, and soon after ennobled him. At Edinburgh he flattered the covenanters by attending their preachings, and went so far as to appoint Alexander Henderson, the stout champion of the covenant, his chaplain, appearing to take especial delight in his conversation, and having him constantly about him. Ill fact, when Charles had a motive for fawning on a particular party, he generally overdid it. He ratified all the acts of the last session of the Scottish parliament. As regarded the incendiaries, as they were called, that is, Charles's former ministers, who had been imprisoned for executing his commands, he promised on their release to give their offices to such persons as had pleased the parliament. He submitted to them a list of forty-two councillors, and nine great officers of state, The parliament conceded so far as to release all the incendiaries but five, and these were to be referred to a committee for trial, and their sentence to be pronounced by the king. So far, all promised well, but the covenanters were desirous to have the earl of Argyll, who had so openly espoused their cause in the general assembly, appointed to the chief post in the ministry, that of chancellor; but Charles conferred it on London. Argyll strove for the next, that of treasurer, a post of great emolument, but Charles named to it lord Ormond; but the parliament would not consent, and the contest for this appointment had gone on ten days, when the feud thus commenced, spite of the condescension of the king, was rent still wider by the occurrence which is known in Scottish history by the name of the "Incident."

Since Charles had come to Edinburgh, he had continued to keep up his correspondence with the marquis of Montrose, who was still prisoner in the castle, and who, notwithstanding his known intrigue with the king, had by concert with him kept up a pretence of being a zealous covenanter, A letter from Montrose, revealing the progress of this correspondence, had been found by some traitorous person about the king, supposed, indeed, to have been taken from his pocket, and that by the marquis of Hamilton it was sent to the covenanters. Montrose found means to convey to the king his ideas about it, and to warn him especially of the treasonable proceedings and intentions of Hamilton and Argyll, Hamilton, since his having, at Charles's request, assumed the part of a favourer of the covenanters, had had the usual fate of such go-betweens, and became suspected of being more really of that party than he pretended. The king had grown cool in his manner to Hamilton: the letters of Montrose, conveyed through William Murray, a favourite groom of the bed-chamber, urged the king, as we are assured by Clarendon, to make away with the traitors Hamilton and Argyll. At this juncture, the young lord Kerr sent by the earl of Crawford a challenge of treason to Hamilton, who appealed to parliament in his justification, and Kerr was compelled to make an apology. But if we are to believe Hamilton himself, this did not prevent the prosecution of the plot to assassinate or carry them off to some place of concealment. He says, in a letter to his brother, lord Lanark, in the Hardwicke State Papers, that he was sent for suddenly by his brother and Argyll, as he was engaged with some company, desiring him to go to them on matters of the utmost consequence, When he went, he was informed by them that they had been desired to go to general Leslie, at his house, who informed them of a plot to kill or carry them away, which was thus to be accomplished; - The king was to summon them to his presence, as if to consult with them; but on entering the ante-chamber, they were to be surrounded by two or three hundred armed men, headed by the earl of Crawford, and carried forcibly on board a ship of his majesty's which lay in the roads, and killed if they resisted On this being confirmed to Hamilton by colonel Hurrie and captain Stuart, the three lost no time in escaping from the city to Hamilton House, at Kinneil; whilst the rumour of the plot spreading, the burghers of Edinburgh had closed their gates, and armed themselves for the defence of the parliament.

As this was a direct charge of a most black and murderous design on the part of the king, he lost no time, on receiving letters from the fugitive noblemen stating why they had fled, in marching to the parliament house at the head of five hundred soldiers, to demand an explanation, The parliament was justly alarmed and offended at this menacing movement, and insisted that a commission should immediately be given to Leslie to guard parliament with all the city bands, the regiments of foot near at hand, and some troops of horse.

Charles was loud in his complaints on the scandal cast upon him by the needless flight of the three noblemen and the arming of the citizens, and demanded an instant examination before parliament for his clearance. The parliament would not consent to a trial before the whole house; but in spite of the king's remonstrances, referred it to a committee, and ordered the immediate arrest of the earl of Crawford, colonel Cochrane, William Murray, and others. What the committee discovered is unknown, for its proceedings were conducted with the profoundest secrecy; and they finally came to the conclusion that there was nothing which touched the king personally; and yet that the noblemen did not flee without sufficient cause, and were falsely accused by Montrose. Montrose himself, when examined regarding the letter to the king, declared that he meant to accuse nobody in particular; and Crawford, Murray, and the rest, gave confused and disordered answers. All was involved in mystery, and this was no little increased by Hamilton and Argyll returning to Edinburgh in the course of a few weeks, and Hamilton declaring that there was nothing in the affair which reflected any dishonour on the king. Still more to confound all reasoning on the matter, the plotters and incendiaries not only were liberated on bail, but Argyll was placed at the head of the treasury, was created a marquis, Hamilton a duke, and Leslie an earl, with the title of Leven. The whole business has remained an inex* plicable mystery, for the minutes of the committee of inquiry never could be discovered, and all that could be said was, that if Charles had planned this murderous scheme, it was very clumsily done; if he were innocent, his character was very clumsily and suspiciously dealt with. The news of the plot had been despatched with all speed to the parliament in England, and had created great alarm in London, many being of opinion that a conspiracy was on foot to get rid of all the king's opponents. Parliament, which had adjourned on the 9th of September to the 20th of October, had just met again, and the council sent urgent requests for the return of the king to the capital.

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Pictures for Reign of Charles I. page 34

Charles I.
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Edinburgh Castle
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