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Reign of Charles I. page 6


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In towns the people did not conceal their indignation at these proceedings. "Six poor tradesmen at Chelmsford stood out stiffly, notwithstanding the many threats and promises made them;" and the Londoners loudly shouted, "A parliament! a parliament! No parliament no money!" Still Charles went on in his mad course; no voice, mortal or immortal, could even for a moment break the spell of his delusion, Such of the judges and magistrates as appeared averse to enforce the detestable orders, were summarily dismissed. Sir Randolph Carew, the chief justice of the King's Bench, must give way to the more pliant Sir Nicholas Hyde, the adviser of Buckingham. But the lawyers in general were ready enough to break the laws by order of the court, and the clergy were still more so. Laud was now advanced, for his absolute and popish predilection, to the see of Bath and Wells, and sent forth a circular to the clergy enjoining them to preach up zealously the advance of money to the crown, as a work meriting salvation. He openly advocated a strict league and confederacy betwixt the church and state, by which they might trample over ail schism, heresy, and disloyalty. There was no lack of time-servers to second his efforts. Roger Mainwaring, one of the king's chaplains, a true high-priest to the golden calf, with the most shameless prostitution of the pulpit, declared before the king and court at Whitehall, that the power of the king was above all courts and parliaments; that parliament, indeed, was but an inferior kind of council, entirely at the king's will; the king's order was sufficient authority for the raising of money, and that all who refused it were guilty of unutterable sin, and liable to damnation. He insulted the Scriptures by dragging them in to prove all this; and would have sold, not his own soul only, but the souls of the whole nation to obtain a bishopric. He had his desire; and the success of such religious toadyism inflamed the clergy in the country with a like abjectness. One Robert Sibthorpe, vicar of Brockley, in an assize sermon preached at Northampton, declared that even if the king commanded people to resist the law of God, they were to obey him, to show no resistance, no railing, no reviling, - to be all passive obedience. To demonstrate the scriptural soundness of his doctrine, he quoted this verse of the book of Ecclesiastes: "Where the word of the king is, there is power; and who may say unto him what dost thou?"

Abbot, the archbishop, was applied to, to license the printing of this sermon; but the old man, who had always had a puritan leaning, which his high post only prevented him more fully demonstrating, declined to do it. In vain the king insisted; the archbishop was suspended, and sent to his country house; and Laud, who was hankering earnestly after the primacy, licensed the sermon. Sibthorpe did not fail of his reward; he was appointed chaplain in ordinary - it might have been better termed extraordinary - and received a prebend in Peterborough, and the goodly living of Burton Latimer. Andrew Marvell designated these model churchmen as "exceedingly pragmatical, intolerably ambitious, and so desperately proud that scarcely any gentleman might come near the tails of their mules." Such insolence is the eternal concomitant of the reptiles which crawl most obscenely at the foot of a good loaf and fish throne. The subserviency of the clergy was not one of the least evils which a tyrannic court fostered. The people saw more clearly than ever, that the church under such circumstances would become the stanch ally of despotism; and many even of its own honourable members, in the higher walks of life, shrunk away from it, and joined the ranks of the puritans, for no other reason than that they were resolute for the liberty of the subject.

Whilst the unhappy king was thus busily sowing the dragon's teeth which were to devour him, his domestic peace was utterly punished by the perverse temper of his wife, urged on by her infatuated French attendants. There was never wanting some subject of altercation. The queen was persuaded by her French advisers to give all the profitable posts connected with her dowry lands, to her countrymen. This Charles would not permit, and there were high scenes betwixt them on that account. Charles himself relates one of these, and says, "Thus she plainly bade me take my lands to myself, for if she had no power to put in whom she would into those places, she would have neither lands nor houses of me. I bade her remember to whom she spoke, and then she fell into a passionate discourse, how she was miserable in having no power to place servants, and that business succeeded worse for her recommendation. When I offered to answer, she would not so much as hear me, but went on lamenting, saying, 'that she was not of such base quality as to be used so.' But," says Charles, "I both made her hear me, and end that discourse."

The king appointed the earl of Holland, formerly lord Kennington, steward of her dowry lands; but the young bishop of Mantes showed his own commission from the queen, and would not resign the office. At length Charles felt compelled to finish this state of domestic warfare by driving away the French. We have the whole proceeding in the letter of John Pory, who was at the court, to Meade, whose letters we have already quoted. "On Monday last," says Pory, writing in June, 1626, "about three in the afternoon, the king passing into the queen's side (her side of the palace at Whitehall), and finding some Frenchmen, her servants, irreverently curvetting and dancing in her presence, took her by the hand and led her into his lodgings, locking the door after him, and shutting out all save the queen. Presently, lord Conway signified to her majesty's French servants, that, young and old, they must all depart thence to Somerset House, and remain there till they knew his majesty's pleasure. The women howled and lamented as if they were going to execution, but all in vain; for the guard, according to lord Conway's orders, thrust them all out of the queen's apartments, and locked the doors after them.

"It is said also the queen, when she understood the design, grew very impatient, and broke the glass windows with her fists; but since, I hear, her rage is appeased, and the king and she, since they went together to Nonsuch, have been very jocund together. The same day, the French being all at Somerset House, the king, as I have heard some to affirm, went thither, and made a speech to them to this purpose: - That he hoped the good king, his brother of France, would not take amiss what he had done; for the French, he said (particular persons he would not tax), had occasioned many jars and discontents between the queen and him; such, indeed, as longer were insufferable. He prayed them, therefore, to pardon him, if he sought his own ease and safety; and said, moreover, that he had given orders to his treasurer to reward every one of them for the year's service. So the next -morning, being Tuesday, there was distributed among them eleven thousand pounds in money, and twenty thousand pounds worth of jewels."

The fact was, however, that the French retinue having the jewels in their hands, would not give them up, but carried off both them and all the queen's clothes, as perquisites, leaving her actually without a change of linen, and not without much difficulty being persuaded to give an old satin gown for her immediate use. Besides this, they had incurred many debts in her name, which she afterwards told Charles were not on her account at all.

A more absolute set of harpies certainly never alighted on a, palace, and they had all the filth of harpies too. Spite of the king's orders, they still continued, on one excuse or other, to remain, till Charles's patience was exhausted, and he wrote from Oaking on the 7th of August, to Buckingham, to "force them away, driving them away like so many wild beasts, until he had shipped them. And so," said the king, "the devil go with them." But they were not so readily got rid of. The next day a great array of carriages, carts, and barges surrounded Somerset House, to take them off; but they refused to go, saying they had not been dismissed with the proper punctilios. The king thereupon sent trumpeters and heralds, backed by a troop of yeomanry, with orders that if they would not go out of themselves, to pack them neck and shoulders. The trumpeters proclaimed his majesty's pleasure at the gates, and the yeomen were ready to force them out; but they then thought better of it and went, but with many wild outcries and grimaces. Madame St. George, gesticulating violently, and pouring forth a torrent of abuse on the barbarous English, tearing her from her mistress, a stone was flung by one of the mob, which knocked off her cap. The nobleman who was conducting her to a barge, drew his sword, and ran the man through, to the great indignation of the people, and to the additional dislike of the French.

Thus was the king relieved of sixty nuisances and perpetual firebrands in his house. The only French attendants left were the queen's nurse, her dresser, and Madame de la Tremouille, who afterwards became lady Strange, and eventually the countess of Derby, so celebrated for her defence of Latham House. For Madame de la Tremouille, the king ordered apartments in St. James's palace to be prepared; but the housekeeper sent word that "her majesty's French retinue had so defiled that palace, that it would be long before it could be purified."

This unceremonious ejection made a strange sensation in the French court, whither the crowd of fugitives betook themselves, with loud representations and misrepresentations of their injuries, and of the king's barbarous treatment of the queen. Louis threatened war, and his two formal and foolish ambassadors, Tilliers and Blainville, only kept up the feeling of animosity. Sir Dudley Carleton, whom Charles despatched to Paris to explain the whole affair, was at first refused admittance to the king's presence, and the queen's mother and Richelieu gave him a very cold reception. But at length it was resolved to send marshal de Bassompierre to London, as ambassador, to hear from Henrietta herself the statement of her injuries. Bassompierre was a witty, accomplished, and gay courtier, having the reputation of considerable profligacy, but clear-sighted, and as his conduct showed in the whole affair, a very capable and straightforward man. To make the embassy as offensive as possible, father Sancy, whom Charles had expelled, was sent back in the character of Bassompierre's chaplain. The ambassador complained of the arrangement, and of the mischief it was likely to do. Accordingly, no sooner did Bassompierre arrive, in September, than the king sent to him his master of the ceremonies, Sir Lewis Lewknor, to insist that Sancy should be immediately ordered back again. Bassompierre, though himself unwillingly having him in his train, stood upon his right, as ambassador, to name his own chaplain.

Buckingham then waited on Bassompierre from the king, and desired that none of the matters in question should be entered upon at his public reception, for otherwise he would not receive him. He informed the ambassador that the king felt he could not go into the questions in dispute without losing his temper, which before the chief persons of the realm would not be beseeming, and that the queen might on their mention, commit some extravagance which would make things worse. Bassompierre was, therefore, received by the king and queen with much honour at Hampton Court; and the king informed him that as the queen was anxious to inquire all about her family, he had arranged that she should go to London, where she could converse at her pleasure with him. The feelings of the queen were so difficult to restrain, that saying a few words to the ambassador, tears rushed into her eyes, and she retired with Madame de la Tremouille to hide her emotion.

Bassompierre, in fact, found the queen in the highest state of exasperation both against the king and Buckingham; but he was not long in perceiving that Henrietta had been mis-advised, and led wrong by those who had been about her; and he set about earnestly and honestly to smooth her excitement and reconcile her with both parties. Buckingham had sided with the king, and in one of Henrietta's perverse moments, had told her to beware how she behaved, for in England queens had had their heads cut off before now. This was deeply resented by Henrietta, and the parties appeared irreconcilable. Yet Bassompierre determined to make peace, though for some time it appeared a doubtful attempt. Charles at their first private interview became extremely excited, and asked Bassompierre whether he was come to declare war against him. "I am not a herald, to declare war," calmly replied the ambassador, "but a marshal of France to make it when declared."

Charles then laid before Bassompierre a statement of his causes of complaint against the French attendants whom he had sent away. These were, that they had used their influence to create in the queen a repugnance to all that the king proposed or desired, and to foment a constant state of discord betwixt their majesties. That the priests had got to know everything that passed, and told it to others, and had done their best to strengthen the hands of the opposition in parliament against the king. That they had endeavoured to inspire the queen with a contempt of England, of its language and habits, and had used her very apartments for a rendezvous of the Jesuits and fugitives, and a place of refuge for the persons and effects of individuals who had violated the laws. That the bishop and his faction had carried their machinations far, and had taken houses in the suburbs in their own names to shelter such disaffected and outlawed personages. And finally, they had abused their power over the queen by making her go publicly to a place (Tyburn) where many catholics had suffered in past times, whereby they sought her to regard those executed malefactors as martyrs, and his ancestors as tyrants and persecutors.

Tins last charge we find thus stated by Pory in his letter to Meade on the 5th of July, 1626 – "And no longer ago than upon St. James's Day last, these hypocritical dogs made the poor queen to walk a-foot, some add barefoot, from her house in St. James's to the gallows at Tyburn, thereby to honour the saint of the day in visiting that holy place, where so many martyrs, forsooth, had shed their blood in defence of the catholic cause. Had they not also made her to dabble in the dirt on a foul morning from Somerset House to St. James's, her Luciferian confessor riding along by her in his coach! Yes, they have made her go barefoot, to spin, to eat her meat out of tryne (wooden) dishes, to wait at the table, and serve her servants; with many other ridiculous and absurd fooleries."

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Pictures for Reign of Charles I. page 6

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