The mind of Charles the First was moulded by the Graces. His favourite Buckingham was probably a greater favourite for those congenial tastes, and the frequent exhibition of those splendid masques and entertainments, which combined all the picture of ballet dances with the voice of music; the charms of the verse of Jonson, the scenic machinery of Inigo Jones, and the variety of fanciful devices of Gerbier, the duke's architect, the bosom friend of Rubens. There was a costly magnificence in the fetes at York House, the residence of Buckingham, of which few but curious researchers are aware: they eclipsed the splendour of the French Court; for Bassompiere, in one of his despatches, declares he had never witnessed a similar magnificence. He describes the vaulted apartments, the ballets at supper, which were proceeding between the services with various representations, theatrical changes, and those of the tables, and the music; the duke's own contrivance, to prevent the inconvenience of pressure, by having a turning door made like that of the monasteries, which admitted only one person at a time. The following extract from a manuscript letter of the time conveys a lively account of one of those fetes.
"Last Sunday, at night, the duke's grace entertained their majesties and the French ambassador at York House with great feasting and show, where all things came down in clouds; amongst which, one rare device was a representation of the French king, and the two queens, with their chiefest attendants, and so to the life, that the queen's majesty could name them. It was four o'clock in the morning before they parted, and then the king and queen, together with the French ambassador, lodged there. Some estimate this entertainment at five or six thousand pounds." At another time, "the king and queen were entertained at supper at Gerbier the duke's painter's house, which could not stand him in less than a thousand pounds." Sir Symonds D'Ewes mentions banquets at five hundred pounds. The fullest account I have found of one of these entertainments, which at once show the curiosity of the scenical machinery and the fancy of the poet, the richness Of the crimson habits of the gentlemen, and the white dresses with white heron's plumes and jewelled head-dresses and ropes of pearls of the ladies, was in a manuscript letter of the times, with which I supplied the editor of "Jonson", who has preserved the narrative in his memoirs of that poet. "Such were the magnificent entertainments," says Mr. Gifford, "which, though modern refinement may affect to despise them, modern splendour never reached, even in thought." That the expenditure was costly, proves that the greater encouragement was offered to artists; nor should Buckingham be censured, as some will incline to, for this lavish expense; it was not unusual for the great nobility then; for the literary Duchess of Newcastle mentions that an entertainment of this sort, which the Duke gave to Charles the First, cost her lord between four and five thousand pounds. The ascetic puritan would indeed abhor these scenes; but their magnificence was also designed to infuse into the national character gentler feelings and more elegant tastes. They charmed even the fiercer republican spirits in their tender youth: Milton owes his Arcades and his delightful Comus to a masque at Ludlow Castle; and Whitelocke, who, was himself an actor and manager, in "a splendid royal masque of the four Inns of Courts joined together" to go to court about the time that Prynne published his Histriomastix, "to manifest the difference of their opinions from Mr. Prynne's new learning,"—seems, even at a later day, when drawing up his "Memorials of the English Affairs," and occupied by graver concerns, to have dwelt with all the fondness of reminiscence on the stately shows and masques of his more innocent age; and has devoted, in a chronicle, which contracts many an important event into a single paragraph, six folio columns to a minute and very curious description of "these dreams past, and these vanished pomps."
Charles the First, indeed, not only possessed a critical tact, but extensive knowledge in the fine arts, and the relics of antiquity. In his flight in 1642, the king stopped at the abode of the religious family of the Farrars at Gidding, who had there raised a singular monastic institution among themselves. One of their favorite amusements had been to form an illustrated Bible, the wonder and the talk of the country. In turning it over, the king would tell his companion the Palsgrave, whose curiosity in prints exceeded his knowledge, the various masters, and the character of their inventions. When Panzani, a secret agent of the Pope, was sent over to England to promote the Catholic cause, the subtle and elegant Catholic Barberini, called the protector of the English at Rome, introduced Panzani to the king's favour, by making him appear an agent rather for procuring him fine pictures, statues, and curiosities: and the earnest inquiries and orders given by Charles the First prove his perfect knowledge of the most beautiful existing remains of ancient art. "The statues go on prosperously," says Cardinal Barberini, in a letter to a Mazarin, "nor shall I hesitate to rob Rome of her most valuable ornaments, if in exchange we might be so happy as to have the King of England's name among those princes who submit to the Apostolic See." Charles the First was particularly urgent to procure a statue of Adonis in the Villa Ludovisia: every effort was made by the queen's confessor, Father Philips, and the vigilant cardinal at Rome; but the inexorable Duchess of Fiano would not suffer it to be separated from her rich collection of statues and paintings, even for the chance conversion of a whole kingdom of heretics."
This monarch, who possessed "four-and-twenty palaces, all of them elegantly and completely furnished," had formed very considerable collections. "The value of pictures had doubled in Europe, by the emulation between our Charles and Philip the Fourth of Spain, who was touched with the same elegant passion." When the rulers of fanaticism began their reign, "all the king's furniture was put to sale; his pictures, disposed of at very low prices, enriched all the collections in Europe; the cartoons when complete were only appraised at L300, though the whole collection of the king's curiosities were sold at above L50,000. Hume adds, "the very library and medals at St. James's were intended by the generals to be brought to auction, in order to pay the arrears of some regiments of cavalry; but Selden, apprehensive of this loss, engaged his friend Whitelocke, then lord-keeper of the Commonwealth, to apply for the office of librarian. This contrivance saved that valuable collection." This account is only partly correct: the love of books, which formed the passion of the two learned scholars whom Hume notices, fortunately intervened to save the royal collection from the intended scattering; but the pictures and medals were, perhaps, objects too slight in the eyes of the book-learned; they wore resigned to the singular fate of appraisement. After the Restoration very many books were missing; but scarcely a third part of the medals remained: of the strange manner in which these precious remains of ancient art and history were valued and disposed of, the following account may not be read without interest.
In March, 1648, the parliament ordered commissioners to be appointed, to inventory the goods and personal estate of the late king, queen, and prince, and appraise them for the use of the public. And in April, 1648, an act, adds Whitelocke, was committed for inventorying the late king's goods, &c.
This very inventory I have examined. It forms a magnificent folio, of near a thousand pages, of an extraordinary dimension, bound in crimson velvet, and richly gilt, written in a fair large hand, but with little knowledge of the objects which the inventory writer describes. It is entitled "An Inventory of the Goods, Jewels, Plate, &c. belonging to King Charles the First, sold by order of the Council of State, from the year 1619 to 1652." So that from the decapitation of the king, a year was allowed to draw up the inventory; and the sale proceeded during three years.
From this manuscript catalogue to give long extracts were useless; it has afforded, however, some remarkable observations. Every article was appraised, nothing was sold under the affixed price, but a slight competition sometimes seems to have raised the sum; and when the Council of State could not get the sum appraised, the gold and silver were sent to the Mint; and assuredly many fine works of art were valued by the ounce. The names of the purchasers appear; they are usually English, but probably many were the agents for foreign courts. The coins or medals were thrown promiscuously into drawers; one drawer having twenty-four medals, was valued at L2 10s.; another of twenty, at L1; another of twenty-four, at L1; and one drawer, containing forty-six silver coins with the box, was sold for L5. On the whole the medals seem not to have been valued at much more than a shilling a-piece. The appraiser was certainly no antiquary.
The king's curiosities in the Tower Jewel-house generally fetched above the price fixed; the toys of art could please the unlettered minds that had no conception of its works.
The Temple of Jerusalem, made of ebony and amber, fetched L25.
A fountain of silver, for perfumed waters, artificially made to play of itself, sold for L30.
A chess-board, said to be Queen Elizabeth's, inlaid with gold, silver, and pearls, L23.
A conjuring drum from Lapland, with an almanac cut on a piece of wood.
Several sections in silver of a Turkish galley, a Venetian gondola, an Indian canoe, and a first-rate man-of-war.
A Saxon king's mace used in war, with a ball full of spikes, and the handle covered with gold plates, and enamelled, sold for L37 8s.
A gorget of massy gold, chased with the manner of a battle, weighing thirty-one ounces, at L3 10s. per ounce, was sent to the Mint.
A Roman shield of buff leather, covered with a plate of gold, finely chased with a Gorgon's head, set round the rim with rubies, emeralds, turquoise stones, in number 137, L132 12s.
The pictures, taken from Whitehall, Windsor, Wimbledon, Greenwich, Hampton-Court, &c., exhibit, in number, an unparalleled collection. By what standard they were valued, it would perhaps be difficult to conjecture; from L50 to L100 seems to have been the limits of the appraiser's taste and imagination. Some whose price is whimsically low may have been thus rated from a political feeling respecting the portrait of the person; there are, however, in this singular appraised catalogue two pictures, which were rated at, and sold for, the remarkable sums of one and of two thousand pounds. The one was a sleeping Venus by Correggio, and the other a Madonna by Raphael. There was also a picture by Julio Romano, called "The great piece of the Nativity," at L500. "The little Madonna and Christ," by Raphael, at L800. "The great Venus and Parde," by Titian, at L600. These seem to have been the only pictures, in this immense collection, which reached a picture's prices. The inventory-writer had, probably, been instructed by the public voice of their value; which, however, would, in the present day, be considered much under a fourth. Rubens' "Woman taken in Adultery," described as a large picture, sold for L20; and his "Peace and Plenty, with many figures big as the life," for L100. Titian's pictures seem generally valued at L100. "Venus dressed by the Graces," by Guido, reached to L200.
The Cartoons of Raphael, here called "The Acts of the Apostles," notwithstanding their subject was so congenial to the popular feelings, and only appraised at L300, could find no purchaser!
The following full-lengths of celebrated personages were rated at these whimsical prices:
Queen Elizabeth in her parliament robes, valued L1.
The Queen-mother in mourning habit, valued L3.
Buchanan's picture, valued L3 10s.
The King, when a youth in coats, valued L2.
The picture of the Queen when she was with child, sold for five shillings.
King Charles on horseback, by Sir Anthony Vandyke, was purchased by Sir Balthazar Gerbier, at the appraised price of L200.
The greatest sums were produced by the tapestry and arras hangings, which were chiefly purchased for the service of the Protector. Their amount exceeds L30,000. I note a few.
At Hampton-Court, ten pieces of arras hangings of Abraham, containing 826 yards at L10 a yard, L8260.
Ten pieces of Julius Caesar, 717 ells at L7, L5019.
One of the cloth of estates is thus described:
"One rich cloth of estate of purple velvet, embroidered with gold, having the arms of England within a garter, with all the furniture suitable thereunto. The state containing these stones following: two cameos or agates, twelve chrysolites, twelve ballases or garnets, one sapphire seated in chases of gold, one long pearl pendant, and many large and small pearls, valued at L500 sold for L602 10s. to Mr. Oliver, 4 February, 1649."
Was plain Mr. Oliver, in 1649, who we see was one of the earlier purchasers, shortly after "the Lord Protector?" All the "cloth of estate" and "arras hangings" were afterwards purchased for the service of the Protector; and one may venture to conjecture, that when Mr. Oliver purchased this "rich cloth of estate," it was not without a latent motive of its service to the new owner.
There is one circumstance remarkable in the feeling of Charles the First for the fine arts: it was a passion without ostentation or egotism; for although this monarch was inclined himself to participate in the pleasures of a creating artist, the king having handled the pencil and composed a poem, yet he never suffered his private dispositions to prevail over his more majestic duties. We do not discover in history that Charles the First was a painter and a poet. Accident and secret history only reveal this softening feature in his grave and king-like character. Charles sought no glory from, but only indulged his love for, art and the artists. There are three manuscripts on his art, by Leonardo da Vinci, in the Ambrosian library, which bear an inscription that a King of England, in 1639, offered one thousand guineas of gold for each. Charles, too, suggested to the two great painters of his age the subjects he considered worthy of their pencils; and had for his "closet-companions" those native poets for which he was censured in "evil times," and even by Milton!
In his imprisonment at Carisbrook Castle, the author of the "Eikon Basilike" solaced his royal woes by composing a poem, entitled in the very style of this memorable volume, "Majesty in Misery, or an Imploration to the King of kings;" a title probably not his own, but like that volume, it contains stanzas fraught with the most tender and solemn feeling; such a subject, in the hands of such an author, was sure to produce poetry, although in the unpractised poet we may want the versifier. A few stanzas will illustrate this conception of part of his character:—
The fiercest furies that do daily tread Upon my grief, my grey-discrowned head, Are those that own my bounty for their bread.
With my own power my majesty they wound; In the king's name, the king himself uncrowned; So doth the dust destroy the diamond.
After a pathetic description of his queen "forced in pilgrimage to seek a tomb," and "Great Britain's heir forced into France," where,
Poor child, he weeps out his inheritance!
They promise to erect my royal stem; To make me great, to advance my diadem; If I will first fall down and worship them!
But for refusal they devour my thrones, Distress my children, and destroy my bones; I fear they'll force me to make bread of stones.
And implores, with a martyr's piety, the Saviour's forgiveness for those who were more misled than criminal:
Such as thou know'st do not know what they do.
As a poet and a painter, Charles is not popularly known; but this article was due, to preserve the memory of the royal votary's ardour and pure feelings for the love of the Fine Arts.
SECRET HISTORY OF CHARLES THE FIRST, AND HIS QUEEN HENRIETTA.
The secret history of Charles the First, and his queen Henrietta of France, opens a different scene from the one exhibited in the passionate drama of our history.
The king is accused of the most spiritless uxoriousness; and the chaste fondness of a husband is placed among his political errors. Even Hume conceives that his queen "precipitated him into hasty and imprudent counsels," and Bishop Kennet had alluded to "the influence of a stately queen over an affectionate husband." The uxoriousness of Charles is re-echoed by all the writers of a certain party. This is an odium which the king's enemies first threw out to make him contemptible; while his apologists imagined that, in perpetuating this accusation, they had discovered, in a weakness which has at least something amiable, some palliation for his own political misconduct. The factious, too, by this aspersion, promoted the alarm they spread in the nation, of the king's inclination to popery; yet, on the contrary, Charles was then making a determined stand, and at length triumphed over a Catholic faction, which was ruling his queen; and this at the risk and menace of a war with France. Yet this firmness too has been denied him, even by his apologist Hume: that historian, on his preconceived system, imagined that every action of Charles originated in the Duke of Buckingham, and that the duke pursued his personal quarrel with Richelieu, and taking advantage of these domestic quarrels, had persuaded Charles to dismiss the French attendants of the queen.
There are, fortunately, two letters from Charles the First to Buckingham, preserved in the State-papers of Lord Hardwicke, which set this point at rest: these decisively prove that the whole matter originated with the king himself, and that Buckingham had tried every effort to persuade him to the contrary; for the king complains that he had been too long overcome by his persuasions, but that he was now "resolved it must be done, and that shortly!"
It is remarkable, that the character of a queen, who is imagined to have performed so active a part in our history, scarcely ever appears in it; when abroad, and when she returned to England, in the midst of a winter storm, bringing all the aid she could to her unfortunate consort, those who witnessed this appearance of energy imagined that her character was equally powerful in the cabinet. Yet Henrietta, after all, was nothing more than a volatile woman; one who had never studied, never reflected, and whom nature had formed to be charming and haughty, but whose vivacity could not retain even a state-secret for an hour, and whose talents were quite opposite to those of deep political intrigue.
Henrietta viewed even the characters of great men with all the sensations of a woman. Describing the Earl of Strafford to a confidential friend, and having observed that he was a great man, she dwelt with far more interest on his person: "Though not handsome," said she, "he was agreeable enough, and he had the finest hands of any man in the world." Landing at Burlington-bay in Yorkshire, she lodged on the quay; the parliament's admiral barbarously pointed his cannon at the house; and several shots reaching it, her favourite, Jermyn, requested her to fly: she safely reached a cavern in the fields, but, recollecting that she had left a lap-dog asleep in its bed, she flew back, and amidst the cannon-shot returned with this other favourite. The queen related this incident of the lap-dog to her friend Madame Motteville; these ladies considered it as a complete woman's victory. It is in these memoirs we find, that when Charles went down to the house, to seize on the five leading members of the opposition, the queen could not restrain her lively temper, and impatiently babbled the plot; so that one of the ladies in attendance despatched a hasty note to the parties, who, as the king entered the house, had just time to leave it. Some have dated the ruin of his cause to the failure of that impolitic step, which alarmed every one zealous for that spirit of political freedom which had now grown up in the Commons. Incidents like these mark the feminine dispositions of Henrietta. But when at sea, in danger of being taken by a parliamentarian, the queen commanded the captain not to strike, but to prepare at the extremity to blow up the ship, resisting the shrieks of her females and domestics. We perceive how, on every trying occasion, Henrietta never forgot that she was the daughter of Henry the Fourth; that glorious affinity was inherited by her with all the sexual pride; and hence, at times, that energy in her actions which was so far above her intellectual capacity.
And, indeed, when the awful events she had witnessed were one by one registered in her melancholy mind, the sensibility of the woman subdued the natural haughtiness of her character; but, true woman! the feeling creature of circumstances, at the Restoration she resumed it, and when the new court of Charles the Second would not endure her obsolete haughtiness, the dowager-queen left it in all the full bitterness of her spirit. An habitual gloom, and the meagreness of grief, during the commonwealth, had changed a countenance once the most lively; and her eyes, whose dark and dazzling lustre was ever celebrated, then only shone in tears. When she told her physician, Sir Theodore Mayerne, that she found her understanding was failing her, and seemed terrified lest it was approaching to madness, the court physician, hardly courtly to fallen majesty, replied, "Madam, fear not that; for you are already mad." Henrietta had lived to contemplate the awful changes of her reign, without comprehending them.
Waller, in the profusion of poetical decoration, makes Henrietta so beautiful, that her beauty would affect every lover "more than his private loves." She was "the whole world's mistress." A portrait in crayons of Henrietta at Hampton-court sadly reduces all his poetry, for the miraculous was only in the fancy of the court-poet. But there may be some truth in what he says of the eyes of Henrietta:—
Such eyes as yours, on Jove himself, had thrown As bright and fierce a lightning as his own.
And in another poem there is one characteristic line:—
—— such radiant eyes, Such lovely motion, and such sharp replies.
In a MS. letter of the times, the writer describes the queen as "nimble and quick, black-eyed, brown-haired, and a brave lady." In the MS. journal of Sir Symonds D'Ewes, who saw the queen on her first arrival in London, cold and puritanic as was that antiquary, he notices with some warmth "the features of her face, which were much enlivened by her radiant and sparkling black eye." She appears to have possessed French vivacity both in her manners and her conversation: in the history of a queen, an accurate conception of her person enters for something.
Her talents were not of that order which could influence the revolutions of a people. Her natural dispositions might have allowed her to become a politician of the toilet, and she might have practised those slighter artifices, which may be considered as so many political coquetries. But Machiavelian principles, and involved intrigues, of which she has been so freely accused, could never have entered into her character. At first she tried all the fertile inventions of a woman to persuade the king that she was his humblest creature, and the good people of England that she was quite in love with them. Now that we know that no female was ever more deeply tainted with Catholic bigotry, and that, haughty as she was, this princess suffered the most insulting superstitions, inflicted as penances by her priests, for this very marriage with a Protestant prince, the following new facts relating to her first arrival in England curiously contrast with the mortified feelings she must have endured by the violent suppression of her real ones.
We must first bring forward a remarkable and unnoticed document in the Embassies of Marshal Bassompierre. It is nothing less than a most solemn obligation contracted with the Pope and her brother the King of France, to educate her children as Catholics, and only to choose Catholics to attend them. Had this been known either to Charles or to the English nation, Henrietta could never have been permitted to ascend the English throne. The fate of both her sons shows how faithfully she performed this treasonable contract. This piece of secret history opens the concealed cause of those deep impressions of that faith which both monarchs sucked in with their milk; that triumph of the cradle over the grave which most men experience; Charles the Second died a Catholic, James the Second lived as one.
When Henrietta was on her way to England, a legate from Rome arrested her at Amiens, requiring the princess to undergo a penance, which was to last sixteen days, for marrying Charles without the papal dispensation. The queen stopped her journey, and wrote to inform the king of the occasion. Charles, who was then waiting for her at Canterbury, replied, that if Henrietta did not instantly proceed, he would return alone to London. Henrietta doubtless sighed for the Pope and the penance, but she set off the day she received the king's letter. The king, either by his wisdom or his impatience, detected the aim of the Roman pontiff, who, had he been permitted to arrest the progress of a Queen of England for sixteen days in the face of all Europe, would thus have obtained a tacit supremacy over a British monarch.
When the king arrived at Canterbury, although not at the moment prepared to receive him, Henrietta flew to meet him, and with all her spontaneous grace and native vivacity, kneeling at his feet, she kissed his hand, while the king, bending over her, wrapped her in his arms, and kissed her with many kisses. This royal and youthful pair, unusual with those of their rank, met with the eagerness of lovers, and the first words of Henrietta were those of devotion; Sire! je suis venue en ce pays de votre majeste pour etre usee et commandee de vous. It had been rumoured that she was of a very short stature, but, reaching to the king's shoulder, his eyes were cast down to her feet, seemingly observing whether she used art to increase her height. Anticipating his thoughts, and playfully showing her feet, she declared, that "she stood upon her own feet, for thus high I am, and neither higher nor lower." After an hour's conversation in privacy, Henrietta took her dinner surrounded by the court; and the king, who had already dined, performing the office of her carver, cut a pheasant and some venison. By the side of the queen stood her ghostly confessor, solemnly reminding her that this was the eve of John the Baptist, and was to be fasted, exhorting her to be cautious that she set no scandalous example on her first arrival. But Charles and his court were now to be gained over, as well as John the Baptist. She affected to eat very heartily of the forbidden meat, which gave great comfort, it seems, to several of her new heretical subjects then present: but we may conceive the pangs of so confirmed a devotee. She carried her dissimulation so far, that being asked about this time whether she could abide a Huguenot? she replied, "Why not? was not my father one?" Her ready smiles, the graceful wave of her hand, the many "good signs of hope," as a contemporary in a manuscript letter expresses it, induced many of the English to believe that Henrietta might even become one of themselves! Sir Symonds D'Ewes, as appears by his manuscript diary, was struck by "her deportment to her women, and her looks to her servants, which were so sweet and humble!" However, this was in the first days of her arrival, and these "sweet and humble looks" were not constant ones; for a courier at Whitehall, writing to a friend, observes that "the queen, however little of stature, yet is of a pleasing countenance, if she be pleased, otherwise full of spirit and vigour, and seems of more than ordinary resolution;" and he adds an incident of one of her "frowns." The room in which the queen was at dinner, being somewhat over-heated with the fire and company, "she drove us all out of the chamber. I suppose none but a queen could have cast such a scowl." We may already detect the fair waxen mask melting away on the features it covered, even in one short month!
By the marriage-contract, Henrietta was to be allowed a household establishment, composed of her own people; and this had been contrived to be not less than a small French colony, exceeding three hundred persons. It composed, in fact, a French faction, and looks like a covert project of Richelieu's to further his intrigues here, by opening a perpetual correspondence with the discontented Catholics of England. In the instructions of Bassompierre, one of the alleged objects of the marriage is the general good of the Catholic religion, by affording some relief to those English who professed it. If, however, that great statesman ever entertained this political design, the simplicity and pride of the Roman priests here completely overturned it; for in their blind zeal they dared to extend their domestic tyranny over majesty itself.
The French party had not long resided here ere the mutual jealousies between the two nations broke out. All the English who were not Catholics were soon dismissed from their attendance on the queen, by herself; while Charles was compelled, by the popular cry, to forbid any English Catholics to serve the queen, or to be present at the celebration of her mass. The king was even obliged to employ pursuivants or king's messengers, to stand at the door of her chapel to seize on any of the English who entered there, while on these occasions the French would draw their swords to defend these concealed Catholics. "The queen and hers" became an odious distinction in the nation. Such were the indecent scenes exhibited in public; they were not less reserved in private. The following anecdote of saying a grace before the king, at his own table, in a most indecorous race run between the catholic priest and the king's chaplain, is given in a manuscript letter of the times.
"The king and queen dining together in the presence, Mr. Hacket (chaplain to the Lord Keeper Williams) being then to say grace, the confessor would have prevented him, but that Hacket shoved him away; whereupon the confessor went to the queen's side, and was about to say grace again, but that the king pulling the dishes unto him, and the carvers falling to their business, hindered. When dinner was done, the confessor thought, standing by the queen, to have been before Mr. Hacket, but Mr. Hacket again got the start. The confessor, nevertheless, begins his grace as loud as Mr. Hacket, with such a confusion, that the king in great passion instantly rose from the table, and, taking the queen by the hand, retired into the bedchamber." It is with difficulty we conceive how such a scene of priestly indiscretion should have been suffered at the table of an English sovereign.
Such are the domestic accounts I have gleaned from MS. letters of the times; but particulars of a deeper nature may be discovered in the answer of the king's council to Marshal Bassompierre, preserved in the history of his embassy; this marshal had been hastily despatched as an extraordinary ambassador when the French party were dismissed. This state-document, rather a remonstrance than a reply, states that the French household had formed a little republic within themselves, combining with the French resident ambassador, and inciting the opposition members in parliament; a practice usual with that intriguing court, even from the days of Elizabeth, as the original letters of the French ambassador of the time, which will be found in the third volume, amply show; and those of La Boderie in James the First's time, who raised a French party about Prince Henry; and the correspondence of Barillon in Charles the Second's reign, so fully exposed in his entire correspondence published by Fox. The French domestics of the queen were engaged in lower intrigues; they lent their names to hire houses in the suburbs of London, where, under their protection, the English Catholics found a secure retreat to hold their illegal assemblies, and where the youth of both sexes were educated and prepared to be sent abroad to Catholic seminaries. But the queen's priests, by those well-known means which the Catholic religion sanctions, were drawing from the queen the minutest circumstances which passed in privacy between her and the king; indisposed her mind towards her royal consort, impressed on her a contempt of the English nation, and a disgust of our customs, and particularly, as has been usual with the French, made her neglect the English language, as if the queen of England held no common interest with the nation. They had made her residence a place of security for the persons and papers of the discontented. Yet all this was hardly more offensive than the humiliating state to which they had reduced an English queen by their monastic obedience: inflicting the most degrading penances. One of the most flagrant is alluded to in our history. This was a barefoot pilgrimage to Tyburn, where, one morning, under the gallows on which so many Jesuits had been executed as traitors to Elizabeth and James the First, she knelt and prayed to them as martyrs and saints who had shed their blood in defence of the Catholic cause. A manuscript letter of the times mentions that "the priests had also made her dabble in the dirt in a foul morning from Somerset-house to St. James's, her Luciferian confessor riding along by her in his coach! They have made her to go barefoot, to spin, to eat her meat out of dishes, to wait at the table of servants, with many other ridiculous and absurd penances. And if they dare thus insult (adds the writer) over the daughter, sister, and wife of so great kings, what slavery would they not make us, the people, to undergo!"
One of the articles in the contract of marriage was, that the queen should have a chapel at St. James's, to be built and consecrated by her French bishop; the priests became very importunate, declaring that without a chapel mass could not be performed with the state it ought before a queen. The king's answer is not that of a man inclined to popery. "If the queen's closet, where they now say mass, is not large enough, let them have it in the great chamber; and, if the great chamber is not wide enough, they might use the garden; and, if the garden would not serve their turn, then was the park the fittest place."
The French priests and the whole party feeling themselves slighted, and sometimes worse treated, were breeding perpetual quarrels among themselves, grew weary of England, and wished themselves away: but many having purchased their places with all their fortune, would have been ruined by the breaking up of the establishment. Bassompierre alludes to the broils and clamours of these French strangers, which exposed them to the laughter of the English court; and we cannot but smile in observing, in one of the despatches of this great mediator between two kings and a queen, addressed to the minister, that one of the greatest obstacles which he had found in this difficult negotiation arose from the bedchamber women! The French king being desirous of having two additional women to attend the English queen his sister, the ambassador declares, that "it would be more expedient rather to diminish than to increase the number; for they all live so ill together, with such rancorous jealousies and enmities, that I have more trouble to make them agree than I shall find to accommodate the differences between the two kings. Their continual bickerings, and often their vituperative language, occasion the English to entertain the most contemptible and ridiculous opinions of our nation. I shall not, therefore, insist on this point, unless it shall please his majesty to renew it."
The French bishop was under the age of thirty, and his authority was imagined to have been but irreverently treated by two beautiful viragos in that civil war of words which was raging; one of whom, Madame St. George, was in high favour, and most intolerably hated by the English. Yet such was English gallantry, that the king presented this lady on her dismission with several thousand pounds and jewels. There was something inconceivably ludicrous in the notions of the English, of a bishop hardly of age, and the gravity of whose character was probably tarnished by French gesture and vivacity. This French establishment was daily growing in expense and number; a manuscript letter of the times states that it cost the king L240 a day, and had increased from threescore persons to four hundred and forty, besides children!
It was one evening that the king suddenly appeared, and, summoning the French household, commanded them to take their instant departure—the carriages were prepared for their removal. In doing this, Charles had to resist the warmest entreaties, and even the vehement anger of the queen, who is said in her rage to have broken several panes of the window of the apartment to which the king dragged her, and confined her from them.
The scene which took place among the French people, at the sudden announcement of the king's determination, was remarkably indecorous. They instantly flew to take possession of all the queen's wardrobe and jewels; they did not leave her, it appears, a change of linen, since it was with difficulty she procured one as a favour, according to some manuscript letters of the times. One of their extraordinary expedients was that of inventing bills, for which they pretended they had engaged themselves on account of the queen, to the amount of L10,000, which the queen at first owned to, but afterwards acknowledged the debts were fictitious ones. Among these items was one of L400 for necessaries for her majesty; an apothecary's bill for drugs of L800; and another of L150 for "the bishop's unholy water," as the writer expresses it. The young French bishop attempted by all sorts of delays to avoid this ignominious expulsion; till the king was forced to send his yeomen of the guards to turn them out from Somerset-house, where the juvenile French bishop, at once protesting against it, and mounting the steps of the coach, took his departure "head and shoulders." It appears that to pay the debts and the pensions, besides sending the French troops free home, cost L50,000.
In a long procession of nearly forty coaches, after four days' tedious travelling, they reached Dover; but the spectacle of these impatient foreigners so reluctantly quitting England, gesticulating their sorrows or their quarrels, exposed them to the derision, and stirred up the prejudices of the common people. As Madame George, whose vivacity is always described as extravagantly French, was stepping into the boat, one of the mob could not resist the satisfaction of flinging a stone at her French cap; an English courtier, who was conducting her, instantly quitted his charge, ran the fellow through the body, and quietly returned to the boat. The man died on the spot; but no farther notice appears to have been taken of the inconsiderate gallantry of this English courtier.
But Charles did not show his kingly firmness only on this occasion: it did not forsake him when the French Marshal Bassompierre was instantly sent over to awe the king; Charles sternly offered the alternative of war, rather than permit a French faction to trouble an English court. Bassompierre makes a curious observation in a letter to the French Bishop of Mende, he who had been just sent away from England; and which serves as the most positive evidence of the firm refusal of Charles the First. The French marshal, after stating the total failure of his mission, exclaims, "See, sir, to what we are reduced! and imagine my grief, that the Queen of Great Britain has the pain of viewing my departure without being of any service to her; but if you consider that I was sent here to make a contract of marriage observed, and to maintain the Catholic religion in a country from which they formerly banished it to make a contract of marriage, you will assist in excusing me of this failure." The French marshal has also preserved the same distinctive feature of the nation, as well as of the monarch, who, surely to his honour as King of England, felt and acted on this occasion as a true Briton. "I have found," says the Gaul, "humility among Spaniards, civility and courtesy among the Swiss, in the embassies I had the honour to perform for the king; but the English would not in the least abate of their natural pride and arrogance. The king is so resolute not to re-establish any French about the queen, his consort, and was so stern (rude) in speaking to me, that it is impossible to have been more so." In a word, the French marshal, with all his vaunts and his threats, discovered that Charles the First was the true representative of his subjects, and that the king had the same feelings with the people: this indeed was not always the case! This transaction took place in 1626, and when, four years afterwards, it was attempted again to introduce certain French persons, a bishop and a physician, about the queen, the king absolutely refused even a French physician, who had come over with the intention of being chosen the queen's, under the sanction of the queen mother. This little circumstance appears in a manuscript letter from Lord Dorchester to M. de Vic, one of the king's agents at Paris. After an account of the arrival of this French physician, his lordship proceeds to notice the former determinations of the king; "yet this man," he adds, "hath been addressed to the ambassador to introduce him into the court, and the queen persuaded in cleare and plaine terms to speak to the king to admit him as domestique. His majesty expressed his dislike of this proceeding, but contented himself to let the ambassador know that this doctor may return as he is come, with intimation that he should do it speedily; the French ambassador, willing to help the matter, spake to the king that the said doctor might be admitted to kiss the queen's hand, and to carrie the news into France of her safe delivery: which the king excused by a civil answer, and has since commanded me to let the ambassador understand, that he had heard him as Monsieur de Fontenay in this particular, but, if he should persist and press him as ambassador, he should be forced to say that which would displease him." Lord Dorchester adds, that he informs M. de Vic of these particulars, that he should not want for the information should the matter be revived by the French court, otherwise he need not notice it.
By this narrative of secret history, Charles the First does not appear so weak a slave to his queen as our writers echo from each other; and those who make Henrietta so important a personage in the cabinet, appear to have been imperfectly acquainted with her real talents. Charles, indeed, was deeply enamoured of the queen, for he was inclined to strong personal attachments; and "the temperance of his youth, by which he had lived so free from personal vice," as May, the parliamentary historian expresses it, even the gay levity of Buckingham seems never, in approaching the king, to have violated. Charles admired in Henrietta all those personal graces which he himself wanted; her vivacity in conversation enlivened his own seriousness, and her gay volubility the defective utterance of his own; while the versatility of her manners relieved his own formal habits. Doubtless the queen exercised the same power over this monarch which vivacious females are privileged by nature to possess over their husbands; she was often listened to, and her suggestions were sometimes approved; but the fixed and systematic principles of the character and the government of this monarch must not be imputed to the intrigues of a mere lively and volatile woman; we must trace them to a higher source; to his own inherited conceptions of the regal rights, if we would seek for truth, and read the history of human nature in the history of Charles the First.
Long after this article was published, the subject has been more critically developed in my "Commentaries on the Life and Reign of Charles the First."
THE MINISTER—THE CARDINAL DUKE OF RICHELIEU.
Richelieu was the greatest of statesmen, if he who maintains himself by the greatest power is necessarily the greatest minister. He was called "the King of the King." After having long tormented himself and France, he left a great name and a great empire—both alike the victims of splendid ambition! Neither this great minister nor this great nation tasted of happiness under his mighty administration. He had, indeed, a heartlessness in his conduct which obstructed by no relentings those remorseless decisions which made him terrible. But, while he trode down the princes of the blood and the nobles, and drove his patroness, the queen-mother, into a miserable exile, and contrived that the king should fear and hate his brother, and all the cardinal-duke chose, Richelieu was grinding the face of the poor by exorbitant taxation, and converted every town in France into a garrison; it was said of him, that he never liked to be in any place where he was not the strongest. "The commissioners of the exchequer and the commanders of the army believe themselves called to a golden harvest; and in the interim the cardinal is charged with the sins of all the world, and is even afraid of his life." Thus Grotius speaks, in one of his letters, of the miserable situation of this great minister, in his account of the court of France in 1635, when he resided there as Swedish ambassador. Yet such is the delusion of these great politicians, who consider what they term state-interests as paramount to all other duties, human or divine, that while their whole life is a series of oppression, of troubles, of deceit, and of cruelty, their state-conscience finds nothing to reproach itself with. Of any other conscience it seems absolutely necessary that they should be divested. Richelieu, on his death-bed, made a solemn protestation, appealing to the last judge of man, who was about to pronounce his sentence, that he never proposed anything but for the good of religion and the state; that is, the Catholic religion and his own administration. When Louis the Thirteenth, who visited him in his last moments, took from the hand of an attendant a plate with two yolks of eggs, that the King of France might himself serve his expiring minister, Richelieu died in all the self-delusion of a great minister.
The sinister means he practised, and the political deceptions he contrived, do not yield in subtilty to the dark grandeur of his ministerial character. It appears that, at a critical moment, when he felt the king's favour was wavering, he secretly ordered a battle to be lost by the French, to determine the king at once not to give up a minister who, he knew, was the only man who could extricate him out of this new difficulty. In our great civil war, this minister pretended to Charles the First that he was attempting to win the parliament over to him, while he was backing their most secret projects against Charles. When a French ambassador addressed the parliament as an independent power, after the king had broken with it, Charles, sensibly affected, remonstrated with the French court; the minister disavowed the whole proceeding, and instantly recalled the ambassador, while at the very moment his secret agents were, to their best, embroiling the affairs of both parties. The object of Richelieu was to weaken the English monarchy, so as to busy itself at home, and prevent its fleets and its armies thwarting his projects on the Continent, lest England, jealous of the greatness of France, should declare itself for Spain the moment it had recovered its own tranquillity. This is a stratagem too ordinary with great ministers, those plagues of the earth, who, with their state-reasons, are for cutting as many throats as God pleases among every other nation.
A fragment of the secret history of this great minister may be gathered from that of some of his confidential agents. One exposes an invention of this minister's to shorten his cabinet labours, and to have at hand a screen, when that useful contrivance was requisite; the other, the terrific effects of an agent setting up to be a politician on his own account, against that of his master.
Richelieu's confessor was one Father Joseph; but this man was designed to be employed rather in state-affairs, than in those which concerned his conscience. This minister, who was never a penitent, could have none. Father Joseph had a turn for political negotiation, otherwise he had not been the cardinal's confessor; but this turn was of that sort, said the nuncio Spada, which was adapted to follow up to the utmost the views and notions of the minister, rather than to draw the cardinal to his, or to induce him to change a tittle of his designs. The truth is, that Father Joseph preferred going about in his chariot on ministerial missions, rather than walking solitarily to his convent, after listening to the unmeaning confessions of Cardinal Richelieu. He made himself so intimately acquainted with the plans and the will of this great minister, that he could venture at a pinch to act without orders: and foreign affairs were particularly consigned to his management. Grotius, when Swedish ambassador, knew them both. Father Joseph, he tells us, was employed by Cardinal Richelieu to open negotiations, and put them in a way to succeed to his mind, and then the cardinal would step in, and undertake the finishing himself. Joseph took businesses in hand when they were green, and, after ripening them, he handed them over to the cardinal. In a conference which Grotius held with the parties, Joseph began the treaty, and bore the brunt of the first contest. After a warm debate, the cardinal interposed as arbitrator: "A middle way will reconcile you," said the minister, "and as you and Joseph can never agree, I will now make you friends."
That this was Richelieu's practice, appears from another similar personage mentioned by Grotius, but one more careless and less cunning. When the French ambassador, Leon Brulart, assisted by Joseph, concluded at Ratisbon a treaty with the emperor's ambassador, on its arrival the cardinal unexpectedly disapproved of it, declaring that the ambassador had exceeded his instructions. But Brulart, who was an old statesman, and Joseph, to whom the cardinal confided his most secret views, it was not supposed could have committed such a gross error; and it was rather believed that the cardinal changed his opinions with the state of affairs, wishing for peace or war as they suited the French interests, or as he conceived they tended to render his administration necessary to the crown. When Brulart, on his return from his embassy, found this outcry raised against him, and not a murmur against Joseph, he explained the mystery; the cardinal had raised this clamour against him merely to cover the instructions which he had himself given, and which Brulart was convinced he had received, through his organ, Father Joseph; a man, said he, who has nothing of the Capuchin but the frock, and nothing of the Christian but the name: a mind so practised in artifices, that he could do nothing without deception: and during the whole of the Ratisbon negotiation, Brulart discovered that Joseph would never communicate to him any business till the whole was finally arranged: the sole object of his pursuit was to find means to gratify the cardinal. Such free sentiments nearly cost Brulart his head: for once in quitting the cardinal in warmth, the minister following him to the door, and passing his hand over the other's neck, observed, that "Brulart was a fine man, and it would be a pity to divide the head from the body."
One more anecdote of this good father Joseph, the favourite instrument of the most important and covert designs of this minister, has been preserved in the Memorie Recondite of Vittorio Siri, an Italian Abbe, the Procopius of France, but afterwards pensioned by Mazarin. Richelieu had in vain tried to gain over Colonel Ornano, a man of talents, the governor of Monsieur, the only brother of Louis XIII.; not accustomed to have his offers refused, he resolved to ruin him. Joseph was now employed to contract a particular friendship with Ornano, and to suggest to him, that it was full time that his pupil should be admitted into the council, to acquire some political knowledge. The advancement of Ornano's royal pupil was his own; and as the king had no children, the crown might descend to Monsieur. Ornano therefore took the first opportunity to open himself to the king, on the propriety of initiating his brother into affairs, either in council, or by a command in the army. This the king, as usual, immediately communicated to the cardinal, who was well prepared to give the request the most odious turn, and to alarm his majesty with the character of Ornano, who, he said, was inspiring the young prince with ambitious thoughts—that the next step would be an attempt to share the crown itself with his majesty. The cardinal foresaw how much Monsieur would be offended by the refusal and would not fail to betray his impatience, and inflame the jealousy of the king. Yet Richelieu bore still an open face and friendly voice for Ornano, whom he was every day undermining in the king's favour, till all terminated in a pretended conspiracy, and Ornano perished in the Bastile, of a fever, at least caught there:—so much for the friendship of Father Joseph! And by such men and such means the astute minister secretly threw a seed of perpetual hatred between the royal brothers, producing conspiracies often closing in blood, which only his own haughty tyranny had provoked.
Father Joseph died regretted by Richelieu; he was an ingenious sort of a creature, and kept his carriage to his last day, but his name is only preserved in secret histories. The fate of Father Caussin, the author of the "Cours Sainte," a popular book among the Catholics for its curious religious stories, and whose name is better known than Father Joseph's, shows how this minister could rid himself of father confessors who persisted, according to their own notions, to be honest men, in spite of the minister. This piece of secret history is drawn from a narrative manuscript which Caussin left addressed to the general of the Jesuits.
Richelieu chose Father Caussin for the king's confessor, and he had scarcely entered his office when the cardinal informed him of the king's romantic friendship for Mademoiselle La Fayette, of whom the cardinal was extremely jealous. Desirous of getting rid altogether of this sort of tender connexion, he hinted to the new confessor that, however innocent it might be, it was attended with perpetual danger, which the lady herself acknowledged, and, warm with "all the motions of grace," had declared her intention to turn "Religieuse;" and that Caussin ought to dispose the king's mind to see the wisdom of the resolution. It happened, however, that Caussin considered that this lady, whose zeal for the happiness of the people was well known, might prove more serviceable at court than in a cloister, so that the good father was very inactive in the business, and the minister began to suspect that he had in hand an instrument not at all fitted to it like Father Joseph.
"The motions of grace" were, however, more active than the confessor, and Mademoiselle retired to a monastery. Richelieu learned that the king had paid her a visit of three hours, and he accused Caussin of encouraging these secret interviews. This was not denied, but it was adroitly insinuated that it was prudent not abruptly to oppose the violence of the king's passion, which seemed reasonable to the minister. The king continued these visits, and the lady, in concert with Caussin, impressed on the king the most unfavourable sentiments of the minister, the tyranny exercised over the exiled queen mother and the princes of the blood; the grinding taxes he levied on the people, his projects of alliance with the Turk against the Christian sovereigns, &c. His majesty sighed: he asked Caussin if he could name any one capable of occupying the minister's place? Our simple politician had not taken such a consideration in his mind. The king asked Caussin whether he would meet Richelieu face to face? The Jesuit was again embarrassed, but summoned up the resolution with equal courage and simplicity.
Caussin went for the purpose: he found the king closeted with the minister; the conference was long, from which Caussin augured ill. He himself tells us, that, weary of waiting in the ante-chamber, he contrived to be admitted into the presence of the king, when he performed his promise. But the case was altered! Caussin had lost his cause before he pleaded it, and Richelieu had completely justified himself to the king. The good father was told that the king would not perform his devotions that day, and that he might return to Paris. The next morning the whole affair was cleared up. An order from court prohibited this voluble Jesuit either from speaking or writing to any person; and farther, drove him away in an inclement winter, sick in body and at heart, till he found himself an exile on the barren rocks of Quimper in Brittany, where, among the savage inhabitants, he was continually menaced by a prison or a gallows, which the terrific minister lost no opportunity to place before his imagination; and occasionally despatched a Paris Gazette, which distilled the venom of Richelieu's heart, and which, like the eagle of Prometheus, could gnaw at the heart of the insulated politician chained to his rock.
Such were the contrasted fates of Father Joseph and Father Caussin! the one, the ingenious creature, the other, the simple oppositionist of this great minister.
THE MINISTER—DUKE OF BUCKINGHAM, LORD ADMIRAL, LORD GENERAL, &c. &c. &c.
"Had the Duke of Buckingham been blessed with a faithful friend, qualified with wisdom and integrity, the duke would have committed as few faults, and done as transcendent worthy actions as any man in that age in Europe." Such was the opinion of Lord Clarendon in the prime of life, when, yet untouched by party feeling, he had no cause to plead, and no quarrel with truth.
The portrait of Buckingham by Hume seems to me a character dove-tailed into a system, adjusted to his plan of lightening the errors of Charles the First by participating them among others. This character conceals the more favourable parts of no ordinary man: the spirit which was fitted to lead others by its own invincibility, and some qualities he possessed of a better nature. All the fascination of his character is lost in the general shade cast over it by the niggardly commendation, that he possessed "some accomplishments of a courtier." Some, indeed! and the most pleasing; but not all truly, for dissimulation and hypocrisy were arts unpractised by this courtier. "His sweet and attractive manner, so favoured by the graces," has been described by Sir Henry Wotton, who knew him well; while Clarendon, another living witness, tells us that "he was the most rarely accomplished the court had ever beheld; while some that found inconvenience in his nearness, intending by some affront to discountenance him, perceived he had masked under this gentleness a terrible courage, as could safely protect all his sweetnesses."
The very errors and infirmities of Buckingham seem to have started from qualities of a generous nature; too devoted a friend, and too undisguised an enemy, carrying his loves and his hatreds on his open forehead; too careless of calumny, too fearless of danger; he was, in a word, a man of sensation, acting from impulse; scorning, indeed, prudential views, but capable at all times of embracing grand and original ones; compared by the jealousy of faction to the Spenser of Edward the Second, and even the Sejanus of Tiberius, he was no enemy to the people; often serious in the best designs, but volatile in the midst; his great error sprung from a sanguine spirit. "He was ever," says Wotton, "greedy of honour and hot upon the public ends, and too confident in the prosperity of beginnings." If Buckingham was a hero, and yet neither general nor admiral; a minister, and yet no statesman; if often the creature of popular admiration, he was at length hated by the people; if long envied by his equals, and betrayed by his own creatures, "delighting too much in the press and affluence of dependents and suitors, who are always the burrs, and sometimes the briars of favourites," as Wotton well describes them; if one of his great crimes in the eyes of the people was, that "his enterprises succeeded not according to their impossible expectation;" and that it was a still greater, that Buckingham had been the permanent favourite of two monarchs, who had spoilt their child of fortune; then may the future inquirer find something of his character which remains to be opened; to instruct alike the sovereigns and the people, and "be worthy to be registered among the great examples of time and fortune."
Contrast the fate of BUCKINGHAM with that of his great rival, RICHELIEU. The one winning popularity and losing it; once in the Commons saluted as "their redeemer," till, at length, they resolved that "Buckingham was the cause of all the evils and dangers to the king and kingdom." Magnificent, open, and merciful; so forbearing, even in his acts of gentle oppression, that they were easily evaded; and riots and libels were infecting the country, till, in the popular clamour, Buckingham was made a political monster, and the dagger was planted in the heart of the incautious minister. The other statesman, unrelenting in his power, and grinding in his oppression, unblest with one brother-feeling, had his dungeons filled and his scaffolds raised, and died in safety and glory—a cautious tyrant!
There exists a manuscript memoir of Sir Balthazar Gerbier, who was one of those ingenious men whom Buckingham delighted to assemble about him: for this was one of his characteristics, that although the duke himself was not learned, yet he never wanted for knowledge; too early in life a practical man, he had not the leisure to become a contemplative one; he supplied this deficiency by perpetually "sifting and questioning well" the most eminent for their experience and knowledge; and Lord Bacon, and the Lord Keeper Williams, as well as such as Gerbier, were admitted into this sort of intimacy. We have a curious letter by Lord Bacon, of advice to our minister, written at his own request: and I have seen a large correspondence with that subtle politician, the Lord Keeper Williams, who afterwards attempted to supplant him, to the same purpose. Gerbier was the painter and architect, and at the same time one of the confidential agents of Buckingham; the friend of Rubens the painter, with whom he was concerned in this country to open a Spanish negotiation, and became at length the master of the ceremonies to Charles the Second, in his exile. He was an actor in many scenes. Gerbier says of himself, that "he was a minister who had the honour of public employment, and may therefore incur censure for declaring some passages of state more overtly than becomes such an one; but secrets are secrets but for a time; others may be wiser for themselves, but it is their silence which makes me write."
A mystery has always hung over that piece of knight-errantry, the romantic journey to Madrid, where the prime minister and the heir apparent, in disguise, confided their safety in the hands of our national enemies; which excited such popular clamour, and indeed anxiety, for the prince and the protestant cause. A new light is cast over this extraordinary transaction, by a secret which the Duke imparted to Gerbier. The project was Buckingham's; a bright original view, but taken far out of the line of precedence. It was one of those bold inventions which no common mind could have conceived, and none but the spirit of Buckingham could have carried on with a splendour and mastery over the persons and events, which turned out, however, as unfavourable as possible.
The restoration of the imprudent Palatine, the son-in-law of James the First, to the Palatinate which that prince had lost by his own indiscretion, when he accepted the crown of Bohemia, although warned of his own incompetency, as well as of the incapacity of those princes of the empire, who might have assisted him against the power of Austria and Spain, seemed, however, to a great part of our nation necessary to the stability of the protestant interests. James the First was most bitterly run down at home for his civil pacific measures, but the truth is, by Gerbier's account, that James could not depend on one single ally, who had all taken fright, although some of the Germans were willing enough to be subsidised at L30,000 a month from England; this James had not to give, and which he had been a fool had he given; for though this war for the protestant interests was popular in England, it was by no means general among the German Princes: the Prince Elector of Treves, and another prince, had treated Gerbier coolly; and observed, that "God in these days did not send prophets more to the protestants than to others, to fight against nations, and to second pretences which public incendiaries propose to princes, to engage them into unnecessary wars with their neighbours." France would not go to war, and much less the Danes, the Swedes, and the Hollanders. James was calumniated for his timidity and cowardice; yet, says Gerbier, King James merited much of his people, though ill-requited, choosing rather to suffer an eclipse of his personal reputation, than to bring into such hazard the reputation and force of his kingdoms in a war of no hopes.
As a father and a king, from private and from public motives, the restoration of the Palatinate had a double tie on James, and it was always the earnest object of his negotiations. But Spain sent him an amusing and literary ambassador, who kept him in play, year after year, with merry tales and bon mots. These negotiations had languished through all the tedium of diplomacy; the amusing promises of the courtly Gondomar were sure, on return of the courier, to bring sudden difficulties from the subtle Olivarez. Buckingham meditated by a single blow to strike at the true secret, whether the Spanish court could be induced to hasten this important object, gained over by the proffered alliance with the English crown, from the lips of the prince himself. The whole scene dazzled with politics, chivalry, and magnificence; it was caught by the high spirit of the youthful prince, who, Clarendon tells us, "loved adventures;" and it was indeed an incident which has adorned more than one Spanish romance. The panic which seized the English, fearful of the personal safety of the prince, did not prevail with the duke, who told Gerbier that the prince ran no hazard from the Spaniard, who well knew that while his sister, the fugitive Queen of Bohemia, with a numerous issue, was residing in Holland, the protestant succession to our crown was perfectly secured: and it was with this conviction, says Gerbier, that when the Count-Duke Olivarez had been persuaded that the Prince of Wales was meditating a flight from Spain, Buckingham with his accustomed spirit told him, that "if love had made the prince steal out of his own country, yet fear would never make him run out of Spain, and that he should depart with an equipage as fitted a Prince of Wales." This was no empty vaunt. An English fleet was then waiting in a Spanish port, and the Spanish court, inviting our prince to the grand Escurial, attended the departure of Charles, as Hume expresses it, with "elaborate pomp."
This attempt of Buckingham, of which the origin has been so often inquired into, and so oppositely viewed, entirely failed with the Spaniard. The catholic league outweighed the protestant. At first, the Spanish court had been as much taken by surprise as the rest of the world. All parties seemed at their first interview highly gratified. "We may rule the world together," said the Spanish to the English minister. They were, however, not made by nature, or state interests, to agree at a second interview. The Lord Keeper Williams, a wily courtier and subtle politician, who, in the absence of his patron Buckingham, evidently supplanted him in the favour of his royal master, when asked by James "whether he thought this knight-errant pilgrimage would be likely to win the Spanish lady," answered with much political foresight, and saw the difficulty: "If my lord marquis will give honour to the Count-Duke Olivarez, and remember he is the favourite of Spain; or, if Olivarez will show honourable civility to my lord marquis, remembering he is the favourite of England, the wooing may be prosperous: but if my lord marquis should forget where he is, and not stoop to Olivarez; or, if Olivarez, forgetting what guest he hath received with the prince, bear himself like a Castilian grandee to my lord marquis, the provocation may cross your majesty's good intentions." What Olivarez once let out, "though somewhat in hot blood, that in the councils of the king the English match had never been taken into consideration, but from the time of the Prince of Wales's arrival at Madrid," might have been true enough. The seven years which had passed in apparent negotiation resembled the scene of a fata morgana,—an earth painted in the air, raised by the delusive arts of Gondomar and Olivarez. As they never designed to realise it, it would of course never have been brought into the councils of his Spanish majesty. Buckingham discovered, as he told Gerbier, that the Infanta, by the will of her father, Philip the Third, was designed for the emperor's son,—the catholic for the catholic, to cement the venerable system. When Buckingham and Charles had now ascertained that the Spanish cabinet could not adopt English and protestant interests, and Olivarez had convinced himself that Charles would never be a Catholic, all was broken up; and thus a treaty of marriage, which had been slowly reared during a period of seven years, when the flower seemed to take, only contained within itself the seeds of war.
Olivarez and Richelieu were thorough-paced statesmen, in every respect the opposites of the elegant, the spirited, and the open Buckingham. The English favourite checked the haughty Castilian, the favourite of Spain, and the more than king-like cardinal, the favourite of France, with the rival spirit of his island, proud of her equality with the continent.
There is a story that the war between England and France was occasioned by the personal disrespect shown by the Cardinal-Duke Richelieu to the English Duke, in the affronting mode of addressing his letters. Gerbier says, the world are in a ridiculous mistake about this circumstance. The fact of the letters is true, since Gerbier was himself the secretary on this occasion. It terminated, however, differently than is known. Richelieu, at least as haughty as Buckingham, addressed a letter, in a moment of caprice, in which the word Monsieur was level with the first line, avoiding the usual space of honour, to mark his disrespect. Buckingham instantly turned on the cardinal his own invention. Gerbier, who had written the letter, was also its bearer. The cardinal started at the first sight, never having been addressed with such familiarity, and was silent. On the following day, however, the cardinal received Gerbier civilly, and, with many rhetorical expressions respecting the duke: "I know," said he, "the power and greatness of a high admiral of England; the cannons of his great ships make way, and prescribe law more forcibly than the canons of the church, of which I am a member. I acknowledge the power of the favourites of great kings, and I am content to be a minister of state, and the duke's humble servant." This was an apology made with all the politesse of a Gaul, and by a great statesman who had recovered his senses.
If ever minister of state was threatened by the prognostics of a fatal termination to his life, it was Buckingham; but his own fearlessness disdained to interpret them. The following circumstances, collected from manuscript letters of the times, are of this nature. After the sudden and unhappy dissolution of the parliament, popular terror showed itself in all shapes; and those who did not join in the popular cry were branded with the odious nickname of the dukelings.
A short time before the assassination of Buckingham, when the king, after an obstinate resistance, had conceded his assent to the "Petition of Right," the houses testified their satisfaction, perhaps their triumph, by their shouts of acclamation. They were propagated by the hearers on the outside, from one to the other, till they reached the city. Some confused account arrived before the occasion of these rejoicings was generally known. Suddenly the bells began to ring; bonfires were kindled; and in an instant all was a scene of public rejoicing. But ominous indeed were these rejoicings; for the greater part was occasioned by a false rumour that the duke was to be sent to the Tower. No one inquired about a news which every one wished to hear; and so sudden was the joy, that a MS. letter says, "the old scaffold on Tower-hill was pulled down and burned by certain unhappy boys, who said they would have a new one built for the duke." This mistake so rapidly prevailed as to reach even the country, which blazed with bonfires to announce the fall of Buckingham. The shouts on the acquittal of the seven bishops, in 1688, did not speak in plainer language to the son's ear, when, after the verdict was given, such prodigious acclamations of joy "seemed to set the king's authority at defiance; it spread itself not only into the city, but even to Hounslow Heath, where the soldiers, upon the news of it, gave up a great shout, though the king was then actually at dinner in the camp." To the speculators of human nature, who find its history written in their libraries, how many plain lessons seem to have been lost on the mere politician, who is only such in the heat of action!
About a month before the duke was assassinated, occurred the murder, by the populace, of the man who was called "the duke's devil." This was a Dr. Lambe, a man of infamous character, a dealer in magical arts, who lived by showing apparitions, or selling the favours of the devil, and whose chambers were a convenient rendezvous for the curious of both sexes. This wretched man, who openly exulted in the infamous traffic by which he lived, when he was sober, prophesied that he should fall one day by the hands from which he received his death; and it was said he was as positive about his patron's. At the age of eighty, he was torn to pieces in the city; and the city was imprudently heavily fined L6000 for not delivering up those who, in murdering this hoary culprit, were heard to say, that they would handle his master worse, and would have minced his flesh, and have had every one a bit of him. This is one more instance of the political cannibalism of the mob. The fate of Dr. Lambe served for a ballad; and the printer and singer were laid in Newgate. Buckingham, it seems, for a moment contemplated his own fate in his wretched creature's, more particularly as another omen obtruded itself on his attention; for, on the very day of Dr. Lambe's murder, his own portrait in the council-chamber was seen to have fallen out of its frame,—a circumstance as awful, in that age of omens, as the portrait that walked from its frame in the "Castle of Otranto," but perhaps more easily accounted for. On the eventful day of Dr. Lambe's being torn to pieces by the mob, a circumstance occurred to Buckingham, somewhat remarkable to show the spirit of the times. The king and the duke were in the Spring Gardens, looking on the bowlers; the duke put on his hat; one Wilson, a Scotchman, first kissing the duke's hands, snatched it off, saying, "Off with your hat before the king." Buckingham, not apt to restrain his quick feelings, kicked the Scotchman; but the king interfering, said, "Let him alone, George; he is either mad or a fool." "No, sir," replied the Scotchman, "I am a sober man; and if your majesty would give me leave, I will tell you that of this man which many know, and none dare speak." This was, as a prognostic, an anticipation of the dagger of Felton!
About this time a libel was taken down from a post in Coleman-street by a constable and carried to the lord-mayor, who ordered it to be delivered to none but his majesty. Of this libel the manuscript letter contains the following particulars:—
/P Who rules the kingdom? The king. Who rules the king? The duke. Who rules the duke? The devil. P/
Let the duke look to it; for they intend shortly to use him worse than they did the doctor; and if things be not shortly reformed they will work a reformation themselves.
The only advice the offended king suggested was to set a double watch every night! A watch at a post to prevent a libel being affixed to it was no prevention of libels being written, and the fact is, libels were now bundled and sent to fairs, to be read by those who would venture to read to those who would venture to listen; both parties were often sent to prison. It was about this time, after the sudden dissolution of the parliament, that popular terror showed itself in various shapes, and the spirit which then broke out in libels by night was assuredly the same, which, if these political prognostics had been rightly construed by Charles, might have saved the eventual scene of blood. But neither the king nor his favourite had yet been taught to respect popular feelings. Buckingham, after all, was guilty of no heavy political crimes; but it was his misfortune to have been a prime minister, as Clarendon says, "in a busy, querulous, froward time, when the people were uneasy under pretensions of reformation, with some petulant discourses of liberty, which their great impostors scattered among them like glasses to multiply their fears." It was an age, which was preparing for a great contest, where both parties committed great faults. The favourite did not appear odious in the eyes of the king, who knew his better dispositions more intimately than the popular party, who were crying him down. And Charles attributed to individuals, and "the great impostors," the clamours which had been raised.
But the plurality of offices showered on Buckingham rendered him still more odious to the people: had he not been created lord high admiral and general, he had never risked his character amidst the opposing elements, or before impregnable forts. But something more than his own towering spirit, or the temerity of vanity, must be alleged for his assumption of those opposite military characters.
A peace of twenty years appears to have rusted the arms of our soldiers, and their commanders were destitute of military skill. The war with Spain was clamoured for; and an expedition to Cadiz, in which the duke was reproached by the people for not taking the command, as they supposed from deficient spirit, only ended in our undisciplined soldiers under bad commanders getting drunk in the Spanish cellars, insomuch that not all had the power to run away. On this expedition, some verses were handed about, which probably are now first printed, from a manuscript letter of the times; a political pasquinade which shows the utter silliness of this "Ridiculus Mus."
VERSES ON THE EXPEDITION TO CADIZ.
There was a crow sat on a stone, He flew away—and there was none! There was a man that run a race, When he ran fast—he ran apace! There was a maid that eat an apple, When she eat two—she eat a couple! There was an ape sat on a tree, When he fell down—then down fell he! There was a fleet that went to Spain, When it returned—it came again!
Another expedition to Rochelle, under the Earl of Denbigh, was indeed of a more sober nature, for the earl declined to attack the enemy. The national honour, among the other grievances of the people, had been long degraded; not indeed by Buckingham himself, who personally had ever maintained, by his high spirit, an equality, if not a superiority, with France and Spain. It was to win back the public favour by a resolved and public effort, that Buckingham a second time was willing to pledge his fortune, his honour, and his life, into one daring cast, and on the dyke of Rochelle to leave his body, or to vindicate his aspersed name. The garrulous Gerbier shall tell his own story, which I transcribe from his own hand-writing, of the mighty preparations, and the duke's perfect devotion to the cause; for among other rumours, he was calumniated as never having been faithful to his engagement with the protestants of Rochelle.
"The duke caused me to make certain works, according to the same model as those wherewith the Prince of Parma blew up, before Antwerp, the main dyke and estacado; they were so mighty strong, and of that quantity of powder, and so closely masoned in barks, that they might have blown up the half of a town. I employed therein of powder, stone-quarries, bombs, fire-balls, chains, and iron-balls, a double proportion to that used by the Duke of Parma, according to the description left thereof."
"The duke's intention to succour the Rochellers was manifest, as was his care to assure them of it. He commanded me to write and to convey to them the secret advertisement thereof. The last advice I gave them from him contained these words, 'Hold out but three weeks, and God willing I will be with you, either to overcome or to die there.' The bearer of this received from my hands a hundred Jacobuses to carry it with speed and safety." The duke had disbursed threescore thousand pounds of his money upon the fleet; and lost his life ere he could get aboard. Nothing but death had hindered him or frustrated his design, of which I am confident by another very remarkable passage. "The duke, a little before his departure from York House, being alone with me in his garden, and giving me his last commands for my journey towards Italy and Spain, one Mr. Wigmore, a gentleman of his, coming to us, presented to his lordship a paper, said to have come from the prophesying Lady Davers, foretelling that he should end his life that month; besides, he had received a letter from a very considerable hand, persuading him to let some other person be sent on that expedition to command in his place; on which occasion the duke made this expression to me: 'Gerbier, if God please, I will go, and be the first man who shall set his foot upon the dyke before Rochel to die, or do the work, whereby the world shall see the reality of our intentions for the relief of that place.' He had before told me the same in his closet, after he had signed certain despatches of my letters of credence to the Duke of Lorraine and Savoy, to whom I was sent to know what diversion they could make in favour of the king, in case the peace with Spain should not take. His majesty spake to me, on my going towards my residency at Bruxelles—'Gerbier, I do command thee to have a continual care, to press the Infanta and the Spanish ministers there, for the restitution of the Palatinate; for I am obliged in conscience, in honour, and in maxim of state, to stir all the powers of the world, rather than to fail to try to the uttermost to compass this business.'"