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ROCHELLE AND THE PETITION
The end of a dynasty.
When the last of the Tudor race passed away, a change came over the whole character of English history. The government by personal ascendency was over. There was to the full as much desire to enforce the supremacy of the Crown as ever, nay, probably a more absolute belief in it; but the instinct that made the sovereign one with the nation had passed away. There was no more leading in defiance of all checks and barriers, but no sooner did the country feel any opposition between its will and that of royalty than these safeguards were sought out, and the power of refusal was found.
The spirit of opposition was on the English side greatly owing to the new King being Scottish, almost a foreigner in speech, and of a nation hitherto looked on with strong dislike. Moreover, instead of a Queen why, up to the last year of her life, was regarded with pride, enthusiasm, and chivalrous deference, the new King was one whom it was much easier to laugh at than to admire, and who by no means did justice to the better qualities that he really possessed.
It was a time when the intellectual capacity of the English nation, Machiavell- and likewise its standard of moral principle, was exceedingly high.
Court policy had been so corrupted by Machiavelli, that statesmanship was eminently dishonourable, and falsehood was regarded as its natural instrument ; but these ideas had not tainted the principles of the nation, and the standard maintained by Bacon, Shakespeare, and Spenser in their writings is wonderfully high and pure. Shakespeare and Ben Jonson were in the height of their prime, and these, and such playwrights as Massinger, Beaumont, and Fletcher provided amusement for a people whose capacities must have been considerable to meet such performances with any kind of appreciation.
Education had made considerable progress, and a gentleman was expected to be a good classical scholar, a theologian, and to have some knowledge of French, Italian, and music. Merchants and superior tradesmen-such as aspired to civic dignities—were also well educated ; and the universities were making great advances, especially in the study of Greek. Ladies' knowledge varied from considerable attainments to mere housewifery ; but the younger generation were, on the whole, less learned than that which had grown up with the Queen ; and, in spite of the new King's high attainments, the pendulum was beginning to swing in the direction of frivolity. The men and women whose company Elizabeth had enjoyed were well read in several languages, able to understand and make allusions through a really extensive range of literature, to sustain sharp conflicts of wit with opposing proverbs, and to make and appreciate repartee and retort.
James, on the contrary, liked to have the learning all to himself, to be admired and complimented, and to lay down the law when it pleased him, without an answer, and his jokes and amusements were silly and practical ; while his Queen was simply a frivolous and somewhat querulous woman, with a turn for amusement and display, such as had found small scope in the poverty-stricken Court of Holyrood, so jealously watched by the General Assembly.
The news that this disturbed and cramped life was ended, and that the peace and wealth of the English crown was theirs, was brought by Sir Robert Carey, who had long ago received from James a sapphire ring, which was to be restored to him as a token that the Queen was really dead-since it was needful to take measures promptly to secure the succession, and yet not to act prematurely on a false report, so as to anger the jealous Elizabeth.
Lady Scrope, to whom Sir Robert committed the ring, dropped it from the window as soon as she was convinced that the Queen had really expired. This was in the early darkness of the morning of Thursday, the 24th of March ; and after Icoking into one of the chambers, and finding all the ladies weeping bitterly, Carey galloped off, and having already prepared relays of horses, reached Norham Castle at noonday on Saturday. He expected to have reached Edinburgh by supper-time, but he had a bad fall by the way, and bled a good deal, so that he was