« PreviousContinue »
did he possess, that Sir Walter Raleigh used to say, that the Earl of Salisbury was a good orator but a bad writer; the Earl of Northampton, a good writer but a bad orator ; but, that Sir Francis Bacon excelled in both. With all these advantageswith nothing to excite him to guilt, Northampton was implicated in two of the most infamous and atrocious transactions of his time—the divorce of Lady Essex, and the murder of Overbury. His letters to Rochester, and to the Lieutenant of the Tower, respecting Overbury, are disgraceful to an extreme. The only motive which could have induced him to act thus, must have been a desire to stand well with the favourite. Such was the scale of morality at the court of Jaines I.! The following is the character which the writer of Aulicus Coquinaria gives us of this nobleman, from which we may judge of the credit which is to be given to our author's antagonist. “ He was religious, and gave testimony thereof in his life, built that handsome convent at Greenwich, and endued it with revenue for ever, for maintenance of decayed gentlemen, a sufficient number, and for women, also considerable.” He certainly died at a very happy time for himself, as he just escaped a conviction for murder.
In the same style of strong and coarse, but characteristic drawing, Weldon presents us with portraits of the other most distinguished men of his time. His picture of James is, as it ought
to be, the most complete, and certainly does give a very perfect idea of his personal appearance and peculiar habits.
“ He was of a middle stature, more corpulent through his cloaths than in his body, yet fat enough, his cloaths ever being made large and easy; the doublets quilted for stiletto proof; his breeches in great plaits and full stuffed; he was naturally of a timorous disposition, which was the reason of his quilted doublets ; his eye large, ever rolling after any stranger that came in his presence, insomuch that many for shame have left the room, as bei out of countenance : his beard was very thin ; his tongue too large for his mouth, which made him drink very uncomely, as if eating his drink, which came out into the cup of each side of his mouth; his skin was as soft as taffeta sarsnet, which felt so because he never washed his hands, only rubbed his fingers' ends slightly with the wet-end of a napkin : his legs were very weak, having had (as some thought) some foul play in his youth, or rather before he was born, that he was not able to stand at seven years of age; that weakness made him for ever leaning on other men's shoulders; his walk was ever circular.”—Character of King James.
Our author then gives some account of the king's diet and mode of life: “ That he drank very often, which was rather out of custom than any delight, and that his drinks were of that kind for strength, as Frontiniac, Canary, High Country wine,
Tent, and Scottish ale.” So Roger Coke tells us, that the king was fond not of ordinary French and Spanish wines, but strong Greek wines, and that by drinking, he became so fat and unwieldy that he used to be tied on horseback. Though he was exceedingly pleased with seeing his courtiers attired in gay apparel, he was very negligent of his own dress, never changing his clothes until ihey were worn to rags, “insomuch as one bringing to him a hat off a Spanish block, he cast it from him, swearing he neither loved them nor their fashions. Another one, bringing him roses on his shoes, he asked, if they would make him a ruff-footed dove? One yard of sixpenny ribbon served that turn.” Osborn has represented him at the chase, “in colours as green as the grass he trod upon, with a feather in his cap, and a horn instead of a sword by his side."
Many entertaining anecdotes are to be found in the pages of Weldon. The following one of Queen Elizabeth is characteristic enough.
“ In this employment, I must not pass over one pretty passage which I have heard himself (Sir Roger Aston, a courtier of James I.) relate, that he did never come to deliver any letters from his master, but ever he was placed in the lobby, the hangings being turned him, where he might see the Queen dancing to a little fiddle, which was to no other end than that he should tell his master, by her youthful disposition, how likely he was to come to the possession of the crown he so much thirsted after; for, you must understand, the wisest in that kingdom did believe the King should never enjoy this crown, as long as there was an old wife in England, which they did believe we ever set up, as the other was dead.” p. 5.
The ambassadors of Great Britain never assumed so much state and splendour, and yet were never so little respected, as during the reign of James I. Nothing could equal the gorgeousness of the Earl of Carlisle's entry into Paris, of which Wilson has left a minute account, and we may perceive the estimation in which the English government was held abroad, from the conduct of the French minister to Lord Herbert, at that time ambassador to the court of Versailles.* Fortunately for our reputation abroad, the representatives whom James had the discretion to select, were often men of high character and courage, as Lord Herbert, Sir Henry Wotton, and Sir Ralph Winwood, who in some degree rescued the country from the disgrace which was cast upon it by the timorous and vacillating conduct of the monarch. Early in his reign, Howard, Earl of
Life of Lord Herbert of Cherbury, p. 158.
Nottingham, the Lord High Admiral, was despatched into Spain; and we have the following account, in Weldon, of the spirited behaviour of Sir Robert Mansel, who accompanied the embassy.
“ Sir Robert Mansel, who was a man born to vindicate the honour of his nation, as his own, being vice admiral, and a man on whom the old admiral wholly relied; having despatched the ships to begone the next morning, came in very late to supper. Sir Richard Levison, sitting at the upper end of the table, amongst the grandees, the admiral himself not supping that night, being upon the despatch of letters, upon Sir Robert Mansel's entrance, offered to rise to give him place, but he sate down instantly at the lower end and would not let any man stir, and falling to his meat, did espy a Spaniard, as the dishes emptied, ever putting some in his bosom, some in his breeches, that they both strutted. Šir Robert Mansel sent a message to the upper end of the table, to Sir Richard Levison, to be delivered in his ear; that whatsoever he should see him do, he should desire the gentlemen and grandees to sit quiet, for there should be no cause of any disquiet. On the sudden, Sir Robert Mansel steps up and takes the Spaniard in his arms, at which the table began to rise-Sir Richard Levison quiets them-brings him up to the end amongst the grandees, there pulls out the plate from his bosom, breeches, and every part about him, which did so amaze the Spaniard, and vindicate that aspersion cast upon our nation, that never after was there any such syllable heard, but all honour done to the nation, and all thanks to him in particular.
“ From thence, next day, they went to Madrid, where all the royal entertainment Spain could yield, was given them; and at the end of the grand entertainment and revels, which held inost part of the night, as they were all returning to their lodgings, the street being made light by white wax lights, and the very night forced into a day by shineing light, as they were passing on the street, a Spaniard catcheth off Sir Robert Mansel's hat, with a very rich jewel in it, and away he flies; Sir Robert not being of a spirit to have any thing violently taken from him, nor of such a court-like compliment to part with a jewel of that price, to one no better acquainted with him, hurls open the boot, follows the fellow, and some three gentlemen did follow him, to secure him; houseth the fellow in the house of an Alguazil, which is a great officer or judge in Spain. This officer, wondering at the manner of their coming, the one without his hat and sword in his hand, the others with all their swords, demands the cause; they tell him ; he saith, surely none can think his house a sanctuary, who is to punish such offenders. But Sir Robert Mansel would not be so put off with the Spaniard's gravity, but enters the house, leaving two at the gate, to see that none should come out while he searched. A long time they could find nothing, and the Alguazil urging this as an affront; at last, looking down into a well of a small depth, he saw the fellow stand up to the neck in water. Sir Robert Mansel seized on his hat and jewel, leaving the fellow to the Alguazil, but he had much rather have fingered the jewel; and his gravity told Sir Robert Mansel, he could not have it without form of law, which Sir Robert dispensed with, carrying away his hat and jewel, and never heard further of the business.” p. 44.
The following anecdote of this valiant gentleman gives a good idea of the cogent arguments with which we have always maintained our right to the dominion of the seas.
“ To bring these ambassadors over, were appointed Sir Robert Mansel, being admiral of the narrow seas, and Sir Jerome Turner, his vice admiral; the first commanded to attend at Graveling, for the Spanish ambassador, the latter at Calais, for the French; but, the French coming first, and hearing the vice-admiral was to attend him, the admiral the other, in a scorn put himself in a passage-boat of Calais, and came forth with flag at top. Instantly, Sir Jerome Turner sent to know of the admiral, what he should do ? Sir Robert Mansel sent him word to shoot and sink him, if he would not take in the flag. This as it made the flag be pulled in, so caused a great complaint, and it was believed, it would have undone Sir Robert Mansel, the French faction pressing it so home; but he maintained the act, and was the better beloved of his master ever after, to his dying day." p. 25.
We must give a companion to the foregoing anecdote, and then we have done.
“ The other ambassador sent to the Arch-Duke, was the old Earl of Hertford, who was conveyed over by one of the King's ships, by Sir William Monson, in whose passage a Dutch man-of-war, coming by that ship, would not vail, as the manner was, acknowledging by that our sovereignty over the sea. Sir William Monson gave him a shot to instruct him in his manners; but, instead of learning, he taught him, by returning another, he acknowledged no such sovereignty. This was the very first indignity offered to the royal ships of England, which since have been most frequent. Sir William Monson desired my Lord of Hertford to go into the hold, and he would instruct him by stripes, that refused to be taught by fair means; but the Earl charged him, on his allegiance, first to land him, on whom he was appointed to attend. So, to his great regret, he was forced to endure that indignity for which I have often heard him wish he had been hanged, rather than live that unfortunate commander of a King's ship, to be chronicled for the first that ever endured that affront, although it was not in his power to have helped it; yet, by his favour, it appeared but a copy of his countenance, for it had been but hazarding hanging, to have disobeyed my Lord's commandment; and it had been infinite odds he had not been hanged, having to friend him the house of Suffolk; nor would he have been so sensible of it, had he not been of the Spanish faction and that a Dutch ship.” p. 48.
In points of historical authority, Sir Anthony Weldon is certainly not a writer who can be always relied upon; and yet, there seems no reason to believe him guilty of wilfully falsifying or misrepresenting facts. The error is almost inseparable,
from the nature of the work, which is rather a collection of reports and rumours than an accurate chronicle of events. His opinions are by no means free from partiality, and we clearly recognize in his pages, many of the prevailing prejudices of the day. The style of the work is harsh and negligent, and indeed almost illiterate; but this may, perhaps, in some degree be accounted for, when we consider that it was never prepared by the author for the press. Notwithstanding these defects, The Court and Character of King James will always be highly valued by the historian, as containing the evidence of an eyewitness to many of the scenes which he describes; and the opinion of a contemporary writer on the most important historical events of his day.
ART. IV.—The History of the Troubles and Tryal of the Most
Reverend Father in God, and Blessed Martyr, William Land, Lord Archbishop of Canterbury. Wrote by Himself, during his Imprisonment in the Tower. To which is prefired, The Diary of his own Life, faithfully and entirely published from the original copy. London, 1695.
The auto-biography of Archbishop Laud is calculated, we think, to account satisfactorily both for the affectionate reverence entertained for his character by all who knew him thoroughly, and for the rancour with which his memory has been persecuted by those who have judged him solely upon the evidence of his political conduct. It has seldom happened, that a really good man has been so reasonably hated ; seldom that the high virtues of piety, integrity, and patriotism, ha been so completely and ruinously perverted. Like his royal master, Laud was the possessor of qualities which, under the guidance of a sounder discretion, might have commanded the gratitude of his own age, and the respect of posterity; but which can now only serve to blend with compassion the censures so deservedly called, forth by the whole tenor of his disastrous administration.
The work before us developes very clearly those infirmities of temper and judgement, from which flowed all his misfortunes. We can here trace the workings of that pride, which, in the council-chamber, was ever impatient of advice; of that rashness, which could never brook even necessary delay; of that obstinacy, which scorned to retract a step manifestly wrong; and of that mingled bigotry and superstition, which