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I the diabolical design of blowing up the parliament-house with gunpowder, at the time when James in person should open the meeting of the great national council. The chief conspirators were Catesby, a gentleman of property in Warwickshire, and Percy, a kinsman of the Earl of Northumberland. They fixed on one Guy Fawkes as their agent; a man of good family and blameless life, but remarkable for his fanatical zeal in favour of the Romish Church. Francis Tresham, Sir Everard Digby, and others, were made acquainted with the design during its progress, that they might hold themselves ready to act with the conspirators. A house adjoining the parliament-house was taken, and access thus obtained to the vaults under that building. These were filled with barrels of powder and fagots, and a train was laid, which was to be fired by Fawkes. By the providence of God, the plot was discovered a few days only before the meeting of parliament, which was appointed for Nov. 5 (1604). A mysterious letter was brought to the Lord Mounteagle, to warn him of an impending danger. It spoke of a sudden blow, and that no one should see the hand that gave it. Mounteagle was a brother-in-law of Tresham, by whom (most probably) the letter was written. He laid it at once before the council, and the king himself suggested that the vaults under the parliament-house should be searched. Fawkes was taken, as he was stepping out of the cellar, and having been (as is believed) put to the torture, confessed # the whole plot. The conspirators fled when they heard that Fawkes was taken; but the house in which they were concealed was surrounded, and many of them were killed on the spot after a desperate defence. Digby, with Fawkes and several others, was executed opposite the parliamenthouse. This plot must ever be classed with the massacre of St. Bartholomew, and the cruelties of the Inquisition in Spain, as instances of the baleful effects produced by that false zeal in religion, which the Church of Rome has so much encouraged.
James was engaged in continual contests with his parliament, and in the early part of his reign was assisted by in the sagacity of Cecil, earl of Salisbury, a son of the great Lord Burleigh. This statesman died in 1612, in which year the country lost also Prince Henry, a youth of great
promise, on whose death the king's only surviving son, Charles, became Prince of Wales. On the death of Salisbury, the king brought forward a favourite whom he had made Viscount Rochford, and soon created Earl of Somerset. This was Robert Kerr, a man of most abandoned character, who together with his wife was concerned in the murder of his secretary, Sir Thomas Overbury, for having advised him against his marriage. James had by this time transferred his affection to Villiers, who became Duke of Buckingham; and Somerset was condemned and dismissed from court, while the immediate but less guilty agents in the murder were executed.
Soon after the death of his son, the king married his only daughter Elizabeth to the Elector Palatine of the Rhine. This prince was afterwards chosen King of Bohemia on the death of the Emperor Matthias, by whom the rights secured to the Bohemian Protestants had been so grossly violated, that they refused to acknowledge his successor (Ferdinand of Austria) as their king. The elector was however driven not only from his new kingdom, but even from his hereditary dominions; and was but feebly assisted by his father-in-law, though the English were anxious to support his cause, which they looked upon as the cause opposed to Rome. The king was the less inclined to comply with this wish, because he was desirous of marrying his son to a daughter of the King of Spain, who was nearly allied to the house of Austria. With a view of furthering this marriage, the young Prince of Wales was induced by Buckingham to make a secret expedition to the court of Madrid: and it may be observed, that even in this romantic and hurried excursion, great care was taken to provide for the celebration of Divine service, according to the English Prayer Book, in the apartments of the prince. The English, however, were alarmed at the risk to which Charles was thus exposed of being influenced in favour of popery, and were not sorry when the match was afterwards broken off in a manner highly offensive to the Spanish court.
The king's desire for this marriage had induced him, some years before, to sacrifice Sir Walter Raleigh to the resentment of Spain. After being in prison for thirteen years, Raleigh had obtained permission to conduct a second ex
pedition to South America, with the hope of realizing the golden visions in which he was prone to indulge. It proved a total failure, but was very offensive to the Spaniards; and on his return James was persuaded to let the former sentence against Raleigh (which had never been remitted) take its course, and he was most unjustly executed.
When the Spanish match was broken off, the prince was engaged to Henrietta Maria, daughter of the King of France. Before the marriage took place, James breathed his last, after a short illness (1625), meeting his end with the appearance of firmness and devotion.
In this reign the great Lord Chancellor Bacon, whom we have mentioned already as a philosopher, and who contributed so much to the advancement of science, was compelled to acknowledge himself guilty of bribery and corruption in his high office; a memorable instance that the most exalted genius will not preserve a man from disgraceful crime, without that fear of God which is the beginning of wisdom.
Throughout the reign of James, the bishops and clergy generally seem to have had clearer views of their duty to the Church than were prevalent in the latter days of Elizabeth. But orthodoxy was sadly discouraged by Bancroft's being succeeded in the see of Canterbury by Abbott, who was as much a Puritan at heart, as his predecessor had been the reverse. (It had been expected that Andrewes, bishop of Winchester, a noble and true-hearted son of the Church, would have been selected instead.) It was no unnatural - result that the Puritans, or Nonconformists, gained strength daily. But the issue of this fatal step will appear in the next reign.
Before parting with James, it is fair to mention, that as he was a man of considerable erudition himself, so his court and kingdom possessed men eminent in science and literature. The learned Buchanan had been his preceptor. Shakspere and Jonson still lived and wrote during his reign. Speed and Camden were noted as diligent antiquaries. The two Casaubons and Antonio de Dominis were specially invited to England, and patronized; and the Admirable Crichton, a Scotchman, astonished Europe with his accomplishments. A literary monarch had thus no slight influence on the literary character of his people.
CHARLES I. 1625-1642 (TILL THE MEETING OF THE LONG PARLIAMENT).
Born at Holyrood Palace. Buried at Windsor.
years. From A.D. 1625 to A.d. 1649.
Archbishops of Canterbury.
George Abbott, 1611-1633.
William Laud, 1633-1645. Vacancy, 16 years.
CHARLES was in his twenty-fifth year when he became king. His character was ill suited to the times in which he lived, and the spirits with which he had to cope. The House of Commons, which had gradually become conscious of its power, had now learnt to refuse supplies, unless the crown would grant a redress of grievances. Every Englishman must admire the courage with which the Commons asserted the unlawfulness of taxation without consent of parliament, and maintained the great principle that no one shall be imprisoned without being brought to a fair and open trial. The opposition, however, which began on these grounds, was soon tainted with the personal ends of those who conducted it, and degenerated into the most bitter enmity against both royalty and episcopacy. Released from the shackles of the Romish superstition, the minds of men had rushed to an opposite extreme, and had become intolerant of those restraints on the individual will, which are implied in a monarchical government and an episcopal Church.
Charles, on the other hand, had been trained in lofty notions of a right in kings to unlimited obedience, and regarded many of the concessions that were extorted from him as so many encroachments on his prerogative, which he therefore was at liberty to recall, when he should find himself able to do so. Exemplary in his conduct as a husband and father, and devoutly attached to the English Church, he yet suffered himself at times to dissemble with his enemies. With chivalrous courage, and a cultivated mind, he showed too often not only an unbending will, but a weak judgment, and was ever too much influenced by his queen, and other counsellors far inferior in ability
to himself. In the early part of his reign our sympathy will often be with the parliaments, which upheld the rights of the people; but in the latter period of his history, our judgment as well as feeling will for the most part be in favour of the king.
He was at first much influenced by the Duke of Buckingham, who was both disliked and suspected by the people: and though a popular war with Spain and Austria was impending, the first parliament that met would grant little more than 100,0007.; a sum very inadequate to the occasion. The feeling against Buckingham was increased by a discovery that it was intended to employ against the French Huguenots at Rochelle some ships that were collected for the Spanish war; and also by the failure of an expedition against Cadiz. On the meeting of the second parliament, Buckingham was impeached as the cause of all the evils under which the kingdom suffered. To screen his favourite, the king dissolved the parliament, and proceeded to raise money on his own authority. He had been induced by Buckingham to engage in a war with France, and an expedition was led to Rochelle, which failed through the duke's misconduct. Charles summoned a third parliament, which at once embodied the grievances of the nation in what is known as the Petition of Right; declaring illegal all taxation by the king alone, and asserting the right of all subjects to the writ of habeas corpus. This is a writ by which persons who are imprisoned can demand an open hearing, according to the law of the land. A bill was founded on this petition, and passed with the king's reluctant consent: and though this law was afterwards disregarded, it yet remained as a monument of the rights of Englishmen, to which they could ever appeal, and which they were able at last to establish.
A fleet and army were at this time assembled at Portsmouth, which Buckingham was again to command; but on leaving his chamber one morning, he was stabbed by an unknown hand, and died immediately of the wound. The assassin proved to be one Felton, a man of a fanatical spirit, who had learnt to regard the duke as the great grievance of the kingdom. He was executed as a murderer.
On the death of Buckingham, Charles took to his counsels Sir Thomas Wentworth, whom he afterwards made