The Earl of Essex

essex3.jpgRobert Devereux was the son of the Queen Elizabeth’s favourite – the dashing one that managed to get himself executed for treason in 1601.  Grandpapa on his mother’s side was Sir Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth’s spymaster.  Obviously having been attainted for treason the entire Devereux family, including young Robert who was ten at the time of his father’s misdeeds, were tainted as being of bad blood and all property returned to the Crown.

Things changed in 1604 when James I restored titles and lands to Robert and arranged his marriage to a wealthy Howard heiress. Perhaps this was because young Robert was close to the ill-fated Prince of Wales, Henry Stuart.  Unfortunately young Robert wasn’t old enough to actually marry his bride, Frances, so was sent abroad on his own version of Frances-Howard.jpgthe grand tour.  Whilst he was securing a gentleman’s education Frances Howard took up with the king’s favourite  Robert Carr and married him instead having divorced Robert for impotency in 1613 (and I should imagine that no 20 year-old wants that particular label)- France’s marriage would end in murder, a visit to the Tower and a Jacobean scandal that historians are still writing about but that’s beside the point.  The marriage ended amidst much hilarity and popular balladry.  Robert insisted that even if he was impotent so far as Frances was concerned he was more than capable with other ladies of his acquaintance.  To add insult to injury, Frances who had been carrying on with Robert Carr, was declared to be a maiden – the mirth this enjoindered can only be imagined.

Robert, the third earl, undertook a military career in continental Europe perhaps to escape the ribaldry.  The thirty years war was well under way by this time. He served in the Low Countries and or the Palatinate of which James’ daughter Elizabeth was the queen. In 1625 he was part of the Duke of Buckingham’s disastrous Cadiz Campaign.

It would have to be said that his relationship with Charles was not good.  He absolutely refused to pay Charles’ forced loans.  And things can’t have been much worse when in 1639 having been appointed as second in command of the the king’s armies in Scotland in the run up to the First Bishop’s War he was demoted so that the role could be given to one of the queen’s favourites.  Charles then became a bit sniffy about the fact that the Scots approached the earl to try and prevent the english army from marching north.  There was nothing machiavellian in the earl of Essex’s actions that warranted the king’s distrust as evidenced by the fact that Essex handed the letters he’d received from the Scots to Charles unopened.  In 1640 he wasn’t offered any role at all in the Second Bishop’s War which must have galled.

In 1640 when the king finally ran out of money and the Long Parliament sat Essex emerged as the principal speaker for the opposition to the king in the House of Lords.  He and John Pym worked together to prosecute the Earl of Strafford.  Charles, perhaps realising that insulting the earl of Essex in terms of military leadership hadn’t been one of his better ideas offered him a place on the Privy Council in 1641 and by July he was in control of the king’s army south of the River Trent and Lord Chamberlain.

It was Essex who received the news from his cousin Lady Carlisle in January 1641 that Charles intended to arrest five members of the House of Commons and one peer. After that Charles left London for Hampton Court, then Windsor.  From there he went north to York.  Once in York he ordered the earl to join him but Essex refused and was promptly removed from the post of Lord Chamberlain.  Parliament had come to regard him as a potential leader for some time and Charles as evidenced above had never really trusted him.  Essex was a bit prickly about his honour having had his father executed for treason so its perhaps not surprising that he chose to side with Parliament rather than the king.

In 1642 Essex was appointed to the Parliamentary Committee of Safety.  He also became one of Parliament’s key military figures during the early years of the English Civil War.  He wanted to negotiate a peace but from a position of military superiority – his was the middle way if you wish when Parliament was increasingly split between the War Party and the Peace Party.

He commanded the parliamentary forces at Edgehill and as with his continental campaigns he shared the experiences of his ordinary soldiers to the extent that he was actually seen at push of pike.  Edgehill was technically a draw but since Essex failed in his objective to prevent the king from marching on London it is usually deemed that he lost the battle.  But it was Essex who petitioned Londoners to send as many men as they could to Chiswick on 13 November at Turnham Green and thus ensured that the king withdrew from London rather than be responsible for untold bloodshed.

In 1643 Essex captured Reading but was unable to advance and capture Oxford where the king’s court was based.  He became embittered by his armies lack of pay whilst Parliament grew testy about his lack of success.  Despite this he raised the siege on Gloucester and won a victory at Newbury.

The king was not alone in mistrusting Essex’s military capacities.  When John Pym died in 1643 he was replaced by Sir Henry Vane who was not one of Essex’s fans. A point which seems to have been proved when, in 1644, Essex lost the Parliamentary army in Cornwall and had to escape in a fishing boat. Lostwithiel was the end of Essex’s military career. In addition to the Cornish disaster he had been militarily overshadowed by men like Thomas Fairfax and Oliver Cromwell.  He resigned his commission in 1645. Whilst he wasn’t a hugely successful military figure on account of his lack of imagination and flair he was respected by his men because ehe shared their hardships.

The earl of Essex wasn’t hugely successful as a husband either.  Having been divorced by Frances Howard he went on to marry Elizabeth Paulet in 1630 having returned from his soldiering in Europe to take up his other career as a politician – and an earl needs a wife.  The marriage lasted a year, after that it was a marriage in name only.  Six years after they married Elizabeth gave birth to an illegitimate baby which Robert accepted as his own after some hesitation, mainly because he didn’t need the embarrassment of a second errant wife and he did need an heir.  The child, a boy named Robert, died when it was little over a moth old and the earl was left without an heir.

walterdevereux.jpgThere are three earls of Essex during the Tudor/Stuart period – the title was not used after the third earl’s death in 1646 until the Restoration. The First Earl of Essex was Walter Devereux – he is associated with Tudor rule in Ireland and is more famously Lettice Knollys’ husband.  Lettice was the daughter of Catherine Carey – making her the grand-daughter of Mary Boleyn.  Historians speculate whether Catherine was the daughter of Henry VIII  – Lettice certainly looked rather a lot like her cousin Queen Elizabeth I.  In fact Lettice managed to get into rather a lot of trouble with her cousin after the first earl of Essex’s death when she secretly married Elizabeth’s long time squeeze, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester.

2nd earl of essex.jpgThe second Earl of Essex was Robert Devereux.  He was Walter and Lettice’s fifth child and after Robert Dudley’s death became a favourite with the aging Elizabeth I.  Like his father he was associated with Ireland.  His campaign was not a rip-roaring success from Elizabeth’s point of view.  Handsome but petulant the earl rebelled in 1600 having already sailed pretty close to the wind when he returned from Ireland and burst in on Elizabeth having been expressly forbidden from crossing the Irish Sea and winning no friends when he saw the queen without all her finery.  He was executed for treason on 25th February 1601 – leaving a young son, also called Robert, who would eventually become the third earl.

The Stuarts – King James I of England- key events.

king-james1Elizabeth I died on 24 March 1603 in Richmond.  She had been on the throne for nearly forty-five years.  Whilst the queen had prevaricated about naming her heir,  Sir Robert Cecil could see that her health was deteriorating and began making the necessary arrangements with King James VI of Scotland the son of Mary Queen of Scots.  He was the great-grandson of Margaret Tudor.

When Elizabeth died Philadelphia, Lady Scrope took the sapphire ring given by King James from Elizabeth’s finger and threw it out of a window down to where her brother Sir Robert Carey sat waiting.  Sir Robert headed off up the Great North Road to Edinburgh.  The journey of some 330 miles was completed late on the 26th March (an impressive turn of speed).  The blue ring was James’ confirmation that he was now King of England as well of Scotland.

James saw himself as King by Divine Right.  He was also delighted to gain Elizabeth I’s wealth but he mishandled his finances because of his own extravagance. It is sometimes said that Elizabeth handled her finances better because she was single whereas James had a family – his wife Anne of Denmark  who was raised a Protestant but converted to Catholicism (possibly); their eldest son Prince Henry born in 1594, their daughter Elizabeth and their young son Charles.  In total the couple had nine children but only the three listed here survived to adulthood.  It may be surmised a growing family with sons was one of the attractions of James as king so far as the English were concerned. It should also be added that the finances weren’t entirely James’ fault  for another reason as this was a period of inflation and a time when subsidies returned lower yields.

Another of James’ difficulties was the balancing act between religious beliefs with in the country and on the wider European stage.

5 April 1603 – James left Edinburgh.

Mid-April – arrived in York and sent a letter asking for money from the Privy Council

When James arrived in Newark he attempted to have a cut purse hanged without realising that English common law did not permit the monarch to dish up summary justice. He also  knighted 906 men in the first four months of his reign – more than Elizabeth in her entire reign.  During this time James was also presented with the Millenary Petition.  The Puritan ministers who presented it claimed that there were more than 1000 signatories – hence its name. The petition requested that the king put a stop to some practices that Puritans found objectionable.  This included wearing surplices, confirmation, the necessity of a ring for marriage and the making of the sign of the cross during baptism.

11th May 1603   James entered London.

William_Segar_Sir_Walter_Raleigh_1598.jpg19 July 1603 Sir Walter Raleigh arrested. The  key event of 1603 was the so-called the Main Plot which evolved into a secondary Bye Plot that came to light in 1604 (I’ve blogged about them before).  Essentially with the Main Plot there was some question as to whether James was the best person to be king  Henry VII had other descendants who were English.  The one we think of at this time is usually Arbella Stuart who was implicated in the Main Plot which saw Sir Walter Raleigh sent to the Tower.  The plan was to depose James and put Arbella in his place.  The Bye Plot was much more straight forward.  It simply involved kidnapping James and forcing him to suspend the laws against Catholics.

17 Nov 1603 Sir Walter Raleigh put on trial. Raleigh would be condemned on the evidence of Lord Cobham who was never called to testify despite Raleigh’s repeated demands that his should be examined.

14 Jan 1604  The Hampton Court Conference convened as a result, in part, of the Millenary Petition.  James ordered that everyone should adhere to the Book of Common Prayer.  This did not please the Puritans or the Catholics especially as recusancy fines were being levied with more rigour than previously.

19 March 1604  James’ first Parliament sat.  James admonished the Puritans but it was clear that religion was going to be a bone of contention.

5 April 1604 James demanded that as “an absolute king” he should have conference with the Commons and his judiciary.  It didn’t go down very well.

Mid April 1604  James demanded the Union of England with Scotland.  No one apart from James thought it was a good idea. He will try again in 1606 and 1607.

19 August 1604  War with Spain formally concludes.  England has been at war with the Spanish since 1585.  The Somerset House Conference draws up the  Treaty of London which is seen as favourable to Spain as it prevents continued English support of the Dutch.

Winter 1604 Thomas Percy sub-leased a house beside the Palace of Westminster. A certain Guy Fawkes and other members of a conspiracy began to dig a tunnel…

5th November 1605  The Gunpowder Plot foiled.

1606 The Bates Case . John Bates refused to pay the new duty that James levied on currants.  The Court of the Exchequer said that Bates had to pay the duty as the king was regulating imports rather than raising revenue for himself – they couldn’t prove any different.  This meant that the Crown suddenly found a way of raising taxes without having to call Parliament so long as it was in the name of regulating foreign trade.  The case is also called the Case of Impositions.  The imposition of these taxes would come back to haunt James when he called Parliament in 1614.

22 June 1606 Oath of Allegiance required of all subjects.  It was made up of seven parts. The first bit required loyalty to James.

June 1607  Founding of Jamestown in America by Captain Smith.

Sept 1607 Start of the Plantation of Ulster when leading Irish earls flee the country fearing arrest.  The event is sometimes called “The Flight of the Earls.”  The Crown confiscates their land and begins to hand it to Protestants including troublemakers from the Scottish/English Borders.

1608 – The Book of Bounty issued.  It was a device to reduce royal expenditure.  This should be viewed alongside Robert Cecil’s revision to the rate of taxation. He’s revised the rates once in 1604 and did so again in 1608.  The revisions of 1608 fetched an additional £70,000 into the royal coffers.

22 June 1610 Arbella Stuart enters into a secret marriage with William Seymour (2nd duke of Somerset) – who had his own claim to the throne due to the face that he is the grandson of Lady Katherine Grey. Elizabeth I had refused to recognise her cousin’s marriage to Edward Seymour but their son (another Edward) was recognised by the courtesy title Lord Beauchamp though none the less was permitted to succeed to his father’s title upon Edward Seymour senior’s death.  The marriage of Arbella and Seymour seemed to unite two possible claims to the throne. Not surprisingly all involved ended up in the Tower.  Arbella would escape her prison but recaptured on her way to the Continent and die in the Tower in 1615. There will be more about Arbella!

1610 – Parliament refuse to proceed with the Great Contract which James has proposed.  If they had agreed it would have resulted in a tax being levied to clear James’ debts. Parliament offered  James £200,000 per year. James demanded another £200,000.  In addition to the financial considerations there was a concern that James might not call Parliament again if he got all the money he wanted in one hit.  James was unwilling to sell off any of his prerogative rights so came no where close to meeting Parliament half-way.

14 May 1610 Henry IV of France assassinated

1611 King James Bible issued.

October 1612 Prince Henry, James’ eldest and most promising son, taken ill.

6 November 1612 Prince Henry dies.  He was eighteen.  It prompted a succession crisis that lasted until 1614. Prince Charles, a sickly child, now became heir apparent.  It became essential that Princess Elizabeth should marry. This resulted ultimately in a bill being laid before parliament to permit Elector Frederick and his wife Elizabeth to inherit in the event of Charles’ death.

14 Feb 1613 Princess Elizabeth married Frederick V of the Palatinate.

April 1613 Thomas Overbury sent to Tower but then released.  He would shortly be murdered.  Th king’s former favourite Robert Carr and his wife Frances Howard would be found guilty of his murder. The ensuing scandal would continue throughout the next two years.  Lady Anne Clifford writes about it her her diary.  There will definitely be more about the Overbury case in the coming year.

1614 The Earl of Suffolk appointed treasurer.

4 May 1614 James told Parliament that they had to vote him subsidies when they next sat. If they wouldn’t James would refuse to call Parliament into session.

December 1614 The Cockayne Project announced.  James allowed Alderman Sir William Cockayne to launch a project designed to boost the earnings of those involved in the manufacture of undyed cloth setting up a dyeing industry to do the job at home. The government was promised £40,000 p.a. from increased customs through the importing of dyestuffs. James gave control to Cockayne and the new company was given permission to export in 1615. It was clear by 1616 that Cockayne had not the resources to buy the cloth from the clothing districts and hold it until it could be marketed. Matters became worse when the Dutch banned the import of cloth. Merchants went bankrupt, weavers rioted, cloth exports slumped and the industry stagnated. By 1617 James abandoned Cockayne and the Merchant Adventurers regained control.

June 1614 The so-called Addled Parliament sat.  This was properly James’ second Parliament which had been called with the express purpose of raising funds for the king. Parliament didn’t politely offer the king taxes. They hadn’t been very impressed with the king’s courtiers undertaking to get their cronies elected to to the king’s bidding.  Instead, they told him that his policies were unacceptable and also said that he would receive no money from them whilst he was enforcing so-called “impositions” – these were taxes raised without the consent of Parliament.  Parliament believed that James had overstepped his legal rights and James believed that Parliament had no right to refuse his demands.  It didn’t pass any bills and was dissolved very quickly.

During this time there were two factions at court seeking the king’s ear following the death of Robert Cecil in 1612.  The most prominent was led by Henry Howard.  The Howard family held key posts. Thomas  Howard the Earl of Suffolk was the father of Francis Howard who married Robert Carr (the Earl of Essex).  It was during this time that his daughter and son-in-law found themselves on trial for the murder of Thomas Overbury through the medium of poisoned tarts. The Howard family wanted James to put Parliament in its place, peace with Spain and Recusancy fines reduced.  Their opposition was comprised of people who simply didn’t like the Howards and would have said that day was night if the Howards said otherwise. They were Protestant whilst the Howards were seen as Catholic in their sympathy.

 

1615 James I begins to sell peerages to make some money.

23 April 1616 – William Shakespeare dies.

1616 James sells the Dutch the towns of Brill and Flushing which had been given to Elizabeth to help finance the wars agains the Spanish and for support of the Dutch. Sir Walter Raleigh is released from the Tower and the following year goes in search of El Dorado, involving a voyage up the Orinoco.  No gold was forthcoming.  James returned Raleigh to prison and invoked the 1603 death sentence.

1617 James enters negotiations for the marriage of Prince Charles to the Spanish Infanta.  He demands a dowry of £600,000.

1618 – This was the year when the Thirty Years War started with the invasion of Bohemia and the Palatinate Crisis.  James’ daughter  Elizabeth would be involved in this as her husband had become the King of Bohemia when he had been offered the crown the year before.   They were driven out by Counter-reforming Catholics. History knows Elizabeth as The Winter Queen because she was Queen of Bohemia for only a year.

29 October 1618 Sir Walter Raleigh executed.

 

August 1620 – The Pilgrim Fathers set sail.

8 Nov 1620  The Battle of White Mountain fought near Prague. The battle was won by the Hapsburgs and meant that Catholicism gained an early upper hand in the Thirty Years War.

1621 James’ third Parliament called.

6 January 1621 Elizabeth, the Winter Queen, gives birth to a son Maurice near Berlin.  From there she would go into exile in The Hague.

3 Dec 1621 Parliament petitions the King

1622 Directions to Preachers restrict the contents of sermons.

Forced Loan

1623 Forced Loan

March 1623 Prince Charles makes a trip incognito to Madrid complete with a large hat and false beard. It was a cause of some embarrassment in Madrid.

August 1623 The Spanish want Frederick to marry his eldest son, James’ grandson, to the daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor.  The plan was that he would then convert to Catholicism and be raised in Vienna.  Charles realised that the Spanish Match wasn’t going to happen but James was reluctant to break off negotiations.

1624 The so-called Happy Parliament called.  James had previously sworn never to call another parliament.  However the course of the Thirty years War made him reconsider. The so-called Spanish match had become more important as it seemed that the Hapsburgs and Spain would dominate Europe and be victorious agains the Protestant countries but it became clear that the Spanish were not serious in their negotiations with the English or that they were demanding too much. Charles and his friend the duke of Buckingham persuaded James that what needed to happen was that the English should go to war on behalf of the Palatinate.  James refused to go to war without a huge subsidy being voted him.

Nov 1624  Marriage treaty signed between Prince Charles and Henrietta Maria of France.

27 March 1625 – King James I of England/ James VI of Scotland died.  King Charles I proclaimed king.

 

Ackroyd, Peter. (2014) The History of England Volume III: Civil War London:MacMillan