The Book of Sport V The Player’s Scourge

prynneThe Book of Sport was issued initially by James I.  It identified the need to go to church in the morning and enjoy yourself in the afternoon.  Charles I reissued it in 1633.  The Norton Anthology of English Literature states that Charles probably republished the text in response to William Prynne’s Histrio-Mastix.

Histrio-Mastix was subtitled the Player’s Scourge or Actor’s Tragedy.  It had taken Prynne the better part of ten years to write the book which was essentially an attack on the theatre, Christmas and dancing.  Prynne was not complimentary about women actors – in particular French ones and unfortunately this was taken as an insult on Henrietta Maria rather than french actresses.  Prynne was hauled up in front of the Star Chamber on charges of seditious libel in 1634.

I’d like to say that the judges in the case were measured.  Unfortunately Prynne found himself being pilloried – twice.  He was imprisoned for life, fined £5,000, his book was burned by the hangman, chucked out of his university, had his ears cut off and was stopped from being a lawyer.

Unfortunately despite the heavy hint to stop writing Prynne continued and wrote a series of anonymous pamphlets which his friends arranged to have published for him.  When it was discovered that he had been writing inflammatory things about the Church and Archbishop Laud the rest of his ears were cut off and  his cheeks were branded with the letters SL and his nose was slit.

And where does the Book of Sport fit in?  Charles was essentially saying that by conforming to the Church of England and going to church in the morning you were entitled to enjoy yourself in the afternoon in appropriate and proper pursuits.   The Book goes on to suggest that if Puritans didn’t like English laws and the Church’s canons that they were free to clear off elsewhere.

The list of approved actives included:

“such as dancing, either men or women; archery for men, leaping, vaulting, or any other such harmless recreation, nor from having of May-games, Whitsun-ales, and Morris-dances; and the setting up of May-poles and other sports therewith used: so as the same be had in due and convenient time, without impediment or neglect of divine service: and that women shall have leave to carry rushes to the church for the decorating of it, according to their old custom; but withal we do here account still as prohibited all unlawful games to be used upon Sundays only, as bear and bull-baitings, interludes, and at all times in the meaner sort of people by law prohibited, bowling.”

I must admit to being slightly puzzled by the inclusion of bowling – never having considered it a hot-bed of sinfulness for the “meaner sort” but perhaps I missed something.  The Puritans of whom Prynne was one, as you may have already deduced, declared the Book of Sports to be The Devil’s Book as all recreation, presumably including bowls, was sinful.

For Puritans, and Presbyterians come to that, strict observance of the Sabbath was politicised.  Some non-conformists chose to leave the country, others chose to write pamphlets on the subject. Prynne’s first trial didn’t make many waves but his exile to the Channel Islands in 1637 caused a bit of a furore as did his return in 1640.  The second trial when his writings against Laud had been punished had turned him into a Puritan martyr.

Helmer, J. Helmers. (2016) The Royalist Republic: Literature, Politics and Religion in the Anglo-Dutch Public Sphere, 1639-1660

 

 

 

Henrietta Maria – daughter and diplomatic pawn

Queen_Henrietta_Maria_as_a_child_by_Frans_Pourbus_the_Younger_1611.jpgHenrietta Maria, pictured at the start of this post, was born in 1609 at the Louvre.  She was the youngest daughter of Henry IV of France and Marie de Medici.  Henry had become Henry III of Navarre in 1572.  He was to become the first Bourbon king of France.  Somewhat ironically given the reverence she placed upon her father’s memory, Henry was a Huguenot although he had been baptised a Catholic.  He was fortunate to escape the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre of 1572 – an event witnessed by Sir Francis Walsingham who was the English Ambassador in Paris at the time.  Henry would go on to become King of France in 1589 – taking on the Catholic League to become the only Protestant king that France ever had but in 1593 to bring civil unrest to an end he returned to Catholicism.  The Edict of Nantes passed in 1598 granted religious toleration to the Huguenots.  Unsurprisingly perhaps, Henry was neither popular with Catholics who regarded him as a protestant usurper nor with Protestants who saw him as a traitor to his beliefs – he is famously supposed to have said that Paris was worth a mass. It was only after his death that he turned into Good King Henry.

Marie de Medici was Henry’s second wife.  They married in 1600.  Marie was born in Tuscany in 1573 and the marriage with Henry was helped along by a large dowry. The year after their marriage Marie provided Henry with an heir – Louis.  She would have five more children before Henry was assassinated in 1610.  She would go on to rule as regent for her son Louis XVIII.  Even if the marriage between the pair was a matter of state, Henry had other consolations – approximately 54 of them- making Henry VIII seem positively restrained! Diane D’Andoins was just one of the mistresses who stood the test of time.

So- back to Henrietta Maria.  When she arrived 25th November 1609 her parents were disappointed that she was a girl. They had hoped for a legitimate spare to go with the heir. Henry was troubled by his wife’s desire for a more pro-Spanish policy whilst he himself was infatuated with Charlotte Marguerite de Montmorency. She was the seventeen-year-old wife of his own nephew, Henry Prince of Conde.

Henrietta was sent off to join nursery of assorted legitimate and illegitimate brothers and sisters at the Chateau of St Germain. Once there she was lumped together with all the younger siblings so history doesn’t necessarily see her with great clarity during her early childhood. It is perhaps unfair to record Henry’s grumpiness about the fact that she was a girl.  We know from other correspondents that he spent time with all his children  in St Germain. He declared them to be the most beautiful children and that the time he spent with them as the happiest.

We know Henrietta attended her mother’s coronation and her father’s funeral. She was a princess and had the qualities that princesses were supposed to have; she was beautiful, she loved music, painting and dancing.  She was given religious instruction by Carmelite nuns.

henrietta maria pourbus.jpg

It wasn’t long before she learned that princesses had an important diplomatic role to fulfil.  On November 9th 1615, about the time the above portrait was painted by Frans Pourbus, she was at Bordeaux to see her sister Elizabeth who married   Philip of Spain whilst the Infanta Ana became her brother Louis’s bride.  Anne of Austria as she is better known holds her own place in England’s Seventeenth Century history and a spot in the heart of all Alexander Dumas fans.  In reality she was one of the ties that helped bind the Bourbons and the Hapsburgs together in Maria de Medici’s pro-Spanish policy.

Meanwhile in France, politics and family life were a dangerous cocktail.  In 1617 Marie de Medici found herself ousted from her role as regent and sent to Blois whilst her favourite, and foster sister,  Leonora Dori the wife of Concino Concini  was executed. Concini was killed by a Paris mob.  It should be noted that Marie had remained regent despite the fact that Louis was an age to rule for himself.  The murder of Concini was ordered by Louis and just for good measure he reversed his mother’s pro-Spanish policy. Marie would remain in Blois until she escaped in 1619 and she wouldn’t regain political power until the death of the Ducky de Luynes. The removal of Marie drew Louis and Anne closer together.  Up until this point she had not learned much French, still dressed in the Spanish fashion and was a wife in name only. The Ducky de Luynes encouraged Louis to spend time with his wife.

Henrietta was with her mother at Blois but once Henrietta’s sister Christine was married off to the Duke of Savoy – Henrietta assumed a more important role.  She was the remaining dynastic pawn on the board of continental politics. In 1619 Henrietta was moved from Blois to the Louvre. By 1620 prospective husbands were under discussion.  She was eleven.

Cardinal Richelieu was keen on an English alliance for political reasons of his own but he would make his move in due course. The current driver for the wedding was the Duc de Luynes, the favourite and boy hood friend of Louis XVIII.  At this point, James I of England who had married his own daughter Elizabeth off to Frederick V of the Palatinate was determined on a Spanish match for his remaining son, Charles.  Du Buisson was dispatched to London on the Ducky de Luynes’ orders ostensibly to purchase horses for the Prince of Conde’s stables. The French Ambassador at the English court, Comte de Tillieres was instructed to introduce Du Buisson at court where he was turned down flat by King James.  The ambassador was able to assure King James that the proposal was unofficial because it hadn’t come through the proper channels i.e. him.  De Tillieres also stated that French princesses weren’t hawked around the countryside but that monarchs made their way to France in the hope that a French princess might be bestowed upon them.

This was unfortunate as de Luynes then sent his own brother to make another proposal.  Inevitably the Duke of Buckingham became involved with the envoys and there was insult on both sides rounded off by the Spanish ambassador getting in on the act to move the Spanish match forwards another couple of paces.

At home in France after de Luynes’ death  Marie de Medici was busy sowing discord between her son and his wife, Anne of Austria. Anne, sidelined and unhappy, sought entertainment and relied upon her favourite Marie de Rohan-Montbazon.

In short, life was complicated for Henrietta Maria even as a child.

Pearce, Dominic (2018) Henrietta Maria 

A Parliamentary Protestation

torn journal.gifParliamentary independence of thought, which may run counter to what those in charge would like to happen, is nothing new.  In 1621 James I’s third Parliament was unhappy about the turn of events – relating to Europe as it happens. They had four main grievances: monopolies, sale of honours, corruption at court and James I’s pro-Catholic foreign policy.  This post deals mainly with the last grievance.

James had decided that his heir, Charles, should marry a Spanish bride.  The lure of a very large dowry and the thought of being seen as Europe’s peacemaker was sufficient for James to ignore Parliamentary anxiety about Protestant England allying itself with the Catholic Hapsburgs- who were busily engaged on the Thirty Years War against Europe’s Protestants at the time including James’ own son-in-law Frederick V of the Palatinate and King of Bohemia.

Many Members of Parliament not only opposed the so-called Spanish match but wanted to go to war with Spain – preferring a sea based campaign rather than a land war . They said as much in June and repeated it less politely on the 3rd December 1621.  James told them to mind their own business given that foreign policy was a royal prerogative.

Meanwhile James did need money because his son-in- law, Frederick V King of Bohemia had been toppled from his throne by the Hapsburgs and James needed to show his support by providing cash for him to regain the aforementioned throne.  This gave Parliament leverage because they would have to grant the subsidies for James to do this. Parliament took the opportunity to assert its rights. It declared they had rights and liberties to discuss matters even if they displeased the king. James was not terribly amused and answered that parliament did not have a right to discuss whether his son should marry a Spanish bride or not since foreign policy was the King’s business rather than Parliament’s and that further more whatever rights Parliament did have were in the king’s gift to give or remove as he saw fit.

In answer Parliament filed a “Great Protestation” of its rights and privileges on 18th December 1621.  They claimed that Parliament held its rights through tradition i.e. inheritance from one generation to the next in that their rights had been given to them by previous monarchs – and that they intended to keep them rather than see them eroded because the current monarch held different views on the matter:

… concerning sundry liberties, franchises, privileges, and jurisdictions of parliament, amongst others not herein mentioned, do make this protestation following:—That the liberties, franchises, privileges, and jurisdictions of parliament are the ancient and undoubted birthright and inheritance of the subjects of England; and that the arduous and urgent affairs concerning the king, state, and the defence of the realm, and of the church of England, and the making and maintenance of laws, and redress of mischiefs, and grievances which daily happen within this realm, are proper subjects and matter of counsel and debate in parliament; and that in the handling and proceeding of those businesses, every member of the house hath, and of right ought to have, freedom of speech to propound, treat, reason, and bring to conclusion the same: that the commons in parliament have like liberty and freedom to treat of those matters, in such order as in their judgments shall seem fittest: and that every such member of the said house hath like freedom from all impeachment, imprisonment, and molestation (other than, by the censure of the house itself), for or concerning any bill, speaking, reasoning, or declaring of any matter or matters, touching the parliament or parliament business; and that, if any of the said members be complained of, and questioned for any thing said or done in parliament, the same is to be showed to the king, by the advice and assent of all the commons assembled in parliament, before the king give credence to any private information.

 

king-james1James was not impressed not least because James had given instruction to Parliament previously and dealt, he thought, with those very same issues. He thought that Parliament was just trying to extend their role. They weren’t just saying they had the right to debate matters they were also saying that they had the right to pass laws having discussed matters first and at the bottom of it all lies the right to freedom of speech.  Furthermore James felt that Parliament were so busy trying to extend its rights that they weren’t actually doing very much that was actually useful.  He sent for John Wright who was the Clerk of the House at that time.  James then tore the record of the protestation from the Commons Journal.

charles i full lengthThe Parliament of 1621 had not been a good experience for James in that not only did they defy him over foreign policy and protest their rights but they had also sought to undermine the power base that George Villers, Duke of Buckingham (and James’ favourite) , had built up by impeaching two of the men that owed him patronage for corruption. Sir Francis Bacon was also impeached for corruption. In return for two subsidies Parliament demanded harsher penal laws. No wonder James dissolved Parliament at the beginning of January 1622 – but the tensions that would build during the early years of Charles I’s reign were already in place.

The so-called torn journal pictured at the start of this post is located in the National Archives. http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/pathways/citizenship/citizen_subject/docs/torn_document.htm

Henry Hallam, The Constitutional History of England from the Accession of Henry VII. to the Death of George II. (London: Ward, Lock, & Co.)

habeas corpus versus divine right

Habeas CorpusCharles I believed in the Divine Right of Kings – that is to say the absolute power of the monarch based on the so-called Great Chain of Being which essentially placed the king at the top of the food chain, next only to God – who had, after all, placed the king in the position and everyone else in their allotted place as well.  The concept of Divine Right was written about by James I of England VI of Scotland in a book entitled The True Law of Free Monarchies in 1598 (before he became King of England).  In the book James who clearly saw himself as something of a political theorist stated:

they make and unmake their subjects, they have power of raising and casting down, of life and death.

Taking that as a model Charles I was clearly well inside his self-perceived rights to lock up anyone who failed to do as he asked.  Thus he did not feel it unreasonable in 1627 when he levied a forced loan to arrest the men who failed to pay. Further to this it was clearly established that a “king must live of his own,” except in case of war when taxes would be levied by Parliament to pay for the aforementioned wars. Charles believed that the State had a duty to pay for the war and in levying the loan he was merely bypassing parliament which had unhelpfully tried to impeach his foremost adviser – the Duke of Buckingham. Not only that but Charles felt grieved that Parliament had not voted him the subsidies that were traditionally granted when a new monarch ascended the throne – they had given them to him for a limited time only.  The relationship between Crown and State was changing.

The previous three posts have dealt with the Five Knights Case.  Today, bypassing Sir Edmund Hampden (who shouldn’t be confused with John Hampden who was also locked up for refusal to pay the loan) we will finish the case with a very brief look at Sir Thomas Darnel or Darnell.  The Five Knights case is sometimes referred to as Darnel’s Case. Essentially like the other gentlemen Darnel, who was from Lincolnshire, was arrested because he failed to pay the King’s forced loan.  Like the other gentlemen he was called to the Privy Council and when he refused to pay the loan was confined to the Fleet Prison from where he sought a writ of habeas corpus to test the legality of his imprisonment.

 

The reason given for  Darnel’s arrest lay in the ubiquitous “reasons of state.” Essentially it was not illegal not to pay the forced loan because it had not been enshrined in law by Parliament – because Parliament had been dissolved in order to prevent the impeachment of the Duke of Buckingham.  The judges in the case did not wish to look too closely at the way in which Charles was using a medieval Royal prerogative  but stated that the arrests were legal because the authority of the Crown was in itself sufficient and with precedent.  Lord Hyde the King’s Justice stated that he was sworn to uphold the king’s rights and if the king said that he had arrested more than seventy gentlemen across the country for reasons of state it wasn’t up to Lord Hyde to say otherwise. It should also be noted that the judiciary had previously been threatened with dismissal by Charles when they initially questioned the legality of the forced loan.

Realistically Charles couldn’t conduct the war without raising taxation of some kind or other. The fact that Lord Hyde didn’t make a judgement on the matter which would have then become part of Common Law and open to challenge but issued his verdict as a “rule of court,” caused both Charles and his administration to be regarded with suspicion by parliament and increasing numbers of his subjects who didn’t take kindly to the forced loans in any event.

Unsurprisingly when Parliament was recalled in 1628 it drew up a Petition of Right which drew on the arguments that the five knights had made referencing Magna Carta and the right of habeas corpus which states that when arrested a person has the right to be tried to test whether the arrest is legal or not. The debate that followed aired the rights and liberties of  subjects against the Crown.  In asserting those rights Parliament had removed the lid from Pandora’s box so that when Charles went on to rule for elven years without Parliament using medieval rights in order to raise revenue the reason for discontent within the state had already been rehearsed and only became more heated with the passage of time.

King James and Ireland

king-james1Where do I begin? I suppose considering James’ view would be as good a starting point as any.  James was king of England, Scotland and Ireland.  They were three separate kingdoms – i.e. they had parliaments and laws of their own.  The union within the person of James as monarch was an imperfect one, unlike Wales (and I apologise in advance – I’m stating James’ point of view  not mine) which was a perfect union because it had no parliament. Its laws were those of England – Edward I and Henry IV had seen to that. James also began with the view that Ireland was just like his other two kingdoms in that he believed that it had a hierarchical system that worked on a pyramid principle with the king at the top, then the nobility. He was of the view that the nobility were essential for the sound governance of the regions – the only thing was that the Irish hierarchy didn’t work in quite the same way as the English and Scottish systems (more on that shortly).

The Anglo-Norman arrival in Ireland during the medieval period was an invasion but it wasn’t a conquest.  Various Plantagenet monarchs invested men and money in Ireland but the effect was to create independent Anglo-Norman magnates who married the locals and ruled from Dublin in an area known as the English Pale.  They did not take kindly to royal interference.

The sixteenth century saw a change in the Anglo-Irish relationship because suddenly the English were officially Protestant whilst the Irish remained Catholic.  Ireland became a potential jumping off point for a Spanish invasion.  Henry VIII negotiated with the Irish with no understanding of the way land was viewed or the way in which people elected new chieftains — who weren’t always the son of the previous one. The English began to try to impose their will on the Irish.  Inevitably there was a rebellion which only escalated under Elizabeth.  1594-1603 saw The Nine Years War and Sir Humphrey Gilbert who would have found himself at the Hague being found guilty of war crimes – he had the path to his tent lined with the decapitated heads of men, women and children.

James began his reign somewhat differently to the Tudors by issuing pardons all round- remember he believed that a country needed its nobility to act as the arms and legs to the royal head- but Ulster lost its O Neil chieftain and the English declared the old Irish laws to be abolished.  Cutting a long story short,  a number of earls fled the country and were immediately declared traitors which meant that under English law their lands were forfeit to the Crown.   Sir John Davies, the attorney general in Ireland, wrote “[You] have a greater extent of land than any prince in Europe has to dispose of.” He recommended that it be planted on a large scale, because it would not work ” if the number of civil persons who are to be planted do not exceed the number of natives who will quickly overgrow them as weeds overgrow the good corn”.

James liked the idea of the Ulster Pale – it would reward men who had fought in Ireland, provide land for those turned off it in England, provide a force to keep those pesky Spanish at bay and also break the links between the Scottish Gaelic speaking highlanders and their Celtic counterparts in Ireland.  It was also be an opportunity for him to prove his Protestant credentials because ultimately he believed that the Irish would leave off being Catholics and become good Protestants if only thy were provided with education.  It would, in theory, also turn a profit for him.

In 1609 there was a survey and the land in Ulster divided into Church land and Crown property.  The Crown property was divided into estates of 1,000, 1,500 and 2,000 acres. 59 Scots and 51 English landlords undertook to transport at least ten families to Ulster. They were also permitted to rent out to native Irish tenants.  These wealthy landlords were called undertakers. Undertakers were also required to build a sturdy stone house for every 1500 acres.  These were designed to keep the Irish out in the event of armed conflict.

There were also a group of men called servitors. These men had been soldiers and were being rewarded for their service.

And of course not all the settlers were men – Davies wanted growing communities to counterbalance the Native Irish.

The third group were the “deserving Irish” – who were deserving because they hadn’t recently done much in the way of rebelling.  Many Irish were relocated specifically to be closer to Protestant churches – and garrisons.  To describe the Irish as becoming increasingly disgruntled is something of an understatement. James’ representative in Ireland, Sir Arthur Chichester, became ever more concerned that the rights of the native Irish were being ignored, especially when more land was acquired by the English when they claimed that inheritance through gavelkind (inheritance in equal part by all children) wasn’t an English way of doing things and only led to confusion – so confiscated property divided this way.  Davies claimed that Brehon Law which included gavelkind was a “lewd custom.”

There was also a lack of understanding about the way in which the land was farmed  and the fact that there were no walled towns which was regarded as backward.   Essentially the English were warming up to declare the Irish a bunch of barbarians in need of a spot of civilising – a legal conquest justified by a failure to recognise the way that Irish society worked.

Inevitably there was conflict between the settlers and the Irish.  In Munster the settlers were forced to flee and whilst there had been enthusiasm for resettlement in Ireland initially- it being closer to home than America- it rapidly became clear that rents and hostile locals were rather large flies in the ointment. There was also the issue that not all the land was that desirable. It wasn’t long before some of the settlers arranged themselves on land that had been designated as belonging to the Irish because it looked more appealing that the patch with which they had been issued.

All of this, is of course, a very straight forward account. It does not take account of revisionist views nor does it look at the complexities of Irish politics – or the generations of conflict that would ensue. Religious identity  of either variety would be enough to get you killed, if you happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, for centuries to come and its consequences still resonate.  James I changed the population of Ireland whilst the armies that followed throughout the seventeenth century did nothing to help the situation.

Fergal Keane’s 2011 Story of Ireland which is currently being repeated on television presents the brutality of Irish history alongside the resilience and creativity of its peoples.  It is a good starting point for anyone wanting to find out more.

 

The decline of witches

250px-Daemonologie1By 1619 James, according to Borman, was becoming skeptical about witches. None the less, events such as the Belvoir Witch Trial meant that witchcraft remained a topic of much interest.

 

I’ve posted about the Belvoir Witches previously but just a quick reminder, the Earl of Rutland’s two young sons died.  Blame was ultimately placed on Joan Flowers and her two daughters, Margaret and Philippa.  They had been dismissed from their posts at Belvoir accused of theft and had left muttering curses.  The family had fallen on hard times – probably because Joan’s husband, John, had died.  It was rumoured that the three women were offering a range of services to community – at any rate both daughters were described in the records as “abandoned and profligate.”  It probably didn’t help that Joan liked a good argument.

Then Henry Manners, Lord Ros died. The doctors had been unable to decide what his illness might have been.  Shortly after that the Earl of Rutland’s other son also died. Initially the earl and his wife Cecilia (incidentally a Tresham of Gunpowder Plot connections) didn’t believe that the deaths were witchcraft but ultimately the Flowers women were arrested and taken off to Lincoln for trial where they inevitably confessed.

However, times so far as James were concerned, were changing.  When the Leicestershire witch trials took place James was on progress and interrogated the women and their accusers.  They were released.  James was beginning to develop skepticism.  When he wrote a commentary on the Lord’s Prayer he made no mention to the existence of evil in the form of witches – as he lost interest so the number of witch trials declined. It was becoming more common to make jokes about witches rather than to string up hapless little old ladies who had the misfortune to be poor, ill looking cat owners. This was unfortunate for witch hunters who were usually paid by result which probably accounts for the fact that once one was discovered several more popped up in the same place.

Some of the women accused of witchcraft now took the opportunity to take their accusers to court.  One of them Agnes Fenn, a Norfolk widow of mature years, went to the Star Chamber and named the men who’d set upon her, beaten her, forced her to sit on knives and set off gunpowder in her face in an effort to make her confess to being a witch. Despite having been terrorised and stabbed in the face the Norfolk gentlemen who had carried out the attack declared themselves innocent of the accusation and Agnes received no further redress – demonstrating that being old and poor wasn’t a good starting point from which to hope for justice.

By the 1630’s killing witches was almost a thing of the past – but then the English Civil War came along and with one thing and another witch hunting once more became a popular pastime.

Sir Walter Raleigh’s treason

William_Segar_Sir_Walter_Raleigh_1598On Thursday 17th November 1603 Sir Walter Raleigh was tried at Winchester for his part in the Main Plot. The jury took 15 minutes to arrive at their verdict and even Lord Coke the attorney general was taken by surprise at the speed of the delivery – he was still taking a stroll round the gardens when the jury returned.  No one was particularly surprised by the outcome, probably least of all Sir Walter, but the consensus was that he had arrived in Winchester one of the most disliked men in the kingdom but departed as one of the most pitied.

Essentially Sir Walter was caught up by the Main Plot which conspired to kill James and his children and replace them with Arbella Stuart having been financed by the Spanish and the Hapsburgs. Much of the evidence against Raleigh was based on Lord Cobham’s evidence.

The King’s Sergeant when introducing the case announced that Cobham revered Raleigh and that the former was a simple untravelled man whilst Raleigh was much more worldly.

Raleigh defended himself ably and with humour noting that the entire content of his trial was based on hearsay by one man and that man had received a letter from his wife telling him to pin it on Raleigh.  He went on to say that under a law dating from the reign of Edward III that two men were required to condemn a man.  Coke, objected saying that horse thieves used that stratagem to avoid condemnation and that to argue against the king’s court on a point of law suggested treasonable intent in itself.

He continued to observe that he was not charged with the Bye Plot which was to kidnap James I – and that if he was part of the conspiracy why hadn’t he been trusted to take part in that particular hare-brained scheme.

Raleigh also made the very good point that the Spanish had never been his friends and that they didn’t look particularly kindly upon him in any event so to accuse him of being in cahoots with the Spanish verged upon the absurd.  He continued in that particular vein picking holes in the evidence and observing that he had thought that Lord Cobham was offering him a pension to work for peace- something that Cecil himself had accepted- so it was hardly treasonous.

Looking at the trial transcripts it is clear that under today’s laws the case would have been thrown out.  Somewhat ironically James and Cecil needed Raleigh out of the way so that they could make peace with the Spanish.

 

Robert Cecil

00cecilR3Robert was born in 1563, the second son of William Cecil.  His mother was Mildred Cooke.  Robert had an elder half-brother called Thomas who would become the 1st Earl of Exeter but it was this younger, much more clever son, upon who William lavished his affection as well as training him to take over the reins of government.

When he arrived at court he initially seemed at a disadvantage when compared with the young and handsome Earl of Essex.  Robert was small and had a twisted back.  He had only is mind to recommend him and for a while the contest between the new young favourites cannot have been comfortable but in 1596 Elizabeth made Robert, who she called her “pygmy”, her Secretary of State.

In 1601 the Earl of Essex rebelled against the queen and suffered the ultimate penalty.   Robert had blamed his uprising upon the queen’s poor advisor’s of whom Cecil featured.  In the aftermath of the short-lived uprising Cecil counselled clemency but it did him no good in popular imagination.  People had rather liked the flamboyant Essex whereas Cecil was regarded with suspicion in part because of his physical disability – body reflecting godliness etc- there were ballads placing the blame for Essex’s death squarely on Robert’s head.

Interestingly when the conspirators of the Main  and Bye Plot were brought to trial – and bear in mind one of them was his brother-in-law Lord Cobham- it was Cecil who expressed some doubt over Raleigh’s guilt.  Modern historians tend to look at the transcript of the trial and wonder how anyone could have thought Raleigh guilty and are more inclined to consider the possibility that Cecil was helping a political opponent out of the picture.

Robert, like his father before him was a loyal servant to the queen but he opened a secret correspondence with James VI of Scotland.  The stability of the country was largely due to Cecil’s careful management of the transition between monarchs.   The reward for the ease with which James became king was an elevation to the peerage in 1605.  Cecil also became Lord Treasurer.

The Earl of Salisbury was at the root of James’ good governance in the years between 1603 and 1612.  It was he who negotiated the peace with Spain in 1604 – which although unpopular helped to stabilise the economy which was leaking money into the ongoing war. It was he who introduced a Book of rates in 1608 and it was he who attempted to negotiate the Great Contract between King and Parliament in 1610.  This particular venture didn’t come to fruition as neither side particularly trusted the other – and yes it will be a post very shortly.  Robert’s financial policy wasn’t helped by the king’s expenditure, his generous gifts to his favourites or the cost of maintaining a royal household that contained a king, his wife and their children.

Like his predecessor, James  had a predilection for nicknames – Cecil moved from “pygmy” or “elf” to “little beagle.”  The little beagle became increasingly over worked.  In addition to finances there was the matter of religion and the Gunpowder Plot. James also had a new favourite – the handsome but somewhat brainless Robert Carr. Cecil found his advice increasingly spurned in favour of that provided by Robert Carr – or more truthfully- Sir Thomas Overbury who advised Carr.  Francis Bacon’s political aspirations also made life difficult for Cecil who was increasingly adrift in the Stuart world.

And then there is the matter of the Gunpowder Plot – Cecil presents himself as the saviour of king and parliament but there are some doubts about exactly how much provoking Cecil might have done beforehand – he’d learned from that master of espionage Sir Francis Walsingham how to implicate suspects in a web of guilt.

He died in 1612 having swapped his father’s home at Theobalds in 1607 for the Royal Palace at Hatfield on account of the fact the king had taken a shine to Cecil’s house and garden. Cecil demolished the medieval palace and used the bricks to rebuild a new house.

 

The Millenary Petition and Hampton Court Conference.

king-james1I’ve posted a James I timeline before.  It can be opened here in a new window.  Many of James’ problems at home stemmed from the religious changes that were underway during this period.

He hadn’t even been crowned when he found himself being asked to change the way religion was viewed.  In the Spring of 1603 as he travelled south he was presented with the so-called Millenary Petition.  The Petition, signed by Puritan ministers, commented on the state of the Anglican Church (thy weren’t wildly enthusiastic) however, they had a fine line to walk as criticism of the Church implied criticism of the monarch.  For that reason the preamble made it very clear that the Puritans had no desire to move a way from the Anglican Church.  They did not wish to be regarded as separatists.

The fact was though that they didn’t think the Church had gone far enough with its reformation. Their objections were to do with the rites and rituals of the Church such as the wearing of the surplus and even the wearing of wedding rings. Currently there is no original copy of the Millenary Petition available which is odd because no one could cause Robert Cecil of being sloppy with his filing – but on the other hand during the opening months of James’ reign he was being petitioned about all manner of issue.

They went on to say that they would appreciate it if the king would discuss matters.  James got their hopes up by indicating that he was prepared to debate these things.  The only problem was that at this point no one was aware that James liked to show off his knowledge.  Thus when The Hampton Court Conference was convened in January 1604 Puritans, and rather surprisingly Catholics alike, were hopeful that there would be steps towards religious toleration.  The Puritans had been forced into secrecy at the end of Elizabeth’s reign whilst Catholics faced heavy recusancy fines depending which part of the country they lived in.

 

The conference opened its doors on the 14th of January 1604. Archbishop Whitgift of Canterbury was also there as were eight other leading clerics all dolled up in the ecclesiastical finery which irritated the Puritans so much.  The Puritans chose their representatives carefully.  They opted for moderate men.  The king was very pleased with himself – he felt that he was leading a discussion of learned men.  During the next three days he listened to what they had to say – or rather he told them what he thought of what they said.  He had no wish to live under presbyterianism, felt that standards of preaching needed to improve and agreed that clerics should be able to debate theological matters – Elizabeth had banned such discussions.

The Puritans must have had cause for hopefulness after all of that so it came as a bitter disappointment when the official outcome, announced by proclamation in July, was one of conformity and business as usual.  The only real outcome was the commissioning of the King James Bible.

Part of the problem was that despite his education as a protestant, James believed in the Devine Right of Kings.  The Puritans want the Church to govern itself and this in James’ mind detracted from the monarch’s special relationship with the Almighty.

On the other hand someone somewhere must have told James not to go poking sticks into ants’ nests because by the end of his reign only two puritan ministers had been turfed out of their livings for non-conformity and George Abbot, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1611 to 1633 was known to protect Puritan ministers on account of his sympathy with many of their beliefs.

As for the Catholics – their hopes of toleration dashed- a number of men sought to blow up the Houses of Parliament and paid the ultimate penalty but in all only twenty Catholic Priests were executed during the period of James’ reign.  It doesn’t sound particularly kindly but in relation to Elizabeth’s tally of executed priests it looks positively tolerant!

 

Cavendish, Richard. (2004) “The Hampton Court Conference.” History Today. Vol 54, i

 

The earls of Northumberland and the Percy family part 4 of 4

Lady Elizabeth Percy, Duchess of Somerset (1667-1722)by Sir Godfrey Kneller (Lübeck 1646 - London 1723)

The 9th earl of Northumberland:

The nineth earl, yet another Henry was the eighth earl’s son born in 1564 and like his father spent time in the Tower. He was complicit in the Gun Powder Plot, gambled rather too much and had a nicotine habit.

Prior to getting himself into a treasonous sort of trouble he served under the Earl of Leicester in the Low Countries during the 1580s and was in the fleet facing the Spanish Armada.   Not withstanding his evident loyalty to the throne there were suggestions that he might marry Lady Arbella Stuart during the early 1590s.  Arbella had a claim to the throne via her father Charles Stuart the younger brother of Henry Stuart (Lord Darnley).  The earl also had a claim to the throne albeit a rather distant one.  It was suggested that the pair might make a winning team as with the death of Mary Queen of Scots a Catholic alternative was required to Protestant James.  Instead of marrying Arbella he  married Dorothy Devereaux, the sister of the 2ndearl of Essex (the one executed by Elizabeth I for treason in 1601) and step-daughter of the Earl of Leicester.  It was not necessarily a wildly happy marriage although they did have a shared friend in Sir Walter Raleigh.

Initially it appeared that the ninth earl would rise to prominence under the Stuarts.  He was made a Privy Councillor in 1603 but Percy was not happy about the way Raleigh was treated and the promised tolerance for catholicism never materialised. He also regarded Prince Henry as a more regal alternative.  In short when Thomas Percy was found to have conspired in the gunpowder plot it was one short step from there to the incrimination of the earl himself.

Despite the fact that Lord Salisbury (Robert Cecil) wrote that there was no evidence against him the earl was charged with treason and fined £30,000 – £11,000 of the fine fell due immediately.  Percy was in the Tower, his wife appealed to Anne of Denmark and James I confiscated some of the earl’s estates.  The earl’s years in the Tower were not badly spent in that he and Sir Walter Raleigh spent their time conducting scientific experiments and reading.  He also had plenty of time to fulminate on his dislike of all things Scottish which can’t have been good news when his daughter fell in love with one.  In all the earl spent almost sixteen years inside the Tower.

The earl, upon release, having taken the waters in Bath retired to Petworth where he died in 1632.

The 10th Earl of Northumberland:

The tenth earl broke with tradition in that his first name was Algernon but like the rest of his family he didn’t get along with the current occupant of the throne.  Whilst he was on his European educational tour his father wrote to him from the Tower giving him advice about what to look at and how to behave.  He was the MP for Sussex in 1624 and served as an admiral in various campaigns. Charles I favoured him with assorted promotions over the years but ultimately despite looking like a Royalist with his flowing hair and lace collars he fought on Parliament’s side during the English Civil War. By 1649 he was doing everything possible to prevent the king’s execution.  Essentially after Charles I was executed Algernon threw all his toys out from his pram and refused to play with Oliver Cromwell.  In 1660 when he returned to politics along with a restored monarchy he petitioned against the actions that Charles II took against the regicides.

 

The 11th Earl of Northumberland:

The 11thearl was called Josceline – born 1644, he had been a page at Charles II’s coronation. When he died in Turin in 1670 there was just one daughter Elizabeth.  She was married to Charles Seymour, the Sixth Duke of Somerset.  It was her third marriage and she was only  fifteen at the time!  Her son Algernon became the Duke of Somerset – the title being superior to that of an earl. Normally his eldest son would have taken the title earl of Northumberland until he inherited the dukedom but he also had only one child – a daughter, Elizabeth Seymour  pictured at the start of the post.  The dukedom of Somerset would pass elsewhere on Algernon’s death but the earldom of Northumberland was held suo jureor in her own right  by Elizabeth as indeed her grandmother  had held it.  So, her husband Sir Hugh Smithson took the surname Percy in much the same way that had happened back in the thirteenth century.  In 1766 Sir Hugh Smithson changed his name to Percy by act of Parliament. It was a move to see that an ancient name and title did not die out. He was created the Duke of Northumberland the same year.

From an earl to a duke.

The Dukedom of Northumberland has been created on three different occasions: John Dudley made himself Duke of Northumberland in 1551 – but he had a nasty accident with an axe thanks to the whole Lady Jane Grey gambit.   Charles II revived the title for one of his illegitimate sons but  George Fitzroy had no heirs.  There was a Jacobite duke in 1715 but he is considered not to count because he was installed by the Old Pretender.