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Significant Scots
James VI


JAMES VI. of Scotland, and I. of England, was born in the castle of Edinburgh, June 19, 1566. He was the son of the reigning sovereign Mary, by her husband, Henry, lord Darnley, who was nominally associated with her in the government, and was the eldest son of the existing earl of Lennox. Both by his father and mother, James was the great-grandson of Henry VII. of England, and, failing queen Elizabeth and his own mother, stood nearest to the throne of that kingdom, at the same time that he was heir-apparent to the Scottish crown. The character of his parents and their previous history are so well known, that it is unnecessary to touch upon them here. It may only be mentioned, that while the royal infant brought with him into the world pretensions the most brilliant that could have befallen a mortal creature, he also carried in his constitution a weakness of the most lamentable nature, affecting both his body and his mind. About three months before his birth, his father headed a band of conspirators, who broke violently into the privacy of his mother’s chamber, and in her presence slew her favourite counsellor, David Riccio. The agitation of the mother on that occasion, took effect upon the child, who, though intended apparently to be alike strong in mental and bodily constitution, showed through life many deficiencies in both respects, though, perhaps, to a less extent than has been represented by popular history.

It is well known that a confederation of the Scottish nobles dethroned Mary about a year after the birth of her son. While this ill-fated princess was condemned to imprisonment in Lochleven castle, her son was taken to Stirling, and there crowned at the age of thirteen months and ten days. The real government was successively administered by the regents Moray, Lennox, Mar, and Morton, under the secret direction of the English queen, by whom, in time, her rival Mary was put to death. James, after a weakly infancy, was placed under the care of the celebrated Buchanan, whose religious principles and distinguished scholarship seemed to qualify him peculiarly for the task of educating a protestant prince. It would appear that the young king received at the hands of his master a great deal more learning, classical and theological, than he was able to digest, and thus became liable to as much of the fault of pedantry, as consists in a hoarding of literature for its own sake, or for purposes of ostentation, accompanied by an inability to turn it to its only true use in the ordinary purposes of life. A pliability of temper, subject alike to evil and to good influences; a sly acuteness in penetrating the motives of men, without the power to make it of any practical advantage; and a proneness to listen to the flattering counsellors who told him he was a king, and ought to have the power of one, were other characteristics of this juvenile monarch; whose situation, it must at the same time be acknowledged, was one of such difficulty, as to render a fair development of the best faculties of the mind, and the best tendencies of the heart, hardly to be expected.

Though made and upheld as a king, in consequence of a successful rebellion against the monarchical principle, James was early inspired with a high sense of his royal powers and privileges, probably by some of those individuals who are never wanting around the persons of young princes, let their education be ever so carefully conducted. Even before attaining the age of twelve, he had become the centre of a little knot of courtiers, who clustered about him at his residence in Stirling castle, and plotted schemes for transferring the reins of government into his own hands. Morton permitted himself to be surprised in 1578 by this party, who for some time conducted the affairs of state in the name of the king, as if he had been in full possession of his birth-right. Morton, however, soon after regained nearly all his wonted ascendancy, and it was not till two or three years later that the king became completely emancipated from this powerful agent of the English queen. A young scion of nobility, named captain Stuart, from his commanding the king’s guards, and Esme, earl of Lennox, the king’s cousin, were his chief instruments in obtaining the sovereign power, and in raising that prosecution against Morton, which ended in his execution, June 2, 1581. The former is represented as a profligate adventurer, who studied only how, by flattering the king and enforcing his despotic views, to promote his own interest. Lennox was a gentler and worthier person, but was obnoxious to popular odium, on account of his professing the catholic faith. The protestant and English interest soon rallied, and, in August, 1552, took place the celebrated Raid of Ruthven, by which a few presbyterian nobles, headed by the earl of Gowrie, were enabled to take possession of the royal person, and use his authority for some time in behalf of liberal government and their own religious principles, while Stuart and Lennox were forbidden his presence.

It was not till June, 1583, that James emancipated himself from a control which, however well he appeared to bear it, was far from agreeable to him. Lennox had now been banished to France, where he died of a broken heart; Stuart was created earl of Arran on the ruins of the Hamilton family, and became almost solo counsellor to the young monarch. The nobles who had seized the king at Ruthven, were pardoned; but Gowrie, having soon after made a second and unsuccessful attempt, was beheaded at Stirling. During the interval between June, 1583, and November, 1585, the government was of a decidedly anti-popular and anti-presbyterian character,—Arran being permitted to act entirely as he pleased. The presbyterian nobles, however, who had fled into England, were, at the latter period, enabled by Elizabeth to invade their own country, with such a force as overturned the power of the unworthy favourite, and re-established a system agreeable to the clergy and people, and more closely respondent to the wishes of Elizabeth. In this way James grew up to man’s estate.

In 1584, when eighteen years of age, he made his first appearance as an author, by publishing a small thin quarto, entitled "Essayes of a Prentice in the Divine Art of Poesie, with the Rewlis and Cauteles to be pursued and avoided." This work consists of a mixture of poetry and prose; the poems being chiefly a series of sonnets, which bear very much the appearance of school exercises; while the prose consists of a code of laws for the construction of verse according to the ideas of that age. There is little in the king’s style or his ideas to please the present age; yet, compared with the efforts of contemporary authors, these poems may be said to bear a respectable appearance.

The main effect of the late revolution was to re-establish the English influence, which had been deranged by the ascendancy of captain Stuart. In June, 1586, James entered into an arrangement with Elizabeth, by which, in consideration of a pension of five thousand pounds, rendered necessary by his penurious circumstances, he engaged to support England against the machinations of the catholic powers of Europe. It was also part of this treaty, that a correspondence which he had entered into with his mother, should be broken off; and he even submitted so far to the desires of his new superior, as to write a disrespectful letter to that unhappy princess, who replied in an eloquent epistle, threatening to denounce him as a usurper, and load him with a parent’s curse. James, in reality, during the whole of his occupancy of the Scottish throne, was a mere tool in the hands of one party or another; and had no personal influence or independence whatever till the advanced age of Elizabeth gave him near hopes of the English crown. Great care is therefore to be taken in judging of his actions, lest that be attributed to his own vicious will, which was only the dictate of a political system, of which he was the apparent head, but the real slave. In the winter of 1586-7, he had to endure the painful reflection, that his mother was threatened with, and ultimately brought to the scaffold, without his being able to make the least movement in her favour. It is but justice to him to say, that so far from his manifesting the levity on this subject attributed to him by several writers, he appears from documents of respectable authority, to have manifested the highest indignation, and a degree of grief hardly to be expected from him, considering that he was not conscious of having ever seen his parent. Mary, in her last prayer in the hail of Fotheringay, while stretched before the block, entreated the favour of God towards her son; which shows that she had not ultimately found proper cause for putting her threat into execution.

In 1588, while the shores of England were threatened with the Spanish armada, James fulfilled, as far as he could, the treaty into which he had entered with Elizabeth, by using his best exertions to suppress the movements of a powerful catholic party among his own subjects, in support of the invasion. In return for this, Elizabeth permitted him to take a wife; and his choice ultimately fell upon the princess Anne of Denmark, second daughter of the deceased Frederick the second. He was married by proxy in August, 1589; but the princess having been delayed in Norway by a storm, which threatened to detain her for the winter, he gallantly crossed the seas to Upslo, in order to consummate the match. After spending some months at the Danish court, he returned to Scotland in May, 1590; when the reception vouchsafed to the royal pair was fully such as to justify an expression used by James in one of his letters, that "a king with a new married wyfe did not come hame every day."

The king had an illegitimate cousin, Francis, earl of Bothwell, who now for some years embittered his life by a series of plots and assaults for which there is no parallel even in Scottish history. Bothwell had been spared by the king’s goodness in 1589, from the result of a sentence for treason, passed on account of his concern in a catholic conspiracy. Soon after James returned from Denmark, it was discovered that he had tampered with professing witches to take away the king’s life by necromancy. He at first proposed to stand a trial for this alleged offence, but subsequently found it necessary to make his escape. His former sentence was then permitted to take effect, and he became, in the language of the times, a broken man. Repeatedly, however, did this bold adventurer approach the walls of Edinburgh, and even assail the king in his palace; nor could the limited powers of the sovereign either accomplish his seizure, or frighten him out of the kingdom. He even contrived at one time to regain his place in the king’s council, and remained for several months in the enjoyment of all his former honours, till once more expelled by a party of his enemies. The king appears to have purposely been kept in a state of powerlessness by his subjects; even the strength necessary to execute the law upon the paltriest occasions was denied to him; and his clergy took every opportunity of decrying his government, and diminishing the respect of his people,—lest, in becoming stronger or more generally reverenced, he should have used his increased force against the liberal interest, and the presbyterian religion, if he could have been depended upon as a thorough adherent of these abstractions, there can be no doubt that his Scottish reign would have been less disgraced by the non-execution of the laws. But then, was his first position under the regents and the protestant nobles of a kind calculated to attach him sincerely to that party? or can it be decidedly affirmed that the zeal of the clergy of those rough and difficult times, was sufficiently tempered with human kindness, to make a young prince prefer their peculiar system to one which addressed him in a more courteous manner, and was more favourable to that regal power, the feebleness of which had hitherto seemed the cause of all his distresses and all his humiliation?

In 1585, while under the control of Aryan, he had written a paraphrase and commentary on the Revelation of St John, which, however, was not completed or published for some years after. In 1591, he produced a second volume of verse, entitled "Poetical Exercises;" in the preface to which he informs the reader, as an apology for inaccuracies, that "scarcelie but at stolen moments had leisure to blenk upon any paper, and yet nocht that with free unvexed spirit." He also appears to have at this time proceeded some length with his translation of the Psalms into Scottish verse. It is curious that, while the king manifested, in his literary studies, both the pure sensibilities of the poet and the devout aspirations of the saint, his personal manners were coarse, his amusements of no refined character, and his speech rendered odious by common swearing.

It is hardly our duty to enter into a minute detail of the oscillations of the Scottish church, during this reign, between presbytery and episcopacy. In proportion as the king was weak, the former system prevailed; and in proportion as he gained strength from the prospect of the English succession, and other causes, the episcopal polity was re-imposed. We are also disposed to overlook the troubles of the catholic nobles—Huntly, Errol, and Angus, who, for some obscure plot in concert with Spain, were persecuted to as great an extent as the personal favour of the king, and his fear of displeasing the English papists, would permit. The leniency shown by the king to these grandees procured him the wrath of the church, and led to the celebrated tumult of the 17th of December, 1596, in which the clergy permitted themselves to make so unguarded an appearance, as to furnish their sovereign with the means of checking their power, without offending the people.

In February, 1594, a son, afterwards the celebrated prince Henry, was born to the king at Stirling castle; this was followed some years after by the birth of a daughter, Elizabeth, whose fate, as the queen of Bohemia, and ancestress of the present royal family of Britain, gives rise to so many varied reflections. James wrote a treatise of counsel for his son, under the title of "Basilicon Doron," which, though containing some passages offensive to the clergy, is a work of much good sense, and conveys, upon the whole, a respectable impression, at once of the author’s abilities, and of his moral temperament. It was published in 1599, and is said to have gained him a great accession of esteem among the English, for whose favour, of course, he was anxiously solicitous.

Few incidents of note occurred in the latter part of the king’s Scottish reign. The principal was the famous conspiracy of the earl of Gowrie and his brother, sons of the earl beheaded in 1584, which was developed—if we may speak of it in such a manner—on the 5th of August, 1600. This affair has of late been considerably elucidated by Robert Pitcairn, Esq., in his laborious work, the "Criminal Trials of Scotland," though it is still left in some measure as a question open to dispute. The events, so far as ascertained, were as follows.

Early on the morning of the 5th of August, 1600, Alexander, Master of Ruthven, with only two followers, Andrew Henderson and Andrew Ruthven, rode from Perth to Falkland, where king James was at that time residing. He arrived there about seven o’clock, and stopping at a house in the vicinity of the palace, sent Henderson forward to learn the motions of the king. His messenger returned quickly with the intelligence, that his majesty was just departing for the chase. Ruthven proceeded immediately to the palace, where he met James in front of the stable. They spoke together for about a quarter of an hour. None of the attendants overheard the discourse, but it was evident from the king’s laying his hand on the master’s shoulder, and clapping his back, that the matter of it pleased him. The hunt rode on, and Ruthven joined the train; first, however, despatching Henderson to inform his brother that his majesty was coming to Perth with a few attendants, and to desire him to cause dinner to be prepared. A buck was slain about ten o’clock, when the king desired the duke of Lennox and the earl of Mar to accompany him to Perth, to speak with the earl of Gowrie. The master of Ruthven now despatched his other attendant to give the earl notice of the king’s approach; and immediately afterwards James and he set off at a rate that threw behind the royal attendants, who lost some time in changing horses. When the duke of Lennox overtook them, the king, with great glee, told him that he was riding to Perth to get a pose (treasure). He then asked the duke’s opinion of Alexander Ruthven, which proving favourable, he proceeded to repeat the story which that young man had told him, of his having the previous evening surprised a man with a large sum of money on his person. The duke expressed his opinion of the improbability of the tale, and some suspicion of Ruthven’s purpose; upon which the king desired him to follow when he and Ruthven should leave the hall—an order which he repeated after his arrival in the earl of Gowrie’s house.

Meantime, Henderson, on his arrival at Perth, found the elder Ruthven in his chamber, speaking upon business with two gentlemen. Gowrie drew him aside the moment he entered, and asked whether he brought any letter or message from his brother. On learning that the king was coming, he took the messenger into his cabinet, and inquired anxiously in what manner the master had been received, and what persons were in attendance upon his majesty. Returning to the chamber, he made an apology to the two gentlemen, and dismissed them. Henderson then went to his own house. When he returned, in about an hour, the earl desired him to arm himself, as he had to apprehend a Highlander in the Shoe-gate. The master of the household being unwell, the duty of carrying up the earl’s dinner devolved upon Henderson. He performed this service about half past twelve; and afterwards waited upon the earl and some friends who were dining with him. They had just sat down when Andrew Ruthven entered, and whispered something in the earl’s ear, who, however, seemed to give no heed. As the second course was about to be set upon the table, the master of Ruthven, who had left the king about a mile from Perth, and rode on before, entered and announced his majesty’s approach. This was the first intelligence given the inhabitants of Gowrie house of the king’s visit, for Gowrie had kept not only his coining, but also the master’s visit to Falkland, a profound secret. The earl and his visitors, with their attendants, and some of the citizens among whom the news had spread, went out to meet the king.

The street in which Gowrie house formerly stood runs north and south, and parallel to the Tay. The house was on the side next the river, built so as to form three sides of a square, the fourth side, that which abutted on the street, being formed by a wall, through which the entry into the interior court, or close, was by a gate. The scene of the subsequent events was the south side of the square. The interior of this part of the edifice contained, in the first story, a dining-room, looking out upon the river, a hall in the centre, and a room at the further end looking out upon the Street, each of them occupying the whole breadth of the building, and opening into each other. The second story consisted of a gallery occupying the space of the dining-room and hall below, and at the street end of this gallery, a chamber, in the north-west corner of which was a circular closet, formed by a turret which overhung the outer wall, in which were two long narrow windows, the one looking towards the spy-tower, (a strong tower built over one of the city-gates,) the other looking out upon the court, but visible from the street before the gate. The access to the hall and gallery was by a large turnpike stair in the southeast corner of the court. The hall likewise communicated with the garden, which lay between the house and the river, by a door opposite to that which opened from the turnpike, and an outward stair. The access to the chamber in which was the round closet, was either through the gallery, or by means of a smaller turnpike (called the black turnpike) which stood half-way betwixt the principal one and the street

The unexpected arrival of the king caused a considerable commotion in Gowrie’s establishment. Craigingelt, the master of the household, was obliged to leave his sick bed, and bestir himself. Messengers were despatched through Perth to seek, not for meat, for of that there seems to have been plenty, but for some delicacy fit to be set upon the royal table. The baillies and other dignitaries of Perth, as also some noblemen who were resident in the town, came pouring in,—some to pay their respects to his majesty, others to stare at the courtiers. Amid all this confusion, somewhat more than an hour elapsed before the repast was ready. To judge by the king’s narrative, and the eloquent orations of Mr Patrick Galloway, this neglect on the part of the earl seems to have been regarded as not the least criminal part of his conduct: and with justice; for his royal highness had been riding hard since seven o’clock, and it was past two before he could get a morsel, which, when it did come, bore evident marks of being hastily prepared.

As soon as the king was set down to dinner, the earl sent for Andrew Henderson, whom he conducted up to the gallery, where the master was waiting for them. After some short conversation, during which Gowrie told Henderson to do any thing his brother bade him, the younger Ruthven locked this attendant into the little round closet within the gallery chamber, and left him there. Henderson began now, according to his own account, to suspect that something wrong was in agitation, and set himself to pray, in great perturbation of mind. Meanwhile, the earl of Gowrie returned to take his place behind the chair of his royal guest. When the king had dined, and Lennox, Mar, and the other noblemen in waiting, had retired from the dining-room to the hall to dine in their turn, Alexander Ruthven came and whispered to the king, to find some means of getting rid of his brother the earl, from whom he had all along pretended great anxiety to keep the story of the found treasure a secret. The king filled a bumper, and, drinking it off, desired Gowrie to carry his pledge to the noblemen in the hall. While they were busy returning the health, the king and the master passed quietly through the hall, and ascended the great stair which led to the gallery. They did not, however, pass altogether unobserved, and some of the royal train made an attempt to follow them, but were repelled by Ruthven, who alleged the king’s wish to be alone. From the gallery they passed into the chamber at the end of it, and the door of this room Ruthven appears to have locked behind him.

When the noblemen had dined, they inquired after their master, but were informed by Gowrie that he had retired, and wished to be private. The earl immediately called for the keys of the garden, whither he was followed by Lennox and part of the royal train; whilst Mar, with the rest, remained in the house. John Ramsay, a favourite page of the king, says in his deposition, that, on rising from table, he had agreed to take charge of a hawk for one of the servants, in order to allow the man to go to dinner. He seems, while thus engaged, to have missed Gowrie’s explanation of the king’s absence, for he sought his majesty in the dining-room, in the garden, and afterwards in the gallery. He had never before seen this gallery, which is said—we know not upon what authority--to have been richly adorned with paintings by the earl’s father, and he staid some time admiring it. On coming down stairs, he found the whole of the king’s attendants hurrying towards the outer gate, and was told by Thomas Cranstone, one of the earl’s servants, that the king had rode on before. Ramsay, on hearing this, ran to the stable where his horse was. Lennox and Mar, who had also heard the report of the king’s departure, asked the porter, as they were passing the gate, whetner the king were indeed forth. The man replied in the negative. Gowrie checked him with considerable harshness, and affirmed that the king had passed out by the back gate. "That is impossible, my lord," answered the porter, "for it is locked, and the key is in my pocket." Gowrie, somewhat confused, said he would return and learn the truth of the matter. He came back almost instantly, affirming positively that the king had ridden out by the back gate. The greater part of the company were now assembled on the High Street, in front of the house, waiting for their horses, and discussing how they were to seek the king. At this moment, the king’s voice was heard, crying—"I am murdered! Treason! My lord of Mar, help! help!" Lennox and Mar, with their attendants, rushed through the gateway into the court, and up the principal stair. Sir Thomas Erskine and his brother James, seized the earl of Gowrie, exclaiming, "Traitor! this is thy deed!" Some of the earl’s servants rescued their master, who was, however, thrown down in the scuffle, and refused admittance to the inner court. On recovering his feet, he retired a short way; then drawing his sword and dagger, he cried, "I will be in my own house, or die by the way."

During these proceedings, the king had found himself rather critically circumstanced. Alexander Ruthven, having locked the door of the gallery chamber, led the way to the round closet. James was not a little astonished when, instead of the captive he expected, he saw a man armed at all points except his head. He was more astonished when the master, putting on his hat, drew the man’s dagger, and presented it to his breast, saying, "Sir, you must be my prisoner! remember my father’s death!" James attempted to remonstrate, but was interrupted with "Hold your tongue, sir, or by Christ you shall die!" But here Henderson wrenched the dagger from Ruthven’s hand, and the king, then resuming his remonstrances, was answered that his life was not what was sought. The master even took off his hat when the king, who, amid all his perturbation, forgot not his princely demeanour, reminded him of the impropriety of wearing it in his presence. He then requested James to give him his word not to open the window, nor call for assistance, whilst he went to bring his brother, the earl, who was to determine what farther should be done. Ruthven then left the closet, locking the door behind him; but, according to Henderson’s belief, went no farther than the next room. This is more than probable; for, by the nearest calculation, Ramsay must have been at that time still in the gallery. The master re-entered, therefore, almost instantly, and telling the king there was now but one course left, produced a garter, with which he attempted to bind his majesty’s hands. James freed his left with a violent exertion, exclaiming, "I am a free prince, man! I will not be bound!" Ruthven, without answering, seized him by the throat with one hand, while he thrust the other into his mouth, to prevent his crying. In the struggle which ensued, the king was driven against the window which overlooked the court, and, at that moment, Henderson thrust his arm over the master’s shoulder and pushed up the window, which afforded the king an opportunity of calling for assistance. The master, thereupon, said to Henderson, "Is there no help in thee? Thou wilt cause us all to die:" and tremblingly, between excitement and exertion, he attempted to draw his sword. The king, perceiving his intent, laid hold of his hand; and thus clasped in a death-wrestle, they reeled out of the closet into the chamber. The king had got Ruthven’s head under his arm; whilst Ruthven, finding himself held down almost upon his knees, was pressing upwards with his hand against the king’s face, when, at this critical moment, John Ramsay, the page, who had heard from the street the king’s cry for help, and who had got before Mar and Lennox, by running up the black turnpike formerly mentioned, while they took the principal staircase, rushed against the door of the chamber and burst it open. The king panted out, when he saw his page, "Fy! strike him low! he has secret armour on." At which Ramsay, casting from him the hawk which still sat upon his hand, drew his dagger and stabbed the master. The next moment, the king, exerting all his strength, threw him from him down stairs. Ramsay ran to a window, and called upon Sir Thomas Erskine, and one or two who were with him, to come up the turnpike. Erskine was first, and as Ruthven staggered past him on the stair, wounded and bleeding, he desired those who followed to strike the traitor. This was done, and the young man fell, crying, "Alas! I had not the wyte of it."

The king was safe for the mean time, but there was still cause for alarm. Only four of his attendants had reached him; and he was uncertain whether the incessant attempts of Mar and Lennox’s party to break open the door by which the chamber communicated with the gallery, were made by friend or foe. At this moment the alarm bell rang out, and the din of the gathering citizens, who were as likely, for any thing the king knew, to side with their provost, Gowrie, as with himself was heard from the town. There was, besides, a still more immediate danger.

Gowrie, whom we left attempting to force his way into the house, was met at the gate by the news that his brother had fallen. Violet Ruthven, and other women belonging to the family, were already wailing his death, screaming their curses up to the king’s party in the chamber, and mixing their shrill execrations with the fierce din which shook the city. The earl, seconded by Cranstone, one of his attendants, forced his way to the foot of the black turnpike, at which spot lay the master’s body. "Whom have we here?" said the retainer, for the face was turned downwards. "Up the stair!" was Gowrie’s brief and stern reply. Cranstone, going up before his master, found, on rushing into the chamber, the swords of Sir Thomas Erskine, and Herries, the king’s physician, drawn against him. They were holding a parley in this threatening attitude, when Gowrie entered, and was instantly attacked by Ramsay. The earl fell after a smart contest. Ramsay immediately turned upon Cranstone, who had proved fully a match for the other two, and having wounded him severely, forced him finally to retreat.

All this time they who were with the duke of Lennox had kept battering at the gallery-door of the chamber with hammers, but in vain. The partition was constructed of boards, and as the whole wall gave way equally before the blows, the door could not be forced. The party with the king, on the other hand, were afraid to open, lest they should thus give admission to enemies. A servant was at last despatched round by the turnpike, who assured his majesty that it was the duke of Lennox and the earl of Mar who were so clamorous for admission. The hammers were then handed through below the door, and the bolts speedily displaced. When these noblemen were admitted, they found the king unharmed, and his brave deliverers. The door, however, which entered from the turnpike, had been closed upon a body of Gowrie’s retainers, who were calling for their master, and striking through below the door with their pikes and halberds. The clamour from the town continued, and the voices from the court were divided,——part calling for the king, part for their provost, the earl of Gowrie. Affairs, however, soon took a more decided turn. They who assaulted the door grew tired of their ineffectual efforts, and withdrew; and almost at the same moment the voices of baillies Ray and Young were heard from the street, calling to know if the king were safe, and announcing that they were there, with the loyal burgesses of Perth, for his defence. The king gratified them by showing himself at the window, requesting them to still the tumult. At the command of the magistrates the crowd became silent, and gradually dispersed. In the course of a few hours, peace was so completely re-established, that the king and his company were able to take horse for Falkland.

This bird’s-eye view of the occurrences of the fifth of August, will be found correct in the main. Although some details have been necessarily omitted, they are sufficient to establish a preconcerted scheme between the brothers against the king, but of what nature, and to what purpose, it would be difficult, without further evidence, to say. Of all the people that day assembled in Gowrie’s house, not one seems to have been in the secret. Henderson, to whom an important share in the execution of the attempt had been assigned, was kept in ignorance to the last moment, and then he counteracted, instead of furthering their views. Even with regard to Cranstone, the most busy propagator of the rumour of the king’s departure, it is uncertain whether he may not have spread the report in consequence of the asseverations of his master; and we have his solemn declaration, at a time when he thought himself upon his death-bed, that he had no previous knowledge of the plot. The two Ruthvens of Freeland, Eviot, and Hugh Moncrieff, who took the most active share in endeavouring to stir the citizens up to mutiny to revenge the earl and his brother, may have been actuated, for any evidence we have to the contrary, solely by the feelings of reckless and devoted retainers, upon seeing their master’s fall in an affray whose origin and cause they knew not. To this evidence, partly negative, and partly positive, may be added the deposition of William Rynd, who said, when examined at Falkland, that he had heard the earl declare,—"He was not a wise man, who, having intended the execution of a high and dangerous purpose, should communicate the same to any but himself; because, keeping it to himself, it could not be discovered nor disappointed." Moreover, it does not sufficiently appear, from the deportment of the master, that they aimed at the king’s life. He spoke only of making him prisoner, and grasped his sword only when the king had made his attendants aware of his situation. At the same time, it was nowhere discovered that any measures had been taken for removing the royal prisoner to a place of security; and to keep him in a place so open to observation as Gowrie house, was out of the question. Without some other evidence, therefore, than that to which we have as yet been turning our attention, we can scarcely look upon these transactions otherwise than as a fantastic dream, which is incoherent in all its parts, and the absurdity of which is only apparent when we reflect how irreconcilable it is with the waking world around us.

The letters of Logan of Restalrig, which were not discovered till eight years afterwards, throw some further light upon the subject, though not so much as could be wished. Of their authenticity little doubt can be entertained, when we consider the number and respectability of the witnesses who swore positively to their being in Logan’s handwriting. It appears from these letters that Gowrie and Logan had agreed in some plot against the king. It appears, also, that Logan was in correspondence with some third person who had assented to the enterprise. It would almost seem, from Logan’s third letter, that this person resided at Falkland: "If I kan nocht win to Falkland the first nycht, I sall he tymelie in St Johnestoun on the morne." And it is almost certain from the fifth letter, that he was so situated as to have oral communication with Gowrie, the master of Ruthven: "Pray let his lo, be qwik, and bid M. A. remember on the sport he tald me." It does not appear, however, that any definite plan had been resolved upon. The sea excursion, which Mr Lawson, in his History of the Gowrie Conspiracy, supposes to have been contemplated with the design of conveying James to Fast castle, was only meant to afford facilities for a meeting of the conspirators with a view to deliberation Logan’s fifth letter is dated as late as the last of July, and yet it does not appear that the writer knew at that time of the Perth project. Taking these facts in conjunction with the hair-brained character of Gowrie’s attempt, it seems highly probable, that although some scheme might be in agitation with Logan, and perhaps some other conspirators, the outrage of the fifth of August was the rash and premature undertaking of two hot-blooded fantastical young men, who probably wished to distinguish themselves above the rest of their associates in the plot.

The very scanty information that we possess respecting the character and previous habits of these two brothers, is quite in accordance with this view of the matter, and goes a good way to corroborate it. They are allowed, on all hands, to have been men of graceful exterior, of winning manners, well advanced in the studies of the times, brave, and masters of their weapons. It is not necessary surely to prove at this time of day, how compatible all these qualifications are with a rash and headlong temper, completely subject to the control of the imagination—a turn of mind bordering upon frenzy. A man of quick perception, warm feeling, and ungoverned fancy, is, of all others, the most fascinating, when the world goes smoothly; but he is of all others the most liable, having no guiding reason, to err most extravagantly in the serious business of life: being "unstable as water," he is easily irritated and lashed into madness by adverse circumstances. How much Gowrie was the dupe of his imagination, is evident from the fondness with which he clung to the delusions of the cabala, natural magic, and astrology. Armed (according to his own belief) with powers beyond the common race of man, doomed by his stars to achieve greatness, he laughed at danger, and was ready to neglect the calculations of worldly prudence alike in his aims, and the means by which he sought their attainment. The true state of his brother’s mind is pourtrayed, incidentally, by Logan, in his first letter:—"Bot incase ye and M. A. R. forgader, becawse he is somqhat consety, for Godis saik be very var with his rakelese toyis of Padoa; ffor he tald me ane of the strangest taillis of ane nobill man of Padoa that ever hard in my lyf, resembling the lyk purpose." This suggests at once the very picture of a young and hot-blooded man, whose brain had been distracted, during his residence in Italy, with that country’s numerous legends of wild vengeance. Two such characters, brooding conjointly over real or fancied wrongs, were capable of projecting schemes, against which the most daring would remonstrate; and irritated by the coldness of their friends, were, no doubt, induced to undertake the execution alone, and almost unassisted.

It only remains to inquire what was the object which Gowrie proposed to himself, in his mad and treasonable attempt, and upon whose seconding he was to depend, suppose his design had succeeded? These two inquiries are inseparably connected, and have been rendered more interesting, by a late attempt to implicate the presbyterian party in the earl’s guilt. We are not a little astonished that such an attempt should have been made at this late period, when we recollect, that notwithstanding all the ill odour in which the presbyterian clergymen stood at court, not one of the thousand idle rumours to which Gowrie’s enterprise gave birth, tried to direct suspicion towards them. The sole grounds upon which such an accusation can rest for support, are the facts,—that Gowrie’s father was a leader among the presbyterians, and his son strictly educated in that faith; that shortly after his arrival in Italy, he wrote one letter to a presbyterian minister; and that some of the Edinburgh clergymen manifested considerable obstinacy in throwing discredit upon the reality of the conspiracy. The two former are of themselves so weak, that we pass them over the more willingly, that we shall immediately point out the motives from which Gowrie acted, and the sort of assistance upon which he really relied. The conduct of the clergymen admits of an easy explanation. James, whose perception was nearly as acute as his character was weak, was fully sensible of the ridicule to which he had exposed himself, by allowing his desire of money to lead him into so shallow a device as Ruthven’s. In addition to this, he wished, upon all occasions, to appear as much of the hero as possible. The consequence was, that his edition of the story was so dressed up, as to render it inconsistent; first, with his well-known character; secondly, with the most distant possibility of his having been deceived with the master’s pretences; and, thirdly, with the depositions of the witnesses. Inconsistencies so startling were sufficient to justify some preliminary scepticism; and if ever there was an occasion, where it was allowable openly to call a king’s word in question, it was when James demanded, not merely that his party should hypocritically profess a belief which they did not entertain, but that they should, daringly and blasphemously, mix up this falsehood in the solemn services of devotion. A short time, however, was sufficient to convince the most incredulous of the truth of the conspiracy, stripped of the adventitious circumstances which the king linked with it; and the obstinate recusancy of Bruce the clergyman is sufficiently accounted for, by James’s insisting upon prescribing the manner in which he was to treat the matter, and by that individual’s overstrained notions of the guilt incurred by a minister, who allowed any one to dictate to him concerning the mode in which he was to conduct public worship.

But Gowrie relied upon the support of no faction, religious or political. His sole motive seems to have been a fantastic idea of the duty incumbent upon him to revenge his father’s death. He is reported, on one occasion, when some one directed his attention to a person who had been employed as an agent against his father, to have said, "Aquila non captat muscas." Ruthven also expressly declared to the king, when he held him prisoner in the closet, that his only object was to obtain revenge for the death of his father. The letters of Logan (except in one solitary instance, where a scheme of aggrandisement is darkly hinted at, and that as something quite irrelevant to the purpose they had on hand) harp on this string alone, proving that Gowrie and his friends seek only "for the revange of that cawse." The only members of the conspiracy who are known to us, are men likely enough to engage in such a cause, but most unlikely to be either leaders or followers in a union, where the parties were bound together by an attachment to certain political principles. The three conspirators are, the earl and his brother, such as we have already described them, and Logan of Restalrig, a broken man—a retainer and partisan of Bothwell--a maintainer of thieves and sorners—a man who expressly objects to communicating their project to one who he fears "vill disswade us fra owr purpose y’ ressounes of religion, quhilk I can never abyd." And if any more evidence were required to show how little Gowrie relied upon the presbyterians, we might allude to his anxiety that Logan should sound his brother, lord Home—a catholic.

In short, every thing leads us to the opinion we have already announced, that the Ruthvens were instigated to their enterprise by feelings of private revenge alone, and that they did not seek to make any political party subservient to their purposes. It is to this isolated nature of their undertaking--its utter want of connexion with the political movements of the period—that we attribute the circumstance of its history having so long remained unknown, and are satisfied that much of that history must ever remain a riddle. It is with it, as with the adventures of the Iron Mask, and that whole class of events which seem political, merely because they befall persons who rank high in the state. They generally appear more mysterious than they really are; because, if no chance unveils them at the time, they stand too far apart from all other transactions, to receive any reflected light from them. [In this account of the conspiracy and summary of the evidence, we use a masterly condemnation of the matter of Mr Pitcairn’s documents which appeared in the Edinburgh Literary Journal.]

On the 9th of November, 1600, was born Charles, James’s second son, afterwards Charles I. of England. With that country the king now carried on a close correspondence; first, with the earl of Essex, whom, on hearing of his imprisonment, he besought Elizabeth to spare, and afterwards, with the earl of Northumberland, Sir Robert Cecil, and other influential men, on the subject of his title to the English succession, which was generally acknowledged by the distinguished men connected with the English court.

On the 28th of March, 1603, Elizabeth expired, having named James as her successor, who was accordingly proclaimed king of England. His claim to the succession arose from his relationship to Margaret, daughter of Henry VII., who married James IV. of Scotland, great-grandfather of James VI. Immediately after Elizabeth’s decease, Sir Robert Carey, who had formerly been kindly entertained by James, set off on a private expedition to Scotland, to convey to the new sovereign the message. Leaving London on Thursday morning, and stopping at his estate of Witherington on the way, from which he issued orders for proclaiming James at several places in the north of England, he reached Edinburgh on Saturday night, when the king had gone to bed, but, gaining admission, saluted him as king of England. Next morning Carey was created gentleman of the bedchamber, and was at last elevated by Charles I. to the title of earl of Monmouth. The regular messengers to James, announcing his succession, soon arrived. One of the attendants, called Davis, the king recognized as the author of a poem on the immortality of the soul, which seems to have given him high satisfaction, and promised him his patronage, which he afterwards faithfully bestowed. Indeed, James, as a patron of literary merit, is entitled to respectful observation. He had already acted a munificent part in the foundation of the university of Edinburgh.

On the Sunday after his accession, the king attended at the High church, and, after sermon, addressed the audience on his affliction for his Scottish subjects; and after committing his children to the care of trusty nobles, and making arrangements for the management of Scottish business, he set off, with a small number of attendants, from his ancient kingdom, over which he had reigned for thirty-five years. The reception he met with on the way was very magnificent, especially at Sir Robert Cecil’s, Sir Anthony Mildmay’s, and Mr Oliver Cromwell’s. [Uncle of the Protector.]In his progress, many petitions were presented and granted—volumes of poems were laid before him by the university of Cambridge, and the honour of knighthood was conferred on no fewer than two hundred and thirty-seven individuals. Even in these circumstances, however, he displayed his notions of royal prerogative, by ordering the recorder of Newark to execute a cut-purse, apprehended on the way. On reaching London, he added to the privy council six Scottish favourites, and also lord Montjoy, and lords Thomas and Henry Howard, the son and brother of the late duke of Norfolk; and, on the 20th of May, created several peers. Numerous congratulations flowed in upon the king. The marquis de Rosni, afterwards duke of Sully, arrived on the 15th of June. The following sketch of James as he appeared on this occasion to the marquis, is strong and striking:--"He was upright and conscientious; he had eloquence and even erudition—but less of these than of penetration and of the show of learning. He loved to hear discourses on matters of state, and to have great enterprises proposed to him, which he discussed in a spirit of system and method, but without any idea of carrying them into effect—for he naturally hated war, and still more to be personally engaged in it—was indolent in all his actions, except hunting, and remiss in affairs,—all indications of a soft and timid nature, formed to be governed." The king entertained the marquis and his attendants at dinner; when he spoke with contempt of Elizabeth—a circumstance which probably arose from the control which he was conscious she had exercised over him, and especially the idea, which is expressed in one of the documents in the negotiations on an alliance with Spain, that she was concerned in the attempts of his Scottish enemies against him and also of a double marriage he desired, between the French and English royal families.

The queen followed James a few weeks after his arrival, having on the eve of her departure quarreled with the earl of Mar, to whom James had committed the care of prince Henry, and whose letter to her, advising her not to treat him with disrespect, excited the passion of that high-spirited woman. She was crowned, along with her husband, on the 25th of July, by archbishop Whitgift, with all the ancient solemnity of that imposing ceremony. He soon after, by proclamation, called upon his subjects to solemnize the 5th of August in honour of his escape from the Gowrie conspiracy.

At the commencement of the following year was held the famous Hamptoncourt conference. On the first day, a few select individuals only were admitted to the king; on the following, four puritan ministers, chosen by the king himself, appeared—and his majesty presided as moderator. He conversed in Latin, and engaged in dispute with Dr Reynolds. In answer to an objection against the Apocrypha started by that learned divine, the king interpreted one of the chapters of Ecclesiasticus, according to his own ideas. He also pronounced an unmeasured attack on presbytery, which he said, "agreed as well with monarchy as God and the devil."—"Stay," he added, "I pray, for one seven years, before you demand; and then, if you find me grown pursy and fat, I may perchance hearken unto you. For that government will keep me in breath, and give me work enough." On this occasion, Bancroft, bishop of London, flattered him as "such a king, as, since Christ’s time, the like had not been,"—and Whitgift professed to believe that his majesty spoke under the special influence of the Holy Spirit. With such flattery, is it to be greatly wondered at, that the king esteemed himself an accomplished theological disputant? Indeed, the whole conference seems to have been managed in a most unreasonable manner. It was followed by a proclamation enforcing conformity, and a number of puritans, both clergy and laity, severely suffered.

In March, 1604, the king, the queen, and the prince, rode in splendid procession from the Tower to Whitehall; and, at the meeting of parliament, a few days after, James delivered his first speech to that assembly. One part of it excited general disapprobation—that in which he expressed himself willing to favour the Roman catholics—a feeling on his part which probably arose from the prospects afforded him of friendship with countries so powerful as France and Spain, and also, perhaps, from some degree of attachment to the Romish faith, as that of his royal ancestors. At this meeting of parliament, the king also brought forward his favourite proposal of a union betwixt England and Scotland, the result of which was the appointment of a committee for drawing up articles of union; one of the most zealous members of which was Sir Francis Bacon. To this great man James showed strong attachment; and, even if Sir Francis had not proved himself to be devoted with peculiar ardour to the king, it may be supposed that he would have been regarded by the latter with peculiar pride, from that splendid series of publications which he had already begun to publish, and of which "The Advancement of Learning," with a very flattering dedication to the king, came forth in 1605.

A great part of the summer following the meeting of parliament, the king devoted to his favourite sport of hunting—his attachment to which continued through life, even when corpulence, arising from excess in drinking, which was a noted fault of James, had unfitted him for every active exercise. About this time, we find him engaged in arranging a marriage between Sir Philip Herbert and lady Susan Vere; writing from Royston to the council, that hunting was the only means to maintain his health, desiring them to take the charge and burden of affairs, and foresee that he should not be interrupted nor troubled with too much business; and inquiring into the case of Haddock, called the sleeping preacher, from his being said to deliver excellent sermons, and speak excellent Greek and Hebrew in the midst of sleep, although very stupid when awake, who was brought by the king to confess that the whole was an imposture. But James was soon placed in a more serious situation, by the celebrated Gunpowder Plot, which was discovered on the 5th of November, for which day parliament had been summoned. A letter was found, supposed to have been written by the sister of lord Monteagle, who, though approving of the conspiracy, and the wife of one of the conspirators, wished to preserve her brother from the meditated ruin. On examination, barrels of gunpowder were found deposited below the place where parliament was just about to meet, and the very train and match for the discharge of their contents were in readiness. The conspirators were, with considerable difficulty, discovered, and were found to comprehend some Jesuits; and to have been united by their common attachment to the Roman catholic religion, which in England had been lately treated with increased severity. Indeed there is much reason to believe that the plot in some degree depended on Spanish influence. At the meeting of parliament, a few days afterwards, James expatiated at great length on this terrible conspiracy; but still expressed himself indulgent to the English catholics. Shortly after appeared "A Discourse on the Gunpowder Plot," which is supposed to have been the composition of the king. The conspirators were condemned, and acts against the catholics were passed in parliament; but James continued to discover his unwillingness to treat them with severity.

In July, 1606, he received a visit from the king of Denmark, who was welcomed with imposing splendour. Prince Vandemont, a French relative of James, also paid a visit about this time to his royal kinsman. In November, the king again supported, before the parliament, his favourite scheme of a union between his Scottish and English kingdoms. The following passages give a curious example of his mode of conversation. The circumstances are given by Harrington, as having occurred about this time:—"He engaged much of learning, and showed me his own in such a sort as made me remember my examiner at Cambridge aforetime. He sought much to know my advances in philosophy, and introduced profound sentences of Aristotle, and such-like writers, which I had never read, and which some are bold enough to say, others do not understand."—"The prince did now press my reading to him part of a canto in Ariosto, praised my utterance, and said he had been informed of many as to my learning, in the time of the queen. He asked me what I thought pure wit was made of, and when it did best become; whether a king should not be the best clerk in his own country; and if this land did not entertain good opinion of his learning and good wisdom. His majesty did next press for my opinion touching the power of Satan in matters of witchcraft, and asked me with much gravity, if I did truly understand why the devil did work more with ancient women than others." His majesty asked much concerning my opinion of the new weed tobacco, and said it would, by its use infuse ill qualities on the brain, and that no learned man ought to taste it, and wished it forbidden. After discoursing on religion, at length he said "I pray you, do me justice in your report, and in good season I will not fail to add to your understanding, in such points as I may find you lack amendment." Before this time the king had published not only his "Demonology," but also "A Counterblast to Tobacco."

In 1607, he published an answer to a work by Tyrone, and soon after his "Triplici nodo triplex Cuneus,"—a defence of an oath which was imposed on foreigners by an act of parliament, after the Gunpowder Plot. In 1609, he republished it, with a dedication to all Christian kings and princes, answers having been previously made to it by Bellarmine, and other writers. This has been considered as among the best of the king’s productions, and is characterized by a late historian of his court, as "a learned defence of protestant principles, an acute exposure of the false statements and false reasonings of Bellarmine, and a vigorous but not intemperate manifesto against papal usurpation and tyranny; yet a vain and useless ostentation of parts and knowledge: and a truer judgment, by admonishing the royal author of the incompatibility of the polemical character with the policy and dignity of a sovereign, would have spared him the numerous mortifications and inconveniences which ensued." [Aiken’s Court of James.]

One great cause of the king’s unpopularity was his excessive favour for a Scotsman of the name of Carr. In February, 1610, at the meeting of parliament, he did not appear in person, but he had the mortification soon after, of having his plan of a union disapproved by parliament, and a supply to himself refused. They were accordingly summoned to meet the king at Whitehall, where he explained to them his singular views of royal prerogative. The same year, Henry was appointed prince of Wales, on which occasion the ceremonies were continued for three days.

In 1611, James, when on a hunting expedition, received a book on the Nature and Attributes of God, by Conrad Vorstius. The king selected several doctrines which he considered heresies, and wrote to the Dutch government, signifying his disapprobation—Vorstius having lately received a professorship of divinity at Leyden, as successor of Arminius. He also ordered the book to be burned in London. Soon after, Bartholomew Legate was brought into his presence, accused of professing Arianism in the capital, after which he continued for some time in Newgate, and was then burned at Smithfield. About the same time a similar example of barbarous intolerance occurred. But it was in the same year that our English translation of the Bible was published--an undertaking which the king had set on foot, at the suggestion of Dr Reynolds, in 1604, which had been executed by forty-seven divines, whom James furnished with instructions for the work; and the fulfilment of which has been justly remarked as an event of very high importance in the history of the language, as well as of the religion of Great Britain. About the end of this year, the king founded a college at Chelsea, for controversial theology, with a view to answer the papists and puritans. His own wants, however, now led him to create the title of baronet, which was sold for 1000; and a man might purchase the rank of baron for 5000, of viscount for 10,000, and of an earl for 20,000. He also suffered about this time, by the death of the earl of Salisbury, whom he visited in his illness. But a domestic loss awaited him—which, however, it is said, occasioned him slighter suffering than might have been expected, although the nation felt it as a painful stroke. During preparations for the marriage of the princess, the king’s daughter, to the elector palatine, who arrived in England for the purpose on the 16th of October, 1612, prince Henry was cut off by death, on the 6th of November, having been taken ill the very day before the elector’s arrival. This young prince was eminently distinguished by piety and honour, amiable manners and literary habits. His death-bed was cheered by the practice and consolations of the religion to which, amidst the seductions of a court, he had adhered in life, and he died, lamented by his family and country, in the nineteenth year of his age.

In February, 1613, the princess Elizabeth was married to the elector palatine—not, it is said, without the dissatisfaction of her father. The preparations, however, were of the most splendid kind; so that means were again adopted to supply the royal wants, as also in the following year.

In 1615, James paid a visit to the university of Cambridge, where he resided in Trinity college, and was received with many literary exhibitions,in the form of disputations, sermons, plays, and orations. In this year he wrote his "Remonstrance for the right of kings, and the independence of their crowns," in answer to a speech delivered at Paris in January by cardinal Perron, who sent it to James. This year also occurred the celebrated trials for the murder of Overbury, in the examinations previous to which James personally engaged. He had now lost his enthusiastic attachment to Carr, the person chiefly accused of this foul deed, whom he had created earl of Somerset, and who had lately been replaced in his affections by Villiers, the royal cup-bearer, whom he knighted, and appointed a gentleman of the bed-chamber, and whom he gradually advanced, until he was created duke of Buckingham.

In 1617, after some changes in the court, James paid a visit to Scotland, leaving Bacon as principal administrator in his absence. On this occasion literary exhibitions were presented to him by the universities of Edinburgh and St Andrews, and he also amused himself with his favourite sport. But he soon proceeded to enforce the customs of the English hierarchy on the Scottish people—a measure which, notwithstanding considerable encouragement from a General Assembly, which had been convoked with a view to the proposed alterations, the nation in general deemed an infringement of a promise he had made many years before, and which they succeeded, to a considerable degree, in resisting.

The following year was marked by another act of cruelty. Sir Walter Raleigh, who had been confined in the Tower for twelve years, on the charge of having been engaged in a Spanish conspiracy, but had at last obtained release from his imprisonment, was condemned and executed, in consequence of his marked misconduct in an expedition to explore a mine in Guiana, which he had represented to the king as well fitted to enrich his exchequer. His execution, it will scarcely be doubted, was owing to the influence of Gondomar, the Spanish ambassador, an enemy of Raleigh at the English court, in prospect of a marriage between prince Charles and the Spanish infanta. Soon after the queen died,—a woman who seems to have been by no means destitute of estimable qualities, but still more remarkable for the splendour of her entertainments, to which Ben Jonson and other writers contributed largely of their wit. Indeed that eminent dramatist seems to have been a person of considerable consequence at the English court. At this time James’s own literary character was exhibited to the world in a folio edition of his works, edited, with a preface well seasoned with flattery, by the bishop of Winchester. Soon after, on an application from prince Maurice for the appointment of some English divines, as members of a council for the settlement of the controversy between the Arminians and Gomarists, which was held at Dort in November, 1618, five learned men were nominated on that commission, directed by James to recommend to the contending parties the avoidance, in public instruction, of the controverted topics. His favour to the church of England was manifested about the same time by his treatment of the celebrated Selden, who had written a work on "the history of tithes," in which he held the injustice of considering the alienation of what had once been church-lands to any other than ecclesiastical purposes, to be in every case an act of sacrilege. For this work the king required an explanation, and it was shortly afterwards prohibited by the high commission court. The nation in general was displeased with the rigour of the king’s administration; with the plan, which he had not yet abandoned, of a marriage between his son and the infanta of Spain; and with the favouritism which he manifested, especially towards Villiers, whose connexions called on him for bountiful provisions, which the king, at his request, with gross facility, conceded.

In 1620, the circumstances of his son-in-law, the elector palatine, began to occupy the particular attention of the king. That prince, after having been chosen king by the Bohemians, who had thrown off the Austrian sway, and received support from various states of Germany, being at last in a very perilous condition, and on the 8th November, 1620, defeated at the battle of Prague. After much delay, in which he carried on a diplomatic interference, James at last agreed to send a supply of chosen men. But he soon resigned this active interference in his behalf; he called in vain for a benevolence from his wealthy subjects, to enable him, as he said, to give him a vigorous support, in the event of future urgency; and, finally, summoned a parliament, which had not met for many years, to deliberate on the subject. It met in January, l621,—a parliament memorable for the investigation it made into the conduct of lord Bacon, and the sentence it pronounced on that distinguished man, who had published only a short time before, the second part of his immortal "Novum Organum." The king, however, had previously promised him either freedom from such a sentence, or pardon after it, and Bacon accordingly was soon released from imprisonment, and, in three years after, fully pardoned by the king. This parliament also granted supplies to James, but in the same year refused farther supplies to the cause of the palatine. James adjourned it in spite of the remonstrance of the house of commons; and on the same day occurred a well-known conversation of the king and the bishops Neale and Andrews: "My lords," said the king, "cannot I take my subjects’ money when I want it, without all this formality in parliament?" "God forbid, sir," said Neale, "but you should—you are the breath of our nostrils."—"Well, my lord," rejoined his majesty to Andrews, "and what say you?" He excused himself on the ground of ignorance in parliamentary matters. "No put-off, my lord," said James, "answer me presently." "Then, sir," said the excellent prelate, "I think it lawful for you to take my brother Neale’s money, for he offers it." The king, however, had himself recommended to this parliament the investigation of abuses, and especially inveighed against corruption and bribery in courts of law. In this year he conferred the seals, which Bacon had resigned, upon Williams, afterwards bishop of Lincoln, who induced him to deliver the earl of Northumberland from imprisonment; and soon after, he very creditably interfered for the continuance of archbishop Abbot in his office, after he had involuntarily committed an act of homicide.

Parliament meeting again in February, 1622, the commons prepared a remonstrance to the king on the dissatisfaction which was generally felt with the position of affairs, both at home and abroad, and calling on him to resist the measures of the king of Spain--to enforce the laws against popery—marry his son to a protestant--support protestantism abroad, and give his sanction to the bills which they should pass with a view to the interest of the nation. On hearing of this proceeding, the king addressed an intemperate letter to the speaker, asserting as usual, the interest of his "prerogative-royal." It was answered by the commons in a manly and loyal address, to which the king replied in a letter still more intemperate than the former. The commons, notwithstanding, drew up and recorded a protest, claiming the right of delivering their sentiments, and of deciding freely, without exposure to impeachment. From their speeches in parliamentary debate, and proposing that, should there be objection made to any thing said by a member in the house, it should be officially reported to the king, before he should receive as true any private statement on the subject. This protest the king tore out of the journal of the house, ordered the deed to be registered, and imprisoned several of the individuals concerned, who, however, were soon afterwards liberated. But James still maintained his own authority; he strictly prohibited the general discussion of political subjects, and enjoined on the clergy a variety of rules, guarding them against preaching on several subjects, some of which must be regarded as important parts of the system which it is the duty of the clergy to proclaim.

On the 17th of February, 1623, prince Charles and the marquis of Buckingham set off on a visit to Spain, with a view to the marriage of the former with the infanta—although the king had resisted the proposal of this journey, which had been urgently made by the prince and Buckingham. On the circumstance being known in England, the favourite was loudly blamed, and the prince suspected of an attachment to popery. The travellers proceeded in disguise, visited Paris for a single day, and reached Madrid on the 6th of March. The earl of Bristol, the English ambassador, met them with surprise. James corresponded with them in a very characteristic manner, and sent a large supply of jewels and other ornaments, as a present for the infanta. The Spaniards were generally anxious for the consummation of the marriage. But the pope, unwilling to grant a dispensation, addressed to Charles a letter entreating him to embrace the Roman catholic religion, to which the prince replied in terms expressive of respect for the Romish church.

Accordingly, all was prepared for the marriage, which was appointed to take place on the 29th of August. But before the day arrived, pope Gregory had died--a circumstance which destroyed the force of the matrimonial articles; and the prince left Spain in the midst of general demonstrations of attachment to his person, and inclination towards the intended marriage. On his way to England, however, he discovered a coldness towards the measure, and shortly after his arrival in October, the king acceding to the proposal of the favourite, who was displeased at his reception in Spain, a letter was sent to the earl of Bristol, ordering him not to grant the proxy which was required according to the treaty, after the papal dispensation was obtained, before security should be given by Spain for the restoration of the Palatine. But even after the king of Spain had agreed to this proposal, James, persuaded by the favourite, expressed a wish that the matter should be broken off. But the low state of pecuniary resources into which these negotiations had reduced the English king, induced him to call a parliament, which met February, 1624, to which he submitted the matters about which he was now particularly interested. It offered supplies to the king for a war with Spain. War was declared, and the favourite of the king became the favourite of a large proportion of the nation. About the same time, an accusation of Buckingham, for his conduct in regard to Spain and Bohemia, was presented secretly to the king by the marquis Inojoso. It threw his majesty into excessive agitation; and on setting out for Windsor, he repulsed the duke, as he offered to enter the royal carriage. The duke inquired, with tears, in what respect he had transgressed, but received only tears and reproaches in return. On receiving an answer by Williams, to the charges against the duke, he again received him into favour, and soon after broke off all friendly negotiations with Spain. He resisted, however—though not successfully--the proposal of Buckingham and Charles, that he should impeach the lord treasurer, on the ground of corruption in office. He also resisted—with much better reason—the petition of Buckingham, that the earl of Bristol should be forced to submit, exclaiming "I were to be accounted a tyrant to engage an innocent man to confess faults of which he was not guilty." The earl, however, was prevented from appearing in the presence of the king, who also cautioned the parliament against seeking out grievances to remedy, although they might apply a cure to obviously existing ones.

June, 1624, was occupied by the king and Buckingham in carrying on measures for a marriage between prince Charles and Henrietta Maria, sister of Louis XIII. and daughter of Henry IV.; and on the 10th of November, a dispensation having been with some difficulty obtained from the pope, the nuptial articles were signed at Paris. But in the spring of 1625, the king, whose constitution had previously suffered severely, was seized with ague, of which he died at Theobald’s on the 27th of March, in the 59th year of his age. He was buried in Westminster abbey, and the funeral sermon was preached by Williams.

On the character of James, so palpable and generally known, it is not necessary to offer many observations. Much of his conduct is to be attributed in a great measure to his political advisers, who were often neither wise nor faithful. His own character embraced many combinations of what may be almost denominated inconsistencies. He was peculiarly subject to the influence of favourites, and. yet exceedingly disposed to interfere with the course of political affairs, Indeed, to his warm and exclusive attachments, combined with his extravagant ideas of his own office and authority, may be traced the principal errors of his reign. He was, accordingly, irresolute, and yet often too ready to comply; sensible to feeling, and yet addicted to severity; undignified in manner, and yet tyrannical in government. Erring as was his judgment, his learning cannot be denied, though the use he often made of it, and especially the modes in which he showed it in the course of conversation, have been, with reason, the subjects of amusement. His superstition was great, but perhaps not excessive for the age in which he lived; and it is said, that in his later days he put no faith in witchcraft. His religion was probably in some degree sincere, though neither settled nor commanding. Neither his writings nor his political courses, it is to be feared, have done much directly to advance the interests of liberal and prudent policy; but in both there are pleasing specimens of wisdom, and both may teach us a useful lesson, by furnishing a melancholy view of the nature and tendency of tyranny, even when in some degree controlled by the checks of parliamentary influence and popular opinion.


Memoirs of the Court of King James The First
By Lucy Aiken in 2 Volumes (1822)

I discovered this 2 volume set in pdf format which provides a lot more information about King James I but also the scene in which he found himself.  I think this is a very worthwhile read so you can download these below...

Volume 1  |  Volume 2


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