Page images
[ocr errors]

In 1613, an event occurred, which considerably lowered him in the royal esteem. Lady Frances Howard, daughter of the Earl of Suffolk, had been married at thirteen years of age to the Earl of Essex, who as he was himself only fourteen, was immediately sent abroad on his travels, his young wife remaining at home and occasionally attending the court. This gave Car Viscount Rochester, the King's favourite, an opportunity of winning her affections; and accordingly, upon her husband's return, she instituted a suit against him in the ecclesiastical court, praying a divorce. To this wicked artifice, though countenanced by James himself, the incorruptible Primate, foreseeing the encouragement it would furnish to licentious gallantry, could not by any means be induced

letter to Winwood is too curious to be omitted : 6 You must take heed how you trust Dr. Grotius too far: I perceive him to be so addicted to some partialities in these parts, that he feareth not to lash, so it may serve a turn. At his first coming to the King,, by reason of his good Latin tongue he was so tedious and full of tittle-tattle, that the King's judgement was of him, that he was some pedant full of words and of no great judgement.' And I myself, discovering that to be his habit, as if he did imagine that every man was bound to hear him so long as he would talk (which is a great burthen to men replete with business) did privately give him notice thereof, that he should plainly and directly deliver his mind, or else he would make the King weary of him. This did not so take place, but that afterward he fell to it again, as was especially observed one night at supper at the Lord Bishop of Ely's, whither being brought by Mr. Casaubon (as I think) my Lord entreated him to stay supper, which he did. There was present Dr. Steward and another civilian, unto whom he flings out some question of that profession, and was so full of words, that Dr. Steward afterward told my Lord, that he did perceive by him that like a smatterer he had studied some two or three questions, whereof when he came in

company he must be talking to vindicate; but, if he were put from those, he could show himself but a simple fellow !""

to extend his consent.* When the cause, however, was tried before the Court of Delegates, the sentence of divorce was carried by a majority of two Bishops devoted to the court. The people loudly exclaimed against his Majesty for his conduct upon the occasion; and Rochester's perfidy did not escape animadver. sion. But James, in shameless defiance of public opinion, caused his favourite and the disengaged Countess to be married soon afterward in the royal chapel; and, that she might not lose her rank, created Rochester Earl of Somerset.+ Yet neither the sanction of the Sovereign, nor the adulations of a corrupt court, could stifle the horrors of reflexion, kept alive as they were in Somerset's breast by the constant remonstrances of Sir Thomas Overbury. Having vainly endeavoured to prevent the fatal match, this excellent friend did not scruple to impute his failure to the passions of the Countess. By her insti. gation, in consequence of an alleged affront to the King, he was sent to the Tower. Having thus secured their victim, it was not long before they caused him to be poisoned. for this murther they were tried and condemned, but pardoned by the

* He subsequently wrote a vindication of himself, entitled • Some Memorials, touching the Nullity between the Earl of Essex and his Lady, pronounced September 21, 1613, at Lambeth, and the difficulties endured in the same, with an Appendix;' which was answered by the King himself: but Abbot was proof, even to royal logic.

+ This inauspicious marriage, which in the event proved his ruin, was attended with greater pomp and festivity than that of any other subject in the kingdom. See the Detection of the Court and State of England during the Four Last Reigns.'

$ In refusing to accept an embassy to a climate, which he knew would disagree with his constitution.

King in 1624. The disgrace of Somerset, however, was the immediate consequence; and they both lived, thenceforward, in merited obscurity.

In 1616, Antonio de Dominis, * Archbishop of Spalato, who had taken shelter in England from the persecution with which he was threatened by the Pope (on account of his hostility, both to the doctrine and the discipline of the church of Rome) was kindly received by James, and under his Majesty's direction entertained by the Archbishop with generous hospitality, till he was otherwise provided for.

About two years afterward, the Primate gave a . fresh proof of his piety and his resolution in forbidding the Book of Sports to be recited at Croydon, though the King had expressly ordered that it should be read in all churches and chapels. †

In 1619, Sir Nicholas Kempe laid the first stone of the hospital at Guildford in Surry, which Abbot endowed with lands to the value of 300l. per ann., one third to be employed in setting the poor to work, and the remainder in maintaining a master, twelve brothers, and eight sisters; and the twenty-ninth of

* It was by means of this Prelate, that the Archbishop procured the transmission of Father Paul's History of the Council of Trent' to this country. Mr. Nathaniel Brent, by whom it was subsequently translated with some hazard to himself, succeeded in getting possession of the whole of the manuscript.

+ Certain pastimes were permitted by authority on the Sabbath, after evening-service. Once authorised, however, it was easy to be foreseen, that they would not be confined by the lower classes to any particular hours; and accordingly this publication occasioned scenes of confusion and indecency, which disturbed the order of the whole day, and gave great and just offence to well-disposed Christians. VOL. IL

2 M

October, the anniversary of his Grace's birth, is still commemorated at this institution.

Toward the close of the year, the Elector Palatine accepted the crown of Bohemia, which occasioned great divisions in the English councils. Invited to the throne by the free voice of the people, he wanted only the support of the Protestant princes to maintain his election against his competitor.* Independently of the interests of Protestantism, it was natural to expect that James would powerfully assist his son-in-law; and, upon 'every principle of sound policy, he ought to have done it. These were the sentiments of the Primate. But the majority, who studied more obsequiously the royal temper, and knew that their master preferred inglorious ease to a hazardous struggle even for the best of causes, advised him not to interfere in the matter, as it must inevitably produce a war with Germany. The other Protestant powers, in consequence, withheld their promised succour; and with his small army, surrounded by the Imperialists, the Elector risked and lost the battle of Prague. The result was, the loss of his Electoral dominions; which the Emperor bestowed upon the Duke of Bavaria, a descendent of a younger branch of the family of the vanquished Palatine. For this base desertion of his son-in-law, James was deservedly despised in every court of Europe, and the honour of England was sullied for the remainder of his ignominious reign.

* Ferdinand, cousin to Matthias Emperor of Germany, had been elected the year before by the intrigues of the court of Vienna, and was crowned this year King of Hungary.

Henceforward the Archbishop, in consideration of his declining health, lived chiefly in the retirement of the country; and in 1622, an unhappy accident took place, which by the melancholy it induced, added heavily to his bodily infirmities. Having made a summer-excursion into Hampshire, he was invited by Lord Zouch to take the diversion of hunting in Bramshill Park; when the park-keeper hastily advancing a herd of deer, in order that the company might have the fairer mark, his Grace by a barbed arrow from his cross-bow, unfortunately wounded him in the left arm, in consequence of which he died the following day. In commemoration of this fatal mischance, during the remainder of his life, he kept a monthly fast on Tuesdays; and he settled an annuity of 201. for life upon the widow.

The misfortune, however, had still more afflicting consequences; as though James observed, that

an angel 'might have miscarried in this sort”) some ambitious priests, hoping to be exalted by a change in the archiepiscopal see, strongly represented that by this irregularity he was incapacitated for performing the office of a Primate: upon which the King was under the necessity of appointing a commission, consisting of ten persons of the first rank in the church, the law, and the state, to inquire into the matter. The points referred to their decision were,

1. Whether the Archbishop was irregular '* (a

* “ Upon this event (remarks Howell) a commission was awarded to debate whether upon the fact, whereby he hath shed human blood, he be not to be deprived of his Archbishopric and pronounced irregular.' Some were against him; but Bishop

« PreviousContinue »