Charles Dickens.

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added, " The danger is past, as soon as you have burnt the

The ministers and courtiers made out that his Sowship, by
a direct miracle from heaven, found out what this letter meant.
The truth is, that they were not long (as few men would be) in
finding out for themselves ; and it was decided to let the con-
spirators alone, until the very day before the opening of Par-
liament. That the conspirators had their fears is certain ; for
Tresham himself said before them all, that they were everyone
dead men ; and, although even he did not take flight, there is
reason to suppose that he had warned other persons besides
Lord Monteagle. However, they were all firm ; and Fawkes,
who was a man of iron, went down every day and night to keep
watch in the cellar as usual. He was there about two in the
afternoon of the 4th, when the lord chamberlain and Lord
Monteagle threw open the door and looked in. " Who are
you, friend ? ' said they. " Why," said Fawkes, " I am Mr.
Percy's servant, and am looking after his store of fuel here,
" Your master has laid in a pretty good store,"" they returned,
and shut the door and went away. Fawkes, upon this, posted
off to the other conspirators to tell them all was quiet, and
went back and shut himself up in the dark black cellar again,


where he heard the bell go twelve o'clock, and usher in the 5th
of November. About two hours afterwards, he slowly opened
the door, and came out to look about him, in his old prowling
way. He was instantly seized and bound by a party of soldiers
under Sir Thomas Knevett. He had a watch upon him, some
touchwood, some tinder, some slow-matches ; and there was a
dark lantern with a candle in it, lighted, behind the door. He
had his boots and spurs on, — to ride to the ship, I suppose ;
and it was well for the soldiers they took him so suddenly.
If they had left him but a moment's time to light a match, he
certainly would have tossed it in among the powder, and blown
up himself and them.

They took him to the king's bedchamber first of all ; and
there the king, causing him to be held very tight, and keeping
a good way off, asked him how he could have the heart to in-
tend to destroy so many innocent people. " Because," said
Guy Fawkes, " desperate diseases need desperate remedies."
To a little Scotch favorite, with a face like a terrier, who asked
him, with no particular wisdom, why he had collected so much
gunpowder, he replied, because he had meant to blow Scotch-
men back to Scotland, and it would take a deal of powder to
do that. Next day he was carried to the Tower, but would
make no confession, Even after being horribly tortured, he
confessed nothing that the government did not already know ;
though he must have been in a fearful state, as his signature,
still preserved, in contrast with his natural handwriting before
he was put upon the dreadful rack, most frightfully shows.
Bates, a very different man, soon said the Jesuits had had to
do with the plot, and probably, under the torture, would as
readily have said anything. Tresham, taken and put in the
Tower too. made confessions and unmade them, and died of an
illness that was heavy upon him. Rookwood, who had sta-
tioned relays of his own horses all the way to Dunchurch, did
not mount to escape until the middle of the day, when the news
of the plot was all over London. On the road, he came up
with the two Wrights, Catesby, and Percy ; and they all gal-
loped together into Northamptonshire ; thence to Dunchurch,
where they found the proposed party assembled. Finding,
however, that there had been a plot, and that it had been dis-
covered, the party disappeared in the course of the night, and
left them alone with Sir Everard Digby. Away they all rode
again, through Warwickshire and Worcestershire to a house
called Holbeach, on the borders of Staffordshire. They tried
to raise the Catholics on their way, but were indignantly driven


off by them. All this time they were hotly pursued by the
Sheriff of Worcester, and a fast-increasing concourse of riders.
At last, resolving to defend themselves at Holbeach, they shut
themselves up in the house, and put some wet powder before
the fire to dry. But it blew up, and Catesby was singed and
blackened, and almost killed, and some of the others were
sadly hurt. Still, knowing that they must die, they resolved to
die there, and with only their swords in their hands, appeared
at the windows to be shot at by the sheriff and his assistants.
Catesby said to Thomas Winter, after Thomas had been hit in
the right arm, which dropped powerless by his side, " Stand by
me, Tom, and we will die together ! " which they did, being
shot through the body by two bullets from one gun. John
Wright and Christopher Wright and Percy were also shot.
Rook wood and Digby were taken \ the former with a broken
arm and a wound in his body too.

It was the 15th of January, before the trial of Guy Fawkes,
and such of the other conspirators as were left alive came on.
They were all found guilty, all hanged, drawn and quartered, —
some in St. Paul's Churchyard, on the top of Ludgate Hill ;
some before the Parliament House. A Jesuit priest, named
Henry Garnet, to whom the dreadful design was said to have
been communicated, was taken and tried ; and two of his ser-
vants, as well as a poor priest who was taken with him, were
tortured without mercy. He himself was not tortured, but was
surrounded in the Tower by tamperers and traitors, and so was
made unfairly to convict himself out of his ovv'n mouth. He
said, upon his trial, that he had done all he could to prevent
the deed, and that he could not make public what had been
told him in confession, — though I am afraid he knew of the
plot in other ways. He was found guilty and executed, after a
manful defence, and the Catholic church made a saint of him.
Some rich and powerful persons, who had had nothing to do
with the project, were fined and imprisoned for it by the Star
Chamber ; the Catholics in general, who had recoiled with
horror from the idea of the infernal contrivance, were unjustly
put under more severe laws than before ; and this was the end
of the Gunpowder Plot.

Second Part.

His Sowship would pretty willingly, I think, have blown
the House of Commons into the air himself ; for his dread
and jealousy of it knew no bounds all through his reign,


When he was hard-pressed for money, he was obliged to or-
der it to meet, as he could get no money without it ; and
when it asked him first to aboUsh some of the monopolies in
necessaries of life, which were a great grievance to the people,
and to redress other public wrongs, he flew into a rage and got
rid of it again. At one tune he wanted it to consent to the
union of England and Scotland, and quarrelled about that.
At another time he wanted it to put down a most infamous
Church abuse, called the High Commission Court j and he
quarrelled with it about that. At another time it entreated
him not to be quite so fond of his archbishops and bishops,
who made speeches in his praise too awful to be related, but to
have some little consideration for the poor Puritan clergy, who
v/ere persecuted for preaching in their own way, and not ac-
cording to the archbishops and bishops ; and they quarrelled
about that. In short, what with hating the House of Commons,
and pretending not to hate it ; and what with now sending some
of its members who opposed him to Newgate or to the Tower,
and now telling the rest that they must not presume to make
speeches about the public affairs which could not possibly con-
cern them ; and what with cajoling and bullying, and frighten-
ing and being frightened, — the House of Commons was the
plague of his Sow^ship's existence. It was pretty firm, however,
in maintaining its rights, and insisting that the Parliament
should make the laws, and not the king by his own single proc-
lamation (which he tried hard to do) ; and his Sowship was so
often distressed for money, in consequence, that he sold every
sort of title and public office as if they were merchandise, and
even invented a new dignity called a baronetcy, which anybody
could buy for a thousand pounds. These disputes with his
parliaments, and his hunting, and his drinking, and his laying
in bed, — for he was a great sluggard, — occupied his Sowship
pretty well. The rest of his time he chiefly passed in hugging
and slobbering his favorites. The first of these was Sir Philip
Herbert, who had no knowledge whatever, except of dogs and
horses and hunting, but vvhom he soon made Earl of Mont-
gomery. The next, and a m.uch more famous one, was Robert
Carr, or Ker (for it is not certain which is his right name), who
came from the Border country, and whom he soon made Vis-
count Rochester, and afterwards Earl of Somerset. The way
in which his Sowship doted on this handsome young man is
even more odious to think of than the way in which the great
\nen of England condescended to bow down before him. The
favorite's greai friend was a certain Sir Thomas Overbury, who


wrote his love-letters for him, and assisted him in the duties of
his many high places, which his own ignorance prevented him
from discharging. But this same Sir Thomas having just man-
hood enough to dissuade the favorite from a wicked marriage
with the beautiful Countess of Essex, who was to get a divorce
from her husband for the purpose, the said countess, in her
rage, got Sir Thomas put into the Tower, and there poisoned
him. Then the favorite and this bad woman were publicly
married by the king's pet bishop, with as much to-do and re-
joicing as if he had been the best man, and she the best woman
upon the face of the earth.

But after a longer sunshine than might have been expected,
' — of seven years or so, that is to say, — another handsome
young man started up, and eclipsed the Earl of Somerset.
This was George Villiers, the youngest son of a Leicestershire
gentleman ; who came to court with all the Paris fashions on
him, and could dance as well as the best mountebank that ever
was seen. He soon danced himself into the good graces of his
Sovvship, and danced the other favorite out of favor. Then it
was all at once discovered that the Earl and Countess of
Somerset had not deserved all these great promotions and
mighty rejoicings ; and they were separately tried for the mur-
der of Sir Thomas Overbury, and for other crimes. But the
king was so afraid of his late favorite's publicly telling some
of the disgraceful things he knew of him, — which he darkly
threatened to do, — that he was even examined with two men
standing, one on either side of him, each with a cloak in his
hand, ready to throw it over his head and stop his mouth, if he
should break out with what he had in his power to tell. So
a very lame affair was purposely made of the trial \ and his
punishment was an allowance of four thousand pounds a year
in retirement, while the countess was pardoned, and allowed to
pass into retirement too. They hated one another by this time,
and lived to revile and torment each other some years.

While these events were in progress, and while his Sowship
was making such an exhibition of himself, from day to day and
from year to year, as is not often seen in any sty, three remark-
able deaths took place in England. The first was that of the
minister, Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury, who was past sixt}',
and had never been strong, being deformed from his birth. He
said dt last that he had no wish lo live ; and no minister need
have had, with his experience of the meanness and wickedness
of those disgraceful times. The second was that of the Lady
Arabella Stuart, who alarmed his Sowship mightily by privatel^"


marrying William Seymour, son of Lord Beauchamp, who was
a descendant of King Henry the Seventh, and who, his Sow-
ship thought, might consequently increase and strengthen any
claim she might one day set up to the throne. She was
separated from her husband (who was put in the Tower) and
thrust into a boat to be confined at Durham. She escaped in
a man's dress to get away in a French ship from Gravesend to
France, but unhappily missed her husband, who had escaped
too, and was soon taken. She went raving mad in the miser-
able Tower, and died there after four years. The last, and the
most important, of these three deaths, was that of Prince
Henry, the heir to the throne, in the nineteenth year of his age.
He was a promising young prince, and greatly liked, — a quiet
well-conducted youth, of whom two very good things are known
first, that his father was jealous of him ; secondly, that he was
the friend of Sir Walter Raleigh, languishing through all those
years in the Tower, and often said that no man but his father
would keep such a bird in such a cage. On the occasion of
the preparations for the marriage of his sister, the Princess
Elizabeth, with a foreign prince (and an unhappy marriage it
turned out), he came from Richmond, where he had been very
ill, to greet his new brother-in-law, at the palace at Whitehall.
There he played a great game at tennis, in his shirt, though it
was very cold weather, and was seized with an alarming illness
and died within a fortnight of a putrid fever. For this young
prince Sir Walter Raleigh wrote, in his prison in the Tower,
the beginning of a History of the World ; a wonderful instance
how little his Sowship could do to confine a great man's mind,
however long he might imprison his body.

At this mention of Sir Walter Raleigh, who had many faults,
but who never showed so many merits as in trouble and adver-
sity, may bring me at once to the end of his sad story. After
an imprisonment in the Tower for twelve long years, he pro-
posed to resume those old sea voyages of his, and to go to
South America in search of gold. His Sowship, divided be-
tween a wish to be on good terms with the Spaniards, through
whose territory Sir Walter must pass (he had long had an idea of
marrying Prince Henry to a Spanish princess), and his avaricious
eagerness to get hold of the gold, did not know what to do-
But in the end he set Sir Walter free, taking securities for his
return ; and Sir Walter fitted out an expedition at his own cost,
and on the 28th of March, 16 17, sailed away in command of
one of its ships, which he ominously called the Destiny. The ex-
pedition failed J the common men, not finding the gold they


had expected, mutinied ; a quarrel broke out between Sir
Walter and the Spaniards, who hated him for old successes of
his against them ; and he took and burnt a little town called
St. Thomas. For this he was denounced to his Sowship by the
Spanish ambassador as a pirate ; and returning almost broken-
hearted, with all his hopes and fortunes shattered, his company
of friends dispersed, and his brave son (who had been one of
them) killed, he was taken, — through the treachery of Sir Lewis
Stukely, his near relation, a scoundrel and a vice-admiral, — and
was once again immured in his prison home of so many years.
His Sowship being mightily disappointed in not getting any
gold, Sir Walter Raleigh was tried as unfairly, and with as
many lies and evasions, as the judges and law-officers and
every other authority in church and state habitually prac-
tised under such a king. After a great deal of prevarication
on all parts but his own, it was declared that he must die
under his former sentence, now fifteen years old. So, on the
i8th of October, 1618, he was shut up in the Gate House at
Westminster to pass his last night on earth ; and there took
lea/e of his good and faithful lady, who was worthy to have
lived in better days. At eight o'clock next morning, after a
cheerful breakfast, and a pipe, and a cup of good wine, he was
taken to Old Palace Yar'd, in Westminster, where the scaffold
was set up, and where so many people of high degree were as-
sembled to see him die, that it was a matter of some difficulty
to get him through the crowd. He behaved most nobly ; but,
if anything lay heavy on his mind, it was that Earl of Essex,
whose head he had seen roll off ; and he solemnly said that he
had had no hand in bringing him to the block, and that he had
shed tears for him when he died. As the morning was very
cold the sheriff said, Would he come down to a fire for a
little space, and warm himself ? But Sir Walter thanked
him, and said, No ; he would rather it were done at once ; for
he was ill of fever and ague, and in another quarter of an hour
his shaking fit would come upon him if he were still alive, and
his enemies might then suppose that he trembled for fear.
\\'ith that he kneeled, and made a very beautiful and Christian
prayer. Before he laid his head upon the block he felt the
ecli^e of the axe, and said, with a smile upon his face, that it
was a sharp medicine, but would cure the worst disease.
Vv^hen he was bent down, ready for death, he said to the ex-
ecutioner, finding that he hesitated, *'What dost thou fear,'*
S:rikG, man ! " So the axe came down, and struck his head
lii, in the sixty-sixth year of b^-^ age.


The new favorite got on fast. He was made a viscount, he
was made Duke of Buckingham, he was made a marquis, he was
made master of the horse, he was made lord high admiral ;
and the chief commander of the gallant English forces that
had dispersed the Spanish Armada was displaced to make
room for him. He had the whole kingdom at his disposal ;
and his mother sold all the profits and honors of the state, aS
if she had kept a shop. He blazed all over with diamonds
and other precious stones, from his hatband and his ear-rings
to his shoes. Yet he was an ignorant, presumptuous, swagger-
ing compound of knave and fool, with nothing but his beauty
and his dancing to recommend him. This is the gerttleman
who calle 1 himself his Majesty's dog and slave, and called
his Majesty, Your Sowship. His Sowship called him Steenie ;
it is supposed because that was a nickname for Stephen, and
because St. Stephen was generally represented in pictures as a
handsome saint.

His Sowship was driven sometimes to his wits' end by his
trimming between the general dislike of the Catholic religion
at home, and his desire to wheedle and flatter it abroad, as his
only means of getting a rich princess for his son's wife, a part
of whose fortune he might cram into his greasy pockets.
Prince Charles — or, as his Sowship called him. Baby Charles —
being now Prince of Wales, the old project of a marriage with
the Spanish king's daughter had been revived for him ; and as
she could not marry a Protestant without leave from the pope,
his Sowship himself secretly and meanly wrote to his Infalli-
bility, asking for it. The negotiation for this Spanish marriage
takes up a larger space in great books than you can imagine ;
but the upshot of all is, that, when it had been held off by the
Spanish court for a long time. Baby Charles and Steenie set off
in disguise as Mr. Thomas Smith and Mr. John Smith, to see
the Spanish princess ; that Baby Charles pretended to be des-
perately in love with her, and jumped off walls to look at her,
and made a considerable fool of himself in a good many ways ;
that she was called Princess of Wales, and that the whole
Spanish court believed Baby Charles to be all but dying for
her sake, as he expressly told them he was ; that Baby
Charles and Steenie came back to England, and were received
with as much rapture as if they had been a blessing to it ; that
Baby Charles had actually fallen in love with Henrietta Maria,
the French king's sister, whom he had seen in Paris ; that he
thought it a wonderfully fine and princely thing to have de-
ceived the Spaniards all through ^ and that he openly said with


a chuckle, as soon as he was safe and sound at home again,
that the Spaniards were great fools to have believed him.

Like most dishonest men, the prince and the favorite com-
plained that the people whom they had deluded were dis-
honest. They made such misrepresentations of the treachery
of the Spaniards, in this business of the Spanish match, that
the English nation became eager for a war with them. Al-
though the gravest Spaniards laughed at the idea of his Sow-
sliip in a warlike attitude, the Parliament granted money for
the beginning of hostilities, and the treaties with Spain were
publicly declared to be at an end. The Spanish ambassador in
London, — probably with the help of the fallen favorite, the Earl
of Somerset, — being unable to obtain speech with his Sowship,
slipped a paper into his ha»d, declaring that he was a prisoner
in his own house, and was entirely governed by Buckingham and
his creatures. The first effect of this letter was, that his Sowship
began to cry and whine, and took Baby Charles away from
Steenie, and went down to Windsor, gabbling all sorts of non-
sense. The end of it was that his Sowship hugged his dog
and slave, and said he was quite satisfied.

He had given the prince and the favorite almost unlimited
power to settle anything with the pope as to the Spanish mar-
riage ; and he now, with a view to the French one, signed a
treaty that all Roman Catholics in England should exercise
their religion freely, and should never be required to take any
oath contrary thereto. In return for this, and for other con-
cessions much less to be defended, Henrietta Maria was to
become the Prince's wife, and was to bring him a fortune of
eight hundred thousand crowns.

His Sowship's eyes were getting red with eagerly looking
for the money, when the end of a gluttonous life came upon
him ; and, after a fortnight's illness, on Sunday, the 27th of
March, 1625, he died. He had reigned twenty-two years, and
was fifty-nine years old. I know of nothing more abominable
in history than the adulation that was lavished on this king,
and the vice and corruption that such a barefaced habit
of lying produced in his court. It is much to be doubted
whether one man of honor, and not utterly self-disgraced, kept
his place near James the First. Lord Bacon, that able and
wise philosopher, as the first judge in the kingdom in this reign,
became a public spectacle of dishonesty and corruption ; and
in his base flattery of his Sowship, and in his crawling servility
to his dog and slave, disgraced himself even more. But a crea-
ture like hi;» Sowship set upon a throne is like a plague, and
everybody icceiv&» icifectj^n froiii hinL




Baby Charles became King Charles the First in the
twenty-fifth year of his age. Unlike his father, he was usually
amiable in his private character, and grave and dignified in his
bearing ; but, like his father, he had monstrously exaggerated
notions of the rights of a king, and was ^vasive, and not to be
trusted. If his word could have been relied upon, his history
might have had a different end.

His first care was to send over that insolent upstart,
Buckingham, to bring Henrietta Maria from Paris to be his
queen ; upon which occasion, Buckingham, with his usual
audacity, made love to the young Queen of Austria, and was
very indignant indeed with Cardinal Richelieu, the French
minister, for thwarting his intentions. The English people
were very well disposed to like their new queen, and to receive
her with great favor when she came among them as a stranger.
But she held the Protestant religion in great dislike, and
brought over a crowd of unpleasant priests, who made her do
some very ridiculous things, and forced themselves upon the
public notice in many disagreeable ways. Hence the people soon
came to dislike her, and she soon came to dislike them ; and
she did so much all through this reign in setting the king, who
was dotingly fond of her, against his subjects, that it would have
been better for him if she had never been born.

Now you are to understand that King Charles the First, of
his own determination to be a high and mighty king, not to be
called to account by anybody, and urged on by his queen be-
sides, deliberately set himself to put his parliament down and
to put himself up. You are also to understand, that, even in
pursuit of this wrong idea (enough in itself to have ruined any
king), he never took a straight course, but always a crooked

He was bent upon war with Spain, though neither the House

Online LibraryCharles DickensA child's history of England → online text (page 30 of 38)