Edward Barrington De Fonblanque.

Annals of the house of Percy, from the conquest to the opening of the nineteenth century (Volume v.2 pt.1) online

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Online LibraryEdward Barrington De FonblanqueAnnals of the house of Percy, from the conquest to the opening of the nineteenth century (Volume v.2 pt.1) → online text (page 20 of 31)
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the Borders at this time will be found in the Laws of the Marc/us (vol n
fols.96, 170, and 204); ar.d a MS. in Syon House entitled « A Note of
Remembrance, bv Robert Helme, Hereditary * eodary of Alnwick, Sub
Re- Elk* " records several curious cases of the then prevailing system ot
blood feuds, resembling the Corsican vendetta, and luce that ancient
custom, frequently ending in a formal reconciliation and mutual condona-
tion of past homicides. See Appendix IX According to Hutchinson s
pleasant picture, the Union at once effected a complete transformation :

"Cultivation immediately took place ; the country so o.ten desolated
bv war received new inhabitants, who brought with them not only flocks
and herds but also manufacture and commerce; the works effected in
peace were soon distinguished ; the barren acres were put under the
ploughshare, towns and" hamlets diversified the scene and increasing
population enriched every valley which for ages had been marked by
works of hostility."— View of Northumberland, vol. up. 101.

vol. 11. 225 Q


a.d. Public opinion in England was by this time strongh

15 4^ \3 2 opposed to the pretensions of the Infanta of Spain, and
Arabella Stuart had diminished her chances to the su<
cession by her supposed leaning to the Catholics
Besides, as Northumberland said, the nation would not
willingly again be ruled by a Queen, " fearing the,
should never enjoy another like unto this." Settin
aside these claimants there were none to compete, with
any chance of success, with King James of Scotland ,
and Northumberland's ambitious mind may have been
gratified at the prospect of becoming, like his ancestor
two centuries back, but without any breach of loyalty,
"the ladder wherewithal" a new King should ascend
the English throne. 1

The moment was especially opportune for negotiation;
for James, alarmed lest his recent intrigues with Essex
should reach the English Court, had despatched an
embassy to London, ostensibly to congratulate the
Queen upon her escape from the recent conspiracy, but
actually to gauge the national feeling as to the choice of
a successor.

The Scottish Ambassador lost no time in communicat-
ing in the most influential quarters his royal master's
promises of future favour to those who should support
his claim ; and Cecil, who since the fall of Essex had
exercised an almost undisputed power in the Council.
now forsook the neutral attitude he had hitherto

Conscious, however, of the danger of arousing Eliza-
beth's jealousy and resentment, his negotiations were

1 Francis OsDorne, a bitter opponent of King James, expressed
surprise at one of the Earl's "honorable extraction and exquis
erudition," being "muffled with love to the person of that prince," am.
attributes his action to personal ambition. — Traditional Memoirs of ■■■'
Reign of King James VI. London, 1701.



conducted in profound secrecy, and mainly through the a.d. 1602
medium of Lord Henry Howard ;' a man of doubtful
antecedents and unscrupulous character, but possessed
of great capacity and peculiar aptitude for political

The secret correspondence which ensued in no way
reflects upon the loyalty or patriotism of Cecil. He un-
dertook it, fully conscious of its delicacy and danger,
to meet a great national emergency ; and it is worthy of
notice how, in all his letters to the King, he subordinates
his professions of respect and attachment, to the duty and
affection owing to his own sovereign ; and what pains he
takes to justify his action by the conviction — well founded
upon the whole — that his choice of a successor was in-
wardly approved by Elizabeth, although she shrank from
giving expression to her wish.

In one respect, however, the discovery of the cor-
respondence has damaged Sir Robert Cecil's reputation.
Jealousy of Northumberland, from the moment he was
known to have espoused the cause of King James, was
but natural in a man of the calibre and in the position of
Lord Henry Howard, who saw in the great English Peer

1 He was the youngest brother of the fourth Duke of Norfolk,
executed in 1572 ; was created Earl of Northampton shortly after James's
accession, and long continued to enjoy the favour of that sovereign.
He was deeply implicated in the murder of '.Sir Thomas Overbury, but
died, before the trial took place, in 1614 at Northampton (afterwards
Northumberland) House, in Charing Cross, which he is accused of
having " built with Spanish gold." Sir Anthony Weldon {Court cf King
James VI.) describes him as " the grossest flatterer in the world, and of
t( > venomous and so cankered a disposition that he hated all men of
noble parts, nor loved any but flatterers like himself; " and Miss Aikin
says of him : " His career seemed expressly calculated to show the world
now much baseness could be made compatible with the noblest birth,
die most accomplished education, and talents which had early attracted
general regard." — Memoirs of the Court of James the First, vol. i. p. 439.
1 hat Cecil should have chosen such an agent for a secret and in some
Aspects dishonest negotiation is less surprising than that he should have
• n 'credited him to the Scottish king as '* et vir et ciri$ bonus," since he
n >ust have known him to be worthless in either capacity.

227 Q 2


a.d. only a formidable rival in the favour of the future sovereign,

1564-1632 anc j one yyiiQ^ by darning a large share, might dimini h

his own rewards. But no such excuse can be offered for

the exhibition of this unworthy feeling on the part of

Elizabeth's powerful Minister.

When the Earl, who was unversed in, and by natural
temperament peculiarly unfitted for, the arts of seen;:
diplomacy, determined upon offering his support to James.
he communicated his intention to Cecil with full con-
fidence in his friendship and loyalty. He did not, a->
he informed the King, believe that the Secretary would
himself take any action in the matter during the life-time
of the Queen ; but he expressed his conviction that he
was, at heart, in favour of the Scottish succession, and
that, when the time came, His Majesty might rely upon
that statesman's powerful support. In how different a light
does Cecil's conduct appear throughout these transactions !

In not accepting so out-spoken and unguarded a
coadjutor in a secret service of extreme delicacy, the
minister may have done wisely ; but, since they were
working to a common end, it was neither wise nor worthy
on his part to take every opportunity of disparaging or
calumniating one who was acting with him in the most
complete frankness and good faith, and for whom he
continued to profess a warm friendship. 1

This correspondence, from first to last, serves to after. »
a painful illustration of that duplicity which a father s
careful training in the tortuous statescraft of those times,
had engrafted upon a naturally scheming and secretive,
though, in other respects, honest nature.

1 See his letter to Sir George Carew, ante, p. 200. Francis Osborne
says with truth : "Nothing is more prominent in Cecil's correspond". ■
than an anxious wish to convince James that Northumberland >• •
neither the power nor the wish to serve him ; and to the prejudice, t"
artfully excited, may be traced the succeeding misfortunes of that ill-fate
nobleman." — Traditional Memoirs of King James VI.



Northumberland, frank and trusting from first to last, 1 a.d. 1602
h ul carried to Cecil the King's reply to his first com-
munication. Here is what followed : —

"After that Northumberland had brought the letter of
King James written to himself to Cecil, and withal pre-
sented unto him certain messages by word of mouth,
recommended to him also, as he says, by Percy 2 from
King James, Cecil seemed to accept his kindness very
thankfully ; but after he was departed sent for me, and
seemed very much to wonder at the messages which
Percy delivered, because those messages did seem to set
a greater price upon the man than he deserves ....

(and he desired me to write in my own style, as I have
now done, to qualify this trust, and deliver plainly to His
Majesty, under correction, what my reason judgeth of the
measure to be kept with him .... which is still to use
him well, to retain this pledge of his profession, to make
him sure, and as occasion doth serve, some time to
comply with courtesies, but never to give him the least
light of any kind of 'favour or respect, . . . never to give
him credence in his advices, which must either be idle,
having no friend ; or dangerous, being bent to particular
ends; and, last of all, that His Majesty cut off all ordinary
traffic of intelligence, because it will let a thousand lights
into the mystery." 3

In Lord Henry Howard the wily secretary had found

a worthv and zealous agent for a service of duplicity


1 "The wily Secretary .... was already employing every art to ruin
in the opinion of the Prince his old associates. Cobham, Raleigh, and
even this unsuspecting Northumberland, who believed himself at the
bottom of his secrets ; and who accounted the friendship of the Secretary
among the most sincere and inviolable of his possessions." — Aikiivs
Memoirs of James the First, vol. i. p. 59.

1 Thomas Percy, the medium of Northumberland's correspondence
*ith the King, afterwards notorious as a principal agent in the Gun-
powder Plot.

3 Eord Henry Howard to Mr. Edward Bruce, 1st May, 1602. Secret
Correspondence, p. 105.



a.d. and slander, and his zeal in a work so congenial to his
15 fZ! ^ 2 nature was stimulated by a violent personal animosity
to the Earl for some real or fancied offence. " The
diabolic triplicity," under which title he denounces
Northumberland, Cobham, and Raleigh, occupies a lar^
space in his " ample Asiatic and endless volumes ; " " but
the first of the trio is ever the chosen object of attack,
and is by turns described as a formidable enemy, a
■*> doubtful friend, and the harmless dupe of more dangerous

" The first canon that was concluded in this con-
venticle," he writes, " was that Northumberland, who is,
by their illusions and his own giddiness, a sworn enemy
to King James, should offer himself as a willing instru-
ment to Cecil to reconcile him to King James; for infer
ccrcos dominator luscus, and in this concert, that have run
foreign courses, Northumberland out of a residence
[? residue] of kind affection in his uncle, to 'the Queen,
your mother,' makes himself omnipotent in the good
conceit of His Majesty. Of all this I gave notice to
Cecil; drawing it, and much more, from a person whom he
trusted as himself ; for such a leaking sieve did never
water the wild gardens of Hesperides. Cecil, being
fenced and well armed by this precaution, desired
infinitely that this offer might be made, to the end that
he might make amends for some frank words cast out to
him before his last going over [to the Low Countries], of
his allowance of the rights of King James before any,
.... At the last he comes and was so well paid in his
own coin by Cecil, as the fool, finding he had set up his

1 " I have therefore thought good in my own laconic style to answer
all your ample Asiatic and endless volumes." This is the severe b'J'
perfectly just criticism applied to the verbosity and strained imagery
Lord Henry Howard's literary style by King James in his letter of M-i}»
1602. Secret Correspondence', p. 116.


candle to a wrong saint, began to work back again a.d^Co 2

The whole of the Earl of Northumberland's correspond-
ence with King James is on record and speaks for itself.'
It is in all respects honourable to him, and is marked by
so much clear-sightedness, moderation and sagacity, that
wc cannot but regret that the injustice of an ungrateful
Prince should ultimately have deprived the country of
the services of one who, when time and experience
should have tempered his faults, could hardly have
failed to prove a wise and influential counsellor.

There is one other characteristic feature in his letters
to the King, and this is the more praiseworthy since
James was notoriously fond of gross flattery : they are
entirely free from the servility and adulation too com-
monly met with in addresses to royalty at that time, and,
while thoroughly respectful, are always consistent with

self-respect. 3

The letters, extending over twenty-three closely
printed pages, are worthy of careful perusal, but can
here be only cursorily reviewed.

The Earl begins by expressing the conviction that the

1 Lord Henry Howard to Mr. E. Bruce, November, 1601. Secret

Correspondence, p. 30. -it, t- o » /c

3 It will be found, admirably edited by Mr. John Bruce, F.S.A. (from
the original letters in the Hatfield MSS.), in the Camden Society Publica-
tions, No. lxxviii., under the title of Correspondence of Kin* James VI.
of Scotland, respecting his Succession to the Throne of England, part 111.
p. 53. The orthography has here been modernised. _

3 Lord Henry Howard's correspondence is replete with the most
fulsome flattery, nor was Cecil backward in this respect, witness the
following passage : , , t

"It is the property of the Creator to accept the labours of men
according to His knowledge of their desire, without measure of their
ability. Of this divine quality, if ever man's eyes beheld on earth a
lively image, the same appeareth in your person. . . . Your Majesty s
exquisite judgment cannot but know that that which I can tender you
must be finite, imperfect, and of small value, though the duty, the
affection and zealous thankfulness of my heart be, like your favours,
infinite, perfect, and matchless." — Ibid. p. 27.

2; I


a.d. union of the two kingdoms under one sovereign coul i
15 ll! 32 not fail to be beneficial to both, and then sets forth tin-
two main points for present consideration :

"Whether, after her Majesty's life, your right will ]>■-.
yielded you peacably without blows or not;" and "whether
it be likely your Majesty, before your time, will attempt
to hasten it by force ? "

He feels certain that the great majority of the English
people are in favour of James's succession, and contends
that the freedom of discussion allowed upon the subject
shows that " it is not distasteful to the chief agents in
our state. . . . He warns the King not to be dis-

couraged by the reports of those who " from the truth
of their conceits, or from policy to endear themselves,"
in his favour, should exaggerate the obstacles to his
" lawful and peacable succession," which he " will be
certain to have yielded as ever prince had any kingdom
[that] was due to him."

Opposition, he admits, will be found to arise on
several grounds. Firstly, the fear lest King James's
Council should be too largely composed of his own
countrymen ; secondly, the national prejudice against
Scotland, and because " the name of Scottes is harsh
in the ears of the vulgar ; " lastly, the apprehension on
the part of the Catholics that their faith would meet
with little toleration under his rule.

" To the first objection I have thus answered : that
for your own sake it will be your Majesty's labor
rather to nourish us in quiet, than to move discontents
at your first entry ; that your wisdom will strive more
to unite the two nations in all love, by matches and
other politic means, to make them one, as now England
and Wales are, than to divide them by envy. . . •
Neither do I think that the Kings of Scotland have
reason to be so far enamored with the faith o( their



•objects, that willingly they will repose a greater trust a.d. 1602
in them than in the English. Besides, I conceive it, your
Majesty, being half English yourself , will think that your
/..nor in being reputed a King of England, will be greater
than to be a King of Scots."

As to the national antagonism, the Earl believes that
" the memories of the ancient wounds between England
and Scotland will soon be cancelled, when conscience in
their hearts shall proclaim your rights ; " and, as regards
ihe toleration claimed by those who adhere to the
ancient faith, he trusts to the King's wisdom to make
some concessions, since " it were a pity to lose a good
kingdom for not tolerating a mass in a corner (if upon
that it resteth) so long as they shall not be too busy dis-
turbers of the Government of the State, nor seek to make
us contributors to a Peter Priest." '

On the subject of any premature attempt by force to
extort a recognition of his claim, the writer expresses
himself in the strongest terms of reprobation ; he re-
fuses to believe the prevalent rumours on the subject,
declaring that such a course would be fatal to the
King's prospects, " and albeit your people are apt and
forward to enterprising courses, ever desiring spoil of
that is not theirs, your Majesty, Commander over their
desires, cannot like to see the ruin of that is so near to
be your own.

"Soe as I conclude . . . that none can deny but that
your Majesty shall, without all contradictions, enjoy
that that you are so nigh to by right ; and that it cannot
be good for you, or us, that you should seek it sooner
by force ; for this I have ever almost noted, that lesser
kingdoms seldom kept long a greater got by conquest, but

1 This passage, by a distorted construction, subsequently formed the
founds of one of the charges preferred against the writer in the Star


a.d. by right and succession of ten ; for when conquest run.
1 5 4-i 3 2 u Le ivounds of parents and friends bleed still fresh in
their memories, watching biit opportunity of revenue, un-
to free themselves of the burden."

This remarkable letter was the first of the series which
was conveyed to the King by the hands of Thonu
Percy, whom his employer commends as " one of my
house, an honest man, without whom, I fear me, I should
yet have been longer silent towards you." '

The King's affected indignation at the idea of that
resort to armed force which but a few weeks before h
had been busy in arranging with Essex, is amusingly
illustrative of his character.

"As for your advice in the other point, if my con-
stant resolution were not agreable to your advice I could
neither be religious, wise, nor honest ; for how could I
be religious to prevent God's leisure by unlawful
anticipation ? and to do that wrong to my neighbours
the like whereof I would be lothe to suffer in my own
person ? It were very small wisdom, by climbing of
ditches and hedges, for pulling of unripe fruit, to hazard
the breaking of my neck, when by a little patience, and
abiding the season, I may with far more ease and safety
enter at the gate of the garden, and enjoy the fruits at
my pleasure in their greatest maturity."

Thanking the Earl for sending his letter by rt a
gentleman whom nature must bind you to love, and
of whose honesty I have ever heard a sound report ; "
and begging of him to " employ hereafter none other
Mercury in dealing with me," His Majesty concludes:

" I assure you, you can by no means so far enable
yourself for my service against the lawful time as by

1 Thus both Northumberland and Cecil vouched for the honestv < '■
their messengers; the former, however, did sincerely believe in his
kinsman till he himself became the victim of his crimes.



not only maintaining, but also advancing, your credit at a.d. 1602
her (Elizabeth's) hands, that whenever it shall please God
to call her to His mercy, you may be a chief instrument
to assist my settling in that seat which I honor as the
apparent heir, in all quietness, without the alteration or
prejudice of any that will not wilfully resist to my


In his next letter Northumberland gives his opinion
of those who professed to be favorable to the King's
claim, but of whose sincerity, James, in his conversation
with Thomas Percy, appears to have expressed some

"Your Majesty's judgment of Essex to be a noble
gentleman, but that you had lost no great friend in him,
leads me . . . to say . . . that although he was a man
endowed with good gifts, yet was his loss the happiest
chance for your Majesty and England that could befal
us ; for, either do I fail in my judgment, or he would
have been a bloody scourge to our nation. Of this I can
speak very particularly, as one who was as inward with
him as any living creature, the first two years I was
matched with his sister."

He proceeds to point out Essex's restless ambition,
his unceasing desire for military power, his impatience
of all who opposed his will, and how it was not until
his own influence was on the wane that he had begun
to advocate the cause of King James :

"To conclude, he wore the crown of England in his
heart these many years, and was therefore far from
setting it on your head, if it had been in his power."

Essex was in his grave, and his kinsman might have
spared him this harsh judgment. Of the living Raleigh,
against whom Cecil had taken care to poison the King's
mind, he says that having known him intimately for six-
teen years — " I must needs affirm Raleigh's ever allowance



a.d. of your right, and although I know him insolent, extremely
1564-1632 h^tp,^ a man that desires to seem to be able to sway all
men's fancies, all men's courses; and a man that out i :
himself, when your time shall come, will never be able
to do you much good nor harm, yet must I needs con-
fess what I know, that there is excellent good parts ( t
nature in him; a man whose love is disadvantageous
to me in some sort, which I cherish rather out of con-
stancy than policy, and one whom I wish your Majesty
not to lose, because I would not that one hair 01
a man's head should be against you, that might be
for you."

The King had invited his correspondent's opinion
of Cecil, of whom in reply the Earl speaks most gene-
rously, under the full impression that their friendship
and regard was mutual. He defended him against the
charge of " his heart being Spanish," would " pawn his
honor that he had never contemplated bringing in the
Infanta ; " dwelt upon the efforts he had made to miti-
gate the penalties of all concerned in Essex's ill-advised
attempt in James's favour, and expressed his firm convic-
tion that, although Elizabeth's Minister would take no
active measures on the King's behalf during the life
of the Queen, " for the which in my poore opinion
he merits justly an allowance from you," yet when the
time should come he would prove that " the secret oi
his conscience doeth conclude your right to be the
next right, and that his heart will then wish that it
may have that approbation with all men." He adds :
"the ancient familiarity and inward trust hath been
between us, which doeth make him understand me very
well, his knowledge of my opinion of your title, when
necessity of death must leave it to any other hand, his
conceiving of my determination to run that course 1"
setting up all the faults of my fortune that way, yet doth ne



ejnliniie his love hi preferring me, and in befriending vie a.d. 1602
what he is able."

Truly the trusting- and warm-hearted Percy was no
match for the scheming statesman who at this very time
had caused his agent to write of Northumberland in terms
as untrue as they are ungenerous, for the information of
King James:

" The man is beloved of none, followed by none,
trusted by no one gentleman or nobleman of quality
within the land, beside his faction ; no, not " by the
gentlemen or peasants of his own country, in respect
of his vexation and sport, which you may know by your
next neighbours ; and the Queen repeated one month
since, when she was moved in his behalf for a regiment,
saying, that Raleigh had made him as odious as himself,
because he would not be singular ; and such were not to
be employed by princes of sound policy ... I protest
to God nothing vexeth Cecil so much as trust imparted
above merit, unto men that are unsecret and indiscreet." r

King James was too shrewd and sharpsighted to be

(misled by these representations. He had had ample
opportunities of judging of Northumberland's character
and conduct ; he knew how formidable his enmity might
have been, and he appreciated his offers of support, as

Online LibraryEdward Barrington De FonblanqueAnnals of the house of Percy, from the conquest to the opening of the nineteenth century (Volume v.2 pt.1) → online text (page 20 of 31)