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from the judicial bench, — these three great centers


of organized government, — in all he saw prevailing
the same favor for arbitrary power, and from all he
learned the same oblique lessons of practical statecraft.
On the side of religion his subjects noted things of
dubious omen. His mother, Anne of Denmark,
though her first interests were those of taste and plea-
sure, was probably at heart a Catholic. His grand-
mother, Mary Queen of Scots, had been the renowned
representative and champion of the Catholic party in
the two kingdoms. From her and her mother, Mary
of Guise, Charles had in his veins the blood of that
potent house of Lorraine who were in church and state
the standard-bearers of the Catholic cause in France.
A few weeks after his accession he married (May,
1625) the sister of the King of France and daughter
of Henry of Navarre. His wife, a girl of fifteen at
the time of her marriage, was a Bourbon on one side
and a Medici on the other, an ardent Catholic, and a
devoted servant of the Holy See. That Charles was
ever near to a change of faith there is no reason what-
ever to suppose. But he played with the great con-
troversy when the papal emissaries round the queen
drew him into argument, and he was as bitterly averse
from the Puritanic ideas, feelings, and aspirations of
either England or Scotland, as Mary Stuart had ever
been from the doctrines and discourses of John Knox.
It has been said that antagonism between Charles
and his Parliament broke out at once as a historical
necessity. The vast question may stand over, how far
the working of historical necessity is shaped by char-
acter and motive in given individuals. Suppose that
Charles had been endowed with the qualities of Oliver,
— his strong will, his active courage, his powerful
comprehension, above all his perception of immovable
facts, — how might things have gone? Or suppose


Oliver the son of King James, and that he had in-
herited such a situation as confronted Charles? In
either case the English constitution, and the imitations
of it all over the globe, might have been run in another
mold. As it was, Charles had neither vision nor
grasp. It is not enough to say that he was undone by
his duplicity. There are unluckily far too many awk-
ward cases in history where duplicity has come off tri-
umphant. Charles was double, as a man of inferior
understanding would be double who had much studied
Bacon's essay on Simulation and Dissimulation, with-
out digesting it or ever deeply marking its first sen-
tence, that dissimulation is but a faint kind of policy
or wisdom, for it asketh a strong wit and a strong
heart to know when to tell truth and to do it ; therefore
it is the worst sort of politicians that are the great dis-
semblers. This pregnant truth Charles never took
to heart. His fault — and no statesman can have ?.
worse — was that he never saw things as they were.
He had taste, imagination, logic, but he was a dreamer,
an idealist, and a theorizer, in which there might have
been good rather than evil if only his dreams, theories,
and ideals had not been out of relation with the hard
duties of a day of storm. He was gifted with a fine
taste for pictures, and he had an unaffected passion
for good literature. When he was a captive he
devoted hours daily not only to Bishop Andrewes
and the "Ecclesiastical Polity" of Hooker, but to
Tasso, Ariosto, the "Faerie Queene," and above all to

He was not without the more mechanical qualities
of a good ruler : he was attentive to business, method-
ical, decorous, as dignified as a man can be without
indwelling moral dignity, and a thrifty economist
meaning well by his people. His manners, if not


actually ungracious, were ungenial and disobliging.
"He was so constituted by nature," said the Venetian
ambassador, "that he never obliges anybody either by
word or by act." In other words, he was the royal
egotist without the mask. Of gratitude for service,
of sympathy, of courage in friendship, he never
showed a spark. He had one ardent and constant
sentiment, his devotion to the queen.

One of the glories of literature is the discourse in
which the mightiest of French divines commemorates
the strange vicissitudes of fortune — the glittering
exaltation, the miseries, the daring, the fortitude, and
the unshaken faith of the queen of Charles I. As the
delineation of an individual it is exaggerated and
rhetorical, but the rhetoric is splendid and profound.
Bossuet, more than a divine, was moralist, statesman,
philosopher, exploring with no mere abstract specu-
lative eye the thread of continuous purpose in the his-
tory of mankind, but using knowledge, eloquence, and
art to mold the wills of men. His defense of estab-
lished order has been called the great spectacle of the
seventeenth century. It certainly was one of them,
and all save narrow minds will care to hear how the
spectacle in England moved this commanding genius.

Taking a text that was ever present to him, "Be wise
now therefore, O ye kings : be instructed, ye judges of
the earth," Bossuet treated that chapter of history in
which the life of Henrietta Maria was an episode, as a
lofty drama with many morals of its own. "I am not
a historian," he says, "to unfold the secrets of cabinets,
or the ordering of battle-fields, or the interests of
parties ; it is for me to raise myself above man, to make
every creature tremble under the judgments of Al-
mighty God." Not content with the majestic com-
monplaces so eternally true, so inexorably apt, yet so


incredulously heard, about the nothingness of human
pomp and earthly grandeur, he extracts special lessons
from the calamities of the particular daughter of St.
Louis whose lot inspired his meditations. What had
drawn these misfortunes on the royal house in Eng-
land? Was it inborn libertinism in English character
that brought the Rebellion about? Nay, he cries;
when we look at the incredible facility with which
religion was first overthrown in that country, then
restored, then overthrown again, by Henry VIII, by
Edward VI, by Mary, by Elizabeth, so far from
finding the nation rebellious, or its Parliament proud
or factious, we are driven to reproach the English
people with being only too submissive. For did they
not place their very faith, their consciences, their souls,
under the yoke of earthly kings ? The fault was with
the kings themselves. They it was who taught the
nations that their ancient Catholic creed was a thing
to be lightly flung away. Subjects ceased to revere
the maxims of religion when they saw them wantonly
surrendered to the passions or the interests of their
princes. Then the great orator, with a command of
powerful stroke upon stroke that Presbyterians in their
war with Independents might well have envied, drew a
picture of the mad rage of the English for disputing
of divine things without end, without rule, without
submission, men's minds falling headlong from ruin
to ruin. Who could arrest the catastrophe but the
bishops of the church ? And then turning to reproach
them as sternly as he had reproached their royal mas-
ters, it was the bishops, he exclaimed, who had brought
to naught the authority of their own thrones by openly
condemning all their predecessors up to the very source
of their consecration, up to St. Gregory the Pope and
St. Augustine the missionary monk. By skilfully



worded contrast with these doings of apostate kings
and prelates, he glorified the zeal of Henrietta Maria;
boasted how many persons in England had abjured
their errors under the influence of her almoners; and
how the zealous shepherds of the afflicted Catholic
flock of whom the world was not worthy, saw with
joy the glorious symbols of their faith restored in the
chapel of the Queen of England ; and the persecuted
church that in other days hardly dared so much as to
sigh or weep over its past glory, now sang aloud the
song of Zion in a strange land.

All this effulgence of words cannot alter the fact
that the queen was the evil genius of her husband, and
of the nation over whom a perverse fate had appointed
him to rule. Men ruefully observed that a French
queen never brought happiness to England. To suffer
women of foreign birth and alien creed to meddle with
things of state, they reflected, had ever produced griev-
ous desolation for our realm. Charles had a fancy to
call her Marie rather than Henrietta, and even Puri-
tans had superstition enough to find a bad omen in a
woman's name that was associated with no good luck
to England. Of the many women, good and bad, who
have tried to take part in affairs of state from Cleo-
patra or the Queen of Sheba downward, nobody by
character or training was ever worse fitted than the
wife of Charles I for such a case as that in which she
found herself. Henry IV, her father, thought that to
change his Huguenot faith and go to mass was an easy
price to pay for the powerful support of Paris. Her
mother came of the marvelous Florentine house that
had given to Europe such masters of craft as Cosmo
and Lorenzo, Leo X and Clement VII, and Catherine
of the Bartholomew massacre. But the queen had
none of the depth of these famous personages. To


her, alike as Catholic and as queen seated on a shaking
throne, the choice between bishop and presbyter within
a Protestant communion was matter for contemptuous
indifference. She understood neither her husband's
scruples, nor the motives of his rebellious adversaries.
The sanctity of law and immemorial custom, rights of
taxation, Parliamentary privilege, Magna Charta,
habeas corpus, and all the other symbols of our civil
freedom, were empty words without meaning to her
petulent and untrained mind. In Paris by the side of
the great ladies whose lives were passed in seditious
intrigues against Richelieu or Mazarin, Henrietta
Maria would have been in her native element. She
would have delighted in all the intricacies of the web
of fine-spun conspiracy in which Maria de' Medici, her
mother, and Anne of Austria, hex sister-in-law, and
Mme. de Chevreuse, her close friend and comrade, first
one and then the other spent their restless days. Hab-
its and qualities that were mischievous enough even
in the galleries of the Louvre, in the atmosphere of
Westminster and Whitehall were laden with immedi-
ate disaster. In intrepidity and fortitude she was a
true daughter of Henry of Navarre. Her energy was
unsparing, and her courage. Nine times she crossed
the seas in storm and tempest. When her waiting-
women were trembling and weeping, she assured them,
with an air of natural serenity that seemed of itself to
bring back calm, that no queen was ever drowned.

D'Ewes has left a picture of the queen as he saw her
at dinner at Whitehall, long after her marriage : "I
perceived her to be a most absolute delicate lady, after
I had exactly surveyed all the features of her face,
much enlivened by her radiant and sparkling black
eyes. Besides, her deportment among her women was
so sweet and humble, and her speech and looks to her
other servants so mild and gracious, as I could not


abstain from divers deep-fetched sighs, to consider that
she wanted the knowledge of the true rehgion." "The
queen," says Burnet, "was a woman of great vivacity
in conversation, and loved all her life long to be in in-
trigues of all sorts, but was not so secret in them as
such times and affairs required. She was a woman of
no manner of judgment; she was bad at contrivance,
and much worse in execution; but by the liveliness of
her discourse she made always a great impression on
the king."

Just as the historic school has come to an end that
despatched Oliver Cromwell as a hypocrite, so we are
escaping from the other school that dismissed Charles
as a tyrant, Laud as a driveller and a bigot, and Went-
worth as an apostate. That Wentworth passed over
from the popular to the royalist side, and that by the
same act he improved his fortunes and exalted his
influence is true. But there is no good reason to con-
demn him of shifting the foundation of his views of
national policy. He was never a Puritan, and never a
partizan of the supremacy of Parliament. By tem-
perament and conviction he was a firm believer in or-
ganized authority; though he began in opposition, his
instincts all carried him toward the side of govern-
ment; and if he came round to the opinion that a single
person, and not the House of Commons, was the vital
organ of national authority, this was an opinion that
Cromwell himself in some of the days to come was
destined apparently to share and to exemplify. Went-
worth's ideal was centered in a strong state, exerting
power for the common good; and the mainspring of
a strong state must be a monarch, not Parliament. It
was the idea of the time that governing initiative must


come from the throne, with or without a check in the
people. Happily for us, men of deeper insight than
Wentworth perceived that the assertion of the popular
check was at this deciding moment in English history-
more important than to strengthen executive power in
the hands of the king. Wentworth, with all the bias
of a man born for government and action, may easily
have come to think otherwise. That he associated the
elevation of his own personality with the triumph of
what he took for the right cause, is a weakness, if
weakness it be, that he shares with some of the most
upright reformers that have ever lived. It is a chaste
ambition if rightly placed, he said at his trial, to have
as much power as may be, that there may be power to
do the more good in the place where a man lives. The
actual possession of power stimulated this natural
passion for high principles of government. His judg-
ment was clear, as his wit and fancy were quick. He
was devoted to friends, never weary of taking pains
for them, thinking nothing too dear for them. If he
was extremely choleric and impatient, yet it was in a
large and imperious way. He had energy, baldness,
unsparing industry and attention, long-sighted conti-
nuity of thought and plan, lofty flight, and as true a
concern for order and the public service as Pym or
Oliver or any of them.

One short scene may suffice to bring him in act and
life before us. The convention of the Irish clergy met
to discuss the question of bringing their canons into
conformity with those of the English Church. Went-
worth writes from Dublin to Laud (1634) :

The popish party growing extreme perverse in the Com-
mons House, and the parliament thereby in great danger to
have been lost in a storm, had so taken up my thoughts and
endeavours, that for five or six days it was not almost possible

From the original portrait by Van Dyck at Windsor Castle.


for me to take an account how business went amongst them
of the clergy. ... At length I got a little time, and that most
happily, to inform myself of the state of those papers, and
found (that they had done divers things of great inconvenience
without consultation with their bishops). I instandy sent for
Dean Andrews, that reverend clerk who sat forsooth in the
chair of this committee, requiring him to bring along the afore-
said book of canons. . . . When I came to open the book
and run over their de liber atidmns in the margin, I confess I
was not so much moved since I came into Ireland. I told
him, certainly not a dean of Limerick, but Ananias had sat in
the chair of that committee ; however sure I was Ananias had
been there in spirit, if not in body, with all the fraternities and
conventicles of Amsterdam; that I was ashamed and scan-
dalised with it above measure. I therefore said he should
leave the book with me, and that I did command him that he
should report nothing to the House until he heard again from
me. Being thus nettled, I gave present directions for a meet-
ing, and warned the primate (certain bishops, etc.) to be with
me the next morning. Then I publicly told them how unlike
clergymen, that owed canonical obedience to their superiors,
they had proceeded in their committee ; how unheard of a
part it was for a few petty clerks to presume to make articles
of faith. , . . But those heady and arrogant courses, they must
know, I was not to endure; but if they were disposed to be
frantic in this dead and cold season of the year, would I suffer
them to be heard either in convocation or in their pulpits.
(Then he gave them five specific orders.) This meeting then
broke off; there were some hot spirits, sons of thunder,
amongst them, who moved that they should petition me for a
free synod. But, in fine, they could not agree among them-
selves who should put the bell about the cat's neck, and so
this likewise vanished.

All this marks precisely the type of man required to
deal with ecclesiastics and rapacious nobles alike. The



English colonist and his ecclesiastical confederate and
ally were the enemy, and nobody has ever seen this so
effectually as Strafford saw it. Bishops were said to
be displaced with no more ceremony than excisemen.
The common impression of Wentworth is shown in an
anecdote about Williams, afterward Archbishop of
York. When the court tried to pacify Williams with
the promise of a good bishopric in Ireland, he replied
that he had held out for seven years against his ene-
mies in England, but if they sent him to Ireland he
would fall into the hands of a man who within seven
months would find out some old statute or other to cut
off his head.

The pretty obvious parallel has often been suggested
between Strafford and Richelieu; but it is no more
than superficial. There is no proportion between the
vast combinations, the immense designs, the remorse-
less rigors, and the majestic success with which the
great cardinal built up royal power in France and sub-
jugated reactionary forces in Europe, and the petty
scale of Wentworth's eight years of rule in Ireland.
To frighten Dean Andrews or Lord Mountnorris out
of their wits was a very different business from bring-
ing Montmorencys, Chalais. Marillacs, Cinq-Mars, to
the scaffold. It is true that the general aim was not
very different. Richelieu said to the king : "I prom-
ised your Majesty to employ all my industry and all
the authority that he might be pleased to give me to
ruin the Huguenot party, to beat down the pride of the
great, to reduce all subjects to their duty, and to raise
up his name among other nations to the height at
which it ought to be." Strafford would have said much
the same. He, too, aspired to make his country a lead-
ing force in the counsels of Europe, as Elizabeth had
done, and by Elizabeth's patient and thrifty policy.


Unlike his master of flighty and confused brain he per-
ceived the need of system and a sure foundation.
Strafford's success would have meant the transforma-
tion of the state within the three kingdoms, not into
the monarchy of the Restoration of 1660 or of the
Revokttion of 1688, but at best into something like the
qualified absolutism of modern Prussia.

As time went on, and things grew hotter, his ardent
and haughty genius drew him into more energetic
antagonism to the popular claim and its champions.
In his bold and imposing personality they recognized
that all those sinister ideas, methods, and aims which
it was the business of their lives to overthrow, were
gathered up. The precise date is not easily fixed at
which Wentworth gained a declared ascendancy in the
royal counsels, if ascendancy be the right word for a
chief position in that unstable chamber. In 1632 he
was made lord-deputy in Ireland, he reached Dublin
Castle in the following year, and for seven years he
devoted himself exclusively to Irish administration.
He does not seem to have been consulted upon general
affairs before 1637, and it was later than this when
Charles began to lean upon him. It was not until
1640 that he could prevail upon the king to augment
his political authority by making him lord-lieutenant
and Earl of Strafford.

If Strafford was a bad counselor for the times, and
the queen a worse. Laud, who filled the critical station
of Archbishop of Canterbury, was perhaps the worst
counselor of the three. Still let us save ourselves
from the extravagances of some modern history.
"His memory," writes one, "is still loathed as the
meanest, the most cruel, and the most narrow-minded
man who ever sat on the episcopal bench" (Buckle).
"We entertain more unmitigated contempt for him,"


says another, "than for any character in history"
(Macaulay). It is pretty safe to be sure that these
slashing superlatives are never true. Laud was no
more the simpleton and the bigot of Macaulay, than he
was the saint to whom in our day Anglican high-fliers
dedicate painted windows, or who describe him as New-
man did, as being "cast in a mold of proportions that
are much above our own, and of a stature akin to the
elder days of the church." Burnet, who was no
Laudian, says that he "was a learned, a sincere and
zealous man, regular in his own life, and humble in his
private deportment; but he was a hot, indiscreet man.
eagerly pursuing some matters that were either very
inconsiderable or mischievous, such as setting the com-
munion-table by the east wall of churches, bowing
to it and calling it the altar, the breaking of lectures,
the encouraging of sports on the Lord's day ; . . .
and yet all the zeal and heat of that time was laid out
on these." The agent of the Vatican described him as
timid, ambitious, inconstant, and therefore ill equipped
for great enterprises. Whitelocke tells us that his
father was anciently and thoroughly acquainted with
Laud, and used to say of him that he was "too full of
fire, though a just and good man ; and that his want of
experience in state matters, and his too much zeal for
the church, and heat if he proceeded in the way he was
then in, would set this nation on fire."

It was indeed Laud who did most to kindle the blaze.
He was harder than anybody else both in the Star
Chamber and the High Commission. He had a rest-
less mind, a sharp tongue, and a hot temper ; he took
no trouble to persuade, and he leaned wholly on the
law of the church and the necessity of enforcing obedi-
ence to it. He had all the harshness that is so com-
mon in a man of ardent convictions, who happens not


to have intellectual power enough to defend them.
But he was no harder of heart than most of either his
victims or his judges. Prynne was more malicious, vin-
dictive, and sanguinary than Laud ; and a Scottish
presbyter could be as arrogant and unrelenting as the
English primate. Much of Laud's energy was that of
good stewardship. The reader who laughs at his
injunction that divines should preach in gowns and not
in cloaks, must at least applaud when in the same docu-
ment avaricious bishops are warned not to dilapidate
the patrimony of their successors by making long
leases, or taking heavy fines on renewal, or cutting
down the timber. This was one side of that love of
external order, uniformity, and decorum, which, when
applied to rites and ceremonies, church furniture,
church apparel, drove English Puritanism frantic.
'Tt is called superstition nowadays," Laud complained,
"for any man to come with more reverence into a
church, than a tinker and his dog into an ale-house."

That he had any leaning toward the Pope is cer-
tainly untrue ; and his eagerness to establish a branch
of the Church of England in all the courts of Christen-
dom, and even in the cities of the Grand Turk, points
rather to an exalted dream that the Church of Eng-
land might one day spread itself as far abroad as the
Church of Rome. Short of this, he probably aspired
to found a patriarchate of the three kingdoms, with
Canterbury as the metropolitan center. He thought
the Puritans narrow, and the Pope's men no better.
Churchmen in all ages are divided into those on the one
hand who think most of institutions, and those on the
other who think most of the truths on which the insti-
tutions rest, and of the spirit that gives them life.
Laud was markedly of the first of these two types, and
even of that doctrinal zeal that passed for spiritual


unction in those hot times he had Httle. Yet it is
worth remembering that it was his influence that over-

Online LibraryJohn MorleyOliver Cromwell → online text (page 3 of 35)