Calendar of the Cecil Papers in Hatfield House: Volume 21, 1609-1612. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1970.
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The papers in this Calendar covering the years 1609—May, 1612, unlike those calendared in previous volumes, throw little light on domestic or international events of major importance. To be informed of the English Government's foreign policy during this period, one must have recourse of necessity to other documentary sources. On internal issues the information is unfortunately meagre. For instance, references to the turbulent sessions of the 1610 Parliament are tantalizingly few and far between; while the passions and partisan feelings of the Balmerino affair and trial in 1609 are barely hinted at. Routine administrative affairs account for much of the material here calendared, and make for repetition of subject matter, although useful facts may be drawn from them touching upon the financial and economic problems of the time. These three years, however, did not pass unmarked by notable events at home and abroad, of which some are worth describing in some detail because of their particular relevance to the attitude and behaviour of James I and English officialdom at this time.
(1) The Twelve Years' Truce
1609 began, as the previous year had ended, with the final negotiations for the cessation of hostilities in the Low Countries still hanging fire. The alleged offer of the King of England to procure an unconditional truce for Spain was a sufficient pretext for some of the parties concerned to prevaricate at the last moment. Philip III used it as an excuse to postpone his official renunciation of sovereignty over the United Provinces. Spinola and Richardot, two of the Flemish Commissioners in the peace talks, exploited it to sow mistrust of English motives in the minds of Dutch and French alike. This, in turn, gave rise to rumours in Madrid that Henry IV of France had hinted that it would be James's fault if the treaty failed to materialise, a rumour which the English Ambassador there, Sir Charles Cornwallis, hotly resented. It showed, he wrote, 'that the French King plays not his balles with either of the Kings [of England and Spain] above the lyne.' (fn. 1) Amid all the dark suspicions and defamatory rumours, the only person who refused to be deflected from his policy was the Governor of the Spanish provinces, Archduke Albert. To obtain a truce of appreciable duration remained his one cardinal objective, and to that end he applied his diplomatic ingenuity and a resoluteness which sometimes verged on obstinacy.
The Archduke was relying on two factors to achieve his purpose. One was his sincere belief that the United Provinces were not only as desirous of ending the war as he was, but needed peace as much as the exhausted and war-worn inhabitants of Flanders. In this he was deluding himself, for his assessment of Dutch responsiveness to the prospects of peace was based on their readiness to agree to short periods of truce prior to the finalisation of the treaty. It was obvious that a suspension of hostilities, however intermittent and indeterminate, would be advantageous to a nation of merchants and traders into which the Dutch were rapidly developing, and that they would agree to any sort of truce which reduced interference with their commercial enterprises. What the Archduke momentarily forgot or ignored was that the United Provinces still had the means to prosecute the war if they so decided; and that it lay in their power, not in that of Brussels or Madrid, to refuse a truce if they felt that the circumstances justified a resumption of hostilities rather than a continuation of negotiations as the best way of gaining their ends.
The second factor in the Archduke's calculations was more substantial and promising. It was the persuasive arguments of his confessor whom he had dispatched to Madrid to confront Philip III and his Council with an irrefutable case for the adherence of Spain to the proposed treaty. The confessor had, indeed, managed to split the Council on this issue—the Constable of Castile and the Cardinal of Toledo opposing further negotiations, and the all-powerful Duke of Lerma and others equally adamant in favour of them. The debates were protracted and fluctuating, but it was evident that the debilitated state of Spain herself would bring a sense of realism into the deliberations as the weeks went by. By February 9th, 1609, the English Ambassador in Brussels, Sir Thomas Edmondes, could confidently predict in a despatch that, 'the tyme doth now discover that all this long marchandising which hath been used, hath ben onely in stryving to cover the shame of their great necessities, and that in the end (seeing no other remedie) they have ben forced to submitt themselves to the Lawe thereof, and are now resolved to swallowe the pill which went so much against their stomaches, commission being geiven (as is reported) to the Archeduke to proceed to the fynall concluding of the busynes.' (fn. 2)
Edmondes does not specify which pill was particularly indigestible to the Spanish Council, but it may have been the thorny question of the East Indies trade, which the Dutch demanded for their merchants. All other hindrances had been removed by this time, including the mystery of the King of England's alleged intervention to obtain a simple truce for Spain. An investigation in London, Madrid and Brussels had uncovered a trail which led to Richardot as the source of that confusing piece of information. Richardot tried to cast the blame on Cuniga, the Spanish Ambassador in London; Cuniga vehemently protested his innocence; the Earl of Salisbury opined that it was merely a device in Brussels to save those engaged in the treaty talks on behalf of Spain from being disavowed in their proceedings; and in Madrid the Spanish Secretary of State, Andreas de Prada, gladdened the heart of Sir Charles Cornwallis by calling Richardot an unmitigated liar. James's name being cleared in this manner, all efforts were bent to satisfy the parties, in particular the Dutch, on the issue of the East Indies. The Treaty Commissioners conveyed a serious warning to the Archduke on March 11, 1609, in which they stated that if the concessions made by Spain were not written down in terms satisfactory to the United Provinces, there would be a reaction against peace amongst the Dutch, and an opportunity to achieve it might be irretrievably lost. This was enough to dispel any further reluctance in Brussels and Madrid. Analysing the Spanish attitude towards the whole question of the East Indies, Edmondes wrote to the Earl of Salisbury that, 'I fynde there is an opinyon entertayned that howsoever necessitie hath forced them in Spain to yeeld that the States shall peaceably trade to such places in the Indias as they doe there possesse, yet that they make their reckonning it wilbe much more to the States' disadvantage then formerly it hath ben, not only because the States are more restrayned for makinge any further conqueste in those Countryes, but also for that the States men made their proffitt more by the rich prizes which they tooke from the Spanyards and Portugalls in those parts then by the use of their trade with them of the country. Some doe adde thereunto also a third consideration, that where it is lykely the States shippes will nowe in confidence of the Truce goe more weakly armed and provyded, that the Spanyards shall have the better meanes upon any advantage and pretences to destroy their shipping in those parts from whence there can hardly come any complaint thereof, and so by tyme to make them weary of that trade, especially when enjoyinge that of Spayne they shall fynde that the same wilbe of more ease and less perill unto them.' (fn. 3)
These and other arguments may have finally persuaded the Spanish monarch and Government to accept the treaty. But delay and evasion in Madrid were not the only impediments with which the Treaty Commissioners had to contend. The two English members, Sir Ralph Winwood and Sir Richard Spencer, had often been frustrated and exasperated by the attitude of the Dutch, and if it had not been for the mutterings of discontent with their behaviour from the Kings of England and France, the more refractory and belligerent elements amongst the Dutch, which included Prince Maurice and the supporters of the House of Orange, might conceivably have held up the treaty. The English Commissioners gave vent to their feelings in a despatch after the signing of the Truce. The demands of the States, they wrote, had been met in full, 'which easiness in the Archducs deputyes, whether proceeding from the extreame necessityes of Spaine or from the desire theis Princes beare to quiett and repose, did so puffe up the States deputyes into that conceyted humor for some dayes together that not only did they thincke that nothing they did require should be refused them, though never so unjust or so voyd of reason, but that wee and the French Commissioners were bound to second them and support them in all their impertinent and unreasonable demands.' (fn. 4) And Winwood wrote personally to John Chamberlain that, 'never was there treaty so advantageous as thys is to the States; yet I may tell you . . . they are nothing contented with yt, thincking we have done them wrong not to procure them all the unjust and unworthy demands.' (fn. 5)
By the end of March, 1609, the ultimate formalities for the signing of the treaty had been arranged, and on the 29th of the month the Twelve Years' Truce ended the forty years' struggle between Spain and her rebellious Dutch provinces. There was undoubtedly a greater sigh of relief in Spain and Flanders than in Holland or Zeeland. Cornwallis wrote to the Earl of Salisbury that the treaty was most welcome in Madrid because, 'ease and securitie are thinges that are for the present in best fashion and most desired.' (fn. 6) Edmondes, in Brussels, summed up the reaction there in a despatch. 'If the benefitts of this Truce should be measured by the joye which these Princes doe expresse for the making of the same, it would swaye the opinion that they have the greatest advantage therein, the contentment being exceeding great which they shewe that matters are brought to this issue. And that they have reason so to doe, it is said that they were best privie that the King of Spayne was not able to furnish longer the meanes for the mainteyning of those chargeable warres, being growne so infinitely behind hand as he is and his creditt therewith reduced to so lowe an ebbe since the making of the last decrett, as he is generally refused to be furnished with anie monie unless he doe deliver the same beforehand; so that in case the warre had continued, the extremitie of his necessities, which would more and more have appeared, would have made a great alteration in his affaires.' (fn. 7)
It was not only a respite from war with its dangers, privations and exactions, that commended the treaty to the peoples of Spain and Flanders. In the case of the latter, it was also the chance of reviving their trade, not least with England, which had been stagnating over the years. No time was lost in Antwerp, which had suffered more than most cities from the war. There was an intense discussion whether the city authorities should redeem with a large sum of money the imposition laid by the Archduke on English cloth. And while this discussion was proceeding, it was decided to exempt English merchants from paying excise in the hope of attracting trade back to Antwerp before the Dutch enticed it with more glittering rewards. (fn. 8) There were obvious difficulties ahead, but the hopes of the inhabitants of Antwerp and other commercial centres were sanguine enough for Edmondes to comment in the same despatch: 'In the point of Trade chiefly they thincke that they shall wynne a great advantage uppon the States, for that they hope they shall drawe the same out of those partes [restored by the Treaty to the rule of Brussels] hither, and so consequently engage towards them the affections of that people who wilbe alwayes willing to followe the best markett. And if those of Zeeland should refuse to come to reason for the opening of the river of Antwerpe, they alleage that they have meanes to force them thereunto by raysing the impositions uppon them in their trade in Spayne, and hindring the passage of marchandise by the rivers of the Meuse and the Rhyne; and also by settling the course of the trade in the ports of Fflaunders.' (fn. 9)
The merchants of Antwerp had certainly not reckoned with the prejudicial schemes of their rivals at the mouth of the Scheldt, and had overestimated their ability to deal with them. It was now that the United Provinces, particularly Zeeland, displayed that unreasonable frame of mind and narrow outlook of which Spencer and Winwood had complained. (fn. 10) They virtually proposed a stranglehold on all trade to Antwerp by insisting that all ships proceeding to that city should discharge their cargoes at Middelburg, where Dutch lighters would be waiting to transport them up river to Antwerp. A counterproposal that a fair toll should be levied on this trade for the benefit of Zeeland was firmly rejected, neither was that province perturbed by the threat that Brussels would retaliate by heavily taxing Dutch trade along the Rhine and the Meuse. Blind obstinacy made the Zeelanders impervious to any argument that such arbitrary behaviour would be harmful to their own trade in the long run.
Faced by the ruin of their river trade, the Flemish Government thought up many remedies to circumvent the Dutch blockade. Not the least ambitious was the project to build a canal between Ostend and Bruges, which would turn the flank of the main line of Zeeland's resistance on the Scheldt and allow the entry of English and other foreign commodities. (fn. 11) There were high hopes too that the increasing troubles in Germany would help to rehabilitate Flemish trade and reestablish the staple of English cloth in some part of the country. But eventually the dispute resolved itself into a tariff war, in which the commercial jealousies of both parties were given full rein, and Flemish stubbornness showed itself as insuperable as that of the Zeelanders.
For this and other reasons the Twelve Years' Truce was an uneasy one from the very beginning, and mutual resentment and suspicions flickered from one end of the frontier to the other. Within a few months after the ratification of the treaty, the Hague was pointing an accusing finger towards the Archduke, charging him with the non-fulfilment, if not the actual violation, of the terms. In May, 1610, upon expostulations from a Dutch Ambassador Extraordinary, King James made a direct appeal to the Archduke to enforce compliance with the conditions of the Truce. James may have felt that after exerting pressure on the Dutch to agree to the treaty, he was morally bound to see that it was being implemented. But what concerned him more was the fact that, in view of the increasing tension over the question of the Cleves succession, any deterioration in the relations between the Hague and Brussels might inflame still further the apprehension of a continental war which only the assassination of Henry IV had prevented. The Earl of Salisbury was less perturbed by that possibility than the King. He believed that the Archduke's shuffling with his treaty obligations was merely a manoeuvre to force the United Provinces into allowing more unrestricted trade on the Scheldt from which Antwerp and other Flemish towns would benefit. (fn. 12)
In the midst of this conflict of political and commercial interests, there was one government which had attempted to bring about equitable conditions of peace, but received little gratitude or satisfaction for its mediation. On the surface, Brussels would seem to have shown more appreciation of its relations with England than the Hague and Madrid. When Edmondes was recalled in August, 1609, the Archduke paid a handsome tribute to his qualities as Ambassador. But in matters of mutual interest and advantage, such as the renewal and promotion of trade, the Flemish Government, unlike some of its subjects, was somewhat slow to move. For instance, nothing was done to permit the Merchant Adventurers the free exercise of their religion in their house in Antwerp. It was a small concession, but it might well have tipped the scales in favour of their re-establishment in that city. As it was, they contented themselves with residing in Middelburg and certain Hanseatic towns. In fact, religious differences were again allowed to interfere with business, and inoffensive English merchants found themselves liable to imprisonment at the hands of ultra-Catholic officials. Neither did the Archduke make much effort to relieve the perennial anxiety of the King of England about the activities of English Jesuits and conspirators on Flemish soil. Still nursing his memories of the Gunpowder Plot, and with the murder of Henry IV as an example of what could happen when regicide became an instrument of practical politics. James feared the ground where Jesuits and their friends trod with impunity. His fears were exaggerated, but on two occasions he had some justification for them.
(2) The King's Book
One of the consequences of the Gunpowder Plot was the general assumption in England that the English Catholics, abetted by their Jesuit friends abroad, had not entirely renounced their hopes of engineering political and dynastic instability by violent means. It led to an intensification of anti-Catholic feeling, which found expression in parliamentary legislation and the coercion of English recusants. James himself disliked persecution, being enough of a theologian to appreciate that doctrinal differences, even heresies, were fundamentally spiritual matters. But he had to admit the necessity of curbing dangerous subversive tendencies if the country was not to relapse into extremes of confessional and political passions. With this in view, he approved of a new Oath of Allegiance which allowed Catholics to recognise the spiritual authority of the Pope, but denied him any power to depose the King or release his subjects from their allegiance. It also condemned in forthright language the doctrine that monarchs excommunicated by the Pope could be deposed or murdered by their peoples or anyone else. In the circumstances, the Oath was not objectionable nor unreasonable; it was moderate enough for the generality of English Catholics to subscribe to it. Nevertheless, they were made rather uncomfortable by the open literary warfare which broke out over the Oath between James and one of the greatest intellects of the Catholic Church, Cardinal Robert Bellarmine.
In a letter to the English Catholics Bellarmine had supported the Pope's ban on the Oath, and stigmatised the latter as an attempt to invest James with the authority of the head of the Church in England. (fn. 13) The King's sharp attack on his letter, in some respects a personal one, under the title Apologie for the Oath of Allegiance brought a quick retort from the Cardinal in the form of his Responsio, which he discreetly published under the name of his chaplain Matthew Turtius. The next move by James was the antithesis of discretion. He brought out a new edition of his Apologie accompanied by an introduction, A Premonition of all Christian Monarchies, Free Princes and States, in which he warned the whole fraternity of European rulers and heads of States, without distinction of religion, of the insidious manner in which the Popes had attempted to extend their temporal power at their expense, and were still seeking means of surreptitious encroachment. What is more, James carried the assault into the enemy's camp. He dispatched copies of the book to Madrid and Brussels, as well as to Paris, Venice and Cracow, where he hoped to find allies for his campaign, and to various Protestant monarchs and princes upon whose support he could confidently rely.
Since the King had entrusted his ambassadors with the presentation of the copies, and expected them to do so with the maximum of publicity and ceremoniousness, some of them must have regarded it as one of the most invidious tasks that had ever come their way. It was all very well for the Earl of Salisbury to write to Edmondes in Brussels: 'I conclude you will neither look for many words from me to praise that which praises itself, nor that I should use persuasion to you to give it all circumstances of advantage in the presentation.' (fn. 14) Edmondes knew better than the Secretary of State of the inevitable reaction that the appearance of the book would produce at the Flemish Court. Two hours before he was due to be received in audience, he was unequivocally warned by Richardot that if it was his intention to present the book, the audience would be cancelled. The Archduke, he was told, was not prepared to put up with a work which was patently offensive to the Pope and the Catholic Church. To which Edmondes tartly replied that, 'though I ever found the Archduke to be very zealously affected in his courses, yet that I did not thincke him so much transported with the passion thereof as that it should make him in such sort to wrong his judgement and his amitie with his Matie. That it was true there were some thinges handled in the said Booke by accident, which perhaps might not stand with the Archduke's beleefe to approve, as that of the comparing of the Pope to be anti-Christ, which therefore he might have passed over as he should have thought fitt, if his scrupulous conscience would not have geiven him leave to consider and examine his arguments thereof. But for the other points they were such as ought to geive him great contentment, because they shewe what wrong is sought to be donne to the authoritie of Princes (wherein himself hath a common interest) by the unjust and irreligious usurpation of the Pope.' (fn. 15)
It was no use. The appeal to the Archduke's political judgment over the head of any possible revulsions of his conscience, and a reminder that it was not in the best of taste to refuse a book specially sent to him by its distinguished author, fell flat. Words flared between Edmondes and Richardot. 'I tould the President that I thought he would have geiven his Master better counsell, and to have represented unto him how unworthily he should acquitt himself for his fresh obligations towards his Matie. He was not willing to entertaine further discourse with me.' To the relief of the Archduke, Edmondes refused to attend the audience. Upon a little reflection, the English Ambassador might have realised that since the Spanish Ambassador in London had refused James's book outright, the Archduke could hardly do less than follow his example, if it were only to demonstrate his loyalty to his own Church and to his patron, his most Catholic Majesty in Madrid.
In the Spanish capital, the English Ambassador, Sir Charles Cornwallis, had received his long solicited letters of revocation and was preparing to leave for England when he was given the order to present the book to Philip III. Cornwallis had not the slightest doubt that James had been inspired in the writing of it, and was confirmed in that impression by gossip in Madrid. 'I protest unto your Lordships,' he wrote to the Privy Council, 'it hath much joyed mine harte to heare generallie the comendation of his Maties excellent partes, the greatest enemies to his faythe, out of force of truth, beinge compelled to confesse the booke to be the rarest worke of a kinge that in anie age hath come to light. Onlie they say he fayles in the foundation, the rest of the buyldinge they acknowledge to be adorned with all the beauties and singularities that by the invention of man can be putt into it. The verie Jesuites (as I am enformed) doe approve his great zeale and wishe that the Kinges of their affection would encline themselves to the like in enablinge them to defende the truthe.' (fn. 16)
All the same he was dubious whether he would succeed in persuading the King of Spain to accept the book, or any of his officials for that matter, despite his resolution to 'give it the best sauce I can to breede appetite, at least to tast it in their mouthes, though they suffer it not to descende to their stomaches.' (fn. 17) There may have been a sneaking admiration for James's open attack on the Pope, but the official attitude was defined by the public prohibition, upon pain of excommunication, of the private possession of any printed works derogatory to or critical of the Catholic faith. Moreover Cornwallis was subjected to the same kind of probing of his intentions as Edmondes had undergone in Brussels. Prior to his farewell audience with Philip III, during which he proposed to present the book, he was summoned to meet the Duke of Lerma, who warned him sternly not to do so if he hoped to avoid a most unpleasant scene at Court.
If Richardot's remonstrance had fired Edmondes's indignation, Cornwallis positively hurled himself at Lerma's head with an exuberant defence of James's views. 'Kings were to be understoode to be bodies politique, and absolute and perfect within their own kingdomes and governments,' he harangued the Duke who, recalling his career of selfadvancement and what he owed to an absolutist monarch, could not have agreed more with him, 'and therefore not subjecte to the inhibitions or restraintes of the Pope or anie forraine power, as other men particular. That that which at this daye is the case of the Kinge my mayster with the Pope may in times to come become that of the Kinge of Spain . . . That in the King's booke are handeled two princypal pointes, the one howe farre the jurisdiction of the Pope is to be extended in the dominions of secular princes (a thinge most necessarie for all princes to knowe); the other the difference betweene the faythe he professed and that which the Pope enjoynes to those of his obedience, and in both these he foundeth himself uppon the authoritie of the holy scriptures, uppon that of the foure first generall counsayles, the sayenges of the anncyent fathers, and examples of the first Emperors and Popes themselves.' (fn. 18)
Having then suggested that Philip III would derive much benefit from tasting this particular fruit of James's superlative erudition, without damaging his piety, Cornwallis added for good measure that Henry IV of France and the Signory of Venice had set a laudable example by accepting the book. It was one of those diplomatic infelicities which sometimes grated on the Duke of Lerma's nerves in his conversations with the English Ambassador. 'The Duke with a smile and shrinkinge uppe of his shoulders spake somewhat betweene the teeth of the French kinge and the Venetians that I neither well hearde nor understoode, and therefore will not take uppon me to deliver.' But there was no mistaking what the Duke did say in a concise and articulate manner before Cornwallis left his chamber. And at his farewell audience with the Spanish King, he contented himself with saying that he was precluded from presenting a certain matter after a conversation with the Duke, who had informed him of Philip's resolution concerning it. Philip ignored the allusion, offered the usual courtesies extended to ambassadors on their leave-taking and dismissed him. As could have been expected Madrid, like Brussels, could not afford to allow James to create a breach between Rome and the Catholic powers upon which depended any revival of Catholicism, spiritually or politically, in the future.
In France James could count on a more receptive and appreciative circle of readers, which would not be confined to the powerful Huguenot minority in that country. A strong Gallican sentiment amongst Catholics, clerical and lay, a hearty dislike of the Jesuits, a growing spirit of nationalism affecting all classes in France, and a detestation of the Habsburg and Spanish Powers, combined to ensure that the King's anti-Papal criticism, at least in its temporal content, would find its protagonists and defenders in France. In Paris the view was that the book would stimulate the gentry of England to enter into a more serious and a greatly needed study of theology, and gradually evolve propitious conditions for an agreement between the Churches of the West leading to their reformation.
There was no difficulty in presenting the book to Henry IV. There were no preliminary admonitions and wrangling as in Madrid and Brussels. When Sir George Carew, the English Ambassador in Paris, met Henry in special audience he found him in an affable mood, although slightly uneasy in his mind. He remarked that, 'he wished his Matie had not written at all for that in a long worke there must be mistaking of allegations when divers men collected them, and that would give advantage to those who should answere the book.' Carew replied that James had preferred to resist provocations and physical threats in this manner, although if it came to war he had the means 'to make the Pope and all his Cardinalls tremble in Rome.' As for answering the book— and here Carew's insistence on the proprieties may have struck Henry as naive, 'if any of these woulde answere it to whom it was directed, his Matie would gladly reade that which they should write; if others, they should use no good maners to answere before they were spoken to.' Later on the French King confessed that he read few books written in Latin; he much preferred to have them read to him. By this time he was obviously getting bored by the whole conversation, and Carew may then have recalled to mind that he had been kept waiting two hours for the audience while Henry was playing tennis. 'I perceaved he was willing to break of mine audience somewhat the sooner upon a desire he had to see the booke, and as soone as I was gone I understande he fell to turning of it. I thinke his thanks he will send by his own Ambassador, for I doe not remember that he required me to deliver any.' (fn. 19)
Henry may eventually have found time to read the Premonition. He did acknowledge later, rather vaguely perhaps, that there were some good things in it. But since he brusquely brushed off Carew's importunate requests for his considered opinion of its merits by observing that James should know who his true friend was, inasmuch as he had accepted the book while the Archduke and Philip III had not, it may be surmised that other matters were occupying the King's mind. Amongst these were the likelihood of a clash with Spain and the Emperor over the Jülich-Cleves inheritance; and, not least, his infatuation with, and persistent chase of, the Princess of Condé whose charms would explain Henry's unresponsiveness to theological considerations of any kind at this time.
Nevertheless, James could find compensation in the expressions of sympathy and admiration offered by people who were engaged in more serious pursuits than Henry. Secretary of State Villeroy deprecated the fact that his countrymen were not so subtle in religious matters as the English, and suffered the penalties of being 'Chrestiens plus grossiers.' But they agreed, he assured Carew, that the Pope had no power to depose James. The eminent Cardinal du Perron also saw much in the Apologie, as distinct from the Premonition, that could contribute towards the settlement of spiritual controversies in a general council, if one were held. Isaac Casauban, the French King's Protestant librarian, extolled the book as a meritorious work, although he too regretted James's digressions touching the Pope's alleged attributes as antiChrist. (fn. 20) Neither would the King of England perhaps have been displeased altogether with the consequences of a dispute over the book between the brother of Lord Haddington and a Frenchman. Ramsay had taken him to task and beaten him with a cudgel. It had led to consternation at the French Court and disturbances near the English embassy. Nevertheless, when all was said and done, it was a countryman of James's who had preserved the King's honour with a club. What is more, he had managed to do so without violating the edict against duelling in France, a method of solving personal disputes which James also frowned upon.
It was true that an epidemic of answers to the King's book broke out in France which neither James nor the punctilious Carew could have anticipated. Some were calumnious enough to move the Earl of Salisbury to protest and demand their suppression. But since the laws of censorship were more flexible in France than in most other Western countries, his expostulations fell on deaf ears. In any case they would have made little impression on the French King or his officials who were aware, for instance, that the publisher of a counterblast to the Apologie by Pelletier, an apostate, was a member of the Reformed religion who had chosen to be excommunicated by his own Church rather than halt the profitable circulation of Pelletier's book. To enforce a stringent censorship in these conditions would have led, in all probability, to the expansion of a black market in suppressed books greater than that in Venice, where copies of the King's book, officially prohibited, were procurable in an Italian version in bookshops owned or patronised by supporters of the Jesuits.
On the whole James could rest satisfied with the interest and discussion caused by his book in France. And if it were ever brought to
his attention, his vanity and inordinate craving for recognition and
adulation would have been much gratified by a heavy-handed attempt
of an admirer in France to enlist the French Muse in the English King's
'Un seul peintre jadis pouvoit peindre Alexandre, Mais ce soin curieux ne trouble ce grand Roy, Roy qui dans ses escrits seul Apelle de soy, S'est bien mieux peint au vif qu'un peintre l'ust peu rendre.' (fn. 21)
(3) 'The King in Danger'
The murder of Henry IV on May 14th, 1610, oppressed the people of France with a sense of personal loss and with considerable anxiety about the stability of their government. Its effect on the English people was to induce a similar alarm, but they were primarily concerned about the safety of their King. 'This unfortunate accident of the late French King,' wrote the Earl of Dunbar to the Earl of Salisbury, 'cannot but bring fear to the hearts of all who truly love our most gracious King. Therefore I do not doubt but in your accustomed care of his Maties surety, you will do all that is possible for preventing that most frightful misfortune that might fall to all honest men.' (fn. 22)
Despite the denial, even under torture, of the assassin that he had any accomplices in killing the French King, the English Parliament and nation only too readily assumed that the Jesuits, with the active or passive connivance of Catholics, were at the bottom of the crime. Memories of the Gunpowder Plot again lay heavy on men's opinions, (fn. 23) and its shades hovered round the members of the House of Commons as they met to discuss measures for the greater protection of James. They incontinently passed an Act ordering all English subjects without exception to take the Oath of Allegiance, and imposing for the first time a penalty on women who were recusants. James approved of the Act without reservation. The murder of the French monarch had filled him with horror, and reminded him unpleasantly of dangerous experiences in Scotland during his youth. It is not surprising that he made inquiries as to the identity and functions of the courtiers who were accompanying Henry in the royal coach when he was knifed by Ravaillac. (fn. 24)
But persecuting recusants and providing the King with a stronger escort when he travelled or went hunting, were not sufficient to dissipate the fears of those responsible for James's security. It was unlikely that an attempt on his life would be made by discontented elements in England itself, although it could not, of course, be entirely ruled out. The real danger came from the groups of political conspirators across the Channel, who had been a thorn in the side of the English Government and a close object of study to its intelligence service for the last thirty years or so. Their ranks had been thinned by the passage of time, but there still remained a core of uncompromising militants to whom plot and intrigue against the Protestant regime of England was a duty imposed by religious convictions and sanctified by the blood of those who had tried but failed to overthrow it. What now made the situation more menacing and insecure was the resounding success of Ravaillac in disposing of so powerful and popular a king as Henry, without the assistance of a well organised conspiracy, and without its risk of detection and internal obstructions as well. A premium was placed on individual initiative and a total insensibility to whatever dreadful consequences might follow. English officialdom did not doubt that a number of Jesuits and Catholics abroad, English and foreign alike, would be happy to demonstrate just these qualities if given the opportunity. And in a short time the feeling of anxiety in London had so strongly communicated itself to English diplomatic circles on the Continent that some ambassadors were inclined to see potential Ravaillacs in every corner.
This nervousness first revealed itself in France, where it was thought that the design resulting in the murder of Henry had also been directed against James, 'for otherwise whoever were the Authors of so damned an enterprise may well conceave that his Matie will never suffer such a deede unavenged both for his own interest and the conjunction of theyre affaires during his life' (fn. 25) The refrain was taken up more positively by William Trumbull, who had succeeded Edmondes at the Archduke's Court. 'As the untymelie death of the French King hath losed the reynes of mens tongues and presented them an opportunity of shewing their affections, so the passionate and Jesuitted people of these partes doe not spare to make demonstration of their ill tallent both towards his Matie and your Lordship, there having of late been some speech among them (as I have understood by a friend) whether it were more convenyent to take away his Maties sacred person or your Lordships for the good of their affaires.' (fn. 26)
There followed more sinister news. In Holland, Sir William Browne, Lieutenant-General of Flushing, was informed by letter that 'the old traytor [Hugh] Owen with others his complices were now in England or uppon their waye to effect the death of our King.' (fn. 27) In Flanders it was not Owen but Baldwin and Gerrard who had left for England with this nefarious purpose in mind. 'So much bouldness in these branded traytors cannot proceed from any other cause then from an assured hope which they have of effecting some treason upon the sacred person of his Matie or nursing some unexpected rebellion in his dominyons.' (fn. 28)
With such ominous reports flowing into England, there was a general expectancy on the Continent of some dreadful calamity in that country. Within a few weeks after the murder of Henry IV, rumour obligingly provided Europe with a sensational story. 'If the reporte which was sent hether in great dilligence on Wednesday laste by the Governor of Dunkerk had proved true, that his Matie should have ben murthered by the hands of a carpenter as he was walking in a chamber to looke upon certayne newe buyldings, it would have afflicted his true allyes with as much sorrowe and lamentation as it could have comforted his fained friends with joy and contentment. But thanks be to God that this false alarme may serve us for a warning to be carefull of his safety at home and discovery abrode how much his heroycall vertues are esteemed, which even among this people (where the Jesuitts his capitall enemyes doe reigne) were able to cause his supposed death to be exceeding much deplored.' (fn. 29)
The news of the alleged assassination of the King of England spread far and wide. (fn. 30) In Venice Sir Henry Wotton, the English Ambassador, mentioned reports from Antwerp that James had been shot through one of his shoulders with an arquebus by a carpenter who was working at Court. (fn. 31) The English Consul in Lisbon, Hugh Lee, wrote of the current rumour there that the King was dead either of disease or of 'bloody action.' (fn. 32) He also added the unpleasant information that amongst the inhabitants of that city, 'bets have been made that he would die on a certain day.'
The alarm passed. James was alive, the relief of his subjects inexpressible. But one thing remained unaltered—the alertness of the English ambassadors to any whiff of rumour or suspicion that assassins thirsting for the King's life were on the prowl. They had some reason to exercise whatever powers of detection they possessed, for James's enemies, disappointed that the attack on him had been imaginary, still nourished hopes that he would meet the same fate as Henry IV. At least the Rector of the English College in Rome had done his best to revive their optimism by predicting that the King of England, like Queen Elizabeth before him, might be predestined to be announced dead prematurely in the actual year that would see him positively in his grave. (fn. 33)
From time to time the Earl of Salisbury, and even James himself, received solemn warnings to be on their guard. 'The Jesuitts of this Towne,' wrote Trumbull from Brussels, 'make incessant prayers for the prosperity of some great plott which they have upon the frame for the benefit of the Rom Religion. I cannott tell whether they meane their invincible league or the murthering of some other Christian Princes, but their particular spleene against his Matie is sufficiently expressed in their daylie invectyves and sermons which they fulminate against his proceedings. And to prevent the fury of these raveing woolfs, the good patriotts of this country doe hope his Matie will stand upon his guarde for the preserving of his sacred person from the danger of their conspiracyes.' (fn. 34) From Naples Edward Rich sent a message in great haste to the King to forewarn him of a plot to kill him with, 'a russett sattine dublett and hose or jerkine and hose, which if he touches or receives he dies by poison.' (fn. 35) In Paris, Sir Thomas Edmondes, now ambassador there instead of Carew, caused an Italian to be arrested for allegedly claiming to be engaged in a murderous design against James. The fact that he had just returned from a pilgrimage to St. Iago de Compostello made him more suspect to Edmondes, as well as the fact that amongst his papers, 'there were found certaine Caracters to the which they doe ascribe the vertue of exempting those which weare them from perill in anie enterprizes.' (fn. 36) The French, who had lost a king by murder, were inclined to regard the man as a simpleton and a harmless bigot, but the English Ambassador was not quite happy with this verdict.
It was inevitable, of course, that there should be some unsavoury characters about who would snap up the chance of making a profitable business out of the tender solicitude of James's subjects for their King. One such, Claude de Joubert, approached Sir Henry Wotton in Venice and told him confidentially that he had met a young English Jesuit 'of a desperat countenance', who had divulged to him his plan of returning to England to kill the King, and had shown him the dagger with which he hoped to dispatch James. Wotton pondered over the disclosure and finally decided to consult the French Ambassador, who promptly told him that the fellow was an impenitent scoundrel, living on his wits and on other people's gullibility. On this occasion his reward was to be thrown out of Wotton's house when he called with a request for money. (fn. 37)
(4) The Crisis in the King's Finances
When Lord Harrington wrote to the Earl of Salisbury that, 'I know the King's occasions may urge your Lordship greatly to make money of anything fit to be sold,' (fn. 38) he was addressing his observation to a Lord High Treasurer whose resourcefulness in salesmanship of this kind was being severely tested. Since May, 1608, when he had assumed the additional burden of running the country's finances, Cecil had been battling against the extravagance of the King and his Court which his predecessor, the Earl of Dorset, had made little effort to control. That year had seen some improvement in the situation; at least, the King had been partially converted to his Lord Treasurer's point of view that the Crown's debts should not be allowed to accumulate beyond reparation.
The difficulty was to restrain James from intermittent lapses into prodigality. For one thing, he was particularly sensitive to what he considered to be his obligations towards associates and old friends, as well as to those who fortuitously, by word or deed, earned his commendation. To reward them was the most natural thing in the world. It was the duty of a king to do so; in fact, it almost amounted to a matter of honour to show his approval and appreciation in this manner. And James's concern for his honour was a positive obsession with him. It was shrewdly exploited by men like Lord Hay and Sir Robert Carr, who pushed the claims of their intimates and partisans on the King's bounty, and were rarely rebuffed. For the Lord Treasurer, on the other hand, it required delicate handling to effect a compromise between what James felt he owed to his friends and servants and what he unquestionably owed to his creditors.
The King was sufficiently alive to the danger and disgrace of insolvency, not only to place Cecil in a position of authority to deal with the problem, but to abide by his advice. To relieve James of the unpleasant necessity of turning down appeals to his generosity, the Lord Treasurer made the thoughtful suggestion that tougher men than his Majesty should undertake that task for him. Some such action was imperative, for an intensive drive to recover money due to the Crown was encouraging a horde of claimants and suitors to believe that another happy era of royal indulgence was just round the corner. In February, 1609, a number of Commissioners, including the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Julius Caesar, who supported Cecil's policy of financial restraint, were appointed to examine critically all suits; and it was made perfectly plain that until the King's considerable loans from the City of London and other quarters had been liquidated, any ill-timed or unjustifiable claims would receive a poor reception at their hands. (fn. 39) In the following year, as a reminder that the King's hand was still kept on the plough of financial stringency, he was persuaded by the Lord Treasurer to publish a special declaration on the subject of his bounty, which was calculated to depress still further the hopes of those who looked to James for reward or remuneration. (fn. 40)
The Earl of Salisbury, however, saw no reason why the property and perquisites of the Crown, once they had been salvaged from the greed of courtiers and their dependants, should not be utilised to the best advantage of the King. To place them on the market would bring them within reach of the wealthier rural and urban classes, the very people who had the desire and the means to acquire them, and who resented their wasteful exploitation and spoliation. There were arguments, of course, against such a disposal of Crown lands. Any substantial diminution in their extent might result in a corresponding decline of Crown revenue, at a time when the King was still expected to live on and within his income. On the other hand, England's expanding trade, with a proportionate increase in Customs dues, might more than cover this loss. The Lord Treasurer took a hard look at the financial prospects on land and sea, and came to the decision that the determining factor in these calculations was the overriding necessity to stop the drift towards royal bankruptcy at all costs and by all means.
In 1608 he had ordered a general survey of Crown lands, and the two succeeding years saw a fair amount of them transferred to private hands. Not the least important to exchange ownership in this way were the King's woods which were sometimes sold indiscriminately and with little consideration for aesthetic ill-effects and personal inconvenience. (fn. 41) Where local customs impinged on the King's ownership Cecil proceeded with moderation, (fn. 42) but it was not possible to avoid abuses of one kind or another, (fn. 43) and there were always local difficulties to impede the work of the Commissioners entrusted with the sale of woods. Nevertheless, when the Lord Treasurer reviewed the situation in January, 1610, he could congratulate himself on having cut by these means the King's debts from £597,337 to £300,000. (fn. 44)
In the matter of staking a claim for the Crown to a bigger share of Customs receipts, the Lord Treasurer found the farmers of the Customs quite amenable to proposals that they should pay higher rents. It was the least they could do in return for a governmental policy that shunned foreign entanglements as far as possible, and set a high priority on the peaceful development of trade relations with other countries. Despite depredations by pirates—their proliferation was a pointer to a steady increase in overseas trade—and the hazardous nature of some operations in certain states where religious bigotry was allowed to interfere sometimes with normal commercial intercourse, English ships and factors were active from the Baltic to the Mediterranean. The wealth that poured into London from their multifarious activities reflected itself in the swollen Customs receipts and enriched the city enormously, although the monopoly which the capital gradually exercised over trade could be harmful to some other towns up and down the country. (fn. 45) Cecil tried to curb it a little by the foundation of his 'Burse' or Exchange in the Strand, which was designed to stimulate private enterprise in the city of Westminster. But as Lord Treasurer, he could not but welcome the circumstances which canalised overseas trade to London, thus bringing the bulk of the Customs within the reach and control of Whitehall. By increasing the rents of the farmers of Customs and introducing new import and export duties, Cecil was able to divert some of the enhanced mercantile wealth of the country into the King's treasury.
It was partly to ensure the availability of money for the King's needs (in the form of loans or taxation) that the Lord Treasurer revived former legislation which prohibited the export of English gold and silver coins beyond the seas. He had every justification for doing so, since speculation in them had become rife across the Channel. In Flanders, there was such an influx through Lille that even the peasants were able to pay their rents and dues in 'Jacobus peeces' of twenty shillings which had almost become the legal currency of that country. (fn. 46) The circulation of English gold coin in France was quite as profitable to those who illegally conveyed it there, and, as in Flanders, it was employed in all sorts of payments and transactions. (fn. 47) In both cases, the gold and silver content of English coins was less adulterated than that of the local currency, and enjoyed a higher value. English prestige did not suffer by it, but English stocks of bullion did, and Cecil struck at the practice with his proclamation decrying, 'the industries and devices in the ordering of the mints of other States . . . as an artificial engine to attract as well the gold as the silver of this realm into foreign parts in respect of the assured gain by the re-coinage.' (fn. 48) The only exception made to a general interdiction of export of gold was the limited transfer of money to Ireland, to furnish the plantation of Ulster with provisions and the means of defence. (fn. 49)
The Lord Treasurer's success in reducing the Crown's debts did not conceal the fact that the expenses of the King's government and his household were still running at too high a level. It was not entirely James's fault. If he had been able to recover the substantial loans advanced by Queen Elizabeth to the United Provinces and France during the 'troubles' in those countries, the Exchequer might well have been able to cope with the situation. But the assassination of Henry IV, and the reckless bribery of the French Princes of the Blood and nobility by the Queen Regent, had brought the French Treasury almost to the same point of exhaustion as the English Exchequer. As for the United Provinces' debts, estimated at over £800,000 in 1608, only a third or so of the £40,000 due to be repaid annually ever reached the King's pocket. (fn. 50) And yet his commitments were increasing and his revenues proving inadequate to meet them. Some of these were inevitable. When, in 1610, Henry, James's eldest son, was created Prince of Wales, it was not only the costs of the attendant festivities that the King had to to defray, but the establishment which the Prince was expected to maintain with dignity and patronage. By the time James had allotted various sources of revenue for this purpose, he had curtailed his own income to the extent of £28,000 a year. Some counter-measures had to be initiated to rectify the imbalance, and it was in these circumstances that the Lord Treasurer thought of a scheme to stabilise the Crown revenues.
What it amounted to was the convocation of Parliament and a proposal that, in view of the Crown's necessities and the economic difficulties it had to face, the nation through its elected members should be prepared to shoulder part of the burden by making an annual and permanent payment to the Exchequer. How the motion was submitted and the reaction it produced are described in a letter to Sir Ralph Winwood, then English Ambassador at the Hague. It was originally proposed that Parliament should grant an immediate supply of £600,000 and an annual payment of £200,000, 'without which yt was made apparant the Crowne could not be supported. But how to raise soe large a contribution could not well be conceyved, without somewhat were offered againe by waye of retribution. Whereupon were proposed the taking away of parveyance, the remytting of old debts from 7 of H.7. to 30 of the late Q, the release of penall statutes, confirmation of defectyve tytles and 6 others of this nature to treat of, and all this came from the Lords. The lower house seeing they were to furnish the money thought they might the better make choice of their merchandise, and therefore proposed to the Lords a desire they had to treat with the Kinge for dissolution of tenures and wardshipp by way of Contract, which was somewhat stood upon in regard of the profytt which out of that Court comes yerely to the Crowne, of honor which comes to the Crown by knights service and soe antient a tenure, of conscience which should tye the King to much caution in removing infants from the justice and protection of the Court to the discretion or indiscretion of prochain amy, and many more reasons pour encherir la merchandise, but was at last freely assented unto by his Matie, for which yt was thought fytt by the Lower house presently to acknowledge thanks by the Speaker to the King accompanied with the body of the house, which was accordingly performed in the banqueting house at Whitehall.' (fn. 51)
So it seemed that what were undoubtedly public grievances would be eliminated to the profit of both parties, and be followed by a more desirable and better understanding between James and his Parliament. What in fact ensued were protracted and tortuous negotiations, which taxed Cecil's patience and skill to the utmost, and which revolved around the final sum to be agreed upon. The King felt that haggling was not consistent with his 'honour,' particularly as, in his opinion, the Commons were reluctant to pay an equitable compensation for the concessions which they themselves had stipulated, and which he was willing to yield. Finally agreement was reached and an annual parliamentary grant of £200,000 accepted as a fair and just indemnification. (fn. 52) But the whole plan miscarried at the last moment when, upon further reflection, both James and the Commons concluded that the other side had somehow got the better of the bargain. This and other demonstrations of refractoriness in the Commons led the King to dissolve Parliament, and the 'Great Contract' with its promise of financial and political equilibrium fell through.
But it was not only James's finances that were affected by this failure. A shadow had also fallen on his relations with the Earl of Salisbury during the final session of Parliament. The Lord Treasurer, loath to see King and Commons at loggerheads over the 'Contract' and other controversial matters, had urged moderation and opposed a precipitate dissolution of Parliament, much to James's impatience. This had been the signal for some backstairs intrigues by those most economical in their appreciation of the Lord Treasurer, and who would have liked to foment suspicions in the King's mind as to the motives behind his policy. Cecil had felt impelled to write to the King to protest the sincerity of his purpose, and to comment aciduously in other letters on the attitude of some of James's officials towards him. James had replied in a conciliatory manner and reaffirmed his confidence in him. But there were also an implicit criticism of Cecil's handling of the House of Commons and its more unruly members, an open condemnation of his trust in Parliament, and an equally overt hint that since the Commons had rejected the Lord Treasurer's scheme of a mutual contract, it was up to him to extricate the King from the financial bog into which he was bound, as a consequence, to sink deeper. In a further letter to the Privy Council, also aimed at Cecil, the King used more vehement language in his fulminations against the Commons whose behaviour, he declared, had been tantamount to an assault on his regal honour. He castigated the councillors who had permitted an unprecedented effusion of bold and villainous speeches in order not to forfeit all hopes of a parliamentary grant. Since they too had failed to extract money from the Commons, the 'repairing' of the King's honour and of his finances was a concomitant task which they were expected to undertake without delay. (fn. 53)
Without hope of national assistance the problem of wrestling successfully with a debt, which was gathering its strength to soar still higher from its present peak of £300,000, seemed insoluble. But the Lord Treasurer was already devising other schemes to replace the discredited 'Contract', which he launched as expeditiously as possible in 1611. However even he failed sometimes to conceal the anxieties which were oppressing him, and nothing can better illustrate his frame of mind than the marginal comment he wrote on a despatch from Sir Thomas Edmondes in Paris. Edmondes had expatiated on the gloomy financial situation in France, and had described the despair of the Duke of Sully on his realising that expenditure was exceeding revenue by £400,000 or so. Knowing full well the potential wealth of France, Cecil scribbled reflectively (a sigh is almost audible!): 'If fowre hundred make a Treasurer in France startle, what may two do in England.' (fn. 54)