Изображения страниц



wanted to dethrone James, and set up his cousin. Lady Arabella Stuart, in his stead. Sir Walter Raleigh was accused of having something to do with this plot, and condemned to lose his head. But the sentence was thought to be very unjust, and it was not then executed; Raleigh remained a prisoner in the Tower.

The next conspiracy was that famous "Gunpowder Treason and Plot," of which we are reminded every 5th of November. A few Roman Catholic gentlemen devised a horrible plan for blowing up the king, the royal family, and the parliament. Parliament was to meet on the 5th of November, 1605. Long before that day, the conspirators secretly conveyed thirty-six barrels of gunpowder into a vault beneath the parliament-house, and covered them over with coals and wood, so that no one should suspect that the cellar contained anything besides fuel. Guido Fawkes was to lay the train and light the matches, when the fatal hour arrived. But one of the plotters wished to save the life of his kinsman, Lord Mounteagle. A few days before the 5th of November, that nobleman received letter in an unknown hand, warning him not to attend at the opening of parliament; "for," said the letter, they shall receive a terrible blow this parliament, and yet they shall not see who hurts them."

[ocr errors]

Lord Mounteagle carried the letter to the king's council, who laid it before their master; and James, remembering the fate of his unhappy father, thought the terrible unseen blow was to be caused by gunpowder. The vaults beneath the parliament-house were searched, and there stood Guy Fawkes, with his dark lantern; and in his pockets were slow-matches,


tinder, and touchwood, all ready for his murderous work; and underneath the coals and wood were found the barrels of gunpowder.

As soon as the other plotters heard that Fawkes was taken, they made haste to escape into the country; but all of them were found in a few days. Some died in resisting the officers who went to apprehend them, and the others were executed as traitors.



REIGN OF JAMES I.—(continued).

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


By the time James had been King of England three or four years, the joy with which the nation had welcomed him was changed into disappointment, and in many minds to contempt. In Scotland, James had been very poor; a yearly pension allowed him by Queen Elizabeth was the chief part of his income; and he had very often been obliged to defend himself and maintain his power against the assaults of the rebellious nobles.

He had guided himself so wisely through those times of poverty and danger, that Englishmen thought he would be a prudent and courageous king, a fitting successor to the wise queen whom they had lost. But prosperity seemed to have spoiled King James. He was overjoyed when he succeeded to the crown of wealthy loyal England, and from that time he appeared to think he had a right to spend most of his time in amusing himself. Half of his days were spent in field sports, cock-fighting, baiting of bears, lions,



and bulls. He was good-natured, but he hated trouble so much, that if his favourite courtiers wished him to commit an act of injustice he would do it, just to be rid of their importunities.

He was always surrounded by favourites, on whom he lavished money, lands, and titles. Indeed, he threw away titles on everybody. When Queen Elizabeth made a man a peer, or a knight, it was for some great service rendered to the country, or for some goodness or cleverness which she saw in him. Those titles were highly valued; but sensible men were ashamed to take titles from James, when they had done nothing to deserve them, and many persons paid large sums of money for leave to refuse these worthless honours. Other men, who wished for a title, were compelled to buy one; and either way of getting money was agreeable to King James, for he was always in debt.

His wife, Queen Anne, did not help him out of his difficulties; she was too fond of pleasure, and extravagant. And a great deal of money was wasted in riotous living at the court; even the ladies forgot the temperance of their sex, and joined in the nightly revels. There was very little in the manners or appearance of the king which could excite respect. His tongue was too large for his mouth, so that he did not speak plainly; he was very awkward, and so timorous that the sight of a drawn sword made him tremble, and he caused all his clothes to be stuffed and lined with wadding lest he should be stabbed.

He liked to mix the most unseemly jests even with his gravest conversation, nicknamed himself and his courtiers, and allowed his favourite, George Villiers,

to call him "dear sow," "dad," and "gossip." He was very learned, and was fond of showing his learning by mingling scraps of Latin and Greek with his talk. With all this, some sparkles of sense and spirit shone out occasionally, but he provoked the English by boasting of his own wisdom, and deriding Queen Elizabeth, as if he were a greater sovereign than she had been.

The king's eldest son, Prince Henry, was quite unlike his father. The people loved him dearly; he was a youth of the highest spirit, very clever, longing to take part in some noble enterprise, and especially interested in all that related to ships and sea affairs.

In the midst of the vices of the court, he led an exemplary life, and the people looked forward to the days when he would sit in his father's throne, and hoped that he would be all that an English king should be. But these bright hopes were blighted; Prince Henry died in 1612, at the age of eighteen. He had one brother, a sickly little boy named Charles. The king feared that Charles would not live to grow up; he made him his pet child, and called him always Baby Charles." Even when Charles grew up strong and tall, and became a grave stately man, the foolish king always called him "Baby."


King James had also a daughter, Elizabeth, who married the German prince Frederic, Count Palatine. His territory, which was called the Palatinate, lay near the Rhine, having Heidelberg for its capital city. The marriage pleased the English, because Frederic was a Protestant prince, and they had been afraid that James would marry all his children to Roman Catholics. But it was not a very fortunate



marriage. Elizabeth was remarkably beautiful and clever, but not very prudent; and at the end of a few years she persuaded her husband to accept the kingdom of Bohemia. Bohemia was governed by the Emperor of Germany: it was inhabited partly by Protestants and partly by Roman Catholics, and the Protestants, who thought themselves ill-used, resolved to have a Protestant king. They offered their crown to Count Frederic, who was unwise enough to accept it, without taking any effectual steps to maintain himself in the kingdom. The emperor soon drove him out of Bohemia, and then took from him his own country of the Palatinate; and the unfortunate Frederic and Elizabeth were obliged to fly to Holland, where they lived upon the bounty of their friends. They had a great many sons and daughters; some of them will be mentioned in the course of this history, and especially Prince Rupert.

The people of England wished very much to go to war with the emperor, but King James could not be persuaded to draw the sword, even to restore his daughter and her husband to their own territory. He was afraid that he might displease the King of Spain, who was in alliance with the emperor, and he would not offend the Spaniards, because he wished to marry his son Charles to a Spanish princess. The thought of this marriage was hateful to the English nation; they feared that a Roman Catholic wife would incline Charles himself to become a papist, and of all the Roman Catholic powers they had the greatest dislike of Spain. But James, though a Protestant at heart, was proud to ally himself with so great and powerful a kingdom as Spain.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »