« AnteriorContinuar »
ditor. The author was George Ruggle of Clarehall; a person not otherwise distinguished.
Notwithstanding the boasted scholarship of James, the Latinity of the speech addressed by him to the university is said to have been very indifferent, and much inferior to that of queen Elizabeth's harangue on a similar occasion. That of Nethersole the university orator was also much criticised, on account of his addressing the prince as “ Jacobissime Carole.” This absurdity among others was ridiculed in a ludicrous ballad composed on the occasion by Richard Corbet of facetious memory, an Oxonian, and afterwards bishop of Norwich.
Somerset attended the king on his visit to Cambridge, and was still regarded as a favorite; but it was not difficult to prognosticate his fall. No one could look upon him without perceiving a total change. The graces of his youth had all faded before the withering sense of secret and atrocious guilt; he affected solitude; an air of neglect prevailed over his person, his dress and his manners; and the king, who ceased to discover in his features the charms which had first caught his eye and his fancy, and who found the gaiety which he loved to cherish among his immediate attendants checked by the moroseness and melancholy of his lord-chamberlain, sought only an excuse for transferring to a new . object his capricious fondness. Nor was the choice of this object dubious: nearly two years before this time, the monarch had been struck by the personal
beauty and graceful carriage of a youth named George Villiers, a younger son of a Leicestershire knight, who, having lately returned from France a proficient in the arts of fencing and dancing, had been equipped with handsome clothes and sent by his mother and his friends to push his fortune at court. Almost on his first appearance, the king had marked his predilection by conferring upon him the office of his cup-bearer at large; and soon after, by admitting him to serve in ordinary, had rendered him the attendant of his meals, and given him the opportunity of listening to his conversation and forming himself to his humor.
The insolence and rapacity of Somerset, who permitted no suit to pass without an enormous bribe, had rendered him universally odious; and many hands were eagerly stretched forth to thrust down the already tottering favorite, or to support in his ascent the new aspirant. But it seems that James, among other sage rules of conduct, had laid down for himself that of never taking for a professed favorite any one who was not formally recommended to him by his queen; and the great difficulty was to induce this princess to co-operate in an affair to which she evinced a marked repugnance. In this perplexity the Villiers faction cast their eyes upon Abbot, who possessed considerable influence with her majesty, and the primate has thought proper to inform posterity, that it was by his instrumentality that a knot so worthy the interposition of a christian prelate was solved. For some time the For some time the queen resisted
his most earnest solicitations, saying, “ My lord, you and the rest of your friends know not what
you do; I know your master better than you all, for if this young man be once brought in, the first persons that he will plague must be you that labor for him; yea, I shall have my part also; the king will teach him to despise and hardly entreat us all, that he may seem to be beholden to none but himself." In which words, Abbot confesses that she spoke like a prophetess. But importunity prevailed at length, and about April 1616, she was won to solicit the king to gratify his own weak and disgraceful partiality in the preferment of Villiers, whom the delighted monarch instantly knighted in the queen's apartment, and swore in a gentleman of the bed-chamber, in spite of the opposition of Somerset. The archbishop characteristically finished the scene by enjoining upon the new minion three things,—to pray to God daily for grace to serve the king faithfully;—to do all good offices between his majesty and the queen and prince;—and to fill his sovereign's ears with nothing but the truth. When he had succeeded in teaching the young man to repeat these precepts “indifferently well” by rote, and had received the king's acknowledgement that "it was counsel fit for a bishop to give to a young man,” the sapient prelate seems in earnest to have believed that he had sufficiently guarded his catechumen against all the hazards to which his virtue might be exposed by so sudden and so unmerited an elevation; and he experienced as much surprise as vexation on
finding himself and his counsels speedily consigned to neglect by one who, as he apprehended, owed him so much, and who, in the first moments of success, had promised to revere him as a fathera.
Every step of Villiers's progress in the royal favor rendered more imminent the apprehensions of Somerset. Destitute alike of personal merit and of hereditary consequence, surrounded by opponents whom he had no means of conciliating, and deprived by the death of Northampton of the only adviser on whose guidance he could repose, he felt that the favor of the king was the sole remaining barrier between himself and the disgrace and ruin which he had so amply deserved; and before this reliance also should fail him, he aimed at rendering it the instrument of his permanent security. TWith this view, he represented to his royal master, that in the high offices which he had borne under the crown, and in the secret and important affairs with which it had long been bis majesty's pleasure to intrust him, it was not improbable that he might through inadvertence have fallen into errors which in strictness of law would expose him to the penalties of a pramunire: for his protection against this danger, he therefore humbly besought his majesty to be pleased to grant him a pardon under the great seal for all past offences. James, with his customary facility, assented; and Somerset, on applying for precedents to that learned antiquary sir Robert Cotton,
See Biographia Brit., art. Abbot.
who was acquainted with his political secrets, was furnished with a form by which the king was made to pardon “all manner of treasons, misprisions of treasons, murders, felonies, and outrages whatsoever,” by him “committed or to be committed.” This ample indulgence was signed by the monarch without the smallest scruple; but being afterwards carried to the chancellor, this officer peremptorily refused to affix the seal to it, alleging that to do so would subject himself to a præmunire. This obstacle was found insuperable; and, deprived of his meditated defence, Somerset had nothing left but to await in secret dread the result of the thousand accidents which might betray to some one who desired his destruction, either his intrigues with Spain, or the black story of Overbury's fate; known already to certainly not fewer than eight or ten persons more or less implicated in the barbarous deed.
Meantime, James went on his summer progress into the west, during which we are told that he was entertained at Cranbourn by William earl of Salisbury, son-in-law to the earl of Suffolk; “ at Lulworth and Bindon by the lord Walden; at Charlton by sir Thomas Howard; and nothing but one faction braving the other. Then was the king feasted at Purbeck by the lord Hatton, who was of the contrary faction; and at a jointure-house of sir George Villiers' mother, called Gotly, where he was magnificently entertaineda.”
a Weldon's Court of king James, p. 96.