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Charles Dickens > A Child's History of England > Chapter XXXII

A Child's History of England

Chapter XXXII


'OUR cousin of Scotland' was ugly, awkward, and shuffling both in
mind and person. His tongue was much too large for his mouth, his
legs were much too weak for his body, and his dull goggle-eyes
stared and rolled like an idiot's. He was cunning, covetous,
wasteful, idle, drunken, greedy, dirty, cowardly, a great swearer,
and the most conceited man on earth. His figure - what is commonly
called rickety from his birth - presented a most ridiculous
appearance, dressed in thick padded clothes, as a safeguard against
being stabbed (of which he lived in continual fear), of a grass-
green colour from head to foot, with a hunting-horn dangling at his
side instead of a sword, and his hat and feather sticking over one
eye, or hanging on the back of his head, as he happened to toss it
on. He used to loll on the necks of his favourite courtiers, and
slobber their faces, and kiss and pinch their cheeks; and the
greatest favourite he ever had, used to sign himself in his letters
to his royal master, His Majesty's 'dog and slave,' and used to
address his majesty as 'his Sowship.' His majesty was the worst
rider ever seen, and thought himself the best. He was one of the
most impertinent talkers (in the broadest Scotch) ever heard, and
boasted of being unanswerable in all manner of argument. He wrote
some of the most wearisome treatises ever read - among others, a
book upon witchcraft, in which he was a devout believer - and
thought himself a prodigy of authorship. He thought, and wrote,
and said, that a king had a right to make and unmake what laws he
pleased, and ought to be accountable to nobody on earth. This is
the plain, true character of the personage whom the greatest men
about the court praised and flattered to that degree, that I doubt
if there be anything much more shameful in the annals of human

He came to the English throne with great ease. The miseries of a
disputed succession had been felt so long, and so dreadfully, that
he was proclaimed within a few hours of Elizabeth's death, and was
accepted by the nation, even without being asked to give any pledge
that he would govern well, or that he would redress crying
grievances. He took a month to come from Edinburgh to London; and,
by way of exercising his new power, hanged a pickpocket on the
journey without any trial, and knighted everybody he could lay hold
of. He made two hundred knights before he got to his palace in
London, and seven hundred before he had been in it three months.
He also shovelled sixty-two new peers into the House of Lords - and
there was a pretty large sprinkling of Scotchmen among them, you
may believe.

His Sowship's prime Minister, CECIL (for I cannot do better than
call his majesty what his favourite called him), was the enemy of
Sir Walter Raleigh, and also of Sir Walter's political friend, LORD
COBHAM; and his Sowship's first trouble was a plot originated by
these two, and entered into by some others, with the old object of
seizing the King and keeping him in imprisonment until he should
change his ministers. There were Catholic priests in the plot, and
there were Puritan noblemen too; for, although the Catholics and
Puritans were strongly opposed to each other, they united at this
time against his Sowship, because they knew that he had a design
against both, after pretending to be friendly to each; this design
being to have only one high and convenient form of the Protestant
religion, which everybody should be bound to belong to, whether
they liked it or not. This plot was mixed up with another, which
may or may not have had some reference to placing on the throne, at
some time, the LADY ARABELLA STUART; whose misfortune it was, to be
the daughter of the younger brother of his Sowship's father, but
who was quite innocent of any part in the scheme. Sir Walter
Raleigh was accused on the confession of Lord Cobham - a miserable
creature, who said one thing at one time, and another thing at
another time, and could be relied upon in nothing. The trial of
Sir Walter Raleigh lasted from eight in the morning until nearly
midnight; he defended himself with such eloquence, genius, and
spirit against all accusations, and against the insults of COKE,
the Attorney-General - who, according to the custom of the time,
foully abused him - that those who went there detesting the
prisoner, came away admiring him, and declaring that anything so
wonderful and so captivating was never heard. He was found guilty,
nevertheless, and sentenced to death. Execution was deferred, and
he was taken to the Tower. The two Catholic priests, less
fortunate, were executed with the usual atrocity; and Lord Cobham
and two others were pardoned on the scaffold. His Sowship thought
it wonderfully knowing in him to surprise the people by pardoning
these three at the very block; but, blundering, and bungling, as
usual, he had very nearly overreached himself. For, the messenger
on horseback who brought the pardon, came so late, that he was
pushed to the outside of the crowd, and was obliged to shout and
roar out what he came for. The miserable Cobham did not gain much
by being spared that day. He lived, both as a prisoner and a
beggar, utterly despised, and miserably poor, for thirteen years,
and then died in an old outhouse belonging to one of his former

This plot got rid of, and Sir Walter Raleigh safely shut up in the
Tower, his Sowship held a great dispute with the Puritans on their
presenting a petition to him, and had it all his own way - not so
very wonderful, as he would talk continually, and would not hear
anybody else - and filled the Bishops with admiration. It was
comfortably settled that there was to be only one form of religion,
and that all men were to think exactly alike. But, although this
was arranged two centuries and a half ago, and although the
arrangement was supported by much fining and imprisonment, I do not
find that it is quite successful, even yet.

His Sowship, having that uncommonly high opinion of himself as a
king, had a very low opinion of Parliament as a power that
audaciously wanted to control him. When he called his first
Parliament after he had been king a year, he accordingly thought he
would take pretty high ground with them, and told them that he
commanded them 'as an absolute king.' The Parliament thought those
strong words, and saw the necessity of upholding their authority.
His Sowship had three children: Prince Henry, Prince Charles, and
the Princess Elizabeth. It would have been well for one of these,
and we shall too soon see which, if he had learnt a little wisdom
concerning Parliaments from his father's obstinacy.

Now, the people still labouring under their old dread of the
Catholic religion, this Parliament revived and strengthened the
severe laws against it. And this so angered ROBERT CATESBY, a
restless Catholic gentleman of an old family, that he formed one of
the most desperate and terrible designs ever conceived in the mind
of man; no less a scheme than the Gunpowder Plot.

His object was, when the King, lords, and commons, should be
assembled at the next opening of Parliament, to blow them up, one
and all, with a great mine of gunpowder. The first person to whom
he confided this horrible idea was THOMAS WINTER, a Worcestershire
gentleman who had served in the army abroad, and had been secretly
employed in Catholic projects. While Winter was yet undecided, and
when he had gone over to the Netherlands, to learn from the Spanish
Ambassador there whether there was any hope of Catholics being
relieved through the intercession of the King of Spain with his
Sowship, he found at Ostend a tall, dark, daring man, whom he had
known when they were both soldiers abroad, and whose name was GUIDO
- or GUY - FAWKES. Resolved to join the plot, he proposed it to
this man, knowing him to be the man for any desperate deed, and
they two came back to England together. Here, they admitted two
other conspirators; THOMAS PERCY, related to the Earl of
Northumberland, and JOHN WRIGHT, his brother-in-law. All these met
together in a solitary house in the open fields which were then
near Clement's Inn, now a closely blocked-up part of London; and
when they had all taken a great oath of secrecy, Catesby told the
rest what his plan was. They then went up-stairs into a garret,
and received the Sacrament from FATHER GERARD, a Jesuit, who is
said not to have known actually of the Gunpowder Plot, but who, I
think, must have had his suspicions that there was something
desperate afoot.

Percy was a Gentleman Pensioner, and as he had occasional duties to
perform about the Court, then kept at Whitehall, there would be
nothing suspicious in his living at Westminster. So, having looked
well about him, and having found a house to let, the back of which
joined the Parliament House, he hired it of a person named FERRIS,
for the purpose of undermining the wall. Having got possession of
this house, the conspirators hired another on the Lambeth side of
the Thames, which they used as a storehouse for wood, gunpowder,
and other combustible matters. These were to be removed at night
(and afterwards were removed), bit by bit, to the house at
Westminster; and, that there might be some trusty person to keep
watch over the Lambeth stores, they admitted another conspirator,
by name ROBERT KAY, a very poor Catholic gentleman.

All these arrangements had been made some months, and it was a
dark, wintry, December night, when the conspirators, who had been
in the meantime dispersed to avoid observation, met in the house at
Westminster, and began to dig. They had laid in a good stock of
eatables, to avoid going in and out, and they dug and dug with
great ardour. But, the wall being tremendously thick, and the work
very severe, they took into their plot CHRISTOPHER WRIGHT, a
younger brother of John Wright, that they might have a new pair of
hands to help. And Christopher Wright fell to like a fresh man,
and they dug and dug by night and by day, and Fawkes stood sentinel
all the time. And if any man's heart seemed to fail him at all,
Fawkes said, 'Gentlemen, we have abundance of powder and shot here,
and there is no fear of our being taken alive, even if discovered.'
The same Fawkes, who, in the capacity of sentinel, was always
prowling about, soon picked up the intelligence that the King had
prorogued the Parliament again, from the seventh of February, the
day first fixed upon, until the third of October. When the
conspirators knew this, they agreed to separate until after the
Christmas holidays, and to take no notice of each other in the
meanwhile, and never to write letters to one another on any
account. So, the house in Westminster was shut up again, and I
suppose the neighbours thought that those strange-looking men who
lived there so gloomily, and went out so seldom, were gone away to
have a merry Christmas somewhere.

It was the beginning of February, sixteen hundred and five, when
Catesby met his fellow-conspirators again at this Westminster
house. He had now admitted three more; JOHN GRANT, a Warwickshire
gentleman of a melancholy temper, who lived in a doleful house near
Stratford-upon-Avon, with a frowning wall all round it, and a deep
moat; ROBERT WINTER, eldest brother of Thomas; and Catesby's own
servant, THOMAS BATES, who, Catesby thought, had had some suspicion
of what his master was about. These three had all suffered more or
less for their religion in Elizabeth's time. And now, they all
began to dig again, and they dug and dug by night and by day.

They found it dismal work alone there, underground, with such a
fearful secret on their minds, and so many murders before them.
They were filled with wild fancies. Sometimes, they thought they
heard a great bell tolling, deep down in the earth under the
Parliament House; sometimes, they thought they heard low voices
muttering about the Gunpowder Plot; once in the morning, they
really did hear a great rumbling noise over their heads, as they
dug and sweated in their mine. Every man stopped and looked aghast
at his neighbour, wondering what had happened, when that bold
prowler, Fawkes, who had been out to look, came in and told them
that it was only a dealer in coals who had occupied a cellar under
the Parliament House, removing his stock in trade to some other
place. Upon this, the conspirators, who with all their digging and
digging had not yet dug through the tremendously thick wall,
changed their plan; hired that cellar, which was directly under the
House of Lords; put six-and-thirty barrels of gunpowder in it, and
covered them over with fagots and coals. Then they all dispersed
again till September, when the following new conspirators were
admitted; SIR EDWARD BAYNHAM, of Gloucestershire; SIR EVERARD
DIGBY, of Rutlandshire; AMBROSE ROOKWOOD, of Suffolk; FRANCIS
TRESHAM, of Northamptonshire. Most of these were rich, and were to
assist the plot, some with money and some with horses on which the
conspirators were to ride through the country and rouse the
Catholics after the Parliament should be blown into air.

Parliament being again prorogued from the third of October to the
fifth of November, and the conspirators being uneasy lest their
design should have been found out, Thomas Winter said he would go
up into the House of Lords on the day of the prorogation, and see
how matters looked. Nothing could be better. The unconscious
Commissioners were walking about and talking to one another, just
over the six-and-thirty barrels of gunpowder. He came back and
told the rest so, and they went on with their preparations. They
hired a ship, and kept it ready in the Thames, in which Fawkes was
to sail for Flanders after firing with a slow match the train that
was to explode the powder. A number of Catholic gentlemen not in
the secret, were invited, on pretence of a hunting party, to meet
Sir Everard Digby at Dunchurch on the fatal day, that they might be
ready to act together. And now all was ready.

But, now, the great wickedness and danger which had been all along
at the bottom of this wicked plot, began to show itself. As the
fifth of November drew near, most of the conspirators, remembering
that they had friends and relations who would be in the House of
Lords that day, felt some natural relenting, and a wish to warn
them to keep away. They were not much comforted by Catesby's
declaring that in such a cause he would blow up his own son. LORD
MOUNTEAGLE, Tresham's brother-in-law, was certain to be in the
house; and when Tresham found that he could not prevail upon the
rest to devise any means of sparing their friends, he wrote a
mysterious letter to this lord and left it at his lodging in the
dusk, urging him to keep away from the opening of Parliament,
'since God and man had concurred to punish the wickedness of the
times.' It contained the words 'that the Parliament should receive
a terrible blow, and yet should not see who hurt them.' And it
added, 'the danger is past, as soon as you have burnt the letter.'

The ministers and courtiers made out that his Sowship, by a direct
miracle from Heaven, found out what this letter meant. The truth
is, that they were not long (as few men would be) in finding out
for themselves; and it was decided to let the conspirators alone,
until the very day before the opening of Parliament. That the
conspirators had their fears, is certain; for, Tresham himself said
before them all, that they were every one dead men; and, although
even he did not take flight, there is reason to suppose that he had
warned other persons besides Lord Mounteagle. However, they were
all firm; and Fawkes, who was a man of iron, went down every day
and night to keep watch in the cellar as usual. He was there about
two in the afternoon of the fourth, when the Lord Chamberlain and
Lord Mounteagle threw open the door and looked in. 'Who are you,
friend?' said they. 'Why,' said Fawkes, 'I am Mr. Percy's servant,
and am looking after his store of fuel here.' 'Your master has
laid in a pretty good store,' they returned, and shut the door, and
went away. Fawkes, upon this, posted off to the other conspirators
to tell them all was quiet, and went back and shut himself up in
the dark, black cellar again, where he heard the bell go twelve
o'clock and usher in the fifth of November. About two hours
afterwards, he slowly opened the door, and came out to look about
him, in his old prowling way. He was instantly seized and bound,
by a party of soldiers under SIR THOMAS KNEVETT. He had a watch
upon him, some touchwood, some tinder, some slow matches; and there
was a dark lantern with a candle in it, lighted, behind the door.
He had his boots and spurs on - to ride to the ship, I suppose -
and it was well for the soldiers that they took him so suddenly.
If they had left him but a moment's time to light a match, he
certainly would have tossed it in among the powder, and blown up
himself and them.

They took him to the King's bed-chamber first of all, and there the
King (causing him to be held very tight, and keeping a good way
off), asked him how he could have the heart to intend to destroy so
many innocent people? 'Because,' said Guy Fawkes, 'desperate
diseases need desperate remedies.' To a little Scotch favourite,
with a face like a terrier, who asked him (with no particular
wisdom) why he had collected so much gunpowder, he replied, because
he had meant to blow Scotchmen back to Scotland, and it would take
a deal of powder to do that. Next day he was carried to the Tower,
but would make no confession. Even after being horribly tortured,
he confessed nothing that the Government did not already know;
though he must have been in a fearful state - as his signature,
still preserved, in contrast with his natural hand-writing before
he was put upon the dreadful rack, most frightfully shows. Bates,
a very different man, soon said the Jesuits had had to do with the
plot, and probably, under the torture, would as readily have said
anything. Tresham, taken and put in the Tower too, made
confessions and unmade them, and died of an illness that was heavy
upon him. Rookwood, who had stationed relays of his own horses all
the way to Dunchurch, did not mount to escape until the middle of
the day, when the news of the plot was all over London. On the
road, he came up with the two Wrights, Catesby, and Percy; and they
all galloped together into Northamptonshire. Thence to Dunchurch,
where they found the proposed party assembled. Finding, however,
that there had been a plot, and that it had been discovered, the
party disappeared in the course of the night, and left them alone
with Sir Everard Digby. Away they all rode again, through
Warwickshire and Worcestershire, to a house called Holbeach, on the
borders of Staffordshire. They tried to raise the Catholics on
their way, but were indignantly driven off by them. All this time
they were hotly pursued by the sheriff of Worcester, and a fast
increasing concourse of riders. At last, resolving to defend
themselves at Holbeach, they shut themselves up in the house, and
put some wet powder before the fire to dry. But it blew up, and
Catesby was singed and blackened, and almost killed, and some of
the others were sadly hurt. Still, knowing that they must die,
they resolved to die there, and with only their swords in their
hands appeared at the windows to be shot at by the sheriff and his
assistants. Catesby said to Thomas Winter, after Thomas had been
hit in the right arm which dropped powerless by his side, 'Stand by
me, Tom, and we will die together!' - which they did, being shot
through the body by two bullets from one gun. John Wright, and
Christopher Wright, and Percy, were also shot. Rookwood and Digby
were taken: the former with a broken arm and a wound in his body

It was the fifteenth of January, before the trial of Guy Fawkes,
and such of the other conspirators as were left alive, came on.
They were all found guilty, all hanged, drawn, and quartered:
some, in St. Paul's Churchyard, on the top of Ludgate-hill; some,
before the Parliament House. A Jesuit priest, named HENRY GARNET,
to whom the dreadful design was said to have been communicated, was
taken and tried; and two of his servants, as well as a poor priest
who was taken with him, were tortured without mercy. He himself
was not tortured, but was surrounded in the Tower by tamperers and
traitors, and so was made unfairly to convict himself out of his
own mouth. He said, upon his trial, that he had done all he could
to prevent the deed, and that he could not make public what had
been told him in confession - though I am afraid he knew of the
plot in other ways. He was found guilty and executed, after a
manful defence, and the Catholic Church made a saint of him; some
rich and powerful persons, who had had nothing to do with the
project, were fined and imprisoned for it by the Star Chamber; the
Catholics, in general, who had recoiled with horror from the idea
of the infernal contrivance, were unjustly put under more severe
laws than before; and this was the end of the Gunpowder Plot.


His Sowship would pretty willingly, I think, have blown the House
of Commons into the air himself; for, his dread and jealousy of it
knew no bounds all through his reign. When he was hard pressed for
money he was obliged to order it to meet, as he could get no money
without it; and when it asked him first to abolish some of the
monopolies in necessaries of life which were a great grievance to
the people, and to redress other public wrongs, he flew into a rage
and got rid of it again. At one time he wanted it to consent to
the Union of England with Scotland, and quarrelled about that. At
another time it wanted him to put down a most infamous Church
abuse, called the High Commission Court, and he quarrelled with it
about that. At another time it entreated him not to be quite so
fond of his archbishops and bishops who made speeches in his praise
too awful to be related, but to have some little consideration for
the poor Puritan clergy who were persecuted for preaching in their
own way, and not according to the archbishops and bishops; and they
quarrelled about that. In short, what with hating the House of
Commons, and pretending not to hate it; and what with now sending
some of its members who opposed him, to Newgate or to the Tower,
and now telling the rest that they must not presume to make
speeches about the public affairs which could not possibly concern
them; and what with cajoling, and bullying, and fighting, and being
frightened; the House of Commons was the plague of his Sowship's
existence. It was pretty firm, however, in maintaining its rights,
and insisting that the Parliament should make the laws, and not the
King by his own single proclamations (which he tried hard to do);
and his Sowship was so often distressed for money, in consequence,
that he sold every sort of title and public office as if they were
merchandise, and even invented a new dignity called a Baronetcy,
which anybody could buy for a thousand pounds.

These disputes with his Parliaments, and his hunting, and his
drinking, and his lying in bed - for he was a great sluggard -
occupied his Sowship pretty well. The rest of his time he chiefly
passed in hugging and slobbering his favourites. The first of
these was SIR PHILIP HERBERT, who had no knowledge whatever, except
of dogs, and horses, and hunting, but whom he soon made EARL OF
MONTGOMERY. The next, and a much more famous one, was ROBERT CARR,
or KER (for it is not certain which was his right name), who came
from the Border country, and whom he soon made VISCOUNT ROCHESTER,
and afterwards, EARL OF SOMERSET. The way in which his Sowship
doted on this handsome young man, is even more odious to think of,
than the way in which the really great men of England condescended
to bow down before him. The favourite's great friend was a certain
SIR THOMAS OVERBURY, who wrote his love-letters for him, and
assisted him in the duties of his many high places, which his own
ignorance prevented him from discharging. But this same Sir Thomas
having just manhood enough to dissuade the favourite from a wicked
marriage with the beautiful Countess of Essex, who was to get a
divorce from her husband for the purpose, the said Countess, in her
rage, got Sir Thomas put into the Tower, and there poisoned him.
Then the favourite and this bad woman were publicly married by the
King's pet bishop, with as much to-do and rejoicing, as if he had
been the best man, and she the best woman, upon the face of the

But, after a longer sunshine than might have been expected - of
seven years or so, that is to say - another handsome young man
started up and eclipsed the EARL OF SOMERSET. This was GEORGE
VILLIERS, the youngest son of a Leicestershire gentleman: who came
to Court with all the Paris fashions on him, and could dance as
well as the best mountebank that ever was seen. He soon danced
himself into the good graces of his Sowship, and danced the other
favourite out of favour. Then, it was all at once discovered that
the Earl and Countess of Somerset had not deserved all those great
promotions and mighty rejoicings, and they were separately tried
for the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury, and for other crimes. But,
the King was so afraid of his late favourite's publicly telling
some disgraceful things he knew of him - which he darkly threatened
to do - that he was even examined with two men standing, one on
either side of him, each with a cloak in his hand, ready to throw
it over his head and stop his mouth if he should break out with
what he had it in his power to tell. So, a very lame affair was
purposely made of the trial, and his punishment was an allowance of
four thousand pounds a year in retirement, while the Countess was
pardoned, and allowed to pass into retirement too. They hated one
another by this time, and lived to revile and torment each other
some years.

While these events were in progress, and while his Sowship was
making such an exhibition of himself, from day to day and from year
to year, as is not often seen in any sty, three remarkable deaths
took place in England. The first was that of the Minister, Robert
Cecil, Earl of Salisbury, who was past sixty, and had never been
strong, being deformed from his birth. He said at last that he had
no wish to live; and no Minister need have had, with his experience
of the meanness and wickedness of those disgraceful times. The
second was that of the Lady Arabella Stuart, who alarmed his
Sowship mightily, by privately marrying WILLIAM SEYMOUR, son of
LORD BEAUCHAMP, who was a descendant of King Henry the Seventh, and
who, his Sowship thought, might consequently increase and
strengthen any claim she might one day set up to the throne. She
was separated from her husband (who was put in the Tower) and
thrust into a boat to be confined at Durham. She escaped in a
man's dress to get away in a French ship from Gravesend to France,
but unhappily missed her husband, who had escaped too, and was soon
taken. She went raving mad in the miserable Tower, and died there
after four years. The last, and the most important of these three
deaths, was that of Prince Henry, the heir to the throne, in the
nineteenth year of his age. He was a promising young prince, and
greatly liked; a quiet, well-conducted youth, of whom two very good
things are known: first, that his father was jealous of him;
secondly, that he was the friend of Sir Walter Raleigh, languishing
through all those years in the Tower, and often said that no man
but his father would keep such a bird in such a cage. On the
occasion of the preparations for the marriage of his sister the
Princess Elizabeth with a foreign prince (and an unhappy marriage
it turned out), he came from Richmond, where he had been very ill,
to greet his new brother-in-law, at the palace at Whitehall. There
he played a great game at tennis, in his shirt, though it was very
cold weather, and was seized with an alarming illness, and died
within a fortnight of a putrid fever. For this young prince Sir
Walter Raleigh wrote, in his prison in the Tower, the beginning of
a History of the World: a wonderful instance how little his
Sowship could do to confine a great man's mind, however long he
might imprison his body.

And this mention of Sir Walter Raleigh, who had many faults, but
who never showed so many merits as in trouble and adversity, may
bring me at once to the end of his sad story. After an
imprisonment in the Tower of twelve long years, he proposed to
resume those old sea voyages of his, and to go to South America in
search of gold. His Sowship, divided between his wish to be on
good terms with the Spaniards through whose territory Sir Walter
must pass (he had long had an idea of marrying Prince Henry to a
Spanish Princess), and his avaricious eagerness to get hold of the
gold, did not know what to do. But, in the end, he set Sir Walter
free, taking securities for his return; and Sir Walter fitted out
an expedition at his own coast and, on the twenty-eighth of March,
one thousand six hundred and seventeen, sailed away in command of
one of its ships, which he ominously called the Destiny. The
expedition failed; the common men, not finding the gold they had
expected, mutinied; a quarrel broke out between Sir Walter and the
Spaniards, who hated him for old successes of his against them; and
he took and burnt a little town called SAINT THOMAS. For this he
was denounced to his Sowship by the Spanish Ambassador as a pirate;
and returning almost broken-hearted, with his hopes and fortunes
shattered, his company of friends dispersed, and his brave son (who
had been one of them) killed, he was taken - through the treachery
of SIR LEWIS STUKELY, his near relation, a scoundrel and a Vice-
Admiral - and was once again immured in his prison-home of so many

His Sowship being mightily disappointed in not getting any gold,
Sir Walter Raleigh was tried as unfairly, and with as many lies and
evasions as the judges and law officers and every other authority
in Church and State habitually practised under such a King. After
a great deal of prevarication on all parts but his own, it was
declared that he must die under his former sentence, now fifteen
years old. So, on the twenty-eighth of October, one thousand six
hundred and eighteen, he was shut up in the Gate House at
Westminster to pass his late night on earth, and there he took
leave of his good and faithful lady who was worthy to have lived in
better days. At eight o'clock next morning, after a cheerful
breakfast, and a pipe, and a cup of good wine, he was taken to Old
Palace Yard in Westminster, where the scaffold was set up, and
where so many people of high degree were assembled to see him die,
that it was a matter of some difficulty to get him through the
crowd. He behaved most nobly, but if anything lay heavy on his
mind, it was that Earl of Essex, whose head he had seen roll off;
and he solemnly said that he had had no hand in bringing him to the
block, and that he had shed tears for him when he died. As the
morning was very cold, the Sheriff said, would he come down to a
fire for a little space, and warm himself? But Sir Walter thanked
him, and said no, he would rather it were done at once, for he was
ill of fever and ague, and in another quarter of an hour his
shaking fit would come upon him if he were still alive, and his
enemies might then suppose that he trembled for fear. With that,
he kneeled and made a very beautiful and Christian prayer. Before
he laid his head upon the block he felt the edge of the axe, and
said, with a smile upon his face, that it was a sharp medicine, but
would cure the worst disease. When he was bent down ready for
death, he said to the executioner, finding that he hesitated, 'What
dost thou fear? Strike, man!' So, the axe came down and struck
his head off, in the sixty-sixth year of his age.

The new favourite got on fast. He was made a viscount, he was made
Duke of Buckingham, he was made a marquis, he was made Master of
the Horse, he was made Lord High Admiral - and the Chief Commander
of the gallant English forces that had dispersed the Spanish
Armada, was displaced to make room for him. He had the whole
kingdom at his disposal, and his mother sold all the profits and
honours of the State, as if she had kept a shop. He blazed all
over with diamonds and other precious stones, from his hatband and
his earrings to his shoes. Yet he was an ignorant presumptuous,
swaggering compound of knave and fool, with nothing but his beauty
and his dancing to recommend him. This is the gentleman who called
himself his Majesty's dog and slave, and called his Majesty Your
Sowship. His Sowship called him STEENIE; it is supposed, because
that was a nickname for Stephen, and because St. Stephen was
generally represented in pictures as a handsome saint.

His Sowship was driven sometimes to his wits'-end by his trimming
between the general dislike of the Catholic religion at home, and
his desire to wheedle and flatter it abroad, as his only means of
getting a rich princess for his son's wife: a part of whose
fortune he might cram into his greasy pockets. Prince Charles - or
as his Sowship called him, Baby Charles - being now PRINCE OF
WALES, the old project of a marriage with the Spanish King's
daughter had been revived for him; and as she could not marry a
Protestant without leave from the Pope, his Sowship himself
secretly and meanly wrote to his Infallibility, asking for it. The
negotiation for this Spanish marriage takes up a larger space in
great books, than you can imagine, but the upshot of it all is,
that when it had been held off by the Spanish Court for a long
time, Baby Charles and Steenie set off in disguise as Mr. Thomas
Smith and Mr. John Smith, to see the Spanish Princess; that Baby
Charles pretended to be desperately in love with her, and jumped
off walls to look at her, and made a considerable fool of himself
in a good many ways; that she was called Princess of Wales and that
the whole Spanish Court believed Baby Charles to be all but dying
for her sake, as he expressly told them he was; that Baby Charles
and Steenie came back to England, and were received with as much
rapture as if they had been a blessing to it; that Baby Charles had
actually fallen in love with HENRIETTA MARIA, the French King's
sister, whom he had seen in Paris; that he thought it a wonderfully
fine and princely thing to have deceived the Spaniards, all
through; and that he openly said, with a chuckle, as soon as he was
safe and sound at home again, that the Spaniards were great fools
to have believed him.

Like most dishonest men, the Prince and the favourite complained
that the people whom they had deluded were dishonest. They made
such misrepresentations of the treachery of the Spaniards in this
business of the Spanish match, that the English nation became eager
for a war with them. Although the gravest Spaniards laughed at the
idea of his Sowship in a warlike attitude, the Parliament granted
money for the beginning of hostilities, and the treaties with Spain
were publicly declared to be at an end. The Spanish ambassador in
London - probably with the help of the fallen favourite, the Earl
of Somerset - being unable to obtain speech with his Sowship,
slipped a paper into his hand, declaring that he was a prisoner in
his own house, and was entirely governed by Buckingham and his
creatures. The first effect of this letter was that his Sowship
began to cry and whine, and took Baby Charles away from Steenie,
and went down to Windsor, gabbling all sorts of nonsense. The end
of it was that his Sowship hugged his dog and slave, and said he
was quite satisfied.

He had given the Prince and the favourite almost unlimited power to
settle anything with the Pope as to the Spanish marriage; and he
now, with a view to the French one, signed a treaty that all Roman
Catholics in England should exercise their religion freely, and
should never be required to take any oath contrary thereto. In
return for this, and for other concessions much less to be
defended, Henrietta Maria was to become the Prince's wife, and was
to bring him a fortune of eight hundred thousand crowns.

His Sowship's eyes were getting red with eagerly looking for the
money, when the end of a gluttonous life came upon him; and, after
a fortnight's illness, on Sunday the twenty-seventh of March, one
thousand six hundred and twenty-five, he died. He had reigned
twenty-two years, and was fifty-nine years old. I know of nothing
more abominable in history than the adulation that was lavished on
this King, and the vice and corruption that such a barefaced habit
of lying produced in his court. It is much to be doubted whether
one man of honour, and not utterly self-disgraced, kept his place
near James the First. Lord Bacon, that able and wise philosopher,
as the First Judge in the Kingdom in this reign, became a public
spectacle of dishonesty and corruption; and in his base flattery of
his Sowship, and in his crawling servility to his dog and slave,
disgraced himself even more. But, a creature like his Sowship set
upon a throne is like the Plague, and everybody receives infection
from him.

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