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HARLES commenced his reign in 1625. He continued to reign about twenty-four years. It will assist the reader to
receive and retain in mind a clear idea of the course of events during his reign, if we regard it as divided
into three periods. During the first, which continued about four years, Charles and the Parliament were both
upon the stage, contending with each other, but not at open war. Each party intrigued, and maneuvered, and
struggled to gain its own ends, the disagreement widening and deepening continually, till it ended in an open
rupture, when Charles abandoned the plan of having Parliaments at all, and attempted to govern alone. This
attempt to manage the empire without a legislature lasted for ten years, and is the second period. After this a
Parliament was called, and it soon made itself independent of the king, and became hostile to him, the two
powers being at open war. This constitutes the third period.
 Thus we have four years spent in getting into the quarrel between the king and Parliament, ten years in an
attempt by the king to govern alone, and, finally, ten years of war, more or less open, the king on one side,
and the Parliament on the other.
The first four years—that is, the time spent in getting really into the quarrel with Parliament, was
Buckingham's work, for during that time Buckingham's influence with the king was paramount and supreme; and
whatever was done that was important or extraordinary, though done in the king's name, really originated in
him. The whole country knew this and were indignant that such a man, so unprincipled, so low in character, so
reckless, and so completely under the sway of his impulses and passions, should have such an influence over the
king, and, through him, such power to interfere with and endanger the mighty interests of so vast a realm.
It must not be supposed, however, in consequence of what has been said about the extent of the regal power in
England, that the daily care and responsibility of the affairs of government, in its ordinary administration,
rested directly upon the king. It is not possible that
 any one mind can even comprehend, far less direct, such an enormous complication of interests and of action as
is involved in the carrying on, from day to day, the government of an empire. Offices, authorities, and
departments of administration spring up gradually, and all the ordinary routine of the affairs of the empire
are managed by them. Thus the navy was all completely organized, with its gradations of rank, its rules of
action, its records, its account books, its offices and arrangements for provisionment and supply, the whole
forming a vast system which moved on of itself, whether the King were present or absent, sick or well, living
or dead. It was so with the army; it was so with the courts; it was so with the general administration of the
government, at London. The immense mass of business which constituted the work of government was all
systematized and arranged, and it moved on regularly, in the hands of more or less prudent and careful men, who
governed, themselves, by ancient rules and usages, and in most cases managed wisely.
Every thing, however, was done in the king's name. The ships were his majesty's ships, the admirals were his
majesty's servants, the
 war was his majesty's war, the court was the King's Bench. The idea was, that all these thousands
of officers, of all ranks and grades, were only an enormous multiplication of his majesty; that they were to do
his will and carry on his administration as he would himself carry it on were he personally capable of
attending to such a vast detail; subject, of course, to certain limits and restrictions which the laws and
customs of the realm, and the promises and contracts of his predecessors, had imposed. But although all this
action was theoretically the king's action, it came to be, in fact, almost wholly independent of him. It went
on of itself, in a regular and systematic way, pursuing its own accustomed course, except so far as the king
directly interposed to modify its action.
It might be supposed that the king would certainly take the general direction of affairs into his
own hands, and that this charge, at least, would necessarily come upon him, as king, day by day. Some monarchs
have attempted to do this, but it is obvious that there must be some provision for having this general charge,
as well as all the subordinate functions of government, attended to independently of the king, as his being
always in a condition to
ful-  fill this duty is not to be relied upon. Sometimes the king is young and inexperienced; sometimes he is sick or
absent; and sometimes he is too feeble in mind, or too indolent, or too devoted to his pleasures, to exercise
any governmental care. There has gradually grown up, therefore, in all monarchies, the custom of having a
central board of officers of state, whom the king appoints, and who take the general direction of affairs in
his stead, except so far as he chooses to interfere. This board, in England, is called the Privy Council.
The Privy Council in England is a body of great importance. Its nature and its functions are, of course,
entirely different from those of the two houses of Parliament. They represent, or are intended to represent,
the nation. The Parliament is, in theory, the nation, assembled at the king's command, to give him their
advice. The Privy Council, on the other hand, represents the king. It is the king's Privy Council. They act in
his name. They follow his directions when he chooses to give any. Whatever they decide upon and decree, the
king signs—often, indeed, without any idea of its nature. Still he signs it, and all such decrees go forth to
the word as the king's
or-  ders in council. The Privy Council, of course, would have its meetings, its officers, its records, its rules
of proceeding, and its various usages, and these grew, in time, to be laws and rights; but still it was, in
theory, only a sort of expansion of the king, as if to make a kind of artificial being, with one soul, but many
heads and hands, because no natural human being could possibly have capacities and powers extensive and
multifarious enough for the exigencies of reigning. Charles thus had a council who took charge of every thing,
except so far as he chose to interpose. The members were generally able and experienced men. And yet Buckingham
was among them. He had been made Lord High Admiral of England, which gave him supreme command of the navy, and
admitted him to the Privy Council. These were very high honors.
This Privy Council now took the direction of public affairs, attended to every thing, provided for all
emergencies, and kept all the complicated machinery of government in motion, without the necessity of the
king's having any personal agency in the matter. The king might interpose, more or less, as he was inclined;
and when he did interpose, he sometimes
 found obstacles in the way of immediately accomplishing his plans, in the forms or usages which had gradually
grown into laws.
For instance, when the king began his reign, he was very eager to have the war for the recovery of the
Palatinate go on at once; and he was, besides, very much embarrassed for want of money. He wished, therefore,
in order to save time, that the old Parliament which King James had called should continue to act under his
reign. But his Privy Council told him that that could not be. That was James's Parliament. If he
wanted one for his reign, he must call upon the people to elect a new Parliament for him.
The new Parliament was called, and Charles sent them a very civil message, explaining the emergency which had
induced him to call them, and the reason why he was so much in want of money. His father had left the
government a great deal in debt. There had been heavy expenses connected with the death of the former king, and
with his own accession and marriage. Then there was the war. It had been engaged in by his father, with the
approbation of the former Parliament; and engagements had been made with allies, which now they could not
 honorably retract. He urged them, therefore, to grant, without delay, the necessary supplies.
The Parliament met in July, but the plague was increasing in London, and they had to adjourn, early in August,
to Oxford. This city is situated upon the Thames, and was then, as it is now, the seat of a great many
colleges. These colleges were independent of each other in their internal management, though united together in
one general system. The name of one of them, which is still very distinguished, was Christ Church College. They
had, among the buildings of that college, a magnificent hall, more than one hundred feet long, and very lofty,
built in a very imposing style. It is still a great object of interest to all who visit Oxford. This hall was
fitted up for the use of Parliament, and the king met the two houses there. He made a new speech himself, and
others were made by his ministers, explaining the state of public affairs, and gently urging the houses to act
with promptness and decision.
The houses then separated, and each commenced its own deliberations. But, instead of promptly complying with
the king's proposals they sent him a petition for redress of a long list of what they called grievances. These
 grievances were, almost all of them, complaints of the toleration and encouragement of the Catholics, through
the influence of the king's Catholic bride. She had stipulated to have a Catholic chapel, and Catholic
attendants, and, after her arrival in England, she and Buckingham had so much influence over the king, that
they were producing quite a change at court, and gradually through all ranks of society, in favor of the
Catholics. The Commons complained of a great many things, nearly all, however, originating in this cause. The
king answered these complaints, clause by clause, promising redress more or less distinctly. There is not room
to give this petition and the answers in full, but as all the subsequent troubles between Charles and the
people of England arose out of this difficulty of his young wife's bringing in so strong a Catholic influence
with her to the realm, it may be well to give an abstract of some of the principal petitions, with the king',
The Commons said:
That they had understood that popish priests, and other Catholics, were gradually creeping in as teachers of
the youth of the realm, in the
 various seminaries of learning, and they wished to have decided measures taken to examine all candidates for
such stations, with a view to the careful exclusion of all who were not true Protestants.
King.—Allowed. And I will send to the archbishops and all the authorities to see that this is done.
Commons.—That more efficient arrangements should be made for appointing able and faithful men in the
Church—men that will really devote themselves to preaching the Gospel to the people; instead of conferring
these places and salaries on favorites, sometimes, as has been the case, several to the same man.
The king made some explanations in regard to this subject, and promised hereafter to comply with this
Commons.—That the laws against sending children out of the country to foreign countries to be educated
in Catholic seminaries should be strictly enforced, and the practice be entirely broken up.
King.—Agreed; and he would send to the lord admiral, and to all the naval officers on
 the coast, to watch very carefully and stop all children attempting to go abroad for such a purpose; and he
would issue a proclamation commanding all the noblemen's children now on the Continent to return by a given
Commons.—That no Catholic (or, as they called him, popish recusant, that is, a person
refusing to subscribe to the Protestant faith, recusant meaning person refusing)
be admitted into the king's service at court; and that no English Catholic be admitted into the queen's
service. They could not refuse to allow her to employ her own French attendants, but to appoint
English Catholics to the honorable and lucrative offices at her disposal was doing a great injury to the
Protestant cause in the realm.
The king agreed to this, with some conditions and evasions.
Commons.—That all Jesuits and Catholic priests, owing allegiance to the See of Rome, should be sent away
from the country, according to laws already existing, after fair notice given; and if they would not go, that
they should be imprisoned in such a manner as to be
 kept from all communication with other persons, so as not to disseminate their false religion.
King.—The laws on this subject shall be enforced.
The above are sufficient for a specimen of these complaints and of the king's answers. There were many more of
them, but they have all the same character—being designed to stop the strong current of Catholic influence and
ascendency which was setting in to the court, and through the court into the realm, through the influence of
the young queen and the persons connected with her. At the present day, and in this country, the Commons will
be thought to be in the wrong, inasmuch as the thing which they were contending against was, in the main,
merely the toleration of the Catholic religion. But then the king was in the wrong too, for, since the laws
against this toleration stood enacted by the consent and concurrence of his predecessors, he should not have
allowed them to be infracted and virtually annulled through the influence of a foreign bride and an unworthy
Perhaps he felt that he was wrong, or
per-  haps his answers were all framed for him by his Privy Council. At all events, they were entirely favorable to
the demands of the Commons. He promised every thing. In many things he went even beyond their demands. It is
admitted, however, on all hands, that, so far as he himself had any agency in making these replies, he was not
really sincere. He himself, and Buckingham, were very eager to get supplies. Buckingham was admiral of the
fleet, and very strongly desired to enlarge the force at his command, with a view to the performing of some
great exploit in the war. It is understood, therefore, that the king intended his replies as promises merely.
At any rate, the promises were made. The Commons were called into the great hall again, at Christ Church, where
the Peers assembled, and the king's answers were read to them. Buckingham joined in this policy of attempting
to conciliate the Commons. He went into their assembly and made a long speech, explaining and justifying his
conduct, and apologizing, in some sense, for what might seem to be wrong.
The Commons returned to their place of deliberation, but they were not satisfied. They wanted something besides
 were in favor of granting supplies "in gratitude to his majesty for his gracious answer." Others thought
differently. They did not see the necessity for raising money for this foreign war. They had greater enemies at
home (meaning Buckingham and popery) than they had abroad. Besides, if the king would stop his waste and
extravagance in bestowing honors and rewards, there would be money enough for all necessary uses. In a word,
there was much debate, but nothing done. The king, after a short time, sent a message to them urging them to
come to a decision. They sent him back a declaration which showed that they did not intend to yield. Their
language, however, was of the most humble character. They called him "their dread sovereign," and themselves
"his poor commons." The king was displeased with them, and dissolved the Parliament. They, of course,
immediately became private citizens, and dispersed to their homes.
After trying some ineffectual attempts to raise money by his own royal prerogatives and powers, the king called
a new Parliament, taking some singular precautions to keep out of it such persons as he thought would oppose
his plans. The Earl of Bristol, whom Buckingham had
 been so jealous of, considering him as his rival, was an influential member of the House of Peers. Charles and
Buckingham agreed to omit him in sending out the royal writs to summon the peers. He petitioned Parliament,
claiming a right to his seat. Charles then sent him his writ, but gave him a command, as his sovereign, not to
attend the session. He also selected four of the prominent men in the House of Commons, men whom he considered
most influential in opposition to him and to Buckingham, and appointed them to offices which would call them
away from London; and as it was the understanding in those days that the sovereign had a right to command the
services of his subjects, they were obliged to go. The king hoped, by these and similar means, to diminish the
influence against him in Parliament, and to get a majority in his favor. But his plans did not succeed. Such
measures only irritated the House and the country. After another struggle this Parliament was dissolved too.
Things went on so for four or five years, the breach between the king and the people growing wider and wider.
Within this time there were four Parliaments called, and, after various
 contentions with them, they were, one after another, dissolved. The original subject of disagreement, viz., the
growing influence of the Catholics, was not the only one. Other points came up, growing out of the king's use
of his prerogative, and his irregular and, as they thought, illegal attempts to interfere with their freedom of
action. The king, or, rather, Buckingham using the king's name, resorted to all sorts of contrivances to
accomplish this object. For instance, it had long been the custom, in case any member of the House of Peers was
absent, for him to give authority to any friend of his, who was also a member, to vote for him. This authority
was called a proxy. This word is supposed to be derived from procuracy, which means action in the
place of, and in behalf of, another. Buckingham induced a great number of the peers to give him their proxies.
He did this by rewards, honors, and various other influences, and he found so many willing to yield to these
inducements, that at one time he had thirty or forty proxies in his hands. Thus, on a question arising in the
House of Lords, he could give a very large majority of votes. The House, after murmuring for some time, and
expressing much discontent and vexation at this
 state of things, finally made a law that no member of the House should ever have power to use more than two proxies.
One of the Parliaments which King Charles assembled at length brought articles of impeachment against
Buckingham, and a long contest arose on this subject. An impeachment is a trial of a high officer of state for
maladministration of his office. All sorts of charges were brought against Buckingham, most of which were true.
The king considered their interfering to call one of his ministers to account as wholly intolerable. He sent
them orders to dismiss that subject from their deliberations, and to proceed immediately with their work of
laying taxes to raise money, or he would dissolve the Parliament as he had done before. He reminded them that
the Parliaments were entirely "in his power for their calling, sitting, and dissolution, and as he found their
fruits were for good or evil, so they were to continue, or not to be." If they would mend their errors and do
their duty, henceforward he would forgive the past; otherwise they were to expect his irreconcilable hostility.
This language irritated instead of alarming them. The Commons persisted in their plan
 of impeachment. The king arrested the men whom they appointed as managers of the impeachment, and imprisoned
them. The Commons remonstrated, and insisted that Buckingham should be dismissed from the king's service. The
king, instead of dismissing him, took measures to have him appointed, in addition to all his other offices,
Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, a very exalted station. Parliament remonstrated. The king, in
retaliation, dissolved the Parliament.
Thus things went on from bad to worse, and from worse to worse again; the chief cause of the difficulties, in
almost all cases, being traceable to Buckingham's reckless and arbitrary conduct. He was continually doing
something in the pursuit of his own ends, by the rash and heedless exercise of the vast powers committed to
him, to make extensive and irreparable mischief. At one time he ordered a part of the fleet over to the coast
of France, to enter the French service, the sailors expecting that they were to be employed against the
Spaniards. They found, however, that, instead of going against the Spaniards, they were to be sent to Rochelle.
Rochelle was a town in France in possession of the Protestants, and the King of
 France wished to subdue them. The sailors sent a remonstrance to their commander, begging not to be forced to
fight against their brother Protestants. This remonstrance was, in form, what is called a Round Robin.
In a Round Robin a circle is drawn, the petition or remonstrance is written within it, and the names are
written all around it, to prevent any one's having to take the responsibility of being the first signer. When
the commander of the fleet received the Round Robin, instead of being offended, he inquired into the facts, and
finding that the case was really as the Round Robin represented it, he broke away from the French command and
returned to England. He said he would rather be hanged in England for disobeying orders than to fight against
the Protestants of France.
Buckingham might have known that such a spirit as this in Englishmen was not to be trifled with. But he knew
nothing, and thought of nothing, except that he wished to please and gratify the French government. When the
fleet, therefore, arrived in England, he peremptorily ordered it back, and he resorted to all sorts of pretexts
and misrepresentations of the facts to persuade the officers and men that they
 were not to be employed against the Protestants. The fleet accordingly went back, and when they arrived, they
found that Buckingham had deceived them. They were ordered to Rochelle. One of the ships broke away and
returned to England. The officers and men deserted from the other ships and got home. The whole armament was
disorganized, and the English people, who took sides with the sailors, were extremely exasperated against
Buckingham for his blind and blundering recklessness, and against the king for giving such a man the power to
do his mischief on such an extensive scale.
At another time the duke and the king contrived to fit out a fleet of eighty sail to make a descent upon the
coast of Spain. It caused them great trouble to get the funds for this expedition, as they had to collect them,
in a great measure, by various methods depending on the king's prerogative, and not by authority of Parliament.
Thus the whole country were dissatisfied and discontented in respect to the fleet before it was ready to sail.
Then, as if this was not enough, Buckingham overlooked all the officers in the navy in selecting a commander,
and put an officer of the army in charge of it;
 a man whose whole experience had been acquired in wars on the land. The country thought that Buckingham ought
to have taken the command himself, as lord high admiral; and if not, that he ought to have selected his
commander from the ranks of the service employed. Thus the fleet set off on the expedition, all on board
burning with indignation against the arbitrary and absurd management of the favorite. The result of the
expedition was also extremely disastrous. They had an excellent opportunity to attack a number of ships, which
would have made a very rich prize; but the soldier-commander either did not know, or did not dare to do, his
duty. He finally, however, effected a landing, and took a castle, but the sailors found a great store of wine
there, and went to drinking and carousing, breaking through all discipline. The commander had to get them on
board again immediately, and come away. Then he conceived the plan of going to intercept what were called the
Spanish galleons, which were ships employed to bring home silver from the mines in America, which the Spaniards
then possessed. On further thoughts he concluded to give up this idea, on account of the plague, which, as he
said, broke out in his
 ships. So he came back to England with his fleet disorganized, demoralized, and crippled, and covered with
military disgrace. The people of England charged all this to Buckingham. Still the king persisted in retaining
him. It was his prerogative to do so.
After a while Buckingham got into a personal quarrel with Richelieu, who was the leading manager of the French
government, and he resolved that England should make war upon France. To alter the whole political position of
such an empire as that of Great Britain, in respect to peace and war, and to change such a nation as France
from a friend to an enemy, would seem to be quite an undertaking for a single man to attempt, and that, too,
without having any reason whatever to assign, except a personal quarrel with a minister about a love affair.
But so it was. Buckingham undertook it. It was the king's prerogative to make peace or war, and Buckingham
ruled the king.
He contrived various ways of fomenting ill will. One was, to alienate the mind of the king from the queen. He
represented to him that the queen's French servants were fast becoming very disrespectful and insolent in their
treatment of him, and finally persuaded him to
 send them all home. So the king went one day to Somerset House, which was the queen's residence—for it is often
the custom in high life in Europe for the husband and wife to have separate establishments—and requested her to
summon her French servants into his presence, and when they were assembled, he told them that he had concluded
to send them all home to France. Some of them, he said, had acted properly enough, but others had been rude and
forward, and that he had decided it best to send them all home. The French king, on hearing of this, seized a
hundred and twenty English ships lying in his harbors in retaliation of this act, which he said was a palpable
violation of the marriage contract, as it certainly was. Upon this the king declared war against France. He did
not ask Parliament to act in this case at all. There was no Parliament. Parliament had been dissolved in a fit
of displeasure. The whole affair was an exercise of the royal prerogative. Nor did the king now call a
Parliament to provide means for carrying on the war, but set his Privy Council to devise modes of doing it,
through this same prerogative.
QUEEN HENRIETTA MARIA.
The attempts to raise money in these ways
 made great trouble. The people resisted, and interposed all possible difficulties. However, some funds were
raised, and a fleet of a hundred sail, and an army of seven thousand men, were got together. Buckingham
undertook the command of this expedition himself, as there had been so much dissatisfaction with his
appointment of a commander to the other. It resulted just as was to be expected in the case of seven thousand
men, and a hundred ships, afloat on the swelling surges of the English Channel, under the command of vanity,
recklessness, and folly. The duke came back to England in three months, bringing home one third of his force.
The rest had been lost, without accomplishing any thing. The measure of public indignation against Buckingham
was now full.
Buckingham himself walked as loftily and proudly as ever. He equipped another fleet, and was preparing to set
sail in it himself, as commander again. He went to Portsmouth, accordingly, for this purpose, Portsmouth being
the great naval station then, as now, on the southern coast of England. Here a man named Felton, who had been
an officer under the duke to the former expedition, and who had been
ex-  tremely exasperated against him on account of some of his management there, and who had since found how
universal was the detestation of him in England, resolved to rid the country of such a curse at once. He
accordingly took his station in the passage-way of the house where Buckingham was, armed with a knife.
Buckingham came out, talking with some Frenchmen in an angry manner, having had some dispute with them, when
Felton thrust the knife into his side as he passed, and, leaving it in the wound, walked away, no one having
noticed who did the deed. Buckingham pulled out the knife, fell down, and died. The by-standers were going to
seize one of the Frenchmen, when Felton advanced and said, "I am the man; you are to arrest me; let no one
suffer that is innocent." He was taken. They found a paper in his hat, saying that he was going to destroy the
duke, and that he could not sacrifice his life in a nobler cause than by delivering his country from so great
King Charles was four miles off at this time. They carried him the news. He did not appear at all concerned or
troubled, but only directed that the murderer—he ought to have said, perhaps, the executioner—should be
secur-  ed, and that the fleet should proceed to sail. He also ordered the treasurer to make arrangements for a splendid
The treasurer said, in reply, that a funeral would only be a temporary show, and that he could hereafter erect
a monument at half the cost, which would be a much more lasting memorial. Charles acceded.
Afterward, when Charles spoke to him about the monument, the treasurer replied, What would the world say if
your majesty were to build a monument to the Duke before you erect one for your father? So the plan was
abandoned, and Buckingham had no other monument than the universal detestation of his countrymen.