Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Henry Frederick (1594-1612)

1389924Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 26 — Henry Frederick (1594-1612)1891Thomas Finlayson Henderson ‎

HENRY FREDERICK, Prince of Wales (1594–1612), eldest son of James VI of Scotland (I of England), by his queen, Anne, second daughter of Frederick II and sister of Christian IV of Denmark, was born in the castle of Stirling, between two and three in the morning of 19 Feb. 1593–4. The birth of an heir to the throne caused special rejoicing throughout Scotland, and his baptism took place on 30 Aug. with much pomp and ceremony. He was created Duke of Rothesay, great steward and prince of Scotland, on 30 Aug. 1594. On 28 January 1594–1595 'Margaret Mastertoun, maistres nureis to the Prince', received her certificate of discharge (Reg. P. C. Scotl. v. 200), and shortly afterwards the prince was entrusted to the hereditary guardianship of the Earl of Mar, Arabella, countess-dowager of Mar, who had had the charge of the king himself, being specially entrusted with his keeping. The arrangement was displeasing to the queen, who, influenced it was supposed by the Chancellor Maitland, Lord Thirlstane, endeavoured to have the prince transferred to Edinburgh, under the charge of Scott of Buccleuch. This the king refused, and at last the queen agreed to change her residence from Edinburgh to Stirling, so as to be near the prince. On 24 July 1595 the king gave Mar a warrant, in which he stated: 'In case God call me at any time, see that neither for the Queen nor estates their pleasure you deliver him' (the prince) 'till he be eighteen years of age, and that he command you himself' (Birch, Prince Henry, p. 13). About July 1599 the prince was transferred from the care of the Countess of Mar—described as 'waste and extenuat by her former service' (Reg. P. C. Scotl. vi. 18)—and placed under the tutorship of Adam Newton, attendants of rank, the chief of whom was the Earl of Mar, were also assigned him. The same year the king printed his 'Basilicon Doron,' which he had completed for his special instruction of the prince. The early letters of the prince cannot be accepted as a strict test of his progress in education or of his mental ability, except in regard to penmanship, which he is remarkably good. They bear internal evidence of having been inspired by his tutor; and the king himself expressed a desire that may be 'wholly yours, as well matter as form, as well formed by your mind as drawn by your fingers' (Birch, Prince Henry, p. 36). Shortly before the death of Queen Elizabeth, Pope Clement VIII offered, on condition that James would transfer the education of the prince 'to his appointment,' to assist him with such sums of money as would secure his establishment on the English throne, but James declined the proposal. On the death of Elizabeth James wrote to the prince, who now became Duke of Cornwall, a letter advising him not to let the news make him 'proud or insolent; for,' said he, 'a king's son and heir were ye before, and no more are ye now.'

When the king set out for England on 4 April 1603, he ordered the queen to follow him within about twenty days, and to leave the prince meanwhile at Stirling. The queen, anxious not to let slip possibly her last opportunity of getting the prince out of the hands of the house of Mar, proceeded, however, immediately to Stirling, so as to carry the prince with her to England. Those in charge, mindful of the king's former warrant to Mar, 'gave a flat denial' to her request (Calderwood, Hist. Church of Scotland, vi. 230). This occasioned the queen such bitter disappointment that she fell into a fever, which caused a miscarriage. On learning what happened James despatched Mar to bring the queen to England, but she refused to leave unless accompanied by the prince, whereupon the king sent the Duke of Lennox with a warrant to Mar to deliver up the prince to the duke, who again was to deliver up the prince to the duke, who again was to deliver him up to the council. The council, 'to pleasure the queen,' then gave him up to her to be brought into England, certain noblemen—of whom Mar was not one—being appointed to attend upon her on the journey. On 1 June they set out for England, and on the last day of the month arrived at Windsor. At the celebration of the feast of St. George at Windsor, on 2 July, the prince was invested with the order of the Garter, on which occasion the English courtiers are said to have been specially impressed by his ‘quick, witty answers, princely carriage, and reverend obeisance at the altar.’ On account of the increase of the plague the prince was the same month removed from Windsor to Oatlands, Surrey, where ‘he took house to himself.’ He also occasionally resided at Hampton Court. During the visit of the Constable of Castile to England in 1604 a proposal was made, at the instance of the queen, for the marriage of the prince to the Infanta Anne, eldest daughter of Philip III, and at that time heiress to the Spanish throne; but the king of Spain demanded that he should be sent to Spain to be educated as a catholic, and the negotiations proved futile. They were renewed again in 1605, and also in 1607, but without any definite result. In August 1605 the prince matriculated at Magdalen College, Oxford (Wood, Fasti, i. 316).

In a letter of 31 Oct. 1606 De la Boderie, the French ambassador, writes of the prince: ‘None of his pleasures savour the least of a child. He is a particular lover of horses and what belongs to them, but is not fond of hunting; and when he goes to it it is rather for the pleasure of galloping than that which the dogs give him. He plays willingly enough at tennis, and at another Scots diversion very like mall [golf, no doubt]; but this always with persons older than himself, as if he despised those of his own age. He studies two hours, and employs the rest of his time in tossing the pike, or leaping, or shooting with the bow, or throwing the bar, or vaulting, or some other exercise of that kind; and he is never idle’ (quoted in Birch, pp. 75–6). The prince was clearly fonder of outdoor exercise than of study. The ambassador adds: ‘He is already feared by those who have the management of affairs, and specially the Earl of Salisbury, who appears to be greatly apprehensive of the prince's ascendant; as the prince, on the other hand, shows little esteem for his lordship.’ The prince had also the reputation of being very decorous in his behaviour, strict in his attendance on public worship, and punctilious in regard to the manners of all those in attendance on him or in his service. He ordered boxes at his several houses, ‘causing all those who did swear in his hearing to pay money to the same, which were after duly given to the poor’ (Cornwallis, Account of Prince Henry, 1751 edit. p. 22). He took a special interest both in naval and military affairs, endeavouring thoroughly to master the art of war in all its branches. On 10 June 1607 he was admitted a member of the London Merchant Taylors' Company. In 1608, when the prince's servant and friend Phineas Pett was accused of misdemeanors in connection with the navy, the prince stood by him during the inquiry, and on his being declared innocent expressed the opinion that his accusers ‘worthily deserved hanging.’ The prince was equally outspoken in regard to the treatment of his friend Sir Walter Raleigh, declaring, in reference to Raleigh's imprisonment, that no man but his father would keep such a bird in such a cage.

On 4 June 1610 Henry was created Earl of Chester and Prince of Wales, after which he held his court at St. James's, which was set apart for his residence. It soon became much more frequented than that of his father, who is said to have peevishly exclaimed, in reference to his son's popularity, ‘ Will he bury me alive?’ In April 1611 an application was made to the king of England on behalf of the Prince of Piedmont, eldest son of the Duke of Savoy, for the hand of the Princess Elizabeth, on condition that a marriage were also arranged between the Prince of Wales and the eldest daughter of the duke; but the proposal was received coldly in England. Sir Walter Raleigh wrote in opposition to it. It was not desired by the prince himself, although he veiled his disinclination to it to avoid irritating his father. Latterly, on a choice being submitted to him between the Savoyard princess and the eldest daughter of the regent of France, he gave an undecided answer, hinting that he would prefer not to be bound to either. All the while he nourished a secret plan of accompanying his sister to Germany, where it was his intention to choose a wife for himself. Matters, however, were destined to go no further; for on 10 Oct. 1612 he was seized with a severe illness. During the autumn he had been afflicted with lassitude, and occasionally severe headaches, but apparently gave insufficient heed to these symptoms. Even after being seriously ill he played at tennis in chilly weather with insufficient clothing. Next day he was unable to rise from his bed, and after various fluctuations he succumbed on 6 Nov. (cf. for narrative of the illness Cornwallis, Account, extracts from which are printed in Peck, Desiderata; and also T. T. Mayerne, Opera Medica, 1701; a translation of Mayerne's account is included in Dr. Norman Moore's pamphlet). He was buried in Westminster Abbey 8 Nov. The course of the illness puzzled the physicians, who, beyond declaring it to be fever, were unable further to determine its nature. A general opinion prevailed that he had been poisoned, some even hinting that he owed his death to the king's jealousy of his popularity, while other rumours pointed to Somerset, who was said to have been a rival with the prince for the affections of the Lady Essex. These surmises have been set at rest by the pamphlet of Dr. Norman Moore ‘On the Illness and Death of Henry, Prince of Wales,’ in which it is conclusively demonstrated that the case was one of typhoid fever.

The sudden illness and death of such a promising and popular heir to the throne caused a profound sensation throughout the kingdom, and occasioned an extraordinary number of elegies and lamentations, in prose and verse (see list in Nichols, Progresses of James I, pp. 504–12). ‘The lamentation made for him was so general,’ wrote Sir Simonds D'Ewes, ‘as men, women, and children partook of it.’ Bacon described him as slow of speech, pertinent in his questions, patient in listening, and of strong understanding. Bishop Goodman, in his ‘Diary’ (ed. Brewer, i. 250–251), states that ‘he did sometimes pry into the king's actions, and a little dislike them, … and truly I think he was a little self-willed.’ Henry was at least honest and courageous. Probably his abilities were considerably greater than those of his brother Charles; but he was equally headstrong, and there is every reason to suppose that he possessed quite as strict and stern notions in regard to kingly prerogatives.

Portraits by Mierevelt, C. Jonson, G. Honthorst, Paul Van Somer, and G. Jamesone were exhibited at the Stuart Exhibition in 1889, together with two miniatures and a painting of the prince and Anne of Denmark by an unknown artist (Catalogue, pp. 24, 26–8, 32, 70). A portrait by Mytens is engraved in Doyle's ‘Official Baronage,’ and a second portrait by Van Somer is in the National Gallery; at Windsor there is a miniature by Isaac Oliver, which has been engraved by Houbraken. There are other numerous engraved portraits (Bromley, Catalogue of Engraved Portraits, p. 47).

[An Account of the Baptism, Life, Death, and Funeral of the most incomparable Prince Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales, by Sir Charles Cornwallis, knt., his Highness's treasurer, reprinted 1751; Birch's Life of Henry, Prince of Wales, 1760; Doyle's Official Baronage, s.v. ‘Cornwall;’ Sir James Melville's Memoir (Bannatyne Club); D'Ewes's Journal, ed. Halliwell; Moyse's Memoirs (Bannatyne Club); Coke's Detection; Goodman's Court of James I, ed. Brewer; Osborne's Secret Hist. of James I; Nichols's Progresses of James I; Calderwood's Hist. Church of Scotland; Register Privy Council of Scotland; Calendars of State Papers during reign of James I; Dr. Norman Moore's Illness and Death of Henry, Prince of Wales, in 1612, an historical case of Typhoid Fever, 1882; Burton's Hist. of Scotland; Gardiner's Hist. of England; Jesse's Memoirs of the Court of England during the Time of the Stuarts.]

T. F. H.