Open main menu

Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 29.djvu/180

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
James I
of England
174

negotiation which had been previously entered on for a marriage between Charles and Christina, the sister of Louis XIII, as a preliminary to a more formal procedure in the Spanish treaty.

In the same year James finally settled accounts with Coke, who was now chief justice of the king's bench, and in that capacity assumed a right of interfering with the chancery when it gave a decision in contravention of one already delivered in the king's bench. At his instigation, too, the judges proceeded to deal with a case relating to commendams, though they had been ordered by James, through Bacon, to stop the trial till they had spoken to the king. James summoned all the judges before him, and asked them whether they would acknowledge that they ought, in a case which concerned the king, to stay proceedings till he could consult with them. Coke alone refused to submit, and on 30 June was suspended from the chief-justiceship, from which he was ultimately dismissed [see Bacon, Francis, and Coke, Sir Edward ]. On 20 June James had declared in the Star-chamber his views on the relation between the crown and the judges. ‘As in the absolute prerogative of the crown,’ he said, ‘that is no subject for the tongue of a lawyer, nor is it lawful to be disputed. … It is presumption and high contempt in a subject to dispute what a king can do, or say that a king cannot do this or that; [he must] rest in that which is the king's will revealed in his law.’

Meanwhile James persisted in an unpopular foreign policy. In March 1617 he finally decided upon opening formal negotiations for his son's marriage with the Infanta Maria; and in the course of the year he charged Digby to carry them on at Madrid [see Digby, John, first Earl of Bristol]. In part, at least, he was actuated by his desire of acquiring a large marriage portion. For the same reason, no doubt, he in 1616 liberated Raleigh at the request of Villiers, giving him leave to seek a gold mine on the Orinoco, but leaving him exposed to the penalty of death pronounced on him for treason in 1603 in case of his doing any injury to the lands or subjects of the king of Spain [see Raleigh, Sir Walter ].

At home the most striking feature of court life was James's inordinate fondness for Villiers, who was rapidly promoted in the peerage, till, in 1623, he became duke of Buckingham. James heaped riches on his new favourite, and entrusted him with the patronage of the crown, while he kept the direction of policy in his own hands [see Villiers, George, Duke of Buckingham ]. Buckingham soon discovered that James would support him in his quarrels whether he was right or wrong, and in 1617 James took his part in a question arising out of a proposed marriage between one of his brothers and Coke's daughter, a marriage to which Bacon was opposed. With James's help Buckingham brought Bacon on his knees.

During the progress of this dispute James was on a visit to Scotland. Not content with the establishment of episcopacy in Scotland, he had come to desire the introduction of some of the rites of the church of England into his native country. In 1614 and 1615 he ordered that all persons in Scotland should receive the communion on Easter-day; and in 1616 he called on an assembly which met at Aberdeen to adopt five articles which he sent down. The communion was to be received in a kneeling posture; it was, in cases of sickness, to be administered in private houses; baptism was, if necessary, to be administered in the same way; there were to be days set apart in commemoration of the birth, passion, and resurrection of the Saviour; and, finally, children were to be brought to the bishop to receive his blessing. Resistance to these proposals at once declared itself, and James postponed their consideration. He gave, however, no little offence by sending an organ before him to be set up in the chapel at Holyrood, and the force of public opinion compelled him to withdraw an order for the erection of some figures of patriarchs and apostles in the same chapel.

In spite of these preliminary difficulties James was well received in Scotland, where he laid the foundation of future trouble by enforcing kneeling at the reception of the communion on great persons attending the court at Edinburgh. He lectured the nobility on the patriotism that they would show if they surrendered their heritable jurisdictions, and though he attempted in vain to get an act passed acknowledging his own power to determine all matters relating to the external government of the church ‘with the actions of the archbishops, bishops, and a competent number of the ministry,’ he at once claimed the power as inherent in the crown in default of legislation. The best thing that he did was to increase the low stipends of the clergy; but this was afterwards used as a lever to make them subservient. In 1618, after he had himself returned to England, James obtained from an assembly held at Perth an acceptance of his five articles, partly by pressure put upon the ministers by the nobility, but also by threatening them with lowering the increased stipends of those who voted against his wishes.