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Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 29.djvu/182

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James I
of England

Roman catholic, who had succeeded Matthias in his hereditary dominions, and who counted Bohemia among them, rejected Doncaster's mediation, and on 18 Aug. was elected emperor at Frankfort. Two days before (on 16 Aug.) Frederick was chosen king of Bohemia by the Bohemian Diet. In September Dohna arrived in England as Frederick's ambassador, to implore James's assistance in making good this new claim. James laid the matter before the privy council, but on 10 Sept., before a decision was arrived at, news came that Frederick had accepted the crown; and on the 12th James told his council that, as the winter was coming on, there was no need for coming to an immediate conclusion. James wanted an excuse for keeping the peace, and he found it in the rash act of his son-in-law. He told Dohna when he took his leave that he expected to be furnished with evidence of the legality of Frederick's election. His own opinion of his son-in-law's action was revealed in the order given by him to Doncaster to seek out Ferdinand to congratulate him on his election as emperor. Yet he was large-minded enough to perceive that there were two sides to the question, but he was not strong-minded enough to decide on which side the balance of argument or advantage lay.

The change which had passed over James's mind during 1619 appears clearly in two little books which he wrote and printed at the interval of a year. Early in 1619 he gave to the world ‘Meditations on the Lord's Prayer.’ The spirit with which it is pervaded is buoyant, and it contains, along with pious observations, attacks on the puritans and stories from the hunting-field. Another small book, ‘Meditations on vv. 27–29 of the 27th chapter of St. Matthew,’ is written in a far more melancholy strain. There are no jokes in it, no assaults on the puritans; but the crown of thorns is spoken of as the pattern of the crowns of kings, whose wisdom should be applied to tempering discords into a sweet harmony.

James had not yet lost his old self-reliance. On 21 Feb. 1620 Buwinckhausen arrived in London, as an emissary from the princes of the union, to ask James to defend their territory if Spain should attack the Palatinate, the elector palatine being the chief member of the union. James hesitated, and took refuge in an investigation of Frederick's title to Bohemia. In the meanwhile Englishmen were growing excited, and wanted to send help of some kind to the protestant husband of an English princess. James refused permission to Dohna to raise for Frederick a loan in the city, and also refused to allow Sir Andrew Gray to levy soldiers for Bohemia. He told Buwinckhausen that the danger of the union resulted from Frederick's aggression in Bohemia, and that he could therefore do nothing for the princes.

Early in March James changed his mind, giving Gray leave to raise the men he needed, and sending an ambassador to the king of Denmark to borrow money for the defence of the Palatinate. On 5 March, however, Gondomar landed in England on a second embassy, and soon made himself master of James's irresolution by a mixture of firmness and compliment. The marriage treaty was again under discussion, and on 14 March James refused help to Buwinckhausen, on the ground that he hoped to bring about a general peace, which would make warlike preparations needless. On the other hand, he allowed a voluntary contribution to be raised for the princes, and volunteers to be enrolled for the defence of the Palatinate. On 23 March he finally dismissed Buwinckhausen with an answer which bound him to nothing.

As usual there was something to be said both for a policy of war and for a policy of peace. There was nothing to be said for a king who, after putting forward exorbitant claims to be far wiser than his subjects, shifted his ground from day to day, and, claiming to be the indispensable leader of the nation, showed no signs of capacity to lead it. Gondomar was fixing the toils around him, and, without committing himself to any direct engagement, contrived to persuade him that the preparations made in the Spanish Netherlands for a military expedition under Spinola were not directed against the Palatinate. James was busy with many things, and in his anger at the maltreatment of English sailors by the Dutch in the East, he allowed himself in July to be talked over by Gondomar into a plan for a joint attack on the Dutch by the combined forces of Spain and England, the English receiving the promise of Holland and Zealand as their share of the spoil. He then sent forth a whole band of ambassadors to mediate peace on the continent, while he allowed Sir Horace Vere to embark with a regiment of volunteers for the defence of the Palatinate, though he expressed himself with extreme bitterness against his son-in-law.

In September James learnt that Spinola had actually invaded the Palatinate. He was very angry, and publicly announced his intention of helping the princes; but he soon drew back, declaring that his help would be conditional on Frederick's withdrawal from