Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 10.djvu/79

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scaffold. Its immediate consequences were disastrous. Parliament could not be summoned in the autumn, for fear of its remonstrances against an engagement, the effects of which would be notorious, even if its terms were kept secret, and the war which Buckingham and Charles were urging James to enter on would be starved for want of the supplies which parliament alone could give. The French government, for which so much had been sacrificed, was not to be depended on. In October Louis had refused to give in writing an engagement, which he had indicated in word, that an English force under Mansfeld should be allowed to pass through France to the recovery of the Palatinate. When in December a body of twelve thousand raw levies assembled under Mansfeld at Dover, all the available money for their pay was exhausted, and for the 20,000l. needed for the current month the prince had to give his personal security. Charles and Buckingham were very angry at the persistent refusal of Louis to allow these men to land in France, and they had finally to consent to send them through the Dutch territory, where, being without pay and provisions, the army soon dwindled away to nothing.

This ill-managed expedition of Mansfeld was only one of Buckingham's brilliant but unreal schemes, and though when, on 27 March 1625, James died and Charles succeeded to the throne, it was not fully known how completely the new king was a mere cipher to give effect to Buckingham's views, suspicions could not but find their way abroad. ‘He is either an extraordinary man,’ said a shrewd Frenchman of the new sovereign, ‘or his talents are very mean. If his reticence is affected in order not to give jealousy to his father, it is a sign of consummate prudence. If it is natural and unassumed, the contrary inference may be drawn’ (Mémoires de Brienne, i. 399).

For a moment it seemed as if the weakness of Charles's position would be forgotten. Much that we know clearly was only suspected, and the young king gained credit by restoring order in his father's disorderly household. Charles, heedless of favourable or unfavourable opinions, pushed on his preparations for war, prepared to send a large fleet to sea against Spain, entered into an engagement to send 30,000l. a month to the king of Denmark, who now headed the league against the catholic powers in Germany, and borrowed money to place Mansfeld's army once more on a military footing. He also summoned a new parliament, and was known to be anxious to meet it as soon as possible.

On 1 May Charles was married by proxy to Henrietta Maria, and on 13 June he received his bride at Canterbury. On the 18th his first parliament met. In his speech at the opening of the session he expressed his confidence that the houses would support him in the war in which he had engaged at their instigation, but neither he nor any official speaking in his name explained what his projects were or how much money would be needed to carry them out. The commons, instead of attending to his wishes, sent up a petition on the state of religion, and voted two subsidies, or about 140,000l., a sum quite inadequate to carry on a serious war. Charles, taken aback, directed Sir John Coke to explain to the commons that a far larger sum was needed, and, when this had no effect, adjourned parliament to Oxford, as the plague was raging in London. In order to conciliate his subjects he announced his intention of putting the laws against recusants in execution, thus abandoning his promise to the king of France as he had previously abandoned his promise to his own parliament. He seems to have justified his conduct to himself on the ground that, Louis having broken his engagement to allow Mansfeld to land in France, he was himself no longer bound.

When parliament met again it appeared that the prevailing motive of the commons was distrust of Buckingham. The final breach came on a demand for counsellors in which parliament could confide, or, in other words, for counsellors other than Buckingham. Charles refused to sacrifice his favourite, believing that to allow ministerial responsibility to grow up would end by making the crown subservient to parliaments, and dissolved parliament on 12 Aug.

That the executive government of the crown was not subject to parliamentary control was a maxim which Charles and his father had received from their Tudor predecessors. Even if Charles had been willing to admit that this maxim might be set aside in case of his own misconduct, he would have argued that the misconduct was now all on the side of the commons. He did not see that his own change of front in the matter of the catholics exposed him to suspicion, or that the failure of Mansfeld's expedition was in any way the fault of himself or of his minister.

Two other circumstances concurred to make the commons suspicious. Charles had lent some ships to the French king, which were to be used against the protestants of Rochelle, and it was not known at the time that he had done his best, by means of an elaborate intrigue, to prevent them being used for that purpose [see Pennington, Sir John]. The