The identity of Mr Wiat’s mysterious traveler is revealed, and London goes potty. Buckingham is confirmed as the Prince’s favourite as well as the king’s – and there’s trouble in story for Lionel Cranfield
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Now, Mr Wiat had a mysterious visitor to his pub on the 5th October 1623 in Godalming, and I bet yoi have been worrying ad worrying about who he could possibly have been. Well, just in case you hadn’t guessed – he was of course the heir to the king of England and Prince of Wales, Charles Stuart – and friends. Charles, Buckingham and their entourage had landed at Southampton that very morning.
It had become increasingly clear that this marriage negotiation was a busted flush, once Olivares has fessed up after the constant delays and particularly Olivares’ jawdropping admission that they would never do anything to return the Palatinate to Frederick by war. Charles later said that his response to Olivares’ bon mot was to say
‘if you hold yourself to that, there is an end of all; for without this you may not rely upon either marriage or friendship’.
That was me channelling Alec Guiness – how’d I do? So it would look as though that was that, the fat lady was givin’ it her all, but the form, ladies and gentlemen, the form must be adhered to, the diplomatic form that this was the best of all possible worlds populated by the best of friends. It was agreed that a betrothal would surely take place, Philip and Charles solemnly swore to put all the marriage articles into place, and Charles signed a letter committing to the betrothal, and gave it to Digby to serve on the Spanish Court once the final papal dispensation had arrived. By this stage, Buckingham and Olivares had comprehensively fallen out and clearly hated each other’s guts – the Spanish would continue to blame Buckingham for the impending failure of the whole thing, for fail it had, just in case you are not clear about that. Funnily enough before they left Charles sent a servant back with another letter to give to Digby telling him not to proceed with the betrothal until he had an assurance that the Infanta would not sneak off to a nunnery to avoid the marriage – clearly Charles had started to pick up vibes from Maria Anna. But the real intention was to find a way to delay without specifically breaking his stated oath.
There was a final fond farewell with Philip IV, many hugs and kisses and expressions of undying love and amity and the exchange of precious gifts. Then, jumping onto the back their horses and off to Santander to catch the ferry in the form of the Royal Navyal ships, and Buckingham’s spirits lifted as he wrote to James
‘my heart and very soul dances for joy, for the change will be no less than to leap from trouble to ease, from sadness to mirth – nay, from hell to heaven’
Not a letter you’ll find on any Spanish Tourist board website, obviously. Thence to Southampton, to the pub for a snifter with Mr & Mrs Wiat, and on to London, to arrive in a classic early morning English drizzle. The news had preceded them. London went wild. London went Potty. Wild with excitement, and wild with relief, because their prince had returned, and he was not married, there was no female equivalent of Philip II at the side of their future monarch, this was not to be Bloody Mary II the Return, the Burnings Continue. The bells rang out all over London; the bells at Lambeth were rung so hard and so long they had to buy new bell ropes. Clarendon described the scenes as
The loudest and most universal over the whole kingdom that the nation had ever been acquainted with
Clearly in those days there was no sentence with which you could not end with a preposition. In the street, the merchants set up tresle tables spread with food for street parties, at Cambridge the university decreed extra rations for the undergrads. As the news spread a cartload of felons off to Tyburn to be hanged was stopped by order of the Privy Council – and all said felons released back into the wild. And bonfires, ladies and gentlemen, bonfires that’s what you need to have a good time – as well as booze, obviously, goes without saying – a bonfire is what you need to have a good time in Jacobean England. Cartloads of timber were waylaid and tipped into the street to start bonfires all over London, when the timber ran out everyone made a contribution – rubbish, fat, washtubs, bits of old furniture – or new furniture if the neighbours weren’t watching carefully enough. 335 bonfires between Whitehall and Temple bar apparently. It’s about a mile from Whitehall to Temple bar, so that, ladies and gents is one bonfire for every 5 yards. Impressive. We do bonfires here, always have always will. The memory of this hooley and its importance to the national will lived on, as one wag put it
On the 5th October
It will be treason to be sober
In Aberdeen the magistrates led the men of the town in an extended procession, the Irish Plantations paraded in Militias, it was reported that old men wandered through the streets of Great Yarmouth
‘with droppes of joy trickling along their cheeks acknowledging such triumphanting they did never behold’
That happens a lot in Yarmouth I have to say. Bishop William Laud, the villain of tomorrow for many, noted in his diary that he had just witnessed
the greatest expression of joy by all sorts of people that I ever saw
I could go on – you get the point, people were pleased. Part of it was the surprise – from the public reports the marriage had been proceeding decorously towards consummation; now its opponents, i.e. most people, were suddenly off the hook, although as one commentator remarked with indecent schadenfreude that recusants ‘are silent and much dasht in countenance’.
Charles and Buckingham, didn’t stay long to enjoy the party – although Buckingham must have been loving his sudden and meteoric rise in popularity; from being the villain who’d been drip feeding his king poison now suddenly he was the bee’s elbows. The crowd is a fickle thing. But the crowd was there hanging around York House where they stayed over night, and thence set out for Royston, the king, and maybe a spot of hunting the following morning. In fact there were so many in the crowd that the King’s coach had to be carried through the masses. Charles
Leaned his body out of the coach with his hat in hand and gave thanks to them all for their love
And heard cries of
We have him…we have our prince again
Well, good golly miss Molly what a to do. Before we move on, let us, leave the fires, dancing, drinking and smoke, and reflect on the whole Spanish Match thingy and whether it is anything but a wart on the buttock of history, a carbuncle on the big toe of destiny. Well, I would argue that it has indeed some impacts and consequences.
First of all; we have spoken a few short episodes ago about the growth of a public space. The fuss about the match confirms that political reportage was here to stay. James had tried hard to repress debate and sermonising but still the news was out, debate was public, awareness of politics was high. Next, or as part of that, Royal actions were no longer simply the matter for kings with all their theocratic glory, magnificence and distance, much as they would wish it were – they were scrutinised, analysed and evaluated, hung in the scales of public opinion and weighed. Next, the Catholic scare and panic was part of the atmosphere and politics now, good and proper; an engrained belief in papal and Spanish plots, however absurd they might be in actuality.
Maybe even worse for Charles’ future, here was polarised politics – fiercely held beliefs at opposite ends of the scale; but this time, the threat to Protestantism hadn’t just come from the Spanish or the Pope; when the fires had died out and the barrels of beer rolled away, people might reflect that the threat had come from the very font of nationhood; from the King and from the Court. It may be stretching it a bit, but for many the affair gave a choice for their loyalty – not for king and country, but for king OR country, and that is a rooster that would come home to, well, roost.
On the more immediate front, the polarisation created a sort of dichotomy; it had become either peace with Spain – or war with Spain. In the public mind there was no middle ground anymore. And as it would turn out – not just in the public mind, but in the mind of Charles and his favourite, the Duke of Buckingham. Because Buckingham was indeed now not just James’ favourite, but Charles’ too; 6 months in Spain had forged the relationship, and indeed reliance of the Prince on his mentor. Charles’ love and passion for the Infanta would steadily turn to hatred and passion, though for some time the empty promises on both sides were pursued; but he felt humiliated, his hood had been completely winked, and deceived by his Spanish hosts. Now he wanted vengeance.
Charles had to blame someone, and it clearly wasn’t going to be him, nor could it be his Bessie Buckingham. The selected culprit was in fact John Digby, Earl of Bristol, the special envoy and supposedly Spanish expert, who had in fact turned out to be Spanish inexpert, and rather credulous and for whose glowing reports that this thing was essentially in the bag, Charles blamed for his humiliation, and his anger grew. When Digby tried to return in 1624 he was confined to barracks and sent a list of questions to answer charges that he had connived and plotted with the Spaniards. In the end he was sent to Coventry – well home to Sherborne actually but not allowed to attend parliaments. He would still have a part to play in the story, however, but we’ll come to that in 1626, so let’s leave him noodling in lovely Sherborne.
Now then, James was a sick man, with another attack of gout. His Steenie and baby Charles weren’t helping; because despite his renewed and continued desire for peace, the pair were bending James’ ear to flip to the very opposite – and declare war on the Spanish in the name of defending England and Europe against the arrogance and war mongering of the Hapsburgs. Suffering, James retired from matters of state as part of his convalescence and put together a Committee Council of State to run things until he was back fit and raring to go, should that be achievable with the help of a few hideous potions and presumably the odd leach or six. Nothing you can’t do with a few strategically placed leaches, but please don’t try this at home. The Committee Council is interesting, because now Charles and The Buck set to work to try and build a War party among said privy Councillors – and to use that council to persuade the king to vote for the thing he hated more than all – a new parliament. Because war is pricey. They estimated that the minimum they’d need to make an effective start to a European war was north of £900,000, and they couldn’t find that from the back of the sofa.
The Committee Council formed a useful platform to try and create this new war party, and they went to work; there was lots of smooching and rapprochements, Buckingham persuading James to release the earl of Oxford from the Tower and so on, lots of you ‘scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’ sort of thing – the way policy and business was conducted at court. An awful lot of two facedness going on too, I mean obviously; for example Williams, the Bishop of Lincoln was on the council, and Buckingham knew he was briefing against Buckingham – but none the less he gritted his teeth and acted the best buddy thing. But when war and the calling of parliament were discussed in Council, it was hard going. In the For an anti Hapsburg party lined up one James Hay, the Earl of Carlisle. Hay was a Scot who had come south with James and done well; he also married a woman of enormous talent, one Lucy Hay, Daughter of the Earl of Northumberland – the wizard earl as he was called because of his alchemical experiments while he was incarcerated in the Tower, suspected of complicity in the Gunpowder plot. We will hear more of the Countess of Carlisle over the next decade or so.
Anyway, Carlisle was on this side, as was James’ Secretary of State, Edward Conway. Opposed though were Arundel, and Richard Weston; Weston was the Chancellor of the Exchequer, while the other money man, Lionel Cranfield the Lord Treasurer was also for peace with Spain – both of them knew just how wobbly were the state finances. Calvert, another Secretary of State, was a catholic and therefore pro Spain, and the Bishop of Lincoln blew where best lay his advantage. Still, by December, Charles and Buckingham had finally achieved a first step, and gained agreement to recommend a parliament to the king. And of course they reckoned a parliament would be hot hot hot for war with Spain Spain Spain.
James was suitably pressurised by his son – at one point bursting into tears an exclaiming to Charles
Do you want to commit me to war in my old age and make me break with Spain?’
To which Charles replied along the lines of ‘yup, pretty much’. So James ordered the writs sent out for a new parliament. But let’s be clear – the Committee was not persuaded of the need for war, just for parliament and more cash. Buckingham and Charles however knew that they were now, unusually, sailing in the same direction as public opinion, a nice feeling for them. So – they planned to use parliament to leverage the king and council into war. This is not normal; the idea of two courtiers and close advisers of the monarch, and one his son, using parliament as a political tool against their own king is distinctly new. For Charles in the longer term it would bear fruit that was not only bitter, but good only for the compost bin.
Outside the committee, Buckingham had more success getting converts for war at court and elsewhere – Essex, Southampton, Saye and Sele, Warwick, Edward Coke, Edwin Sandys and the Cornish MP John Eliot. But Buckingham still faced a deal of opposition and resentment in the Lords, though that opposition was less than it had once been. It concentrated around the older members of the peerage; who saw Villiers as a horrid parvenu – peers don’t like parvenus, only old-venus please, parvenues say things like settee and lounge and serviette – and over the last 10 years or so they had seen the currency of their peerage devalued. So, ready for some stats? Here they come. In 1615 there had been 81 peers. In 1628 there would be 126 of the blighters, all over the place like flies couldn’t go into the garden without treading on a peer it seems. The growth of Earldoms within that was even more dramatic; a paltry 27 in 1615, hardly enough to keep a fly alive, 65 in 1628. Good golly, two a penny. This had a dual impact though; most of the new peers had bought the peerages through the offices of the Villiers clan; but the old peerage hated all these new families. However – hatred of Spain was pretty near universal, and so it was that which really that helped Buckingham build his party of patriots.
In February 1624, Parliament opened; James’ speech made Charles out to be the Hero of the Spanish negotiations, and openly asked for advice about what should be done in the Palatinate and Spain. Well, by gum, the king, who had so often told commoners to keep their noses well out of great matters and mysteries of State – here he was asking for advice from them. The Parliament of 1624 therefore rather broke the trend; it actually for once represented a coming together, a relative consensus. The Spanish Match had caused great polarisation, but its abandonment restored harmony for the majority; and while it was clear that James still favoured peace, and his difference on that point with Buckingham and Charles was therefore most confusing; parliament was willing to unite behind them, since James appeared prepared to stand to one side. And so business proceeded. 73 Statutes were enacted – a lot of them piddly little private members acts, but still wow, good job guys. Charles on 28th February introduced a motion for war in front of both houses on my future birthday as it happens, urging that they must
Begin with Spain before they begin with us
There was general applause, Charles glowed. The Earl of Kellie reported that the men
That did disturb the last parliament were now all much for my lord of Buckingham as they were then against him
John Eliot, an eloquent and powerful speaker, declared that ‘war must be the thing that must repair us’. John Pym, the MP who had caused such a ruckus at the 1621 parliament that he’d been imprisoned by James, saw that with things going in the right direction, raising the constitutional issue would be counter productive, and spoke in favour of subsidies for war:
‘we have made one step from the greatest danger that ever threatened us, God grant that we relapse not again’.
Parliament presented a petition to the King at Theobalds stating their willingness for the war; James responded that while he hated war, it was all a bit academic because he didn’t have two beans to rub together – and so asked for a whopping great subsidy worth £780,000. While Parliament dithered about his and muttered into tits goatee beard about recession and could the nation afford such a lot of money, the England outside parliament was taking an interest – and the mongers of peace were as hard to find as the lands of the jumblies – far and few, far and few. Pamphlets appeared. An Exeter merchant wrote a skit called voices from Heaven, where Elizabeth looked down lamenting that in her day ‘Spain felt the English were soldiers’, while Edward VI’s wraith wished that Englishmen were more martial and less effeminate. The Puritan Thomas Scott published a second edition of that piece, Vox Populi, where he imagined Gondomar evily celebrating how rubbish the English were; the Scot Alexander Leighton published a tract from Amsterdam hammering Gondomar. The ’Roaring Boys of London’ sang daily praise of Buckingham – so recently the villain, now suddenly the hero
Then Merry be my lads and let us drink his health
We’ll wish him honour and renown and what he wants of wealth
You might ask what a roaring boy might be, and it seems they appeared regularly in plays of the time – as did indeed a roaring girl, the figure of Moll Cutpurse, about whom we will hear when in a few weeks I subject you to three, yes three, episodes on the Renaissance theatre. You won’t be surprised to learn that they were famed for drinking, swearing, smoking and violence; in Ben Jonson’s the Alchemist they are the young offspring of gentlemen up from the country, in others they are more working class, but either way they affected the style of the urban gentleman.
Talking of plays, later in the year in August Thomas Middleton’s play A Game of Chess performed at the Globe. It was performed in front of James too at Belvoir in Leicestershire and he compared it to Vox Populi, calling it ‘six times worse against the Spaniards’. In London the play drew 30,000 people over its 9 days. Now that is about 10% pf the entire population of London. Imagine that now – 900,000 flocking to see, I don’t know, Widow Crankie and the Temple of Doom or whatever. Or Rosenkrantz and Gildernstern are dead, which my boss once forced my sales team to go and see at a conference much against my protestations, and through which they proceeded to sleep soundly until they could get back to the bar at the hotel and the real business of sales conferences.
Nor was all this passion for war religiously driven – memories were long, it wasn’t many years since the end of the war, John Chamberlein wrote that those flocking to the Globe were
All sorts of people, old and young, rich and poor, masters and servants, papists and Puritans, wise men, churchmen and statesmen…and a world besides’.
The Spanish Ambassador, now a chap called Coloma, wrote to Olivares that they came out the other end of the play
So inflamed against Spain that, as a few catholics have told me who went secretly to see the play, my person would not be safe in the streets.
He complained bitterly at being forced to see
The sacred name of my king outraged in so many ways by such low, vile people, nor his holy and glorious acts so unworthily interpreted
There was a certain amount of to-ing that went on between parliament and James, and some Fro-ing as well. Clearly the king’s demand for £780,000 was somewhat eye-watering, and anyway they noticed it included the king’s debts so, that wasn’t strictly related to going to war then. So, James agreed to drop that part of it, and to agree to ring fence the cash to be voted purely for military purposes. As a result, he received half a loaf – or 40% of a loaf you might say; subsidies that would amount to £300,000. It was nubbut a start he said slightly ungraciously – but without doubt with some accuracy, a major continental war would cost a good deal more than £300,000. But a deal at least was done.
The Spanish recognised that they were losing control of this situation, all of a sudden; the extended negotiations over the Spanish Match had delightfully helped them support James in his search for peace with Spain. But Buckingham and Charles’ dramatic volte face had blown everything sky high. They clearly identified the weak spot to be Buckingham; obviously they could not attack Charles. So they approached James and made a series of accusations against The Buckster. It was he that had killed the marriage negotiations they said; now he was planning to lock James away and put Charles on the throne they swore. And for a while James appeared to wobble. He reflected that maybe Buckingham’s influence over his lad was excessive, and had turned his head away from Spain
‘he was as well affected to that nation as heart could desire, and as well disposed as any son in Europe; but now he was strangely carried away with rash and youthful counsels and followed the humour of Buckingham, who had he knew not how many devils within him since that journey
But in the end Buckingham’s influence was too strong. In March, to wild celebrations in London, accompanied by, of course, Bonfires, James announced that he would break the marriage treaties with Spain.
There remained one powerful impediment to the plans for war, and that impediment had a name – Lionel Cranfield, Lord Treasurer and Earl of Middlesex. Cranfield remained implacably opposed to the idea of war, but there was more than one reason why Buckingham was planning to redeploy Cranfield’s guts for use as his garters. Cranfield had started playing court politics hardball – traipsing his attractive brother in Law Arthur Brett in front of James in the hope he might transfer his affections away from his old favourite. Plus it has to be said that while Cranfield had managed heroically to reduce the king’s expenditure and debt, he’d also managed to square the circle and save money for the king while ending up with an impressively feathered nest of his own – his income in 1624 was greater even that Buckingham’s. That, my friends, is enough to make any nest look more than ready for an egg or two. Still Cranfield was at least an effective operator, and now he’d turned his attention to Ireland and the cost of supporting administration there; and through a government commission discovered just how much money the Villiers clan was siphoning off. A root and branch reform paper had been written – Buckingham sunk said root and branch reform paper in the Thames, and prevented it coming to see the light of day. This is an important sidenote; the reports James had commissioned on Ireland revealed a range of issues associated with the policy and plantations there; one outcome of Buckingham’s insinuation of the Villers clan into the fabric of Irish landholding was this, the need to suppress a report advocating reform. Now, it’s doubtful it would have repaired many fences – but a chance to improve English governance in Ireland was lost.
And sunk or not, for sure, Cranfield would not give up and try to hurt the Villiers where it hurt most – in the wallet. Cranfield’s wealth had made him enemies, as had his lowly birth. He received the worst press of all from his fellow peers, who accused him as – wait for it and close your ears if you don’t like a bit of bad language – ungentlemanly. Horrors. Worse, Cranfield had blotted his copybook with the Prince, presuming to give him advice – advice to subordinate his own interests to the national interest. Charles was not fond of being in receipt of advice from the son of an Apprentice; and he haughtily informed the Lord Treasurer, Earl of Middlesex to leave matters of honour to gentlemen. Burn.
So, all in all, all things considered and in weighing up the rights and wrongs and right things to do in the eyes of Confucius, Aristotle and the eyes of God – Cranfield had to go. He must be brought down.
In April then, Buckingham and Charles used the newly re-discovered tool, which had worked so delightfully against Bacon, of impeachment. Accusation by Commons, trial by Lords. Cranfield was accused of corruption – most of the charges were pretty specious, but they were voted through, and Cranfield was subjected to five days of trial in front of the lords, with Charles at one point refusing to allow Cranfield a break after 5 hours of questioning.
James no doubt realised that Cranfield was an effective minster, probably the best he had. But just as he had sacrificed Bacon to save Buckingham, now Cranfield would suffer the same fate. James warned his son against doing it. He warned Buckingham against the tactics he was using, telling him
You are a fool. You are making a rod with which you will be scourged yourself
And to Charles he said
You will have your bellyful of impeachments
Now. listen up kids, here is proof positive that you should listen to your wise old father. There never was a truer word said.
But Cranfield was convicted, imprisoned at the king’s pleasure, and fined £50,000. Three days later, James shamefacedly released him when Buckingham was away for a few days. He would never re-enter politics and died in 1645, in straitened though far from desperate financial circumstances.
Well, this had been a successful parliament! Money voted, tight fisted financial wizards expelled, a sense of unity of purpose in the air. But there had to be a worm in the apple, a stone in the shoe, and it was again religion that provided it. A petition was raised on St George’s day to expel all Jesuits and Seminary priests, for the strict execution of anti recusant laws and so on; James was fine with this, and accepted the petition. But then darn me if they didn’t go too far – that’s the trouble with parliaments, give ‘em and inch and they’ll take a mile. They went and appointed a committee, led by the puritan MP John Pym to investigate reports of Arminianism – allowing images in Norwich cathedral for example. James knew Pym of old as I’ve mentioned, and he was having none of this. So he prorogued parliament, and as he did so reminded the MPs that the Oath of Supremacy forbade them to meddle in Church Matters. Events were to intervene to make a recall of parliament tricky for the king. There would be obstacles to such a recall.
The 1624 parliament was significant in a couple of ways. Against the division of the Spanish Match it re-established a unity of purpose – and rather highlighted the increasing engagement of the gen pub with parliament and its politics. It marked the death of James’ policy of peace. And it marked the arrival of Buckingham and Charles as the prime political movers. But more than that – it marked a radical departure in English politics; the use of parliament by members of the government to subvert and change royal policy. It was a dangerous precedent.
Now before we finish for the day, I have a word of the week for you – or an occasional word as it should be. I am going to talk of Desserts and of Puddings
When I was a lad, we used the word pudding for afters, desserts, sweet whatever, and I am ashamed to say we thought it a bit fussy to say ‘dessert’. Such are the minor prejudices of life. Pudding has a rather complicated etymology according to the OED. In short, basically it derives from an intestine stuffed sausage type structure, from either Norman French roots, boudin, or Old English puduc, the word for a swelling. None of this is pleasant is it. Apparently, the word then went back from English into a load of European languages such as, at random, Portuguese pudin. Anyway, enough of the stuffed intestine, blood and guts, swelling stuff. Ewe. Also I once read Madame Bovary when recouperating (with my mate Timmy, who speaks French proper). And there they served up Trafalgar Pudding at a bit of a do. That’s impressive isn’t it? There’s no way I’d eat Bannockburn Tarts.
Anyway, there I was reading one of my very favourite history books, Life in the English Country House by Mark Girouard in preparation for a shedcast. Its teeth are long, but I recommend it right heartily, me hearties.
Mark was describing the arrival of the banquet in the grand Elizabethan and Jacobean houses. Banquet actually was not always or solely a word for a grand feast I should warn. The banquet was apparently a tradition that goes back to a break in the medieval day, called the ‘void’. In Medieval houses, dinners would often have been taken en masse in the Great Chamber or Hall around 11 am maybe. When this was over, there was a problem for the household; the Great Chamber needed to be cleared before the afternoon’s activity could be prepared in the same room – cards and games – This period described as the void. Which seems a little melodramatic, but hey, a period where there was nothing to do. So, they would make increasing use of a withdrawing room for the close household and family, where sweet wine and spices would be served – so again, banquet as not the modern meaning of a great feast, until the clearing away was done and the void could be filled with fun. By Elizabethan time, specific rooms, banqueting houses had been designed for these meals of sweet wine and accompanying yummies – often turret rooms on the roof. There are loads of them at Longleat for example.
Now in the late 17th century, when everything French was all the rage, the word was replaced by a French word, cos French sounds so much more sophistice, which meant the same as void – ‘dessert’. Ta dah! Neat, eh? That is where the word dessert for the sweet yummy course comes. Maybe this is why dessert seems a bit posh compared to pudding, Frenchified and cultured and all that. I have to say that when I posted this on the FB site, the discussion was not hey what interesting history, there was a long involved discussion by the Brits about the class associations of the various pudding dessert words, the Nancy Mitford U and Non U thing came up, and the Non Bris stood and watched all this in open mouthed astonishment at how complicated the class structure in England still is.