Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

CHAP. him for ever into an abyfs of infamy, guilt, and miXLVIII. fery.


No fooner had James mounted the throne of Englann, than he remembered his friendship for the unfortunate families of Howard and Devereux, who had fuffered for their attachment to the caufe of Mary and to his own. Having reftored young Effex to his blood and dignity, and conferred the titles of Suffolk and Northampton on two brothers of the houfe of Norfolk, he fought the farther pleafure of uniting thefe families by the marriage of the earl of Effex with lady Frances Howard, daughter to the earl of Suffolk. She was only thirteen, he fourteen years of age; and it was thought proper, till both fhould attain the age of puberty, that he should go abroad, and pafs fome time in his travels. He returned into England after four years abfence, and was pleafed to find his countefs in the full luftre of beauty, and poffeffed of the love and admiration of the whole court. But, when the earl approached, and claimed the privileges of a husband, he met nothing but symptoms of averfion and disgust, and a flat refufal of any farther familiarities. He applied to her parents, who constrained her to attend him into the country, and to partake of his bed: But nothing could overcome her rigid fullennefs and obftinacy; and the ftill rofe from his fide, without having fhared the nuptial pleasures. Difgufted with reiterated denials, he at laft gave over the pursuit, and separating himself from her, thenceforth abandoned her conduct to her own will and discretion.

SUCH coldness and averfion in lady Effex arofe not without an attachment to another object. The favourite had opened his addreffes, and had been too fuccessful in making impreffion on the tender heart of the young countess F. She imagined, that, fo long as the refused the embraces of Effex, fhe never could be deemed his wife, and that a separation and divorce might still open the way for a new marriage with her beloved Rochefter G. Though their paffion was fo violent, and their opportunities of intercourfe fo frequent, that they had already indulged themselves in all the gratifications of love, they still lamented their unhappy fate, while


E Kennet. p. 686.
P. 228.

Fid. p. 687.

G State Trials, vol. i.

the union between them was not intire and indiffoluble. CHAP. And the lover, as well as his mistress, was impatient till XLVIII. their mutual ardour fhould be crowned with marriage.

So momentous an affair could not be concluded without confulting Overbury, with whom Rochester was accuftomed to fhare all his fecrets. While that faithful friend had confidered his patron's attachment to the countess of Effex merely as an affair of gallantry, he had favoured its progrefs; and it was partly owing to the ingenious and paffionate letters which he dictated, that Rochester had met with fuch fuccefs in his addreffes. Like an experienced courtier, he thought, that a conqueft of this nature would throw a luftre on the youthful favourite, and would tend ftill further to endear him to James, who was charmed to hear the amours of his court, and listened with attention to every tale of gallantry. But great was Overbury's alarm, when Rochester mentioned his defign of marrying the countefs; and he used every method to diffuade his friend from fo foolish an attempt. He reprefented, how invidious, how difficult an enterprize it was to procure her a divorce from her husband: How dangerous, how shameful, to take into his own bed a profligate woman, who, being married to a young nobleman of the first rank, had not fcrupled to proftitute her character, and to bestow favours on the object of a capricious and momentary paffion. And, in the zeal of friendship, he went fo far as to threaten Rochester, that he would separate himself for ever from him, if he would fo far forget his honour and his interest as to profecute the intended marriage H.

ROCHESTER had the weakness to reveal this converfation to the countefs of Effex; and when her rage and fury broke out against Overbury, he had alfo the weakness to enter into her vindictive projects, and to fwear vengeance against his friend, for the utmost inftance, which he could receive, of his faithful friendship. Some contrivance was neceffary for the execution of their purpose. Rochester addreffed himself to the king; and after complaining, that his own indulgence to Overbury had begot in him a degree of arrogance, which was extremely disagreeable, he procured a commission for his embaffy to Ruffia; which he reprefented as a


H State Trials, vol. i. p. 235, 236, 252. Franklyn, p. 14.



CHA P. retreat for his friend, both profitable and honourable. XLVIII. When confulted by Overbury, he earnestly diffuaded him from accepting this offer, and took on himself the office of fatisfying the king, if he should be any wife difpleafed with the refufal. To the king again, he aggravated the infolence of Overbury's conduct, and obtained April 21ft. a warrant for committing him to the Tower, which James intended as a slight punishment for his disobedience. The lieutenant of the tower was a creature of Rochefter's, and had lately been put into the office for this very purpose He confined Overbury fo ftrictly, that the unhappy prifoner was debarred from the fight even of his nearest relations; and no communication of any kind. was allowed with him, during near fix months, which he lived in prifon.

THIS obftacle being removed, the lovers pursued their purpose; and the king himself, forgetting the dignity of his character, and his friendship for the family of Effex, entered zealously into the project of procuring the countefs a divorce from her husband. Effex also embraced the opportunity of feparating himself from a bad woman, by whom he was hated; and he was willing to favour their fuccefs by any honourable expedient. The pretence for a divorce was his incapacity to fulfil the conjugal duties; and he confeffed, that, with regard to the countess, he was confcious of fuch an infirmity, though he was not fenfible of it with regard to any other woman. In her place too, it is faid, a young virgin was fubftituted under a mask, to undergo the legal infpection by a jury of matrons. After fuch a trial, feconded by court-influence, and fupported by the ridiculous opinion of fafcination, or witchcraft, the fentence of divorce was pronounced between the earl of Effex and his countefs. And, to crown the scene, the king, folicitous left the lady fhould lofe any rank by her new marriage, bestowed on his minion the title of earl of Somerset.

NOTWITHSTANDING this fuccefs, the countess of Somerset was not satisfied, till she should further fatiate her revenge on Overbury; and she engaged her husband

[ocr errors]


1 State Trials, vol. i. p. 236, 237, &c. K State Trials, vol. i. p. 223, 224, &c. Franklyn's Annals, p. 2, 3,




as well as her uncle, the earl of Northampton, in the CHA P. attrocious defign of taking him off fecretly by poifon. XLVIII. Fruitless attempts were reiterated by weak poisons; but at last, they gave him one fo fudden and violent, that the symptoms were apparent to every one, who approached him. His interment was hurried on with the greatest 16 Sept. precipitation: and, though a strong fufpicion immediately prevailed in the public, the full proof of the crime was not brought to light, till fome years after.

THE fatal catastrophe of Overbury increased or begot the fufpicion, that the prince of Wales had been carried off by poison, given him by Somerset. Men confider

ed not, that the contrary inference was much juster. If Somerset was fo great a novice in this detestable art, that, during the course of five months, a man, who was his prifoner, and attended by none but his emiffaries, could not be dispatched but in fo bungling a manner; how could it be imagined, that a young prince, living in his own court, furrounded by his own friends and domestics, could be exposed to Somerset's attempts, and be taken off by fo fubtile a poison, if fuch a one exist, as should elude the skill of the most experienced physicians?

THE ableft minifter that James ever poffeffed, the earl of Salisbury, was dead M: Suffolk, a man of flender capacity, had fucceeded him in his office: And it was now his talk to fupply, from an exhausted treasury, the profufion of James and of his young favourite. The title of baronet, invented by Salisbury, was fold; and two hundred patents of that species of knighthood, were difpofed of for fo many thousand pounds: Each rank of nobility had alfo its price affixed to it N: Privy feals were circulated to the value of 200,000 pounds: benevolences were exacted to the amount of 52,000 pounds °: And fome monopolies, of no great value, were erected. But all these expedients proved infufficient to fupply the king's neceffities; even though he began to enter into fome fchemes for retrenching his expences. However small the hopes of fuccefs, a new parliament must be summoned, and this dangerous expedient, for fuch it was now become, once more be put to trial.


L Kennet, p. 693. State Trials, vol. i. p 233 234, &c.
M14th May, 1612.
N Franklyn, p. 11, 33.



P. 10.

? Idem, p. 49.



CHAP. WHEN the commons were assembled, they discovered XLVIII. an extraordinary alarm, on account of the rumour, which was spread abroad concerning undertakers & It was reported, that several perfons, attached to the king, had entered into a confederacy; and having laid a regular plan for the new elections, had distributed their intereft all over England, and had undertaken to secure a 5th April. majority for the court. So ignorant were the commons, A parlia- that they knew not this incident to be the first infallible symptom of any regular or established liberty. Had they been contented to follow the maxims of their predeceffors, who, as the earl of Salisbury faid to the laft parliament, never, but thrice in fix hundred years, refused a supply R; they needed not dread, that the crown fhould ever interest itself in their elections. Formerly the kings even infifted, that none of their household should be elected members; and though the charter was afterwards declared void, Henry VI. from his great favour to the city of York, conferred a peculiar privilege on its citizens, that they should be exempted from this troubles. 'Tis well known, that in ancient times, a feat in the houfe being confidered as a burthen, attended neither with honour nor profit, it was requifite for the counties and boroughs to pay fees to their representatives. About this time, a feat began to be regarded as an honour, and the country gentlemen contended for it; though the practice of levying wages for the parliament-men was not altogether discontinued. It was not till long afterwards, when liberty was thoroughly eftablished, and popular affemblies entered into every branch of public bufinefs, that the members began to join profit to honour, and the crown found it neceffary to diftribute

Parliam. Hift. vol. v. p. 286. Kennet, p. 696. Journ. 12 April, 2d May, 1614, &c. Franklyn, p. 48.

R Journ. 17th of Feb. 1609. It appears, however, that Salisbury was fomewhat mistaken in this fact: And if the kings were not oftener refufed fupply by the parliament, it was only because they would not often expofe themselves to the hazard of being refufed: But it is certain that English parliaments did antiently carry their frugality to an extreme, and feldom could be prevailed upon to give the neceffary fupport to the government.

s Coke's Inftitutes, part 4. chap. 1. of charters of exemp

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »