On Matters of Interest to the King
|James VI & I|
In 1604 James wrote A Counterblaste to Tobacco, fulminating against smoking, which had become very popular since Ralegh first introduced it to England. James likened tobacco smoking to Hell;
‘A custome lothsome to the eye, hatefull to the Nose, harmefull to the braine, dangerous to the Lungs, and in the blacke stinking fume thereof, neerest resembling the horrible Stigian smoke of the pit that is bottomelesse.’[i]And his response to the argument that tobacco smoking was popular was to say;
‘Such is the force of that natural Self-Love as we cannot be content unless we imitate everything that our fellows do……..counterfeiting the manners of others, to our own destruction.’[ii]James allowed the Earl of Dorset, Lord High Treasurer, to levy a tariff of six shillings and eight pence[iii] per pound of tobacco imported.
|Earl of Dorset|
James also suggested a union between the two countries, but the fury of the English knew no bounds. They believed that any benefits would accrue to the Scots, who had flocked down with their king and in many instances had been well-rewarded for so doing. James spoke in Parliament in support of his proposal; he suggested that all Scots born after 1603 should become British and all those born before should be naturalised.
‘It was unreasonable that a thing that was in nature so much in effect one, should not be a unity in name.’[iv]But the objections overruled James’ ambitious plan, although he and Cecil were able to unite the coinage of the two kingdoms.
Money ProblemsThere had been a 50% price rise during the period of Elizabeth’s reign and James’ financial problems were aggravated by his generosity to his friends and supporters. Cecil spent £60,000[v] on his new residence at Hatfield[vi]. Lord Suffolk[vii] built Audley End, which could house the whole court.
In addition James was extravagant on his own behalf and so was his queen; Anne loved elaborate masques and balls organised by Inigo Jones[viii] who had been recommended to the queen by her brother Christian IV of Denmark. In the autumn of 1604 Jones was working with Ben Jonson on The Masque of Blackness.And as ever Parliament was unwilling to vote monies to support the king’s extravagances. And James was convinced that the king of England was as rich as the king of Scotland was poor. By the time Lord Dorset died in 1608 the Crown had debts of £600,000[ix], the result of James’ extravagant expenditure. The Crown had an income of over £350,000[x] in 1610, partly as the result of Cecil’s endeavours, and king and parliament were unable to come to an agreement.
The King and His BoyJames homosexual tendencies led him to favour Robert Carr, one of those who had followed James down from Scotland and now made Earl of Somerset. James failed to take into consideration the sensibilities of the ruling English nobility who felt they had a right to advise the king; the new favourites threatened that powerbase.
Carr attracted the king’s attention at a tournament and later when he broke his leg and was taken to Charing Cross hospital. The king hung around the young man’s bed and the court was not far behind; Sir Anthony Weldon wrote;
‘Lord, how the great men flocked to see him [Carr] then, and to offer to his shrine in such abundance.’[xi]By 1613 Carr had his Earldom and was spending the money James gave him like water; in that year he disposed of £90,000[xii]. He married the sister of Lord Suffolk, Frances Howard that same year. Madly in love James taught Carr Latin. Prince Henry disliked Carr; his father used Carr transmit instructions to Henry, including those relating to Henry’s projected marriage. Once Henry
‘Menaced to strike [Carr] with a tennis racket.’[xiii]When the couple fell out and Carr was treating James to hysterical scenes James was bitter;
‘I shall never pardon myself but shall carry that cross to the grave with me, for raising a man so high as might make him presume to pierce my ears with such speeches.’[xiv]Losing Children
The popular Prince Henry died on 6th November 1612 of typhoid fever at the age of 18. James refused to attend the funeral and the 11 year old Prince Charles was the principal mourner. Henry was in many ways the opposite of James; he was careful with his money and intensely disliked the swearing his father was prone to. He was also interested in ships and farming. Henry was a loving elder brother to Charles and Elizabeth; both princes stammered and Henry had to practise speaking.
‘’The corpse of the lamented Prince of Wales……….was on the 7th December, interred in Westminster Abbey with unexampled pomp and magnificence.’[xv]Three months later Charles effectively lost his only other surviving sibling, when his 16 year old sister Elizabeth married Frederick V, Count Palatine. As the daughter of a Protestant king and second in line to the English throne Elizabeth had a number of Protestant princes looking for her hand in marriage, among their number were Gustavus Adolphus[xvi], son of the king of Sweden and Prince Maurice of Nassau[xvii].
|Princess Elizabeth as Queen of Bohemia|
The marriage was wildly popular with the English and took place on 14th February. After the ceremony at the Chapel Royal at Whitehall the entertainments went on for days;
‘Amidst a succession of luxurious entertainments, the king often betrayed weariness, and the queen ill-humour; and whenever this occurred, she vented her spleen by addressing her daughter by the appellation of Goody Palsgrove.’[xviii]It was not until the end of April that the couple left England en route to Frederick’s home. By now James was unhappy, possibly at the vast amount of money spent on his daughter’s wedding but more probably still grief stricken at the loss of Henry, and he betook himself to Theobalds, while the queen went on a progress.
In Prose and Verse
Shakespeare was still active in the early Jacobean period; writing Othello in 1604, King Lear and Macbeth in 1606, Coriolanus in 1608 and the Tempest in 1611 among many others. He finished three plays in 1613, before dying in 1616. A number of his plays were performed at court.Ben Jonson was working for the king producing masques for the court’s entertainment. The Duchess of Malfi, by John Webster, was performed by the King’s Majesty’s Servants at the Globe in 1623.
James also patronised John Donne making him chaplain in ordinary and later made him Dean of St Paul’s. To other writers James was less supportive; John Selden[xix] had his history of tithes suppressed. His pamphlet, commissioned by James, answering the Dutch claim to the freedom of the seas was suppressed to avoid causing offence to the queen’s brother.James visited both Oxford and Cambridge universities; in 1615 James particularly enjoyed his trip to the Bodleian Library The trip was enlivened by supper at Christchurch, plays were performed at which the king fell asleep and much wine was drunk.
BibliographyCharles The First – John Bowle, Weidenfeld & Nicholson 1975
The Early Stuarts – Godfrey Davies, Oxford University Press 1987King James – Antonia Fraser, BCA 1974
Robert Cecil – Alan Haynes, Peter Owen Publishers 1989Charles I – Christopher Hibbert, Penguin 1968
Memoirs of Elizabeth Stuart, vol 1 – Elizabeth Benger, reprint of A & R Spottiswoode (unknown date)www.wikipedia.en
[ii] King James - Fraser
[iv] Robert Cecil - Haynes
[vii] Son of the 4th Duke of Norfolk who was executed by Elizabeth.
[xi] King James – Fraser
[xiii] Charles the First - Bowle
[xiv] King James - Fraser
[xviii] Memoirs of Elizabeth Stuart vol 1 - Benger
[xix] A jurist and scholar