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Lucy Hutchinson (1620–1681). Memoirs of Colonel Hutchinson. 1906.

The Life of John Hutchinson: 1625–40

The face of the court was much changed in the change of the king, for King Charles was temperate, chaste, and serious; so that the fools and bawds, mimics and catamites, of the former court, grew out of fashion; and the nobility and courtiers, who did not quite abandon their debaucheries, had yet that reverence to the king to retire into corners to practise them. Men of learning and ingenuity in all arts were in esteem, and received encouragement from the king, who was a most excellent judge and a great lover of paintings, carvings, gravings, and many other ingenuities, less offensive than the bawdry and profane abusive wit which was the only exercise of the other court. But as in the primitive times, it is observed that the best emperors were some of them stirred up by Satan to be the bitterest persecutors of the church, so this king was a worse encroacher upon the civil and spiritual liberties of his people by far than his father. He married a papist, a French lady, of a haughty spirit, and a great wit and beauty, to whom he became a most uxorious husband. By this means the court was replenished with papists, and many who hoped to advance themselves by the change, turned to that religion. All the papists in the kingdom were favoured, and by the king’s example, matched into the best families; the Puritans more than ever discountenanced and persecuted, insomuch that many of them chose to abandon their native country, and leave their dearest relations to retire into any foreign soil or plantation, where they might, amidst all outward inconveniences, enjoy the free exercise of God’s worship. Such as could not flee were tormented in the bishops’ courts, fined, whipped, pilloried, imprisoned, and suffered to enjoy no rest, so that death was better than life to them; and notwithstanding their patient sufferance of all these things, yet was not the king satisfied till the whole land were reduced to perfect slavery. The example of the French king was propounded to him, and he thought himself no monarch so long as his will was confined to the bounds of any law; but knowing that the people of England were not pliable to an arbitrary rule, he plotted to subdue them to his yoke by a foreign force, and till he could effect it, made no conscience of granting anything to the people, which he resolved should not oblige him longer than it served his turn; for he was a prince that had nothing of faith or truth, justice or generosity, in him. He was the most obstinate person in his self-will that ever was, and so bent upon being an absolute, uncontrollable sovereign, that he was resolved either to be such a king or none. His firm adherence to prelacy was not for conscience of one religion more than another, for it was his principle that an honest man might be saved in any profession; but he had a mistaken principle that kingly government in the state could not stand without episcopal government in the church; and therefore, as the bishops flattered him with preaching up his sovereign prerogative, and inveighing against the Puritans as factious and disloyal, so he protected them in their pomp and pride, and insolent practices against all the godly and sober people of the land. In the first parliament after he came to the crown, the Duke of Buckingham was impeached concerning the death of King James, and other misdemeanours; but the present king, who had received him into the same degree of favour that he was with the former, would not endure the question of his favourite, and, to deliver him from it, broke up the parliament, which gave too just a suspicion that he favoured the practice; for it is true that the duke’s mother, without the consent of the physicians, had made an application to the wrists of the king for his ague, after which he died in his next fit. Some other parliaments there were, but still abruptly broken up when they put forth any endeavour to redress grievances. The protestants abroad were all looked upon as Puritans, and their interests, instead of being protected, sadly betrayed; ships let out to the French king to serve against them; all the flower of the English gentry were lost in an ill-managed expedition to the Isle of Rhé under pretence of helping them, but so ordered that it proved the loss of Rochelle, the strong fort and best defence of all the protestants in France. Those in Germany were no less neglected in all treaties, although his own sister and her children were so highly concerned. The whole people were sadly grieved at these misgovernments, and, loath to impute them to the king, cast all the odium upon the Duke of Buckingham, whom at length a discontented person stabbed, believing he did God and his country good service by it. All the kingdom, except the duke’s own dependents and kindred, rejoiced in the death of this duke; but they found little cause, for after it the king still persisted in his designs of enslaving them, and found other ministers ready to serve his self-willed ambition, such as were Noy, his attorney-general, who set on foot that hateful tax of ship-money, and many more illegal exactions; and ten of the judges, who perverted judgment in the cause of those who refused the illegal imposition; although there were, even in that time, found two honest judges, who durst judge rightly against the king, although he had changed the words usual in their commissions, which were Quamdiu bene se gesserint, into another form, Durante bene placito. Besides these, and a great rascally company of flatterers and projectors, there were all the corrupted, tottering bishops, and others of the proud, profane clergy of the land, who, by their insolencies, grown odious to the people, bent their strong endeavours to disaffect the prince to his honest, godly subjects, and to get a pretence of power from him, to afflict those who would not submit to their insolent dominion. But there were two above all the rest, who led the van of the king’s evil counsellors, and these were Laud, archbishop of Canterbury, a fellow of mean extraction and arrogant pride, and the Earl of Strafford, who as much outstripped all the rest in favour as he did in abilities, being a man of deep policy, stern resolution, and ambitious zeal to keep up the glory of his own greatness. In the beginning of this king’s reign, this man had been a strong asserter of the liberties of the people, among whom he had gained himself an honourable reputation, and was dreadful to the court party; who thereupon strewed snares in his way, and when they found a breach at his ambition, his soul was that way entered and captivated. He was advanced first to be lord president of the council in the north, to be a baron, after an earl, then deputy of Ireland; the nearest to a favourite of any man since the death of the Duke of Buckingham, who was raised by his first master, and kept up by the second, upon no account of personal worth or any deserving abilities in him, but only from the violent and private inclinations of the princes. But the Earl of Strafford wanted not any accomplishment that could be desired in the most serviceable minister of state: besides he having made himself odious to the people by his revolt from their interest to that of the oppressive court, he was now obliged to keep up his own interests with his new party, by all the malicious practices that pride and revenge could inspire him with. But above all these the king had another instigator of his own violent purpose, more powerful than all the rest, and that was the queen, who, grown out of her childhood, began to turn her mind from these vain extravagancies she lived in at first, to that which did less become her, and was more fatal to the kingdom; which is never in any place happy where the hands which were only made for distaffs affect the management of sceptres. If any one object the fresh example of Queen Elizabeth, let them remember that the felicity of her reign was the effect of her submission to her masculine and wise counsellors; but wherever male princes are so effeminate as to suffer women of foreign birth and different religions to intermeddle with the affairs of state, it is always found to produce sad desolations; and it hath been observed that a French queen never brought any happiness to England. Some kind of fatality too, the English imagined to be in her name of Marie, which, it is said, the king rather chose to have her called by than her other, Henrietta, because the land should find a blessing in that name, which had been more unfortunate; but it was not in his power, though a great prince, to control destiny. This lady being by her priests affected with the meritoriousness of advancing her own religion, whose principle it is to subvert all other, applied that way her great wit and parts, and the power her haughty spirit kept over her husband who was enslaved in his affection only to her, though she had no more passion for him than what served to promote her designs. Those brought her into a very good correspondence with the archbishop and his prelatical crew, both joining in the cruel design of rooting the godly out of the land. The foolish protestants were meditating reconciliations with the church of Rome, who embraced them as far as they would go, carrying them in hand, as if there had been a possibility of bringing such a thing to pass; meanwhile, they carried on their design by them, and had so ripened it, that nothing but the mercy of God prevented the utter subversion of protestantism in the three kingdoms. But how much soever their designs were framed in the dark, God revealed them to his servants, and most miraculously ordered providences for their preservation. About the year 1639, the Scots, having the English service-book obtruded upon them violently, refused it, and took a national covenant against it, and entered England with a great army, to bring their complaints to the king, which his unfaithful ministers did, as they supposed, much misreport. The king himself levied an army against them wherein he was assisted by the nobility and gentry, but most of all by the prelates, insomuch that the war got the name of ‘bellum episcopale’; but the commonalty of the nation, being themselves under grievous bondage, were loath to oppose a people that came only to claim their just liberties. When the king was at York, the chief of the Scotch covenanters came, under a pretence of treating with the king, but their principal intent was to disabuse the nobility of England, and to take off their edge against them, by remonstrating upon those grievances and oppressions of the prelatical innovators, which had forced them thus to defend their religion and liberties. This they did so effectually, that the hearts of the English were much moved towards them, and the king perceiving it, by their meditations, consented to a dissembled peace for that time, and returned home. But the Scots, unsatisfied in the performance of their articles, made preparation for a second return into England; whereupon the king in his anger and necessity, was forced to have recourse to the long neglected remedy of parliaments, and assembled one at Westminster the 13th of April, 1640, which he suffered to sit but twenty-one days, and broke it up again, apprehending that if he had suffered them to sit a day longer, they would have voted against the war with Scotland, which he was violently bent to prosecute.