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- Studies from Court and Cloister - 30/61 -


Treasurer Buckhurst, he said that Essex told the people when he incited them to rise, that he acted "for the good of the Queen, city, and crown which certain atheists, meaning Raleigh, had betrayed to the Infante of Spain." At his execution he thanked God that he was never atheist nor papist."*

* Dom. Eliz., February 1601, Vol. 278; R.O.

On the accession of James I. the Catholics presented a petition to parliament, begging to be allowed to practise their religion, at least in secret, and they went on to say that there were "four classes of religionists in England Protestant who domineered all the late reign: Puritans who have crept up amongst them, atheists, who live on brawls; and Catholics."*

* Dom. James I., vol. i., 1603; R.O.

The stigma of atheist clung to Raleigh long after he had ceased to deserve it. In his trial for high treason in 1603, it considerably damaged his cause, and gave another handle to his many enemies. The king's attorney, in addressing him, exclaimed: "O damnable atheist!" and the Lord Chief Justice Coke, in his address to the prisoner after his condemnation, harangued him in these words:--

"Your case being thus, let it not grieve you if I speak a little out of zeal and love to your good. You have been taxed by the world with the defence of the most heathenish and blasphemous opinions, which I list not to repeat, because Christian ears cannot endure to hear them, nor the authors and maintainers of them be suffered to live in any Christian commonwealth. You know what men said of Harpool.* You shall do well before you go out of the world to give satisfaction therein, and not to die with these imputations upon you. Let not any devil persuade you (the Harleian version adds, 'Hariot or any such doctor') to think there is no eternity in Heaven; for if you think thus, you shall find eternity in hell-fire."**

* A mistake probably for Harriot. The name is variously spelt. Edwards, in his Life of Raleigh, corrects it and says, "Either he applied to the illustrious mathematician Thomas Harriot, the epithet 'devil,' or he said that Harriot's opinions were devilish" (p. 436). The judge's words are variously reported, but their purport is always the same. Stebbing, in his monograph Sir Walter Raleigh, says that Harriot was accused by zealots of atheism, because his cosmogony was not orthodox, and that his ill-repute for free-thinking was reflected on Raleigh, who hired him to teach mathematics (probably in what Father Parsons termed his school of atheism) and engaged him in his colonising projects. Harriot was the friend whose society he chiefly craved when he was in the Tower, and is doubtless the "Herryott" of the examinations.

** Dom. James I., vol. 4, f. 83.

Between Raleigh's sentence and its execution fifteen years were allowed to elapse, during which time the prisoner in the Tower occupied himself with the compilation of his famous History of the World, and with chemical experiments. And as if all should be exceptional in the life of this remarkable man, he was allowed an interval during this period in which to flash once more upon the world in another expedition to Guiana, in search of the gold mine which he had declared to be there. After the ill-fated voyage he returned into durance vile, and when at last the time came for the axe which had so long hung over him, to fall, his words showed that at least in adversity he had learned, like the great Arian chieftain Clovis, to burn what he had adored, and to adore what he had burned. His device, Ubi dolor ibi amor is significant of the change that suffering had wrought in him. His last words on the scaffold were these: "I have many sins for which to beseech God's pardon. Of a long time my course was a course of vanity. I have been a seafearing man, a soldier, and a courtier, and in the temptations of the least of these there is enough to overthrow a good mind and a good man." Presently he added, "I die in the faith professed by the Church of England. I hope to be saved and to have my sins washed away by the Precious Blood and merits of our Saviour Jesus Christ."

Then, says his biographer,* he asked to be shown the axe, and kissing the blade, he said: "This gives me no fear. It is a sharp and fair medicine to cure me of all my disease."

* Edwards, Life of Sir Walter Raleigh, i. 704.

After Raleigh's death, the Archbishop of Canterbury, writing to Sir Thomas Roe, ambassador of Great Britain with the Great Mogul, 10th February 1618, said: "Sir Walter Raleigh amongst us did question God's being and omnipotence, which that just judge made good upon himself in overtumbling his estate, but last of all in bringing him to an execution by law, where he died a religious and Christian death, God testifying his power in this, that he raised up of a stone a child unto Abraham."

His doom had been from the first a foregone conclusion. James having been fatally prejudiced against him before that royal pedant ever set foot in England, to which fact the secret correspondence of Sir Robert Cecil with James VI. of Scotland amply testifies.

But curiously enough Sir Walter's brother Carew, although more deeply dyed in atheism, never ceased to be a Persona grata with the government. He was knighted in 1601, on the occasion of the visit to England of the French Marshal de Biron.* He held several honourable and lucrative public offices under James I., and was Lieutenant of the Isle of Portland in 1608. During his brother's long imprisonment in the Tower, Sir Carew Raleigh was living in prosperity at Dounton.**

* Stebbing, Sir Walter Raleigh, p. 157.

* Ibid, p. 248.

Atheists did not as a sect entirely disappear from England after the execution of their scapegoat, but they do not seem to have been further molested for their opinions. The persecution of the Catholics was at its height, and at no time did professed atheism provoke the fierce hatred that Catholicism inspired. For obvious reasons many Catholics at this period were but indifferently instructed in their religion. Some to escape attendance at the English Church service unlawfully feigned infidelity. One man having written a seditious book, called Balaam's Ass, against the king, for which he was condemned to death, was accused at his execution of having professed atheism. He denied being an infidel, expressed contrition for his "saucy meddling in the king's matter," and declared himself a Catholic.*

* Dom. James I., vol. 109, May 1619; R.0.

The Bishop of Exeter reported that "John Lugge, organist, retains none of his popish tendencies, though his religion is as the market goes," and he added that there were very few papists in his diocese, but an infinity of sectaries and atheists.

Many of these latter may have been secret Catholics, either extremely ignorant, or too timid to suffer for their faith. A book published in 1602, entitled The Unmasking of the Politique Atheist is a violent attack upon Catholicism. Another, called A Perfect Cure for Atheists, Papists, Arminians, etc., published in 1649, is of a like nature. It is a far cry from Aristotle to atheism, but no sooner did the votaries of the new learning discard a system of philosophy which, however exaggerated by pedants, was still a guarantee of exact reasoning, than their disciples and followers fell a prey to the vagaries of their own bewildered intellects.

It was the reductio ad absurdum of the reformed religion, when weak-kneed Catholics sheltered themselves from its pains and penalties under the fairly secure roof-tree of atheism.

VII. CHARLES THE FIRST AND THE POPISH PLOT

"A fine rare show arrives from Rome, and it is all a present for the Queen, and the news of it reaches London, and the King is impatient to see it; and the Queen is lying in, and Mr. Panzani brings all the fine things to the Queen's bedchamber; and all the ladies of quality crowd in to see them; and the King with all his nobles hastens to the Queen's palace; and the boxes are opened, and the pieces are viewed one by one; and Mr. Conn comes in (though still without a red hat) to satisfy the Queen's curiosity, and Mr. Conn brings more fine pictures . . . and sees the King, and the Queen of France; and Mr. Panzani takes leave of the Queen of England (for how could he omit it?) and the Queen begs a red hat for Mr. Conn, and Mr. Conn must first do some signal service to the Church; and the King talks about Mr. Conn's red hat; and the Queen gives Mr. Panzani a fine diamond ring; and Mr. Panzani takes leave of all the ministers; and he pays his respects to all the ladies of the court; and the ladies send their compliments to the Pope, and they all beg Mr. Panzani's blessing. It was the end of the year 1636."

This Sevigne-like description was written in 179-, by the Rev. Charles Plowden, in his "Remarks on a Book entitled Memoirs of Gregorio Panzani." Panzani, a priest of the Roman Oratory, had been about two years in England, with a secret mission to report to Cardinal Barberini, nephew of Pope Urban VIII., on the condition of the Catholics, the condition of the court, and on the prospects regarding an ultimate reunion of the Anglican Church with Rome. He was to pave the way for an openly accredited envoy to the queen, was to conciliate the ministers, disarm the Puritans, and to do what he could for the Catholics, who were still smarting severely under the penal laws. Executions, it is true, had become less frequent, but the royal coffers were still replenished with the fines imposed on Catholics for their pertinacity in assembling to hear Mass by stealth. If a priest were caught, he was thrown into prison, tried, and punished with death. In dealing with the Catholic laity, Charles I. was never in favour of enforcing the extreme rigour of the law, but he was so often in want of money that he found it useful to be very severe in the matter of fines.

Panzani's mission to England falls about midway between the domestic storms which had troubled the early days of the royal marriage, and the Revolution which finally cost the most shifty of monarchs his throne and his life. Henrietta Maria had ceased to resent the expulsion of her French favourites, had consented at last to learn English and to tolerate the English people. She had thrown herself heart and soul into her husband's interests, and since the death of Buckingham was in possession of his entire confidence. If, later on, any cloud arose over their mutual relationship, it was the king's half expressed suspicion that she thought little of his powers of governing, and that however much she loved her husband, she did not admire his policy or trust his royal word as implicitly as he could wish. This is evident from one or two affectionate but querulous letters which he wrote to her when he was in the hands of the Parliamentarians.

Of the court, as well as of the private life of the king and queen,


Studies from Court and Cloister - 30/61

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