MR. GARDINER'S "PRINCE CHARLES AND THE SPANISH MARRIAGE."* IT is
now about six years since Mr. Gardiner's History of England from the Accession of James I. to the Disgrace of Chief Justice Coke made its appearance, and his present work takes up the thread. of English history from the latter event, until abruptly snapped by the final rapture between this country and Spain on the all- important marriage question. Like its predecessor, it will take a high rank in the authentic annals of James's reign, and is likely to supersede all others as the recognized standard history of the period of which it treats. We are astonished at the vastness and completeness of the work. The amount of research and examination Mr. Gardiner has gone into seems almost incredible. At Simaneas he found papers revealing the nature of the Spanish negotiations ; in the archives of Venice he discovered, through the despatches of the- Venetian Ambassadors, many secrets undisclosed in Spain ; at Brussels there was correspondence that threw most important light on the Continental affairs of the time; in the Imperial Library he gleaned facts omitted in the diplomatic memoirs ; whilst in the Record Office, British Museum, India Office, and numerous private hoards in this country, he has unearthed an immense amount of hitherto unused materials. Thus much in testimony of the area and magnitude of his labours, and as a proof that he has left no stones unturned to ascertain the right issue on doubtful or disputed points. And his intelligence is equal to his zeal. He has grasped his subject fully ; having collected his details, he has so arranged and classified them as to link them into one close, connecting chain of events. All matters of foreign. or domestic policy, and all petty quarrels or religious discus- sions, he has treated with a charming facility, and he frankly invites his readers to examine the sources whence he has drawn_ all his wealth of information ; and we may add that these sources, at any rate those in this country, will bear the test of severe scrutiny in the most satisfactory manner. There is, moreover, a consciousness of truth in every page of the book, recalling the maxim that the knowledge of truth is its presence, and belief in it its enjoyment. All Mr. Gardiner's facts are veritable facts, but many of them stub- born and difficult to reconcile ; especially may we mention those bearing on Bacon's life and Bacon's ideas, between which there was a great gulf. His theory of life for himself was ideal, but for others it was visible and practical, and his system as contemplated for them was unsatisfactorily if not prejudicially developed in his own person ; his ideas were too lofty, too perfect for this poor
* Prince Charles and theSpanishManiesge,1617-1628. By Samuel Rawson Gardiner- leaDd011: Hurst and Blackett.
world of ours, and yet his own actions were not imbued with them; he struggled against the tide, but he swam with the stream. "I have taken all knowledge for my province," he once exclaimed in the enthusiasm of youth ; and yet, having laid himself open to the criticism of chemists, astronomers, statesmen, lawyers, and moral- ists, and in spite of his indefatigable pursuit of truth and justice, he had to learn that he too was fallible and short of his own ideal. His wishes were noble, but his actions were corrupt ; the two were ever at variance, refusing to be reconciled and begetting mischief and inconsistency.
With facts relating to the career of Digby, Earl of Bristol, Mr. Gardiner finds it easier to deal. Here, at least, character is consistent with policy, and spirit with action ; there is no diffi- culty in reconciling his course of action from beginning to end with the principles he professed, neither do we find his deeds apologizing to his views on points of discrepancy. Mr. Gardiner says of him:—.
"The mind of Bristol was intensely practical : no visions of future glory thronged before his eyes ; no general conceptions of law or policy ever exercised his intellect. From the hundreds of his letters which have been preserved, it would be difficult to reconstruct the theory upon which he acted ; but he had that strong power of intuition which is accorded to some men, by which they are enabled to single out from all others the one predominant evil which is weighing down upon their time, and to discern instinctively the remedies which alone are applicable. Gradually, as we read the long series of his despatches, the grand form of the noble-hearted man stands revealed before us, and we see him ever varying his means, as the events drifted before him with their changing forms, but never losing sight of the object at which he aimed."
Although Mr. Gardiner considers Raleigh to have been: "the most complete representative of the age, of its faults and vices as well as of its heroism," he selects Digby as the best representative of the better natures of the age. The inertness of James, the vanity of Buckingham, the falsehoods of Raleigh, and the general corruption of the day all helped by contrast to make his vigorous, straightforward conduct appear the more praiseworthy, and to entitle him to the grateful remembrance of posterity.
Mr. Gardiner's book is full to overflowing with information of every possible kind, which makes it difficult to select one subject above another for remark, but we may refer for an instant to the subject of the "Spanish Marriage," towards which all the other events appear to tend directly or indirectly. The articles origin- -ally proposed by Spain to James were as follows :—
"That any children that might be born of the marriage should be baptized after the Catholic ritual by a Catholic priest, that they should be educated by their mother, and that, if upon coming of age they chose to adopt their mother's religion, they should be at liberty to do so, with- out being on that account excluded from the succession. The servants attached to the Infanta's household, and even the wet-narses of the -children, were to be exclusively Catholics. There was to be a public chapel or church open to all who chose to Avail themselves of it. The ecclesiastics attached to it were to wear their clerical habits when they appeared in the streets ; and one of their number was to exercise juris- diction over the Infanta's household. Finally, the execution of the penal laws was to be suspended."
It is strange that the attraction in James's eyes of an alliance with Spain should have been so powerful, when it must have been attained at the sacrifice to England of so many of her dearest and oldest associations ; but when we think of the enormous dowry the Infanta was to bring with her as her portion, and the inde- pendence this would have enabled James to assume towards the House of Commons, it is less surprising. His notions of kingly prerogative were always barring the way to any friendly understanding between himself and his subjects, and he allowed the gap so to widen, that in the end he longed to be quit of them altogether, and to rule despotically ; if they consented to give him supplies periodically and did not interfere with his hunt- ing at Theobald's, he was willing to allow them to assemble occasionally for discussing and improving their own affairs, but they must on no account interfere in State matters. Under circumstances such as these it was temptation enough to a man like Gondomar to endeavour to get England into the clutches of his master, and her religion under the thumb of Paul V. and his successors, by any means whatsoever. Our readers must look themselves for all the ins and outs of the long controversies that ensued ; the decline of James's influence and power, the growing feeling against Spain on the pitrt of the whole nation, the constant warfare between our sailors and hers in the Indies, the quarrels with the Dutch, and religious dissensions at home and abroad, were all brought to bear in one way or another upon the point at issue, until at last all negotiations were broken off, at the very moment, too, when they had arrived so near completion that Prince Charles had actually signed the marriage treaty and the Infanta was known throughout Spain as the Princess of England. Looking back from the vantage-ground of the present to the last troublous years of James's reign and as seen through the telescopic medium, as it were, of Mr. Gardiner's book, we marvel at the inactivity and supineness that prevailed around him, and we wonder that England escaped as well as she did from the dis- asters in which she was involved. The vexatious and vacillating con- duct of the King in his ambitious characters of peacemaker and professor of king-craft obtruded itself everywhere and cast a slur upon every affair in which he meddled ; whilst in his universal sovereignty he took care to have a finger in everybody's pie ; there was no domestic quarrel in London in which he did not endeavour to act as arbiter, and in foreign affairs also the same infatuation urged him to raise his voice. And all this is exempli- fied in the book before us. We suspect Bacon of having suggested to him that "Princes are like to heavenly bodies, which cause good or evil times, and which have much veneration, but no rest," and that he ever afterwards made that the burden of his song.
There is another commendable feature in Mr. Gardiner's book, and that is his correction and amendment of wrong assertions made by other writers on matters of which he has ascertained the real truth ; and principally Mr. Hepworth Dixon's Story of Lord Bacon's Life is so set to rights on several points in which there were misrepresentations. Mr. Gardiner has even gone further than this ; he has dared to overthrow long-cherished and time- honoured traditions. He has divested the fascinating story of Pocahoutas of all its romance, and substituted bare, cold, matter-of- fact evidence, that would have chilled for ever the poetic spirit of a greater than Mrs. Sigourney.
From the consciousness that he held all competitors safe, Mr. Gardiner evidently undertook this book with great confidence, and he has certainly completed it in a most able and masterly manner. He must have felt that the books already written on the Spanish Marriage were few and insufficient, lacking both accuracy and material ; that where some writers had been content to abide by facts already published, but not authenticated, others had not hesitated to disregard or blink at any unpleasant little particulars that interfered with their own bias or detracted from the character they were so sensitively describing ; in all cases many links were wanting, many acts concealed that were essential for strengthening the chain of history and for reconciling circum- stances hitherto unintelligible. These wants Mr. Gardiner has supplied most satisfactorily ; neither was it necessary to sacrifice style or expression in their attainment. The writing is so earnest and vigorous throughout, and so full of good, genuine biography, that his readers will not tire of the mass of events crowded into seven short years, nor will they regret an acquaintance so close and sustained with the great personages of the day. But truth and impartiality are the most characteristic qualities of this work. There is a sense of security about it that induces one to lean contentedly on it, and accept unhesitatingly whatever it asserts. The arrangement of details in the best order of occurrence was no easy task, but it has been well and thoroughly accomplished, whilst the delicate handling of great national crises has been so carefully attended to by constant attachment to authorities and a wise disregard of existing impressions, that one cannot fail to recognize the master-hand of the conscientious historian at every turn.
We cannot close this notice without tendering our thanks to Mr. Gardiner for his valuable and interesting contribution to literature generally, and for having filled up so effectually the void in authentic English history from 1617 to 1623.