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James The First
by [?]

It was usual, in the reign of James the First, when they compared it with the preceding glorious one, to distinguish him by the title of Queen James, and his illustrious predecessor by that of King Elizabeth! Sir Anthony Weldon informs us, “That when James the First sent Sir Roger Aston as his messenger to Elizabeth, Sir Roger was always placed in the lobby: the hangings being turned so that he might see the Queen dancing to a little fiddle, which was to no other end than that he should tell his master, by her youthful disposition, how likely he was to come to the crown he so much thirsted after;”–and, indeed, when at her death this same knight, whose origin was low, and whose language was suitable to that origin, appeared before the English council, he could not conceal his Scottish rapture, for, asked how the king did? he replied, “Even, my lords, like a poore man wandering about forty years in a wildernesse and barren soyle, and now arrived at the Land of Promise.” A curious anecdote, respecting the economy of the court in these reigns, is noticed in some manuscript memoirs written in James’s reign, preserved in a family of distinction. The lady, who wrote these memoirs, tells us that a great change had taken place in cleanliness, since the last reign; for, having rose from her chair, she found, on her departure, that she had the honour of carrying upon her some companions who must have been inhabitants of the palace. The court of Elizabeth was celebrated occasionally for its magnificence, and always for its nicety. James was singularly effeminate; he could not behold a drawn sword without shuddering; was much too partial to handsome men; and appears to merit the bitter satire of Churchill. If wanting other proofs, we should only read the second volume of “Royal Letters,” 6987, in the Harleian collections, which contains Stenie’s correspondence with James. The gross familiarity of Buckingham’s address is couched in such terms as these:–he calls his majesty “Dere dad and Gossope!” and concludes his letters with “your humble slaue and dogge, Stenie.”[1] He was a most weak, but not quite a vicious man; yet his expertness in the art of dissimulation was very great indeed. He called this King-Craft. Sir Anthony Weldon gives a lively anecdote of this dissimulation in the king’s behaviour to the Earl of Somerset at the very moment he had prepared to disgrace him. The earl accompanied the king to Royston, and, to his apprehension, never parted from him with more seeming affection, though the king well knew he should never see him more. “The earl, when he kissed his hand, the king hung about his neck, slabbering his cheeks, saying–‘For God’s sake, when shall I see thee again? On my soul I shall neither eat nor sleep until you come again.’ The earl told him on Monday (this being on the Friday). ‘For God’s sake let me,’ said the king:–‘Shall I, shall I?’–then lolled about his neck; ‘then for God’s sake give thy lady this kisse for me, in the same manner at the stayre’s head, at the middle of the stayres, and at the stayre’s foot.’ The earl was not in his coach when the king used these very words (in the hearing of four servants, one of whom reported it instantly to the author of this history), ‘I shall never see his face more.'”

He displayed great imbecility in his amusements, which are characterised by the following one, related by Arthur Wilson:–When James became melancholy in consequence of various disappointments in state matters, Buckingham and his mother used several means of diverting him. Amongst the most ludicrous was the present. They had a young lady, who brought a pig in the dress of a new-born infant: the countess carried it to the king, wrapped in a rich mantle. One Turpin, on this occasion, was dressed like a bishop in all his pontifical ornaments. He began the rites of baptism with the common prayer-book in his hand; a silver ewer with water was held by another. The marquis stood as godfather. When James turned to look at the infant, the pig squeaked: an animal which he greatly abhorred. At this, highly displeased, he exclaimed,–“Out! Away for shame! What blasphemy is this!”