In the obstinacy with which he clung to his Spanish policy James stood absolutely alone; for not only the old nobility and the statesmen who preserved the tradition of the age of Elizabeth, but even his own ministers, with the exception of Buckingham and the Treasurer, Cranfield, were at one with the Commons. The King's aim, as we have said, was to enforce peace on the combatants, and to bring about the restitution of the Palatinate to the Elector, through the influence of Spain. It was to secure this influence that he pressed for a closer union with the great Catholic power; and of this union, and the success of the policy which it embodied, the marriage of his son Charles with the Infanta, which had been held out as a lure to his vanity, was to be the sign. But the more James pressed for this consummation of his projects, the more Spain held back. At last Buckingham proposed to force the Spaniard's hand by the arrival of Charles himself at the Spanish Court. The Prince quitted England in disguise, and appeared with Buckingham at Madrid to claim his bride.
[Authorities. - For the first part of this period we have still Mr. Gardiner's "History of England from the accession of James I.," which throws a full and fresh light on one of the most obscure times in our history. His work is as valuable for the early reign of Charles, a period well illustrated by Mr. Forster's "Life of Sir John Eliot." Among the general accounts of the reign of Charles, Mr. Disraeli's " Commentaries on the Reign of Charles I." is the most prominent on the one side; Brodie's "History of the British Empire," and Godwin's "History of the Commonwealth," on the other. M. Guizot's work is accurate and impartial, and Lingard of especial value for the history of the English Catholics, and for his detail of foreign affairs. For the ecclesiastical side see Laud's " Diary." The Commons' Journal gives the proceedings of the Parliaments. Throughout this period the Calendars of State Papers, now issuing under the direction of the Master of the Rolls, are of the greatest historic value.
It was in vain that Spain rose in its demands; for every new demand was met by fresh concessions on the part of England. The abrogation of the penal laws against the Catholics, a Catholic education for the Prince's children, a Catholic household for the Infanta, all were no sooner asked than they were granted. But the marriage was still delayed, while the influence of the new policy on the war in Germany was hard to see. The Catholic League and its army, under the command of Count Tilly, won triumph after triumph over their divided foes. The reduction of Heidelberg and Mannheim completed the conquest of the Palatinate, whose Elector fled helplessly to Holland, while his Electoral dignity was transferred by the Emperor to the Duke of Bavaria. But there was still no sign of the hoped-for intervention on the part of Spain. At last the pressure of Charles himself brought about the disclosure of the secret of its policy. "It is a maxim of state with us," Olivares confessed, as the Prince demanded an energetic interference in Germany, "that the King of Spain must never fight against the Emperor. We cannot employ our forces against the Emperor." "If you hold to that," replied the Prince, "there is an end of all".
His return was the signal for a burst of national joy. All London was alight with bonfires, in her joy at the failure of the Spanish match, and of the collapse, humiliating as it was, of the policy which had so long trailed English honour at the chariot-wheels of Spain. Charles returned to take along with Buckingham the direction of affairs out of his father's hands. The journey to Madrid had revealed to those around him the strange mixture of obstinacy and weakness in the Prince's character, the duplicity which lavished promises because it never purposed to be bound by any, the petty pride that subordinated every political consideration to personal vanity or personal pique. He had granted demand after demand, till the very Spaniards lost faith in his concessions. With rage in his heart at the failure of his efforts, he had renewed his betrothal on the very eve of his departure, only that he might insult the Infanta by its withdrawal when he was safe at home. But to England at large the baser features of his character were still unknown. The stately reserve, the personal dignity and decency of manners which distinguished the Prince, contrasted favourably with the gabble and indecorum of his father.
The courtiers indeed who saw him in his youth, would often pray God that "he might be in the right way when he was set; for if he was in the wrong he would prove the most wilful of any king that ever reigned." But the nation was willing to take his obstinacy for firmness; as it took the pique which inspired his course on his return for patriotism and for the promise of a nobler rule. Under the pressure of Charles and Buckingham the King was forced to call a Parliament, and to concede the point on which he had broken with the last, by laying before it the whole question of the Spanish negotiations. Buckingham and the Prince gave their personal support to Parliament in its demand for a rupture of the treaties with Spain and a declaration of war. A subsidy was eagerly voted; the persecution of the Catholics, which had long been suspended out of deference to Spanish intervention, began with new vigour. The head of the Spanish party, Cranfield, Earl of Middlesex, the Lord Treasurer, was impeached on a charge of corruption, and dismissed from office.
James was swept along helplessly by the tide; but his shrewdness saw clearly the turn that affairs were taking; and it was only by hard pressure that the favourite succeeded in wresting his consent to the disgrace of Middlesex. "You are making a rod for your own back," said the King. But Buckingham and Charles persisted in their plans of war. A treaty of alliance was concluded with Holland; negotiations were begun with the Lutheran Princes of North Germany, who had looked coolly on at the ruin of the Elector Palatine; an alliance with France was proposed, and the marriage of Charles with Henrietta, a daughter of Henry the Fourth of France, and sister of its King. To restore the triple league was to restore the system of Elizabeth; but the first whispers of a Catholic Queen woke opposition in the Commons. At this juncture the death of the King placed Charles upon the throne; and his first Parliament met in May, 1625. "We can hope everything from the King who now governs us," cried Sir Benjamin Rudyerd in the Commons. But there were cooler heads in the Commons than Sir Benjamin Rudyerd's; and enough had taken place in the few months since its last session to temper its loyalty with caution.