The Children of Westminster Abbey Part 8

[55] Nichols. Vol. I. p. 573.

[56] Green's Princesses. p. 94.

[57] Funeral Sermon for Prs. Mary, by G. Leech, preached in Henry the Seventh's Chapel, Sept. 23, 1607.



Among the Hampshire moors, covered with sheets of purple heather and dark forests of Scotch firs, stands a grand old house built of red brick with stone facings. It is a n.o.ble mansion, with its saloons and libraries; its great hall where the Yule log burns at Christmas on the hearth of a vast fireplace; its wide oaken staircases, secret doors and pa.s.sages; its "Long Gallery" running the whole width of the building; its wonderful ceilings fretted with patterns and pendants of plaster-work; its oak-panelled bedrooms; its attics big enough to house a whole regiment. Outside there are terraces and lawns of finest turf, where Troco and bowls used to be played nearly three hundred years ago; and walled gardens opening one into the other with beautiful wrought-iron gates of intricate pattern. The Virginian creeper climbs over the house, and veils the stone mullions of the deep embayed windows in a delicate tangled tracery of stems and leaves. Groups of tall red brick chimneys rise above the gables of the roof. And crowning the splendid western front--above the great entrance through a triple arched porch, above the exquisite oriel window that hangs out from the walls of the chapel-room--the Prince of Wales's three feathers, the badge that Edward the Black Prince won at Cressy, are carved in stone.

It seems a long way from Westminster Abbey to Bramshill House. But the two are connected in more ways than one with the young hero of our story. For King James the First began to build that fine old house as a hunting box for his son Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales. He brought those giant fir-trees from Scotland, that stand like sentinels on Hartford Bridge Flats and in Bramshill Park; and he planted them in groups here and there as a memento of his northern home, little dreaming that they would take so kindly to the soil, and that millions upon millions of their self-sown children would turn the bleak moorland into thick deep forest. Lastly it was in Bramshill Park that the writer's worthy ancestor, George Abbott, Archbishop of Canterbury, the dear friend and adviser of Henry, Prince of Wales, met with the misfortune that blighted his life. King James who was staying either at Bramshill, which had been bought by Lord Zouch, or at Elvetham close by, insisted on the archbishop going out shooting with him. And when, much against his will, the prelate consented, his shot aimed at a deer, glanced off a tree and killed one of the keepers instead. The archbishop was suspended from his office for a year, and it is said he never smiled again, a tradition that is borne out by his beautiful, sad portrait painted by Van Dyck.[58] It is not, however, with George Abbott, but with the young prince he loved so devotedly, that we have to do.


The boy on whom the hopes of England were to be centered, was born at Stirling Castle in 1594. He was christened six months later at Edinburgh--a guard of the youths of the city, well dressed, standing on either side, as Lord Suss.e.x, who had been sent by Queen Elizabeth to the ceremony with a present of plate, valued at three thousand pounds, carried the baby to the chapel. The child was named by his father, "Frederick Henry and Henry Frederick;" and the Bishop repeating these names over three times, they were proclaimed by heralds to the sound of trumpets. The little fellow was confided to the care of Lady Mar until he was five years old, and a very hard time he must have had. For "the severity of her temper, as well as the duty of her office, would not permit her to use any indulgence towards the prince."[59] But already, baby as he was, he gave signs of the sweetness of his disposition; for he showed not only reverence, but affection for the fierce old dame, and for Lord Mar, her son, who was his governor. When the Prince was taken from Lady Mar's severe care, he was given over to a tutor, Mr. Adam Newton, to whom he became greatly attached; and Lord Mar, Sir David Murray, and several lords, knights, and gentlemen made up his body of attendants. King James lost no time in teaching this little prince the duties and responsibilities of his station. The boy was scarcely six years old before his father wrote his book of "_instructions to his dearest son, Henry the Prince_," the best of all his works according to Bacon, who p.r.o.nounced it "_excellently written_." These instructions are divided into three books;

the first instructing the prince in his duty toward G.o.d; the second in his duty when he should be King; and the third informing him how to behave himself in indifferent things, which were neither right nor wrong, but according as they were rightly or wrongly used.[60]

Before he is seven years old we find the child writing a letter in French to the States General of Holland, in which "he expresses his great regard for the States, and grat.i.tude for the good opinion, which they had so early conceived of him, and of which he had received an account from several persons."[61] And on his ninth birthday he writes a letter to his father in Latin, beginning "_Rex serennissime et amantissime pater_," in which he tells the king what progress he has made, and how that "since the king's departure he had read over Terence's _Hecyra_, the third book of Phaedrus's _Fables_, and two books of Cicero's _Select Epistles_; and he now thought himself capable of performing something in the commendatory kind of Epistles."[62] This is a good deal for a little boy of eight years old to accomplish. How would boys of our day like to do as much? They would probably prefer the other part of young Prince Henry's education. In 1601, when he was seven years old, he

began to apply himself to, and take pleasure in, active and manly exercises, learning to ride, sing, dance, leap, shoot with the bow and gun, toss the pike, etc., being instructed in the use of arms by Richard Preston, a gentleman of great accomplishments both of mind and body,

who was afterwards made Earl of Desmond in Ireland. Prince Henry was devoted to these manly pursuits as we shall see further on; and his fondness for them and his disregard of fatigue or exposure, helped, some thought, to bring about his untimely death.

In 1603, at Queen Elizabeth's death, the prince was nine years old.

Before King James left Scotland, which he did immediately upon receiving the proclamation that raised him to the throne of Great Britain, he wrote a sensible letter to his son, telling him of the immense change in their fortunes, but warning him not to let this news make him "proud or insolent; for a king's son and heir was ye before, and no more are ye now. The augmentation that is hereby like to fall unto you, is but in cares and heavy burthens. Be therefore merry, but not insolent: keep a greatness, but _sine fastu_: Be resolute, but not wilfull: keep your kindness, but in honorable sort."[63] Excellent maxims; and it would have been well for the writer of them to lay them to heart as earnestly as his little son did.

The Prince and his mother, Anne of Denmark, followed the king to Windsor later in the year, spending a whole month on the journey from Edinburgh.

This seems an absurd waste of time to us, who rush through in ten hours and a half by the Limited Mail, breakfasting at Edinburgh, and dining comfortably in London. However these Royal progresses were very slow and stately affairs. All the great lords and gentlemen whose places lay on the route, were honoured by visits. Their grand old castles, their beautiful new Elizabethan houses, such as Bramshill which I have described, or Hatfield, or Hardwicke Hall, were thronged with guests.

There were hawking and hunting parties, masques and tourneys, and every sort and kind of amus.e.m.e.nt for the Royal visitors. And we can well imagine how interested the precocious young prince must have been in the novelty of this journey through the rich kingdom which he hoped to rule over one day.

The queen and prince arrived at Windsor during the feast of St. George, the patron saint of the famous order of the Garter. The little boy was made a knight of this most ill.u.s.trious order; and astonished those present by his "_quick witty answers, princely carriage and reverent obeisance at the altar_,"[64] which seemed extraordinary in one so young and so ignorant of such ceremonies.

As the plague was increasing about Windsor, Prince Henry removed to the royal palace of Oatlands on the Thames near Weybridge. Here for a time his sister, Princess Elizabeth, lived with him. Few pages of history are prettier or more interesting than the story of Henry and Elizabeth's affection for each other. She was two years younger than her brother, a gay, sprightly girl, destined to a most troubled after-life, for she is best known to the world as "the unfortunate Queen of Bohemia,"

grandmother of our English King, George the First. At sixteen she married the Elector Palatine, who was made king of Bohemia by the Protestant party in Germany, and thereby found herself in direct opposition to the Roman Catholic party, who, backed by Spain, supported the claim of Austria to the Bohemian throne. Poor Elizabeth, in spite of trouble and sorrow, poverty and the horrors of war, retained, though a fugitive and an exile, much of her gayety to the very end of her life; and some of her letters, even in her days of sorest need, are most amusing reading. But the letters that are chiefly interesting to us are those which pa.s.sed between the young brother and sister in their happy youth, while Elizabeth was still a merry, light-hearted girl. The wretched system of which we have already spoken, that of sending royal children away from home to be "boarded out" in the house of some great n.o.ble or gentleman, caused no little sorrow to this brother and sister.

Prince Henry, as heir to the crown, was given a separate establishment in 1603, and for a time Princess Elizabeth was permitted to share it.

When they went to Oatlands the king allowed them seventy servants; twenty-two above stairs and forty-eight below. This number was soon increased to one hundred and four, and later in the year to one hundred and forty-one--fifty-six above and eighty-five below. But this happy arrangement did not last long. The princess was sent to Coombe Abbey in Warwickshire, under the care of good Lord Harrington, her governor. And the prince went to Wolsey's famous palace of Hampton Court,

where he resided chiefly till about Michaelmas of the year following, when he returned to housekeeping, his servants having in the interval been put to board-wages.

Now began a constant interchange of letters between the children. The meetings were rare. So they consoled themselves by writing, telling each other of their amus.e.m.e.nts, their occupations, their journeys, their lessons and readings. Here is a pretty one from Prince Henry, written a few years later:

That you are displeased to be left in solitude I can well believe, for you damsels and women are sociable creatures; but you know that those who love each other best cannot always be glued together; and if I have gone from you to make war on hares, as you suppose, I would you should know that it is not less honorable to combat against hares than conies, and yet it is well authenticated by the experience of our age, that this latter is a royal game. But this north wind, preventing us from our ordinary exercises, will blow us straight to London, so in a short time it is probable we may celebrate together, the feast of St. Mangiart and St.

Pensard;[65] to whom recommending you this next Shrove Tuesday,

I am etc. etc.[66]


We now begin to learn something of the boy's tastes. So early as 1604 when he is but ten years old, he is looked upon as a patron of letters.

Lord Spencer sends him a present of Philippe de Comines' Memoirs from Althorpe, knowing his liking for solid reading. And he is given Pibrac's Quatrains in French to learn by heart. He is already corresponding in Latin with the Doge of Venice, the Landgrave of Hesse, the Duke of Brunswick, the Prince of Poland, and his grandfather, the King of Denmark. Then a year or so later we come upon a charming series of French letters between the prince and Henri Quatre, the famous King of France, who had a strong affection for the clever, high-minded boy, and foresaw how important his influence would be in Europe should he live.

Prince Henry and the little Dauphin of France, afterward Louis the Thirteenth, were also warm friends, although they never met. When Monsieur de la Boderie came over to England as amba.s.sador from France, he was charged with special messages to Prince Henry from Henri Quatre and the Dauphin. The latter begged the amba.s.sador to tell the prince

that he cherished his friendship and often spoke of him and of the pack of little dogs which his Highness had sent him, and which he was very sorry that his Governess and Physician would not permit him to make use of.[67]

Poor little Dauphin! To have a pack of little dogs, and not be allowed to use them, must indeed have been hard. But he was not quite six years old then, so that perhaps he was a little young for field sports.

Prince Henry and his sister were both devoted to horses, and were bold and accomplished riders. When the Prince was hardly ten years old he wished "to mount a horse of prodigious mettle," and refusing the help of his attendants, who were greatly alarmed and tried to dissuade him from the attempt,

he got up himself from the side of a bank, and spurred the animal to a full gallop, in spite of the remonstrance of those who stood by; and at last having thoroughly exercised the horse, brought him in a gentle pace back, and dismounting, said to them, "How long shall I continue to be a child in your opinion?"[68]

King Henri Quatre sent over a French riding-master to the boy, a Monsieur St. Anthoine, for in those days France excelled in the "_manege_"--the elaborate art of horsemanship--which was a part of every fine gentleman's education. When the French amba.s.sador came over to England he went to the Riding School to see how Prince Henry was profited by his French teaching, and wrote to the French Secretary of State:

The Dauphin may make a return for the dogs lately sent him by the Prince; for St. Anthoine tells me, that he cannot gratify the Prince more, than by sending him a suit of armour well gilt and enamelled, together with pistols and a sword of the same kind; and if he will add to these a couple of horses, one of which goes well, and the other a barb, it will be a singular favor done to the Prince.[69]

The Spanish amba.s.sador, hearing of this present, instantly tried to curry favor with the boy by telling him that a number of horses were coming to him from the court of Spain--for young as he was, this wily statesman saw the important part the Prince might play in the fortunes of Europe.

But Henry was loyal in his friendship to France, and waited with great eagerness for the Dauphin's horses and armour, which speedily arrived.

Monsieur de la Boderie writing again to France about the Prince, says:

None of his pleasures savour the least of a child. He is a particular lover of horses and what belongs to them; but is not fond of hunting; and when he goes to it, it is rather for the pleasure of galloping, than that which the dogs give him. He plays willingly enough at Tennis. . . . . but this always with persons elder than himself, as if he despised those of his own age. He studies two hours a day, and employs the rest of his time in tossing the pike, or leaping, or shooting with the bow, or throwing the bar, or vaulting, or some other exercise of that kind; and he is never idle. He shows himself likewise very good natured to his dependants, and supports their interests against any persons whatever; and he pushes what he undertakes for them or others with such zeal as gives success to it. For beside his exerting his whole strength to compa.s.s what he desires, he is already feared by those who have the management of affairs, and especially the Earl of Salisbury, who appears to be greatly apprehensive of the Prince's ascendant; as the Prince, on the other hand, shows little esteem for his Lordship.[70]

Here we have a fair picture of this twelve-year-old boy who had already seen how to choose the good, and reject the evil. And everything we learn of him as he grew older only serves to confirm the French amba.s.sador's estimate of his character.

He was a fine, brave child, regardless of pain and danger; liking an old suit of Welsh freize, better than velvet and satin; obedient and dutiful to his parents, although he often disagreed with their opinions. And this was all the more creditable to him; for his mother openly showed her preference for his younger brother Charles; while his father was jealous and afraid of the n.o.ble-minded, truthful boy who would not countenance the scandals and evils of James's corrupt court.


[58] Now in the possession of Maurice Kingsley, Esq.

[59] Life of Henry, Prince of Wales. By Dr. Thomas Birch. p. 11.

[60] Birch. p. 16.

[61] Birch. p. 20. The letter is in the Harleian MSS. in the British Museum.

[62] Birch. p. 22.

[63] Harleian MSS.

[64] Edward Howe's Chronicle. p. 826.

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