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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

Somerset was Ralegh's personal enemy


[Sidenote:

A.D. 1615.]

Shortly before this event Henry Howard had died. Thomas Howard, whose wife was accused of exercising a pernicious and corrupt influence upon affairs, lost his office of High Treasurer. The place of Carr was occupied by the young man above referred to, whom Carr's adversaries had combined to push forward, George Villiers, a native of Leicestershire, where his family had lived upon their own ancestral property from the time of the Conquest. After the early death of his father, his mother, a Beaumont by birth, a lady still young and full of ambition and knowledge of the world, had educated him not only in the training of English schools but in French ways and manners, and had then brought him to court. He differed from Carr in being naturally good-tempered, and of a courteous obliging disposition, which won the heart of every one.[396] Although no one doubted that he would be spoilt by a higher position, yet people thought that he could never become malicious like Somerset. Lord Pembroke and Archbishop Abbot both gave him a helping hand in his rise: the latter moved the Queen also, although she was not without scruples, to aid in it. Villiers was a man after the King's own heart, well-formed, capable of intellectual cultivation, devoted: in consequence of the favour and confidence of the King the youth, who after a time was created Duke of Buckingham, acquired a ruling position in the English state. The old Admiral Effingham, Earl of

Nottingham, resigned his office in order to make room for him: some other high officials were appointed under his influence and according to his views; in a short time the white wands of the royal household and the under-secretaryships and subordinate offices had been transferred to the hands of his adherents and friends.

[Sidenote: A.D. 1617.]

But foreign as well as domestic relations were affected by this change. Somerset had stood in the most confidential relations with the Spanish ambassador: he was accused of having betrayed to him the secrets of the state from his office.[397] His wife, if not himself, was thought to have drawn money from Spain. Probably the intelligence of this behaviour, which came to the King's ears, contributed most to the downfall of Somerset. This event did not in itself involve a change of policy. In the advice which was given to the young favourite from a well-informed source, it is presupposed that the good understanding with Spain would continue: but it was now possible for the adversaries of this power to bestir themselves again. Some of the most conspicuous men of the other party, such as Winwood, the Secretary of State, would even have been glad if open war with Spain had immediately broken out.

The mutual opposition between these powerful tendencies, and the men who made them their own, brought the career of Walter Ralegh to a close.

Somerset was Ralegh's personal enemy, and had gained possession of his best estate. After his fall Ralegh was liberated from the Tower. He still lay under the weight of a sentence which had been pronounced against him on the occasion of the plot which bears his name. He might have purchased its removal; but he was assured by the most influential voices that he had nothing more to fear from it; and he thought that he could apply the money more profitably to the execution of the great design which he had long ago formed, and which he had never for an instant lost sight of during his captivity. A story was then afloat that after the destruction of the kingdom of Peru the descendants of the Incas had founded another kingdom between the Amazon and the Orinoco, the Dorado of the Spaniards. It was Ralegh's ambition to open to his countrymen this region which would be easily accessible from the coasts, of which he had formerly taken possession in the name of England. The old reputation of Ralegh's name procured him sufficient support for his expedition, not only from the merchants, but also from wealthy private individuals; and the King gave him a patent which empowered him to sail to the ports of America still in possession of the heathen, in order to open commercial intercourse with them, and to spread the Christian, especially the Reformed, faith among them.[398] In July 1617 Ralegh set sail from Plymouth harbour for this object, with seven ships of war and a number of small transports carrying about 700 men.


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