Military security and preservation of the remnants of their scattered flock in retreat were of primary concern to the surviving leaders of international Protestantism. The Counter-Reformation’s forces had experienced a powerful resurgence in France and the Palatinate during the second and third decades of the seventeenth century. The reduction of La Rochelle and nearly complete erasure of its population was a reversal of cosmic consequence that led to victories for the Antichrist in Germany. In 1629, Ferdinand II and Wallenstein asserted their mastery, and an imperial edict restored to Rome the ecclesiastical estates lost in the peace of Passau in 1552. On May 22, 1629, Christian IV of Denmark, the last hope of the Protestant forces on the Continent, accepted the peace of Lübeck. He then withdrew his army from the Thirty Years’ War, abandoning all his allies in northern Europe to extermination or submission to Catholic governance.
The Winthrop family watched from England with increasing apprehension as the apocalyptic endgame was played out at La Rochelle. Sometime in February 1628—the first month in which Rochelais physicians began to record the experience of mass starvation during the siege (see fig. 4.2)—Margaret Tyndal Winthrop, John Jr.’s stepmother and his father’s third wife,1 sent an undated letter to her husband, who was in London on business. Conveying concern about serious illness in the family, Margaret’s letter soon expanded its scope outward from domestic anxieties in Groton to encompass Calvinist hopes for God’s constancy and her metaphysical understanding that La Rochelle’s deliverance from its near-mortal “condition” hinged ambiguously on God’s favor and the potential for purification in suffering:
I hope the lorde will heare our prayers and be pleased to stay his hand in this visitasion which if he please to doe we shall have great cause of thankfulness. but I desire in this and all other things to submit unto his holy will, it is the lord let him doe what semeth good in his owne eyes. he will doe nothinge but that shall be for our good if we had harts to t[r]ust in him, and all shall be for the best what soever it shall please him to exersise us with all. he wounds and he can heale. he hath never fayled to doe us good, and now he will not shake us of[f] but continue the same god still that he hath bin heare to fore the lorde santify unto us what soever it shall please him to send unto us that we may be the better for it and furthered in our corce to heaven. I am sorye for the hard condishtion of Rochell. the lord helpe them and fite for them and then none shall prevayle against them or overcome them. in vaine thay fite that fite against the lorde who is a myty god and will destroye all his enimyes.2
But by late spring 1628, God appeared to have forsaken La Rochelle and the Continental Reformed Churches. In a decisive letter to Margaret of May 15, the elder Winthrop gave vent to despondent thoughts of final things and fears for their safety, acknowledging that millennial signs had appeared everywhere “before our eyes.” The time had come to abandon England before the European catastrophes—in which the Puritans themselves were made so obviously complicitous by their own corrupt behavior—crossed the channel to consume them “at last.”3 Thus Winthrop prepared his wife, family, and “our Companye” for the reality of their forthcoming emigration to New England:
My good wife, I prayse the Lorde for the wished newes of thy wellfare and of the rest of our Companye, and for the continuance of ours heer: it is a great favour, that we may enjoye so much comfort and peace in these so evill and declininge tymes and when the increasinge of our sinnes gives us so great cause to looke for some heave Scquorge and Judgment to be cominge upon us: the Lorde hath admonished, threatened, corrected, and astonished us, yet we growe worse and worse, so as his spirit will not allwayes strive with us, he must needs give waye to his furye at last: he hath smitten all the other Churches before our eyes, and hath made them to drinke of the bitter cuppe of tribulation, even unto death; we sawe this, and humbled not ourselves, to turne from our evill wayes, but have provoked him more then all the nations rounde about us: therefore he is turninge the cuppe towards us also, and because we are the last, our portion must be, to drinke the very dreggs which remaine: ... I am veryly persuaded, God will bringe some heavye Affliction upon this lande, and that speedylye: but be of good Comfort, the hardest that can come shall be a meanes to mortifie this bodye of Corruption, which is a thousand tymes more dangerous to us than any outward tribulation, and to bringe us into neerer communion with our Lo: Je: Christ, and more Assurance of his kingdome. If the Lord seeth it wilbe good for us, he will provide a shelter and a hidinge place for us ... we shalbe safe.4
The New England group was not unique among English Calvinists in its wrenching emotional response to the fall of La Rochelle, and in the sense of an ending inspired by painful evidence of “evill and declininge tymes.” What did set them apart, of course, was the decision to abandon England for the New World, where these new Israelites could wait out the inevitable “general destruction” and “staye” in safety “till it come.”5 Here, as Winthrop clearly tells us, the apocalyptic events of 1628, and the resulting quest for refuge and safety, played a central role. But evidence is also widespread that all English Calvinists, at every level of society—including those Puritans who chose to stay behind because they failed to perceive that God’s “Affliction upon this lande” would come “that speedyly”—shared many of Winthrop’s sentiments, though not necessarily his sense of timing, and grieved deeply at the “troubles and sorrows of the Rochellers.”6 A broad cross section of England’s Protestant population either participated in—or knew someone at—the siege of La Rochelle. Many Protestant soldiers joined Buckingham’s huge expeditionary force of 1627, sent by Charles I to overrun the tiny French garrison that occupied the small but strategic fortress at Saint-Martin-de-Ré. The younger Winthrop, like so many others, wrote home on a fairly consistent basis over the course of five months of naval service off the coast of La Rochelle. Certainly, the Winthrop letters survive because the bulk of the family archives were preserved as sacred relics by descendants. However, one John Bradshaw, about whom nothing would be known were it not for another, less predictable, accident of survival, also wrote relatives to convey his experience at the “death” of La Rochelle.
Bradshaw was a nephew of the London Puritan artisan Nehemiah Wallington (1598–1658), about whom we know many things. Wallington was a deeply pious wood turner, whose introspective, thousand-plus page manuscript diary of melancholy and despair has also survived intact. This provides a window into the everyday life of an ambivalent, barely competent, and yet deeply religious seventeenth-century tradesman. Wallington could not have maintained himself as one “of the middling sort,” without the guild connections and constant emotional and financial support of his family. Bradshaw sent an account of his observations on the suffering of La Rochelle to his grandfather, John Wallington Sr. Nehemiah borrowed this from John, and made two copies to include in his diary.7
Similarly, Nehemiah preserved four letters on La Rochelle’s afflictions from the minister Livewell Rampaigne, his brother-in-law. Rampaigne’s letters suggested several ways in which the suffering of their French co-religionists might be used for didactic purposes to serve the faithful at home. Unlike the elder Winthrop, however, the moderate Rampaigne—like many Puritans who did not join the New England experiment—was less than certain that England’s apocalyptic future was at hand. On the contrary, while Calvinists had now learned in their own time “that God’s dearest servants . . . are not privileged from bloody and fiery trials,” England had clearly escaped the finality of La Rochelle’s fate because of God’s special favor. To be sure, this logic was not wholly dissimilar from Margaret Winthrop’s when she reassured her husband in 1627 that the Rochelais would prevail if “the lord help them and fite for them.” But Rampaigne’s complacency in assuring Wallington that God’s favor “is duly to be observed and with praise forever to be acknowledged” would have infuriated Winthrop. Instead of conceding the chiliastic immediacy of the warning of God’s terrible judgment on La Rochelle for England, Rampaigne aloofly informed Wallington that “the English should learn a grateful patience with their own troubles.”8 Rampaigne’s letters to Wallington, while expressing sympathy for La Rochelle, nevertheless assert a palpable detachment from the apocalyptic events on the Continent. To be English, in Rampaigne’s eyes, was security enough.
Winthrop’s letter to Margaret and “our Companye” in Suffolk on the eve of emigration, however, indicates a love, compassion, and spiritual unity with the suffering of the martyred dead that allows of no historical separation. This dialectic of inseparability—or, unity in separation—was ultimately carried to the point of identity with La Rochelle, even as the New World colonists prepared to distance themselves physically from the Bay of Biscay. After all, Winthrop prophesied that “we are the last” to drink the “very dreggs” from the identical cup of “bitter” tribulation that the Rochelais had been forced by God to swallow first. And in “A Modell of Christian Charitie,” Winthrop’s seminal lay shipboard sermon of 1630, he moved to extend and codify this discourse of unity in the face of violent separation. Historians seldom linger on these sections of the long and often quoted “Model,” which is usually cited in reference to Winthrop’s notions of social reciprocity, or, most famous of all, his “Citty upon a Hill” metaphor, taken from Matthew 5:14.
Reactivating the venerable Augustine in this ur-text from the Puritan “middle passage,” “Written On Boarde the Arrabella, On the Attlantick Ocean . . . In His passage . . . from the Island of Great Brittaine, to New-England,” Winthrop likened the Church to a single human body. Here, Winthrop knew, was a trope with a long oral and written history; first encompassing the ascetic eucharistic piety of the later Middle Ages, then, as early seventeenth-century Calvinist exegetics would have done, reaching back to Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, in which he appeals for Christian unity so “that there be no dissensions among you.”9 (“Now ye are the body of Christ,” Paul states rhetorically in 1 Cor. 12, “and members in particular.”) Such a metaphor suggested specific meanings when reactivated to serve the dual “wilderness” themes of exile and separation explored in “Christian Charitie.” Here, Winthrop comprehended an anatomy of contraries that entered (or exited) the body through the mouth, inasmuch as “pleasure and content that the exercise of love carries with it”—as well as the fatal swallow of tribulation from God’s poisonous cup—“wee may see in the naturall body the mouth is at all the paines to receive.”10
In 1630, as fragmented parts of the main body of Christ lay dismembered or mortally wounded on the Continent, the potential for revivification and, ultimately, reunification through dispersion of living parts to places of safety, lay with the emergence of soulish love from the physical mortification of the Thirty Years’ War. That is to say, because the soul was capable of moving freely “by secret passages” through matter at God’s behest, while “giving any motion ... to the body and the power it hath to sett all the faculties on worke.”11 Although the soul’s pathways were God’s secret, its anatomical seat in the loving heart was well known. Yet perhaps more than most sectarians—who believed in the heart as the soul’s central passageway into the body but also that it was free and so sometimes took wayward and unexpected motions—Winthrop underscored the heart’s ability to “frame” and hence order soulish motion. This is a very subtle distinction, but control of this motion was essential to Winthrop’s project: first, to prevent the social and religious chaos of disordered motion, but perhaps above all to fulfill the direct, enduring linkage to God contrived by the theology of the covenant. The soul labors “upon all occasions to produce the same effect, but by framing these affeccions of love in the hearte which will as natively bring forthe the other, as any cause doth produce the effect.”12 Thus, citing Colossians 3:14—and directly paralleling contemporary Neoplatonic theory espoused by his son and most English alchemists (who followed Plato’s dictum that the soul was bond and knot of the world)—Winthrop elaborated on a conjunctive metaphor of soulish love as a “perfect” connecting “ligament” for a fragmented Church:
Love is the bond of perfection ... or ligament ... it makes the work perfect. There is noe body but consistes of partes and that which knitts these partes together gives the body its perfeccion, because it makes eache parte soe contiguous to the other as thereby they doe mutually participate with eache other, bothe in strengthe and infirmity in pleasure and paine, to instance in the most perfect of all bodies, Christ and his church make one body ... when christ comes and by his spirit and love knitts all these partes to himselfe and each to other, it is become the most perfect and best proportioned body in the world.13
Winthrop had in mind the part of Christ’s mystical body that had perished two years earlier with “many thousands of the Saintes” at La Rochelle, when he wrote of the common experience of pain that would naturally reverberate throughout the unity when any single part suffered. Christ—as the primordial heart of the mystical body—sacrificed himself while contained in mortal, crucified flesh. Thus, Christ experienced mortification and ultimately the promise of ecstasy for mankind. Both of these conditions would maintain a historical dialectic that circulated throughout the mystical body as physical memory of sin and sacrifice until the millennium finally purified the chosen and redeemed them from pain and suffering:
All the partes of this body being thus united are made so contiguous in a speciall relacion as they must needes partake of each others strength and infirmity, joy, and sorrow, weale and woe. ... If one member suffers all suffer with it. ... For patterns we have that first of our Saviour . . . becomeing a parte of this body, and being knitt with it in the bond of love, found such a native sensiblenes[s] of our infirmities and sorrowes as hee willingly yeilded himselfe to deathe to ease the infirmities of the rest of his body and soe heale theire sorrowes: from the like Sympathy of partes did the Apostles and many thousands of the Saintes lay downe theire lives for Christ againe.14
Knowing his profound hatred of religious enthusiasm in New England, it is noteworthy that during the passion and anxiety of the escape on the Arabella, Winthrop perceived that under certain conditions, it was possible that man could experience “continuall” intimations from Christ of redemption in historical time. The elder Winthrop perceived, with Calvin, that bodily decay, dispersion, and fragmentation began with original sin, when “Adam Rent in himselfe from his Creator, rent all his posterity allsoe one from another . . . till Christ comes and takes possession of the soule . . . and infuseth . . . love.” The animate soul was thus the medium by which a historical return to prelapsarian grace—and hence the rebirth and reunification of martyred bones—became conceivable, their embodiment manifested in what Winthrop called famously “the new Creature”:
And this latter having continuall supply from Christ . . . little by little expels the former ... soe that this love is the fruite of the new birthe, and none can have it but the new Creature . . . thus formed in the soules of men it workes like the Spirit upon the drie bones. [In Ezekial 37:7] bone came to bone, it gathers together the scattered bones [of] perfect old man Adam and knitts them into one body againe in Christ whereby a man is become againe a living soule.15
“Knitt[ing]” “old man Adam[’s]” “scattered bones” “into one body againe in Christ,” reclaiming “perfect” Edenic symmetry by supplanting man’s fall with his resurrection, Winthrop’s “new Creature” also perfected mystical communication between all the disparate parts of his cosmological “body”—through a shared, mediating heart—no matter at what distance in time or space the individual fragments might exist in relation to one another: “professing our selves fellow members of Christ . . . though wee were absent from eache other many miles, and had our imploymentes as farre distant, yet wee ought to account our selves knitt together by this bond of love, and live in the exercise of it.”16
The primacy that the fall of La Rochelle played in joining a historical event with Calvinist theology in the formation of his millennial thought allowed Winthrop to conclude the segment of his text that addressed the mystical nature of international Protestantism by finding the ultimate “pattern” for tacit, soulish communication among Christians in “the Waldenses,” or Waldensians. This group was the most significant pre-Reformation heretical movement in early modern France, usually perceived as the primitive precursors of the Huguenots. The elder Winthrop noted that soulish networks of communication were “notorious in the practice of the Christians in former times, as is testified of the Waldenses from the mouth of one of the adversaries: ‘they use to love any of theire owne religion even before they were acquainted with them.’”17
In theory, then, the elder Winthrop’s lay sermon preached a shipboard gospel of fluid, integrating, soulish love to redeem the body Christian fragmented by violence and dispersion. It was well known throughout the Protestant world as early as the mid 1630s, however, that the governor’s dangerous intolerance of heterodoxy, and of transplanted Germanic pietism in particular, had hardened in everyday practice in Massachusetts. Once settled in America, he adhered closely to the standards of Old Testament wrathfulness toward heterodoxy. Because the elder Winthrop perceived his own heart at the center of the Christian body—one that framed the soul in an almost intractable fashion (as a king might have done)—his notion of the body’s unity in the midst of fragmentation was unilinear. Hence, the direction of the soul was clear and, if not completely visible, comprehensible. Pietists and sectarians, however, perceived soulishness as multiple, interior, and hidden. The movement of the soul was thus impossible to guarantee; it had to be felt emotionally and with immediacy. While there was only one God, witness of the spirit took infinite forms; fragmentation and unity were therefore personal, and the spirit had the subversive potential for “framing” in infinitely different ways (and, in infinitely different, independent hearts).
Moreover, while many English Puritans took a more moderate view than Winthrop on how fast the millennial clock was ticking in 1628 and 1629, it is not surprising that for some, moderation on the question of temporality also extended to that of religious toleration. This caused many convinced predestinarians to reconsider initial millennial impulses to join the Puritan experiment in New England. For example, unlike the elder Winthrop and most of Wallington’s Massachusetts correspondents—including Edward Brown, a fellow turner who emigrated to Ipswich (Wallington wrote Brown in 1645 to denounce religious discord in New England)—Wallington himself shunned doctrinal schism and seemed tolerant of Calvinist heterodoxy.18 This issue of intolerance in Massachusetts Bay also generated a great degree of controversy among the younger Winthrop’s scientific correspondents in London. Edward Howes, for one, hesitated to join his old friend and colleague in America for just this reason. Despite relative moderation, and geographical, social, and doctrinal distancing, most English Calvinists shared the elder Winthrop’s intense anxiety and remained watchful of the international scene both during and after the siege of La Rochelle. This was predicated on spiritual communication through the doctrine of Christian unity of the fragmented body. The historian Paul Seaver, Wallington’s most attentive reader, has placed the “world” of his subject firmly within the unified geographical field of international Protestantism dispersed by the religious wars. In this, the humble artisan possessed a much more inclusive spiritual cosmos than did his ministerial brother-in-law:
Almost all Wallington’s connections . . . created a network of concern that stretched to Massachusetts and Connecticut on the one side and to France and Germany on the other ... he saw himself primarily not as a citizen turner, a Londoner or Englishman, but as a member of a more select or temporally limited group—the children of God. On occasion he referred to them as “the people of the Lord” or simply as “His People”. . . among the children of God were also coreligionists abroad . . . [Wallington] lamented the harsh fate that had recently befallen the French Protestants at La Rochelle, “the general report” of which “filled me with much . . . sorrow of heart that the people of God should endure such great miseries scarce heard of in our age”. . . [thus] Wallington had learned to see politics in terms of a . . . struggle between the forces of Christ and Antichrist, a battle whose fate was determined as much by the fall of La Rochelle or by the appearance of the Swedish Lion on the plains of Pomerania as by events in London or Westminster.19
The source of Wallington’s and Winthrop’s shared awareness of themselves as actors in international apocalyptic politics, like many of their co-religionists, extended beyond personal and familial experience to Calvinist ideological identification with Parliament. This sense of identity was both personal and professional for Winthrop. As lord of Groton Manor, it was an economic necessity for Winthrop to study the law (or else spend scarce resources to hire a lawyer) in order to competently discharge his traditional duties as the judge of the manorial court and justice of the county court. He was thus intimately familiar with the theory and practice of English common law. Although he failed to complete his studies at Cambridge, in time he was to become a respected parliamentary antiquarian and scribe. Indeed, his knowledge of parliamentary language and precedent expanded Winthrop’s world beyond Groton Manor to the metropolis. When Suffolk’s woolen industry suffered a deep depression beginning in the 1620s, in addition to selling off parcels of land, the cash-poor Winthrop diversified further. He spent part of the year with family in London, where he supplemented his income by serving as counsel on drafting legislation for parliamentary committees. By 1627, Winthrop had risen to the more lucrative position of common solicitor in the Court of Wards and Liveries.20
Also beginning in 1620, with the onset of Louis XIII’s bloody annual military campaigns against Huguenot strongholds in the south and west of France (which lasted until 1629, when cleanup operations following the siege of La Rochelle ended), parliamentary advocates of an international Protestant program to counteract the devastating effects of the Thirty Years’ War started to speak of “the Huguenot cause as part of the general Protestant cause.”21 But with the “mortification” of La Rochelle and its linkage to the rise of the Counter-Reformation warrior-cleric Cardinal Richelieu, who simultaneously reached the height of his political and economic power in France and on the world stage in 1628, the stakes had also risen dramatically. This initial perception had grown to represent the Huguenots as the first piece in a domino theory of apocalypse. In this scenario, it was sometimes difficult for Protestants to distinguish between narratives of earthly and supernatural tyranny. Princely sinners like Charles I and his French Catholic wife, besotted by the treachery of a beautiful court favorite, and the blood-drunk Louis XIII, maddened by the quest for glory and absolute power, worked in tandem with the Antichrist to desecrate the cosmos and consume the world with evil.
J. G. A. Pocock and others have shown how the political language of the Puritan saint had come into common usage in England during the late sixteenth century,22 but it found fullest parliamentary expression beginning on June 14, 1628. The widespread publication of the Commons’ Remonstrance to Charles I summarized eight days of heated speech in the Calvinist-dominated lower house.23 The Commons debate linked the devastating geopolitical consequences of the incomprehensible defeat of a Royal Navy armada of over 30,000 soldiers, sailors, and marines by the tiny French garrison at Saint-Martin-de-Ré—with a reported loss of some 7,000 men24—to the internal subversion of the once-proud nobility’s primitive English virtue and religious piety by insidious individuals who had gained “nearness” to Charles I. The primordial ties linking Church and state were now in mortal peril. The duke of Buckingham, in particular, who had been excoriated by Calvinists since the early 1620s, was commonly portrayed as a secret Arminian or, worse, an agent of the pope. Now, in the wake of his repulse at Saint-Martin, Buckingham was represented by critics as an “effeminate,” “counterfeit,” crypto-Catholic enemy of the state—one who used dissimulation, disguise, and the illicit “pleasures” of a malicious heart to gain access to the most intimate part of the royal household.
Much of the available language that articulated the public’s notion of Buckingham’s ambiguous sexual tastes and appearance was delivered to Parliament in the form of eye witness accounts of the duke’s strange behavior at the unsuccessful siege of Saint-Martin. These bitter polemical pamphlets were published under the names of disgruntled officers on their return from France, although it is unclear how much of a hand they had in the writing. None was more scathing than An Unhappy View of the Whole Behavior of my Lord Duke of Buckingham, at the French Island, called Isle of Rhee, by Colonel William Fleetwood, “an unfortunate commander in that untoward service.”25 “Upon the point of our first setting to sea,” Fleetwood reported, the duke’s cowardice had revealed itself “out of a distrust of some miserable death that might befall him in the voyage . . . being for a time estranged from his effeminate pleasures here at home, from which no warlike service could ever withdraw him.”26 The duke’s intention, therefore, was not to defend England’s honor as befitted a brave and experienced knight sent to a foreign battlefield in the name of the king, but rather “to redeem all his lost honour at home ... in a desperate manner.” Fleetwood goes on to accuse his Lord Admiral of assassinating a field officer with whom Buckingham had disagreed. “The malice of a vindictive heart,” he wrote of the bodily container of Buckingham’s corrupt spirit, “is never appeased, but remains still inexorable and devilish.” Sir John Burrows, although “cleare out of all danger of the Fort, was in an instant stricken dead in the place with a musket, shot by an unknown hand.” The angry Fleetwood detailed similarly suspicious actions at every turning point in the battle, and each time Buckingham’s “whole behavior” had favored the outnumbered and outgunned French defenders.27
Most egregious of all, on the day before the final battle, retreat, and slaughter of thousands of English soldiers that led to the chaotic flight of the armada from the He de Ré, Buckingham called his officer corps together and “told us, that he had secret intelligence out of the Fort, that most of Their best Souldiers had conveied Themselves away by night.” Thus, Fleetwood claimed, the duke misrepresented the still heavily defended fortress to initiate an open assault he knew secretly was destined to fail. To underscore this soldier’s narrative of “our counterfeit Generall’s” effeminate dissimulation and weakness, leading to his poisonous treachery—and perhaps to recall Calvinist contempt for his famous androgynous roles as the lead dancer in Inigo Jones’s masques at the Stuart court—Buckingham dressed for battle in womanly disguise, hiding inside the clothing of a “faint and impotent soldier”:
The very next morning after this consultation, which fell out to be the day of doom to most of us, the Duke being sensible of his perfideous dealings, & that this was the day that the Defendants would encounter us to death . . . attired one of his own followers, every way much resembling himself, in his warlike habit & colours, with instructions suitable to the deceipt, and then disguised as a faint and impotent soldier, got himself a shipboard, and not only left us ignorant of the bloody intent towards us, but also made us incapable to prevent it, when we should . . . truely should the revenge of the Parliament seize upon him . . . [for] the utter confusion of the poore Protestantes in France, now daily massacred without all pity, through their needlesse defense of their Religion. Yet it is the Kings pleasure still to afford him his wonted grace and connivance for all this; And treason it is apparent to denounce him faulty in any thing; But let his Magesty look at it, for his longer sheltring of this rich Traytor, and false-hearted man, both to God and his Country, which will be to [the] ruine both of himself and his kingdom at last, yet I have hope (out of the integrity of his heart, now whilest it is called today, and before the evill day come) he will give him over to the Parliament, whilst it is of strength to punish him. And that they for their parts will send him to H[ell] without any more ado.28
Nicolas Tyacke has argued persuasively that the religious controversies between English predestinarians and Arminians peaked when the Parliament of 1628 assembled. So Buckingham’s place at the center of the tumult invited orthodox Calvinists to demonize him as the embodiment of national decline. Not only was the Commons faced with Buckingham’s failings as Lord Admiral at the Ile de Ré, but it was impossible for M.P.’s to separate the context of the Huguenots in France from their intense anxiety over two specific domestic issues of enormous theological and political importance in the late 1620s: first, the suppression of public debate on the “truthfulness” of the Thirty-nine Articles had caused orthodox clergy and laity to lose confidence in the state; and, second, the scandalous appointment of leading Arminians to bishoprics over the objections of Parliament had led to widespread fear of “counter-revolution” in the Church of England. Thus, a Catholic minority with strong courtly patronage under Buckingham’s control could dominate English religious life, with the inevitable result that orthodox Calvinists would be pushed to the margins and stigmatized as “Puritans.”29
Calvinist M.P.’s militated against “subversion of our true religion” in violent, unexpurgated debate. On June 5, 1628, the great historian of the common law Sir Edward Coke (1552–1634; Coke condemned Sir Kenelm Digby’s father to a singularly horrible death) led the way and then allowed Edward Kirton, Christopher Sherland, Richard Knightley, and John Hampden to elaborate on his themes. All used the dangerous political language of heresy and slavery to attack Buckingham. Kirton, who was later censored for his provocative speech, called outright for the duke’s assassination:
COKE: I think verily that God has laid this punishment upon us because we have hoodwinked ourselves. . . . There is nothing grown to abuse but this house ought to reform. Because men have been named, I will name a man, the Duke of Buckingham. He is the grievance of grievances. Let us tell the King so, and though we have patents30 which we complain of, yet that we ought to complain [about Buckingham] before any other.
KIRTON: The great Duke . . . has gotten the strength of the kingdom into his hands; he endeavors to make us slaves; he connives at our enemies; and in my conscience has some dangerous plot upon us. I pray let us make him known to the King. The Duke is an enemy to the kingdom, and so to the King; and I hope every good subject will before long draw his sword against the enemies of the King and kingdom.
SHERLAND: All that we have in the world is going to ruin, and the courses of late time have only tended to the subversion of our true religion and to raise the faction of the papists throughout Christendom. Are not papists in great favor at court? Are they not sent to be commanders, even in the last voyages which seemed to be made for the help of the Protestants? All our voyages have been turned contrary.
KNIGHTLY: All our miseries come from the undervaluing of the true religion, and no kingdom can flourish where the true religion does not. In many parts of this kingdom popery flourishes as much and is of equal power with the true Protestant religion.
HAMPDEN: For innovation of religion, it is like to come by this great man for, though he be not a papist, yet he is allied to papists, supports papists, and puts papists in places of trust.31
On June 6, Sir Nathaniel Rich and Lawrence Whitaker completed the long list of Calvinist grievances against Buckingham, Laud, and the Arminians. Rich and Whitaker showed how the duke’s support for recusants and his failure to suppress heresy had caused papism and Counter-Reformation to “spread itself everywhere,” especially in London:
RICH: Religion is the first, and heresies reign too much. Arminianism spreads itself everywhere. I have heard of clerks, at the induction of ministers, should ask them that were to be inducted whether they were Calvinists or Arminians. Books of orthodoxal doctrine are stopped, and others have free passage.
WHITAKER: There is an infinite flocking of these people around this town [London]. I once knew of a place about this town that for the diligence and devoutness they showed in religion were called “the Little Geneva.” I can show you now a little Rome or a little Douai. There is amongst them nobility, gentry, clergy, lawyers; there is 3 papists to one Protestant. In Drury Lane more go to mass than to the church. There is a general want of preaching, which causes idleness, drunkenness, and all manner of debauchedness.32
This list was edited and formalized by Sir John Eliot (1592–1632) to become the first grievance in the Remonstrance of 1628 to Charles I, which explicitly named certain Jesuits in disguise as the mortal enemies of the “orthodox church”:
our fear concerning change or subversion of religion is grounded upon the daily increase of papists . . . so are the hearts of your good subjects no less perplexed when with sorrow they behold a daily growth and spreading of the factions of the Arminians, that being (as your Majesty well knows) but a cunning way to bring in popery, and the professors of thse opinions . . . being Protestants in show but Jesuits in opinion . . . are much favored and advanced, not withstanding friends even of the clergy near to your Majesty, namely Dr.Neile, Bishop of Winchester, and Dr. Laud, Bishop of Bath and Wells, who are justly suspected to be unsound in their opinions that way. And it being now generally held to be the way to preferment and promotion in the church, many scholars do bend the course of their studies to maintain those errors. Their books and opinions are suffered to be printed and published, and on the other side the impressions of such as are written against them and in defense of the orthodox church are hindered and prohibited.33
Tyacke reminds historians of the baneful meaning seventeenth-century Calvinists assigned to the term “Puritan,” since it was commonly used by “anti-Calvinists” in polemical contexts to identify intractable predestinarians. In his second spiritual “Experiencia” of 1616–18 (written after his second wife, Thomasine Clopton, died in childbirth), the elder Winthrop refused to accept such an identity assigned by others and adumbrated use of the word “Puritan” as an epithet of political marginalization in the Church of England. In this instance, however, he angrily turned the pejorative—among many others—into a defiant mark of spiritual steadfastness and courage in the face of adverse, “heated” speech:
[Christe Jesus] assurest my heart that I am in a right course, even the narrow waye that leads to heaven. Thou tellest me, and all experience tells me, that in this way there is least companie, and that those which doe walke openly in this way shallbe reviled, despised, pointed at, hated of the world, made a byworde, . . . slandered, rebuked, made a gazing stocke, called puritans, nice fooles, hypocrites, hair-brained fellowes, rashe, indiscreet, vain-glorious, and all that naught is; yet all this is nothing to that which many of thine excellent servents have been tried with, neither shall they lessen the glorie thou hast prepared for us.34
These multiple areas of religious contention in the Church of England engulfed its titular head, the king, and the royal favorite (a “false counsellor” who secretly pursued papist interests in the king’s name), and contributed mightily to the atmosphere of hatred and paranoia that gripped Parliament in 1628. This, in turn, spread rapidly among the thousands of highly literate Calvinists who followed published accounts of the debates closely from both pulpit and pew. Indeed, as a direct result of violent ad hominem attacks and threats of assassination in the Commons over his abuse of power, which it said led to the duke’s personal failure in the fall of La Rochelle, Buckingham was assassinated on August 22, 1628, by John Felton, a Suffolk seaman under his command. Felton was a devout predestinarian who had served as a lieutenant on the expedition to the Ile de Ré. He was already dismayed by that result and deeply disturbed by long delays experienced in obtaining promotion and back pay. In fact, Buckingham had already been threatened with murder by roving bands of sick and impoverished sailors from the Ile de Ré expedition. On May 19, 1628, he blamed Parliament and complained defiantly in a pamphlet, My Lord Duke’s Protestation against the Mariners: “The King has no means to pay you till the parliament give it. . . . As for your threatenings to pull down my walls of my house around my ears: when I shall see you come with any such intention, I will let you know that I can and will correct you as sharply for your insolences and disorders as I have been forward to procure you satisfaction and have been sensible of your sufferings.”35
While awaiting execution, Felton was anxious to set the record straight and deny pecuniary motives. He told inquisitors that by “reading the remonstrance of the House of Parliament . . . it came into his mind [that] by . . . killing the Duke he should do his country great service.”36 Thomas Scott’s vengeful attitude toward the duke was not dissimilar. Scott, a Calvinist yeoman from Kent, was embittered and ultimately politicized by Buckingham’s decision to billet troops returned from the Ile de Ré throughout the southern coastal counties. This was a broadly unpopular action, particularly among devout Calvinists, for whom the disorders of billeting interrupted and finally defiled the religious life of the family. In light of the Calvinist emphasis on private family piety and the patriarchal role of reading the word aloud in domestic settings, Scott’s pious perspective on the dangers and inconveniences of housing soldiers is understandable. He further complained that those billeted were Irish Catholic mercenaries used in the battle for Saint-Martin. In the end, Scott employed a scribe to assist in writing two lengthy narratives to present his grievances to Parliament. These gave the Commons an account of his arrest and appearance before the Privy Council for refusing to billet soldiers from Buckingham’s command in his home.
Like the Wallington diaries, the Scott manuscripts exemplify the intersection of political and millennial experience in an unlearned English Calvinist household in the wake of Buckingham’s defeat. But Scott had even greater personal involvement with the aftermath of the expedition than did Wallington, because on October 5, 1628, Scott’s long account of day-to-day events in his besieged household was transformed into a prophetic meditation on the millennial power of two dates: July 17, 1628 (billeting ends), and August 23, 1628 (Buckingham’s death following Felton’s attack):
How many are the days of thy servant? When wilt thou do judgement on my persecutors? As when on the 17 of July last the days of my affliction did end, but especially when on the 23 of August following judgement was done on my persecutors. The Lord laughs at him (on the 17 of July) for he sees that his day doth come (on the 23 of August). They that come after this shall be astonished at his day (23 August) as they that went before were affrighted.37
This inspired Scott’s last recorded prophesy, that Felton’s sacrifice of Buckingham would finally cleanse the kingdom with blood. This expunged “the evil which for His sake I have suffered from these tyrannous lords.” By “tyrannous lords,” Scott meant both Buckingham and his uninvited Irish guests. Simultaneously, Scott had a miraculous vision, “brought into me,” that La Rochelle itself had been delivered from death at the hands of absolutism:
On this day and yesterday, which was the Lord’s day, the news of Rochelle’s deliverance is brought into me, for a certain truth (I pray God it prove so) of which before I heard many uncertain rumors. On this day also I brought into my barn all my corn after a long and late harvest, but ever since the Duke’s death fair and seasonable beyond expectation of any experience within the memory of man.38
Scott’s prophesy of La Rochelle’s deliverance did not prove so, and Louis XIII’s punitive “Articles of Agreement . . . upon the Rendition of the Town” were issued just three weeks later.39 The Commons debates that culminated in the Remonstrance of 1628 reveal the extent to which the Calvinist majority, already anxious over failures in its domestic program, perceived that the arsenal of international Protestantism on the Continent had been compromised. The Commons also discerned that in this fluid context, it could assert the existence and primacy of a “true orthodoxy” in the Church of England and thus turn the chaotic situation in France to the advantage of its political and social program. The fall of La Rochelle was, therefore, inextricably linked to the decimation of the external frontier of spiritual, military, and economic security that England had nurtured and enjoyed since the defeat of the Spanish Armada during the golden age of Elizabeth. The elder Winthrop and melancholy Wallington, heroic Felton, and messianic Scott spoke for a large constituency of now anonymous Calvinist correspondents and diarists. Members of Parliament responded with anxiety over the apocalyptic instability of history, ambitions for God’s favor, and a thirst for revenge, wondering aloud what they must now do to prepare themselves and their institution for the imminent arrival in England of the armies of the Antichrist.
One such M.P. was Sir John Eliot, vice-admiral of Devon, who served in the House of Commons until he was imprisoned by Charles I in the Tower of London in 1629. The spokesman for a large, complex faction of members disaffected on many levels with perceived corruption in early Stuart rule, Eliot took the greatest personal risk in the debates of 1628 and was made an example as a consequence. The king held him personally responsible not only for his prominent performance on the Commons’ floor leading up to the Remonstrance of 1628—which Eliot’s subcommittee wrote—but for the far greater offense of conspiring to incite the assassination of the royal favorite. Indeed, Eliot’s naval experience gave him the professional authority to lead the withering parliamentary attack on Buckingham’s failure as Lord Admiral of the navy. Initially, this took the form of a critique of Buckingham’s part in turning a potentially successful expedition against the Spaniards at Cadiz in 1626 into a costly failure. But ultimately, the Commons turned to his “shameful” command of the fleet at the Ile de Ré. Eliot also led Parliament’s search for precedents to fashion the apocalyptic political language necessary to give cosmological meaning to the Commons’ discourse on the fall of La Rochelle.40
The Remonstrance itself represented the culmination of a series of aggressive strategies against Buckingham that were deployed openly for the first time in March 1626, intended first to separate the favorite from his royal protector and then to have him impeached. These moves were orchestrated by Eliot and his group, which cobbled together a faction of disaffected peers, Calvinist predestinarians, and antiquarians in the lower house, all of whom shared an interest in the claim that Buckingham’s role at court privatized “ancient” parliamentary privilege to counsel the king in the name of his people. “We sit here as the great council of the king,” Eliot began on June 3, “and in that capacity it is our duty to take into consideration the state and affairs of the kingdom and . . . to give them in a true representation by way of counsel and advice . . . and to see that all things that are out of order be represented to him.”41 The appropriation by any private individual of the time-honored duty of the Commons to represent “our . . . true . . . order” was above all an illegal structural “innovation.” Innovation threatened the mythical balance of continuous English institutions of liberty thought to have originated prior to the Norman Conquest of 1066 with the Germanic Anglo-Saxon tribes of the fifth century A.D., and later elaborated by humanist inquiry into Greco-Roman and feudal law. Sir Edward Coke—who, according to Pocock, “discovered law and parliament among the pre-Conquest English” and whose “essential belief” was, moreover, that “the common law had been proved good because it lasted from time immemorial”—argued that Buckingham’s most egregious sin was the radical innovation of “what had been proved good” by time, a crime that Coke discovered carried with it ample legal precedent for impeachment of the royal favorite.42
Although historians label him a religious radical whose actions anticipated the Civil War, Eliot claimed to be a reformer whose goal was the overthrow of institutional and religious innovation and the retrieval of orthodoxy as defined by his (and Coke’s) reading of England’s first historical principles. Eliot took advantage of chaos and political instability that accompanied the loss of La Rochelle to merge his antiquarian scholarship of 1626 with the charismatic popular millennialism of 1628. However, from the beginning, Eliot built his arguments for restoring stability on an “orthodox” foundation of the maintenance of institutional balance, precedent, and privilege within a well-functioning monarchy, a strategy that would seem to be opposed to the radical parlia-mentarianism of the 1640s. On the contrary, however, Eliot argued that the “cause of causes” of England’s decline was the “offense unnatural” of placing too much “honor” in the hands of a single individual who was not the king but acted in his name. The unnaturally ennobled favorite threatened the balance of power by destabilizing the old equilibrium between king, privy council, and Parliament. Eliot insisted that by subtracting the ultimate “cause” of destabilization and disorder—and so its bodily and spiritual corruption—the kingdom would return to its natural symmetry once again. So Eliot’s impulse achieved institutional reform through a process of subtraction of corrupt elements to return to the primitive purity of first principles. These were still available, known from time immemorial to the “true English heart.” The question became, then, how to define the true heart? This question resonated powerfully with both Reformation ideology about the primacy of the primitive Church and humanist programs of classical legal scholarship.43
As such, the Commons debates of 1628 represented the most forceful assertion of the legal and political language of the “ancient constitution” yet heard in a seventeenth-century Parliament.44 This linkage seemed natural given the shared sense of an Anglo-French crisis that the Counter-Reformation on the Continent conveyed to English Calvinists during the late 1620s. The state of Protestantism in France, and La Rochelle in particular, was likewise of special concern, because of long historical associations with England. As the consequences of Charles IX’s journey to La Rochelle in 1565 made clear, these cross-channel associations also had firm twelfth-century origins in the southwestern French historical consciousness as well. The fortress’s allegiance to Paris was ambiguous at best, reactivating the quarrel over identity and communal privilege between La Rochelle and the French monarchy fully articulated by Louis XIII in the Articles of Agreement in 1628.
English historians argued that the ancient individual liberties of the Rochelais—which they conflated with the communal liberties of La Rochelle’s municipal privileges—had been brutally suppressed by an absolutist Catholic tyrant. Thus, in direct “bodily” relation to England’s own battle with the Stuarts’ tyrannical favorite, this political discourse meshed neatly with the elder Winthrop’s trope of orthodox exclusivity in the model Body Christian. With “primitive” roots in the early Church, such expressions of late medieval eucharistic piety and covenantal theology channeled communication with its physical (and geographic) extremities through the nexus of a soulish heart.45 Parliament’s researchers showed that La Rochelle’s liberties circulated from a common Germanic bloodstream shared by Anglo-Saxon progenitors and primitive Christian martyrs. Blood was now spilled together in one confluent stream of virtuous resistance to violent oppression that animated the souls of English and French co-religionists.
Connected as they were in one world body that was under attack from within and without, Calvinists alleged that France’s Counter-Reformation was now moving from the Continental extremities of the body Christian toward Charles I and the heart of international Protestantism. A papist vein carried infected blood to supply England’s mortal disease with sustenance. After all, the francophile Buckingham (and the countess of Buckingham, his Catholic mother), Buckingham’s Arminian “creature” Dr. Laud (who by 1628, had made sufficient progress at court to write most of the king’s reply to the Remonstrance), and Charles’s French queen, Henrietta-Maria (daughter of Henri IV and Catherine de Médicis and sister of Louis XIII) were joined together in their “nearness” to the king. There was a sinister conspiracy to infect England with the poison of Catholic absolutism, a cannibalistic disease whereby the monarch, an unknowing disciple of the Antichrist, would ultimately devour first the law and then his subjects. The Remonstrance thus posited an apocalyptic battle for dominance between two competing orthodoxies: Calvinism and absolutism. In the middle, by reason of his nearness to the king, stood the royal favorite, Buckingham, leading an advance guard of Arminian agents provocateurs and Jesuitical imposters.
Eliot was explicit in blaming internal weakness, the major symptom of this disease, for disabling England’s historically symbiotic relationship with southwestern France. This, he argued bitterly, would effectively force the kingdom to radically redefine its worldview. England now faced new and immediate threats to its identity as the world’s touchstone of stability and historical consciousness of having inherited its security from the immemorial past. Eliot saw the origin of this historical linkage in the “wisdoms of our ancestors,” which had been put into practice and achieved a golden age in his own lifetime in the rule of “that never to be forgotten excellent Queen Elizabeth.” Indeed, with Buckingham’s “disorder” of James I and then his son Charles, Eliot argued that the duke’s religious and sexual ambiguities had an innovative effect on early Stuart rule. Buckingham’s corruption as a succubus on the body politic reestablished a context for cataclysmic historical reversals like the one at the Ile de Ré. The favorite had substituted a perverse form of government for a balanced one, which instilled pathological weakness, enabling the emergence of a new anti-Elizabethan cosmology at court.
Elizabeth had “advanced” England powerfully, while suppressing dangers in a world she created with the help of her French alliance against Spain. Yet Buckingham had proceeded “directly contrary and opposite, ex diametro, to those ends”:
the cause of those dangers were our disorders, and our disorders are yet our greatest dangers, and not so much the potency of our enemies as the weakness of ourselves do threaten us. ... And if in these there be not reformation, we need no foes abroad: time itself will ruin us. ... For if we view ourselves at home are we in strength, are we in reputation equal to our ancestors? If we view ourselves abroad, are our friends as many as our enemies? . . . What counsel to the loss of the Palatinate[?]. . . . What counsel gave direction to that late action whose wounds are yet ableeding? I mean the expedition to Ré, of which there is yet so sad a memory in all men.46
“What counsel” had dismantled France’s internal unity, dangerously interrupting the natural continuities of national security between “our ancestors” and Elizabeth?
You know the wisdoms of our ancestors, the practice of their times; how they preserved their safeties. . . . Against this greatness and ambition we likewise know the proceeding of . . . Queen Elizabeth. . . . You know how she advanced herself, how she advanced this kingdom . . . how she enjoyed a full security . . . she built on . . . unity in France . . . the division in France between the Protestants and their King . . . has made an absolute breech between that state and us.47
Refugee French Huguenot historians forged ancestral links with England’s consciousness of its primordial past. Despairing for a homeland lost to absolutism, Hugh Trevor-Roper argues, Huguenot historians were central to the development of English historical Pyrrhonism—a skeptical “distrust of all great schemes of history” that, Trevor-Roper contends, “was the chief contribution of the Huguenots to the study of history in the half-century after the Revocation.”48 As Pocock and others noted long ago, however, Pyrrhonism became widespread earlier than the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, easily as early as the sixteenth century, and not just among English Huguenots.49 For Pocock, the techniques of historical criticism were common during the Italian Renaissance. Diffused via the Venetian book trade into northern Europe by the later sixteenth century, the new criticism circulated first among French and then among English and Netherlandish humanists.
New histories formed a wide spectrum from Pyrrhonist despair about the future of literary narrative (“as to whether,” Pocock writes, “the story of the past could be told at all”) to highly original and complex “critical methods.” These methods determined “the reliability of facts” about the past, as developed by French scholars such as Jean Mabillon and adapted to the English context by legal historians including Coke.50 Still, Trevor-Roper’s thesis is useful, particularly if his chronology is adjusted backward to include pivotal events that occurred more than a century before the Revocation. Huguenot historiography, including historical Pyrrhonism, found its formative impulse in the genocidal violence of the 1560s, in the midst of the first civil wars of religion. It was elaborated following the loss of the Palatinate and La Rochelle. By 1685, depending on regional context and individual experience, the critical tradition in Huguenot historiography was already in place inside France, from which it had long since traveled to the refugee historians’ Atlantic hosts.
Trevor-Roper appears to muddy his argument against the limitations of skepticism with surprisingly nativistic aspersions against foreign historians “[in]capable of original thought.” At the same time, however, he shows intense engagement with the mythic past by the refugee historians and their English Calvinist allies. The essence of that process of reading English history through the Huguenots’ tumultuous désert experience was not its derivativeness but its ambiguity. Having first reduced the problem to unproductive binary oppositions between retrograde French criticism and progressive British creativity, Trevor-Roper then tries to break out of his predicament by reassuring readers that “Huguenot historians were not entirely destructive” after all.
We may extrapolate from Trevor-Roper’s critique of Pyrrhonic despair that Huguenot historians were again engaged in a kind of bricolage. This signified the fluidity of their identity with the lived experience of dispersion; of being, simultaneously, destroyers and artisans of reconstituted historical and scriptural texts that tied past and present together. This constructed a textual continuity with the past in “real time,” suggesting an experiential foundation from which Huguenot historians may themselves have asked Trevor-Roper’s essential question: once “inadmissible” historical systems were deconstructed to fit the present context, “how was the historian to begin again?”
The answer was found in the libraries of both Calvinist and humanist scholars. For most sixteenth-century Huguenot historians and early seventeenth-century English parliamentary historians, these identities were combined: “He must go back to first principles, re-examine the sources,” Trevor-Roper writes, “and so provide a new basis on which . . . a more accurate system could afterwards be built.” The urgency of the French civil wars of religion propelled this program of historical reconstruction and reinterpretation forward until common sources of cross-channel confluence in the mythic Germanic root of Anglo-Saxon law and ancient liberty were found. This project joined the great sixteenth-century Huguenot jurist and publicist François Hotman—whose enormously influential Francogallia was written in 1573, partially in response to the terror of the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre—with Coke and Eliot writing the Remonstrance of 1628.51
Narrowing his focus to the late date of 1685, Trevor-Roper claims this program found its first and last great practitioner in the Huguenot historian Paul de Rapin-Thoyras (1661–1725), exiled to Holland and then England following the Revocation. Rapin emerged from the wreckage of the Revocation and historical Pyrrhonism to find refuge in his paradigmatic “Old Whig” History of England: As Well Ecclesiastical as Civil (1726–47), which extols the unifying virtue and stable continuity of primordial English institutions of individual liberty.52 The Glorious Revolution seemed to signal a second Reformation, and Rapin was bitterly disappointed that the Huguenots did not return en masse from exile to France behind the armies of William of Orange. In 1688, it finally seemed possible to reverse the catastrophe of 1685 by overthrowing absolutism and in its place reactivating the tradition of Anglo-Saxon liberty and religious tolerance in France, as it had been in England.53
Trevor-Roper argues that Rapin’s History stood alone as England’s master narrative of its past until the Scottish natural philosopher and historian David Hume (1711—76) refuted Rapin’s model. Hume is Trevor-Roper’s heroic Enlightenment figure—a “far greater man” than the reactionary Rapin and one fully “capable of original thought”—who framed his modern narrative of The History of England in terms of its “material progress.” Trevor-Roper thus implicitly attacks both Whig history and French intellectuals simultaneously. He praises Hume’s language of change, elucidated in terms of late eighteenth-century scientific empiricism, because it destabilized the synchronic logic of the “Old Whig” synthesis of the early eighteenth century.54
Trevor-Roper is only half-right. Rapin’s work may have signaled one ending for this tradition in Anglo-French Calvinist culture, but since its historiographical origins are also found in the war years of the 1560s, this process was more complex than he imagines. Religious violence provided the immediate context for Hotman’s and Coke’s work in the history of the law, as well as Jean de Léry’s natural history of Brazil and, most important for our purposes here, Bernard Palissy’s artisanal, religious and natural philosophical history of La Rochelle and its Saintongeais hinterland. Trevor-Roper’s derision of the parasitic impulse in Huguenot writers of English history reflects a one-dimensional view of refugee craftsmanship. At once creative and “unoriginal,” Huguenots built history into available materials provided by their Atlantic hosts. The same pattern appears in Palissy’s work and in the commercial triumph of the New York leather chair.
Eliot’s aim was also to “go back to first principles, to re-examine the sources.” His task carried specific historical languages and meanings that auditors had long since associated with France in general and La Rochelle in particular. It was this language of first principles against heterodoxy and innovation that provided the charismatic religious and political framework for the Remonstrance. This was also the language of last resort for Eliot’s faction, just as the Remonstrance was clearly the last parliamentary instrument available to bring Buckingham down after the first attempt in the Commons to impeach him failed in 1626. The earlier failure was largely due to the king’s intercession to protect his royal prerogative on behalf of his favorite, and the role of the House of Lords, which could be relied upon to defend the king’s interests.
In 1626, Eliot’s inquiry provided the framework for a subcommittee called “Causes of Causes,” which undertook a broad review of the grievances against Buckingham. These grievances were pursued under the dubious legal (but telling social) category of “common fame” (or that which was accepted as common knowledge). It included “multiplicity of offices in one man’s hand”; “not right ordering of the king’s revenues”; “anticipating of revenues”; “exhausting of honour and buying them”; and the “growth of popery.” In 1626, however, the Commons had only limited authority to pursue specific charges against the duke, because it possessed no judicial powers of condemnation and punishment. Traditionally, such powers resided in the Upper House, where the Lords, acting on the king’s behalf, sat in judgment on Buckingham. But the king himself was the greatest obstacle. In the Parliament of 1626, Eliot claimed that Buckingham had acted illegally and in “common fame” so far as “the people” were concerned, yet paradoxically without the king’s knowledge. In other words, the duke had acted alone but in the king’s name, an impeachable offense according to parliamentary precedent. Charles I easily countered this tenuous maneuver, which he considered a threat to his sovereignty, by personally accepting responsibility for Buckingham’s actions, affirming that they had been directed from the throne. With that, the threat of impeachment ended, and Buckingham continued on his path toward the Ile de Ré.55
However, in 1628, when Eliot and the Commons regrouped and attacked the excessive power of the duke once again, they cohered behind the negative public opinion that animated the Calvinist majority in the aftermath of the calamity in the Bay of Biscay, and they also showed how much had been learned from experience about the subtleties of parliamentary procedure. A remonstrance gave the Commons far greater latitude in systematically making its case to both the king and his literate subjects than was possible within the strict legal limitations of an impeachment trial. Better yet, Eliot understood that unlike impeachment proceedings, remonstrances did not require the judicial cooperation of the previously recalcitrant Lords. Finally, a remonstrance allowed Eliot to exploit the legal possibilities of the role of the Commons as the king’s “Great Council”:
Acting as the “Great Council” of the king, the Commons could complain of matters which could not form the basis of criminal charges. Their function was “truly to present to the king what he doth not know alreadie about his ministers and officers.” At the same time he showed that he thought the Remonstrance was a more moderate way of proceeding than impeachment.56
As a document that represented the collective voice of the king’s “Great Council,” the Remonstrance of 1628 effectively harnessed Eliot, an advocate of constitutional privilege and balance of power, to the growing millennialist faction in the Commons. Together, they composed a lengthy list of “Causes” that finally reached back beyond the failure at the Ile de Ré to Buckingham himself—the “cause of causes”—whose religious and political transgressions led inevitably to lamentations that the insidious power of hidden corruption at court had infected and sickened the state, both at home and abroad. The intractable effect of that primary cause was a kind of death on the historical margins of the British archipelago; that is to say, the death of La Rochelle, and with it, an apocalyptic sense of England’s profound material and spiritual insecurity in the rapidly diminishing world of international Protestantism.57
Metaphors of medical pathology saturate the Remonstrance, which often approaches the eulogistic tone of a deathwatch over England’s weakened “body.” The Commons finally diagnosed the cause of this potentially fatal disease to be both internal and unnatural. If death was to be the ultimate outcome, it was also willful and premature—the act of a murderer. But first forensic evidence of the progress of pathology must be sifted, classified, and presented to the king. This search for a systemic “cause of causes” was an extension into Calvinist political culture of the new universal Paracelsian medicine of the sort practiced by the younger Winthrop and his scientific community. It was not sufficiently therapeutic to treat the symptoms or humoral conditions; the central cause of the corruption was at the core of the disease, and it must be revealed, located, and treated. Ernst Kantorowitz has called attention to the central role played in the mythology of the divine right of kings by the notion that the monarch had two bodies, one human and secular, the other sacred and mystical, which, as in the mortal incarnation of Christ were inextricably, if sometimes ambiguously, intertwined.58 That is why in the Remonstrance of 1628, the Commons appealed to Charles I to consider that he alone possessed the mystical power to reverse the course of the mortal disease that afflicted his kingdom, because it also afflicted his own physical body. To eliminate the cause, the Commons remonstrated with the monarch to turn inward and purify his own heart—which had now become the cancerous Buckingham’s host—by expelling the illness from his presence.
Buckingham’s “nearness” to Charles’s body was thus harnessed to the fear of contagion. In the final clause added by Eliot’s subcommittee on causes (which generated the written text), the Commons reminded the king of his duty to himself as well as the nation to protect the safety of the monarch’s two bodies (his “royal person”) from the effects of proximity to corruption:
And our humble desire is that your Majesty would be pleased to take into your princely consideration whether, in respect the said Duke has so abused his power, it be safe for your majesty and the kingdom that he continue still in his . . . place of nearness to your Majesty’s royal person.59
The Commons was saddened to report abundant evidence that the king had failed to protect himself from this plague of “nearness.” “The great and urgent affairs of this church and commonwealth . . . at this time in apparent danger of ruin and destruction” had opened the doors even wider to deadly infection by England’s adversaries, for “the multitude and potency of your enemies are abroad, what be their malicious and ambitious ends[?]” The king need look no further for answers than “the dangers threatened thereby to your sacred person and your kingdom and the calamities which have already fallen and do daily increase upon your friends and allies.”60 “Calamities” had befallen friends and allies in La Rochelle, showing how “near” the symptoms of England’s “strange” internal malady had come to finally claiming Charles’s kingdom (and so the king himself) as its final and most passionately desired victim. “Vigilant and constantly industrious” enemies brought “weakness” to the court that threatened the symbolic and physical heart of England’s health and security. Equal measures of “orthodox” Calvinist vigilance and industriousness on the part of the monarch were required to reverse the course of the disease, before England, like La Rochelle, became mere “prey,” hunted down and devoured by Richelieu or other bloodthirsty predators sent by the Antichrist:
To which end we most humbly entreat your Majesty to cast your eyes upon the miserable condition of this your kingdom of late so strangely weakened, impoverished, dishonored, and dejected, that unless, through your Majesty’s most gracious wisdom, goodness, and justice, it be speedily raised to a better condition, it is in no little danger to become a sudden prey of the enemies thereof, and of the most happy and flourishing to be the most miserable and contemptible nation in the world.61
The Remonstrance of 1628, “in the name of all the commons of your realm (whom we represent),” begged Charles “to cast your eyes upon . . . your kingdom.” This rhetoric allowed the Commons to focus the king’s vision and assumed primary importance in the presentation of claims against Buckingham. Eliot’s faction began to construct a powerful argument about concealment, insisting that Arminian and other papist heresies had been secreted in a conspiratorial cabal at court, in plain sight to the Commons but strangely obscure to royal perception. Perception was thus dissembled under the guise of “specious pretences”:
And we do verily believe that all or most of the things which we shall now present unto your Majesty are either unknown to you, or else by some of your Majesty’s ministers offered under such specious pretenses as may hide their own bad intentions and ill consequences . . . take notice . . . there is a general fear conceived in your people of secret working and combination to introduce into this kingdom innovation and change of our holy religion, more precious unto us than our lives and whatever this world can afford ... at which your Majesty out of the quick sense of your own religious heart cannot but be in the highest measure displeased.62
The Remonstrance proceeded in its tragic narrative of the “innovation,” decline, and death of “orthodox” Calvinist religious culture to expose a multitude “of the things ... unknown” to Charles, including knowledge that Catholics “do find extraordinary favors in court from persons of great power and quality there.” Buckingham, though a leading member of the Church of England, was directly implicated through his mother, “the Countess of Buckingham, who, herself openly professing that religion, is a known favorer of them that do the same.”63
After the king, the duke was the primary patron at court. This was a position of unsurpassed power and wealth in England—and most early modern monarchies—where systems of governance, prestige, and economic opportunity were based on courtly patronage. The favorite therefore commonly attracted intense hostility from would-be clients who felt marginalized or had fallen to the status of outgroup and were thereby denied lucrative access to power. While sincere religious sentiment was present, it was not the only motivation behind aspiring Calvinists whose courtly status and acquisition of places in the government bureaucracy had diminished in the middle to late 1620s. They and Eliot wrote in the Remonstrance that the procurement of “honor, offices, and places of command” by allegedly Catholic courtiers was “a toleration odious to God, full of dishonor and extreme disprofit to your Majesty, of great scandal and grief to your good people, and of apparent danger to the present state of your Majesty and of this kingdom.”64 More scandalous yet, just as the countess of Buckingham cast doubt on her son’s religious reputation by familial association, so too Charles’s French queen, Henrietta Maria, tainted her husband by holding “publicly frequent mass at Denmark House [the queen’s residence],” thus “combining their counsels and strength together, to the hazard of your Majesty’s safety and the state . . . especially in these doubtful and calamatous times.”65 In such an atmosphere of tolerance at the highest levels of the state, was it any wonder that the Arminian Bishop Neile and especially Laud—“being Protestants in show but Jesuits in opinion”—should also infiltrate the court “to further increase our fears concerning innovation of religion”? At this point in his text, Eliot began to merge the language of “unnatural” “innovation” in the balance of power from the impeachment proceedings of 1626 with that of orthodox Calvinism’s “innovation of religion,” so that by 1628, the rhetoric of international politics and religion converged in the Commons. The relation between the elder Winthrop’s governance of Massachusetts and his former patrons in the Commons is particularly resonant here.
Internal spiritual threats to a formerly pure and balanced body and soul, together with external military threats to the kingdom’s security, were thus to emerge as fearful symmetries at the core of the Remonstrance’s cosmology. It seemed inevitable to its authors that the effects of such baneful connections would be defenses that were disabled by heresy and the newly “replenished” Counter-Reformation, which functioned inside a diseased organism. The protective boundaries—both metaphorical and material—between home and abroad were negated. While a “strangely weakened” England played a tragic role in the fall of international Protestantism’s venerable “allies and friends” on the northwestern fringe of the British isles, another violent tragedy was brewing to test the kingdom’s dwindling strength: the Irish were “kept in ignorance and are apt to be easily seduced to error and superstition.” Here, the Roman Catholic Church grew unchecked under “popish jurisdiction” because the monarch failed to have Ireland “seasonably repressed” (later to become Cromwell’s brutal task):
It does not a little to increase our dangers and fears in this way, to understand the miserable condition of your kingdom of Ireland, where without control the popish religion is openly professed and practiced in every part thereof, popish jurisdiction being there generally exercised and allowed—monasteries, nunneries, and other superstitious houses newly erected, re-edified, and replenished with men and women of several orders, and in a plentiful manner maintained at Dublin and most of the great towns and diverse other places of the kingdom.66
Thus, with the fearful specter of Irish barbarians on England’s borders, the Remonstrance presented ominous new evidence that England itself was finally experiencing secret intimations of the same “open force and violence prosecuted in other countries.” In addition to the Irish troops billeted in Thomas Scott’s Kent, other “strangers,” including “the scum of Germany,” were “placed in the inland of the country” by an unwitting king under the influence of corrupt advisors. Relying on the authority of “an author in fashion,” Sir John Maynard cited “this design out of Machiavelli,” (chapter 12 of The Prince), “that it is absolutely the destruction of a country to entertain mercenaries . . . either they are valiant or coward; if valiant and the prince conquer, he is prisoner to them; if a coward, all is lost.”67 Maynard went on to remind the Commons that the Germans were especially dangerous as cavalry, because “one horseman is worse than 10 footmen.” Eliot, who used humanist rhetoric to good effect throughout the debates, recalled classical precedents to predict that Germans were enlisted covertly by “our intestine foes” to form a modern day “praetorian cohort,” a fortiori, a “trojan horse”; “making it too apparent that there is a great probability of . . . some ill design upon his Majesty’s person.”68 This news was especially alarming in light of “the standing commission granted to the Duke of Buckingham to be general of an army within the land in the time of peace”:
The report of the strange and dangerous purpose of bringing in German horse and riders ... gave us just cause of fear. . . . There wanted not those that . . . might secretly . . . contrive to change the frame both of religion and government . . . the bringing in of strangers for aid has been . . . to England fatal . . . we are bold to declare to your Majesty and the whole world that we hold it far beneath the heart of any free Englishman to think that this victorious nation should now stand in need of German soldiers to defend their own King and kingdom.69
As Scott’s anguished petitions to Parliament show on a deeply personal level, throughout southern coastal England—which local custom and resistance placed almost beyond the reach of London’s legal and military authority in the early seventeenth century70—the billeting of soldiers increased the pressure on the kingdom’s mounting military and religious insecurity. Indeed, “the conditions of their persons (many of them not being natives of this kingdom, nor of the same, but opposite, religion), the placing them upon the seacoast where making head amongst themselves they may unite with the popish party at home if the occasion serve, or join with an invading enemy to do extreme mischief.”71 The threat of a Spanish conspiracy played a prominent role here again. On June 6, Sir Nathaniel Rich argued that to arm the Irish Catholics now billeted in Kent for the Ile de Ré expedition was subversive: “For the Irish soldiers, some know the state of Ireland. And it has been against the practice of our state that that the Irish should wear or use weapons at all. And in Spain they instruct them what they can in war. Now, when religion is in peril, it is dangerous to instruct the Irish in arms. It is such a counsel as brings danger into England.”72
On April 10, 1628, Thomas Scott summarized Calvinist feelings of fear and despair from hard personal experience, after a mercenary from the Ile de Ré expedition named “Ferrier, the serjeant, is commanded to bring two lusty Irish popish soldiers unto my house and to leave them there. They enter my house and will not out except my wife will allow them 6s. apiece by the week.” In a letter to Herbert Palmer, a Calvinist lecturer and friend in the parish of St. Alphege, Scott remained defiant:
I would billet none nor pay any money. It is against the liberty of a free Englishman and gentleman and of a parliament man, and intended by the Duke to do us a mischief. For to what other use can Irish popish soldiers . . . serve? They, together with the . . . popish and Arminian . . . faction . . . must help set up popery and the excise and, as some of them do already give out, cut the Puritans’ throats.73
This “strange and dangerous” conjunction of England’s inner and outer demons in 1628—of Catholicism’s secret power growing steadily at home (while “weakening” the “body” of the kingdom almost beyond recovery), and the Counter-Reformation’s outward military strength abroad (demonstrated at La Rochelle)—was no mere accident of history. It was the Old Testament God’s cosmic warning to England of an apocalyptic future of sacred purification and “dispersion” by violence. In the language of the Remonstrance, the kingdom would be scourged if it failed to root out the “cause” and effect a cure. Just as the elder Winthrop wrote Margaret to reveal his grim prophesy of the turning cup that signified the approach of final things following the fall of La Rochelle, so too the Commons perceived the same awesome hand of divine retribution falling on England for “some secret and strange cooperating here . . . for . . . neglect of his holy religion”:
And now, if to all of these your Majesty will be pleased to add the consideration of the time, wherein these courses, tending to the destruction of true religion within these your kingdoms, have been taken here, even when the same is with open force and violence prosecuted in other countries, and all the reformed churches in Christendom either dispersed or miserably distressed, we do humbly appeal . . . that there is some secret and strange cooperating here with the enemies of our religion abroad for the utter extirpation thereof. . . remember the displeasure of almighty God always bent against the neglect of his holy religion, the strokes of whose divine justice we have already felt and still do feel with smart and sorrow in great measure.74
Finally, “out of the depth of sorrow, [we the Commons] lift up our cries to heaven for help and, next under God, . . . appeal ourselves unto your sacred Majesty,” to understand how, “in consideration of the time,” England’s weakness was now so palpable, its decline so precipitous, its vulnerability so complete, that even with the king’s “speedy help and reformation,” England was no longer a “victorious nation.” On the contrary, the hard lessons learned at La Rochelle about England’s humiliating new military and spiritual insecurity were abundantly clear; the cost to the kingdom’s shattered defenses in men and ships had been overwhelming:
We do humbly pray [your Majesty] to consider whether the miserable disasters and ill success that has accompanied all your late designs and actions, particularly [at] ... the Isle de Ré and the last expedition to Rochelle, have not extremely wasted the stock of honor that was left unto this kingdom, sometimes terrible to all other nations and now declining to contempt beneath the meanest. Together with our honor we there lost those . . . who, had they lived, we might have some better hope of recovering it again: our valiant and expert colonels, captains, and commanders, and many thousand common soldiers and mariners, though we have some cause to think that your Majesty is not yet rightly informed thereof, and that of six or seven thousand of your subjects lost at the Isle of Ré, your Majesty received information but of a few hundreds. And this dishonor and loss was purchased with loss of above a million of treasure.75
Having thus witnessed the utter decimation of the royal navy, and with it, the vanguard of England’s most experienced and ideologically dependable Calvinist officer corps by Richelieu’s forces at the Île de Ré, the Commons’ turned to England’s land defenses in the search of security. But the island’s last hope to repel the invasion now expected daily from the Continent—the line of aging late medieval fortresses along England’s coast—“are exceeding weak and decayed, and want both men and munition.”76 The Commons asked by what “strange improvidence” the vast stores of gunpowder kept in the Tower of London for defense of the kingdom had fallen to levels of unprecedented scarcity in England’s time of greatest need. The answer to this and every rhetorical question was that in each case, the “cause of causes” was the same secret cabal of crypto-Catholics led by the seemingly omnipotent Buckingham. This cabal was responsible for all the other “miserable disasters” that had befallen England, including above all else the fall of La Rochelle and the decimation of the other “allies and friends” of international Protestantism.77 The Commons concluded “the principal cause of which evils and dangers we conceive to be the excessive power of the Duke of Buckingham, and the abuse of that power.” Therefore, “we humbly submit unto your Majesty’s excellent wisdom,” whether “so great power as rests in him by sea and land should be in the hands of any one subject whatsoever ... in respect the said Duke has so abused his power, [can] it be safe for your Majesty and your kingdom to continue him either in his great offices of trust or in his place of nearness and counsel about your sacred person.”78
The appropriate answer should have been as transparent to the king’s “sacred person” as it was to the “faithful hearts” of the Commons. Charles had to remember that Parliament, not the favorite, was by right of precedent the king’s authentic “Great Council,” and that, “in discharge of the duty we owe,” the devastating claims of the Remonstrance were “a true representation of our present dangers and pressing calamities.” The deferential politeness of the Remonstrance tempered the tough message contained in its concluding paragraphs. Thus when the House finally “beseech[ed] your Majesty graciously to accept [our council] and take the same to heart,” this was also by way saying that the king’s heart could not be given freely to any individual favorite, something only private persons could do. Beyond the limits delineated by natural philosophy and historical precedent, the monarch’s heart was not, in the opinion of the Commons, within Charles’s princely power to give. Despite its multiple nature, the king had to learn to master the mysteries of his heart; to constrain its natural passion to operate in an orderly manner; to “frame” his mutable heart within a strict metaphysical hierarchy. This structure was ordained by God and assured each dynasty’s claims to the awesome power of divine right because it contained the essential mystical nexus that balanced the soulish love of England’s “royal person” between heaven and earth. Thus, the Commons insisted that the royal heart was to be shared simultaneously with the sacred realm (also claimed by the “orthodox” Commons), where it extended upward to embrace “the honor of almighty God and the maintenance of his true religion”; the dual-bodied (or middle) realm, where it functioned as both spirit and matter to provide “the safety and happiness of your most excellent Majesty”; and finally, by extension downward, the secular realm of the commonwealth, where it secured “the safety and prosperity of your people your greatest happiness, and their love the richest treasure.”79
The irony of Eliot’s diagnosis of the anatomy of princely love was not lost on Charles I. More famously than any English monarch before (or since), Charles had been personally associated with the natural philosophy of the heart. By autumn 1628, it was “common fame” throughout European learned culture, that William Harvey (1578–1657), Charles’s brilliant court physician, had dedicated his De motu cordis (On the Motion of the Heart and Blood in Animals) (Frankfurt, 1628) to his royal patron. The dedication came as the culmination of three years of intensive personal interaction with the Stuarts as an aspiring courtier, royal physician, natural philosopher, and loyal protégé.
Harvey’s status climbed rapidly at court after he impressed Charles with his political discretion as attending physician during the mortal illness of James I, who died, possibly of kidney failure, on March 27, 1625. Harvey’s value to Charles I and Buckingham was proven after a much publicized episode when the duke was accused of poisoning the dying king on his sickbed. Unknown to his “sworn physicians,” suspicious witnesses saw secret “plasters and potions” applied to James in his bedchamber, “the Lord Duke’s folk having brought it in.” Suspicions became accusations when James took an immediate turn for the worse and died.80 Harvey, the only physician on record attending at that hour, had apparently approved the treatment without consulting his colleagues, and he was subsequently implicated with Buckingham as a regicide by Dr. George Elsingham, James I’s displaced personal physician. Elsingham’s charges were published in The Fore-Runner of Revenge, a sensational pamphlet that first appeared in anticipation of Buckingham’s impeachment trial in 1626, and then again in 1642, the second time as a Civil War polemical tract.
The conspiracy theory was aired in 1626, along with a spate of other charges against the duke. Like the trial itself, these accusations came to nothing. Popular suspicions of Buckingham as a poisoner of kings did not disappear. Fear of a repeat performance to finally kill the troubled Stuart dynasty altogether had migrated quickly to Charles as next in succession. Uncertainty about the king disquieted readers of the Remonstrance and informed the meaning of the duke’s “dangerous nearness” to the presumably increasingly vulnerable Charles. As if to reinforce this reading, Coke—while careful to elide reference to Buckingham’s complicity in James’s death (since the duke was officially exonerated in his 1626 impeachment trial)—cleverly reactivated this subtext by presenting terrifying evidence from the sainted Elizabeth’s reign. This showed a historical correlation between invasion, regicide, poison, and, above all, religious toleration, which “patronized” papist “weapons.” Like Elizabeth (and unlike James), would the weakened and declining Charles emerge, with his kingdom, a survivor?
We shall never know the commonwealth flourish but when the church flourishes. They live and die together. . . . If you have laws and they be not executed, it will patronize wicked doers. When Queen Elizabeth, in ‘88, had repelled the Spaniards, there was a conspiracy to poison our Queen, and no three years but some attempt was threatened ... If there be so many recusants now we are not safe. They intend to make Spain a monarchy [over England]. If we proceed against these weapons, I fear no invasions. Let the laws be executed against papists. I saw a commission for a toleration. I dare say Queen Elizabeth would never have consented to the like.81
Although Harvey’s role as a whole in the alleged conspiracy in 1625 was unclear, he had definitely been in attendance at James’s bedside when the disputed medications were administered, and he had later testified that they were relatively harmless and ineffectual. It seemed suspicious that within a few weeks of the end of Buckingham’s trial, Charles (with Buckingham’s approval) quietly rewarded Harvey for his tact (or perhaps his silence) with a “free gift” of £100 “for his pains and attendance about the person of his Majesty’s late dear father.” Such suspicions were not allayed when, on February 10, 1626, the king granted Harvey an extraordinary “general pardon” for his part in the affair, though an explanation of the actions that warranted pardon are absent from the document.82
In December 1627, his loyalty and discretion beyond dispute, Harvey was ordered by Buckingham and the Privy Council to come to the duke’s aid once again, this time by assuming the politically sensitive task of overseeing the court’s medical efforts on behalf of thousands of sick and wounded soldiers and marines from the Ile de Ré expedition, who had returned to Portsmouth and Plymouth early in November. The astonishing mortality rate of the returnees indicates that Harvey (and four fellows from the Royal College of Physicians) could do little to help the men.83 But as the Commons also claimed in the Remonstrance, the final, devastating figures were intentionally hidden from the king and Parliament. This was a convenient fiction that served the purposes of the Commons, but may also have served Harvey equally well, as it would his interested patrons, especially Charles and Laud.
It is thought that De motu cordis first appeared at booksellers in Frankfurt a few months after the Remonstrance was written. By June 1628, however, the publication of Harvey’s work had long been anticipated in London’s learned culture. Harvey was notoriously slow to publish and had completed the manuscript years before finally sending it to press. The manuscript’s contents and association with Charles I’s patronage were already well known in court and philosophical circles, the result of a celebrated series of public lectures and anatomical demonstrations Harvey gave in 1627 at the Royal College of Physicians, using notes taken directly from the original text. In addition, as was the custom among most favored natural philosophers, Harvey gave frequent demonstrations for visitors at his laboratory. He did the same at court, where Charles was an enthusiastic amateur natural philosopher with a special interest in medical subjects.84
Therefore, it is probable that the patronage and thesis of De motu cordis were common knowledge in early Stuart London, as well as among scientific patrons in European courts, university medical faculty, and private laboratories, at least one year before the book actually appeared in print. Since by 1627 the manuscript was at the workshop of his German publisher, Willem Fitzer (and out of Harvey’s hands), the now famous dedication was probably sent to press after Buckingham’s expedition began to go badly, but before the start of the debates:
To the most illustrious and indomitable Prince, Charles, King of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, defender of the faith.
Most illustrious Prince!
The heart of animals is the foundation of their life, the sovereign of everything within them, the sun of their microcosm, that upon which all growth depends, from which all power proceeds. The King, in like manner, is the foundation of his kingdom, the sun of the world around him, the heart of the republic, the fountain whence all power, all grace doth flow. What I have here written of the motions of the heart I am the more emboldened to present to your Majesty . . . because almost all things human are done after human examples, and many things in a King are after the pattern of the heart. The knowledge of his heart, therefore, will not be useless to a Prince, as embracing a kind of Divine example of his functions,—and it has ever been usual with men to compare small things with great. Here, at all events, best of Princes, placed as you are on the pinnacle of human affairs, you may at once contemplate the prime mover in the body of man, and the emblem of your own sovereign power.85
“The knowledge of his heart” that Harvey’s Paracelsian experiments on circulation throughout the body famously revealed to his king and patron textualized precisely the same portion of his corporeal and metaphorical anatomy that Charles I was asked by the Commons “to . . . contemplate” in the Remonstrance of 1628. As we have seen, however, Eliot and his faction emerged from its polemical dissection with quite the opposite result. Unlike Harvey’s benign, coordinated, and, above all, stable representation of the homeostatic system in De motu cordis, when Charles was forced to contemplate Eliot’s diagnosis of the weakened “microcosm” of his interior world, he failed to find a healthy “sovereign of everything within . . . the heart of the republic, the fountain whence all power, all grace doth flow.” Instead of a Copernican “sun of the world,” the flawless, infinite function of which naturally balanced the “flow” of power between microcosm and macrocosm, Charles was asked to “contemplate” the wreckage of a royal heart ebbing at the center of a cosmos in mortal peril; one that was diseased, “disordered,” and, from the perspective of a House of Commons trivialized by its king, dangerously out of balance. The Remonstrance thus claimed inextricable cosmological linkage with La Rochelle. First in France and then in England, an angry God had been forced to intervene with millennial force, to instill terror, and, a fortiori, the sense of an ending. Far from beating forever with “sovereign” precision (as Harvey would have it), time had run out on Charles’s anarchic royal heart. Without immediate healing (nothing less than the cleansing of his soul to cast out contagion), apocalypse would overcome his “ruined” dynastic house and kingdom: “A rueful and lamentable spectacle we confess it must needs be to behold those ruins in so fair an house, so many diseases, and almost every one of them mortal, in so strong and well tempered a body as this kingdom lately was.”86
The intractable reality asserted by this rhetoric ensured that Charles would never take advice from the Remonstrance “to heart,” for its diagnosis aggressively presumed to reveal morbidity in the very “fountain” of his mystical power. Predictably, within days of receiving the document, the king dissolved Parliament. The story of Charles’s subsequent struggle with the Calvinist opposition until his execution by Cromwell in 1649 is very well known and does not require further elaboration here. In the short term, however, after the monarchy’s constant search for “supply” to pay down debt and revive its crippled foreign policy necessitated a final stormy session in 1629, Charles dispensed with Parliament altogether for eleven years, and extracted funds from the wealthy mercantile sector “by right,” using the much despised “forced loan” or the lucrative “Tonnage and Poundage” duty as his preferred instruments of taxation.
The Arminian ascendancy quickened under Dr. Laud, whose career at court flourished while the unrepentant Eliot sat in prison. Nevertheless, Eliot contributed in a minor fashion to a distinguished body of prison literature that marked the early Stuart era. The books that emerged from Eliot’s confinement celebrated without irony “the never dying glory” of the monarchy, the “ancient” mystical principles of which—including the “mysteries of state” and arcana imperii—he still intended to reform from “innovation.”87 This Calvinist vice-admiral of Devon was neither a radical nor a precursor of regicide. However, despite his personal losses, the Remonstrance achieved Eliot’s main purpose. After all, the assassin Felton proved a most attentive reader. J. N. Ball argues to the contrary that Eliot’s ultimate “failure” was his “persistent refusal to face . . . genuine structural tensions instead of . . . personalities,” when he adhered anachronistically to political theory which “saw . . . political discords . . . in terms of ill-disposed individuals but for whose manoeuvrings and ambitions the political scene would have realized the state of ideal ‘Elizabethan’ harmony.” Still, if Eliot’s analysis of the “cause of causes” of discord, fragmentation, and insecurity was anachronistic, it was also informed by the most current theoretical principles available in seventeenth-century natural philosophy.88
On June 17, 1628, the day he received the Remonstrance, Charles could not disagree with Eliot (or the elder Winthrop) when it was observed that of the “many . . . mortal” diseases that beset the kingdom’s “body,” the annihilation of the Huguenots at La Rochelle by Richelieu and Louis XIII was the most debilitating. On the same day, in Dr. Laud’s proposed reply to the Remonstrance, the bishop could not advise Charles to deny the enormity of the loss, only to defend Buckingham on the grounds that “Rochelle is acknowledged a very difficult work, and what may be done about it wise men doubt.” “And as for the Isle of Ré,” Laud gamely deflected the blame away from the dishonored duke: “we know too well it was our fault at home in not sending timely supplies, not his, who in the view of Christendom did service full of honor there.”89 While Eliot’s articulation of the parliamentary consensus that portrayed Buckingham as the “cause of causes” may be challenged if analyzed retrospectively in terms of “structural tensions,” if experienced from the floor of the Commons of 1628, such rhetoric would not have seemed exorbitant to listeners. The favorite’s very real power of patronage (and so access to the king), affected the worldview of everyone in Parliament. That power was compounded by heightened feelings of fear and insecurity posed by the threat from “secret combinations” that gripped the Protestant world after the duke’s failure at the Ile de Ré. The Commons’ elaborate construction of Buckingham’s physical “nearness” as the ultimate cause of bodily contagion thus provides a useful beginning toward understanding the very large problem of “orthodox” Calvinist cosmology as the fragments of the body of international Protestantism entered the darkest days of defeat and “dispersion.” Buckingham became the repository of all sickness and evil in an apocalyptic religious culture beset by attacks of fear and anxiety, yet by tradition unprepared to affix blame directly on the king himself. “In this way and method,” Sir Robert Phelips argued on June 6, “if anything fall out unhappily, it is not King Charles that advised himself, but King Charles misadvised by others and misled by misordered counsel.”90
Thus, between 1625 and 1628, the Commons’ construction of the persona of the favorite framed and contextualized millennial fears about the internal presence of evil in the body. The duke alone possessed the secret powers of intimacy and dissimulation to carry poison from king to king along the same dynastic line, first, as the sexually ambiguous lover and stealthy murderer of James I, then as source of unnatural nearness and spiritual ambiguity that caused the heart of Charles I to succumb to its mortal illness. Attacking the heart of the body of the kingdom, Buckingham simultaneously attacked the body’s appendages throughout the world. And in the instance of the most important of those appendages—the last great Huguenot place de sûreté at La Rochelle, the orthodox “heart” of seventeenth-century French Protestantism with “ancient” ties to the English monarchy—Buckingham’s nearness to the fortress at the Ile de Ré effectively “caused” its death as well. As “the cause of causes” of England’s mortal illness was violently excised from its politico-religious body by the assassin Fenton after the duke’s catastrophic failure at the Ile de Ré, Buckingham served to define the linkage of internal and external disequilibrium of a chaotic, international world of strangers that afflicted orthodoxy with an anxious sense of the infinite expansion of geographic and spiritual insecurity at its heart.
A “weak” Calvinist monarch, engaged in a “strange” and “innovative” relationship with a favorite of an ambiguous sexual and spiritual nature was “dangerous” in part because he privatized counsel to the exclusion of ancient institutional norms. To make “effeminate” was to engage in transgressive acts of suppression and dissimulation: to hide the transparent and make it secret. Orthodoxy stigmatized the effeminate—and the effeminate courtier in particular—precisely because it feared the subversive power of the hidden. It was the outward manifestation to Calvinists who feared “innovation” of what they knew was the secret and insecure ambiguity of the heart. Thus an effeminate heart “never hathe spirite to any hie or noble dedes.”91 For if the heart was a “fountain” of primitive spiritual “power” for the children of God, when out of control and disordered, it was open to seduction by weakness and disease that would poison and ultimately kill the body of Christ. This body was unified in its exclusive construction by the Holy Spirit only when channeled through a single “pure English heart.” In his “Experiencia” of 1606, the elder Winthrop wrote, “it must be only God that must worke in the hearte.” Or else the heart would find the space to become inflamed, “with a seacrit desire after pleasures and itchinge after libertie and unlawfull delightes . . . whence came much troble and danger.” “All the imaginations of the thoughts of [such a] heart,” Winthrop concluded, “are onely evill continually.”92 With this in mind, Sir Edward Coke lamented that secret and “personal matters are the grievance of grievances,” the cause “of all our miseries.”93
To British-American Calvinist orthodoxy, the personal and private “nearness” of the corrupt equivalent of strangers like Buckingham to the secret heart of the kingdom was the ultimate source of mortal disease of the body Christian. But what did more latitudinarian English moderates such as John Winthrop Jr. or the soulish pietists and enthusiastic sectarians think of personal nearness to the heart of cultural and religious difference? Was it possible that soulish hearts in close communication with strangers could achieve Christian unity—in the words of Jean d’Espagnet, so “all things do freely combine”—without deadly infection of the entire body? Indeed, could nearness effect the opposite, and cure heresy by transmuting corruption into purity?
The now-decimated Consistory of La Rochelle had from the outset of its Reformation shared the Commons’ exclusive view of the body of international Protestantism; it had aspired to become notoriously repressive, like its model in Calvin’s and Théodore de Bèze’s Geneva—or, for that matter, the elder Winthrop’s Boston. The great fortress had tried to keep Protestant heterodoxy at a distance, just as it did the Counter-Reformation and nascent absolutism. But the famous walls were leveled soon after the Commons was dismissed by Charles I, ending the tumultuous session of 1628. Though the fragmented body of Christ converged elsewhere in the Atlantic world, it was never reconstructed in quite the same way again.