“Most gracious God! fountain of all good! I praise Thee for Thy bountie in having given me a Wife soe much according to my heart.”Private Devotions of James Stanley.
My next few months at Lathom were spent in preparations for the marriage of
James to Charlotte de la Trémouille.James was now twenty years of age, and over the previous two years the earl had been active in seeking a marriage partner for him.I was spending more and more time working directly for Earl William who was dictating an account of his travels on the Grand Tour as a young man.He too seemed to have been pleased by how I had carried out my duty with the business over Lord Morley’s weapons.
One day while working with the earl I asked him how Charlotte de la Trémouille had been chosen as a bride.
The earl smiled and his eyes, the colour of old oak, sparkled just as they did when he recounted an amusing incident in his youth.‘Well, we are related to all the major families of this realm.It is time we married into a noble house from abroad, just as the late King James did when he married Elizabeth to the King of Bohemia.’
I knew that he did not mind my curiosity and continued, ‘I understand there is some relation to the House of Orange?’
The earl replied, like a schoolmaster instructing his pupil.‘Yes, on her mother’s side.Charlotte’s late father was French, Claude Duke of Trémouille, and her mother is Charlotte Brabantine of Nassau, a daughter of William Prince of Orange.’
‘Ah, Prince William who fought the Spanish.’
‘Exactly.Now Paul, I understand that the steward has done you a disservice.I hear that you are sharing a room with one of the grooms.As a gentleman you are entitled to much better.I will see to it that you are moved right away.’
‘My lord you are most kind, but there is no need.Bootle has been agreeable company and he has helped me to settle in here.Indeed he has recently left for Knowsley and so the room is my own.I am quite happy to remain there.’
The earl continued with some more dictation. He had reached a most interesting point in his adventures and was eager to set it all down on paper.After an hour or so he said, ‘Enough work for today.Tell me have you read Tacitus or Plutarch?I would like someone new to converse with now that James is busy managing our affairs.I would like your opinion of these.’Earl William handed me two books.‘They are translated from the Latin for ease of reading.’
‘No my Lord, I have not read them, but I would be pleased to.’I knew these to be accounts of the RomanRepublic, and after the evening meal I began to read Plutarch’s Lives.
The marriage between James and Charlotte de la Trémouille was to take place in the NoordeindePalace in The Hague.I was excited to be travelling abroad for the first time, but anxious about going to a country at war.The earl and his son were not overly worried.They had received letters from Charlotte’s family informing them that the war was confined to sieges of fortified towns like Maestricht, over a hundred miles from The Hague.Charlotte’s uncle Maurice, Stadtholder until his death the previous year had proved to be the master of the Spanish in military campaigns.Maurice’s younger brother, Frederick Henry had succeeded him without any major difficulty and was now Stadtholder in five of the seven provinces.
We rode out to Liverpool to embark on a boat to take us across to the United Provinces.The party comprised James, the earl and his wife Elizabeth, their chaplain and about a dozen other household retainers, including myself.In addition there were maids and various male servants and a small number of these were armed to provide an escort for the earl.We made our way down to the dock to embark on one of the earl’s own ships; for he had several, used for commerce and communication with his lands on the Isle of Man.
As we arrived some fishermen were landing the morning’s catch.Gulls soared overhead looking for a chance to swoop down and snatch a meal from the quay side.To stop this some small boys were throwing stones at any gull that tried to land.Some women were gutting a basket of mackerel, chatting to each other as they worked.I caught a smell of the fish guts and turned my head away to try to avoid the stench.Here I saw a man who caught my eye and he smiled at my discomfort.He had a full beard with streaks of white, and large gold earrings.
‘Mornin’ my lord,’ he said to the earl.
‘It’s a fine morning for sailing,’ replied the earl.‘Is the ship ready to leave?’
‘A few more provisions to load, but first we need to get you on board.We’ll be ready for this afternoon’s tide.’
‘That’s the captain,’ James said to me.‘They say he’s been a sailor so long he can only walk straight on land when he’s drunk.But he’s sober when he’s at sea and he is a good sailor.’
We dismounted from our horses and walked over a gangplank onto the ship.Our baggage was brought on behind us and stowed away below deck.
‘Come, let us go and eat,’ said the earl.‘I always find the best way to start a sea voyage is with a good meal.You don’t know when you’ll eat well again,’ he said winking at me.
This was my first encounter with a ship and it was a terrible experience.I was
sick for the first couple of days until my body got used to the motion of the vessel.Although I was to sail on many more occasions in the next twenty-five years, it was always the same.I would be sick for the first few days then find my sea legs.This time I had the prospect of the United Provinces to console me, for I had never travelled outside Lancashire before. There was also the spectacle of the wedding to look forward to.Frederick Henry the Stadtholder would be there and some of the servants were saying that the King and Queen of Bohemia would attend.Their presence would indicate King Charles’s approval of this union.I had Plutarch’s Lives and two works by Tacitus, the Histories and the Annals, to read.Towards the end of our journey, the earl sought me out while we were walking on deck.
‘How goes it with Tacitus?’ he asked, raising an eyebrow.
‘Well, my lord.The books have helped me pass the time on our voyage.I have enjoyed learning about the history of Rome.’
‘What have you learnt from studying them?’
‘Tacitus was certainly no admirer of the Roman Emperors.He believed in the virtues of the RomanRepublic, before the age of the Emperors,’ I replied, pleased with my learning.
‘Does this teach you anything about politics of our time?’
I was struggling here, for while I had been absorbed by the history, I had not taken great meaning from the writings of Tacitus.‘No, my lord.I confess I find few parallels.We live in a monarchy, our King Charles being God’s anointed on this earth.Tacitus held the Roman Emperors to be corrupt and sometimes vile men, but this is not the case with our sovereign.’
The earl stopped walking and turned to face me, his expression serious. ‘Well in The Hague you may meet some men who will tell you that Tacitus justifies the Dutch revolt against their King.I think the words of Tacitus are “a desire to resist oppression is implanted in the nature of man”.They argue that it is justifiable by the laws of nature to resist oppression in whatever form.It is a dangerous argument and one which must be refuted if it is heard in England.’