Tuesday, November 6, 2012

November 6, 1612 - Henry Frederick Recovers Fever

Proving once again a dashing hero, the eighteen-year-old Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales, recovered from typhoid fever to great acclaim. The eldest son of King James I of England (VI of Scotland) had already made a name for himself as the handsome, athletic, witty, just, and inspiring next leader of the British Isles.

Henry had been born at Stirling Castle February 19, 1594, and spent his early years in Scotland under the care of the Earl of Mar. His father, James, had worried about the boy being too near his mother Anne of Denmark's Catholic tendencies and so placed Henry among staunch Protestants despite the division it caused in his marriage. In 1603, James was called to London to be crowned, and he brought his family south with him. As Henry grew, his father created an environment that, according to Sir Thomas Chaloner, was a "courtly college or a collegiate court." James himself acted as lecturer and wrote tracts for his son such as The True Law of Free Monarchies, which detailed James' understanding of monarchy as Heavenly mandated absolute rule.

At 11 years old, Henry entered Magdalen College at Oxford. There, he learned sportsmanship and became interested in politicking and the tactics of warfare. He also became fastidious in his Protestantism, even to the point of fining anyone who uttered a swear, for which an alms box was always on hand for forced contributions. His small court was required to attend church services, and Henry himself became entranced in in the steely argumentation of Calvinism, whose sermons seemed to say to him, "Sir, you must hear me diligently: you must have a care to observe what I say."

In his teen years, Henry began to break with his family. He did not care for his increasingly extravagent younger brother, Charles, who seemed to emulate his father's ideals of autocracy. Henry had already rejected many of his father's values, especially James' sense of royal spending. The two very nearly rose to blows when James admonished Henry for not being energetic on a hunt, and Henry lifted his cane to strike his father out of rage but instead rode away. Most of the hunting party followed after the ever-increasingly popular Henry and left his father behind with a few loyals.

At the age of 18, Henry became ill during a typhoid fever epidemic but managed to recover. Upon the death of his father in 1625, Henry ascended the throne of England as Henry IX and the throne of Scotland as Henry I. James had spent the last years of his reign bickering with Parliament, and Henry began his rule by establishing an effective chain of command as well as respecting the right to free speech within the Commons. He approved the sanctions against Catholics and encouraged the increasing Protestantism of the country. Henry had made good on an old teasing promise to make his younger brother Archbishop of Canterbury, though Charles would constantly be admonished for overspending and, in truth, become a whipping boy for the perceived problems of the Anglican Church. Gradually over Henry's tenure, the strength of bishops would decline to favor a more Presbyterian system as seen in Scotland.

While Henry's domains seemed peaceable enough (although a campaign through Ireland to pacify the Catholic population became necessary in 1650), issues in foreign policy took up the majority of his reign. His deep sense of Protestantism caused war with Spain, and he agreed with Parliament on using naval tactics to undercut their flow of income from colonies. Through the seventeenth century, English and Dutch Protestant navies would seize much of the Caribbean. Henry also attempted to become involved in the Dutch War of Independence and the Thirty Years' War in the Germanies (especially since he married a Protestant German princess and his sister married Frederick V, Elector Palatine), but advisers such as Parliamentarian Oliver Cromwell encouraged him not to become tied up with the Continent.  Instead, Henry focused on empire-building, as had been the dreams of Sir Walter Raleigh, whom Henry deeply admired and considered a friend.  Henry fought bitterly with his father over the execution of Raleigh in 1618 after an illegal attack on a Spanish outpost, but the opinion of Spain's ambassador won out.  He never forgave his father.

Following Raleigh's ideals, Henry widely encouraged settlement in the New World.  Not only did his fleets seize islands from Spain, but he also created new colonies along the northern coast of South America and dispatched explorers and colonists to affirm English control of the Mississippi.  His policies set precedent for colonial taxation through the Ship Tax, and taxation was reaffirmed in the next century by referrenda from the American colonies, who requested and were granted seats in Parliament.


In reality, Henry Frederick died at the age of 18, and his younger brother Charles ascended the throne in 1625.  Charles bickered with Parliament, eventually leading to the English Civil War and his own beheading in 1649.

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