Jacobean Pageant: Or, the Court of King James I

By G. P. V. Akrigg | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXVIII
With Prince Charles in Spain

ON FEBRUARY 18, 1623, two heavily disguised young men using the names of Jack and Tom Smith crossed the Thames by ferry at Gravesend. The two were obviously wearing false beards (one fell off to its owner's embarrassment), grossly overpaid the ferryman, and had him put them ashore just outside Gravesend instead of at the usual landing-place within the town. All these circumstances aroused the suspicion of the ferryman, who told the local magistrates that he feared he had met with two gallants who were slipping out of the country to fight a duel. The Gravesend authorities sent off a man to intercept the travellers at Rochester but they had left by the time he arrived there.

Travelling along the Dover Road, the two Smiths saw the King's carriage and an escort coming towards them. In the carriage was Boiscot, ambassador from the Spanish Netherlands, accompanied by Sir Lewis Lewkenor, Master of the Ceremonies, and Sir Henry Mainwaring, Lieutenant of Dover Castle. Fearful of recognition, the two travellers turned their horses off the highway and cantered away across the fields. Suspicious of their behaviour, Mainwaring sent orders to Canterbury for their detention. Accordingly, when the Smiths reached that city, they found the mayor ready to arrest them. At this point Tom, withdrawing with the mayor, shed his beard and identified himself as the Marquess of Buckingham, Lord Admiral of England. Declaring that he had taken this disguise to permit a secret inspection of the fleet, he swiftly secured the release of himself, his companion and his groom. Jack Smith was in fact Charles, Prince of Wales, and the groom was Sir Richard Graham, Buckingham's Master of the Horse.

At Dover the three travellers were greeted by Sir Francis Cottington and Master Endymion Porter who had arrived a few days earlier, and had arranged for a ship to carry all five of them to the Continent. When they made their crossing on the morning of February 19th their secret, had they known it, was already shared by half of London: the Prince was off to woo and win the Spanish Infanta and to bring her home to England.

King James's consent had not been easily won. When Charles, ardently supported by Buckingham, had first put the project before him some nine weeks earlier, he had not opposed it; but second thoughts had filled him

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