The Cambridge Modern History: Planned by the Late Lord Acton - Vol. 4

By A. W. Ward; G. W. Prothero et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVII.
SCOTLAND FROM THE ACCESSION OF CHARLES I
TO THE RESTORATION.

BEFORE the accession of Charles I Scotland had already had experience of an absentee King; in the twenty-two years during which James ruled the two kingdoms he had but once visited his native country, and his visit had extended to less than eleven weeks. But in the case of James there always remained the closest relation between himself and his northern subjects. Of none of their Kings had the Scots a more vivid impression than of the son of Mary Stewart--an impression partly due to his personal idiosyncrasies, and partly to the peculiar circumstances of his reign. As the result of the Reformation, a national consciousness had been awakened which had quickened the popular interest in all the actions of the Government to a degree unknown at any previous period. Nor had any former King of Scots shown such a direct and persistent interest in every question that bore however remotely on the relations of the Crown to the subject. Thus it was that James and his Scottish people had come to a mutual understanding of each other's character and affinities which his long absence could not wholly efface. It was James' boast that he "knew the stomach" of his Scottish subjects, and his subjects had an equal knowledge of his own. In the case of his son it was wholly different. As we follow the events of Charles' reign, we have a difficulty in deciding whether King or people most completely misunderstood each other. Of the peculiarities of the Scottish intellect and temper, of the general conditions of the country which were the net result of its previous history, Charles to the last showed hardly a glimmering of knowledge, or even of appreciation. On the other hand, the Scots showed an equal inability to understand the character and motives and ends of a King whose ideals and methods of government seemed to them expressly directed against their national traditions and aspirations. In time they came to form a definite conception of him as their prince; but the man Charles remained to them a mystery to the end.

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