CHAPTER XII. THE CONCLUSION.
Time rolled on, and the gay and pleasure-loving king passed through one decade after another of his career, until at length he came to be over fifty years of age. His health was firm, and his mental powers vigorous. He looked forward to many years of strength and activity yet to come, and thus, though he had passed the meridian of his life, he made no preparations to change the pursuits and habits in which he had indulged himself in his early years.
He died suddenly at last, at the age of fifty-four. His death was almost as sudden as that of his father, though in a widely different way. The circumstances of his last sickness have strongly attracted the attention of mankind, on account of the manner in which the dying king was affected, at last, by remorse at the recollection of his life of reckless pleasure and sin, and of the acts to which this remorse led him upon his dying bed. The vices and crimes of monarchs, like those of other men, may be distinguished into two great types, characterized by the feelings of heart in which they take their origin. Some of these crimes arise from the malignant passions of the soul, others from the irregular and perverted action of the feelings of kindness and affection. The errors and follies of Charles, ending at last, as they did, in the most atrocious sins, were of the latter class. It was in feelings of kindness and good will toward friends of his own sex that originated that spirit of favoritism, so unworthy of a monarch, which he so often evinced; and even his irregular and unhallowed attachments of another kind seem to have been not wholly selfish and sensual. The course of conduct which he pursued through the whole course of his life toward his female companions, evinced, in many instances, a sincere attachment to them, and an honest desire to promote their welfare; and in all the wild recklessness of his life of pleasure and vice, there was seen coming out continually into view the influence of some conscientious sense of duty, and of a desire to promote the happiness of those around him, and to do justice to all. These principle were, indeed, too feeble to withstand the temptations by which they were assailed on every side; still, they did not cease to exist, and occasions were continually occurring when they succeeded in making their persuasions heard. In a word, King Charles's errors and sins, atrocious and inexcusable as they were, sprang from ill-regulated and perverted feelings of love and good will, and not from selfishness and hate; from the kindly, and not from the malignant propensities of the soul. It is very doubtful whether this is really any palliation of them, but, at any rate, mankind generally regard it so, judging very leniently, as they always do, the sins and crimes which have such an origin.
It is probable that Charles derived whatever moral principle and sensitiveness of conscience that he possessed from the influence of his mother in his early years. She was a faithful and devoted Catholic; she honestly and firmly believed that the rites and usages of the Catholic Church were divinely ordained, and that a careful and honest conformity to them was the only way to please God and to prepare for heaven. She did all in her power to bring up her children in this faith, and in the high moral and religious principles of conduct which were, in her mind, indissolubly connected with it. She derived this spirit, in her turn, from her mother, Mary de Medici, who was one of the most extraordinary characters of ancient or modern times. When Henrietta Maria was married to Charles I. and went to England, this Mary de Medici, her mother, wrote her a letter of counsel and of farewell, which we recommend to our readers' careful perusal. It is true, we go back to the third generation from the hero of this story to reach the document, but it illustrates so well the manner in which maternal influence passes down from age to age, and throws so much light on the strange scenes which occurred at Charles's death, and is, moreover, so intrinsically excellent, that it well merits the digression.
The queen-mother, Mary de Medici, to the young Queen of England, Henrietta Maria.
1625, June 25.
MY DAUGHTER, - You separate from me, I can not separate myself from you. I retain you in heart and memory and would that this paper could serve for an eternal memorial to you of what I am; it would then supply my place, and speak for me to you, when I can no longer speak for myself. I give you it with my last adieu in quitting you, to impress it the more on your mind, and give it to you written with my own hand, in order that it may be the more dear to you, and that it may have more authority with you in all that regards your conduct toward God, the king your husband, his subjects, your domestics, and yourself. I tell you here sincerely, as in the last hour of our converse, all I should say to you in the last hour of my existence, if you should be near me then. I consider, to my great regret, that such can never be, and that the separation now taking place between you and me for a long time, is too probably an anticipation of that which is to be forever in this world.
On this earth you have only God for a father; but, as he is eternal, you can never lose him. It is he who sustains your existence and life; it is he who has given you to a great king; it is he who, at this time, places a crown on your brow, and will establish you in England, where you ought to believe that he requires your service, and there he means to effect your salvation. Remember, my child, every day of your life, that he is your God, who has put you on earth intending you for heaven, who has created you for himself and for his glory.