Charles the First to Termination of Commonwealth - A.D. 1625 to A.D. 1660.
The unhappy Charles ascended the throne under disadvantageous circumstances. His father had left him a heavy debt; the Duke of Buckingham, his chief minister, was universally hated, and England had greatly sunk in the estimation of foreign nations. James had agreed to furnish the King of France with some ships of war to assist him against the King of Spain or his allies in Italy. In pursuance of this agreement, Captain John Pennington was despatched in the Vanguard, having under him six hired merchant-vessels. The King of France, however, being hotly engaged in a war with his Protestant subjects, intended to make use of the ships for the reduction of Rochelle. Pennington, on discovering this, immediately wrote to the Duke of Buckingham declining so odious a service, and requesting leave to return to England. Buckingham, in reply, having obtained an order from Charles, commanded him to employ his ships in such service as the King of France should direct. The latter, at the same time, sent a letter to the English captain, requiring him to take on board a number of French soldiers, with his admiral, the Duke of Montmorency, and repair before Rochelle. This Captain Pennington, with true English spirit, refused to do; on which the French officer who had brought the letter returned on board the Vanguard to protest against him as a rebel to his king and country. Not content with having once done this, he returned again and enforced his request by threats and menaces, at which the seamen were so enraged, that they weighed anchor and set sail, crying out they would rather be hanged at home than be slaves to the French, and fight against their own religion. The Vanguard accordingly returned to the Downs. On his arrival, the captain sending an express to court with advice of his proceedings, immediately received a positive order, under the king’s sign-manual, to return and deliver up the ships into the hands of a French officer at Dieppe. Having complied with this order, he quitted the command, and he and all the officers and seamen, both of the Vanguard and merchant-vessels, left their ships and returned to England.
The whole nation burned with indignation when they heard that Captain Pennington’s ships had been delivered up to the French and employed against Rochelle, and demanded their immediate restitution. The French king excused himself on the pretence that his subjects, by whom they were manned, would not now quit them; on which, to appease the people, the Duke of Buckingham issued commissions of reprisal. The Saint Peter, of Havre-de-Grâce, and other French vessels were on this captured. Hearing of this proceeding, the French king not only absolutely refused to restore the seven ships, but seized on all the English merchants’ property throughout his dominions. To carry on the war with Spain a powerful fleet of eighty English and Dutch ships was fitted out under the command of Cecil, afterwards created Viscount Wimbleton. Ten regiments were embarked on board the fleet, under the Earls of Essex and Denbigh. They proceeded to Cadiz, when the troops, having broken into the wine-stores, became so excessively intoxicated, that had the enemy set on them they must have been put to the sword. The officers hastened, therefore, their re-embarkation, and the expedition returned without having effected anything.
In 1627 three expeditions were undertaken, professedly to assist the people of Rochelle, but, being badly managed, possibly through treachery, they all failed. It was while fitting out one of these fleets that the Duke of Buckingham, then Lord High Admiral, was murdered by Felton.