chapter  4
14 Pages

Faction and Favourites

A successful career at the Court of James I was likely to be attended by envy and malice. 'Vipers', double-dealers and informers were everywhere. Richard Vaughan, 2nd Earl of Carbery, despatched his son to Court with the warning: 'so many waiters at table are so many spies; and what may fall from you merrily and innocently, may be maliciously taken up, and long after reported to your disadvantage' . Yet despite the almost uniformly bad press which the Court received, its pleasures, rewards and politics cast a powerful spell. Men were drawn to Whitehall not only by the lure of office and favours, but also because central and local government were linked by a network of clientage. A gentleman wishing to preserve or increase his standing in his county had to cultivate a good relationship with a powerful figure at Court. Conversely, loss of favour at Court was accompanied by a loss of reputation in the country. The King's affectionate regard was the principal prize: he who had it became a powerful figure, gaining profit and prestige from the distribution of favours, and the ability, sometimes, to influence royal policy. James made certain that no single favourite monopolised patronage, though Buckingham came near to doing so during the last years of the King's life. High-ranking noblemen like the Earls of Pembroke and Dunbar, or the Duke of Lennox, shared the benefits of royal favour, so that the Court resembled an Aladdin's cave hung not with one but with many glittering webs of patronage.