1. Described as “one of the most outrageous books ever written,” NOTE 1 this scurrilously satirical assault on King James I purports to be written by Isaac Casaubon [1559 - 1614] and issued at London by the king’s printer John Bill, in 1615. Casaubon, a famous Swiss Humanist, accepted an invitation to come to England in 1610, where he became a naturalized subject and spent the short remainder of his life. He was deeply respected by the king, who relied on his learning in many matters.
2. But, of course, he did not write the Corona Regia, nor did Bill print it. It was written by some disgruntled Catholic on the Continent, and likewise printed overseas. It has often been attributed to the polemicist Kaspar Schoppe [1576 - 1649], author of more serious attacks against James, Ecclesiasticus auctoritati serenissimi d. Iacobi Magnae Britanniae regis oppositus (1611) and Scorpiacum, hoc est novum ac praesns adversus protestantium haereses remedium...adversus serenissimum Iacobum Magnae Britanniae regem (1612). The traditional ascription to Schoppe is both old and deep-seated. An early reader has penned Schoppe’s name on the title page of the Bodleian Library copy of the volume (the one employed for the Early English Books collection) and has been repeated by countless authorities, including George Bullen and Gregory W. Eccles, Catalogue of Books in the Library of the British Museum (London, 1884) I.340 col. 1. At the time, however, a vengeful James looked around for an author and decided that it was the work of Schoppe’s friend Erycius Puteanus [1574 - 1646], a Professor at the University of Louvain, and so sent Sir John Bennet as a special envoy to demand Puteanus’ punishment. Puteanus hotly denied any responsibility in a pamphlet Rufi et Gibbosi Periurium in caussa Coronaria and the Archduke Albert, to whom Bennet lodged his complaint, managed to convince James that Putaneus was not the author. In modern times, the authorship question remains variously debated in the scholarly literature. NOTE 2
3. Whoever its author may have been, the Corona Regia purports to be the fragmentary remains of a panegyric on James written by Casaubon, rescued from oblivion by a certain editor named “Euphormio.” NOTE 3 Casaubon begins with a blanket statement of praise that could only be written by somebody possessed of truly Machiavellian cynicism. It is a representative example of the tactic employed throughout the piece, of saying damning things under the guise of speaking praise:
Sed quemadmodum nasci bonum haud profecto satis est, nisi talem te vivendi ratione praestas, ita plurimum recta institutio addere pronae ad virtutem indoli solet, quasi Deus voluerit istinc semina iustitiae, clementiae, pietatis esse, hinc fructum dependere. Neque tamen minori gloriae adscriptum est, posse, quum prava naturae consuetudo est, eam probitatis integritatisque velo tegere. Scio enim, scio in omnibus hominibus virtutem non inveniri, ut, si esse non possis, saltem bonus a subditis habearis. Simulare et fingere regium est, tum et optime loqui, cuum pessimis rebus animus ab origine corruptus delectatur. Quemadmodum virtutes, sic virtutum omnium imagines sunt: unde si iustitia displiceret, larvam eius sume, ut sine reprehensione iniquus sis; si a clementia abhorres, sub persona latebis, ut impune saevias: si vitiis omnibus indulges, pietatis maxime velo opus est, ut sanctissimus appareas. Admirabile vero est, quantum turpitudinum atque vitiorum abscondere in rege quietis et modesti ingenii professio valeat.
[“But, just as it is not enough to be born a good man unless you show yourself such by your manner of life, so proper upbringing is wont to add much to a character predisposed to virtue, as if God wished the seeds of justice, clemency, and piety to depend on the one, but their fruit on the other. Nor, when one’s nature is depraved, does any less glory attach to the ability to conceal this behind a veil of probity and integrity. I am well aware that virtue is not to be found in all men, so that, if you cannot be so, you can at least be regarded as such by your subjects. It is royal to dissimulate and pretend, and also to speak of the best things while your mind, corrupted from the outset, takes delight in the worst. Just as the virtues exist, so do their images: and so, if justice displeases you, wear its mask so that you may be unjust without criticism; if you abhor clemency, you will hide behind its face so you may exercise your savagery with impunity; if you indulge in every manner of vice, you have the greatest need of a veil of piety so that you may appear most holy. It is truly wonderful how much turpitude and vice the profession of a peaceful and modest nature can manage to conceal...“]
4. The writer of this “panegyric” then goes on to hurl a lengthy series of slanders against James and his Protestant predecessors, all cleverly delivered as a eulogy of James’ good points, and works in plenty of zingers against his royal predecessors. Some (such as that Mary Queen of Scots was barren and James the suppositions a child of a commoner) appear to be original. Others (for example, that Henry VIII had seduced Anne Boleyn’s mother and that Anne was his daughter as well as his consort, thus implying that Elizabeth was both Henry’s grand-daughter and daughter) are repetitions of familiar Catholic ones. NOTE 4 Thus James is shown to be the most recent in a series of tyrannical monsters who have perverted religion for their own evil purposes. When the author turns to his subject’s personality, he is ridiculed for a lengthy catalogue of personal shortcomings, ranging from alcoholism, gluttony. and an ungainly physique, to his pretention to learning and championship of the Protestant cause. The author even breaks the traditional taboo about not discussing a sovereign’s homosexuality. NOTE 5 His splenetic hatred is visible at every moment. And Casaubon himself comes in for some vicious sideswipes as a toady to kings, who had all but forsaken his original Protestantism to curry favor with Henri IV while living in France and who was now forsaking classical philology for theology as a means of ingratiating himself with James. NOTE 6
5. The religious polemic literature of the early seventeenth century abounds in hateful invective. What sets the present work apart, and qualifies it for a modern edition, is that, whereas most of that literature strikes one as intolerably dreary when it does not manage to be downright repulsive (even John Donne’s Ignatius His Conclave cannot be excepted from the one generalization, if not the other), the outrageously “over the top” nature of this sustained assault makes it genuinely funny. Its author, whoever he may have been, had real talent as a satirist. Now that all sectarian passion on both sides is long dead, it is possible to read it in detachment and appreciate how entertaining it actually is.
6. The reader should bear in mind that the text contains various editorial symbols such as elipses and ***, used to indicate lacunae, inserted in order to maintain the pretense that is a transcript of a fragmentary document.
NOTE 1 So Logan Pearsall Smith, The Life and Letters of Sir Henry Wotton (Oxford, 1907) II.92 n.1.
NOTE 2 For three recent discussions of the authorship question, cf. Wilfried Schleiner, “‘A Plott to have his nose and eares cutt of’: Schoppe as Seen by the Archbishop of Canterbury,” Renaissance and Reformation XIX (1995) 69 - 86, the same author’s “Scioppius’ Pen against the English King’s Sword: The Political Function of Ambiguity and Anonymity in Early Seventeenth-Century Literature,” Renaissance and Reformation XXVI (1990) 271 - 284, and Gilbert Tournoy, “Erycius Puteanus, Isaac Casaubon, and the Author of the Corona Regia,” Humanistica Lovaniensia XLIX (2000) 377 - 390.
NOTE 3 Since the Scottish-French Catholic satirist and poet John Barclay [d. 1621] wrote a work entitled Euphormionis Lusini Satyricon, he too has been named as a possible author of the present work. Barclay had come to England, gained the royal favor and support, and remained at court until 1615, when he removed to Rome.
NOTE 4 For this allegation see § 19 with the note ad loc.
NOTE 5 This item on our author’s bill of particulars, and the rarity of frankness on the subject of royal homosexuality, has recently been discussed by Curtis Perry in the course of his “The Politics of Access and Representations of the Sodomite King in Early Modern England,” Renaissance Quarterly 53 (2000) 1054 - 83.
NOTE 6 Catholic attacks on Casaubon, if not necessarily the present work, elicited a heated defense by his son Méric, dedicated to King James printed at London in 1621 under the title Merici Casauboni, Is. f., Pietas, contra maledicos patrii nominis et religionis hostes.