The favorite, anxious to secure his ascendency by fresh efforts of gallantry and instances of devotedness, entreated to be indulged in the privilege of entertaining her majesty for several days at his seat of Wanstead-house; a recent and expensive purchase, which he had been occupied in adorning with a magnificence suited to the ostentatious prodigality of his disposition.
It was for the entertainment of her majesty on this occasion that Philip Sidney condescended to task a genius worthy of better things with the composition of a mask in celebration of her surpassing beauties and royal virtues, entitled "The Lady of May." In defence of this public act of adulation, the young poet had probably the particular request of his uncle and patron to plead, as well as the common practice of the age; but it must still be mortifying under any circumstances, to record the abasement of such a spirit to a level with the vulgar herd of Elizabethan flatterers.
Unsatiated with festivities and homage, the queen continued her progress from Wanstead through the counties of Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk, receiving the attendance of numerous troops of gentry, and making visits in her way to all who felt themselves entitled, or called, to solicit with due humility the costly honor of entertaining her. Her train was numerous and brilliant, and the French ambassadors constantly attended her motions. About the middle of August she arrived at Norwich.
This ancient city, then one of the most considerable in the kingdom, yielded to none in a zealous attachment to protestant principles and to the queen's person; and as its remote situation had rendered the arrival of a royal visitant within its walls an extremely rare occurrence, the magistrates resolved to spare nothing which could contribute to the splendor of her reception.
At the furthest limits of the city she was met by the mayor, who addressed her in a long and very abject Latin oration, in which he was not ashamed to pronounce that the city enjoyed its charters and privileges "by her only clemency." At the conclusion he produced a large silver cup filled with gold pieces, saying, "Sunt hic centum librae puri auri:" Welcome sounds, which failed not to reach the ear of her gracious majesty, who, lifting up the cover with alacrity, said audibly to the footman to whose care it was delivered, "Look to it, there is a hundred pound." Pageants were set up in the principal streets, of which one had at least the merit of appropriateness, since it accurately represented the various processes employed in those woollen manufactures for which Norwich was already famous.
Two days after her majesty's arrival, Mercury, in a blue satin doublet lined with cloth of gold, with a hat of the same garnished with wings, and wings at his feet, appeared under her chamber window in an extraordinarily fine painted coach, and invited her to go abroad and see more shows; and a kind of mask, in which Venus and Cupid with Wantonness and Riot were discomfited by the Goddess of Chastity and her attendants, was performed in the open air. A troop of nymphs and fairies lay in ambush for her return from dining with the earl of Surry; and in the midst of these Heathenish exhibitions, the minister of the Dutch church watched his opportunity to offer to her the grateful homage of his flock. To these deserving strangers, protestant refugees from Spanish oppression, the policy of Elizabeth, in this instance equally generous and discerning, had granted every privilege capable of inducing them to make her kingdom their permanent abode. At Norwich, where the greater number had settled, a church was given them for the performance of public worship in their own tongue, and according to the form which they preferred; and encouragement was held out to them to establish here several branches of manufacture which they had previously carried on to great advantage at home. This accession of skill and industry soon raised the woollen fabrics of England to a pitch of excellence unknown in former ages, and repaid with usury to the country this exercise of public hospitality.
It appears that the inventing of masks, pageants and devices for the recreation of the queen on her progresses had become a distinct profession. George Ferrers, formerly commemorated as master of the pastimes to Edward VI., one Goldingham, and Churchyard, author of "the Worthiness of Wales," of some legends in the "Mirror for Magistrates," and of a prodigious quantity of verse on various subjects, were the most celebrated proficients in this branch; all three are handed down to posterity as contributors to "the princely pleasures of Kennelworth," and the two latter as managers of the Norwich entertainments. They vied with each other in the gorgeousness, the pedantry and the surprisingness of their devices; but the palm was surely due to him of the number who had the glory of contriving a battle between certain allegorical personages, in the midst of which, "legs and arms of men, well and lively wrought, were to be let fall in numbers on the ground as bloody as might be." The combat was to be exhibited in the open air; but the skies were unpropitious, and a violent shower of rain unfortunately deprived her majesty of the satisfaction of witnessing the effect of so extraordinary and elegant a device.
Richard Topcliffe, a Lincolnshire gentleman employed by government to collect informations against the papists, and so much distinguished in the employment, that Topcliffizare became the cant term of the day for hunting a recusant, was at this time a follower of the court; and a letter addressed by him to the earl of Shrewsbury contains some particulars of this progress worth preserving.... "I did never see her majesty better received by two counties in one journey than Suffolk and Norfolk now; Suffolk of gentlemen and Norfolk of the meaner sort, with exceeding joy to themselves and well liking to her majesty. Great entertainment at the master of the Rolls'; greater at Kenninghall, and exceeding of all sorts at Norwich.
"The next good news, (but in account the highest) her majesty hath served God with great zeal and comfortable examples; for by her council two notorious papists, young Rookwood (the master of Euston-hall, where her majesty did lie upon Sunday now a fortnight) and one Downes, a gentleman, were both committed, the one to the town prison at Norwich, the other to the county prison there, for obstinate papistry; and seven more gentlemen of worship were committed to several houses in Norwich as prisoners....for badness of belief. This Rookwood is a papist of kind, newly crept out of his late wardship. Her majesty, by some means I know not, was lodged at his house, Euston, far unmeet for her highness, but fitter for the black guard; nevertheless, (the gentleman brought into her majesty's presence by like device) her excellent majesty gave to Rookwood ordinary thanks for his bad house, and her fair hand to kiss; after which it was braved at. But my lord chamberlain, nobly and gravely, understanding that Rookwood was excommunicated for papistry, called him before him; demanded of him how he durst to attempt her royal presence, he, unfit to accompany any Christian person? Forthwith said he was fitter for a pair of stocks; commanded him out of the court, and yet to attend her council's pleasure, and at Norwich he was committed. And, to decypher the gentleman to the full; a piece of plate being missed in the court and searched for in his hay-house, in the hayrick such an image of our lady was there found, as for greatness, for gayness, and workmanship, I did never see a match; and after a sort of country dances ended, in her majesty's sight the idol was set behind the people, who avoided. She rather seemed a beast raised upon a sudden from hell by conjuring, than the picture for whom it had been so often and so long abused. Her majesty commanded it to the fire, which in her sight by the country folks was quickly done, to her content, and unspeakable joy of every one, but some one or two who had sucked of the idol's poisoned milk.
"Shortly after, a great sort of good preachers, who had been commanded to silence for a little niceness, were licensed, and again commanded to preach; a greater and more universal joy to the counties, and the most of the court, than the disgrace of the papists; and the gentlemen of those parts, being great and hot protestants (almost before by policy discredited and disgraced), were greatly countenanced." The letter writer afterwards mentions in a splenetic style the envoy from Monsieur, one Baqueville a Norman, "with four or five of Monsieur's youths," who attended the queen and were "well entertained and regarded." After them, he says, came M. Rambouillet from the French king, brother of the cardinal, who had not long before written vilely against the queen, and whose entertainment, it seemed to him, was not so good as that of the others.
[Note 82: "Illustrations," by Lodge, vol. ii. p. 187.]
The queen was about this time deprived by death of an old and faithful counsellor, in the person of sir Thomas Smith one of the principal secretaries of state. This eminent person, the author of a work "on the Commonwealth of England," still occasionally consulted, and in various ways a great benefactor to letters in his day, was one of the few who had passed at once with safety and credit through all the perils and revolutions of the three preceding reigns. His early proficiency at college obtained for Smith the patronage of Henry VIII., at whose expense he was sent to complete his studies in Italy; and he took at Padua the degree of Doctor of Laws. Resuming on his return his residence at Cambridge, he united his efforts with those of Cheke for reforming the pronunciation of the Greek language. Afterwards he furnished an example of attachment to his mother-tongue which among classical scholars has found too few imitators, by giving to the public a work on English orthography and pronunciation; objects as yet almost totally neglected by his countrymen, and respecting which, down to a much later period, no approach to system or uniformity prevailed, but, on the contrary, a vagueness, a rudeness and an ignorance disgraceful to a lettered people.
Though educated in the civil law, Smith now took deacon's orders and accepted a rectory, and the deanery of Carlisle. His principles secretly began to incline towards the reformers, and he lent such protection as he was able to those who in the latter years of Henry VIII. underwent persecution for the avowal of similar sentiments.
Protector Somerset patronized him: under his administration he was knighted notwithstanding his deacon's orders, and became the colleague of Cecil as secretary of state. On the accession of Mary he was stripped of the lucrative offices which he held, but a small pension was assigned him on condition of his remaining in the kingdom; and he contrived to pass away those days of horror in an unmolested obscurity.
He was among the first whom Mary's illustrious successor recalled to public usefulness; being summoned to take his place at her earliest privy-council. In the important measures of the beginning of the reign for the settlement of religion, he took a distinguished part: afterwards he was employed with advantage to his country in several difficult embassies; he was then appointed assistant and finally successor to Burleigh in the same high post which they had occupied together so many years before under the reign of Edward, and in this station he died at the age of sixty-three.
No statesman of the age bore a higher character than sir Thomas Smith for rectitude and benevolence, and nothing of the wiliness and craft conspicuous in most of his coadjutors is discernible in him. There was one foible of his day, however, from which he was by no means exempt: on certain points he was superstitious beyond the ordinary measure of learned credulity in the sixteenth century. Of his faith in alchemical experiments a striking instance has already occurred; he was likewise a great astrologer, and gave himself much concern in conjecturing what direful events might be portended by the appearance of a comet which became visible in the last year of his life. During a temporary retirement from court, he had also distinguished himself as a magistrate by his extraordinary diligence in the prosecution of suspected witches. But the date of these and similar delusions had not yet expired. Great alarms were excited in the country during the year 1577 by the prevalence of certain magical practices, which were supposed to strike at the life of her majesty. There were found at Islington, concealed in the house of a catholic priest who was a reputed sorcerer, three waxen images, formed to represent the queen and two of her chief counsellors; other dealings also of professors of the occult sciences were from time to time discovered. "Whether it were the effect of this magic," says Strype, who wrote in the beginning of the eighteenth century, "or proceeded from some natural cause, but the queen was in some part of this year under excessive anguish by pains of her teeth: Insomuch that she took no rest for divers nights, and endured very great torment night and day." In this extremity, a certain "outlandish" physician was consulted, who composed on the case, with much solemnity of style, a long Latin letter, in which, after observing with due humility that it was a perilous attempt in a person of his slender abilities to prescribe for a disease which had caused perplexity and diversity of opinion among the skilful and eminent physicians ordinarily employed by her majesty, he ventured however to suggest various applications as worthy of trial; finally hinting at the expediency of having recourse to extraction on the possible failure of all other means to afford relief. How this weighty matter terminated we are not here informed; but it is upon record that Aylmer bishop of London once submitted to have a tooth drawn, in order to encourage her majesty to undergo that operation; and as the promotion of the learned prelate was at this time recent, and his gratitude, it may be presumed, still lively, we may perhaps be permitted to conjecture that it was the bishop who on this occasion performed the part of exorcist.
The efforts of duke Casimir for the defence of the United Provinces had hitherto proved eminently unfortunate; and in the autumn of 1578 he judged it necessary to come over to England to apologize in person to Elizabeth for the ill success of his arms, and to make arrangements for the future.
He was very honorably received by her majesty, who recollected perhaps with some little complacency that he had formerly been her suitor. Justings, tilts, and runnings at the ring were exhibited for his entertainment, and he was engaged in hunting-parties, in which he greatly delighted. Leicester loaded him with presents; the earl of Pembroke also complimented him with a valuable jewel. The earl of Huntingdon, a nobleman whose religious zeal, which had rendered him the peculiar patron of the puritan divines, interested him also in the cause of Holland, escorted him on his return as far as Gravesend; and sir Henry Sidney attended him to Dover. The queen willingly bestowed on her princely guest the cheap distinction of the garter; but her parting present of two golden cups, worth three hundred pounds a-piece, was extorted from her, after much murmuring and long reluctance, by the urgency of Walsingham, who was anxious, with the rest of his party, that towards this champion of the protestant cause, though unfortunate, no mark of respect should be omitted.
The Spanish and French ambassadors repined at the favors heaped on Casimir; but in the mean time the French faction was not inactive. The earl of Sussex, whose generally sound judgement seems to have been warped in this instance by his habitual contrariety to Leicester, wrote in August 1578 a long letter to the queen, in which, after stating the arguments for and against the French match, he summed up pretty decidedly in its favor. What was of more avail, Monsieur sent over to plead his cause an agent named Simier, a person of great dexterity, who well knew how to ingratiate himself by a thousand amusing arts; by a sprightly style of conversation peculiarly suited to the taste of the queen; and by that ingenious flattery, the talent of his nation, which is seldom entirely thrown away even upon the sternest and most impenetrable natures. Elizabeth could not summon resolution to dismiss abruptly a suit which was so agreeably urged, and in February 1579 lord Talbot sends the following information to his father: "Her majesty continueth her very good usage of M. Simier and all his company, and he hath conference with her three or four times a week, and she is the best disposed and pleasantest when she talketh with him (as by her gestures appeareth) that is possible." He adds, "The opinion of Monsieur's coming still holdeth, and yet it is secretly bruited that he cannot take up so much money as he would on such a sudden, and therefore will not come so soon."
[Note 83: "Illustrations," &c. vol. ii.]
The influence of Simier over the queen became on a sudden so potent, that Leicester and his party reported, and perhaps believed, that he had employed philters and other unlawful means to inspire her with love for his master. Simier on his side amply retaliated these hostilities by carrying to her majesty the first tidings of the secret marriage of her favorite with the countess of Essex;—a fact which none of her courtiers had found courage to communicate to her, though it must have been by this time widely known, as sir Francis Knowles, the countess's father, had insisted, for the sake of his daughter's reputation, that the celebration of the nuptials should take place in presence of a considerable number of witnesses.
The rage of the queen on this disclosure transported her beyond all the bounds of justice, reason, and decorum. It has been already remarked that she was habitually, or systematically, an open enemy to matrimony in general; and the higher any persons stood in her good graces and the more intimate their access to her, the greater was her resentment at detecting in them any aspirations after this state; because a kind of jealousy was in these cases superadded to her malignity, and it offended her pride that those who were honored with her favor should find themselves at leisure to covet another kind of happiness of which she was not the dispenser. But that Leicester, the dearest of her friends, the first of her favorites, after all the devotedness to her charms which he had so long professed, and which she had requited by a preference so marked and benefits so signal,—that he,—her opinion unconsulted, her sanction unimplored, should have formed,—and with her own near relation,—this indissoluble tie, and having formed it should have attempted to conceal the fact from her when known to so many others,—appeared to her the acme of ingratitude, perfidy, and insult. She felt the injury like a weak disappointed woman, she resented it like a queen and a Tudor.
She instantly ordered Leicester into confinement in a small fort then standing in Greenwich park, and she threw out the menace, nay actually entertained the design, of sending him to the Tower. But the lofty and honorable mind of the earl of Sussex revolted against proceedings so violent, so lawless, and so disgraceful in every point of view to his royal kinswoman. He plainly represented to her, that it was contrary to all right and all decorum that any man should be punished for lawful matrimony, which was held in honor by all; and his known hostility to the favorite giving weight to his remonstrance, the queen curbed her anger, gave up all thoughts of the Tower, and soon restored the earl to liberty. In no long time afterwards, he was readmitted to her presence; and so necessary had he made himself to her majesty, or so powerful in the state, that she found it expedient insensibly to restore him to the same place of trust and intimacy as before; though it is probable that he never entirely regained her affections; and his countess, for whom indeed she had never entertained any affection, remained the avowed object of her utter antipathy even after the death of Leicester, and in spite of all the intercessions in her behalf with which her son Essex, in the meridian of his favor, never ceased to importune his sovereign.
The quarrel of Leicester against Simier proceeded to such extremity after this affair, that the latter believed his life in danger from his attempts. It was even said that the earl had actually hired one of the queen's guard to assassinate the envoy, and that the design had only miscarried by chance. However this might be, her majesty, on account of the spirit of enmity displayed towards him by the people, to whom the idea of the French match was ever odious, found it necessary, by a proclamation, to take Simier under her special protection. It was about this time that as the queen was taking the air on the Thames, attended by this Frenchman and by several of her courtiers, a shot was fired into her barge, by which one of the rowers was severely wounded. Some supposed that it was aimed at Simier, others at the queen herself; but the last opinion was immediately silenced by the wise and gracious declaration of her majesty, "that she would believe nothing of her subjects that parents would not believe of their children."
After due inquiry the shot was found to have been accidental, and the person who had been the cause of the mischief, though condemned to death, was pardoned. Such at least is the account of the affair transmitted to us by contemporary writers; but it still remains a mystery how the man came to be capitally condemned if innocent, or to be pardoned if guilty.
Leicester, from all these circumstances, had incurred so much obloquy at court, and found himself so coldly treated by the queen herself, that in a letter to Burleigh he offered, or threatened, to banish himself; well knowing, perhaps, that the proposal would not be accepted; while the French prince, now created duke of Anjou, adroitly seized the moment of the earl's disgrace to try the effect of personal solicitations on the heart of Elizabeth. He arrived quite unexpectedly, and almost without attendants, at the gate of her palace at Greenwich; experienced a very gracious reception; and after several long conferences with the queen alone, of which the particulars never transpired, took his leave and returned home, re-committing his cause to the skilful management of his own agent, and the discussion of his brother's ambassadors.
Long and frequent meetings of the privy-council were now held, by command of her majesty, for the discussion of the question of marriage; from the minutes of which some interesting details may be recovered.
The earl of Sussex was still, as ever, strongly in favor of the match; and chiefly, as it appears, from an apprehension that France and Spain might otherwise join to dethrone the queen and set up another in her place. Lord Hunsdon was on the same side, as was also the lord-admiral (the earl of Lincoln), but less warmly. Burleigh labored to find arguments in support of the measure, but evidently against his judgement and to please the queen. Leicester openly professed to have changed his opinion, "for her majesty was to be followed." Sir Walter Mildmay reasoned freely and forcibly against the measure, on the ground of the too advanced age of the queen, and the religion, the previous public conduct and the family connexions of Anjou. Sir Ralph Sadler subscribed to most of the objections of Mildmay, and brought forward additional ones. Sir Henry Sidney approved all these, and subjoined, "that the marriage could not be made good by all the counsel between England and Rome; a mass might not be suffered in the court;" meaning, probably, that the marriage rite could not by any expedient be accommodated to the consciences of both parties and the law of England.
On the whole, with the single exception perhaps of the earl of Sussex, those counsellors who pronounced in favor of the marriage in this debate, did so, almost avowedly, in compliance with the wishes of the queen, whose inclination to the alliance had become very evident since the visit of her youthful suitor; while such as opposed it were moved by strong and earnest convictions of the gross impropriety and thorough unsuitableness of the match, with respect to Elizabeth herself, and the dreadful evils which it was likely to entail on the nation. How entirely the real sentiments of this body were adverse to the step, became further evident when the council, instead of immediately obeying her majesty's command, that they should come to a formal decision on the question and acquaint her with the same, hesitated, temporized, assured her of their readiness to be entirely guided on a matter so personal to herself, by her feelings and wishes; requested to be further informed what these might be, and inquired whether, under all the circumstances, she was desirous of their coming to a full determination. "This message was reported to her majesty in the forenoon," (October 7th 1579) "and she allowed very well of the dutiful offer of their services. Nevertheless, she uttered many speeches, and that not without shedding of many tears, that she should find in her councillors, by their long disputations, any disposition to make it doubtful, whether there could be any more surety for her and her realm than to have her marry and have a child of her own body to inherit, and so to continue the line of king Henry the eighth; and she said she condemned herself of simplicity in committing this matter to be argued by them, for that she thought, to have rather had an universal request made to her to proceed in this marriage, than to have made doubt of it; and being much troubled herewith she requested" the bearers of this message "to forbear her till the afternoon."
On their return, she repeated her former expressions of displeasure; then endeavoured at some length to refute the objections brought against the match; and finally, her "great misliking" of all opposition, and her earnest desire for the marriage, being reported to her faithful council, they agreed, after long consultations, to offer her their services in furtherance of it, should such really be her pleasure.
[Note 84: "Burleigh Papers," by Murdin, passim.]
But the country possessed some men less obsequious than privy-councillors, who could not endure to stand by in silence and behold the great public interests here at stake surrendered in slavish deference to the fond fancy of a romantic woman, caught by the image of a passion which she was no longer of an age to inspire, and which she ought to have felt it an indecorum to entertain. Of this number, to his immortal honor, was Philip Sidney. This young gentleman bore at the time the courtly office of cup-bearer to the queen, and was looking for further advancement at her hands; and as on a former occasion he had not scrupled to administer some food to her preposterous desire of personal admiration, Elizabeth, when she applied to him for his opinion on her marriage, assuredly did so in the hope and expectation of hearing from him something more graceful to her ears than the language of truth and wisdom. But Sidney had beheld with his own eyes the horrors of the Paris massacre; he had imbibed with all the eagerness of a youthful and generous mind the principles of his friend the excellent Hubert Languet, one of the ablest advocates of the protestant cause; and he had since, on his embassy to Germany and Holland, enjoyed the favor and contemplated the illustrious virtues of William prince of Orange its heroic champion.
To this sacred cause the purposed marriage must prove, as he well knew, deeply injurious, and to the reputation of his sovereign fatal:—this was enough to decide his judgement and his conduct; and magnanimously disdaining the suggestions of a selfish and servile policy, he replied to the demand of her majesty, by a letter of dissuasion, almost of remonstrance, at once the most eloquent and the most courageous piece of that nature which the age can boast. Every important view of the subject is comprised in this letter, which is long, but at the same time so condensed in style, and so skilfully compacted as to matter, that it well deserves to be read entire, and must lose materially either by abridgement or omission. Yet it may be permitted to detach from political reasonings, foreign to the nature and object of this work, a few sentences referring more immediately to the personal character of Anjou, and displaying in a strong light the enormous unfitness of the connexion; and also the animated and affectionate conclusion by which the writer seems desirous to atone for the enunciation of so many unwelcome truths.
"These," speaking of her majesty's protestant subjects... "These, how will their hearts be galled, if not aliened, when they shall see you take a husband, a Frenchman and a papist, in whom (howsoever fine wits may find further dealings or painted excuses) the very common people well know this, that he is the son of a Jezabel of our age; that his brother made oblation of his own sister's marriage, the easier to make massacres of our brethren in belief: That he himself, contrary to his promise and all gratefulness, having his liberty and principal estate by the Hugonots' means, did sack La Charite, and utterly spoil them with fire and sword! This, I say, even at first sight, gives occasion to all truly religious to abhor such a master, and consequently to diminish much of the hopeful love they have long held to you."
"Now the agent party, which is Monsieur. Whether he be not apt to work on the disadvantage of your estate, he is to be judged by his will and power: his will to be as full of light ambition as is possible, besides the French disposition and his own education, his inconstant temper against his brother, his thrusting himself into the Low Country matters, his sometimes seeking the king of Spain's daughter, sometimes your majesty, are evident testimonies of his being carried away with every wind of hope; taught to love greatness any way gotten; and having for the motioners and ministers of the mind only such young men as have showed they think evil contentment a ground of any rebellion; who have seen no commonwealth but in faction, and divers of which have defiled their hands in odious murders. With such fancies and favorites what is to be hoped for? or that he will contain himself within the limits of your conditions?"
...."Against contempt, if there be any, which I will never believe, let your excellent virtues of piety, justice and liberality, daily, if it be possible, more and more shine. Let such particular actions be found out (which be easy, as I think, to be done) by which you may gratify all the hearts of your people. Let those in whom you find trust, and to whom you have committed trust, in your weighty affairs, be held up in the eyes of your subjects: Lastly, doing as you do, you shall be as you be, the example of princes, the ornament of this age, and the most excellent fruit of your progenitors, and the perfect mirror of your posterity."
Such had ever been the devoted loyalty of Philip Sidney towards Elizabeth, and so high was the place which he held in her esteem, that she appears to have imputed the boldness of this letter to no motives but good ones; and instead of resenting his interference in so delicate a matter, she is thought to have been deeply moved by his eloquence, and even to have been influenced by it in the formation of her final resolve. But far other success attended the efforts of a different character, who labored with equal zeal, equal reason, and probably not inferior purity of intention, though for less courtliness of address, to deter rather than dissuade her from the match, on grounds much more offensive to her feelings, and by means of what was then accounted a seditious appeal to the passions and prejudices of the nation.
The work alluded to was entitled "The discovery of a gaping gulf wherein England is like to be swallowed by another French marriage, if the Lord forbid not the banns by letting her see the sin and punishment thereof." Its author was a gentleman named Stubbs, then of Lincoln's Inn, and previously of Bene't College Cambridge, where we are told that his intimacies had been formed among the more learned and ingenious class of students, and where the poet Spenser had become his friend. He was known as a zealous puritan, and had given his sister in marriage to the celebrated Edmund Cartwright the leader of the sect. It is probable that neither his religious principles nor this connexion were forgotten by the queen in her estimate of his offence. A furious proclamation was issued against the book, all the copies of which were ordered to be seized and burned; and the author and publisher, being proceeded against on a severe statute of Philip and Mary, which many lawyers held to be no longer in force, were found guilty, and condemned to the barbarous punishment of amputation of the right hand.
The words of Stubbs on being brought to the scaffold to undergo his sentence have been preserved, and well merit transcription. "What a grief it is to the body to lose one of his members you all know. I am come hither to receive my punishment according to the law. I am sorry for the loss of my hand, and more sorry to lose it by judgement; but most of all with her majesty's indignation and evil opinion, whom I have so highly displeased. Before I was condemned, I might speak for my innocency; but now my mouth is stopped by judgement, to the which I submit myself, and am content patiently to endure whatsoever it pleaseth God, of his secret providence, to lay upon me, and take it justly deserved for my sins; and I pray God it may be an example to you all, that it being so dangerous to offend the laws, without an evil meaning, as breedeth the loss of a hand, you may use your hands holily, and pray to God for the long preservation of her majesty over you, whom God hath used as an instrument for a long peace and many blessings over us; and specially for his Gospel, whereby she hath made a way for us to rest and quietness to our consciences. For the French I force not; but my greatest grief is, in so many weeks and days of imprisonment, her majesty hath not once thought me worthy of her mercy, which she hath often times extended to divers persons in greater offences. For my hand, I esteem it not so much, for I think I could have saved it, and might do yet; but I will not have a guiltless heart and an infamous hand. I pray you all to pray with me, that God will strengthen me to endure and abide the pain that I am to suffer, and grant me this grace, that the loss of my hand do not withdraw any part of my duty and affection toward her majesty, and because, when so many veins of blood are opened, it is uncertain how they may be stayed, and what wilt be the event thereof.".... The hand ready on the block to be stricken off, he said often to the people: "Pray for me now my calamity is at hand." And so, with these words, it was smitten off, whereof he swoonded."
[Note 85: "Nugae."]
In this speech, the language of which is so remarkably contrasted with those abject submissions which fear extorted from the high-born victims of the tyranny of Henry VIII., the attentive reader will discern somewhat of the same spirit which combated popery and despotism under the Stuarts, though tempered by that loyal attachment towards the restorer and protectress of reformed religion which dwelt in the hearts of all the protestant subjects of Elizabeth without exception.
After the execution of the more painful part of his sentence, Stubbs was further punished by an imprisonment of several months in the Tower: but under all these inflictions, his courage and his cheerfulness were supported by a firm persuasion of the goodness of the cause in which he suffered. He wrote many letters to his friends with the left hand, signing them Scaevola; a surname which it was his pleasure to adopt in memory of a circumstance by which he did not feel himself to be the person dishonored. Such was the opinion entertained by Burleigh of the theological learning of this eminent person and the soundness of his principles, that he engaged him in 1587 to answer Cardinal Allen's violent book entitled "The English Justice;" a task which he is said to have performed with distinguished ability.
During the whole of the year 1580, the important question of the queen's marriage remained in an undecided state. The court of France appears to have suffered the treaty to languish, and Elizabeth, conscious no doubt that her fond inclination could only be gratified at the expense of that popularity which it had been the leading object of her policy to cherish, sought not to revive it. Various circumstances occurred to occupy public attention during the interval.
Sir Nicholas Bacon, who under the humbler title of lord keeper had exercised from the beginning of the reign the office of lord high chancellor, died generally regretted in 1579. No one is recorded to have filled this important post with superior assiduity or a greater reputation for uprightness and ability than sir Nicholas, and several well-known traits afford a highly pleasing image of the general character of his mind. Of this number are his motto, "Mediocria firma," and his handsome reply to the remark of her majesty that his house was too little for him;—"No, madam; but you have made me too big for my house." Even when, upon this royal hint, he erected his elegant mansion of Gorhambury, he was still careful not to lose sight of that idea of lettered privacy in which he loved to indulge; and the accomplishments of his mind were reflected in the decorations of his home. In the gardens, on which his chief care and cost were bestowed, arose a banqueting-house consecrated to the seven Sciences, whose figures adorned the walls, each subscribed with a Latin distich and surrounded with portraits of her most celebrated votaries; a temple in which we may imagine the youthful mind of that illustrious son of his, who "took all learning to be" his "province," receiving with delight its earliest inspiration! In his second wife,—one of the learned daughters of sir Anthony Cook, a woman of a keen and penetrating intellect, and much distinguished by her zeal for reformed religion in its austerer forms,—sir Nicholas found a partner capable of sharing his views and appreciating his character. By her he became the father of two sons; that remarkable man Anthony Bacon, and Francis, the light of science, the interpreter of nature; the admiration of his own age, and the wonder of succeeding ones; the splendid dawn of whose unrivalled genius his father was happy enough to behold; more happy still in not surviving to witness the calamitous eclipse which overshadowed his reputation at its highest noon.
The lord keeper was esteemed the second pillar of that state of which Burleigh was the prime support. In all public measures of importance they acted together; and similar speculative opinions, with coinciding views of national policy, united these two eminent statesmen in a brotherhood dearer than that of alliance; but in their motives of action, and in the character of their minds, a diversity was observable which it may be useful to point out.
Of Burleigh it has formerly been remarked, that with his own interest he considered also, and perhaps equally, that of his queen and his country: but the patriotism of Bacon seems to have risen higher; and his conformity with the wishes and sentiments of his sovereign was less obsequiously exact. In the affair of lady Catherine Grey's title, he did not hesitate to risk the favor of the queen and his own continuance in office, for the sake of what appeared to him the cause of religion and his country. On the whole, however, moderation and prudence were the governing principles of his mind and actions. The intellect of Burleigh was more versatile and acute, that of Bacon more profound; and their parts in the great drama of public life were cast accordingly: Burleigh had most of the alertness of observation, the fertility of expedient, the rapid calculation of contingencies, required in the minister of state; Bacon, of the gravity and steadfastness which clothe with reverence and authority the counsellor and judge. "He was a plain man," says Francis Bacon of his father, "direct and constant, without all finesse and doubleness, and one that was of a mind that a man in his private proceedings and estate, and in the proceedings of state, should rest upon the soundness and strength of his own courses, and not upon practice to circumvent others."
After Elizabeth had forgiven his interference respecting the succession, no one was held by her in greater honor and esteem than her lord keeper; she visited him frequently, conversed with him familiarly; took pleasure in the flashes of wit which often relieved the seriousness of his wisdom; and flattered with kind condescension his parental feelings by the extraordinary notice which she bestowed on his son Francis, whose brightness and solidity of parts early manifested themselves to her discerning eye, and caused her to predict that her "little lord keeper" would one day prove an eminent man.
Great interest was excited by the arrival in Plymouth harbour, in November 1580, of the celebrated Francis Drake from his circumnavigation of the globe. National vanity was flattered by the idea that this Englishman should have been the first commander-in-chief by whom this great and novel enterprise had been successfully achieved; and both himself and his ship became in an eminent degree the objects of public curiosity and wonder. The courage, skill and perseverance of this great navigator were deservedly extolled; the wealth which he had brought home, from the plunder of the Spanish settlements, awakened the cupidity which in that age was a constant attendant on the daring spirit of maritime adventure, and half the youth of the country were on fire to embark in expeditions of pillage and discovery.
But the court was not so easily induced to second the ardor of the nation. Drake's captures from the Spaniards had been made, under some vague notion of reprisals, whilst no open war was subsisting between the nations; and the Spanish ambassador, not, it must be confessed, without some reason, branded his proceedings with the reproach of piracy, and loudly demanded restitution of the booty. Elizabeth wavered for some time between admiration of the valiant Drake, mixed with a desire of sharing in the profits of his expedition, and a dread of incensing the king of Spain; but she at length decided on the part most acceptable to her people,—that of giving a public sanction to his acts. During the spring of 1581 she accepted of a banquet on board his ship off Deptford, conferred on him the order of knighthood, and received him into favor.
Much anxiety and alarm was about this time occasioned to the queen and her protestant subjects by the clandestine arrival in the country of a considerable number of catholic priests, mostly English by birth, but educated at the seminaries respectively founded at Douay, Rheims, and Rome, by the king of Spain, cardinal Lorrain, and the pope, for the express purpose of furnishing means for the disturbance of the queen's government. Monks of the new order of Jesuits presided over these establishments, who made it their business to inspire the pupils with the most frightful excess of bigotry and fanaticism; and two of these friars, fathers Parsons and Campion, coming over to England to guide and regulate the efforts of their party, were detected in treasonable practices; on account of which Campion, with some accomplices, underwent capital punishment, or, in the language of his church, received the crown of martyrdom.
In order to check the diffusion among the rising generation of doctrines so destructive of the peace and good government of the country, a proclamation was issued in June 1580, requiring that all persons who had any children, wards, or kinsmen, in any parts beyond seas, should within ten days give in their names to the ordinaries, and within four months send for them home again.
Circular letters were also dispatched by the privy-council to the bishops, setting forth, that whereas her majesty found daily inconvenience to the realm by the education of numbers of young gentlemen and others her subjects in parts beyond the seas;—where for the most part they were "nourselled and nourished in papistry," with such instructions as "made them to mislike the government of their country, and thus tended to render them undutiful subjects;" &c. and intending to "take some present order therein;" as well by prohibiting that any but such as were known to be well affected in religion, and would undertake for the good education of their children, should send them abroad; and they not without her majesty's special license;—as also, by recalling such as were at present, in Spain, France, or Italy, without such license;—had commanded that the bishops should call before them, in their respective dioceses, certain parents or guardians whose names were annexed, and bind them in good sums of money for the recall of their sons or wards within three months. Many other indications of a jealousy of the abode of English youth in catholic countries, which at such a juncture will scarcely appear unreasonable, might be collected from various sources.
[Note 86: Strype's "Whitgift."]
A friend of Anthony Bacon's sends him this warning to Bordeaux in 1583: "I can no longer abstain from telling you plainly that the injury is great, you do to yourself, and your best friends, in this your voluntary banishment (for so it is already termed).... The times are not as heretofore for the best disposed travellers: but in one word, sir, believe me, they are not the best thought of where they would be that take any delight to absent themselves in foreign parts, especially such as are of quality, and known to have no other cause than their private contentment; which also is not allowable, or to be for any long time, as you will shortly hear further; touching these limitations. In the mean time I could wish you looked well to yourself, and to think, that whilst you live there, perhaps in no great security, you are within the compass of some sinister conceits or hard speeches here, if not of that jealousy which is now had even of the best, that in these doubtful days, wherein our country hath need to be furnished of the soundest members and truest hearts to God and prince, do yet take delight to live in those parts where our utter ruin is threatened: &c."
[Note 87: Birch's "Memoirs."]
"The old lord Burleigh," says a contemporary, "if any one came to the lords of the council for a license to travel, would first examine him of England. And if he found him ignorant, would bid him stay at home and know his own country first." A plausible evasion, doubtless, of requests with which that cautious minister judged it inexpedient to comply.
[Note 88: "Complete Gentleman," by H. Peacham.]
These machinations of the papists afforded a plea to the puritans in the house of commons for the enactment of still severer laws against this already persecuted sect; and Elizabeth judged it expedient to accord a ready assent to these statutes, for the purpose of tranquillizing the minds of her protestant subjects on the score of religion, previously to the renewal of negotiations with the court of France.
Simier, who still remained in England, had been but too successful in continuing or reviving the tender impressions created in the heart of the queen by the personal attentions of his master; and the French king, finding leisure to turn his attention once more to this object, from which he had been apparently diverted by the civil wars which had broken out afresh in his country, was encouraged to send in 1581 a splendid embassy, headed by a prince of the blood, to settle the terms of this august alliance, of which every one now expected to see the completion. A magnificent reception was prepared by Elizabeth for these noble strangers; but she had the weakness to choose to appear before them in the borrowed character of a heroine of romance, rather than in that of a great princess whose vigorous yet cautious politics had rendered her for more than twenty years the admiration of all the statesmen of Europe. She caused to be erected on the south side of her palace of Whitehall, a vast banqueting-house framed of timber and covered with painted canvass, which was decorated internally in a style of the most fantastic gaudiness. Pendants of fruits of various kinds (amongst which cucumbers and carrots are enumerated) were hung from festoons of ivy, bay, rosemary, and different flowers, the whole lavishly sprinkled with gold spangles: the ceiling was painted like a sky, with stars, sunbeams, and clouds, intermixed with scutcheons of the royal arms; and a profusion of glass lustres illuminated the whole. In this enchanted palace the French ambassadors were entertained by the maiden queen at several splendid banquets, while her ministers were engaged by her command in drawing up the marriage articles. Meantime several of her youthful courtiers, anxious to complete the gay illusion in the imagination of their sovereign, prepared for the exhibition of what was called a triumph,—of which the following was the plan.
The young earl of Arundel, lord Windsor, Philip Sidney, and Fulke Greville, the four challengers, styled themselves the foster-children of Desire, and to that end of the tilt-yard where her majesty was seated, their adulation gave the name of the Castle of Perfect Beauty. This castle the queen was summoned to surrender in a very courtly message delivered by a boy dressed in red and white, the colours of Desire. On her refusal, a mount placed on wheels was rolled into the tilt-yard, and the four cavaliers rode in superbly armed and accoutred, and each at the head of a splendid troop; and when they had passed in military order before the queen, the boy who had delivered the former message thus again addressed her:—
"If the message lately delivered unto you had been believed and followed, O queen! in whom the whole story of virtue is written with the language of beauty; nothing should this violence have needed in your inviolate presence. Your eyes, which till now have been wont to discern only the bowed knees of kneeling hearts, and, inwardly turned, found always the heavenly peace of a sweet mind, should not now have their fair beams reflected with the shining of armour, should not now be driven to see the fury of desire, nor the fiery force of fury. But sith so it is (alas that it is so!) that in the defence of obstinate refusal there never groweth victory but by compassion, they are come:—what need I say more? You see them, ready in heart as you know, and able with hands, as they hope, not only to assailing, but to prevailing. Perchance you despise the smallness of number. I say unto you, the force of Desire goeth not by fulness of company. Nay, rather view with what irresistible determination themselves approach, and how not only the heavens send their invisible instruments to aid them, (music within the mount) but also the very earth, the dullest of all the elements, which with natural heaviness still strives to the sleepy centre, yet, for advancing this enterprise, is content actively (as you shall see) to move itself upon itself to rise up in height, that it may the better command the high and high-minded fortresses.
"(Here the mount rose up in height.) Many words, when deeds are in the field, are tedious both unto the speaker and hearer. You see their forces, but know not their fortunes: if you be resolved, it boots not, and threats dread not. I have discharged my charge, which was even when all things were ready for the assault, then to offer parley, a thing not so much used as gracious in besiegers. You shall now be summoned to yield, which if it be rejected, then look for the affectionate alarm to be followed with desirous assault. The time approacheth for their approaches, but no time shall stay me from wishing, that however this succeed the world may long enjoy its chiefest ornament, which decks it with herself, and herself with the love of goodness."
The rolling mount was now moved close to the queen, the music sounded, and one of the boys accompanied with cornets sung a fresh summons to the fortress.
When this was ended, another boy, turning to the challengers and their retinue, sung an alarm, which ended, the two canons were shot off, 'the one with sweet powder and the other with sweet water, very odoriferous and pleasant, and the noise of the shooting was very excellent consent of melody within the mount. And after that, was store of pretty scaling-ladders, and the footmen threw flowers and such fancies against the walls, with all such devices as might seem fit shot for Desire. All which did continue till time the defendants came in.' These were above twenty in number, and each accompanied by his servants, pages, and trumpeters. Speeches were delivered to the queen on the part of these knights, several of whom appeared in some assumed character; sir Thomas Perrot and Anthony Cook thought proper to personate Adam and Eve; the latter having 'hair hung all down his helmet.' The messenger sent on the part of Thomas Ratcliff described his master as a forlorn knight, whom despair of achieving the favor of his peerless and sunlike mistress had driven out of the haunts of men into a cave of the desert, where moss was his couch, and moss, moistened by tears, his only food. Even here however the report of this assault upon the castle of Perfect Beauty had reached his ears, and roused him from his slumber of despondency; and in token of his devoted loyalty and inviolable fidelity to his divine lady, he sent his shield, which he in treated her to accept as the ensign of her fame, and the instrument of his glory, prostrating himself at her feet as one ready to undertake any adventures in hope of her gracious favor.—Of this romantic picture of devoted and despairing passion the description of Amadis de Gaul at the Poor Rock seems to have been the prototype.
On the part of the four sons of sir Francis Knolles, Mercury appeared, and described them as 'legitimate sons of Despair, brethren to hard mishap, suckled with sighs, and swathed up in sorrow, weaned in woe, and dry nursed by Desire, longtime fostered with favorable countenance, and fed with sweet fancies, but now of late (alas) wholly given over to grief and disgraced by disdain.' &c. The speeches being ended, probably to the relief of the hearers, the tilting commenced and lasted till night. It was resumed the next day with some fresh circumstances of magnificence and a few more harangues:—at length the challengers presented to the queen an olive bough in token of their humble submission, and both parties were dismissed by her with thanks and commendations.
[Note 89: Holinshed.]
By whom the speeches for this triumph were composed does not appear; but their style appears to correspond very exactly with that of John Lilly, a dramatic poet who in this year gave to the public a romance in two parts; the first entitled "Euphues the Anatomy of Wit," the second "Euphues and his England." A work which in despite, or rather perhaps by favor, of the new and singular affectations with which it was overrun, obtained extraordinary popularity, and communicated its infection for a time to the style of polite writing and fashionable speech.
An author of the present day, whose elegant taste and whose profound acquaintance with the writers of this and the following reign entitle him to be heard with deference, has favored us with his opinion of Euphues in these words. "This production is a tissue of antithesis and alliteration, and therefore justly entitled to the appellation of affected; but we cannot with Berkenhout consider it as a most contemptible piece of nonsense. The moral is uniformly good; the vices and follies of the day are attacked with much force and keenness; there is in it much display of the manners of the times; and though as a composition it is very meretricious and sometimes absurd in point of ornament, yet the construction of its sentences is frequently turned with peculiar neatness and spirit, though with much monotony of cadence." "So greatly," adds the same writer, "was the style of Euphues admired in the court of Elizabeth, and, indeed, throughout the kingdom, that it became a proof of refined manners to adopt its phraseology. Edward Blount, who republished six of Lilly's plays in 1632, under the title of Sixe Court Comedies, declares that 'Our nation are in his debt for a new English which he taught them. 'Euphues and his England,' he adds, 'began first that language. All our ladies were then his scholars; and that beauty in court who could not parley Euphuesme, was as little regarded as she which now there speaks not French:' a representation certainly not exaggerated; for Ben Jonson, describing a fashionable lady, makes her address her gallant in the following terms;—'O master Brisk, (as it is in Euphues,) hard is the choice when one is compelled, either by silence to die with grief, or by speaking, to live with shame:' upon which Mr. Whalley observes, that 'the court ladies in Elizabeth's time had all the phrases of Euphues by heart'."
[Note 90: Berkenhout's "Biographia Literaria," p. 377, note a.]
[Note 91: "Shakspeare and his Times:" &c. by Nathan Drake, M.D.]
Shakespeare is believed to have satirized the affectations of Lilly, amongst other prevailing modes of pedantry and bad taste, under the character of the schoolmaster Holophernes; and to Sidney is ascribed by Drayton the merit, that he
..."did first reduce Our tongue from Lilly's writing then in use, Talking of stones, stars, plants, of fishes, flies, Playing with words and idle similies."
But in this statement there is an inaccuracy, if it refers to the better model of style furnished by him in his Arcadia, since that work, though not published till after the death of its author, is known to have been composed previously to the appearance of Euphues. Possibly however the lines of Drayton may be explained as alluding to the critical precepts contained in Sidney's Defence of Poetry, which was written in 1582 or 1583.
It may appear extraordinary that this accomplished person, after his noble letter of remonstrance against the French marriage, should have consented to take so conspicuous a part in festivities designed to celebrate the arrival of the commissioners by whom its terms were to be concluded. But the actions of every man, it may be pleaded, belong to such an age, or such a station, as well as to such a school of philosophy, religious sect, political party, or natural class of character; and the spirit which prompted this eminent person to aspire after all praise and every kind of glory, compelled him, at the court of Elizabeth, to unite, with whatever incongruity, the quaint personage of a knight errant of romance and a devotee of the beauties and perfections of his liege lady, with the manly attributes of an English patriot and a champion of reformed religion.
Fulke Greville furnishes another instance of a respectable character strangely disguised by the affectations and servilities of a courtier of this "Queen of Faery." He was the cousin, school-fellow, and inseparable companion of Sidney, and so devoted to him that, in the inscription which he composed long after for his own tomb, he entitled himself "servant to queen Elizabeth, councillor to king James, and friend to sir Philip Sidney." Born to a fortune so ample as to render him entirely independent of the emoluments of office or the favors of a sovereign, and early smitten with a passion for the gentle muse which rendered him nearly insensible to the enticements of ambition, Greville was yet contented to devote himself, as a volunteer, to that court-life the irksomeness of which has often been treated as insupportable by men who have embraced it from interest or from necessity.
A devotedness so signal was not indeed suffered to go without its reward. Besides that it obtained for him a lucrative place, Naunton says of Greville, "He had no mean place in queen Elizabeth's favor, neither did he hold it for any short time or term; for, if I be not deceived, he had the longest lease, the smoothest time without rubs, of any of her favorites." Lord Bacon also testifies that he "had much and private access to her, which he used honorably and did many men good: yet he would say merrily of himself, that he was like Robin Goodfellow; for when the maids spilt the milk-pans or kept any racket, they would lay it upon Robin: so what tales the ladies about the queen told her, or other bad offices that they did, they would put it upon him." The poems of Fulke Greville, celebrated and fashionable in his own time, but now known only to the more curious students of our early literature, consist of two tragedies in interwoven rhyme, with choruses on the Greek model; a hundred love sonnets, in one of which he styles his mistress "Fair dog:" and "Treaties" "on Human learning," "on Fame and Honor," and "of Wars." Of these pieces the last three, as well as the tragedies, contain many noble, free, and virtuous sentiments; many fine and ingenious thoughts, and some elegant lines; but the harshness and pedantry of the style render their perusal on the whole more of a fatigue than a pleasure, and they have gradually sunk into that neglect which constantly awaits the verse of which it has been the aim to instruct rather than to delight. Among the English patrons of letters however, Fulke Greville, afterwards lord Brook, will ever deserve a conspicuous station; and Speed and Camden have gratefully recorded their obligations both to his liberality and to his honorable exertion of court interest.
The articles of the marriage-treaty were at length concluded between the commissioners of France and England, and it was stipulated that the nuptials should take place six weeks after their ratification: but Elizabeth, whose uncertainties were not yet at an end, had insisted on a separate article purporting, that she should not however be obliged to complete the marriage until further matters, not specified, should have been settled between herself and the duke of Anjou; by which stipulation it still remained in her power to render the whole negotiation vain.
The moment that all opposition on the part of her privy-council was over, and every external obstacle surmounted, Elizabeth seems to have begun to recover her sound discretion, and to see in their true magnitude all the objections to which she had hitherto been anxious to blind her own eyes and those of others. She sent Walsingham to open new negotiations at Paris, and to try whether the league offensive and defensive, stipulated by the late articles, could not be brought to effect before the marriage, which she now discovered that it was not a convenient season to complete. The French court, after some hesitation, had just been brought to agree to this proposal, when she inclined again to go on with the marriage; but no sooner had it resumed with alacrity this part of the discussion, than she again declared for the alliance. Walsingham, puzzled and vexed by such a series of capricious changes, proceeding from motives in which state-expediency had no share, remained uncertain how to act; and at length all the politicians English and French, equally disconcerted, seem to have acquiesced in the conviction that this strange strife must end where it began, in the bosom of Elizabeth herself, while nothing was left to them but to await the result in anxious silence. But the duke of Anjou, aware that from a youthful lover some unequivocal symptoms of impatience would be required, and that upon a skilful display of this kind his final success might depend, brought to a speedy conclusion his campaign in the Netherlands, which a liberal supply of money from the English queen, who now concurred in his views, had rendered uniformly successful, and putting his army into winter-quarters, hurried over to England to throw himself at her feet.
He was welcomed with all the demonstrations of satisfaction which could revive or confirm the hopes of a suitor; every mark of honor, every pledge of affection, was publicly conferred upon him; and the queen, at the conclusion of a splendid festival on the anniversary of her coronation, even went so far as to place on his finger a ring drawn from her own. This passed in sight of the whole assembled court, who naturally regarded the action as a kind of betrothment; and the long suspense being apparently ended, the feelings of every party broke forth without restraint or disguise.
Some rejoiced; more grieved or wondered; Leicester, Hatton and Walsingham loudly exclaimed that ruin impended over the church, the country, and the queen. The ladies of the court alarmed and agitated their mistress by tears, cries, and lamentations. A sleepless and miserable night was passed by the queen amid her disconsolate handmaids: the next morning she sent for Anjou, and held with him a long private conversation; after which he retired to his chamber, and hastily throwing from him, but as quickly resuming, the ring which she had given him, uttered many reproaches against the levity of women and the fickleness of islanders.
Such is the account given by the annalist Camden; our only authority for circumstances some of them so public in their nature that it is surprising they should not be recorded by others, the rest so secret that we are at a loss to conceive how they should have become known to him. What is certain in the matter is,—that the French prince remained in England above two months after this festival;—that no diminution of the queen's attentions to him became apparent during that time;—that when his affairs imperiously demanded his return to the Netherlands, Elizabeth still detained him that she might herself conduct him on his way as far as Canterbury;—that she then dismissed him with a large supply of money and a splendid retinue of English lords and gentlemen, and that he promised a quick return.
Let us hear on the subject lord Talbot's report to his father.
..."Monsieur hath taken shipping into Flanders...there is gone over with him my lord of Leicester, my lord Hunsdon, my lord Charles Howard, my lord Thomas Howard, my lord Windsor, my lord Sheffield, my lord Willoughby, and a number of young gentlemen besides. As soon as he is at Antwerp all the Englishmen return, which is thought will be about a fortnight hence.... The departure was mournful between her majesty and Monsieur; she loth to let him go, and he as loth to depart. Her majesty on her return will be long in no place in which she lodged as she went, neither will she come to Whitehall, because the places shall not give cause of remembrance to her of him with whom she so unwillingly parted. Monsieur promised his return in March, but how his Low Country causes will permit him is uncertain. Her highness went no further but Canterbury, Monsieur took shipping at Sandwich."
[Note 92: "Illustrations," vol. ii. p. 258.]
It is, after all, extremely difficult to decide whether the circumstances here related ought to invalidate any part of Camden's narrative. There can be no doubt that Elizabeth had at times been violently tempted to accept this young prince for a husband; and even when she sent Walsingham to France instructed to conclude, if possible, the league without the marriage, she evidently had not in her own mind absolutely concluded against the latter measure, because she particularly charged him to examine whether the duke, who had lately recovered from the small pox, still retained enough of his good looks to engage a lady's affections. It is probable that his second visit revived her love; and the truth of the circumstance of her publicly presenting to him a ring, is confirmed by Camden's further statement, that St. Aldegond, minister in England for the United Provinces, wrote word of it to the States, who, regarding the match as now concluded, caused public rejoicings to be celebrated at Antwerp. After this the duke would undoubtedly press for a speedy solemnization, and he cannot but have experienced some degree of disappointment in at length quitting the country, re infecta. But it was still greatly and obviously his interest to remain on the best possible terms with Elizabeth, in order to secure from her that co-operation, and those pecuniary aids, on which the success of his affairs in the Netherlands must mainly depend. It is even possible that a further acquaintance with the state of public opinion in England, and with the temper, maxims, and personal qualities of the queen herself, might very much abate the poignancy of his mortification, or even incline him secretly to prefer the character of her ally to that of her husband. Be this as it may, the favorite son of Catherine de' Medici was a sufficient adept in the dissimulation of courts to assume with ease all the demonstrations of complacency and good understanding that the case required, whatever portion of indignation or malice he might conceal in his heart. Neither was Elizabeth a novice in the arts of feigning; and even without the promptings of those tender regrets which accompany a sacrifice extorted by reason from inclination, she would have been careful, by every manifestation of friendship and esteem, to smooth over the affront which her change of purpose had compelled her to put upon the brother and heir of so potent a monarch as the king of France.
Shortly after his return to the continent, the duke of Anjou lost at once his reputation, and his hopes of an independent principality, in an unprincipled and abortive attempt on the liberties of the provinces which had chosen him as their protector; and his death, which soon followed, brings to a conclusion this long and mortifying chapter, occupied with the follies of the wise. It is worth observing, that appearances in this affair were kept up to the last: the English ambassador refrained from giving in his official letters any particulars of the last illness of Monsieur, lest he should aggravate the grief of her majesty; and the king of France, in defiance of some established rules of court precedence and etiquette, admitted this minister to pay his compliments of condolence before all others, professedly because he represented that princess who best loved his brother.
Bohun ends his minute description of "the habit of queen Elizabeth in public and private" with a passage proper to complete this portion of her history. "The coming of the duke d'Alencon opened a way to a more free way of living, and relaxed very much the old severe form of discipline. The queen danced often then, and omitted no sort of recreation, pleasing conversation, or variety of delights for his satisfaction. At the same time, the plenty of good dishes, pleasant wines, fragrant ointments and perfumes, dances, masks, and variety of rich attire, were all taken up and used to show him how much he was honored. There were then acted comedies and tragedies with much cost and splendor. When these things had once been entertained, the courtiers were never more to be reclaimed from them, and they could not be satiated or wearied with them. But when Alencon was once dismissed and gone, the queen herself left off these diversions, and betook herself as before to the care of her kingdom, and both by example and severe corrections endeavoured to reduce her nobility to their old severe way of life."
1582 TO 1587.
Traits of the queen.—Brown and his sect.—Promotion of Whitgift.—Severities exercised against the puritans.—Embassy of Walsingham to Scotland.—Particulars of lord Willoughby.—Transactions with the Czar.—Death of Sussex.—Adventures of Egremond Ratcliffe—of the earl of Desmond.—Account of Raleigh—of Spenser.—Prosecutions of catholics.—Burleigh's apology for the government.—Leicester's Commonwealth.—Loyal association.—Transactions with the queen of Scots.—Account of Parry.—Case of the earl of Arundel—of the earl of Northumberland.—Transactions of Leicester in Holland.—Death and character of P. Sidney—of sir H. Sidney.—Return of Leicester.—Approaching war with Spain.—Babington's conspiracy.—Trial and condemnation of the queen of Scots.—Rejoicings of the people.—Artful conduct of the queen.—Reception of the Scotch embassy.—Conduct of Davison.—Death of Mary.—Behaviour of Elizabeth.—Davison's case.—Conduct of Leicester.—Reflections.
The disposition of Elizabeth was originally deficient in benevolence and sympathy, and prone to suspicion, pride and anger; and we observe with pain in the progress of her history, how much the influences to which her high station and the peculiar circumstances of her reign inevitably exposed her, tended in various modes to exasperate these radical evils of her nature.
The extravagant flattery administered to her daily and hourly, was of most pernicious effect; it not only fostered in her an absurd excess of personal vanity, but, what was worse, by filling her with exaggerated notions both of her own wisdom and of her sovereign power and prerogative, it contributed to render her rule more stern and despotic, and her mind on many points incapable of sober counsel. This effect was remarked by one of her clergy, who, in a sermon preached in her presence, had the boldness to tell her, that she who had been meek as lamb was become an untameable heifer; for which reproof he was in his turn reprehended by her majesty on his quitting the pulpit, as "an over confident man who dishonored his sovereign."
The decay of her beauty was an unwelcome truth which all the artifices of adulation were unable to hide from her secret consciousness; since she could never behold her image in a mirror, during the latter years of her life, without transports of impotent anger; and this circumstance contributed not a little to sour her temper, while it rendered the young and lovely the chosen objects of her malignity.
On this head the following striking anecdote is furnished by sir John Harrington.... "She did oft ask the ladies around her chamber, if they loved to think of marriage? And the wise ones did conceal well their liking hereto, as knowing the queen's judgement in this matter. Sir Matthew Arundel's fair cousin, not knowing so deeply as her fellows, was asked one day hereof, and simply said, she had thought much about marriage, if her father did consent to the man she loved. 'You seem honest, i'faith,' said the queen; 'I will sue for you to your father.'... The damsel was not displeased hereat; and when sir Robert came to court, the queen asked him hereon, and pressed his consenting, if the match was discreet. Sir Robert, much astonied at this news, said he never heard his daughter had liking to any man, and wanted to gain knowledge of her affection; but would give free consent to what was most pleasing to her highness will and advice. 'Then I will do the rest,' saith the queen. The lady was called in, and the queen told her that her father had given his free consent. 'Then,' replied the lady, 'I shall be happy, and please your grace'. 'So thou shalt, but not to be a fool and marry; I have his consent given to me, and I vow thou shalt never get it into thy possession. So go to thy business, I see thou art a bold one to own thy foolishness so readily.'"
[Note 93: "Nugae."]
The perils of many kinds, from open and secret enemies, by which Elizabeth had found herself environed since her unwise and unauthorized detention of the queen of Scots, aggravated the mistrustfulness of her nature; and the severities which fear and anger led her to exercise against that portion of her subjects who still adhered to the ancient faith, increased its harshness. It is true that, since the fulmination of the papal anathema, the zealots of this church had kept no measures with respect to her either in their words, their writings, or their actions. Plans of insurrection and even of assassination were frequently revolved in their councils, but as often disappointed by the extraordinary vigilance and sagacity of her ministers; while the courage evinced by herself under these circumstances of severe probation was truly admirable. Bacon relates that "the council once represented to her the danger in which she stood by the continual conspiracies against her life, and acquainted her that a man was lately taken who stood ready in a very dangerous and suspicious manner to do the deed; and they showed her the weapon wherewith he thought to have acted it. And therefore they advised her that she should go less abroad to take the air, weakly attended, as she used. But the queen answered, 'that she had rather be dead than put in custody.'"
"Ireland," says Naunton, "cost her more vexation than any thing else; the expense of it pinched her, the ill success of her officers wearied her, and in that service she grew hard to please." She also arrived at a settled persuasion that the extreme of severity was safer than that of indulgence; an opinion which, being communicated to her officers and ministers, was the occasion, especially in Ireland, of many a cruel and arbitrary act.
When angry, she observed little moderation in the expression of her feelings. In the private letters even of Cecil, whom she treated on the whole with more consideration than any other person, we find not unfrequent mention of the harsh words which he had to endure from her, sometimes, as he says, on occasions when he appeared to himself deserving rather of thanks than of censure. The earl of Shrewsbury often complains to his correspondents of her captious and irascible temper; and we find Walsingham taking pains to console sir Henry Sidney under some manifestations of her displeasure, by the assurance that they had proceeded only from one of those transient gusts of passion for which she was accustomed to make sudden amends to her faithful servants by new and extraordinary tokens of her favor.
There was no branch of prerogative of which Elizabeth was more tenacious than that which invested her with the sole and supreme direction of ecclesiastical affairs. The persevering efforts therefore of the puritans, to obtain various relaxations or alterations of the laws which she in her wisdom had laid down for the government of the church,—on failure of which they scrupled not to recall to her memory the strong denunciations of the Jewish prophets against wicked and irreligious princes,—at once exasperated and alarmed her, and led her to assume continually more and more of the incongruous and odious character of a protestant persecutor of protestants. But the puritans themselves must have seemed guiltless in her eyes compared with a new sect, the principles of which, tending directly to the abrogation of all authority of the civil magistrate in spiritual concerns, called forth about this time her indignation manifested by the utmost severity of penal infliction.
It was in the year 1580 that Robert Brown, having completed his studies in divinity at Cambridge, began to preach at Norwich against the discipline and ceremonies of the church of England, and to promulgate a scheme which he affirmed to be more conformable to the apostolical model. According to his system, each congregation of believers was to be regarded as a separate church, possessing in itself full jurisdiction over its own concerns; the liberty of prophesying was to be indulged to all the brethren equally, and pastors were to be elected and dismissed at the pleasure of the majority, in whom he held that all power ought of right to reside. On account of these opinions Brown was called before certain ecclesiastical commissioners, who imprisoned him for contumacy; but the interference of his relation lord Burleigh procured his release, after which he repaired to Holland, where he founded several churches and published a book in defence of his system, in which he strongly inculcated upon his disciples the duty of separating themselves from what he stated antichristian churches. For the sole offence of distributing this work, two men were hanged in Suffolk in 1583; to which extremity of punishment they were subjected as having impugned the queen's supremacy, which was declared felony by a late statute now for the first time put in force against protestants. Brown himself, after his return from Holland, was repeatedly imprisoned, and, but for the protection of his powerful kinsman might probably have shared the fate of his two disciples. At length, the terror of a sentence of excommunication drove him to recant, and joining the established church he soon obtained preferment. But the Brownist sect suffered little by the desertion of its founder, whose private character was far from exemplary: in spite of penal laws, of persecution, and even of ridicule and contempt, it survived, increased, and eventually became the model on which the churches not only of the sect of Independents but also of the two other denominations of English protestant dissenters remain at the present day constituted.
The death of archbishop Grindal in 1583 afforded the queen the long desired opportunity of elevating to the primacy a prelate not inclined to offend her, like his predecessor, by any remissness in putting in force the laws against puritans and other nonconformists. She nominated to this high dignity Whitgift bishop of Worcester, known to polemics as the zealous antagonist of Cartwright the puritan, and further recommended to her majesty by his single life, his talents for business, whether secular or ecclesiastical, his liberal and hospitable style of living, and the numerous train of attendants which swelled the pomp of his appearance on occasions of state and ceremony, when he even claimed to be served on the knee.
This promotion forms an important aera in the ecclesiastical history of the reign of Elizabeth: but only a few circumstances more peculiarly illustrative of the sentiments and disposition of Whitgift, of the queen herself, and of some of her principal counsellors, can with propriety find a place in a work like the present.
To bring back the clergy to that exact uniformity with respect to doctrines, rites, and ceremonies, from which the lenity of his predecessor had suffered them in many instances to recede, appeared to the new primate the first and most essential duty of his office; and the better to enforce obedience, he eagerly demanded to be armed with that plenitude of power which her majesty as head of the church was authorized to delegate at her pleasure. His request was granted with alacrity, and the work of intolerance began. Subscriptions were now required of the whole clerical body to the supremacy; to the book of Common-prayer; and to the articles of religion settled by the convocation of 1560. In consequence of this first step alone, so large a number of zealous preachers and able divines attached to the Calvinistic model were suspended from their functions for non-compliance, that the privy-council took alarm, and addressed a letter to the archbishop requesting a conference; but he loftily reproved their interference in matters of this nature, declaring himself amenable in the discharge of his functions to his sovereign alone. In the following year he prevailed upon her majesty to appoint a second high-commission court, the members of which were authorized, ex officio, to administer interrogatories on oath in matters of faith;—an assumption of power not merely cruel and oppressive, but absolutely illegal, if we are to rely on Beal, clerk of the council, an able and learned but somewhat intemperate partisan of the puritans, who published on this occasion a work against the archbishop. To enter into controversy was now no part of the plan of Whitgift; he held it as a maxim, that it was safer and better for an established church to silence than to confute; and a book of Calvinistic discipline having issued from the Cambridge press, he procured a Star-chamber decree for lessening and limiting the number of presses; for restraining any man from exercising the trade of a printer without a special license; and for subjecting all works to the censorship, of the archbishop or the bishop of London. At the same time he vehemently declared that he would rather lie in prison all his life, or die, than grant any indulgence to puritans; and he expressed his wonder, as well as indignation, that men high in place should countenance the factious portion of the clergy, low and obscure individuals and not even considerable by their numbers, against him the second person of the state. The earl of Leicester was not however to be intimidated from extending to these conscientious sufferers a protection which was in many instances effectual: Walsingham occasionally interceded in behalf of Calvinistic preachers of eminence; and sir Francis Knolles, whose influence with the queen was considerable, never failed to encounter the measures of the primate with warm, courageous, and persevering opposition. Even Burleigh, whom Whitgift had regarded as a friend and patron and hoped to number among his partisans, could not forbear expressing to him on various occasions his serious disapprobation of the rigors now resorted to; nor was he to be silenced by the plea of the archbishop, that he acted entirely by the command of her majesty. On the contrary, as instances multiplied daily before his eyes of the tyranny and persecution exercised, through the extraordinary powers of the ecclesiastical commission, on ministers of unblemished piety and often of exemplary usefulness, his remonstrances assumed a bolder tone and more indignant character: as in the following instance. "But when the said lord treasurer understood, that two of these ministers, living in Cambridgeshire, whom for the good report of their modesty and peaceableness he had a little before recommended unto the archbishop's favor, were by the archbishop in commission sent to a register in London, to be strictly examined upon those four and twenty articles before mentioned, he was displeased. And reading over the articles himself, disliked them as running in a Romish style, and making no distinction of persons. Which caused him to write in some earnestness to the archbishop, and in his letter he told him, that he found these articles so curiously penned, so full of branches and circumstances, as he thought the inquisitors of Spain used not so many questions to comprehend and to trap their preys. And that this juridical and canonical sifting of poor ministers was not to edify and reform. And that in charity he thought, they ought not to answer to all these nice points, except they were very notorious offenders in papistry or heresy: Begging his grace to bear with that one fault, if it were so, that he had willed these ministers not to answer those articles, except their consciences might suffer them."