[Note 94: "Life of Whitgift" by Strype.]
The archbishop, in a long and labored answer, expressed his surprise at his lordship's "vehement speeches" against the administering of interrogatories, "seeing it was the ordinary course in other courts: as in the star-chamber, in the courts of the marches, and in other places:" and he advanced many arguments, or assertions, in defence of his proceedings, none of which proved satisfactory to the lord treasurer, as appeared by his reply. In the end, the archbishop found himself obliged to compromise this dispute by engaging that in future the twenty-four articles should only be administered to students in divinity previously to their ordination; and not to ministers already settled in cures, unless they should have openly declared themselves against the church-government by law established. But this instance of concession extorted by the urgency of Walsingham appears to have been a solitary one; the high commission, with the archbishop at its head, proceeded unrelentingly in the work of establishing conformity, and crushing with a strong hand all appeals to the sense of the public on controverted points of discipline or doctrine. The queen, vehemently prepossessed with the idea that the opposers of episcopacy must ever be ill affected also to monarchy, made no scruple of declaring, after some years experience of the untameable spirit of the sect, that the puritans were greater enemies of hers than the papists; and in the midst of her greatest perils from the machinations of the latter sect, she seldom judged it necessary to conciliate by indulgence the attachment of the former. Several Calvinistic ministers, during the course of the reign, were subjected even to capital punishment on account of the scruples which they entertained respecting the lawfulness of acknowledging the queen's supremacy: on the other hand, the attempts of sir Francis Knowles to inspire her majesty with jealousy of the designs of the archbishop, by whom some advances were made towards claiming for the episcopal order an authority by divine right, independently of the appointment of the head of the church, failed entirely of success. No ecclesiastic had ever been able to acquire so great an ascendency over the mind of Elizabeth as Whitgift; there was a conformity in their views, and in some points a sympathy in their characters; which seem to have secured to the primate in all his undertakings the sanction and approval of his sovereign: his favor continued unimpaired to the latest hour of her life: it was from his lips that she desired to receive the final consolations of religion; and regret for her loss, from the apprehension of unwelcome changes in the ecclesiastical establishment under the auspices of her successor, is believed to have contributed to the attack which carried off the archbishop within a year after the decease of his gracious and lamented mistress.
Elizabeth took an important though secret part in the struggles for power among the Scottish nobles of opposite factions by which that kingdom was now agitated during several years. It has been suspected, but seems scarcely probable, that she was concerned in the conspiracy of the earl of Gowry for seizing the person of the young king; she certainly however interposed afterwards to mitigate his just anger against the participators in that dark design. On the whole, she was generally enabled to gain all the influence in the court of Scotland which she found necessary to her ends; for James could always be intimidated, and his minions most frequently bribed or cajoled. She regarded it however as an object of some consequence to gain an accurate knowledge of the character and capacity of her young kinsman, from one on whom she could rely; and for this purpose she prevailed on Walsingham, notwithstanding his age and infirmities, to undertake an embassy into Scotland, of which the ostensible objects were so trifling that its real purpose became perfectly evident to the more sagacious of James's counsellors. Melvil confesses, that it cost him prodigious pains to equip the king, at short notice, with so much of artificial dignity and borrowed wisdom as might enable him to pass successfully through the ordeal of Walsingham's examination. But his labor was not thrown away; for James, who really possessed considerable quickness of parts and a competent share of book learning, played with such plausibility the part assigned him, that even this sagacious statesman is believed to have returned impressed with a higher opinion of his abilities than any part of his after conduct was found to warrant.
Her increasing apprehensions from the hostility of the king of Spain, caused Elizabeth to cultivate with added zeal the friendship of the northern powers of Europe, and in 1582 she sent the garter to the king of Denmark as a pledge of amity; making at the same time a fruitless endeavour to obtain for English merchant ships some remission of the duties newly levied by the Danish sovereign on the passage of the Sound. It was the prudent practice of her majesty to intrust these embassies of compliment to young noblemen lately come into possession of their estates, who, for her favor and their own honor, were willing to discharge them in a splendid manner at their private expense. The Danish mission was the price which she exacted from Peregrine Bertie, lately called up to the house of peers as lord Willoughby of Eresby in right of his mother, for her reluctant and ungracious recognition of his undeniable title to this dignity. On the occurrence of this first mention of a high-spirited nobleman, afterwards celebrated for a brilliant valor which rendered him the idol of popular fame, the remarkable circumstances of his birth and parentage must not be omitted. His mother, only daughter and heir of the ninth lord Willoughby by a Spanish lady of high birth who had been maid of honor to queen Catherine of Arragon, was first the ward and afterwards the third wife of Charles Brandon duke of Suffolk, by whom she had two sons, formerly mentioned as victims to the sweating-sickness.
Few ladies of that age chose long to continue in the unprotected state of widowhood; and the duchess had already re-entered the matrimonial state with Richard Bertie, a person of obscure birth but liberal education, when the accession of Mary exposed her to all the cruelties and oppressions exercised without remorse by the popish persecutors of that reign upon such of their private enemies as they could accuse of being also the enemies of the catholic church. The duchess, during the former reign, had drawn upon herself the bitter enmity of Gardiner by some imprudent and insulting manifestations of her abhorrence of his character and contempt for his religion; and she now learned with dismay that it was his intention to subject her to a strict interrogatory on the subject of her faith.
Except apostasy, there was no other resource than the hazardous and painful one of voluntary banishment, and this she without hesitation adopted. Bertie first obtained license for quitting the country on some pretended business; and soon after, the duchess, attended only by two or three domestics, escaped by night with her infant daughter from her house in Barbican, and taking boat on the Thames arrived at a port in Kent. Here she embarked; and through many perils,—for stress of weather compelled her to put back into an English port, and the search was every where very strict,—she reached at length a more hospitable shore, and rejoined her husband at Santon in the duchy of Cleves. From this town, however, they were soon chased by the imminent apprehension of molestation from the bishop of Arras. It was on an October evening that, followed only by two maid-servants, on foot, through rain and mire and darkness, Bertie carrying a bundle and the duchess her child, the forlorn wanderers began their march for Wesel one of the Hanse-towns, about four miles distant. On their arrival, their wild and wretched appearance, with the sword which Bertie carried, gave them in the eyes of the inhabitants so suspicious an appearance, that no one would harbour them; and while her husband ran from inn to inn vainly imploring admittance, the afflicted duchess was compelled to betake herself to the shelter of a church porch; and there, in that misery and desolation and want of every thing, was delivered of a child, to whom, in memory of the circumstance, she gave the name of Peregrine. Bertie meantime, addressing himself in Latin to two young scholars whom he overheard speaking together in that language, obtained a direction to a Walloon minister, to whom the duchess had formerly shown kindness in England. By his means such prompt and affectionate succour was administered as served to restore her to health; and here for some time they found rest for the sole of their foot. A fresh alarm then obliged them to remove into the dominions of the Palsgrave, where they had remained till the supplies which they had brought with them in money and jewels were nearly exhausted; when a friend of the duchess's having interested the king of Poland in their behalf, they fortunately received an invitation from this sovereign. Arriving in his country, after great hardships and imminent danger of their lives from the brutality of some soldiers on their way, a large demesne was assigned them by their princely protector, on which they lived in great honor and tranquillity till the happy accession of Elizabeth recalled them to their native land.
Peregrine lord Willoughby found many occasions of distinguishing himself in the wars of Flanders, where he rose to the rank of lieutenant-general. He was not less magnanimous than brave; and disdaining the servility of a court life, is thought to have enjoyed on this account less of the queen's favor than her admiration of military merit would otherwise have prompted her to bestow upon him. He died governor of Berwick in 1601; his son was afterwards created earl of Lindsey, and the title of duke of Ancaster is now borne by his descendants.
The king of Sweden, conducted to the brink of ruin by an unequal contest with the arms of Russia, sent in 1583 a solemn embassy to the queen of England to entreat her to mediate a peace for him. This good work, in which she cheerfully engaged, was speedily brought to a happy issue; and the Czar seized the opportunity of the negotiations to press for the conclusion of that league offensive and defensive with England, which he had formerly proposed in vain. The objection that such an alliance was inconsistent with the laws of nations, since it might engage the queen to commit hostilities on princes against whom she had never declared war, made, as might be expected, little impression on this barbarian; and Elizabeth had considerable difficulty in escaping from the intimate embrace of his proffered friendship, to the cool civilities of a commercial treaty. Another perplexing circumstance occurred. The Czar had set his heart upon an English wife; some say he ventured to address the queen herself; but however this might be, she was about to gratify his wish by sending him for a bride a lady of royal blood, sister of the earl of Huntingdon, when the information which she received of the unlimited privilege of divorce exercised by his Muscovite majesty, deterred her from completing her project. She was in consequence obliged to excuse the failure on the ground of the delicate health of the young lady, the reluctance of her brother to part with her, and, what must have filled the despot with astonishment, her own inability to dispose of her female subjects in marriage against the consent of their own relations.
About this time died the earl of Sussex. In him the queen was deprived of a faithful and honorable counsellor and an affectionate kinsman; Leicester lost the antagonist whom he most dreaded, and the nobility one of its principal ornaments. Dying childless, his next brother succeeded him, in whom the race ended; for Egremond Ratcliffe, his youngest brother, had already completed his disastrous destiny. This unfortunate gentleman, it will be remembered, was rendered a fugitive and an outlaw by the part which he had taken, at a very early age, in the Northern rebellion. For several years he led a forlorn and rambling life, sometimes in Flanders, sometimes in Spain, deriving his sole support from an ill paid pension and occasional donations of Philip II., and often enduring extremities of poverty and hardship.
Wearied with so many sufferings in a desperate cause, he then employed all his endeavours to make his peace at home; and impatient at length of the suspense which he endured, he took the step of returning to England at all hazards and throwing himself on the compassion of lord Burleigh. The treasurer, touched with his misery and his expressions of penitence, interceded with the queen for his pardon; but she, on some fresh occasion of suspicion, caused him to be advised to steal out of the kingdom again; and neglecting this intimation, he was committed to the Tower. After some months he was released, possibly under a promise of attempting some extraordinary piece of service to his country, and was sent back to Flanders, where he was soon after apprehended on a charge of conspiring against the life of don John of Austria: some say, and some deny, that he confessed his guilt, and accused the English ministry of a participation in the design: however this might be, he perished by the hand of public justice, a lamentable victim to the guilty violence of the popish faction which first beguiled his inexperience; to the relentless policy of Elizabeth, which forbade the return of offenders perhaps not incorrigible; and to the desperation which gaining dominion over his mind had subverted all its moral principles.
Ireland had been as usual the scene of much danger and disturbance. In 1582 an attempt was made by the king of Spain to incite the catholic inhabitants to a general rebellion, by throwing on the coast a small body of troops seconded by a very considerable sum of money, and attended by a number of priests prepared to preach up his title to the sovereignty of the island in virtue of the papal donation. But the vigorous measures of Arthur lord Grey the deputy, by holding the Irish in check, rendered this effort abortive. The Spaniards, unable to penetrate into the country, raised a fort near the place of their landing, which they hoped to be able to hold out till the arrival of reinforcements. They obstinately refused the terms of surrender first offered them by the deputy; and the fort being afterwards taken by assault, the whole garrison, with the exception of the officers, was put to the sword: an act of cruelty which the deputy is said to have commanded with tears, in obedience to the decision of a court-martial from which he could not venture to depart; and which Elizabeth publicly reprobated, perhaps without internally condemning.
The earl of Desmond, who on the arrival of the Spanish troops had risen in arms against the government with all the power he could muster, was excepted from the general pardon granted to other Irish insurgents, and thus remaining by necessity in a state of rebellion, gave for some time considerable disquiet, if not alarm, to the English government. But his resources of every kind gradually falling off, he was hunted about through bogs and forests, from one fastness or lurking-place to another, enduring every kind of privation and hardship, and often foiling his pursuers by hair-breadth scapes. It is even related that he and his countess on one occasion being roused from their bed in the middle of the night, found no other mode of concealment than that of wading up to their necks in the river which bathed the walls of their retreat. At length, a small party of soldiers having entered by surprise a solitary cabin, they there found one old man sitting alone, to whom their brutal leader gave a blow with his sword, which nearly cut off his arm, and another on the side of his head; on which he cried out, "I am the earl of Desmond." The name was no protection; for perceiving that he bled fast and was unable to march, the ruthless soldier, bidding him prepare for instant death, struck off his head and brought it away as a trophy; leaving the mangled trunk to the chance of interment by any faithful follower of the house of Fitzgerald who might venture from his hiding-place to explore the fate of his chief. The head was sent to England as a present to the queen, and placed by her command on London Bridge.
From this time, the beginning of 1583, Ireland enjoyed a short respite from scenes of violence and blood under the vigorous yet humane administration of sir John Perrot, the new deputy.
The petty warfare of this turbulent province, amid the many and great evils of various kinds which it brought forth, was productive however of some contingent advantage to the queen's affairs, by serving as a school of military discipline to many an officer of merit whose abilities she afterwards found occasion to employ in more important enterprises to check the power of Spain. Ireland was, in particular, the scene of several of the early exploits of that brilliant and extraordinary genius Walter Raleigh; and it was out of his service in this country that an occasion arose for his appearing before her majesty, which he had the talent and dexterity so to improve as to make it the origin of all his favor and advancement. Raleigh was the poor younger brother of a decayed but ancient family in Devonshire. His education at Oxford was yet incomplete, when the ardor of his disposition impelled him to join a gallant band of one hundred volunteers led by his relation Henry Champernon, in 1569, to the aid of the French protestants. Here he served a six-years apprenticeship to the art of war, after which, returning to his own country, he gave himself for a while to the more tranquil pursuits of literature; for "both Minervas" claimed him as their own. In 1578 he resumed his arms under general Norris, commander of the English forces in the Netherlands; the next year, ambitious of a new kind of glory, he accompanied that gallant navigator sir Humphrey Gilbert, his half brother, in a voyage to Newfoundland. This expedition proving unfortunate, he obtained in 1580 a captain's commission in the Irish service; and recommended by his vigor and capacity, rose to be governor of Cork. He was the officer appointed to carry into effect the bloody sentence passed upon the Spanish garrison; a cruel service, but one which the military duty of obedience rendered matter of indispensable obligation. A quarrel with lord Grey put a stop to his promotion in Ireland; and on his following this nobleman to England, their difference was brought to a hearing before the privy-council, when the great talents and uncommon flow of eloquence exhibited by Raleigh in pleading his own cause, by raising the admiration of all present, proved the means of introducing him to the presence of the queen. His comely person, fine address, and prompt proficiency in the arts of a courtier, did all the rest; and he rapidly rose to such a height of royal favor as to inspire with jealousy even him who had long stood foremost in the good graces of his sovereign.
It is recorded of Raleigh during the early days of his court attendance, when a few handsome suits of clothes formed almost the sum total of his worldly wealth, that as he was accompanying the queen in one of her daily walks,—during which she was fond of giving audience, because she imagined that the open air produced a favorable effect on her complexion,—she arrived at a miry spot, and stood in perplexity how to pass. With an adroit presence of mind, the courtier pulled off his rich plush cloak and threw it on the ground to serve her for a footcloth. She accepted with pleasure an attention which flattered her, and it was afterwards quaintly said that the spoiling of a cloak had gained him many good suits.
It was in Ireland too that Edmund Spenser, one of our first genuine poets, whose rich and melodious strains will find delighted audience as long as inexhaustible fertility of invention, truth, fluency and vivacity of description, copious learning, and a pure, amiable and heart-ennobling morality shall be prized among the students of English verse, was now tuning his enchanting lyre; and the ear of Raleigh was the first to catch its strains. This eminent person was probably of obscure parentage and slender means, for it was as a sizer, the lowest order of students, that he was entered at Cambridge; but that his humble merit early attracted the notice of men of learning and virtue is apparent from his intimacy with Stubbs, already commemorated, and from his friendship with that noted literary character Gabriel Hervey, by whom he was introduced to the acquaintance of Philip Sidney. His leaning towards puritanical principles, clearly manifested by various passages in the Shepherd's Calendar, had probably betrayed itself to his superiors at the university, by his choice of associates, or other circumstances, previously to the publication of that piece; and possibly might have some share in the disappointment of his hopes of a fellowship which occurred in 1576. Quitting college on this occurrence, he retired for some time into the north of England; but the friendship of Sidney drew him again from his solitude, and it was at Penshurst that he composed much of his Shepherd's Calendar, published in 1579 under the signature of Immerito, and dedicated to this generous patron of his muse. The earl of Leicester, probably at his nephew's request, sent Spenser the same year on some commission to France; and in the next he obtained the post of secretary to lord Grey, and attended him to Ireland.
Though the child of fancy and the muse, Spenser now showed that business was not "the contradiction of his fate;" he drew up an excellent discourse on the state of Ireland, still read and valued, and received as his reward the Grant of a considerable tract of land out of the forfeited Desmond estates, and of the castle of Kilcolman, which henceforth became his residence, and where he had soon the satisfaction of receiving a first visit from Raleigh. Both pupils of classical antiquity, both poets and aspirants after immortal fame, they met in this land of ignorance and barbarity as brothers; and so strong was the impression made on the mind of Raleigh, that even on becoming a successful courtier he dismissed not from his memory or his affection the tuneful shepherd whom he had left behind tending his flocks "under the foot of Mole, that mountain hoar." He spoke of him to the queen with all the enthusiasm of kindred genius; obtained for him some favors, or promises of favors; and on a second visit which he made to Ireland, probably for the purpose of inspecting the large grants which he had himself obtained, he dragged his friend from his obscure retreat, carried him over with him to England, and hastened to initiate him in those arts of pushing a fortune at court which with himself had succeeded so prosperously. But bitterly did the disappointed poet learn to deprecate the mistaken kindness which had taught him to exchange leisure and independence, though in a solitude so barbarous and remote, for the servility, the intrigues and the treacheries of this heart-sickening scene. He put upon lasting record his grief and his repentance, in a few lines of energetic warning to the inexperienced in the ways of courts, and hastened back to earn in obscurity his title to immortal fame by the composition of the Faery Queen. This great work appeared in 1589, with a preface addressed to Raleigh and a considerable apparatus of recommendatory poems; one of which, a sonnet of great elegance, is marked with initials which assign it to the same patronizing friend.
The proceedings of the administration against papists accused of treasonable designs or practices, began about this time to excite considerable perturbation in the public mind; for though circumstances were brought to light which seemed to justify in some degree the worst suspicions entertained of this faction, a system of conduct on the part of the government also became apparent which no true Englishman could without indignation and horror contemplate. The earl of Leicester, besides partaking with the other confidential advisers of her majesty in the blame attached to the general character of the measures now pursued, lay under the popular imputation of making these acts of power subservient, in many atrocious instances, to his private purposes of rapacity or vengeance, and a cloud of odium was raised against him which the breath of his indulgent sovereign was in vain exerted to disperse.
There was in Warwickshire a catholic gentleman named Somerville, a person of violent temper and somewhat disordered in mind, who had been worked up, by the instigations of one Hall his confessor, to such a pitch of fanatical phrensy, that he set out for London with the fixed purpose of killing the queen; but falling furiously upon some of her protestant subjects by the way, he was apprehended, and readily confessed the object of his journey. Being closely questioned, perhaps with torture, he is said to have dropped something which touched Mr. Arden his father-in-law; and Hall on examination positively declared that this gentleman had been made privy to the bloody purpose of Somerville. On this bare assertion of the priest, unconfirmed, as appears, by any collateral evidence, Arden was indicted, found guilty, and underwent the whole sentence of the law. It happened to be publicly known that Arden was the personal enemy of Leicester, for he had refused to wear his livery;—a base kind of homage which was paid him without scruple, as it seems, by other neighbouring gentlemen;—and he was also in the habit of reproaching him with the murder of his first wife. The wife also of Arden was the sister of sir Nicholas Throgmorton, whom Leicester was vulgarly supposed to have poisoned, and of the chief justice of Chester lately displaced. When therefore, in addition to these circumstances of suspicion, it was further observed that Somerville, instead of being produced to deny or confirm on the scaffold the evidence which he was said to have given against Arden, died strangled in prison, by his own hand as was affirmed;—when it was seen that Hall, who was confessedly the instigator of the whole, and further obnoxious to the laws as a catholic priest, was quietly sent out of the kingdom by Leicester's means, in spite of the opposition of sir Christopher Hatton;—and finally, when it appeared that the forfeited lands of Arden went to enrich a creature of the same great man,—this victim of law was regarded as a martyr, and it was found impossible to tie up the tongues of men from crying shame and vengeance on his cruel and insidious destroyer.
The plot thickened when Francis Throgmorton, son of the degraded judge of Chester, was next singled out. Some intercepted letters to the queen of Scots formed the first ground of this gentleman's arrest; but being carried to the Tower, he was there racked to extort further discoveries, and lord Paget and Charles Arundel, a courtier, quitted the kingdom in haste as soon as they knew him to be in custody. After this many of the leading catholics fell into suspicion, particularly the earls of Northumberland and Arundel, who were ordered to confine themselves to their houses; lord William Howard, brother to the latter nobleman, and his uncle lord Henry Howard, were likewise subjected to several long and rigorous examinations, but were dismissed at length on full proof of their perfect innocence. The confessions of Throgmorton further implicated the Spanish ambassador; who replied in so high a tone to the representations made him on the subject, that her majesty commanded him to quit the kingdom.
Francis Throgmorton was condemned, and suffered as a traitor, and, it is probable, not undeservedly: there was reason also to believe that a dangerous activity was exercised by the queen of Scots and her agents, and that the letters which she was continually finding means of conveying not only to the heads of the popish party, but to all whose connexions led her to imagine them in any degree favorable to the cause, had shaken the allegiance of numbers. On the other hand, the catholics complained, and certainly not without reason, of dark and detestable means employed by the ministry to betray and ensnare them. Counterfeited letters, it seems, were often addressed to gentlemen of this persuasion, purporting to come either from the queen of Scots or from certain English exiles, and soliciting concurrence in some scheme for her deliverance, or some design against the government. If the unwary receivers either answered the letters, or simply forbore to deliver them up to the secretary of state, their houses were entered; search was made for these papers by the emissaries of government, who were themselves the fabricators of them; the unfortunate owners were dragged to prison as suspected persons; and interrogated, and perhaps tortured, till they discovered all that they knew of the secrets of the party. Spies were planted upon them, every unguarded word was caught up and interpreted in the worst sense, and false or frivolous accusations were greedily entertained.
Walsingham, next to Leicester, bore the chief odium of these proceedings; but to him no corrupt motives or private ends ever appear to have been imputed in particular cases, though an anxiety to preserve his place, and to recommend himself to the queen his mistress by an extraordinary manifestation of care for her safety and zeal in her service, may not unfairly be supposed to have influenced the general character of his policy.
The loud complaints of the catholics had excited so strong and so widely diffused a sentiment of compassion for them and indignation against their oppressors, that it was judged expedient to publish an apology for the measures of government, written either by lord Burleigh himself or under his direction, which bore the title of "A declaration of the favorable dealing of her majesty's commissioners appointed for the examination of certain traitors, and of tortures unjustly reported to be done upon them for matters of religion."
It thus begins: "Good reader, although her majesty's most mild and gracious government be sufficient to defend itself against those most slanderous reports of heathenish and unnatural tyranny and cruel tortures pretended to have been exercised upon certain traitors who lately suffered for their treason, and others; as well as spread abroad by rungates, Jesuits, and seminary men in their seditious books, letters and libels, in foreign countries and princes courts, as also intimated into the hearts of some of our own countrymen and her majesty's subjects.... I have conferred with a very honest gentleman whom I knew to have good and sufficient means to deliver the truth." &c. And the following are the heads of this "honest gentleman's" testimony. "It is affirmed for truth, and is offered upon due examination to be proved," "that the forms of torture in their severity or rigor of execution have not been such as is slanderously represented"... "that even the principal offender Campion himself"... "before the conference had with him by learned men in the Tower, wherein he was charitably used, was never so racked but that he was presently able to walk and to write, and did presently write and subscribe all his confessions." That Briant, a man said to, have been reduced to such extremities of hunger and thirst in prison, that he ate the clay out of the walls and drank the droppings of the roof, was kept in that state by his own fault; for certain treasonable writings being found upon him, he was required to give a specimen of his handwriting; which refusing, he was told he should have no food till he wrote for what he wanted, and after fasting nearly two days and nights he complied. Also, that both with respect to these two and others, it might be affirmed, that the warders, whose office it is to use the rack, "were ever by those that attended the examinations specially charged to use it in as charitable a manner as such a thing might be."
Secondly, that none of those catholics who have been racked during her majesty's reign were, "upon the rack or in any other torture," demanded of any points of faith and doctrine merely, "but only with what persons, at home or abroad, and touching what plots and practises they had dealt... about attempts against her majesty's estate or person, or to alter the laws of the realm for matters of religion, by treason or by force; and how they were persuaded themselves and did persuade others, touching the pope's pretence of authority to depose kings and princes; and namely for deprivation of her majesty, and to discharge subjects from their allegiance." &c.
"Thirdly, that none of them have been put to the rack or torture, no not for the matters of treason, or partnership of treason, or such like, but where it was first known and evidently probable, by former detections, confessions, and otherwise, that the party was guilty, and could deliver truth of the things wherewith he was charged; so as it was first assured that no innocent was at any time tormented, and the rack was never used to wring out confessions at adventure upon uncertainties." &c.
"Fourthly, that none of them hath been racked or tortured unless he had first said expressly, or amounting to as much, that he will not tell the truth though the queen did command him." &c.
"Fifthly, that the proceeding to torture was always so slowly, so unwillingly, and with so many preparations of persuasions to spare themselves, and so many means to let them know that the truth was by them to be uttered, both in duty to her majesty, and in wisdom for themselves, as whosoever was present at those actions must needs acknowledge in her majesty's ministers a full purpose to follow the example of her own gracious disposition."... "Thus it appeareth, that albeit, by the more general laws of nations, torture hath been and is lawfully judged to be used in lesser cases, and in sharper manner, for inquisition of truth in crimes not so near extending to public danger as these ungracious persons have committed, whose conspiracies, and the particularities thereof, it did so much import and behove to have disclosed; yet even in that necessary use of such proceeding, enforced by the offenders notorious obstinacy, is nevertheless to be acknowledged the sweet temperature of her majesty's mild and gracious clemency, and their slanderous lewdness to be the more condemned, that have in favor of heinous malefactors and stubborn traitors spread untrue rumours and slanders, to make her merciful government disliked, under false pretence and rumors of sharpness and cruelty to those against whom nothing can be cruel, and yet upon whom nothing hath been done but gentle and merciful."
This is a document which speaks sufficiently for itself. Torture, in any shape, was even at this time absolutely contrary to the law of the land; and happily, there was enough of true English feeling in the country, even under the rule of a Tudor, to render it expedient for Elizabeth, soon after the exposition of these "favorable dealings" of her commissioners, to issue an order that no species of it should in future be applied to state-prisoners on any pretext whatsoever.
Parsons the Jesuit, who had been fortunate enough to make his escape when his associate Campion was apprehended, is believed to have been the papist who sought to avenge his party on its capital enemy by the composition of that virulent invective called "Leicester's Commonwealth:" a pamphlet which was printed in Flanders in 1584, and of which a vast number of copies were imported into England, where it obtained, from the color of the leaves and the supposed author, the familiar title of "Father Parsons' Green-coat." In this work all the current stories against the unpopular favorite were collected and set forth as well attested facts; and they were related with that circumstantiality and minuteness of detail which are too apt to pass upon the common reader as the certain and authentic characters of truth. The success of this book was prodigious; it was read universally and with the utmost avidity. All who envied Leicester's power and grandeur; all who had smarted under his insolence, or felt the gripe of his rapacity; all who had been scandalized, or wounded in family honor, by his unbridled licentiousness; all who still cherished in their hearts the image of the unfortunate duke of Norfolk, whom he was believed to have entangled in a deadly snare; all who knew him for the foe and suspected him for the murderer of the gallant and lamented earl of Essex;—finally, all, and they were nearly the whole of the nation, who looked upon him as a base and treacherous miscreant, shielded by the affection of his sovereign and wrapped in an impenetrable cloud of hypocrisy and artifice, who aimed in the dark his envenomed weapons against the bosom of innocence;—exulted in this exposure of his secret crimes, and eagerly received and propagated for truth even the grossest of the exaggerations and falsehoods with which the narrative was intermixed.
Elizabeth, incensed to the last degree at so furious an attack upon the man in whom her confidence was irremoveably fixed, caused her council to write letters to all persons in authority for the suppression of these books, and punishment of such as were concerned in their dispersion; adding at the same time the declaration, that her majesty "testified in her conscience before God, that she knew in assured certainty the books and libels against the earl to be most malicious, false and scandalous, and such as none but an incarnate devil himself could dream to be true." The letters further stated, that her majesty regarded this publication as an attempt to discredit her own government, "as though she should have failed in good judgement and discretion in the choice of so principal a councillor about her, or to be without taste or care of all justice or conscience, in suffering such heinous and monstrous crimes, as by the said books and libels be infamously imputed, to pass unpunished; or finally, at the least, to want either good will, ability or courage, if she knew these enormities were true, to call any subject of hers whatsoever to render sharp account of them, according to the force of her laws." The councillors in their own persons afterwards went on to declare, that they, "to do his lordship but right, of their sincere consciences must needs affirm these strange and abominable crimes to be raised of a wicked and venomous malice against the said earl, of whose good service, sincerity of religion, and all other faithful dealings towards her majesty and the realm, they had had long and true experience."
These letters said too much; it was not credible that either her majesty or her privy-councillors should each individually know to be false all the imputations thrown upon Leicester in the libels written against him; there was even good reason to believe that many of them were firmly believed to be well founded by several, and perhaps most, of the privy-councillors; at all events nothing like exculpatory evidence was brought, or attempted to be brought, on the subject, consequently no effect was produced on public opinion; the whole was regarded as an ex-parte proceeding. Philip Sidney, who probably set out with a sincere disbelief of these shocking accusations brought against any uncle who had shown for him an affection next to parental, eagerly took up the pen in his defence. But the only point on which his refutation appears to have been triumphant, was unfortunately one of no moral moment,—the antiquity and nobility of the Dudley family, falsely, as it seems, impugned by the libeller. Some inconsistencies and contradictions he indeed pointed out in other matters; but, on the whole, the answer was miserably deficient in every thing but invective, of which there was far too much; and either from a gradual perception of the badness of his cause or the weakness of his performance, or perhaps for other reasons with which we are unacquainted, he abandoned his design; and the fragment never saw the light till the publication of the Sidney Papers about sixty years ago. But whatever might be the private judgements of men concerning the character and conduct of the earl of Leicester; the support of the queen, and the strength of the party which the long possession of power, and a remarkable fidelity in the observance of his engagements towards his own adherents, had enabled him to form, effectually protected him from experiencing any decline of his political influence. Of this a proof appeared soon after, when in consequence of further disclosures of the dangerous designs of the catholics, a form of association, by which the subscribers bound themselves to pursue, to the utmost of their power, even to the death, all who should attempt any thing against the queen in favor of any pretender to the crown, was drawn up by this nobleman and obtained the signatures of all orders of men.
This was a measure which the queen of Scots perceived to be aimed expressly against herself, and of which she sought to divert the ill effects by all the means still within her power. She desired to be one of the first to whom the association should be offered for subscription; and she begged that this act might form the basis of a treaty by which all differences between herself and Elizabeth might be finally composed, and her long captivity exchanged at length, if not for absolute freedom, at least for a state of comparative independence under articles guarantied by the principal powers of Europe. These articles, far different from the former claims of Mary, appeared to Walsingham so advantageous to his mistress, by the exemption which they seemed to promise her from future machinations on the part of the queen of Scots, that he strenuously urged their acceptance; but it was in vain. Mutual injuries, dissimulation on both sides, and causes of jealousy on the part of Elizabeth from which all her advantages over her captive enemy had not served to set her free, now, as ever, opposed the conclusion of any terms of agreement; and the imprudent and violent conduct of Mary served to confirm Elizabeth in her unrelentingness. Even while the terms were under discussion, a letter was intercepted addressed by the queen of Scots to sir Francis Englefield, an English exile and pensioner in Spain, in which she thus wrote: "Of the treaty between the queen of England and me, I may neither hope nor look for good issue. Whatsoever shall become of me, by whatsoever change of my state and condition, let the execution of the Great Plot go forward, without any respect of peril or danger to me. For I will account my life very happily bestowed, if I may with the same help and relieve so great a number of the oppressed children of the Church.... And further, I pray you, use all possible diligence and endeavour to pursue and promote, at the pope's and other kings' hand, such a speedy execution of their former designments, that the same may be effectuated sometime this next spring." &c. It must be confessed, that after such a letter Mary had little right to complain of the failure of these negotiations. The countess of Shrewsbury, now at open variance with her husband, had employed every art to infuse into the queen suspicions of a too great intimacy subsisting between the earl and his prisoner; and Elizabeth, either from a jealousy which the long fidelity of Shrewsbury to his arduous trust was unable to counteract, or, as was believed, at the instigation of some who meant further mischief to Mary, ordered about this time her removal to the custody of sir Amias Paulet and sir Drugo Drury.
This change filled the mind of the captive queen with terror, which prepared her to listen with avidity to any schemes, however desperate, for her own deliverance and the destruction of her enemy; and proved the prelude to that tragical castastrophe which was now advancing fast upon her.
A violent quarrel between Mary and the countess of Shrewsbury had naturally resulted from the conduct of this furious woman; and Mary, whose passions, whether fierce or tender, easily hurried her beyond the bounds of decency and of prudence, gratified her resentment at once against the countess and the queen by addressing to Elizabeth a letter which could never be forgiven or forgotten. In this piece, much too gross for insertion in the present work, she professes to comply with the request of her royal sister, by acquainting her very exactly with all the evil of every kind that the countess of Shrewsbury had ever spoken of her majesty in her hearing. She then proceeds to repeat or invent all that the most venomous malice could devise against the character of Elizabeth: as, that she had conferred her favors on a nameless person (probably Leicester) to whom she had promised marriage; on the duke of Anjou, on Simier, on Hatton and others; that the latter was quite disgusted with her fondness; that she was generous to none but these favorites, &c. That her conceit of her beauty was such, that no flattery could be too gross for her to swallow; and that this folly was the theme of ridicule to all her courtiers, who would often pretend that their eyes were unable to sustain the radiance of her countenance,—a trait, by the way, which stands on other and better authority than this infamous letter. That her temper was so furious that it was dreadful to attend upon her;—that she had broken the finger of one lady, and afterwards pretended to the courtiers that it was done by the fall of a chandelier, and that she had cut another across the hand with a knife;—stories very probably not entirely unfounded in fact, since we find the earl of Huntingdon complaining, in a letter still preserved in the British Museum, that the queen, on some quarrel, had pinched his wife "very sorely." That she interfered in an arbitrary manner with the marriage of one of the countess of Shrewsbury's daughters, and wanted to engross the disposal of all the heiresses in the kingdom;—in which charge there was also some truth. This insulting epistle concluded with assurances of the extreme anxiety of the writer to see a good understanding restored between herself and Elizabeth.
Meantime, the most alarming manifestations of the inveterate hostility of the persecuted papists against the queen, continued to agitate the minds of a people who loved and honored her; and who anticipated with well founded horror the succession of another Mary, which seemed inevitable in the event of her death. A book was written by a Romish priest, exhorting the female attendants of her majesty to emulate the merit and glory of Judith by inflicting on her the fate of Holophernes. Dr. Allen, afterwards cardinal, published a work to justify and recommend the murder of a heretic prince; and by this piece a gentleman of the name of Parry was confirmed, it is said, in the black design which he had several times revolved in his mind, but relinquished as often from misgivings of conscience.
In the history of this person there are some circumstances very remarkable. He was a man of considerable learning, but, being vicious and needy, had some years before this time committed a robbery, for which he had received the royal pardon. Afterwards he went abroad, and was reconciled to the Romish church, though employed at the same time by the ministers of Elizabeth to give intelligence respecting the English exiles, whom he often recommended to pardon or favor, and sometimes apparently with success. Returning home, he gained access to the queen, who admitted him to several private interviews; and he afterwards declared, that fearing he might be tempted to put in act the bloody purpose which perpetually haunted his mind, he always left his dagger at home when he went to wait upon her. On these occasions he apprized her majesty of the existence of many designs against her life, and endeavoured, with great earnestness and plainness of speech, to convince her of the cruelty and impolicy of those laws against the papists which had rendered them her deadly foes: but finding his arguments thrown away upon the queen, he afterwards procured a seat in parliament, where he was the sole opponent of a severe act passed against the Jesuits. On account of the freedom with which he expressed himself on this occasion, he was for a few days imprisoned.
Soon after a gentleman of the family of Nevil, induced it is said by the hope of obtaining as his reward the honors and lands of the rebel earl of Westmorland lately dead, disclosed to the government a plot for assassinating the queen, in which he affirmed that Parry had engaged his concurrence. Parry confessed in prison that he had long deliberated on the means of effectually serving his church, and it appeared that he had come to the decision that the assassination of the queen's greatest subject might be lawful: a letter was also found upon him from cardinal Como, expressing approbation of some design which he had communicated to him. On this evidence he was capitally condemned; but to the last he strongly denied that the cardinal's letter, couched in general terms, referred to any attempt on the queen's person, or that he had ever entertained the design charged upon him. Unlike all the other martyrs of popery at this time, he died,—not avowing and glorying in the crime charged upon him,—but earnestly protesting his innocence, his loyalty, his warm attachment to her majesty. An account of his life was published immediately afterwards by the queen's printer, written in a style of the utmost virulence, and filled with tales of his monstrous wickedness which have much the air of violent calumnies.
Parry was well known to lord Burleigh, with whom he had corresponded for several years; and the circumstance of his being brought by him to the presence of the queen, proves that this minister was far from regarding him either as the low, the infamous, or the desperate wretch that he is here represented. That he had sometimes imagined the death of the queen, he seems to have acknowledged; but most probably he had never so far conquered the dictates of loyalty and conscience as to have laid any plan for her destruction, or even to have resolved upon hazarding the attempt. The case therefore was one in which mercy and even justice seem to have required the remission of a harsh and hasty sentence; but the panic terror which had now seized the queen, the ministry, the parliament, and the nation, would have sufficed to overpower the pleadings of the generous virtues in hearts of nobler mould than those of Elizabeth, of Leicester, or of Walsingham.
Nevil, the accuser of Parry, far from gaining any reward, was detained prisoner in the Tower certainly till the year 1588, and whether he even then obtained his liberation does not appear.
The severe enactments of the new parliament against papists, which included a total prohibition of every exercise of the rites of their religion, so affected the mind of Philip Howard earl of Arundel, already exasperated by the personal hardships to which the suspicions of her majesty and the hostility of her ministers had exposed him, that he formed the resolution of banishing himself for ever from his native land. Having secretly prepared every thing for his departure, he put his whole case upon record in a letter addressed to her majesty, and left behind at his house in London. This piece ought, as it appears, to have excited in the breast of his sovereign sentiments of regret and compunction rather than of indignation. The writer complains, that without any offence given on his part, or even objected against him by her majesty, he had long since fallen into her disfavor, as by her "bitter speeches" had become publicly known; so that he was generally accounted, "nay in a manner pointed at," as one whom her majesty least favored, and in most disgrace as a person whom she did deeply suspect and especially mislike." That after he had continued for some months under this cloud, he had been called sundry times by her command before the council, where charges had been brought against him, some of them ridiculously trifling, others incredible, all so untrue, that even his greatest enemies could not, after his answers were made, reproach him with any disloyal thought;—yet was he in the end ordered to keep his house. That his enemies still continued to pursue him with interrogatories, and continued his restraint; and that even after the last examination had failed to produce any thing against him, he was still kept fifteen weeks longer in the same state, though accused of nothing. That when, either his enemies being ashamed to pursue these proceedings further, or her majesty being prevailed upon by his friends to put an end to them, he had at length recovered his liberty, he had been led to meditate on the fates of his three unfortunate ancestors, all circumvented by their enemies, and two of them (the earl of Surry his grandfather and the duke of Norfolk his father) brought for slight causes to an untimely end. And having weighed their cases with what had just befallen himself, he concluded that it might well be his lot to succeed them in fortune as in place. His foes were strong to overthrow, he weak to defend himself, since innocence, he had found, was no protection; her majesty being "easily drawn to an ill opinion of" his "ancestry;" and moreover, he had been "charged by the council to be of the religion which was accounted odious and dangerous to her estate." "Lastly," he adds, "but principally, I weighed in what miserable doubtful case my soul had remained if my life had been taken, as it was not unlikely, in my former troubles. For I protest, the greatest burden that rested on my conscience at that time was, because I had not lived according to the prescript rule of that which I undoubtedly believed." &c.
The earl had actually embarked at a small port in Sussex, when, his project having been betrayed to the government by the mercenary villany of the master of the vessel and of one of his own servants, orders were issued for his detention, and he was brought back in custody and committed to the Tower. The letter just quoted was then produced against him; it was declared to reflect on the justice of the country; and for the double offence of having written it and of attempting to quit the kingdom without license, he underwent a long imprisonment, and was arbitrarily sentenced to a fine of one thousand pounds, which he proved his inability to pay. The barbarous tyranny which held his body in thraldom, served at the same time to rivet more strongly upon his mind the fetters of that stern superstition which had gained dominion over him. The more he endured for his religion, the more awful and important did it appear in his eyes; while in proportion to the severity and tediousness of his sufferings from without, the scenery within became continually more cheerless and terrific; and learning to dread in a future world the prolonged operation of that principle of cruelty under which he groaned in this, he sought to avert its everlasting action by practising upon himself the expiatory rigors of asceticism. The sequel of his melancholy history we shall have occasion to contemplate hereafter.
Thomas Percy earl of Northumberland, brother to that earl who had suffered death on account of the Northern rebellion,—by his participation in which he had himself also incurred a fine, though afterwards remitted,—was naturally exposed at this juncture to vehement suspicions. After some examinations before the council, cause was found for his committal to the Tower; and here, according to the iniquitous practice of the age, he remained for a considerable time without being brought to trial. At length the public was informed that another prisoner on a like account having been put to the torture to force disclosures, had revealed matters against the earl of Northumberland amounting to treason, on which account he had thought fit to anticipate the sentence of the law by shooting himself through the heart. That the earl was really the author of his own death was indeed proved before a coroner's jury by abundant and unexceptionable testimony, as well as by his deliberate precautions for making his lands descend to his son, and his indignant declaration that the queen, on whom he bestowed a most opprobrious epithet, should never have his estate; though it may still bear a doubt whether a consciousness of guilt, despair of obtaining justice, or merely the misery of an indefinite captivity, were the motive of the rash act: but the catholics, actuated by the true spirit of party, added without scruple the death of this nobleman to the "foul and midnight murders" perpetrated within these gloomy walls.
Meantime the opposition to popery, which had now become the reigning principle of English policy, was to be maintained on other ground, and with other weapons than those with which an inquisitorial high-commission, or a fierce system of penal enactments, had armed the hands of religious intolerance, political jealousy, or private animosity; and all the more generous and adventurous spirits prepared with alacrity to draw the sword in the noble cause of Belgian independence, against the united tyranny and bigotry of the detestable Philip II.
The death of that patriot hero William prince of Orange by the hand of a fanatical assassin, had plunged his country in distress and dismay, and the States-general had again made an earnest tender of their sovereignty to Elizabeth. She once more declined it, from the same motives of caution and anxiety to avoid the imputation of ambitious encroachment on the rights of neighbouring princes, which had formerly determined her. But more than ever aware how closely her own safety and welfare were connected with the successful resistance of these provinces, she now consented to send over an army to their succour, and to grant them supplies of money; in consideration of which several cautionary towns were put into her hands. Of these, Flushing was one; and Elizabeth gratified at once the protestant zeal of Philip Sidney and his aspirations after military glory, by appointing him its governor. It was in November 1585 that he took possession of his charge.
Meanwhile the earl of Leicester, whose haughty and grasping spirit led him to covet distinction and authority in every line, was eagerly soliciting the supreme command of this important armament; and in spite of the general mediocrity of his talents and his very slight experience in the art of war, his partial mistress had the weakness to indulge him in this unreasonable and ill-advised pretension. The title of general of the queen's auxiliaries in Holland was conferred upon him, and with it a command over the whole English navy paramount to that of the lord-high-admiral himself.
He landed at Flushing, and was received first by its governor and afterwards by the States of Holland and Zealand with the highest honors, and with the most magnificent festivities which it was in their power to exhibit. A splendid band of youthful nobility followed in his train:—the foremost of them all was his stepson Robert earl of Essex, now in his 19th year, who had already made his appearance at court, and experienced from her majesty a reception which clearly prognosticated, to such as were conversant in the ways of the court, the height of favor to which he was predestined.
It was highly characteristic of the jealous haughtiness of Elizabeth's temper, that the extraordinary honors lavished by the States upon Leicester instantly awakened her utmost indignation. She regarded them as too high for any subject, even for him who enjoyed the first place in her royal favor, whom she had invested with an amplitude of authority quite unexampled, and who represented herself in the council of the States-general. She expressed her anger in a tone which made both Leicester and the Belgians tremble; and the explanations and humble submissions of both parties were found scarcely sufficient to appease her. At the same time, the incapacity and misconduct of Leicester as a commander were daily becoming more conspicuous and offensive in the eyes of the Dutch authorities; and the most serious evils would immediately have ensued, but for the prudence, the magnanimity, the conciliating behaviour, and the strenuous exertions, by which his admirable nephew labored unceasingly to remedy his vices and cover his deficiencies.
The brilliant valor of the English troops, and particularly of the young nobility and gentry who led them on, was conspicuous in every encounter; but the want of a chief able to cope with that accomplished general the prince of Parma, precluded them from effecting any important object. Philip Sidney distinguished himself by a well-conducted surprise of the town of Axel, and received in reward among a number of others the honor of knighthood from the hands of his uncle. Afterwards, having made an attack with the horse under his command on a reinforcement which the enemy was attempting to throw into Zutphen, a hot action ensued, in which though the advantage remained with the English, it was dearly purchased by the blood of their gallant leader, who received a shot above the knee, which after sixteen days of acute suffering brought his valuable life to its termination.
Thus perished at the early age of thirty-two sir Philip Sidney, the pride and pattern of his time, the theme of song, the favorite of English story. The beautiful anecdote of his resigning to the dying soldier the draught of water with which he was about to quench his thirst as he rode faint and bleeding from the fatal field, is told to every child, and inspires a love and reverence for his name which never ceases to cling about the hearts of his countrymen. He is regarded as the most perfect example which English history affords of the preux Chevalier; and is named in parallel with the spotless and fearless Bayard the glory of Frenchmen, whom he excelled in all the accomplishments of peace as much as the other exceeded him in the number and splendor of his military achievements.
The demonstrations of grief for his loss, and the honors paid to his memory, went far beyond all former example, and appeared to exceed what belonged to a private citizen. The court went into mourning for him, and his remains received a magnificent funeral in St. Paul's, the United Provinces having in vain requested permission to inter him at their own expense, with the promise that he should have as fair a tomb as any prince in Christendom. Elizabeth always remembered him with affection and regret. Cambridge and Oxford published three volumes of "Lachrymae" on the melancholy event. Spenser in verse, and Camden in prose, commemorated and deplored their friend and patron. A crowd of humbler contemporaries pressed emulously forward to offer up their mite of panegyric and lamentation; and it would be endless to enumerate the poets and other writers of later times, who have celebrated in various forms the name of Sidney. Foreigners of the highest distinction claimed a share in the general sentiment. Du Plessis Mornay condoled with Walsingham on the loss of his incomparable son-in-law in terms of the deepest sorrow. Count Hohenlo passionately bewailed his friend and fellow-soldier, to whose representations and intercessions he had sacrificed his just indignation against the proceedings of Leicester. Even the hard heart of Philip II. was touched by the untimely fate of his godson, though slain in bearing arms against him.
We are told that on the next tilt-day after the last wife of the earl of Leicester had borne him a son, Sidney appeared with a shield on which was the word "Speravi" dashed through. This anecdote,—if indeed the allusion of the motto be rightly explained, which it is difficult to believe,—would serve to show how publicly he had been regarded, both by himself and others, as the heir of his all-powerful uncle. The death of this child, on which occasion adulatory verses were produced by the university of Cambridge, restored Sidney, the year before his death, to this brilliant expectancy; and it cannot reasonably be doubted, that the academic honors paid to his memory were, like the court-mourning, a homage to the power of the living rather than the virtues of the dead. But though he should be judged to have owed to his connexion with a royal favorite much of his contemporary celebrity, and even in some measure his enduring fame, no candid estimator will suffer himself to be hurried, under an idea of correcting the former partiality of fortune, into the clear injustice of denying to this accomplished character a just title to the esteem and admiration of posterity. On the contrary, it will be considered, that the very circumstances which rendered him so early conspicuous, would also expose him to the shafts of malice and envy; and that if his spirit had not been in reality noble, and his conduct irreproachable, it would have exceeded all the power of Leicester to shield the reputation of his nephew against attacks similar to those from which he had found it impracticable to defend his own.
Philip Sidney was educated, by the cares of a wise and excellent father, in the purest and most elevated moral principles and in the best learning of the age. A letter of advice addressed to him by this exemplary parent at the age of twelve, fully exemplifies both the laudable solicitude of sir Henry respecting his future character, and the soundness of his views and maxims: in the character of his son, as advancing to manhood, he saw his hopes exceeded and his prayers fulfilled. Nothing could be more correct than his conduct, more laudable than his pursuits, while on his travels; young as he was, he merited the friendship of Hubert Languet. He also gained just and high reputation for the manner in which he acquitted himself of an embassy to the protestant princes of Germany, though somewhat of the ostentation and family pride of a Dudley was apparent in the port which he thought it necessary to assume on the occasion. After his return, he commenced the life of a courtier; and that indiscriminate thirst for glory which was in some measure the foible of his character, led him into an ostentatious profusion, which, by involving his affairs, rendered it necessary for him to solicit the pecuniary favors of her majesty, and to earn them by some acts of adulation unworthy of his spirit: for all these, however, he made large amends by his noble letter against the French marriage. He afterwards took up, with a zeal and ability highly honorable to his heart and his head, the defence of his father, accused, but finally acquitted, of some stretches of power as lord-deputy of Ireland. This business involved him in disputes with the earl of Ormond, his father's enemy, who seems to have generously overlooked provocations which might have led to more serious consequences, in consideration of the filial feelings of his youthful adversary.
These indications of a bold and forward spirit appear however to have somewhat injured him in the mind of her majesty; his advancement by no means kept pace either with his wishes or his wants; and a subsequent quarrel with the earl of Oxford,—in which he refused to make the concessions required by the queen, reminding her at the same time that it had been her father's policy, and ought to be hers, rather to countenance the gentry against the arrogance of the great nobles than the contrary,—sent him in disgust from court. Retiring to Wilton, the seat of his brother-in-law the earl of Pembroke, he composed the Arcadia. This work he never revised or completed; it was published after his death, probably contrary to his orders; and it is of a kind long since obsolete. Under all these disadvantages, however, though faulty in plan and as a whole tedious, this romance has been found to exhibit extensive learning, a poetical cast of imagination, nice discrimination of character, and, what is far more, a fervor of eloquence in the cause of virtue, a heroism of sentiment and purity of thought, which stamp it for the offspring of a noble mind,—which evince that the workman was superior to his work.
But the world re-absorbed him; and baffled at court he meditated, in correspondence with one of his favorite mottoes,—"Aut viam inveniam aut faciam,"—to join one of the almost piratical expeditions of Drake against the Spanish settlements. Perhaps he might then be diverted from his design by the strong and kind warning of his true friend Languet, "to beware lest the thirst of lucre should creep into a mind which had hitherto admitted nothing but the love of truth and an anxiety to deserve well of all men." After the death of this monitor, however, he engaged in a second scheme of this very questionable nature, and was only prevented from embarking by the arrival of the queen's peremptory orders for his return to court and that of Fulke Greville who accompanied him.
It would certainly be difficult to defend in point of dignity and consistency his conspicuous appearance, as formerly recorded, at the triumph held in honor of the French embassy, or his attendance upon the duke of Anjou on his return to the Netherlands.
The story of his nomination to the throne of Poland deserves little regard; it is certain that such an elevation was never within his possibilities of attainment. His reputation on the continent was however extremely high; Don John of Austria himself esteemed him; the great prince of Orange corresponded with him as a real friend; and Du Plessis Mornay solicited his good offices on behalf of the French protestants. Nothing but the highest praise is due to his conduct in Holland; to the valor of a knight-errant he added the best virtues of a commander and counsellor. Leicester himself apprehended that it would be scarcely possible for him to sustain his high post without the countenance and assistance of his beloved nephew; and the event showed that he was right.
His death was worthy of the best parts of his life; he showed himself to the last devout, courageous, and serene. His wife, the beautiful daughter of Walsingham; his brother Robert, to whom he had performed the part rather of an anxious and indulgent parent than of a brother; and many sorrowing friends, surrounded his bed. Their grief was beyond a doubt sincere and poignant, as well as that of the many persons of letters and of worth who gloried in his friendship and flourished by his bountiful patronage.
On the whole, though justice claims the admission that the character of Sidney was not entirely free from the faults most incident to his age and station, and that neither as a writer, a scholar, a soldier, or a statesman,—in all which characters during the course of his short life he appeared, and appeared with distinction,—is he yet entitled to the highest rank; it may however be firmly maintained that, as a man, an accomplished and high-souled man, he had among his contemporary countrymen neither equal nor competitor. Such was the verdict in his own times not of flatterers only, or friends, but of England, of Europe; such is the title of merit under which the historian may enroll him, with confidence and with complacency, among the illustrious few whose name and example still serve to kindle in the bosom of youth the animating glow of virtuous emulation.
Leicester never appears in an amiable light except in connexion with his nephew, for whom his affection was not only sincere but ardent. A few extracts from a letter written by him to sir Thomas Heneage, captain of the queen's guards, giving an account of the action in which Sidney received his mortal wound, will illustrate this remark, while it records the gallant exploits of several of his companions in arms.
After relating that sir Philip had gone out with a party to intercept a convoy of the enemy's, he adds, "Many of our horses were hurt and killed, among which was my nephew's own. He went and changed to another, and would needs to the charge again, and once passed those musqueteers, where he received a sore wound upon his thigh, three fingers above his knee, the bone broken quite in pieces; but for which chance, God did send such a day as I think was never many years seen, so few against so many." The earl then enumerates the other commanders and distinguished persons engaged in the action. Colonel Norris, the earl of Essex, sir Thomas Perrot; "and my unfortunate Philip, with sir William Russell, and divers gentlemen; and not one hurt but only my nephew. They killed four of their enemy's chief leaders, and carried the valiant count Hannibal Gonzaga away with them upon a horse; also took captain George Cressier, the principal soldier of the camp, and captain of all the Albanese. My lord Willoughby overthrew him at the first encounter, man and horse. The gentleman did acknowledge it himself. There is not a properer gentleman in the world towards than this lord Willoughby is; but I can hardly praise one more than another, they all did so well; yet every one had his horse killed or hurt. And it was thought very strange that sir William Stanley with three hundred of his men should pass, in spite of so many musquets, such troops of horse three several times, making them remove their ground, and to return with no more loss than he did. Albeit, I must say it, it was too much loss for me; for this young man, he was my greatest comfort, next her majesty, of all the world; and if I could buy his life with all I have, to my shirt I would give it. How God will dispose of him I know not, but fear I must needs, greatly, the worst; the blow in so dangerous a place and so great; yet did I never hear of any man that did abide the dressing and setting of his bones better than he did; and he was carried afterwards in my barge to Arnheim, and I hear this day, he is still of good heart, and comforteth all about him as much as may be. God of his mercy grant me his life! which I cannot but doubt of greatly. I was abroad that time in the field giving some order to supply that business, which did endure almost two hours in continual fight; and meeting Philip coming upon his horseback, not a little to my grief. But I would you had stood by to hear his most loyal speeches to her majesty; his constant mind to the cause; his loving care over me, and his most resolute determination for death, not one jot appalled for his blow; which is the most grievous I ever saw with such a bullet; riding so a long mile and a half upon his horse, ere he came to the camp; not ceasing to speak still of her majesty, being glad if his hurt and death might any way honor her majesty; for hers he was whilst he lived, and God's he was sure to be if he died. Prayed all men to think the cause was as well her majesty's as the country's; and not to be discouraged; for you have seen such success as may encourage us all; and this my hurt is the ordinance of God by the hap of the war. Well, I pray God, if it be his will, save me his life; even as well for her majesty's service sake, as for mine own comfort."
[Note 95: "Sidney Papers."]
Sir Henry Sidney was spared the anguish of following such a son to the grave, having himself quitted the scene a few months before. It was in 1578 that he received orders to resign the government of Ireland, having become obnoxious to the gentlemen of the English pale by his rigor in levying certain assessments for the maintenance of troops and the expenses of his own household, which they affirmed to be illegally imposed. There is every reason to believe that their complaint was well founded; but Elizabeth, refusing as usual to allow her prerogative to be touched, imprisoned several Irish lawyers, who came to England to appeal against the tax; and sir Henry, being able to prove that he had royal warrant for what he had done, was finally exonerated by the privy-council from all the charges which had been preferred against him, and retained to the last his office of lord-president of Wales.
The sound judgement of sir Henry Sidney taught him, that his near connexion with the earl of Leicester had its dangers as well as its advantages; and observing the turn for show and expense with which it served to inspire the younger members of his family, he would frequently enjoin them "to consider more whose sons than whose nephews they were." In fact, he was not able to lay up fortunes for them;—the offices he held were higher in dignity than emolument; his spirit was noble and munificent; and the following, among other anecdotes, may serve to show that he himself was not averse to a certain degree of parade; at least on particular occasions. The queen, standing once at a window of her palace at Hampton-court, saw a gentleman approach escorted by two hundred attendants on horseback; and turning to her courtiers, she asked with some surprise, who this might be? But on being informed that it was sir Henry Sidney, her lord deputy of Ireland and president of Wales, she answered, "And he may well do it, for he has two of the best offices in my kingdom."
The following letter, addressed to sir Henry as lord-president of Wales, discloses an additional trait of his character, which cannot fail to recommend him still more to the esteem of a humane and enlightened age;—his reluctance, namely, to lend his concurrence to the measures of religious persecution which the queen and her bishops now urged upon all persons in authority as their incumbent duty.
* * * * *
Sir Francis Walsingham to sir H. Sidney lord president of Wales.
"My very good lord;
"My lords of late calling here to remembrance the commission that was more than a year ago given out to your lordship and certain others for the reformation of the recusants and obstinate persons in religion, within Wales and the marches thereof, marvelled very much that in all this time they have heard of nothing done by you and the rest; and truly, my lord, the necessity of this time requiring so greatly to have these kind of men diligently and sharply proceeded against, there will here a very hard construction be made, I fear me, of you, to retain with you the said commission so long, doing no good therein. Of late now I received your lordship's letter touching such persons as you think meet to have the custody and oversight of Montgomery Castle, by which it appeareth you have begun, in your present journeys in Wales, to do somewhat in causes of religion; but having a special commission for that purpose, in which are named special and very apt persons to join with you in those matters, it will be thought strange to my lords to hear of your proceeding in those causes without their assistance; and therefore, to the end their lordships should conceive no otherwise than well of your dealing without them, I have forborne to acquaint them with our late letter, wishing your lordship, for the better handling and success of those matters in religion, you called unto you the bishop of Worcester, Mr. Philips, and certain others specially named in the commission. They will, I am sure, be glad to wait on you in so good a service, and your proceeding together with them in these matters will be better allowed of here, &c.
"P.S. Your lordship had need to walk warily, for your doings are narrowly observed, and her majesty is apt to give ear to any that shall ill you. Great hold is taken by your enemies for neglecting the execution of this commission.
"Oatlands, August 9th 1580."
[Note 96: "Sidney Papers," vol. i. p. 276.]
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Leicester, soon after the death of his nephew, placed his army in winter-quarters, having effected no one object of importance. The States remonstrated with him in strong terms on the various and grievous abuses of his administration; he answered them in the tone of graciousness and conciliation which it suited his purpose to assume; and publicly surrendering up to them the whole apparent authority of the provinces, whilst by a secret act of restriction he in fact retained for himself full command over all the governors of towns and provinces, he set sail for England.
Elizabeth received her favorite with her usual complacency, either because his abject submissions had in reality succeeded in banishing from her mind all resentment of his conduct in Holland, or because she required the support of his long-tried counsels under the awful responsibilities of that impending conflict with the whole collected force of the Spanish monarchy for which she felt herself summoned to prepare. The king of Denmark, astonished to behold a princess of Elizabeth's experienced caution involving herself with seeming indifference in peril so great and so apparent, exclaimed, that she had now taken the diadem from her brow to place it on the doubtful cast of war; and trembling for the fate of his friend and ally, he dispatched an ambassador in haste to offer her his mediation for the adjustment of all differences arising out of the revolt of the Netherlands. But Elizabeth firmly, though with thanks, declined all overtures towards a reconciliation with a sovereign whom she now recognised as her implacable and determined foe.
She was far, however, from despising the danger which she braved; and with a prudence and diligence equal to her fortitude, she had begun to assemble and put in action all her means, internal and external, of defence and annoyance. She linked herself still more closely, by benefits and promises, with the prince of Conde, chief of the Hugonots now in arms against the League, or Catholic association, formed in France under the auspices of the king of Spain. With the king of Scots also she entered into an intimate alliance; and she had previously secured the friendship of all the protestant princes of Germany and the northern powers of Europe. She now openly avowed the enterprises of Drake, which she had hitherto only encouraged underhand, or on certain pretexts of retaliation; and she sent him with a fleet of twenty-one ships, carrying above eleven thousand soldiers, to make war upon the Spanish settlements in the West Indies.