The spirit of Bacon was neither a courageous nor a lofty one. He too soon repented of his generous exertions in the popular cause, and sought to atone for them by so entire a submission of himself to her majesty, accompanied with such eloquent professions of duty, humility and profound respect, that we can scarcely doubt that a word of solicitation from the lips of Burleigh might have gained him an easy pardon. It is painful to think that any party jealousies, or any compliance with the malignant passions of his son, should so have poisoned the naturally friendly and benevolent disposition of this aged minister, that he could bear to withhold the offices of kindness from the nephew of his late beloved wife, and the son of one of his nearest friends and most cordial coadjutors in public life. But according to the maxims of court-factions his desertion of the Bacons might be amply justified;—they had made their election, and it was the patronage of Essex which they preferred. Experience taught them too late, that for their own interests they had chosen wrong. Since the death of Leicester, the Cecils had possessed all the real power at the court of Elizabeth: they and they only could advance their adherents. Essex, it is true, through the influence which he exerted over the imagination or the affections of the queen, could frequently obtain grants to himself of real importance and great pecuniary value. But her majesty's singular caprice of temper rendered her jealous of every mark of favor extorted from the tender weakness of her heart; and she appears to have almost made it a rule to compensate every act of bounty towards himself, by some sensible mortification which she made him suffer in the person of a friend. So little was his patronage the road to advancement, that sir Thomas Smith, clerk of the council, is recorded as the solitary instance of a man preferred out of his household to the service of her majesty; and Bacon himself somewhere says, speaking of the queen, "Against me she is never positive but to my lord of Essex."
Fulk Greville was one of the few who did honor to themselves by becoming at this time the advocate of Francis Bacon with the queen; and his solicitations were heard by her with such apparent complacency, that he wrote to Bacon, that he would wager two to one on his chance of becoming attorney, or at least solicitor-general. But Essex was to be mortified, and the influence of this generous Maecenas was exerted finally in vain. To his unfortunate choice of a patron then, joined to the indiscreet zeal with which that patron pleaded his cause "in season and out of season," we are to ascribe in part the neglect experienced by Bacon during the reign of Elizabeth. But other causes concurred, which it may be interesting to trace, and which it would be injustice both to the queen and to Burleigh to pass over in silence.
At the period when Bacon first appealed to the friendship of the lord treasurer in the letter above cited, he was already in the thirtieth year of his age, and had borne for two years the character of queen's counsel extraordinary; but to the courts of law he was so entire a stranger that it was not till one or two years afterwards that we find him pleading his first cause. It was pretty evident therefore in 1592, when he sought the office of attorney-general, that necessity alone had made it the object of his wishes; and his known inexperience in the practice of the law might reasonably justify in the queen and her ministers some scruple of placing him in so responsible a post. As a philosopher indeed, no encouragement could exceed his deserts; but this was a character which very few even of the learned of that day were capable of appretiating. Physical science, disgraced by its alliance with the "blind experiments" of alchemy and the deluding dreams of judicial astrology, was in possession of few titles to the respect of mankind; and its professors,—credulous enthusiasts, for the most part, or designing impostors,—usually ended by bringing shame and loss on such persons as greedy hopes or vain curiosity bribed to become their patrons.
That general "Instauration" of the sciences which the mighty genius of Bacon had projected, was a scheme too vast and too profound to be comprehended by the minds of Elizabeth and her statesmen; and as it was not of a nature to address itself to their passions and interests, we must not wonder if they should have regarded it with indifference. At this period, too, it existed only in embryo; and so little was the public intellect prepared to seize the first hints thrown out by its illustrious author, that even many years afterwards, when his system had been produced to the world nearly in a state of maturity, the general sentiment seems pretty much to have corresponded with the judgement of king James, "that the philosophy of Bacon was like the peace of God, which passeth all understanding."
All these considerations, however, are scarcely sufficient to vindicate the boasted discernment of Elizabeth from disgrace, in having suffered the most illustrious sage of her reign and country, who was at the same time its brightest wit and most accomplished orator, known to her from his birth, and the son of a wise and faithful servant whose memory she held in honor,—to languish in poverty and discouragement; useless to herself and to the public affairs, and a burthen to his own thoughts.
The king of France found it expedient about this time to declare himself a convert to the church of Rome. For this change of religion, whether sincere or otherwise, he might plead, not only the personal motive of gaining possession of the throne of his inheritance, which seemed to be denied to him on other terms, but the patriotic one of rescuing his exhausted country from the miseries of a protracted civil war; and whatever might be the decision of a scrupulous moralist on the case, it is certain that Elizabeth at least had small title to reprobate a compliance of which, under the reign of her sister, she had herself set the example. But the character of the protestant heroine with which circumstances had invested her, obliged her to overlook this inconsistency; and as demonstrations cost her little, she not only indicted on the occasion a solemn letter of reproof to her ally, but actually professed herself so deeply wounded by his dereliction of principle, that it was necessary for her to tranquillize her mind by the perusal of many pious works, and the study of Boethius on consolation, which she even undertook the task of translating. Essex, whom she honored with a sight of her performance, was adroit enough to suggest to the royal author, as a principal motive of his urgency with her to restore Francis Bacon to her favor, the earnest desire which he felt that her majesty's excellent translations should be viewed by those most capable of appretiating their merits.
The indignation of Elizabeth against Henry's apostasy was not however so violent as to exclude the politic consideration, that it was still her interest to support the king of France against the king of Spain; and besides continuing her wonted supplies, she soon after entered with him into a new engagement, purporting that they should never make peace but by mutual consent.
Bretagne was still the scene of action to the English auxiliaries. Under sir John Norris, their able commander, they shared in the service of wresting from the Spaniards, by whom they had been garrisoned, the towns of Morlaix, Quimpercorentin and Brest; their valor was every where conspicuous; and the eagerness of the young courtiers of Elizabeth to share in the glory of these enterprises rose to a passion, which she sometimes thought it necessary to repress with a show of severity; as in the following instance related by Naunton.
Sir Charles Blount, afterwards lord Montjoy, "having twice or thrice stolen away into Bretagne (where under sir John Norris he had then a company) without the queen's leave and privity, she sent a messenger unto him, with a strict charge to the general to see him sent home. When he came into the queen's presence, she fell into a kind of reviling, demanding how he durst go over without her leave? 'Serve me so,' quoth she, 'once more, and I will lay you fast enough for running; you will never leave it until you are knocked on the head, as that inconsiderate fellow Sidney was. You shall go when I send you, and in the meantime see that you lodge in the court,' (which was then at Whitehall) 'where you may follow your book, read and discourse of the wars.'"
Philip II., unable to win glory or advantage against Elizabeth in open and honorable warfare, sought a base revenge upon her by proposing through secret agents vast rewards to any who could be brought to attempt her destruction. It was no easy task to discover persons sufficiently rash, as well as wicked, to undertake from motives purely mercenary a villany of which the peril was so appalling; but at length Fuentes and Ibarra, joint governors of the Netherlands, succeeded in bribing Dr. Lopez, domestic physician to the queen, to mix poison in her medicine. Essex, whose watchfulness over the life of his sovereign was remarkable, whilst his intelligences were comparable in extent and accuracy to those of Walsingham himself, was the first to give notice of this atrocious plot. At his instance Lopez was apprehended, examined before himself, the treasurer, the lord admiral, and Robert Cecil, and committed to custody in the earl's house. But nothing decisive appearing on his first examination, Robert Cecil took occasion to represent the charge as groundless; and her majesty, sending in heat for Essex, called him "rash and temerarious youth," and reproached him for bringing on slight grounds so heinous a suspicion upon an innocent man. The earl, incensed to find his diligent service thus repaid, through the successful artifice of his enemy, quitted the presence in a paroxysm of rage, and, according to his practice on similar occasions, shut himself up in his chamber, which he refused to quit till the queen herself two or three days afterwards sent the lord admiral to mediate a reconciliation.
Further interrogatories, mingled probably with menaces of the torture, brought Lopez to confess the fact of his having received the king of Spain's bribe; but he persisted in denying that it was ever in his thoughts to perpetrate the crime. This subterfuge did not, however, save him from an ignominious death, which he shared with two other persons whom Fuentes and Ibarra had hired for a similar undertaking.
The Spanish court disdained to return any satisfactory answer to the complaints of Elizabeth respecting these designs against her life; but either shame, or more likely the fear of reprisals, seems to have deterred it from any repetition of experiments so perilous.
About two years afterwards, however, an English Jesuit named Walpole, who was settled in Spain and intimately connected with the noted father Parsons, instigated an attempt worthy of record, partly as a curious instance of the exaggerated ideas then prevalent of the force of poisons. In the last voyage of Drake to the West Indies, a small vessel of his was captured and carried into a port of Spain, on board of which was one Squire, formerly a purveyor for the queen's stables. With this prisoner Walpole, as a diligent servant of his Church, undertook to make himself acquainted; and finding him a resolute fellow, and of capacity and education above his rank, he spared no pains to convert him to popery. This step gained, he diligently plied him with his jesuitical arguments, and so thoroughly persuaded him of the duty and merit of promoting by any kind of means the overthrow of heresy, that Squire at length consented to bind himself by a solemn vow to make an attempt against the life of Elizabeth in the mode which should be pointed out to him:—an enterprise, as he was assured, which would be attended with little personal danger, and, in case of the worst, would assuredly be recompensed by an immediate admission into the joys of heaven.
Finally the worthy father presented to his disciple a packet of some poisonous preparation, which he enjoined him to take an opportunity of spreading on the pommel of the queen's saddle. The queen in mounting would transfer the ointment to her hand; with her hand she was likely to touch her mouth or nostrils; and such, as he averred, was the virulence of the poison that certain death must follow.
Squire returned to England, enlisted for the Cadiz expedition, and on the eve of its sailing took the preparation and disposed of it as directed. Desirous of adding to his merits, he found means during the voyage to anoint in like manner the arms of the earl of Essex's chair. The failure of the application in both instances greatly surprised him. To the Jesuit it appeared so unaccountable, that he was persuaded Squire had deceived him; and actuated at once by the desire of punishing his defection, and the fear of his betraying such secrets of the party as had been confided to him, he consummated his villany by artfully conveying to the English government an intimation of the plot. Squire was apprehended, and at first denied all: "but by good counsel, and the truth working withal," according to Speed's expression, was brought to confess what could not otherwise have been proved against him, and suffered penitently for his offence. Our chronicler admires the providence which interfered for the protection of her majesty in this great peril, and compares it to the miraculous preservation of St. Paul from the bite of the viper.
The Jesuits are supposed to have employed more efficacious instruments for the destruction of Ferdinando earl of Derby, who died in April 1594. This nobleman had the misfortune to be grandson of Eleanor countess of Cumberland, the younger daughter of Mary queen dowager of France and sister of Henry VIII. by her second husband Charles Brandon duke of Suffolk; and although the children of lady Catherine Grey countess of Hertford obviously stood before him in this line of succession, occasion was taken by the Romish party from this descent to urge him to assume the title of king of England. One Hesket, a zealous agent of the Jesuits and popish fugitives, was employed to tamper with the earl, who on one hand undertook that his claim should be supported by powerful succours from abroad, and on the other menaced him with certain and speedy death in case of his rejecting the proposal or betraying its authors. But the earl was too loyal to hesitate a moment. He revealed the whole plot to government, and Hesket on his information was convicted of treason and suffered death. Not long after, the earl was suddenly seized with a violent disorder of the bowels, which in a few days carried him off; and on the first day of his illness, his gentleman of the horse took his lord's best saddle-horse and fled. These circumstances might be thought pretty clearly to indicate poison as the means of his untimely end: but although a suspicion of its employment was entertained by some, the melancholy event appears to have been more generally ascribed to witchcraft. An examination being instituted, a waxen image was discovered in his chamber with a hair of the color of the earl's drawn through the body; also, an old woman in the neighbourhood, a reputed witch, being required to recite after a prompter the Lord's Prayer in Latin, was observed to blunder repeatedly in the same words. But these circumstances, however strong, not being deemed absolutely conclusive, the poor old woman was apparently suffered to escape:—after the gentleman of the horse, or his instigators, we do not find that any search was made.
The mother of this earl of Derby died two years after. At one period of her life we find her much in favor with the queen, whom she was accustomed to attend in quality of first lady of the blood-royal; but she had subsequently excited her majesty's suspicions by her imprudent consultations of fortune-tellers and diviners, on the delicate subject, doubtless, of succession to the crown.
The animosity between Elizabeth and her savage adversary the king of Spain was continually becoming more fierce and more inveterate. Undeterred by former failures, Philip was thought to meditate a fresh invasion either of England or of Ireland, which latter country was besides in so turbulent a state from the insurrections of native chieftains, that it had been found necessary to send over sir John Norris as general of Ulster, with a strong reinforcement of veterans from the Low Countries. The queen, on her part, was well prepared to resist and retaliate all attacks. The spirit of the nation was thoroughly roused; gallant troops and able officers formed in the Flemish school of glory, or under the banners of the Bourbon hero, burned with impatience for the signal to revenge the wrongs of their queen and country on their capital and most detested enemy. Still the conflict threatened to be an arduous one: Elizabeth felt all its difficulties; and loth to lose the support of one of her bravest and most popular captains, she addressed the following letter of recall to lord Willoughby, who had repaired to Spa ostensibly for the recovery of his health; really, perhaps, in resentment of some injury inflicted by a venal and treacherous court, of which his noble nature scorned alike the intrigues and the servility.
* * * * *
"We are not a little glad that by your journey you have received such good fruit of amendment, especially when we consider how great a vexation it is to a mind devoted to actions of honor, to be restrained by any indisposition of body from following those courses which, to your own reputation and our great satisfaction, you have formerly performed. And therefore we must now (out of our desire of your well-doing) chiefly enjoin you to an especial care to encrease and continue your health, which must give life to all your best endeavours; so we next as seriously recommend to you this consideration, that in these times, when there is such an appearance that we shall have the trial of our best and noble subjects, you seem not to affect the satisfaction of your own private contentation, beyond the attending on that which nature and duty challengeth from all persons of your quality and profession. For if unnecessarily, your health of body being recovered, you should elloign yourself by residence there from those employments whereof we shall have too good store, you shall not so much amend the state of your body, as haply you shall call in question the reputation of your mind and judgement, even in the opinion of those that love you, and are best acquainted with your disposition and discretion.
"Interpret this our plainness, we pray you, to an extraordinary estimation of you, for it is not common with us to deal so freely with many; and believe that you shall ever find us both ready and willing, on all occasions, to yield you the fruits of that interest which your endeavours have purchased for you in our opinion and estimation. Not doubting but when you have with moderation made trial of the successes of these your sundry peregrinations, you will find as great comfort to spend your days at home as heretofore you have done; of which we do wish you full measure, howsoever you shall have cause of abode or return. Given under our signet at our manor of Nonesuch, the 7th of October 1594, in the 37th year of our reign.
"Your most loving sovereign
* * * * *
We do not perceive the effects of this letter in the employment of lord Willoughby in any of the expeditions against Spain which ensued; but he was afterwards appointed governor of Berwick, and held that situation till his death in 1601.
Sir Walter Raleigh, that splendid genius with a sordid soul, whom a romantic spirit of adventure and a devouring thirst of gain equally stimulated to activity, had unexpectedly found his advancement at court impeded, after the first steps, usually accounted the most difficult, had been speedily and fortunately surmounted. Several conspiring causes might however be assigned for this check in his career of fortune. His high pretensions to the favor of the queen, joined to his open adherence to the party of sir Robert Cecil, had provoked the hostility of Essex; who, in defiance of him, at one of the ostentatious tournaments of the day, is said to have "filled the tilt-yard with two thousand orange-tawny feathers," the distinction doubtless of his followers and retainers. He had incurred the resentment of more than one of the order of bishops, by his ceaseless and shameless solicitations of grants and leases out of the property of the Church. In Ireland, he had rendered sir William Russell the lord deputy his enemy by various demonstrations of opposition and rivalry; at court, his abilities and his first rapid successes with her majesty had stirred up against him the envy of a whole host of competitors. Elizabeth, who for the best reasons had an extreme dislike to any manifestations of a mercenary disposition in her servants, had been disgusted by the frequency and earnestness of his petitions for pecuniary favors. "When, sir Walter," she had once exclaimed, "will you cease to be a beggar?" He replied, "When your gracious majesty ceases to be a benefactor." So dexterous an answer appeased her for a time; and the profusion of eloquent adulation with which he never failed to soothe her ear, engaged her self-love strongly in his behalf. But to complete the ill-fortune of Raleigh, father Parsons, provoked by the earnestness with which he had urged in parliament the granting of supplies for a war offensive and defensive against Spain, had published a pamphlet charging him with atheism and impiety, which had not only found welcome reception with his enemies, but with the people, to whom he was ever obnoxious, and had even raised a prejudice against him in the mind of his sovereign. On this subject, a writer contemporary with the later years of Raleigh thus expresses himself:
"Sir Walter Raleigh was the first, as I have heard, that ventured to tack about and sail aloof from the beaten track of the schools; who, upon the discovery of so apparent an error as a torrid zone, intended to proceed in an inquisition after more solid truths; till the mediation of some whose livelihood lay in hammering shrines for this superannuated study, possessed queen Elizabeth that such doctrine was against God no less than her father's honor; whose faith, if he owed any, was grounded upon school divinity. Whereupon she chid him, who was, by his own confession, ever after branded with the name of an atheist, though a known assertor of God and providence."
[Note 115: Osborne's "Introduction" to his Essays.]
The business of Mrs. Throgmorton, and the disputes arising out of the sale of the captured carrack, succeeded, to inflame still more the ill-humour of the queen; and Raleigh, finding every thing adverse to him at court, resolved to quit the scene for a time, in the hope of returning with better omens, when absence and dangers should again have endeared him to his offended mistress, and when the splendor of his foreign successes might enable him to impose silence on the clamors of malignity at home.
The interior of the pathless wilds of Guiana had been reported to abound in those exhaustless mines of the precious metals which filled the imaginations of the earliest explorers of the New World, and, to their ignorant cupidity, appeared the only important object of research and acquisition in regions where the eye of political wisdom would have discerned so many superior inducements to colonization or to conquest. The fabulous city of El Dorado,—which became for some time proverbial in our language to express the utmost profusion and magnificence of wealth,—was placed by the romantic narrations of voyagers somewhere in the centre of this vast country, and nothing could be more flattering to the mania of the age than the project of exploring its hidden treasures. Raleigh conceived this idea; the court and the city vied in eagerness to share the profits of the enterprise; a squadron was speedily fitted out, though at great expense; and in February 1595 the ardent leader weighed anchor from the English shore. Proceeding first to Trinidad, he possessed himself of the town of St. Joseph; then, with the numerous pinnaces of his fleet, he entered the mouth of the great river Oronoco, and sailing upwards penetrated far into the bosom of the country. But the intense heat of the climate, and the difficulties of this unknown navigation, compelled him to return without any more valuable result of his enterprise than that of taking formal possession of the land in her majesty's name. Raleigh however, unwilling to acknowledge a failure, published on his return an account of Guiana, filled with the most disgraceful and extravagant falsehoods;—falsehoods to which he himself became eventually the victim, when, on the sole credit of his assurances, king James released him from a tedious imprisonment to head a second band of adventurers to this disastrous shore.
A still more unfortunate result awaited an expedition of greater consequence, which sailed during the same year, under Hawkins and Drake, against the settlements of Spanish America. Repeated attacks had at length taught the Spaniards to stand on their defence; and the English were first repulsed from Porto Rico, and afterwards obliged to relinquish the attempt of marching across the isthmus of Darien to Panama. But the great and irreparable misfortune of the enterprise was the loss, first of the gallant sir John Hawkins, the kinsman and early patron of Drake, and afterwards of that great navigator himself, who fell a victim to the torrid climate, and to fatigue and mortification which conspired to render it fatal. A person of such eminence, and whose great actions reflect back so bright a lustre on the reign which had furnished to him the most glorious occasions of distinguishing himself in the service of his country, must not be dismissed from the scene in silence.
The character of Francis Drake was remarkable not alone for those constitutional qualities of valor, industry, capacity and enterprise, which the history of his exploits would necessarily lead us to infer, but for virtues founded on principle and reflection which render it in a high degree the object of respect and moral approbation. It is true that his aggressions on the Spanish settlements were originally founded on a vague notion of reprisals, equally irreconcilable to public law and private equity. But with the exception of this error,—which may find considerable palliation in the deficient education of the man, the prevalent opinions of the day, and the peculiar animosity against Philip II. cherished in the bosom of every protestant Englishman,—the conduct of Drake appears to demand almost unqualified commendation. It was by sobriety, by diligence in the concerns of his employers, and by a tried integrity, that he early raised himself from the humble station of an ordinary seaman to the command of a vessel. When placed in authority over others, he showed himself humane and considerate; his treatment of his prisoners was exemplary, his veracity unimpeached, his private life religiously pure and spotless. In the division of the rich booty which often rewarded his valor and his toils, he was liberal towards his crews and scrupulously just to the owners of his vessels; and in the appropriation of his own share of wealth, he displayed that munificence towards the public, of which, since the days of Roman glory, history has recorded so few examples.
With the profits of one of his earliest voyages, in which he captured the town of Venta Cruz and made prize of a string of fifty mules laden with silver, he fitted out three stout frigates and sailed with them to Ireland, where he served as a volunteer under Walter earl of Essex, and performed many brilliant actions. After the capture of a rich Spanish carrack at the Terceras in 1587, he undertook at his own expense to bring to the town of Plymouth, which he represented in parliament, a supply of spring water, of which necessary article it suffered a great deficiency; this he accomplished by means of a canal or aqueduct above twenty miles in length.
Drake incurred some blame in the expedition to Portugal for failing to bring his ships up the river to Lisbon, according to his promise to sir John Norris, the general; but on explaining the case before the privy-council on his return, he was entirely acquitted by them; having made it appear that, under all the circumstances, to have carried the fleet up the Tagus would have been to expose it to damage without the possibility of any benefit to the service. By his enemies, this great man was stigmatized as vain and boastful; a slight infirmity in one who had achieved so much by his own unassisted genius, and which the great flow of natural eloquence which he possessed may at once have produced and rendered excusable. One trait appears to indicate that he was ambitious of a species of distinction which he might have regarded himself as entitled to despise. He had thought proper to assume, apparently without due authority, the armorial coat of sir Bernard Drake, also a seaman and a native of Devonshire: sir Bernard, from a false pride of family, highly resented this unwarrantable intrusion, as he regarded it, and in a dispute on the subject gave sir Francis a box on the ear. The queen now deemed it necessary to interfere, and she granted to the illustrious navigator the following arms of her own device. Sable, a fess wavy between two pole stars argent, and for crest, a ship on a globe under ruff, with a cable held by a hand coming out of the clouds; the motto Auxilio divino, and beneath, Sic parvis magna; in the rigging of the ship a wivern gules, the arms of sir Bernard Drake, hung up by the heels.
Sir John Baskerville, who succeeded by the death of Drake to the command of the unfortunate expedition to which he had fallen a sacrifice, encountered the Spanish fleet off Cuba in an action, which, though less decisive on the English side than might have been hoped, left at least no ground of triumph to the enemy. Meantime the court was by no means barren of incident; and we are fortunate in possessing a minute and authentic journal of its transactions in a series of letters addressed to sir Robert Sidney governor of Flushing by several of his friends, but chiefly by Rowland Whyte, a gentleman to whom, during his absence, he had recommended the care of his interests, and the task of transmitting to him whatever intelligence might appear either useful or entertaining.
[Note 116: See Sidney Papers, passim.]
In October 1595 Mr. Whyte mentions the following abominable instance of tyranny. That the earl of Hertford had been sent for by a messenger and committed to custody in his own house, because it had appeared by a case found among the papers of a Dr. Aubrey, that he had formerly taken the opinions of civilians on the validity of his first marriage, and caused a record of it to be secretly put into the court of Arches. Whyte adds significantly, that the earl was accounted one of the wealthiest subjects in England. Soon after, his lordship was committed to the Tower; and it was said that orders were given that his son, who since the establishment of the marriage had borne the title of lord Beauchamp, should henceforth be again called Mr. Seymour. Several lawyers and other persons were also imprisoned for a short time about this matter, under what law, or pretext of law, it would be vain to inquire. Lady Hertford, though a sister of the lord admiral and nearly related to the queen, was for some time an unsuccessful suitor at court for the liberty of her lord. Her majesty however was graciously pleased to declare that "neither his life nor living should be called in question;"—as if both had been at her mercy! and though she would not consent to see the countess, she regularly sent her broths in a morning, and, at meals, meat from her own trencher;—affecting, it should seem, in these trifles, to acquit herself of the promises of her special favor, with which she had a few years before repaid the splendid hospitality of this noble pair. We do not learn how long the durance of the earl continued; but it is highly probable that he was once more compelled to purchase his liberty.
Great uneasiness was given about this time to the earl of Essex by a book written in defence of the king of Spain's title to the English crown, which contained "dangerous praises of his valor and worthiness," inserted for the express purpose of exciting the jealousy of the queen and bringing him into disgrace. The work was shown him by Elizabeth herself. On coming from her presence he was observed to look "pale and wan," and going home he reported himself sick;—an expedient for working on the feelings of his sovereign, to which, notwithstanding the truth and honor popularly regarded as his characteristics, Essex is known to have frequently condescended. On this, as on most occasions, he found it successful: her majesty soon made him a consolatory visit; and in spite of the strenuous efforts of his enemies, this attempt to injure him only served to augment her affection and root him more firmly in her confidence.
"Her majesty," says Whyte soon after, "is in very good health, and comes much abroad; upon Thursday she dined at Kew, at my lord keeper's house, (who lately obtained of her majesty his suit for one hundred pounds a year in fee-farm,) her entertainment for that meal was great and exceeding costly. At her first lighting she had a fine fan garnished with diamonds, valued at four hundred pounds at least. After dinner, in her privy-chamber, he gave her a fair pair of virginals. In her bed-chamber, he presented her with a fine gown and a juppin, which things were pleasing to her highness; and, to grace his lordship the more, she of herself took from him a fork, a spoon, and a salt, of fair agate." It must be confessed that this was a mode of "gracing" a courtier peculiarly consonant to the disposition of her majesty.
The further Elizabeth descended into the vale of years, the stronger were her efforts to make ostentation of a youthful gaiety of spirits and an unfailing alacrity in the pursuit of pleasure; though avarice, the vice of age, mingled strangely with these her juvenile affectations. To remark to her the progress of time, was to wound her in the tenderest part, and not even from her ghostly counsellors would she endure a topic so offensive as the mention of her age: an anecdote to this effect belongs to the year 1596, and is found in the account of Rudd bishop of St. Davids given in Harrington's Brief View of the Church.
"There is almost none that waited in queen Elizabeth's court and observed any thing, but can tell that it pleased her very much to seem, to be thought, and to be told that she looked young. The majesty and gravity of a sceptre borne forty-four years could not alter that nature of a woman in her: This notwithstanding, this good bishop being appointed to preach before her in the Lent of the year 1596... wishing in a godly zeal, as well became him, that she should think sometime of mortality," took a text fit for the purpose, on which he treated for a time "well," "learnedly," and "respectively." "But when he had spoken awhile of some sacred and mystical numbers, as three for the Trinity, three for the heavenly Hierarchy, seven for the Sabbath, and seven times seven for a Jubilee; and lastly,—seven times nine for the grand climacterical year; she, perceiving whereto it tended, began to be troubled with it. The bishop discovering that all was not well, for the pulpit stands there vis a vis to the closet, he fell to treat of some more plausible numbers, as of the number 666, making Latinus, with which he said he could prove the pope to be Antichrist; also of the fatal number of 88,—so long before spoken of for a dangerous year,... but withal interlarding it with some passages of Scripture that touch the infirmities of age... he concluded his sermon. The queen, as the manner was, opened the window; but she was so far from giving him thanks or good countenance, that she said plainly he should have kept his arithmetic for himself. 'But I see,' said she, 'the greatest clerks are not the wisest men;' and so went away for the time discontented.
"The lord keeper Puckering, though reverencing the man much in his particular, yet for the present, to assuage the queen's displeasure, commanded him to keep his house for a time, which he did. But of a truth her majesty showed no ill nature in this, for within three days she was not only displeased at his restraint, but in my hearing rebuked a lady yet living for speaking scornfully of him and his sermon. Only to show how the good bishop was deceived in supposing she was so decayed in her limbs and senses as himself perhaps and other of that age were wont to be; she said she thanked God that neither her stomach nor strength, nor her voice for singing, nor fingering instruments, nor, lastly, her sight, was any whit decayed; and to prove the last before us all, she produced a little jewel that had an inscription of very small letters, and offered it first to my lord of Worcester, and then to sir James Crofts to read, and both protested bona fide that they could not; yet the queen herself did find out the poesy, and made herself merry with the standers by upon it."
A point of some importance to the peers of England was about this time brought to a final decision by the following circumstance. Sir Thomas, son and heir of sir Matthew Arundel of Wardour-castle, a young man of a courageous and enterprising disposition, going over to Germany, had been induced to engage as a volunteer in the wars of the emperor against the Turks; and in the assault of the city of Gran in Hungary had taken with his own hand a Turkish banner. For this and other good service, Rodolph the Second had been pleased to confer upon him the honor of count of the holy Roman empire, extending also, as usual, the title of counts and countesses to all his descendants for ever. On his return to England in the year following, the question arose whether this dignity, conferred by a foreign prince without the previous consent of his own sovereign, should entitle the bearer to rank, precedence, or any other privilege in this country.
The peers naturally opposed a concession which tended to lessen the value of their privileges by rendering them accessible through foreign channels; and her majesty, being called upon to settle the debate, pronounced the following judgement. That the closest tie of affection subsisted between sovereigns and their subjects: that as chaste wives should fix their eyes upon their husbands alone, in like manner faithful subjects should only direct theirs towards the prince whom it had pleased God to set over them. And that she would not allow her sheep to be branded with the mark of a stranger, or be taught to follow the whistle of a foreign shepherd. And to this effect she wrote to the emperor, who by a special letter had recommended sir Thomas Arundel to her favor. The decision appears to have been reasonable and politic, and would at the time be regarded as peculiarly so in the instance of honors conferred on a catholic gentleman by a catholic prince. King James, however, created sir Thomas, lord Arundel of Wardour; and he seems to have borne in common speech, the title of count.
[Note 117: Camden's Annals. Peerage, by Sir E. Brydges.]
1595 to 1598.
Essex and Cecil factious—Expedition to Cadiz.—Robert Cecil appointed secretary.—Notice of sir T. Bodley.—Critical situation of Essex.—Francis Bacon addresses to him a letter of advice—composes speeches for him.—Notice of Toby Matthew.—Outrages in London repressed by martial law.—Death of lord Hunsdon—of the earl of Huntingdon—of bishop Fletcher.—Anecdote of bishop Vaughan.—Book on the queen's touching for the evil.
From this period nearly of the reign of Elizabeth, her court exhibited a scene of perpetual contest between the faction of the earl of Essex and that of lord Burleigh, or rather of Robert Cecil; and so widely did the effects of this intestine division extend, that there was perhaps scarcely a single court-attendant or public functionary whose interests did not become in some mode or other involved in the debate. Yet the quarrel itself may justly be regarded as base and contemptible; no public principle was here at stake; whether religious, as in the struggles between papists and protestants which often rent the cabinet of Henry VIII.; or civil, as in those of whigs and tories by which the administrations of later times have been divided and overthrown. It was simply and without disguise a strife between individuals, for the exclusive possession of that political power and court influence of which each might without disturbance have enjoyed a share capable of contenting an ordinary ambition.
In religion there was apparently no shade of difference between the hostile leaders; neither of them had studied with so little diligence the inclinations of the queen as to persist at this time in the patronage of the puritans, though the early impressions, certainly of Essex and probably of sir Robert Cecil also, must have been considerably in favor of this persecuted sect. Still less would either venture to stand forth the advocate of the catholics; though it was among the most daring and desperate of this body that Essex was compelled at length to seek adherents, when the total ruin of his interest with his sovereign fatally compelled him to exchange the character of head of a court party for that of a conspirator and a rebel. Of the title of the king of Scots both were steady supporters; and first Essex and afterwards Cecil maintained a secret correspondence with James, who flattered each in his turn with assurances of present friendship and future favor.
On one public question alone of any considerable magnitude do the rivals appear to have been at issue;—that of the prosecution of an offensive war against Spain.
The age and the wisdom of lord Burleigh alike inclined him to a pacific policy; and though Robert Cecil, for the purpose of strengthening himself and weakening his opponent, would frequently act the patron towards particular officers,—those especially of whom he observed the earl to entertain a jealousy,—it is certain that warlike ardor made no part of his natural composition. Essex on the contrary was all on fire for military glory; and at this time he was urging the queen with unceasing importunities to make a fresh attack upon her capital enemy in the heart of his European dominions. In this favorite object, after encountering considerable opposition from her habits of procrastination and from some remaining fears and scruples, he succeeded; and the zeal of the people hastening to give full effect to the designs of her majesty, a formidable armament was fitted out in all diligence, which in June 1596 set sail for Cadiz.
Lord Howard of Effingham, as lord admiral, commanded the fleet; Essex himself received with transport the appointment of general of all the land-forces, and spared neither pains nor cost in his preparations for the enterprise. Besides his constant eagerness for action, his spirit was on this occasion inflamed by an indignation against the tyrant Philip, "which rose," according to the happy expression of one of his biographers, "to the dignity of a personal aversion." In his letters he was wont to employ the expression, "I will make that proud king know" &c.: a phrase, it seems, which gave high offence to Elizabeth, who could not tolerate what she regarded as arrogance against a crowned head, though her bitterest foe.
[Note 118: See A Catalogue of Royal and Noble Authors, by lord Orford.]
Subordinate commands were given to lord Thomas Howard, second son of the late duke of Norfolk, who was at this time inclined to the party of Essex; to Raleigh, who now affected an extraordinary deference for the earl, his secret enemy and rival; to that very able officer sir Francis Vere of the family of the earls of Oxford, who had highly distinguished himself during several years in the wars of the Low Countries; to sir George Carew, an intimate friend of sir Robert Cecil; and to some others, who formed together a council of war.
The queen herself composed on this occasion a prayer for the use of the fleet, and she sent to her land and her sea commander jointly "a letter of license to depart; besides comfortable encouragement." "But ours in particular," adds a follower of Essex, "had one fraught with all kind of promises and loving offers, as the like, since he was a favorite, he never had."
Enterprise was certainly not the characteristic of the lord admiral as a commander; and when on the arrival of the armament off Cadiz, it was proposed that an attack should be made by the fleet on the ships in the harbour, he remonstrated against the rashness of such an attempt, and prevailed on several members of the council of war to concur in his objections. In the end, however, the arguments or importunities of the more daring party prevailed; and Essex threw his hat into the sea in a wild transport of joy on learning that the admiral consented to make the attack. He was now acquainted by the admiral with the queen's secret order, dictated by her tender care for the safety of her young favorite,—that he should by no means be allowed to lead the assault;—and he promised an exact obedience to the mortifying prohibition. But, once in presence of the enemy, his impetuosity would brook no control. He broke from the station of inglorious security which had been assigned him, and rushed into the heat of the action.
The Spanish fleet was speedily driven up the harbour, under the guns of the fort of Puntal, where the admiral's ship and another first-rate were set on fire by their own crews, and the rest run aground. Of these, two fine ships fell into the hands of the English; and the lord admiral having refused to accept of any ransom for the remainder, saying that he came to consume and not to compound, they were all, to the number of fifty, burned by the Spanish admiral.
Meantime, Essex landed his men and marched them to the assault of Cadiz. The town was on this side well fortified, and the defenders, having also the advantage of the ground, received the invaders so warmly that they were on the point of being repulsed from the gate against which they had directed their attack: but Essex, just at the critical moment, rushed forward, seized his own colors and threw them over the wall; "giving withal a most hot assault unto the gate, where, to save the honor of their ensign, happy was he that could first leap down from the wall and with shot and sword make way through the thickest press of the enemy."
The town being thus stormed, was of course given up to plunder; but Essex, whose humanity was not less conspicuous than his courage, put an immediate stop to the carnage by a vigorous exertion of his authority; protected in person the women, children, and religious, whom he caused to retire to a place of safety; caused the prisoners to be treated with the utmost tenderness; and allowed all the citizens to withdraw, on payment of a ransom, before the place with its fortifications was committed to the flames. It was indeed the wish and intention of Essex to have kept possession of Cadiz; which he confidently engaged to the council of war to hold out against the Spaniards, with a force of no more than three or four thousand men, till succours could be sent from England; and with this view he had in the first instance sedulously preserved the buildings from all injury. But among his brother officers few were found prepared to second his zeal: the expedition was in great measure an adventure undertaken at the expense of private persons, who engaged in it with the hope of gain rather than glory; and as these men probably attributed the success which had hitherto crowned their arms in great measure to the surprise of the Spaniards, they were unwilling to risk in a more deliberate contest the rich rewards of valor of which they had possessed themselves.
The subsequent proposals of Essex for the annoyance of the enemy, either by an attack on Corunna, or on St. Sebastian and St. Andero, or by sailing to the Azores in quest of the homeward-bound carracks, all experienced the same mortifying negative from the members of the council of war, of whom lord Thomas Howard alone supported his opinions. But undeterred by this systematic opposition, he persevered in urging, that more might and more ought to be performed by so considerable an armament; and the lord admiral, weary of contesting the matter, sailed away at length and left him on the Spanish coast with the few ships and the handful of men which still adhered to him. Want of provisions compelled him in a short time to abandon an enterprise now desperate; and he returned full of indignation to England, where fresh struggles and new mortifications awaited him. The appointment during his absence of Robert Cecil to the office of secretary of state, instead of Thomas Bodley, afterwards the founder of the library which preserves his name,—for whom, since he had found the restoration of Davison hopeless, Essex had been straining every nerve to procure it,—gave him ample warning of all the counteraction on other points which he was doomed to experience; and was in fact the circumstance which finally established the ascendency of his adversaries: yet to an impartial eye many considerations may appear to have entirely justified on the part of the queen this preference. Where, it might be asked, could a fitter successor be found to lord Burleigh in the post which he had so long filled to the satisfaction of his sovereign and the benefit of his country, than in the son who certainly inherited all his ability;—though not, as was afterwards seen, his principles or his virtues;—and who had been trained to business as the assistant of his father and under his immediate inspection? Why should the earl of Essex interfere with an order of things so natural? On what pretext should the queen be induced to disappoint the hopes of her old and faithful servant, and to cast a stigma upon a young man of the most promising talents, who was unwearied in his efforts to establish himself in her favor?
By the queen and the people, Essex, their common favorite, was welcomed, on his safe return from an expedition to himself so glorious, with every demonstration of joy and affection, and no one appeared to sympathize more cordially than her majesty in his indignation that nothing had been attempted against the Spanish treasure-ships. On the other hand, no pains were spared by his adversaries to lessen in public estimation the glory of his exploits, by ascribing to the naval commanders a principal share in the success at Cadiz, which he accounted all his own. An anonymous narrative of the expedition which he had prepared, was suppressed by means of a general prohibition to the printers of publishing any thing whatsoever relating to that business; and no other resource was left him than the imperfect one of dispersing copies in manuscript. It was suggested to the queen by some about her, that though the treasure-ships had escaped her, she might at least reimburse herself for the expenses incurred out of the rich spoils taken at Cadiz; and no sooner had this project gained possession of her mind than she began to quarrel with Essex for his lavish distribution of prize-money. She insisted that the commanders should resign to her a large share of their gains; and she had even the meanness to cause the private soldiers and sailors to be searched before they quitted the ships, that the value of the money or other booty of which they had possessed themselves might be deducted from their pay. Her first feelings of displeasure and disappointment over, the rank and reputation of the officers concerned, and especially the brilliancy of the actual success, were allowed to cover all faults. The influence of her kinsman the lord admiral over the mind of the queen was one which daily increased in strength with her advance in age,—according to a common remark respecting family attachments; and it will appear that he finally triumphed so completely over the accusations of his youthful adversary, as to ground on this very expedition his claim of advancement to a higher title.
It was the darling hope of Essex that he might be authorized to lead without delay his flourishing and victorious army to the recovery of Calais, now held by a Spanish garrison; and he took some secret steps with the French ambassador in order to procure a request to this effect from Henry IV. to Elizabeth. But this king absolutely refused to allow the town to be recaptured by his ally, on the required condition of her retaining it at the peace as an ancient possession of the English crown; the Cecil party also opposed the design; and the disappointed general saw himself compelled to pause in the career of glory.
It was not in the disposition of Essex to support these mortifications with the calmness which policy appeared to dictate; and Francis Bacon, alarmed at the courses which he saw the earl pursuing, and already foreboding his eventual loss of the queen's favor, and the ruin of those, himself included, who had placed their dependence on him, addressed to him a very remarkable letter of caution and remonstrance, not less characteristic of his own peculiar mind than illustrative of the critical situation of him to whom it was written.
After appealing to the earl himself for the advantage which he had lately received by following his own well-meant advice, in renewing with the queen "a treaty of obsequious kindness," which "did much attemper a cold malignant humor then growing upon her majesty towards him," he repeats his counsel that he should "win the queen;" adding, "if this be not the beginning of any other course, I see no end. And I will not now speak of favor or affection, but of other correspondence and agreeableness, which, when it shall be conjoined with the other of affection, I durst wager my life... that in you she will come to question of Quid fiet homini quem rex vult honorare? But how is it now? A man of a nature not to be ruled; that hath the advantage of my affection and knoweth it; of an estate not grounded to his greatness; of a popular reputation; of a military dependence. I demand whether there can be a more dangerous image than this represented to any monarch living, much more to a lady, and of her majesty's apprehension? And is it not more evident than demonstration itself, that whilst this impression continueth in her majesty's breast, you can find no other condition than inventions to keep your estate bare and low; crossing and disgracing your actions; extenuating and blasting of your merit; carping with contempt at your nature and fashions; breeding, nourishing and fortifying such instruments as are most factious against you; repulses and scorns of your friends and dependents that are true and steadfast; winning and inveigling away from you such as are flexible and wavering; thrusting you into odious employments and offices to supplant your reputation; abusing you and feeding you with dalliances and demonstrations to divert you from descending into the serious consideration of your own case; yea and percase venturing you in perilous and desperate enterprises?"
With his usual exactness of method, he then proceeds to offer remedies for the five grounds of offence to her majesty here pointed out; amongst which the following are the most observable. That he ought to ascribe any former and irrevocable instance of an ungovernable humor in him to dissatisfaction, and not to his natural temper:—That though he sought to shun, and in some respects rightly, any imitation of Hatton or Leicester, he should yet allege them on occasion to the queen as authors and patterns, because there was no readier means to make her think him in the right course:—That when his lordship happened in speeches to do her majesty right, "for there is no such matter as flattery amongst you all," he had rather the air of paying fine compliments than of speaking what he really thought; "so that," adds he, "a man may read your formality in your countenance," whereas "it ought to be done familiarly and with an air of earnest."
That he should never be without some particulars on foot which he should seem to pursue with earnestness and affection, and then let them fall upon taking knowledge of her majesty's opposition and dislike. Of which kind the weightiest might be, if he offered to labor, in the behalf of some whom he favored, for some of the places then void, choosing such a subject as he thought her majesty likely to oppose.... A less weighty sort of particulars might be the pretence of some journeys, which at her majesty's request his lordship might relinquish; as if he should pretend a journey to see his estate towards Wales, or the like.... And the lightest sort of particulars, which yet were not to be neglected, were in his habits, apparel, wearings, gestures, and the like."
With respect to a "military dependence," which the writer regards as the most injurious impression respecting him of all, he declares that he could not enough wonder that his lordship should say the wars were his occupation, and go on in that course. He greatly rejoiced indeed, now it was over, in his expedition to Cadiz, on account of the large share of honor which he had acquired, and which would place him for many years beyond the reach of military competition. Besides that the disposal of places and other matters relating to the wars, would of themselves flow in to him as he increased in other greatness, and preserve to him that dependence entire. It was indeed a thing which, considering the times and the necessity of the service, he ought above all to retain; but while he kept it in substance, he should abolish it in shows to the queen, who loved peace, and did not love cost. And on this account he could not so well approve of his affecting the place of earl-marshal or master of the ordnance, on account of their affinity to a military greatness, and rather recommended to his seeking the peaceful, profitable and courtly office of lord privy seal. In the same manner, with respect to the reputation of popularity, which was a good thing in itself, and one of the best flowers of his greatness both present and future, the only way was to quench it verbis, non rebus; to take all occasions to declaim against popularity and popular courses to the queen, and to tax them in all others, yet for himself, to go on as before in all his honorable commonwealth courses. "And therefore," says he, "I will not advise to cure this by dealing in monopolies or any oppressions."
The last and most curious article of all, respects his quality of a favorite. As, separated from all the other matters it could not hurt, so, joined with them, he observes that it made her majesty more fearful and captious, as not knowing her own strength. For this, the only remedy was to give place to any other favorite to whom he should find her majesty incline, "so as the subject had no ill or dangerous aspect" towards himself. "For otherwise," adds this politic adviser, "whoever shall tell me that you may not have singular use of a favorite at your devotion, I will say he understandeth not the queen's affection, nor your lordship's condition."
These crafty counsels, which steadily pursued would have laid the army, the court, and the people, and in effect the queen herself, at the feet of a private nobleman, seem to have made considerable impression for the time on the mind of Essex; though the impetuosity of his temper, joined to a spirit of sincerity, honor and generosity, which not even the pursuits of ambition and the occupations of a courtier could entirely quench, soon caused him to break loose from their intolerable restraint.
Francis Bacon, in furtherance of the plan which he had suggested to his patron of appearing to sink all other characters in that of a devoted servant of her majesty, likewise condescended to employ his genius upon a device which was exhibited by the earl on the ensuing anniversary of her accession, with great applause.
First, his page, entering the tilt-yard, accosted her majesty in a fit speech, and she in return graciously pulled off her glove and gave it to him. Some time after appeared the earl himself, who was met by an ancient hermit, a secretary of state, and a soldier; each of whom presented him with a book recommending his own course of life, and, after a little pageantry and dumb show to relieve the solemnity of the main design, pronounced a long and well-penned speech to the same effect. All were answered by an esquire, or follower of the earl, who pointed out the evils attached to each pursuit, and concluded, says our reporter, "with an excellent but too plain English, that this knight would never forsake his mistress' love, whose virtue made all his thoughts divine, whose wisdom taught him all true policy, whose beauty and worth made him at all times fit to command armies. He showed all the defects and imperfections of their times, and therefore thought his own course of life to be best in serving his mistress.... The queen said that if she had thought there had been so much said of her, she would not have been there that night; and so went to bed." These speeches may still be read, with mingled admiration and regret, amongst the immortal works of Francis Bacon. In majesty of diction and splendor of allusion they are excelled by none of his more celebrated pieces; and with such a weight of meaning are they fraught, that they who were ignorant of the serious purpose which he had in view might wonder at the prodigality of the author in employing massy gold and real gems on an occasion which deserved nothing better than tinsel and false brilliants. That full justice might be done to the eloquence of the composition, the favorite part of the esquire was supported by Toby Matthew, whose father was afterwards archbishop of York; a man of a singular and wayward disposition, whose prospects in life were totally destroyed by his subsequent conversion to popery; but whose talents and learning were held in such esteem by Bacon, that he eagerly engaged his pen in the task of translating into Latin some of the most important of his own philosophical works. Such were the "wits, besides his own," of which the munificent patronage of Essex had given him "the command!"
A few miscellaneous occurrences of the years 1595 and 1596 remain to be noticed.
The size of London, notwithstanding many proclamations and acts of parliament prohibiting the erection of any new buildings except on the site of old ones, had greatly increased during the reign of Elizabeth; and one of the first effects of its rapid growth was to render its streets less orderly and peaceful. The small houses newly erected in the suburbs being crowded with poor, assembled from all quarters, thefts became frequent; and a bad harvest having plunged the lower classes into deeper distress, tumults and outrages ensued. In June 1595 great disorders were committed on Tower-hill; and the multitude having insulted the lord mayor who went out to quell them, Elizabeth took the violent and arbitrary step of causing martial law to be proclaimed in her capital. Sir Thomas Wilford, appointed provost-marshal for the occasion, paraded the streets daily with a body of armed men ready to hang all rioters in the most summary manner; and five of these offenders suffered for high treason on Tower-hill, without resistance on the part of the people, or remonstrance on that of the parliament, against so flagrant a violation of the dearest rights of Englishmen.
Lord Hunsdon, the nearest kinsman of the queen, whose character has been already touched upon, died in 1596. It is related that Elizabeth, on hearing of his illness, finally resolved to confer upon him the title of earl of Wiltshire, to which he had some claim as nephew and heir male to sir Thomas Boleyn, her majesty's grandfather, who had borne that dignity. She accordingly made him a gracious visit, and caused the patent and the robes of an earl to be brought and laid upon his bed; but the old man, preserving to the last the blunt honesty of his character, declared, that if her majesty had accounted him unworthy of that honor while living, he accounted himself unworthy of it now that he was dying; and with this refusal be expired. Lord Willoughby succeeded him in the office of governor of Berwick, and lord Cobham, a wealthy but insignificant person of the party opposed to Essex, in that of lord chamberlain.
Henry third earl of Huntingdon of the family of Hastings died about the same time. By his mother, eldest daughter and coheiress of Henry Pole lord Montacute, he was the representative of the Clarence branch of the family of Plantagenet; but no pretensions of his had ever awakened anxiety in the house of Tudor. He was a person of mild disposition, greatly attached to the puritan party, which, bound together by a secret compact, now formed a church within the church; he is said to have impaired his fortune by his bounty to the more zealous preachers; and be largely contributed by his will to the endowment of Emanuel college, the puritanical character of which was now well known.
Richard Fletcher bishop of London, "a comely and courtly prelate," who departed this life in the same year, affords a subject for a few remarks. It was a practice of the more powerful courtiers of that day, when the lands of a vacant see had excited, as they seldom failed to do, their cupidity, to "find out some men that had great minds and small means or merits, that would be glad to leave a small deanery to make a poor bishopric, by new leasing lands that were almost out of lease;" and on these terms, which more conscientious churchmen disdained, Fletcher had taken the bishopric of Oxford, and had in due time been rewarded for his compliance by translation first to Worcester and afterwards to London. His talents and deportment pleased the queen; and it is mentioned, as an indication of her special favor, that she once quarrelled with him for wearing too short a beard. But he afterwards gave her more serious displeasure by taking a wife, a gay and fair court lady of good quality; and he had scarcely pacified her majesty by the propitiatory offering of a great entertainment at his house in Chelsea, when he was carried off by a sudden death, ascribed by his contemporaries to his immoderate use of the new luxury of smoking tobacco. This prelate was the father of Fletcher the dramatic poet.
[Note 119: Harrington's Brief View.]
Bishop Vaughan succeeded him, of whom Harrington gives the following trait: "He was an enemy to all supposed miracles, insomuch as one arguing with him in the closet at Greenwich in defence of them, and alleging the queen's healing of the evil for an instance, asking him what he could say against it, he answered, that he was loth to answer arguments taken from the topic-place of the cloth of estate; but if they would urge him to answer, he said his opinion was, she did it by virtue of some precious stone in possession of the crown of England that had such a natural quality. But had queen Elizabeth been told that he ascribed more virtue to her jewels (though she loved them well) than to her person, she would never have made him bishop of Chester."
Of the justice of the last remark there can be little question. In this reign, the royal pretension referred to, was asserted with unusual earnestness, and for good reasons, as we learn from a different authority. In 1597 a quarto book appeared, written in Latin and dedicated to her majesty by one of her chaplains, which contained a relation of the cures thus performed by her; in which it is related, that a catholic having been so healed went away persuaded that the pope's excommunication of her majesty was of no effect: "For if she had not by right obtained the sceptre of the kingdom, and her throne established by the authority and appointment of God, what she attempted could not have succeeded. Because the rule is, that God is not any where witness to a lie." Such were the reasonings of that age.
[Note 120: Strype's Annals.]
It is probably to bishop Vaughan also that sir John Harrington refers in the following article of his Brief Notes.
"One Sunday (April last) my lord of London preached to the queen's majesty, and seemed to touch on the vanity of decking the body too finely. Her majesty told the ladies, that if the bishop held more discourse on such matters, she would fit him for heaven, but he should walk thither without a staff, and leave his mantle behind him. Perchance the bishop hath never sought her highness' wardrobe, or he would have chosen another text."
[Note 121: Nugae Antiquae.]
1597 AND 1598.
Fresh expedition against Spain proposed.—Extracts from Whyte's letters.—Raleigh reconciles Essex and R. Cecil.—Essex master of the ordnance.—Anecdote of the queen and Mrs. Bridges.—Preparations for the expedition.—Notice of lord Southampton.—Ill success of the voyage.—Quarrel of Essex and Raleigh.—Displeasure of the queen.—Lord admiral made earl of Nottingham.—Anger of Essex.—He is declared hereditary earl marshal.—Reply of the queen to a Polish ambassador.—to a proposition of the king of Denmark.—State of Ireland.—Treaty of Vervins.—Agreement between Cecil and Essex.—Anecdotes of Essex and the queen.—Their quarrel.—Letter of Essex to the lord keeper.—Dispute between Burleigh and Essex.—Agreement with the Dutch.—Death and character of Burleigh.—Transactions between the queen and the king of Scots, and an extract from their correspondence.—Anecdote of sir Roger Aston and the queen.—Anecdote of archbishop Hutton.—Death of Spenser.—Hall's satires.—Notice of sir John Harrington.—Extracts from his note-book.
A fresh expedition against the Spaniards was in agitation from the beginning of this year, which occasioned many movements at court, and, as usual, disturbed the mind of the queen with various perplexities. Her captious favor towards Essex, and the arts employed by him to gain his will on every contested point, are well illustrated in the letters of Rowland White, to which we must again recur.
On February twenty-second he writes: "My lord of Essex kept his bed the most part of all yesterday; yet did one of his chamber tell me, he could not weep for it, for he knew his lord was not sick. There is not a day passes that the queen sends not often to see him, and himself every day goeth privately to her." Two days after, he reports that "my lord of Essex comes out of his chamber in his gown and night-cap.... Full fourteen days his lordship kept in; her majesty, as I heard, resolved to break him of his will and to pull down his great heart, who found it a thing impossible, and says he holds it from the mother's side; but all is well again, and no doubt he will grow a mighty man in our state."
The earl of Cumberland made "some doubt of his going to sea," because lord Thomas Howard and Raleigh were to be joined with him in equal authority; the queen mentioned the subject to him, and on his repeating to herself his refusal, he was "well chidden."
In March, Raleigh was busied in mediating a reconciliation between Essex and Robert Cecil, in which he was so far successful that a kind of compromise took place; and henceforth court favors were shared without any open quarrels between their respective adherents. The motives urged by Raleigh for this agreement were, that it would benefit the country; that the queen's "continual unquietness" would turn to contentment, and that public business would go on to the hurt of the common enemy.
Essex however was malcontent at heart; he began to frequent certain meetings held in Blackfriars at the house of lady Russel, a busy puritan, who was one of the learned daughters of sir Anthony Cook. "Wearied," says White, "with not knowing how to please, he is not unwilling to listen to those motions made him for the public good." He was soon after so much offended with her majesty for giving the office of warden of the cinque ports to his enemy lord Cobham, after he had asked it for himself, that he was about to quit the court; but the queen sent for him, and, to pacify him, made him master of the ordnance.
It is mentioned about this time, that the queen had of late "used the fair Mrs. Bridges with words and blows of anger." This young lady was one of the maids of honor, and the same referred to in a subsequent letter, where it is said, "it is spied out by envy that the earl of Essex is again fallen in love with his fairest B." On which White observes, "It cannot choose but come to the queen's ears; and then is he undone, and all that depend upon his favor." A striking indication of the nature of the sentiment which the aged sovereign cherished for her youthful favorite!
In May our intelligencer writes thus: "Here hath been much ado between the queen and the lords about the preparation to sea; some of them urging the necessity of setting it forward for her safety; but she opposing it by no danger appearing towards her any where; and that she will not make wars but arm for defence; understanding how much of her treasure was already spent in victual, both for ships and soldiers at land. She was extremely angry with them that made such haste in it, and at Burleigh for suffering it, seeing no greater occasion. No reason nor persuasion by some of the lords could prevail, but that her majesty hath commanded order to be given to stay all proceeding, and sent my lord Thomas (Howard) word that he should not go to sea. How her majesty may be wrought to fulfil the most earnest desire of some to have it go forward, time must make it known."
But the reconciliation, whether sincere or otherwise, brought about by Raleigh between Essex and the Cecils, rendered at this time the war-party so strong, that the scruples of the queen were at length overruled, and a formidable armament was sent to sea, with the double object of destroying the Spanish ships in their harbours and intercepting their homeward-bound West India fleet. Essex was commander in chief by sea and land; lord Thomas Howard and Raleigh vice and rear admirals; lord Montjoy was lieutenant-general; sir Francis Vere, marshal. Several young noblemen attached to Essex joined the expedition as volunteers; as lord Rich his brother-in-law, the earl of Rutland, afterwards married to the daughter of the countess of Essex by sir Philip Sidney; lord Cromwel, and the earl of Southampton. The last, whose friendship for Essex afterwards hurried him into an enterprise still more perilous, appears to have been attracted to him by an extraordinary conformity of tastes and temper. Like Essex, he was brave and generous, but impetuous and somewhat inclined to arrogance:—like him, a munificent patron of the genius which he loved. Like his friend again, he received from her majesty tokens of peculiar favor, which she occasionally suspended on his giving indications of an ungovernable temper or too lofty spirit, and which she finally withdrew, on his presuming to marry without that consent which to certain persons she could never have been induced to accord. This earl of Southampton was grandson of that ambitious and assuming but able and diligent statesman, lord chancellor Wriothesley, appointed by Henry VIII. one of his executors; he was father of the virtuous Southampton lord treasurer, and by him, grandfather of the heroical and ever-memorable Rachel lady Russel.
A storm drove the ill-fated armament back to Plymouth, where it remained wind-bound for a month, and Essex and Raleigh posted together up to court for fresh instructions. Having concerted their measures, they made sail for the Azores, and Raleigh with his division arriving first, attacked and captured the isle of Fayal without waiting for his admiral. Essex was incensed; and there were not wanting those about him who applied themselves to fan the flame, and even urged him to bring sir Walter to a court-martial: but he refused; and his anger soon evaporating, lord Thomas Howard was enabled to accommodate the difference, and the rivals returned to the appearance of friendship. Essex was destitute of the naval skill requisite for the prosperous conduct of such an enterprise: owing partly to his mistakes, and partly to several thwarting circumstances, the West India fleet escaped him, and three rich Havannah ships, which served to defray most of the expenses, were the only trophies of his "Island Voyage," from which himself and the nation had anticipated results so glorious.
The queen received him with manifest dissatisfaction; his severity towards Raleigh was blamed, and it was evident that matters tended to involve him in fresh differences with Robert Cecil. During his absence, the lord admiral had been advanced to the dignity of earl of Nottingham, and he now discovered that by a clause in the patent this honor was declared to be conferred upon him in consideration of his good service at the taking of Cadiz, an action of which Essex claimed to himself the whole merit. To make the injury greater, this title, conjoined to the office of lord high admiral, gave the new earl precedency of all others of the same rank, Essex amongst the rest. To such complicated mortifications his proud spirit disdained to submit; and after challenging without effect to single combat the lord admiral himself or any of his sons who would take up the quarrel, the indignant favorite retired a sullen malcontent to Wanstead-house, feigning himself sick. This expedient acted on the heart of the queen with all its wonted force;—she showed the utmost concern for his situation, chid the Cecils for wronging him, and soon after made him compensation for the act which had wounded him, by admitting his claim to the hereditary office of earl marshal, with which he was solemnly invested in December 1597; and in right of it once more took place above the lord admiral.
It was during this summer that the arrogant deportment of a Polish ambassador, sent to complain of an invasion of neutral rights in the interruption given by the English navy to the trade of his master's subjects with Spain, gave occasion to a celebrated display of the spirit and the erudition of the queen of England. Speed, the ablest of our chroniclers, gives at length her extemporal Latin reply to his harangue; adding in his quaint but expressive phrase, that she "thus lion like rising, daunted the malapert orator no less with her stately port and majestical deporture, than with the tartness of her princely checks: and turning to the train of her attendants thus said, 'God's death, my lords,' (for that was her oath ever in anger,) 'I have been inforced this day to scour up my old Latin, that hath lain long in rusting.'" The same author mentions, that the king of Denmark having by his ambassador offered to mediate between England and Spain, the queen declined the overture, adding, "I would have the king of Denmark and all princes Christian and Heathen to know, that England hath no need to crave peace; nor myself indured one hour's fear since I attained the crown thereof, being guarded with so valiant and faithful subjects." Such was the lofty tone which Elizabeth, to the end of her days, maintained towards foreign powers; none of whom had she cause to dread or motive to court. Yet her cheerfulness and fortitude were at the same time on the point of sinking under the harassing disquietudes of a petty war supported against her by an Irish chief of rebels.
The head of the sept O'Neal, whom she had in vain endeavoured to attach permanently to her interests by conferring upon him the dignity of earl of Tyrone, had now for some years persevered in a resistance to her authority, which the most strenuous efforts of the civil and military governors of this turbulent and miserable island had proved inadequate to overcome. That brave officer sir John Norris, then general of Ulster, had found it necessary to grant terms to the rebel whom he would gladly have brought in bonds to the feet of his sovereign. But the treaty thus made, this perfidious barbarian, according to his custom, observed only till the English forces were withdrawn and he saw the occasion favorable to rise again in arms. Lord Borough, whom the queen had appointed deputy in 1598,—on which sir John Norris, appointed to act under him, died, as it is thought, of chagrin,—began his career with a vigorous attack, by which he carried, though not without considerable loss, the fort of Blackwater, the only place of strength possessed by the rebels; but before he was able to pursue further his success, death overtook him, and the government was committed for a time to the earl of Ormond. Tyrone, nothing daunted, laid siege in his turn to Blackwater; and sir Henry Bagnal, with the flower of the English army, being sent to relieve it, sustained the most signal defeat ever experienced by an English force in Ireland. The commander himself, several captains of distinction and fifteen hundred men, were left on the field; and the fort immediately surrendered to the rebel chief, who now vauntingly declared, that he would accept of no terms from the queen of England, being resolved to remain in arms till the king of Spain should send forces to his assistance.
Such was the alarming position of affairs in this island at the conclusion of the year 1598. At home, several incidents had intervened to claim attention.
The king of France had received from Spain proposals for a peace, which the exhausted state of his country would not permit him to neglect; and he had used his utmost endeavours to persuade his allies, the queen of England and the United Provinces, to enter into the negotiations for a general pacification. But Philip II. still refused to acknowledge the independence of his revolted subjects, the only basis on which the new republic would condescend to treat. Elizabeth, besides that she disdained to desert those whom she had so long and so zealously supported, was in no haste to terminate a war from which she and her subjects anticipated honor with little peril, and plunder which would more than repay its expenses; and both from England and Holland agents were sent to remonstrate with Henry against the breach of treaty which he was about to commit by the conclusion of a separate peace. Elizabeth wrote to admonish him that the true sin against the Holy Ghost was ingratitude, of which she had so much right to accuse him; that fidelity to engagements was the first of duties and of virtues; and that union, according to the ancient apologue of the bundle of rods, was the source of strength. But to all her eloquence and all her invectives Henry had to oppose the necessity of his affairs, and the treaty of Vervins was concluded; but not without some previous stipulations on the part of the French king which softened considerably the resentment of his ally. Of the commissioners named by Elizabeth to arrange this business with Henry, Robert Cecil was the chief; who held before his departure many private conferences with Essex, and would not move from court till he had bound him by favors and promises to do him no injury by promoting his enemies in his absence. The earl of Southampton having given some offence to her majesty for which she had ordered him to absent himself awhile from court, took the opportunity to obtain license to travel, and attended the secretary to France, perhaps in the character of a spy upon his motions on behalf of Essex, who seems to have prepared him for the service by much private instruction.
"I acquainted you," says Rowland Whyte to his correspondent, "with the care had to bring my lady of Leicester to the queen's presence. It was often granted, and she brought to the privy galleries, but the queen found some occasion not to come. Upon Shrove Monday the queen was persuaded to go to Mr. Comptroller's at the tilt end, and there was my lady of Leicester with a fair jewel of three hundred pounds. A great dinner was prepared by my lady Chandos; the queen's coach ready, and all the world expecting her majesty's coming; when, upon a sudden, she resolved not to go, and so sent word. My lord of Essex that had kept his chamber all the day before, in his nightgown went up to the queen the privy way; but all would not prevail, and as yet my lady Leicester hath not seen the queen. It had been better not moved, for my lord of Essex, by importuning the queen in these unpleasing matters, loses the opportunity he might take to do good unto his ancient friends." But on March 2d he adds; "My lady Leicester was at court, kissed the queen's hand and her breast, and did embrace her, and the queen kissed her. My lord of Essex is in exceeding favor here. Lady Leicester departed from court exceedingly contented, but being desirous again to come to kiss the queen's hand, it was denied, and, as I heard, some wonted unkind words given out against her."
This extraordinary height of royal favor was not merely the precursor, but, by the arrogant presumption with which it inspired him, a principal cause of Essex's decline, which was now fast approaching. Confident in the affections of Elizabeth, he suffered himself to forget that she was still his queen and still a Tudor; he often neglected the attentions which would have gratified her; on any occasional cause of ill humour he would drop slighting expressions respecting her age and person which, if they reached her ear, could never be forgiven; on one memorable instance he treated her with indignity openly and in her presence. A dispute had arisen between them in presence of the admiral, the secretary, and the clerk of the signet, respecting the choice of a commander for Ireland; the queen resolving to send sir William Knolles, the uncle of Essex, while he vehemently supported sir George Carew, because this person, who was haughty and boastful, had given him some offence; and he wanted to remove him out of his way. Unable either by argument or persuasion to prevail over the resolute will of her majesty, the favorite at last forgot himself so far as to turn his back upon her with a laugh of contempt; an outrage which she revenged after her own manner, by boxing his ears and bidding him "Go and be hanged." This retort so inflamed the blood of Essex that he clapped his hand on his sword, and while the lord admiral hastened to throw himself between them, he swore that not from Henry VIII. himself would he have endured such an indignity, and foaming with rage he rushed out of the palace. His sincere friend the lord keeper immediately addressed to him a prudential letter, urging him to lose no time in seeking with humble submissions the forgiveness of his offended mistress: but Essex replied to these well intended admonitions by a letter which, amid all the choler that it betrays, must still be applauded both for its eloquence and for a manliness of sentiment of which few other public characters of the age appear to have been capable. The lord keeper in his letter had strongly urged the religious duty of absolute submission on the part of a subject to every thing that his sovereign, justly or unjustly, should be pleased to lay upon him; to which the earl thus replies: "But, say you, I must yield and submit. I can neither yield myself to be guilty, or this imputation laid upon me to be just. I owe so much to the author of all truth, as I can never yield falsehood to be truth, or truth to be falsehood. Have I given cause, ask you, and take scandal when I have done? No; I gave no cause to take so much as Fimbria's complaint against me, for I did totum telum corpore recipere. I patiently bear all, and sensibly feel all, that I then received, when this scandal was given me. Nay more, when the vilest of all indignities are done unto me, doth religion enforce me to sue? or doth God require it? Is it impiety not to do it? What, cannot princes err? cannot subjects receive wrong? Is an earthly power or authority infinite? Pardon me, pardon me, my good lord, I can never subscribe to these principles. Let Solomon's fool laugh when he is stricken; let those that mean to make their profit of princes, show to have no sense of princes' injuries; let them acknowledge an infinite absoluteness on earth, that do not believe in an absolute infiniteness in heaven. As for me, I have received wrong, and feel it. My cause is good; I know it; and whatsoever come, all the powers on earth can never show more strength and constancy in oppressing, than I can show in suffering whatsoever can or shall be imposed upon me." &c.