Memoirs of the Court of Queen Elizabeth
by Lucy Aikin
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Several other friends of Essex, his mother, his sister and the earl of Northumberland her husband, urged him in like manner to return to his attendance at court and seek her majesty's forgiveness; while she, on her part, secretly uneasy at his absence, permitted certain persons to go to him, as from themselves, and suggest terms of accommodation. Sir George Carew was made lord president of Munster; and sir William Knolles, who perhaps had not desired the appointment, assured his nephew of his earnest wish to serve him. Finally, this great quarrel was made up, we scarcely know how, and Essex appeared as powerful at court as ever; though some have believed, and with apparent reason, that from this time the sentiments of the queen for her once cherished favorite, partook more of fear than of love; and that confidence was never re-established between them.

This celebrated dispute appears to have been in some manner mingled or connected with the important question of peace or war with Spain, which had previously been debated with extreme earnestness between Essex and Burleigh. The former, who still thirsted for military distinction, contended with the utmost vehemence of invective for the maintenance of perpetual hostility against the power of Philip; while the latter urged, that he was now sufficiently humbled to render an accommodation both safe and honorable. Wearied and disgusted at length with the violence of his young antagonist, the hoary minister, in whom

..."old experience did attain To something like prophetic strain,"

drew forth a Prayer-book, and with awful significance pointed to the text, "Men of blood shall not live out half their days." But the clamor for war prevailed over the pleadings of humanity and prudence, and it was left for the unworthy successor of Elizabeth to patch up in haste an inconsiderate and ignoble peace, in place of the solid and advantageous one which the wisdom of Elizabeth and her better counsellor might at this time with ease have concluded.

The lord treasurer enjoyed however the satisfaction of completing for his mistress an agreement with the states of Holland, which provided in a satisfactory manner for the repayment of the sums which she had advanced to them, and exonerated her from a considerable portion of the annual expense which she had hitherto incurred in their defence. This was the last act of lord Burleigh's life, which terminated by a long and gradual decay on August 4th 1598, in the 78th year of his age.

On the character of this great minister, identified as it is with that of the government of Elizabeth during a period of no less than forty years, a few additional remarks may here suffice.—Good sense was the leading feature of his intellect; moderation of his temper. His native quickness of apprehension was supported by a wonderful force and steadiness of application, and by an exemplary spirit of order. His morals were regular; his sense of religion habitual, profound, and operative. In his declining age, harassed by diseases and cares and saddened by the loss of a beloved wife, the worthy sharer of his inmost counsels, he became peevish and irascible; but his heart was good; in all the domestic relations he was indulgent and affectionate; in his friendships tender and faithful, nor could he be accused of pride, of treachery, or of vindictiveness. Rising as he did by the strength of his own merits, unaided by birth or connexions, he seems to have early formed the resolution, more prudent indeed than generous, of attaching himself to no political leader, so closely as to be entangled in his fall. Thus he deserted his earliest patron, protector Somerset, on a change of fortune, and is even said to have drawn the articles of impeachment against him.

He extricated himself with adroitness from the ruin of Northumberland, by whom he had been much employed and trusted; and at some expense of protestant consistency contrived to escape persecution, though not to hold office, under the rule of Mary. Towards the queen his mistress, his demeanor was obsequious to the brink of servility; he seems on no occasion to have hesitated on the execution of any of her commands; and the kind of tacit compromise by which he and Leicester, in spite of their mutual animosity, were enabled for so long a course of years to hold divided empire in the cabinet, could not have been maintained without a general acquiescence on the part of Burleigh in the various malversations and oppressions of that guilty minion.

Another accusation brought against him is that of taking money for ecclesiastical preferments. Of the truth of this charge, sufficient evidence might be brought from original documents; but an apologist would urge with justice that his royal mistress, who virtually delegated to him the most laborious duties of the office of head of the church, both expected and desired that emolument should thence accrue to him and to the persons under him. Thus we find it stated that bishop Fletcher had "bestowed in allowances and gratifications to divers attendants about her majesty, since his preferment to the see of London, the sum of thirty one hundred pounds or there abouts; which money was given by him, for the most part of it, by her majesty's direction and special appointment[122]."

[Note 122: Birch's Memoirs.]

The ministers of a sovereign who scrupled not to accept of bribes from parties engaged in law-suits for the exertion of her own interest with her judges, could scarcely be expected to exhibit much delicacy on this head. In fact, the venality of the court of Elizabeth was so gross, that no public character appears even to have professed a disdain of the influence of gifts and bribes; and we find lord Burleigh inserting the following among rules moral and prudential drawn up for the use of his son Robert when young: "Be sure to keep some great man thy friend. But trouble him not for trifles. Compliment him often. Present him with many yet small gifts, and of little charge. And if thou have cause to bestow any great gratuity, let it be some such thing as may be daily in his sight. Otherwise, in this ambitious age, thou shalt remain as a hop without a pole; live in obscurity, and be made a football for every insulting companion[123]."

[Note 123: In connexion with this subject the following letter appears worthy of notice.

Hutton Archbishop of York to the lord treasurer:

I am bold at this time to inform your lordship, what ill success I had in a suit for a pardon for Miles Dawson, seminary priest, whom I converted wholly the last summer from popery. Upon his coming to church, receiving the holy communion and taking the oath of supremacy, I and the council here, about Michaelmas last, joined in petition to her majesty for her gracious pardon, and commended the matter to one of the masters of requests, and writ also to Mr. Secretary to further it if need were, which he willingly promised to do. In Michaelmas term nothing was done. And therefore in Hilary term, I being put in mind that all was not done in that court for God's sake only, sent up twenty French crowns of mine own purse, as a small remembrance for a poor man's pardon, which was thankfully accepted of.

Some say that Mr. Topcliffe did hinder his pardon; who protesteth that he knoweth no cause to stay it. There is some fault somewhere, I know it is not in her majesty. Of whom I will say, as the prophet David speaketh of God, "Hath queen Elizabeth forgotten to be gracious? And is her mercy come to an end for evermore?" Absit. The whole world knoweth the contrary. Your lordship may do very well in mine opinion to move Mr. Secretary Cecil to deal often in these works of mercy. It will make him beloved of God and man.

(Dated York, May 1597.)]

In his office of lord treasurer, this minister is allowed to have behaved with perfect integrity and to have permitted no oppression on the subject; wisely and honorably maintaining that nothing could be for the advantage of a sovereign which in any way injured his reputation. His conduct in this high post, added to a general opinion of his prudence and virtue, caused his death to be sincerely deplored and his memory to be constantly held in higher esteem by the people than that of any former minister of any English prince.

Elizabeth was deeply sensible that to her the loss of such a servant, counsellor, and friend was indeed irreparable. Contrary to her custom, she wept much; and retired for a time from all company; and it is said that to the end of her life she could never hear or pronounce his name without tears. Although she was not sufficiently mistress of herself in those fits of rage to which she was occasionally liable, to refrain from treating him with a harshness and contempt which sometimes moved the old man even to weeping, her behaviour towards him satisfactorily evinced on the whole her deep sense of his fidelity and various merits as a minister, and her affection for him as a man. He was perhaps the only person of humble birth whom she condescended to honor with the garter: she constantly made him sit in her presence, on account of his being troubled with the gout, and would pleasantly tell him, "My lord, we make much of you, not for your bad legs but your good head[124]." In his occasional fits of melancholy and retirement, she would woo him back to her presence by kind and playful letters, and she absolutely refused to accept of the resignation which his bodily infirmities led him to tender two or three years before his death. She constantly visited him when confined by sickness:—on one of these occasions, being admonished by his attendant to stoop as she entered at his chamber-door, she replied, "For your master's sake I will, though not for the king of Spain." His lady was much in her majesty's favor and frequently in attendance on her; and it has been surmised that her husband found her an important auxiliary in maintaining his influence.

[Note 124: Fuller.]

Elizabeth had the weakness, frequent among princes and not unusual with private individuals, of hating her heir; a sentiment which gained ground upon her daily in proportion as the infirmities of age admonished her of her approach towards the destined limit of her long and splendid course. Notwithstanding the respectful observances by which James exerted himself to disguise his impatience for her death, particular incidents occurred from time to time to aggravate her suspicion and exasperate her animosity; and the present year was productive of some remarkable circumstances of this nature. The queen had long been displeased at the indulgence exercised by the king of Scots towards certain catholic noblemen by whom a treasonable correspondence had been carried on with Spain and a very dangerous conspiracy formed against his person and government. Such misplaced lenity, combined with certain negotiations which he carried on with the catholic princes of Europe, she regarded as evincing a purpose to secure to himself an interest with the popish party in England as well as Scotland, which she could not view without anxiety: And her worst apprehensions were now confirmed by the information which reached her from two different quarters, that James, in a very respectful letter to the pope, had given him assurance under his own hand of his resolution to treat his catholic subjects with indulgence, at the same time requesting that his holiness would give a cardinal's hat to Drummond bishop of Vaison. Almost at the same time, one Valentine Thomas, apprehended in London for a theft, accused the king of Scots of some evil designs against herself. Explanations however being demanded, James solemnly disavowed the letter to the pope, which he treated as a forgery and imposture; though circumstances which came out several years afterwards render the king's veracity in this point very questionable.

To the charge brought by Thomas, he returned a denial, probably better founded; and required that the accuser should be arraigned in presence of some commissioner whom he should send: but Elizabeth, less jealous of his dealings with the papal party now that she no longer dreaded a Spanish invasion, judged it more prudent to bury the whole matter in silence, and resumed, in the tone of friendship, the correspondence which she regularly maintained with her kinsman.

This correspondence, which still exists in MS. in the Salisbury collection, is rendered obscure and sometimes unintelligible by its reference to verbal messages which the bearers of the letters were commissioned to deliver: but several of those of Elizabeth afford a rich display of character. She sometimes assures James of the tenderness of her affection and her disinterested zeal for his welfare in that tone of hypocrisy which was too congenial to her disposition; at other times she breaks forth into vehement invective against the weakness and mutability of his counsels, and offers him excellent instructions in the art of reigning; but clouded by her usual uncouth and obscure phraseology and rendered offensive by their harsh and dictatorial style. When she regards herself as personally injured by any part of his conduct, her complaints are seasoned with an equal portion of menace and contempt; as in the following specimen.

* * * * *

Queen Elizabeth to the king of Scots:

"When the first blast of a strange, unused, and seld heard of sound had pierced my ears, I supposed that flying fame, who with swift quills oft paceth with the worst, had brought report of some untruth, but when too too many records in your open parliament were witnesses of such pronounced words, not more to my disgrace than to your dishonor, who did forget that (above all other regard) a prince's word ought utter nought of any, much less of a king, than such as to which truth might say Amen: But you, neglecting all care of yourself, what danger of reproach, besides somewhat else, might light upon you, have chosen so unseemly a theme to charge your only careful friend withal, of such matter as (were you not amazed in all senses) could not have been expected at your hands; of such imagined untruths as were never thought of in our time; and do wonder what evil spirits have possessed you, to set forth so infamous devices void of any show of truth. I am sorry that you have so wilfully fallen from your best stay, and will needs throw yourself into the hurlpool of bottomless discredit. Was the haste so great to hie to such opprobry as that you would pronounce a never thought of action afore you had but asked the question of her that best could tell it? I see well we two be of very different natures, for I vow to God I would not corrupt my tongue with an unknown report of the greatest foe I have; much less could I detract my best deserving friend with a spot so foul as scarcely may be ever outrazed. Could you root the desire of gifts of your subjects upon no better ground than this quagmire, which to pass you scarcely may without the slip of your own disgrace? Shall ambassage be sent to foreign princes laden with instructions of your rash-advised charge?... I never yet loved you so little as not to moan your infamous dealings, which you are in mind, we see, that myself shall possess more princes witness of my causeless injuries, which I should have wished had passed no seas to testify such memorials of your wrongs. Bethink you of such dealings, and set your labor upon such mends as best may, though not right, yet salve some piece of this overslip; and be assured that you deal with such a king as will bear no wrongs and endure infamy; the examples have been so lately seen as they can hardly be forgotten of a far mightier and potenter prince than any Europe hath. Look you not therefore that without large amends, I may or will slupper up such indignities. We have sent this bearer Bowes, whom you may safely credit, to signify such particularities as fits not a letters talk. And so I recommend you to a better mind and more advised conclusions." Dated January 4th 1597-1598[125].

[Note 125: M.S. in Dr. Haynes's extracts from the Salisbury collection.—I am unable to discover to what particular circumstance this angry letter refers.]

* * * * *

From another of these letters we learn that James had addressed a love-sonnet to the queen and complained of her having taken no notice of it; reminding her that Cupid was a God of a most impatient disposition.

An author has the following notice respecting sir Roger Aston, frequently the bearer of these curious epistles. "He was an Englishman born, but had his breeding wholly in Scotland, and had served the king many years as his barber; an honest and free-hearted man, and of an ancient family in Cheshire, but of no breeding answerable to his birth. Yet was he the only man ever employed as a messenger from the king to queen Elizabeth, as a letter-carrier only, which expressed their own intentions without any help from him, besides the delivery; but even in that capacity was in very good esteem with her majesty, and received very royal rewards, which did enrich him, and gave him a better revenue than most gentlemen in Scotland. For the queen did find him as faithful to her as to his master, in which he showed much wisdom, though of no breeding. In this his employment I must not pass over one pretty passage I have heard himself relate. That he did never come to deliver any letters from his master, but ever he was placed in the lobby; the hangings being turned towards him, where he might see the queen dancing to a little fiddle; which was to no other end than that he should tell his master, by her youthful disposition, how likely he was to come to the possession of the crown he so much thirsted after: for you must understand, the wisest in that kingdom did believe the king should never enjoy this crown, as long as there was an old wife in England, which they did believe we ever set up as the other was dead[126]."

[Note 126: Weldon's Court of King James.]

Though in her own letters to James, Elizabeth made no scruple of treating him as the destined heir to her throne, she still resisted with as much pertinacity as ever, all the proposals made her for publicly declaring her successor; and on this subject, a lively anecdote is related by sir John Harrington in his account of Hutton archbishop of York, which must belong to the year 1595 or 1596.

"I no sooner," says he, "remember this famous and worthy prelate, but methinks I see him in the chappel at Whitehall, queen Elizabeth at the window in the closet; all the lords of the parliament spiritual and temporal about them, and then, after his three curtsies that I hear him out of the pulpit thundering this text, 'The kingdoms of the earth are mine, and I do give them to whom I will, and I have given them to Nebuchodonosor and his son, and his son's son:' which text when he had thus produced, taking the sense rather than words of the prophet, there followed first so general a murmur of one friend whispering to another, then such an erected countenance in those that had none to speak to, lastly, so quiet a silence and attention in expectance of some strange doctrine, where text itself gave away kingdoms and sceptres, as I have never observed before or since.

"But he... showed how there were two special causes of translating of kingdoms, the fullness of time and the ripeness of sin.... Then coming nearer home, he showed how oft our nation had been a prey to foreigners; as first when we were all Britons subdued by these Romans; then, when the fullness of time and ripeness of our sin required it, subdued by the Saxons; after this a long time prosecuted and spoiled by the Danes, finally conquered and reduced to perfect subjection by the Normans, whose posterity continued in great prosperity to the days of her majesty, who for peace, for plenty, for glory, for continuance, had exceeded them all; that had lived to change all her councillors but one; all officers twice or thrice; some bishops four times: only the uncertainty of succession gave hopes to foreigners to attempt fresh invasions and breed fears in many of her subjects of a new conquest. The only way then, said he, that is in policy left to quail those hopes and to assuage those fears, were to establish the succession... at last, insinuating as far as he durst the nearness of blood of our present sovereign, he said plainly, that the expectations and presages of all writers went northward, naming without any circumlocution Scotland; which, said he, if it prove an error, yet will it be found a learned error.

"When he had finished this sermon, there was no man that knew queen Elizabeth's disposition, but imagined that such a speech was as welcome as salt to the eyes, or, to use her own word, to pin up her winding sheet before her face, so to point out her successor and urge her to declare him; wherefore we all expected that she would not only have been highly offended, but in some present speech have showed her displeasure. It is a principle not to be despised, Qui nescit dissimulare nescit regnare; she considered perhaps the extraordinary auditory, she supposed many of them were of his opinion, she might suspect some of them had persuaded him to this motion; finally, she ascribed so much to his years, to his place, to his learning, that when she opened the window we found ourselves all deceived; for very kindly and calmly, without shew of offence (as if she had but waked out of some sleep) she gave him thanks for his very learned sermon. Yet when she had better considered the matter, and recollected herself in private, she sent two councillors to him with a sharp message, to which he was glad to give a patient answer."

The premature death of Edmund Spenser, under circumstances of severe distress, now called forth the universal commiseration and regret of the friends and patrons of English genius. After witnessing the plunder of his house and the destruction of his whole property by the Irish rebels, the unfortunate poet had fled to England for shelter,—the annuity of fifty pounds which he enjoyed as poet-laureat to her majesty apparently his sole resource; and having taken up his melancholy abode in an obscure lodging in London, he pined away under the pressure of penury and despondence.

The genius of this great poet, formed on the most approved models of the time, and exercised upon themes peculiarly congenial to its taste, received in all its plenitude that homage of contemporary applause which has sometimes failed to reward the efforts of the noblest masters of the lyre. The adventures of chivalry, and the dim shadowings of moral allegory, were almost equally the delight of a romantic, a serious and a learned age. It was also a point of loyalty to admire in Gloriana queen of Faery, or in the empress Mercilla, the avowed types of the graces and virtues of her majesty; and she herself had discernment sufficient to distinguish between the brazen trump of vulgar flattery with which her ear was sated, and the pastoral reed of antique frame tuned sweetly to her praise by Colin Clout. Spenser was interred with great solemnity in Westminster abbey by the side of Chaucer; the generous Essex defraying the cost of the funeral and walking himself as a mourner. That ostentatious but munificent woman Anne countess of Dorset, Pembroke, and Montgomery, erected a handsome monument to his memory several years afterwards; the brother-poets who attended his obsequies threw elegies and sonnets into the grave; and of the more distinguished votaries of the muse in that day there is scarcely one who has withheld his tribute to the fame and merit of this delightful author. Shakespeare in one of his sonnets had already testified his high delight in his works; Joseph Hall, afterwards eminent as a bishop, a preacher, and polemic, but at this time a young student of Emanuel college, has more than one complimentary allusion to the poems of Spenser in his "Toothless Satires" printed in 1597. Thus, in the invocation to his first satire, referring to Spenser's description of the marriage of the Thames and Medway, he inquires,

..."what baser Muse can bide To sit and sing by Granta's naked side? They haunt the tided Thames and salt Medway, E'er since the fame of their late bridal day. Nought have we here but willow-shaded shore, To tell our Grant his banks are left forlore."

And again, in ridiculing the imitation of some of the more extravagant fictions of the Orlando Furioso, he thus suddenly checks himself;

"But let no rebel satyr dare traduce Th' eternal legends of thy faery muse, Renowned Spenser! whom no earthly wight Dares once to emulate, much less dares despight. Salust of France[127] and Tuscan Ariost, Yield up the laurel garland ye have lost."

[Note 127: Du Bartas, then an admired writer in England as well as France.]

These pieces of Hall, reprinted in 1599 with three additional books under the uncouth title of "Virgidemiarum" (a harvest of rods), present the earliest example in our language of regular satire on the ancient model, and have gained from an excellent poetical critic the following high eulogium. "These satires are marked with a classical precision, to which English poetry had yet rarely attained. They are replete with animation of style and sentiment. The indignation of the satirist is always the result of good sense. Nor are the thorns of severe invective unmixed with the flowers of pure poetry. The characters are delineated in strong and lively colouring, and their discriminations are touched with the masterly traces of genuine humour. The versification is equally energetic and elegant, and the fabric of the couplets approaches to the modern standard[128]."

[Note 128: Warton's History of English Poetry, vol. iv.]

A few of his allusions to reigning follies may here be quoted. Contrasting the customs of our barbarous ancestors with those of his own times, he says:

"They naked went, or clad in ruder hide, Or homespun russet void of foreign pride. But thou can'st mask in garish gaudery, To suit a fool's far-fetched livery. A French head joined to neck Italian, Thy thighs from Germany and breast from Spain. An Englishman in none, a fool in all, Many in one, and one in several."

Shakespeare makes Portia satirize the same affectation in her English admirer;—"How oddly he is suited! I think he bought his doublet in Italy, his round hose in France, his bonnet in Germany, and his behavior every where."

Other contemporary writers have similar allusions, and it may be concluded, that the passion for travelling then, and ever since, so prevalent amongst the English youth, was fast eradicating all traces of a national costume by rendering fashionable the introduction of novel garments, capriciously adopted by turns from every country of Europe.

"Cadiz spoil" is more than once referred to by Hall; and amongst expedients for raising a fortune he enumerates, with a satirical glance at sir Walter Raleigh, the trading to Guiana for gold; as also the search of the philosopher's stone. He likewise ridicules the costly mineral elixirs of marvellous virtues vended by alchemical quacks; and with sounder sense in this point than usually belonged to his age, mocks at the predictions of judicial astrology.

In several passages he reprehends the new luxuries of the time, among which coaches are not forgotten.

It should appear that the increasing conveniences and pleasures of a London life had already begun to occasion the desertion of rural mansions, and the decay of that boundless hospitality which the former possessors had made their boast; for thus feelingly and beautifully does the poet describe the desolation of one of these seats of antiquated magnificence:

"Beat the broad gates, a goodly hollow sound With double echoes doth again rebound; But not a dog doth bark to welcome thee, Nor churlish porter canst thou chafing see; All dumb and silent like the dead of night, Or dwelling of some sleepy Sybarite! The marble pavement hid with desert weed, With houseleek, thistle, dock, and hemlock-seed.— Look to the towered chimneys, which should be The windpipes of good hospitality:— Lo there the unthankful swallow takes her rest, And fills the tunnel with her circled nest."

The translation of the Orlando Furioso through which that singular work of genius had just become known to the English reader, was executed by sir John Harrington, the same who afterwards composed for Henry prince of Wales, the Brief View of the English Church, the godson of Elizabeth, and the child of her faithful servants James Harrington and Isabella Markham.

After the usual course of school and college education, young Harrington, who was born in 1561, presented himself at court, where his wit and learning soon procured him a kind of distinction, which was not however unattended with danger. A satirical piece was traced to him as its author, containing certain allusions to living characters, which gave so much offence to the courtiers, that he was threatened with the animadversions of the star-chamber; but the secret favor of Elizabeth towards a godson whom she loved and who amused her, saved him from this very serious kind of retaliation. A tale which he sometime after translated out of Ariosto proved very entertaining to the court ladies, and soon met the eyes of the queen; who in affected displeasure at certain indelicate passages, ordered him to appear no more at court—till he had translated the whole poem. The command was obeyed with alacrity; and he speedily committed his Orlando to the press, with a dedication to her majesty. Before this time our sprightly poet had found means to dissipate a considerable portion of the large estate to which he was born; and being well inclined to listen to the friendly counsels of Essex, who bade him, "lay good hold on her majesty's bounty and ask freely," he dexterously opened his case by the following lines slipped behind her cushion.

"For ever dear, for ever dreaded prince, You read a verse of mine a little since; And so pronounced each word and every letter, Your gracious reading graced my verse the better: Sith then your highness doth by gift exceeding Make what you read the better for your reading; Let my poor muse your pains thus far importune, Like as you read my verse, so—read my fortune.

"From your Highness' saucy Godson."

Of the further progress of his suit and the various little arts of pleasing to which Harrington now applied himself, some amusing hints may be gathered out of the following extracts taken from a note-book kept by himself[129].

[Note 129: See Nugae Antiquae.]

..."I am to send good store of news from the country for her highness entertainment.... Her highness loveth merry tales."

"The queen stood up and bade me reach forth my arm to rest her thereon. O! what sweet burden to my next song. Petrarch shall eke out good matter for this business."

"The queen loveth to see me in my new frize jerkin, and saith 'tis well enough cut. I will have another made liken to it. I do remember she spit on sir Matthew's fringed cloth, and said the fool's wit was gone to rags.—Heaven spare me from such jibing!"

"I must turn my poor wits towards my suit for the lands in the north.... I must go in an early hour, be fore her highness hath special matters brought up to counsel on.—I must go before the breakfast covers are placed, and stand uncovered as her highness cometh forth her chamber; then kneel and say, God save your majesty, I crave your ear at what hour may suit for your servant to meet your blessed countenance. Thus will I gain her favor to follow to the auditory.

"Trust not a friend to do or say, In that yourself can sue or pray."

The lands alluded to in the last extract, formed a large estate in the north of England, which an ancestor of Harrington had forfeited by his adherence to the house of York during the civil wars, and which he was now endeavouring to recover. This further mention of the business occurs in one of his letters.

"Yet I will adventure to give her majesty five hundred pounds in money, and some pretty jewel or garment, as you shall advise, only praying her majesty to further my suit with some of her learned counsel; which I pray you to find some proper time to move in; this some hold as a dangerous adventure, but five and twenty manors do well justify my trying it."

How notorious must have been the avarice and venality of a sovereign, before such a mode of insuring success in a law-suit could have entered into the imagination of a courtier!

But the fortunes of Harrington, as of persons of more importance, now become involved in the state of Irish affairs, to which the attention of the reader must immediately be directed.


1599 TO 1603.

Irish affairs.—Essex appointed lord deputy.—His letter to the queen.—Letter of Markham to Harrington.—Departure of Essex and proceedings in Ireland.—His letter to the privy council,—conferences with Tyrone,—unexpected arrival at court.—Behaviour of the queen.—State of parties.—Letters of sir J. Harrington.—Further particulars respecting Essex.—His letter of submission.—Relentlessness of the queen.—Sir John Hayward's history.—Second letter of Essex.—Censure passed upon him in council.—Anecdote of the queen.—Essex liberated.—Reception of a Flemish ambassador.—Discontent of Raleigh.—Traits of the queen.—Letter of sir Robert Sidney to sir John Harrington.—Crisis of the fortune of Essex.—Conduct of lord Montjoy.—Proceedings at Essex house.—Revolt of Essex.—He defends his house.—Is taken and committed to the Tower.—His trial and that of lord Southampton.—Conduct of Bacon.—Confessions of Essex.—Behavior of the queen.—Death of Essex.—Fate of his adherents.—Reception of the Scotch ambassadors.—Interview of the queen and Sully.—Irish affairs.—Letter of sir John Harrington.—A parliament summoned.—Affair of monopolies.—Quarrel between the Jesuits and secular priests.—Conversation of the queen respecting Essex.—Letter of sir J. Harrington.—Submission of Tyrone.—Melancholy of Elizabeth.—Story of the ring.—Her death.—Additional traits of her character.—Her eulogy by bishop Hall.

The death in September 1598 of Philip II., and the succession of the feeble Philip III., under whom the Spanish monarchy advanced with accelerated steps towards its decline, had finally released the queen from all apprehensions of foreign invasion and left her at liberty to turn her whole attention to the pacification of Ireland. The state of that island was in every respect deplorable:—the whole province of Ulster in open rebellion under Tyrone;—the rest of the country only waiting for the succours from the pope and the king of Spain, which the credulous natives were still taught to expect, to join openly in the revolt; and in the meantime reduced to such a state of despair by innumerable oppressions and by the rumor of further severities meditated by the queen of England, that it seemed prepared to oppose the most obstinate resistance to every measure of government. In what manner and by whom, this wretched province should be brought back to its allegiance, had been the subject of frequent and earnest debates in the privy-council; in which Essex had vehemently reprobated the conduct of former governors in wasting time on inferior objects, instead of first undertaking the reduction of Tyrone, and appears to have spared no pains to impress the queen with an opinion of the superior justness of his own views of the subject. Elizabeth believed, and with reason, that she discovered in lord Montjoy talents not unequal to the arduous office of lord deputy at so critical a juncture; but when the greater part of her council appeared to concur in the choice, Essex insinuated a variety of objections;—that the experience of Montjoy in military matters was small;—that neither in the Low Countries nor in Bretagne, where he had served, had he attained to any principal or independent command;—that his retainers were few or none; his purse inadequately furnished for the first expenses of so high an appointment; and that he was too much addicted to a sedentary and studious life. By this artful enumeration of the deficiencies of Montjoy, he was clearly understood to intimate his own superior fitness for the office. The queen, notwithstanding certain suspicions which had been infused into her of danger in committing to Essex the command of an army, and notwithstanding the unwillingness which she still felt to deprive herself of his presence, appears to have adopted with eagerness this suggestion of her favorite;—for she held in high estimation both his talents and his good fortune. Montjoy promptly retired from a competition in which he must be unsuccessful; the adherents of the earl, except a few of the more sagacious, eagerly forwarded his appointment with imprudent eulogiums of his valor and his genius and still more imprudent anticipations of his certain and complete success. His enemies, desirous of his absence and hopeful of his failure, concurred with no less zeal in the promotion of his wishes; and he soon found himself importuned on every side to accept the command. But it now became his part to make objections;—perhaps he began to open his eyes to the difficulties to be confronted in Ireland;—perhaps he penetrated too late the designs and expectations of his adversaries at home;—perhaps, for his character was not free from artifice, he chose by a display of reluctance to enhance in the eyes of his sovereign the merit of his final acquiescence. However this might be, the difficulties which he raised kept the business for some time in suspense. Secretary Cecil observed in a letter of December 4th, 1598, that "the opinion of the earl's going to Ireland had some stop, by reason of his lordship's indisposition to it, except with some such conditions as were disagreeable to her majesty's mind;" "although," he added, "the cup will hardly pass from him in regard of his worth and fortune: but if it do, my lord Montjoy is named[130]."

[Note 130: Birch.]

It was in the midst of the debates and contentions on this matter that Essex endeavoured to work upon the feelings of Elizabeth by the following romantic but eloquent address.

* * * * *

"To the Queen.

"From a mind delighting in sorrow, from spirits wasted with passion, from a heart torn in pieces with care grief and travel, from a man that hateth himself and all things else that keep him alive, what service can your majesty expect; since any service past deserves no more than banishment and proscription to the cursedest of all islands? It is your rebels' pride and succession must give me leave to ransom myself out of this hateful prison, out of my loathed body; which, if it happeneth so, your majesty shall have no cause to mislike the fashion of my death, since the course of my life could never please you.

Happy could he finish forth his fate In some unhaunted desert most obscure From all society, from love and hate Of worldly folk; then should he sleep secure. Then wake again, and yield God ever praise, Content with hips and haws and brambleberry; In contemplation passing out his days, And change of holy thoughts to make him merry. Who when he dies, his tomb may be a bush, Where harmless robin dwells with gentle thrush."

"Your majesty's exiled servant


* * * * *

It seems also to have been at this juncture that on some public occasion he bore a plain mourning shield, with the words, "Par nulla figura dolori."

A very sensible and friendly letter addressed to Harrington by his relation Robert Markham may serve to throw additional light on the situation and sentiments of Essex, and on the state of court parties.

* * * * *

Mr. Robert Markham to John Harrington Esquire.

"Notwithstanding the perilous state of our times, I shall not fail to give you such intelligence and advices of our matters here as may tend to your use and benefit. We have gotten good account of some matters, and as I shall find some safe conduct for bearing them to you, it may from time to time happen that I send tidings of our courtly concerns.

"Since your departure from hence, you have been spoken of, and with no ill will, both by the nobles and the queen herself. Your book is almost forgiven, and I may say forgotten; but not for its lack of wit or satire. Those whom you feared most are now bosoming themselves in the queen's grace; and though her highness signified displeasure in outward sort, yet did she like the marrow of your book. Your great enemy, sir James, did once mention the star-chamber, but your good esteem in better minds outdid his endeavours, and all is silent again. The queen is minded to take you to her favor, but she sweareth that she believes you will make epigrams and write misacmos again on her and all the court. She hath been heard to say, 'that merry poet her godson, must not come to Greenwich till he hath grown sober and leaveth the ladies' sports and frolics.' She did conceive much disquiet on being told you had aimed a shaft at Leicester; I wish you knew the author of that ill deed; I would not be in his best jerkin for a thousand marks. You yet stand well in her highness' love, and I hear you are to go to Ireland with the lieutenant Essex; if so, mark my counsel in this matter. I doubt not your valor nor your labor, but that d——e uncovered honesty will mar your fortunes. Observe the man who commandeth, and yet is commanded himself; he goeth not forth to serve the queen's realm, but to humor his own revenge. Be heedful of your bearings, speak not your mind to all you meet. I tell you I have ground for my caution: Essex hath enemies; he hath friends too. Now there are two or three of Montjoy's kindred sent out in your army; they are to report all your conduct to us at home. As you love yourself, the queen and me, discover not these matters; if I did not love you, they had never been told. High concerns deserve high attention; you are to take account of all that passes in your expedition, and keep journal thereof, unknown to any in the company; this will be expected of you; I have reasons to give for this order.

"If the lord deputy performs in the field what he hath promised in the council, all will be well; but though the queen hath granted forgiveness for his late demeanour in her presence; we know not what to think hereof. She hath, in all outward semblance, placed confidence in the man who so lately sought other treatment at her hands; we do sometime think one way, and sometime another; what betideth the lord deputy is known to him only who knoweth all; but when a man hath so many showing friends, and so many unshowing enemies, who learneth his end here below? I say, do not you meddle in any sort, nor give your jesting too freely among those you know not; obey the lord deputy in all things, but give not your opinion; it may be heard in England. Though you obey, yet seem not to advise in any one point; your obeysance may be, and must be, construed well; but your counsel may be ill thought of if any bad business follow.

"You have now a secret from one that wishes you all welfare and honor; I know there are overlookers set on you all, so God direct your discretion. Sir William Knolles is not well pleased, the queen is not well pleased, the lord deputy may be pleased now, but I sore fear what may happen hereafter. The heart of man lieth close hid oft time, men do not carry it in their hand, nor should they do so that wish to thrive in these times and in these places; I say this that your own honesty may not show itself too much, and turn to your own ill favor. Stifle your understanding as much as may be; mind your books and make your jests, but take heed who they light on. My love hath overcome almost my confidence and trust, which my truth and place demandeth. I have said too much for one in my dependent occupation, and yet too little for a friend and kinsman, who putteth himself to this hard trial for your advantage. You have difficult matters to encounter beside Tyrone and the rebels; there is little heed to be had to show of affection in state business; I find this by those I discourse with daily, and those too of the wiser sort. If my lord treasurer had lived longer, matters would go on surer. He was our great pilot, on whom all cast their eyes, and sought their safety. The queen's highness doth often speak of him in tears, and turn aside when he is discoursed of; nay, even forbiddeth any mention to be made of his name in the council. This I learn by some friends who are in good liking with my lord Buckhurst[131].

[Note 131: Lord Buckhurst had succeeded to the office of lord treasurer on the death of Burleigh.]

"My sister beareth this to you, but doth not know what it containeth, nor would I disclose my dealings to any woman in this sort; for danger goeth abroad, and silence is the safest armour." &c.[132]

[Note 132: Nugae Antiquae.]

* * * * *

Such were the bodings of distant evil with which the more discerning contemplated the new and arduous enterprise in which the ambition of Essex had engaged him! In the meantime, all things conspired to delude him into a false security and to augment that presumption which formed the most dangerous defect of his character. All the obstacles which had delayed his appointment were gradually smoothed away; the queen consented to invest him with powers far more ample than had ever been conferred on a lord deputy before; all his requisitions of men and other supplies were complied with; and an army of 20,000 foot and 1,300 horse, afterwards increased to 2,000,—a far larger force than Ireland had yet beheld,—was placed at his disposal.

At parting, the tenderness of the queen revived in full force; and she dismissed him with expressions of regret and affection which, as he afterwards professed to her, had "pierced his very soul." The people followed him with acclamations and blessings; and the flower of the nobility now, as in the Cadiz expedition, attended him with alacrity as volunteers.

It was in the end of March 1599 that he embarked; and landing after a dangerous passage at Dublin, his first act was the appointment of his dear friend the earl of Southampton to the office of general of the horse;—a step which he afterwards found abundant cause to repent.

An error of which the consequences were much more pernicious to himself, and fatal to the success of his undertaking, was his abandoning his original resolution of marching immediately against Tyrone, and spending his first efforts in the suppression of a minor revolt in Munster:—an attempt in which he encountered a resistance so much more formidable than he had anticipated, and found himself so ill supported by his troops, whom the nature of the service speedily disheartened, that its results were by no means so brilliant as to strike terror into Tyrone or the other insurgents. What was still worse, almost four months were occupied in this service, and the forces returned sick, wearied, and incredibly reduced in number by various accidents.

Learning that the queen was much displeased at this expedition into Munster, Essex addressed a letter to the privy-council, in which, after affirming that he had performed his part to the best of his abilities and judgement, he thus proceeded: "But as I said, and ever must say, I provided for this service a breastplate, and not a cuirass; that is, I am armed on the breast, but not on the back. I armed myself with confidence that rebels in so unjust a quarrel could not fight so well as we could in a good. Howbeit if the rebels shall but once come to know that I am wounded on the back, not slightly, but to the heart, as I fear me they have too true and too apparent advertisement of this kind; then what will be their pride and the state's hazard, your lordships in your wisdoms may easily discern."

In a subsequent letter, the warmth of his friendship for Southampton breaks out in the following eloquent and forcible appeal.—"But to leave this, and come to that which I never looked I should have come to, I mean your lordships' letter touching the displacing of the earl of Southampton; your lordships say, that her majesty thinketh it strange, and taketh it offensively, that I should appoint him general of the horse, seeing not only her majesty denied it when I moved it, but gave an express prohibition to any such choice. Surely, my lord, it shall be far from me to contest with your lordships, much less with her majesty. Howbeit, God and my own soul are my witnesses, that I had not in this nomination any disobedient or irreverent thought; that I never moved her majesty for the placing of any officer, my commission fully enabling me to make free choice of all officers and commanders of the army. I remember, that her majesty in her privy-chamber at Richmond, I only being with her, showed a dislike of his having any office; but my answer was, that if her majesty would revoke my commission, I would cast both it and myself at her majesty's feet. But if it pleased her majesty that I should execute it, I must work with my own instruments. And from this profession and protestation I never varied; whereas if I had held myself barred from giving my lord of Southampton place and reputation some way answerable to his degree and expense, there is no one, I think, doth imagine, that I loved him so ill as to have brought him over. Therefore if her majesty punish me with her displeasure for this choice, poena dolenda venit. And now, my lords, were now, as then it was, that I were to choose, or were there nothing in a new choice but my lord of Southampton's disgrace and my discomfort, I should easily be induced to displace him, and to part with him. But when, in obeying this command, I must discourage all my friends, who now, seeing the days of my suffering draw near, follow me afar off, and are some of them tempted to renounce me; when I must dismay the army, which already looks sadly, as pitying both me and itself in this comfortless action; when I must encourage the rebels, who doubtless will think it time to hew upon a withering tree, whose leaves they see beaten down, and the branches in part cut off; when I must disable myself for ever in the course of this service, the world now perceiving that I want either reason to judge of merit, or freedom to right it, disgraces being there heaped where, in my opinion, rewards are due; give just grief leave once to complain. O! miserable employment, and more miserable destiny of mine, that makes it impossible for me to please and serve her majesty at once! Was it treason in my lord of Southampton to marry my poor kinswoman, that neither long imprisonment, nor any punishment besides that hath been usual in like cases, can satisfy and appease? Or will no kind of punishment be fit for him, but that which punisheth, not him, but me, this army, and this poor country of Ireland? Shall I keep the country when the army breaks? Or shall the army stand when all the volunteers leave it? Or will any voluntaries stay when those that have will and cause to follow are thus handled? No, my lords, they already ask passports, and that daily." &c.

In spite of all this earnestness, in spite of the remaining affection of the queen for her favorite, she still persisted in requiring that he should displace his friend, and even chid him severely for having waited the result of his further representations and entreaties, after once learning her pleasure on the point. Success in the main object of his expedition might still have procured him a triumph over his court-enemies and a sweet reconciliation with his offended sovereign, but fortune had no such favor in store for Essex. The necessity of quelling some rebels in Leinster again impeded his march into Ulster; for which expedition he was obliged to solicit a further supply from England of two thousand foot, which was immediately forwarded to him, as if with the design of leaving him without excuse should he fail to reduce Tyrone. But by this time the season was so far advanced, and the army so sickly, that both the earl and the Irish council were of opinion that nothing effectual could be done; and at the first notice of his intended march great part of his forces deserted. He nevertheless proceeded, and in a few days during which a little skirmishing took place, came in sight of the rebel's main army, considerably more numerous than his own; Tyrone however would not venture to give him battle, but sent to request a parley. This, after some delay, the lord deputy granted; and a conference was held between them, Essex standing on the bank of a stream which separated the two hosts, while the rebel sat on his horse in the middle of the water. A truce was concluded, to be renewed from six weeks to six weeks, till terms of peace should be agreed on; those proposed by Tyrone containing several arrogant and unreasonable articles. At a second meeting with the Irish chief, Essex was attended by some of his principal officers; but it was afterwards proved that previously to the first conference, he had opened a very unwarrantable correspondence with this enemy of his queen and country, who took upon himself to promise that if Essex would come into his measures he would make him the greatest man in England. During the whole of this time, sharp letters were passing between Elizabeth and her privy-council and the earl; and it is hard to say on which side the heaviest list of grievances was produced. The queen remonstrated against his contemptuous disobedience of her orders, and the waste in frivolous enterprises of the vast supplies of men and money which she had intrusted to her deputy for a specific and momentous object;—the earl, in addition to his usual murmurings against the sinister suggestions of his enemies, amongst whom he singled out by name Raleigh and lord Cobham; found further grounds of complaint and alarm in the circumstance of her majesty's having caused some troops to be called out under the lord admiral, on pretext of fears from the Spaniard, but really with a view of protecting her against certain designs imputed to himself: and in her having granted to secretary Cecil during his absence the office of master of the wards, for which he was himself a suitor.

Apprehensive lest by his longer delay her affections should be irrecoverably alienated from him by the discovery of his traitorous correspondence with Tyrone, he rashly resolved to risk yet another act of disobedience;—that of deserting without license, and under its present accumulated circumstances of danger, his important charge, and hastening to throw himself at the feet of an exasperated, but he flattered himself, not inexorable mistress. At one time he had even entertained the desperate and criminal design of carrying over with him a large part of his army, for the purpose of intimidating his adversaries; but being diverted from this scheme by the earl of Southampton and sir Christopher Blount his step-father, he embarked with the attendance only of most of his household and a number of his favorite officers, and arrived at the court, which was then at Nonsuch, on Michaelmas eve in the morning.

On alighting at the gate, covered with mire and stained with travel as he was, he hastened up stairs, passed through the presence and the privy-chambers, and never stopped till he reached the queen's bed-chamber, where he found her newly risen with her hair about her face. He kneeled and kissed her hands, and she, in the agreeable surprise of beholding at her feet one whom she still loved, received him with so kind an aspect, and listened with such favor to his excuses, that on leaving her, after a private conference of some duration, he appeared in high spirits, and thanked God, that though he had suffered many storms abroad, he found a sweet calm at home. He waited on her again as soon as he had changed his dress; and after a second long and gracious conference, was freely visited by all the lords, ladies, and gentlemen at court, excepting the secretary and his party, who appeared somewhat shy of him. But all these fair appearances quickly vanished. On revisiting the queen in the evening, he found her much changed towards him; she began to call him to account for his unauthorised return and the hazard to which he had committed all things in Ireland; and four privy-councillors were appointed by her to examine him that night and hear his answers: but by them nothing was concluded, and the matter was referred to a full council summoned for the following day, the earl being in the meantime commanded to keep his chamber. Notwithstanding the natural impetuosity of his temper, Essex now armed himself with patience and moderation, and answered with great gravity and discretion to the charges brought against him, which resolved themselves into the following articles. "His contemptuous disobedience of her majesty's letters and will in returning: his presumptuous letters written from time to time: his proceedings in Ireland contrary to the points resolved upon in England, ere he went: his rash manner of coming away from Ireland: his overbold going the day before to her majesty's presence to her bed-chamber: and his making of so many idle knights[133]." The council, after hearing his defence, remained awhile in consultation and then made their report to her majesty, who said she should take time to consider of his answers: meanwhile the proceedings were kept very private, and the earl continued a prisoner in his own apartment. An open division now took place between the two great factions which had long divided the court in secret. The earls of Shrewsbury and Nottingham, lords Thomas Howard, Cobham, and Grey, sir Walter Raleigh, and sir George Carew, attended on the secretary; while Essex was followed by the earls of Worcester and Rutland, lords Montjoy, Rich, Lumley, and Henry Howard; the last of whom however was already suspected to be the traitor which he afterwards proved to the patron whom he professed to love, to honor, and almost to worship. Sir William Knolles also joined the party of his nephew, with many other knights and gentlemen, and lord Effingham, though son to the earl of Nottingham, was often with him, and "protested all service" to him. "It is a world to be here," adds Whyte, "and see the humors of the place." On October the second, Essex was "commanded from court," and committed to the lord keeper, with whom he remained at York house. At his departure from court few or none of his friends accompanied him.

[Note 133: Rowland Whyte in Sidney Papers.]

"His lordship's sudden return out of Ireland," says Whyte, "brings all sorts of knights, captains, officers, and soldiers, away from thence, that this town is full of them, to the great discontentment of her majesty, that they are suffered to leave their charge. But the most part of the gallants have quitted their commands, places, and companies, not willing to stay there after him; so that the disorder seems to be greater there than stands with the safety of that service." Harrington the wit and poet had the misfortune to be one of the threescore "idle knights," dubbed by the lord deputy during his short and inglorious reign, and likewise one of the officers whom he selected to accompany him in his return; and we may learn from two of his own letters, written several years subsequently, after what manner he was welcomed on his arrival by his royal godmother.

* * * * *

"Sir John Harrington to Dr. Still, the bishop of Bath and Wells. 1603.

"My worthy lord,

"I have lived to see that d——e rebel Tyrone brought to England, courteously favored, honored, and well-liked. O! my lord, what is there which doth not prove the inconstancy of worldly matters! How did I labor after that knave's destruction! I was called from my home by her majesty's command, adventured perils by sea and land; endured toil, was near starving, ate horse-flesh at Munster; and all to quell that man, who now smileth in peace at those that did hazard their lives to destroy him. Essex took me to Ireland, I had scant time to put on my boots; I followed with good will, and did return with the lord-lieutenant to meet ill-will; I did bear the frowns of her that sent me; and were it not for her good liking, rather than my good deservings, I had been sore discountenanced indeed. I obeyed in going with the earl to Ireland, and I obeyed in coming with him to England. But what did I encounter thereon? Not his wrath, but my gracious sovereign's ill humor. What did I advantage? Why truly a knighthood; which had been better bestowed by her that sent me, and better spared by him that gave it. I shall never put out of memory her majesty's displeasure; I entered her chamber, but she frowned and said. 'What, did the fool bring you too? Go back to your business.' In sooth these words did sore hurt him that never heard such before; but Heaven gave me more comfort in a day or two after. Her majesty did please to ask me concerning our northern journeys, and I did so well quit me of the account, that she favoured me with such discourse that the earl himself had been well glad of. And now doth Tyrone dare us old commanders with his presence and protection." &c.[134]

[Note 134: Nugae.]

* * * * *

"Sir John Harrington to Mr. Robert Markham, 1606.

"My good cousin,

"Herewith you will have my journal, with our history during our march against the Irish rebels. I did not intend any eyes should have seen this discourse but my own children's; yet alas! it happened otherwise; for the queen did so ask, and I may say, demand my account, that I could not withhold showing it; and I, even now, almost tremble to rehearse her highness' displeasure hereat. She swore by God's son, we were all idle knaves, and the lord deputy worse, for wasting our time and her commands in such-wise as my journal doth write of.

"I could have told her highness of such difficulties, straits, and annoyance, as did not appear therein to her eyes, nor, I found, could be brought to her ear; for her choler did outrun all reason, though I did meet it at a second hand. For what show she gave at first to my lord deputy at his return, was far more grievous, as will appear in good time.

"I marvel to think what strange humors do conspire to patch up the natures of some minds. The elements do seem to strive which shall conquer and rise above the other. In good sooth our late queen did infold them all together. I bless her memory for all her goodness to me and my family; and now will I show you what strange temperament she did sometimes put forth. Her mind was oftimes like the gentle air that cometh from the westerly point in a summer's morn; 'twas sweet and refreshing to all around her. Her speech did win all affections, and her subjects did try to show all love to her commands; for she would say, her state did require her to command what she knew her people would willingly do from their own love to her. Herein did she show her wisdom fully; for who did choose to lose her confidence; or who would withhold a show of love and obedience, when their sovereign said it was their own choice, and not her compulsion? Surely she did play well her tables to gain obedience thus without constraint; again could she put forth such alterations, when obedience was lacking, as left no doubtings whose daughter she was. I say this was plain on the lord deputy's coming home, when I did come into her presence. She chafed much, walked fastly to and fro, looked with discomposure in her visage; and I remember, she catched my girdle when I kneeled to her, and swore, 'By God's son I am no queen, that man is above me;—who gave him command to come here so soon? I did send him on other business.' It was long before more gracious discourse did fall to my hearing; but I was then put out of my trouble, and bid go home. I did not stay to be bidden twice; if all the Irish rebels had been at my heels, I should not have made better speed, for I did now flee from one whom I both loved and feared too[135]."

[Note 135: Nugae.]

* * * * *

The fate of Essex remained long in suspense; while several little circumstances seemed to indicate the strength of her majesty's resentment against him; especially her denying, to the personal request of lady Walsingham, permission for the earl to write to his countess, her daughter, who was in childbed and exceedingly troubled that she neither saw nor heard from her husband; and afterwards her refusing to allow his family physician access to him, though he was now so ill as to be attended by several other physicians, with whom however Dr. Brown was permitted to consult. At the same time it was given out, that if he would beg his liberty for the purpose of going back to Ireland, it would be granted him;—but he appeared resolute never to return thither, and professed a determination of leading henceforth a retired life in the country, free from all participation in public affairs.

Pamphlets were written on his case, but immediately suppressed by authority, and perhaps at the request of the earl himself, whose behaviour at this time exhibited nothing but duty and submission. His sister lady Rich, and lady Southampton, quitted Essex house and went into the country, because the resort of company to them had given offence. He himself neither saw nor desired to see any one. His very servants were afraid to meet in any place to make merry lest it might be ill taken. "At the court," says Whyte, "lady Scrope is only noted to stand firm to him, for she endures much at her majesty's hands because she daily does all kind offices of love to the queen in his behalf. She wears all black; she mourns and is pensive, and joys in nothing but in a solitary being alone. And 'tis thought she says much that few would venture to say but herself." This generous woman was daughter to the first lord Hunsdon, and nearly related both to the queen and to Essex. She was sister to the countess of Nottingham who is believed to have acted so opposite a part.

About the middle of October strong hopes were entertained of the earls enlargement; but it was said that "he stood to have his liberty by the like warrant he was committed." The secretary was pleased to express to him the satisfaction that he felt in seeing her majesty so well appeased by his demeanor, and his own wish to promote his good and contentment. The reasons which he had assigned for his conduct in Ireland appeared to have satisfied the privy-council and mollified the queen. But her majesty characteristically declared, that she would not bear the blame of his imprisonment; and before she and her council could settle amongst them on whom it should be made to rest, a new cause of exasperation arose. Tyrone, in a letter to Essex which was intercepted, declared that he found it impossible to prevail on his confederates to observe the conditions of truce agreed upon between them; and the queen, relapsing into anger, triumphantly asked if there did not now appear good cause for the earl's committal? She immediately made known to lord Montjoy her wish that he should undertake the government of Ireland; but the friendship of this nobleman to Essex, joined with a hope that the queen might be induced to liberate him by a necessity of again employing his talents in that country, induced Montjoy to excuse himself. The council unanimously recommended to her majesty the enlargement of the prisoner; but she angrily replied, that such contempts as he had been guilty of ought to be openly punished. They answered, that by her sovereign power and the rigor of law, such punishment might indeed be inflicted, but that it would be inconsistent with her clemency and her honor; she however caused heads of accusation to be drawn up against him. All this time Essex continued very sick; and his high spirit condescended to supplications like the following.

* * * * *

"When the creature entereth into account with the Creator, it can never number in how many things it needs mercy, or in how many it receives it. But he that is best stored, must still say da nobis hodie; and he that hath showed most thankfulness, must ask again, Quid retribuamus? And I can no sooner finish this my first audit, most dear and most admired sovereign, but I come to consider how large a measure of his grace, and how great a resemblance of his power, God hath given you upon earth; and how many ways he giveth occasion to you to exercise these divine offices upon us, that are your vassals. This confession best fitteth me of all men; and this confession is most joyfully and most humbly now made by me of all times. I acknowledge upon the knees of my heart your majesty's infinite goodness in granting my humble petition. God, who seeth all, is witness, how faithfully I do vow to dedicate the rest of my life, next after my highest duty, in obedience faith and zeal to your majesty, without admitting any other worldly care; and whatsoever your majesty resolveth to do with me, I shall live and die

"Your majesty's humblest vassal,


* * * * *

The earl abased himself in vain; those courtiers who had formerly witnessed her majesty's tenderness and indulgence towards him, now wondered at the violence of her resentment; and somewhat of mystery still involves the motives of her conduct. At one time she deferred his liberation "because she heard that some of his friends and followers should say he was wrongfully imprisoned:" and the French ambassador who spoke for him, found her very short and bitter on that point. Soon after, however, on hearing that he continued very sick and was making his will, she was surprised into some signs of pity, and gave orders that a few of his friends should be admitted to visit him, and that he should be allowed the liberty of the garden. Alarmed at these relentings, Raleigh, to whose nature the basest court arts were not repugnant, thought proper to fall sick in his turn, and was healed in like manner by a gracious message from the queen. The countess of Essex was indefatigable in her applications to persons in power, but with little avail; all that was gained for the dejected prisoner was effected by the intercession of some of the queen's favorite ladies, who obtained leave for his two sisters to come to court and solicit for him. Soon after, the storm seemed to gather strength again;—a warrant was made out for the earl's committal to the Tower, and though it was not carried into force, "the hopes of liberty grew cold." About the middle of November lord Montjoy received orders to prepare for Ireland.

The appearance of the first part of a history in Latin of the life and reign of Henry IV. by sir John Hayward, dedicated to the earl of Essex, was the unfortunate occasion of fresh offence to the queen; the subject, as containing the deposition of a lawful prince, was in itself unpalatable; but what gave the work in her jealous eyes a peculiar and sinister meaning was an expression addressed to the earl which may be thus rendered: "You are great both in present judgement and future expectation."

Hayward was detained a considerable time in prison; and the queen, from an idle suspicion that the piece was in fact the production of some more dangerous character, declared that she would have him racked to discover the secret. "Nay, Madam," answered Francis Bacon, "he is a Doctor; never rack his person, but rack his style. Let him have pen, ink and paper, and help of books, and be enjoined to continue the story where it breaketh off; and I will undertake, by collating the styles, to judge whether he were the author or no." And thus her mind was diverted from this atrocious purpose!

Measures had now been carried too far against the earl to admit of his speedy restoration to favor, whatever might be the secret sentiments of her majesty in his behalf; and her conduct respecting him preserved a vacillating and undecided character which marks the miserable perplexity of her mind, no longer enlightened by the clear and dispassionate judgement of Burleigh.

On one occasion she spoke of the earl with such favor as greatly troubled the opposite party. Soon after, on his sending to her his patents of master of the horse and master of the ordnance, she immediately returned them to him; and at the same time his lady had leave to visit him. Two days after, the queen ordered a consultation of eight physicians upon his case, who gave little hope of his life, but earnestly recommended that his mind should be quieted; on which, unable longer to conceal her feelings, she sent Dr. James to him with some broth and the message, that he should comfort himself, and that if she might consistently with her honor she would visit him; and it was noted that she had tears in her eyes as she spoke. But it was soon after hinted to her, that though divines watched by the bed of the earl and publicly prayed for him in their pulpits, some of them "with speeches tending to sedition," his life was in no real danger. On this, she refused his sisters, his son, and his mother-in-law permission to visit him, and ceased to make inquiries after his health, which was in no long time restored. A rich new year's gift, which was sent "as it were in a cloud no man knew how," but thought to come from the earl, was left for some time in the hands of sir William Knolles, as neither accepted nor refused, but finally rejected with disdain on some new accession of anger. Yet the letters of lady Rich in his behalf were read, and her many presents received, as well as one from the countess of Leicester.

Lady Essex was now restrained for a time from making her daily visits to her husband, and the queen declared her intention of bringing him before the Star-chamber; but on his writing a very submissive letter, which was delivered by the secretary, the design was dropped; and the secretary, who had been earnest in his intercession with her majesty to spare this infliction, gained in consequence much credit with the public. About the middle of March the earl was suffered to remove, under the superintendance of a keeper, to his own house; for which he returned thanks to her majesty in very grateful terms, saying that "this further degree of her goodness sounded in his ears as if she had said, 'Die not, Essex; for though I punish thine offence, and humble thee for thy good, yet will I one day be served again by thee.' And my prostrate soul," he adds, "makes this answer, 'I hope for that blessed day.'" Two months afterwards, however, perceiving no immediate prospect of his return to favor or to liberty, he addressed her in a more expostulating style, thus:

* * * * *

"Before all letters written with this hand be banished, or he that sends this enjoin himself eternal silence, be pleased, I humbly beseech your majesty, to read over these few lines. At sundry times and by several messengers, I received these words as your majesty's own; that you meant to correct, but not to ruin. Since which time, when I languished in four months sickness; forfeited almost all that I was able to engage; felt the very pangs of death upon me; and saw that poor reputation, whatsoever it was, that I had hitherto enjoyed, not suffered to die with me, but buried and I alive; I yet kissed your majesty's fair correcting hand, and was confident in your royal words. For I said unto myself, Between my ruin and my sovereign's favor there is no mean: and if she bestow favor again, she gives with it all things that in this world I either need or desire. But now, the length of troubles, and the continuance, or rather the increase, of your majesty's indignation, hath made all men so afraid of me, as mine own state is not only ruined, but my kind friends and faithful servants are like to die in prison because I cannot help myself with mine own. Now I do not only feel the intolerable weight of your majesty's indignation, and am subject to their wicked information that first envied me for my happiness in your favor and now hate me out of custom; but, as if I were thrown into a corner like a dead carcase, I am gnawed on and torn by the vilest and basest creatures upon earth. The tavern-haunter speaks of me what he lists. Already they print me and make me speak to the world, and shortly they will play me in what forms they list upon the stage. The least of these is a thousand times worse than death. But this is not the worst of my destiny; for your majesty, that hath mercy for all the world but me, that hath protected from scorn and infamy all to whom you once vowed favor but Essex, and never repented you of any gracious assurance you had given till now; your majesty, I say, hath now, in this eighth month of my close imprisonment (as if you thought my infirmities, beggary and infamy, too little punishment for me), rejected my letters, refused to hear of me, which to traitors you never did. What therefore remaineth for me? Only this, to beseech your majesty on the knees of my heart, to conclude my punishment, my misery and my life together; that I may go to my Saviour, who hath paid himself a ransom for me, and whom, methinks, I still hear calling me out of this unkind world, in which I have lived too long, and once thought myself too happy.

"From your majesty's humblest servant,


* * * * *

At length, the queen prepared to make an end of this lingering business; the earl's entreaties that it might not be made a Star-chamber matter were listened to, and eighteen commissioners were selected out of the privy-council, to discuss his conduct, hear his accusation and defence, and finally pronounce upon him such a censure, for it was not to be called a sentence, as they should see fit. The crown lawyers,—amongst whom Francis Bacon chose to take his place, though the queen had offered to excuse his attendance on account of the ties of gratitude which ought to have attached him to Essex,—spoke one after another in aggravation of his offence; and some of them, as the attorney-general (Coke), with great virulence of language. Next came the prisoner's defence, which he pronounced kneeling;—an attitude in which he was suffered to remain during a great part of the proceedings. He began with a humble avowal of his errors, and many expressions of penitence and humility towards her majesty; a temperate apology for particular parts of his conduct, followed; but as he was proceeding to reflect in some points on the conduct of the Irish council, and to refute the exaggerated charges of his enemies, he was interrupted by the lord keeper, who reminded him that this was not a course likely to do him good. The earl explained that he had no wish but to clear himself of disloyalty; it was answered, that with this he never had been charged. The pathetic eloquence of the noble prisoner moved many of the council to tears, and was not without its effect on his enemies themselves. The secretary, who was the first to rise in reply, even in refuting a part of his excuses, did him justice in other points, and treated him on the whole with great courtesy. Finally, it was the unanimous censure of the council, that the earl should abstain from exercising the functions of privy-councillor, earl marshal, or master of the ordnance; that he should return to his own house, and there remain a prisoner as before, till it should please her majesty to remit both this and all the other parts of the sentence.

By this solemn hearing the mind of the queen was much tranquillized; because her grave councillors and learned judges in their speeches, "amplifying her majesty's clemency and the earl's offences, according to the manner in the Star-chamber," had held him worthy of much more punishment than he had yet received. A few days after her majesty repaired to lady Russel's house in Blackfriars to grace the nuptials of her daughter, a maid of honor, with lord Herbert, son of the earl of Worcester;—on which occasion it may be mentioned, that she was conveyed from the water-side in a lectica, or half-litter, borne by six knights. After dining with the wedding company, she passed to the neighbouring house of lord Cobham to sup. Here she was entertained with a mask of eight ladies, who, after performing their appointed part, chose out eight ladies more to dance the measure, when Mrs. Fitton the principal masker came and "wooed" the queen also to dance. Her majesty inquired who she was? "Affection," she replied. "Affection," said the queen, "is false;" yet she rose and danced.

Elizabeth was now possessed with a strange fancy of unmaking the knights made by Essex; being flattered in this folly by Bacon, who assured her, certainly in contradiction to all the laws of chivalry, that her general had no right to confer that degree after a prohibition laid upon him by her majesty. She was resolved to command at least that no ancient gentleman should give place to these new knights; and she had actually signed the warrant for a proclamation to this effect, when the timely interference of the secretary saved her from thus exposing herself.

Late in August 1600, the earl was acquainted in form by the privy-council that his liberty was restored, but that he was still prohibited from appearing at court. He answered, that it was his design to lead a retired life at his uncle's in Oxfordshire, yet he begged their intercession that he might be admitted to kiss the queen's hand before his departure. But this was still too great a favor to be accorded, and he was informed, that though free from restraint, he was still to regard himself as under indignation; a distinction which served to deter all but his nearest relations from resorting to him.

In the spring of this year, Vereiken, an ambassador from Flanders, was very honorably received by the queen, whose counsels had assumed a more pacific aspect since the disgrace of Essex.

Whyte informs us, with his usual minuteness, that the ambassador was lodged with alderman Baning in Dowgate; and that he was fetched to court in great state, the whole household being drawn up in the hall; the great ladies and fair maids appearing "excellently brave" in the rooms through which he passed; and the queen, very richly dressed and surrounded by her council, extending to him a most gracious reception. He solemnly congratulated himself on the happiness of beholding her majesty, "who for beauty and wisdom did excel all other princes of the earth;" and she, in requital, promised to consider of his proposals. The negotiation proved in the end abortive; but great offence was taken at the publication in this juncture of a letter by the earl of Essex against a peace with Spain.

Raleigh was at this time leaving London in discontent because nothing was done for him;—it does not appear what was now the particular object of his solicitation; but a writer has recorded it as an instance of the prudent reserve of Elizabeth in the advancement of her courtiers, that she would never admit the eloquent and ambitious Raleigh to a seat at her council-board[136].

[Note 136: Bohun's Memoirs.]

In the midst of her extreme anxiety for the fate of Ireland,—where Tyrone for the present carried all things at his will, boasting himself the champion of the Romish cause, and proclaiming his expectation of Spanish aid; and of her more intimate and home-felt uneasiness respecting the effect of her measures of chastisement on the haughty mind of Essex,—we find Elizabeth promoting with some affectation the amusements of her court. "This day," says Whyte, "she appoints to see a Frenchman do feats upon a cord in the conduit court. Tomorrow she hath commanded the bears, the bull and the ape to be baited in the tilt-yard; upon Wednesday she will have solemn dancing."

A letter from sir Robert Sidney to sir John Harrington, written some time in this year, affords some not uninteresting traits of her behaviour, mixed with other matters:

* * * * *

"Worthy knight;

"Your present to the queen was well accepted of; she did much commend your verse, nor did she less praise your prose.... The queen hath tasted your dainties, and saith you have marvellous skill in cooking of good fruits. If I can serve you in your northern suit, you may command me.... Our lawyers say, your title is well grounded in conscience, but that strict law doth not countenance your recovering those lands of your ancestors.... Visit your friends often, and please the queen by all you can, for all the great lawyers do much fear her displeasure.... I do see the queen often, she doth wax weak since the late troubles, and Burleigh's death doth often draw tears from her goodly cheeks; she walketh out but little, meditates much alone, and sometimes writes in private to her best friends. The Scottish matters do cause much discourse, but we know not the true grounds of state business, nor venture further on such ticklish points[137]. Her highness hath done honor to my poor house by visiting me, and seemed much pleased at what we did to please her. My son made her a fair speech, to which she did give most gracious reply. The women did dance before her, whilst the cornets did salute from the gallery; and she did vouchsafe to eat two morsels of rich comfit cake, and drank a small cordial out of a golden cup. She had a marvellous suit of velvet, borne by four of her first women-attendants in rich apparel; two ushers did go before; and at going up stairs she called for a staff, and was much wearied in walking about the house, and said she wished to come another day. Six drums and six trumpets waited in the court, and sounded at her approach and departure. My wife did bear herself in wonderous good liking, and was attired in a purple kirtle fringed with gold; and myself in a rich band and collar of needlework, and did wear a goodly stuff of the bravest cut and fashion, with an under body of silver and loops. The queen was much in commendation of our appearances, and smiled at the ladies who in their dances often came up to the step on which the seat was fixed to make their obeisance, and so fell back into their order again. The younger Markham did several gallant feats on a horse before the gate, leaping down and kissing his sword, then mounting swiftly on the saddle, and passing a lance with much skill. The day well nigh spent, the queen went and tasted a small beverage that was set out in divers rooms where she might pass, and then in much order was attended to her palace; the cornets and trumpets sounding through the streets." &c.

[Note 137: The mysterious affair of the Gowrie conspiracy is probably here alluded to.]

* * * * *

The fate of Essex was now drawing to a crisis. The mixture of severity and indulgence with which he had been treated;—her majesty's perseverance in refusing to readmit him to her presence, though all other liberty was restored to him;—her repeated assurances that she meant only to chastise, not to ruin him, contrasted with the tedious duration of her anger and the utter uncertainty when, or by what means, it was to be brought to an end;—had long detained him in the mazes of a tormenting uncertainty: but he at length saw the moment when her disposition towards him must be brought to a test which he secretly assured his adherents that he should regard as decisive.

The term for which the earl had held the lucrative farm of sweet wines would expire at Michaelmas; he was soliciting its renewal; and on the doubtful balance of success or failure his already wavering loyalty was suspended. He spared on this occasion no expressions of humility and contrition which might soften the heart of the queen:—He professed to kiss the hand and the rod with which he had been corrected; to look forward to the beholding again those blessed eyes, so long his Cynosure, as the only real happiness which he could ever enjoy; and he declared his intention with Nebuchodonosor, to make his habitation with the beasts of the field, to eat hay like an ox, and to be wet with the dews of heaven, until it should please the queen to restore him. To lord Henry Howard, who was the bearer of these dutiful phrases, Elizabeth expressed her unfeigned satisfaction to find him in so proper a frame of mind; she only wished, she said, that his deeds might answer to his words; and as he had long tried her patience, it was fit that she should make some experiment of his humility. Her father would never have endured such perversity:—but she would not now look back:—All that glittered was not gold, but if such results came forth from her furnace, she should ever after think the better of her chemistry. Soon after, having detected the motive of immediate interest which had inspired such moving expressions of penitence and devotion, her disgust against Essex was renewed; and in the end, she not only rejected his suit, but added the insulting words, that an ungovernable beast must be stinted of his provender, in order to bring him under management.

The spirit of Essex could endure no more;—rage took possession of his soul; and equally desperate in fortune and in mind, he prepared to throw himself into any enterprise which the rashness of the worst advisers could suggest. It was at this time that he is reported, in speaking of the queen, to have used the expression, maliciously repeated to her by certain court ladies,—that through old age her mind was become as crooked as her carcase:—words which might have sufficed to plunge him at once from the height of favor into irretrievable ruin.

The doors of Essex-house, hitherto closed night and day since the disgrace of the earl, were now thrown popularly open. Sir Gilly Merrick, his steward, kept an open table for all military adventurers, men of broken fortunes and malcontents of every party. Sermons were delivered there daily by the most zealous and popular of the puritan divines, to which the citizens ran in crowds; and lady Rich, who had lately been placed under restraint by the queen and was still in deep disgrace, on account of her intermeddling in the affairs of her brother, and on the further ground of her scandalous intrigue with lord Montjoy, became a daily visitant. The earl himself, listening again to the suggestions of his secretary Cuff, whom he had once dismissed on account of his violent and dangerous character, began to meditate new counsels.

An eye-witness has thus impressively described the struggles of his mind at this juncture. "It resteth with me in opinion, that ambition thwarted in its career doth speedily lead on to madness: herein I am strengthened by what I learn in my lord of Essex, who shifteth from sorrow and repentance to rage and rebellion so suddenly as well proveth him devoid of good reason or right mind; in my last discourse he littered such strange words, bordering on such strange designs, that made me hasten forth, and leave his presence. Thank heaven I am safe at home, and if I go in such troubles again, I deserve the gallows for a meddling fool. His speeches of the queen becometh no man who hath mens sana in corpore sano. He hath ill advisers, and much evil hath sprung from this source.

"The queen well knoweth how to humble the haughty spirit, the haughty spirit knoweth not how to yield, and the man's soul seemeth tossed to and fro like the waves of a troubled sea[138]."

[Note 138: Sir John Harrington in Nugae.]

The affinity of Essex to the crown by his descent from Thomas of Woodstock has been already adverted to;—it seems never to have awakened the slightest jealousy in the mind of Elizabeth; but the absurd vaunts of some of his followers, commented upon by the malicious ingenuity of his enemies, had sufficed to excite sinister suspicions in the bosom of the king of Scots. For the purpose of counteracting these, lord Montjoy, near the beginning of the earl's captivity, had sent Henry Leigh into Scotland, to give the king assurance that Essex entertained none of the ambitious views which had been imputed to him, but was, on the contrary, firmly resolved to endure no succession but that of his majesty; further hinting at some steps for causing his right to be recognised in the lifetime of the queen. From this time a friendly correspondence had been maintained between James and the Essex party; and Montjoy, on being appointed lord deputy of Ireland, had gone so far as to offer to the king to bring over to England such part of his army as, acting in concert with the force that the earl would be able to raise, might compass by force the object which they had in view. By some delay in the return of the messenger, added to the dilatoriness or reluctance of James, this plan was frustrated; but some time after Essex, impatient alike of the disgrace and the inactivity of his present restraint, urged Montjoy to bring over his forces without waiting for the tardy co-operation of the king of Scots. The lord deputy replied, "that he thought it more lawful to enter into such a course with one that had interest in the succession than otherwise; and though he had been led before out of the opinion he had to do his country good by the establishment of the succession, and to deliver my lord of Essex out of the danger he was in; yet now his life appeared to be safe, to restore his fortune only, and to save himself from the danger which hangs over him by discovery, and to satisfy my lord of Essex's private ambition, he would not enter into any enterprise of that" kind[139].

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