Cecil, however, was both too wary and too honest to regard himself as pledged to the support of Northumberland's inordinate schemes of ambition; and scarcely any public man of the day, attached to the protestant cause, escaped better in the affair of lady Jane Grey. It is true that one writer accuses him of having drawn all the papers in her favor: but this appears to be, in part at least, either a mistake or a calumny; and it seems, on the contrary, that he refused to Northumberland some services of this nature. It has been already mentioned that his name appeared with those of the other privy-councillors to Edward's settlement of the crown; and his plea of having signed it merely as a witness to the king's signature, deserves to be regarded as a kind of subterfuge. But he was early in paying his respects to Mary, and he took advantage of the graciousness with which she received his explanations to obtain a general pardon, which protected him from all personal danger. He lost however his place of secretary, which some have affirmed that he might have retained by further compliances in religion. This however is the more doubtful, because it cannot be questioned that he must have yielded a good deal on this point, without which he neither could nor would have made one of a deputation sent to conduct to England cardinal Pole the papal legate, nor probably would he have been joined in commission with the cardinal and other persons sent to treat of a peace with France.
But admitting, as we must, that this eminent statesman was far from aspiring to the praise of a confessor, he will still be found to deserve high commendation for the zeal and courage with which, as a member of parliament, he defended the interests of his oppressed and suffering fellow-protestants. At considerable hazard to himself, he opposed with great freedom of speech a bill for confiscating the property of exiles for religion; and he appears to have escaped committal to the Tower on this account, solely by the presence of mind which he exhibited before the council and the friendship of some of its members.
He is known to have maintained a secret and intimate correspondence with Elizabeth during the time of her adversity, and to have assisted her on various trying occasions with his salutary counsels; and nothing could be more interesting than to trace the origin and progress of that confidential relation between these eminent and in many respects congenial characters, which after a long course of years was only terminated by the hand of death;—but materials for this purpose are unfortunately wanting.
The letters on both sides were probably sacrificed by the parties themselves to the caution which their situation required; and among the published extracts from the Burleigh papers, only a single document is found relative to the connexion subsisting between them during the reign of Mary. This is a short and uninteresting letter addressed to Cecil by sir Thomas Benger, one of the princess's officers, in which, after some mention of accounts, not now intelligible, he promises that he and sir Thomas Parry will move the princess to grant his correspondent's request, which is not particularized, and assures him that as his coming thither would be thankfully received, so he wishes that all the friends of the princess entertained the same sense of that matter as he does. The letter seems to point at some official concern of Cecil in the affairs of Elizabeth. It is dated October 24th 1556.
The private character of Cecil was in every respect exemplary, and his disposition truly amiable. His second marriage with one of the learned daughters of sir Anthony Cook conferred upon him that exalted species of domestic happiness which a sympathy in mental endowments can alone bestow; whilst it had the further advantage of connecting him with the excellent man her father, with sir Nicholas Bacon and sir Thomas Hobby, the husbands of two of her sisters, and generally with the wisest and most conscientious supporters of the protestant interest. This great minister was honorably distinguished through life by an ardor and constancy of friendship rare in all classes of men, but esteemed peculiarly so in those whose lives are occupied amid the heartless ceremonial of courts and the political intrigues of princes. His attachments, as they never degenerated into the weakness of favoritism, were as much a source of benefit to his country as of enjoyment to himself; for his friends were those of virtue and the state. And there were few among the more estimable public men of this reign who were not indebted either for their first introduction to the notice of Elizabeth, their continuance in her favor, or their restoration to it when undeservedly lost, to the generous patronage or powerful intercession of Cecil.
On appointing him a member of her council, the queen addressed her secretary in the following gracious words:
"I give you this charge, that you shall be of my privy-council, and content yourself to take pains for me and my realm. This judgement I have of you, that you will not be corrupted with any gift, and that you will be faithful to the state, and that, without respect of my private will, you will give me that counsel that you think best: And that if you shall know any thing necessary to be declared to me of secrecy, you shall show it to myself only, and assure yourself I will not fail to keep taciturnity therein. And therefore herewith I charge you."
[Note 36: "Nugae Antiquae."]
Cardinal Pole was not doomed to be an eye-witness of the relapse of the nation into what he must have regarded as heresy of the most aggravated nature; he expired a few hours after his royal kinswoman: and Elizabeth, with due consideration for the illustrious ancestry, the learning, the moderation, and the blameless manners of the man, authorized his honorable interment at Canterbury among the archbishops his predecessors, with the attendance of two bishops, his ancient friends and the faithful companions of his long exile.
On November 23d the queen set forward for her capital, attended by a train of about a thousand nobles, knights, gentlemen, and ladies, and took up her abode for the present at the dissolved monastery of the Chartreux, or Charterhouse, then the residence of lord North; a splendid pile which offered ample accommodation for a royal retinue. Her next remove, in compliance with ancient custom, was to the Tower. On this occasion all the streets from the Charterhouse were spread with fine gravel; singers and musicians were stationed by the way, and a vast concourse of people freely lent their joyful and admiring acclamations, as preceded by her heralds and great officers, and richly attired in purple velvet, she passed along mounted on her palfrey, and returning the salutations of the humblest of her subjects with graceful and winning affability.
With what vivid and what affecting impressions of the vicissitudes attending on the great must she have passed again within the antique walls of that fortress once her dungeon, now her palace! She had entered it by the Traitor's gate, a terrified and defenceless prisoner, smarting under many wrongs, hopeless of deliverance, and apprehending nothing less than an ignominious death. She had quitted it, still a captive, under the guard of armed men, to be conducted she knew not whither. She returned to it in all the pomp of royalty, surrounded by the ministers of her power, ushered by the applauses of her people; the cherished object of every eye, the idol of every heart.
Devotion alone could supply becoming language to the emotions which swelled her bosom; and no sooner had she reached the royal apartments, than falling on her knees she returned humble and fervent thanks to that Providence which had brought her in safety, like Daniel from the den of lions, to behold this day of exaltation.
Elizabeth was attended on her passage to the Tower by one who like herself returned with honor to that place of his former captivity; but not, like herself, with a mind disciplined by adversity to receive with moderation and wisdom "the good vicissitude of joy." This person was lord Robert Dudley, whom the queen had thus early encouraged to aspire to her future favors by appointing him to the office of master of the horse.
We are totally uninformed of the circumstances which had recommended to her peculiar patronage this bad son of a bad father; whose enterprises, if successful, would have disinherited of a kingdom Elizabeth herself no less than Mary. But it is remarkable, that even under the reign of the latter, the surviving members of the Dudley family had been able to recover in great measure from the effects of their late signal reverses. Lord Robert, soon after his release from the Tower, contrived to make himself so acceptable to king Philip by his courtier-like attentions, and to Mary by his diligence in posting backwards and forwards to bring her intelligence of her husband during his long visits to the continent, that he earned from the latter several marks of favor. Two of his brothers fought, and one fell, in the battle of St. Quintin's; and immediately afterwards the duchess their mother found means, through some Spanish interests and connexions, to procure the restoration in blood of all her surviving children. The appointment of Robert to the place of master of the ordnance soon followed; so that even before the accession of Elizabeth he might be regarded as a rising man in the state. His personal graces and elegant accomplishments are on all hands acknowledged to have been sufficiently striking to dazzle the eyes and charm the heart of a young princess of a lively imagination and absolute mistress of her own actions. The circumstance of his being already married, blinded her perhaps to the nature of her sentiments towards him, or at least it was regarded by her as a sufficient sanction in the eyes of the public for those manifestations of favor and esteem with which she was pleased to honor him. But whether the affection which she entertained for him best deserved the name of friendship or a still tenderer one, seems after all a question of too subtile and obscure a nature for sober discussion; though in a French "cour d'amour" it might have furnished pleas and counterpleas of exquisite ingenuity, prodigious sentimental interest, and length interminable. What is unfortunately too certain is, that he was a favorite, and in the common judgement of the court, of the nation, and of posterity, an unworthy one; but calumny and prejudice alone have dared to attack the reputation of the queen.
Elizabeth had no propensity to exalt immoderately her relations by the mother's side;—for she neither loved nor honored that mother's memory; but several of the number may be mentioned, whose merits towards herself, or whose qualifications for the public service, justly entitled them to share in her distribution of offices and honors, and whom she always treated with distinction. The whole illustrious family of the Howards were her relations; and in the first year of her reign she conferred on the duke of Norfolk, her second-cousin, the order of the garter. Her great-uncle lord William Howard, created baron of Effingham by Mary, was continued by her in the high office of lord-chamberlain, and soon after appointed one of the commissioners for concluding a peace with France. Lord Thomas Howard, her mother's first-cousin, who had treated her with distinguished respect and kindness on her arrival at Hampton Court from Woodstock, and had the further merit of being indulgent to protestants during the persecutions of Mary, received from her the title of viscount Bindon, and continued much in her favor to the end of his days.
Sir Richard Sackville, also her mother's first-cousin, had filled different fiscal offices under the three last reigns; he was a man of abilities, and derived from a long line of ancestors great estates and extensive influence in the county of Sussex. The people, who marked his growing wealth, and to whom he was perhaps officially obnoxious, nicknamed him Fill-sack: in Mary's time he was a catholic, a privy-councillor, and chancellor of the court of Augmentations; under her successor he changed the first designation and retained the two last, which he probably valued more. He is chiefly memorable as the father of Sackville the poet, afterwards lord Buckhurst and progenitor of the dukes of Dorset.
Sir Francis Knolles, whose lady was one of the queen's nearest kinswomen, was deservedly called to the privy-council on his return from his voluntary banishment for conscience' sake; his sons gained considerable influence in the court of Elizabeth; his daughter, the mother of Essex, and afterwards the wife of Leicester, was for various reasons long an object of the queen's particular aversion.
But of all her relations, the one who had deserved most at her hands was Henry Carey, brother to lady Knolles, and son to Mary Boleyn, her majesty's aunt. This gentleman had expended several thousand pounds of his own patrimony in her service and relief during the time of her imprisonment, and she liberally requited his friendship at her first creation of peers, by conferring upon him, with the title of baron Hunsdon, the royal residence of that name, with its surrounding park and several beneficial leases of crown lands. He was afterwards joined in various commissions and offices of trust: but his remuneration was, on the whole, by no means exorbitant; for he was not rapacious, and consequently not importunate; and the queen, in the employments which she assigned him, seemed rather to consult her own advantage and that of her country, by availing herself of the abilities of a diligent and faithful servant, than to please herself by granting rewards to an affectionate and generous kinsman. In fact, lord Hunsdon was skilled as little in the ceremonious and sentimental gallantry which she required from her courtiers, as in the circumspect and winding policy which she approved in her statesmen. "As he lived in a ruffling time," says Naunton, "so he loved sword and buckler men, and such as our fathers wont to call men of their hands, of which sort he had many brave gentlemen that followed him; yet not taken for a popular or dangerous person." Though extremely choleric, he was honest, and not at all malicious. It was said of him that "his Latin and his dissimulation were both alike," equally bad, and that "his custom in swearing and obscenity in speech made him seem a worse Christian than he was."
Fuller relates of him the following characteristic anecdote. "Once, one Mr. Colt chanced to meet him coming from Hunsdon to London, in the equipage of a lord of those days. The lord, on some former grudge, gave him a box on the ear: Colt presently returned the principal with interest; and thereupon his servants drawing their swords, swarmed about him. 'You rogues,' said my lord, 'may not I and my neighbour change a blow but you must interpose?' Thus the quarrel was begun and ended in the same minute."
[Note 37: "Worthies" in Herts.]
The queen's attachment to such of her family as she was pleased to honor with her notice, was probably the more constant because there was nothing in it of excess or of blindness:—even Leicester in the height of his favor felt that he must hold sacred their claims to her regard: according to Naunton's phrase, he used to say of Sackville and Hunsdon, "that they were of the tribe of Dan, and were Noli me tangere's."
After a few days spent in the Tower, Elizabeth passed by water to Somerset Place; and thence, about a fortnight after, when the funeral of her predecessor was over, to the palace of Westminster, where she kept her Christmas.
Busy preparation was now making in her good city of London against the solemn day of her passage in state from the Tower to her coronation at Westminster. The usages and sentiments of that age conferred upon these public ceremonials a character of earnest and dignified importance now lost; and on this memorable occasion, when the mingled sense of deliverance received and of future favor to be conciliated had opened the hearts of all men, it was resolved to lavish in honor of the new sovereign every possible demonstration of loyal affection, and every known device of festal magnificence.
The costume of the age was splendid. Gowns of velvet or satin, richly trimmed with silk, furs, or gold lace, costly gold chains, and caps or hoods of rich materials adorned with feathers or ouches, decorated on all occasions of display the persons not of nobles or courtiers alone, but of their crowds of retainers and higher menials, and even of the plain substantial citizens. Female attire was proportionally sumptuous. Hangings, of cloth, of silk, of velvet, cloth of gold or silver, or "needlework sublime," clothed on days of family-festivity the upper chamber of every house of respectable appearance; these on public festivals were suspended from the balconies, and uniting with the banners and pennons floating overhead, gave to the streets almost the appearance of a suit of long and gayly-dressed saloons. Every circumstance thus conspired to render the public entry of queen Elizabeth the most gorgeous and at the same time the most interesting spectacle of the kind ever exhibited in the English metropolis.
[Note 38: As long as that style of domestic architecture prevailed in which every story was made to project considerably beyond the one beneath it, the upper room, from its superior size and lightsomeness, appears to have been that dedicated to the entertainment of guests.]
Her majesty was first to be conducted from her palace in Westminster to the royal apartments in the Tower; and a splendid water procession was appointed for the purpose. At this period, when the streets were narrow and ill-paved, the roads bad, and the luxury of close carriages unknown, the Thames was the great thoroughfare of the metropolis. The old palace of Westminster, as well as those of Richmond and Greenwich, the favorite summer residences of the Tudor princes, stood on its banks, and the court passed from one to the other in barges. The nobility were beginning to occupy with their mansions and gardens the space between the Strand and the water, and it had become a reigning folly amongst them to vie with each other in the splendor of their barges and of the liveries of the rowers, who were all distinguished by the crests or badges of their lords.
The corporation and trading companies of London possessed, as now, their state-barges enriched with carved and gilded figures and "decked and trimmed with targets and banners of their misteries."
On the 12th of January 1559 these were all drawn forth in grand array; and to enliven the pomp, "the bachelor's barge of the lord-mayor's company, to wit the mercers, had their barge with a foist trimmed with three tops and artillery aboard, gallantly appointed to wait upon them, shooting off lustily as they went, with great and pleasant melody of instruments, which played in most sweet and heavenly manner." In this state they rowed up to Westminster and attended her majesty with the royal barges back to the Tower.
Her passage through the city took place two days after.
She issued forth drawn in a sumptuous chariot, preceded by trumpeters and heralds in their coat-armour and "most honorably accompanied as well with gentlemen, barons, and other the nobility of this realm, as also with a notable train of goodly and beautiful ladies, richly appointed." The ladies were on horseback, and both they and the lords were habited in crimson velvet, with which their horses were also trapped. Let it be remarked by the way, that the retinue of fair equestrians constantly attendant on the person of the maiden queen in all her public appearances, was a circumstance of prodigious effect; the gorgeousness of royal pomp was thus heightened, and at the same time rendered more amiable and attractive by the alliance of grace and beauty; and a romantic kind of charm, comparable to that which seizes the imagination in the splendid fictions of chivalry, was cast over the heartless parade of courtly ceremonial.
It was a very different spirit, however, from that of romance or of knight-errantry which inspired the bosoms of the citizens whose acclamations now rent the air on her approach. They beheld in the princess whom they welcomed the daughter of that Henry who had redeemed the land from papal tyranny and extortion; the sister of that young and godly Edward,—the Josiah of English story,—whose pious hand had reared again the altars of pure and primitive religion; and they had bodied forth for her instruction and admonition, in a series of solemn pageants, the maxims by which they hoped to see her equal or surpass these deep-felt merits of her predecessors.
These pageants were erections placed across the principal streets in the manner of triumphal arches: illustrative sentences in English and Latin were inscribed upon them; and a child was stationed in each, who explained to the queen in English verse the meaning of the whole. The first was of three stories, and represented by living figures: first, Henry VII. and his royal spouse Elizabeth of York, from whom her majesty derived her name; secondly, Henry VIII. and Anne Boleyn; and lastly, her majesty in person; all in royal robes. The verses described the felicity of that union of the houses to which she owed her existence, and of concord in general. The second pageant was styled "The seat of worthy governance," on the summit of which sat another representative of the queen; beneath were the cardinal virtues trampling under their feet the opposite vices, among whom Ignorance and Superstition were not forgotten. The third exhibited the eight Beatitudes, all ascribed with some ingenuity of application to her majesty. The fourth ventured upon a more trying topic: its opposite sides represented in lively contrast the images of a decayed and of a flourishing commonwealth; and from a cave below issued Time leading forth his daughter Truth, who held in her hand an English bible, which she offered to the queen's acceptance. Elizabeth received the volume, and reverently pressing it with both hands to her heart and to her lips, declared aloud, amid the tears and grateful benedictions of her people, that she thanked the city more for that gift than for all the cost they had bestowed upon her, and that she would often read over that book. The last pageant exhibited "a seemly and mete personage, richly apparelled in parliament robes, with a sceptre in her hand, over whose head was written 'Deborah, the judge and restorer of the house of Israel.'"
To render more palatable these grave moralities, the recorder of London, approaching her majesty's chariot near the further end of Cheapside, where ended the long array of the city companies, which had lined the streets all the way from Fenchurch, presented her with a splendid and ample purse, containing one thousand marks in gold. The queen graciously received it with both hands, and answered his harangue "marvellous pithily."
To crown the whole, those two griesly personages vulgarly called Gog and Magog, but described by the learned as Gogmagog the Albion and Corineus the Briton, deserted on this memorable day that accustomed station in Guildhall where they appear as the tutelary genii of the city, and were seen rearing up their stately height on each side of Temple-bar. With joined hands they supported above the gate a copy of Latin verses, in which they obligingly expounded to her majesty the sense of all the pageants which had been offered to her view, concluding with compliments and felicitations suitable to the happy occasion. The queen, in few but cordial words, thanked the citizens for all their cost and pains, assured them that she would "stand their good queen," and passed the gate amid a thunder of applause.
Elizabeth possessed in a higher degree than any other English prince who ever reigned, the innocent and honest arts of popularity; and the following traits of her behaviour on this day are recorded by our chroniclers with affectionate delight. "'Yonder is an ancient citizen,' said one of the knights attending on her person, 'which weepeth and turneth his face backward: How may it be interpreted? that he doth so for sorrow or for gladness?' With a just and pleasing confidence, the queen replied, 'I warrant you it is for gladness,'" "How many nosegays did her grace receive at poor women's hands! How many times staid she her chariot when she saw any simple body offer to speak to her grace! A branch of rosemary given her grace with a supplication by a poor woman about Fleet-bridge was seen in her chariot till her grace came to Westminster."
[Note 39: Holinshed's Chronicles.]
The reader may here be reminded, that five-and-twenty years before, when the mother of this queen passed through London to her coronation, the pageants exhibited derived their personages and allusions chiefly from pagan mythology or classical fiction. But all was now changed; the earnestness of religious controversy in Edward's time, and the fury of persecution since, had put to flight Apollo, the Muses, and the Graces: Learning indeed had kept her station and her honors, but she had lent her lamp to other studies, and whether in the tongue of ancient Rome or modern England, Elizabeth was hailed in Christian strains, and as the sovereign of a Christian country. A people filled with earnest zeal in the best of causes implored her to free them once again from popery; to overthrow the tyranny of error and of superstition; to establish gospel truth; and to accept at their hands, as the standard of her faith and the rule of her conduct, that holy book of which they regarded the free and undisturbed possession as their brightest privilege.
How tame, how puerile, in the midst of sentiments serious and profound as these, would have appeared the intrusion of classical imagery, however graceful in itself or ingenious in its application! Frigid must have been the spectator who could even have remarked its absence, while shouts of patriotic ardor and of religious joy were bursting from the lips of the whole assembled population.
The august ceremonies of the coronation, which took place on the following day, merit no particular description; regulated in every thing by ancient custom, they afforded little scope for that display of popular sentiment which had given so intense an interest to the procession of the day before. Great perplexity was occasioned by the refusal of the whole bench of bishops to perform the coronation service; but at length, to the displeasure of his brethren, Ogelthorp bishop of Carlisle suffered himself to be gained over, and the rite was duly celebrated. This refractoriness of the episcopal order was wisely overlooked for the present by the new government; but it proceeded no doubt from the principle, that, the marriage of Henry VIII. with Catherine of Arragon having been declared lawful and valid, the child of Anne Boleyn must be regarded as illegitimate and incapable of the succession. The compliance of Ogelthorp could indeed be censured by the other bishops on no other ground than their disallowance of the title of the sovereign; in the office itself, as he performed it, there was nothing to which the most rigid catholic could object, for the ancient ritual is said to have been followed without the slightest modification. This circumstance has been adduced among others, to show that it was rather by the political necessities of her situation, than by her private judgement and conscience in religious matters, that Elizabeth was impelled finally to abjure the Roman catholic system, and to declare herself the general protectress of the protestant cause.
Probably, had she found herself free to follow entirely the dictates of her own inclinations, she would have established in the church of which she found herself the head, a kind of middle scheme like that devised by her father, for whose authority she was impressed with the highest veneration. To the end of her days she could never be reconciled to married bishops; indeed with respect to the clergy generally, a sagacious writer of her own time observes, that "caeteris paribus, and sometimes imparibus too, she preferred the single man before the married."
[Note 40: Harrington's "Brief View."]
She would allow no one "to speak irreverently of the sacrament of the altar;" that is, to enter into discussions respecting the real presence; she enjoined the like respectful silence concerning the intercession of saints; and we learn that one Patch, who had been Wolsey's fool, and had contrived, like some others, to keep in favor through all the changes of four successive reigns, was employed by sir Francis Knolles to break down a crucifix which she still retained in her private chapel to the scandal of all good protestants.
A remarkable incident soon served to intimate the coolness and caution with which it was her intention to proceed in re-establishing the maxims of the reformers. Lord Bacon thus relates the anecdote: "Queen Elizabeth on the morrow of her coronation (it being the custom to release prisoners at the inauguration of a prince) went to the chapel; and in the great chamber one of her courtiers, who was well known to her, either out of his own motion, or by the instigation of a wiser man, presented her with a petition, and before a great number of courtiers besought her with a loud voice that now this good time there might be four or five more principal prisoners released: these were the four evangelists, and the apostle St. Paul, who had been long shut up in an unknown tongue, as it were in prison; so as they could not converse with the common people. The queen answered very gravely, that it was best first to inquire of themselves whether they would be released or not."
[Note 41: Bacon's "Apophthegms."]
It was not long, however, ere this happy deliverance was fully effected. Before her coronation, Elizabeth had taken the important step of authorizing the reading of the liturgy in English; but she forbade preaching on controverted topics generally, and all preaching at Paul's Cross in particular, till the completion of that revision of the service used in the time of Edward VI. which she had intrusted to Parker archbishop-elect of Canterbury, with several of her wisest counsellors. It was the zeal of the ministers lately returned from exile, many of whom had imbibed at Geneva or Zurich ideas of a primitive simplicity in Christian worship widely remote from the views and sentiments of the queen, which gave occasion to this prohibition. The learning, the piety, the past sufferings of the men gave them great power over the minds and opinions of the people, who ran in crowds to listen to their sermons; and Elizabeth began already to apprehend that the hierarchy which she desired to establish would stand as much in need of protection from the disciples of Calvin and Zwingle on one hand, as from the adherents of popery on the other.
There is good reason to believe, that a royal proclamation issued some time after, by which all manner of plays and interludes were forbidden to be represented till after the ensuing hallowmass, was dictated by similar reasons of state with the prohibition of popular and unlicensed preaching.
From the earliest beginnings of the reformation under Henry VIII. the stage had come in aid of the pulpit; not, according to the practice of its purer ages, as the "teacher best of moral wisdom, with delight received," but as the vehicle of religious controversy, and not seldom of polemical scurrility. Several times already had this dangerous novelty attracted the jealous eyes of authority, and measures had in vain been taken for its suppression.
In 1542 Henry added to an edict for the destruction of Tyndale's English bible, with all the controversial works on both sides of which it had been the fertile parent, an injunction that "the kingdom should be purged and cleansed of all religious plays, interludes, rhymes, ballads, and songs, which are equally pestiferous and noisome to the peace of the church." During the reign of Edward, when the papists had availed themselves of the license of the theatre to attack Cranmer and the protector, a similar prohibition was issued against all dramatic performances, as tending to the growth of "disquiet, division, tumults and uproars." Mary's privy-council, on the other hand, found it necessary to address a remonstrance to the president of the North, respecting certain players, servants to sir Francis Lake, who had gone about the country representing pieces in ridicule of the king and queen and the formalities of the mass; and the design of the proclamation of Elizabeth was rendered evident by a solemn enactment of heavy penalties against such as should abuse the Common-prayer in any interludes, songs, or rhymes.
[Note 42: Warton's "History of English Poetry," vol. iii. p. 202 et seq.]
Meeting of parliament.—Prudent counsel of sir N. Bacon.—Act declaratory of the queen's title.—Her answer to an address praying her to marry.—Philip II. offers her his hand.—Motives of her refusal.—Proposes to her the archduke Charles.—The king of Sweden renews his addresses by the duke of Finland.—Honorable reception of the duke.—Addresses of the duke of Holstein.—The duke of Norfolk, lord R. Dudley, the marquis of Northampton, the earl of Rutland, made knights of the garter.—Notices of the two last.—Queen visits the earl of Pembroke.—His life and character.—Arrival and entertainment of a French embassy.—Review of the London trained-bands.—Tilt in Greenwich park.—Band of gentlemen-pensioners.—Royal progress to Dartford, Cobham Hall, Eltham, and Nonsuch.—The earl of Arundel entertains her at the latter place.—Obsequies for the king of France.—Death of Frances duchess of Suffolk.—Sumptuary law respecting apparel.—Fashions of dress.—Law against witchcraft.
In the parliament which met in January 1559, two matters personally interesting to the queen were agitated; her title to the crown, and her marriage; and both were disposed of in a manner calculated to afford a just presage of the maxims by which the whole tenor of her future life and reign was to be guided. By the eminently prudent and judicious counsels of sir Nicholas Bacon keeper of the seals, she omitted to require of parliament the repeal of those acts of her father's reign which had declared his marriage with her mother null, and herself illegitimate; and reposing on the acknowledged maxim of law, that the crown once worn takes away all defects in blood, she contented herself with an act declaratory in general terms of her right of succession. Thus the whole perplexing subject of her mother's character and conduct was consigned to an oblivion equally safe and decent; and the memory of her father, which, in spite of all his acts of violence and injustice, was popular in the nation and respected by herself, was saved from the stigma which the vindication of Anne Boleyn must have impressed indelibly upon it.
On the other topic she explained herself with an earnest sincerity which might have freed her from all further importunity in any concern less interesting to the wishes of her people. To a deputation from the house of commons with an address, "the special matter whereof was to move her grace to marriage," after a gracious reception, she delivered an answer in which the following passages are remarkable.
"...From my years of understanding, sith I first had consideration of my life, to be born a servitor of almighty God, I happily chose this kind of life, in the which I yet live; which I assure you for mine own part hath hitherto best contented myself, and I trust hath been most acceptable unto God. From the which, if either ambition of high estate, offered to me in marriage by the pleasure and appointment of my prince, whereof I have some records in this presence (as you our treasurer well know); or if eschewing the danger of mine enemies, or the avoiding of the peril of death, whose messenger, or rather a continual watchman, the prince's indignation, was no little time daily before mine eyes, (by whose means although I know, or justly may suspect, yet I will not now utter, or if the whole cause were in my sister herself, I will not now burden her therewith, because I will not charge the dead): if any of these, I say, could have drawn or dissuaded me from this kind of life, I had not now remained in this estate wherein you see me; but so constant have I always continued in this determination, although my youth and words may seem to some hardly to agree together; yet it is most true that at this day I stand free from any other meaning that either I have had in times past, or have at this present."
After a somewhat haughty assurance that she takes the recommendation of the parliament in good part, because it contains no limitation of place or person, which she should have regarded as great presumption in them, "whose duties are to obey," and "not to require them that may command;" having declared that should she change her resolution, she will choose one for her husband who shall, if possible, be as careful for the realm as herself, she thus concludes: "And in the end, this shall be for me sufficient, that a marble stone shall declare, that a queen, having reigned such a time, lived and died a virgin."
One matrimonial proposal her majesty had already received, and that at once the most splendid and the least suitable which Europe could afford. Philip of Spain, loth to relinquish his hold upon England, but long since aware of the impracticability of establishing any claims of his own in opposition to the title of Elizabeth, now sought to reign by her; and to the formal announcement which she conveyed to him of the death of his late wife, accompanied with expressions of her anxiety to preserve his friendship, he had replied by an offer of his hand.
The objections to this union were so peculiarly forcible, and so obvious to every eye, that it appears at first view almost incredible that the proposal should have been made, as it yet undoubtedly was, seriously and with strong expectations of success. But Philip, himself a politician, believed Elizabeth to be one also; and he flattered himself that he should be able to point out such advantages in the connexion as might over-balance in her mind any scruples of patriotism, of feeling, or of conscience. She stood alone, the last of her father's house, unsupported at home by the authority of a powerful royal family, or abroad by great alliances. The queen of Scots, whom few of the subjects of Elizabeth denied to be next heir to the crown, and whose claim was by most of the catholics held preferable to her own, was married to the dauphin of France, consequently her title would be upheld by the whole force of that country, with which, as well as with Scotland, Elizabeth at her accession had found the nation involved in an unsuccessful war. The loss of Calais, the decay of trade, the failure of the exchequer, and the recent visitations of famine and pestilence, had infected the minds of the English with despondency, and paralysed all their efforts.
In religion they were confessedly a divided people; but it is probable that Philip, misled by his own zeal and that of the catholic clergy, confidently anticipated the extirpation of heresy and the final triumph of the papal system, if the measures of salutary rigor which had distinguished the reign of Mary should be persisted in by her successor; and that he actually supposed the majority of the nation to be at this time sincerely and cordially catholic. In offering therefore his hand to Elizabeth, he seemed to lend her that powerful aid against her foreign foe and rival without which her possession of the throne could not be secure, and that support against domestic faction without which it could not be tranquil. He readily undertook to procure from the pope the necessary dispensation for the marriage, which he was certain would be granted with alacrity; and before the answer of Elizabeth could reach him, he had actually dispatched envoys to Rome for this purpose.
A princess, in fact, of a character less firm and less sagacious than Elizabeth, might have found in these seeming benefits temptations not to be resisted; the splendor of Philip's rank and power would have dazzled and overawed, the difficulties of her own situation would have affrighted her, and between ambition and alarm she would probably have thrown herself into the arms, and abandoned her country to the mercy, of a gloomy, calculating, relentless tyrant.
But Elizabeth was neither to be deceived nor intimidated. She well knew how odious this very marriage had rendered her unhappy sister; she understood and sympathized in the religious sentiments of the great mass of her subjects; she felt too all the pride, as well as the felicity, of independence; and looking around with a cheerful confidence on a people who adored her, she formed at once the patriotic resolution to wear her English diadem by the suffrage of the English nation alone, unindebted to the protection and free from the participation of any brother-monarch living, even of him who held the highest place among the potentates of Europe.
Her best and wisest counsellors applauded her decision, but they unanimously advised that no means consistent with the rejection of his suit should be omitted, by which the friendship of the king of Spain might be preserved and cultivated. Expedients were accordingly found, without actually encouraging his hopes, for protracting the negotiation till a peace was concluded with France and with Scotland, and finally of declining the marriage without a breach of amity. Yet the duke de Feria, the Spanish ambassador, had not failed to represent to the queen, that as the addresses of his master were founded on personal acquaintance and high admiration of her charms and merit, a negative could not be returned without wounding equally his pride and his feelings. Philip, however, soon consoled himself for this disappointment by taking to wife the daughter of the king of France; and before the end of the year we find him recommending to Elizabeth as a husband his cousin the archduke Charles, son of the emperor Ferdinand. The overture was at this time declined by the queen without hesitation; but some time afterwards, circumstances arose which caused the negotiation to be resumed with prospect of success, and the pretensions and qualifications of the Austrian prince became, as we shall see, an object of serious discussion.
Eric, who had now ascended the throne of Sweden, sent his brother the duke of Finland to plead once more with the English princess in his behalf; and the king of Denmark, unwilling that his neighbour should bear off without a contest so glorious a prize, lost no time in sending forth on the same high adventure his nephew the duke of Holstein. It is more than probable that Shakespear, in his description of the wooers of all countries who contend for the possession of the fair and wealthy Portia, satirically alludes to several of these royal suitors, whose departure would often be accounted by his sovereign "a gentle ridance," since she might well exclaim with the Italian heiress, "while we shut the gate on one wooer, another knocks at the door."
[Note 43: See "The Merchant of Venice."]
The duke of Finland was received with high honors. The earl of Oxford and lord Robert Dudley repaired to him at Colchester and conducted him into London. At the corner of Gracechurch-street he was received by the marquis of Northampton and lord Ambrose Dudley, attended by many gentlemen, and, what seems remarkable, by ladies also; and thence, followed by a great troop of gentlemen in gold chains and yeomen of the guard, he proceeded to the bishop of Winchester's palace in Southwark, "which was hung with rich cloth of arras, and wrought with gold and silver and silks. And there he remained."
On the last circumstance it may be remarked, that it appears at this time to have been the invariable custom for ambassadors and other royal visitants to be lodged at some private house, where they were entertained, nominally perhaps at the expense of the sovereign, but really to the great cost as well as inconvenience of the selected host. The practice discovers a kind of feudal right of ownership still claimed by the prince in the mansions of his barons, some of which indeed were royal castles or manor-houses and held perhaps under peculiar obligations: at the same time it gives us a magnificent idea of the size and accommodation of these mansions and of the style of house-keeping used in them. It further intimates that an habitual distrust of these foreign guests caused it to be regarded as a point of prudence to place them under the secret inspection of some native of approved loyalty and discretion. Prisoners of state, as well as ambassadors and royal strangers, were thus committed to the private custody of peers or bishops.
The duke of Holstein on his arrival was lodged at Somerset Place, of which the queen had granted the use to lord Hunsdon. He came, it seems, with sanguine expectations of success in his suit; but the royal fair one deemed it sufficient to acknowledge his pains by an honorable reception, the order of the garter, and the grant of a yearly pension.
Meantime the queen herself, with equal assiduity and better success than awaited these princely wooers, was applying her cares to gain the affections of her subjects of every class, and if possible of both religious denominations.
On her young kinsman the duke of Norfolk, the first peer of the realm by rank, property, and great alliances, and the most popular by his known attachment to the protestant faith, she now conferred the distinction of the garter, decorating with it at the same time the marquis of Northampton, the earl of Rutland, and lord Robert Dudley.
The marquis, a brother of queen Catherine Parr, whom he resembled in the turn of his religious opinions, had been for these opinions a great sufferer under the last reign. On pretext of his adherence to the cause of Jane Grey, in which he had certainly not partaken more deeply than many others who found nothing but favor in the sight of Mary, he was attainted of high treason, and though his life was spared, his estates were forfeited and he had remained ever since in disgrace and suspicion. A divorce which he had obtained from an unfaithful wife under the ecclesiastical law of Henry VIII. was also called in question, and an after marriage which he had contracted declared null, but it appears to have been confirmed under Elizabeth. He was accounted a modest and upright character, endowed with no great talents for military command, in which he had been unsuccessful, nor yet for civil business; but distinguished by a fine taste in music and poetry, which formed his chief delight. From the new sovereign substantial benefits as well as flattering distinctions awaited him, being reinstated by her in the possession of his confiscated estates and appointed a privy-councillor.
Henry second earl of Rutland of the surname of Manners, was the representative of a knightly family seated during many generations at Ettal in Northumberland, and known in border history amongst the stoutest champions on the English side. But Ettal, a place of strength, was more than once laid in ruins, and the lands devastated and rendered "nothing worth," by incursions of the Scots; and though successive kings rewarded the services and compensated the losses of these valiant knights, by grants of land and appointments to honorable offices in the north, it was many an age before they attained to such a degree of wealth as would enable them to appear with distinction amongst the great families of the kingdom. At length sir Robert Manners, high sheriff of Northumberland, having recommended himself to the favor of the king-making Warwick and of Richard duke of Gloucester, was fortunate enough by a judicious marriage with the daughter of lord Roos, heiress of the Tiptofts earls of Worcester, to add the noble castle and fertile vale of Belvoir to the battered towers and wasted fields of his paternal inheritance.
A second splendid alliance completed the aggrandizement of the house of Manners. The son of sir Robert, bearing in right of his mother the title of lord Roos, and knighted by the earl of Surry for his distinguished bravery in the Scottish wars, was honored with the hand of Anne sole heiress of sir Thomas St. Leger by the duchess-dowager of Exeter, a sister of king Edward IV. The heir of this marriage, in consideration of his maternal ancestry, was advanced by Henry VIII. to the title of earl of Rutland, never borne but by princes of the blood. His successor, whom the queen was pleased to honor on this occasion, had suffered a short imprisonment in the cause of Jane Grey, but was afterwards intrusted by Mary with a military command. Under Elizabeth he was lord lieutenant of the counties of Nottingham and Rutland, and one of the commissioners for enforcing the oath of supremacy on all persons in offices of trust or profit suspected of adherence to the old religion. He died in 1563.
Of lord Robert Dudley it is only necessary here to observe, that his favor with the queen became daily more apparent, and began to give fears and jealousies to her best friends and wisest counsellors.
The hearts of the common people, as this wise princess well knew, were easily and cheaply to be won by gratifying their eyes with the frequent view of her royal person, and she neglected no opportunity of offering herself, all smiles and affability, to their ready acclamations.
On one occasion she passed publicly through the city to visit the mint and inspect the new coinage, which she had the great merit of restoring to its just standard from the extremely depreciated state to which it had been brought by the successive encroachments of her immediate predecessors. Another time she visited the dissolved priory of St. Mary Spittle in Bishopsgate-street, which was noted for its pulpit-cross, where, on set days, the lord-mayor and aldermen attended to hear sermons. It is conjectured that the queen went thither for the same purpose; but if this were the case, her equipage was somewhat whimsical. She was attended, as Stow informs us, by a thousand men in harness with shirts of mail and corselets and morice-pikes, and ten great pieces carried through the city unto the court, with drums and trumpets sounding, and two morice dancings, and in a cart two white bears.
Having supped one afternoon with the earl of Pembroke at Baynard's castle in Thames-street, she afterwards took boat and was rowed up and down the river, "hundreds of boats and barges rowing about her, and thousands of people thronging at the water side to look upon her majesty; rejoicing to see her, and partaking of the music and sights upon the Thames."
This peer was the offspring of a base-born son of William Herbert earl of Pembroke, and coming early to court to push his fortune, became an esquire of the body to Henry VIII. Soon ingratiating himself with this monarch, he obtained from his customary profusion towards his favorites, several offices in Wales and enormous grants of abbey-lands in some of the southern counties. In the year 1554, the 37th of his age, we find him considerable enough to procure the king's license "to retain thirty persons at his will and pleasure, over and above such persons as attended on him, and to give them his livery, badges, and cognizance." The king's marriage with Catherine Parr, his wife's sister, increased his consequence, and Henry on his death-bed appointed him one of his executors and a member of the young king's council. He was actively useful in the beginning of Edward's reign in keeping down commotions in Wales and suppressing some which had arisen in Wiltshire and Somersetshire. This service obtained for him the office of master of the horse; and that more important service which he afterwards performed at the head of one thousand Welshmen, with whom he took the field against the Cornish rebels, was rewarded by the garter, the presidency of the council for Wales, and a valuable wardship. He figured next as commander of part of the forces in Picardy and governor of Calais, and found himself strong enough to claim of the feeble protector as his reward the titles of baron Herbert and earl of Pembroke, become extinct by the failure of legitimate heirs. As soon as his sagacity prognosticated the fall of Somerset, he judiciously attached himself to the rising fortunes of Northumberland. With this aspiring leader it was an object of prime importance to purchase the support of a nobleman who now appeared at the head of three hundred retainers, and whose authority in Wales and the southern counties was equal, or superior, to the hereditary influence of the most powerful and ancient houses. To engage him therefore the more firmly in his interest, Northumberland proposed a marriage between Pembroke's son lord Herbert and lady Catherine Grey, which was solemnized at the same time with that between lord Guildford Dudley and the lady Jane her eldest sister.
But no ties of friendship or alliance could permanently engage Pembroke on the losing side; and though he concurred in the first measures of the privy-council in behalf of lady Jane's title, it was he who devised a pretext for extricating its members from the Tower, where Northumberland had detained them in order to secure their fidelity, and, assembling them in Baynard's castle, procured their concurrence in the proclamation of Mary. By this act he secured the favor of the new queen, whom he further propitiated by compelling his son to repudiate the innocent and ill-fated lady Catherine, whose birth caused her to be regarded at court with jealous eyes. Mary soon confided to him the charge of effectually suppressing Wyat's rebellion, and afterwards constituted him her captain-general beyond the seas, in which capacity he commanded the English forces at the battle of St. Quintin's. Such was the respect entertained for his experience and capacity, that Elizabeth admitted him to her privy-council immediately after her accession, and as a still higher mark of her confidence named him,—with the marquis of Northampton, the earl of Bedford, and lord John Grey, leading men of the protestant party,—to assist at the meetings of divines and men of learning by whom the religious establishment of the country was to be settled. He was likewise appointed a commissioner for administering the oath of supremacy. In short, he retained to his death, which occurred in 1570, in the 63d year of his age, the same high station among the confidential servants of the crown which he had held unmoved through all the mutations of the eventful period of his public life.
Naunton, in his "Fragmenta Regalia," speaking of Paulet marquis of Winchester and lord-treasurer, who, he says, had then served four princes "in as various and changeable season that well I may say, neither time nor age hath yielded the like precedent," thus proceeds: "This man being noted to grow high in her" (queen Elizabeth's) "favor, as his place and experience required, was questioned by an intimate friend of his, how he stood up for thirty years together amidst the changes and reigns of so many chancellors and great personages. 'Why,' quoth the marquis, 'ortus sum ex salice, non ex quercu.' (By being a willow and not an oak). And truly the old man hath taught them all, especially William earl of Pembroke, for they two were ever of the king's religion, and over-zealous professors. Of these it is said, that both younger brothers, yet of noble houses, they spent what was left them and came on trust to the court; where, upon the bare stock of their wits, they began to traffic for themselves, and prospered so well, that they got, spent, and left, more than any subjects from the Norman conquest to their own times: whereunto it hath been prettily replied, that they lived in a time of dissolution.—Of any of the former reign, it is said that these two lived and died chiefly in the queen's favor."
Among the means employed by Pembroke for preserving the good graces of the new queen, the obvious one of paying court to her prime favorite Robert Dudley was not neglected; and lord Herbert, whose first marriage had been contracted in compliance with the views of the father, now formed a third in obedience to the wishes of the son. The lady to whom he was thus united by motives in which inclination had probably no share on either side, was the niece of Dudley and sister of sir Philip Sidney, one of the most accomplished women of her age, celebrated during her life by the wits and poets whom she patronized, and preserved in the memory of posterity by an epitaph from the pen of Ben Jonson which will not be forgotten whilst English poetry remains.
The arrival of ambassadors of high rank from France, on occasion of the peace recently concluded with that country, afforded the queen an opportunity of displaying all the magnificence of her court; and their entertainment has furnished for the curious inquirer in later times some amusing traits of the half-barbarous manners of the age. The duke de Montmorenci, the head of the embassy, was lodged at the bishop of London's, and the houses of the dean and canons of St. Paul's were entirely filled with his numerous retinue. The gorgeousness of the ambassador's dress was thought remarkable even in those gorgeous times. The day after their arrival they were conducted in state to court, where they supped with the queen, and afterwards partook of a "goodly banquet," with all manner of entertainment till midnight. The next day her majesty gave them a sumptuous dinner, followed by a baiting of bulls and bears. "The queen's grace herself" stood with them in a gallery, looking on the pastime, till six o'clock, when they returned by water to sup with the bishop their host. On the following day they were conducted to the Paris Garden, then a favorite place of amusement on the Surry side of the Thames, and there regaled with another exhibition of bull and bear baiting. Two days afterwards they departed, "taking their barge towards Gravesend," highly delighted, it is to be hoped, with the elegant taste of the English in public diversions, and carrying with them a number of mastiffs, given them to hunt wolves in their own country.
But notwithstanding all outward shows of amity with France, Elizabeth had great cause to apprehend that the pretensions of the queen of Scots and her husband the dauphin, who had openly assumed the royal arms of England, might soon reinvolve her in hostilities with that country and with Scotland; and it consequently became a point of policy with her to animate by means of military spectacles, graced with her royal presence and encouragement, the warlike preparations of her subjects. She was now established for a time in her favorite summer-palace of Greenwich, and the London companies were ordered to make a muster of their men at arms in the adjoining park.
The employment of fire-arms had not as yet consigned to disuse either the defensive armour or the weapons of offence of the middle ages; and the military arrays of that time amused the eye of the spectator with a rich variety of accoutrement far more picturesque in its details, and probably more striking even in its general effect, than that magnificent uniformity which, at a modern review, dazzles but soon satiates the sight.
Of the fourteen hundred men whom the metropolis sent forth on this occasion, eight hundred, armed in fine corselets, bore the long Moorish pike; two hundred were halberdiers wearing a different kind of armour, called Almain rivets; and the gunners, or musketeers, were equipped in shirts of mail, with morions or steel caps. Her majesty, surrounded by a splendid court, beheld all their evolutions from a gallery over the park gate, and finally dismissed them, confirmed in loyalty and valor by praises, thanks, and smiles of graciousness.
A few days afterwards the queen's pensioners were appointed "to run with the spear," and this chivalrous exhibition was accompanied with such circumstances of romantic decoration as peculiarly delighted the fancy of Elizabeth. She caused to be erected for her in Greenwich park a banqueting-house "made with fir poles and decked with birch branches and all manner of flowers both of the field and the garden, as roses, julyflowers, lavender, marygolds, and all manner of strewing-herbs and rushes." Tents were also set up for her household, and a place was prepared for the tilters. After the exercises were over, the queen gave a supper in the banqueting-house, succeeded by a masque, and that by a splendid banquet. "And then followed great casting of fire and shooting of guns till midnight."
This band of gentlemen pensioners, the boast and ornament of the court of Elizabeth, was probably the most splendid establishment of the kind in Europe. It was entirely composed of the flower of the nobility and gentry, and to be admitted to serve in its ranks was during the whole of the reign regarded as a distinction worthy the ambition of young men of the highest families and most brilliant prospects. Sir John Holles, afterwards earl of Clare, was accustomed to say, that while he was a pensioner to queen Elizabeth, he did not know a worse man in the whole band than himself; yet he was then in possession of an inheritance of four thousand a year. "It was the constant custom of that queen," pursues the earl's biographer, "to call out of all counties of the kingdom, the gentlemen of the greatest hopes and the best fortunes and families, and with them to fill the more honorable rooms of her household servants, by which she honored them, obliged their kindred and alliance, and fortified herself."
[Note 44: Collins's "Historical Collections."]
On this point of policy it deserves to be remarked, that however it might strengthen the personal influence of the sovereign to enroll amongst the menial servants of the crown gentlemen of influence and property, it is chiefly perhaps to this practice that we ought to impute that baseness of servility which infected, with scarcely one honorable exception, the public characters of the reign of Elizabeth.
On July 17th the queen set out on the first of those royal progresses which form so striking a feature in the domestic history of her reign. In them, as in most of the recreations in which she at any time indulged herself, Elizabeth sought to unite political utilities with the gratification of her taste for magnificence, and especially for admiration. It has also been surmised, that she was not inattentive to the savings occasioned to her privy purse by maintaining her household for several weeks in every year at the expense of her nobles, or of the towns through which she passed; and it must be admitted that more than one disgraceful instance might be pointed out, of a great man obliged to purchase the continuance or restoration of her favor by soliciting the almost ruinous honor of a royal visit. On the whole, however, her deportment on these occasions warrants the conclusion, that an earnest and constant desire of popularity was her principal motive for persevering to the latest period of her life to encounter the fatigue of these frequent journeys, and of the acts of public representation which they imposed upon her.
"In her progress," says an acute and lively delineator of her character, "she was most easy to be approached; private persons and magistrates, men and women, country-people and children, came joyfully and without any fear to wait upon her and see her. Her ears were then open to the complaints of the afflicted and of those that had been any way injured. She would not suffer the meanest of her people to be shut out from the places where she resided, but the greatest and the least were then in a manner levelled. She took with her own hand, and read with the greatest goodness, the petitions of the meanest rustics. And she would frequently assure them that she would take a particular care of their affairs, and she would ever be as good as her word. She was never seen angry with the most unseasonable or uncourtly approach; she was never offended with the most impudent or importunate petitioner. Nor was there any thing in the whole course of her reign that more won the hearts of the people than this her wonderful facility, condescension, and the sweetness and pleasantness with which she entertained all that came to her."
[Note 45: Bohun's "Character of Queen Elizabeth."]
The first stage of the queen's progress was to Dartford in Kent, where Henry VIII., whose profusion in the article of royal residences was extreme, had fitted up a dissolved priory as a palace for himself and his successors. Elizabeth kept this mansion in her own hands during the whole of her reign, and once more, after an interval of several years, is recorded to have passed two days under its roof. James I. granted it to the earl of Salisbury: the lords Darcy were afterwards its owners. The embattled gatehouse with an adjoining wing, all that remains in habitable condition, are at the present time occupied as a farm house; while foundations of walls running along the neighbouring fields to a considerable distance, alone attest the magnitude, and leave to be imagined the splendor, of the ancient edifice. Such is at this day the common fate of the castles of our ancient barons, the mansions of our nobles of a following age, and the palaces of the Plantagenets, the Tudors, and the Stuarts!
From Dartford she proceeded to Cobham Hall,—an exception to the general rule,—for this venerable mansion is at present the noble seat of the earl of Darnley; and though the centre has been rebuilt in a more modern style, the wings remain untouched, and in one of them the apartment occupied by the queen on this visit is still pointed out to the stranger. She was here sumptuously entertained by William lord Cobham, a nobleman who enjoyed a considerable share of her favor, and who, after acquitting himself to her satisfaction in an embassy to the Low-Countries, was rewarded with the garter and the place of a privy-councillor. He was however a person of no conspicuous ability, and his wealth and his loyalty appear to have been his principal titles of merit.
Eltham was her next stage; an ancient palace frequently commemorated in the history of our early kings as the scene of rude magnificence and boundless hospitality. In 1270 Henry III. kept a grand Christmas at Ealdham palace,—so it was then called. A son of Edward II. was named John of Eltham, from its being the place of his birth.
Edward III. twice held his parliament in its capacious hall. It was repaired at great cost by Edward IV., who made it a frequent place of residence; but Henry VIII. began to neglect it for Greenwich, and Elizabeth was the last sovereign by whom it was visited.
Its hall, 100 feet in length, with a beautifully carved roof resembling that of Westminster-hall and windows adorned with all the elegance of gothic tracery, is still in being, and admirably serves the purposes of a barn and granary.
Elizabeth soon quitted this seat of antique grandeur to contemplate the gay magnificence of Nonsuch, regarded as the triumph of her father's taste and the masterpiece of all the decorative arts. This stately edifice, of which not a vestige now remains, was situated near Ewel in Surry, and commanded from its lofty turrets extensive views of the surrounding country.
It was built round two courts, an outer and an inner one, both very spacious; and the entrance to each was by a square gatehouse highly ornamented, embattled, and having turrets at the four corners. These gatehouses were of stone, as was the lower story of the palace itself; but the upper one was of wood, "richly adorned and set forth and garnished with variety of statues, pictures, and other antic forms of excellent art and workmanship, and of no small cost:" all which ornaments, it seems, were made of rye dough. In modern language the "pictures" would probably be called basso-relievos. From the eastern and western angles of the inner court rose two slender turrets five stories high, with lanthorns on the top, which were leaded and surrounded with wooden balustrades. These towers of observation, from which the two parks attached to the palace and a wide expanse of champaign country beyond might be surveyed as in a map, were celebrated as the peculiar boast of Nonsuch.
Henry was prevented by death from beholding the completion of this gaudy structure, and queen Mary had it in contemplation to pull it down to save further charges; but the earl of Arundel, "for the love and honor he bare to his old master," purchased the place, and finished it according to the original design. It was to this splendid nobleman that the visit of the queen was paid. He received her with the utmost magnificence. On Sunday night a banquet, a mask, and a concert were the entertainments: the next day she witnessed a course from a standing made for her in the park, and "the children of Paul's" performed a play; after which a costly banquet was served up in gilt dishes. On her majesty's departure her noble host further presented her with a cupboard of plate. The earl of Arundel was wealthy, munificent, and one of the finest courtiers of his day: but it must not be imagined that even by him such extraordinary cost and pains would have been lavished upon his illustrious guest as a pure and simple homage of that sentimental loyalty which feels its utmost efforts overpaid by their acceptance. He looked in fact to a high and splendid recompense,—one which as yet perhaps he dared not name, but which the sagacity of his royal mistress would, as he flattered himself, be neither tardy nor reluctant to divine.
The death of Henry II. of France, which occurred during the summer of this year, gave occasion to a splendid ceremony in St. Paul's cathedral, which was rendered remarkable by some circumstances connected with the late change of religion. This was the performance of his obsequies, then a customary tribute among the princes of Europe to the memory of each other; which Elizabeth therefore would by no means omit, though the custom was so intimately connected with doctrines and practices characteristic of the Romish church, that it was difficult to divest it, in the judgement of a protestant people, of the character of a superstitious observance. A hearse magnificently adorned with the banners and scutcheons of the deceased was placed in the church; a great train of lords and gentlemen attended as mourners; and all the ceremonies of a real funeral were duly performed, not excepting the offering at the altar of money, originally designed, without doubt, for the purchase of masses for the dead. The herald, however, was ordered to substitute other words in place of the ancient request to all present to pray for the soul of the departed; and several reformations were made in the service, and in the communion with which this stately piece of pageantry concluded.
In the month of December was interred with much ceremony in Westminster Abbey Frances duchess-dowager of Suffolk, grandaughter to Henry VII. After the tragical catastrophe of her misguided husband and of lady Jane Grey her eldest daughter, the duchess was suffered to remain in unmolested privacy, and she had since rendered herself utterly insignificant, not to say contemptible, by an obscure marriage with one Stoke, a young man who was her master of the horse. There is a tradition, that on Elizabeth's exclaiming with surprise and indignation when the news of this connexion reached her ears, "What, hath she married her horse keeper?" Cecil replied, "Yes, madam, and she says your majesty would like to do so too;" lord Robert Dudley then filling the office of master of the horse to the queen.
The impolicy or inutility of sumptuary laws was not in this age acknowledged. A proclamation therefore was issued in October 1559 to check that prevalent excess in apparel which was felt as a serious evil at this period, when the manufactures of England were in so rude a state that almost every article for the use of the higher classes was imported from Flanders, France, or Italy, in exchange for the raw commodities of the country, or perhaps for money.
The invectives of divines, in various ages of the Christian church, have placed upon lasting record some transient follies which would otherwise have sunk into oblivion, and the sermons of bishop Pilkington, a warm polemic of this time, may be quoted as a kind of commentary on the proclamation. He reproves "fine-fingered rufflers, with their sables about their necks, corked slippers, trimmed buskins, and warm mittons."—"These tender Parnels," he says, "must have one gown for the day, another for the night; one long, another short; one for winter, another for summer. One furred through, another but faced: one for the work-day, another for the holiday. One of this color, another of that. One of cloth, another of silk, or damask. Change of apparel; one afore dinner, another at after: one of Spanish fashion, another of Turkey. And to be brief, never content with enough, but always devising new fashions and strange. Yea a ruffian will have more in his ruff and his hose than he should spend in a year. He which ought to go in a russet coat, spends as much on apparel for him and his wife, as his father would have kept a good house with."
The costly furs here mentioned had probably become fashionable since a direct intercourse had been opened in the last reign with Russia, from which country ambassadors had arrived, whose barbaric splendor astonished the eyes of the good people of London. The affectation of wearing by turns the costume of all the nations of Europe, with which the queen herself was not a little infected, may be traced partly to the practice of importing articles of dress from those nations, and that of employing foreign tailors in preference to native ones, and partly to the taste for travelling, which since the revival of letters had become laudably prevalent among the young nobility and gentry of England. That more in proportion was expended on the elegant luxuries of dress, and less on the coarser indulgences of the table, ought rather to have been considered as a desirable approach to refinement of manners than a legitimate subject of censure.
An act of parliament was passed in this year subjecting the use of enchantment and witchcraft to the pains of felony. The malcontent catholics, it seems, were accused of employing practices of this nature; their predictions of her majesty's death had given uneasiness to government by encouraging plots against her government; and it was feared, "by many good and sober men," that these dealers in the black art might even bewitch the queen herself. That it was the learned bishop Jewel who had led the way in inspiring these superstitious terrors, to which religious animosities lent additional violence, may fairly be inferred from the following passage of a discourse which was delivered by him in the queen's presence the year before.... "Witches and sorcerers within these last few years are marvellously increased within your grace's realm. These eyes have seen most evident and manifest marks of their wickedness. Your grace's subjects pine away even unto the death; their color fadeth, their flesh rotteth, their speech is benumbed, their senses are bereft. Wherefore your poor subjects' most humble petition to your highness is, that the laws touching such malefactors may be put in due execution. For the shoal of them is great, their doing horrible, their malice intolerable, the examples most miserable. And I pray God they never practise further than upon the subject."
Successful campaign in Scotland.—Embassy of viscount Montacute to Spain—of sir T. Chaloner to the Emperor.—Account of Chaloner.—Letter of his respecting Dudley and the queen.—Dudley loses his wife.—Mysterious manner of her death.—Suspicion cast upon her husband.—Dudley and several other courtiers aspire to the hand of their sovereign.—Tournaments in her honor.—Impresses.—Sir W. Pickering.—Rivalry of Arundel and Dudley.
The accession of Francis II., husband to the queen of Scots, to the French throne had renewed the dangers of Elizabeth from the hostility of France and of Scotland; and in the politic resolution of removing from her own territory to that of her enemies the seat of a war which she saw to be inevitable, she levied a strong army and sent it under the command of the duke of Norfolk and lord Grey de Wilton to the frontiers of Scotland. She also entered into a close connexion with the protestant party in that country, who were already in arms against the queen-regent and her French auxiliaries. Success attended this well-planned expedition, and at the end of a single campaign Elizabeth was able to terminate the war by the treaty of Edinburgh; a convention the terms of which were such as effectually to secure her from all fear of future molestation in this quarter.
During the period of these hostilities, however, her situation was an anxious one. It was greatly to be feared that the emperor and the king of Spain, forgetting in their zeal for the catholic church the habitual enmity of the house of Austria against that of Bourbon, would make common cause with France against a sovereign who now stood forth the avowed protectress of protestantism; and such a combination of the great powers of Europe, seconded by a large catholic party at home, England was by no means in a condition to withstand. By skilful negotiation it seemed possible to avert these evils; and Elizabeth, by her selection of diplomatic agents on this important occasion, gave striking evidence of her superior judgement.
To plead her cause with the king of Spain, she dispatched Anthony Browne viscount Montacute; a nobleman who, to the general recommendation of wisdom and experience in public affairs, added the peculiar one, for this service, of a zealous attachment to the Romish faith, proved by his determined opposition in the house of lords to the bill of uniformity lately carried by a great majority. The explanations and arguments of the viscount prevailed so far with Philip, that he ordered his ambassador at Rome to oppose the endeavours of the French court to prevail on the pope to fulminate his ecclesiastical censures against Elizabeth. It was found impracticable, however, to bring him to terms of cordial amity with a heretic sovereign whose principles he both detested and dreaded; and by returning, some time after, the decorations of the order of the garter, he distinctly intimated to the queen, that motives of policy alone restrained him from becoming her open enemy.
For ambassador to the emperor she made choice, at the recommendation probably of Cecil, of his relation and beloved friend sir Thomas Chaloner the elder, a statesman, a soldier, and a man of letters; and in these three characters, so rarely united, one of the distinguished ornaments of his age. He was born in 1515 of a good family in Wales, and, being early sent to Cambridge, became known as a very elegant Latin poet, and generally as a young man of the most promising talents. After a short residence at court, his merit caused him to be selected to attend into Germany sir Henry Knevet the English ambassador, with a view to his qualifying himself for future diplomatic employment. At the court of Charles V. he was received with extraordinary favor; and after waiting upon that monarch, in several of his journeys, he was at length induced, by admiration of his character, to accompany him as a volunteer in his rash expedition against Algiers. He was shipwrecked in the storm which almost destroyed the fleet, and only escaped drowning by catching in his mouth, as he was struggling with the waves, a cable, by which he was drawn up into a ship with the loss of several of his teeth.
Returning home, he was made clerk of the council, which office he held during the remainder of Henry's reign. Early in the next he was distinguished by the protector, and, having signalized his valor in the battle of Pinkey, was knighted by him on the field. The fall of his patron put a stop to his advancement; but he solaced himself under this reverse by the cultivation of literature, and of friendship with such men as Cook, Smith, Cheke, and Cecil. The strictness of his protestant principles rendered his situation under the reign of Mary both disagreeable and hazardous, and he generously added to its perils by his strenuous exertions in behalf of the unfortunate Cheke; but the services which he had rendered in Edward's time to many of the oppressed catholics now interested their gratitude in his protection, and were thus the means of preserving him unhurt for better times.
Soon after his return from his embassy to the emperor Ferdinand, we find him engaged in a very perplexing and disagreeable mission to the unfriendly court of Philip II., where the mortifications which he encountered, joined to the insalubrity of the climate, so impaired his health that he found himself obliged to solicit his recall, which he did in an Ovidian elegy addressed to the queen. The petition of the poet was granted, but too late; he sunk under a lingering malady in October 1565, a few months after his return.
The poignant grief of Cecil for his loss found its best alleviation in the exemplary performance of all the duties of surviving friendship. He officiated as chief mourner at his funeral, and superintended with solicitude truly paternal the education of his son, Thomas Chaloner the younger, afterwards a distinguished character. By his encouragement, the Latin poems of his friend, chiefly consisting of epitaphs and panegyrics on his most celebrated contemporaries, were collected and published; and it was under his patronage, and prefaced by a Latin poem from his pen in praise of the author, that a new and complete edition appeared of the principal work of this accomplished person;—a tractate "on the right ordering of the English republic," also in Latin.
Sir Thomas Chaloner was the first ambassador named by Elizabeth; a distinction of which he proved himself highly deserving. Wisdom and integrity he was already known to possess; and in his negotiations with the imperial court, where it was his business to draw the bonds of amity as close as should be found practicable without pledging his mistress to the acceptance of the hand of the archduke Charles, he also manifested a degree of skill and dexterity which drew forth the warmest commendations from Elizabeth herself. His conduct, she said, had far exceeded all her expectations of his prudence and abilities.
This testimony may be allowed to give additional weight to his opinion on a point of great delicacy in the personal conduct of her majesty, as well as on some more general questions of policy, expressed in a postscript to one of his official letters to secretary Cecil. The letter, it should be observed, was written near the close of the year 1559, when the favor of the queen to Dudley had first become a subject of general remark, and before all hopes were lost of her finally closing with the proposals of the archduke.
"I assure you, sir, these folks are broad-mouthed where I spake of one too much in favor, as they esteem. I think ye guess whom they named; if ye do not, I will upon my next letters write further. To tell you what I conceive; as I count the slander most false, so a young princess cannot be too wary what countenance or familiar demonstration she maketh, more to one than another. I judge no man's service in the realm worth the entertainment with such a tale of obloquy, or occasion of speech to such men as of evil will are ready to find faults. This delay of ripe time for marriage, besides the loss of the realm (for without posterity of her highness what hope is left unto us?) ministereth matter to these leud tongues to descant upon, and breedeth contempt. I would I had but one hour's talk with you. Think if I trusted not your good nature, I would not write thus much; which nevertheless I humbly pray you to reserve as written to yourself.
"Consider how ye deal now in the emperor's matter: much dependeth on it. Here they hang in expectation as men desirous it should go forward, but yet they have small hope: In mine opinion (be it said to you only) the affinity is great and honorable: The amity necessary to stop and cool many enterprises. Ye need not fear his greatness should overrule you; he is not a Philip, but better for us than a Philip. Let the time work for Scotland as God will, for sure the French, I believe, shall never long enjoy them: and when we be stronger and more ready, we may proceed with that, that is yet unripe. The time itself will work, when our great neighbours fall out next. In the mean time settle we things begun; and let us arm and fortify our frontiers." &c.
[Note 46: "Burleigh Papers," by Haynes, p. 212.]
Sufficient evidence remains that the sentiments of Cecil respecting the queen's behaviour to Dudley coincided with those of his friend, and that fears for her reputation gave additional urgency about this period to those pleadings in favor of matrimony which her council were doomed to press upon her attention so often and so much in vain. But a circumstance occurred soon after which totally changed the nature of their apprehensions respecting her future conduct, and rendered her anticipated choice of a husband no longer an object of hope and joy, but of general dissatisfaction and alarm.
Just when the whispered scandal of the court had apprized him how obvious to all beholders the partiality of his sovereign had become,—just when her rejection of the proposals of so many foreign princes had confirmed the suspicion that her heart had given itself at home,—just, in short, when every thing conspired to sanction hopes which under any other circumstances would have appeared no less visionary than presumptuous,—at the very juncture most favorable to his ambition, but most perilous to his reputation, lord Robert Dudley lost his wife, and by a fate equally sudden and mysterious.
This unfortunate lady had been sent by her husband, under the conduct of sir Richard Verney, one of his retainers,—but for what reason or under what pretext does not appear,—to Cumnor House in Berkshire, a solitary mansion inhabited by Anthony Foster, also a dependent of Dudley's and bound to him by particular obligations. Here she soon after met with her death; and Verney and Foster, who appear to have been alone in the house with her, gave out that it happened by an accidental fall down stairs. But this account, from various causes, gained so little credit in the neighbourhood, that reports of the most sinister import were quickly propagated. These discourses soon reached the ears of Thomas Lever, a prebendary of Coventry and a very conscientious person, who immediately addressed to the secretaries of state an earnest letter, still extant, beseeching them to cause strict inquiry to be made into the case, as it was commonly believed that the lady had been murdered: but he mentioned no particular grounds of this belief, and it cannot now be ascertained whether any steps were taken in consequence of his application. If there were, they certainly produced no satisfactory explanation of the circumstance; for not only the popular voice, which was ever hostile to Dudley, continued to accuse him as the contriver of her fate, but Cecil himself, in a memorandum drawn up some years after of reasons against the queen's making him her husband, mentions among other objections, "that he is infamed by the death of his wife."
Whether the thorough investigation of this matter was evaded by the artifices of Dudley, or whether his enemies, finding it impracticable to bring the crime home to him, found it more advisable voluntarily to drop the inquiry, certain it is, that the queen was never brought in any manner to take cognisance of the affair, and that the credit of Dudley continued as high with her as ever. But in the opinion of the country the favorite passed ever after for a dark designer, capable of perpetrating any secret villainy in furtherance of his designs, and skilful enough to conceal his atrocity under a cloak of artifice and hypocrisy impervious to the partial eyes of his royal mistress, though penetrated by all the world besides. This idea of his character caused him afterwards to be accused of practising against the lives of several other persons who were observed to perish opportunely for his purposes. Each of these charges will be particularly examined in its proper place; but it ought here to be observed, that not one of them appears to be supported by so many circumstances of probability as the first; and even in support of this, no direct evidence has ever been adduced.
Under all the circumstances of his situation, Dudley could not venture as yet openly to declare himself the suitor of his sovereign; but she doubtless knew how to interpret both the vehemence of his opposition to the pretensions of the archduke, and the equal vehemence with which those pretensions were supported by an opposite party in her council, of which the earl of Sussex was the head.
Few could yet be persuaded that the avowed determination of the queen in favor of the single state would prove unalterable: most therefore who observed her averseness to a foreign connexion believed that she was secretly meditating to honor with her hand some subject of her own, who could never have a separate interest from that of his country, and whose gratitude for the splendid distinction would secure to her the possession of his lasting attachment.
This idea long served to animate the assiduities of her nobles and courtiers, and two or three besides Dudley were bold enough to publish their pretensions. Secret hopes or wishes were cherished in the bosoms of others; and it thus became a fashion to accost her in language where the passionate homage of the lover mingled with the base adulation of the menial. Her personal vanity, triumphant over her good sense and her perceptions of regal dignity, forbade her to discourage a style of address equally disgraceful to those who employed and to her who permitted it; and it was this unfortunate habit of receiving, and at length requiring, a species of flattery which became every year more grossly preposterous, which depraved by degrees her taste, infected her whole disposition, and frequently lent to the wisest sovereign of Europe the disgusting affectation of a heroine of French romance.