[Note 50: It was by no remissness on the part of the queen that this town was lost; the preservation of which was an object very near her heart, as appears from a letter of encouragement addressed by the privy-council to Warwick, which has the following postscript in her own handwriting.
"My dear Warwick; If your honor and my desire could accord with the loss of the needfullest finger I keep, God so help me in my utmost need as I would gladly lose that one joint for your safe abode with me; but since I cannot that I would, I will do that I may, and will rather drink in an ashen cup than you or yours should not be succoured both by sea and land, yea, and that with all speed possible, and let this my scribbling hand witness it to them all.
"Yours as my own,
See "Archaeologia," vol. xiii. p. 201.]
A project which had been for some time under discussion, of a personal interview at York between the English and Scottish queens, was now finally given up. Elizabeth, it is surmised, was unwilling to afford her beautiful and captivating enemy such an opportunity of winning upon the affections of the English people, and Mary was fearful of offending her uncles the princes of Guise by so public an advance towards a good understanding with a princess now engaged in open hostilities against their country and faction. The failure of this design deserves not to be regretted. The meetings of princes have never, under any circumstances, been known to produce a valuable political result; and an interview between these jealous and exasperated rivals could only have exhibited disgusting scenes of forced civility and exaggerated profession, thinly veiling the inveterate animosity which neither party could hope effectually to hide from the intuitive perception of the other.
A terrible plague, introduced by the return of the sickly garrison of Havre, raged in London during the year 1563, and for some time carried off about a thousand persons weekly. The sittings of parliament were held on this account at Hertford Castle; and the queen, retiring to Windsor, kept herself in unusual privacy, and took advantage of the opportunity to pursue her literary occupations with more than common assiduity. Without entirely deserting her favorite Greek classics, she at this time applied herself principally to the study of the Christian fathers, with the laudable purpose, doubtless, of making herself mistress of those questions respecting the doctrine and discipline of the primitive church now so fiercely agitated between the divines of different communions, and on which, as head of the English church, she was often called upon to decide in the last resort.
Cecil had mentioned these pursuits of her majesty in a letter to Cox bishop of Ely, and certainly as matter of high commendation; but the bishop answered, perhaps with better judgement, that after all, Scripture was "that which pierced;" that of the fathers, one was inclined to Pelagianism, another to Monachism, and he hoped that her majesty only occupied herself with them at idle hours.
Even studies so solemn could not however preserve the royal theologian, now in her thirtieth year, from serious disturbance on account of certain ill-favored likenesses of her gracious countenance which had obtained a general circulation among her loving subjects. So provoking an abuse was thought to justify and require the special exertion of the royal prerogative for its correction, and Cecil was directed to draw up an energetic proclamation on the subject.
This curious document sets forth, that "forasmuch as through the natural desire that all sorts of subjects had to procure the portrait and likeness of the queen's majesty, great numbers of painters, and some printers and gravers, had and did daily attempt in divers manners to make portraitures of her, wherein none hitherto had sufficiently expressed the natural representation of her majesty's person, favor, or grace; but had for the most part erred therein, whereof daily complaints were made amongst her loving subjects,—that for the redress hereof her majesty had been so importunately sued unto by the lords of her council and other of her nobility, not only to be content that some special cunning painter might be permitted by access to her majesty to take the natural representation of her, whereof she had been always of her own right disposition very unwilling, but also to prohibit all manner of other persons to draw, paint, grave, or portrait her personage or visage for a time, until there were some perfect pattern or example to be followed:
"Therefore her majesty, being herein as it were overcome with the continual requests of so many of her nobility and lords, whom she could not well deny, was pleased that some cunning person should shortly make a portrait of her person or visage to be participated to others for the comfort of her loving subjects; and furthermore commanded, that till this should be finished, all other persons should abstain from making any representations of her; that afterwards her majesty would be content that all other painters, printers, or gravers, that should be known men of understanding, and so therein licensed by the head officers of the places where they should dwell (as reason it was that every person should not without consideration attempt the same), might at their pleasure follow the said pattern or first portraiture. And for that her majesty perceived a great number of her loving subjects to be much grieved with the errors and deformities herein committed, she straitly charged her officers and ministers to see to the observation of this proclamation, and in the meantime to forbid the showing or publication of such as were apparently deformed, until they should be reformed which were reformable."
[Note 51: "Archaeologia," vol. ii. p. 169.]
On the subject of marriage, so perpetually moved to her both by her parliament and by foreign princes, Elizabeth still preserved a cautious ambiguity of language, well exemplified in the following passage: "The duke of Wirtemburg, a German protestant prince, had lately friendly offered his service to the queen, in case she were minded to marry. To which, January 27th she gave him this courteous and princely answer: 'That although she never yet were weary of single and maiden life, yet indeed she was the last issue of her father left, and the only of her house; the care of her kingdom and the love of posterity did counsel her to alter this course of life. But in consideration of the leave that her subjects had given her in ampler manner to make her choice than they did to any prince afore, she was even in courtesy bound to make that choice so as should be for the best of her state and subjects. And for that he offered therein his assistance, she graciously acknowledged the same, promising to deserve it hereafter.'"
[Note 52: Strype's "Annals," vol. i. p. 398.]
It might be curious to inquire of what nature the assistance politely proffered by the duke in this matter, and thus favorably received by her majesty, could be; it does not appear that he tendered his own hand to her acceptance.
The French court became solicitous about this time to draw closer its bond of amity with the queen of Scots, who, partly on account of some wrong which had been done her respecting the payment of her dower, partly in consequence of various affronts put upon her subjects, had begun to estrange herself from her old connexions, and to seek in preference the alliance of Elizabeth. French agents were now sent over to Scotland to urge upon her the claims of former friendship, and to tempt her by brilliant promises to listen to proposals of marriage from the duke of Anjou, preferably to those made her by the archduke Charles or by don Carlos.
Intelligence of these negotiations awakened all the jealousies, political and personal, of Elizabeth. She ordered her agent Randolph, a practised intriguer, to devise means for crossing the matrimonial project. Meantime, by way of intimidation, she appointed the earl of Bedford to the lieutenancy of the four northern counties, and the powerful earl of Shrewsbury to that of several adjoining ones, and ordered a considerable levy of troops in these parts for the reinforcement of the garrison of Berwick and the protection of the English border, on which she affected to dread an attack by an united French and Scottish force.
Randolph soon after received instructions to express openly to Mary his sovereign's dislike of her matching either with the archduke or with any other foreign prince, and her wish that she would choose a husband within the island; and he was next empowered to add, that if the Scottish queen would gratify his mistress in this point, she need not doubt of obtaining a public recognition of her right of succession to the English crown. Elizabeth afterwards came nearer to the point; she designated lord Robert Dudley as the individual on whom she desired that the choice of her royal kinswoman should fall. By a queen-dowager of France, and a queen-regnant of Scotland, the proposal of so inferior an alliance might almost be regarded as an insult, and Mary was naturally haughty; but her hopes and fears compelled her to dissemble her indignation, and even to affect to take the matter into consideration. She trusted that pretexts might be found hereafter for evading the completion of the marriage, even if the queen of England were sincere in desiring such an advancement for her favorite, which was much doubted, and she determined for the present to show herself docile to all the suggestions of her royal sister, and to preserve the good understanding on her part unbroken.
It was during the continuance of this state of apparent amity between the rival queens, that Elizabeth thought proper to visit with tokens of her displeasure the leaders in an attempt to establish the title of the Suffolk line, which still found adherents of some importance.
John Hales, clerk of the hanaper, a learned and able man, and, like all who espoused this party, a zealous protestant, had written, and secretly circulated, a book in defence of the claims of the lady Catherine, and he had also procured opinions of foreign lawyers in favor of the validity of her marriage. For one or both of these offences he was committed to the Fleet prison, and the secretary was soon after commanded to examine thoroughly into the business, and learn to whom Hales had communicated his work. A more disagreeable task could scarcely have been imposed upon Cecil; for, besides that he must probably have been aware that his friend and brother-in-law sir Nicholas Bacon was implicated, it seems that he himself was not entirely free from suspicion of some participation in the affair. But he readily acknowledged his duty to the queen to be a paramount obligation to all others, and he wrote to a friend that he was determined to proceed with perfect impartiality.
In conclusion, Hales was liberated after half a year's imprisonment. Bacon, the lord keeper, who appeared to have seen the book, and either to have approved it, or at least to have taken no measures for its suppression or the punishment of its author, was not removed from his office; but he was ordered to confine himself strictly to its duties, and to abstain henceforth from taking any part in political business. But by this prohibition Cecil affirmed that public business suffered essentially, for Bacon had previously discharged with distinguished ability the functions of a minister of state; and he never desisted from intercession with her majesty till he saw his friend fully reinstated in her favor. Lord John Grey of Pyrgo, uncle to lady Catherine, had been a principal agent in this business, and after several examinations by members of the privy-council, he was committed to a kind of honorable custody, in which he appears to have remained till his death, which took place a few months afterwards. These punishments were slight compared with the customary severity of the age; and it has plausibly been conjectured that the anger of Elizabeth on this occasion was rather feigned than real, and that although she thought proper openly to resent any attempt injurious to the title of the queen of Scots, she was secretly not displeased to let this princess perceive that she must still depend on her friendship for its authentic and unanimous recognition.
Her anger against the earl of Hertford for the steps taken by him in confirmation of his marriage was certainly sincere, however unjust. She was provoked, perhaps alarmed, to find that he had been advised to appeal against the decision of her commissioners: on better consideration, however, he refrained from making this experiment; but by a process in the ecclesiastical courts, with which the queen could not or would not interfere, he finally succeeded in establishing the legitimacy of his sons.
Of the progresses of her majesty, during several years, nothing remarkable appears on record; they seem to have had no other object than the gratification of her love of popular applause, and her taste for magnificent entertainments which cost her nothing; and the trivial details of her reception at the different towns or mansions which she honored with her presence, are equally barren of amusement and instruction. But her visit to the university of Cambridge in the summer of 1564 presents too many characteristic traits to be passed over in silence.
Her gracious intention of honoring this seat of learning with her royal presence was no sooner disclosed to the secretary, who was chancellor of the university, than it was notified by him to the vice-chancellor, with a request that proper persons might be sent to receive his instructions on the subject. It appears to have been part of these instructions, that the university should prepare an extremely respectful letter to lord Robert Dudley, who was its high-steward, entreating him in such manner to commend to her majesty their good intentions, and to excuse any their failure in the performance, that she might be inclined to receive in good part all their efforts for her entertainment. So notorious was at this time the pre-eminent favor of this courtier with his sovereign, and so humble was the style of address to him required from a body so venerable and so illustrious!
Cecil arrived at Cambridge the day before the queen to set all things in order, and received from the university a customary offering of two pairs of gloves, two sugarloaves, and a marchpane. Lord Robert and the duke of Norfolk were complimented with the same gift, and finer gloves and more elaborate confectionary were presented to the queen herself.
When she reached the door of King's college chapel, the chancellor kneeled down and bade her welcome; and the orator, kneeling on the church steps, made her an harangue of nearly half an hour. "First he praised and commended many and singular virtues planted and set in her majesty, which her highness not acknowledging of shaked her head, bit her lips and her fingers, and sometimes broke forth into passion and these words; 'Non est veritas, et utinam'—On his praising virginity, she said to the orator, 'God's blessing of thy heart, there continue.' After that he showed what joy the university had of her presence" &c. "When he had done she commended him, and much marvelled that his memory did so well serve him, repeating such diverse and sundry matters; saying that she would answer him again in Latin, but for fear she should speak false Latin, and then they would laugh at her."
This concluded, she entered the chapel in great state; lady Strange, a princess of the Suffolk line, bearing her train, and her ladies following in their degrees. Te Deum was sung and the evening service performed, with all the pomp that protestant worship admits, in that magnificent temple, of which she highly extolled the beauty. The next morning, which was Sunday, she went thither again to hear a Latin sermon ad clerum, and in the evening, the body of this solemn edifice being converted into a temporary theatre, she was there gratified with a representation of the Aulularia of Plautus. Offensive as such an application of a sacred building would be to modern feelings, it probably shocked no one in an age when the practice of performing dramatic entertainments in churches, introduced with the mysteries and moralities of the middle ages, was scarcely obsolete, and certainly not forgotten. Neither was the representation of plays on Sundays at this time regarded as an indecorum.
A public disputation in the morning and a Latin play on the story of Dido in the evening formed the entertainment of her majesty on the third day. On the fourth, an English play called Ezechias was performed before her. The next morning she visited the different colleges,—at each of which a Latin oration awaited her and a parting present of gloves and confectionary, besides a volume richly bound, containing the verses in English, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and Chaldee, composed by the members of each learned society in honor of her visit.
Afterwards she repaired to St. Mary's church, where a very long and very learned disputation by doctors in divinity was prepared for her amusement and edification. When it was ended, "the lords, and especially the duke of Norfolk and lord Robert Dudley, kneeling down, humbly desired her majesty to speak something to the university, and in Latin. Her highness at the first refused, saying, that if she might speak her mind in English, she would not stick at the matter. But understanding by Mr. Secretary that nothing might be said openly to the university in English, she required him the rather to speak; because he was chancellor, and the chancellor is the queen's mouth. Whereunto he answered, that he was chancellor of the university, and not hers. Then the bishop of Ely kneeling said, that three words of her mouth were enough." By entreaties so urgent, she appeared to suffer herself to be prevailed upon to deliver a speech which had doubtless been prepared for the occasion, and very probably by Cecil himself. This harangue is not worth transcribing at length: it contained some disqualifying phrases respecting her own proficiency in learning, and a pretty profession of feminine bashfulness in delivering an unstudied speech before so erudite an auditory:—her attachment to the cause of learning was then set forth, and a paragraph followed which may thus be translated: "I saw this morning your sumptuous edifices founded by illustrious princes my predecessors for the benefit of learning; but while I viewed them my mind was affected with sorrow, and I sighed like Alexander the Great, when having perused the records of the deeds of other princes, turning to his friends or counsellors, he lamented that any one should have preceded him either in time or in actions. When I beheld your edifices, I grieved that I had done nothing in this kind. Yet did the vulgar proverb somewhat lessen, though it could not entirely remove my concern;—that 'Rome was not built in a day.' For my age is not yet so far advanced, neither is it yet so long since I began to reign, but that before I pay my debt to nature,—unless Atropos should prematurely cut my thread,—I may still be able to execute some distinguished undertaking: and never will I be diverted from the intention while life shall animate this frame. Should it however happen, as it may, I know not how soon, that I should be overtaken by death before I have been able to perform this my promise, I will not fail to leave some great work to be executed after my decease, by which my memory may be rendered famous, others excited by my example, and all of you animated to greater ardor in your studies."
After such a speech, it might naturally be inquired, which college did she endow? But, alas! the prevailing disposition of Elizabeth was the reverse of liberal; and her revenues, it may be added, were narrow. During the whole course of her long reign, not a single conspicuous act of public munificence sheds its splendor on her name, and the pledge thus solemnly and publicly given, was never redeemed by her, living or dying. An annuity of twenty pounds bestowed, with the title of her scholar, on a pretty young man of the name of Preston, whose graceful performance in a public disputation and in the Latin play of Dido had particularly caught her fancy, appears to have been the only solid benefit bestowed by her majesty in return for all the cost and all the learned incense lavished on her reception by this loyal and splendid university.
[Note 53: A seeming contradiction to the assertions in the text may be discovered in the circumstance that Elizabeth is the nominal foundress of Jesus College Oxford. But it was at the expense, as well as at the suggestion, of Dr. Price, a patriotic Welshman, that this seminary of learning, designed for the reception of his fellow-countrymen, was instituted. Her name, a charter of incorporation dated June 27th 1571, and some timber from her forests of Stow and Shotover, were the only contributions of her majesty towards an object so laudable, and of which the inadequate funds of the real founder long delayed the accomplishment.]
Soon after her return from her progress, the queen determined to gratify her feelings by conferring on her beloved Dudley some signal testimonies of her royal regard; and she invested him with the dignities of baron of Denbigh and earl of Leicester, accompanying these honors with the splendid gift of Kennelworth Castle, park and manor:—for in behalf of Dudley, and afterwards of Essex, she could even forget for a time her darling virtue,—frugality. The chronicles of the time describe with extraordinary care and minuteness the whole pompous ceremonial of this creation; but a much more lively and interesting description of this scene, as well as of several others of which he was an eye-witness in the court of Elizabeth, has been handed down to us in the entertaining memoirs of sir James Melvil; a Scotch gentleman noted among the political agents, or diplomatists of second rank, whom that age of intrigue brought forth so abundantly.
A few particulars of the history of this person, curious in themselves, will also form a proper introduction to his narrative.
Melvil was born in Fifeshire in the year 1530, of a family patronized by the queen regent, Mary of Guise, who having taken into her own service his brothers Robert and Andrew, both afterwards noted in public life, determined to send James to France to be brought up as page to the queen her daughter, then dauphiness. He was accordingly placed under the care of the crafty Monluc bishop of Valence, then on his return from his Scotch embassy; and previously to his embarkation for the continent he had the advantage of accompanying this master of intrigue on a secret mission to O'Neil, then the head of the Irish rebels. The youth was apparently not much delighted with his visit to this barbarous chieftain, whose dwelling was "a great dark tower, where," says he, "we had cold cheer, such as herrings and biscuit, for it was Lent." Arriving at Paris, the bishop caused him to be carefully instructed in all the requisite accomplishments of a page,—the French tongue, dancing, fencing, and playing on the lute: and after nine years spent under his protection, Melvil passed into the service of the constable Montmorenci, by whose interest he obtained a pension from the king of France. Whilst in this situation, he was dispatched on a secret mission to Scotland, to learn the real designs of the prior of St. Andrews, and to inform himself of the state of parties in that country.
In the year 1560 he obtained permission from his own sovereign to travel, and gained admission into the service of the elector palatine. This prince employed him in an embassy of condolence on the death of Francis II. Some time after his return he received a commission from the queen of Scots to make himself personally acquainted with the archduke Charles, who was proposed to her for a husband.
This done, he made a tour in Italy, and then returned to the elector palatine at Heidelberg. He was next employed by Maximilian king of the Romans to carry to France the portrait of one of his daughters, to whom proposals of marriage had been made on the part of Charles IX. At this court Catherine dei Medici would gladly have detained him; but a summons from his own queen determined him to repair again to Scotland.
Duke Casimir, son of the elector palatine, having some time before made an offer of his hand to queen Elizabeth, to which a dubious answer had been returned, requested Melvil, in passing through England, to convey his picture to that princess. The envoy, secretly despairing of the suit, desired that he might also be furnished with portraits of the other members of the electoral family, and with some nominal commission by means of which he might gain more easy access to the queen, and produce the picture as if without design. He was accordingly instructed to press for a more explicit answer than had yet been given to the proposal of an alliance offensive and defensive between England and the protestant princes of Germany; and thus prepared he reached London early in the year 1564.
After some discourse with the queen on the ostensible object of his mission, Melvil found occasion to break forth into earnest commendations of the elector, whose service nothing, he said, but this duty to his own sovereign could have induced him to quit; and he added, that for the remembrance of so good a master, he had desired to carry home with him his portrait, as well as those of all his sons and daughters. "So soon as she heard me mention the pictures," continues he, "she enquired if I had the picture of duke Casimir, desiring to see it. And when I alleged that I had left the pictures in London, she being then at Hampton Court, and that I was ready to go forward on my journey, she said I should not part till she had seen the pictures. So the next day I delivered them all to her majesty, and she desired to keep them all night; and she called upon my lord Robert Dudley to be judge of duke Casimir's picture, and appointed me to meet her the next morning in her garden, where she caused to deliver them all unto me, giving me thanks for the sight of them. I then offered unto her majesty all the pictures, so she would permit me to retain the elector's and his lady's, but she would have none of them. I had also sure information that first and last she despised the said duke Casimir."
It was a little before this time that Elizabeth had been consulted by Mary on the proposal of the archduke, and had declared by Randolph her strong disapprobation of it.
She now told Melvil, with whom she conversed on this and other subjects very familiarly and with apparent openness, that she intended soon to mention as fit matches for his queen two noblemen, one or other of whom she hoped to see her accept. These two, according to Melvil, were Dudley and lord Darnley, eldest son of the earl of Lenox by the lady Margaret Douglas. It must however be remarked, that Melvil appears to be the only writer who asserts that the first suggestion of an union between Mary and Darnley came from the English queen, who afterwards so vehemently opposed this step. But be this as it may, it is probable that Elizabeth was more sincere in her desire to impede the Austrian match than to promote any other for the queen of Scots; and with the former view Melvil accuses her of throwing out hints by which the archduke was encouraged to renew his suit to herself. Provoked, as he asserts, by this duplicity, of which she soon received certain information, Mary returned a sharp answer to a letter from her kinswoman of seemingly friendly advice, and hence had ensued a coldness and a cessation of intercourse between them. But Mary, "fearing that if their discord continued it would cut off all correspondence between her and her friends in England," thought good, a few weeks after Melvil had returned to Scotland, to dispatch him again towards London, "to deal with the queen of England, with the Spanish ambassador, and with my lady Margaret Douglas, and with sundry friends she had in England of different opinions."
It was the interest of neither sovereign at this time to be on bad terms with the other; and their respective ministers and secretaries being also agreed among themselves to maintain harmony between the countries, the excuses and explanations of Melvil were allowed to pass current, and the demonstrations of amity were resumed between the hostile queens.
Some particulars of the reception of this envoy at the English court are curious, and may probably be relied on. "Being arrived at London I lodged near the court, which was at Westminster. My host immediately gave advertisement of my coming, and that same night her majesty sent Mr. Hatton, afterwards governor of the isle of Wight, to welcome me, and to show me that the next morning she would give me audience in her garden at eight of the clock." "The next morning Mr. Hatton and Mr. Randolph, late agent for the queen of England in Scotland, came to my lodging to convey me to her majesty, who was, as they said, already in the garden. With them came a servant of my lord Robert's with a horse and foot-mantle of velvet, laced with gold, for me to ride upon. Which servant, with the said horse, waited upon me all the time that I remained there."
At a subsequent interview, "the old friendship being renewed, Elizabeth inquired if the queen had sent any answer to the proposition of marriage made to her by Mr. Randolph. I answered, as I had been instructed, that my mistress thought little or nothing thereof, but attended the meeting of some commissioners upon the borders... to confer and treat upon all such matters of greatest importance, as should be judged to concern the quiet of both countries, and the satisfaction of both their majesties' minds." Adding, "the queen my mistress is minded, as I have said, to send for her part my lord of Murray, and the secretary Lidingtoun, and expects your majesty will send my lord of Bedford and my lord Robert Dudley." She answered, "it appeared I made but small account of my lord Robert, seeing I named the earl of Bedford before him, but that erelong she would make him a far greater earl, and that I should see it done before my returning home. For she esteemed him as her brother and best friend, whom she would have herself married had she ever minded to have taken a husband. But being determined to end her life in virginity, she wished the queen her sister might marry him, as meetest of all other with whom she could find in her heart to declare her second person. For being matched with him, it would remove out of her mind all fears and suspicions, to be offended by any usurpation before her death. Being assured that he was so loving and trusty that he would never suffer any such thing to be attempted during her time. And that the queen my mistress might have the higher esteem of him, I was required to stay till I should see him made earl of Leicester and baron of Denbigh; which was done at Westminster with great solemnity, the queen herself helping to put on his ceremonial (mantle), he sitting upon his knees before her with a great gravity. But she could not refrain from putting her hand in his neck, smilingly tickling him, the French ambassador and I standing by. Then she turned, asking at me how I liked him? I answered, that as he was a worthy servant, so he was happy, who had a princess who could discern and reward good service. Yet, says she, you like better of yonder long lad, pointing towards my lord Darnley, who, as nearest prince of the blood, did bear the sword of honor that day before her."
"She appeared to be so affectionate to the queen her good sister, that she expressed a great desire to see her. And because their so much by her desired meeting could not so hastily be brought to pass, she appeared with great delight to look upon her majesty's picture. She took me to her bed-chamber, and opened a little cabinet, wherein were divers little pictures wrapped within paper, and their names written with her own hand upon the papers. Upon the first that she took up was written 'My lord's picture.' I held the candle, and pressed to see that picture so named; she appeared loath to let me see it, yet my importunity prevailed for a sight thereof, and I found it to be the earl of Leicester's picture. I desired that I might have it to carry home to my queen, which she refused, alleging that she had but that one picture of his. I said, 'Your majesty hath here the original, for I perceived him at the furthest part of the chamber, speaking with secretary Cecil.' Then she took out the queen's picture, and kissed it, and I adventured to kiss her hand, for the great love evidenced therein to my mistress. She showed me also a fair ruby, as great as a tennis-ball; I desired that she would send either it, or my lord of Leicester's picture, as a token to my queen. She said, that if the queen would follow her counsel, she would in process of time get all that she had; that in the meantime she was resolved in a token to send her with me a fair diamond. It was at this time late after supper; she appointed me to be with her the next morning by eight of the clock, at which time she used to walk in her garden."
"She enquired of me many things relating to this kingdom (Scotland) and other countries wherein I had travelled. She caused me to dine with her dame of honor, my lady Strafford (an honorable and godly lady, who had been at Geneva banished during the reign of queen Mary), that I might be always near her, that she might confer with me."
..."At divers meetings we had divers purposes. The queen my mistress had instructed me to leave matters of gravity sometimes, and cast in merry purposes, lest otherwise she should be wearied; she being well informed of that queen's natural temper. Therefore in declaring my observations of the customs of Dutchland, Poland, and Italy; the buskins of the women was not forgot, and what country weed I thought best becoming gentlewomen. The queen said she had clothes of every sort, which every day thereafter, so long as I was there, she changed. One day she had the English weed, another the French, and another the Italian, and so forth. She asked me, which of them became her best? I answered, in my judgement the Italian dress; which answer I found pleased her well, for she delighted to show her golden coloured hair, wearing a caul and bonnet as they do in Italy. Her hair was rather reddish than yellow, curled in appearance naturally.
"She desired to know of me what colour of hair was reputed best, and whether my queen's hair or hers was best, and which of them two was fairest? I answered, the fairness of them both was not their worst faults. But she was earnest with me to declare which of them I judged fairest? I said, she was the fairest queen in England, and mine in Scotland. Yet she appeared earnest. I answered, they were both the fairest ladies in their countries; that her majesty was whiter, but my queen was very lovely. She enquired, which of them was of highest stature? I said, my queen. Then, saith she, she is too high, for I myself am neither too high nor too low. Then she asked, what exercises she used? I answered, that when I received my dispatch, the queen was lately come from the Highland hunting. That when her more serious affairs permitted, she was taken up with reading of histories: that sometimes she recreated herself in playing upon the lute and virginals. She asked if she played well? I said reasonably, for a queen."
"That same day after dinner, my lord of Hunsdon drew me up to a quiet gallery that I might hear some music, but he said he durst not avow it, where I might hear the queen play upon the virginals. After I had harkened awhile, I took by the tapestry that hung before the door of the chamber, and seeing her back was toward the door, I ventured within the chamber, and stood a pretty space hearing her play excellently well; but she left off immediately, so soon as she turned about and saw me. She appeared to be surprised to see me, and came forward, seeming to strike me with her hand, alleging that she used not to play before men, but when she was solitary, to shun melancholy. She asked how I came there? I answered, as I was walking with my lord of Hunsdon, as we passed by the chamber door, I heard such melody as ravished me, whereby I was drawn in ere I knew how, excusing my fault of homeliness as being brought up in the court of France, where such freedom was allowed; declaring myself willing to endure what kind of punishment her majesty should be pleased to inflict upon me, for so great an offence. Then she sat down low upon a cushion, and I upon my knees by her, but with her own hand she gave me a cushion to lay under my knee, which at first I refused, but she compelled me to take it. She then called for my lady Strafford out of the next chamber, for the queen was alone. She enquired whether my queen or she played best? In that I found myself obliged to give her the praise. She said my French was very good, and asked if I could speak Italian, which she spoke reasonably well. I told her majesty I had no time to learn the language, not having been above two months in Italy. Then she spake to me in Dutch, which was not good; and would know what kind of books I most delighted in, whether theology, history, or love matters? I said I liked well of all the sorts. Here I took occasion to press earnestly my dispatch: she said I was sooner weary of her company than she was of mine. I told her majesty, that though I had no reason of being weary, I knew my mistress her affairs called me home; yet I was stayed two days longer, that I might see her dance, as I was afterward informed. Which being over, she enquired of me whether she or my queen danced best? I answered, the queen danced not so high or disposedly as she did. Then again she wished that she might see the queen at some convenient place of meeting. I offered to convey her secretly to Scotland by post, cloathed like a page, that under this disguise she might see the queen, as James V. had gone in disguise with his own ambassador to see the duke of Vendome's sister, who should have been his wife. Telling her that her chamber might be kept in her absence, as though she were sick; that none need be privy thereto except lady Strafford, and one of the grooms of her chamber. She appeared to like that kind of language, only answered it with a sigh, saying, Alas, if I might do it thus!"
Respecting Leicester, Melvil says, that he was conveyed by him in his barge from Hampton Court to London, and that, by the way, he inquired of him what the queen of Scots thought of him and of the marriage proposed by Randolph. "Whereunto," says he, "I answered very coldly, as I had been by my queen commanded." Then he began to purge himself of so proud a pretence as to marry so great a queen, declaring that he did not esteem himself worthy to wipe her shoes, and that the invention of that proposition of marriage proceeded from Mr. Cecil, his secret enemy: "For if I," said he, "should have appeared desirous of that marriage, I should have offended both the queens, and lost their favor."
[Note 54: Melvil's "Memoirs," passim.]
If we are to receive as sincere this declaration of his sentiments by Leicester,—confessedly one of the deepest dissemblers of the age,—what a curious view does it afford of the windings and intricacies of the character of Elizabeth, of the tissue of ingenious snares which she delighted to weave around the foot-steps even of the man whom she most favored, loved, and trusted! Perhaps she encouraged, if she did not originally devise, this matrimonial project purely as a romantic trial of his attachment to herself, and pleased her fancy with the idea of his rejecting for her a younger and a fairer queen;—perhaps she entertained a transient thought of making him her own husband, and wished previously to give him consequence by this proposal;—perhaps she meant nothing more than to perplex Mary by a variety of suitors, and thus delay her marriage; an event which she could not anticipate without vexation.
That she was not sincere in her recommendation of Leicester is certain from the circumstance, that when the queen of Scots, appearing to incline to a speedy conclusion of the business, pressed to know on what conditions Elizabeth would give her approbation to the union, the earnestness in the cause which she had before displayed immediately abated.
Her conduct with respect to Darnley is equally involved in perplexity and double-dealing. Melvil, as we have seen, asserts that it was Elizabeth herself who first mentioned him as a suitable match for the queen of Scots: and if his relation be correct, which his partiality towards his own sovereign makes indeed somewhat doubtful, the English princess must have been well aware, when she conversed with him, of the favor with which the addresses of this young nobleman were likely to be received, though the envoy says that he forbore openly to express the sentiments of his court on this topic. It was after Melvil's departure that Elizabeth, not indeed without reluctance and hesitation, permitted Darnley to accompany the earl his father into Scotland, ostensibly for the purpose of witnessing the reversal of the attainder formerly passed against him, and his solemn restoration in blood; but really, as she must well have known, with the object of pushing his suit with the queen.
Mary no sooner beheld the handsome youth than she was seized with a passion for him, which she determined to gratify: but apprehensive, with reason, of the interference of Elizabeth, she disguised for the present her inclinations, and engaged with a feigned earnestness in negotiations preparatory to an union with Leicester. Meanwhile she was secretly soliciting at Rome the necessary dispensation for marrying within the prohibited degrees of the church; and it was not till the arrival of this instrument was speedily expected, and all her other preparations were complete, that, taking off the mask, she requested her good sister's approbation of her approaching nuptials with lord Darnley.
It is scarcely credible that a person of Elizabeth's sagacity, with her means of gaining intelligence and after all that had passed, could have been surprised by this notification of the intentions of the queen of Scots, and it is even problematical how far she was really displeased at the occurrence. Except by imitating her perpetual celibacy,—a compliment to her envy and her example which could not in reason be expected,—it might seem impossible for the queen of Scots better to consult the views and wishes of her kinswoman than by uniting herself to Darnley;—a subject, and an English subject, a near relation both of her own and Elizabeth's, and a man on whom nature had bestowed not a single quality calculated to render him either formidable or respectable. The queen of England, however, frowardly bent on opposing the match to the utmost, directed sir Nicholas Throgmorton, her ambassador, to set before the eyes of Mary a long array of objections and impediments; and he was further authorized secretly to promise support to such of the Scottish nobles as would undertake to oppose it. She ordered, in the most imperious terms, the earl of Lenox and his son to return immediately into England; threw the countess of Lenox into the Tower by way of intimidation; and caused her privy-council to exercise their ingenuity in discovering the manifold inconveniences and dangers likely to arise to herself and to her country from the alliance of the queen of Scots with a house so nearly connected with the English crown.
Mary, however, persisted in accomplishing the union on which her mind was set: Darnley and his father neglected Elizabeth's order of recall; and her privy-council vexed her by drawing from the melancholy forebodings which she had urged them to promulgate two unwelcome inferences;—that the queen ought to lose no time in forming a connexion which might cut off the hopes of others by giving to the nation posterity of her own;—and that as the Lenox family were known papists, it would now be expedient to exercise against all of that persuasion the utmost severity of the penal laws. The earl of Murray and some other malcontent lords in Scotland were the only persons who entered with warmth and sincerity into the measures of Elizabeth against the marriage; for they alone had any personal interest in impeding the advancement of the Lenox family. Rashly relying on the assurances which they had received of aid from England, they took up arms against their sovereign; but finding no support from any quarter, they were soon compelled to make their escape across the border and seek refuge with the earl of Bedford, lord warden of the marches. On their arrival in London, the royal dissembler insisted on their declaring, in presence of the French and Spanish ambassadors, that their rebellious attempts had received no encouragement from her; but after this open disavowal, she permitted them to remain unmolested in her dominions, secretly supplying them with money and interceding with their offended sovereign in their behalf.
Melvil acquaints us that when sir Nicholas Throgmorton, on returning from his embassy, found that the promises which he had made to these malcontents had been disclaimed both by her majesty and by Randolph, he "stood in awe neither of queen nor council to declare the verity, that he had made such promises in her name, whereof the councillors and craftiest courtiers thought strange, and were resolving to punish him for avowing the same promise to be made in his mistress' name, had not he wisely and circumspectly obtained an act of council for his warrant, which he offered to produce. And the said sir Nicholas was so angry that he had been made an instrument to deceive the said banished lords, that he advised them to sue humbly for pardon at their own queen's hand, and to engage never again to offend her for satisfaction of any prince alive. And because, as they were then stated, they had no interest, he penned for them a persuasive letter and sent to her majesty." On this occasion Throgmorton showed himself a warm friend to Mary's succession in England, and advised clemency to the banished lords as one mean to secure it. Mary, highly esteeming him and convinced by his reasons, resolved to follow his counsels.
Elizabeth never willingly remitted any thing of that rigor against the puritans which she loved to believe it politic to exercise; but they were fortunate enough to find an almost avowed patron in Leicester, and secret favorers in several of her ministers and counsellors; and during the persecutions of the catholics which followed the marriage of Mary, she was compelled to press upon them with a less heavy hand.
Archbishop Parker, who was proceeding with much self-satisfaction and success in the task of silencing by the pains of suspension and deprivation all scruples of conscience among the clergy respecting habits and ceremonies, was now mortified to find his zeal restrained by the interference of the queen herself, while the exulting puritans studied to improve to the utmost the temporary connivance of the ruling powers.
1565 AND 1566.
Renewal of the archduke's proposal.—Disappointment of Leicester.—Anecdote concerning him.—Disgrace of the earl of Arundel.—Situation of the duke of Norfolk.—Leicester his secret enemy.—Notice of the earl of Sussex.—Proclamation respecting fencing schools.—Marriage of lady Mary Grey.—Sir H. Sidney deputy of Ireland.—Queen's letter to him.—Prince of Scotland born.—Melvil sent with the news to Elizabeth.—His account of his reception.—Motion in the house of commons for naming a successor.—Discord between the house and the queen on this ground.—She refuses a subsidy—dissolves parliament—visits Oxford.—Particulars of her reception.
Whether or not it was with a view of impeding the marriage of the queen of Scots that Elizabeth had originally encouraged the renewal of the proposals of the archduke to herself, certain it is that the treaty was still carried on, and even with increased earnestness, long after this motive had ceased to operate.
It was subsequently to Mary's announcement of her approaching nuptials, that to the instances of the imperial ambassador Elizabeth had replied, that she desired to keep herself free till she had finally decided on the answer to be given to the king of France, who had also offered her his hand. After breaking off this negotiation with Charles IX., she declared to the same ambassador, that she would never engage to marry a person whom she had not seen;—an answer which seemed to hint to the archduke that a visit would be well received. It was accordingly reported with confidence that this prince would soon commence his journey to England; and Cecil himself ventured to write to a friend, that if he would accede to the national religion, and if his person proved acceptable to her majesty, "except God should please to continue his displeasure against us, we should see some success." But he thought that the archduke would never explain himself on religion to any one except the queen, and not to her until he should see hopes of speeding.
[Note 55: It is on the authority of Strype's "Annals" that this offer of Charles IX. to Elizabeth is recorded. Hume, Camden, Rapin, are all silent respecting it; but as it seems that Catherine dei Medici was at the time desirous of the appearance of a closer connexion with Elizabeth, it is not improbable that she might throw out some hint of this nature without any real wish of bringing about an union in all respects so unsuitable.]
The splendid dream of Leicester's ambition was dissipated for ever by these negotiations; and a diminution of the queen's partiality towards him, distinctly visible to the observant eyes of her courtiers, either preceded or accompanied her entertaining so long, and with such an air of serious deliberation, the proposals of a foreign prince. The enemies of Leicester,—a large and formidable party, comprehending almost all the highest names among the nobility and the greater part of the ministers,—openly and zealously espoused the interest of the archduke. Leicester at first with equal warmth and equal openness opposed his pretensions; but he was soon admonished by the frowns of his royal mistress, that if he would preserve or recover his influence, he must now be content to take a humbler tone, and disguise a disappointment which there was arrogance in avowing.
The disposition of Elizabeth partook so much more of the haughty than the tender, that the slightest appearances of presumption would always provoke her to take a pleasure in mortifying the most distinguished of her favorites; and it might be no improbable guess, that almost the whole of the encouragement given by her to the addresses of the archduke was prompted by the desire of humbling the pride of Leicester, and showing him that his ascendency over her was not so complete or so secure as he imagined.
A circumstance is related which we may conjecture to have occurred about this time, and which sets in a strong light this part of the character of Elizabeth. "Bowyer, a gentleman of the Black Rod, being charged by her express command to look precisely into all admissions into the privy-chamber, one day stayed a very gay captain, and a follower of my lord of Leicester's, from entrance; for that he was neither well known, nor a sworn servant to the queen: at which repulse, the gentleman, bearing high on my lord's favor, told him, he might perchance procure him a discharge. Leicester coming into the contestation, said publicly (which was none of his wont) that he was a knave, and should not continue long in his office; and so turning about to go in to the queen, Bowyer, who was a bold gentleman and well beloved, stepped before him and fell at her majesty's feet, related the story, and humbly craves her grace's pleasure; and whether my lord of Leicester was king, or her majesty queen? Whereunto she replied with her wonted oath, 'God's death, my lord, I have wished you well; but my favor is not so locked up for you, that others shall not partake thereof; for I have many servants, to whom I have, and will at my pleasure, bequeath my favor, and likewise resume the same: and if you think to rule here, I will take a course to see you forthcoming. I will have here but one mistress, and no master; and look that no ill happen to him, lest it be required at your hands.' Which words so quelled my lord of Leicester, that his feigned humility was long after one of his best virtues."
[Note 56: Naunton's "Fragmenta Regalia."]
It might be some consolation to Leicester, under his own mortifications, to behold his ancient rival the earl of Arundel subjected to far severer ones. This nobleman had resigned in disgust his office of lord-chamberlain; subsequently, the queen, on some ground of displeasure now unknown, had commanded him to confine himself to his own house; and at the end of several months passed under this kind of restraint, she still denied him for a further term the consolation and privilege of approaching her royal presence. Disgraces so public and so lasting determined him to throw up the desperate game on which he had hazarded so deep a stake: he obtained leave to travel, and hastened to conceal or forget in foreign lands the bitterness of his disappointment and the embarrassment of his circumstances.
It is probable that from this time Elizabeth found no more serious suitors amongst her courtiers, though they flattered her by continuing, almost to the end of her life, to address her in the language of love, or rather of gallantry. With all her coquetry, her head was clear, her passions were cool; and men began to perceive that there was little chance of prevailing with her to gratify her heart or her fancy at the expense of that independence on which her lofty temper led her to set so high a value. Some were still uncharitable, unjust enough to believe that Leicester was, or had been, a fortunate lover; but few now expected to see him her husband, and none found encouragement sufficient to renew the experiment in which he had failed. Notwithstanding her short and capricious fits of pride and anger, it was manifest that Leicester still exercised over her mind an influence superior on the whole to that of any other person; and the high distinction with which she continued to treat him, both in public and private, alarmed the jealousy and provoked the hostility of all who thought themselves entitled by rank, by relationship, or by merit, to a larger share of her esteem and favor, or a more intimate participation in her councils.
One nobleman there was, who had peculiar pretensions to supersede Leicester in his popular appellation of "Heart of the Court," and on whom he had already fixed in secret the watchful eye of a rival. This was Thomas duke of Norfolk. Inheriting through several channels the blood of the Plantagenets,—nearly related to the queen by her maternal ancestry, and connected by descent or alliance with the whole body of the ancient nobility; endeared also to the people by many shining qualities, and still more by his unfeigned zeal for reformed religion,—his grace stood first amongst the peers of England, not in degree alone or in wealth, but in power, in influence, and in public estimation.
He was in the prime of manhood and lately a widower; and when, in the parliament of 1566, certain members did not scruple to maintain that the queen ought to be compelled to marry for the good of her country, the duke was named by some, as the earl of Pembroke was by others and the earl of Leicester by a third party, as the person whom she ought to accept as a husband. It does not however appear that the duke himself had aspired, openly at least, to these august but unattainable nuptials.
Elizabeth seems to have entertained for him at this period a real regard: he could be to her no object of distrust or danger, and the example which she was ever careful to set of a scrupulous observance of the gradations of rank, led her on all occasions to prefer him to the post of honor. Thus, after the peace with France in 1564, when Charles IX. in return for the Garter, which the queen of England had sent him, offered to confer the order of St. Michael on two English nobles of her appointment, she named without hesitation the duke of Norfolk and the earl of Leicester.
The arrogance of Dudley seldom escaped from the control of policy; and as he had the sagacity to perceive that the duke was a competitor over whom treachery alone could render him finally triumphant, he cautiously avoided with him any open collision of interests, any offensive rivalry in matters of place and dignity. He even went further; he compelled himself, by a feigned deference, to administer food to that exaggerated self-consequence,—the cherished foible of the house of Howard in general and of this duke in particular,—out of which he perhaps already hoped that matter would arise to work his ruin. The chronicles of the year 1565 give a striking instance of this part of his behaviour, in the information, that the duke of Norfolk, going to keep his Christmas in his own county, was attended out of London by the earls of Leicester and Warwick, the lord-chamberlain and other lords and gentlemen, who brought him on his journey, "doing him all the honor in their power."
The duke was not gifted with any great degree of penetration, and the generosity of his disposition combined with his vanity to render him generally the dupe of outward homage and fair professions. He repaid the insidious complaisance of Leicester with good will and even with confidence; and it was not till all was lost that he appears to have recognised this fatal and irreparable error.
Thomas earl of Sussex was an antagonist of a different nature,—an enemy rather than a rival,—and one who sought the overthrow of Leicester with as much zeal and industry as Leicester himself sought his, or that of the duke; but by means as open and courageous as those of his opponent were ever secret, base, and cowardly. This nobleman, the third earl of the surname of Radcliffe, and son of him who had interfered with effect to procure more humane and respectful treatment of Elizabeth during the period of her adversity, had been first known by the title of lord Fitzwalter, which he derived from a powerful line of barons well known in English history from the days of Henry I. By his mother, a daughter of Thomas second duke of Norfolk, he was first-cousin to queen Anne Boleyn; and friendship, still more than the ties of blood, closely connected him with the head of the Howards. Several circumstances render it probable that he was not a zealous protestant, though it is no where hinted that he was even secretly attached to the catholic party. During the reign of Mary, his high character and approved loyalty had caused him to be employed, first in an embassy to the emperor Charles V. to settle the queen's marriage-articles; and afterwards in the arduous post of lord-deputy of Ireland. Elizabeth continued him for some time in this situation; but wishing to avail herself of his counsels and service at home, she recalled him in 1565, conferred upon him the high dignity of lord-chamberlain, vacant by the resignation of the earl of Arundel, and appointed as his successor in Ireland his excellent second in office sir Henry Sidney, who stood in the same relation, that of brother-in-law, to Sussex and to Leicester, and whose singular merit and good fortune it was to preserve to the end the esteem and friendship of both.
The ostensible cause of quarrel between these two earls seems to have been their difference of opinion respecting the Austrian match; but this was rather the pretext than the motive of an animosity deeply rooted in the natures and situation of each, and probably called into action by particular provocations now unknown. The disposition of Sussex was courageous and sincere; his spirit high, his judgement clear and strong, his whole character honorable and upright. In the arts of a courtier, which he despised, he was confessedly inferior to his wily adversary; in all the qualifications of a statesman and a soldier he vastly excelled him.
Sussex was endowed with penetration sufficient to detect, beneath the thick folds of hypocrisy and artifice in which he had involved them, the monstrous vices of Leicester's disposition; and he could not without indignation and disgust behold a princess whose blood he shared, whose character he honored, and whose service he had himself embraced with pure devotion, the dupe of an impostor so despicable and so pernicious. That influence which he saw Leicester abuse to the dishonor of the queen and the detriment of the country, he undertook to overthrow by fair and public means, and, so far as appears, without motives of personal interest or ambition:—thus far all was well, and for the effort, whether successful or not, he merited the public thanks. But there mingled in the bosom of the high-born Sussex an illiberal disdain of the origin of Dudley, with a just abhorrence of his character and conduct.
He was wont to say of him, that two ancestors were all that he could number, his father and grandfather; both traitors and enemies to their country. His sarcasms roused in Leicester an animosity which he did not attempt to disguise: with the exception of Cecil and his friends, who stood neuter, the whole court divided into factions upon the quarrel of these two powerful peers; and to such extremity were matters carried, that for some time neither of them would stir abroad without a numerous train armed, according to the fashion of the day, with daggers and spiked bucklers.
Scarcely could the queen herself restrain these "angry opposites" from breaking out into acts of violence: at length however, summoning them both into her presence, she forced them to a reconciliation neither more nor less sincere than such pacifications by authority have usually proved.
The open and unmeasured enmity of Sussex seems to have been productive in the end of more injury to his own friends than to Leicester. The storm under which the favorite had bowed for an instant was quickly overpast, and he once more reared his head erect and lofty as before. To revenge himself by the ruin or disgrace of Sussex was however beyond his power: the well-founded confidence of Elizabeth in his abilities and his attachment to her person, he found to be immovable; but against his friends and adherents, against the duke of Norfolk himself, his malignant arts succeeded but too well; and it seems not improbable that Leicester, for the purpose of carrying on without molestation his practices against them, concurred in procuring for his adversary an honorable exile in the shape of an embassy to the imperial court, on which he departed in the year 1567.
After his return from this mission the queen named the earl of Sussex lord-president of the North, an appointment which equally removed him from the immediate theatre of court intrigue. Not long after, the hand of death put a final close to his honorable career, and to an enmity destined to know no other termination. As he lay upon his death-bed, this eminent person is recorded to have thus addressed his surrounding friends: "I am now passing into another world, and must leave you to your fortunes and to the queen's grace and goodness; but beware of the Gipsy (meaning Leicester), for he will be too hard for you all; you know not the beast so well as I do."
[Note 57: Naunton's "Fragmenta Regalia."]
This earl left no children, and his widow became the munificent foundress of Sidney Sussex college, Cambridge. Of his negotiations with the court of Vienna respecting the royal marriage which he had so much at heart, particulars will be given in due time; but the miscellaneous transactions of two or three preceding years claim a priority of narration.
By a proclamation of February 1566, the queen revived some former sumptuary laws respecting apparel; chiefly, it should appear, from an apprehension that a dangerous confusion of ranks would be the consequence of indulging to her subjects the liberty of private judgement in a matter so important. The following clause concerning fencing schools is appended to this instrument.
"Because it is daily seen what disorders do grow and are likely to increase in the realm, by the increase of numbers of persons taking upon them to teach the multitude of common people to play at all kind of weapons; and for that purpose set up schools called schools of fence, in places inconvenient; tending to the great disorder of such people as properly ought to apply to their labours and handy works: Therefore her majesty ordereth and commandeth, that no teacher of fence shall keep any school or common place of resort in any place of the realm, but within the liberties of some city of the realm. Where also they shall be obedient to such orders as the governors of the cities shall appoint to them, for the better keeping of the peace, and for prohibition of resort of such people to the same schools as are not mete for that purpose." &c.
On these restrictions, which would seem to imply an unworthy jealousy of putting arms and the skill to use them into the hands of the common people, it is equitable to remark, that the custom of constantly wearing weapons, at this time almost universal, though prohibited by the laws of some of our early kings, had been found productive of those frequent acts of violence and outrage which have uniformly resulted from this truly barbarous practice in all the countries where it has been suffered to prevail.
From the description of England prefixed to Holinshed's Chronicles, we learn several particulars on this subject. Few men, even of the gravest and most pacific characters, such as ancient burgesses and city magistrates, went without a dagger at their side or back. The nobility commonly wore swords or rapiers as well as daggers, as did every common serving-man following his master. Some "desperate cutters" carried two daggers, or two rapiers in a sheath, always about them, with which in every drunken fray they worked much mischief; their swords and daggers also were of an extraordinary length (an abuse which was provided against by a clause of the proclamation above quoted); some "suspicious fellows" also would carry on the highways staves of twelve or thirteen feet long, with pikes of twelve inches at the end, wherefore the honest traveller was compelled to ride with a case of dags (pistols) at his saddle-bow, and none travelled without sword, or dagger, or hanger.
About this time occurred what a contemporary reporter called "an unhappy chance and monstrous;" the marriage of lady Mary Grey to the serjeant-porter: a circumstance thus recorded by Fuller, with his accustomed quaintness. "Mary Grey... frighted with the infelicity of her two elder sisters, Jane and this Catherine, forgot her honor to remember her safety, and married one whom she could love and none need fear, Martin Kays, of Kent esquire, who was a judge at court, (but only of doubtful casts at dice, being serjeant-porter,) and died without issue the 20th of April 1578."
[Note 58: "Worthies in Leicestershire."]
The queen, according to her usual practice in similar cases, sent both husband and wife to prison. What became further of the husband I do not find; but respecting the wife, sir Thomas Gresham the eminent merchant, in a letter to lord Burleigh dated in April 1572, mentions, that the lady Mary Grey had been kept in his house nearly three years, and begs of his lordship that he will make interest for her removal. Thus it should appear that this unfortunate lady did not sufficiently "remember her safety" in forming this connexion, obscure and humble as it was; for all matrimony had now become offensive to the austerity or the secret envy of the maiden queen.
Sir Henry Sidney, on arriving to take the government of Ireland, found that unhappy country in a state of more than ordinary turbulence, distraction, and misery. Petty insurrections of perpetual recurrence harassed the English pale; and the native chieftains, disdaining to accept the laws of a foreign sovereign as the umpire of their disputes, were waging innumerable private wars, which at once impoverished, afflicted, and barbarized their country. The most important of these feuds was one between the earls of Ormond and Desmond, which so disquieted the queen that, in addition to all official instructions, she deemed it necessary to address her deputy on the subject in a private letter written with her own hand. This document, printed in the Sidney papers, is too valuable, as a specimen of her extraordinary style and her manner of thinking, to be omitted. It is without date, but must have been written in 1565.
* * * * *
"Letter of Queen Elizabeth to Sir Henry Sidney, on the Quarrel between Thomas Earl of Ormond and the Earl of Desmond, anno 1565.
"If our partial slender managing of the contentious quarrel between the two Irish earls did not make the way to cause these lines to pass my hand, this gibberish should hardly have cumbered your eyes; but warned by my former fault, and dreading worser hap to come, I rede you take good heed that the good subjects lost state be so revenged that I hear not the rest be won to a right bye way to breed more traitor's stocks, and so the goal is gone. Make some difference between tried, just, and false friend. Let the good service of well-deservers be never rewarded with loss. Let their thank be such as may encourage no strivers for the like. Suffer not that Desmond's denying deeds, far wide from promised works, make you to trust to other pledge than either himself or John for gage: he hath so well performed his English vows, that I warn you trust him no longer than you see one of them. Prometheus let me be, Epimetheus hath been mine too long. I pray God your old strange sheep late (as you say) returned into the fold, wore not her wooly garment upon her wolvy back. You know a kingdom knows no kindred, si violandum jus regnandi causa. A strength to harm is perilous in the hand of an ambitious head. Where might is mixed with wit, there is too good an accord in a government. Essays be oft dangerous, specially when the cup-bearer hath received such a preservative as, what might so ever betide the drinker's draught, the carrier takes no bane thereby.
[Note 59: In the original, "and Prometheus," but evidently by a mere slip of the pen.]
"Believe not, though they swear, that they can be full sound, whose parents sought the rule that they full fain would have. I warrant you they will never be accused of bastardy; you were to blame to lay it to their charge, they will trace the steps that others have passed before. If I had not espied, though very late, legerdemain, used in these cases, I had never played my part. No, if I did not see the balances held awry, I had never myself come into the weigh house. I hope I shall have so good a customer of you, that all other officers shall do their duty among you. If aught have been amiss at home, I will patch though I cannot whole it. Let us not, nor no more do you, consult so long as till advice come too late to the givers: where then shall we wish the deeds while all was spent in words; a fool too late bewares when all the peril is past. If we still advise, we shall never do, thus are we still knitting a knot never tied; yea, and if our web be framed with rotten hurdles, when our loom is welny done, our work is new to begin. God send the weaver true prentices again, and let them be denizens I pray you if they be not citizens; and such too as your ancientest aldermen, that have or now dwell in your official place, have had best cause to commend their good behaviour.
[Note 60: The words web and loom in this sentence ought certainly to be transposed.]
"Let this memorial be only committed to Vulcan's base keeping, without any longer abode than the reading thereof, yea, and with no mention made thereof to any other wight. I charge you as I may command you. Seem not to have had but secretary's letter from me.
"Your loving mistress
* * * * *
In the month of June 1566, the queen of Scots was delivered of a son. James Melvil was immediately dispatched with the happy intelligence to her good sister of England: and he has fortunately left us a narrative of this mission, which equals in vivacity the relation of his former visit. "By twelve of the clock I took horse, and was that night at Berwick. The fourth day after, I was at London, and did first meet with my brother sir Robert (then ambassador to England), who that same night sent and advertised secretary Cecil of my arrival, and of the birth of the prince, desiring him to keep it quiet till my coming to court to show it myself unto her majesty, who was for the time at Greenwich, where her majesty was in great mirth, dancing after supper. But so soon as the secretary Cecil whispered in her ear the news of the prince's birth, all her mirth was laid aside for that night. All present marvelling whence proceeded such a change; for the queen did sit down, putting her hand under her cheek, bursting out to some of her ladies, that the queen of Scots was mother of a fair son, while she was but a barren stock.
"The next morning was appointed for me to get audience, at what time my brother and I went by water to Greenwich, and were met by some friends who told us how sorrowful her majesty was at my news, but that she had been advised to show a glad and cheerful countenance; which she did in her best apparel, saying, that the joyful news of the queen her sister's delivery of a fair son, which I had sent her by secretary Cecil, had recovered her out of a heavy sickness which she had lain under for fifteen days. Therefore she welcomed me with a merry volt, and thanked me for the diligence I had used in hasting to give her that welcome intelligence." &c. "The next day her majesty sent unto me her letter, with the present of a fair chain."
Resolved to perform with a good grace the part which she had assumed, Elizabeth accepted with alacrity the office of sponsor to the prince of Scotland, sending thither as her proxies the earl of Bedford, Mr. Carey son of lord Hunsdon, and other knights and gentlemen; who met with so cordial a reception from Mary,—now at open variance with her husband, and therefore desirous of support from England,—as to provoke the jealousy of the French ambassadors. The present of the royal godmother was a font of pure gold worth above one thousand pounds; in return for which, rings, rich chains of diamond and pearl, and other jewels were liberally bestowed upon her substitutes.
The birth of her son lent a vast accession of strength to the party of the queen of Scots in England; and Melvil was commissioned to convey back to her from several of the principal personages of the court, warm professions of an attachment to her person and interests, which the jealousy of their mistress compelled them to dissemble. Elizabeth, on her part, was more than ever disturbed by suspicions on this head, which were kept in constant activity by the secret informations of the armies of spies whom it was her self-tormenting policy to set over the words and actions of the Scottish queen and her English partisans. The more she learned of the influence privately acquired by Mary amongst her subjects, the more, of course, she feared and hated her, and the stronger became her determination never to give her additional consequence by an open recognition of her right of succession. At the same time she was fully sensible that no other person could be thought of as the inheritrix of her crown; and she resolved, perhaps wisely, to maintain on this subject an inflexible silence: this policy, however, connected with her perseverance in a state of celibacy, began to awaken in her people an anxiety respecting their future destinies, which, being artfully fomented by Scottish emissaries, produced, in 1566, the first symptoms of discord between the queen and her faithful commons.
A motion was made in the lower house for reviving the suit to her majesty touching the naming of a successor in case of her death without posterity; and in spite of the strenuous opposition of the court party, and the efforts of the ministers to procure a delay by declaring "that the queen was moved to marriage and inclined to prosecute the same," it was carried, and a committee appointed to confer with the lords. The business was not very agreeable to the upper house: a committee however was named, and the queen soon after required some members of both houses to wait upon her respecting this matter; when the lord-keeper explained their sentiments in a long speech, to which her majesty was pleased to reply after her darkest and most ambiguous manner. "As to her marriage," she said, "a silent thought might serve. She thought it had been so desired that none other trees blossom should have been minded or ever any hope of fruit had been denied them. But that if any doubted that she was by vow or determination never bent to trade in that kind of life, she bade them put out that kind of heresy, for their belief was therein awry. And though she could think it best for a private woman, yet she strove with herself to think it not meet for a prince. As to the succession, she bade them not think that they had needed this desire, if she had seen a time so fit; and it so ripe to be denounced. That the greatness of the cause, and the need of their return, made her say that a short time for so long a continuance ought not to pass by rote. That as cause by conference with the learned should show her matter worth utterance for their behoof, so she would more gladly pursue their good after her days, than with all her prayers while she lived be a means to linger out her living thread. That for their comfort, she had good record in that place that other means than they mentioned had been thought of perchance for their good, as much as for her own surety: which, if they could have been presently or conveniently executed, it had not been now deferred or over-slipped. That she hoped to die in quiet with Nunc dimittis, which could not be without she saw some glimpse of their following surety after her graved bones."
These vague sentences tended little to the satisfaction of the house; and a motion was made, and strongly supported by the speeches of several members, for reiteration of the suit. At this her majesty was so incensed, that she communicated by sir Francis Knowles her positive command to the house to proceed no further in this business, satisfying themselves with the promise of marriage which she had made on the word of a prince. But that truly independent member Paul Wentworth could not be brought to acquiesce with tameness in this prohibition, and he moved the house on the question, whether the late command of her majesty was not a breach of its privileges? The queen hereupon issued an injunction that there should be no debates on this point; but the spirit of resistance rose so high in the house of commons against this her arbitrary interference, that she found it expedient, a few days after, to rescind both orders, making a great favor however of her compliance, and insisting on the condition, that the subject should not at this time be further pursued.
In her speech on adjourning parliament she did not omit to acquaint both houses with her extreme displeasure at their interference touching the naming of a successor; a matter which she always chose to regard as belonging exclusively to her prerogative;—and she ended by telling them, "that though perhaps they might have after her one better learned or wiser, yet she assured them none more careful over them. And therefore henceforth she bade them beware how they proved their prince's patience as they had now done hers. And notwithstanding, not meaning, she said, to make a Lent of Christmas, the most part of them might assure themselves that they departed in their prince's grace."
[Note 61: Strype's "Annals."]
She utterly refused an extraordinary subsidy which the commons had offered on condition of her naming her successor, and even of the ordinary supplies which she accepted, she remitted a fourth, popularly observing, that it was as well for her to have money in the coffers of her subjects as in her own. By such an alternation of menaces and flatteries did Elizabeth contrive to preserve her ascendency over the hearts and minds of her people!
The earl of Leicester had lately been elected chancellor of the university of Oxford, and in the autumn of 1566 the queen consented to honor with her presence this seat of learning, long ambitious of such a distinction. She was received with the same ceremonies as at Cambridge: learned exhibitions of the same nature awaited her; and she made a similar parade of her bashfulness, and a still greater of her erudition; addressing this university not in Latin, but in Greek.
Of the dramatic exhibitions prepared for her recreation, an elegant writer has recorded the following particulars. "In the magnificent hall of Christ-church, she was entertained with a Latin comedy called Marcus Geminus, the Latin tragedy of Progne, and an English comedy on the story of Palamon and Arcite, (by Richard Edwards gentleman of the queen's chapel, and master of the choristers,) all acted by the students of the university. When the last play was over, the queen summoned the poet into her presence, whom she loaded with thanks and compliments: and at the same time, turning to her levee, remarked, that Palamon was so justly drawn as a lover, that he must have been in love indeed; that Arcite was a right martial knight, having a swart and manly countenance, yet with the aspect of a Venus clad in armour: that the lovely Emilia was a virgin of uncorrupted purity and unblemished simplicity; and that though she sung so sweetly, and gathered flowers alone in the garden, she preserved her chastity undeflowered. The part of Emilia, the only female part in the play, was acted by a boy of fourteen, whose performance so captivated her majesty, that she made him a present of eight guineas. During the exhibition, a cry of hounds belonging to Theseus was counterfeited without in the great square of the college; the young students thought it a real chase, and were seized with a sudden transport to join the hunters: at which the queen cried out from her box, "O excellent! these boys, in very troth, are ready to leap out of the windows to follow the hounds!"
[Note 62: Warton's "History of English Poetry."]
[Note 63: Mr. Warton apparently forgets that guineas were first coined by Charles II.]
Dr. Lawrence Humphreys, who had lately been distinguished by his strenuous opposition to the injunctions of the queen and archbishop Parker respecting the habits and ceremonies, was at this time vice-chancellor of Oxford; and when he came forth in procession to meet the queen, she could not forbear saying with a smile, as she gave him her hand to kiss—"That loose gown, Mr. Doctor, becomes you mighty well; I wonder your notions should be so narrow."
1567 AND 1568.
Terms on which Elizabeth offers to acknowledge Mary as her successor,—rejected by the Scots.—Death of Darnley.—Conduct of Elizabeth towards his mother.—Letter of Cecil.—Letter of Elizabeth to Mary.—Mary marries Bothwell—is defeated at Langside—committed to Loch Leven castle.—Interference of Elizabeth in her behalf.—Earl of Sussex ambassador to Vienna.—Letters from him to Elizabeth respecting the archduke.—Causes of the failure of the marriage treaty with this prince.—Notice of lord Buckhurst.—Visit of the queen to Fotheringay castle.—Mary escapes from prison—raises an army—is defeated—flies into England.—Conduct of Elizabeth.—Mary submits her cause to her—is detained prisoner.—Russian embassy.—Chancellor's voyage to Archangel.—Trade opened with Russia.—Treaty with the Czar.—Negotiations between Elizabeth and the French court.—Marriage proposed with the duke of Anjou.—Privy-council hostile to France.—Queen on bad terms with Spain.
Notwithstanding the uniform success and general applause which had hitherto crowned her administration, at no point perhaps of her whole reign was the path of Elizabeth more beset with perplexities and difficulties than at the commencement of the year 1567.
The prevalence of the Scottish faction had compelled her to give a pledge to her parliament respecting matrimony, which must either be redeemed by the sacrifice of her darling independence, or forfeited with the loss of her credit and popularity. Her favorite state-mystery,—the choice of a successor,—had also been invaded by rude and daring hands; and to such extremity was she reduced on this point, that she had found it necessary to empower the commissioners whom she sent into Scotland for the baptism of the prince, distinctly to propound the following offer. That on a simple ratification by Mary of only so much of the treaty of Edinburgh as engaged her to advance no claim upon the English crown during the lifetime of Elizabeth or any posterity of hers, a solemn recognition of her right of succession should be made by the queen and parliament of England.
The Scottish ministry, instead of closing instantly with so advantageous a proposal, were imprudent enough to insist upon a previous examination of the will of Henry VIII., which they fondly believed that they could show to be a forgery: and the delay which the refusal of Elizabeth occasioned, gave time for the interposition of circumstances which ruined for ever the character and authority of Mary, and rescued her sister-queen from this dilemma.
On February the 9th 1567, lord Darnley, then called king of Scots, perished by a violent and mysterious death. Bothwell, the queen's new favorite, was universally accused of the murder; and the open discord which had subsisted, even before the assassination of Rizzio, between the royal pair, gave strong ground of suspicion that Mary herself was a participator in the crime.
Elizabeth behaved on this tragical occurrence with the utmost decorum and moderation; she expressed no opinion hostile to the fame of the queen of Scots, and took no immediate measures of a public nature respecting it. It can scarcely be doubted however, that, in common with all Europe, she secretly believed in the guilt of Mary; and even though at the bottom of her heart she may have desired rather to see her condemned than acquitted in the general verdict, such a feeling ought not, under all the circumstances, to be imputed to her as indicative of any extraordinary malignity of disposition. To announce to the countess of Lenox, still her prisoner, the frightful catastrophe which had closed the history of her rash misguided son, was the first step taken by Elizabeth: it was a proper, and even an indispensable one; but the respectful and considerate manner of the communication, contrasted with former harsh treatment, might be designed to intimate to the house of Lenox that it should now find in her a protectress, and perhaps an avenger.
We possess a letter addressed by Cecil to sir Henry Norris ambassador in France, in which are found some particulars on this subject, oddly prefaced by a commission on which it is amusing to a modern reader to contemplate a prime minister at such a time, and with so much gravity, engaged. But the division of labor in public offices seems to have been in this age very imperfect: Elizabeth employed her secretary of state to procure her a mantua-maker; James I. occupied his in transcribing sonnets of his own composition.
* * * * *
"Sir William Cecil to sir Henry Norris. February 20th 1566-7.
"...The queen's majesty would fain have a taylor that had skill to make her apparel both after the French and Italian manner; and she thinketh that you might use some means to obtain some one such there as serveth that queen, without mentioning any manner of request in the queen's majesty's name. First, to cause my lady your wife to use some such means to get one as thereof knowledge might not come to the queen mother's ears, of whom the queen's majesty thinketh thus: That if she did understand it were a matter wherein her majesty might be pleasured, she would offer to send one to the queen's majesty. Nevertheless, if it cannot be so obtained by this indirect means, then her majesty would have you devise some other good means to obtain one that were skilful.
"I have stayed your son from going hence now these two days, upon the queen's commandment, for that she would have him to have as much of the truth of the circumstances of the murder of the king of Scots as might be; and hitherto the same is hard to come by, other than in a generality.... The queen's majesty sent yesterday my lady Howard and my wife to the lady Lenox to the Tower, to open this matter unto her, who could not by any means be kept from such passions of mind as the horribleness of the fact did require. And this last night were with her the said lady, the dean of Westminster, and Dr. Huick, and I hope her majesty will show some favorable compassion of the said lady, whom any humane nature must needs pity."
[Note 64: "Scrinia Ceciliana."]
* * * * *
The liberation of the countess followed; and the earl her husband soon after gratified Elizabeth's desire to interfere, by invoking her assistance to procure, by representations to Mary, some extension of the unusually short time within which he was required to bring forward his proofs against Bothwell, whom he had accused of the assassination of his son.
This petition produced a very earnest letter from one queen to the other; in which Elizabeth plainly represented to her royal sister, that the refusal of such a request to the father of her husband would bring her into greater suspicion than, as she hoped, she was aware, or would be willing to hear; adding, "For the love of God, madam, use such sincerity and prudence in this case, which touches you so nearly, that all the world may have reason to judge you innocent of so enormous a crime; a thing which unless you do, you will be worthily blotted out from the rank of princesses, and rendered, not undeservedly, the opprobrium of the vulgar; rather than which fate should befal you, I should wish you an honorable sepulture instead of a stained life."
[Note 65: See the French original in Robertson's "Hist. of Scotland," vol. iii. Append. xix.]
But to these and all other representations which could be made to her, this criminal and infatuated woman replied by marrying Bothwell three months after the death of her husband. She now attempted by the most artful sophistries to justify her conduct to the courts of France and England: but vain was the endeavour to excuse or explain away facts which the common sense and common feelings of mankind told them could admit of neither explanation nor apology. The nobles conspired, the people rose in arms against her; and within a single month after her ill-omened nuptials, she saw her guilty partner compelled to tear himself from her arms and seek his safety in flight, and herself reduced to surrender her person into the power of her rebellious subjects.
The battle of Langside put all the power of the country into the hands of the insurgent nobles; but they were much divided in opinion as to the use to be made of their victory. Some wished to restore Mary to regal authority under certain limitations;—others wanted to depose her and proclaim her infant son in her place;—some proposed to detain her in perpetual imprisonment;—others threatened to bring her to trial and capital punishment as an accessary to the death of the king. Meantime she was detained a prisoner in Loch Leven castle, subjected to various indignities, and a prey to the most frightful apprehensions. But there was an eye which watched over her for her safety; and it was that of Elizabeth.
Fears and rivalries, ancient offences and recent provocations,—all the imprudence which she had censured, and all the guilt which she had imputed, vanished from the thought of this princess the moment that she beheld a woman, a kinswoman, and, what was much more, a sister-queen, reduced to this extremity of distress, and exposed to the menaces and insults of her own subjects. For a short time the cause of Mary seemed to her as her own; she interposed in her behalf in a tone of such imperative earnestness, that the Scotch nobles, who feared her power and sought her friendship, did not dare to withstand her; and in all probability Mary at this juncture owed no less than her life to the good offices of her who was destined finally to bring her, with more injustice and after many years of sorrow, to an ignominious death.
It was not however within the power, if indeed it were the wish, of Elizabeth to restore the queen of Scots to the enjoyment either of authority or of freedom. All Scotland seemed at this period united against her; she was compelled to sign a deed of abdication in favor of her son, who was crowned king in July 1567. The earl of Murray was declared regent: and a parliament assembled about the close of the year confirmed all these acts of the confederate lords, and sanctioned the detention of the deposed queen in a captivity of which none could then foresee the termination. Elizabeth ordered her ambassador to abstain from countenancing by his presence the coronation of the king of Scots, and she continued to negotiate for the restoration of Mary: but her ministers strongly represented to her the danger of driving the lords, by a further display of her indignation at their proceedings, into a confederacy with France; and Throgmorton, her ambassador in Scotland, urged her to treat with them to deliver their young king into her hands, in order to his being educated in England.
Some proposal of this nature she accordingly made: but the lords, whom former experience had rendered suspicious of her dealings, absolutely refused to give up their prince without the pledge of a recognition of his right of succession to the English throne; and Elizabeth, reluctant as ever to come to a declaration on this point, reluctant also to desert entirely the interests of Mary, with whose remaining adherents she still maintained a secret intercourse, seems to have abstained for some time from any very active interference in the perplexed affairs of the neighbour kingdom.