Besides recognising in Murray a valuable coadjutor, neighbour and ally, Elizabeth appears to have loved and esteemed him as a man and a friend, and she bewailed his death with an excess of dejection honorable surely to her feelings, though regarded by some as derogatory from the dignity of her station. It was indeed an event which broke all her measures, and which, at a period when difficulties and dangers were besetting her on all hands, added fresh embarrassment to her perplexity and presented new chances of evil to her fears. What degree of compunction she felt for her unjustifiable detention of Mary may be doubtful; but it is certain that her mind was now shaken with perpetual terrors and anxieties for the consequences of that irrevocable step, and that there was nothing which she more earnestly desired than to transfer to other hands the custody of so dangerous a prisoner.
She had nearly concluded an agreement for this purpose with Murray, to whom she was to have surrendered the person of the captive queen, receiving six Scottish noblemen as hostages for her safe keeping; and though the interference of the French and Spanish ambassadors had obliged her to suspend its execution, there is no reason to suppose that the design was relinquished, when this unexpected stroke rendered it for ever impracticable. The regency of Scotland, too, was now to be contested by the enraged factions of that distracted country, and it was of great importance to Elizabeth that the victory should fall to the party of the young king; yet such were the perplexities of her political situation, that it was some time before she could satisfy herself that there would not be too great a hazard in supporting by arms the election of the earl of Lenox, to whom she gave her interest.
Her first recourse was to her favorite arts of intrigue; and she sent Randolph, her chosen instrument for these occasions, to tamper with various party-leaders, while Sussex, whose character inclined him more to measures of coercion, exhorted her to put an end to her irresolution and throw the sword into the scale of Lenox. She at length found reason to adopt this counsel; and the earl, re-entering Scotland with his army, laid waste the lands and took or destroyed the castles of Mary's adherents.
Sir William Drury, marshal of the army, was afterwards sent further into the country to chastize the Hamiltons, of which clan was the assassin of Murray.
The contemporary accounts of this expedition, amid many lamentable particulars of ravages committed, afford one amusing trait of manners. Lord Fleming, who held out Dumbarton castle for the queen of Scots, had demanded a parley with sir William Drury, during which he treacherously caused him to be fired upon; happily without effect. Sir George Cary, burning to avenge the injury offered to his commander, sent immediately a letter of defiance to lord Fleming, challenging him to meet him in single combat on this quarrel, when, where and how he dares; concluding thus: "Otherwise I will baffle your good name, sound with the trumpet your dishonor, and paint your picture with the heels upward and bear it in despite of yourself." That this was not the only species of affront to which portraits were in these days exposed, we learn from an expression of Ben Jonson's:—"Take as unpardonable offence as if he had torn your mistress's colors, or breathed on her picture."
[Note 71: See "Every Man out of his Humour."]
The Scotch war was terminated a few months after, by an agreement between Elizabeth and Mary, by virtue of which the former consented to withdraw her troops from the country on the engagement of the latter that no French forces should enter it in support of her title. After this settlement, Elizabeth returned to her usual ambiguous dealing in the affairs of Scotland; and so far from insisting that Lenox should be named regent, she sent a request to the heads of the king's party that they would refrain for a time from the nomination of any person to that office. In consequence of this mandate, which they dared not disobey, Lenox was only chosen lieutenant for a time; an appointment which served equally well the purposes of the English queen.
Connected with all the other measures adopted by the zeal of the great catholic combination for the destruction of Elizabeth and the ruin of the protestant cause, was one from which their own narrow prejudices or sanguine wishes, rather than any just views of the state of public opinion in England, led them to anticipate important results. This was the publication of a papal bull solemnly anathematizing the queen, and dispensing her subjects from their oath of allegiance. A fanatic named Fulton was found willing to earn the crown of martyrdom by affixing this instrument to the gate of the bishop of London's palace. He was taken in the fact, and suffered the penalty of treason without exciting a murmur among the people. A trifling insurrection in Norfolk ensued, of which however the papal bull was not openly assigned as the motive, and which was speedily suppressed with the punishment of a few of the offenders according to law. Even the catholic subjects of Elizabeth for the most part abhorred the idea of lifting their hands against her government and the peace of their native land; and several of them were now found among the foremost and most sincere in their offers of service against the disaffected.
On the whole, the result of the great trial of the hearts of her people afforded to the queen by the alarms of this anxious period, was satisfactory beyond all example. Henceforth she knew, and the world knew, the firmness of that rock on which her throne was planted;—based on religion, supported by wisdom and fortitude and adorned by every attractive art, it stood dear and venerable to her people, defying the assaults of her baffled and malignant enemies. The anniversary of her accession began this year to be celebrated by popular festivals all over the country;—a practice which was retained not only to the end of the reign, but for many years afterwards, during which the 17th of November continued to be solemnly observed under designation of the Birthday of the Gospel.
END OF THE FIRST VOLUME.
Printed by R. and A. Taylor, Shoe-Lane.
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MEMOIRS OF THE COURT OF QUEEN ELIZABETH.
1571 TO 1573.
Notice of sir T. Gresham.—Building of his exchange.—The queen's visit to it.—Cecil created lord Burleigh and lord-treasurer.—Justs at Westminster.—Notices of the earl of Oxford, Charles Howard, sir H. Lee, sir Chr. Hatton.—Fresh negotiations for the marriage of Elizabeth with the duke of Anjou.—Renewal of the intrigues of Norfolk.—His re-committal, trial, and conviction.—Death of Throgmorton.—Sonnet by Elizabeth.—Norfolk beheaded.—His character and descendants.—Hostility of Spain.—Wylson's translation of Demosthenes.—Walsingham ambassador to France.—Treaty with that country.—Massacre of Paris.—Temporizing conduct of Elizabeth.—Burleigh's calculation of the queen's nativity.—Notice of Philip Sidney.
From the intrigues and violences of crafty politicians and discontented nobles, we shall now turn to trace the prosperous and honorable career of a private English merchant, whose abilities and integrity introduced him to the notice of his sovereign, and whose patriotic munificence still preserves to him the respectful remembrance of posterity. This merchant was Thomas Gresham. Born of a family at once enlightened, wealthy and commercial, he had shared the advantage of an education at the university of Cambridge previously to his entrance on the walk of life to which he was destined, and which, fortunately for himself, his superior acquirements did not tempt him to desert or to despise.
His father, sir Richard Gresham, had been agent to Henry VIII. for the negotiation of loans with the merchants of Antwerp, and in 1552 he himself was nominated to act in a similar capacity to Edward VI., when he was eminently serviceable in redeeming the credit of the king, sunk to the lowest ebb by the mismanagement of his father's immediate successor in the agency. Under Elizabeth he enjoyed the same appointment, to which was added that of queen's merchant; and it appears by the official letters of the time, that political as well as pecuniary affairs were often intrusted to his discreet and able management. He was also a spirited promoter of the infant manufactures of his country, several of which owed to him their first establishment. By his diligence and commercial talents he at length rendered himself the most opulent subject in the kingdom, and the queen showed her sense of his merit and consequence by bestowing on him the honor of knighthood.
Gresham had always made a liberal and patriotic use of his wealth; but after the death of his only son, in 1564, he formed the resolution of making his country his principal heir. The merchants of London had hitherto been unprovided with any building in the nature of a burse or exchange, such as Gresham had seen in the great commercial cities of Flanders; and he now munificently offered, if the city would give him a piece of ground, to build them one at his own expense. The edifice was begun accordingly in 1566, and finished within three years. It was a quadrangle of brick, with walks on the ground floor for the merchants, (who now ceased to transact their business in the middle aisle of St. Paul's cathedral,) with vaults for warehouses beneath and a range of shops above, from the rent of which the proprietor sought some remuneration for his great charges. But the shops did not immediately find occupants; and it seems to have been partly with the view of bringing them into vogue that the queen promised her countenance to the undertaking. In January 1571, attended by a splendid train, she entered the city; and after dining with sir Thomas at his spacious mansion in Bishopsgate-street (still remaining), she repaired to the burse, visited every part of it, and caused proclamation to be made by sound of trumpet that henceforth it should bear the name of the Royal Exchange. Gresham offered the shops rent-free for a year to such as would furnish them with wares and wax lights against the coming of the queen; and a most sumptuous display was made of the richest commodities and manufactures of every quarter of the globe.
Afterwards the shops of the exchange became the favorite resort of fashionable customers of both sexes: much money was squandered here, and, if we are to trust the representations of satirists and comic writers, many reputations lost. The building was destroyed in the fire of London; and the divines of that day, according to their custom, pronounced this catastrophe a judgement on the avarice and unfair dealing of the merchants and shopkeepers, and the pride, prodigality and luxury of the purchasers and idlers by whom it was frequented and maintained.
Elizabeth soon after paid homage to merit in another form, by conferring on her invaluable servant Cecil,—whose wisdom, firmness and vigilance had most contributed to preserve her unhurt amid the machinations of her implacable enemies,—the dignity of baron of Burleigh; an elevation which might provoke the envy or resentment of some of the courtiers his opponents, but which was hailed by the applauses of the people.
Before the close of the year, the death, at a great but not venerable age, of that corrupt and selfish statesman the marquis of Winchester, afforded her an opportunity of apportioning to the new dignity of her secretary a suitable advance in office and emolument, by conferring on him the post of lord-high-treasurer, which he continued to enjoy to the end of his life.
On the first of May and the two following days solemn justs were held before the queen at Westminster; in which the challengers were the earl of Oxford, Charles Howard, sir Henry Lee and sir Christopher Hatton,—all four deserving of biographical commemoration.
Edward earl of Oxford was the seventeenth of the illustrious family of Vere who had borne that title, and his character presented an extraordinary union of the haughtiness, violence and impetuosity of the feudal baron, with many of the elegant propensities and mental accomplishments which adorn the nobleman of a happier age. It was probably to his travels in Italy that he owed his more refined tastes both in literature and in luxury, and it was thence that he brought those perfumed and embroidered gloves which he was the first to introduce into England. A superb pair which he presented to her majesty were so much approved by her, that she sat for her portrait with them on her hands. These gloves became of course highly fashionable, but those prepared in Spain were soon found to excel in scent all others; and the importance attached to this discovery may be estimated by the following commission given by sir Nicholas Throgmorton, then in France, to sir Thomas Chaloner ambassador in Spain:—"I pray you, good my lord ambassador, send me two pair of perfumed gloves, perfumed with orange-flowers and jasmin, the one for my wife's hand, the other for mine own; and wherein soever I can pleasure you with any thing in this country, you shall have it in recompense thereof, or else so much money as they shall cost you; provided always that they be of the best choice, wherein your judgement is inferior to none."
[Note 72: "Burleigh Papers" by Haynes.]
The earl of Oxford enjoyed in his own times a high poetical reputation; but his once celebrated comedies have perished, and two or three fugitive pieces inserted in collections are the only legacy bequeathed to posterity by his muse. Of these, "The complaint of a lover wearing black and tawny" has ceased, in the change of manners and fashions, to interest or affect the reader. "Fancy and Desire" may still lay claim to the praise of ingenuity, though the idea is perhaps not original even here, and has since been exhibited with very considerable improvements both in French and English, especially in Ben Jonson's celebrated song, "Tell me where was Fancy bred?" Two or three stanzas may bear quotation.
"Where wert thou born Desire?" "In pomp and pride of May." "By whom sweet boy wert thou begot?" "By Fond Conceit men say."
"Tell me who was thy nurse?" "Fresh Youth in sugred joy." "What was thy meat and daily food?" "Sad sighs with great annoy."
"What had'st thou then to drink?" "Unsavoury lovers' tears." "What cradle wert thou rocked in?" "In hope devoid of fears." &c.
In the chivalrous exercises of the tilt and tournament the earl of Oxford had few superiors: he was victor in the justs both of this year and of the year 1580, and on the latter occasion he was led by two ladies into the presence-chamber, all armed as he was, to receive a prize from her majesty's own hand. Afterwards, by gross misconduct, he incurred from his sovereign a disgrace equally marked and public, being committed to the Tower for an attempt on one of her maids of honor. On other occasions his lawless propensities broke out with a violence which Elizabeth herself was scarcely able to restrain.
He had openly begun to muster his friends, retainers and servants, to take vengeance on sir Thomas Knevet, by whom he had been wounded in a duel; and the queen, who interfered to prevent the execution of this savage design, was obliged for some time to appoint Knevet a guard in order to secure his life. He also publicly insulted sir Philip Sidney in the tennis-court of the palace; and her majesty could discover no other means of preventing fatal consequences than compelling sir Philip Sidney, as the inferior in rank, to compromise the quarrel on terms which he regarded as so inequitable and degrading, that after transmitting to her majesty a spirited remonstrance against encouraging the insolence of the great nobles, he retired to Penshurst in disgust. The duke of Norfolk was the nephew of this earl of Oxford, who was very strongly attached to him, and used the utmost urgency of entreaty with Burleigh, whose daughter he had married, to prevail on him to procure his pardon: "but not succeeding," says lord Orford, "he was so incensed against that minister, that in most absurd and unjust revenge (though the cause was amiable) he swore he would do all he could to ruin his daughter; and accordingly not only forsook her bed, but sold and consumed great part of the vast inheritance descended to him from his ancestors."
[Note 73: "Royal and Noble Authors."]
This remarkable person died very aged early in the reign of James I.
Sir Charles Howard, eldest son of lord Howard of Effingham, was at this period of his life chiefly remarkable for the uncommon beauty of his person,—a species of merit never overlooked by her majesty,—for grace and agility in his exercises, and for the manners of an accomplished courtier. At no time was he regarded as a person of profound judgement, and of vanity and self-consequence he is said to have possessed an abundant share. He was however brave, courteous, liberal, and diligent in affairs; and the favor of the queen admitted him in 1585 to succeed his father in the office of lord-high-admiral. His intrepid bearing, in the year 1588, encouraged his sailors to meet the terrible Armada with stout hearts and cheerful countenances, and the glory of its defeat was as much his own as the participation of winds and waves would allow. In consideration of this distinguished piece of service he was created earl of Nottingham; and the queen's partiality towards her relations increasing with her years, he became towards the end of the reign one of the most considerable persons at her court, where his hostility to Essex grew equally notorious with the better grounded antipathy entertained by Sussex, also a royal kinsman, against Leicester, the earlier favorite of her majesty.
The earl of Nottingham survived to the year 1624, the 88th of his age.
Sir Henry Lee was one of the finest courtiers and certainly the most complete knight-errant of his time. He was now in the fortieth year of his age, had travelled, and had seen some military service; but the tilt-yard was ever the scene of his most conspicuous exploits and those in which he placed his highest glory. He had declared himself the queen's own knight and champion, and having inscribed upon his shield the constellation of Ariadne's Crown, culminant in her majesty's nativity, bound himself by a solemn vow to appear armed in the tilt-yard on every anniversary of her happy accession till disabled by age. This vow gave origin to the annual exercises of the Knights-Tilters, a society consisting of twenty-five of the most gallant and favored of the courtiers of Elizabeth. The modern reader may wonder to find included in this number so grave an officer as Bromley lord chancellor; but under the maiden reign neither the deepest statesman, the most studious lawyer, nor the rudest soldier was exempted from the humiliating obligation of accepting, and even soliciting, those household and menial offices usually discharged by mere courtiers, nor from the irksome one of assuming, for the sake of their sovereign lady, the romantic disguise of armed champions and enamoured knights. Sir Henry Lee, however, appears to have devoted his life to these chivalrous pageantries rather from a quixotical imagination than with any serious views of ambition or interest. He was a gentleman of ancient family and plentiful fortune, little connected, as far as appears, with any court faction or political, party, and neither capable nor ambitious of any public station of importance. It is an amiable and generous trait of his character, that he attended the unfortunate duke of Norfolk even to the scaffold, received his last embrace, and repeated to the assembled multitude his request that they would assist him with their prayers in his final agony. His royal Dulcinea rewarded his fatigues and his adoration by the lieutenancy of Woodstock manor, the office of keeper of the armoury, and especially by the appropriate meed of admission into the most noble order of the Garter. He resigned the championship at the approach of old age with a solemn ceremony hereafter to be described, died at his mansion of Quarendon in Bucks, in 1611, in his 81st year, and was interred in the parish church under a splendid tomb hung round with military trophies, and inscribed with a very long, very quaint and very tumid epitaph.
Christopher Hatton, the last of this undaunted band of challengers, was a new competitor for the smiles of royalty, and bright was the dawn of fortune and of favor which already broke upon him. He was of a decayed family of Northamptonshire gentry, and had just commenced the study of the law at one of the inns of court, when hope or curiosity stimulated him to gain admittance at some court-festival, where he had an opportunity of dancing before the queen in a mask. His figure and his performance so captivated her fancy, that she immediately bestowed upon him some flattering marks of attention, which encouraged him to quit his profession and turn courtier.
This showy outside and these gay accomplishments were unexpectedly found in union with a moderate and cautious temper, enlightened views, and a solid understanding; and after due deliberation, Elizabeth, that penetrating judge of men, decided, in spite of ridicule, that she could not do better than make this superlatively-excellent dancer of galliards her lord-chancellor.
The enemies of Hatton are said to have promoted this appointment in expectation of his disgracing himself by ignorance and incapacity; but their malice was disappointed; whatever he did not know, he was able to learn and willing to be taught; he discharged the duties of his high office with prudence first and afterwards with ability, and died in 1591 in possession of it and of the public esteem. It is remarkable, considering the general predilection of the queen in favor of celibacy, that Hatton was the only one of her ministers who lived and died a bachelor.
Early in this year the king of France married a daughter of the emperor Maximilian; and Elizabeth, desirous at this time of being on the best terms both with the French and Imperial courts, sent lord Buckhurst to Paris on a splendid embassy of congratulation.
Catherine de' Medici took this opportunity of renewing proposals of marriage to the queen of England on the part of her son the duke of Anjou, and they were listened to with an apparent complacency which perplexed the politicians. It is certainly to this negotiation, and to the intrigues of the duke of Norfolk and other nobles with the queen of Scots, that Shakespear alludes in the following ingenious and exquisite passage.
..."Once I sat upon a promontory, And heard a Mermaid on a Dolphin's back Uttering such dulcet and harmonious breath, That the rude sea grew civil at her song; And certain stars shot madly from their spheres, To hear the sea-maid's music.
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That very time I saw, but thou could'st not, Flying between the cold moon and the earth, Cupid all-arm'd: a certain aim he took At a fair Vestal throned by the West, And loos'd his love-shaft smartly from his bow, As it should pierce a hundred thousand hearts; But I might see young Cupid's fiery shaft Quench'd in the chaste beams of the watry moon, And the Imperial Votress passed on, In maiden meditation, fancy-free."
Midsummer Night's Dream.
Unfortunately for himself, the duke of Norfolk had not acquired, even from the severe admonition of a long imprisonment, resolution sufficient to turn a deaf ear to the enchantments of this syren. His situation was indeed perplexing: He had entered into the most serious engagements with his sovereign to abstain from all further intercourse with the queen of Scots: at the same time the right of Elizabeth to interdict him an alliance so flattering to his vanity might plausibly be questioned, and the previous interchange between himself and Mary of solemn promises of marriage, seemed to have brought him under obligations to her too sacred to be dissolved by any subsequent stipulation of his, though one to which Mary herself had been compelled to become a party. Neither had chivalrous ideas by any means lost their force in this age; and as a knight and a gentleman the duke must have esteemed himself bound in honor to procure the release of the captive princess, and to claim through all perils the fair hand which had been plighted to him. Impressed by such sentiments, he returned to a letter of eloquent complaint which she found means to convey to him, an answer filled with assurances of his inviolable constancy; and the intrigues of the party were soon renewed with as much activity as ever.
But the vigilance of the ministry of Elizabeth could not long be eluded. An important packet of letters written by Ridolfi, a Florentine who had been sent abroad by the party to confer with the pope and with the duke of Alva, was intercepted; and in consequence of the plots thus unfolded, the bishop of Ross, who bore the character of Mary's ambassador in England, was given into private custody. Soon after, a servant of the duke's, intrusted by him with the conveyance of a sum of money from the French ambassador to Mary's adherents in Scotland, carried the parcel containing it to the secretary of state. The duke's secretary was then sent for and examined. This man, who was probably in the pay of government, not only confessed with readiness all that he knew, but produced some letters from the queen of Scots which his lord had commanded him to burn after decyphering them. Other concurring indications of the duke's guilt appearing, he was recommitted to the Tower in September 1571.
After various consultations of civilians on the extent of an ambassador's privilege, and the title which the agent of a deposed sovereign might have to avail himself of that sacred character, it was determined that the laws of nations did not protect the bishop of Ross, and he was carried to the Tower, where, in fear of death, he made full confession of all his machinations against the person and state of Elizabeth. In the most guilty parts of these designs he affirmed that the duke had constantly refused his concurrence;—and in fact, weak and infatuated as he was, the agents of Mary seem to have found it impracticable, by all their artifices, to bring this unfortunate nobleman entirely to forget that he was a protestant and an Englishman. He would never consent directly to procure the death or dethronement of Elizabeth; though it must have been perfectly evident to any man of clear and unbiassed judgement, that, under all the circumstances, the accomplishment of his wishes could by no other means be attained.
This affair was regarded in so very serious a light, that the queen thought it necessary, before the duke was put on his trial, to lay all the circumstances of his case before the court of France; and the parliament, which was again assembled after an interval of five years, passed some new laws for the protection of the queen's person from the imminent perils by which they saw her environed.
The illustrious prisoner was now brought before the tribunal of his brother-peers; and a perfectly fair and regular trial, according to the practices of that age, was accorded him. Whatever his intentions might have been, his actions appear to have come clearly within the limits of treason; and the earl of Shrewsbury, as lord-high-steward for the day, pronounced upon him, with tears, a verdict of Guilty. But the queen hesitated or deferred, from clemency or caution, to sign his death warrant, and he was remanded to the Tower under some uncertainty whether or not the last rigor of the offended laws awaited him.
The name of sir Nicholas Throgmorton was so mixed up in the confessions of the bishop of Ross, that it was perhaps an indulgent fate which had removed him some months previously from the sphere of human action. He died at the house of the earl of Leicester, and certainly of a pleurisy; but the malevolent credulity of that age seldom allowed a person of any eminence to quit the world without imputing the occurrence in some manner, direct or indirect, to the malice of his enemies. It was rumored that Throgmorton had fallen a victim to the hostility of Leicester, which he was thought to have provoked by quitting the party of the earl to reconcile himself with Burleigh, his secret enemy; and the suspicion of proficiency in the art of poisoning, which had so long rested upon the favorite, obtained credit to this absurd report. Possibly there might be more truth in the general opinion, that it was in some measure owing to the enmity of Burleigh that a person of such acknowledged abilities in public affairs, and one who had conducted himself so skilfully in various important negotiations, should never have been advanced to any considerable office of trust or profit. But the lofty and somewhat turbulent spirit of Throgmorton himself, ought probably to bear the chief blame both of this enmity, and of his want of success at the court of a princess who exacted from her servants the exercise of the most refined and cautious policy, as well as an entire and implicit submission to all her views and wishes. It is highly probable that she never entirely pardoned Throgmorton for giving the lie to her declarations respecting the promises made to the earl of Murray and his party, by the open production of his own diplomatic instructions.
The hostility of Leicester extended, as we shall see hereafter, to other branches of the unfortunate family of Throgmorton, whom an imprudent or criminal zeal in the cause of popery exposed without defence to the whole weight of his vengeance. On some slight pretext he procured the dismissal of sir John Throgmorton, the brother of sir Nicholas; from his office of chief justice of Chester, who did not long survive the disgrace though apparently unmerited. Puttenham, author of the "Art of English Poesie," ventured, though a professed courtier, to compose an epitaph on this victim of oppression, of which he has preserved to us the following lines in the work above mentioned:
"Whom Virtue reared Envy hath overthrown, And lodged full low under this marble stone: Ne never were his values so well known Whilst he lived here, as now that he is gone.
No sun by day that ever saw him rest Free from the toils of his so busy charge, No night that harboured rancour in his breast, Nor merry mood made Reason run at large.
His head a source of gravity and sense, His memory a shop of civil art: His tongue a stream of sugred eloquence, Wisdom and meekness lay mingled in his heart." &c.
The literary propensities of Elizabeth have already come under our notice: they had frequently served to divert her mind from the cares of government; but in the state of unremitted anxiety occasioned by her dread of the machinations relative to the queen of Scots, in which she had found the first peer of her realm a principal actor, her thoughts, even in the few leisure hours which she found means to bestow on these soothing recreations, still hovered about the objects from which she most sought to withdraw them.
The following sonnet of her composition will illustrate this remark: it was published during her lifetime in Puttenham's "Arte of English Poesie," and its authenticity, its principal merit, has never been called in question.
SONNET by Queen Elizabeth.
The doubt of future foes exiles my present joy, And wit me warns to shun such snares as threaten mine annoy. For falsehood now doth flow, and subjects' faith doth ebb; Which would not be if Reason ruled, or Wisdom weaved the web. But clouds of toys untried do cloak aspiring minds, Which turn to rain of late repent by course of changed winds. The top of hope supposed the root of ruth will be; And fruitless all their graffed guiles, as shortly ye shall see. Those dazzled eves with pride, which great ambition blinds, Shall be unseal'd by worthy wights whose foresight falsehood finds. The Daughter of Debate that eke discord doth sow, Shall reap no gain where former rule hath taught still peace to grow. No foreign banish'd wight shall anchor in this port; Our realm it brooks no strangers' force, let them elsewhere resort. Our rusty sword with rest shall first his edge employ, To poll their tops that seek such change, and gape for joy.
The house of commons, in which great dread and hatred of the queen of Scots and her adherents now prevailed, showed itself strongly disposed to pass an act by which Mary should be declared for ever unworthy and incapable of the English succession: but Elizabeth, with her usual averseness to all unqualified declarations and irrevocable decisions, interfered to prevent the completion of a measure which most sovereigns, under all the circumstances, would have been eager to embrace. To the unanimous expression of the opinion of the house, that the execution of the sentence against the duke of Norfolk ought not to be longer delayed, she was however prevailed upon to lend a more favorable ear; and on June 2d, 1572, this nobleman received his death on Tower-hill.
Norfolk was a man of many amiable and several estimable qualities, and much too good for the faction with which he had been enticed to act and the cause in which he suffered. On the scaffold he acknowledged, with great apparent sincerity, the justice of his sentence, and his peculiar guiltiness in breaking the solemn promise which he had pledged to his sovereign. He declared himself to have been an earnest protestant ever since he had had any taste for religion, and in this faith he died very devoutly. He bequeathed by his will his best George to his kinsman and true friend the earl of Sussex, whose faithful counsels he too late reproached himself with neglecting. By his attainder the dukedom was lost to the family of Howard; but Philip, his eldest son, succeeded his maternal grandfather in the earldom of Arundel; lord Thomas, his second son, (whose mother was the daughter and heiress of lord Audley,) was created lord Howard of Walden by Elizabeth and earl of Suffolk by James; and lord William, the youngest, who possessed Naworth-castle in right of Elizabeth Dacre his wife, and was known upon the West Border (of which he was warden) by the appellation of "Belted Will," was ancestor to the earls of Carlisle.
"His Bilboa blade, by marchmen felt, Hung in a broad and studded belt; Hence in rude phrase the Borderers still Call noble Howard Belted Will."
Lay of the Last Minstrel.]
The king of Spain had long been regarded in England as the most implacable and formidable of the enemies of Elizabeth; and on good grounds. It was believed to be through his procurement that Sixtus V. had been led to fulminate his anathema against her;—it was well known that the pope had made a donation to him of the kingdom of Ireland, of which he was anxious to avail himself;—there was strong ground to suspect that he had sent one of his ablest generals in embassy to England with no other view than to have taken the command of the northern rebels, had their enterprise prospered;—and the intimate participation of his agents in all the intrigues of the queen of Scots was notorious. Dr. Wylson, a learned civilian, an accomplished scholar, and one of the first refiners of English prose, had published in 1571, with the express view of rousing the spirit of his readers against this formidable tyrant, a version of the Orations of Demosthenes against the king Philip of his day, and had been at the pains of pointing out in the notes coincidences in the situation of Athens and of England. The author, who was an earnest protestant, had the further motive in this work of paying a tribute to the memory of the learned and unfortunate Cheke, who during his voluntary exile had read gratuitous lectures to his countrymen at Padua on the works of the great Grecian orator, of which Wylson had been an auditor, and who had also made a Latin version of them, of which the English translator freely availed himself.
It was principally her dread of the Spaniards which led Elizabeth into those perpetual reciprocations of deceitful professions and empty negotiations with the profligate and perfidious court of France, which in the judgement of posterity have redounded so little to her honor, but which appeared to her of so much importance that she now thought herself peculiarly fortunate in having discovered an agent capable of conducting with all the wariness, penetration and profound address so peculiarly requisite where sincerity and good faith are wanting. This agent was sir Francis Walsingham, whose rare acquisitions of political knowledge, made principally during the period of his voluntary exile for religion, and still rarer talents for public business, had induced lord Burleigh to recommend him to the service and confidence of his mistress. For several years from this time he resided as the queen's ambassador at the court of France, at first as coadjutor to sir Thomas Smith,—a learned and able man, who afterwards became a principal secretary of state,—the rest of the time alone. There was not in England a man who was regarded as a more sincere and earnest protestant than Walsingham; yet such was at this time his sense of the importance to the country of the French alliance, that he expressed himself strongly in favor of the match between Elizabeth and the duke of Anjou, and, as a minister, spared no pains to promote it.
Similar language was held on this subject both by Leicester and Burleigh; but the former was perhaps no more in earnest on the subject than his mistress; and finally all parties, except the French protestants, who looked to the conclusion of these nuptials as their best security, seem to have been not ill pleased when, the marriage treaty being at length laid aside, a strict league of amity between the two countries was agreed upon in its stead.
Splendid embassies were reciprocally sent to receive the ratifications of this treaty; and Burleigh writes to a friend, between jest and earnest, that an unexpected delay of the French ambassador was cursed by all the husbands whose ladies had been detained at great expense and inconvenience in London, to contribute to the splendor of the court on his reception. On the 9th of June 1572 the duke de Montmorenci and his suite at length arrived. His entertainment was magnificent; all seemed peace and harmony between the rival nations; and Elizabeth even instructed her ambassadors to give favorable ear to a hint which the queen-mother had dropped of a matrimonial treaty between the queen of England and her youngest son, the duke d'Alencon, who had then scarcely attained the age of seventeen.
Lulled by these flattering appearances of tranquillity, her majesty set out on her summer progress, and she was enjoying the festivities prepared by Leicester for her reception at his splendid castle of Kennelworth, when news arrived of the execrable massacre of Paris;—an atrocity not to be paralleled in history! Troops of affrighted Hugonots, who had escaped through a thousand perils with life, and life alone, from the hands of their pitiless assassins, arrived on the English coast, imploring the commiseration of their brother protestants, and relating in accents of despair their tale of horrors. After such a stroke, no one knew what to expect; the German protestants flew to arms; even the subjects of Elizabeth trembled for their countrymen travelling on the continent and for themselves in their island-home. The pope applauded openly the savage deed; the court of Spain showed itself united hand and heart with that of France,—to the astonishment of Elizabeth, who had been taught to believe them at enmity;—and it seemed as if the signal had been given of a general crusade against the reformed churches of Europe.
For several days fears were entertained for the safety of Walsingham himself, who had not dared to transmit any account of the event except one by a servant of his own, whose passage had been by some accident delayed. Even this minister, cautious and crafty and sagacious as he was, assisted by all the spies whom he constantly kept in pay, had been unable to penetrate any part of the bloody secret;—he was completely taken by surprise. But of his personal safety the perfidious young king and his detestable mother were, for their own sakes, careful; and not only were himself and his servants protected from injury, but every Englishman who had the presence of mind to take shelter in his house found it an inviolable sanctuary. Two persons only of this nation fell victims to the fury of that direful night, but the property of many was plundered. The afflicted remnant of the French protestants prepared to stand upon their defence with all the intrepidity of despair. They closed the gates of Rochelle, their strong hold, against the king's troops, casting at the same time an imploring eye towards England, where thousands of brave and generous spirits were burning with impatience to hasten to their succour.
No act would have been hailed with such loud and general applause of her people as an instant renunciation by Elizabeth of all friendship and intercourse with the perjured and blood-stained Charles, the midnight assassin of his own subjects; and it is impossible to contemplate without disdain the coldness and littleness of that character which, in such a case, could consent to measure its demonstrations of indignation and abhorrence by the narrow rules of a self-interested caution. But that early experience of peril and adversity which had formed the mind of this princess to penetration, wariness, and passive courage, and given her a perfect command of the whole art of simulation and dissimulation, had at the same time robbed her of some of the noblest impulses of our nature; of generosity, of ardor, of enterprise, of magnanimity. Where more exalted spirits would only have felt, she calculated; where bolder ones would have flown to action, she contented herself with words.
Charles and his mother, while still in uncertainty how far their master-stroke of policy,—so they regarded it,—would be successful in crushing entirely the Hugonots, prudently resolved to spare no efforts to preserve Elizabeth their friend, or to prevent her at least from becoming an open enemy. Instructions had therefore been in the first instance dispatched to La Mothe Fenelon, the French ambassador in England, to communicate such an account of the massacre and its motives as suited these views, and to solicit a confirmation of the late treaty of amity. His reception at court on this occasion was extremely solemn: the courtiers and ladies who lined the rooms leading to the presence-chamber were all habited in deep mourning, and not one of them would vouchsafe a word or a smile to the ambassador, though himself a man of honor, and one whom they had formerly received on the footing of cordial intimacy. The queen herself, in listening to his message, assumed an aspect more composed, but extremely cold and serious. She expressed her horror at the idea that a sovereign could imagine himself under a necessity of taking such vengeance on his own subjects; represented the practicability of proceeding with them according to law, and desired to be better informed of the reality of the treasonable designs imputed to the Hugonots. She also declared that it would be difficult for her to place reliance hereafter on the friendship of a prince who had shown himself so deadly a foe to those who professed her religion; but, at the suit of the ambassador, she consented to suspend in some degree her judgement of the deed till further information.
Even these feeble demonstrations of sensibility to crime so enormous were speedily laid aside. In spite of Walsingham's declared opinion, that the demonstrations of the French court towards her were so evidently treacherous that its open enmity was less to be dreaded than its feigned friendship, Elizabeth suffered her indignation to evaporate in a few severe speeches, restrained her subjects from carrying such aid to the defenders of Rochelle as could be made a ground of serious quarrel, and even permitted a renewal of the shocking and monstrous overtures for her marriage with the youngest son of Catherine de' Medici herself. By this shameless woman various proposals were now made for bringing about a personal interview between herself and Elizabeth. She first named England as the place of meeting, then the sea between Dover and Calais, and afterwards the isle of Jersey; but from the first plan she herself departed, and the others were rejected in anger by the English council, who remarked, with a proper and laudable spirit, that they who had ventured upon such propositions must imagine them strangely careless of the personal safety of their sovereign.
Charles IX. was particularly anxious that Elizabeth, as a pledge of friendship, should consent to stand sponsor to his new-born daughter; and with this request, after some difficulties and a few declarations of horror at his conduct, she had the baseness to comply. She refused however to indulge that king in his further desire, that she would appoint either the earl of Leicester or lord Burleigh as her proxy;—not choosing apparently to trust these pillars of state and of the protestant cause within his reach; and she sent instead her cousin the earl of Worcester, "a good simple gentleman," as Leicester called him, and a catholic.
All this time Elizabeth was in her heart as hostile to the court of France as the most zealous of her protestant subjects; for she well knew that it was and ever must be essentially hostile to her and her government; and in the midst of her civilities she took care to supply to the Hugonots such secret aids as should enable them still to persevere in a formidable resistance.
It is worth recording, on the subject of these negotiations between Elizabeth and the royal family of France, that Burleigh seems to have been encouraged to expect a successful issue by a calculation of the queen's nativity, seen by Strype in his own handwriting, from which it was foretold that she should marry, in middle life, a foreign prince younger than herself; and probably be the mother of a son, who should be prosperous in his middle age. Catherine de' Medici also, to whom some female fortune-teller had predicted that all her sons should be kings, hoped, after the election of her second son to the throne of Poland, to find the full accomplishment of the prophecy in the advancement of the youngest to the matrimonial crown of England. So serious was the belief of that age in the lying oracles of judicial astrology!
Among the English travellers doomed to be eye-witnesses of the horrors of the massacre of St. Bartholomew was the celebrated Philip Sidney, then a youth of eighteen. He was the eldest son of sir Henry Sidney, lord-deputy of Ireland, and from this excellent man and parent he had received, amongst his earliest and strongest impressions, those elevated principles of honor, veracity and moral purity which regulated and adorned the whole tenor of his after-life. An extraordinary solidity of character with great vivacity of parts had distinguished him from a child, and fortune conspired with genius to bring him early before the public eye.
He was nephew and presumptive heir to the earl of Leicester, by whom he was in a manner adopted; and thus patronized, his rapid advancement was anticipated as a matter of course.
It was the practice of that day for parents in higher life to dispose of their children in marriage at an age now justly accounted immature; and no sooner had young Sidney completed his fourteenth year than arrangements were made for his union with Anne Cecil, daughter of the secretary. Why the connexion never took place we do not learn: sir Henry Sidney in a letter to Cecil says, with reference to this affair; "I am sorry that you find coldness any where in proceeding, where such good liking appeared in the beginning; but, for my part, I was never more ready to perfect that affair than presently I am." &c. Shortly after, the lady, unfortunately for herself, became the wife of the earl of Oxford; and Sidney, still unfettered by matrimonial engagements, obtained license to travel, and reached Paris in May 1572. Charles IX., in consideration no doubt of the influence of his uncle at the English court, gave him the appointment of a gentleman of his bed-chamber, a fortnight only before the massacre. On that night of horrors Sidney took shelter in the house of Walsingham, and thus escaped all personal danger; but his after-conduct fully proved how indelible was the impression left upon his mind of the monstrous wickedness of the French royal family, and the disgrace and misery which an alliance with it must entail on his queen and country.
[Note 75: Thus we find sir George Manners, ancestor of the dukes of Rutland, who died in 1513, bequeathing to each of his unmarried daughters a portion of three hundred marks to be paid at the time of their marriage, or within four years after if the husband be not twenty-one years of age; or at such time as the husband came of age.
Collins's "Peerage," by sir E. Brydges.]
He readily obeyed his uncle's directions to quit France without delay; and, proceeding to Frankfort, there formed a highly honorable and beneficial friendship with the virtuous Hubert Languet, who opened to him at once his heart and his purse. The remonstrances of this patron, who dreaded to excess for his youthful friend the artifices of the papal court, deterred him from extending his travels to Rome, an omission which he afterwards deeply regretted; but a leisurely survey of the northern cities of Italy, during which he became advantageously known to many eminent characters, occupied him profitably and delightfully till his return to his native country in 1575, after which he will again occur to our notice as the pride and wonder of the English court.
1573 TO 1577.
Letters of lord Talbot to his father.—Connexion of Leicester with lady Sheffield.—Anecdote of the queen and Mr. Dyer.—Queen suspicions of Burleigh.—Countesses of Lenox and Shrewsbury imprisoned.—Queen refuses the sovereignty of Holland.—Her remarkable speech to the deputies.—Alchemy.—Notice of Dr. Dee—of Frobisher.—Family of Love.—Burning of two Anabaptists.—Entertainment of the queen at Kennelworth.—Notice of Walter earl of Essex.—General favor towards his son Robert.—Letter of the queen to the earl of Shrewsbury respecting Leicester.
Great as had been the injustice committed by Elizabeth in the detention of the queen of Scots, it must be confessed that the offence brought with it its own sufficient punishment in the fears, jealousies and disquiets which it entailed upon her.
Where Mary was concerned, the most approved loyalty, the longest course of faithful service, and the truest attachment to the protestant cause, were insufficient pledges to her oppressor of the fidelity of her nobles or ministers. The earl of Shrewsbury, whom she had deliberately selected from all others to be the keeper of the captive queen, and whose vigilance had now for so long a period baffled all attempts for her deliverance, was, to the last, unable so to establish himself in the confidence of his sovereign as to be exempt from such starts of suspicion and fits of displeasure as kept him in a state of continual apprehension. Feeling with acuteness all the difficulties of his situation, this nobleman judged it expedient to cause Gilbert lord Talbot, his eldest son, to remain in close attendance on the motions of the queen; charging him to study with unremitting attention all the intrigues of the court, on which in that day so much depended, and to acquaint him with them frequently and minutely. To this precaution of the earl's we owe several extant letters of lord Talbot, which throw considerable light on the minor incidents of the time.
In May 1573, this diligent news-gatherer acquaints his father, that the earl of Leicester was much with her majesty, that he was more than formerly solicitous to please her, and that he was as high in favor as ever: but that two sisters, lady Sheffield and lady Frances Howard, were deeply in love with him and at great variance with each other; that the queen was on this account very angry with them, and not well pleased with him, and that spies were set upon him. To such open demonstrations of feminine jealousy did this great queen condescend to have recourse! Yet she remained all her life in ignorance of the true state of this affair, which, in fact, is not perfectly cleared up at the present day.
It appears that a criminal intimacy was known to subsist between Leicester and lady Sheffield even before the death of her lord, in consequence of which, this event, which was sudden, and preceded it is said by violent symptoms, was popularly attributed to the Italian arts of Leicester. During this year, lady Sheffield bore him a son, whose birth was carefully concealed for fear of giving offence to the queen, though many believed that a private marriage had taken place. Afterwards he forsook the mother of his child to marry the countess of Essex, and the deserted lady became the wife of another. In the reign of James I., many years after the death of Leicester, sir Robert Dudley his son, to whom he had left a great part of his fortune, laid claim to the family honors, bringing several witnesses to prove his mother's marriage, and among others his mother herself. This lady declared on oath that Leicester, in order to compel her to form that subsequent marriage in his lifetime which must deprive her of the power of claiming him as her husband, had employed the most violent menaces, and had even attempted her life by a poisonous potion which had thrown her into an illness by which she lost her hair and nails. After the production of all this evidence, the heirs of Leicester exerted all their interest to stop proceedings;—no great argument of the goodness of their cause;—and sir Robert Dudley died without having been able to bring the matter to a legal decision. In the next reign the evidence formerly given was reviewed, and the title of duchess Dudley conferred on the widow of sir Robert, the patent setting forth that the marriage of the earl of Leicester with lady Sheffield had been satisfactorily proved.
So close were the contrivances, so deep, as it appears, the villanies of this celebrated favorite! But his consummate art was successful in throwing over these and other transactions of his life, a veil of doubt and mystery which time itself has proved unable entirely to remove.
Hatton was at this time ill, and lord Talbot mentions that the queen went daily to visit him, but that a party with which Leicester was thought to co-operate, was endeavouring to bring forwards Mr. Edward Dyer to supplant him in her majesty's favor. This gentleman, it seems, had been for two years in disgrace; and as he had suffered during the same period from a bad state of health, the queen was made to believe that the continuance of her displeasure was the cause of his malady, and that his recovery was without her pardon hopeless. This was taking her by her weak side; she loved to imagine herself the dispenser of life and death to her devoted servants, and she immediately dispatched to the sick gentleman a comfortable message, on receipt of which he was made whole. The letter-writer observes, to the honor of lord Burleigh, that he concerned himself as usual only in state affairs, and suffered all these love-matters and petty intrigues to pass without notice before his eyes.
All the caution, however, and all the devotedness of this great minister were insufficient to preserve him, on the following occasion, from the unworthy suspicions of his mistress. The queen of Scots had this year with difficulty obtained permission to resort to the baths of Buxton for the recovery of her health; and a similar motive led thither at the same time the lord-treasurer. Elizabeth marked the coincidence; and when, a year or two afterwards, it occurred for the second time, her displeasure broke forth: she openly accused her minister of seeking occasions of entering into intelligence with Mary by means of the earl of Shrewsbury and his lady, and it was not without difficulty that he was able to appease her. This striking fact is thus related by Burleigh himself in a remarkable letter to the earl of Shrewsbury.
* * * * *
Lord Burleigh to the earl of Shrewsbury.
"My very good lord,
"My most hearty and due commendations done, I cannot sufficiently express in words the inward hearty affection that I conceive by your lordship's friendly offer of the marriage of your younger son; and that in such a friendly sort, by your own letter, and, as your lordship writeth, the same proceeding of yourself. Now, my lord, as I think myself much beholding to you for this your lordship's kindness, and manifest argument of a faithful good will, so must I pray your lordship to accept mine answer, with assured opinion of my continuance in the same towards your lordship. There are specially two causes why I do not in plain terms consent by way of conclusion hereto; the one for that my daughter is but young in years; and upon some reasonable respects I have determined, notwithstanding I have been very honorably offered matches, not to treat of marrying of her, if I may live so long, until she shall be above fifteen or sixteen; and if I were of more likelihood myself to live longer than I look to do, she should not, with my liking, be married before she were near eighteen or twenty.
"The second cause why I defer to yield to conclusion with your lordship, is grounded upon such a consideration as, if it were not truly to satisfy your lordship, and to avoid a just offence which your lordship might conceive of my forbearing, I would not by writing or message utter, but only by speech to your lordship's self. My lord, it is over true and over much against reason, that upon my being at Buckstones last, advantage was sought by some that loved me not, to confirm in her majesty a former conceit which had been labored to be put into her head, that I was of late time become friendly to the queen of Scots, and that I had no disposition to encounter her practises; and now, at my being at Buckstones, her majesty did directly conceive that my being there was, by means of your lordship and my lady, to enter into intelligence with the queen of Scots; and hereof at my return to her majesty's presence I had very sharp reproofs for my going to Buckstones, with plain charging of me for favoring the queen of Scots, and that in so earnest a sort as I never looked for, knowing my integrity to her majesty; but, specially, knowing how contrariously the queen of Scots conceived of me for many things past to the offence of the said queen of Scots. And yet, true it is, I never indeed gave just cause by any private affection of my own, or for myself, to offend the queen of Scots; but whatsoever I did was for the service of mine own lady and queen, which if it were yet again to be done I would do. And though I know myself subject to contrary workings of displeasure, yet I will not, for remedy of any of them both, decline from the duty I owe to God and my sovereign queen; for I know, and do understand, that I am in this contrary sort maliciously depraved, and yet in secret sort; on the one part, and that of long time, that I am the most dangerous enemy and evil willer to the queen of Scots; on the other side, that I am also a secret well willer to her and her title; and that I have made my party good with her. Now, my lord, no man can make both these true together; but it sufficeth for such as like not me in doing my duty to deprave me, and yet in such sort is done in darkness as I cannot get opportunity to convince them in the light. In all these crossings, my good lord, I appeal to God, who knoweth, yea, I thank him infinitely, who directeth my thoughts to intend principally the service and honor of God, and, jointly with that, the surety and greatness of my sovereign lady the queen's majesty; and for any other respect but that may tend to those two, I appeal to God to punish me if I have any. As for the queen of Scots, truly I have no spot of evil meaning to her; neither do I mean to deal with any titles to the crown. If she shall intend any evil to the queen's majesty my sovereign, for her sake I must and will mean to impeach her; and therein I may be her unfriend or worse.
"Well now, my good lord, your lordship seeth I have made a long digression from my answer, but I trust your lordship can consider what moveth me thus to digress: Surely it behoveth me not only to live uprightly, but to avoid all probable arguments that may be gathered to render me suspected to her majesty, whom I serve with all dutifulness and sincerity; and therefore I gather this, that if it were understood that there were a communication, or a purpose of a marriage between your lordship's son and my daughter, I am sure there would be an advantage sought to increase these former suspicions [word missing] purpose. Considering the young years of our two children [word missing] as if the matter were fully agreed betwixt us, the parents, the marriage could not take effect, I think it best to refer the motion in silence, and yet so to order it with ourselves, that, when time shall hereafter be more convenient, we may, and then also with less cause of vain suspicion, renew it. And, in the meantime, I must confess myself much bounden to your lordship for your goodness; wishing your lordship's son all the good education that may be mete to teach him to fear God, love your lordship his natural father, and to know his friends; without any curiosity of human learning, which, without the fear of God, I see doth much hurt to all youth in this time and age. My lord, I pray you bear with my scribbling, which I think your lordship shall hardly read, and yet I would not use my man's hand in such a matter as this is. [From Hampton Court, 25th Dec. 1575.]
"Your lordship's most assured at command
[Note 76: "Illustrations" by Lodge.]
* * * * *
A similar caution to that of lord Burleigh was not observed in the disposal of her daughters by the countess of Shrewsbury; a woman remarkable above all her contemporaries for a violent, restless and intriguing spirit, and an inordinate thirst of money and of sway. She brought to effect in 1574 a marriage between Elizabeth Cavendish, her daughter by a former husband, and Charles Stuart, brother of Darnley and next to the king of Scots in the order of succession to the crowns both of England and Scotland. Notwithstanding the rooted enmity between Mary and the house of Lenox, this union was supposed to be the result of some private intrigue between lady Shrewsbury and the captive queen; and in consequence of it Elizabeth committed to custody for some time, both the mother of the bride and the unfortunate countess of Lenox, doomed to expiate by such a variety of sufferings the unpardonable offence, in the eyes of Elizabeth, of having given heirs to the British sceptres.
A signal occasion presented itself to the queen in 1575 of demonstrating to all neighbouring powers, that whatever suspicions her close and somewhat crooked system of policy might now and then have excited, self-defence was in reality its genuine principle and single object; and that the clear and comprehensive view which she had taken of her own true interests, joined to the habitual caution of her character, would ever restrain her from availing herself of the most tempting opportunities of aggrandizement at their expense.
The provinces of Holland and Zealand, goaded into revolt by the bigotry and barbarity of Philip of Spain, had from the first experienced in the English nation, and even in Elizabeth herself, a disposition to encourage and shelter them; and despairing of being able longer to maintain alone the unequal contest which they had provoked, yet resolute to return no more under the tyranny of a detested master, they now embraced the resolution of throwing themselves entirely upon her protection. It was urged that Elizabeth,—as descended from Philippa wife of Edward III., a daughter of that count of Hainalt and Holland from one of whose co-heiresses the king of Spain derived the Flemish part of his dominions,—might claim somewhat of a hereditary title to their allegiance, and a solemn deputation was appointed to offer to her the sovereignty of the provinces on condition of defending them from the Spaniards.
There was much in the proposal to flatter the pride and tempt the ambition of a prince; much also to gratify that desire of retaliation which the encouragement given by Philip to the Northern rebellion and to certain movements in Ireland, as well as to all the machinations of the queen of Scots, may reasonably be supposed to have excited in the bosom of Elizabeth. Zeal for the protestant cause, had she ever entertained it separately from considerations of personal interest and safety, might have proved a further inducement with her to accept the patronage of these afflicted provinces:—but not all the motives which could be urged were of force to divert her from her settled plan of policy; and after a short interval of anxious hesitation, she resolved to dismiss the envoys with an absolute refusal. The speech which she addressed to them on this occasion was highly characteristic, and in one point extremely remarkable.
She reprobated, doubtless with great sincerity, the principle, that there were cases in which subjects might be justified in throwing off allegiance to their lawful prince; and protested that, for herself, nothing could ever tempt her to usurp upon the dominions either of her good brother of Spain or any other prince. Finally, she took upon her to advert to the religious scruples which had produced the revolt of the Hollanders, in a tone of levity which it is difficult to understand her motive for assuming: since it could not fail, from her lips especially, to give extreme scandal to the deputies and to all other serious men. She said, that it was unreasonable in the Dutch to have stirred up so great a commotion merely on account of the celebration of mass; and that so contumacious a resistance to their king could never redound to their honor, since they were not compelled to believe in the divinity of the mass, but only to be spectators of its performance,—as at a public spectacle. "What!" said she, "if I were to begin to act some scene in a dress like this," (for she was clad in white like a priest,) "should you regard it as a crime to behold it?" Was the queen here making the apology of her own compliances under the reign of her sister, or was she generously furnishing a salvo for others? In any case, the sentiment, as coming from the heroine of protestantism, is extraordinary.
[Note 77: Reidani "Annal." Vide Bayle's "Dictionary," art. Elizabeth.]
An ineffectual remonstrance, addressed by Elizabeth to the king of Spain, was the only immediate result of this attempt of the Provinces to engage her in their concerns. She kept a watchful eye, however, upon their great and glorious struggle; and the time at length came, when she found it expedient to unite more closely her interest with theirs.
England now enjoyed profound tranquillity, internal and external, and our annalists find leisure to advert to various circumstances of domestic history. They mention a corporation formed for the transmutation of iron into copper by the method of one Medley an alchemist, of which the learned but credulous sir Thomas Smith, secretary of state, was a principal promoter, and in which both Leicester and Burleigh embarked some capital. The master of the Mint ventured to express a doubt of the success of the experiment, because the adept had engaged that the weight of copper procured should exceed that of all the substances employed in its production; but nobody seems to have felt the force of this simple objection, and great was the disappointment of all concerned when at length the bubble burst.
About the same time the famous Dr. Dee, mathematician, astrologer, and professor of the occult sciences, being pressed by poverty, supplicated Burleigh to procure her majesty's patronage for his infallible method of discovering hidden treasures. This person, who stood at the head of his class, had been early protected by Leicester, who employed him to fix a lucky day for the queen's coronation. He had since been patronized by her majesty, who once visited him at his house at Mortlake, took lessons of him in astronomy, and occasionally supplied him with money to defray the expenses of his experiment. She likewise presented him to some ecclesiastical benefices; but he often complained of the delay or non-performance of her promises of pensions and preferment. On one occasion he was sent to the continent, ostensibly for the purpose of consulting physicians and philosophers on the state of her majesty's health; but probably not without some secret political commission. After a variety of wild adventures in different countries of Europe, in which he and his associate Kelly discovered still more knavery than credulity in the exercise of their various false sciences and fallacious arts, Dee was invited home by her majesty in 1589, and was afterwards presented by her with the wardenship of Manchester-college. But he was hated and sometimes insulted by the people as a conjurer; quarrelled with the fellows of his college, quitted Manchester in disgust, and failing to obtain the countenance of king James died at length in poverty and neglect;—the ordinary fate of his class of projectors. Elizabeth performed a more laudable part in lending her support to the enterprise of that able and spirited navigator Martin Frobisher, who had long been soliciting in vain among the merchants the means of attempting a northwest passage to the Indies, and was finally supplied by the queen with two small vessels. With these he set sail in June 1576, and though unsuccessful in the prime object of his voyage, extended considerably the previous acquaintance of navigators with the coasts of Greenland, and became the discoverer of the straits which still bear his name.
A sect called "The family of Love" had lately sprung up in England. Its doctrines, notwithstanding the frightful reports raised of them, were probably dangerous neither to the established church, with the rites of which the brethren willingly complied, nor yet to the state; and it may be doubted whether they were in any respect incompatible with private morals; but no innovations in religion were regarded as tolerable or venial under the rigid administration of Elizabeth; and the leaders of the new heresy were taken into custody, and compelled to recant. Some anabaptists were apprehended about the same time, who acknowledged their error at Paul's Cross, bearing faggots,—the tremendous symbol of the fate from which their recantation had rescued them. Two of these unhappy men, however, repented of the disingenuous act into which human frailty had betrayed them; and returning to the open profession of their opinions were burned in Smithfield, to the eternal opprobrium of protestant principles and the deep disgrace of the governess and institutress of the Anglican Church.
The observation of lord Talbot, that the earl of Leicester showed himself more than ever solicitous to improve the favor of his sovereign, received confirmation from the unparalleled magnificence of the reception which he provided for her when, during her progress in the summer of 1575, she honored him with a visit in Warwickshire.
The "princely pleasures of Kennelworth," were famed in their day as the quintessence of all courtly delight, and very long and very pompous descriptions of these festive devices have come down to our times. They were conducted on a scale of grandeur and expense which may still surprise; but taste as yet was in its infancy, and the whole was characterized by the unmerciful tediousness, the ludicrous incongruities, and the operose pedantry of a semi-barbarous age.
A temporary bridge 70 feet in length was thrown across a valley to the great gate of the castle, and its posts were hung with the offerings of seven of the Grecian deities to her majesty; displaying in grotesque assemblage, cages of various large birds, fruits, corn, fishes, grapes, and wine in silver vessels, musical instruments of many kinds and weapons and armour hung trophy-wise on two ragged staves. A poet standing at the end of the bridge explained in Latin verse the meaning of all. The Lady of the Lake, invisible since the disappearance of the renowned prince Arthur, approached on a floating island along the moat to recite adulatory verses. Arion, being summoned for the like purpose, appeared on a dolphin four-and-twenty feet long, which carried in its belly a whole orchestra. A Sibyl, a "Salvage man" and an Echo posted in the park, all harangued in the same strain. Music and dancing enlivened the Sunday evening. Splendid fireworks were displayed both on land and water;—a play was performed;—an Italian tumbler exhibited his feats;—thirteen bears were baited;—there were three stag-hunts, and a representation of a country bridal, followed by running at the quintin: finally, the men of Coventry exhibited, by express permission, their annual mock fight in commemoration of a signal defeat of the Danes.
Nineteen days did the earl of Leicester sustain the overwhelming honor of this royal visit;—a demonstration of her majesty's satisfaction in her entertainment quite unexampled, but which probably awakened less envy than any other token of her peculiar grace by which she might have been pleased to distinguish her favorite.
No domestic incident had for a long time excited so strong a sensation as the death of Walter Devereux earl of Essex, which took place at Dublin in the autumn of the year 1576. This nobleman is celebrated for his talents, his virtues, his unfortunate and untimely death, and also as the father of a son still more distinguished and destined to a fate yet more disastrous. He was of illustrious descent, deriving a part of his hereditary honors from the lords Ferrers of Chartley, and the rest from the noble family of Bourchier, through a daughter of Thomas of Woodstock youngest son of Edward III. In his nineteenth year he succeeded his grandfather as viscount Hereford, and coming to court attracted the merited commendations of her majesty by his learning, his abilities, and his ingenuous modesty.
During a short period the viscount was joined in commission with the earls of Huntingdon and Shrewsbury for the safe keeping of the queen of Scots. On the breaking out of the northern rebellion, he joined the royal army with all the forces he could raise; and in reward of this forwardness in her service her majesty conferred on him the garter, and subsequently invested him, after the most solemn and honorable form of creation, with the dignity of earl of Essex, long hereditary in the house of Bourchier.
By these marks of favor the jealousy of Leicester and of other courtiers was strongly excited; but with little cause. The spirit of the earl had too much of boldness, of enterprise, of a high-souled generosity, to permit him to take root and flourish in that scene of treachery and intrigue—a court; it quickly prompted him to seek occupation at a distance, in the attempt to subdue and civilize a turbulent Irish province.
He solicited and obtained from the queen, by a kind of agreement then not unusual, a grant to himself and the adventurers under him of half of the district of Clandeboy in Ulster, on condition of his rescuing and defending the whole of it from the rebels and defraying half the expenses of the service. Great things were expected from his expedition, on which he embarked in August 1573: but sir William Fitzwilliams, deputy of Ireland, viewed the arrival of the earl with sentiments which led him to oppose every possible obstacle to his success. Probably, too, Essex himself found, on trial, the task of subduing the Irishry (as the natives of the island were then called) a more difficult one than he had anticipated. Some brilliant service, however, amid many delays and disappointments, he performed in various parts of the country; and having returned to England in 1575 to lay all his grievances before the queen, and face the court faction which injured him in his absence, he was sent back with the title of Marshal of Ireland, an appointment which Leicester, for his own purposes, is said to have been active in procuring him.
Sir Henry Sidney had now succeeded Fitzwilliams as lord-deputy; and from him it does not appear that Essex had the same systematic opposition to encounter: on the contrary, having been applied to by the queen for his opinion of the expediency of granting several requests of the earl relative to this service, sir Henry advised her majesty to comply with most of them, prefacing his counsel with the following sentence: "Of the earl I must say, that he is so noble and worthy a personage, and so forward in all his actions, and so complete a gentleman wherein he may either advance your honor or service, as you may take comfort to have in store so rare a subject, who hath nothing in greater regard than to show himself such an one indeed as the common fame reporteth him; which hath been no more, in troth, than his due deserts and painful travels in the worst parts of this miserable country have deserved."
[Note 78: "Sidney Papers," vol. i.]
Such in fact was the apparent cordiality between the deputy and the marshal, that a proposal passed for the marriage of Philip Sidney to the lady Penelope Devereux daughter of the earl: but if this friendship were ever sincere on the part of sir Henry, it was at least short-lived; for, writing a few months after Essex's death to Leicester respecting the earl of Ormond, whom the favorite regarded as his enemy, he says.... "In fine, my lord, I am ready to accord with him; but, my most dear lord and brother, be you upon your keeping for him; for, if Essex had lived, you should have found him as violent an enemy as his heart, power and cunning would have served him to have been; and for that their malice, I take God to record, I could brook neither of them both."
[Note 79: "Sidney Papers," vol. i.]
Ireland was, during the whole of Elizabeth's reign, that part of her dominions which it cost her most trouble to govern, and with which her system of policy prospered the least. Without a considerable military force it was impossible to bring into subjection those parts of the country which still remained in a state of barbarism under the sway of native chieftains, or even to preserve in safety and civility such districts as were already reclaimed and brought within the English pale. But the queen's parsimony, or, more truly, the narrowness of her income, caused her perpetually to repine at the great expenses to which she was put for this service, and frequently to run the risk of losing all that had been slowly gained, by a sudden withdrawment, or long delay, of the necessary supplies. Her suspicious temper caused her likewise to lend ready ear to the complaints, whether founded or not, brought by the disaffected Irish against her officers. Sir Henry Sidney himself, the deputy whom she most favored and trusted, and continued longer in office than any other, supported as he was at court by the potent influence of Leicester and the steady friendship of Burleigh, had many causes offered him of vexation and discontent; and those who held inferior commands, and were less ably protected from the attacks of their enemies, experienced almost insupportable anxieties from counteractions, difficulties and hardships of every kind. Of these the unfortunate earl of Essex had his full share.
The hopes of improving his fortune, with which he had entered upon the service, were so far from being realized that he found himself sinking continually deeper in debt. His efforts against the rebels were by no means uniformly successful. His court enemies contrived to divert most of the succours designed him by his sovereign, and the perplexities of his situation went on accumulating instead of diminishing. The bodily fatigue which he endured in the prosecution of his designs, joined to the anguish of a wounded spirit, undermined at length the powers of his constitution, and after repeated attacks he was carried off by a dysentery in September 1576.
Essex was liberal, affable, brave and eloquent, and generally beloved both in England and Ireland. The symptoms of his disease, though such as exposure alone to the pestilential damps of the climate might well have produced, were also susceptible of being ascribed to poison; and one of his attendants, a divine who likewise professed medicine, seeing him in great pain, suddenly exclaimed, "By the mass, my lord, you are poisoned!" The report spread like wild-fire. To common minds it is a relief under irremediable misfortune to find an object for blame; and accordingly, though no direct evidence of the fact was produced, it was universally believed that some villain had administered to him "an ill drink."
As Leicester was known to be his enemy, strongly suspected of an intrigue with his wife, and believed capable of any enormity, the friends and partisans of Essex seem immediately to have pointed at him as the contriver of his death; yet I find no contemporary evidence of the imputation, except in the conduct of sir Henry Sidney on this occasion, which indicates great anxiety for the reputation of his patron and brother-in-law.
The lord-deputy was unfortunately absent from Dublin at the time of the earl of Essex's death, and before he could institute a regular examination into the manner of it, a thousand false tales had been circulated which were greedily received by the public. On his return, however, he entered into the investigation with great zeal and diligence:—the decisive test of an examination of the body was not indeed applied, for it was one with which that age seems to have been unacquainted; but many witnesses were called, reports were traced to their source and in some instances disproved, and the result of the whole was transmitted by the deputy to the privy-council in a letter which appears satisfactorily to prove that there was no solid ground to ascribe the event to any but natural causes. That the deputy himself was convinced of the correctness of this representation is seen from one of his private letters to Leicester, published long after in the "Sidney Papers."
In all probability, posterity would scarcely have heard of this imputation on the character of Leicester, had not his marriage with the widow of Essex served as corroboration of the charge, and given occasion to the malicious comments of the author of "Leicester's Commonwealth." This union, however, was not publicly celebrated till two years afterwards; and we have no certain authority for the fact of the criminal connexion of the parties during the life of the earl of Essex, nor for the private marriage said to have been huddled up with indecent precipitation on his decease.
Walter earl of Essex left Robert his son and successor, then in the tenth year of his age, to the care and protection of the earl of Sussex and lord Burleigh; but Mr. Edward Waterhouse, a person of great merit and abilities, then employed in Ireland and distinguished by the favor both of lord Burleigh and sir Henry Sidney, had the immediate management of the fortune and affairs of the minor. Of this friend Essex is related to have taken leave in his last moments with many kisses, exclaiming, "O my Ned, my Ned, farewell! thou art the faithfulest and friendliest gentleman that ever I knew." He proved the fidelity of his attachment by attending the body of the earl to Wales, whither it was conveyed for interment, and it was thence that he immediately afterwards addressed to sir Henry Sidney a letter, of which the following is an extract.
"The state of the earl of Essex, being best known to myself, doth require my travel for a time in his causes; but my burden cannot be great when every man putteth to his helping hand. Her majesty hath bestowed upon the young earl his marriage, and all his father's rules in Wales, and promiseth the remission of his debt. The lords do generally favor and further him; some for the trust reposed, some for love to the father, other for affinity with the child, and some for other causes. All these lords that wish well to the children, and, I suppose, all the best sort of the English lords besides, do expect what will become of the treaty between Mr. Philip and my lady Penelope.
"Truly, my lord, I must say to your lordship, as I have said to my lord of Leicester and Mr. Philip, the breaking off of this match, if the default be on your parts, will turn to more dishonor than can be repaired with any other marriage in England. And I protest unto your lordship, I do not think that there is at this day so strong a man in England of friends as the little earl of Essex; nor any man more lamented than his father since the death of king Edward."
[Note 80: "Sidney Papers."]
Under such high auspices, and with such a general consent of men's minds in his favor, did the celebrated, the rash, the lamented Essex commence his brief and ill-starred course! The match between Philip Sidney and lady Penelope Devereux was finally broken off, as Waterhouse seems to have apprehended. She married lord Rich, and afterwards Charles Blount earl of Devonshire, on whose account she had been divorced from her first husband.
How little all the dark suspicions and sinister reports to which the death of the earl of Essex had given occasion, were able to influence the mind of Elizabeth against the man of her heart, may appear by the tenor of an extraordinary letter written by her in June 1577 to the earl and countess of Shrewsbury.
* * * * *
"Our very good cousins;
"Being given to understand from our cousin of Leicester how honorably he was not only lately received by you our cousin the countess at Chatsworth, and his diet by you both discharged at Buxtons, but also presented with a very rare present, we should do him great wrong (holding him in that place of favor we do) in case we should not let you understand in how thankful sort we accept the same at both your hands, not as done unto him but to our own self; reputing him as another self; and therefore ye may assure yourselves that we, taking upon us the debt, not as his but our own, will take care accordingly to discharge the same in such honorable sort as so well deserving creditors as ye shall never have cause to think ye have met with an ungrateful debtor." &c.
* * * * *
Lord Talbot, on another occasion, urged upon his father the policy of ingratiating himself with Leicester by a pressing invitation to Chatsworth, adding moreover, that he did not believe it would greatly either further or hinder his going into that part of the country.
1577 TO 1582.
Relations of the queen with France and Spain.—She sends succours to the Dutch—is entertained by Leicester, and celebrated in verse by P. Sidney.—Her visit to Norwich.—Letter of Topcliffe.—Notice of sir T. Smith.—Magical practices against the queen.—Duke Casimir's visit to England.—Duke of Anjou urges his suit with the queen.—Simier's mission.—Leicester's marriage.—Behaviour of the queen.—A shot fired at her barge.—Her memorable speech.—First visit of Anjou in England.—Opinions of privy-councillors on the match.—Letter of Philip Sidney.—Stubbs's book.—Punishment inflicted on him.—Notice of sir N. Bacon.—Drake's return from his circumnavigation.—Jesuit seminaries.—Arrival of a French embassy.—A triumph.—Notice of Fulk Greville.—Marriage-treaty with Anjou.—His second visit.—His return and death.
About the middle of the year 1576, Walsingham in a letter to sir Henry Sidney thus writes: "Here at home we live in security as we were wont, grounding our quietness upon other harms." The harms here alluded to,—the religious wars of France, and the revolt of the Dutch provinces from Spain,—had proved indeed, in more ways than one, the safeguard of the peace of England. They furnished so much domestic occupation to the two catholic sovereigns of Europe, most formidable by their power, their bigotry, and their unprincipled ambition, as effectually to preclude them from uniting their forces to put in execution against Elizabeth the papal sentence of deprivation; and by the opportunity which they afforded her of causing incalculable mischiefs to these princes through the succours which she might afford to their rebellious subjects, they long enabled her to restrain both Philip and Charles within the bounds of respect and amity. But circumstances were now tending with increased velocity towards a rupture with Spain, clearly become inevitable; and in 1577 the queen of England saw herself compelled to take steps in the affairs of the Low Countries equally offensive to that power and to France.
The states of Holland, after the rejection of their sovereignty by Elizabeth, cast their eyes around in search of another protector: and Charles IX., suffering his ambition and his rivalry with Philip II. to overpower all the vehemence of his zeal for the catholic religion, showed himself eager to become their patron. His brother the duke d'Alencon, doubtless with his concurrence, offered on certain terms to bring a French army for the expulsion of don John of Austria, governor of the Low Countries; and this proposal he urged with so much importunity, that the Hollanders, notwithstanding their utter antipathy to the royal family of France, seemed likely to accede to it, as the lightest of that variety of evils of which their present situation offered them the choice. But Elizabeth could not view with indifference the progress of a negotiation which might eventually procure to France the annexation of these important provinces; and she encouraged the states to refuse the offers of Alencon by immediately transmitting for their service liberal supplies of arms and money to duke Casimir, son of the Elector Palatine, then at the head of a large body of German protestants in the Low Countries.
At the same time she endeavoured to repress the catholics in her own dominions by a stricter enforcement of the penal laws, and two or three persons in this year suffered capitally for their denial of the queen's supremacy.
[Note 81: Dr. Whitgift, then bishop of Worcester and vice-president of the marches of Wales under sir Henry Sidney, peculiarly distinguished himself by his activity in detecting secret meetings of catholics for the purpose of hearing mass and practising other rites of their religion. The privy-council, in reward of his zeal, promised to direct to him and to some of the Welsh bishops a special commission for the trial of these delinquents. They further instructed him, in the case of one Morice who had declined answering directly to certain interrogatories tending to criminate himself in these matters, that if he remained obstinate, and the commissioners saw cause, they might at their discretion cause some kind of torture to be used upon him. The same means he was also desired to take with others; in order to come to a full knowledge of all reconcilements to the church of Rome, and other practices of the papists in these parts. See Strype's "Whitgift," p. 83.]
These steps on the part of Elizabeth threatened to disconcert entirely the plans of the French court; but it still seemed practicable, to the king and to his brother, to produce a change in her measures; and two or three successive embassies arrived in London during the spring and summer of 1578, to renew with fresh earnestness the proposals of marriage on the part of the duke d'Alencon. The earl of Sussex and his party favored this match, Leicester and all the zealous protestants in the court and the nation opposed it. The queen "sat arbitress," and perhaps prolonged her deliberations on the question, for the pleasure of receiving homage more than usually assiduous from both factions.