Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

majesty bestowed all her commendations and tokens of favour on the musician, and scarcely condescended to address a word to the man, who had written Belisarius, She thus lost the opportunity of propitiating a writer, whose powerful pen might have done more for her, in the time of her adversity, than all the fiddlers in Christendom. History has told a different tale of the career of these princesses, and with reason.

But to return to the luckless Essex, he now humbled his proud spirit so far, as to write the following supplicatory letters, in the hope of mollifying his once-loving queen:

66

My dear, my gracious, and my admired sovereign is semper eadem. It cannot be, but that she will hear the sighs and groans, and read the lamentations and humble petitions of the afflicted. Therefore, O paper, whensoever her eyes vouchsafe to behold thee, say, that death is the end of all worldly misery, but continual indignation makes misery perpetual; that present misery is never intolerable to them that are stayed by future hope; but affliction that is unseen is commanded to despair; that nature, youth, and physic have had many strong encounters; but if my sovereign will forget me, I have nourished these contentions too long, for in this exile of mine eyes, if mine humble letters find not access, no death can be so speedy, as it shall be welcome to me,

"Your majesty's humblest vassal,

"ESSEX."

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

"ESSEX."

No whit moved with these pathetic appeals, Elizabeth kept her Christmas with more than ordinary festivity this year, and appeared much in public. "Almost every night her majesty is in presence," writes Rowland Whyte, "to see the ladies dance the new and old country-dances, with tabor and pipe. Here was an exceeding rich new year's gift presented, which came, as it were, in a cloud, no one knows how, which is neither received, nor rejected, and is in the

hands of Mr. Comptroller. It comes from the poor earl, the downfal of fortune, as it is thought. His friends hope that, he shall be removed to his own house, or to Mr. Comptroller's. He begins to recover, for he is able to sit up, and to eat at a table. His lady comes to him every morning at seven, and stays till six, which is said to be the full time limited for her abode there. The ladies, his sisters, my lady Walsingham, and his son, have no liberty to go, to see him, as yet." On the 12th of January, Whyte notices the further recovery of the earl, and that his new year's gift was not accepted, and that it was supposed he would be removed to the Tower. "Lady Rich," pursues our authority," earnestly supplicates for leave to visit him. She writes her majesty many letters-sends many jewels and presents; her letters are read, her presents received, but no leave granted. "The lady Leicester sent the queen a rich new year's gift, which was well taken." Twelve days after, he recòrds the death of lady Egerton, the lord-keeper's wife, and the discontent of that officer, that his house had been so long made into a prison for the earl of Essex, who had been in close confinement there for seventeen weeks. The earl being still in Lord Egerton's house, went to comfort him, for he was so abandoned to sorrow, that he refused to sit in council, or to attend to chancery business. On which, the queen sent the afflicted widower, a gracious message of condolence, but accompanied with an intimation, that private sorrow ought not to interfere with public business.1

Lady Leicester came up to court to petition the queen for her son's liberty, or at least that he might be removed into a better air.

On the 24th of February, Verekin, the Flemish envoy, was introduced to the queen, who, as he came from the archduke Albert, on the part of Spain, held a very grand court for his reception. The ante-room was crowded with ladies and gentlemen, and an extraordinary number of her guards, and the presence-chamber filled with her great ladies and the fair maids, attired all in white, and exceedingly brave; and so he passed to the privy-chamber, and to the withdrawing-room, where he delivered his letters. The queen was very pleasant, and told him she would consider his letters, and he should hear from her again; add1 Sidney Papers.

ing, "that she had heard he was very desirous to see her, therefore was the more welcome."

"It is true," said he, "that I longed to undertake this journey to see your majesty, who, for beauty and wisdom, do excel all other princes of the world; and I acknowledge myself exceedingly bound to them who sent me, for the happiness I now enjoy." Though Elizabeth was fast approaching to the age of seventy, the ambassadors still complimented her charms. Verekin had no full powers to conclude a treaty, which Elizabeth and her ministers soon fathomed; and instead of giving him any decisive answer to his demands, amused him by feasting him, and shewing him the sights of London. Sir Walter Raleigh attended him, to shew him Westminster Abbey, with the tombs and "other singularities of the place," and a few days after the lord-chamberlain's players acted before him "Sir John Oldcastle, or the Merry Wives of Windsor," to his great contentment. This comedy is said to have been written by Shakespeare, at the desire of queen Elizabeth, who was so infinitely delighted with the character of Falstaff, under his original name of Sir John Oldcastle, in Henry IV., that she wished to see him represented as a lover.

2

A determination being now formed to bring Essex before the Star-Chamber, his wife was forbidden to come to him any more, till the queen's further pleasure were known, on which she wept piteously. The earl had then recovered his health, and was able to take daily air and exercise in the garden. He wrote a very submissive letter to the queen, entreating that he might not be dealt with by the Star-Chamber, and for a while his prayer was granted. A few days after, some offence was taken by the queen, because his lady, his mother, the earl of Southampton, and some others of his devoted friends, went to a house that commanded a view into York Gardens, where he was accustomed to walk, and saluted him from a window, so that he perceived and returned their greeting."

Towards the end of February, lady Rich, unconscious that her secret correspondence, defaming her royal mistress to the king of Scots and exposing all her traits of vanity, was in Cecil's possession, wrote a letter to the in behalf of her brother, so grossly adulatory, that her 1 Sidney Papers.

queen

* Ibid.

• Ibid.

majesty could not but regard it in the light of an insult. There was, withal, a passage in allusion to the earl's personal attendance on her majesty, which appeared to contain a very questionable insinuation; not contented with writing this dangerous letter, she was guilty of the folly of making it public by reading it to her friends, on which Elizabeth ordered her to confine herself to her own house, and talked of sending her to the Tower, and bringing the affair before the Star-Chamber. Lady Rich's letter is too long to insert, but the following passage may serve as a sample of the style, in which the treacherous Rialta ventured to address the royal mistress, whom she ridiculed and defamed to a foreign court:

[ocr errors]

"Early did I hope this morning to have had mine eyes blessed with your majesty's beauty; but seeing the sun depart into a cloud, and meeting with spirits that did presage by the wheels of their chariot some thunder in the air, I must complain and express my fears to the high majesty and divine oracle, from whence I received a doubtful answer; unto whose power I must sacrifice again the tears and prayers of the afflicted, that must despair in time, if it be too soon to importune heaven, when we feel the misery of hell; or that words directed to the sacred wisdom should be out of season, delivered for my unfortunate brother, whom all men have liberty to defame, as if his offence was capital, and he so base dejected a creature, that his life, his love, his service to your beauties and the state, had deserved no absolution after so hard punishment, or so much as to answer in your fair presence, who would vouchsafe more justice and favour than he can expect of partial judges, or those combined enemies, that labour on false grounds to build his ruin, urging his faults as criminal to your divine honour, thinking it a heaven to blaspheme heaven."

The unfortunate Essex, while he laboured to defend himself from his wily foes, had little idea whence the under current flowed that had wrecked his fortunes, and for ever.

Lady Leicester, lady Essex, lord and lady Southampton, Mr. Greville, and Mr. Bacon, were, on the 15th of March, by her majesty's command, removed from Essex House; and on the 16th, Maunday Thursday, Essex was brought there as a prisoner, under the charge of sir Richard Berkeley, who took possession of all the keys of the house, and dismissed all the servants but one or two, who were permitted to attend to the diet and apparel of their unfortunate master. Lady Essex was allowed to visit him in the daytime.

Our indefatigable court-newsman, Rowland Whyte, records the following circumstance, soon after :- 66 Leicester hath now a gown in hand to send the queen, will

Lady

1 Birch.

t

[ocr errors]

1

6

cost her 1007. at least. On the 30th of March the lady Scudamore presented it to the queen, who liked it well, but would neither accept nor reject it, and observed, that things standing as they did at present, it was not fit for her to desire what she did-namely, to come into her presence and kiss her hands."

The queen having formed an intention of bringing Essex before the Star-Chamber, opened her design to Mr. Francis Bacon, and said, "whatever she did should be for his chastisement, not for his destruction." Bacon, who was greatly averse to this method of proceeding, remonstrated playfully but strongly against it in these words:"Madam, if you will have me to speak to you in this argument, I must speak as Friar Bacon's head spake that said, time is,' and then time was,' and time would never be again;' for certainly it is now far too late-the matter is old, and hath taken too much wind." Her majesty seemed offended at this, and rose up with the intention of pursuing her own plan.

6

In the beginning of Midsummer term, Bacon, finding her in the same mind, said to her, "Why, madam, if you needs must have a proceeding, it were best to have it in some such sort as Ovid spake of his mistress, est aliquid luce patente minus-to make a council-table matter of it, and end." The queen, however, determined to proceed; and Bacon, notwithstanding all his obligations to Essex, consented to lend the aid of his powerful pen in drawing up the declaration against him. His proper office would have been to defend his unfortunate friend, but he could not resist the temptations offered by the queen, who was determined to enlist his talents on her side. She directed every clause with vindictive care, and made several alterations with her own hand; and even after the paper was printed, "her majesty, who," as Bacon observes, "if she was excellent in great things, was exquisite in small," noted that he had styled the unfortunate nobleman "my lord of Essex," objected to this courtesy, and would have him only called, "Essex, or the late earl of Essex."

On the 12th of May, Elizabeth recreated herself with seeing a Frenchman perform feats upon a rope; and on the following day she commanded the bears, the bull, and 1 Sidney Papers,

[ocr errors]
« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »