Изображения страниц

concealed a heavy heart and a weary spirit. The infirmities of her advanced period of life, malgré all her Spartan-like attempts to hide them, made themselves felt, and occasionally acknowledged. Sir Robert Sidney, in a confidential letter to Harrington, gives a melancholy account of Elizabeth's dejection in private, and this is followed by a characteristic detail of her struggle to go through a fatiguing state-visit, with which she honoured him, in her usual popular and gracious manner; but the old woman conquered the goddess, and she was, at last, fain to call for a staff, to support her enfeebled frame, and we perceive, throughout, how hard a day's work it must have been for her.

"I do see the queen often," observes he; "she doth wax weak since the late troubles, and Burleigh's death_doth often draw tears down her goodly cheeks. She walketh out but little, meditates much alone, and sometimes writes, in private, to her best friends. Her highness hath done honour to my poor house by visiting me, and seemed much pleased at what we did to please her. My son made her a fair speech, to which she did give most gracious reply. The women did dance before her, whilst the cornets did salute from the gallery, and she did vouchsafe to eat two morsels of rich comfit-cake, and drank a small cordial from a golden cup. She had a marvellous suit of velvet,' borne by four of her first women attendants in rich apparel; two ushers did go before, and at going up stairs she called for a staff, and was much wearied in walking about the house, and said she would come another day. Six drums and six trumpets waited in the court, and sounded at her approach and departure. My wife did bear herself in wondrous good liking, and was attired in a purple kyrtle fringed with gold, and myself in a rich band and collar of needle-work, and did wear a goodly stuff of the bravest cut and fashion, with an under-body of silver and loops. The queen was much in commendation of our appearances, and smiled at the ladies, who, in their dances, often came up to the step, on which the seat was fixed, to make their obeisance, and so fell back into their order again.

"The younger Markham did several gallant feats on a horse before the gate, leaping down and kissing his sword, and then mounting swiftly on the saddle, and passed a

1 Meaning, a train.

lance with much skill. The day well nigh spent, the queen went and tasted a small beverage, that was set out in divers rooms where she might pass, and then, in much order, was attended to her palace, the cornets and trumpets sounding through the streets. One knight, I dare not name, did say 'the queen hath done me more honour than some that had served her better;' but envious tongues have venomed shafts, and so I rest in peace with what hath happened, and God speed us all, my worthy knight."

In the preceding part of this letter, Sidney, tells Harrington, "that he had presented his gift to the queen, by whom it was well received, and that her majesty had commended his verses.

"The queen," says he, "hath tasted your dainties, and saith, you have marvellous skill in cooking of good fruits."" In allusion to a law-suit, touching Harrington's title to the disputed manor of Harrington Park, he continues, "Visit your friends often, and please the queen all you can, for all the great lawyers do fear her displeasure. *** I know not how matters may prosper with your noble commander, the lord Essex," pursues the cautious statesman, "but must say no more in writing."

One day Elizabeth informed Bacon, "that Essex had written to her some dutiful letters, which had moved her; but after taking them to flow from the abundance of his heart, she found them but a preparative to a suit for renewing his farm of sweet wines," of which she had granted him the monopoly in the sunshine of her former favour.'

To this petition she had replied, "that she would inquire into its annual value," which is said to have amounted to the enormous sum of 50,000l. per annum. She added a taunt, which it was scarcely in the nature of a brave man and a gentleman to brook, "that when horses became unmanageable it was necessary to tame them by stinting them in the quantity of their food." But Essex, being deeply involved in debt, renewed his suit, and was denied contemptuously.2

Bacon wasted much elegant logic, in endeavouring to convince Elizabeth that a prudential care for his maintenance was by no means incompatible with the sincerity of his devotion to his sovereign, or his penitence for his past

1 Bacon's Letters.


* Lingard."

faults; but, at length, observing that the queen began to look coolly on him when he came into her presence, he represented to her, "that he had, in the integrity of his heart, incurred great peril for pleading the cause of the earl to her, and that his own fall was decreed;" upon which the queen, perceiving how deeply he was wounded, used many kind and soothing expressions to comfort him, bidding him rest on this, "gratia mea sufficit"-"my grace is sufficient for you"-but she said not a word of Essex. Bacon took the hint, and made no further efforts to avert the fate of his benefactor.

Harrington, who had ventured to present a petition to his royal godmother from the earl, remarks, "that he had nearly been wrecked on the Essex coast." In fact, the imprudence of Essex rendered it very dangerous for any one to espouse his cause.

"I have heard much," says Harrington, "on both hands, but wiser he who repeateth nothing thereof. Did either know what I know either have said, it would not work much to contentment or good liking. Ambition, thwarted in its career, doth speedily lead on to madness; herein I am strengthened by what I learn of my lord of Essex, who shifteth, from sorrow and repentance to rage and rebellion, so suddenly as well proveth him devoid of good reason or right mind. At our last discourse he uttered strange words, bordering on such strange designs, that made me hasten forth, and leave his presence. Thank Heaven, I am safe at home, and if I go in such troubles again, I deserve the gallows for a meddling fool. His speeches of the queen becometh no man who hath mens sana in corpore sano. He hath ill-advisers, and much evil hath sprung from this source. The queen well knoweth how to humble the haughty spirit, the haughty spirit knoweth not how to yield, and the man's soul seemeth tossed to and fro, like the waves of a troubled sea."

Essex had taken the loss of his monopolies and his exile from court in such evil part, that he now began to testify his resentment, in every possible way. "The queen," said he, "has pushed me down into private life. I will not be a vile, obsequious slave. The dagger of my enemies has struck me to the hilt. I will not be bound to their car of triumph." The councils of his secretary, Cuffe, and other



violent or treacherous advisers, induced him to assume the character of a demagogue, that he might be carried into office, on the shoulders of the people, in spite of the court party.

His house became the head-quarters of the disaffected and desperate. He courted the puritans, and encouraged them to hold conventicles, and preach seditious sermons, to political congregations, under the shadow of his roof. He publicly discussed his injuries, and was, at last, guilty of the folly and ingratitude of speaking of the queen, as an "old woman, crooked both in body and mind"1—a taunt which it was not in Elizabeth's nature to forgive. The dearer Essex had been to her heart, the more keenly did the shaft pierce. His death was decreed in the self-same hour when this remark reached her ear. His secret league with the king of Scots, to incite that monarch to insist on being recognised as the successor to the crown-his rash meetings with malcontents and desperadoes, at Drury house, plotting the seizure of the palace and the Tower-his final act of reckless rebellion, might have been forgiven, but this was the spark which kindled a flame of vindictive anger in the heart of the queen, which nothing but his blood could quench.

The daughter of Henry VIII. was not likely to endure such treatment from the ungrateful object of her fierce and jealous fondness. She delayed her vengeance, but it was with the feline malice of tantalizing her victim with visions of life and liberty. She knew that the mouse was within the reach of her talons, and that with one blow it was in her power to crush him.

His absurd plan was, for his step-father, Sir Christopher Blount, with a chosen party, to seize the palace-gate, Davis the hall, and Danvers the guard-chamber, and then himself to rush in from the mews, with a further detachment of his desperate followers, to enter the queen's presence, wherever she might be, and, on his knees, to beg her to remove his adversaries from her council.2 If this were resisted, he intended to make a forced reform, by calling a parliament, and demanding justice. It had been daringly advanced as a principle, by the political agitators, who congregated at his house, that monarchs themselves were accountable to the superior legislators of the realm, and the queen

1 Camden.

2 Ibid.

thought it was time to bring the matter to a crisis. 7th of February, Essex received a summons to appear before the privy-council, and, at the same time, a note was put into his hand, warning him to take care of himself. He was advised, by prudent friends, to make his escape, but he vowed that he never would submit to live in exile, and rashly resolved to set everything on one last desperate die-an attempt to raise the citizens of London against the court. He had an idea that sir Thomas Smith, the sheriff, would aid him with a thousand of the trained bands, and he summoned all his friends to rally to his assistance, at Essex House. How the council allowed him to remain at large is matter of wonder, but, such was his popularity, that it was doubted whether his arrest would be effected without causing great tumults among the populace.

Harrington draws a vivid picture of the alarm and excitement that pervaded the court, during the fearful pause that intervened before a blow was struck :-"The madcaps," says he, "are all in riot, and much evil threatened. In good sooth, I fear her majesty more than the rebel Tyrone, and wished I had never received my lord of Essex's honour of knighthood. She is quite disfavoured and unattired, and these troubles waste her much. She disregardeth every costly cover that cometh to the table, and taketh little but manchet and succory pottage. Every new message from the city disturbs her, and she frowns on all her ladies. I had a sharp message from her brought by my lord Buckhurst, namely thus,- Go, tell that witty fellow, my godson, to get home; it is no season to fool it here.' I liked this as little as she doth my knighthood, so took to my boots, and returned to my plough, in bad weather. I must not say much, even by this trusty and sure messenger, but the many evil plots and designs have overcome all her highness's sweet temper."

The strong mind of Elizabeth was evidently shaken, by the conflicting passions that assailed her, at this agitating period, and reason tottered. Who would say that the deportment, which her godson thus describes, was that of a sane person?" She walks much," pursues he, "in her privychamber, and stamps with her foot at ill news, and thrusts her rusty sword, at times, into the arras, in great rage. My lord Buckhurst is much with her, and few else, since the city

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »