« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
Elizabeth appears to have felt differently on this subject, which pressed heavily on her mind; perhaps more so than many a less justifiable act of severity, as the deaths of the duke of Norfolk and the queen of Scots. But this was the drop that surcharged the cup; and the infirmities of frail humanity warned her that the hour was not far distant when she must render up an account for the blood she had shed; and, however satisfactory her reasons, for what she had done, might have appeared to other sovereigns and to her partial subjects, neither expediency nor sophistry would avail aught at the tribunal, where the secrets of all hearts are unveiled. Besides, she had hitherto destroyed her enemies, or those whom she deemed the friends of her foes. Now she had taken the life of her nearest kinsman and best loved friend, of him whom she had cherished in his early youth with the tenderness of a mother, and, after he advanced to manhood, regarded with the perilous fondness of a jealous lover.
One of the members of Elizabeth's household, gives the following account of the state of the queen's mind, in a letter to a confidential correspondent, in the service of her suc"Our queen is troubled with a rheum in her arm, which vexeth her very much, besides the grief she hath conceived for my lord of Essex's death. She sleepeth not so much by day as she used, neither taketh rest by night. Her delight is to sit in the dark, and sometimes with shedding tears, to bewail Essex.”
There was a vain endeavour, on the part of her cabinet, to amuse the mind of the declining melancholy sovereign, with a new favourite, the young and handsome earl of Clanricarde, who was considered to bear a striking likeness to him whom she so vainly lamented; but the resemblance only increased her dejection. The countess of Essex, however, found consolation for her loss, in this likeness; for she ultimately took the earl of Clanricarde for her third husband.
The state of queen Elizabeth's mind, as well as the breaking up of her constitution, is pathetically described by her godson Harrington, in a confidential letter to his wife. He says: "Our dear queen, my royal godmother, and this state's natural mother, doth now bear shew of human in
1 Dated December 27, 1602.
firmity too fast for that evil which we shall get by her death, and too slow for that good which she shall get by her releasement from her pains and misery. I was bidden to her presence; I blessed the happy moment, and found her in most pitiable state. She bade the archbishop ask me if I had seen Tyrone? I replied, with reverence, that I had seen him with the lord-deputy' (Essex). She looked up, with much choler and grief in her countenance, and said, Oh! now it mindeth me that you were one, who saw this man elsewhere,' and hereat she dropped a tear and smote her bosom. She held in her hand a golden cup, which she oft put to her lips, but, in sooth, her heart seemeth too full to lack more filling. This sight moved me to think of what passed in Ireland; and I trust she did not less think on some who were busier there than myself. She gave me a message to the lord-deputy (Mountjoye,) and bade me come to the chamber at seven o'clock.
"Hermajesty inquired of some matters which I had written; and as she was pleased to note my fanciful brain, I was not unheedful to feed her humour, and read some verses; whereat she smiled once, and was pleased to say, When thou dost feel creeping Time at thy gate, these fooleries will please thee less. I am past my relish for such matters. Thou seest my bodily meat doth not suit me well. I have eaten but one ill-tasted cake since yesternight.' She rated most grievously, at noon, at some, who minded not to bring up certain matters of account. Several men have been sent to, and, when ready at hand, her highness hath dismissed in anger; but who, dearest Mall, shall say, 'Your highness hath forgotten?" "
These fits of despondency occasionally cleared away; and we find Elizabeth exhibiting fits of active mirthfulness, especially at the expense of her dwarfish premier, Cecil, who habitually played the lover to her majesty. She sometimes so far forgot the dignity of her age and exalted station, as to afford him a sort of whimsical encouragement by making a butt of him. A ludicrous instance of her coquetry is related by one of her courtiers, in a letter to the earl of Shrewsbury:-"I send your lordship here enclosed," writes he, "some verses compounded by Mr. Secretary, who got Hales to frame a ditty to it. The occasion was, I hear, that the
1 1Nugæ Antiquæ, vol. i. p. 320.
young lady Derby,' wearing about her neck and in her bosom, a dainty tablet, the queen, espying it, asked, 'What fine jewel that was?' Lady Derby was anxious to excuse shewing it; but the queen would have it. She opened it, and, finding it to be Mr. Secretary's picture, she snatched it from lady Derby's neck, and tied it upon her own shoe, and walked about with it there. Then she took it from thence, and pinned it on her elbow, and wore it some time there also. When Mr. secretary Cecil was told of this, he made these verses, and caused Hales to sing them in his apartments. It was told her majesty that Mr. Secretary Cecil had rare music and songs in his chamber. She chose to hear them, and the ditty was sung." The poetry was not worth quoting; but the verses, it seems, expressed, " that he repines not, though her majesty may please to grace others; for his part, he is content with the favour his picture received." This incident took place when the royal coquette was in her seventieth year. Strange scenes are occasionally revealed when the mystic curtain, that veils the penetralia of kings and queens from vulgar curiosity, is, after the lapse of centuries, withdrawn by the minuteness of biographical research. What a delicious subject for an "H. B." caricature would the stately Elizabeth and her pigmy secretary have afforded.
Cecil was, however, at that time the creature of the expecting impatient heir of his royal mistress, with whom he maintained almost a daily correspondence. One day, a packet, from king James, was delivered to him in the presence of the queen, which he knew contained allusions to his secret practices with her successor. Elizabeth's quick eye, doubtless, detected the furtive glance, which taught him to recognise that it was a dangerous missive; and she ordered him instantly to open and shew the contents of his letters to her. A timely recollection of one of her weak points saved the wily minister from detection. "This packet," said he, as he slowly drew forth his knife and prepared to cut the strings, which fastened it—“ this packet has a strange and evil smell. Surely it has not been
Lodge's Illustrations, vol. ii. 576. Elizabeth, eldest daughter to the earl of Oxford, by Cecil's sister, lady Anne, married the earl of Derby, 1594. As the lady was Cecil's niece, it is singular that she shewed reluctance to display her uncle's picture.
in contact with infected persons or goods." Elizabeth's dread of contagion prevailed over both curiosity and suspicion, and she hastily ordered Cecil to throw it at a distance, and not bring it into her presence again till it had been thoroughly fumigated.' He, of course, took care to purify it of the evidences of his own guilty deeds.
James I. obtained a great ascendancy in the councils of Elizabeth during the last years of her life, although the fact was far from suspected by the declining queen, who, all the while, flattered herself that it was she, who, from the secret recesses of her closet, governed the realm of Scotland, and controlled the actions of her royal successor. The circumstance of his being her successor, however, gave James that power in his reversionary realm of England, of which, he afterwards boasted to the great Sully, the ambassador from France, telling him, "that it was he who actually governed England for several years before the death of Elizabeth, having gained all her ministers, who were guided by his directions in all things." Even Harrington, dearly as he loved his royal mistress, shewed signs and tokens of this worship paid to the rising sun, when he sent a jewel in the form of a dark-lantern, as a new year's gift to James, signifying that the failing lamp of life waxed dim with the departing queen, and would soon be veiled in the darkness of the tomb.
The queen still took pleasure, between whiles, in witnessing the sports of young people. It is noted in the Sidney papers, "that on St. Stephen's day, in the afternoon, Mrs. Mary," some maiden of the court, "danced before the queen two galliards, with one Mr. Palmer, the admirablest dancer of this time; both were much commended by her majesty; then she (Mrs. Mary) danced with him a coranto. The queen kissed Mr. William Sidney in the presence, as she came from the chapel; my lady Warwick presented him."
Elizabeth's correspondence with lord Mountjoye is among the extravaganzas of her private life. He was her deputy in Ireland, the successor of Essex, formerly a rival favourite, and was forced to assume, like his predecessor and Raleigh, the airs of a despairing lover of the queen, whenever he had any point to carry with her, either for his public or private interest. His letters generally begin with, "Dear Sove
1 Sir Walter Scott's History of Scotland.
reign," "Sacred Majesty," "Sacred and dear Sovereign;" his phraseology, though very caressing, is not so fulsome as that of Essex, nor so audacious, in its flights of personal flattery, as that of Raleigh; however, considering that Elizabeth was nearly seventy, and Mountjoye, a handsome man of fiveand-thirty, the following passage must have been difficult of digestion, written on some reverse in Ireland, for which he anticipated blame at court: "This, most dear sovereign, I do not write with any swelling justification of myself. If any impious tongue do tax my proceedings, I will patiently bless it, that by making me suffer for your sake—I that have suffered for your sake a torment above all others, a grieved and despised love."1
Elizabeth answered this deceitful effusion with the following absurd billet:
THE QUEEN TO LORD MOUNTJOYE.
"O what melancholy humour hath exhaled up into your brain from a full fraughted heart that should breed such doubt-bred upon no cause given by us at all, never having pronounced any syllable upon which such a work should be framed! There is no louder trump that may sound out your praise, your hazard, your care, your luck, than we have blasted in all our court, and elsewhere, indeed!
Well, I will attribute it to God's good providence for you, that (lest all these glories might elevate you too much) he hath suffered (though not made) such a scruple to keep you under his rod, who best knows we have more need of bits than spurs. Thus 'valeant ista amara; ad Tartaros eat melancholia!' "Your sovereign,
"Endorsed in the hand of Robert Cecil :- A copy of her majesty's letter, lest you cannot read it,' then in lord Mountjoye's hand, 'received in January, at Arbracken.""
It is by lady Southwell, one of queen Elizabeth's ladies immediately about her person, that the melancholy marvels attending her death are recorded. This narrative is still in existence in the original MSS. the costume of place, time, and diurnal routine, render it a precious document. After making every allowance for the marvellousness of the writer, it evidently depicts the departure of a person unsettled in religion, and uneasy in conscience.
1 The deceiver was, in reality, passionately in love with Penelope, lady Rich, the beautiful sister of Essex.
? It seems the letter was an autograph, but so illegible, being written but a few weeks before the queen's death, that her secretary was obliged to copy it that its sense might be comprehended.
3 It is at Stonyhurst, endorsed by the hands of Persons. "The relation of the lady Southwell of the late Queen's) death, po. Aprilis, 1607."