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"Her majesty," says lady Southwell, "being in very good health one day, sir John Stanhope, vice-chamberlain, and sir Robert Cecil's dependent and familiar, came and presented her majesty with a piece of gold, of the bigness of an angel, full of characters, which he said an old woman in Wales had bequeathed to her (the queen) on her deathbed, and thereupon he discoursed how the said testatrix, by virtue of the piece of gold, lived to the age of 120 years, and in that age having all her body withered and consumed, and wanting nature to nourish her she died, commanding the said piece of gold to be carefully sent to her majesty, alleging further, that as long as she wore it on her body she could not die. The queen in confidence took the said gold, and hung it about her neck." This fine story has crept very widely into history, and even into ambassadors' despatches; but the genealogy of the magic piece of gold, has never before been duly defined. There can be little doubt, that Elizabeth and her minister were absurd enough to accept the talisman, but its adoption was followed by a general breaking up of her constitution, instead of its renewal.
Though she became not suddenly sick, yet she daily decreased of her rest and feeding, and within fifteen days," continues lady Southwell, "she fell downright ill, and the cause being wondered at by my lady Scrope, with whom she was very private and confidant, being her near kinswoman, her majesty told her, (commanding her to conceal the same), that she saw one night her own body exceedingly lean and fearful in a light of fire.' This vision was at Whitehall, a little before she departed for Richmond, and was testified by another lady, who was one of the nearest about her person, of whom the queen demanded, 'Whether she was not wont to see sights in the night?' telling her of the bright flame she had seen.' This is a common deception of the sight, in a highly vitiated state of bile; but, in the commencement of the 17th century, educated individuals were as ignorant of physiology as infants of three years old of the present day; these imaginative vagaries are very precious, as proofs of the gradual progress of knowledge, and its best result, wisdom. The next anecdote, however, goes far beyond all our present discoveries in optics :
"Afterwards, in the melancholy of her sickness, she desired to see a true looking-glass, which in twenty years
before she had not seen, but only such a one as on purpose was made to deceive her sight, which true looking-glass being brought her, she presently fell exclaiming at all those flatterers which had so much commended her, and they durst not after come into her presence." Her attendants had doubtless left off painting her, and she happened to see her natural face in the glass.
A fearful complication of complaints had settled on the queen, and began to draw visibly to a climax. She suffered greatly with the gout in her hands and fingers, but was never heard to complain of what she felt in the way of personal pain, but continued to talk of progresses and festivities, as though she expected her days to be prolonged through years to come.
Early in the new year 1603, Elizabeth honoured the French ambassador, by standing godmother to his infant daughter, but performed this office by proxy, as it would scarcely have been consistent with her absolute prohibition of the rites of the church of Rome, if she had assisted in person at a Roman-catholic ceremonial. It is quaintly stated, in the contemporary record, "that the queen christened the French ambassador's daughter by her deputy, the lady marquesse, the countess of Worcester, and the lordadmiral, being her assistants."
On the 14th of January, the queen having sickened two days before of a cold, and being forewarned by Dee, who retained his mysterious influence over her mind to the last, to beware of Whitehall, removed to Richmond, which she said, "was the warm winter-box to shelter her old age." The morning before she departed, her kinsman, the lord-admiral coming to her to receive her orders, partly concerning the removal and partly touching other matters, she fell into some speech touching the succession, and then told him, "that her throne had always been the throne of kings, and none but her next heir of blood and descent should succeed." This, confirmed as it is by her remark to Sully, "that the king of Scotland would hereafter become king of Great Britain," proves, that Elizabeth, however jealous she might be of James during her life, had no wish to entail the legacy of a civil war on her people, by changing the legitimate order of the succession. Her displeasure against
Cotton MS. Titus, c. vii. folio 46.
"The queen's last sickness and death.
those, who might pretend to set up a rival claim to the elder line, was sufficiently indicated by the acrimonious manner in which she named the son of lady Katharine Gray, and her imprisonment of the innocent lady Arabella Stuart, at Sheriff Hutton. Elizabeth removed, on a wet, stormy day, to Richmond; but when she first arrived, the change of air appeared to have had a salutary effect, for she was well amended of her cold; but, on the 28th of February, she began to sicken again.
All contemporary writers bear witness to the increased dejection of her mind, after visiting her dying kinswoman, the countess of Nottingham; but the particulars of that visit rest on historical tradition only. It is said that the countess, pressed in conscience on account of her detention of the ring, which Essex had sent to the queen as an appeal to her mercy, could not die in peace until she had revealed the truth to her majesty, and craved her pardon. But Elizabeth, in a transport of mingled grief and fury, shook, or, as others have said, struck the dying penitent in her bed, with these words, "God may forgive you, but I never can!"1
The death-bed confession of the countess of Nottingham gave a rude shock to the fast-ebbing sands of the sorrowstricken queen. Her distress on that occasion, though the circumstances which caused it were not generally known, till more than a century afterwards, is mentioned by De Beaumont, the French ambassador, in a letter to Monsieur de Villeroy, in which he informs him, "that, having received the letter from the king his master, he requested an audience of the queen in order to present it, but she desired to be excused on account of the death of the countess of Nottingham, for which she had wept extremely, and shewn
an uncommon concern."
It is almost a fearful task to trace the passage of the mighty Elizabeth through the "dark valley of the shadow of death." Many have been dazzled with the splendour of her life, but few, even of her most ardent admirers, would wish their last end might be like hers.
Robert Carey, afterwards earl of Monmouth, was admitted to the chamber of his royal kinswoman during her last illness, and has left the following pathetic record of
the state in which he found her :
1 Lady Elizabeth Spelman's Narrative in Life of Carey, earl of Monmouth. De Maurier's Memoirs of Holland.
"When I came to court," says he, "I found the queen ill-disposed, and she kept her inner lodging; yet, hearing of my arrival, she sent for me. I found her in one of her withdrawing-chambers, sitting low upon her cushions. She called me to her; I kissed her hand, and told her it was my chiefest happiness to see her in safety and in health, which I wished might long continue. She took me by the hand, and wrung it hard, and said, 'No, Robin, I am not well, and then discoursed to me of her indisposition, and that her heart had been sad and heavy for ten or twelve days, and in her discourse she fetched not so few as forty or fifty great sighs. I was grieved, at the first, to see her in this plight, for in all my lifetime before, I never saw her fetch a sigh, but when the queen of Scots was beheaded. Then, upon my knowledge, she shed many sighs and tears, manifesting her innocence that she never gave consent to the death of that queen. I used the best words I could to persuade her from this melancholy humour, but I found it was too deep-rooted in her heart, and hardly to be removed. This was upon a Saturday night, and she gave command that the great closet should be prepared for her to go to chapel the next morning. The next day, all things being in readiness, we long expected her coming,
"After eleven o'clock, one of the grooms (of the chambers) came out, and bade make ready for the private closet, for she would not go to the great. There we stayed long for her coming; but at the last she had cushions laid for her in the privy-chamber, hard by the closet door, and there she heard the service. From that day forward she grew worse and worse; she remained upon her cushions four days and nights at the least. All about her could not persuade her either to take any sustenance, or to go to bed."
Beaumont, the French ambassador, affords a yet more gloomy picture of the sufferings of mind and body, which rendered the progress of the "dreaded and dreadful Elizabeth" to the tomb, an awful lesson on the vanity of all earthly distinctions and glories in the closing stage of life, when nothing but the witness of a good conscience, and a holy reliance on the mercy of a Redeemer's love, can enable shrinking nature to contemplate, with hope and comfort, the dissolution of its earthly tabernacle.
On the 19th of March, De Beaumont informs the 1 Autobiography of Carey, earl of Monmouth, edited by the earl of Cork.
king, his master, "that queen Elizabeth had been very much indisposed for the last fourteen days, having scarcely slept at all during that period, and eaten much less than usual, being seized with such a restlessness, that, though she had no decided fever, she felt a great heat in her stomach, and a continual thirst, which obliged her every moment to take something to abate it, and to prevent the phlegm, with which she was sometimes oppressed, from choking her. Some ascribed her disorder to her uneasiness with regard to lady Arabella Stuart; others, to her having been obliged, by her council, to grant a pardon to her Irish rebel, Tyrone. Many were of opinion that her distress of mind was caused by the death of Essex; but all agreed, that, before her illness became serious, she discovered an unusual melancholy, both in her countenance and manner." "The queen,' says another contemporary, "had fallen into a state of moping, sighing, and weeping melancholy; and being asked, by her attendants; Whether she had any secret cause of grief?' she replied, that she knew of nothing in this world worthy of troubling her."" She was obstinate in refusing everything prescribed by her physicians.
Three days after, Beaumont wrote, "that the queen of England had been somewhat better the day before, but was that day worse, and so full of chagrin, and so weary of life, that, notwithstanding all the entreaties of her councillors and physicians for her to take the proper medicine and means necessary for her relief, she refused everything."
"The queen grew worse and worse," says her kinsman, sir Robert Carey,' "because she would be so-none about her being able to persuade her to go to bed." A general report of her death prevailed, not only in her own dominions, but on the Continent, as we find by the reports of De Beaumont, the French ambassador.
On Wednesday, the lord-admiral was sent for, as the person who possessed the most influence with the queen; he was one of her nearest surviving kinsmen, being the firstcousin of queen Anne, Boleyn, whose mother, the lady Elizabeth Howard, was his father's sister. He had also married a Carey, the grand-daughter of the queen's aunt, Mary Boleyn. He was then in great affliction for the death of his lady, and had retired from the court, to indulge his 1 Autobiography of Carey, earl of Monmouth.