Изображения страниц

hands over her brow, is seriously set forth as her symbolical intimation that her successor was to be a crowned king!

"The queen kept her bed fifteen days," continues lady Southwell," besides the three days she sat upon a stool; and, one day, when, being pulled up by force, she obstinately stood on her feet for fifteen hours. When she was near her end, the council sent to her the archbishop of Canterbury and other prelates, at the sight of whom she was much offended, cholericly rating them, "bidding them be packing," saying, "she was no atheist, but she knew full well they were but hedge-priests." That Elizabeth, in the aberration of delirium or the petulance of sickness, might have used such a speech is possible; but her reluctance to receive spiritual assistance from the hierarchy of her own church is not mentioned by the French ambassador; and Carey assures us, "that, about six at night, she made signs for the archbishop of Canterbury and her chaplains to come to her. At which time," says he, "I went in with them, and sat upon my knees, full of tears to see that heavy sight. Her majesty lay upon her back, with one hand in the bed, and the other without. The bishop kneeled down by her, and examined her first of her faith; and she so punctually answered all his several questions by lifting up her eyes and holding up her hand, as it was a comfort to all the beholders. Then the good man told her plainly what she was, and what she was to come to, and, though she had been long a great queen here upon earth, yet shortly she was to yield an account of her stewardship to the great King of kings." The following striking anecdote is related by the learned author of "L'Art de Verifier les Dates," in connexion with this memorable scene; but it is scarcely in accordance with Carey's record of the archbishop's apostolical address to the queen, and still less with the fact that she was speechless. The incident must, however, be related, because it is deeply interesting, if true:


"The archbishop of Canterbury," says our authority, "who assisted her last moments with his consolations, said to her, Madam, you ought to hope much in the mercy of God. Your piety, your zeal, and the admirable work of the Reformation, which you have happily established, afford great grounds of confidence for you.' My lord,' replied the queen, the crown which I have borne so long


has given enough of vanity in my time. I beseech you not to augment it in this hour, when I am so near my death.""

"After this," continues Carey, "he began to pray, and all that were by did answer him. After he had continued long in prayer, the old man's knees were weary: he blessed her, and meant to rise and leave her. The queen made a sign with her hand. My sister Scrope, knowing her meaning, told the bishop, the queen desired he would pray still. He did so for a long half-hour after, and then thought to leave her." Elizabeth, speechless, agonizing, and aware of the utter inefficiency of the aid of the physician or the nurse, was eager now for spiritual medicine. She had tasted, in that dark hour, of the waters of life, and the thirst of the immortal spirit was not lightly satiated-the weakness of the dissolving tabernacle of feeble clay was forgotten. She made, a second time, a sign to have the archbishop continue in prayer. He did so for half an hour more, with earnest cries to God for her soul's health, which he uttered with that fervency of spirit that the queen, to all our sight, much rejoiced thereat," continues the eye-witness of this impressive scene, "and gave testimony to us all of her Christian and comfortable end. By this time it grew late, and every one departed, all but the women who attended her."

"This," pursues he, "that I heard with my ears, and did see with mine eyes, I thought it my duty to set down, and to affirm it for a truth upon the faith of a Christian, because I know there have been many false lies reported of the end and death of that good lady." As those of a trusted and beloved kinsman of Elizabeth, the statements of sir Robert Carey are doubtless of great importance. Few, indeed, of those, who are admitted to visit the death-beds of sovereigns have left such graphic records of their last hours. It is melancholy to add, that there is every reason to believe, that, while death was thus dealing with the aged queen, this very Carey and his sister, lady Scrope, were intently watching the ebbing-tide of life for the purpose of being the first to hail the impatient king of Scots as her successor.

The spirit of the mighty Elizabeth, after all, passed away so quietly, that the vigilance of the self-interested spies, by whom she was surrounded, was baffled, and no one knew the moment of her departure. Exhausted by Autobiography of sir Robert Carey, earl of Monmouth.

her devotions, she had, after the archbishop left her, sunk into a deep sleep, from which she never awoke; and, about three in the morning, it was discovered that she had ceased to breathe. Lady Scrope gave the first intelligence of this fact, by silently dropping a sapphire ring to her brother, who was lurking beneath the windows of the chamber of death at Richmond Palace. This ring, long after known in court tradition as the "blue ring," had been confided to lady Scrope by James, as a certain signal which was to announce the decease of the queen. Sir Robert Carey caught the token, fraught with the destiny of the island empire, and departed, at fiery speed, to announce the tidings in Scotland.' His adventures belong to another portion of this work.

Carey gives us a very different account of his proceedings, in his autobiography. He affirms that, after he had assisted at the last prayers for his dying mistress, he returned to his lodging, leaving word with one in the cofferer's chamber to call him if it was thought the queen would die, and that he gave the porter an angel to let him in at any time when he called. Early on the Thursday morning, the sentinel he had left in the cofferer's chamber brought him word that the queen was dead. "I rose," says he, "and made all the haste to the gate to get in. I was answered, I could not enter-all the lords of the council having been there, and commanded that none should go in or out, but by warrant from them. At the very instant one of the council, the comptroller, asked if I were at the gate. I answered, Yes,' and desired to know how the queen did; he answered, Pretty well." When Carey was admitted, he found all the ladies in the cofferer's chamber weeping bitterly-a more touching tribute, perhaps, to the memory of their royal mistress, than all the pompous and elaborate lamentations that the poets and poetasters of the age laboured to bestow on her, in illustration of the grief which was supposed to pervade all hearts throughout the realm at her decease.


This great female sovereign died in the seventieth year of her age, and the forty-fourth of her reign. She was born on the day celebrated as the nativity of the Virgin Mary,

'Brydges' Peers of king James, p. 413.

2 Memoirs of Robert Carey, earl of Monmouth, p. 182.

and she died, March 24th, on the eve of the festival of the annunciation, called Lady-day. Among the complimentary epitaphs which where composed for her, and hung up in many churches, was one ending with the following couplet:

"She is, she was—what can there more be said ?
On earth the first, in heaven the second maid.”

It is stated by lady Southwell, that directions were left by Elizabeth that she should not be embalmed; but Cecil gave orders to her surgeon to open her.

"Now, the queen's body being cered up," continues lady Southwell, "was brought by water to Whitehall, where, being watched every night by six several ladies, myself that night watching as one of them, and being all in our places about the corpse, which was fast nailed up in a board coffin, with leaves of lead covered with velvet, her body burst with such a crack that it splitted the wood, lead, and cere-cloth, whereupon, the next day, she was fain to be new trimmed up." The council were displeased that their orders, in coincidence with the dying request of their royal mistress, should be disobeyed through the malapert contradiction of Cecil, regarding the last duties to her corpse; but no one dared to rebuke him publicly or officially.

Queen Elizabeth was most royally interred in Westminster Abbey, on the 28th of April, 1603; "at which time,” says old Stowe, "the city of Westminster was surcharged with multitudes of all sorts of people, in the streets, houses, windows, leads, and gutters, who came to see the obsequy; and when they beheld her statue, or effigy, lying on the coffin, set forth in royal robes, having a crown upon the head thereof, and a ball and sceptre in either hand, there was such a general sighing, groaning, and weeping, as the like hath not been seen or known in the memory of man, neither doth any history mention any people, time, or state, to make like lamentation for the death of their sovereign."2

1 She seems to have been embalmed, by the mention of cering and cerecloth, probably as it was against her wish, hurriedly and ineffectually, which occasioned the natural explosion of gas, that scared lady Southwell into a supernatural terror.

2 The waxen effigies of the great, that were carried on their coffins, were meant to represent the persons themselves. It was the fashion, in the olden time, to deck the corpse in gala array, and carry it to the church uncovered, as we may see even by Shakespeare's allusions, “They bore him bare-faced on the bier."

The funereal statue, which, by its close resemblance to their deceased sovereign, moved the sensibility of the loyal and excitable portion of the spectators at her obsequies, in this powerful manner, was no other, gentle reader, than the faded wax-work effigy of queen Elizabeth, preserved in that little mysterious cell of Westminster Abbey, called the waxwork chamber, for the sight of which an additional sixpence was formerly extorted from the visitors to that venerable fane. As the waxwork chamber is now closed to the public for ever, and those quaint memorials of the royal and illustrious dead are never more to excite the mirth, the wonder, or terror, of the unsophisticated sight-seers of London again, a description of the posthumous figure of Elizabeth, which, tradition affirms, was modelled from her person, after death, and is clad in garments from her royal wardrobe, of the precise fashion she wore in life, may prove an acceptable addition to her personal biography.

There can be little doubt that such as the maiden monarch appeared in the last year of her life and reign, we behold a striking fac-simile in this curious work of art.

It is well known that Elizabeth caused the die of the last gold coin, that was struck with the likeness of her timebroken profile, to be destroyed, in her indignation at its ugliness, and could she have seen the grim posthumous representation of her faded glories, that was borne upon her bier, it is probable that she would have struggled to burst her cere-cloths and her leaden coffin to demolish it. Yet there are the remains of considerable beauty and much majesty to be traced in this very statue. It has the high aristocratic, yet delicately modelled features, with which we are familiar, in the coins and pictures of the last of the Tudors. There is even a likeness of Anne Boleyn, discernible in the contour of the face, especially in the broad, powerful forehead and high cheek-bones. The backward carriage of the head is peculiarly indicative of Elizabeth, in all her latter portraits, and she holds the sceptre and the ball, with the characteristic haughtiness of one fully aware of the full importance of those emblems of regality. Her height is commanding, and her figure stately and symmetrical. She is attired in her royal robes-a kirtle and boddice of very rich crimson satin, embroidered all over with silver; the front of the skirt is wrought in a bold coral pat

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »