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consciences by administering oaths. This, assuredly, was a more likely mode of challenging the question of its legality, than the recording of it on the chancery roll. At a subsequent period, indeed, when Elizabeth re-issued a similar commission, a man slew a pursuivant who with a warrant from the commissioners entered and searched his house, and the man was discharged from the bar by the judges of assize, on the ground that the warrant was illegal.*
But whilst the queen was thus strenuous in asserting her supremacy without bounds, the puritans became more jealous of the right of private judgment and extemporaneous prayer,—the commons of the exercise of their privileges. An attempt was made at the close of 1584, in the house of commons, by doctor Turner, a puritan, to introduce a book of common prayer, drawn up by the ministers of that sect, and containing a summary of their discipline. The book would appear to bind to a specific form of prayer, but there was a rule in the rubrick allowing the minister, at his discretion, to use the form set down, or pray as God should move him." It was rejected; but the puritans succeeded in wringing from archbishop Whitgift, chiefly through the power of Leicester, a conference at Lambeth, to argue the question between them and the church. Sparke and Travers were deputed to vindicate the tenets of the puritans, and more particularly their objections to the book of common prayer. They made five objections: to the reading of the apocryphal writings; to the manner of baptism; to private communion; to the apparel; and to the allowing of an inefficient ministry, non-residence, and pluralities. The assessors of the privy council were Leicester, Grey, and Walsingham. The two champions of puritanism maintained a four hours' disputation: in the opinion of Leicester they had the advantage§; according to the ecclesiastical historians of the adverse
Fourth Inst. 42 Eliz.
+ Coll. Ec. Hist.
Carte, Gen. Hist. book xix.
party they were confuted and convinced*; in point of fact, they continued non-conformists to their death.† The probability is, that the conference ended leaving the convictions of both parties as it found them, or rooted more firmly. Private meditation may enlighten, -in a public dispute the object is not truth but victory.
The house of commons at the same time vindicated the privileges of its members against subpoenas from the courts of chancery and star-chamber. If its independence and practical operation were borne down by the despotic temper of Elizabeth, the energy of her character and the skill with which she obtained popularity, by flattering the religious and other prejudices of the common people, still its vitality was from time to time asserted and preserved.
The penal laws against Roman catholics were at the same time so sharpened and multiplied by fresh enactments, and by the employment of spies and informers, those worst instruments used by the emperors in the worst days of Rome, as to render it impossible for catholics to live under them in safety. False denunciations and forged letters subjected the most conspicuous to examinations before the privy council, deprivation of rights, or committal to the Tower.
The desperate plots of foreign emissaries and religious fanatics against the life of Elizabeth would palliate, if not excuse, the severity of her laws against Roman catholics, if her own intolerance had not so great a share in provoking and producing them. These successive conspiracies are so linked with the captivity and execution of Mary queen of Scots, that both should be passed conjointly in review.
The massacre of St. Bartholomew, whilst it produced no interruption of political amity and diplomatic politeness between Elizabeth and Charles IX., and but a brief suspension of the negotiation of marriage between her and the duke of Alençon, sealed the doom of Mary
queen of Scots. The sudden escape of deadly intention towards that ill-fated princess, from lords of the council and the bishop of London, has been noticed in its place. Some analogy exists between the two crimes. In the execution of the queen of Scots, as in the massacre of the huguenots, the project of destruction floated in the minds of the respective authors for a series of years. If Elizabeth marked out but one victim, she cherished her cruel purpose for a longer period than Catherine of Medicis, and she executed it with more ostentatious hypocrisy. She avowed, indeed, as early as 1563, the melancholy ambition of rivalling that false and cruel woman in her own arts. *
It is most probable that the massacre of St. Bartholomew would have figured among the charges against the queen of Scots when she was interrogated by Sadler, Wilson, and Bromley, if it had then taken place. When it did take place, very soon after, it was visited upon with an absurdity of wrong which excites pity and disgust. It was recollected by her gaolers, when the news enlightened them, that she had been more than usually cheerful on St. Bartholomew's eve: they reported this suspicious fact to Elizabeth's council, and Mary was in consequence more strictly confined.†
The idea of the queen of Scots' escape haunted and tormented the imagination of Elizabeth. Her sensations towards Mary appear to have been strangely compounded of jealousy, hatred, and fear. She thought that lord Shrewsbury, the gaoler, and lord Burleigh, the enemy of the queen of Scots, could not escape her fascinations. Burleigh went to Buxton for the benefit of the waters, met the queen of Scots there, fell under the suspicion of Elizabeth, and had some difficulty in vindicating himself, by proving his hostility to the captive syren.‡
"La royne d'Angleterre dist pour conclusion (in reference to the questions of Havre and Calais), au secrétaire Robertet, qu'elle était Anglaise et la royne de France Florentine, et que l'on verrait laquelle saurait mieux mener ses affaires à chef."-Letter of the Spanish Ambassador Perrenot, dated June 1563, in Mém. de Condé.
+ Dépeches de la Mothe-Fénélon, cited by Carte. Lodge's Illust. ii. 131.
Shrewsbury writes to Elizabeth in the same strain. Yet both had given her pledges of their fidelity in their usage of her victim. Shrewsbury, the bearer of one of the most illustrious historic names of his country, tarnished it by accepting a duty necessarily degrading, and, by the harsh, if not inhuman, spirit in which he appears to have exercised it, odious.
He declares, in a letter to Elizabeth, that if his unhappy prisoner should attempt to escape, "the peril should be hers * a declaration assuredly little becoming the descendant of the great and gallant Talbot. The earl alone of his family had changed the catholic for the reformed faith.+ He did little credit to his conversion; but at the same time he gained so little by it, that it must have been sincere. It is hard to determine which was the most unhappy in the earl's sad household, himself, his countess, or his captive. Female jealousy and private scandal between the countess and the queen of Scots, the responsibility of his charge, the suspicions of Elizabeth, the wasting of his fortune from the inadequacy of his allowance, the squabbles fomented by Elizabeth between him, his wife, and his tenants, harassed him to such a degree, that he wished himself in his grave. §
It would be tedious, and, perhaps, impossible, within the compass of these pages, to pursue the complicated train of hollow negotiation and deceitful intrigue between Elizabeth and the queen of Scots. Both, doubtless, were insincere. There is on the side of Elizabeth the harsh hypocrisy of superior and absolute power; on the side of Mary, disguised hatred, with promises of devoted gratitude which she had no intention to keep. But the one dissembled from a throne, the other from a prison. The basest artifices were practised by the grave statesmen of the court of Elizabeth to entrap the queen of Scots into some avowal which could be turned to her own destruction. "Her majesty would have you tempt
* Lodge's Illust. ii. 96.
+ Letter of Gilbert Talbot, Lodge's Illust. ii. 102.
iSee Letter of Mary Queen of Scots to Elizabeth, App. M.
her patience to provoke her to answer somewhat," says the great lord Burleigh to the proud earl of Shrewsbury.* Forged letters and false confidants were employed against her for the same purpose, but without success. Up to Babington's conspiracy, there was no pretence for charging her with being accessary to any of the plots formed against the life of Elizabeth.
The first real design against the queen's life appears to have been formed in mere madness. It took place in 1583. John Somerville, a gentleman of Warwickshire, inflamed, if Dugdale + may be credited, by "popish books," and "seminary priests," proceeded to London breathing fury against protestants, drew his sword upon one or two whom he met on his way, was taken up, and confessed that he was going to court for the purpose of killing the queen. A gentleman, named Arden, of the same county, father-in-law of Somerville, with his wife and daughter, and a priest named Hall, were taken up and convicted as accessaries with Somerville the principal. Arden had spoken disparagingly of the character of Leicester, his neighbour, at Kenilworth, and opposed his interests or wishes in Warwickshire. He was found guilty and executed, on the confession of the priest Hall, who was supposed to have been suborned by Leicester.‡ The favourite's vengeance being thus satiated, a pardon was granted to the priest and the women. Somerville confessed his crime; but escaped the scaffold, by strangling himself in prison.
In the next year (1584), the system of spies, informers, forged letters, and intercepted correspondence, genuine or fabricated, was carried to its utmost height. Spurious letters, bearing the name of the queen of Scots, or of some catholic exile, were introduced into the houses of catholics, in order to discover, not their designs alone, but their sentiments, and to implicate
* Lodge's Illust. ii. 72.
+ History of Warwickshire.
Camd. Ann. Speed's account is different from Camden's, but the latter is of course better authority. Where religion, politics, or queen Elizabeth are concerned, the honest chronicler writes in a passion, with undiscerning credulity.