Accession of Elizabeth - She abolishes the Papal Worship - Makes Peace with France and Scotland - War of the Scottish Reformation - Elizabeth takes part with the Reformers - Supports them through Cecil - The Siege of Leith - Peace - Mary Queen of Scots leaves France for Scotland - Suitors of Elizabeth - She aids the French Huguenots - Parliament enacts Penal Statutes against the Romanists - The Thirty-nine Articles - Peace with France - Proposals for the Marriage of the Queen of Scots - Elizabeth proposes the Earl of Leicester - Mary marries the Lord Darnley.Pages: <1> 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13
Parliament had assembled on the morning of the 17th of November, unaware of the decease of the queen; but, before noon, Dr. Heath, the Archbishop of York and Lord Chancellor of England, sent a message to the House of Commons, requesting the Speaker, with the knights and burgesses of the Lower House, to attend in the Lords to give their assent in a matter of the utmost importance. On being there assembled, the lord chancellor announced to the united Parliament the demise of Mary, and, though by that event the Commons wore dissolved by the law, as it stood till the reign of William III., he called upon them to combine with the Lords, before taking their departure, for the safety of the country, by proclaiming the Lady Elizabeth the queen of the realm.
"Whatever might have been the fears of any portion of the community as to the recognition of the title of Elizabeth on the plea of illegitimacy, or from suspicion of her religion, that question had long been settled by the flocking of the courtiers of all creeds and characters to Hatfield, where she resided; and now on this announcement there was a loud acclamation from the members of both Houses of "God save Queen Elizabeth! Long may she reign over us!"
Thus the Parliament, before dissolving, gave full and unequivocal recognition of the title of Elizabeth, and all the necessary Acts of the united Houses were completed before twelve o'clock; and the Lords, with the heralds, then entered the Palace of Westminster, and in due form, by blast of trumpet before the hall door, the attention of the public was called, and the new queen was proclaimed as "Elizabeth, by the grace of God, Queen of England, France, and Ireland, defender of the faith, &c." This continuance of the claim on Prance was a sheer absurdity, as by the ancient and invariable law of that kingdom no woman could succeed to the throne; but it took away all real right of complaint against Mary, Queen of Scots, for quartering the arms of England with her own, the aggression being thus made by Elizabeth on the claim of Mary as queen expectant of France.
Proclamation being thus made in Westminster, the young Duke of Norfolk, earl marshal, attended by a number of the peers and prelates, rode into the City, and there, being joined by the lord mayor and aldermen, Elizabeth was proclaimed at the cross in Cheapside, with the same instant and joyful recognition. The people shouted, "God save the Queen!" The bells from all the churches commenced ringing, bonfires were lit, tables were set out at the doors of the wealthy citizens for the multitude, and wine plentifully distributed. Not only was the death of the late queen forgotten in the universal joy, but all the melancholy circumstances of the time, for most melancholy they were. As we have stated, the season was wet and unhealthy. The fires of Smithfield, under the baleful activity of bloody Bonner, were still blazing; the prisons were crammed with fresh victims, and the power of an incensed Providence seemed to darken the country. The dismal seasons had produced famine, and a terrible fever, supposed to be what is now called typhus, of a most malignant kind, was raging through town and country. So much had it thinned the agricultural population that, combined with the disastrous state of the weather, the harvests had in many places rotted on the ground. Many thousands of the people had perished during four months of the autumn, and amongst them great numbers of the clergy, and no less than thirteen bishops. The joyful news which arrested the hand of the persecutor, seemed like light bursting through the clouds, and gave new hope and spirit to the nation.
For two days Elizabeth, as if from due respect to her deceased sister and sovereign, remained quiescent at Hatfield; but thousands of people of all ranks were flocking thither; and on the 19th her Privy Council proceeded thither also, and, after announcing to her joyful and undisputed accession, they proclaimed her with all state before the gates of Hatfield House. They then sat in council with her, and she appointed her own ministers, having, no doubt, made all these arrangements with the man whom she had long marked out for her prime minister, Sir William Cecil. This statesman, of the true diplomatic breed, cool as winter's east wind, troubled with no disturbing imagination, no misleading heats of generosity, but far-seeing and subtle, though ho could never win the confidence of the late queen, though he had bowed humbly, waited long and diligently, and even renounced his religion to win her favour, had soon caught the sagacious eye of Elizabeth, who had an instinctive perception of men able if not, in the truest sense, great. Cecil had for years been her confidential counsellor. By his shrewd and worldly guidance she had shaped her future course; and in appointing her ministers now, she showed by her address to Cecil that it; was for him that she designed the chief post. "I give you," she said, "this charge: That you shall be of my Privy Council, and content yourself to take pains for ma and my realm. This judgment I have of you: that you will not be corrupted by any manner of gift, and that you will be faithful to the State; and that, without respect to my private will, you will give me that counsel which you think best; and if you shall know anything necessary to be declared to me of secrecy, you shall show it to myself only, and assure yourself I will not fail to keep taciturnity therein; and, therefore, herewith I charge you."
Besides Cecil, she named Sir Thomas Parry, her cofferer, Cave, and Rogers, of her Privy Council, Cecil Immediately entered on the duties of her secretary of state, and submitted to her a programme of what was immediately necessary to be done, which she accepted; and thus began that union betwixt Elizabeth and her great minister, which only terminated with his life.
On the 23rd the new queen commenced her progress towards the metropolis, attended by a magnificent throng of nobles, ladies and gentlemen, and a vast concourse of people from London and from the country round. At Highgate she was met by the bishops, who kneeled by the wayside, and offered their allegiance. She received them graciously, and gave them all her hand to kiss, except to Bonner, whom she treated with a marked coldness, on account of his atrocious cruelties: an intimation of her own intentions on the score of religion which must have given great satisfaction to the people. At the foot of Highgate Hill, the lord mayor and his aldermanic brethren, in their scarlet gowns, were waiting to receive her, who conducted her to the Charter House, then the residence of Lord North, where Heath, the chancellor, and the Earls of Derby and Shrewsbury received her. There she remained five days to give time for the necessary preparations, when she proceeded to take up her residence in the Tower, prior to her coronation.
Her procession to the Tower marked at once her popularity and her sense of royal dignity. Vast crowds had assembled to see and to cheer her; and she was surrounded by a prodigious throng of nobles, and gentlemen, and ladies. She rode in a chariot along the Barbican to Cripplegate, where the lord mayor and the civic dignitaries were waiting to receive her. There she mounted a horse, being already attired in a rich riding-dress of purple velvet, with a scarf tied over her shoulder, and attended by the sergeant-at-arms. The lord mayor went before her bearing her sceptre, at his side the garter king-at-arms, and followed by Lord Pembroke, who bore the sword of state before the queen. Next to her majesty rode Lord Robert Dudley, who had already so won her fancy that, though one of those who had endeavoured to thrust her sister and herself from the throne, she had appointed him master of the horse. The Tower guns announced her approach, and on entering that old fortress, she said to those about her, "Some have fallen from being princes of this land to be prisoners in this place; I am raised from being prisoner in this place to be prince of this land. That dejection was a work of God's justice, this advancement is a work of his mercy: as they were to yield, patience for the one, so I must bear myself to God thankful, and to men merciful, for the other."
Elizabeth continued at the Tower till the 5th of December. It was necessary to ascertain how many of the existing Council would go along with her in the changes which she meditated. She soon found that she could not calculate on many of them, and a sort of lesser or confidential council was formed of Cecil, Sadler, Parr, the Marquis of Northampton, Russell, and the Dudleys. Of the old councillors she retained thirteen, who were all professed Papists, though some had only conformed for convenience under the late reign of bigot terror, and she added seven new ones, who all openly professed themselves Protestants. As yet, however, she had not announced those changes which were most likely to try the principles of her councillors; for she kept a show of Popery, and had not touched on the question of the supremacy. Elizabeth had learned caution in her own trials, and she had now at her elbow the very spirit of circumspection itself in Cecil. For the present she continued to attend mass, and witness all the ceremonies of the old religion. She had her sister, the late queen, interred with the solemnities of the Roman ritual; she had mass performed at the funeral of Cardinal Pole, and a solemn dirge and requiem mass for the soul of Charles V.
Yet these things did not deceive the people, and they were made the less doubtful by all prisoners on account of religion being discharged on their own recognisances, and the exiles for the same cause boldly flocking home, and appearing openly at Court. The Papal dignitaries, by their gross want of good policy, soon forced on a more open demonstration of Elizabeth's real feelings. The Pope himself acted the part of a most shallow diplomatist. Instead of waiting to see whether he could not induce the Queen of England to follow in the steps of her sister, he insulted her in a manner which was sure to drive a high-spirited woman to extremities. The conduct of Paul IV., who was now upwards of eighty, can only be regarded as proceeding from ecclesiastical pique, acting on a failing intellect. Elizabeth had sent announcement to all foreign courts of her accession "by hereditary right and the consent of her nation." She assured the Emperor Ferdinand and Philip of Spain that she was desirous to maintain the alliance betwixt the house of Austria and England; to the German princes, and the King of Denmark she owned her attachment to the Reformed faith, and her earnest wish to form a league of union with all Protestant powers. At Rome, her ambassador, Carne, informed the Pope that his new sovereign was resolved to allow liberty of conscience to all her subjects, of whatever creed. This, however, was by no means palatable to his Holiness, for this toleration was, in fact, an avowal of heresy; and he replied that he could not comprehend the hereditary right of one who was not born in lawful wedlock; that the Queen of Scots was the true legitimate descendant of Henry VII.; but that if Elizabeth would submit her claims to his judgment, he would do her all the justice he could.
At home, and to her very face, the same egregious folly and insult were shown. Dr. White, Bishop of Winchester, preached the funeral sermon of the late queen, Elizabeth was present, and it may be supposed that her astonishment and indignation were great to hear one of her subjects haranguing in this style. The sermon was in Latin, but that language was perfectly familiar to the queen. The bishop gave a highly-coloured history of the reign of Queen Mary, and amongst other subjects of eulogium, was especially loud in his praises of her renunciation of Church supremacy. This was a palpable blow at the new queen, who was about to put the oath of supremacy to the prelates, in order to test them; but this was only a beginning. He declared that Paul had forbidden women to speak in the church, and that, therefore, it was not fitting for the church to have a dumb head. He admitted that the present queen was a worthy person, whom they were bound to obey, on the principle that "a living dog was better than a dead lion;" yet qualifying even this left-handed praise by asserting that the dead lion was the more praiseworthy of the two, because "Mary had chosen the better part."
After this display of episcopal rancour and folly, the bishop found himself arrested at the foot of the pulpit stairs, where he continued his infatuated conduct by defying the authority of the sovereign, and threatening to excommunicate her. It is scarcely credible that one short reign of intolerance could so completely have carried back the bishops into the Middle Ages, and led them to act in a manner so utterly inconsistent with a firm but conscientious wisdom in support of their own faith.
Spurred on by these insults, Elizabeth, after haying! kept up the appearance of conformity with the Papal j church for about a month, began to take a decided course. She had had mass regularly performed in her own chapel, but on Christmas Day, Oglethorpe, the Bishop of Carlisle, was preparing to perform high mass in the Royal chapel, when Elizabeth sent to him, commanding him not to elevate the host. Oglethorpe replied that he could not obey the command; that his life was the queen's, but his conscience was his own. Elizabeth sat quietly during the reading of the gospels, but that being concluded, when every one expected to see her make the usual offering, she rose and quitted the chapel with all her train. She followed this up by issuing an order forbidding any one to preach without Royal licence, and stopped all preaching whatever at that political pulpit, St. Paul's Cross. She probably gave Heath, the lord chancellor, a hint, through Cecil, to retire, for he resigned the seals, which were immediately transferred to Sir Nicholas Bacon.
The bishops, alarmed at the indications of a change in the public form of religion, met in London, and discussed the question, whether they could conscientiously assist at the coronation of a princess who appeared to be preparing for the subversion of the established hierarchy, and decided that they could not. Possibly, confiding in the apparent resolution of their body to maintain their present ecclesiastical status, they imagined that they should render the legal performance of the coronation impossible; but if so, they had little idea of the spirit they had to deal with. Elizabeth had all the ability, the self-will, and sense of her authority, which distinguished her father, and she soon made them feel it. They had now engaged in a contest with the Crown in which they were certain of defeat, for the people showed such attachment to their new queen, as would bear her through any opposition which the prelates could create. She found means to detach one single bishop from the general ranks, Oglethorpe of Carlisle, who had dared before to oppose her, and who must soon after have again joined his brethren in refusing the oath of supremacy, for we are told that all refused it except Kitchen, of Landaff.
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