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Elizabeth page 10

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It was pretended that the same dangerous spirit existed in the Roman Catholics of this country, and Parliament was called upon to pass an act extending the oath of supremacy to all such subjects. Before, it had been confined to such only as being heirs, holding under the crown, sued out the livery of their lands, or who sought appointments or preferment in Church or State. It was now not only sought to impose it on all persons, but to make its first refusal punishable by premunire, its second by death. So severe a law, had it passed, and been carried with any considerable rigour into effect, would have revived the dreadful persecutions of the late reign. The bill was violently opposed, especially by Viscount Montague in the peers. He contended that the Papists had created no disturbance; that they neither preached, disputed, nor disobeyed the queen, and that such compulsion could only create hypocrites, or rouse the resentful ink enemies. The bill passed eventually, though shorn o much of its mischief, yet still extending its liability to members of the House of Commons, schoolmasters private tutors, attorneys, and to all persons who had held office in the Church or any ecclesiastical court during the three past years, who should hereafter seek such office or who should disapprove of the established worship, or attend mass publicly or privately. Members of the House of Commons, schoolmasters, or attorneys, could only have the oath tendered once, so that they could only be fined and imprisoned; but all others, if not peers, were liable on refusal to death.

After so barbarous a law, the reformed Church had little cause to boast of its advance in toleration over its opponents; and Convocation equalled Parliament in the intolerant character of its proceedings. It new-modelled the articles of the Church, making them thirty-nine, as they still remain; but, instead of leaving them as matters of voluntary acceptance, they decreed that any one openly declaring his dissent from them, or attempting to bring them into discredit, should, for the first offence, pay a fine of 100 marks, 400 for the second, and for the third should forfeit the whole of his possessions, and be imprisoned for life. But the Privy Council disallowed of this decree, which, indeed, was wholly unnecessary to place the Catholics under the foot of the law, for the oath of supremacy did that effectually.

Convocation having voted the queen a subsidy of six shillings in the pound, payable in three years, Parliament was prorogued.

Meantime affairs in France had been anything but satisfactory. The Huguenot chiefs had promised Elizabeth, as the price of her assistance, the restoration of Calais. Elizabeth, on her part, ordered the Earl of Warwick not to advance with his troops beyond the wails of Ham; and when Coligny reduced the principal towns of Normandy, he gave up their plunder to his German auxiliaries, and, instead of awarding any share to the English, complained loudly of the neutrality of Warwick's troops, and the more so when he saw the Duke of Guise preparing to lay siege to Orleans, But Guise was assassinated by Poltrot, a deserter from the Huguenot army, and this circumstance produced a great change amongst the belligerents on both sides. The Catholics were afraid of the English uniting with Coligny, and gaining still greater advantages in Normandy; and, on the other hand, Conde was anxious to make peace, and secure the position in the French Government which Guise had held. A peace was accordingly concluded on the 6th of March, in which freedom for the exercise of their religion was conceded to the Huguenots in every town of France, Paris excepted; and the Huguenots, in return, promised to support the Government.

Elizabeth, in her anger at this treaty, made without any reference to her, appeared to abandon her own shrewd sense. Though the French Government offered to renew the treaty of Cateau, to restore Calais at the stipulated time, Havre being of course surrendered, and to repay her all the sums advanced to the Huguenots, she refused, and declared that she would maintain Havre against the whole realm of France. But when she saw that the two parties were united to drive the English troops out of France, she thought better of it. She dispatched Throckmorton to act for her, in conjunction with Sir Thomas Smith, her ambassador. But Throckmorton arrived too late. The united parties were now pretty secure of the surrender of Havre, and, as Throckmorton's intrigues in France were notorious, to prevent a repetition of them, they seized him on pretence of having no proper credentials, and deferred audience to Sir Thomas Smith from day to day, whilst they pushed on the siege.

To prevent insurrection, or co-operation with the French outside, Warwick had expelled most of the native inhabitants from Havre. He had about 5,000 men with him, and during the siege Sir Hugh Paulet threw in a reinforcement of about 800 more. Elizabeth had now the mortification to see her old allies taking the command against her. Montmorency, the constable, had the chief command; and Conde, who had been the principal means of leading her into the war, served under him. Coligny, who had no faith in the perfidious Catherine de Medici, maintained a neutrality. Catherine herself pushed on the siege with all her energy. She entered the besieging camp, carrying with her the young king, her son, and summoning all liege Frenchmen to the contest. During the months of May and June the siege was conducted with great spirit, and the town was defended with equal bravery. In July a grand assault was made upon it with 3,000 men, but they were beaten back with a loss of 400 of their soldiers. On the 27th of the same month a fresh assault was made, which was as stoutly resisted. But the French had now gathered to the siege in immense numbers. It was of the highest importance to regain the town, which commanded the whole traffic to Rouen, Paris, and a vast extent of country; and the besiegers cut passages for the water in the marshes, and made the approaches to the town more passable, The batteries were now brought close under the wall, and breaches were at length made in it. To add to the extremity of the English, pestilence broke out, and, with the heat of summer, swept away the inhabitants by thousands. The streets were filled with the dead. The enemy cut off the supply of fresh water, and there was a failure of provisions.

It was clear that the place could not hold out long, yet the English manned the walls, defended the breaches, and, till the whole garrison was reduced to less than 1,500 men, gave no sign of surrender. The constable made the first proposals for a capitulation, which Warwick agreed to accept; but such was the fury of the French soldiers, or, rather, the rabble collected from all quarters to the siege, that, in spite of the truce, they fired on the besieged repeatedly, and shot the Earl of Warwick, as he stood in a breach in hose and doublet, through the thigh, with an arquebuse. The next day the capitulation was signed, the garrison and people of the town being allowed to retire within six days, with all their effects. The chief marshal, Edward Randall, caused the sick to be carried on board, that they might not be left to the mercy of the French, and himself lent a helping hand. But the infected troops and people carried out the plague with them; it spread in various parts of England, and raged excessively in London. The inns of court were closed; those who could fled into the country. To the plague was added scarcity of money and of provisions. There were earthquakes in Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, and other places; terrific thunders and lightnings - and all these terrors were attributed by the Papists to the heresies which were in the ascendant.

Thus terminated Elizabeth's demonstration in favour of the Huguenots. She contemplated the humiliating result with indignation, which she was unable to conceal even in the presence of Castelnau, the French ambassador. At one moment she declared that she would not consent to peace, at another she vowed that she would make her commissioners pay with their heads for offering to accept conditions which were gall to her haughty spirit. But there was no alternative. She first attempted to compel the French court to liberate Throckmorton, by seizing the French envoy De Foix, and offering him in exchange; but the French would not admit that Throckmorton was a duly appointed ambassador, and in retaliation for the seizure of De Foix, they arrested Sir Thomas Smith, and consigned him to the castle of Melun. Elizabeth still held the bonds for 500,000 crowns, or the restoration of Calais, and the hostages; and in the end she submitted to surrender the hostages for the return of Throckmorton, and reduced her claim of 500,000 crowns to one-fourth of that sum. Thus, not only Havre but Calais was virtually resigned, though Elizabeth still claimed to negotiate on that point. The proud English queen was, in fact, most mortifyingly defeated, both in the cabinet and the field. The treaty was signed April 11th, 1564.

This French campaign terminated, Elizabeth turned her attention again to Scotland, and the subject on which she was most anxious was the marriage of the Scottish queen. To Elizabeth, who abhorred the idea of any one ever succeeding her on the throne, it was of much consequence how Mary, her presumptive heir, should wed. If to a foreign prince, it might render the claim on the English throne doubly hazardous. By this time it was pretty clear that Elizabeth herself was resolved to take no partner of her power, and, before entering on her endeavours to provide Mary of Scotland with a husband, we may pass in brief review those offers which she herself had refused.

Philip of Spain, we have already stated, lost no time, on the death of Queen Mary, in offering his hand to Elizabeth. She was flattered by the proposal, the more that, united with Spain, she could have no fear of the power of France, or of its demands on the throne for Mary of Scotland. But she was compelled to admit the representations of her wisest counsellors, that Philip, by his bigotry, had rendered his connection with England odious in the minds of the people; that nothing could convert him to a tolerance of Protestantism; and that, as he stood to her precisely in the same degree of affinity as her father had been to Catherine of Arragon, she could not marry him without admitting that their marriage had been valid, and that of her mother consequently null, and herself illegitimate. She assured the Spanish ambassador that if she ever married she would prefer Philip to any other prince, but that she was totally debarred from such an alliance by Philip's former marriage with her sister. Philip replied, that the Pope's dispensation could at once remove that obstacle; but, as she did not listen to that, he made no long delay, but offered his hand to Isabella of France, who accepted him, by which he rendered the position of Elizabeth still more dangerous, for now France, Spain, and Scotland had a national alliance for the support of Roman Catholicism and the suppression of the Reformed faith.

Her next suitor appeared in the person of Charles, Archduke of Austria, the son of the Emperor Ferdinand, and cousin of Philip. This prince was young, of agreeable person, and of superior talents and accomplishments. Again Elizabeth was much flattered by his addresses, and, again, his power would present a sufficient barrier to

that of France. But then, again, his religion stood in the way: he was a Papist, and of a most Popish family. So much encouragement, however, did Elizabeth give to this proposal, that she declared to Count Elphinstone, the emperor's ambassador, "that of all the illustrious marriages that had been offered to her, there was not one greater or that she affected more than that of the Archduke Charles." She expressed a desire to see him in England, and it was quite expected that he would make his appearance; but it was insisted that he should have a private chapel for the exercise of his own religion, and this was a stumbling-block that could not be got over. Some years hence, however, we shall find him reviving his suit.

Whilst the archduke was still preferring his suit, there arrived another matrimonial ambassador, in the person of John, Duke of Finland. He arrived on the 27th of September, 1559, to solicit the hand of Elizabeth for his brother, Prince Eric, heir-apparent to the throne of Sweden. Eric was a Protestant prince; there could be no objection on that score. He was son of the celebrated Gustavus Vasa. He was of a romantic and excitable character, notorious for his amours at home, and not less so for being an aspirer to the hands of Elizabeth of England, Mary of Scotland, and of a princess of Hesse. John, his brother, was a man of a handsome and princely person, but ambitious and cruel. He came at this time, commissioned by the aged Gustavus, to seek this alliance with the Queen of England. John affected much magnificence, and wherever he went he threw handfuls of money amongst the people, saying, he gave silver, but his brother would give them gold. Elizabeth was evidently greatly charmed with the person and attentions of the handsome Swede, and it soon became rumoured that John was wooing for himself rather than for his brother. Gustavus dying, and Eric just now succeeding to the throne, he grew jealous of John, and recalled him, In the stead of John, who was very capable of trying to supplant his brother, and afterwards did supplant him in the throne, and murdered him, Eric sent Nicholas Guilderstern as his ambassador - who was reported to have brought two ships laden with treasure for the queen, but who really did bring eighteen pied horses, and several chests of bullion - announcing that he was following in person to lay his heart at the feet of the illustrious queen.

Eric was said to be the handsomest man in Europe; he was undoubtedly a man of great accomplishment, a proficient in music, and one of the earliest and best poets of his country, as his poetry still remaining testifies, one of his hymns being yet sung at the execution of criminals. But Elizabeth never had an opportunity of witnessing the attractions of the Swedish monarch; for though she might have liked the flattery of his presence, she dreaded the expense of entertaining him and his suite, though he had sent ample provision for his expenditure. She therefore requested him to wait awhile, and the indignant monarch casting his eyes on a very handsome countrywoman of his own, named Karin or Catherine Mansdotter, the daughter of a corporal, married her, and made her Queen of Sweden. Perhaps he could not have found a princess in Europe equal to her. She made him an admirable wife, comforting him in his imprisonment, and after his death lived with her daughter and son-in-law to a serene old age.

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