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Elizabeth page 2


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This difficulty being removed, and the celebrated astrologer, Dr. Dee, having been consulted by the queen to point out a propitious day for the coronation, Sunday, the 15th of January, was fixed for that purpose.

On the 14th she made her procession, according to custom, from the Tower to Westminster; and the bishops might learn the uselessness of their opposition from the vast concourse of people of all ranks who filled the streets to witness the scene, and to make the air ring with their acclamations. Elizabeth appeared to do her utmost to make herself popular. She paid great attention to all the pageants which were prepared in the different streets through which she passed, and to all the speeches recited, and made many condescending little speeches of her own. The meanest person was suffered to address her, and she carried a branch of rosemary, given to her by a poor woman at Fleet Bridge, all the way to Westminster. She was greatly delighted to hear a man in the crowd say he remembered old King Harry VIII.

Not a bishop, except Oglethorpe, deigned to participate in the ceremony, though, with some trifling alterations, the queen had it performed in the ancient manner. She took the coronation oath, swearing to maintain the religion as established, meaning to break it as a matter of necessity, and after the oath, as the bishop was kneeling at the altar, she sent a little book by a lord for him to read out of, which he at first refused, and read on in his own books; but, after a while, seeming to think better of it, he read in the queen's book, and then read the gospel and epistle in English, at the queen's request. Following these concessions, he sang the mass from a missal which had been carried before the queen.

The whole affair of the coronation was a singular mixture of the old and the new; and whilst the bishops declined to be present because they believed the queen, would turn out heretical, the Protestants were alarmed by the predominance of Popish rites in the ceremony, and the next day pressed her for a declaration of her intentions as to religion. But it was not her intention to disclose her whole meaning too soon; and she pursued her way, abandoning one thing and holding fast another, in a way which must have greatly tantalised all parties. Though she refused to sit out the mass in her chapel, she yet still kept her great silver crucifix and her holy water there, and forbade the destruction of images. At the very time, moreover, that she had a number of reformed divines sitting in the house of Sir Thomas Smith, preparing a new Book of Common Prayer, she received very coolly any recommendations for reform. "The day after her coronation," says Bacon, "it being the custom to release prisoners at the inauguration of a prince, Queen Elizabeth went to the chapel, and in the great chamber, one of her courtiers, who was well known to her, either out of his own motion, or by the instigation of a wiser man, presented her with a petition, and, before a great number of courtiers, besought her, with a loud voice, that now this good time, there might be four or five more principal prisoners released; there were the Four Evangelists, and the Apostle Paul, who had been long shut up in an unknown tongue, as it were in prison, so as they could not converse with the common people. The queen answered very gravely, that it was best first to inquire of themselves whether they would be released or not." Whilst thus appearing to favour very little this request, she did not neglect it, and the Convocation, at the request of Parliament, soon after recommended the translation of the Scriptures, and a translation was ere long published by Royal authority, which, after several revisions, was re-issued by King James I., and became the basis of our present authorised version.

On the 25th of January, Elizabeth proceeded to open her first Parliament, She had prepared to carry the decisive measures of reform which she contemplated, by adding five new peers of the Protestant faith to the upper House, and by sending to the sheriffs a list of Court candidates out of which they were to choose the members. Like all her other public proceedings, this was a strange medley of Romanism and Protestantism. High mass was performed at the altar in Westminster Abbey before the queen and the assembled Houses, and this was followed by a sermon preached by Dr. Cox, the Calvinistic schoolmaster of Edward VI., who had just returned from Geneva.

The lord-keeper, Sir Nicholas Bacon, then opened the session by a speech, the queen being present, in which he held very high prerogative language, assuring both Lords and Commons that they might take measures for a uniform order of religion, and for the safety of the State against both foreign and domestic enemies; not that it was absolutely necessary, for she could do everything of her own authority, but she preferred having the advice and counsel of her loving subjects.

The first thing which the Commons proposed was the very last thing which she would have wished them to meddle with, - that is, an address recommending her to marry, so as to secure a legitimate heir to the throne. Elizabeth had, as we have seen, had many suitors, none of which, if we except the unfortunate Lord-Admiral Seymour, or the handsome but imbecile Courtenay, Earl of Devon, had she shown any willingness to marry. There have been many theories regarding the refusal of Elizabeth to enter into wedlock. The only one which we think will bear a moment's examination is, that her love of power was so strong in her as to absorb every other feeling and consideration. No woman of her time, or of any time, was so fond of flattery of her beauty, or showed so much pleasure in the attentions and courtship of handsome and distinguished men. From the days of her teens, when the lord-admiral used such familiarities with her, to her very old age, she had always one or more prince, peer, or gentleman who enjoyed her favour, and paid her all the adulation and assumed marks of fondness which lovers pay to their ladies. But, whatever amount of real passion she might feel on any of these occasions, there was a master passion far stronger - the love of power - enthroned in her soul, which made any marriage, any participation of that power with another, utterly impossible. So transcendant and invincible was this dominating principle in her, that, so far from allowing her to accept a husband, it would not even permit her to name or think of a successor to the latest day of her life. It was the fact that the Queen of Scots was her natural successor which made her hate her with a deadly, unappeasable hatred, and pursue her to destruction. Though her conduct for years with her favourite, the Earl of Leicester, was the subject of the grossest, and, as it would appear, too well-founded scandals; though she confessed to having promised him marriage; and though there has always been a tradition at Kenilworth that a certain grave is the grave of a daughter of Elizabeth and Leicester's, yet proudly she ever claimed the name of virgin queen; and capable as she undoubtedly was of the deepest dissimulation, yet never, we believe, did she utter truer words than on this occasion, when she declared that she had always vowed to remain single, and that nothing should move her from it. She made a long speech in reply to the address, glancing towards the close of it at her coronation ring, and then saying that when she received that ring, she became solemnly bound in marriage to the realm, and that she took their address in good part, but more for their good will than for their message. At this time Elizabeth was just turned twenty-five, and, according to the reports and portraits of the time, tall, fair of hair and complexion, and comely of person.

Without referring to the questionable marriage of her mother, Anne Boleyn, an Act was passed restoring Elizabeth in blood, and rendering her heritable to her mother and all her mother's line. She was declared to be lawful and rightful queen, lineally and lawfully descended of the blood royal, and fully capable of holding, and transmitting to her posterity, the possession of the crown and throne.

Next came the regulations for the government of the Church, which Elizabeth had so prudently avoided making upon her own responsibility, but left to the authority of Parliament. By it the tenths and first-fruits resigned by Mary were again restored to her. The statutes passed in Mary's reign for the maintenance of strict Romanism were repealed, and those of Henry VIII. for the rejection of the Papal authority, and of Edward VI. for the reformation of the church ritual were revived. The Book of Common Prayer, considerably modified, was to be in uniform and exclusive use. The old penalties against seeking any ecclesiastical authority or ordination from abroad were re-enacted, and the queen was declared absolute head of the Church.

Notwithstanding the softening of the parts and expressions in the liturgy most offensive to the Papists, such as the prayer "to deliver us from the Bishop of Rome and all his detestable enormities," and the modification of the terms in administration of the sacrament, to avoid offence to other Protestant churches, the bishops opposed these measures most resolutely. The Convocation presented to the House of Lords a declaration of its belief in the real presence, transubstantiation, the sacrifice of the mass, and the supremacy of the Pope. On the other hand, the Protestants were grievously disappointed in other particulars, especially as to restoration of the married clergy, and of the restoration to their sees of Bishops Barlow, Scorey, and Coverdale. Both those petitions failed on the ground of marriage, for Elizabeth never could tolerate married priests or bishops, and these expelled bishops were all married men. The Protestants were equally disappointed in the failure of a bill to nominate a commission to draw a code of canon law for the Anglican Church. Elizabeth, like her father, rather preferred deciding all such matters herself than allowing any other body to be authority.

But to give an air of liberality to what there was no intention of any concession in, permission was given for the Papist and Protestant divines to argue certain great points in public. Five bishops and three doctors on the part of the former, and as many Protestant divines, were appointed to dispute before the lord-keeper, Sir Nicholas Bacon, and the debates of the two Houses were suspended, that the members might attend the controversy. The Roman Catholics were to have the privilege of opening the conference, and the Protestants were to reply; but it was speedily discovered that this gave immense advantage to the Protestants. The Roman Catholics called for a change of this mode; the lord-keeper refused to grant it; the bishops, therefore, protested that the conditions were not equal, and refused to attend. For this disobedience the Bishops of Winchester and Lincoln were committed to the Tower, and the other six disputants were bound to make their appearance at the bar of the Lords till judgment was pronounced, and they were compelled to do so till the end of the session, when they were fined in sums from 500 to forty marks.

The conduct of some of the bishops during the session was extremely violent, in consequence of the acts passed against their ascendancy. Bonner was particularly prominent, and others of the Romish party, with Dr. Storey at their head, seemed to lament that they had not cut off Elizabeth whilst they had the power in their hands. These were not measures, nor this the language, to do any good to their cause; and, in fact, the queen took the earliest opportunity to deprive these audacious enemies of their power to do mischief. Parliament was dissolved on the 8th of May, and within a week she summoned the bishops, deans, and other dignitaries before herself and Privy Council, and there admonished them to make themselves conformable to the laws just passed regarding religion. Heath, the archbishop, replied by boldly advising her majesty to remember her own coronation oath, not to alter the religion which she found by law established; adding that his conscience could not permit him to conform to the new regulations, and all the other prelates and dignitaries declared the same. The Council then charged Heath and Bonner, on the evidence of certain papers, with having, during the reign of Edward VI., carried on secret conspiracies with Rome, with the intent to overthrow the Government. To this they replied by pleading two general pardons, and the Council then proceeded to administer to them the oath of supremacy. This they all refused except Kitchen, the Bishop of Landaff, who had clung to his see through all changes for the last fourteen years, and clung to it still.

They were then deprived of their sees, and a considerable number of other Church dignitaries were also deprived by the same test. The bulk of the clergy, however, conformed, and to those who were ejected pensions for life were allowed - a policy far more considerate than had ever prevailed in such circumstances before. The refugees on account of the Marian persecution, who had now flocked home from Switzerland and Germany, were installed in the vacant livings, and before the end of this year the Church of Rome had lost the State patronage in this country for ever. Two statutes of this session, the one establishing the oath of supremacy, and the other of uniformity, became law, and pressed heavily and despotically on Papists and all classes of Dissenters till a very late period. So long as they were in force, no one except a member of the Church of England had the slightest chance of promotion or even of employment in the State. The statute of uniformity 'was the embodied spirit of intolerance. For absenting himself from the worship of the Established Church, a man was fined a shilling; for using any other than the State ritual, forfeiture of goods and chattels was incurred for the first offence, a year's imprisonment for the second, and imprisonment for life for the third. It was an attempt, of the kind which never succeeds, to put down a rival religion by force. It became the source of vast injustice and oppression, causing the most terrible heart-burnings and cruelties; throwing the firebrand of dissension into every neighbourhood, and producing eventually sanguinary civil wars. Till the accession of William and Mary, the Romanists were pursued by the most annoying surveillance, and often by the most intolerable tyranny; and the evil was not so much at first the work of the Government, as of the puritanic zealots who brought from their unfortunate exile in Switzerland the harsh, intolerant, persecuting spirit which sprang up there, and diffused its virus far and wide through Protestant Europe.

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