Reign of Queen Elizabeth. (Continued) page 7
The castle was consequently compelled to surrender on the 9th of June, 1573, after a siege of thirty-four days. Elizabeth insisted that the leaders should be put at her disposal. In a few days Maitland, who had now exhausted all his shifts and subtleties, died of poison, as some asserted - and amongst them Mary, who charged it boldly in a letter to Elizabeth - from the ready hand of Morton; as others believed, by his own hands. The brave Kirkaldy of Grange was hanged and quartered as a traitor on the 3rd of August, though a hundred persons of the Kirkaldy family offered to Morton twenty thousand pounds Scots, and an annuity of three thousand marks, for his life. Maitland, like Morton, was one of the murderers of Darnley; but Morton, the most hardened of them all, had seen the last of his confederates, and, for a time, held the supreme power. There, at present, we leave him, to trace the proceedings of Elizabeth in other quarters.
Though the French king had refused to assist Mary's party in Scotland in their last extremity, for fear of Elizabeth's affording aid to the Huguenots besieged in Rochelle by the Duke of Anjou, that did not prevent Elizabeth assisting the Rochellais. She allowed a strong fleet of Englishmen, under the nominal command of the Count de Montgomery, to assemble in Plymouth for the relief of that place, and she promised them further aid. To avert this, Charles IX. endeavoured to flatter Elizabeth into neutrality. He requested her to stand godmother to his infant daughter, as we have seen. The French Protestants, however, were so incensed at Elizabeth's compliance, which they regarded as an act of apostacy, that they attacked the squadron which conveyed the English ambassador, Elizabeth's proxy, seized one of his ships, slew some of his attendants and put his own life in peril. Charles IX. saw in this a favourable opportunity for inducing Elizabeth to cause the Plymouth fleet to disperse. He therefore dispatched an ambassador before the queen's anger could cool, requesting her refusal of a promised loan to these audacious Rochellais, and to disperse the hostile fleet at Plymouth. But Elizabeth referred the envoy to her ministers on that point, who assured him that they had no power whatever to impede the sailing of the fleet, for that Englishmen sailed on the plea of traffic wherever they pleased; and if they committed any acts of hostility on friendly powers, they were at the mercy of those powers to seize them and treat them as pirates.
Elizabeth was soon, however, punished for this flagrant equivocation. Montgomery sailed in April; but, on discovering the strength of the French fleet moored under the forts and batteries of Rochelle, he was seized with terror, and returned to Plymouth without striking a blow. Elizabeth, indignant at his failure, then sent him word that she was highly displeased at his presuming to unfurl the English flag, and forbade his access to any of the English ports. In June of the next year he was taken prisoner in Normandy, and on the 26th of that month he was executed as a traitor in Paris. The bravery of the people of Rochelle, however, and the election of the Duke of Anjou to the throne of Poland, saved that city. A new pacification was entered into, but the peace of France was again disturbed by a coalition betwixt the heads of the Huguenots and the Marshals Montmorency, De Cosse, and Damfont, the Papal leaders called the Politicians. This league was formed to get possession of the king, whose health was now fast failing, remove Catherine and the Duke of Guise from power, and proclaim Alencon as the successor to the crown in the absence of Anjou in Poland. Elizabeth was actively engaged in all these movements, especially in advising Alencon to place himself at the head of affairs. But the watchful genius of Catherine discovered and defeated the plot: Montmorency and Cosse were committed to the Bastille, Alencon and the King of Navarre were so closely watched that they were stopped in five attempts to escape, and numbers of the inferior actors were put to death.
In May, 1574, Charles IX. of France died a miserable death, full of remorse and horror, worn out with consumption, in the twenty-sixth year of his age. By the management of Catherine, the throne was secured by her next son, Anjou, notwithstanding his being absent in Poland. Anjou ascended the French throne under the title of Henry III., detested by all the Protestants for his share in the massacre of St. Bartholomew. In the following year a new plot was formed betwixt the Protestant council at Millaud in Rovergue and the Romanists under Damville, to place Alencon on the throne - a scheme cordially supported by Elizabeth, in favour of her present lover, Alencon. Alencon effected his escape from Court in September, 1575; and Elizabeth, notwithstanding her recent renewal of the treaty of Blois, advanced him money to raise him an army of German Protestants. In February, 1575, the King of Navarre also escaped, and the two princes called on Elizabeth to declare war in their favour; but the demand was overruled in the Council, and Elizabeth offered herself as mediatrix betwixt the king and his brother Alencon, who was grown jealous of the ascendency of Navarre.
On the 21st of April a treaty was concluded by which the exercise of the Protestant religion was permitted to a certain extent; the king promised to call an assembly of the States to regulate the affairs of the kingdom, and Alencon succeeded to the appanage of his elder brother, and henceforward was styled Anjou.
This settlement of the differences of creeds was of very short duration. The Protestant league of Millaud stimulated the Roman Catholics to counter-leagues, which entered into obligation under oath to maintain the ascendency of the ancient faith, and to resist all the encroachments of the Protestants. Henry III., who beheld his own authority usurped by these leagues, determined to place himself at the head of a great combined league of the Catholics, which he did in February, 1577, the deputies of the assemblies of the States, for the most part, following his example, and annulling the bulk of the privileges lately conceded to the Protestants. The consequence was another religious war, followed by as short-lived a peace, by which the privileges revoked were again restored.
But our narrative of the French contests betwixt the two parties has passed ahead of the disturbances in the Netherlands. A furious war had been raging there betwixt the Protestant and Papist interests, which also represented the interests of the native Netherlander and Spain. The Duke of Alva had waded through oceans of blood to maintain the bigoted and cruel power of his master, Philip; but the natives had found a resolute and skilful champion in the Protestant Prince of Orange. He succeeded in establishing the independence of Holland and Zealand; and Philip, angry with Alva for his want of success, recalled him, and treated him with a stern neglect, which, however ungrateful in the king, was perhaps the best reward for the commission of such crimes as Alva had given himself up to work for him. In the place of Alva, Philip dispatched Zuniga, commendator of Requescens, who adopted a more conciliatory policy towards the people, and thus weakened the influence of the Prince of Orange.
In these circumstances, Orange applied to Elizabeth for help; but, since he had assumed the government of Holland and Zealand, Elizabeth had begun to regard him with jealousy. She felt sure that, from his connection with the Protestants of France, he would seek for their assistance, and this once gained, would offer a pretext for Henry III. invading that country; and the extension of the sway of France into the Netherlands by no means offered a pleasing prospect to the commerce and tranquillity of England. Instead of affording aid to the struggling Protestants of Flanders, she withdrew her forces from Flushing, and entered into negotiations with the Spaniards. Requescens rejoiced at this change, conceded all in his power, agreed to expel the English refugees from the Netherlands, and obtained, in return, an order to arrest all the vessels of the insurgents in her ports, and for their exclusion from England.
This change of policy greatly mortified the Prince of Orange and the Protestant interests in the Netherlands, but Elizabeth represented it as her object to mediate betwixt them and France. The Prince of Orange, however, would listen to no such mediation, till the civil war breaking out again in France put an end to all hope of assistance thence. To effectually secure the aid of Elizabeth, the prince sent over deputies to make her an offer of the sovereignty of Holland and Zealand, as the representative of the ancient princes of those countries by descent from Philippa of Hainault. This offer surprised and flattered her; but, after much discussion, and much diversity of opinion in her Council, it was deemed best to decline it, neither her honour nor her conscience allowing her to accept it, but promising that she would do all in her power to reconcile them to their sovereign, Philip.
About a month after this decision, Requescens died, and was succeeded towards the end of the year by Don John of Austria, the bastard brother of Philip, attended by all the reputation of his victory over the Turks at the great battle of Lepanto. He was compelled to ratify an accommodation which had just taken place betwixt Holland and Zealand and the Popish states of the Netherlands, which was styled the Pacification of Ghent, and provided that no foreign soldiers should be permitted in the states, and that they should help each other against all opponents. This treaty was known as "the perpetual edict," but it appeared very likely to be broken immediately. Don John, without a foreign army, found himself impotent to contend with the independent Belgians. He therefore sent for the Spanish army from Italy, and the Prince of Orange also appealed to Elizabeth for men and money to resist this direct violation of the edict. Elizabeth contented herself with recommending both parties to abide by that contract, as calculated at once to preserve the rights of the sovereign and the people; but the Prince of Orange, hopeless of any justice or toleration with a Spanish army in the country, threatened to transfer the sovereignty of his estates to Alencon, Elizabeth's suitor, now Anjou. He moreover dispatched an envoy to communicate a grand design of Don John of Austria against England. He represented that Don John was of a restless and ambitious character, that he had been disappointed of becoming King of Tunis by the commands of Philip, and that he now found that he had conceived a plan for making himself monarch of England and Scotland. This plan had already received the sanction of the Pope, who had engaged to aid him with 6,000 mercenaries on pretence of assisting the knights of Malta. The prince assured her that the recall of the Spanish army was for the invasion of her realm; that the Pope's reinforcement was to meet them at sea, and together they were to land in England, and aided by the friends of the Queen of Scotland, to liberate that princess, who was to marry Don John, and they were to reign as John and Mary, King and Queen of England and Scotland.
Elizabeth must have credited the reality of this design, for she agreed to guarantee a loan of £100,000 to the states, and to furnish 1,000 horse and 5,000 foot, on condition that they should not make peace without her approbation, nor allow her rebels to find an asylum amongst them. This was not a defence of her own country, but an invasion of her ally Philip's; and she was obliged to assure him that she had no hostile intention but to compel the observance of the pacification of Ghent, and to defend her own territory against the designs of his brother, Don John. Philip affected to hope that her mediation might be successful, but probably trusted to the talents of Don John and the army from Italy to subdue the insurgent people, spite of the English aid. The Netherlander, notwithstanding the money which they had raised on Elizabeth's guarantee, wanted yet more; and they put into her hands the jewels and plate which Matthias of Austria, the brother of the Emperor Rudolph, and nominal governor of the states, had pledged to them. On this pledge Elizabeth advanced them £50,000. Animated by this supply, the Dutch proceeded to attack the army of Don John, but were defeated in the great battle of Gemblours, an overthrow which spread consternation throughout the Netherlaepe, Once more they appealed to Elizabeth, to the Protestant princes of Germany, and to the Duke of Anjou.
Cassimir, brother of the Elector Palatine, marched across the Rhine with 12,000 men, paid with English gold, and Anjou also advanced at the head of 10,000. The Protestant followers of Cassimir, however, seemed to act rather as invading an enemy's country than as come to succour friends, and the people, wherever they came, declared that they had better remain under Philip than under such allies. Anjou for some time appeared to carry all before him. He took Binche by assault, and induced Maubeuge to open its gates; but there his progress ceased, and he attributed this to the jealousy of Elizabeth, who dreaded the Netherlands falling under French influence; and probably this was true. As for Cassimir, he does not seem to have done much besides living at free cost; for, coming face to face with the; army of Don John, he did not venture to give battle. The Prince of Orange, despairing of being able to resist such commanders as Don John and Farnese, Duke of Parma, formed a confederation of the northern states alone, afterwards known as the United Provinces; and Don John dying on the 1st of October, 1578, the Duke of Parma won over the Walloon States to Philip by promising to observe the perpetual edict, and replacing the foreign army by native troops.
Matters being thus arranged, the Duke of Anjou, whose troops, being only engaged for three months, were now disbanded, sent over his favourite, Simier, to prosecute his suit with Elizabeth. Simier was a man of courtly manners, great wit and gallantry, and very soon won the confidence of Elizabeth. He was admitted thrice a week to her private parties, and she treated him with such familiarity that even scandal became busy about them. Simier persuaded Elizabeth that his master was actually dying of love for a woman now fifty save one. To remove the main obstacle to her marriage he soon perceived was to break the influence of Leicester; and he not only made her acquainted with his loose amours, but greatly astounded her by the information that he had recently married the widow of the Earl of Essex, being strongly suspected of having first removed the earl by poison. Elizabeth was greatly enraged; and notwithstanding her confidante, Mrs. Ashley, did all she could to screen Leicester, Elizabeth refused to listen to his protestations of innocence, and placed him in confinement at Greenwich.
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