OREALD.COM - An Old Electronic Library
eng: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

The Reign of Elizabeth. (Continued) page 11


Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 <11> 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

But this wild and impudent sycophancy was so much the staple of the Court address, that it failed to soften the obdurate Royal Venus and female Orpheus, and well had it been for Essex had Raleigh not at length been allowed to accompany the expedition. The Cecils secretly opposed the enterprise, and threw the queen into a very undetermined state of mind, a state into which she fell on the eve of almost all serious undertakings. At length consenting to the sailing of the fleet, she composed two prayers, one to be daily used in the fleet during the expedition, the other for herself. The letter for the fleet was sent to Essex by Sir Robert Cecil, who took the opportunity of adding this piece of almost blasphemous flattery, making himself sure that from Essex it would soon reach the queen: - "No prayer is so fruitful as that which proceedeth from those who nearest in nature and power approach the Almighty. None so near approach his place and essence as a celestial mind in a princely body. Put forth, therefore, my lord, with comfort and confidence, having your sails filled with her heavenly breath for your forewind." On the 1st of June the fleet issued from Plymouth water, and being joined by twenty-two ships from Holland, it amounted to 150 sail, carrying 14,000 men. On the 20th the fleet cast anchor at the mouth of the harbour of Cadiz, and there discovered fifteen men-of-war, and about forty merchantmen. The next morning a fierce battle took place, which lasted from seven in the morning till one o'clock at noon. The English sailed right into the harbour, spite of the fire from the ships and the forts, and the Spaniards, finding the contest going against them, attempted to run their vessels ashore and burn them. The galleons got out to sea, the merchantmen having reached Puerto Real, discharged their cargo, and were burnt by order of the Duke of Medina. Two large ships with an argosy were taken, and much booty fell to the captors. The Earl of Essex displayed the utmost gallantry. Instead of remaining with the army, he went on board and fought in the thick of the danger. The sea-fight over, he landed 3,000 men and marched into Cadiz. A body of horse and foot was posted to oppose his progress, but fled at his approach; and, finding that the inhabitants in their terror had closed the gates, they made their way over a ruinous wall, and the English without delay followed them. Spite of the fire kept up from the tops of the houses, Essex led his men to the market-place, where they were speedily joined by the lord admiral, who had found his way through a portal. The city capitulated, paying 120,000 crowns for the lives of the people, the town and all its wealth being abandoned to the plunder of the troops.

Through the whole of the conquest Essex was the real hero. He not only led the way regardless of danger, but; when the place was won, whilst others were engrossed only by the accumulation of booty, he was busy exerting himself to check the cruelties of the invaders - to save the lives and the honour of the inhabitants. He succeeded so well that never was a city taken with so little insult or injury to the people. The soldiers were restrained from shedding blood wantonly - from treating the women with contumely; and so far was the moderation of the conquerors carried, that about 3,000 men were sent away to the fort of St. Mary under guard, being permitted to carry with them all their jewels and apparel. The conduct of Essex in all this drew applause from the very enemy, the king and the infanta, his daughter, joining in it.

Essex proposed to strike a great blow whilst the panic of their victory paralysed the country. He recommended that they should march into the heart of Andalusia; and such was the destitution of disciplined troops from the great drain which the wars of France and the Netherlands had occasioned, such the discontent of the nobles and the disaffection of the Moriscoes, that much mischief might have been done before they could have been successfully opposed. The plan, however, was resisted by the other commanders, and Essex then offered to remain in the Isle de Leon with 4,000 men, and defend it against the whole force of the enemy. But the other leaders would hear of nothing but hastening home. They had laid the town in ruins, with the exception of two or three churches; they had nearly annihilated the fleet, had collected a vast booty, and inflicted on the Spaniards a loss of 20,000,000 ducats.

The conquerors returned home, having dealt the severest blow on Spain that it had received for generations. They had raised the prestige of the English arms, amply avenged the attempt at the invasion of their country, and sunk the reputation of Spain in no ordinary degree. Foreigners regarded the exploit with wonder, and the people raised thunders of acclamations as the victorious vessels sailed into port. But the gallant and magnanimous deeds of Essex had been gall and wormwood to the Cecils, and they had neglected no means of injuring him in his absence. Essex had succeeded ever since the death of Walsingham - that is, for six years - in preventing the dearest wish of Burleigh's heart, to see his son, Sir Robert, established in his post. Whilst Essex was away he carried this point with the queen; and the courtiers, now auguring the ascendancy of the Cecils, united in defaming Essex to win favour with them. They talked freely of the vain-glory, rashness, extravagance, and dissipations of Essex. They represented the fall of Cadiz as entirely owing to the naval victory, which they ascribed to Raleigh; and we are sorry to say that Raleigh, who had beheld with envy the heroism and generous magnanimity of Essex, was only too ready to join in the base design. Raleigh was not always as liberal of his encomiums on his cotemporaries as he was on the queen; and even towards her his language was very different the moment she was dead. Then, in his mouth she was everything that was old, ugly, mean, avaricious, headstrong, and unjust. In Osborne and Sir Lewis Stukely may be seen the language which he used towards Elizabeth after her death. "However," he said, "she seemed a great and good mistress to him in the eyes of the world, yet she was tyrannical enough to lay many of her oppressions on him, besides seizing the best part of everything he took at sea for herself," &c. &c.

On this occasion, though Raleigh had done bravely in his ship, the Warspite - for, with all his faults, he was no coward - yet his jealousy led him to oppose the plan of Essex for attacking the merchant fleet; and whilst they were wrangling, the Duke of Medina got them unladen and burnt. Essex - who ought to have been received by the queen as one of the most brilliant and successful generals that she ever had - by the arts of the Cecils and their partisans, was thus met, not only by coldness, but severity. Elizabeth told him that he had been doing his own pleasure, and she would now take care that he should do hers. No time was lost by the Cecils in letting her know that though the fleet had come home almost sinking with treasure, nothing was left to her share but to bear the cost of the expedition. Then the fierce ire of the Tudor blazed out. Avarice was one of her most besetting sins, as it had been that of her father and grandfather. She summoned Essex and the lord admiral before her; and refusing even to Essex any opportunity of private explanation, she made them account to the Privy Council for their conduct, and assured them that, as they had allowed the booty to be divided without reserving a fund for the payment of the soldiers and sailors, they might pay them themselves, for she would not; that the expedition had cost her 50,000, and she looked to them, who knew where the booty was gone, to refund it.

Day after day she subjected Essex to the scrutiny and cross-questioning of his enemies in the Council, till, luckily for him, there came the news that the Spanish treasures from the New World had just arrived safely in port with 20,000,000 of dollars. This put the climax to Elizabeth's exasperation; and Essex, who, since his return from the expedition, as if to take away every ground for the censure of the courtiers, had assumed a otally new character, and was no longer the gay and1' pleasure-seeking young nobleman, but the grave and religious man; who lived at home with his countess, attended her to church, and exhibited the most pious demeanour; who, instead of his haughty and irritable temper, had displayed the utmost patience and forbearance under the galling examination of the Council, now broke out at once with the declaration that he had done everything in his power to persuade his colleagues to permit him to sail to Tercera to intercept this very fleet; that the creatures of the Cecils had opposed him resolutely, defeated the enterprise, and robbed the queen of this princely treasure.

Instantly the whole current of Elizabeth's feelings underwent a change. The anger which had been directed towards Essex was launched at Burleigh, and Essex stood restored to his wonted favour. With the favour of the queen, back rolled the tide of courtier sycophancy towards Essex; and such was the feeling exhibited, that even "the old fox" Burleigh himself thought it safest to take part with Essex. When Elizabeth, having lost this great treasure in imagination, demanded that the 120,000 paid by the people of Cadiz for their ransom should be made over to her as her right, Burleigh decided that it belonged to Essex as the captor of the city. We may regard so gross a political blunder as this a clear proof that the "old fox's" cunning was failing him: for, as it was certain to do, it roused all the queen's choler, who poured on her ancient minister the flaming epithets of "miscreant and coward - more afraid of Essex than herself." The confounded Burleigh retired from her presence in great confusion and distress, and wrote a pitiful letter to Essex, saying that, having had the misfortune to incur his displeasure as well as that of Her Majesty, he was worse off than those who sought to avoid Scylla and fell into Charybdis, for he had fallen into both. He talked of "obtaining leave to live as an anchorite, as fitted for his age, his infirmities, and his declining influence at Court." But his decline was rather before his own son than Essex, for the queen put little faith in Essex's political caution and judgment; for these she looked to Sir Robert Cecil, who had all his father's cool, selfish caution, with the vigour of youth which had departed from his father.

Elizabeth soon gave a proof that she did not place much confidence in the diplomatic talents of Essex. The wardenship of the Cinque Ports became vacant, and though Essex strove hard for it, she gave it to his competitor, Lord Cobham; whereupon Essex, in his usual way, huffed, left the Court in a pet, and had to be coaxed back again by the post of Master of the Ordnance. That, however, did not satisfy him. He still insisted on the place of Secretary of State, which Sir Robert Cecil held in name of his father; and when it was refused him, insisted that it should be given to Sir Thomas Bodley, the founder of the Bodleian Library, at Oxford. But Elizabeth was not to be turned from conferring it on Cecil. Essex, with all his pretences to piety and reformation, could not help falling into his old gallantries. There was a Mrs. Bridges, the most beautiful of the queen's maids of honour, with whom he was soon convicted of carrying on an intrigue, in which they were encouraged by a Mrs. Russell. On its coming to Elizabeth's ears, she sent for the lady culprits, and not only scolded them soundly, but administered a sound beating with her own Royal hands, and dismissed them. They were obliged to seek an asylum for three nights at Lady Stafford's, whence, on humbling themselves and promising reformation, they were received back again.

There needed some public excitement to put an end to these ridiculous scenes at Court, and that soon came in the ambition and revenge of Philip of Spain. The late capture of Cadiz, and destruction of his fleet, at once mortified and roused him. He burned for retaliation, and in this he was encouraged by the active Popish party, which had made use of Mary Queen of Scots so long as she lived, and now found in Philip the likeliest instrument of' their plans. The leading members of this party were Parsons the Jesuit, Dr. (now Cardinal) Allen, the Jesuits Oresswell and Holt, Owen and Fitzpatrick, Sir Francis Englefield and Sir Francis Stanley. There could not be a more zealous champion of their religion than Philip, and they formed a scheme for placing him or his line on the throne of England. Philip had, in his struggles with Henry IV., indulged the hope, if he succeeded in conquering him, of placing his daughter, the Infanta Clara Eugenia, on the throne of France, spite of the Salic law. That vision had departed; but he was persuaded that it would be no difficult matter to make her Queen of the British Isles. Elizabeth, by her hatred of the very idea of a successor, had, to a certain degree, favoured their views. The statute, forbidding any one, under pain of treason, ever speaking of it, tended to leave the question doubtful till the queen's death, when a number of competitors might spring up. There was a feeling on the part of the Papists that Sir Robert Cecil had a design of marrying Arabella Stuart, and advocating her right to the Crown. The Jesuits, to prevent this, wrote a treatise, called "A Conference about the next Succession to the Crown of England, had, in 1593, by R. Doleman." This book was said to be the work of various hands, but revised and edited by Parsons. It denied the divine right of kings, declared that the succession to a crown must be decided by fitness, and by positive laws; that a people can lawfully put down a sovereign for abuse of his power; and that a false religion creates an insuperable bar to the throne. It then pointed out the claim of the Infanta as the descendant of John of Gaunt, the son of Edward III., who was of the true religion.

It is curious that from such a source - from the most conservative of all Churches - should have come that doctrine which overturned the dynasty of the Stuarts - a race so attached to Popery - and became the foundation-stone of Protestant ascendancy. This book was largely quoted and reprinted in the dispute with Charles I., was made great use of by Bradshaw, in his speech for the condemnation of Charles, and again furnished the material for most of the arguments used for the deposition of James II.

Philip determined to strike one more blow for the conquest of England and the achievement of this great object. He again prepared a fleet, and gave it into the command of the Adelantado of Castile. It seems that some hope was entertained that Essex might be induced to favour this scheme, which was probably strengthened by the admiration Essex had excited by his conduct at Lisbon. They had dedicated the book to him, and now sent a deputation to sound him. The petulance and occasional quarrels of Essex with the queen might induce a belief that he would be ready to oppose her; but they who cherished this notion could know little of his real character. It brought him under the resentment and severe reprehension of Elizabeth, who sent for him on the publication of the book, and was closeted with him for some hours; and such had been the lecture which he received, that he went away pale and flurried, and kept his bed for above a week.

<<< Previous page <<< >>> Next page >>>
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 <11> 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

Pictures for The Reign of Elizabeth. (Continued) page 11


Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About