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 13

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

Philip II. of Spain died on the 13th of September, six weeks after Burleigh, in the seventy-first year of his age. A bigot by nature and education, he lived to suppress every sentiment of freedom in religion or politics, and died leaving an empire diminished by the loss of Holland, which rose against his bloody despotism. The failure of his gigantic attempts against the independence of England has made his name a word of scorn in this country; and his unnatural treatment of his son, Don Carlos, has crucified it in execration in every honourable mind the entire world over.

It may afford a clearer idea of the stately and high-spirited Elizabeth if we present her as she showed herself at this period to a German traveller, Hentzner. It was on a Sunday when he was present by a lord-chamberlain's order. The presence- chamber through which the queen commonly passed on her way to chapel, was, he says, hung with rich tapestry and strewn with rushes. "At the door stood a gentleman dressed in velvet with a gold chain, whose office was to introduce to the queen any person of distinction that came to wait on her. In the same hall was the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of London, a great number of councillors of State, officers of the Crown, and gentlemen, who waited the queen's coming out, which she did from her own apartment when it was time to go to prayers, attended in the following manner. First went gentlemen, barons, earls, knights of the Garter, all richly dressed, and bareheaded; next came the chancellor, bearing the seals in a red silk purse, between two, one of which carried the Royal sceptre, the other the sword of state in a red scabbard studded with fleurs-de-lis, the point upwards. Next came the queen, in the sixty-sixth year of her age, as we were told, very majestic; her face oblong, fair, but wrinkled; her eyes small, jet black, and pleasant; her nose a little hooked; her lips narrow, and her teeth black (a defect the English seem subject to from their too great use of sugar). She had in her ears two pearls with very rich drops; she wore false hair, and that red; upon her head she had a small crown, reported to be made of some of the gold of the celebrated Lunebourg table. Her bosom was uncovered, as all the English ladies have it till they marry; and she had on a necklace of exceeding fine jewels. Her hands were small, her fingers long, and her stature neither tall nor low. Her air was stately, her manner of speaking mild and obliging. That day she was dressed in white silk, bordered with pearls of the size of beans, and over it a mantle of black silk, shot with silver threads. Her train was very long, the end of it borne by a marchioness. Instead of a chain, she had an oblong collar of gold and jewels, As she went along in all this state and magnificence, she spoke very graciously, first to one, then to another, whether foreign ministers, or those who attended for different reasons, in English, French and Italian; for besides being well skilled in Greek, Latin, and the languages I have mentioned, she is mistress of Spanish, Scotch, and Dutch. Whoever speaks to her, it is kneeling; now and then she raises some with her hand. While we were there, W. Slawata, a Bohemian baron, had letters to present to her; and she, after pulling off her glove, gave him her right hand to kiss, sparkling with jewels and rings - a mark of particular favour. Wherever she turned her face as she was going along, everybody fell down on their knees. The ladies of the Court followed next to her, very handsome and well-shaped, and for the most part dressed in white. She was guarded on each side by gentleman pensioners, fifty in number, with gilt battle-axes. In the ante-chapel next the hall where we were, petitions were presented to her, and she received them most graciously, which occasioned the acclamation of 'Long live Queen Elizabeth!' She answered it with, 'I thank you, my good people.'"

As a contrast to this portrait of Elizabeth in her gracious moments, we may present one of her in her lion rages, which were quite as frequent. The King of Poland, the son of her quondam lover, John, Duke of Finland, and afterwards King of Sweden, had sent over an ambassador, whom Elizabeth had received in great state in the presence of the assembled Court at Greenwich; but to her astonishment the ambassador delivered her an unexpected and bold remonstrance against her foreign policy, especially her assumption of dominion on the seas, and her interruptions of the trade of the Spaniards with them, assuring her that he, the King of Poland, had made a league with Austria, and that if she did not desist, they were resolved to use strong means to compel her.

Astonished at this unexpected harangue, Elizabeth started up from her seat as the Pole concluded, and addressed him in Latin to the following effect: - "Is this the business that your king has sent you about? Surely, I can hardly believe that if the king himself were present he would have used such language; for if he should, I must have thought that he, being a king not of many years, and that not by right of blood but by right of election, they haply have not informed him of that course which his father and ancestors have taken with us, and which, peradventure, shall be observed by those that come to live after him. And as for you, although I perceive that you have read many books to fortify your arguments in this case, yet I am apt to believe that you have not lighted upon that chapter which prescribes the forms to be observed between kings and princes. But were it not for the place you hold, to have so public an imputation thrown upon our justice, which has never yet failed, we would answer this audacity of yours in another style; and for the particulars of your negotiations, we will appoint some of our council to confer with you, to see upon what grounds this clamour of yours has its foundations, who have shown yourself rather a herald than an ambassador." "And thus," says Speed, "lion-like rising, she daunted the malapert orator no less with her stately port and majestical departure than with the hastiness of her princely check; and, turning to her Court, exclaimed, "God's death, my lords! I have this day been enforced to scour up my old Latin, that hath lain long rusting."

Amongst the plots and pretended plots which still disturbed the reign of Elizabeth, there was a strange one reported this year. A soldier of the name of Squires, who had been out with Essex at Tercera, was accused by one Stanley of the most extraordinary design to poison the queen by anointing the pommel of her saddle with so active and deadly a liquid, that on her laying her hand on the pommel, and afterwards putting her hand to her mouth or nose, it would instantly destroy her. It must have been something as instantaneous as the Prussic acid of the present day. Leicester was to have been put an end to in the same way by anointing his chair. The poison was declared to have been enclosed in a double bladder, and was to be pricked with a pin. Squires protested his ignorance of the whole affair; but after having been racked for five hours, he confessed that he had rubbed some of this poison on the queen's saddle, and that he had been engaged to do it by one Walpole, a Jesuit, at Seville, who furnished him with the poison. The counsel who stated this ridiculous story on the trial, was, or pretended to be, so much affected that he burst into tears and was obliged to sit down. The next who rose declared that the miracle of the queen's escape was as striking as that of St. Paul, when he shook the viper from his fingers into the fire. Squires was convicted, and executed as a traitor, declaring on the scaffold as he had done on his defence that the whole story was a fiction, and that the rack could have made him confess anything they pleased. Stanley also, o-n being put on the rack, declared that he himself had been sent by Christopher de Mora to shoot the queen.

Not even James of Scotland could remain free from charges of conspiracy against Elizabeth. Ever since the death of his mother he had continued to trim betwixt the Papists and the Protestants; betwixt Elizabeth, his own subjects, and Philip, as well as he could. To the Pope he professed to be studying the grounds of the Roman Catholic religion; to Philip, to be ready to join any efficient movement for revenge on Elizabeth; to Elizabeth, to be her admirer and humble servant. All sides, by their spies, were well aware of his professions to the others, and all equally despised him. The Highland chiefs at the head of whom were the Earls of Huntly, Angus, and Errol, were constantly plotting with the Pope and Philip, through the Jesuits Gordon, Tyrie, and Creighton; and Elizabeth called on James to punish them: but James knew that if he put down the Popish party in Scotland, he should have a poor life of it with Elizabeth and his Presbyterian subjects who would unite against him. At length, in the present year, Elizabeth got hold of one Valentine Thomas, who confessed that he was hired by James to murder the queen. The discovery, or pretended discovery, excited vast horror in England. An indictment was preferred against Thomas, and a true bill found by the grand jury. Elizabeth now sent a statement of these facts to James, at the same time declaring that she did not believe him capable of so atrocious a crime. James at first treated the charge with silent contempt; but eventually, to prevent it being received as a fact, and operate against his succession to the English throne, he demanded that an attestation of the falsehood of the charge, as admitted by the queen, should be sent him under the great seal. A document of the kind was forwarded; but it read so like a pardon for the crime rather than a denial of it, that James returned it, much to Elizabeth's disgust. The man was never brought to trial, but was retained in prison, as if ready at any time, should James prove too independent, to be brought forward; and James, finding him still in prison on his accession to the English throne, took care to execute him.

Ireland, in almost every age of our history a misery to the country which had it, but did not know how to rule it, was now at such a pitch of confusion that the English Government was at its wit's end about it, and no one liked to undertake its vice-royalty. It was come to such a pass that it was even worse than when Walsingham wished it four-and-twenty hours under water. The Lord Gray, though eulogised by Spenser, had left it with the character of a cruel and rapacious tyrant. Sir John Perrot, reputed to be an illegitimate brother of Elizabeth, succeeded him, and dispensed justice with a stern hand. He was as ready to punish the English for their excesses as to do justice to the Irish under their wrongs; and the enmity of his own domineering and avaricious countrymen became much more effective than the respect of the natives. In 1581 the clamours and intrigues of his enemies occasioned his recall. At home, however, ho suffered himself to speak incautiously of the queen and of Chancellor Hat ton, and a secret inquiry was instituted into his late administration of Ireland. All sorts of charges of a treasonable nature were advanced against him by those whose rapacity he had punished during his deputyship - such as favouring the Roman Catholic clergy, plotting with Parma and the Spaniards, and encouraging the insurrections of the O'Ruarcs and the Burkes. They could establish none of these, but they managed to touch him in a still more dangerous quarter. They proved that in his irritation at the obstructions thrown in his way by the Court, he had spoken sometimes freely of the queen and her ministers. Essex, whose sister his son had married, exerted all his influence in his favour; but where Elizabeth's vanity was wounded she was unforgiving. Sir John was condemned to death, and soon after died in the Tower from chagrin at his unjust treatment, or, as was suspected, from poison.

The most formidable Irish chieftain with whom the English had to contend was Hugh, the son of the late Baron of Dungannon. This active and ambitious chief, who had been rewarded for his services in the war against the Earl of Desmond with the earldom of Tyrone, soon proclaimed himself not merely the successor to the earldom of O'Neil, but the genuine O'Neil himself. The natives of Ulster, in need of such a champion, admitted his claims, and were ready to support him in all his pretensions. As these were not admitted by the English, he became their enemy, and by his military talents proved a terrible thorn in their side. He demanded for the natives liberty of conscience and all their old lands, rights, and privileges; and the successive deputies found themselves engaged in a most harassing and destructive war with this subtle chief and his followers, in which he wore them out by constant skirmishes and surprises amongst the woods, bogs, and mountains of his wild territories. Sir John Norris, who had served with so much honour in the Netherlands and France, sunk under it; and in August of 1598 Sir Henry Bagnall was defeated and slain in a pitched battle at Blackwater, in Tyrone, his baggage and artillery being lost, and 1,500 men killed. The consequence of this victory was that nearly all Ireland rushed into a state of open rebellion, and the great question in the English cabinet was, who was the man capable of reducing the insurgents. It required no common man; for the Irish everywhere proclaimed the Earl of Tyrone the saviour of his country, and looked to him to drive the English wholly out of Ireland. The Earl of Essex dwelt so much in the Council on the necessary bravery and address of the man who should be appointed, that the Cecils, anxious to remove him to a distance from the Court, declared that he himself was by far the most fitting for the office. His friends warned him of the dangers and difficulties of a Government which had been the ruin of so many; but the queen, seconding the recommendations of the Cecils, to induce him to accept the post, remitted him a debt of 8,000, and made him a present of nearly three times that sum. He was furnished with an army of 18,000 men, many of them veteran troops who had fought in the Netherlands, and with the fullest powers that had ever been conferred on any Irish deputy. He had full authority to continue the war or to make peace; to pardon all crimes and treasons at his pleasure, and to determine all his own appointments. Such were the terms of his commission; but in one particular the queen had laid a strict injunction upon him, in conversation, which was, that he should not give the command of the cavalry, as he wished, to his friend and the friend of Shakespeare, the Earl of Southampton, with whom Elizabeth had the old cause of quarrel, that of presuming to marry without her consent. In March, 1599, Essex marched out of London, surrounded by the flower of the young nobility, and followed by the acclamations and good wishes of the populace, of whom he was the idol for his military reputation and his frank and generous disposition.

<<< 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 13

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About