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The Reign of Elizabeth. (Continued) page 14

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No sooner did he arrive in Ireland than he set at defiance the orders of the queen, and placed Southampton at the head of the horse. Elizabeth sent an angry command for his removal, and Essex reminded her of the terms of his commission, and wished to know whether she meant to revoke it. It was not till after a very warm correspondence, which on the part of the queen became most peremptory, that the headstrong Essex gave way. This was precisely the conduct that his enemies at home had, probably, foreseen, and certainly rejoiced in. Sir John Harrington was sent out by the queen with Essex to be her spy upon him; and from the correspondence betwixt this gentleman and his friend Markham, we discover the watchful caballing of his enemies to find occasion against him and ruin him in his absence. Markham says: - "What betideth the lord-deputy is known to Him only who knoweth all; but when a man hath so many showing friends, and so many unshowing enemies, who learneth his end here below? I say, do you not meddle in any sort, nor give your jesting too freely amongst those you know not." He adds, "Two or three of Essex's sworn foes and political rivals, Mount-joy's kinsmen, are sent out in your army. They are to report all your conduct to us at home. As you love yourself, the queen, and me, discover not these matters; if I had not loved you, they had never been told. . . . . You are to take account of all that passes in this expedition, and keep journal thereof unknown to any in the company. This will be expected of you."

Such were the circumstances under which Essex went out on this command - bitter and indefatigable enemies labouring for his destruction at home; spies placed around him; and an army, which, spite of some veterans, turned out to contain a majority of raw, worthless fellows, who grew disgusted at the very sight of an Irish campaign, and deserted in numbers. Sickness, from the wretched and unwholesome supplies of provisions - the worst enemy of the British soldier in all ages being frequently the commissariat officers - soon decimated them; and by the month of August his 18,000 men showed no more than 3,500 foot, and 300 horse. He was compelled to demand a reinforcement of 2,000 men before he could march into Ulster, the chief seat of the rebellion. The queen sent the soldiers, but accompanied the order by very bitter letters, complaining of his waste of her troops, her money, and of her time, which was so precious. Essex defended himself by representing the difficulties of the task which he had to encounter, and which had mastered so many before him. He assured her that he acted entirely by the advice of the Lords of the Irish Council; but "these rebels," he said, "are far more numerous than your Majesty's army, and have - though I do unwillingly confess it - better bodies, and more perfect use of their arms, than those men your Majesty sends over." He added, that for his part he received nothing from home but "discomfort and soul-wounds."

When he came up with Tyrone on the 5th of September, encamped with his whole army in the county of Louth, that chief demanded a parley, and showed so many causes of real complaint against the former governors of Ireland, and professed such apparently sincere desire for peace on the redress of these grievances, that Essex deemed it both justice and the best policy to listen to them. Instead of a battle, therefore, as was expected, an armistice was agreed upon for six weeks, which was to be renewed from six weeks to six weeks till the following May, to give time for full inquiry.

No man had ever shown himself more ready to plunge into war, and more reckless of danger in the midst of it than Essex; but here he saw every appearance of gross injustice, and had he been permitted to act on his liberal and just sentiments, he would probably have soon reduced all the difficulties of Ireland by doing what was right towards its inhabitants. But, unfortunately for him and for Ireland, his enemies at home were rabid for his destruction, and the queen, ignorant of the real source of the disorders there, and already prejudiced against him, listened to the insidious suggestions of Cobham, Cecil, Gray of Wilton, and Raleigh. These insinuations were no other than that Essex was at heart a traitor, and was in collusion with the Irish to betray his trust and make himself independent. Still worse, that he was waiting for the descent of the Spaniards on the island to assist in the design.

At this moment Philip III., who had succeeded his father on the throne of Spain - a man of far inferior abilities, but with all his father's ambition and enmity to the heretic queen of England - was threatening a fresh descent on some part of the British domains. A fleet under the Adelantado had appeared off the coast of Brittany, and an army was immediately set on foot, and the chief command given to the Earl of Nottingham. Apprehensive that the ardent temperament of Essex might induce him to volunteer his services against the enemy whom he had so zealously encountered before, the queen was induced by her ministers to forbid him quitting Ireland. The Spanish fleet cruised up the Channel, and without any opposition entered the harbour of Sluys. No sooner, therefore, had Essex given to Tyrone an opportunity of justifying himself, instead of falling upon him and beating him, in the usual way, without inquiry or reason, than the junto of his enemies at home represented him as playing into the hands of Spain - Ireland being the vulnerable point on which the Spaniards would be sure to make the attack. Instead, therefore, of a fair and judicious inquiry into the merits of the demands presented by Tyrone for the Irish, the bitterest reproaches were showered by the queen on Essex in letters which, from the style, he immediately attributed to Raleigh. Certain that his destruction was determined upon by these implacable foes, and that no justice was to be expected either for himself or the Irish nation whilst he was at such a distance, he formed the sudden resolve to hasten to London and defend his policy in person. His first idea was to take with him such a body of troops as should overawe the adverse party, and secure his own person; but Sir Christopher Blount, who had now married his mother, convinced him. of the fatality of such a proceeding. He departed, therefore, with a small attendance; and arriving in London on the 28th of September, and finding the queen was at Nonsuch, he lost not a moment in hastening thither, to prevent any one preceding him to his prejudice. But he found that, quick as he had been, his enemies had been quicker, and that one of the most hostile of them, Lord Gray of Wilton, was on the way at full speed. Essex knew what the effect would be if Cecil got the news before his arrival, for having left his government contrary to the positive order of the queen; and if time were allowed to excite the queen's resentment, he would undoubtedly be arrested the moment of his arrival. For this reason he rode like a madman, through mud and mire, but hate travelled faster, and Gray had been closeted a good quarter of an hour with Cecil when he reached the palace.

Without pausing to alter his dress, Essex rushed into the queen's privy chamber, and not finding her there, did not hesitate to rush into her bed-chamber, though it was only ten o'clock in the morning. The queen was just up, and sat with her hair all about her face in the hands of her tire-woman. She was naturally excessively astonished at this unexpected apparition; but Essex threw himself on his knees before her, covered her hands with kisses, and did not rise till she had given him evidence of her good-will. He retired to make his toilet in such good humour at his reception, that he thanked God that after so many troublous storms abroad, "he found a sweet calm at home." Within an hour he returned, and had a long interview with Her Majesty, who was so kind and gracious, that the courtiers, who had carefully watched how this rude entrance would be taken, persuaded themselves that love would carry the day against duty with the queen; and they all, except the Cecil party, were very courteous towards him. But by the evening the poison of the venomous minister had been instilled and done its work. Essex was received by the queen with a stern and distant air, and she began to demand of him why he had thus left Ireland without her permission, affairs being in so disordered and dangerous a state. He received an order at night to consider himself a prisoner in his room; and the next day, at two o'clock in the afternoon, he was summoned to give an account of himself to the Council. On entering the Council, the lords arose and saluted him, but reseated themselves, leaving him standing at the end of the board. It was demanded why he had left his charge in Ireland without leave; why he had made so many knights there, contrary to the expressed desire of the queen; why he had dared to write such presumptuous letters to Her Majesty; and how he had presumed to enter Her Majesty's bedroom.

Essex is said to have answered these and other demands concerning his administration of Irish affairs, in a most temperate, grave, and discreet manner. But it was thought that the last charge would go hardest with him. Elizabeth had now had time to reflect on the figure which she must have made in the eyes of the man whom she had the vanity and folly still to regard as a lover. She was now sixty-three years of age. Her natural locks were thin and grey; her face was wrinkled and haggard, and she had thus been surprised before she was made up by her artists of the toilet, into an impossible imitation of youth. The woman who had eighty wigs of different, hues had not had time to put on one; and the humiliating fact would, no doubt, sink deeper into her vain mind every moment.

On the third day after his examination by the Council he was committed to the custody of the Lord Keeper Bacon, who had received much favour from Essex. There was great merry-making in the Court, as if to show that the queen felt no concern for her late favourite, and she then removed to Windsor. Lady Walsingham entreated her that Essex might be allowed to write to his wife, who had just been confined, and was in great trouble at neither seeing nor hearing from him. Elizabeth had the brutality to refuse. She was, in fact, in the worst of humours, neither at peace with herself, nor with any one around her. Sir John Harrington, who had come over with Essex, no sooner appeared before her, than she exclaimed fiercely, "What! did the fool bring you too? go back to your business." Sir John observes that her demeanour left no doubt whose daughter she was. He was not an hour in London before he was threatened with the Meet. He replied to his friends, that coming so lately from the land service, he did hope to escape pressing into the Fleet. In another place, Harrington says, he "had nearly been wrecked on the Essex coast." At this first interview he says "the queen chafed much, walked to and fro, and looked with much discomposure in her countenance, and I remember she catched my girdle when I kneeled to her and swore by God's Son, 'I am no queen! that man is above me. Who gave him command to come here so soon? I did send him on other business.' She bade me go home. I did not stay to be twice bidden. If all the Irish rebels had been at my heels, I should not have made better speed."

The people meantime manifested great sympathy with the fallen favourite, who had been, contrary to such cases in general, at once the favourite of the sovereign and the public. The press teemed with pamphlets, the pulpits with sermons in his vindication; ministers of religion put up prayers for him, and attacks on his enemies were even found scattered about in the palace and posted on its walls. These evidences of regard for him, no doubt, only the more exasperated Elizabeth, as they made her appear in the wrong. She called for the journal which Sir John Harrington had been ordered to keep, but that did not furnish any matter on which she could ground the condemnation of Essex, and "she swore," says Harrington, "with an awful oath, that we were all idle knaves, and the Lord Deputy Essex worse, for wasting our time and her commands in such wise as my journal doth write of." What chagrined her was, that the Council assured her there was no sufficient ground to bear a charge of high treason.

In the winter Essex fell ill, and his friends implored more liberty for him; but Elizabeth, who had been repeatedly deceived by his pretences of illness when he was out of humour, now would not believe it. His wife sent her a valuable jewel, but she would not accept it. The following week the sorrowful countess presented herself at Court all in mourning, to move the queen in his behalf, but Elizabeth would not see her, but bade her go home and come no more to Court. The King of France, whose ambassador, Boissise, had written him word that the Council had decided unanimously that Essex had well and faithfully served the queen, and that even his return, though contrary to order, was well meant, also desired the ambassador to speak in favour of the earl from him, cautioning Her Majesty not to drive to extremity one of the most faithful and valuable servants that she had. His sisters, the ladies Rich and Northumberland, went to the Court all in mourning too, to solicit more liberty for him on account of his health, and at length she permitted him to take the air in the garden. But all this time she was very gay at Court, and attended a tournament got up by his enemies, to let people see, as she observed, that they could do very well without Essex; and she gave out that she was advised to stay more in London, that she might counteract by her presence the credit of those who had too much influence with the people.

In June of 1600 she put Essex on his trial before a court of eighteen commissioners - a totally illegal court, whom she empowered to pass "censure," but not judgment. Before this court, consisting of his determined enemies, Essex pleaded on his knees, having his papers in his hat on the floor beside him. Thus he was kept for eleven hours, only being- allowed, after a long period, to arise and stand, and as he grew fatigued in the latter part of the day, was permitted to lean against a cupboard. Sir Edward Coke, Yelverton, Flemming, and Sir Francis Bacon were the Crown lawyers employed against him. Bacon has been taxed with ingratitude for his suffering himself to appear against his benefactor. It is but justice to the great lawyer and still greater philosopher, to say that he had repeatedly endeavoured to soften Elizabeth and prevail upon her to forgive Essex, but finding that he was on the point of losing her favour by his zealous advocacy of his friend, he was not martyr enough to give his own fortune for his friendship.

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