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The Reign of Elizabeth. (Continued) page 17

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James, who was one of the most timid of mortals, says that he at first refused to accompany the man; but the pot of gold running in his head as he rode to the chase, lie called the man and told him that as soon as they had run down the buck he would go with him. The chase ended about eleven o'clock, and then James kept his word and rode off towards Perth with Gowrie, followed at a little distance by some of his attendants. As he went along, fears and suspicions came across his mind, and he began to suspect some treasonable device. The wonder is that, under the circumstances, he went on; but the gold was a strong bait. On approaching the house of the Earl of Gowrie, he was met by the earl, attended by about eighty armed followers, James's attendants being only fifteen, and unarmed. This added to James's terror. He was assured that the earl had only just been apprised of the honour of the king's visit, and had risen suddenly from the dinner-table to meet him. In consequence, fames and his retainers had to wait an hour before dinner was served to them, and then it was of a very meagre kind.

During dinner, James's alarm increased from suspicious circumstances in the conduct of the earl; and after it James and Alexander proceeded to the man who was said to have the pot of gold. James observed that Gowrie carefully locked every door behind them till they came into a little closet, where stood a man with a dagger at his girdle. No sooner was the door shut and locked than Alexander Gowrie altered his whole demeanour - clapped on his hat, and, drawing the dagger from the man's girdle, pointed it at the king's breast, declaring the king to be in his power, and that he was sure his conscience was troubled with the murder of the earl his father. James exclaimed against the monstrous crime the man was meditating, and assured him that if he spared his life he would forgive him, and not a creature should know. On this Gowrie appeared to relent, and said the king's life should be safe, but he must go and speak to the earl. He left the king locked up with the man, who trembled from head to foot, and protested that he had no idea what he had been placed there for.

Alexander Gowrie soon returned, declaring now that the king must die, and that the earl had sent away his servants on the assurance that the king had ridden away from the postern. He seized James, and tried to tie his hands with a garter; but James says that he snatched away his hands, laid one on the sword which Gowrie was already drawing, and with the other seized the villain by the throat. They thus struggled, James managing to drag the man towards an open window, where he shouted with all his might "Murder!" His servants happened to be passing at the moment, and, rushing up-stairs, found James still struggling with the ruffian, whom they dispatched, and also the earl.

The news of this strange incident was received with great incredulity by James's subjects. The clergy would not even read from the pulpits the order of Council, giving an account of "The unnatural and vile conspiracy." But there appears no great reason to doubt the fact. James had incurred the resentment of the Gowries by the death of their father. The clergy were vexed at their death, for they were stanch supporters of the Presbyterian cause; and that party being in close alliance with the English Government, there were sufficient reasons why there should be means used to divert James from any participation in Essex's schemes at that moment. It was probably the intention of the Gowries to keep James in durance for a time, and that his terrors made him imagine that they intended to kill him. That this was the real meaning of the plot was confirmed by the man with the dagger, who turned out to be Andrew Henderson, the steward of the Earl of Gowrie, who on examination repeated that he had been placed in the closet, for what he did not know. It was, moreover, ascertained that the Earl of Gowrie had been in Paris, and in communication with Sir Henry Neville, the Queen of England's ambassador; and it was remembered that an English ship had for some months been cruising in the mouth of the Frith of Forth. Still further confirmation was given by the two younger brothers of the Gowries fleeing into England after the affair at the earl's house, where they remained under protection of Elizabeth. From the constant employment of such intrigues by the Government of Elizabeth, there appears nothing incredible or improbable in this view of the matter.

When James's ambassadors arrived in London they found the conspiracy of Essex at an end, and the earl and his accomplices in the Tower. James, therefore, contemplated some difficulty in business with the Court, but they were ordered to congratulate Her Majesty on her escape from so daring a plot. It must have required all the assurance of tried diplomatists to offer these felicitations, knowing the real position of James in the affair; but that did not deter them from making them, and from pressing on the English Government; and to their agreeable surprise they encountered no obstacle at all. Cecil, who saw clearly that the queen's health was declining, was only anxious to secure the good-will of James, who must to a certainty, ere long, become master of the English throne. The only thing was to open and conduct an understanding with him without detection by Elizabeth, which would cost him his head. But Cecil, who was as cunning as he was selfish, contrived to manage the matter with James's ambassadors in the deepest secrecy. He let James know by them that he had a warm friend in him, who was watching to serve him and to guard the succession from all intruders for him. He promised an increase of 2,000 to James's pension; and Lord Henry Howard was taken into the secret. It was planned that the necessary correspondence should be carried on in his name, and not in that of Cecil, with Bruce and Mar in Scotland. James was delighted with the turn affairs had taken, and was so confident of the sincerity and zeal of Cecil, for he knew that all his interests were engaged in the scheme, that, though urged in the following year to send a special ambassador to Elizabeth, he refused, saying nobody could serve him so thoroughly as Cecil was doing. At the same time Raleigh and Cobham, not being let into the secret, failed to make good their interest with the heir-expectant, and being evidently secretly hated by Cecil and Howard, who called them "those wicked villains," they were set down by James as his enemies, and remembered duly when he came into power. Meantime Cecil continued to serve Elizabeth with his usual hollow flatteries, and to appear more inclined to the claims of Arabella Stuart than of James. Elizabeth was so little aware at this time of Cecil's treason, that she often amused herself with ridiculing his pigmy person. One day, observing the young Lady Darby wearing something about her neck suspended by a cord, she snatched it from her, and found it a miniature of Cecil. She then, to make fun of the lovers, tied the portrait on her own shoe, and walked about with it there; and then she removed it and pinned it to her elbow, and wore it there some time.

Lord Mountjoy, the friend of Essex, though advanced to the deputyship of Ireland, knew that Elizabeth had become aware of his offer to attempt a release of Essex from his confinement before his last rash outbreak, and he was prepared to escape to the Continent on the first symptom of an attempt to arrest him; but to his agreeable surprise he received a very gracious letter from Elizabeth, in which she stated that the defection and death of Essex had caused her deep grief, but his, Mountjoy's, loyalty and success in Ireland had been a comfort to her. This had been done at the suggestion of Cecil, who represented to her that Mountjoy's loyalty might be secured by not seeming to doubt it, and it was of great consequence to have so able a general in Ireland, as the Spaniards were now meditating a descent on the coast of that island. In September, indeed, 4,000 Spaniards landed at Kinsale, under Don Juan D'Aguilar, fortified the town, and called on the people to join them against the heretic and excommunicated Queen of England, their oppressor. Whilst Mountjoy marched his forces to Kinsale and shut up the Spaniards within their own lines, Elizabeth in England summoned her last Parliament. She opened it in person on the 27th of October, but she was now so enfeebled that she was actually sinking under the weight of the robes of State, when the nobleman who stood nearest to her caught her in his arms and supported her. Notwithstanding this exhibition of her weakness, her determined will enabled her to rally and to go through the ceremony. The session was a very stormy one. The great object of calling it together was to obtain money. Money the House of Commons expressed its willingness to grant, but at the same time called for the abolition of a number of monopolies which were sapping the very vitals of the nation. These monopolies were patents granted to her courtiers, for the exclusive sale of some article of commerce. It was a custom which had commenced in the seventeenth year of her reign, and by the greediness of her favourites had grown into a monstrous abuse. Scarcely a man about her but had one or more of these monopolies in his hand, by which the price of all sorts of the necessities of life was doubled, or more than doubled, Sometimes the patentee exercised the monopoly himself, sometimes he farmed it out to others, whose only object was to screw as much as possible out of it.

The members for counties and boroughs had been repeatedly called on by their constituents to demand the abolition of these detestable abuses; but they had been as often silenced by the ministers, on the ground that such things were matters of prerogative, and that the queen would highly resent any touch of her prerogatives.

On the 18th of November a motion to this effect was made, which received the regular ministerial answer, with the addition that, it was useless to proceed by bill to endeavour to tie the Royal hands, because, even if it were done by both Houses, the queen could loose them at her pleasure. Cecil said that the speaker was very much to blame to admit of such a motion at the commencement of a session, knowing that it was contrary to the Royal command. But, nothing daunted, the members of the Commons replied that they had found, however useless it was to petition for the removal of these grievances, that the remedy lay in their own hands, and the patentees were such blood-suckers of the commonwealth, that the people would no longer bear the burden of them. When the list of the monopolies was read over, a member asked if bread were not amongst them. The House appeared amazed at the question. "Nay," said he, "if no remedy be found for these, bread will be there before next Parliament." Bacon and Cecil still talked loudly of prerogative, but the House went on with so much resolution, that the favourites began to tremble, and Raleigh, who had a monopoly of tar and various other commodities, saw such a storm brewing that he offered to give them all up. For four days the debate continued with such an agitation as had not been, witnessed through the whole reign; and Cecil found it necessary to seem to give way, not meaning to give way an inch. On the 25th, therefore, the queen sent for the speaker, and addressed him, in the presence of the Council, in one of those grandiloquent speeches which were put into her mouth on all such occasions, full of high-sounding professions of her love of her people, and her determination to spend her heart's blood sooner than anybody should hurt them. A hundred and forty members attended with the speaker, and the queen said that she would redress all their grievances, and was most thankful that they had brought to her knowledge "the harpies and horse-leeches" which infested her beloved people - as if she had not known and heard of them again and again for years! "I had rather," she said, "that my heart and hand should perish than that either heart or hand should allow such privileges to monopolists as may be prejudicial to my people. The splendour of regal majesty hath not so blinded my eyes that licentious power should prevail with me more than justice. The glory of the name of a king may deceive those powers that know not how to rule, as gilded pills may deceive a sick patient; but I am none of those princes, for I know that the commonwealth is to be governed for the good and advantage of those that are committed to me, not of myself, to whom it is entrusted, and that an account is one day to be given before another judgment-seat. I think myself most happy that, by God's assistance, I have hitherto so prosperously governed the commonwealth in all respects, and that I have such subjects that for their good I should willingly lose both kingdom and life."

Yet after all the like impositions which had been practised upon them, the Commons were willing to be deceived once more: though the populace pursued the carriage of Cecil with curses and menaces whenever he appeared abroad, so great were their sufferings, yet the members of the Lower House returned the most adulatory thanks to the queen for her most gracious promises, and voted her the unexampled grant of four subsidies, and eight tenths and fifteenths. The Parliament once dismissed, not a further thought was given to the redress of the evils complained of: nay, Elizabeth, in dismissing them, could not refrain from exercising a little irony at the expense of the leaders of this agitation, and Cecil regarded it as a feat worthy of his highest self-estimation to have cajoled the representatives of the people, and conceded to them nothing.

Whilst these events had been taking place in Parliament, Mountjoy had defeated the queen's enemies in Ireland. He had united his forces with those of the President of Munster, and kept the Spaniards shut up in Kinsale. On Christmas Eve the Earl of Tyrone advanced to the assistance of the besieged, with 6,000 Irish and 200 fresh Spaniards, who had landed at Castlehaven under the command of Ocampo. His plan was to surprise the English before daylight, and to have a second division of his army ready with a supply of provisions to throw into the town. But Mountjoy was already aware of his approach, which was delayed by the fears of Ocampo - only too well founded - of the fatal want of discipline amongst the natives, and by his endeavours to bring them into some regularity. Mountjoy surprised these wild hordes as they were crossing a stream, and thoroughly routed them. The Spaniards, left on the field alone, surrendered, and Tyrone retreated northwards with the remnant of his army. About 500 Irish were killed.

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