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The Reign of Elizabeth. (Continued) page 18


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The Spaniards in Kinsale yielded the place on this defeat of their allies, on condition of being allowed to return home with their arms and ammunition. Tyrone was then pursued by Mountjoy with great vigour, and after a number of defeats, retired still more northward. Munster was reduced, and Tyrone offered to submit on favourable terms; but Mountjoy could obtain no such terms from the queen; she insisted on unconditional surrender. Her ministers strongly advised her to concede and settle the state of Ireland, which was now costing her 300,000 a year to defend it against the natives. Sometimes she appeared disposed to comply, and then again was as obstinate as ever; and matters remained in this position till 1603, when Mountjoy, hearing that the queen was not likely to live long, agreed to receive Tyrone's submission, to grant him and his followers a full pardon, and restore the whole of his territories, with some few exceptions. Tyrone then accompanied Mount-joy to Dublin, where they heard of the death of Elizabeth; and Tyrone burst into tears and regretted his too hasty surrender. The deed, however, was done, and tranquillity ensured to Ireland for a short time.

The last warlike demonstration of the reign of Elizabeth was an expedition to the coast of Spain to prevent the passage of fresh fleets to Ireland. Admirals Levison and Monson proceeded thither with a fleet; but, tempted by a carrac of immense value in the harbour of Sesimbria, they seized it and returned home. This was such a desertion of their duty in compliance with their greed of prize-money, that in Elizabeth's days of vigour would have cost the commanders dearly. Whilst they were guarding their treasure homewards the Spanish fleet might have made sail. No time was lost in sending back the fleet under Monson, who found six Spanish galleys out, and stealing along the French coast. Before he could pursue them they were met by a squadron of Dutch and English ships, and after some hard fighting three of them were sunk, and three escaped into Sluys.

The reign of Queen Elizabeth was now drawing to a close. She was approaching her seventieth year, and till lately had still listened to the voice of flattery as if she were yet in the glory of her youth. But nature had begun to give her stern warnings, and the failing of her strength brought deep melancholy. However in the pride of her strength and the terrible energy of her will she had intrigued for the disturbance of foreign thrones, or imprisoned and put to death such as she chose at home, when the shadows of life's evening began to close around her, and the judgment of that Power which knows no partiality, and calls for a just account from prince as well as private individual, grew over her like a gigantic gloom, then her conscience rose above the flatteries of her courtiers and the colourings of her own passions, and she grew moody, restless, and miserable. At one time she affected an unnatural gaiety; at another she withdrew into solitude, and was often found in tears. One of her household says in a letter - "She sleepeth not so much by day as she used, neither taketh rest by night. Her delight is to sit in the dark, and sometimes with shedding tears to bewail Essex."

Yet she still strove against the advancing infirmities of age. She would insist to the last on making her annual progress and on hunting. Only five months before her death Lord Henry Howard wrote to the Earl of Mar - "The queen our sovereign was never so gallant many years, nor so set upon jollity." The Earl of Worcester wrote also - "We are frolic here in Court: much dancing in the Privy Chamber of country dances before the queen's majesty, who is exceedingly pleased therewith." She had a new favourite also - the young Earl of Clanricarde - as if on the brink of the grave she was in a mood for dalliance with young men. He was said to resemble the Earl of Essex, and the courtiers all paid much attention to him because they thought it would please the queen; but she affected not to like him because he reminded her of Essex, and renewed her sorrow. But we may well suppose that there were deeper' sorrows than the death of Essex. A strange story is told of her calling for a true looking-glass, saying for twenty years she had not seen one; and on beholding her withered and wrinkled face, she fell to cursing her flatterers so fiercely that they dare not come into her presence. The fact was that the courtiers had rudely stripped away the delusions with which they had so long mocked her. The time which she had always had a terror of - that in which they should quit her to pay court to the rising sun - had arrived. The confessions of Essex had revealed to her the fact that her very chief minister, who still continued one of a very small number who paid her the same daily attentions, was sworn to her successor, and was in close correspondence with him. A letter of April 7th, 1602, says - "The queen walks often on Richmond Green with greater show of ability than can well stand with her years. Mr. Secretary sways all of importance, albeit of late much absent from the Court and about London, but not omitting in his absence daily to present Her Majesty with some jewel or toy that maybe acceptable. The other of the Council or nobility estrange themselves from Court by all occasions, so as, besides the master of the horse, vice-chamberlain, and comptroller, few of account appear there."

When Cecil was present it required all his art to conceal his correspondence with the King of Scotland. One day a packet was delivered to him from James in the queen's presence. She ordered him instantly to open it, and show its contents to her. It was a critical moment, and none but a long-practised diplomatist could have escaped the exposure which it would probably occasion; but recollecting her excessive dislike of bad smells and terror of contagion, he observed as he was cutting the string that "it had a strange and evil smell," and hinted that it might have been in contact with infected persons or goods. Elizabeth immediately ordered the cunning minister to take it away and have it purified, which no doubt he did of any dangerous contents before displaying, them to Her Majesty.

Meantime, not only Cecil and Howard, but another clique, was busy paying court to James. These were Raleigh, Cobham, and the Earl of Northumberland. They met at Durham House, and kept up a warm correspondence with James; but they were as zealously counteracted by Cecil and Howard, who warned James of all things not to trust to them, Howard declaring that as for Raleigh and Cobham, "hell did never spew up such a couple when it cast up Cerberus and Phlegethon."

While these self-seeking courtiers were thus anxiously labouring to stand first with the heir, Elizabeth was sinking fast into a most pitiable condition. She was weighed down by a complication of complaints, and her mind was affrighted by strange spectres. She told some of her ladies that "she saw one night her own body, exceeding lean and fearful, in a light of fire." This was at Whitehall, and as her astrologer, Dr. Dee, had bade her beware of Whitehall, she determined to remove to Richmond, which she did on a very wild and stormy day, the 14th of January, 1603. She had a severe cold before setting out, and no doubt increased it. Her melancholy rapidly increased, and she spent the whole of her time in sighs and tears, or in talking of the treason and execution of Essex, the proposed marriage of Arabella Stuart with the grandson of the Earl of Hertford, or the rebellion of Tyrone. On the 10th of March the physicians gave her up, and strong guards were posted about the palace, to prevent any attempt to interrupt the accession of the King of Scots, all suspicious-looking persons being taken up and committed to prison, or shipped off to Holland.

To what a condition this great queen was now reduced we may imagine from what that condition was more than a year before. In October of 1601, Sir John Harrington says she was wonderfully altered in her features, and reduced to a skeleton. Her food was nothing but manchet bread and succory pottage. She had not changed her clothes for many days. Nothing could please her; she was the torment of the ladies who waited on her. She stamped with her feet and swore violently at the objects of her anger. For her protection she had ordered a sword to be placed by her table, which she often took in her hand, and thrust with violence into the tapestry of her chamber.

Now she was so terrified at apparitions that she refused to go to bed, and remained sitting on the floor on the scarlet cushions taken from the throne, for four days and nights. No one could persuade her to take any sustenance or go to bed. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Cecil, and the lord admiral endeavoured to persuade her, but in vain. When the lord admiral urged her to go to bed, she said, "No no; there were spirits there that troubled her;" and added, that, "if he were in the habit of seeing such things in his bed as she did in hers, he would not try to persuade her to go there". Cecil hearing this, asked if Her Majesty had seen any spirits. At this she cast one of her old lightning flashes at him, and said, "I shall not answer you such a question." Cecil then said she must go to bed to content the people. "Must," she said, smiling scornfully, "must is a word not to be used to princes;" adding, "Little man! little man! if your father had lived you durst not have said so much, but you know I must die, and that makes you so presumptuous." She now saw that man's real character, and ordering him and all the rest except the lord admiral out of her chamber, she said, "My lord, I am tied with a chain of iron round my neck." He endeavoured to dissipate the idea, but she only said, " I am tied! I am tied! and the case is altered with me."

"The queen," says Lady Southwell, "kept her bed fifteen days, besides the three days she sat upon a stool, and one day, when, being pulled up by force, she obstinately stood upon her feet for fifteen hours." What a most miserable scene was the death-bed of this extraordinary woman! Surely nothing was ever more melancholy and terrible in its mixture of mental decay, dark remorse, and stubborn, indomitable hardiness and self-will. At the same time around her bed were men urging her to take broth, to name her successor, and to hear prayers. The kings of France and Scotland were named to her, but without eliciting the slightest notice; but when they named Beauchamp, the son of the Earl of Hertford and Lady Katherine Grey, one of Elizabeth's victims, she fired up and exclaimed, "I will have no rascal's son in my nest, but one worthy to be a king!"

At length they persuaded her to listen to a prayer by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and when he had once begun she appeared unwilling to let him leave off; half-hour after half-hour she kept the primate on his knees. She then sunk into a state of insensibility, and died at three o'clock in the morning of the 24th of March, 1603, in the seventieth year of her age, and the forty-fourth of her reign. Robert Carey, afterwards Earl of Monmouth, was anxiously waiting under the window of Elizabeth's room at Richmond Palace, for the first news of her death, which Lady Scrope, his sister, communicated to him by silently letting fall, as a signal, a sapphire ring, afterwards celebrated as "the blue ring," which he caught, and the moment after was galloping off towards Scotland to be the first herald of the mighty event to the expecting James. Three hours later, that is, at six in the morning, Cecil, the lord keeper, and the lord admiral were with the Council in London, and it was resolved to proclaim James VI. of Scotland James I. of England.

The character of Elizabeth has, till of late, been taken on trust from the extravagant eulogies of the corrupt writers of her time. She had had a traditionary reputation as "the glorious Queen Bess," "the good Queen Bess;" but the researches into the actual records of her reign, as preserved in the State Paper Office, in our day, oblige us to modify greatly the gorgeous portraiture of her own courtiers and dependants. To judge her strictly by the purer and higher moral code of to-day would be evidently unjust. All monarchs that preceded, and most of those contemporary with her, had so much of the same character, that a very low, corrupt, and dishonest scale of conduct was deemed admissible, and almost inseparable from royalty. Crimes were permitted to them which would now excite horror and execration through every civilised nation. Nevertheless, virtue is virtue, and justice in all times; the nature of truth is immutable and eternal; and judged by that, the character of Elizabeth, with all concessions to the general character and maxims of the time, must be admitted to be of a very mixed texture, and far below that assigned her in and long after her time. In a few plain words, she was a bold, clever, successful, bad woman. That she maintained Protestantism and defended England against a host of enemies is a great fact, for which we owe her much; though neither her maintenance of the one nor the defence of the other was conducted on principles which any moralist would now undertake to defend. With a high and defiant bearing, she condescended to arts in weakening foreign nations, which she continually and energetically condemned in her own professions, and which, when applied to herself, she characterised in true terms, as dastardly, unroyal, and sometimes devilish. Her support of Protestantism, both in England, Scotland, and on the Continent, was by every means which Protestantism now abhors and denounces - by the utter suppression of religious liberty, by setting subjects against their rulers, and in the case of Mary Queen of Scots, by the violation of the Christian principle of doing as you would be done by, of hospitality, common faith, and regard to the just rights, the liberty, and the life of an independent sovereign.

Much allowance must be made for her in all these cases, however, from the fact that the statesmen who surrounded her were of a class in whom cunning, intrigue, and contempt of honour and justice usurped the place of elevated genius and exalted principle. There are no arts, however contemptible or scandalous, by which pettifoggers and swindlers now-a-days reach their object, which were not then practised on a national scale as the most golden rules of diplomacy. Even when the queen's conscience and sense of right rose above her conventional notions of rule or the hurricane sweep of her passions, these men cajoled her by flattery, or terrified her, by assertions of plots against her life or her kingdom, into their dark and sinister measures.

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