Joan Of Arc
Catherine De Medici
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( Originally Published Early 1900's )
A. D. 1533-1603
"THE VIRGIN QUEEN "
When the story of this great reigning woman is told it still remains that the most wonderful thing of all is left out. There lived among her subjects, as a play actor, probably unknown or at least little known by her, William Shakespeare, who bids fair to be hailed by a large part of the human race as its brightest intellectual ornament. In an age when coats of mail and knightly deeds still figured on the battle-field, he, with other players, in out-of-the-way places, and under the frowns of both the brave and the industrious, simulated the ardor and the acts of heroes and of kings. When he had gained some wealth he purchased a house in Stratford, rose out of the disgraces of his early livelihood, and died so respectable that, with proper interest in his person by courtly people, he might have appeared in the same room with Queen Elizabeth.
This, which is not in her proper biography, is so frequently thought of nowadays when she is considered, that it is here placed first, and before the account of an illustrious and withal a glorious career.
Elizabeth was the daughter of one of the basest Kings who have lived, Henry VIII of England. He married Isabella's daughter, Catherine of Aragon, and, growing apprehensive of his soul's safety, divorced her that he might wed Anne Boleyn, the mother of Elizabeth ; he cut Anne's head off that he might be a widower and marry Jane Seymour; he lost Jane Seymour (mother of Edward) by death, wedded Anne of Cleves in January to divorce her in July, in order that he might join with Catherine Howard, and cut off her poor head when Catherine Parr had caught his royal eye. Thus, Elizabeth's father was Bluebeard himself. As Frederick the Great grew to be proud of the father who had come within a few minutes of cutting off Frederick's head, so Elizabeth was cast in a mould to be proud of her father. We shall there-fore naturally find a deep-seated dissimulation in her character. Yet, while she was a miser, she was not so much of a hypocrite as her father.
Although it is impossible to summarize the career of Catherine de' Medici, her contemporary, it is not difficult to point to the salient facts of Elizabeth's life: She had a stormy girlhood; she ascended the throne at 25; she supported the French Huguenots and got Mary Stuart of Scotland in her power ; she was excommunicated by the Pope, as her father had been; she was courted by Philip II of Spain; she came very near to marrying Catherine de' Medici's youngest son, the Duke of Anjou (Alencon), and was courted by Henry II; she twice refused the crown of the Low Countries, but sent them troops to fight against Spain; she was long and seriously threatened by assassins; she executed Mary Stuart; she escaped the Invincible Armada of Spain ; she hated the Guises ; she was deserted, in a sense, by Henry of Navarre, who owed all to her; she loved Leicester; she loved Essex, sent him to quiet Ireland, recalled him, killed him, grieved over him, sank into deep melancholy, and died, reigning forty-five years without a husband, and exhibiting many eccentricities. She was nearly always a popular Queen with the conservative Protestants, as Isabella had been with the Catholics, and perhaps took Isabella for a model. She probably felt that Ferdinand had obscured and thwarted the best purposes of Isabella, so she herself was chary of inviting a consort to ascend the steps of the English throne.
Elizabeth, daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, was born at the royal palace, Greenwich, on the Thames, September 7, 1533. The country, compared with Europe, was extremely barbaric. A noble lord paid $8 a year rent for his house. Erasmus, the great scholar and bookmaker, visited England and attributed the frequent plagues to the low habits of the people. "The floors," he writes, "are commonly of clay, strewed with rushes, under which lies unmolested an ancient collection of beer, grease, fragments, bones, spittle, excrements of dogs and cats, and everything that is nasty." Erasmus was a very sensitive invalid, and probably a harsh critic. Holing-shed, the chronicler, says there were no chimneys to the houses; the fire was kindled against the wall, and the smoke escaped as it now does in Esquimau huts ; the houses were of watling (braided twigs) plastered with clay; the people slept on straw pallets, and had a log for pillow ; furniture and utensils were nearly all of wood. People ate with their fingers. But "the religion" had taught the believers to read the Bible in English for themselves, and thus the spread of education was no longer impeded. The inhabitants learned European civilization with surprising rapidity in the sixteenth century, as the Japanese have done in the nineteenth century. Probably Elizabeth owned the first silk stockings that came to England, and a handsome pair of these are preserved in the Gunther collection at Chicago.
Elizabeth was not three years old when her mother was condemned to be "burnt or beheaded," as should be determined by the King, and Anne Boleyn was beheaded. An act was passed declaring Mary, daughter of Catherine of Aragon and Elizabeth, daughter of Anne, both illegitimate. Then a son Edward was born to Jane Seymour, the third wife, and the King fixed the succession in Ed-ward, Edward's issue, if any, next Mary, and lastly Elizabeth. Edward succeeded as the Sixth, and the education of Elizabeth progressed under various tutors. Her later triumphs as a scholar are thus enthusiastically described by Camden : "She had a happy memory, and was indefatigably given to the study of learning, insomuch that as before she was 17 years of age she under-stood well the Latin, French, and Italian tongues, and had an indifferent knowledge of Greek. Neither did she neglect music, so far as became a princess, being able to sing sweetly and play handsomely on the lute. She read over Melanchthon's Commonplaces, all Cicero, a great part of the histories of Livy, certain select orations of Isocrates (turning two into Latin from the Greek) Sophocles' tragedies, and the New Testament in Greek by which means she framed her tongue to a pure and elegant way of speaking, and informed her mind with apt documents and instructions, daily applying herself to the study of good letters, not for pomp and ostentation, but in order to use in her life and the practice of virtue. Insomuch that she was a kind of miracle and admiration for her learning among the princes of her time."
Anne Boleyn had held out the baby princess Elizabeth imploringly to Henry VIII and his terrible frown was the only thing the infant eyes rested on. The little child was sent to one of the King's houses at Hunsdon, thirty miles north of London, with a governess, Lady Bryan, a relative of Anne. Lady Bryan wrote, begging for clothing : "She (Elizabeth) bath neither gown nor kirtle, nor petticoat, nor no manner of linen, nor forsmocks (aprons), por kerchiefs, nor rails, nor body stitchets, nor handkerchiefs, nor sleeves, nor mufflers, nor biggens (hoods)." The Lady Elizabeth's large teeth were cutting with much trouble. "They come very slowly forth, which causeth me to suffer Her Grace to have her will more than I would." After that Lady Bryan hoped to so control the child that the King's Grace should have great comfort in Her Grace." Yet it was "a promising and gentle child."
When Prince Edward was baptized, Mary, seventeen years older than Elizabeth, held the infant in her arms, and also led the 4-year Elizabeth to the font. Elizabeth and Edward, both motherless, played together, and were brought up alike, and ever remained friends. When their father died both shed tears, and Edward was King, though Mary ought to have been Queen.
The studies to which we have referred were carried forward systematically under William Grindal. Elizabeth translated a small book of prayers into Latin, French, and Italian. This MS., dedicated to her father, is in the Royal Library at Westminster. Grindal died of the plague.
When Elizabeth was 17 the young King, who loved her like a brother, made her a present of Hatfield house, north of London, now the seat of Lord Salisbury. Here she had a retinue of servants and was a great Princess. Grindal had looked up to Roger Ascham at Cambridge; now Elizabeth sent to the University for Ascham himself, and he resigned a professorship to become her tutor. Under his hands she became known as the most learned young woman in Europe, and Ascham's book, "The Schoolmaster," vaunts her acquirements as the result of his patient and slow system of instruction. At Oxford is a copy, in her hand-writing, of St. Paul's Epistles, with the binding ornamented by designs in her own hand, and her thoughts written in Latin. Her script was clear and admirable.
Her household was called at 6, and all its members, perhaps sixty persons, high and low, repaired to the chapel, where prayers were said. At 7 the Princess and her ladies sat down to breakfast. Before each plate was a pewter pot of beer and another of wine. On fast days, salt fish was served; on other days a joint with bread. Coffee, tea, and chocolate were unheard of. Cabbages and turnips furnished the main supply of vegetables. There were no potatoes. It is probable that in houses like this there were chimneys, for the conservatives already bewailed the prevailing luxury. "When we built of willow," they said, "we had oaken men; now we build of oak, our men are willow, or altogether of straw, which is a sore alteration." The smoke had hardened the race; now people caught colds.
On the death of her generous brother Edward, Elizabeth showed her good will to Mary by coming to the coronation at the head of 500 horse. Dudley, Earl of Northumberland, set up the royal title of little Lady Jane Grey, granddaughter of the second sister of Henry VIII, and offered Elizabeth a large indemnity in money to re-sign her rights as heir, but Elizabeth refused. The rebellion of Lady Jane Grey's people followed, and Mary became wholly estranged from Elizabeth, going so far as to declare her birth illegitimate. Cardinal Pole and the other Romish advisers of Mary, counseled the destruction of Elizabeth, probably on account of her repute as a learned disciple of the Reformation. Mary married the terrible Philip II of Spain, and, while we would sup-pose this had ended Elizabeth at once, it was the cause of her deliverance, for Philip saved her, fearing Mary might die, and hoping to have Elizabeth also to marry.
Elizabeth obtained leave to live at her house, but Mary sent two officers to have her in charge. On the insurrection of Wyatt against the Spanish marriage, Elizabeth was suspected of complicity. Mary sent for her to come to court. Elizabeth pleaded illness. Members of the Privy Council were sent to fetch her. They presented themselves to her at her bedside at io o'clock in the night. She protested her loyalty to her sister, and called on them to witness her oaths of fealty. She left it to them to judge that she was certainly ill, but they replied that their orders were strict to bring her in the Queen's litter. A physician certified that it might be done without danger to her life, and she went to London next morning. She was so ill, however, that she rested four nights in a journey of only 29 miles nowadays only an hour's ride out of London. Her household wept at her departure, and Protestants along the road mourned for her as one already dead, so surely did they believe "Bloody Mary" would kill her.
Elizabeth was detained at Whitehall and severely questioned by the Privy Council. When it was rumored Wyatt had implicated her, she was sent to Hampton Court. From thence a barge took her to the Tower of London, where it is likely she had been sent on the way to the block. She entered the Tower Palm Sunday, 1554, with officers and servants, and no great humiliation was put upon her. "Here landeth," said she, "as true a subject, being a prisoner, as ever landed at these stairs, and before Thee, O God, I can speak it, having no other friend but Thee alone!"
Wyatt died declaring Elizabeth innocent. Mary ordered mass said in Elizabeth's apartments, and Elizabeth made no objection. At last, Philip, having advised it, Elizabeth was given over to two trustees. They took her to Richmond Palace, where she was offered a marriage with the Duke of Savoy. She was, by this time, pretty sure of escape from death, for she refused the alliance. She was then taken to Ricot, in Oxfordshire, and thence to Woodstock, where she was kept under a strong military guard. Considering the extreme danger of civil war when the religious persecutions that Mary had set out on, the treatment of Elizabeth by Mary reflects honor upon her sisterly feelings.
As may be judged when we come to Elizabeth's conduct toward Mary Stuart, Elizabeth skillfully kept out of the way of religious persecution. Mary sent to her to ascertain her opinion whether or not Christ was really present in the sacrament. Her answer was in verse :
" Christ was the word that spake it; He took the bread and brake it; And what the word did make it That I believe and take it."
The reason Philip favored Mary was because the Guises controlled Scotland in Mary Stuart, their niece, and if France acquired England also, Spain would be in great danger. Catholic or heretic, therefore, Philip wanted to see Elizabeth Queen rather than Mary Stuart, who already set up bold claims. Mary of England was hurt by her husband's fidelity to statecraft rather than to religion, and she died shortly after setting Elizabeth free.
When her approaching death was announced to Parliament there were cries from both houses: "Long live Queen Elizabeth !"
Elizabeth ascended the throne November 17, 1558, and the Protestants, who had suffered so many terrors under Bloody Mary, were wild with joy. The temper of England, which now desired to make progress in learning and the arts, was unquestionably in line with Elizabeth's feel ings. The people not only indorsed her religious views, but were proud of her attainments. She was one of the first of sovereigns to feel safe without a learned priest in her council chamber. Bishop Aylmer says : "She picked out such councilors to serve her as were neither of common wit nor common experience; of whom some by travel in foreign countries, some by learning, some by practice and like authority in other rulers' days, some by affliction either one way or other, for their gifts and graces which they had received at God's hands were men meet to be called to such rooms." None were priests. Yet she kept several of Mary's advisers. Philip II at once offered to marry her his deceased wife's sister. She led him to hope. Cecil she made Secretary of State. She recalled Protestant exiles, and opened the prisons to the martyrs who still lived. A clever saying is imputed to her at the time when the right of the people to read the Bible in English was a matter of life and death. One Rainsford, receiving the pardon of some prisoners, said he had a petition from other prisoners Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. "Consult those prisoners yourself," said the Queen, "and see if they desire all this liberty."
The Bishops, alarmed by her inclination toward the Reformation, refused to anoint her, and that ceremony was arranged with difficulty. She ordered the Lord's prayer, the ten commandments, the creed, the litany, the gospels and epistles to be read from the pulpits in English, and inhibited the elevation of the host in her presence. In many matters, however, she conformed to the Romish ritual, so that her real view was to seek public order rather than to sow the seeds of further controversy. She commanded the people to lay aside the terms "heretic," "schismatic," "papist," and to refrain from terms of reproach and provoking distinctions. There must not be unlawful worship and superstition, neither must there be a contempt for holy things. Three religious parties thus formed Romanists, who thought they were persecuted because they could not persecute; Church of England people, who followed Elizabeth in the expedient or opportune course; Puritans, who desired to persecute the Romanists for vengeance, or at least for even justice. Puritans settled New England ; Romanists came with Lord Baltimore. The Lutherans were strong in Germany and the Netherlands; the Genevese doctrines of Calvin had spread into France, and we have dwelt on the advancement of the Huguenots in our review of the career of Catherine de' Medici. Elizabeth now began her lifelong task of inspiring these rebellious movements against the power of Rome. Hardly one of the northern and western schisms could have survived but for her money and soldiers, and this was by far her greatest achievement.
We have seen, on previous pages, that Mary Stuart married Francis II of France. The twain of France signed themselves King and Queen of England and Scot-land as well. When Francis died, Catherine was glad to get Mary back to Scotland, where the Scotch Presbyterians rose against her, and soon she was accused of Darnley's murder, and became a prisoner, held by her rebellious subjects. Elizabeth arrogated the rights of an arbiter, and so mixed in with the Scottish troubles that she finally secured the person of Mary, who was now legal heir to the English throne in the event of Elizabeth leaving no issue. The Commons bore very heavily on the need of a Protestant successor, and probably touching the eccentric notes in the character of "the great Eliza," she became stubborn on this point, and vowed she would die a maid. She did not decree against Mary as her successor, nor would she admit Mary's rights. Meanwhile, that unfortunate and ambitious woman was in custody no less than eighteen years. Her son James, by Darnley, had escaped from Elizabeth's clutches, and eventually, after a regency, reigned in Scotland (and England). There he ruled over clans of Scotch Puritans who acknowledged but little authority.
It may be that Catherine de' Medici took part in the vast plan on which the Catholics now set out to destroy their enemies, the Protestants. Pope Pius V issued a bull denouncing the Queen of England as a depraved woman, depriving her of the rights of sovereignty, absolving her subjects from their allegiance, excommunicating her, and pronouncing all persons who should abet her excommunicated and accursed. Mary, Queen of Scots, was to be Queen of Great Britain and Ireland. The Pope sent Ridolfi, an emissary, disguised as a merchant, to operate to this end in England, and he confederated a great many nobles, with Norfolk at their head, to whom he promised the hand of Mary, if the plot should succeed. Meanwhile the Huguenots were lured to Paris, and the Duke of Anjou (Catherine de' Medici's son) urged his suit for Elizabeth's hand. Norfolk's conspiracy was disclosed, he was put in the tower, and after an insurrection of Mary's people in the north of England had been put down, about a thousand people were executed. Elizabeth set Norfolk free. Her advance on the Catholics and the Pope was now rapid. Laws were passed that made the importation of Catholic ecclesiastical furniture and utensils impossible, and rendered the person of the Queen more secure. There came a feeling over the Protestants that it was a matter of life and death between Elizabeth on the throne and Mary in the prison, which, after all, had long been an English way of looking at the relations of a monarch with his victim. To the Pope, Elizabeth replied by sending Sir Walter Raleigh and 100 picked gentlemen to fight in Navarre and by lending money to Jeanne of Albret, Henry of Navarre's mother. The Duke of Alva now went from Spain to the Low Countries to devastate, slay, and depopulate. Elizabeth seized his treasure on the seas, and he made reprisals. Alva, Northumberland, Norfolk (now free) and Ridolfi again plotted for the assassination of Elizabeth, the plot was discovered, and Norfolk and Northumberland were executed, though Elizabeth affected to accede to Norfolk's sentence with reluctance. Elizabeth sent a communication to Mary, in prison, charging her with assuming the arms of England, intending to marry Norfolk without the Elizabethan consent, practising with Ridolfi to engage the King of Spain to invade England, procuring the Pope's bull of excommunication, and allowing herself to be called Queen of England. Parliament applied for the trial and execution of Mary.
News of St. Bartholomew's massacre horrified the Protestant world. When the French Ambassador, Fénelon, come to tell the facts officially to Elizabeth, he advanced into a hall of black cloth, through ranks of ladies dressed in black and weeping. The Queen listened to his pacific utterances, dissembling her wrath, and even allowed negotiations to open for her marriage with the younger of Catherine de' Medici's sons, for those with the second (afterward Henry II) had failed. Although Elizabeth had refused to accept the proffered title of Queen of the Netherlands from the Dutch, when she found that Don John of Austria, Philip's natural brother, thought to conquer Holland and espouse Mary Stuart, she accepted the protectorate of Holland and sent money and troops to the relief of the victims of Philip's oppression, still representing to Philip that in this way she kept the Hollanders from joining with France against Spain. Meanwhile (1581) the most spirited of Elizabeth's royal matrimonial affairs or negotiations went forward with Catherine de' Medici's agents. She was 25 years older than the young Valois, but her interest in the Duke of Alencon, now Duke of Anjou, was so great that Leicester, her acknowledged favorite, grew jealous of Simier, Catherine's emissary. Simier thereon told Elizabeth that Leicester was secretly married. Leicester undertook the assassination of Simier, and while Simier and the Queen rowed in a barge, Simier descanting on the fine person of the young Duke, a, shot, fired from the bank of the Thames River, wounded a bargeman. Elizabeth punished nobody for this crime. The marriage was agreed on. The French Prince came and saw his intended bride of 49. The English looked on with wry faces. The Queen made him a present of 100,000 crowns, and he raised an army and took the field against the Spanish. The States exalted him to be Governor, and he returned to England. The Queen publicly put a ring on his finger. Bonfires were built in Holland. A Puritan wrote a book "The Gulf in which England will be swallowed by the French Marriage." Elizabeth cut off the hand he wrote it with. He waved his other hand and cried, "God save the Queen."
All the cronies of Elizabeth and all her ministers fiercely opposed this match. Elizabeth thought it over, retreated, and the French Prince, cursing women and islanders, went back to Holland, quarreled with the Dutch, and soon died. This is by all odds the nearest the Queen ever came to getting married.
Elizabeth pursued her studies all her life, and we find her at this age translating Plutarch, Boethius. Sallust, Livy, and Tacitus. A Polish Ambassador addressed her in Latin ; she being offended, extemporized a good Latin reply in the irate Elizabethan style.
She had a dry wit that has always been celebrated where canons of taste were not too high. She found particular pleasure in varying the saying that it takes nine tailors to make a man. Eighteen tailors waited on her in a delegation. The Queen greeted them : "Gentle-men, both." She declared she had a regiment of cavalry that had in it neither horse nor man it was recuited of tailors mounted on mares. Her best wit was therefore of that type which got its merit from the cruelty or sharpness of the jest, thus displaying the true parental instincts that she had inherited from bluff King Hal.
Castelnau, French Ambassador, writes of her : "She has prospered in all her affairs, and continues to do so. Not from possessing great wealth and granting large donations, for she has always been a great economist. but without exacting from her subjects in the manner of her predecessors. Her great desire has been the repose of her people ; hence the nation has become exceedingly rich during her reign. But however unusual her ability, she has never undertaken great affairs on her own judgment, but has always conferred with her council. Careful to keep out of wars, she has thrown them on her neighbors rather than drawn them on herself. She has been unjustly taxed with avarice because she has refused to be free with her gifts."
For more than twenty years she had been on the throne. Her arrogations of power had been rapid and constant. The Lords and Commons, sitting in Parliament, strove within themselves to learn her will, and to appear to freely register in advance what she should wish. The Reformation had already split England, and while Elizabeth must protect herself against an angered Pope, she was- forced no less to terrify and subdue a large body of dissenters from her own religious establishment. - These dissenters desired the state of things that had come about in Edinburgh, which will be noted anon.
The act of Henry III of France in assassinating the Guises seemed to usher an era of this order of crime, and there followed in time the assassinations of William of Orange, Henry III and Henry IV. These successful enterprises lend interest to the many abortive attempts that were made to kill Elizabeth, but one of which will here be detailed.
It will be important to know the need Elizabeth felt. in self-preservation, to end the life of her Catholic rival and prisoner, Mary Stuart, who was now doomed to see her own son a zealous Presbyterian King.
William Parry, a Catholic gentleman, pardoned for a capital offense probably religious as by this time Elizabeth had become a fairly cruel persecutor, burning or beheading fifty or one hundred people where Isabella had burned ten thousand this Parry went to Milan, and there, consulting with Jesuit priests, concluded to go back to England and assassinate Elizabeth for the good of the true faith. The papal nuncios, both at Milan and Paris, gave him their encouragement, but, at Paris, some Catholic priests denounced the enterprise as a crime. Parry wrote a letter to the Pope through Cardinal Como, asking the absolution and apostolic benediction, and received a highly favorable reply from the Cardinal. Still, Parry thought perhaps he could melt the heart of the Queen, and thereby spare her life. Accordingly he went to London, sought her presence, and exhorted her, as she valued life itself, to grant more indulgence to the Catholics. He secured a seat in the Commons, and there made a speech that angered his colleagues, and consigned him into custody. This fully convinced him that the Queen must die. He took an accomplice, Nevil. The twain agreed to shoot the Queen. But Nevil's worldly prospects suddenly changed by the death of a relative. He concluded he could do better than to become a martyr and assassin, and betrayed the plot. Parry was imprisoned, the Cardinal's letter was produced, Parry vaunted his criminal designs, and was beheaded. When he had argued with the Queen, he had left his dagger at home, for fear his zeal might overcome him.
The actual murder of the Prince of Orange at this time heightened the alarm of the Protestants. Elizabeth was now the head and front of the Reformation. Her money and men were in Navarre, at Rochefort, and she sent her lover and favorite, Leicester, to Holland. The States saluted Leicester as Governor, and treated him as a sovereign. But at this the eccentric Queen became jealous of her lover. She was, at all times, prompt to disconcert any attempt to reign in her name.
As military difficulties thickened, the Queen began to think of James, son of Mary Stuart, reigning over the quarrelsome Scotch Presbyterians at Edinburgh. He was her heir, in the event of Mary's death. But she desired to delay his marriage. She sent her wisest man, Wotton, to him. Wotton, she secretly told James, was a light-brained figurehead; when she had anything important, she would send word by some wiser man; but Wotton would amuse the King, and dispel some of the descending gloom of Scotch disputation. Wotton, in fact, designed to get the person of the King into Elizabeth's clutches. He played his part well, yet he failed even to break up a Scotch marriage with Denmark, for Elizabeth was bent on forcing James to marry the poor and elderly sister of Henry of Navarre. James got his own choice. The Scotch preachers were bitterly stirred to see the Queen from Denmark anointed, and denounced the ceremony as "Popish." One Gibson declared James should die childless for it.
Thus, at the time the plots thickened about Elizabeth's life, it may be seen that Catholics and Episcopalians could not live together, and Episcopalians and Presbyterians were but little more at peace. The position of Mary Stuart was made more unfortunate by her feeling of resentment against her son James, who had usurped her throne and overthrown her religion.
We are now to enter upon the chapter in which Elizabeth killed Mary. It is the mood and habit of the world always to sympathize with the victim of a more powerful foe, whatever the circumstances may be. Henry III is not forgiven for killing the Guises; Napoleon for killing the Duke of Enghien ; Elizabeth for killing Mary. Henry, alone, was candid; the others were basely hypocritical, both, however, possibly for sufficient state reasons.
While the Catholic assassins were preaching the doctrine that the Pope's bull against Elizabeth was dictated by the Holy Ghost, an association of Protestants formed in England, whose members, anticipating the violent death of Elizabeth, took oath that not only should her violent death be frightfully avenged, but no one should reign in England who could profit by the deeds of the Catholics. Now a priestly assassin named Ballard, taking the name of Captain Fortescue, came to England to head an insurrection. He engaged a rich young man named Babington, in Derby, who was introduced to Mary Stuart, by letter, as a friend, and Mary wrote him an epistle of encouragement and esteem. Mary was given over to the keeping of Sir Amias Paulet, who confined her more rigorously, and Babington desisted. Another desperate assassin, John Savage, was now introduced to Babington, who, inspired by the determination of a daring zealot, offered to join Savage with five others, in killing Elizabeth and rescuing Mary. Babington undertook to free Mary with 100 horse. Meanwhile Walsingham, Elizabeth's secretary of state, had secured Maud, an apostate Catholic priest, to accompany Ballard to Paris. Gifford, another of the same ilk, was soon let into the plot, and, with singular fatuity, the conspirators gave to Gifford the task of communicating the plans to Mary, to see if they had her approbation. Minister Walsingham now sought Paulet, the custodian, desiring leave to allow Gifford, the spy, to corrupt one of Paulet's servants, and thus get access to Mary, but Paulet did not approve so much villainy, even when practised on a Catholic captive. A brewer took the letters to Mary. They were thrust through a chink in the wall, and Mary placed answers in the same chink that is, her two secretaries did so. The plotters, to try Gifford, gave blank missives at first; he returned to them genuine answers from Mary, so there remained, in Babington's mind, no doubt of Gifford's probity. Mary was now informed of the plan. She replied, in cipher, that the death of Elizabeth was necessary, as a preliminary. These letters, of course, passed through Minister Walsingham's hands. To one of them he attached, in the same cipher, a request putatively by Mary, to know the names of the conspirators. To this Babington responded, so that Walsingham now held in his fingers all the threads of the conspiracy. Meanwhile, to Walsingham Babington was making extraordinary professions of hostility to Catholics, but it was even known that he had bought good clothes for Savage, in which he might safely approach the Queen whom he was to strike down. All were easily enmeshed when the time came, and fourteen were beheaded.* Thus the Protestant statesmen saw that the royal heir, Mary was a Catholic zealot. Should Elizabeth die, Mary would be Queen. All Protestants would be in peril. Means were now at hand to kill her legally. Elizabeth took no interest in the world after she should be dead, and delighted in the anxiety of her lords. She thought it tended to protect her own life. Leicester advised poison for Mary; others thought she would soon die of her own accord. At last, however, Elizabeth, knowing that she had the entire statecraft of England at her back, advanced savagely on Mary. For eighteen years she had feared and detested this Princess, whose charms of mind and person had also evoked the stern jealousy of the masculine Queen. Mary had not heard that the plot had failed. She was told while on horseback, on a hunt, and never was allowed to return to Paulet's house, but was conducted onward to Fotheringay Castle in Northampton, where she was to be killed. At Paulet's, sixty ciphers were discovered, and Mary's secretaries were arrested. Elizabeth appointed a commission of forty noblemen to try "Mary, late Queen of Scots." Mary, having no counsel, was at last persuaded to ac-knowledge this tribunal by answering its questions. It was shown she had instigated her adherents to capture her son, the usurping King, and deliver him to the Spaniard or the Pope. Mary denied that she had counseled the assassination of Elizabeth, but she also denied that she had had any communication whatever with Babington. She laid it all on her two secretaries, who, of course, to escape torture, would swear to anything necessary. She asked that she might confront the two secretaries, but this was not done, as it was not English practice. There were many things that conspired to make it seemingly necessary to kill Mary; and the forty lords, meeting in the infamous Star Chamber at London, sentenced her to death for plotting Elizabeth's life, but specifically stated that this sentence did not derogate from the title and honor of James, King of Scotland. Now that Elizabeth had compassed the destruction of Mary, the eccentricity of her nature arose to also awaken within her the thoughts of her own honor before posterity. How would she herself figure be-fore the ages, if she should violate the rights of hospitality, kindred, royal majesty, and sex? She therefore began to alarm her nearest adherents and favorites by protestations of clemency, which might end any moment in making Mary Queen, with ax to slay the forty nobles and all other foes of the old faith. Elizabeth, however, called the Parliament, and that body of course loudly bewailed her delay, and she published the finding of Parliament, which was received with public rejoicings. On this Mary's jailers removed the royal canopy, which had always been accorded to her as a born Queen. The Catholic Kings all protested against the execution, and King James made a dutiful, and it is believed a sincere, attempt to save his mother, although the people over whom he ruled did not sanction his filial course. The year 1586 was now closing. When the matter had died down a little, the Queen secretly sent for Davison and told him to privately draw the war-rant for Mary's death, so she could have it by her; then she sent it signed by her to the Chancellor, to have the great seal affixed or appended; then, next day, she sent to Davison to let the matter rest; but it had passed the great seal; Davison now advised the privy council, and those noblemen, eager for Mary's death, persuaded Davison to send off the warrant, promising to take the blame, and probably hoping to anticipate the Queen's own wishes.
Mary was therefore executed at Fotheringay Castle February 7, 1587, in a large hall, on a black scaffold, in the presence of a great number of spectators. The Protestants did not chop off her head without first insulting her with long, defamatory sermons, copying the Catholic examples in the last days of Joan of Arc. Mary died (aged 45) with a splendid courage and dignity that cast only the greater obloquy on the hypocritical sorrow that Elizabeth now affected to show.
The privy council told Elizabeth that Mary had perished. Her countenance changed through her deep paint; her speech faltered; she stood stock still; she burst forth into loud wailings and lamentations; she got into deep mourning and poured out a flood of tears from eyes that usually were dry; she stayed among her women and chased her counsellors with fury and imprecations if they came near to her. She wrote a letter to appease James which should stand as an example of all that can be accomplished by feminine art in the line of falsehood and dissimulation. At last she cast Davison in jail, and fined him $50,000, which was all he had, and this impoverished him. By these arts, and others equally base, she escaped war with James, who, on his own account, was but poorly prepared for it, for he had not been able to even make his bitter-spirited pastors pray for poor Mary, his mother. Just before her death, in order to pay a decent respect to his unfortunate parent, even in his own kirk, he had desired a friendly prelate to officiate. Arriving in his pew, he found an interloping preacher, who intended to hold the pulpit against all comers. The King asked the preacher to come down, and had to send the captain of the guard to hale him out. When the irate divine was put out by force he called down a woe on Edinburgh for not letting him insult Queen Mary in her misfortunes, now so soon to end in her murder.
Meanwhile English mariners, pirates, and captains had preyed well on Spanish commerce, at home and in America, and Philip prepared the Invincible Armada for a descent on the shores of Albion. The Armada sailed in a crescent about seven miles broad between its tips. The Spanish and Italian writers, of course, rise to their sublimest flights, in describing it. Bentivoglio says that though the ships advanced with every sail, the lofty masts, the swelling sheets, the towering prows came on with slow motion, "as if the ocean groaned with supporting, and the winds were tired with impelling a weight so enormous." The conduct of the Queen in this reign of terror was as brave as was the attitude of Isabella in urgent danger. Elizabeth gathered 23,000 soldiers at Tilbury. Before them she appeared, mounted on a charger, with a general's truncheon in her hand, a corselet of steel laced on over her Queen's apparel, a page bearing her white plumed helmet, and thus she rode, bare-headed, from rank to rank, evoking affectionate plaudits and inspiring military ardor. She made an eloquent speech : "Let tyrants fear. I am come among you at this time being resolved in the heart of the battle to live and die among you all. I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a King, and a King of England, too. I myself will be your general, judge, and rewarder of virtue in the field."
The Armada left Lisbon May 29, 1588; after many mishaps it arrived in the English channel July 19. The English Admiral was Lord Effingham. The Armada anchored at Calais; Effingham sent in fire-ships and scattered the enemy, the Armada sailing northward, let it be noted, to go around Scotland and Ireland. At the Orkneys the Arctic storms befell the Spaniards, others came off Ireland, and not over half the ships got back to Spain. England and Scotland again resounded with the merry-making of the Protestants, and Philip the Spaniard laid the blame on those Moors who had escaped Isabella's persecution by dissimulation. At Tilbury Elizabeth became truly great, as she was always shrewd, discerning, tactful, and imperious.
In 1589 Henry of Navarre came to the French throne as heir, and Elizabeth sent him the largest sum of money he had ever seen something over $100,000 and 4,000 men. One of her merchants, Whyte, captured a Spanish galleon with two million bulls from Rome granting indulgences. These the King of Spain had bought of the Pope for 300,000 florins, with the expectation of selling them in the Indies for 500,000,000 florins. Henry of Navarre found it to be politic to publicly embrace the Catholic religion, and thus, while he did not break with England, he weakened the Protestant power in Europe and saved France to the old church. Leicester never did well in Holland, and died always a minister who had flourished be-cause of his personal influence over the capricious Queen, and not because of his abilities. James of Scotland needed aid, but Elizabeth refused it, and even acted with bad faith, protecting his seditious nobles. By sea, all went well, and a new man, Essex, came on the scene, who will figure most prominently to the end. It was his desire that Britannia should sweep the seas, and his advice accorded well with the successful sovereign's private views. For seven or eight years after the Armada there is little to record of interest. Elizabeth tightened her grasp on the scepter of supreme power, and passed rigorous measures of all kinds, scolding her Parliaments with an increasing acerbity of tongue, and eliciting a growing desire to obey her subserviently.
It was Elizabeth's fashion to quarrel oftenest with those she loved best. So with young Essex. He turned his back on her in anger. She advanced on him with imprecations and boxed him on the ear. He clapped his hand on his sword and ran away. No one could make him apologize, and he even wrote a letter, declaring he had received a mortal affront. This, which would have ruined anyone else, did Essex no harm, and he was reinstated in the Queen's favor.
She was now 65 years old. Philip II, her great enemy, was dead. Burleigh, her chief statesman or friend, was dead. Her vanity and eccentricity grew. She had 3,000 gowns in her wardrobe. A Dutch delegation came to see her. A handsome young Dutchman in the retinue descanted on her beauty to an Englishman, looking with admiring eyes on the Queen. Meanwhile the heavy Dutch burghers were making their big speeches. Instantly after the audience, she called the Englishman and made him-translate the remarks. These were in the highest degree flattering. The Queen made each ambassador a present of a chain of 800 crowns, and to the gentlemen of the retinue she gave a chain of Too crowns; but to the bold young attendant who had praised her so impudently she gave a chain of 1,600 crowns double that of the ambassadors and he wore it about his neck to the end of his life. This shows not only that Elizabeth was easily flattered, but that flattery profited this Dutchman to the end of his days.
On the other hand, a young wit, Buzenwall, mimicked Elizabeth's bad French at a banquet in Paris, and an Englishman who was present did not resent it. Both these men, afterward, were appointed to her court, but her resentment had not abated with years, and she would receive neither. "Thus," says Du Maurier, "they did them-selves and their master, Henry of Navarre, a great injury, which proves that the great are always to be spoken of with respect." It is generally said of Elizabeth that she was a patron of learning only so far as it would advance her own studies, and that she desired to shine as the most beautiful and most cultured person of either sex on the islands.
Young Essex had returned with glory from Cadiz. He was jealous of others, and very ambitious. A rebellion broke out in Ireland, and both Essex's friends and his enemies wanted Essex to go and put it down. His enemies knew that his haughty manners, at a distance, would arouse the anger of the old Queen, who now doted on him. Elizabeth readily gave him regal powers and sent him off with a good army. The campaign went badly. Elizabeth be-came furious, and promoted Cecil, Essex's rival, at London. She ordered Essex to stay in Ireland, but he, knowing her character, made all haste to London, rushed into court "besmeared with dirt and sweat," made his way madly to the presence-chamber, on to the privy chamber, and even thence to the Queen's bedchamber, where Elizabeth was newly risen and sitting with her hair about her face. He threw himself on his knees, kissed her hand, and evidently begged her favor, which he received, as he went out thanking God. But Elizabeth, on thinking it over, found her impatience rising once more, for Essex had disobeyed her time and again. She therefore received him coldly in the afternoon, and he, believing his rival triumphant, took sick and seemed to be dying. On this, to the intense alarm of Raleigh and Cecil, enemies of Es-sex, the Queen showed distress, and ordered eight of the best physicians of the realm to attend him. She sent him broth, and a sweet message. He got well, and the Queen was told that the whole episode had been skillfully arranged to work upon her feelings. She sent another captain to Ireland, Mountjoy, who conquered. She tried Es-sex in the privy council. The court gave him a light sentence, leaving him in custody. The people, however, believing that the Queen had been falsely set against Essex, continued to pay him high honor, and Elizabeth was far from liking popularity in her subjects. Essex played a part of deep submission. His dignities had been taken away, and still he wrote the most humble letters. Now the Queen refused to grant anew his monopoly of the sweet wines. He at last, in utter despair, meditated a rebellion. He openly declared "the old woman was as crooked in mind as in body." He plotted a rebellion of Puritans, corresponded with James, and in other ways enmeshed himself thoroughly in the net which his adversaries and the Queen spread for him. At last he even entered London, cried aloud that England was sold to the Spanish Infanta, and exhorted the crowd to follow him. He then retired ingloriously to Essex House and surrendered without defense. He was tried for high treason be-fore a jury of twenty-five peers, and sentenced to death. Of course, the attendants of the Queen, warned by Davison's fate at the time of Mary's death, viewed the proceedings and orders of the Queen, in signing the death-warrant, with extreme caution. She signed and recalled at pleasure, until finally she ordered the execution, which took place, the young man Essex dying with piety and submission.
The war in Ireland, with a Spanish invasion there, went on, and Mountjoy brought it to an end that reflected honor on British arms. Henry of Navarre was reconciled to James' coming succession on the English throne.
But these matters gave Elizabeth no peace. She lay, in rich dress, upon a splendid carpet, much after the manner depicted in the great painting by Paul Delaroche, "The Death of Queen Elizabeth," now in the Louvre, at Paris, and gradually faded away in a deep melancholy.
Du Maurier says that Prince Maurice had the story direct from Carleton, secretary of state, that once, when Essex was going to Cadiz, he complained how easy it would be for his rivals to undo him in the Queen's favor. On this Elizabeth put a ring on his finger and promised him, with oath, that if he would send it to her, whatever his peril might be, she would restore him to favor. Essex kept this gift to the last extremity, and, when he was under sentence of death, sent the ring to the Countess of Nottingham, begging she would carry it to the Queen. But the husband of the Countess was desirous that Essex should die, and commanded his wife not to do it. After-ward the Countess fell mortally ill, and sent for the Queen on a matter of grave importance. To the Queen the dying woman privately gave the ring of Essex, explaining that she had not dared sooner to do it. The Queen, seeing the ring, burst into a furious passion. She shook the dying Countess in her bed. She cried out repeatedly : "God may pardon you, but I never can !" She returned to the bedchamber and took to the carpet, refusing to go to bed. She gave vent to constant groans, and would not take food or medicine. Ten or fifteen days she lay thus, to the consternation of her household, who could not believe one could die of grief, and she had no disease that the doctors could name, nor was she due to die of old age. Yet she grew more feeble. At last the privy council sent to know her will about the succession. She answered, with a feeble voice, that she had held a regal scepter, she desired no other than a royal successor. But Cecil desired a clearer mandate, whereat she more querulously explained that she would have a King to succeed her. Therefore, who could that be other than her nearest kinsman, the King of Scots? Her voice soon left her, her senses failed, she seemed to sleep, and after some hours of lethargy she was dead. She was 70 years old and had reigned nearly 45 years. It was toward evening of March 24, 1603.
So far in our volume she can be compared only with Isabella. The two women both founded great empires, the one by arms, the other by statecraft. Britain outlasted Spain, perhaps, because Isabella allowed too much importance to be given to Church organization, over which a foreign potentate held sway. Elizabeth was possibly the greater blessing to her people, but Isabella, it seems to us, was incomparably the greater and nobler woman beautiful, yet not vain; charming yet not coquettish the admirer of Ximenes, where Elizabeth chose Hatton, Leicester and Essex, inferior men. Isabella was a mother; Elizabeth knew but the single side of life. Isabella would have filled the world with monks and convents; Elizabeth had too much good English common sense to do that, and, except when her womanly vanity turned her head, she acted like the greatest of statesmen, and is one of the few monarchs or commanders who have desired the weight of counsel and followed a majority of her ministers rather than trust to the voices of emotion or the whisperings of affection.
It is the custom of the English-speaking races to praise her without stint till the subject of Mary Stuart obtrudes upon the field of thought. Then she is as generally condemned. But the death of Essex gave her more concern than the tragedy at Fotheringay Castle. Protestant historians, of the time and long after, in grateful memory of her steadfast battle with the Pope who had insulted her and planned her death, cover her with panegyric, and their encomiums, coming down to us, color our own views, and tempt us to consider her a saint and Catherine de' Medici a demon. She did not have so many difficulties as Catherine, and she enjoyed far greater power. In Catherine's position, the vanity of Elizabeth might have overwhelmed her, Yet, again, if Isabella had lived fifteen years longer, it is not impossible that the frailties of old age in woman might have revealed themselves in the Catholic Queen as they did in the eccentric English sovereign.
Yet, looking upon her from all sides, after reading the most malicious outpourings of her enemies, who were foreigners at war with her, it well behooves the capable historian to say that she did high honor to her sex, and, after Isabella, again awakened the astonishment and satisfaction of mankind, that a woman should rise to the very highest rank of statesmanship and patriotism.