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science so magnificent a preacher. He carried a scien-
tific spirit into politics, as well as a touch of Machiavel.

A great school of diplomatists, such as Walsingham,
KnoUys, Sadler, and Randolph, was also formed, and if
these men did not escape the obliquities of their age,
if they fought the power of evil with its own weapons, it
was the power of evil which they fought, while the mastery
of their calling which they acquired was equalled by their
devotion to the commonwealth. Of diplomacy perhaps
this generation is the zenith, since the policy of Europe
was then the policy of courts, in which personal influ-
ences held sway.

Elizabeth's fancy was to call herself a Virgin Queen.
Marry she would not, though parliament and the nation
earnestly besought her to choose a husband and give
an heir to the throne. She fenced and dallied with
the question, the threads of which blend laughably with
the web of a terribly serious diplomacy. It must be
owned that it was hard to call upon a woman to wed for
a political end against her inclination. It must also be
owned that the choice among the available princes of
Europe was narrow, and that Alengon, whom the queen
pretended to like best, and who seemed politically the
most eligible, was undersized, and pock-marked, with a


- knobbed nose, a croaking voice, and a character not
superior to his person. Here we come once more upon
a drawback of female sovereignty. Elizabeth's secret
reason for declining marriage probably was her unwilling-
ness to part with the sole power. Marriage, at all events,
she coquettishly declined, and resolved to live and die
a virgin. But being extravagantly fond of admiration,
she consoled herself with flirtations which gave rise to
scandals such as history does not stoop to investigate.
The most notable of these flirtations was with Robert
Dudley, Earl of Leicester, a handsome, magnificent, and
bad man. Leicester was already married, as Elizabeth
knew, to Amy, daughter of Sir John Robsart, a country
knight. So near had he come to winning his sover-
eign's hand and a seat beside her on the throne, that to
1560 rid his ambition of that obstacle his young wife was put
out of the way. Of this fact there can scarcely be a
doubt. Elizabeth, though she would not marry .him,
though she even in a wayward mood tendered him as a
husband tp the queen of Scots, continued her dalliance
with him when, as Burghley said, he was '' infamed by
the death of his wife." Infamed in a high degree he was.
But for a time by his intrigues he almost supplanted
Burghley. When he went as commander to the Nether-
lands his vanity and incapacity appeared. Sir Chris-
topher Hatton was recommended to the chancellorship
and a seat in the privy council by his handsome figure
and his grace as a dancer. He addresses Elizabeth in
the language of frantic passion. Looks and dress were
known passports to the favour of the royal maiden, and
the flattery of courtiers, even to the last, was a mimicry
of love. Henry IV. of France fell diplomatically into


the fashion, and tried to make the English ambassador
believe that he was ravished with the portrait of a lady
of sixty-four, and, as- an ungallant historian remarks,
with small black eyes and a hooked nose, black teeth,
and a red wig. It was fortunate for the nation and
creditable to the queen that, on the whole, ministers
who had not the art of love, but had the art of saving
their country, were able to hold their own in council
against the lovers, though the lovers got the praise and
the reward.

The balance between tile two great powers, France and
Spain, forms the key to the foreign policy of the early
part of the reign. The rivalry between those powers
prevents them from uniting their forces against the heretic
realm which, being without a standing army, could hardly
have resisted their trained soldiery and experienced cap-
tains. English statesmanship inclined to the Spanish
connection, while Philip of Spain, chief defender of Ca-
tholicism and exterminator of heresy as he was, obedient
to the injunction of his politic father, cultivated the
alliance with England, suspended by his influence the
action of the pope against her government, and long
declined to carry the papal sentence of deposition into
effect. A passionate desire of recovering Calais is a
strong, though secondary, factor in the English policy.
But as the reign goes on political and territorial objects
give way to mortal conflict between the old faith and the
new, which sets, not nation against nation, Spain and her
allies against France, but the two religious parties in each
nation against each other. England being protestant is
compelled to take the protestant side, though against the
bias of her queen, who in her heart hates thorough-
VOL. I — 25


going protestantism, is above all things monarchical, and
shrinks from an alliance with Scotch, Dutch, or Huguenot
insurgents against their lawful sovereign. Elizabeth is
first constrained by the. pressure of Cecil and her pro-
testant councillors to support the reformers in Scotland
against the Guise influence and Mary queen of Scots,
which she does unwillingly, John Knox as the author of
the " Monstrous Regiment of Women " being an especial
object of her hatred, and very fitfully, doling out assistance
to her allies with a niggardly hand, often playing them
false and sometimes driving them to despair. Presently
she is constrained not less unwillingly to send help to
the insurgent Huguenots in France and to the insurgents
against Spain in the Netherlands. She still clings to the
Spanish connection, and is fatuously bent on its renewal.
The forbearance of the Spanish king lasts long, though he
is sorely provoked, not only by the protestant policy of
England and the aid lent by her to his heretic rebels, but
by the outrages of her buccaneers. At last it gives way.
Upon the execution of Mary queen of Scots his hesitation
1588 ends, and his Armada sails. Through the whole of the
tangled web runs as a connecting thread the history of
Mary queen of Scots.

Elizabeth and Mary queen of Scots were bound to be
enemies from the beginning. Something there may have
been in it of feminine rivalry. One of the women was,
the other would fain be, a beauty. But Mary was the
legitimate heir to the crown of England, excluded only
by the will of Henry VIII., and she had set up her claims
by assuming the title and the royal arms. This is to be
borne in mind when Elizabeth is arraigned for churlish-
ness in refusing Mary a safe-conduct from France to Scot-


land, and for her intrigues with Mary's subjects. If those
intrigues were dark, they were not darker than those
of the house of Guise on the other side. To put an
end to the hostile influence of France in Scotland was
on the part of the English government a vital measure
of self-defence. The religious struggle had now tran-
scended nationality and modified civil duty. It made
the Scotch protestants clients of the queen of England,
though they were subjects of the queen of Scots. Of
Mary's devotion to the catholic cause, and determination
to crush Scotch Presbyterianism whenever she had the
power, there could be no doubt. Rizzio was her privy
minister in playing this game. To the young queen, cast
among such a crew of uncontrolled and stabbing anarchs
as were then the nobles of Scotland, with scarcely a trust-
worthy adviser or a true heart to lean on, allowance and
pity are due ; and we can only admire the constancy with
which, unsupported as she was, she withstood the attempts
of fanatical preachers to bully her out of her religion. But
she was working, and was bound to work, with the catho-
lic powers at her back, against the great cause ; and the
liegemen of the great cause were bound to counteract her
working. That she was privy to the murder of Darnley
there can be little doubt. But the man could hardly be
called her husband who when she was with child had burst
into her chamber with a band of ruffians and butchered 1566
Rizzio almost before her eyes. When Mary, after being
deposed and signing her own abdication, fled her kingdom 1567
and took refuge in England, she doffed the queen and 1568
became subject, as a sojourner, to the law of the land in
which she sojourned. She was treated as a prisoner, and
for a prisoner to plot escape is not criminal. Nor was it


Mary's fault that in her prison she was the lady of catholic
romance, the cynosure of catholic policy, the pivot of
catholic conspiracy ; that in her cause broke out the

1569 rebellion in the north of England, headed by the old
catholic nobility, which cost the Duke of Norfolk, the

1572 chief of that nobility, his head. But if Mary herself
plotted treason, above all if she plotted the assassina-
tion of Elizabeth, she could plead no privilege for crime.
Her conviction was lawful and just, unless a trap had been
laid for her. The protestants had clamoured fiercely for
her blood, and she was their mark when they formed a
great vigilance association to protect the life or avenge
the death of their queen. Elizabeth wished her dead, but
wished to cast the responsibility for the act on others.
There can be no doubt that through her secretaries she

1587 solicited Mary's keepers, Paulet and Drury, to make away
with their prisoner, and received from Paulet the indig-
nant answer of a man of honour. At last she signed the
warrant, yet pretended that it had been issued against her
wishes, and not only belied her act to the king of Scots,
but went through the farce of. dismissing, imprisoning,
and fining Davison, her secretary of state, for pretended
contravention of her orders. Great must have been the
patriotism of statesmen who for the sake of England
could serve such a mistress.

In the Netherlands, where protestantism and freedom
were fighting for their life with Philip of Spain, Alva,
and Parma, the decisive field apparently lay; and upon
. that field the forces of England, had Henry of Navarre,
Gustavus, or Cromwell been at their head, or had a free
hand been given to Burghley and Walsingham, would
have been thrown. But Elizabeth never heartily embraced


the cause of which destiny had made her the chief. She
loved protestantism not much; political freedom she loved
not at all. Her trade was monarchy. Her heart was
in her trade, and it never was thoroughly with the Neth-
erlands in rebellion against their king. Her dealings
with them brought upon her government shame which
it took all the heroism of Sidney, Norris, and Williams
to wipe away. In her eagerness for reconciliation with
the king of Spain she apparently was on the brink of
being cajoled into delivering to him the cautionary
towns, which would have inflicted a lasting stain on
the honour of the country. Her troops were sent out,
and were kept, by her parsimony, in a condition which
filled their commanders with despair. They were cheated
of their pay, while the soldiers of the Netherlands were
regularly paid, and they perished in numbers from want
of food and clothing. On their return from the war the
survivors presented themselves famishing and half-naked
at the palace gates, to be driven away with threats of the
stocks. The niggardliness which thus starved the public
service and wronged the soldier probably had its root in the
love of power and unwillingness to be beholden to par-
liament. It yielded only to love. Wealth was heaped
on Leicester and Hatton, while the soldier perished of

Hesitation to beard Philip's power might be wise. It
would have been hard for England to resist his veterans
could they have been thrown upon her coast. Religion
apart, the policy of balance between Spain and France
had much to commend it. But when the die had been
cast, irresolution, half-heartedness, dilatoriness, parsimony
were folly, and disloyalty to allies was worse.


Of all the war memoiies of England, the most glorious
and the most cherished is still the defeat of the Armada.
Trafalgar and Waterloo saved England, and Europe with
it, from the domination of France, which in any case
would probably have died with Napoleon. The defeat
1588 of the Armada saved England and Europe from a night
the darkness of which might for centuries have been
broken by no day. That it transferred to England and
Holland, and ultimately to England, the dominion of the
sea, was a fruit secondary to such a deliverance. The
qualities displayed by the seamen, who, in their small
barques, attacked, chased, and destroyed the floating cas-
tles of the Spaniard, are the most thoroughly English and
appeal most to the English heart. The whole scene of
the fight in the channel, of the fire-ships at Calais, of the
flight of the invader round Scotland, and his wreck on
the Scotch and Irish coasts by storms in which protes-
tantism saw the hand of heaven, is one of the most
thrilling and tragic in the history of war. Let the fair
share of the glory go to England's Dutch allies in the
defeat of Philip II., as well as to her Prussian allies at
Waterloo. Let the victory be regarded as one gained not
over the Spanish people, but over the evil spirit which
had entered into Spain, and let Spanish pride be spared
the celebration.

When the Armada lay ready in Spanish ports, England,
and protestant Scotland with her, were in the extremity
of peril. The Armada was a convoy for the army of
Parma ; and had Parma with his legions landed in Eng-
land, there was no regular army to withstand them. In
that terrible hour what was the queen doing to fire the
heart of the nation and prepare for the defence? She


was carrying on behind the back of her allies and to the
despair of the best spirits in her council, notably of the
great Walsingham, and of the leading mariners, nego-
tiations, not less fatuous than unworthy, for a treaty
with the king of Spain, of whose falsehoods and those of •
Parma she was the dupe. Drake's enterprise against
Cadiz, which crippled the enemy by an immense destruc- 1587
tion of his resources, was countermanded by her, though
happily too late, and Drake was rebuked on his return.
Instead of strengthening her armaments to the utmost
and throwing herself upon her parliament for aid, she
clung to her money-bags, actually reduced her fleet, with-
held ammunition and the most necessary stores, cut off
the sailor's food, did, in short, everything in her power to
expose the country defenceless to the enemy. Statesmen
and admirals alike held up their hands in agony at her con-
duct. " Why will not your Majesty, beholding the flames
of your enemies on every side kindling around, unlock all
your coffers and convert your treasure for the advancing
of worthy men, and for the arming of ships and men-of-
war that may defend you, since princes' treasures serve
only to that end, and, lie they never so fast or so full in
their chests, can no ways so defend them." Such was
the wail of a faithful servant and a patriot, which fell
upon deaf ears. The pursuit of the Armada was stopped
by the failure of the ammunition, which apparently, had
the fighting continued longer, would have been fatal to
the English fleet. Treason itself could scarcely have done
worse. The spirited speech at Tilbury, instead of being
a defiance hurled in the face of the Spaniard, was really
hurled at his back some days after his flight. The coun-
try saved itself and its cause in spite of its queen. And


how were the glorious seamen whose memory will forever
be honoured by England and the world rewarded after
their victory? Their wages were left unpaid, they were
docked of their food and served with poisonous drink,
while for the sick and wounded no hospitals were pro-
vided. More of them were killed by their queen's mean-
ness than by the enemy. Even the praise the queen
bestowed, not where it was due, but on her vile favourite
Leicester. If all this, unpardonable in a man, was par-
donable or exempt from censure in a woman, the in-
ference is that a woman ought not to be at the head of
the state, at least when the state is threatened by an

As the reign wears on, and the danger from abroad
passes away, home politics revive. The House of Com-
mons shows a more independent spirit, vindicates its
freedom of speech, attacks abuses, moots high questions
of state, challenges prerogative, opens, in fact, the irre-
pressible conflict between government by prerogative and
government by parliament, of which the supremacy of
parliament is destined to be the result. The sources
of this revival are two. In the first place, owing partly
to the dissolution of the monasteries, which threw their
lands back into circulation, there have grown up a landed
gentry and a substantial yeomanry, who are not under
court influence, and whose choice in the election of mem-
bers of parliament it is not so easy for the crown to control.
The gentry find their way into the House of Commons,
and they have their order and the yeomanry at their back.
In the second place, Puritanism has come upon the scene.
An open Bible has done its work ; men have made out of
it for themselves a Bible religion, independent of church


teaching. An equivocal religion it was, and equivocal,
though grand, was the character which it formed. It
took the whole Bible as inspired, confused the Old Tes-
tament with the New, Judaism with the Gospel which
was a reaction from it. Christian brotherhood with He-
brew privilege, the spirit of the Sermon on the Mount
with that which breathes in such stories as those of the
slaughter of the Canaanites, the killing of Sisera, the
hewing of Agag in pieces before the Lord, and the hang-
ing of Haman and his ten sons. Catholicism was not
Biblical; it had little of the Old Testament; it was a
development, though distorted, of the religion of Jesus.
Whatever might be its superstition and its priestcraft, it
did not cast upon life or character the shadow of the
old Covenant with its tribaMsm, its sombre and angry-
prophecies, its Mosaic law, its Mosaic Sabbath, its nar-
row conception of the Chosen People. Puritanism was
Biblical in the extreme ; whatever was in the Bible it in-
discriminately embraced, whatever was not in the Bible it
abjured. But compared with Catholicism it was rational.
Compared with Catholicism it was tolerant, though its
toleration at first might be less a principle than the ne-
cessity of a struggling minority, or a consequence of
its internal divisions. It had no Inquisition, no Jesuits,
no Index, no autos-da-fe. It brought man, without the
intervention of church or priest, into .direct communion
with his Maker. Its spirit was independent, high, and,
in the battle with the Evil One, heroic. Its morality,
though narrow, austere, and somewhat sour, was pure
and strong. If it was not favourable, it was not hostile
to culture, and among its votaries were highly cultured
men. Education it zealously promoted as a safeguard


against priestcraft and as a key to the study of the

Protestants who had fled from Mary to the continent
brought back with them from the lands of Luther, Calvin,
and Zwingli aspirations which spurned the Anglican com-
promise, and could be satisfied with nothing less than a
radical reformation. All the relics of papal ritual, the
surplice, the cross in baptism, the sponsors, the marriage
ring, the kneeling at the reception of the eucharist, the
administration of the eucharist in private, which seemed
to make it a sacrament, not a communion, these men de-
sired to sweep away ; and when they were upbraided for
their warmth about mere forms, they might truly say, as
the opponents of ritualism in our own day have said, that
the forms draw doctrines with them. Episcopacy itself
they regarded with an evil eye, and desired at all events
to limit the autocracy of the bishop, and to give the people
a voice in the appointment of their ministers and in the
administration of the church. They made war, also, on
practical abuses ; on the loose lives of the clergymen, such
as Shakespeare's Sir Hugh Evans and Sir Nathaniel, and
their neglect of duties, for which many of them, as ex-
priests of Catholicism, would probably have little aptitude
and less relish ; on pluralism and non-residence, for which
the impoverishment of the benefices was pleaded as an
excuse, but which, left many parishes without a pastor.
Some Puritans, whose leader was Cartwright, were
Presbyterian, not less convinced than Episcopalians of
the exclusively divine character of their own form of
church government, or less ready to impose it by force
on others. All of them, while they desired to purify the
national church, believed in its necessity as an institution,


and in the duty of the civil ruler to uphold it. None of
them dreamed of such a solution as a tolerated noncon-
formity. None of them were in principle friends to reli-
gious liberty. Religious liberty found its only champions
in the Brownists or Independents, who were proscribed
and persecuted on all hands as near kinsmen to the
revolutionary Anabaptist and a scandal to the protestant

Whether Elizabeth's ecclesiastical title was head or
governor, she regarded herself as in all church mat-
ters supreme. In that sphere, convocation having lost
its authority, there was nothing answering to a parlia-
ment to curb her will. She styled herself the Over-
looker of the church, and she could hardly have uttered
a severer satire on the whole system of church establish-
ments. To credit her with strong religious sentiments
either way would be absurd ; but she had a taste for the
ritualism which the Puritan abhorred. To popery she
was made an enemy by circumstance ; Puritanism she her-
self detested. As Strype says, " She would suppress the
papistical religion that it should not grow, but would root
out Puritanism and the favourers thereof." Above all she
was for uniformity, conformity, and entire submission to
her will. To use her own w^ords, she was determined
"that none should be suffered to decline either on the
left hand or on the right hand from the direct line lim-
ited by authority of her laws and injunctions." At the
beginning of her reign, while her throne was unsteady,
she promised latitude and comprehension. But in its
latter part, the danger being over, she began rigor-
ously to enforce conformity and to persecute the Puri-
tans, to whose enthusiastic support her preservation had


been mainly due. We see her temper in the Conventi-
1693 cles Act of 1593, passed to restrain the queen's subjects
in obedience, under which three nonconformists, Barrow,
1593 Greenwood, and Penry, suffered death. The queen acted
against the advice of her wisest counsellors. Burghley
notably protested against the inquisitorial character of
the interrogatories used to probe the consciences of min-
isters, saying that he did not think the Inquisitors of
Spain used so many questions to trap their prey. He
headed a memorial signed by eight privy councillors
against depriving people of good pastors for conscien-
tious dissent on points ceremonial. The engine of per-
secution was the court of high commission, consisting of
bishops, privy councillors, and officers of state, thi'ough
which the queen had taken authority to exercise her
ecclesiastical powers. For the bishops Elizabeth showed
no respect. But she insisted that they should do her will
by coercing the nonconformists and take the unpopularity
on themselves. " God," she said to the bishops, " hath
made me the Overlooker of the church ; if any schisms
or errors heretical are suffered therein which you, my
lords of the clergy, do not amend, I mind to depose you.
Look you, therefore, well to your charges."

Caring nothing for sacraments and little for liturgies, the
Puritans valued above all the ordinance of preaching ; as
they naturally might, when the Word was almost as new
as it had been at the first promulgation of Christianity.
They provided themselves accordingly with preachers, to
do for them what the parish clergy could not or would
not do ; and to hear these preachers they formed their own
congregations. The queen insisted that the preachers and
the conventicles should be put down. Grindal, the arch-


bishop of Canterbury, an excellent old man, refused to be

Online LibraryGoldwin SmithThe United kingdom; a political history → online text (page 28 of 84)