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make himself perfectly odious to the nation whom he
came to govern ; at last to be recalled by his blindly-
indulgent Queen, and to receive a welcome which she
seldom vouchsafed to better men and more faithful

Throughout Mr. Motley's pages, the said Queen-
Mr. Kingsley's Titaness, " Alruna-Maiden," and what
not generally appears in very urititanic proportions,
and often indulges in proceedings quite unmaidenly.
Her true policy was shown to her very early in the
day by Vavasour : " If your Majesty desireth a con-
venient peace," said the diplomatist, " to take the field
is the readiest way to obtain it ; for, as yet, the King
of Spain hath no reason to fear you. He is daily


expecting that your own slackness may give your
Majesty an overthrow. Moreover, the Spaniards are
soldiers, and are not to be moved by shadows/ 7 Wal-
singham never ceased to urge the same views. He
longed for peace ; yet he knew that peace could only
be reached through " a good sharp war." But to pur-
sue such a policy as this required consistency and
generosity, and Elizabeth was incapable of either.
When she first heard of the authority confided by the
States to Leicester, jealousy of her favourite, and
especially of her favourite's wife, was the ruling
passion. She stormed, and raged, and swore, till poor
Lord Burleigh took to his bed, and even Walsingham
was filled with dismay. It is curious to see what her
fury was all about, and how it was appeased. Send
her Majesty " a present a love-gift," wrote a]l the
courtiers to Leicester. " Lay out two or three hundred
crowns in some rare thing for a token to her Majesty,"
was the advice of Sir Christopher Hatton. Leicester
does not seem to have adopted the plan of the dancing
Chancellor, but to have preferred the more economical
expedient of expressing his desire to come home and
rub the heels of her Majesty's horse. This, however,
was enough. Burleigh forthwith reports that "her
princely heart is touched with a favourable interpreta-
tion of your actions, affirming them to be only offen-
sive to her in that she was not made privy to them,
not now misliking that you had the authority." But
the mischief was done. The plain Hollanders were
unable to comprehend these lover-like quarrels and
reconciliations on questions of state-policy. The Queen
had shaken the authority of the Earl, had destroyed the
confidence of the States in her own sincerity ; and, no
sooner had she thoroughly accomplished this, than she
veered right round. She was a perfect Dame Quickly
in her politics. When Leicester's position had been


weakened by her idle jealousies, when he himself had
forfeited all respect from his conspicuous incapacity,
and alienated all affection by his arrogance, she would
listen to no word in his dispraise. She stood by him,
now that he was wrong, as heartily as she had cursed
at him when he was right. She must still at the age
of 53 write to him as her "Sweet Kobin," in a style
unseemly from any woman to any man, doubly so
from a queen to a subject. She scolded the States
most virulently, because they estimated him at his
true value. She treated her ablest servants with con-
tumely, if they ventured to thwart, in any particular,
the imperious favourite. Sir John Norris was the
object of Leicester's especial hatred ; therefore, despite
his brilliant exploits in the field, he was forbidden
her Majesty's presence. Buckhurst, afterwards Lord
Dorset, who had discharged the duties of plenipoten-
tiary in the Netherlands, with an honesty and ability
beyond praise, was ignominiously imprisoned in his
own house till the death of Leicester. Wilkes, whose
merits were only second to those of Buckhurst, who
had lavished his own money to feed starving English
soldiers, had been called a " villain and a devil " by
Leicester, and was therefore thrown into the Fleet.
And this is the Queen who, according to Mr. Kingsley,
kept the " balance even between her courtiers as skil-
fully, gently, justly, as woman ever did, or mortal
man either I" 1

Perplexed by such caprice, the Hollanders had ever
before their eyes a fact about which there could be no
mistake the fact that the English army was utterly
neglected, unpaid, and unclothed. Nothing could

1 Every one remembers her treatment of Davison, who appears, in
these volumes, to have served her as faithfully in the Netherlands as he
did afterwards at Fotheringay, and to have been requited much in the
same fashion.


cure the Queen of her miserable parsimony. " The
brightest jewel in her crown/' Sir Philip Sidney,
remonstrated, and gained only ill-will for his pains.
" She was very apt/ 7 says Walsingham, " upon every
light occasion, to find fault with him ;" as, indeed, she
was with every one who would not approach her with
debasing adulation who would not pray for permis-
sion to "rub her horse's heels." On this one point,
even Leicester ventured to speak, but he spoke in

" The English soldiers who had fought so well in every
Flemish battle-field of freedom, had become such as were
left of them mere famishing, half-naked vagabonds and
marauders. Brave soldiers had been changed by their
sovereign into brigands, and now the universal odium which
suddenly attached itself to the English name, converted
them into outcasts. Forlorn and crippled creatures swarmed
about the provinces, but were forbidden to come through the
towns, and so wandered about, robbing hen-roosts and pil-
laging the peasantry. Many deserted to the enemy. Many
begged their way to England, and even to the very gates of
the palace, and exhibited their wounds and their misery
before the eyes of that good Queen Bess, who claimed to be
the mother of her subjects, and begged for bread in vain."
-Vol. ii. p. 183.

Especially they thronged Greenwich Palace starving,
wounded, and in rags, and were driven from the gates
of the "Alruna Maiden," and threatened with the
stocks as vagabonds ! Such is the lamentable and
disgraceful truth, told by no enemies of the English
Queen, but by her own generals and confidential
counsellors. The soldiers, perhaps, found consolation
in the reflection that she treated her sailors exactly in
the same way.

Nor was this the worst. A mystery, which even
the researches of Mr. Motley have hardly made clear,
hangs over Elizabeth's secret negotiations with Spain.


Yet we know enough to throw great doubt on her good
faith towards Holland. Her changefulness coming
very near to duplicity is beyond question. We will
give but one instance. On the 1st of April 1586,
Elizabeth wrote to Sir Thomas Heneage, then in the
Netherlands, stating that she would do nothing that
might concern the States " without their own know-
ledge and good-liking." On the 21st of April, Wal-
singham instructs Leicester to acquaint the Council of
State, that " overtures of peace are being daily made
to her Majesty, but that she meaneth not to proceed
therein without their good-liking and privity," etc.
These statements were unquestionably in accordance
with the spirit, if not with the letter, of the treaty
of the preceding August. For either Holland or
England to have contracted a separate peace with
Spain, after that treaty, would, in the words of Mr.
Motley, have been "disingenuous, if not positively
dishonourable." Yet on the 26th of April, five days
after Walsingham's despatch to Leicester, we find the
Queen furious at this communication having been
made. "Think you," she writes to Sir Thomas
Heneage, in a letter filled with much abuse, " think
you I will be bound by your speech to make no peace
for mine own matters without their consent 1 It is
enough that I injure not their country nor themselves
in making peace for them without their consent."
Poor Sir Thomas might well take to his bed, and
write in great despair, "I fear that the world will
judge what Champagny wrote in one of his letters out
of England (which I have lately seen) to be over true.
His words be these, ' Et de vray, c'est le plus fascheux
et le plus incertain negocier de ceste court, qui je
pense soit au monde." Mr. Motley does not go
beyond this. He accuses the Queen of slackness, of
timidity, even of a certain degree of insincerity ; but


he acquits her of deliberate treachery. We wish we
could concur in the gentler verdict. But a careful
study of the evidence which he has himself adduced
inspires us with uneasy suspicions. Elizabeth's order
for the arrest of Hohenlo, the General of the States,
hardly seems becoming a faithful ally. And a much
darker story remains behind. There is no manner of
doubt, that towards the close of his administration,
Leicester formed the treacherous design of seizing
some important Dutch cities, so as to enable the
Queen to make good terms for herself with Spain, " if
the worst came to the worst." That this treason was
suggested from England does not appear, but it cer-
tainly was communicated to England. On the 27th
of June 1586, the Earl wrote thus to the Queen :

" This I will do, and I hope not to fail of it, to get into
my hands three or four most principal places in North
Holland, which will be such a strength and assurance for your
Majesty, as you shall see you shall both rule these men and
make war and peace as you list, always provided whatso-
ever you hear, or is part not with the Brill ; and having these
places in your hands, whatsoever should chance to these
countries, your Majesty I will warrant sure enough to make
what peace you will in an hour, and to have your debts
and charges answered."

And again, on the 5th of November 1587, at the
very time when the Queen was loudly protesting her
good faith to the States, and denouncing all who
refused credence, the following despatch was on its
way to England :

" I will not be idle to do all that in me shall lie to make
this island of Walchern assured, whatsoever shall fall out ;
which, if it may be, your Majesty shall the less fear to make
a good bargain for yourself when the worst shall come."

It must be confessed that, in the face of all this,
Queen Elizabeth has need of a sturdy advocate. The


truth is, it is absurd to speak of her as the champion
of Protestantism in any true or unselfish sense. The
" proximus ardet " adage is the real key to her policy
in the Low Countries. Had her own safety been
assured, we are persuaded that she would have looked
on with the most philosophical composure, while the
fires of the Inquisition were blazing at Amsterdam or
at Utrecht. This much is certain : that in the spring
of 1586, the Hollanders were united as one man,
ardent in their resistance to Spain, eager to welcome
the English as their deliverers ; that by the end of
1587, between the "Alruna Maiden" and her "Sweet
Robin," dissension had broken out in the Provinces
themselves, distrust of English policy was universal,
and the whole alliance was brought to the verge of
ruin. The Queen and her favourite had played the
game of Parma well. It was in no sort owing to them
that, ere the close of 1588, the only two free States in
Europe were not prostrate at the feet of Philip. Mr.
Motley sums up the matter in language far too gentle,
when he says:

"English valour, English intelligence, English truthful-
ness, English generosity, were endearing England more and
more to Holland. The statesmen of both countries were
brought into closest union, and learned to appreciate and to
respect each other, while they recognised that the fate of
their respective commonwealths was indissolubly connected.
But it was to the efforts of Walsingham, Drake, Kaleigh,
Wilkes, Buckhurst, Norris, Willoughby, Williams, Vere,
Eussell, and the brave men who fought under their banners
or their counsels, on every battle-field, and in every be-
leaguered town in the Netherlands, and to the universal
spirit and sagacity of the English nation, in this grand crisis
of its fate, that these fortunate results were owing : not to
the Earl of Leicester ; nor during the term of his adminis-
tration to Queen Elizabeth herself." Vol. ii. p. 551.

Nor, when the final struggle came, does her Majesty


appear in a very striking light. She would not avert
the blow by an adequate and timely succour of the
Hollanders ; she was not even prepared to meet it
when it fell upon her own land. Duplicity is always
bad ; but when unsuccessful, over-reaching itself, so
bent on deceiving that it overlooks the possibility of
being deceived, and falls blindly and unsuspectingly
into the snares spread openly before it, such duplicity
becomes beyond measure contemptible. And such
was the duplicity of Elizabeth. The Netherlander
were to be hoodwinked; but it was forgotten that
Farnese was ten times more subtle than the Nether-
landers and the English put together. The records
of diplomacy do not generally convey pleasing views
of human nature. And perhaps in the whole history
of diplomacy, nothing can be found more discredit-
able to all concerned than the English negotiation
with Parma in the years 1587 and in the beginning
of 1588. On the part of Parma they were conducted
with apparent sincerity, in reality with the most
profound perfidy. While amusing the English envoys
he was urging on night and day the preparations for
the invasion of their country. The strange thing is
that he does not seem to have expected to be believed.
It never occurred to him that even those stupid
islanders could be so stupid as they actually were.
Nor, indeed, would he have obtained credence for a
moment, had not the English Queen, and every
English statesman, save Walsingham, been smitten
with an infatuation which had well-nigh proved fatal
to their country. At the same time, we must not be
too loud in our denunciations of Spanish treachery.
Farnese was indeed perfidious perfectly so; but
after the letters which have been quoted above, the
less we say on this head, perhaps, the better.
At the very end of July 1588, one of the ambas-


sadors, an ingenious and learned gentleman of the
name of Dale, wrote to Burleigh a very peaceful
letter, containing the following passage : " I have
written two or three verses out of Virgil for the Queen
to read, which I pray your Lordship to present unto
her. . God grant her to weigh them. If your Lord-
ship will read the whole discourse of Virgil, in that
place, it will make your heart melt." When this
letter reached England, Queen Elizabeth and her
ministers had something else to do than to melt over
the pages of Virgil. Yet, strange to say, their delusion
continued till the Armada was actually exchanging
broadsides with the English fleet. Lord Burleigh
indeed does not cut a distinguished figure in Mr.
Motley's pages. He is always doubting, shaking his
head, and praying for a Dsedalus " to direct us out of
the maze ; " but, even at the most critical moment, he
never gets beyond these very inefficacious proceedings.
Dr. Nares, his venerable and partial biographer, were
he alive now, would be much scandalised at the
following expressions from the Admiral of England :
"Since England was England," writes Lord Howard
to Walsingham, "there never was such a stratagem
and mask to deceive her as this treaty of peace. I
pray God that we do not curse for this, a long grey
beard with a white head witless, that will make all
the world think us heartless. You know whom I
mean." And, indeed, it required no witch to guess at
the allusion to the Lord Treasurer. Nothing produced
any effect. Hesitation and delay prevailed till the
last. The very day the Armada sighted the Lizard,
and the light of ten thousand beacon fires was
flaming over England, the Lord Admiral received
orders to dismantle four of his largest ships. The
same miserable parsimony sent the fleet to sea short
both of ammunition and provisions. After the fight


off Grave) ines, half the fleet had to return for want
of food ; and the rest, in the words of the Admiral,
" put on a brag countenance and gave chase, as though
we had wanted nothing, though our powder and shot
was well-nigh spent/' To chase a formidable enemy
up and down the Northern Sea, without powder,
without shot, and with nothing to eat or drink, could
hardly be considered an agreeable pastime even by
English sailors. As Mr. Motley remarks, " Had the
Spaniards, instead of being panic-struck, but turned
on their pursuers, what might have been the result
of a conflict with starving and unarmed men V

Matters were not much better on shore. On the
7th of August the day the Armada was at Calais,
the day a landing would have been effected had Far-
nese been able to break through the Dutch fleet
only some 4000 troops lay between London and the
sea. And, by way of mending matters, the command
of these troops was intrusted to " Sweet Kobin," the
man whose in competency had lost the battle of Zut-
phen, and had sacrificed the garrison of Sluys. The
celebrated scene of Elizabeth at Tilbury was not en-
acted till nine days after the Armada had fled north-
ward. At no time did the army quartered there
exceed 17,000 men. Well might brave Eoger Wil-
liams declare, that nothing but a series of miracles
had saved England from perdition.

One painful topic remains. We have seen already
how the soldiers who bled for England in the Nether-
lands were rewarded by the English Queen. The
sailors, who had saved England in the English seas,
met with a like requital. The same unworthy meanness
led to the same barbarity. August the month of the
great deliverance had not expired, when the men
by whom that deliverance had been wrought, unpaid
and unfed, were dying in hundreds from want and



neglect. They rotted away in their ships, or fell
dead, uncared for, in the streets of the ports. Hos-
pitals there were none ; there were not even doctors
on shipboard.

" 'Tis a most pitiful sight," writes the noble Lord
Howard, " to see here, at Margate, how the men, having no
place where they can be received, die in the streets. I am
driven of force myself to come on land to see them bestowed
in some lodgings ; and the best I can get is barns, and such
outhouses ; and the relief is small that I can provide for
them here. It would grieve any man's heart to see men
that have served so valiantly die so miserably/'

The enormous folly of this at a time when the
Armada might have any day returned, is bad enough.
But the folly is forgotten in the cruelty and ingra-
titude. Such was the administration of Queen Eliza-

On the evening of the 6th of August 1588, the roads
of Calais presented a spectacle which, both in its out-
ward pomp, and in the magnitude of the interests at
stake, can hardly be paralleled in the history of the
world. A hundred and fifty small sloops and frigates
bearing the flag of England lay face to face barely
out of gunshot with about the same number of
Spanish shipSi the largest and most heavily armed
which could be produced by naval architecture of the
time. The opposing fleets rode at anchor, rising and
falling on the long, slow swell of the calm sea. On
the English side, anxiety and great alarm, yet a firm
resolve to do all that men could do ; not without
some hope of a happy issue inspired by recent success.
Among the Spaniards, a proud and foolish confidence ;
their banners flaunted gaily in the silvery moonlight ;
salvoes of artillery were poured forth in celebration
of their anticipated triumph ; and strains of exulting
music filled the midnight air. The dawn of Sunday,


the seventh, smiled good fortune on the invaders.
The weather was bright, the sea was smooth ; the ele-
ments would no longer fight for the heretic islanders.
Their hearts swelled high within them : the storm of
London should be for a greater terror to the nations
than had been even " the fury " at Antwerp. As the
day wore on, disquietude succeeded to expectation ;
as night drew near, disquietude gave place to doubt,
fear, and terrible suspicion. Through long hours the
Duke of Medina Sidonia paced the deck of the " Saint
Martin," a prey to the bitterest emotions, straining his
eyes towards the eastern horizon, with the words,
" Where is Farnese 1 " ever on his lips. Farnese
came not ; and with that day's sunset the hopes of
the Spaniards sunk, the danger of England passed
away. On this second night of anchorage no moon
looked down ; thick clouds overspread the sky ; the
moaning of an approaching tempest was heard far out
on the western sea ; and the gloom was fearfully illu-
mined by the blaze of English fire-ships. The Spaniards
were smitten with nameless terrors ; confusion and
turmoil disturbed the darkness ; and returning dawn
showed many ships disabled and aground, the body
of the fleet driving, panic-struck, towards the Flemish
coast. The fight off Gravelines was the fitting sequel
to the night at Calais. All was over. The Armada
fled away into northern storms, to be dashed to pieces
against the rocks of Norway and the Faroes.

The crisis of the struggle was on Sunday, the seventh.
On the events of that day the whole affair depended.
Farnese did not appear ; and the expedition was from
that time necessarily a failure. For it cannot be too
often repeated that the Armada was never intended
to conquer England by itself. The theory of the in-
vasion all along was that a junction should be accom-
plished with Farnese, who was then to take upon


himself the command of the expedition. To the
invading force the Armada could only contribute
some six thousand troops ; the rest was to be made
up of those stern warriors who had followed Alva
and Parma to victory on a hundred fields. Medina
Sidonia had no orders to attempt a landing alone,
and never contemplated doing so. His sole object
was to effect a junction with Farnese, and to protect
the passage of the open boats which were to convey
the veterans of the Netherlands to the shores of
England. The answer to the question of Sidonia,
" Where is Farnese ? " is also the answer to the ques-
tion, " How was England saved ?"

This answer has not been frankly given by English
historians. Farnese was kept a close prisoner by the
Dutch fleet; and the importance of this service has
never been sufficiently recognised. The sea, on that
Sunday, was at rest ; and had Farnese been able to
put out with his flotilla, very different might have
been the results. A hand-to-hand fight between the
English and Spanish fleets would have been inevit-
able. The harassing mode of attack which the former
had hitherto practised, would have been no longer of
any avail. They must have come to close quarters.
And when we remember that this would have been
before the panic of the night of the seventh, when
the Spanish were yet confident, and buoyed up with
well-grounded hope, and that it would have been in
weather so serene that seamanship could hardly have
come into play, it is impossible to resist a fear that
Providence, in the words of Napoleon, " would have
been on the side of the strongest battalions." That
such an engagement never took place was owing to
the vigilance of the Dutch. Upwards of a hundred
vessels, of every description, and of all sizes, under
Nassau and Van der Does, swarmed in all the estuaries


on the Flemish coast, blockading every egress to the
ocean from Dunkirk or from Sluys. The " Beggars of
the Sea " had come into the game at last. Now was
their chance to requite Philip for the desolation he
had wrought upon their country for the sufferings of
Leyden, for the treacherous sack of Haarlem. They
could now take a leading part in frustrating the great
design of his life, in giving the first blow to the over-
grown fabric of his power. Now had come an oppor-
tunity rewarding them for years of sorrow, of suffering,
and of peril, the history of which makes us stand amazed
at the fortitude of the men who could endure to the
end. They had waited for it long, and they used it
well. Even at this distance of time our hearts beat
in sympathy with those wild sailors, as, exulting in
their long deferred and often despaired-of triumph,
they marked their cruel enemy cowering in his
trenches, and dared him, with taunts and jeers, to
come forth to meet them on the sea.

" As for the Prince of Parma," said Drake, " I take

Online LibraryHenry H LancasterEssays and reviews → online text (page 13 of 38)