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agency of two of Essex's own servants.* The Report of his Death'† was contradicted, indeed, by Sir Henry Sidney, Lord Deputy of Ireland; but the suspicion nevertheless gained ground shortly afterward, upon Dudley's marrying the dead man's widow.‡ This event the French embassador Simier, imagining the Queen's private attachment to Leicester the only obstacle to her marriage with the Duke of Anjou, revealed to Elizabeth; § and so intemperate was her rage upon the occasion, that she forbade him the court, and would have committed him to the Tower, if the Earl of Sussex had not for prudential reasons prevented it.
In 1579, the Duke of Anjou visited England; but, for a long time, he met with no better success than his envoy. At length however, as he was one day conversing with her Majesty, she drew a ring from her finger, and placed it upon his on certain private con
* His Lordship's page, it was added, who always tasted his drink before he gave it him, very hardly escaped with life, and not without the loss of his hair, though he drank but a small quantity; and the Earl, in compassion to the boy, a little before his death drank to him in a friendly manner, saying, "I drink to thee, my Robin; and be not afraid, for this is a better cup of drink than that whereof thou tookest the taste, when we were both poisoned."
+ Inserted by Hearne, in his preface to Camdeni Elizabetha,' § 28.
Lettice, daughter of Sir Francis Knollys.
It has been suggested, that Leicester plotted against Simier's life in resentment of this discovery. The suspicion was founded upon two circumstances: one, a proclamation issued by the Queen, that no person should presume to offer any affront to the French embassador or his servants; the other, that as Simier was attending Elizabeth upon the river, a gun was discharged, the contents of which passing his barge wounded one of the Queen's watermen through both arms.
ditions, which had been mutually arranged between them. The company present mistook it for a contract of marriage; and Leicester, with the rest of his faction, who had spared no pains to frustrate the project, exclaimed that the Queen, the realm, and the reformed religion were undone.' The ladies of honour* likewise, who were all in his interest, broke, out into bitter lamentations; upon which Elizabeth was so terrified, that early the next morning she sent for the Duke of Anjou, and dismissed him her court. At the same time to do him honour, she attended him herself as far as Canterbury, and ordered Leicester and some others of her nobility to wait upon him to Antwerp, to which place he retired in 1582.
In 1585 the Netherlands, which had lately thrown off the Spanish yoke, being greatly distressed, desired Elizabeth to take them under her royal protection, The Queen gave the deputies a favourable audience; but she refused the offered sovereignty, and only engaged to furnish them with a supply of men and money, which she soon afterward sent to them under the conduct of the Earl of Leicester.
On the eighth of December he embarked, attended by several persons of distinction: and on the tenth, with fifty sail of ships and transports, he arrived at Flushing, where he was magnificently entertained
* « There are not by report," says the writer of the Secret Memoirs," "two noble women about her Majesty (I speak upon some account of them that know much) whom he hath not solicited by potent ways."
↑ This town, which with the castle of Ramilies, and the towns of Terveer in Zealand, and the Brille in the province of Holland, had been delivered to Elizabeth, as a security for the repayment of her expenses were hence stiled in history, The Cautionary Towns.'
by Sir Philip Sidney his nephew, governor of the town for her Majesty; by Grave Maurice, second son to William of Nassau, Prince of Orange (then recently deceased); by the magistracy of the city; and by the Queen's embassador.
The same splendid reception accompanied him on his whole progress to the Hague. At the Hague the States, desirous of engaging Elizabeth still farther in their defence, conferred upon him the highest honour which their republic could bestow: they made him Governor and Captain-General of the United Provinces, assigned him a guard as they had been accustomed to do to the Prince of Orange, and permitted him to keep a court, whither they repaired to pay their compliments, as to a sovereign.
But unfortunately for their project, the Queen had given him a strict charge, previously to his departure, not to exceed his commission. She therefore deemed her personal honour injured, rather than complimented, by this prodigality; and thinking the States, who were considerably indebted to her, might have found a better use for their money, than to expend it on triumphal arches and feasts, severely reprimanded them for it in a letter written with her own hand. To Leicester, at the same time, she sent her vicechamberlain, to check his ambition by personal reproof.
The States returned a submissive answer, excusing what they had done by their anxiety to show her representative every possible token of respect. The Earl likewise so affectingly lamented his hard fate in having disobliged her, that she not only overlooked his offence, but even acquiesced in his new title. It has indeed been supposed, that her anger upon this
occasion was merely counterfeited, to throw off from herself the odium of assuming the sovereignty of the United Provinces, while she transferred it to her favourite dependent.
Leicester now proceeded to the exercise of his high authority; and having appointed natives of Holland deputies in every province, placed the whole army under such excellent regulations, that the Prince of Parma, the general of the Spanish forces, began to despair of recovering the rebel districts, though he had recently boasted, that he should make them an easy conquest.' Several skirmishes ensued, in which the English forces gained the advantage; and their general, in honour of their victories, determined to celebrate the festival of St. George at Utrecht, where he had his head-quarters, with the most ridiculous ostentation. This new proof of his vanity embroiled him afresh with his royal mistress, whose frequent remission of his offences has been always urged by foreign historians as the strongest proof of her criminal attachment.
But the subsequent success of the campaign not answering to the high expectations naturally excited by these first enterprises, the miscarriages were imputed to Leicester's want of military capacity; especially after the failure of the siege of Zutphen, the most important of the towns still remaining in the hands of the enemy. The strength of this place, a fort built upon the river Yssel, the English general so blocked up by batteries, that he compelled the governor to send to the Prince of Parma for succours. The Prince, at the head of a strong detachment, flew to his assistance. At this critical juncture, Leicester unfortunately neglected to remit money to the Count
de Meurs, to pay two thousand German mercenaries, whom that officer had hastily levied for the use of the States. In this temper the enemy's general, learning that the men were on the point of mutiny, surrounded them; upon which some of them threw down their arms, and the rest entered into the Spanish service.
The flower of the English volunteers however being in the field, and among them many persons of high rank (particularly Sir Philip Sidney, Sir William Stanley, Sir William Russel, and Sir John Norris) they resolved, notwithstanding this discouragement, to pursue the enterprise, and rather to die for the honour of their country than to raise the siege. With such sentiments, it is not surprising that they performed prodigies of valour; but all their efforts proved ineffectual. Sir Philip Sidney was one of the victims of that fatal day.
The Dutch now openly charged Leicester with want of military skill, if not of personal valour. In return, he entered upon a justification of his proceedings, strove to remove their supposed misconstructions, and at last endeavoured to dissolve the assembly;* but, not being able to effect this, he angrily declared his resolution of immediately returning home. He seems afterward, however, to have recovered his temper; and to have informed the States, that by his journey into England he should be the better enabled to assist them in their affairs, and to provide a remedy for their grievances. When the day of his departure arrived, he publicly surrendered the care of the pro
By his affected zeal for Protestantism, and his pretended piety, he had gained the confidence of the lower orders and of the clergy, who from their pulpits inveighed against their magistrates, and extolled the Earl as the champion of the true faith.