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vinces into the hands of the Council of State; reserving to himself, at the same time, by an act of restriction, an authority over all governors of provinces, forts, and cities : after which, he set sail for England
But whatever might be his pretext for leaving the Low-Countries at this conjuncture, his presence in England seems to have been secretly desired by Elizabeth, who wanted him near her person; as the late conspiracies in favour of the Queen of Scots had made a deep impression upon her Majesty, and she now resolved to sacrifice the illustrious criminal to her own safety. The difficulty lay in determining, how this might best be accomplished; and she knew, that she could rely upon Leicester's fidelity. When the mat ter was brought before the council, his Lordship is said to have advised taking her off by poison; but this atrocious project being vehemently opposed by Secretary Walsingham, it was determined to proceed against her by public trial.*
In the mean time, the affairs of the United Provinces becoming daily more alarming, the governors called together the States-General; who, in order to preserve their country, agreed to invest Prince Maurice with the full power of Stadtholder.' Pursuant to this determination, they obliged all the officers to receive a new commission from him, and to take a fresh oath to the States, discharging all recusants from the service.
With these alterations in the government Elizabeth
* For the particulars, and the issue, of this celebrated proCOBS, see the Life of Lord Burghley.
was highly displeased, and immediately sent over Lord Buckhurst to inquire into the matter, to com: plain of the innovations introduced during Leicester's absence, and to settle all differences between them. The States, aware of the influence of that General over the English Queen, assured her in reply, that their proceedings were only provisional, enforced merely through fear of an universal revolt, and that upon his Lordship’s return they would readily acknowledge his authority. But, notwithstanding their vehement professions of regard, they privately proceeded to realise the measures which they had adopted for the limitation of his power.
Elizabeth however openly espousing his cause, he again went over to Holland; and, by renewed professions of zeal for the Protestant religion, revived his faction in that country, to the great distress of the States. But they were fortunately relieved by his recall in 1588, when England was alarmed by the expected invasion of the Spanish Armada. At this critical moment, to the astonishment of the whole pation, though Lord Buckhurst adduced accusations against him at the council-board for mal-administration in the Low-Countries, supported by the States (who were exasperated at the loss of Sluys, and the general misfortunes of the campaign in 1587) the Queen interposed; and as a token of her full confidence in his powers, appointed him Lieutenant-Genefal of the army, which had marched to Tilbury to prevent the landing of the Spaniards. *
* This invasion was providentially prevented by a violent storm, which dispersed the Spanish fleet, and by the subsequent When she reviewed this army, likewise, she bestowed upon him the highest encomiums, in the memorable speech which, in imitation of the celebrated generals of ancient Greece and Rome, she there addressed to her troops:
“ MY LOVING PEOPLE,
“ We have been persuaded by some, that are careful of our safety, to take heed how we commit ourselves to armed multitudes for fear of treachery; but, I assure you, I do not desire to live to distrust my faithful and loving people. Let tyrants fear: I have always so behaved myself, that, under God, I have placed my chiefest strength and safeguard in the loyal hearts and good-will of my subjects. And therefore I am come among you, as you see, at this time, not for my recreation and disport, but being resolved, in the midst and heat of the battle, to live and die among you all : 'to lay down for my God, and for my kingdom, and for my people, my honour and my blood, even in the dust. I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too; and think it foul scorn that Parma, or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realm; to which, rather than any dishonour shall grow by me, I myself will take up arms, I myself will be your general, judge, and rewarder of every one of your virtues in the field. I know already, for your forwardness you have deserved rewards and
defeat of that fleet in an engagement, for the particulars of which see the Lives of the Lord High Admiral Charles Howard, Earl of Nottingham, and of Sir Francis Drake.
crowns; and we do assure you, on the word of a prince, they shall be duly paid you.
“ In the mean time, my Lieutenant-General shall be in my stead, than whom never prince commanded a more noble or worthy subject; not doubting but by your obedience to my General, by your concord in the camp, and your valour in the field, we shall shortly have a famous victory over those enemies of my God, of my kingdom, and of my people.”
This was the last expedition, in which Leicester was engaged; for retiring soon afterward to his castle at Kenilworth, he was taken ill of a fever upon his journey at Cornbury Park, in Oxfordshire, and died September 4, 1588.
His death, according to some authors, was hastened by poison, administered (it is asserted) by Sir James Crofts, in revenge for some injury done by the Earl to his father. His corpse was removed to Warwick, and magnificently interred in a chapel adjoining to the choir of the collegiate church, where a handsome monument was erected to his memory.
His character is given, in a few words, by Camden: He was a most accomplished courtier, free and bountiful to soldiers and students; a cunning time-server, and respecter of his own advantages; of a disposition ready and apt to please ; crafty and subtile toward his adversaries'; much given formerly to women, and in his latter days doting extremely upon marriage. But, while he preferred power and greatness, which.is subject to be envied, before solid virtue, his detracting emulators found large matter to speak reproachfully of him; and, even when he was in his most flourishing condition, spared not disgracefully
to defame him by libels, not without a mixture of some truths.?
There is much reason also to believe, that he was well skilled in the diabolical art of poisoning ;* which at this æra formed a courtly accomplishment in some of the courts of Europe.
“ His engaging person and address," observes Granger,“ recommended him to the favour of Queen Elizabeth. † These 'exterior qualifications, without the aid of any kind of virtue or superiority of abilities, gained him such an ascendant over her, that every instance of his misconduct was overlooked; and he had, even, the art to make his faults the means of rising higher in her favour.”
He left only one son, to whom he bequeathed the greatest part of his real estate, by the title of his base son Robert,'on account of his having always denied his marriage with Lady Douglas Sheffield, his mother: but the youth, with a view to secure to himself the hereditary honours of his family, in the beginning of the reign of James I. commenced a suit in the Ecclesiastical Court. When he had proceeded however so far as to prove by indubitable evidence his mother's marriage,
* He is even said to have introduced it into England. (Howell's Letters, IV. 451.) It is certain, that he often practised it, and actually sent a divine to convince Walsingham of the lawfulness of poisoning the Queen of Scots before her trial.
+ “Nothing," this respectable writer adds in a note, “would form a more curious collection of memoirs, than · Anecdotes of Preferment. Could the secret history of great men be traced, it would appear, that merit is rarely the first step to advancement. It would much oftener be found to be owing to superficial qualifications, and even vices. The abilities of the generality of mankind unfold themselves by degrees, and the office forms the man, Sir Christopher Hatton owed his preferment to his dancing. Queen Elizabeth, with all her sagacity, could not see the future Lord Chancellor in the fine dancer.”