« PreviousContinue »
At the portal of this edifice, on a pillar crowned and encircled with an eglantine, hung a votive tablet inscribed to Elizabeth. This, together with the gifts, were then offered to her majesty, and sir Henry, having disarmed himself, and placed his armour at the foot of the pillar, knelt before the queen, beseeching her to accept the earl of Cumberland, whom he then presented, as her future knight and champion.
To this prayer a very gracious assent was instantly given, and the interesting veteran having armed his successor, and assisted him to mount his horse, exchanged, though not without a sigh, his corslet for a velvet gown, and his helmet for a but
every subsequent occasion of the kind the earl of Cumberland was accustomed to wear, still remains at Appleby Castle : it is richly decorated with roses, and fleur de lis ; and the weight of the helmet is such as to be almost insupportable to modern shoulders, -a pretty decisive proof of the strength and agility of its former possessor.
It was not, however, exclusively to chivalric pageantry and splendour that the earl devoted his
time; for the year following this inauguration, undaunted by difficulty and danger, he resumed his naval expeditions with all his wonted enthusiasm, and undertook a fourth voyage to the coast of Spain with five ships fitted out at his own charge, on his return from which he was created by his royal mistress a knight of the garter.
From this period to the close of the year 1598, when he returned from his last and eleventh
voyage, did he unremittingly persevere in his attacks upon the Spanish settlements, and this too in spite of repeated disaster and disappointment. Nine of these expeditions he conducted in person, and hesitated at no expense in rendering them complete in their equipment ; for, in his eighth voyage, conceiving that his force had been previously too weak, he built at Deptford a vessel of his own, of not less than nine hundred tons, the best and largest ship that till then had ever been set afloat by an English subject, and which the queen, whose policy it was to encourage all such private efforts, honoured by her presence at the launching, and named The Scourge of Malice.
Whatever might be the benefit accruing to his queen and country from these expeditions, and even
of this the estimate cannot be great, to himself they were productive of nothing but anxiety and distress. They were undertaken, indeed, too much in the spirit of gambling, and they had, unfortunately, a corresponding issue; for though captures, to an immense amount, occasionally rewarded his exertions, the sudden wealth which poured in upon him served but to feed his prodigality, which was so thoughtless and profuse, that though he commenced life with a larger property than any of his ancestors had done, and possessed numerous means of augmenting it, he had, in little more than twenty years, not only dissipated his casual acquisitions, but the greater part of his unentailed patrimony.
It was thus that the great talents of this active and enterprising nobleman, his accomplishments as a courtier, his skill as a navigator, and his intrepidity as a commander, were rendered fruitless to himself for want of the controlling and prudential virtues of temperance and economy.
Discontent and disappointment, therefore, tracked his footsteps even in public life; for Elizabeth, who was an excellent judge of character, though she admired the courtesy, the brilliant bearing, and chivalric prowess of the earl of Cumberland, had
little opinion of him in a civil or legislative capacity; and there is reason to conclude, from a letter and a speech of the earl's, preserved by Dr. Whitaker in his Craven, that she had refused him, what he had earnestly solicited, the government of the Isle of Wight. In the latter of these documents, which is dated November 17, 1600, and appears to have been addressed to the queen at one of her romantic pageants, under the character of a disconsolate and forgotten knight, he tells her majesty, whom he describes, though in her sixty-eighth year,
“ the fairest of all ladies, Cinthia's brightness, whose beames wrappes up cloudes as whirlewindes dust;" that “ he hath made ladders for others to clymbe, and his own feet nayled to the ground not to stirr;" that “he is lyke to him that built the ancker to save others, and themselves to be drowned ;” and, in allusion to his improvident expenditure in fitting out ships, that “ he had throwne his land into the sea, and the sea had cast him on the land for a wanderer.” He was, however, in the following year employed by her majesty on a military duty of considerable importance to her, being one of the lords who were sent with forces to reduce the earl of Essex to submission.
may justly be said that the part which George, earl of Cumberland, performed in public, was splendid and imposing; but, if we follow him into the recesses of private life, into the bosom of his family, we shall find a sad reverse of the picture. As a husband, he was indifferent and unfaithful ; as a parent, thoughtless and improvident. Lady Margaret, by whom he had two sons who died young, and a daughter (afterwards the celebrated countess of Pembroke), was a woman of exemplary virtue, with more than common mental endowments, and with a most amiable disposition ; and had she met with any the slightest return of confidence and affection on the part of her lord, would have rendered his home the seat of as much happiness as is compatible with the lot of humanity.
There is still existing in the castle at Skipton, though in a very decayed state, a large picture of the earl and his family in the form of a screen, divided into three compartments, and exhibiting a curious combination of family history and portrait painting on the same canvas; for of each personage there is a pretty copious biographical sketch drawn up by the countess of Pembroke, assisted, it is said, by sir Matthew Hale.