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CHAPTER IV 1559-1560
We are told by his household biographer that two of Cecil’s favourite aphorisms were: “That war is the curse, and peace the blessing of God upon a nation,” and “That a realm gaineth more by one year’s peace than by ten years’ war.” He and his mistress plainly saw that the first task for them to perform was to put an end to the disastrous and inglorious war into which for his own ends Philip had dragged England. Here, on the very threshold of Elizabeth’s reign, Cecil’s influence upon her policy was apparent and eminently successful. Cecil came from the Charterhouse to see Feria at Durham Place on the 24th November, saying that the Queen was sending Lord Cobham to inform Philip in Flanders officially of Queen Mary’s death; but two days afterwards, one of Feria’s spies at court, probably Lord William Howard, sent him word that this was not Cobham’s only mission. He was to turn aside to Cercamp, on the French frontier, where the peace commissioners were assembled, except Arundel, who had hurried back as soon as he learnt of the Queen’s death, in order to take fresh commissions from Elizabeth to Dr. Thirlby, Arundel, and Wotton. Feria, on this news, sent post-haste to Philip’s Secretary of State, telling him to advise the Spanish “commissioners to keep their eyes on these Englishmen, in case this should be some trick to our detriment, as I was told nothing about his going to Cercamp till he (Cobham) had gone.”[93]


But no trick was meant which should divide England from the House of Burgundy. The instructions carried by Cobham[94] were drafted by Cecil, and made the restitution of Calais the main point of the English demand; and Wotton was instructed to accompany Cobham to Philip, to persuade the latter to support the English in their demand. The commissioners, moreover, were instructed to insert in the treaty an article reserving all former treaties between England and the House of Burgundy. Before these instructions reached the hands of the commissioners, the suspension of hostilities for two months, which had so much disquieted the Queen when Feria told her of it, had been arranged. There is no doubt that the willingness of the French to agree to this suspension had been occasioned by their desire to enter into separate negotiations with the new Queen and her ministers, with the object of causing distrust between Spain and England; and here it was that Cecil had his first opportunity of proving his ability. Lord Grey had been captured by the French at Gu?nes, and early in January 1559 was allowed to return to England on parole, for the purpose, ostensibly, of arranging an exchange. He brought with him a message from the Dukes of Guise and Montpessart, proposing a secret arrangement between England and France. This was not the first intimation of such a desire; for some weeks before, a similar but less authoritative message was brought by the Protestant Florentine, Guido Cavalcanti, from the Vidame de Chartres; and Cavalcanti had gone back to France with kind but vague expressions of good-will from Elizabeth. When Lord Grey’s message arrived, Cecil considered it in all its bearings, and drew up one of his judicial reports[95] in which Grey’s answer to Guise[74] is dictated. With much circumlocution the Queen’s willingness to make peace is expressed, “if all things done in her sister’s time be revoked”; or, in other words, that Calais should be restored. But what Grey was not told was Cecil’s recommendation to the Queen: “It seemeth necessary to allow this overture of peace, so as neither so to lyke of it, nor so to follow it, as thereby any jelusy shall arise in the hart of the King of Spain, but that principally that that amyty be preserved and this not refused.”

At the same time Dr. Wotton was to be instructed to go to Philip, and assure him emphatically, that the Queen was determined to remain friendly with him, and to let the whole world see it. She had had some hints that the French would like to approach her separately, but Philip “shal be most assured that nothyng shal be doone that maye in any respect either directly or indirectly prejudice this amyté betwixt their two Majesties, or anything doone but that his Majesty shal be made privy thereto; and thereof his Majesty shal be as well assured as he was of his late wyffe’s proceedings here.” Guido Cavalcanti arrived in France before Lord Grey’s answer to Guise, and the Florentine came posting back to England with an affectionate letter from the King of France to Elizabeth.[96] Cecil’s draft answer to this is just as judicious as the previous one. The King of France suggested that French and English commissioners might be mutually appointed to meet. This would never do, said Cecil; secrecy was of the first importance, and a meeting of Englishmen and Frenchmen of rank would be noticed immediately. The negotiations had better be carried on directly by correspondence, and this was the course accepted by the French. Whilst the matter was thus being drawn out,[75] the disposition of Philip was being sounded. Later in the reign, Elizabeth and Cecil had taken his measure, and could foresee his action, but in these first negotiations they were groping their way. Elizabeth had practically refused Philip’s own suggestion of marriage made by Feria, and was now fencing with the proposals of his cousins the Archdukes; but she was careful not to drive Philip too far away. Reassuring letters came from Wotton. Much, he said, as Philip wished for peace, he did not believe he would make it alone, and leave both England and Scotland at the mercy of France, as “what woulde ensew thereof, a blynde manne can see.”[97]

It was well that Cecil’s caution disarmed Philip about the French advances; for Cavalcanti’s movements and mission were soon conveyed to the Spanish King by his spies, and when, at the expiration of the two months’ truce, the peace commissioners again met at Cateau-Cambresis, the King did his best to support the English commissioners in their demand for the restitution of Calais. His own agreement with France was easily made, for Henry II. was seriously alarmed now at the growth of the reform party, and gave way to Philip on nearly every point; whilst Philip himself was in great want of money, he hated war, and, above all, was burning to get back to the Spain he loved so much. But when, week after week, he saw that the English commissioners stood firm about Calais, he was obliged to speak out and assure Elizabeth that he could not plunge his country[76] into war again for the purpose of restoring to England a fortress she had lost by her own laxity. At length, after infinite discussion, the English were forced to conclude a peace based upon the restitution of Calais in eight years, the demolition of the fortifications of Eyemouth, and a truce, to be followed by a peace, between England and Scotland.

In the meanwhile, before the peace of Cateau-Cambresis was signed, matters were growing more acrimonious in tone between England and Spain, owing to the ecclesiastical measures to which reference will be made presently, and also to the haughtiness and want of tact displayed by Feria in England. When, therefore, news came hither that amongst the conditions of the general peace was one providing for the marriage of Philip with Elizabeth, the eldest daughter of the French King, and the establishment of a close community of interests between France and Spain, a gust of apprehension passed over the English that they had been outwitted, and would have to face a combination of the two great rivals.

Paget—a thorough Spanish partisan and a Catholic—had foretold such a possibility as this in February, and had entreated Cecil to cling closely to Spain and continue the war with France.[98] But Cecil was wiser than Paget. He knew that by fighting for Calais we should lose both friendships, and he accepted the best terms of peace he could get. But when it was a question of the brotherhood between Spain and France, and whispers came from French reformers of the secret international league to crush Protestantism, then the only course to pursue was to disarm Philip and sow discord between Spain and France. When Feria saw the Queen on the 7th April 1559, the day on which the[77] news of the signing of peace arrived in London, he found her pouting and coquettish that Philip should have married any one but her. “Your Majesty, she said, could not have been so much in love with her as I had represented, if you could not wait four months for her.” But in the antechamber the Ambassador had a conversation with Cecil, “who is a pestilent knave, as your Majesty knows. He told me they had heard that your Majesty was very shortly going to Spain, and, amongst other things, he said that if your Majesty wished to keep up the war with France, they for their part would be glad of it. I told him he could tell that to people who did not understand the state of affairs in England so well as I did. What they wanted was something very different from that. They were blind to their own advantage, and would now begin to understand that I had advised what was best for the interests of the Queen and the welfare of the country; and I left them that day as bitter as gall.”[99]

Paget wailed that the country was ruined; Alba, Ruy Gomez, and young De Granvelle tried to impress upon the English peace commissioners that England’s only chance of salvation now lay in Philip’s countenance.[100] Feria tried to frighten the Queen by assuring her that her religious policy was hurrying her and her country to perdition, and complained that certain comedies insulting to Philip which had been acted at court, had been suggested by Cecil, her chief minister. But she outwitted him at every point. “She was,” he said, “a daughter of the devil, and her chief ministers the greatest scoundrels and heretics in the land.” She disarmed him and his master by pretending that she would marry one of the Austrian Archdukes, who would depend entirely upon Spain; and Spanish agents were still fain to be civil to her, in[78] hope of bringing that about; though hot-headed Feria soon found his place intolerable, and relinquished it to a more smooth-tongued successor. The reason why Feria was so especially bitter against Cecil, was that to him was attributed the principal blame for forcing through Parliament, at the same time as the conclusion of the treaty of peace, the Act of Supremacy, recognising the Queen as Governor of the Anglican Church, and the Act of Uniformity, imposing the second prayer-book of Edward VI., but with some alterations of importance for the purpose of conciliating the Catholics. The oath of supremacy, however, was only compulsory on servants of the Crown; and the general tendency of the Council, and especially of the Queen, was to avoid offending unnecessarily the Catholic majority in the country. The Queen personally preferred a ceremonious worship, and several times assured the Spanish Ambassador that her opinions were similar to those of her father—that she was practically a Catholic, except for her acknowledgment of the papal supremacy.

Cecil’s interests at this period were somewhat different from those of the Queen. Her great object was to consolidate her position by gaining the good-will of as many of her subjects as possible, apart from the question of religion. It was necessary for her to pass the Act of Supremacy, in order to establish the legality of her right to reign, and some sort of uniformity was necessary in the interests of peace and good government; but beyond that she was not anxious to push religious reform, for she disliked the Calvinists much more than she did the Catholics. But Cecil saw that if the Protestant Church were not established legally and strongly before Elizabeth died—and of course she might die at any time—the accession of Catholic Mary Stuart with French power at her back would mean the[79] end of his ministry, and probably of his life. He and Sir Nicholas Bacon, his brother-in-law, with Bedford, were consequently regarded by the Spaniards as the principal promoters of religious changes. They tried hard to divert him, and in the list of Councillors who were to receive pensions from Spain he is down for a thousand crowns;[101] but though he treated the Spaniards with great courtesy and conciliation, they do not appear to have influenced his policy by a hair’s-breadth. Parry, the Controller, now Treasurer of the Household, was a man of inferior talent, and was apparently jealous of Cecil. Feria, despairing of moving Cecil, consequently endeavoured to influence the Queen by fear through Parry. On the 6th March, during the passage of the ecclesiastical bills through Parliament, the Ambassador, with the Queen’s knowledge, arranged to meet Parry in St. James’s Park; but at the instance of Elizabeth, who did not desire the rest of her Council to see her confidential man in conference with Feria, the meeting-place was changed to Hyde Park, “near the execution place.” The Ambassador urged upon Parry that the proposed religious measures would certainly bring about the Queen’s downfall. Parry promised that the Queen would not assume the title of Supreme Head of the Church, but would call herself Governor. But this was all Feria could get; for a week after, when he saw the Queen, he “found her resolved about what was passed in Parliament yesterday, which Cecil and Vice-Chamberlain Knollys and their followers have managed to bring about for their own ends.” The Queen was excited and hysterical. She was a heretic, she said, and could not marry a Catholic like Philip. Feria endeavoured to calm and flatter her; but he assured her that if she gave her consent to the bills she[80] would be utterly ruined. She promised him that she would not assume the title of Supreme Head; but she said that so much money was taken out of the country for the Pope that she must put an end to it, and the bishops were lazy poltroons, whereupon Feria retorted angrily, and Knollys purposely put an end to the conversation by announcing supper. Parry’s influence was small and decreasing. “Although,” says Feria, “he is a favourite of the Queen, he is not at all discreet, nor is he a good Catholic, but, still, he behaves better than the others. Cecil is very clever, but a mischievous man, and a heretic, and governs the Queen in spite of the Treasurer (Parry);[102] for they are not at all good friends, and I have done what I can to make them worse.”[103] Cecil, of course, had his way, and the Acts of Supremacy and Uniformity received the royal assent within a few weeks of this time (April 1559).

In the meanwhile both Cecil and the Queen worked hard to divert or mollify the irritation of the Spaniards caused by the religious measures. The pretence of a desire on the part of the Queen to marry an Austrian Archduke was elaborately carried on. Envoys from the Emperor went backwards and forwards. The sly, silky old Bishop of Aquila, the new Spanish Ambassador, tried to draw the Queen into a position from which she could not recede. She was coy, interesting, unsophisticated, and cunning by turns, but never compromised herself too far. The object was simply to keep the Spaniards from breaking away whilst pursuing her own course, and this object was effected.

The treaty of Cateau-Cambresis was ratified with great ceremony in London at the end of May: Fran?ois de[81] Montmorenci and a splendid French embassy were entertained at Elizabeth’s court,[104] the Emperor’s envoy being present at the same time to push the Archduke’s suit. It was Cecil’s cue to pretend to the Spaniards that the French were now very affectionate, and one day after some vicarious love-making with the Queen on behalf of the Archduke, the Bishop had a long conversation with the Secretary. The latter hinted that a French match had been offered to the Queen, and asked his opinion of it. If it had not been for the dispensatory power of the Pope being necessary, the Queen, said Cecil, would have married Philip; “but the proposal involved religious questions which it would be fruitless now to discuss, as the matter had fallen through.” The object of this, of course, was to attract the Spaniards, first by jealousy of the French, and next by a show of sympathy with Spain. For reasons already set forth with regard to English succession, Philip was just as anxious as Cecil to avoid a quarrel. “I was glad,” writes the Bishop, “to have the opportunity of talking over these matters with him, to dissipate the suspicion which I think he and his friends entertain, that they have incurred your Majesty’s anger by their change of religion. I therefore answered him without any reproach or complaint, and only said that what had been done in the kingdom certainly seemed to me very grave, severe, and ill-timed, but that I hoped in God; and if He would some day give us a council of bishops, or a good Pope, who would reform the customs of the clergy, and the abuses of the court of Rome, which had scandalised the provinces,[82] all the evil would be remedied; and God would not allow so noble and Christian a nation as this to be separated in faith from the rest of Christendom.”[105] Thus the Catholic Bishop met the Protestant Cecil more than half-way; and no more triumphant instance can be found than this of the policy of the first few months of Elizabeth’s reign. The faith of England had been revolutionised in six months without serious discontent in the country itself. Instead of hectoring Feria flouting and threatening, the bland Churchman sought to minimise differences of religion to the “pestilent knave” who had been principally instrumental in making the great change. From master of England, Philip had changed to an equal anxious to avoid its enmity. The altered position had been brought about partly by Philip’s dread of half-French Mary Stuart succeeding to the English throne if Elizabeth should disappear, partly by the studious moderation of the English ecclesiastical measures, and partly by the care taken by Cecil and the Queen to keep alive the idea that the French were courting their friendship, whilst they themselves preferred the old connection with the House of Burgundy.

How vital it was for England to conciliate Philip at this juncture was evident to those who, like Cecil, were behind the scenes, although the extreme Protestants in the country were somewhat restive about it. Before the treaty of peace with France was negotiated, at the very beginning of the year 1559, Cecil drew up an important state paper for the consideration of the Council, discussing the probability of an immediate French attack upon England over the Scottish border in the interests of Mary Stuart. The religious disturbances in Scotland had necessitated the sending of a considerable French force to the aid of the Queen Regent, and Cecil says[83] that a large army of French and German mercenaries was already collected, which it was doubtful whether the English could resist. The questions he propounded to the Council were whether it would be better to seize the Scottish ports at once before the French fleet arrived, or to place England in a state of defence and await events. The latter course was adopted, conjointly with endeavours to draw Philip to the side of England, and the sending of Sir Nicholas Throgmorton to France to remonstrate with the King.[106] The occasion given for this alarm is stated in Cecil’s diary as follows: “January 16th, 1559. The Dolphin of France and his wife Queen of Scotts, did, by style of King and Queen of Scotland, England, and Ireland, graunt unto the Lord Fleming certain things.”

Throgmorton arrived in Paris on the 23rd May, and on the 7th June wrote to Cecil that the Guises and Mary Stuart were bribing and pensioning Englishmen there, and that Cardinal Lorraine was busy intriguing for the sending of a force to Scotland, and for promoting his niece’s claim to the English crown. He was “inquisitive to know of such Englishmen as he hath offered to interteigne, how many shippes the Queen’s Majesty hath in redeness, and whether the same be layed up in dock at Gillingham, and how many of them be on the narrow seas, and whether the new great ships be already made and furnished with takling and ordnance.”[107] On the 21st of the same month the news was[84] still more alarming. Throgmorton informed Cecil that a suggestion had been made to him for a marriage between Queen Elizabeth and Guise’s brother, the Duke de Nemours, to which he had replied that he could not say anything about it unless the King of France or his Council officially mentioned it. Throgmorton now heard that Constable Montmorenci had reproached Nemours for making such a suggestion, “adding further these words, ‘What! do yow not know that the Queen Dauphin hath right and title to England.’”[108] They only waited for an opportunity, said Throgmorton, to say, “Have at you.” Great preparations were being made in Paris for the celebration of the peace with Spain, and the betrothal of the King’s daughter to King Philip by proxy, and watchful Throgmorton soon discovered that on all escutcheons, banners, and trophies in which the Dauphin’s and his wife’s arms were represented, the arms of England were quartered, and almost daily thereafter in his letters to Cecil the Ambassador sounds the alarm. Cecil himself in his diary thus marks the progress of events, 28th June 1559: “the justs at Paris, wherein the King-Dolphin’s two heralds were apparelled with the arms of England.”[109] On the 29th June, at the great tournament to celebrate his child’s betrothal to Philip, Henry II. was accidentally thrust in the eye by Montgomerie, and in a moment the political crisis became acute.

Mary Stuart was now Queen Consort of France. Her clever, ambitious uncles, Guise and the Cardinal, were practically rulers of France, and she herself, as Throgmorton says, “took everything upon her,” and according to Cecil’s diary (16th July), “the ushers going[85] before the Queen of Scotts (now French Queen) to Chappell cry, ‘Place pour la Reine d’Angleterre.’” As soon as the pretensions of Mary were known, Cecil’s counter move was to send help to the reform party in Scotland, and to revive the talk of a marriage between Elizabeth and the Earl of Arran, the heir-apparent to the Scottish crown. Arran was in France; and on the first suspicion against him of intriguing with the English, the King had ordered his capture, dead or alive. Randolph and Killigrew were successively sent by Cecil to Throgmorton with orders to aid the Earl, and, at any risk, smuggle him to England.[110] In disguise he was conveyed by Randolph to Zurich, and thence to England, and subsequently into Scotland,[111] to head the Protestant party against the French, from his father’s castles of Hamilton and Dumbarton. Whilst Arran was in hiding in England, Cecil was apparently the only minister who saw him, and when he left, it was with full instructions and pecuniary help from the Secretary. Cecil was a man of peace; but the main point of his policy was the keeping of the French out of Flanders and Scotland. Now that Guise ambition openly struck at England through the northern kingdom active measures were needed, and they were taken.

As usual, Cecil’s report on the whole question[112] to the Queen judiciously summed up all the possibilities. The document sets forth the desirability of an enduring peace between Scotland and England, and the impossibility of it whilst the former country is governed by a foreign nation like the French in the absence of its native sovereign; that the land should be “freed from idolatry like as England”; and that the nobility should be[86] banded together with the next heir to the crown (Arran) to remedy all abuses. “If the Queen (Mary) shall be unwilling to this, as is likely, … then it is apparent that Almighty God is pleased to transfer from her the rule of the kingdom for the weale of it. And in this time great circumspection is to be used to avoid the deceits and trumperies of the French.” Sir William’s decision, after infinite discussion, is that the cheapest and only possible way will be at once to send strong reinforcements to the Scottish reformers, and at the same time that Sadler and Crofts on the Border should be sleepless, as they were, in their efforts in favour of the Protestant Scots.

There was no matter which concerned Cecil so much as this, as will be seen by his many interesting letters about it to Sir Ralph Sadler in the Sadler Papers. He had gone to Burghley in September 1559, and thence wrote to Sadler his anxiety to hear of Arran’s[113] safe arrival in Scotland. “Th’erle of Arrayn borrowed of me at his being at London 200 crowns, which he promised should be paid to you, Mr. Sadler, for me. After some tyme passed, I praye you aske it of hym.” The next day Cecil wrote that he had ordered Sadler “to lende the Protestants money, as of your selve, taking secretly the bonds of them to rendre the same; so as the Quene should not be partie thereto.” Thenceforward money was secretly sent in plenty by Sir William to maintain the Scottish reformers who were besieging Leith, but Knox and the rigid Calvinists, with their republican and anti-feminine ideas, were hated by the Queen, and made matters difficult. “Knox’s name,” says Cecil, “is the most odious here. I wish no mention of it hither.” “Surely I like not Knox’s audacitie.… His writings do no good here, and therefore I do rather suppress them.”[114]


But it became evident that the Lords of the Congregation would be unable much longer to hold their own without powerful armed assistance from England. This would of course mean a renewal of the war with France, and before it could be undertaken it was necessary to make quite sure of the attitude of Philip, who was about to marry the French Princess. On this occasion, for the first time, Cecil was met and hampered in his action by a counter intrigue within the English court, such as for the next twenty years continually faced him.

When the Queen rode through the city from the Charterhouse to the Tower on her white jennet, she was followed closely by a handsome young man of her own age, who attracted general attention. She had appointed Lord Robert Dudley, the son of Cecil’s old patron, Northumberland, Master of the Horse at Hatfield on the day that Mary died. In less than six months the tongue of scandal was busy with the doings of the Queen and her favourite, and the Spanish agents were calculating the chances of his being made an instrument for their ends. Gradually the English competitors for the Queen’s hand sank into the background, whilst Dudley, a married man, grew in favour daily.[115] He was made a Knight of the Garter, to the openly expressed annoyance of other older and worthier nobles; money grants and favours of all sorts were showered upon him, and the Queen would hardly let him out of her sight. So long as the talk of the[88] match with the Archduke Charles only dragged on its interminable length, Dudley was mildly approving and claiming rewards and bribes from the Spaniards in consequence; for he knew perfectly well that the negotiation was a feint, and that the religious obstacles were unsurmountable. But when, as has been seen, national interests led Cecil to play his master-move and checkmate Mary Stuart and the French connection in Scotland with Arran and the English marriage, Dudley saw that the affair was serious, and at once set about frustrating Cecil’s national policy for his personal advantage. In order to obstruct the marriage with Arran, the first step was for Dudley to profess himself hotly in favour of the Austrian match.

His sister, Lady Sidney, was sent to the Bishop of Aquila, with the assurance that the Queen would consent to marry the Archduke at once if she were asked (September 1559). Dudley and Parry both came and assured the Bishop of their devotion, body and soul, to Spanish interests.[116] There was, they said, a plot to kill the Queen, and she had now made up her mind to concede the religious points at issue and marry the Archduke at once. The Queen herself avoided going so far as that in words, but by looks and hints she confirmed what Lady Sidney and Dudley had said. Between them they hoodwinked the Churchman, and he urged upon Philip and the Emperor the coming of the bridegroom. After his long talk at Whitehall with the Queen at the end of September, the Bishop saw Cecil, who by this time was fully aware of what was going on, and adroitly turned it to the advantage of his policy. War with the French in Scotland was practically adopted, if Philip could be depended upon to stand aloof. When, accordingly, the Bishop approached Cecil, the latter, although he avoided pledging himself to the Queen’s marrying the Archduke, spoke sympathetically[89] about it. But his tone was different from Dudley’s. “I saw,” says the Bishop, “that he was beating about the bush, and begged that we might speak plainly to one another. I was not blind or deaf, and could easily perceive that the Queen was not taking this step to refuse her consent after all. He swore he did not know, and could not assure me.” But then Cecil shot his bolt. The French, he said, were striving to impede the Archduke’s match, and had offered great things to the Swedes if they could bring about the marriage of Elizabeth with the Prince of Sweden. “They (the English) well understood that this was only to alienate the Queen from her connection and friendship with Philip, and thus to enable the French to invade this country more easily.”[117] Cecil then consented, but vaguely, to help forward “our affair,” and was promised all Philip’s favour if he did so. All Cecil asked for and wanted was an assurance of the help or neutrality of Spain, in the event of a French invasion, and this he unhesitatingly got—“if the Queen will marry the Archduke,” a condition which Cecil, at least, must have known would not be fulfilled.

For the next week or two the Queen surpassed herself in vivacity, in pretended anticipation of the coming of her Imperial lover. She became outwardly more Catholic than ever. Candles and crucifixes were again put up on the altars of her chapels, priests wore their vestments, and the Spanish Bishop was in the best of spirits. All this was going too far for Cecil, and was forcing his hand. He wanted to ensure Philip’s countenance by arousing jealousy of the French, whilst keeping the Archduke’s marriage gently simmering. But if Dudley and the Queen carried it too far, it would either end in mortally offending Philip, or in introducing a strong Catholic influence in England,[90] which would have been the end of Cecil as a minister. Feria, in Flanders, saw this clearly enough, and wrote to the Bishop to tell Dudley that Cecil would really be against the Archduke’s business.[118] Dudley’s intrigue to prevent the Scottish match, not only hampered Cecil, but set the whole court by the ears. The Duke of Norfolk and the thorough-going Spanish Catholic party formed a plot to kill Dudley, as they knew he was not sincere, and would prevent the marriage with the Archduke, perhaps, at the last moment; whilst Cecil’s own Protestant friends, Bedford especially, who did not understand his cautious manner of dealing with difficulties, quarrelled with him about his apparent acquiescence in fresh Popish innovations.

Dudley’s bubble soon burst of itself. The Emperor, not under the sway of Elizabeth’s charm, was cool. The Bishop, as a feeler, fostered the idea that the Archduke was already on the way, and then the Queen, Dudley, and Lady Sidney took fright and began to cry off; and the Bishop saw he had been deceived (November 1559). But Arran’s suit had still to be combated, and Dudley warmly took up the Swedish match; whilst the gossips whispered that he had decided to poison his wife, and marry the Queen himself. Matters had reached this stage, when the Bishop’s agents began plotting with the Duke of Norfolk for the open coming of the Archduke, his marriage with Catharine Grey, and the murder of Elizabeth and Dudley; but this required bolder hands than Norfolk or Philip, and nothing came of it but open quarrels between Dudley and those who he knew were planning his ruin. Gradually prudent Cecil worked the Archduke’s negotiations back again into the stage in which they had been when Dudley interfered. The Bishop was[91] courted, an envoy was sent to Vienna, care was taken to keep alive Philip’s jealousy of the French—more than ever to be feared by the Spanish King, now that his own Netherlands were seething with disaffection; and then, at last, Cecil was able to accede to the prayer of the Scottish reformers,[119] and send an English force to their aid.

On the 23rd December 1559, Cecil could write to Sadler, saying that the Duke of Norfolk and Lord Grey were on their way north to take command of the army. “Our shippes be on the sea, God spede them! William Winter is appointed, as he commeth nigh, to learn of you the state of the French navy within the Firth. And it is thought good that ye should cause some small vessell to goo to hym with your intelligence before he come very nigh that towne, lest by tarryeng for your answer his voyage be hindered. The French are much amased at this our sodden going to sea, so as the Marq d’Elb?uf being come to Callise is retorned to Parriss in great hast. We lack intelligence from you and be ignorant of what ye do in Scotland. We be afrayd of the loss of Edinburgh Castle. God gyve ye both good night, for I am almost a slepe. At Westminster, hora 12? nocte 23 Dec. 1559.”[120]


The fleet of thirty-two sail, with 8000 infantry and 2000 cavalry, sailed up the Forth exactly a month after this letter was written, to the dismay of the French and the Queen Regent, who shortly afterwards learnt that Elb?uf and his army had been storm-beaten back to France. The French and Catholic Scots were now cooped up in Leith, with no possibility of receiving aid from France; whilst the English on the Border, and the Lords of the Congregation, were organising a strong land force to invade Scotland.

There was nothing more to be dreaded by Philip—as Cecil well knew—than a war between England and France for the cause of the Scottish Protestants. The Spanish alliance with France had aroused the distrust of the powerful reform party in the latter country; and on the accession of Francis II. and the Guises to power, the Queen-mother, Catharine de Medici, whose chance had at last come after years of insult and neglect, at once threw her influence into the scale of their opponents, the Montmorencis and the reformers. Throgmorton had been sent to France to form a union between the Protestant and anti-Guisan elements in France and Elizabeth, and in this he had been entirely successful, to the unfeigned dismay of Philip and his agents.[121] This combination of Protestants in England, Scotland, and France, and probably also in Germany, was a most threatening one for Philip’s objects, especially in view of the condition of his own Netherlands; and yet his hands were tied. He dared not raise a hand to make French Mary Stuart Queen of Great Britain, although the triumph of reform in Scotland and this combination of Protestants struck at the very root of his objects and his policy. To the cautious planning of Cecil almost exclusively was owing the fact that in one year Philip[93] had been disarmed, and rendered impotent to injure a Protestant England. The Spanish Bishop’s only remedy for it all was to plot with the extreme English Catholics to kill Elizabeth, Dudley, and Cecil, and place Catharine Grey or Darnley on the throne under Spanish tutelage; and he conspired ceaselessly with that object. But his master knew better than he. The French, he was aware, would fight to prevent such a result, as well as the English, and neither he nor his coffers were in a mood for fighting them then; so he had to stoop to peaceful diplomacy, and tried to beat Cecil at his own game. The Secretary had continued to answer firmly all the Bishop’s remonstrances and veiled threats, for he knew Philip could not move; and when it was decided to send a special Flemish envoy to England to dissuade the Queen from aiding the Scottish Protestants, the Bishop almost scornfully told Feria that, if talking had been of any good, he would have done it already. “They would do more harm than good if they were only coming to talk, for the English Catholics expect much more than that.” “Cecil,” he says, “is the heart of the business, and is determined to carry it through, until they are ruined, as they will be.”[122] In the meanwhile (April 1560) the siege of Leith went on, notwithstanding the attempts of the French to settle terms of peace in London. Elizabeth would have nothing to do with any peace that left a French man-at-arms in Scotland.

Philip’s Flemish envoy, De Glajon, arrived in London on the 5th April 1560, and was very coolly received by Elizabeth.[123] In Philip’s name he exhorted her to abstain from helping the Scottish rebels, and then threatened that[94] if she did not come to terms with the French, Spanish troops would be sent to reinforce the latter. She was dignified, but alarmed at this, and sent Cecil on the following day to discuss the question with De Glajon.[124] After a conference, lasting five hours, in which Cecil recited all the English complaints against France, and pointed out the danger to Philip that would ensue upon the French becoming masters of Scotland, he positively assured the envoy that the English troops would not be withdrawn from Scotland until their objects were attained. The French Ambassador tried hard to draw Philip’s envoy into a joint hostile protest[125] to Elizabeth; but the Spaniards knew that their master really did not mean to fight, and declined to compromise him. They, indeed, assured Cecil privately, that if Philip helped the French, it would only be in the interests of Elizabeth herself.

Through all the negotiation Cecil’s management was most masterly. He had taken Philip’s measure now, and knew the powerless position in which English diplomacy, aided by circumstances, had placed him. The Guises had taken his measure too. As week followed week, and hope of help from him disappeared, they saw that they must make such terms as they might with Elizabeth. The French in Leith were heroically holding out, though starving and hopeless; no reinforcements could be sent from France, for England[95] held the sea, and the Queen-mother and the reform party would give no help to purely Guisan objects. So at last, in May, Monluc, the Bishop of Valence, came humbly to London and sued Elizabeth for peace, and Cecil and Wotton, with Sir Henry Percy, Sir Ralph Sadler, and Peter Carew, travelled to Scotland to meet the French commissioners and settle the terms. Cecil started on the 30th May, and at the different stages of his journey he wrote letters to Sir William Petre.[126] On the 31st he writes from Royston: “in no apparent doubt of health, yet by foulness of weather afraid to ride to Huntingdon till to-morrow.” On the 2nd June his letter comes from his own house at Burghley, “rubbing on between health and sickness, yet my heart serveth me to get the mastery.”

His energy, his command of detail, and his foresight are remarkably shown in these letters. He spurs Petre to do as evidently he himself would have done—to expedite everything necessary for the prosecution of the war, though peace was in prospect; “to quicken the Lord Treasurer for money,” and so forth. From Stamford he went to Doncaster, Boroughbridge, Northallerton, Newcastle, and so to Scotland, always vigilant, observant, suggestive; but in nearly every letter expressing deep distrust of the French, whom he suspected of treachery at every point. When they met in Edinburgh his complaints are constant of their “cavilations” and hairsplitting. “They may contend, however, about a word,” he says, “but I mean to have the victory.” Before the negotiations commenced, the Queen Regent, Mary of Lorraine, died (11th June), and this, by perplexing the French, somewhat facilitated an arrangement. The most difficult point was the use of the English arms by Mary Stuart, and, on the 1st July,[96] Cecil wrote to the Queen that the negotiations had been broken off on that point alone. After this was written, but before it was despatched, Cecil proposed a “device,”[127] by the insertion of a “few fair words”; and an arrangement was the result, which stands a triumphant vindication of Cecil’s policy.

The French troops were all to be withdrawn, Leith and Dunbar to be razed, Mary abandoned her claim to the English crown, and acknowledged Elizabeth; and, above all, Mary granted a constitution to her subjects, which well-nigh annihilated the prerogative of her throne. A Parliament was to be forthwith summoned, which should have the power to declare or veto war or peace; during the sovereign’s absence the country was to be governed by a council of twelve persons to be chosen out of twenty-four elected by Parliament, seven of the twelve being chosen by the Queen, and five by Parliament; no foreigner was to hold any place of trust, nor was an ecclesiastic to control the revenues; a complete indemnity was given for all past acts, civil and ecclesiastical, and the question of religious toleration was to be finally decided by Parliament.

Thus the Scottish-French question, which had been a standing menace to England for centuries, was settled by the statesmanship of Cecil; and perhaps through the whole of his great career no achievement shows more clearly than this the consummate tact, patience, firmness, moderation, and foresight that characterised his policy. Less than two years before England[97] under the patronage of Philip was forced to accept a humiliating peace from France, and Spanish and French agents had intrigued against each other as to which of their two sovereigns should use prostrate, exhausted England for his own objects. In two short years of dexterous statesmanship England had turned the tables. Not only had she with comparative ease effected a vast domestic revolution, but she was conscious of the fact that both of the great Continental rivals were impotent to injure her, out of jealousy of each other, whilst her own power for offence and defence had enormously increased, and the knitting together of the reformers throughout Europe had placed her at the head of a confederacy which she could use as a balance against her enemies.

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