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CHAPTER V 1560-1561
The results achieved in so short a time after Elizabeth’s accession were due in a large measure to the moderation and prudence of Cecil’s methods. The changes which had been made attacked many interests, and ran counter to many prejudices; and the policy of Elizabeth in retaining most of her sister’s Councillors had surrounded her with men who still clung to the old faith and the traditions of the past. From the first the Spanish and French Ambassadors had begun to bribe the Councillors, and had respectively formed their parties amongst those who immediately surrounded the Queen. Elizabeth herself was fickle and unstable, yet obstinate in the opinion of the moment. Her vanity often led her into false and dangerous positions, and already scandal was busy with her doings. She was easily swayed by the opinions of others, yet fiercely resented any attempt at dictation. Her feelings, moreover, towards the French were by no means so antagonistic as those of Cecil, and the cost of the war in Scotland had caused her great annoyance. It will be seen, therefore, that the task of her principal minister in carrying out with safety a consistent national policy was an extremely difficult one. More than once during the Scotch war the French-Guisan party in Elizabeth’s court had, to Cecil’s dismay, nearly persuaded the Queen to suspend hostilities, whilst Philip’s paid agents in her Council were for ever whispering distrust of[99] Cecil and his religious reforms. Whilst the Howards, Arundel, Paget, Mason, and the rest of the Philipians—as the puritan Lord John Grey called them—were denouncing the minister for his Protestant measures, the hot zealots who had hurried back from Germany and Switzerland, dreaming of the violent establishment of an Anglican Church on the Genevan pattern, were discontented at the slowness and tentative character of the religious reforms adopted; and Cecil’s own friends, like the Earl of Bedford, the Duchess of Suffolk, and the Lord Admiral Clinton, were often impatient at his moderation. To this must be added the unprincipled influence of Dudley, who was ready to swear allegiance to any cause, to serve his purpose of dominating the Queen, a purpose which was naturally opposed by Cecil as being dangerous to the national welfare. It will thus be seen that the patient, strong minister was surrounded by difficulties on every side; and but for the fact that none of his rivals were comparable with him in ability and energy, Cecil must have shared the usual fate of ministers, and have fallen before the attacks of his enemies.

He returned from Scotland at the end of July, after an absence of sixty-three days[128] and from a letter of the Lord Treasurer (Winchester) to him soon afterwards (24th August 1560), it is evident that his detractors had been at work in his absence.[129] The old Marquis loved to[100] stand well with all men, but his tendencies we know now to have been “Philipian,” and he wrote to the Secretary: “In the meantime all good Councillors shall have labor and dolor without reward; wherein your part is most of all mens; for your charge and paynes be farre above all oder mens, and your thanks and rewards least and worst considered, and specially for that you spend wholly of yourself, without your ordinary fee, land, patent, gift, or ony thing, which must nedes discomfort you. And yett when your counsell is most for her Majesties honour and profitt, the same hath got hinderance by her weke creditt of you, and by back councells; and so long as that matter shall continue it must needs be dangerous service and unthankful.”

Less than three weeks after this letter was written, the Bishop of Aquila went to Greenwich about the Austrian match, which still dragged on, when, to his surprise, the Queen told him flatly she had altered her mind, and would not marry at all. The Bishop then sought out Cecil, who, he knew, was now in semi-disgrace, owing to the efforts of Dudley in his absence. The Secretary was not in the habit of wearing his heart upon his sleeve, and if he did so on this occasion to Philip’s minister, it may be concluded that it was from motives of policy, which are not very far to seek. “After exacting many pledges of strict secrecy, he said that the Queen was conducting herself in such a way that he thought of retiring. He said it was a bad sailor who did not enter port if he could when he saw a storm coming on, and he clearly foresaw the ruin of the realm through Robert’s intimacy with the Queen, who surrendered all affairs to him and meant to marry him. He said he did not know how the country put up with it, and he should ask leave to go home, though he thought they would cast him into the Tower first. He[101] ended by begging me in God’s name to point out to the Queen the effect of her misconduct, and persuade her not to abandon business entirely, but to look to her realm; and then he repeated to me twice over that Lord Robert would be better in Paradise than here.”[130] After this Cecil told the Ambassador that Dudley “was thinking of killing his wife,” which on the following day the Queen partly confirmed by mentioning to the Bishop that she was “dead or nearly so.” The Bishop’s comment upon this is, that “Cecil’s disgrace must have great effect, as he has many companions in discontent, especially the Duke of Norfolk.… Their quarrels cannot injure public business, as nobody worse than Cecil can be at the head of affairs, but the outcome of it all might be the imprisonment of the Queen, and the proclamation of the Earl of Huntingdon[131] as King. He is a great heretic, and the French forces might be used for him. Cecil says he is the real heir of England, and all the heretics want him. I do not like Cecil’s great friendship with the Bishop of Valence.”

Shortly after this was written, the tragic fate of Amy Robsart was announced. For months past there had been rumours of the intention of Dudley to have his wife killed, in order that he might marry the Queen, and as the date of Cecil’s conversation with the Bishop is not quite certain, it is possible that he may have spoken with the knowledge that she was already dead. In any[102] case, however, it is certain that, at this time, Cecil feared that the Queen’s passion for Dudley would bring about the downfall of the edifice he had so laboriously built, and he sought if possible to lay the foundation for his future action. The friendship with the Guisan Bishop, Monluc, was clearly a feint, as was also the idea that the French would help Huntingdon to the detriment of their own Queen Mary Stuart, but it would serve to arouse the jealousy of the Spaniards, and would incline them to Cecil’s side to prevent it. Dudley had in Cecil’s absence gained most of the advanced Protestant party to his side by his open championship of their ideas, and the Secretary, finding himself distrusted by his friends, was obliged to endeavour to discredit Dudley, to gain the sympathy of the Spanish Bishop, and, through him, of the “Philipians,” who were already opposed to Dudley as an upstart and a friend of France. Regarded in this light, Cecil’s unwonted frankness to the Spanish Ambassador is intelligible enough. If things went well with the Queen, the “Philipians” could keep him in office, and if disaster befell her, he dissociated himself from her before the catastrophe, and made common cause with the party which in such case would certainly be uppermost.

The danger, however, soon blew over, for Amy Robsart’s death caused so much scandal as to cover Dudley with obloquy, and render him powerless for a time, during which Cecil regained his influence. How completely he did so is seen in Dudley’s enigmatical letter to him at the time when he was first feeling the effect of the odium of his wife’s death. The real meaning of the letter is not intelligible. Dudley had retired from court, probably to Wanstead, and had been visited by Cecil, who was having close inquiry made into the death of Lady Robert. He appears to have made some friendly promise to Dudley, who is effusively grateful.[103] “The great frendshipp you have shewyd towards me I shall not forgett. I pray you lett me hear from you what you think best for me to doe; if you doubt, I pray you ask the question (of the Queen?), for the sooner you can advyse me the more I shall thank you. I am sorry so sodden a chaunce shuld brede me so great a change, for methinks I am here all this while as it were in a dream.”[132] Dudley’s retirement and pretended disgrace, to save appearances, did not last long; and when he came back to court he found Cecil in full favour again.[133] Whilst Lord Robert was away Cecil had extracted a positive assurance from the Queen direct, that she would not marry Dudley. Cecil had thereupon made another attempt to revive the Archduke’s negotiation,[134] and at the same time had sounded the Spanish Ambassador about marrying Catharine Grey to a nominee of Philip; this being a prudent attempt to obtain a second connecting link with Spain, now that the negotiations with the Archduke had been worn nearly threadbare.

But the Spanish-Austrian family were not responsive. They had been fooled more than once, and were determined that Elizabeth should not lead them into a position compromising to their dignity; but it was necessary for those who had the welfare of England at heart to take some steps which should render Dudley’s hopes unrealisable. The Protestant party in the Council, with Cecil’s acquiescence, again brought up the proposal of the new King of Sweden, Eric XIV. He was an eager suitor, and had been trying to gain a hearing at intervals since before Mary’s death; and in answer to private messages from England, intimated his intention[104] of coming himself to win his bride. The Protestants were overjoyed; for this would have been an ideal solution for them, especially now that the situation had been unexpectedly changed by the death of the young King of France, Mary Stuart’s husband (5th December 1560). This event, which took away much of the Guises’ power, and weakened Mary’s connection with France, now governed by her mother-in-law, Catharine de Medici, who hated her, banished in a large measure Philip’s dread of her accession to the English throne; and the Catholics in England thought they saw daylight ahead, if the Queen died childless.

It was natural, therefore, that the Protestants should make a counter move, and actively revive the idea of the Swedish match. It was equally to be expected that when Dudley thus found himself without any party at all but his personal friends, he should seek support in a fresh quarter. He was without shame, scruple, or conscience. He had betrayed, or was ready to betray, every person or cause that trusted him; his sole object was to force or cajole the Queen into marrying him, and he grasped at any aid towards it. In January 1561 his brother-in-law, Sir Henry Sidney, a Catholic, and a friend of Spain, came to the Bishop of Aquila, and assured him that Dudley was innocent of his wife’s death, though public opinion was universally against him. Sidney then went on to say that, as Elizabeth’s desire to marry Dudley was evident, it was surprising that the Spanish party had not helped him in his object, and thus gained his gratitude, in return for which “he would hereafter serve and obey your Majesty like one of your own vassals.” The Bishop was not eager, for he had been tricked before when the Sidneys were the intermediaries; but when Sidney promised that if Dudley were aided to marry the Queen, he would restore the Catholic religion in England, the[105] Churchman listened. He could be no party, of course, he said, to a bargain about religion; but if Dudley really wished to repent in this way, he should be delighted. The Queen acquiesced in the intrigue, and eagerly listened to the Spaniard’s advocacy of Dudley’s suit, though doubtless she did not know that her English suitor had promised, in the event of his marriage, to hand over the whole government to the King of Spain, and fully restore the Catholic faith.[135]

As some earnest of the Queen’s and Dudley’s chastened hearts, the Bishop had urged that English plenipotentiaries should be sent to the Council of Trent, and the English bishops released who were imprisoned for refusing the oath of supremacy. Dudley was willing to promise that or anything else; but in so important a matter of State as the recognition of the Pope’s Council, the co-operation of Cecil was needed. He was, of course, opposed to Dudley’s suit, but had not interfered openly to stop these negotiations, the Bishop says, in consequence of his having been bribed by the grant of some emoluments enjoyed by Parry, who had recently died, but more probably because he may really have been at the bottom of these negotiations, and he knew that he could checkmate Dudley more effectually, if necessary, at a later stage.[136] As we have seen, his opposition to strong forces was rarely direct. He knew in this case that the Queen would resent open thwarting from him; and that it would also have the effect of offending the Catholics, and renewing the quarrel with Dudley and[106] his friends. So when he was consulted, he feigned to welcome the project of sending English representatives to the Council of Trent, and at once proceeded to kill it with kindness.

The situation in England was an extremely critical one. Much public dissatisfaction existed at the Queen’s questionable behaviour, and the Catholics, especially, were greatly disturbed in consequence of the attitude of Mary Stuart. The treaty of Edinburgh, the result of so much thought and labour, had not been ratified by Mary and her husband when the latter died; and in answer to requests on the part of the English Government, through Throgmorton and Sir Peter Mewtys, that she would ratify it, Mary declined until she had by her side some of her Scottish Councillors. The Scottish Parliament had been summoned in accordance with the treaty, before the latter had been accepted by the sovereign, and consequently her refusal to ratify the treaty raised a host of difficulties on all sides. It was felt universally that Mary might well expect now the countenance of Philip in her pretensions to the English crown, whilst all that was Catholic in France looked to her uncles, the Guises, as leaders. The combination was too strong for Cecil to face directly, in addition to the Queen’s caprice and the factions of the English court, and his method of dealing with the matter was characteristically prudent. During the progress of Dudley’s negotiations with the Spaniard to bring back England to Catholicism, the puritan Earl of Bedford was sent to France, ostensibly to ask Mary again to ratify the treaty of Edinburgh, and to condole with her for the loss of her husband; but his real object was to bring about an understanding with the Duke of Vend?me,[137] Coligny, and the French Protestants.[107] At the same time Randolph was entrusted with an important message to the Protestant nobles of Scotland. He was to tell them that the Protestant princes of Germany were firmly united; that the French reformers were now the stronger party; that the Queen of England would stand by the Scots; and to exhort them to be true to the Protestant faith, no matter what efforts might be made to move them. Randolph was also to approach even Scottish Catholics, and point out what a favourable opportunity now occurred, the Queen of Scots being free of her French connection, to form a close union between England and Scotland.[138]

But whilst this seed was germinating it was necessary for Cecil to dally with the Catholics and “Philipians” in England. He accordingly went (March 1561) to the Spanish Ambassador with a message—secretly purporting to come from the Queen, but ostensibly from himself—to the effect that it would be a great favour to the Queen “and a help to this business” if Philip would write her a letter as soon as possible, “urging her, in the interests of her country, to marry at once; and, as she is disinclined to marry a foreigner, he advises her to choose one of her own subjects, who, in such case, would receive Philip’s friendship and support.” Cecil affected to urge this course very warmly upon the Bishop, who, however, was wary, and insisted upon knowing definitely whether the Queen herself had sent the message. The only answer that Cecil would give was that it was not fair to drive a modest maiden like the Queen up in a corner, and make her personally responsible for steps leading to her own marriage. But he told the Bishop that the reason Philip’s letter was necessary, was that the Queen should submit it to a packed deputation of both Houses of Parliament, so that her marriage with Dudley might, in[108] appearance, have the sanction of her people. No course so likely as this to frustrate the match could have been devised, as Dudley himself saw, for he fell ill of vexation; but, as the Bishop says, he was faint-hearted, and lacked ability and courage to break through the snares that Cecil had spread for him. The Bishop divined the plan very soon. “The deputation is being arranged,” he says, “to suit him and the heretics, who have entire control of the Queen.… She dares not go against Cecil’s advice, because she thinks that both sides would then rise up against her.”

Cecil, “who,” he says, “is entirely pledged to these unhappy heresies, and is the leader of the business,” tried on more than one occasion to draw the Spanish Bishop into religious controversy—the Bishop thought, with the object of discovering whether Dudley or the Queen had gone further in their pledges than he had been told. He suggested that the Pope should send theologians to England to discuss religion with English divines, but the Bishop would not hear of it. Then he proposed that the Bishop himself should secretly meet the Archbishop of Canterbury (Parker) and endeavour to bring about a religious modus vivendi; to which the Spaniard replied, that if they were sincere in their desire to agree, they had better begin with the main points of difference, instead of discussing secondary points of dogma.[139]

Cecil assured him that the Queen would send representatives to the Pope’s Council, on condition that it was held in a place satisfactory to other princes; that the Pope or his legate should preside over the Council, not so as to infer that he was the ruler of it, but only the president of its deliberations; that questions of faith might be decided by Holy Scripture, the consensus of divines,[109] and the decisions of early councils; that the English bishops should be recognised as equals of the rest; and other conditions of the same sort, which obviously frustrated—as they were meant to do—all hope of the religious compact, upon which Dudley’s hopes were ostensibly built. In the court, we are told, Cecil went about saying that the Queen wished to send her envoys to the Council, but that a Council could not judge questions of faith, nor could the Pope, as of right, claim to preside.[140] On the one hand, he reprehended the Bishop of Winchester (Horn) for preaching against the authority of the Councils, and caused a meeting of bishops to be called at Lambeth, to settle a profession of faith to be sent to the Council; whilst, on the other, he told the Spaniard that if when the Pope wrote to the Queen he did not give her her full titles of Queen of England and Defender of the Faith, she would not receive his letters. Well might Quadra say: “I do not know what to think of it all: these people are in such a confusion that they confound me as well. Cecil is a very great heretic, but he is neither foolish nor false, and he professes to treat me very frankly. He has conceded to me these three points, which I consider of the utmost importance, however much he may twist them to the other side.” Whoever else may have been confused, we may be certain that Cecil knew what he was about, for he completely hoodwinked and conciliated the Spanish Bishop and the Catholics until his new combination was consolidated.[141] The English Catholics were more leniently treated; and the Queen and[110] court were almost inconveniently friendly with Quadra, who was obliged to whisper to his friends that it was all make-believe. He said more truly than he thought at the time. At the end of April, Cecil’s arrangements were complete, and the mask could be dropped safely.

At the instance of Randolph the Scottish Lords of the Congregation had commissioned James Stuart, Mary’s natural brother, afterwards Earl of Murray, who was already in English pay, to visit his sister in France, and influence her to return to Scotland pledged to the treaty of Edinburgh, and to place herself in the hands of the Protestant party. For the moment the Guises in France were in disgrace, and plotting for their own advancement, so that it suited them to appear to acquiesce in an arrangement which promised that their niece should take possession of her kingdom without disturbance. James Stuart, carefully coached by Throgmorton, went back to London with the assurance that all was well.[142] Mundt, in Germany, had drawn the league closer between England and the Princes; Bedford in France had completed a cordial arrangement with Vend?me, Coligny, and the Protestants; Philip’s Netherlands were in seething[111] discontent, his coffers were empty and he was in a death grapple with the Turk for the mastery of the Mediterranean. There was nothing for England to fear, therefore. Circumstances and Cecil’s diplomacy had placed once more all the cards into his hands, and again he could go forward on a straight course.

The pretext for a change was given by the secret presence of a papal nuncio in Ireland. English Catholics were suddenly proceeded against all over the country for attending mass. Sir Edward Waldegrave and other ex-members of Mary’s Council were thrown into the Tower; the Pope’s legate, who was hurrying with all sorts of concessions, and an invitation to Elizabeth to send envoys to the Council of Trent, was refused admittance into England; and the old Bishop of Aquila found once more that Cecil had outwitted him. There were no more conciliatory religious discussions or amiable attentions; on the contrary, the Ambassador, to his intense indignation, was accused of taking part in plots against the Queen, and found himself slighted on all sides. A great outcry took place that a conspiracy of Catholics had been discovered to poison the Queen, the rumour in all probability being part of the general plan to weaken and discredit the Catholic party; and Cecil himself drew up a paper, still extant,[143] urging her Majesty not to place any apparel next her skin until it had been carefully examined, that no perfume should be inhaled by her which came from a stranger, that no food should be consumed by her unless it was dressed by her own cooks, that twice a week she should take some contra pestum, that the back doors of her apartments should be strictly guarded, and so forth. Whether Cecil was really apprehensive of danger to the Queen at the time is uncertain; but this general change of attitude towards[112] the Catholics in less than four months suspiciously coincided with the successful consolidation of the Protestants throughout Europe, and the paralysation for harm both of Spain and France in the matter of Mary Stuart.

How far Dudley was sincere in his approaches to the Catholics on this occasion may be doubted. He would have been willing, of course, to have paid any price—or rather have made his country pay any price—for his marriage with the Queen; but there are circumstances which tend to the belief that he and Cecil, for once, had joined their forces, Cecil probably promising his support to Dudley’s suit in exchange for this clever “entertaining” of Spain and the Catholics until the Protestant coalition was formed. In any case, Dudley was in nowise cast down at the rupture of the negotiations, but remained on excellent terms with Cecil, and flirted with the Queen more furiously than ever. In the meanwhile the King of Sweden had made all preparations for visiting England. The extreme Protestant party had continued to encourage him during the time that the Queen, Cecil, and Dudley were lulling the Catholics; but now that the Catholic mask had been dropped, Eric’s visit was very inconvenient to the Queen. Mary Stuart was a widow, and every court in Europe was intriguing for her marriage.[144] Elizabeth knew that if she was forced into a marriage with the King of Sweden, Mary would[113] immediately be wedded to a nominee of Philip, for which object Cardinal Lorraine was already planning. Eric was therefore refused a passport into England;[145] the Lord Mayor was ordered to suppress the prints which had been scattered by the Protestants, representing Elizabeth and Eric XIV. together (July 1561),[146] and the embarrassment of the Swede’s advances was postponed until a more convenient season.

The English Catholics were naturally losing heart. They had looked in vain for help from Philip ever since the Queen’s accession. The war party in the Spanish King’s councils had ceaselessly urged him to overturn Elizabeth and the “heretics” before their power was consolidated. Feria and his successor the Bishop had done their best to keep alive the hopes of Elizabeth’s enemies in England; but as year followed year and leaden-footed Philip moved not the English Catholics began to cast their eyes elsewhere. Mary Stuart arrived in Scotland (19th August 1561) surrounded by her Lorraine kinsmen. Elizabeth now thoroughly distrusted her, for she saw that she was her match in dissimulation, at all events, and made some show of intercepting her on the voyage;[147] but her Scottish subjects of all faiths were ready to welcome the young half-foreign Queen from whom they hoped so much. The country was practically in a condition of anarchy; but the administration, such as it was, was in the hands of the reform party under Maitland and James Stuart. Although herself devoutly following the Catholic faith—to the disgust of the predominant party—the Queen soon after her arrival confirmed the free exercise of the Protestant worship, and for a time both she and her ministers [114]were popular. To the north, therefore, the English Catholic party now cast their eyes. Catharine Grey had recently contracted a doubtful marriage with the eldest son (Hertford) of the Protector Somerset, and was out of the question as a Catholic candidate; but Mary Stuart’s claim to the English throne was in many respects better than that of Elizabeth herself. Lady Margaret Lennox, too, was busy in the north of England, where the population was mainly Catholic, plotting for the marriage of her son and the subsequent raising of the country in the interests of Mary and a Catholic England.

In the meanwhile Elizabeth was somewhat roughly demanding to know why Mary delayed the ratification of the treaty of Edinburgh, and jealously watching for any signs of matrimonial negotiations to her detriment. The Earl of Arran, Elizabeth’s candidate for Mary Stuart’s hand, was extremely unpopular with the Scottish people, and soon became impossible as a consort for the Queen; and the carefully laid plans of Elizabeth and Cecil in Scotland were seen to be at the mercy of a secret matrimonial intrigue, which might be sprung upon them at any moment. Maitland of Lethington, Mary’s Secretary of State, ostensibly a Protestant, went to London[148] and saw Cecil in September, in the hope of arranging matters. He professed to be sanguine about the Arran marriage; but though bound to the English interest, he protested more than once on his return, in letters to Cecil, upon the pressure exerted upon his mistress to renounce her English birthright, and even begged the Secretary to furnish him with a draft of a reply for Mary to send which he thought might satisfy Elizabeth. Whilst Lord James, Maitland, and Cecil were trying to conciliate and calm matters, the zealot Knox and his like were clamouring[115] for extreme measures and embittering spirits on both sides. Cecil in vain counselled Knox to be moderate; the reply reproaches him for “swimming betwixt two waters,” and throws all the blame for the troubles on moderate statesmen like Lord James and Lethington, “whose mistaken forbearance and gentleness” he denounces. The young Queen, he says, will never be of “our opinion, and in very deed her whole proceedings do declare that the Cardinal’s lessons are so deeply imprinted on her heart, that they … are like to perish together.… In communication with her I espied such craft as I have not found in such age.”

This opinion must only be accepted as that of a bitterly severe man on one whose position was as difficult as can well be conceived. English Catholics, Mary knew, now looked to her as their only hope. She was a daughter of kings, brought up in a deep school of statecraft, and was determined to resist the demanded renunciation of her birthright in England at the bidding of a rival. Her letter to Elizabeth (5th January 1562)[149] explains why she declined to ratify the treaty of Edinburgh, pathetically pleads that the clause in the treaty renouncing her rights to the English succession was agreed to without her authority, and she appeals to the generosity of so near a cousin not to make her a stranger to her own blood. She will, she says, make a new treaty on Elizabeth’s own terms, if her rights to succeed, failing Elizabeth’s issue, are not prejudiced. But on this point Elizabeth would never give way. As we have seen, it was the keynote of Cecil’s policy all his life to secure England from the presence of a probable enemy on the Scottish border, and this question of Mary’s claim to the English succession, especially with her marriage still undecided, touched the heart of the whole matter.[116] It was evident, moreover, that at this juncture the great trial of arms between the Catholics and Protestants throughout Europe was at hand. The war of religion was already looming near in France and Flanders, papal emissaries had incited armed revolt in Ireland against the Queen’s Protestant measures, and English Catholics were in a dangerous state of ferment.[150] It was therefore of the most vital interest, not only to England and Elizabeth, but to the reform party throughout Europe, that no advantage should be given in Scotland to vigilant enemies, who, by the control of that country, would have been enabled to ruin the acknowledged head of the Protestant confederacy. It is the fashion to accuse Elizabeth and Cecil of unprincipled rancour against Mary Stuart. Generosity and magnanimity, it may be conceded, were not conspicuous characteristics of either of them. But before judging too harshly, it should be considered that their lives, the freedom and independence of England, and the fate of the reformed religion depended almost inevitably upon the course of events in Scotland, and both Elizabeth and her minister would have been false to their trust if they had not availed themselves of all the means which circumstances and the feeling of the times placed in their hands to prevent Mary Stuart and her country from precipitating their downfall.

Cecil’s position in London also was surrounded with difficulties. The Catholics, even those about the Queen,[117] were busy, and reports of plans for poisoning Elizabeth continued without cessation. Everything, great and small, had to be done by Cecil. “He has,” writes the Bishop of Aquila, “absolutely taken possession of the Queen and Council, but he is so perplexed and unpopular that I do not know how he will be able to stand if there are any disturbances.”[151] The Queen, moreover, fell ill: “she is falling away and is extremely thin, and the colour of a corpse.” The sorely tried Secretary, bearing upon his shoulders everybody’s burden, frequently sick himself,[152] but working early and late, endeavouring to keep a middle course whilst holding to his policy, naturally aroused no enthusiasm. Extreme men of all parties cavilled at his methods; only the Queen grew in her trust of him, for she at least understood, as perhaps no other person did, that he was almost the only person near her who was not bribed. The city and the trading classes, however, by this time had seen the good results of his commercial and fiscal policy. From the first days of the reign he had set about reforming the currency, and he enters in his diary for 29th May of this year (1561) a statement which shows that his labours at last bore fruit. “Base monies decried and fine silver coined,” he writes; and in November a proclamation was issued that Spanish gold and silver money, which during the debasement of English coin had been a favourite form of currency, should no longer be allowed, but should be taken to the Queen’s mint for exchange into English coin. “The Queen,” grumbles the Spanish Ambassador, “makes a profit on it, as she did with the other money she called in.” No doubt she did, but the new pure coinage[118] placed English merchants at an immense advantage in trading abroad, and they thanked Cecil for it.[153] “There hath,” says Camden, “been better and purer money in England than was seen in two hundred years before, or hath been elsewhere in use throughout Europe.” Nor was this all. Shipbuilding under subsidy had progressed very rapidly, and English commerce was penetrating into regions hitherto unapproached.[154] The Hawkinses had already shown the way to the West Coast of Africa, but the Portuguese had so far successfully resisted the establishment of a regular trade. English ships, however, now found their way down to Elmina, on the Gold Coast, with frequency distressing to the Portuguese; whilst English and Scotch privateers, and pirates who called themselves such, preyed almost unchecked upon Spanish and Flemish small craft about the Channel. Against both of these grievances the Spanish and Portuguese ministers complained often and bitterly. Throughout his life Cecil set his face against piracy in all its forms, as being inimical to legitimate trade, and at his instance five of the Queen’s ships were fitted out (1561) for the purpose of suppressing the corsairs; but to the other complaint he turned a very different face.

A syndicate had been formed, in which Dudley, Wynter (Master of the Ordnance), Gonson (Controller of the Navy), Sir William Garrard, and probably the Queen herself, had shares, to send out a strong expedition[119] to establish a permanent trading-station on the Gold Coast.[155] There were to be at least four ships, one of which, the Mignon, belonged to the Queen. Protests and remonstrances from Portuguese and Spaniards were freely made to Cecil, who replied they could not prevent merchants from going to trade where they thought fit. When the Bishop of Aquila pressed him further, he answered, “that the Pope had no right to partition the world and to give and take kingdoms.… This idea is the real reason which moved them to oppose the legality of our denunciation of these expeditions much more than any profit they expect to get.… They think this navigation business will be a good pretext for breaking the peace, as your Majesty must needs uphold the Pope’s authority, against which, both here and in Germany, all will join. I feigned not to understand Cecil’s meaning, and treated the matter as concerning the King of Portugal only” (27th November 1561).[156] A draft reply in Cecil’s hand to similar remonstrances from the Portuguese Ambassador in April of the same year, is[120] still more dignified: “The Queen does not acknowledge the right of the King of Portugal to forbid the subjects of another prince from trading where they like, and she will take care that her subjects are not worse treated in the King of Portugal’s dominions than his are in hers.”[157]

Amidst his manifold public anxieties Cecil had to bear his share of private trouble. His notes in the Perpetual Calendar at Hatfield record the successive births and deaths of two infant William Cecils, one at Cannon Row in 1559, and the other at Wimbledon in 1561; but at this period he had a daughter and a son living, by his second wife. Thomas, his only son by his first marriage with Mary Cheke, was now a young man of twenty, and in order that he might receive the polish fitting to the heir of a great personage, his father consulted Sir Nicholas Throgmorton, the Ambassador in Paris, in the spring of 1561, with regard to sending him thither. Cecil’s own idea was to place him in the household of Coligny, the Admiral of France, now one of the acknowledged leaders of the Protestant party; but Throgmorton, who foresaw, doubtless, the rapidly approaching civil war, dissuaded him from this. “Though you have made the best choice of any man in France, yet for some respects I think the matter should be deferred.” His advice was that lodgings should be taken for young Cecil near the embassy, where he might share the Ambassador’s table. The youth, he thought, should be “taught to ride, play the lute, dance, play tennis, and use such exercises as are noted ornaments of courtiers.”[158] A subsequent recommendation of Thomas Windebank, the young man’s governor, to the effect that it would be well to accept Throgmorton’s offer, although Sir William Cecil was loth to trespass on his[121] friend’s hospitality, in order that the youth “might learn to behave himself, not only at table, but otherwise, according to his estate,”[159] leads us to the conclusion that Thomas Cecil had thitherto not been an apt scholar. Some of the details of Thomas’s journey are curious. In addition to Windebank he was accompanied by two servants, and three geldings, which, Throgmorton thought, might as well be sold, as he could obtain others in Paris. The lodgings in Paris for the party and horses would cost about ten sun-crowns a month, and in addition to the money they brought they should have a letter of credit for three hundred crowns. Young Thomas had been to France before by way of Calais,[160] and on this occasion, that he might see fresh country, he went by Rye, Dieppe, and Rouen; and the intention was that he should stay in or near Paris for a year, and then proceed to Italy. Windebank appears to have been unequal to his task, and to have had no control over Thomas. In vain Sir William pressed both his son and Windebank to send him an account of their expenses, and from the first it is seen that the father was misgiving and anxious. Cecil was a reserved man, full of public affairs; but this correspondence[161] proves that he was also a man of deep family affection, and, above all, that he regarded with horror the idea that any scandal should attach to his honoured name. In his first letter to his son, 14th July 1561, after the arrival of the latter in Paris, he strikes the note of distrust. “He wishes him God’s blessing, but how he inclines himself to deserve it he knows not.” None of his son’s three letters, he complains, makes[122] any mention of the expense he is incurring. He urges him at once to begin to translate French; and then says, “Fare ye well. Write every time somewhat to my wife.” To Windebank the anxious father is more outspoken. How are they spending their time, he asks, and heartily prays that Thomas may serve God with fear and reverence. But Thomas seems to have done nothing of the sort; for, in nearly every letter, Windebank urges Sir William to repeat his injunctions about prayer to his son. But the scapegrace paid little heed.

As soon as they arrived in Paris, Thomas sold his horse for forty crowns, and kept the money for his own spending. Throgmorton was soon tired of him, and advised that he should be sent to Orleans or elsewhere, away from the heat and distractions of Paris; but Thomas was well satisfied where he was. “Of study there is little or nothing yet,” he coolly writes to his father, after he had been in Paris for a month. They were still sight-seeing, and he grows almost eloquent in his description of a fight he had seen at court between a lion and three dogs, in which the latter were victorious. They lodged in the house of a gentleman, “a courtier and learned, but of indifferent good religion,” to whom they paid three hundred crowns a month for board and lodging; but this was not by any means all the expense. The heir spent £20 for his winter clothes; he must have a fashionable footcloth for his riding nag. The horses, too, were expensive, and Sir William complained. All gentlemen of estimation here ride, writes Windebank, and if he follow not the manner of the country, he will be less considered: “if all gentlemen ride, it is not meet for Mr. Thomas to go afoot.”

The father was accompanying the Queen during the autumn on her progress through Essex, and writes from various country-houses to his son and Windebank, begging[123] the former to study, to pray, to avoid ill company, to take heed of surfeits, late suppers, prodigality, and the like; but apparently to no effect. Thomas wrote rarely and badly, his French did not improve, and he still failed to write to his learned step-mother, greatly to his father’s anger. At length he fell seriously ill, and promised amendment, which for a time seemed hopeful.

Through all the father’s anxiety his master passions for books, heraldry, and gardening are discernible, as well as his pride of race. He constantly orders Windebank to send him stated books, and to keep on the look-out for new plants, or good gardeners, that may be sent to England. In September he requests that some booksellers’ catalogues may be forwarded, that he may select some books to “garnish” his library. He was anxious that his son should study the genealogy and alliances of noble French families, and prays that a herald may be engaged to instruct him. But Thomas soon relapsed, and rumour of his ill-behaviour reached Sir William, not at first from Windebank. In March 1562 an angry and indignant letter went from Cecil to his son, reproaching him for his bad conduct. There was no amendment, he said, and all who came from Paris gave him the character of “a dissolute, slothful, negligent, and careless young man,” and the letter is signed, “Your father of an unworthy son.” A week later, 2nd April, Cecil wrote a characteristic and affecting letter to Windebank, which deserves to be quoted nearly in full, for it shows us the man more clearly than reams of State papers. “Windebank,” it runs, “I am here used to pains and troubles, but none creep so near my heart as doth this of my lewd son. I am perplexed what to think. The shame that I shall receive to have so unruled a son grieveth me more than if I had lost him[124] in honest death. Good Windebank, consult my dear friend Sir Nicholas Throgmorton, to whom I have referred the whole. I could be best content that he would commit him secretly to some sharp prison. If this shall not seem good, yet would I rather have him sent away to Strasburg if possible, or to Lorraine, for my grief will grow double to see him before some sort of amends. If none of these will serve, then bring him home and I shall receive that which it pleaseth God to lay on my shoulders; that is, in the midst of my business, for comfort a daily torment. If ye shall come home with him, to cover the shame, let it appear to be by reason of the troubles there.[162] I rather desire to have this summer spent, though it were but to be absent from my sight. I am so troubled as well, what to write I know not.”

Windebank had been protesting for some time his own unfitness—which was obvious—and sending hints of the ill-conduct of his charge, who had borrowed money on the credit of others, and scandalised his friends by his dissoluteness; but at last the long-suffering tutor rebelled, and wrote, 26th April, to Cecil, “I have forborne to write plainly, but now I am clean out of hope, and am forced to do so. Sir, I see that Mr. Thomas has utterly no mind nor disposition to apply to any learning; being carried away by other affections that rule him, so that it maketh him forget his duty in all things;” and with this Windebank resigns his charge, for Thomas had openly defied him; advocates his immediate recall if the war in France will allow him to come, or otherwise that he should be sent to Flanders. But Windebank himself had had enough of Thomas Cecil, and refused to accompany him further.

This instructive correspondence helps us to see[125] that, beyond even his wounded paternal affection, Sir William Cecil’s deepest feeling was sensitiveness to the opinion of the world about him. That his son should be unworthy touched him to the quick; but that the world should see any shame or reproach resting upon the heir of his house and name, was unendurable agony to one whose main social aims were to trace an ancient ancestry and head a noble posterity.

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