Search      Hot    Newest Novel
HOME > Classical Novels > The Great Lord Burghley:A study in Elizabethan statecraft > CHAPTER VI 1562-1564
Font Size:【Large】【Middle】【Small】 Add Bookmark  
CHAPTER VI 1562-1564
The abortive conspiracy of the Hamiltons in the spring of 1562, and Arran’s madness, finally proved the hopelessness of his suit for Mary’s hand, and Lord James and Maitland had now abandoned him. Both of those statesmen, in union with Cecil, still strove to hold the balance evenly, and to avoid religious strife in the country, in the hope that if the Scottish Queen married a nominee of England, Elizabeth would eventually recognise her as the heiress to the English throne. But the agitation of the English Catholics, and the attempts of Darnley’s mother to force matters, had rendered the position extremely difficult, and Cecil was busy unravelling plots real and imaginary. The visit of a Swedish Ambassador to Scotland on a matrimonial mission had caused a sudden scare in London; but Mary’s prompt dismissal of him, and her continued amiable letters to Elizabeth, had somewhat disarmed suspicion against her personally. Her uncle the Marquis d’Elb?uf was splendidly entertained in the English court on his way home to France, and negotiations were set on foot for a visit of Mary to the north of England in the summer, for the purpose of an interview with the English Queen. But withal Cecil was ill at ease, for the Guises and the Catholics of France were now in arms,[163] and it was impossible to see how the great struggle of the faith would end. If[127] the Guises finally captured the government of France, then England must accept Philip’s terms for a Spanish alliance, or be inevitably ruined. But for the present it was the policy of Elizabeth and Cecil to keep a tight rein on the Catholics in England,[164] and encourage Condé and Coligny in France.[165]

The Bishop of Aquila had been growing more and more discontented in his palace in the Strand (Durham Place). He had no counsels to give to his master now but those of violence, for he had been outwitted too often to believe in the interested professions of any party in Elizabeth’s court. But the emissaries of the discontented Catholics, the servants of turbulent Lady Margaret Lennox, Shan O’Neil, and his train of wild gallowglasses—all those who hated Elizabeth and Protestantism—found in the old Bishop an eager listener to their whispered treason. Cecil knew all this, for his spies were everywhere. That the Bishop was up to mischief was clear; but yet Cecil did not know whether he was hatching any plot in connection with Mary Stuart’s marriage; and that was the main point of danger for the present. The Queen of Scots, it is true, had more than once expressed to Randolph, the English Ambassador, her disapproval of the attitude of her uncles in France. If she wished to keep friendly with her own ministers and the English Queen, indeed, it was necessary for her to do so; but her powers of dissimulation were known; the religious struggle had drawn the Guises nearer to Philip; and the Queen-mother, herself alarmed at the rising power and warlike attitude of princes of the blood, like Navarre and Condé,[128] was once more turning to her Spanish son-in-law and the Catholics. A Catholic plot combining the Guises, Philip, Mary Stuart, and Catharine de Medici, would be threatening indeed, and it behoved Cecil to be watchful.[166]

As Durham House had only been lent to the Spanish Ambassador by the Queen, Cecil had appointed the English gatekeeper at the gate in the Strand, and from him learnt of those who went in and out, even by the river stairs. But this was not enough. At the end of April he contrived to buy over an Italian secretary of the Bishop, a man named Borghese Venturini, from whom he obtained particulars of the Ambassador’s letters.[167] They abounded with treasonable suggestions, dark hints at conspiracy, and vituperation of the Queen and Cecil, but they disclosed no deep-laid plot of Spain. Cecil nevertheless was not satisfied, and kept on the watch.

The Prince of Condé and the Protestants were now in array against the Guises, and Catharine de Medici was in the power of the latter. Both sides had striven to obtain the help of the German Protestant princes, but, in a great measure due to Cecil’s foresight, their sympathies[129] were on the side of Condé. Cecil laboured incessantly, but against many difficulties, for the Queen was anxious to avoid the cost and risk of pledging herself too deeply. In an important letter to Throgmorton, 16th July 1562, he thus lays bare his plans and his obstacles: “Our thynges here depend so upon those matters ther (i.e. in France) that yow shall well ynough judg thereof without advertisement. This hardness here will indanger all, I feare. Sir Thomas Wroth, I trust, shall into Germany with spede: my device is to sollicite them, and to offer a contribution for an army to enter France.… Good Mr. Throgmorton, omitt not now to advertise us from time to time, for this Bishop of Aquila letteth not weekly to forge new devices.… Continue your wryting to putt the Quene’s Majesty in remembrance of her peril if the Guisans prosper. And so, being overweryed with care, I end.”[168]

There is another document of the same period in Cecil’s hand, which also shows how earnestly he tried to combat the peril, and make the Queen and Council understand it. It is a memorial setting forth “the perills growing uppon the overthrow of the Prince of Condé’s cause,”[169] and points out that if Condé be allowed to fall, the Guises would be supreme in France, “and to maynteane their faction they will pleasure the King of Spayne all that they maye. Hereupon shall follow a complott betwixt them twoo … the King of Spayne to unhable the house of Navarre for ever clayming the Kingdom of Navarre; and the house of Guise to promote their niece the Queen of Scotts to the crown of England. For doing thereof twoo thyngs principally will be attempted: the marriage of the sayd Queen with the Prince of Spayne, and the realme of Ireland to be[130] given in a paye to the King of Spayne.” All English Catholics, he continues, will be told to make ready, and at a given moment rise; the Council of Trent will condemn all Protestants; the Guises, Spain, and the Pope will unite England and Scotland under Mary, and Protestantism will be undone. It will be, he says, too late then to withstand it, “for it shall be lyke a great rock of stone that is fallyng downe from the topp of a mountayn, which when it is comming no force can stey.”

Cecil’s own efforts were unwearied and ubiquitous. Randolph in Scotland, Throgmorton in France, Mundt with the German princes, and Sir Peter Mewtys, and afterwards Throgmorton with Condé, seconded him manfully. Spies, and secret agents paid by him, were in every court and every camp; the prisons were crammed with recusants; the Earl of Lennox, Darnley’s father, was in the Tower; his wife, Lady Margaret, was in durance at Shene; whilst her questionable words and treasonable practices were being slowly unravelled by informers,[170] the English Catholic nobles were closely watched, and for a month every line the Spanish Ambassador wrote was secretly conveyed to Cecil by Borghese. Once, early in May, the Bishop’s courier, with important letters for the Duchess of Parma, was stopped two miles beyond Gravesend by pretended highwaymen, who were really gentlemen (the brothers Cobham) in Cecil’s pay, and the man was detained whilst the letters were sent to the Secretary to be deciphered and copied. At last things came to a crisis, the old Ambassador discovered that Borghese was the traitor,[171] and the latter in fear of his life, having fought with a fellow-servant, fled to Cecil. The Bishop was in a towering rage, and complained bitterly to the Queen. She told him that if she[131] suspected that anything was being written in her country to her detriment, she should stop posts and examine what she pleased; and when he pleaded privilege, she retorted, that he was not privileged to plot injury to her in her own realm. In vain the Bishop protested that he had not plotted, and railed against Cecil. He only had Dudley on his side, and Dudley did not count for much in a great emergency like this.[172] The next day (23rd May) Cecil wrote a dignified letter to the Ambassador. He honours him as the King’s Ambassador, he says, reverences him as a bishop, and esteems him as a nobleman; and he wishes to know in which capacity he complains of his acts. He, Cecil, is ready, as a son of no mean ancestry, to justify himself to the Bishop in either character; but if the Bishop has “any evil opinion of him, he will thank him to address him personally, and not complain to others.” The Bishop’s reply was equally stiff. He cannot approve of his, Cecil’s, advice on public matters, which has great weight with the Queen, but that does not diminish his respect for him in his private capacity.[173] In vain the Bishop prayed his master to recall him if he could not protect him against the insults to which he was exposed; in vain he tried to move Elizabeth, by alternate flattery and threats, to restore Borghese to him; in vain he endeavoured to bribe his servant back again, or to have him killed; Cecil was ready for him at every turn, and he could do no more than plot and pray for vengeance in his private rooms at Durham Place, whilst Cecil was examining informers against him and the Queen was threatening him with expulsion.

In the meanwhile Mary Stuart was still on her good[132] behaviour, in the hope that the statesmen’s plan for an agreement with Elizabeth on the basis of the recognition by the latter of Mary’s claim to the English succession might eventually be adopted. Secretary Maitland of Lethington was in London in the summer in the interests of this plan, and for the purpose of arranging the much talked-of meeting between the Queens. Mary was eager for the interview, from which she expected much, and Elizabeth, supported by Dudley, was also in favour of it. But Cecil from the first looked coldly upon it, although, as usual, his opposition to it was indirect and covert. The whole of his policy at present turned upon supporting the French Huguenots in arms, and ruining the Guises; and it is obvious that too close a friendship between the Queens would have paralysed him in this direction. The matter of the interview was dragged out and talked about until the season became too late for it to be held that year, and, greatly to Mary’s disappointment, it was postponed nominally until the following summer. The intrigue to marry Mary to Darnley had unquestionably gone far. It was warmly supported by Catharine de Medici, who was, of course, against a Spanish marriage; by Lord James, as offering the best prospect of peace and the English succession to his sister; and by Dudley, because it might furnish a precedent for his own marriage with Elizabeth. The latter affected to approve of it for a time; but she dreaded the union of the two strongest claimants to her succession, and was never really in favour of it.

Slowly, but surely, Cecil’s policy gained ground. To cripple the Catholic party in France and destroy the influence of the Guises, would render impossible that which of all things he dreaded most, namely, a French domination of Scotland in the interest of Catholicism. With the ostensible object of suppressing piracy in the[133] Channel, a considerable fleet was fitted out in the mouth of the Humber, but with the real aim of carrying aid to the Huguenots when an opportune moment arrived. Protestant Germans and Switzers had flocked to Condé, Dandelot and Coligny. Montgomerie held Rouen against the Guises, and the Vidame de Chartres seized Havre de Grace. An emissary came from the Vidame in July, to offer this important port to the Queen of England as a base from which to help the reformers. The offer was a tempting one, for it might enable her to insist later upon the restoration of Calais; but Elizabeth was distrustful.[174]

Philip’s sister, the Governess of the Netherlands, sent a remonstrance, shocked at the very idea that a Queen should send aid to rebels against their sovereign; Catharine de Medici despatched Marshal Vielleville to threaten Elizabeth with a national war both with France and Spain if she sent assistance to Condé and those who were in arms against the Government. But Philip’s Netherlands were now in almost open revolt, and though he made a show of sending troops to help the French Catholics, it was evident that he could not do much, and for the present Elizabeth and Cecil could disregard him, knowing that if the worst came to the worst, he would never allow the French influence in England to become dominant. On the 20th September, Elizabeth signed the treaty by which she agreed to send a large sum of money and 6000 troops to France to aid Condé; 3000 of which were to hold Havre, and the rest to reinforce the Huguenots in Dieppe and Rouen. Elizabeth, in a proclamation drawn up by Cecil, swore that she took this step for the defence of the French King,[175] and[134] sent all sorts of reassuring messages to Catharine and her son; but the pregnant fact still remained, that civil war in France was to be promoted by an English army, and that the Queen of England had for the first time openly assumed the position of leader of the Protestant faith throughout the world, in defiance of the Governments both of France and Spain.

How great was the Queen’s hesitation to the last at assuming this vast responsibility is seen in a letter from Cecil to his old friend, Sir Thomas Smith, who was sent to replace Throgmorton as Ambassador to France (Sir Nicholas remaining with Condé) only a week before the English force actually sailed (22nd September 1562). “When our men shall goo,” he writes, “or whether they shall goo or not, I cannot mak certain. I mean to send yow as soon as the fact is enterprised.… We begyn to hear of towardness to accord, and then we shall lose much labour.” The troops sailed under Sir Adrian Poynings on the 27th September, and were subsequently commanded by the Earl of Warwick, Dudley’s brother. Suddenly, a few days afterwards, the Queen fell ill of smallpox at Hampton Court, and for a time was like to die. The confusion of the court was great, for the succession was still undecided. Dudley and a considerable party of his friends were openly, almost violently, in favour of the Earl of Huntingdon; whilst others headed by Cecil were strongly desirous of following the will of Henry VIII., and adopting Catharine Grey. The Catholics were divided, and advised the examination of the question from a legal point of view; but whilst the dissensions were in progress, the Queen unexpectedly rallied and the danger passed. During her peril she had expressed the most extravagant affection for Dudley, and begged the Council to appoint him Protector; but with her recovery affairs assumed[135] their normal course, the only outcome of the illness being the great strengthening of Dudley’s influence, and his appointment to the Council with the Duke of Norfolk. The effect of Dudley’s rise, which meant the temporary decline of Cecil, was soon seen. The fall of Rouen and Dieppe to the King caused the English contingent to be concentrated at Havre, where a reinforcement of 2000 more men was reported to be required to hold the place. The Queen began to look with alarm at her responsibility, and the Council was prompt in throwing the blame upon Cecil, who absented himself from the meetings on the pretext of illness. Secret attempts were made also to bring about a pacification between Condé, the Guises, the Queen-mother and England, greatly to the disgust of Throgmorton, who dreaded a close friendship with the French as much as Cecil himself.

The negotiations with Catharine de Medici were conducted by Smith, and were based upon the restoration of Calais to Elizabeth, the toleration of Protestantism in France, and the assurance of the Guises that they would not interfere in Scotland;[176] but whilst they were in progress the war followed its course. The King of Navarre fell fighting before Rouen against his former friends, the Protestants; at the great battle of Dreux (19th December 1562), Condé, the Protestant chief, and Constable Montmorenci on the Catholic side, were taken prisoners, and Coligny, with a mere remnant of his Protestants, alone[136] kept the field. At the siege of Orleans (18th February 1563), Guise was assassinated, and a pacification then became possible. Condé, away from honest Coligny and La Noue, was but a weak vessel, as his brother Navarre had been, and Catharine well knew how to manage such men. All of Cecil’s distrust of the French was justified, and the shameful treaty of Amboise was signed (19th March), leaving Elizabeth and the English in the lurch. The moment that English policy escaped from the capable hands of Cecil, to pass temporarily under the lamentable influence of Dudley, disaster and failure were the inevitable result.

The Queen could do no more than rail at Condé’s envoy, Briquemault, and call his master a lying scamp; pestilence and famine decimated the English garrison at Havre, closely beleaguered by the French; and in the autumn of 1563 the force had to be withdrawn without glory or material satisfaction. Before this happened, however, cautious Cecil was gradually working affairs into his own groove again. Dudley had continued to send amiable messages to the Spanish Ambassador, whilst promoting an agreement with the French Government, and had exercised his influence in favour of the release of Lennox from the Tower; the object being in both cases to curry favour with the Catholics, and so to diminish Cecil’s power. As usual the Secretary’s opposition was an indirect one. His spies had kept him informed of the old Spanish Bishop’s continued correspondence with Shan O’Neil; of his having received and encouraged foolish Arthur Pole in his treason, and having allowed English people, against the law, to attend the embassy mass; and he watched and waited for an opportunity to demonstrate to the Catholics the powerlessness of both the Bishop and his master. He had not to wait long. One evening at the beginning of January 1563, as the light was failing,[137] a knot of idle hangers-on of the Bishop’s household were lounging at the great gate of Durham Place opening to the Strand. An Italian Protestant captain, in the service of the Vidame de Chartres, swaggered down the street on his way to Whitehall, and from the Bishop’s gateway a lad shot a harquebuss at him, and missed him. The captain whipped out his long rapier and pursued the would-be murderer to the outer courtyard. The Bishop’s servants closed the gates against the pursuers, and the assassin ran up shouting to the door of the chamber where the Ambassador was playing cards with the French Ambassador and a Guisan hostage, Nantouillet, Provost of Paris. A few hurried words of explanation at the door—for the Guisan had paid the boy to do the act—and the assassin was hurried down to the water gate, where a boat was in waiting, and he was allowed to escape, whilst his pursuers were thundering at the solid gates of the inner court.

This was enough for Cecil. New locks were put on the house gates, and the keys held by the “heretic English gatekeeper.” The Bishop could obtain no interview with the Queen, but was obliged to see Cecil instead. Send me to jail, he indignantly pleaded, if I have offended; but if nothing is proved against me, as nothing can be, at least let me have free ingress and egress from my own house. Cecil’s reply was a long indictment of the Bishop’s whole proceedings. The Ambassador, he said, was by the Queen’s kindness living in one of her houses, which had been turned into a hotbed of conspiracies against her and a refuge for malefactors. The law of the land had been openly defied, and the Queen desired the Ambassador to quit her house. In vain the Bishop protested. One indignity after another was placed upon him. The folks going to mass in the embassy were haled off to prison as they[138] came out; all the most private conversations between the Ambassador and the English rebels were repeated to him by Cecil; he was confronted with the text of his most secret despatches; he was turned out of Durham House with ignominy, and all he could do was to weep tears of rage, and pray Philip to avenge him.[177] But Philip’s hands were more than full in the Netherlands now, as Cecil knew, for before the writing-table in the Secretary’s room in Cecil House[178] there stood a portrait of Count Egmont,[179] and Gresham’s agents in Antwerp, Bruges, and Brussels left no event unreported. The blow to the Spanish Ambassador was cleverly planned by Cecil. That the former had been futilely plotting, was known, and it served as a good pretext for his disgrace; but the real reason for it was the need to prove to Dudley and his friends, and to the discontented Catholics, that they were leaning on a broken reed when they depended upon Spain to help them against the Secretary. The bankrupt, heartbroken old Bishop was a good object-lesson. If his master could not pay his debts or defend him from deliberate indignity, much less could he help discontented Englishmen who only had their own ends to serve.

Almost simultaneously with the Bishop’s disgrace, and also partly explaining it, another important move was made. The second Parliament of Elizabeth was opened on the 12th January 1563 by the Queen herself, in great state. The speech of Lord Keeper Bacon dwelt[139] at length on the want of order and discipline in the Anglican Church, the incompetency of many of the ministers, and the want of uniformity in the services.[180] Cecil himself was offered and refused the Speakership, but to him has been attributed the authorship of the harangue which the Speaker (Williams) addressed to the Queen.[181] The decay of schools and the poverty of benefices through lay impropriations is dwelt on at length in this speech, and the completion of the reform of religion and learning in the Queen’s dominions advocated. Cecil followed this with a speech denouncing the Queen’s enemies, the Guises and the Catholics, supported by the countenance of Spain. The penalties for refusing the oath of supremacy were greatly increased, the oath was rendered obligatory upon every person holding any sort of office, and other acts for insuring the progress of Protestantism were made,[182] as well as large subsidies granted. The Catholic lords, even the Lord Treasurer (Winchester), were uneasy and apprehensive; but they dared not move, for Cecil and the Protestants had now a firm grasp of affairs, and the Secretary was vehement in Parliament in favour of the proposed ecclesiastical measures. The Queen’s embarrassments, he said, arose entirely from her determination to resist the authority of the Pope, who had bribed Spain, the Austrian and German princes. She now stood alone, with the Catholic world against her, but he exhorted all faithful subjects to defend her with laws, life, and property.[183] At the same time, as the Parliament was sitting, Convocation assembled to settle the ritual and doctrine of the Church. The articles were reformed and altered to thirty-nine,[140] the catechism and the homilies were adopted, and other measures tending to uniformity of doctrine were agreed upon, but in a way which, although it did not satisfy the Puritan minority, was intended to include as large a number as possible of those who were not irreconcilably pledged to the Roman faith.

Cecil’s hand can be traced clearly in all these activities, for they struck indirectly at his enemies; but a bolder step in the same direction taken by Parliament itself can only be surmised as being prompted by him. Dudley had for months been gaining friends for the candidature of the Earl of Huntingdon as heir to the crown, whilst the Catholics were divided on the claims of Mary Stuart and Darnley. Cecil was determined, if possible, to prevent the success of either of them, and desired to adhere to the Parliamentary title of Lady Catharine[184] (Countess of Hertford). The House of Commons[141] was mainly Protestant, and under the influence of Cecil; and it was agreed that deputations of both Houses should petition the Queen either to fix the succession or else to marry, the latter alternative being probably added out of politeness. The Queen received the deputations very ungraciously. She turned her back on the Commons, and for a long time sent no answer at all. On an address being presented to the Council begging them to remind her, she sent an answer by Cecil and Rogers to the effect that “she doubted not the grave heads of this House did right well consider that she forgot not the suit of this House for the succession, the matter being so weighty; nor could forget it; but she willed the young heads to take example of their elders.” To the Lords she was more outspoken. She asked them whether they thought what they saw on her face were wrinkles. They were nothing of the sort, but pockmarks, and she was not so old yet that she had lost hope of having children of her own to succeed her.[185] This was a rebuff to Cecil’s policy; but only what might have been expected from the Queen, whose principal care was to sustain herself without concerning herself greatly as to what came after her; whereas the Secretary was doubtless thinking of what would become of himself and the Protestant party if she died. For Mary Stuart, and even her Protestant Councillors, he knew, were busy intriguing for the succession, and her claims were powerfully supported, even in England.

Maitland of Lethington came to London during the sitting of Parliament to forward his mistress’s claims. He found Cecil now against the solution which he had formerly favoured, namely, the abandonment of Mary’s present claims in exchange for the reversion, failing Elizabeth and her descendants. Cecil was more distrustful[142] of the French than ever; for the defection of Condé had turned all arms against the English in Havre, and he knew that Cardinal Lorraine was still untiring in his planning of the Austrian match for Mary, whilst the Protestants of France and Germany watched unmoved the isolation and embarrassment of England. Maitland therefore soon persuaded himself that his mistress had not much more to hope for now from the dominant party in England than from Elizabeth herself. Mary was convinced that both Catharine de Medici and the English Queen wished to force her into an unworthy Protestant marriage with a subject, in order to injure her prestige with English Catholics and decrease the power of the Guises.[186] Maitland consequently cast his eyes to another quarter. Mary was determined to fight for the English succession, if she could not get it by fair means; and with this end she wanted a consort strong enough to force her claims, which her uncle’s candidate, the Archduke Charles, could not do. She and Maitland accordingly threw over the Guises, who did not wish their niece to marry a prince strong enough to exclude them, and boldly proposed a marriage with Philip’s heir, Don Carlos. Maitland went one night secretly to the Bishop of Aquila in London, and cautiously opened the negotiation. The Queen of Scots, he said, was determined never to marry a Protestant, even if he owned half the world, nor would she accept a husband from the hands of the Queen of England. The French and English[143] Queens were almost equally against her, the Duke of Guise was dead, the Archduke Charles was not strong enough to help her; would Philip consent to a marriage with his son?

Whilst this matter was being discussed by Maitland and the Bishop and the Spanish partisans in England, the news of the untoward adventure of Mary Stuart with Chastelard arrived in London. Mary said it was a plot of the Queen-mother to discredit her; but the old Bishop was no less anxious than before to urge his master to seize such an opportunity as that offered by the proposed marriage. But Philip was slow. His hands were full and his coffers were empty as usual, and whilst he was asking for pledges and guarantees from the Scots and the English Catholics, the opportunity passed. Philip, in appearance at all events, accepted the suggestion, in alarm lest a refusal might lead to a marriage between Mary and the boy-King of France; for, as he says, “I well bear in mind the anxiety I underwent from King Francis when he was married to this Queen, and I am sure that if he had lived we could not have avoided war, on the ground of my protection of the Queen of England, whose country he would have invaded.”[187] But whilst Philip was pondering—and it must be conceded that this time he had much reason for hesitation—others were acting. When Lethington came back from France, on his way through London to Scotland, he saw the Spanish Bishop again. He found that matters had not progressed, and was disheartened. Elizabeth threatened his mistress with her undying enmity if she married a member of the House of Austria, and Cecil persuaded him that the Queen might yet appoint Mary her heir if she married to her liking. Lady Margaret, also, was now ostentatiously favoured by the Queen, and Maitland returned to Scotland[144] convinced that it would be unsafe to look elsewhere than to England for support, and that, after all, the best solution of his country’s difficulties would be the marriage of Mary and Darnley under Elizabeth’s patronage. This certainly was the impression that the English Government wished him to convey, for whilst it lasted it would check more ambitious schemes which would be dangerous to England.

So far Cecil’s policy, though often thwarted by the Queen’s waywardness and Dudley’s ambition, had been in the main successful. The French had been kept out of Scotland, the Catholics in England had been divided and discouraged, whilst waverers were conciliated; the Anglican Church was more firmly established, and Philip had been kept more or less friendly, out of fear of a league of Protestants on the one hand and of French influence in England on the other. Nor was the indefatigable Secretary’s effort confined to foreign affairs. The strengthening of the Queen’s navy and the building of merchantmen continued without intermission. Camden says that in consequence of this activity there were now (1562) 20,000 fighting men ready for sea service alone. All the fortresses were put into order for defence, and the shortcomings of material and system demonstrated in the Scottish campaign were remedied. The ample correspondence on these points in the Hatfield Papers are all endorsed, annotated, or drafted in Sir William Cecil’s own hand, and no detail seems to have escaped him.[188]


Notwithstanding his frequent illness, as recorded in his journals, his work must have been incessant. In addition to his vast administrative duties, he had, on Sir Thomas Parry’s death, been appointed to the important post of Master of the Court of Wards, which assumed the guardianship of the estates of minors; and Camden speaks of him as “managing this place, as he did all his others, very providentially for the service of his prince and the wards, for his own profit moderately, and for the benefit of his followers and retainers, yet without offence, and with great commendations for his integrity.” His interest, too, in the universities, and particularly that of Cambridge, was constant. He had been appointed Chancellor of the University in the first year of Elizabeth’s reign, and had worked manfully to introduce order and reform into the institution.[189] In June 1562, Cecil endeavoured to resign his Chancellorship, his pretexts being his unfitness for the post, his want of leisure, and the serious contentions which existed in the University; but the real reason was that which he cited last, namely, the tendency to laxity with regard to uniform worship manifested by a large number of the masters and students. “Lastly,” he says, “which most of all I lament, I cannot find such care in the heads of houses there to supply my lack as I hoped for, to the ruling of inordinate youth, to the observation of good order, and increase of learning and knowledge of God. For I see that if the wiser sort that have authority will not join earnestly together to overrule the licentious part of youth in breaking orders, and the stubbornness of others that malign and deprave the ecclesiastical[146] orders established by law in this realm, I shall shortly hear no good or comfortable report from thence. And to keep an office of authority by which these disorders may be remedied, and not to use it, is to betray the safety of the same, whereof I have some conscience.… And so I end, praying you all to accept this, my perplexed writing and complaint, to proceed of a careful mind that I bear to that honourable and dear University; whereof, although I was once but a simple, small, unlearned, low member, I love,” &c., &c. Only on the promise of complete amendment on the part of heads of houses, and at the intercession of Archbishop Parker, Sir William withdrew his resignation and continued his labours in favour of the University.[190]

In the autumn of the following year (1564) the Queen in her progress was splendidly entertained at the University. Upon Cecil as Chancellor, as well as Secretary of State, fell the responsibility of making the arrangements; and the letters which relate to the visit, as usual exhibit his perfect mastery of detail. From the avoidance of contagion of plague (which had devastated London in the previous year) to the supply of lodgings for the visitors, everything seems to have been settled with him. He was specially anxious, he said, that the University he loved should make a good figure before the Queen; he himself would lodge “with my olde nurse in St. John’s College,” but the rest of the University was to be turned inside out for the entertainment of the court. The choristers’ school was made into a buttery, the pantry and ewery were at King’s, Gonville and Caius was sacred to the Maids of Honour,[147] rushes strewed the roadways, the houses were hung with arras; the scholars were drilled to kneel as the Queen passed and cry Vivat Regina, “and after that quietly and orderly to depart home to their colleges, and in no wise to come to the court.” Sir William Cecil with his wife arrived the day before the Queen (4th August 1564). “I am in great anxiety,” he wrote a few days previously, “for the well-doing of things there; and I find myself much troubled with other business, and with an unhappy grief in my foote.” But notwithstanding his gout, he was received with great ceremony and a Latin oration, and was presented with two pairs of gloves, a marchpain, and two sugar loaves. His great anxiety, expressed to the authorities, was that “uniformity should be shown in apparel and religion, and especially in the setting of the communion table.”

Of the endless orations, the presents, and pedantry with which the Queen was received, of her own coyness about her Latin, of the solemn disputations and entertainments, this is no place to speak; but the official accounts[191] represent the Queen as being agreeably surprised at her reception. After the first service at King’s she “thanked God that had sent her to this University, where she, altogether against her expectation, was so received that she thought could not be better.” This was the first day; but a Catholic friend of the new Spanish Ambassador[192] told him that the Queen’s commendations had so elated the authorities that they besought her to witness one more entertainment. As she was unable to delay her departure, the actors followed her to the first stopping-place, where the proposed[148] comedy was represented before her. “The actors came in,” writes Guzman, “dressed as some of the imprisoned bishops. First came the Bishop of London (i.e. Bonner), carrying a lamb in his hands as if he were eating it, … and then others with different devices, one being in the figure of a dog with the Host in his mouth. They write that the Queen was so angry that she at once entered her chamber, using strong language, and the men who held the torches, it being night, left them in the dark, and so ended this thoughtless and scandalous representation.”[193]

Amongst the long list of honorary Masters of Arts made on the occasion, Sir William Cecil was one, and on the journey to Cambridge he was honoured for the first of many times with a visit from the Queen to his house at Waltham, Theobalds,[194] which at this time was a small house he had recently built as a country retreat, not so remote as Burghley, or so near town as Wimbledon. It was his intention, even then, to leave this estate to his younger son; but, as will be shown later, it was not meant to be the magnificent place it afterwards became. The Queen’s frequent visits, says his household biographer, forced him “to enlarge it, rather for the Queen and her great train, and to set the poor in order, than for pomp or glory, for he ever said it[149] would be too big for the small living he could leave his son. He greatly delighted in making gardens, fountains, and walks; which at Theobalds were perfected most costly, beautifully, and pleasantly, where one might walk two miles in the walk before he came to the end.”[195] We are told that throughout the year at Theobalds, even in his absence, Cecil kept an establishment of twenty-six to thirty persons, at a cost of £12 a week. Every day twenty to thirty poor people were relieved at the gates, and “the weekly charge of setting the poor to work there, weeding, labouring in the gardens, &c., was £10”; whilst for many years 20s. every week was paid to the Vicar of Cheshunt, in which parish Theobalds stands, for the succour of the distressed parishioners.

Cecil was simple and sober in his own living and attire, but by his every act he demonstrates his ambition to be well regarded by the world, and his determination to fulfil what he considered decorous in a great personage who owed a duty to his ancestry, to his position, and to those who should inherit his honours. His letter of advice to the Earl of Bedford when the latter was appointed governor of Berwick (1564) sets forth in a few words his ideal of a grand seigneur, which might represent a portrait of himself. “Think of some great nobleman whom you can take as your pattern.… Weigh well what comes before you. Let your household be an example of order. Allow no excess of apparel, no disputes on Princes’ affairs at table. Be hospitable, but avoid excess. Be impartial and easy of access. Do not favour lawyers without honesty.… Try to make country gentlemen agree:[150] take their sons as your servants, and train them in warlike and manly exercises, such as artillery, wrestling, &c.”

The picture which Cecil presents of his own mind in his writings is consistently that of a judicious, cautious, acquisitive, and intensely proud and self-conscious man; a man eminently fair, especially to his inferiors, to whom it would be undignified to be otherwise; not wanting in courage, but by temperament more inclined to reduce an enemy’s stronghold by sap and mine than by a storming attack; determined that he would stand, no matter who might fall, and yet not greedy or selfish for personal gratification; his mind monopolised by two main ideas, the greatness and prosperity of England, and the decorous dignity of his own house.

To attribute to him modern ideas with regard to liberty, as we now understand it, would be absurd. He was a man of great enlightenment, a lover of learning; but he was a statesman of his own age, not of ours. That England should be governed by nobles, and that he should help the Queen to guide the governors, was in the divine order of things. He would do, and did, according to his lights, the best he could for all men; but that the ordinary citizen should claim a voice in deciding what was best for himself would have appeared to Cecil Utopian nonsense to be punished as treason. He would be rigidly just, charitable, and forbearing to all; but if any but those on the same plane as himself should dream of claiming rights of equality, then impious blasphemy could hardly be too strong a term to apply to such insolence. With opinions such as those he undoubtedly held respecting the exclusive right of an aristocracy to govern, his own position would have been inconsistent if he had not claimed, as he did with almost suspicious vehemence, to belong by birth and descent to an ancient and noble race.

All The Data From The Network AND User Upload, If Infringement, Please Contact Us To Delete! Contact Us
About Us | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Tag List | Recent Search  
©2010-2018, All Rights Reserved