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CHAPTER VII 1564-1566
The efforts that had been made by the English Council to benefit native commerce had caused much apprehension amongst the Flemish merchants, who had for many years practically monopolised the English export trade. The English Company of Merchant-Adventurers had agitated and petitioned the Queen and Council to discountenance the foreign merchants; and as a result, a series of enactments was passed which gave considerable trade advantages to Englishmen. Differential duties, compulsory priority given to English bottoms for the export trade, the imposition of harassing disabilities and penalties on foreign merchants established in London, together with the great increase of piracy owing to the extensive shipbuilding of recent years in England, had greatly disorganised Flemish trade. During 1563 and early in 1564, several envoys had been sent from Spanish Flanders to endeavour to obtain a reversal of the new commercial policy, but without effect. This caused reprisals on the part of the Spanish Government, which prohibited the introduction of English cloth into Flanders and the exportation of raw material from Flanders to England, as well as the employment of English ships for Flemish exports. In retaliation, a more stringent order was issued in England forbidding trade with Flanders altogether, and the establishment of a new staple at Embden. The seizure of English goods and subjects in Spain itself was the answer to this. Naturally,[152] people on both sides suffered severely by this commercial warfare.[196] Emissaries went backwards and forwards between Flanders and England, partial relaxations were temporarily arranged, conferences were held; but the main difficulty continued until Antwerp was well-nigh ruined, and the Spaniards were obliged to humble themselves in order to prevent a commercial catastrophe. The day, indeed, had gone by now for hectoring England. The old Bishop of Aquila had died bankrupt, abandoned, and broken-hearted—Cecil’s object-lesson of the impotence of Spain—and a very different Ambassador had been sent, whose main duty it was to keep Elizabeth friendly, and to end, at almost any cost, the commercial war which was ruining Flanders.

Guzman de Silva arrived in London in June 1564. He was amiable and courtly, flattered the Queen to the top of her bent, and was soon a prime favourite. At his first interview at Richmond she showed off her Latin and Italian, coyly led the talk to her personal appearance, blushingly hinted at love and marriage in general, Cecil being all the while close to her side.[197] As soon as the compliments and embraces were ended and Guzman was alone, a great friend of Dudley’s sought him out with a message from the favourite, informing him “of the great enmity that exists between Cecil and Lord Robert, even before this book about the succession was published; but now very much more, as he believes Cecil to be the author of the book; and the Queen is extremely angry about it, although she signifies that there are so[153] many accomplices in the offence that they must overlook it, and has begun to slacken in the matter.[198] The person has asked me with great secrecy to take an opportunity of speaking to the Queen (or to make such an opportunity), to urge her without fail to adopt strong measures in this business; because if Cecil were out of the way, the affairs of your Majesty would be more favourably dealt with, and religious questions as well; for this Cecil and his friends are those who persecute the Catholics and dislike your Majesty, whereas the other man (i.e. Dudley) is looked upon as faithful, and the rest of the Catholics so consider him, and have adopted him as their weapon. If the Queen would consent to disgrace Cecil, it would be a great good to them, and this man tried to persuade me to make use of Robert.”[199] Guzman was cautious, for he knew what had happened to his predecessor; but this will show that Dudley was determined to stick at nothing to destroy, if possible, the man who, almost alone, was the obstacle to his ambition. He was liberal in his professions and promises to the Spaniard, whom he urged to ask for audience as much as possible through him, instead of through Cecil. His friends assured Guzman that he still expected to marry the[154] Queen, and had an understanding with the Pope; that the Catholic religion would be restored in England if the marriage were brought about, and much more to the same effect.[200]

The reason for this new move on the part of Dudley is not very far to seek. The defection of Condé and the collapse of the Protestants in France had been seized upon by Cardinal Lorraine and the dominant Catholics to force Catharine de Medici into a renewal of the negotiations for a league with Philip to extirpate Protestantism. Already the meeting had been arranged between Catharine and her daughter, the Queen of Spain, at Bayonne, which was to cement the close alliance. Catholicism was everywhere in the ascendant, and the clouds appeared to be gathering over England; for there was no combination so threatening for her as this. Hitherto Cecil had always counted upon the jealousy between France and Spain to prevent the domination of England by either power; but with the French Protestants prostrate and a close union between a Guisan France and Catholic Spain, all safeguards would disappear, and Mary Stuart would be able to count upon the support of the whole Catholic world, in which case the position of Elizabeth and the Anglican Church was, indeed, a critical one.

As we have seen, Dudley cared nothing for all this, even if he was able to appreciate its gravity. If he could only force or cajole the Queen to marry him, the religion of England might be anything his supporters chose. He knew well that Cecil, with his broad and moderate views,[155] would try to conjure away the danger and disarm Catholic Spain, whilst safeguarding religion, by again bringing forward the Archduke with some sort of compact founded on the Lutheran compromise in Germany. But Spain and the Catholics, though they might have accepted such a solution, were not enthusiastic about it; and Dudley, by going the whole length and promising Spain everything, thought to outbid Cecil and spoil the Archduke’s chance, whilst diverting Spanish support from Mary Stuart to himself.

In the autumn of 1563 the Duke of Wurtemburg, at the prompting of the English agent, had approached the Emperor to propose a renewal of the Archduke’s negotiation. Ferdinand was cool: nominally the first monarch in Christendom, and a son of the proud House of Austria, he did not relish being taken up and dropped again as often as suited English politics, and he demanded all sorts of assurances before he would act. The Duke of Wurtemburg secretly sent an agent to see Cecil early in 1564 without the Emperor’s knowledge, and satisfied himself that Elizabeth was neither a Calvinist nor a Zwinglian, and would accept the confession of Augsburg. This was satisfactory; but before anything more could be done, Ferdinand died (July 1564). When he conveyed the news to Cecil, Mundt, the English agent, proposed that he should be allowed to reopen the question of marriage with the new Emperor Maximilian, through the Duke of Wurtemburg. “He” (Mundt) “knows,” he says, “that the Queen is so modest and virtuous that she will not do anything that shall seem like seeking a husband. But as the matter is most vital to the whole Christian world, he thinks that Cecil should not be restrained by any narrow and untimely modesty; for he, holding the administration of the kingdom, ought to strive to preserve the tranquillity thereof by insuring a perpetual succession.”


Cecil and Mundt understood each other thoroughly; but the Secretary’s answer was intended for the eyes of others, and was cautious. “With regard to her Majesty’s inclinations on the subject of her marriage, he can with certainty say nothing; than that he perceives that she would rather marry a foreign than a native prince, and that the more distinguished the suitor is by birth, power, and personal attractions, the better hope he will have of success. Moreover, he cannot deny that the nobleman who, with them, excites considerable expectation, to wit Lord Robert, is worthy to become the husband of the Queen. The fact of his being her Majesty’s subject, however, will prove a serious objection to him in her estimation. Nevertheless, his virtues and his excellent and heroic gifts of mind and body have so endeared him to the Queen, that she could not regard her own brother with greater affection. From which they who do not know the Queen intimately, conjecture that he will be her future husband. He, however, sees and understands that she merely takes delight in his virtues and rare qualities, and that nothing is more discussed in their conversation than that which is most consistent with virtue, and furthest removed from all unworthy sentiments.” It is not surprising that Cecil has endorsed the draft of this letter, “written to Mr. Mundt by the Queen’s command.”

Mundt worked hard, but there were many obstacles in the way. Wurtemburg was in no hurry. The mourning for the late Emperor, and the plague which raged in Germany, delayed matters for months. Once in the interval Cecil wrote to ask Mundt whether it was true that the Archduke’s neck was awry. Mundt could not deny the impeachment, but softened it like a courtier. “Alexander the Great had his neck bent towards the left side; would that our man may be his imitator in magnanimity[157] and bravery. His body is elegant and middle size, more well grown and robust than the Spanish Prince.”[201]

In the autumn Elizabeth sent an envoy to condole with the new Emperor on the death of his father, and simultaneously lost no opportunity of drawing closer to Spain. She coquetted with Guzman, ostentatiously in the face of the French Ambassador. She spoke sentimentally of old times, when her brother-in-law Philip was in England. She was curious to know whether Don Carlos was grown, and manly; and then apparently to force the Ambassador’s hand, she sighed that every one disdained her, and that she heard Don Carlos was to marry the Queen of Scots. Guzman earnestly said that the Prince had been ill, and that such a thing was quite out of the question; which was perfectly true. The Queen’s real object then came out. “Why,” she said, “the gossips in London were saying that the Ambassador had been sent by the King of Spain to offer his son Don Carlos to me!” All this rather undignified courting of Spain succeeded very soon in arousing the jealousy of France, as it was intended to do.

De Foix, the French Ambassador, had kept Catharine de Medici well informed of affairs in England. Catharine was already getting alarmed at being bound hand and foot to the Guises, the Catholics, and Philip. The plan of marrying Mary Stuart to Don Carlos, or his cousin, the Archduke, and the rallying of Leicester to Spain and the Catholics, threatened to dwarf the influence of France, and make Spain irresistible. So the Queen-mother began to hint to Sir Thomas Smith, the Ambassador, that a marriage would be desirable between her son Charles IX., aged fifteen, and Queen Elizabeth, aged thirty-one. Some such suggestion had been made by Condé to Smith during the negotiations which preceded[158] the evacuation of Havre, but it had not been regarded seriously. It was probably no more serious now, but it was the trump card of both Queens, and it served its purpose.

In the meanwhile the plot of Leicester and the Catholics against Cecil went on. The English Catholics came to Guzman, and represented to him that it would be better not to come to any arrangement with the Government about the commercial question, in order that public discontent in England might ripen and an overturn of the present regime be made the easier. But the Flemings were suffering even more than the English from the interruption of trade, and Guzman had strict orders to obtain a settlement of the dispute. So he told the Catholics that the Queen had been obliged to hold her hand, and refrain from punishing Cecil and Bacon, until she had come to an understanding with Philip, and with the English Catholics, through him. She would cling to Cecil and his gang, said Guzman, so long as she thought she had anything to fear from Spain. “All people think that the only remedy for the religious trouble is to get these people turned out of power, as they are the mainstay of the heretics, Lord Robert having the Catholics all on his side.”[202] Dudley was flattered and encouraged with messages and promises from Philip, and laboured incessantly to get rid of Cecil, even for a short time.

In order, apparently, to forward Dudley’s chances of success as a suitor for the hand of Mary Stuart, for which at this time Elizabeth pretended to be anxious, she created him Earl of Leicester and Baron Denbeigh, on Michaelmas day 1564. De Foix, the French Ambassador, intimated two days previously his intention of being present at the splendid festivities which accompanied the ceremony. This was a good opportunity for Cecil to arouse suspicion of the new Earl, and distrust of[159] the French. On the 28th September, accordingly, the Secretary called upon Guzman, and telling him that the French Ambassador would be present at the feast, hinted that Dudley was very friendly with the French; to which the Spaniard replied, that he had always understood that such was the case, and that Dudley’s father was known to be much attached to them. Then “Cecil told me that the Queen had commanded him to visit the Emperor with Throgmorton, and although he had done all in his power to excuse himself from the journey, he had not succeeded. I understand that the artfulness of his rivals has procured this commission for him, in order, in the meantime, to put some one else in his place, which certainly would be a good thing. His wife has petitioned the Queen to let her husband stay at home, as he is weak and delicate. They tell me that this has made the business doubtful, and I do not know for certain what will be done; nor indeed is anything sure here from one hour to another, except the hatching of falsehoods, which always goes on.” Needless to say, Cecil had his way and did not go.

Before many days had passed Leicester sent to Guzman disclaiming any particular friendship with the French, “and said, after his own Queen, there was no prince in the world whom he was so greatly obliged to serve as your Majesty, whose servant he had been, and to whom he owed his life and all he had.” De Foix, he said, had only been present at his feast, because he brought him the Order of St. Michael from the King of France, which he (Leicester) did not wish to accept. Guzman was rather tart about the business, and reminded Leicester’s friend (Spinola) that on the same day that the Queen had invited him (Guzman) to supper, De Foix had dined with her; and when Spinola hinted that Philip might send Leicester the Golden Fleece,[160] Guzman was quite scandalised at the idea of conferring the order on any one not a “publicly professed Catholic.” Altogether it is clear that the Queen’s and Cecil’s clever management was already setting the French and Spanish by the ears; and when they could do that and make them rivals for England’s favour, she was safe.

The next day Guzman was entertained at dinner by Leicester, the Earl of Warwick, Cecil, and others being present; and the Secretary in the course of conversation assured the Spaniard that he was taking vigorous measures to suppress the depredations on shipping, and to restore as much as possible of the merchandise stolen. Already, indeed, Cecil’s diplomacy was righting matters. An active correspondence was going on about the Archduke’s match; the Queen assured Guzman that she had to conceal her real feelings about religion, but that God knew her heart; and even Cecil tried to soften the asperity of the Catholics towards him. “Cecil,” writes Guzman to his King, “tells these heretical bishops to look after their clergy, as the Queen is determined to reform them in their customs, and even in their dress, as the diversity that exists in everything cannot be tolerated.[203] He directs that they should be[161] careful how they treat those of the old faith: to avoid calumniating them or persecuting or harrying them.” The result of this action was that in October 1564, Guzman could write: “I have advised previously that Cecil’s favour had been wavering, but he knows how to please, and avoids saying things the Queen does not wish to hear; and, above all, as I am told, can flatter her, so he has kept his place, and things are now in the same condition as formerly. Robert makes the best of it. The outward demonstrations are fair, but the inner feelings the same as before. I do not know how long they will last. They dissemble; but Cecil has more wit than all of them. Their envy of him is very great.”[204]

Sir James Melvil, a Scotsman brought up in France, was directed to go to London in the autumn of 1564, to watch his mistress’s interests. To him Elizabeth again suggested a marriage between Dudley and “her good sister”; and in reply to his remark that Mary thought that a conference between English and Scottish statesmen should discuss the question first, at which conference the Earl of Bedford and Lord Robert could represent England, Elizabeth told Melvil that he seemed to make a small account of Lord Robert. He should, she said, see him made a far greater Earl than Bedford before he left court. When Dudley was on his knees, shortly afterwards, receiving the investiture of his Earldom, the Queen tickled his neck, and asked Melvil what he thought of him. Melvil gave a courtly answer, whereupon the Queen retorted that he liked that “long lad” (Darnley) better. Melvil scoffed at such an idea, but his main object in coming to England was to intrigue for the “long lad’s” permission to go to Scotland. A few days after this, Leicester took[162] Melvil in his barge from Hampton Court to London, and on the way asked him what Mary thought of the marriage with him, which Randolph had proposed to her. Melvil answered coldly, as his mistress had instructed him to do. “Then he began to purge himself of so proud a pretence as to marry so great a Queen, declaring he did not esteem himself worthy to wipe her shoes; declaring that the invention of that proposition of marriage proceeded from Mr. Cecil, his secret enemy. For if I, says he, should have appeared desirous of that marriage, I should have offended both the Queens and lost their favour.”[205]

Melvil went back to Scotland with all manner of kind messages for his mistress; and Cecil especially was gracious to him, placing a fine gold chain around his neck as he bade him farewell. But when Mary asked her envoy if he thought Elizabeth “meant truly towards her inwardly in her heart, as she appeared to do outwardly in her speech,” he replied that in his judgment “there was neither plain dealing nor upright meaning; but great dissimulation, emulation, envy, and fear lest her princely qualities should chase her from the kingdom, as having already hindered her marriage with the Archduke. It appeared likewise to me, by her offering unto her, with great apparent earnestness, my Lord of Leicester.” Melvil says that Leicester’s humble and artful letters to Mary, and the consequent kindness of the latter, aroused Elizabeth’s fear that after all Mary might marry her favourite, and caused her to consent to Darnley’s visit to Scotland.[206] “Which licence,” he says, “was procured[163] by means of Secretary Cecil, not that he was minded that any of the marriages should take effect, but with such shifts to hold the Queen (Mary) unmarried as long as he could, persuading himself that Lord Darnley durst not proceed in the marriage without consent of the Queen of England first obtained.”[207] Cecil’s task was again an extremely difficult one. He had to keep up an appearance of leaning to the Catholics and the House of Austria, and encourage the idea of Elizabeth’s marriage with the Archduke, in order to prevent the alliance of Mary Stuart with so powerful an interest; he was obliged to keep his own restive Protestant friends in hand; to counteract at every step the intrigues of Leicester against him, and to be ready at any moment to cause a diversion if Leicester’s suit to the Queen looked too serious to be safe.

The replies and recommendations of the bishops to the Council’s circular, referred to in a previous note (page 160), had caused much apprehension amongst Catholics; and the Queen herself, as well as Cecil, assured Guzman that the bishops should do the Catholics no harm; whilst, on the other hand, Cecil’s Protestant friends were urging him to adopt strong measures to prevent the growth of the “Papists.” Cecil’s reply to one such recommendation shows that he was just as ready to wound Leicester underhand as Leicester was him. “He replied that he was doing what he could, but he did not know who was at the Queen’s ear to soften her so, and render her less zealous in this than she ought to be.”[208]

Cecil’s greatest difficulty, indeed, at this time, was from[164] Leicester, who had now quite enlisted Sir Nicholas Throgmorton against his former friend. In order to enable Leicester with some decency to accept the Order of St. Michael, Throgmorton suggested that the Queen might ask for another Cross of the Order to be given to the Duke of Norfolk. When Cecil learned this, he was obliged to remonstrate with the Queen, and point out how undesirable it was in the present state of affairs to place two of her most powerful nobles under an obligation to France. At a time when Cecil was straining every nerve to keep on good terms with the House of Austria, and conciliating the Catholics, in order to checkmate Mary Stuart, Leicester had agents running backwards and forwards to France, in the hope of bringing forward in an official form the farcical offer of Charles IX.’s hand for the Queen, which offer he knew would come to nothing, whilst rendering abortive the Archduke’s suit, upon which Cecil depended to so great an extent.

The dexterity and clevern............
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