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CHAPTER IX 1568-1569
Norris in France, and Cecil’s agents in Spain and Flanders, continued to send home alarming news of the intentions of Philip and the Guises against England. The stories were untrue, but coming from so many quarters at the same time, were evidently not invented by the senders. They were in fact set afloat by Philip, as a means of keeping England in a state of apprehension, and so preventing her from sending overt aid to the Protestants in Flanders and France. To some extent they were successful in frightening Elizabeth, evidently to Cecil’s annoyance, for the Secretary at least had taken Philip’s measure, and knew that his hands were full. In a letter to Lord Cobham, written in April 1568, Cecil gives expression to this feeling in the figurative language which he was in the habit of employing. Cobham, as Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, had forwarded a secret proposal of some Frenchmen in Calais to seize that citadel and deliver it to the Huguenots to be held for Elizabeth. The Queen was alarmed at the boldness of the plan, but promised that she would consider it if the King of France refused her offered mediation between him and the Huguenots. Cecil writes thereupon: “It grieveth me to hold and follow the plough where the owner of the ground forbears to cast in the seed in seasonable time, and I am all the more grieved that your Lordship is in like manner discouraged. ‘Moremus sepe sed nihil promoremus.’ But[209] besides the plough your Lordship follows, we are occupied with another, meaning to join both together for surety, but still I despair of seed.”[264]

In the meanwhile, though Elizabeth herself was still overshadowed by the traditional might of Spain, the English Catholics were feeling, by the increased severity exercised towards them, the changed political situation. The English minister, and in her stronger moments the English Queen, were speaking more firmly now than ever they had dared to do since Elizabeth’s accession. For the first time the position was becoming defined. It was no longer France or Spain nationally that was the enemy of England: it was Catholic against Protestant the world over. Philip was as nervously anxious to avoid war as Elizabeth herself, and his need to do so much greater than hers; but if Protestantism was allowed to become strong, then his great empire must crumble, and the basis of his system disappear. His own slow stolidity had been in a great measure the cause of his finding himself in so unfavourable a tactical position, for he had allowed the champions of the autonomous rights of his Flemish dominions—rights which at first he might easily have conciliated with his own sovereignty—to obtain for their cause the immense added impetus of religious reform. It was this fact which had changed the situation; and it was accentuated in England by the activity of the Pope (Pius V.) in establishing English seminaries abroad, and by means of money and busy agents in England itself, raising the spirits of those who clung to the old faith.[265]


The answer to the effervescence thus caused amongst the Catholics was the renewed harshness against them by the English ministers and the rising aggressiveness of the Protestants. Late in February 1568, Cecil sent word to Guzman, with whom he was still ostensibly on friendly terms, to say that the Queen had learnt casually that the English Ambassador in Madrid (Dr. Man) was not allowed to hold Protestant service in the embassy. She was surprised at this, and had sent to the Ambassador orders to demand the same rights as were accorded to Guzman in England; if these were denied she would recall him. Cecil himself was more outspoken and indignant than usual, and much more so than the Queen. “They think, no doubt, that the present troubles in France and elsewhere,” writes Guzman, “give them a good opportunity of gaining ground, their own affairs being favourable; so they have begun to look out more keenly, and to trouble the Catholics, summoning some and arresting others, and warning them to obey the present laws … they (the Council) soon change her (the Queen), and all their efforts are directed at making her shy of me.”[266] Guzman’s messenger to Madrid travelled more quickly than Cecil’s, and before Dr. Man could demand his right to enjoy Protestant service, he was unceremoniously hustled out of Madrid, without obtaining audience of the King, the pretext being that he had in public conversation at his own table insulted the Catholic faith.[267] Though Philip took[211] this strong course, he was as anxious as ever to avoid an open quarrel with England about that or anything else, and sent all sorts of conciliatory messages to the Queen. Dr. Man, he said, had behaved himself so outrageously that his further stay in Spain was impossible; but if another Ambassador were sent who would act as English Ambassadors always had done, he should be received with open arms.

The news arrived in London at a bad time. A Portuguese Ambassador had just come (May 1568) to complain—“brawling,” as Cecil calls it—of the Hawkins expeditions to Guinea. He went to the audience with Guzman, and found the Queen in a towering rage about a scurrilous letter referring to her, written by the Cardinal Prince Dom Henrique. Cecil had obtained possession of the letter somehow, and produced it, saying that the presumption of the Portuguese was insufferable and made them hated by all nations. The matter of the letter quite overshadowed the grievance about trade, as it no doubt was intended to do, and the Portuguese got no redress. On the contrary, Cecil called to him some Spanish residents in London who accompanied the Ambassador to Whitehall, and warned them that they might not attend mass at the embassy. What! not foreigners? asked Antonio de Guaras. No, retorted Cecil, and turned his back upon them to rejoin the Queen. The next day when Cecil saw Guzman, he complained of Alba’s severity in Flanders, and of some insulting reference to Elizabeth in the “Pontifical History” of Dr. Illescas, so that when Dr. Man’s letter arrived immediately afterwards announcing his practical expulsion from Spain, everything was prepared for an explosion. The Queen received the news with some alarm as to what it might portend, and was at first inclined to be conciliatory; but when Guzman visited Cecil in the Strand two or three days afterwards,[212] he found the Secretary in a fit of anger unusual with him. Such treatment of an Ambassador, he said, was an unheard-of insult to his mistress, unless it was meant as a provocation to war. After storming for some time, he stopped for want of breath; and it needed all Guzman’s suavity to calm him. “I waited a little for him to recover from his rage, and then went up to him, laughing, and embraced him, saying that I was amused to see him fly into such a passion over what I had told him, because I knew that he understood differently. The affair, I said, might be made good or bad as the Queen liked to make it.”[268] But Cecil was not easily appeased. He told Guzman that the Council regarded him with suspicion, that Englishmen were treated harshly in Spain, and much more to the same effect, all of which was very surprising to the Spaniard, who was unused to such plain speaking from him. But in the ten years that Elizabeth had sat upon the throne, things had radically changed. Cecil could afford to speak boldly to Spain now; for whilst England had grown enormously in wealth, commerce, industry, and shipping, under a prudent, patriotic Government, both the great rivals she formerly feared were rent by the religious schism which the folly or ambition of their rulers had precipitated upon them, and England at any given moment could paralyse either of them for harm by smiling upon their Protestant subjects.

Whilst Mary was in Lochleven Castle, Murray’s enemies, the Hamiltons and the Catholics, were busy. Murray had tried his best by severity to reduce the country to something approaching order, and the turbulent chiefs who profited by anarchy resented it. The compromising papers which implicated the ruling powers in the late deeds of murder and violence were burnt,[213] though not those that implicated the Queen,[269] and the whole of the responsibility was cast upon the Queen and Bothwell. Religious uniformity was passed by Parliament, and the exercise of Catholic worship abolished. All this violent action, too rapid and too partial to be readily assimilated by a country so profoundly divided as Scotland was, naturally caused reaction in favour of Mary, and when after one unsuccessful attempt she escaped from prison (2nd May), there were friends in plenty to flock to her banner. The day before her flight she had written the fervent prayer to Elizabeth, swearing unchanging fidelity to her if she would send her help[270]—help for which she had besought Catharine de Medici in vain; for France wanted the alliance of Scotland, not that of Mary Stuart personally. The day after, when Mary, surrounded by Hamiltons, was free again, the possibilities were all changed. Mary Stuart turned in a few hours from the humble suppliant to the haughty sovereign. Her abdication was revoked, Murray’s regency declared illegal, and all his acts annulled. Beton was sent off post-haste to London and Paris to demand for his mistress a thousand harquebussiers and a sum of money. Beton’s instructions were to tell the English Government that if they would not send the help, he was to demand it from the French. Cecil writes to Norris,[271] 16th May, that under these circumstances the Queen had promised all that Mary demanded; but he was to keep his eye on Beton, and if he asked for French aid, Catharine was to be told the message he brought from Mary to London. Before Beton left London he went to see Guzman with a verbal message from Mary. Now that she was free, she said, she would show the world how[214] innocent she was, and begged for the advice and help of Guzman and his master. She was a firmer Catholic than ever, she averred; nearly all the people and nobles of Scotland were on her side; but she complained that she was in the field without proper garb or adornments, and begged Guzman to send a request to the Duke of Alba to seize her jewels and restore them to her, if Murray sent them to Flanders for sale.[272]

This was on the 11th May. Two days afterwards the result of the battle of Langside once more cast the unhappy Mary Stuart into the chasm of irredeemable misfortune, and on the 16th she fled across the Solway a fugitive to England, to see her country no more in life. Such a step as this was tempting fate. It is true that Elizabeth had constantly professed sympathy for her in her captivity; but whilst the English Queen’s words were fair, the acts of her Government, dictated not by personal motives, such as the friends of Mary have absurdly tried to fix upon Cecil, but by high national policy, had been uniformly in favour of Murray and the Protestants. Mary’s attitude, moreover, had from the first, and not unnaturally, been favourable to the French alliance, upon which for centuries Scotland had depended for the preservation of its independence; and to place herself thus unconditionally at the mercy of the English, whose policy she had opposed and whose interests she sought to subvert, was little short of an act of madness. Mary had no excuse for trusting to a Quixotic generosity, of which Elizabeth had never given her the slightest indication beyond conventional fine words, such as would hardly deceive Mary. It was not so much that she overrated her generosity as she underrated her boldness.


Drury in Berwick had kept Cecil informed almost from hour to hour of the course of events in Scotland;[273] and a few hours only after Mary landed at Workington she wrote her famous and oft-quoted letter to the English Queen. In it she recites her sorrows, and begs Elizabeth to aid her in her just quarrel; but, above all, to send for her as soon as possible, “for I am in a pitiable condition, not only for a Queen but a gentlewoman.”[274] The position was a difficult one for the English Queen and Council. Guzman says they were much perplexed, “as the Queen has always shown good-will to the Queen of Scots, and the majority of the Council has been opposed to her, and favourable to the Regent and his government. If this Queen has her way, they will have to treat Mary as a sovereign, which will offend those who forced her to abdicate; so that although these folks are glad enough to have her in their hands, they have many things to consider … if she remain free, and able to communicate with her friends, great suspicions will arise. In any case it is certain that the two women will not agree very long together.”[275]

When Mary had arrived at Carlisle a few days afterwards, she sent Lord Herries to London with a letter for Cecil, which may be given in full. Mary’s letters were always clever, unless she lost her temper, as she did sometimes, and here it will be seen that she appeals to positively the only feeling which it was probable would move Cecil to favour her, namely, her kinship to his mistress and her regal status. “Mester Ceciles,” runs the letter, “L’équité, dont vous avvez le nom d’estre amateur, et la fidelle et sincère servitude que portez a[216] la Royne, Madame ma bonne s?ur, et par consequent a toutes celles qui sont de son sang, et en pareille dignité, me fayt en ma juste querele, par sur tous autres m’adresser a vous en ce temps de mon trouble pour etre avancée par votre bon conseille, que j’ai commandé Lord Heris, presant porteur vous fayre entandre au long.… De Karlile ce xxviii Mey. Votre bien bonne amye Marie R.”[276] With this letter Herries brought others for the Pope and Guzman. He demanded aid for his mistress on a pledge sent to her by Elizabeth through Throgmorton in the form of a ring, and when some hesitation was shown, he imprudently blurted out that if Elizabeth did not keep her word his mistress would appeal to France, Spain, the Emperor, and the Pope. “The Pope!” exclaimed puritan Bedford, shocked at the idea. “Yes, the Pope,” replied Herries, “or the Grand Turk, or the Sophi, or any one else who will help her.” This sort of talk was sufficient to decide Mary’s removal to Bolton as a measure of precaution.

Before this took place, however, Lord Scrope and Sir Francis Knollys had been deputed by Elizabeth to visit and confer with Mary at Carlisle. Herries on that occasion had said that if the English would not help his Queen, she wished to go to France; “whereupon,” writes Knollys, we “answered that your Highness could in no wise lyke hyr sekyng aide in France, therbie to bring Frenchmen into Skotland;” and, continued the envoys, the Queen of England could not receive her personally until she was satisfied of her innocence in the murder of her husband. Mary was just as imprudent as Herries in her interview with the English envoys; but what frightened Knollys most was the large number of her English sympathisers in the north of England. In his letter to Elizabeth he points out the danger of[217] the situation, and suggests that Mary should have the choice of freely returning to Scotland, if she chose, or of remaining in England; but not of going to France, as she evidently wished to do. “She was so agile and spirited,” says Knollys, that she could only be kept a prisoner so near the Border by very rigorous means, such as “devices of towels and toyes at her chamber window”; whereas to carry her farther inland might cause “serious sedition.”

Elizabeth and her Council decided to run the latter risk rather than that Mary should go to France to be a permanent thorn in the flesh of England, and the Queen of Scots’ long imprisonment commenced.[277] Even in the first few weeks of her stay she was busy endeavouring to subvert English ends; appointing Chatelherault, Argyll, and Huntly to the supreme government of the kingdom against Murray; Chatelherault being strongly in the French interest, and daily clamouring through his brother in Paris for French armed support. All this was known to the Queen and Cecil; and Mary’s intemperate letters of protest against her removal from Carlisle, and her constant threats to appeal to France and Spain if Elizabeth would not help her,[278] made it[218] altogether inconsistent with prudence to allow the misguided woman her liberty. The investigation into Mary’s guilt or innocence seems to have originated with Cecil.[279] Left to herself, Elizabeth, as we have seen, was mainly influenced by the personal feeling of reverence for a sovereign: Cecil could not oppose this, and as usual took an indirect means of reaching his end. When Mary complained to Knollys at Carlisle of the subjects who had dethroned her, he had told her that as it was lawful for subjects to depose mad sovereigns, it was also lawful for them to depose those who had lost their wits to the extent of conniving at murder. Mary wept at this, and Knollys softened the blow; but Knollys had certainly seen Cecil’s report, and took the line suggested by it. If Mary could be shown to have connived at Darnley’s death—and Cecil must have known of the damning proofs against her when he proposed the negotiation—the regal immunity fell from her like a loosened garment, and Elizabeth’s personal desire to consider the sacredness of the monarch before the interests of the country lost its principal resting point.

In the meanwhile the state of civil war in Scotland continued, and news came daily of French armaments preparing to aid Mary’s party. Cecil ceaselessly urged an armistice, and at last (1st September) was successful, though imprudent Herries continued to threaten that if Elizabeth did not restore the Queen of Scots to the throne in two months, she and her friends would appeal only to France for armed aid. Elizabeth clearly could not force Mary upon the Scottish people, and for her interference to be effective she must be recognised as a mediator, not by Mary alone, but also by Murray and his party. This was difficult; for Murray knew that[219] if the final result was to restore Mary with any power at all, he and his party sooner or later were doomed. Thanks mainly to the efforts of Cecil, Murray at last gave way, and the commissions of Scotch and English Councillors were sent to York, ostensibly to mediate between the Queen of Scots and her subjects. But Mary found herself no longer, as she had hoped to be, the accuser of Murray, but practically on her own trial for murder. By a remark in a letter from Cecil to Norris at the time, he seems again with some difficulty to have avoided being appointed a commissioner himself.

Whilst the intricate and obscure proceedings in York[280] were progressing, Cecil’s hands were full in London. Protestant zeal was fairly aflame now at Alba’s proceedings in the Netherlands. All eastern England swarmed with Flemish fugitives, many of whom found their way back home again well armed with weapons bought in England, and even more with messages of indignant sympathy from English Protestants. Guzman protested to Cecil again and again, but could get no more than vague half promises, and once a proclamation, which the Spaniards described as a “compliment rather than a remedy.”

In September the mild and diplomatic Guzman[220] was withdrawn, much to Elizabeth’s apprehension, and Cecil’s regret, and an Ambassador of very different calibre was sent. For many years the warlike party in Philip’s councils, led by Alba, had been urging him to active hostility towards England, but the peace party of Ruy Gomez had prevented the advice from being adopted. Now that Alba was supreme in the Netherlands, and reported that the Protestant revolt was mainly fed from England, Philip seems to have decided to alarm Elizabeth into neutrality by sending a rough-tongued representative. He had felt his ground first by his contemptuous treatment of Dr. Man, and seeing that Elizabeth had taken it quietly, he sent as his new Ambassador a turbulent bigoted Catalan, named Gerau de Spes, to endeavour by truculence to do what the suavity of Guzman had failed to effect. Dutch, Huguenot, and English privateers were preying upon Spanish shipping, to an extent which well-nigh cut off communication by sea between Spain and northern Europe. Money and arms, unchecked, found their way from England to the brave “beggars” in Holland; and though Philip did not wish to fight England, it was vital for him to paralyse her for harm. Mary Stuart had written to Philip from Carlisle, begging him for help against Elizabeth, and the chance seemed to Philip a good one to disturb England for his own ends, without war. He accordingly wrote cautiously to Alba (15th September), saying that he was willing to help Mary, but desired Alba to report upon what might be done to that end, whilst sending reassuring promises to the Queen of Scots.[281] From the first hour that De Spes set foot in England, he went beyond his instructions and conspired actively against the Government to which he was accredited.

There was more even than this untoward change[221] to occupy the thoughts and hands of Elizabeth’s first minister. The war had raged in France between the Huguenots and the Catholics from September 1567 till the clever management of Catharine had beguiled the Protestants to accept the hollow peace of Longjumeau (March 1568). Hans Casimir and his mercenary Germans went home; the Huguenots laid down their arms; and then again the Catholic pulpits thundered forth that it was godly to break faith with heretics, and that the blood shed of unbelievers sent up sweet incense to heaven. Nearly 10,000 Huguenots were treacherously slain in three months, and no punishment could be obtained against the murderers. Condé and Coligny fled to the stronghold of La Rochelle, there to be joined by the Queen of Navarre with 4000 men-at-arms, and all that was strong and warlike on the side of the Huguenots. Elizabeth in the autumn was making a progress through the valley of the Thames when she heard that Cardinal Chatillon[282] had escaped from Tréport, and had arrived in England and desired an audience. Lord Cobham, Warden of the Cinque Ports, made much of him when he landed; Gresham entertained him; the French Ambassador, himself inclined to be a Huguenot, honoured him as if he were a prince; and as soon as the Queen’s answer was received, Chatillon hurried down to Newbury to prefer his request to the Queen. He looked little of a cardinal or a churchman, for he dressed in cape, hat, and sword, and his wife joined him, but that perhaps made him all the more welcome. Throgmorton voices the general idea in a letter to Cecil. “I think,” he says, “with you, that it is a special favour of God to preserve this realm from calamities by their neighbours’ troubles.… If her Majesty suffer the Low Countries and France to be[222] weeded of the members of the Church whereof England is also a portion, I see no other thing can happen but a more grievous accident to us than to those whom we have suffered to be destroyed.”[283]

But it is quite clear that neither the Queen nor Cecil intended to allow the Huguenots to be destroyed. The Cardinal was received with open arms, munitions were brought from the Tower in hot haste, and a strong fleet was fitted out to carry aid to Huguenots in Rochelle. The French Ambassador might be half a Huguenot, but his brother the Bishop of Rennes was not, and he came and protested strongly in the name of Catharine against Chatillon’s reception in England. Cecil tells Norris in Paris that he got a very short answer. “I told him,” says Cecil, “we had more cause to favour him (Chatillon) and all such, because the said Cardinal Lorraine was known to be an open enemy of our sovereign. So he departed with no small misliking, and I well contented to utter some round speeches.”[284] But, prudent as usual, Cecil was a stickler for legality, and took care that appearances were kept up. The Cardinal, he insisted, was a faithful subject of his King; it was the Guises who were the enemies. Norris is directed to tell Catharine that the fleet is “to protect our Burdeaux fleet from pyrats”; and if any complaint is made about money and munitions of war being provided for Chatillon, he is to say that the Queen would never do anything against the French King, but if English merchants made bargains with the Huguenots, he (Cecil) knew of no way to stop it. He certainly made no attempt to do so; for with a great civil war on hand it was clear that France could not resort to arms for the cause of Mary Stuart; and whilst mediatory proceedings were dragging on in[223] England, the Protestant cause in Scotland was being consolidated.

The unhappy Queen of Scots herself, persuaded that no help could just now reach her from her French kinsmen, seems to have depended almost entirely upon the aid to be given by the King of Spain and Alba to the Scottish Catholics. No messenger came from her to London without beseeching secret letters in cipher to the Spanish Ambassador; and whilst the trial dragged on, she left no stone unturned to arouse indignation against Murray and the English. They wished to kill her child, she said, and force the reformed faith upon her and Scotland. In an intercepted letter to one of the Hamiltons, which fell into Cecil’s hands,[285] she says that Dumbarton, with Murray’s consent, was to be seized by the English. Elizabeth had, she averred, promised to sustain Murray, to recognise his legitimacy, and raise him to the throne as her vassal; both of these being accusations which were likely to move the Hamiltons to fury. But, above all, she accused Cecil of a deeper plot still. He had arranged, she said, to marry one of his daughters to the Earl of Hertford, father of Catharine Grey’s young heir, and thus, by mutual support, Hertford’s son and Murray might occupy respectively the English and Scottish thrones under Cecil’s tutelage. “So they will both be bent on my son’s death.” There was no truth in it; but it was an excellent invention to arouse the ire of the Scottish Catholics. Before even this was written (December), Cecil knew how bitter was Mary’s feeling against him. When Beton came to London from Mary in October, with secret messages for De Spes, suggesting her escape, “which will not be difficult, or even to raise a revolt against this Queen,” Cecil guessed his real errand, and, says De Spes, “Cecil[224] is so much against the Queen of Scotland, and so jealous in the matter, that as soon as he saw Beton he asked him whether he had been with his complaints to the Spanish Ambassador, and whether he came to see me often; to which Beton replied that he had no dealings whatever with me.”[286]

But Cecil’s spies were everywhere, and he knew that De Spes was working ceaselessly in Mary’s interests to bring disaster upon England, in union with his chief, the Duke of Alba, in Flanders. The great difficulty in the way of the Spaniards was the extreme penury of the treasury. Spain was in the very de............
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