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CHAPTER XI 1572-1576
One of the first effects of the massacre of St. Bartholomew was an approach on the part of Burghley to the Spanish agent in England. The object probably was to keep in touch and to learn what was going on, whilst arousing the jealousy of the French, and, above all, to reopen English trade with Flanders and Spain. In any case, the cordiality of so great a personage as the Lord Treasurer quite turned the head of simple-minded, vain Antonio de Guaras, who suddenly found himself treated as an important diplomatist, and for the rest of his life tried, but disastrously, to live up to the character.[361] Soon after the expulsion of De Spes, one of Burghley’s agents had opened up communications with De Guaras, which resulted in an interview between the latter and the Lord Treasurer. The minister was graciousness itself, and quite dazzled the merchant. There was nothing, he assured him, that he desired more than an agreement with Spain on all points; and though it all came to nothing at the time, and shortly afterwards the Flemish Commissioners were curtly dismissed, a letter was handed to Guaras late in August 1572 to be sent to Alba, making professions of willingness to negotiate for a reopening of trade, and to withdraw the English troops from Flanders. Before the reply came in October the massacre of St. Bartholomew had taken place, and when De Guaras[281] went to Burghley at Hampton Court with a letter from Alba he found him all smiles. “The Queen was only remarking yesterday,” said he, “that she wondered Antonio de Guaras did not come to court with a reply to the message offering to withdraw the Englishmen who were helping the rebels.” They were only sent there, said Burghley, to prevent Frenchmen from gaining a footing. He was overjoyed to receive Alba’s kind letter, and took it to the Queen at once, though she had already sickened with the smallpox, which a day or two afterwards declared itself. He hoped, he said, that God would pardon those who had caused the dissension between the two countries; and the Queen was most willing to come to terms. He expressed delight at the reported successes of Alba. He compared Spaniards with Frenchmen, greatly to the disadvantage of the latter, and “he said more against the French than I did, speaking with great reverence of our King, and of so courageous a Prince, which were the words he applied to your Excellency” (Alba).

The delighted merchant was pressed to stay to supper to meet such great personages as the Earl of Sussex, the Lord Chamberlain, and others; and the next day he was in conference with Burghley for hours, with the result that the latter consented to draw up a new draft treaty for the reopening of trade, one of the clauses of which was to touch upon the tender subject of the treatment extended by the Inquisition to English merchants and mariners in Spain. Burghley hinted to De Guaras that some of the Council were against an accord, but he persuaded him that his own feelings were all in favour of a renewal of the close understanding with the House of Burgundy. De Guaras was backwards and forwards to court for weeks, more charmed than ever with the Lord Treasurer’s amiability. “It is,” he says, “undoubted[282] that a great amount of dissension exists in the Council, some being friendly to our side, and others to the French; but the best Councillor of all of them is Lord Burghley, as he follows the tendency of the Queen, which is towards concord. As he is supreme in the country and in the Queen’s estimation, in all the important Councils which were held during the days that I was at court, he, with his great eloquence, having right on his side, was able to persuade those who were opposed to him. He assured me privately that he had gained over the great majority of his opponents, and especially the Earl of Leicester, who has always been on the side of the French.”[362] Burghley could be very persuasive and talkative when it suited him, as it very rarely did. The French, he said, were most anxious for a close alliance, but the Queen and himself set but small store on “these noisy French and Italians.”

A Spanish spy in London, unknown to De Guaras, scornfully wrote to Alba that Lord Burghley was playing with De Guaras; and before many weeks had passed, the latter himself had begun to doubt. Burghley passed him in his ante-room three times without so much as noticing him. “Some great plot against the Spaniards in Flanders” was hatching, he was sure; “and in one moment they decided that their false news was of more importance than our friendship.” “Whilst this Government exists, no good arrangement will be made, as the Queen only desires it from fear, and the rest will oppose it on religious grounds.” When De Guaras saw the Lord Treasurer later in November (1572), grave doubts were expressed about the bona fides of Philip, much to the Spaniard’s indignation. Burghley said he was still strongly in favour of an arrangement, because the French, who wished the English wool trade to go to France instead[283] of Flanders, were so shifty, and could not be trusted. The Queen would be glad, too, to mediate between Spain and the Prince of Orange. Thus Burghley played on the hopes and fears of Spain; but through the whole negotiation it was clear that the objects were—first, if possible, to reopen the ports for English trade on profitable terms;[363] and, secondly, to keep Spain in hand, pending the development of events in France, and the strengthening of Orange for his forthcoming campaign.

In the meanwhile Sir Humphrey Gilbert and his 800 Englishmen were recalled from Flanders, and the elaborate pretence made that he was in disgrace for having gone thither at all against the Queen’s wish; and other demonstrations were made, especially by Burghley, of a desire to agree on friendly conditions with Spain. As weeks passed without any reply coming from Alba to the draft treaty, Burghley grew distrustful, and, as De Guaras complains, coldly passed him without recognising him. At last, late in December, he sent for the Spaniard and made a speech, which, De Guaras says, sounded as if it had been studied. “He hoped,” he said, “that the good-will of himself and his friends would be recognised. Some of the Councillors thought that De Guaras had been playing them false,[364] and his (Burghley’s) party was much[284] annoyed that no answer had come, especially about the simultaneous opening of the ports.” All the while the vigorous support of Orange’s preparations went on; money, men, and arms flowed over in abundance (early in 1573); and the Dutch agents were in England urging Elizabeth openly to take Holland and Zeeland under her protection, and to lend national countenance to the struggle against Spain. She was not prepared for this yet, for France was under the influence of the Guises, and their intrigues in Scotland left her no rest. But Alba was afraid of the bare possibility of a great Protestant league of English, Germans, and Huguenots, in favour of Orange; and his pride was humbled more by this than by professions of friendship. The result of Burghley’s negotiations through De Guaras, and the aiding of Orange, was that in the summer of 1573 the Flemish and Spanish ports were once more opened to English trade, on terms immensely favourable to England,[365] since she obtained a free market for her cloth, whilst she kept the great bulk of the enormous amount of Spanish property which Elizabeth had seized five years previously. This was a greater exemplification of the impotence of Philip, even than the expulsion of De Spes. All the world could see now that, much as his Inquisition might harry individual Englishmen, the King could neither defend nor avenge the injuries done to himself; and was obliged to overlook the presence of[285] armed English regiments on the side of his rebellious subjects, for the sake of retaining the profit brought to his dominions by English commerce. Burghley had at all events established one fact, namely, that, for the present, Philip alone could do no harm.

The struggles between the Protestants and Catholics in Scotland had continued almost without interruption since the death of Murray. Mary’s friends were still numerous and strong amongst the aristocratic and landed classes, and were supported, as we have seen, by Spanish and papal money, as well as by Guisan intrigue. The Regent Lennox had been murdered by the Hamiltons (September 1571), and his successor (Mar) had died of poison or a broken heart (November 1572); but with the advent of Morton, a man of stronger fibre, the Protestant cause became more aggressive, and the English influence over Scotland more decided. Shortly before this happened, when the effects of St. Bartholomew were still weighing on the English court, and it was known that Catharine de Medici and her son were as busy with the Archbishop of Glasgow in supporting the Hamiltons and Gordons as was Cardinal Lorraine himself, secret instructions were given to Killigrew, the English Ambassador in Scotland, to take a step which under any other circumstances would have been inexcusable. The secret instructions are drafted in Burghley’s hand, and more obloquy has been piled upon his memory in consequence of them than for any other action in his career; even his thick-and-thin apologist, Dr. Nares, confessing that he could only look upon Killigrew’s orders “with feelings of disgust and horror.” Killigrew’s open mission was to reconcile the King’s party with those who championed the cause of his mother, and especially with Kirkaldy of Grange and Lethington, who still held Edinburgh Castle; but his secret instructions[286] were to a different effect. He was to warn the Protestants that a second St. Bartholomew might be intended in Scotland—not by any means an improbable suggestion, considering who were the promoters of the original massacre. “But you are also chosen to deal in a third matter of far greater moment.” The continuance of the Queen of Scots in England, he is told, is considered dangerous, and it is deemed desirable that she should be sent to Scotland and delivered to the Regent (Mar), “if it might be wrought that they themselves should secretly require it, with good assurance to deal with her by way of justice, that she should receive that which she hath deserved, whereby no further peril should ensue from her escaping, or by setting her up again. Otherwise the Council of England will never assent to deliver her out of the realm; and for assurance, none can suffice but hostages of good value—that is, some children of the Regent and the Earl of Morton.”[366] The suggestion was not a chivalrous or a generous one. It meant nothing less than handing over the unfortunate Mary to her enemies to be executed, and so to rid Elizabeth of her troublesome guest without responsibility. Killigrew was Burghley’s brother-in-law, and the two, with Leicester and the Queen, were the only persons acquainted with the intention.

On his arrival in Edinburgh the new envoy found the Protestants profoundly moved by the news of the massacre in Paris; Knox, paralysed and on the brink of the grave, used his last remaining spark of life to denounce the Guises and the Papists who had forged the murder plot against the people of God. Killigrew found Morton ready and eager to help in the sacrifice of Mary, but Mar held back; and Burghley and Leicester wrote,[287] urging speed in the matter.[367] When the terms of the Scots at last were sent to Burghley, it was seen that, though they were willing to have Mary killed, they would not relieve Elizabeth of the responsibility.[368] The death of Mar put an end for a time to the negotiation, which was never seriously undertaken again, as it was clear that the Scots would drive too hard a bargain to suit Elizabeth.

It is my province to explain facts rather than to apologise for them, and the explanation of the plan to cause Mary to be judicially murdered in Scotland must be sought in the panic which seized upon the Protestants after St. Bartholomew. The massacre was generally believed to be only a part of a plan for the universal extirpation of the reformers, in which it was known that Mary Stuart’s friends and relatives were the prime movers, and one of the main objects was represented to be the raising of Mary to the throne of a Catholic Great Britain. So long as this belief existed, no step was inexcusable that aimed at frustrating so diabolical and widespread a conspiracy. That Burghley himself was not sensible of any turpitude in the matter may be seen from a letter written by him to Walsingham on the 14th January 1573, begging him to discover the[288] author of a book printed in Paris, in which he and Bacon are scurrilously accused of plans against Norfolk and Mary. “God amend his spirit,” he says, referring to the author, “and confound his malice. As for my part, if I have any such malicious or malignant spirit, God presently so confound my body to ashes and my soul to perpetual torment in hell.”[369]

How soon Catharine de Medici and her son regretted the false step of St. Bartholomew is seen by their attitude towards England early in the following year (1573). The Archbishop of Glasgow was plainly told that no more help could be given to his mistress, Cardinal Lorraine failed ignominiously to draw France into renewed activity on behalf of the League, and Charles IX. considered it necessary to apologise to Elizabeth for the presence in his court of the special papal envoy already referred to. It was seen also that the blood and iron policy of Alba had ended in failure: the revolt in the Netherlands was stronger than ever, Holland was entirely in the hands of Orange, and most of the Catholic provinces of Flanders even had broken from their Spanish allegiance. Under these circumstances it seemed possible that the secular dream of Frenchmen might eventually come to pass, and the fine harbours and busy towns of Belgium might fall to the share of France. But this could only be if she had a close understanding and made common cause with England. So once more the Alen?on marriage was vigorously pushed to the front by Catharine. In February the French Ambassador saw Elizabeth, and formally prayed her to give an answer whether she would marry the Prince or not. If she would only let them know her pleasure now, the King and Queen-mother would trouble her no more. It was a good opportunity, and Elizabeth[289] made the most of it. Fair terms must be given to the Huguenots in Rochelle, she said, and on condition that this was done, she would give an answer about Alen?on through Lord Burghley. On the 18th February the Lord Treasurer made his formal speech. The Queen would never marry a man she had never seen. If the Prince liked to come over, even secretly, he would be welcome; but in any case an interview had better precede the discussion of religion, because if the lovers did not fancy each other, the question of conscience would be a convenient pretext for breaking off the negotiation; but still no public exercise of Catholic worship must be expected. When Burghley sent to Walsingham a copy of his speech, he added for his private information: “I see the imminent perils to this State, and … the success (i.e. the succession) of the crown manifestly uncertain, or rather so manifestly prejudicial to the state of religion, that I cannot but still persist in seeking marriage for her Majesty, and finding no way that is liking to her but this of the Duke, I do force myself to pursue it with desire, and do fancy myself with imaginations that if he do come hither her Majesty would not refuse him.… If I am deceived, yet for the time it easeth me to imagine that such a sequel may follow.”[370] This was uncertain enough; but Walsingham was even less encouraging. He was sick of the whole hollow business; profoundly distrustful of the French; and, moreover, was a friend of Leicester, who constantly plied him with letters deprecating the match. This, then, is how he managed cleverly to stand in with Burghley whilst serving Leicester. “Touching my private opinion of the marriage, the great impediment that I find in the same is the contentment of the eye. The gentleman, sure, is void of any good favour, besides the[290] blemish of the small pocks. Now, when I weigh the same with the delicateness of her Majesty’s eye, and considering also that there are some about her in credit, who in respect of their particular interests, have neither regard for her Majesty, nor to the preservation of our country from ruine, and will rather increase the misliking by defacing him than by dutifully laying before her the necessity of marriage … I hardly think there will ever grow any liking.… Whether this marriage be sincerely meant here or not is a hard point to judge … in my opinion I think rather no than yea.”[371] This was almost the last letter written by Walsingham as Ambassador. He was recalled, to be shortly afterwards appointed joint-Secretary of State with Sir Thomas Smith, with the intention of still further relieving Burghley from routine labour; and Dr. Dale, as Ambassador in Paris, kept alive the ridiculous, and frequently insincere, discussion of the marriage of Elizabeth and Alen?on.[372]

Burghley’s labours and anxieties were not confined to foreign affairs. His interest in the uniformity and discipline of the Anglican Church was unceasing, and especially in connection with his Chancellorship of Cambridge University, gave him endless anxiety. The vestments controversy had now widened and deepened. The famous tract called “An Admonition to Parliament” had been presented to the Parliament of 1572 by Cartwright; and its violence in a Puritan direction had provoked a controversy, which, at the period now under consideration (1573), had developed on one side into a bitter antagonism to prelacy, and even sacerdotalism in all its forms. Both parties appealed to Burghley. He made a speech in the Star Chamber which left no[291] doubt as to his attitude, if any such ever existed, on the point. The Queen, he said, was determined to have the laws obeyed. No innovation of ritual or practice would be permitted. If any of the “novelists” were under the impression that departures from the rules laid down would remain unpunished, he disabused their minds. A Fellow of Peterhouse, Cambridge, named Chark, violently attacked the hierarchy from the University pulpits, and was admonished. He persisted, and was ejected from his Fellowship. Another Cambridge man, Edward Dering, Lecturer at St. Paul’s Cathedral, acted similarly, and was summoned before the Privy Council, and was suspended from his preferment. At the instance of Bishop Sandys[373] he was restored, but again brought before the Star Chamber when he addressed a long letter to Burghley advocating his views. Whilst Leicester always favoured the Puritans, the Lord Treasurer was thus on the side of the law and the prelates; and though he was constantly chosen as arbiter, even by those with whom he disagreed, he never wavered in his insistence on the maintenance of uniformity, and obedience to the prescriptions laid down by Parliament and the rulers of the Church.[374]

Notwithstanding the appointment of two Secretaries[292] of State, which somewhat relieved him from writing despatches, almost every matter, great and small, was still referred to Burghley. We have given instances of his activity in foreign and ecclesiastical affairs; but, as Ellis[375] truly says, “from a question of peace or war, down to a regulation for the lining of slop hose; from quarrels at court to the bickering between a schoolmaster and his scholar; from the arrest of a peer to the punishment of a cutpurse—all was reported to him, and by all parties in turn his favour was craved.”

It must have been difficult for him to keep clear of court factions and scandal; but though it was notorious that Leicester always opposed him, they still remained outwardly friendly, and their letters to each other are full of civil expressions. Sussex and Hatton were for ever at feud with Leicester. Alen?on’s amorous agents scandalised all beholders by their open flirting with the Queen, to which Leicester retorted by making violent love to two sisters, Lady Sheffield and Frances Howard; and the light-hearted and light-heeled young Earl of Oxford, Burghley’s son-in-law at this time (1573), had danced himself into the good graces of the erotic Queen, which he soon lost by his folly. Stern Lady Burghley openly and imprudently condemned this philandering, and the Queen fell into a rage with her; yet “my Lord Treasurer, even after his old manner, dealeth with matters of the State only, and beareth himself very uprightly.… At all these love matters my Lord Treasurer winketh, and will not meddle any way.”[376]


Burghley’s private correspondence with his steward, Kemp, at Burghley, at this period, shows that his care for detail in his household management was as unwearied as ever. One letter written in June 1573 by Kemp is very curious. Burghley’s mother was still alive, but, of course, very aged. She appears to have become unduly penurious as to her garb, and her son had ordered a dress for the old lady. The steward writes: “Mr. Thomas Cecil came home well, and my mistress, your mother, came to Burghley two hours before him. The gown that you would make, it must be for every day, and yet because it comes from you (except you write to her to the contrary) she will make it her holiday gown; whereof she hath great store already, both of silk and cloth. But I think, sir, if you make her one of cloth, with some velvet on it, with your letter to desire her for your sake to wear it daily, she would accustom herself to it; so as she would forget to go any longer in such base apparel as she hath used to have a delight in, which is too mean for one of a lower estate than she is.” The old lady also desired a chaplain for service twice a day; and by Burghley’s endorsement on the letter, it is evident that the gown and the chaplain were sent to her.

During the Queen’s great progress through Kent and Sussex in the autumn, Burghley attended her; and whilst the court was at Eridge, the Treasurer, not without difficulty, persuaded the Queen to accede to Mary Stuart’s request, through the Earl of Shrewsbury, that she should be allowed to visit the baths of Buxton, whither shortly afterwards Burghley himself went for his own malady,[377][294] and saw the unhappy Queen, whom on this occasion, at all events, he impressed not unfavourably.[378] During the Queen’s progress, which was on a more lavish scale even than usual,[379] a determined attempt was made—and, according to one of Mary Stuart’s letters from Buxton, not quite unsuccessfully—to arouse Elizabeth’s distrust of Burghley. Simultaneously there were sent to the Queen, to Burghley, to Bacon, and the principal courtiers and ecclesiastics, another violent book printed in France against Burghley and the Lord Keeper. A copy was sent to the Queen by Lord Windsor, a refugee on the Continent, with great professions of attachment, and hints evidently directed against Burghley, “although for my part, in mine opinion, I suppose he is too wise to be overtaken in many of those things which he is touched withal.”[380] Burghley received his copy from an unknown hand in Canterbury Cathedral precincts, where he was lodged, and it appears quite to have upset his equanimity. He wrote (11th September 1573) to the Archbishop (Parker) bitterly resenting the attack at such a time “by some domestic hidden scorpion.” “If God and our consciences were not our defence and consolation against these pestilential darts, we might well be weary of our lives.” Parker[295] returned “the mad book, so outrageously penned that malice hath made him blind. I judge it not worth an answer.” Bacon was less disturbed with the matter than his brother-in-law, and summarises the contents of the book as follows: “It consisteth of three points. Chiefly it is to change the religion that now is; 2nd, to establish the Scottish Queen’s party; and, 3rd, is an invective against us two. I like the conjunction of the matter, though I mislike the impudent lies of the author to maintain it.”

The accession of Morton to the Regency of Scotland had been followed by the complete collapse of Mary’s cause there. Killigrew was ready with English bribes, and the Hamiltons and the Gordons were induced to abandon a hopeless struggle and lay down their arms. Only Kirkaldy of Grange held out, hoping against hope that the promised Guisan help would reach him in Edinburgh Castle. Once a large sum of French money for him was withheld by the treachery of Sir James Balfour, corrupt almost to the point of grotesqueness; and thenceforward Kirkaldy, Lord Hume, and the rest of the party simply held out in the castle to save their lives. But when Drury with English troops crossed the Border and reinforced Morton, Kirkaldy surrendered to the English general, on promise of fair treatment. Morton insisted upon the prisoners being delivered to him, for whilst they lived, he said, there would be no safety for him or the State; and though Drury held out, Elizabeth at last gave way to Morton’s importunity, and brave Kirkaldy and the rest of Mary’s staunch friends lost their heads. Thenceforward Mary Stuart’s cause was dead, so far as the Scottish people themselves were concerned. Morton nearly obtained the Bishop of Ross, too, from Elizabeth, but he was after all a sovereign’s Ambassador, and her Council dissuaded her from surrendering him.[296] On his abject submission and solemn promise never again to take part in public affairs,[381] he was allowed to go to France, to break his pledge at once, and become thenceforward an untiring agent for the furtherance of Spanish aims in England. Thus Scotland for a time, under so firm an English ally as Morton, ceased to cause active anxiety to Elizabeth and her minister.

Alba, sick of his sanguinary failure, was replaced in Flanders by a more diplomatic Governor (Requ............
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