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CHAPTER XIV 1584-1587
The militant Protestants were now paramount in Elizabeth’s Council, and soon made their influence felt, not only in foreign relations, but in home affairs as well. They were in favour of an aggressive policy in aid of Protestantism abroad, and doubtless thought that the best way to strengthen their hands would be to strike at Prelacy at home, and to discredit the last vestiges of the old faith, against the foreign champions of which they were ready to do national battle.

The appointment of Whitgift to the Archbishopric of Canterbury had been avowedly made by the Queen (September 1583) for the purpose of repairing the effects of Grindal’s leniency, and bringing the Nonconformists to obedience; “to hold a strait rein, to press the discipline of his Church, and recover his province to uniformity.” He had set about his work with a thoroughness which brought upon him a storm of reproach from ministers, and greatly embittered the controversies within the Church.[492] Burghley felt strongly on the question of uniformity, as involving obedience to the law; but Whitgift’s[388] methods were too severe even for him, and produced from him more than one rebuke. He was the referee of all parties—Puritans, Churchmen, and Catholics appealed to him as their friend—and he strove to hold the balance fairly, whilst deprecating extreme views on each side. Leicester and Knollys were ceaseless in the attacks upon the prelates, and Whitgift’s violence made it difficult for Burghley to defend him. In one of his letters to the Archbishop he says, “I am sorry to trouble your Grace, but I am more troubled myself, not only with many private petitions of ministers recommended by persons of credit as being peaceable persons in their ministry, but yet more with complaints to your Grace and colleagues, greatly troubled; but also I am now daily charged by Councillors and public persons to neglect my duty in not staying your Grace’s proceedings, so vehement and general against ministers and preachers, as the Papists are thereby encouraged, and ill-disposed subjects animated, and her Majesty’s safety endangered.”

Now that the Puritan party had the upper hand, Burghley’s proverbial middle course was not strong enough for his colleagues, and they determined to deal with Prelacy and Papacy at the same time. The first thing was to pack the new Parliament, and in this Leicester laboured unblushingly. Sir Simon D’Ewes’ Journal sets forth the great number of blank proxies sent to the Earl; and if his letter to the electors of Andover is typical, this is not to be wondered at. He boldly asks them to send him “your election in blank, and I will put in the names.” Another letter from the Privy Council to Lord Cobham[493] directs him to obtain the nomination of all the members for the Cinque Ports. Parliament met at the end of November, and a formal complaint of the Puritan and Nonconformist ministers was presented to[389] the House of Commons, which, after reducing the number of its articles from thirty-four to sixteen, it adopted and laid before the House of Lords. Whitgift and his colleagues fought hard, cautiously aided by Burghley and the Queen, who, when she afterwards dismissed Parliament, roundly scolded the members for interfering with her religious prerogative; and the only effect of the complaints was to enable Burghley to exert pressure upon the prelates to allay their zeal.

The attack of the militant Protestants against the Catholics, however, was more effectual, although even that was somewhat palliated by Lord Burghley’s moderation. It was evident now that the Catholic League abroad and its instruments would stick at nothing. Father Creighton, the priest who had played so prominent a part in the abortive plans of D’Aubigny, Mendoza, and the Jesuits, had been captured with some of his brother seminarists, and the rack had torn from them confirmation of the desperate plans of which the Throgmorton conspiracy had given an inkling. Leicester and his party had aroused Protestant horror of such projects to fever heat. At his instance an association had been formed, pledged by oath to defend the Queen’s life or to avenge it, and to exclude for ever from the throne any person who might benefit by the Queen’s removal. Mary Stuart somewhat naturally regarded the last clause as directed against herself, and endeavoured to take the sting from it by offering her own qualified adhesion to the association, which, however, was declined.

When the association was legalised by a bill in Parliament, the Queen (Elizabeth), under Burghley’s influence, sent a message to the House, abating some of the objectionable features, and reconciling it with the rules of English equity. No penalties were to accrue before the persons accused had been found guilty by a regular[390] commission, and Mary and her heirs were excused from forfeiture, unless Elizabeth were assassinated.

The new bill against Catholics was easily passed, under feelings such as those prevailing in the House and the country, and the enactment was regarded as a natural retort to the promulgation of the Papal bulls in favour of revolution in England. All native Jesuits and seminarists found in England after forty days were to be treated as traitors, and it was felony to shelter or harbour them. English students or priests abroad were to be forced to return within six months and take the oath of supremacy, or incur the penalty for high treason; and many similar provisions were made, by which the world could see that the militant Protestants of England had picked up the gage thrown down by Philip and the Pope. Henceforward it was to be war to the knife until one side or the other was vanquished, and Lord Burghley’s astute policy of balance and compromise was cast into the background after a quarter of a century of almost unbroken success.[494]

Almost the only dissenting voice in the House of Commons against the penal bill was that of Dr. William Parry, member for Queenborough. In a violent and abusive speech, he said that the House was so evidently biassed that it was useless to give it the special reasons he had for opposing the bill, but would state them to the Queen alone. This was considered insulting to the House, and he was committed to the charge of the sergeant-at-arms, but was released by the Queen and Council the following day. The events which followed form one of the unsolved riddles of history. Parry was a man of bad[391] character, who for years had been one of Burghley’s many spies upon the English refugees on the Continent. He appears, however, to have been esteemed more highly by the Treasurer than such instruments usually are.

When young Anthony Bacon was sent on his travels to France, his uncle, Burghley, specially instructed him to cultivate the acquaintance of Dr. Parry. Leicester complained to the Queen of this, and the Lord Treasurer undertook that his nephew should not be shaken either in loyalty or religion by his acquaintanceship with Parry.[495] After the latter returned to England in 1583 he was elected member of the Parliament of the following year, after having persistently but unsuccessfully begged a sinecure office from Burghley. From his first arrival he had been full of real or pretended plots for the assassination of the Queen, which he professed to have discovered on the Continent. He was, like all men of his profession, an unprincipled scamp, and made these secret disclosures the ground for ceaseless demands for reward. He was disappointed and discontented, as well as vain and boastful, and overshot the mark. In one of his interviews with the Queen he produced a somewhat doubtfully worded letter of approval from the Papal Secretary of State, Cardinal Como,[496] which, he said, referred to a pretended project undertaken by him (Parry) for the murder of the Queen. He talked loosely to Charles Neville and other Catholics of this plot as a real one, and six weeks[392] after his escapade in Parliament was arrested and lodged in jail. At first he would admit nothing, but the fear of the rack, or some other motive, produced from him a full and complete confession of a regular plan—once, he said, nearly executed—for killing Elizabeth; but before sentence he vehemently retracted, and appealed to the knowledge of the Queen, Burghley, and Walsingham that he was innocent. But if they possessed this knowledge they never revealed it, and Parry died the revolting death of a traitor, clamouring to the last that Elizabeth herself was responsible for his sacrifice.

It cannot be doubted that Parry was an agent provocateur, and great question arises as to the reality of the crime for which he was punished. I have found no trace in the Spanish correspondence of his having been a tool of Mendoza or Philip, such as exists in the cases of Throgmorton, Babington, and others; and I consider that the evidence generally favours the idea that he was deliberately caught in his own lure, and sacrificed in order to aggravate the anti-Catholic fervour in the country, and secure the passage of the penal enactments. In one particular I dissent from nearly every historian who has written on the subject. All fingers point at Lord Burghley as the author of the plan. I look upon it as being the work of Leicester, Knollys, and Walsingham. It was they, and not Burghley, who were anxious to strengthen the fervent Protestant party. It was they, and not Burghley, who were forcing the penal enactments through the Parliament they had packed. The Treasurer could hardly have been blind to what was going on, but he could not afford to champion Parry. The latter, a venal scoundrel known to be in Burghley’s pay, but discontented with his patron, was doubtless bought by Leicester to play his part in Parliament, and afterwards to confess the Catholic plot on[393] the assurance of pardon, with the object of blackening the Catholics, and perhaps, by implication, Burghley as well.

That Leicester’s friends were at the time seeking to represent the Lord Treasurer as against the Protestant cause is clear from several indignant letters written by Burghley himself. “If they cannot,” he says, “prove all their lies, let them make use of any one proof wherewith to prove me guilty of falsehood, injustice, bribery or dissimulation or double-dealing in Council, either with her Majesty or with her Councillors. Let them charge me on any point that I have not dealt as earnestly with the Queen to aid the afflicted in the Low Countries to withstand the increasing power of the King of Spain, the assurance of the King of Scots to be tied to her Majesty with reward, yea, with the greatest pension that any other hath. If in any of these I am proved to be behind or slower than any in a discreet manner, I will yield myself worthy of perpetual reproach as though I were guilty of all they use to bluster against me. They that say in rash and malicious mockery that England is become Regnum Cecilianum may use their own cankered humour.” In July of the same year he writes in similar strain to Sir Thomas Edmunds:[497] “If you knew how earnest a course I hold with her Majesty, both privately and openly, for her to retain the King of Scots with friendship and liberality, yea, and to retain the Master of Gray and Justice-Clerk, with rewards to continue their offices, which indeed are well known to me to be very good, you would think there could be no more shameful lies made by Satan himself than these be; and finding myself thus maliciously bitten with the tongues and pens of courtiers here, if God did not comfort me, I had cause to fear murdering hands or poisoning points; but God is my keeper.”


The more or less hollow negotiations for the liberation of Mary, and for the association of her son with herself in her sovereign rights, had dragged on intermittently for years. Burghley himself has set forth the reasons for the successive failures;[498] in each case the discovery of some fresh plot in her favour. The serious set of conspiracies brought to light in 1584 had caused her removal from the mild custody of Burghley’s friend, Lord Shrewsbury, to that of the rigid Puritan, Sir Amyas Paulet, at Tutbury. In her troubles the captive Queen, like every one else, appealed to Burghley, and especially in the matter of the reckless accusations of immorality brought by the Countess of Shrewsbury and her Cavendish sons against her husband and Mary.[499]

Burghley’s kindness in this matter, and his attempts to soften the fresh severity of the Queen’s captivity, had not only persuaded Mary’s agents that he was her friend,[500] but had given to Leicester and his party an excuse for spreading rumours to the Treasurer’s detriment. At an inopportune time, Nau, Mary’s French secretary, had gone to London with new plans of associated sovereignty; but almost simultaneously the Master of Gray had arrived as James’s Ambassador. He was easily bought by the English Government, as we have seen, with the full approval of Burghley;[501] and on his return to Scotland promptly caused the rejection by the Lords of Nau’s project in favour of Mary. It was never on the question of securing the Scots by bribery to the English interest that Burghley was remiss. It was open war with Spain that he always opposed.

In the meanwhile the toils were closing round the unhappy[395] Mary. She had now thrown herself entirely into the arms of Spain; and the Guises were being gradually but steadily forced into the background by Philip, as being likely to frustrate his plans, by claiming for their kinsman, James Stuart, the succession of England after his mother. Every letter to and from Tutbury was intercepted by Paulet. Morgan, Charles Paget, Robert Bruce, and others, in their communications with Mary, laid bare her hopes and their intrigues.[502] If any doubts had previously existed as to the intentions of Spain and the Queen of Scots, they could exist no longer. The only question for England was how best to withstand the combination against her. Here, as usual, Burghley was at issue with the now dominant party of militant Protestants; and equally, as usual, his opposition was cautious and indirect. Leicester and his friends were for open operations against Spain both in the Netherlands and on the high seas, and for helping Henry III. to withstand the Guises; whilst the Treasurer preferred to stand on the defensive, and keep as much money in hand as possible.[503] Elizabeth rarely required urging to parsimony, and by appealing to her weakness Burghley was able for a time to moderate the plans of the other party.

But events were too strong for him. Mainly by his influence Leicester had been restrained since 1580 from subsidising a great expedition against Philip in favour of the Portuguese Pretender, Don Antonio; but in the spring of 1585 the treacherous seizure of English ships in Spain had aroused the English to fury. Drake’s great expedition of twenty-nine ships was fitted out, and general reprisals authorised. Never was an expedition[396] more popular than this, for the English sailors were aching for a fight with foes they knew they could beat, and Burghley’s cautions were scouted. Drake’s fleet sailed in September, doubtful to the last moment whether the Queen would not be prevailed upon to stay it;[504] and by sacking Santo Domingo and ravaging Santiago and Cartagena almost without hindrance, demonstrated the ineffective clumsiness of Philip’s methods. Leicester and the war-party were now almost unrestrained; for the Lord Treasurer made the best of it, and confined his efforts to minimising the cost of the new policy as much as possible, and suggesting caution to the Queen.

The Commissioners from the States continued to urge the Queen to assume the sovereignty of the Netherlands, and to govern the country, either directly or through a nominee; but this was a responsibility which neither she nor Burghley cared to accept. At length, after much hesitation on the part of the Queen, Sir John Norris was sent with an English force of 5000 men to take possession of the strong cautionary places offered by the Hollanders, and Leicester was designated to follow as Lieutenant-General of the Queen’s forces (September 1585).

Elizabeth approached the business with fear and trembling. It was a departure from Burghley’s safe and tried policy, and was involving her in large expenditure. She distrusted rebels and popular governments; she did not like to send away her best troops in a time of danger, and she railed often and loudly at Leicester and Walsingham for dragging her into such a pass. Only a day after Leicester’s appointment she changed her mind and bade him suspend his preparations. “Her pleasure is,” wrote Walsingham, “that you proceed no further until you speak with her. How this cometh about I know not.[397] The matter is to be kept secret. These changes here may work some such changes in the Low Countries as may prove irreparable. God give her Majesty another mind, … or it will work both hers and her best affected subjects’ ruin.”[505] To this Leicester wrote one letter of submission to be shown to the Queen, and the other for Walsingham’s own eye, full of indignation. “This,” he says, “is the strangest dealing in the world.… What must be thought of such an alteration? I am weary of life and all.”

Elizabeth had, however, gone too far now to retire, and Leicester’s journey went forward. But it is plain to see that whilst he was making his preparations to act as sovereign on his own account, the Queen, influenced by Burghley, was drafting his instructions in a way that strictly limited his power for harm, and minimised her responsibility towards Spain. Leicester was directed to “let the States understand that whereby their Commissioners made offer unto her Majesty, first of the sovereignty of those countries, which for sundry respects she did not accept; secondly, under her protection to be governed absolutely by such as her Majesty would appoint and send over as her Lieutenant. That her Majesty, although she would not take so much upon her as to command them in such absolute sort, yet unless they should show themselves forward to use the advice of her Majesty … she would think her favours unworthily bestowed upon them.”

This must have been gall and wormwood for Leicester, for in his own notes he lays down as his guiding principles, “First, that he have as much authoryte as the Prince of Orange had; or any other Captain-General hath had heretofore: second, that there be as much allowance by the States for the said Governor as the[398] Prince had, with all offices apportenaunt.”[506] He had infinite trouble in getting money from the Queen, and went so far as to offer to pledge his own lands to her as security; but at last, in December, all was ready, and Leicester foolishly went to Holland with his vague ambitions, leaving Burghley in possession at home. It is plain from his beseeching letter of farewell to the Lord Treasurer that he recognised the danger. He prays him earnestly not to have any change made in the plans agreed upon, and to provide sufficient resources for the sake of the cause involved and for the Queen’s honour. “Hir Majesty, I se, my lord, often tymes doth fall into myslyke of this cause, and sondry opinions yt may brede in hir withal, but I trust in the Lord, seeing hir Highness hath thus far resolved, and gone also to this far executyon as she hath, and that myne and other menne’s poor lives are adventured for hir sake, that she will fortify and mainteyn her own action to the full performance that she hath agreed on.”[507] Burghley was very ill at the time, unable to rise from his couch, but in answer to the Earl’s appeal he assured him that he would consider himself “accursed in the sight of God” if he did not strive earnestly to promote the success of the expedition.

The Lord Treasurer was, of course, sincere in his desire to prevent the collapse of the Protestant cause in the Netherlands, for he had never ceased for years to insist that the quietude of England mainly depended upon it. Where he differed from Leicester was in his determination, if possible, to avoid such action as would lead to an open breach with Spain. Before even Leicester landed at Flushing he had begun to quarrel with the Dutchmen, and in a fortnight was intriguing to obtain an offer of the sovereignty of the[399] States for himself. The offer was made, and modestly refused at first; but on further pressure Leicester accepted the sovereignty, as he had intended to do from the first (January 1586). The rage of Elizabeth knew no bounds. This would make her infamous, she said, to all the world. Leicester was timid at the consequences of the step he had taken, and made matters worse by delaying for weeks to write explanations to the angry Queen. Walsingham and Hatton did their best, but very ineffectually, to appease her. Burghley in a letter to Leicester (7th February) assured him that he too had done so, and that he himself approved of his action, and hoped to “move her Majesty to alter her hard opinion.” As we have seen, Burghley’s opposition was seldom direct, and it may be accepted as probable that he mildly deprecated the Queen’s anger against her favourite; but a remark in a letter (17th February) from Davison, who was sent by Leicester to explain and extenuate his act to the Queen,[508] seems to show that the Lord Treasurer’s advocacy had not been so earnest as he would have had Leicester to believe.

The Queen had ordered Heneage to go to Holland post-haste, to command Leicester openly to abandon his new title; but from the 7th February till the 14th, whilst Heneage’s harsh instructions were being drafted, Burghley was diplomatically absent from court, and the pleading of Walsingham and Hatton had no softening effect upon the Queen. On the 13th February, Davison at length[400] arrived with Leicester’s excuses. The Queen railed and stormed until he was reduced to tears. She refused at first to receive Leicester’s letter or to delay Heneage’s departure. Burghley arrived the next day, and Davison writes on the 17th that he “had successfully exerted himself to convince the Lord Treasurer that the measures adopted were necessary, and that his Lordship had urged the Queen on the subject.”

The only effect of Burghley’s persuasion, however, was to obtain for Heneage discretion to withhold, if he considered necessary, the Queen’s letter to the States, and to save Leicester from the degradation of a public renunciation. Burghley had thus done his best to preserve Leicester’s friendship and gratitude; but, after all, it was his policy, and not that of Leicester, that was triumphant. Heneage was a friend of the Earl’s, and on his arrival in Holland delayed action; but the Queen was not to be appeased. She had, she said, been slighted, and her commission exceeded, and would send no money till her instructions were fulfilled. Confusion and danger naturally resulted, and Leicester’s friends redoubled their efforts to save him. Burghley himself assured Leicester (31st March) that he had threatened to resign his office unless she changed her course. “I used boldly such language in this matter, as I found her doubtful whether to charge me with presumption, which partly she did, or with some astonishment of my round speech, which truly was no other than my conscience did move me, even in amaritudine anima. And then her Majesty began to be more calm than before, and, as I conceived, readier to qualify her displeasure.”[509]

When the Queen saw that Heneage and Leicester were construing her leniency into acquiescence of the Earl’s action, she blazed out again; and when Burghley[401] begged her to allow Heneage to return and explain the circumstances, “she grew so passionate in the matter that she forbade me to argue more;” and herself wrote a letter to Heneage containing these words: “Do as you are bidden, and leave your considerations for your own affairs; for in some things you had clear commandment, which you did not do, and in others none, which you did.” At the urgent prayer of the States, however, representing the danger to the cause which a public deposition of Leicester would bring about, the Queen finally allowed matters to rest until they could devise some harmless way out of the difficulty.

Throughout the whole business Burghley almost ostentatiously acted the part of Leicester’s friend. It was a safe course for him to take, for the Queen was so angry that he could keep the good-will of Leicester and the Protestants, and yet be certain of the ultimate failure of his opponent. As soon as the States understood Leicester’s position, and had realised his incompetence, they were only too anxious to be rid of him; and throughout his inglorious government Burghley could well speak in his favour, for it must have been evident that the Earl was working his own ruin, and that his position was untenable. One curious feature in the matter is that both Burghley and Walsingham hinted to Leicester that the Queen was being influenced by some one underhand. “Surely,” writes the Secretary, “there is some treachery amongst ourselves, for I cannot think she would do this out of her own head;” and the gossip of the court pointed at Ralegh, who wrote to Leicester[510] vigorously protesting against the calumny.

There were, however, wheels within wheels in Elizabeth’s court. Two of her Councillors were Spanish spies, Ralegh was Burghley’s partisan, the Conservative party[402] in favour of friendship with the House of Burgundy was not dead, and, notwithstanding all that has been written, it may be fairly assumed that the decadence of Leicester and the militant Protestant party during the Earl’s absence in Holland did not take place without some secret prompting from Lord Burghley.

In the meanwhile the plans for the invasion of England were gradually maturing in Philip’s slow mind. The raid of Drake’s fleet upon his colonies, and Leicester’s assumption of the sovereignty of the Netherlands, had at last convinced Philip, after nearly thirty years of hesitancy, that England must be coerced into Catholicism, or Spain must descend from its high estate. So long as the elevation of Mary Stuart meant a Guisan domination of England, with shifty James as his mother’s heir, it had not suited Philip to squander his much needed resources upon the overthrow of Elizabeth; but by this time Guise was pledged to vast ambitions in France, which could only be realised by Philip’s help. The Jesuits and English Catholics had persuaded the Spaniard that he would be welcomed in England, whilst a Scot or a Frenchman would be resisted to the death. Most of Mary’s agents, too, had been bribed to the same side, and Mendoza in Paris was her prime adviser and mainstay. Various attempts were made by the Scottish Catholics and Guise’s friends to manage the subjugation of England over the Scottish Border; but though Philip affected to listen to their approaches, and used them as a diversion, his plan was already fixed—England must be won by Spaniards in Mary’s name, and be held thenceforward in Spanish hands. Mary was ready to agree to anything, and at the prompting of Philip’s agents she disinherited her son (June 1586) in favour of the King of Spain. Morgan, Paget, and others had at last succeeded in reopening communication[403] with Mary, who had now lost all hope of release except by force. A close alliance between England and James VI. had been agreed to: she knew that no help would come from her son or his Government; and her many letters to Charles Paget, to Mendoza, and to Philip himself, leave no doubt whatever that she was fully cognisant of the plans for the overthrow, and perhaps murder, of Elizabeth, in order that she, Mary, might be raised by Spanish pikes to the English throne.[511]

In May 1586 the priest Ballard had seen Mendoza in Paris, and had sought the countenance of Spain for the assassination of Elizabeth; and in August the matter had so far progressed as to enable Gifford to give to Mendoza full particulars of the vile plan. There was, according to his account, hardly a Catholic or schismatic gentleman in England who was not in favour of the plot; and though Philip always distrusted a conspiracy known to many, he promised armed help from Flanders if the Queen were killed. Mendoza, when he saw Gifford, recommended that Don Antonio, Burghley, Walsingham, Hunsdon, Knollys, and Beale should be killed; but the King wrote on the margin of the letter, “It does not matter so much about Cecil, although he is a great heretic, but he is very old, and it was he who[404] advised the understandings with the Prince of Parma, and he has done no harm. It would be advisable to do as he [i.e. Mendoza] says with the others.”[512]

The folly of Babington and his friends almost passes belief. They seem to have been prodigal of their confidences, and to have had no apprehension of treachery. Babington’s own letter to Mary setting forth in full all the plans in favour of “his dear sovereign” (6th July) was handed immediately by the false agent Gifford to Walsingham. No move was made by Walsingham, except to send the clever clerk Phillips to Chartley to decipher all intercepted letters on the spot, and so to avoid delay in their delivery, which might arouse the suspicion of the conspirators. Surrounded by spies and traitors, but in fancied security, the unhappy Queen involved herself daily deeper in the traps laid for her; approved of Babington’s wild plans, and made provision for her own release, whilst Walsingham watched and waited. When the proofs were incontestable, and all in the Secretary’s hands, the blow fell. On the 4th August Ballard was arrested, Babington and the intended murderer Savage a day or so afterwards, and Mary Stuart’s doom was sealed. She was hurried off temporarily to Tixhall; Nau and Curll were placed under arrest, the Queen’s papers seized, and her rooms closely examined. Amias Paulet was a faithful jailer, and he did his work well. “Amyas, my most faithful, careful servant,” wrote Elizabeth, “God reward thee treblefold for the most troublesome charge so well discharged. If you knew, my Amyas, how kindly, besides most dutifully, my grateful heart accepts and[405] prizes your spotless endeavours and faultless actions, your wise orders and safe regard, performed in so dangerous and crafty a charge, it would ease your travail and rejoice your heart.… Let your wicked murderess know how with hearty sorrow her vile deserts compel these orders, and bid her from me ask God’s forgiveness for her treacherous dealing.” Elizabeth and her ministers rightly appreciated the great peril which she had escaped, and from the first it was recognised by most of them that Mary had forfeited all claim to consideration at their hands.[513]

It is usually assumed by a certain class of writers that Mary was unjustly hounded to her death, mainly by the personal enmity of Lord Burghley. Nothing, in reality, is more distant from the truth. A most dangerous conspiracy against the government and religion of England had been discovered, in which she was a prime mover. Her accomplices rightly suffered the penalty of their crime,[514] and it was due to justice and to the safety of the country that the mainspring of the conspiracy should be disabled for further harm. But still the matter was a delicate and dangerous one, for Catholics were numerous in England, and the great Catholic confederacy abroad was ready to take any advantage which a false step on the part of Elizabeth might give them. As we have seen, moreover, the feelings of the Queen[406] of England herself with regard to the sacredness of anointed sovereigns was strong, and no more difficult problem had ever faced the Government than how to dispose of their troublesome guest in a way that should in future safeguard England from her machinations, whilst respecting the many susceptibilities involved. As usual in moments of difficulty, Elizabeth turned to her aged minister,[515] and as a result of a long private conference with him the question was submitted to the Privy Council. The Catholic members advocated only a further stringency in Mary’s imprisonment. Leicester was in favour of solving the difficulty by the aid of poison,[516] whilst Burghley, followed by Walsingham and others, proposed a regular judicial inquiry, which was now legally possible by virtue of the Act of Association passed by Parliament in the previous year. A commission was consequently issued on the 6th October for the trial of Mary, containing the names of forty-six of the principal peers and judges, and all the Councillors, but only after some bickering between the Queen and Burghley with regard to the style to be given to Mary and other details.[517]

Before this point had been reached, however, measures had been taken to test the feeling of foreign powers on the subject. Diplomatic relations had ceased between Spain and England; but as soon as the Babington conspiracy[407] was discovered, Walsingham impressed upon Chateauneuf, the French Ambassador, that the Spaniards were at the bottom of it, and that it was directed almost as much against the King of France as against Elizabeth herself. The Ambassador himself was a strong Guisan,[518] and personally was an object of odium and suspicion to the excited Londoners; but his master’s hatred of the Guises and dread of their objects was growing daily, and when Madame de Montpensier prayed Henry to intercede for the protection of Mary, she obtained but a cold answer;[519] and no official step by the French was taken in her favour at the time, except as a matter of justice Elizabeth was requested that she might have the assistance of counsel. It was clear, therefore, that Henry III............
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