Read Agnes Strickland's Queens of England Online

Authors: 1796-1874 Agnes Strickland,1794-1875 Elizabeth Strickland,Rosalie Kaufman

Tags: #Queens -- Great Britain

Agnes Strickland's Queens of England (7 page)

BOOK: Agnes Strickland's Queens of England
3.89Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

During the next summer the queen invited Elizabeth to an entertainment at Richmond. She was conveyed there in her majesty's own barge, which was richly decorated with garlands of artificial flowers, and covered with a green silk canopy embroidered in gold. Four ladies accom-

panied her, and six boats, containing her retinue, followed. The queen received her in a magnificent pavilion in her garden. This pavilion was made in the form of a castle and covered with purple velvet and cloth of gold, on which appeared the Spanish coat of arms, in honor of King Philip. A fine feast was served to the royal ladies, after which a number of minstrels performed. The next day Elizabeth returned to Hatfield, where she remained quietly until the following November, when Queen Mary died, and she was proclaimed her successor.

[A.D. 1558.] Heralds, stationed at the grand door of Westminster Palace, as well as at other public places, announced the new sovereign with the sound of trumpets, while bells were rung, bonfires lighted, and ale and wine generously dealt out to the populace by the wealthy citizens.

All exhibitions of mourning for the dead queen were quickly replaced by celebrations in honor of the living one, whose accession was regarded with the keenest interest by the whole nation.

Elizabeth's first public act, after receiving the privy council, was to appoint her principal secretary of state. Her choice was Sir William Cecil, who not only proved himself a great statesman, but remained Elizabeth's staunch friend to the day of his death.

On the twenty-eighth day of November the new queen entered the city of London, attended by a train of about a thousand nobles, knights, gentlemen, and ladies, and proceeded to the Charter-house. Next, in accordance with an ancient custom, she proceeded to the Tower. On that occasion the streets through which she passed were spread with fine gravel. The public buildings were hung with rich tapestr}', and guns were fired at regular intervals. The queen was mounted on her palfry, richly attired in purple

-j2 The Queens of England.

velvet: a vast concourse of people had gathered to greet her, and as she approached, preceded by her heralds and great officers, joyful shouts and acclamations filled the air, while she gracefully returned the salutations of even the humblest of her subjects.

At various points the procession halted while the queen was welcomed with music, speeches, or a chorus of children. She seemed pleased with everything, replied to the addresses, noticed everybody, and frankly expressed her gratification at the honors that were showered upon her. Her early misfortunes had taught her a wholesome lesson, and in adversity she had learned the worth of Wordsworth's immortal words: —

" Of friends, however humble, scorn not one."

Attended by Lord Robert Dudley, who had already been appointed to the lofty position of master of the house, Elizabeth entered the Tower, once her dungeon, now her palace, and proceeded straight to her former prison apartment, where falling on her knees she offered up a loud, fervent prayer of thanksgiving.

While passing through the court of the Tower she turned to those near her, and said: " Some have fallen from being princes in this land to be prisoners in this place; I am raised from being a prisoner in this place to be prince of this land, so I must bear myself thankful to God and merciful to men."

After a few days in the Tower the queen went to Somerset House for a fortnight, and then to the palace of Westminster, where she spent Christmas.

The next matter of importance that occupied Elizabeth's attention was her coronation, for which preparations were already going forward in London. It seems strange that so learned a woman as Queen Elizabeth should have been


t558. Elizabeth of England. 73

superstitious, but such was indeed the case, and she scarcely ever took an important step without previously consulting Doctor Dee, the well-known conjuror.

Consequently Robert Dudley was sent to request this humbug to appoint a lucky day for the coronation. After consulting the stars and other heavenly bodies he decided upon Sunday, January 15.

All the favorite summer residences of the Tudor princes stood on the banks of the Thames. Therefore, as the streets of London were narrow and badly paved, it was the custom of the court to pass from one to the other by water. The nobility owned their own barges, and the rowers wore liveries distinguished by the crests and badges of their employers.

Three days before the solemn and imposing coronation ceremony was to take place, a grand procession of boats was arranged for the purpose of conducting her majesty from Westminster to the royal apartments in the Tower.

Rich tapestries, hangings of silk and velvet, gorgeously embroidered in gold and silver, hung from the balconies of the houses all along the route, while gay banners, pennons, and flags floated from the roofs. All the public and private barges were drawn forth in grand array, festooned with garlands of flowers and bright new flags. Bands of music accompanied the procession, and cannons were fired during its entire progress.

On the 14th the queen's passage through the city took place. She appeared in a superb chariot, preceded by trumpeters and heralds in armor, and drawn by richly caparisoned horses. A retinue of lords and ladies followed on horseback, the latter wearing crimson velvet habits. The gentlemen wore gowns of velvet or satin richly trimmed with fur or gold lace, costly gold chains, and caps or hoods

of material to match the gown, adorned with feathers and jewels.

Elizabeth did not sit quietly back in her chariot as other sovereigns did; she kept constantly acting — making speeches, smiling, pressing her hand to her heart, and raising her eyes to heaven as occasion seemed to demand. This peculiar behavior delighted the populace, who showered their sovereign with nosegays and rent the air with shouts and cheers. Several times she stopped the procession to say a few pleasant words to some particularly poor-looking individual, and a branch of rosemary presented by a shabbily-dressed old woman occupied a prominent place in the royal chariot until its arrival at Westminster.

By such trifling actions Elizabeth won the hearts of even the lowest of her subjects. It was her policy to please, and no woman was ever more perfect in the art. She listened with profound attention to the poems and speeches that accompanied the pageants arranged at different points along Cheapside, where every house was decorated and rich carpets covered the path. The pageants were similar to the triumphal arches of the present day. They were erected of wood, and had appropriate sentences in Latin and English inscribed upon them. At each one a child was stationed to explain to the queen in English verse the meaning of the device.

One pageant represented an allegory of Time and Truth. ** Who is that old man with the scythe and hour-glass } " asked Elizabeth. "Time," was the reply. "Time has brought me here," she returned. Truth held a Bible which, at the recital of a particular part of the verse, was let down by a silken cord into the queen's chariot She received the volume with both hands, and reverently pressed it to her heart and lips, declaring in a loud tone that she thanked the city more for that gift than any other, and

added that she would read it diligently. Equal attention was bestowed on the other pageants; and just as she passed through Temple Bar Elizabeth stood up, and, facing the crowd, exclaimed in farewell: " Be ye well assured, I will stand your good queen."

The shouts that arose in response sounded above the report of the guns.

Next morning the queen appeared at Westminster, attired in a mantle of crimson velvet, lined and trimmed with ermine and fastened with cords, tassels, and buttons of silk and gold. Her jacket and train were also of crimson velvet, and gold lace adorned her head-dress. She wore no jewels, and her coronation was remarkable for its sim-pUcity. The Episcopal bishop, Oglethorpe, performed the ceremony, but he followed the Roman Catholic ritual without the slightest change. Though Elizabeth was a Protestant, she raised no objection to the Catholic service until the following Christmas, when just at the moment for making her offerings she arose abruptly, and, followed by her whole retinue, left the chapel. Had any objection been made to this proceeding she would have pleaded sudden illness, but finding it universally approved, she ordered the service to be for the future performed in English, which was never done in the Catholic church.

The learned Doctor Parker was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury, and it was through his influence that the Church of England was established nearly in its present state.

One of the queen's earliest acts was to send friendly messages to all the Protestant princes of Europe; at the same time she assured the pope that she would not interfere with the religious views of any of her subjects. Thus she hoped to conciliate both parties. As a rule, she was gracious to her former persecutors ; but to one member of

y6 The Queens of England.

Queen Mary's household who had been impertinent to her, and who hastened to throw himself at her feet as soon as she was raised to power, she said : " Fear not; we are of the nature of the lion, and cannot descend to the destruction of mice and such small beasts."

Queen Elizabeth made an enemy of Philip, her sister's widower, by refusing his hand when she was twenty-five years of age ; but in doing so she announced her determination never to marry at all.

Her popularity increased to such an extent that the lower classes idolized her, and the nobles and gentlemen of her realm were thirsting for an opportunity to risk their lives in her service.

She appeared in public very frequently, and when her rowing parties took place crowds flocked to the river banks to welcome her with music and fireworks. When she went to Greenwich for the summer all sorts of exhibitions were planned to furnish an excuse for Londoners to flock there.

Much of Elizabeth's popularity was due to the fact that she spared no pains to render the national holidays enjoyable to every class of her subjects. Though she, too, enjoyed the festivities with all the zest of a young, sprightly, healthy woman, her pleasure was not by any means unalloyed.

One serious cause of anxiety was the knowledge that Henry II. of France was constantly trying to place his daughter-in-law, Mary Stuart, on the throne of England, and there was a powerful Catholic party who felt her claim to be a just one. But death soon put an end to the king's interference, and calmed Elizabeth's fears from that source.

Then Mary Stuart's husband, Francis II., threatened to assert her rights; but he was too sickly and insignificant a

>SS9 Elizabeth of England yy

person to take the stand his father had done, and death removed him also out of the way.

So many suitors sought the young queen's hand that we are reminded of what Shakspeare says of Portia in "The Merchant of Venice ": " While we shut the gate on a wooer, another knocks at the door."

[A.D 1559.] Elizabeth coquetted with them, accepted their numerous and costly presents, made use of them to further her plans or carry some point with her council, but never with the slightest intention of marrying any one of them.

When at last Philip II. married she pretended to feel dreadfully mortified, and told the Spanish ambassador " that his king was very inconstant, since he could not wait four short months to see whether she would change her mind."

The person most favored by Queen Elizabeth at that time was Robert Dudley, who afterwards became Earl of Leicester, and much jealousy was aroused among the members of the council on account of it. Dudley was married to Amy Robsart, a beautiful and wealthy heiress, who nevered appeared at court. For some reason or other she resided in a solitary country mansion, where she died quite suddenly. It was given out that an accidental fall had caused it, but there were strong suspicions of murder, and Robert Dudley was not held entirely innocent of it. However, no inquiry was instituted, and the queen would hear no complaints of her favorite. She took occasion to remark publicly that as Dudley was at the palace when his wife died she was convinced of his innocence.

[A.D. 1560.] In 1560 Mistress Montague, her majesty's silk woman, presented her with a pair of knitted silk stockings, which pleased her so much that she laid aside forevc the cloth kind she had always worn.

yS The Queens of England.

A decided change had taken place in the queen's wardrobe, for in her youth she was noted for the extreme simplicity of her attire ; but no sooner did she ascend the throne than she gave full swing to her vanity, and purchased more finery than any Queen of England had ever done. She had three thousand dresses and eighty wigs of different styles and colors. She was positively loaded down with pearls, jewels, velvets, furs, and embroidery. Her costumes were neither pretty nor tasteful; for their object seemed to be nothing but a display of gaudy colors and showy jewelry.

Elizabeth's court was conducted with great magnificence, and those whose duty it was to supply the royal household were often guilty of robbing and imposing upon the farmers. Complaints were made to her majesty, who always lent a willing ear to her subjects, and invariably compensated them for their loss. One day, when she was walking in the fields with her lords and ladies, a sturdy countryman placed himself in her path, and as she approached called out in a rude, coarse tone: " Which is the queen ? " She turned towards him with an encouraging smile ; he repeated the question, looking from one lady to another, until Elizabeth stepped forward and said : " I am thy queen ; what wouldst thou have with me ?"

" You! " exclaimed the man with a look of surprise and admiration. "You are one of the rarest women I ever saw, and can eat no more than my daughter Madge, who is thought the finest lass in our parish, though short of you; but the Queen Elizabeth I look for devours so many of my hens, ducks, and capons that I am not able to live."

Now Elizabeth was always indulgent to any one who paid her compliments, but upon inquiry she found this man to be both unjust and dishonest, so she had him severely punished.

BOOK: Agnes Strickland's Queens of England
3.89Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

Good Intentions by Kay, Elliott
The Charmer by Kate Hoffmann
Waiting for an Army to Die by Fred A. Wilcox
Spare the Lambs by Eric Zanne
Hair in All The Wrong Places by Buckley, Andrew
The Liger Plague (Book 1) by Souza, Joseph