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

Tags: #Queens -- Great Britain

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Among the preparations for Easter it was the queen's custom to wash the feet of twenty poor women, to each of whom she gave a new gown and the white cup from which she had drank to them. The same afternoon she appeared in St. James's Park and distributed two thousand silver coins, valued at eight pence each, among as many poor men, women, and children. These public acts of charity endeared the sovereign to her people, for they were always the occasion of a holiday, and gave the humblest citizens an opportunity of speaking to her. The coins thus bestowed were worn by the recipients as precious amulets, and handed down in their families as heirlooms in memory of the gracious queen.

Nobody ever visited the palace on any errand whatsoever without being invited, according to his station in life, to partake of a meal at one of the tables. No wonder that Elizabeth was a popular sovereign, and that her's was called a *' golden reign."

In 1560, at great loss to her treasury, she called in all the base coin that Henry VIII. had caused to be made, and returned to every person the full va|ue in new sterling silver and gold.

[A.D. 1561.] Late in the summer of 1561 Elizabeth made a journey through her kingdom, and was received with public rejoicings and displays wherever she went. These progresses., as they were called, occurred several times during Elizabeth's reign, when she was magnificently entertained at the various mansions of the nobles whom she honored with her visit.

Queen Elizabeth was so skilled in the art of ruling that she knew a country was never so sure of enjoying the blessing of peace as when prepared for war, so she took pains to provide her's with ample means of defence. She gave orders for gunpowder that had been purchased in other

countries to be manufactured in England. Engineers and arsenals were furnished for all the fortified towns along the coast and the Scottish borders; forts were built, garrisons increased, and the wages of sailors and soldiers doubled. So many ships-of-war were built, and the navy was increased to such an extent, that after a reign of four years England could command a fleet with twenty thousand men at arms. Strangers called Elizabeth " Queen of the Sea ; " her own subjects proudly styled her the restorer of naval glory.


[A.D. 1562.] Queen Elizabeth either forgot her promise to the pope, that she would not interfere with the relig ion of her subjects, or she was unmindful of it, for many were persecuted on account of their adherence to Catholicism. All emblems and pictures of the Catholic church were abolished; and as the English artists were not permitted to copy the sacred subjects selected by the Spanish, Italian, and Flemish masters, pictorial art came to a standstill in England.

It was not on account of religion that the Countess of Lenox, one of the queen's nearest relations, was arrested and thrown into prison. She was charged with treason and witchcraft: but the real offence was a secret correspondence with her niece, the Queen of Scots, whom Elizabeth hated. She made no secret of this hatred, and was heard to ask " how it was possible for her to love any one whose interest it was to see her dead." Nevertheless, she would never acknowledge Mary's right to the throne. The fact is, that each of these queens would lavish affectionate terms on the other if the interest or caprice of the moment demanded it; but each was jealous and suspicious of the other, and each hated the other in the inmost recesses of her.heart. Elizabeth was often urged to appoint a successor in the event of her death, and if the name of Mary was mentioned on such an occasion it threw her into a transport of rage.


At last a meeting was planned between the two queens, with the hope of establishing a better state of feeling; but the defeat of her army in France under Warwick gave Elizabeth an excuse for postponing the interview. This defeat was a sore trial to the queen, and besides the plague had killed off a great number of the soldiers. They brought the disease home with them, and during the following year twenty thousand people died of it in London alone.

[A.D. 1563.] Meanwhile Lady Lenox had been released from prison, and was secretly trying to make up a match between Mary Stuart and Lord Henry Darnley. It was Mary's desire to conciliate Queen Elizabeth just then, so she sent Sir James Melville to consult her about an offer of marriage to herself.

While this ambassador was at court Queen Elizabeth appeared in a different costume each day, and was pleased when he said that he preferred the Italian style for her because it displayed her yellow curls to advantage.

She asked him which was the more bealitiful, she or Mary Stuart.

" You are the handsomest queen in England," he replied, " and ours the handsomest queen in Scotland."

" Which of us is the taller ?" asked Elizabeth.

" Our queen," said Melville.

" Then she is over-tall," returned Elizabeth; " for I am neither too tall nor too short."

She next asked how Queen Mary passed her time.

'* When I left Scotland, she had just come from a Highland hunt," answered the ambassador; " but when she has leisure, she reads, and sometimes plays on the lute and the virginals."

" Does she play well ?" asked Elizabeth.

" Reasonably well for a queen," was the reply.

Elizabeth had a love for flattery that could never be satisfied; the most fulsome compliments were always acceptable, and those who desired favors at her hands knew the importance of tickling her vanity. It made her unhappy to suspect that any one could think Mary Stuart, of all women, in any particular superior to herself. So on the evening after the interview with Lord Melville she managed to perform on the virginals, when she knew that he was within hearing. It had the desired eifect; for the ambassador raised the drawing-room curtains to see who the player was, and delighted the heart of Elizabeth by assuring her that she was a much better musician than his queen.

Fond as Elizabeth was of popularity she never permitted any one to interfere with her. Once when Leicester attempted to express an opinion contrary to her's regarding some state matter, she flew into a passion, and said: " I will have here but one mistress and no master."

This so humiliated the favorite, who had been treated like a spoiled child for several years, that he absented himself from court as much as possible, and finally requested that he might be sent on a diplomatic mission to France. But Elizabeth would not comply. She told him that it would be no great honor to the King of France, were she to send him her groom; then turning to the French ambassador, who was present, she laughingly added, " I cannot live without seeing him every day; he is like my lap-dog : so soon as he is seen any where they say I am near at hand, and wherever I am seen he is expected."

Elizabeth was generally kind and grateful to those who had treated her well in her youth; but her cruelty towards Doctor Heath, Archbishop of York, is an exception. The doctor had been of real service to her; but so determined was she to brook no opposition, that when he refused to

acknowledge her supremacy over the church, she had him shut up in the Tower, and even put to torture, although he was eighty years of age at the time.

Temper often got the better of this illustrious queen; and when such was the case she made coarse, rude speeches to her attendants as well as members of parliament, which she regretted in calmer moments.

[A.D. 1564.] When parliament urged her to marry she answered, " That if they would attend to their own business she would perform her's." Such discourteous speeches won for her a reprimand, which put her in such a rage that she refused to give satisfaction upon any question that was laid before her. Later she made a conciliatory speech and said: "That her successor might perhaps be more wise and learned than she, but one more careful of the country's weal they could not have." She bade them " beware how they again tried their sovereign's patience as they had done."

Dr. Dee, the conjuror, spent much time at court, and received many favors from the queen, who even condescended to visit him at his own house. He had a mirror in which he pretended to read the queen's destiny, and showed her his laboratory where he was concocting an elixir of life for her special use. Elizabeth believed in him, granted him her protection, and finally appointed him Chancellor of St. Paul's Cathedral. He spent many years at his foolish trickery, but it is certain that he produced no compound either for rejuvenating the queen or for prolonging her life.

[A.D. 1567.] In 1567 Lord Darnley, who had become Queen Mary's husband, was mysteriously murdered. Lord Bothwell, who was known to be in love with Mary, was accused of the crime, in which there was strong grounds for suspicion that Mary herself assisted. Elizabeth took

^ I VLi


pains to express no opinion about this matter; but she, no doubt, believed, as all Europe did, in Mary's guilt. She took it upon herself to announce to the Countess of Lenox the fearful catastrophe that had befallen her son, and did so in a considerate and sympathetic manner, which formed a contrast to her former cruelty.

Bothwell was tried, but his guilt could not be proved, and three months after Lord Darnley's death he and Mary Stuart were married. This shameful conduct horrified the Scottish people, and they rose in arms against their queen.

Within a month after the marriage Bothwell was obliged to fly for his life, and Mary was imprisoned in Lochleven Castle.

Elizabeth may not have regretted the downfall of Mary Stuart; but when she heard of her being a captive, subject to insults and abuse from her own people, her heart was touched, and she interposed with the Scottish nobles in behalf of the unfortunate queen. Her appeal had some weight, but Mary was compelled to sign a deed of abdication in favor of her son.

[A.D. 1568.] A year after Lord Darnley's death Mary made her escape to England, and sought Elizabeth's protection. She crossed the Frith of Solway in a fishing-boat, and was conducted to Carlisle, where, though treated with respect, she soon discovered that she was once more a prisoner.

Elizabeth's treacherous behavior towards the erring, dethroned queen who had placed herself in her power was a crime that has left a foul stain on her memory. But she had to pay the penalty; for as most of the Roman Catholics in the British Isles regarded Mary as the rightful Queen of England, the realm was filled with plots, revolts, and secret confederacies that kept her mind constantly on the rack. Mary begged for permission to seek protection in some

other country; but Elizabeth secretly enjoyed the humiliation of her enemy, and was too cautious to restore the liberty of one whom she had ill treated.

Consequently the royal prisoner was removed to Bolton Castle, a gloomy fortress, where she was subjected to most cruel indignities. She was closely watched; and Elizabeth's ministers, particularly Burleigh and Leicester, reported every action that could be distorted into the appearance of treason. Any partisan of Mary's that could be attacked was speedily brought to trial, and scaffolds streamed with the innocent blood of many a victim. Elizabeth's popularity was on the wane, and her numerous acts of injustice, that laid low the heads of some of the noblest men and women of her realm, rendered her an object of hatred for the time being.

[A.D. 1570.J She was thirty-seven years old when Catherine de Medicis proposed her marriage with Henry of Anjou, the French prince, who was twenty years younger than the English queen.

Catherine was one of the worst women that ever lived, and knew that such a union would be perfectly ridiculous ; but she was so anxious to secure the crown of the Tudors and Plantagenets for her son that she pretended sincere affection for Elizabeth, and was capable of any deception, intrigue, or even crime to gain her point. Elizabeth, on the other hand, had such an exalted opinion of her own perfections that she would acknowledge no obstacle to the union but religion. In reality, she was too sensible not to be conscious of the absurdity of uniting herself to a youth of seventeen, but kept the matter pending for many months for the purpose of gaining the good-will of France, and of thus preventing that country from taking steps against her in the affairs of Scotland and towards the release of Mary.

BOOK: Agnes Strickland's Queens of England
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