This hint of her sore leg was enough

At no time since her accession had Elizabeth and her government been in
so much danger as immediately after the suppression of the rebellion of
the north. Cecil had known that the Catholic English and Scottish nobles
and Mary were in constant communication with Spain and the Pope, but
even he was not aware how widespread was the conspiracy.[313] Orange in
the Netherlands, and Coligny in France, had for a time been crushed;
Condé had been killed in battle; and everywhere the Catholic cause was
triumphant. This was the eventuality which alone England had to fear;
and although Spanish aid to the English Catholics was neither so active
nor so abundant as has usually been assumed, unquestionably the hopes
and promises held out both by Philip and the Pope had raised the spirits
of the Catholics in England and Scotland higher than they had been for
many years. Spanish money and support under papal auspices kept Ireland
in a state of discord, as we have seen; Mary appealed to King Philip
as a vassal to her suzerain; the Guisan agents were busy plotting with
the Hamiltons and Murray’s enemies on the Border, and the whole north
of England was riddled with religious discontent. Cecil wrote at the
beginning of 1570 to Norris: “We have discovered some tokens, and we hear
of some words uttered by the Earl of Northumberland, that maketh us think
this rebellion had more branches, both of our own and strangers, than did
appear, and I trust the same will be found out, though perchance when all
are known in secret manner, all may not be notified.”

The truth of Cecil’s forebodings came soon afterwards. On the 22nd
February 1570, Murray was shot by a Hamilton in the streets of
Linlithgow, and in the anarchy which followed, the friends of Mary
Stuart on the Scottish Border invaded England. Maitland of Lethington
and others who had hitherto stood firmly by Murray, now turned to the
side of the Hamiltons and the French party; whilst a special French
Guisan envoy boldly demanded of Elizabeth, in the name of the King of
France, Mary Stuart’s release, permission for himself to pass into
Scotland, and a pledge from the English Queen that in future she would
refrain from supporting the Huguenots. Papal emissaries whispered at
first that the Pope had excommunicated “the flagitious pretended Queen
of England”; and then one Catholic, bolder than the rest (Felton), dared
publicly to post the bull on the Bishop of London’s door. The Bishop
of Ross was tireless in spreading the view of Mary’s innocence and
unmerited sufferings,[314] and many Englishmen who were opposed to her
in everything were scandalised at her continued captivity. So strong a
Protestant as Sir Henry Norris, the English Ambassador in Paris—for ever
the butt of French remonstrance against Mary’s imprisonment—advised Cecil
to have her released. But Sir William knew better the risk of such a step
now, and replied, “Surely few here amongst us conceive it feasible with
surety,” and he was right. Stories, too, came from Flanders of plans to
assassinate Elizabeth; but she was never so strong or wise as when the
circumstances were difficult and dangerous. “I know not,” writes Cecil,
“by what means, but her Majesty is not much troubled with the opinion
of danger; nevertheless I and others cannot be but greatly fearful for
her, and do, and will do, all that in us may lie to understand by God’s
assistance the attempts.”

It was not long before Cecil had once more triumphed over his enemies
on the Council and in England: the danger that then threatened was from
without. Again, the policy of disabling the foreign Catholics by aiding
the Protestants was resorted to. Killigrew was kept busy in Germany
arranging with Hans Casimir and other mercenary leaders, to raise large
forces for the purpose of entering France and enabling the Huguenots to
avenge their disasters.[315] Cardinal Chatillon was still a welcome
guest at the English court. The privateers in the Channel were stronger
and bolder than ever, and had practically swept Spanish shipping from
the narrow seas. The Flemings were encouraged with promises of help and
support when Orange had once more organised a force to cope with Alba.
Sussex and Hunsdon in the meanwhile did not let the grass grow under
their feet, but harried both sides of the Border, stamping out the last
embers of rebellion, and striking terror into the Catholic fugitives,
whilst Morton and the Protestant party were consolidating their position,
momentarily shaken by the murder of Murray.[316] De Spes was ceaselessly
clamouring to the King and Alba for armed intervention in England before
it was too late. Mary might be captured by a _coup de main_, as she
herself suggested, and carried to Spain; a few troops sent to Scotland
now, said the Bishop of Ross, might overturn the new Regency; a small
force in Ireland would easily expel the heretics; “and the whole nation
will rise as soon as they see your Majesty’s standard floating over ships
on their coast.”

But Alba distrusted both French and English, Protestants and Catholics
alike. He knew that the conflagration in the Netherlands was still all
aglow beneath the surface, and he dared not plunge into war with England.
His slow master pondered and plotted, beset with cares and poverty, and
unable to wreak his vengeance upon England until he had the certainty of
Mary Stuart’s exclusive devotion to his interests. But the extent and
complexity of Philip’s difficulties were only known to himself, and the
danger appeared to Cecil even greater than it was.

The plague had raged in London for the whole of the summer of 1569, and a
recrudescence of it in the following June gave Cecil a good opportunity
for advocating Norfolk’s partial enlargement. The Duke made a most
solemn renunciation of his proposed marriage with Mary, and craved
Elizabeth’s forgiveness; and at length in August was allowed to retire
to his own house. That he owed his liberation to Cecil is clear from
his letters. At the beginning of July, apparently, some person—probably
Leicester—had told the Duke that Cecil was against him, and the Secretary
showed him how false this was, and proposed to take action against his
slanderers. The Duke in reply thanked him for his friendly dealing and
his frank explanation, “which have sufficiently purged him (Cecil) and
laid the fault on those who deserved it.” But he begged him to refrain
from further action, as it might cause mischief.[317] When Norfolk at
length was “rid of yonder pestylent infectyous hows” (the Tower), he
unhesitatingly attributed his release to Cecil. How busy the slanderers
of the Secretary were, and how deeply he felt the wounds they dealt him,
may be seen in another statement in his own hand of the same period[318]
(July 1570), which contains an indignant denial of the reports that
had been spread with regard to his alleged dishonest dealing with the
property of his ward the Earl of Oxford.

During the whole of Norfolk’s stay in the Tower and afterwards, the
love-letters between him and Mary continued, the Queen signing her
letters “your own faithful to death,” and using many similar terms of
endearment;[319] and Cecil could hardly have been entirely ignorant
of the Duke’s bad faith. But for political reasons it was considered
necessary, not only to conciliate him, but Mary and the Spaniards as
well. Concurrently, therefore, with the negotiations for Norfolk’s
release, a show of willingness was made to come to terms with Mary.
Her presence in England was an embarrassment and a danger, and now
that Murray was dead, the principal personal obstacle to her return
had disappeared. If she could be so tied down as to be used as a means
for pacifying Scotland, whilst depending for the future entirely
upon England, her return to her country would relieve Elizabeth of a
difficulty. The first basis of negotiation was the surrender of the
English rebel Lords in exchange for her, and the delivery to England of
four or six of the principal Scottish nobles and the young Prince as
hostages. But these terms were by no means acceptable to Mary’s agents or
to herself. She feared that the Scots would kill her, and the English her
son, and so secure the joint kingdoms to a nominee of Elizabeth or Cecil.

The main reason for Elizabeth’s change of attitude must be sought in the
panic which seized upon England in the early summer of 1570. A powerful
Spanish fleet was in the Channel, ostensibly to convey Philip’s fourth
wife, Anne of Austria, from Flanders to Spain; but rumours came that
the dreaded Duke of Alba was ready now for the invasion of England. The
Guises in Normandy, too, were said to have an army of harquebussiers
waiting to embark for Scotland; the Irish rebels were being helped both
by Philip and the Guises. The Pope’s bull absolving Englishmen from their
oaths of allegiance was the talk everywhere, and English merchants in
despair cried that at last they and their country were to pay for the
depredations of the pirates. The French were demanding haughtily that the
English troops should evacuate the Border Scottish fortresses held by
them, and the Protestants in France and Flanders were not yet prepared to
furnish the diversion upon which the English usually depended for their
own safety.

The position was very grave in appearance, though not so great in
reality, and it alarmed Elizabeth out of her equanimity. De Guaras says
that she shut herself up for three days, and railed against Cecil for
bringing her to such a pass; and the same observer reports that when
Cecil one day in the middle of July left the Queen and retired to his
own apartment, he cried to his wife in deep distress, “O wife! if God do
not help us we shall be lost and undone. Get together all the jewels and
money you can, that you may follow me when the time comes; for surely
trouble is in store for us.”[320] This may or may not be true in detail,
and also Guaras’ assertion that Cecil had sent large private funds to
Germany, whither he would retire in case of trouble; but it is certain
that panic reigned supreme for a few weeks in the summer, accentuated,
doubtless, by the plague which was devastating the country. But fright
did not paralyse the minister for long, if at all. Twenty-five ships
were hastily armed, two fresh armies were raised of five thousand men
each, ostensibly for Scotland. Mary was prompted to send Livingston to
Scotland to negotiate an arrangement with the Regent Lennox, and Cecil
himself, with Sir Walter Mildmay, was induced to go and confer with
Mary at Chatsworth; but, says De Spes, “all these things are simply
tricks of Cecil’s, who thinks thereby to cheat every one, in which to a
certain extent he succeeds.” The Secretary had by this time discovered
that in any case neither Philip nor Alba would raise a finger to avenge
a slight upon De Spes, for he had imprisoned him and distressed him in
a thousand ways already without retaliation. At the same time, a blow
at such a notorious conspirator as he was could not fail to produce
a great effect upon the English Catholics who plotted with him and
looked to Spain alone for support. Cecil therefore sent Fitzwilliams
to Flanders about the seizures, and instructed him to complain to
Alba of De Spes’ communications with the rebels. “His object,” wrote
the Ambassador, “is to expel me, now that they think I understand the
affairs of this country; and Cecil thinks that I, with others, might
make such representations to the Queen as would diminish his great
authority.… Cecil is a crafty fox, a mortal enemy of the Catholics and
to our King, and it is necessary to watch his designs very closely,
because he proceeds with the greatest caution and dissimulation. There
is nothing in his power he does not attempt to injure us. The Queen’s
own opinion is of little importance, and that of Leicester less; so that
Cecil unrestrainedly and arrogantly governs all.… Your worship may be
certain that if Cecil is allowed to have his way he will disturb the
Netherlands.”[321] De Spes’ information was correct on the latter point,
as well it might be, for in addition to Cecil’s own secretary, Allington,
he had in his pay Sir James Crofts, a member of the Council, and the
Secretary of the Council, Bernard Hampton, who between them brought him
news of everything that passed in the Council or in Cecil House.

The Secretary’s efforts to get rid of so troublesome a guest as De Spes,
and to offer an object-lesson to the English Catholics at the same time,
were persistent, and in the end successful. De Spes was refused the
treatment of an ambassador, threatened with the Tower, flouted, slighted,
and insulted at every turn; but he could only futilely storm and fret,
for neither his King nor Alba was pleased with the difficult position
which his violence had created for them in England. It was all the fault
of Cecil personally, insisted De Spes. He wished to afflict the Catholic
cause without witnesses, and would stick at nothing, even poison, to get
rid of the Spaniard.

Cecil would have liked to avoid his mission to Mary Stuart, for he
was almost crippled with constant gout, and he was fully aware of
the hollowness of the negotiations in hand. The interviews with Mary
could hardly have been agreeable, although they were carried out with
great formality and politeness on both sides. Cecil charged her with
a knowledge of the northern rebellion, which she only partly denied,
saying, however, that she did not encourage it. Mary seems to have been
alternately passionate and tearful; but her bad adviser, the Bishop of
Ross, was by her side, and though she argued her case shrewdly, she
could not refrain from unwisely and unnecessarily wounding Elizabeth at
the outset.[322] In the second article of the proposed treaty, where
Elizabeth’s issue were to be preferred in the succession, Mary altered
the words to “lawful issue,” to which Elizabeth, although acceding to it,
replied that Mary “measured other folk’s disposition by her own actions.”
After some acrimony on the subject of other alterations on behalf of
Mary, an arrangement was arrived at, which, however, was afterwards
vetoed by the Scottish Government,[323] at the instance of Morton, who
was the Commissioner in London.

Whilst the negotiations with Mary had been progressing, peace had been
signed between the Huguenots and Charles IX. at St. Germains (August
1570), and the fears of Elizabeth and Cecil were consequently aggravated
at the plans which were known to be promoted by Cardinal Lorraine for
the marriage of the Duke of Anjou, next brother to the French King, with
the Queen of Scots. Now that the Montmorencis and the “politicians” had
reconciled parties in France, the danger of such a match became serious
both to England and the sincere Huguenots. Anjou posed as the figurehead
of the extreme Catholic party, but was known to be vaguely ambitious and
unstable. Cardinal Chatillon therefore thought it would be a good move
to disarm him by yoking him under Huguenot auspices to Elizabeth. The
first approach was made by the Vidame de Chartres to Cecil, who privately
discussed it with the Queen. They must have regarded it with favour, for
it was exactly the instrument they needed for splitting the league, and
arousing jealousy between France and Spain. The Emperor had just given a
severe rebuff to attempts to revive the Archduke’s match with Elizabeth,
but the negotiation for making a French Catholic prince King-consort of
England under Huguenot control was a master-stroke which sufficed to
overturn all international combinations, set France and Spain by the
ears, turned the Guises, as relatives of Mary Stuart, against their
principal supporter in France, and reduced the Queen of Scots herself to
quite a secondary element in the problem. The idea was just as welcome
to Catharine de Medici, who hated Mary Stuart as much as she dreaded the
Guises. Both she and the young King would have been glad to be quit of
the ambitious Anjou, who always threw in his weight on the Catholic side,
and made it more difficult for the Queen-mother to hold the balance. So,
very soon Guido Cavalcanti was speeding backwards and forwards between
England and France, secretly preparing the way for the more formal
negotiations between the official Ambassadors.

So far as the Queen of England was concerned, the negotiation was purely
political and insincere, for the reasons just stated, but the comedy
was well played by all parties. Leicester of course was favourable, for
it meant bribes to him, and there was no danger. La Mothe Fénélon, the
Ambassador, gently broached the matter to the Queen at Hampton Court
in January 1571. As usual she was coy and coquettish. She was too old
for Anjou, she objected, but still she said the princes of the House
of France had the reputation of being good husbands.[324] Cardinal
Chatillon shortly afterwards was blunter than the Ambassador. Would the
Queen marry Anjou if he proposed? he asked, to which Elizabeth replied,
that on certain conditions she would; and the next day she submitted the
subject to her Council, who, as in duty bound, threw the whole of the
responsibility on to the Queen.

Walsingham had just replaced Norris as Ambassador to France. He was a
friend of Leicester, a strict Protestant, who had been indoctrinated in
the political methods of Cecil, with whom and with Leicester he kept up
a close confidential correspondence.[325] One of his first letters to
Leicester gives a personal description of the young Prince, in which a
desire to tell the truth struggles with his duty not to say anything
which may hamper the negotiation. The Guises and the Spanish party in
Paris exhorted Anjou to avoid being drawn into the net, and the Duke
himself at one time openly used insulting expressions towards Elizabeth;
but such was the position in England that it was absolutely necessary
that an appearance of reality should be given to the affair. Prudent
Cecil, as usual, avoided pledging himself personally more than necessary,
and wrote from Greenwich to Walsingham on the 3rd March, that he had
wished the Queen herself to write her instructions, but as she had
declined to do so, he merely repeated her words in a postscript—namely,
that if he (Walsingham) were approached on the matter of the marriage, he
might say that before he left England he had heard “that the Queen, upon
consideration of the benefit of her realm, and to content her subjects,
had resolved to marry if she should find a fit husband, who must be
of princely rank.” To this Cecil himself adds as his private opinion,
to be told to no one, “I am not able to discern what is best, but
surely I see no continuance of her quietness without a marriage.”[326]
Matters were indeed critical at this juncture, and Cecil, Leicester,
and even Walsingham, repeatedly, and apparently with sincerity, stated
their opinion that Elizabeth would be forced to wed Anjou, or he would
marry Mary Stuart, as it was necessary for Catharine de Medici and the
Huguenots to get rid of this fanatical figurehead of the extreme Catholic
party.[327]

In his letter to Walsingham of 1st March, Cecil signs his name thus, “By
your assured (as I was wont) William Cecil;” and then underneath, “And as
I am now ordered to write, William Burleigh.”[328] That the title was not
of his own seeking is almost certain. The Spanish Ambassador, De Spes,
says that the Queen ennobled him in order that he might be more useful
in Parliament and in the matter of the Queen of Scots; and the new Lord
himself, in a letter to Nicholas White, speaks thus slightingly of his
new honour: “My style is Lord of Burghley if you mean to know it for your
writing, and if you list to write truly, the poorest Lord in England.
Yours, not changed in friendship, though in name, William Burghley.” To
Walsingham again he wrote on the 25th March, “My style of my poor degree
is Lord of Burghley;” and on the 14th April in a letter to the same
correspondent he signs, “William Cecill—I forgot my new word, William
Burleigh.”

At the time of his elevation the new Lord was suffering from one of his
constantly recurring fits of gout, and his letters are mostly written,
with pain and difficulty, which he frequently mentions, “from my bed
in my house at Westminster.” And yet, withal, the amount of work he
got through at the time was nothing short of marvellous. Every matter,
great and small, seemed to be dealt with by him. He was a Member of
Parliament for the two counties of Lincoln and Northampton;[329] as
Chancellor of the University of Cambridge he was deeply interested in
the interminable disputes there with regard to ritual, vestments, and
scholastic questions; as President of the Court of Wards he attended
personally to an immense number of estates and private interests;[330]
and acquaintances, high and low, from Greys, Howards, Clintons, and
Dudleys, down to poor students or alien refugees, still by common accord
addressed their petitions for aid and advice to him. To judge by their
grateful acknowledgments, they seem rarely to have appealed to him in
vain, and it is evident by the hundreds of such letters at Hatfield, that
even when petitions could not be granted, they were assured of impartial
and just consideration from Lord Burghley. His own great establishments,
too, at Burghley, Theobalds, and London, must have claimed much of his
attention, for all accounts passed under his own eyes, and in such small
matters as the rotation of crops, the sale of produce, the breeding
of stock, and the replenishment of gardens, nothing was done without
consultation with the master. His hospitality was very great; for we are
told by his domestic biographer that “he kept open house everywhere,
and his steward kept a standing table for gentlemen, besides two other
long tables, often twice set out, one for the clerk of the kitchen, and
the other for yeomen.” He personally can have had but little enjoyment
from his splendid houses and stately living. He must have been almost
constantly at court, or hard at work at his house in Cannon Row,
Westminster, handy for Whitehall, rather than at his new palace in the
Strand, where his wife and family lodged. He seems to have had no hobby
but books and gardens, and to have taken no exercise except on his rare
visits to Theobalds or Burghley, when he would jog round his garden paths
on an ambling mule.

This was the man, vigilant, prudent, moderate, cautious and untiring in
his industry, who in the spring and summer of 1571 by his consummate
statecraft once more brought England out of the coil of perils which
surrounded her on all sides. His counter-move to Spanish support to the
rebels in England and Ireland, and to Guisan plots in Scotland, was to
supply arms, munitions, and money to the Protestants of Rochelle and the
Dutch privateers, and to fit out a strong English fleet. The pacification
of France and the crushing of reform in Flanders were answered by
remittances of money to Germany to raise mercenaries for Orange, and the
welcoming of Louis of Nassau and Cardinal Chatillon in England; whilst
the marriage of Charles IX. to an Austrian Princess, and the closer
relations between France and the Catholic league, were counteracted by
the marriage negotiations between Elizabeth and Anjou, and the treaty
with Mary Stuart for her restoration.

But as the effect of Cecil’s diplomacy gradually became apparent, the
more reckless of his opponents resorted to desperate devices to frustrate
him. Already, by February 1571, Mary Stuart had convinced herself that
the treaty for her liberation was fallacious, and she wrote an important
letter to the Bishop of Ross, from which great events sprang.[331] She
refers to plans for her escape, and announces her decision to go to
Spain, throwing herself in future entirely upon Philip as her protector;
and she urges that Ridolfi should be sent to Spain and Rome to explain
her situation and resolve, and to beg for help. Norfolk was to be asked
to pledge himself finally to become a Catholic; doubt as to his religion,
she says, having been the principal reason for Philip’s lukewarmness.
The Bishop sent a copy of the letter to Norfolk, who was still nominally
under arrest. The Duke gave his consent, and Ridolfi started from England
at the end of March. It has been frequently denied that Norfolk connived
at this proposal for the invasion of England by a foreign power; but,
in addition to the depositions of Ross and Barker,[332] the following
letter from De Spes introducing Ridolfi to Philip appears to settle the
question against the Duke:[333] “The Queen of Scots, and the Duke of
Norfolk on behalf of many other lords and gentlemen who are attached to
your Majesty’s interests, and the promotion of the Catholic religion, are
sending Rodolfo Ridolfi, a Florentine gentleman, to offer their services
to your Majesty, and to represent to you that the time is now ripe to
take a step of great benefit to Christianity, as in detail Ridolfi will
set forth to your Majesty. The letter of credence from the Duke of
Norfolk is written in the cipher that I have sent to Zayas, for fear it
should be taken. London, 25th March, 1571.” The exact proposal to be made
verbally by Ridolfi is not stated, but De Spes refers to it in his next
letter as “the real remedy” for Lord Burghley’s activity. It is probable
that not only the support of Mary and Norfolk was intended, but also the
assassination of Elizabeth and her minister.[334] Cecil had been put
upon the alert by the kidnapping in Flanders and bringing to England of
the notorious Dr. Storey, who, under torture in the Tower, had divulged
the dealings of the northern Lords with Alba through Ridolfi and the
Bishop of Ross. This caused Cecil to keep a watch upon the doings of
both the agents; and Lord Cobham, in Dover, was instructed to intercept
any cipher letters which might be brought by a Flemish secretary of the
Bishop of Ross, one Charles Bailly, who was with Ridolfi in Flanders.
The man was stopped and his papers captured, with some copies of the
Bishop of Ross’s book in favour of Mary’s claims. The Cobhams were never
to be trusted; and Thomas Cobham surreptitiously obtained the cipher
keys, and had them conveyed to De Spes, substituting for them a dummy
packet, which was sent to Cecil. But Bailly himself, who had written
the papers at Ridolfi’s dictation, was promptly put on the rack in the
Tower, and confessed that the letters were written to two persons,
designated by numbers, under cover to the Bishop, and conveyed the Duke
of Alba’s approval of the plan for invading England, and his readiness,
if authorised by his King, to co-operate with the persons indicated.

Letters sent by the Bishop to Bailly after his arrest, urging him to
firmness, threatening the traitor who had betrayed him, and in a hundred
ways proving his own complicity, were all intercepted and read. The
tortured wretch swore to the Bishop that he would tell nothing, even if
they tore him into a hundred pieces; begged that his trunk containing
drafts of letters from Mary to Cardinal Lorraine and Hamilton might be
rescued from his lodging. But Burghley forestalled them all. The whole
of the letters were taken, and every day, in the Tower, fresh rackings,
and threats to cut off his ears or his head, were used by Burghley
to the frightened lad, to force him to give a key of the cipher. One
morning at five o’clock he was carried by the Lieutenant of the Tower
to Lord Burghley, and was told that, unless he immediately confessed
all, he would be racked till the truth was torn from him. The lad, half
distraught, day by day unfolded as much as he knew, notwithstanding the
Bishop’s frantic assurances that Burghley would not dare to harm him
much, as he was a foreigner and a servant of the Queen of Scots.[335]
And so, piece by piece, the whole conspiracy was unravelled so far as
regarded the main object, and the complicity of Alba, the Spaniards and
the Bishop of Ross proved beyond doubt; but still the persons indicated
by the cipher numbers “30” and “40” could only be surmised, for Bailly
himself did not know them. Gradually the names of Mary Stuart and Norfolk
crept into the depositions of those examined, but without sufficient
definiteness yet for open proceedings against them to be commenced.

Whilst Lord Burghley, with inexhaustible patience, was tracking the
plot to its source, the most elaborate pretence of agreement with the
French on the subject of the Anjou match was kept up both in Paris and
London; though more sincere on the part of the former than the latter,
for Catharine and Charles IX. were in mortal fear of the Guises, the
League, and the heir-presumptive to the crown. Cavalcanti and officers of
the King’s household ran backwards and forwards to England with loving
messages; and the Huguenots worked their best to bring the matter to
a successful issue, or, in default of it, for a close alliance. Henry
Cobham was sent to Madrid ostensibly to treat on the matter of the
seizures, but really to learn, if possible, how far Philip was pledged to
the plans against England; but the Spaniards were forewarned and ready
for him, and he learned nothing.

Lord Burghley had, however, a better plan than this. Fitzwilliam, a
relative of the English Duchess of Feria, had been sent to Spain by him
for the purpose of negotiating for the release of the men and hostages
who had been captured from Hawkins at San Juan de Ulloa. He professed
in Spain to be strongly Catholic and in favour of Mary Stuart, and came
back to England in 1571, with presents, pledges, and promises to the
captive Queen and her friends. Hawkins lay with a strong auxiliary fleet
at the mouth of the Channel, and it was agreed with Lord Burghley that
Fitzwilliam and Hawkins should hoodwink the Spaniards, obtain a good haul
for themselves, and at the same time trace the ramifications of the great
international plot against England. De Spes jumped at the bait, with but
a mere qualm of misgiving, when Fitzwilliam went and offered, on behalf
of Hawkins, to desert with all his fleet to Spain, and take part, if
necessary, in an attack upon England. When he wrote to the King he said,
“My only fear is lest Burghley himself may have set the matter afoot to
discover your Majesty’s feelings, though I have seen nothing to make me
think this.”

But it was exactly the case, nevertheless, and the ruse succeeded beyond
expectation. By the end of August all Hawkins’ men had been released in
Spain and sent back to England, with ten dollars each in their pockets,
and Hawkins himself was the better off by £40,000 of Spanish money. But
more than this: Burghley had obtained through Fitzwilliam full knowledge
of the aims of the Ridolfi conspiracy. It was clear now to demonstration
that the Pope,[336] Philip, and the Catholic party in France were pledged
to a vast crusade against England, for crushing Protestantism, destroying
Elizabeth,[337] and raising Mary Stuart to the thrones of Great
Britain. Burghley and the Queen had practically known it for months,
as we have seen, and already the diplomatic measures they had taken to
counteract it were producing their effects. But now that the evidence was
sufficient, the blow against the conspirators could be struck openly. All
unsuspecting still, De Spes was comforting himself with the reflection
that the capture of Bailly was an unimportant incident; he urged Alba
and the King to immediate action, fumed at the instructions he received
to hold back Philip’s letters to Mary and Norfolk until he had orders to
deliver them, and sneered at the timid delay. “As all of Lord Burghley’s
jests have turned out well for him hitherto, he is ready to undertake
anything, and has no fear of danger. They and the French together make
great fun of our meekness.” “It is a pity to lose time, for Lord Burghley
is continuing to oppress the Catholics. If the opportunity is lost this
year, I fear the false religion will prevail in this island in a way
which will make it a harsh neighbour for the Netherlands.”

The opportunity, though he did not know it, had been lost already, for
all the threads were now in Burghley’s hands, and he was master of
the situation. In August was intercepted the bag of money (£600) with
a cipher letter[338] being sent secretly to Herries and Kirkaldy of
Grange, Mary’s friends in Scotland, by the Duke of Norfolk’s secretary,
and in a day or two the net swept into the Tower the Duke and all the
underlings who had served as intermediaries. Burghley lost no time now.
Almost every day, threats or the rack wrung some fresh admission from
the instruments—secretaries, messengers, and the like. Norfolk at first,
with extreme effrontery, denied everything;[339] but he was a weak man,
and soon broke down. Even then De Spes did not see that all was lost.
“The Catholics,” he said, “are many, though their leaders be few, and
Lord Burghley, with his terrible fury, has greatly harassed and dismayed
them, for they are afraid even of speaking to each other. The whole
affair depends upon getting weapons into their hands, and giving them
some one to direct them.”[340] It was too late. Mary Stuart’s prison
was made closer; her correspondence was intercepted and read; there was
no more concealment necessary or possible. One Catholic noble after the
other was isolated and imprisoned; Dr. Storey’s dreadful fate was held
up as a warning to traitors, and London and the country was flooded with
broadsheets calculated to arouse English and Protestant sentiment to
fever heat at the dastardly conspiracy which was laid bare.

On the 14th December a message reached De Spes summoning him to the
Council at Whitehall. When he arrived there he found them awaiting
him, with Lord Burghley as spokesman. There was no mincing matters.
The Ambassador was told that he had plotted with traitors against the
Queen’s life and the peace of the country, and he would be expelled, as
Dr. Man had been from Spain with far less reason.[341] De Spes tried to
brazen it out, but ineffectually. Burghley was on firm ground: no delay,
he said, could be allowed, excepting the time absolutely necessary for
the preparations for the voyage, which time was to be passed out of
London.[342] Speechless, almost, with indignation, in pretended fear that
Burghley would have him killed, De Spes was hustled out of the country he
had sought to ruin, and a week afterwards (16th January 1572) the Duke of
Norfolk was tried by his peers and found guilty of the capital crime of
high treason.

De Spes left England with bitter resentment at the triumph of Burghley’s
diplomacy. “They will now,” he says, “make themselves masters of the
Channel, and with one blow, with their practices in Flanders, will
plunge that country into a dreadful war. It is of no use now to speak of
our lost opportunities. They have gone; but … steps may still be taken
to make these people weep in their own country.” When he arrived in
Flanders he made a long report of his embassy, containing the following
interesting appreciation of Burghley as he appeared to his greatest
enemy: “The principal person in the Council is William Cecil, now Lord
Burghley, a Knight of the Garter. He is a man of mean sort, but very
astute, false, lying, and full of artifice. He is a great heretic, and
such a clownish Englishman as to believe that all the Christian princes
joined together are not able to injure the sovereign of his country,
and he therefore treats their ministers with great arrogance. This man
manages the bulk of the business, and by means of his vigilance and
craftiness, together with his utter unscrupulousness of word and deed,
thinks to outwit the ministers of other princes, which to some extent he
has hitherto succeeded in doing.”

Before De Spes was expelled, the efforts of Burghley, Walsingham, and
De Foix had been successful in arranging the terms of a close political
alliance between France and England. Elizabeth swore to Cavalcanti that
she would never trust Spaniards again, and he might see how little she
cared for the King of Spain by the way she had treated his Ambassador.
She could, indeed, afford now to slight the most powerful monarch in the
world; for one of the counter-strokes to the Spanish-Papal plot had been
the concentration in the Channel of a great fleet of Flemish and Huguenot
privateers under the Count de la Mark, and during the winter a plan had
been perfected for the seizure by the “beggars” of Brille, the key to
Zeeland. The imposition in Flanders of the tax which ruined Spain had
been the last straw,[343] and the whole country was ripe for revolt. For
some time an arrangement had been in progress with Louis of Nassau, by
which the Huguenots should invade Flanders over the French frontier, in
the interest of the Flemish Protestants. However friendly Elizabeth might
be with France, this was a proceeding which was sure to be looked upon
by English statesmen with profound distrust; and Walsingham, writing to
Cecil on the last day of 1571,[344] says that he has been asked whether,
in the event of the French entering Flanders, the Queen of England will
take Zeeland, as the Flemings fear that the French may not be contented
with Flanders. Some time before this, in September, Walsingham had urged
Cecil to promote this invasion of Flanders by the French, as a means of
keeping the Huguenots in power, as well as embarrassing Spain. “If not,”
he says, “the Guises will bear sway, who will be so forward in preferring
the conquest of Ireland, and the advancement of their niece to the crown
of England, as the other side (_i.e._ the Huguenots) is contrariwise
bent to prefer the conquest of Flanders.” When the immediate danger from
the Guises was over, however, the idea of a French invasion of Flanders
could not be calmly endured without some corresponding move in English
interests, and joint action in the Netherlands was suggested. It is
assumed by Motley and most other historians that the capture of Brille by
the “beggars” under La Mark early in April was quite unpremeditated, but
De Spes warned Alba that the affair was being planned in England at least
six months before;[345] and the sending away from Dover of La Mark’s
fleet did not, as Motley surmises, arise alone from Elizabeth’s fear of
offending Spain—for that she had already done—but from the complaints
of the Easterling merchants that their trade with England had become
impossible whilst these freebooters of the seas lay off the coast. In any
case, the surprise and seizure of Brille by the “beggars” once more gave
Alba plenty to think about on his own side of the Straits; and England
might, for the present, breathe freely again.

It had been as necessary for Catharine de Medici as for Elizabeth to
provide against the complete domination of England and Scotland by a
Spanish-Papal conspiracy in favour of Mary Stuart, and she had seconded
Walsingham strenuously in endeavouring to overcome Anjou’s religious
scruples against marrying Elizabeth. Anjou shifted like the wind, as
he fell under the influence of the Guises and his mother alternately.
Sometimes the match looked certain, and Catharine was effusive in
her thanks to Burghley; the next week it appeared hopeless. But the
intrigue served its purpose, and kept the French Government friendly
with Elizabeth during the critical time of the Spanish-Guisan conspiracy
against her—a conspiracy which also threatened Catharine’s influence
in France. Burghley himself seems to have been at a loss to understand
Elizabeth’s real intentions at the time; but it would appear that both he
and Walsingham were in earnest in wishing for the Anjou match, of course
with the safeguards laid down in Cecil’s several minutes on the matter;
but “the conferences,” wrote the Secretary, “have as many variations as
there are days.”

When at length it was seen that Anjou would no longer act as a party to
the game, but was looking to the possibility of a marriage with Mary
Stuart or with a Polish princess, the idea of the marriage of Elizabeth
with his youngest brother, the Duke of Alençon, was again very cautiously
brought up by Sir Thomas Smith and Killigrew, who were acting as English
Ambassadors in France during Walsingham’s illness. Alençon was only a lad
as yet, and could be used without loss of dignity as a stalking-horse
until the treaty of close alliance was finally agreed upon between the
two countries. The inevitable Guido Cavalcanti broached the matter
to Burghley in January, as he was coming away from an interview with
Elizabeth, and after some conference Burghley himself discussed the
matter with the Queen. She was thirty-nine, and the suggested bridegroom
was barely seventeen; but she was full of curiosity as to the looks
of the suitor, and distrustful about their respective ages. She asked
Burghley how tall Alençon was. “About as tall as I am,” replied the
Secretary. “About as tall as your grandson, you mean,” snapped her
Majesty,[346] and so the colloquy ended for a time. On the 19th April
1572 the draft treaty between England and France was signed at Blois.
It provided that aid was to be given unofficially by both nations to
the revolted Hollanders; the fleet of Protestant privateers was to be
sheltered and encouraged, and Huguenot Henry of Navarre was to marry the
King’s sister Margaret. The Protestants and politicians of France had
thus for the moment triumphed all along the line; the connection between
England and France was closer than it had been for many years, and
Elizabeth and Burghley could look back upon a great peril to their nation
and their faith manfully met and astutely overcome.

The Catholic party in England was now utterly prostrate. The Duke of
Norfolk, condemned to death for treason, was respited again and again
by the Queen, whilst he abjectly prevaricated, and threw the blame upon
others. The Bishop of Ross and Barker, he said, had forsworn him: he
never meant to bring a foreign force to England to depose the Queen,
and so forth. From the first, Burghley, who had always been Norfolk’s
friend, urged the Queen to let the law take its course.[347] He has been
bitterly blamed for doing so; but seeing the danger to which Norfolk’s
treason had reduced the realm, he would have failed in his duty as a
First Minister if he had allowed any weakness or personal consideration
to stand in the way of the just punishment for a great crime. Norfolk,
though he was the most popular man and greatest noble in the realm, and
still has many apologists, had plotted with the enemies of England to
bring the country again under foreign tutelage for his own ambition, and
it was right that he should suffer.

That Burghley did not flinch in the case of a man with so many friends,
is a proof of his rectitude and his courage. Though Norfolk himself
must have known what his attitude was, his esteem for him was evidently
not lessened. In the first letter he wrote to the Queen after his
condemnation, 21st January 1572, he prays for “her Majesty’s forgiveness
for his manifold offences, that he may leave this vale of misery with
a lighter heart and quieter conscience. He desires that Lord Burghley
should act as guardian to his poor orphans,” and he signs his letter,
“Written by the woeful hand of a dead man, your Majesty’s unworthy
subject, Thomas Howard”;[348] and when this prayer was granted, he again
wrote to the Queen expressing “his comfort at hearing of her Majesty’s
intended goodness to his unfortunate brats, and that she had christened
them with such an adopted father as Lord Burghley.”[349] At length, when
Parliament had added its pressure to that of her minister’s, the Queen’s
real or pretended reluctance to execute her near kinsman was overcome,
and the Duke’s head fell on Tower Hill, 2nd June, before the lamentations
of a great populace, who loved him above any subject of the Queen.

Less than a week afterwards Marshal Montmorenci, Paul de Foix, and
a splendid embassy arrived in England for the purpose of formally
ratifying the treaty of alliance between England and France, a
corresponding embassy from England under Lord Lincoln being in France
for a similar purpose. The courts vied with each other in their splendid
entertainments. The Frenchmen with forty followers were lodged in
Somerset House. At Whitehall, at Windsor (where Montmorenci received the
Garter), at Leicester House, and at Cecil House, sumptuous banquets were
given, followed by masques, balls, and tourneys. There was much talk
about the Duke of Alençon, but no decided answer given by Elizabeth to
the hints of marriage, which, indeed, was not now so pressing a matter
for her as it had been. When the Frenchmen had taken leave, Burghley sent
to Walsingham an interesting letter giving some account of the embassy,
by which it is clear that the Queen still desired to keep up the talk
of the marriage, in view of a possible need to draw still closer to the
French. “I am willed,” he writes, “to require you to use all good means
to understand what you can of the Duke of Alençon, his age in certainty,
of his stature, his conditions, his inclination in religion, his devotion
this way, his followers and servitors: hereof her Majesty seeketh
speedily to be advertised, that she may resolve before the month.” He
says, that for his part, he can see no great dislike of the idea, except
in the matter of age, and hints at getting Calais as the young Prince’s
dower. “If somewhat be not advised to recompense the opinion that her
Majesty conceiveth, as that she should be misliked to make choice of
so young a prince, I doubt the end.”[350] When, however, Lincoln came
back from France loaded with plate and jewels, and full of praise of the
gallantry of Alençon, the Queen became somewhat warmer, and Walsingham
for weeks to come was bombarded with minute questions as to the personal
qualities, and particularly as to the pock-marked visage, of the suitor.

There was but one more of the great conspirators against England to
deal with. Norfolk had deservedly died the death of a traitor, and
those who had supported him were either dead or lingering sufferers in
prison, the disloyal Catholics were despairing, Spain had received its
answer by the expulsion of De Spes and the renewal of the war in the
Netherlands, whilst Coligny and the Huguenots rode rough-shod over the
Guises and their friends. But the very spring-head of the conspiracy
remained untouched. A commission was appointed in June to formulate
charges against Mary Stuart herself,[351] and in Parliament it was
resolved that she was unworthy to succeed to the English crown. But
Elizabeth again allowed her personal feeling to stand in the way of her
patriotic duty, or, as some would prefer to say, desired to fix upon
others the responsibility of a grave act against her own order and kin.
Burghley, in his letter already quoted, written at the end of June to
Walsingham, says: “Now for Parliament: I cannot write patiently: all
that we laboured for, and with full consent brought to fashion, I mean
a law to make the Scottish Queen unable and unworthy of succession of
the crown, was by her Majesty neither assented to nor rejected, but
deferred until the feast of All Saints; but what all other good and wise
men think thereof, you may guess. Some here have, as it seemeth, abused
their favour about her Majesty, to make herself her most enemy. God amend
them.”[352]

A fortnight after this letter was written Burghley was made Lord
Treasurer of England in place of the Marquis of Winchester, who had
recently died. The work and strain of the Secretaryship had gravely
affected Burghley’s health, and early in the previous April he had been
so ill that his life was despaired of. De Guaras, the merchant who
acted informally as Spanish agent, says that the Queen and most of the
Councillors visited him, in the belief that his state was desperate.[353]
For some time he had been begging for permission to rest, but until the
great matters in hand were settled, this was impossible. The sky over
England had once more become cleared, and the great minister could hand
over to his old friend Sir Thomas Smith the Secretaryship, in which he
had done such signal service to the State.

The day after the elevation of Burghley to the Treasurership, the Queen
started on one of the stately progresses which caused so much delight and
enthusiasm to all her subjects but those who had to entertain her, except
perhaps Burghley and his rival Leicester, who were both honoured during
this summer with a visit from the sovereign. Burghley’s entry of the
great event comes curtly enough in his diary after the memorandum of his
new appointment, thus:—

“1572. July 15. Lord Burghley made Lord Treasurer of England.”

“July 22. The Queen’s Majesty at Theobalds.”[354]

Elizabeth had visited Theobalds in 1564 and 1571. On this occasion her
stay extended over three days, and the domestic biographer of Burghley
thus refers to this amongst other visits: “His Lordship’s extraordinary
chardg in enterteynment of the Quene was greater to him than to anie of
her subjects, for he enterteyned her at his house twelve several tymes,
which cost him two or three thousand pounds each tyme.… But his love for
his Sovereign, and joy to enterteyn her and her traine, was so greate, as
he thought no troble, care, nor cost too much, and all too little.”

Whilst Elizabeth slowly made her way from one great house to another,
by Gorhambury,[355] Dunstable, Woburn,[356] and so to Kenilworth, the
correspondence on the negotiations for the Alençon match became warmer
and warmer. Agents and messengers speeded backwards and forwards with
portraits and amiable trifles, particularly from the side of England.

There was a good reason for this. Before even the treaty of alliance
was signed, Burghley had deplored that Charles IX. and his mother were
cooling in the agreement for France and England jointly to aid the
Flemish rebels. The Pope and the Emperor were trying their hardest to
withdraw Charles and his mother from the compromise into which he had
entered with Elizabeth; and already the young King and Catharine de
Medici were discovering that Coligny and the Huguenots, when they had
the upper hand, could be as domineering and tyrannical as the Guises
themselves. Paris was in seething discontent that the beloved Guises were
in disgrace, and Charles found his throne tottering. To add to his fears
from the Catholics, the Huguenot force that had entered Flanders under
Genlis had been routed and destroyed by the Spaniards (19th July), and
it was clear to Catharine and her son, that if they did not promptly cut
themselves free from Elizabeth’s attack on Spanish interests, they would
be dragged down when the Huguenots fell. The very day that the news of
Genlis’ defeat arrived in Paris, a young noble named La Mole was sent
flying to England, ostensibly to confer with the Queen on the Alençon
match. There was no particular reason for roughly breaking off that,
and so offending Elizabeth; but the sending of a mere schoolboy like La
Mole with only vague instructions about the proposed joint action in
Flanders would show that Charles IX. did not intend to take any further
responsibility in that direction.

La Mole arrived in London on 27th July, and had a long midnight
interview with Burghley at the French Embassy. He ostensibly only came
from Alençon—not from the King—and when, a few days afterwards, he saw
the Queen privately at Kenilworth, though he was full of fine lovelorn
compliments from Alençon, he could only say from the King that the latter
could not openly declare himself in the matter of Flanders. He suggested
prudence, and fears of a league of Catholic powers against him. He talked
about the strength of Portugal and Savoy, and generally cried off from
his bargain. This was ill news for Elizabeth, for there were hundreds of
Englishmen in arms in Holland, and brave Sir Humphrey Gilbert and his
band were besieging Ter Goes. But the English Queen made the best of it,
and sought to redress matters by pushing the Alençon match more warmly
than ever, and petting and caressing La Mole, who accompanied her on her
progress towards Windsor. Burghley and the experienced Smith seem to have
been as firmly convinced as young La Mole himself, that the Queen was in
earnest, and would really, at last, make up her mind to marry Alençon.
In her conversations with La Mole and Fénélon she smoothed away all
difficulties. Walsingham had made a great mistake, she said, in declaring
that Alençon’s youth was an insuperable difficulty; and much more to
the same effect. But it is curious that all this artless prattle, all
this coy coquetry of the Queen, so spontaneous in appearance, had in
substance been carefully previously drafted by Burghley, and the drafts
are still at Hatfield. Whilst Charles IX. was hesitating and looking
askance at the dominant Huguenots, the latter were assuring Burghley and
Walsingham that all would be well directly. Henry of Navarre was to be
married to the Princess Margaret, and this would give them a pretext for
gathering so strong a force of their party that they could make the King
do as they pleased.[357]

But Elizabeth and the Huguenots had no monopoly of cunning, and whilst
the billing and cooing with La Mole went on, the massacre of St.
Bartholomew was being secretly planned, and every effort was being made
by the French King to draw England into a position of overt hostility
to Spain, whilst he remained unpledged. The Ambassador, Fénélon, and
young La Mole, left the Queen, and returned to London on the 27th
August. On the same day there arrived at Rye two couriers from Paris,
one from Walsingham to the Queen and Burghley, the other to the French
Ambassador. The French courier was detained, and his papers sent forward
with Walsingham’s despatches to the Queen. The news of the great crime
of St. Bartholomew fell upon Elizabeth and her court like a death-knell;
for it seemed that at last the threatened crusade against Protestantism
had begun, and that England was struck at as well as the Huguenots. All
rejoicings were stopped, mourning garb was assumed, and the gay devices
of masques and mummeries gave way to anxious conferences and plans for
defence. Affrighted Protestants by the thousand came flying across the
Channel in any craft that would sail; from mouth to mouth in England
ran the dreadful story of unprovoked and wanton slaughter, and on
every side the old English feeling of hatred and distrust of the false
Frenchmen came uppermost again. On the 7th September, La Mothe Fénélon
was received by the Queen at Woodstock in dead silence, and surrounded
by all the signs of mourning. He made the best of a bad matter: talked
of a plot of Coligny and the Huguenots to seize the Louvre, urged that
the massacre was unpremeditated, and hoped that the friendship between
France and England would continue uninterrupted. But Elizabeth knew that
such a friendship could only be a snare for her whilst the Guises were
paramount, and she dismissed the Ambassador with a plain indication of
her opinion.

Two days afterwards Burghley penned a long letter from the Council to
Walsingham, dictating the steps to be taken for the protection of English
interests; and he accompanied it by a private note, in which the Lord
Treasurer’s own view is frankly set forth. “I see,” he says, “the devil
is suffered by Almighty God for our sins to be strong in following the
persecution of Christ’s members, and therefore we are not only vigilant
of our own defence against such trayterous attempts as lately have been
put in use there in France, but also to call ourselves to repentance.…
The King assures her Majesty that the navy prepared by Strozzi shall not
in any way endamage her Majestie; but we have great cause in these times
to doubt all fair speeches, and therefore we do presently put all the
sea-coasts in defence, and mean to send her Majesty’s navy to sea with
speed, and so to continue until we see further whereunto to trust.”[358]

Not many days after the massacre, Catharine de Medici saw the mistake
she had made in allowing the Guises a free hand, and she and the King
did their best by protestations to Walsingham, and through Fénélon and
Castelnau de la Mauvissière, to draw closer to Elizabeth again. Alençon
did much more. He went to Walsingham, swore vengeance upon the murderers,
and expressed his intention of escaping from court and secretly flying
to England. By an emissary of his own he sent an extravagant love-letter
to the Queen, and ostentatiously took the Huguenot side, whilst Anjou
was on the side of the League. Elizabeth did not wish to break with
France, for her safety once more depended upon avoiding isolation; but
she was still deeply distrustful. Smith, in sending the Queen’s answer to
Walsingham, quaintly defines her attitude towards the French: “You may
perceive by her Majesty’s answer, that she will not refuse the interview
nor marriage, but yet she cometh near to them _tam timido et suspenso
pede_, that they may have good cause to doubt. The answer to De la Mothe
is _addulced_ so much as may, for she would have it so. You have a
busie piece of work to decypher that which in words is designed to the
extremitie, in deeds is more than manifest; neither you shall open the
one, nor shall they cloak the other. The best is, thank God, we stand
upon our guard, nor I trust shall be taken and killed asleep, as Coligny
was. The greatest matter for her Majestie, and our safety and defence, is
earnestly of us attempted, nor yet achieved, nor utterly in despair, but
rather in hope.”[359]

For the next few months this firm attitude of watchfulness was
maintained, whilst the outward demonstrations of friendship between
Catharine and Elizabeth became gradually more cordial, thanks largely
to the influence in the English court of the special envoy Castelnau
de la Mauvissière. Elizabeth consented to act as sponsor for the French
King’s infant daughter; Alençon’s envoy, Maisonfleur, with the knowledge
of Burghley, sent to his master a plan for his escape to England with
Navarre and Condé, and assured him that the Queen would marry him if
he came. But all this diplomatic finesse did not for a moment stay the
grim determination of the Queen and her Council to provide against
treachery, from whatever quarter it might come. All along the coast the
country stood on guard. Portsmouth, Plymouth, the Thames, and Harwich
were swarming with shipping, armed to the teeth for the succour of stern
Protestant Rochelle against the Catholics, and to aid the Netherlanders
in their struggle.[360] The Huguenots of Guienne, Languedoc, and Gascony
had recovered somewhat from the shock of St. Bartholomew, and were
arming for their defence; and to them also went English money, arms, and
encouragement. At Elizabeth’s court the Vidame de Chartres and the Count
de Montgomerie were honoured guests and busy agents, whilst in France
the young Princes of Navarre and Condé were daily being pledged deeper
to the cause of Protestantism and England. The German princes, too, as
profoundly shocked at the treacherous massacre as Elizabeth herself, drew
nearer to the Queen, who was now regarded throughout Europe as the head
of the Protestant confederacy.

It was soon seen that, though St. Bartholomew had given more power to the
Guises, it had also strengthened and consolidated the reformers rather
than destroyed them. Month after month Anjou, at the head of the Catholic
royal army, cast his men fruitlessly against the impregnable walls of
Rochelle, well supplied as the town was with stores by Montgomerie’s
fleet from England, until at last in the spring of 1573 it was seen by
Catharine and her sons that they had failed to crush the reformers of
France, and they were glad to make terms with the heroic Rochellais,
where the besiegers, plague-stricken, starving, and disheartened, were in
far worse case than the beleaguered. Anjou, to his brothers’ and mother’s
delight, was elected to the vacant throne of Poland, and a full amnesty
was signed for the Huguenots (June 1573); complete religious liberty
being accorded in the towns of Rochelle, Montauban, and Nismes, whilst
private Protestant worship was allowed throughout France.

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 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 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 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 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 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 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, 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
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 Alençon 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 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 Alençon 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 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 Alençon.[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 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 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. Alençon’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] 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 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. 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 (Requesens) late in 1573. Though De Guaras in
London continued humbly to imitate De Spes, and immersed himself in
intrigues, such as that of the English captains who proposed to betray
Flushing, the plans of those who offered to kill the Prince of Orange,
to kidnap the young King of Scotland, and the like, many of these plans
were merely traps set by Burghley to learn how far the Spaniards were
willing to go; and they came to nothing, for of all things Philip needed
peace the most. Alba and the war party in Spain were in disgrace, the
commerce of the country was almost destroyed by the privateers, and
friendly relations with England were once more the great object of
Philip’s policy. Burghley also renewed his efforts to draw the countries
closer together, for reasons which will presently be stated. A great
delivery of Catholics from prison was made mainly at his instance, and
drew upon him remonstrances and attacks, both on the part of some of the
Bishops themselves, in a guarded fashion, and more violently from the
Puritans, now openly patronised by Leicester. Arising out of this, a
great conspiracy was said to have been discovered against the lives of
Archbishop Parker and Lord Burghley, on the part of one Undertree. The
depositions of the accused, which are in the Hatfield Papers, are, as
usual in such cases, full to the extent of diffuseness; but though Parker
was much alarmed, and the affair gave Burghley an infinity of trouble,
there does not appear to have been much importance really attached to it.

The key to Burghley’s milder attitude towards the Catholics—apart from
the disappearance of Mary Stuart’s party in Scotland—was the position
of affairs in France. The talk of Elizabeth’s marriage with Alençon had
continued uninterruptedly, drawn out with a thousand banalities as to
the possibility of secret meetings between the lovers, the depth and
number of pock holes on the suitor’s face, his personal qualities, his
religious elasticity, and the like. His brother, Charles IX., was only
twenty-four, but it was known that he could not live long; the heir,
Anjou, now King of Poland, was a furious and fanatical Catholic. With
the knowledge of Elizabeth and her minister, all France was enveloped
in a vast conspiracy, in which the Montmorencis and the “politicians”
were making common cause with the Huguenots, of which combination
Alençon was the figurehead. But Catharine de Medici was fully aware of
the fact, and was determined to frustrate it. With Anjou for King she
might still be supreme in France; whereas the rise of Alençon, under
the tutelage of the Huguenots and the Queen of England, would have
meant extinction for her. Several times before Charles died, Alençon
and the Princes of Navarre and Condé had tried to escape to England,
but Catharine held them tight, and never left them. Montgomerie was
waiting for the signal, with a strong fleet in the Channel, to swoop
down upon Normandy, and all the Protestants and anti-Guisans in France
were under arms. The mine was to burst in April, the Princes were to be
rescued forcibly from Catharine, and St. Bartholomew was to be avenged.
But the Queen-mother was on the alert. Just before the day fixed she
hurried away from St. Germains to Catholic Paris, clapped Alençon and
Navarre, Montmorenci, De Cossé, and all the chiefs into prison, and then
crushed the Protestant armies piecemeal, for they were leaderless and
far apart. When, therefore, Charles IX. died (30th May 1574), Catharine
was mistress of the situation, and held France in her hand until the new
King, Henry III., arrived, to take possession of the throne. With such
a sovereign as this in France, led by Catharine, who had her grudge to
satisfy against Elizabeth for the encouragement she had given to the
Princes, it was natural that Burghley should again smile somewhat upon
the Catholics, and say civil words to Spain; especially as panic-stricken
rumours came—though they were untrue—that Philip was fitting out a
great navy to send with a powerful force to Flanders.[382] Catholic
Flanders, moreover, had mostly been brought back to Spanish allegiance
by the mildness of Requesens; and Elizabeth was growing less willing to
continue to provide large sums of money to uphold Orange in what now
appeared to be a well-nigh desperate cause, if it had to be supported
entirely from England. So when Requesens’ envoys came to see her about
the regulation of trade, and the exclusion of the privateers from her
ports, she was all smiles; and although upon being appealed to, to allow
English mercenaries to serve the Spaniards in Flanders as they served
Orange, she refused, though not very firmly, she expressed her desire
to bring Orange to submit to the King of Spain. Once more, therefore, an
unrestrained Catholic regime in France inevitably drew England and Spain
closer together. It was only when the Huguenots were paramount, who would
not join Philip against England, or help the Catholics of Scotland, that
Elizabeth and Burghley could afford to disregard the friendship of the
King of Spain.

The behaviour of the young sovereign of France—no longer a king,
but a besotted monk, sunk into the deepest abyss of debauchery
and superstition—kept alive the discontent of the Huguenots and
“politicians,” who had regarded his accession with horror. Alençon and
the King held rival courts in Paris, the one surrounded by reformers, the
other by all that was retrograde and vicious. Cardinal Lorraine was dead,
and the King’s advisers were no longer statesmen, but mendicant friars
and the Italian time-servers of the Queen-mother: Henry of Guise was just
entering into the arena, and was already a popular idol; and all seemed
to portend a renewal of French activity in favour of Mary Stuart.[383]
Elizabeth therefore went out of her way to dazzle poor foolish De Guaras
again. Seeing him walking in Richmond Park, she called him to her, and
exerted all her witchery upon him (March 1575). “You understand,” she
said, “full well, old wine, old bread, and old friends should be prized
the most, and if only for the sake of showing these Frenchmen who are
wrangling as to whether our friendship is firm or not, there is good
reason to prove outwardly the kind feeling which inwardly exists.”[384]
She accused the poor man, quite coquettishly, of having received a token
from the Queen of Scots—which he had not—but ended by quite winning him
over by her prattle. Almost simultaneously with this, strict orders were
given to the Warden of the Cinque Ports “to prevent the landing of the
Prince of Orange, or any of his aiders or abettors in the conspiracy
against the King of Spain, and also to prevent their receiving any aid,
succour, or relief, in men, armour, or victuals.”[385]

Considering that the revolt in Holland had been mainly kept up from
England, this was indeed a complete change of policy; but more was behind
it even than appeared. Many of the Catholic refugees on the Continent
were spies in the service of Lord Burghley, to whom nearly all of them
appealed as their only hope and protector, and one of them particularly,
named Woodshaw,[386] who was deep in the confidence of La Motte, the
Spanish Governor of Gravelines. The latter suggested that, as war
between France and England was in the air, it would be a good plan for
the English to seize Calais or Boulogne, with the aid of the Spaniards,
and come to terms with Philip to prevent any aid or food reaching the
French from Flanders or Artois. This was conveyed to Burghley, and soon
Sir William Drury, Colonel Chester, and several of the officers who
had come from Holland, were in close conference daily with him and the
other Councillors remaining in London when the Queen went upon her summer
progress. De Guaras, whilst reporting their movements, was in the dark
as to their object. “During the last three days,” he says, “at night or
at unsuspected hours, they have taken from the Tower sixty waggons and
gun carriages, which have been shipped to Dover.” Guns, battery-trains,
culverins, fieldpieces, and ammunition were being shipped on four of
the Queen’s ships at Rochester. Mariners were being pressed, commanders
were leaving secretly for the coast, Burghley’s son-in-law the Earl of
Oxford, with Ralph Hopton and young Montmorenci, hurried off to Germany,
and the Huguenot agents were closeted with Burghley almost day and night.
We know now what it all meant, by a letter from the Earl of Sussex to
Lord Burghley,[387] in which he deplores the projected war with Catholic
France, which, he says, is only brought about by those who wish to
prevent the Queen’s marriage with Alençon. “It will bring her into war
with all Europe, and she and the realm will smart for the pleasing of
these men’s humours.” The cost of the war, he says, was to be defrayed
equally by the King of Navarre (Henry), the German princes, and the
Queen; “but he fears her Majesty in the end must pay for all, or let all
fall when she hath put her foot in.”

Wilkes, the Clerk of the Council, was sent with a large sum of money to
young Montmorenci (Meru) in Strasbourg, and then over the Rhine to the
Duke Hans Casimir, the great mercenary; and Meru was able to write to
Burghley in October, “Thanks to the Queen’s favour by your means, we are
now on the point of succeeding. One of the finest armies that for twenty
years hath issued from Germany, ready to march, is coming just in time
to succour the King’s brother.”[388] All through the summer De Guaras was
at fault as to the meaning of the preparations, which he thought might be
a joint expedition against the Spaniards in Flanders. As we have seen,
the very opposite really was the case. Some of the principal English
officers, indeed, who had been with Orange were full of plots with De
Guaras for poisoning the Prince, for betraying Flushing into Spanish
hands, and so forth. For the moment there were certainly no smiles from
Elizabeth for the Netherlanders; for Orange had taken a masterly step,
such as she herself might have conceived. When he saw that English help
was slackening, he boldly made approaches to France for help. So long as
it was Huguenot help under her control, Elizabeth did not mind; but when
it was a question of marrying Orange’s daughter to Alençon or some other
French prince, and obtaining French national patronage, it was quite
another matter—that Elizabeth would never allow. So England and Spain
grew closer and closer. Sir Henry Cobham was sent as an envoy to Philip,
ostensibly on the question of the English prisoners of the Inquisition,
but really to propose a friendship between the two countries, and inform
the King of the Prince of Orange’s intrigues with the French.[389] A
Spanish flotilla on its way to the Netherlands, under Don Pedro de
Valdés, was, moreover, welcomed in the English ports, and an envoy from
Requesens took part, as the Queen’s guest, in the memorable festivities
at Kenilworth.

A renewed appeal was made to the Council by Orange in August, through
Colonel Chester. He offered the island of Zeeland to Elizabeth, if she
would hold it, and begged permission to raise two thousand fresh men
in England. The reply given by Burghley was to the effect that “if the
Queen allowed such a thing, the King of Spain would have a good cause for
introducing schism and fire into her country through Ireland. If Orange
carried out his threat to hand over the territory to the French, the
Queen would oppose it.” Every day some fresh proof of friendship with
Spain was given. Frobisher proposed to place his fleet at the disposal
of the King of Spain, proclamations were issued forbidding all British
subjects from taking service with Orange, and offers of mediation were
frequent. In September 1575, Alençon managed to escape the vigilance of
his brother and his mother, fled to Dreux, adopted the Huguenot cause,
and headed the revolt with Henry of Navarre. This was the eventuality
in which the English preparations were to have been employed. But,
again, Catharine de Medici was too clever to be caught. She suddenly
released Montmorenci and the rest of the “politicians” from the Bastile,
attached them to the King’s cause, and through them patched up a six
months’ truce between the two brothers (November). The terms were hard
for Henry. Alençon was bribed with 100,000 livres, and the three rich
duchies of Anjou, Berri, and Touraine; Hans Casimir got 300,000 crowns,
and a pension of 40,000 livres; the German mercenaries were handsomely
paid to go home; Condé was promised the governorship of Picardy; the
Montmorencis, De Cossé, the Chatillons, and the rest of the malcontents
were bought; the crown jewels of France were pawned, and the country
plunged deeply in debt to pay for the famous truce.

Then Elizabeth and her advisers found themselves confronted with
increased difficulties, as they usually did when the Catholics in
France had a free hand. Catharine and the King saw that France was
not big enough to hold at the same time the sovereign and the heir
presumptive, and cast about for means to get rid of him profitably. The
best suggestion for them came from the Walloon nobles in favour of Spain.
Why should not Alençon marry a daughter of the Spanish King and be made
Viceroy of Spanish Flanders? The mere whisper of such an arrangement
drove Elizabeth into a new course. She might hint, as she did pretty
broadly many times, at the marriage of the young Prince with herself, but
Alençon thought he saw more advantage elsewhere. For the next three years
he was held tightly in the leading-strings of his mother and brother—no
longer a Huguenot, but an ostentatiously devout Catholic, hating the King
and his surroundings bitterly; jealous, vengeful, and turbulent, but
looking for his future to the Catholics and the League rather than to
the Queen of England, with whom he kept up just a sufficient pretence of
love-making to prevent her from opposing him in Flanders. It was doubly
necessary now for Elizabeth to be friendly with Spain; but she could
not afford to see Orange utterly crushed, for with the Huguenots and
Protestant Holland both subdued, there was no barrier between her and
Catholic vengeance. The position was a perplexing one for her. Orange
sent over prayers almost daily for help, or he must abandon the struggle.
At one time, in December, when the Queen learned that a great deputation
of Dutch Protestant nobles were on the way to offer her Holland and
Zeeland in exchange for English support,[390] “she entered her chamber
alone, slamming the door after her, and crying out that they were ruining
her over this business. She declared loudly that she would have no
forces sent openly to Holland. She was in such grief that her ladies
threatened to burst her door open if she would not admit them, as they
could not bear her to be alone in such trouble.”[391] But loudly as she
might protest, especially in the hearing of the friends of Spain, and
roughly as she might use St. Aldegonde, Paul Buiz, and the rest of the
Netherlanders who prayed for aid, she took care, with Burghley’s help, to
look fixedly in another direction when men and arms, munitions and money,
were sent over to Orange in violation of her own orders.

What Lord Burghley’s action in the matter was is seen by his letters.
Beale, one of the clerks of the Council, was sent over to Zeeland to
report on Orange’s position, and to insist upon the suppression of
piracy. Burghley thus writes to Walsingham (16th April 1576): “I have
perused all the letters and memorandum of Mr. Beale’s concerning his
voyage into Zeeland, and so well allow of the whole course therein
taken by the Lords, that both with heart and hand I sign them.”[392]
The Flushing pirates appear to have offered some insult to the Earl
of Oxford, Burghley’s son-in-law, on his way to England, at which the
Treasurer was extremely angry,[393] an unusual thing with him. In
the same letter he writes: “I find it hard to make a good distinction
between anger and judgment for Lord Oxford’s misusage, and especially
when I look into the universal barbarism of the Prince’s (Orange) force
of Flushingers, who are only a rabble of common pirates, or worse, who
make no difference whom they outrage, I mistrust any good issue of the
cause, though of itself it should be favoured.” He almost violently urges
that Beale should ask the Prince of Orange to avenge such an insult “by
hanging some of the principals.” “Such an outrage cannot be condoned
without five or six of such thieves being hanged. If the Prince were rid
of a hundred of them it would be better for the cause. You see my anger
leadeth my judgment. But I am not truly more moved hereto for particular
causes than for the public.”[394] The same day a very strong remonstrance
from the English Council was written to Orange, saying that the piracy of
the Flushing men was rendering his cause odious to all Christendom, and
would ruin his enterprise.

The Netherlanders, especially Paul Buiz, who lodged with Burghley’s
servant, Herll, in Redcross Street, did their best to excuse the
Flushingers, and begged that “these rough men be not roughly dealt with.”
It is evident that they looked upon Leicester and the Puritans as their
champions rather than moderate Burghley, whose approaches to Spain at
the time were, of course, well known. Herll writes (14th March 1576):
“It is given out by those of good sort who profess the religion, that
your Lordship has been the only obstacle to this Holland service, by
dissuading her Majesty from the enterprise, when the Earl of Leicester
and several earnest friends were furtherers thereof. They complain that
these poor men who were sent to the Queen have been, contrary to promise,
kept by indirect dealing so long here, to their utter undoing at home and
abroad. They say that Sir F. Walsingham dealt honestly with them from
the first. He said they would get nothing, and lose their time. They say
these unworthy proceedings with foreign nations make the English the most
hated men in the world, and to be contemned for mere abusers, as those
who put on religion and piety and justice for a cloak to serve humours
withal. Your Lordship’s enemies, however, are compelled to say that you
are more subject to evil judgment for your good service than for evil
itself.” When Herll spoke to Paul Buiz about Burghley’s anger at the
outrage on Lord Oxford, the Netherlander “struck his breast, and said
your Lordship was the only man who had dealt sincerely with them, and
truly favoured their cause, and yet was forced to give them hard words,
according to the alterations of the time, parties, and occasion, which
kind of free proceeding he preferred of all others.”[395]

A few months later (August) Herll was made the means of conveying
to Colonel Chester, then with Orange, Lord Burghley’s view of the
situation. “Her Majesty,” he says, “is so moved by those insolent
delinges of the Prynce and his Zeelanders, as none dare move her to ani
consideratyon towards theme, butt all is sett uppon revenge of their
lewd acts and worse speche, and to extermynate them owt of the world,
rather than endure it ani longer. And where the Prynce pretends aid
owt of France, he dawnceth in a nett. If he se not that, her Majesty
knows the contrary, and that herein he is greatly abused, or seeketh to
abuse others, with small credit to hymselfe and less assurans to his
estate when this maske is taken away.”[396] The great indignation about
the pirates may or may not have been sincere; but it is unquestionable
that it was the fear expressed of an arrangement between Orange and the
French that really caused the disquietude.[397] The remedy to be proposed
to Orange by Chester was simply that he, Orange, should prevent any
repetition of the piratical outrages of the Flushing men, and apologise
for them, and his friends in England will move the Queen “to help him
underhand; but to say that her Majesty will be _forced_ to do anything,
maugre her will, is a great absurdity.” But if Orange will open his
eyes and see things as they are, “somewhat (yea, some round portion)
will be voluntarily given to the assistance of the cause, and to aid
both Zeeland and Holland, especially the latter, to which country the
Queen and her Council are greatly inclined.” Orange was a diplomatist as
keen as Burghley himself, and he well knew that, as a last resource, he
could always force the hands of the English Government by negotiating
for aid from France. Elizabeth might swear at his envoys, make friends
with his enemies the Spaniards, threaten to expend the last man and the
last shilling she had to turn the French out of Flanders, if ever they
entered; but she always ended in sending aid “underhand” to Orange to
prevent his union with the French; unless, as happened later, the French
were Huguenots disowned by their own King, and going as her humble
servants.

Leicester was for ever clamouring for open help to be sent to Orange; the
Puritans, who took their cue from him, were more aggressive than ever in
the country;[398] but ready as the Queen might be to dally Leicester,
she took care to make no serious move in the knotty question of the
Netherlands without the advice of her “spirit,” as she nicknamed the
great Lord Treasurer.[399] In spite of his almost continual illness, she
summoned him to her, wherever she might be; and at about the period when
the letters just quoted were written, the Earl of Sussex writes saying
that the Queen has just received intelligence from beyond the seas which
she must discuss with him at once. When Burghley had seen the Queen,
either on that occasion or soon after, and returned home, Sussex writes
thus: “Her Majesty spoke honourably of your Lordship’s deserts, and of
her affection for you, and of your sound, deep judgment and counsel;
using these words, ‘that no prince in Europe had such a councillor as she
had of him.’ If your Lordship had heard her speeches, they must needs
have been to your great contentment. The end of her Majesty’s speeches
was that she prayed your Lordship to come to Nonsuch, as soon as you
conveniently might.”

Burghley, indeed, was the only one of her ministers whom she treated
with anything approaching respect, for he always respected himself.
Walsingham, especially, was the object of her vulgar abuse. “Scurvy
knave” and “rogue” were the terms she frequently applied to him; and
it was apparently not at all an uncommon thing for her, in moments of
impatience with him, to pluck off her high-heeled shoe and fling it
in his face. Leicester she alternately petted and insulted. After a
squabble he used to sulk at Wanstead for a few days, till she softened
and commanded him to return, and then the comedy recommenced. Hatton
and Heneage were treated in similar fashion, but with even less
consideration. Only towards the Lord Treasurer, except for occasional
fits of distrust caused by his enemies, the Queen usually behaved with
decorum. How careful he was to avoid all cause for doubt is seen by his
answer to Lord Shrewsbury’s offer of his son as a husband for one of
Burghley’s daughters.[400] It will be recollected that Lord Shrewsbury
had the custody of the Queen of Scots, and that Burghley had fallen into
semi-disgrace shortly before, because he had visited Buxton at the same
time as Mary and her keeper. The match proposed was a good one, and the
Lord Treasurer—a new noble—was flattered and pleased at the offer, but
declined it, mainly because his enemies had put into the Queen’s head
that he had gone to Buxton at the instance of the Shrewsburys, to plot in
favour of Mary; “and hereof at my return to her Majesty’s presence, I had
very sharp reproofs … with plain charging of me for favouring the Queen
of Scots, and that in so earnest sort, as I never looked for, knowing my
integrity to her Majesty, but specially knowing how contrariously the
Queen of Scots conceived of me for many things.” He continues his letter
with an evidently sincere protest of his loyalty and disinterestedness,
and the absence in him of any personal feeling against Mary, but declares
his determination to do his best, at all costs, to frustrate any
attempted injury against his mistress or her realm.

Notwithstanding this small cloud, Burghley went again to Buxton in 1577.
A somewhat curious letter from Leicester, who went to Buxton before him
in June, shows that the Lord Treasurer’s mode of life was not always
prudent. Leicester says that he and his brother are benefiting greatly
from the water. “We observe our physician’s orders diligently, and
find great pleasure both in drinking and bathing in the water. I think
it would be good for your Lordship, but not if you do as we hear your
Lordship did last time: taking great journeys abroad ten or twelve miles
a day, and using liberal diet with company dinners and suppers. We take
another way, dining two or three together, having but one dish of meat
at most, and taking the air afoot or on horseback moderately.”[401] In
July (1577) Burghley started from Theobalds for his Lincolnshire estates,
and thence to Buxton. Leicester wrote to him there that the Queen was
desirous of receiving a “tun of Buxton water in hogsheads;” but when
in due time the water arrived, “her Majesty seemeth not to make any
great account of it. And yet she more than twice or thrice commanded me
earnestly to write to you for it, and … asked me sundry times whether
I had remembered it or not: but it seems her Majesty doth mistrust it
will not be of the goodness here it is there; besides, somebody told her
there was some bruit of it about, as though her Majesty had had some sore
leg. Such like devices made her half angry with me now for sending to
you for it.”[402] This hint of her sore leg was enough to make Elizabeth
sacrifice a river of Buxton water if necessary. She, like her father
before her, really had an issue in one of her legs, and there was no
point upon which she was more sensitive.

We have seen that from the accession of Henry III. of France in the
autumn of 1574 it suited English policy to draw closer to Spain. An
event happened, however, late in 1576 which once more changed the entire
position. Requesens, the Spanish Viceroy of Flanders, had died in March
1576, before his mission of pacification was complete. It is true that
Catholic Flanders and Brabant had been won back again, but Holland
and Zeeland still stood out. The fierce Spanish infantry cared for no
distinction between Fleming and Hollander, Catholic or Protestant, and
were openly discontented at the conciliatory policy which Philip’s
penury rendered needful. They were unpaid, for there was no money in the
treasury to pay them, and soon mutiny, pillage, and murder became the
order of the day. Philip was in despair, and ordered his brother Don Juan
to hurry to Flanders from Italy to pacify and withdraw the troops, and to
conciliate the indignant Catholic Flemings at any cost. Don Juan scorned
and hated the task—which he said a woman could do better than a soldier.
He was full of a secret plan to dash over to England with the Spanish
infantry from Flanders; and instead of obeying orders and going direct to
his new government, he hurried to Spain for the purpose of persuading his
brother to allow him to have his way.

The time thus wasted was fatal. Peace with England was absolutely
necessary for Philip, and he refused to countenance Don Juan’s plans.
But Orange had spies everywhere; Burghley’s secretary, Herll, was in
Flanders, and long before Don Juan arrived on the Flemish frontier the
hopes of the murderous rabble of soldiery that the young Prince would
lead them to England were well known to the Lord Treasurer and his
mistress. Early in November 1576 the Spanish fury burst upon Antwerp.
The Council of Regency consisted mostly of Flemish Catholic nobles, and
they fought as well as they might against the blood lust of the King’s
soldiers. When all hope was gone, and the fairest cities of Flanders had
been devastated and ruined, and their populations massacred, without
distinction of age, sex, or creed, then Catholic Flanders turned against
the wreckers of their homes, and shoulder to shoulder with Orange and
his Protestants, stood at bay. When Don Juan arrived at Luxemburg he was
informed that the States would only allow him to take up his governorship
on terms to be dictated by them in union with Orange; the first condition
of which was that the Spanish troops must leave the Netherlands
forthwith, _and by land_, in order that they might not invade England.
Don Juan was mad with fury and disappointment; but chafe as he might,
he had to give way, and in the end was forced to enter Brussels only as
Governor on sufferance of the States in the spring of 1577.

To England there came now to beg for aid and support, not rough
Zeelanders alone, not beggars of the sea, not boorish burghers, but the
very nobles who had often come before as Philip’s representatives—De
Croys, Montmorencis, De Granvelles, Zweveghems, and the like; Catholics
of bluest blood, but ready to claim any help against the Spanish
oppressor. Dr. Wilson was sent as English envoy to the States, and
Sir John Smith went to Madrid with a formal offer from Elizabeth to
mediate.[403] Philip’s only course was to accept any terms which left
him even a nominal sovereignty of his Netherlands dominions, and this he
did, rather than allow Elizabeth to pose as mediatrix between him and
his subjects. But the altered position in Flanders completely changed
the attitude of England towards Spain, especially when in the summer of
1577 Don Juan lost patience, broke faith with the Flemings, threw himself
into the fortress of Namur, and defied the States. England’s traditional
alliance had not been with the crown of Spain, but with the House of
Burgundy as possessor of the Netherlands; and now that Flanders and
Brabant were at one with Holland and Zeeland in upholding their rights
against Spain, England was naturally on their side against the foreigner,
quite independently of the question of creed. There was no longer any
concealment about it.[404] The Duke of Arschot’s brother was at the
English court in September with the acquiescence of Orange, planning an
arrangement which seemed to offer a means by which all parties might be
satisfied. The young Austrian Archduke Mathias, Philip’s nephew, was
suddenly spirited away from Vienna and installed by the Flemings as
sovereign of Flanders, with Orange as his guide and mentor. An English
army under Leicester or his brother was to be raised to support him
against Don Juan, who was rallying a Catholic force, crying to the Duke
of Guise for help, and making a last appeal to his brother to save his
honour, if not his sovereignty. The outbreak of the Protestants in Ghent,
encouraged by the proximity of Orange, the capture and imprisonment of
Arschot and the Catholic nobles, and the desecration of Catholic shrines
(end of October), forced Philip’s hands. The Archduke Mathias as a
tributary sovereign, with the Catholic Flemings paramount over Orange,
might have been tolerated; but if the Protestants and Orange were going
to predominate, Spain must fight to the end. So with a heavy heart Philip
bent to the inevitable, and sent Alexander Farnese and a Spanish army
from Italy once more to reconquer the Netherlands.

The invariable excuse given by Elizabeth for her help to the States
was, that it was to keep the French out of Flanders; Don Juan’s appeal
to the Guises being especially distasteful to her. “The present support
desired of her,” she declared, “is only in consideration of the extreme
necessity of the States by reason of the great preparations in France and
elsewhere to overrun them, and bring utter ruin upon them; and it not
disagreeing with the ancient treaties between the crown of England and
the House of Burgundy … the purpose of the States being no other than
by these succours to keep themselves in due obedience to the King their
sovereign, her Majesty is content to grant the aid desired.”[405] The
plausible reasons advanced, however, made no difference to Philip. It was
only evident to him that the Queen of England was subsidising rebellion
against him, and that her subjects held fortresses in his dominions as a
pledge for the money she had advanced. He could not afford to declare war
with England at the time, but he did what he could. The Irish malcontents
were encouraged with the aid of Papal money; and Catholic plots, with
Spanish and Guisan aid, for the rescue of Mary Stuart, the assassination
of Elizabeth, and the like, kept the English court in alarm,[406] and
pointed the moral for ever on the lips of Philip’s many paid agents and
friends in Elizabeth’s counsels.

During most of the period when the arrangements with the States were
being concluded in 1577, Burghley was absent from court, and it may be
fairly assumed that the less cautious attitude adopted towards Spain was
owing to the unchecked influence of Leicester; but with Burghley’s return
late in the autumn the astute balancing diplomacy of the master-hand
becomes once more apparent, both in the declaration quoted above, and the
letter drafted by the Treasurer taken by Wilkes, Clerk of the Council,
to Madrid. In it Elizabeth prays Philip to have compassion upon his
Flemish subjects and to grant their just demands, and again explains her
support of them. Moderate and deferential, however, as the tone of the
letter was, it did not alter prior facts, and Philip was indignant and
wrathful at what he called an attempt of Elizabeth to lay down the law
for him. “Send this man off,” he says, “before his fortnight is up, and
before he commits some impertinence which will oblige us to burn him.”
Philip might well be angry, for he was impotent: he had to reconquer his
own Flemings, Catholics and Protestants too, thanks to the aid they had
obtained from Elizabeth. To make matters more galling, Antonio de Guaras
had suddenly been arrested at dead of night, all his papers captured, his
property sequestrated, and the poor man himself accused of consorting and
plotting with the Queen’s enemies.[407] Lord Burghley, his former friend,
was daily threatening him with the rack in the Tower; and for eighteen
months he was treated with calculating contumely and harshness, only
at last to be released, old, broken, and penniless, and sent to Spain
scornfully to die.

In January 1578, Don Juan and Farnese defeated the States troops at
Gemblours, and it seemed as if once more Flanders and Brabant would fall
a prey to Spanish soldiery. Elizabeth’s aid had become less liberal
with the return of Burghley, who had no objection at all to Spanish
predominance in Catholic Flanders; his only interest there was to keep
the French out.[408] But the Flemings naturally regarded the position
from another point of view. What they wanted was to preserve their
autonomous rights against Spain. Mathias had turned out a broken reed: he
had no money, no followers, no friends, and no ability; and the really
dominant man in the Government was Protestant Orange. This did not
please the Catholic nobles, and they cast about for another prince with
a greater following than Mathias, who should at once be a Catholic and
yet acceptable to Orange and the Protestants. Catharine had for some time
past anticipated the position, and had been busy, but secretly, pushing
the claims of her son Alençon; but for her purpose it was necessary to
manage warily, in order to avoid giving Philip open offence. Alençon,
however, was bound by no such considerations. Nothing would have suited
him better than to draw France into war with Spain. He was under arrest
and strictly guarded, but he contrived, on the 14th February 1578, to
escape out of a second-floor window in the Louvre. All France was in a
turmoil. Huguenots and malcontents flocked to the Flemish frontier, and
Catharine raced half over France to beg her errant son to return. Henry
III. assured Mendoza, the new Spanish Ambassador on his way to England,
that his brother was obedient, and he was sure he would do nothing
against Philip in Flanders. But all the world knew that he would if he
could; and that whatever he might do with a French force there would
be against English as well as Spanish interests. Once more, therefore,
it was necessary for Elizabeth to change her policy somewhat, and Lord
Burghley resumed his favourite character of a friend to the ancient
Spanish alliance.

The new Spanish Ambassador saw Elizabeth on the 16th March 1578, and
gave her all sorts of reassuring messages from Philip. He was the most
clement of sovereigns. A successor to Don Juan should be appointed who
should please everybody, and all would soon be settled. A few days
afterwards Mendoza had a long conversation with Burghley, in the presence
of other Councillors. As Philip had, said the Treasurer, practically
accepted the various concessions to the Flemings recommended by the
Queen; “if the terms offered were not accepted by the States, she herself
would take up arms against them.” This was probably too strong for
Leicester and Walsingham, Puritans both, and Mendoza says they seemed to
be urging something upon Burghley very forcibly, which he thought was the
question of the withdrawal of the Spanish troops from Flanders; but it
ended in Burghley again pointedly offering the Queen’s mediation.

A few days later the Duke of Arschot’s brother, the Marquis d’Havrey,
Leicester’s great friend, arrived in England to counteract Mendoza’s
efforts, and to beg that the troops that had been promised should be sent
to the States. He was made much of by the English nobles and the Queen,
who was now greatly influenced by Leicester, and Burghley at the moment
seems to have stood almost alone in his resistance of open aid being sent
to the States.[409] It did not take Mendoza many days to discover how
things really lay. “I have found the Queen,” he writes, “much opposed to
your Majesty’s interests, and most of her ministers are quite alienated
from us, particularly those who are most important, as although there are
seventeen Councillors … the bulk of the business really depends upon the
Queen, Leicester, Walsingham, and Cecil, the latter of whom, although by
virtue of his office he takes part in the resolutions, absents himself
from the Council on many occasions, as he is opposed to the Queen’s
helping the rebels so effectively, and thus weakening her own position.
He does not wish, however, to break with Leicester and Walsingham on
the matter, they being very much wedded to the States and extremely
self-seeking. I am assured that they are keeping the interest of the
money lent to the States, besides the presents they have received out of
the principal. They urge the business under the cloak of religion, which
Cecil cannot well oppose.”[410]

This, indeed, was one of the periods when Burghley’s moderating influence
was overborne by Leicester, Walsingham, and the Puritans. The Lord
Treasurer still did his best—constantly ill though he was—to stem the
violence of the tide, befriending the bishops who were being bitterly
attacked,[411] and counselling caution in aiding the Flemings against
Spain; but, as we have seen, he was somewhat in the background, and
absented himself from court as much as possible. It is curious, however,
to see, even under these circumstances, how he was still appealed to
by all parties. He was very ill in April at Theobalds, and the Queen
happened to be suffering from toothache. Of course Hatton must write to
the Lord Treasurer, begging him to come to court and give his advice as
to what should be done. The reply is very characteristic. Notwithstanding
his own pain he would come up at once, he wrote, if by so doing he could
relieve the Queen; but as the physicians advised that the tooth should
be extracted, though they dared not tell the Queen so, all he could do
would be to urge her Majesty to have it done.[412] Hatton did not care
to incur the responsibility of saying so himself, and simply showed
the Queen Burghley’s letter. Doubtless Elizabeth took the good advice
tendered; for it was only a day or two afterwards that young Gilbert
Talbot, Lord Shrewsbury’s son, was walking in the Tilt Yard, Whitehall,
one morning, under the Queen’s windows, when her maiden Majesty herself
came to the casement in her night-dress, in full view of Talbot, who
wrote: “My eye fell towards her, and she showed to be greatly ashamed
thereof, for that she was unready and in her night-stuff; so when she saw
me after dinner as she went to walk, she gave me a great fillip on the
forehead, and told the Lord Chamberlain how I had seen her that morning,
and how ashamed she was.” Talbot, in writing this to his father (1st May
1578) ends his letter by saying that the Queen was that week to stay
three or four days with Burghley at Theobalds. It is plain to see that
the renewed severity against the Catholics in England, and the almost
ostentatious aiding of the States against Spain, did not meet with the
approval of Burghley. He was much more concerned for the moment at the
large levies of French troops being collected on the Flemish frontier;
and his ordinary policy would have been either to side with the Spaniards
against them, or to have disarmed their figurehead Alençon (or Anjou as
he was now called) by holding out hopes of his marriage with the Queen,
if the earnest attempts of the English to mediate between the States
and Don Juan were fruitless. But he had to reckon with Leicester and
Walsingham, and the Queen’s policy wavered almost daily between her two
sets of counsellors.[413]

To the Queen’s visit to Theobalds is doubtless due the entry in
Burghley’s diary of 15th May, recording the despatch of Edward Stafford
to inspect and report upon the French forces on the Flemish frontier.
Alençon himself used every effort to convince the Queen of his desire to
look to her, rather than to his brother, as his guide and support. On
the 19th May he sent her a letter by one of his friends, informing her
of his intention of relieving the Netherlands; “of which intention,” he
says, “she already knows so much that he will not tire her by explaining
it further.” On the 7th July he crossed the frontier, and threw himself
into Mons for the purpose, as he declared, “of helping this oppressed
people, and humiliating the pride of Spain;” and at the same time he sent
his chamberlain to offer marriage to Elizabeth, and assure her of his
complete dependence upon her. It was unwelcome news for Elizabeth, for
she could never trust the French. Alençon, after all, was a Catholic, and
she was uncertain whether Henry III. was not really behind his brother.
Gondi, one of the leaders of Catharine’s counsels, had recently come to
England with a request to be allowed to see Mary Stuart;[414] Catholic
intrigues in Scotland had succeeded in putting an end to Morton’s regency
(March 1578); and on all sides there were indications that, if Elizabeth
could only be dragged into open hostility to Spain, and so rendered
powerless, an attempt would be made on the part of France to recover
its lost influence over Scotland. Mendoza carefully fanned the flame of
Elizabeth’s distrust against the French; and the effect of Walsingham’s
absence in Flanders, whilst Leicester was away at Buxton, is noticeable
at once. “The Queen,” writes Mendoza (19th July), “is now turning her
eyes more to your Majesty; and her ministers have begun to get friendly
with me. If your Majesty wishes to retain them, I see a way of doing
it.”[415]

Alençon’s agents in the meanwhile were not idle. One after the other came
to assure her of their master’s desire to marry her, and look to her
alone for guidance. He had quarrelled with his brother, he said, and had
no other mistress than the Queen of England. They quite convinced Sussex,
apparently, for he entered warmly into their marriage plans, which gave
him another chance of revenge upon Leicester. Elizabeth’s desire to be
amiable to Alençon’s envoys at Long Melford during her progress (August)
led her to insult Sussex, as Lord Steward, about the amount of plate
on the sideboard. This gave an opportunity for Lord North, a creature
of Leicester, to give Sussex the lie, and led to a further feud which
continued for months.[416]

But though Elizabeth was somewhat tranquillised with regard to the French
King’s connivance in Alençon’s proceedings, she was cool about the
marriage business. “If the Prince liked to come, she told De Bacqueville,
he might do so; but he must not take offence if she did not like him
when she saw him;” whereupon Burghley told the envoy that if he were
in his place he would not bring his master over on such a message. All
the charming of Alençon’s attractive agents was unsuccessful in opening
the Queen’s money bags, and the loan of 300,000 crowns they prayed for
was refused. If he wanted her aid or affection, she said, he must first
obey her and retire from Flanders, and she would then consider what she
should do. Pressure was put upon Alençon by his brother, by the Pope
and the Catholics, on the other hand, to desist from his enterprise.
Splendid Catholic alliances were proposed to him, and dire threats of
punishment held out if he did not retire. When the Protestant Hollanders
discovered that Alençon could count neither upon England nor France to
support him, they began to cry off. The only temptation they had in
welcoming a Catholic prince was the hope of national aid. If he did not
bring that, he was as useless to them as poor Mathias had been. And so
all through the autumn of 1578 the fate of Flanders hung on Elizabeth’s
caprice. Henry III. was anxious to get his brother married to Elizabeth,
and a fresh national alliance concluded; but he wished to avoid pledging
himself against Spain, so as to be able to hold the balance. Elizabeth’s
aim was similar, and she would promise nothing; but she swore both to
Flemings and Spaniards that for every Frenchman that set foot in Flanders
there should be an Englishman. Fresh German mercenaries were raised
at her expense to aid the States; renewed attempts, backed by threats,
were made to persuade Don Juan to ratify the pacification of Ghent; but
Alençon, in the meanwhile, with a dwindling force and no money, was
falling to the ground between the two stools of France and England,
Huguenot or Catholic. At the end of the year ominous news came that the
Huguenots had been won over by the Queen-mother;[417] that the King of
France had entered into a great Catholic league against Elizabeth, and
was raising a force of mercenaries in Germany to help Alençon to keep a
footing in Flanders, in spite of England; whilst a Scottish nobleman, a
Douglas, was at the French court carrying on some secret intrigue with
Henry III.

Elizabeth was alarmed at this, and at once became warm in the Alençon
marriage, thanks partly also to the arrival of the Prince’s agent Simier,
who very soon established a complete influence over the Queen, to the
infinite scandal of all Europe. Against this influence Mendoza, able,
bold, and crafty, battled ceaselessly: for ever pointing at the intrigues
of the French in Scotland, their old jealousy of England, the approaching
marriageable age of the King of Scots, which would give an opportunity
for recovering French influence in his country, and much more to the
same effect. After one conversation of this sort with the Queen, late in
January 1579, Mendoza drove his points home one by one to Burghley and
Sussex, showing them how much more profitable was an alliance with Spain
than with France, and the danger of England herself being attacked if she
took the Netherlands rebels under her protection. Amongst other things
Burghley replied that “he had told M. Simier that one of the principal
arguments in favour of the marriage, namely, that Alençon might become
King of France, had turned him (Cecil) against it, as he considered that
it would be a disadvantage to England, whereupon Simier had complained
of him to the Queen. For his own part his desire had always been to see
the Queen married to a prince of the House of Austria, with which it was
well to be in alliance; but since old friends cast them off, and your
Majesty refused to confirm the treaties, or receive a minister at your
court,[418] they must seek new friends.”

The current of affairs and the Queen’s fickleness evidently displeased
the Lord Treasurer. In September (1578) he had unsuccessfully begged
leave of absence to visit Burghley,[419] where the rebuilding of the
mansion was still progressing, under the care of Sir Thomas Cecil. He
was not allowed to go; but the plague raged in London all the autumn,
and Burghley retreated to Theobalds, where he was within easy reach of
the Council. He found, moreover, Leicester’s enmity towards him more
active than ever,[420] and Hatton, now his chief henchman, for Sussex was
unstable, was of inferior rank, influence, and ability. But though his
political influence for a time was under a cloud, there was no abatement
of the appeals to his judgment and for his intercession with the Queen.
Imprisoned Catholics, deprived Puritans, old friends, like the Duchess
of Suffolk, Lord Lincoln, or the Earl of Bedford, claimed his advice in
their affairs; suitors at law besought his good word; miners or explorers
prayed for his patronage; bishops bespoke his aid to govern their clergy;
the clergy appealed to him against the bishops. High and humble, friend
and stranger, rich and poor alike, looked to Burghley for guidance, and
found at least patient consideration for their causes.[421]

By the beginning of 1579, however, the aspect of European politics had
become so threatening that the practised hand of the Lord Treasurer was
needed at the helm, and thenceforward his influence was again in the
ascendant. Simier was making violent vicarious love to the Queen, and
letters of the most extravagant description were exchanged between the
young Prince and Elizabeth, whilst really sincere and earnest efforts
were being made in favour of the match by Henry III. and Catharine de
Medici. Commissioners and ambassadors went backwards and forwards, and
the conditions, not only of the Queen’s marriage, but of a national
offensive and defensive alliance between France and England, were under
discussion. Henry III. was ready, he said, to submit to any conditions
desired by Elizabeth, and Alençon was almost blasphemous in his praising
of the charms of his elderly flame. There were two main reasons for
this drawing together of England and France. Don Juan was dead, and
the military genius and diplomacy of Alexander Farnese had once more
separated Catholic Belgium from Protestant Holland (Treaty of Arras,
January 1579). Orange himself still clung to the hope of consolidating
a united Flemish nation, including north and south, and desired to use
Alençon, with the Queen of England’s support, for that purpose but
there was no enthusiasm in Holland for the idea; and in the meanwhile
Alençon was isolated in Catholic Flanders, with his own brother raging
at the compromising position in which he placed him, and ordering him to
return to France. It was evident to Henry that the only way in which his
turbulent brother could be established in Flanders, without causing both
Spanish and English arms to be used against him, was to let him depend
solely upon Elizabeth and Orange, whilst France stood aloof. This was one
of the reasons for the closer relations desired by Catharine and her son.
The other was more important still. The young King of Portugal had fallen
in battle in Morocco, and the new King was an aged, childless Cardinal.
Philip of Spain was already intriguing for the succession, which he
claimed. The possession of the fine harbours and Atlantic seaboard of
Portugal by Spain would enormously increase her maritime potency, to the
detriment of England and France; and it was felt that these powers must
unite to resist the common danger. That Lord Burghley was early alive to
its importance is proved by a genealogical statement of his relating to
the Portuguese succession immediately after the death of the King Don
Sebastian[422] (August 1578), and several memoranda of subsequent date on
the subject.

Under these circumstances the Alençon approaches again became to all
appearance serious. The Prince, ceding to the pressure placed upon him,
consented to retire from Flanders early in the year, and was reconciled
to his brother; and then the arrangements for effective action in the
Netherlands and a visit of Alençon to England were actively proceeded
with. How busy Lord Burghley was in the matter will be seen by the very
voluminous minutes in his own hand of the discussions in Council on the
subject (Hatfield Papers). In all probability the Queen was not even now
sincere in the matter of the marriage, especially as Leicester and Hatton
pretended to be warmly in favour of it, until they became personally
jealous of Simier; but Burghley was evidently doubtful. In his balancing
papers he gives much more space to the “perils” than to the advantages
of the match, and his own final judgment is, that “except that her
Majesty would of her own mind incline to marriage he would never advise
thereto.” In the meanwhile, all England was in a veritable panic at the
idea of the marriage of the Queen to a Papist. Puritan pulpits rang with
denunciations; Stubbs’ famous book, “The Discovery of a Gaping Gulph,”
which cost the author his right hand and deeply offended the Queen, was
read widely; and the Queen herself was obliged to warn her eager suitor
of the hatred of her people to the idea of his proposed visit. But the
preparations went on, and the court was ordered to make itself as fine
as money would make it, Leicester alone sending to Flanders for twelve
hundred pounds’ worth of silks, velvets, and cloth of gold. Simier in the
meanwhile was daily becoming more clamorous for a definite answer to his
master’s proposal. Large bribes were paid by the French Ambassador and
Mendoza respectively to the Councillors to forward or impede the match,
and the probabilities shifted from day to day.[423]

When the Queen seemed really bent upon the match, Burghley did not
attempt to oppose her; he simply placed before her the arguments for and
against it, and left the decision to her. This is exactly what Elizabeth
did not wish. Simier and her own imprudence had drawn her into an
extremely dangerous position, and she wished her Council to assume the
responsibility of extricating her from it. Her first object in resuming
the negotiations had been to get Alençon and the French out of Flanders,
whilst preventing the despair and collapse of Orange; her present aim
was to secure the King of France to her side, and weaken Spain without
herself being drawn into open hostility. The talk of marriage helped her
in this; but if once she fell into the trap, and was married indeed, her
power of balance would be gone. Driven into a corner, late in April she
took Simier and the French Ambassador, with Burghley, Leicester, Sussex,
and Walsingham, to Wanstead, where she desired the Councillors to give
her in writing their individual opinions, in order that she might show
them to the Frenchmen. They refused to do so, and once more laid before
her the “perils and advantages” of each course, leaving her to decide.
The Councillors mentioned sat in conference almost day and night during
their three days’ stay at Wanstead, but, after all, returned as they
came. Simier was furious, and threatened to go back to France; and a full
Council sat at Whitehall on the 3rd May, from two o’clock in the day till
two the next morning, finally to discuss the question. It was found that
the only man really in favour of the marriage was Sussex, and Simier was
called in and informed that his master’s conditions were unacceptable.
The envoy roared out that he had been played with, and flung out of
the room to make his complaint to the Queen. She was all sympathy. She
wanted to get married—she must get married. It was all the fault of her
Councillors, and so forth, until her ruffled “ape,” as she called him,
was pacified. Alençon was not lightly put off. He announced his intention
of coming to see his goddess, no matter what the consequences might be.
The Queen was for refusing him leave, but Lord Burghley pointed out to
her the danger of this open affront to a French prince. She had gone too
far to refuse, and she was obliged to give a passport. Simier rarely
left the Queen’s side now, and she seems quite to have lost her head.
Mendoza worked hard to spread the sinister murmurs of her behaviour
through the country. Leicester grew violently jealous, and twice hired
an assassin to kill Simier, which he nearly did once in the Queen’s own
barge. The Queen was beside herself with rage, and Simier, to revenge
himself upon Leicester, told the Queen, as no one else had dared to do,
of the marriage of Leicester with Lady Essex. It was a master-stroke. The
Queen’s fury was boundless, and she swore like a trooper at Leicester and
the she-wolf he had married. For a time Leicester’s influence was gone,
and Simier lived in the palace of Greenwich, to the open disgust of the
English people. In August, Alençon rushed over to England in disguise.
His coming was an open secret, but the Queen kept him hid in the palace
of Greenwich.[424] She posed before him, showed off all her charms, dined
and supped with him in private, fell desperately in love with him, or
pretended to do so, and sent him off after a week’s stay as secretly as
he came, with expressions of affection on both sides, even too fervid to
be sincere, and long afterwards continued by correspondence.

Whatever might be the final result of the marriage negotiations—and
Burghley himself was as much in the dark as any one on that point—a close
alliance between France and England was of growing importance to both
countries. The English Council under Burghley sat at Greenwich almost
continuously from the 2nd to the 8th October discussing, weighing, and
reporting upon the whole question of alliance and marriage. The final
result was that the marriage would be undesirable, Burghley and Sussex
being the only Councillors who were not strongly opposed to it.[425]
The message to the Queen was delivered by Burghley. It was ambiguous
and moderate, begged the Queen to tell the Council her own mind, and
so on; but there was no doubt of the meaning of it to the Queen. The
Council was against the match, unless some guarantee could be found that
the Protestant religion should not be imperilled. Burghley’s minute
sets forth the Queen’s answer. “She shed many tears to find that her
Councillors, by their long disputations, should make it doubtful whether
it would be safe for her to marry and have a child.” She was a simpleton,
she said, to have referred the question to them. She expected they would
have unanimously begged her to marry, instead of raising doubts about
it. When they saw her again later in the day she was more angry still.
She railed at those who would think of “surety” before her happiness,
“and that any should think so slenderly of her” as to doubt that she
would take care that religion was properly safeguarded if she married.
She managed, as usual, to reduce the Council to a state of confusion
with her tears and reproaches; and a hasty meeting was called, at which
a resolution was passed to the effect, that as the Queen seemed so much
bent upon the marriage, the Councillors all offered their services to
promote it. When this message was taken to her, Lord Burghley records
that “her Majesty’s answers were very sharp in reprehending all such
as she thought would make arguments against her marriage, and though
she thought it not meet to declare to them whether she would marry with
Monsieur or no, yet she looked from their hands that they should with one
accord have made a special suit to her for the same.”[426]

No wonder that with such a change on the part of the Queen from morning
to afternoon, the Councillors were at their wits’ end to know what she
really meant; but it is evident that she intended to have her own way,
whatever it was, and lay the responsibility upon others. Burghley and
Sussex had avoided open opposition, and were favourably regarded by the
Queen in consequence; whilst Leicester, Walsingham, Knollys, and even her
poor “sheep” Hatton, came in for a share of her vituperation and abuse;
and the Puritans who were leading the outcry against the match received
harder measure than ever.

Early in November she summoned the Council again, and told them that she
had decided to marry. It was only for them now to consider the means.
Let them, she said, individually put their opinions in writing. It was
evident that this course would again bring forward the dissensions on the
subject, and render it more difficult, which was perhaps her intention.
Simier went and told her so, whereupon she asked him angrily how he knew
what orders she had given to her Council. He replied that Lord Burghley
had told him. “Surely,” she cried, “it is possible for my Councillors to
keep a secret. I will see to this.” Then she sent orders to the Council
to write a letter to Alençon, asking him to come to England quickly,
which they refused to do. He was, they said, coming to marry her, not
them, and she ought to write herself. They openly quarrelled with Simier,
who was finding England too hot for him, and who left late in November,
taking with him a hastily patched draft agreement for the marriage,
in which the Queen characteristically introduced at the last hour an
additional loophole of escape, by stipulating that the articles should
remain in suspense for two months, “during which time the Queen hopes to
have brought her people to consent. If before that time she did not write
consenting to receive ambassadors for the conclusion of the treaty, the
whole of the conditions would be void.”[427]

The year 1580 opened full of anxiety for Elizabeth. The ostentatious
fitting out of the Spanish fleet, and the active support by Spain
and the Pope of the Desmond rebellion, the success of Parma, and the
desperate attempts of Orange to reunite Flanders with Holland under
Alençon in the national cause, were all so many dangers to England. If
Elizabeth offended France or alienated Alençon himself, Flemish affairs
might be settled without her participation, and to her detriment, and
she would have to face Spain alone. This was the more to be feared, as
religious affairs in England were in a worse condition than before,
and for the first time since her accession the Queen herself was
unpopular. Her light conduct with Simier, and, above all, her seeming
determination in favour of the Alençon marriage, had aroused all the old
hatred against the French, and had embittered the widespread Puritan
distrust of the “Papists.” The country was being flooded with seminary
priests, specially trained for the propaganda to which they devoted
their lives,[428] and the great Catholic party in England, having
recovered somewhat from the blow of the Norfolk conspiracy, were once
more holding up their heads. Elizabeth had allowed Leicester and her own
passions to lead her too far, and she struggled to free herself from the
toils. When she tried in January to withdraw gently from the Alençon
negotiations, and suggested to Henry III. that some fresh conditions
were necessary, she found it difficult. The King was determined to throw
the responsibility of breaking upon her, and it still suited him to
keep up an appearance of friendship. She could, he replied, make her
own stipulations; he would accept them. As for religion, that was his
brother’s affair. Alençon himself also said that he would come over
at once to England and leave everything to her. He hoped she was not
reviving the religious question for the purpose of deceiving him again,
as some people said; but he would risk everything for his love. He went
so far as to beg her to forgive Leicester for his sake, and blamed Simier
for quarrelling with the Earl.

But Leicester, Hatton, and Walsingham were quite determined now to stop
the marriage, which looked too serious to please them; and a cloud of
questions about religion, rank of ambassadors, &c., soon threw the
matter into obscurity again. How completely affairs had changed in this
respect in a few weeks is seen in the long draft of a letter to the
Queen at Hatfield, dated at end of January 1580, in the handwriting of
Sir Thomas Cecil, although it can hardly have been really written by
him to the Queen, but certainly represents the views of his father.
Burghley had struggled during all his ministry, and often against
great difficulties, to preserve peace with Spain, whilst holding high
England’s honour and prosperity; but now that Leicester and the extreme
Protestant party, together with Philip’s seizure of Portugal, had forced
the Queen into a position which sooner or later must end in hostility to
Spain, and perhaps with France also, Burghley urged the need for a close
understanding with France, on the safest terms possible for his country.

The course now taken by the Queen seemed to render inevitable that which
Burghley had all his life endeavoured to avoid, namely, the isolation
of England with both of the great powers against her. The address above
referred to lays down that, so long as the Queen was favourable to the
Alençon marriage, the writer was willing to sacrifice his life for it.
He still maintains that it is the only safe course, and one which should
enable the Queen to “rule the sternes of the shippes of Europe with
more fame than ever came to any Quene of the Worelld.” But finding her
Majesty utterly against it, he proposes such remedies as are necessary,
at least for comparative safety. He points out that she cannot expect
that France and Alençon will sit down patiently under the slight, though
they may dissemble for a time; and he suggests that Alençon should be
diverted from allying himself with Spain, by encouraging his enterprise
in the Netherlands, dangerous though such a course was to England.
All Papists should be dismissed from positions of trust; the army,
navy, and fortifications should be placed on a war-footing; mercenary
Germans should be bespoken; fresh vents for English commerce should be
sought;[429] the Irish should be conciliated, and their just grievances
remedied, and “certain private disorders in Ireland winked at.” The
Queen of Scots should be brought to a safer place farther south, and
repressive precautions taken against her friends in England. Whoever may
have given this remarkable state paper to Elizabeth,[430] it is certain
that the advice contained in it was followed. Orders were given to
bring Mary Stuart to Ashby-de-la-Zouch,[431] the mild and lenient Lord
Shrewsbury being reinforced in his guard by Sir Ralph Sadler and two
other known Protestants;[432] a general muster of militia was summoned,
90,000 men in all; London was called upon for 4000 armed men; the
Queen’s navy, seventeen ships, was mobilised;[433] and negotiations were
opened for Condé and a Huguenot force, with a number of mercenary German
Protestants, to enter Flanders.[434] It was considered rightly that if a
large body of Huguenots depending entirely upon England were by Alençon’s
side, it would not only prevent his brother from supporting him, but
would render his enterprise in Flanders less dangerous to England.

Concurrently with these precautions, the Queen renewed her extravagant
love correspondence with Alençon. There is no more remarkable instance
than this of the consummate statesmanship of Burghley. The country
had been driven out of the straight course in which he had held it so
long, and was rapidly nearing the breakers. The document now under
consideration laid before the Queen the only course which could avert
destruction, and this course, as we see, she wisely took. If Burghley
had openly opposed Leicester and Walsingham from the first, he would
probably have fallen into disgrace, and have lost his influence entirely;
but by holding aloof and tempering their policy only, he was able,
when catastrophe impended, to lead the ship of state into a harbour of
comparative safety. Under the influence of fear and Burghley, the Queen
at the same time became most amiable to the Spaniards again. She assured
Mendoza (20th February) that “she would never make war upon your Majesty,
unless you began it first, which she could not believe by any means you
would do.” She was, she said, a sister to Philip. “She had always done
her best for the tranquillity of the Netherlands, and to prevent the
French from getting a footing there.” Mendoza spoke some hard truths to
her, but she was very humble.

A few days afterwards, when the French Ambassador had been driving her
into a corner about Alençon, and threatening that the Prince would
publish her letters, she was closeted in her chamber at Whitehall with
Burghley and Archbishop Sandys. “Here am I,” she cried, “between Scylla
and Charybdis. Alençon has agreed to all my conditions, and wants to know
when he is to come and marry me. If I fail he will probably quarrel with
me, and if I marry him I shall not be able to govern the country. What
shall I do?” Sandys gave a courtier-like reply, and Burghley was silent.
The Queen was impatient at this, and roughly told him he was purposely
absenting himself from the Council. What was his advice? Thus pressed,
the Lord Treasurer replied that if it was her pleasure to marry she
should do so, as Alençon had accepted the terms which rendered her safe.
“That,” said the Queen, “is not the opinion of the rest of the Council,
but that I should keep him in play.” Burghley was aware of this already,
and dryly told the Queen that those who tried to trick princes generally
ended by being caught themselves. But Elizabeth knew her profound powers
of dissimulation better even than Burghley did, and went on her way. The
Lord Treasurer stood almost alone among the councillors in his mild and
cautious policy. Sussex, in deep dudgeon, was generally at his mansion
at Newhall; and, as we have seen, Burghley himself avoided as much as
possible incurring responsibility for the present action of the Queen,
except so far as to advise her how to render her policy as little harmful
as possible. But it is evident that Elizabeth, in moments of difficulty
like this, always turned away from Leicester, and sought the sounder aid
of the Lord Treasurer.

Leicester, in March, pretended to fall ill, and during his absence from
court completely turned round. Now that Lord Burghley was urging for a
close friendship with France, since Leicester’s policy had alienated
Spain, the Earl, with characteristic instability, suddenly professed to
Mendoza a desire to “serve the King of Spain.” His enemies, he said,
were plotting this French alliance and marriage only to spite him, and
he would bring the Queen to a close friendship to Spain. The Queen was,
doubtless, aware of Leicester’s change; because when Castelnau, the
French Ambassador, addressed Elizabeth with an important message from
Catharine, proposing that a joint effort should be made to prevent the
domination of Portugal by Philip (17th April 1580), he was referred to
Burghley alone, and only after the decision had been adopted not to
commence hostilities, as suggested, was Leicester let into the secret.
Dangerous as it was to England that Philip should dominate Portugal, it
was of more importance to France; and it was determined to cast upon the
latter power, if possible, the responsibility of preventing it.

The prospect of a serious cause for dissension between France and Spain
was, indeed, a welcome one for Elizabeth, and she made the most of it.
The star of Morton in Scotland was waning fast, and D’Aubigny, Earl
of Lennox, had already gained a complete command of the young King’s
affection. Mary Stuart from her captivity was taking the grave step of
laying herself, her country, and her child at the feet of the King of
Spain, with the acquiescence this time of the Duke of Guise. The English
Government, however, was not yet aware of this, and looked upon France
as more likely than Spain to influence Scotland under D’Aubigny.[435]
Division in France was consequently promoted by Leicester and his party.
Alençon was warned not to be too pliant in agreeing with his brother;
and when Condé and Navarre once again raised the Huguenot standard, the
former rushed over to England to beseech for funds (June 1580), and
was received several times in secret by the Queen and Leicester. He
immediately sent a message to his adherents in France that all was well,
and that assistance would be given to him.

After some days the Queen sent word to Castelnau, the French Ambassador,
saying that she had heard that Condé was in England, but she would not
receive him except in the Ambassador’s presence. Burghley, writing to
Sussex, says that on arriving at Nonsuch from Theobalds, “I came hither
about five o’clock, and repairing towards the Privy Chamber to see her
Majesty, I found the door at the upper end shut, and understood that the
French Ambassador and the Prince of Condé had been a long time there with
her Majesty, with none others of the Council but my Lord of Leicester
and Mr. Vice-Chamberlain Hatton.” After the audience Castelnau went to
Burghley and complained of Condé for raising disturbances in France. “He
augmenteth his suspicions upon the sight of the great favours shown to
the Prince of Condé by certain Councillors here, whom he understandeth
have been many times with him (Condé) at the banqueting-house where he is
lodged.” The Queen told Burghley that Condé had asked for a contribution
of one-third of the cost of a Huguenot rising, the King of Navarre
and the German Protestants paying the other two-thirds; but the Lord
Treasurer’s opinion of it is sufficiently expressed in the following
words, which probably decided the question, for Condé did not get the aid
he sought notwithstanding Leicester’s efforts: “I wish her Majesty may
spend some portion to solicit them for peace … but to enter into war and
therewith to break the marriage, and so to be left alone as subject to
the burden of such a war, I think no good counsellor can allow.”[436]

The fact that he had not been personally consulted earlier did not
apparently ruffle Lord Burghley. In his quiet, prudent way he brought
things round to his view, without caring for the personal aspect. Not
so, irritable, hot-tempered Sussex. He replied in boiling indignation
against Leicester—“I have never heard word from my Lord Leicester, Mr.
Vice-Chamberlain, or Mr. Secretary Walsingham, of the coming of the
Prince of Condé, or of his expectations, or to seek to know what I
thought fit to do in his cause; whereby I see either they seek to keep
the whole from me, or else care little for my opinion … perhaps at my
coming some of them will mislike I am made such a stranger … I can give
as good a sound opinion as the best of them … I am very loath to see
my sovereign lady to be violently drawn into war.”[437] In any case,
Burghley’s unaided efforts were sufficient to prevent the Queen from
giving money to Condé, and thus setting the King of France against her
as well as the King of Spain. She was, indeed, in a month, so completely
turned by Lord Burghley’s influence as to exert herself to bring about
some sort of accord between Henry III. and the Huguenots.[438]

During the rest of the year the haggling between Elizabeth and Alençon
went on. The deputies of the States, after much discussion, offered
the sovereignty to the French Prince, whose letters to the Queen grew
more preposterous than ever. It was evident that if he went too far
in the Protestant direction to please Elizabeth he would be useless
as a means for attracting the Catholic Flemings to cordial union with
Orange; whereas an uncompromising Catholic attitude, or any appearance
of depending upon his brother for armed aid, would have been fiercely
resisted both by the English and the Hollanders. Many points therefore
had to be reconciled, and the Queen kept the affair mainly in her own
hands, playing upon the hopes, fears, and ambitions of Alençon with the
dexterity of a juggler.

Burghley’s main efforts in the meanwhile were directed to preventing her
from drifting into war, either with France or Spain. When the envoys
came from the Portuguese pretender, Don Antonio, they brought bribes and
presents in plenty for Leicester, who entertained them splendidly, and
urged their suit for assistance for their master; but again Lord Burghley
pointed out to the Queen the expense she would incur and the risks she
would run in a war with Spain, and one Ambassador after another went back
discomfited, whilst Leicester pocketed their bribes, and alternately
raged and sulked when his advice was not followed.

There were others besides Leicester whose recklessness or greed was
dragging England to the brink of a war with Spain, in spite of Burghley’s
efforts. Strong as was the great statesman’s interest in increasing the
legitimate trade of the country, we have seen that from the beginning
of Hawkins’ voyages to the West Coast of Africa, and thence to South
America with slaves, Burghley had refused any participation in the
syndicates that financed them. He had, it is true, on more than one
occasion repudiated the claim of the Spaniards, and especially of the
Portuguese, to exclusive dominion of the western world by virtue of the
Pope’s bull, but he had always frowned upon the filibustering attempts
of the syndicates, under the auspices of some of the aldermen of London,
to establish posts in territory occupied by other Christian powers, or
to force trade upon established settlements against the will of the
authorities. He had honestly done his best to check robbery in the
Channel by those who called themselves privateers, and almost alone of
the Councillors, he had no share or interest in the piratical ventures
under the English flag which had committed such destructive depredations
upon shipping.

The attack upon Hawkins’ fleet at San Juan de Ulloa, 1568, had aroused
fierce and not unnatural indignation amongst sailors and merchants in
England; but the expedition was in defiance of the Spanish law, in a
port belonging to and occupied by Spain, and it is more than doubtful
whether Burghley advised the seizure of the specie belonging to Philip,
in December 1568, in reprisal for the attack. There were ample reasons,
and an excellent legal pretext, for the seizure of the money without
that. In fact it was a master-stroke of policy which the foolish rashness
of De Spes had put into Burghley’s power, and the latter and Elizabeth
naturally welcomed the opportunity of crippling Alba. But when it became
a question of revenging San Juan de Ulloa by the despatch of a strong
armed expedition against Spanish colonies, Lord Burghley looked askance
at what might well be made a _casus belli_ by Spain, and could only
enrich the mariners and shareholders who took part in it.

Drake’s raid upon Nombre-de-Dios, 1573, had been robbery pure and simple,
carried out swiftly and secretly, so that the authorities at home had no
opportunity, even if they had the will, to prevent it; and Drake kept
out of the way for nearly three years afterwards, to escape punishment.
But in 1577 he was introduced by Walsingham or Hatton to the Queen,[439]
who told him that she wished to be revenged upon the King of Spain, and
that he, Drake, was the man to do it. When Drake explained his plan for
a great piratical raid into the Pacific, the Queen swore by her crown
that she would have any man’s head who informed the King of Spain of it;
and, says Drake, “her Majesty gave me special commandment that of all
men my Lord Treasurer should not know it.” But the preparations for the
voyage could not be kept secret entirely from Burghley, who was well
served by spies, and had many means of winning men. He could not prohibit
the expedition, of course; but, as usual, he sought to render it as
innocuous as possible. Thomas Doughty, presumably a barrister, certainly
a man of questionable character, had become Hatton’s secretary, and was
deep with Drake in the plans for the expedition. The whole business is
somewhat obscure, but Lord Burghley appears to have bought this man to
his interests, and, according to Doughty himself, to have offered him the
post of his private secretary, which, however, is unlikely. In any case,
he learned from him all that there was to know about Drake’s intentions,
and when, in November 1577, Drake’s expedition sailed, Doughty
accompanied it as Burghley’s secret agent, and, it may charitably be
surmised, for the express purpose of moderating if not frustrating its
action. First he tried to desert with his ship, and was duly chased and
brought back by Drake. Then he was accused of attempting to sow discord,
discouragement, and mutiny amongst the men, and Drake hanged him with
his own hands on the coast of Patagonia.[440] Winter, the other captain,
drifted back to England again from Tierra del Fuego, whilst Drake in the
little _Pelican_ went on his great voyage of plunder round the world.
All Europe rang with the news of his ravages in the South Seas, and the
shareholders, says Mendoza, “are beside themselves with joy.” But the
feelings of peaceful English merchants, and of Burghley himself, were far
different. They saw that Spain had been attacked wantonly, her mariners
hanged, her treasure stolen without legal excuse, her sacred edifices
ransacked, and it was felt that a war of retaliation was inevitable, in
which all England would suffer for the dishonest profit of a few.

One day towards the end of September 1580, after an absence of nearly
three years, when most people had given up Drake for lost, the _Pelican_
sailed quietly into Plymouth Sound, bringing in her hold plundered
riches incalculable. Drake posted up to London, hoping doubtless that
Elizabeth’s greed would overcome her fears of war. He was closeted for
six hours with the Queen; but when he was summoned to the Council not
one of his own backers was there, but only Burghley, Sussex, Crofts—a
Spanish agent—and Secretary Wilson. They ordered all his treasure to be
brought to the Tower, and a precise inventory made of it, preliminary
to its restitution. When the order was taken to Leicester, Walsingham,
and Hatton, they refused to sign, and exerted their influence with the
Queen to get it suspended. Mendoza raged and threatened. The Queen was
in mortal fear of war, and had promised that Drake should be punished if
he came back. But she loved money, and was not blind to the injury that
had been done to her probable foe by Drake’s boldness. So she temporised
as usual, accepted Drake’s presents graciously, and gradually came round
to making a hero of the great seaman, in spite of Mendoza’s talk of war
and vengeance. She must have proofs against Drake before she punished
him, she said. Besides, what were the Spanish troops doing in Ireland?
When the last Spanish-Papal soldier was withdrawn, she would talk about
the restitution of Drake’s plunder—not before.[441] At present she was
the aggrieved party. Gifts and bribes showered from Drake upon the
Councillors; but when Burghley was offered 3000 crowns’ worth of fine
gold, he refused it, saying he could not receive a present from a man who
had stolen all he had,[442] and Sussex also declined any portion of the
booty. Once more it was Burghley’s task to avert or provide against the
war with Spain, which the ineptitude and cupidity of others had brought
within measurable distance.

Alençon had nominally accepted the sovereignty of Flanders offered to him
by the States of Ghent in the autumn of 1580; but whilst the Huguenots
were in arms against his brother, he had no force of men to enable him to
enter and assume the government of his new dominion. He had industriously
striven to draw Elizabeth into a marriage, or into aiding him in Flanders
as a price for her jilting him; but she had always been too clever for
him, and kept on the right side of a positive compromise. When the
fears of war with Spain engendered in England by Drake’s depredations
became acute, and the Spanish aid to the Irish rebels could no longer
be concealed, it was necessary once more for England to draw close to
France. A request was accordingly sent for a special French embassy to
come to England empowered to settle the details of the Alençon marriage
and a national alliance. Elizabeth’s letters to Alençon became more
affectionate than ever: she promised him 200,000 crowns of Drake’s
plunder to pay German mercenaries to support him in Flanders, she sent
the lovelorn Prince a wedding-ring, she petted and bribed his agent until
her own courtiers were all jealous; and under the influence of Burghley
and Sussex, once more the marriage negotiations assumed a serious aspect,
whilst Leicester and Hatton chafed in the background.

The activity of the seminary priests and missionaries, in conjunction
with the Papal invasion of Ireland, had been answered in England by
fresh severity against the Catholics. The gaols were all full to
overflowing with English recusants; fresh proclamations were issued
against harbouring priests; and spies at home and abroad were following
the ubiquitous movements of the zealous young members of the Society of
Jesus, who yearned for the crown of martyrdom. There is no doubt that
to some extent the new persecution of the Catholics was for the purpose
of reconciling the Puritans to the Alençon match, but it was still more
owing to the genuine alarm of a war against Spain and the Pope.

Parliament opened on the 16th January 1581, after twenty-four
prorogations, this only being its third session, although it was elected
in 1572. We have already seen that the Puritan party was strong in
the House of Commons, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Walter
Mildmay, in his speech, voiced the general feeling of the country at
the dangers that seemed impending. “Our enemies sleep not,” he said,
“and it behoveth us not to be careless, as though all were past; but
rather to think that there is but a piece of the storm over, and that
the greater part of the tempest remaineth behind, and is like to fall
upon us by the malice of the Pope, the most capital enemy of the Queen
and this State.”[443] He denounced the “absolutions, dispensations,
reconciliations, and such other things of Rome. You see how lately he
(the Pope) hath sent hither a sort of hypocrites, naming themselves
Jesuits, a rabble of vagrant friars, newly sprung up, running through
the world to trouble the Church of God.” The aim of the oration, of
course, was to lead the House to vote liberal supplies for the defence
of the country, and in this it was successful; though, when the Puritan
majority endeavoured to appoint days of fasting and humiliation by
Parliamentary vote, they were rapped over the knuckles by the Queen,
as they had been in the previous session, for interfering with her
prerogative.[444]

The country, in fact, was now thoroughly alive to the danger into which
it had drifted, and Lord Burghley’s hand once more took the tiller,
to remedy, so far as he might, the evils which had resulted from the
temporary abandonment of his cautious policy.[445] His task was not an
easy one to settle the preliminaries of the pompous embassy which was
to come from France. There were a host of questions to be considered.
The Queen would insist upon the Ambassadors being of the highest rank,
and having full powers. Leicester and Hatton objected to their coming at
all; Alençon insisted that they should be only empowered to negotiate a
marriage, and not an alliance; whilst Cobham, the English Ambassador,
endeavoured ineffectually to draw Henry III. into a pledge to break
with Spain about Portugal before the embassy left France. At last all
was arranged, and in April the Ambassadors, with a suite of two hundred
persons, arrived in London.[446] Drake’s silver was drawn upon liberally
for presents; a new gallery was built at Whitehall for the entertainment
of the envoys; Philip Sidney wrote a masque, and played the fool for once
for their delectation; and joust and tourney, ball and banquet, succeeded
each other hourly, to the exclusion of more serious business.

Leicester had done his best to stop the embassy, but without effect,
and wrote to Lord Shrewsbury that he “was greatly troubled at these
great lords coming.”[447] He tried to work upon the Queen’s weak side,
by assuring her that the one object of the Frenchmen was to lead her
into heavy expenditure, and so to enfeeble her, that she might the more
easily be conquered.[448] This, at all events, caused some restriction in
the expenditure; for the Queen suddenly discovered that it would not be
dignified for her to entertain the Ambassadors or pay for horses until
they actually arrived in London. Burghley may be presumed to have been
delighted at their coming, for he made no effort to limit the cost of
his banquet to them at Cecil House, in the Strand, which was one of the
most splendid entertainments offered to them. There is in the Lansdowne
MSS. a full relation of this splendid feast of the 30th April, with the
bills of fare, accounts of expenses, &c., which gives some notion of the
splendour and extent of Burghley’s household. There were consumed two
stags, 40s.; two bucks, 20s.; six kids, 24s.; six pigs, 10s.; six shins
of beef, 24s.; four gammons of bacon, 16s.; one swan, 10s.; three cranes,
20s.; twenty-four curlews, 24s.; fifteen pheasants, 30s.; fifty-four
herons, £8, 15s.; eight partridges, 8s., and vast quantities of meat
of all sorts; and sturgeon, conger, salmon, trout, lampreys, lobsters,
prawns, gurnards, oysters, and many sorts of fresh-water fish. Herbs
and salads cost no less than 36s., and cream, 27s. There were consumed
3300 eggs, 360 lbs. of butter, 42 lbs. of spices, and three gallons of
rose-water. £11, 7s. 3d. was paid for the hire of extra vessels and
glass; flowers and rushes cost £5, 7s. 10d., and Turkey carpets, £11.
This Gargantuan feast was served by forty-nine gentlemen and thirty-four
servants, and was washed down with £75 worth of beer as well as Gascon,
sack, hippocras, and other wine costing £21; the entire expenditure on
the afternoon’s feeding being £649, 1s. 5d.

Though Burghley and Sussex had brought over the embassy in hopes of a
marriage, or at least an alliance, the Queen changed from hour to hour.
When Leicester complained to her, she silenced him by saying that she
could avoid a marriage whenever she liked by bringing Alençon over
whilst the embassy was in England, and then setting the Frenchmen at
loggerheads, and by subsidising the Prince’s attempts in Flanders. At the
same time she certainly led Sussex, and probably Burghley, to believe
that she might be in earnest at last.

After some weeks the elder Ambassadors got tired of trifling, and begged
the Queen to appoint a committee of the Council to negotiate with them.
The great banquet at Burghley House was the preliminary meeting, and a
paper at Hatfield, endorsed by Burghley, lays down, in the usual precise
manner of the time, every aspect of the matter. The propositions are
three: 1st, if the Queen should remain unmarried; 2nd, if she should
marry Alençon; and 3rd, if she should enter into some strait league with
the French. In the first eventuality the Queen must strengthen herself
and weaken her opponents; Scotland must be reduced to the same friendship
that existed before the advent of D’Aubigny; James’s marriage to a
Catholic must be prevented; Mary Stuart must be held tightly; Ireland
must be subdued; the entire domination of Spain over the Netherlands
must be avoided, and an alliance concluded either with France or the
German Protestants. In the second eventuality, that the Queen should
marry Alençon, the writer urges that the wedding should take place
without delay, but always on condition that religion in England must be
safeguarded, and Henry III. pledged to provide most of the means for
Alençon’s enterprise in Flanders. On the other hand, if the marriage is
not to take place, care must be taken that no offence is given to the
suitor. “Since the treaty with Simier many accidents have happened to
make this marriage hateful to the people, as the invasion of Ireland by
the Pope, the determination of the Pope to stir up rebellion in this
realm by sending in a number of English Jesuits, who have by books,
challenges, and secret instructions and seductions, procured a great
defection of many people to relinquish their obedience to her Majesty.
Likewise there is a manifest practice in Scotland, by D’Aubigny, to
alienate the young King of Scotland, both from favouring the Protestant
religion and from amity to her Majesty and her realm, notwithstanding
that he hath only been conserved in his crown at her Majesty’s
charges.”[449]

Although this paper has usually been treated as emanating from Burghley,
I consider it much more likely to have been the work of Walsingham. There
is at Hatfield, of similar date (2nd May 1581), a note, all in the Lord
Treasurer’s hand, for his speech to the Ambassadors, and this is preceded
by a private remark that, before a definite answer can be given, “it is
necessary to know her Majesty’s own mind, to what end she will have this
treaty tend, either to a marriage or no marriage, amity or no amity.”
As Burghley seems not to have possessed this information, it is not
surprising that the draft of his speech simply tends to delay. The Queen
has written to Alençon, he says, and must have a reply before she can say
anything definite about the marriage; but as there has been some talk on
both sides of a close alliance, the Queen expects the Ambassadors to be
empowered to deal with that also.[450]

The Ambassadors themselves give an account of a speech of Burghley’s,
either on this or another occasion, in which he declared that, although
he was formerly against the marriage, he now personally thought it
desirable. Brisson replied in a similar strain, and then the strong
Protestantism of Walsingham asserted itself. He said that the hope of the
marriage had caused the Pope to flood England with Jesuits and invade
Ireland, the Catholics in England were already in high feather about it,
and Alençon had broken faith, and had entered into negotiations with the
States General, since Simier took the draft treaty. Besides, he said,
look at the danger of child-bearing to the Queen at her age. The marriage
would probably drag England into war at least, and until the Queen
received a reply to her letters the negotiations for the marriage must
stand over.[451]

It is quite evident that the Queen desired an alliance without a
marriage, and to draw France into open hostility to Spain, whilst she
remained unpledged. But Secretary Pinart was almost as clever as
Burghley, and played his cards well, and no progress was made. Let
them marry first, said Pinart, it would be easy to make an alliance
afterwards. Affairs were thus at a deadlock. Alençon was on the frontier
with a body of men ready to enter Flanders to relieve Cambray, when his
brother’s forces dispersed them. It was then clear to the Prince that he
must depend upon the Queen of England alone; and ceding to the pressure
of his agent in England, he suddenly rushed over to London (2nd June), to
the confusion of the Ambassadors, who shut themselves up to avoid meeting
him. The Queen was all smiles, for she was satisfied now that Alençon was
obliged to look to her only for aid, marriage or no marriage. Alençon
went back after a few days as secretly as he had come, but every one
saw that the Queen had won the trick; and the pompous embassy went back
loaded with presents, but only taking with it a draft marriage treaty,
accompanied by a letter from Elizabeth, saying that she might alter her
mind if she liked, in which case the treaty was to be considered as
annulled.[452]

In the meanwhile Mendoza was watching closely the attempts of Leicester
to persuade the Queen to aid Don Antonio in Portugal, as well as to
provide means for Alençon in Flanders. Walsingham had laid a trap for
Mendoza, who was induced to pay a large sum of money to some Hollanders
who promised to betray Flushing to the Spaniards, but really did just the
opposite. The Hollanders left with the Spanish Ambassador the child son
of one of them as a hostage. By orders of Walsingham the embassy was
violated and the boy taken away; and this amongst many other grievances
was the source of endless squabbling with the Queen, who invariably
retorted to all Mendoza’s complaints that Philip had connived at the
invasion of Ireland. After one of his interviews with the Queen (24th
June) he writes: “It is impossible for me to express the insincerity with
which she and her ministers proceed.… She contradicts me every moment in
my version of the negotiations.… I understood from her and Cecil, who is
one of the few ministers who show any signs of straightforwardness, that
they understood that your Majesty intended to write to the Queen assuring
her that the succour had not been sent to Ireland on your behalf. I told
them that the matter referred to the Pope alone, but Cecil said they
wished to see a letter from your Majesty;” whereupon Mendoza angrily told
him that the word of an Ambassador was sufficient.

On the same day that this conversation took place, Burghley’s task of
keeping the peace was rendered still more difficult by the arrival in
England of the fugitive Portuguese Pretender, Don Antonio, who was at
once taken up by Leicester and Hatton. The Spanish Ambassador was told
by Hatton that if he wanted his passports he could have them, and the
Queen almost insultingly refused him audience. Mendoza then wrote her a
letter, which he thought the Queen would be obliged to show to the whole
Council, “where I was sure some of the members would point out to her
the danger she was running in refusing to receive me and thus irritating
your Majesty. Cecil, particularly, who is the person upon whom the
Queen depends in matters of importance, had seen me a few days before,
and said how sorry he was that these things should occur, and that he
should be unable to remedy them, as he was sure I could not avoid being
offended.”[453]

A few weeks afterwards Mendoza made another attempt to see the Queen,
who was then in the country. She said that as Philip had not written
any excuse about the Spanish expedition to Ireland, she did not see her
way to receive the Ambassador. If he had anything to say he might tell
it to two Councillors. Burghley was known to be the most favourable of
them, and had expressed to Mendoza his ignorance that the audience had
been refused. “He did not think it wise to refuse me; and as he is the
most important of the ministers I thought best to inform him of the
reply I had received, and to say I should like to see him.” Burghley
was ill of gout at Theobalds at the time, but shortly afterwards he
came to town and asked Mendoza to see him at Leicester House, “his gout
preventing him from coming further.” Mendoza found him with Leicester
together, and in reply to the stereotyped complaints of the Ambassador
about Drake’s plunder, the aid to the Portuguese, and the refusal of
audience, the Treasurer firmly told him that the Queen thought he had
been remiss in not obtaining a letter from the King disclaiming the Irish
expedition. This Mendoza haughtily refused to do, and the conference
ended unsatisfactorily.[454]

It is evident that at this period (August 1581) Burghley was in despair
of keeping on friendly relations with Spain. The Queen and Leicester
had determined to subsidise Alençon in Flanders, and to countenance
Don Antonio’s attempts on Portugal. This coming after the retention
of Drake’s plunder, and refusal of audience to the Ambassador, seemed
to make the continuance of peace between the two countries impossible,
and Burghley was once more obliged to turn to the necessary, but to him
distasteful, alternative—a close union with France.

The great French embassy had gone back defeated, for they saw that
Elizabeth was befooling Alençon, and that the national alliance would
only be made on terms advantageous to English interests in Flanders.
But it was necessary for Henry III. and his mother to cling to England
if they were effectually to oppose Philip in Portugal. The Guises were
becoming more overbearing and powerful than ever under the popular Duke
Henry; they were known to be turning towards Spain, and their ambitions
were high both for themselves and for their cousin Mary Stuart. To avoid
the complete subjugation of France to their ends, the King was therefore
obliged to court Elizabeth, and suffer her to have her way with Alençon
and Flanders. Henry III. consequently asked Elizabeth, through Somers,
to name a day for the marriage, simultaneously with which an offensive
and defensive alliance would be concluded, and a secret agreement entered
into with regard to the establishment of Alençon in Flanders. This, of
course, was understood to be merely fencing, and Walsingham himself was
sent to France to conclude a treaty. He was instructed to say that the
French were mistaken in supposing that the marriage was settled. The
Queen could not consent to the marriage now, for, as Alençon was already
in arms against the King of Spain, it would “bring us and our realme into
war, which in no respect our realme and subjects can accept.” But if the
King will accept her secret aid to Alençon’s plan in Flanders, and the
opposition to Spain in Portugal, she will be willing to conclude an
offensive and defensive alliance with him. In any case, the marriage was
to be abandoned. Walsingham saw Alençon in Picardy before going to Paris,
and, as may be supposed, the young Prince was in despair at the Queen’s
fickleness. He was certain his brother would not make an alliance without
the marriage, as he feared the Queen would slip out of it, leaving
France alone face to face with Spain.[455] If, said Catharine, who was
with her son, the Queen of England broke her word about the marriage for
fear of her people, she might break an alliance for a similar reason.
But Walsingham made it clear to both of them that Elizabeth would not
allow herself to be dragged into war with Spain, though covert aid
should be given to her late suitor. Poor Alençon wept and stormed, but
in vain. Anything short of marriage was useless to him, he said. His
brother neither had helped nor would help him against Spain, unless the
marriage took place. He himself would come to England for an answer
from the Queen’s lips as soon as he had raised the siege of Cambray.
Elizabeth complained of Walsingham’s management of the interview; he
could rarely content her. He had, she said, been too abrupt in breaking
off the marriage. Burghley pointed out to her that she could not have all
her own way. She wanted, he said, to keep the marriage afoot, and yet
not to marry; to aid Alençon secretly, whilst France aided him openly;
to conclude an alliance by which she gained everything, and France
nothing.[456]

Elizabeth, in a rage, swore that Leicester and the Puritans were dragging
her into all sorts of expense and trouble,[457] from which she could not
extricate herself without war. Walsingham was soon disgusted with his
task, for he could make but little progress in Paris, and the Queen found
fault with him constantly. He answered boldly, almost rudely, to all her
strictures. He told her that with all this hesitation about the marriage
“you lose the benefit of time, which, if years be considered, is not the
least thing to be weighed. If you mean it (the marriage) not, then assure
yourself it is one of the worst remedies you can use.… When your Majesty
doth see in what doubtful terms you stand with foreign princes, then you
do wish with great affection that opportunities offered had not been
overslipped; but when they are offered you, if they be accompanied by
charges, they are altogether neglected. The respect of charges hath lost
Scotland, and I would to God I had no cause to think it might not put
your Highness into peril of losing England.”[458]

Even Burghley, with all his influence, was in despair at getting the
Queen to spend any money. Walsingham had told the Queen that if she lent
Alençon 100,000 ducats secretly he might be appeased. Burghley pointed
out to her that her niggardliness was ruining the chance of effectually
weakening Spain. “In no wise,” writes Burghley, “would she have the
enterprise of the Low Countries lost, but she will not particularly
warrant you to offer aid. She allegeth that now the King (of France)
hath gone so far he will not abandon it.… Her Majesty is also very
cold in the cause of Don Antonio, alleging that she liketh it only by
opportunity [importunity?] of her Council; and now that all things are
ready, ships, victuals, and men, the charges whereof come to £12,000, she
hath been moved to find £2000 more needful for the full furniture of the
voyage, wherewith she is greatly offended with Mr. Hawkins and Drake,
as the charges are greater than was said to her … hereupon her Majesty
is content not to give a penny more; and now after Drake and Hawkins
have made shift for the £2000, she will not let them depart until she be
assured by you that the French will aid Don Antonio, for she feareth to
be left alone.… All these things do marvellously stay her Majesty … yet
she loseth all the charges spent in vain, and the poor King (Antonio) is
utterly lost.”[459]

But Burghley might reason and remonstrate, Walsingham might tell her, as
he did, that the penuriousness would bring her to ruin, Elizabeth would
not open her purse strings until it was almost too late. Alençon had made
a dash into Flanders soon after seeing Walsingham in August, and relieved
Cambray, and then being absolutely penniless, his brother, in a fright at
his boldness, refusing any aid, the Queen was obliged to send him £20,000
to prevent the abandonment of the whole business, and a union with the
Guises which he threatened. He returned to France after a few weeks, and
then again announced his intention of coming to England to exert his
personal influence on the Queen. To stave off the visit several other
sums of money were sent to him. Leicester, too, strove his hardest to
stop it; but Alençon’s agents and Alençon’s lovelorn epistles were more
flattering to the Queen even than Leicester, and the lover came early in
November.

Although Walsingham had almost arranged a draft treaty of alliance
without marriage when he was in Paris, it fell through on the eternal
question of the Queen’s “charges” and responsibility, and when Alençon
arrived in England the whole matter was as far from settlement as
ever. Of the extraordinary cajolery by which the Queen alternately
raised Alençon to the pinnacle of hope and plunged him to the depths
of despair during his stay with her at Richmond and Whitehall, a full
description will be found elsewhere.[460] By her dexterity she bound
him personally to her, and made it appear that the only obstacles to
the match were those raised by the King of France. From the coming of
Alençon it is clear that Leicester alone understood the Queen’s game.
The earl was radiant and joyous, which made Sussex distrust the result,
notwithstanding appearances. So far as he could Lord Burghley held aloof,
although when the Prince came to London he waited upon him with other
Councillors formally every morning at nine. When the famous scene was
enacted (22nd November) in the gallery at Whitehall, where the Queen
boldly kissed her suitor on the lips and publicly pledged herself to
marry him,[461] Burghley was confined to his bed with an attack of gout.
The Queen sent him an account of what had passed. Mendoza reports that he
thereupon exclaimed, “Blessed be the Lord that this business has at last
reached a point where the Queen, on her part, has done all she can; it is
for the country now alone to carry it out.” The deduction which Mendoza
drew from this exclamation was probably the correct one. To him it proved
that the whole plan was insincere on the part of Elizabeth, and that the
intention was to cause conditions to be imposed by Parliament which the
King of France could not accept, and then to throw the responsibility of
the breach upon the latter.

This was all very well, but it was a reverse for Burghley’s policy.
Leicester and Walsingham had drawn the Queen into a position of almost
open hostility to Spain; and yet a close union with France was rendered
difficult by Elizabeth’s fickleness and dread of responsibility, and by
Leicester’s jealousy. As usual in such circumstances, Burghley cautiously
endeavoured to redress the balance. When the treaty with France seemed
assured, Mendoza had been refused audience, and on remonstrating with
Burghley he had found him far less willing to be friendly than before.
Leicester quite openly talked about turning the Spanish Ambassador out of
England, and even Burghley had replied, to an application for audience
on behalf of Mendoza to deliver a letter from Philip to the Queen, who
was at Nonsuch, that the Queen was alone and unattended by Councillors,
“and as Don Bernardino is to bring letters to the Queen from so great an
enemy to her as his master, it is meet that he should be received as the
minister of such a one.” When the Spaniard did see the Queen (October),
his threats and complaints about Don Antonio and Alençon were met with
anger and indignation by her. All the old complaints on both sides were
repeated, and both then and later Mendoza was certain by the attitude of
Leicester, Hatton, and Walsingham, that they were determined to have war
with Spain, and that Burghley, for once, would not stand in their way.

But a change came in the attitude of the latter in December. It seemed
then impossible for the Queen to withdraw her pledges to Alençon without
a breach with France, whilst she could hardly help him without a war
with Spain. Scottish affairs, moreover, were a subject of deep anxiety.
D’Aubigny was now master, and Morton, to Elizabeth’s indignation, had
been executed. Catholic priests and Jesuits were known to be flitting
backwards and forwards; and worst of all, Mary Stuart had, for the
first time since her flight, opened up friendly negotiations with her
son’s Government, and had formally joined James with herself in her
sovereignty. She had moreover written confidently asking for many fresh
concessions which Elizabeth was loath to grant her.[462]

Any appearance of an approach of the French and Scots always drew England
and Spain together, and with the added dangers already cited, this was
quite sufficient to change Lord Burghley’s tone. Mendoza accordingly
reports (25th December 1581) that, at a meeting of the Council held to
consider the situation, Burghley suggested that an alliance should be
made with Spain, and an agreement arrived at with regard to the Low
Countries. This was approved of by the Lord Chancellor (Bromley), the
Lord Admiral (Lincoln), and Crofts. Sussex held aloof, wavering between
his enmity to France and Leicester, and his attachment to Protestantism;
whilst Leicester, Walsingham, Hatton, and Knollys were strenuously
opposed to any approach to Spain, as they were, even more violently, to
Burghley’s proposal that Drake’s plunder, or what was left of it, should
be restored. A few days afterwards Burghley had some business with a
Spanish merchant established in London, and to him he expressed a desire
that negotiations should be opened for an agreement between the two
countries. When the merchant carried the message to Mendoza, the latter
attributed the suggestion entirely to the fear which he had aroused by
his firmness, and he made no response. Mendoza himself, indeed, one of
the warlike Alba school, had now no hope or desire for peace. The rise of
D’Aubigny in Scotland and the coming of the Jesuits had quite altered the
position during the last year, and Mendoza had in his hands a plot that
seemed to promise the triumph of the Catholics.

As early as April 1581, Mary Stuart had renewed her approaches to Spain
through the Archbishop of Glasgow in Paris. “Things were now,” she
said, “better disposed than ever in Scotland for a return to its former
condition … and English affairs could be dealt with subsequently. The
King, her son, was quite determined to return to the Catholic religion,
and much inclined to an open rupture with the Queen of England.” She
begged for armed aid from Philip, to be landed first in Ireland, and to
enter Scotland at a given signal after the alliance between Scotland
and Spain had been signed. Nothing came of this at the time; and after
several other attempts on the part of Mary to get into touch with the
Spaniards, she became distrustful of her Ambassador (Archbishop Beton)
and other intermediaries, and contrived in November to communicate with
Mendoza direct. She had heard that all the priests who flocked into
Scotland and England looked to him for guidance, and that through them
he had sent a message to the Scottish Catholics, saying that everything
now depended upon Scotland’s reverting to the old faith. The English
Catholic nobles then at liberty had, at Mendoza’s instance, formed a
society with this object, and secretly sent two priests to sound James
and D’Aubigny, and to promise that they would raise the north of England,
release Mary, and secure the English succession to James. They brought
back a favourable reply, which the ambassador at once conveyed to Allen
and Persons on the continent. This was late in the autumn of 1581, and
Mendoza looked coldly upon Burghley’s new advances, for he was now the
centre of the plot to overthrow Elizabeth by means of the Scottish
Catholics, a plot in which, against his will, he was obliged to make
use of the Jesuit missionaries, who themselves at first had no idea of
the Spanish political aims that underlay the conversion of Scotland to
Catholicism.

Side by side with the Jesuits, Creighton, Persons, and Holt, who were
employed in the political movement, were others who had been sent to
England and were intended purely for spiritual work. They had been
extremely successful in their propaganda, and had once more infused
spirit into the English Catholic party. This could not be done without
the printing and dissemination of books, as well as preaching, and the
spies of the Council were directed to track to earth the priests who were
at the bottom of the movement. Nearly every writer upon the subject has
taken for granted that Lord Burghley was at the bottom of the persecution
which followed. Such, however, does not appear to have been the case. As
we have seen, the Lord Treasurer insisted upon some uniformity in the
practice of the Anglican Church, but he must have known that many of his
closest friends, and the colleagues upon whom he depended in the Council,
were Catholics, and his lifelong tendency was to a political union
with Spain, the champion of Catholic Christendom. He was determined,
it is true, to crush treason to the Queen and the institutions of the
country, no matter who suffered; and when Catholicism meant revolution he
harried it fiercely; but he was no persecutor for the sake of religion
itself,[463] and the cruel torture and execution of Campion, Sherwin,
and Briant,[464] during Alençon’s visit to England (1st December 1581),
for denying the Queen’s supremacy, were almost certainly prompted in the
main by Walsingham, Knollys, and the Puritans, who were in a fever of
apprehension lest the marriage with Alençon would lead to toleration of
the Catholic faith. The men actually executed were not in fact employed
in the political portion of the propaganda at all, but were honest
religious missionaries; but they, and the scores of other Catholics
who were swept into prison at the time, were useful object lessons for
Walsingham and Leicester, whose aims, as we have seen, were in direct
opposition to those of Burghley.[465] The latter, indeed, was at the
very time of the execution approaching Mendoza with suggestions for an
alliance with Spain, which were coldly received for the reasons already
explained.

During Alençon’s stay in England, the Queen, who was playing her own
game, which was to reduce the Prince to utter dependence upon her and to
distrust of his brother, had been constantly thwarted by the jealousy
of Leicester and Hatton. They were for granting enormous sums to the
suitor to get rid of him at any cost, which was no part of the Queen’s
plan. Lord Burghley alone of the Councillors never displeased her in the
matter; whenever it was a question of large expenditure, he always had
a convenient attack of gout, and thus never openly thwarted the Queen.
The difficulty was to get Alençon out of the country without ruinous
expense or further pledges, and when it was found that all the Queen’s
persuasions were unavailing she had to employ Burghley’s diplomacy.
He began by inflaming the young Prince’s ambition, and enlarging upon
the splendid destiny awaiting him in his new sovereignty, which was
now clamouring for his presence. Promises were made never meant to be
literally fulfilled, of the vast sums the Queen would contribute to his
support, and at last, after infinite trouble, he was induced to promise
to sail for Flanders. He wished to stay until the new year; but when
Burghley pointed out to him the large amount of money he would have to
spend in presents he seemed to give way, for money he had none. But when
the time came he still stayed on. The Queen told Burghley after supper
on Christmas night that she would not marry the lad to be empress of the
world, and that he must get rid of him somehow. Catharine de Medici,
the Prince of Orange, the German princes, and the French Ambassador all
added their pressure to that of the Queen and Burghley to get Alençon
out of England. Leicester and Hatton fumed and threatened. Burghley at
last frankly told the Queen that the only way to get rid of her suitor
was to provide a sum of ready money for him, and promise that he should
come back to England as soon as he was crowned. The Queen did not like
the alternative, and said she must wait for the King of France’s answer
to her last demands. This time Catharine de Medici beat her with her own
weapons. The answer was a full acceptance of everything required by the
English; and to make it more complete, Alençon said he was willing to
become a Protestant.

This was indeed alarming, and the Queen sent hurriedly to Burghley to
get her out of the scrape. His suggestion this time was that she should
demand Calais and Havre as security for the fulfilment of the King’s
promises, which was a device after her own heart. But still Alençon
would not go, and the Queen became seriously alarmed. She promised him
£60,000; but Burghley was opposed to any such sum as that being paid, or
indeed more than was necessary for the Prince’s voyage. The Queen said
that she did not mean to pay it, but only to promise it, which was quite
another matter. It is evident that Burghley was now quite undeceived,
and against both the pretence of marriage and any large support being
given to Alençon. He dreaded the revenge of France for the insult put
upon it; and of Spain, for aiding the Frenchman’s usurpation of Philip’s
sovereignty under English protection. His remedy, as usual, was a
friendship with Spain. Walsingham, on the other hand, was all in favour
of vigorous help to Orange and a war with Spain. The Queen usually leant
to the side of Burghley, but was swayed hither and thither by her fears
of France, by Pinart’s threats, Alençon’s tears, Leicester’s jealousy,
and her own greed and vanity.

At last after infinite trouble Alençon sailed with fifteen ships,
attended by Leicester (sorely against his will), Hunsdon, Sidney,
Willoughby, Howard, and Norris, to take upon himself the sovereignty of
Holland and Flanders. The Queen after all had to provide a large sum
of money, but it was sent to the States, and not entrusted to Alençon,
except a personal present of £25,000 from the Queen. Leicester escaped
from the new sovereign’s side on the very day he was crowned, and hurried
back to his mistress’s side. He reported that Alençon and the French were
hated by the Protestant Dutchmen, who had only admitted him because the
Queen of England was behind him. The English Ambassador in Paris at the
same time sent word that Henry III. had repudiated his brother’s action,
and had denounced as traitors all those who aided him.

This was exactly what Elizabeth feared. She had offended both the great
powers, and was alone. She swore at Leicester for sanctioning, by his
presence, the investiture of Alençon; she railed at Walsingham as a knave
for dragging her into such a business; and she insisted upon Burghley,
who was ill with fever in London, getting up and coming to Windsor to
tell her what to do. When he appeared, she asked him whether it would
not be better for her at once to become friendly with Spain. Thus, though
the sagacious Lord Treasurer had let her go her own way, she had at last
been brought by circumstances to propose his policy again. “He replied
that nothing would suit her better, especially if peace could be arranged
in the Netherlands by the concession of liberty of conscience.”[466]
Sussex was of the same opinion, but distrusted both the Queen and
Burghley, who, he said, had spoken coolly on the subject on the Council.
There is, however, no reason to doubt that the Treasurer was sincere in
his desire for such an arrangement, which indeed was the only one which
seemed to promise peace to England.

In the meanwhile the Spanish and Jesuit plot in Scotland was progressing.
Guise had drifted further and further away from Henry III. and his
mother, from whom he saw he could get no aid for Mary Stuart or his
own ambitious plans. When, therefore, the Queen of Scots had offered
her submission and the sending of her son to Spain, he had separated
himself from French interests, and tendered his own humble services
to Philip. This made all the difference. If the Holy League and this
undertaking made the Guises Catholics and Spaniards before they were
Frenchmen, Philip need have no hesitation in helping their niece to the
crowns of Scotland and England; and the Jesuits were set to work to
secure James and D’Aubigny, whilst Mary Stuart’s spirits rose high. The
Scottish Catholic nobles were ready to rise, and even, if necessary, to
kill or deport the King if he would not be a Catholic. All they asked
was a force of two thousand foreign troops. D’Aubigny entered eagerly
into the affair, and by the spring of 1582 all was arranged, when the
Jesuit emissaries and D’Aubigny between them mismanaged it. Guise was
foolishly brought into the plan by D’Aubigny, and he wanted to invade
the south of England with his troops at the same time. D’Aubigny made
exaggerated claims for himself, and the Scottish Catholic nobles followed
suit. Philip recognised that Guise was still playing for his own hand,
though not for France. If Mary was to be Queen of Great Britain and his
humble servant, she must owe her crown to him, and not to Guise. Philip
therefore grew cool, and the raid of Ruthven and the banishment of
D’Aubigny, by which young James fell into the hands of the Protestants
(August 1582), effectually put an end to the projects of invasion for a
time.

On the 18th March 1582, Alençon in Antwerp was giving an entertainment
on the occasion of his birthday, when the Prince of Orange was stabbed,
it was thought mortally, by a young Spaniard hired by those greater than
himself. The one cry, both in Holland and in England, was, that Alençon
and his false Frenchmen were at the bottom of the crime, and, but for the
fortitude of Orange, every Frenchman in the Netherlands would have been
massacred. Elizabeth was beside herself with fear. Her first impulse was
to get Alençon out of Flanders, even if she brought him to England; but
Walsingham gravely warned her that if the Prince came again she would
certainly have to marry him.

Whilst Orange lay between life and death, Leicester, Hatton, Knollys,
and Walsingham were for ever urging the Queen boldly to take Flanders
and Holland under her own protection, whilst Burghley, aided by Sussex
and Crofts, again advocated an arrangement with Spain. But the latter
were in a minority; the Protestant feeling of the country was thoroughly
aroused at the attempted murder of Orange, and Burghley was obliged to
be cautious. Mendoza was instructed by Philip, March 1582, to use his
influence with the Council to prevent aid being given to Alençon. “I
have,” writes Mendoza, “tried every artifice to get on good terms with
some of them, but they all turn their faces against me, particularly
the Lord Treasurer, whom I formerly used to see, the rest of them being
openly inimical. Only lately I sought an opportunity of approaching him
again, and asked him to see me. He replied that his colleagues looked
upon him as being very Spanish in his sympathies, and therefore he could
not venture to see me alone, except by the Queen’s orders. I had, he
said, better communicate my business through Secretary Walsingham, in the
ordinary course.”[467]

Walsingham, on the other hand, lost no opportunity of widening the
breach, in order to force the Queen to more vigorous action in favour of
the Dutch Protestants. In May he sent an insulting message to Mendoza, to
the effect that the Queen would not receive him until some satisfaction
was given about Ireland. The Ambassador at once complained to Burghley.
War, he said, might well result from this treatment of him. Burghley
endeavoured to minimise the slight. It was a mistake of the messenger,
he said, and Mendoza had better write to the Queen. He did so, but with
no result but to confirm Walsingham’s message, though Elizabeth softened
it somewhat by saying, “God forbid that she should ever break with your
Majesty, to whom she bore nothing but good-will.”[468] When, in July,
Alençon demanded more money, Walsingham, Leicester, and Hatton were for
sending him £50,000 at once—anything to prevent his coming to England
again—but Cecil opposed it vigorously. There was but £80,000 in the
Treasury, he said, and so only £30,000 was sent to Flanders.

By the death of Bacon, the fatal illness of Sussex, and the defection
of Hatton, Lord Burghley was at this time almost alone in the Council;
for Crofts, the Controller, a regular pensioner of Spain and a Catholic,
was a man of no influence; and, according to Mendoza, the Lord Treasurer
in November told the Queen plainly that she must appoint two more
Councillors of his way of thinking, “to oppose Leicester and his gang.”
It was probably in pursuance of this policy that Burghley cast about for
some counterbalancing influence to be used against Leicester.

At the end of 1581 a young captain named Walter Ralegh, whose company in
Ireland had been disbanded on the suppression of the Desmond rebellion,
had been sent over to England with despatches. He was clever and
brilliant, and full of schemes for governing Ireland more cheaply than
the Viceroy, Lord Grey, had done. Grey rebuked him for his presumption,
and sent him home in semi-disgrace. Leicester was a bitter enemy of
Grey’s, and was glad to welcome the young captain who impeached his
government, and that of Leicester’s rival Ormond.[469] Ralegh was
invited to the Council-table to explain his plans to Lord Burghley. His
recommendations were approved, and submitted to the Queen, who gave him
audience. Before many weeks passed (May 1582), favours began to shower
upon him; and by the autumn, Leicester and Hatton had taken fright, and
were bitterly jealous of him, whilst the Lord Treasurer had cleverly
enlisted the new favourite under his banner. He was never a member of the
Council, but he had the Queen’s ear, and kept it for years; for Leicester
was elderly and scorbutic, and Hatton was an affected fribble, whilst
Ralegh was young, handsome, and manly, and as wise as he was ambitious.

During the autumn of 1582 the plague raged in London, and Burghley took
refuge at Theobalds, where, in November, his recently married young
son-in-law, the eldest son of Lord Wentworth died. The letters written
on this occasion from Walsingham[470] and Hatton[471] prove that the
political opposition in the Council did not degenerate into personal
enmity; indeed, nothing is more remarkable than the affectionate regard,
and even reverence, which are constantly expressed by Lord Burghley’s
correspondents towards him. An especially kind thought seems to have
occurred to Walsingham. He suggests to Hatton that “it would be some
comfort to his lady (_i.e._ Elizabeth Wentworth), if it might please you
so to work with her Majesty, as his (Burghley’s) other son-in-law (Lord
Oxford), who hath long dwelt in her Majesty’s displeasure, might be
restored to her Highness’s good favour.”[472]

The Earl of Oxford had constantly been a source of trouble to Lord
Burghley. He was extravagant, eccentric, and quarrelsome, and only by
the exercise of great forbearance on the part of his father-in-law had
any semblance of friendship been kept up. If on this occasion, as is
probable, Hatton acceded to Walsingham’s suggestion, and persuaded the
Queen once more to receive Oxford at court, it was not long before the
intractable Earl again misbehaved himself; for on May of the following
year (1583) his long-suffering father-in-law appealed to the new
favourite, Ralegh, to exert his influence with the Queen to forgive him
again. Ralegh’s answer,[473] giving a long account of his efforts to move
the Queen, shows that Oxford had injured him also. “I am content,” he
writes, “for your sake to lay the serpent before the fire, as much as in
me lieth, that having recovered strength, myself may be most in danger of
his poison and sting.”

As we have seen, Mary Stuart had never ceased, since the triumph of
D’Aubigny, to negotiate through Mendoza for her release and restoration,
and the subsequent invasion of England over the Scottish Border. The raid
of Ruthven and the fall of D’Aubigny did not at first discourage her.
She still believed that the expected arrival of foreign troops, and her
son’s secret favour of the Catholics, would enable the plot to be carried
through,[474] and under this belief it was that she wrote her violent
letter of denunciation and complaint to Elizabeth (8th November).[475]

Almost simultaneously with the receipt of this letter in London there
arrived the Guisan, La Mothe Fénélon, on his way to Scotland, for the
purpose of inquiring into the treatment of D’Aubigny by the Protestant
lords, uniting Mary and her son on the throne, and, if possible, to
mediate with Elizabeth in favour of the captive Queen; whilst, at the
same time, another envoy (De Maineville) was sent by sea with secret
instructions to plan a fresh rising of the Catholic nobles in union
with James. Castelnau, the regular Ambassador, might protest untruly
to Elizabeth, as he did, that it was “une chose du tout contraire à la
verité de dire que le Sieur De Maineville eut une seconde et particulière
secrete instruction;” but the embassy was quite terrifying enough to
Elizabeth, coming after the plots that she knew had been hatching between
the Spaniards, the Jesuits, and D’Aubigny. Walsingham hurried from his
country house to court the moment he heard of La Mothe Fénélon’s arrival,
for all the official French plans for helping James and D’Aubigny had
purposely been allowed to leak out. We know now that they were merely
a trick of the Queen-mother’s to frighten Elizabeth into helping poor
Alençon in the Netherlands, the only really serious part of them being
De Maineville’s secret mission, which depended entirely upon Guise.[476]
The Queen kept La Mothe dallying for weeks before she would give him a
passport, whilst she tried to dazzle him anew with the talk of marrying
Alençon and supporting him in Flanders. Before he left for Scotland,
D’Aubigny had passed through London on his way to France, where he died
shortly afterwards; and when La Mothe proceeded on his mission it was
already too late, if ever it was intended to be effectual.

It is one of the standing reproaches to Lord Burghley’s memory that he
was the constant enemy of Mary. In former chapters I have shown that
this was not the case. That he was inflexible in tracing and punishing
treason against his mistress and her Government is obvious, for it was
his first duty as a minister; but how far he was from any personal enmity
against the unfortunate Mary, may be seen in his many letters to Lord
Shrewsbury at Hatfield and elsewhere. On the receipt of Mary’s imprudent
letter to the Queen and the arrival of La Mothe in England, a Council was
called to consider the removal of the Queen of Scots from the care of
Shrewsbury. Mendoza says that “the Treasurer was greatly opposed to her
being removed from the Earl’s house, where she had remained for fifteen
years, especially as Shrewsbury had not failed fully to carry out his
instructions. He said her removal would scandalise the country.”[477]

Burghley’s relative William Davison, in conjunction with Robert Bowes,
was sent to Scotland at the same the time as La Mothe, to dissuade
James from acceding to French suggestion of associating his mother with
himself in his sovereignty; and Walsingham’s brother-in-law, Beale, was
deputed to proceed to Sheffield for the purpose of negotiating with
Mary with regard to her future.[478] Mary from the first had seen that
the interference of Henry III. and his mother was a feint in favour of
Alençon, and sent Fontenay to Mendoza whilst Beale was with her, to
ask for his guidance in the negotiation.[479] Elizabeth had secretly
authorised Beale, under certain circumstances, to offer Mary her release.
This, Mendoza understood, was unfavourable to Spanish ends, because she
would almost infallibly fall in such case into the hands of the French,
or be compelled, if she stayed in England, to make such renunciations
and compromises as would render her useless as an instrument with which
to raise the Catholics. The Spaniard therefore naturally advised her to
stay where she was, and the unhappy woman followed his interested advice.
She gave Beale a somewhat unyielding answer, and her last chance of
liberation fled.[480]

In the meanwhile Alençon continued to clamour for money, and repeated his
vows of everlasting love and slavish submission; anything if Elizabeth
would only send money to save him from becoming the laughing-stock of
Europe. The Protestant Dutchmen were tired of him; Orange saw that he
was a useless burden, and prayed Elizabeth to take her bad bargain back
again. Seeing that he could expect but little from England, he obtained
the help of his mother. Marshal Biron crossed the frontier into Flanders,
and in January 1583 the false Valois endeavoured to seize and garrison
with Frenchmen the strong places of the Netherlands. The affair failed,
and Alençon fled from Antwerp detested and distrusted. The States
disowned him, and Norris, the English general, refused to obey him; and
though Elizabeth pretended to be angry with Sir John Norris and the
Englishmen, she thought better of it when Alençon asked her to withdraw
them and let his Frenchmen deal with the Flemings, for it was now clear
that she could never trust him in Flanders alone.

With the invidious position into which Elizabeth’s tortuous policy had
led her; almost hopeless as she was now of conciliating Spain, and
conscious of having insulted France beyond forgiveness by her treatment
of Alençon; with Orange discontented, and Scotland in a ferment, it is
not strange that division existed in the Queen’s counsels. Burghley
himself at this time was tired of the struggle. The fresh Councillors
had not been appointed, and he had to contend with infinite diplomacy
for every point that he carried. The general tendency of the Queen’s
policy was opposed to his view of what was wise; he was now old and
almost constantly ill, and either the Queen’s obduracy with regard to his
unworthy son-in-law Oxford, or the opposition he constantly met with,
led him to seek release from his offices, and to desire to pass the rest
of his life in retirement. His complaint would rather seem to have been
against the Queen herself, to judge from her very curious letter turning
his desire to ridicule. On the 8th May 1583 she wrote:—

“Sir Spirit,[481] I doubt I do nickname you, for those of your
kind, they say, have no sense. But I have of late seen an
‘_Ecce Signum_,’ that if an ass kick you, you feel it so soon.
I will recant you from being a spirit if ever I perceive you
disdain not such a feeling. Serve God, fear the King, and be
a good fellow to the rest. Let never care appear in you for
such a rumour; but let them well know that you rather desire
the righting of such a wrong by making known their error, than
you be so silly a soul as to foreslow that you ought to do, or
not freely deliver what you think meetest, and pass of no man
so much, as not to regard her trust who putteth it in you. God
bless you, and long may you last _omnino_.

“E. R.”[482]

The duplicity of the young King of Scots and the intrigues of the Guisan
envoy were successful in June in withdrawing James from the power of the
lords of the English faction, and once more the Scottish Catholics held
up their heads.[483] Thus encouraged, Mary at once informed Elizabeth
that the conditional promises she had made to Beale and Mildmay in the
negotiations for her release, were to be considered void unless she were
at once liberated,[484] her attitude being no doubt to some extent the
result of the strenuous efforts of the Spaniards through Mendoza to keep
her in England, and to prevent her from entering into any compromise as
to religion.

This new phase of affairs profoundly disquieted Elizabeth.[485] Her
Ambassador in France, Henry Cobham, continued to send alarming news of
Guise’s designs,[486] and it is certain that Walsingham, at all events,
was aware of the constant communications between Mary and Mendoza. It
was therefore decided to send Walsingham himself to Edinburgh, to obtain
from James some assurance that English interests should not suffer by
his change of ministers, and to offer him a subsidy in consideration
of his acceptance of the terms proposed by Elizabeth. That the mission
was an unwelcome one to Walsingham, who foresaw its failure, is proved
by Mendoza’s statement (19th August): “He strenuously refused to go,
and went so far as to throw himself at the Queen’s feet, and pronounce
the following terrible blasphemy: he swore by the soul, body, and
blood of God, that he would not go to Scotland, even if she ordered
him to be hanged for it, as he would rather be hanged in England than
elsewhere.… Walsingham says that he saw that no good could come of the
mission, and that the Queen would lay upon his shoulders the whole of
the responsibility for the evils that would occur. He said she was very
stingy already, and the Scots more greedy than ever, quite disillusioned
now as to the promises made to them; so that it was impossible that any
good should be done.”[487] But Walsingham went nevertheless, and came
home safely, though, as he foretold, his embassy was fruitless, for the
Catholics had entirely captured James.

Alençon, in despair of obtaining sufficient help from Elizabeth, now
that he had shown his falseness, had retired to France, leaving his
forces under Marshal Biron. Lovelorn epistles and frantic protestations
continued to pass between him and Elizabeth; but it was acknowledged now
that his cause was hopeless, and he fell henceforward entirely under the
influence of his mother. The States and Orange again and again urged
Elizabeth to take the provinces into her own hands and carry on the war
openly. Leicester, Walsingham, Bedford, Knollys, and the Puritans urged
her seriously to do so; but she refused on the advice of Burghley, “who
told her that she had not sufficient strength to struggle with your
Majesty, particularly with so small a contribution as that offered by the
States. Leicester and the rest of them are trying to persuade her to send
five or six thousand men thither.”[488]

Events were irresistibly nearing a crisis which made it necessary for
Elizabeth to take an open course on one side or the other; and Lord
Burghley had again been overborne by the zealous Protestants in the
Council until a breach with Spain had become unavoidable sooner or later.
Walsingham had never lost touch of Mary Stuart’s proceedings,[489]
or of her French cousin’s various plans for the murder of Elizabeth,
and the invasion of England. Guise had submitted to Philip in 1583 a
regular proposal for the Queen’s assassination, and in the autumn had
sent his pensioner Charles Paget (Mopo) to England to negotiate for the
rising of the English Catholics. One of the results of this was that
young Francis Throgmorton, a correspondent of Mary Stuart, and one of
her intermediaries with Mendoza, was arrested with others and charged
with a plot to assassinate the Queen. How far this accusation was true
it is at this moment difficult to say, but there is no doubt that the
Throgmortons, with the Earl of Northumberland, who was imprisoned, Lord
Paget, who fled, and many other Catholics, were in league with Charles
Paget for a rising, in conjunction with Guise.

It is to be noted that Lord Burghley took no part in the prosecution of
Throgmorton, which was mainly forwarded by Leicester, who was always
suspected of having poisoned Sir Nicholas Throgmorton, the uncle of the
accused man. The apprehension of the conspirators and the consequent
expulsion of Mendoza (January 1584) certainly served the purposes of the
strong Protestant majority led by Leicester[490] and Walsingham in the
Council, and aided them in forcing the hands of the Queen and Burghley.
The death of Alençon in June, and the murder of Orange by an agent of
the Spaniards in July, still further acted in the same direction. It was
no longer possible for England to hold a non-committal position. Either
Spain must be permitted to crush Protestantism in the Netherlands, or the
head of the Protestant confederacy must cast aside the mask and boldly
fight the Catholic powers. There were reasons why this course might now
be taken with much more safety than previously. The Queen-mother of
France was frantic with rage against Spain for the loss of her favourite
son. The King was childless, and the Guises were already plotting to
grasp the crown, or partition France on Henry’s death, rather than he
should be succeeded by the Huguenot Henry of Navarre. Elizabeth had
therefore the certainty, for the first time since her accession, that
France nationally would not coalesce with Spain against her, and that
any attempt of Guise to injure her would be counteracted by Catharine,
Navarre and the Huguenots.

The question of the future policy to be pursued by England under
the changed circumstances was, as usual, submitted to the judicial
examination of Lord Burghley, whose minutes[491] set forth the whole
case _pro_ and _contra_. The question propounded was, “Shall the Queen
defend and help the Low Countries to recover from the tyranny of Spain
and the Inquisition; and if not, what shall she do to protect England
when he shall have subdued Holland?” After stating the advantages and
disadvantages of each course, it is evident that the judgment is in
favour of aiding the States, on certain conditions of security, which
Burghley himself notes in the margin. The aid is to cost as little as
possible; some of the best noblemen of Zeeland are to be held as hostages
in the hands of the English; the chief military commands to be held
by English officers; the King of Scots to be secured to the English
interest; the King of Navarre to embarrass Spain on her frontiers, and
a Parliament to be called in England for the purpose of sanctioning the
course proposed. But, continues the document, if it is decided that
England shall not help the States, then she must be put into a condition
of defence, the navy increased, a large sum of money collected, some
German mercenaries engaged to watch the Scottish Border, and the English
Catholics “put in surety.” “Finally, that ought to be Alpha and Omega,
to cause her people to be better taught to serve God, and to see justice
duly administered, whereby they may serve God, and love her Majesty; and
that if it may be concluded, _Si Deus nobiscum, quis contra nos?_”

Lord Burghley was thus, after a quarter of a century of striving to keep
on friendly relations with Spain, forced by the policy of Leicester,
Walsingham, and the strong Protestants, into the contest which he
had hoped to avoid. Circumstances had been stronger than individual
predilections, and Mary Stuart’s ceaseless designs against the crown and
faith of England, and especially her submission to Spain, had given the
Protestant party an impetus which swept aside the cautious moderation of
Burghley’s policy, and proved even to him the necessity for war.

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 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 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 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 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 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
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 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 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. 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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. would not
go to war for the sake of his sister-in-law.

Mary was removed to Fotheringay for trial on the 6th October, and on the
following day Paulet and Mildmay delivered to her Elizabeth’s letter,
informing her of the charges against her, and the tribunal to which she
was to be submitted. She indignantly refused to acknowledge Elizabeth’s
right to place her, an anointed sovereign, upon her trial; but she
denied all knowledge and complicity in the murder plot. This was the
safest attitude she could have assumed, although the proofs against
her already in the hands of Elizabeth were overwhelming;[520] and the
arguments of Burghley and Lord Chancellor Bromley failed to alter Mary’s
determination. This was embarrassing, and in the face of it Elizabeth
wrote to Burghley[521] instructing him that, although the examination
might proceed, no judgment was to be delivered until she had conferred
with him. At the same time she wrote to Mary a letter of mingled threats
and hope, with the object of changing her attitude towards the tribunal.
This, added to the persuasions of Hatton, succeeded in the object,[522]
and Mary, unfortunately for her, retreated from her unassailable position.

On the 14th, two days afterwards, the tribunal sat in the great hall of
Fotheringay Castle, and Mary, almost crippled with rheumatism, painfully
hobbled to her place, supported by her Steward, Sir Andrew Melvil. On
the right of the Lord Chancellor sat Lord Burghley. That the proceedings
against Mary, in which he had from the first taken an active part, were
in his opinion necessary for the safety of England, is clear from his
many letters upon the subject; but it is equally evident that if he could
decently have avoided personal identification with them he would have
been better pleased. His letters to Popham, the Attorney-General, show
that he wished to be absent from the trial; but as he wrote at the time
to Sir Edward Stafford, the English Ambassador in France, “I was never
more toiled than I have been of late, and yet am, with services that here
do multiply daily; and whosoever scapeth I am never spared. God give me
grace.”

Much of the obloquy that has been unjustly cast upon him in the matter
of Mary Stuart arises from his inveterate habit of putting everything in
writing, which other men did not do. For instance, the draft of the whole
case, or, as he puts it, “the indignities and wrongs done and offered
by the Queen of Scots to the Queen,” is in his handwriting,[523] and the
letters to the Queen detailing the progress of events at Fotheringay are
sent from him, whilst Elizabeth’s instructions through Davison are all
addressed to Walsingham and Burghley. But it must be remembered that
he was the Queen’s most trusted and experienced Councillor, and the
existence of records written by or to him does not show that he was more
eager than the rest for the sacrifice of the Scottish Queen.

Mary defended herself with consummate ability before a tribunal almost
entirely prejudiced against her. She was deprived of legal aid, without
her papers, and in ill health; and, according to modern notions, the
procedure against her was unjust in the extreme. Once she turned upon
Walsingham and denounced him as the contriver of her ruin, but soon
regained her composure; and in her argument with Burghley, with respect
to the avowals of Babington and her Secretaries, reached a point of
touching eloquence which might have moved the hearts, though it did not
convince the intellects, of her august judges.[524] But her condemnation
was a foregone conclusion; and although the sentence was not pronounced
until the return of the Commission to Westminster (October 25), Mary left
the hall of Fotheringay practically a condemned felon on the 15th.

But it was one thing to condemn and another thing to execute. Here
Elizabeth’s scruples again assailed her. The two Houses of Parliament
addressed her on the 12th November, begging that for the sake of the
realm and her own safety the sentence might be carried into effect. At no
point of her career was the profound duplicity of Elizabeth more resorted
to than now. She had evidently determined that Mary must die, which is of
itself not surprising; but she was equally determined that, if she could
help it, no blame should personally attach to her for having disregarded
the privileges of a crowned head. After much pretended sorrow and
repudiation of any desire for revenge, but at the same time setting forth
a careful recapitulation of Mary’s offences, she complained of Parliament
for passing the Act which made it necessary for her to pronounce sentence
of death on a kinswoman, and said she must take time for prayer and
contemplation before she could give an answer to the petition. A few
days afterwards she besought the Houses to consider again whether some
other course could not be adopted instead of executing Mary, but she
was assured by them that there was “no other sound and assured means”
than that which they had formerly recommended (18th November). Her next
address to the Houses was still more hypocritical. After infinite talk
of her mercy, her goodness, and her hatred of bloodshed, even for her
own safety, she ended enigmatically: “Therefore if I should say I would
not do what you request, it might be peradventure more than I thought,
and to say I would do it might perhaps breed peril of what you labour to
preserve, being more than in your own wisdoms and discretions would seem
convenient.”[525]

Several days before this, Mary’s sentence had been communicated to her by
Lord Buckhurst and Beale. She was dignified and courageous, rejoiced that
she was to die, as she said, for the Catholic faith, and again affirmed
that she had taken no part in the plot for the murder of Elizabeth,
which was doubtless true so far as active participation or direction was
concerned. Her letters written immediately afterwards to Mendoza[526]
and the Duke of Guise[527] are conceived in the same spirit, and appear
to entertain no expectation of mercy. The Spaniards, however, were more
hopeful, and ascribed to Burghley a deep scheme for selling Mary’s life
to France, in exchange for concessions to English interests.

The arrangements for the invasion of England by a great fleet from
Spain were now so far advanced as to be impossible of concealment, and
the English Government were actively adopting measures of defence and
reprisal. Under the transparent pretext of aiding Don Antonio, English
armed ships were hounding Spanish commerce from the seas and harrying
Spanish settlements; the English troops under Leicester, and the Scots
under the Master of Gray, were fighting Spaniards in Holland, and the
English militant Protestant party had now supplanted Burghley’s policy on
all sides. But still the cautious old statesman patiently worked in his
own way to minimise the dangers with which his political opponents had
already surrounded the Queen. There were two things only that he could
do, namely, once more to endeavour to disarm Spain by making a show of
friendship, and to sow discord between France and Spain; and both these
things he did. One of Ralegh’s privateers had captured Philip’s governor
of Patagonia, the famous explorer and navigator, Sarmiento; and almost
simultaneously with the passing of Mary’s sentence, Ralegh was invited to
bring his prisoner to Cecil House for a private conference. Sarmiento was
flattered and made much of, and received his free release on condition
of his taking to Spain messages from Burghley and Ralegh suggesting a
friendly arrangement between the countries. Ralegh, indeed, went so far
as to offer—whether sincerely or not does not affect the question—two of
his ships for Philip’s service, and for many weeks sympathetic messages
found their way secretly from the Lord Treasurer and Sir Walter to Spain
and Flanders.[528]

At the same time Sir Henry Wotton was sent to Paris with certified copies
of Mary’s will in favour of Philip, and of her correspondence with
Mendoza. “He is instructed to point out how much she depended upon your
Majesty, and how shy she was of France.”[529] This was exactly the course
most likely to alienate Henry III. from Spain and his sister-in-law;
and although he tardily sent Pomponne de Bellièvre to remonstrate with
Elizabeth, the Spaniards and Guisans, at all events, never believed
in the sincerity of his protests.[530] Mendoza writes: “Elizabeth has
given orders that directly Bellièvre arrives in England the rumour is
to be spread that the Queen of Scots is killed, in order to discover
how he takes it. Bellièvre, however, is forewarned of it, and has his
instructions what to say when he hears it. It is a plan of Cecil’s
arising out of a desire (as I wrote to your Majesty) to sell to the
French on the best terms they can what they do not dream of carrying out.
The English and French will have no difficulty in agreeing on the point,
because the King and his mother are very well pleased that the Queen of
Scots should be kept alive, though a prisoner, in order to prevent the
succession of your Majesty to the English throne; whilst the English see
plainly that the many advantages accruing to them from keeping the Queen
of Scots a prisoner would change into as many dangers if they made away
with her.”[531]

On the 6th December public proclamation of Mary’s sentence was made in
London amidst signs of extravagant rejoicing on the part of the populace.
The next day Bellièvre delivered a long speech to the Queen, in which
he made no attempt to deny Mary’s guilt, but appealed to Elizabeth’s
magnanimity, and proposed guarantees from France to insure Mary’s future
harmlessness. The Queen repeated bitterly her grievances against Mary,
and replied that the life of Mary was incompatible with her own safety;
and Lord Burghley, in a subsequent interview with the Frenchman, repeated
more emphatically the same idea. Shortly afterwards, at the renewed
request of Bellièvre and Chateauneuf, Elizabeth ungraciously consented
to grant a respite of twelve days to Mary to enable the Ambassadors
to communicate with their master. But Henry III. himself was now in a
hopeless condition. “Such is the confusion of the court, the vacillation
of the King, and the jealousy, hatred, and suspicion of the courtiers,
that decisions are adopted and abandoned at random.… The King is trying
to draw closer to the Queen of England, which is the principal object
of Bellièvre’s mission.”[532] The only reply, therefore, sent to
Bellièvre and Chateauneuf from France was a pedantic and wordy appeal
to Elizabeth’s mercy, which must have convinced her that she need fear
nothing from the French.[533]

Notwithstanding the first movement of indignation on the part of James
also, it soon became clear that selfish reasons would confine his action
to protest. This is not altogether to be wondered at. He had been
informed that Mary had disinherited him, and told De Courcelles, the
French Ambassador, that he knew “she had no more good-will towards him
than towards the Queen of England.” The Master of Gray, at his side, too,
was the humble servant of England, and the traitor, Archibald Douglas,
represented him in the English court. On pressure from France, however,
James sent Sir William Keith, another English partisan, to intercede for
his mother, or at least to induce Elizabeth to delay the execution until
a fitting embassy from him might be sent. Elizabeth hectored and stormed
at James’s threatening letters; but when she became calmer she granted
the twelve days’ respite already referred to. The Master of Gray and
Sir Robert Melvil subsequently arrived at the English court and were
equally unsuccessful.[534] Melvil undoubtedly did his best, and Elizabeth
threatened his life in consequence; but the Master of Gray’s advocacy
went no further than he knew would please the English Government.

It is certain that Elizabeth herself had decided that Mary should
die, if the execution could be carried out without uniting France
and Spain against her, and especially if she herself could manage to
escape personal opprobrium. Of Lord Burghley’s personal opinion on the
matter it is extremely difficult to judge. He is generally represented
by historians as being the prime enemy and persecutor of the unhappy
woman, which he certainly was not. He was a cautious man and took his
stand behind legal forms; but the slightest slackness on his part was
represented by Leicester and his friends as a desire to curry favour
with Mary. He, the Howards, Crofts, and the other conservatives were,
as usual, desirous of staving off the rupture with Spain, but dared not
appear for a moment to favour so unpopular a cause as that of Mary. The
truth of this view is partly shown by the revelations of Sir Edward
Stafford, the English Ambassador in Paris, a great friend of Burghley’s
and a paid agent of Spain. Stafford told Charles Arundell in January that
Burghley had written that Bellièvre had not acted so cleverly as they had
expected, and if that he (Burghley) had not prompted him he would have
done worse still. “He was advised to ask for private audience without
Chateauneuf, and was closeted with the Queen, who was accompanied by
only four persons. What passed at the interview was consequently not
known; but that he (Cecil) could assure him (Stafford) that the Queen of
Scotland’s life would be spared, although she would be kept so close that
she would not be able to carry on her plots as hitherto. This is what I
have always assured your Majesty was desired by the Queen of England,
as well as the King of France. Cecil also says that, although he has
constantly shown himself openly against the Queen of Scots, Leicester
and Walsingham, his enemies, had tried to set the Queen against him by
saying that he was more devoted to the Queen of Scotland than any one.
But she (Elizabeth) had seen certain papers in her (Mary’s) coffers
that told greatly against Leicester, and the Queen had told the latter
and Walsingham that they were a pair of knaves, and she saw plainly
now that, owing to her not having taken the advice of certain good and
loyal subjects of hers, she was in peril of losing her throne and her
life, by burdening herself with a war which she was unable to carry on.
She said if she had done her duty as Queen she would have had them both
hanged.”[535]

By this and several similar pronouncements it would appear that Burghley,
true to his invariable method, was still by indirect and cautious steps
endeavouring to lead the Queen back to the moderate path from which
Leicester, Walsingham, and the militant Protestants had diverted her; and
that, very far from being the mortal enemy of Mary, he would probably
have saved her if he could have done it with perfect harmlessness
to himself, and have insured the future security of the Queen and
Government. But whilst the Queen was very slowly being influenced by the
Catholics and Conservatives near her, events were precipitated and Mary
paid the last penalty. There is no space in this work to tell in detail
the obscure and much debated story of the issue of the warrant for Mary’s
execution;[536] but a summary glance at Burghley’s share in it cannot be
excluded in any biography of the statesman. Soon after the proclamation
of the sentence (6th December 1586) Elizabeth herself directed Burghley
to draft the warrant for the execution. He did so, and sent for Secretary
Davison—Walsingham being absent from illness—and informed him that as
he, Burghley, was returning to London, the court then being at Richmond,
he would leave the draft with Davison that it might be engrossed and
presented to the Queen for signature. When Davison laid the document
before the Queen she told him to keep it back for the present. Six weeks
passed without anything more being done, and Leicester in the interval
complained to Davison, in Burghley’s presence, of his remissness in not
again laying the document before the Queen.

The Master of Gray left London at the end of January, and on the
1st February Lord Admiral Howard told the Queen that there was much
disquieting talk in the country with regard to attempts to be made for
the rescue of Mary, &c.[537] Elizabeth then requested Howard to send for
Davison and direct him to lay the warrant before her for signature. The
Secretary accordingly carried the warrant to the Queen, who was full of
smiles and amiability, and asked him what he had there. Davison told her,
and she signed the warrant, explaining to him whilst doing so, that she
had hitherto delayed it for the sake of her own reputation. Then, with
a joke, she handed the signed warrant back to him, and, according to
Davison, bade him carry it at once to the Lord Chancellor, have it sealed
with the great seal as privately as possible, and send it away to the
Commissioners, so that she should hear no more about it.

Elizabeth afterwards, however, swore that she had given him no such
instructions. As he was leaving, Elizabeth directed him to call on
Walsingham, who was confined to his house by illness, and to tell him
what had been done. She then spoke bitterly of Amias Paulet for not
having made the warrant unnecessary, and hinted to Davison that he
might write to Paulet again suggesting the poisoning of Mary. This
Davison demurred at doing, as he knew that it would be fruitless, and
he did not relish the task, but promised to mention it to Walsingham.
The Secretary’s story is that he went straight to Lord Burghley and
showed him and Leicester the warrant, repeating the Queen’s directions.
He then proceeded to Walsingham House; and the result of his visit is
seen in a memorandum (dated the next day, 2nd February) in Walsingham’s
hand, annotated by Lord Burghley, laying down the steps to be taken for
immediately carrying the warrant into effect.[538] The fullest details,
even for the burial, are set forth, and at the end it is directed that
“the Lords and court are to give out that there will be no execution.”

Thus far Davison’s statement has been followed; but there is at Hatfield
(part iii., No. 472) a rough draft in Lord Burghley’s handwriting, which,
in view of the date upon it, 2nd February, throws rather a new light
upon the matter, and proves that, unknown to Davison, Lord Burghley and
the rest of the Council were accomplices of the Queen in her intention
of subsequently repudiating her orders and ruining her Secretary, and
that the tragi-comedy was not played by Elizabeth alone, but by her grave
Councillors as well. The draft document is in the name of the Council,
and sets forth the reasons that had moved them to despatch the warrant
without further consulting the Queen; “_and yet we are now at this time
most sorry to understand that your Majesty is so greatly grieved with
this kind of proceeding, and do most humbly beseech your Majesty_,” &c.
This, be it remembered, is dated the 2nd February, before the warrant had
been sent off or the Queen even knew it had been sealed.

Early in the morning of the 2nd the Queen sent Killigrew to Davison,
directing him not to go to the Lord Chancellor until he had seen her.
When he entered her presence she asked him, to his surprise, whether
he had had the warrant sealed, and he informed her that he had. Why so
much haste? she asked; to which he replied that she had told him to use
despatch. He then inquired if she wished the warrant executed. Yes,
she said; but she did not like the form of it, for it threw all the
responsibility upon her, and again suggested poison as the best way out
of her difficulty.

All this made Davison suspicious, and he went to Hatton and told him
that he feared the intention was subsequently to disavow him. He would,
he said, take no more responsibility, but would go at once to Lord
Burghley. This he did, and the latter summoned the Privy Council for
next day; whilst he, Burghley, busied himself in drafting the letters to
the Commissioners, the Earls of Kent and Shrewsbury. The next morning
(3rd February) the Council met in Lord Burghley’s room, and the Lord
Treasurer laid the whole matter before them, repeating Davison’s story,
and recommending that the warrant should be despatched without further
reference to the Queen. This was agreed to, and the instructions
and warrant were sent the same night (Friday, 3rd February) to the
Commissioners, Burghley himself handing the document to Beale to carry
down into the country.

The next morning when Davison entered the Queen’s room at Greenwich
she was chatting with Ralegh, and told the Secretary that she had
dreamed the previous night that the Queen of Scots was executed, which
made her very angry. It was a good thing, she said, that Davison was
not near her at the time. This frightened Davison, and he asked her
whether she really did not wish the warrant executed. With an oath
she said she did, but again repeated what she had said the previous
day about the responsibility, and “another way of doing it.” A day or
so afterwards, Davison informed the Queen that Paulet had indignantly
refused Walsingham’s suggestion to poison Mary, whereupon she broke into
complaints of the “daintiness of these precise fellows,” and violently
denounced people who professed to love and defend her, but threw all
responsibility upon her.

On the 8th February the tragedy of Fotheringay was consummated, and in
the afternoon of the 9th young Talbot brought the news to London. Lord
Burghley at once summoned Davison, and after consulting with Hatton and
others, it was decided not to tell the Queen suddenly. When she learnt
it later in the day the well-prepared blow fell upon Davison. The Queen
pretended to be infuriated, swore that she had never intended to have the
warrant divulged, and whilst blaming all the Councillors,[539] threw
most of the onus upon Davison. The Council advised him to retire from
court, and he was soon afterwards cast into the Tower and degraded from
his office. After a long and tedious trial and a painful imprisonment, he
was condemned to a fine sufficient to ruin him, and thenceforward lived
in poverty and obscurity. The Earl of Essex fought manfully in his favour
whilst he lived, but Lord Burghley and the rest of the Councillors were
too strong for him, and the man they had ruined was never allowed to
raise his head again.[540]

That Burghley and the other principal Councillors were parties to the
plot, and that the Queen’s anger with them was assumed, is also seen
by a memorandum in Burghley’s handwriting at Hatfield,[541] dated 17th
February, headed “The State of the Cause _as it ought to be conceived
and reported_ concerning the Execution done upon the Queen of Scots,”
in which the Queen’s version is adopted, and all the blame thrown upon
Davison and the Council. Even before this was written the affair was
so reported to Burghley’s friend Stafford in Paris, in order that this
version might be spread on the Continent. Charles Arundell, in conveying
the news from Stafford to Mendoza, says that Burghley was absent through
illness,[542] and that the execution was carried through by Davison, “who
is a terrible heretic,” and the rest of Mary’s enemies. This is perhaps
the blackest stain that rests upon Burghley’s name. We have seen before
that he was not generous or magnanimous in his treatment of others when
his own interests were at stake; and the sacrifice of Davison would
probably appear to him a very small price to pay for helping Elizabeth
out of a difficult position, and maintaining his own favour.

Although we have seen that the Lord Treasurer from motives of policy had
been forced to take a prominent part in the condemnation and execution
of Mary, it cannot be supposed that the position of affairs at the time
was agreeable to him. The wars in Flanders, the persecution of English
Protestants in Spain, the reprisals of Drake and the privateers, and the
Catholic plots in the interests of Mary had aroused a strong Protestant
war feeling in the country. Leicester and his friends had the popular
voice on their side, and Burghley and the Conservatives could only very
cautiously and tentatively endeavour to stay the impetus with which
the country was rushing towards a national war with the strongest
power in Christendom. The great Armada was in full preparation, and
the ports of Italy, Flanders, Spain, and Portugal rang with the sound
of arms. Don Antonio once more was welcomed in England, to be used as
a stalking-horse, this being Lord Burghley’s last hope of levying war
without national responsibility.

But though there was much talk about Don Antonio, and Spanish spies in
England continued to report that the great fleet under Drake was to be
employed in his interests, its real object was to render impossible, at
least for that year, the junction of Philip’s naval forces in Lisbon.
Thanks to the efforts of Burghley and his party, an elaborate pretence
was kept up of the expedition being a private one; but it was really
controlled and organised by government officers, and the second in
command, Borough, was a Queen’s admiral, sent avowedly to place a check
upon Drake, and to prevent him from going too far in his open attack upon
Spain. Drake’s instructions were “to prevent or withstand any enterprise
as might be attempted against her Highness’s dominions, and especially
by preventing the concentration of Philip’s squadrons;” and he was to
distress the ships as much as possible, both in the havens themselves
and on the high seas. Drake arrived in Plymouth from the Thames on the
23rd March, and in a week of incessant energy had everything ready. The
secret of his intentions was well kept, and Mendoza’s many spies could
only tardily report the loose gossip of the streets. Sir Edward Stafford
assured his Spanish paymaster that no living soul but the Queen and the
Lord Treasurer knew what the design was to be.

Leicester was now at Buxton (April 1587), shortly to start on another
visit to Flanders, and in his absence Burghley’s influence, both Ralegh
and Hatton being on his side, as well as Crofts and the Catholics,
overshadowed that of Walsingham and Knollys. Drake seems to have feared
the consequence of this, and hurried his departure from Plymouth (2nd
April). He was only just in time, for as soon as he had gone a courier
came in hot haste with orders from the Council, which now meant Burghley,
strictly limiting Drake’s action:[543] “You shall forbear to enter
forcibly into any of the said King’s ports or havens, or to offer any
violence to any of his towns or shipping within harbour, or to do any act
of hostility on land.”

This was exactly what Drake had foreseen. The ship sent after him
with the orders failed to reach him, and the great seaman went on his
way. But, as usual with Drake, the official drag on the wheel had to
be overcome. Off Cape St. Vincent, Borough recited to the Admiral the
conditions under which the Queen’s ships accompanied him, evidently
expecting that he would not confine his operations to preventing the
concentration of the Spanish squadrons. But Drake was on his own
element now, and sailed straight to Cadiz, as some people had shrewdly
expected he meant to do from the first.[544] Borough warned him not to
exceed the Queen’s orders, and was placed under arrest for his pains;
and unopposed, Drake sailed into Cadiz harbour, to the dismay of the
astounded Spaniards. He plundered, burned, and sank all the ships in
port, destroyed the stores, and then quietly sailed out again unmolested.
He did damage to the extent of a million ducats (though Philip wrote
that he felt the insolence of the act more than the material damage),
and if he had cared to disobey the Queen’s orders further he might have
stopped the Armada for good by burning the ships in Lisbon, for they had
neither guns nor men on board to protect them. But he knew now that the
peace party in the Council were busy arranging with Parma’s envoy for the
meeting of a conference, and doubtless thought he had gone far enough in
his brilliant disobedience.

The indispensable Andrea de Looe had arrived in London from the
Prince of Parma immediately after Drake sailed, and was soon deep in
negotiation with Burghley with the object of arranging a meeting of Peace
Commissioners. When he had returned to Brussels with the proposals, news
came of Drake’s daring raid. De Looe then wrote a long letter to Burghley
(11th July), pointing out how much the cause of peace was injured by such
acts of aggression. Burghley’s answer[545] (28th July) perfectly defines
his position towards Drake’s action. After professing the Queen’s desire
for peace, and readiness to send her Commissioners to Flanders if the
Duke of Parma will suspend hostilities (before the Sluys), he says: “True
it is, and I avow it upon my faith, her Majesty did send a ship expressly
with a message by letters charging him (Drake) not to show any act of
hostility before he went to Cadiz, which messenger, by contrary winds,
could never come to the place where he was, but was constrained to come
home, and hearing of Sir Fras. Drake’s actions, her Majesty commanded
the party that returned to be punished, but he acquitted himself by oath
of himself and all his company. And so unwitting, yea unwilling, to her
Majesty those actions were committed by Sir Fras. Drake, for the which
her Majesty is greatly offended with him; and now also for bringing home
of a rich ship that came out of the East Indies.”[546] And then, as some
counterbalance to these enormities, Lord Burghley sets forth once more
the various grievances of England against Spain.

Whilst the elaborate and frequently insincere negotiations for peace were
being laboriously pursued for many months, Lord Burghley’s other standing
policy was not neglected, namely, that of causing jealousy between France
and Spain. Henry III. was now in mortal fear of Guise, and was ready to
listen to English and Huguenot suggestions that Philip’s conquest of
England would be followed by a Guisan dynasty under Spanish patronage in
France. All the French influence at the Vatican was exercised to procure
the conversion of James Stuart and the opposition of Spanish aims, and
before the end of the year Lord Burghley had the satisfaction of seeing
that Henry III. and his clever mother in no case would aid Philip to
subjugate England.

Elizabeth, in the meanwhile, was assailed by doubts and fears, and
periodical fits of penuriousness in the midst of her danger, which drove
her Councillors to despair. Stafford told Mendoza that “Cecil writes that
the Queen is so peevish and discontented that it was feared she would
not live long. Her temper is so bad that no Councillor dares to mention
business to her, and when even he (Cecil) did so, she had told him that
she had been strong enough to lift him out of the dirt, and was able
to cast him down again. He (Cecil) was of opinion that the Councillors
might be divided into three classes—those who wished to come to terms
with Spain, those who desired a close friendship with France, and those
who wanted to stand aloof from both, whilst enriching themselves with
plunder. He (Cecil) was neither a Spaniard nor a Frenchman, but wished
the Queen to be friendly with both powers. King Henry, under whom the
country was powerful and tranquil, thought he was doing a great thing
when he was able to make war with France when he had an alliance with
Spain; and now it happened that the French were as desirous of being
friendly as the English were, and he urges the Ambassador to hasten the
conclusion of an agreement.”[547]

But whilst he was writing amiably for the French, he took care, on the
other hand, to make the most of the peace negotiations with Spain, and
thus to cause Henry to be the more anxious for England’s friendship. The
old statesman was thus cautiously and slowly going on his traditional
way, hopeless though he must have been of the final result as regarded
keeping peace with Spain. The long-continued preparations of the Armada
were rapidly approaching completion; the Pope had been cajoled into
promising funds unwillingly to aid Philip’s aims; the English Catholic
refugees were eagerly awaiting the harvest of their efforts; the great,
cumbrous machine for crushing England was already in motion, and no
efforts of diplomacy could stop it.

But yet Burghley did his best. The war and plunder party, as usual,
checked him at every turn; but early and late, through constant pain and
sickness, family trouble[548] and public disappointment, he struggled
on in the way he had marked out for himself so many years before—to
divide England’s possible enemies, and keep the peace with Spain so long
as was humanly possible. The Queen was full of qualms and misgivings;
swaying now to one side, now to another, and abusing in turn both the
party of peace and the advocates of war. “The Queen has been scolding
the Lord Treasurer greatly for the last few days, for having neglected
to disburse money for the fleet,” wrote a Spanish spy in November; and a
few days afterwards, when she was alarmed at the delay in Parma’s reply,
she flew into a tremendous rage with Burghley, “upon whom she heaped a
thousand insults,” for having induced her to negotiate for peace whilst
the enemy completed his preparations. “She told the Treasurer he was old
and doting; to which he replied that he knew he was old, and would gladly
retire to a church to pray for her.” But the old minister gave the Queen
as good as she brought, and in vigorous words pointed out in detail that
her present dangers arose entirely from her neglect of his advice and the
imprudence of his opponents in the Council.[549] But the next day came
Parma’s answer, and the Queen was all smiles again towards Burghley and
the peacemakers.