Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

affection for Essex, however, was proof even against this, and after a display of passion she was soon reconciled, Essex, "for Her Majesty's better satisfaction" arranging that his wife should "live very retired in her mother's house."

In 1590 Henry IV. of France, who was hard pressed by the League, sent to Elizabeth for assistance. Essex, to whom Henry had written personally, sought the adventure and with difficulty persuaded the Queen to let him go. Delighted with the prospect of leading an expedition, he nevertheless sends letters to the Queen on his departure complaining of his misery at being separated from her. "Most dear Lady" and "Most dear and most gracious Sovereign" are the terms with which they begin, and "Your Majesty's humblest, faithfullest and most affectionate servant," or "your Majesty's servant, whose duty and affection is greater than any man's, or than all men's," are specimens of their conclusion. Things did not go as well as the Queen expected, and, as usual, she took fright at the expense, found fault with all the arrangements, pretended that Henry had deceived her, and decided to recall the expedition. Essex was blamed, charged by the Council, by command of the Queen, with "trailing a pike like a common soldier" and hawking in the enemy's country, and strictly ordered "as you regard her princely favour" not" to put in danger your own person at this siege of Rouen." This advice was no doubt sound, as Essex was a knight errant rather than a commander. We read that he shared all the toils of the common soldier and that he challenged the enemy's commander to single combat; and he succeeded, partly through his own indiscretions, partly perhaps owing to the narrow views of the Queen, in reducing his army from 4,000 to 1,000 men. The advice given him, however, was also largely due to the Queen's anxiety. She brought him back to see her on two occasions during the expedition, and, in spite of her indignation at his proceedings, parted with him in tears. The remonstrance of Essex at the Queen's change of policy were expressed in such passages as the following in his letters to the Queen :—

"And now I find that your Majesty's indignation threatens the ruin and disgrace of him that hath lost his dearest and only brother

[who had been killed], spent a great part of his substance, ventured his own life and many of his friends, in seeking to do your majesty service."

[ocr errors]

'For to come home without doing anything would utterly overthrow my poor reputation, and make me-before God I speak it— like never to see your Majesty's face again

and to go out of action when all other men come into action were to wear a note of perpetual infamy. I am left alone of my poor house, to maintain the poor reputation that it hath hitherto lived in; your Majesty in honour and justice will not force me to be the first that shall imbase it. Grief and unkindness confound my wits, so that I must break off."

The style of these letters is most attractive, because they are so individual, and, in spite of some exaggeration of sentiment, so sincere and spontaneous. They carry also on their face the stamp of refinement as well as of genius in no ordinary degree, which largely accounts for the extraordinary hold which this man had on the affections of the English people. Essex was finally recalled to England in January, 1592.

And now under the tuition of Francis Bacon, and with the very capable assistance of Francis's brother Anthony, who in 1592 returned from his foreign travels. Essex was to learn to be a statesman, and for this purpose to enter into competition with the masters of the "aulical" arts, as practised in the reign of Elizabeth.1 How utterly unfitted he was for the part his letters and the sad event reveal. He was very ambitious, but with a noble ambition to serve his country. But he was touchy and impulsive, easily persuaded, unbalanced and lacking in self-command. He was also incapable of concealing his feelings. "He always carried on his brow either love or hatred." "12 Francis Bacon, on the other hand, was cool and far-seeing, and though, as I have said before, he was a bad judge of men, he had a very clear vision of measures and the bearing of events. That he was attracted by Essex is probable enough, but he did not take up with him from motives of affection—and, to do him justice, he never pretended to-but from motives of policy. Alone, and denied the support of Burghley, he could do nothing to

1 Dr. Abbott considered that Bacon's Intimacy with Essex began as early as 1588, which is very probable.

2 Cuffe, the Earl's secretary.

bring his great powers into play, but he hoped to effect this through the medium of the Favourite. In his own words, “I held at that time my Lord to be the fittest instrument to do good to the State; and therefore I applied myself to him in a manner which I think rarely happeneth amongst men. And when not long after I entered into this course, my brother Anthony came from beyond the seas I did likewise

knit his service to be at my Lord's disposing."1

Here was a very strong combination, brought about through Burghley's neglect of his nephews. By means of Anthony's experience abroad they proceeded to establish an extensive system of foreign correspondence and used their system of intelligence even for the detection of alleged plots at home, the object being to convince the Queen that she could be better served by Essex than by the Cecils. Essex, of course, supplied the funds. The Earl's personal position in the country promised the greatest hopes for the success of the scheme. It is thus described by Devereux :

"The position of Essex at this time was one to make an older head giddy: he was courted by the young nobles, who desired to enter the world under his auspices, and looked up to by all military men as their leader and patron; the Puritan party considered him as their protector, while the Roman Catholics looked to him to obtain toleration; he was the idol of the populace, while the Queen could scarce bear his absence from her side."

For a time the combination was successful and the Queen began to make some use of Essex as Foreign Secretary, evidently to the disgust of Burghley and his son; but his real strength continued to depend on the Queen's affection. This was fully realised by his enemies, who adopted the means, well recognized at the Court of Elizabeth, of weakening his influence with the Queen by getting him sent abroad and involving him in expeditions in which he was likely to fail, or at least to provoke the Queen's anger on the ground of cost. It was one of the peculiarities of the Queen always to quarrel with the commanders of her foreign expeditions. The extraordinary thing about Elizabeth was that she was

1 The Essex Apology.

2 Lives, i. 279.

quite aware of the methods used by her ministers and courtiers against each other and rather encouraged them as a means of retaining her control over them. Thus when about this time (1594) Essex again asked to be allowed to lead an expedition to assist the French (partly, no doubt, with the hope of relieving his poverty) she is said to have " used gracious words, to wit, that his desire to be in action, and to give further proofs of his valor and prowess, was to be liked and highly commended, but that she loved him and her realm too well to hazard his person in any lesser action than that which should import her Crown and State; and therefore willed him to be content, and gave him a warrant for 40001. sterling, saying, look to thyself, good Essex, and be wise to help thyself without giving thy enemies advantage, and my hand shall be readier to help thee than any other."1

But there was a more deadly weapon in the hands of the Earl's enemies in his correspondence with James of Scotland, and of this they evidently made the very most. It was by means of this weapon, in my belief, that they ultimately brought him to the ground. Even as early as 1587 it appears that Essex was writing to James. The occasion was the barbarous treatment of Davison, the Secretary, by Elizabeth after the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots. Essex had the temerity and generosity to appeal to James "to undertake his cause." In 1594 James appears again among his correspondents, and a letter of his dated 13 April, 1594, shows that there had been previous correspondence. It looks as if the subject touched upon had been James' right to the succession, merely to mention which was almost regarded by Elizabeth as treason. It is not probable, however that this particular correspondence was kept entirely secret from the Queen, as it concerned the rebel Earl of Bothwell, about whom James was then sending ambassadors; but the opening sentence of James's letter is significant :

"

Although I have this long time forborne the writing unto you, because of the wrong ye received therethrough, I suppose not in my default, but in the default of them that were betwixt us ";

1 Devereux, Lives, i. 311.

This probably means that letters had been intercepted by the Government, as occurred on a later occasion, when they probably contributed to the real charge on which Essex was executed. The existence of them also provides an intelligible reason for the obdurate attitude of the Queen towards the Earl in his troubles, which cannot be accounted for by any of the ostensible charges.

The Earl's agent for this correspondence with Scotland at that time was Anthony Bacon, and Francis evidently was too cautious to allow himself to appear in it, but that his was the guiding hand is probable from the fact that after the accession of James he took the credit for it. It is all the more shocking, therefore, to find, in the "Declaration of the Treasons" etc., which Bacon drew up for the Government after the Earl's execution, that this early correspondence is alleged as one of the proofs of a long continued disposition of Essex to treason. This is done by a subtle parenthesis: "that unnatural and detestable treason, whereunto all his former actions in his government in Ireland (and God knows how long before) were but introductions." Bacon's defence, however, was that he was here the mere pen of the Government and writing under orders, and certainly the garbling of the depositions which took place shows, by written evidence in one instance, that Cecil, who was officially responsible, was behind the operation. For what were called "writings of satisfaction in those days any falsehood was considered justifiable, so long as it served the purpose of government.

[ocr errors]

Francis seems to have left most of the hard work in the Earl's service to his brother, and I do not think he was greatly occupied, except in an advisory capacity. Essex had an extraordinarily high opinion of him and was evidently com

1" All which endeavours and duties for the most part were common to myself with him [Anthony], though by design (as between brethren) dissembled." Francis Bacon to King James, an offer of service on his coming in." Spedding, Letters and Life, iii. 62.

"

* See Dr. Abbott's Bacon and Essex, pp. 129, 238 sq., where the charge of garbling the depositions is substantiated by documentary evidence, and the partial advocacy of Spedding on the subject shown to be unjustified.

« AnteriorContinuar »