Page images
PDF
EPUB

refined courtier, the cultivated man of letters, engaged in such bloody work. It is only another sign amongst many how he entered into the busy life of those days in all its varied phases, and gained experience of every kind.

The fall of Del Oro, and the massacre of its garrison, was a death-blow to the hopes of the Irish rebels. Desmond was pursued by: the Earl of Ormond, his hereditary foe and Elizabeth's ally. His lands were wasted and pillaged, but he himself escaped pursuit for three years, when at last he was discovered hiding in a hovel, and was murdered.

After his active service at the siege of the Spanish fort, Ralegh was still employed in Munster, where, in various skirmishes, he had a good deal of severe fighting with the rebels. Munster was in a state of hopeless disorder, and Ralegh was disgusted with the inefficient means taken to bring about a better state of things. Active and clear-sighted, he was full of schemes for the better government of the province; but he and Lord Grey did not get on well together. Grey seems to have been jealous of Ralegh's abilities, and unwilling to listen to the advice which Ralegh urged upon him, in the tone of an equal rather than of an inferior.

In December, 1581, Ralegh was back again in England. He was not silent either to the Queen or to the Council about his views as to the state of Ireland, and the inefficiency of the government 1581] RALEGH'S RETURN TO ENGLAND. 21 there. But the suppression of the rebellion had cost large sums of money.

Elizabeth was fearful of anything that might provoke another rebellion. Active resistance to the English rule was at an end for the time; but the condition of the country was no less miserable. Munster was utterly desolate. The corn had been burnt in the fields, the cattle had, been slaughtered, the women and children burnt in their houses. Spenser thus describes the wretched condition of this part of the country: “Notwithstanding that the same was a most rich and plentifull country, full of corn and cattle, yet ere one year and a half they were brought to such wretchedness as that any stony heart would have rued the same. Out of every corner of the woods and glens they came creeping forth upon their hands, for their legs would not bear them. They looked like anatomies of death, they spake like ghosts crying out of their graves, they did eat the dead carions, happy where they could find them; yea, and one another soon after, insomuch as the very carcasses they spared not to scrape out of their graves; and if they found a plot of watercresses or shamrocks, there they flocked as to a feast for a time, yet not able long to continue there withall, that in short space there were none almost left, and a most populous and plentifull country suddenly left void of man and beast.” The power

of the Desmonds was now at an end. Their lands, to the extent of half a million of acres, escheated to the Crown; and were granted out to Elizabeth's favourites as a reward for their services. If these lands had now been regularly colonized and cared for by resident owners, the benefit to Ireland would have been great. The lands were very fertile, and had great capabilities; but most of the owners were non-resident, and the colonization was irregular. Another golden opportunity for improving the state of Ireland was lost.

Twelve thousand acres of this land were granted to Ralegh. He clearly realized the good that might come to Ireland from colonization, and the profits his estates might yield if carefully managed. He took care to get industrious tenants, importing some from Devonshire and Somersetshire, and his lands were better cared for than most of those granted to Englishmen in Ireland. But Ralegh too was an absentee landlord. He paid occasional visits to his Irish estates; but as time went on his varied pursuits and interests hindered him from giving much attention to them. In 1602 he sold nearly all his lands in Ireland to Richard Boyle, afterwards Earl of Cork, in whose hands they became the most thriving estate in Ireland. It was on these lands that the first attempt at the cultivation of the potato was made. The colonists whom Ralegh sent to Virginia brought it back with them in 1596; and Ralegh, ever ready to profit by a new discovery, tried planting it first in Ireland, where it was to become such an important article of diet.

CHAPTER III.

Ralegh at Court.

B
EFORE his return from Ireland, Ralegh does

not seem in any special manner to have attracted Elizabeth's attention. We do not know how he first won her favour; but in those days it was not difficult for any young man to gain access to the court. Once there, a man's own wit and talents alone could gain him success.

When Ralegh first appeared at court, Elizabeth was in her forty-eighth year; but she had not lost her love of admiration. She was still as much a coquette as she had ever been, and demanded as imperiously as any young beauty the entire devotion of her courtiers. There must have been much tinsel and unreality about court life when Raleigh first made acquaintance with it. The personal devotion which seemed natural enough when paid to a young queen of twenty-five, who was surrounded by difficulties and dangers, became absurd when directed to a woman of fortyeight. But exaggeration was the fashion, and no one could hope to get on at court who was not prepared to make-believe at least, by his words and actions, that Elizabeth occupied the first place in his heart. To the courtiers their behaviour to the Queen must have seemed a hollow mockery, a game which they were obliged to play, but which often became intolerably wearisome. We can well fancy how the gay young nobles who vied with one another in expressing their devotion and adoration to the Queen must, when the restraint of her presence was removed, have laughed together at the airs and graces of this faded beauty.

Ralegh began his court life under the powerful protection of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. This man had long held the first place in Elizabeth's favour. He was said to have been born on the same day and at the same hour as the Queen. His appearance and

and manners were well fitted to charm her. She would have married him, had she dared to marry a subject, and probably no other man ever touched her heart as he did. She called him her "Sweet Robin," and allowed him much influence in her councils. She even forgave him what she regarded as an insult from any one of her courtiers, and what in him was doubly bitter, his marriage with another. Leicester had twice -married ; first Amy Robsart, whom he was suspected of having made away with, when he thought there was a chance of marriage with the Queen. When this proved hopeless, he married the Countess of Essex, in 1578.

The high position in which Leicester was placed necessarily made him unpopular, and his arrogance did not tend to diminish his unpopularity. He

« PreviousContinue »