« PreviousContinue »
THE EARL OF LEICESTER.
was intensely ambitious, and was willing to employ any means to gain his ends. It was said of him that he was prepared to poison or murder, in some secret manner, any man who stood in his way. Most likely he was suspected of more crimes than he actually committed; still it is true that at times people died most opportunely for his plans. He was supposed to have summoned a certain Doctor Julio from Italy to instruct him in the art of poisoning; and his victims appeared to die of natural diseases. Leicester's person was handsome and commanding, his manners were polished and affable; he was no ruffian, but possessed an absolute command of temper, and would have scorned to gain his ends by violence. His villany was not that of the rough Teuton, but of the astute and polished Italian.
Such was the man who, for some reason of his own, was now willing to further Ralegh's interests at court. In his position as favourite, Leicester seems to have feared no rival; but in council he was continually met by the stubborn opposition of Burleigh.
William Cecil, Lord Burleigh, was a man of a very different stamp to Leicester. He was now sixtytwo years of age; and since Elizabeth's accession, first as Secretary, afterwards as Lord Treasurer, he had always been her chief adviser in State affairs. He was a prudent, cautious man, who had the interests of his country sincerely at heart. He served his mistress with a faithful devotion, which was never altered by the occasional harsh treatment which he met with at her hands. Elizabeth showed her wisdom very clearly in her choice of ministers, and she put great confidence in Burleigh. She respected his calm, deliberate wisdom. She knew that in the main she and her Secretary were of one mind in matters of politics, though her own caprice and temper often made her vent her wrath on him for the expression of views which her better judgment really approved. Burleigh himself had a high opinion of Elizabeth's capacities. He said of her that “there was never so wise a woman born. . . . For she spake and understood all languages, knew all estates and dispositions of all princes, and especially was so expert in the knowledge of her realm and estate as no counsellor she had could tell her what she knew not before. She had also so rare gifts as when her counsellors had said all they could say she would then frame out a wise council beyond theirs. ... There was never any great consultation but she would be present herself, to her great profit and praise." To Burleigh it was intensely irritating to see how strong an influence might at times be exercised over the Queen's mind by any one of the crowd of favourites who hovered round her throne. Ralegh, introduced to the court by Leicester, must from the first have been an object of suspicion to the wise old minister.
who then occupied an important position about Elizabeth. This was Sir Christopher Hatton, now forty-two years of age, who had first of all attracted the Queen's attention by his beautiful dancing at a masque in the Temple. He was the one of all Elizabeth's favourites who seems to have been most sincere in his love for her. Many of his letters to her have come down to us. They are the letters of an ardent and successful lover to his mistress, rather than those of a subject to his Queen; and his love remained unchanged through his life. Elizabeth herself was extremely fond of him. Contrary to her custom with most of her favourites, she rewarded his devotion with one of the high offices of state, and appointed him Lord Chancellor. He was a conscientious and prudent man, and filled the office with credit. But no reward could make up to him for the loss of his mistress's love; and he saw himself with despair supplanted in her favour by Ralegh.
Ralegh's natural gifts, his courage and strength of character, made him a formidable rival. Elizabeth was fully able to appreciate intellectual power; and a man who possessed ability, as well as a fine person, and an imperious manner which grew soft and tender only to her, was sure to succeed with her. How rapid was Ralegh's progress in her favour may be judged by the fear and jealousy which he excited in Sir Christopher Hatton as early as October 25th, 1582, not a year after Ralegh’s return from Ireland. Hatton was then away from Court; and he commissioned Sir Thomas Heneage to bear a letter from him to the Queen, and with the letter he sent three tokens. These were a little bucket, which signified Ralegh, whom the Queen seems to have nicknamed “Water," a bodkin, and a book. Heneage had some little difficulty in finding a moment when Ralegh was not by to give the Queen the letter and the tokens. He wrote to Hatton that she took them smiling, saying, “There never was such another.” She tried to fix the bodkin in her hair, but it would not stay; and she gave it back to Heneage. After a while she read the letter, with blushing cheeks, and seemed to hesitate whether she should be angry or well-pleased. She ended by sending a long message to Hatton, veiled in the mysterious phraseology then fashionable. She said that if princes were like gods, they would suffer no element so to abound as to breed confusion; and that pecora campi” (her nickname for Hatton) was so dear unto her that she had bounded her banks so sure as no water (Ralegh) nor floods should be able ever to overthrow them. As a token that he need fear no drowning, she sent him a bird, that brought the good tidings and the covenant that there should be no more destruction by water. But in spite of these and other reassuring messages, Heneage ends by saying, “ that water hath been more welcome than were fit for so cold a season.” All this seems absurd when we think that Hatton was a man of forty-two, and Elizabeth
SIR CHRISTOPHER HATTON.
a woman of forty-eight; but his affection for her seems to have been sincere. Twice again, as his jealousy of Ralegh increased, did he send tokens and letters by Heneage to Elizabeth ; and he is said to have died of grief for the loss of her love in 1591.
There were many other striking figures about the court when Ralegh first made his appearance there, and many must have looked upon the new favourite with disgust and envy; but most men were too full of other thoughts to be much occupied with him just then. It was in that year that the Duke of Anjou came to woo Queen Elizabeth, and all the world was busy with the festivities which were got up in his honour.
This Duke of Anjou was son of Henry II. of France and Catharine dei Medici, and was brother of Henry III., who then reigned over France. For some time there had been talk of a marriage between him and Elizabeth. When he came to England the Netherlands had just elected him as their sovereign, hoping that by this means they would gain the help of the King of France in their struggle for independence and religious freedom against Philip II. of Spain. Once already, in 1579, the Duke of Anjou had paid a flying visit to Elizabeth. The marriage negotiations then seemed to advance favourably, and filled many of Elizabeth's courtiers and advisers with alarm. Amongst others she asked the advice of Sir Philip Sidney on the point. He was the son of Sir