Page images

Henry Sidney, who had shown such wisdom in the management of Irish affairs, and nephew of Leicester. He was the brightest ornament of the court: young, brave, and accomplished; a poet and a soldier; one of the first writers of pure and elegant English prose; and, what was rarest in those days, a noble and single-minded man, without selfish ambition or personal aims. He now dared to speak out his mind to the Queen on the subject of the French marriage. He wrote her a long letter, in which, in the most earnest and outspoken manner, he dissuaded her from a marriage with him whom he called “the son of a Jezebel of our age.” Sidney's language was unmeasured, and fear of the wrath which it might provoke probably made him absent himself from court for a time. But he was there again on the occasion of Anjou's second visit, and took part in the jousts and tournaments which celebrated it.

Elizabeth really seems to have been very near marrying Anjou at one time; but though she professed to be very much in love with him, she can have been actuated only by motives of policy, by a hope that this marriage would strengthen her position against Spain. Anjou was twenty years younger than she. In person he was repulsive, of puny stature, with a face deeply marked by the small-pox, and a swollen and distorted nose. His character was thoroughly despicable. Though ambitious, he was mean and cowardly; though a bigot, he had no deep convictions; and he played




an utterly ignoble part in history. Yet Elizabeth coquetted with him, and made love with him, as though he had really touched her heart. He was treated with every mark of honour and public respect. At one moment all seemed settled, and Elizabeth, in the presence of her court, after a great festival, drew a ring from her finger, and placed it on his. The opponents of the marriage were filled with alarm ; but time passed on, and nothing more was done.

The Duke of Anjou spent three months in England in fruitless wooing, and then had to go back to the Netherlands. Elizabeth showed great grief at his departure, and herself went with him as far as Canterbury, where she parted from him with tears. She sent Leicester with a splendid following of nobles to accompany him to Antwerp. Sidney and Ralegh were both amongst the number; and fifteen vessels conveyed the Duke and his retinue to Flushing, where they were received by William the Silent, Prince of Orange, the great leader of the revolt of the Netherlands. On the 17th of February the Duke made his solemn entry into Antwerp. Splendid festivities followed, in the midst of which, no doubt, the English nobles found time to discuss deep and serious questions of politics with the great Netherlanders who were maintaining so noble a struggle for liberty. Ralegh stayed at Antwerp some time after his English companions had departed. He had a special mission from the Queen to the Prince of Orange, and the young man must have learnt much from his intercourse with this great statesman.

There was never again any prospect of Elizabeth's marriage with the Duke of Anjou. He behaved treacherously to the Netherlands by trying to set aside their liberties and make himself absolute ruler. He had to retire with ignominy, after the failure of a perfidious attempt to seize Antwerp, and died in Paris in 1584.

After his return from the Netherlands Ralegh continued to rise in Elizabeth's favour; but she did not give him what would most have pleased his ambitious and active mind-some office in the State, in which his restless energy might have found occupation. It was not Elizabeth's custom to reward her favourites with such offices. Probably her wise ministers, Burleigh and Walsingham, exerted their influence in preventing her from so doing. Besides, she seems always to have been guided by her own better judgment in the choice of her ministers, and to have allowed herself to be influenced only by the sense of their fitness for the post to which they were to be appointed. She rewarded her favourites in a manner more harmful to the country at large than to her own administration or to the royal treasury. Her habit was to grant them monopolies; that is, the exclusive right of buying and selling some particular article of trade.

She gave Ralegh licenses for the export of broadcloths in four several years; and in 1584


33 she granted him the “farm of wines;" that is, the sole right of granting licenses for the sale of wines throughout the kingdom. In 1585 he was appointed to the important office of Warden of the Stannaries. The Stannaries were the tin mining districts of Cornwall and Devon. The miners possessed special privileges. There were Courts of the Stannaries, in which all their disputes were judged. The Warden had to watch over their interests, and sanction the regulations under which the mines were worked. Ralegh seems to have devoted much care to the duties of this office, which was by no means an easy one.

In 1587 Ralegh succeeded Hatton as Captain of the Queen's Guard. This gave him an important position about the court, and kept him constantly near the Queen's person. He received no pay but his uniform, the office being considered a sufficient reward in itself. The Guard was composed of men chosen for their good looks; and the handsome uniforms in which they were dressed made them contribute greatly to the brilliancy of a court festival.

Gorgeous liveries were greatly in fashion in those days. Each nobleman was waited upon at court by a troop of serving-men in his own livery. The tilts and tournaments which were still the great amusement of the court gave the nobles plenty of opportunity for displaying their taste and fancy in dress. The courtiers rivalled one another, not only in feats of arms, but also in the


magnificence of the dresses in which they clothed their followers.

Shows and pageants of all kinds were in great favour. Queen Elizabeth was fond of making progresses through the country from the house of one noble to another, and each taxed his invention to discover some new way of amusing the Queen and her court. Elizabeth, though sparing in expenditure herself, liked her courtiers to be lavish in providing amusement for her. In 1583 she spent five days at Theobalds, Burleigh's country seat, when Ralegh accompanied her. She was so pleased with the entertainment she received that she told Burleigh “his head and his purse could do anything."

Her own love of magnificence showed itself very greatly in her dress. In 1600 her wardrobe consisted of 1075 dresses and mantles of different kinds, without counting her coronation and parliamentary robes. Most of her dresses were embroidered all over with different devices, covered with jewels, and adorned with lace of Venice, gold, and silver.

She would appear first in a French dress, then in an Italian, changing the fashion of her dress every day.

It was customary that the courtiers should make the Queen presents every New Year. These, as a rule, consisted of articles for her personal adornment; either jewels or articles of dress. We find even the gentlemen giving her embroidered silk petticoats, and, still stranger, embroidered

« PreviousContinue »