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smell of the prizes, either at Dartmouth or at Plymouth, for I assure your lordship I could smell them, such hath been the spoils of amber and musk, I did, though he had little about him, return him with me to the town of Exeter. .... I compelled them also to tell me where any malles or trunks were, and I by this inquisitionfinding the people stubborn till I had committed two of them to prison, which example would have won the Queen £20,000 a week past—I have lighted upon a Londoner, in whose possession we have found a bag of seed pearls, divers pieces of damask, &c. I do mean, my lord, forthwith to be at Dartmouth, and to have a privy search there and in Plymouth. I have taken order to search every bag and mail coming from the west; and though I fear that the bird be flown for jewels, pearls, and amber, yet I will not doubt to save her Majesty .. that which shall be worth my journey. My lord, there was never such spoil. ... And thus in haste I humbly take my leave from Exeter, ready to ride to Dartmouth this night at ten of the clock. I will suppress the confluence of these buyers, of which there are above two thousand ; and except they be removed there will be no good. The name of commissioners is common in this country and in these causes; but my coming down hath made many stagger. Fouler weather, desperate ways, nor more obstinate people did I never meet with.”
From Dartmouth Cecil writes again: "As soon
1592] SPOIL OF THE “MADRE DE DIOS.”
as I came on board the carrack on Wednesday, at one of the clock, with the rest of her Majesty's commissioners, within one hour Sir Walter Ralegh arrived with his keeper, Mr. Blount. I assure you, sir, his poor servants, to the number of a hundred and forty goodly men, and all the mariners, came to him with shouts of joy, as I never saw a man more troubled to quiet them in my life. But his heart is broken, for he is extremely pensive, longer than he is busied, in which he can toil terribly; but if you did hear him rage at the spoils, finding all the short wares utterly devoured, you would laugh as I do, which I cannot choose. He
velike finding that it is known he had a keeper, whensoever he is saluted with congratulations for liberty, he doth answer, ‘No; I am still the Queen of England's poor captive.' I wished him to conceal it, because here it doth diminish his credit, which I do vow to you before God is greater amongst the mariners than I thought for. I do grace him as much as I may; for I find him marvellously greedy to do anything to recover the conceit of his brutish offence.”
From this letter, written by an opponent of Ralegh's, we can judge of his popularity amongst the men of his own county. Ralegh was not, as a rule, a popular man. His manners were haughty and overbearing; but in Devonshire, and amongst sailors, he seems to have succeeded in winning universal love.
The spoil of the Madre de Dios was divided
with some difficulty, and a good deal of squabbling. Elizabeth's greedy spirit showed itself in her desire to get as much as possible at all costs for herself. Ralegh was very anxious to recover some of the jewels which had been stolen from the ship. He wrote to Burleigh, on September 17th : “If it please your lordship to send a commission to Alderman Marten and others, to make inquiry into London what goldsmiths or jewellers are gone down, and that at their return they may be examined upon oath what stones or pearls they have bought, I doubt not but many things will be discovered. If I meet any of them coming up, if it be upon the wildest heath in all the way, I mean to strip them as naked as ever they were born; for it is infinite that her Majesty hath been robbed, and that of the most rare things.”
The Queen of course got the best part of the profits. She took somewhat more than half of the net proceeds. The Earl of Cumberland got £36,000, having adventured in the enterprize £19,000. The rest of the adventurers, whose share in the expense of the expedition amounted to £30,000, only got £36,000; and Ralegh, after summing up the services that he had rendered the expedition, adds bitterly, that “the others only sat still, for which double is given to them, and less than mine own to me.”
There is something very undignified in the spectacle of the Queen and her courtiers quarrelling for the plunder won from Spain by piracy.
ELIZABETH AND THE SPOIL.
Elizabeth wished in every way to make the most of her bargain. The sale of certain precious articles was forbidden in the ordinary way of trade, so as to get a better market for the merchandise from the Madre de Dios; so that the prize was probably not of so much benefit to the people as to their Queen.
Ralegh's First Woyage to Guiana.
FTER his journey to Dartmouth Ralegh did
not go back to the Tower; though it is uncertain when he was relieved of the company of his keeper. He was not again received into favour at Court, or allowed for some years to exercise his duties as Captain of the Guard. In May, 1593, we find him at Sherborne Castle.
This manor of Sherborne, which lay upon the road between London and Plymouth, had attracted Sir Walter's admiration as he passed it on his frequent journeys to Devon and Cornwall. It belonged to the bishopric of Salisbury, which had once been seated at Sherborne. When Ralegh cast longing eyes upon it, the Queen, who was not scrupulous about the way in which she deprived the church of its lands, made the bishop give her a lease of ninety-nine years of the estate, which she made over to her favourite. Ralegh wished to get absolute possession of the estate. When the see of Salisbury next fell vacant, it was decided to make the gift of it conditional on a