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QUEEN MARY'S AGONY OF DISAPPOINTMENT. 135
The Queen had not been more successful in extorting an avowal from her sister than the Lord Chancellor. She only muttered in Spanish, “Sabe Dios”—“God knows”—and then, according to Leti, added, “Whether innocent or guilty I forgive you," and, turning aside, left her to be conveyed to her former custody.
Thus terminated this famous interview, and with it ended Elizabeth's imprisonment. A week after she was set at liberty, and henceforth she was allowed to have her separate establishment, and was treated with the deference belonging to the heiress to the throne.
It has been said by the best authorities, both Foxe and Heywood, that during this conversation Philip was concealed behind the arras, and witnessed what passed. This is by no means unlikely; but the inference that he did so in order to be at hand to protect Elizabeth from any unseemly violence from her sister, is an absurdly gratuitous assumption. Philip should have played the eavesdropper is only consonant with the tortuousness of his character. In fact, he seems, during his short residence at Hampton Court, to have been always creeping and sneaking about the passages of the palace. One morning he was walking in the Maids of Honour's Gallery, and noticing, as he passed, a small window which admitted daylight into the bedroom of Lady Magdalen Dacre, a lovely girl of sixteen, he peeped in. Seeing that she was at her toilet, he took the liberty of throwing open the casement and putting his arm through. But the beautiful English maid of honour was not disposed to suffer such an impertinence from the Spanish King. She seized a stick that was in the corner close by her, and gave him such a blow that he hastily withdrew his arm, and hurried away.
These events took place about the last week in May, by which time the belief that the Queen was about to become a mother no longer existed in the ininds of anyone except the Queen herself. Week after' week passed by, and no child appeared. Processions, prayers, masses were offered up, but in vain ; and whispers now began to be heard that after all she never would have a child; and that she was fast hastening to her grave.
At first those about her found it difficult to convince her. But slowly and irresistibly the dreadful truth began to dawn
on her mind, and all her hopes gave way, one by one, in an agony of pain and despair. Her only consolation was prayer; the book of devotions she used at this time is still in existence, worn and fingered at the pages on which are found the prayers for the unity of the Church and the safe delivery of a woman with child. The accounts transmitted by the foreign ambassadors to their respective Courts present a deplorable picture of her condition. For weeks she would lie in her bed without speaking, like one dead. Then she would sit for whole days on the floor, huddled up, with her knees against her face, her whole body swollen with disease, her countenance distorted and haggard, and her mind shaken with the ruin of all her hopes.
This aspect of affairs could not but conduce to the advantage of Elizabeth, who, now that she was at liberty, found herself treated with respect and consideration by the courtiers, who turned towards her as the rising sun. When they came to the receptions, which she was now allowed to give, they went on bended knee to kiss her hand, and even the Papal Nuncio and Philip were observed to make obeisance before her. Yet she never wavered from her accustomed circumspection, nor behaved so as to excite the hostility of her susceptible sister. On the contrary, she affected the most complete submission to her wishes, professed herself a fervent Catholic, attended mass in the Royal Chapel, and received the Communion from the hands of Gardiner. It was at this period that, when crossexamined by Mary as to her faith in transubstantiation, she is supposed to have eluded the difficulty by replying :
“ Christ's was the word that spake it;
Yet she was ill at ease at Court; and when Mary, wearied with disappointment and sickness, removed, after four months' seclusion, on the 3rd of August, for a few days to the neighbouring house at Oatlands, Elizabeth asked to be allowed to retire from Court, a request which was willingly granted. As the Queen was going through the park to enter her barge, which was ready at the water
WHOM IS QUEEN ELIZABETH TO MARRY? 137
side to take her up the river, she met a poor man on crutches, who, on seeing her, threw away his crutches for joy, and ran after her. She was so touched by this incident, which she perhaps thought akin to a miracle, that she ordered him a reward from the privy purse.
QUEEN ELIZABETH AT HOME.
During the reign of Queen Elizabeth, though Hampton Court was frequently inhabited by her Majesty and the Court, it was not the scene of any events of great historic interest; for the Queen reserved it almost exclusively as a residence to which she might retire in times of festivity, or for short seasons of rest and quiet. She made her first visit here, after her accession, in the year 1559, when she had been on the throne about nine months, and the questions of her marriage and the uncertainty of the succession were beginning to cause great anxiety to her advisers. Their attention was already directed to the Earl of Arran, the Duke of Châtelherault's eldest son, who, as a Protestant and a member of the Royal House of Scotland, appeared to Cecil and other English statesmen a most suitable consort for Elizabeth. Their view was that, if a match could be got up between him and Elizabeth, that union of the English and Scottish crowns which had so long been the aim of English statesmen, could be effected at one stroke; while at the same time a severe and effective blow would be dealt at the pretensions of Mary Stuart, who by the death of Henri II. had just become Queen Consort of France.
This scheme appears to have approved itself to Elizabeth, who told Quadra, the Spanish ambassador, that “she would take a husband that would make the King of France's head ache.”
Accordingly Arran, who had just escaped from France, and was hiding in Switzerland, was invited over to England; and visited by the Queen at Cecil's house in the Strand, where he lay concealed; and at the end of August he was brought down secretly to the neighbourhood of Hampton Court, to have another interview with the Queen. He would seem to have come from some hiding-place on the Surrey side of the river, perhaps at East Molesey, and to have crossed the river, and landed on the towing-path near the old Water Gallery. Here he was met by Cecil, who admitted him into the Queen's Private Garden, where a clandestine meeting took place between him and her Majesty. The interview lasted some time; but whatever may have passed, it did not tend to confirm Elizabeth in the proposed match. Arran was a man of very narrow intellect, and, what probably weighed not less with the Queen, totally devoid of any personal beauty or accomplishments. Decidedly he was not the man for her; he might be useful as a political tool, but as a sharer of her crown she would not have him at any price. “She would never,” as she told the Spanish ambassador, “have a husband who would sit all day by the fireside. When she married, it should be a man who could ride and hunt and fight.”
Another interview with him, probably also at Hampton Court, only strengthened her earlier impression; and not all the exhortations of her Council, nor the prospect of the union of the two crowns and the damage to the cause of the Guises, could bend her from her purpose.
Thus was the first aspirant to the hand of the Virgin Queen dismissed. In all these transactions the greatest secrecy was observed. Not only were all the letters and despatches to the Queen's agents in the North written in ciphers, which were continually being altered, and intrusted only to messengers on whom the greatest reliance could be placed, but the negotiations were kept a secret, even from many members of the Council.
So successful were these schemes, that Noailles, the French ambassador, whom it most concerned to know Arran's movements, was kept entirely in ignorance, not merely of the underhand part the Queen was playing in Scotland, and of her interview with the earl, but even of his passage through England, until two months after.
On the 6th of September, five days after Arran left Hamp
ton Court, Noailles came down from London to pick up the news at Court, and see and confer with Elizabeth. One of the first topics that he touched on was the escape of Arran from France, and he expressed a hope, on the part of the King of France, that if the earl should come to England, he might at once be arrested. Elizabeth answered, without betraying any discomposure, that she had no news of him, but that if he should fall into her power, the King might rest assured she would do what he wished. His diplomacy, in fact, was in every way baffled by the cunning of the young Queen; and he himself admitted that he was quite disconcerted by the way in which, whenever she was in a difficulty, she turned it off with a laugh.
De Quadra, the Spanish ambassador, was not one to be so easily deceived. He had, as he boasted to his master, Philip II., his spies everywhere, even about the Queen's person, and he knew everything she did and every word she said; so much so, that he was able to announce Arran's arrival in England to the Spanish Court almost as soon as it was known to Elizabeth and Cecil.
Nevertheless, she still continued to reject all suitors for her hand, and Hans Casimir, the eldest son of the Elector Palatine, who, as a Protestant, ventured to be very sanguine of success, fared no better than several other would-be husbands of the Catholic faith.
In answer to his proposal, she sent him an evasive and scarcely encouraging answer; but the duke, determined not to miss the chance of the greatest match in Europe through any faint-heartedness, and confident in his personal charms, requested Melville, the Queen of Scots' agent, who in the spring of the year 1564 was on a visit to the Electoral Court, and about to pass through England on his way to Scotland, to convey his portrait to the Virgin Queen. Melville, however, who was convinced that Elizabeth would not entertain the match, only consented to be the bearer of the picture on condition of his being also furnished with those of his father and mother and whole family, and with a diplomatic commission of such a nature that he might be enabled to introduce the subject incidentally, and as if without design.
When the envoy arrived in England, apparently in the month of April, the Queen was at Hampton Court, whither