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days after, was received with similar cordiality, though less formality. He found her in the park hunting; she dismounted, and went with him into a cottage close by, and there they had a long and intimate conference.
La Mothe's second interview was as unconventional : for he was admitted alone into the Queen's Privy Chamber, where she received him without ceremony, reclining on a couch in a charming undress, excusing herself by telling him she had had an accident when out driving in her coach. La Mothe was an adroit flatterer and courtier, and soon ingratiated himself with her. He praised her appearance, hinted that all the princes of Europe desired her hand, and listened with becoming interest and composure to her account of Alva's insolence in writing her a familiar letter, which she designated as a “valentine.”
Soon after this a great council of peers was summoned at Hampton Court, to whom the proceedings of the conference were declared, and the proofs exhibited.
At the first meeting, on December 14th, the fatal contents of the casket were themselves produced. Mary's alleged letters to Bothwell, one long sonnet, and the alleged contract of marriage were produced, and then, according to Cecil, were “duly conferred and compared for the manner of writing and fashion of orthography, with sundry other letters, long since heretofore written and sent by the said Queen of Scots to the Queen's Majesty," and in the collation “no difference found.” But the winter's evening was fast closing in, and the proceedings were hastily adjourned till the following day. How far the six great peers who had been summoned were convinced by the proofs submitted to them we do not know, but that unanimity did not prevail we learn from the Spanish ambassador, who wrote to Philip that some of the members ventured to check the passionate violence of Cecil against Mary. No opinion, at any rate, was expressed by them as to her guilt or innocence. They merely thanked Elizabeth for the confidence she had reposed in them, and stated their opinion that “they did not think it meet for her Majesty's honour to admit the said queen to her presence as the case did stand.”
Thus terminated these proceedings in as unsatisfactory and abortive a manner as could be imagined for the cause
PRODUCTION OF THE CASKET LETTERS.
of truth and justice, but not inconvenient for Elizabeth and her advisers. The ensuing month was occupied by incessant negotiations between Elizabeth and Mary's commissioners. First, she urged that Mary should answer the accusation against her, at the same time refusing to allow her to do so in person.
Next, she promised that if she would confirm her abdication, and throw herself on her protection, she would befriend her. But when both these offers were refused, and Mary, on the contrary, persisted in her demand to be allowed to defend herself in person, and requested a view of, or at least copies of, the evidence produced against
her, Elizabeth summoned Murray and his associates to Hampton Court, and told them, through Cecil, that as nothing had been produced against them, and was on their part they had seen nothing sufficiently produced nor shown against the Queen their Sovereign, whereby the Queen of England should conceive or take any evil opinion of the Queen her good sister for anything yet seen,” she gave them leave to depart. On the 13th of January, 1569, Murray accordingly left for Scotland, with the casket and the letters, and a present from Elizabeth of £5,000.
Henceforth, until the close of Queen Elizabeth's reign, but few events of historic interest took place at Hampton Court. For, though her Majesty continued to pass some
weeks of almost every year at the old palace, her visits were usually made during the intervals of political calm, when she wished for privacy and quiet, or sought relaxation from the cares of state in the gaieties and festivities of Christmas-tide.
To specify all the particular occasions when Hampton Court rejoiced in the royal presence would be to give but little more than a tedious list of dates. We shall, therefore, content ourselves with glancing rapidly over the concluding years of this reign, only dwelling on such topics as may serve to illustrate the sort of life led by the Queen and her Court at the palace.
At no period in the history of England was Christmas celebrated with more joviality and rejoicing than during the reign of Elizabeth; and nowhere with more magnificent festivities and with more profuse hospitality than at the Queen's Court. Possessing in a pre-eminent degree the old English love of gaiety, pageantry, and good cheer, her Majesty entered with earnestness and delight into all the national sports and pastimes, and endeavoured by her example to foster them among her subjects. A true child, too, of the Renaissance, she ever felt a hearty sympathy with all the brighter and more romantic aspects of lifebeing entirely undefiled by the taint of that sour and morose Puritanism, and that morbid introspectiveness, which were already infecting so many of her subjects, and were destined in the reigns of her successors to stamp out from the English character so much of its former freshness, heartiness, and joyousness.
Consequently Christmas-time at Hampton Court—which, with its Great Hall, long galleries, vast reception rooms, and eight or nine hundred bedrooms, was better adapted for entertainments at this festive season than any other of the royal palaces—was one long series of banquets, balls, masquerades, masques, revels, plays, sports, and pastimes. The banquets sometimes took place in the Hall, and sometimes in the adjoining Great Watching Chamber; after which the company retired to the Withdrawing Room, and the minstrels began to play: when
“My grave Lord Keeper led the brawls,” and the Court and the guests could then enjoy the inestim
able privilege of witnessing her Majesty dance a coranto or galliard.
On other nights there were masquerades or games; and in the daytime tilting and tennis matches, shooting and hunting parties, and the many sports and games of merry old England.
But the chief amusements of the Court were the masques and plays, which enlivened almost every night from Christmas Eve to Twelfth Night, and which were presented with the greatest magnificence in the Great Hall of the palacea fact enduing that room with a very special interest as one of the two or three surviving Elizabethan theatres in England. The “ Accounts of the Revels at Court " contain a number of particulars relating to the performances at Hampton Court, affording us valuable indications of the “mounting” of dramatic entertainments at this period. The entries relating to the carpenters', carvers', and joiners' works, which were taken in hand many days previous to the holidays, conclusively prove-contrary to the too prevalent notion that the scenic effects in the Elizabethan drama were of a most elaborate, realistic, and gorgeous kind. The stage, which was erected at the lower end of the hall in front of the “screens” and minstrel gallery, was composed of strong scaffolding, posts, rafters, and screens, “having also apt houses made of canvas, framed and painted accordingly as might serve their several purposes." For instance, there were charges in regard to some of the plays for "painting of seven cities, one village, and one country-house," and for bringing into the Court trees to represent a wilderness.
Nor could the players complain that they were denied any convenience; for the pantry, behind the “screens” at the lower end of the hall, was set apart as a “tyring-room,” or green room; and the Great Watching Chamber at the upper end put at their disposal for rehearsals.
We find, also, that there was a wardrobe department, to which was intrusted the "airing, repairing, amending, brushing, spunging, rubbing, wiping, sweeping, cleaning, putting in order, folding, laying up and safe bestowing of the garments, vestures, apparel, disguisings, properties, and furniture . which else would be mouldy, musty, motheaten and rotten.”
Then there were the tailors, haberdashers, buskin-makers, upholsterers, and silk-weavers, all of whom were busily occupied in making dresses and properties, such as wings, hair, snowballs, vizors, wands, counterfeit fruit, fish, and flowers, and many other articles, showing the scrupulous attention given to theatrical details.
The lighting of so large an auditorium as the Hall naturally presented some difficulties; but they were cleverly overcome by stretching wires across the open roof from the beams on one side to those on the other, and hanging from them small oil lamps. The effect of this method of illumination was that, instead of a glare of torches and candles on a level with the eye, a soft and diffused glow was reflected all over the Hall from the gilded rafters and tracery of the roof. At the same time, high up on the walls there were silver sconces with candles; and “candlesticks with perfumes to burn at the end of the matches."
Such were the arrangements for the presenting of the masques and plays at Hampton Court during the Christmastides of 1572, 1575, and 1576.
The Christmas-tide of the following year, 1577, also, was kept by the Queen at Hampton Court; and in regard to this visit there is preserved the list of “New Year's Gifts,” that were exchanged between the Queen and her subjects. Not only did these courtesies pass between Elizabeth and the courtiers always about her person, but all the great people of the State, whether in office or not, and whether resident at or absent from Court, were expected to contribute some substantial offering. The list, which opens with the names of the Queen's relatives, Lady Margaret Lennox and Lady Mary Grey, is arranged under headings, beginning with the great officers of State, then Dukes and Duchesses, Marquises, Earls, and so on, down to the humblest gentlemen in the household. The presents consisted of various articles of use and ornament; but especially of magnificent dresses and jewellery, and to a great extent of gold coin. Thus, the Countess of Derby gave her Majesty “a petticoat of white satin raised, and edged with a broad embroidery of divers colours”; Leicester a magnificent “carcanet of gold, enamelled, garnished with sparks of diamonds and rubies, and pendants of pearls"; and the Lord Treasurer