« VorigeDoorgaan »
backs, followed by all the temporal Lords in their parliamentary robes. After service and sermon they proceeded to the parliament chamber; and the Queen being seated on the throne, the commons attending at the bar, the Lord Keeper stationed on her right hand, a little beside the cloth of estate, and somewhat back and lower than the throne, by her Majesty's order delivered a speech, which thus began: "My Lords, and others of this honourable assembly, you shall understand that my most dread and sovereign Lady the Queen's Majesty here present hath commanded me to declare the occasion of this assembly, which I am not able (but unmeet) to do as it ought to be done among such a noble, wise, and discreet company. Howbeit, knowing the experience of her Majesty bearing with such as do their good wills, and your Honours' patience in bearing with me in the like afore this time, it encourageth me the better herein." It must be confessed that he put the patience of her Majesty and their Honours to a considerable trial; for his speech was very prolix and pointless, and they must have been greatly relieved when he at last said "And for that the Nether House, being so many, of necessity must have one to be a mouth-aider or instructor unto them, for the opening of matters, which is called the Speaker; therefore, go and assemble yourselves together, and elect one, -a discreet, wise, and learned man; and on Friday next the Queen's Majesty appointeth to repair hither again for to receive the presentment of him accordingly." *
On that day the Queen again attended, and the Speaker-elect then exceeded the former length and dulness of the Lord Keeper, who, on this occasion, contented himself with disallowing the disqualification pleaded, and conceding to the Commons all their ancient privileges.†
This was considered a very laborious session, and did not end till the 10th of April. On that day the Speaker touched upon the several bills which they had passed, and after comparing Elizabeth to three most virtuous British Queens (not very generally known), PALESTINA, who reigned here before the deluge; CERES, who made laws for evil-doers some time after that event; and MARCA, wife of Bathilicus, mother to King Stelicus,—in the name of the Commons strongly exhorted her to marry, so that the nation might hope to have her issue to reign over them; and if she were resolutely determined to die a maid, earnestly entreated that she would name her successor.
The Queen thereupon called the Lord Keeper unto her, and Nicholas accordingly, more suo, went over all Mr. Speaker's topics. till he came to the last; when it appeared that she had considered this rather too delicate a one for him to be trusted with. He thus proceeded: "And touching your request aforetime made to her for her marriage and succession, because it is of such importance whereby I doubted my opening thereof, I therefore desired her
* 1 Parl. Hist. 664.
† Ibid. 685.
Majesty that her meaning might be written, which she hath done, and delivered to me." He then read the paper: "For my marriage, if I had let slip too much time, or if my strength had been decayed, you might the better have spoken therein; or if any think I never meant to try that life, they be deceived; but if I may hereafter bend my mind thereunto, the rather for fulfilling your request, I shall be therewith very well content. As to the succession after me, the greatness thereof maketh me to say and pray that I may linger here in this vale of misery for your comfort, wherein I have witness of my study and travail for your surety; and I cannot with Nunc dimittis' end my life without I see some foundation of your surety after my gravestone."
The royal assent was then given to the acts of the session, and the Lord Keeper prorogued the parliament.*
Whether the Queen ever had any serious thoughts of marriage is uncertain; but she successively flattered the hopes of Philip of Spain, Charles of Austria, Eric of Sweden, Adolphus of Holstein, the Earl of Arran, and her own subject, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. The nation at last became most seriously and justly alarmed about the succession. She had been dangerously ill, and if she had died, a civil war seemed inevitable. The heir by blood was the Queen of Scots; but she was a Catholic, and set aside by the will of Henry VIII., or at least postponed to the House of Suffolk descended from his younger sister. There was some doubt who was the legitimate heir of that house, and there was another claimant in the Countess of Lennox, decended from Margaret, the eldest sister of Henry by a second marriage.
Another attempt was made, in which the Lord Keeper took a more active part than was consistent with his usual [Nov. 5, 1565.] caution, to induce the Queen either to marry or to
allow that her successsor should be declared. After a conference between the two Houses, the Lords resolved upon an address to her Majesty, to be presented by Lord Keeper Bacon, and the address bears strong marks of having been prepared by the Lord Keeper himself.
It is said to have been delivered by him to her Majesty in parliament, and she seems to have come down to the House of Lords to receive it on the throne. It is very long, after the Lord Keeper's manner; but a few extracts of it may be amusing. After a tiresome preface, he says, "The Lords petition, 1st that it would please your Majesty to dispose yourself to marry when it shall please you, with whom it shall please you, and as soon as it shall please you: 2dly, that some limitation may be made how the imperial Crown of this realm may remain if God calls your Highness without heir of your body (which our Lord defend), so as these Lords and Nobles, and other your subjects then living, may sufficiently understand to whom they owe their allegiance." He
* 1 Parl. Hist. 703.
then handles each head separately with many subdivisions, enumerating no fewer than ten reasons why her Highness should take husband. Lest she should have made a vow of perpetual celibacy, he tells her it may be laudably broken, "for it appeareth by histories that in times past persons inheriting to Crowns being votaries and religious, to avoid such dangers as might have happened for want of succession to kingdoms, have left their vows and monasteries, and taken themselves to marriage,—as Constantia, a nun, heir to the kingdom of Sicily, married after fifty years of age to Henry VI. Emperor of that name, and had issue, Frederick II. Likewise Peter of Aragon, being a monk, married, the better to establish and pacify that kingdom." He next tries to inflame her by the desire of having children. "Antoninus Pius is much commended, for that, not two days before his death, he said to his Council, Leto animo morior quoniam filium vobis relinquo. Pyurrhus is of all godly men detested for saying he would leave his realm to him that had the sharpest sword. What, but want of a successor known, made an end of so great an empire as Alexander the Great did leave at his death?-God, your Highness knoweth, by the course of scriptures, hath declared succession, and having children, to be one of the principal benedictions in this life and, on the contrary, he hath pronounced contrarywise; and therefore Abraham prayed to God for issue, fearing that Eliazar, his steward, should have been his heir, and had promise that kings should proceed of his body. Hannah, the mother of Samuel, prayed to God with tears for issue; and Elizabeth (whose name your Majesty beareth), mother to John the Baptist, was joyous when God had blessed her with fruit, accounting herself thereby to be delivered from reproach."
Bacon's harangue being at last brought to a close, the Queen returned a short answer, which has all the appearance of being unpremeditated. She was much nettled at some of the illustrations which she thought referred to Mary, Queen of Scots, then lately delivered of a hopeful son. "I thought it had been so desired, as none other trees' blossom should have been minded, or ever any hope of any fruit had been denied you. And yet by the way, if any here doubt that I am by vow or determination bent never to trade in that kind of life, put out that kind of heresy, for your belief is therein awry. For though I can think it best for a private woman, yet I do strive with myself not to think it meet for a Prince, and if I can bend my liking to your need I will not resist such a mind." After a few evasive generalities she withdrew, and the Lords declared themselves contented. *
The subject was renewed at the close of the session, when the Queen having come in her barge from Whitehall, [JAN. 2, 1567.] and being placed on the throne, the Lord Keeper standing by the rail a little behind her on the right, Onslow, the
first Speaker of that name, appearing at the bar, was marched through the House of Lords, making his obeisances, to the rail near the Lord Keeper, and delivered a tremendously long address to her Majesty, which he thus concluded:-" God grant us that your Majesty hath defended the faith of Abraham, you may have the like desire of issue; and for that purpose that you would shortly embrace the holy state of matrimony, when and with whom God shall appoint and best like your Majesty; and so the issue of your own body by your example rule over our posterity."
The Lord Keeper returned an answer, but in such a very unsatisfactory manner, that the Queen stopped him and herself took the word, saying that, as a periphrasis, she had a few words farther to add, notwithstanding she had not been used to speak, nor loved to do it in such open assemblies." She then gave them a good scolding. "I have in this assembly found so much dissimulation where I always professed plainness, that I marvel thereat; yea, two faces under one hood and the body rotten, being covered with two vizors, SUCCESSION and LIBERTY. But, alas, they began to pierce the vessel before the wine was fined. Do you think I am unmindful of your surety by succession, wherein is all my care, considering I know myself to be mortal? No, I warrant you. Or that I went about to break your liberties? No, it was never my meaning-but to stay you before you fell into the ditch. All things have their time. Although perhaps after me you may have one better learned or wiser, yet none more careful over you; and however that be, beware you prove that Prince's patience as you have mine."*
She was in such dudgeon that she ordered the Lord Keeper instantly to dissolve the parliament, which he did, [JAN. 1567.] and no other was called for a period of five years. But in the mean time the nation was in a state of great excitement on the question of the succession, and various pamphlets were published in support of the rights of the different claimants. Among these was one which professed to be indited by "John Hales, Clerk of the Hanaper in the Court of Chancery,"-strongly espousing the cause of the House of Suffolk, which rested on the will of Henry VIII., alleged to be duly executed under the authority of an act of parliament,-violently disparaging the Stuart line, whose pretensions were denounced as inconsistent with the religion and independence of England,-and calling loudly for a parliamentary declaration of the right of the true heir. On the complaint of the Scottish ambassador, Hales was committed to prison; but upon his examination great was the astonishmentdeep the indignation of the Queen, when the truth came out that the real author of this pamphlet, pretending to be the production of a subordinate officer in the Court of Chancery, was no less a
* 1 Parl. Hist. 72
person than the chief of the Court himself, whose religious zeal, fortified by the threats of the Catholics that they would revoke all the grants of Church property, for once had overcome his prudence.
Elizabeth, although restrained by jealousy of a rival Queen she concealed her real sentiments, had secretly determined that the Stuarts should succeed, and she had an extreme antipathy to the Hertford blood. The Lord Keeper would at once have been deprived of the Great Seal, and sent to the Tower, had there not been a very serious difficulty about appointing a successor to him; but his name was immediately struck out of the list of Privy Councillors, and he was strictly enjoined to meddle with no business whatever except that of the Court of Chancery. It seems strange to us that the first Judge of the land should be so far disgraced, and still permitted to retain his office. Leicester, whose aspiring project to share the throne he had thwarted, attempted to incense the Queen further against him; but Cecil, who was suspected of sharing his sentiments on the succession question, and even of having contributed to the obnoxious pamphlet, steadily supported him, and in little more than a twelvemonth he was again sworn of the Privy Council, and entirely restored to Elizabeth's favour.
The next affair of importance, in which Lord Keeper Bacon was engaged, was the inquiry into the conduct of the Queen of Scots, respecting the murder of her [A. D. 1568.] husband. The unhappy Mary, after the battle of Langside, having sought refuge in England from her rebellious subjects, was now a prisoner in Bolton Castle, under the care of Lord Scrope: and Elizabeth, with a view to make herself arbitress of the affairs of Scotland, having refused to see her till she had proved her innocence of the great crime imputed to her, both parties had submitted themselves to the judgment of the English Queen. A commission passed under the Great Seal, appointing the Lord Keeper and others to act for Elizabeth in this investigation. The conferences took place at Hampton Court,-Murray, the Regent of Scotland, assisted by Buchanan, the famous poet and historian, appearing as accuser, and Mary being represented by Lord Herries and Lesley, Bishop of Ross.
Bacon is said to have conducted himself, on this occasion, with dignity and propriety. He gained the friendship of the Bishop of Ross, who ever after spoke of him in terms of respect and esteem, and of Buchanan, who recorded his high admiration of him in a Latin epitaph, inscribed on his tomb in St. Paul's cathedral. But the casket being produced containing Mary's letters and sonnets, addressed to Bothwell, which if genuine, clearly established her guilt, and proofs being offered that they were in her handwriting, by comparing them with letters addressed by her to Elizabeth, her commissioners refused to give in any answer, and the conferences were broken off, without any judgment being