« VorigeDoorgaan »
and protesting, with many contemptuous expressions respecting the Queen of Scots, that it was entirely without foundation. The Conferences were opened at Westminster on the 26th of November, 1568, several new Commissioners, amongst whom were Sir Nicholas Bacon and Cecil, having been added to those who had met at York. In the course of these Conferences, which were afterwards removed to Hampton Court, the Regent, with real or affected reluctance, delivered his proofs in support of the accusation against the Scottish Queen, consisting, amongst other things, of the letters and sonnets to Bothwell ascribed to Mary, and which had been previously shown in private to the Commissioners at York. Few historical problems have given occasion to more discussion than the genuineness of these papers; it would be altogether foreign to our present purpose to enter upon this celebrated controversy, which, since the full investigation of the evidence and arguments by Mr. Laing, in the preliminary Dissertation to his History of Scotland, has been very generally decided against the character of Mary; though Dr. Lingard still expresses doubts, and certainly not unreasonable doubts, upon the subject. Soon after the production of these papers, about the middle of December 1568, the Conferences at Westminster were closed; and the Queen of England signified her determination, which was confirmed by the advice of her Privy Council and several noblemen whom she had joined with them for the purpose of examining the papers, not to admit Mary to her presence till she had cleared herself of the charges, but refused to take any decisive steps, leaving the affairs of Scotland precisely in the same situation in which she found them at the beginning of her interference. The Duke of Norfolk, who found his whole scheme thwarted, by the conduct of the Regent in bringing forward his charges
against the Queen of Scots, in breach of the arrangement entered into hy them at York, was exceedingly exasperated ; and a plan was formed to intercept and assassinate Murray on his journey towards Scotland, to which the Duke was charged by the Bishop of Rosse to have been privy. However, before the Regent left the English Court, Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, whom Melvil calls “a man of a deep reach, and great prudence and discretion, who had ever travailed for the union of this Isle," and who from the beginning had taken an active part in the scheme for a marriage with the Scottish Queen, effected his reconciliation with the Duke, and the acquiescence of Murray in the project. On the 18th of January, 1569, the Regent departed on his journey to Scotland.
In the early part of the year 1569, a strong party of the English nobility promoted the proposal for the marriage of the Duke with the Queen of Scots. Elizabeth seemed resolutely opposed to form any marriage herself, notwithstanding the remonstrances of her Ministers and Parliament; and those who were best disposed to her person and government looked with anxiety to the difficulties and dangers which threatened the Protestant succession in case of her death. These evils, it was conceived, might be in some measure obviated by a marriage of the Scottish Queen to an English Protestant nobleman possessing the power and influence of the Duke of Norfolk. With these views a letter* was written to the Queen of Scots, subscribed by the Earls of Leicester, Arundel, and Pembroke, and Lord Lumley, urging her to consent to the marriage, but requiring a promise on her part that nothing should be attempted with respect to the English Crown prejudicial to Elizabeth or her posterity. To this re
* Haynes, p. 535.
quisition she returned a favourable answer. All the parties to this intrigue, including Mary and the Duke, though they considered it necessary to conceal it from Elizabeth for a time, declared that nothing should be definitively concluded without her consent; and Leicester promised to take the first favourable opportunity to break the matter to her; in the mean time a formal contract of marriage was signed and deposited with Fenelon, the French ambassador. In a written statement* made by the Duke of Norfolk shortly before his trial, he ascribes the invention of this project wholly to Leicester ; and says that when it was first communicated to himself, he objected to it, and was only induced to acquiesce in it by the representations of that crafty favourite.
At length, when the Queen was at Farnham, on her progress in August 1569, the rumour of this intrigue was conveyed to her by some ladies of the Court, “ who,” as Camden archly says, “have much sagacity in smelling out amatory matters t." As soon as Leicester perceived that the Queen's suspicions were awakened, he revealed to her the whole transaction, and obtained her forgiveness. Shortly afterwards, when the Court was at Titchfield, Elizabeth invited the Duke to dine with her; and as she rose from table, in a significant manner cautioned him “ to beware on what pillow he rested his head I.” Alarmed at this ominous hint, the Duke retired to his house in London, and afterwards to Kenninghall in Norfolk, in disobedience of a summons to attend the Queen at Windsor. From Kenning-hall he wrote a letter to the Queen, apologizing for his departure from Court, on the ground of illness and
* Harl. MSS. No. 6353. po " Quæ statim amatoria sagaciter odorantur.”—Camd. Eliz.
Camden, vol. i. p. 188.
apprehension of being sent to the Tower; which letter produced a more peremptory summons upon his allegiance to repair instantly to the Court, notwithstanding his indisposition, and though he should travel in a litter. The sudden and suspicious retirement of the Duke into Norfolk caused great alarm to Elizabeth and her confidential advisers, who were fully aware of the perils to which at this period they were exposed from intestine faction and foreign intrigues; and it is evident, from the precautions which were instantly taken, that apprehensions were entertained that a serious insurrection was about to burst forth amongst the partisans of the Queen of Scots, headed by this powerful and popular nobleman. Letters were written to persons of power and influence in several counties, exhorting them to be upon their guard, to apprehend seditious persons, and to take care that the justices of the peace were attentive to their duty*. It is obvious, too, from the urgency displayed in the requisitions to the Duke to repair instantly to the Court, that much anxiety was felt lest he should disobey them, and, by so doing, give the signal for open rebellion. The Duke, however, prepared himself to obey the summons, though not without some hesitation and delay; he was met at St. Albans by a gentleman from the Court, who conveyed him in custody to Burnham, near Windsor, and afterwards, on the 9th of October, he was committed to the Tower. The Queen was extremely exasperated at the Duke of Norfolk's conduct on this occasion, and seems to have urged that he should at once be brought to trial for treason. From this purpose Cecil succeeded in dissuading her; and in a letter t from him to Elizabeth, dated the 6th of October, 1569, a few days only before the Duke was sent to the
* Haynes, p. 531.
Tower, he gives the following sensible advice.
If the Duke shall be charged with the crime of treason, and shall not be thereof convicted, he shall not only save but increase his credit.
And surely, without his facts may appear manifest within the compass of treason (which I cannot see how they can), he shall be acquitted of that charge; and better it were in the beginning to foresee the matter, than to attempt it with discredit, and not without suspicion of evil will and malice. Wherefore I-am bold to wish that your Majesty would show your intention only to inquire of the fact and circumstances, and not by any speech to note the same as treason. And if your Majesty would yourself consider the words of the statute evidencing treasons, I think you would so consider of it.” He then cites the words of the Statute of Treasons.
Shortly after the Duke of Norfolk's commitment, the rising in the North, headed by the Earls of Northumberland and Westmoreland, took place. One of the avowed objects of this insurrection was to liberate the Duke; and it would appear from some part of the statements made by the Bishop of Rosse, that the Duke was in some degree privy to it. There are many circumstances, however, which render this suggestion improbable; and it forms no part of the formal charge against him on his trial, though it is alluded to by the Queen's Counsel, and he is charged with having assisted some of the rebels with money after they had been dispersed by the Earl of Sussex, and had fled into Flanders.
Though it was not thought proper or prudent to proceed to a trial of the Duke of Norfolk upon the facts as they stood at the time of his first commitment, he was retained in the Tower till the 4th of August, 1570, when he was removed in custody to his own house, in consequence of the plague having