Изображения страниц

indications of resolution and vigour of
mind; a quality which seems to have
been inherent in her family. Hume.
§ 95. Another Character of MARY,
The foulest blot on the character of
this queen is her long and cruel persecu-
tion of the reformers. The sufferings of
the victims naturally beget an antipathy to
the woman, by whose authority they were
inflicted. It is, however, but fair to re-
collect what I have already noticed, that
the extirpation of erroneous doctrine was
inculcated as a duty by the leaders of
every religious party. Mary only prac-
tised what they taught. It was her mis-
fortune, rather than her fault, that she was
not more enlightened than the wisest of
her contemporaries.

With this exception, she has been ranked by the more moderate of the reformed wri. ters among the best, though not the greatest, of our princes. They have borne honourable testimony to her virtues: have allotted to her the praise of piety and clemency, of compassion to the poor, and liberality to the distressed: and have recorded her solicitude to restore to opulence the families that had been unjustly deprived of their possessions by her father and brother, and to provide for the wants of the parochial clergy, who had been reduced to penury by the spoliations of the last government. It is acknowledged that her moral character was beyond reproof. It extorted respect from all, even from the most virulent of her enemies. The ladies of her household copied the conduct of their mistress: and the decency of Mary's court was often mentioned with applause by those, who lamented the dissoluteness which prevailed in that of her successor.

The queen was thought by some to have inherited the obstinacy of her father: but there was this difference, that before she formed her decisions, she sought for advice and information, and made it an invariable rule to prefer right to expediency. One of the outlaws, who had obtained his pardon, hoped to ingratiate himself with Mary by devising a plan to render her independent of parliament. He submitted it to the inspection of the Spanish ambassador, by whom it was recommended to her consideration. Sending for Gardiner, she bade him peruse it, and then adjured him, as he should answer at the judgment seat of God, to speak his real sentiments. Madam," replied the

prelate, "it is a pity that so virtuous a "lady should be surrounded by such syco"phants. The book is naught: it is "filled with things too horrible to be thought of." She thanked him, and threw the paper into the fire.


Her natural abilities had been improved by education. She understood the Italian, she spoke the French and Spanish languages: and the ease and correctness with which she replied to the foreigners, who addressed her in Latin, excited their admiration. Her speeches in public and from the throne, were delivered with grace and fluency: and her conferences with Noailles, as related in his dispatches, shew her to have possessed an acute and vigorous mind, and to have been on most subjects a match for that subtle and intriguing negociator. Lingard.

§ 96. Character of ELIZABETH. In the judgment of her contemporaries, and that judgment has been ratified by the consent of posterity, Elizabeth was numbered among the greatest and the most fortunate of our princes. The tranquillity, which, during a reign of nearly half a century, she maintained within her dominions, while the neighbouring nations. were convulsed with intestine dissensions, was taken as a proof of the wisdom or the vigour of her government: and her successful resistance against the Spanish monarch, the many injuries which she inflicted on that lord of so many kingdoms, and the spirit displayed by her fleets and armies, in expeditions to France and the Netherlands, to Spain, to the West and even to the East Indies, served to give to the world an exalted notion of her military and naval power. When she came to the throne, England ranked only among the secondary kingdoms; before her death it had risen to a level with the first nations in Europe.

Of this rise two causes may be assigned. The one, though more remote, was that spirit of commercial enterprise, which had revived in the reign of Mary, and had been carefully fostered, in that of Elizabeth, by the patronage of the sovereign, and the co-operation of the great. Its benefits were not confined to the trading and sea-faring classes, the two interests more immediately concerned. It gave a new tone to the public mind: it diffused a new energy through all ranks of men. Their views became expanded: their

powers were called into action; and the example of successful adventure furnished a powerful stimulus to the talent and industry of the nation. Men in every profession looked forward to wealth and independence: all were eager to start in the race of improvement.

The other cause may be discovered in the system of foreign policy, adopted by the ministers; a policy, indeed, which it may be difficult to reconcile with honesty and good faith, but which, in the result, proved eminently successful. The reader has seen them perpetually on the watch to sow the seeds of dissension, to foment the spirit of resistance, and to aid the efforts of rebellion, in the neighbouring nations. In Scotland the authority of the crown was almost annihilated; France was reduced to an unexampled state of anarchy, poverty, and distress: and Spain beheld with dismay her wealth continually absorbed, and her armies annually perishing, among the dikes and sand-banks of the Low Countries. The depression of these powers, if not a positive, was a relative benefit. As other princes descended, the English queen appeared to rise on the scale of reputation and power.

of Elizabeth was partially owing to her discovery of such practices: but there is reason to believe that it was a weakness inherent in the constitution of her mind. To deliberate appears to have been her delight to resolve was her torment. She would receive advice from any; from foreigners as well as natives, from the ladies of her bed-chamber no less than the lords of her council: but her distrust begot hesitation; and she always suspected that some interested motive lurked under the pretence of zeal for her service. Hence she often suffered months, sometimes years, to roll away before she came to a conclusion: and then it required the same industry and address to keep her steady to her purpose, as it had already cost to bring her to it. The ministers, in their confidential correspondence, perpetually lamented this infirmity in the queen: in public they employed all their ingenuity to screen it from notice, and to give the semblance of wisdom to that which, in their own judgment, they characterized as folly.

In what proportion the merit or demerit of these and of other measures should be shared between Elizabeth and her counsellors, it is impossible to determine. On many subjects she could see only with their eyes, and hear with their ears; yet it is evident that her judgment or her conscience frequently disapproved of their advice. Sometimes, after a long struggle, they submitted to her wisdom or obstinacy; sometimes she was terrified or seduced into the surrender of her own opinion generally a compromise was effected by mutual concessions. This appears to have happened on most debates of importance, and particularly with respect to the treatment of the unfortunate queen of Scots. Elizabeth may perhaps have dissembled: she may have been actuated by jealousy or hatred: but, if we condenn, we should also remember the arts and frauds of the men by whom she was surrounded, the false information which they supplied, the imaginary dangers which they created, and the dispatches which they dictated in England to be forwarded to the queen through the ambassadors in foreign courts, as the result of their own judgment and observation.

It may be, that the habitual irresolution

Besides irresolution, there was in Elizabeth another quality equally, perhaps more, mortifying to her counsellors and favourites; her care to improve her revenue, her reluctance to part with her money. That frugality in a sovereign is a virtue deserving the highest praise, could not be denied; but they contended that, in their mistress, it had degenerated into parsimony, if not into avarice. Their salaries were, indeed, low: she distributed her gratuities with a sparing hand; and the more honest among them injured their fortunes in her service: yet there were others who, by the sale of places, and patronage, and monopolies, were able to amass considerable wealth, or to spend with a profusion almost unexampled among subjects. The truth, however, was, that the foreign policy of the cabinet, had plunged the queen into a gulf of unfathomable expense. Her connexion with the insurgents in so many different coun tries, the support of a standing army in IIolland, her long war with Spain, and the repeated attempts to suppress the rebellion of Tyrone, were continual drains upon the treasury, which the revenue of the crown, with every adventitious aid of subsidies, loans, fines, and forfeitures, was unable to supply. Her poverty increased as her wants multiplied. All her efforts were cramped: expeditions were calculated on too limited a scale, and for too

short a period; and the very apprehension of present, served only to entail on her future and more enormous, expense.

An intelligent foreigner had described Elizabeth, while she was yet a subject, as haughty and overbearing: on the throne she was careful to display that notion of her own importance, that contempt of all beneath her, and that courage in the time of danger, which were characteristic of the Tudors. She seemed to have forgotten that she ever had a mother: but was proud to remind both herself and others that she was the daughter of a powerful monarch, of Henry VIII. On occasions of ceremony she appeared in all her splendour, accompanied by the great officers of state, and with a numerous retinue of lords and ladies dressed in their most gorgeous apparel. In reading the accounts of her court, we may sometimes fancy ourselves transported into the palace of an eastern princess. When Hentzner saw her she was proceeding on a Sunday from her own apartment to the chapel. First ap peared a number of gentlemen, barons, earls, and knights of the garter; then came the chancellor with the seals, between two lords carrying the sceptre and the sword. Elizabeth followed: and wherever she cast her eyes, the spectators instantly fell on their knees. She was then in her sixty-fifth year. She wore false hair of a red colour, surmounted with a crown of gold. The wrinkles of age were imprinted on her face; her eyes were small, her teeth black, her nose prominent. The collar of the garter hung from her neck; and her bosom was uncovered, as became an unmarried queen, Behind her followed a long train of young ladies dressed in white; and on each side stood a line of gentlemen pensioners, with their gilt battle-axes, in splendid uniforms.

The traveller next proceeded to the dining room. Two gentlemen entered to lay the cloth, two to bring the queen's plate, salt, and bread. All, before they approached the table, and when they retired from it, made three genuflexions. Then came a single and a married lady, performing the same ceremonies. The first rubbed the plate with bread and salt: the second gave a morsel of meat to each of the yeomen of the guard, who brought in the different courses; and at the same time the hall echoed to the sound of twelve trumpets, and two kettle drums. But the queen dined that day in private; and,

after a short pause, her maids of honour entered in procession, and with much reverence and solemnity, took the dishes from the table, and carried them into an inner apartment.

Yet while she maintained this state in public and in the palace, while she taught the proudest of the nobility to feel the distance between them and their sovereign, she condescended to court the good will of the common people. In the country, they had access to her at all times; neither their rudeness nor importunity ap peared to offend her: she received their petitions with an air of pleasure, thanked them for their expressions of attachment, and sought the opportunity of entering into private conversation with in dividuals. Her progresses were undoubtedly undertaken for pleasure: but she made them subservient to policy, and increased her popularity by her affability and condescension to the private inhabitants of the counties in which she made her temporary abode.

From the elevation of the throne, we may now follow Elizabeth into the privacy of domestic life. Her natural abilities were great: she had studied under experienced masters; and her stock of literature was much more ample than that of most females of the age. Like her sister Mary, she possessed a knowledge of five languages: but Mary did not venture to converse in Italian, neither could she construe the Greek Testament, like Elizabeth. The queen is said to have excelled on the virginals, and to have understood the most difficult music. But dancing was her principal delight: and in that exercise she displayed a grace and spirit, which was universally admired. She retained her partiality for it to the last few days passed in which the young nobility of the court were not called to dance before their sovereign; and the queen herself condescended to perform her part in a galliard with the duke of Nevers, at the age of sixty-nine.

Of her vanity the reader will have noticed several instances in the preceding pages: there remains one of a more extraordinary description. It is seldom that females have the boldness to become the heralds of their own charms: but Elizabeth by proclamation announced to her people, that none of the portraits, which had hitherto been taken of her person, did justice to the original: that at the re


quest of her council she had resolved to procure an exact likeness from the pencil of some able artist: that it should soon be published for the gratification of her loving subjects and that on this account she strictly forbad all persons whomsoever, to paint or engrave any new portraits of her features without licence, or to shew or publish any of the old portraits, till they had been reformed according to the copy to be set forth by authority.

The courtiers soon discovered how greedy their sovereign was of flattery. If they sought to please, they were careful to admire and adulation the most fulsome and extravagant, was accepted by the queen with gratitude, and rewarded with bounty. Neither was her appetite for praise cloyed, it seemed rather to become more craving, by enjoyment. After she had passed her grand climacteric she exacted the same homage to her faded charms as had been paid to her youth; and all who addressed her, were still careful to express their admiration of her beauty in the language of oriental hyperbole.

But however highly the queen might think of her person, she did not despise the aid of external ornament. At her death, two, some say three, thousand dresses were found in her wardrobe, with a numerous collection of jewellery, for the most part presents, which she had received from petitioners, from her courtiers on her saint's day, and at the beginning of each year, and from the noblemen and gentlemen, whose houses she had honoured with her presence. To the austere notions of the bishop of London, this love of finery appeared unbecoming her age, and in his sermon he endeavoured to raise her thoughts from the ornaments of dress to the riches of heaven: but she told her ladies, that if he touched upon that subject again, she would fit him for heaven. He should walk there without a staff, and leave his mantle behind him.

In her temper Elizabeth seemed to have inherited the irritability of her father. The least inattention, the slightest provocation, would throw her into a passion. At all times her discourse was sprinkled with oaths in the sallies of her anger it abounded with imprecations and abuse. Nor did she content herself with words: not only the ladies about her person, but her courtiers and the highest officers in the state, felt the weight of her hands. She

collared Hatton, she gave a blow on the ear to the earl marshal, and she spat on sir Matthew, with the foppery of whose dress she was offended.

Elizabeth firmly believed, and zealously upheld, the principles of government, established by her father, the exercise of absolute authority by the sovereign, and the duty of passive obedience in the subject. The doctrine, with which the lord keeper Bacon opened her first parliament, was indefatigably inculcated by all his successors during her reign, that, if the queen consulted the two houses, it was through choice, not through necessity, to the end that her laws might be more satisfactory to her people, not that they might derive any force from their assent. She possess ed by her prerogative whatever was requisite for the government of the realm. She could, at her pleasure, suspend the operation of existing statutes, or issue proclamations which should have the force of law. In her opinion the chief use of parliaments was to vote money, to regulate the minutia of trade, and to legislate for individual and local interests. To the lower house she granted, indeed, freedom of debate; but it was to be a decent freedom, the liberty of "saying aye or no ;" and those who transgressed that decency were liable, we have repeatedly seen, to feel the weight of the royal displeasure.

The historians, who celebrate the golden days of Elizabeth, have described with a glowing pencil, the happiness of the people under her sway. To them might be opposed the dismal picture of national misery, drawn by the catholic writers of the same period. But both have taken too contracted a view of the subject. Religious dissension had divided the nation into opposite parties, of almost equal numbers, the oppressors and the oppressed. Under the operation of the penal statutes, many ancient and opulent families had been ground to the dust; new families had sprung up in their place: and these, as they shared the plunder, naturally eulogized the system to which they owed their wealth and their ascendency. But their prosperity was not the prosperity of the nation: it was that of onehalf obtained at the expense of the other.

It is evident that neither Elizabeth nor her ministers understood the benefit of civil and religious liberty. The prerogatives which she so highly prized, have

long since withered away: the bloody code which she enacted against the rights of conscience, has ceased to stain the pages of the statute book: and the result has proved, that the abolition of despotism and intolerance adds no less to the stability of the throne, than to the happiness of the people.


§ 97. Character of JAMES I. James was of a middle stature, of a fine complexion, and a soft skin; his person plump, but not corpulent; his eyes large and rolling, his beard thin, his tongue too big for his mouth, his countenance disagreeable, his air awkward, and his gait remarkably ungraceful, from a weakness in his knees that prevented his walking without assistance; he was tolerably temperate in his diet, but drank of little else than rich and strong wines. His character, from the variety of grotesque qualities that compose it, is not easy to be delineated. The virtues he possessed were so loaded with a greater proportion of their neighbouring vices, that they exhibit no lights, to set off the dark shades; his principles of generosity were tainted by such a childish profusion, that they left him without means of paying his just obligations, and subjected him to the necessity of attempting irregular, illegal, and unjust methods of acquiring money. His friendship, not to give it the name of vice, was directed by so puerile a fancy, and so absurd a caprice, that the objects of it were contemptible, and its consequences attended with such an unmerited profusion of favours, that it was perhaps the most exceptionable quality of any he possessed. His distinctions were formed on principles of selfishness; he valued no person for any endowments that could not be made subservient to his pleasures or his interest; and thus he rarely advanced any man of real worth to preferment. His familiar conversation, both in writing and in speaking, was stuffed with vulgar and indecent phrases. Though proud and arrogant in his temper, and full of the importance of his station, he descended to buffoonery, and suffered his favourites to address him in the most disrespectful terms of gross familiarity.

Himself affected a sententious wit, but rose no higher in those attempts than to quaint, and often stale conceits. His education had been a more learned one than is commonly bestowed on princes; this,

from the conceit it gave him, turned out a very disadvantageous circumstance, by contracting his opinions to his own narrow views; his pretences to a consummate knowledge in divinity, politics, and the art of governing, expose him to a high degree of ridicule; his conduct shewing him more than commonly deficient in all these points. His romantic idea of the natural rights of princes, caused him publicly to avow pretensions that impressed into the minds of the people an incurable jealousy; this, with an affectation of a profound skill in the art of dissembling, or king-craft, as he termed it, rendered him the object of fear and distrust; when at the same time he was himself the only dupe to an impertinent, useless hypocrisy.

If the laws and constitution of England received no prejudice from his government, it was owing to his want of ability to effect a change suitable to the purpose of an arbitrary sway. Stained with these vices, and sullied with these weaknesses, if he is even exempt from our hatred, the exemption must arise from motives of contempt. Despicable as he appears through his own Britannic government, his behaviour when king of Scotland was in many points unexceptionable; but, intoxicated with the power he received over people whose privileges were but feebly established, and who had been long subjected to civil and ecclesiastical tyranny, he at once flung off that moderation that hid his deformities from the common eye. It is alleged, that the corruption he met with in the court of England, and the time-serving genius of the English noblemen, were the great means that debauched him from his circumspect conduct. Among the forwardest of the worthless tribe was Cecil, afterwards Earl of Salisbury, who told him, on his coming to the crown, that he should find his English subjects like asses, on whom he might lay any burden, and should need neither bit nor bridle, but their asses' ears. Died March 27, A. D. 1625. Aged 59. Macaulay.

§ 98. Another Character of JAMES. James was in his stature of the middle size, inclining to corpulency; his forehead was high, his beard scanty, and his aspect mean; his eyes, which were weak and languid, he rolled about incessantly, as if in quest of novelty; his tongue was so large, that in speaking or drinking, he beslabbered the bystanders; his knees were

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »