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Accession To The Throne

Lady Jane Grey

Personal Character

The Invincible Armada

Elizabeth's Mother

The War In Scotland

The Conclusion

The Earl Of Essex

The Spanish Match

Elizabeth In The Tower



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The Childhood Of A Princess

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Elizabeth In The Tower

The Spanish Match

The Earl Of Essex

The Conclusion

The War In Scotland

Elizabeth's Mother

The Invincible Armada

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1600-1603

Question of Essex's guilt.--General opinion of mankind.--Elizabeth's
distress.--Fall of Essex's party.--Wounds of the heart.--Elizabeth's
efforts to recover her spirits.--Embassage from France.--A
conversation.--Thoughts of Essex.--Harrington.--The Countess of
Nottingham.--The ring.--The Countess of Nottingham's confession.--The
queen's indignation.--Bitter reminiscences.--The queen removes to
Richmond.--Elizabeth grows worse.--The private chapel and the
closets.--The wedding ring.--The queen's friends abandon her.--The
queen's voice fails.--She calls her council together.--The
chaplains.--The prayers.--The queen's death.--King James
proclaimed.--Portrait of James the First.--Burial of the
queen.--Westminster Abbey.--Its history.--The Poet's Corner.--Henry
the Seventh's Chapel.--Elizabeth's monument.--James.--Mary's
monument.--Feelings of visitors.--Summary of Elizabeth's character.


There can be no doubt that Essex was really guilty of the treason for
which he was condemned, but mankind have generally been inclined to
consider Elizabeth rather than him as the one really accountable, both
for the crime and its consequences. To elate and intoxicate, in the
first place, an ardent and ambitious boy, by flattery and favors, and
then, in the end, on the occurrence of real or fancied causes of
displeasure, to tease and torment so sensitive and impetuous a spirit to
absolute madness and phrensy, was to take the responsibility, in a great
measure, for all the effects which might follow. At least so it has
generally been regarded. By almost all the readers of the story, Essex
is pitied and mourned--it is Elizabeth that is condemned. It is a
melancholy story; but scenes exactly parallel to this case are
continually occurring in private life all around us, where sorrows and
sufferings which are, so far as the heart is concerned, precisely the
same result from the combined action, or rather, perhaps, the
alternating and contending action, of fondness, passion, and obstinacy.
The results are always, in their own nature, the same, though not often
on so great a scale as to make the wrong which follows treason against a
realm, and the consequences a beheading in the Tower.

There must have been some vague consciousness of this her share in the
guilt of the transaction in Elizabeth's mind, even while the trial of
Essex was going on. We know that she was harassed by the most tormenting
suspense and perplexity while the question of the execution of his
sentence was pending. Of course, when the plot was discovered, Essex's
party and all his friends fell immediately from all influence and
consideration at court. Many of them were arrested and imprisoned, and
four were executed, as he had been. The party which had been opposed to
him acquired at once the entire ascendency, and they all, judges,
counselors, statesmen, and generals, combined their influence to press
upon the queen the necessity of his execution. She signed one warrant
and delivered it to the officer; but then, as soon as the deed was done,
she was so overwhelmed with distress and anguish that she sent to
recall it, and had it canceled. Finally she signed another, and the
sentence was executed.

Time will cure, in our earlier years, most of the sufferings, and calm
most of the agitations of the soul, however incurable and uncontrollable
they may at first appear to the sufferer. But in the later periods of
life, when severe shocks strike very heavily upon the soul, there is
found far less of buoyancy and recovering power to meet the blow. In
such cases the stunned and bewildered spirit moves on, after receiving
its wound, staggering, as it were, with faintness and pain, and leaving
it for a long time uncertain whether it will ultimately rise and
recover, or sink down and die.

Dreadfully wounded as Elizabeth was, in all the inmost feelings and
affections of her heart, by the execution of her beloved favorite, she
was a woman of far too much spirit and energy to yield without a
struggle. She made the greatest efforts possible after his death to
banish the subject from her mind, and to recover her wonted spirits. She
went on hunting excursions and parties of pleasure. She prosecuted with
great energy her war with the Spaniards, and tried to interest herself
in the siege and defense of Continental cities. She received an
embassage from the court of France with great pomp and parade, and made
a grand progress through a part of her dominions, with a long train of
attendants, to the house of a nobleman, where she entertained the
embassador many days in magnificent state, at her own expense, with
plate and furniture brought from her own palaces for the purpose. She
even planned an interview between herself and the King of France, and
went to Dover to effect it.

But all would not do. Nothing could drive the thoughts of Essex from her
mind, or dispel the dejection with which the recollection of her love
for him, and of his unhappy fate, oppressed her spirit. A year or two
passed away, but time brought no relief. Sometimes she was fretful and
peevish, and sometimes hopelessly dejected and sad. She told the French
embassador one day that she was weary of her life, and when she
attempted to speak of Essex as the cause of her grief, she sighed
bitterly and burst into tears.

When she recovered her composure, she told the embassador that she had
always been uneasy about Essex while he lived, and, knowing his
impetuosity of spirit and his ambition, she had been afraid that he
would one day attempt something which would compromise his life, and she
had warned and entreated him not to be led into any such designs, for,
if he did so, his fate would have to be decided by the stern authority
of law, and not by her own indulgent feelings but that all her earnest
warnings had been insufficient to save him.

It was the same whenever any thing occurred which recalled thoughts of
Essex to her mind; it almost always brought tears to her eyes. When
Essex was commanding in Ireland, it will be recollected that he had, on
one occasion, come to a parley with Tyrone, the rebel leader, across the
current of a stream. An officer in his army, named Harrington, had been
with him on this occasion, and present, though at a little distance,
during the interview. After Essex had left Ireland, another lord-deputy
had been appointed; but the rebellion continued to give the government a
great deal of trouble. The Spaniards came over to Tyrone's assistance,
and Elizabeth's mind was much occupied with plans for subduing him. One
day Harrington was at court in the presence of the queen, and she asked
him if he had ever seen Tyrone. Harrington replied that he had. The
queen then recollected the former interview which Harrington had had
with him, and she said, "Oh, now I recollect that you have seen him
before!" This thought recalled Essex so forcibly to her mind, and filled
her with such painful emotions, that she looked up to Harrington with a
countenance full of grief: tears came to her eyes, and she beat her
breast with every indication of extreme mental suffering.

Things went on in this way until toward the close of 1602, when an
incident occurred which seemed to strike down at once and forever what
little strength and spirit the queen had remaining. The Countess of
Nottingham, a celebrated lady of the court, was dangerously sick, and
had sent for the queen to come and see her, saying that she had a
communication to make to her majesty herself, personally, which she was
very anxious to make to her before she died. The queen went accordingly
to see her.

When she arrived at the bedside the countess showed her a ring.
Elizabeth immediately recognized it as the ring which she had given to
Essex, and which she had promised to consider a special pledge of her
protection, and which was to be sent to her by him whenever he found
himself in any extremity of danger and distress. The queen eagerly
demanded where it came from. The countess replied that Essex had sent
the ring to her during his imprisonment in the Tower, and after his
condemnation, with an earnest request that she would deliver it to the
queen as the token of her promise of protection, and of his own
supplication for mercy. The countess added that she had intended to
deliver the ring according to Essex's request, but her husband, who was
the unhappy prisoner's enemy, forbade her to do it; that ever since the
execution of Essex she had been greatly distressed at the consequences
of her having withheld the ring; and that now, as she was about to leave
the world herself, she felt that she could not die in peace without
first seeing the queen, and acknowledging fully what she had done, and
imploring her forgiveness.

The queen was thrown into a state of extreme indignation and displeasure
by this statement. She reproached the dying countess in the bitterest
terms, and shook her as she lay helpless in her bed, saying, "God may
forgive you if he pleases, but I never will!" She then went away in a
rage.

Her exasperation, however, against the countess was soon succeeded by
bursts of inconsolable grief at the recollection of the hopeless and
irretrievable loss of the object of her affection whose image the ring
called back so forcibly to her mind. Her imagination wandered in
wretchedness and despair to the gloomy dungeon in the Tower where Essex
had been confined, and painted him pining there, day after day, in
dreadful suspense and anxiety, waiting for her to redeem the solemn
pledge by which she had bound herself in giving him the ring. All the
sorrow which she had felt at his untimely and cruel fate was awakened
afresh, and became more poignant than ever. She made them place cushions
for her upon the floor, in the most inner and secluded of her
apartments, and there she would lie all the day long, her hair
disheveled, her dress neglected, her food refused, and her mind a prey
to almost uninterrupted anguish and grief.

In January, 1603, she felt that she was drawing toward her end, and she
decided to be removed from Westminster to Richmond, because there was
there an arrangement of closets communicating with her chamber, in which
she could easily and conveniently attend divine service. She felt that
she had now done with the world, and all the relief and comfort which
she could find at all from the pressure of her distress was in that
sense of protection and safety which she experienced when in the
presence of God and listening to the exercises of devotion.



It was a cold and stormy day in January when she went to Richmond; but,
being restless and ill at ease, she would not be deterred by that
circumstance from making the journey. She became worse after this
removal. She made them put cushions again for her upon the floor, and
she would lie upon them all the day, refusing to go to her bed. There
was a communication from her chamber to closets connected with a chapel,
where she had been accustomed to sit and hear divine service. These
closets were of the form of small galleries, where the queen and her
immediate attendants could sit. There was one open and public;
another--a smaller one--was private, with curtains which could be drawn
before it, so as to screen those within from the notice of the
congregation. The queen intended, first, to go into the great closet;
but, feeling too weak for this, she changed her mind, and ordered the
private one to be prepared. At last she decided not to attempt to make
even this effort, but ordered the cushions to be put down upon the
floor, near the entrance, in her own room, and she lay there while the
prayers were read, listening to the voice of the clergyman as it came in
to her through the open door.

One day she asked them to take off the wedding ring with which she had
commemorated her espousal to her kingdom and her people on the day of
her coronation. The flesh had swollen around it so that it could not be
removed. The attendants procured an instrument and cut it in two, and so
relieved the finger from the pressure. The work was done in silence and
solemnity, the queen herself, as well as the attendants, regarding it as
a symbol that the union, of which the ring had been the pledge, was
about to be sundered forever.

She sunk rapidly day by day, and, as it became more and more probable
that she would soon cease to live, the nobles and statesmen who had been
attendants at her court for so many years withdrew one after another
from the palace, and left London secretly, but with eager dispatch, to
make their way to Scotland, in order to be the first to hail King James,
the moment they should learn that Elizabeth had ceased to breathe.

Her being abandoned thus by these heartless friends did not escape the
notice of the dying queen. Though her strength of body was almost gone,
the soul was as active and busy as ever within its failing tenement. She
watched every thing--noticed every thing, growing more and more jealous
and irritable just in proportion as her situation became helpless and
forlorn. Every thing seemed to conspire to deepen the despondency and
gloom which darkened her dying hours.

Her strength rapidly declined. Her voice grew fainter and fainter,
until, on the 23d of March, she could no longer speak. In the afternoon
of that day she aroused herself a little, and contrived to make signs to
have her council called to her bedside. Those who had not gone to
Scotland came. They asked her whom she wished to have succeed her on the
throne. She could not answer, but when they named King James of
Scotland, she made a sign of assent. After a time the counselors went
away.

At six o'clock in the evening she made signs for the archbishop and her
chaplains to come to her. They were sent for and came. When they came
in, they approached her bedside and kneeled. The patient was lying upon
her back speechless, but her eye, still moving watchfully and observing
every thing, showed that the faculties of the soul were unimpaired. One
of the clergymen asked her questions respecting her faith. Of course,
she could not answer in words. She made signs, however, with her eyes
and her hands, which seemed to prove that she had full possession of all
her faculties. The by-standers looked on with breathless attention. The
aged bishop, who had asked the questions, then began to pray for her. He
continued his prayer a long time, and then pronouncing a benediction
upon her, he was about to rise, but she made a sign. The bishop did not
understand what she meant, but a lady present said that she wished the
bishop to continue his devotions. The bishop, though weary with
kneeling, continued his prayer half an hour longer. He then closed
again, but she repeated the sign. The bishop, finding thus that his
ministrations gave her so much comfort, renewed them with greater
fervency than before, and continued his supplications for a long
time--so long, that those who had been present at the commencement of
the service went away softly, one after another, so that when at last
the bishop retired, the queen was left with her nurses and her women
alone. These attendants remained at their dying sovereign's bedside for
a few hours longer, watching the failing pulse, the quickened breathing,
and all the other indications of approaching dissolution. As hour after
hour thus passed on, they wished that their weary task was done, and
that both their patient and themselves were at rest. This lasted till
midnight, and then the intelligence was communicated about the palace
that Elizabeth was no more.

In the mean time all the roads to Scotland were covered, as it were,
with eager aspirants for the favor of the distinguished personage,
there, who, from the instant Elizabeth ceased to breathe, became King of
England. They flocked into Scotland by sea and by land, urging their way
as rapidly as possible, each eager to be foremost in paying his homage
to the rising sun. The council assembled and proclaimed King James.
Elizabeth lay neglected and forgotten. The interest she had inspired was
awakened only by her power, and that being gone, nobody mourned for her,
or lamented her death. The attention of the kingdom was soon universally
absorbed in the plans for receiving and proclaiming the new monarch from
the North, and in anticipations of the splendid pageantry which was to
signalize his taking his seat upon the English throne.



In due time the body of the deceased queen was deposited with those of
its progenitors, in the ancient place of sepulture of the English kings,
Westminster Abbey. Westminster Abbey, in the sense in which that term
is used in history, is not to be conceived of as a building, nor even as
a group of buildings, but rather as a long succession of buildings like
a dynasty following each other in a line, the various structures having
been renewed and rebuilt constantly, as parts or wholes decayed, from
century to century, for twelve or fifteen hundred years. The spot
received its consecration at a very early day. It was then an island
formed by the waters of a little tributary to the Thames, which has long
since entirely disappeared. Written records of its sacredness, and of
the sacred structures which have occupied it, go back more than a
thousand years, and beyond that time tradition mounts still further,
carrying the consecration of the spot almost to the Christian era, by
telling us that the Apostle Peter himself, in his missionary wanderings,
had a chapel or an oratory there.

The spot has been, in all ages, the great burial-place of the English
kings, whose monuments and effigies adorn its walls and aisles in
endless variety. A vast number, too, of the statesmen, generals, and
naval heroes of the British empire have been admitted to the honor of
having their remains deposited under its marble floor. Even literary
genius has a little corner assigned it--the mighty aristocracy whose
mortal remains it is the main function of the building to protect having
so far condescended toward intellectual greatness as to allow to Milton,
Addison, and Shakspeare modest monuments behind a door. The place is
called the Poets' Corner; and so famed and celebrated is this vast
edifice every where, that the phrase by which even this obscure and
insignificant portion of it is known is familiar to every ear and every
tongue throughout the English world.

The body of Elizabeth was interred in a part of the edifice called Henry
the Seventh's Chapel. The word chapel, in the European sense, denotes
ordinarily a subordinate edifice connected with the main body of a
church, and opening into it. Most frequently, in fact, a chapel is a
mere recess or alcove, separated from the area of the church by a small
screen or gilded iron railing. In the Catholic churches these chapels
are ornamented with sculptures and paintings, with altars and
crucifixes, and other such furniture. Sometimes they are built expressly
as monumental structures, in which case they are often of considerable
size, and are ornamented with great magnificence and splendor. This was
the case with Henry the Seventh's Chapel. The whole building is, in fact
his tomb. Vast sums were expended in the construction of it, the work of
which extended through two reigns. It is now one of the most attractive
portions of the great pile which it adorns. Elizabeth's body was
deposited here, and here her monument was erected.



It will be recollected that James, who now succeeded Elizabeth, was the
son of Mary Queen of Scots. Soon after his accession to the throne, he
removed the remains of his mother from their place of sepulture near the
scene of her execution, and interred them in the south aisle of Henry
the Seventh's Chapel, while the body of Elizabeth occupied the northern
one.[E] He placed, also, over Mary's remains, a tomb very similar in its
plan and design to that by which the memory of Elizabeth was honored;
and there the rival queens have since reposed in silence and peace under
the same paved floor. And though the monuments do not materially
differ in their architectural forms, it is found that the visitors who
go continually to the spot gaze with a brief though lively interest at
the one, while they linger long and mournfully over the other.

[Footnote E: See our history of Mary Queen of Scots, near the close.
Aisles in English Cathedral churches are colonnades, or spaces between
columns on an open floor, and not passages between pews, as with us. In
monumental churches like Westminster Abbey there are no pews.]

* * * * *

The character of Elizabeth has not generally awakened among mankind much
commendation or sympathy. They who censure or condemn her should,
however, reflect how very conspicuous was the stage on which she acted,
and how minutely all her faults have been paraded to the world. That she
deserved the reproaches which have been so freely cast upon her memory
can not be denied. It will moderate, however, any tendency to
censoriousness in our mode of uttering them, if we consider to how
little advantage we should ourselves appear, if all the words of
fretfulness and irritability which we have ever spoken, all our
insincerity and double-dealing, our selfishness, our pride, our petty
resentments, our caprice, and our countless follies, were exposed as
fully to the public gaze as were those of this renowned and glorious,
but unhappy queen.






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