The Conclusion


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


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


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.