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It would be idle to delineate the character of a prince, who lived not till his passions could develop themselves, or his faculties acquire maturity. His education, like that of his two sisters, began at an early age. In abilities he was equal, perhaps superior, to most boys of his years; and his industry and improvement amply repaid the solicitude of his tutors. But the extravagant praises which have been lavished on him by his panegyrists and admirers may be received with some degree of caution. In the French and Latin letters, to which they appeal, it is difficult to separate the composition of the pupil from the corrections of the master: and since, to raise his reputation, deceptions are known to have been employed on some occasions, it may be justifiable to suspect that they were practised on others. The boy of twelve or fourteen years was accustomed to pronounce his opinion in the council with all the gravity of a hoary statesman. But he had been previously informed of the subjects to be discussed; his preceptors had supplied him with short notes, which he committed to memory: and while he delivered their sentiments as his own, the lords, whether they were aware or not of the artifice, admired and applauded the precocious wisdom with which heaven had gifted their sovereign.
Edward's religious belief could not have been the result of his own judgment. He was compelled to take it on trust from those about him, who moulded his infant mind to their own pleasure, and infused into it their own opinions or prejudices. From them he derived a strong sense of piety, and a habit of daily devotion, a warm attachment to the new, and a violent antipathy to the ancient doctrines. He believed it to be the first of his duties to extirpate what he had been taught to deem the idolatrous worship of his fathers; and with his last breath he wafted a prayer to heaven for the preservation of his subjects from the infection of " papistry." Yet it may be a question whether his early death has not proved a benefit to the Church of England, as it is at present established. His sentiments, like those of his instructors, were tinged with Calvinism: attempts were made to persuade him that episcopacy was an expensive and unnecessary institution; and the courtiers, whose appetite for church property had been whetted rather than satisfied by former spoliations, looked impatiently towards the entire suppression of the bishoprics and chapters. Of the possessions belonging to these establishments, one half had already been seized by the royal favourites: in the course of a few years their rapacity would have devoured the remainder. Lingard.
The foulest blot on the character of this queen is the long and cruel persecution of the reformers. The sufferings of the victims naturally begot an antipathy to the woman, by whose authority they were inflicted. It is, however, but fair to recollect what I have already noticed, that the extirpation of erroneous doctrines was inculcated as a duty by the leaders of every religious party. Mary only practised what they taught. It was her misfortune, 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 writers, 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 ob
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tained 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 so virtuous a lady should be surrounded by such sycophants. 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, show her to have possessed an acute and vigorous mind, and to have been on most subjects a match for that subtle and intriguing negotiator. Lingard.
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 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 the East Indies, served to give to the world an exalted notion of her naval and military 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 the 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 cooperation of the great. Its benefits were not confined to the trading and seafaring 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;