« PreviousContinue »
from the year above mentioned, to the thirtieth year of the queen, wherein the design of Spain and the Pope was put in execution by the Armada, had it in their instructions, among other parts of their function, to insinuate, " That affairs could not possibly continue long as they were; that they would soon put on a new face; that the Pope and the Catholic princes would take care for the English state, provided the English were not their own hinderance." Again, some of the priests had manifestly engaged themselves in plots and contrivances, which tended to the undermining and subverting of the government: and as the strongest proof, the whole train of the plot was discovered by letters intercepted from several parts; wherein it was expressly mentioned, " that the vigilancy of the queen and her council, in respect of the Catholics, would be baffled; because the queen only watched, that no nobleman or person of distinction should rise to head the Catholic faction; whereas the design they laid was that all things should be disposed and proposed by private men, of an inferior rank, without their conspiring or consulting together; but wholly in the secret way of confession." And those were the artifices then practised, which are so familiar and customary to that order of men.
In such an impending storm of dangers, the queen was obliged, by the law of necessity, to restrain such of her subjects as were disaffected and rendered incurable by these poisons; and who in the mean time began to grow rich by retirement and exemption from public offices: and accordingly some severer laws were enacted. But the evil daily increasing, and the origin thereof being charged upon the seminary priests, bred in foreign parts, and supported by the bounty and benevolence of foreign princes, the professed enemies of this kingdom; which priests had lived in places where the name of Queen Elizabeth was always tacked to the titles of heretic, excommunicated, and accursed; and who, though they themselves were not engaged in the treasonable practices, yet were known to be the intimate friends of such as had set their hands to villanies of that kind; and who by their arts and poisonous insinuations, had infected the whole body of the Catholics, which before was less malignant; there could no other remedy be found, but the forbidding such persons all entrance into this kingdom, upon pain of death: which at last in the twenty-seventh year of her reign, was accordingly enacted.
Yet the event itself, which followed soon after, when so violent a storm fell upon this kingdom, with all its weight, did not in the least abate the envy and hatred of these men, but rather increased it; as if they had divested themselves of all affection to their country. And afterwards, indeed, though our fears of Spain, the occasion of this severity, were abated; yet because the memory of the former times was deeply imprinted in men's minds, and because it would have looked like inconstancy to have abrogated the laws already made, or remissness to have neglected them; the very constitution and nature of affairs suggested to the queen, that she could not with safety return to the state of things that obtained before the three and twentieth year of her reign.
To this may be added the industry of some to increase the revenues of the exchequer; and the earnestness of the ministers of justice, who usually regard no other safety of their country but what consists in the law; both which called loudly for the laws to be put in execution. However, the queen, as a specimen of her good nature, so far took off the edge of the law, that but a few priests, in proportion, were put to death. And this, we say, not by the way of defence, for the case needs none; as the safety of the kingdom turned upon it; and as the measure of all this severity came far short of those bloody massacres, that are scarce fit to be named among Christians, and have proceeded rather from arrogance and malice than from necessity, in the catholic countries, and thus, we think, we have made it appear that the queen was moderate in the point of religion; and that the change which ensued was not owing to her nature, but to the necessity of the times.
The greatest proof of her constancy in religion and religious worship is, that notwithstanding popery, which in her sister's reign had been strenuously established by public authority, and the utmost diligence, began now to take deep root, and was confirmed by the consent and zeal of all those in office and places of trust; yet because it was not agreeable to the word of God, nor to the primitive purity, nor to her own conscience, she, with much courage, and with very few helps, extirpated and abolished it. Nor did she do this precipitantly, or in a heat; but prudently and seasonably, as may appear from many particulars; and among the rest, from a certain answer she occasionally made. For upon her first accession to the throne, when the prisoners, according to custom, were released; as she went to chapel, a courtier, who took a more than ordinary freedom, whether of his own motion, or set on by a wiser head, delivered a petition into her hand; and in a great concourse of people said aloud, that there were still four or five prisoners unjustly detained; that he came to petition for their liberty as well as the rest; and these were the four evangelists and the apostle St. Paul, who had been long imprisoned in an unknown tongue, and not suffered to converse with the people. The queen answered, with great prudence, " That it was best to consult them first, whether they were willing to be released or no." And by thus striking a surprising question, with a wary, doubtful answer, she reserved the whole matter entirely in her own breast.
Nor yet did she introduce this alteration timorously, and by fits and starts, but orderly, gravely, and maturely; after a conference betwixt the parties, and calling a parliament: and thus at length, within the compass of one year, she so ordered and established all things belonging to the church, as not to suffer the least alteration afterwards during her reign. Nay, almost every session of parliament her public admonition was, that no innovation might be made in the discipline or rites of the church. And thus much for her religion.
Some of the graver sort may, perhaps, aggravate her levities; in loving to be admired and courted, nay, and to have love poems made on her; and continuing this humour longer than was decent for her years: yet to take even these matters in a milder sense, they claim a due admiration, being often found in fabulous narrations, as that of " A certain queen in the fortunate islands, in whose court love was allowed, but lust banished." Or if a harsher construction can be put upon them, they are still to be highly admired; as these gaieties did not much eclipse her fame, nor in the least obscure her grandeur, nor injure her government, nor hinder the administration of her affairs: for things of this sort are rarely so well tempered and regulated in princes.
This queen was certainly good and moral; and as such she desired to appear. She hated vice, and studied to grow famous by honourable sources. Thus, for example, having once ordered an express to be written to her ambassador, containing certain instructions, which he was privately to impart to the queen-mother of France, her secretary inserted a clause for the ambassador to use, importing, " That they were two queens, from whose experience and arts of government, no less was expected than from the greatest kings." She could not bear the comparison, but ordered it to be struck out, saying, " She used quite different arts and methods of government from the queen-mother."
She was also not a little pleased if any one by chance had dropped such an expression as this,
vOL. II. M