Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

ferments rather than give up their religion. Thus England was seen to change its belief in religion four times since the beginning of the reign of Henry the Eighth. “Strange,” says a foreign writer, “that a people so resolute should be guilty of so much inconstancy; that the same people who this day assisted at the execution of heretics should, the next, not only think them guiltless, but conform to their systems of thinking.”

Elizabeth was now fixed upon a protestant throne, and had consequently all the catholic powers of Europe her open or secret enemies. France, Scotland, the pope, and even Spain itself, began to think of combining against her. Her subjects of Ireland were concealed enemies; and the catholic party, in England. though professing obedience, were yet ready to take advantage of her slightest misfortunes. These were the dangers she had to fear; nor had she formed a. single alliance to assist her, nor possessed any foreign. friends that she could safely rely on. In this situation she could hope for no other resource than what proceeded from the affection of her own subjects, her own insight into her affairs, and the wisdom of her administration. From the beginning of her reign, she seemed to aim at two very difficult attainments; to make herself loved by her subjects, and feared by her courtiers. She resolved to be frugal of her treasure, and still more sparing in her rewards to favourites. This at once kept the people in good humour, and the great too poor to shake off their dependence. She also showed that she knew how to distribute both rewards and punishments with impartiality; that she knew when to soothe, and when to upbraid; that she could dissemble submission, but preserve her prerogatives. In short, she seemed to have studied the people she was born to govern, and even showed that she knew when to flatter their foibles to secure their affections. . Her chief minister was Robert Dudley, son to the late duke of Northumberland, whom she seemed to regard from capricious motives, as he was possessed neither of abilities nor virtue. But to make amends, the two favourites' next in power were the lord-keeper Bacon and Cecil, men of great capacity and infinite application; they regulated the finances, and directed the political measures with foreign courts, that were afterwards followed with so much success. A state of permanent felicity is not to be expected here; and Mary Stuart, commonly called Mary queen of Scots, was the first person that excited the fears or the resentment of Elizabeth. We have already mentioned, that Henry the Seventh married his eldest daughter, Margaret, to James the Fourth, king of Scotland, whose son and successor left no issue that came to maturity, except Mary. At a very early age, this princess, being possessed of every accomplishment of person and mind, was married to Francis the dauphin, afterwards king of France, who, dying, left her a widow at the age of eighteen. As Elizabeth had been declared illegitimate by Henry the Eighth, Francis, in right of his wife, began to assume the title of king of England; nor did the queen of Scots, his consort, seem to decline sharing this empty appellation. But though nothing could have been more unjust than such a claim, or more unlikely to succeed, Elizabeth, knowing that such pretensions might produce troubles in England, sent an ambassador to France, complaining of the behaviour of that court in this instance. Francis, however, was not upon such good terms with Elizabeth, as to forego any claims that would distress her; and her ambassador was sent home without satisfaction. Upon the death. A. D., of Francis, Mary, the widow, still seemed dis- 1560. posed to keep up the title; but finding herself exposed. to the persecutions of the dowager queen, who now be-, gan to take the lead in France, she determined to return to Scotland, and demanded a safe passage from Elizabeth through England. But it was now. Elizabeth's turn to refuse; and she sent back a very haughty answer to Mary's request. From this time a A. D. determined personal enmity began to prevailbe- 1561. tween the rival queens, which subsisted for many yearse after, until at last the superior fortune of Elizabeth prevailed... - As the transactions of this unfortunate queen make a , distinguished part in Elizabeth's history, it will be necessary to give them greater room than. I have hitherto given to the occurrences of Scotland. The Reformation in England having taken place, in Scotland also that work was begun, but with circumstances of greater. animosity against the ancient superstition. The mutual resentment of the two parties in that kingdom knew no bounds; and a civil war was likely to end the dispute. It was in, this divided state of the people that: Elizabeth, by giving encouragement to the reformers, gained their affections from their natural queen, who, was a catholic, and who consequently favoured those of that persuasion. Thus religion at last effected a sincere friendship between the English and Scots, which neither treaties nor marriages, nor the vicinity of situation, were able to produce. The reformers, to a man, considered. Elizabeth as their patroness and defender, and Mary as their persecutor, and enemy. It was in this state of affairs that Mary returned from France to reign; in Scotland, entirely attached to the, customs; and manners of the people she had left, and, consequently very averse to the gloomy severity which her reformed subjects affected, and which they fancied made a proper ingredient in religion. A difference in religion between the sovereign and the people, is ever productive of bad effects, since it is apt to produce contempt on one side, and jealousy on the other. Mary could not avoid regarding the sour manners of the reformed clergy, who now bore sway among the people, with a mixture of ridicule and hatred: while they, on the other hand, could not look tamely on the gaieties and levities which she introduced among them, without abhorrence and resentment. The jealousy thus excited, began every day to grow stronger; the clergy only waited for some indiscretion in the queen, to fly out into open opposition; and her indiscretion too soon gave them sufficient opportunity. After two years had been spent in altercation and reproach between Mary and her subjects, it was resolved at last by her council, that she should look out for some alliance, by which she might be sheltered and proA. D. tected against the insolence and misguided zeal 1564, of her spiritual instructors. After some deliberation, the lord Darnley, son to the earl of Lenox, was the person in whom their opinions and wishes centred. He had been born and educated in England, was now in his twentieth year, was cousin-german to the queen; and, what perhaps she might admire still more, he was extremely tall. Elizabeth was secretly no way averse to this marriage, as it freed her from the dread of a foreign alliance; but when informed that it was actually concluded and consummated, she pretended to testify the utmost displeasure : she menaced, complained, protested; seized the English estate of the earl of Lenox, and threw the countess and her second son into the Tower. This duplicity of conduct was common enough with Elizabeth; and, on the present occasion, it served her as a pretext for refusing to acknowledge Mary's title to the succession of England, which that princess had frequently urged, but in vain. Notwithstanding Elizabeth's complaints and resentment, Mary resolved to indulge her own inclinations; and, struck with the beauty of Darnley's figure, the match was driven forward with all expedition. Some of the first weeks of their connection seemed to promise a happy union for the rest of their lives. However, it was not without some opposition from the reformers that this marriage was completed. It was agitated, whether the queen could marry without the consent of the people. Some lords rose up in arms to prevent it; but, being pursued by a superior force, they found themselves obliged to abandon their country and take refuge in England. Thus far all was favourable to Mary; and thus far she kept within the bounds of strict virtue. Her enemies were banished, her rival overruled, and A. D. she herself married to the man she loved. 1565. While Mary had been dazzled by the pleasing exterior of her new lover, she had entirely forgotten to examine his mental accomplishments. Darnley was a weak and ignorant man; violent, yet variable in his enterprises; insolent, yet credulous, and easily governed by flatterers; devoid of all gratitude, because he thought no favours equal to his merit; and, being addicted to low pleasures, he was equally incapable of all true sentiments of love and tenderness. Mary, in the first effusions of her fondness, had taken a pleasure in exalting him beyond measure: but, having leisure afterwards to remark his weakness and his vices, she began to convert her admiration into disgust; and Darnley, enraged at her increasing coldness, pointed his vengeance against

« ZurückWeiter »