Abbildungen der Seite

what they seemed to be, immediately took flight in great disorder; while the English, profiting by their panic, took or destroyed about twelve of the enemy's ships. This was a fatal blow to Spain: the duke de Medina Sidonia, being thus driven to the coast of Zealand, held a council of war, in which it was resolved that, as their ammunition began to fail, as their ships had received great damage, and as the duke of Parma had refused to venture his army under their protection, they should return to Spain by sailing round the Orkneys, as the winds were contrary to his passage directly back. Accordingly they proceeded northward, and were followed by the English fleet as far as Flamborough-head, where they were terribly shattered by a storm. Seventeen of the ships, having five thousand men on board, were afterwards cast away upon the Western Isles and the coast of Ireland. Of the whole Armada, three and fifty ships only returned to Spain, in a miserable condition; and the seamen as well as soldiers who remained, only served, by their accounts, to intimidate their countrymen from attempting to renew so dangerous an expedition. . These disasters of the Spanish Armada served only to excite the spirit and courage of the English to attempt invasions in their turn. It would be endless to relate all the advantages obtained over the enemy at sea, where the capture of every ship must have been made a separate narrative; or their various descents upon different parts of the coast, which were attended with effects too transient for the page of history. It is sufficient to observe, that the sea-captains of that reign are still considered as the boldest and most enterprising set of men that England ever produced and among this number we reckon our Raleigh and Howard, our

[ocr errors]

Drake, our Cavendish, and Hawkins. The English navy then began to take the lead, and has since continued irresistible in all parts of the ocean. One of those who made the most signal figure in these depredations upon Spain, was the young earl of Essex, a nobleman of great bravery, generosity, and genius; and fitted, not only for the foremost ranks in war by his valour, but to conduct the intrigues of a court by his eloquence and address. But, with all these endowments both of body and mind, he wanted prudence; being impetuous, haughty, and totally incapable of advice or control. The earl of Leicester had died some time before, and now left room in the queen's affections for a new favourite, which she was not long in choosing, since the merit, the bravery, and the popularity of Essex, were too great not to engage her attention. Elizabeth, though she rejected a husband, yet appeared always passionately desirous of a lover; and flattery had rendered her so insensible to her want of beauty, and the depredations of age, that she still thought herself as powerful by her personal accomplishments as by her authority. The new favourite was young, active, ambitious, witty, and handsome; in the field, and at court, he always appeared with superior lustre. In all the masques which were them performed, he and Elizabeth were generally coupled as partners; and although she was older, by thirtyfour years, than the earl, her vanity overlooked the disparity; the world told her that she was young, and she herself was willing to think so. This young earl's interest in the queen's affections, as may naturally be supposed, promoted his interest in the state; and he conducted all things at his discretion. But, young and inexperienced as he was, he at length began to fancy that the popularity he possessed, and the flatteries he received, were given to his merits and not to his favour. His jealousy also of lord Burleigh, who was his only rival in power, made him still more intractable; and the many successes he had obtained against the Spaniards increased his confidence. In a debate before the queen, between him and Burleigh, about the choice of a governor for Ireland, he was so heated in the argument, that he entirely forgot the rules both of duty and civility. He turned his back on the queen in a contemptuous manner; which so provoked her resentment, that she instantly gave him a box on the ear. Instead of recollecting himself, and making the submissions due to her sex and station, he clapped his hand to his sword, and swore he would not bear such usage even from her father. This offence, though very great, was overlooked by the queen ; her partiality was so prevalent, that she reinstated him in his former favour, and her kindness seemed to have acquired new force from that A.D. short interruption of anger and resentment. 1598. The death also of his rival lord Burleigh, which happened shortly after, seemed to confirm his power.

But though few men were possessed of Essex's talents both for war and peace, yet he had not art enough to guard against the intrigues of a court; his temper was too candid and open, and gave his enemies many advantages over him. At that time the earl of Tyrone headed the rebellious natives of Ireland; who, not yet thoroughly brought into subjection to the English, took every opportunity of making incursions upon the more civilized inhabitants, and slew all they were able to overpower. To subdue these, was an employment that the earl thought worthy of his ambition; nor were his enemies displeased at thus removing a man from court, who obstructed all their private aims of preferment: but it ended in his ruin.

A.D. Essex, upon entering on his new command 1599. in Ireland, employed his friend, the earl of Southampton, who was long obnoxious to the queen, as general of horse; nor was it till after repeated orders from Elizabeth that he could be prevailed on to displace him. This indiscretion was followed by another: instead of attacking the insurgents in their grand retreat in Ulster, he led his forces into the province of Munster, where he only exhausted his strength, and lost his opportunity, against a people that submitted at his approach, but took up arms again when he retired. It may easily be supposed that these miscarriages were urged by the enemies of Essex at home; but they had still greater reason to attack his reputation, when it was known that, instead of humbling the rebels, he had only treated with them, and, instead of forcing them to a submission, had concluded a cessation of hostilities. This issue of an enterprise, from which much was expected, did not fail to provoke the queen most sensibly; and her anger was heightened by the peevish and impatient letters which he wrote to her and the council. But her resentment against him was still more justly let loose, when she found that, leaving the place of his appointment, without any permission demanded or obtained, he had returned from Ireland to make his complaints to herself in person.

At first, indeed, Elizabeth was pleased at seeing a favourite come back whom she longed to see; but the momentary satisfaction of his unexpected appearance being over, she reflected on the impropriety of his conduct with greater severity, and ordered him to remain a prisoner at his own house. This was a reception Essex was not unprepared for: he used every expression of humiliation and sorrow, and tried once more the long-unpractised arts of insinuation that had

brought him into favour. The queen still continuing inflexible, he resolved to give up every prospect of ambition; but previous to his retiring into the country, he assured the queen, that he should never be happy till he again saw those eyes which were used to shine upon him with such lustre; that, in expectance of that happy moment, he would, like another Nebuchadnezzar, dwell with the beasts of the field, and be wet with the dew of heaven, till she again propitiously took pity on his sufferings. This romantic message, which was quite in the breeding of the times, seemed peculiarly pleasing to the queen: she thought him sincere from the consciousness of her own sincerity; she therefore replied, that, after some time, when convinced of his sincerity, something might be expected from her lenity. When these symptoms of her returning affection were known, they equally renewed the fears of his real enemies and the assiduities of his pretended friends. He did not therefore decline an examination of his conduct before the council, secure in his mistress's favour, and their impotence to do him a realinjury. In consequence of this he was only sentenced, for his late misconduct, to resign his employments, and to continue a prisoner in his own house, till her majesty's farther pleasure should be known. He now had in some measure triumphed over A. D. his enemies; and the discretion of a few months 1600. might have reinstated him in all his former employments; but the impetuosity of his character would not suffer him to wait for a slow redress of what he considered as wrongs; and the queen's refusing his request to continue him in the possession of a lucrative monopoly of sweet wines, which he had long enjoyed, spurred him on to the most violent and guilty measures. Having long built with fond credulity on his great poVOL. II. #MI

« ZurückWeiter »