Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

be chosen or valued, that in the pretence of love, though it be for our proper good and service, will act any thing that is base and unworthy; the same, in the least change, will not be squeamish, for a poor advantage to confirm their former practice, though it be to our loss or destruction. Where virtue guides our choice, it begins with truth and honour, ending with a like resplendent glory. No worldly cross, nor height of affliction, lessens the worth and value of such a friend ; who, like a goodly rock, in fury of the greatest storms, makes good his proper station. Mutual correspondency in affections ought to be pure and innocent; if private respects taint the sincerity of the intentions, it makes this traffick rather a commerce than friendship. Opinion of faith is a powerful motive, yet not weighty enough, unless it become as well with real ability, as appearance, the subject of our election.

But, to proceed, the Queen, being in this distressed agony, finds an unexpected refuge. The gracious God of Heaven, who never forsakes those which are his, sends her a comfort when her dying hopes were almost sunk and desperate.

Robert of Artois, a man as truly valiant as noble, was one of the first that, in the French Court, had tendered the Queen his service. He was a wise, grave, and steddy, well resolved gentleman; his first devotion was not led by matter «f form or compliment, but was truly grounded on a true compassion and honour. This brave friend, beholding with a noble eye, the vanity of his fellow-friends and courtiers, and looking into the misery of the queen's forsaken condition, sets up his rest to appear like himscif, a friend in all her fortune, firm and constant. In this resolution, he waits a fitting opportunity to let her see and know it. The time was favourable; he finds her in her melancholy chamber, confused in her restless thoughts, with many sad distractions. She, fancying the occasion of the coming of so great a person was great and weighty, with a silent and attentive ear expects his message.

'Madam,' quoth he,'it is the most excellent part of wisdom, with an equal virtue, to entertain the different kinds of fortune. This world is but a mere composition of troubles, which seems greater or less, as is the. quality of the heart that entertains them. I confess the justice of your grief, and truly share it, but tears and sorrow are not means to relieve or right you. The just heavens assist those that with an active and lively hope invoke their succour. The tenderness of your sex, and former free condition, is yet a stranger to these trials: time will let you know they arc the familiar attendants of our frail structure of flesh and blood, when you will confess it too great a weakness to sink under the burthen of our afflictions. For your own goodness, noble Queen, erect and elevate your thus dejected spirits. Behold, in me, the character of an unworthy, but true friend, that am resolved my life and state shall attend and run with you the self-same fortune. You may no longer make this unthankful climate, the place of your birth, the stage of your abiding; the way is paved with gold to your destruction. Wherefore, if my advice may sway, let speed prevent your danger. The confines of the sacred empire are near adjoining, where are many brave princes, who may happily afford you a succour; at the worst, you may there enjoy a more assured peace and safety. Neither do I presume to direct this course, but lay it humbly before you; offering my faithful service to attend you, to what part soever of the universal world your resolution shall fix on, desiring you to be assured, my life, before my faith, shall perish; for I have vowed myself, and will continue your everlasting servant.'

Infinitely was the Queen rejoiced in this so grave and sincere an expression. She doubles a world of promises and thanks for this so free an offer, and with a secret and wary carriage she speedily provides to begin her thus resolved journey. Though here she saw a far less appearance of hope, when her dearest brother, and her native kingdom had forsaken her, yet she resolves the trial rather than to return without a more assurance. She knew she had too far waded, and incensed her malicious adversaries, to expect a reconciliation, and feared to be mewed up from all hope of future advantage. These considerations made her, with a tad heart and weeping eyes, forsake the fruitful limits of ingrateful France, and betake herself to her last but most uncertain refuge. The condition, that is truly miserable, finds few real friends, but never wants infidelity to increase its sorrow.

Stapleton, Bishop of Exeter, who had fled to the Queen, and made himself a sharer in this weighty action, forsakes her party. He, seeing the French hopes vanished, and these remaining so poorly grounded, thought to work his peace by losing his faith, and, in this conceit, in haste returns for England. His intelligence reconciles and wins him favour, but it was purchased at too dear a rate, that stained the honour of so high a calling, and made him most unworthy of so divine and grave a profession.

By this treachery, the king and Spencers understand both the queen's resolution and weakness. They fear not the German motions, that were a dull sad nation, that seldom used to fight for nothing. Time hath at last brought our royal English pilgrims to the shrine of their devotion. The Earl of Heinault, a man truly noble and virtuous, understanding her arrival within the precincts of his jurisdiction, gives her a free and loving welcome. This bountiful honest earl esteems it his glory to entertain so princely guests like themselves, and to become the patron of their so weak condition. He had a brother that made his arms the honour of his profession, who thinks the estate of this forsaken queen, in justice, deserved a true relief and pity. He tenders her his service; and believes the occasion happily offered, that might leave to ensuing times the memory of his virtue, worth, and valour.

So fair a morning puts the queen in hope, the evening would prove as fortunate. By all those winning graces of a distressed beauty, she strives to confirm, and more engage, this first and fair affection.

The earl, having knowledge of his brother's resolution, thought the attempt too full of hazard, and, with a grave and mild temper, commending the nobility and greatness of his spirit, adviseth him to quit the action; he lays before him the weakness of the foundation; the queen was in want of men and money, and had not such a correspondency in England, as might warrant her against her incensed husband, who was wailed on by so warlike and valiant a nation. He, in like sort, acquaints him, how impossible a thing it was lor him to raise such an army, as might credit the cause, and countenance the beginning; true valour consisting not in daring impossibilities, but exposing itself where reason, judgment, and discretion were the leaders.

Sir John, with a quiet patience, hears his brother's admonitions, which he knew sprung from the freedom of an honest and a loving heart; but he imagined age had robbed his breast and head of all their noble vigour.

"Sir, (quoth he) If you and all the world forsake this noble lady, my single arm shall maintain her quarrel, since I had rather lose my life than my faith, so full and freely engaged. After ages shall not blot the glory of our house, so great and noble, with so inglorious a stain of baseness and infidelity. Such precedents are seldom seen, and ought to be more tenderly regarded. A queen, and the heir apparent of so great a crown, pleading so just a pity, nor may, nor shall be forsaken. If, in the reason of state, you list not to be an actor, reserve yourself, and make not the king of England your enemy. Know, I have both arms and friends; I will pawn them all, rather than, in the least degree, falsify my word and promise."

These words, spoken with such a resolution and fearless bravery, stopped all reply and contradiction. The queen, that had already both a French and an Italian trick, had no less reason here to doubt it. She knew no means would be left unattempted from her domestick spies, to make her once more forsaken. This enforceth her with a more importunity to hasten and advance her enterprise. All the good offices that might spur on the inflamed heart of her brave protector, she makes the handmaids of her female wisdom. But, alas, they needed not her careful agent; they had quickly gotten together a voluntary troop of three hundred well-resolved gallants, that vow themselves to follow him, even into the mouth of the cannon. He stays not to increase his number with a multitude, but believes, if there were an answering correspondency in the English, with these, to over-run the kingdom. Arms, shipping, and all provisions necessary, attend their coming. They, with the glory of their hopes, lead the revived queen a ship-board. Now do they expose themselves to the first trial of their fortune, aiming at Donge Port, to take their hoped possession. The heavens, that favoured their design, out of their present fear, preserve them beyond belief or expectation. Her adversaries had a forerunning knowledge of their intended place of landing, and had there provided to give them a hot and bitter welcome. The raging billows, and the blustering winds, or rather the Divine Providence, after the second day's extremity, brings them a-land safe at Orwel, near Harwich. They were ignorant, being driven to and fro by the violence of the weather, what part of the kingdom they had light on; and were as much distressed with the unshipping of their men and baggage, as with the want of harbour and victuals. Three whole days in disorder and confusion, they make the bleak and yielding sands their habitation, perceiving the vanity of their rash and desperate attempt, which, in the least opposition or encounter, must have wrought their confusion. It was in vain to attend longer here, where they saw so small sign.of better entertainment; this makes them march on with this little weather-beaten troop, to win and conquer a kingdom. St. Hammond's, an abby of black monks, was honoured with the welcome •f their long lost mistress. Here she and her princely son had their firsj' reception and entertainment.

The bruit of this novelty, like a Weleh hubbub, had quickly overtaken the willing ears of the displeased Commons; who, ever desirous of innovation, like bees in swarms, do run to her assistance. The barons, so depressed, and unjustly grieved, with itching ears, attend the news of this advantage. When the tidings of their arrival came to their knowledge, with so liberal a relation, which made her army ten times greater than it was, they lose no time, for fear of some prevention.

Henry of Lancaster was the first, who was seconded by many others of the braver peers of the kingdom. By this means the queen and her adherent strangers lose the depth of that agitation, that till now had kept them doubtful.

The king, that till this time had slumbered out the prologue of this ensuing danger, secure in the belief of the Spencers' strength and providence, in so general a revolt, awakens from his licentious pleasure, and beholds nothing but a grim and fearful face of sorrow. »The council of his cabinet, accompanied with their own guilt, are affrighted in the sad apparitions of their approaching ruin. The time of prevention is lost; their abused confidence had only laboured to shut the gate, but not assured the family. The present necessity admits no long deliberation; this flame was too violent to-be quenched; and such a course is to be taken as may rather assure them time to temporise, than with a stronj hand to strive to repel it.

The city's guard is recommended to Stapleton, that had so unhappily and with so little credit changed his master. The king and the Spencers forsaken, but yet strongly attended with the guilt of so many, and so foul errors, fly to Bristol, a town strong enough, and well provided. Arundel, and the elder Spencer, undertake the defence of the city, while the king, and the others, make the castle their hope and refuge.

The queen being informed that the king had forsaken his royal chamber, and had stolen a flight to Bristol, she soon apprehends, and lays hold of the advantage, addressing a fair but mandatory letter to the mayor, to keep the city, to the use of her, and her son, that was so like to be his sovereign. The inconstant citizens, that ever cleave to the stronger party, are easily persuaded and intreated. Stapleton, that foresaw and feared the danger, summons the mayor to surrender him the keys of the gates for his assurance. Chickwell, that was then lord mayor, incensed with the imperiousness and injustice of this demand, apprehends this inconsiderate bishop, and, without all respect to his place or dignity, makes his head the sacrifice to appease the angry commons. This act had too far engaged him to recoil; he must now wholly adhere to the queen's faction. Four of the gravest and most substantial burghers are sent, to let her truly understand their devotion. They are graciously and lovingly received; the mayor hath thanks for his late bloody act, which was stiled an excellent piece of justice.

This gap thus stopped, with her army she marched to the cage that kept those birds, whose wings she would be clipping. She knew, if she struck not while the iron was hot, the heat of a popular faction would quickly sink and lessen. All the way of ber journey she finds, according to heart's desire, a free and noble welcome. Her troops, like snow balls, in her motion, more and more increasing. When she came before this great and goodly city, she saw it was a strength by art and nature, and did believe it furnished to out-wear a siege of long continur ance, which made both her and her adherents more jealous, and suspect the issue. Where the person of an anointed king was at stake, there could be no assurance. But smiling fortune, that had turned her wheel, resolves this doubt, and makes the action easy. The citizens, that knew not the laws of war or honour, will not expose their lives and goods to the mercy of the strangers, and the hazard of an unruly conquest. They had too much tasted the afflictions of the kingdom to think the quarrel just, or to adventure their protection at so dear a hazard, for those that had been the cause and instrument of so much blood and trouble.

From this consideration, they send an humble message to the queen, and desire as well to capitulate for their commanders, as their own interest. All other conditions are despised and disdained; if they will have grace, they must purchase it with the resignation and delivering up their captains. This doom was esteemed heavy; they would have been glad, that she had her will, but were themselves unwilling to be the actors. But the time no more imparleance admitted, neither could they have a delay or remedy. The queen, that had won so far upon their yielding hearts, knew their condition well enough, and would not give them respite, but calls upon their present answer.

This round and smart summons brings, with one and the same art, Arundel, Spencer, and the city, into her possession. This part of the prey thus gotten, no time is lost to call them to a reckoning. Sir Thomas Wadge, the marshal of the army, recites a short calendar of their large offences, when, by a general consent, they are approved guilty, and, without judge, or other jury, they are sentenced to be drawn and hanged, and their bodies to remain upon the gibbet. The rigour of this doom, Spencer, the father, feels, that was ninety years old, and could not long have lived by the course of nature.

The castle-walls, and the eyes of the king, and his unhappy son, were witnesses of this sad spectacle and his disaster. This preeludium gives them the sense of their ensuing story, which, with a world of melancholy thoughts, they study to prevent or alter. A despairing resolution at length wins them to a desperate hazard. While the queen was labouring to surprise their fortress, which was like too long to hold good, if some stratagem were not found to get it; there were no citizens to betray them; it needed not, themselves were soon the actors. They steal into a small bark, that rode within the harbour, hoping by this means, to make an escape undiscovered; they find the merciless waves and winds a like cruel. Twice had they gained St. Vincent's Rock, but, from that reach, were hurried back, with sudden gusts and tempests. The often going off and return of this unguided pinnace, begets a shrewd suspicion. At length she is surprised; and in her bulk is found that treasure that ends the war, and gave the work perfection.

The king is comforted with the smooth language of those which had the honour to take him; and believes the title of a king, father, and husband, would preserve his life, if not his sovereignty.

« ZurückWeiter »