Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Philip II. paid his royal sister-in-law the respect of sending a formal announcement of the death of the emperor Charles V., his father, to her by ono of his officers of state. Elizabeth, in return, magnanimously overlooking the personal and political enmity with which the deceased prince had ever pursued her, offered the following high meed of praise to his great qualities, in a discreet letter of condolence which she addressed to Philip on this occasion. After thanking the latter for the mark of attention with which he had been pleased to honour her, complimenting him on his military successes, and acknowledging herself infinitely beholden to him for many graces and favours, she says,

“ The happiness I enjoy in being so nearly allied to you, no less than my veneration and esteem for your majesty's signal merit, together with my obligations to you, touch me too sensibly not to make me sympathize with you in your grief for the loss of your illustrious father, but since it behoves me to offer some consolation to you in this your affliction, I cannot do it better than by beseeching you to call to mind that your renowned father thought death 80 great happiness, that he wished to die to the world before he left the world. And it is certain, that as his life has been a compendium of greatness, so also will his death be held in honour to all generations. We ought not to mourn the emperor Charles, your father, as one dead, but rather to regard him as one who shall survive through all future ages; for though his body may be reduced to dust, his name, which is imperishable, can never die. I am employing myself at this time in reading the history of his wars, and his singularly great achievements, his courage and virtue; that so, by considering the glorious memorials of the father, I may redouble the veneration and esteem in which I hold the son." This letter, which is dated October 19th, 1558, was probably very agreeable to him whom it was designed to propitiate, for he sent the count de Feria with a letter to his dying consort, queen Mary, requesting her to declare Elizabeth her successor. The count arrived Nov. 9th, and found that the queen had anticipated Philip's desire by her previous appointment of her sister, from whom, however, she exacted a profession of her adherence to the church of Rome. Elizabeth complained “that the queen should doubt the sincerity of her faith ;" and, if we may credit the countess de Feria, added, “that she prayed God that the earth might open and swallow her alive, if she were not a true Roman-catholic.” Although Elizabeth

· Leti, Vita di Elisabetta. It is much to be regretted that Leti did not print the original document as well as his Italian version.

2 MS. Life of the Countess de Feria, p. 156. Lingard.

never scrupled throughout her life to sacrifice truth to expediency, it is difficult to believe that any one could utter so awful a perjury. Count de Feria wrote to Philip II. the day before queen Mary's death, “that the princess Elizabeth had told him that she acknowledged the real presence in the sacrament.” She likewise assured the lord Lamae of her sincerity in this belief, and added, “that she did now and then pray to the Virgin Mary.”

Edwin Sandys, in a letter to Bullinger, gives a very different report of the communication which passed between the royal sisters. "Mary, not long before her death,” says he, “sent two members of her council to her sister Elizabeth, and commanded them to let her know that it was her intention to bequeath to her the royal crown, together with the dignity that she was then in possession of by right of inheritance. In return, however, for this great favour conferred upon her, she required of her three things: first, that she would not change her privy council ;' secondly, that she would make no alteration in religion ;' and thirdly, that she would discharge her debts, and satisfy her creditors.' Elizabeth replied in these terms: 'I am very sorry to hear of the queen's illness, but there is no reason why I should thank her for her intention of giving me the crown of this realm, for she has neither the power of bestowing it upon me, nor can I lawfully be deprived of it, since it is my peculiar and hereditary right. With respect to the council, I think myself as much at liberty to choose my councillors as she was to choose hers. As to religion, I promise thus much, that I will not change it, provided only that it can be proved by the word of God, which shall be the only foundation and rule of my religion. Lastly, in requiring the payment of her debts, she seems to me to require nothing more than what is just, and I will take care that they shall be paid as far as may lie in my power."

Such is the contradictory evidence given by two contemporaries, one of whom, Jane Dormer, afterwards countess de Feria, certainly had the surest means of information as to the · Zurich Letters ; published by the Parker Society.

· Ibid. VOL. IV.

[ocr errors]

real state of the case, as she was one of the most trusted of queen Mary's ladies in waiting; and her subsequent marriage with the Spanish ambassador, the count de Feria, tended to enlighten her still more on the transactions between the dying queen and the princess. Dr. Sandys was not in England at the time, and merely quotes the statement of a nameless correspondent as to the affairs of England. The lofty tone of Elizabeth's reply suited not the deep dissimulation of her character, and appears inconsistent with the fact that she was at that time, in all outward observances, a member of the church of Rome. She continued to attend the mass, and all other Catholic observances, for several weeks after her sister's death, till she had clearly ascertained that the Protestant party was the most numerous, and likely to obtain the ascendancy. If, therefore, she judged that degree of caution necessary after the sovereign authority was in her own hands, was it likely that she would declare her opinion while the Catholics who surrounded the dying bed of Mary were exercising the whole power of the crown? Her answer was probably comprised in language sufficiently mystified to conceal her real intentions from Mary and her councillors.

On the 10th of November count de Feria, in obedience to the directions of his royal master, went to pay his compliments to the princess, and to offer her the assurances of don Philip's friendship and good-will. Elizabeth was then at the house of lord Clinton, about thirteen miles from London. There Feria sought and obtained an interview with her, which forms an important episode in the early personal annals of this great sovereign. The particulars are related by De Feria himself, in a confidential letter to Philip. He says “the princess received him well, though not so cordially as on former occasions.” He supped with her and lady Clinton, and after supper opened the discourse, according to the instructions he had received from the king his master. The princess had three of lier ladies in attendance, but she told the count “they understood no other language than English, so he might speak before them.” He replied, “that he should be well pleased if the whole world heard what he had to say.” Elizabeth expressed herself as much gratified by the count's visit, and the obliging message he had brought from his sovereign, of whom she spoke in friendly terms, and acknowledged that she had been under some obligations to him when she was in prison; but when the count endeavoured to persuade her that she was indebted for the recognition of her right to the royal succession neither to queen Mary nor her council, but solely to don Philip, she exhibited some degree of incredulity. In the same conference, Elizabeth complained “that she had never been given more than 30001. of maintenance, and that she knew the king had received large sums of money.” The count contradicted this, because he knew it to be a fact that queen Mary had once given her 70001. and some jewels of great value, to relieve her from debts in which she had involved herself, in consequence of indulging in some expensive entertainments in the way of ballets. She observed, “that Philip had tried hard to induce her to enter into a matrimonial alliance with the duke of Savoy, but that she knew how much favour the queen had lost by marrying a foreigner.”2 De Feria proceeds to communicate his own opinion of the princess. “It appears to me,” says he, 3 “ that she is a woman of extreme vanity, but acute. She seems greatly to admire her father's system of government. I fear much that in religion she will not go right, as she seems inclined to favour men who are supposed to be heretics, and they tell me the ladies who are about her are all so. She appears highly indignant at the things that have been done against her during her sister's reign. She is much attached to the people, and is very confident that they are all on her side, (which is indeed true); in fact, she says it is they that have placed her in the position she at present holds,' as the declared successor to the crown.” On this point, Elizabeth, with great spirit, refused to acknowledge that she was under any obligation either to the king of Spain, his council, or even to the nobles of England, though she said “that they

i Archives of Simança.

IA general term for income.
· Letter of count de Feria to Philip II., in the archives of Simanca.
• Reports of the Conde di Feria, from Gonzales, pp. 254, 255.

[ocr errors]

first,

had all pledged themselves to remain faithful to her. ... Indeed,” concludes the count, “there is not a heretic or traitor in all the realm who has not started, as if from the grave, to seek her, and offer her their homage.

Two or three days before her death, queen Mary sent the countess de Feria to deliver the crown jewels to Elizabeth, together with her dying requests to that princess,that she would be good to her servants; secondly, that she would

repay the sums of money that had been lent on privy seals; and, lastly, that she would continue the church as she had re-established it.” Philip had directed his envoy to add to these jewels a valuable casket of coloured gems belonging to himself, which he had left at Whitehall, and which Elizabeth had always greatly admired. In memory of the various civilities this monarch had shown to Elizabeth, she always kept his portrait in her bedchamber, even after they became deadly political foes. During the last few days of Mary's life, Hatfield became the resort of the time-serving courtiers, who worshipped Elizabeth as the rising sun. The count de Feria predicted that Cecil would be her principal secretary. She did not conceal her dislike of her kinsman, cardinal Pole, then on his death-bed. “He had never,” she said, “paid her any attention, and had caused her great annoyance.” There is, in Leti, a long controversial dialogue between Elizabeth and him, in which the princess appears to have the best of the argument; but, however widely he might differ with her on theological subjects, he always treated her with the respect due to her elevated rank, and opposed the murderous policy of her determined foe, Gardiner. He wrote to her in his last illness, requesting her “to give credit to what the dean of Worcester could say in his behalf, not doubting but his explanations would be satisfactory;" but her pleasure or displeasure was of little moment to him in that hour, for the sands in the waning glass of life ebbed with him scarcely less quickly than with his departing sovereign and friend, queen Mary, whom he survived but one day. Reports of the death of Mary were certainly circulated

1 MS. Life of the Countess de Feria. Lingard.

« AnteriorContinuar »