Page images

ving his enemies from the queen's presence, to reinstate himself in favour and in power. But, upon more mature thoughts, he abandoned this rash design, and, setting sail with a few officers devoted to his person, landed in England, and posted directly to court. Elizabeth received him without any symptom either of affection or of displeasure. By proper compliances and acknowledgments, he might have regained his former ascendant over the queen. But he thought himself too deeply injured to submit to these. Elizabeth, on the other hand, determined to subdue his haughty temper; and though her severity drew from him the most humble letters, she confined him to the lord keeper's house, and appointed commissioners to try him, both for his conduct during his government of Ireland, and for leaving that kingdom without her permission. By their sentence, he was suspended from all his offices, except that of master of the horse, and continued a prisoner during the queen's pleasure. Satisfied with having mortified his pride thus far, Elizabeth did not suffer the sentence to be recorded, and soon after allowed him to retire to his own house. During these transactions, which occupied several months, Essex fluctuated between the allegiance he owed to his sovereign, and the desire of revenge; and sometimes leaned to the one, and sometimes to the other. In one of the intervals when the latter prevailed, he sent a messenger into Scotland, to encourage the king to assert his own right to the succession by force of arms, and to promise that, besides the assistance of the earl and all his friends in England, lord Mountjoy, now lord-lieutenant of Ireland, would join him with five thousand men from that kingdom. But James did not choose to hazard the losing a kingdom, which was just ready to fall into his hands, by a premature attempt to seize it. Mountjoy, too, declined

the enterprise, and Essex adopted more dutiful schemes; all thoughts of ambition appearing to be totally effaced out of his mind.


This moderation, which was merely the effect of disgust and disappointment, was not of long continuance; and the queen, having not only refused to renew a lucrative grant which she had formerly bestowed, but even to admit him into her presence, that new injury drove a temper naturally impatient, and now much fretted, to absolute despair. His friends, instead of soothing his rage or restraining his impetuosity, added to both by their imprudent and interested zeal. After many anxious consultations, he determined to attempt to redress his wrongs by violence. But conscious how unpopular such an enterprise would be, if it appeared to proceed from motives of private revenge alone, he endeavoured to give it the semblance of public utility, by mingling the king of Scotland's interest with his He wrote to James, that the faction which now predominated in the English court had resolved to support the pretensions of the infanta of Spain to the crown; that the places of the greatest importance in the kingdom were put into the hands of his avowed enemies; and that unless he sent ambassadors, without delay, to insist on the immediate declaration of his right of succession, their measures were so well concerted, that all his hopes would be desperate. James, who knew how disagreeable such a proposal would be to the queen of England, was not willing_rashly to expose himself to her displeasure. But Essex, blinded by resentment, impatient for revenge, abandoned himself to these passions, and acted like a man guided by frenzy and despair. With two or three hundred followers incompletely armed, he attempted to assault a throne the best established in Europe. Sallying at their head out of his own house, he called

[ocr errors]

on the citizens of London, if they either valued his life, or wished to preserve the kingdom from the dominion of the Spaniards, to take arms, and to follow his standard. He, advanced towards the palace with an intention to drive Cecil and his faction out of the queen's presence, and to obtain a declaration of the Scottish king's right of succession. But, though almost adored by the citizens, not a man would join him in this wild enterprise. Dispirited by their indifference, deserted by some of his own attendants, and almost surrounded by the troops which marched against him under different leaders into the city, he retreated to his own house; and without any bold effort, suitable to his present condition, or worthy of his former reputation for courage, he surrendered to his enemies.

As soon as James heard of Essex's ill success, he appointed the earl of Mar, and Bruce, abbot of Kinloss, to repair as his ambassadors to the court of England. The former of these was the person by whose means Essex had carried on his correspondence with the king. He was a passionate admirer of the earl's character, and disposed to attempt every thing that might contribute to his safety. Bruce, united in a close friendship with Mar, was ready to second him with equal zeal. Nor was the purpose of the embassy less friendly to Essex, than the choice of his ambassadors; they were commanded to solicit, in the warmest manner, for the earl's life, and if they found that the king, by avowing his friends, could either promote their designs, or contribute to their safety, they were empowered to lay aside all disguise, and to promise that he would put himself at their head, and claim what was due to him by force of arms. But before the ambassadors could reach London, Essex had suffered the punishment which he merited by his

treason. Perhaps the fear of their interposing, in order to obtain his pardon, hastened his death. Elizabeth continued, for some time, irresolute concerning his fate, and could not bring herself to consign into the hands of the executioner, a man who had once possessed her favour so entirely, without a painful struggle between her resentment against his late misconduct, and her ancient affection towards him. The distress to which he was now reduced, tended naturally to soften the former, while it revived the latter with new tenderness; and the intercession of one faithful friend, who had interest with the queen, might perhaps have saved his life, and procured him a remission, which, of herself, she was ashamed to grant. But this generous nobleman had at that time no such friend. Elizabeth, solicited incessantly by her ministers, and offended with the haughtiness of Essex, who, as she imagined, scorned to sue for pardon, at last commanded the sentence to be put in execution. No sooner was the blow struck, than she repented of her own rashness, and bewailed his death with the deepest sorrow. James always considered him as one who had fallen a martyr to his service, and, after his accession to the English throne, restored his son to his honours, as well as his associates in the conspiracy, and distinguished them with his favour.


Few ever swayed a sceptre with greater popularity, prudence, and policy, than queen Elizabeth. She discovered great wisdom in her government, and in her transactions with foreign powers. In Scotland, her commands were often of greater authority than those of its own rulers; and by en

deavouring to balance the strength of the different factions contending for power, sometimes with great promises, and at other times with men and money, she kept them so employed in their own quarrels, that during her whole reign she had little to fear from that quarter. The duplicity of her conduct, in many instances, was unworthy of her station; and her treatment of the unfortunate Mary, will leave a lasting stain upon her character. But minutely to trace the progress of Elizabeth's policy towards Scotland, during a reign of nearly fortysix years, would far exceed the limits of this work; we shall therefore in this place transcribe only the account of her last illness and character, as drawn by Dr. Robertson.

After having long enjoyed a good state of health, the effect of a sound constitution, and the reward of uncommon regularity and temperance, Elizabeth began, this winter, (1603,) to feel her vigour decrease, and to be sensible of the infirmities of old age. Having removed on a very stormy day from Westminster to Richmond, whither she was impatient to retire, her complaints increased. She had no formed fever; her pulse was good; but she ate little, and could not sleep. Her distemper seemed to proceed from a deep melancholy, which appeared both in her countenance and behaviour. She delighted in solitude; she sat constantly in the dark; and was often drowned in tears.

No sooner was the queen's indisposition known, than persons of all ranks, and of all different sects and parties, redoubled their applications to the king of Scots, and vied with each other in professions of attachment to his person, and in promises of submission to his government. Even some of her own servants, weary of the length of her reign, fond of novelty, impatient to get rid of the burden of gratitude for past benefits, and expecting to share in the

« PreviousContinue »