“Queen Elizabeth never saw herself after she became old in a true glass; they painted her, and sometymes would vermillion her nose. She had allwayes about Christmass evens set dice that threw sixes or five, and she knew not they were other, to make her win and esteame herself fortunate. That she had a membrana on her, which made her uncapable of man, though for her delight she tried many. At the comming over of Monsieur, there was a French Chirurgion who took in hand to cut it, yett fear stayed her, and his death.”
It was a subject which again intrigued Clemens when he was abroad with W. H. Fisher, whom Mark employed to “nose up” everything pertaining to Queen Elizabeth’s manly character.
“’Boccaccio hath A story”
The author does not pay any great compliment to Raleigh’s memory here. There is no such tale in all Boccaccio. The nearest related incident forms the subject matter of Dineo’s novel (the fourth) of the First day of the Decameron.
The incident referred to appears to be Sir Nicholas Throgmorton’s trial for complicity in the attempt to make Lady Jane Grey Queen of England, a charge of which he was acquitted. This so angered Queen Mary that she imprisoned him in the Tower, and fined the jurors from one to two thousand pounds each. Her action terrified succeeding juries, so that Sir Nicholas’s brother was condemned on no stronger evidence than that which had failed to prevail before. While Sir Nicholas’s defense may have been brilliant, it must be admitted that the evidence was weak. He was later released from the Tower, and under Elizabeth was one of a group of commissioners sent by that princess into Scotland, to foment trouble with Mary, Queen of Scots. When the attempt became known, Elizabeth repudiated the acts of her agents, but Sir Nicholas, having anticipated this possibility, had sufficient foresight to secure endorsement of his plan by the Council, and so outwitted Elizabeth, who was playing a two-faced role, and Cecil, one of the greatest statesmen who ever held the post of principal minister. Perhaps it was this incident to which the company referred, which might in part explain Elizabeth’s rejoinder. However, he had been restored to confidence ere this, and had served as ambassador to France.
“To save his doter’s maidenhedde”
Elizabeth Throckmorton (or Throgmorton), daughter of Sir Nicholas, was one of Elizabeth’s maids of honor. When it was learned that she had been debauched by Raleigh, Sir Walter was recalled from his command at sea by the Queen, and compelled to marry the girl. This was not “in that olde daie,” as the text has it, for it happened only eight years before the date of this purported “conversation,” when Elizabeth was sixty years old.