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|Table of Contents|
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|Title: History of the United Netherlands, 1587||1|
|MOTLEY’S HISTORY OF THE NETHERLANDS, Project Gutenberg Edition, Vol. 52||1|
|ETEXT EDITOR’S BOOKMARKS:||45|
|Information about Project Gutenberg (one page)||46|
Author: John Lothrop Motley
Release Date: January, 2004 [EBook #4852] [Yes, we are more than one year ahead of schedule] [This file was first posted on April 5, 2002]
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*** Start of the project gutenberg EBOOK history united Netherlands, 1587 ***
This eBook was produced by David Widger firstname.lastname@example.org
[Note: There is a short list of bookmarks, or pointers, at the end of the file for those who may wish to sample the author’s ideas before making an entire meal of them. D.W.]
HISTORY OF THE UNITED NETHERLANDS From the Death of William the Silent to the Twelve Year’s Truce—1609
By John Lothrop Motley
History of the United Netherlands, 1587
Leicester in England—Trial of the Queen of Scots—Fearful Perplexity at the English Court—Infatuation and Obstinacy of the Queen—Netherland Envoys in England—Queen’s bitter Invective against them—Amazement of the Envoys—They consult with her chief Councillors—Remarks of Burghley and Davison—Fourth of February Letter from the States—Its severe Language towards Leicester— Painful Position of the Envoys at Court—Queen’s Parsimony towards Leicester.
The scene shifts, for a brief interval, to England. Leicester had reached the court late in November. Those “blessed beams,” under whose shade he was wont to find so much “refreshment and nutrition,” had again fallen with full radiance upon him. “Never since I was born,” said he, “did I receive a more gracious welcome.”—[Leicester to ’Wilkes, 4 Dec. 1587. (S. P. Office Ms)]—Alas, there was not so much benignity for the starving English soldiers, nor for the Provinces, which were fast growing desperate; but although their cause was so intimately connected with the “great cause,” which then occupied Elizabeth, almost to the exclusion of other matter, it was, perhaps, not wonderful, although unfortunate, that for a time the Netherlands should be neglected.
The “daughter of debate” had at last brought herself, it was supposed, within the letter of the law, and now began those odious scenes of hypocrisy on the part of Elizabeth, that frightful comedy—more melancholy even than the solemn tragedy which it preceded and followed— which must ever remain the darkest passage in the history of the Queen.
It is unnecessary, in these pages, to make more than a passing allusion to the condemnation and death of the Queen of Scots. Who doubts her participation in the Babington conspiracy? Who doubts that she was the centre of one endless conspiracy by Spain and Rome against the throne and life of Elizabeth? Who doubts that her long imprisonment in England was a violation of all law, all justice, all humanity? Who doubts that the fineing, whipping, torturing, hanging, embowelling of men, women, and children, guilty of no other crime than adhesion to the Catholic faith, had assisted the Pope and Philip, and their band of English, Scotch, and Irish conspirators, to shake Elizabeth’s throne and endanger her life? Who doubts that; had the English sovereign been capable of conceiving the great thought of religious toleration, her reign would have been more glorious than, it was, the cause of Protestantism and freedom more triumphant, the name of Elizabeth Tudor dearer to human hearts? Who doubts that there were many enlightened and noble spirits among her Protestant subjects who lifted up their voices, over and over again, in parliament and out of it, to denounce that wicked persecution exercised upon their innocent Catholic brethren, which was fast converting loyal Englishmen, against their will, into traitors and conspirators? Yet who doubts that it would have required, at exactly that moment, and in the midst of that crisis; more elevation of soul than could fairly be predicated of any individual, for Elizabeth in 1587 to pardon Mary, or to relax in the severity of her legislation towards English Papists?
Yet, although a display of sublime virtue, such as the world has rarely seen, was not to be expected, it was reasonable to look for honest and royal dealing, from a great sovereign, brought at last face to face with a great event. The “great cause” demanded, a great, straightforward blow. It was obvious, however, that it would be difficult, in the midst of the tragedy and the comedy, for the Netherland business to come fairly before her Majesty. “Touching the Low Country causes,” said Leicester; “very little is done yet, by reason of the continued business we have had about the Queen of Scots’ matters. All the speech I have had with her Majesty hitherto touching those causes hath been but private.”— [Leicester to Wilkes, 4 Des 1586. (S. P. Office Ms.)]—Walsingham, longing for retirement, not only on account of his infinite grief for the death of Sir Philip Sidney, “which hath been the cause;” he said, “that I have ever since betaken myself into solitariness, and withdrawn; from public affairs,” but also by reason of the perverseness an difficulty manifested in the gravest affairs by the sovereign he so faithfully served, sent information, that, notwithstanding the arrival of some of the States’ deputies, Leicester was persuading her Majesty to proceed first in the great cause. “Certain principal persons,
And so the cause went slowly on to its thorough ending. And when “no other way” could be thought of but to take Mary’s life, and when “no other way of taking that life could be devised,” at Elizabeth’s suggestion, except by public execution, when none of the gentlemen “of the association,” nor Paulet, nor Drury—how skilfully soever their “pulses had been felt” by Elizabeth’s command—would commit assassination to serve a Queen who was capable of punishing them afterwards for the murder, the great cause came to its inevitable conclusion, and Mary Stuart was executed by command of Elizabeth Tudor. The world may continue to differ as to the necessity of the execution but it has long since pronounced a unanimous verdict as to the respective display of royal dignity by the two Queens upon that great occasion.
During this interval the Netherland matter, almost as vital to England as the execution of Mary, was comparatively neglected. It was not absolutely in abeyance, but the condition of the Queen’s mind coloured every state-affair with its tragic hues. Elizabeth, harassed, anxious, dreaming dreams, and enacting a horrible masquerade, was in the worst possible temper to be approached by the envoys. She was furious with the Netherlanders for having maltreated her favourite. She was still more furious because their war was costing so much money. Her disposition became so uncertain, her temper so ungovernable, as to drive her counsellors to their wit’s ends. Burghley confessed himself “weary of his miserable life,” and protested “that the only desire he had in the world was to be delivered from the ungrateful burthen of service, which her Majesty laid upon him so very heavily.” Walsingham wished himself “well established in Basle.” The Queen set them all together by the ears. She wrangled spitefully over the sum-totals from the Netherlands; she worried Leicester, she scolded Burghley for defending Leicester, and Leicester abused Burghley for taking part against him.
The Lord-Treasurer, overcome with “grief which pierced both his body and his heart,” battled his way—as best he could—through the throng of dangers which beset the path of England in that great crisis. It was most obvious to every statesman in the realm that this was not the time— when the gauntlet had been thrown full in the face of Philip and Sixtus and all Catholicism, by the condemnation of Mary—to leave the Netherland cause “at random,” and these outer bulwarks of her own kingdom insufficiently protected.
“Your Majesty will hear,” wrote Parma to Philip, “of the disastrous, lamentable, and pitiful end of the, poor Queen of Scots. Although for her it will be immortal glory, and she will be placed among the number of the many martyrs whose blood has been shed in the kingdom of England, and be crowned in Heaven with a diadem more precious than the one she wore on earth, nevertheless one cannot repress one’s natural emotions. I believe firmly that this cruel deed will be the concluding crime of the many which that Englishwoman has committed, and that our Lord will be pleased that she shall at last receive the chastisement which she has these many long years deserved, and which has been reserved till now, for her greater ruin and confusion.”—[Parma to Philip IL, 22 March. 1587. (Arch. de Simancas, Ms.)]—And with this, the Duke proceeded to discuss the all important and rapidly-preparing invasion of England. Farnese was not the man to be deceived by the affected reluctance of Elizabeth before Mary’s scaffold, although he was soon to show that he was himself a master in the science of grimace. For Elizabeth—more than ever disposed to be friends with Spain and Rome, now that war to the knife was made inevitable—was wistfully regarding that trap of negotiation, against which all her best friends were endeavouring to warn her. She was more ill-natured than ever to the Provinces, she turned her back upon the Warnese, she affronted Henry III. by affecting to believe in the fable of his envoy’s complicity in the Stafford conspiracy against her life.
“I pray God to open her eyes,” said Walsingham, “to see the evident peril of the course she now holdeth . . . . If it had pleased her to have followed the advice given her touching the French ambassador, our ships had been released . . . . but she has taken a very strange course by writing a very sharp letter unto the French King, which I fear will cause him to give ear to those of the League, and make himself a party with them, seeing so little regard had to him here. Your Lordship may see that our courage doth greatly increase, for that we make no difficulty to fall out with all the world . . . . . I never saw her worse affected to the poor King of Navarre, and yet doth she seek in no sort to yield contentment to the French King. If to offend all the world;” repeated the Secretary bitterly, “be it good cause of government, then can we not do amiss . . . . . I never found her less disposed to take a course of prevention of the approaching mischiefs toward this realm than at this present. And to be plain with you, there is none here that hath either credit or courage to deal effectually with her in any of her great causes.”
Thus distracted by doubts and dangers, at war with her best friends, with herself, and with all-the world, was Elizabeth during the dark days and months which, preceded and followed the execution of the Scottish Queen. If the great fight was at last to be fought triumphantly through, it was obvious that England was to depend upon Englishmen of all ranks and classes, upon her prudent and far-seeing statesmen, upon her nobles and her adventurers, on her Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Norman blood ever mounting against, oppression, on Howard and Essex, Drake and Williams, Norris, and Willoughby, upon high-born magnates, plebeian captains, London merchants, upon yeomen whose limbs were made in England, and upon Hollanders and Zeelanders whose fearless mariners were to swarm to the protection of her coasts, quite as much in that year of anxious expectation as upon the great Queen herself. Unquestionable as were her mental capacity and her more than woman’s courage, when fairly, brought face, to face with the danger, it was fortunately not on one man or woman’s brain and arm that England’s salvation depended in that crisis of her fate.
As to the Provinces, no one ventured to speak very boldly in their defence. “When I lay before her the peril,” said Walsingham, “she scorneth at it. The hope of a peace with Spain has put her into a most dangerous security.” Nor would any man now assume responsibility. The fate of Davison—of the man who had already in so detestable a manner been made the scape-goat for Leicester’s sins in the Netherlands, and who had now been so barbarously sacrificed by the Queen for faithfully obeying her orders in regard to the death-warrant, had sickened all courtiers and counsellors for the time. “The late severe, dealing used by her Highness towards Mr. Secretary Davison,” said Walsingham to Wilkes, “maketh us very circumspect and careful not to proceed in anything but wherein we receive direction from herself, and therefore you must not find it strange if we now be more sparing than heretofore hath been accustomed.”
Such being the portentous state of the political atmosphere, and such the stormy condition of the royal mind, it may be supposed that the interviews of the Netherland envoys with her Majesty during this period were not likely to be genial. Exactly at the most gloomy moment— thirteen days before the execution of Mary—they came first into Elizabeth’s presence at Greenwich.
The envoys were five in number, all of them experienced and able statesmen—Zuylen van Nyvelt, Joos de Menyn, Nicasius de Silla, Jacob Valck, and Vitus van Kammings. The Queen was in the privy council-chamber, attended by the admiral of England, Lord Thomas Howard, Lord Hunsdon, great-chamberlain, Sir Christopher Hatton, vice-chamberlain, Secretary Davison, and many other persons of distinction.
The letters of credence were duly presented, but it was obvious from the beginning of the interview that the Queen was ill-disposed toward the deputies, and had not only been misinformed as to matters of fact, but as to the state of feeling of the Netherlanders and of the States-General towards herself.
Menyu, however, who was an orator by profession—being pensionary of Dort—made, in the name of his colleagues, a brief but pregnant speech, to which the Queen listened attentively, although, with frequent indications of anger and impatience. He commenced by observing that the United Provinces still entertained the hope that her Majesty would conclude, upon further thoughts, to accept the sovereignty over them, with reasonable conditions; but the most important passages of his address were those relating to the cost of the war. “Besides our stipulated contributions,” said the pensionary, “of 200,000 florins the month, we have furnished 500,000 as an extraordinary grant; making for the year 2,900,000 florins, and this over and above the particular and special expenditures of the Provinces, and other sums for military purposes. We confess, Madam, that the succour of your Majesty is a truly royal one, and that there have been few princes in history who have given such assistance to their neighbours unjustly oppressed. It is certain that by means of that help, joined with the forces of the United Provinces, the Earl of Leicester has been able to arrest the course of the Duke of Parma’s victories and to counteract his designs. Nevertheless, it appears, Madam, that these forces have not been sufficient to drive the enemy out of the country. We are obliged, for regular garrison work and defence of cities, to keep; up an army of at least 27,000 foot and 3500 horse. Of this number your Majesty pays 5000 foot and 1000 horse, and we are now commissioned, Madam, humbly to request an increase of your regular succour during the war to 10,000 foot and 2000 horse. We also implore the loan of L60,000 sterling, in order to assist us in maintaining for the coming season a sufficient force in the field.”
Such, in brief, was the oration of pensionary Menyn, delivered in the French language. He had scarcely concluded, when the Queen—evidently in a great passion—rose to her feet, and without any hesitation, replied in a strain of vehement eloquence in the same tongue.
“Now I am not deceived, gentlemen,” she said, “and that which I have been fearing has occurred. Our common adage, which we have in England, is a very good one. When one fears that an evil is coming, the sooner it arrives the better. Here is a quarter of a year that I have been expecting you, and certainly for the great benefit I have conferred on you, you have exhibited a great ingratitude, and I consider myself very ill treated by you. ’Tis very strange that you should begin by soliciting still greater succour without rendering me any satisfaction for your past actions, which have been so extraordinary, that I swear by the living God I think it impossible to find peoples or states more ungrateful or ill-advised than yourselves.
“I have sent you this year fifteen, sixteen, aye seventeen or eighteen thousand men. You have left them without payment, you have let some of them die of hunger, driven others to such desperation that they have deserted to the enemy. Is it not mortifying for the English nation and a great shame for you that Englishmen should say that they have found more courtesy from Spaniards than from Netherlanders? Truly, I tell you frankly that I will never endure such indignities. Rather will I act according to my will, and you may do exactly, as you think best.
“If I chose, I could do something very good without you, although some persons are so fond of saying that it was quite necessary for the Queen of England to do what she does for her own protection. No, no! Disabuse yourselves of that impression. These are but false persuasions. Believe boldly that I can play an excellent game without your assistance, and a better one than I ever did with it! Nevertheless, I do not choose to do that, nor do I wish you so much harm. But likewise do I not choose that you should hold such language to me. It is true that I should not wish the Spaniard so near me if he should be my enemy. But why should I not live in peace, if we were to be friends to each other? At the commencement of my reign we lived honourably together, the King of Spain and I, and he even asked me to, marry him, and, after that, we lived a long time very peacefully, without any attempt having been made against my life. If we both choose, we can continue so to do.
“On the other hand, I sent you the Earl of Leicester, as lieutenant of my forces, and my intention was that he should have exact knowledge of your finances and contributions. But, on the contrary, he has never known anything about them, and you have handled them in your own manner and amongst yourselves. You have given him the title of governor, in order, under this name, to cast all your evils on his head. That title he accepted against my will, by doing which he ran the risk of losing his life, and his estates, and the grace and favour of his Princess, which was more important to him than all. But he did it in order to maintain your tottering state. And what authority, I pray you, have you given him? A shadowy authority, a purely imaginary one. This is but mockery. He is, at any rate, a gentleman, a man of honour and of counsel. You had no right to treat him thus. If I had accepted the title which you wished to give me, by the living God, I would not have suffered you so to treat me.
“But you are so badly advised that when there is a man of worth who discovers your tricks you wish him ill, and make an outcry against him; and yet some of you, in order to save your money, and others in the hope of bribes, have been favouring the Spaniard, and doing very wicked work. No, believe me that God will punish those who for so great a benefit wish to return me so much evil. Believe, boldly too,
“You are States, to be sure, but private individuals in regard to princes. Certainly, I would never choose to do anything without your knowledge, and I would never allow the authority which you have among yourselves, nor your privileges, nor your statutes, to be infringed. Nor will I allow you to be perturbed in your consciences. What then would you more of me? You have issued a proclamation in your country that no one is to talk of peace. Very well, very good. But permit princes likewise to do as they shall think best for the security of their state, provided it does you no injury. Among us princes we are not wont to make such long orations as you do, but you ought to be content with the few words that we bestow upon you, and make yourself quiet thereby.
“If I ever do anything for you again, I choose to be treated more honourably. I shall therefore appoint some personages of my council to communicate with you. And in the first place I choose to hear and see for myself what has taken place already, and have satisfaction about that, before I make any reply to what you have said to me as to greater assistance. And so I will leave you to-day, without troubling you further.”
With this her Majesty swept from the apartment, leaving the deputies somewhat astounded at the fierce but adroit manner in which the tables had for a moment been turned upon them.
It was certainly a most unexpected blow, this charge of the States having left the English soldiers—whose numbers the Queen had so suddenly multiplied by three—unpaid and unfed. Those Englishmen who, as individuals, had entered the States’ service, had been—like all the other troops regularly paid. This distinctly appeared from the statements of her own counsellors and generals. On the other hand, the Queen’s contingent, now dwindled to about half their original number, had been notoriously unpaid for nearly six months.
This has already been made sufficiently clear from the private letters of most responsible persons. That these soldiers were starving, deserting; and pillaging, was, alas! too true; but the envoys of the States hardly expected to be censured by her Majesty, because she had neglected to pay her own troops. It was one of the points concerning which they had been especially enjoined to complain, that the English cavalry, converted into highwaymen by want of pay, had been plundering the peasantry, and we have seen that Thomas Wilkes had “pawned his carcase” to provide for their temporary relief.
With regard to the insinuation that prominent personages in the country had been tampered with by the enemy, the envoys were equally astonished by such an attack. The great Deventer treason had not yet been heard of in England for it had occurred only a week before this first interview— but something of the kind was already feared; for the slippery dealings of York and Stanley with Tassis and Parma, had long been causing painful anxiety, and had formed the subject of repeated remonstrances on the part of the ‘States’ to Leicester and to the Queen. The deputies were hardly, prepared therefore to defend their own people against dealing privately with the King of Spain. The only man suspected of such practices was Leicester’s own favourite and financier, Jacques Ringault, whom the Earl had persisted in employing against the angry remonstrances of the States, who believed him to be a Spanish spy; and the man was now in prison, and threatened with capital punishment.
To suppose that Buys or Barneveld, Roorda, Meetkerk, or any other leading statesman in the Netherlands, was contemplating a private arrangement with Philip II., was as ludicrous a conception as to imagine Walsingham a pensioner of the Pope, or Cecil in league with the Duke of Guise. The end and aim of the States’ party was war. In war they not only saw the safety of the reformed religion, but the only means of maintaining the commercial prosperity of the commonwealth. The whole correspondence of the times shows that no politician in the country dreamed of peace, either by public or secret negotiation. On the other hand—as will be made still clearer than ever—the Queen was longing for peace, and was treating for peace at that moment through private agents, quite without the knowledge of the States, and in spite of her indignant disavowals in her speech to the envoys.
Yet if Elizabeth could have had the privilege of entering—as we are about to do—into the private cabinet of that excellent King of Spain, with whom, she had once been such good friends, who had even sought her hand in marriage, and with whom she saw no reason whatever why she should not live at peace, she might have modified her expressions an this subject. Certainly, if she could have looked through the piles of papers—as we intend to do—which lay upon that library-table, far beyond the seas and mountains, she would have perceived some objections to the scheme of living at peace with that diligent letter-writer.
Perhaps, had she known how the subtle Farnese was about to express himself concerning the fast-approaching execution of Mary, and the as inevitably impending destruction of “that Englishwoman” through the schemes of his master and himself, she would have paid less heed to the sentiments couched in most exquisite Italian which Alexander was at the same time whispering in her ear, and would have taken less offence at the blunt language of the States-General.
Nevertheless, for the present, Elizabeth would give no better answer than the hot-tempered one which had already somewhat discomfited the deputies.
Two days afterwards, the five envoys had an interview with several members of her Majesty’s council, in the private apartment of the Lord-Treasurer in Greenwich Palace. Burghley, being indisposed, was lying upon his bed. Leicester, Admiral Lord Howard, Lord Hunsden, Sir Christopher Hatton, Lord Buckhurst, and Secretary Davison, were present, and the Lord-Treasurer proposed that the conversation should be in Latin, that being the common language most familiar to them all. Then, turning over the leaves of the report, a copy of which lay on his bed, he asked the envoys, whether, in case her Majesty had not sent over the assistance which she had done under the Earl of Leicester, their country would not have been utterly ruined.
“To all appearance, yes,” replied Menyn.
“But,” continued Burghley, still running through the pages of the document, and here and there demanding an explanation of an obscure passage or two, “you are now proposing to her Majesty to send 10,000 foot and 2000 horse, and to lend L60,000. This is altogether monstrous and excessive. Nobody will ever dare even to speak to her Majesty on the subject. When you first came in 1585, you asked for 12,000 men, but you were fully authorized to accept 6000. No doubt that is the case now.”
“On that occasion,” answered Menyn, “our main purpose was to induce her Majesty to accept the sovereignty, or at least the perpetual protection of our country. Failing in that we broached the third point, and not being able to get 12,000 soldiers we compounded for 5000, the agreement being subject to ratification by our principals. We gave ample security in shape of the mortgaged cities. But experience has shown us that these forces and this succour are insufficient. We have therefore been sent to beg her Majesty to make up the contingent to the amount originally requested.”
“But we are obliged to increase the garrisons in the cautionary towns,” said one of the English councillors, “as 800 men in a city like Flushing are very little.”
“Pardon me,” replied Valck, “the burghers are not enemies but friends to her Majesty and to the English nation. They are her dutiful subjects like all the inhabitants of the Netherlands.”
“It is quite true,” said Burghley, after having made some critical remarks upon the military system of the Provinces, “and a very common adage, ‘quod tunc tua res agitur, paries cum proximus ardet,’ but, nevertheless, this war principally concerns you. Therefore you are bound to do your utmost to meet its expenses in your own country, quite as much as a man who means to build a house is expected to provide the stone and timber himself. But the States have not done their best. They have not at the appointed time come forward with their extraordinary contributions for the last campaign. “How many men,” he asked, “are required for garrisons in all the fortresses and cities, and for the field?”
“But,” interposed Lord Hunsden, “not half so many men are needed in the garrisons; for the burghers ought to be able to defend their own cities. Moreover it is probable that your ordinary contributions might be continued and doubled and even tripled.”
“And on the whole,” observed the Lord Admiral, “don’t you think that the putting an army in the field might be dispensed with for this year? Her Majesty at present must get together and equip a fleet of war vessels against the King of Spain, which will be an excessively large pennyworth, besides the assistance which she gives her neighbours.”
“Yes, indeed,” said Secretary Davison, “it would be difficult to exaggerate the enormous expense which her Majesty must encounter this year for defending and liberating her own kingdoms against the King of Spain. That monarch is making great naval preparations, and is treating all Englishmen in the most hostile manner. We are on the brink of declared war with Spain, with the French King, who is arresting all English persons and property within his kingdom, and with Scotland, all which countries are understood to have made a league together on account of the Queen of Scotland, whom it will be absolutely necessary to put to death in order to preserve the life of her Majesty, and are about to make war upon England. This matter then will cost us, the current year, at least eight hundred thousand pounds sterling. Nevertheless her Majesty is sure to assist you so far as her means allow; and I, for my part, will do my best to keep her Majesty well disposed to your cause, even as I have ever done, as you well know.”
Thus spoke poor Davison, but a few days before the fatal 8th of February, little dreaming that the day for his influencing the disposition of her Majesty would soon be gone, and that he was himself to be crushed for ever by the blow which was about to destroy the captive Queen. The political combinations resulting from the tragedy were not to be exactly as he foretold, but there is little doubt that in him the Netherlands, and Leicester, and the Queen of England, were to lose an honest, diligent, and faithful friend.
“Well, gentlemen,” said the Lord-Treasurer, after a few more questions concerning the financial abilities of the States had been asked and answered, “it is getting late into the evening, and time for you all to get back to London. Let me request you, as soon as may be, to draw up some articles in writing, to which we will respond immediately.”
Menyn then, in the name of the deputies, expressed thanks for the urbanity shown them in the conference, and spoke of the deep regret with which they had perceived, by her Majesty’s answer two days before, that she was so highly offended with them and with the States-General. He then, notwithstanding Burghley’s previous hint as to the lateness of the hour, took up the Queen’s answer, point by point, contradicted all its statements,
And thus statements and counter-statements, protocols and apostilles, were glibly exchanged; the heap of diplomatic rubbish was rising higher and higher, and the councillors and envoys, pleased with their work, were growing more and more amicable, when the court was suddenly startled by the news of the Deventer and Zutphen treason. The intelligence was accompanied by the famous 4th of February letter, which descended, like a bombshell, in the midst of the, decorous council-chamber. Such language had rarely been addressed to the Earl of Leicester, and; through him; to the imperious sovereign herself, as the homely truths with which Barneveld, speaking with the voice of the States-General, now smote the delinquent governor.
“My Lord,” said he, “it is notorious; and needs no illustration whatever, with what true confidence and unfeigned affection we received your Excellency in our land; the States-General, the States-Provincial, the magistrates, and the communities of the chief cities in the United Provinces, all uniting to do honour to her serene Majesty of England and to yourself, and to confer upon you the government-general over us. And although we should willingly have placed some limitations upon the authority thus bestowed on you; in, order that by such a course your own honour and the good and constitutional condition of the country might be alike preserved, yet finding your Excellency not satisfied with those limitations, we postponed every objection, and conformed ourselves to your pleasure. Yet; before coming to that decision, we had well considered that by doing so we might be opening a door to many ambitious, avaricious, and pernicious persons, both of these countries and from other nations, who might seize the occasion to advance their own private profits, to the detriment of the country and the dishonour of your Excellency.
“And, in truth, such persons have done their work so efficiently as to inspire you with distrust against the most faithful and capable men in the Provinces, against the Estates General and Provincial, magistrates, and private persons, knowing very well that they could never arrive at their own ends so long as you were guided by the constitutional authorities of the country. And precisely upon the distrust; thus created as a foundation, they raised a back-stairs council, by means of which they were able to further their ambitious, avaricious, and seditious practices, notwithstanding the good advice and remonstrances of the council of state, and the States General and Provincial.”
He proceeded to handle the subjects of the English rose-noble; put in circulation by Leicester’s finance or back-stairs council at two florins above its value, to the manifest detriment of the Provinces, to the detestable embargo which had prevented them from using the means bestowed upon them by God himself to defend their country, to the squandering. and embezzlement of the large sums contributed by the Province; and entrusted to the Earl’s administration; to the starving condition of the soldiers; maltreated by government, and thus compelled to prey upon the inhabitants—so that troops in the States’ service had never been so abused during the whole war, although the States had never before voted such large contributions nor paid them so promptly—to the placing in posts of high honour and trust men of notoriously bad character and even Spanish spies; to the taking away the public authority from those to whom it legitimately belonged, and conferring it on incompetent and unqualified persons; to the illegal banishment of respectable citizens, to the violation of time-honoured laws and privileges, to the shameful attempts to repudiate the ancient authority of the States, and to usurp a control over the communities and nobles by them represented, and to the perpetual efforts to foster dissension, disunion, and rebellion among the inhabitants. Having thus drawn up a heavy bill of indictment, nominally against the Earl’s illegal counsellors, but in reality against the Earl himself, he proceeded to deal with the most important matter of all.
“The principal cities and fortresses in the country have been placed in hands of men suspected by the States on legitimate grounds, men who had been convicted of treason against these Provinces, and who continued to be suspected, notwithstanding that your Excellency had pledged your own honour for their fidelity. Finally, by means of these scoundrels, it was brought to pass, that the council of state having been invested by your Excellency with supreme authority during your absence—a secret document, was brought to light after your departure, by which the most substantial matters, and those most vital to the defence of the country, were withdrawn from the disposition of that council. And now, alas, we see the effects of these practices!
“Sir William Stanley, by you appointed governor of Deventer, and Rowland York, governor of Fort Zutphen, have refused, by virtue of that secret document, to acknowledge any authority in this country. And notwithstanding that since your departure they and their soldiers have been supported at our expense, and had just received a full month’s pay from the States, they have traitorously and villainously delivered the city and the fortress to the enemy, with a declaration made by Stanley that he did the deed to ease his conscience, and to render to the King of Spain the city which of right was belonging to him. And this is a crime so dishonourable, scandalous, ruinous, and treasonable, as that, during this, whole war, we have never seen the like. And we are now, in daily fear lest the English commanders in Bergen-op-Zoom, Ostend, and other cities, should commit the same crime. And although we fully suspected the designs of Stanley and York, yet your Excellency’s secret document had deprived us of the power to act.
“We doubt not that her Majesty and your Excellency will think this strange language. But we can assure you, that we too think it strange and grievous that those places should have been confided to such men, against our repeated remonstrances, and that, moreover, this very Stanley should have been recommended by your Excellency for general of all the forces. And although we had many just and grave reasons for opposing your administration—even as our ancestors were often wont to rise against the sovereigns of the country—we have, nevertheless, patiently suffered for a long time, in order not to diminish your authority, which we deemed so important to our welfare, and in the hope that you would at last be moved by the perilous condition of the commonwealth, and awake to the artifices of your advisers.
“But at last-feeling that the existence of the state can no longer be preserved without proper authority, and that the whole community is full of emotion and distrust, on account of these great treasons—we, the States-General, as well as the States-Provincial, have felt constrained to establish such a government as we deem meet for the emergency. And of this we think proper to apprize your Excellency.”
He then expressed the conviction that all these evil deeds had been accomplished against the intentions of the Earl and the English government, and requested his Excellency so to deal with her Majesty that the contingent of horse and foot hitherto accorded by her “might be maintained in good order, and in better pay.”
Here, then, was substantial choleric phraseology, as good plain speaking as her Majesty had just been employing, and with quite as sufficient cause. Here was no pleasant diplomatic fencing, but straightforward vigorous thrusts. It was no wonder that poor Wilkes should have thought the letter “too sharp,” when he heard it read in the assembly, and that he should have done his best to prevent it from being
The States, in another blunt letter to the Queen herself, declared the loss of Deventer to be more disastrous to them than even the fall of Antwerp had been; for the republic had now been split asunder, and its most ancient and vital portions almost cut away. Nevertheless they were not “dazzled nor despairing,” they said, but more determined than ever to maintain their liberties, and bid defiance to the Spanish tyrant. And again they demanded of, rather than implored; her Majesty to be true to her engagements with them.
The interviews which followed were more tempestuous than ever. “I had intended that my Lord of Leicester should return to you,” she said to the envoys. “But that shall never be. He has been treated with gross ingratitude, he has served the Provinces with ability, he has consumed his own property there, he has risked his life, he has lost his near kinsman, Sir Philip Sidney, whose life I should be glad to purchase with many millions, and, in place of all reward, he receives these venomous letters, of which a copy has been sent to his sovereign to blacken him with her.” She had been advising him to return, she added, but she was now resolved that he should “never set foot in the Provinces again.”
Here the Earl, who, was present, exclaimed—beating himself on the breast—“a tali officio libera nos, Domine!”
But the States, undaunted by these explosions of wrath, replied that it had ever been their custom, when their laws and liberties were invaded, to speak their mind boldly to kings and governors, and to procure redress of their grievances, as became free men.
During that whole spring the Queen was at daggers drawn with all her leading counsellors, mainly in regard to that great question of questions—the relations of England with the Netherlands and Spain. Walsingham—who felt it madness to dream of peace, and who believed it the soundest policy to deal with Parma and his veterans upon the soil of Flanders, with the forces of the republic for allies, rather than to await his arrival in London—was driven almost to frenzy by what he deemed the Queen’s perverseness.
“Our sharp words continue,” said the Secretary, “which doth greatly disquiet her Majesty, and discomfort her poor servants that attend her. The Lord-Treasurer remaineth still in disgrace, and, behind my back, her Majesty giveth out very hard speeches of myself, which I the rather credit, for that I find, in dealing with her, I am nothing gracious; and if her Majesty could be otherwise served, I know I should not be used . . . . . Her Majesty doth wholly lend herself to devise some further means to disgrace her poor council, in respect whereof she neglecteth all other causes . . . . . The discord between her Majesty and her council hindereth the necessary consultations that were to be destined for the preventing of the manifold perils that hang over this realm . . . . . . Sir Christopher Hatton hath dealt very plainly and dutifully with her, which hath been accepted in so evil part as he is resolved to retire for a time. I assure you I find every man weary of attendance here . . . . . . I would to God I could find as good resolution in her Majesty to proceed in a princely course in relieving the United Provinces, as I find an honorable disposition in your Lordship to employ yourself in their service.”
The Lord-Treasurer was much puzzled, very wretched, but philosophically resigned. “Why her Majesty useth me thus strangely, I know not,” he observed. “To some she saith that she meant not I should have gone from the court; to some she saith, she may not admit me, nor give me contentment. I shall dispose myself to enjoy God’s favour, and shall do nothing to deserve her disfavour. And if I be suffered to be a stranger to her affairs, I shall have a quieter life.”
Leicester, after the first burst of his anger was over, was willing to return to the Provinces. He protested that he had a greater affection for the Netherland people—not for the governing powers—even than he felt for the people of England.—“There is nothing sticks in my stomach,” he said, “but the good-will of that poor afflicted people, for whom, I take God to record, I could be content to lose any limb I have to do them good.” But he was crippled with debt, and the Queen resolutely refused to lend him a few thousand pounds, without which he could not stir. Walsingham in vain did battle with her parsimony, representing how urgently and vividly the necessity of his return had been depicted by all her ministers in both countries, and how much it imported to her own safety and service. But she was obdurate. “She would rather,” he said bitterly to Leicester, “hazard the increase of confusion there—which may put the whole country in peril—than supply your want. The like course she holdeth in the rest of her causes, which maketh me to wish myself from the helm.” At last she agreed to advance him ten thousand pounds, but on so severe conditions, that the Earl declared himself heart-broken again, and protested that he would neither accept the money, nor ever set foot in the Netherlands. “Let Norris stay there,” he said in a fury; “he will do admirably, no doubt. Only let it not be supposed that I can be there also. Not for one hundred thousand pounds would I be in that country with him.”
Meantime it was agreed that Lord Buckhurst should be sent forth on what Wilkes termed a mission of expostulation, and a very ill-timed one. This new envoy was to inquire into the causes of the discontent, and to do his best to remove them: as if any man in England or in Holland doubted as to the causes, or as to the best means of removing them; or as if it were not absolutely certain that delay was the very worst specific that could be adopted—delay—which the Netherland statesmen, as well as the Queen’s wisest counsellors, most deprecated, which Alexander and Philip most desired, and by indulging in which her Majesty was most directly playing into her adversary’s hand. Elizabeth was preparing to put cards upon the table against an antagonist whose game was close, whose honesty was always to be suspected, and who was a consummate master in what was then considered diplomatic sleight of hand. So Lord Buckhurst was to go forth to expostulate at the Hague, while transports were loading in Cadiz and Lisbon, reiters levying in Germany, pikemen and musketeers in Spain and Italy, for a purpose concerning which Walsingham and Barneveld had for a long time felt little doubt.
Meantime Lord Leicester went to Bath to drink the waters, and after he had drunk the waters, the Queen, ever anxious for his health, was resolved that he should not lose the benefit of those salubrious draughts by travelling too soon, or by plunging anew into the fountains of bitterness which flowed perennially in the Netherlands.
Buckhurst sent to the Netherlands—Alarming State of Affairs on his Arrival—His Efforts to conciliate—Democratic Theories of Wilkes— Sophistry of the Argument—Dispute between Wilkes and Barneveld— Religious Tolerance by the States—Their Constitutional Theory— Deventer’s bad Counsels to Leicester—Their pernicious Effect—Real and supposed Plots against Hohenlo—Mutual Suspicion and Distrust— Buckhurst seeks to restore good Feeling—The Queen angry and vindictive—She censures Buckhurst’s Course—Leicester’s wrath at Hohenlo’s Charges of a Plot by the Earl to murder him—Buckhurst’s eloquent Appeals to the Queen—Her perplexing and contradictory Orders—Despair of Wilkes—Leicester announces his Return—His Instructions—Letter to Junius—Barneveld denounces him in the States.
We return to the Netherlands. If ever proof were afforded of the influence of individual character on the destiny of nations and of the world, it certainly was seen in the year 1587. We have lifted the curtain of the secret council-chamber at Greenwich. We have seen all Elizabeth’s advisers anxious to arouse her from her fatal credulity, from her almost as fatal parsimony. We have seen Leicester anxious to return, despite all fancied indignities, Walsingham eager to expedite the enterprise, and the Queen remaining obdurate, while month after month of precious time was melting away.
In the Netherlands, meantime, discord and confusion had been increasing every day; and the first great cause of such a dangerous condition of affairs was the absence of the governor. To this all parties agreed. The Leicestrians, the anti-Leicestriana, the Holland party, the Utrecht party, the English counsellors, the English generals, in private letter, in solemn act, all warned the Queen against the lamentable effects resulting from Leicester’s inopportune departure and prolonged absence.
On the first outbreak of indignation after the Deventer Affair, Prince Maurice was placed at the head of the general government, with the violent Hohenlo as his lieutenant. The greatest exertions were made by these two nobles and by Barneveld, who guided the whole policy of the party, to secure as many cities as possible to their cause. Magistrates and commandants of garrisons in many towns willingly gave in their adhesion to the new government; others refused; especially Diedrich Sonoy, an officer of distinction, who was governor of Enkhuyzen, and influential throughout North Holland, and who remained a stanch partisan of Leicester. Utrecht, the stronghold of the Leicestrians, was wavering and much torn by faction; Hohenlo and Moeurs had “banquetted and feasted” to such good purpose that they had gained over half the captains of the burgher-guard, and, aided by the branch of nobles, were making a good fight against the Leicester magistracy and the clerical force, enriched by the plunder of the old Catholic livings, who denounced as Papistical and Hispaniolized all who favoured the party of Maurice and Barneveld.
By the end of March the envoys returned from London, and in their company came Lord Buckhurst, as special ambassador from the Queen.
Thomas Sackville, Lord Buckhurst—afterwards Earl of Dorset and lord-treasurer—was then fifty-one years of age. A man of large culture-poet, dramatist, diplomatist-bred to the bar; afterwards elevated to the peerage; endowed with high character and strong intellect; ready with tongue and pen; handsome of person, and with a fascinating address, he was as fit a person to send on a mission of expostulation as any man to be found in England. But the author of the ’Induction to the Mirror for Magistrates’ and of ‘Gorboduc,’ had come to the Netherlands on a forlorn hope. To expostulate in favour of peace with a people who knew that their existence depended on war, to reconcile those to delay who felt that delay was death, and to, heal animosities between men who were enemies from their cradles to their graves, was a difficult mission. But the chief ostensible object of Buckhurst was to smooth the way for Leicester, and, if possible, to persuade the Netherlanders as to the good inclinations of the English government. This was no easy task, for they knew that their envoys had been dismissed, without even a promise of subsidy. They had asked for twelve thousand soldiers and sixty
While such was the condition of affairs, Lord Buckhurst landed at Flushing—four months after the departure of Leicester—on the 24th March, having been tossing three days and nights at sea in a great storm, “miserably sick and in great danger of drowning.” Sir William Russell, governor of Flushing, informed him of the progress making by Prince Maurice in virtue of his new authority. He told him that the Zeeland regiment, vacant by Sidney’s death, and which the Queen wished bestowed upon Russell himself, had been given to Count Solms; a circumstance which was very sure to exite her Majesty’s ire; but that the greater number, and those of the better sort; disliked the alteration of government, and relied entirely upon the Queen. Sainte Aldegonde visited him at Middelburgh, and in a “long discourse” expressed the most friendly sentiments towards England, with free offers of personal service. “Nevertheless,” said Buckhurst, cautiously, “I mean to trust the effect, not his words, and so I hope he will not much deceive me. His opinion is that the Earl of Leicester’s absence hath chiefly caused this change, and that without his return it will hardly be restored again, but that upon his arrival all these clouds will prove but a summershower.”
As a matter of course the new ambassador lifted up his voice, immediately after setting foot on shore, in favour of the starving soldiers of his Queen. “’Tis a most lamentable thing,” said he, “to hear the complaints of soldiers and captains for want of pay.” . . . . Whole companies made their way into his presence, literally crying aloud for bread. “For Jesus’ sake,” wrote Buckhurst, “hasten to send relief with all speed, and let such victuallers be appointed as have a conscience not to make themselves rich with the famine of poor soldiers. If her Majesty send not money, and that with speed, for their payment, I am afraid to think what mischief and miseries are like to follow.”
Then the ambassador proceeded to the Hague, holding interviews with influential personages in private, and with the States-General in public. Such was the charm of his manner, and so firm the conviction of sincerity and good-will which he inspired, that in the course of a fortnight there was already a sensible change in the aspect of affairs. The enemy, who, at the time of their arrival, had been making bonfires and holding triumphal processions for joy of the great breach between Holland and England, and had been “hoping to swallow them all up, while there were so few left who knew how to act,” were already manifesting disappointment.
In a solemn meeting of the States-General with the State-council, Buckhurst addressed the assembly upon the general subject of her Majesty’s goodness to the Netherlands. He spoke of the gracious assistance rendered by her, notwithstanding her many special charges for the common cause, and of the mighty enmities which she had incurred for their sake. He sharply censured the Hollanders for their cruelty to men who had shed their blood in their cause, but who were now driven forth from their towns; and left to starve on the highways, and hated for their nation’s sake; as if the whole English name deserved to be soiled “for the treachery of two miscreants.” He spoke strongly of their demeanour towards the Earl of Leicester, and of the wrongs they had done him, and told them, that, if they were not ready to atone to her Majesty for such injuries, they were not to wonder if their deputies received no better answer at her hands. “She who embraced your cause,” he said, “when other mighty princes forsook you, will still stand fast unto you, yea, and increase her goodness, if her present state may suffer it.”
After being addressed in this manner the council of state made what Counsellor Clerk called a “very honest, modest, and wise answer;” but the States-General, not being able “so easily to discharge that which had so long boiled within them,” deferred their reply until the following day. They then brought forward a deliberate rejoinder, in which they expressed themselves devoted to her Majesty, and, on the whole, well disposed to the Earl. As to the 4th February letter, it had been written “in amaritudine cordis,” upon hearing the treasons of York and Stanley, and in accordance with “their custom and liberty used towards all princes, whereby they had long preserved their estate,” and in the conviction that the real culprits for all the sins of his Excellency’s government were certain “lewd persons who sought to seduce his Lordship, and to cause him to hate the States.”
Buckhurst did not think it well to reply, at that moment, on the ground that there had been already crimination and recrimination more than enough, and that “a little bitterness more had rather caused them to determine dangerously than solve for the best.”
They then held council together—the envoys and the State-General, as to the amount of troops absolutely necessary—casting up the matter “as pinchingly as possibly might be.” And the result was, that 20,000 foot and 2000 horse for garrison work, and an army of 13,000 foot, 5000 horse, and pioneers, for a campaign of five or six months, were pronounced indispensable. This would require all their L240,000 sterling a-year, regular contribution, her Majesty’s contingent of L140,000, and an extra sum of L150,000 sterling. Of this sum the States requested her Majesty should furnish two-thirds, while they agreed to furnish the other third, which would make in all L240,000 for the Queen, and L290,000 for the States. As it was understood that the English subsidies were only a loan, secured by mortgage of the cautionary towns, this did not seem very unreasonable, when the intimate blending of England’s welfare with that of the Provinces was considered.
Thus it will be observed that Lord Buckhurst—while doing his best to conciliate personal feuds and heart-burnings—had done full justice to the merits of Leicester, and had placed in strongest light the favours conferred by her Majesty.
He then proceeded to Utrecht, where he was received with many demonstrations of respect, “with solemn speeches” from magistrates and burgher-captains, with military processions, and with great banquets, which were, however, conducted with decorum, and at which even Count Moeurs excited universal astonishment by his sobriety. It was difficult, however, for matters to go very smoothly, except upon the surface. What could be more disastrous than for a little commonwealth—a mere handful of people, like these Netherlanders, engaged in mortal combat with the most powerful monarch in the world, and with the first general of the age, within a league of their borders—thus to be deprived of all organized government at a most critical moment, and to be left to wrangle with their allies and among themselves, as to the form of polity to be adopted, while waiting the pleasure of a capricious and despotic woman?
And the very foundation of the authority by which the Spanish yoke had been abjured, the sovereignty offered to Elizabeth, and the government-general conferred on Leicester, was fiercely assailed by the confidential agents of Elizabeth herself. The dispute went into the very depths of the social contract. Already Wilkes, standing up stoutly for the democratic views of the governor, who was so foully to requite him, had assured the English government that the “people were ready to cut the throats” of the Staten-General at any convenient moment. The sovereign people, not the deputies, were alone to be heeded, he said, and although he never informed the world by what process he had learned the deliberate opinion of that sovereign, as there had been no assembly excepting those of the States-General and States-Provincial—he was none the less fully satisfied that the people were all with Leicester, and bitterly opposed to the States.
“For the sovereignty, or supreme authority,” said he, through failure of a legitimate prince, belongs to the people, and not to you, gentlemen, who are only servants, ministers, and deputies of the people. You have your commissions or instructions surrounded by limitations—which conditions are so widely different from the power of sovereignty, as the might of the subject is in regard to his prince, or of a servant in, respect to his master. For sovereignty is not limited either as to power or as to time. Still less do you represent the sovereignty; for the people, in giving the general and absolute government to the Earl of Leicester, have conferred upon him at once the exercise of justice, the administration of polity, of naval affairs, of war, and of all the other points of sovereignty. Of these a governor-general is however only the depositary or guardian, until
Thus subtly and ably did Wilkes defend the authority of the man who had deserted his post at a most critical moment, and had compelled the States, by his dereliction, to take the government into their own hands.
For, after all, the whole argument of the English counsellor rested upon a quibble. The people were absolutely sovereign, he said, and had lent that sovereignty to Leicester. How had they made that loan? Through the machinery of the States-General. So long then as the Earl retained the absolute sovereignty, the States were not even representatives of the sovereign people. The sovereign people was merged into one English Earl. The English Earl had retired—indefinitely—to England. Was the sovereign people to wait for months, or years, before it regained its existence? And if not, how was it to reassert its vitality? How but through the agency of the States-General, who—according to Wilkes himself—had been fully empowered by the Provinces and Cities to confer the government on the Earl? The people then, after all, were the provinces and cities. And the States-General were at that moment as much qualified to represent those provinces and cities as they ever had been, and they claimed no more. Wilkes, nor any other of the Leicester party, ever hinted at a general assembly of the people. Universal suffrage was not dreamed of at that day. By the people, he meant, if he meant anything, only that very small fraction of the inhabitants of a country, who, according to the English system, in the reign of Elizabeth, constituted its Commons. He chose, rather from personal and political motives than philosophical ones, to draw a distinction between the people and the States, but it is quite obvious, from the tone of his private communications, that by the ‘States’ he meant the individuals who happened, for the time-being, to be the deputies of the States of each Province.
The States of Holland—inspired as it were by the memory of that great martyr to religious and political liberty, William the Silent—maintained freedom of conscience.
The Leicester party advocated a different theory on the religious question. They were also determined to omit no effort to make the States odious.
“Seeing their violent courses,” said Wilkes to Leicester, “I have not been negligent, as well by solicitations to the ministers, as by my letters to such as have continued constant in affection to your Lordship, to have the people informed of the ungrateful and dangerous proceedings of the States. They have therein travailed with so good effect, as the people are now wonderfully well disposed, and have delivered everywhere in speeches, that if, by the overthwart dealings of the States, her Majesty shall be drawn to stay her succours and goodness to them, and that thereby your Lordship be also discouraged to return, they will cut their throats.”
Who the “people” exactly were, that had been so wonderfully well disposed to throat-cutting by the ministers of the Gospel, did not distinctly appear. It was certain, however, that they were the special friends of Leicester, great orators, very pious, and the sovereigns of the country. So much could not be gainsaid.
“Your Lordship would wonder,” continued the councillor, “to see the people—who so lately, by the practice of the said States and the accident of Deventer, were notably alienated—so returned to their former devotion towards her Majesty, your Lordship, and our nation.”
Wilkes was able moreover to gratify the absent governor-general with the intelligence—of somewhat questionable authenticity however—that the States were very “much terrified with these threats of the people.” But Barneveld came down to the council to inquire what member of that body it was who had accused the States of violating the Earl’s authority. “Whoever he is,” said the Advocate, “let him deliver his mind frankly, and he shall be answered.” The man did not seem much terrified by the throat-cutting orations. “It is true,” replied Wilkes, perceiving himself to be the person intended, “that you have very injuriously, in many of your proceedings, derogated from and trodden the authority of his Lordship and of this council under your feet.”
And then he went into particulars, and discussed, ‘more suo,’ the constitutional question, in which various Leicestrian counsellors seconded him.
But Barneveld grimly maintained that the States were the sovereigns, and that it was therefore unfit that the governor, who drew his authority from them, should call them to account for their doings. “It was as if the governors in the time of Charles V.,” said the Advocate, “should have taxed that Emperor for any action of his done in the government.”
In brief, the rugged Barneveld, with threatening voice, and lion port, seemed to impersonate the Staten, and to hold reclaimed sovereignty in his grasp. It seemed difficult to tear it from him again.
“I did what I could,” said Wilkes, “to beat them from this humour of their sovereignty, showing that upon that error they had grounded the rest of their wilful absurdities.”
Next night, he drew up sixteen articles, showing the disorders of the States, their breach of oaths, and violations of the Earl’s authority; and with that commenced a series of papers interchanged by the two parties, in which the topics of the origin of government and the principles of religious freedom were handled with much ability on both sides, but at unmerciful length.
On the religious question, the States-General, led by Barneveld and by Francis Franck, expressed themselves manfully, on various occasions, during the mission of Buckhurst.
“The nobles and cities constituting the States,” they said, “have been denounced to Lord Leicester as enemies of religion, by the self-seeking mischief-makers who surround him. Why? Because they had refused the demand of certain preachers to call a general synod, in defiance of the States-General, and to introduce a set of ordinances, with a system of discipline, according to their arbitrary will. This the late Prince of Orange and the States-General had always thought detrimental both to religion and polity. They respected the difference in religious opinions, and leaving all churches in their freedom, they chose to compel no man’s conscience—a course which all statesmen, knowing the diversity of human opinions, had considered necessary in order to maintain fraternal harmony.”
Such words shine through the prevailing darkness of the religious atmosphere at that epoch, like characters of light. They are beacons in the upward path of mankind. Never before, had so bold and wise a tribute to the genius of the reformation been paid by an organized community. Individuals walking in advance of their age had enunciated such truths, and their voices had seemed to die away, but, at last, a little, struggling, half-developed commonwealth had proclaimed the rights of conscience for all mankind—for Papists and Calvinists, Jews and Anabaptists—because “having a respect for differences in religious opinions, and leaving all churches in their freedom, they chose to compel no man’s conscience.”
On the constitutional question, the States commenced by an astounding absurdity. “These mischief-makers, moreover,” said they, “have not been ashamed to dispute, and to cause the Earl of Leicester to dispute, the lawful constitution of the Provinces; a matter which has not been disputed for eight hundred years.”
This was indeed to claim a respectable age for their republic. Eight hundred years took them back to the days of Charlemagne, in whose time it would have been somewhat difficult to detect a germ of their States-General and States-Provincial. That the constitutional government— consisting of nobles and of the vroedschaps of chartered cities—should have been in existence four hundred and seventeen years before the first charter had ever been granted to a city, was a very loose style of argument. Thomas Wilkes, in reply; might as well have traced the English parliament to Hengist and Horsa. “For eight hundred years;” they said, “Holland had been governed by Counts and Countesses, on whom the nobles and cities, as representing the States, had legally conferred sovereignty.”
Now the first incorporated city of Holland and Zeeland that ever existed was Middelburg, which received its charter from Count William I. of Holland and Countess Joan of Flanders; in the year 1217. The first Count that had any legal recognized authority was Dirk the First to whom Charles the Simple presented the territory of Holland, by letters-patent, in 922. Yet the States-General, in a solemn and eloquent document, gravely dated their own existence from the year 787, and claimed the regular possession and habitual delegation of sovereignty from that epoch down!
After this fabulous preamble, they proceeded to handle the matter of fact with logical precision. It was absurd, they said, that Mr. Wilkes and Lord Leicester should affect to confound the persons who appeared in the assembly with the States themselves; as if those individuals claimed or exercised sovereignty. Any man who had observed what had been passing during the last fifteen years, knew very well that the supreme authority did not belong to the thirty or forty individuals who came to the meetings . . . . . The nobles, by reason of their ancient dignity and splendid possessions,
In brief, the constitution of the United Provinces was a matter of fact. It was there in good working order, and had, for a generation of mankind, and throughout a tremendous war, done good service. Judged by the principles of reason and justice, it was in the main a wholesome constitution, securing the independence and welfare of the state, and the liberty and property of the individual, as well certainly as did any polity then existing in the world. It seemed more hopeful to abide by it yet a little longer than to adopt the throat-cutting system by the people, recommended by Wilkes and Leicester as an improvement on the old constitution. This was the view of Lord Buckhurst. He felt that threats of throat-cutting were not the best means of smoothing and conciliating, and he had come over to smooth and conciliate.
“To spend the time,” said he, “in private brabbles and piques between the States and Lord Leicester, when we ought to prepare an army against the enemy, and to repair the shaken and torn state, is not a good course for her Majesty’s service.” Letters were continually circulating from hand to hand among the antagonists of the Holland party, written out of England by Leicester, exciting the ill-will of the populace against the organized government. “By such means to bring the States into hatred,” said Buckhurst, “and to stir up the people against them; tends to great damage and miserable end. This his Lordship doth full little consider, being the very way to dissolve all government, and so to bring all into confusion, and open the door for the enemy. But oh, how lamentable a thing it is, and how doth my Lord of Leicester abuse her Majesty, making her authority the means to uphold and justify, and under her name to defend and maintain, all his intolerable errors. I thank God that neither his might nor his malice shall deter me from laying open all those things which my conscience knoweth, and which appertaineth to be done for the good of this cause and of her Majesty’s service. Herein, though I were sure to lose my life, yet will I not offend neither the one nor the other, knowing very well that I must die; and to die in her Majesty’s faithful service, and with a good conscience, is far more happy than the miserable life that I am in. If Leicester do in this sort stir up the people against the States to follow his revenge against them, and if the Queen do yield no better aid, and the minds of Count Maurice and Hohenlo remain thus in fear and hatred of him, what good end or service can be hoped for here?”—[Buckhurst to Walsingham, 13th June, 1587. (Brit. Mus. Galba, D. I. p. 95, Ms.)]
Buckhurst was a man of unimpeached integrity and gentle manners. He had come over with the best intentions towards the governor-general, and it has been seen that he boldly defended him in, his first interviews with the States. But as the intrigues and underhand plottings of the Earl’s agents were revealed to him, he felt more and more convinced that there was a deep laid scheme to destroy the government, and to constitute a virtual and absolute sovereignty for Leicester. It was not wonderful that the States were standing vigorously on the defensive.
The subtle Deventer, Leicester’s evil genius, did not cease to poison the mind of the governor, during his protracted absence, against all persons who offered impediments to the cherished schemes of his master and himself. “Your Excellency knows very well,” he said, “that the state of this country is democratic, since, by failure of a prince, the sovereign disposition of affairs has returned to the people. That same people is everywhere so incredibly affectionate towards you that the delay in your return drives them to extreme despair. Any one who would know the real truth has but to remember the fine fear the States-General were in when the news of your displeasure about the 4th February letter became known.”
Had it not been for the efforts of Lord Buckhurst in calming the popular rage, Deventer assured the Earl that the writers of the letter would “have scarcely saved their skins;” and that they had always continued in great danger.
He vehemently urged upon Leicester, the necessity of his immediate return—not so much for reasons drawn from the distracted state of the country, thus left to a provisional government and torn by faction—but because of the facility with which he might at once seize upon arbitrary power. He gratified his master by depicting in lively colours the abject condition into which Barneveld, Maurice, Hohenlo, and similar cowards, would be thrown by his sudden return.
“If,” said he, “the States’ members and the counts, every one of them, are so desperately afraid of the people, even while your Excellency is afar off, in what trepidation will they be when you are here! God, reason, the affection of the sovereign people, are on your side. There needs, in a little commonwealth like ours, but a wink of the eye, the slightest indication of dissatisfaction on your part, to take away all their valour from men who are only brave where swords are too short. A magnanimous prince like yourself should seek at once the place where such plots are hatching, and you would see the fury of the rebels change at once to cowardice. There is more than one man here in the Netherlands that brags of what he will do against the greatest and most highly endowed prince in England, because he thinks he shall never see him again, who, at the very first news of your return, my Lord, would think only of packing his portmanteau, greasing his boots, or, at the very least, of sneaking back into his hole.”
But the sturdy democrat was quite sure that his Excellency, that most magnanimous prince of England would not desert his faithful followers— thereby giving those “filthy rascals,” his opponents, a triumph, and “doing so great an injury to the sovereign people, who were ready to get rid of them all at a single blow, if his Excellency would but say the word.”
He then implored the magnanimous prince to imitate the example of Moses, Joshua, David, and that of all great emperors and captains, Hebrew, Greek, and Roman, to come at once to the scene of action, and to smite his enemies hip and thigh. He also informed his Excellency, that if the delay should last much longer, he would lose all chance of regaining power, because the sovereign people had quite made up their mind to return to the dominion of Spain within three months, if they could not induce his Excellency to rule over them. In that way at least, if in no other, they could circumvent those filthy rascals whom they so much abhorred, and frustrate the designs of Maurice, Hohenlo, and Sir John Norris, who were represented as occupying the position of the triumvirs after the death of Julius Caesar.
To place its neck under the yoke of Philip II. and the Inquisition, after having so handsomely got rid of both, did not seem a sublime manifestation of sovereignty on the part of the people, and even Deventer had some misgivings as to the propriety of such a result. “What then will become of our beautiful churches?” he cried, “What will princes say, what will the world in general say, what will historians say, about the honour of the English nation?”
As to the first question, it is probable that the prospect of the reformed churches would not have been cheerful, had the inquisition been re-established in Holland and Utrecht, three months after that date. As to the second, the world and history were likely to reply, that the honour of the English nation was fortunately not entirely, entrusted at that epoch to the “magnanimous prince” of Leicester, and his democratic, counsellor-in-chief, burgomaster Deventer.
These are but samples of the ravings which sounded incessantly in the ears of the governor-general. Was it strange that a man, so thirsty for power, so gluttonous of flattery, should be influenced by such passionate appeals? Addressed in strains of fulsome adulation, convinced that arbitrary power was within his reach, and assured that he had but to wink his eye to see his enemies scattered before him, he became impatient of all restraint; and determined, on his return, to crush the States into insignificance.
Thus, while Buckhurst had been doing his best as a mediator to prepare the path for his return, Leicester himself end his partisans had been secretly exerting themselves to make his arrival the signal for discord; perhaps of civil war. The calm, then, immediately succeeding the mission of Buckhurst was a deceitful one, but it seemed very promising. The best feelings were avowed and perhaps entertained. The States professed great devotion to her Majesty and friendly regard for the governor. They distinctly declared that the arrangements by which Maurice and Hohenlo had been placed in their new positions were purely provisional ones, subject to modifications on the arrival of the Earl. “All things are reduced to a quiet calm,” said Buckhurst, “ready to receive my Lord of Leicester and his authority, whenever he cometh.”
The quarrel of Hohenlo with Sir Edward Norris had been, by the exertions of Buckhurst, amicably arranged: the Count became an intimate friend of Sir John, “to the gladding of all such as wished well to, the country;” but he nourished a deadly hatred to the Earl. He ran up and down like a madman whenever his return was mentioned. “If the Queen be willing to take the sovereignty,” he cried out at his own dinner-table to a large company, “and is ready to proceed roundly in this action, I will serve her to the last drop of my blood; but if she embrace it in no other sort than hitherto she hath done, and if Leicester is to return, then am I as good a man as Leicester, and will never be commanded by him. I mean to continue on my frontier, where all who love me can come and find me.”
He declared to several persons that he had detected a plot on the part of Leicester to have him assassinated; and the assertion seemed so important, that Villiers came to Councillor Clerk to confer with him on the subject. The worthy Bartholomew, who had again, most reluctantly, left his quiet chambers in the Temple to come again among the guns and drums, which his soul abhorred, was appalled by such a charge. It was best to keep it a secret, he said, at least till the matter could be thoroughly investigated. Villiers was of the same opinion, and accordingly the councillor, in the excess of his caution, confided the secret only—to whom? To Mr. Atye, Leicester’s private secretary. Atye, of course, instantly told his master—his master in a frenzy of rage, told the Queen, and her Majesty, in a paroxysm of royal indignation at this new insult to her favourite, sent furious letters to her envoys, to the States-General, to everybody in the Netherlands—so that the assertion of Hohenlo became the subject of endless recrimination. Leicester became very violent, and denounced the statement as an impudent falsehood, devised wilfully in order to cast odium upon him and to prevent his return. Unquestionably there was nothing in the story but table-talk; but the Count would have been still more ferocious towards Leicester than he was, had he known what was actually happening at that very moment.
While Buckhurst was at Utrecht, listening to the “solemn-speeches” of the militia-captains and exchanging friendly expressions at stately banquets with Moeurs, he suddenly received a letter in cipher from her Majesty. Not having the key, he sent to Wilkes at the Hague. Wilkes was very ill; but the despatch was marked pressing and immediate, so he got out of bed and made the journey to Utrecht. The letter, on being deciphered, proved to be an order from the Queen to decoy Hohenlo into some safe town, on pretence of consultation and then to throw him into prison, on the ground that he had been tampering with the enemy, and was about to betray the republic to Philip.
The commotion which would have been excited by any attempt to enforce this order, could be easily imagined by those familiar with Hohenlo and with the powerful party in the Netherlands of which he was one of the chiefs. Wilkes stood aghast as he deciphered the letter. Buckhurst felt the impossibility of obeying the royal will. Both knew the cause, and both foresaw the consequences of the proposed step. Wilkes had heard some rumours of intrigues between Parma’s agents at Deventer and Hohenlo, and had confided them to Walsingham, hoping that the Secretary would keep the matter in his own breast, at least till further advice. He was appalled at the sudden action proposed on a mere rumour, which both Buckhurst and himself had begun to consider an idle one. He protested, therefore, to Walsingham that to comply with her Majesty’s command would not only be nearly impossible, but would, if successful,
Nothing came of it however, and the relations of Wilkes and Buckhurst with Hohenlo continued to be friendly. It was a lesson to Wilkes to be more cautious even with the cautious Walsingham. “We had but bare suspicions,” said Buckhurst, “nothing fit, God knoweth, to come to such a reckoning. Wilkes saith he meant it but for a premonition to you there; but I think it will henceforth be a premonition to himself—there being but bare presumptions, and yet shrewd presumptions.”
Here then were Deventer and Leicester plotting to overthrow the government of the States; the States and Hohenlo arming against Leicester; the extreme democratic party threatening to go over to the Spaniards within three months; the Earl accused of attempting the life of Hohenlo; Hohenlo offering to shed the last drop of his blood for Queen Elizabeth; Queen Elizabeth giving orders to throw Hohenlo into prison as a traitor; Councillor Wilkes trembling for his life at the hands both of Leicester and Hohenlo; and Buckhurst doing his best to conciliate all parties, and imploring her Majesty in vain to send over money to help on the war, and to save her soldiers from starving.
For the Queen continued to refuse the loan of fifty thousand pounds which the provinces solicited, and in hope of which the States had just agreed to an extra contribution of a million florins (L100,000), a larger sum than had been levied by a single vote since the commencement of the war. It must be remembered, too, that the whole expense of the war fell upon Holland and Zeeland. The Province of Utrecht, where there was so strong a disposition to confer absolute authority upon Leicester, and to destroy the power of the States-General contributed absolutely nothing. Since the Loss of Deventer, nothing could be raised in the Provinces of Utrecht, Gelderland or Overyssel; the Spaniards levying black mail upon the whole territory, and impoverishing the inhabitants till they became almost a nullity. Was it strange then that the States of Holland and Zeeland, thus bearing nearly the whole; burden of the war, should be dissatisfied with the hatred felt toward them by their sister Provinces so generously protected by them? Was it unnatural that Barneveld, and Maurice, and Hohenlo, should be disposed to bridle the despotic inclinations of Leicester, thus fostered by those who existed, as it were, at their expense?
But the Queen refused the L50,000, although Holland and Zeeland had voted the L100,000. “No reason that breedeth charges,” sighed Walsingham, “can in any sort be digested.”
It was not for want of vehement entreaty on the part of the Secretary of State and of Buckhurst that the loan was denied. At least she was entreated to send over money for her troops, who for six months past were unpaid. “Keeping the money in your coffers,” said Buckhurst, “doth yield no interest to you, and—which is above all earthly, respects—it shall be the means of preserving the lives of many of your faithful subjects which otherwise must needs, daily perish. Their miseries, through want of meat and money, I do protest to God so much moves, my soul with commiseration of that which is past, and makes my heart tremble to think of the like to come again, that I humbly beseech your Majesty, for Jesus Christ sake, to have compassion on their lamentable estate past, and send some money to prevent the like hereafter.”
These were moving words,—but the money did not come—charges could not be digested.
“The eternal God,” cried Buckhurst, “incline your heart to grant the petition of the States for the loan of the L50,000, and that speedily, for the dangerous terms of the State here and the mighty and forward preparation of the enemy admit no minute of delay; so that even to grant it slowly is to deny it utterly.”
He then drew a vivid picture of the capacity of the Netherlands to assist the endangered realm of England, if delay were not suffered to destroy both commonwealths, by placing the Provinces in an enemy’s hand.
“Their many and notable good havens,” he said, “the great number of ships and mariners, their impregnable towns, if they were in the hands of a potent prince that would defend them, and, lastly, the state of this shore; so near and opposite unto the land and coast of England—lo, the sight of all this, daily in mine eye, conjoined with the deep, enrooted malice of that your so mighty enemy who seeketh to regain them; these things entering continually into the, meditations of my heart—so much do they import the safety of yourself and your estate—do enforce me, in the abundance of my love and duty to your Majesty, most earnestly to speak, write, and weep unto you, lest when the occasion yet offered shall be gone by, this blessed means of your defence, by God’s provident goodness thus put into your hand, will then be utterly lost, lo; never, never more to be recovered again.”
It was a noble, wise, and eloquent appeal, but it was muttered in vain. Was not Leicester—his soul filled with petty schemes of reigning in Utrecht, and destroying the constitutional government of the Provinces —in full possession of the royal ear? And was not the same ear lent, at most critical moment, to the insidious Alexander Farnese, with his whispers of peace, which were potent enough to drown all the preparations for the invincible Armada?
Six months had rolled away since Leicester had left the Netherlands; six months long, the Provinces, left in a condition which might have become anarchy, had been saved by the wise government of the States-General; six months long the English soldiers had remained unpaid by their sovereign; and now for six weeks the honest, eloquent, intrepid, but gentle Buckhurst had done his best to conciliate all parties, and to mould the Netherlanders into an impregnable bulwark for the realm of England. But his efforts were treated with scorn by the Queen. She was still maddened by a sense of the injuries done by the States to Leicester. She was indignant that her envoy should have accepted such lame apologies for the 4th of February letter; that he should have received no better atonement for their insolent infringements of the Earl’s orders during his absence; that he should have excused their contemptuous proceedings and that, in short, he should have been willing to conciliate and forgive when he should have stormed and railed. “You conceived, it seemeth,” said her Majesty, “that a more sharper manner of proceeding would have exasperated matters to the prejudice of the service, and therefore you did think it more fit to wash the wounds rather with water than vinegar, wherein we would rather have wished, on the other side, that you had better considered that festering wounds had more need of corrosives than lenitives. Your own judgment ought to have taught that such a alight and mild kind of dealing with a people so ingrate and void of consideration as the said Estates have showed themselves toward us, is the ready way to increase their contempt.”
The envoy might be forgiven for believing that at any rate there would be no lack of corrosives or vinegar, so long as the royal tongue or pen could do their office, as the unfortunate deputies had found to their cost in their late interviews at Greenwich, and as her own envoys in the Netherlands were perpetually finding now. The Queen was especially indignant that the Estates should defend the tone of their letters to the Earl on the ground that he had written a piquant epistle to them. “But you can manifestly see their untruths in naming it a piquant letter,” said Elizabeth, “for it has no sour or sharp word therein, nor any clause or reprehension, but is full of gravity and gentle admonition. It deserved a thankful answer, and so you may maintain it to them to their reproof.”
The States doubtless thought that the loss of Deventer and, with it, the almost ruinous condition of three out of the seven Provinces, might excuse on their part a little piquancy of phraseology, nor was it easy for them to express gratitude to the governor for his grave and gentle admonitions, after he had, by his secret document of 24th November, rendered himself fully responsible for the disaster they deplored.
She expressed unbounded indignation with Hohenlo, who, as she was well aware, continued to cherish a deadly hatred for Leicester. Especially she was exasperated, and with reason, by the assertion the Count had made concerning the governor’s murderous designs upon him. “’Tis a matter,” said the Queen, “so foul and dishonourable that doth not only touch greatly the credit of the Earl, but also our own honour, to have one who hath been nourished and brought up by us, and of whom we have made show to the world to have extraordinarily favoured above any other of our own subjects, and used his service in those countries in a place of that reputation he held there, stand charged with so horrible and unworthy a crime. And therefore our pleasure is, even as you tender the continuance of our favour towards you, that you seek, by all the means you may, examining the Count Hollock, or any other party in this matter, to discover and to sift out how this malicious imputation hath been wrought; for we have reason to think that it hath grown out of some cunning device to stay the Earl’s coming, and to discourage him from the continuance of his service in those countries.”
And there the Queen was undoubtedly in the right. Hohenlo was resolved, if possible, to make the Earl’s government of the Netherlands impossible. There was nothing in the story however; and all that by the most diligent “sifting” could ever be discovered, and all that the Count could be prevailed upon to confess, was an opinion expressed by him that if he had gone with Leicester to England, it might perhaps have fared ill with him. But men were given to loose talk in those countries. There was great freedom of tongue and pen; and as the Earl, whether with justice or not, had always been suspected of strong tendencies to assassination, it was not very wonderful that so reckless an individual as Hohenlo should promulgate opinions on such subjects, without much reserve. “The number of crimes that have been imputed to me,” said Leicester, “would be incomplete, had this calumny not been added to all preceding ones.” It is possible that assassination, especially poisoning, may have been a more common-place affair in those days than our own. At any rate, it is certain that accusations of such crimes were of ordinary occurrence. Men were apt to die suddenly if they had mortal enemies, and people would gossip. At the very same moment, Leicester was deliberately accused not only of murderous intentions towards Hohenlo, but towards Thomas Wilkes and Count Lewis William of Nassau likewise. A trumpeter, arrested in Friesland, had just confessed that he had been employed by the Spanish governor of that Province, Colonel Verdugo, to murder Count Lewis, and that four other persons had been entrusted with the same commission. The Count wrote to Verdugo, and received in reply an indignant denial of the charge. “Had I heard of such a project,” said the Spaniard, “I would, on the contrary,
Thus there was at least one man—and a most important, one—in the opposition—party who thoroughly believed in the honour of the governor-general.
The Queen then proceeded to lecture Lord Buckhurst very severely for having tolerated an instant the States’ proposition to her for a loan of L50,000. “The enemy,” she observed, “is quite unable to attempt the siege of any town.”
Buckhurst was, however, instructed, in case the States’ million should prove insufficient to enable the army to make head against the enemy, and in the event of “any alteration of the good-will of the people towards her, caused by her not yielding, in this their necessity, some convenient support,” to let them then understand, “as of himself, that if they would be satisfied with a loan of ten or fifteen thousand pounds, he, would do his best endeavour to draw her Majesty to yield unto the furnishing of such a sum, with assured hope to obtaining the same at her hands.”
Truly Walsingham was right in saying that charges of any kind were difficult of digestion: Yet, even at that moment, Elizabeth had no more attached subjects in England than sere the burghers of the Netherlands; who were as anxious ever to annex their territory to her realms.
’Thus, having expressed an affection for Leicester which no one doubted, having once more thoroughly brow-beaten the states, and having soundly lectured Buckhurst—as a requital for his successful efforts to bring about a more wholesome condition of affairs—she gave the envoy a parting stab, with this postscript;—“There is small disproportion,” she said “twist a fool who useth not wit because he hath it not, and him that useth it not when it should avail him.” Leicester, too, was very violent in his attacks upon Buckhurst. The envoy had succeeded in reconciling Hohenlo with the brothers Norris, and had persuaded Sir John to offer the hand of friendship to Leicester, provided it were sure of being accepted. Yet in this desire to conciliate, the Earl found renewed
“And I must now, in your Lordship’s sight,” continued Leicester, “be made a counsellor with this companion, who never yet to this day hath done so much as take knowledge of my mislike of him; no, not to say this much, which I think would well become his better, that he was sorry, to hear I had mislike to him, that he desired my suspension till he might either speak with me, or be charged from me, and if then he were not able to satisfy me, he would acknowledge his fault, and make me any honest satisfaction. This manner of dealing would have been no disparagement to his better. And even so I must think that your Lordship doth me wrong, knowing what you do, to make so little difference between John Norris, my man not long since, and now but my colonel under me, as though we were equals. And I cannot but more than marvel at this your proceeding, when I remember your promises of friendship, and your opinions resolutely set down . . . . You were so determined before you went hence, but must have become wonderfully enamoured of those men’s unknown virtues in a few days of acquaintance, from the alteration that is grown by their own commendations of themselves. You know very well that all the world should not make me serve with John Norris. Your sudden change from mislike to liking has, by consequence, presently cast disgrace upon me. But all is not gold that glitters, nor every shadow a perfect representation . . . . You knew he should not serve with me, but either you thought me a very inconstant man, or else a very simple soul, resolving with you as I did, for you to take the course you have done.” He felt, however, quite strong in her Majesty’s favour. He knew himself her favourite, beyond all chance or change, and was sure, so long as either lived, to thrust his enemies, by her aid, into outer
“It sufficeth,” continued Leicester, “that her Majesty both find my dealings well enough, and so, I trust will graciously use me. As for the reconciliations and love-days you have made there, truly I have liked well of it; for you did sow me your disposition therein before, and I allowed of it, and I had received letters both from Count Maurice and Hohenlo of their humility and kindness, but now in your last letters you say they have uttered the cause of their mislike towards me, which you forbear to write of, looking so speedily for my return.”
But the Earl knew well enough what the secret was, for had it not been specially confided by the judicious Bartholomew to Atye, who had incontinently told his master? “This pretense that I should kill Hohenlo,” cried Leicester, “is a matter properly foisted in to bring me to choler. I will not suffer it to rest, thus. Its authors shall be duly and severely punished. And albeit I see well enough the plot of this wicked device, yet shall it not work the effect the devisers have done it for. No, my Lord, he is a villain and a false lying knave whosoever he be, and of what, nation soever that hath forged this device. Count Hohenlo doth know I never gave him cause to fear me so much. There were ways and means offered me to have quitted him of the country if I had so liked. This new monstrous villany which is now found out I do hate and detest, as I would look for the right judgment of God to fall upon myself, if I had but once imagined it. All this makes good proof of Wilkes’s good dealing with me, that hath heard of so vile and villainous a reproach of me, and never gave me knowledge. But I trust your Lordship shall receive her Majesty’s order for this, as for a matter that toucheth herself in honour, and me her poor servant and minister, as dearly as any matter can do; and I will so take it and use it to the uttermost.”
We have seen how anxiously Buckhurst had striven to do his duty upon a most difficult mission. Was it unnatural that so fine a nature as his should be disheartened, at reaping nothing but sneers and contumely from the haughty sovereign he served, and from the insolent favourite who controlled her councils? “I beseech your Lordship,” he said to Burghley, “keep one ear for me, and do not hastily condemn me before you hear mine answer. For if I ever did or shall do any acceptable service to her Majesty, it was in, the stay and appeasing of these countries, ever ready at my coming to have cast off all good respect towards us, and to have entered even into some desperate cause. In the meantime I am hardly thought of by her Majesty, and in her opinion condemned before mine answer be understood. Therefore I beseech you to help me to return, and not thus to lose her Majesty’s favour for my good desert, wasting here my mind, body, my wits, wealth, and all; with continual toils, taxes, and troubles, more than I am able to endure.”
But besides his instructions to smooth and expostulate, in which he had succeeded so well, and had been requited so ill; Buckhurst had received a still more difficult commission. He had been ordered to broach the subject of peace, as delicately as possible, but without delay; first sounding the leading politicians, inducing them to listen to the Queen’s suggestions on the subject, persuading them that they ought to be satisfied with the principles of the pacification of Ghent, and that it was hopeless for the Provinces to continue the war with their mighty adversary any longer.
Most reluctantly had Buckhurst fulfilled his sovereign’s commands in this disastrous course. To talk to the Hollanders of the Ghent pacification seemed puerile. That memorable treaty, ten years before, had been one of the great landmarks of progress, one of the great achievements of William the Silent. By its provisions, public exercise of the reformed religion had been secured for the two Provinces of Holland and Zeeland, and it had been agreed that the secret practice of those rites should be elsewhere winked at, until such time as the States-General, under the auspices of Philip II., should otherwise ordain. But was it conceivable that now, after Philip’s authority had been solemnly abjured, and the reformed worship had become the, public, dominant religion, throughout all the Provinces,—the whole republic should return to the Spanish dominion, and to such toleration as might be sanctioned by an assembly professing loyalty to the most Catholic King?
Buckhurst had repeatedly warned the Queen, in fervid and eloquent language, as to the intentions of Spain. “There was never peace well made,” he observed, “without a mighty war preceding, and always, the sword in hand is the best pen to write the conditions of peace.”
“If ever prince had cause,” he continued, “to think himself beset with doubt and danger, you, sacred Queen, have most just cause not only to think it, but even certainly to believe it. The Pope doth daily plot nothing else but how he may bring to pass your utter overthrow; the French King hath already sent you threatenings of revenge, and though for that pretended cause I think little will ensue, yet he is blind that seeth not the mortal dislike that boileth deep in his heart for other respects against you. The Scottish King, not only in regard of his future hope, but also by reason of some over conceit in his heart, may be thought a dangerous neighbour to you. The King of Spain armeth and extendeth all his power to ruin both you and your estate. And if the Indian gold have corrupted also the King of Denmark, and made him likewise Spanish, as I marvellously fear; why will not your Majesty, beholding the flames of your enemies on every side kindling around, unlock all your coffers and convert your treasure for the advancing of worthy men, and for the arming of ships and men-of-war that may defend you, since princes’ treasures serve only to that end, and, lie they never so fast or so full in their chests, can no ways so defend them?
“The eternal God, in whose hands the hearts of kings do rest, dispose and guide your sacred Majesty to do that which may be most according to His blessed will, and best for you, as I trust He will, even for His mercy’s sake, both toward your Majesty and the whole realm of England, whose desolation is thus sought and compassed.”
Was this the language of a mischievous intriguer, who was sacrificing the true interest of his country, and whose proceedings were justly earning for him rebuke and disgrace at the hands of his sovereign? Or was it rather the noble advice of an upright statesman, a lover of his country, a faithful servant of his Queen, who had looked through the atmosphere of falsehood in which he was doing his work, and who had detected, with rare sagacity, the secret purposes of those who were then misruling the world?
Buckhurst had no choice, however, but to obey. His private efforts were of course fruitless, but he announced to her Majesty that it was his intention very shortly to bring the matter—according to her wish—before the assembly.
But Elizabeth, seeing that her counsel had been unwise and her action premature, turned upon her envoy, as she was apt to do, and rebuked him for his obedience, so soon as obedience had proved inconvenient to herself.
“Having perused your letters,” she said, “by which you at large debate unto us what you have done in the matter of peace . . . . . we find it strange that you should proceed further. And although we had given you full and ample direction to proceed to a public dealing in that cause, yet our own discretion, seeing the difficulties and dangers that you yourself saw in the propounding of the matter, ought to have led you to delay till further command from us.”
Her Majesty then instructed her envoy, in case he had not yet “propounded the matter in the state-house to the general assembly,” to pause entirely until he heard her further pleasure. She concluded, as usual, with a characteristic postcript in her own hand.
“Oh weigh deeplier this matter,” she said, “than, with so shallow a judgment, to spill the cause, impair my honour, and shame yourself, with all your wit, that once was supposed better than to lose a bargain for the handling.”
Certainly the sphinx could have propounded no more puzzling riddles than those which Elizabeth thus suggested to Buckhurst. To make war without an army, to support an army without pay, to frame the hearts of a whole people to peace who were unanimous for war, and this without saying a word either in private or public; to dispose the Netherlanders favourably to herself and to Leicester, by refusing them men and money, brow-beating them for asking for it, and subjecting them to a course of perpetual insults, which she called “corrosives,” to do all this and more seemed difficult. If not to do it, were to spill the cause and to lose the bargain, it was more than probable that they would be spilt and lost.
But the ambassador was no OEdipus—although a man of delicate perceptions and brilliant intellect—and he turned imploringly to a wise counsellor for aid against the tormentor who chose to be so stony-faced and enigmatical.
“Touching the matter of peace,” said he to Walsingham, “I have written somewhat to her Majesty in cipher, so as I am sure you will be called for to decipher it. If you did know how infinitely her Majesty did at my departure and before—for in this matter of peace she hath specially used me this good while—command me, pray me, and persuade me to further and hasten the same with all the speed possible that might be, and how, on the other side, I have continually been the man and the mean that have most plainly dehorted her from such post-haste, and that she should never make good peace without a puissant army in the field, you would then say that I had now cause to fear her displeasure for being too slow, and not too forward. And as for all the reasons which in my last letters are set down, her Majesty hath debated them with me many times.”
And thus midsummer was fast approaching, the commonwealth was without a regular government, Leicester remained in England nursing his wrath and preparing his schemes, the Queen was at Greenwich, corresponding with Alexander Farnese, and sending riddles to Buckhurst, when the enemy—who, according to her Majesty, was “quite unable to attempt the, siege of any town” suddenly appeared in force in Flanders, and invested Sluy’s. This most important seaport, both for the destiny of the republic and of England at that critical moment, was insufficiently defended. It was quite time to put an army in the field, with a governor-general to command it.
On the 5th June there was a meeting of the state-council at the Hague. Count Maurice, Hohenlo, and Moeurs were present, besides several members of the States-General. Two propositions were before the council. The first was that it was absolutely necessary to the safety of the republic, now that the enemy had taken the field, and the important city of Sluy’s was besieged, for Prince Maurice to be appointed captain-general, until such time as the Earl of Leicester or some other should be sent by her Majesty. The second was to confer upon the state-council the supreme government in civil affairs, for the same period, and to repeal all limitations and restrictions upon the powers of the council made secretly by the Earl.
Chancellor Leoninus, “that grave, wise old man,” moved the propositions. The deputies of the States were requested to withdraw. The vote of each councillor was demanded. Buckhurst, who, as the Queen’s representative— together with Wilkes and John Norris—had a seat in the council, refused to vote. “It was a matter,” he discreetly observed with which “he had not been instructed by her Majesty to intermeddle.” Norris and Wilkes also begged to be excused from voting, and, although earnestly urged to do so by the whole council, persisted in their refusal. Both measures were then carried.
No sooner was the vote taken, than an English courier entered the council-chamber, with pressing despatches from Lord Leicester. The letters were at once read. The Earl announced his speedy arrival, and summoned both the States-General and the council to meet him at Dort, where his lodgings were already taken. All were surprised, but none more than Buckhurst, Wilkes, and Norris; for no intimation of this sudden resolution had been received by them, nor any answer given to various propositions, considered by her Majesty as indispensable preliminaries to the governor’s visit.
The council adjourned till after dinner, and Buckhurst held conference meantime with various counsellors and deputies. On the reassembling of the board, it was urged by Barneveld, in the name of the States, that the election of Prince Maurice should still hold good. “Although by these letters,” said he, “it would seem that her Majesty had resolved upon the speedy return of his Excellency, yet, inasmuch as the counsels and resolutions of princes are often subject to change upon new occasion, it does not seem fit that our late purpose concerning Prince Maurice should receive any interruption.”
Accordingly, after brief debate, both resolutions, voted in the morning, were confirmed in the afternoon.
“So now,” said Wilkes, “Maurice is general of all the forces, ’et quid sequetur nescimus.’”
But whatever else was to follow, it was very certain that Wilkes would not stay. His great enemy had sworn his destruction, and would now take his choice, whether to do him to death himself, or to throw him into the clutch of the ferocious Hohenlo. “As for my own particular,” said the counsellor, “the word is go, whosoever cometh or cometh not,” and he announced to Walsingham his intention of departing without permission, should he not immediately receive it from England. “I shall stay to be dandled with no love-days nor leave-takings,” he observed.
But Leicester had delayed his coming too long. The country felt that it-had been trifled with by his: absence—at so critical a period—of seven months. It was known too that the Queen was secretly treating with the enemy, and that Buckhurst had been privately sounding leading personages upon that subject, by her orders. This had caused a deep, suppressed indignation. Over and over again had the English government been warned as to the danger of delay. “Your length in resolving;” Wilkes had said, “whatsoever your secret purposes may be—will put us to new plunges before long.” The mission of Buckhurst was believed to be “but a stale, having some other intent than was expressed.” And at last, the new plunge had been fairly taken. It seemed now impossible for Leicester to regain the absolute authority, which he coveted; and which he had for a brief season possessed. The States-General, under able leaders, had become used to a government which had been forced upon them,
The Earl informed his correspondent that he was on the point of starting for the Netherlands. He ordered him therefore to proceed at once to reassure those whom he knew well disposed as to the good intentions of her Majesty and of the governor-general. And if, on the part of Lord Buckhurst or others, it should be intimated that the Queen was resolved to treat for peace with the King of Spain; and wished to have the opinion of the Netherlanders on that subject, he was to say boldly that Lord Buckhurst never had any such charge, and that her Majesty had not been treating at all. She had only been attempting to sound the King’s intentions towards the Netherlands, in case of any accord. Having received no satisfactory assurance on the subject, her Majesty was determined to proceed with the defence of these countries. This appeared by the expedition of Drake against Spain, and by the return of the Earl, with a good cumber of soldiers paid by her Majesty, over and above her ordinary subsidy.
“You are also;” said the Earl, “to tell those who have the care of the people” (the ministers of the reformed church and others), “that I am returning, in the confidence that they will, in future, cause all past difficulties to cease, and that they will yield to me a legitimate authority, such as befits for administering the sovereignty of the Provinces, without my being obliged to endure all the oppositions and counterminmgs of the States, as in times past. The States must content themselves with retaining the power which they claim to have exercised under the governors of the Emperor and the King—without attempting anything farther during my government—since I desire to do nothing of importance without the advice of the council, which will be composed legitimately of persons of the country. You will also tell them that her Majesty commands me to return unless I can obtain from the States the authority which is necessary, in order not to be governor in appearance only and on paper. And I wish that those who are good may be apprized of all this, in order that nothing may happen to their prejudice and ruin, and contrary to their wishes.”
There were two very obvious comments to be made upon this document. Firstly, the States—de jure, as they claimed, and de facto most unquestionably—were in the position of the Emperor and King. They were the sovereigns. The Earl wished them to content themselves with the power which they exercised under the Emperor’s governors. This was like requesting the Emperor, when in the Netherlands, to consider himself subject to his own governor. The second obvious reflection was that the Earl, in limiting his authority by a state-council, expected, no doubt, to appoint that body himself—as he had done before—and to allow the members only the right of talking, and of voting,—without the power of enforcing their decisions. In short, it was very plain that Leicester meant to be more absolute than ever.
As to the flat contradiction given to Buckhurst’s proceedings in the matter of peace, that statement could scarcely deceive any one who had seen her Majesty’s letters and instructions to her envoy.
It was also a singularly deceitful course to be adopted by Leicester towards Buckhurst and towards the Netherlands, because his own private instructions, drawn up at the same moment, expressly enjoined him to do exactly what Buckhurst had been doing. He was most strictly and earnestly commanded to deal privately with all such persons as bad influence with the “common sort of people,” in order that they should use their influence with those common people in favour of peace, bringing vividly before them the excessive burthens of the war, their inability to cope with so potent a prince as Philip, and the necessity the Queen was under of discontinuing her contributions to their support. He was to make the same representations to the States, and he was further most explicitly to inform all concerned, that, in case they were unmoved by these suggestions, her Majesty had quite made up her mind to accept the handsome offers of peace held out by the King of Spain, and to leave them to their fate.
It seemed scarcely possible that the letter to Junius and the instructions for the Earl should have been dated the same week, and should have emanated from the same mind; but such was the fact.
He was likewise privately to assure Maurice and Hohenlo—in order to remove their anticipated opposition to the peace—that such care should be taken in providing for them, as that “they should have no just cause to dislike thereof, but to rest satisfied withal.”
With regard to the nature of his authority, he was instructed to claim a kind of dictatorship in everything regarding the command of the forces, and the distribution of the public treasure. All offices were to be at his disposal. Every florin contributed by the States was to be placed in his hands, and spent according to his single will. He was also to have plenary power to prevent the trade in victuals with the enemy by death and confiscation.
If opposition to any of these proposals were made by the States-General, he was to appeal to the States of each Province; to the towns and communities, and in case it should prove impossible for him “to be furnished with the desired authority,” he was then instructed to say that it was “her Majesty’s meaning to leave them to their own counsel and defence, and to withdraw the support that she had yielded to them: seeing plainly that the continuance of the confused government now reigning among them could not but work their ruin.”
Both these papers came into Barneveld’s hands, through the agency of Ortel, the States’ envoy in England, before the arrival of the Earl in the Netherlands.
Of course they soon became the topics of excited conversation and of alarm in every part of the country. Buckhurst, touched to the quick by the reflection upon those—proceedings of his which had been so explicitly enjoined upon him, and so reluctantly undertaken—appealed earnestly to her Majesty. He reminded her, as delicately as possible, that her honour, as well as his own, was at stake by Leicester’s insolent disavowals of her authorized ambassador. He besought her to remember “what even her own royal hand had written to the Duke of Parma;” and how much his honour was interested “by the disavowing of his dealings about the peace begun by her Majesty’s commandment.” He adjured her with much eloquence to think upon the consequences of stirring up the common and unstable multitude against their rulers; upon the pernicious effects of allowing the clergy to inflame the passions of the people against the government. “Under the name of such as have charge over the people,” said Buckhurst, “are understood the ministers and chaplains of the churches in every town, by the means of whom it, seems that his Lordship tendeth his whole purpose to attain to his desire of the administration of the sovereignty.” He assured the Queen that this scheme of Leicester to seize virtually upon that sovereignty, would be a disastrous one. “The States are resolved,” said he, “since your Majesty doth refuse the sovereignty, to lay it upon no creature else, as a thing contrary to their oath and allegiance to their country.” He reminded her also that the States had been dissatisfied with the Earl’s former administration, believing that he had exceeded his commission, and that they were determined therefore to limit his authority at his return. “Your sacred Majesty may consider,” he said, “what effect all this may work among the common and ignorant people, by intimating that, unless they shall procure him the administration of such a sovereignty as he requireth, their ruin may ensue.” Buckhurst also informed her that he had despatched Councillor Wilkes to England, in order that he might give more ample information on all these affairs by word of mouth than could well be written.
It need hardly be stated that Barneveld came down to the states’-house with these papers in his hand, and thundered against the delinquent and intriguing governor till the general indignation rose to an alarming height. False statements of course were made to Leicester as to the substance of the Advocate’s discourse. He was said to have charged upon the English government an intention to seize forcibly upon their cities, and to transfer them to Spain on payment of the sums due to the Queen from the States, and to have declared that he had found all this treason in the secret instructions of the Earl. But Barneveld had read the instructions, to which the attention of the reader has just been called, and had strictly stated the truth which was damaging enough, without need of exaggeration.
All business has been transacted with open doors
Beacons in the upward path of mankind
Been already crimination and recrimination more than enough
Casting up the matter “as pinchingly as possibly might be”
Disposed to throat-cutting by the ministers of the Gospel
During this, whole war, we have never seen the like
Even to grant it slowly is to deny it utterly
Evil is coming, the sooner it arrives the better
Fool who useth not wit because he hath it not
Guilty of no other crime than adhesion to the Catholic faith
Individuals walking in advance of their age
Never peace well made, he observed, without a mighty war
Rebuked him for his obedience
Respect for differences in religious opinions
Sacrificed by the Queen for faithfully obeying her orders
Succeeded so well, and had been requited so ill
Sword in hand is the best pen to write the conditions of peace
Their existence depended on war
They chose to compel no man’s conscience
Torturing, hanging, embowelling of men, women, and children
Universal suffrage was not dreamed of at that day
Waiting the pleasure of a capricious and despotic woman
Who the “people” exactly were
*** End of the project gutenberg EBOOK history united Netherlands, 1587 ***
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