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dealing with that Prince (James), standing to her Majesty in so dainty terms, and the suspicious conceit her Majesty hath of his titulary hopes, maketh, yea, rather forbiddeth and forewarneth me to have no commerce where my loyalty may receive a blemish. And therefore I have made bold to deliver mine opinion to your brother, advising you to make known (to her Majesty) that you would not entertain anything that should not have her Majesty's good allowance."1
Sound advice; but the Bacons were too ambitious, and too confident of their powers of concealment to heed it. No doubt Cecil did the same thing himself throughout the last two years of the Queen's reign, but he was in power and able to take sufficient precautions. With regard to the correspondence of Essex, he not only found means to intercept some of it, but it is probable that through the fussiness and imprudence of James, and perhaps the double dealing of his agents, it got to the ears of the Queen.
Thus, when Essex was persuaded to take the Irish command, he was already in the toils of his enemies, who cared little about the reduction of Ireland and the waste of English lives in comparison with the object of ruining the Earl and securing power for themselves. Warned by Francis Bacon of his danger, he nevertheless allowed them by working on his jealous susceptibilities, and, by appeals to his patriotism, to put the command upon him. Whereupon he immediately began to bemoan his fate and to complain that he was already being "defeated in England." And there was ground for this. On the defeat of the English forces by Tyrone at Blackwater in August 1598, Essex had come out of his retirement and placed his services at the disposal of the Queen. At first she refused to see him, but in September he saw her for the first time since the quarrel and was supposed to be reconciled. But her temper towards him was uncertain and suspicious, and her usual irritation about the great expense of the expedition which had become necessary did not tend to make things better. After many disputes and " crosses (in which Essex was probably touchy and unreasonable) about the
1 Quoted by Abbott, Bacon and Essex, p. 72.
numbers of the force, the terms of the Earl's commission, his debts to the Queen, and the dedication to him of a treatise of Henry IV., by one Hayward, which contained a history of the deposition of Richard II., Essex made a start at the end of March 1599, the people pressing "exceedingly to behold him for more than four miles space"; but even before he had embarked we find him beginning to suffer from interference. The Queen, for some unexplained reason, had objected to his taking over Sir Christopher Blount (his then step-father) as his Marshal, with the intention of placing him on the Irish Council, whereupon he sent him back (though he afterwards thought better of it). This annoyed the Queen, who directed her Council to "signify Her Maj. mislike of my sending back Sir Christopher Blount, since I find so great lack of one in his room." Writing to the Council Essex says he only moved her Majesty " for her service to give me one strong assistant, but it was not her will." He continues :
"I have returned Sir Christopher Blount, whom I hoped to have carried over, for I shall have no such necessary use of his hands, as, being barred the use of his head, I would carry him to his own disadvantage, and the disgrace of the place he would serve in. Hereof I thought it fit to advertise your LL., that you might rather pity me than expect extraordinary successes from me."
In a further despatch to the Council he gives reasons, which look very good ones, why he required a first rate man to assist him, not only with the discipline of the army, but on the council of war, and he concludes:
"but as your LL. have many times heard me say, it had been far better for her service to have sent a man favoured by her, who should not have these crosses and discouragements which I shall ever suffer of your LL. . . . for if I have not inward comfort, and outward demonstration of Her Maj. favor, I am defeated in England.”
That Cecil and his supporters, who practically were the Council, should have entrusted what Essex describes as "the greatest cause that ever her Majesty had" to a man in such a frame of mind, only shows how eagerly they looked forward to his failure.
A similar instance of interference with the Earl's disposi
tions occurred in the course of the campaign in Ireland. Essex had appointed his intimate friend, Henry Wriothesly, Earl of Southampton, General of the Horse. In the summer of the previous year Southampton had fallen into disgrace with the Queen for marrying Elizabeth Vernon, a maid of honour, without her knowledge and consent; indeed she had committed them both to the Tower, and Essex had got into trouble for abetting them. The Council wrote to Essex to say that they were commanded by the Queen to let him know that she took the appointment offensively, seeing that she had given him an express prohibition to the contrary, and that she demanded Southampton's removal from the office; "Her Maj. esteeming it a very unseasonable time to confer upon him any so great place, having so lately given her cause of offence towards him." Essex replied from Dublin that he had no disobedient thought in appointing him, that he had never moved her Majesty for the placing of any officer, and that his commission gave him freedom of choice; that he had told the Queen on her expressing a dislike to Southampton having any office, that he "must work with mine own instruments," and that if he were to put this disgrace on Southampton he must dismay the army, "which already looks sadly upon me, as pitying both me and itself in this comfortless action," and encourage the rebels. "Was it treason," he adds, "in my Lord of Southampton to marry my poor kinswoman ?" A letter come back at once from the Queen herself, enclosed with one from the Council, reiterating the command and expressing surprise that Essex should "think by your private arguments to carry for your own glory a matter wherein our pleasure to the contrary is made notorious." Whereupon Essex complied without further words. It seems hardly conceivable that at this critical time (July) when the forces of Essex had been much reduced and Tyrone was still unassailed, that the Queen should have acted in this way merely to gratify feminine spite. The conclusion which I reach, both with regard to this case and that of Blount, is that she had been worked upon by Cecil through the Scottish correspondence, and persuaded to regard both these men as
dangerous and desired by Essex for treasonable ends.1 They were both devoted to the Earl and suffered with him at the end, Blount being executed and Southampton narrowly escaping a similar fate. But it was for himself, not for the Queen, that Cecil had to fear, if indeed his fears had any real justification at that time. To the same cause must be attributed the fact that the army of Essex was filled by the Government with spies.
It may be said that it is proved by the confessions after the trial of Essex that he had contemplated the bringing over the army to England while he was in Ireland. But on this point the Government, through the hand of Bacon, found it necessary to garble the depositions so as to make it appear that Essex entertained this scheme after his meeting with Tyrone, and in communication with him, which manifestly would have been treason. This was done, as Dr. Abbott has said, in a highly artistic manner, by the omission of the words of a deposition "This was some days before the Earl's journey to the North," and the insertion of the words " A little before my Lord's coming over into England," whereby it was made to appear that a conversation which Essex had in Dublin with Southampton and Blount about "going over to England for his security" took place at the later date. When Essex took the decision to come over he came with no more than six attendants and merely presented himself to the Queen, but that he had uttered threatenings about bringing the army over there seems to be little doubt, though I am inclined to think, with Dr. Abbott, that, at that time, they were merely explosions of passion against Cecil and his party.
The following is from the confession of Blount (uttered at his death) on this subject:
"He told me that (as I knew) he had many injuries offered to him by his adversaries in England, which he could no longer endure; and that they in his absence so much prevailed with the Queen that, except
1 The Earl of Rutland, another friend and relative of Essex was also recalled.
"The Government " Declaration " is examined against the documentary evidence in Dr. Abbott's Bacon and Essex, ch. xviii.
they were presently removed, there was no hope he should long continue in her Majestys favour; and that therefore he meant to go to England, with an army of three thousand men, and to make way to her Majesty, and so get his enemies removed from her, and himself into more assurance of her favour."1
Things were going badly with Essex and he was also out of health. He and the Irish Council had also been reprimanded by the Queen about this time for the delay in attacking Tyrone. The following letter from him to the Queen throws light on his state of mind, and largely explains the threat which is the subject of Blount's confession:
“Madam,—I offend you often and afflict myself, therefore I ask of your Maj. justice this right, that I may be adjudged by yourself a man worthy to serve you, and to have my services graciously accepted; or to have your Maj. leave for to retire for altogether; for to spend my best time without regard and encouragement, and to be subject every hour to base and vile imputations, is as impossible for me as it is intolerable. Your Maj. humble vassal, Essex.”2
In an earlier despatch he had been even more explicit :
"But why do I talk of victory and success? Is it not known that from England I receive nothing but discomforts and soul's wounds? Is it not spoken in the army, that your Majesty's favor is diverted from me, and that already you do bode ill both to me and it? Is it not believed by the rebels that those whom you favor most, do more hate me out of faction, than them out of duty and conscience? Is it not lamented of your Majesty's faithfullest subjects, both there and here, that a Cobham or a Ralegh-I will forbear others for their places' sake [an allusion, of course, to Cecil]-should have such credit and favour with your Majesty when they wish the ill-success of your Majesty's most important action, the decay of your greatest strength, and the destruction of your faithfullest servants?'
No doubt there is a morbid strain in all this, but the treatment of Essex in regard to his principal officers, together with other matters in dispute about victualling, clothing and munitions, account, with his loss of men by sickness and desertions, for these complaints. It is evident that Essex
1 Quoted by Dr. Abbott, Bacon and Essex, p. 128.
* Devereux, Lives, etc., ii. 56.
Dr. Abbott says the men had to pay for their clothing, rations and even their gunpowder. Bacon and Essex, P. 121.