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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

Walsingham was allied by marriage with Mildmay


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the side of this pilot of the state, Robert Dudley, who was promoted to be Earl of Leicester, drew all eyes on himself as the leading man at court. Burleigh was looked on as Somerset's creation, Dudley was the youngest son of the Earl of Northumberland: for it was of advantage to Elizabeth, especially at first, to unite around her important representatives of the two parties which had composed her brother's government. One motive for her attachment to Leicester is said to have been the fact that he was born on the same day, and at the very same hour with herself: who at that time would not have believed in the ruling influence of the stars? But, besides this, the Earl dazzled by a fine person, attractive manners, and an almost irresistible charm of disposition. The confidential intimacy which Elizabeth allowed him caused scandalous rumours, probably without ground; for if they had been true, Leicester, who had his father's ambition, would have played a very different part. Elizabeth heard of them; she once actually brought a foreign ambassador into her apartments, to convince him how utterly impossible it would be for her to see any one whatever without witnesses; she censured a foreign writer for letting himself be deceived by a groundless rumour, but she would not on this account dismiss the favourite from court. She liked to have him about her, and to receive his homage which had a tinge of chivalry in it: his devotion satisfied a need of her heart. He could not however take
any power to himself which would infringe on her own supreme authority; once, when such a case occurred, she reminded him that he was not in exclusive possession of her favour: she could bestow it on whom she would, and again recall it; at court, she exclaimed, there should be no Master, but only a Mistress.[281] Neither did Leicester display great mental gifts: in the campaigns of the Netherlands he did not at all answer even the moderate expectations that had been formed of him. If the Queen nevertheless put him at the head of her troops when the Spanish danger threatened, this was because he possessed her absolute personal confidence.

With Leicester the Sidneys were most closely allied. Henry Sidney, his sister's husband, introduced civilisation and monarchic institutions into Wales, and was selected to extend them in Ireland. In his son Philip the English ideal of noble culture seemed to have realised itself; he combined a very remarkable literary power peculiar to himself, and talents suited for the society of men of the world (which well fitted him for the duties of an ambassador), with disinterested kindness to others, and a chivalrous courage in war, which gained him universal admiration both at home and in presence of the enemy.

Leicester's good word is also said to have opened an entrance to court for young Walter Ralegh and to have promoted his first successes. Ralegh combined in his own person the aspirations of the age in a most vivid manner. He was ambitious, fond of show, with high aims, deeply engaged in the factions of the court; but at the same time he had a spirit of noble enterprise, was ingenious and thoughtful. In everything new that was produced in the region of discoveries and inventions, of literature and art, he played the part of a fellow worker: he lived in the circle of universal knowledge, its problems and its progress. In his appearance he had something that announced a man of superior mind and nature.

Around Cecil were grouped the statesmen who had been promoted by him, and worked in sympathy with him: for instance Bacon the Keeper of the Seals, whom the Queen regarded as the oracle of the laws, and who also amused her by many a witty word; Mildmay, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who though adhering to the principles now adopted yet gladly favoured the claims of Parliament, and even the tendencies of the Puritans; Francis Walsingham, Secretary of State, who had once suffered exile for his Protestantism and now supported it after his return with all the resources of the administration; it is said of him that he heard in London what was whispered in the ear at Rome; he met the crafty Jesuits with a network of secret counter-action which extended over the world; there has never been a man who more vigilantly and unrelentingly hunted down religious and political conspiracies; to pay his agents, in choosing whom he was not too particular, he expended his own property. Cecil and Bacon had married two daughters of that Antony Cooke, who had once taken part in Edward VI's education: the other sisters, wedded to Hobby and Killigrew, men who were engaged in the most important embassies, extended the connexion of these statesmen. Walsingham was allied by marriage with Mildmay, and with Randolph the active ambassador in Scotland.


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