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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

As Biron had a portion of the lower French nobility for him


Essex

remained a long while in the custody of the Keeper of the Seal, who was favourably disposed towards him; then he was sentenced by the Star Chamber not to exercise any longer his high offices as member of the Privy Council, as Earl Marshal, and Master of the Ordnance, and to live as a prisoner in his own house during the Queen's pleasure. He seemed to reconcile himself to this fate, and behaved modestly for a considerable time: he was still flattering himself with the hope of regaining his sovereign's favour, when a monopoly was withdrawn from him which formed the chief part of his income. This new victory of his enemies was intolerable to him: he would not let himself be brought so low by them as to be forced to live like a poor knight, without influence and independence. The thought occurred to him that, if he could but see the Queen once more, he might effect a change in his own destiny and in that of England. The popularity he enjoyed in the capital, the continued attachment of his old companions in arms, the friendship of some considerable nobles, allowed him to entertain the hope that he could attain this in despite of those around her, could make himself master of the palace, and force her to summon a Parliament--in which the change of government and the succession of the King of Scotland should be alike confirmed. Essex was no longer the blooming man of times past, he was seen moving along with his neck bowed down, but he still had his mind fixed on wide-ranging and ambitious
thoughts: from his youth up elevated by good fortune and favour, he held everything possible which he set his hand to do. On the 8th February 1601 an armed band assembled at his house under certain lords; the Keeper of the Seal and his attendant, whom the Queen despatched in order to inform herself of the cause of the agitation, were detained. Essex dared to march through the capital with his armed men, in order to raise it on his behalf. He reckoned on the desertion of the city militia to him, and the connivance of the city magistrates; but instead of finding support he only excited astonishment. No one stirred in his favour. He was scarcely able--for royal troops were soon in arms against him--to make his way back to his house: there was nothing left for him but to surrender at discretion.

At his trial the principle, which had already had so much weight in the proceedings against Mary Stuart, was expressly stated, that every attempt at rebellion must be looked on as directed against the life of the reigning sovereign.[289] A crisis had occurred which obliged Elizabeth to execute the man for whom among all men living she cherished the deepest and warmest feeling, just as formerly she had been forced to condemn one of the grandees connected with her by blood, and then her sister Queen of equal rights with herself--all of them for traitorous attempts against her government and person. She said she would gladly have saved Essex, but she was forced to let the laws of England take their course.

Essex is to be compared with his contemporary Biron in so far as they both rebelled against sovereigns with whom they had stood in the closest relations. In both it was mainly injured self-esteem which goaded them on. As Biron had a portion of the lower French nobility for him, so Essex had the soldiers by profession and the officers of the army to a great extent on his side: they both appealed once more to religious antipathies. But above all they thought of again making room for the old independence of the warlike nobles: they both succumbed to the authority of the firmly-rooted power of the state.

At that time there were fresh negociations going on for a peace between Spain and England; but they could as little now as before agree on the great subjects in dispute, the question of the Netherlands, and the interests of commerce, which at the same time involved points of religion. And the Spaniards broke off negotiations all the more readily, as exaggerated rumours of Essex's conspiracy resounded everywhere, making a revolt in England appear possible. They then instantly thought of a landing in an English harbour, and this the Catholics promised to support with considerable bodies of horse and foot. In Ireland, where the refusal of the concessions held out to them by Essex revived the national enmities, the Spaniards really effected a landing: under Don Juan d'Aguilar they occupied Kinsale: and hoped not merely to become masters of Ireland but to cross from thence to their friends' assistance in England.


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