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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

So long as victory wavered between Essex and his opponents


So

far the dislikes of King James and the Earl of Essex coincided. Although a formal understanding between them cannot be proved, they were nevertheless allies up to the point of regarding the Queen's ministers as their enemies.

Very significant were the instructions which James gave to an embassy which he despatched to England after the downfall of the Earl. His ambassadors were directed to ascertain whether the popular discontent went so far as to contemplate the overthrow of the Queen and her ministers, in which case they were to take care that the people 'invoked no other saint,' i.e. sought protection and support from no one else but him. Above all he wished to be assured with regard to the capital that it would acknowledge his right: he wished to form ties with the leading men in the civic and learned corporations; the greater and lesser nobles who inclined to him were to have early information what to do in certain contingencies, and to keep themselves under arms. As he had always thought it possible that he might require naval assistance from Denmark, so now he instigated a sort of free confederation of the magnates and barons of Scotland: they were to prepare their military retainers in order to enforce his rights. Not that he had formed any design against the Queen, but he believed that after her death he must give battle to her ministers in order to gain the crown, and he appeared determined not to decline the contest.

justify;">In reality however this mode of action was foreign to his nature. How often he had said that a man must let fruit ripen before plucking it: and a foreign prince, to whose sayings he attached great value, had advised him to proceed by the safest path. This was the Grand Duke Ferdinand of Tuscany, who then played a certain part in Europe, as he had set on foot the alliance between Henry IV and the Pope in opposition to Spain: Mary de' Medici, Queen of France, was his niece. With the house of Stuart also he stood on the footing of a relation: his consort, like the mother of King James, was a scion of the house of Lorraine, and a marriage at some future day between the King's eldest son and the daughter of the Grand Duke was already talked of. This relationship, and Ferdinand's reputation for great political far-sightedness and prudence, caused his advice to exercise great influence on James's decisions, as James himself tells us. So long as victory wavered between Essex and his opponents, or, as he conceived, between the existing government and the people, James did not declare himself: when the issue was decided he gave his policy a different direction and made advances to the ruling ministers, whom up to this time he had regarded as his enemies.

They were quite ready and willing to meet him. Robert Cecil asserted later that he had by this means best provided for the safety and repose of the Queen, for that by an alliance between the government and the heir to the crown the jealousy of the Queen was best appeased: yet still he observed the closest secrecy with regard to it. It is known that he dismissed a secretary because he feared that he might see through the scheme and then betray it. He thought that he was justified in keeping the Queen in ignorance of a connexion that could only be distasteful to her at her advanced age, which had deepened the suspicion natural to her disposition, although at the same time this connexion was indispensable for her repose. These ministers were tolerably independent in their general conduct of affairs. They had embarked on other negotiations also without the knowledge of the Queen; they thought such conduct quite permissible, if it conduced to the advantage of England. And was not Robert Cecil moreover bound to seize an opportunity of calming the prejudices of the King of Scotland against himself and his house, which dated from his father's participation in the fate of Queen Mary? This was the only way of enabling him to prolong his authority beyond the death of his mistress, with which it would otherwise have expired.


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