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and in my letter he did plead for me feelingly against those enemies, and pointed them out as particularly as was possible; which letters I know Mr. Secretary Cecil (a) hath seen, and by them it will appear what conceit Mr. Bacon held of me, so different from what he here coloureth and pleadeth against me.” (b)
To this charge, urged in violation of the most sacred confidence, which Essex well knew would render Bacon obnoxious to the Queen, and suspected by all parties, he instantly and indignantly replied, "My lord, I spent more hours to make you a good subject, than upon any man in the world besides; but since you have stirred up this point, I dare warrant you this letter will not blush to see the light, for I did but perform the part of an honest man, and ever laboured to have done you good if it might have been, and to no other end; for what I intended for your good was wished from the heart, without touch of any man's honour." After this unjustifiable disclosure, which severed the last link between them, Bacon only spoke once, and with a bitterness that showed how deeply he was wounded. (c)
(a) Essex added to this charge against Bacon a charge calculated, if true, to ruin Cecil, whom he asserted to have said, that the Infanta of Spain had as much right to the crown of England as any of her competitors: a charge refuted by Cecil, with the spirit and dignity of conscious integrity. He said to the Earl of Essex, " For wit, wherewith you certainly abound, I am your inferior; I am inferior to you in nobility, yet noble I am; a military man I am not, and herein you go before me: yet doth my innocency protect me; and in this court I stand an upright man, and you a delinquent."
(6) See ante, p. lxxix.
(c) Years after the trial he complained of this injurious treatment to the Earl of Devonshire, and Camden says, "Surely all this was done like a friend, while he studied to put Essex in grace with the Queen." Camden concludes the narrative with these words: "These things whereat I was present myself, I have with uncorrupted fidelity compendiously related, and have willingly omitted nothing." Apology, p. 170, and Camden, p. 186.
25th Feb. 1601.
Through the whole trial Essex conducted himself with courage and firmness worthy of a better cause. Though assailed by the lawyers with much rancour, and harassed by the deepest search into his offences; though harshly questioned by his adversaries, and betrayed by his confederates, he stood at bay, like some noble animal, who fears not his pursuers, nor the death that awaits him; and when at last the deliberate voices of his fellow peers proclaimed him guilty, he heard the sentence with manly composure, and, without one thought of himself, sought only to save the life of his friend.
Bacon having obtained a remission of the sentence in favour of six persons (a) who were implicated, made one more effort to serve this unhappy nobleman. He "for says, the time which passed, I mean between the arraignment and my lord's suffering, I was but once with the Queen, at what time though I durst not deal directly for my lord as things then stood; yet generally I did both commend her majesty's mercy, terming it to her as an excellent balm that did continually distil from her sovereign hands, and made an excellent odour in the senses of her people: and not only so, but I took hardness to extenuate, not the fact, for that I durst not, but the danger, telling her that if some base or cruel minded persons had entered into such an action, it might have caused much blood and combustion: but it appeared well they were such as knew not how to play the malefactors, and some other words which I now omit."
All exertions however proved fruitless, for after much fluctuation on the Queen's part, (b) arising from causes variously stated by historians, Essex, on the 25th of February, was executed in the Tower.
The Queen having been coldly received by the citizens,
after the death of Essex, or moved by some other cause, was desirous that a full statement should be made of the whole course of his treasons, and commanded Bacon to prepare it. He says, "her majesty taking a liking of my pen, upon that which I had done before concerning the proceeding at York House, and likewise upon some other declarations, which in former times by her appointment I put in writing, commanded me to pen that book, (b) which was published for the better satisfaction of the world: which I did but so, as never secretary had more particular, and express directions and instructions in every point how to guide my hand in it: and not only so, but after that I had made a first draught thereof and propounded it to certain principal councillors, by her majesties appointment, it was perused, weighed, censured, altered, and made almost a new writing, according to their lordships better consideration : wherein their lordships and myself both were as religious and curious of truth, as desirous of satisfaction: and myself indeed gave only words and form of style in pursuing their direction. And after it had passed their allowance, it was again exactly perused by the Queen herself, and some alterations made again by her appointment: after it was set to print, the Queen, who as she was excellent in great matters, so she was exquisite in small, noted that I could not forget my ancient respect to my Lord of Essex, in terming him ever my Lord of Essex, my Lord of Essex almost in every page of the book, which she thought not fit, but would have it made, Essex, or the late Earl of Essex: whereupon of force it was printed de novo, and the first copies suppressed by her peremptory commandment." He concludes the whole with these words, "had I been as well believed either by the Queen or by my lord, as I was well heard by
(b) See vol. vi. p. 274.
them both, both my lord had been fortunate, and so had myself in his fortune."
Happier would it have been for the Queen, and her illfated favorite, had they listened to his warning voice. Essex paid the forfeiture of his unrestrained passions by the stroke of the axe, but Elizabeth suffered the lingering torture of a broken heart; the offended majesty of England triumphed, she "Queened it nobly," but the envenomed asp was in her bosom; she sunk under the consciousness of abused confidence, of ill-bestowed favors, of unrequited affection the very springs of kindness were poisoned: suspicious of all around her, and openly deserted by those who hastened to pay court to her successor, her health visibly declined, and the last blow was given to her by some disclosure made on the deathbed of the Countess of Nottingham. Various rumours have arisen regarding this interview, and the cause of the Queen's grief; but the fatal result has never been doubted. From that day, refusing the aid of medicine, or food, or rest, she sat upon the floor of her darkened chamber, and gave herself up to the most unrestrained sorrow. The spirit that had kept a world in awe was utterly prostrate; and, after a splendid and prosperous reign of forty-five years, desolate, afflicted, March 24, and weary of existence, she lingered till the 24th of March,
on which day she died. (g)
Bacon's respect for the Queen was more manifested after her death, and even after his own death, than during her life. (a)
In one of his wills (b) he desires, that, whatever part of his manuscripts may be destroyed, his eulogy "In felicem memoriam Elizabethæ" may be preserved and published:
(g) See note 4 G at the end.
(a) See note 4 H at the end.
and, soon after the accession of James to the throne, he thus speaks of the Queen.
"She was a princess that if Plutarch were now alive to write lives by parallels, would trouble him, I think, to find for her a parallel amongst women. This lady was endued with learning in her sex singular and rare even amongst masculine princes; whether we speak of learning, language, or of science, modern or ancient, divinity or humanity: and, unto the very last year of her life, she was accustomed to appoint set hours for reading, scarcely any young student in an university more daily or more duly. As for her government, I assure myself, I shall not exceed, if I do affirm that this part of the island never had forty-five years of better times, and yet not through the calmness of the season, but through the wisdom of her regimen. For if there be considered of the one side, the truth of religion established; the constant peace and security; the good administration of justice; the temperate use of the prerogative, not slackened, nor much strained; the flourishing state of learning, suitable to so excellent a patroness; the convenient estate of wealth and means, both of crown and subject; the habit of obedience, and the moderation of discontents; and there be considered, on the other side, the differences of religion, the troubles of neighbour countries, the ambition of Spain, and opposition of Rome; and then that she was solitary and of herself; these things I say considered, I could not have chosen a more remarkable instance of the conjunction of learning in the prince, with felicity in the people."
End of Part I.