Page images
PDF
EPUB

blunted the law's edge that but a small proportion of the priests were capitally punished. All which I say not by way of apology; for these proceedings need no apology; since the safety of the kingdom turned upon them, and all this severity both in the manner and the measure of it came far short of the bloody examples set by the priesthood, - examples scarcely to be named among Christians, and proceeding moreover some of them rather out of arrogance and malice than out of necessity. But I conceive that I have made good my assertion, and shown that in the cause of religion she was indeed moderate, and that what variation there was was not in her nature but in the times.

Of her constancy in religion and worship the best proof is her dealing with Popery: which though in her sister's reign it had been established by public authority and fostered with great care and labour, and had taken deep root in the land, and was strengthened by the consent and zeal of all who were in authority and power; yet because it was not agreeable either to the word of God or to primitive purity or to her own conscience, she at once with the greatest courage and the fewest helps proceeded to uproot and abolish. And yet she did it not precipitately or upon eager impulse, but prudently and all in due season; as may be gathered from many circumstances, and among the rest from a reply made by her on the following occasion. Not many days after she came to the throne, when prisoners were released (as the custom is to inaugurate and welcome a new reign by the release of prisoners), a certain courtier, who from nature and habit had taken to himself the license of a jester, came to her as she went to chapel, and either of his own motion or set on by wiser men, presented her a petition; adding with a loud voice before all the company, that there were yet four or five prisoners more who deserved liberty, for whom he besought that they might be released likewise; namely, the four Evangelists and the Apostle Paul; who had been long shut up in an unknown tongue, as it were in prison, so that they could not converse with the people. To whom she answered very wisely, that it were good first to inquire further of themselves, whether they would be released or no : thus meeting a sudden question with a doubtful answer, as meaning to keep all clear and whole for her own decision. And yet she did not introduce these changes timidly neither, nor by starts; but proceeding in due order, gravely and

maturely, after conference had been first had between the parties, and a Parliament held, she then at last, and yet all within a single year, so ordered and established everything relating to the Church, that to the last day of her life she never allowed a single point to be departed from. Nay at almost every meeting of Parliament she gave a public warning against innovation in the discipline and rites of the Church. And so much for the point of religion.

As for those lighter points of character,— as that she allowed herself to be wooed and courted, and even to have love made to her; and liked it; and continued it beyond the natural age for such vanities ;-- if any of the sadder sort of persons be disposed to make a great matter of this, it may be observed that there is something to admire in these very things, which ever way you take them. For if viewed indulgently, they are much like the accounts we find in romances, of the Queen in the blessed islands, and her court and institutions, who allows of amorous admiration but prohibits desire. But if you take them seriously, they challenge admiration of another kind and of a very high order; for certain it is that these dalliances detracted but little from her fame and nothing at all from her majesty, and neither weakened her power nor sensibly hindered her business:—whereas such things are not unfrequently allowed to interfere with the public fortune. But to conclude, she was no doubt a good and moral Queen; and such too she wished to appear. Vices she hated, and it was by honest arts that she desired to shine. And speaking of her morality, I remember a circumstance in point. Having ordered a letter to be written to her ambassador concerning a message which was to be given separately to the Queen Mother of the Valois, and finding that her secretary had inserted a clause directing the ambassador to say to the Queen Mother by way of compliment, that they were two Queens from whom though women no less was expected in administration of affairs and in the virtue and arts of government than from the greatest men,- she would not endure the comparison, but ordered it to be struck out; saying that the arts and principles which she employed in governing were of a far other sort than those of the Queen Mother. Nor was she spoiled by power and long reigning: but the praises which

.

"I have not been able to learn what romance Bacon alludes to here.

318

TRANS. OF IN FELICEM MEMORIAM ELIZABETHÆ.

pleased her most were when one so managed the conversation as aptly to insinuate that even if she had passed her life in a private and mean fortune she could not have lived without some note of excellency among men; so little was she disposed to borrow anything of her fortune to the credit of her virtue. But if I should enter into her praises, whether moral or political, I should either fall into certain common-place observations and commemorations of virtues, which would be unworthy of so rare a princess; or in order to give them a lustre and beauty peculiar and appropriate, I should have to run into the history of her life,- a task requiring both more leisure and a richer vein. Thus much I have said in few words, according to my ability. But the truth is that the only true commender of this lady is time, which, so long a course as it has run, has produced nothing in this sex like her, for the administration of civil affairs.

IN

HENRICUM PRINCIPEM WALLIÆ

ELOGIUM FRANCISCI BACONI.

« PreviousContinue »