« PreviousContinue »
worth noticing here, a* scan, mag. is still a punishable offence. Scandal of the magnates, defamation of the aristocrats, is measured by a different metre from that which calculates the injured feelings of the lower ten thousand by the tongues of censurere. There are things that may be uttered of members of the middle and lower classes with perfect impunity; the law does not regard such trivial reproach. But the same thing said of a noble becomes scan. mag.; and though no lord who might be now called an ass would justify the application by appealing to the law, the statute whereby it could be punished is still in force, and will remain in force till the impending motion is carried for the abolition of all statutes now practically obsolete.
In the domestic brawl carried on between two persons whom the queen respected, Elizabeth intervened, in the August of 1586. She commanded the Lord Chancellor Bromley and the Lord Treasurer to act as mediators; and on their favorable report, the queen-sent for the apparently-reconciled pair to her palace at Richmond, "and in many good words showed herself very glad thereof; and the earl and countess in good sort departed together very comfortably."
But this celebrated couple did not long remain in comfortable condition. Queen Elizabeth set down certain rules by which their lives were to be regulated, but which had special reference to the curbing of the countess. Elizabeth determined that the earl should try his wife, "take probation for her obedience," for one year. "If she proved forgetful of her duty," said the queen, "place her in her house at Chatsworth." There had been actions pending between them respecting disputed ownership of plate, jewels, and hangings; but these were to be stayed during the probationary time. The countess would not accept the terms without some stipulations, one of which was that the queen "would appoint some one to be an eye-witness between the earl and me;" and the lady further required that if her probation failed in its chief point of obedience, she should not 'be restricted to residence at Chatsworth only. Bess of Hardwick could flatter when flattery was needful; and she calls the intervention of Queen Elizabeth a "godly work,"
which she hopes her majesty will conclude without loss of time.
We hear of this exalted couple again at the close of 1589, when the earl and countess kept different households; but the latter was willing to sign a treaty of peace, and live with her lord in his own home. The queen good-naturedly writes to bring about this desirable consummation. She addresses the Earl of Shrewsbury as her "very good old man," and begs to hear of his health, " especially at this time of the fall of the leaf" (she writes in December), "and hopes that he may not be touched with the wonted attempts of his accustomed enemy the gout" Finally, the queen urges him to "permit his wife sometimes to have access to him, which she hath now of a long time wanted."
The good will of the queen failed to accomplish her benevolent purpose. The earl departed this life in the autumn of 1590; but not altogether without discharging a Parthian dart in order to annoy his widow. This attack was made in the form of certain speeches a short time before he died, "wherein he feared that the Lady Arabell would bring much trouble to his house, by his wife and her daughter's devices. They think," said the old earl-marshal, "I am a great block in their way;" and'he notices a Dr. Browne "as a worker in their causes;" and his own son and successor Gilbert Talbot, as one " who will be much ruled by them." With this mischievous suggestion died the old gaoler of Mary Stuart —a poor, if guilty, woman, of whom he could say nothing worse than that " she did not keep her chamber cleanly;"' and, leaving the suggestion to do its work, the body of the earl was carried to that tomb at Sheffield which the earl had previously built arid magniloquently inscribed, and beneath \vj^i•,•' i all that was mortal of him still reposes.
Who was the "Lady Arabell" here spoken of; and why was she likely to bring so much trouble to herself and others? She was a very important little lady at this time, and remained so during a great portion of her life. She was the great-granddaughter of Margaret, daughter of Henry VII., through her second marriage with Douglas Earl of Angus. Our James I. was the great-graudson of the same Margaret, through her first marriage with James IV. of Scotland. Arabella's father, Charles Earl of Lennox, was the brother of James's father, Henry j Darnley; and, this kinship being considered, it is not wonderful that Queen Elizabeth, when she looked at the little Arabella as she frolicked about the rooms of the palace, where she was a guest—it is not wonderful, we say, that Elizabeth would occasionally suggest that the thoughtless girl might one day become an important personage. We know that she became so in James's days; but the passage printed above shows that she was already a cause of intrigue in the reign of Elizabeth. But to this queen she was no great source of disquiet Elizabeth allowed her two hundred a-year; her mother, the Countess of Lennox (a Cavendish by birth, and daughter of Bess of | Hardwick's second husband, Sir William Cavendish) twice that sum. It was this connection that brought Arabella into the household of the Earl and the Countess of Shrewsbury. In King James's reign the Lady Arabella was of importance enough to be a permanent disquiet to the king. He had a constant suspicion that his enemies, domestic or foreign, might attempt to raise her to the throne. He was not illiberal to her; that is to say, he endowed her out of the public money. But he watched her closely, lest she should marry (which she was desirous to do), and perhaps bring claimants to the throne, which he hoped his son would inherit and hold without dispute. Watch as closely as he would, young Seymour contrived to woo her, furtively, but to good purpose, at Whitehall, and the young couple were privately married. On the discovery of their secret, Seymour was sent to the Tower, and Arabella was confined at her own house, and subsequently she was sent to the ward of the muchperplexed Bishop of Durham. Thence she escaped in male attire; while her husband succeeded in breaking his prison in the Tower. They were to meet at an appointed spot, but they missed each other, and Arabella was recaptured in Calais Roads; but her husband escaped to Flanders, and the archduke refused to surrender him. The lady, who must have been considerably over thirty years of age, died of a four-years rigorous con
finement; after which Seymour was restored to favor, and promoted to the rank of Marquis of Hertford and Dbke of Somerset. Such was the Lady Arabella, who even in her girlhood helped to disturb the household of Lord and Lady Shrewsbury.
The Earl and Countess of Shrewsbury were not the only married couples who had disquiet in their households. In January 1585, Henry Lord Clynton announces to Burghley the death of his father the Earl of Lincoln, and he avails himself of the opportunity to add a bitter complaint of "the hard dealing of his mother-inlaw," or rather step-mother, " who, when he called to see his dying father, refused to him admittance." Therewith, says this much-vexed nobleman, " she joineth with mine own wife, and maketh Lady Stafford and Sir Thomas Heneage her instruments to blow innumerable slanders into the queen's ears against him."
This deceased earl had been one of the most gallant cavaliers of his time. lie was a soldier of renown, a tiller of world-wide reputation, a sea-captain of wonderous ability, and a statesman clear in judgment and prompt in action. Perhaps he is most celebrated as Governor of Boulogne during the famous attack made upon it by the French. Under severe pressure on the part of the brave enemy, and such suffering through scatojity of provision that he restricted the allowance for himself and family to a single loaf of bread daily, he maintained his post till that peace of 1550 was agreed upon, by the terms of which Boulogne was finally surrendered to its natural owners, the French. He was munificently rewarded for all his services, and we may perhaps reckon among such guerdon for duty rendered the hand of that fair Mis tress Blount, who was the first of his three wives. She was in every respect a most remarkable woman—one who, in the early flush of her beauty, subdued Henry the Eighth to its influences. Sixty-five years before the letter to which we have to refer was written, she was the very pride of Shropshire; a pride which was not diminished when Shropshire, in common with all England, heard that she was the mother of a son who had the haadsome King Harry for a father. This son was Henry Fitzroy, Earl of Nottingham and Duke of Richmond and Somerset The death of this handsome and clever boy, in his seventeenth year, was one of the great afflictions of Henry's life; and the mother, youthful Mistress Blount, was the only woman who throughout that life, led Henry for a brief while astray. In 1523 Mistress Blount was married to Sir Gilbert Taillebois, or Talbot, for some time Captain or Governor of Calais. She was then a rare beauty, of sprightly character, and accomplished in all outward graces and goodly pastimes. At what time Dame Taillebois became Countess of Lincoln we are unable to say. We only know that she left three daughters with their sire, and that the latter found a successor to his first wife in the sister of that infamous Charles Lord Stourton, who was very justly hanged in the market-place of Salisbury for the savage and cowardly murder of a neighbor. This lady was the mother of the lord who complained to Burghley of the "hard dealing" of his father's third wife, then his widow. This widow was the daughter of Gerald Fitzgerald Earl of Kildare, and niece of that preceding earl who, with five of his uncles, was executed in 1535 for high treason. Such a family party had never before stood together on a scaffold to be disposed of by headsman or hangman; and it was a daughter of this turbulent house of Fitzgerald who rendered the succession of her step-son to the inheritance which he derived from his father, the Earl of Lincoln, as unpleasant to him as she could make it.
From very old times the kings and queens of England have been mediators in, or managers of, the love-affairs of their subjects. The kings were chiefly managers, in the sense that they were guardians of marriageable ladies, and sold permission to wed, at rather costly prices. The queens were of more womanly purpose; there was heart in what they did. This was especially the case with Margaret of Anjou, in her few happy and untroubled days. Very few letters written by Margaret are extant; but for this there is good reason. The York government made the possession of them a capital crime, and thus the queen's letters were destroyed by their timid owners. Some few addressed to, and preserved by, a bolder spirit have been discovered, and
recently published by the Camden Society. The most remarkable passages in them are those which relate to the loveaffairs of some of, her husband's subjects. These latter are not all nymphs and swains of high degree; some among them are lowly, loving damsels, and correspondingly suitable suitors, who implore the queen's good offices in their behalf. Such royal service seems to have been heartily rendered. Margaret had a high reverence for the honorable estate of marriage, and from her willing pen flowed earnest letters to sires reluctant to yield consent, to great personages to aid in furthering the objects of the young people, and now and then to a coy maiden -dallying with "yes," not willing to say "no," and altogether inflicting pleasing pain on her manly wooer, who has—as she is told—her fair person in worship, and divine behests in reverencel
Certainly, as late as Elizabeth's days, love-affairs were mingled with those of state. The parties eager, or sometimes loth, to wed never dreamed that their little matters of the heart would become, three centuries later, social illustrations of the times in which those matters pleased or perplexed them. Thus we find Mr. Secretary Walsyngham beset by correspondents touching a love-affair of young Mr. Knollys. That youth wooed Lady Kivett's daughter, and the queen obtained a promise from my lady that the two should be made one. But her majesty reckoned without the maiden, who had a "perverse disposition," and "by no means could be wrought upon to like of a husband, specially of Mr. Knollys." The good mother deemed her promise to the queen cancelled by this disinclination of her daughter, whose disposition did not break the youth's heart; for, as Mr. Secretary Walsyngham is informed, "Mr. Knollys has therefore changed his mind, and desires to marry her elder sister." He would have Marian the lily, if he could not obtain Flora the rose. Walsyngham, Leicester, and the lady's uncle "John Colton," were all solicited to beseech the queen to allow of this transfer of affection from the indifferent lily to the blushing rose. With what effect, we are not informed.
Walsyngham himself was much troubled in his own household by both Cupid and Hymen, with his fair daughter Frances to boot. There was a certain John Wickerson,—whose name otherwise would not have been on the record of history at all,—who had, without Walsyngham's consent, entered into a contract of marriage with the secretary's daughter "Frank," as all ladies of her i name were familiarly called. When this was discovered, early in 1581, Wickereon was at once shut up in the Marshalsea prison. It did not cool his love, however painful the captivity may have otherwise been to him. At the end of two years we find him writing to Walsyngham. He confesses that the contract of matrimony was a rash one; but "to relinquish it would be a perpetual scruple and worm in conscience, and hazard of body and soul." The much-oppressed suitor then asks the consent and good will of Walsyngham to the fulfillment of the contract; otherwise, he curiously says, "we must live in adultery, and be a scornful spectacle and a mocking-stock to the world." This passage in the life of Mrs. Frances Walsyngham has not hitherto been revealed.
Wickerson's letter was written in February 1583. Just eleven years previously, Sir Philip Sidney had carried a letter of introduction from his uncle Leicester to Walsyngham, then the English envoy in Paris. Sidney was then seventeen years old ; and Leicester describes him as "licensed to travel," and as " young and raw." In Walsyngham's house he became acquainted with the envoy's only daughter Frances, who in 1581 was so closely contracted with Wickerson, that the breaking of the contract, according to the latter, would reduce them to live in a way that would make them a scornful and mocking spectacle to the world. Nevertheless, in the very next month Frances became the wife of Philip Sidney. She appears to have forgotten Wickerson altogether. When Sidney fell at Zutphen, A.d. 1586 (he was then but thirty-one years of age), there stood scathless on the same field a man, Robert Earl of Essex, who soon after won Sidney's young widow for his wife. Had Frances been true to Wickerson, she might still have fulfilled her contract with him by marrying him, after her second husband the earl was executed. Wicker
son, indeed, may have been dead, or rotting in the Marshalsea; at all events, he disappears altogether, after momentarily appearing on the surface of this ocean of love. As for "Frank," she had ascended from a knight to an earl, and she would wear nothing less than a countess's coronet. She was offered one by the "great" Richard de Burgh; and accepting it, ohe died in Ireland Countess of Clanricarde. One can not help having some sympathy and curiosity touching the first, and probably humbly-born, "sweetheart" of this wife of three husbands. Poor Wickerson might have felt something of what is expressed in the lines of a poet of that century, in his "Woman's Inconstancy:"
"Yet do thou glory in thy choice,
Thy choice of his good fortune boast;
It is certain, from these very records,
Let us, however, do her the justice of saying that our own belief is that Cicely Hoptoti was indeed forgetful of both the father and the governor ; and setting aside that disloyalty which daughters will, under certain influences, render to such (supremacy, she was a courageous girl, who had a heart that did not flinch to do good service to the man whom she loved, and the cause which he maintained. Cicely holds a-worthy position on the shelves of the State-Paper Office, where the social and political history of England lies, long written, but only partly published.
"Tire next question is, where shall she spend her holidays?" asked Uncle Charles.
"With each of us in turn," answered Uncle John.
"No, no ; that will unsettle the child's mind," interposed Uncle David.
"Better leave her entirely to me, brothers," quoth Uncle Henry. "My establishment is more fit for a young girl than any of yours, because I am not quite a confirmed old bachelor—I do mean to many some day—and you can all come and see her as often as you please."
My uncles seemed inclined to agree to this arrangement, when one of the clerks put his head in at the door, saying: "Lord Colooney wishes to see you, Mr. Dobbs."
All four brothers started with astonishment
The conversation which I have just related took place in my uncle Henry's private office. Scattered about the room sat my uncles, bald-headed, Dutch-built, elderly gentlemen, with heavy watchchains and projecting stomachs; while I, a slender little maiden of thirteen, nestled in one corner of an enormous leathern chair. I was timid and tearful, for Aunt Flora was just dead; and though Aunt Flora did not treat me nearly so familiarly as she treated Xerxes, the great Persian cat, still she was the only friend I had had for a long time.
In came Lord Colooney, a tall old gentleman with snow-white hair, a handsome colorless face, and a most attractive smile upon his lip. When he smiled, he reminded me of dear papa, and I loved him. I was surprised to see how my uncles—especially Uncle Henry —bowed down before him. Uncle Henry made such obsequious salams, that I thought he would never come.up again, and yet I knew that he was immenselyrich, while Lord Colooney was very poor. Presently, when these polite salutations were concluded, Lord Colooney called me to him, and taking my hands kindly in his own, asked if I knew who he was, and I said: "Yes, you are grandpapa." With this statement he seemed highly pleased, and gave me a kiss.
The rive gentlemen then began to tattle very earnestly and very lengthily, so that, although I understood a good deal that they said, I grew rather weary, and yawned once or twice privily behind nay hand. Uncle John noticed this, and said kindly: "You're getting tired, Louisa. Here, Mr. Furlong, take this young lady out for a walk j show her the shops, and buy her something to eat"
Mr. Furlong was a bristly-haired, longlegged personage, very nervous and very apologetic. He apologized to me for having left his gloves in his greatcoat pocket, and also on discovering that he had come out with his pen behind his ear. I had two buns and a strawberry-ice at a pastry-cook's, and then he asked me what sort of shops I would like to look at I said I would sooner go into a quiet place, away from the noise of the carriages. So he took me into a delightful little churchyard, with houses all round it He remained so silent, that I thought he hated having to come out with me, and I asked him why he did not talk.
"It's not my place, miss," he said humbly, "to talk to a young lady like you. I'm only a clerk"—he pronounced the word as if rhyming to Turk—" while you are grand-daughter to a peer of the realm, and heiress to thirty thousand pounds."
"Thirty thousand pounds! Are you sure?"
"Positive, Miss. The governor sent me down to the Commons to look at the will."