The below mentioned article provides a biography of Queen Elizabeth I. After reading this article you will learn about: 1. Queen Elizabeth (1558-1603) and the Succession Question 2. Elizabethan Church Settlement 3. Foreign Policy of Queen Elizabeth 4. Queen Elizabeth and the Netherlands 5. Queen Elizabeth and Scotland: Mary Stuart Queen of Scots 6. Queen Elizabeth and Spain 7. Queen Elizabeth and France and others.
- Queen Elizabeth (1558-1603) and the Succession Question
- Elizabethan Church Settlement
- Foreign Policy of Queen Elizabeth
- Queen Elizabeth and the Netherlands
- Queen Elizabeth and Scotland: Mary Stuart Queen of Scots
- Queen Elizabeth and Spain
- Queen Elizabeth and France
- Queen Elizabeth and Ireland
- Queen Elizabeth and the Counter-Reformation
- A Review of Queen Elizabeth’s Foreign Policy
- Elizabethan Literature
- EIizabethan Commerce, Art, Architecture, Music and Science
- Elizabethan Society and its Economy
- Last Years of Queen Elizabeth
- Estimate of Queen Elizabeth’s Character
- Queen Elizabeth’s Ministers
1. Queen Elizabeth (1558-1603) and the Succession Question:
No nation has perhaps been so fortunate in its rulers as the English and few rulers have impressed themselves so forcefully on the memory and imagination of the English race as Queen Elizabeth I.
Much of her reputation as a queen was indeed the reflected glory of the people she governed, even so in a very real sense Elizabethan England was Elizabeth’s England, for it was she who nursed into being and by her wisdom made possible its amazing development.
When on November 17, 1558, Elizabeth I came to the throne she was twenty-five and no glimmering of the splendid future was noticed. On the contrary she had a crop of troubles to deal with. The first and foremost of the problems was the problem of succession. Her legal claim was based on the will of her father Henry VIII.
The Catholics regarded her as illegitimate and as they desired to bind England to Rome again and restore their position, they were inclined to uphold Mary Queen of Scot’s claim to the English throne. On assumption that Elizabeth was regarded as illegitimate, Mary Queen of Scots would have definitely a better claim.
Mary was the Queen of the Scots, she was married to the Dauphin of France. Now, if her claim to the English throne was admitted, there would be a union of three crowns, namely those of England, France and Scotland. England in that event would be an appendage of France.
There would also be the question of the European balance and Spain would in case allow a union of the three countries, for that would make France the most powerful country ever in Europe. The Parliament looked at the question of succession from this point of view and decided to give Parliamentary sanction to Elizabeth’s title to the throne. But the thorn in the flesh continued to exist.
England had other pressing problems. She was ragged and torn by misgovernment, the treasury was empty, the principal fortresses of Berwick and Portsmouth were falling into ruins, the country had run short of munitions, a huge debt of more than £266,000 had to be liquidated. To add to this general malady, the Catholics and the Protestants were poised in battle array.
The former desired to be united to Rome and have their old position restored. To this end they tended to support Mary Stuart’s claim to the throne. The Catholics did not regard Elizabeth as a legitimate child of Henry. The Protestants on the other hand embittered by fierce persecution wished to carry Reformation further and make it impossible for Catholicism to have any hold upon the country.
Ordinary people who did not care much for religion wanted peace. They hated persecution and were ready to accept any arrangement in matters of religion which would put an end to the bitterness for religion. The outlook of the country was such that a civil war between the Catholics and Protestants was not ruled out.
In foreign relations England’s position was unenviable. In the war of Spain against France during Mary’s reign, England lost her only possession in the Continent—Calais. The marriage between Mary Queen of Scots and Dauphin (Francis II) of France strengthened the position of France which like a colossus put one of its legs in Calais and the other in Edinburgh.
France was now in command of the channel. Philip II of Spain was the champion of Counter-Reformation and wanted to convert England into a Catholic country.
To this end, he desired to marry Elizabeth and thereby gain political power in England. Philip also apprehended the possibility of Mary Queen of Scots’ coming to the English throne which would make France, the sworn enemy of Spain strongest power and thwart the European balance of power. Situation in Scotland, however, made Scotland itself less dangerous.
There were two parties in Scotland, a French party headed by Mary of Guise, mother of Mary Queen of Scots. This party leaned more and more towards France whereas the Reformers who formed the opposite party tended to make an alliance with England. It was due to the opposition of the Reformers that the French withdrew from Scotland by the Treaty of Edinburgh (1760).
Economically, the country stood on a precipice. The expense of the French war in Mary’s reign had brought about a financial imbalance in the country. The restoration of annates further drained out money to Rome. The debasement of coins, rapacity of the reforming nobles during Edward VI’s time had a dangerous cumulative effect on the financial condition of the country. The government had run into huge debts.
Ireland was in grave disorder due to the violence in Edward VI’s reign and the confiscation of land by Mary.
From the military point of view, there was no preparedness that a country normally keeps at all time. Ammunition was in short supply, forts were in conditions of disrepair, there was no regular army, and the navy was in neglect since the days of Mary.
Elizabeth, in order not to alarm the partisans of Catholic religion retained eleven of her sister’s councillors but in order to balance their authority she added eight more who were known to be inclined to the Protestant communion.
These eight were Marquis of Northampton, the Earl of Bedford, Sir Edward Rogers, Sir Thomas Parry, Sir Francis Knollys, Sir Ambrose Cave, Sir Nicholas Bacon and Sir William Cecil. With the last mentioned councillor, Sir William Cecil, Elizabeth frequently deliberated concerning the expediency of restoring the Protestant religion and the means of executing that great task.
It was Sir William Cecil who told her of the expediency of restoring the Protestant religion and that the greater part of the nation had ever since her father’s reign inclined to the Reformation, and though Mary had constrained to profess the ancient faith, the cruelties, exercised by her ministers had all the more alienated them from it.
Should the Catholics be encouraged by the Roman Church and Philip, the champion of the Counter-Reformation, England had enough Protestants to retaliate upon them, and many of the Catholics were likely to embrace the faith of their new sovereign.
Further, the authority of Henry VIII, so highly raised by such submissive deference that it was less difficult for his successors to continue the nation in a track to which it had so long been accustomed that it would be easy for her, by bestowing on the Protestants all preferment in civil offices, the militia, the church and the universities, both to insure her own authority, and to render her religion entirely predominant.
Her education, as also her interest, led Elizabeth to favour the Reformation, and it did not take long to make up her mind as to which party she should embrace. Yet with determination and courage, she resolved to proceed by gradual and secure steps and not to make the mistake of Mary in proceeding with too great a pace.
She decided to be sure that her steps encouraged the Protestants who were so much depressed by Marian persecution. She at once recalled all exiles and set free the prisoners who were confined because of their religion. Elizabeth was God-fearing and by nature tolerant, and refused, in her own words,’ to make windows into men’s souls’.
It must, however, have to be specially mentioned that, while religion then divided the English nation, the national pride kept them united and it was on this foundation that Elizabeth wanted to build. She decided to make her church peculiarly English and command, like monarchy itself, the allegiance of all sorts and conditions of men.
The caution with which Elizabeth proceeded to deal with the most complicated of all her problems can be understood from a royal proclamation retaining the existing form of worship. She also corresponded with the Pope for the recognition of her accession to the English throne, presumably to make the Pope to retrace what two of his predecessors had done by fixing on her the blame of illegitimacy.
But in reality she depended on the Parliamentary sanction. She also restricted unlicensed preaching’s by Protestant teachers, who irritated by Marian persecution broke out in a furious attack on ancient superstition. She made preaching to be made by licensed preachers, and should be calm and moderate.
2. Elizabethan Church Settlement:
Once Elizabeth placed her hands on the question of religious settlement, which after two spells of extremism under Edward VI and Mary, brooked no delay, she felt the urgent need of ousting alien authority over the English Church.
Although the royal proclamation on her accession to the effect that there was to be no alteration of the religious usages then in force, prosecution for heresy was stopped; the ritual in the royal chapel and at the time of coronation conformed to Protestant views.
In 1559, the Parliament met and the members were clearer about their immediate purpose than most had been. A number of bishoprics were vacant, but the Marian bishops with the support of a group of temporal lords made a valiant struggle against the extinction of the Catholic Church.
By the Act of Supremacy, the whole of Mary’s reactionary legislation was swept away. The anti-papal statutes of Henry VIII were revived in all essential points. Edwardian Act of Uniformity was passed rapidly through the Commons, which restored Edward’s Second Prayer Book, with very slight modifications, as the director, of public worship. Both these Acts carried their penal codes.
Refusal to take the oath of supremacy was punishable with loss of office and ‘any attempt to maintain by writing, printing, preaching, express words, deed or act, the authority of a foreign prince, prelate or potentate, within her majesty’s dominions exposed the offender to death for high treason’.
It was compulsory for justices, judges mayors, clergy, royal officials and also persons taking orders or receiving degrees from the universities to take the oath.
The Act of Uniformity was on the other hand, applied to the entire community, clerical and lay alike. Offenders against the Prayer Book were liable to imprisonment for life if they were clericals, and a fine of 12d. for every absence from the church in case of laity.
It must, however, be noted here that the Act of Supremacy made Elizabeth the Supreme Governor instead of Supreme head of the church as was the case with Henry VIII. This as some writers have pointed out, made a great difference.
Although this difference in the wording sacrificed nothing of the substance of the power, it was certainly intended to soften the impact of the measure on the Catholic conscience and to make the transfer of the ecclesiastical power to the Crown as little obtrusive as possible. The same spirit of compromise could be seen in the modification, though slight, in the Prayer Book.
Four years later, in 1563 the Church Settlement was completed by the publication of Thirty-nine Articles, defining the doctrines of the church. Edwardian forty-two articles were reduced to thirty-nine. The most Protestant of the doctrines were left out and thereby these were made less violently Protestant to soften the impact on the common people.
For the enforcement of the Church Settlement a new court, called the Court of High Commission was set up. This court punished absentees from church, dealt with clerical offences and administered the oath under the Act of Supremacy.
This court was a kind of Privy Council and called by some as Protestant Inquisition. It met in 1559 and deprived the whole bench of Romanist bishops and about 190 of the clergy of their offices. New bishops were appointed to fill in the vacancies and they were headed by Matthew Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury, a man of great learning and tolerance, who carefully guided the Anglican Church through its formative years.
That the Elizabethan Church Settlement was in the nature of a compromise is writ large throughout it. When Elizabeth gave her assent to the Act of Supremacy she took care to point out that her position was substantially as her father’s under the earlier supremacy statute. She claimed only potestas jurisdictions, that is jurisdictional authority over the clergy.
This would seem to imply that the Crown would exercise temporal authority over the ecclesiastical persons as was being exercised over the laity. But the subsequent publication of the Royal Injunctions clearly shows that Elizabeth exercised right to make ordinances relating to spiritual matters.
Her councillors went to the extent of claiming that she had power under the law equal to that of the Pope or the Archbishops of Canterbury, extending even to the articles of faith.
The discrepancy between the power the statute relating to supremacy was supposed to have conferred and the power actually exercised was certainly due to the desire on the part of the government to quiten public opinion on the Catholic side which strongly resented regal supremacy over the church.
For the same reason she had changed the title of ‘the only supreme head in earth of the Church of England’ of Henry VIII, which was followed by Edward VI without any variation, into one of ‘Supreme Governor of this realm, as well in all spiritual and ecclesiastical things or causes as temporal’.
As Keir points cut ‘there seems no reason to suppose that, for all the change of title, the supremacy resumed by Elizabeth connoted anything less’.
The same spirit of compromise is noticeable in the Prayer Book the words like ‘to be delivered from the tyranny of the Bishop of Rome and all his detestable enormities’ were struck out of the Litany. Further the Zwinglian wording of the Second Prayer Book of Edward VI were tampered by the addition of the Catholic wording of the first.
These were concessions to make the religious settlement least obtrusive to the Catholic conscience. The queen’s moderation at first made the average Englishman feel no more change in the administration of religion beyond, perhaps the use of English in service in the place of Latin and the Communion of two kinds, both wine and bread for the laity.
The settlement, Elizabeth hoped, would meet the wishes of the vast majority of the English men and women. Even for those who still clung to the papal supremacy or objected to the English service, there was to be no active persecution.
Matthew Parker, the first Archbishop of Canterbury after the Elizabethan Church Settlement took care not to make too many Catholics into traitors. But unhappily this moderation did not last throughout the reign.
Like all compromises, Elizabethan Settlement did not actually satisfy many. The Catholic leaders refused to have anything to do with it, for obvious reasons. The Protestant emigres who returned to England with high hopes to see the New Jerusalem of their dreams built in England, were greatly disappointed and condemned the settlement as Papist and sorrowed over its incompleteness.
To Elizabeth herself, the settlement was not exactly what it would have been if left to herself. She made no secret of her aim ‘to restore religion as her father had left it’, taking Edward VI’s First Prayer Book as basis of change.
But the heavy pressure brought to bear on her by the enthusiasts who had imbibed the Protestantism of continental varieties almost compelled her to sink her prejudices and allow more scope to the zealots than she had intended.
The fact that she had to depend on these men for administering her new state church, since the co-operation from the Catholics was out of the question, and their attitude had its influence on her decision. The signing of the Peace of Cateau-Cambresis early in March, 1559 between England and France, induced Elizabeth to agree to the settlement which was somewhat different from her own ideas.
The settlement, a compromise like all compromises, became in the minds of many a starting point rather than a reaching of the goal. Time was to prove its validity or otherwise, for the present, however, it served its immediate purpose and allowed the via media a chance of success.
The settlement, however, laid down the lines on, which the Church of England had proceeded ever since. It also brought peace for the time being. The second half of the sixteenth century saw various religious wars in Europe, but the settlement saved England of any such conflict.
Yet, the settlement while ended the long struggles of the past quarter of a century, in another way opened a new struggle which lasted for a hundred years. This was the struggle between the Papists, the Anglicans, and the Puritans. The Papists rejected the Act of Supremacy, the Anglicans supported the Elizabethan Settlement and the Puritans agitated for extreme Protestant reforms.
The key-note of the next period of a hundred years was a double conflict, between the Papists, i.e. the Catholics and the Anglicans on the one hand, and the Anglicans and the Puritans on the other. This was the main theme of the English history up to the reign of Charles II.
The net result of Elizabethan Church Settlement was the change in the religion of the country. Elizabeth’s cautious policy to which Archbishop Parker and Cecil had contributed in a large measure, only had made the change less palatable to the opposing group. The discerning bishops did foresee that a revolution in religion had been caused by the settlement, however, guarded and sugar-coated the process had been.
The settlement restored royal supremacy over the church, snapped the relation with Rome, repudiated the papacy, re-introduced the English Prayer Book and established the great precedent and principle that the form of the nation’s faith was to be determined by the nation’s representatives in the Parliament, not by the clergy under the Pope’s dictation.
England had gone Protestant, though in a less violent form, as a result of the Elizabethan Church Settlement.
3. Foreign Policy of Queen Elizabeth:
‘In no department of state action’ observes Black ‘is it more difficult to foresee the future course of events than in that of foreign policy.
The enemies of yesterday become the friends of tomorrow, and vice versa, the friends of yesterday become the enemies of tomorrow according as interests coincide or clash’. And in no reign perhaps the truth of this remark of Black has been borne out with greater measure than in that of Queen Elizabeth I.
When Elizabeth came to the throne, of the two great continental rivals Spain and France, the former was in a benevolent role in regard to England, and the latter was the national foe. Scotland, under its young queen Mary Queen of Scots was allied to France and bound by ties of marriage, was positively and traditionally unfriendly to England.
The danger from Scotland was very real, for the Catholics who would not regard Elizabeth’s claim to the throne of England as legitimate were willing to replace her by Mary Queen of Scots. France was naturally behind Scotland. The complexity of the situation was increased many times because of Mary Queen of Scots design, supported by the Catholics, to grab the English throne.
The situation demanded extra-ordinary political acumen and alacrity, diplomatic skill and sagacity, and above all a dynamism that could cope with the fast changing political back-drop within the country and in the continent. She did possess these essential qualities to make her rule a success.
At her accession Elizabeth found an armistice between England and France in operation, and peace negotiations going on. England, rather the Queen did not mean to conclude a peace with France unless Calais, the last of the English possessions in the continent was restored.
Elizabeth felt acutely the humiliation of parting with the last remnant of once extensive English dominions in France.
She exploited Philip II’s friendship and his distrust of France for the purpose, nor could Philip desert England lest Mary Queen of Scots would come to the English throne.
She drove the negotiations almost near a breach and exacted the utmost that could be in the circumstances—a face-saving compromise by the Peace of Cateau-Cambresis (April 2, 1559) which left Calais as an English possession temporarily in the custody of France.
In reality it was sold for the price of half a million crowns, to be paid by France in eight years. The peace was neither honourable nor dishonourable, it was rather a neutral peace. To be sure it left the French colossus standing with one foot in Calais and the other in Scotland.
England had steadfast enmity but no steadfast friendship abroad. ‘France was the enemy par excellence.’ ‘When the Ethiopian is white, the French will love the English’ ran the proverb.
The Peace of Cateau-Cambresis was no peace, no end of enmity between England and France. Loss of Calais which was real, added to the age-long; rivalry between the two countries. More serious were the pretensions of the Dauphin’s wife Mary Queen of Scots, to the throne of England.
Dauphin now King of France as Francis II, naturally supported her claim. But all this might have been harmless if religion had not cut politics athwart.
Elizabeth, the only Protestant Queen of the time was the focus of Protestant hopes against her sister Mary Queen of Scots’ Catholicism and Mary was the focus of Catholic hopes. Elizabeth’s resources, compared to Queen of Scots were meager. The latter had the French support, support of the Pope and sooner or later the Pope was bound to help her by excommunicating Elizabeth.
Fortification in the North was also very weak and the ill-fortified town of Berwick stood between Protestant England and Catholic North. There were real chances of a combination of Catholic powers to dethrone Elizabeth and destroy Protestantism in England.
If France and Spain would not combine, they might invade England separately. It was, therefore, the business of Elizabeth at least to prevent a combination of Catholic Spain and France and to thwart unilateral attempt by only of these two.
Fortunately, circumstances cropped up which gave handles to Elizabeth to grip the situation well. In Scotland Protestantism and national feeling had joined forces against Catholicism. The advantage of a corrupt church was taken in the fullest by the Reformist preachers, while the nobility covetous of the church land and resented French intrusion in Scotland.
Arrival of John Knox in Scotland and his preachings stirred a rebellion.
The congregation as the rebel Protestants called themselves, naturally turned to Elizabeth for help. It became clear to Elizabeth that there was every possibility of a French invasion of Scotland and in the event of the defeat of the rebels, the French ambition of throwing Elizabeth off the throne would materialise.
If on the other hand the congregation was successful the Frenchmen from Scotland would be ousted from Scotland and would also lead to the overthrow of the Catholic Church there. Yet it was risky to lend support to the Scots and it would also be a violation of the Peace of Cateau-Cambresis. But Elizabeth was never pusillanimous and did never set any great store by scruple.
She and Cecil seized the opportunity but preserved an appearance of correct behaviour to make it difficult for any other power to take open action against her. The rebels were assured by Cecil that England would not see them ruined. ‘Kindle the fire in any way you can, for if it be quenched such an opportunity will not recur in our lifetime’ told Cecil to Sir James Croft of Scotland.
Crossing and re-crossing of borders by the representatives of the congregation, inflow of money into Scotland from England went on, to which the Scottish Government protested.
But Elizabeth was a pastmaster in the art of dissimulation and she lied and the Scottish ambassador was made to believe in her protestation that all things were being done by some of her foolish subjects and, what the Regent in Scotland was hearing was nothing but malicious rumour.
By the end of 1559 it became clear that the rebels would not be in a position to drive out the French forces already in Scotland. Elizabeth, therefore, gave William Winter charge of a fleet ordering him to sail to Berwick and thence to Firth of Forth where he was to prevent any succour reaching the Regent in Scotland and to do all damage he could to any French ships at sea or the Firth.
At the same time an army of four thousand foot and two thousand horse was to besiege the French in their fortress of Leith. William Winter moved into the Firth of Forth and found two ships of war and a hoy full of munitions and several barques which were supporting the French army which was advancing through Fife on St. Andrews.
Winter captured most of the barques and got them destroyed by the Scots. Soon after Winter destroyed four French ships and a thousand men and the rest was done by a storm which smashed up the main French fleet with the long awaited succour and destroyed four vessels and two thousand men.
Apprehending that the country was moving towards open war with France began preparations acquiring huge quantities of munitions from the Netherlands.
On February 27, 1560, situations advanced another stage with the signing of the Treaty of Berwick with the congregation by which Elizabeth took Scotland under her protection in order to save its freedom and liberties and agreed to intervene openly in the event of any French attack on them.
The rebels agreed on the other hand to come to England’s help should the French invade her. A month later the English army advanced into England.
Philip II of Spain who was in a quandary for while did not want Elizabeth to annex Scotland, would not as well want France to annex England. Nor did he want the rebels go unpunished and heresy imposed on Scotland. He suggested to Elizabeth to withdraw help to the Scottish rebels, and that he himself would punish the rebels in conjunction with a limited number of French troops.
The consideration for the bargain was to be Spanish assistance in the event of French attack on England. The Spanish ambassador, a Flemish nobleman was sent to impress upon Elizabeth that she had the alternative of withdrawal from the Scottish venture or war with France and Spain.
But reputation of Elizabeth in the Nether lands was very high and the Flemish nobles secretly advised England’s continuing the war. Fortune favoured England at this stage.
Mary of Guise died, news arrived of a terrible disaster to Spanish arms in Tripoli and troubles within France were increasing. Elizabeth was now ready to insist not only on the restoration of Calais, but on the payment of half-a million crowns as compensation. Negotiation had in the meantime broken down.
Elizabeth sent instructions to Cecil ordering invasion of France in aid of the rebels there and occupation of a French town as a pledge for Calais. France was willing to come to peace at any cost and the Treaty of Edinburgh was signed. ‘It was a triumph of English prestige and honour, recognising Elizabeth’s right to the throne and binding Francis and Mary to abstain from her arms and title.’
Besides, the essence of the peace lay in the withdrawal of the French troops except a handful of them, from Scotland, destruction of the fortress of Leith and the transfer of the government of Scotland to a Council of Scottish nobles.
The Treaty of Edinburgh solved the problem of both France and Scotland and Elizabeth’s prestige abroad, among the Catholics and the Protestants rose phenomenally high. Scotland was full of gratitude for Elizabeth, the paragon of their time. They abolished Pope’s authority, Mass was prohibited and Protestant faith was adopted. Theaty of Berwick was ratified.
To the French king Francis II, the Treaty of Edinburgh was as hard as intolerable, and he and Mary despite their earlier word to ratify the treaty refused to do so. Francis’ ambition still was to unite France Scotland and England through Mary’s succession to the English throne.
But Francis II’s sudden and premature death in 1560 changed the whole situation. Francis’ brother Charles IX, a minor succeeded him and the government of France passed into the hands of the Queen-mother Catherine de Medici Mary, now a widow had no other alternative but to return to her inhospitable kingdom of Scotland.
With the accession of Charles IX, the Guise family which was related to Mary Queen of Scots went into the background and the Medicis became powerful. The religious peace that had descended on France with the accession of Charles IX was violently disturbed due to the massacre of a Protestant congregation at Vassy in 1562 by the followers of the Duke of Guise.
This led to a civil war between the Catholics and the Huguenot, i.e. the French Protestants. Prince Conde was the leader of the Huguenots. It was very likely that Spain, Savoy and other Catholic countries would come to the assistance of the French Catholics, and Elizabeth was advised to help the Huguenots, with whose help she might get possession of Calais. Dieppe or Havre or even all three.
Elizabeth openly came to the assistance of the Huguenots and a treaty to this effect had already been signed in July, 1562 with Prince Conde. The English troops occupied Havre. But the situation in France had gone worse because of the conflict between the Guise and Medici families. In 1563, Catherine de Medici, the Queen-mother captured Conde and assassinated the Duke of Guise.
Eventually she managed to unite the Catholics and the Huguenots in a common front against the English- Negotiations were opened with Elizabeth who was still determined to get back Calais and to retain Havre. There was no alternative but to fight it out. But with the outbreak of plague in the English garrison, which began taking huge toll of lives Elizabeth had to come to terms and surrender Havre.
Calais was naturally irretrievably gone and so was the monetary compensation promised by the Treaty of Cateau-Cambresis in 1559. The whole affair was a luckless costly adventure. Elizabeth put the blame at the door of the Huguenot leaders.
In the meantime things were moving along a dangerous course and plots and rebellions in the North made matters worse. The Scottish borderers who had given asylum to the English fugitives made a common cause with them. The rebels were, however, put down by Hudson, with 300 of them killed, 200 taken prisoners. Five hundred more were executed. But this was not the end of the Scottish trouble.
Marian party leagued with Elizabeth’s rebels, again raised the standard of rebellion and rumours spread that France always eager -to take advantage of England’s discomfiture, would invade England. The rebels were, however, put down within the borders of Scotland.
While events were moving towards peace in Scotland, Duke of Alva succeeded in suppressing the Netherlands where the Protestant cause was being supported by Elizabeth and the preparations went on for the reception of Anne of Austria, Philip II’s bride-elect, on her way to Madrid.
The royal flotilla was to be escorted by the Spanish fleet. All this gave rise to a grave suspicion and fear that Spain intended to attack England. France was also suspected to be in the plot and there was acute scare in England. But eventually the scare and excitement subsided.
Elizabeth now turned to the solution of the Scottish problem by restoring Mary Queen of Scots who had in the meantime taken asylum in England, to the Scottish throne on certain conditions. But the move failed and it became evident that the Scottish question must wait until some substantial grounds of co-operation with France were discovered.
The French king Charles IX was willing to strike a blow at the Hapsburgs and was determined to build up a system of alliance between France and the Protestant powers abroad. He planned ‘to marry his brother Anjou to Elizabeth and thereby bring England into his scheme for the dismemberment of the Spanish empire.
Isolation of England due to rupture with Spain, hostility of the Pope and the troubles in Scotland created the need for an ally. There was also a strong pro-French party in the Privy Council. Anglo- French diplomatic correspondence began on the proposed match between the Queen and Anjou and Alencon.
This was done with the purpose of striking terror into the heart of Philip of the probability of an Anglo-French alliance. Spanish success over the Turks in Lepanto all the more underlined the need for a closer rapprochement between England and France.
Henceforth the policy of a French alliance became the very basis of Elizabethan foreign policy and even when in 1572 there was the massacre of the Huguenots on the Bartholomew day, England did not feel like retracing her steps from the French alliance.
Elizabethan policy towards France was dictated by the requirements of her own position. The Catholic opposition to her succession, rivalry of Mary Queen of Scots, the support rendered by France to the Scots and the fear of a Catholic combination of France, Spain and Scotland, supported by the Pope determined her French policy.
Her covert support to the French Huguenots was not so much out of her Protestant sympathies as for the purpose of keeping France embroiled in her own home- thereby making it difficult for her to render active assistance to the Scots. But Elizabeth’s practical and artful statesmanship knew well how and when to change the ways of her policy.
With the forces of Counter-Reformation gathering greater strength and her failure to solve the Scottish riddle, and above all the Spanish success in the Netherlands and victory at Lepanto made it imperative for Elizabeth to alter his attitude towards France.
By dangling the prospect of her marriage with Anjou and Alencon, Elizabeth blunted the edge of the French enmity towards England. This apart, Charles IX’s policy of shattering the power of the Hapsburgs also drove him towards an English alliance. Charles began following the policy of a Catholic at home and Protestant abroad, in his attempt to strike hard at the Hapsburgs.
This change in the French attitude came at a time when England’s isolation, and at the same time the fear of Spanish blow at England, made England and France allies. Elizabeth was a pastmaster in the art of dissimulation and artful in her relations with foreign powers.
These were necessary to make up for the difficulties of her situation and it goes without saying that she managed her relations with France well and kept the Catholic powers separated from one another.
4. Queen Elizabeth and the Netherlands:
Elizabeth’s policy towards the Netherlands was a part of her policy towards Spain and was guided by economic and political considerations rather than by religious. Continental Protestants oppressed by Catholic governments beckoned her in vain for a crusade on behalf of reformed faith.
Even the persuasion of her own ministers went in vain in evoking any response from her in this regard. She was interested in using the Protestant idealism for the furtherance of her own secular aim. ‘Her foreign policy, like her home policy was entirely free from fanaticism.’
Peace with security was her avowed aim. It was her design to avoid open war with Philip. She, however, would not let one opportunity go, which might injure his interest. She chose Netherlands, the weakest spot of Philip’s empire for the purpose. Netherlands had been for long one of the chief markets of Europe. England had a good share of the trade with the Netherlands.
English cloth and wool trade was a flourishing one, and gradually leather, hides, tin, lead, grains, coal and later the new manufactures were also included in the exports to the Netherlands. Under Charles V, Netherlands enjoyed a good measure of autonomy which was also greatly helpful for the English merchants in the Netherlands.
But things changed under Philip II whose stricter control over Netherlands led the inhabitants to begin a fight for their independence. They heartily disliked the control of the Court of Madrid. Philip II sent the ruthless Duke of Alva to deal with the rebellious inhabitants of the Netherlands. But there, the desire for independence got mixed up with the Reformation.
Elizabeth, a master of prevarication and deceit gave support to the rebels in Netherlands yet denying any knowledge of the same officially. She also permitted the Sea-Beggars, i.e. the Dutch sailors who lay in the wait in the British harbours to raid the Spanish shipping passing through the Straits of Dover.
On occasions, she would also send money to the rebels.
Elizabeth’s support to the rebels was also out of the consideration that if she would refuse to assist, the rebels would turn to France for succour, and French control of the Netherlands was more intolerable than the Spanish, for under the French there would be no question of autonomy which the Netherlands enjoyed under Charles V and was now trying to secure under Philip II.
Meanwhile the struggle in the Netherlands went on and under Requesens, successor of Duke of Alva, repression of the Dutch went on unabated. William of Orange, the rebel leader dispatched a mission to Elizabeth requesting financial help and protection of the rebel provinces. But Elizabeth turned it down despite the fact that the Council was strongly in favour of intervention.
Elizabeth’s intention was to s6ek peace by mediations, honourable and advantageous to both parties. But at about this time an incident in the narrow seas nearly provoked war between England and Holland. An English ship was attacked within a few miles of Dover, on its return journey from Antwerp, by cruisers in the service of Zeeland. The crew and passengers were despoiled of their belongings.
This was an insult to the British flag and what was worse it was an indignity to the distinguished foreigner—the bride of the Portuguese ambassador in London who happened to be travelling in the ship. Elizabeth was so incensed that she ordered immediate reprisals and the Dutch shipping at Falmouth was seized.
Counter reprisals followed and the English vessels at Flushing were arrested. Elizabeth threatened William of Orange that she would even join Spain against him in order to prevent the peril that he conceived of causing to her. But situation took a sudden turn for the better.
The death of Requesens, the wild excesses of his unpaid soldiers altered the situation and William of Orange succeeded in prevailing over the southern provinces and in November, 1576 Netherlands were reunited by the Pacification of Ghent, and thereby for the first time in nine years the whole seventeen provinces drew together in a common resolve to re-establish their political liberties as in the days of Charles V.
The question of religious toleration was still dangerous to be handled and was left in suspense, only the placards against heresy were abolished. Illegalities of Alva were declared null and void, William of Orange was confirmed as stand holder of Holland and Zeeland, and Spanish garrisons were to be dismissed immediately.
Successor of Requesens who died in March, 1576, was Don John who came with the specific instructions to establish peace and satisfy the provinces on all points consistent with the maintenance of obedience to the Crown and the Catholic Church. But the instruction which was veiled in deepest secrecy was to turn his forces against England once he would accomplish his other part of the job.
Don John had to accept the Pacification of Ghent, respect the ancient liberties of the provinces and to remove the Spanish troops within twenty days, before he was received as governor.
William of Orange, however, did not take any part in the negotiations with Don John, and remained un-reconciled. Orange renewed his appeal to Elizabeth for an alliance with Holland and Zeeland, and pointed out that ‘with the heavens, ships, and mariners of Holland and Zeeland on her side she could defy her enemies with impunity’.
But Elizabeth who was more or less satisfied with the pacification, was in a dilemma now. She could not abandon Orange, lest he might turn to France, nor could she support him involving her whole Netherlands policy in ruin. Her council, notably Walsingham, Leicester, and Wilson were openly in favour of Prince William of Orange.
Elizabeth who clung to her policy of mediation, insisting that the Pacification of Ghent was the only sound basis of peace in the Netherlands, suggested that Orange should form a League of the Protestant princes of Germany and the Protestant cantons of Switzerland and she, on her part would give it her blessings.
By the middle of 1577 Don John, chafing under the tutelage of the States-General of the Netherlands and the recalcitrance of Orange, reverted to the policy of repression. This was exactly what Orange had prophesied. Elizabeth dispatched William Davison to put pressure on the States-General to call upon Orange to take command of the situation and to assure English armed help for the defence of the country.
After initial hesitance the States-General fell in line with the Queen’s advice and she promised a loan of £100,000 and armed support of 5,000 foot soldiers and 1,000 horsemen. But even then Elizabeth had not given up her policy of peace through mediation in the Netherlands and sent Sir Thomas Wilks to Spain to urge recall of Don John.
But her reluctance even then to plunge into fray in the Netherlands brought the danger of French intervention nearer. Elizabeth now was between the devil and the deep sea. Don John would not listen to her appeal for an armistice, the rebels felt that the Queen was abandoning them at the last moment; the result of Wilks’ mission would not also be known before months.
Meanwhile Don John was moving from success to success, aided by Alexander of Parma from Italy. Prince William of Orange was compelled to put up a desperate fight. The utmost Elizabeth agreed to do was to subsidise her faithful John Casimir with £20,000 to hire German cavalrymen for a demonstration against Don John, but her name was to be kept secret.
Hardly this decision was taken, Spanish representative Bernardino de Mendoza arrived in England and made it clear to Elizabeth that the Spanish king was determined to subdue the Netherlands, but that he intended to recall Don John. Elizabeth was also asked to prohibit, as a friendly neighbour, under severe penalties any help direct or indirect being sent to the Netherlands. Mendoza was not a suitable choice.
He sought to shake Elizabeth’s decision to send any help to the rebels by alluding to the length of his master’s arm. The Queen retorted by saying that she would not permit the French to set foot in the Netherlands nor allow the Spaniards to rule it ‘while she had a man left in her country’. ‘Intimidation was obviously the wrong way to handle Elizabeth.’
Meanwhile situation in the Netherlands went from bad to worse. Two of the provinces, Artois and Hainault threatened to go over to Duke of Anjou and Alencon while great cities like Mons, Lille, Arras, Douai, Courtrai and St. Omer were trying to make peace with Don John.
By all appearances, the Pacification of Ghent was about to be dissolved. Elizabeth still pursued mediation. She sent Walsingham and Cobham to moderate the demands of both sides and should they fail, to see that an understanding was effected that Anjou’s entrance into the Netherlands would not mean their subjugation by France.
Walsingham and Cobham mission proved a failure, Duke of Anjou came in as a result of a treaty with the states which gave him the title of ‘Defender of the liberties of the Belgic’ and a joint share in the military command.
Affairs in the Netherlands were in a terrible confusion. Armies of Don John, William of Orange as also of John Casimir and Duke of Anjou caused havoc and disorder for lack of pay. Plague, pestilence and famine stalked the land. Don John died of plague. Elizabeth in order to draw-off the restless Duke of Anjou and Alencon from dangerous designs revived the project of Alencon marriage.
At all events, if the Duke persisted in his enterprise, she thought he would be amenable to her control and advice. The bait might as well turn Anjou a champion of England’s interest.
There was, nevertheless a seriousness in this offer of courtship absent in previous manoeuvres of such nature. Elizabeth thought such a marriage might solve the problem of succession providing an heir to continue the line of Henry VIII, it might also strengthen the Anglo-French alliance so badly in need of repairs, it would also dispose of the danger from Mary Queen of Scots and even compel Philip II to come to terms with the rebels in the Netherlands.
The only snags were Elizabeth’s age and Catholic religion of Alencon. But nothing seemed insurmountable. Anjou sent Jean de Simier to broach the question of marriage and this was followed by the visit of Duke of Anjou himself to London and on his departure leaving behind Simier to bring the business of marriage to conclusion, England got greatly alarmed.
John Stubbs published an intemperate and puritanical pamphlet grossly libelling the French royal family and picturing exaggeratingly the consequences of the projected marriage. The Queen was greatly offended. The writer, publisher and the printer were arrested and sentenced to imprisonment during the Queen’s pleasure after their right hands were chopped off.
The printer was later pardoned, but the two others lost their right hands. But the sympathy of the multitude was with them which witnessed the inflicting of the barbaric punishment in dead silence only to be broken by Stubbs himself who raised his hat by the left hand and exclaimed God save the Queen before fainting.
The Council also was divided in its opinion and the majority would not advise the Queen to marry the Duke. But ultimately it was agreed to know the Queen’s mind in the matter. Elizabeth was greatly distressed at the doubt expressed by the Council. The Council later revised its decision and advised the marriage if it so pleased her.
The Queen now having regained her equanimity understood that what the Council had refused to recommend of its own free will, would have little chance with the Parliament to agree to. The fate of the marriage was thus sealed. But Elizabeth continued to dangle the prospect of marriage in furtherance of her political aims.
In the Netherlands the Duke of Parma, the ablest military governor ever sent to the Netherlands succeeded in bringing back the Catholic provinces to Philip II’s allegiance. The only resolute opponent was William of Orange.
He reopened negotiations with Anjou in the hope that the prospective, husband of Elizabeth might bring England’s support to the Netherlands. But Elizabeth was not in favour of any radical change in the status of the Netherlands.
Further, the marriage itself, she knew, was an impossibility. But she acted with the consummate dexterity of an actress. During the second visit of Anjou, she gave even greater proofs of her attachment to him which kept the Duke in England for long three months in his fierce wooing business. He left England early in 1582.
In the next year Duke of Anjou in order to re-establish his credit in the Netherlands made an attack on several cities only to be defeated. The main attack on Antwerp was defeated by the burghers. This defeat marked the end of the Duke’s career as liberator of the Netherlands.
All efforts at patching up an agreement between William of Orange and Elizabeth having failed the Duke left for France where he died in May, 1584.
Worse things followed in the Netherlands and much worse calamity befell the Dutch cause. An assassin managed to kill William Prince of Orange after several attempts. His assassination while, found much praise in Catholic countries shocked England into horror and probably exaggerated fears.
The result was the formation of the bond of association for the protection of the Queen. In the Netherlands Spain was advancing fast under the leadership of Parma and at last compelled Elizabeth to come into open against Spain.
Elizabeth’s policy towards the Netherlands was not certainly not bold and far less in conformity with the will of the nation and her own Council. Power politics of Spain, France and England played round the channel coast and the Netherlands and it became difficult task for Elizabeth to keep Spain and France separate lest they might unite against England.
If she had exploited the internal dissensions in France and Scotland, she chose Netherlands as the weakest spot of the empire of Philip II. In the, Netherlands Elizabeth’s interest was more political and economic than religious. In fact, she disappointed the Protestants of the Netherlands by responding to their call for a crusade on their behalf.
Again, her anxiety to avoid war, for she hated the folly and waste of war, she thought mediation as the best course to bring both sides to an honourable settlement. This attitude is writ large in all her dealings with the affairs of Netherlands. This spirit of compromise made her accept the Pacification of Ghent as the only reasonable basis for a settlement in the Netherlands.
Whatever assistance she rendered to the rebels was given secretly, disavowing any knowledge of the same and that again to prevent the rebels to turn towards France for succour.
True that she could not be intimidated to any course of action became manifest when Mendoza, the Spanish ambassador foolishly alluded to the long arm of his master Philip II in order to shake her determination to help the rebels in Netherlands.
Her bold reply was that so long as a man would be left in England, she would not allow the French to set foot in the Netherlands nor allow Spain to rule Netherlands. But she had to permit both, Anjou as liberator of the Netherlands and Spain in her ablest military governor Duke of Parma.
Her repeated refusal of William of Orange’s appeal for an alliance, and her refusal even to bring the Netherlands indirectly through the projected marriage with Anjou, showed her inflexibility in maintaining the status of the Netherlands and preventing any radical change in it.
In her dealings with the Netherlands she refused to sink money in that country without such securities as the ports of Brill or Flushing which the Dutch were in no mood to hand over to foreign hands. That Elizabeth’s policy towards the Netherlands was weak and vacillating admits of no doubt.
It was exasperating not only to her own Council and Orange, but also to the nation itself. But her attitude will be more readily condoned when it is remembered that she had been virtually fighting on three fronts: Spain, Rome and Scotland, or at least was desperately involved on three fronts in an effort to avoid war.
5. Queen Elizabeth and Scotland: Mary Stuart Queen of Scots:
Death of James V of Scotland brought his infant daughter Mary on the throne (1542). In 1547 she was sent to France to be married to Dauphin, afterwards Francis II of France. But on Francis’ death Mary returned to Scotland as a widow of nineteen. In Scotland at that time politics was bound up with Reformation and the influence of France was very much resented by a section of the nobles.
This resentment was there when Mary was in France and her French mother Mary of Guise ruled as regent. Scotland a province of France was the cry of the nobles who hated the French influence in Scotland. In 1559 when John Knox returned to Scotland after his release from slavery in a French galley, and on landing at Leith preached his- fiery sermon which let loose the fury of the mob on the Church.
There were riot and destruction, the famous cathedral of St. Andrews was also not spared. Francis II, husband of Mary Stuart, Queen of the Scots, sent a French army to hold the fortress of Leith while the queen mother Mary of Guise who was the regent took shelter in Edinburgh castle for, safety from the Lords of the Congregation.
Elizabeth now cast aside her hesitation and sent an English force to lay siege of Leith with the help of the Scots.
The assault on the fortress failed, but the fortress was starved to submission. The Treaty of Edinburgh that followed (1560) provided that the French would leave Scotland, and since the English also had departed, the affairs of Scotland were left into the hands of John Knox and the Lords of the Congregation.
This treaty ensured a Protestant Scotland and also made the Scots grateful to Elizabeth for her timely intervention. If the French had succeeded, Scotland would’ have been converted into a French province.
In 1561 died Francis II, Mary Stuart’s husband and she returned to Scotland to find Scotland gone Protestant of the Calvinist type. Return of Marv Queen of Scots was a signal for all that her Calvinist subjects hated, that is, influence of France and Rome in Scotland. The cold reception of the queen at Holy-rood Castle was significant of the tragedy Mary Stuart.
When Mary was four years on the throne of Scotland after her return, she found that the power and influence of the Guise family had become very weak in France. She decided to make up for this by trying to win over the English Catholics and to this end married her cousin Darnley, a Catholic and grandson of Margaret Tudor.
Mary’s half-brother the Earl of Moray, a Protestant stood against her, but was defeated, and fled to England (1565). Her initial success led her to demand recognition as Elizabeth’s successor on the one hand and her determination to re-establish Roman Catholicism in Scotland, on the other.
But Mary in her youth and beauty, allowed her passions for love and hatred to master her completely and cloud whatever political wisdom she possessed; and this brought about her ruin. Becoming soon tired of her weak and worthless husband Darnley, who had reasons to be jealous of her, she began taking amourous interest in her Italian secretary David Rizzio.
Darnley naturally growing jealous of Rizzio murdered him in presence of the queen, for which Mary did never pardon him. She feigned reconciliation with Darnley and during the period of this reconciliation was born James, their son, the later James of England. In 1567 Darnley fell ill and Mary still pretending to be friendly brought him to a house called Kirk-o’-Field outside Edinburgh.
The very same night the house was blown off and Darnley’s body was found lying in the garden outside, with no marks of burning. It was a clear case of murder, and there was little doubt in people’s mind that Bothwell was the murderer. Bothwell now carried off Mary to Dunbar, divorced his wife and married Mary, and re-entered Edinburgh.
Bothwell was a man of worthless character and the stigma of murdering Darnley was sticking to it. Moray, Mary’s half-brother, stood against Bothwell and defeated him and the queen at the battles of Canberry Hill (1568) and Langside. Mary was captured and imprisoned in Loch Leven Castle, but Bothwell escaped.
She was forced to sign her abdication in favour of her infant son James, who was crowned king of Scotland as James VI. Mary’s bewitching beauty stood her in good stead and she succeeded in influencing the gaoler to help her escape from Loch Leven Castle.
She escaped into England and beseeched Elizabeth’s help. Elizabeth sent her an escort and brought her to Bolton Castle in Yorkshire. But presence of Mary in England was dangerous for Elizabeth.
Plots and counter-plots that had been hatched in England for long years in which the Catholics were trying to dethrone Elizabeth and place Mary instead, came to a head in the Babington Conspiracy (1586) in which the most Catholic supporters of Mary hatched a plan for Elizabeth’s assassination.
The conspiracy was headed by Anthony Babington and Father Ballard, a Jesuit missionary tourist in England. Walsingham intercepted letters passed between Mary and Babington. One of the letters showed that Mary was cognizant of the murderous scheme. With all the incriminating details in hand, Walsingham placed the evidence before Elizabeth.
Babington and other conspirator were arrested and thirteen of them were executed.
Mary was tried by a special court at Fotheringhay Castle and found guilty of treason. Parliament petitioned the queen for Mary’s execution on the ground that so long as Mary Queen of Scots lived, there would be no safety for the queen. For long two months Elizabeth hesitated, but finally signed the warrant of execution and in February, 1587 Mary was executed. She protested that she was a martyr to the Catholic cause.
Mary’s execution remains one of the most moving tragedies of human history. Elizabeth’s behaviour on hearing of the execution showed the worst side of her character. Feigning that she did not mean the warrant of execution to be carried out she glossed over the awkward fact by throwing her secretary Davison into prison. He was fined and kept in prison for three years.
Elizabeth sought in this way to avoid responsibility for Mary’s execution by sacrificing her own secretary.
The result of the Scottish affair was the establishment of Reformation in Scotland and succession of James VI who was brought up as a Protestant. The Scottish problem was on the way of permanent solution. James VI of Scotland was to succeed Elizabeth to the English throne as James I and the two crowns of England and Scotland were to be united.
Elizabeth’s Scottish policy was of caution and circumspection. She showed much diplomatic wisdom by intervening in the Scottish affair when such intervention was likely to be crowned with success.
This caution was dictated by the fear of French intervention in Scotland making it a province of France. It was not until she was assured of the support of the bulk of the Scottish people that she gave them help and thereby earned the gratitude of the Scots.
This also saved Reformation in Scotland and bound the two countries England and Scotland by the tie of common religion. The Treaty of Edinburgh marked the success of Elizabeth’s Scottish policy.
The other aspect of her Scottish policy was to keep the Scots dissociated from Mary’s claim to the English throne. The Treaty of Edinburgh also compelled the French to regard Elizabeth as the rightful Queen of England.
But on the return of Mary to Scotland as a widow in 1561 led to a revival of the claim of Mary on the English throne. But for the senseless policy pursued by Mary Queen of Scots which led to a total estrangement of her subjects from her, she might have had her people by her side.
With Romanists in England to support her claim, Mary would be a formidable rival to Elizabeth if she had succeeded in enlisting the support of her subjects. But her ruinous policy led to her abdication and refuge in England where she was a virtual prisoner of Elizabeth for nearly twenty years, to be executed for her part in the Babington plot.
The Scottish policy of Elizabeth, therefore, proved a complete success partly for the caution and circumspection that characterised it and partly due to the mistake of Mary Queen of Scots.
6. Queen Elizabeth and Spain:
From the time of Henry VII till the accession of Elizabeth, Spanish alliance was the guiding principle of English foreign policy. Although at times this policy of amity received severe jolts, yet the fear of French hostility and the stimulus of the cloth trade the alliance was recovered time and again.
Marriage of Queen Mary with Philip II, King of Spain (1554) all the more strengthened this amity between the two countries. But under Elizabeth there were deliberate attacks on the Spanish susceptibilities. Even those did not provoke Philip II to any active enmity towards England.
The reasons behind the Spanish forbearance were that Philip was mindful of the channel route to the Netherlands and the possible Anglo-French rapprochement in the event of any overt act of enmity. Philip was also hopeful of recovering England for the Catholic and Spain through peaceful means.
In fact Philip played a leading part in shielding her from the consequences of the renewed schism. All this was also due, partly at least, to the prospect of marriage with Elizabeth which the latter cleverly dangled before the widower Philip II.
Events since 1560 began to undermine the Anglo- Spanish amity which endured for more than half a century. If war was avoided for many years to follow, it was not because there was lack of cause for it, but both Elizabeth and Philip were eager to avoid war. If any one of them were less bent on peace, the events that had been happening would have unquestionably led to war.
Both sides were guilty of acts which were sufficient to cause war. Elizabeth permitted her subjects to volunteer to the disaffected Netherlands. She helped the rebels with money, gave shelter to thousands of refugees from Netherlands who left their country to avoid proceeding before the ‘Council of Blood’ of Duke of Alva.
She connived at the depredations carried on the Spanish shipping by the Sea-Beggars from the English harbours.
As the revolt was gathering force in the Netherlands even the commercial link was weakened. Cecil, under pressure from the merchant adventurers promoted an attack on Flemish privileges (1563-64) which resulted in temporary cessation of the trade.
Philip, however, went no less. He offered secret assistance to the English Catholics and permitted the Court of Inquisition to ill-treat the Protestant Englishmen in the prisons of the New World and Seville. Besides, the Spanish embassy in London became the centre of Catholic conspiracies against Elizabeth, with active support from the Spanish ambassadors de Qudra, Guzman de Silva and Guerau de Spes.
In the Netherlands, the Calvinist riots in 1566 and Alva’s reign of terror in 1567-68, and the destruction of Antwerp by the Spanish fury of 1576 had shattered the Flemish economy which adversely affected the English commercial interest.
These disagreements apart, the crowning causes of conflict between the two countries were the English invasion of the Spanish monopoly in the American trade culminating in the treacherous attack at San Juan de Ulna on Hawkins and Drake.
Further, on Mary Queen of Scots’ coming over to England while ended the danger of a vast French empire with Scotland as its appendage, which kept Philip to his policy of peaceful relations with England despite provocations, offered at the same time an opportunity for a Catholic crusade against heretic Elizabeth.
Duke of Alva in his effort to restore Spanish power in the Netherlands had run up against intervention of England on the rebel’s side, and hoped to use the Netherlands as a springboard of attack against England. In fact, this was the secret instruction with which he was sent out as the governor of the Netherlands.
The first openly hostile action, however, came from Elizabeth herself. She confiscated the bullion laden ships which were on its way to the Netherlands from Genoese bankers for payment of Alva’s troops.
The ships took shelter in the English harbour to escape from Huguenot pirates. Elizabeth promptly borrowed the bullion on her own account from the Genoese bankers on the plea that the same had not become Alva’s property before it was delivered to him.
Alva, however, replied with an embargo on all the trade with England and seized English goods. Cecil retorted by seizing all Spanish property he could lay his hands upon. The net result of his contest was interruption of the Flanders trade for about five years.
Philip was still unwilling to risk war and hoped to bring England back to Catholicism by marrying Elizabeth. He was also not in favour of overthrowing Elizabeth, for the only alternative in that case would be to place Mary on the English throne which would mean French influence on England.
He remained satisfied with fomenting and supporting English discontent. But de Spes who was then the Spanish ambassador in London was in touch with Mary Stuart and secretly in collusion with the section of disaffected nobles led by Norfolk who was dead set against Cecil whom he considered an upstart by comparison, a conspiracy was hatched.
There was a rebellion in the North which was successfully suppressed. This was a bad blow to Guerau de Spes. In the meantime the Anjou courtship kept France friendly at a time when Cecil was wrestling with the most serious threat out of the Northern rebellion and Spanish animosity.
By 1572 the northern rebellion was completely over and Norfolk was sent to the block. Everything looked up except trade with the Netherlands. In the same year 1572, to conciliate Philip, Elizabeth closed the English ports to the Sea-Beggars. But the leader of the Sea- Beggars, La Marck, captured port Brill in the Netherlands.
This was a signal for widespread rising in the Netherlands and four of the thirteen provinces threw off Spanish allegiance and stood united under William of Orange. For the next sixteen years the revolt of the Netherlands provided the chief problem of international politics which served as Elizabeth’s best chance of fighting Philip by proxy.
In the meantime the Treaty of Blois signed between England and France held good and such was the English need for maintaining the treaty that even after the massacre of St. Bartholomew Day, when many innocent Huguenots were done to death the treaty held good.
The Anglo-Spanish relations were on the greased incline of sharp deterioration. Hawkin’s attack on the Spanish Main in order to open trade with that area, piracy by English sailors in the West Indies and the inhuman torture of those who were captured by Spain, Drake’s plunder of the Spanish treasureship and his reward by the queen who knighted him, showing thereby her open approval of his piracy, led to a fast deterioration in the already not at all happy relation between England and Spain.
In 1584. the assassination of Prince William of Orange, capture of Antwerp by Duke of Parma led Elizabeth into open war with Spain in the Netherlands. Leicester was sent there in command of an English force. This was followed by the execution of Mary Queen of Scots (1587) bringing to an end to the series of Catholic plots blessed by the Pope and Spain.
But Mary had left the throne by will, to Philip who was the next Catholic heir to the English throne, for the Roman Catholics would not acknowledge Protestant James VI, son of Mary Queen of Scots as Elizabeth’s successor.
This anti-Elizabethan stance was all the more strengthened by the Pope’s pressure on Philip for a Catholic crusade against England, who was himself highly annoyed with Elizabeth, besides other reasons, for her refusal to marry him. Philip II was also a champion Catholic and the leader of the Counter-Reformation Movement and he decided on a final blow to Elizabeth and England.
The victory of Spain over the Turks in the battle of Lepanto in 1571 had firmly recurred the eastern frontiers of Spain while capture of Portugal (1580) had given Spain command over an additional fleet. Philip fitted his vast navy the famous Armada for a direct assault on England (1587).
But Drake’s exploit of destroying thirteen of the Spanish ships at Cadiz and his preying on the ships carrying supplies for the Armada led to great material loss to Spain.
“Many ships destroyed, many stores burned, supplies taken away—but worse still was the blow to Philip’s reputations and credit inflicted by an English squadron based on Spanish territory itself. Nevertheless the king remained dauntless.” Preparations were resumed and Elizabeth who tried to avoid any such confrontation now would not or simply could not make any further attempt that way.
Sailing of the Armada was delayed almost by a year, in the meantime Santa Cruz died early in February 1588 leaving Philip II without any experienced seaman to serve him. This was a great advantage to England.
The Armada sailed for England in March, 1588 but had been driven by storm into Corunna, and thus delayed. The English admiral Lord Howard and his chief advisers Drake, Hawkins, Frobisher planned to sail to Spain and attack. The Queen and the Council kept the fleet at home for fear that the Spaniards might slip past it and attack a defenceless England. On July 19, 1588, the Armada was sighted.
The English navy supported by some warlike merchantmen of the Turkey company sailed much better and the English advantage of long-range guns and light ships with lower deck-height caused havoc in the Armada. Both sides had used up more powder and shots they could afford and the Spaniards, far from home, far from supplies and reinforcements suffered worse.
It was the enforced recourse to Calais sand which was to finish the Armada. The overlooking of the need for good anchorage prepared the way for the English total victory. Medina Sidonia, Philip’s admiral, fought courageously in the engagement known as battle of Grave-lines but received a terrible battering from the English ships and lost thousands of men.
What the guns had begun, weather completed. ‘Rome and Spain rejoiced over false rumours of a great victory, before the truth turned all to sorrow and reviling.’ The coming of the Armada showed how in the face of a national danger the Englishmen, Protestants or Catholics stood united in defence of England.
The Invincible Armada was driven out by the splendid courage, seamanship and the enthusiasm of the English sailors and volunteers. It showed the merit of Elizabeth’s policy of peace and that England had become a first class power of the contemporary Europe.
The defeat of the Armada also showed that all calculations of Philip II to conquer England were based on wrong premises and the hour of national peril the English people would stand by their sovereign and country despite differences. It demonstrated the fact that England could not be conquered. Never again England had to defend herself against any invasion.
The effect abroad was no less important. The enemies of England became convinced of England’s invincibility and English friendship was fast becoming a matter of pride for foreign powers including France. The political balance of Europe swung in favour of England.
The defeat of the Armada ensured the independence of the United Provinces, i.e. Holland. Philip II was the friend of the Guises of France. Naturally his defeat made the position of Henry of Navarre, who came to power as Henry IV of France, quite secure. For, with Philip weakened the Guises became no more a great problem to the newly acquired throne of Henry Navarre.
The Roman Catholic reaction which took the name of Counter-Reformation lost its edge. The Reformation came to stay in England and Europe. As Cecil remarked, the Reformation could not be suppressed without crushing England and the idea of the Emperor’s sovereignty over Europe would never materialise without suppressing the Reformation.
Indeed, the defeat of the Armada had sealed the fate of Catholicism in England and Elizabeth’s Church Settlement was now solidly confirmed, yet the Armada’s defeat which had thrown the nation into a frenzy of joy which took the hideous form of persecution of a number of Catholics.
‘From the defeat of the Armada till the death of the queen, during the lapse of fourteen years, the Catholics groaned under the pressure of persecution.’
The defeat of the Armada also meant the shattering of the naval greatness of Spain and this was followed by attacks of the Spanish ships by the English sailors and inroads into the Spanish commercial monopoly by the English merchants. It marked the beginning of the decay of Spanish power.
Although, the defeat of the Armada did not give the English nation a complete sense of relief because of the thought of a possible Spanish resumption of attack on England, which kept defence preparation quite in good trim, yet a plan to attack Spain was mooted and attempts made with no success.
However, soon it became clear that the defeat of the Armada was a blow from which Spain would not recover. This gave a sense of security, which gave occasion for the Parliament to look to its own power and status. The fear of foreign invasion having been over, the Parliament began to fight for more power. The tone of the Parliament towards the end of Elizabeth’s reign was anything but subservient.
7. Queen Elizabeth and France:
At Elizabeth’s accession France, much strengthened through the marriage between Mary of Scots and the Dauphin, was almost a colossus which put one of its legs in Calais, lost in war Mary, Elizabeth’s predecessor had waged against France on the side of her husband Philip II, and the other in Edinburgh. The French also commanded the English Channel.
The danger of union of France, Scotland and England under Mary and her husband now Francis II of France loomed large in the minds of the English people. The Scottish Protestants fearing annexation by France appealed to England for help. Cecil was in favour of supporting the Scottish rebels, for he thought this would check the aggression of France in Scotland and prevent Scottish attack against England.
But others opposed the plan of Cecil in the fear that in the English attempt to bring Scotland to its side both Spain and France would unite against England. Eventually, English help was given to the Scottish Protestant rebels and an English fleet helped to capture Leith.
This was followed by the Treaty of Edinburgh (1560) by which the French withdrew from Scotland. Death of Francis in the same year diminished the danger ‘bf union of France and Scotland and negative the French ambition of eventually bringing under her through Mary Queen of Scots.
To add to the French weakness there broke out a near civil war between the Guise and the Medici families in France. The French Protestants called Huguenots also rose in rebellion, and a civil war between the Huguenots and the Catholics ensued. The French Protestants requested Elizabeth’s help and gave Le Havre as a pledge.
In the feud between the Guises and Medicis, the Duke of Guise was assassinated after which Catherine de Medici made peace with the Huguenots by the Pacification of Amboise (1563). Toleration to the Huguenots was granted. This was followed by a united effort by the Catholics and the Huguenots to recapture Le Havre from the English. ‘The intervention of the foreigner had re-established the moral unity of the nation.’
The English commander Duke of Warwick heroically defended Le Havre till pestilence rendered it impossible to defend it any longer. Warwick had to surrender and the plague-stricken war-weary of his garrison dragged itself to England leaving France free from the foreigners.
Unsuccessful defence of Le Havre was a terrible blow to Elizabeth’s pride and the severity of the peace terms deepened her humiliation. Negotiations hanged fire for long nine months during which Elizabeth held out more than one threat to the French unavailingly though.
Eventually in April, 1564 the Treaty of Troyes was signed by which Elizabeth received 120,000 crowns in lieu of hostages she had held since 1559 but for all practical purposes gave France possession of Calais annulling the obligations of the French under the Treaty of Cateau- Cambresis.
The period between 1567 and 1585 was one of increasing friendliness with France because of certain events that took place in Scotland and Netherlands. The murder of Darnley had discredited Mary Queen of Scots and whatever hope of a union between France and Scotland remained was dashed to the ground. In the Netherlands Alva had succeeded in completely bringing down the rebels.
This had strengthened the position of Spain.
The Papal Bull excommunicating Elizabeth (1570) all the more strengthened the hands of Philip II who was the champion of the Counter-Reformation and was annoyed because of Elizabeth’s refusal to his marriage proposal. Both France and England recognised that the real danger to both the countries was Spain.
Further, the success of the Huguenots in France under Coligny also brought the two countries closer, for England was a Protestant country and Elizabeth a saviour of the Protestants in Europe.
As England and France were coming nearer to each other proposals for marriage between Duke of Anjou and Alencon, later Henry III and Elizabeth was made (1570). Next year Spain won a decisive victory over the Turks at Lepanto. This while enhanced Philip’s power and prestige made France not a little nervous.
Alliance with England was further strengthened as a counterpoise against Spanish acquisition to power and strength.
It is noteworthy, that the need for an Anglo-French alliance was felt so much in England that even after the mad massacre of St. Bartholomew Day (Aug. 24, 1572) when Catherine de Medici, jealous of the growing power of Coligny, the leader of the Huguenots put to death a huge number of them the Anglo-French alliance endured quite all right.
Elizabeth, it has been said, was never so serious about any marriage proposal as in that with Anjou. Council’s hesitancy in endorsing it and later endorsement in order to give the queen a free will in the matter, became a pointer to Elizabeth of the possible opposition of the Parliament to this marriage.
She flirted all the same with Anjou during his second visit to England and thought of extending her influence in the Netherlands through him who was offered the protectorate over the Netherlands.
But the whole embarrassment of Elizabeth came to an end with Anjou’s death in 1584. In the three Henry’s (Henry Guise, Henry Valois, Henry Navarre) war for the French throne Henry of Navarre succeeded and became Henry IV in 1589. The Catholics led by the Guise family was opposed to Henry IV and there was no question of French intervention in England.
Further Henry IV was a sworn enemy of Spain for her part in the civil war between three Henries. Henry IV’s anti-Spanish policy continued with its full force till 1598. But ten years before this, the defeat of the Spanish Armada had removed all dangers from Spanish intervention in England and the upsurge of national feeling that it had led to made England strong to make any fear of French intervention a thing of the past.
Elizabeth’s French policy was to support with dignity as well as with tranquillity the balance between the two great monarchies of the contemporary Europe—France and Spain who being possessed of equal force were naturally antagonistic. She helped the French Huguenots as did France support the Scots against the Protestant rebels there.
Huguenots success was indirectly a success of Protestant England, for in that case there would be no fear of French intervention in England. Her policy was to prevent any union between France and Scotland and eventually bringing England with its ambit. Naturally, Elizabeth’s policy was shifting and at times dissimulating.
She would not even remain unruffled by the massacre of the Huguenots in 1572, for to be cross with France would not be to her interest. Religion, therefore, was a means not an end in her foreign policy.
The dangling of the prospect of Anjou marriage even when she had realised its impossibility was out of the purely selfish consideration to have English influence in Netherlands work through Anjou whom she thought she could control although not marrying him.
The merit of her French policy definitely lies in her success in converting France into an ally and thereby neutralising the enhanced strength of Spain. Elizabeth’s diplomatic acumen and her skill as a practical statesman showed themselves no greater success than in her policy towards France.
8. Queen Elizabeth and Ireland:
At the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign Ireland was virtually ungoverned and under the firm control of the Roman Catholics. The tasks before Elizabeth, therefore, were precisely three: to break the power of the Irish chiefs, to give Ireland an effective civil administration, and to establish Elizabethan Church there.
The tasks were few indeed, but these took the whole reign to be completed and the success came at the last moments of Elizabeth’s life.
Geography of Ireland offered best conditions for successful guerilla warfare and it was not until after 1590 when Earl Tyrone created an army of Irish levies that the English could hope of any success. But even in that condition the royalist force was more defeated than victorious.
Bad weapons and worse discipline in the fighting force were grounds for defeat, but enduring success could never be attained in the very nature of things there. The Irish guerilla chiefs when defeated would come to peace terms only to break the same and to rebel anew.
To add to the disadvantages of the royal forces, were the parsimony and procrastination of Queen Elizabeth at critical times. She kept Ireland without any governor in critical moments which led to unnecessary loss of men and money.
There were four great rebellions in Ireland which kept Elizabeth’s Irish policy repeatedly to test. These were the rebellion of Shane O’Neill during the years 1559 to 1566. This was followed by that of Fitzmaurice confederacy between 1569 and 1572. The third rebellion, that of Desmond, broke out in 1579 and lasted for four years.
But the greatest of the rebellions known as Tyrone rebellion covered the period 1594 to 1603, the year of the queen’s death. This shows the unquiet state that Ireland was passing through during the reign of Elizabeth. It was in the year of the queen’s death Tyrone gave himself up. But his actual surrender took place after Elizabeth’s death.
Elizabeth’s policy towards Ireland was one of simple conquest. But it needs to be remarked that though her policy was conquest but her method was not always in consonance with it. The close-fistedness in releasing necessary funds and her dilatoriness in sending successor governors to Ireland made the job of the English commanders there difficult.
Not only this the tribal ruthlessness of the leaders of the rebellion—Grey, Ormond, Sidney, O’Donnell, Tyrone and others carried destruction from one end of the country to the other. It was only due to the recuperative power of the agricultural community that had removed the scars of devastation within shortest time.
There could be no doubt, however, that Elizabeth could not allow the Irish, only nominally her subjects, and a standing invitation to England’s enemies due to their disloyalty, to remain unconquered. Ireland’s conquest by Elizabeth saved her from the prehistoric welter of tribal warfare and blood-feuds. “It was England’s triumph that made possible the growth of an Irish nation.”
The chieftains had been adequately dealt with, but the work of settlement, that is the establishment of a civil government was left for the first Stuart to accomplish. In religion, however, Ireland remained Roman Catholic. Conquest of Ireland did not mean her forsaking Roman Catholic religion and accepting English Church. In this regard Elizabeth’s aim was frustrated.
9. Queen Elizabeth and the Counter-Reformation:
It has been very aptly remarked by an English writer of history that Elizabeth’s reign was “a long struggle against the Counter-Reformation.” The forces of the Counter-Reformation were gathering strength in Europe during the mid-sixteenth century and with Catholic Mary who was given in marriage to Philip II the champion of Catholic Reformation or the Counter-Reformation, these found an easy path into England.
Under Elizabeth the Counter- Reformation assumed menacing proportions because of her Protestant faith and the opposition of the Catholics and the Papacy to her succession. The Roman Catholic Church did not recognise Anne Boleyn’s marriage with Henry VIII as valid and the offspring of the wedlock—Elizabeth was illegitimate in their eyes and as such unfit to succeed to the English throne.
They considered Mary Queen of Scots, the great-grand-daughter of Henry VII who was a Catholic as the rightful heir to the English throne.
The first phase of Elizabeth’s struggle was to withstand the Franco-Scottish menace. Mary had been married to Dauphin who became king as Francis II. Elizabeth had to prevent a Franco- Scottish union and the ultimate union of England with that through Mary’s succession to the English throne.
The French colossus stood with one foot in Calais and the other in Scotland. Elizabeth had to tune her policy towards Scotland to counter the Franco-Scottish move. The Treaty of Edinburgh and the gradual acquisition of strength by the Reformers in Scotland and the death of Francis II (1560) led to the dissolution of the close tie between the two countries.
Mary returned to Scotland. But when she did so the Reformation had already Struck firm roots in Scotland and her Catholic zeal, her fickle character and marriage scandal ultimately led to her abdication and imprisonment. She managed to escape to England and seek Elizabeth’s shelter which she was given (1568).
In the mean time the division of interests between the Guises and the Medicis in France, the rise of the Huguenots and the secret support they received from Elizabeth eventually led to alliance between England and France. The original object of the Guises to effect the union of the three- countries, therefore, did not materialise.
The easiest way of bringing England to the Catholic fold through Mary’s succession to the English throne was thus frustrated despite the Catholics’ disputing Elizabeth’s right to the throne.
But that was not the end of the trouble from the forces of the Counter-Reformation. Reclaiming England to Catholicism still remained the aim of the Catholics and Philip II, husband of the late Queen Mary of England and a champion of the Counter- Reformation. Philip sought the hands or Elizabeth which while bringing a wife for him would also bring the English throne under a Catholic head.
But this marriage could be held only after the Pope would remove the stigma of illegitimacy from Elizabeth. It goes without saying that neither Elizabeth nor the English nation favoured the Spanish marriage.
As a bride Elizabeth, the Queen of England, was indeed a very attractive one and various marriage proposals—with Archduke Charles, Arran, Robert Dudley, Anjou, Henry and others were negotiated. But none except that with Anjou acquired any seriousness.
The greatest difficulty with Elizabeth in concluding any of the negotiations was connected with religion. Elizabeth coquetted and flirted and in the process while kept the foreign Catholic princes who were in the run for the marriage vainly hoping for Elizabeth’s hand, kept England safe against any Catholic invasion and allowed her Church Settlement to strike firm roots in the country.
The need of the country and the interest of the nation impelled Elizabeth to make the prospect of her marriage a part of politics and diplomacy, and what was most was her great personal sacrifice in choosing to remain a virgin all her life.
All this naturally formed a part of Catholic Reformation against England. It must, however, be mentioned that the eventual failure of Philip’s marriage proposal left him the most enraged and annoyed of all the suitors.
While Elizabethan Church Settlement did not satisfy the extreme Protestant who thought England would become the Jerusalem of Protestantism, it had been opposed by the Catholics. Despite the Church Settlement’s character of a via media the Catholics refused to conform to it. These nonconformists Called Rescusants would not attend Church service.
Elizabeth, therefore, passed Rescusancy laws to compel attending church service on the pain of fines. The Rescusancy laws were meant not to suppress the forces of the Counter- Reformation though, these helped to keep the disloyal Catholics under control who otherwise might have proved more menacing to Elizabeth’s Church Settlement.
The North was always unfriendly to Elizabeth and there was rising in the North under Norfolk’s leadership. He planned to marry Mary Queen of Scots and because, himself was one of the chief English Catholics fondly hoped that the marriage might produce a Catholic heir to the English throne.
But the vigilant ministers of Elizabeth got information about the plan the net result of which was that Mary was sent a half-guest and half-prisoner to Tutbury Castle.
Norfolk and his friends now intrigued with Duke of Alva, the military governor of the Netherlands for an invasion of England by the Spanish forces in the Netherlands while the Catholics in the North would rise in rebellion. Alva, however, refused to send any help until the rebels proved themselves to be earnest.
The plotters Earl of Northumberland and Earl of Westmoreland led the revolt the aim of which was to release Mary and to restore Catholicism in England. But the ministers of Elizabeth were too quick and well-informed. The rising was quelled and the plotters dispersed (1570).
By the year 1570 when it became abundantly clear to the Pope that the hope of a Catholic succession either through seating of Mary Queen of Scots, on the English throne or through Elizabeth’s marriage with any Catholic prince, was chimerical, he issued a Bull, i.e. a papal decree, excommunicating Elizabeth.
This meant Elizabeth’s right to the throne was nullified or in other words, she was declared deposed and her subjects were declared free from their allegiance to her. Those who would disobey the papal Bull would be, it was made clear, punished with excommunication. In the days when religion played an extremely important part in the life of a man in the West, the papal Bull was highly significant.
It was tantamount to an open declaration of war against Elizabeth and an open encouragement to the anti-Elizabeth Catholics to rise against her.
A series of Catholic plots began in England with the active help of the Jesuits and the secret help of Philip II and the Pope’s blessings. The aim of these plots was to assassinate Elizabeth and place Mary Queen of Scots on the English throne.
A few ardent Catholics in England, Catholic enthusiasts, naturally the friends of the Counter-Reformation, and Catholics in France and Italy began to see dethronement of Elizabeth their religious duty.
The first of the series of the plots was the Ridolfi plot (1571). Ridolfi was a Florentine banker who enjoyed the confidence of Pope Pius V. He became the secret go-between Norfolk, Mary Queen of Scots and Philip II of Spain. Duke of Alva was requested to send help from the Netherlands. The plot leaked out and Norfolk was put under arrest and executed.
For about twelve years to follow, a period of comparative calm prevailed. There were no plots between 1571 and 1583. The reasons behind this calm were the pre-occupation of Spain in the Netherlands where the rebels became very formidable, the Treaty of Blois made England and France friendly and the friendship endured the St. Bartholomew Day massacre (1572).
Success of Don John and his plan to invade England did not receive Philip’s sanction for he became suspicious of the ambition of Don John, his half-brother and recalled him.
The next plot to assassinate Elizabeth was the work of the Jesuits who kept themselves in touch with the Pope. The plot was got up by Mendoza, the Spanish ambassador in London, Francis Throckmorton, a Cheshire gentleman after whom the plot is known, and many others.
An internal insurrection by the Catholics and simultaneous invasion by Spain to place Mary on the English throne by murdering Elizabeth were mooted. The secret service of Burleigh and Walsingham proved too difficult for the plotters to overcome. Throckmorton was arrested and executed, Mendoza dismissed.
In 1584 the international politics took a sudden turn which became in itself a threat to Elizabeth’s security. William Silent, the Prince of Orange of the Netherlands who was the heart and soul of the revolt in the Netherlands had been assassinated. The death of Anjou also made it clear that the crown of France would pass on to Henry of Navarre, a Protestant who was a heretic in the eyes of the Catholics.
A civil war broke out between three Henries—Henry of Navarre, Henry of Guise and Henry Valois and it appeared that the friendly tie between England and France would be not only sapped but in the event of any Spanish invasion no help would come from France, on the contrary France might join hands with Spain.
In fact the Spanish Catholics were siding with the Catholics in the French civil war. The prospect of a Catholic league between France and Spain seemed to threaten England. The Parliament had about twelve years back petitioned the queen for Mary’s attainder. But Elizabeth would not consent to it.
An association was, therefore, formed now called the Bond of Association the members of which would prosecute to death any person that would be plotting the queen’s death and also any person in whose favour such an attempt would be made, that is, Mary Stuart. All this was done for the protection of the queen’s life.
So matters stood when in 1586 the most formidable of all plots against the queen’s life was formed. Antony Babington, a Catholic attached to the queen’s court and five other assassins were found for murdering the queen. Mendoza now an ambassador in France sent secret suggestion that Cecil and Walsingham should also be killed.
The plotters were also in close touch with Mary. But Walsingham intercepted letters that secretly passed between Mary and the plotters, by winning over one of Mary’s servants who carried the secret correspondence. Armed with the details of the plot and copies of the secret communication Walsingham struck. Mary was tried and found guilty.
The Parliament petitioned the queen for Mary’s execution but Elizabeth hesitated for months till at last she made up her mind and signed the warrant of execution. In February, 1587, Mary was beheaded. Thus ended the period of plots with the death of the thrice unfortunate Mary, once the Queen of France, Queen of the Scots and prisoner of Elizabeth.
Now that no other means of dealing with Elizabeth remained, Philip II, the champion of Catholicism and the Counter-Reformation was left with the choice of open war with England. His covert enmity now came out in the open and planned a massive naval attack against England.
The Armada as the fitted navy was called, was to reach Flanders and joined by the Duke of Parma with his army and then jointly strike on England. The venture was thought to be a part of Divine mission and hopes were held that the English Catholics would join the invading army. But all calculations proved false, the plan miscarried.
The Armada was defeated and with it was finally and irretrievably defeated the forces of the Counter-Reformation. The Spanish attempt at a fresh naval attack from Cadiz met with no better success (1588). Broken in spirit and health died Philip in 1589, leaving England to enjoy her well-earned victory over the Counter-Reformation which now became a dead force.
10. A Review of Queen Elizabeth’s Foreign Policy:
The foreign policy of a country needs must be internal need-oriented. The need may be peace and conservation, economic progress or religious settlement, exaltation of the government or the nation. Foreign relations or economic, territorial or colonial expansion, military or naval expansion are linked up with the internal needs.
The needs may be psychological or practical. No country can possibly claim the miracle of mooring-less foreign policy; it is conditioned as by the internal situation as internal needs.
This naturally brings us to the question of the circumstances in which Elizabeth came upon the throne. She had succeeded to a plentiful crop of troubles and problems. The people had been sharply divided in religion and the question of religion that posed the most delicate and sensitive problem since the coming of the Reformation in England was yet to be solved.
In foreign affairs the country had just come to the end of the war waged, under Mary’s reign, against France as an appendage of Spain, for Philip II of Spain was Mary’s husband. The Peace of Cateau-Cambresis (April 2, 1559) the fate of Calais remained undecided, though war was brought to an end.
The foreign situation as an English author described it:
‘The French king bestriding the realm, having one foot in Calais and the other in Scotland. Steadfast enmity, but no steadfast friendship abroad.’ More serious still was the claims of Mary Queen of Scots now married to Francis II of France, to the English throne.
Left at that Mary’s claim would at best be a right to succeed in the event of Elizabeth dying without a child. But religion cutting athwart politics made the situation extremely perilous.
The Catholics as also the Pope did not recognise Elizabeth as the legitimate heir to the throne and thus added immensely to the danger of the situation. Spain was the champion of the Counter-Reformation and but for Philip’s hope for Elizabeth’s hands, and Spanish enmity towards France the situation would have assumed menacing posture at once.
Caught in the whirlpool of politics and religion, questions of succession and marriage, Elizabeth had to find her way through not by any bold, straightforward methods but by a tortuous, cunning policy of which she had been the supreme mistress.
Avoidance of war became the very basis of her foreign policy, for she knew well that with every added year of peace her religious settlement would strike roots, the country would grow stronger and financially better off.
Fortunately for Elizabeth, the Guise family did not hold all the trump cards. In Scotland Protestantism and national forces joined forces against the Catholic and France dominated government in Scotland, much as they had done against Philip and the Spaniards in the Netherlands. This offered an opportunity to Elizabeth to covertly strike both France and Spain in their weak spots.
The course of events in Europe had also placed Elizabeth in a situation of a bulwark and support of the numerous persecuted Protestants in Europe. Elizabeth turned the situation to her own advantage by secret support to the French Huguenot rebels, to the ‘Congregation’ as the rebel Protestant nobility of Scotland called themselves, and to the Protestants of the Netherlands.
But in all this Elizabeth would not risk a war even when there was a loud outcry in England at the seizure of English merchandise in Rouen as a reprisal to the supplies sent in English ships to the Huguenots, for declaration of war against France. Elizabeth had to deal with two great monarchies of the continent, France and Spain who being possessed of nearly equal force were naturally antagonistic.
She from her power and situation sought to maintain England’s dignity and keep peace by holding the balance between Spain and France. It was Elizabeth’s policy never to act in a manner that might throw the joint weight of Spain and France against England.
Thus while covertly helping the rebels of one or the other government, or whatever incident took place, nothing that tended to depress one of these rivals—Spain and France, and was likely to leave the other without control was regarded by Elizabeth as contrary to the interests of England.
Although preservation of her throne was one of the prime considerations of Elizabeth in dealing with foreign powers, it must be conceded without question that her foreign policy was truly national. Peace with security was her avowed aim.
She disenabled, prevaricated, lied hard, coquetted, and at times vacillated and procrastinated, and had always been parsimonious, yet fundamentally, hers was a policy that sought to serve the interests of England above all.
She used her virginity to good account and even in quite advanced age used the prospect of her marriage as a good bait to either induce Spain or France to follow soft line insofar as England was concerned. Rightly does S. T. Bindofl points out that her long preserved virginity was one of the three things on which Elizabeth’s fame rested, other two being her long life and political genius.
It has been said that Elizabeth’s foreign policy was essentially Machiavellian although she did not borrow the maxim of statecraft from Machiavelli. She was both a realist and opportunist and she made her personal is as national interest the determining factor in all the political manoeuvres and combinations and the reason of state justified her every act.
Watchfulness ma flexibility which must be reckoned among the greatest qualities in sovereigns were never wanting in her.
The contention that Elizabeth’s-foreign policy was coloured by her religious predilections, i.e. Protestantism, is not borne out by facts. That she could not be a friend of the Catholics who did not recognise her to be the legitimate heir to the English throne and who wanted to dethrone her in favour of Mary Stuart, goes without saying.
But this did not mean that there was any fanaticism about her foreign policy. Despite the fact that her ministers held the Protestant cause to be England’s cause, Elizabeth did not allow herself to be swayed by that consideration.
Fervent appeals of her ministers did not produce much response in her cold and calculating brain. Her one thought was how to use her ministers’ ideas to the furtherance of her secular aims. ‘Experience had taught her—and she was an apt learner—that to confuse state policy with religion, or to put religion first and the state second, could only lead to chaos, bloodshed and disaster.
Her foreign policy, like her home policy, was entirely free from fanaticism.’
The continental Protestants oppressed by their Catholic rulers appealed to Elizabeth in vain for help unless such help would agree with her own interest. The continuance of the alliance with France even after the Massacre of the St. Bartholomew’s Day was one of many proofs of her pragmatic outlook in matters of religion when it came in conflict with her state policy.
Elizabeth’s foreign policy has been called a policy of splendid isolation. In her speech to Parliament in 1593 Elizabeth observed:
‘It may be thought simplicity in me that all this time my reign I have not sought to advance my territories, and enlarge my dominions; for opportunity hath served me to do it. And I must say, my mind was never to invade my neighbours, or to usurp over any; I am contented to reign over mine own, and to rule as a just prince’.
Admittedly, her policy was one of splendid isolation. Peace with security was her avowed aim. True that Elizabeth got involved in two wars against France in the earlier part of her reign, yet she quickly realised that diplomacy, not war suited her interest best. War, she abominated, and the peace that she envisaged was English peace, that is peace designed to safeguard English interests abroad.
It must also be noted that if she abominated war it was not merely because of her humanitarian impulses. In fact, she possessed neither the means nor had the inclination to embark upon war—the costliest of all gambles.
Towards the end of her reign she had to enter war with Spain, despite her essential policy of avoidance of war. This shows that she had combined realism with flexibility which gave a dynamic character to her foreign policy, the main objective of which was to serve the English national interest.
A resume of the circumstances into which she was placed will explain the wisdom of the policy of isolation followed by Elizabeth while the benefits derived from it will themselves be its justification. She had to secure her throne against the Catholic opposition both internal and external.
Two great monarchies of the continent, Spain and France were not friendly disposed towards England. Scotland was a thorn in the flesh. Her religious settlement needed time and peace to strike roots. Added to all this, was Elizabeth’s natural dislike for war. To her understanding, it was a destroyer of peoples, enemy of material well-being. ‘For men of blood she had an unconquerable dislike.’
Circumstanced as she had been, she needed for England an independent religion, an independent nation and an independent foreign policy. Again, the long war known as the Hundred Years’ War was not without its lessons for the English people. National welfare did not require any war of expansion.
If the wisdom of her foreign policy could be seen in the circumstances that had produced it, its justification can be seen in the benefits it had brought for the country. Elizabeth’s policy of no war and under compulsion only defensive war led to conservation of national strength and wealth.
‘Her parsimony kept her solvent at a time when the continental monarchies, with their much greater resources were either bankrupt or staggering on the verge of bankruptcy.
In a world cursed by prodigal expenditure she stood forth a shining example of the power that comes from thrift. English gold, carefully husbanded and carefully doled out, was more potent, in the long run, than all the precious metals of the Indies; and Europe moved more at Elizabeth’s bidding than at the impressive military gestures of king Philip.’
For the greater part of her reign Eliza-beth’s voice was heard amid the din of a Europe given over to violence, counselling moderation and offering her good offices as a mediator. England under Elizabeth acquired a moral ascendancy over Europe.
Peace, although in the English sense, i.e. insular, brought prosperity. Trade was beginning to boom, wealth began pouring into the country and foreign debt which had hung like a millstone round England’s neck at the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign was extinguished within less than twenty years.
The queen’s credit stood high in Europe. The renewal of the Treaty of Blois eliminated any immediate danger from France, Treaty of Bristol from Spain and the reopening of trade between England and Antwerp, Scotland had become Anglophil, by 1575.
Elizabeth, by her policy, domestic and foreign had released the forces of nationalism that the English people, be they Catholics or Protestants felt the bond of oneness which made them stand unitedly against the Armada. Isolation had fostered in them a pride in being ‘English’, the English nation was really born and its effects could be seen in the activities of the Parliament from towards the end of Elizabeth’s reign.
The conserved national energy expressed itself towards the end of Elizabeth’s reign in the activities of the explorers, sea-dogs, colonialists, litterateurs and traders. Elizabethan policy of isolation was a good conservation for the future expansionism.
Thus while it may be conceded that Elizabeth’s foreign policy was a policy of splendid isolation, judged by the wisdom that dictated it and the circumstances that compelled it, as also the benefits derived from it, the policy stood amply justified.
11. Elizabethan Literature:
In the realm of literature the England of Elizabeth stands on a pinnacle by itself.’ The host of writers who contributed to this brilliance were distinctively national.
The vigour and energy, creativeness and patriotism of the English nation were to be seen not only in the heroic deeds of the sailors and the soldiers but in the wonderful sunburst of drama, poetry and speculative thought with which names of Marlowe, Shakespeare and of Bacon are associated.
Countless adventures on land and sea widened horizon of Englishmen’s experience and produced an exaltation of soul which the poet and the philosopher by the magic touch of their genius transmuted into unforgettable beauties and enduring strength of literature which was truly great, less parochial and more universal in its appeal than that of any other period of English history.
Literature is usually regarded as the mirror of history of an age but in case of Elizabethan age it was infinitely more than this, although it had much to say of contemporary social aspect but not of political struggle, Jaws, policy, administrative machinery and all that.
However, the Elizabethan literature, coming as it did after the Renaissance had struck firm roots in England, was the peak and flowering of the English Renaissance.
Its period, though usually known as Elizabethan, did not coincide with the reign of Elizabeth but ran beyond it, up to the closing years of Elizabeth’s successor’s. The Elizabethan-literature mirrored the versatility, creative force, the breadth of vision, unparalleled optimism, irrepressible exuberance and fertility of mind and national individualism.
The Elizabethan writers were non-political in their writings, Spencer being the lone exception, and in their optimism and enthusiasm they looked forward, not backward. They created a great literature worthy of a great people.
The first sign of a great movement that was under way in the English literary field was the publication of Lyly’s Euphues and Spencer’s Shepherds Calender in 1579, and in a score of years the giants of literature were reaching their maturity.
Shakespeare had not yet written the greatest of his plays, those who were nearest to Shakespeare in quality— Webster, Middleton, Fletcher, Ford, Beaumont and Rowley were in their teens. Ben Jonson and Bacon were in the prime of their life.
Of the better known writers who had died before the end of Elizabeth’s reign were Sidney, Spencer, Marlowe, Nash and Hooker. The post-Armada period was not the period of statesmen, sailors or the soldiers, it was the period of poets, dramatists, speculative philosophers and musicians.
The works of the giants of literature apart, Elizabethan period produced a colossal amount of printed matter emanating from the prevalent patriotism and national pride. ‘It was as if a search-light had suddenly turned on history and geography.’
A stream of works produced by the labours of Leland, Hall, Fabyan, William Camden and others. Leland and Camden produced descriptions of England county by county, borough by borough.
His works Britannia and Remains Concerning Britain are monumental and are based on patient research. In geography Norden, Nowell and Speed’s works deserve special mention. Interest in history was carried to a high pitch by the works of Camden, Foxe, Samuel Daniel and also John Speed.
But all had been eclipsed by the work of Bacon, whose History of Henry VII is still held to be the most literary of this kind of works during the period Sir John Fortescue’s De Landibus Anglie, a work of the late fifteenth century was reprinted several times to satisfy the demand during Elizabethan period.
Apart from the works on History and Geography, Hakluyt’s ‘prose-epic’ of English exploits—Voyages, Principal Navigations, Discoveries of the English Nation, etc., deserve mention.
The writing and study of history during this period was not merely a reflection of the pride and patriotism, self-glorification and enthusiasm of the English people, but impart lessons of history for the nation inspired by the profound conviction that history repeats itself.
This pragmatic outlook is discernible in Lord Berners’ preface to Froissart’s Chronicle, Norton’s preface to Grafton’s Chronicle and his own preface by Raleigh to his masterly work History of the World. History during this period was written both in prose and verse, because the popularity of verse was greater.
Simultaneously, with the increasing interest in the study of history there grew a movement for the study of national language and literature. Manifestoes, treatises, epistles on orthography and pronunciation, rhetoric and prosody, etc., came out one after another.
There was a special pride in everything English. Translation of the classics—Homer, Herodotus, Aesop, Aristotle, Plutarch, Demosthenes, Cicero, Caesar, Ovid, Seneca, Pliny, Quintus Curtius also enriched the English language and literature and showed that the English writers did not keep their eyes inward only.
All the above only touched the fringe of Elizabethan literature. As we enter within the core of the subjects, the task of recounting becomes stupendous. ‘The muse of poetry tried her hand with every species of metrical composition except the epic, whose place was no doubt taken by the drama.’
The ode, the ballad, the lyric and the sonnet reached a high pitch of perfection never to be surpassed. ‘Merry England was in fact a nest of singing birds.’ Grace, simplicity and variety of measures were the qualities which are found in the lyrical poems of Marlowe, Greene, Lodge, Raleigh, Breton, Drayton and other less known to fame.
The earliest Elizabethan poets were Sir Philip Sidney and Edmund Spencer whose works were of great merit. The golden period of Elizabethan poetry, began with Spencer’s Shepherds Calendar and Sidney’s Arcadia. Spencer’s Faerie Queen combined his personality, art and technique which gave it an ethereal height. Erotic verses predominated but not to the exclusion of other types.
Hymn to heavenly love, spiritual sonnets, religious poetry were not wanting at that period. Of course Sidney, Spencer and Shakespeare had really experimented with sonnets which showed their genius, decidedly the best and greatest of which was Shakespeare’s.
Ballads were perhaps the most popular of the poetic compositions because these were less ornate and less artificial and appealed directly to simpler and truer emotion. For those who could not appreciate the intricacies of sonnets or other kinds of poetry, ballads dealing with exploits and sufferings of popular heroes had a special appeal.
The ballads took popular heroes like Robin Hood, William, Sir Patrick Spens, Gordon Percy, Douglas as their subject matter.
Elizabethan prose, conventionally speaking, began with the publication of John Lyly’s Euphues and Euphues His England. His too much ornamented and heavily jewelled prose became almost epidemic in the literary world and euphuism became almost a cult with the writers of prose. Robert Greene’s romantic novels, Mamillia, Menaphon, etc.
Thomas Lodge’s Rosalinde were written in the prose style of Lyly. Both Greene and Lodge supplied Shakespeare with his plot for A Winter’s Tale and As You Like It. Greene was, however, the first to break new ground by bringing the reality of London’s underworld with its thieves, swindlers, loose women, etc., which was also followed in the writings of Thomas Dekker, such as Gul’s Hornbook, Seven Deadly Sins, etc.,
Dekker and Deloney were the writers who led the English prose along the path that culminated a century later in the writings of Swift, Steele, Addison and Defoe. Nash, despite his grotesque style and frequent lapses in taste did the most for the development of English prose.
In literary criticism Sidney’s Defence of Poesy, Daniel’s Defence of Rime as also the writings of William Webbe deserve special mention. In speculative writing Bacon’s great philosophical work, the Novum Organum was of great importance, but in it he had reverted to Latin as being, according to him, most suitable medium for expression of ideas.
The English blank verse, emanating from the study of classics was the creation of Surrey. Likewise study of Italian and French poetry, classical Greek and Roman literature opened up a new and wide world of human vision which had been fruitfully made use of by Chapman, Harrington, North, Fairfax, no less Shakespeare himself.
English drama was emerging from the childishness and buffoonery in the early years of Elizabeth’s reign when Thomas Sackville produced his tragedy of Gorboduc. Sidney in his Defence of Poesy described Sackville’s work as full of stately speeches, and as having reached the heights of Seneca in style.
It was, however, by the last part of the reign of Elizabeth that the English drama gathered up and expressed the emotional and intellectual life of the age in all its length, breadth, height and depth. ‘The stage play in fact, became a truly national cult’.
Lyly’s plays Sapho and Phao, Endymion, Campaspe and Midas were meant for the gratification of the queen, but Thomas Kyd, Christopher Marlowe made plain for the first time the immense possibilities of the stage play as an instrument of popular amusement and a sounding-board of the deeper emotions of the period.
Next to Sackville was George Gascoigne who wrote his tragedy Jocasta and comedy Supposes. Kyd’s Spanish Tragedy was more or less a crude study of the realism of life where flesh and passion with all their barbarity find reflected. It was Marlowe who invented the true medium of Elizabethan drama and created a tradition which his successors including Shakespeare, adopted and perfected.
Marlowe’s heroes are slaves to the ‘will to power’—the power of military might in Tamburlaine, power of knowledge in Doctor Faustus, power of wealth in the Jew of Malta and power of cunning in Mortimer. Marlowe was the forerunner of Shakespeare, the incarnation of dramatic power.
All playwrights who were university men and of whom Christopher Marlowe was the greatest had been overshadowed by a Youngman from the country who had been educated at a Grammar School and ‘a discovery of the despised actor community’. He was William Shakespeare. His phenomenal success as a playwright evoked not too little jealousy.
Greene alluded to him as ‘an upstart crow beautified with out feathers’. Shakespeare lived at a time when nationalism was an exceedingly great virtue. He stood between the new world of bold speculation and the world of submission to authority was passing away.
In his works therefore, we come across the simplicity and superstition of the multitude, their belief in witches and ghosts, yet he asserts his claims to take rank with the most elevated of the world’s thinkers and it has been truly said that ‘he was not for an age, but for all time’, he is universal.
Shakespeare’s first play was probably Love’s Labour’s Lost and when Greene had indicted him he had Comedy of Errors, Two Gentlemen of Verona and three parts of Henry VI to his credit apart from his first play. But none of these bore the trace of the originality and genius of which he was to give proofs in his later works.
From 1592 till the end of the century Shakespeare produced the bulk of his works: King John, Richard II, Richard III, Henry IV, Henry V, A Midsummer-Night’s Dream, Romeo-Juliet, The Merchant of Venice, Much Ado About Nothing, As You Like It, Twelfth Night, Merry Wives of Windsor, and Taming of the Shrew.
Years between 1601 and 1608 saw the production of Measure for Measure, All’s Well That Ends Well, Troilus and Cressida, and profound tragedies like Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth, Timon of Athens, Julius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra and Coriolanus.
The years 1608 to 1616 comprised the final phase of his dramatic works during which he produced Pericles, Cymbeline, The Winter’s Tale and The Tempest. In this way Shakespeare completed a cycle of dramatic works beginning with fanciful plays of the days of his youth to the most serious and profound tragedies, ending in a sense of disillusionment in his The Tempest where he throws off his magic wand.
Unfortunately, the character, personality and the circumstances of Shakespeare’s life are still shrouded in mystery and much of these is guess-work. Yet he was the greatest of the literary architects of England and one of the greatest in the world. His greatness lies in the extra-ordinary wide range of his gifts and the universality of appeal in his work.
His leading characters—Hamlet, King Lear, Othello, Shylock, Lady Macbeth or Falstaff are among the finest production of literary genius.
Shakespeare was a true Elizabethan and like all Elizabethans, was politically minded and intensely patriotic. He was curiously interested in the main political and religious problems of the Tudor history.
Shakespeare was particularly interested in nature and whatever lessons he had learnt about human character in London world of theatre and tavern, he never lost memories of his native Warwickshire, his Stratford-on-Avon, where- from he drew his sweetest images.
Post-Shakespearean age was one of literary poverty, for it is in the very nature of things that a period of exuberance is followed by a period of paucity. Ben Jonson, Chapman, Fletcher, Beaumont, Massinger or Shirley could to keep the flame lit by Shakespeare in its full brilliance.
Ford, Massinger, Webster or Shirley were no comparison with their great predecessor arid could only succeed in somehow keeping the flame burning. ‘It was as if Shakespeare’s genius had been split into fragments and distributed.’
12. EIizabethan Commerce, Art, Architecture, Music and Science:
It is interesting to note that two kings who were not certainly the best of English history—John and Henry VIII were founders and creators of the English navy. During the following reigns the English commerce which had entered into a new era mainly due to the discovery of the New World and demand for ten thousand articles that it had created, went on with strength and steadiness which Spain or Portugal.
New found land cod fishery encouraged by Edward VI had rapidly developed into a source of great national profit. Abolition of the Steelyard company, a corporation of Hanseatic merchants residing in England who held a monopoly in certain branches of trade was abolished and advancement of English merchant adventurers promoted in its room. Laws against usury, etc., were passed.
All this was done under Edward VI and was a prelude to the great progress in commerce, and availability of mercantile finance. The navigation laws passed so early as the latter part of the twelfth century prohibiting all imports and exports except in English ships were rescinded under Elizabeth, because these were considered injurious to true interest of commerce and productive of jealousies and dissensions.
This was sufficient in increasing in an immense ratio the sphere of English mercantile traffic and the effect of the impulse was manifested in the quantities of English wool and cloth exported to Holland and the Netherlands. An English Exchange was there in Antwerp where brokers and interpreters would assemble both in the morning and evening.
Sir Thomas Gresham perceiving the inconvenience of the English merchants built in Lombard Street a massive building to house the Royal Exchange of England.
Under Elizabeth England entered upon that track of discovery which other nations had successfully opened. In 1567 Martin Frobisher set sail and entered the strait leading to Hudson Bay, henceforth called Frobisher Strait and took possession of the neighbouring coast in the name of the queen.
In 1577 he made a second voyage and a third in 1578. Francis Drake left England on a voyage in 1577 with the double purpose of discovering new countries and plundering the Spaniards. He explored the western coast of America, crossed the Pacific and circumnavigated the globe. He returned to England triumphantly laden with Spanish plunder.
Sir John Davis made three voyages in search of north-west passage, but was unsuccessful. But he enlarged the geographical knowledge of his countrymen. He was also successful in discovering the Strait named after him as Davis Strait. The fourth in the list of English naval adventurer was Thomas Cavendish who also, like Drake, performed the circumnavigation of the globe.
There were other expeditions fitted towards the close of Elizabeth’s reign and while voyages of discoveries were prosecuted with diligence, the paths discovered by foreign navigators were not neglected. Among the foremost of these was the sea-route to India. For the purpose of trading with India, the Turkey Company was incorporated in 1581 and the East India Company in 1600, which led to splendid results.
Britain was destined to be the mighty mother of colonies. In 1576 and 1583 Humphrey Gilbert and his step-brother Sir Walter Raleigh made unsuccessful attempts at colonisation of North America. In the following year Raleigh fitted out two ships, the result was the colonisation of Virginia, so called in honour of Elizabeth’s celibacy.
The attacks from the natives on the Englishmen at every landing in Virginia, later split up into two: Virginia and Carolina, taught the Englishmen to bravely persist and enduringly persevere in the difficult task of colonisation. Had England remained indifferent despite the Spanish example of acquisition of treasure from America, she would have been thrown back by centuries in progress.
Happily, however, under Elizabeth this aspect of the national progress was not neglected and by the end of her reign the royal navy amounted to 17,110 tonnage, from only 7,110 under Mary, which stood England in good stead in commerce and colonisation.
In Elizabeth’s reign Spanish and Portuguese monopolies were repeatedly infringed and England began to share in the benefits of the discoveries made by the foreigners. Hawkins landed on the Guinea coast and seized three hundred Negroes for they were good merchandise in the West Indies.
Tudor times were jolly times abounding in singing and dancing, revival of folk and Morris dances. Elizabethan Age was very much rich in music and produced the greatest lyric poets, i.e. song writers in any literature. Shakespeare himself wrote some of the best English songs. William Byrd, Thomas Tallis, Christopher Tye, Orlando Gibbons were some of the galaxy of talent indisputably national in character.
In the realm of physical sciences, Elizabethan age coincided with the beginnings of a great revolution in human thought. The works of Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo spread not only over Europe but on England as well. Robert Recorde, author of The Castle of Knowledge (1556), John Field, author of Ephemeris anni (1557), preceded the Elizabethan scientists, Dr. John Dee, Thomas Digges, William Gilbert, Thomas Harriot and others.
It must, however, be mentioned that the knowledge of science and scientific progress of the period was confined to a very small group of enthusiasts but it was a good beginning. It came under the revolutionising influence of the Renaissance. In medicine and surgery also the same may be said.
Study of anatomy and physiology was enthusiastically pursued during Elizabeth’s reign and in 1565 the queen granted permission to human dissections to the College of Physicians. The most notable surgeons of the time were John Gale, William Clowes and John Woodall.
In medicine Galen’s theory of ‘humours’ persisted and condition of the patient depended on ‘four humours’—blood, phlegm, choler and melancholy, the predominance of one or others of them determined the temperament and physical condition of an individual. Zoology and Botany—the two other branches of knowledge connected with medicine made much progress in Elizabeth’s time.
13. Elizabethan Society and its Economy:
The brilliance of the reign of Elizabeth was obvious enough but there was also the squalor—the other side of the picture. Never perhaps in the history of England the habits of the upper classes in England undergone so great a change as between the battle of Bosworth and the defeat of the Armada.
The change was very great indeed—from the bragging and bullying barons of the pre-Tudor age to the polished courtiers of Elizabeth. But beneath this polished surface lay the savage not too deeply buried.
The new aristocracy which replaced the old baronage and dispossessed the monks derived much of their incomes from land. Great material progress was made by the upper classes and the merchants during Elizabeth’s reign. Castles were transformed into palaces; great houses, such as Charlecote House, were now being built.
Below the new aristocracy, i.e., nobility, stood the squires who spent their days in hunting. The only useful function they performed was that of the Justice of Peace—the unpaid magistrates administering local justice individually and in Quarter Sessions.
The merchants formed the class that was more closely concerned with the new England that was shaping. London was the centre of business and the merchant population of the city was on rapid increase. Sir Thomas Gresham built the Royal Exchange which helped the growth of trade and commerce in a great degree.
The merchants of London and Bristol were the mainstay of England’s overseas trade. Need for mercantile capital gave rise to joint- stock companies, the first example of which was the Muscovy Company (1553) established five years before Elizabeth’s accession. The Turkey Company and East India Company were the two great joint- stock companies of national importance established during Elizabeth’s reign.
The vast majority of the English people consisted of yeomen who formed more than five-sixths of the population. The prosperous yeomen owned and formed their own land and were the real backbone of the country. Below the yeomen were the peasants who formed the largest class and were illiterate.
With the growth of wool trade landowners lay more and more land for sheep run which resulted in the eviction of many peasants, they also lost their homestead. This was also responsible for unemployment during Elizabeth’s reign. Unemployment had further increased due to the dissolution of monastaries under Henry VIII.
The presence of a permanent body of workless men became a problem during the reign of Elizabeth, as it continues to be one at the present day.
During the Tudor period, and particularly under Elizabeth cottage industry, called domestic system was prevalent. Every village produced its consumers’ goods and other important needs of life such as food, housing and clothing. Till such time, as the mechanical spindles, cottage industries were prosperous.
The guild system of industries which was in vogue since the Middle Ages, was breaking down during the second half of the sixteenth century and to replace them Elizabeth’s government managed to build up a national system of industry under the direct control of the Crown.
The chief credit for it is due to Cecil. The great Statute of Artificers aimed at regulating labour conditions in all manufacturing industries throughout the country was passed in 1563. It also made it compulsory for all able-bodied men who were not employed, to work on land.
This served a double purpose, namely solution of unemployment problem and stressing the importance of agriculture. It also fixed the hours of work for the labourers.
For those who could not or would not work a Poor Law System was introduced by various statutes passed in 1563, 1572, 1598 and was made permanent by Poor Law Code of 1601. The poor Jaw provided for the maintenance of physically impotent poor, for finding work for the unemployed, placing idlers in workhouse prisons, apprenticeship training for the pauper children.
Sturdy beggars who would not work were to be brought before the Justices of Peace and if convicted were to be whipped.
14. Last Years of Queen Elizabeth:
Despite this splendour of her course and the surprise and admiration she had caused to the nations of Europe, Elizabeth was destined to close the evening of her life in gloom and sorrow. During the fourteen years following the defeat of the Armada, England was embroiled in a variety of problems.
The English naval war with Spain (1588-1604) did not end till after the death of Elizabeth. That war was costly, Elizabeth knew well but in the first flush of victory over the Armada Walsingham and Drake, representing the war party, led to offensive against Spain (1589).
An expedition to Portugal was sent with 15,000 men on board, sacked the town of Corunna but failed to occupy the passage of the Tagus and the army was repulsed from Lisbon with slight loss but the loss was terrible due to an epidemic sickness.
Elizabeth was extremely angry, about 10,000 men and all the money spent in the expedition was lost. Drake was disgraced. In 1591 a second expedition was sent under Admiral Lord Thomas Howard to Azores to intercept the Spanish treasure-ships but knowing that Spain had kept ready a large navy to escort the treasure-ships home, Howard retreated.
But Sir Richard Grenville, the second in command fought an impossible battle with one ship against the entire Spanish fleet, and ultimately surrendered. What Grenville could not accomplish, a storm which arose did, and over a hundred of Spanish warships and treasure-ships were sunk.
In the mean time, battle of internal politics began. The handsome and young Earl of Essex, a bold, reckless youth became the queen’s favorite superseding the brilliant Sir Walter Raleigh. He exerted a strange fascination over the ageing queen who was fifty-five and he only twenty-one.
Essex aimed at becoming the Chief Minister defeating the claim of Sir Robert Cecil on the impending retirement of seventy-years old, gouty Lord Burleigh.
At the same time there was a vigorous revival of the prosecution of the Spanish war. Hawkins and Drake undertook a raid on the Spanish possessions in the West Indies. But soon afterwards both Hawkins and Drake died— Hawkins on the sea and Drake due to illness that took a toll of a number of his men.
In the next year (1596) Lord Howard, Lord Thomas Howard, Sir Walter Raleigh and Earl of Essex went on yet another expedition and the English fleet destroyed Spanish shipping at Cadiz.
To avenge the destruction Spain sent an Armada to England in the autumn of the same year to be destroyed on the way by a severe storm. In 1597 Raleigh and Essex went to Azores but reached after the Spanish treasure-ships had left. Philip’s third Armada was ordered to sail for England with no better result than that of the second. Next year (1598) Philip II died, closing the long chapter of attempts at conquest of England.
In 1599 Essex persuaded the queen to send him to conquer Ireland on which the hopes of the Spaniards were concentrated. Ireland was then in a desperate state of rebellion. But Essex succeeded no more than coming to truce with the leader of the rebels, Earl of Tyrone. But Essex had no such authority.
What was disastrous for him was to desert his post and to return to England, in consequence of which he was removed from office and house-arrested. He was egged upon by his friends and his Secretary Cuffe to raise the standard of rebellion which he did, but it ended in fiasco. He was sentenced to death, he was then only thirty-four (1601).
Barely two years that followed saw the queen in mental afflictions and physical infirmities due to age. Her mental afflictions are traced by historians to her regret for the execution of Essex. Her distress was also due to her learning the distressing truth that she had lived too long and even her favourites, Essex for example, waited with impatience for the moment they would be free from her control.
She confided to the French ambassador that she- had grown weary of her very existence.
In the beginning of 1603 Elizabeth was seventy years old and her vigour began to fail. She became strangely peevish. Nothing could please her; she stamped her feet, swore violently at the objects of her anger, would not change her dress regularly and a fear psychosis overtook her. She kept a sword placed by her table.
During the paroxysms of her disorder, she had been alarmed at the phantoms conjured up by her imagination and would pass day and night sitting. As the last night of her life approached three lords sought to elicit from her the name of her successor.
‘Who should that ,be but our cousin of Scotland’, was her final say. At 3 o’clock in the morning of March 24th, 1603 the queen breathed her last and at 10 o’clock James VI of Scotland was proclaimed King of England as James I.
15. Estimate of Queen Elizabeth’s Character:
In the judgment of her contemporaries, ratified by that of the posterity, Elizabeth was one of the greatest and the most fortunate of the English rulers. The tranquillity which during her reign of nearly half a century, she maintained while the neighbouring nations were being convulsed with intestinal dissensions, was proof of her wisdom and the vigour of her government.
Her successful resistance against Spain and the forces of the Counter-Reformation, her Religious Settlement, and the injury that she had successfully inflicted on her enemy Spain gave the world an exalted notion of her military and naval power. From a secondary kingdom at the time of her accession, England became one of the first nations at the end of her reign.
Lingard, Hume, Creighton and Bacon’s estimates of the character of Elizabeth although differ in some details, they are in agreement on essential traits.
Habitually irresolute, parsimonious to the point of miserliness, Elizabeth had brought wisdom in her rather early in life and the reason behind this, as Black points out, might have been due to her misfortune of losing her mother’s affection at the tender age of two and half, which made her remarkably precocious intellectually.
An intelligent foreigner described Elizabeth as haughty and overbearing with a contempt for all beneath her and in her notion of her own importance. But she possessed that courage-and self-confidence in times of danger, pride and masculinity which were characteristics of the Tudors.
Elizabeth had great love of splendour, and she wore false hair, ornaments, etc. She was so conceited of her beauty as to swallow the most extravagant flattery from her courtiers. She maintained her dignity both in public and in the palace and taught the proudest of the nobility to feel the distance between them and the sovereign. She, however, condescended to court the good-will of the common people.
As Creighton observes, ‘Elizabeth’s imperishable claim to greatness lies in her instinctive sympathy with her people’. “The most precious possession of Elizabeth as a princess was the knowledge that the stability of her throne would depend upon the success with which she interpreted the national aspiration and gave them articulation.”
Elizabeth’s natural abilities were great indeed.
She, like her sister Mary, possessed knowledge of five languages, conversed in Italian and construed the Greek Testament, and is said to have understood the most difficult music. Dangers had sharpened her wit, and schooled to self-repression, prudence and mistrust she grew into a cool, calculating politician, who knew how to screen her thought, to deceive, to dissimulate, to prevaricate and to circumvent difficulties.
“She was wise with this world’s wisdom—resourceful, self-reliant, cautious and morally courageous in moments of stress.” She was statesman-like in her commercial and foreign policy and used her virginity to her own and the nation’s benefits. Her policy has been assailed as unambitious, narrow and limited. It was neither broad nor noble.
Yet Green and Creighton who assail her policy with these charges agree that her policy was most suited to the circumstance of the time. Security of her throne, allowing her Religious Settlement to settle down, her anxiety to improve the finances, of the country and to restore civil order and religious peace led her to the policy of avoidance of war.
She was never fanatical despite the distress caused to her by the Catholics and always maintained her secularism without allowing herself to be carried away by Protestant sentiments. With an impoverished kingdom, ruined navy and insecure throne, as Creighton pointed out, no greater ambition or broader policy was possible.
Her fame rested on her success in guiding the ship of state safely at a period of enveloping storm.
Elizabeth was a good judge of persons and needs of the state. All her selections for appointments to high posts proved her power of insight. Her policy of ‘no war’ led to the conservation of power and wealth which stood England in good stead when war had actually come.
As for the lighter points of her character it needs mention that she allowed herself to be wooed and courted, even to have love made to her. She liked it and continued to like it beyond the natural age for such varieties. Dudley, though the most favoured, was not her only lover; among his rivals were listed Hutton, Raleigh, Oxford, Blount, Simier, Anjou and Essex. Her amour gave rise to dishonourable reports.
As a justification, Black remarks that ‘She ripened quickly, almost too quickly to preserve that balance between emotion and restraint which is the true glory of womanhood.’
An unsavoury love affair at the age of fifteen with Admiral Seymour cost the admiral his life and gave her the bitter taste of the power of scandal, and ‘shown her the importance of keeping a tight hold over her natural impulses’, as Black would have us believe. Accounts of her contemporaries would not say that she kept a tight hold over her natural impulses.
Yet by common consent both in her nature and fortune Elizabeth was a wonderful person among women, a memorable person among princes. Despite all her faults, she was ‘the most English woman in England’ and round her, the England we know, grew into the consciousness of its destiny.
16. Queen Elizabeth’s Ministers:
Elizabeth was fortunate in her ministers. William Cecil, Lord Burleigh, Robert Cecil first Lord of Salisbury, Sir Nicholas Bacon and Sir Francis Walsingham were her ministers who served her loyally, helped her with their counsel, and Cecil even taught her the ways of a sovereign.
Much of the credit for the success of Elizabeth’s reign must go to her ministers, although after she had become thoroughly entrenched on the throne, she would not hesitate to override minister’s counsel.
Elizabeth chose Sir William Cecil, later Lord Burleigh as her principal Secretary, i.e. the chief minister. Cecil was eminently a safe if not a heroic figure and had served under Somerset and Northumberland in similar capacity. He had been a Protestant under Edward VI and dissimulated his Protestant leanings under Mary.
He was a great administrator and became ‘if not the brain, at least the regulating balance in the Elizabethan government for more than thirty years’. The queen showed great discrimination and insight in selecting him her Principal Secretary.
In both domestic and foreign policies Cecil was the queen’s confident and his counsels always recommended themselves to the queen. In religious policy he, like his sovereign, was against extremes and favoured compromise. He was a pacifist and was greatly in favour of avoiding war. He had greater faith in diplomacy and intrigues.
It was on his advice that Elizabeth gave covert support to the Scottish rebels, thereby avoiding open conflict with France. It was Cecil again who compelled France to surrender on all essential points in the Treaty of Edinburgh. During the long period of principal secretary-ship of the queen ending with his death in 1598, Cecil enjoyed the most unquestioned confidence of the queen. He was almost an oracle with her.
On his own part, Cecil was loyal and faithful to the queen and gave her the very best of counsels. In fact, it was Cecil who had schooled her in statecraft and her foreign policy was, in fact, that of Cecil himself. His system of elaborate espionage kept him informed of Catholic plots against the queen whether hatched in England, France, Spain or Rome.
The credit for devising a national system of industry under government control must go to him. Cecil was the master-mind during Elizabeth’s reign and the typical new man of the Tudor making. The queen rewarded him with peerage in 1571 by making him Lord Burleigh. He died in 1598.
Sir Nicholas Bacon, son of Sir Francis Bacon was related to Cecil. He was Elizabeth’s Lord Keeper. He piloted the Church Settlement through the Parliament and in his opening speech he observed that ‘her Majesty’s desire was to secure and unite the people of the realm in one uniform order to the glory of God and to general tranquility’.
He was a determined Protestant and influenced the queen to lean on the Protestant side. It was mainly due to him that the queen refused to send any representative to the Council of Trent as requested by Pope Pius IV, on the ground that the queen was not consulted as to the summoning of the Council.
His Protestant earnestness led him to advise every possible secret help to the Scots against the French influence. It was he who made it clear to the Council that interests of the Guise family and Mary Stuart were the same and Mary had a positive dislike of Elizabeth. Bacon was somewhat different, in his mental make up from Cecil.
He was firm in his religious and political ideas. He was forthright, decisive with a great fund of common-sense. He was banished from the Court of the queen because he was the patron of John Hayles, a chancery official who published a pamphlet against the Stuart claim to succession after Elizabeth. Bacon was a man of high literary taste and acquired a moderate fame in this regard.
Sir Robert Cecil, son of Sir William Cecil Lord Burleigh, became one of the secretaries of state in 1596 and on his fathers death in 1598 became the chief minister. Earl of Essex was his rival in the run for the chief ministership. He inherited his father’s intelligence and showed much of his father’s aptitude as a statesman. He was short in stature and had a hunched back.
The queen nicknamed him ‘pigmy’.
He was endowed with a natural acuteness of mind, quick observation, and intense power of concentration that almost amounted to genius. In addition, he was nursed and groomed by a distinguished parent and thus in spite of his deformity young Robert Cecil stripped with comparative ease into familiarity with affairs of state, and learned valuable lessons in diplomacy and statesmanship.
No one had any better grasp of the political situation of the time, none studied with greater care the character, temper and idiosyncracies of his royal mistress. He was the type of person who like his father, could be trusted to navigate the ship of state without danger or disaster.
Sir Francis Walsingham was one of the ablest men who served Queen Elizabeth. He came to limelight as an ambassador at Paris when he was making an earnest endeavour for Elizabeth’s marriage with Duke of Anjou. He favoured French alliance and despised any truck with Spain.
Moreover, he sought to render every assistance to the Dutch against Spain as also Protestantism against the Spanish championship of Catholicism. He was a puritan both in his religious belief and in his sense of honesty, justice and fair deal. True to his puritan bent of mind, he would not support the queen’s policy of prevarication and dissimulation, although there was no want of his loyalty to the queen.
Yet paradoxically enough, he was running his espionage, service and not un-often condoned unscrupulousness. For the sake of the safety of his sovereign and the nation he even used torture for eliciting information from the suspects. It was due to his efficient system of espionage that he managed to intercept Mary’s letters that proved her involvement in the Babington plot.
In foreign policy Walsingham did not see eye to eye with the queen or Cecil. He was in favour of war with Spain for religion. Humbling Spain was the greatest mission of his life and with Duke and Raleigh he sought to strike at Spain’s naval power and entered into rivalry with Spain in colonial expansion.
He died a poor man in 1590 despite the opportunities to fortune that he had obtained but which his honesty did not permit him to take advantage of.