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History has many romantic stories to tell of the part which women

have played in determining the destinies of nations. Sometimes it

is a woman's beauty that causes the shifting of a province. Again

it is another woman's rich possessions that incite invasion and

lead to bloody wars. Marriages or dowries, or the refusal of

marriages and the lack of dowries, inheritance through an heiress,

the failure of a male succession
-in these and in many other ways

women have set their mark indelibly upon the trend of history.

However, if we look over these different events we shall find that

it is not so much the mere longing for a woman--the desire to have

her as a queen--that has seriously affected the annals of any

nation. Kings, like ordinary men, have paid their suit and then

have ridden away repulsed, yet not seriously dejected. Most royal

marriages are made either to secure the succession to a throne by

a legitimate line of heirs or else to unite adjoining states and

make a powerful kingdom out of two that are less powerful. But, as

a rule, kings have found greater delight in some sheltered bower

remote from courts than in the castled halls and well-cared-for

nooks where their own wives and children have been reared with all

the appurtenances of legitimacy.

There are not many stories that hang persistently about the love-

making of a single woman. In the case of one or another we may

find an episode or two--something dashing, something spirited or

striking, something brilliant and exhilarating, or something sad.

But for a woman's whole life to be spent in courtship that meant

nothing and that was only a clever aid to diplomacy--this is

surely an unusual and really wonderful thing.

It is the more unusual because the woman herself was not intended

by nature to be wasted upon the cold and cheerless sport of

chancellors and counselors and men who had no thought of her

except to use her as a pawn. She was hot-blooded, descended from a

fiery race, and one whose temper was quick to leap into the

passion of a man.

In studying this phase of the long and interesting life of

Elizabeth of England we must notice several important facts. In

the first place, she gave herself, above all else, to the

maintenance of England--not an England that would be half Spanish

or half French, or even partly Dutch and Flemish, but the Merry

England of tradition--the England that was one and undivided, with

its growing freedom of thought, its bows and bills, its nut-brown

ale, its sturdy yeomen, and its loyalty to crown and Parliament.

She once said, almost as in an agony:

"I love England more than anything!"

And one may really hold that this was true.

For England she schemed and planned. For England she gave up many

of her royal rights. For England she descended into depths of

treachery. For England she left herself on record as an arrant

liar, false, perjured, yet successful; and because of her success

for England's sake her countrymen will hold her in high

remembrance, since her scheming and her falsehood are the offenses

that one pardons most readily in a woman.

In the second place, it must be remembered that Elizabeth's

courtships and pretended love-makings were almost always a part of

her diplomacy. When not a part of her diplomacy they were a mere

appendage to her vanity. To seem to be the flower of the English

people, and to be surrounded by the noblest, the bravest, and the

most handsome cavaliers, not only of her own kingdom, but of

others--this was, indeed, a choice morsel of which she was fond of

tasting, even though it meant nothing beyond the moment.

Finally, though at times she could be very cold, and though she

made herself still colder in order that she might play fast and

loose with foreign suitors who played fast and loose with her--the

King of Spain, the Duc d'Alencon, brother of the French king, with

an Austrian archduke, with a magnificent barbarian prince of

Muscovy, with Eric of Sweden, or any other Scandinavian suitor--

she felt a woman's need for some nearer and more tender

association to which she might give freer play and in which she

might feel those deeper emotions without the danger that arises

when love is mingled with diplomacy.

Let us first consider a picture of the woman as she really was in

order that we may understand her triple nature--consummate

mistress of every art that statesmen know, and using at every

moment her person as a lure; a vain-glorious queen who seemed to

be the prey of boundless vanity; and, lastly, a woman who had all

a woman's passion, and who could cast suddenly aside the check and

balance which restrained her before the public gaze and could

allow herself to give full play to the emotion that she inherited

from the king, her father, who was himself a marvel of fire and

impetuosity. That the daughter of Henry VIII. and Anne Boleyn

should be a gentle, timid maiden would be to make heredity a


Elizabeth was about twenty-five years of age when she ascended the

throne of England. It is odd that the date of her birth cannot be

given with precision. The intrigues and disturbances of the

English court, and the fact that she was a princess, made her

birth a matter of less account than if there had been no male heir

to the throne. At any rate, when she ascended it, after the deaths

of her brother, King Edward VI., and her sister, Queen Mary, she

was a woman well trained both in intellect and in physical


Mr. Martin Hume, who loves to dwell upon the later years of Queen

Elizabeth, speaks rather bitterly of her as a "painted old

harridan"; and such she may well have seemed when, at nearly

seventy years of age, she leered and grinned a sort of skeleton

smile at the handsome young courtiers who pretended to see in her

the queen of beauty and to be dying for love of her.

Yet, in her earlier years, when she was young and strong and

impetuous, she deserved far different words than these. The

portrait of her by Zucchero, which now hangs in Hampton Court,

depicts her when she must have been of more than middle age; and

still the face is one of beauty, though it be a strange and almost

artificial beauty--one that draws, attracts, and, perhaps, lures

you on against your will.

It is interesting to compare this painting with the frank word-

picture of a certain German agent who was sent to England by his

emperor, and who seems to have been greatly fascinated by Queen

Elizabeth. She was at that time in the prime of her beauty and her

power. Her complexion was of that peculiar transparency which is

seen only in the face of golden blondes. Her figure was fine and

graceful, and her wit an accomplishment that would have made a

woman of any rank or time remarkable. The German envoy says:

She lives a life of such magnificence and feasting as can hardly

be imagined, and occupies a great portion of her time with balls,

banquets, hunting, and similar amusements, with the utmost

possible display, but nevertheless she insists upon far greater

respect being shown her than was exacted by Queen Mary. She

summons Parliament, but lets them know that her orders must be

obeyed in any case.

If any one will look at the painting by Zucchero he will see how

much is made of Elizabeth's hands--a distinctive feature quite as

noble with the Tudors as is the "Hapsburg lip" among the

descendants of the house of Austria. These were ungloved, and were

very long and white, and she looked at them and played with them a

great deal; and, indeed, they justified the admiration with which

they were regarded by her flatterers.

Such was the personal appearance of Elizabeth. When a young girl,

we have still more favorable opinions of her that were written by

those who had occasion to be near her. Not only do they record

swift glimpses of her person, but sometimes in a word or two they

give an insight into certain traits of mind which came out

prominently in her later years.

It may, perhaps, be well to view her as a woman before we regard

her more fully as a queen. It has been said that Elizabeth

inherited many of the traits of her father--the boldness of

spirit, the rapidity of decision, and, at the same time, the fox-

like craft which often showed itself when it was least expected.

Henry had also, as is well known, a love of the other sex, which

has made his reign memorable. And yet it must be noted that while

he loved much, it was not loose love. Many a king of England, from

Henry II. to Charles II., has offended far more than Henry VIII.

Where Henry loved, he married; and it was the unfortunate result

of these royal marriages that has made him seem unduly fond of

women. If, however, we examine each one of the separate espousals

we shall find that he did not enter into it lightly, and that he

broke it off unwillingly. His ardent temperament, therefore, was

checked by a certain rational or conventional propriety, so that

he was by no means a loose liver, as many would make him out to


We must remember this when we recall the charges that have been

made against Elizabeth, and the strange stories that were told of

her tricks--by no means seemly tricks--which she used to play with

her guardian, Lord Thomas Seymour. The antics she performed with

him in her dressing-room were made the subject of an official

inquiry; yet it came out that while Elizabeth was less than

sixteen, and Lord Thomas was very much her senior, his wife was

with him on his visits to the chamber of the princess.

Sir Robert Tyrwhitt and his wife were also sent to question her,

Tyrwhitt had a keen mind and one well trained to cope with any

other's wit in this sort of cross-examination. Elizabeth was only

a girl of fifteen, yet she was a match for the accomplished

courtier in diplomacy and quick retort. He was sent down to worm

out of her everything that she knew. Threats and flattery and

forged letters and false confessions were tried on her; but they

were tried in vain. She would tell nothing of importance. She

denied everything. She sulked, she cried, she availed herself of a

woman's favorite defense in suddenly attacking those who had

attacked her. She brought counter charges against Tyrwhitt, and

put her enemies on their own defense. Not a compromising word

could they wring out of her.

She bitterly complained of the imprisonment of her governess, Mrs.

Ashley, and cried out:

"I have not so behaved that you need put more mistresses upon me!"

Altogether, she was too much for Sir Robert, and he was wise

enough to recognize her cleverness.

"She hath a very good wit," said he, shrewdly; "and nothing is to

be gotten of her except by great policy." And he added: "If I had

to say my fancy, I think it more meet that she should have two

governesses than one."

Mr. Hume notes the fact that after the two servants of the

princess had been examined and had told nothing very serious they

found that they had been wise in remaining friends of the royal

girl. No sooner had Elizabeth become queen than she knighted the

man Parry and made him treasurer of the household, while Mrs.

Ashley, the governess, was treated with great consideration. Thus,

very naturally, Mr. Hume says: "They had probably kept back far

more than they told."

Even Tyrwhitt believed that there was a secret compact between

them, for he said, quaintly: "They all sing one song, and she hath

set the note for them."

Soon after this her brother Edward's death brought to the throne

her elder sister, Mary, who has harshly become known as Bloody

Mary. During this time Elizabeth put aside her boldness, and

became apparently a shy and simple-minded virgin. Surrounded on

every side by those who sought to trap her, there was nothing in

her bearing to make her seem the head of a party or the young

chief of a faction. Nothing could exceed her in meekness. She

spoke of her sister in the humblest terms. She exhibited no signs

of the Tudor animation that was in reality so strong a part of her


But, coming to the throne, she threw away her modesty and brawled

and rioted with very little self-restraint. The people as a whole

found little fault with her. She reminded them of her father, the

bluff King Hal; and even those who criticized her did so only

partially. They thought much better of her than they had of her

saturnine sister, the first Queen Mary.

The life of Elizabeth has been very oddly misunderstood, not so

much for the facts in it as for the manner in which these have

been arranged and the relation which they have to one another. We

ought to recollect that this woman did not live in a restricted

sphere, that her life was not a short one, and that it was crowded

with incidents and full of vivid color. Some think of her as

living for a short period of time and speak of the great

historical characters who surrounded her as belonging to a single

epoch. To them she has one set of suitors all the time--the Duc

d'Alencon, the King of Denmark's brother, the Prince of Sweden,

the russian potentate, the archduke sending her sweet messages

from Austria, the melancholy King of Spain, together with a number

of her own brilliant Englishmen--Sir William Pickering, Sir Robert

Dudley, Lord Darnley, the Earl of Essex, Sir Philip Sidney, and

Sir Walter Raleigh.

Of course, as a matter of fact, Elizabeth lived for nearly seventy

years--almost three-quarters of a century--and in that long time

there came and went both men and women, those whom she had used

and cast aside, with others whom she had also treated with

gratitude, and who had died gladly serving her. But through it all

there was a continual change in her environment, though not in

her. The young soldier went to the battle-field and died; the wise

counselor gave her his advice, and she either took it or cared

nothing for it. She herself was a curious blending of forwardness

and folly, of wisdom and wantonness, of frivolity and unbridled

fancy. But through it all she loved her people, even though she

often cheated them and made them pay her taxes in the harsh old

way that prevailed before there was any right save the king's


At the same time, this was only by fits and starts, and on the

whole she served them well. Therefore, to most of them she was

always the good Queen Bess. What mattered it to the ditcher and

yeoman, far from the court, that the queen was said to dance in

her nightdress and to swear like a trooper?

It was, indeed, largely from these rustic sources that such

stories were scattered throughout England. Peasants thought them

picturesque. More to the point with them were peace and prosperity

throughout the country, the fact that law was administered with

honesty and justice, and that England was safe from her deadly

enemies--the swarthy Spaniards and the scheming French.

But, as I said, we must remember always that the Elizabeth of one

period was not the Elizabeth of another, and that the England of

one period was not the England of another. As one thinks of it,

there is something wonderful in the almost star-like way in which

this girl flitted unharmed through a thousand perils. Her own

countrymen were at first divided against her; a score of greedy,

avaricious suitors sought her destruction, or at least her hand to

lead her to destruction; all the great powers of the Continent

were either demanding an alliance with England or threatening to

dash England down amid their own dissensions.

What had this girl to play off against such dangers? Only an

undaunted spirit, a scheming mind that knew no scruples, and

finally her own person and the fact that she was a woman, and,

therefore, might give herself in marriage and become the mother of

a race of kings.

It was this last weapon, the weapon of her sex, that proved,

perhaps, the most powerful of all. By promising a marriage or by

denying it, or by neither promising nor denying but withholding

it, she gave forth a thousand wily intimations which kept those

who surrounded her at bay until she had made still another deft

and skilful combination, escaping like some startled creature to a

new place of safety.

In 1583, when she was fifty years of age, she had reached a point

when her courtships and her pretended love-making were no longer

necessary. She had played Sweden against Denmark, and France

against Spain, and the Austrian archduke against the others, and

many suitors in her own land against the different factions which

they headed. She might have sat herself down to rest; for she

could feel that her wisdom had led her up into a high place,

whence she might look down in peace and with assurance of the

tranquillity that she had won. Not yet had the great Armada rolled

and thundered toward the English shores. But she was certain that

her land was secure, compact, and safe.

It remains to see what were those amatory relations which she may

be said to have sincerely held. She had played at love-making with

foreign princes, because it was wise and, for the moment, best.

She had played with Englishmen of rank who aspired to her hand,

because in that way she might conciliate, at one time her Catholic

and at another her Protestant subjects. But what of the real and

inward feeling of her heart, when she was not thinking of

political problems or the necessities of state!

This is an interesting question. One may at least seek the answer,

hoping thereby to solve one of the most interesting phases of this

perplexing and most remarkable woman.

It must be remembered that it was not a question of whether

Elizabeth desired marriage. She may have done so as involving a

brilliant stroke of policy. In this sense she may have wished to

marry one of the two French princes who were among her suitors.

But even here she hesitated, and her Parliament disapproved; for

by this time England had become largely Protestant. Again, had she

married a French prince and had children, England might have

become an appanage of France.

There is no particular evidence that she had any feeling at all

for her Flemish, Austrian, or Russian suitors, while the Swede's

pretensions were the laughing-stock of the English court. So we

may set aside this question of marriage as having nothing to do

with her emotional life. She did desire a son, as was shown by her

passionate outcry when she compared herself with Mary of Scotland.

"The Queen of Scots has a bonny son, while I am but a barren


She was too wise to wed a subject; though. had she married at all,

her choice would doubtless have been an Englishman. In this

respect, as in so many others, she was like her father, who chose

his numerous wives, with the exception of the first, from among

the English ladies of the court; just as the showy Edward IV. was

happy in marrying "Dame Elizabeth Woodville." But what a king may

do is by no means so easy for a queen; and a husband is almost

certain to assume an authority which makes him unpopular with the

subjects of his wife.

Hence, as said above, we must consider not so much whom she would

have liked to marry, but rather to whom her love went out

spontaneously, and not as a part of that amatory play which amused

her from the time when she frisked with Seymour down to the very

last days, when she could no longer move about, but when she still

dabbled her cheeks with rouge and powder and set her skeleton face

amid a forest of ruffs.

There were many whom she cared for after a fashion. She would not

let Sir Walter Raleigh visit her American colonies, because she

could not bear to have him so long away from her. She had great

moments of passion for the Earl of Essex, though in the end she

signed his death-warrant because he was as dominant in spirit as

the queen herself.

Readers of Sir Walter Scott's wonderfully picturesque novel,

Kenilworth, will note how he throws the strongest light upon

Elizabeth's affection for Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester.

Scott's historical instinct is united here with a vein of

psychology which goes deeper than is usual with him. We see

Elizabeth trying hard to share her favor equally between two

nobles; but the Earl of Essex fails to please her because he

lacked those exquisite manners which made Leicester so great a

favorite with the fastidious queen.

Then, too, the story of Leicester's marriage with Amy Robsart is

something more than a myth, based upon an obscure legend and an

ancient ballad. The earl had had such a wife, and there were

sinister stories about the manner of her death. But it is Scott

who invents the villainous Varney and the bulldog Anthony Foster;

just as he brought the whole episode into the foreground and made

it occur at a period much later than was historically true. Still,

Scott felt--and he was imbued with the spirit and knowledge of

that time--a strong conviction that Elizabeth loved Leicester as

she really loved no one else.

There is one interesting fact which goes far to convince us. Just

as her father was, in a way, polygamous, so Elizabeth was even

more truly polyandrous. It was inevitable that she should surround

herself with attractive men, whose love-locks she would caress and

whose flatteries she would greedily accept. To the outward eye

there was very little difference in her treatment of the handsome

and daring nobles of her court; yet a historian of her time makes

one very shrewd remark when he says: "To every one she gave some

power at times--to all save Leicester."

Cecil and Walsingham in counsel and Essex and Raleigh in the field

might have their own way at times, and even share the sovereign's

power, but to Leicester she intrusted no high commands and no

important mission. Why so? Simply because she loved him more than

any of the rest; and, knowing this, she knew that if besides her

love she granted him any measure of control or power, then she

would be but half a queen and would be led either to marry him or

else to let him sway her as he would.

For the reason given, one may say with confidence that, while

Elizabeth's light loves were fleeting, she gave a deep affection

to this handsome, bold, and brilliant Englishman and cherished him

in a far different way from any of the others. This was as near as

she ever came to marriage, and it was this love at least which

makes Shakespeare's famous line as false as it is beautiful, when

he describes "the imperial votaress" as passing by "in maiden

meditation, fancy free."