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- History of the United Netherlands, 1585 - 1/6 -
CHAPTER VI., Part 2.
Sir John Norris sent to Holland--Parsimony of Elizabeth--Energy of Davison--Protracted Negotiations--Friendly Sentiments of Count Maurice--Letters from him and Louisa de Coligny--Davison vexed by the Queen's Caprice--Dissatisfaction of Leicester--His vehement Complaints--The Queen's Avarice--Perplexity of Davison--Manifesto of Elizabeth--Sir Philip Sidney--His Arrival at Flushing.
The envoys were then dismissed, and soon afterwards a portion of the deputation took their departure from the Netherlands with the proposed treaty. It was however, as we know, quite too late for Saguntum. Two days after the signing of the treaty, the remaining envoys were at the palace of Nonesuch, in conference with the Earl of Leicester, when a gentleman rushed suddenly into the apartment, exclaiming with great manifestations of anger:
"Antwerp has fallen! A treaty has been signed with the Prince of Parma. Aldegonde is the author of it all. He is the culprit, who has betrayed us;" with many more expressions of vehement denunciation.
The Queen was disappointed, but stood firm. She had been slow in taking her resolution, but she was unflinching when her mind was made up. Instead of retreating from her, position, now that it became doubly dangerous, she advanced several steps nearer towards her allies. For it was obvious, if more precious time should be lost, that Holland and Zeeland would share the fate of Antwerp. Already the belief, that, with the loss of that city, all had been lost, was spreading both in the Provinces and in England, and Elizabeth felt that the time had indeed come to confront the danger.
Meantime the intrigues of the enemy in the independent Provinces were rife. Blunt Roger Williams wrote in very plain language to Walsingham, a very few days after the capitulation of Antwerp:
"If her Majesty means to have Holland and Zeeland," said he, "she must resolve presently. Aldegonde hath promised the enemy to bring them to compound. Here arrived already his ministers which knew all his dealings about Antwerp from first to last. Count Maurice is governed altogether by Villiers, and Villiers was never worse for the English than at this hour. To be short, the people say in general, they will accept a peace, unless her Majesty do sovereign them presently. All the men of war will be at her Highness' devotion, if they be in credit in time. What you do, it must be done presently, for I do assure your honour there is large offers presented unto them by the enemies. If her Majesty deals not roundly and resolutely with them now, it will be too late two months hence."
Her Majesty meant to deal roundly and resolutely. Her troops had already gone in considerable numbers. She wrote encouraging letters with her own hand to the States, imploring them not to falter now, even though the great city had fallen. She had long since promised never to desert them, and she was, if possible, more determined than ever to redeem her pledge. She especially recommended to their consideration General Norris, commander of the forces that had been despatched to the relief of Antwerp.
A most accomplished officer, sprung of a house renowned for its romantic valour, Sir John was the second of the six sons of Lord Norris of Rycot, all soldiers of high reputation, "chickens of Mars," as an old writer expressed himself. "Such a bunch of brethren for eminent achievement," said he, "was never seen. So great their states and stomachs that they often jostled with others." Elizabeth called their mother, "her own crow;" and the darkness of her hair and visage was thought not unbecoming to her martial issue, by whom it had been inherited. Daughter of Lord Williams of Tame, who had been keeper of the Tower in the time of Elizabeth's imprisonment, she had been affectionate and serviceable to the Princess in the hour of her distress, and had been rewarded with her favour in the days of her grandeur. We shall often meet this crow-black Norris, and his younger brother Sir Edward--the most daring soldiers of their time, posters of sea and land--wherever the buffeting was closest, or adventure the wildest on ship-board or shore, for they were men who combined much of the knight-errantry of a vanishing age with the more practical and expansive spirit of adventure that characterized the new epoch.
Nor was he a stranger in the Netherlands. "The gentleman to whom we have committed the government of the forces going to the relief of Antwerp," said Elizabeth, "has already given you such proofs of his affection by the good services he has rendered you, that without recommendation on our part, he should stand already recommended. Nevertheless, in respect for his quality, the house from which he is descended, and the valour which he has manifested in your own country, we desire to tell you that we hold him dear, and that he deserves also to be dear to you."
When the fall of Antwerp was certain, the Queen sent Davison, who had been for a brief period in England, back again to his post. "We have learned," she said in the letter which she sent by that envoy; "with very great regret of the surrender of Antwerp. Fearing lest some apprehension should take possession of the people's mind in consequence, and that some dangerous change might ensue, we send you our faithful and well-beloved Davison to represent to you how much we have your affairs at heart, and to say that we are determined to forget nothing that may be necessary to your preservation. Assure yourselves that we shall never fail to accomplish all that he may promise you in our behalf."
Yet, notwithstanding the gravity of the situation, the thorough discussion that had taken place of the whole matter, and the enormous loss which had resulted from the money-saving insanity upon both sides, even then the busy devil of petty economy was not quite exorcised. Several precious weeks were wasted in renewed chafferings. The Queen was willing that the permanent force should now be raised to five thousand foot and one thousand horse--the additional sixteen, hundred men being taken from the Antwerp relieving-force--but she insisted that the garrisons for the cautionary towns should be squeezed out of this general contingent. The States, on the contrary, were determined to screw these garrisons out of her grip, as an additional subsidy. Each party complained with reason of the other's closeness. No doubt the states were shrewd bargainers, but it would have been difficult for the sharpest Hollander that ever sent a cargo of herrings to Cadiz, to force open Elizabeth's beautiful hand when she chose to shut it close. Walsingham and Leicester were alternately driven to despair by the covetousness of the one party or the other.
It was still uncertain what "personage of quality" was to go to the Netherlands in the Queen's name, to help govern the country. Leicester had professed his readiness to risk his life, estates, and reputation, in the cause, and the States particularly desired his appointment. "The name of your Excellency is so very agreeable to this people," said they in a letter to the Earl, "as to give promise of a brief and happy end to this grievous and almost immortal war." The Queen was, or affected to be, still undecided as to the appointment. While waiting week after week for the ratifications of the treaty from Holland, affairs were looking gloomy at home, and her Majesty was growing very uncertain in her temper.
"I see not her Majesty disposed to use the service of the Earl of Leicester," wrote Walsingham. "I suppose the lot of government will light on Lord Gray. I would to God the ability of his purse were answerable to his sufficiency otherwise." This was certainly a most essential deficiency on the part of Lord Gray, and it will soon be seen that the personage of quality to be selected as chief in the arduous and honourable enterprise now on foot, would be obliged to rely quite as much on that same ability of purse as upon the sufficiency of his brain or arm. The Queen did not mean to send her favourite forth to purchase anything but honour in the Netherlands; and it was not the Provinces only that were likely to struggle against her parsimony. Yet that parsimony sprang from a nobler motive than the mere love of pelf. Dangers encompassed her on every side, and while husbanding her own exchequer, she was saving her subjects' resources. "Here we are but book-worms," said Walsingham, "yet from sundry quarters we hear of great practices against this poor crown. The revolt in Scotland is greatly feared, and that out of hand."
Scotland, France, Spain, these were dangerous enemies and neighbours to a maiden Queen, who had a rebellious Ireland to deal with on one side the channel, and Alexander of Parma on the other.
Davison experienced great inconvenience and annoyance before the definite arrangements could be made. There is no doubt that the Spanish party had made great progress since the fall of Antwerp. Roger Williams was right in advising the Queen to deal" roundly and resolutely" with the States, and to "sovereign them presently."
They had need of being sovereigned, for it must be confessed that the self-government which prevailed at that moment was very like no government. The death of Orange, the treachery of Henry III., the triumphs of Parma, disastrous facts, treading rapidly upon each other, had produced a not very unnatural effect. The peace-at-any-price party was struggling hard for the ascendancy, and the Spanish partizans were doing their best to hold up to suspicion the sharp practice of the English Queen. She was even accused of underhand dealing with Spain, to the disadvantage of the Provinces; so much had slander, anarchy, and despair, been able to effect. The States were reluctant to sign those articles with Elizabeth which were absolutely necessary to their salvation.
"In how doubtful and uncertain terms I found things at my coming hither," wrote Davison to Burghley, "how thwarted and delayed since for a resolution, and with what conditions, and for what reasons I have been finally drawn to conclude with them as I have done, your Lordship may perceive by that I have written to Mr. Secretary. The chief difficulty has rested upon the point of entertaining the garrisons within the towns of assurance, over and besides the five thousand footmen and one thousand horse."
This, as Davison proceeded to observe, was considered a 'sine qua non' by the States, so that, under the perilous circumstances in which both countries were placed, he had felt it his duty to go forward as far as possible to meet their demands. Davison always did his work veraciously, thoroughly, and resolutely; and it was seldom that his advice, in all matters pertaining to Netherland matters, did not prove the very best that could be offered. No man knew better than he the interests and the temper of both countries.
The imperious Elizabeth was not fond of being thwarted, least of all by any thing savouring of the democratic principle, and already there was much friction between the Tudor spirit of absolutism and the rough "mechanical" nature with which it was to ally itself in the Netherlands. The economical Elizabeth was not pleased at being overreached in a bargain; and, at a moment when she thought herself doing a magnanimous act, she was vexed at the cavilling with which her generosity was received. "'Tis a manner of proceeding," said Walsingham, "not to be allowed of, and may very well be termed mechanical, considering that her Majesty seeketh no interest in that country--as Monsieur and the French King did--but only their good and benefit, without regard had of the expenses of her treasure and the hazard of her subjects' lives; besides throwing herself into a present war for their sakes with the greatest
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