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164

RETURN OF LEICESTER TO ENGLAND.

to hear of your proceeding in those causes without their assistance; and therefore, to the end their lordships should conceive no otherwise than well of your dealing without them, I have forborne to acquaint them with our late letter, wishing your lord. ship, for the better handling and success of those matters in religion, you called unto you the bishop of Worcester, Mr. Philips, and certain others specially named in the commission. They will, I am sure, be glad to wait on you in so good a service, and your proceeding together with them in these matters will be better allowed of here, &c.

“ P. S. Your lordship had need to walk warily, for your doings are narrowly observed, and her majesty is apt to give ear to any that shall ill you. Great hold is taken by your enemies for neglecting the execution of this commission.

Oatlands, August 9th 1580a."

Leicester, soon after the death of his nephew, placed his army in winter-quarters, having effected no one object of importance. The States remonstrated with him in strong terms on the various and grievous abuses of his administration; he answered them in the tone of graciousness and conciliation which it suited his purpose to assume;

and publicly surrendering up to them the whole apparent authority of the provinces, whilst by a secret act of restriction he in fact retained for himself full command over all the governors of towns and provinces, he set sail for England.

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APPROACHING WAR WITH SPAIN.

165

Elizabeth received her favorite with her usual complacency, either because his abject submissions had in reality succeeded in banishing from her mind all resentmeñt of his conduct in Holland, or because she required the support of his long-tried counsels under the awful responsibilities of that impending conflict with the whole collected force of the Spanish monarchy for which she felt herself summoned to prepare. The king of Denmark, astonished to behold a princess of Elizabeth's experienced caution involving herself with seeming indifference in peril so great and so apparent, exclaimed, that she had now taken the diadem from her brow to place it on the doubtful cast of war; and trembling for the fate of his friend and ally, he dispatched an ambassador in haste to offer her his mediation for the adjustment of all differences arising out of the revolt of the Netherlands. But Elizabeth firmly, though with thanks, declined any overtures towards a reconciliation with a sovereign whom she now recognised as her implacable and determined foe.

She was far, however, from despising the danger which she braved; and with a prudence and dili. gence equal to her fortitude, she had begun to assemble and put in action all her means, internal and external, of defence and annoyance. She linked herself still more closely, by benefits and promises, with the prince of Condé, chief of the Hugonots now in arms against the League, or Catholic association, formed in France under the auspices of the king of Spain. With the king of Scots also she entered into an intimate alliance; and she had previously secured the friendship

166

BABINGTON'S CONSPIRACY..

of all the protestant princes of Germany and of the northern powers of Europe. She now openly avowed the enterprises of Drake, which she had hitherto only encouraged underhand, or on certain pretexts of retaliation; and she sent him with a fleet of twenty-one ships, carrying above eleven thousand soldiers, to make war upon the Spanish settlements in the West Indies.

But if all these measures seemed likely to afford her kingdom sufficient means of protection against the attacks of a foreign enemy, it was difficult for her to regard her own person as equally well secured against the dark conspiracies of her catholic subjects, which were instigated by the sanguinary maxims of the Romish see, fostered by the atrocious activity of the emissaries of Philip, and sanctioned by the authority of the queen of Scots; to whom homage was rendered by her party as rightful sovereign of the British isles.

During the festival of Easter 1586, some Eng, lish priests of the seminary at Rheims had encouraged a fanatical soldier named Savage to vow the death of the queen. About the same time Ballard, also a priest of this seminary, was concerting in France, with Mendoca and the fugitive lord Paget, the means of procuring an invasion of the country during the absence of its best troops in Flanders. Repairing to England, Ballard communicated both these schemes to Anthony Babington, a gentleman who had been gained over on a visit to France by the bishop of Glasgow, Mary's ambassador there; and whose vehement attach,

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BABINGTON'S CONSPIRACY.

167 ment to her cause had rendered him capable of any enterprise, however criminal or desperate, for her deliverance. Babington entered into both plots with eagerness; but he suggested, that so essential a part of the action as the assassination of the queen ought not to be intrusted to one adventurer; and he lost no time in associating five others in the vow of Savage; himself undertaking the part of setting free the captive Mary. With her he had previously been in correspondence, having frequently taken the charge of transñitting to her by secret channels her letters from France; and he immediately imparted to her this new design for her restoration to liberty and advancement to the English throne. There is full evidence that Mary approved it in all its parts ; that in several successive letters she gave Babington counsels or directions relative to its execution; and that she promised to the perpetrators of the murder of Elizabeth every reward which it should hereafter be in her power to bestow.

All this time the vigilant eye of Walsingham was secretly fixed on the secure conspirators. He held a thread which vibrated to their every motion ; and he was patiently awaiting the moment of their complete entanglement to spring forth and seize his victims.

To the queen, and to her only, he communicated the daily intelligence which he received from a spý who had introduced himself into all their secrets; and Elizabeth had the firmness to hasten nothing, though a picture was actually shown her, in which the six assassins had absurdly caused themselves to be represented with a mottó underneath intimating

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BABINGTON'S CONSPIRACY.

their common design. These dreadful visages remained however so perfectly impressed on her memory, that she immediately recognised one of the conspirators who had approached very near her person as she was one day walking in her garden. She had the intrepidity to fix him with a look which daunted him; and afterwards, turning to her captain of the guards, she remarked that she was well guarded; not having a single armed man at the time about her.

At length Walsingham judged it time to interpose and rescue his sovereign from her perilous situation. Ballard was first seized, and soon after Babington and his associates. All, overcome by terror or allured by vain hopes, severally and voluntarily confessed their guilt and accused their accomplices. The nation was justly exasperated against the partakers in a plot which comprised foreign invasion, domestic insurrection, the assassination of a beloved sovereign, the elevation to the throne of her feared and hated rival and the restoration of popery. The traitors suffered, notwithstanding the interest which the extreme youth and good moral characters of most or all of them were formed to inspire, amid the execrations of the protestant spectators. But what was to be the fate of that “pretender to the crown,” on whose behalf and with whose privity this foul conspiracy had been entered into ; and who was by the late statute, passed with a view to this very case, liable to condign punishment ?

This was now the important question which awaited the decision of Elizabeth; and divided the judgements of her most confidential counsel

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