« EelmineJätka »
THE EARL OF ESSEX.
1585 To 1600.
“ Among the courtiers of Elizabeth had lately appeared a new favourite-young, noble, wealthy, accomplished, eloquent, brave, generous, aspiringa favourite who had obtained from the grey-headed Queen such marks of regard as she had scarce vouchsafed to Leicester in the season of the passions—who was at once the ornament of the palace, and the idol of the city-who was the common patron of men of letters, and of men of the sword—who was the common refuge of the persecuted Catholic, and of the persecuted Puritan.”*
A true picture of Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, one of the most accomplished and most talented young noblemen that England could boast of in the reign of Queen Elizabeth; and, it must be added, the most unfortunate. Often as the life and character of Essex have afforded subjects for the biographer of every age, a brief sketch of the history of such a man will not be considered inappropriately intro
* Macaulay's Review of Bacon's Works.—Edinburgh Review.
duced with that of the many Worthies to whom that reign gave rise; being one which can never fail to communicate instruction and deep interest. Robert Devereux, son of Walter Devereux, first Earl of Essex of this name and family, was born November 10th, 1567, at Netherwood, his father's seat, in: Herefordshire. Walter dying in 1576, the title descended to Robert, in his ninth year. The former had only enjoyed it for the short period of four years, having been created Earl of Essex and invested with the Garter in the year 1572, in consideration of his important services in joining the Lord Admiral the Earl of Lincoln with a body of troops he had raised, and routing and dispersing the rebel forces under the Earls of Northumberland and Westmoreland.
Walter, the father, dying, when the young Earl was in his ninth year, recommended him to the protection of William Cecil Lord Burleigh, whom he had appointed his guardian. At twelve he was sent to the University of Cambridge by his Lordship, who placed him in Trinity College, under the tutelage of Dr. Whitgift, then Master, and afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury. His education was conducted with great strictness, and his progress, by good parts and diligent attention to his studies, was very rapid. In 1583, being in his sixteenth year, he took the degree of Master of Arts, and kept his public act. Soon after this he
left Cambridge, and retired to his own house at Lampsie, in South Wales, where he appears to have been so pleased with this rural retreat that it required some pressing in prevailing on him to quit it. In the course, however, of the following year he came up to London, and made his first appearance at court, bringing thither a fine person, a handsome and animated countenance, an agreeable carriage, and an affability which procured him a marked attention and many friends.
His father, when in Ireland, had been persecuted and misrepresented to the Queen by the Earl of Leicester, who at that time was a great favourite of.. Elizabeth. The young Earl knew this; and it re- , quired some time before he could overcome the reluctance he felt, and could not conceal, against · associating with his late father's enemy, and now, strangely enough, his father-in-law, having married the Dowager Countess of Essex, his mother - By Leicester, however, he was first introduced to Queen Elizabeth, who was not wont to overlook a handsome young man of family, with an appearance and personal qualifications such as were presented by the Earl of Essex. About this time Leicester was sent over as governor, or commander-in-chief, of the forces in the Low Countries, and he took Essex with him, then in his nineteenth year. In a letter of Leicester to Mr. Secretary Walsingham, dated July, 1586, he says—“Norris complains that
all men are advanced but he; as the Erle of Essex to be Generall of all the horse, both English and Dutch. ... In very troth he doth it onlie to bred quarrels, and to cause some mislike; for my Lord of Essex is none otherwise than over the English horse, for the Count de Meurs is over the rest."*
On the 28th of September, after the battle of Zutphen, he thus writes to the same " But I must retorne to that daye's service to lett you know that, upon my honor and credite, for I was the appointer myself of all that went forth, onlie those principall noblemen and gentlemen that staed by me in the mist, was my Lord of Essex, my Lord Willowbye, Sir William Russell, Sir Phillip Sidney, Sir Thomas Perrott, Muster, with their bands, but amonge themselves and their own servants, and eleven or twelve of name, in all to the number of fifty or forty (l or xl) went on till theie found Sir John Norris, to whom I had comitted this service, only to have impeached a convoy; but he seeing these young fellowes, indeed ledd them to this charge, and all these joined in front together, and what theie did the first charge and after the second, doth appear by the nomber of men then slaine, which is confest by the enemy to be at lest 250, but others that have reported of the enemies mouth, theie were above 350, and theie were of the gallantest and best sort.”+
In this battle that noble and accomplished youth, * Leicester Correspondence, printed for Camden Society. + Ib. Sir Philip Sidney, fought and fell in the front of the advanced corps, and shortly after died of his wounds. Truly has Hume said, that “virtuous conduct, polite conversation, heroic valour, and elegant erudition, all concurred to render him the ornament and delight of the English court. No person was so low as not to become an object of his humanity :” and he relates the well-known story, that “while he was lying on the field mangled with wounds, a bottle of water was brought him to relieve his thirst; but observing a soldier near him in a like miserable condition, he said, This man's necessity is still greater than mine : and he resigned to him the bottle of water.'"*
Towards the end of September, 1586, Essex returned to England, and became a great favourite with Elizabeth, who, being always mindful of gallant conduct, received in him some consolation in her sorrow for the loss of that “ Child of the Muses,” for whom she had a most sincere and parental affection. He now stood so high in the Queen's good graces that, in 1587, she made him Master of the Horse; and on the arrival of the Spanish Armada, when the Queen headed her army assembled at Tilbury, the Earl of Essex was promoted to the rank of General of the Horse, "gracing him in the camp, in the view of the soldiers and people, even above her former favourite the Earl of Leicester, and
* Hume's History.