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the Vice-Chamberlain, that the embarrassed state of his finances may have had some influence over the intended adventurous undertaking :
SIR,—What my courses may have been I need not repeat, for no man knoweth them better than yourself. What my state is now I will tell you : my revenue no greater than it was when I sued my livery; my debts at the least two or three-and-twenty thousand pounds. Her Majesty's goodness hath been so great, as I could not ask more of her. No way left to repair myself but my own adventure, which I had much rather undertake than to offend Her Majesty with sutes, as I have done heretofore. If I speed well I will adventure to be rich; if not I will never leiev to see the end of my poverty; and so wishing that this letter, which I have left for you, may come to your hands, I commit you to God's good protection. From my study, some few days before my departure. Your assured friend,
When the Queen was informed of his intention to go with Drake as a volunteer, she gave orders to the two commanders of the expedition to find him out, wherever he might be, and send him to the court. Drake, in reply to the Lord High Chancellor, says“ This cawse of the Erll of Essexe hath been, and is a very great truble unto us, for that we hyere continewally that his Lordship’s abyding is uncertaine in any one partyculler place.” The Queen herself also addressed to the Earl a very angry and severe
Burleigh's State Papers.
letter, which he probably never received; and the expedition sailed without bearing anything further of his Lordship. But on Drake leaving Corunna for the Tagus, he unexpectedly fell in with the Earl of Essex, bringing with him some ships which he had taken laden with corn. He was accompanied by his brother, Walter Devereux, Sir Roger Wilbraham, Sir Philip Butler, and Sir Edward Wingfield.
These gentlemen joined Sir John Norris, when he landed at Peniche to march overland to Lisbon. Two troops were immediately placed under the command of Essex, who in the course of the march endeared himself to the whole army.
« Divers of the men,” says Captain Fenner, “ fainted by the way with heat, and divers died for want of food, and many, who would otherwise have died, were saved by the Earl of Essex, who commanded all his stuff to be cast out of his carriages, and these to be filled with the sick men and gentlemen who had fainted." The True Discourse of a foreign gentleman, originally written to a friend on the continent, and published in London both in Latin and English, thus speaks of Essex's joining—“Summo omnium applausu et lætitia excipitur; est enim propter virtutes animi, corporisque dotes, generis et familiæ nobilitatem, et in re militari scientiam, et industriam, nobilis longe gratissimus." He further says that “after coming into the fleet, to the great rejoicing of us all, he demanded of the General that he might always have the leading of the van-guard, which he readily yielded to, as being desirous to satisfie him in all things, but especially in matters so much tending to his honour."*
* Birch's Memoirs.
It is remarkable that an army should have marched overland to the very gates of Lisbon, before which it arrived without cannon or ammunition—not having a field-piece even with which they might have blown down one of the gates. Indeed it is stated, in one of the narratives of the expedition, that “not only did Essex pursue the Spaniards to the very gates of Lisbon, but was with difficulty prevented from rushing through in the thick of them, and would have fearlessly forced himself in, beyond a doubt, had not his friend, Sir Roger Wilbraham, held him back by main force. On another occasion the Earl of Essex knocked at the gates of the city, wherein it was said there were not above 700 Spaniards to guard it.”
On their retreat it was reported to Norris that a certain Peter Henry de Guzman-called in the Latin Discourse' Comes de Fontibus (Conde de Fuentes)—was close upon him with 6000 foot and 500 horse, proclaiming everywhere that the English were put to flight. Norris, indignant at this, sent a trumpet with a letter to this person, informing
Ephemeris Expeditionis, or True Discourse.
him that before noon next day he would be with him, with his little army, to confute his falsehoods, not by words but arms, that a trial might be made whether an Englishman or a Spaniard should be the first to run away. At the same time, and by the same messenger, the Earl of Essex challenged to single combat him or any other Spaniard of his rank; or, if he had no taste for it himself, ten Englishmen should try their hands with any ten of his countrymen. This gallant Count, however, not much relishing the proposals of either Sir John Norris or the Earl of Essex, disappeared, with the whole of his force, in the middle of the night.
On the return of the expedition to England, Essex hastened to court, doubtful in what manner he would be received by the Queen ; but Elizabeth, who was ever ready to look with favour on valorous deeds, received him in the kindest manner, and took an early opportunity of showering upon him honours and rewards. But these favourable auspices were for a time suspended, and Her Majesty's temper not a little ruffled, on discovering that he had contracted a private match with Frances, only daughter of Sir Francis Walsingham, and widow of Sir Philip Sidney; a connexion which she considered derogatory to the honour of the house of Essex. The real cause of her anger, perhaps, was in not having been consulted; but on reflection, that the lady of his choice was the daughter of her own secretary, and the widow of her most beloved friend, and a lady whose correct and amiable conduct she must have known, Her Majesty's anger subsided.
Matters went on pretty well at court for some time, with a little scolding now and then, for the occasional absence of Essex. An affair, however, which wore the appearance of an intrigue, was more deeply resented than the private marriage. Mr. Rowland White writes to Sir Robert Sidney, “ You will be sorry to hear what grieves me to write of. It is spied out by envye, that the Earl of Essex is againe fallen in love with his fairest B. [Bridges]. It cannot chuse but come to the Queen's ears; then is he undone, and all they that depend upon his favours."
It did very soon reach the Queen's ears, and the consequence was that “the Queen of late used the fair Mrs. Bridges with words and blows of anger; and she and Mrs. Russell were put out of the coffer chamber, lay three nights at my Lady Stafford's, but are now returned again to their wonted waiting.” *
Shortly before this, he had exhibited before Her Majesty and the court a mask, or what is called “Essex's Device," which afforded great pleasure, and may serve as a specimen of the kind of entertainments at the time. “My Lord of Essex's device,” says Rowland White, “is much commended in these late triumphs. Some pretty while before he came in himself to the tilt, he sent his page
Sidney Papers, vol. ii. p. 38.