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&c.; and when his head was on the block, he stretched out his arms, saying, Lord, into thy hands I recommend my spirit.” Thus died the Earl of Essex, in his thirty-fourth year.
There can be no doubt that, as Camden says, “ the Queen was in extreme agitation of mind, and very irresolute with respect to the execution, which she at first countermanded; but afterwards, being provoked by his obstinacy in not imploring her mercy, she signed his death-warrant.”* The charge of obstinacy is not true, for he did implore, but in vain. It is not improbable that the Queen's conduct, about signing the warrant, may have something of the same kind of foundation as the story of the ring, which would have saved his life, if the Lord Admiral (of all men in the world) had not withheld it from the Queen. This story is built on a very gossiping and tottering foundation: a Mons. Aubrey de Murier ascribes it to Sir Dudley Carlton, who told it to Prince Maurice, who told it to M. de Murier's father, from whom he had it, and prints it in a History of Holland! And that some English authority should not be wanting, the same story, with some additional machinery, was told frequently to the Earl of Monmouth by Lady Elizabeth Spelman, the great-granddaughter of the Earl.f Camden notices it not; and Lord Clarendon attaches no belief to it, and says—"I know not upon what unseasonable * Camden.
† Birch's Negociations, p. 206.
delivery of a ring or jewel by some lady of the court the Queen'expressed much reluctancy for his death.” Hume, too, has the credulity or the wickedness of inserting in his History this gossiping story of the fatal ring, which destroyed three persons--Essex, the Countess of Nottingham, and Queen Elizabeth; but, like slow poison, it took more than two years to kill the two latter. Hume, moreover, without the least authority, audaciously calls Nottingham “ the mortal enemy of Essex.” It might have occurred to him that the last person, to whom Essex would have intrusted his fate, would have been the wife of his “mortal enemy.” But the Lord Admiral has already spoken for himself, eagerly repudiating all enmity between them, and honestly professing friendship and regard.*
It was rumoured also among the court gossipers that at the siege of Cadiz the Lord Admiral was jealous of and hated Essex. Here, again, let the Lord Admiral speak for himself. In a letter from him to his father-in-law, the Lord Chamberlain Hunsdon, he says—“I can assure you there is not a braver man in the world than the Earl is; and I protest, in my simple poor judgment, a graver soldier; for what he doth is in great order and good discipline performed.”+
* The Earl of Nottingham's Letter to the Earl of Essex, October, 1597, p. 300. † Birch's Memoirs.
Two of the conspirators, Mericke and Cuffe, were tried at Westminster, and hanged at Tyburn. Sir Charles Danvers and Sir Christopher Blounte were beheaded on Tower Hill. The Earl of Southampton was left in the Tower during the rest of Queen Elizabeth's reign; but, on her death, he was released, and restored in blood by James I., who shortly after conferred on him the Order of the Garter. It may be doubted if Cuffe had strict justice done to him. He was confidential secretary to the Earl of Essex, and subject to his orders; he was known to be his adviser, and that many of his letters were written by him; for these letters he ought not to be held responsible. The Earl, it is true, after his conviction, did include him among the number of conspirators, and that his advice was to pursue violent measures. Still it appears this gentleman's character has been harshly dealt with, and by Lord Bacon among the rest-a man to whom silence would have been most becoming on this occasion. Cuffe was not a mean or a vulgar man. descended from a good family in Somersetshire: in 1576 was admitted of Trinity College in Oxford, where he distinguished himself in the knowledge of Greek; was elected Scholar in 1578, and admitted Fellow in 1583; lost his fellowship from a joke on the founder, by a mandate from Lady Powlett, who first placed him there. His reputation, however, was so great, that in 1586 he was elected Proba
tioner of Merton College, then Warden, and two years after was made Fellow. He wrote a Greek epigram in commendation of Camden's · Britannia,' and lived for several years with that celebrated historian in great friendship, who speaks of him as a man of most exquisite learning and penetrating wit, but of a seditious and perverse disposition. He wrote several very learned works, some of them in elegant Latin.
When he was brought to trial a few weeks after the Earl's execution, he defended himself with great spirit against the violent abuse and the scurrilous epithets which Coke (the Queen's Attorney) lavished upon him. Cuffe, however, was no mean match for the Attorney in argument; and in replying to Coke, syllogistically, the Judge (Anderson) checked both pleader and prisoner ob stolidos syllogismos, giving a hint to the former to press the statute of Edward III. The most pregnant proof brought against him was a verse out of Lucan, which, being proved, as quoted at a consultation of the conspirators, is said to have tended chiefly to his condemnation. When the Earl, amidst his accomplices, was taking their advice, whether they should proceed in their design to force themselves by violence, if necessary, upon the Queen, or desist, Cuffe exclaimed
6 Viribus utendum est quas fecimus arma ferenti
Omnia dat, qui justa negat.”
He declared at the place of execution, that he was not the least concerned in the wild convention at Drury House, and that he never persuaded any man to 'take up arms against the Queen. He did not, however, deny that, as in duty bound, he had given advice to so good a master. The speech he made at his execution was expressive of pious resignation and contrition for the part he had taken. He left but few friends to lament his loss; and one of them ventured to embalm his memory with a feeble attempt at wit, but not with much feeling, in the following epitaph :
“ Doctus eras Græcè, felixque tibi fuit Alpha,
At fuit infelix Omega, Cuffe, tuum;" which has been thus translated :
“ Thou wast indeed well read in Greek,
Thy Alpha, too, was crown'd with hope ;
Thy Omega proved but a rope." It is difficult to account for the inflexible and obdurate conduct of Elizabeth regarding her once greatest favourite, Essex, from the time of his returning from Ireland to the day of his suffering on the scaffold, when a single word would have saved him from pursuing a conduct which was known to be hateful to himself. On the part of the Queen it seemed to partake of a feeling of extreme hatred, extinguishing every spark of that more than parental affection, which she had so long cherished for him :