Devereux, Robert, second Earl of Essex 1566-1601, eldest son of Walter Devereux, first earl [qv.], by his wife, Lettice Knollys, was born 19 Nov. 1566 at Netherwood, Herefordshire (Sloane MS. 1697, f. 54 b). His father asked Burghley on 1 Nov. 1573 to become his guardian, and to marry the boy to Anne Cecil, the latter's daughter. When the father was on his deathbed (21 Sept. 1576), the request was repeated, with the proviso that his military education should be directed by the Earl of Sussex, the lord chamberlain. He was a delicate child, but is described in November 1576 as master of Latin and French, as well as English. The letter in which after his father's death he acknowledges Burghley's guardianship (18 Nov. 1576) shows remarkable precocity for a boy of nine. The first earl left his affairs much embarrassed. The child's grandfather, Sir Francis Knollys, told him (14 Nov. 1585) that the lands he inherited were insufficient to maintain the state of the poorest earl in England, and that the sale of one fourth of his landed inheritance would not satisfy his father's creditors.
On 11 Jan. 1576-7 Essex left Chartley, Staffordshire, where he was residing with his mother, for Burghley's house, and made the acquaintance of Robert Cecil. After Essex's death Cecil wrote to James I of the mutual affections in their tender years (Hatfield MS. in Quarterly Review, 1876), but the natural incompatibility of their temperaments can hardly have allowed them to have been close friends, even in youth. In May the earl was sent to Trinity College, Cambridge, but he did not matriculate till 1 July 1579. In June he complained to Burghley in a Latin letter of the scantiness of his wardrobe, which was with difficulty supplied. His tutors included Whitgift, afterwards archbishop, and Gervase Babington [qv.]. At Christmas 1577 Essex first appeared at court. The queen offered to kiss the boy, who was only ten years old, but the offer was rejected, and some badinage passed about his wearing his hat in the royal presence (Bagot, Memorials, p. 31). After visiting Wanstead, the home of Leicester, who was about to marry his mother, Essex returned to Cambridge. In 1580 he spent his vacations with Lord Rich, the future husband of his sister Penelope. His chief friend at the university was a youth named Anthony Bagot (b. 1558), son of a country neighbour, Richard Bagot of Blithfield, Staffordshire (d. 1596), and the extant letters of both father and son contain much information about the earl. Essex was created M.A. 6 July 1581. In 1582 he apologised to Burghley for having passed the bounds of frugality. For the two succeeding years he lived in peaceful seclusion at his house at Lamphey (Llanffydd) in Pembrokeshire, chiefly engaged in study. He signed and sealed for the county the instrument of association for the defence of the queen late in 1584
Soon afterwards Essex's stepfather, Leicester, induced him to reappear at court, where his goodly person and innate courtesy made him popular. In the autumn of 1585 he was irritated by the queen's proposal to confine Mary Queen of Scots in his house at Chartley. His consent was not asked, and he told Walsingham that the house was small, ill-furnished, and required by himself. His maternal grandfather, Sir Francis Knollys, added that it was bad policy to lodge the queen in so young a man's house (Knollys to Walsingham, 6 Oct.). In spite of these remonstrances Mary was a prisoner at Chartley from January to 24 Sept. 1586, but at the time Essex was out of England. In August 1585 he was appointed general of the horse to the expedition sent under Leicester to the aid of the States-General. He spent 1,000l. in equipping his attendants, a wasteful prodigality which excited the anger of his grandfather Knollys. In Holland nearly twelve months were spent in camp in feasting and quarrelling with his fellow-officers; but his boldness in the skirmish before Zutphen (21 Sept. 1586), where Sidney fell, was rewarded by Leicester with the dignity of a knight banneret.
In 1587 Essex—now a handsome youth of twenty—was again at court, and the queen showed him unmistakable attentions. When she is abroad, wrote Anthony Bagot, 3 May, nobody with her but my lord of Essex, and at night my lord is at cards, or one game or another with her, that he cometh not to his own lodging till birds sing in the morning. Leicester was said to have thrust his stepson forward in order to diminish Sir Walter Raleigh's influence with his sovereign. It is certain that Essex and Raleigh from the time of their first meeting were on bad terms. In July 1587 Essex attended the queen on a visit to the Earl of Warwick at North Hall. His sister—either Penelope, the wife of Lord Rich, or Dorothy, who had recently married Thomas Perrot—was staying in the house, and the queen declared herself affronted by her presence. Late one night Essex boldly remonstrated with Elizabeth for offering an insult to his family, only to please (he asserted) that knave Raleigh. The queen defended Raleigh. Essex grew hotter in his denunciations, left the house with his sister near midnight, and hurried to Lord Burghley's mansion at Theobalds. The next day his rage was unabated, and he rode to Sandwich, resolved to return to the Low Countries, but Sir Robert Carey was sent by Elizabeth to bring him back. The quarrel was soon at an end, and on 23 Dec. 1587 Essex was appointed master of the horse, an office which he had coveted since May. A similar exhibition of temper quickly followed. Essex's boyish vanity was hurt by the favour Elizabeth showed to Charles Blount (1563-1606) [qv.] on his first appearance at court. He noticed that Blount wore about his arm a gold chess-queen which the queen had given him, and he remarked at sight of it, Now I perceive every fool must wear a favour. Blount was informed of the expression, and a duel took place in Marylebone Park, in which Essex was disarmed and slightly wounded. Both courtiers were reprimanded by Elizabeth, and became good friends afterwards. By God's death, Elizabeth truly said of Essex, it were fitting some one should take him down and teach him better manners, or there were no rule with him (Naunton).
On 11 April 1588 Essex was incorporated M.A. at Oxford, where Leicester was chancellor, and on 24 April was installed K.G. While the Spanish armada threatened the coast Essex was kept, against his will, in personal attendance on Elizabeth at Tilbury. When his stepfather died in September, Essex expressed a desire to succeed him as chancellor of Oxford, but Sir Christopher Hatton was nominated. In December 1588 Essex was again quarrelling with Raleigh, and sent him a challenge, but the council endeavoured to bring about a reconciliation before the queen heard of the affair (Cal. State Papers, 1581-90, p. 566). Restless and dissatisfied with his position at court, the earl made his escape early in 1589. On Thursday, 8 April, he rode to Plymouth when Norris and Drake were about to set sail with a naval expedition to support Don Antonio, a claimant to the throne of Portugal, whom Philip II had notoriously maltreated. The earl induced the captain of the Swiftsure to leave Plymouth harbour at once, and he was at Falmouth before the main body of the fleet put to sea. To his brother-in-law, Lord Rich, Essex sent the key of his desk, where forty letters were found addressed to the queen and her council, in which he stated that he would return alive at no one's bidding. As soon as his departure from London was known, the queen sent his uncle, Sir Francis Knollys, and Lord Huntingdon, to recall him, and blamed Norris and Drake for allowing the Swiftsure to sail. On 13 May Essex's ship, after a very long voyage, joined its companions off Portugal. Essex distinguished himself in an aimless way in the operations that followed. He was the first Englishman who waded (16 May) through the surf to the Portuguese shore (off Peniche), and when the English were preparing to attack Lisbon he went up to the gates, and offered to fight any of the Spanish garrison in the name of his mistress. Ships soon arriving with provisions brought an angry letter from Elizabeth, demanding Essex's immediate return. Norris and Drake insisted on his departure.
Elizabeth was once again soon reconciled with her favourite. She seems, however, to have pressed him for the repayment of 3,000l. which she had lent him, and he had to sell his manor of Keyston, Huntingdonshire, to discharge the debt (May 1590). About the same time he was granted, in succession to his stepfather Leicester, the farm of sweet wines. For the present Essex took no prominent part in home politics. It was reported that the puritans hoped well of him (22 March 1590-1), and that he induced Raleigh, with whom he was for the moment on friendly terms, to join him in obtaining increased toleration from the queen (Edwards, Ralegh, i. 132). The story runs that at the time of the excitement caused by the Mar-Prelate controversy he impudently flourished about at court a copy of a forbidden tract. It is certain that Udall, the suspected author, petitioned him to help him out of prison. In The Just Censure — of Martin Junior, a reply to a Mar-Prelate tract, the writer acknowledged that Essex was popularly credited with favouring Martin, but the earl was warned that, if he doe, her Majesty, I can tell him, will withdraw her gracious favour from him. Another of Essex's protégés was the unfortunate William Davison [qv.]. Soon after his trial Essex, with his usual impetuosity, had entreated the queen to reinstate Davison in her service, and when Walsingham died (6 April 1590) he energetically endeavoured to obtain for him the vacant post of secretary of state. With curious infelicity he wrote to James of Scotland, soliciting his influence in the matter; but his letters to Davison show that he was thwarted at every turn. At the time of Walsingham's death the earl more seriously risked his fortunes at court by secretly marrying Walsingham's daughter, Frances, the widow of Sir Philip Sidney. The queen's anger knew no bounds. It is said that, at Burghley's suggestion, all Essex's papers were seized (Goodman, i. 147). Essex consented that his wife should live very retired in her mother's house, and on 24 Nov. 1590 he was once more in very good favour
Soon afterwards Henry of Navarre sent an envoy (Turenne) to beg for the aid of English troops in his struggle with the league. An autograph letter from the French leader secured Essex's enthusiastic support, and he entreated the queen for the command of the expedition, against the advice of friends, who urged him to seek ‘a domestical greatness like to his father-in-law [Walsingham].’ With much reluctance Elizabeth granted him the commission (21 July 1591), and Essex left Dover for Dieppe at the head of four thousand men. His brother Walter and his friend, Anthony Bagot, for whom he arranged a marriage in May, accompanied him, and he insisted on his Chartley tenants joining him. Soon after arriving in Normandy he forced a march with a few companions through the enemy's country to Noyon, to interview Henry and Marshal Biron. After three days spent chiefly in athletic sports Essex returned to his neglected camp, and in a skirmish before Rouen (8 Sept.) his brother Walter was killed. He besieged Gournay, which fell on 27 Sept., and exhibited there, according to Sir Henry Wotton, ‘true valour and discretion.’ He shared all the toils of the common soldiers, and knighted twenty-one of his followers, a lavish distribution of honours of which Burghley, speaking in the queen's name, strongly disapproved (22 Oct.). At the end of September he was temporarily recalled, in order, apparently, to allay the queen's anxiety caused by reports of his reckless exposure to danger. It was said that he used to hawk in the enemy's country. A week was passed with Elizabeth ‘in jollity and feasting,’ and she wept when, under strict injunctions to avoid all personal peril, he left to resume his command (17 Oct.). While engaged at the siege of Rouen he challenged the enemy's commander Villars to single combat (9 Nov.)¾fruitless conduct which offended the queen, and evoked from the French contemporary chronicler a compliment on the knight-errantry of Englishmen (Cayet, Chronologie Nouvenaire, ii. 502 v). After a second visit paid to Elizabeth in December, Essex was finally recalled on 8 Jan. 1591-2, and his place was taken by Sir Roger Williams (Coningsby, Siege of Rouen, Camd. Soc. Miscell. i.).
For the four following years Essex remained at home, resolved to secure ‘domestical greatness.’ He used his territorial influence during the parliamentary election of 1593 to return his own nominees for Staffordshire and Lichfield, Tamworth and Newcastle. On 25 Feb. 1592-3 he became a privy councillor, and he regularly attended the House of Lords during the session, where he was appointed almoner of a fund raised in the house in aid of discharged soldiers. He soon suspected that Burghley's son Robert, whose influence was rapidly growing, was the chief obstacle to his own advance, and obvious signs of rivalry between the two men brought to Essex's aid all who deemed themselves injured by the Cecilian ascendency. Chief among these was Francis Bacon, then a struggling barrister, who apparently anticipated a great career for Essex, and affected to regard him as ‘the fittest instrument to do good to the state.’ From the first Essex regarded Bacon with real affection, and an arrangement was come to in 1592 by which Bacon was to supply the earl with political advice. The ‘device’ with which Essex celebrated ‘the queen's day,’ 17 Nov. 1592, is ascribed by Mr. Spedding to Bacon (cf. Mr. Bacon in Praise of Knowledge; Mr. Bacon's Discourse in Praise of his Sovereign). But at first the connection only showed itself outwardly, in Essex's persistent and over-sanguine appeals to Elizabeth, first in 1593 to promote Bacon to the vacant attorney-generalship, and again in 1594 to confer on him the post of solicitor-general. Both applications failed. Essex exhibited his customary impatience under defeat, but he also showed characteristic generosity in consoling Bacon for his disappointment by presenting him in 1595 with land at Twickenham worth 1,500l. Meanwhile Bacon's influence on Essex was making itself apparent. As if to secure for himself a new character for sobriety, the earl distributed at court early in 1596 copies of a letter on foreign travel, purporting to be addressed by him to his young cousin, the Earl of Rutland. The weighty style and sentiment prove that Bacon rather than Essex was the author of the document, although it was published as the earl's in ‘Profitable Instructions for Travellers’ in 1633. Three other letters of the same date (1596) were clearly written by Bacon under like conditions. Two were continuations of the advice offered by Essex to Rutland; the third, addressed to Sir Fulke Greville, was a comprehensive essay on the best course of study to be pursued by a Cambridge freshman (Spedding, ii. 5-26).
To further strengthen his position at court, Essex concentrated his chief energies on foreign affairs. Francis Bacon probably suggested this field of work; he certainly introduced his brother Anthony [q.v.] into Essex's service about 1593, so that the earl might benefit by Anthony's unrivalled knowledge of foreign politics and his intimacy with English agents abroad. Essex and Anthony Bacon were soon fast friends, and in October 1595 Anthony took up his residence in Essex House. Through Anthony, Essex was in repeated communication with all parts of Europe, and his correspondents included Henry IV of France and James VI of Scotland. His house rivalled the foreign office in the quality and quantity of its ‘intelligence,’ and besides Anthony Bacon and his clerk, Edward Reynolds, Essex kept in regular employment Henry Cuffe [q.v.] and Henry Wotton [q.v.], with two others named Temple and Jones. Francis Bacon was also freely consulted by Essex and his brother Anthony.
In 1592 Essex welcomed Don Antonio to England, and with his aid tracked out in 1594 an alleged conspiracy on the part of Spanish spies in England to poison the queen. When Essex informed Elizabeth that the chief actor was her Jewish physician, Roderigo Lopez, she emphasised her incredulity by calling her favourite ‘a rash and temerarious youth.’ Essex succeeded, however, in collecting sufficient evidence to secure the doctor's conviction soon afterwards (see Goodman, Court, i. 145-56; Gent. Mag. February 1880). Bacon drew up ‘a true report’ justifying Essex's action. Subsequently Elizabeth consulted him with greater confidence, and would occasionally give him a foreign letter to read and answer before Burghley saw it. The queen's refusal of the command of an expedition bound for Brest in July 1594 caused a quarrel of the usual kind, and in 1595 Parsons, the jesuit, tried to compromise Essex by dedicating to him ‘A Conference about the Succession to the Crown of England,’ in which the claims of the Spanish infanta were advanced, on the ground of her descent from John of Gaunt. But in November 1595 the queen was more favourable than usual to Essex; he drew up for her a memorial about protecting England from foreign invasion (printed in 1794), and entertained her, on the anniversary of her accession, with two pageants, one by Francis Bacon and the other by Essex himself (see Spedding, i. 374-91). The Cecils looked with jealous eyes on Essex's rapid advance, and in the autumn of 1596 a sister of Lord Burghley made a determined but fruitless effort to detach Anthony Bacon from the earl's service.
Early in 1596 Essex advocated an attack on the shipping in Spanish ports as the best means of checking Spanish aggression. Lord Howard of Effingham supported him. Burghley hesitated, but events proved in favour of Essex's plan. Drake's last expedition had failed; the disaffected in Ireland were expecting Spanish assistance; on 7 April Calais was taken by the Spaniards, and Essex went to Dover to prepare the necessary measures of defence. A letter (23 April) from Henry IV entreating Essex to obtain a large English force to attack the Spaniards in France failed to meet Essex's views, much to the irritation of the envoys from France. In May Essex was at Plymouth personally superintending the fitting out of a fleet to bear a great army to the Spanish coast. In his anxiety to obtain the office of leader of the expedition, he forgot ‘those reverent forms’ with which he ought to have addressed the queen, and angrily reproached her with her indecision. The queen at last yielded to his importunity, and appointed him commander of the land forces, or general-in-chief. She took leave of him in a pathetic letter, and forwarded a prayer of her own composition for his success. Essex secured the valuable services of Sir Walter Raleigh, after some delay attributed to Raleigh's unwillingness to serve under his rival. While making, with extraordinary energy, his final arrangements, Essex found time to write to Lord-keeper Egerton, Lord Buckhurst, and Sir John Fortescue, urging them to use their influence to promote Francis Bacon to the mastership of the rolls, then just vacant. On 1 June the ships sailed from Plymouth. In a long letter to the council Essex promised to cripple Spain by intercepting her treasure fleet from the Indies, by harrying her coasts, and by leaving a thorn in her side. By the thorn Essex obviously intended the capture of Cadiz. The four squadrons included in all ninety-three ships and nearly thirteen thousand men. Essex commanded the first squadron. His colleagues were Lord Howard of Effingham, Lord Thomas Howard, and Raleigh. A fifth squadron was sent out by the Dutch.
On 20 June the fleet was westward of Cadiz. After some dispute among the commanders an attack on the Spanish fleet drawn up in the bay was resolved upon, in accordance with Raleigh's suggestions and against the wish of Essex, who urged an immediate advance by land upon the town. To Essex's annoyance the duty of leading the attack was entrusted by the council of war to Raleigh. When the battle commenced he thrust his ship, the Repulse, close to Raleigh's vessel, and, excited by the prospect of immediate action, flung his heavily plumed hat into the sea. After a few hours' fierce fighting, the enemy's fleet was utterly defeated. Essex thereupon found his opportunity. He put to land with three thousand men, dashed at the Spanish soldiers on shore, and drove all before him until he entered the market-place at Cadiz. The town surrendered, and on 22 June his flag floated from the citadel. The exploit excited general admiration, and was performed, according to his colleagues, ‘in great order and discipline.’ Raleigh wrote to Cecil that ‘the earl hath behaved himself both valiantly and advisedly in the highest degree; without pride; without favour; and hath gotten great favour and much love of all.’ Some pillage was allowed, but outrages were few, and those were attributed on good grounds to the Dutch allies. As soon as the capture of Cadiz was assured, Essex advised a march into Andalusia, but his companions deprecated attacks by land, and on 5 July the fleet left Cadiz, making comparatively easy terms with the enemy. At Faro more shipping was destroyed, and Essex seized the library of Jerome Osorio, bishop of Algarve, which afterwards passed to the Bodleian (1603). Off Lisbon Essex entreated his colleagues to entrust him with twelve ships in order to prosecute the war at sea and intercept the treasure fleet. The request was refused. The expedition passed Corunna and Ferrol, where no Spanish shipping was visible, and then turned homewards. Essex arrived at Plymouth on 10 Aug. with the prizes, which were valued at about 13,000l. (cf. Raleigh's Relation of Cadiz, for full account of the expedition and other narratives, in Hakluyt).
Essex was the popular hero of the campaign. At a thanksgiving service held at St. Paul's he was eulogised from the pulpit amid applause. But at court his rivals had gained strength in his absence. Sir Robert Cecil was now the queen's secretary, and when Essex appeared at court he was, he wrote to Anthony Bacon, ‘more braved by your little cousin than ever I was by any one in my life’ (8 Sept.). His late colleagues complained of his high-handed speeches. Cuffe drew up a reply to these attacks under Essex's direction, but the council forbade its circulation, and Elizabeth gave him no opportunity of justifying himself. A tract by Essex, entitled ‘Omissions of the Cales Voyage,’ in which the failure to intercept the treasure fleet is bitterly commented on, was published from a manuscript belonging to the Marquis of Stafford in Hakluyt's ‘Voyages’ (1812), v. 593-5. With characteristic meanness the queen complained of the smallness of the booty, and haggled relentlessly over its disposal. The wife of Lord Howard asserted that Essex had not secured a fair share for her husband. Personally Essex was wholly indifferent as to the amount of spoil to be assigned to him. When news arrived that the Spanish treasure fleet entered the Tagus only two days after the English ships, contrary to Essex's wish, quitted it, Essex's policy was vindicated. This practical vindication, wrote Anthony Bacon with reference to Burghley, ‘hath made the old Fox to crouch and whine.’ A great entertainment (13 Nov.) to Bouillon, Henry IV's envoy, and a promise to support the despatch of another expedition to the French king's aid, renewed Essex's friendly relations with France.
On 4 Oct. 1596 Francis Bacon sent Essex his first extant letter of political advice. He was recommended to win the queen at all hazards; to give up military ambition; to remove the impression that he was self-opinionative; to seek the highest offices of state; to disguise his feelings; and to curry favour at court by cultivating an apparent willingness to yield his personal inclinations at his sovereign's will. It was impossible for a man of Essex's impulsive and frank temperament to gain much from such counsel. In accordance with it, he seems to have applied for the vacant posts of governor of the Brill and warden of the Cinque ports (March 1596-7); both were refused. The latter was bestowed on Lord Cobham, who henceforth was one of Essex's chief enemies. Essex expostulated with Elizabeth in a private audience (10 March), and was appointed master of the ordnance (19 March 1597). He had been suffering from a severe attack of ague, a malady to which he was repeatedly subject, and had prolonged his seclusion from court for a fortnight. Lady Bacon, meanwhile, charged him (1 Dec. 1596) with misconduct with a court lady; he denied the charge, but admitted similar errors. Religious scruples seemed to be troubling him, and he was reported to be hearing many sermons. It is more difficult to explain his new attitude towards Cecil and Raleigh. The old quarrels were to all appearance at an end. Early in 1597 Essex was much in their company, and was frequently entertaining them at Essex House. Probably he was trying to obtain the command of another expedition against Spain. At any rate this was the only visible sign of their intercourse. He declined the offer of a co-ordinate command, and on 15 June 1597 was nominated commander of a fleet of twenty ships, carrying six thousand men. Bacon strongly warned Essex not to exaggerate the value of military glory, and obviously thought his conduct in pressing for the command imprudent. The fleet reached Plymouth from Sandwich 10 July; Sir Walter Raleigh joined it as rear-admiral, and Lord Thomas Howard as vice-admiral. The object of the expedition was (as before) to intercept a Spanish treasure fleet, to destroy Spanish shipping at Ferrol, and to seize the Azores. Essex's correspondence on the subject with Sir Robert Cecil is couched in the friendliest terms, and his parting letter to the queen embodies the boldest flattery. The expedition is known as the Islands' or Azores' Voyage.
On the 13th a storm scattered the fleet and did the ships terrible havoc. Essex was forced to put in at Falmouth (19 July), and Raleigh, who had parted company with him, returned to Plymouth. At the end of July Lord Thomas Howard rejoined the fleet there, but contrary winds delayed the second departure till 17 Aug. Many soldiers deserted in the interval, and the reduced number necessitated a change of plan. It was resolved to rely chiefly on fireships for purposes of destruction, but under restrictions which deprived these tactics of much effect. Essex visited the queen while the fleet was refitting, and Sir Robert Cecil wrote to him (26 July): ‘The queen is now so disposed to have us all love you, as she and I do talk every night like angels of you.’ On 23 Aug. the fleet arrived safely off Cape Ortegal, but a storm there injured the only vessels which it was allowable to use as fireships, and the projected attack on Ferrol, where a formidable Spanish armada was awaiting him, was abandoned. Raleigh's squadron parted company with Essex off Ferrol, but rejoined him at Flores. An attack on the Azores was resolved upon. Essex, deeming himself too weak to attempt the capture of Terceira, the stronghold of the group of islands, undertook to capture Fayal. But, to his indignation, Raleigh unexpectedly anticipated him in this operation. Raleigh was reprimanded by the council of war, but Lord Thomas Howard brought about an apparent reconciliation, and, according to Gorges's narrative, Essex and Raleigh were subsequently on good terms (Purchas, Pilgrimes, 1625, iv. 1950). The Indian treasure fleet, with much Spanish shipping, passed the English expedition at night, and although four heavily laden vessels were captured, an attempt to engage the enemy next day failed. Thereupon Essex landed at Villa Franca in St. Michael's Isle without meeting resistance, and after three days' stay there sailed home (15 Oct.), without adventure and with little booty. The Spanish fleet from Ferrol had already reached Falmouth with the intention of intercepting Essex on his return; but a terrible storm dispersed it, and Essex, whose ships were scattered, was thus enabled by the merest chance to reach home in safety. That Essex's want of success was largely due to his inexperience and incapacity is amply proved by the various extant accounts of the expedition. Edward Squire and Richard Walpole, a jesuit, were executed for conspiring to poison the queen and Essex in 1598. Squire admitted that he had sailed in the Islands' Voyage in Essex's ship, and had made an attempt, which failed, on the earl's life between Fayal and St. Michael's.
The queen received him coldly. She complained not only of the wastefulness of so inconclusive a campaign, but reproached him with ill-treating Raleigh. Essex went into seclusion at Wanstead, and insisted that his health was failing. He entreated Elizabeth in flattering letters to restore him to her favour. At court his companion Sir Francis Vere defended him. But Essex soon found an additional grievance. Lord Howard of Effingham was made Earl of Nottingham (22 Oct.), on account (according to the patent) of his services at Cadiz. The dignity of lord high admiral already in Howard's hands gave the new earl precedence over all other earls. Essex angrily asserted that he was dishonoured, and applied either for a commission to examine the justice of promoting another in the peerage on account of services which he himself had rendered, or for a trial by combat between Nottingham, or any son of his, and himself. Nottingham wrote courteously to Essex. Hunsdon, Raleigh, and Burghley entreated him to reappear at court, but all was without effect. When, however, the cause of his continued absence was explained to the queen, she took Essex's side, and protested that Burghley had misled her. After attempts to induce Nottingham to forego his right of precedency, Essex was made earl marshal (28 Dec. 1597), and thus, to Nottingham's annoyance, secured precedency of his rival. At the suggestion of Sir Robert Cecil, who was going to France on diplomatic business and desired to secure Essex's friendly support in his absence, the queen gave Essex early in 1598 a present of 7,000l. worth of cochineal¾part of the booty of the last voyage. On St. David's day, 1598, the queen consented, at Essex's earnest solicitation, to receive his mother¾the widow of the Earl of Leicester, and now the wife of Sir Christopher Blount¾whose marriage with Leicester she had not forgiven, but the visit was never repeated. While Cecil was in France, Essex was much employed by Elizabeth in secretarial work. Bacon advised him to pay special attention to Irish affairs. On 14 Feb. Essex gave an elaborate entertainment to his friends at Essex House, and two plays were performed.
But Essex's peace with the court was short-lived. He abetted in August 1598 the secret marriage of his friend the Earl of Southampton with Elizabeth Vernon, a maid of honour, which caused Elizabeth intense annoyance, and scandal renewed its attack on Essex's manner of life, charging him with illicit relations with no less than four ladies of the court¾Elizabeth Southwell, Elizabeth Brydges, daughter of the third Lord Chandos, Mrs. Russell, and Lady Mary Howard. Meanwhile in the council a peace with Spain had been under discussion (June). Essex strongly opposed it, and envoys from the States-General of Holland urged a continuance of the war. Burghley energetically supported the opposite view. In the heat of the debate Burghley drew a prayer-book from his pocket and called Essex's attention to the text from the Psalms, ‘The bloodthirsty and deceitful men shall not live out half their days.’ Finally an agreement to continue the war was made with the States-General, to the discomfiture of the Cecils. Their attacks on Essex grew more bitter, and by way of reply the earl circulated a letter to Anthony Bacon refuting those who maliciously taxed him with being ‘the only hinderer of the peace and quiet of his country’ (published in 1603). Elizabeth apparently disliked an appeal to the public, and treated him coolly when she next met him in council. The question of appointing a lord deputy in Ireland was under consideration about July 1598. The queen suggested Sir William Knollys; Essex with warmth ridiculed the proposal, and advised the appointment of Sir George Carew, a protégé of the Cecils, and a personal enemy of Essex. In the heat of the dispute Essex turned his back on the queen with a gesture of contempt. Sir Walter Raleigh asserted that he told her that ‘her conditions were as crooked as her carcase.’ Elizabeth, stung beyond endurance, struck him a violent blow on the ear, and bade him go and be hanged. Clasping his sword, Essex swore that he would not suffer this indignity in peace. He was induced to retire, but the ill-feeling produced by this scene was never completely effaced on either side.
Burghley died 4 Aug., and Essex, carrying ‘the heaviest countenance of the company,’ attended the funeral. He succeeded Burghley as chancellor of Cambridge University (10 Aug. 1598). In September and October he was occasionally at court; his mother and uncle, Sir William Knollys, and Lord-keeper Egerton entreated him to abandon his ‘careless humour’ and seek a genuine reconciliation with the queen. He offered to advise Elizabeth when the news of the disaster at Blackwater (14 Aug.) in Ireland arrived, but an audience was refused him. To Lord-keeper Egerton he wrote, proudly protesting that he alone was the injured party in the recent dispute in the council, and that the queen had nothing to complain of. About 18 Oct. Essex received the queen's pardon, but the reconciliation was not very genuine.
Affairs in Ireland were growing critical; the rebellion of O'Neil, earl of Tyrone, was threatening the English dominion, not only in Ulster, but in Munster, Connaught, and Leinster. It was therefore resolved to despatch thither a larger army than had ever been collected in Ireland. Francis Bacon had since 1597 strongly urged Essex to study Ireland, the statesman's puzzle, and when the choice of a commander was under consideration in October 1598, Essex allowed his name to be freely mentioned in connection with it. He had misgivings about the policy of accepting a post in which failure was probable, and into which his enemies at court were therefore anxious to thrust him. But his father's misfortunes spurred him on, and his jealous disposition allowed him to support no rival candidate. He vigorously opposed the appointment of Lord Mountjoy, who was undoubtedly better fitted for the post. On 8 Nov. Chamberlain reported that Essex was going to Ireland, but in December the queen was still hesitating, and it was rumoured that a new quarrel was brewing with reference to the debts to the queen, which Essex's father had never paid. In January, while the matter was still unsettled, Elizabeth treated the earl with favour, and danced with him at a twelfth-night ball. On 6 March 1598-9 his father's debt to the crown was pardoned, and on 25 March instructions were issued to him as lieutenant and governor-general of Ireland. Essex manifested boyish exultation. His army was to consist of sixteen thousand foot and thirteen hundred horse; nearly sovereign powers were delegated to him, and he was ordered to grant Tyrone his life if he honestly submitted to Elizabeth. Essex left his clerk Reynolds to represent him at court in his absence, and Reynolds informed his master soon afterwards that he had only three friends in the council, Egerton, Archbishop Whitgift, and his uncle Sir William Knollys. Bacon had for many months held aloof from Essex, doubtless from a feeling of disappointment at his inability to maintain an influential position at court. But before the Irish appointment was definitely made, Bacon wrote in encouraging terms of the greatness of the honour conferred on his patron, and presaged success. After Essex's death, Bacon untruthfully asserted that he had discouraged the earl from accepting the command of the expedition (Abbott, Bacon and Essex, 111-115). Friend and foe at court alike asserted that in the queen's present temper failure would mean complete ruin for Essex (cf. Harington, Nugæ, i. 240).
On 27 March 1599 Essex left London amid marked displays of popular enthusiasm, although as he passed through Islington a great thunderstorm broke forth, ‘which some held as an ominous prodigie’ (Stow). Three poems by Thomas Churchyard¾‘A wished Reformation of Wicked Rebellion’ (1598), ‘A Fortunate Farewell’ (1599), and ‘A Welcome Home’ (1599)¾were all written in honour of Essex, and testify to his personal popularity and to the popular belief that he alone was able to cope with the persistent Irish difficulty. While Essex was actively engaged in Ireland, Shakespeare's ‘Henry V’ was first performed, and in the chorus to the fifth act an enthusiastic reception is promised him on his return to London:¾
Were now the general of our gracious empress,
As in good time he may, from Ireland coming,
Bringing rebellion broached on his sword,
How many would the peaceful city quit
To welcome him!
Essex marched slowly towards Beaumaris, and after a rough passage he arrived at Dublin, 15 April. His letters to the council, when he was halting on the journey at Helbre, on the Dee, show him to have been little sanguine as to the result, and the unwillingness of the queen to allow Sir Christopher Blount to serve with him on the Irish council annoyed him. An immediate advance on the rebels in Ulster was proposed by Essex and rejected by the Irish council, on the ground that it was impossible to feed an army there. On 10 May Essex left Dublin for the south with three thousand foot and three hundred horse. Ormonde joined him the next day with nine hundred men. Lords Mountgarret and Cahir came in and made their submission while Essex was marching to Kilkenny (20 May). Many castles surrendered on the road, and English garrisons were placed in them. The guerrilla warfare to which the native Irish were accustomed prevented an open engagement. The Irish council had directed Essex to confine his operations to Leinster, but he quickly marched into Munster, contrary to the official plan of campaign. Although the English authorities had not sanctioned the movement, Sir Robert Cecil knew of it as early as 23 May (Winwood, i. 40). From Kilmallock he went to Waterford by Dungarvan. At Arklow (21 June) alone did he meet with much resistance. Essex's new levies behaved badly under fire, and the rebels gained the upper hand in the skirmish. On 25 June Essex sent a survey of his difficulties to the queen; he pointed out that to bring the Irish to subjection by military force would be a costly and tedious operation, and advised the hunting down the priests, and the creation of a strong English party, by bribery or otherwise, among the Irish nobility.
On his return to Dublin (11 July) he tried by court-martial the officers and men who, under Sir Henry Harington, had suffered defeat by the Irish near Wicklow through cowardice (29 May). Lieutenant Pierce Walsh was ordered to be shot, and the other officers, including Harington, were sent to prison. Of the soldiers every tenth man was executed.
But Essex's fortune was fast waning. His army of sixteen thousand had dwindled to little more than four thousand¾a reduction that is only partially accounted for by the garrisons assigned to captured castles in the south, and is doubtless to be chiefly attributed to disease and desertion. He had appointed his friend Southampton, still out of favour with the queen on account of his marriage, general of his horse; the lords of the council announced the queen's displeasure (10 June), and on 11 July Essex replied from Dublin, refusing to part with Southampton, and expressing himself thoroughly disheartened by Elizabeth's reprimand. The queen insisted on Southampton's removal, and Essex yielded. Opinions at home were divided as to Essex's wisdom in going south, instead of first attacking Tyrone. The queen wrote angrily to Essex; called in question his whole policy, and bade him proceed at once against Ulster. On 30 July she informed him that she had withdrawn the permission previously granted him to return at will and to constitute another temporary governor in his absence. ‘We do charge you as you tender our pleasure,’ the letter concluded, ‘that you adventure not to come out of that kingdom by virtue of any former license whatever.’
While preparing to obey orders and march on Ulster, Essex sent Blount to attack the O'Connors and O'Mearas at Leix, and directed Sir Conyers Clifford [q.v.], governor of Connaught, to divert Tyrone's attention by attacking him from the Curlew mountains. The former movement was successful; the latter ended in disastrous failure. On 21 Aug. the Irish council advised Essex to delay his advance. He was himself unwilling to hurry; his troops grew dispirited, and all was at a standstill. To his friend, Sir Christopher Blunt, he freely expressed his disgust at Elizabeth's imperious behaviour, and discussed the policy of returning to England with two or three thousand soldiers. This plan he was induced to abandon, but he still entertained a vague notion of returning with ‘some competent number of choice men’ in order to remove from the queen's councils those statesmen to whose personal hatred he attributed his critical position (Abbott, pp. 127-8). The queen renewed her complaints of his conduct, and resented the freedom with which he dispensed at Dublin the order of knighthood. Recriminations on details passed between them, and Cuffe was sent over to reason with her in vain. On 28 Aug. Essex left Dublin and fixed his camp on 3 Sept. at Ardloff. Tyrone was encamped near at hand. Some slight skirmishing followed, but Tyrone sent a messenger to beg a private interview with Essex, and declined to fight. Essex at first hesitated, but on 6 Sept. had a half-hour's conversation with Tyrone at a ford on the river Lagan, now called Anagh Clint, on the borders of the counties of Monaghan and Louth (Notes and Queries, 4th ser. viii. 346). The horse which Tyrone rode was well in the water, and Essex stood on the bank when the conversation took place. No one overheard it, and what passed is much disputed. Next day the meeting was repeated with six companions on each side (see Dymmock ‘Treatise of Ireland,’ in Tracts relating to Ireland, printed for Irish Archæol. Soc., i. 50-2). As a result commissioners were appointed to treat for peace, and a truce was arranged for six weeks to continue from six weeks to six weeks, till 1 May, and not to be broken without fourteen days' notice on either side; all spoil was to be restored within twenty days; Tyrone's chieftains were to ignore the truce at their own risk. Essex agreed that the terms were not to be committed to writing, owing to Tyrone's fear of Spain. On 9 Sept. Essex gave his word and Tyrone his oath to adhere to the truce, whereupon Essex ‘went himself to take physic at Drogheda’ (Harington, i. 301). On 17 Sept. Essex received a passionate letter from Elizabeth, written after the news of the first interview alone had reached her. She altogether disavowed his action, and warned him at his peril against ‘making any absolute contract’ with Tyrone ‘till you do particularly advise us by writing.’ On 24 Sept. Essex hurriedly swore in lords justices at Dublin, and appointed Ormonde to the command of the army. On 28 Sept., accompanied by not more than six attendants, Essex arrived in London.
Travel-stained he hastened to Nonsuch, and rushed into the queen's bedchamber at ten o'clock in the morning. She received him kindly, and an hour later he saw her again and had an hour and a half's interview. Cecil treated him coldly, and when Essex saw the queen for a third time in the afternoon of the same day, her manner had changed. She told him that the council would require an explanation of his desertion of his post without leave, and he was ordered to keep his chamber. The next day a secret meeting of Essex with the council took place; he was charged with disobedience in leaving Ireland, with sending presumptuous letters to the queen, with adopting a course of action contrary to his instructions, with intruding himself into the queen's bedchamber on his arrival in London, and with knighting too many of his companions. On 1 Oct. Essex was committed to the care of the lord keeper, and was confined in York House. The day before his wife was delivered of a child, and Essex was forbidden to see her. Essex wrote humbly to the queen for pardon, and drew up a ‘precise’ account of the arrangements he had made on leaving Dublin. At first he fully expected to return in a few days to his post in Dublin; afterwards (6 Oct.) he expressed an intention of retiring from politics, and of leading ‘a private country life.’ He was kept by the royal order in complete seclusion, and all expressions of sympathy with him, even among his servants, were strongly deprecated by the authorities.
A letter from Tyrone to Essex, complaining that he ‘could not draw O'Donnell and the rest of his confederates to agree’ to the articles of peace, fell into the queen's hands, and reinvigorated her anger. She declined to act on the council's recommendation to release the earl (21 Oct.), although Cecil declared that he bore him no malice and would not stand in the way. Nor did the news that Essex was seriously ill (November) soften her. The countess was refused admittance to him, and forbidden the court. Elizabeth's irritation broke out in a passionate attack on Sir John Harington, who had been knighted by Essex in Ireland, and came to court as soon as he returned to England. Popular manifestations of sympathy were growing daily, and on 29 Nov. the Star-chamber issued a declaration of the earl's offences, in which no charge of treasonable conspiracy with Tyrone was alleged against Essex. At the same time the publication of pamphlets in his defence was prohibited. His health became worse; on 13 Dec. his wife was allowed to see him, and on the 15th the queen sent eight physicians to report on his illness. They stated that he was suffering from a serious complication of internal disorders, and that they despaired of his life. A day or two later Elizabeth paid a visit to York House; but if she saw Essex she was not pacified. On Christmas day prayers were offered in the city churches for the restoration of Essex to health and to the queen's favour. At the same time he began to recover, and on New Year's day sent a gift to the queen, which was returned to him. An appeal from his sister, Lady Rich, to visit him was refused. A scheme of bringing Essex to trial in the Star-chamber in February was abandoned, owing partly to his ill-health, and partly to a note sent by Essex to the queen entreating her to spare him the indignity. On 19 March he was removed to Essex House, which all his friends who were residing there had previously quitted by the queen's express command. Sir Richard Berkeley was appointed his gaoler. On 4 April and 12 May Essex sent very flattering but fruitless appeals to the queen. His wife was allowed to visit him, but not to live in the house. Francis Bacon professed that he was working for him at court, but public rumour pointed him out plainly as one of the queen's advisers who was seeking to undermine the earl by emphatic assertions of the illegality of Essex's conduct in Ireland. Sir Walter Raleigh was also reported to be encouraging the queen in her hostile course of action, and Cecil was stated to be playing a neutral part.
On 5 June 1600 Essex was brought before a specially constituted court at York House, consisting of all the high officers of state and the judges. Three charges were formally preferred against him: 1. The journey into Munster. 2. ‘The dishonourable and dangerous treaty’ with the arch-rebel Tyrone. 3. ‘The contemptuous leaving of his government.’ Two other charges, according to an eye-witness, were the promotion of Southampton and the lavish distribution of the honour of knighthood (Abbott, 174-5). The proceedings began at 8 a.m. with a short speech from Christopher Yelverton, queen's serjeant, which was followed by an intemperate attack by Attorney-general Coke, and a pertinent description by Solicitor-general Fleming of the increased strength of Tyrone since Essex's negotiation. Francis Bacon spoke last; he insisted that Essex's letter to Egerton derogated from the queen's reputation, and complained that Essex had allowed Hayward's ‘Henry IV’ to be dedicated to him, in an address which Chamberlain declared to be quite unobjectionable. Letters were read from Ormonde and some of Essex's associates in Ireland to show that Essex had made ‘odious conditions’ with Tyrone. Essex replied that he intended to submit himself entirely to the queen's will, but made an impassioned speech, denying the specific charges, and contesting the genuineness of the Irish letters. When he began to deny any disloyalty, he was informed that he was only accused of contempt and disobedience. Cecil admitted that the earl had cleared himself of having yielded to all Tyrone's demands, ‘though, by reason of Tyrone's vaunting afterwards, it might have some show of probability.’ Coke made no reply. The lord keeper finally sentenced him, when nearly nine at night, to dismissal from all offices of state, and to remain a prisoner in Essex House at the queen's pleasure.
No full report of these proceedings is extant. Bacon drew up an apparently complete account, but only a fragment dealing with the first charge (the journey into Munster) survives. The rest has to be gathered chiefly from Fynes Morison's ‘History of Ireland’ and garbled accounts of Essex's Irish action published officially after his death. The gist of the accusations lay in the negotiations with Tyrone, and no authentic record of these is accessible. Essex declared that he returned to England to submit Tyrone's proposals to the queen, and he doubtless informed her of them, although he had other objects in view in his hasty journey to London. On 6 Nov. 1599 Elizabeth described Essex's negotiation with Tyrone as ‘full of scandal to our realm and future peril to the state.’ Essex seems to have entertained the notion of formally recognising the rights of Tyrone and the other Ulster chiefs to their lands, and this would fully account for the unfavourable construction placed on his intercourse with Tyrone. But his enemies asserted that he also promised to secure a full recognition of papal supremacy in Ireland. A document, entitled ‘Tyrone's Propositions, 1599,’ is printed in Winwood's ‘Memorials’ (i. 119), and the alleged promise about the Roman catholic religion forms the first of the twenty-one articles which appear there. All of them undoubtedly derogated from England's predominance in Ireland, and aimed at the practical extirpation of protestantism there. But the whole document, although unsuspected by Mr. Spedding, is almost certainly the concoction of a hostile hand, a species of forgery at which the highest dignitaries at Elizabeth's court habitually connived. At his trial little appears to have been said as to the proposal to reinstate the Romish religion: Cecil clearly disbelieved that Essex had accepted it, and it is not mentioned in the contemporary correspondence of court gossips (Abbott, 134-47). At a later date vague confessions of Irish servants and retainers were produced to prove that Essex had discussed the probability of his becoming king of England, and had promised in that case to make Tyrone viceroy of Ireland. Mysterious hints, it was also stated, had been given out at Dublin of coming commotion in England. Essex had undoubtedly meditated at one time returning to England with an army, but this was before he went into Ulster, and it seems undoubted that he formed no real plan of action then. His relations with Tyrone undoubtedly contradicted his instructions, but they do not seem to have involved a treasonable conspiracy.
On 23 June the lord-keeper explained in a charge to the judges that Essex had been treated by the queen with exceptional clemency, and on 5 July Essex was allowed to leave York House for Grafton, Oxfordshire, the seat of his uncle, Sir William Knollys. After more humble appeals to the queen, Essex, whose health was again failing, was set at liberty on 26 Aug.
On obtaining his freedom Essex looked to regain his old position at court. He freely forgave Francis Bacon, who wrote to him on their former terms on 20 July, for appearing against him at his trial, and sent many letters to Elizabeth couched in very submissive language, and full of the personal flattery which she loved. But he was not ‘freed of her majesty's indignation’ (Carew MS. 29 Aug.). Francis Bacon, whose conduct it is difficult to regard as honest, fashioned a correspondence between Essex and his brother Anthony Bacon, which was to be shown to Elizabeth to prove the earl's humble frame of mind. On 22 Sept. Essex petitioned for a renewal of the patent of sweet wines, which had just expired, on 18 Oct. appealed for an audience, and on 17 Nov., the anniversary of her accession, sent a letter of congratulation. No replies were received. The Countess of Warwick advised him to lodge at Greenwich and waylay the queen when leaving the palace. But friends were about him who deprecated such counsel, and taunted him with making too many useless proffers of submission. Oppressed by a sense of impotency, Essex was easily drawn to reconsider the vague notion, entertained at Dublin, of recovering his position at court by a show of force. He convinced himself that to remove those of the queen's counsellors who had shown jealousy of his early successes in court-life would secure his reinstatement, and he felt convinced that he could obtain means to this end from Scotland.
While at York House Southampton and Mountjoy had suggested to Essex various means of escape from his position. Forcible seizure of the court, an appeal for men to Wales, where Essex had property, and a flight to France, had each been discussed and been rejected. Later, Mountjoy had sent an agent to Scotland to inform James VI that Essex ardently desired his accession to the English throne, and to advise a military demonstration on the borders in order to secure a formal recognition of his title. When Mountjoy went to Ireland to succeed Essex, proposals were made that he should carry four thousand men to Scotland, to march with James's army into England. James hesitated, and Mountjoy changed his mind as soon as he was immersed in Irish affairs. Essex, when expecting his release (July 1600), sent Southampton on a fruitless mission to Mountjoy to suggest his returning with an army to Wales. Subsequently Essex saw that these schemes were unworkable, and confined himself to urging James to send a special embassy to Elizabeth to obtain a formal recognition of him as her successor. Essex's diplomacy so far succeeded that James privately instructed his envoys, the Earl of Mar and Lord Bruce of Kinloss, to give what assistance they could to Essex, and to follow his guidance; but James, although really alarmed by a rumour that Elizabeth's ministers were treating for the succession of the Spanish infanta, delayed the envoys' departure from Scotland till he had gained more knowledge of Essex's plans.
Meanwhile, Essex House was thrown open to its master's friends, and a crowd of discontented men, whom the earl had personally attached to him in Ireland and the earlier expeditions, gathered there to discuss Essex's position. Southampton deemed it advisable to lend the party Drury House for more secret consultations, and there the best means of securing his access to the queen was discussed daily. At length, in January, a plot was hatched, by which Whitehall should be suddenly seized and Essex admitted to an audience with Elizabeth, when he should demand the dismissal of her present counsellors and the summoning of a parliament. The date of the rising was not fixed. All was to depend on the time of the arrival of the Scottish envoys; but all was over before they set out. Essex drew up instructions to be delivered to them, in which he urged the Earl of Mar to poison the queen's mind against all her present advisers. Early in February Essex was suddenly ordered to appear before the council, and an anonymous letter of warning reached him. The court had some news of his scheme. A panic seized his followers, and it was decided that a rising should take place on Sunday, 8 Feb. All the plans seem to have been written out by Essex himself, whose nervous energy embarrassed his followers. Puritan preachers had recently been in constant attendance at Essex House, and they and others led Essex to believe that the city of London was willing to rebel in his behalf at a single word from him. With a few companions he therefore resolved to ride through the city on the Sunday morning calling the citizens to arms. His friends visited the Globe Theatre on Thursday, 5 Feb., and paid forty shillings to the actors to perform Shakespeare's play of ‘Richard II’ on the Saturday, so that the people might be excited by the representation of the deposition of a king on the stage.
On Saturday three hundred persons gathered at Essex House. To rouse their enthusiasm Essex told them that his life was threatened by Cobham and Raleigh. The authorities were on the alert, and early next morning the lord-keeper, Lord-chief-justice Popham, Earl of Worcester, and Sir William Knollys came to Essex House to demand a private interview with Essex. This was refused, but, amid the excited threats of his followers, they were admitted to the house and kept prisoners. Immediately afterwards Essex, with two hundred men, hurried forth towards the city. He went first to Fenchurch Street, to the house of a sheriff whom he believed to be favourable to him. But the sheriff escaped before he arrived, and the shouts of Essex and his friends to the astonished populace to join him were received in grim silence. Sir Robert Cecil's brother (Lord Burghley) was in the city at the same time, proclaiming Essex and his adherents traitors in the queen's name, and all the approaches to Whitehall were barricaded. One of Essex's followers shot a pistol at Burghley, but the people stood by unconcerned. Thoroughly disheartened Essex and his men retired by Ludgate Hill, where a troop of soldiers, brought together by the bishop of London, dispersed them, and Essex was shot through the hat. He managed, however, to reach Queenhithe, and there took boat for Essex House. One of his followers had already released the lord keeper, and a strong force quickly arrived to arrest the rebels. Essex, who had burnt a number of private papers, at first declined to yield. A bombardment was threatened, and an hour's delay allowed for the ladies to depart. Essex was at a loss how to act. At first he wished to go forth alone and die fighting. At length he agreed to surrender if promise were made that the occupants should be civilly treated and legally tried. A third condition was that his chaplain, Abdie Ashton, might attend him in prison. The requests were granted, and Essex was taken to the Tower. His adherents were distributed among the London prisons (for full lists see Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. vi. 5; Townshend MSS. in Hist. MSS. Comm. 11th Rep. 10-1). The queen, who never lost her presence of mind, issued a proclamation on the Monday thanking the citizens for their loyalty. Thomas Leigh, a captain of Essex's Irish army, was found a day or two later lurking near Whitehall, and was executed on 17 Feb. on a charge of meditating the queen's assassination. He confessed that he sought an interview with Elizabeth to petition for Essex's pardon, and made some very compromising admissions respecting Essex's conduct in Ireland, on which it is impossible to place much reliance.
Two days later (19 Feb.) Essex and Southampton were brought before a commission of twenty-five peers and nine judges, sitting in Westminster Hall. Essex was refused permission to challenge three of his judges, who were his personal enemies, and he laughed contemptuously when the name of Lord Grey de Wilton, with whom he had quarrelled in Ireland, was called. Serjeant Yelverton, Coke, the lord keeper, Sir Ferdinando Gorges, and Raleigh spoke in support of the charge of compassing the queen's death. Essex interrupted the proceedings by asserting that Sir Robert Cecil had declared the Spanish infanta to be the queen's rightful successor; but this Cecil emphatically denied. Essex appealed to Southampton as his informant, and Southampton stated that Sir William Knollys, Essex's uncle, gave him the information. Knollys was summoned, but discredited the assertion. The confessions of his friends, taken on 18 Feb., revealed the deliberations at Drury House, and showed incidentally that in case of success Essex promised increased toleration for the catholics. All the actors in the rebellion freely cast the blame on one another, but by the official suppression of some material points in their testimonies the case against Essex was made to look blacker than the facts warranted. Francis Bacon was the last to speak for the prosecution, and Essex frequently interposed reproaches. But the old personal relations between the men seemed to increase the heinousness of the earl's offences, and Bacon contributed almost more than any other to his summary conviction. After he was declared guilty Essex asserted that he was ready to die, and was neither an atheist nor a papist. At seven at night sentence of death was passed, and Essex accepted the intimation with dignity, asking for the attendance of a clergyman in the Tower, and praying Lords De la Warr and Morley for forgiveness for leading their sons into error. He also apologised to Worcester and Lord-chief-justice Popham for having detained them in Essex House. Essex, on returning to prison, declined the services of Dove, dean of Norwich, but talked freely to Ashton, his own chaplain, who advised him to repent. Two other divines, Thomas Montford and William Barlow [q.v.], were in attendance on Essex. Essex denied that he had either aimed at the throne or meditated doing the queen any bodily injury: on 21 Feb. he confessed his negotiations with Mountjoy. At his request his secretary, Cuffe, was brought before him. The earl charged Cuffe with having instigated him in his treasonable devices. His friends entreated him to beg for pardon; but this advice was rejected, although he did not give up all hope that Elizabeth would show him mercy spontaneously. His wife appealed to Sir Robert Cecil, who was at first greatly incensed by Essex's charge of his support of the Spanish infanta's claim to the throne, but subsequently showed signs of willingness to act with Lady Essex. Raleigh wrote to Cecil warning him not to relent. While awaiting execution Essex wrote a pathetic letter to Southampton, which was first published in 1642.
The story that Essex, when in favour, had received a ring from Elizabeth, with an undertaking that she would pardon him any offence if he sent it her when in danger, and that just before his death he forwarded it to the Countess of Nottingham, who retained it, is quite apocryphal. Manningham the diarist is the only contemporary writer who makes any reference to a ring when noticing Essex's relations with Elizabeth, and, contrary to the popular version of the story, he merely notes that the queen wore till her death a ring given her by Essex (Diary, p. 159). Clarendon, writing after 1641 in reply to Wotton's ‘parallel,’ refers to a rumour about a ring sent by Essex to Elizabeth before his death, but rejects it as ‘a loose report.’ About 1650 was published a ‘History of the most renowned Queen Elizabeth and her great Favourite, the Earl of Essex. In Two Parts. A Romance.’ Here the story is told at length, but the whole tract abounds in glaring historical errors, and is quite worthless as an historical authority. The queen, the Countess of Nottingham, and the Countess of Rutland are each represented as rivals for Essex's love, and Essex is made to marry Lady Rutland, the author being quite ignorant of the fact that Essex was already a married man. Cecil is said to have intercepted the ring when in Lady Nottingham's hands. This tract was repeatedly reissued in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and its popularity fully accounts for the wide dissemination of the anecdote of the ring. Francis Osborn, in his ‘Traditionall Memoires of Elizabeth’ (1658), repeats this version, but he is not to be trusted, and in 1682 the story was dramatised by John Banks (fl. 1696) [q.v.] in the ‘Unhappy Favourite.’ In 1680 Louis Aubery, Sieur du Maurier, issued at Paris a French history of Holland, and in the course of his account of Prince Maurice tells the tale again, alleging that Sir Dudley Carleton told it to Prince Maurice (pp. 260-1). Here the Countess of Nottingham is induced by her husband to retain the ring, and Cecil is not mentioned. Aubery's book was translated into English in 1693, but the ring episode was omitted. That Essex should have committed the care of so precious a token to the wife of his enemy, the Earl of Nottingham, is sufficiently improbable. To meet this criticism Lady Elizabeth Spelman, at the end of the seventeenth century, related, on the alleged authority of her ancestor, Sir Robert Carey, that Essex directed a boy to carry the ring to Lady Scrope, the Countess of Nottingham's sister, who was in attendance on Elizabeth, and that the boy gave it by mistake to Lady Nottingham. According to the later portions of the story, Lady Nottingham fell ill soon after Essex's death; when dying was visited by the queen, and confessed that she had wilfully withheld the ring. The queen is stated to have burst into a violent passion, and on her return home sickened of remorse and died. This account of Elizabeth's death is quite unsupported by contemporary authorities. Their silence as to the whole episode, the improbability of its details, and the suspicious character of all the testimony in its favour stamp it as spurious (cf. Ranke, Hist. Oxf. transl. i. 352-3; Brewer in Quart. Rev. 1876, i. 23). A ring, stated to be the identical token, was in the possession of Lord John Thynne at Hawnes, Bedfordshire, and is said to have descended to him through Essex's daughter Frances. Other rings, of which the same story is told, exist, and have as little claim to authenticity (Devereux, ii. 183-4; Nichols, Progresses, iv. 550).
Elizabeth showed great reluctance to sign Essex's death-warrant. The first signature was recalled. On 24 Feb. she signed the warrant a second time, and it was duly executed. On Wednesday, the 25th, Essex, dressed in black and accompanied by Ashton, Barlow, and Montford, was led to the high court above Cæsar's Tower, within the Tower precincts. About a hundred persons were present. Essex acknowledged the justice of his sentence, and asseverated that he died a protestant. After praying aloud his head was severed at three blows. Cecil wrote that he ‘suffered with great patience and humility.’ Marshal Biron, who met with a similar fate soon afterwards, declared that he died more like a minister than a soldier. He was buried in the Tower. By the queen's special order his banner as knight of the Garter was not removed from St. George's Chapel. Elizabeth doubtless grieved deeply over Essex's death, but when in April 1601 she thanked James VI for his congratulations on the suppression of the rebellion, her words prove that she did not doubt the justice of Essex's execution (Correspondence of Elizabeth and James VI, p. 136). When Henry IV of France sent his envoy Biron to England in September, Elizabeth is stated by Camden and Stow to have dwelt in vigorous language on the heinousness of Essex's crimes. A speech purporting to have been delivered by her on the occasion was published in French at the Hague in 1607. Elizabeth is there made to acknowledge that she would have pardoned Essex had he appealed to her for mercy and confessed himself worthy of death. Identical expressions are attributed to the queen by George Chapman the dramatist in his tragedy of ‘Marshal Biron’ (probably written in 1602).
The populace regretted Essex's fall, and Derrick, the executioner, is said to have narrowly escaped death at the hands of the mob on the day of the earl's death. Two extant ballads (Roxburghe Coll. i. 274-5) attest the popular sympathy, but show that his execution was generally judged to be inevitable. An official ‘Declaration of the Treasons’ was drawn up and published by Bacon in 1601, and in 1603 Bacon published an ‘Apologie,’ in which he endeavoured to justify his complicated relations with Essex. For many years the government, apparently fearing the effects of a bad example, rigorously suppressed all published apologies for Essex. Father Parsons states that a defence entitled ‘The Finding of the Rayned Deer’ was issued at Antwerp (Notes and Queries, 1st ser. ii. 103). In 1604 a panegyric by Robert Pricket, entitled ‘Honor's Fame in Triumph Riding,’ attempted to exculpate Essex, and seems to have been suppressed (Gawdy MSS. 1885, p. 92). Samuel Daniel's ‘Philotas’ was censured on a like suspicion in 1605 [see Daniel, Samuel, 1562-1619]. But Sir Thomas Smith, in his ‘Voiage in Rushie,’ 1605, was allowed to make honourable mention of the earl. The permanence of Essex's popular reputation as a sturdy champion of British interests against Spain was attested in 1624 by the publication of ‘Robert, Earl of Essex, his Ghost sent from Elizium to the Nobility, Gentry, and Commonaltie of England,’ a warning against Prince Charles's Spanish marriage, and the maintenance of peaceful relations with Spain. A second part was added in 1642.
Essex left three sons, Robert (baptised 22 Jan. 1591), Walter (baptised 21 Jan. 1592), and Henry (baptised 14 April 1595), and two daughters, Frances (b. 30 Sept. 1599) and Dorothy (b. about 20 Dec. 1600). Walter and Henry died young. Robert is separately noticed. Frances married, 3 March 1617, Sir William Seymour, afterwards Marquis of Hertford and Duke of Somerset, whose first wife was Arabella Stuart; she died in 1674. Dorothy married, 18 May 1615, first, Sir Henry Shirley (d. 1634), and secondly, William Stafford; she died 30 March 1636. Essex's widow married, early in 1603, Richard de Burgh, earl of Clanricarde, who was said to resemble Essex in person.
Essex's character is a simple one. He was devoid of nearly every quality of which statesmen are made. Frank, passionate, and impulsive as a schoolboy, he had no control whatever over his feelings; and at a court like Elizabeth's, split into warring factions, whose members strove to supplant one another by intricate diplomacy, his attempt to make a great political position by force of his personal character was doomed to failure. He had no large political views on home affairs. Vain of the influence he exercised over most women, and misled by the personal attentions paid him by the queen, he sought to rule her and thus to vanquish his rivals. For a time she played with him, as though he were a jealous lover; but she despised his political advice. On foreign affairs he imbibed ideas from the Bacons; but he formulated no policy, except one of active aggression against Spain, and of offensive alliances with the protestant powers of Europe. Physically brave, even to recklessness, he was no military tactician, and could not support a general's responsibilities. As soon as he perceived himself worsted in the struggle for the control of the queen, he proved his intellectual helplessness, and, placing himself in the hands of reckless advisers, was rapidly hurried into crime. His generosity to his friends is the best trait in his character, although beside it must be set his habitual extravagance. Sir Henry Wotton describes Essex as tall and able-bodied, stooping a little from the shoulders, and with very delicate hands. In later life he was always thoughtful and reserved, especially at meal times, and grew indifferent to matters of dress and diet.
According to Wotton, ‘to evaporate his thoughts in a sonnet’ was Essex's ‘common way,’ and several short poems appear in many seventeenth-century manuscript collections with his name attached to them. A love song, ‘There is none, Oh! none but you;’ ‘a passion of my lord of Essex’ beginning ‘Happy were he could finish forth his fate;’ and ‘verses made ¼ in his trouble’ (a sonnet), show some poetic feeling. Two other pieces¾‘Change thy mind since she doth change’ and ‘To plead my faith, where faith hath no reward’¾are printed as by Essex in John Dowland's ‘Musical Banquet,’ 1610. A sixth poem attributed to Essex (‘It was a time when silly bees could speak’) was also printed in Dowland's ‘Third Book of Songs and Airs,’ 1603, but in Egerton MS. 923, f. 5, this is attributed to Henry Cuffe [q.v.]. Essex's ‘Last Voyage to the Haven of Happiness’ is undoubtedly an elegy on his death, and not his own composition. Wotton quotes the final couplet of one of Essex's sonnets. These lines are not met with elsewhere (cf. Hannah, Poems of Raleigh, &c., 176-7, 248-9, and Grosart, Fuller Worthies Library Miscellany, iv. 82-102, where all the poems attributed, rightly or wrongly, to Essex are printed). Wotton also credits Essex with special skill in masques or ‘devices.’ The ‘darling piece of love and self love’ described by Wotton as one of Essex's literary achievements is perhaps identical with the device with which he entertained the queen in 1595. Some examples of his ingenuity in constructing ‘impreses’ are given by Ben Jonson (Conversations with Drummond, p. 35). Jonson (ib. p. 25) also ascribes to Essex ‘the epistle to the reader’ signed ‘A. B.’ in Greenway's translation of Tacitus's ‘Annals,’ 1598.
Of Essex's patronage of literature and the drama much evidence is extant. Numberless books are dedicated to him. Spenser, who prefixed a sonnet in his honour to the ‘Faery Queene,’ is stated to have refused, just before his death, ‘twenty pieces’ sent him by Essex (ib. p. 12). His intimacy with Southampton doubtless brought him into personal relations with Shakespeare. Daniel knew him and panegyrised him in his ‘Civill Warres.’ Chapman refers to him with affection in ‘Biron's Tragedie;’ Barnabe Barnes writes enthusiastically of him in ‘Four Bookes of Offices’ (1606); and in ‘England's Hope’ (1600) and Sir William Vaughan's ‘Poematum Libellus’ (1598) like reference is made to him. Mr. J. P. Collier has described a copy of Michael Drayton's ‘Idea’ (1599) which bears Essex's autograph (Bibl. Cat. i. 227), and in the archives of the College of Physicians are many letters introducing foreign men of science. Sir Thomas Bodley was an intimate friend.
A portrait of Essex of doubtful authorship, dated 1597, is in the National Portrait Gallery. Another, by Hilliard, is at Gorhambury, and miniatures by Oliver are known. Engravings appear in Holland's ‘HerÃologia,’ in Duncumb's ‘Herefordshire’ (from a portrait at Kyre House, Tenbury), and in Devereux's ‘Earls of Essex’ (after Hilliard). Houbraken, Boissard, Stent, and Pass are among the engravers of extant prints of the earl's portraits, all of which are rare.
All the letters and despatches known to be extant, except those at Hatfield, are printed in Devereux's Lives of the Earls of Essex. A French life (Hague, 1607) is chiefly drawn from Bacon's Declaration. The contemporary authorities are Anthony Bacon's Papers (to 1597), printed in Birch's Memoirs of Queen Elizabeth; Wotton's Parallel between Essex and Buckingham (1641); Correspondence with James VI (Camd. Soc.), where many important papers from Hatfield are printed in Appendix ii.;
Camden's Annals; Stow's Chronicle;
Cal. State Papers, Dom. and Irish, 1589-1601;
Egerton Papers (Camden Soc.);
Sidney Papers; Chamberlain's Letters (Camden Soc.);
and Harington's Nugæ Antiquæ.
The chief modern authority is Spedding's Bacon, i. and ii. Spedding in order to exculpate Bacon from the charge of treachery to Essex, which his public conduct after the earl's return from Ireland goes far to justify, takes the worst view of Essex's conduct in Ireland. He accepts all the accusations made against him, whether officially or unofficially; and treats Bacon's ‘Declaration’ and ‘Apologie’ as true throughout. But this view cannot be upheld when the original authorities are carefully re-examined. Dr. Abbott, in his ‘Bacon and Essex’ (1877), has examined the evidence exhaustively, and Spedding's conclusions should be corrected by it. See also Lingard's History, E. P. Shirley's Hist. of Monaghan, and article by Professor Brewer on the Hatfield Papers with extracts in Quarterly Review for 1876. For the history of a pocket-dial given by Essex to his chaplain Ashton, see Archæologia, xl. pt. ii. 344 et seq., and Notes and Queries, 4th series, ix. 9. Besides Banks's play about Essex, mentioned above, Henry Brooke produced another in 1749. The valueless History of Elizabeth's Amours with Essex was reprinted at Cologne in 1695, and repeatedly in London in the eighteenth century. Other authorities are mentioned in the text.
Contributor: S. L. [Sidney Lee]