Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

But dreadful storms dispersed the fleet in such a manner that many of the ships were driven to Norway, and others to Ireland, where the crews were massacred without mercy, but the Scotch behaved with more humanity. With respect to the amount of the loss in ships and men, the accounts are different; at all events, the victory of the English was complete and of decisive importance. All knew and felt this; there were festivals and thanksgivings through the whole country, and on the 29th of November, Elizabeth, amidst unbounded rejoicings, entered London in triumph. The portraits of the British commanders were carried before her, the trophies of victory deposited in St. Paul's, and after the address of the Queen, and the distribution of rewards to the soldiers and seamen, divine service was performed with great solemnity. Animated by that glorious time, with the enthusiasm of the past, the historian Tieck, speaking in the name of Shakspeare, says: “What a feeling then pervaded the country, in the fields, the plains, the mountains! What wishes and prayers! Young and old hastened cheerfully and with beating hearts, to join the ranks of the brave, to die or to conquer. Oh then, then we felt, without needing words, what a noble possession, what a jewel, above all earthly treasures, our country is. And when our noble Queen, in the splendor of her majesty, with affection and grace, herself armed, shewed herself on horseback to the

rejoicing bands of the defenders of their country, and her lips spoke of the common danger, of the formidable enemy, whom heaven alone, and the concord of the enthusiastic sons of their country, could overcome!" Who that has seen those brightest moments of existence, can ever forget them? And yet our ruin appeared certain, however the immortal feeling had exalted us, had not heaven immediately interfered for our deliverance. But Elizabeth, Howard, Drake, Raleigh, and all the names of those who triumphed on those fateful days, must be pronounced with gratitude, so long as the sound of the English tongue is heard in this happy island.” When Philip received, through Don Balthasar de Zuniga, the first news of the dreadful misfortune, he by no means lost his composure, but afforded assistance to the sick and the wounded and the families of the killed, and said, “I sent the fleet against England, not against the fury of the sea, and submit to the dispensations of God.” The investigation into the causes of the misfortune, whether the Duke of Parma or of Medina Sidonia were to blame, led to no result; the latter, however, was ordered to withdraw from court.(*) The Spanish clergy, who had prophesied the happy issue of this expedition to be certain, were much embarrassed, but at length laid the blame upon the toleration afforded in Spain to the infidels. All the Protestant powers rejoiced at the failure of this enterprise, for if England had fallen, they would scarcely have been able to resist; but even the Catholic powers, who likewise dreaded the preponderating influence of Philip, did not much regret the issue. To Henry IV. of France it was of immediate advantage, and the independence of the Dutch was as good as decided. They therefore, above all others, took part in the joy of the English, and struck medals in commemoration of the des— truction of the Invincible Armada, with the inscription Venit, iv.it, fuit. Since that time, Spain has never recovered any decisive influence, in the affairs of Europe. Some isolated moments of active exertion and bold enthusiasm have not been able to arrest the lamentable decay of the state and the people. Even at that time Antonio, who was proscribed by Philip, believed, though his right was not so strong, that it would be easy to expel the Spaniards from Portugal; but the fleet which was fitted out in England, more by private persons than by the government, was unable to take Lisbon, because nobody declared for Antonio. But great injury was done to the Spaniards as well there as at Corunna and Vigo, and the English privateers everywhere molested their trade, and disturbed their communications with the Colonies. The most considerable injury, however, was done them by the expedition against Cadiz, undertaken by Lords Howard and Essex, in June, 1589. But when Henry IV., whose change of religion much afflicted Elizabeth, though it did not interrupt the friendship between him and England, was making serious efforts to conclude peace with Spain at Vervins, it was taken into consideration whether England should not do the same. Burghley positively declared in favour of such a measure; he said, “The rights of the Netherlands may now be secured, whereas an offensive war against the Catholic provinces might not be attended with any success. That, as experience had shown, landings on the Spanish and Portuguese coasts decided nothing, and expeditions against the islands and America were still more precarious and expensive. We shall never,” he said, “be able to conquer more or to obtain better conditions than now from the aged Philip, who is tired of war. It is only in time of peace that the Irish, who are supported by Spain, can be reduced to obedience, trade made to revive, the public expenditure reduced, and the unceasing dissatisfaction of the people, at the taxes and military service, appeased.” The Earl of Essex opposed him with much vehemence, affirming that war provided the means for carrying it on; that the commerce of Spain was destroyed by it; that the Netherlands ought not to be abandoned, &c. When for these and similar reasons, Burghley's

proposals were overruled, he shewed the Earl the verse of the fifty-fifth psalm, “The bloodthirsty shall not live out half their days.”(*) It must be lamented that Burghley's career did not close with an honorable peace. He died soon afterwards, on the 4th of August, 1589, at the age of 77. Elizabeth was deeply sensible of the loss she had sustained; no one had understood as he had done how to combine obedience to her, and sometimes patience, with a manly love of truth and attention to the good of the kingdom and of the people; none had so constantly abided by the principle that the welfare of the sovereign and of the subject is always one and the same. “He seems,” says Hume, “not to have possessed any shining talents of address, eloquence, or imagination, and was chiefly distinguished by solidity of understanding and indefatigable application in business; virtues which, if they do not always enable a man to attain high stations, do certainly qualify him best for filling them.” None of his sons were equal to him; but Robert Cecil, the younger, though of a Weak constitution, had so much of his father's understanding, calm judgment, activity, and resolution, that Elizabeth made him her private secretary, and employed him in the most important affairs. His most powerful rival was Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, born in 1566; he was recommended to the Queen by the Earl of Leicester, who had

« EdellinenJatka »