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 Elizabeth I and heirs

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Caro
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PostSubject: Elizabeth I and heirs   Thu 01 Nov 2012, 06:01

In the English monarchy at least (and presumably many other European ones) a great deal of importance has been put on the necessity for an heir. The Norman Conquest was at least partially due to Edward’s naming of William as his heir, not having a son of his own. Matilda gave up her claim to the throne as long as her son was made Stephen’s heir. Henry VIII was desperate for a son. And even today, when the royal family no longer rules, it was thought very suitable that Charles and Diana had two boys, an heir and a spare. And already the Duchess of Cambridge (have I got the right place?) is being watched closely for a pregnancy (though that may be more because of the public appetite for juicy celebrity news than actual worry about who will succeed eventually).

So why did Elizabeth I not have more concern for producing an heir from her own body? I know that now it is seen as wise and sensible and foresightful that she didn’t marry, but surely this is working from hindsight. What I think is received wisdom is that Elizabeth was concerned that marriage to any particular European head of state or similar would produce reactions from other countries, or within England would lead to friction and possible war. But would that have been any greater risk than dying early and leaving a void where a heir should be? Could she have relied on Scottish heirs to produce stability early on in her reign?

Why would she not have married and quickly produced a child to ensure there was someone definite to follow her?


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ferval
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PostSubject: Re: Elizabeth I and heirs   Thu 01 Nov 2012, 09:25

That's a question I've posed before, Caro, and I've not been entirely convinced by the responses. If the first duty of the monarch is to ensure a stable succession, why did she so pointedly refuse to do so? Was she so confident that James VI would provide the capable hands to ensure the well being of her realm that she could accept the inevitability of his succession? Was the short term safety of her kingdom during her lifetime sufficient reason to leave England to a foreign ruler? Could she be assured that his succession would be accepted without the disruption and violence that is posited as her reason for never marrying?
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Elizabeth I and heirs   Thu 01 Nov 2012, 17:31

@ferval wrote:
That's a question I've posed before, Caro, and I've not been entirely convinced by the responses. If the first duty of the monarch is to ensure a stable succession, why did she so pointedly refuse to do so? Was she so confident that James VI would provide the capable hands to ensure the well being of her realm that she could accept the inevitability of his succession? Was the short term safety of her kingdom during her lifetime sufficient reason to leave England to a foreign ruler? Could she be assured that his succession would be accepted without the disruption and violence that is posited as her reason for never marrying?

I think Elizabeth was *always* concerned with her own survival.

That little Protestant prince - safely several hundred miles away in Scotland - was as good an heir as any, so long as he was never officially named as such. And perhaps James didn't seem that "foreign" to Elizabeth; he had, after all, a good dollop of Tudor blood in him.

Who could blame her for not wanting to marry? The fate of the various women she had known hardly inspired confidence in the married state. Her own mother, Catherine Howard, Katherine Parr (died after giving a child to a man who had broken her heart), Amy Dudley, Mary Tudor, Mary Stuart - marriage and/or children had brought little happiness or security to these women.

As for England - Elizabeth was well aware that an heir, even of her body (if her body could have produced one) would not necessarily have ensured the tranquillity or security of the realm either. A baby could be a very dangerous thing when you were surrounded by ambitious men - husbands not excepted.
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MadNan
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PostSubject: Re: Elizabeth I and heirs   Thu 01 Nov 2012, 18:07

I agree Temp. I think Elizabeth had deep psychological scars and a great fear of death due to her upbringing and how close she had come to execution when so young. The main cause of death in young adult women was childbirth and I do not think she could bring herself to risk it. It might explain why she came close the marriage so many time but always pulled back when if it looked like becoming a reality.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Elizabeth I and heirs   Thu 01 Nov 2012, 20:58

Queen Margaret Thatcher wasn't very attentive to grooming a successor either. Maybe megalomania and premature senility played a part in Elizabeth's thinking too and she also thought she could take it all with her. After all, there was some extreme mental illness in those genes, as evidenced by pappa and gramps (not to mention the Beauforts - they were all a funny lot).
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Elizabeth I and heirs   Thu 01 Nov 2012, 21:20

@nordmann wrote:
After all, there was some extreme mental illness in those genes, as evidenced by pappa and gramps (not to mention the Beauforts - they were all a funny lot).

And the thin strain of Valois blood was pretty dodgy too.

Given her family history and the terrors she had been subjected to as a child, an adolescent and a young woman, she should have ended up a gibbering wreck. But she didn't - not in public anyway.

Lytton Strachey had it right when he wrote of her: "She found herself a sane woman in a universe of violent maniacs."

She certainly knew better than to marry one.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Elizabeth I and heirs   Thu 01 Nov 2012, 21:25

Grace O'Malley and herself got on like a house on fire apparently, and in my book anyone Grace liked is fine by me. (A hero of mine, our Gracie)
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Elizabeth I and heirs   Fri 02 Nov 2012, 09:35

If it wasn't for Sir Robert Cecil it is doubtful England would have escaped all sorts of unrest - even open warfare - over the succession issue. And in fact Scotland owes him a debt too given his behind the scenes rescuing of the ninny James Stuart from the web of stupid lies he himself spun over the Gowrie affair. Without Cecil, Scotland could well have been plunged into a Presbyterian-led revolution (or worse, if one can think of such a thing), while England would have found itself suddenly without an heir even half-apparent, so long had the Stuart assumption been pushed by the Privy Council. The PC had even ensured that the assumption survived the disgrace and execution of its first great champion, Essex. If Stuart was unavailable there really wasn't at that stage a Plan B which ensured anything.

A much underrated man in terms of historical impact. I always imagine him (and his dad) as rather like the Humphrey Appleby of his age.

I have also always found it refreshingly honest for an official when Cecil, upon being asked how he felt after the Scottish eejit had been successfully installed in Whitehall without any fuss, replied "Bloody surprised!". But then, he was probably the only man in either kingdom who knew just how volatile the whole thing really was. It's not easy administering mentally deficients in high office. I hope he got a good pension out of it.
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PostSubject: Re: Elizabeth I and heirs   Fri 02 Nov 2012, 10:37

He certainly deserved a pension as older brother Thomas got the house.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Elizabeth I and heirs   Sat 03 Nov 2012, 12:57

Some authorities think Shakespeare had Robert Cecil in mind when he wrote "Richard III".

Cecil became secretary of state in 1591 and was honoured with a seat on the Privy Council in August of that year - the year WS is thought to have penned our favourite play.

Cecil had many physical imperfections which made him the butt of spiteful jokes. The aristocratic crowd WS was hanging out with - and wanting to impress in the early 1590s - loathed Cecil.

In person and figure he was in strange contrast with his rivals at court, being diminutive in stature, ill-formed and weak in health. Elizabeth styled him her pygmy; his enemies delighted in vilifying his "wry neck," "crooked back" and "splay foot," and in Bacon's essay " On Deformity," it was said, "the world takes notice that he paints out his little cousin to the life."6 Molin, the Venetian ambassador in England, gives a similar description of his person, but adds that he had "a noble countenance and features."

Some interesting evidence in the play - got no time to look it all up now, but will later.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Elizabeth I and heirs   Sat 03 Nov 2012, 20:53

Deleted.


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PostSubject: Re: Elizabeth I and heirs   Sun 04 Nov 2012, 09:03

I completely changed my message about Robert Cecil and Richard III, and wrote a brief few lines instead about Robert Person's A Conference about the Next Succession to the crown of England (published 1594) which I hoped was rather more relevant to the OP.

The revised message has disappeared, so I'll try again.

Clare Asquith says that "the most inflammatory aspect of the Conference is the way it traces the line of descent from John of Gaunt to the rival claimants of the 1590s, actually naming them and concluding that Lord Strange was one of the leading contenders."

But what was more dangerous in this work was that Persons suggests that the idea of divine right was misplaced. I have no idea whether Peter Holmes (Resistance and Compromise: The Political Thought of Elizabethan Catholics) was right when he wrote that the Conference was "arguably the best political work written by an Englishman between More's Utopia and Hobbes's Leviathon", but the work was political dynamite, was dedicated to the Earl of Essex and was rapidly suppressed.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Elizabeth I and heirs   Sun 04 Nov 2012, 09:56

Can't see how that happened except you inadvertently used the re-edit function on the original post to compose and post the addendum to it. The time stamp on the post would suggest that's what happened.

But I had read the original post concerning Shakespeare's caricature of Cecil as forming the basis of his characterisation of Richard III and remember reading a book or article some time ago in which several other instances were cited whereby leading characters in his plays were based on contemporary figures as a deliberate device. If I remember rightly it was written by Frank Muir of all people, and actually made quite a bit of sense, though I remember also that Shakespeare's possible motivation for doing so was not exactly pinned down, just that there was coincidence of occurrence which suggested there may indeed be something in the theory.

But getting back to Robert Cecil: If it is indeed true that he above anyone else was instrumental in bringing about a smooth succession from Tudor to Stuart (and the evidence suggests he did play a very important and historically underrated part in that) then it suggests a political atmosphere or milieux in which the official chain of authority in these matters, ostensibly one where the decision, its execution and everything else surrounding the issue emanates from and rests with the monarch, had temporarily been subverted. And not just for a few months as a senile or aged queen approached death, but for many years prior to this too. Probably from the moment when biology dictated the necessity to find an heir from a source other than Elizabeth's womb.

Given Elizabeth's official silence on the matter (and indeed unofficial silence based on private documents made accessible after the event), and given the evidence which points to a Stuart succession as one with the political tenaciousness to survive the disgrace and execution of its first very public advocate (and indeed the frequent and very publicly advertised unsuitability of the successor), and given that the machinery behind the scenes by which this policy was considered most likely to be translated into fact was entrusted to a man whose diplomatic skills and political ability were so well recognised amongst his immediate peers that they rendered irrelevant the rather public disdain for his character and appearance (as the Shakespeare/Richard theory suggests), then these and other factors suggest to me a monarch who is not quite in absolute command of either her ministers or her policies (or maybe even her faculties), at least not to the extent that the same ministers were eager to portray and which we now have as the standard historical version of her.

That was a long sentence, I've just realised. But you get my drift. The public "Gloriana" edifice hid something much more politically sordid but, as any study of politics from any era or situation might suggest, one all the more credible for that. In it the crown has become, to an extent which of course could never be advertised, the political property of a cabal working behind the scenes, and working out now how or why Elizabeth formulated any view on her succession is rather pointless unless one also identifies and studies the motives of these men in the background.


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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Elizabeth I and heirs   Sun 04 Nov 2012, 10:30

You elaborated on Persons/Parsons while I wrote the above.

Parson's treatise was one of several such regarding monarchical rights which found a big readership at the time all over Europe and it is no coincidence that the bulk of them were originating in Holland. The Dutch had a vested interest in destabilising the great European monarchical dynasties of the day and therefore Holland became a natural home to seditionary philosophy related to monarchy. Parsons pointed out in the very first sentence of his book that the conversation between lawyers which he quotes was one that took place in Holland. On that basis alone it was bound to be suppressed in England.

However if you read his "Conference" it is actually simply a litany of examples and circumstances whereby one can best judge the claim of any individual to the right of royal succession. It of course dismisses the notion of a divine right to rule as one flatly contradicted by the historical evidence (he lists several monarchs deposed for their misrule) and even goes so far as to suggest that blood-lineage by its very nature can lead to a surfeit of candidates rather than simplify the procedure. These were the very issues that those attempting to secure a Stuart succession were grappling with and who required to do so secretly without public scrutiny being directed at their activities. I imagine they welcomed Parsons' contribution as much as an astronaut might welcome a fart in his spacesuit.



It is important to note, I think, that the book was not dedicated to Essex but "directed to" him on its frontispiece, a wording used to indicate advice humbly proffered by the author. And it is also worth noting that this, in 1594, was an extraordinary thing to do. At that time Essex was to all intents and purposes "retired" from direct involvement in English politics at the highest level and had been effectively farmed out to the French court with no immediate hope of rehabilitation. If the cabal found Parsons' publication as unhelpful as a fart one can only imagine how Essex would have phrased the analogy upon receiving such unsolicited "advice"! Parsons (like Cardinal Alllen, often listed as co-author of "Conference") had by 1594 been long identified publicly as Catholic treasonist, a Jesuit priest actively working for the end of England's schism with Rome. As a vocal supporter of the Spanish Armada initiative one can imagine his standing "back home" and how Essex must have felt to see his name on the cover of "Conference".

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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Elizabeth I and heirs   Sun 04 Nov 2012, 12:45

Thank you for the above.

I honestly don't know why you are wasting your time posting here, Nordmann. If you are not already, you should be teaching in a university somewhere.

You have completely jolted me out of my lazy acceptance of "the standard historical version" we have of the postmenopausal Elizabeth and of her control of government. One feels distinctly pygmy-ish.

Is it Persons or Parsons? John Guy says Persons, but I don't suppose it matters.

Back later when I've found out/thought a bit more about all this.

I may be gone some time.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Elizabeth I and heirs   Sun 04 Nov 2012, 14:33

Teaching? No thanks! Washing out the lavatories is about my station in life.

It just strikes me as simplistic to analyse Elizabeth's silence on the matter of providing a successor through marriage as evidence of an ambivalence on her part and especially one based on a virginity psychosomatically explained by childhood experiences.

The analysis leaves out things which were hugely important in bringing all this about. For a start, take for example the reason behind a lack of marriage throughout those biologically crucial years. Suitors were assessed, that much is known, and we even know that Elizabeth herself played a proactive role in presenting candidates for assessment. However the crucial thing in this process was who exactly was doing the assessing, and more importantly the rejecting? Besides a few top people's names we are not actually privy to the vast bulk of deliberation which must have been an ongoing process, nor are we to the names of all those who took part.

Secondly, and more importantly perhaps, was what therefore happened once the queen's "sell by" date expired? In the absence of a motive to produce a natural heir then what motivated the suitors? It had to have been inceasingly baldly stated political motivation in the main and for that reason alone we can assume with safety that the machinery of state actually went into overdrive at this point to manage these claims, which governed as a component the issue of succession, not that it wound down.

In all of this Elizabeth herself sounds more commodity than person, and for two entire generations that is how her court and ministers must increasingly have come to see her. After all, their motivation to continue the establishment (ie. them) after her demise would have been far more real than Elizabeth's desire to keep a family bum on the throne. Hers would have been an aspiration based on notions of dynasty, theirs was far more prosaic and with much higher stakes given the Catholic manouevring in the wings throughout.

My allusion to Humphrey Appleby and the civil service as portrayed in "Yes Minister" earlier was genuinely meant. Jim Hacker's political welfare was only important in so far as it served Sir Humphrey's ambitions, and those ambitions centered on preservation of the establishment, the achievement of which by necessity had to be invisible. But there is no doubting who in the relationship holds the illusion of power and who holds power.
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Gilgamesh of Uruk
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PostSubject: Re: Elizabeth I and heirs   Sun 04 Nov 2012, 14:42

Temp - orthography, even of names by those who bore them, was far from standard at that time.

Quote :
The name of Sir Walter Raleigh was written by his contemporaries either Raleigh, Raliegh, Ralegh, Raghley, Rawley, Rawly, Rawlie, Rawleigh, Raulighe, Raughlie, or Rayly.R.C. Churchill, Shakespeare and His Betters: A History and a Criticism of the Attempts Which Have Been Made to Prove That Shakespeare's Works Were Written by Others, Max Reinhardt, London, 1958
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Caro
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PostSubject: Re: Elizabeth I and heirs   Sun 04 Nov 2012, 20:06

Quote :
For a start, take for example the reason behind a lack of marriage throughout those biologically crucial years. Suitors were assessed, that much is known, and we even know that Elizabeth herself played a proactive role in presenting candidates for assessment. However the crucial thing in this process was who exactly was doing the assessing, and more importantly the rejecting? Besides a few top people's names we are not actually privy to the vast bulk of deliberation which must have been an ongoing process, nor are we to the names of all those who took part
.

Why were they all rejected though? Was there really that much fear that any man married to Elizabeth would use that influence against England? Could they not have found someone a little amenable and able to be led, but who still had the background suitable? It's very unusual for either the monarch themself or their advisers not to be insistent on an heir. I suppose England hadn't had a lot of experience of women monarchs and hadn't appreciated Philip's 'reign'.

I am a little surprised that Cecil is considered underrated in his influence and importance. It seemed to be something that was very much stressed when I was at school (that is a long time ago and perhaps I am misremembering). Naturally at 17 I found the dashing Essex more exciting and romantic and wrote my Bursary essay on his relationships with Elizabeth. And our course concentrated more on the Stuarts so the Tudors got less attention perhaps. (Or maybe because we did the Stuarts first that part has just seemed more focused on to me.)

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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Elizabeth I and heirs   Mon 05 Nov 2012, 11:02

I've been thinking about William Cecil's possible involvement in the death of Amy Robsart, Dudley's sad little wife. Elizabeth looked all set to marry Dudley once his wife was dead (it was known Amy was suffering from a "canker" in one of her breasts). Amy's being found dead at the bottom of a staircase at Cumnor Place, and her husband being widely regarded as having organised her murder, put paid to all that. It's been suggested it was actually Cecil who had masterminded the unhappy woman's premature demise. One of the period's great unsolved mysteries.

But back to Robert Cecil. What are we to make of his possible favouring of the Archduchess Isabella as a claimant to the English throne? Isabella was descended from Edward III it's true (she had Plantagenet blood thanks to John of Gaunt's marriage to Constance of Castile), but as the Catholic daughter of Philip II of Spain she seems a most unlikely candidate. But she *was* the ruler of the Spanish Netherlands. Was Cecil's support in any way genuine? Was it just a wild accusation from Essex? If genuine, was it all to do with England's policy towards the Low Countries? What the heck was it all about?



"By now, the two men had begun preparing for the eventual death of Elizabeth and the choice of a new monarch. Essex openly courted James VI of Scotland, whereas it has been shown that Cecil leaned towards the succession of the Archduchess Isabella of Spain. However, the premature death of Essex enabled hasty revisionism by Cecil, and therefore his plans for Isabella remain veiled in mystery. Essex even raised the issue during his eventual trial, but Cecil was able to grandstand, and played down the issue, denying it upon his life."
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Elizabeth I and heirs   Mon 05 Nov 2012, 11:43

Something Cecil himself said later, during the reign of James I, perhaps supports what Nordmann has suggested. Writing of all the various secret communications/wheelings and dealings that were going on during the closing years of Gloriana's reign, Cecil commented:

"If Her Majesty had known all I did, how well these (? she) should have known the innocency and constancy of my present faith, yet her age and orbity*, joined to the jealousy of her sex, might have moved her to think ill of that which helped to preserve her."

*Grief/depression following bereavement

PS Gil - re names - Shakespeare himself didn't know how to spell his name. It is never spelled the same way twice in the signatures that survive. They read as Willm Shaksp, William Shakesp, Wm Shakespe, William Shakspere, Willm Shakspere and William Shakspeare. But never William Shakespeare!
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Elizabeth I and heirs   Mon 05 Nov 2012, 12:34

And that was just during the run-in! Imagine though the early years of her reign and the problem his predecessors faced with a female monarch. Unlike Henry, her father, she could not simply "disown" offspring if politics dictated she remarry (effectively realign the country politically) and her reign looked bound to be beset with even more shifting alliance taking place in Europe than her father's reign had been. It was a far more precarious and dangerous situation then, and in my view there was a decision taken very early on indeed that the best way to avoid it was to work to a switch to a male heir of reasonable claim. It was just a question of waiting and seeing who fitted the bill. The arrival of Mary Queen of Scots' son eight years into her reign provided these men with a reasonably sound alternative which, as time progressed, solidified into the most desirable course of action. James' weak gesture of grief at the execution of his mother when he was 21 years of age hints at a tentative and highly secretive covenant to that effect having been brokered. This would also probably explain why "externally sourced" suggestions were so quickly turned down, the point Caro was wondering about.

By the arrival of Robert Cecil the choices were therefore limited by design. There was a rather frantic re-evaluation of James by these men after the Gowrie incident which indicated that James might be more of a liability than an asset (memory of his mother had not faded) but the manner in which Stuart himself contained that incident and had innocent people executed to hide his tracks must have really impressed them. With such a man on the throne it could be "business as usual". Even Essex's disgrace, which one would have thought might have sullied Stuart's candidature, was not allowed to stop the progress of the succession at this stage.

And this is what really begs the question. Of the surviving protagonists who had brokered the original deal there were not many left alive at that point, and one of them was on trial for treason. Yet it was made to proceed smoothly. These things aren't achieved without quite a bit of complicit help from several parts of the machinery of the state, and it is these names that are missing.
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PostSubject: Re: Elizabeth I and heirs   Mon 05 Nov 2012, 13:15

Where does Francis Bacon fit into all this? Or doesn't he?
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PostSubject: Re: Elizabeth I and heirs   Mon 05 Nov 2012, 13:36

Or Essex's "director of intelligence", Anthony Bacon?
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PostSubject: Re: Elizabeth I and heirs   Mon 05 Nov 2012, 15:14

There is something dark and depressing about the early years of the 17th century. It is no wonder Shakespeare's great tragedies - and "Measure For Measure" - were written around this time.

So much corruption and intrigue everywhere - something certainly was rotten in the state of Denmark.

Marcellus's line is the more famous, but I think that minor character, Francisco, the "honest soldier", caught the mood of the times perfectly when he simply said, eight lines into Hamlet:

"...'tis bitter cold

And I am sick at heart."

I'm getting thoroughly depressed just reading about them all: the Bacons, Essex, Robert Cecil, a barren, tragic queen and the slobbering James preparing to inherit the lot.
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PostSubject: Re: Elizabeth I and heirs   Mon 05 Nov 2012, 15:40

And that's another indicator of how much power these men possessed. Under Henry (much as Charles II would also do later) these guys were kept on their toes through subtle and often none too subtle indications from the monarch that the state of royal favour they enjoyed was neither permanent nor a guarantee of political longevity. In some cases of longevity period. But in both cases there was never much doubt that the ultimate decision rested with the monarch. The Elizabethan court also operated on that principle but in her case one is never quite sure who is pulling the strings. I have always thought the image of a strong independent-minded monarch in Elizabeth's case was misleading. The image is too well defined to be natural. It suited certain people to have her portrayed as such since it rendered them all the more invisible. And as time went on this seems to have become more and more the case. The Essex execution was most obviously a put-up job, for example. Mere royal disapproval does not explain the abrupt and quite illegal method whereby his conviction was secured. Her "change of heart" over Mary Queen of Scots was also one which has the hallmark of an engineered event about it, given the "previous" in both instances.

By 1603 this gradation from Tudor dictatorship to a system being run by private, indeed secretive, committees carried an extraordinary resemblance to communism in the Soviet Union as it at first gently and then ruthlessly disassembled the Stalinist regime and replaced it with a similar network of faceless bureaucrats behaving as autocrats for want of a structure by which they could be better exposed. Stuart was a godsend to these men, and they knew it. That's why they put him there.

How all this was to backfire on them once the Stuarts entered their second generation of monarchy in England was probably even anticipated by them - but it was of secondary concern. The main aim was the administration of a commonwealth whose fortune (literally) was being turned around and beginning to blossom as Spanish influence was being neutralised. The world, and untold riches, had suddenly become available and what they wanted was their ticket to the banquet. Who did the clearing up afterwards was none of their concern.
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PostSubject: Re: Elizabeth I and heirs   Mon 05 Nov 2012, 16:35

Why does this all make me think of the 'men in grey suits' in the latter days of a much more recent 'Gloriana'? And the successor.

Please continue the master-class, I'm riveted.
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PostSubject: Re: Elizabeth I and heirs   Mon 05 Nov 2012, 20:27

Ernst Cassirer wrote a book back in the 40s called "The Myth of the State" in which he famously outlined the methods whereby the notion of state can and is subverted to disguise what is really the acquisition of power (and by extension the real benefits of ownership of the state) by what is always a small group of individuals. Cassirer meant this to be a trend which had become a norm after the age of nationalism in the early 1800s, and it is a system which is typified by an apparently strong leader who is dependent on a coterie of "advisors" to maintain that image, though the reality is often the reverse. Hans Morgenthau, a writer who is really worth reading, criticised Cassirer and claimed that the trend was much older and could be traced back as far as the 16th century in Italy and, he said, in England. There he used William Cecil as a prime example of such an "advisor", and even went on to claim through deduction (using the principles of political realism that he devised) that Cecil was in the pay of Spain at least once in his career.

Cecil was by any standards a slimeball. A man who signed Edward's act barring Mary and Elizabeth's right of succession, then turned Catholic when Mary succeeded in any case, and then as one of the "Old Flock of Hatfield" turned coat again when Elizabeth took the throne. Others who attempted similar ran foul of both subsequent regimes whereas Cecil (who ratted on them on both occasions) survived and was even promoted. According to Morgenthau the traditional explanation for this, that Cecil rode his luck and talked his way round the problems, cannot be true. No one in politics, especially cut-throat politics, is that lucky.

Of all the 16th century ministers in England it is Cecil who has left us by far the most recorded deliberations in his long career as Secretary of State. And yet we have probably not even one record of an actual decision in writing, simply reams and reams of pros and cons written as precursors to acts which others signed into law. Morgenthau identifies this behaviour as typical of that which emanates from behind-the-scene cabals under a monarch. A sure method of identifying possibly dangerous threats to their existence is to control the machinery of legislation but force the risky decisions on other aspirants who have no choice but to commit. This can be held against them if necessary, and of course as Secretary of State the credit for the decision when it pans out as having been right can be taken from the decider in any case.

To test Morgenthau's suspicions he invites the reader simply to look at the litany of "big name" establishment casualties during Elizabeth's reign. To a man (and in one infamous case a woman) they were all people who voluntarily or through necessity had all come to believe at certain points that they had his confidence and support. We have letters written in friendly tone from and to Cecil, even as he was preparing a prosecution (which others prosecuted for him) that would lead to their executions. Each one left a vacuum, in terms of estate and role within the machinery of state, yet the names of those who filled those holes (only with Cecil's approval) are hardly known to history at all. This is also, Morgenthau claimed, evidence of the growth of the background cabal structure. On Cecil's death his son Robert slipped seamlessly and without any recorded opposition (or even opinion) into all his father's roles. One simply has to ask oneself what would have happened in Henry's day to gauge how much actual control Elizabeth apparently had by then.

After reading Morgenthau I was left with the distinct impression that Essex died not because he was "out of favour" or even that he had treasonable inclinations, however exaggerated those might have been in his trial. He died because he knew too much and with the queen effectively neutralised anyway he just wasn't required anymore. Coming back from France and taking the Irish job was stupid of him. He probably thought Robert was more reasonable (and less powerful) than the old man. He was wrong.
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PostSubject: Re: Elizabeth I and heirs   Mon 05 Nov 2012, 23:32

@nordmann wrote:
There he used William Cecil as a prime example of such an "advisor", and even went on to claim through deduction (using the principles of political realism that he devised) that Cecil was in the pay of Spain at least once in his career.


That's a startling claim. Has any evidence been found in the Spanish archives - or elsewhere - to support it?

Was William Cecil really a "slimeball" - or was he simply a realist, a survivor and a political genius? John Guy describes him beautifully as "the spider weaving his web in London".

But going back to the original post - has anyone come across Susan Doran's book, Monarchy and Matrimony: The Courtships of Elizabeth I? I haven't read it yet, and I'll have to track it down via the library. The cheapest copy from Amazon is around £68, but it's one of those "look inside" volumes - only the introduction, unfortunately, but that's still pretty interesting.

There is a good review of another of Doran's books, her 2003 Elizabeth I, here. The Heart and Stomach of a King touches on some of the points that have been raised in this discussion:

http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=9226

Doran also disagrees with historians who attribute the reign's successes to individuals around the queen. Elizabeth listened to and respected the advice of men such as Cecil and Walsingham, but ultimately the decisions were hers, not theirs. Despite her faults and limitations, Elizabeth "was a charismatic and hands-on ruler, who proved a steady pair of hands during a period of political and religious ferment and helped save England from the religious civil wars that plagued her neighbors" (p. 137). Queen Elizabeth I, as English monarchs before her, ruled not reigned.

It would be interesting to find out what Susan Brigden (who's usually excellent) and Christopher Haigh (both mentioned in the review as not agreeing with Doran) have to say.

I wonder if Elizabeth meant it when she rather touchingly asked her last Parliament:

"What am I of myself, without the watchful providence of almighty God, other than a poor silly woman, weak and subject to many imperfections, expecting as you do a future judgement?"

Mmm, I'm now back to square one, wondering if she had actually fooled all those clever men/spiders/slimeballs around her into thinking - certainly in the final years of her reign - that she was indeed no more than a "poor, silly woman", when in fact she was actually nothing of the sort. Who was pulling whose strings indeed! Fact remains that Elizabeth died of old age and infirmity - in her bed - an imperial and imperious virgin until the end.

The odds had certainly been against *that* forty-five years before. It had taken some doing.
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PostSubject: Re: Elizabeth I and heirs   Tue 06 Nov 2012, 08:28

These reviews of Monarchy and Matrimony are pretty impressive. Apparently this book provides "the definitive answer to the question of why Elizabeth remained single". But is there such a thing as a "definitive answer" in this subject (history in general, I mean, not just a query about Elizabeth I)?

"In studying the marriage negotiations of Queen Elizabeth I, Dr. Doran has chosen an important subject of great fascination and daunting complexity . . . This book is European in scope and offers a masterly contribution to the understanding of western Europe diplomacy over roughly two decades."
-Professor N. M. Sutherland, formerly Royal Holloway and Bedford, London


"Monarchy and Matrimony is an authoritative and accessible study of Elizabeth I's marriage negotiations. It provides the definitive answer to the question of why Elizabeth remainded single, and in so doing throws new light on many aspects of Elizabethan foreign policy and domestic politics."
-Christopher Durston, St. Mary's College


"This is an important study, overturning the easy generalization that Elizabeth's marriage negotiations were of no significance since she had always intended to remain a Virgin Queen. Susan Doran's detailed examination of each individual courtship shows convincingly just how serious these discussions were and explains why all failed in the end. Her engaging book is enjoyable reading."
-Professor Stanford Lehmberg, Department of History, University of Minnesota


"Elizabeth I lived and died a virgin Queen and Susan Doran has asked "Why?." Grounded in exhaustive research in British and foreign records, her answers are surprising and compelling. Placing Elizabeth's courtships in context she shows Elizabeth would have married if she could have but religion, foreign relations, her ministers, her sense of political possibility, and her love of Dudley created a muddle that prevented her. Superseding all other studies of Elizabeth's courtships, this is an important book. Every historian of Tudor politics and everyone interested in Elizabeth Tudor's life will want to read this clear and definitive account."
-Norman Jones, Utah State University


"Until the arrival of this book, English historiography concurred that Elizabeth I made a conscious decision and a solemn oath not to marry after her ascension to the thone."
-Heather Lee Miller, "Journal of Women's History

So Elizabeth would have married if she could have? I've got to read this book!

For anyone interested you can take a look at Doran's introduction to M&M here:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Monarchy-Matrimony-Courtships-Elizabeth-I/dp/0415119693
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PostSubject: Re: Elizabeth I and heirs   Tue 06 Nov 2012, 10:47

I don't think Doran and Morgenthau's views are mutually exclusive at all. Morgenthau was no historian but a political scientist, and a very convincing one too when he formulated his philosophy of political realism. When you ask was William Cecil simply a realist you are actually posing the question to which Morgenthau provided an affirmative answer. To him one has to simply ditch personal notions of morality when assessing political systems - they are not inherently immoral (no more than they ever can be comletely moral) but they are of necessity ammoral and those best positioned to manipulate them from within are those who also are ammoral. Cecil was a prime example of a pioneer in the field. Morgenthau did not even attempt to prove his claim - he simply deduced from Cecil's otherwise strange ambivalence at certain times what was most likely to be going on unseen in the background - the layman's definition of what political science is all about really. And yes, he got quite a bit of flack from historians at the time.

However I would still agree with him that one must above all be suspicious of image, and of all England's monarchs Elizabeth has been landed with one very carefully constructed and much believed (beloved even) which by its nature deflects attention away from the clever men/spiders/slimeballs, as you put it. Their contributions (when even their names are known) are normally assessed through the filter of the Elizabethan spin - hence Cecil's apparent prevarication and ambivalence throughout his tenure of office being interpreted at face value as such, a demeanour which does not at all fit in with his contemprary reputation. Thanks to the spin we have ended up with a man who had a formidable reputation for being ruthless but with only two certain examples of any decisiveness, let alone ruthlessness, on his part.

Investigating the "real" Elizabeth is a worthwhile exercise, but any assessment which does not begin with the political milieux in which she operated is doomed to rely on personality, a crucial element of the spin. However starting with the milieux requires an appreciation of its actual big players, and that is the bit where analysis falls down. We just don't know who they were. Political realism suggests their presence but forensic analysis has been stymied by the secrecy with which they operated.

There are many tantalising clues though. Digging into the career of Essex never fails to produce some real surprising nuggets. His time as a ward of William Cecil before his official appointment to court is a particularly murky period. His "military career" seems to have involved several diplomatic missions at Cecil's behest to the Spanish court, though what they were in aid of has been wiped from the records. When you compare this relationship and activity with the so-called trial and the dramatic (in every sense) intervention of Robert Cecil, diving out from behind a tapestry and falling to his knees in front of the court giving thanks that he had the opportunity to contradict the assertion that his father had always hoped to place the Infanta on the throne of England, then you would be a very naive analyst indeed not to suspect a "wool over eyes" manoeuvre. You would be even more naive to assume that such shenanigans could ever take place under a strong dictatorial monarch.

These are the type of anomalies that constantly pop up during Elizabeth's reign for which no adequate explanation exists in contemporary history. All political eras and systems have such instances now and again. Elizabeth's court abounds with them. Compare that to her father's regime and the difference is marked. He was a strong and dictatorial monarch for most of his reign and during that time the issues even in retrospect after all these years are much easier to examine and follow. By being ruthless and decisive he rendered his reign transparent and easy to analyse. However when policies are devised and actions conducted outside of the knowledge or even the acknowledgement of a so-called dictator then it normally means that the dictator in question isn't exactly how he or she is portrayed, at least not when it comes to who actually wields power.
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PostSubject: Re: Elizabeth I and heirs   Tue 06 Nov 2012, 21:04

For those who can get it, the 2009 "In Our Time" programme on the Death of Elizabeth I is still available on the BBC.
www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00n5nqr
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PostSubject: Re: Elizabeth I and heirs   Wed 07 Nov 2012, 10:58

@nordmann wrote:
Morgenthau was no historian but a political scientist, and a very convincing one too when he formulated his philosophy of political realism. When you ask was William Cecil simply a realist you are actually posing the question to which Morgenthau provided an affirmative answer. To him one has to simply ditch personal notions of morality when assessing political systems - they are not inherently immoral (no more than they ever can be comletely moral) but they are of necessity ammoral and those best positioned to manipulate them from within are those who also are ammoral. Cecil was a prime example of a pioneer in the field.

I'm surprised you say Cecil was "a prime example of a pioneer in the field." Morgenthau's philosophy of political realism would seem to be Machiavelli revisited. And Machiavelli was saying nothing new: his Il Principe simply coded the guidelines into a handy reference manual. Elizabeth herself knew Machiavelli's "little book" backwards (her father and Thomas Cromwell were born knowing it -the pair of them could probably have offered Machiavelli some useful advice). As early as 1558, Elizabeth showed how well she had taken the Italian's work on board especially - as she selected her advisors - the opening lines of Chapter XX11:

"The choice of advisors is of no little import to a prince; and they are good or not, according to the wisdom of the prince. The first thing one does to evaluate the wisdom of a ruler is to examine the men he has around him; and when they are capable and faithful one can always consider him wise, for he has known how to recognise their ability and to keep them loyal..."

But did Elizabeth manage to keep her advisors loyal? I think she did, but there was no sentimentality involved: she simply made damn sure that their survival depended on hers. And she knew that a little red-headed Tudor "imp" would have altered the delicate balance of power - did she not have the example of Mary in Scotland to show her the truth of that? As I have said above, a helpless baby, undoubtedly legitimate and Protestant, born of her own body, could ironically have proved to have been her greatest rival - a dangerous threat to her political survival - even to her life. "Loyalty binds me" was after all never a motto lived up to by ambitious men.

But back to this fascinating business of the men in grey ruffs. The usual question posed is: "Did Elizabeth control the Privy Council, or did it control her?" You seem to be suggesting that we go beyond this and ask who else - besides Elizabeth - could possibly have been controlling the Privy Council.

To be honest, last night as I pondered all this I started to think this was just some crazy notion of yours, but something John Guy said in the In Our Times programme (thanks to Gil for posting the link) stopped me in my tracks. It was when Guy was talking about Robert Carey's haring off to Scotland on the morning of 24th March, 1603. I had no idea that Carey did this *without* Cecil's permission. That staggered me. Cecil in fact had ordered that the gates of Richmond Palace be locked. Somehow Carey got out - bearing Elizabeth's ring - apparently with the help of his brother George, Lord Hunsdon.

Guy commented on this that we have to remember that the control of government was not just about the great *institutions* (presumably by this he meant Parliament and the Privy Council?), but also the great *families*. I don't know if this is relevant to what you are saying, but I thought it very interesting. We tend to think the great aristocratic families had been emasculated by the Tudors - that is perhaps quite incorrect.

And Northumberland was quick to remind Cecil that as "senior peer" he should lead the *Great* Council. I'm not sure about the exact legal nature and power of a *Great* as opposed to a *Privy* Council, but Cecil had apparently acknowleged Percy's right to lead such an *emergency* Council. But seems Northumberland backed down in the end.

PS Essex alleged that England had been sold to the Infanta of Spain by the Cecils and *Raleigh* too. Raleigh's a dark horse.

PPS Found a nice little verse from a street satirist written after the Essex trial:

Little Cecil tripping up and down,

He rules both Court and Crown,

With his brother Burghley clown,

In his great fox-furred gown;

With the long proclamation

He swore he saved the town.

PPS I'm also pondering something Clarendon was to write years and years after all this. What did Clarenden mean, I wonder, when he began His History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars with this: "I am not so sharp-sighted as those who have discerned this rebellion contriving from (if not before) the death of Queen Elizabeth"?

All a bit muddled - sorry - but I've got lots of ideas swirling around in my head at the moment. How fascinating all this is.


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PostSubject: Re: Elizabeth I and heirs   Wed 07 Nov 2012, 11:33

Quote :
How fascinating all this is.

Isn't it just. It's the Deep State in a cod piece.

It is true that power, political as well as regal, is a parcel passing from hand to hand while those who switch the music on and off control the game.

I'm struck by your remarks about the great families, I haven't listened to the programme yet, I'll do that while I'm cooking later, but isn't the present incumbent alleged to be thought of still as something of an arriviste in the drawing rooms of those today?
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PostSubject: Re: Elizabeth I and heirs   Wed 07 Nov 2012, 11:44

Morgenthau was responding to Casirer's claim that political systems homogenously disguise actual wielders of power behind an edifice which differs only in the name of the system it purports to be and that this was a modern development. I don't think he claimed Cecil was being innovative in as much as he was an early beneficiary of the institutionalisation of this power model much earlier than Casirer had asserted.

Isn't it funny how everyone was accusing everyone else of making overtures to the Infanta and the same people were equally adamant that it wasn't them that had done so? So much protesting that one automatically goes into Queen Gertrude mode. One also gets a distinct impression of the Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia in an Ayckbourn farce with an English "diplomat" secreted in every press and behind all her curtains and sofas, none of them knowing the others are there too.

And maybe that's not too far from the truth of it ...


Here's the girl in question - check for Essex hiding behind the red chair.



This portrait is owned by QEII, ironically.


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PostSubject: Re: Elizabeth I and heirs   Wed 07 Nov 2012, 12:01

No, he's hiding under that funnel skirt, but she hasn't realised yet.

Elizabeth too was wondering who was lurking behind the curtains. Remember John Harington's words?

"She walks much in her privy chamber and stamps with her feet at ill news, and thrusts her rusty sword at times into the arras in great rage."

But you've got to elaborate, nordmann - what *was* going on? And please don't say, "f**k knows". (Actually John Guy, with unusual honesty for a historian, more or less said that to Melvin Bragg in the In Our Times programme - Guy just put it more politely.)
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PostSubject: Re: Elizabeth I and heirs   Wed 07 Nov 2012, 12:25

Trying to understand these things is like looking for sub atomic particles; you can't see anything directly, just the ephemeral traces left as tiny tracks after collisions.
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PostSubject: Re: Elizabeth I and heirs   Wed 07 Nov 2012, 12:49

Check the many so-called Poor Law Acts passed under Elizabeth's reign for a clue as to what was really going on (plus the Sumptuary Laws which everyone only remembers now as clothing regulations). In particular check out the 1572 Poor Law which set up compulsory taxation at local level (therefore only regulated, not administered by the exchequer). This in turn led to the establishment of a proto-Department of Finance and the first rudimentary National Bank, with William Cecil as nominal chairman of the board. It appears innocuous but it was a huge development in terms of raising vast amounts of revenue the control and flow of which was independent of the monarch. The House of Lords attempted to hijack this when it was realised what was going on. Their attempt was stymied by a Commons Act sponsored and promoted by one Francis Bacon MP, who then suddenly became very wealthy (official explanation was that his uncle - one W. Cecil suddenly decided to fund his bar career).

By 1574 the new "bank" (registered as a private company in Devereaux's name) was doing so well that it was extending loans left right and centre "guaranteed" by gold bullion which was being amassed through piracy. We now know these pirates and mineral resource locators as great Elizabethan explorers. When one of these loans was extended to the Spanish king however in 1573 the whole irony of it all was getting so obvious that it caused a severe case of cold feet on the part of some of the scheme's originators. Cecil, Devereaux and indeed Bacon himself then pressed for the first Sumptuary Law to be passed which (forget the clothes bit) made it legally compulsory for all large expenditures to be audited and vetted by a royal commission. The bank's assets were seized by this breakaway group in the name of the monarch and this new law. From 1574 then there is a great deal of double dealing going on - basically the fund management had reverted to the original scammers under royal protection. Who exactly was getting a cut and how much is not on record but one only has to look at the sudden increase in wealth and sumptuous lifestyle on the part of the Sumptuary Law enforcers to have a good guess. And most importantly it was the first great diversion of fortunes from royal ownership since the conquest, and we're talking lots of money, not just siphoning off a few quid here and there - something which could easily be construed as treason if it became common knowledge and then used as such by some upstart to get political mileage out of exposing the ringleaders.

The succession issue for these people must have been absolutely vital - not with consideration to religion but in terms of how could this cosy scam be best guaranteed to continue after Elizabeth's death. Getting the Spanish on board was actually not such a bad idea (it saved having to rob them if they could be made invest voluntarily for a cut in return). Right up to the death (hers) this must have been causing ructions within the money men group as it stood at the turn of the century. Essex seems to have been one major casualty of these ructions but it was splitting hairs stuff. Robert Cecil, judging by his rather silly dramatic behaviour at Essex's trial, must also have been excreting masonry at the time.
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PostSubject: Re: Elizabeth I and heirs   Wed 07 Nov 2012, 13:28

Had no idea about any of that.

Mmm - Protestants, high finance and a banking system - hadn't Calvin written that "money can be made fruitful"? How did the Catholics fit into these little schemes, I wonder, or were they all left out in the cold?

Guy doesn't mention any of this (just had a quick skim through "Tudor England"), but he did say in passing on the programme that Robert Cecil - just before Elizabeth's death - had been buying up land and taking out huge loans.

Bacon was done for corrruption in 1621 wasn't he - Parliament was out to get him - was that all connected with money too? Didn't James I intervene and get Bacon released?

For anyone interested, here's Bacon's Essay On Usury (1625).



MANY have made witty invectives against usury. They say that it is a pity, the devil should have God’s part, which is the tithe. That the usurer is the greatest Sabbath-breaker, because his plough goeth every Sunday. That the usurer is the drone, that Virgil speaketh of;

Ignavum fucos pecus a praesepibus arcent.

That the usurer breaketh the first law, that was made for mankind after the fall, which was, in sudore vultus tui comedes panem tuum; not, in sudore vultus alieni. That usurers should have orange-tawny bonnets, because they do judaize. That it is against nature for money to beget money; and the like. I say this only, that usury is a concessum propter duritiem cordis; for since there must be borrowing and lending, and men are so hard of heart, as they will not lend freely, usury must be permitted. Some others, have made suspicious and cunning propositions of banks, discovery of men’s estates, and other inventions. But few have spoken of usury usefully. It is good to set before us, the incommodities and commodities of usury, that the good, may be either weighed out or culled out; and warily to provide, that while we make forth to that which is better, we meet not with that which is worse.

The discommodities of usury are, First, that it makes fewer merchants. For were it not for this lazy trade of usury, money would not he still, but would in great part be employed upon merchandizing; which is the vena porta of wealth in a state. The second, that it makes poor merchants. For, as a farmer cannot husband his ground so well, if he sit at a great rent; so the merchant cannot drive his trade so well, if he sit at great usury. The third is incident to the other two; and that is the decay of customs of kings or states, which ebb or flow, with merchandizing. The fourth, that it bringeth the treasure of a realm, or state, into a few hands. For the usurer being at certainties, and others at uncertainties, at the end of the game, most of the money will be in the box; and ever a state flourisheth, when wealth is more equally spread. The fifth, that it beats down the price of land; for the employment of money, is chiefly either merchandizing or purchasing; and usury waylays both. The sixth, that it doth dull and damp all industries, improvements, and new inventions, wherein money would be stirring, if it were not for this slug. The last, that it is the canker and ruin of many men’s estates; which, in process of time, breeds a public poverty.

On the other side, the commodities of usury are, first, that howsoever usury in some respect hindereth merchandizing, yet in some other it advanceth it; for it is certain that the greatest part of trade is driven by young merchants, upon borrowing at interest; so as if the usurer either call in, or keep back, his money, there will ensue, presently, a great stand of trade. The second is, that were it not for this easy borrowing upon interest, men’s necessities would draw upon them a most sudden undoing; in that they would be forced to sell their means (be it lands or goods) far under foot; and so, whereas usury doth but gnaw upon them, bad markets would swallow them quite up. As for mortgaging or pawning, it will little mend the matter: for either men will not take pawns without use; or if they do, they will look precisely for the forfeiture. I remember a cruel moneyed man in the country, that would say, The devil take this usury, it keeps us from forfeitures, of mortgages and bonds. The third and last is, that it is a vanity to conceive, that there would be ordinary borrowing without profit; and it is impossible to conceive, the number of inconveniences that will ensue, if borrowing be cramped. Therefore to speak of the abolishing of usury is idle. All states have ever had it, in one kind or rate, or other. So as that opinion must be sent to Utopia.

To speak now of the reformation, and reiglement, of usury; how the discommodities of it may be best avoided, and the commodities retained. It appears, by the balance of commodities and discommodities of usury, two things are to be reconciled. The one, that the tooth of usury be grinded, that it bite not too much; the other, that there be left open a means, to invite moneyed men to lend to the merchants, for the continuing and quickening of trade. This cannot be done, except you introduce two several sorts of usury, a less and a greater. For if you reduce usury to one low rate, it will ease the common borrower, but the merchant will be to seek for money. And it is to be noted, that the trade of merchandize, being the most lucrative, may bear usury at a good rate; other contracts not so.

To serve both intentions, the way would be briefly thus. That there be two rates of usury: the one free, and general for all; the other under license only, to certain persons, and in certain places of merchandizing. First, therefore, let usury in general, be reduced to five in the hundred; and let that rate be proclaimed, to be free and current; and let the state shut itself out, to take any penalty for the same. This will preserve borrowing, from any general stop or dryness. This will ease infinite borrowers in the country. This will, in good part, raise the price of land, because land purchased at sixteen years’ purchase will yield six in the hundred, and somewhat more; whereas this rate of interest, yields but five. This by like reason will encourage, and edge, industrious and profitable improvements; because many will rather venture in that kind, than take five in the hundred, especially having been used to greater profit. Secondly, let there be certain persons licensed, to lend to known merchants, upon usury at a higher rate; and let it be with the cautions following. Let the rate be, even with the merchant himself, somewhat more easy than that he used formerly to pay; for by that means, all borrowers, shall have some ease by this reformation, be he merchant, or whosoever. Let it be no bank or common stock, but every man be master of his own money. Not that I altogether mislike banks, but they will hardly be brooked, in regard of certain suspicions. Let the state be answered some small matter for the license, and the rest left to the lender; for if the abatement be but small, it will no whit discourage the lender. For he, for example, that took before ten or nine in the hundred, will sooner descend to eight in the hundred than give over his trade of usury, and go from certain gains, to gains of hazard. Let these licensed lenders be in number indefinite, but restrained to certain principal cities and towns of merchandizing; for then they will be hardly able to color other men’s moneys in the country: so as the license of nine will not suck away the current rate of five; for no man will send his moneys far off, nor put them into unknown hands.

If it be objected that this doth in a sort authorize usury, which before, was in some places but permissive; the answer is, that it is better to mitigate usury, by declaration, than to suffer it to rage, by connivance.
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PostSubject: Re: Elizabeth I and heirs   Wed 07 Nov 2012, 14:21

Not sure how Catholics "fitted in" to the picture but it is true that several of Devereaux's fellow "rebels" popped up later in the Gunpowder Plot.

Now there's another put-up job if ever I smelt one, but that's for another discussion ...
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PostSubject: Re: Elizabeth I and heirs   Wed 07 Nov 2012, 19:21

This has got me wondering whether The Isle of Dogs (1597) could possibly be connected with all this.

Dogs, a satire written by Thomas Nashe and Ben Jonson, caused the authorities to panic - really panic. This piece, performed in July 1597 at the Swan by the Earl of Pembroke's Men, was described as being "stuffed with seditious and slanderous matter", and it contained such dynamite that it seemed for a while that *all* the London theatres would be closed down.

Jonson ended up in the Marshalsea and Nashe had to leave London - fast. Some of the actors were also imprisoned for several months.

The play was suppressed so ruthlessly that no copy of it survives, but it apparently criticised - dangerously - certain members of the administration.

What is interesting is that it is mentioned - connected with Francis Bacon - in the Alnwick manuscript:

Alnwick manuscript


"A manuscript in the possession of the Duke of Northumberland at Alnwick Castle contains a number of minor works by Francis Bacon, and seems once to have been associated with Bacon himself, who served as Essex's secretary in the 1590s. A surviving outer sheet ... lists a number of writings which the manuscript once contained, and includes the entry: 'Isle of doges frmnt | by Thomas Nashe inferior plaiers'. While the 'fragment' itself has long since disappeared, the inscription appears to suggest that the piece had once been of interest to Essex and his circle" (Donaldson, Life 120; see Critical Commentary below).
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PostSubject: Re: Elizabeth I and heirs   Fri 09 Nov 2012, 14:17

I'm quite perplexed by all this - no mention of it anywhere in the commentaries on the literature *or* the history of the period. But perhaps I'm looking in all the wrong places.

You are either totally up a gum tree with this, nordmann (unlikely), or you are suggesting something quite original (quite possible).

Nashe could well have been having a go at William Brooke, Lord Cobham - and other Privy Counsellors - in Isle of Dogs, but as we have no text to examine, it is very hard to say. Cobham was Robert Cecil's father-in-law, so he could well have been an interesting target for some vicious comment - but as to whether he was involved in *financial* corruption, I have no idea. But, just as in our own times, I suppose powerful people all had sticky fingers in various juicy and meaty pies.

But I *am* very confused about what you say about Francis Bacon's suddenly becoming "very wealthy" so early in his career. I thought the Bacon family was plagued with debt? In 1601, when Anthony Bacon died, John Chamberlain wrote to Dudley Carleton, just after AB's funeral: "Anthony Bacon died not long since, but so far in debt that I think his brother is little the better by him."

Both brothers indeed had been in serious debt: one Nicholas Trott was involved from whom £2,600 had been borrowed (a huge sum). Some of this loan had been repaid, but the interest had - as it does - mounted rapidly, and Francis Bacon had been obliged to mortgage his own house, Twickenham Park.

The Bacons' mother, poor loopy Lady Bacon, was driven to distraction by all this - her wits began to go, and she would wander through the rooms and long gallery at Gorhambury talking to herself about farm rents, deeds and debts. It looked indeed as if the family estate was in serious danger.

I wonder if Nashe (or Greene or any of the satirists of the early 1590s) were actually concerned with *finance* and corruption in high places? Should we rather be re-examining Merchant of Venice? I really don't have a clue. But Shakespeare could always be relied on for making subtle - but penetrating - allusions to what was going on with the great and good of the times.

PS Anyone come across The Illusion of Power in Tudor Politics by Joel Hurstfield? I can't track down anything, but the title is intriguing.

PPS The Cobham that the satirists went for may have been William Brooke's son and heir, *Henry* Brooke, later 11th Baron Cobham. He got the plum job of Warden of the Cinque Ports in 1597. He was Robert Cecil's brother-in-law.


Last edited by Temperance on Sat 10 Nov 2012, 10:15; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Elizabeth I and heirs   Fri 09 Nov 2012, 14:37

@Temperance wrote:


PS Anyone come across The Illusion of Power in Tudor Politics by Joel Hurstfield? I can't track down anything, but the title is intriguing.

There are two used copies on Amazon,Temp. It is only 34 pages long, looks like a paper that was originally delivered as a lecture.
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PostSubject: Re: Elizabeth I and heirs   Fri 09 Nov 2012, 14:42

You are absolutely right, Trike: it was delivered as a "Creighton Lecture".

Good article here:

http://www.historytoday.com/joel-hurstfield/burghley-minister-elizabeth-i-1520-1598
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PostSubject: Re: Elizabeth I and heirs   Fri 09 Nov 2012, 14:56

Apparent wealth, as now every dog in the street (or Isle) knows, does not mean actual wealth but can in fact simply indicate access to ready credit. In a Jewless England the concept of international banking conglomerates, then springing up and amalgamating all over Europe, was not only foreign (in every sense) but even when envisaged was impossible to realise according to the law of the land. Usury was the nearest England had to such a service and it is ironic that Bacon later in life should expound so knowledgeably on its economic causes and effects. Royalty and top men could avail of foreigners extending credit but until the first Poor Law of Elizabeth's reign there had been no machinery with any official standing through which sufficient funds could be concentrated to finance credit extension to the so-called middle classes. They were beholden to privately arranged sponsors and that system was simply not up to the demand for credit which was building up.

Up here in the gum tree with me is Henry Warren, who as long ago as 1900 was asking why "The Mystery, Company, and Fellowship of Merchant Adventurers for the Discovery of Regions, Dominions, Islands, and Places Unknown" (isn't that a great company name?) which had been founded by Cabot and two associates during Edward's reign and had gone bust suddenly jumped back into activity (and funds) in the second half of the 16th century? All he could find was that it had been registered as a stock company by Deveraux and that its imprimatur (required as it was basically reviving a bankrupt entity) came from Cecil. Then, without any new lands being discovered, let alone new mineral resources claimed for the crown, and without any stock holders on record, its assets jumped from zero to a few hundred thousand pounds in the space of five years. Then it was sequestered under Sumptuary Law and - lo and behold - those encharged with its administration under royal sequestership were Cecil, Deveraux and Bacon, who was the MP who had pushed hardest for the Law to go through.

From there the rest is my own conjecture, I admit - this is one gum tree I am happy to climb. However maybe if you checked up some histories of money as opposed to histories of people you might more readily appreciate how attractive this little gum tree is.

And it does go such a long way in explaining the bitter recriminations and retributions when these thieves fell out with each other. But by then the bubble was burst - as much by the impending death of the ageing virgin under whose nose they had engineered their fortunes at the taxpayers' expense as by their own greed in attempting to render it untouchable. There was a sea change approaching with the end of Tudor times, and in their effort to guarantee their own and the scam's survival they ended up pretty much blowing the whole thing out of the water. Mind you, the sharks waiting in the wings at the Stuart accession were, if anything, even more despicable.

No wonder Bacon went all moral towards the end - little creep. I get the same cringey reaction when I see Heseltine, Lawson, Portillo et al being wheeled out as moral arbiters in their twilight years. "God Help Us" as Jonson said in a letter to Howell near his death, bemoaning his own and the country's descent into Stuart hell and all the new devils it was spawning, "that we are asked to admire as pristine now that which we once excreted with relief".
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PostSubject: Re: Elizabeth I and heirs   Fri 09 Nov 2012, 15:22

I didn't say you *were* up a gum tree, nordmann, just that you *might* be, and I did say it was unlikely.

Poor old Nashe - Dogs ruined him. Jonson - of course - managed to wriggle out of trouble.
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PostSubject: Re: Elizabeth I and heirs   Fri 09 Nov 2012, 15:43

@nordmann wrote:


From there the rest is my own conjecture, I admit - this is one gum tree I am happy to climb. However maybe if you checked up some histories of money as opposed to histories of people you might more readily appreciate how attractive this little gum tree is.

Well, I've always found people more interesting than money, but I take your point, and I shall indeed do the appropriate "checking up".
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PostSubject: Re: Elizabeth I and heirs   Sat 10 Nov 2012, 10:21

The Brooke family are the subject of this famous Tudor painting.

William Brooke, 10th Baron Cobham, and all the little Cobhams - and what appears to be a Cobham parrot (plus other assorted pets). A lovely picture, even if Lord Cobham does look a bit of a misery.

How addictive all this "researching" is - I really must stop faffing around on this computer and go and do what I'm supposed to be doing.







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PostSubject: Re: Elizabeth I and heirs   Sat 10 Nov 2012, 10:47

The Brooke family seem a close unit though, unlike the 1527 Holbein of the Thomas More family. Members turned every which way and the wife shoved over on the edge, almost like an after-thought.

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PostSubject: Re: Elizabeth I and heirs   Sat 10 Nov 2012, 10:51

That painting of the Brooke family is interesting from a gastronomic point of view too as it clearly shows the children dining on apples, pears, grapes and other fruits, which, according to all the contemporary dietary and medical advice of the time, were not at all suitable for children and should only be eaten in small amounts and with due caution by adults.

Then again when did anyone follow "doctor's orders"?
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PostSubject: Re: Elizabeth I and heirs   Sat 10 Nov 2012, 15:02

But the child on the far right would prefer some protein it seems. What is that on her plate, a cat, monkey, rat?
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