Devereux, Robert

, earl of Essex, memorable for having been a great favourite, and an unhappy victim to the arts of his enemies and his own ambition, m the reign of queen Elizabeth, was son of the preceding, and born Nov. 10, 1567, at Netherwood, his father’s seat in Herefordshire. His father dying when he was only in his 10th year, recommended him to the protection of William Cecil lord Burleigh, whom he appointed his guardian. Two years after, he was sent to the university of Cambridge by this lord, who placed him in Trinity college, under the care of Dr. Whitgift, then master of it, and afterwards archbishop of Canterbury. But Mr. Cole, for many reasons, is inclined to think that he was placed at Queen’s, under Dr. Chaderton. He was, however, educated with much strictness, and applied himself to learning with great diligence; though it is said that, in his tender years, there did not appear aoy pregnant signs of that extraordinary genius which shone forth in him afterwards. In 1583, he took the decree of M. A. and kept his public act, and soon after left Cambridge, and retired to his own house at Lampsie in South Wales, where he spent some time, and became so enamoured of his rural retreut, that he was with difficulty prevailed on to quit it. His first appearance at court, at least as a candidate for royal favour, was in his seventeenth year; and he brought thither a fine person, an agreeable behaviour, and an affability which procured him many friends. By degrees he so far overcame the reluctance he first shewed against the earl of Leicester, his father’s enemy, and now very strangely his father-in-law, that in 1585 he accompanied him to Holland, where we find him next year in the field, with the title of general of the horse. In this quality he gave the highest proofs of personal courage in the battle of Zutphen, fought in 1586; and, on his return to England, was made, the year after, master of the horse in the room of lord Leicester promoted. In 1588, he continued to rise, and indeed almost reached the summit of his fortune; for, when her majesty thought fit to assemble an army at Tilbury, for the defence of the kingdom against the Spanish invasion, she gave the | command of it, under herself, to the earl of Leicester, and created the earl of Essex general of the horse. From this time he was considered as the favourite declared; and if there was any mark yet wanting to rix the people’s opinion in that respect, it was shewn by the queen’s conferring on him the honour of the garter.

So quick an elevation, and to so great an height, unfortunately excited an impetuosity of spirit that was natural to the earl of Essex, who, among other instances of uncontrouled temper, often behaved petulantly to the queen herself t who did not admit, while she sometimes provoked, freedoms of that kind from her subjects. His eagerness about this time to dispute her favour with sir Charles Blunt, afterwards lord Montjoy and earl of Devonshire, ended in a duel, in which sir Charles wounded him in the knee. The queen, so far from being displeased with it, is said to have sworn a good round oath, that it was fit somebody should take him down, otherwise there would be no ruling him, yet she assisted in reconciling the rivals; who, to their honour, continued good friends as long as they lived. la 1589, sir John Norris and sir Francis Drake having undertaken an expedition for restoring don Antonio to the crown of Portugal, the earl of Essex, willing to share the glory, followed the fleet and army to Spain; which displeasing the queen very bighty, as it was done without her consent or knowledge, she sent him the following letter: “Essex, your sudden and undutifnl departure from our presence and your place of attendance, you may easily conceive how offensive it is and ought to be unto us. Our great favours, bestowed upon you without deserts, have drawn you. thus to neglect and forget your duty; for other construction we cannot make of these your strange actions. Not meaning, therefore, to tolerate this your disordered part, we gave directions to some of our privy-council, to let you know our express pleasure for your immediate repair hither, which you have not performed as your duty doth bind you, increasing thereby greatly your former offence and undutiful behaviour in departing in such sort without our privity, having so special office of attendance and charge near our person. We do therefore charge and command you forthwith, upon the receipt of these our letters, all excuses and delays set apart, to make your present and immediate repair nnto us, to understand our farther pleasure. Whereof see you fail not, as you will be | loth to incur our indignation, and will answer for the contrary at your uttermost peril. The 15th of April, 1589.

At his return, however, he soon recovered her majesty’s good graces, but again irritated her by a private match \ttth Frances, only daughter of sir Francis Walsingham, and widow of sir Philip Sidney. This her majesty apprehended to be derogatory to the honour of the house of Essex; and, though for the present, little notice was taken of it, yet it is thought that it was not soon forgot. In 1591, he went abroad, at the head of some forces, to assist Henry IV. of France: which expedition was afterwards repeated, but with little or no success. In 1592-3, we find him present in the parliament at Westminster, about which time the queen made him one of her privy-council. He met, however, in this and the succeeding years, with various causes of chagrin, partly from the loftiness of his own temper, but chiefly from the artifices of those who envied his great credit with the queen, and were desirous to reduce his power within bounds. Thus a dangerous and treasonable book, written abroad by Parsons, a Jesuit, and published under the name of Doleman, with a view of creating dissension in England about the succession to the crown, was dedicated to him, on purpose to make him odious; and it had its effect. But what chiefly soured his spirit, was his perceiving plainly, that though he could in most suits prevail for himself, yet he was able to do little or nothing for his friends. This appeared remarkably in the case of sir Francis Bacon, which the earl bore with much impatience; and, resolving that his friend should not be neglected, gave him of his own a small estate in land. There are indeed few circumstances in the life of this noble person, that do greater honour to his memory, than his patronage of men of parts and learning. It was this regard for genius which induced him to bury the immortal Spenser at his own expence; and in the latter part of his life, engaged him to take the learned sir Henry Wotton, and the ingenious Mr. Cuffe, into his service: as in his earlier days he had admitted the incomparable brothers, Anthony and Francis Bacon, to share his fortunes and his cares.

But whatever disadvantages the earl might labour under from* intrigues at court, the queen had commonly recourse to his assistance in all dangers and difficulties, and placed him at the head of her fleets and armies, preferably to any | other person. His enemies, on the other hand, were contriving and exerting all they could against him, by insinuating to the queen, that, considering his popularity, it would not be at all expedient for her service to receive such as he recommended to civil employments; and they carried this so far, as even to make his approbation a sufficient objection to men whom they had encouraged and recommended themselves. In 1598, a warm dispute arose in the council, between the old and wise lord-treasurer Burleigh and the earl of Essex, about continuing the war with Spain. The earl was for it, the treasurer against it; who at length grew into a great heat, and told the earl that he seemed intent upon nothing but blood and slaughter. The earl explained himself, and said, that the blood and slaughter of the queen’s enemies might be very lawfully his intention; that he was not against a solid, but a specious and precarious peace; that the Spaniards were a subtle and ambitious people, who had contrived to do England more mischief in the time of peace, than of war, &c. The treasurer at last drew out a Prayer-book, in which he shewed Essex this expression: “Men of blood shall not live out half their days.” As the earl knew that methods would be used to prejudice him with the people of England, especially the trading part, who would easily be persuaded to think themselves oppressed by taxes levied for the support of the war, he resolved to vindicate his proceedings, and for that purpose drew up in writing his own arguments, which he addressed to his dear friend Anthony Bacon. This apology stole into the world not long after it was written; and the queen, it is said, was exceedingly offended at it. The title of it runs thus: “To Mr. Anthony Bacon, an Apologie of the Earle of Essexe, against those which falselie and maliciouslie take him to be the only hindrance of the peace and quiet of his countrie.” This was reprinted in 1729, under the title of “The Earl of Essex’s vindication of the war with Spain,” in 8vo.

About this time died the treasurer Burleigh, which was a great misfortune to the earl of Essex; for that lord having shewn a tenderness for the earl’s person, and a concern for his fortunes, had many a time stood between him and his enemies. But now, this guardian being gone, they acted without any restraint, crossed whatever he proposed, stopped the rise of every man he loved, and treated all his projects with an air of contempt. He succeeded lord | Burleigh as chancellor of the university of Cambridge; and, going down, was there entertained with great magnificence*. This is reckoned one of the last instances of this great man’s felicity, who was now advanced too high to sit at ease; and those who longed for his honours and employments, very closely applied themselves to bring about his fall. The first great shock he received came from the queen herself, and arose from a warm dispute with her majesty about the choice of some fit and able person to superintend the affairs of Ireland. Camden tells us, that there were only present on this remarkable occasion, the lord admiral, sir Robert Cecil, secretary; and “Windebanke, clerk of the seal. The queen considered sir William Knolls, uncle to Essex, as the most proper person for that charge: Essex contended, that sir George Carew was a much fitter man for it. When the queen could not be persuaded to approve his choice, he so far forgot himself and his duty, as to turn his back upon her in a contemptuous manner; which insolence her majesty not being able to bear, gave him a box on the ear, and, somewhat in her father’s language, bid him” go and be hanged.“He immediately clapped his hand on his sword, and the lord admiral stepping in between, he swore a great oath, declaring that he neither could nor would put up an affront of that nature; that he would not have taken it at the hands of Henry VIII. and in a great passion immediately withdrew from court. The lord keeper advised him to apply himself to the queen for pardon. He sent the lord keeper his answer in a long and passionate letter, which his friends afterwards unadvisedly communicated; in which he appealed from the queen to God Almighty, in expressions to this purpose:” That there was no tempest so boisterous as the resentment of an angry prince; that

* When Essex was no more than cellor, supported by that of archbishop

twenty-one years of age, he was com- Whitgift, carried the election against

petitor with the lord chancellor Hatton him. He was again disappointed in

for -he chancellorship of the university a similar attempt, which he made at

of Oxford, which had become vacant the latter end of the year 1591, upon

by the Heath of the earl of Leicester, the death of sir Christopher Hatton.

pn thtr 4th of September, 1588. Into On this occasion, a majority of the

this university our young earl had electors would have declared in his

leen incorporated master of arts in the favour, had they not been influenced by

preceding April. He did not succeed the authority of the queen, who recomin the contest; for being generally mended by letters Thomas Sackville,

considered as a patron of the puritan lord Buckhurst, and he was accordingly

parly, as his deceased father-in-law chosen, had been, the interest of the lord | chanthe queen was of a flinty temper; that he well enough knew what was due from him as a subject, an earl, and grand marshal of England, but did not understand the office of a drudge or a porter; that to own himself a criminal was to injure truth, and the author of it, God Almighty: that his body suffered in every part of it by that blow given by his prince; and that it would be a crime in him to serve a queen who had given him so great an affront." He was afterwards reconciled and restored in appearance to the queen’s favour, yet there is good reason to doubt whether he ever recovered it in reality: and his friends have generally dated his ruin from this singular dispute *.

The ear) met with nothing in Ireland but disappointments, in the midst of which, an army was suddenly raised in England, under the command of the earl of Nottingham; nobody well knowing why, but in reality from the suggestions of the earl’s enemies to the queen, that he rather meditated an invasion on his native country, than the reduction of the Irish rebels. This and other considerations made him resolve to quit his post, and come over to


The total reduction of Ireland being brought upon the tapis soon after, the earl was pitched upon as the only man from whom it could be expected; an artful contrivance of his enemies, who hoped by this means to ruin himj nor were their expectations disappointed, he declined this fatal preferment as long as he could; but, perceiving that he should have ’no quiet at home, be accepted it, and his commission for loid lieutenant passed the great seal in March 15P8. His enemies now began to insinuate, that he had sought this command for the sake of greater things which he then was meditating; but there is a letter of his to the queen, preserved in the Harleian collection, which shews, that he was so far from entering upon it with alacrity, that he looked upon it rather as a banishment, and a place assigned him for a retreat from his sovereign’s displeasure, than a potent government bestowed upon him by her favour: " To the queen. From a mind delighting in sorrow, from spirits wasted with passion, from a heart torn in pieces with care, grief, and travel, from a man that hateth himself, and all things else that keep him alive, what service can your majesty expect, since any service past deserves no more than banishment and proscription to the cursedest of all is-lnnds? It is your rebels’ pride and succession must give me leave to ransom myself out of this hateful prison, out of my loathed body; which, if it happened so, your majesty shall have no cause to mislike the fashion of my death, since the course of my life could never please you.

“Happy he could finish forth his fate,

In some unhaunted desert most obscure

From all society, from love and hate

Of worldly folk then should he sleep


Then wake again, and yield God

ever praise.

Content with hips, and hawes, and


In contemplation passing out his


And change of holy thoughts to make

him merry.

Who when he dies, his tomb may be

a bush,

Where harmless robin dwells with

gentle thrush.

Your majesty’s exiled servant,

Robert Esses-.”

| England; which he accordingly did, and presented himself before the queen. He met with a tolerable reception; but was soon after confined, examined, and dismissed from all his offices, except that of master of the horse. In the summer of“1600, he recovered his liberty; and in the autumn following, he received Mr. Cuffe, who had been his secretary in Ireland (See Cuffe), into his councils. Cuffe, who was a man of his own disposition, laboured to persuade him, that submission would never do him any good; that the queen was in the hands of a faction, who were his enemies; and that the only way to restore his fortune was to obtain an audience, by whatever means he could, in order to represent his case. The earl did not consent at first to this dangerous advice; but afterwards, giving a loose to his passion, began to declare himself openly, and among other fatal expressions let fall this, that” the queen grew old and cankered; and that her mind was become as crooked as her carcase.“His enemies, who had exact intelligence of all that he proposed, and had provided effectually against the execution of his designs, hurried him upon his fate by a message, sent on the evening of Feb. 7, requiring him to attend the council, which he declined. This appears to have unmanned him, and in his distraction of mind, he gave out, that they sought his life kept a watch in Essex-house all night; and summoned his friends for his defence the next morning. Many disputes ensued, and some blood was spilt; but the earl at last surrendered, and was carried that night to the archbishop’s palace at Lambeth, and the next day to the Tower. On the 19th, he was arraigned before his peers, and after a long trial was sentenced to lose his head: upon which melancholy occasion he said nothing more than this, viz.” If her majesty had pleased, this body of mine might have done her better service; however, I shall be glad if it may prove serviceable to her any way.“He was executed upon the 25th, in his thirty-fourth year, leaving behind him one only son and two daughters. As to his person, he is reported to have been tall, but not very well made; his countenance reserved; his air rather martial than courtly; very careless in dress, and a little addicted to trifling diversions, He was learned, and a lover of learned men, whom he always encouraged and rewarded. He was sincere in his friendships, but not so careful as he ought to have been in making a right choice; sound in his morals, | except in point of gallantry, and thoroughly well affected to the protestant religion. Historians inform us, that as to his execution, the queen remained irresolute to the very last, and sent sir Edward Carey to countermand it but, as Camden says, considering afterwards his obstinacy in refusing to ask her pardon, she countermanded those orders, and directed that he should die. There is an odd story current in the world about a ring, which the chevalier Louis Aubrey de Mourier, many years the French minister in Holland, and a man of great parts and unsuspected credit, delivers as an undoubted truth; and that upon the authority of an English minister, who might be well presumed to know what he said. As the incident is remarkable, and has made much noise, we will report it in the words of that historian:” It will not, I believe, be thought either impertinent or disagreeable to add here, what prince Maurice had from the mouth of Mr. Carleton, ambassador of England in Holland, who died secretary of state so well known under the name of lord Dorchester, and who was a man of great merit. He said, that queen Elizabeth gave the earl of Essex a ring, in the height of her passion for him, ordering him to keep it; and that whatever he should commit, she would pardon him when he should return that pledge. Since that time the earl’s enemies having prevailed with the queen, who, besides, was exasperated against him for the contempt he had shewed her beauty, now through age upon the decay, she caused him to be impeached. When he was condemned, she expected to receive from him the ring, and would have granted him his pardon according to her promise. The earl, finding himself in the last extremity, applied to admiral Howard’s lady, who was his relation; and desired her, by a person she could trust, to deliver the ring into the queen’s own hands. But her husband, who was one of the earl’s greatest enemies, and to whom she told this imprudently, would not suffer her to acquit herself of the commission; so that the queen consented to the earl’s death, being full of indignation against so proud and haughty a spirit, who chose rather to die than implore her mercy. Some time after, the admiral’s lady fell sick; and, being given over by her physicians, she sent word to the queen that she had something of great consequence to tell her before she died. The queen came to her bedBide i and having ordered all her attendants to withdraw, | the admiral’s lady returned her, but too late, that ring from the earl of Essex, desiring to be excused for not having returned it sooner, since her husband had prevented her. The queen retired immediately, overwhelmed with the utmost grief; she sighed continually for a fortnight, without taking any nourishment, lying in bed entirely dressed, and getting up an hundred times a night. At last she died with hunger and with grief, because she had consented to the death of a lover who had applied to her for mercy." Histoire de Hollancle, p. 215, 216.

This account has commonly been treated as a fable; but late discoveries seem to have confirmed it. See the proofs of this remarkable fact, collected in Birch’s Negociations, &c. p. 206, and Hume’s History, at the end of Elizabeth’s reign.

Lord Orford has entered into a long disquisition on the proofs of queen Elizabeth’s love for the earl of Essex, and certainly proves that she had a more than ordinary attachment to him, although in some of the circumstances it ap pears to savour more of the fondness of a capricious mother, than of a mistress. His lordship has done wiser in having placed the earl of Essex among the noble authors of England. The various pieces enumerated by lord Orford justly entitle him to that distinction; and he has a farther claim to it from the numerous letters of his which occur in the different collections of state papers, and especially in Birch’s “Memoirs of the Reign of queen Elizabeth.” “But of all his compositions,” says Mr. Walpole, “the most excellent, and in many respects equal to the performances of the greatest geniuses, is a long letter to the queen from Ireland, stating the situation of that country in a most masterly manner, both as a general and statesman, and concluding with strains of the tenderest eloquence, on finding himself so unhappily exposed to the artifice of his enemies during his absence. It cannot fail to excite admiration, that a man ravished from all improvement and reflection at the age of seventeen, to be nursed, perverted, fondled, dazzled in a court, should, notwithstanding, have snatched such opportunities of cultivating his mind and understanding:” In another letter from Ireland, he says movingly, “I provided for this service a breast-plate, but not a cuirass; that is, I am armed on the breast, but not On the back.

It has been surmised that the earl of Essex used the pen, | first, of Francis Bacon, and afterwards of Cuffe. Speaking of Bacon, Dr. Birch observes, that it is certain that Essex did not want any such assistance, and could not have had it upon many and most important occasions, which required him to write' some of the most finished of his epistolary performances, the style of which is not only very different from, but likewise much more natural, easy, and perspicuous than that of his friend, who acknowledges it to be “far better than his own.” With regard to Cuffe, Mr. Walpole remarks, that he might have some hand in collecting the materials relative to business, but that there runs through all the earl’s letters a peculiarity of style, so adapted to his situation and feelings, as could not have been felt for him or dictated by any body else.

It was as a prose-writer that the earl of Essex excelled, and not as a poet. He is said to have translated one of Ovid’s Epistles; and a few of his sonnets are preserved in the Ashmolean museum. They display, however, no marks of poetic genius. “But if Essex,” says Mr. Warton, “was no poet, few noblemen of his age were more courted by poets. From Spenser to the lowest rhymer he was the subject of numerous sonnets, or popular ballads. I will not except Sydney. I could produce evidence to prove, that he scarcely ever went out of England, or even left London, on the most frivolous enterprize, without a pastoral in his praise, or a panegyric in metre, which were sold and sung in the streets. Having interested himself in the fashionable poetry of the times, he was placed high in the ideal Arcadia now just established; and, among other instances which might be brought, on his return from Portugal in 1589 he was complimented with a poem called” An Egloge gratulatorie entituled to the right honorable and renowned shepherd of Albion’s Arcadia, Robert earl of Essex, and for his returne lately into England.“This is a light in which lord Essex is seldom viewed. I know not if the queen’s fatal partiality, or his own inherent attractions, his love of literature, his heroism, integrity, and generosity, qualities which abundantly overbalance his presumption, his vanity, and impetuosity, had the greater share in dictating these praises. If adulation were any where justifiable, it must be when paid to the man who endeavoured to save Spenser from starving in the streets of Dublin, and who buried him in Westminster-abbey with | becoming solemnity. Spenser was persecuted by Burleigh because he was patronised by Essex.

No small degree of popularity has always adhered to the character and memory of the earl of Essex. A strong proof of this is his having been the subject of four different tragedies. We refer to the “Unhappy favourite,” by John Banks the “Fall of the Earl of Essex,” by James Ralph the “Earl of Essex,” by Henry Jones and the “Earl of Essex,” by Henry Brooke. 1

1 Biog 1 Brit. Birch’s Memoirs of queen Elizabeth. Hume’s and other histories of England. Mark’s edition of the Royal and Noble Authors. Seward’s Anecdotes and Biographiana. Ellis’s Specimens, &c.