The Felicities of Queen Elizabeth

written by Francis Bacon

WRITTEN BY HIS LORDSHIP  IN LATIN  AND ENGLISHED BY DR. WILLIAM RAWLEY


published 1651

______

IN HAPPY MEMORY

of
ELIZABETH QUEEN OF ENGLAND

or
A COLLECTION OF THE FELICITIES OF QUEEN ELIZABETH

_______

 

 

Queen Elizabeth, both in her natural endowments, and her fortune, was admirable amongst women, and memorable amongst princes. But this is no subject for the pen of a mere scholar, or any such cloistered writer. For these men are eager in their expressions, but shallow in their judgments; and perform the scholar’s part well, but transmit things but unfaithfully to posterity. Certainly it is a science belonging to statesmen, and to such as sit at the helms of great kingdoms, and have been acquainted with the weight and secrets of devil business, to handle this matter dexterously. Rare in all ages hath been the reign of a woman, more rare the felicity of a woman in her reign, but most rare a permanency and lasting joined with that felicity. As for this lady she reigned four-and-forty years complete, and yet she did not survive her felicity. Of this felicity I am purposed to say somewhat; yet without any excursion into praises; for praises are the tribute of men, but felicity the gift of God.

First, I reckon it as a part of her felicity, that she was advanced to the regal throne from a private fortune. For this is ingenerate in the nature and opinions of men, to ascribe that to the greatest felicity, which is not counted upon, and cometh unlooked for, but this is not that I intend, it is this, princes that are trained up in their father’s courts, and to an immediate and apparent hope of succession, do get this by the tenderness and remissness of their education, that they become, commonly, less capable and less temperate in their affections. And therefore you shall find these to have been the ablest and most accomplished kings that were tutored by both fortunes. Such was with us, King Henry the Seventh; and with the French Lewis the Twelfth: both which, in recent memory and almost about the same time, obtained their crowns, not only from a private, but also from an adverse and afflicted fortune; and did both excel in their several ways; the former in prudence, and other in justice. Much like was the condition of this princess, whose blossoms and hopes were unequally aspected by fortune, that afterwards when she came to crown, fortune, might prove towards her always mild and constant. For Queen Elizabeth, soon after she was born, was entitled to the succession in the crown, upon the next turn disinherited again, then laid aside and slighted: during the reign of her brother, her estate was most prosperous and flourishing; during the reign of her sister, very tempestuous and full of hazard. Neither yet did she pass immediately from the prison to the crown, which sudden change might have been enough to make her cast off all moderation: but first she regained her liberty, then there buded forth some probable hopes of succession; and lastly, in a great still and happiness she was advanced to the imperial crown without either noise or competitor. All which I allege that it may appear that the divine Providence, intending to produce a most exquisite princess, was pleased to prepare and mould her by these degrees of discipline. Neither ought the misfortune of her mother justly to stain the pure stream of her blood: especially seeing it is very evident that King Henry the Eighth did first burn with new loves, before he was inflamed with indignation against Queen Anne: neither is it unknown to the ages since that he was a king naturally prone to loves and jealousies; and not containing himself in those cases from the effusion of blood. Besides, the very person for whom she was suspected showeth the accusation to be less probable, and built upon weak and frivolous supposition; which was both secretly whispered to many men’s ears at that time; and which Queen Anne herself testified by her undaunted courage, and that memorable speech of her’s at the time of her death. For having gotten, as she supposed, a faithful and friendly messenger, in the very hour before her death, she delivered these words to relate unto the king: “That she had ever found the king very constant and firm to his purpose of advancing her; for first, from the estate of a gentlewoman only, and no way pretending to noble titles, he raised her to the honour of a marchioness; next, he vouchsafed to make her his consort both of his kingdom and bed: and now that there remained no higher earthly honour, he meant to corwn her innocency with the glory of martyrdom.” But though the messenger durst not relate these words to the king, who was already inflamed with new loves, yet certain tradition, the conserver of truth, hath conveyed them to posterity.

Another principal thing, which I cast into Queen Elizabeth’s felicity, was the time and period of her reign; not only for that it was long, but also because it fell into that season of her life, which was most active and fittest for the swaying of a scepter, for she was fully five-and-twenty years old (at which age the civil law freeth from a curator) when she same to the crown, and reigned to the seventieth year of her life; so that she never suffered either the detriments of pupilage, and check of an over-awing power, or the inconveniences of an impotent and unwieldy old age; and old age is not without a competent portion of miseries, even to private men; but to kings, besides the common burden of years, it brings for the most part a declining in the estates they govern, and a conclusion of their lives without honour. For there hath scarce been known a king that hath lived to an extreme and impotent old age, but he hath suffered some detriment in his territories, and gone less in his reputation. Of which thing there is a most eminent example in Philip the Second, King of Spain, a most puissant prince, and an excellent governor, who, in the last years of his life, and impotent old age, was sensible of this whereof we speak; and therefore with great circumspection submitted himself to nature’s law, voluntarily surrendered the territories he had gotten in France, established a firm peace in that kingdom, attempted the like in other places, that so he might transmit his kingdoms peaceable and entire to his next heir. Contrariwise, Queen Elizabeth’s fortune was so constant and deeply rooted, that no disaster in any of her dominions accompanied her indeed declining, but still able years: nay, further, for an undeniable token of her felicity, she died not before the rebellion in Ireland was fortunately decided, and quashed by a battle there, lest otherwise it might have defalcated from the total sum of her glory. Now the condition also of the people over whom she reigned, I take to be a matter worthy our observation; for if her lot had fallen amongst the desolate Palmyrenes, or in Asia, a soft and effeminate race of men, a woman-prince might have been sufficient for a womanish people; but for the English, a nation stout and warlike, to be ruled by the check of a woman, and to yield to humble obedience to her, is a thing deserving the highest admiration.

Neither was this disposition of her people (hungry of war, and unwillingly bowing to peace) any impediment to her, but that she enjoyed and maintained peace all her days: and this desire in her of peace, together with her fortunate accomplishment thereof, I reckon to be one of chiefest praises. For this was happy for her time, comely for her sex, and comfortable to her conscience. Indeed, about the tenth year of her reign, there was an offer of a commotion in the northern parts, but it was soon laid asleep and extinguished; but all her reign beside was free from the least breath or air of civil broils. Now I judge the peace maintained by her to be the more eminent for two causes, which indeed make nothing for the merit of that peace, but much for the honour: the one, that it was set off, and made more conspicuous by the broils and dissensions of neighbouring nations, as it were by so many lights and torches: the other, that amidst the benefits of peace she lost not the honour of arms; insomuch, that the reputation of the English arms was not only preserved, but also advanced by her upon many glorious occasions. For the succours sent into the Netherlands, France, and Scotland, the expeditions by sea into both the Indies, whereof some circled the whole globe of the earth; the fleets sent into Portugal, and to annoy the coasts of Spain: and lastly, the often suppressions and overthrows of the rebels in Ireland, did both show the warlike prowess of our nation to be no whit diminished, and did much increase the renown of the queen.

There was another ting that did greatly advance her glory; that both by her timely succours, her neighbour kings were settled in their rightful thrones, and the suppliant people, who by the ill advisedness of their kings were abandoned, and given over to the cruelty of their ministers, and to the fury of the multitude, and to all manner of butchery and desolation, were relieved by her; by reason whereof they subsist unto this day. Neither was she a princess less benigh and fortunae in the influence of her counsels than of her succours; as being one that had oftentimes interceded to the King of Spain, to mitigate his wrath against his subjects in the Netherlands, and to reduce them to his obedience upon some tolerable conditions; and further, as being one that did perpetually and upon all occasions represent to the French kings the observation of their own edicts, so often declaring and promising peace to their subjects. I cannot deny but that these good counsels of hers wanted the effect: in the former I verifly believe for the universal good of Europe, lest happily the ambition of Spain, being unloosed from its fetters, should have poured itself (as things then stood ) upon the other kingdoms and states of Christendom: and for the latter, the blood of so many innocents with their wives and children slain within their own harbours and nests by the scum of the people, (who like so many mastiffs were let loose, and heartened, and even set upon them by the state,) would not suffer it; which did continually cry unto God for vengeance, that so blood-sucking a kingdom might have her fill thereof, in the intestine slaughters and consumption of a civl war. Howsoever she persisted to perform the part of a wise and loving confederate.

There is another cause also for which we may justly admire this peace so constantly pursued and maintained by the queen. And that is, that it did not proceed fro any bent or inclination of those times; but from the prudency of her government and discreet carriage of things. For whereas she herself was not without manifest danger from an ill-affected party at home for the cause of religion, and that the strength and forces of this kingdom were in the place of a bulwark to all Europe against the then dreadful and overflowing ambition and power of the King of Spain, she might have apprehended just cause of a war; but as she was still ready with her counsel, so she was not behindhand with her forces. And this we are taught by an event the most memorable of any in our time, if we look upon the felicity thereof. For when as the Spanish navy (set forth with such wonderful preparation in all kinds, the terror and amazement of all Europe, carried on with almost assurance of victory) came braving upon our seas; it took not so much as one poor cock-boat of ours, nor fired any one village, nor landed one man upon English ground; but was utterly defeated, and after a shameful flight and many shipwrecks quite dispersed, so as the peace of this kingdom was never more firm and solid. Neither was her felicity less in escaping treacherous attempts at home, than in subduing and defeating foreign invasions. For not a few treasons discovered and disappointed. And this was no cause to make her lead a more fearful or diffident life than before. No new increase of her guard, no immuring herself within her own walls, or forbearing to be seen abroad; but as one assured and confident, and that was more mindful of her escape from danger, than of the danger itself, she was constant to her former customs and fashions.

Furthermore, it is worth our labour to consider the nature of the times in which she reigned. For there are some times so barbarous and ignorant that it is no greater matter to govern people than to govern a flock of sheep. But this queen fell upon times of a singular learning and sufficiency; in which it was not possible to be eminent, without admirable endowments of wit, and a rare temper of virtue. Again, the reigns of women are for the most part obscured by their husbands; upon whom all their praises and worthy acts do reflect: as for those that continue unmarried, it is they that impropriate the whole glory and merit to themselves. And this was the peculiar glory of this prencess, that she had no props or supports of her government, but those that were of her own making. She had no brother, the son of her mother; no unclue, none other of the royal blood and lineage that might be partner in her cares, and no upholder of the regal dignity. And as for those whom she raised to honour, she carried such a discreet hand over them, and so interchanged her favours as they still strived in emulation and desire to please her best, and she herself remained in all things an absolute princess. Childless she was, and left no issue behond her; which was the case of many of the most fortunate princes, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Trajan, and others. And this is a case that hath been often controverted and argued on both sides, whilst some hold the want of children to be a diminution of our happiness, as if it should be an estate more than human to be happy both in our own persons, and in our descendants, but others do account the want of children as an addition to earthly happiness, inasmuch as that happiness may be said to complete, over which fortune hath no power, when we are gone: which if we leave children cannot be.

She had also many outward gifts of nature. A tall stature; a comely and straight making; an extraordinary majesty of aspect, joined with a sweetness; a most happy and constant healthfulness of body. Unto which I may add, that in the full possession both of her limbs and spirits until her last sickness, having received no blow from fortune, nor decay from old age; she obtained that which Augustus Caesar so importunately prayed for; and easy and undistempered passage out of this world. Which also is reported of Antoninus Pius, that excellent emperor; whose death had the resemblance of some soft and pleasing slumber. So in Queen Elizabeth’s disease, there was no ghastly or fearful accident6; no idleness of brain; nothing unaccustomed to man in general: she was transported either with desire of life, or tediousness of sickness, or extremity of pain; she had no grievous or uncomely symptoms, but all things were of that kind, as di rather show the frailty of nature, than a deordination or reproach of it. For some few days before her death, being much pined with the extreme drought of her body, and those cares that accompany a crown, and not wonted to refresh herself with wine, or any liberal diet, she was struck with a torpor and frigidity in her nerves; notwithstanding, which is rare in such diseases, she retained both her speech, and memory, and motion, though but slow and weak, even to the end. And in this case she continued but a few days; so as it can be called the last act of her life, but the first step to her death. For as it is a miserable condition to see the faculties of our body buried before us; and to survive long after them; so it is a fair and natural conclusion of our life, when the senses are by little and little laid asleep, that the dissolution of the whole should immediately follow.

I will add one thing more to make up the full measure of her felicity: which is, that she was not only most happy in her own person, but in the abilities and virtues of her servants and ministers, for she was served by such persons as I suppose this island never brought forth the like before her times. Now when God beareth a love to kings, no doubt he raiseth up the spirits of wise servants as a concurrent blessing.

There are two fair issues of her happiness, born to her since her death, I conceive not less glorious and eminent than those she enjoyed alive. The one of her successor, the other of her memory. For she had gotten such a successor, who although, for his masculine virtues, and blessing of posterity, and addition of territories, he may be said to exceed her greatness and somewhat to obscure it; notwithstanding, he is most zealous of her name and glory; and doth even give a perpetuity to her acts, considering both in the choice of the persos, and in the orders and institutions of the kingdom, he hath departed so little from her, so as a son could hardly succeed a father with less noise of innovation. As for her memory, it hath gotten such life in the mouths and hearts of men, as that envy being put out by her death, and her fame lighted, I cannot say whether the felicity of her life, or the felicity of her memory be the greater. For if, perhaps, there fly abroad any factious fames of her, raised either by discontented persons, or such as are averse in religion; which notwithstanding, dare now scarce show their faces, and are everywhere cried down; the same are neither true, neither can they be long-lived. And for this cause, especially, have I made this collection, such as it is, touching her felicity, and the marks of God’s favour towards her; that no malicious person should dare to interpose a curse, where God hath given a blessing. Now if any man shall allege that against me, was once said to Caesar; “we see what we may admire, but we would fain see what we can comment;” certainly, for my part, I hold true admiration to be the highest degree of commendation. And besides such felicities as we have recounted could not befall any princess, but such a one as was extraordinarily supported and cherished by God’s favour; and had much in her own person, and rare virtues, to create and work out unto herself such a fortune. Notwithstanding, I have thought good to insert something now concerning her moral part, yet only in those things which have ministered occasion to some malicious to traduce her.

This queen, as touching her religion, was pious, moderate, constant, and an enemy to novelty. First, for her piety, though the same was most conspicuous in her acts and the form of government; yet it was portrayed also in the common course of her life, and her daily comportment. Seldom would she be absent from hearing divine service, and other duties of religion, either in her chapel, or in her privy closet. In the reading of the Scriptures, and the writings of the fathers, especially of Saint Augustine, she was very frequent; she composed certain prayers herself to emergent occasions. Whensoever she named God, thought it was in common discourse, she could for the most part add the title of Maker, saying, God my Maker: and compose both her eyes and countenance to a submissness and reverence. This I have often, myself, observed, being in her presence; now whereas some have divulged her unmindfulness of mortality, in that she would never endure any mention either of her age, or death, is most false: for she would often, and that many years before her death, with a great deal of meekness profess that she found herself grown an old woman, and she would sometimesw open herself what she liked best for an inscription upon her tomb, saying, that she loved no pompous or vainglorious titles, but would only have a line or two for her memory, wherein her name and her virginity, and the years of her reign, and her establishing of religion, and her maintaining of peace, should be in the fewest words comprehended. It is true, that whilst she was in her vigorous years, and able to bear children, if at any time she was moved to declare her successor, she would make answer, that she would never endure to see her winding-sheet before her eyes. And yet, notwithstanding, some few years before her death, one day when she was in deep meditation, and, as it may be guessed, in that of her mortality, one that might be bold said unto her, “Madam, there are divers offices, and great places in the state, which you keep long void.” She arose up in some displeasure, and said, “I am sure my office will not long be void.”

As for her moderateness in religion, I shall seem to be at a stand, in regard of the severe laws made against her subjects of the Romish religion: notwithstanding, that which I shall say is no more than what I know for certain, and diligently observed. Most certain it is, that it was the firm resolution of this princess not to offer any violence to consciences; but then on the other side, not to suffer the state of her kingdom to be ruined under pretence of conscience and religion. Out of this fountain she concluded; first, that to allow freedom and toleration of two religions by public authority, in a nation fierce and warlike, and that would easily fall from discension of minds to siding and blows, would bring inevitable ruin to this kingdom. Again, in the newness of her reign, when there was a general distrust, she singled out some of the bishops of the most turbulent and factious spirits, and committed them to free custody; and this not without the warrant of former laws. As for the rest, either of the clergy or laity, she did did not ransack their consciences by any severe inquisition, but rather secured them by a gracious connivancy: and this was the state of things at the first. Neither did she depart from this clemency, when the excommunication of Pius Quintus came thundering against, her, which might both justly have provoked her, and have ministered occasion to new courses; but howsoever she followed her royal nature still: for as a wise lady, and of a high courage, she was not a white terrified at the roaring of a bull, being well assured of her people’s love and fidelity towards her, as also of the disability of the popish faction within the kingdom to do her hurt, if no foreign enemy joined with them. But then, about the three-and-twentieth year of her reign there followed a mighty change. And this distinction of the times is not any device of mine, but it is expressed in the public acts of that time, and as it were cut in brass; for before that year was there never any capital or severe punishment inflicted upon any of her subjects, as they had relation to the Romish religion, by the laws formerly made. But just then began that proud and vast intention of Spain to conquer this kingdom, by little and little to show itself. Of this the principal part was to stir up by all means a party within the kingdom, of such as were ill-affected to the state, and desirous of innovation, that might adhere to the foreigner at his landing. For this they had no other hopes than the difference in religion; wherefore they set it down to pursue this course with all their power: and the seminaries at that time budding, priests were sent into England to plant and disperse a love to the Romish religion; to teach and inculcate the power of the pope’s excommunication in freeing subjects from their allegiance, and to awaken and prepare the minds of men to an expectation of a change.

About the same time, Ireland also was attempted by an invasion, and the queen’s name and government traduced by sundry and scandalous libels. To be short, there was an unusual swelling in the state, the forerunner of greater troubles: yet I will affirm, that every priest which was sent over was made of the council, or privy to the enterprise, but that some of them became the wicked instruments only of other men’s malice. Notwithstanding this is true, and witnessed by the confession of many, that almost all the priests which were sent into the kingdom from that aforenamed year, unto the thirtieth year of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, at which time that design of the pope and Spain was put into execution, by those memorable preparation of the navy and land forces, had in their instruction, besides other parts of their function, to distil and insinuate into the people these particulars: “It was impossible things should continue at the stay: they should see ere long a great change in this state; that the pope and Catholic princes were careful for the English, if they would not be want be wanting to themselves.” Again, sundry of the priests did manifestly interpose themselves into those consultation and plots which tended to the undermining and ruining of this kingdom: and, which especially moved her, letters were intercepted out of divers parts that discovered the true face of the plot; in which was written, that they doubted not to go beyond the vigilancy of the queen and state in the matter of Catholics; for the queen would only have an eye lest there should arise any fit head, in the person of some lord, or other eminent gentleman of quality, under whom the Catholics might unite; but they had thought upon another course, as namely, by private men, and those but of mean rank, that should not confer, nor scarce know of each other’s employments, to prepare and mature the business by secrecy of confession. And these were their engines, the which, as hath appeared since in a case not much unlike, are usual and familiar to that order of men. In this great deluge of danger, there was a necessity imposed upon Queen Elizabeth to restrain, by some sharper bands of laws, that part of her subjects which were alienated from her, and had drunk too deep a draught of this poison ever to recover; and further, which by their retired living, and exemption from public offices, were grown very rich: and moreover, the mischief daily growing, when as the cause thereof was ascribed to none other than the seminary priests, who had been nourished in foreign parts, and received exhibition from the bounty and aims of foreign princes, professed enemies to this state; and who had conversed in such places where the name of Queen Elizabeth was never heard, but as of a heretic, and excommunicate, and accursed person; and who, though themselves, sometimes, had no hand in treason, yet they were known to be the intimate friends of them that had.

And lastly, who by their arts and poisons had infected and soured the mass and lump of the Catholics, which before was more sweet and harmless, with a new kind of leaven, and desperate maliciousness: there could no other remedy be devised, but by forbidding such persons to enter into this kingdom upon pain of their lives; which at last, in the twenty-seventh year of her reign, was accordingly done. Nay, and when the event itself had confirmed this to be true, I mean immediately after that the dreadful tempest arose from Spain, threatening no less than utter desolation, yet did it nothing mollify or turn the edge of these men’s malice and fury, but rather whetted it, as if they had cast off all natural affection to their country. As for the times succeeding, I mean after the thirtieth year of her reign, though indeed our fear of Spain, which had been the spur to this rigour, had fairly breathed out, or was well abated; yet considering the memory of times past had made so deep impression in men’s hearts and cogitations, and that it would have seemed either inconstancy to repeal those former laws, or sloth to neglect them, the very constitution of things did suggest to the queen, that it was not safe to reduce them unto that state wherein they had continued until the three-and-twentieth year of her reign. Hereunto may be added the industry of some persons in improving the revenues of the exchequer, and the zeal of some other ministers of justice, which did never think their country safe unless the laws were rigorously executed; all which did importune and press the execution of the laws. Notwithstanding, the queen, for a manifest token of her royal nature, did so dull the edge of the laws, that but a very few priests, in respect of their number, did suffer death. Now all this which I have said is not by way of defence, for the matter needs it not; for neither could this kingdom have been safe without it, neither were the proceedings any way comparable or of kin to those bloody and unchristianly massacres in the Catholic countries, which proceeded merely from rancour and pride, and not from any necessity of state: howsoever, I hope I have made my first assertion good, that she was moderate in the point of religion, and that the change which happened was not in her nature, but upon the necessity of the time.

Now for the constancy of Queen Elizabeth in religion, and the observance thereof, I know no better argument than this, That although she found the Romish religion confirmed in her sister’s days by act of parliament and established by all strong and potent means that could be devised, and to have taken deep root in this kingdom; and that all those which had any authority, or bore any office in the state, had subscribed to it: yet for that she saw that it was not agreeable to the word of God, nor to the primitive purity, nor to her own conscience, she did, with a great deal of courage, and with the assistance of a very persons, quite expel and abolish it. Neither did she this by precipitate and heady course, but timing it wisely and soberly. And this may well be conjectured, as from the thing itself, so also by an answer of her, which she made upon occasion. For within a very few days of her coming to the crown, when many prisoners were released out of prison, as the custom is at the inauguration of a prince, there came to her one day as she was going to chapel, a certain courtier that had the liberty of a buffoon, and either out of this own motion, or by the instigation of a wiser man, presented her with a petition: and before a great number of courtiers, said to her with a loud voice, “That there were yet four or five prisoners unjustly detained in prison; he came to be a suitor to have them set at liberty; those were the four evangelists, and the apostle Saint Paul, who had been long shut up in an unknown tongue, as it were in prison, so as they could not converse with the common people.” The queen answered very gravely, “That it was best first to inquire of them, whether they would be set at liberty or no.” Thus she silenced an unseasonable motion with a doubtful answer, as reserving the matter wholly in her own power. Neither did she bring in this alteration timorously, or by pieces, but in a grave and mature manner, after a conference betwixt both side, and the calling and conclusion of a parliament. And thus within the compass of one year, she did so establish and settle all matters belonging to the church, as she departed not one hair’s breath from them to the end of her life: nay, and her usual custom was, in the beginning of every parliament, to forewarn the houses not to question or innovate any thing already established in the discipline or rites of the church. And thus much of her religion.

Now if there by any severer nature that shall tax her for that she suffered herself, and was very willing to be courted, wooed, and to have sonnets made in her commendation; and that she continued this longer than was decent for her years: notwithstanding, if you will take this matter at the best it is not without singular admiration, being much like unto that which we find in fabulous narrations, of a certain queen in the Fortunate Island and of her court and fashions, where fair purpose and love making was allowed, but lasciviousness banished. But if you will take it at the worst, even so it amounteth to a more high admiration, considering that these courtships did not much eclipse her fame, and not at all her majesty; neither did they make her less apt for government, or choke with the affairs and businesses of the public, for such passages as these do often entertain the time even with the greatest princes. But to make an end of this discourse, certainly this princess was good and moral, and such she would be acknowledged; she detested vice, and desired to purchase fame only by honourable courses. And indeed whilst I mention her moral parts, here comes a certain passage into my mind which I will insert. Once giving order to write to her ambassador about certain instructions to be delivered apart to the queen-mother of the house of Valois, and that her secretary had inserted a certain clause that the ambassador should say, as it were to endear her to the queen-mother, “That they two were the only pair of female princes, from whom, for experience and arts of government, there was no less expected than from the greatest kings.” She utterly disliked the comparison, and commanded it to be put out, saying, “That she practiced other principles and arts of government than the queen-mother did.” Besides she was not a little pleased, if any one should fortune to tell her, that suppose she had lived in a private fortune, yet she could not have escaped without some note of excellency and singularity in her sex. So little did she desire to borrow or be beholding to her fortune for her praise. But if I should wade further into this queen’s praises, moral or politic, either I must slide into certain commonplaces, and heads of virtue, which were not worthy of so great a princess: or if I should desire to give her virtues the true grace and luster, I must fall into a history of her life, which requireth both better leisure and a better pen than mine is. Thus much in brief according to my ability: but to say the truth, the only commender of this lady’s virtues is time; which for as many ages as it hath run, hath not yet showed us one of the female sex equal to her in the administration of a kingdom.

***

 

SOME COMMENTARY ON  THE FELICITIES OF ELIZABETH
Questions answered by Mather Walker

_____

Why was Felicity not published while Bacon was alive? Why is he being so NICE to Liz ? She was his mother and did bring him much grief for not officially recognizing him as her royal offspring. And yes Bacon had to accept that - and did so for both his personal survival and Elizabeth's political survival. What's your take....

I think it's easy to see why it was not published until after Bacon was gone. Remember, when Raleigh's History of the World came out, James was irate with him for being too saucy in censoring kings. Bacon has some true, but hard words to say about King Henry VIII. In addition, Bacon points out that Queen Elizabeth came to the aid of the neighboring Protestant countries. This was one of the big grievances the Englishmen had against James, when the forces of James' daughter and her husband Frederick was beseiged and then defeated by the Catholic forces, James didn't lift a hand, and a lot of Englishmen felt embarrassed and humiliated because of this. Certainly his comment about Elizabeth would have immediately invoked comparison with the actions of James. I think this would have been a slap in his face.

Why was he so nice to Liz? Certainly on the one hand he recognized he was a withered branch of her roots, but on the other hand Bacon was always ready to give anyone their due, and to praise anyone who deserved praise. He even praised his worse enemy - Coke. I think he was just giving Elizabeth her due.

**


Based on an image of Elizabeth by David Bowers, enhanced with sons Essex (left) and Francis (right)

Additional Commentary

***