Francis, The Queen and Leicester

 

From

The Marriage of Elizabeth Tudor

by

Alfred Dodd

____

p.45-53


Poets Corner Westminster Abbey

 

On the removal of Sir Nicholas to Gorhambury, we find the Queen gravitating there year after year....from 1565 to 1578. Robert Dudley had been made the Earl of Leicester in 1564 and always accompanied her. She holds her Court only a short distance away, at the home of Lord Burleigh. These two places--fifteen miles apart--were amongst the Queen's summer residences. As she regularly visited the home of Sir Nicholas, it may be fairly be said, without any undue straining, that "she secretly watched, supervised and inspired his education," quite uncertain as to the best course to pursue regarding his future. He remained a concealed child by a morganatic marriage?

According to Dr. Rawley, he was introduced early to Court (Resuscitatio, p. 2) :

"His first and Childish years were not without some Mark of Eminency...Pregnant of Wit......Presages of that deep and universal apprehension which was manifest in him afterwards, and caused him to be taken notice of by several Persons of Worth and Place, and especially by the Queen, who, as I have been informed, delighted much to confer with him, and to prove him with questions.
"Her Majesty would often term him, 'The Young Lord Keeper.'
"
Once being asked by the Queen how old he was, he answered with much discretion, being but a boy, That he was two years younger than Her Majesty's happy Reign : with which answer the Queen was much taken."

(Francis, it is said, would then be about five years of age.)
There is no room for doubt that as a growing boy, Francis was often with the Queen at Gorhambury, at York House, at York Place (the Queen's Palace) or at Lord Burleigh's Mansion, the Prime Minister and Secretary of State, was. through the Bacon's, nominal uncle to Francis. He had the most wonderful Palace and grounds in England. It was a stone's throw away from from "The Temple", Francis Bacon's home.

A contemporary writer, Nicholls, "betrays curious interest in the frequency of the Queen's visits" to Gorhambury. He traced many of them and left a record entitled, Progress of Queen Elizabeth.

A passage from the Duke of Norfolk's Confession incidentally tells of a CHILD in the Queen's Private Apartments:

"When the Court was at Guilford, I went unaware into the Queen's Privy Chamber, and found Her Majesty sitting on the threshold of the door listening with one ear to a little child who was singing and playing on the lute to her, and with the other to Leicester who was kneeling by her side. Leicester rose and the Queen continued listening to the child." (Strickland, p. 265)

Who was the CHILD? What was he or she doing in the Queen's Privy Apartments with Leicester? The historians do not know. They do not even hazard a guess respecting the child's identity : Or what the three were doing together on such terms of domestic intimacy?

Norfolk does not give the child's name. He was then fighting for his life on a charge of treason, and dared not be too specific respecting something which he knew must be regarded as a State Secret, if the child were verifiably the Queen's. The picture tells quite clearly the story of a father, mother and son, a happy family. Who else could the child be but Francis Bacon?--then about nine years of age. An echo of such happy rememberances is seen in Shake-speare's Sonnets 9-viiii):

"Mark how one string, sweet husband to another,
Strikes each in each by mutual ordering,
Resembling Sire, and Child, and Happy Mother,
Who all in one, one pleasing note do sing."

Three years later there is another little item of import. Parker Woodward says (Francis Bacon, p.9) that "at the age of twelve the Queen went specially to Gorhamabury, and a terra-cotta bust of the boy (which shows abnormal brain development) was made for the occasion." No bust was sculptured for the eldest son, Anthony Bacon. It is at least singular that the youngest son (presumably) of Sir Nicholas should be thus honoured and the elder one disregarded.

"At the age of thirteen, following a visit of the Queen to Gorhambury House, Francis was sent.... to Cambridge University. He did not go to St. Bennet's College, where Sir Nicholas had been educated, but to Trinity College, founded by Henry VIII, and visited by Leicester inn 1564.
"Here he was placed in charge of Whitgift, the Head of the College, who was made one of the Queen's private Chaplains." (Ibid., p. 9, Parker Woodward.)
 

The Queen Sends Francis to France

Francis returned from the University at the age of fifteen. He was entered at Gray's Inn. He probably attended Court. Whether he did or not, he must have been in contact with the Queen, for we next learn that he is suddenly torn from his legal studies by the Queen and sent to France. We know he was sent away personally and directly by Elizabeth because he writes :

"I went with Sir Amyas Paulet into France from her Majesty's Royal hand.... Since then I have made Her Majesty's service the scope of my life." Dr. Rawley, Resuscitatio, p. 73, 1671)

He again associates the Queen with his departure, so that there may be no mistake, in a letter to Cecil, 1594/5 :

".......These one and twenty years, for so long it is that I kissed Her Majesty's hands upon my journey into France."

What were the circumstances which gave rise to this sudden departure? Why did the Queen send him hurriedly away for three years? There may be no direct answer to these questions from open records of history, but we can surmise that something of fateful import must have occurred.

Young noblemen who were going abroad never went ordinarily to kiss the Queen's hand prior to departure. No other youth was sent to France directly "from Her Majesty's hand." No other youth was sent in the entourage of the Queen's amabassador and given the entre'e to the French Court. The phrase is used that the reader may understand that "the hand is indicative of power", and that he "went to France" as a consequence of "the Hand of Power." He uses it, as he uses the word later, in the Felicities of Elizabeth : and "those whom she raised to honour she carried such a discrete Hand over them ..... that she remained in all things an Absolute Princess." (Dr. Rawley, ibid, p.147)

"A Mr. Duncombe was sent with Francis as his tutor. Amyas Paulet was knighted and put in charge of Francis, and they crossed the Channel in Sept. In February of the following year, Sir Amyas Paulet succeeded Dr. Dale as Ambassador to France. They move along in attendance at the French Court, visiting Blois, Paris, Poictiers, and other places. " (P. Woodward, Sir Francis Bacon, p. 12)

In the foregoing historical facts it is self-evident that there was some subtle connection between Queen Elizabeth and Francis Bacon that has not, as yet, been generally understood or recognized. Not only was he sent direct from under her hand, but the Queen raises a gentleman to knighthood and places the youth in his charge. It requires little detective instinct to surmise that Francis had discovered the secret of his birth, and that the Queen, not knowing what to do for the best, had resolved to send him abroad for a long stay.

In any case, Francis must still have been in touch with the Queen and the Court, for he returned to England in 1578-- probably with despatches-- and while he was here "the Queen's private Court Limner, Hilyard, painted a miniature of him." One was also painted about the same time of the Queen, by the same artist.
The fact that Hilyard paints both persons in a very similar style at the same time is strikingly evidential of kinship. No other youth of eighteen was similarly honoured by Elizabeth save one who later was known as "Robert Earl of Essex."

Any impartial examination of the portraits of the Queen and Francis show similar characteristics of feature, which are exactly what we might expect from mother and son. It is unthinkable that the Queen would have allowed two such miniatures to have been painted had young Francis been a Bacon an not a Tudor. At that time, Elizabeth was undoubtedly proud of the youth's mental attainments as evidenced by Hilyard who wrote round the portrait in Latin, "Could I but paint his mind."

An examination of the portraits of the Earl of Leicester and the Earl of Essex show the same facial characteristics. They look like father and son, just as the Hilyard portraits-- posed from the same angle, once a follow-on of the other-- look like mother and son. There is not the slightest resemblance between Francis and his foster parents.

While Francis was in France, Sir Nicholas died. He returns to England to find that his reputed father has provided for everyone of his dependants except himself. There had been no personal quarrel. It could not have been for want of heart. Nothing had eventuated that would have provided any ordinary motive for such pointed neglect.

The singular thing is that this penniless young aristocrat makes no complaint at such apparently harsh treatment. It is not even considered strange by Lady Bacon or Anthony Bacon. There is no mention of the matter in their letters; nor does Francis, later, when pressed for monies, ever seem to remember the omission as a grievance, as would ordianrily be the case. It is taken by the entire family of the Bacons as a matter of course and the proper thing. The only common-sense interpretation of the no-bequest enigma is that the family understood that Francis's expectations lay elsewhere.

Penniless Francis As A "Queen's Pensioner"

The penniless youth resumes his studies at Gray's Inn. Who provided for him? Who kept him? Who clothed him? Did Lady Bacon or the Queen?

Lady Bacon's legacy could not have permitted her to do very much. Her letters show she provided him with certain foodstuffs of her own making and growing when he was in Chambers, but she does not appear to have provided him with an income. Yet an income he must have had from some source. From the age of twenty, Francis had nothing to live on, the Bacon family having no responsibility. How did he keep pace with the expenses of Gray's Inn? And hold his own with the students, many the sons of wealthy noblemen?

The truth is that Francis Bacon became one of Her Majesty's "Gentleman Pensioners", though "name did not appear on the official list any more than George Puttenham's." (W. Begley, M.A., Resuscitatio, Vol. I, p. 102) He became "entirely a Pensioner on the Queen's bounty" , says Parker Woodward. Putting it bluntly, he got an allowance from his mother the Queen.

This is proved clearly because of a letter he writes on the 15th October 1580 to the Secretary of State, his uncle, Lord Burleigh, to "present his more than humble thanks to the Queen for her princely liberality." He also asks for some other favours which he had in mind.

Why should the Queen concern herself with the son of the late Lord Keeper, and make him a monetary allowance, if there were no tie between them? There is no other young aristocrat that she takes under her wing in such a peculiar fashion.

There is no one else who asks the Queen for favours at this time. Judging from the letters and records, Parker Woodward says :

"He had evidently been promised that something satisfactory should occur in the future, and that in the meantime he was to be considered in the Queen's service and to have a satisfactory monetary allowance." ( Early Life of F.B. , p. 29)

From various little hints and asides, it is certain that Francis in his twentieth year knew the secret of his parentage : that he was a concealed Prince of the House of Tudor. He seems to have taken his allowance from the Queen without any shamefacedness, as his natural right. And she is sufficiently independent to jeopardize, later his allowance by thwarting the Government, when had got into Parliament, rather than compromise with his conscience. The Queen is vexed. He is forbidden Court. His allowance is apparently stopped, for he gets into financial difficulties.

When he returned from France, he had no desire to study Law. He was therefore much perturbed at an order through Lord Burleigh, from the Queen obviously, that he was to enter Gray's Inn. He even writes to Lord and Lady Burleigh pointing out how incongruos it is for a person in his position to be employed in studying the common law. He says :

"I do not understand how anyone well off or friended should be put to the study of the common law instead of studies of greater delight."

Had Francis been the real son of a lawyer, it would have been impossible for him to feel it infra dig to study common law. As a Prince, though concealed, hoping would be publicly called to the Succession of the English Throne, he would naturally feel such drudgery to be a little beneath him. To ease his discontent, Burleigh procures him a dispensation from his compulsory attendance of "keeping Commons." The entry, in Burleigh's handwriting, is still to be seen in the records of Gray's Inn. Is it not passing strange he should have declined to take his meals with the law students, barristers? Even six years later (1586), an order was again specially made, permitting him to take his meals at the Reader's or Master's table, although not entitled to by seniority. He passed over the heads of barristers and ancients, care having to be taken to reserve their rights to pension in view of his supercession.

When he attained twenty-one, it was decided to send him for a year's travel abroad, according to the practice of the period for Prince's and Noblemen's sons. There are records which show that Lord Burleigh was interested in the best routes he had to travel.

These odd glimpses show the inter-relation between Francis, the Queen, and Lord Burleigh, the Queen's private confidant and Secretary of State. There is a definite intertwining that would never have been possible or probable, had Francis Bacon been the son of Lady Bacon. Why should Lord Burleigh and the Queen have worried themselves about him at all unless there was a secret relationship between her and the youth?The fact that there was a secret bond is evidenced in numerous ways as the years pass, too numerous to deal with here.

When he was about twenty-four, he was elected Member of Parliament for Melcombe (1584). How did this young law student, without local influence, property or income, get into Parliament? He could only have been placed there, as Lord Burleigh's nominee, by the powerful influence of the Queen. The difficulty of a penniless man obtaining a seat in the House of Commons is slurred over by all his orthodox biographers, who take it as a matter of course that he simply walked into Parliament. It cannot be done today and it certaintly could not be done in Elizabethan times. Men could not obtain such a distinction in those days without very powerful State influence. It is a distinguishable honour, and it would be difficult to explain ordinarily how he came to obtain it. It again indicates a connection between Francis and the Ruler of England. Without some strong motive it is impossible to see why the Queen or Burleigh should have taken more notice of Francis than any other youth. His great ability would not be a sufficient reason. He was undoubtedly the Government's nominee. More likely than not, Burleigh, knowing that he was restless, got him into public life to keep him actively employed, to save him from nursing a grievance because he was not openly recognized as a Tudor.

Double-Meaning Phrases : 
A "Natural And True-Bred Child"

 

Owing to plots having been discovered for the assassination of the Queen, the Parliament of 1585 took stern measures for her protection. "The Earl of Leicester formed an association of subjects of all degrees who bound themselves to defend the Queen from her enemies." Early in the year Francis wrote a long letter of caution to the Queen.

It begins on a curious note. It is an excellent specimen of the ART OF DOUBLE WRITING, i.e. writing with double meanings, an open meaning and a COVERT one.... an art which he practised all his life in order to convey interior meanings to careful readers. He begins his open letter with these words :

"Care, one of the Natural and True-Bred Children of Unfeigned Affection, awaked with these late wicked and barbarious attempts, would needs exercise my pen to your Sacred Majesty."

For a young man of twenty-five, newly elected to the House of Commons, an ordinary commoner unknown, an unfledged lawyer, to intrude a public letter of advice to the Queen over the heads of her responsible Ministers, would be classed today as a piece of impertinent presumption. It would have been equally so regarded three hundred years ago, and would have been publicly resented by his brother-members had there not been an uncertain feeling that this young man had; for some mysterious reason, the ear of Authority. It was felt that, in view of the strange circumstances of his election to Melcombe, he was in the nature of a "dark horse," no one knowing how far he would ride. He was an enigma whose secret no one had better probe in view of his highly placed friends in the Government. It was better to maintain silence. It is obvious that an ordinary commoner who would never have dreamed of writing such an epistle. Elizabeth had her own Officials who took proper precautions for her safety, and who certainly did not require their attention called to fears for her safety or the necessary steps that should have been taken. Yet the fact remains that Francis did write such a "Letter of Advice."

It is only understandable on the supposition that he felt he had a peculiar right to speak of the Queen's safety over and above anyone else, and also because he wanted to leave a subtle record that he writes not as a member of Parliament but as a Natural Son-- one of the Queen's Unacknowledged Sons. The unecessary sentence,which he slips in as an ellipsis, tells us the implied truth, that he, himself, is "ONE OF HER NATURAL AND TRUE-BLED CHILDREN."

The phrase slips by persons not aware of his Birth-Secret without arousing suspicion. It is said in such a way that the Queen and Lord Burleigh cannot cavil at it. The "wise" dare not say anything. The ignorant cannot. And to those who are now aware of Francis Bacon's literary style of the double entendre---so noticeable in Shakespeare--he seals the outstanding truth of the Era unequivocably in his first public utterance : He lets it be known that he knew who he really was, and that as a Tudor he had a special right to advise even the Queen's ministers, for he was legitimately the next of kin in the Succession and the Prince of Wales by virtue of his Tudor birth.

In view of this open yet covert declaration that he was a "Natural Child" of the Queen's , we can better understand the "SUIT", the Mysterious Suit, that crops up from time to time for some twelve years, from 1580 to 1592, when he abandons it with a gesture of despair.............

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