CHAPTER XIX. ELIZABETH (iv), 1572-78 - VARIUM ET MUTABILE
On Spanish soil, however, Catholic zealotry was too strong. Alva would fain have made diplomatic concessions, which could be revoked when convenient; Philip was dominated by the extremists, who were scandalised by the presence of a heretic envoy, who in his turn was furious at being called a heretic. The proffered mediation was declined; Philip flatly refused to concede religious privileges to an Ambassador, suggesting only that the difficulty could be got over by sending a Catholic; as to the action of the Inquisition, he was pledged not to interfere.
[1576 Attitude of the Nation]
With this message Cobham returned, to find that the revolted States were on their part offering the sovereignty of the Provinces to Elizabeth. Walsingham and his allies were supporting the proposal, and under present conditions Burghley too inclined to it. Elizabeth, confident that Spain would not declare war, was ready to carry what we can only call bluff to the extreme limit, though she scolded her Council with energy. The Spaniards took the opportunity to render the Council most effective support, by seizing the crew of another English ship. Elizabeth sent warnings or threats to Requescens; and in February (1576), Parliament was summoned to vote supplies; which it did without hesitation. If the action of Parliament was any sort of index to popular sentiment, the idea that there was any widespread or deep-rooted feeling in the country against a war of religion is certainly fallacious; while there can be no question that the entire sea-going population - which had attracted into its ranks all that was most adventurous, most daring, most energetic, and most capable in the country - was heart and soul hostile to Spain. How much of that feeling was due to enthusiastic Protestantism, and how much to the fact that men hankered after the Spanish El Dorado may be matter of debate; but that the feeling was there is patent. That the attitude of Parliament was not due to any subserviency is emphasised by the open attack in this session on the granting of Monopolies to the Queen's favourites, which sent Wentworth who made it to the Star-Chamber - and found for him early and popular pardon instead of severe punishment.
[The Queen evades war]
Evidently, the force which did really operate against war was the Queen herself. From beginning to end of her reign, she never entered upon any war at all, so long as any possible means could be found for evading it without surrendering some right or claim vital in her eyes either to the nation's interests or her own. On such points she was never prepared to yield: in the last resort she would fight, but at the same time make the most of her reluctance, and relieve her feelings by roundly rating her ministers. Yet repeatedly she went as far as it was possible to go without actually declaring war, relying securely on the certainty that the irrevocable step would not be taken by the other party, and that she could find some plausible though perhaps undignified excuse for not taking it herself.
So it was now. So long as France could be deterred from espousing the cause of Orange, she saw no necessity for her own intervention. If the Inquisition maltreated some of her sailors, others might be relied on to effect reprisals and to collect compensation, on their own responsibility, without her actually applying the grievance as a casus belli: it could always be employed to that end, if occasion should arise. Requescens died suddenly, a few days before the prorogation of the English Parliament in March. Elizabeth dismissed the States' envoys, refused all assistance, and threatened open hostility if they appealed to France. The Spanish arms were prospering again, and as the summer advanced, Orange was reduced to such straits that he seriously contemplated a wholesale emigration to the New World, from the two States which remained stubborn, Holland and Zeeland.
[1575-76 The Huguenots and Alençon]
The involved state of French parties probably accounts for Elizabeth's action. Since the death of Charles IX., the middle party or Politiques had been revived, and with this, for some time, both Henry of Navarre and Alençon - now heir presumptive to the French throne - were associated. In the autumn of 1575 however Alençon betook himself to the Huguenots at Dreux. Being thus openly supported by the heir presumptive, the Huguenot position was considerably strengthened. Once more the English Queen resolved to employ matrimonial negotiations, as a means for keeping others inactive and evading action herself. The idea that she should marry Alençon was revived, and found favour at least with the Politiques. The French King approved. In May 1576, a peace was patched up which promised to give neither party undue ascendancy. The great danger of the winter months - that Alençon and the Huguenots would make common cause with the Netherlanders - had passed; and Elizabeth thought she could now afford to decline both the marriage and the entreaties of the revolted States.
[1576 The States and Don John]