CHAPTER XXVI. ELIZABETH (xi), 1598-1603-THE QUEEN'S LAST YEARS
By this time, it was perfectly obvious that the Infanta could not be forced upon England, though it was supposed that the Moderates would have favoured her candidature provided she brought Flanders with her: whereas the negotiations controlled by Cecil were not tending to bring about any such result. As 1602 drew to a close, the ablest man in Spain, Olivares, was emphasising the necessity for giving the English Catholics as a body a free hand to nominate an English candidate instead of an alien. It is probable, though it cannot be called certain, that there was a plot to unite the claims of Arabella and Lord Beauchamp by marrying them, with an implication that both were prepared in due time to declare themselves Catholics. Meantime the Moderates were awaiting direction from Cecil; who ostensibly was himself waiting on a hint from the Queen, but was privily keeping the way clear for James, while seeking to implicate Raleigh and others in language and actions which might at any rate be interpreted as hostile to him. In this secret intriguing, Cecil's great ally was Lord Henry Howard, a brother of the last Duke of Norfolk; and he had with him the Careys of the Hunsdon family. Of the Moderates in general it can only be said that, while there was no candidate in whose favour they could combine with any warmth, James was rather more obnoxious to them than others. Yet they did not combine against him, while if any of them sought to ingratiate themselves with him Cecil was particularly careful to sow distrust of them in the Scots King's mind, unless they happened to be partisans of his own or at any rate probable allies. When Arabella tried to escape from what was practically the custody of her grandmother the Dowager Countess of Shrewsbury, the famous "Bess of Hardwick," the attempt was nipped in the bud: and the Catholics were still without any declared candidate when the lonely old Queen was seized in March with her last mortal illness.
[1603 Death of the Queen]
As Elizabeth lay on her death-bed, her entourage consisted almost exclusively of Cecil and his friends, among whom is to be numbered the old Lord Admiral, though he was innocent of the intrigues going on. The ships in the Thames, the troops in the North, were commanded by members of the same group; almost before the breath was out of her body Robert Carey was galloping North to hail James I. King of England: and the world was told that Elizabeth's last conscious act was to ratify by a sign the succession of her old-time rival's son. In her seventieth year, in the early hours of March 24th, 1603, ended the long and glorious reign of the Virgin Queen.