[Features of the Reign]

The reign of Elizabeth may be said to have been distinguished primarily by three leading features. The first is the development and establishment of England as the greatest maritime power in the world, a process which has been traced with some fulness. The second is that sudden and amazing outburst of literary genius in the latter half, and mainly in the last quarter, of the reign, for which there is no historical parallel except in Athens, unless once again we find it in England two centuries later: whereof the last few pages have treated. The third is the Ecclesiastical settlement, on which it has hitherto been possible only to touch. This, with certain other aspects of the reign, remain for discussion in this concluding chapter.

[State and Church]

In this settlement, the primary fundamental fact, politically speaking - for theological problems do not fall within our range - is the recognition by the State of the Church as an aspect of the body politic, and of her organisation as a branch of the body politic, subject to the control of the Sovereign and maintained by the sanction of the Sovereign's supremacy; precluding the interference of any external authority, and overriding any claims to independent authority on the part of the organisation itself; requiring from all members of the body politic conformity, under penalties, to the institutions thus regulated, and rejection of any authority running counter thereto. The secondary fact is that the State thus sanctioned such institutions as, under a reasonable liberty of interpretation, might be accepted without a severe strain of conscience by persons holding opinions of considerable diversity; so that conformity should be possible to the great bulk of the nation, including many who might not in theory admit the right of the State to a voice in the matter at all.

The politicians, that is, deliberately chose a via media. Theologically, the dividing line lay between those who desired the Mass and reunion with Rome, and those who rejected the Mass and derived their dogmas from Geneva. Under Mary, the Government had thrown itself on the side of the former; under Edward, mainly on that of the latter. Elizabeth's Government would have neither. It would not admit the papal claim to override the secular authority, or the equally dictatorial claims of the Genevan ministry as exemplified by John Knox; the first necessity for it was to assert secular supremacy, the second to make its definitions of dogma sufficiently ambiguous to be reconcilable with the dogmatic scruples of the majority of both parties; with the result however of shutting out both determined Romanists and determined Calvinists, while the Church thus regulated contained two parties, one with conservative, the other with advanced, ideals.

The outward note of Conservative churchmen was insistence on ceremonial observances, as that of the advanced men was dislike of them. But as the reign advanced, another feature acquires prominence - the protest of the Puritans against the Episcopalian system of Church Government, with the correspondingly increased emphasis laid on the vital necessity of that system by the Conservatives.

[The State and the Catholics]

The Queen's personal predilections were at all times on the Conservative side; those of her principal advisers always leaned towards the Puritans - at the first Cecil, Bacon, and Elizabeth's own kinsmen, Knollys and Hunsdon; then Walsingham, drawing Leicester with him. But in the early years of her rule, when it was imperative to minimise all possible causes of discontent, the admission of the largest possible latitude in practice was required, even if it was accompanied by legislation which gave authority for restrictive action. It followed however from the political conditions that direct hostility to the Queen was to be feared only from the Catholics - the whole body of those who would have liked to see the old religion restored in its entirety. This was emphasized by the Papal Bull excommunicating Elizabeth in 1570 - a political blunder on the part of the Pope which greatly annoyed and embarrassed Philip at the time. The result, joined with the Northern Rising, the Ridolfi plot, and the indignation aroused by the day of St. Bartholomew, was to strengthen the hands of the Puritans and to give open Catholicism the character of a political offence; and to this an enormously increased force was added in 1581 by the Jesuit mission. During these years, parliaments were all unfailingly and increasingly Puritan, and Puritanism was steadily making way all over the country, not without the favour of the leading divines. Elizabeth herself viewed this tendency with extreme dislike, mercilessly snubbing bishops and others who seemed to betray inclinations in this direction - Grindal in particular, Parker's successor at Canterbury, suffered from her displeasure; but she could not suppress it. She might - and did - say a good deal; but she could not in act go nearly as far as she would have wished, in opposition to subjects whose political loyalty was indisputable, as well as extremely necessary to her security.

[The Church and the Puritans]

So long as the advanced movement concerned itself chiefly with the "Vestiarian Controversy" and matters of ceremonial observance, it did not assume primary importance in the eyes of politicians. But by the middle of the reign the question of the form of Church Government had come to the front, and the demand to substitute the Presbyterian system for the Episcopalian was being put forward by Cartwright and his followers and had even produced a Presbyterian organisation within the Church. Moreover the school commonly called Brownists, who developed into the sect of Independents, were propounding the theory that the Church consisted not of the whole nation but only of the Elect. Puritanism was therefore threatening to become directly subversive of the established order. Then came the mission of Parsons and Campian. The effect of this in regard to Catholics was twofold. It necessitated an increased severity in dealing with any one who recognised papal authority: and made it more imperative than ever to induce Catholics to be reconciled with the State Church, by emphasizing the Catholic side of her institutions, and consequently by checking Puritan developments. On the other side, it was so obviously impossible for the Puritans to withdraw their loyalty from Elizabeth that to conciliate them was superfluous; they were adopting an attitude antagonistic to the approved constitution of the Church; and there was a suggestion of rigid even-handed justice in waging war upon their propaganda at the same time as on that of Rome. Whitgift, succeeding Grindal at Canterbury in 1583, opened the campaign against Puritanism - not indeed with the favour either of parliament or of the leading statesmen, whose personal sympathies were with the advanced party, but manifestly with encouragement from the Queen.

[Archbishop Whitgift]

Whitgift's own attitude was that of the Disciplinarian rather than of the theologian. The method of operation was by the issue of Fifteen Articles to which all the clergy were required to subscribe: the sanction thereof being the authority of the Court of High Commission. Under the Act of Supremacy of 1559, the appointment of a Commission to enforce obedience to the law in matters ecclesiastical had been authorised. This Court was fully constituted in December 1583, and proceeded by methods which Burghley himself held to be too inquisitorial. A good deal of indignation was aroused, and the Puritans were in effect made more aggressive, their attacks on the existing system culminating in 1589 in the distinctly scurrilous "Martin Mar-prelate" tracts, which were so violent as to produce a marked reaction. This on the one side, coupled with the partly genuine and partly mythical plots of the ultra-Catholics on the other, brought about sharp legislation in 1593, resulting in an increased persecution of the Catholics after that time, and in the compulsory withdrawal of the extreme nonconformists to the more sympathetic atmosphere of the Netherlands. At the same time the "High" theory of the Church's authority was formulated by Bancroft (afterwards Archbishop), and what may be called the Constitutional theory of Church Government was propounded in the Ecclesiastical Polity of Hooker. All of this was the prologue to the great controversy which was to acquire such prominence under the Stuarts.

[The Persecutions]

In writing of the persecutions under Elizabeth alike of Catholics and of Puritans, it is not uncommon to imply that the political argument in their defence was a mere pretext with a theological motive. As a matter of fact however, the distinction between Elizabeth's and Mary's persecutions is a real one. Broadly speaking, it is now the universally received view that no man ought to be penalised on the score of opinions conscientiously held, however erroneous they may be; but that if those opinions find expression in anti-social acts, the acts must be punished. Punishment of opinions is rightly branded as persecution. Now although in effect not a few persons, Puritans or Catholics, were put to death by Elizabeth, and many more imprisoned or fined - as they would have said themselves, for Conscience' sake - this was the distinction specifically recognised by her; which, without justifying her persecutions, differentiates them from those of her predecessors. Henry and Mary frankly and avowedly burnt victims for holding wrong opinions - for Heresy. Anabaptism no doubt was accounted a social as well as a theological crime; but no one ever dreamed of regarding Ann Ascue or Frith as politically dangerous. Mary kindled the fires of Smithfield for the salvation of souls, not for the safety of her throne. Whereas the foundation of Elizabeth's persecutions was that opinions as such were of no consequence: but that people who would not conform their conduct to her regulations must either be potential traitors politically or anarchists socially. Her proceedings are brought into the category of persecutions, because she treated potential anarchism or treason as implying overt anarchism or treason, though unless and until she discovered such implication in a given opinion, any one was at liberty to hold it or not as he chose; its truth or falsity was a matter of entire indifference. To punish the implied intention of committing a wrong act is sufficiently dangerous in principle; but it is to be distinguished from punishment for holding an opinion because it is accounted a false one.

Finally, while we must condemn her persecution both of Puritans and of Catholics alike, it is only fair, in comparing her with her predecessor, to remember that, in the five and forty years of her reign, the whole number of persons who suffered death as Catholics or as Anabaptists was considerably less than the number of the Martyrs in four years of Mary's rule.

[Economic progress]

By adopting Cecil's ecclesiastical policy of the via media, Elizabeth saved England from the internecine religious strife which almost throughout her reign made the political action of France so inefficient. The constant wars of the Huguenots with the Leaguers or their predecessors had their counterpart for Philip also, whose struggle with the Netherlanders was to a great extent in the nature of a civil war. Fully realising how seriously both France and Spain were hampered by these complications, she was able to conduct her diplomatic manoeuvres with an audacity quite as remarkable as her duplicity, gauging to a nicety the carrying capacity of the very thin ice over which she was constantly skating. Thus while both those Powers were perpetually exhausting their resources and draining their exchequers with costly wars, England, free from any similar strain, was rapidly growing in wealth; and while the national expenditure was kept comparatively low, manufactures were multiplied, and the commerce which was driven by the stress of war from the great trade-centres of the Netherlands was being absorbed by English ports. Moreover that forcible trading indulged in by John Hawkins in the earlier ventures of the reign - giving place, as time went on to the process of systematic preying upon Spanish treasure - provided very substantial dividends for the Queen, as well as filling the pockets of her loyal subjects. Thus again she was able to avoid making perpetual demands on her parliaments, and when demands were made the parliaments could usually meet them in a generous and ungrudging spirit.

[The currency; Retrenchment]

Nevertheless, no little financial skill and courage were required to restore the public credit which had fallen to such disastrous depths in the two preceding reigns; and this was done to a large extent by a policy of determined financial honesty. The miserable system of debasing the coinage was brought to an end; the current coins were called in and paid for at not much under their actual value in silver, and the new coins issued were of their face value. Debts contracted by Government were punctually paid, and as an immediate consequence the Government soon found itself able to borrow at reasonable instead of ruinous rates of interest. Private prosperity and public confidence advanced so swiftly that before Elizabeth had been a dozen years on the throne substantial loans could be raised at home without applying to foreign sources. Elizabeth never spent a penny of public money without good reason; sometimes - as in Ireland habitually, and to some degree at the time of the Armada though not so seriously as is commonly reputed - her parsimony amounted to false economy; often it took on a pettifogging character in her dealings with the Dutch, with the Huguenots, and with the Scots, though in the last case at least it must be admitted that either party was equally ready to overreach the other if the chance offered. But for very many years a very close economy was absolutely essential if debts were to be paid. That economy was facilitated by the lavish expenditure of prominent men on public objects; due partly to a desire for display, partly - at least in the case of the buccaneering enterprises - to bold speculation in the hope of large profits, but partly also beyond question to a very live public spirit. Yet when every allowance has been made for the assistance from such sources, it remains clear that Elizabeth's resources were husbanded with great skill, and her government carried on with a surprisingly small expenditure; that expenditure being on the whole very judiciously directed - so that, for instance, the royal navy, at least throughout the latter half of the reign, was maintained in a very creditable state of efficiency; though the number of the ships was not large, and the organisation proved inadequate, when the crisis came, to meet all the demands of the seamen.

[Wealth and Poverty]

The general prosperity however was not due to any notable advance in official Economics. What it owed to the Government was the immense improvement in public credit brought about by the restored coinage, and the punctual repayment of loans and settlement of debts, coupled with confidence in a steady rule and freedom from costly wars. Trade did indeed greatly benefit by the enlightened action of the State in encouraging the settlement in England of craftsmen from the Netherlands, with the consequent development of the industries they practised and taught. But the vital fact of the enormously increased wealth of the country must be attributed to the energy and initiative of the merchants and the adventurers in taking advantage of the new fields opened to them, of the displacement of trade by the wars on the Continent, and of the exposure of foreign, especially but not exclusively Spanish, shipping to depredation.

How far this increased wealth benefited the labouring classes is a moot question. It would seem on the whole that the process of converting arable land into pasture which had been going on all through the century was already becoming less active even in the first years of the reign, and had reached its limit some while before the Armada. As the displacement of labour diminished, fixity and regularity of employment increased, while the labour already displaced was gradually absorbed by the rapid growth of manufactures. This may perhaps in some degree explain the almost unaccountably sudden cessation of laments over agricultural depression. Still, the effective wage earned tended to drop: that is, although wages rose when measured in terms of the currency, that rise did not keep pace with the advance in prices, the influx of silver into Europe diminishing its purchasing power. Hence the old problem of dealing with poverty in its two forms - honest inability to work and dishonest avoidance of work - remained acute. There was always a humane desire that the deserving poor should be assisted, and an equally strong sentiment in favour of punishing rogues and vagabonds - persons who declined to dig but were not ashamed to beg; with perhaps an excessive inclination to assume that wherever there was a doubt the delinquent should not have the benefit of it. The savagery however of the earlier Tudor laws against vagabonds was mitigated, and honest efforts were made to find a substitute for the old relief of genuine poverty by the Monasteries. This took in the first place the form of enactments for the local collection of voluntary contributions to relief-funds; and culminated in the Acts of the last five years of the reign, substituting compulsory for voluntary contribution, and establishing that Poor-law system which remained substantially unchanged until its reformation in the nineteenth century.

[Trade Restrictions and Development]

The idea that Governments do well not to interfere with the natural unaided operation of economic laws had not yet come into being; and attempts, mainly futile, to control wages and to force labour into particular channels, continued. In one direction however the artificial encouragement of one industry may have had a beneficial effect. Navigation laws tended, per se, to check general commerce; but they gave a stimulus to the English marine at a time when its rapid development was of the utmost national importance; not directly increasing the interchange of commodities as a whole, but encouraging the English carrying-trade, and advancing the growth of the sea-power which made a more extended commerce possible; and thus indirectly counterbalancing the direct ill effects. It is possible even to find some defence for one aspect of Monopolies. The granting of a monopoly of trade in particular regions - Russia, Guinea, the Levant, the East Indies - to Companies of merchants, had a definite justification. Individual private competitors could not conduct the trade on a large scale; large corporations, secured against rivals, could face the risks and the heavy expenditure requisite to success, and could be granted a liberty of action, being left to their own responsibilities, which was impracticable for the private trader. Amongst these, very much the most notable is the great East India Company which was incorporated on the last day of December 1600. Here, its birth only is to be chronicled; its history belongs to the ensuing centuries. But the bestowal on individuals of the monopoly of trade in particular articles by the Royal privilege was manifestly bad in itself; it became so serious an abuse that a determined parliamentary attack was made on the system in 1597; and even then Elizabeth found it necessary to promise enquiry. Nothing practical however was done, and the parliament of 1601 returned to the charge with such obvious justification that the Queen very promptly and graciously promised to abolish the grievance, and thanked the Commons for directing her attention to the matter.


We have already in a previous chapter followed in the wake of adventurous voyagers and explorers prior to the Armada, and recorded the first disastrous experimental efforts towards colonisation; but, in dealing specifically with the seamen, we passed by overland explorations such as those of Jenkinson, who during the first decade of Elizabeth's reign journeyed through Russia, and into Asia over the Caspian sea. More momentous still in its results was the Eastern expedition of Newbery and Fitch; who starting in 1583 went through Syria to Ormuz, and were thence conveyed to Goa, the Portuguese head-quarters on the West coast of India. Fitch remained longer than his chief, visiting Golconda, Agra (the seat of the Great Mogul Akbar), Bengal, Pegu, Malacca, and Ceylon, and bringing home in 1591 stories of India and its wealth, which were in no small degree responsible for the formation, in 1599, of the Association which was next year incorporated as the East India Company.

[Maritime expansion]

After the Armada, the sea-faring spirit was naturally even intensified. To a great extent however it was absorbed in privateering - which combined with its attractions in the way of mere adventure the advantages of being profitable, patriotic, and pious. In connexion with the direct scheme of colonial settlements, we have only Raleigh's two unsuccessful relief expeditions to Virginia conducted by White and Mace, and the attempt, also unsuccessful, to start a colony in what afterwards became New England, under Bartholomew Gosnold in 1602. More striking, but belonging to a somewhat different category, was Raleigh's own voyage to the Orinoco, in search of Eldorado and the golden city of Manoa; disappointing in its results, but ably conducted and from the point of view of explorers, as such, by no means unfruitful. Equally noteworthy are the two great voyages of James Lancaster, who was the first English captain to reach the Indian seas by the Cape route (1592), and in 1601 sailed thither again in command of the first fleet of the new Association of East India Merchants, and opened up for his countrymen the trade with the Spice Islands. But except for this second voyage of Lancaster's, a very real and definite achievement in the history of commercial expansion, the voyages of the day, full of brilliant exploits in the annals of seamanship and of adventure, and collectively marking an epoch in England's oceanic development, were not individually notable for specific results.

[The Constitution]

Constitutional theory does not appear to have differed in the reigns of Henry VIII. and his great daughter. The monarch's will was supreme; but the people could give expression to its will through Parliament when in session. The practical rule, however, which prevented any collision between the two forces, was that both monarchs kept a careful finger on the pulse of the nation. Like her father, Elizabeth never allowed herself to set a strong popular feeling at defiance. She desired that her people should be prosperous and free, though she objected to their interference in the conduct of political affairs; she desired that within the realm of England order should be maintained and the law strictly administered. If practices inconsistent with the liberty of the subject prevailed, they were applied only to persons who were assumed by herself, her ministers, and the bulk of their fellow-subjects, to have placed themselves outside the pale. The ministers who carried out her will avoided the arbitrary methods of Wolsey and Cromwell, whose master had preserved his own popularity by making scape-goats of them when their unpopularity ran too high, squaring his account with the People at their expense. Elizabeth never found it necessary to square her account with the People, whose hearts vibrated in sympathy with her essential loyalty to them. Few of them probably shared her views on the sanctity of crowned heads as such, which amounted almost to a superstition; but the country was pervaded with a passionate loyalty to the person of its Queen. On the other side, the record of her Parliaments shows that freedom of speech was making way, though she would not formally admit the principle: while the Parliaments cared much less about its formal admission than its practical prevalence. She snubbed the persistent Puritans for their obstinate oratory on the ecclesiastical and matrimonial questions, but they managed to have their say (which she ostensibly ignored), without suffering more than sharp reprimands and occasional detention in ward; and that contented them. Like Henry, she recognised that the one thing Parliaments would not endure was taxation without their own consent. On one occasion when she found she could do without a grant she had asked for and obtained, she remitted it; the harmony of mutual confidence ensured the readier co-operation.

Parliament under Elizabeth gave not infrequent proof that it was tenacious of what it held to be its privileges: as the Queen showed that she was tenacious of what she considered her prerogatives. But each, without abating their right, or prejudicing their theoretical claim, was willing to make practical concession to the other in action. It was only in the closing years of the reign that abstract Theories of the State began to be formulated - a process which became exceedingly active in the next century, when kings and parliaments began to take diametrically conflicting views of political exigencies. Under Elizabeth, all such discussions were purely academic; under the Stuarts, they became actively practical. For the Stuarts, unlike Elizabeth, recklessly challenged popular opposition precisely on the points as to which popular opinion was most sensitive. Harmony gave way to discord, co-operation to antagonism; collision and disaster followed - "red ruin and the breaking up of laws".

[The Elizabethans]

The popular judgment which has glorified the reign of Elizabeth as perhaps the most splendid period in the annals of England can be endorsed, without ignoring the defects in the character of the Queen, her Ministers, her Courtiers, or her People. A new day had dawned upon the world; new possibilities, vast and undefined, were presenting themselves; new thoughts were possessing the minds of men; new blood was throbbing in their veins. The English race was awaking to a sense of its powers, grasping with a splendid audacity at the mighty heritage whose full import was yet unrealised. The Elizabethans were, as a nation, triumphing in the first glow of exuberant and healthy youth: with the faults of youth as well as its virtues. Sheer delight in the exercise of physical energies, in perilous adventure for its own sake irrespective of ulterior ends, in the keen encounter of wit, in the bold fabric-building of imagination, characterised the Elizabethan as they characterised the Marathonomachoi two thousand years before; as the Athens of Salamis was the mother of Aeschylus and Sophocles, so the England of the Armada was the mother of Marlowe and Shakespeare and Spenser.


The typical Elizabethan, the man who presents in his own person the most marked characteristics that belong to his time, is Sir Walter Raleigh. His was the large imagination which conceived a new and expanding England beyond the seas; the broad grasp of ideas which made him a leading exponent of the theory of the Oceanic policy and the new naval methods; the ready practicality which made him, after Drake's day, perhaps the ablest of Elizabeth's captains; the versatility and culture, which place him securely in the second flight of the writers of the time; the breadth of intellectual outlook which caused his enemies to call him an atheist, coupled with an actual sincerity of belief; boundless energy, daring, ambition. His too were the fiery temper and the contemptuous arrogance which made him at one time the best-hated man in England outside a narrow circle of devoted admirers; while for all his pride he could match Hatton himself in preposterous adulation of the Queen. He could be as chivalrous as Sidney, and as merciless as an Inquisitor: he could be gorgeously extravagant, or the veriest Spartan, as circumstances demanded. He was in brief the epitome of Elizabeth's England: a figure assuredly very far from godlike but no less assuredly heroic.

It may be doubted if ever the joie de vivre was so generally prevalent in England as in those spacious days. Such a national mood is in danger of being followed by a lapse into an effeminate hedonism, from which England as a whole was saved by the antagonistic development of the essentially masculine if crude puritanism, whose vital spirit had already begun to take possession of a large proportion of the population without as yet evicting paganism. Under this at present secondary impulse, attributable very largely to the new familiarity with the Old Testament engendered by the translation of the Bible, men quickly learnt to look upon themselves as the chosen people of the Lord of Sabaoth who gave them the victory over their enemies, and to whom with entire sincerity they gave the glory; while they found a satisfying warrant in the Scriptures for spoiling the Egyptians and smiting the Amalekites, symbolising specifically the Spaniards and the Irish. The particular aspect of Puritanism which belongs to rigid Calvinism, in all its grim austerity, was confined so far to a very limited section: for the majority an extensive biblical vocabulary was consistent with a thorough appreciation of virile carnal enjoyments: the dourness of John Knox hardly infected the neighbouring country. For the most part, even the intolerance of the age was not that born of religious fanaticism, but was the normal outcome of a full-blooded self-confidence. The Elizabethans are apt to startle us by a display of apparently callous cruelty at one moment, and an almost reckless generosity at the next. They slaughtered the garrison of Smerwick in cold blood, and treated the vanquished at Cadiz with a chivalrous consideration which amazed its recipients. They kidnapped the sons of Ham from Africa for lucre; with the "Indians" of South and Central America they were always on excellent terms, and the Californians proffered divine honours to Francis Drake. These are paradoxes precisely similar in kind to those which so often puzzle amiable and mature observers of the British schoolboy to-day. Broadly, they were governed by instincts and impulses rather than by reasoned ethical theory, instincts occasionally barbaric but for the most part frank and generous; and they were sturdily loyal to the somewhat primitive code of right and wrong which was the outcome.

[Sidenote 1: The Queen's Ministers] [Sidenote 2: The Queen]

These qualities, joined with an indomitable audacity and an eminently practical shrewdness, were characteristic of the men who were the hand and heart of England. Other qualities were needed for the brains which had to direct her policy; the patient common sense of Burghley, the keen penetration of Walsingham, the solid shrewdness of Nicholas Bacon, vir pietate gravis. The craftiness of the younger Cecil, the time-serving of Francis Bacon, mark a lower type of politician; not rare perhaps in Elizabeth's time, but not generally characteristic among her servants. To draw full value, however, from the capacities of those statesmen, a monarch of exceptional ability was needed. It was the peculiar note of Elizabeth's dealings with her ministers that having once realised their essential merits, she never withdrew her confidence. She flouted, insulted and browbeat them when their advice ran counter to her caprices; but no man suffered in the long run for standing up to her, however she might be irritated. Nor can we attribute this to such a loyalty of disposition on her part as marked her rival Mary alone among Stuarts: to whom such baseness as she displayed in her treatment of Davison would have been impossible. Elizabeth had no sort of compunction in making scape-goats of such men as he. But she knew the men who could not be replaced, a faculty rare in princes; she would never have deserted a Strafford as did Mary's grandson. She drove Burghley and Walsingham almost to despair by her caprices; but if she overrode their judgment, it was not to displace them for other advisers more congenial to her mood, but to take affairs into her own hands, and manipulate them with a cool defiance of apparent probabilities, a duplicity so audacious that it passed for a kind of sincerity, which gave her successes the appearance of being due to an almost supernatural good luck. Histrionics were her stock-in-trade: she was eternally playing a part, and playing it with such zest that she habitually cheated her neighbours, and occasionally, for the time being, even herself, into forgetting that her role was merely assumed for ulterior purposes. When a crisis was reached where there was no further use for play-acting, she was again the shrewd practical ruler who had merely been masked as the comedienne. Other queens have been great by the display of intellectual qualities commonly accounted masculine, or of virtues recognised as the special glories of their own sex; Elizabeth had the peculiar ingenuity deliberately to employ feminine weakness, incomprehensibility, and caprice, as the most bafflingly effective weapons in her armoury.

A noble woman she was not. The miracle of virtues and charms depicted by courtiers and poets existed, if she did exist at all, entirely in their exuberant imaginations. She could be indecently coarse and intolerably mean; she could lie with unblushing effrontery; her vanity was inordinate. But voracious as she was of flattery it never misled her; she could appreciate in others the virtues she herself lacked; behind the screen of capriciousness, an intellect was ever at work as cool and calculating as her grandfather's, as hard and resolute as her father's. To understand her People was her first aim, to make them great was her ultimate ambition. And she achieved both.