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NOTE ON HENTZNER'S ACCOUNT OF THE COURT AT GREENWICH.
PAUL HENTZNER, a man of learning and ability, accompanied a young German nobleman to England, upon a visit of curiosity, in 1598. The account of what he saw is written in Latin; and was translated by Horace Walpole. His description of the Queen and her state at Greenwich is amongst the most curious and authentic records which we possess of that time. It has been often quoted; but it will save the reader trouble if we here copy it :
"First went gentlemen, barons, earls, knights of the garter, all richly dressed and bareheaded ; next came the Chancellor, bearing the seals in a red silk purse, between two; one of which carried the royal sceptre, the other the sword of state, in a red scabbard, studded with golden fleur-de-lis, the point upwards: next came the Queen, in the sixty-fifth year of her age, we are told, very majestic ; her face oblong, fair but wrinkled; her eyes small, yet black and pleasant; her nose a little hooked, her lips narrow, and her teeth black (a defect the English seem subject to, from their too great use of sugar); she had in her ears two pearls, with very rich drops; she wore false hair, and that red; upon her head she had a small crown, reported to be made of some of the gold of the celebrated Lunebourg table: her bosom was uncovered, as all the English ladies have it, till they marry; and she had on a necklace of exceeding fine jewels; her hands were small, her fingers long, and her stature neither tall nor low; her air was stately, her manner of speaking mild and obliging. That day she was dressed in white silk, bordered with pearls of the size of beans, and over it a mantle of black silk, shot with silver threads; her train was very long, the end of it borne by a marchioness; instead of a chain she had an oblong collar of gold and jewels. As she went along in all this state and magnificence, she spoke very graciously, first to one, then to another, whether foreign ministers, or those who attended for different reasons, in English, French, and Italian; for, besides being well skilled in Greek, Latin, and the languages I have mentioned, she is mistress of Spanish, Scotch, and Dutch: whoever speaks to her, it is kneeling; now and then she raises some with her hand. While we were there, W. Slawata, a Bohemian baron, had letters to present to her; and she, after pulling off her glove, gave him her right hand to kiss, sparkling with rings and jewels—a mark of particular favour: wherever she turned her face, as she was going along, everybody fell down on their knees. The ladies of the court followed next to her, very handsome and well shaped, and for the most part dressed in white; she was guarded on each side by the gentlemen-pensioners, fifty in number, with gilt battle-axes. In the ante-chapel next the hall where we were, petitions were presented to her, and she received them most graciously, which occasioned the acclamation of 'Long live Queen Elizabeth!' She answered it with, I thank you, my good people.' In the chapel was excellent music; as soon as it and the service was over, which scarce exceeded half an hour, the Queen returned in the same state and order, and prepared to go to dinner. But while she was still at prayers, we saw her table set out with the following solemnity:
"A gentleman entered the room bearing a rod, and along with him another who had a table-cloth, which, after they had both kneeled three times with the utmost veneration, he spread upon the table, and, after kneeling again, they both retired. Then came two others, one with the rod again, the other with a salt-cellar, a plate, and bread; when they had kneeled, as the others had done, and placed what was brought upon the table, they too retired with the same ceremonies performed by the first. At last came an unmarried lady (we were told she was a countess), and along with her a married one, bearing a tasting-knife; the former was dressed in white silk, who, when she had prostrated herself three times in the inost graceful manner, approached the table, and rubbed the plates with bread and salt, with as much awe as if the Queen had been present: when they had waited there a little while, the yeomen of the guards entered, bareheaded, clothed in scarlet, with a golden rose upon their backs, bringing in at each turn a course of twenty-four dishes, served in plate, most of it gilt; these dishes were received by a gentleman in the same order they were brought, and placed upon the table, while the lady-taster gave to each of the guard a mouthful to eat of the particular dish he had brought, for fear of any poison. During the time that this guard, which consists of the tallest and stoutest men that can be found in all England, being carefully selected for this service, were bringing dinner, twelve trumpets and two kettle-drums made the hall ring for half an hour together. At the end of all this ceremonial a number of unmarried ladies appeared, who, with particular solemnity, lifted the meat off the table, and conveyed it into the Queen's inner and most private chamber, where, after she had chosen for herself, the rest goes to the ladies of the court."
In the spring of 1588, and through the summer also, we may well believe that Shakspere abided in London, whether or not he had his wife and children about him. The course of public events was such that he would scarcely have left the capital, even for a few weeks. For the hearts of all men in the vast city were mightily stirred; and whilst in that "shop of war" might be heard on every side the din of "anvils and hammers waking to fashion out the plates and instruments of armed justice,"* the poet had his own work to do, in urging forward the noble impulse through which the people, of whatever sect, or whatever party, willed that they would be free. It was the year of the ArWhen Shakspere first exchanged the quiet intercourse of his native
town for the fierce contests of opinion amongst the partisans of London-he must have had fears for his country. A conspiracy, the most daring and extensive, had burst out against the life of the Queen; and it was the more dangerous that the leaders of the plot were high-minded enthusiasts, who mingled with their traitorous designs the most chivalrous devotion to another Queen, a long-suffering prisoner. The horrible cruelties that attended the execution of Babington and his accomplices aggravated the pity which men felt that so much enthusiasm should have been lost to their country. More astounding events were to follow. In a year of dearth the citizens had banqueted, amidst bells and bonfires, in honour of the detection of Babington and his followers; and now, within three weeks of the feast of Christmas, the Lord Mayor and Aldermen, assisted with divers earls, barons, and gentlemen of account, and worshipful citizens "in coats of velvet and chains of gold, all on horseback, in most solemn and stately manner, by sound of four trumpets, about ten of the clock in the forenoon, made open and public proclamation and declaration of the sentence lately given by the nobility against the Queen of Scots under the great seal of England.”* At the Cross in Cheap, or at the end of Chancery Lane, or at St. Magnus Corner near London Bridge, would the young sojourner in this seat of policy hear the proclamation and he would hear also "the great and wonderful rejoicing of the people of all sorts, as manifestly appeared by ringing of bells, making of bonfires, and singing of psalms in every of the streets and lanes of the City."t But amidst this show of somewhat ferocious joy would he encounter gloomy and fear-stricken faces. Men would not dare even to whisper their opinions, but it would be manifest that the public heart was not wholly at ease. On the eighth of February the Queen of Scots is executed. Within a week after London pours forth its multitudes to witness a magnificent and a mournful pageant. The Queen has taken upon herself the cost of the public funeral of Sir Philip Sidney. She has done wisely in this. In honouring the memory of the most gallant and accomplished of her subjects, she diverts the popular mind from unquiet reflections to feelings in which all can sympathise. Even the humblest of the people, who know little of the poetical genius, the taste, the courtesy, the chivalrous bearing of this star of the Court of Elizabeth, know that a young and brave man has fallen in the service of his country. Some of his companions in arms have perhaps told the story of his giving the cup of water, about to be lifted to his own parched lips, to the dying soldier whose necessities were greater than his. And that story indeed would move their tears, far more than all the gallant recollections of the tilt-yard. From the Minorites at the eastern extremity of the City, to St. Paul's, there is a vast procession of authorities in solemn purple; but more impressive is the long column of "certain young men. of the City marching by three and three in black cassokins, with their short pikes, halberds, and ensign trailing on the ground." There are in that procession many of the "officers of his foot in the Low Countries," his "gentlemen and yeoman-servants," and twelve "knights of his kindred and friends." One
there is amongst them upon whom all eyes are gazing-Drake, the bold seaman who has carried the terror of the English flag through every sea, and in afew months will be "singeing the King of Spain's beard." The corpse of Sidney is borne by fourteen of his yeomen; and amongst the pall-bearers is one weeping manly tears, Fulke Greville, upon whose own tomb was written as the climax of his honour that he was "friend to Sir Philip Sidney." The uncle, of the dead hero is there also, the proud, ambitious, weak, and incapable Leicester, who has been kinging it as Governor-General of the Low Countries
without the courage to fight a battle, except that in which Sidney was sacrificed. He has been recalled; and is in some disfavour in the courtly circle, although he tried to redeem his disgraces in the Netherlands by boldly counselling the poisoning of the Queen of Scots. Shakspere looks upon the haughty peer, and shudders when he thinks of the murder of Edward Arden.*
Within a year of the burial of Sidney the popular temper had greatly changed. It had gone forth to all lands that England was to be invaded. Philip of Spain was preparing the greatest armament that the combined navies of Spain and Portugal, of Naples and Sicily, of Genoa and Venice, could bear across the seas, to crush the arch-heretic of England. Rome had blessed the enterprise. Prophecies had been heard in divers languages, that the year 1588 "should be most fatal and ominous unto all estates," and it was "now plainly discovered that England was the main subject of that time's operation."* Yet England did not quail." The whole commonalty," says the annalist, "became of one heart and mind." The Council of War demanded five thousand men and fifteen ships of the City of London. Two days were craved for answer; and the City replied that ten thousand men and thirty ships were at the service of their country. In every field around the capital were the citizens who had taken arms practising the usual points of war. The
+ It has been said, in contradiction to the good old historian of London, that the City only gave what the Council demanded; 10,000 men were certainly levied in the twenty-five wards.