« ZurückWeiter »
was forced to beg the secretary's good offices for mitigating the royal anger in the event of Sir Henry's refusal. Of the peerage we hear no more; and it is probable that Elizabeth took the refusal kindly. She had paid the late Deputy for his long service and heavy losses by a compliment, his non-acceptation of which left her with a seat in the House of Lords at her disposal.
After leaving Oxford, Philip passed some months at Ludlow with his father, who continued to be President of Wales. In the spring of 1572 the project of a French match was taken up at Court. Mr. Francis Walsingham, the resident ambassador at Paris, had already opened negotiations on the subject in the previous autumn; and the execution of the Duke of Norfolk for treasonable practice with Mary, Queen of Scots, now rendered Elizabeth's marriage more than ever politically advisable. It was to be regretted that the queen should meditate union with the Duke of Alençon. He was the youngest member of the worthless family of Valois, a Papist, and a man green in years enough to be her son. Yet at this epoch it seemed not wholly impossible that France might still side with the Protestant Powers. Catherine de' Medici, the queenmother, had favoured the Huguenot party for some years; and Charles IX. was scheming the marriage of his sister Margaret with Henry of Navarre. The interests, moreover, of the French Crown were decidedly opposed to those of Spain. The Earl of Lincoln was, therefore, nominated. Ambassador Extraordinary to sound the matter of his queen's contract with a prince of the French blood-royal. Sir Henry Sidney seized this opportunity for sending Philip on the grand tour; and Elizabeth granted licence to "her trusty and well-beloved Philip Sidney, Esq., to go out of England into parts beyond the sea, with three serv
ants and four horses, etc., to remain the space of two years immediately following his departure out of the realm, for the attaining the knowledge of foreign languages." On the 26th of May the expedition left London, Philip carrying a letter from his uncle Leicester to Francis Walsingham. This excellent man, who was destined after some years to become his father-in-law, counted among the best and wisest of English statesmen. He was a man of Sir Henry Sidney's, rather than of Leicester's, stamp; and it is recorded of him, to his honour, that, after a life spent in public service, he died so poor that his funeral had to be conducted at night.
When Lincoln returned to England with advice in favour of Alençon's suit, Philip stayed at Paris. The summer of 1572 was an eventful one in French history. Charles IX. had betrothed his sister, Margaret of Valois, to Henry of Navarre; and the Capital welcomed Catholic and Huguenot nobles, the flower of both parties which divided France, on terms of external courtesy and seeming friendship. Fulke Greville tells us that the king of Navarre was so struck with Philip's excellent disposition that he admitted him to intimacy. At the same time Charles IX., who had been installed Knight of the Garter on the same day as Philip's father, appointed him Gentleman in Ordinary of his bedchamber. The patent runs as follows: "That considering how great the house of Sidenay was in England, and the rank it had always held near the persons of the kings and queens, their sovereigns, and desiring well and favourably to treat the young Sir Philip Sidenay for the good and commendable knowledge in him, he had retained and received him," etc. On the 9th of August "Baron Sidenay," as he is also described in this document, took the oaths and entered on his new office. His position at the French
Court made him to some extent an actor in the ceremonial of Henry's wedding, which took place upon the 18th of August. It will be remembered that Margaret of Navarre had previously been pledged to the Duke of Guise, the ambitious leader of the League, the sworn enemy to Reform, and the almost openly avowed aspirant after the French Crown. Before the altar she refused to speak or bend her head, when asked if she accepted Henry for her husband; and her brother had to take her by the neck and force her into an attitude of assent. Already, then, upon the nuptial morning, ominous clouds began to gather over the political horizon. When the Duke of Guise marched his armed bands into Paris, the situation grew hazardous for the Huguenots. Then followed the attack upon Coligny's life, which exploded like the first cannon shot that preludes a general engagement. Yet the vain rejoicings in celebration of that ill-omened marriage continued for some days; until, when all was ready, on the 24th of August, Paris swam with the blood of the Huguenots. Anarchy and murder spread from the Capital to the provinces; and during the seven days and more which followed, it is not known how many thousands of Protestants perished. In Rome Te Deums were sung, and commemorative medals struck. In England the Court went into mourning. The French ambassador, when ordered by his master to explain the reasons of the Massacre of St. Bartholomew to Elizabeth, excused himself from the performance of this duty. His words deserve to be recorded: "I should make myself an accomplice in that terrible business were I to attempt to palliate." The same man has also left a vivid account of his reception at Woodstock when the news arrived. "A gloomy sorrow sat on every face. Silence, as in the dead of night, reigned through all the chambers of the royal
apartments. The ladies and courtiers were ranged on each side, all clad in deep mourning; and as I passed them, not one bestowed on me a civil look or made the least return of my salutes."
Philip had taken refuge at the English embassy, and to this circumstance he possibly owed his life. The horrors of St. Bartholomew must, however, have made a terrible impression on his mind; for there was no street in Paris which did not resound with the shrieks of the assassinated, the curses of their butchers, and the sharp ring of musketry. He knew that the king, intoxicated with a sudden blood-thirst, had levelled his harquebus from that window in the Louvre; he knew that the Duke of Guise had trampled with his heel upon Coligny's naked corpse. It cannot be doubted that the bold and firm opposition which Philip subsequently offered to Elizabeth's French schemes. of marriage had its root in the awful experience of those days of carnage.
Early in September Lords Leicester and Burleigh despatched a formal letter from the Privy Council to Francis Walsingham, requesting him to provide for the safety of young Lord Wharton and Master Philip Sidney by procuring passports in due form, and sending them immediately back to England. It seems, however, that Sir Henry Sidney did not think a return to England necessary in his son's case. Philip left Paris, passed through Lorraine, visited Strasburg, stopped at Heidelberg, and came thence to Frankfort.
It would be interesting to know what social and political impressions the young man, now in his eighteenth year, carried away with him from Paris. Had he learned the essential baseness and phlegmatic wickedness of the Florentine queen-mother? Had he discerned that the king,
crazy, misled, and delirious in his freaks and impulses, was yet the truest man of all his miserable breed? Had he taken a right measure of the Duke of Anjou-ghastly, womanish, the phantom of a tyrant; oscillating between Neronian debauchery and hysterical relapses into pietism? And the Duke of Alençon, Elizabeth's frog-faced suitor, had he perceived in him the would-be murderer of his brother, the poisonous traitor, whose innate malignancy justified his sister Margaret in saying that, if fraud and cruelty were banished from the world, he alone would suffice to repeople it with devils? Probably not; for the backward eye of the historian is more penetrative into the realities of character than the broad, clear gaze of a hopeful gentleman upon his travels. We sound the depths revealed to us by centuries of laborious investigation. He only beheld the brilliant, the dramatic, the bewilderingly fantastic outside of French society, as this was displayed in nuptial pomps and tournaments and massacres before him. Yet he observed enough to make him a firmer patriot, a more determined Protestant, and an abhorrer of Italianated Courts. At Frankfort he found a friend, who, having shared the perils of St. Bartholomew, had recently escaped across the Rhine to Germany. This was Hubert Languet, a man whose conversation and correspondence exercised no small influence over the formation of Sidney's character.
Languet was a Frenchman, born in 1518 at Viteaux in Burgundy. He studied the humanities in Italy, and was elected Professor of Civil Law at Padua in 1547. Two years later he made the acquaintance of Melanchthon. Their intercourse ripened into friendship. Languet resigned his professorship in order to be near the man whom he had chosen for his teacher; and under Melanchthon's influence he adopted the reformed religion. From 1550 forwards