After this dangerous escapade and the execution of Seymour, Elizabeth became almost ostentatiously saintly and straitlaced, until the accession of her sister made her the heiress presumptive to the crown and the hope of the Protestant party, now that Northumberland’s nominees had been disposed of. Even before this event, the reforming party in England were anxious to further strengthen themselves by allying her to a foreign prince of Protestant leanings, not powerful enough to force her claims to the crown upon them, but of sufficient weight to give them moral support, whilst removing her from the way in England. As early as August, 1551, Northumberland (or, as he was then, the Earl of Warwick) had put his agents upon the alert on the Continent to find a suitable match for her, and12 one of them, Sir Anthony Guidotti,6 says that the Duke of Guise had suggested the Duke of Ferrara’s son, “who was one of the goodliest young men of all Italy.” The youth was a son of that Renée of France, Duchess of Ferrara, who vied with her kinswoman, Jeanne d’Albret, in her attachment to the reformed faith, but Northumberland would hardly accept the recommendation of the Guises as disinterested; and the matter went no further. The same agent suggests that the son of the Duke of Florence (Medici) who was then only eleven years old might do, and “if this party were liked it were an easy matter to be concluded without any excessive dote.” This was less likely to please even than the previous proposal, and nothing was done; but the Ferrara family were apparently anxious for the connection, and early in 1553 Sir Richard Morysine,7 the English envoy in Antwerp, wrote to the Council reporting that Francesco d’Este, the brother of the Duke of Ferrara, had approached him on the matter and had asked for a description of the Princess. Morysine replied that “If God had made her Grace a poor man’s daughter he did not know of a prince that might not think himself happy to be the husband of such a lady,” and added that d’Este was of the same opinion “at present.” A much more likely match had been privately suggested to Cecil by Morysine shortly before this.8 “Hans Frederick’s (of Saxony) second son, who is the goodlier gentleman, would, if he durst, bear a great affection towards the Lady Elizabeth’s grace.
The land in Germany is divided, and as much comes to13 the second son as to the eldest, which eldest is thought to be of no long life. Were Dukes Maurice and Frederick to die their lands go to Hans Frederick’s sons.” But the collapse of Northumberland and the accession of Mary entirely changed Elizabeth’s prospects, so that her marriage had to be considered in conjunction with Mary’s own, and the capture of the Queen by the Spanish interest made it desirable to secure her sister if possible for the same side. In the autumn of 1553, Simon Renard had suggested to Mary a marriage between herself and Prince Philip. She herself was in grave doubt at that time and afterwards as to its wisdom or practicability. Young Courtney had been designated by the public voice as the most fitting consort for her; and although the romantic theories of many historians as to her supposed attachment to him are unsupported by a single shred of evidence, it is certain that for a time she seriously contemplated the wisdom of conciliating English feeling by marrying the man who was one of her first competitors for the possession of the throne. Gradually, however, Renard, with his logical persuasiveness, convinced her that she would acquire more strength by an alliance with the only son of the Emperor than by a marriage “with one of her own vassals, without credit, power, or assistance, who has seen and knows nothing of the world, having been reared in servitude and never left England.”9
Renard presented the Emperor’s formal offer of his son’s hand to the Queen on the 6th of October, and after some hesitation she asked him to put upon paper his arguments in favour of the match. He14 did so in a long paper dated the 11th, which will be found in the Renard Correspondence transcripts in the Record Office. In it he tells her that she is surrounded by dangers against which only a powerful marriage can protect her. She has, he says, four sets of enemies: namely, the heretics and schismatics, the rebels and friends of Northumberland, the powers of France and Scotland, and Madam Elizabeth, who would never cease to trouble and threaten her. Mary replied that she knew all about the French intrigues, and was certain to be kept well informed of approaches made by the French ambassador Noailles to Elizabeth and Courtney. In conversation with Renard afterwards she told him, and he faithfully transmitted the conversation to his master,10 that she had had a long talk with Courtney three days before at the instance of his mother, and he had told her in all simplicity that an English lord had suggested to him that he should marry Elizabeth, since he could not now hope to obtain the Queen. If he took the Princess either he or his heirs might hope to succeed to the throne as the Queen was getting old. The idea seems to have originated with Lord Paget, who was doubtless the lord referred to by Courtney, and who thought to stand well with all parties in future by the device.
As he was the principal supporter in the Privy Council of the Spanish match, Renard could not at first openly veto the suggestion. Mary consulted Renard upon the subject, and told him that Courtney had said that his own thought was only to “marry a simple lady rather than Elizabeth who15 was too proud a heretic and of a doubtful race on her mother’s side.” The imperial ambassador replied that such a marriage would have to be very deeply weighed and discussed,11 and so politely shelved the question. On the other hand, the idea was zealously promoted by Noailles, who, Courtney asserted some months afterwards, pressed him warmly to marry Elizabeth,12 and it was considered even by the strongest Spanish partisans in the Council to be a happy combination which would conjure away all dangers. How far Elizabeth herself was a consenting party it is difficult to say, but Noailles, who was in the heart of the intrigue, writes to his king on the 14th of December that it depends entirely on Courtney whether she married him and joined him in Devonshire to raise the flag of revolt. “But the trouble,” he says, “is that Courtney is so alarmed and timid that he dares nothing.” So Courtney disappears promptly from the scene where soon such rough work was to be undertaken. Even before the arrival of Egmont in the winter of 1553 to offer formally Philip’s hand to Mary, the Council was mainly opposed to the match. Paget was first bought over with a large sum of money, then Gardiner, Courtney’s greatest friend, was reluctantly won with the promise of a cardinal’s hat, and others by similar means; but the self-seeking Earl of Arundel immediately saw how his own interests might be benefited by the Spanish match. De Noailles says that he knew that at the Queen’s age, and with her health, every month’s delay decreased the probability of her having issue; and he, therefore,16 warmly supported the marriage with Philip, which could not be rapidly effected, in order to marry his young son to Elizabeth, and so, practically, get the reversion to the crown. The matter never seems to have got beyond a suggestion; and the youth soon after dying, Arundel, as will be told, subsequently became a suitor himself. But whilst these nebulous speculations with regard to Elizabeth’s hand were going on, Renard had been arranging a clever scheme by which the Spanish party should ensure to themselves the control of England not only during the Queen’s life but after her death. When Egmont and his splendid embassy arrived all England was in a whirlwind of panic and indignation at the idea of a Spanish match. Elizabeth had retired to Woodstock, ostensibly on friendly terms with the Queen, but deeply wounded at her contemptuous treatment, and at the equivocal position she occupied, now that the divorce pronounced by Cranmer of Henry VIII. and Catharine of Aragon had been quashed, and Elizabeth consequently bastardised. Egmont was instructed to point out to the Queen that all might be pleasantly settled by marrying her sister to the gallant young Emmanuel Philibert, Duke of Savoy, the son of the Emperor’s sister, and consequently first cousin to Philip. His patrimonial states, all but a mere shred of them in the valley of Aosta, had been occupied by the French in the course of the war, and the prince was fighting like a hero in the Emperor’s army. But his blood was the bluest of any in Europe, and before he could marry Elizabeth she must be legitimised and placed in the order of the succession, without which the throne would probably pass on Mary’s17 death to the French candidate, Mary of Scotland. This was gall and wormwood to Mary Tudor. They could not both be legitimate. If the grounds for the divorce of Queen Catharine were good she was never Henry’s lawful wife, and her daughter had no right to the crown. If they were bad, then Elizabeth was necessarily the bastard that the law of England inferentially had just declared her to be. The King of France, foiled in his attempts to prevent the Queen’s Spanish marriage, instructed de Noailles13 to use every possible means to hinder a match between Elizabeth and Savoy, “poor and dispossessed as he is”; and, alert as the ambassador was, no great effort on his part was needed. The Queen, bitterly jealous of her sister, who she knew was more or less openly working with the Carews, the Courtneys, the Wyatts and others to undermine her throne, peremptorily refused to rehabilitate Elizabeth’s birth. Then came the Wyatt rebellion and Elizabeth’s imprisonment. In after years both Philip and Elizabeth often referred to the fact that at one juncture he had saved her life, and it is highly probable that the Princess was released from the Tower in May, 1554 on the recommendation of Renard, made in the name of the coming bridegroom of the Queen. De Noailles writes that she was to go to Richmond from the Tower, and was there to receive two gentlemen from the Emperor who were to sound her as to a marriage with Emmanuel of Savoy. If she refused the match she was to be taken to Woodstock under guard, again a prisoner. De Noailles knew that the best way of preventing such a match was to arouse the Queen’s18 suspicion that Elizabeth was plotting with the French. So with devilish ingenuity he sent a man with a present of apples to the Princess to meet her on her arrival at Richmond. The man was seized and searched to the skin, and no letters were found, but to de Noailles’ undisguised glee the Princess was hurried off at once to Woodstock without seeing the Emperor’s envoys. Again by Philip’s intercession Elizabeth was released, and invited to be present at the Queen’s entry into London after her marriage. Philip had been anxious that his favourite cousin of Savoy should have come to England for the ceremony, but Emmanuel was in the midst of war in an important command, his own oppressed people, the prey of a ruthless invader, were imploring him, their prince, to come and rescue them; he was desperately short of money, and his visit to England had to be deferred. Soon after the wedding he sent a confidential envoy named Langosco to pave the way for his coming, and subsequently (December, 1554) the Prince himself arrived. Elizabeth’s town house, Somerset House, was placed at his disposal, and he was made as welcome as his cousin could make him. Philip tried his hardest to get him into the good graces of the Queen. She was kindly and sympathetic; gave him the Garter, and went so far to please Philip as once more to liberate Elizabeth at his urgent request, but she would not let the Princess and her suitor meet. Emmanuel’s thoughts, moreover, were elsewhere. An unsuccessful attempt was being made to patch up a peace between Spain and France, and the young Prince’s one idea was to get his patrimonial Piedmont restored to him in the scramble. So he had to hurry back again to19 Flanders with nothing done about the marriage. The idea was not dropped, however. Renard gave wise advice to Philip in his constant letters. He told him, amongst other things, that now that the Queen’s hopes of progeny had proved illusive the only way to prevent England from slipping through their fingers was to get command of Elizabeth. “You cannot,” he said, “change the succession as laid down in King Henry’s will without causing a rebellion. Marry Elizabeth to the Duke of Savoy, it will please the English and be popular zmot, provided that her right to the succession be not interfered with; and it might be a means towards expelling the French from Piedmont.” Philip’s agents found plenty of opportunities for trying to ingratiate themselves with the Princess, but she was cool and cautious; professed that she had no desire to marry, and so forth. She was quite aware of the reason for the Spanish desire that she should marry Savoy, and even thus early began her great policy of keeping people friendly by deferring their hopes. As the clouds gathered ever darker over the miserable Mary in the last sad months of her life, and Elizabeth’s star rose, suitors became more plentiful. At the beginning of 1558 Philip had sent haughty Feria as his ambassador to his wife to drive her into providing men and money to help him in his war against France. Calais and Guisnes had just been lost to England, and Mary, all her hopes and illusions fled zmot , was fretting her heart out in despair. In April an ambassador arrived from the King of Sweden, Gustavus, with letters to the Queen proposing a treaty of commerce between the two countries, and the marriage of his eldest son,20 Eric, with Princess Elizabeth. The ambassador was in no hurry to seek audience of the Queen—her day was already on the wane—but posted down to Hatfield to see the Princess, to whom he delivered a letter from Prince Eric himself. The Queen was overcome with rage at this and with fear that Philip would blame her for refusing his request to restore Elizabeth in blood and marry her to Emmanuel of Savoy, and thus giving rise to this embarrassing Swedish offer. Hearing that Feria was about to send a courier to Flanders, she summoned him, and in a violent passion of tears reproached him with wishing to be beforehand with her in telling the story to her husband. Feria says, “Her Majesty has been in great anguish about it, but since hearing that Madam Elizabeth gave answer that she had no desire to marry she has become calmer, but is still terribly passionate in the matter. One of the reasons why she is so grieved about the miscarriage is the fear that your Majesty should press her about Savoy and Madam Elizabeth. Figueroa and I think that the opportunity of the coming of this ambassador, and the illusion about the pregnancy should be taken advantage of to do so; but it must not be done at the same time as we press her about raising troops here serviced apartments in hong kong . In short, I do not think now that she will stand in the way of her sister’s succession if providence do not bless your Majesty with children.”14