Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 14.djvu/433

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Devereux
Devereux
427

fore the main body of the fleet put to sea. To his brother-in-law, Lord Rich, Essex sent the key of his desk, where forty letters were found addressed to the queen and her council, in which he stated that he would return alive at no one's bidding. As soon as his departure from London was known, the queen sent his uncle. Sir Francis Knollys, and Lord Huntingdon, to recall him, and blamed Norris and Druse for allowing the Swiftsure to sail. On 13 May Essex's ship, after a very long voyage, joined its companions off Portugal. Essex distinguished himself in an aimless way in the operations that followed. He was the first Englishman who waded (16 May) through the surf to the Portuguese shore (off Peniche), and when the English were preparing to attack Lisbon he went up to the gates, and offered to fight any of the Spanish garrison in the name of his mistress. Ships soon arriving with provisions brought an angry letter from Elizabeth, demanding Essex's immediate return. Norris and Drake insisted on his departure.

Elizabeth was once again soon reconciled with her favourite. She seems, however, to have pressed him for the repayment of 3,000l. which she had lent him, and he had to sell his manor of Keyston, Huntingdonshire, to discharge the debt (May 1590). About the same time he was granted, in succession to his stepfather Leicester, `the farm of sweet wines. For the present Essex took no prominent part in home politics. It was reported that the puritans `hoped well' of him (22 March 1590-1), and that he induced Raleigh, with whom he was for the moment on friendly terms, to join him in obtaining increased toleration from the queen (Edwards, Ralegh, i. 132). The story runs that at the time of the excitement caused by the Mar-Prelate controversy he impudently flourished about at court a copy of a forbidden tract. It is certain that Udall, the suspected author, petitioned him to help him out of prison. In `The Just Censure … of Martin Junior,' a reply to a Mar-Prelate tract, the writer acknowledged that Essex was popularly credited with favouring Martin, but the earl was warned that, `if he doe, her Majesty, I can tell him, will withdraw her gracious favour from him.' Another of Essex's protégés was the unfortunate William Davison [q. v.] Soon after his trial Essex, with his usual impetuosity, had entreated the queen to reinstate Davison in her service, and when Walsingham died (6 April 1590) he energetically endeavoured to obtain for him the vacant post of secretary of state. With curious infelicity he wrote to James of Scotland, soliciting his influence in the matter; but his letters to Davison show that he was thwarted at every turn. At the time of Walsingham's death the earl more seriously risked his fortunes at court by secretly marrying Walsingham's daughter, Frances, the widow of Sir Philip Sidney. The queen's anger knew no bounds. It is said that, at Burghley's suggestion, all Essex's papers were seized (Goodman, i. 147). Essex consented that his wife should live `very retired in her mother's house,' and on 24 Nov. 1590 he was once more `in very good favour.'

Soon afterwards Henry of Navarre sent an envoy (Turenne) to beg for the aid of English troops in his struggle with the league. An autograph letter from the French leader secured Essex's enthusiastic support, and he entreated the Queen for the command of the expedition, against the advice of friends, who `urged him to seek' a domestical greatness like to his father-in-law [Walsingham].' With much reluctance Elizabeth granted him the commission (21 July 1591), and Essex left Dover for Dieppe at the head of four thousand men. His brother Walter and his friend, Anthony Bagot, for whom he arranged a marriage in May, accompanied him, and he insisted on his Chartley tenants joining him. Soon after arriving in Normandy he forced a march with a few companions through the enemy's country to Noyon, to interview Henry and Marshal Biron. After three days spent chiefly in athletic sports Essex returned to his neglected camp, and in a skirmish before Rouen (8 Sept.) his brother Walter was killed. He besieged Gournay, which fell on 27 Sept., and exhibited there, according to Sir Henry Wotton, 'true valour and discretion.' He shared all the toils of the common soldiers, and knighted twenty-one of his followers, a lavish distribution of honours of which Burghley, speaking in the queen's name, strongly disapproved (22 Oct.) At the end of September he was temporarily recalled, in order, apparently, to allay the queen's anxiety caused by reports of his reckless exposure to danger. It was said that he used to hawk in the enemy's country. A week was passed with Elizabeth `in jollity and feasting,' and she wept when, under strict injunctions to avoid all personal peril, he left to resume his command (17 Oct.) While engaged at the siege of Rouen he challenged the enemy's commander Villars to single combat (9 Nov.)—fruitless conduct which offended the queen, and evoked from the French contemporary chronicler a compliment on the knight-errantry of Englishmen (Cayet, Chronologie Nouvenaire, ii. 502 v). After a second visit paid to Elizabeth in December, Essex was finally recalled on 8 Jan. 1591-2, and his place was taken by Sir Roger Williams (Coningsby, Siege of Rouen, Camd. Soc. Miscell. i.)