During the reign of queen Elizabeth.
The princess Elizabeth, who was at Hatfield when her sister died, was
met on the road by the lord mayor, aldermen, and citizens in their formalities, and was conducted to London in great state, amidst the universal and
unfeigned acclamations of the populace.
The people had been too much enlightened in religious matters in the latter
part of the reign of Henry VIII. and during the reign of Edward VI. and had
been too much disgusted by the return of popery under Mary; to render it
difficult for Elizabeth to restore the protestant religion. To this she was no less
determined from motives of policy, than from inclination: the marriage of
Henry with her mother had produced those ecclesiastical anathemas against him,
which could not easily be recalled in her favour who was the produce of that
union. She had indeed notified her accession to pope Paul; but he expressed
himself with so much displeasure on her assuming the crown under her illegitimacy, without his sanction, and required such concessions from her, that she
resolved to rest on the affections of her people, who were as averse as herself,
from any submission to the see of Rome.
Elizabeth proceeded cautiously however in the work of reformation; she
began with recalling all exiles, and releasing all prisoners confined on account
of religion. On this occasion one Rainsford told the queen he had a petition
to offer on behalf of four other prisoners, called Matthew, Mark, Luke, and
John: she artfully replied, it first behoved her to consult the prisoners themselves,
to learn whether they desired that liberty he sought for them (fn. 1) . To check the
progress of disputation, she had recourse to the expedient formerly put in practice,
of imposing silence on all preachers; and though this order was dispensed with
in favour of some few reformers, she took care they should be only the most
moderate of the party. On Sunday January 1. 1559, the English liturgy was
by proclamation allowed to be read in all the churches in London; and these
manifestations of her intended reformation so displeased the bishops, that they
refused to officiate at her coronation: the bishop of Carlisle was however prudent enough to relax, and assist at that ceremony. In her procession through
London on this solemnity, a boy, who represented Truth, was let down from
one of the triumphal arches, and presented the Bible to her; which she received
in a most gracious manner, and putting it next her bosom, declared
that of all the costly testimonies the city had given of their attachment to her
that day, this was by far the most acceptable and precious (fn. 2) .
Under the countenance of such proceedings the elections for the ensuing
parliament went entirely against the catholic interest; and all that had been
done in Mary's reign in favour of popery, was in the first session gradually
undone: the crown was vested with the whole spiritual power; and in determining heresy, the sovereign was only limited by the authority of the scriptures, by the four first general councils, or any other which followed the
scriptures as their rule, or by the future determinations of parliament and
convocation (fn. 3) .
To shew the queen how much she might depend on the support of the city,
the twelve principal corporations sent out twelve companies, amounting to
1400 men, which were mustered on July 2 before her in Greenwich park.
Of these, 800 were pikemen in bright armour, 400 harquebuffiers in coats of
mail, and helmets, and 200 halberdiers in German rivets. Sir William Hewet
was lord mayor; and the populace at this time destroyed not only all the
pictures and images of saints in the churches, but also all the rich priestly
robes, altar cloths, and sepulchral banners they could come at.
In 1560 Richard Hill, merchant taylor, gave 500l. toward the purchase of a house then called the manor of the Rose, for the purpose of
erecting a free school in London, which the company of merchant taylors erected accordingly.
The spire, tower, and great part of the body of St. Paul's cathedral, were on
July 4. 1561, consumed by lightning; which began at the top of the spire,
and assisted by a high wind, burnt furiously downward. Experience and late
improvements in natural philosophy, have now taught us, that the points of
high buildings, especially where any kind of metal is concerned, naturally
attract the lightning; hence we have learned to fix pointed iron rods to
the tops of buildings, and by a continued communication of metal to conduct the electrical fire down into the earth, where it spends itself inoffensively (fn. 4) .
The earl of Warwick, who was besieged by the French in Havre de Grace,
A. D. 1563, was so far reduced by hardships, disappointment of succour, and
the plague breaking out among his men; that he was obliged to capitulate. He
brought the plague over with his garrison to England, where great multitudes were
swept away by it: London received the infection; and, though many regulations
were made by the magistrates to check the communication of it, above 20,000
persons died of that dreadful distemper. A dearth of provisions, and scarcity of
money, from the stagnation of business, contributed, at the same unhappy
time, to increase the general distress (fn. 5) .
The English company of Merchant Adventurers, who had prevailed on Edward VI. to revoke the privileges of the Hanseatic league, obtained of Elizabeth, in the sixth year of her reign, the first charter properly so called; which
constituted them a corporation, or body politic. She hereby granted them
a common seal, perpetual succession, liberty to purchase lands, and to exercise
their government in any part of England. "But (it is added) if any freeman
of this company shall marry a wife born beyond sea, in a foreign country,
or shall hold lands, tenements, or hereditaments in Holland, Zealand, Brabant, Flanders, Germany, or other places near adjoining, he shall be ipso
facto, disfranchised of and from the said fellowship of Merchant Adventurers, and be utterly excluded from the fellowship thereof (fn. 6) ."
Sir Thomas Gresham, an opulent merchant of London, actuated by a laudable desire to facilitate commercial transactions, made a noble offer to the corporation, of erecting, at his own expence, a convenient bourse or exchange,
for the accommodation of merchants, to meet and negociate their business in;
if a proper situation was provided for him. The city accordingly purchased
fourscore houses, which composed two alleys leading out of Cornhill into
Threadneedle-street, called new St. Christopher's, and Swan alleys, for 3532l.
They sold the materials of these houses for 478l. and Sir Thomas Gresham,
with some of the aldermen, laid the first bricks of the new building, June 7,
1566, each alderman laying one, with a piece of gold for the workmen: and the
work was pursued with such alacrity, as to be roofed in by the month of November, in the following year. The queen would not have it called, as in other
countries, the Bourse; but, when it was finished, came and dined with the
founder, and with the heralds at arms, by found of trumpets, proclaimed it by
the name, of the Royal Exchange.
By his last will, dated November 26, 1579, Sir Thomas bequeathed this
stately building to the mayor, and citizens of London, and the Mercers company; on condition, that the citizens, out of their moiety, should appoint four
lecturers to read lectures on divinity, astronomy, geometry, and music, at his
mansion-house in Broad-street, afterward Gresham college, at the yearly salary
of 50l. each; and pay 6l. 13s. 4d. per annum to eight alms persons living behind the said college; and 10l. yearly to each of the prisons of Newgate, Ludgate, King's Bench, Marshalsea, and Wood-street compter. The Mercers,
out of their moiety, were to pay 50 l. per annum each, to three lecturers on the
subjects of law, physic, and rhetoric, to read likewise at his mansion house; and
to expend 100l. per annum, on four quarterly dinners at their own hall, for the
entertainment of their company; with 10l. yearly to Christ's, St. Bartholomew's,
Bethlehem's, and St. Thomas's hospitals, to the Spital, and to the Poultry compter.
Sir Thomas Rowe, lord-mayor in 1568, of the Merchant Taylors company, gave a burial ground, at the north easterly corner of Moorfields, since
called Old Bethlehem burial-ground, and containing about an acre of land,
for the burial of poor citizens gratis. He inclosed it with a brick wall, and
appointed a sermon to be preached on it every Whitsunday in the morning before the lord-mayor and aldermen; and gave other legacies to his own company. A conduit was this year erected at the corner of Wallbrook, to supply
the citizens with Thames water.
On January 11th, 1569, the first lottery mentioned in English history, began
drawing at the western door of St. Paul's cathedral. Whether this was on private or public account does not appear; but, either from the largeness of the
concern, or from the imperfection of the plan, it continued drawing day and
night without intermission until the 6th of May following.
It may be worth observing, to shew the improved state of mercantile transactions at this time, that Anderson, the laborious collector of commercial
anecdotes, relates, that he had in his possession a treatise on merchants accounts, in the Italian method of Book-keeping by Double Entry, written by
James Peale; printed at London, 1569: and he remarks, that though the
stile is obsolete, the method is correct (fn. 7) .
The Orphan's fund, which has been before-mentioned to be first taken notice of in the year 1391 (fn. 8) , now occurs as paying regular interest for their
use (fn. 9) .
An order was made in April 1569, for the 16 beadles belonging to the hospitals, to clear the streets of vagrants and sturdy beggars, which were to be carried
to Bridewell; the sick, lame, blind, and aged, were to be taken to St. Bartholomew's; and children beggars, under the age of sixteen, to Christ's hospital. Regular circuits were appointed for these beadles, and the nature of their duty laid
down for their observance, under certain penalties: but this regulation failing
of the desired effect, gave occasion to the first institution of the office of City
William Sympson and John Read were the two marshals first appointed,
who were allowed 6s. 8d. each, for themselves and horses, per diem; with fix
assistants under each of them, of their own choosing, at 12d. a man. They
were vested with proper powers for the execution of their offices; and requiring a month's pay in advance, to furnish themselves for entering on their
charge, it was granted, and their future pay settled on a weekly establishment.
The pompous cavalcade of the city watch was this summer finally laid aside as
an useless expence; and a stated watch appointed at the charge of each ward.
The plague now occasioned an adjournment of the Michaelmas term; and regulations were made to prevent the spreading of the infection.
Upon a dispute between the corporation of London and the bishop of Ely,
who denied the jurisdiction of the lord-mayor over his tenants in Holborn; the
contest was referred, by both parties, to the determination of the lord-keeper,
the chancellor of the Exchequer, and two chief justices: their arbitration was
in favour of the city, and they declared, that the lord-mayor might as freely
exercise his authority in the bishop's rents, as in any other part of London.
The duke of Alva had stopped our communication with the city of Antwerp,
from whence the kings of England had used to borrow money upon emergencies; the queen, therefore, applied for a loan to the company of Merchant
Adventurers, by a general court of whom her demand was rejected. This refusal was resented by a letter from the secretary of state, and a loan of 16,000l.
was obtained from some of the aldermen and merchants, for six months, at fix
per cent. which agreement was afterward prolonged for another half year.
The dangerous intrigues carried on by Mary queen of Scots with Elizabeth's
catholic subjects, as well as with the French and Spaniards, who patronized
her pretensions to the crown of England, produced an order from the queen
to the lord-mayor in 1572, to train the young able-bodied citizens to the use
of arms. In obedience to this precept, the several fraternities met at their respective halls, where 3000 sizeable young citizens were selected and embodied under able officers: of these, some were made musqueteers, the rest
pikemen; and they were armed with breast-plates and head-pieces. This was
performed the latter end of March; and so vigilantly was the instruction of them
pursued, that they were found expert enough to be reviewed by the queen at
Greenwich, in the beginning of May.
The magistrates this year, to restrain the combinations of poulterers, published a table of prices of the fowls of various forts then brought to market;
from which two or three familiar instances may be produced, to shew the current value of money at this time.
|The best goose in a shop
||Ditto at market
|The best hen
|The best chickens
|The best pigeons, per doz.
|The best wild mallard
|The best rabbits
|The best eggs till Michaelmas, five for
|Ditto till Ash-Wednesday, four
|The best butter per lb. till Allhallows
The plague broke out at London in 1574; on which account, the queen, to
prevent the concourse of people from spreading the contagion, desired the lord
mayor not to give any entertainment at Guildhall, on the anniversary of his
entering on his office.
The exhibition of stage plays and interludes, which used to be occasionally
practised by ingenious tradesmen and gentlemen's servants, was now become
a regular profession; and being commonly acted on Sundays and festivals,
the playhouses, which were large rooms in inns, were thronged, while the
churches were neglected. The plague being looked upon as a judgment for
the dissoluteness thus occasioned, the common council imposed penalties on the
acting any plays containing immodest or seditious matter; and ordered, that
none should be acted without being perused and allowed by the lord-mayor
and court of aldermen, who were also to license the actors; and a tax was imposed on these licences for the use of the poor, to which purpose all fines and
forfeitures for disobedience, were likewise to be applied (fn. 10) . These regulations
were followed by other restrictions. They were enjoined not to play on Sunday, and not to act after dark, but to conclude so that the audience might
return home before sun-setting.
The number of taverns had lately been limited; but the increase of public houses was among the grievances noted by the lord chancellor Bacon in
the Star-chamber. The lord-mayor was applied to on this subject; who, with
the magistrates of Southwark and Lambeth, suppressed above 200 alehouses
in their several jurisdictions; and the example was followed by Westminster,
and other places round London.
William Lamb, citizen and clothworker, in the year 1577, drew together
several springs into a head, at the upper end of Red-lion street, Holborn, since
denominated from him Lamb's conduit; and at the expence of 1500l. conveyed the water in a leaden pipe to Snow-Hill, where he laid it into an old
conduit, which he repaired for that purpose.
April 6, 1580, an earthquake, which lasted but a minute, is recorded to have
shattered several churches and houses, and to have killed some people by their
The pope had excommunicated Elizabeth, and released her subjects, as
much as the thunders of the Vatican could operate, from all allegiance to her.
His fulminations had now, however, very little effect within the kingdom;
but, as the queen had reason to keep a watchful eye on the schemes that
might be formed by her neighbours, she ordered an account to be taken of all
foreigners residing in London; who were found to amount to 6462. This
review gave rise to another consideration, which was the increase of buildings
in London; the lord-mayor made representations of this matter to the ministry, as an affair from which bad consequences were to be apprehended, both
to the city and to the nation: and it was thought expedient to publish a proclamation to prevent the laying of new foundations. That the reader may see
the reasons given for this prohibition, the proclamation is inserted in the Appendix, No. XLI.
To indulge in a short digression on this point. The actual inconveniences of
close dwellings crouded with inmates, cannot be denied; the frequent contagious disorders were a fatal proof of them: but as the people had not then
found out that opening their streets would enable them to live more healthily
and commodiously, which would have been the best motive for extending the
city; so the apprehensions, expressed in the proclamation, proceeded also from
narrow views. A metropolis situated on an open navigable river near the sea,
will increase more in proportion than one not having an advantage which affords an easy carriage for the necessaries the inhabitants require. The
dearness of provisions in London is still attributed to the enormous consumption
of necessaries in it; but unless it also appears, that these high prices are owing
to our markets not being sufficiently supplied, we must seek for some other
cause. The gradual enlargement of a city enriches all the country round it,
and extends its demands to the remotest corners: it also affords employment
for all the supernumerary useless hands that resort to it; which sufficiently
accounts for the objection often made against the healthiness of London, notwithstanding all its late improvements, where the deaths so greatly exceed the births (fn. 11) . A person without knowing this fact might with a little reflection
infer it: multitudes who were born in various parts of England, end their days
in London; and numbers of the inhabitants of London being Dissenters of several denominations, no register of their births appears, while that of their
deaths is generally recorded. If it is replied, that London nevertheless appears
to be a gulph, that continually requires filling; it should be considered, that
it not only receives, but sends out inhabitants to various parts, America and
the East-Indies particularly. Business and pleasure also, keep many of the inhabitants in a state of celibacy; labourers, servants, sailors, and the three regiments of guards, are generally single men. Rapin expressed his fears that
the head was too big for the body (fn. 12) ; but the natural circumstances of countries, will always prescribe limits to the growth of cities; while no others can
be fixed. London, vast as it is, still enlarges (fn. 13) ; how long this increment may
continue, cannot perhaps be foreseen; but it may safely be predicted, that
when the augmentation becomes injurious, it will, like all other natural evils,
We now return to the time from whence these remarks have drawn us. The
cross in Cheapside, from the increase of trade, was found to be an obstruction
in the highway; and remaining decorated with popish images, became disagreeable, now a reformation had taken place. It had been presented frequently
by the inquest as a public nusance without effect; so that the populace, who
seldom fail in the dernier resort to redress themselves, in 1581 pulled it down
in the night time.
The common council in 1582, made a sumptuary regulation to prevent the
expensive dress of apprentices; who being bond servants, at a dangerous time
of life, are certainly, of all other parts of the community, the most proper objects of legal attention.
This year is memorable for a scheme presented by Peter Maurice, a German
engineer, to the lord-mayor and aldermen, for supplying the city with Thames
water by a mill, to be worked by the water-fall at the return of the tide under
London Bridge. Unhappily for the navigation of the river, this scheme was
adopted; by which measure, under all the improvements that have since taken
place, this pernicious water-fall has been industriously preserved for a partial
purpose, to a general hurt. Maurice obtained a lease of one arch, for a term
of 500 years, at 10s. per annum rent, and fixed his mill; and two years after
he obtained a second arch. The original proprietor, and his posterity, acquired
great wealth by the improvement of this machine; which continued in the family until the year 1701, when the property was sold to Richard Soams, a
goldsmith, for 36,000l. The wheels now occupied four arches; and Soams,
after procuring from the city a confirmation of the leases to Maurice, established the undertaking into a company, by dividing the property into 300
shares, at 500l. each (fn. 14) .
The queen had so provoked the Spanish court by the league she entered into
with the United Provinces soon after their revolt, that in 1585, it was thought
prudent to keep the nation prepared against any unforeseen attack. The navy
was put on a respectable footing; her subjects were disciplined to the use of
arms; and the several city companies furnished a body of 5000 men armed at
their own expence, which encamped on Blackheath, where they were several
times reviewed by the queen. The earl of Leicester being soon after sent over
with an auxiliary force to the assistance of the Dutch, the companies sent a
considerable body of men, armed and cloathed in a red uniform, with him.
It was this year we first find the custom of the lord-mayor nominating sheriffs, by drinking to the person he approved of for that office; though we afterward, in 1641, find the custom pleaded as of 300 years standing. Sometime in the month of July, there were two great feasts at London, one at
Grocers Hall, and another at Haberdashers Hall, and perhaps in all the rest,
upon some publick occasion. Sir Edward Osborne, mayor, and several of
the aldermen, with the recorder, were at Haberdashers Hall; where the mayor,
after the second course was come in, took the great standing cup, the gift or
Sir William Garret, being full of hypocrase, and silence being commanded,
he, with a loud voice, used these words: "Mr. Recorder of London, and
you my good brethren the aldermen, bear witness that I drink unto Mr.
alderman Massam, as sheriff of London and Middlesex, from Michaelmas
next coming, for one whole year; and I do beseech God to give him as
quiet and peaceable a year, with as good and gracious favour of her majesty, as I myself, and my brethren the sheriffs now being, have hitherto
had, and as I trust shall have." This spoken, all men desired the same.
The sword-bearer then went to the Grocers feast, where Mr. alderman Massam
was at dinner, and reported the words that the lord-mayor had used. The alderman answered very modestly, "First, I thank God, who, through his great
goodness, hath called me from a very poor and mean degree unto this worshipful state. Secondly, I thank her majesty for her gracious goodness in
allowing to us these great and ample franchises. And, thirdly, I thank my
lord-mayor for having so honourable an opinion of this my company of
Grocers, as to make choice of me, being a poor member of the same."
And this said, both he and all his company pledged my lord, and gave him
At the session in July this year, the bench employed a day in discovering
the houses that harboured the cut-pursers and robbers, who infested the city.
Among the rest a regular school for pick-pockets was found out at Smart'sKey, near Billingsgate; where a pocket with counters in it, and a purse with
silver, were suspended, hung about with hawk's bells, and a little sacring bell
over them: the test of proficiency was to pick the pocket, and take silver out
of the purse, without jingling the bells.
Babington's conspiracy against the life of queen Elizabeth, and to place
Mary, queen of Scots, on the throne, occasioned the trial and execution of
Mary, who had given her concurrence to that plot. The sentence pronounced
against her was publicly proclaimed in several parts of the city by the lordmayor and aldermen in their formalities; with the assistance of several of the
nobility, who attended this singular publication. The discovery of this treasonable plan calculated to restore popery, occasioned such rejoicings throughout
the city, that the queen wrote a letter of acknowledgments to the lord-mayor,
and desired it might be communicated to the citizens at large.
The nation was now alarmed by the immense preparations made by the
Spaniards for the reduction of England. The queen was no way deficient
in her defensive measures; nor her subjects in contributing assistance against the
common danger: she ordered the lord-mayor to raise 10,000 men in the city,
which was performed accordingly; (fn. 15) and the common council applied to the
privy council for power to oblige the inhabitants of several privileged places
within the city, and all strangers, to contribute toward the necessary expences.
All the commercial towns in England were required to furnish ships to reinforce
the royal navy: London was to furnish fifteen, but the common council to
shew their zeal in the public cause, immediately voted a supply of sixteen of the
largest ships in the Thames and four pinnaces or light frigates; which they
plentifully stored with warlike necessaries. The number was afterward augmented to thirty eight.
The Invincible Armada, as the Spaniards presumptuously stiled their formidable
fleet, had been three years in fitting out: it consisted of 130 vessels, of which
nearly 100 were galleons, of a larger size than had ever before been seen in
Europe. It had on board 19,295 soldiers, 8456 mariners, 2088 galley slaves, and
2630 brass cannon. It was victualled for six months, and attended with 20
smaller vessels called caravals, and 10 salves of six oars (fn. 16) . This proud armament, overcome no less by its own unwieldiness, and the disasters it met with
at sea, than by the skill and courage of the English admirals, was totally dispersed and ruined: not half of the vessels ever returned home, and the men
who escaped, in alleviation of their disgrace filled Spain with amazing stories
of the desperate valour of the English, and of the tempestuous ocean which
surrounded the coast of England.
A fleet had been fitted out by private subscription countenanced by the
queen, under Drake and Norris to establish Don Antonio in Portugal; which
failing in its object, the men who composed this armament, familiarized to plunder, entered into a scheme when disbanded to pillage Bartholomew fair: but
the lord-mayor having timely notice of this desperate scheme, instantly
raised 2000 men, which caused the rioters to disperse without bloodshed on
either side. The city this year lent the queen 15,000l. at ten per cent. and supplied
her with 1000 men to assist in placing. Henry of Navarre on the throne of
By a combination of the owners of coal-pits at Newcastle, in 1590, the price
of coals was in London raised from 4s. to 9s. per chaldron: and the following
year, the lord high admiral claimed a right to the coal metage at the
port of London. But the mayor and citizens invalidating this claim, his pretensions were set aside, and by the interest of the lord treasurer Burleigh, they
obtained of the queen a confirmation of the city's right to this office.
In 1591 and 1592, the plague destroyed 10,675 citizens, and the term was on
this dismal occasion adjourned to Hertford. Weekly bills of mortality were
first made December 21. 1592, on occasion of this plague, and were continued
till December 1595. when they were laid aside on the ceasing of that dreadful
disorder (fn. 17) .
The numerous levies lately disbanded, produced in the beginning of 1593, a
proclamation from the queen, for the suppression of vagrants, beggars, and
thieves; which the lord mayor was to carry into execution within three miles
round London. It is the hard fate of mercenary soldiers, that their services
in time of war, renders them a nusance to their country in time of peace. It is
not easy for them to resume the employments which they deserted for a military
life; and the habits of licentiousness they contract as soldiers, indisposes them
to return again to industry for a subsistence. These are strong reasons in favour
of a regular militia for defence at home, and as an island, to engage as little as
possible in foreign connections.
In obedience to the queen's desire in 1594, the mayor and common council
fitted out six ships of war, with two pinnaces; to which they added 450 soldiers: the expence being desrayed by a fifteenth raised from the citizens. These
probably composed part of the armament sent this year under Sir Martin Frobisher and Norris, to drive the Spanish forces out of Brittany.
An ineffectual attempt was made this year to supply the western parts of the
city with Thames water, by a horse engine, erected with four pumps at
Broken wharf in Thames street; but it was too expensive in its working to
subsist. The wetness of the season advanced wheat to 3l. 4s. per quarter;
great quantities were imported, and the companies were ordered to lay up stores
of it for supply until the next harvest came round.
The licentiousness of the populace, who drew in the London apprentices to
join them, produced such alarming riots in 1595, that it was judged
expedient to proceed against these dangerous insurgents in a summary way by
martial law. Sir Thomas Wilford was appointed provost marshal, who patrolling the streets with an armed force, apprehended many rioters, of whom
five were executed on Tower hill; which intimidated the rest, and restored
quiet to the city. This extra-judicial method of proceeding was a sure indication of a bad domestic government, and of an imperfect police.
The magistrates received notice from the lord keeper that the queen had
preferred the recorder of London, and in consequence of this promotion he
required of them the names of those intended to be put in nomination to succeed
him. This the citizens warily apprehended to be an attempt of the court to
get the appointment of the recorder out of their hands; to avoid therefore
the inconveniences of a contest, they prudently returned only one person for
that office, Mr. James Altham of Gray's Inn. This return was accompanied
with a letter from the lord mayor, Sir John Spencer, to the lord treasurer in
recommendation of this gentleman as resident in the city, and explaining the
inconveniences resulting from recorders who are absentees from their trust.
How this affair ended, does not appear, farther than that another name stands
on the list, as elected at this time.
In 1596, while the lord mayor and aldermen were attending a sermon at
Paul's-cross they received an order from the queen to raise 1000 able bodied
men for immediate service: leaving their devotion, therefore, they pressed
the required number before 8 o'clock that night, and had them armed, and ready
for marching before next morning. They were destined for the relief of the
French in Calais against the Spaniards; but the order being countermanded that
afternoon, this little army was disbanded before it had existed twenty-four hours.
The like order was renewed on Easter day in the morning, when the lord mayor
with proper officers went from church to church during divine service, where
shutting the doors, they soon compleated the levy: these men marched the night
after for Dover; but advice arriving that Calais was reduced, they returned to
the city after a week's absence. They soon after made other rigorous levies on
the rumour of another intended Spanish invasion.
The failing of the harvest this year advanced wheat to the enormous price of
5l. 4s. the quarter.
The Hanse towns joining their interest with that of Spain at the imperial
court, procured the English Merchant Adventurers in 1597, to be shut out of
Germany; the Hanseatics flattering themselves with procuring a restoration of
their obsolete privileges in England, as an equivalent for restoring the Merchant
Adventurers to the commerce with Germany. But herein they were much
mistaken; circumstances had greatly altered for the better in England; foreign
commerce was now too successfully cultivated by natives, to be resigned again
into alien hands. Instead therefore of reaping the benefit of this finesse, Elizabeth, after a refusal from the court of Germany, of restoring the former
privileges of the Merchant Adventurers, retaliated the injury, by directing a
commission to the mayor and sheriffs of London, totally to shut the merchants
of the Hanse towns out of their house at the Stillyard; and banished all Germans
from England. From this time the Stillyard was never applied to the use of
foreign merchants as before (fn. 18) .
The masculine resolution of Elizabeth in affairs of government, made her
subjects willingly overlook the weaknesses of the woman. Of several marriages
proposed to her, none had taken place; political and perhaps private motives
had overruled them all. Though ordinary in her person, she was anxious for
the reputation of beauty; and in her transactions with the Scots queen, who
was really handsome, a mean spirit of rivalship had often discovered itself: she
also tolerated such gross flattery in her courtiers, even when she grew in years,
as only shewed how much great talents will sometimes give way to little passions (fn. 19) . While her prudent administration proved that she knew how to select
able ministers, she was not without her personal attachments, and bestowed
her favour sometimes imprudently: but how far she might carry her condescension as a woman, as it produced no political consequences, is no object
of political discussion. After the death of the earl of Leicester, the young hotspirited earl of Essex succeeded to her favour; yet she was rather apt to
forget the decorums of behaviour, than her own dignity; for in a dispute
with Essex, she once resented his rudeness by a box on the ear; and his
anger, on this occasion, was more unbecoming than the insult itself, from a
Essex however obtained the lord-lieutenantship of Ireland, where his imprudence was little suited to quiet the distractions in which that nation was involved.
He made a precipitate journey to London, contrary to orders, to justify himself
personally before the queen; but by the influence of his enemies, he was disgraced, confined, and superseded in his appointment. In political contests the
people generally take part with those who incur the displeasure of the court,
especially if they are men of spirit. Essex unhappily for himself had too much,
and was well beloved: on the strength of his popularity, he entered into cabals
against the government, and concerted an insurrection with other malcontents
at Drury house. He was persuaded that if he only made his appearance in
London, all the citizens would rise in his favour; and upon intimation that his
seditious intentions were discovered, he madly made the experiment. With
about 200 attendants, armed only with swords, he issued from Essex house;
and in his passage to the city, he was joined by the earl of Bedford, with Lord
Cromwel. He cried out, For the queen, for the queen, my life is in danger!
which he often repeated as he rode along. The surprized citizens flocked about
him, but though he exhorted them instantly to arm, no one shewed a disposition
to join him. He proceeded to the house of Thomas Smith, one of the sheriffs
in Fenchurch street, who he was made to believe would assist him with 1000
men; but the sheriff shewed more prudence; for on his approach he retired
by a back door. To add to his confusion, he was informed that the earl of
Cumberland and the Lord Burleigh with heralds at arms had proclaimed him
as a traitor in several parts of the city. He now thought only of returning
to his own house, but found the streets barricaded and guarded by a number of
men raised by the bishop of London, and commanded by Sir John Levison.
Even his followers began to desert him; with the rest therefore he went
down to Queenhithe and returned by water to Essex-house, where he began
to fortify himself with the utmost haste. Here he was invested by some troops
under the earl of Nottingham; but sensible of his dangerous situation, and small
expectations of mercy, he at first determined to defend himself to the last extremity: his spirit however giving way at last, he surrendered at discretion about
10 o'clock that night, and was committed to the Tower.
This was a severe stroke to the queen, as her attachment to Essex could not
overlook so flagrant an outrage against government: he was brought to trial,
with his most considerable associates, and sentence of death was pronounced on
them. Elizabeth had before, during the warmth of her affection, on his
expressing fears of the ill offices of his enemies, presented him with a ring,
accompanied with assurances that whatever disgrace he might in future fall
into, she should immediately on sight of it, recollect her former tenderness, and
lend a favourable ear to him. She now impatiently expected he would avail himof this circumstance, and long hesitated before she would dispatch the warrant
for his execution. On his part, he had intrusted the ring to lady Nottingham,
and as eagerly waited for the effect of it: but the countess, by the influence
of her husband, treacherously withheld the pledge; and Essex was beheaded
privately at his own request, in the Tower (fn. 20) .
The queen returned particular thanks to the mayor and citizens, for their
behaviour during this disturbance.
Our own Turkey merchants, and the Dutch, who had got the start of us in
the East India trade, kept up the price of pepper so high, and we being at war
with Spain, could get none from Lisbon; that Elizabeth determined to encourage her subjects to enter into a commerce with the East Indies. Accordingly,
December 31, 1600, she had granted a charter of incorporation to George earl of
Cumberland, with 215 knights, aldermen, and merchants, by the name of
the governor and company of merchants of London, trading to the East Indies: in which company, the original shares subscribed were 50l. each (fn. 21) .
Five ships, with a victualler, were fitted out on this new undertaking, commanded by James Lancaster, which making a successful return, encouraged
the company to prosecute the commerce (fn. 22) .
The depredations of the Spanish privateers, proving a great interruption to
the trade on the English coasts, a number of ships of war were ordered for the
protection of the navigation. No less than five fifteenths were raised in London toward this purpose; and the debtors in the several prisons of London,
were encouraged to enter on board the ships, by a proclamation which discharged them from the demands of their creditors on that condition.
Foreign hucksters, hawkers, and pedlars, being still complained of, and their
stalls encumbering the streets; the common council made a bye law inflicting a
penalty of 20s. on every inhabitant who lett, or permitted any stall to stand,
before their houses: the forfeiture of goods, and a fine of 20s. were also imposed on every hawker, or stall-keeper, so offending. The proclamation
against enlarging the metropolis, was renewed this year.
The next year, by the queen's command, the city fitted out and maintained
two ships and a tender, at the annual expence of 6000l. and it is observed by
historians, that by the frequent calls of the crown upon the Londoners, they
never suffered more pecuniary oppression than they did in this reign. Elizabeth inherited her father's arbitrary disposition, and excelled principally in the
outlines of government, which rendered her administration more brilliant
abroad, than easy to her subjects at home; for, with all her good qualities,
trade was little obliged to her: Mr. Hume produces an astonishing list of patents
for monopolies which she granted to her courtiers and servants; and they disposing of them to others, commodities were raised to the most arbitrary prices.
When the list was read in parliament, a member asked, if breadwas not in the
number; and when every one repeated the word with amazement, he replied,
that if affairs went on at this rate, bread would be reduced to a monopoly before
next parliament. The clamours of the people procured several of these patents
to be called in (fn. 23) .
The sequel to the story of the earl of Essex will terminate the reign of this
princess. The countess of Nottingham, who had secreted the ring she was
intrusted with by the unhappy earl, falling sick, was seized with compunction for
her treachery; and on her death-bed requested to see the queen, to whom she
disclosed the secret, and implored her forgiveness. Elizabeth, struck with this
fatal intelligence, flew into a furious rage, and shaking the dying offender in
her bed, told her, That God might pardon her, but she never could. She burst
out of the room, and never recovered the shock; but resigning herself up to
grief, flung herself on the floor, and refused all food, remedies, and consolation. Ten days and nights she lay on the carpet without entering a bed;
till, at last, her constitution giving way to her anxiety, she sunk into a lethargy,
and expired March 24, 1603 (fn. 24) .