Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Guest Author Peni Jo Renner

Synopsis of “Puritan Witch: The Redemption of Rebecca Eames” 

Puritan Witch: The Redemption of Rebecca Eames is set in the midst of the 1692 Salem Witchcraft Hysteria. Rebecca Eames was one of the over 140 people accused and imprisoned for witchcraft, along with her eldest son, Daniel. She spends nine months in the Salem Witches Dungeon, and documentation exists to this day of some of her trials.

Author Information 

Originally from North Dakota, I have lived in Maryland since 1988. My entire childhood was spent writing stories as soon as I learned to write.  After college and 25 years of marriage, my desire to write seemed to dissipate and was replaced by other creative pursuits. I am the youngest of seven children, married since 1986. Aunt to 17 and great-aunt to 18. 

Questions and Answers 

What writers do you admire and why?

Margaret Mitchell is my all-time favorite author. I admire any writer who can flesh out characters so much that you feel like you know them. What I hate to see are “cookie cutter” books written as if they’re off an assembly line, with basically the same predictable plots.

What caused you to want to write this particular book?

I happened to meet a 3rd cousin online through www.ancestry.com , and she has done some remarkable research on our common line. She told me about Rebecca Eames, and I said, “It’s a shame I don’t write anymore. This would make a great historical novel.” “So write it,” she said. And just like that, my love of writing was rekindled!
What are some of the difficulties you encountered writing the book?

I tend to get discouraged easily and I can be very anal about what to leave fact and what to make fiction.  The research itself was fun. In 2012 I even got to visit Rebecca’s grave.  Sometimes I would hit a snag of some sort or other (did they use glass in their windows in 1692 Massachusetts? For example) and that would require more research. I think maybe if we’d had the Internet sooner I would never have stopped writing! 

What do you believe are your book's strengths? What are you especially proud of? 

I think my characters are well-developed and well-described.  I hope I’ve achieved the goal of having the reader feel for and care about my characters. 

What would you like the reader to take away from his reading?

Realize what a horrible miscarriage of justice the whole Salem Witch event was, and acknowledge that greed, suspicion and corruption are still rampant in our own world today. 


“An evil hand has invaded our blessed community! Be vigilant of the evil deceiver,” the assistant minister continued, stabbing the air with a finger. “The devil himself has made his presence known here in Andover.” 

Reverend Barnard’s words reverberated off the whitewashed walls of the Andover meetinghouse. Fear and suspicion had infested the small farming community six months earlier when news of girls’ strange behavior in nearby Salem Village was made known.

Rebecca Eames listened intently, a basket of eggs resting near her feet. The combined body odors of the parishioners mingled in the close air, relieved only when a gentle July breeze entered through the opened windows. Soot from multiple tallow candles had collected on the walls and ceiling. The dark smudges always reminded her of sin. No matter how often the ladies of the congregation wiped the offending marks away, they always reappeared. 

So like my own great sin, she thought morosely. Twill never truly be removed from me. 

Anxious eyes darted from face to face. Despite the stifling summer heat, Rebecca shivered at the minister’s words. She exchanged nervous looks with her daughters, Hannah and Dorothy. Hannah’s teenage daughter, Rose, sat next to her mother—large, dark eyes dominating her thin, pale face. The girl was timid and easily swayed to the whims of others, and she appeared to be taking Barnard’s admonition to heart. 

Sweet, sensitive Rose, she thought. All this talk about witches has her positively distressed. 

Sweeping an arm over the women’s side of the sanctuary, Barnard said, “We have in our midst two afflicted girls from Salem Village, Mary Walcott and Ann Putnam. They will be visiting homes, determining who is to blame for the ailments that have recently befallen us.” 

Quiet murmurs of excitement circulated through the congregation. The two young visitors sat with their hands folded demurely in their laps. The congregation craned their necks in unison to get a better look at the guests. In the back, young boys rose to their feet, straining to see the girls until the tithingman rapped their heads soundly with his long stick and gestured for them to reseat themselves. 

“Who has stricken my Timothy?” called a man in the middle section of the men’s side.  “He’s been afflicted since June. Can these maids tell me who’s bewitched them?” 

Several heads turned to Robert Swan, the ferryman from Haverhill. He stood with his sons, Samuel and Joshua, seated on either side of him. His cold, blue eyes glinted beneath think, white brows, and his face wore a permanent scowl. 

From the women’s side, Rebecca turned to the speaker and grimaced with distaste. 

Oh hush, you contemptuous old lout! She wrung her apron in her lap. Robert Swan was a litigious rabble-rouser who incited trouble like a whirlwind disturbs fallen leaves. It was know that out of sheer spite, Robert Swan had ordered his sons to chop down a neighbor’s orchard. The Eeames family had also fallen under Swan’s wrath, and a cavernous rift had grown between the two households. Blood simmered in her veins like a kettle over a low fire, and she bit her lips to keep from speaking her mind. She met her husband’s cautionary gaze across the aisle. 

Be silent, he seemed to be imploring her. Do not react. 

“It’s costing me money,” Swan bellowed. “I’m down two men, what with Josh here with a broken arm and nose—“ He gestured at the pimple-faced young man to his right. Joshua Swan gingerly stroked his swollen nose with his left hand while his right arm hung suspended in a sling. His brother Samuel’s handsome face reddened with obvious embarrassment, and he kept his eyes on the floor. 

“I assure you, Goodman Swan,” Barnard said, gripping the podium firmly, “that these young maids will be able to direct you to the culprit of your son’s ailment.” 

“They’d better,” Swan muttered, before reclaiming his seat between his sons.  

Rebecca faced forward, seething silently. The very sound of Swan’s booming voice infuriated her. 


The queue of parishioners formed a small circle from whose core angry male voices began to emanate. Rebecca recognized her husband Robert’s voice shouting, “Away with you, Swan! I’ll not sully the Sabbath by indulging you with a brawl on these church grounds!” 

“Brawling’s all your Daniel knows!” retorted the elder Swan.  “He’s the one that broke Josh’s arm and nose here not a week ago, and I seek compensation for lost revenue!” 

Curse Swan and his lot, all of them! Rebecca thought as she pushed her way through the crowd to stand next to her husband.       

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Book Review

"The Head in Edward Nugent's Hand,"
by Michael Leroy Oberg

Michael Leroy Oberg’s book accomplishes two objectives. It tells the story of Sir Walter Raleigh’s failed attempts to establish an English outpost/settlement on the North Carolina coast between the years 1584 and 1587. It examines the native population’s culture and way of life and emphasizes how that culture determined native responses to English interference.

Raleigh wanted to use the outpost as a base for privateers to attack Spanish treasure ships; utilize the natural resources of the land to benefit Queen Elizabeth, his financial backers, and himself; and discover a water passage to the Pacific Ocean. Accomplishing these objectives assumed that the Carolina coastal natives could be civilized and converted to Christianity. Treated patiently and kindly, exposed to the benefits of a far more advanced culture, the natives would surely adapt.

Oberg demonstrates that the Algonquian culture -- based on religious concepts, ritual and a harmonious, balanced way of living influenced by natural resources unique to the environment, a culture established centuries ago -- was too strong to be altered. Friction, not assimilation, resulted.

Unforeseen events contributed greatly, as well, to Raleigh’s failure. The newcomers in 1585 brought disease that killed 50 to 70 percent of the inhabitants of native communities with whom they made contact. A severe drought limited considerably the corn crop upon which the natives greatly depended. The 1585 expedition brought to Roanoke Island over a hundred aggressive men most of whom were soldiers trained solely to wage war. Most of the colony’s food supply for the remainder of the year was ruined by sea water when the ship containing the food, upon its arrival, ran aground. This caused the settlement’s leader to pressure the Roanoke natives continuously for assistance. Ultimately, the Roanoke weroance Wingina withdrew his community to the mainland, having come to the conclusion that the English brought to his people not advantages but hardship and death.

Believing mistakenly that the Roanoke weroance had conspired with other Indian settlements to attack him, the colony’s governor, Ralph Lane, had his soldiers slaughter most of the natives in Wingina’s mainland village. One of his soldiers, Edward Nugent, cut off Wingina’s head. Two weeks later, the entire colony sailed back to England.

The third attempt (1587) to establish a settlement was led by the artist and idealist John White, who had participated in the previous two expeditions. His settlers were mostly civilians, lower middleclass people of London seeking an independent, improved existence. White was forced by the fleet’s pilot to disembark on Roanoke Island instead of continuing on to locate a settlement on the south bank of Chesapeake Bay, as had been intended. Misunderstanding and miscommunication caused White and his settlers to attack the one remaining native people friendly to Englishmen. White was forced to return to England soon afterward to arrange for ships and supplies to transport his colony to the Chesapeake Bay. War with Spain prevented him from returning until 1590. He found Roanoke Island deserted. A message carved in wood suggested that the colony had moved south to the Indian village Croatoan on the Outer Bank. The next day a severe storm deprived White of the chance to investigate. His ship, driven well out into the Atlantic, returned to England. He never returned.

Other books about the Roanoke settlements provide this information. What is unique about Oberg’s book is his detailed explanation of why the native coastal populations were resistant to English encroachment. In his epilogue, he writes: “We know that many factors contributed to the failure of Sir Walter Raleigh’s Roanoke ventures. … All these explanations … overlook an important and fundamental truth: Raleigh’s Roanoke ventures failed because those native people in Ossomocomuck who initially had welcomed the newcomers decided to withdraw their support and assistance from strange people whom they now viewed as a mortal threat to their way of life.”

I especially appreciated Oberg’s laying out of most all of the explanations that historians have offered of why and where White’s “lost” settlers “disappeared.” He also explains how the coastal Carolina natives lost their land, culture, and identity over the succeeding two centuries. I recommend this book to anybody having a genuine interest in early English attempts to establish colonies in North America.    

Sunday, February 9, 2014

"Demons, Assassins!"
Pages 286-288

     Satan’s creation!

     From near the top of Punkatasset Hill Edmund Forrester had seen the devil’s mark in the desecrated corpses left behind at the base of the North Bridge. He had witnessed Satan’s power in the behavior of the soldiers that had filed past, they at Lexington, having raised to eternity eight righteous souls!

     “What additional depravity must I witness?” he had declared. None, he had the past ten minutes dared to hope. A hundred yards from the Meriam house the King’s soldiers were crossing the narrow bridge. Spare them, Heavenly Father. Permit them to leave my sight, he prayed.

     “Usurpers of liberty,” Abraham, others, had asserted. Words could lie, oftentimes mislead; events did not. The taxes, the billeting of soldiers, the closure of the harbor. This military expedition. 

     But did these transgressions justify his presence? Did they require he take a man’s life?

     Several in his company had exploded their powder. Most had not. Heavenly Father, let this marshalling of forces of which I am a part be but a demonstration! Punish them additionally if You must but exempt us from thy administration!

     Two rapid volleys across the bridge ended his prayer. Militiamen at the opposite end of the bridge toppled.

     Fierce expletives! Loud exhortations!

     Standing beside Edmund, Cousin Benjamin fired his musket.

     “Hold your fire! I say hold your fire!” John Flint shouted. “It’ll do y’no good from here!”

     Edmund stared. A right eye muscle twitched.

     “See? They’re stuck there, takin’ fire!”

     We are lost souls, damned, in Satan’s dominion!

     “Sergeant! Hurry the men across the slope!” Flint shouted. “Put your men in motion! Be quick!”

     Hurrying across the broad incline, Edmund anticipated their destination, a deciduous wood off the north side of the Concord/Lexington road. Holding his musket high, Edmund skirted interfering bushes, averted boulders, vaulted a small piling of rocks. Digging his heels into the downslope’s soft earth, he slowed his descent. He leaped onto the road. Following his company leaders, he plunged into the wood. Within seconds he was hiding behind a large tree trunk.

     He saw militiamen in a wood across the road. They weren’t Reading men. No one from his company as far as he had witnessed had crossed over. He remembered that he had seen earlier the reflection of sunlight on metal. How much farther along that side of the road did other militiamen wait?

     The sound of musketry was loud. “Savor each shot!” someone behind Edmund shouted.

     Powder exploded from across the road. Reading’s militiamen fired. Distorted faces turned to combat them. Musket balls ripped back through the new leaves.

     Traumatized, Edmund stayed hidden. During a brief interstice of silence, imagining soldiers with murderous faces rushing at him, Edmund finally raised his musket.

     Two heart beats thereafter he doubted the need! An animated officer had ordered his soldiers to rejoin the column. Edmund watched them face away. Standing their muskets upright, many inserted cartridges, worked ramrods, spilled powder. All the while musket balls ripped. Soon enough they hurried off, leaving behind two writhing bodies and three twisted corpses.

     More redcoats passed across his restricted vision. Edmund felt, like no time previously, the pounding of his heart. His throat was dry, very dry, his mouth parched. He needed to urinate. A prayer unlike any he had heretofore uttered issued from his lips.

     Strengthened, he stared at the road. He saw a cluster of soldiers facing in his direction. An officer, behind them, shouted. Crouched, musket barrels and bayonets leading, the soldiers stepped off the road.

     “Flankers!” someone yelled.

     Demons, assassins!

     The tree trunks about Edmund flashed. Thirty feet in front of him, a gangly-looking redcoat flinched. He careened behind a tree trunk. Moments after, Edmund saw the man’s eyes peer over a low, thick branch. Edmund fired. He heard the man yelp, saw him grasp. Fragments of bark leaped off the tree trunk next to the soldier's head. Lunging, stumbling, evading musket balls, he hurried to the road.

     Another redcoat soldier forced his way through low-hanging branches.

     Eyes burning, Edmund Forrester reloaded his musket.

Thursday, February 6, 2014


"A Road We Do Not Know"

by Frederick J. Chiaventone

The book title “A Road We Do Not Know” is taken from what Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer’s Ree Indian friend and chief scout Bloody Knife tells Custer prior to the Colonel’s attack on a huge village of defiant Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho Indians. Custer has been warned by his Indian scouts that the village is much larger than he thinks. Addressing the sun, Bloody Knife states, “I shall not see you go down behind the mountains tonight.” Indicating the soldiers about them, he predicts, “All of these people will get killed.” Knowing that Custer will not change his mind, he concludes, “Good hunting to you, old friend. You and I are both going home tonight by a road we do not know.”

The year is 1876. The location is Wyoming near the Yellowstone River. General Terry has ordered a three-prong attack on what is vastly underestimated to be 800 warriors plus women and children. Custer with 600 men and Colonel Gibbon with 700 men are to approach the Indian settlement separately from the north and General Crook with 900 is to advance from the south. Custer’s 7th Cavalry is assigned to keep the settlement from scattering to the east and south. “Well, well, eight hundred young bucks. This should not be too much trouble, I shouldn’t think. It should be a fairly easy task to pen ‘em up and force ‘em back to the reservation,” the commanding general concludes.

Leaving his meeting with Terry and Gibbon, Custer sketches out mentally his plan of attack. “Keep the scouts out poking about, get the enemy’s location pinpointed, and hit ‘em first thing in the morning. Get ‘em just as the sun comes up. Perfect. They’ll be groggy, sun’ll be in their eyes. We’ll hit ‘em from two sides, put ‘em in a panic. The Rees and Crows [his Indian allies] can run off the pony herd, and they’ll run straight into Gibbon and Terry. Shouldn’t even be much of a fight at all. They won’t want to risk it with the women and children right there.”

Custer initiates his plan. His Ree and Crow and civilian scouts see from a great distance what they believe is evidence of a very large settlement. It is hidden by ridges, but its pony herd, barely visible, causes the scouts to believe the village vastly exceeds what Custer anticipates.

Custer rejects his scouts’ recommendation to proceed cautiously. He is not able to see and interpret what his scouts perceive. Bloody Knife advises him to delay the attack two days to allow Colonel Gibbon to join him. In one of the best scenes in the novel Bloody Knife tells Custer, “But your world is smaller than my world. You see what you expect to see and nothing else. You cannot see what you don’t want to look for.” He continues. “Where we looked, we could see the ground moving when it should not move. Your eyes tell you it was just the wind in the buffalo grass, but I know there is no wind to make the grass move. There is a big village there. This plan is not a good one, old friend.” Custer, worried that two days would be too long to keep his presence a secret, rejects Bloody Knife’s advice. Convinced later in the day that a Sioux scouting party has detected the cavalry’s approach, Custer decides to begin his attack that day, June 25, rather than at sunrise the following morning. The Indians must not be allowed to scatter.

The Indian settlement has not intention of leaving. Their mind-set is represented by the thoughts of the Hunkpapa Sioux tribesman Gall. “”First they were like small raindrops and we brushed them away and went to our lodges to stay dry, but now they are like the storms that fill the rivers and make the floods that carry everything away. They are the flood and they will sweep our lodges and our people away before them. … We should teach” our children “how to fight, how to take the wasichus’ [white men’s] guns and turn them against them.”

Custer commits Major Reno’s brigade. It fords the Little Bighorn River and fires into the tipis of the Hunkpapa Sioux. From the top of a bluff Custer sees the actual size of this part of the village. He is amazed. Rather than 400 lodges, he estimates there are at least a thousand. He decides he can still accomplish his mission if he acts decisively. It is at this moment that Bloody Knife tells him about the road “we do not know.” By day’s end all but Captain Benteen’s brigade, which arrived at the battle scene tardily, and a portion of Reno’s brigade have been killed.

I recommend “A Road We Do Not Know” only to readers who appreciate the details of important historical events and who want to experience vicariously the thought-processes and emotions of more than two dozen characters. There are no romantic sub-plots here. Frederick J. Chiaventone knows his material. His novel is very well researched. He also knows how to write.

For instance, he presents both sides of the conflict. We learn the viewpoints of specific Indians including Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse. We see adherence to cultural beliefs completely foreign to whites. We can appreciate, for example, the importance Indians placed on decorating their bodies to produce “medicine” to ward off bullets. “A Road We Do Not Know” instructs us that human traits, good and bad, are universal in all men and that every civilization is tainted.

The author makes every character interesting. His dialogue is authentic. I enjoyed his vivid (not ostentatious) sensory detail. Here are two examples.

“He reached under his buckskin campaign jacket to pull out his gold hunter and thumbed the lid open. The other officers quickly reached for their own watches, and a series of dull clicks was heard as the lids popped open.”

“Hodgson managed to squeeze off two rounds before a volley of rifle fire sent four bullets ripping through his chest and arm. He sank back into the mud, small pink bubbles foaming out of his mouth.”

I do criticize Chiaventone for using so many characters. I recognize the importance of utilizing the experiences of numerous characters to capture the totality of a major historical event. I see them functioning like pieces of a jigsaw picture: some of them small; some definitely larger; all of them, placed together, presenting a comprehensible image. Nevertheless, the number of characters that Chiaventone introduced a third of the way through the novel overwhelmed me. The attention he gave to their back stories and their mundane activities prior to the 7th Cavalry’s arrival at the Little Bighorn River slowed considerably the pace of the novel. “Get on with it!” I groused. “I can’t give this book 5 stars, even though the writing is good and the research is excellent.” However, the last half of the novel caused me to dismiss this objection. The pace was swift. The writing was better than good. Chiaventone’s varied depiction of the death of his many characters made vivid the horrendous brutality of combat. It revealed the fear and rage men experience in immediate life-or-death circumstances. It illustrated the great harm done to mankind by innate self-interest and unbridled greed.   

Monday, February 3, 2014

Sacrifice Versus Self-Interest

Despite his character flaws, benefiting from the advantages of wealthy parentage, Timothy Pickering became a prominent national figure during our nation’s first four presidential administrations. Egotistical, selfish, exceedingly narrow-minded, he epitomized the kind of public official that every democratic nation needs to thwart in its exercise of representative authority.

Here is a second foreshadowing incident of how wrong-headed and disruptive this man would be in public office.

Knowing it could advance his career, Pickering added his Essex Country regiment of volunteers to the Continental Army’s dwindling forces in New York and New Jersey during the winter months of 1776-1777. Soon afterward, General George Washington appointed Pickering his Attorney General. In 1780 Washington chose Pickering to be the Continental Army’s Quartermaster General, an extremely frustrating duty that Pickering loathed. Throughout the entire Revolutionary War the Continental Congress and the state governments were almost always broke. They could provide little of the Army’s needs: food, supplies, enlisted soldiers’ and officers’ pay. Promises were made but rarely kept. Understandably, resentment escalated.

A mutiny of sorts surfaced in 1783 prior to the official end of the War. The decisive victory against the British at Yorktown had been achieved; hostilities had ceased. Stationed in Newburgh, New York, the army had remained in tact. It would not be disbanded until enemy forces left the country. Knowing the Army would disband after a peace treaty had been signed, fearing that after both events occurred they would never be compensated for personal expenses incurred and back pay not received, a cabal of Washington’s officers, including Pickering, decided to pressure their commander to act autocratically.

On March 10 they circulated handbills that called for all officers to meet five days later to determine how the army’s grievances might be rectified. Washington knew nothing about this proposed meeting until the handbills were brought to his attention. The instigators were Washington’s second in command, General Horatio Gates; two other officers; and Pickering. Their intention was to persuade Washington at the March 15 meeting to intimidate selected state legislatures into paying at least a portion of the officers’ back pay. If he refused, Gates would lead the Army to Philadelphia to force the Continental Congress to provide what was wanted.

At the March 15 meeting Washington listened, and then spoke. He understood entirely their frustration. He sympathized with their plight. They and he had sacrificed so much. That admitted, he would not now or ever countenance overturning “the liberties of our country” and opening “the flood gates of civil discord and deluge our rising empire in blood.” Witnessing their aging leader, feeling strongly their attachment to him, a majority of the officers sided with him. After Washington had left the meeting, Pickering rose to get the meeting headed back in the direction he wanted. He was ignored. Instead, a paper was sent to Congress that disavowed the Newburgh meeting’s alleged purpose. As it had the day British troops had marched to Concord, Massachusetts, in 1775, Timothy Pickering’s judgment and behavior had been completely out-of-step with his peers.

I will tell you about Pickering’s disagreements with John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison; his involvement in a plan to secede from the union; and his censure by the United States Senate in next month’s blog.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Most Perfect Goddess of the Heavens

Queen Elizabeth’s difficulties with foreign princes and Mary Stuart continued into the new decade with the assassination in Scotland January 23, 1570, of James Stuart, the Earl of Moray.  Moray was Mary Stuart’s half-brother, one of King James V’s many bastards.  Moray had taken Mary’s part in her quarrels with the Calvinist John Knox and had won her confidence.  During her reign, until she married Lord Darnley, Mary had followed his advice.  Becoming regent of Scotland after Mary’s abdication in 1567, Moray had opposed any movement to restore her as Queen.  Elizabeth saw Mary’s restoration as a means of ridding herself of a major difficulty, but only if the stringent conditions of the Treaty of Edinburgh, which Mary had refused to ratify, were followed -- the treaty’s most important condition being that Mary renounce all claims to the English throne.  Moray had been murdered by rival lords who believed he had wanted to become King.  William Maitland, the former Scottish ambassador to England, had thereupon organized a faction to restore Mary; and the kings of France and Spain were demanding that Elizabeth assist in the restoration.

Pope Pius V’s excommunication of Elizabeth February 25 produced considerable turmoil.  The Pope’s bull deprived “the pretended Queen of England, the serpent of wickedness,” of her kingdom.  Elizabeth’s subjects were free of their oath of allegiance.  The bull’s intention was two-fold: to incite Elizabeth’s Catholic subjects to rebel and to encourage foreign princes to assist in her removal.  Its immediate consequences were counter-productive.  Pius’s action angered Spain’s Philip II and France’s Charles IX.  Each resented that he had not been consulted.  English Protestants pressed “increasingly for Mary’s execution and for tougher laws against Catholics.”  The bull “subverted the loyalty of Elizabeth’s Catholic subjects and made every one of them a potential traitor to be regarded with suspicion.  … each one of them would face an agonizing choice of loyalties, for it would no longer be possible to compromise on matters of conscience” (Weir 213).

In late April the Privy Council warned Elizabeth that if she forced Mary’s restoration she would never feel secure in her kingdom.  Conversely, the French had threatened war if she did not.  Seeking a middle course, Elizabeth sent Mary an additional condition for restoration, that her son James be brought to England as a hostage to guarantee Mary’s good conduct.  In October Mary agreed to Elizabeth’s conditions.  Because of the increased threat of Mary being crowned Queen of England, the need for Elizabeth to marry soon and give birth to a male heir now seemed imperative.  “Without that child, Elizabeth stood alone, unguarded against foreign invaders, traitors at home, and the constant fear of assassination.  If she died childless, there would be no bar to Mary’s succession” (Weir 215).

Consequently, Elizabeth sent an envoy to the Holy Roman Emperor in August to attempt to renew marriage negotiations with the Archduke.  He was not interested.  To her surprise, Elizabeth received in September a marriage proposal from France’s Henry, the Duke of Anjou, King Charles IX’s brother and heir.  Charles and his mother Catherine de Medici wanted to unite England and France in a defensive alliance against Spain, whose presence in the Netherlands Charles feared.  Additionally, Charles needed support against the increasing threat to his sovereignty of the House of Guise.  And, finally, by having Elizabeth marry his brother, he hoped to deter Elizabeth from helping the ever-increasing masses of French Huguenots.  Prolonged negotiations were precisely what Elizabeth desired.  Because France was King Philip’s most powerful rival, Philip would be obliged to tolerate Elizabeth’s religious heresy for fear that if he were to act against her, he would force her to commit to a French marriage even though her husband would be Catholic.  Anjou was luke-warm about the proposed marriage.  So was Elizabeth.  He was 19; she was 37.  It was already well know that he was bisexually promiscuous.  Even though she was insistent that he would have to obey her country’s rules and Anjou was unbending about not abandoning his faith, she encouraged the French ambassador to believe that she was ready for marriage.  The Queen Mother Catherine de Medici sent a flattering portrait of her son and a list of demands: Anjou had to be permitted to practice his faith, he would be crowned King of England the day after the marriage, and he would receive an annual income of 60,000 pounds for life.  Elizabeth’s only concession was that Anjou would not be forced to attend Anglican services.

In February 1571, Scottish commissioners, acting on behalf of the four-year-old James VI, appeared before Elizabeth.  The Scottish people do not want you to press for Mary Stuart’s restoration, they informed.  Embittered by Pope Pius’s excommunication and resentful of the desire of European monarchs to depose her, Elizabeth had no intention now of doing so.  Soon thereafter, Mary was told of Elizabeth’s refusal to help her.  She realized that only foreign princes could deliver her.  “If intrigue could secure her liberation, and hopefully the crown of England, that was the course she was now obliged to take” (Weir 270).

Mary had already received a letter from Roberto Ridolfi, a Florentine banker who acted as a papal agent.  He had conceived of a plan whereby Catholic powers would invade England, overthrow Elizabeth, and crown Mary and the English subject Lord Norfolk (who had entertained thoughts of marrying Mary previously -- and had spent time in the Tower of London because of it) Queen and King.  Philip and the Pope had agreed to the plan in principle.  Ridolfi received Mary’s consent.

According to Ridolfi’s plan, Philip’s general in the Netherlands, the Duke of Alva, would invade England with 6,000 troops, march to London, and occupy it.  Norfolk would incite loyal English Catholics to rise up against Elizabeth.  Alva would seize Elizabeth and either assassinate her or hold her hostage for Mary’s safety.  Mary would be liberated and proclaimed Queen of England.  Mary and Norfolk would be married and would reign as joint sovereigns of England and Scotland. 

The Duke of Alva rejected the plan, recognizing that it had little chance of succeeding.  Spies working for Elizabeth’s chief advisor, Lord Burghley, discovered it.  Arrested, Norfolk confessed.  The Spanish ambassador was expelled from the country.  Ridolfi fled abroad.  Elizabeth ordered her cousin Mary to be more closely confined and watched.  Never again would she consider restoring Mary to the Scottish throne.  Acting swiftly, she recognized James VI King of Scots.  She had Mary’s letters implicating her in the murders of her secretary/lover David Rizzio in 1566 and her husband Lord Darnley in 1567 published.  Norfolk was beheaded June 2, 1572.  Yet Elizabeth turned down Parliament’s request that Mary either be executed or be barred legislatively from succession and be warned that future plotting against Elizabeth would require her execution.

On April 19, 1572, England and France concluded the Treaty of Blois.  Each country would provide the other military and naval assistance against their common enemies.  France would end its support of Mary Stuart.  Catherine de Medici thereafter proposed a marriage between Elizabeth and her youngest son, Francis, the Duke of Alencon.  Seventeen years old, he was said to be somewhat sympathetic toward Huguenots.  His skin was badly marked from two childhood attacks of smallpox.  He was undersized for his age.  Elizabeth agreed to allow negotiations to proceed, hoping to prolong them indefinitely.  The Massacre of St. Bartholemew in August interceded.

Backed by the Catholic House of Guise, Catherine de Medici, jealous that the Huguenot leader Admiral de Coligny had gained influence with her son King Charles, had ordered the Huguenot murdered.  The attempt failed.  Riots broke out in Paris.  Reluctantly backed by Charles, Catherine ordered all Huguenots removed from the capital.  Catholics murdered every Huguenot they could find – between 3,000 and 4,000.  Similar attacks erupted in the provinces.  Elizabeth responded cautiously.  She could not compromise the French alliance.  She expressed deep shock and anger.  She hoped that King Charles would make amends.  She would not make a decision about marriage until she was satisfied that Charles would henceforth treat his Huguenot subjects fairly.  Secretly, she sent arms to the Huguenots. 

In July 1573 King Charles declared that all Huguenots were free to practice their religious beliefs.  Ten months later, May 30, 1574, he died.  His brother, the Duke of Anjou, became King Henry III.  Fearing an end of religious tolerance in France and possibly the peace treaty that she had signed, Elizabeth moved closer to Spain by signing in August the Treaty of Bristol.  (Henry did continue the moderate religious policies begun by Charles)  Elizabeth had agreed to meet the Duke of Alencon at Dover in March 1574, two months before Charles IX’s death.  Alencon, however, had become implicated in a series of intrigues against his brother Charles and had been put under house arrest.  (After Charles’s death, Alencon’s title became the Duke of Anjou, being that he was now the first heir to the French throne, his older brother, the original Anjou, having become King.  I will continue to identify him as Alencon, to avoid confusion)  After Charles’s death, Alencon escaped his incarceration and wandered for some time about Europe.  Elizabeth informed his mother Catherine that under no circumstance would she now marry him.

A new threat to Elizabeth’s safety began to surface in 1574.  Hundreds of highly-trained, committed, militant Catholic priests from Jesuit seminaries located throughout Europe had started to arrive in England.  These “seminarists” were comprised of two groups.  One group provided spiritual comfort for beleaguered English Catholics.  The other group strived to undermine the English church and state.  The government would view both groups as traitors deserving the worst of punishments.

In January 1575 Protestant leaders in the Netherlands asked Elizabeth to become Queen of Holland and Zeeland.  She procrastinated, not wanting to provoke Philip of Spain, who was the anointed king and hereditary ruler of the Netherlands.  Also, she opposed in principle the overthrowal of any rightful monarch.  The Protestant leaders took offense at her procrastination. 

Elizabeth’s relations with France and Spain appeared to improve.  France’s King Henry requested a renewal of the Treaty of Blois.  Yet Mary Stuart, now 32, still posed a definite threat.  Mary knew she would never again be Queen of Scotland.  Her ambition now was to dethrone Elizabeth.  With the help of attendants as well as friends who lived outside the estate where she was confined, Mary managed to communication with the Pope, King Philip, and other Catholics.  Spies working for Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth’s secretary, had intercepted enough of her ciphered letters to know that she was waiting for the day of her deliverance and ascension to the English throne.

1576 witnessed additional trouble in the Netherlands.  Elizabeth had not yet answered whether she would consent to be Queen of Holland and Zeeland.  In February Philip asked her if she intended to provide aid to the Protestant rebels.  She evaded his question.  In the spring she declined the Holland and Zeeland Protestant leaders’ offer.  That summer Spanish troops stationed in the Netherlands mutinied and rioted over non-payment of wages.  Dutch Protestants and some Catholics coalesced under the leadership of William of Orange.  The rebels agreed that they should elect their own assembly and fight for independence.  They wanted their and England’s military forces to combine to form a Protestant army with Elizabeth its leader.  Elizabeth rejected their proposal.  Philip appointed a new Regent for the Netherlands, his half brother Don John of Austria, “the most renowned soldier in Europe” (Weir 306).  Elizabeth had in fact given the Dutch 20,000 pounds.  She had loaned them another 106,000 pounds – almost half her annual income.  She offered to act as mediator between Don John and the Dutch rebels.  Her proposal was rejected.  Ultimately, Don John offered the rebel Dutch favorable terms for peace.

In the early months of 1577 Walsingham’s spies uncovered a Catholic conspiracy to remove Elizabeth and re-establish Catholicism as England’s official religion.  Don John would invade England with 10,000 troops.  He would marry Mary Stuart.  They would rule England jointly.  Don John was too busy in the Netherlands to initiate the plan.  Elizabeth refused to punish Mary.

In January 1578 Don John decisively defeated the Dutch Protestant armies in a major battle.  Elizabeth immediately renewed marriage negotiations with the French.  “Thanks to the provocation given to King Philip by English privateers” (information about this next month) and the help Elizabeth had given the Dutch rebels, “the peace with Spain now seemed to be on a very precarious footing, … Philip might yet invoke the Pope’s interdict and make the rumoured Enterprise of England a reality” (Weir 311).  She had also been worried about reports that the Duke of Alencon was planning to meddle in the Netherlands.  Alencon’s ambition had found no outlet at the court of France.  Regarded as a troublesome nuisance, he craved military fame and glory.  Elizabeth wanted no French presence whatsoever in the Netherlands.  When she learned that Alencon’s intention was not supported by the French government, she thought to control him by suggesting that she might yet marry him.  Alencon was amenable.  Without the backing of a powerful ruler he knew he could not achieve his ambitious goals. 

Alencon participated in a Netherlands attack upon Don John in August 1578.  Thereafter, he signed a treaty with the Protestant States that conferred upon him the title, “Defender of the Liberties of the Low Countries against Spanish Tyranny.”  Enraged, Elizabeth sent a friendly letter to King Philip.  Don John died October 1.   Philip sent another army under the Duke of Parma to subjugate the Netherlands.  Parma pushed back William of Orange’s forces to Holland and Zeeland.  Returning to France in November, Alencon, desperate for receive aid to support his next foray in the Netherlands, sent Jean de Simier, Baron de St. Marc, to England to woo Elizabeth.  “Exquisitely skilled in love toys, pleasant conceits and court dalliances,” Simier indeed wooed her.  Elizabeth responded “like a skittish girl, never happier or better-humoured than when in his company” (Weir 318, 319).  She nicknamed him her “Monkey.”  Alencon wrote from France: “If Your Majesty will consent to marry me … you will restore a languishing life, which has existed only for the service of the most perfect goddess of the heavens” (Weir 319).

In March 1579 Simier presented a draft marriage treaty to the Privy Council.  The Council rejected three of the marriage articles: that Alencon be crowned immediately after the wedding, that he share jointly with the Queen the power to grant land and church offices, and that Parliament give him an annual income of 60,000 pounds payable until his children had reached their majority.  Elizabeth stipulated that no decision could be reached about the marriage treaty until Alencon came to England to meet her.  Alencon arrived “secretly” August 17.  She appeared taken by him.  She nicknamed him her “Frog.”  Alencon returned to France at the end of the month.  Public opposition to the marriage was never greater.  Angered, Elizabeth had the right hands of the author and printer of a salacious pamphlet cut off.  The public was outraged all the more, forcing her to recognize that if she were to retain the love of her subjects she could not accept Alencon as a husband.  Yet it was necessary that the marriage negotiations be prolonged, to keep the French government friendly, to keep the Duke under control, and to keep King Philip at bay.  Therefore, she feigned a great love for her French suitor.  Into the year 1580 she wore his gift jewel at Court; she tucked his pair of gloves in her belt, kissed them hundreds of times; she wrote him many letters.  Her Councilors had no idea what she would ultimately decide.

Sources Cited:

Weir, Alison.  Elizabeth the Queen.  London: Vintage Books, 1998.  Print.