Tuesday, April 1, 2014

War with Spain Imminent
In 1580, prior to Queen Elizabeth’s knighting of Francis Drake, Pope Gregory XIII reissued his bull of excommunication.  In December he let it be known that he sanctioned Elizabeth’s assassination.  Meanwhile, Jesuits priests trained in Rome were arriving in England in droves.  To combat the increased threat of Catholic insurgency, Parliament passed on March 18, 1581, the Statue of Recusancy.  A monthly fine of 20 pounds would be imposed on anyone who didn’t attend Anglican services.  Anyone who participated in a mass would spend a year in jail.  Anybody who converted to the Roman Catholic faith would be classified as a traitor.  Anybody who spoke defamatory remarks about the Queen once would have his ears cuts off and would be fined 200 pounds.  Anyone so foolish as to commit the crime a second time would be put to death.  Wide-scale prosecution was not prevalent, however.  Over the next 20 years no more than 250 Catholics were executed or died in prison.
As the danger to her person increased, so also did Elizabeth’s difficulties with Spain.  By annexing Portugal and declaring himself its king in August 1581, King Philip acquired Portugal’s wealth and a strong navy.  In turn, Elizabeth recognized the deposed Portuguese heir, Don Antonio.  Additionally, she pledged support to the Duke of Anjou (formerly the Duke of Alencon), the unstable brother of King Henry III of France.  On September 19, Anjou accepted the Dutch offer that he become Prince and Lord of the Netherlands.  The Dutch rebels had been weakened by a series of defeats delivered by the Duke of Parma, King Philip’s sterling general.  They needed Anjou’s assistance.  Anjou’s desire was military fame and glory.  To achieve it, he needed financial assistance, which he believed he would receive if he were to marry Elizabeth.  She needed the threat of marriage to Anjou and a military alliance with France to dissuade King Philip from invading her country.  Prolonged negotiations, not marriage, was her intention.
In April – before Philip’s annexation of Portugal and Anjou’s acceptance of the Dutch crown -- impatient French commissioners had arrived in London to complete the marriage negotiations.  (She took them on board Francis Drake’s ship to participate in his knighthood ceremony)  Failing to gain a marriage agreement, they wanted her to provide Anjou both military and financial support.  Elizabeth delayed.  She stated her misgivings.  She was yet concerned about her and Anjou’s age difference.  Their marriage would encourage English Catholics to become more demonstrative. Helping Anjou in the Netherlands might cause Philip to declare war upon her.  In June she told them that they could draw up a marriage treaty, but Anjou would have to endorse it in her presence.  Disgusted, the French delegation returned to Paris.  Elizabeth subsequently learned that Anjou’s and King Henry III’s mother, Catherine de Medici, had suggested that Anjou marry a Spanish princess.  Elizabeth sent her chief secretary and advisor, Francis Walsingham, to Paris to maintain the fabrication that she really did intend to marry the Duke.  She wanted a defense treaty with France without the marriage.  Henry III and Catherine insisted that she could not have it without the marriage.  Walsingham told her that she had to make up her mind.  
In August, Philip threatened war.  His ambassador to England, Bernardino de Mendoza, informed Elizabeth that if she did not heed his sovereign’s words, “it would be necessary to see whether cannons would not make her hear them better.”  She retorted that if he (Mendoza) thought to threaten and frighten her, she would put him “into a place where he could not say a word” (Weir 338).
Thinking to capitalize on Elizabeth’s vulnerability, Anjou arrived in England October 31 to call her bluff.  Elizabeth entertained him openly and affectionately.  Mendoza reported to Philip several prescient observations.  One, the French ambassador and Anjou’s entourage believed that the marriage was an established fact.  Two, the English people, believing that Anjou was after her money, scoffed at the idea of marriage.  Three, the Queen would do her best to avoid offending Anjou.  Four, she would pledge Anjou support in the Netherlands to drive Anjou’s brother, Henry III, into a war with Spain.  And, five, she would reap the benefits of such a war without engagement or loss to herself.
On November 24, Elizabeth made an almost fatal mistake.  The French ambassador told her directly that King Henry wanted to hear from her own lips her decision.  Elizabeth answered:  “You may write this to the King: that the Duke of Anjou shall be my husband” (Weir 340).  She then kissed Anjou on the mouth, took a ring off her hand, and gave it to him.  He gave her a ring of his own.  This, before witnesses, amounted to a formal betrothal.  After a sleepless night, she told Anjou that she could not marry him yet.  She had to sacrifice her happiness for the welfare of her subjects.
Anjou decided that if he could not finance his activities in the Netherlands by marriage, he would make Elizabeth pay for it to get rid of him.  Elizabeth offered him 60,000 pounds.  He accepted, but remained.  On December 20 she paid him 10,000 pounds on account.  Still he would not leave, believing that if he left he would never see the promised money.  By then, King Philip had informed Elizabeth that he was willing to forgive her past offenses.  He was willing to renew their old Anglo-Spanish alliance.
Elizabeth persuaded Anjou to leave on New Year’s Day 1582 with the offer of an additional 10,000 pounds.  His fortunes plummeted in the Netherlands due largely to his incompetency.  He was frequently seen playing tennis or engaged in hunting while the Duke of Parma captured Dutch city after Dutch city.  Enraged that the Dutch were placing demands on him, Anjou turned against them in January 1583, initiating attacks on several cities.  Retaliating, the Dutch rebels forced him to return to France.  Disillusioned, they accepted William of Orange as their leader.
Making his second attempt to establish a colony and a naval base far north of Spanish Florida, Sir Humphrey Gilbert left Plymouth Harbor June 11, 1583.  He died at sea September 9 on his return voyage, not having accomplished his mission.  (See blog entry Sept. 4, 2013)  Establishing a viable colony and a base for English ships to attack Spanish galleons in the Caribbean would now be undertaken by his half-brother Walter Raleigh, Queen Elizabeth’s new favorite at Court.
On June 10, 1584, the Duke of Anjou died of a fever.  King Henry III had no sons.  After Henry’s death, the crown would go to his cousin, Henry of Bourbon, the Huguenot King of Navarre.  Elizabeth could no longer deter King Philip by utilizing the possibility of an alliance with France.  On July 10, William of Orange was murdered.  Philip had been behind the assassination.  Nothing in the Netherlands stood in the way of Parma’s great army.  Mary Stuart was a participant again in plots to dethrone Elizabeth.  Would Elizabeth also be assassinated?  England’s future appeared very bleak. 
Within this context Captains Philip Amadas and Arthur Barlowe (see blog entry “Two Ships Enter Pamlico Sound” June 2013) sailed for America in late April 1584, explored the environs of North Carolina’s Outer Banks, and returned to England in mid-September with Manteo and Wanchese, two Algonquian natives chosen to be trained and to serve as translators the following year.  1585 would see England’s first concerted attempt to found a colony in North America.
Source cited:
Weir, Alison.  Elizabeth the Queen.  London, Vintage Books, 1998.  Print.