The Career of the Earl of Essex from the Islands Voyage in 1597 to His Execution in 1610

By Laura Hanes Cadwallader | Go to book overview

soon she showed an inclination to heal over the breach; consequently when in 1597 another expedition against the king of Spain was prepared, she made him commander-in-chief of the English forces. This expedition to Spain and the Islands of the Azores was most disappointing. Essex just missed capturing the entire treasure fleet and returned home fretful and moody, enraged against a cruel fate, and unwilling to accept what he felt to be uncalled-for criticism.

The lack of success in 1597 was followed two years later by a failure to crush out Tyrone's rebellion in Ireland. Repeated reverses, his undiplomatic attitude, and the continued hostile influence of his opponents resulted in his final and complete loss of the favor of Elizabeth and his banishment from court and from her presence.

Relying still on his popularity with the masses, Essex now called for followers to assist him in forcing an audience with the queen. He hoped by this daring policy to rekindle her old time favor, to redress his personal grievances, and to compel her to dismiss from her council all those who opposed him. He was unable however to secure a following sufficient to resist successfully the power of the queen and of her entrenched and trusted councillors.

The people, in the main, were prosperous at that time and notwithstanding the magnetic personality of Essex and the increasing murmurs of discontent with the government, they were not disposed to risk their lives and fortunes in his cause. The "rebellion" therefore resulted in dismal failure and the execution of Essex as a traitor.

Camden in his account of Essex's rebellion, written a few years later, says that those who spoke worst of the commotion called it "an unadvised and indiscreet rashness; . . . but few ever thought it a capital Crime."

-viii-

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