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

CHAPTER IV
THE FALL OF ESSEX

"Were now the general of our gracious empress
(As in good time he may,) from Ireland coming,
Bringing rebellion broached on his sword,
How many would the peaceful city quit
To welcome him!"

SHAKESPEARE, Henry V, Prologue

How different was Essex's home-coming from that predicted by Shakespeare in the prologue of Henry V! Instead of a triumphal procession with throngs crowding the streets to welcome the conquering hero, Essex slipped into London, unannounced, and with few attendants. For two years his popularity with the queen had been steadily waning, and the unexpected termination of his campaign in Ireland completed the ruin of his career. Never again was he the favored one of Queen Elizabeth, but rather a discredited courtier, robbed of honors.

Rowland Whyte relates how Essex, "full of dirt and mire," rushed dramatically into the queen's bed chamber about ten in the morning of the 28th of September. The queen was "newly up" and her hair was about her face. Essex kneeled to her, kissed her hands, and had some private speech with her, "which seemed to give him great Contentment; for coming from her Majestie to goe Shifte hymself in his Chamber, he was very pleasant, and thancked God, though he had suffered much Trouble and Storms Abroad, he found a sweet Calm at Home."1

____________________
1
Rowland Whyte to Sir Robert Sydney, Michaelmas Day, 1599. Sydney Papers, II, p. 127.

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