« 上一頁繼續 »
III.—The Character of Mary, 'Queen of Scots. TO all the charms of beauty, and the utmost elegance of external form, Mary added those accomplishments which render their impression irresistible. Polite, affable, insinuating, sprighily, and capable of speaking and of writing with equal ease and dignity. Sudden, however, and violent in all her attachments, because her heart was warm and unsuspicious. Impatient of contradiction, because she had been accustomed, from her infancy, to be treated as a queen. No stranger, on some occasions, to dissimulation, which, in that perfidious court, where she received her education, was reckoned among the necessary arts of government. Not insensible to flattery, nor unconscious of that pleasure with which almost every woman beholds the influence of her own beauty. Formed with the qualities that we love, not with the talents thạt we admire, she was an agreeable woman, rather than an illustrious queen.
The vivacity of her spirit, not sufficiently tempered with sound judgment, and the warmth of her heart, which was not at all times under the restraint of discretion, betrayed her both into errors and into crimes. To say that she was always unfortunate, will not account for that long and almost uninterrupted succession of calamities which befell her; we must likewise add, that she was often imprudent. Her passion for Darnly was rash, youthful, and excessive. And though the sudden transition to the opposite extreme, was the natural effect of her ill requited love, and of bis ingratitude, insolence, and brutality; yet neither these, nor Bothwell's artful address and important services, can justify her attachment to that nobleman. Even the manners of the age, licentious as they were, are no apology for this unhappy passion; nor can they induce us to look on that tragical and infamous scene which followed upon it, with less abhorrence. Humanity will draw a veil over this part of her character, which it cannot approve, and may, perhaps, prompt some to impute her actions to her situation, more than to her disposition; and to lament the unhappiness of the former, rather than to accuse the perverseness of the latter. Mary's sufferings exceed, both in degree and in duration, those tragical distresses which fancy has feigned, to excite sorrow and commiseration; and while we survey them, we are apt altogether to forget her frailties; we think of her faults with less indignation, and approve of our
tears, as if they were shed for a person who had attained much nearer to pure virtue. · With regard to the queen's person, a circumstance not to be omitted in writing the history of a female reign, all cotemporary authors agree, in ascribing to Mary the utmost beauty of countenance, and elegance of shape, of which the human form is capable. Her hair was black, though, according to the fashion of that age, she frequently wore borrowed locks, and of different colours. Her eyes were a dark gray, her complexion was exquisitely fine, and her hands and arms remarkably delicate, both as to shape and colour. Her stature was of a height that rose to the majestic. She danced, she walked, and rode, with equal grace. Her taste for music was just; and she both sung and played upon the lute with uncommon skill. Towards the end of her life, she began to grow fat; and her long confinement, and the coldness of the houses in which she was imprisoned, brought on a rheumatism, which deprived her of the use of her limbs. No man, says Brantome, ever beheld her person without admiration and love, or will read her history without sorrow..
IV.–Character of Queen Elizabeth.'' THERE are few personages, in history, who have been more exposed to the calumny of enemies, and the adulation of friends, than Queen Elizabeth ; and yet there scarce is any, whose reputation has been more certainly determined, by the unanimous consent of posterity. The unusual length of her administration, and the strong features of her character, were able to overcome all prejudices; and obliging her detractors to abate much of their invectives, and, her admirers.somewhat of their panegyric, have, at last, in spite of political factions, and what is more, of religious animosities, produced a uniform judgment with regard to her conduct. Her vigour, her constancy, her magnanimity, her penetration, vigilance, and address, are allowed to merit. the highest praises ; and appear not to have been surpassed by any person who ever filled a throne; a conduct less rigorous, less imperious, more sincere, more indulgent to her. people, would have been requisite to form a perfect character. By the force of her mind, she controlled all her more, active and stronger qualities, and prevented them from running into excess. Her heroism was exempted from all te. merity, her frugality from avarice, her friendship from par
tiality, her enterprise from turbulency and a vain ambition; she guarded not herself with equal care or equal success from Jesser infirmities--the rivalship of beauty, the desire of ade miration, the jealousy of love, and the sallies of anger.
Her singular talents for government were founded equally on her temper and on her capacity. Endowed with a great command over herself, she soon obtained an uncontrolled ascendancy over the people; and, while she merited all their esteem by her real virtues, she also engaged their affection, by her pretended ones. Few sovereigns of Eng. land succeeded to the throne in more difficult circumstances, and none ever conducted the government with such uniform success and felicity. Though unacquainted with the practice of toleration, the true secret for managing religious factions, she preserved her people, by her superior prudence, from those confusions in which theological controversy had involved all the neighbouring nations, and though her enemies were the most powerful princes of Europe, the most active, the most enterprising, the least scrupulous, she was able, by her vigour, to make deep impressions on their state ; her own greatness meanwhile remaining untouched and unimpaired.
The wise ministers and brave warriors who flourished during her reign, share the praise of her success; but, instead of lessening the applause due to her; they make great addition to it. They owed, all of them, their advancement to her choice; they were supported by her constancy; and, with all their ability, they were never able to acquire an undue ascendancy over her. In her family, in her court, in her kingdom, she remained equally mistress. The force of her tender passions was great over her, but the force of her mind was still superior; and the combat which her victory visibly cost her, serves only to display the firmness of her resolution, and the loftiness of her ambitious sentiments.
The fame of this princess, though it has surmounted the prejudices both of faction and of bigotry, yet lies still exposed to another prejudice, which is more durable, because more natural; and which, according to the different views in which we survey her, is capable either of exalting beyond measure, or diminishing the lusire of her character. This prejudice is founded on the consideration of her sex. When we contemplate her as a woman, we are apt to be struck with the highest admiration of her qualities, and extensive capacity ; but we are also apt to require some more softness of disposition, some greater lenity of temper, some of those amiable weaknesses by which her sex is distinguished. But the true method of estimating her merit, is to lay aside all these considerations, and to consider her merely as a rational being, placed in authority, and entrusted with the governo ment of mankind. We may find it difficult to reconcile our fancy to her, as a wife or a mistress ; but her qualities as a sovereign, though with some considerable exceptions, are the objects of undisputed applause and approbation.
1.-Charles Vos Resignation of his Dominions. CHARLES resolved to resign his dominions to his son, with a solemnity suitable to the importance of the transaction; and to perform this last act of sovereignty with such formal pomp, as might leave an irdelible impression on the minds, not only of his subjects, but of his successor. With 1.
marish this view he called Philip out of England, where the peevish temper of his queen, which increased with the despair of having issue, rendered him extremely unhappy, and the jealousy of the English left him no hopes of obtaining the direction of their affairs. Having assembled the states of the Low Countries at Brussels, on the twenty-fifth of October, one thousand five hundred and fifty-five, Charles seated himself, for the last time, in the chair of state, on one side of which was placed his son, and on the other, his sister, the queen of Hungary, regent of the Netherlands ; with a splendid retinue, of the grandees of Spain, and princes of the empire, standing behind him. The president of the council of Flanders, by his command, explained, in a few words, his intention, in calling this extraordinary meeting of the states. He then read the instrument of resignation, by which Charles surrendered to his son Philip all his territories, jurisdiction, and authority, in the Low Countries, absolving his subjects there, from their oath of allegiance to him, which he required them to transfer to Philip, his lawful heir; and to serve him with the same loyalty and zeal which they had manifested, during so long a course of years, in support of his government.
Charles then rose from his seat, and leaning on the shoulder of the Prince of Orange, because he was unable to stand without support, he addressed himself to the audience; and from a paper which he held in his hand, in order to assist his memory, he recounted with dignity, but without osten
tation, all the great things which he had undertaken and performed, since the commencement of his administration. He observed, that from the seventeenth year of his age, he had dedicated all his thoughts and attention to public objects, reserving no portion of his time for the indulgence of his ease, and very little for the enjoyment of private pleasure ; that either in a pacific or hostile manner, he had visited Germany nine times, Spain six times, France four times, Italy seven times, the Low Countries ten times, England twice, Africa as often, and had made eleven voyages by sea; that, while his health pemitted him to discharge his duty, and the vigour of his constitution was equal, in any degree, to the arduous office of governing such extensive dominions, he had never shunned labour, nor repined under fatigue ; that now, when his health was broken, and his vigour exhausted, by the rage of an incurable distemper, his growing infirmities admonished him to retire ; nor was he so fond of reigning as to retain the sceptre in an impotent hand, which was no longer able to protect his subjects, or to render them happy; that, instead of a sovereign worn out with disease, and scarcely half alive, he gave them one in the prime of life, accustomed already to govern, and who added to the vigour of youth, all the attention and sagacity of maturer years; that if, during the course of a long administration, he had committed any material error in government, or if, under the pressure of so many, and great affairs, and amidst the attention which he had been obliged to give them, he had either neglected or injured any of his subjects, hę now implored their forgiveness ; that, for his part, he should ever retain a grateful sense of their fidelity and attachment, and would carry the remembrance of it along with him to the place of his retreat, as the sweetest consolation, as well as the best reward for all his services, and in his last prayers to Almighty God, would pour forth his ardent wishes for all their welfare.
Then, turning towards Philip, who fell on his knees, and kissed his father's hand, “ If,” says he, “ I had left you, by my death, this rich inheritance, to which I have made such large additions, some regard would have been justly due to my memory on that account; but now, when I voluntarily resign to you what I might have still retained, I may well expect the warmest expressions of thanks on your part. With these, however, I dispense; and shall consider your concern for the welfare of your subjects, and your love of