A Short History Of The English People Quotes

"Is Must A Word To Be Addressed To Princes?"

Context: The last years of the great Queen Elizabeth I were gloomy ones. She had always been a lonely figure, and now she grew lonelier. As sometimes happens, she had outlived the age of which she was a part. The statesmen, counselors, and warriors of her younger days had passed on one by one; those who had followed them were waiting for her to go and already intriguing for a place in the reign that would come next. Lord Essex, her favorite, became involved in a mad attempt at revolution and was executed. The old splendor for which her court had been famous gradually declined and at length disappeared; the nobility avoided her. A brilliant woman, imperious, fanciful, not overly scrupulous, she belonged to the Renaissance–and the Renaissance was gone forever. She had always thoroughly enjoyed life as it had been lived in her youth; now she clung to it. Hunting, dancing, joking and coquetting, scolding, she continued her colorful progresses from one country house to another so long as she was able. These old-fashioned displays of pomp and splendor no longer met with general approval, but she finally gave them up only because her health was failing. Green's recital of the events of her last hours paints a haunting and tragic picture:

. . . Her face became haggard, and her frame shrank almost to a skeleton. At last her taste for finery disappeared, and she refused to change her dresses for a week together. A strange melancholy settled down on her: "she held in her hand," says one who saw her in her last days, "a golden cup, which she put often to her lips: but in truth her heart seemed too full to need more filling." Gradually her mind gave way. She lost her memory, the violence of her temper became unbearable, her very courage seemed to forsake her. She called for a sword to lie constantly beside her, and thrust it from time to time through the arras, as if she heard murderers stirring there. Food and rest alike became distasteful. She sate day and night propped up with pillows on a stool, her finger to her lip, her eyes fixed on the floor, without a word. If she once broke the silence, it was with a flash of her old queenliness. When Robert Cecil asserted that she "must" go to bed, the word roused her like a trumpet. "Must!" she exclaimed; "is must a word to be addressed to princes? Little man, little man! thy father, if he had been alive, durst not have used that word." Then, as her anger spent itself, she sank into her old dejection. "Thou art so presumptuous," she said, "because thou knowest I shall die." She rallied once more when the ministers beside her bed named Lord Beauchamp, the heir to the Suffolk claim, as a possible successor. "I will have no rogue's son," she cried hoarsely, "in my seat." But she gave no sign, save a motion of the head, at the mention of the King of Scots. She was in fact fast becoming insensible; and early the next morning the life of Elizabeth, a life so great, so strange and lonely in its greatness, passed quietly away.