Book 1, Ch. 9: Elizabeth

Pages 130-144

A New History of London Including Westminster and Southwark. Originally published by R Baldwin, London, 1773.

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In this section


During the reign of queen Elizabeth.

The princess Elizabeth, who was at Hatfield when her sister died, was met on the road by the lord mayor, aldermen, and citizens in their formalities, and was conducted to London in great state, amidst the universal and unfeigned acclamations of the populace.

The people had been too much enlightened in religious matters in the latter part of the reign of Henry VIII. and during the reign of Edward VI. and had been too much disgusted by the return of popery under Mary; to render it difficult for Elizabeth to restore the protestant religion. To this she was no less determined from motives of policy, than from inclination: the marriage of Henry with her mother had produced those ecclesiastical anathemas against him, which could not easily be recalled in her favour who was the produce of that union. She had indeed notified her accession to pope Paul; but he expressed himself with so much displeasure on her assuming the crown under her illegitimacy, without his sanction, and required such concessions from her, that she resolved to rest on the affections of her people, who were as averse as herself, from any submission to the see of Rome.


Elizabeth proceeded cautiously however in the work of reformation; she began with recalling all exiles, and releasing all prisoners confined on account of religion. On this occasion one Rainsford told the queen he had a petition to offer on behalf of four other prisoners, called Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John: she artfully replied, it first behoved her to consult the prisoners themselves, to learn whether they desired that liberty he sought for them (fn. 1). To check the progress of disputation, she had recourse to the expedient formerly put in practice, of imposing silence on all preachers; and though this order was dispensed with in favour of some few reformers, she took care they should be only the most moderate of the party. On Sunday January 1. 1559, the English liturgy was by proclamation allowed to be read in all the churches in London; and these manifestations of her intended reformation so displeased the bishops, that they refused to officiate at her coronation: the bishop of Carlisle was however prudent enough to relax, and assist at that ceremony. In her procession through London on this solemnity, a boy, who represented Truth, was let down from one of the triumphal arches, and presented the Bible to her; which she received in a most gracious manner, and putting it next her bosom, declared that of all the costly testimonies the city had given of their attachment to her that day, this was by far the most acceptable and precious (fn. 2).

Under the countenance of such proceedings the elections for the ensuing parliament went entirely against the catholic interest; and all that had been done in Mary's reign in favour of popery, was in the first session gradually undone: the crown was vested with the whole spiritual power; and in determining heresy, the sovereign was only limited by the authority of the scriptures, by the four first general councils, or any other which followed the scriptures as their rule, or by the future determinations of parliament and convocation (fn. 3).

To shew the queen how much she might depend on the support of the city, the twelve principal corporations sent out twelve companies, amounting to 1400 men, which were mustered on July 2 before her in Greenwich park. Of these, 800 were pikemen in bright armour, 400 harquebuffiers in coats of mail, and helmets, and 200 halberdiers in German rivets. Sir William Hewet was lord mayor; and the populace at this time destroyed not only all the pictures and images of saints in the churches, but also all the rich priestly robes, altar cloths, and sepulchral banners they could come at.


In 1560 Richard Hill, merchant taylor, gave 500l. toward the purchase of a house then called the manor of the Rose, for the purpose of erecting a free school in London, which the company of merchant taylors erected accordingly.


The spire, tower, and great part of the body of St. Paul's cathedral, were on July 4. 1561, consumed by lightning; which began at the top of the spire, and assisted by a high wind, burnt furiously downward. Experience and late improvements in natural philosophy, have now taught us, that the points of high buildings, especially where any kind of metal is concerned, naturally attract the lightning; hence we have learned to fix pointed iron rods to the tops of buildings, and by a continued communication of metal to conduct the electrical fire down into the earth, where it spends itself inoffensively (fn. 4).

The earl of Warwick, who was besieged by the French in Havre de Grace, A. D. 1563, was so far reduced by hardships, disappointment of succour, and the plague breaking out among his men; that he was obliged to capitulate. He brought the plague over with his garrison to England, where great multitudes were swept away by it: London received the infection; and, though many regulations were made by the magistrates to check the communication of it, above 20,000 persons died of that dreadful distemper. A dearth of provisions, and scarcity of money, from the stagnation of business, contributed, at the same unhappy time, to increase the general distress (fn. 5).

The English company of Merchant Adventurers, who had prevailed on Edward VI. to revoke the privileges of the Hanseatic league, obtained of Elizabeth, in the sixth year of her reign, the first charter properly so called; which constituted them a corporation, or body politic. She hereby granted them a common seal, perpetual succession, liberty to purchase lands, and to exercise their government in any part of England. "But (it is added) if any freeman of this company shall marry a wife born beyond sea, in a foreign country, or shall hold lands, tenements, or hereditaments in Holland, Zealand, Brabant, Flanders, Germany, or other places near adjoining, he shall be ipso facto, disfranchised of and from the said fellowship of Merchant Adventurers, and be utterly excluded from the fellowship thereof (fn. 6)."


Sir Thomas Gresham, an opulent merchant of London, actuated by a laudable desire to facilitate commercial transactions, made a noble offer to the corporation, of erecting, at his own expence, a convenient bourse or exchange, for the accommodation of merchants, to meet and negociate their business in; if a proper situation was provided for him. The city accordingly purchased fourscore houses, which composed two alleys leading out of Cornhill into Threadneedle-street, called new St. Christopher's, and Swan alleys, for 3532l. They sold the materials of these houses for 478l. and Sir Thomas Gresham, with some of the aldermen, laid the first bricks of the new building, June 7, 1566, each alderman laying one, with a piece of gold for the workmen: and the work was pursued with such alacrity, as to be roofed in by the month of November, in the following year. The queen would not have it called, as in other countries, the Bourse; but, when it was finished, came and dined with the founder, and with the heralds at arms, by found of trumpets, proclaimed it by the name, of the Royal Exchange.

By his last will, dated November 26, 1579, Sir Thomas bequeathed this stately building to the mayor, and citizens of London, and the Mercers company; on condition, that the citizens, out of their moiety, should appoint four lecturers to read lectures on divinity, astronomy, geometry, and music, at his mansion-house in Broad-street, afterward Gresham college, at the yearly salary of 50l. each; and pay 6l. 13s. 4d. per annum to eight alms persons living behind the said college; and 10l. yearly to each of the prisons of Newgate, Ludgate, King's Bench, Marshalsea, and Wood-street compter. The Mercers, out of their moiety, were to pay 50 l. per annum each, to three lecturers on the subjects of law, physic, and rhetoric, to read likewise at his mansion house; and to expend 100l. per annum, on four quarterly dinners at their own hall, for the entertainment of their company; with 10l. yearly to Christ's, St. Bartholomew's, Bethlehem's, and St. Thomas's hospitals, to the Spital, and to the Poultry compter.


Sir Thomas Rowe, lord-mayor in 1568, of the Merchant Taylors company, gave a burial ground, at the north easterly corner of Moorfields, since called Old Bethlehem burial-ground, and containing about an acre of land, for the burial of poor citizens gratis. He inclosed it with a brick wall, and appointed a sermon to be preached on it every Whitsunday in the morning before the lord-mayor and aldermen; and gave other legacies to his own company. A conduit was this year erected at the corner of Wallbrook, to supply the citizens with Thames water.


On January 11th, 1569, the first lottery mentioned in English history, began drawing at the western door of St. Paul's cathedral. Whether this was on private or public account does not appear; but, either from the largeness of the concern, or from the imperfection of the plan, it continued drawing day and night without intermission until the 6th of May following.

It may be worth observing, to shew the improved state of mercantile transactions at this time, that Anderson, the laborious collector of commercial anecdotes, relates, that he had in his possession a treatise on merchants accounts, in the Italian method of Book-keeping by Double Entry, written by James Peale; printed at London, 1569: and he remarks, that though the stile is obsolete, the method is correct (fn. 7).

The Orphan's fund, which has been before-mentioned to be first taken notice of in the year 1391 (fn. 8), now occurs as paying regular interest for their use (fn. 9).

An order was made in April 1569, for the 16 beadles belonging to the hospitals, to clear the streets of vagrants and sturdy beggars, which were to be carried to Bridewell; the sick, lame, blind, and aged, were to be taken to St. Bartholomew's; and children beggars, under the age of sixteen, to Christ's hospital. Regular circuits were appointed for these beadles, and the nature of their duty laid down for their observance, under certain penalties: but this regulation failing of the desired effect, gave occasion to the first institution of the office of City Marshals.

William Sympson and John Read were the two marshals first appointed, who were allowed 6s. 8d. each, for themselves and horses, per diem; with fix assistants under each of them, of their own choosing, at 12d. a man. They were vested with proper powers for the execution of their offices; and requiring a month's pay in advance, to furnish themselves for entering on their charge, it was granted, and their future pay settled on a weekly establishment. The pompous cavalcade of the city watch was this summer finally laid aside as an useless expence; and a stated watch appointed at the charge of each ward. The plague now occasioned an adjournment of the Michaelmas term; and regulations were made to prevent the spreading of the infection.

Upon a dispute between the corporation of London and the bishop of Ely, who denied the jurisdiction of the lord-mayor over his tenants in Holborn; the contest was referred, by both parties, to the determination of the lord-keeper, the chancellor of the Exchequer, and two chief justices: their arbitration was in favour of the city, and they declared, that the lord-mayor might as freely exercise his authority in the bishop's rents, as in any other part of London.

The duke of Alva had stopped our communication with the city of Antwerp, from whence the kings of England had used to borrow money upon emergencies; the queen, therefore, applied for a loan to the company of Merchant Adventurers, by a general court of whom her demand was rejected. This refusal was resented by a letter from the secretary of state, and a loan of 16,000l. was obtained from some of the aldermen and merchants, for six months, at fix per cent. which agreement was afterward prolonged for another half year.


The dangerous intrigues carried on by Mary queen of Scots with Elizabeth's catholic subjects, as well as with the French and Spaniards, who patronized her pretensions to the crown of England, produced an order from the queen to the lord-mayor in 1572, to train the young able-bodied citizens to the use of arms. In obedience to this precept, the several fraternities met at their respective halls, where 3000 sizeable young citizens were selected and embodied under able officers: of these, some were made musqueteers, the rest pikemen; and they were armed with breast-plates and head-pieces. This was performed the latter end of March; and so vigilantly was the instruction of them pursued, that they were found expert enough to be reviewed by the queen at Greenwich, in the beginning of May.

The magistrates this year, to restrain the combinations of poulterers, published a table of prices of the fowls of various forts then brought to market; from which two or three familiar instances may be produced, to shew the current value of money at this time.

s. d. s. d.
The best goose in a shop 1 2 Ditto at market 1 0
The best hen 0 9 Ditto 0 7
The best chickens 0 4 Ditto 0 3
The best pigeons, per doz. 1 2 Ditto 1 0
The best wild mallard 0 6 Ditto 0 5
The best rabbits 0 4
The best eggs till Michaelmas, five for 0 1
Ditto till Ash-Wednesday, four
The best butter per lb. till Allhallows 0 3

The plague broke out at London in 1574; on which account, the queen, to prevent the concourse of people from spreading the contagion, desired the lord mayor not to give any entertainment at Guildhall, on the anniversary of his entering on his office.

The exhibition of stage plays and interludes, which used to be occasionally practised by ingenious tradesmen and gentlemen's servants, was now become a regular profession; and being commonly acted on Sundays and festivals, the playhouses, which were large rooms in inns, were thronged, while the churches were neglected. The plague being looked upon as a judgment for the dissoluteness thus occasioned, the common council imposed penalties on the acting any plays containing immodest or seditious matter; and ordered, that none should be acted without being perused and allowed by the lord-mayor and court of aldermen, who were also to license the actors; and a tax was imposed on these licences for the use of the poor, to which purpose all fines and forfeitures for disobedience, were likewise to be applied (fn. 10). These regulations were followed by other restrictions. They were enjoined not to play on Sunday, and not to act after dark, but to conclude so that the audience might return home before sun-setting.

The number of taverns had lately been limited; but the increase of public houses was among the grievances noted by the lord chancellor Bacon in the Star-chamber. The lord-mayor was applied to on this subject; who, with the magistrates of Southwark and Lambeth, suppressed above 200 alehouses in their several jurisdictions; and the example was followed by Westminster, and other places round London.


William Lamb, citizen and clothworker, in the year 1577, drew together several springs into a head, at the upper end of Red-lion street, Holborn, since denominated from him Lamb's conduit; and at the expence of 1500l. conveyed the water in a leaden pipe to Snow-Hill, where he laid it into an old conduit, which he repaired for that purpose.


April 6, 1580, an earthquake, which lasted but a minute, is recorded to have shattered several churches and houses, and to have killed some people by their fall.

The pope had excommunicated Elizabeth, and released her subjects, as much as the thunders of the Vatican could operate, from all allegiance to her. His fulminations had now, however, very little effect within the kingdom; but, as the queen had reason to keep a watchful eye on the schemes that might be formed by her neighbours, she ordered an account to be taken of all foreigners residing in London; who were found to amount to 6462. This review gave rise to another consideration, which was the increase of buildings in London; the lord-mayor made representations of this matter to the ministry, as an affair from which bad consequences were to be apprehended, both to the city and to the nation: and it was thought expedient to publish a proclamation to prevent the laying of new foundations. That the reader may see the reasons given for this prohibition, the proclamation is inserted in the Appendix, No. XLI.

To indulge in a short digression on this point. The actual inconveniences of close dwellings crouded with inmates, cannot be denied; the frequent contagious disorders were a fatal proof of them: but as the people had not then found out that opening their streets would enable them to live more healthily and commodiously, which would have been the best motive for extending the city; so the apprehensions, expressed in the proclamation, proceeded also from narrow views. A metropolis situated on an open navigable river near the sea, will increase more in proportion than one not having an advantage which affords an easy carriage for the necessaries the inhabitants require. The dearness of provisions in London is still attributed to the enormous consumption of necessaries in it; but unless it also appears, that these high prices are owing to our markets not being sufficiently supplied, we must seek for some other cause. The gradual enlargement of a city enriches all the country round it, and extends its demands to the remotest corners: it also affords employment for all the supernumerary useless hands that resort to it; which sufficiently accounts for the objection often made against the healthiness of London, notwithstanding all its late improvements, where the deaths so greatly exceed the births (fn. 11). A person without knowing this fact might with a little reflection infer it: multitudes who were born in various parts of England, end their days in London; and numbers of the inhabitants of London being Dissenters of several denominations, no register of their births appears, while that of their deaths is generally recorded. If it is replied, that London nevertheless appears to be a gulph, that continually requires filling; it should be considered, that it not only receives, but sends out inhabitants to various parts, America and the East-Indies particularly. Business and pleasure also, keep many of the inhabitants in a state of celibacy; labourers, servants, sailors, and the three regiments of guards, are generally single men. Rapin expressed his fears that the head was too big for the body (fn. 12); but the natural circumstances of countries, will always prescribe limits to the growth of cities; while no others can be fixed. London, vast as it is, still enlarges (fn. 13); how long this increment may continue, cannot perhaps be foreseen; but it may safely be predicted, that when the augmentation becomes injurious, it will, like all other natural evils, correct itself.


We now return to the time from whence these remarks have drawn us. The cross in Cheapside, from the increase of trade, was found to be an obstruction in the highway; and remaining decorated with popish images, became disagreeable, now a reformation had taken place. It had been presented frequently by the inquest as a public nusance without effect; so that the populace, who seldom fail in the dernier resort to redress themselves, in 1581 pulled it down in the night time.


The common council in 1582, made a sumptuary regulation to prevent the expensive dress of apprentices; who being bond servants, at a dangerous time of life, are certainly, of all other parts of the community, the most proper objects of legal attention.

This year is memorable for a scheme presented by Peter Maurice, a German engineer, to the lord-mayor and aldermen, for supplying the city with Thames water by a mill, to be worked by the water-fall at the return of the tide under London Bridge. Unhappily for the navigation of the river, this scheme was adopted; by which measure, under all the improvements that have since taken place, this pernicious water-fall has been industriously preserved for a partial purpose, to a general hurt. Maurice obtained a lease of one arch, for a term of 500 years, at 10s. per annum rent, and fixed his mill; and two years after he obtained a second arch. The original proprietor, and his posterity, acquired great wealth by the improvement of this machine; which continued in the family until the year 1701, when the property was sold to Richard Soams, a goldsmith, for 36,000l. The wheels now occupied four arches; and Soams, after procuring from the city a confirmation of the leases to Maurice, established the undertaking into a company, by dividing the property into 300 shares, at 500l. each (fn. 14).


The queen had so provoked the Spanish court by the league she entered into with the United Provinces soon after their revolt, that in 1585, it was thought prudent to keep the nation prepared against any unforeseen attack. The navy was put on a respectable footing; her subjects were disciplined to the use of arms; and the several city companies furnished a body of 5000 men armed at their own expence, which encamped on Blackheath, where they were several times reviewed by the queen. The earl of Leicester being soon after sent over with an auxiliary force to the assistance of the Dutch, the companies sent a considerable body of men, armed and cloathed in a red uniform, with him.

It was this year we first find the custom of the lord-mayor nominating sheriffs, by drinking to the person he approved of for that office; though we afterward, in 1641, find the custom pleaded as of 300 years standing. Sometime in the month of July, there were two great feasts at London, one at Grocers Hall, and another at Haberdashers Hall, and perhaps in all the rest, upon some publick occasion. Sir Edward Osborne, mayor, and several of the aldermen, with the recorder, were at Haberdashers Hall; where the mayor, after the second course was come in, took the great standing cup, the gift or Sir William Garret, being full of hypocrase, and silence being commanded, he, with a loud voice, used these words: "Mr. Recorder of London, and you my good brethren the aldermen, bear witness that I drink unto Mr. alderman Massam, as sheriff of London and Middlesex, from Michaelmas next coming, for one whole year; and I do beseech God to give him as quiet and peaceable a year, with as good and gracious favour of her majesty, as I myself, and my brethren the sheriffs now being, have hitherto had, and as I trust shall have." This spoken, all men desired the same. The sword-bearer then went to the Grocers feast, where Mr. alderman Massam was at dinner, and reported the words that the lord-mayor had used. The alderman answered very modestly, "First, I thank God, who, through his great goodness, hath called me from a very poor and mean degree unto this worshipful state. Secondly, I thank her majesty for her gracious goodness in allowing to us these great and ample franchises. And, thirdly, I thank my lord-mayor for having so honourable an opinion of this my company of Grocers, as to make choice of me, being a poor member of the same." And this said, both he and all his company pledged my lord, and gave him thanks.

At the session in July this year, the bench employed a day in discovering the houses that harboured the cut-pursers and robbers, who infested the city. Among the rest a regular school for pick-pockets was found out at Smart'sKey, near Billingsgate; where a pocket with counters in it, and a purse with silver, were suspended, hung about with hawk's bells, and a little sacring bell over them: the test of proficiency was to pick the pocket, and take silver out of the purse, without jingling the bells.


Babington's conspiracy against the life of queen Elizabeth, and to place Mary, queen of Scots, on the throne, occasioned the trial and execution of Mary, who had given her concurrence to that plot. The sentence pronounced against her was publicly proclaimed in several parts of the city by the lordmayor and aldermen in their formalities; with the assistance of several of the nobility, who attended this singular publication. The discovery of this treasonable plan calculated to restore popery, occasioned such rejoicings throughout the city, that the queen wrote a letter of acknowledgments to the lord-mayor, and desired it might be communicated to the citizens at large.

The nation was now alarmed by the immense preparations made by the Spaniards for the reduction of England. The queen was no way deficient in her defensive measures; nor her subjects in contributing assistance against the common danger: she ordered the lord-mayor to raise 10,000 men in the city, which was performed accordingly; (fn. 15) and the common council applied to the privy council for power to oblige the inhabitants of several privileged places within the city, and all strangers, to contribute toward the necessary expences. All the commercial towns in England were required to furnish ships to reinforce the royal navy: London was to furnish fifteen, but the common council to shew their zeal in the public cause, immediately voted a supply of sixteen of the largest ships in the Thames and four pinnaces or light frigates; which they plentifully stored with warlike necessaries. The number was afterward augmented to thirty eight.

The Invincible Armada, as the Spaniards presumptuously stiled their formidable fleet, had been three years in fitting out: it consisted of 130 vessels, of which nearly 100 were galleons, of a larger size than had ever before been seen in Europe. It had on board 19,295 soldiers, 8456 mariners, 2088 galley slaves, and 2630 brass cannon. It was victualled for six months, and attended with 20 smaller vessels called caravals, and 10 salves of six oars (fn. 16). This proud armament, overcome no less by its own unwieldiness, and the disasters it met with at sea, than by the skill and courage of the English admirals, was totally dispersed and ruined: not half of the vessels ever returned home, and the men who escaped, in alleviation of their disgrace filled Spain with amazing stories of the desperate valour of the English, and of the tempestuous ocean which surrounded the coast of England.


A fleet had been fitted out by private subscription countenanced by the queen, under Drake and Norris to establish Don Antonio in Portugal; which failing in its object, the men who composed this armament, familiarized to plunder, entered into a scheme when disbanded to pillage Bartholomew fair: but the lord-mayor having timely notice of this desperate scheme, instantly raised 2000 men, which caused the rioters to disperse without bloodshed on either side. The city this year lent the queen 15,000l. at ten per cent. and supplied her with 1000 men to assist in placing. Henry of Navarre on the throne of France.


By a combination of the owners of coal-pits at Newcastle, in 1590, the price of coals was in London raised from 4s. to 9s. per chaldron: and the following year, the lord high admiral claimed a right to the coal metage at the port of London. But the mayor and citizens invalidating this claim, his pretensions were set aside, and by the interest of the lord treasurer Burleigh, they obtained of the queen a confirmation of the city's right to this office.


In 1591 and 1592, the plague destroyed 10,675 citizens, and the term was on this dismal occasion adjourned to Hertford. Weekly bills of mortality were first made December 21. 1592, on occasion of this plague, and were continued till December 1595. when they were laid aside on the ceasing of that dreadful disorder (fn. 17).

The numerous levies lately disbanded, produced in the beginning of 1593, a proclamation from the queen, for the suppression of vagrants, beggars, and thieves; which the lord mayor was to carry into execution within three miles round London. It is the hard fate of mercenary soldiers, that their services in time of war, renders them a nusance to their country in time of peace. It is not easy for them to resume the employments which they deserted for a military life; and the habits of licentiousness they contract as soldiers, indisposes them to return again to industry for a subsistence. These are strong reasons in favour of a regular militia for defence at home, and as an island, to engage as little as possible in foreign connections.


In obedience to the queen's desire in 1594, the mayor and common council fitted out six ships of war, with two pinnaces; to which they added 450 soldiers: the expence being desrayed by a fifteenth raised from the citizens. These probably composed part of the armament sent this year under Sir Martin Frobisher and Norris, to drive the Spanish forces out of Brittany.

An ineffectual attempt was made this year to supply the western parts of the city with Thames water, by a horse engine, erected with four pumps at Broken wharf in Thames street; but it was too expensive in its working to subsist. The wetness of the season advanced wheat to 3l. 4s. per quarter; great quantities were imported, and the companies were ordered to lay up stores of it for supply until the next harvest came round.


The licentiousness of the populace, who drew in the London apprentices to join them, produced such alarming riots in 1595, that it was judged expedient to proceed against these dangerous insurgents in a summary way by martial law. Sir Thomas Wilford was appointed provost marshal, who patrolling the streets with an armed force, apprehended many rioters, of whom five were executed on Tower hill; which intimidated the rest, and restored quiet to the city. This extra-judicial method of proceeding was a sure indication of a bad domestic government, and of an imperfect police.

The magistrates received notice from the lord keeper that the queen had preferred the recorder of London, and in consequence of this promotion he required of them the names of those intended to be put in nomination to succeed him. This the citizens warily apprehended to be an attempt of the court to get the appointment of the recorder out of their hands; to avoid therefore the inconveniences of a contest, they prudently returned only one person for that office, Mr. James Altham of Gray's Inn. This return was accompanied with a letter from the lord mayor, Sir John Spencer, to the lord treasurer in recommendation of this gentleman as resident in the city, and explaining the inconveniences resulting from recorders who are absentees from their trust. How this affair ended, does not appear, farther than that another name stands on the list, as elected at this time.

In 1596, while the lord mayor and aldermen were attending a sermon at Paul's-cross they received an order from the queen to raise 1000 able bodied men for immediate service: leaving their devotion, therefore, they pressed the required number before 8 o'clock that night, and had them armed, and ready for marching before next morning. They were destined for the relief of the French in Calais against the Spaniards; but the order being countermanded that afternoon, this little army was disbanded before it had existed twenty-four hours. The like order was renewed on Easter day in the morning, when the lord mayor with proper officers went from church to church during divine service, where shutting the doors, they soon compleated the levy: these men marched the night after for Dover; but advice arriving that Calais was reduced, they returned to the city after a week's absence. They soon after made other rigorous levies on the rumour of another intended Spanish invasion.

The failing of the harvest this year advanced wheat to the enormous price of 5l. 4s. the quarter.


The Hanse towns joining their interest with that of Spain at the imperial court, procured the English Merchant Adventurers in 1597, to be shut out of Germany; the Hanseatics flattering themselves with procuring a restoration of their obsolete privileges in England, as an equivalent for restoring the Merchant Adventurers to the commerce with Germany. But herein they were much mistaken; circumstances had greatly altered for the better in England; foreign commerce was now too successfully cultivated by natives, to be resigned again into alien hands. Instead therefore of reaping the benefit of this finesse, Elizabeth, after a refusal from the court of Germany, of restoring the former privileges of the Merchant Adventurers, retaliated the injury, by directing a commission to the mayor and sheriffs of London, totally to shut the merchants of the Hanse towns out of their house at the Stillyard; and banished all Germans from England. From this time the Stillyard was never applied to the use of foreign merchants as before (fn. 18).

The masculine resolution of Elizabeth in affairs of government, made her subjects willingly overlook the weaknesses of the woman. Of several marriages proposed to her, none had taken place; political and perhaps private motives had overruled them all. Though ordinary in her person, she was anxious for the reputation of beauty; and in her transactions with the Scots queen, who was really handsome, a mean spirit of rivalship had often discovered itself: she also tolerated such gross flattery in her courtiers, even when she grew in years, as only shewed how much great talents will sometimes give way to little passions (fn. 19). While her prudent administration proved that she knew how to select able ministers, she was not without her personal attachments, and bestowed her favour sometimes imprudently: but how far she might carry her condescension as a woman, as it produced no political consequences, is no object of political discussion. After the death of the earl of Leicester, the young hotspirited earl of Essex succeeded to her favour; yet she was rather apt to forget the decorums of behaviour, than her own dignity; for in a dispute with Essex, she once resented his rudeness by a box on the ear; and his anger, on this occasion, was more unbecoming than the insult itself, from a female sovereign.



Essex however obtained the lord-lieutenantship of Ireland, where his imprudence was little suited to quiet the distractions in which that nation was involved. He made a precipitate journey to London, contrary to orders, to justify himself personally before the queen; but by the influence of his enemies, he was disgraced, confined, and superseded in his appointment. In political contests the people generally take part with those who incur the displeasure of the court, especially if they are men of spirit. Essex unhappily for himself had too much, and was well beloved: on the strength of his popularity, he entered into cabals against the government, and concerted an insurrection with other malcontents at Drury house. He was persuaded that if he only made his appearance in London, all the citizens would rise in his favour; and upon intimation that his seditious intentions were discovered, he madly made the experiment. With about 200 attendants, armed only with swords, he issued from Essex house; and in his passage to the city, he was joined by the earl of Bedford, with Lord Cromwel. He cried out, For the queen, for the queen, my life is in danger! which he often repeated as he rode along. The surprized citizens flocked about him, but though he exhorted them instantly to arm, no one shewed a disposition to join him. He proceeded to the house of Thomas Smith, one of the sheriffs in Fenchurch street, who he was made to believe would assist him with 1000 men; but the sheriff shewed more prudence; for on his approach he retired by a back door. To add to his confusion, he was informed that the earl of Cumberland and the Lord Burleigh with heralds at arms had proclaimed him as a traitor in several parts of the city. He now thought only of returning to his own house, but found the streets barricaded and guarded by a number of men raised by the bishop of London, and commanded by Sir John Levison. Even his followers began to desert him; with the rest therefore he went down to Queenhithe and returned by water to Essex-house, where he began to fortify himself with the utmost haste. Here he was invested by some troops under the earl of Nottingham; but sensible of his dangerous situation, and small expectations of mercy, he at first determined to defend himself to the last extremity: his spirit however giving way at last, he surrendered at discretion about 10 o'clock that night, and was committed to the Tower.

This was a severe stroke to the queen, as her attachment to Essex could not overlook so flagrant an outrage against government: he was brought to trial, with his most considerable associates, and sentence of death was pronounced on them. Elizabeth had before, during the warmth of her affection, on his expressing fears of the ill offices of his enemies, presented him with a ring, accompanied with assurances that whatever disgrace he might in future fall into, she should immediately on sight of it, recollect her former tenderness, and lend a favourable ear to him. She now impatiently expected he would avail himof this circumstance, and long hesitated before she would dispatch the warrant for his execution. On his part, he had intrusted the ring to lady Nottingham, and as eagerly waited for the effect of it: but the countess, by the influence of her husband, treacherously withheld the pledge; and Essex was beheaded privately at his own request, in the Tower (fn. 20).

The queen returned particular thanks to the mayor and citizens, for their behaviour during this disturbance.

Our own Turkey merchants, and the Dutch, who had got the start of us in the East India trade, kept up the price of pepper so high, and we being at war with Spain, could get none from Lisbon; that Elizabeth determined to encourage her subjects to enter into a commerce with the East Indies. Accordingly, December 31, 1600, she had granted a charter of incorporation to George earl of Cumberland, with 215 knights, aldermen, and merchants, by the name of the governor and company of merchants of London, trading to the East Indies: in which company, the original shares subscribed were 50l. each (fn. 21). Five ships, with a victualler, were fitted out on this new undertaking, commanded by James Lancaster, which making a successful return, encouraged the company to prosecute the commerce (fn. 22).


The depredations of the Spanish privateers, proving a great interruption to the trade on the English coasts, a number of ships of war were ordered for the protection of the navigation. No less than five fifteenths were raised in London toward this purpose; and the debtors in the several prisons of London, were encouraged to enter on board the ships, by a proclamation which discharged them from the demands of their creditors on that condition.

Foreign hucksters, hawkers, and pedlars, being still complained of, and their stalls encumbering the streets; the common council made a bye law inflicting a penalty of 20s. on every inhabitant who lett, or permitted any stall to stand, before their houses: the forfeiture of goods, and a fine of 20s. were also imposed on every hawker, or stall-keeper, so offending. The proclamation against enlarging the metropolis, was renewed this year.


The next year, by the queen's command, the city fitted out and maintained two ships and a tender, at the annual expence of 6000l. and it is observed by historians, that by the frequent calls of the crown upon the Londoners, they never suffered more pecuniary oppression than they did in this reign. Elizabeth inherited her father's arbitrary disposition, and excelled principally in the outlines of government, which rendered her administration more brilliant abroad, than easy to her subjects at home; for, with all her good qualities, trade was little obliged to her: Mr. Hume produces an astonishing list of patents for monopolies which she granted to her courtiers and servants; and they disposing of them to others, commodities were raised to the most arbitrary prices. When the list was read in parliament, a member asked, if breadwas not in the number; and when every one repeated the word with amazement, he replied, that if affairs went on at this rate, bread would be reduced to a monopoly before next parliament. The clamours of the people procured several of these patents to be called in (fn. 23).

The sequel to the story of the earl of Essex will terminate the reign of this princess. The countess of Nottingham, who had secreted the ring she was intrusted with by the unhappy earl, falling sick, was seized with compunction for her treachery; and on her death-bed requested to see the queen, to whom she disclosed the secret, and implored her forgiveness. Elizabeth, struck with this fatal intelligence, flew into a furious rage, and shaking the dying offender in her bed, told her, That God might pardon her, but she never could. She burst out of the room, and never recovered the shock; but resigning herself up to grief, flung herself on the floor, and refused all food, remedies, and consolation. Ten days and nights she lay on the carpet without entering a bed; till, at last, her constitution giving way to her anxiety, she sunk into a lethargy, and expired March 24, 1603 (fn. 24).


  • 1. Hume.
  • 2. Idem.
  • 3. Stat. 1 Eliz. c. 1.
  • 4. Vid. the ingenious Dr. Benj. Franklyn's tracts on Electricity.
  • 5. Under the fatal year 1665, the plague, the management of it, with the precautions used for checking its progress, will be particularly attended to.
  • 6. Anderson, vol. I. p. 403.
  • 7. Anderson, Vol. I. p. 408.
  • 8. See p. 83 ante.
  • 9. Anderson. This fund will be more particularly mentioned under the years 1693 and 1747.
  • 10. The great avidity we have now contracted for public diversions, and the enormous sums given to performers on the stage, render theatrical entertainments well able to bear a part of that national burden which as yet principally rests on the shoulders of the poor and industrious part of the community.
  • 11. Though the operation of trade has caused a progressive increase of the metropolis from the first, yet this increase has been accelerated during the last thirty or forty years, from a cause well known though little thought of in this point of view; and which has affected other towns as well as London. It is found upon an average, that the natural small-pox destroys one in seven; it is now above forty years since this disorder began to be inoculated upon prepared bodies, of which the bishop of Worcester, in his celebrated sermon on this subject, informs us, but one in 500 were found to die: hence in every 500 children inoculated, 70 lives are preserved to society, though few reflect how much this circumstance must advance population! Since the bishop of Worcester's time, the hazard is almost reduced to nothing; and the practice obtaining chiefly in towns, they will hence increase faster than the accession of new comers will occasion.
  • 12. Rapin, vol. II. p. 111.
  • 13. This enlargement is nevertheless in some degree fallacious; for while the suburbs are extending, the number of houses in the middle is evidently decreasing, being rebuilt much larger than they used to be. This indeed renders the central parts of the metropolis more airy: but at the same time it must be observed, that there are extreams in all things; and while middling tradesmen are thus turned out of their old dwellings, no new habitations are provided for them, palaces rather than houses being erected in their stead: a practice somewhat analogous to that pernicious one in the country, of uniting small farms.
  • 14. For a mechanical description of the London-Bridge water-works, see Desagulier's Experimental Philosophy.
  • 15. The levies were made in the several wards according to the following proportions:
    Farringdon ward within 807
    Aldgate 347
    Coleman-street 229
    Bassishaw 177
    Billingsgate 365
    Broad-street 373
    Bread-street 386
    Aldersgate 232
    Bridge ward within 383
    Dowgate 384
    Cornhill 191
    Castle baynard 551
    Lime-street 99
    Cheap 358
    Queenhithe 404
    Farringdon without 1264
    Cordwainers 301
    Tower-street 444
    Wallbrook 290
    Vintry 364
    Portsoken 243
    Candlewick 215
    Cripplegate 925
    Bishopsgate 326
    Langbourn 349
  • 16. Hume.
  • 17. Parish clerk's register, in Maitland. They revived in 1603.
  • 18. Anderson, vol. I. p. 447.
  • 19. Mr. Walpole, in his Catalogue of Royal and Noble Authors, informs us she never would allow the lines of her face to be shaded in pictures of her, saying that shades were accidents and not essential to the countenance. He adds, that a die struck of her in the latter part of her reign, of which he gives a print, and which represents her as very ugly, was broke probably on that account.
  • 20. Hume.
  • 21. Anderson, vol. I. p. 449.
  • 22. As boroughs were first erected to encourage trade in general, so exclusive companies are of use to establish particular hazardous branches of commerce: but when the ends are answered, and the first undertakers sufficiently indemnified, the general interests of the nation seem to require, that the settled trade should be freed from its shackles and thrown open. This company has now acquired an actual sovereignty in the east, where their servants rapidly gain astonishing fortunes, themselves and the poor natives best know how. Were the crown to take the acquired dominion into its own hands, and dissolve the company, Britain and Bengal might both be the better for the alteration.
  • 23. Anderson, vol. I. p. 455.
  • 24. Hume.