THE ANGLOMANIA OF IVAN THE TERRIBLE: IVAN AND ELIZABETH
I.—The First Englishmen in Russia.
Just when Ivan was seeking to enter into contact with Europe by the way of Livonia and the Baltic, other peoples, dwelling in other countries, were much disposed, as we have seen, to move forward and meet him. The epoch of the heroic voyages of discovery had not come to a close. From Spain and Portugal a great current of adventurous navigation was flowing round the Channel coasts, carrying the French to Brazil with Jean de Léry, to Canada with Joseph Cartier, and to Florida with the first Protestant colonists of that country, while a whole army of English sailors was following in the wake of Columbus, Cortez, and Gama. Eager to open England's road to India, or increase her colonial dominions, such men as Cabot, Raleigh, Drake, Dawes, and Frobisher explored Labrador, discovered Louisiana, imitated Magellan's wonderful journey round the world, and plunged into the snowbound plains of North America.
In all these bold enterprises England was more deeply engaged than any other country. Then, as now, the conquest of fresh outlets for her trammelled trade was a question of life and death. In the year 1552, parleys were opened in London between a number of merchants on one side, and the famous Venetian navigator, Sebastian Cabot, on the other. They culminated, the following year, in a plan for an expedition to discover new territories in the North-East. The necessary funds, amounting to £6,000, were obtained by subscription, and on May 23, 1553, three ships sailed from Harwich—the Bona Esperanza, commanded by Sir Hugh Willoughby; the Bona Fortuna, by Richard Chancellor; and the Bona Confidentia, under Cornelius Durforth. Cabot was a distinguished cosmographer, and as the greatest dignitaries in the country~the Marquis of Winchester, Lord Treasurer; the Earl of Arundel, Comptroller of the Court; the Earl of Pembroke, Lord Privy Seal~had shares in the undertaking, it probably possessed a scientific as well as a commercial character. And probably, too, though chance was to play so great a part in the incidents of the voyage, a pretty clear idea of its object existed; for when one of the vessels reached the shores of Russia, interpreters were all ready on board her.
Martens ('Collection of Treaties,' ix. [x.], Introd., p. 6) mentions documents which go to prove that diplomatic relations between Ivan and Edward VI. had subsisted previously. The object of these is quite unknown to us. They had not served to propagate conceptions as to the great northern Empire that even approached reason and probability. Herberstein was to speak of it, twenty years later, as a legendary country, and gravely reproduce absurd tales of a huge idol called the Zlataïa Baba (an old woman modelled in gold), before which brazen trumpets stuck into the ground kept up a perpetual braying; of tribes who habitually died in the autumn and returned to life the following spring; and a great river in which fish were caught 'which had the head, eyes, nose, mouth, hands, and feet of a man, but which could not talk, and were very good to eat. …'
Trials of a more tangible kind than any meeting with monsters such as these awaited Willoughby and his bold comrades. A storm dispersed the little squadron, and Chancellor, with the Bona Fortuna, lost sight of his two consorts. Vainly he waited for them at Vardôhus, the port appointed for that purpose on the Norwegian coast, started forth again alone, and found himself, on August 28, in a bay, from which, on his arrival, several boats manned by fishermen took to flight. Pursued and brought back, these strangers informed the voyager that he had reached the shores of Muscovy. The authorities at Kholmogory hastened to warn Ivan, who invited the foreigners to Moscow, but gave them leave to dispense with this journey, and trade freely with his subjects, if that was the object of their coming. Chancellor, without even waiting for the Tsar's message, made his way to the capital, spent thirteen days there, saw the Tsar, and departed again to England, bearing the monarch's friendly reply to the circular letter of introduction with which the leaders of the expedition had been provided.
During the following winter, news reached Moscow that two ships laden with merchandise, and with the corpses of dead men on board, had been discovered on the shores of the White Sea. These were the Bona Esperanza and the Bona Confidentia, with their crews—83 out of the 125 men who had sailed from Harwich. The storm had carried them into the gulf formed by the mouth of the Arrina, and there Willoughby had seen his comrades die off, one by one, of cold and hunger. The notes his splendid courage enabled him to keep prove that he himself survived till January, 1554.
When Chancellor got back to England he found Edward VI. dead; but Philip and Mary, on the report he submitted to them, sent him back to Moscow as the representative of a new company, the 'Fellowship of English Merchants for the Discovery of New Trades,' which was to take the place of the old 'Society for the Discovery of Unknown Lands,' which had organized the first expedition. For practical purposes, this company was always called the Russian or the Muscovite Company. Two special agents, Richard Grey and George Killingworth, were associated with the leader of the new mission, and provided with instructions which betoken a marvellous insight as to the interests concerned. The agents were desired to study the character and habits of the Russian nation, and the taxes, coinage, weights and measures of the country. They were to take care that all their fellow-countrymen carefully obeyed the Russian laws; they were to open counting-houses and shops in Moscow and the other principal towns; they were to notice the kinds and qualities of merchandise likely to find a good market, and they were to look out, at the same time, for the best means of making their way into the Far East, and more particularly into China. The instructions also enumerated those Russian products—wax, tallow, tar, hemp, flax, and furs—which it would be well to import into England; and asked for samples of the minerals the company might undertake to bring to the surface in the Tsar's dominions, and details as to the German or Polish woven stuffs which might be replaced, on the Russian markets, by others of English make. They contemplated the possibility of monopolizing certain branches of the external trade of Russia, and drew up a complete programme, in the execution of which Chancellor, Grey, Killingworth, and their successors were to prove fully equal to their task.
Chancellor re-embarked on the Bona Fortuna, reached Moscow without a hitch, opened negotiations with Viskovatyï, the Chancellor, and succeeded in obtaining a charter which granted his company the most precious favours—complete freedom of trade, a special jurisdiction for all Englishmen settled in Russia, autonomy as regarded differences between English subjects, and the Tsar himself to decide all causes involving litigation between subjects of the two countries. At first the profits of the Company were enormous. According to one of its agents, a piece of cloth, which cost, transport included, no more than six pounds, was sold for seventeen roubles, equalling as many pounds in the reckoning of those days. But this prosperity was soon to attract formidable competition. Norwegian and possibly even Danish ships (see Monsieur Kordt's preface to the papers published by him in the 116th volume of the 'Collections of the Imperial Society of Russian History,' 1902, p. xviii) were already sailing in the wake of the English navigators. The monopoly these last thought they possessed was threatened. Disputes broke out, and thus Ivan was led to send a negotiator of his own to England, and charge him with the duty of bringing these complications to an end.
On July 21, 1556, Joseph Grigoriévitch Nepiéia, Namiéstnik (lieutenant) of Vologda, sailed with a whole fleet of ships laden with merchandise, and commanded by Chancellor. The Bona Fortuna was one of these, and with her sailed Willoughb'’s two vessels, which the Russians had returned to their owners, and the Philip and Mary, which had lately come from England. Alas! within a year it became necessary to despatch an English expedition, led by Stephen Burrough, in search of three of these ships, which were never seen again ('The Voyage of Mr. Stephen Burrough, An. 1557, from Colmogro to Wardhouse, which was sent to seeke the Bona Esperanza, the Bona Confidentia and the Philip and Mary,' Hakluyt, 'Travels,' i. 328). After three months of stormy seas, the Bona Fortuna reached the end of her journey alone, only to be wrecked on the Scottish coast! Chancellor, who, with Nepiéia, was on board the vessel, was drowned, with his son and part of the crew, in an heroic attempt to save the Russian envoy's life. Seven of his Russian companions likewise perished, and £7,000 worth of merchandise—the whole of Nepiéia's private fortune—was lost or pillaged by the natives of the coast, from whom, thanks to an inquiry ordered by Queen Mary, some few remnants were painfully recovered. The envoy escaped with his life, but, owing to the delay imposed by the above-mentioned inquiry, he did not reach the gates of the English capital till February, 1557. A splendid reception had been prepared him, as some sort of compensation. A hundred and forty merchants, with all their servingmen, attended him. He was presented with a richly-caparisoned horse for his solemn entry, and the Lord Mayor came to meet him. When Philip returned from Flanders in the following March, he gave the envoy audience, and in May, Nepiéia, a novice in diplomacy, flattered himself he had brought his mission to a happy conclusion, after all the horrors of the outset. He had obtained a certain reciprocity of privileges for his country—free trade with England, a special jurisdiction, that of the Chancellor himself, over Russian subjects sojourning on British soil, and leave to engage artisans, engineers, and physicians for the Tsar's service. He had not settled the essential question of the commercial competition in Russia itself, but Philip and Mary relied, as to that matter, on the man in command of the English ship on which he was to sail from Gravesend—a man destined, indeed, to play a leading part in the agreement arranged between the two countries.
His name was Anthony Jenkinson, and he served the Russian company for a wage of £40 a year. He was worth more. Since 1546, he had travelled all round Europe, and all the coast of Asia and of Africa. He had landed on Russian soil in July, 1557, made a long stay, for purposes of study, at Kholmogory and Vologda, and had not reached Moscow till December in that year. Well received by Ivan, he soon proved himself so thoroughly 'the right man in the right place' that once the Sovereign knew this particular Englishman he refused to have any other about him. He seems to have been a finished specimen of that race of business men to whom Great Britain owes her present position in the world—an extraordinary business mind, a broadness of view, a spirit of adventure, which no risk could alarm, a heart of steel, and an iron temperament. In April of the following year, we find him at Astrakan, after a whole winter season spent at Moscow. In August, first of all English sailors, he hoisted the red-crossed ensign on the waters of the Caspian. With only two of his fellow-countrymen to keep him company, he sailed away with a huge cargo of merchandise, enough to load a thousand camels, which he hoped shortly to hire from the Turkomans, and so make his way to Bokhara, across the steppes of Turkestan, and to more distant countries yet, if that might be. Why not to China? But at Bokhara war was to overtake him; the master of Samarkand was threatening the town. Jenkinson, as cautious as he was bold, beat a timely retreat, avoided the siege and the scenes of pillage that followed on it, and reappeared at Moscow in September, 1559, with a Bokharian embassy and five-and-twenty Russian prisoners rescued from the Turkomans. He offered the Tsar gifts, which the monarch graciously received—the tail of a white buffalo and a Tartar drum—and returned to England with a young Asiatic, the Sultana Aura, whom he proposed to present to the new Queen, Elizabeth. He also carried back the conviction that, from the commercial point of view, the Far Eastern countries through which he had just travelled were quite valueless. But he contemplated opening up relations with Persia, and, starting forth again in 1561, he received a friendly welcome at Kazbin, the capital of the Shah Tamas, and won the personal regard of Abdul-Khan, ruler of the Chirvan.
While he busied himself about acquiring these new markets and ensuring in them the privileges already given to his own country in Moscow, he was fighting a stiff battle with his Italian and Flemish competitors. Raphael Barberini, an Italian agent, contrived to overreach Queen Elizabeth, and induce her to give him a patent, which he used to spread a belief that the English were mere middlemen, bringing Dutch and French merchandise into the Russian markets. Jenkinson's rejoinder took the form of a new charter, granted to the Russian company by the Tsar, which confirmed it in all its monopolies, and extended them from the mouths of the Northern Dvina to the banks of the Ob, including Kholmogory, Kola, Mezen, Petchora, and Soloviétsk; gave it the sole right to a trading-house (dvor) at Moscow, and depots on the Dvina, at Vologda, Iaroslavl, Kostroma, Nijni-Novgorod, Pskov, Narva, and Iouriév, and granted free passage to all its merchandise sent to Bokhara and Samarkand.
These concessions—unhoped for, no doubt, and undeniably excessive, from the Muscovite point of view—were probably connected with overtures of a different order, which were being made to Jenkinson at this time, and which mark a new phase in Anglo-Russian relations.
II.—Projects of Alliance.
Ivan could not fail to be deeply impressed by all his English guests had shown him, or allowed him to guess, in the course of several years, concerning the genius and the greatness of their nation. And the struggle in which the Sovereign was engaged, both within and without the borders of his own country, had inspired him with a painful sense of his own isolation. In his eager, masterful, and obstinate mind, this twofold impression naturally became a fixed idea, which he was to carry with him to his grave. Against his external foes, their armies, their fleets, and their treasuries, he would make an alliance with a Power whose fleet, whose commerce, whose credit, were beginning to rule the whole world; against his foes at home he would thus ensure himself a support, perchance a refuge, that nothing would be able to shake. A glorious dream! Thanks to his imaginative powers, Ivan no doubt saw himself really driven into exile, and, backed by his formidable ally, able to return in triumph at his own time. Perhaps, indeed, but this point is less clear, he mingled a more romantic project with this plan. Elizabeth was fated to be the object of perpetual proposals of a more or less flattering nature, in which politics and gallantry both had their share. In spite of the fact that his youth had faded, in spite of his infirmities, which he exaggerated, but which were genuine, of his unsociable nature, and his four or five previous wives, living or dead, Ivan may possibly have thought of trying his own chance. On the other hand, as we know, Elizabeth was a mistress, from an early age, in the art of evading matrimonial proposals without offending or disheartening her suitors, and the conduct of Jenkinson, himself a good diplomatist, may have been inspired, in this particular, by his knowledge of the ideas and habits of his royal mistress. The one undoubted fact is that, when he came back from England in 1567, he was the bearer of a secret message, the contents of which are unknown to us, but the subject of which must have been exceedingly puzzling, seeing that for a long time the answer tarried.
So long did it tarry, indeed, that English trade in Russia suffered by the delay. The opening of the port of Narva to foreigners in general, followed by the establishment at Antwerp, and even in England, of several rival associations, threatened the monopoly of the great company whose interests Jenkinson had so firmly established. In 1568, Elizabeth recognised the necessity of repairing the damage, and, as Jenkinson's services were not available at that moment, she made up her mind to send an Ambassador of mark—Thomas Randolph, the head of her postal arrangements—in his stead. The instructions she gave him enlighten us—to some extent, at all events—as to Ivan's secret proposals. Randolph, whose official mission was to 're-establish order in the English trade,' was desired to evade these proposals as much as possible, but to assure the Tsar that, in case of any misfortune, the Queen would not refuse him her hospitality. Ivan was seriously thinking, then, of passing over into England! But the difficulty was that he would only accept shelter on the basis of a reciprocal arrangement. His pride forbade him to receive more than he was able to offer, and he demanded that the Queen, who also had rebels to deal with and risks to run, should formally accept the Kremlin as a refuge officially placed at her disposal! My readers will imagine that Henry VIII.'s daughter could not very well agree to such a bargain.
Randolph reached Moscow in October, at an unpropitious season. It was just at that moment, as my readers will recollect, that the dispute between the Metropolitan Philip and Ivan was going on. The Tsar was out of temper. There is some reason to believe that the agents of the Russian company, who, in the course of their disagreements with their rivals or with the monarch himself, had been guilty of a certain amount of rough dealing, made no effort to obtain a friendly welcome for a mission which rather disquieted them. Elizabeth's long silence had ended by wounding and irritating the irascible Sovereign. The result was that in February, 1569, the Ambassador, according to a method of diplomatic procedure not uncommon in the history of the Moscow of that period, found himself a prisoner in the house assigned as his residence, isolated there, and quite unable to perform his functions. When, after three months' waiting, he at last succeeded in obtaining an audience, the usual honours were not paid him, and the Tsar omitted to invite him to his own table, which was the established custom. What transpired in the course of that first interview? We know not; but it seems to have altered the monarch's views, for some days afterwards Ivan invited Randolph to take his way to the palace once more, this time in the greatest mystery, at dead of night, and wearing a disguise. This conversation lasted three hours, and as to what may have passed at it we are reduced to conjecture. The next morning the Tsar departed for his Sloboda, and did not come back till the following April. But when he did return, a sudden and total alteration in his attitude became apparent. Not only did he agree to restore the Russian company to the enjoyment of its former privileges, but he granted it fresh and greater advantages—free trade with Persia, power to mine for iron at Vytchegda, and to recoin money for its own benefit at Moscow, Novgorod, and Pskov, and the closing of the port of Narva to the newly-formed English company, while the old one was authorized to drive away the ships of any other nation that ventured into the White Sea.
Randolph had evidently flattered the Sovereign with some new hope, the performance of which was to be claimed by another Russian embassy to London.
Nepiéia's successor bore the name of Savine. Alas! all he brought back, after ten months spent on the banks of the Thames, was a letter from Elizabeth couched in somewhat vague and anything but satisfactory language. To a promise of help, on which it would not have been very easy to reckon, the Queen merely added a fresh assurance of the pleasure it would give her to welcome the Tsar, with all the honours due to his rank, whenever it suited him to become her guest, and to undertake all the charges connected with his entertainment. Instead of the coveted alliance, she offered him alms!
Ivan's behaviour, indeed, proved he had been wakened out of a beautiful dream, and when disturbed he was habitually bad-tempered. As usual, he lost all self-control, and sent Elizabeth an answer quite in the style of the epistles with which he was obliging the King of Sweden just at that time. He would not admit that the Queen herself would have treated a Sovereign who traced his descent from the Cæsars in so cavalier a fashion, and wrote to her as follows: 'I had thought thee mistress in thine own house, and free to follow thine own will. I see now that thou art ruled by men. And what men! Mere moujiks! Thyself thou art nothing but a vulgar wench (pochlaïa diévitsa), and thou behavest like one! I give up all intercourse with thee. Moscow can do without the English moujiks.'
The abuse was a mere nothing; it was a change from the madrigals usually served up to Elizabeth, and was only calculated to make her laugh. But before there had been time for the Tsar's message to get to London, news reached the capital that he had stripped the Russian company of all its privileges, old and new, confiscated its merchandise, and forbidden its trading operations. This was far more serious. The openings obtained by dint of so much effort were lost! The hope of snatching the Eastern markets from the Venetians and Portuguese had faded! The disaster must be remedied, and but one man in the world seemed capable of doing that. Elizabeth, when she confided the leadership of her solemn embassy to Robert Best, associated Jenkinson with him in the business.
But the bold explorer, who was to act as the head of an independent mission, was to begin by himself suffering cruelly from the altered circumstances. He landed in July, 1571, on an island in St. Nicholas' Bay, called 'Rose Island' by the British sailors, because of the wild roses they had found growing there, and sent a former interpreter of Savine's, Daniel Sylvester, to announce his arrival at Moscow. Sylvester could neither get there himself nor send back news, because of the plague, which had been laying the country waste ever since the Tartar invasion, and which had necessitated quarantines and barriers on every road. Another messenger, who tried to force his way through, barely escaped being burnt alive. Besides this, Ivan was campaigning against the Swedes, and the Russian authorities declared nobody must think of approaching him. They further asserted that Jenkinson would have risked his own life by so doing, for the Tsar held him responsible for the failure of his proposals, and had declared he would cut off his head if he showed his face in his dominions.
Quite unmoved—though the Governor of Kholmogory, influenced by existing circumstances, refused him shelter, food, or protection, and left him exposed to the hostility of the townsfolk—the Englishman waited on wearily in the inhospitable town till January, 1572, and then, putting on a bold face, contrived to force his way through, and ventured to beard the monarch in his den at Alexandrov. He had managed, no doubt, to justify himself in the meantime, for the Sovereign gave him a most gracious reception. Ivan hurried through the necessary ceremonial of the public audience, and eagerly broached a private conversation, at which he only allowed two of his most intimate associates to be present. After his usual custom, he mixed up a dozen other subjects with the one business he really cared for. He talked long and loud about certain English merchants on whose persons injurious letters concerning himself and his Government had been found, and, after endless circumlocutions, came to the real fact: what about the 'secret business' of which he had spoken to Jenkinson, and in regard to which Randolph had given a positive undertaking? This was Jenkinson's reply: 'I informed Her Majesty, word for word, of the proposals addressed to her through me, and Her Majesty, having accepted them, commanded Randolph to treat concerning them, but Randolph denies having given any undertaking about them. There must have been a misunderstanding, attributable, no doubt, to some interpreter’s blunder.' In support of his assertion the envoy produced a letter from Elizabeth.
Ivan was agreeably surprised, no doubt, to find it contained no reply to his own insolent remarks. The Queen contented herself with saying, in very dignified fashion, that her own subjects gave her no reason for such displeasure or alarm as would lead her to seek refuge in any foreign country whatever. But for all that, she continued to have the most friendly feelings for the Tsar, and, provided he would consent to forget his legitimate complaints against the British merchants, and restore them their privileges, she declared herself ready to afford him the most convincing proofs of her regard. Thanks to Jenkinson's cleverness, doubtless, Ivan took what was really a proof of scorn for a mark of deference; as Elizabeth's reply contained no strong language, he considered his honour satisfied, and was mollified. After hesitating for awhile, he gave Jenkinson another audience at Staritsa, and appeared inclined to restore the company and its principal member, William Garret, to unconditional favour. He would give up all idea of a secret understanding for the time being, and when Jenkinson asked for the names of the British subjects of whom he had had reason to complain, he replied, with a dignity that equalled Elizabeth's, 'What matter? If I pardon them, it is not so that you may have them punished by their Queen!'
What secret thought he had in his mind at this moment we cannot tell, but Jenkinson's success was certainly as fleeting as it had been personal. In July, 1572, the gifted diplomatist quitted the shores of Russia for the last time, and in the following year Sylvester, sent back by the Russian company, bore evil tidings to London. Ivan, on the score of relations with the Polish King, of which the English merchants were accused, had imposed fines on them in the shape of taxes—not half as heavy, indeed, as those other foreigners had to pay, but an infringement, none the less, of the privileges granted to them. And the ci-devant interpreter was convinced that this recrudescence of hostility arose from the Tsar's disappointment concerning the alliance he had planned. Elizabeth then made up her mind to entrust a fresh mission to Sylvester himself. She agreed to treat with Ivan as secretly as the Russian Sovereign desired; but she could not allow her subjects to think she was in any danger among them without placing herself in a really perilous position. Sylvester must try to make the Tsar understand this fact.
He found him, in November, 1575, in the new dwelling he had built for himself in the Kremlin, and which he claimed to inhabit as a private individual, having given up the Kremlin itself and the throne to Simeon. 'You see,' said he to the English envoy, 'I was right when I appealed to your mistress, and she did not act wisely when she refused my proposals!' Sylvester was still pondering over the meaning of this new state of things, which had not been foreseen in London, and considering how he could best accommodate himself to it, when Ivan, leaving him to his own reflections, quitted his capital to meet the Ambassadors of the Emperor, then just about to arrive. When the Sovereign returned, his language had completely altered. 'If Elizabeth did not give him full and complete satisfaction, the whole commerce of his Empire should be made over to the Venetians and the Germans.'
The envoy was fain to carry this ultimatum back to London. We know nothing of the reply Elizabeth charged him to deliver, for he was killed by lightning at Kholmogory on his return journey, and all his papers were burnt in the house in which he had been living. Did Elizabeth yield? The fact is admitted by the Russian historian who has devoted the most profound study to this chapter of history (Tolstoï, 'The Relations between England and Russia,' p. 31). Yet such a fact seems very improbable, for during the three following years, diplomatic intercourse between the two countries appears to have been entirely broken off. Before it could be renewed, Ivan was to allow himself to be bewitched by another chimera, inspired, as it would seem, by one of the foreigners who had formed part of the Tsar's personal circle since the period of Savine's mission to England.
III.—A Projected Marriage.
His name was Elysius Bomel or Bomelius. Born at Wesel, in Westphalia, he had studied medicine at Cambridge, but his chief interest was in astrology, and his reputation as to this particular science had earned him a prison cell, in which he was lying, at the time of Savine's arrival in London, by the Bishop of London’s orders. As the only terms on which he could obtain his liberty were an undertaking to leave England, he made up his mind to follow the fortunes of the Muscovite envoy, and take service with the Tsar. At Moscow he promptly amassed a large fortune and a very evil reputation, and was believed to be the person employed in the preparation of the poisons used by the Tsar upon his victims. He was also accused of corrupting Ivan's mind by his offensive remarks about religion, and by advising him to seek refuge in a foreign country.
The Tsar, as we have seen, had not waited the arrival of this adventurer before he turned his mind to England, and, it may be, even to Elizabeth. But we possess various indications of the fact that Bomel endeavoured to direct the current of his ambitions into a new channel. He was not himself destined, indeed, to play any part in the development of the intrigue he had thus prepared. Implicated in a plot discovered in 1579, the hatred and jealousy of which he was the object no doubt contributed to ensure a recognition of his guilt, and his life ended under frightful tortures. His wife, an Englishwoman of the name of Anne Richards, remained in Russia, and was only sent back, with a few of her fellow-countrymen—a physician named Richard Elmes and an apothecary named Richard Frensham—after Ivan was dead, and at a moment when all foreigners in Russia were proscribed.
It was more as a German than as an Englishman that Bomel had been hated and denounced, and though Ivan ordered the unhappy astrologer to be executed, he proved himself very ready to reopen intercourse with England.
In 1580, Jeremy Horsey, one of the Russian company's agents, was commissioned by the Tsar to induce Elizabeth to send him a certain supply of military stores—lead, copper, saltpetre, sulphur, and gunpowder. Ivan was then engaged in measuring his strength against Batory's. But Horsey's instructions, which were hidden in a flask of brandy, were not confined to this request. The Tsar, influenced by Bomel, was more than ever set on seeking something else in England. If Elizabeth persisted in refusing her own hand to all her suitors, she had kinswomen of a marriageable age.
In the spring of 1581, Horsey brought back thirteen ships laden with the supplies for which the Tsar had asked, together with a party of surgeons and apothecaries, and, to fill Bomel's place, a physician, whom Elizabeth declared she valued highly—so highly that she made a sacrifice in sending him to the Tsar. This practitioner, better known in Russia under the name of Roman Elizariév, but who was really called James Roberts, had undertaken to make up Ivan's mind for him by pointing out the kinswoman of the Queen on whom he would do well to fix his choice.
In the course of that same year, a Muscovite Ambassador, Feodor Ivanovitch Pissemski, set sail for England, charged with the official conclusion of a treaty of alliance, and with the unofficial duty of opening negotiations for a marriage between his master and one of the Queen's nieces—the daughter of 'Prince Titounski' (sic). The lady in question was Mary Hastings, daughter of Lord Huntingdon. Her grandmother had been Elizabeth's first cousin.
Ivan had then just married for the sixth time. His bride was Maria Nagaïa, the daughter of one of his Court councillors (doumnyï dvorianine). But that was a matter of little consequence—so little, indeed, that the lady's own father, Athanasius Nagoï, had been one of the members of the Commission which had questioned Roberts concerning this other prospective bride. Previous to Pissemski's departure, in July, 1581, a representative of the English merchants trading with Russia landed at Arkhangel. He was the bearer of a letter from Elizabeth, dated from Westminster on January 23, 1581, which contained complaints about the King of Denmark, who was putting obstacles in the way of British trade. As Sovereign of Norway and Iceland, he claimed the right of collecting dues on all ships plying between the two countries. The Ambassador was therefore deputed to carry the Tsar's reply on this special point. Ivan suggested that the Queen should have all vessels carrying merchandise to Russian ports under the British flag convoyed by ships of war. But above all other things, Pissemski was to obtain the Queen’s leave to see 'the Princess Titounski.' He was to look at her most carefully, to note her face, her complexion, her figure, her proportions; he was to collect information as to her age and her family relations, and he was to try to bring back her picture, as well as exact measurements of her person, 'set down on paper.' If any objection was taken to the Sovereign's recent marriage, he was to reply that as the lady in that case was a mere boïar's daughter, the union possessed no importance whatever. It would not prevent the new bride from assuming the position of Tsarina. As to the children born of the projected marriage, the throne was reserved for Feodor, the Tsarevitch, but they would be given suitable appanages. Of course, the future Tsarina, like all persons in attendance on her whom she desired to retain about her person, would be expected to change her religion. And, to conclude, the betrothal must be preceded by the conclusion of an alliance, well made and duly signed. Ivan asked no favours: he offered his own person in exchange for a political advantage. If Mary Hastings was to have the happiness of becoming the rival of Maria Nagaïa, England must send her armies and her fleets to help the Tsar against Batory.
As to the outstanding commercial questions, one of the Russian company's agents, Egidius Crew, was associated with Pissemski, who was also accompanied, as his interpreter, by Roberts the physician. He was charged with a special mission of his own, to inform Elizabeth of the Tsar's intention of proceeding secretly to England. Ivan, as my readers will perceive, was planning a regular assault, which, he felt sure, would this time turn his stubborn dream into a reality.
Pissemski reached England in September, 1582, and did not have his first audience at Windsor till the 11th of the following December. At that moment, apparently, the object of one portion of his mission no longer existed. Vanquished in his struggle with Batory, Ivan had made peace. The Muscovite Ambassador made as though he had been unaware of this event. Probably he had received fresh instructions, according to which he was to carry the projected alliance to a conclusion, and thus pave the way to a recommencement of hostilities against the victorious Poles. But this he would not admit, and his position was rendered all the more difficult by the fact that an envoy from Batory had reached London, and was not wasting his time there. Both the Polish and the English archives are dumb on this subject—unless, indeed, they have never been searched in connection with it—and all we have to go on is the attitude of the English Cabinet with regard to the Muscovite Ambassador. This seems to indicate that by the time he arrived Elizabeth had already made up her mind, or was on the point of making it up, as to diplomatic arrangements, and that Poland was victorious once again. When Pissemski showed himself eager to enter on his business, the opening of negotiations was put off from week to week, and on various pretexts. First of all on account of Court festivities, then because of the plague. 'The plague doesn't prevent you from treating with the Poles,' grumbled the Russian. But he had to wait till the Poles had departed, and even then, if he had been more experienced, he would have perceived the Government was doing its best to get rid of him civilly. Solemnly introduced into the Queen's presence by the Earl of Leicester, Lord Howard, Sir Christopher Hatton, and the Earl of Huntingdon himself, he handed Elizabeth the presents sent by the Tsar, his own gifts, and those of his principal associate, who bore an unlucky name—Niéoudatcha (meaning 'failure'). These presents consisted, as usual, of dozens of sable furs. Elizabeth, according to the Ambassador's report, was very gracious. 'She began to be gay,' inquired after the Tsar, saying she loved him like a brother, and that she would be rejoiced to see him and make an alliance with him. But, the audience once over, there was less talk than ever of the negotiations. All Pissemski had attained by the end of the month was an invitation to a stag hunt. Rather roughly, he replied that he had no time to waste over such amusements, and, further, that he and his comrades never ate game at that season—it was in Lent. Having consented at last, with a very, bad grace, to take his share in the proposed entertainment, he heard, on December 13, that the Earl of Leicester, Lord Hunsdon, Sir Christopher Hatton, and Secretary Francis Walsingham, had been appointed to treat with him. The conferences were to take place at Greenwich, and the representatives of the Russian merchants who had interests in Muscovy were to be present at them.
There was a disagreement from the very outset as to the basis of the negotiations. Pissemski offered England complete freedom from taxation on all the Russian merchandise she exported, and demanded, in return, her alliance against the King of Poland, 'who was being assisted by the Pope, the Emperor, and other Sovereigns.' 'But,' replied the English, 'your master has just been reconciled with Poland by the good offices of the Pope.' The Russian clung obstinately to his clumsy pretence. 'The Pope can say what he likes behind people's backs! In the Tsar's letter to the Queen he calls Batory his enemy, so that must be.' Under such conditions there was scant hope of any understanding. Elizabeth's great object, for the moment, was to save her trade in the White Sea from Danish interference. To this end she consented, in January, 1583, to humour the Tsar and his Ambassador by giving Pissemski a secret audience. Pissemski, on his side, was anxious to open the question of the marriage. But the Russian, reaching Richmond at the appointed hour, was not a little astonished to find the palace in full festivity, music and dancing going on. The same thing happened every day, he was assured, and the Queen, indeed, forsook the merry throng to receive the Ambassador apart, without any witness save Roberts, the indispensable interpreter. Niéoudatcha was not summoned for another hour, and Elizabeth, excusing herelf, told him she had 'been carried away by the conversation.'
This conversation, we may conclude, was principally concerned with Mary Hastings. When Pissemski pressed his request to be allowed to see the young lady and have her portrait painted, the Queen seemed very much put out. She would have been heartily glad to enter into family relations with the Tsar, but she had heard he cared very much for beauty, and Mary Hastings was not a beautiful woman. Besides, she had only just got over the small-pox, and the idea of having her picture painted at the present moment was not to be dreamt of. Nevertheless, the wily Sovereign pretended to discuss the conditions for the marriage. She expressed special anxiety about any daughters her niece might have. 'Our Sovereigns,' answered Pissemski proudly, 'always marry their daughters to foreign potentates!' And he quoted the case—unique, indeed, in the course of several centuries—of the Princess Helena, married in 1495 to Alexander of Poland. But before any marriage could be settled, the alliance must be arranged. The Ambassador had handed in a memorandum on this subject, and was waiting for his answer. Elizabeth promised to hasten it, and that was all.
Thus two more months slipped by, and when the envoy, whose patience was very nearly worn out, received his answer, what disappointment was his! The Queen agreed to make an alliance with the Tsar, and give him armed help against all his enemies, but in return she demanded a monopoly of all the external trade of Russia for England! Pissemski proved his simplicity once more, for he did not realize that Elizabeth was making a mock of his master and himself. He quibbled and argued over the terms of the document, as if its substance did not suffice to make it utterly unacceptable. It described his overtures as 'requests,' and called the Tsar the Queen's 'nephew.' The English negotiators offered to alter the terms of the agreement, but they refused to change their conditions. In April they invited the Ambassador to a banquet, to which seventeen great dignitaries of the State—Edward Clinton, Earl of Lincoln; George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury; Thomas Radclyffe, Earl of Sussex; Ambrose Dudley, Earl of Warwick; Francis Russell, Earl of Bedford; and others—sat down with him, and at which the Queen drank to the Tsar's health. When the feast was over they informed the importunate diplomatist that the Queen was about to give him his farewell audience. For as he assured them he had no instructions to accept the English counter proposals, would not his best course be to go back to his own country, and there obtain fresh powers?
Loudly the poor fellow objected, 'But what about the marriage?' In reply, the Englishmen showed him gazettes, which announced that Maria Nagaïa had borne the Tsar a son. Once more Pissemski feigned ignorance, and the ignorance of the man who has no desire to be enlightened. 'Wicked people were putting about stories to prevent a good understanding between his master and the Queen.' So angry was he, and such a coil did he raise, that Elizabeth, after due reflection, made up her mind to lend herself to a farce—for a farce it certainly was—well calculated, indeed, to deceive the envoy and keep Ivan's illusions alive. On May 17, Pissemski was invited to proceed, with no attendant save Roberts, to a country house belonging to the Chancellor, Lord Bromley. The Chancellor, having ceremoniously received him at the entrance of his dwelling, conducted him to the garden, where refreshments were prepared. Very soon a party of ladies appeared in one of the garden alleys. At the head of the group, between Lady Bromley and Lady Huntingdon, walked the person the envoy already delighted to call 'the Tsar's betrothed.' The gentlemen saluted from a distance, and the Chancellor told Pissemski the Queen had given orders that he was to be shown her niece—'not in a chamber, but in broad daylight, so that he might see her better.' The Russian stared with all his might. A turn in the park was suggested, and arranged so that he might meet the object of his curiosity several times over. After this, Bromley said to him, 'Have you looked at her well?' 'I have obeyed my instructions,' was the reply; and in his report Pissemski wrote: 'The Princess of Hountinsk, Mary Hantis (sic), is tall, slight, and white-skinned; she has blue eyes, fair hair, a straight nose, and her fingers are long and taper.'
Horsey has left us his own account of this scene, which may very well have been touched up a little in Pissemski's narrative, the essential features of which I have just reproduced. The English chronicler declares that when he saw the 'betrothed' the envoy was so overcome with emotion that he retired backwards, saying he must be content with a single glance at the angel he believed destined to become his Sovereign's wife. But Horsey was not present, and the angel had very nearly reached her thirtieth year!
Elizabeth was determined to give herself the amusement of carrying on the farce to the very end. Once more she sent for Pissemski, told him how much she regretted her niece was not sufficiently beautiful to please the Tsar's taste, and said, 'I think you did not think her very fair yourself!' But the Russian held his ground.
'I think her fair: the rest is in God's hands.' And he pressed the Queen to make her intentions on the subject clear. But Elizabeth had already invented a new means of delay. She would send a confidential man of her own to Russia with Pissemski, and this Ambassador should receive all her instructions and be invested with all the necessary powers. The farewell audience soon took place. Pissemski was the recipient of another volley of compliments and empty protestations of friendship, and was assured the Queen would give free passage through her territories to all the Tsar's envoys to any foreign Power, the Pope alone excepted. 'Your master must not betray me to the Pope!' Elizabeth is reported to have said. Here, again, we may suppose, Roberts proved himself a faithless interpreter. By the middle of June, Mary Hastings' portrait was finished, and after witnessing a review of the British fleet—eighty ships of seventy or eighty guns, and crews of a thousand men or more apiece—Pissemski and Niéoudatcha embarked with Jeremy Bowes, Her Majesty's chosen Ambassador. Her choice, though it had fallen on a professional diplomat, was not a happy one.
V.—The Dutch Competition and the Rupture.
Bowes had a difficult task before him. He was to talk of trade, and of nothing but trade, to a man who did not want to listen to anything but projected alliances, political and matrimonial. And these same commercial relations were passing through a very trying crisis. The English merchants, whose privileges were nominally maintained—they only had to pay half other peoples taxes, at all events—found themselves forced to pay extra imposts, arbitrarily demanded and perpetually increased. These were the result of the hostile operations the Tsar dreamt of reopening with England's help, and which had already reduced his resources to a most exhausted condition. Meanwhile, other foreign competitors were gaining ground. The Russian Treasury, hard pressed for money, was selling fresh privileges to the highest bidder, and the liberal gifts cunningly distributed by the Dutch were bribing precious support among the persons nearest to the Sovereign. Three of Ivan's chief councillors—Nikita Romanovitch Zakharine, the incorruptible hero of the popular legend, Bogdan Biélski, and Andrew Chtchelkalov—had been completely bought over. The Tsar probably recognised the competition to be a means of forcing Elizabeth's hand, and rendering her more obedient to his desires. Since the year 1575, as a matter of fact, Antwerp ships had been making regular voyages to the White Sea, and Captain Carlile, who reckoned the money sunk by the English Company in the monopolies now endangered at £80,000, had presented his Queen with a memorandum in which he proposed to turn efforts apparently likely to be wasted, for the future, in Russia, to the continent of America ('A Briefe and Summary Discourse upon the Intended Voyage to the Hithermost Parts of America,' April, 1583, Hakluyt, 'Collection of Early Voyages, iii. 228).
Bowes was not the least like Jenkinson. Haughty and abrupt in his address, brusque and unmannerly, he was a fair sample of the worst side of that national character of which his predecessor had exemplified the best aspect. He began with a tolerably ill-natured dispute about a horse offered him for his entry into the capital, and which did not measure a sufficient number of hands to please him. The instructions with which he was provided did not help him to wipe out the memory of this bad beginning. Elizabeth not only maintained her demand for an exclusive monopoly, but claimed to impart a somewhat peculiar form to the alliance which was to depend on this sine quâ non. She would not proceed to assist Ivan actively against his enemies until she had exhausted every attempt at reconciliation between him and them. This was as much as to say to the Tsar, 'You desire my help to enable you to take vengeance on Batory—very good! But I shall begin by warning the King of your intention!'
We have two sources of information as to the negotiations thus begun—Bowes' own report (Hakluyt, i. 458, etc.) and the records of the Muscovite Chancery. These documents constantly contradict each other. The British envoy, while admitting certain misunderstandings and unavoidable annoyances, flatters himself he has won all along the line. Ivan, according to his testimony, is disposed to give the Queen's subjects back all their privileges, and even to increase them. At the same time, his desire for an English wife—some other relative of the Queen's, if Mary Hastings was not inclined to accept his suit—was stronger fish ever, and he was ready to go to London for this purpose. He even went so far as to ask the 'preacher' of the English Embassy to furnish him with a memorandum as to the chief points of the Protestant faith, had it read aloud before a numerous audience, and liberally rewarded its author. He inflicted severe punishment on those of his councillors who betrayed any hostility to Bowes, and advised them to alter their behaviour. And the fruit of all these successes, couched in writing, and duly signed and sealed, was on the point of being delivered to the envoy, when the Tsar's sudden death destroyed the work so successfully performed, transformed triumph into disaster, and cast the victory into the hands of the hostile party.
The Russian version is very different. Ivan's reply to the British ultimatum is said to have been embodied in the following counter-propositions: As the King of Poland, in contravention of all treaties, had taken Polotsk and Livonia from the Tsar, the Queen must invite him to restore the conquered territories and pay an indemnity, or, in the event of his refusal, she must join hands with the Tsar and make him do it by force. In exchange, she was to receive the monopoly of certain ports—the Flemish and French merchants had standing rights in certain others. The King of France had just sent several ships to the port of Kola. He was desirous of the Tsar's friendship, and had begged Ivan to send him an Ambassador. This was simply a way of telling Bowes, 'We are by no means bereft of powerful friends.'
All the Englishman could do was to take refuge behind his instructions. But then the Russian delegates, Zakharine, Biélski, Chtchelkalov, and Frolov, approached the matter of the 'secret business.' 'Could not Bowes tell them anything about that?' Yes; but it was for the Tsar's ear alone. They promised a private audience, and went on splitting hairs about the projected alliance. When Elizabeth ha granted the Tsar's Ambassadors free passage through her dominions, she had claimed her right to exclude the representatives of hostile Powers. There must be some understanding as to this. As far as Rome was concerned, there was no question of a difference. 'The Tsar would not betray the Queen to the Pope.' And he also included the Kings of Poland, Sweden, and Denmark among his enemies. Now it was Bowes' turn to specify, and a disagreement at once arose. 'The Emperor,' said the British envoy, 'is the Queen's enemy, and the King of Spain such a friend as anyone might buy for a dienga.' But Elizabeth had just sent the King of Denmark the Order of the Garter, which marked him in the front rank of her friends, and as much might be said of the King of Sweden. The negotiators fell back on the monopolies question. As a final concession, Russia granted England five ports on the White Sea, not including Kola, which was to be left to the French, and Poudojersk, at the mouth of the Northern Dyina, at which place a Nimeguen merchant named Johann von Valle, known in Russia as Biélobrod (White-beard) had set up his trading establishments.
Bowes protested. What was to become of the solemn charters previously bestowed on the Russian Company? The reply given him was that 'the English merchants, Thomas Glover and Rudolph Ritter, have misused the Tsar's favour, plotted with his enemies, and acted as their spies.' To which Bowes answered: 'Glover is a rogue, but England is a free country, in which every man can hire himself out to serve whatever master he chooses. And neither your Frenchmen nor your Flemings give you first-rate merchandise, as we do. …' Then the Russians raised a clamour. The English cloths were just what they did complain of. They brought patterns. 'I know nothing about cloths,' quoth Bowes, with an air of offended dignity.
I have summed up the pith of a score of meetings, the result of which was nil.
The private audience took place on December 13, 1583. Bowes had to present himself unarmed and unattended, for the Tsar was going to receive him tête-à-tête to discuss the 'secret business'—in other words, the marriage. This tête-à-tête did not exclude the presence of a dozen persons, amongst whom was the reigning favourite, Boris Godounoy, shortly to be Tsar himself. In presence of this company the whole of the farce arranged by Elizabeth was played again. Ivan desired to be informed of the Queen's intentions as to Mary Hastings, and Bowes declared the Queen had sent him to find out the Tsar's. But the envoy, now he had his back against the wall, entangled himself in a series of miserable shifts and excuses. 'The Queen’s niece was ill—very ill indeed; and besides, he did not think she could agree to change her religion. … And, further, she was one of Her Majesty's most distant relations. There were a dozen other ladies whom the Tsar might very well prefer . . . . Ivan broke in sharply:
'Who are these ladies? Are they the daughters of appanaged Princes or subjects of the Queen? … Speak! Explain thyself! …'
'I have no instructions.'
This time the Tsar could not control his rage. According to his usual tactics, he executed a flank movement, so as to have his opponent more completely in his hands. Several times Bowes had fallen out with the Russian negotiators, and in the course of their altercations he had dropped various offensive expressions. With these Ivan now taxed him, and when the envoy denied them, he flew into a rage, as was his wont. The Russian record omits this episode, but Bowes gives a full account of it. Certain persons have objected to the dialogues I have introduced into my narratives of a less remote past, believing they may be an alteration of the original texts on which my story is based. If my critics will be good enough to consult the documents of which the sense is here reproduced, they will acknowledge that if I have been guilty of any alteration at all, it has been in my avoidance of the conversational form, infinitely more frequent in documents of this kind than they will imagine. In Bowes' report he gives the dialogue as follows:
The Tsar (to Bowes): '… You have assumed airs of superiority over my plenipotentiaries which cannot be endured; for I know Sovereigns among my own equals who take precedence of your mistress!'
Bowes: 'My mistress is as great a Princess as any in Christendom, equal to those who think themselves the greatest, and able to make head against them all!'
The Tsar: 'You mean the Kings of France and Spain?'
Bowes: 'Certainly. I believe my Queen is worthy to be their peer. …'
The Tsar: 'And the Emperor's? …'
Bowes: 'When the King, my mistress's father, was warring against France, he once had the Emperor in his pay. …'
These words, if we may believe the Ambassador, put Ivan into such a fury that he went so far as to threaten to throw his guest out of the window, to which menace Bowes replied that the Tsar could do as he chose, but that the Queen of England knew how to avenge insults laid on her representatives. Whereupon Ivan hastily dismissed his bold opponent, and spoke of him, once his back was turned, in terms of praise, saying he would himself be thankful to have such men to serve him.
As to all this episode the Russian authorities are dumb. According to them there was a dispute about the insolence, which Bowes denied and the Russian delegates asserted, to which the Tsar put an end by making a long speech on the origin of the British trade in Russia, the causes of the partial abolition of the excessive privileges primarily granted, and the reasons which forbade their restitution. The Queen's subjects were very far from supplying the Russian markets in any sufficient or satisfactory manner. Drawing a ring off his finger, Ivan declared Von Valle had only made him pay 60 roubles for it, and 1,000 for the big emerald in his cap. The English merchants brought no gems at all, and charged exorbitant prices for all the merchandise they did bring. The ring was worth 300 roubles, and the emerald 40,000, if not more; Bowes was obliged to admit the fact. Further, the Tsar had asked, through Pissemski, for cloths, silks of good quality, and laces. He was still waiting for the laces, and the cloths, like the silks, were very highly priced, and worth nothing at all. Those sent from Poland looked much better. At a sign from the Sovereign various stuffs were brought in, and while he fingered them and made comparisons, to which Bowes replied by a fresh assertion of his own incompetence in such matters, Ivan continued to hold forth. What was the meaning of this friendship the Queen offered him, if it was to be confined to his custom, and to an alliance which had no existence save a verbal one?
All the Ambassador could do was to appeal to his instructions, and the result of another and still more confidential interview, which took place five days later, on December 18, and at which the only members of the council present were Troubetskoi, Zakharine, Biélski, Chtchelkalov, and Frolov—and even these were sent off to the other end of the room, 'close to the stove'—was not any more satisfactory. Meanwhile Ivan had heard, through James Roberts, who probably interpreted at all these meetings, that Bowes was desirous of seeing him quite alone. The envoy denied the fact. All he had said was that when he had been on other missions, to the King of France and other Sovereigns, he had never been expected to deal with a third party with regard to important negotiations.
'The Court of France is no rule for ours,' grumbled Ivan. 'Tell me what thou hast to say about our marriage.'
'I know from the Queen, my mistress, that she desired your friendship above that of all other Sovereigns, and I have on other personal desire, save that of pleasing and serving you.'
'Give me the list of all the nieces of the Queen of whom you speak, with their names and titles. I will send an Ambassador to England with you, and he shall look at them all, and send me their portraits.'
'I offer you my own services for that purpose.'
All this I quote from the Russian version. According to it, Bowes now retracted his former assertions, and denied he had ever been heard to mention any other female relatives of Elizabeth's whom the Tsar might have preferred to Mary Hastings. When he stood convicted as a liar, he once more took refuge behind his instructions, or gave it to be understood, with a mysterious air, that he would shortly be in a position to give the monarch satisfaction, 'but his time was not yet come.' He asked leave to send a courier overland to England to bring him back fuller powers; raised trivial questions about the quantity and quality of the supplies sent him, demanding as much as 10 pouds (320 pounds) of butter a day; requested the Tsar to administer severe chastisement, manu propriâ, to Chtchelkalov, whom the envoy held responsible for the grievances of which he complained, but got nothing for his pains except a discourse from the Sovereign, under five heads, which wound up in the following fashion: 'You are an ignorant man, and you have no idea of how an envoy ought to behave!'
After that one would have fancied there was no more to be said. But Ivan was too much set on his own idea. With the obstinacy of a lunatic, he strove to lay his hand on the dream which perpetually eluded his grasp. He summoned Bowes to more private interviews, and over and over again he repeated his same monotonous argument: 'Thou hast told us of a score or two of young girls of thy country amongst whom we might choose a wife, and thou wilt not give us their names. Yet how can we take any steps on such vague information as this? It appears there are more than a thousand marriageable girls in England, several of them kitchen wenches; would you have us pay our addresses to them all?'
These interviews, which constantly recurred during the two first months of the year 1584, culminated, on February 14, according to the Russian records, in another and most violent altercation. Bowes, after having undertaken to give the Tsar's Ambassador to the King of France a passage on board his ship, backed out of his promise, saying the Queen had ordered him to go back to England overland.
'So as to sell me to my enemies!' cried Ivan, beside himself with rage. 'I'll not permit it!'
Since Russia had lost Livonia, the overland route ran through Poland. Recovering his self-control, though still furious, Ivan continued: 'As thou didst not come here to treat seriously, thou hast my leave to go, and take away all thou broughtest in with thee! This very hour we will dismiss thee!'
Bowes was well accustomed to such angry outbreaks, and this one, as the Russian records admit, by no means overwhelmed him. He was not dismissed, and three days later the envoy was summoned to listen to the reading of a suggested treaty, in which the Tsar had caused the minimum of his wishes and demands to be embodied. All our knowledge of the sense of this document is gathered from the objections made to it by Bowes. Substantially, what Ivan demanded was an offensive alliance for the reconquest of Livonia. As always, the Ambassador. gave prevaricating answers. His mistress, a very pious lady, had a horror of conquests. The Low Countries had vainly besought her to take them under her protection, and even France would have been thankful to pass under her rule. …
'But this is not a matter of conquest,' replied the Tsar; 'Livonia is our ancient patrimony!'
'Are you quite sure of that?'
Ivan was furious.
'We do not ask your Queen to judge between us and Poland!'
And this time the farewell audience was fixed for February 20. It was put off on account of the monarch's illness, and on March 18, Chtchelkalov had Bowes informed that 'his English Tsar was dead.' Like Randolph, in former days, the envoy was kept a prisoner in his own house, and exposed to every kind of ill-treatment, until the month of May, when Ivan's son sent him back to Elizabeth with a letter which contained no reference to an alliance nor any special favours to be granted to the British merchants.
According to Horsey's report, Chtchelkalov and the Ambassador's other foes went so far as to plot his death, and it was only his fellow-countryman's intervention that averted this catastrophe. But this was probably a mere boast on Horsey's part. Boris Godounov was the real master at that moment, and we know—though he did it secretly, indeed—that he sent Bowes a present, and coupled his gift with assurances of his devotion. But, in spite of all Bowes' blustering talk, a town was rising up and a port was being dug on a site chosen by the Dutch, hard by an ancient monastery, on the right bank of the Dvina. This they had promised to make into a second Narva for Russia, and with their help, and no other, in the beginning, it was to become the centre of the maritime trade of the Empire, snatched, once and for all, from the hands of the British monopolists. This town was Arkhangel, where the English were only to put in an appearance at a much later date, and in quite a secondary position. In this apparently unequal struggle the victory remained with Holland, and its effects are manifest in the history of Peter the Great.
In 1838, Count Wielhorski, happening to visit Italy to collect antique works for a museum then in process of formation in Russia, believed himself to have discovered a well-executed and well-preserved portrait of Ivan, said to have been sent to London in 1570 ('Russian Archives,' 1888, i. 123). This canvas, a unique specimen of the Russian art of the sixteenth century, was then in the possession of the Russian Consul at Genoa, Monsieur Smirnov, who had bought it from a London curiosity dealer. To my great regret, I have failed in my endeavour to discover the present whereabouts of this picture, which, if authentic, would be of priceless value, both as to the history of artistic development in Russia and as to that of the curious diplomatic episode which I have just related to my readers. No authority, whether Russian or English, mentions any picture of the Tsar as having been despatched to England.
Ivan, as my readers have seen, was led to seek the English alliance, and desire it with a passionate longing, in the first place by the pressure of the internal crisis, and in the second, by that of the external one which was affecting and imperilling both his fortunes and his policy. I now pass on to the history of that closing phase of his reign.