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land, and Howard was suddenly called on to take measures for the defence of the kingdom. Nothing was ready. With the exception of the Vanguard, Nottingham wrote, all the ships in the Narrow Seas are small, 'fit to meet with Dunkirkers, but far unfit for this that now happens unlooked for. In my opinion, these ships will watch a time to do something on our coast; and if they hear our ships are gone to Dieppe, then I think them beasts if they do not burn and spoil Dover and Sandwich. What four thousand men may do on the sudden in some other places I leave to your lordships' judgments' (Nottingham to Burghley and Essex, 17 Feb. 1598, Cal State Papers, Dom.) Eighteen months afterwards there was a similar alarm, with many false rumours, springing out of a gathering of Spanish ships at Corunna. They were reported off Ushant and in the Channel (ib. August 1599). A strong fleet was fitted out and sent to sea, 'in good plight for so short warning' (Chamberlain, p. 61); a camp was ordered to be formed, troops were raised (ib.), and Nottingham was appointed to the chief command by sea or land, his commission constituting him 'lord lieutenant-general of all England,' an exceptional office, which Elizabeth had destined for Leicester at the time of his death, but which had been actually conferred on no one before. Howard now 'held [it] with almost regal authority for the space of six weeks, being sometimes with the fleet in the Downs, and sometimes on shore with the forces' (Campbell, i. 397).

Nottingham was one of the commissioners at Essex's trial (19 Feb. 1600–1), and after the execution of Essex served on the commission with the lord treasurer and the Earl of Worcester for performing the office of earl marshal (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 10 Dec. 1601). He was in high favour with the queen. On 13 or 14 Dec. 1602 he entertained her at Arundel House. The feasting, we are told, 'had nothing extraordinary, neither were his presents so precious as was expected, being only a whole suit of apparel, whereas it was thought he would have bestowed his rich hangings of all the fights with the Armada in 1588'(Chamberlain, p.169). These hangings were afterwards in the House of Lords, and were burnt with it in 1834, though copies still exist in the engravings made by Pine in 1739. It was to Nottingham that the queen on her deathbed named the king of Scots as her successor (Campbell, i. 398), and it was at his house that the privy council assembled to take measures for moving the queen's body to London (Gardiner, i. 85). He had probably been already in communication with James, and from the first he was marked out as a recipient of the royal favour. He was continued in his office of lord admiral. He was appointed (20 May 1603) a commissioner to consider the preparations for the coronation; in May 1604 he was a commissioner for negotiating the peace with Spain, and in March 1605 was sent to Spain as ambassador extraordinary, to interchange ratifications and oaths. His embassy was of almost regal splendour. He had the title of excellency, and a money allowance of 15,000l. All the gentlemen of his staff wore black velvet cloaks, and his retainers numbered five hundred (Winwood, Memorials, ii. 39, 52). His firmness, his calm temper, and his unswerving courtesy, backed up by the prestige of his military achievements, carried the treaty through most satisfactorily. 'My lord's person,' wrote Sir Charles Cornwallis [q. v.], 'his behaviour and his office of admiral hath much graced him with this people, who have heaped all manner of honours that possibly they can upon him. The king of Spain has borne all charges for diet, carriage, &c., and bestowed upon him in plate, jewels, and horses at his departure to the value of 20,000l.' ( Winwood, ii. 74, 89). Liberal presents of chains and jewels were made to the officers of his staff, and Nottingham won golden opinions from the Spanish courtiers by his open-handed generosity.

No important commission seems to have been considered complete unless Nottingham was a member of it. He was appointed to the commission formed to prevent persons of low birth assuming the armorial bearings of the nobility, 4 Feb. 1603–4; to consider the union of England and Scotland, 2 June 1604; for the trial of the parties concerned in the Gunpowder plot, 27 Jan. 1604–5; to grant leases of his majesty's woods and coppices, 24 Sept. 1606; and to take an inventory of, jewels in the Tower, 20 March 1606–7. On the marriage of the Princess Elizabeth to the Elector Palatine, 14 Feb. 1612–13, 'she was conducted from the chapel betwixt him and the Duke of Lennox' (Collins, v. 123), and was afterwards escorted to Flushing by a squadron under his command. This was his last naval service. The last commission of which he was a member was that appointed on 26 April 1618 to review the ancient statutes and articles of the order of the Garter (Hist. MSS. Comm. 7th Rep. p. 674). He was now an old man, and it may be conceived that the cares of office sat heavily on him. Many abuses crept into the administration of the navy, as indeed into other public departments, and a commission was appointed to inquire into them on 23 June 1618 (Gardiner, iii. 204; Patent Roll, 16 Jac. I, pt. i.