Here Sir Robert Cecil stepped forth into the Court
Sir Rob. Cecil The difference between you and me is great; for I speak in the person of an honest man, and you, my lord, in the person of a traitor. For well I know you have it at will. The pre-eminence hath been yours, but I have Innocence, Truth of Conscience, and Honesty to defend me against the scandal of slanderous tongues and aspiring hearts.
And I protest before God, I have loved your person, and justified [defended] your virtues. And I appeal to God and the Queen that I told her Majesty that your afflictions would make you a fit servant for her. And had I not seen your ambitious affections inclined to usurpation, I could have gone on my knees to her Majesty to have done you good. But you have a sheep’s garment in show, and in appearance are humble and religious; but God be thanked we know you. For indeed your religion appears by Blunt, Davies, and Tresham—your chiefest councilors for the present—and by promising liberty of conscience hereafter.
I stand for Loyalty, which I never lost. You stand for Treachery, wherewith your heart is possessed. And you charge me with high things, wherein I defy you to the uttermost.
You, my good lords, councilors of state, have many conferences and I do confess I have said the King of Scots is a competitor, and the King of Spain is a competitor, and you, I have said, are a competitor. You would depose the Queen. You would be King of England and call a parliament.
Ah my lord, were it but your own case the loss had been the less; but you have drawn a number of noble persons and gentlemen of birth and quality into your net of rebellion, and their bloods will cry vengeance against you. For my part, I vow to God, I wish my soul was in heaven and my body at rest, so this had never been.
Essex: Ah, Mr. Secretary, I thank God for my humbling, that you in the ruff of your bravery came to make your oration against me here this day.
Cecil: My lord, I humbly thank God that you did not take me for a fit companion for you and your humours, for if you had, you would have drawn me to betray my sovereign, as you have done. But I would have you name the councilor you speak of. Name him. Name him! Name him if you dare; I defy you, name him if you dare!
Essex: Here stands an honourable person (meaning the Earl of Southampton) that knows I speak no fables. He heard it as well as I.
Cecil: Then my good lord of Southampton, I adjure you by the duty you owe to God, Loyalty, and Allegiance you owe to your Sovereign, by all tokens of true Christianity, and by the ancient friendship and acquaintance once between us, that you name the councilor.
Southampton: Mr. Secretary, if you will needs have me name the councilor, it was Mr. Comptroller [Sir William Knollys, Essex’s uncle].
1 May 1999 pkm