The French ambassador, de Foix, says that Elizabeth had positively promised to marry the favourite during the winter, and at Christmas had begged him to wait till graduate employmentCandlemas, in order that Catharine de Medici’s approval might be sent. Leicester found that his best weapon was to deprive the Queen of his presence, as she generally came round in a few days so far as to promise him anything to bring him back. Between her promises and their fulfilment, however, there was usually a great gap, and Leicester felt that he was powerless to get beyond a certain point. His influence was104 always strong enough to prevent the success of another suitor, but not powerful enough to ensure his own. His sulking bouts, indeed, were often feigned, in concert with the Queen, to appease Cecil, or to prevent the entire cessation of the Archduke’s negotiations.
This probably was the case when the appointment of Bertie as ambassador to the Emperor had aroused suspicion, as, after an apparent tiff with the Queen, Leicester went to Pembroke House, where the Queen, disguised, joined him in a friendly dinner before he left the Court.48 On the representations of Cecil she consented to appoint Sackville instead of Bertie; but she had quietly agreed with Leicester beforehand that her complaisance should not go beyond appearance, and before the favourite returned to Court Sackville’s departure had been indefinitely postponed. During Leicester’s absence from Court Cecil and Sussex were more hopeful about the Archduke, although as we now see with very little reason. The Austrians were lethargic, the Spaniards coldly cautious, whilst the French were determined and unceasing in their efforts to thwart the Archduke’s suit. De Foix spent large sums in Leicester’s interest, and Catharine de Medici showered gifts and favours upon him constantly. The moment that he was in disgrace, however, or when the Archduke’s match seemed really progressing, they played their trump card in bringing forward Charles IX. again. When Rambouillet, the French envoy to Scotland, saw Elizabeth in February he had enlarged, by the Queen-mother’s orders, upon the vigour and comeliness of the young King. The105 Queen was always ready to listen to talk like this, and sighed that she would like to meet him, “but,” she said, “do you think it would be a good match for the King to marry an old woman like me?” De Foix,
before his departure in May, 1566, again and again referred to the matter lightly, with the evident intention of keeping it alive, to the detriment of the Archduke’s match and for the benefit of Leicester. The man?uvre was easily seen through, of course, and Guzman, in an interview with Cecil on the 18th of May, said to him,
“These Frenchmen are in a fine taking when they see the Archduke’s match progressing, and at once bring forward their own king to embarrass the Queen. When they see that this trick has hindered the negotiations they take up with Leicester again, and them.” Cecil was of the same opinion, and said the French thought they could do as they liked when they had Robert on their side. Instead of Sackville, a Kentish gentleman named Danett was sent to the Emperor, merely as an accredited messenger, with a reply to his letter and the offer of the Garter. The letters from Danett arrived in London in June, 1566, and were of so encouraging a nature that the advocates of the Austrian match again became confident that their man would win the prize. This gave rise as usual to fresh activity on the part of the French. Catharine de Medici,
in her instructions to the new ambassador, B?chetel de la Forest, directed him to help forward HKUE amec Leicester’s pretensions with all his might, and thwart those of the Archduke, and Elizabeth had an interesting conversation with the ambassador’s nephew Vulcob106 on the subject during her progress in the autumn of 1566. The Queen was staying at Stamford, and Vulcob was charged with his uncle’s excuses for not attending her. He met Leicester at the door of the chamber, to whom he conveyed the regard and sympathy of the King and Queen-mother of France.