BEYOND THE PALE
Queen Elizabeth grunts. She clasps her polished ivory hands, every finger sparkling with the largest ruby and diamond rings Bacon has ever seen. Even the tiniest gem would pay for his rooms at Greys Inn for a decade. The Queen sighs. ‘Rob said to me once that his honest tongue is sharp. That to paint rose-coloured flattery does not blend well on his pallet.' She unclasps her hands and closes her fingers into fists. 'He was honest when he was younger. Is he now?’ She reaches for another letter and skims it quickly. ‘He says here, “till I may appear in your gracious presence, and kiss your Majesty's fair correcting hand, time itself is a perpetual night, and the whole world but a sepulchre unto your Majesty's humblest vassal.” Is this honest, Master Bacon?’
‘I think it is, your Grace. My Lord rarely ventures outside, barring himself inside his chambers with his shutters closed. He admits no one except a handful of servants and his secretary.’
She grunts again, digging her consternation further and further into her throat. ‘I am not convinced.’ She reaches for another. ‘I suggest he plays upon my guilt and my maternal feelings toward him. He is forever melancholy and I am the only cure.’ She turns Essex’s letter, so recognizable from his sprawling hand, toward him and shakes it in his face. ‘Here he talks of his conspirators, yet colours them in the rosy tone of false flattery.’ She reads, “For no soul had ever such an impression of your perfections, no alteration shewed such an effect of your power, nor no heart ever felt such a joy of your triumph. For they that feel the comfortable influence of your Majesty's favour, or stand in the bright beams of your presence, rejoice partly for your Majesty's, but chiefly for their own, happiness.” You see how he plays me?’
The Queen's breasts rise and fall in rapid succession. How does one answer such a question to a dubious prince who no longer trusts her subject? This Queen lives on such flattery, she feeds on it like one of Cecil's banquets of exotic birds and sweetmeats. Essex best knew how to keep her hunger alive. Clearly it has been satiated.