In order to counterbalance the threatened hostility of Spain, and impose an additional check on the catholic party at home, it was now judged expedient for the king to strengthen himself by an alliance with Christian III. king of Denmark; an able and enlightened prince, who in the early part of his reign had opposed with vigor the aggressions of the emperor Charles V. on the independence of the north of Europe, and more recently had acquired the respect of the whole protestant body by establishing the reformation in his dominions. An agent was accordingly dispatched with a secret commission to sound the inclinations of the court of Copenhagen towards a marriage between the prince-royal and the lady Elizabeth.
That this negotiation proved fruitless, was apparently owing to the reluctance to the connexion manifested by Elizabeth; of whom it is observable, that she never could be prevailed upon to afford the smallest encouragement to the addresses of any foreign prince whilst she herself was still a subject; well aware that to accept of an alliance which would carry her out of the kingdom, was to hazard the loss of her succession to the English crown, a splendid reversion never absent from her aspiring thoughts.
Disappointed in this design, Edward lost no time in pledging his own hand to the infant daughter of Henry II. of France, which contract he did not live to complete.
The splendid French embassy which arrived in England during the year 1550 to make arrangements respecting the dower of the princess, and to confer on her intended spouse the order of St. Michael, was received with high honors, but found the court-festivities damped by a visitation of that strange and terrific malady the sweating sickness.
This pestilence, first brought into the island by the foreign mercenaries who composed the army of the earl of Richmond, afterwards Henry VII., now made its appearance for the fourth and last time in our annals. It seized principally, it is said, on males, on such as were in the prime of their age, and rather on the higher than the lower classes: within the space of twenty-four hours the fate of the sufferer was decided for life or death. Its ravages were prodigious; and the general consternation was augmented by a superstitious idea which went forth, that Englishmen alone, were the destined victims of this mysterious minister of fate, which tracked their steps, with the malice and sagacity of an evil spirit, into every distant country of the earth whither they might have wandered, whilst it left unassailed all foreigners in their own.
Two of the king's servants died of this disease, and he in consequence removed to Hampton Court in haste and with very few attendants. The duke of Suffolk and his brother, students at Cambridge, were seized with it at the same time, sleeping in the same bed, and expired within two hours of each other. They were the children of Charles Brandon by his last wife, who was in her own right baroness Willoughby of Eresby. This lady had already made herself conspicuous by that earnest profession of the protestant faith for which, in the reign of Mary, she underwent many perils and a long exile. She was a munificent patroness of the learned and zealous divines of her own persuasion, whether natives or foreigners; and the untimely loss of these illustrious youths, who seem to have inherited both her religious principles and her love of letters, was publicly bewailed by the principal members of the university.
But by the earl of Warwick the melancholy event was rendered doubly conducive to the purposes of his ambition. In the first place it enabled him to bind to his interests the marquis of Dorset married to the half-sister of the young duke of Suffolk, by procuring a renewal of the ducal title in his behalf, and next authorized him by a kind of precedent to claim for himself the same exalted dignity.
The circumstances attending Dudley's elevation to the ducal rank are worthy of particular notice, as connected with a melancholy part of the story of that old and illustrious family of the Percies, celebrated through so many ages of English history.
The last of this house who had borne the title of earl of Northumberland was that ardent and favored suitor of Anne Boleyn, who was compelled by his father to renounce his pretensions to her hand in deference to the wishes of a royal competitor.
The disappointment and the injury impressed themselves in indelible characters on the heart of Percy: in common with the object of his attachment, he retained against Wolsey, whom he believed to have been actively instrumental in fostering the king's passion, a deep resentment, which is said to have rendered peculiarly acceptable to him the duty afterwards imposed upon him, of arresting that celebrated minister in order to his being brought to his trial. For the lady to whom a barbarous exertion of parental authority had compelled him to give his hand, while his whole heart was devoted to another, he also conceived an aversion rather to be lamented than wondered at.
Unfortunately, she brought him no living offspring; and after a few years he separated himself from her to indulge his melancholy alone and without molestation. In this manner he spun out a suffering existence, oppressed with sickness of mind and body, disengaged from public life, and neglectful of his own embarrassed affairs, till the fatal catastrophe of his brother, brought to the scaffold in 1537 for his share in the popish rebellion under Aske. By this event, and the attainder of sir Thomas Percy's children which followed, the earl saw himself deprived of the only consolation which remained to him,—that of transmitting to the posterity of a brother whom he loved, the titles and estates derived to him through a long and splendid ancestry. As a last resource, he bequeathed all his land to the king, in the hope, which was not finally frustrated, that a return of royal favor might one day restore them to the representatives of the Percies.
This done, he yielded his weary spirit on the last day of the same month which had seen the fatal catastrophe of his misguided brother.
From this time the title had remained dormant, till the earl of Warwick, untouched by commiseration or respect for the misfortunes of so great a house, cut off for the present all chance of its restoration, by causing the young monarch whom he governed to confer upon himself the whole of the Percy estates, with the new dignity of duke of Northumberland; an honor undeserved and ill-acquired, which no son of his was ever permitted to inherit.
But the soaring ambition of Dudley regarded even these splendid acquisitions of wealth and dignity only as steps to that summit of power and dominion which he was resolved by all means and at all hazards to attain; and his next measure was to procure the removal of the only man capable in any degree of obstructing his further progress. This was the late protector, by whom some relics of authority were still retained.
At the instigation of Northumberland, a law was passed making it felony to conspire against the life of a privy-counsellor; and by various insidious modes of provocation, he was soon enabled to bring within the danger of this new act an enemy who was rash, little sagacious, by no means scrupulous, and surrounded with violent or treacherous advisers. On October 16th 1551, Somerset and several of his relations and dependants, and on the following day his haughty duchess with certain of her favorites, were committed to the Tower, charged with treason and felony. The duke, being put upon his trial, so clearly disproved most of the accusations brought against him that the peers acquitted him of treason; but the evidence of his having entertained designs against the lives of the duke of Northumberland, the marquis of Northampton, and the earl of Pembroke, appeared so conclusive to his judges,—among whom these three noblemen themselves did not blush to take their seats,—that he was found guilty of the felony.
After his condemnation, Somerset acknowledged with contrition that he had once mentioned to certain persons an intention of assassinating these lords; but he protested that he had never taken any measures for carrying this wicked purpose into execution. However this might be, no act of violence had been committed, and it was hoped by many and expected by more, that the royal mercy might yet be extended to preserve his life: but Northumberland spared no efforts to incense the king against his unhappy uncle; he also contrived by a course of amusements and festivities to divert him from serious thought; and on January 21st 1552, to the great regret of the common people and the dismay of the protestant party, the duke of Somerset underwent the fatal stroke on Tower-hill.
During the whole interval between the condemnation and death of his uncle, the king, as we are informed, had been entertained by the nobles of his court with "stately masques, brave challenges at tilt and at barriers, and whatsoever exercises or disports they could conjecture to be pleasing to him. Then also he first began to keep hall, and the Christmas-time was passed over with banquetings, plays, and much variety of mirth."
[Note 17: To keep hall, was to keep "open household with frank resort to court."]
[Note 18: Hayward's Life of Edward VI.]
We learn that it was an ancient custom, not only with the kings of England but with noblemen and "great housekeepers who used liberal feasting in that season," to appoint for the twelve days of the Christmas festival a lord of misrule, whose office it was to provide diversions for their numerous guests. Of what nature these entertainments might be we are not exactly informed; they probably comprised some rude attempts at dramatic representation: but the taste of an age rapidly advancing in literature and general refinement, evidently began to disdain the flat and coarse buffooneries which had formed the solace of its barbarous predecessors; and it was determined that devices of superior elegance and ingenuity should distinguish the festivities of the new court of Edward. Accordingly, George Ferrers, a gentleman regularly educated at Oxford, and a member of the society of Lincoln's inn, was chosen to preside over the "merry disports;" "who," says Holinshed, "being of better credit and estimation than commonly his predecessors had been before, received all his commissions and warrants by the name of master of the king's pastimes. Which gentleman so well supplied his office, both in show of sundry sights and devices of rare inventions, and in act of divers interludes and matters of pastime played by persons, as not only satisfied the common sort, but also were very well liked and allowed by the council, and other of skill in the like pastimes; but best of all by the young king himself, as appeared by his princely liberality in rewarding that service."
"On Monday the fourth day of January," pursues our chronicler, whose circumstantial detail is sometimes picturesque and amusing, "the said lord of merry disports came by water to London, and landing at the Tower wharf entered the Tower, then rode through Tower-street, where he was received by Vause, lord of misrule to John Mainard, one of the sheriffs of London, and so conducted through the city with a great company of young lords and gentlemen to the house of sir George Burne lord-mayor, where he with the chief of his company dined, and after had a great banquet, and at his departure the lord-mayor gave him a standing cup with a cover of silver and gilt, of the value of ten pounds, for a reward, and also set a hogshead of wine and a barrel of beer at his gate, for his train that followed him. The residue of his gentlemen and servants dined at other aldermen's houses and with the sheriffs, and then departed to the Tower wharf again, and so to the court by water, to the great commendation of the mayor and aldermen, and highly accepted, of the king and council."
From this time Ferrers became "a composer almost by profession of occasional interludes for the diversion of the court." None of these productions of his have come down to posterity; but their author is still known to the student of early English poetry, as one of the contributors to an extensive work entitled "The Mirror for Magistrates," which will be mentioned hereafter in speaking of the works of Thomas Sackville lord Buckhurst. The legends combined in this collection, which came from the pen of Ferrers, are not distinguished by any high flights of poetic fancy, nor by a versification extremely correct or melodious. Their merit is that of narrating after the chronicles, facts in English history, in a style clear, natural, and energetic, with an intermixture of political reflections conceived in a spirit of wisdom and moderation, highly honorable to the author, and well adapted to counteract the turbulent spirit of an age in which the ambition of the high and the discontent of the low were alike apt to break forth into outrages destructive of the public tranquillity.
[Note 19: See Warton's History of English Poetry, vol. iii. p. 213 et seq.]
Happy would it have been for England in more ages than one, had the sentiment of the following humble stanza been indelibly inscribed on the hearts of children.
"Some haply here will move a further doubt, And as for York's part allege an elder right: O brainless heads that so run in and out! When length of time a state hath firmly pight, And good accord hath put all strife to flight, Were it not better such titles still to sleep Than all a realm about the trial weep?"
This estimable writer had been a member of parliament in the time of Henry VIII., and was imprisoned by that despot in 1542, very probably without any just cause. He about the same time translated into English the great charter of Englishmen which had become a dead letter through the tyranny of the Tudors; and he rendered the same public service respecting several important statutes which existed only in Latin or Norman French; proofs of a free and courageous spirit extremely rare in that servile age!
Ferrers lived far into the reign of Elizabeth, finishing his career at Flamstead in his native county of Herts in 1579.
From the pleasing contemplation of a life devoted to those honorable arts by which society is cultivated, enlightened and adorned, we must now return to tread with Northumberland the maze of dark and crooked politics. By many a bold and many a crafty step this adept in his art had wound his way to the highest rank of nobility attainable by a subject, and to a station of eminence and command scarcely compatible with that character. But no sooner had he reached it, than a sudden cloud lowered over the splendid prospect stretched around him, and threatened to snatch it for ever from his sight. The youthful monarch in whom, or over whom, he reigned, was seized with a lingering disease which soon put on appearances indicative of a fatal termination. Under Mary, the next heir, safety with insignificance was the utmost that could be hoped by the man who had taken a principal and conspicuous part in every act of harshness towards herself, and every demonstration of hostility towards the faith which she cherished, and against whom, when he should be no longer protected by the power which he wielded, so many lawless and rapacious acts were ready to rise up in judgement.
One scheme alone suggested itself for the preservation of his authority: it was dangerous, almost desperate; but loss of power was more dreaded by Dudley than any degree of hazard to others or himself; and he resolved at all adventures to make the attempt.
By means of the new honors which he had caused to be conferred on the marquis of Dorset, now duke of Suffolk, he engaged this weak and inconsiderate man to give his eldest daughter, the lady Jane Grey, in marriage to his fourth son Guildford Dudley. At the same time he procured an union between her sister, the lady Catherine, and the eldest son of his able but mean-spirited and time-serving associate, the earl of Pembroke; and a third between his own daughter Catherine and lord Hastings, son of the earl of Huntingdon by the eldest daughter and co-heir of Henry Pole lord Montacute; in whom the claims of the line of Clarence now vested.
These nuptials were all celebrated on one day, and with an ostentation of magnificence and festivity which the people exclaimed against as highly indecorous in the present dangerous state of the king's health. But it was not on their good will that Northumberland founded his hopes, and their clamors were braved or disregarded.
His next measure was to prevail upon the dying king to dispose of the crown by will in favor of the lady Jane. The animosity against his sister Mary, to which their equal bigotry in opposite modes of faith had given birth in the mind of Edward, would naturally induce him to lend a willing ear to such specious arguments as might be produced in justification of her exclusion: but that he could be brought with equal facility to disinherit also Elizabeth, a sister whom he loved, a princess judged in all respects worthy of a crown, and one with whose religious profession he had every reason to be perfectly satisfied, appears an indication of a character equally cold and feeble. Much allowance, however, may be made for the extreme youth of Edward; the weakness of his sinking frame; his affection for the pious and amiable Jane, his near relation and the frequent companion of his childhood; and above all, for the importunities, the artifices, of the practised intriguers by whom his dying couch was surrounded.
The partisans of Northumberland did not fail to urge, that if one of the princesses were set aside on account of the nullification of her mother's marriage, the same ground of exclusion was valid against the other. If, on the contrary, the testamentary dispositions of the late king were to be adhered to, the lady Mary must necessarily precede her sister, and the cause of religious reformation was lost, perhaps for ever.
With regard to the other claimants who might still be interposed between Jane and the English throne, it was pretended that the Scottish branch of the royal family was put out of the question by that clause of Henry's will which placed the Suffolk line next in order to his own immediate descendants; as if an instrument which was set aside as to several of its most important provisions was necessarily to be held binding in all the rest. Even admitting this, the duchess of Suffolk herself stood before her daughter in order of succession; but a renunciation obtained from this lady by the authority of Northumberland, not only of her own title but of that of any future son who might be born to her, was supposed to obviate this objection.
The right of the king, even if he had attained the age of majority, to dispose of the crown by will without the concurrence of parliament, was absolutely denied by the first law authorities: but the power and violence of Northumberland overruled all objections, and in the end the new settlement received the signature of all the privy council, and the whole bench of judges, with the exception of justice Hales, and perhaps of Cecil, then secretary of state, who afterwards affirmed that he put his name to this instrument only as a witness to the signature of the king. Cranmer resisted for some time, but was at length won to compliance by the tears and entreaties of Edward.
Notwithstanding this general concurrence, it is probable that very few of the council either expected or desired that this act should be sanctioned by the acquiescence of the nation: they signed it merely as a protection from the present effects of the anger of Northumberland, whom most of them hated as well as feared; each privately hoping that he should find opportunity to disavow the act of the body in time to obtain the forgiveness of Mary, should her cause be found finally to prevail. The selfish meanness and political profligacy of such a conduct it is needless to stigmatize; but this was not the age of public virtue in England.
A just detestation of the character of Northumberland had rendered very prevalent an idea, that the constitution of the king was undermined by slow poisons of his administering; and it was significantly remarked, that his health had begun to decline from the period of lord Robert Dudley's being placed about him as gentleman of the bed-chamber. Nothing, however, could be more destitute both of truth and probability than such a suspicion. Besides the satisfactory evidence that Edward's disease was a pulmonary consumption, such as no poison could produce, it has been well remarked, that if Northumberland were a sound politician, there could be no man in England more sincerely desirous, for his own sake, of the continuance of the life and reign of this young prince. By a change he had every thing to lose, and nothing to gain. Several circumstances tend also to show that the fatal event, hastened by the treatment of a female empiric to whom the royal patient had been very improperly confided, came upon Northumberland at last somewhat by surprise, and compelled him to act with a precipitation injurious to his designs. Several preparatory steps were yet wanting; in particular the important one of securing the persons of the two princesses: but this omission it seemed still possible to supply; and he ordered the death of the king to be carefully concealed, while he wrote letters in his name requiring the immediate attendance of his sisters on his person. With Mary the stratagem had nearly succeeded: she had reached Hoddesdon on her journey to London, when secret intelligence of the truth, conveyed to her by the earl of Arundel, caused her to change her course. It was probably a similar intimation from some friendly hand, Cecil's perhaps, which caused Elizabeth to disobey the summons, and remain tranquil at one of her houses in Hertfordshire.
Here she was soon after waited upon by messengers from Northumberland, who apprized her of the accession of the lady Jane, and proposed to her to resign her own title in consideration of a sum of money, and certain lands which should be assigned her. But Elizabeth wisely and courageously replied, that her elder sister was first to be agreed with, during whose lifetime she, for her part, could claim no right at all. And determined to make common cause with Mary against their common enemies, she equipped with all speed a body of a thousand horse, at the head of which she went forth to meet her sister on her approach to London.
The event quickly proved that she had taken the right part. Though the council manifested their present subserviency to Northumberland by proclaiming queen Jane in the metropolis, and by issuing in her name a summons to Mary to lay aside her pretensions to the crown, this leader was too well practised in the arts of courts, to be the dupe of their hollow professions of attachment to a cause unsupported, as he soon perceived, by the favor of the people.
The march of Northumberland at the head of a small body of troops to resist the forces levied by Mary in Norfolk and Suffolk, was the signal for the defection of a great majority of the council. They broke from the kind of honorable custody in the Tower in which, from a well-founded distrust of their intentions, Northumberland had hitherto held them; and ordering Mary to be proclaimed in London, they caused the hapless Jane, after a nominal reign of ten days, to be detained as a prisoner in that fortress which she had entered as a sovereign.
Not a hand was raised, not a drop of blood was shed, in defence of this pageant raised by the ambition of Dudley. Deserted by his partisans, his soldiers and himself, the guilty wretch sought, as a last feeble resource, to make a merit of being the first man to throw up his cap in the market-place of Cambridge, and cry "God save queen Mary!" But on the following day the earl of Arundel, whom he had disgraced, and who hated him, though a little before he had professed that he could wish to spend his blood at his feet, came and arrested him in her majesty's name, and Mary, proceeding to London, seated herself without opposition on the throne of her ancestors.
1553 AND 1554.
Mary affects attachment to Elizabeth.—Short duration of her kindness.—Earl of Devonshire liberated from the Tower.—His character.—He rejects the love of Mary—shows partiality to Elizabeth.—Anger of Mary.—Elizabeth retires from court.—Queen's proposed marriage unpopular.—Character of sir T. Wyat.—His rebellion.—Earl of Devonshire remanded to the Tower.—Elizabeth summoned to court—is detained by illness.—Wyat taken—is said to accuse Elizabeth.—She is brought prisoner to the court—examined by the council—dismissed—brought again to court—re-examined—committed to the Tower.—Particulars of her behaviour.—Influence of Mary's government on various eminent characters.—Reinstatement of the duke of Norfolk in honor and office.—His retirement and death.—Liberation from the Tower of Tonstal.—His character and after fortunes.—Of Gardiner and Bonner.—Their views and characters.—Of the duchess of Somerset and the marchioness of Exeter.—Imprisonment of the Dudleys—of several protestant bishops—of judge Hales.—His sufferings and death.—Characters and fortunes of sir John Cheke, sir Anthony Cook, Dr. Cox, and other protestant exiles.
The conduct of Elizabeth during the late alarming crisis, earned for her from Mary, during the first days of her reign, some demonstration of sisterly affection. She caused her to bear her company in her public entry into London; kindly detained her for a time near her own person; and seemed to have consigned for ever to an equitable oblivion all the mortifications and heartburnings of which the child of Anne Boleyn had been the innocent occasion to her in times past, and under circumstances which could never more return.
In the splendid procession which attended her majesty from the Tower to Whitehall previously to her coronation on October 1st 1553, the royal chariot, sumptuously covered with cloth of tissue and drawn by six horses with trappings of the same material, was immediately followed by another, likewise drawn by six horses and covered with cloth of silver, in which sat the princess Elizabeth and the lady Anne of Cleves, who took place in this ceremony as the adopted sister of Henry VIII.
But notwithstanding these fair appearances, the rancorous feelings of Mary's heart with respect to her sister were only repressed or disguised, not eradicated; and it was not long before a new subject of jealousy caused them to revive in all their pristine energy.
Amongst the state prisoners committed to the Tower by Henry VIII., whose liberation his executors had resisted during the whole reign of Edward, but whom it was Mary's first act of royalty to release and reinstate in their offices or honors, was Edward Courtney, son of the unfortunate marquis of Exeter. From the age of fourteen to that of six-and-twenty, this victim of tyranny had been doomed to expiate in a captivity which threatened to be perpetual, the involuntary offence of inheriting through an attainted father the blood of the fourth Edward. To the surprise and admiration of the court, he now issued forth a comely and accomplished gentleman; deeply versed in the literature of the age; skilled in music, and still more so in the art of painting, which had formed the chief solace of his long seclusion; and graced with that polished elegance of manners, the result, in most who possess it, of early intercourse with the world and an assiduous imitation of the best examples, but to a few of her favorites the free gift of nature herself. To all his prepossessing qualities was superadded that deep romantic kind of interest with which sufferings, long, unmerited, and extraordinary, never fail to invest a youthful sufferer.
What wonder that Courtney speedily became the favorite of the nation!—what wonder that even the severe bosom of Mary herself was touched with tenderness! With the eager zeal of the sentiment just awakened in her heart, she hastened to restore to her too amiable kinsman the title of earl of Devonshire, long hereditary in the illustrious house of Courtney, to which she added the whole of those patrimonial estates which the forfeiture of his father had vested in the crown. She went further; she lent a propitious ear to the whispered suggestion of her people, still secretly partial to the house of York, that an English prince of the blood was most worthy to share the throne of an English queen. It is even affirmed that hints were designedly thrown out to the young man himself of the impression which he had made upon her heart. But Courtney generously disdained, as it appears, to barter his affections for a crown. The youth, the talents, the graces of Elizabeth had inspired him with a preference which he was either unwilling or unable to conceal; Mary was left to vent her disappointment in resentment against the ill-fated object of her preference, and in every demonstration of a malignant jealousy towards her innocent and unprotected rival.
By the first act of a parliament summoned immediately after the coronation, Mary's birth had been pronounced legitimate, the marriage of her father and mother valid, and their divorce null and void. A stigma was thus unavoidably cast on the offspring of Henry's second marriage; and no sooner had Elizabeth incurred the displeasure of her sister, than she was made to feel how far the consequences of this new declaration of the legislature might be made to extend. Notwithstanding the unrevoked succession act which rendered her next heir to the crown, she was forbidden to take place of the countess of Lenox, or the duchess of Suffolk, in the presence-chamber, and her friends were discountenanced or affronted obviously on her account. Her merit, her accomplishments, her insinuating manners, which attracted to her the admiration and attendance of the young nobility, and the favor of the nation, were so many crimes in the eyes of a sovereign who already began to feel her own unpopularity; and Elizabeth, who was not of a spirit to endure public and unmerited slights with tameness, found it at once the most dignified and the safest course, to seek, before the end of the year, the peaceful retirement of her house of Ashridge in Buckinghamshire. It was however made a condition of the leave of absence from court which she was obliged to solicit, that she should take with her sir Thomas Pope and sir John Gage, who were placed about her as inspectors and superintendants of her conduct, under the name of officers of her household.
The marriage of Mary to Philip of Spain was now openly talked of. It was generally and justly unpopular: the protestant party, whom the measures of the queen had already filled with apprehensions, saw, in her desire of connecting herself yet more closely with the most bigoted royal family of Europe, a confirmation of their worst forebodings; and the tyranny of the Tudors had not yet so entirely crushed the spirit of Englishmen as to render them tamely acquiescent in the prospect of their country's becoming a province to Spain, subject to the sway of that detested people whose rapacity, and violence, and unexampled cruelty, had filled both hemispheres with groans and execrations.
The house of commons petitioned the queen against marrying a foreign prince: she replied by dissolving them in anger; and all hope of putting a stop to the connexion by legal means being thus precluded, measures of a more dangerous character began to be resorted to.
Sir Thomas Wyat of Allingham Castle in Kent, son of the poet, wit, and courtier of that name, had hitherto been distinguished by a zealous loyalty; and he is said to have been also a catholic. Though allied in blood to the Dudleys, not only had he refused to Northumberland his concurrence in the nomination of Jane Grey, but, without waiting a moment to see which party would prevail, he had proclaimed queen Mary in the market-place at Maidstone, for which instance of attachment he had received her thanks. But Wyat had been employed during several years of his life in embassies to Spain; and the intimate acquaintance which he had thus acquired of the principles and practices of its court, filled him with such horror of their introduction into his native country, that, preferring patriotism to loyalty where their claims appeared incompatible, he incited his neighbours and friends to insurrection.
[Note 20: See Carte's History of England.]
In the same cause sir Peter Carew, and sir Gawen his uncle, endeavoured to raise the West, but with small success; and the attempts made by the duke of Suffolk, lately pardoned and liberated, to arm his tenantry and retainers in Warwickshire and Leicestershire, proved still more futile. Notwithstanding however this want of co-operation, Wyat's rebellion wore for some time a very formidable appearance. The London trained-bands sent out to oppose him, went over to him in a body under Bret, their captain; the guards, almost the only regular troops in the kingdom, were chiefly protestants, and therefore little trusted by the queen; and it was known that the inhabitants of the metropolis, for which he was in full march, were in their hearts inclined to his cause.
It was pretty well ascertained that the earl of Devonshire had received an invitation to join the western insurgents; and though he appeared to have rejected the proposal, he was arbitrarily remanded to his ancient abode in the Tower.
Elizabeth was naturally regarded under all these circumstances of alarm with extreme jealousy and suspicion. It was well known that her present compliance with the religion of the court was merely prudential; that she was the only hope of the protestant party, a party equally formidable by zeal and by numbers, and which it was resolved to crush; it was more than suspected, that though Wyat himself still professed an inviolable fidelity to the person of the reigning sovereign, and strenuously declared the Spanish match to be the sole grievance against which he had taken arms, many of his partisans had been led by their religious zeal to entertain the further view of dethroning the queen, in favor of her sister, whom they desired to marry to the earl of Devonshire. It was not proved that the princess herself had given any encouragement to these designs; but sir James Croft, an adherent of Wyat's, had lately visited Ashridge, and held conferences with some of her attendants; and it had since been rumored that she was projecting a removal to her manor of Donnington castle in Berkshire, on the south side of the Thames, where nothing but a day's march through an open country would be interposed between her residence and the station of the Kentish rebels.
Policy seemed now to dictate the precaution of securing her person; and the queen addressed to her accordingly the following letter.
* * * * *
"Right dear and entirely beloved sister,
"We greet you well: And whereas certain evil-disposed persons, minding more the satisfaction of their own malicious and seditious minds than their duty of allegiance towards us, have of late foully spread divers lewd and untrue rumours; and by that means and other devilish practises do travail to induce our good and loving subjects to an unnatural rebellion against God, us, and the tranquillity of our realm: We, tendering the surety of your person, which might chance to be in some peril if any sudden tumult should arise where you now be, or about Donnington, whither, as we understand, you are minded shortly to remove, do therefore think expedient you should put yourself in good readiness, with all convenient speed, to make your repair hither to us. Which we pray you fail not to do: Assuring you, that as you may most safely remain here, so shall you be most heartily welcome to us. And of your mind herein we pray you to return answer by this messenger.
"Given under our signet at our manor of St. James's the 26th of January in the 1st year of our reign.
"Your loving sister,
"MARY, the queen."
* * * * *
This summons found Elizabeth confined to her bed by sickness; and her officers sent a formal statement of the fact to the privy-council, praying that the delay of her appearance at court might not, under such circumstances, be misconstrued either with respect to her or to themselves. Monsieur de Noailles, the French ambassador, in some papers of his, calls this "a favorable illness" to Elizabeth, "since," adds he, "it seems likely to save Mary from the crime of putting her sister to death by violence." And true it is, that by detaining her in the country till the insurrection was effectually suppressed, it preserved her from any sudden act of cruelty which the violence of the alarm might have prompted: but other and perhaps greater dangers still awaited her.
A few days after the date of the foregoing letter, Wyat entered Westminster, but with a force very inadequate to his undertaking: he was repulsed in an attack on the palace; and afterwards, finding the gates of London closed against him and seeing his followers slain, taken, or flying in all directions, he voluntarily surrendered himself to one of the queen's officers and was conveyed to the Tower. It was immediately given out, that he had made a full discovery of his accomplices, and named amongst them the princess and the earl of Devonshire; and on this pretext, for it was probably no more, three gentlemen were sent, attended by a troop horse, with peremptory orders to bring Elizabeth back with them to London.
They reached her abode at ten o'clock at night, and bursting into her sick chamber, in spite of the remonstrances of her ladies, abruptly informed her of their errand. Affrighted at the summons, she declared however her entire willingness to wait upon the queen her sister, to whom she warmly protested her loyal attachment; but she appealed to their own observation for the reality of her sickness, and her utter inability to quit her chamber. The gentlemen pleaded, on the other side, the urgency of their commission, and said that they had brought the queen's litter for her conveyance. Two physicians were then called in, who gave it as their opinion that she might be removed without danger to her life; and on the morrow her journey commenced.
The departure of Elizabeth from Ashridge was attended by the tears and passionate lamentations of her afflicted household, who naturally anticipated from such beginnings the worst that could befal her. So extreme was her sickness, aggravated doubtless by terror and dejection, that even these stern conductors found themselves obliged to allow her no less than four nights' rest in a journey of only twenty-nine miles.
Between Highgate and London her spirits were cheered by the appearance of a number of gentlemen who rode out to meet her, as a public testimony of their sympathy and attachment; and as she proceeded, the general feeling was further manifested by crowds of people lining the waysides, who flocked anxiously about her litter, weeping and bewailing her aloud. A manuscript chronicle of the time describes her passage on this occasion through Smithfield and Fleet-street, in a litter open on both sides, with a hundred "velvet coats" after her, and a hundred others "in coats of fine red guarded with velvet;" and with this train she passed through the queen's garden to the court.
This open countenancing of the princess by a formidable party in the capital itself, seems to have disconcerted the plans of Mary and her advisers; and they contented themselves for the present with detaining her in a kind of honorable custody at Whitehall. Here she underwent a strict examination by the privy-council respecting Wyat's insurrection, and the rising in the West under Carew; but she steadfastly protested her innocence and ignorance of all such designs; and nothing coming out against her, in about a fortnight she was dismissed, and suffered to return to her own house. Her troubles, however, were as yet only beginning. Sir William St. Low, one of her officers, was apprehended as an adherent of Wyat's; and this leader himself, who had been respited for the purpose of working on his love of life, and leading him to betray his confederates, was still reported to accuse the princess. An idle story was officiously circulated, of his having conveyed to her in a bracelet the whole scheme of his plot; and on March 15th she was again taken into custody and brought to Hampton-court.
Soon after her arrival, it was finally announced to her by a deputation of the council, not without strong expressions of concern from several of the members, that her majesty had determined on her committal to the Tower till the matter could be further investigated. Bishop Gardiner, now a principal counsellor, and two others, came soon after, and, dismissing the princess's attendants, supplied their place with some of the queen's, and set a guard round the palace for that night. The next day, the earl of Sussex and another lord were sent to announce to her that a barge was in readiness for her immediate conveyance to the Tower. She entreated first to be permitted to write to the queen; and the earl of Sussex assenting, in spite of the angry opposition of his companion, whose name is concealed by the tenderness of his contemporaries, and undertaking to be himself the bearer of her letter, she took the opportunity to repeat her protestations of innocence and loyalty, concluding, with an extraordinary vehemence of asseveration, in these words: "As for that traitor Wyat, he might peradventure write me a letter; but on my faith I never received any from him. And as for the copy of my letter to the French king, I pray God confound me eternally, if ever I sent him word, message, token, or letter, by any means." With respect to the last clause of this disavowal, it may be fit to observe, that there is indeed no proof that Elizabeth ever returned any answer to the letters or messages of the French king; but that it seems a well-authenticated fact, that during some period of her adversity Henry II. made her the offer of an asylum in France. The circumstance of the dauphin's being betrothed to the queen of Scots, who claimed to precede Elizabeth in the order of succession, renders the motive of this invitation somewhat suspicious; at all events, it was one which she was never tempted to accept.
Her letter did not obtain for the princess what she sought,—an interview with her sister; and the next day, being Palm Sunday, strict orders were issued for all people to attend the churches and carry their palms; and in the mean time she was privately removed to the Tower, attended by the earl of Sussex and the other lord, three of her own ladies, three of the queen's, and some of her officers. Several characteristic traits of her behaviour have been preserved. On reaching her melancholy place of destination, she long refused to land at Traitor's gate; and when the uncourteous nobleman declared "that she should not choose," offering her however, at the same time, his cloak to protect her from the rain, she retained enough of her high spirit to put it from her "with a good dash." As she set her foot on the ill-omened stairs, she said, "Here landeth as true a subject, being a prisoner, as ever landed at these stairs; and before thee, O God! I speak it, having no other friends but thee alone."
On seeing a number of warders and other attendants drawn out in order, she asked, "What meaneth this?" Some one answered that it was customary on receiving a prisoner. "If it be," said she, "I beseech you that for my cause they may be dismissed." Immediately the poor men kneeled down and prayed God to preserve her; for which action they all lost their places the next day.
Going a little further, she sat down on a stone to rest herself; and the lieutenant urging her to rise and come in out of the cold and wet, she answered, "Better sitting here than in a worse place, for God knoweth whither you bring me." On hearing these words her gentleman-usher wept, for which she reproved him; telling him he ought rather to be her comforter, especially since she knew her own truth to be such, that no man should have cause to weep for her. Then rising, she entered the prison, and its gloomy doors were locked and bolted on her. Shocked and dismayed, but still resisting the weakness of unavailing lamentation, she called for her book, and devoutly prayed that she might build her house upon the rock.
Meanwhile her conductors retired to concert measures for keeping her securely; and her firm friend, the earl of Sussex, did not neglect the occasion of reminding all whom it might concern, that the king their master's daughter was to be treated in no other manner than they might be able to justify, whatever should happen hereafter; and that they were to take heed to do nothing but what their commission would bear out. To this the others cordially assented; and having performed their office, the two lords departed.
Having now conducted the heroine of the protestant party to the dismal abode which she was destined for a time to occupy, it will be proper to revert to the period of Mary's accession.
Little more than eight months had yet elapsed from the death of Edward; but this short interval had sufficed to change the whole face of the English court; to alter the most important relations of the country with foreign states; and to restore in great measure the ancient religion, which it had been the grand object of the former reign finally and totally to overthrow. It is the business of the historian to record the series of public measures by which this calamitous revolution was accomplished: the humbler but not uninteresting task, of tracing its effects on the fortunes of eminent individuals, belongs to the compiler of memoirs, and forms an appropriate accompaniment to the relation of the perils, sufferings and obloquy, through which the heiress of the English crown passed on safely to the accomplishment of her high destinies.
The liberation of the state-prisoners confined in the Tower,—an act of grace usual on the accession of a prince,—was one which the causes of detention of the greater part of them rendered it peculiarly gratifying to Mary to perform. The enemies of Henry's or of Edward's government she regarded with reason as her friends and partisans, and the adherents, open or concealed, of that church establishment which was to be forced back on the reluctant consciences of the nation.
The most illustrious of the captives was that aged duke of Norfolk whom the tyrant Henry had condemned to die without a crime, and who had been suffered to languish in confinement during the whole reign of Edward; chiefly, it is probable, because the forfeiture of his vast estates afforded a welcome supply to the exhausted treasury of the young king; though the extensive influence of this nobleman, and the attachment for the old religion which he was believed to cherish, had served as plausible pretexts for his detention. His high birth, his hereditary authority, his religious predilections, were so many titles of merit in the eyes of the new queen, who was also desirous of profiting by his abilities and long experience in all affairs civil and military. Without waiting for the concurrence of parliament, she declared by her own authority his attainder irregular and null, restored to him such of his lands as remained vested in the crown, and proceeded to reinstate him in offices and honors. On August 10th he took his seat at the council-board of the eighth English monarch whose reign he had survived to witness; on the same day he was solemnly reinvested with the garter, of which he had been deprived on his attainder; and a few days after, he sat as lord-high-steward on the trial of that very duke of Northumberland to whom, not long before, his friends and adherents had been unsuccessful suitors for his own liberation.
There is extant a remarkable order of council, dated August 27th of this year, "for a letter to be written to the countess of Surry to send up to Mountjoy Place in London her youngest son, and the rest of her children, by the earl of Surry, where they shall be received by the duke of Norfolk their grandfather." It may be conjectured that these young people were thus authoritatively consigned to the guardianship of the duke, for the purpose of correcting the protestant predilections in which they had been educated; and the circumstance seems also to indicate, what indeed might be well imagined, that little harmony or intercourse subsisted between this nobleman and a daughter-in-law whom he had formerly sought to deprive of her husband in order to form for him a new and more advantageous connexion.
[Note 21: See Burleigh Papers by Haynes.]
The eldest son of the earl of Surry, now in the seventeenth year of his age, was honored with the title of his father; and he began his distinguished though unfortunate career by performing, as deputy to the duke of Norfolk, the office of earl-marshal at the queen's coronation. On the first alarm of Wyat's rebellion, the veteran duke was summoned to march out against him; but his measures, which otherwise promised success, were completely foiled by the desertion of the London bands to the insurgents; and the last military expedition of his life was destined to conclude with a hasty and ignominious flight. He soon after withdrew entirely from the fatigues of public life, and after all the vicissitudes of court and camp, palace and prison, with which the lapse of eighty eventful years had rendered him acquainted, calmly breathed his last at his own castle of Framlingham in September 1554.
Three deprived bishops were released from the Tower, and restored with honor to their sees. These were, Tonstal of Durham, Gardiner of Winchester, and Bonner of London. Tonstal, many of whose younger years had been spent in diplomatic missions, was distinguished in Europe by his erudition, which had gained him the friendship and correspondence of Erasmus; he was also mild, charitable, and of unblemished morals. Attached by principle to the faith of his forefathers, but loth either to incur personal hazard, or to sacrifice the almost princely emoluments of the see of Durham, he had contented himself with regularly opposing in the house of lords all the ecclesiastical innovations of Edward's reign, and as regularly giving them his concurrence when once established. It was not, therefore, professedly on a religious account that he had suffered deprivation and imprisonment, but on an obscure charge of having participated in some traitorous or rebellious design: a charge brought against him, in the opinion of most, falsely, and through the corrupt procurement of Northumberland, to whose project of erecting the bishopric of Durham into a county palatine for himself, the deprivation of Tonstal, and the abolition of the see by act of parliament, were indispensable preliminaries. This meek and amiable prelate returned to the exercise of his high functions, without a wish of revenging on the protestants, in their adversity, the painful acts of disingenuousness which their late ascendency had forced upon him. During the whole of Mary's reign, no person is recorded to have suffered for religion within the limits of his diocess. The mercy which he had shown, he afterwards most deservedly experienced. Refusing, on the accession of Elizabeth, to preserve his mitre by a repetition of compliances of which so many recent examples of conscientious suffering in men of both persuasions must have rendered him ashamed, he suffered a second deprivation; but his person was only committed to the honorable custody of archbishop Parker. By this learned and munificent prelate the acquirements and virtues of Tonstal were duly appretiated and esteemed. He found at Lambeth a retirement suited to his age, his tastes, his favorite pursuits; by the arguments of his friendly host he was brought to renounce several of the grosser corruptions of popery; and dying in the year 1560, an honorable monument was erected by the primate to his memory.
With views and sentiments how opposite did Gardiner and Bonner resume the crosier! A deep-rooted conviction of the truth and vital importance of the religious opinions which he defends, supplies to the persecutor the only apology of which his foolish and atrocious barbarity admits; and to men naturally mild and candid, we feel a consolation in allowing it in all its force;—but by no particle of such indulgence should Bonner or Gardiner be permitted to benefit. It would be credulity, not candor, to yield to either of these bad men the character of sincere, though over zealous, religionists. True it is that they had subjected themselves to the loss of their bishoprics, and to a severe imprisonment, by a refusal to give in their renunciation of certain doctrines of the Romish church; but they had previously gone much further in compliance than conscience would allow to any real catholic; and they appear to have stopped short in this career only because they perceived in the council such a determination to strip them, under one pretext or another, of all their preferments, as manifestly rendered further compliance useless. Both of them had policy enough to restrain them, under such circumstances, from degrading their characters gratuitously, and depriving themselves of the merit of having suffered for a faith which might soon become again predominant. They received their due reward in the favor of Mary, who recognised them with joy as the fit instruments of all her bloody and tyrannical designs, to which Gardiner supplied the crafty and contriving head, Bonner the vigorous and unsparing arm.
The proud wife of the protector Somerset,—who had been imprisoned, but never brought to trial, as an accomplice in her husband's plots,—was now dismissed to a safe insignificance. The marchioness of Exeter, against whom, in Henry's reign, an attainder had passed too iniquitous for even him to carry into effect, was also rescued from her long captivity, and indemnified for the loss of her property by some valuable grants from the new confiscations of the Dudleys and their adherents.
The only state prisoner to whom the door was not opened on this occasion was Geffrey Pole, that base betrayer of his brother and his friends by whose evidence lord Montacute and the marquis of Exeter had been brought to an untimely end. It is some satisfaction to know, that the commutation of death for perpetual imprisonment was all the favor which this wretch obtained from Henry; that neither Edward nor Mary broke his bonds; and that, as far as appears, his punishment ended only with his miserable existence.
Not long, however, were these dismal abodes suffered to remain unpeopled. The failure of the criminal enterprise of Northumberland first filled the Tower with the associates, or victims, of his guilt. Nearly the whole of the Dudley family were its tenants for a longer or shorter time; and it was another remarkable coincidence of their destinies, which Elizabeth in the after days of her power and glory might have pleasure in recalling to her favorite Leicester, that during the whole of her captivity in this fortress he also was included in the number of its melancholy inmates.
The places of Tonstal, Gardiner, and Bonner, were soon after supplied by the more zealous of Edward's bishops, Holgate, Coverdale, Ridley, and Hooper; and it was not long before the vehement Latimer and even the cautious Cranmer were added to their suffering brethren.
The queen made no difficulty of pardoning and receiving into favor those noblemen and others, members of the privy-council, whom a base dread of the resentment of Northumberland had driven into compliance with his measures in favor of Jane Grey; wisely considering, perhaps, that the men who had submitted to be the instruments of his violent and illegal proceedings, would feel little hesitation in lending their concurrence to hers also. On this principle, the marquis of Winchester and the earls of Arundel and Pembroke were employed and distinguished; the last of these experienced courtiers making expiation for his past errors, by causing his son, lord Herbert, to divorce the lady Catherine Grey, to whom it had so lately suited his political views to unite him.
Sir James Hales on the contrary, that conscientious and upright judge, who alone, of all the privy-counsellors and crown-lawyers, had persisted in refusing his signature to the act by which Mary was disinherited of the crown, found himself unrewarded and even discountenanced. The queen well knew, what probably the judge was not inclined to deny, that it was attachment, not to her person, but to the constitution of his country, which had prompted his resistance to that violation of the legal order of succession; and had it even been otherwise, she would have regarded all her obligations to him as effectually cancelled by his zealous adherence to the church establishment of the preceding reign. For daring to urge upon the grand juries whom he addressed in his circuit, the execution of some of Edward's laws in matter of religion, yet unrepealed, judge Hales was soon after thrown into prison. He endured with constancy the sufferings of a long and rigorous confinement, aggravated by the threats and ill-treatment of a cruel jailor. At length some persons in authority were sent to propound to him terms of release. It is suspected that they extorted from him some concessions on the point of religion; for immediately after their departure, retiring to his cell, in a fit of despair he stabbed himself with his knife in different parts of the body, and was only withheld by the sudden entrance of his servant from inflicting a mortal wound. Bishop Gardiner had the barbarity to insult over the agony or distraction of a noble spirit overthrown by persecution; he even converted his solitary act into a general reflection against protestantism, which he called "the doctrine of desperation." Some time after, Hales obtained his enlargement on payment of an arbitrary fine of six thousand pounds. But he did not with his liberty recover his peace of mind; and after struggling for a few months with an unconquerable melancholy, he sought and found its final cure in the waters of a pond in his garden.
No blood except of principals, was shed by Mary on account of the proclamation of Jane Grey; but she visited with lower degrees of punishment, secretly proportioned to the zeal which they had displayed in the reformation of religion, several of the more eminent partisans of this "meek usurper." The three tutors of king Edward, sir Anthony Cook, sir John Cheke and Dr. Cox, were sufficiently implicated in this affair to warrant their imprisonment for some time on suspicion; and all were eager, on their release, to shelter themselves from the approaching storm by flight.
Cheke, after confiscation of his estate, obtained permission to travel for a given time on the continent. Strasburgh was selected by Cook for his place of exile. The wise moderation of character by which this excellent person was distinguished, seems to have preserved him from taking any part in the angry contentions of protestant with protestant, exile with exile, by which the refugees of Strasburgh and Frankfort scandalized their brethren and afforded matter of triumph to the church of Rome. On the accession of Elizabeth he returned with alacrity to re-occupy and embellish the modest mansion of his forefathers, and "through the loopholes of retreat" to view with honest exultation the high career of public fortune run by his two illustrious sons-in-law, Nicholas Bacon and William Cecil.
The enlightened views of society taken by sir Anthony led him to extend to his daughters the noblest privileges of the other sex, those which concern the early and systematic acquisition of solid knowledge. Through his admirable instructions their minds were stored with learning, strengthened with principles, and formed to habits of reasoning and observation, which rendered them the worthy partners of great statesmen, who knew and felt their value. The fame, too, of these distinguished females has reflected back additional lustre on the character of a father, who was wont to say to them in the noble confidence of unblemished integrity, "My life is your portion, my example your inheritance."
Dr. Cox was quite another manner of man. Repairing first to Strasburgh, where the English exiles had formed themselves into a congregation using the liturgy of the church of England, he went thence to Frankfort, another city of refuge to his countrymen at this period; where the intolerance of his zeal against such as more inclined to the form of worship instituted by the Genevan reformer, embarked him in a violent quarrel with John Knox, against whom, on pretext of his having libelled the emperor, he found means to kindle the resentment of the magistrates, who compelled him to quit the city. After this disgraceful victory over a brother reformer smarting under the same scourge of persecution with himself, he returned to Strasburgh, where he more laudably employed himself in establishing a kind of English university.
His zeal for the church of England, his sufferings in the cause, and his services to learning, obtained for him from Elizabeth the bishopric of Ely; but neither party enjoyed from this appointment all the satisfaction which might have been anticipated. The courage, perhaps the self opinion, of Dr. Cox, engaged him on several occasions in opposition to the measures of the queen; and his narrow and persecuting spirit involved him in perpetual disputes and animosities, which rendered the close of a long life turbulent and unhappy, and took from his learning and gray hairs their due reverence. The rapacity of the courtiers, who obtained grant after grant of the lands belonging to his bishopric, was another fruitful source to him of vexation; and he had actually tendered the resignation of his see on very humiliating terms, when death came to his relief in the year 1581, the eighty-second of his age.
If in this and a few other instances, the polemical zeal natural to men who had sacrificed their worldly all for the sake of religion, was observed to degenerate among the refugees into personal quarrels disgraceful to themselves and injurious to their noble cause, it ought on the other hand to be observed, that some of the firmest and most affectionate friendships of the age were formed amongst these companions in adversity; and that by many who attained under Elizabeth the highest preferments and distinctions, the title of fellow-exile never ceased to be regarded as the most sacred and endearing bond of brotherhood.
Other opportunities will arise of commemorating some of the more eminent of the clergy who renounced their country during the persecutions of Mary; but respecting the laity, it may here be remarked, that with the exception of Catherine duchess-dowager of Suffolk, not a single person of quality was found in this list of conscientious sufferers; though one peer, probably the earl of Bedford, underwent imprisonment on a religious account at home. Of the higher gentry, however, there were considerable numbers who either went and established themselves in the protestant cities of Germany, or passed away the time in travelling.
Sir Francis Knowles, whose lady was niece to Anne Boleyn, took the former part, residing with his eldest son at Frankfort; Walsingham adopted the latter. With the views of a future minister of state, he visited in succession the principal courts of Europe, where he employed his diligence and sagacity in laying the foundations of that intimate knowledge of their policy and resources by which he afterwards rendered his services so important to his queen and country.
1554 AND 1555.
Arrival of Wyat and his associates at the Tower.—Savage treatment of them.—Further instances of Mary's severity.—Duke of Suffolk beheaded.—Death of lady Jane Grey—of Wyat, who clears Elizabeth of all share in his designs.—Trial of Throgmorton.—Bill for the exclusion of Elizabeth thrown out.—Parliament protects her rights—is dissolved.—Rigorous confinement of Elizabeth in the Tower.—She is removed under guard of Beddingfield—carried to Richmond—offered liberty with the hand of the duke of Savoy—refuses—is carried to Ricot, thence prisoner to Woodstock.—Anecdotes of her behaviour.—Cruelty of Gardiner towards her attendants.—Verses by Harrington.—Marriage of the queen.—Alarms of the protestants.—Arrival of cardinal Pole.—Popery restored.—Persecution begun.—King Philip procures the liberation of state prisoners.—Earl of Devon travels into Italy—dies.—Obligation of Elizabeth to Philip discussed.—She is invited to court—keeps her Christmas there—returns to Woodstock—is brought again to court by Philip's intercession.—Gardiner urges her to make submissions, but in vain.—She is brought to the queen—permitted to reside without guards at one of the royal seats—finally settled at Hatfield.—Character of sir Thomas Pope.—Notice of the Harringtons.—Philip quits England.—Death of Gardiner.
It is now proper to return to circumstances more closely connected with the situation of Elizabeth at this eventful period of her life.
Two or three weeks before her arrival in the Tower, Wyat with some of his principal adherents had been carried thither. Towards these unhappy persons, none of those decencies of behaviour were observed which the sex and rank of Elizabeth had commanded from the ministers of her sister's severity; and Holinshed's circumstantial narrative of the circumstances attending their committal, may be cited as an instructive example of the fierce and brutal manners of the age.
"Sir Philip Denny received them at the bulwark, and as Wyat passed by, he said, 'Go, traitor, there was never such a traitor in England.' To whom sir Thomas Wyat turned and said, 'I am no traitor; I would thou shouldest well know that thou art more traitor than I; it is not the point of an honest man to call me so.' And so went forth. When he came to the Tower gate, sir Thomas Bridges lieutenant took in through the wicket first Mantell, and said; 'Ah thou traitor! what hast thou and thy company wrought?' But he, holding down his head, said nothing. Then came Thomas Knevet, whom master Chamberlain, gentleman-porter of the Tower, took in. Then came Alexander Bret, (captain of the white coats,) whom sir Thomas Pope took by the bosom, saying, 'O traitor! how couldst thou find in thy heart to work such a villainy as to take wages, and being trusted over a band of men, to fall to her enemies, returning against her in battle?' Bret answered, 'Yea, I have offended in that case.' Then came Thomas Cobham, whom sir Thomas Poins took in, and said; 'Alas, master Cobham, what wind headed you to work such treason?' And he answered, 'O sir! I was seduced.' Then came sir Thomas Wyat, whom sir Thomas Bridges took by the collar, and said; 'O thou villain! how couldst thou find in thy heart to work such detestable treason to the queen's majesty, who gave thee thy life and living once already, although thou didst before this time bear arms in the field against her?... If it were not (saith he) but that the law must pass upon thee, I would stick thee through with my dagger.' To the which Wyat, holding his arms under his sides and looking grievously with a grim look upon the lieutenant, said, 'It is no mastery now;' and so passed on."
[Note 22: It is plain that Wyat is here accused of having taken arms for Jane Grey; but most wrongfully, if Carte's account of him is to be credited, which there seems no reason to disbelieve.]
Other circumstances attending the suppression of this rebellion mark with equal force the stern and vindictive spirit of Mary's government, and the remaining barbarity of English customs. The inhabitants of London being for the most part protestants and well affected, as the defection of their trained bands had proved, to the cause of Wyat, it was thought expedient to admonish them of the fruits of rebellion by the gibbeting of about sixty of his followers in the most public parts of the city. Neither were the bodies suffered to be removed till the public entry of king Philip after the royal nuptials; on which festal occasion the streets were cleared of these noisome objects which had disgraced them for nearly half a year.
Some hundreds of the meaner rebels, to whom the queen was pleased to extend her mercy, were ordered to appear before her bound two-and-two together, with halters about their necks; and kneeling before her in this guise, they received her gracious pardon of all offences; but no general amnesty was ever granted.
That the rash attempt of the duke of Suffolk should have been visited upon himself by capital punishment, is neither to be wondered at nor censured; but it was a foul act of cruelty to make this the pretext for taking away the lives of a youthful pair entirely innocent of this last design, and forgiven, as it was fondly hoped, for the almost involuntary part which they had taken in a former and more criminal enterprise. But religious bigotry and political jealousy, each perhaps sufficient for the effect, combined in this instance to urge on the relentless temper of Mary; and the lady Jane Grey and Guildford Dudley her husband were ordered to prepare for the execution of the sentence which had remained suspended over them.
Every thinking mind must have been shocked at the vengeance taken on Guildford Dudley,—a youth too insignificant, it might be thought, to call forth the animadversion of the most apprehensive government, and guilty of nothing but having accepted, in obedience to his father's pleasure, the hand of Jane Grey. But the fate of this distinguished lady herself was calculated to awaken stronger feelings. The fortitude, the piety, the genuine humility and contrition evinced by her in the last scene of an unsullied life, furnished the best evidence of her guiltlessness even of a wish to resume the sceptre which paternal authority had once forced on her reluctant grasp; and few could witness the piteous spectacle of her violent and untimely end, without a thrill of indignant horror, and secret imprecations against the barbarity of her unnatural kinswoman.
The earl of Devonshire was still detained in the Tower on Wyat's information, as was pretended, and on other indications of guilt, all of which were proved in the end equally fallacious: and at the time of Elizabeth's removal hither this state-prison was thronged with captives of minor importance implicated in the designs of Wyat. These were assiduously plied on one hand with offers of liberty and reward, and subjected on the other to the most rigorous treatment, the closest interrogatories, and one of them even to the rack, in the hope of eliciting from them some evidence which might reconcile to Mary's conscience, or color to the nation, the death or perpetual imprisonment of a sister whom she feared and hated.
To have brought her to criminate herself would have been better still; and no pains were spared for this purpose. A few days after her committal, Gardiner and other privy-councillors came to examine her respecting the conversation which she had held with sir James Croft touching her removal to Donnington Castle. She said, after some recollection, that she had indeed such a place, but that she never occupied it in her life, and she did not remember that any one had moved her so to do. Then, "to enforce the matter," they brought forth sir James Croft, and Gardiner demanded what she had to say to that man? She answered that she had little to say to him or to the rest that were in the Tower. "But, my lords," said she, "you do examine every mean prisoner of me, wherein methinks you do me great injury. If they have done evil and offended the queen's majesty, let them answer to it accordingly. I beseech you, my lords, join not me in this sort with any of these offenders. And concerning my going to Donnington Castle, I do remember that master Hobby and mine officers and you sir James Croft had such talk;—but what is that to the purpose, my lords, but that I may go to mine own houses at all times?" The earl of Arundel kneeling down said, "Your grace sayeth true, and certainly we are very sorry that we have troubled you about so vain matter." She then said, "My lords, you do sift me very narrowly; but I am well assured you shall not do more to me than God hath appointed, and so God forgive you all."
Before their departure sir James Croft kneeled down before her, declaring that he was sorry to see the day in which he should be brought as a witness against her grace. But he added, that he had been "marvellously tossed and examined touching her grace;" and ended by protesting his innocence of the crime laid to his charge.
[Note 23: Fox's narrative in Holinshed.]
Wyat was at length, on April 11th, brought to his death; when he confounded all the hopes and expectations of Elizabeth's enemies, by strenuously and publicly asserting her entire innocence of any participation in his designs.
Sir Nicholas Throgmorton was brought to the bar immediately afterwards. His trial at length, as it has come down to us in Holinshed's Chronicle, is one of the most interesting documents of that nature extant. He was esteemed "a deep conspirator, whose post was thought to be at London as a factor, to give intelligence as well to them in the West, as to Wyat and the rest in Kent. It was believed that he gave notice to Wyat to come forward with his power, and that the Londoners would be ready to take his part. And that he sent a post to sir Peter Carew also, to advance with as much speed as might be, and to bring his forces with him.
"He was said moreover to be the man that excited the earl of Devon to go down into the West, and that sir James Croft and he had many times consulted about the whole matter."
[Note 24: Strype's Ecclesiastical Memorials.]
To these political offences, sir Nicholas added religious principles still more heinous in the eyes of Mary. He, with two other gentlemen of his family, had been of the number of those who attended to the stake that noble martyr Anne Askew, burned for heresy in the latter end of Henry's reign; when they were bid to take care of their lives, for they were all marked men. Since the accession of Mary also he had "bemoaned to his friend sir Edward Warner, late lieutenant of the Tower, his own estate and the tyranny of the times, extending upon divers honest persons for religion, and wished it were lawful for all of each religion to live safely according to their conscience. For the law ex-officio he said would be intolerable, and the clergy discipline now might rather be resembled to the Turkish tyranny than the teaching of the Christian religion. Which words he was not afraid at his trial openly to acknowledge that he had said to the said Warner."
[Note 25: Strype's Ecclesiastical Memorials.]
The prosecution was conducted with all the iniquity which the corrupt practice of that age admitted. Not only was the prisoner debarred the assistance of counsel on his trial, he was even refused the privilege of calling a single witness in his favor. He defended himself however under all these disadvantages, with surprising skill, boldness and presence of mind; and he retorted with becoming spirit the brutal taunts of the crown lawyers and judges, who disgraced themselves on the occasion by all the excesses of an unprincipled servility. Fortunately for Throgmorton, the additional clauses to the treason laws added under Henry VIII. had been abolished under his successor and were not yet re-enacted. Only the clear and equitable statute of Edward III. remained therefore in force; and the lawyers were reduced to endeavour at such an explanation of it as should comprehend a kind of constructive treason. "If," said they, "it be proved that the prisoner was connected with Wyat, and of his counsel, the overt acts of Wyat are to be taken as his, and visited accordingly." But besides that no participation with Wyat after he had taken up arms, was proved upon Throgmorton, the jury were moved by his solemn protest against so unwarrantable a principle as that the overt acts of one man might be charged as overt acts upon another. They acquitted him therefore with little hesitation, to the inexpressible disappointment and indignation of the queen and her ministers, who then possessed the power of making their displeasure on such an occasion deeply felt. The jury were immediately committed to custody, and eight of them, who refused to confess themselves in fault, were further imprisoned for several months and heavily fined.
The acquitted person himself, in defiance of all law and justice, was remanded to the Tower, and did not regain his liberty till the commencement of the following year, when the intercession of king Philip obtained the liberation of almost all the prisoners there detained.
Throgmorton, like all the others called in question for the late insurrections, was closely questioned respecting Elizabeth and the earl of Devon; "and very fain," we are told, "the privy-councillors employed in this work would have got out of him something against them. For when at Throgmorton's trial, his writing containing his confession was read in open court, he prayed the queen's serjeant that was reading it to read further, 'that hereafter,' said he, 'whatsoever become of me, my words may not be perverted and abused to the hurt of some others, and especially against the great personages of whom I have been sundry times, as appears by my answers, examined. For I perceive the net was not cast only for little fishes but for great ones."
[Note 26: Strype's Memorials.]
This generous concern for the safety of Elizabeth in the midst of his own perils appears not to have been lost upon her; and under the ensuing reign we shall have the satisfaction of seeing the abilities of sir Nicholas displayed in other scenes and under happier auspices.
All manifestations of popular favor towards those whom the court had proscribed and sought to ruin, were at this juncture visited with the extreme of arbitrary severity. Two merchants of London, for words injurious to the queen, but principally for having affirmed that Wyat at his death had cleared the lady Elizabeth and the earl of Devonshire, were set in the pillory, to which their ears were fastened with large nails.
It was in fact an object of great importance to the catholic party to keep up the opinion, so industriously inculcated, of the princess being implicated in the late disturbances; since it was only on this false pretext that she could be detained close prisoner in the Tower while a fatal stroke was aimed against her rights and interests.
Gardiner, now chancellor and prime minister, the most inveterate of Elizabeth's enemies and the most devoted partisan of the Spanish interest, thinking that all was subdued to the wishes of the court, brought before the new parliament a bill for declaring the princess illegitimate and incapable of succeeding:—it was indignantly rejected, however, by a great majority; but the failure only admonished him to renew the attack in a more indirect and covert manner. Accordingly, the articles of the marriage treaty between Mary and the prince of Spain, artfully drawn with great seeming advantage to England, had no sooner received the assent of the two houses, than he proposed a law for conferring upon the queen the same power enjoyed by her father; that of naming a successor. But neither could this be obtained from a house of commons attached for the most part to the protestant cause and the person of the rightful heir, and justly apprehensive of the extinction of their few remaining privileges under the yoke of a detested foreign tyrant. Nobody doubted that it was the purpose of the queen, in default of immediate issue of her own, to bequeath the crown to her husband, whose descent from a daughter of John of Gaunt had been already much insisted on by his adherents. The bill was therefore thrown out; and the alarm excited by its introduction had caused the house to pass several spirited resolutions, one of which declared that her majesty should reign as a sole queen without any participation of her authority, while the rest guarded in various points against the anticipated encroachments of Philip, when Mary thought good to put a stop to the further discussion of the subject by a prorogation of parliament.
After these manifold disappointments, the court party was compelled to give up, with whatever reluctance, its deep-laid plots against the unoffending princess. Her own prudence had protected her life; and the independent spirit of a house of commons conscious of speaking the sense of the nation guarantied her succession. One only resource remained to Gardiner and his faction:—they judged that a long-continued absence, while it gradually loosened her hold upon the affections of the people, would afford many facilities for injuring or supplanting her; and it was determined soon to provide for her a kind of honorable banishment.
The confinement of the princess in the Tower had purposely been rendered as irksome and comfortless as possible. It was not till after a month's close imprisonment, by which her health had suffered severely, that she obtained, after many difficulties, permission to walk in the royal apartments; and this under the constant inspection of the constable of the Tower and the lord-chamberlain, with the attendance of three of the queen's women; the windows also being shut, and she not permitted to look out at them. Afterwards she had liberty to walk in a small garden, the gates and doors being carefully closed; and the prisoners whose rooms looked into it being at such times closely watched by their keepers, to prevent the interchange of any word or sign with the princess. Even a child of five years old belonging to some inferior officer in the Tower, who was wont to cheer her by his daily visits, and to bring her flowers, was suspected of being employed as a messenger between her and the earl of Devonshire; and notwithstanding the innocent simplicity of his answers to the lord-chamberlain by whom he was strictly examined, was ordered to visit her no more. The next day the child peeped in through a hole of the door as she walked in the garden, crying out, "Mistress, I can bring you no more flowers!" for which, it seems, his father was severely chidden and ordered to keep his boy out of the way.
From the beginning of her imprisonment orders had been given that the princess should have mass regularly said in her apartment. It is probable that Elizabeth did not feel any great repugnance to this rite:—however this might be, she at least expressed none; and by this compliance deprived her sister of all pretext for persecuting her on a religious ground. But some of her household were found less submissive on this head, and she had the mortification of seeing Mrs. Sands, one of her ladies, carried forcibly away from her under an accusation of heresy and her place supplied by another.
All these severities failed however of their intended effect: neither sufferings nor menaces could bring the princess to acknowledge herself guilty of offending even in thought against her sovereign and sister; and as the dying asseverations of Wyat had fully acquitted her in the eyes of the country, it became evident that her detention in the Tower could not much longer be persisted in. Yet the habitual jealousy of Mary's government, and the apparent danger of furnishing a head to the protestants rendered desperate by her cruelties, forbade the entire liberation of the princess; and it was resolved to adopt as a middle course the expedient sanctioned by many examples in that age, of committing her to the care of certain persons who should be answerable for her safe keeping, either in their own houses, or at some one of the royal seats. Lord Williams of Thame, and sir Henry Beddingfield captain of the guard, were accordingly joined in commission for the execution of this delicate and important trust.
The unfortunate prisoner conceived neither hope nor comfort from this approaching change in her situation, nor probably was it designed that she should; for intimidation seems still to have formed an essential feature in the policy of her relentless enemies. Sir Henry Beddingfield entered the Tower at the head of a hundred of his men; and Elizabeth, struck with the unexpected sight, could not forbear inquiring with dismay, whether the lady Jane's scaffold were removed? On being informed that it was, she received some comfort, but this was not of long duration; for soon a frightful rumor reached her, that she was to be carried away by this captain and his soldiers no one knew whither. She sent immediately for lord Chandos, constable of the Tower, whose humanity and courtesy had led him to soften as much as possible the hardships of her situation, though at the hazard of incurring the indignation of the court; and closely questioning him, he at length plainly told her that there was no help for it, orders were given, and she must be consigned to Beddingfield's care to be carried, as he believed, to Woodstock. Anxious and alarmed, she now asked of her attendants what kind of man this Beddingfield was; and whether, if the murdering of her were secretly committed to him, his conscience would allow him to see it executed? None about her could give a satisfactory answer, for he was a stranger to them all; but they bade her trust in God that such wickedness should not be perpetrated against her.
At length, on May 19th, after a close imprisonment of three months, she was brought out of the Tower under the conduct of Beddingfield and his troop; and on the evening of the same day found herself at Richmond Palace, where her sister then kept her court. She was still treated in all respects like a captive: the manners of Beddingfield were harsh and insolent; and such terror did she conceive from the appearances around her, that sending for her gentleman-usher, she desired him and the rest of her officers to pray for her; "For this night," said she, "I think to die." The gentleman, much affected by her distress, encouraged her as well as he was able: then going down to lord Williams, who was walking with Beddingfield, he called him aside and implored him to tell him sincerely, whether any mischief were designed against his mistress that night or no; "that he and his men might take such part as God should please to appoint." "For certainly," added this faithful servant, "we will rather die than she should secretly and innocently miscarry." "Marry, God forbid," answered Williams, "that any such wicked purpose should be wrought; and rather than it should be so, I with my men are ready to die at her feet also."
In the midst of her gloomy apprehensions, the princess was surprised by an offer from the highest quarter, of immediate liberty on condition of her accepting the hand of the duke of Savoy in marriage.
Oppressed, persecuted, and a prisoner, sequestered from every friend and counsellor, guarded day and night by soldiers, and in hourly dread of some attempt upon her life, it must have been confidently expected that the young princess would embrace as a most joyful and fortunate deliverance this unhoped-for proposal; and by few women, certainly, under all the circumstances, would such expectations have been frustrated. But the firm mind of Elizabeth was not thus to be shaken, nor her penetration deceived. She saw that it was banishment which was held out to her in the guise of marriage; she knew that it was her reversion of an independent English crown which she was required to barter for the matrimonial coronet of a foreign dukedom; and she felt the proposal as what in truth it was;—an injury in disguise. Fortunately for herself and her country, she had the magnanimity to disdain the purchase of present ease and safety at a price so disproportionate; and returning to the overture a modest but decided negative, she prepared herself to endure with patience and resolution the worst that her enraged and baffled enemies might dare against her.
No sooner was her refusal of the offered marriage made known, than orders were given for her immediate removal into Oxfordshire. On crossing the river at Richmond on this melancholy journey, she descried on the other side "certain of her poor servants," who had been restrained from giving their attendance during her imprisonment, and were anxiously desirous of seeing her again. "Go to them," said she to one of her men, "and say these words from me, Tanquam ovis" (Like a sheep to the slaughter).
As she travelled on horseback the journey occupied four days, and the slowness of her progress gave opportunity for some striking displays of popular feeling. In one place, numbers of people were seen standing by the way-side who presented to her various little gifts; for which Beddingfield did not scruple, in his anger, to call them traitors and rebels. The bells were every where rung as she passed through the villages, in token of joy for her liberation; but the people were soon admonished that she was still a prisoner and in disgrace, by the orders of Beddingfield to set the ringers in the stocks.
On the third evening she arrived at Ricot, the house of lord Williams, where its owner, gracefully sinking the character of a watchful superintendant in that of a host who felt himself honored by her visit, introduced her to a large circle of nobility and gentry whom he had invited to bid her welcome. The severe or suspicious temper of Beddingfield took violent umbrage at the sight of such an assemblage: he caused his soldiers to keep strict watch; insisted that none of the guests should be permitted to pass the night in the house; and asked lord Williams if he were aware of the consequences of thus entertaining the queen's prisoner? But he made answer, that he well knew what he did, and that "her grace might and should in his house be merry." Intelligence however had no sooner reached the court of the reception afforded to the princess at Ricot, than directions arrived for her immediate removal to Woodstock. Here, under the harsher inspection of Beddingfield, she found herself once more a prisoner. No visitant was permitted to approach; the doors were closed upon her as in the Tower; and a military guard again kept watch around the walls both day and night.