"The King is so amorous of her that he cannot treat her well enough, and caresses her more than he did the others. She and all the Court ladies dress in the French style, and her device is Non autre volonte que la sienne. Madame de Cleves is as cheerful as ever, as her brother's ambassador says."
But others besides Anne of Cleves had reason to mourn, and Melancthon complained that atrocious crimes were reported from England, that the divorce with the lady of Juliers was already made, and another married, and that "good men of our opinion in religion are murdered."
On the 27th September, the papal nuncio wrote grimly to Cardinal Farnese, that "SO FAR" the King of England was pleased with his new wife, and the other, "sister of Cleeves has retired and 'LIVES.'" Rumours, however, were persistently current that Henry intended to take back Anne, until in November, Marillac informed his master that the new queen had "completely acquired the King's grace," and that the other was "no more thought of than if she were dead."
But Marillac had soon reason to see that in making this statement he had somewhat exaggerated. The Princess Mary seems to have been well informed of the loose character and behaviour of Katharine Howard, and contrived to find pretexts for a long time for absenting herself from court, so that the queen complained to Henry that his daughter did not treat her with the respect she had shown to the two former queens.
But Anne of Cleves had no scruples about associating with Katharine, and was perhaps keen to note every detail concerning her brilliant rival, who had been more successful than herself in capturing the king's roving fancy. She was probably as much in the dark as most people, as to the politico-religious embarrassment she constituted.
The French ambassador gives an amusing description of her New Year's visit to the court:—
"Sire, to omit nothing that may be written about this country, Madame Anne, sister of the Duke of Cleves, formerly Queen of England, passed the recent festivities at Richmond, four miles from Hampton Court, to which place the King and also the Queen sent her, on the first day of the year, rich presents of clothes, plate and jewels, valued at six or seven thousand crowns. And on the second day she was summoned to appear at Hampton Court, where she was very honourably conducted by several of the nobility, and being arrived, the King received her very graciously, as did also the Queen, with whom she remained nearly the whole afternoon. They danced together, and seemed so happy that neither did the new Queen appear to be jealous or afraid that the other had come to raise the siege, as it was rumoured, nor did the said lady of Cleves show any sign of discontent at seeing her rival in her place. Moreover, Sire, if it please you to hear the end of this farce, that evening, and the next, the two ladies supped at the King's table together, although the lady of Cleves sat a little backward, in a corner, where the Princess of England, Madame Mary, is wont to be; and the following day, the said lady of Cleves returned with the same escort to Richmond, where she is visited by all the personages of the court, which makes people think she is about to be reinstated in her former position." *
* De Marillac, Correspondance Politique, p. 258.
Eustace Chapuys, the imperial ambassador, also wrote an account of this strange visit. He says:—
"On the 3rd [January 1541], the lady Anne of Cleves sent the King a New Year's present of two large horses, with violet velvet trappings, and presented herself at Hampton Court, with her suite, accompanied only by Lord William, the Duke of Norfolk's brother, who happened to meet her on the road to this city. She was received by the Duchess of Suffolk, the Countess of Hertford, and other ladies, who conducted her to her lodgings and then to the Queen's apartments. She insisted on addressing the Queen on her knees, for all the Queen could say, who showed her the utmost kindness. The King then entered, and after a low bow to Lady Anne, embraced and kissed her. She occupied a seat near the bottom of the table at supper, but after the King had retired, the Queen and Lady Anne danced together, and next day all three dined together. At this time the King sent his Queen a present of a ring and two small dogs, which she passed over to Lady Anne. That day Lady Anne returned to Richmond."*
* Chapuys to the Emperor; Gairdner, Cal. 16, No. 436.
The public rumour of the likelihood of Anne's restoration arose probably as much from the common talk of the queen's immoral conduct as from the circumstance of Anne's appearance at court. The reports at length reached Katharine's ears, and it was possibly her accusing conscience that betrayed itself in her visible depression of spirits.
"Some days ago [wrote Chapuys to the Queen of Hungary on 6th May 1541], this Queen being rather sad, the King wished to know the cause, and she said it was owing to a rumour that he was going to take back Anne of Cleves. The King told her that she was wrong to think such things, and [that] even if he were in a position to marry, he had no mind to take back Anne; which is very probable, as his love never returns for a woman he has once abandoned. Yet many thought he would be reconciled to her for fear of the King of France making war on him at the solicitation of the Duke of Cleves and the King of Scotland."
This was the first intimation of the storm that was soon to burst When it suited Henry to give ear to the scandals afloat about the queen, his grief and indignation, or what it pleased him should pass for such, knew no bounds.
The palace at Hampton Court where Katharine was imprisoned, was so strictly guarded that none but certain officers could enter or leave it. The Princess Mary, who had spent the last few months with her stepmother, presenting a strange contrast to her surroundings, was now sent to join Prince Edward, and her father announced that he was heartbroken at the queen's immorality and perfidy. Anne was thought by Chapuys to rejoice greatly at Katharine's fall, but her execution caused little comment throughout the country. Either the nation was indifferent or it had become accustomed to the disgrace of queen consorts.
Marillac, writing to Francis I. on the 11th November, says:—
"The way taken is the same as with Queen Anne who was beheaded. She has taken no kind of pastime, but kept in her chamber, whereas, before, she did nothing but dance and rejoice; and now when the musicians come, they are told that this is no more the time to dance . . . . As to whom the King will take, everyone thinks it will be the lady he has left, who has conducted herself wisely in her affliction, and is more beautiful than she was, and more regretted and commiserated than Queen Katharine (of Arragon) was in like case. Besides, the King shows no inclination to any other lady, and will have some remorse of conscience, and no man in England dare suggest one of such quality as the lady in question, for fear, if she were repudiated of falling en quelque gros inconvenient."
The imperial ambassador had, it is seen, estimated Henry's character more correctly than Marillac did, for as to "remorse of conscience," we do not find throughout the whole length of his life that the royal miscreant ever made an attempt to expiate any one of his crimes, or to make amends to a single individual for wrong done.
According to Marillac, the king was so shocked and grieved at Katharine's behaviour, that he proposed never to take another wife; but when it was suggested that in spite of her outrageous conduct the queen might possibly escape the punishment of death, on account of her beauty and her sweetness of disposition, the Duke of Norfolk said that she must of necessity die, because the king could not marry again while she lived.
Francis I. does not seem to have taken his envoy's account of Henry's grief very seriously (he had known the King of England longer than Marillac had), and replied with some apparent cheerfulness, that he was sorry for his cousin's misfortune, and would soon send a gentleman to condole with the king.
Chapuys, as usual, had with greater discernment, hit the more probable mean.
"This King has wonderfully felt the case of the Queen, his wife, and has certainly shown greater sorrow at her loss than at the fault, loss, or divorce of his preceding wives. It is like the case of the woman who cried more bitterly at the loss of her tenth husband than at the deaths of all the others together, though they had all been good men; but it was because she had never buried one of them before without being sure of the next, and as yet it does not seem that he has formed any new plan."
Katharine was beheaded on the 13th October 1542, on the same spot on the Tower Green where Anne Boleyn had been executed. Her end, and that of Lady Rochester who had encouraged her in her evil life, was penitent, and even edifying. After the execution it was remarked that the king was in better spirits, and during the last few days before Lent there was much feasting at Court.
Chapuys describes the state of affairs thus:—
"Sunday was given up to the Lords of his Council, and Court; Monday to the men of law; and Tuesday to the ladies, who all slept at the Court. He himself in the morning did nothing but go from room to room to order lodgings to be prepared for these ladies, and he made them great and hearty cheer, without showing particular affection to any one. Indeed, unless Parliament prays him to take another wife, he will not I think be in a hurry to marry; besides, few if any ladies now at Court would aspire to such an honour, for a law has just been passed, that should any King henceforth wish to marry a subject, the lady will be bound on, pain of death to declare if any charges of misconduct can be brought against her, and all who know or suspect anything of the kind against her, are bound to reveal it within twenty days, on pain of confiscation of goods and imprisonment for life."
Perhaps it was this general indictment of the women of Henry's court, most certainly the echo of public opinion, that had caused the people to persist in the belief that Anne of Cleves would regain Katharine's strangely coveted place. Where the reputation of a whole class was so bad as to make the above kind of declaration impossible, virtue, such as that attributed to the Lady Anne, was at a premium, and as it was useless to think of a suitable foreign alliance in the state of Henry's religious opinions, justice and necessity had alike seemed to point to the reinstatement of the discarded queen. But Henry was exceedingly annoyed at these repeated suggestions which, forsooth, had almost appeared TO DICTATE TO HIM, and he determined to put a stop to the free wagging of tongues on the subject of his matrimonial affairs.
After the fall of Katharine Howard, and before her execution, a State Paper records that Jane Rattsay was "examined of her words to Elizabeth Bassett, viz., 'What if God worketh this work to make the Lady Anne of Cleves queen again?' She answered that it was an idle saying suggested by Bassett's 'Praising the Lady Anne, and dispraising the Queen that now is.' She declared that she never spoke at any other time of the Lady Anne, and she thought the King's divorce from her good." Examined as to her exclamation "What a man is the King! How many wives will he have?" she answered that she said it "upon the sudden tidings declared to her by Bassett, when she was sorry for the change and knew not so much as she knows now."
But for all Anne's prudence, and the bold front the brave woman presented to her misfortunes, she had been secretly hoping that when the inevitable crash came, she would be restored to the rights which she had only renounced, because she had no alternative. Henry, however, made no sign, and in 1543 Katharine Parr appeared on the scene. The first mention of the king's sixth wife in the public records is a tailor's bill for numerous items of cotton, linen, buckram, etc., and the making of Italian gowns, pleats, and sleeves, kirtles, French, Dutch, and Venetian gowns, Venetian sleeves, French hoods, etc., of various materials, the total amount of the bill being 8 pounds, 9s. 5d. This bill was delivered "to my Lady Latymer," and was copied into the book of Skutt the tailor.
Katharine Parr had been first married as a mere child to the old Lord Borough of Gainsborough, and had been left a widow before she was seventeen. She then married Lord Latimer, who died in 1543, and was immediately sought in marriage by Sir Thomas Seymour, brother of the king's third wife, who became Lord High Admiral in Edward's reign. Katharine undoubtedly intended to become his wife, but as she afterwards wrote, her "will was over-ruled by a higher power."
On the 20th June of the same year, Lady Latimer and her sister Mrs. Herbert were at court "with my Lady Mary's Grace and my Lady Elizabeth," and the next mention of her is in a licence of Thomas, Archbishop of Canterbury, "authorised thereto by parliament to Henry VIII. (who has deigned to marry the Lady Katharine, late wife of Lord Latimer deceased) to have the marriage solemnised in any church, chapel, or oratory, without the issue of banns." It took place on the 12th July following, in an upper oratory called the Queen's Privy Closet, within the honour of Hampton Court, Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, officiating.
"Anne of Cleves [wrote Chapuys to Charles V.], would like to be in her sherte [shroud] so to speak, with her mother, having especially taken great grief and despair at the king's espousal of this last wife, who is not nearly so beautiful as she, besides that there is no hope of issue, seeing that she had none with her two former husbands."
Others, besides the poor, discarded Lady Anne were also in tribulation, and a letter from one of the Lutherans in England to Henry Bullinger, the reformer, reports that "the king has within these two months burnt three godly men in one day. For in July he married the widow of a nobleman named Latimer, and he is always wont to celebrate his nuptials by some wickedness of this kind."
But Katharine herself was glad exceedingly, and told Lord Parr that "it having pleased God to incline the king to take her as his wife, which is the greatest joy and comfort that could happen to her, she informs her brother of it as the person who has most cause to rejoice thereat, and requires him to let her sometimes hear of his health, as friendly as if she had not been called to this honour."
Wriothesley, in forwarding this letter from the queen, Lord Parr's "gracious lady and kind sister," doubts not but that he will thank God, and frame himself to be more and more an ornament to Her Majesty.
The marriage was in every way satisfactory. Katharine was twenty-six, about one year younger than the Lady Mary, and was by universal fame reported "a prudent, beautiful, and virtuous lady." The royal family had reason to be grateful for her influence over the king, whom she persuaded to restore both Mary and Elizabeth to their rank. To Edward she was a second mother, and Henry seems to have looked upon her with something akin to respect, appointing her regent when he crossed the Channel to invade France in 1544.
She offended him, however, on one occasion, by venturing to express a difference of opinion on a religious question, and it was said that articles of heresy were drawn up against her. "A good hearing it is," exclaimed Henry, "when women become such clerks; and a thing much to my comfort to come in mine old days to be taught by my wife! Her prudence and tact saved her life, if it was ever seriously in danger."
Henry's sordid tragedy was played out on the 28th January 1547, when the tyrant breathed his last, and left his two wives and two daughters to unravel the skein which he had so persistently entangled for them. Katharine Parr took her fate immediately into her own hands, and thirty-five days after Henry's death, secretly married her former admirer, Sir Thomas, now Lord Seymour, who was described by Hayward as "fierce in courage, courtly in fashion, in personage stately, in voice magnificent, but somewhat empty in matter." The union was not a happy one, owing mainly to Seymour's intrigues with the Princess Elizabeth, a circumstance that was thought to have shortened Katharine's life. The ci-devant queen died at Sudeley Castle, after having given birth to a daughter, in August 1548, aged thirty-six.
After the one tragic episode in her life, the course of Anne of Cleves ran smoothly enough. Mary befriended her always, and made her quondam stepmother a prominent figure at her coronation. She frequently paid her visits, and treated her with all the respect imaginable. Anne never left England after her ill-starred arrival, ending her days peacefully in 1557.
III. A NOTABLE ENGLISHMAN
While Edward's Council thought that they had effectually closed every issue through which news of the king's death might transpire, before their seditious plans were completed, the Princess Mary was already on her way into Norfolk, calling all loyal men and true to rally round her standard. Two Norfolk gentlemen were mainly instrumental in placing her on the throne. These were Sir Henry Jerningham and the subject of this memoir, Sir Henry Bedingfeld of Oxburgh, who came in to her assistance at Framlingham, with 140 well-armed men.
Bedingfeld proclaimed the queen at Norwich, and was afterwards rewarded for his loyalty with an annual pension of 100 pounds out of the forfeited estates of Sir Thomas Wyatt. Mary made him a Privy Councillor and Knight Marshal of her army, and subsequently Lieutenant of the Tower of London; and Captain of the Yeomen of the Guard, vice Sir Henry Jerningham. She appointed him custodian of Elizabeth, when that princess was confined in the Tower and at Woodstock, on suspicion of being concerned in Wyatt's rebellion; and so little did Elizabeth resent his severity during the time of her imprisonment, that after her accession, she addressed him as her "trusty and well-beloved," employed him in her service, and granted to him the manor of Caldecot in Norfolk, which still forms part of the Oxburgh estate at the present day.
He was undoubtedly one of the foremost Englishmen of his day, respected by two sovereigns, and occupying prominent and honourable positions, his loyalty being unimpeachable; yet Foxe, the martyrologist, with his wonted dishonesty, has without the slightest foundation, and so effectually, blackened his fame, that almost every subsequent writer on this period has reproduced the calumnies set forth with malice prepense in the Acts and Monuments.
Strype was the first unquestioning copyist of Foxe; Burnet was the second; and Sir Reginald Hennell is the most recent.*
* In his volume "The History of the King's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard."
Tennyson, in his dramatic poem Queen Mary, also went to Foxe for his historical data, with the result that, while discarding the more malicious interpretation of Bedingfeld's character, he has, nevertheless, passed on to posterity a coarse and grotesque caricature as though it were a portrait.
A fire broke out at Woodstock in May 1554, and Tennyson choosing to suppose that Elizabeth suspected foul play, invented the following absurd dialogue:—
LADY. I woke Sir Henry—and he's true to you- I read his honest horror in his eyes.
ELIZABETH. Or true to you?
LADY. Sir Henry Bedingfeld! I will have no man true to me, your Grace, But one that pares his nails; to me? the clown! For like his cloak, his manners want the nap And gloss of court; but of this fire he says, Nay swears, it was no wicked wilfulness, Only a natural chance.
ELIZABETH. A chance-perchance One of those wicked wilfuls that men make, Nor shame to call it nature.
At the end of a long speech Elizabeth cries
God save the Queen. My jailor—
BEDINGFELD. One, whose bolts, That jail you from free life, bar you from death. There haunt some Papist ruffians hereabout Would murder you.
ELIZABETH. I thank you heartily, sir, But I am royal, tho' your prisoner, And God hath blest or cursed me with a nose— Your boots are from the horses.
This libel did not, however, pass unchallenged, and the father of the present baronet wrote to the Poet Laureate the following protest:—
"Sir,—As a great admirer of your genius, I eagerly read your drama Queen Mary, but was so surprised and pained at the ignoble part which is allotted to Sir Henry Bedingfeld, that I cannot refrain from addressing you on the subject. I feel justified in doing so, as I am the direct descendant of Sir Henry, and date from the house which was his home.
"The millions who will read Mary Tudor, or witness the play on the stage, will carry away the impression that my ancestor was a vulgar yeoman, in some way connected with the stables, whereas he was a man of ancient lineage, a trusted friend and servant of the queen, who confided to him in time of danger the Lieutenancy of the Tower, and the custody of the Princess Elizabeth. This princess so respected Sir Henry, that although she complained of his severity during her captivity, she visited him at Oxburgh after her accession to the throne, and treated him with the greatest consideration. Numerous documents in my possession, including letters from the Sovereign, from the Privy Council, arid from the most eminent men of the time, would prove, were such proof required, the high position held by Sir Henry.
"I trust, therefore, to your feeling of justice that you will, if possible, either strike out Sir Henry's name from future editions, or allot to him a more dignified part on the stage, and one which will convey a more correct view of his character and position.—I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
Tennyson's answer to the above, dated from the Isle of Wight, six months later, though courteous, left the matter almost where it was, so far as historical accuracy was secured:—
"Sir,—Your letter arrived when I was abroad, else would have been answered at once; and therefore I waited till the play should be announced for acting. I had made your ancestor an honest gentleman though a rough one, as I found him reported to be, whether true or no; and I regret that you should have been pained by my representation of him. Now, in deference to your wishes, his name is not once mentioned on the stage, and he is called in the play-bill merely 'Governor of Woodstock.' Moreover, I have inserted a line in Elizabeth's part: 'But, girl, you wrong a noble gentleman.'—I have the honour to be, Sir, your obedient servant,
In spite, however, of the best intention on the part of the author, the American edition of the play, priding itself on being "the only unmutilated version," preserves the exact wording of the poem.* Thus has history ever been medicated to suit the prejudices of the uncritical and the ignorant.
* De Witt's acting plays, No. 181, Queen Mary; a drama. Edited by John M. Kingdom.
Sir Henry Bedingfeld, who was born in the year 1509, was the grandson of Sir Edmund Bedingfeld, the favourite of three successive kings, Edward IV., Richard III., and Henry VII. This same Sir Edmund had served in the Wars of the Roses, and Edward IV., by letters patent of the twenty-second year of his reign, granted to him, "for his faithful service, licence to build towers, walls, and such other fortifications as he pleased in his manors of Oxburgh, together with a market there weekly, and a court of pye-powder." He also bestowed on him his own royal badge the Falcon and Fetterlock. Richard III. made him a Knight of the Bath, and Henry VII. visited him at Oxburgh. In the third year of his reign this king granted three manors in Yorkshire, Wold, Newton, and Gaynton to him and his heirs male for ever, in return for his help in crushing the rebellion in the north, which patent was renewed and confirmed by Henry VIII. Sir Edmund died in 1496, and was succeeded by his only son, another Edmund, who attended Henry VIII. in his foreign wars, and was knighted for valour by Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, on the battle-field, after the taking of Montdidier in 1523. The king appointed him steward to Katharine of Arragon at Kimbolton. He married Grace, daughter of Henry, Lord Marny, and by her had four sons, Henry, Edmund, Anthony, and Humphrey. Henry, who succeeded him in 1533, was the famous Lieutenant of the Tower, and the "jailor" of the Princess Elizabeth. Henry's wife was Katharine, daughter of Sir Roger Townshend, one of the judges of the Court of Common Pleas, and ancestor of the present Marquis Townshend. Sir Henry Bedingfeld kept up some state at Oxburgh, having twenty servants in livery, besides those employed in husbandry. When he was away on the queen's business, the management of his estate devolved on Dame Katharine, and a letter from this lady addressed "To the right worshipful, my very good husband," and dated Oxburgh, October 1554, is a compte rendu of all she had done for his property during his absence. This document which has had a chequered career, has lately, with some others, found its way back to the Oxburgh archives. Another, the draft of which has lately been discovered among the muniments of this venerable old house, strikes a more pathetic note, and testifies, to the affectionate dependence with which Lady Bedingfeld leaned on her lord.
"Lady Bedingfeld to the lords of the Council, praying to have her husband with her during her confinement:—
My Lords,—Being very near the time of my being brought to bed, and Sir Henry Bedingfeld in the country, who is very tender in giving any offence to the Queen's Majesty, this is humbly to beg your Lordships will be pleased to confirm the order as he may have leave to be with me till the time of my approaching danger be over, and I shall acknowledge it as a very great favour done to your Lordships' most humble servant."
On the reverse side of this draft is a recipe for "Lime drinks against the King's Evil, or any sharp humours."
Although a man does not necessarily write himself down angel or devil, it is true of most people that their correspondence is a fair indication of their character, tastes, and habits. The letters written by and addressed to Sir Henry Bedingfeld reveal him as of the usual type of country gentlemen of the period, interested in sport and agriculture, but having also some experience of soldiering. He could be counted on to raise a troop of horse or foot in an emergency, provided it were in the service of the lawful sovereign. He made it his business to become acquainted with the condition of Marshland, in order to account to the queen for the fealty of those around him; and Elizabeth, no less than Mary, knew that she could rely on him to uphold her authority in the eastern Counties, His letters to Mary show that notwithstanding his frankness, and his freedom from diplomatic subtlety, his manners did not lack the polish of the courtier. In the fulfilment of his charge he was ever prudent, cautious, and almost timid in the matter of accepting responsibility; in no sense covetous of office, he was yet so scrupulous in the discharge of duty, that he scarcely ever acted on his own judgment if he could possibly wring instructions from the Privy Council. His loyalty, uprightness, courtesy, and modesty, stood him in lieu of more brilliant parts, and his severity was at all times tempered by that quality of mercy which "is not strained." To all this must be added his fidelity to his religion in difficult and dangerous times.
His life after Mary's accession, to which he had materially contributed, falls naturally into three parts: 1. The period during which he had the care of the Princess Elizabeth. 2. His term of office as Lieutenant of the Tower. 3. The twenty-five years after Mary's death, which he spent for the most part in retirement in Norfolk.
On the 18th March 1554, this portentous missive was delivered to him:—
"My duty remembered, these shall be to advise you that on Friday my lady Elizabeth was sent to the Tower at 10 of the clock. The Parliament shall be holden at Westminster on the day aforesaid; and the Queen is in good health, thanks be to God, who preserve you in much worship. This Good Friday riding by the way.—Your servant to command,
"To the right worshipful Sir Henry Bedyngfeld give these, written in haste."
The causes of Elizabeth's arrest were far-reaching. Circumstantial evidence of her connection with Wyatt's rebellion was not wanting, and if Mary had been willing to have her sister convicted on that evidence alone, her head would undoubtedly have fallen on the block. Elizabeth herself in numerous instances caused blood to flow on far less certain grounds. But her guilt could not otherwise be brought home, and in her first Parliament Mary had restored the ancient, constitutional law of England, by which overt or spoken acts of treason must be proved, before any English person could be convicted as a traitor.
The case against Elizabeth was this. The French Ambassador, de Noailles, whose instructions were that he should play upon the popular discontent in regard to the queen's proposed marriage to Philip of Spain, in the interest of France, encouraged Elizabeth to associate herself with the factious, and to become, as it were, the stalking-horse of the disaffected. She was far too clever to commit herself to any direct act of rebellion, but de Noailles was prodigal of her name in all the intrigues that he fostered, and the plot organised by means of Sir Peter Carew, in Devonshire and Cornwall, had for its declared object the marriage of Elizabeth to Courtenay, Earl of Devon, and the placing of these two on the throne. Sir Thomas Wyatt had meanwhile raised the standard of revolt in the home counties, but before leaving London for that purpose, he had written a letter to Elizabeth, urging her for greater safety to retire to her castle of Donnington. This letter fell into the hands of the Council, as did also three letters from de Noailles to the French king, directly implicating Elizabeth in the insurrection, and a copy of the letter which she had written to Mary, refusing on the plea of illness to obey the queen's summons to the Court. Lord Russell confessed to having carried communications between the princess and Wyatt, and that traitor, being brought to trial, owned that the object of his rising was to secure the crown for Elizabeth and Courtenay. He subsequently repeated the statement, adding that the French king had promised them men and money, and was to attack Calais and Guisnes the moment the rebels were in possession of London. Whether he really withdrew this accusation of Elizabeth on the scaffold must always remain doubtful, the testimony of the sheriffs being in direct contradiction to that of Lord Chandos, who was also present. It was not until Wyatt had formerly declared Elizabeth to be conspiring with Henry II. of France, that Mary was at length convinced of the necessity of securing her person. She repeated her summons, but not, as Foxe would have us believe, with inconsiderate cruelty and rough haste. Elizabeth's uncle, Admiral Lord William Howard, Sir Edward Hastings, and Sir Thomas Cornwallis, were sent to escort her from Ashridge to Westminster, with two physicians who were to decide whether she were well enough to travel. She was treated with uniform courtesy and consideration, and the journey of thirty-three miles, originally intended to occupy five days, was actually made to cover a whole week. The imperial ambassador thus describes her arrival*:—
* State Papers (Domestic), 1554, vol. xxi.; R.O.
"The lady Elizabeth arrived here yesterday, clad completely in white, surrounded by a great assemblage of servants of the Queen, besides her own people. Her countenance was pale, her look proud, lofty, and superbly disdainful, an expression which she assumed to disguise the mortification she felt. The Queen declined seeing her, and caused her to be accommodated in a quarter of her palace from which neither she nor her servants could go out without passing through the guards. Of her suite, only two gentlemen, six ladies, and four servants are permitted to wait on her, the rest of her train being lodged in the city of London. The queen is advised to send her to the Tower, since she is accused by Wyatt, named in the letters of the French ambassador, suspected by her own councillors, and it is certain that the enterprise was undertaken in her favour."*
* Record Office Transcripts (Belgian Archives), printed by Tytler in his England under the reins of Edward VI. and Mary.
When charged with complicity in the plot, Elizabeth replied that she knew nothing of it. The members of the Council were divided concerning her, some maintaining that the legal proof against her was insufficient to justify her being sent to the Tower, while others were for giving her short shrift. Mary availed herself of this loophole, and caused each lord of the Council in succession to be asked to undertake the custody of the princess in his own house. Not one was willing to accept the perilous office, and a warrant was therefore made out for her committal. There was a very general impression at the time, that her life would have been in danger, but for Mary's determination that the law should not be infringed at her trial. Nothing could be adduced that was not already known, and in spite of the emperor's reiterated demands for her execution, Mary would not have her convicted on the only evidence obtainable.
It was for Elizabeth's greater safety that the queen appointed Sir Henry Bedingfeld to be her custodian, and Foxe's absurd description of Bedingfeld's arrival with his hundred soldiers in blue-coats, and Elizabeth's terror at the sight, is manifestly a fabrication of the martyrologist's brain. We have already had a glimpse of Sir Henry's antecedent history. He had materially contributed to Mary's triumph over her enemies, and may be said to have been one of the train instruments in placing the Queen on the throne; he was a distinguished member of her Privy Council, therefore a public personage, and it is inconceivable that Elizabeth should have asked who he was, as being "a man unknown to her Grace," or that her attendants and friends should have answered that "they were ignorant what manner of man he was." Foxe himself had betaken himself to foreign parts on Mary's accession, and may perhaps be pardoned for not knowing, although we find it hard to forgive him for the baseless fabrication by which he sought to discredit the queen and all those who served her faithfully.
"About that time," romances Foxe, "it was spread abroad that her Grace should be carried from thence by this new jolly Captain and his soldiers; but whither it could not be learned, which was unto her a great grief, especially for that such a company was appointed to her guard, requesting rather to continue there still, than to be led thence with such a sort of rascals. At last plain answer was made by the Lord Chandos, that there was no remedy but from thence she must needs depart to the manor of Woodstock."
He goes on to say that on 19th May she was removed from the Tower, "where Sir Henry Benifield [being appointed her jailor] did receive her with a company of rake-hells to guard her, besides the Lord Derby's band, wafting in the country about for moonshine in the water. Unto whom at length came my Lord of Thame, joined in commission with the said Sir Henry for the safeguarding of her to prison, and they together conveyed her Grace to Woodstock, as hereafter followeth. The first day they conducted her to Richmond, where she continued all night, being restrained of her own men which were laid in out-chambers, and Sir Henry Benifield's soldiers appointed in their rooms to give attendance on her person. Whereat she being marvellously dismayed, thinking verily some secret mischief to be a-working towards her, called her gentleman-usher, and desired him with the rest of his company to pray for her. 'For this night,' quoth she, 'I think to die.' Wherewith, he being stricken to the heart, said, 'God forbid that any such wickedness should be pretended against your Grace.' So comforting her as well as he could, at last he burst out into tears, and went from her down into the court, where were talking the Lord Thame and Sir Henry Benifield."
We may now dismiss Foxe and his egregious insinuations of foul play, together with his monstrous inventions of boorishness on the part of Elizabeth's custodian. In spite of his calumnies, it remains perfectly clear that Elizabeth had every reason to be thankful that her "jailor" was faithful to his trust, and that firmness and caution, rather than weak indulgence, characterised all his conduct towards her. As for his alleged want of courtesy towards her, there is not a shadow of evidence to support it; he frequently knelt to address her, and even in speaking or writing of her, maintained the same deferential mode of expression as that which he used in her presence.
Each incident of the journey from the Tower to Woodstock is detailed in Sir Henry's report to the Privy Council. Elizabeth apparently seized every opportunity of making his difficult task yet more difficult; but wayward and imperious as her temper often was, nothing in his demeanour towards her ever approached to disrespect or even impatience. Even she herself brought no other complaint against her custodian than that of "scrupulousness" in the discharge of his duty, a charge which is in itself a magnificent vindication, for the Elizabeth of history was not one to forgive a man who had failed in the smallest degree to pay her the homage due to her rank. Moreover, in regard to Sir Henry's soldiers, no single instance is recorded on either side of misbehaviour or want of decorum on their part.
In his first letter to the queen after their arrival at Woodstock, Sir Henry says:—
"My lady Elizabeth's Grace did use [? peruse] the letter which your Highness sent her, wherein she was right weary, to my judgment, the occasion rising of the stark style of the same letter, being warpen and cast. This present day she hath not been very well at ease, as your Highness's women did declare unto me, and yet at the afternoon she required to walk, and see another lodging in the house. In the which, and other her like requests, I am marvellously perplexed to grant her desire, or to say nay, seeing it hath been your Highness's pleasure to remove her person from and out of the Tower of London where I was led to do upon more certainty by the precedent of my good Lord Chamberlain [Sir John Gage] and also by certain articles, by me exhibited unto my lords of the Council and by them ordered, which were to me a perfect rule at that time, and now is very hard to be observed in this place. Wherefore I most lowly and heartily do desire your Highness to give me authority and order in writing from your Majesty or your Council, how to demean myself in this your Highness's service, whereby I shall be the more able to do the same, and also receive comfort and heart's ease to be your Highness's daily beadsman to God for persuasion of your most princely and sovereign estate long to endure to God's honour.
"The 21 of May, 1554."*
* This and the next following letters are taken from the fourth volume of the publications of the Norfolk and Norwich Archaeological Society, "State Papers relating to the custody of the Princess Elizabeth at Woodstock in 1554," being letters between Queen Mary and her Privy Council and Sir Henry Bedingfeld, Knight, of Oxburgh, Norfolk, communicated by the Rev. C.R. Manning, M.A., Hon. Sec. The originals were formerly in Mr. Manning's possession, but have now disappeared. The present writer has modernised the spelling.
In answer to this letter the Council wrote approving his doings, and thanking Sir Henry on the part of the queen. A number of instructions for his further conduct were also sent, the purport of which will be gathered from his reply:—
"My letter answering to the former, the Council's letters.
"So it is, most honourable lords, that upon the return of my brother Humphrey, I received instructions signed with the Queen's Majesty's hand, and enclosed in a letter signed by your Lordships as a warrant to direct my service how to be used during the Queen's Majesty's pleasure, trusting only in God to make me able to do and accomplish the same. I travail and shall do to the best of my power till God and her Highness shall otherwise dispose for me, wishing that shortly it should come to pass, if it may so stand with her Highness's good contention and your honour. As touching the fifth article, which purported this in effect that I should not suffer the lady Elizabeth's Grace to have conference with any suspect person out of my hearing, that she do not by any means either receive or send any message, letter or token, to or from any manner of person, which, under your honourable corrections, must thus answer to that, as touching conference with suspected persons, if your Lordships mean strangers, and such as be not daily attending upon her person by your assents and privities, with the help above said, I dare take upon me that to do. But if you mean general conference with all persons, as well within her house as without, I shall beseech you of pardon, for that I dare not take upon me, nor yet for message, letter or token, which may be conveyed by any of the three women of her privy chamber, her two grooms of the same or the yeomen of the robes, all which persons and none others be with her Grace at her going to her lodging, and part of them all night, and until such time as her grace cometh to her dining-chamber, the grooms always after going abroad within the house, having full opportunity to do such matter as is prohibited. And hereunto I beseech your honours ask my Lord Chamberlain whether it will be within possibility for me to do it or no, whose order in all things I have and do, according to my poor wit and endeavour put in use; and upon his declaration to direct order possible. At the present writing hereof one Marbery, my lady Grace's servant, brought his wife, Elizabeth Marbery, to have been received to have wait upon her Grace, in the stead of Elizabeth Sands, and because I received no manner of warrant from you my Lords, to do it, I have required the said Marbery to stay himself and his wife hereabouts, till I might receive the same, which I pray you to do with all speed, for they been very poor folks, and unable to bear their own charge as I perceive.
"Her Grace, thanks be to God, continueth in reasonable health and quietness, as far as I can perceive; but she claimeth promise of the mouth of my Lords Treasurer and Chamberlain to have the liberty of walk within the whole park of Woodstock. This she hath caused to come to mine ear by my Lady Gray, but never spoke of it to me by express words . . . . Her Grace hath not hitherto made any request to walk in any other place than in the over and nether gardens with the orchard, which, if she happens to do, I must needs answer I neither dare nor will assent unto it, till by the Queen's Highness and your honours I be authorised that to do . . . . Cornwallis, the gentleman-usher, did move me to assent that the cloth of estate should be hanged up for her Grace, whereunto I directly said nay, till your Lordships' pleasures were known therein.
"Postscript.—There was some peril of fire within the house, which we have without any loss to be regarded, escaped. Thanks be to God."
In answer to the above the Council thanked and commended Sir Henry for all that he had hitherto done, adding:—
"Where ye desire to be resolved of certain doubts which you gather upon your instructions, ye shall understand that although we well know ye cannot meet such inconvenience as may happen by those that attend upon the lady Elizabeth, in bringing unto her letters, messages or tokens, yet if ye shall use your diligence and wisdom there as ye shall see cause, it shall be your sufficient discharge. As for strangers, ye must foresee that no persons suspect have any conference with her at all, and yet to permit such strangers whom ye shall think honest and not suspicious, upon any reasonable cause to speak with her in your hearing only. As for placing Elizabeth Marbery in lieu of Sands, letters be already sent from the Queen's Highness unto you therefore, which we pray you to see executed accordingly. Where she claimeth promise of the Lord Treasurer and me the Lord Chamberlain to walk in the park, as we have heard nothing before this time thereof, so do not I the Lord Chamberlain remember any such promise."
The queen's letter was as follows:—
"Marye The Quene. By the Quene
"Trusty and right well-beloved, we greet you well. And where we be informed that Sands, one of the women presently attending about our sister the Lady Elizabeth, is a person of an evil opinion, and not fit to remain about our said sister's person, we let you wit, our will and pleasure is, you shall travail with our said sister, and by the best means ye can persuade her to be contented to have the said Sands removed from her, and to accept in her place, Elizabeth Marbery, another of her women, who shall be sent thither for that purpose: whom at her coming we require you to be placed there, and to give order that the said Sands may be removed from thence accordingly.
"Given under our signet, at our manor of St. James, the 26th day of May, the first year of our reign."
It was soon found necessary to cancel the permission for strangers to have access to the captive princess, and the Council accordingly wrote to Sir Henry:—
"And forasmuch as it appeareth hereby that such private persons as be disposed to disquiet will not let to take occasion if they may, to convey messages or letters in and out by some secret practice, her Majesty's further pleasure is for the avoiding hereof, that ye shall henceforth suffer no manner person other than such as are already appointed to, be about the Lady Elizabeth, to come unto her or have any manner, talk, or conference with her, any former instructions or letters heretofore sent you to the contrary notwithstanding."
Elizabeth made difficulties with regard to every detail of her custody, and the substitution of Marbery, although she was one of her own women, for Sands, was not effected without a struggle; but on the 5th June Sir Henry was able to report that: "The same was done this present day, about 2 of the clock in the afternoon, not without great mourning both of my Lady's Grace and Sands. And she was conveyed into the town by my brother Edmund, and by him delivered to Mr. Parry, who at my desire yesternight did prepare horse and men to be ready to convey her either to Clerkenwell beside London to her uncle there, or else into Kent, to her father, towards the which he promised she should go. This I do signify unto your lordships, because I think her a woman meet to be looked unto for her obstinate disposition."
In another very long letter he certifies that the princess has asked for an English Bible "of the smallest possible volume," desiring that he would send to her cofferer for one. But the cofferer replied that he had none at all, but sent a servant with three books, one of which contained the Psalms of David and the Canticles. Leave was given for her to have an English Bible, and for her to write to the Queen as she desired.
On the 12th June Sir Henry wrote to the Council a letter highly informative as to the difficulties of his position:—
"Pleaseth it your honourable lordships to be advertised, that the same day I last wrote unto you, my lady Elizabeth's Grace demanded of me whether I had provided her the book of the Bible in English of the smallest volume, or no. I answered, because there were divers Latin books in my hands ready to be delivered if it pleased her to have them, wherein as I thought she should have more delight, seeing she understandeth the same so well; therefore I had not provided the same, which answer I perceived she took not in good part, and within half-an-hour after that, in her walking in the nether garden, in the most unpleasant sort that ever I saw her since her coming from the Tower, she called me to her again, and said in these words: 'I have at divers times spoken to you to write to my lords of certain my requests, and you never make me answer to any of them. I think (quoth she) you make none of my lords privy to my suit, but only my Lord Chamberlain, who, although I know him to be a good gentleman, yet by age, and other his earnest business, I know he hath occasion to forget many things.' To this I answered that I did never write in her Grace's matter to any of you my lords privately, and said unto her Grace further, that I thought this was a time that your lordships had great business in,* and therefore her Grace could not look for direct answer upon the first suit. 'Well,' said she, 'once again I require you to do thus much for me, to write unto my said lords, on my behalf to be means unto the Queen's Majesty, to grant me leave to write unto her Highness with mine own hand, and in this I pray you let me have answer as soon as you can.' To this I answered: 'I shall do for your Grace that I am able to do, which is to write to my said Lords, and then it must needs rest in their honourable considerations whether I shall have answer or no,' since which time her Grace never spoke to me. Surely, I take it that the remembrance of Elizabeth Sands' departing, and the only placing Marbery in her room, clearly against her late desire, is some cause of her grief [grievance]."
* On account of the Queen's approaching marriage.
The effect produced by the princess's letter to Mary may be gathered from the following reply, written by the Queen to Sir Henry:—
"Marye The Quene. By the Quene.
"Trusty and well-beloved, we greet you well. And where our pleasure was of late signified unto you for the Lady Elizabeth to have licence to write unto us, we have now received her letters, containing only certain arguments devised for her declaration in such matters as she hath been charged withal by the voluntary confessions of divers others. In which arguments she would seem to persuade us, that the testimony of those who have opened matters against her, either were not such as they be, or being such should have no credit. But as we were most sorry at the beginning, to have any occasion of suspicion, so when it appeared unto us, that the copies of her secret letters unto us were found in the packet of the French ambassador, that divers of the most notable traitors made their chief account upon her, we can hardly be brought to think that they would have presumed to do so, except they had had more certain knowledge of her favour towards their unnatural conspiracy than is yet by her confessed. And therefore, though we have for our part, considering the matter brought to our knowledge against her, used more clemency and favour towards her than in the like matter hath been accustomed; yet cannot these fair words so much abuse [deceive] us, but we do well understand how these things have been wrought. Conspiracies be secretly practised, and things of that nature be many times judged by probable conjectures, and other suspicions and arguments, where the plain, direct proof may chance to fail; even as wise Solomon judged who was the true mother of the child by the woman's behaviour and words, when other proof failed and could not be had. By the argument and circumstances of her said letter with other articles declared on your behalf by your brother to our Privy Council, it may well appear her meaning and purpose to be far otherwise than her letters purported. Wherefore our pleasure is not to be hereafter any more molested with such her disguise and colourable letters, but wish for her that it may please our Lord to grant her His grace to be towards Him as she ought to be; then shall she the sooner be towards us as becometh her. This much have we thought good to write unto you, to the intent ye might understand the effect of those letters, and so continue your accustomed diligence in the charge by us committed to you.
"Given under our signet at the Castle of Farnham, the 25th day of June, the first year of our reign."
The gist of this letter was communicated to Elizabeth by Sir Henry in the manner he himself describes:—
"Yesterday I went to hear Mass in her Grace's chamber; that being ended, in the time of doing my duty, thinking to have departed from her Grace, she called me, and asked whether I had heard of any answer that was or should be made by the Queen's Majesty to her late letters. Upon which occasion, fitly as I took it, I made her Grace answer that I had to declare unto her an answer on the Queen's Majesty's behalf, whensoever she should command me. 'Let it be even now,' said her Grace. 'If you will,' I answered, 'because I was fearful to misreport; therefore I have scribbled it as well as I can with mine own hand, and if you will give me leave to fetch it,' and, being ready to go in to her Grace with it, I received word from her Grace by one of the Queen's Majesty's women to stay till her Grace had dined, and then she would hear it. Within a mean pause after dinner she sent for me, and having Mr. Tomiou in my company, who going with me into the outer chamber, there staying, I went in to her Grace, and required her if it so stood with her pleasure that he might hear the doing of the message. She granted it, and I called him in, and kneeling by with me, I read unto her Grace my message according to the effect of the Queen's Majesty's letter. After once hearing of it she uttered certain words, bewailing her own chance in that her Grace's letter, contrary to her expectations, took no better effect, and desired to hear it once again, which I did. And then her Grace said: 'I note especially to my great discomfort [which I shall, nevertheless, willingly obey] that the Queen's Majesty is not pleased that I should molest her Highness with any more of my colourable letters, which, although they be termed colourable, yet not offending the Queen's Majesty, I must say for myself that it was the plain truth, even as I desire to be saved afore God Almighty, and so let it pass. Yet, Mr. Bedyngfeld, if you think you may do so much for me, I would have you to receive an answer which I would make unto you touching your message, which I would at the least way, my Lords of the Council might understand, and that ye would conceive it upon my words, and put it in writing, and let me hear it again. And if it be according to my meaning, so to pass it to my lordships for my better comfort in mine adversity.' To this I answered her Grace: 'I pray you, hold me excused that I do not grant your request in the same.' Then she said: 'It is like that I shall be offered more than ever any prisoner was in the Tower, for the prisoners be suffered to open their mind to the Lieutenant, and he to declare the same unto the Council, and you refuse to do the like.' To this I answered her Grace that there was a diversity where the Lieutenant did hear a prisoner declare matters touching his case, and should thereof give notice unto the Council, and where the prisoner should, as it were, command the Lieutenant to do his message to the Council. Therefore, I desired that her Grace would give me leave with patience not to agree to her desire herein, and so departed from her Grace.
"Yesterday morning again, about x of the clock, in the time of her walk, she called me to her in the little garden, and said: 'I remember yesterday ye refused utterly to write on my behalf unto my Lords of the Council, and therefore, if you continue in that mind still, I shall be in worse case than the worst prisoner In Newgate, for they be never gainsaid in the time of their imprisonment by one friend or other to have their cause opened or sued for, and this is and shall be such a conclusion unto me, that I must needs continue this life without all hope worldly, wholly resting to the truth of my cause, and that before God to be opened, arming myself against whatsoever shall happen, to remain the Queen's true subject as I have done during my life. It waxeth wet, and therefore I will depart to my lodging again;' and so she did. Thus much concerning her Grace, I thought it my duty to give your lordships advertisement of, to be considered as it shall please your honours, clearly omitting any part of the message, and such which my lady's Grace would have had me to have taken upon me, and shall do so, unless I have the Queen's Majesty's warrant for the same."
This report had the desired effect, and the Council gave Sir Henry leave "to write those things that she shall desire you, and to signify the same to us of her Majesty's Council, sending your letters touching that matter enclosed in some paper directed to her Highness, so as she may herself have the first sight thereof."
Mary's next letter was personal to Sir Henry himself:—
"Trusty and right well-beloved, we greet you well. And where we understand that by occasion of certain our instructions lately given unto you, ye do continually make your personal abode within that our house at Woodstock, without removing from thence at any time, which thing might, peradventure in continuance, be both some danger to your health, and be occasion also that ye shall not be so well able to understand the state of the country thereabouts, as otherwise ye might; we let you wit that in consideration thereof; we are pleased ye may at any time, when yourself shall think convenient, make your repair from out of our said house, leaving one of your brethren to look to your charge, and see to the good governance of that house in your absence, so as, nevertheless, ye return back again yourself at night, for the better looking to your said charge. And for your better ease and recreation, we are, in like manner pleased that ye and your brethren may, at your liberties, hawk for your pastime at the partridge, or hunt the hare within that our manor of Woodstock, or any of our grounds adjoining to the same, from time to time, when ye shall think most convenient; and that also ye may, if ye shall so think good, cause your wife to be sent for, and to remain there with you as long as yourself shall think meet.
"Given under our signet at our Castle of Farnham, ye 7th of July, ye second year of our reign."
Elizabeth was not slow to profit by the permission obtained for her to write to the Council through the intermediary allowed, and Sir Henry's letter-book contains the following transcript of his report written in his own hand.
"My lady Elizabeth's Grace's suit:—
"My lady Elizabeth, this present 30th of July, required me to make report of her Grace's mind as her suit to your honours to be means to the Queen's Majesty on her behalf to this effect. To beseech your lordships all to consider her woeful case, that being but once licensed to write as an humble suitress unto the Queen's Highness, and received thereby no such comfort as she hoped to have done, but to her further discomfort in a message by me opened, that it was the Queen's Highness's pleasure not to be any more molested with her Grace's letters, that it may please the same, and that upon very pity, considering her long imprisonment and restraint of liberty, either to charge her with special matter to be answered unto and tried, or to grant her liberty to come unto Her Highness's presence, which she saith she would not desire, were it not that she knoweth herself to be clear, even before God, of her allegiance. And if also by your good mediations she might not enjoy the Queen's Highness's most gracious favour without any scruples or suspicions of her truth, she had rather willingly suffer this that she doth, and much more, than her Majesty should in any case be troubled or disquieted, touching her whose honour surely and preservation she saith she doth desire above all things in this world. Requiring me further to move chiefly as many of you my lords as were a Council, parties, and privy to and for the execution of the will of the King's Majesty her father, to further this her Grace's suit above said. And if neither of these two her suits may be obtained by your lordships for her, that then it might please the Queen's Highness to grant that some of you my lords may have leave to repair hither unto her, and to receive her suit of her own mouth to be opened. Whereby she may take a release not to think herself utterly desolate of all refuge in this world."
To this the Council made reply on the 7th August that "the Queen's Highness" would "take a time to consider, and at convenient leisure make such answer thereunto as shall be' necessary"; but Elizabeth's imperious temper brooked no delay, and Sir Henry was soon prevailed on to jog their lordship's memories:—
"Upon Friday last," he wrote, "my lady Elizabeth's Grace, in the time of her walk in the over garden here, in the forenoon of the same day, said unto me, 'I have very slow speed in the answer of any of my suits, and I know it is ever so, when that there is not one appointed to give daily attendance in suit-making for answer. And therefore,' saith she, 'I pray you let me send a servant of mine own to whom I will do the message in your hearing that he shall do by my commandment; and this I think,' said she, 'is not against the order and service appointed unto you.' To which I answered requiring her Grace to be contented, for I neither could nor would assent to any such her request. 'Then,' said she, 'I am at a marvellous afterdeal [disadvantage], for I have known that the wife hath been received to sue for her husband, the kinsman, friend or servant for them that hath been in the case I now am, and never denied.' To that I answered: 'I myself am of small experience in such case; that notwithstanding, I trust ye shall not be long, or my lords of the Council will remember your suit, and answer the same.'" And so her Grace ended.
Harsh as this refusal may appear at first sight, it must be admitted that Sir Henry, in reporting his conversations with Elizabeth to the Council often obtained for her if not exactly what she had asked for, at least some concession, which, had she been entirely in good faith, would have served her purpose as well. But in spite of her jailor's "scrupulousness " she contrived to communicate pretty freely by means of Parry, her cofferer, and others, with the outside world. Bolts and bars were ineffectual so long as those who surrounded her were willing intermediaries between her and the enemies of the queen, and Sir Henry knew it well. He desired nothing more than to be rid of his onerous charge, as is seen by the following letter to Thirlby, Bishop of Ely:—
"After my hearty commendations to your good lordship, so it is that as you do know, I have continued this service by the space of fifteen weeks, in care of mind and some travail of body, which I would be glad to make suit to be relieved of, if I might know it should be taken in good part. And having no friend whom I believe myself to be so assured of as your lordship, even thereupon I am bold by these heartily to desire your travail in my behalf [if it so stand with your good opinion] to the Queen's Majesty, to grant me my discharge from the same. Wherein I trust my Lord Chancellor* will join with you, if it content you to move him thereunto, who, by words of marvellous effect comprising both the Queen's commandment that I should enter into it, and his earnest request at that time also, did cause me to take in hand the same. And lest my, said Lord should forget, I pray you put him in remembrance that he had this talk with me upon the causeway betwixt the house of Saint James and Charing Cross. And what it shall content you to do for me herein, I shall desire you to be ascertained by your letters, upon the return of the messenger. I made late a suit to you for your house at Blackfriars, and received answer that you had otherwise disposed the same; yet remembering that you had an house of my Lord of Bath in Holborn, which, as the case now standeth, I think your Lordship will have little pleasure to use, and if, by your good mean, I might obtain the same at my Lord of Bath's hands, you should do unto me a great good turn, which have no house of refuge in London, but the common inn, and would be glad to give large money to be avoided of that inconvenience. And thus remaining at the Queen's Majesty's house of Woodstock [out of which I was never, by the space of six hours, sith my coming into the same], I leave to trouble your Lordship with this my rude writing.
"At the house aforesaid, the 16th day of August 1554."
* Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester.
But nothing came of his efforts to get himself released, and the unequal contest between his "scrupulousness," and Elizabeth's astute, unfathomable diplomacy was still to be waged for many months. Her request to be allowed to send a verbal message to the Council by one of her servants was indeed declined, but she received permission to commit her petition to paper. On the 20th September, Sir Henry wrote to the Council:—
Upon the return of my brother Edmund with your honourable letters dated at Hampton Court the 15th of this present month, I did take knowledge that your lordships had obtained of the Queen's Majesty that my lady Elizabeth's Grace might write unto your lordships, delivering the same unto me to be addressed unto your honours, inclosed in my letter, by one of her grace's extraordinary servants; whereupon the Monday, being the 17th day in the forenoon of the same, I declared that your lordships had granted her Grace's late desire in form above said, which was glad tidings as I took it. Yet her Grace at that time did neither command me to prepare things for her Grace to write with nor named who should be her messenger, and so I departed. Her Grace never spake words of that matter more till the Sunday following, in the time of her Grace's walk at the afternoon, at which time her Grace commanded to prepare her pen and ink and paper against the next day, which I did. Upon Monday in the morning her Grace sent Mistress Morton, the Queen's Highness's woman for the same, to whom I delivered a standsel [an inkstand] with five pens, two sheets of fine paper and one coarse sheet, enclosing the same with this request unto the said Mistress Morton, that she should make suit to my lady's Grace on my behalf, that it would please her Grace not to use the same but in the sight of Mistress Tomio or her. And the same Mistress Morton did this, and brought me word that her Grace had consented to my said suit, and that I should also send word unto Francis Verney, her Grace's ordinary servant lying in the town of Woodstock, with her cofferer to be messenger. Where I perceive they use as much privy conference to her Grace and from her as they list, even as I advertised your lordships long ago. The house also being a common inn wherein they do lie, and they so politic as they be, I can get no knowledge of their doings by any espyal; this only I am sure of they meet not together in person. At the afternoon, in her Grace's going to walk, I heard her say she had such pain in her head that she could write no more that day. Tuesday in the morning, as I learned of Mistress Morton, she washed her head."
On the 4th October he wrote to the queen:—
"May it please your Highness to be advertised that this great lady, upon whose person ye have commanded mine attendance, is and hath been in quiet state for the health of her body this month or six weeks, and of her mind declareth nothing outwardly by word or deed that I can come to the knowledge of, but all tending to the hope she saith she hath of your clemency and mercy towards her. Marry, against my lords of your most honourable Council I have heard her speak, words that declare that she hath conceived great unkindness in them, if her meaning go with her words, whereof God only is judge."
His task grew daily more complicated, and the next letter is a key to the situation:—
"My humble duty remembered unto your honourable Lordships, these shall be to advertise the same, that this present 21st day of October, my lady Elizabeth's Grace commanded me to prepare things necessary for her to write unto your lordships, whereupon I took occasion to declare onto her Grace that the express words of your honourable Letters, dated at Hampton Court, the 15th of September, did trot bear that the Queen's Majesty was pleased that her Grace, upon any occasion from time to time moving, and as often as it pleased her, might write unto you. And therefore I prayed her Grace to stay her determination therein until I might signify this my doubt unto your lordships, and receive your full and plain determination therein for my discharge; which my suit she took in so ill part that her Grace of displeasure therein did utter, with more words of reproach of this my service, about her by the Queen's commandment than ever I heard her speak afore: too long to write. At afternoon her Grace sent for me by Mrs. Pomeyow, and then in a more quieter sort, required me to write unto your honours, and thereby to desire the same to be means for her unto the Queen's Highness to grant that Drs. Wendy, Owen, and Huick, or two of them, may be licensed with convenient speed to repair hither, for to minister unto her physic, bringing of their own choice one expert surgeon to let her Grace's blood, if the said doctors or two of them shall think it so good, upon the view of her suit upon their coming . . . . Most heartily desiring your honours to return with the same your absolute opinions to the first matter which shall be done accordingly, with our Lord's leave and help, to understand your pleasures and commandments aright, which this great lady saith may have good meaning in me, but it lacketh knowledge, experience, and all other accidents in such a service requisite, which I must needs confess. The help only hereof resteth in God and the Queen's Majesty, with your honourable advice; from whence to receive the discharge of this my service, without offence to the Queen's Majesty or you my good lords, were the joyfullest tidings that ever came to me, as our Lord Almighty knoweth, to whom no secrets be hidden."
The physicians were sent to Woodstock, and Elizabeth was "let blood," Sir Henry testifying that "by her own commandment" he saw it done "by the bleeding of her army); and some hours later he saw her foot "stricken and bled, since which time, thanks be to God, as far as I see or hear she doeth reasonably well as that case requireth."
Some months later "the joyfullest tidings that ever came" were conveyed in a letter from the queen. It was the herald of his longed-for "discharge":—
"Marye The Quene. By the Quene.
"Trusty and well-beloved, we greet you well. And for as much as we have resolved to have the lady Elizabeth to repair nearer unto us, we do therefore pray and require you to declare unto her that our pleasure is she shall come to us to Hampton Court in your company with as much speed as you can have things in order for that purpose; wherein you shall not need to make any delay for calling of any other numbers than these, which be yourself and those now there attendant upon her. And of the time of your setting forwards from thence, and by what day you shall think you may be there, we require you to advertise us by your letters with speed.
"Given under our signet at our honour of Hampton Court, the 17th of April the 1st and 2nd of our reign."
On their arrival at court Sir Henry Bedingfeld was relieved, Sir Thomas Pope being appointed to replace him. Elizabeth was soon afterwards allowed to retire to Hatfield, where she remained under supervision till her accession. In the meanwhile, Bedingfeld was appointed Lieutenant of the Tower, and the following selection of letters from the family archives at Oxburgh not only affords us a further insight into his character, but shows at the same time in what manner the State prisoners were treated by the Queen, the Council, and the Lieutenant.
The two first letters relate to Sir John Cheke who, together with Sir Peter Carew, had been arrested in Flanders, and brought to the Tower for implication in Wyatt's rebellion. Carew was released in October 1555.
"Sir Robert Rochester to Sir Henry Bedingfeld.
"Mr. Lieutenant,—My Lord Cardinal his Grace* being gone to Lambeth of express purpose, there to have before him Mr. Cheke, hath required me to write unto you, and to require you that the said Mr. Cheke may be sent unto him unto Lambeth, in the company and with the Dean of Paul's. Wherefore I pray you take order with the said Dean so as he may convey him thither accordingly. The meaning is that no officer of the Tower should be troubled with his conveyance thither, but only the Dean to be charged by you with his person to bring to my Lord Cardinal's presence, and he to bring him again when it shall please my said Lord to command him, who hath the whole order and disposition of this case. This must be done when Mr. Dean he cometh to you for the man. And so bids you most heartily well to fare, from the Court this present morning, your assured friend, R. Rochester."
"Sir John Feckenham, Priest,* to Sir John Cheke.
* Abbot of Westminster, who was appointed to examine Cheke in matters of religion.
"Gentle Mr. Cheke,—It was this day somewhat past l0 of the clock before I could have any determinate answer of your coming unto the Court, which is now appointed to be at 2 of the clock in the afternoon. I shall send two of my servants to wait upon you from the Tower unto my house, at 1 of the clock, and from thence I will go with you unto the Court myself. I do think that Mr. Lieutenant is already put to knowledge thereof, but if it be forgotten give unto him this my letter, and he will not stay you. Your submission is very well liked, and the Queen's Highness hath seen the same, with which her Majesty has found no fault, but only that you had forgotten to make mention in the latter end thereof of the King's Majesty. And therefore you must write it all whole again, and in the latter end add these words which I have added touching the King's Majesty, or else everything is as it was in your own copy save that I added in one place the real presence of Christ's Body and Blood. I pray you leave not out these words, and at your coming I shall hear your cause, where notwithstanding your few lines which is wrote unto me thereof, be you of good comfort; all things are well, and imagined best for your furtherance. You have more friends than you be ware of. Thus fare you well, this present 5 of Sep. 1556, by your assured friend, John Fecknam, Priest.
"I pray you fail not to write it all again, and that as large and plain as you can, for I am commanded to request you that you duly so do."
Dr. Cheke, having proved his innocence of conspiracy to the satisfaction of the Council, and having recanted his heresy, was released, and "through the efficacy of his language," about thirty others followed his example, and saved their lives. He died the next year, the heretics said, of remorse for what he had done against the reformed religion.
Edward Lewkner, who according to Machyn's Diary had been groom-porter to Edward VI. and Mary, "was cast to suffer death" in the third year of Mary's reign for participation in the Dudley conspiracy. While in the Tower he fell so grievously ill as to excite the Lieutenant's compassion, and Sir Henry appears to have interceded with the Queen on his behalf.
"To the Right Worshipful Sir Henry Bedingfeld, Knight, Lieutenant of the Queen's Highness's Tower of London. Francis Malet, Priest.
"Right Worshipful,—After my hearty commendations these shall be to certify your Mastership that where your charity was declared in that it pleased you to take pains to declare by your wise and discreet letters the piteous state of Lewkner, your prisoner, I was thereby the more ready and yet not wanting the counsel of a counseller to move the Queen's goodness in the matter. And her Grace being content to take into her hands your letter, and going with it into her privy chamber, said she would consider the matter, and that I should learn what her Grace's resolute mind will be therein. And therefore to tarry this messenger any longer at this time I thought but folly, for that I shall be ready sooner at night if it please her Highness to understand what answer she will make to my suit; or if it will not be known this night, as I doubt, for her Grace is as it were ever defatigate with her late business in dispatching the King of Bohemia's ambassadors, I shall know as soon as I may what her Grace's determination shall be; and that known, I shall with all expedition intimate the same unto you, that so the poor man may be certified of her Grace's pleasure. And in the meantime I shall most heartily beseech your Mastership to continue your favour towards the man; and divers of those that be most nigh unto her Grace's person desire the same at your hands, and saith plainly that the Queen's Grace will not be discontent that he may have all the commodity that may be showed him for the recovery of his health within the Tower. I pray God show His will mercifully upon him, and I trust the Queen's goodness shall be extended withal unto him to his great comfort, as knoweth Almighty Jesus, who send you with much worship long to live and well to live in both soul and body. Scribbled in haste with the running hand of yours to command, Francis Malet, Priest."
The above letter is undated, but the sequel to the story is related by the Lieutenant himself in the minutes of a letter to the Council.
"Please it your Grace and my Lords to be advertised that this present Sunday, the 6th September, Edward Lewkner, prisoner, attainted by long sickness, departed this transitory life to God, about the hour of eight of the clock of the night. Who was a willing man in the forenoon of this day to have received the blessed Sacrament, but the priest that did serve in the absence of the . . . * did think him so well that it was meet to be ministered to him but after he had heard his confession. He did minister unto him the Sacrament of Oiling, or Extreme Unction, at the which I was present. Tomorrow I intend by God's grace to see him buried in form appertaining to his condition in life, as I have learned of those that have seen the like order. Instead of a will he charged me with his service to the Queen's Majesty, that it might please her Highness, after forgiveness of his offences towards the same, to vouchsafe to have pity of his wife and ten poor children, which I promised to do upon my next waiting upon her Majesty, humbly beseeching your Lordships all in time most meet to be good lords to the same his petition. And so as your poor beadsman I take my leave of you.
"From the Queen's Majesty's Tower of London 1556, the night aforesaid, about 11 of the clock.
* Illegible in the manuscript.
Many other letters among this collection give evidence of the kindness and pity bestowed by the Lieutenant on the prisoners in the Tower, and the consideration with which their friends were treated, these being admitted to see them whenever it was practicable. His relations with nearly all the members of the Privy Council were intimate and cordial, but perhaps his closest friend was Sir Henry Jerningham, who was not only a colleague, but the chosen companion of the rare occasions that were devoted to recreation and pleasure. Their two families had always been on terms of affectionate intimacy, although it was not until two generations later that they became allied by marriage, when Thomas Bedingfeld of Oxburgh, Sir Henry's grandson, married Frances, daughter and co-heir of John Jerningham of Somerleyton.
On the 16th February 1557, Sir Henry Jerningham, having occasion to write to the Lieutenant of the Tower on business, ended his letter thus:
"I do and will labour all that I can to have your company into Norfolk this Lent, to course the hare and hawk the heron. And thus I commit you to God, praying Him to send us our prosperity. Your assured friend, Henry Jerningham."
During the years 1553, 1554, and 1557, Sir Henry Bedingfeld sat in Parliament as one of the knights of the shire for Norfolk. In 1557 he succeeded Sir Henry Jerningham as Captain of the Yeoman of the Guard, at which time he was also made vice Chamberlain. But Mary's death in 1558 closed his public career, and he retired to Oxburgh, which, hemmed in on the south side by miles of fen country, was in those days for all practical purposes entirely cut off from the world. It was probably during a temporary absence, and when he was purposing to entertain guests in his beautiful Norfolk home, that the following letter was written to him presumably by his steward:—
To the right worshipful and my especial good friend Sir Henry Bedingfeld, Knight, be this delivered.
"Pleaseth it your Mastership that according to your Mastership's commandment, I did write to Mr. R and he was not at home. I shall go to him again, and you shall know by the next messenger; you shall understand what plate and bedding may be had at his hand. What number of capons and hens your Mastership would have me to provide I would desire to know by the next messenger. I doubt fat capons are hard to be gotten in these parts, therefore if you had any that were ready fed, or could get any that were fed in Suffolk they might be stayed till the time you should require them, and have them killed, and carried dead, and have again instead of them fine lean capons. Lean capons are at 8d. the piece, and 9d. and 10d. and 12d. Geese are at 6d. and 7d. a piece. Lean hens 4d. and 5d. Wild fowl was never so hard to be gotten. There is little taken; the fowlers do say the cause is the weather is so rainy, and there is as much wait laid for the getting of it as ever there was for my Lady's Grace and for divers others. I have done as much as I could to have gotten some for your Mastership, and for my masters your sons, and could get but six teals. Since Christmas there is sent you of your own hawk's killing, eleven teals, two mallards, and eleven bitterns. And I humbly take my leave of your Mastership. From Oxburgh, 20 of December 1563, by your poor servant,
It would not have been surprising if Sir Henry Bedingfeld had fallen more or less into disgrace at this time, for Elizabeth might now, if she had wished, made him feel the effects of his "scrupulousness" during the period of her captivity. The following letter from the queen shows, however, that such was not the case:
"To our trusty and well-beloved Sir Henry Bedingfeld, Knight.
"Elizabeth R By the Quene.
"Trusty and well-beloved, we greet you well. Like as we doubt not, but by the common report of the world, it appeareth what great demonstrations of hostility the French make towards this realm, by transporting great powers into Scotland, upon the pretence only of their going about the conquest of the same, so have we thought meet upon more certainty to us of their purpose, to have good regard thereto in time. And being very jealous of our town of Berwick, the principal key of all our realm, we have determined to send with speed, succours both thitherward and to our frontier, as well horsemen as footmen, and do also send our right trusty and entirely beloved cousin, the Duke of Norfolk, to be our Lieutenant-General of all the North, from Trent forward. For which purpose we have addressed our letters to sundry our nobility and gentlemen in like manner as we do this unto you, willing and requiring you as you tender and respect the honour of us and surety of your country, to put in readiness, with all speed possible, one able man, furnished with a good strong horse or gelding, and armed with a corselet, and to send the same to Newcastle by such day, and with such further order for the furniture as shall be appointed to you by our trusty and well-beloved Sir Edward Wyndham, Knight, and Sir Christopher Heydon, Knight, whom we have advertised of our further pleasure in that behalf. And at the arriving of the said horseman at Newcastle, he shall not only receive money for his route and conduct, but also beside his wage shall be, by the discretion of our said cousin of Norfolk, so used and entreated as ye shall not need to doubt of the safe return of the same, if the casualty of death be not impeached. And herein we make such sure account of your forwardness as we thereupon have signified among others to our said cousin this our appointment and commandment. So shall we make account of you in that behalf, whereof we pray you fail not.
"Given under our signet at our Palace of Westminster, the 25th day of September, in the second year of our reign."*
* The original letter is at Oxburgh.
It was in consideration of this or of some other service rendered about this time that Elizabeth granted to Sir Henry Bedingfeld and to his heirs for ever, the manor of Caldecot, in Norfolk "with the impropriation thereof."
An undated manuscript, preserved at Oxburgh, containing a plan of an itinerary for the queen's progress into Norfolk, would seem to support the tradition that Elizabeth visited that place. Perhaps she intended to visit it, for immediately after Walsingham, which then belonged to the Sidneys, occurs the sentence: "Thence to Oxburgh, Sir Henry Bedingfelds."* This document is printed in Blomefield's History of Norfolk, and the date assigned to it is 1578, presumably because this was the only time at which Elizabeth visited Norfolk. There are, however, no details of any visit to Oxburgh, and Dr. Jessopp, considering that the place was quite out of the line of progress, is of the opinion that she never went there at all.**
* The so-called Queen's room, a large apartment above that in which Henry VII. undoubtedly slept may, it appears to the present writer, have been occupied by Elizabeth of York, wife of Henry VII., who, it is well known, accompanied him on, at least, one pilgrimage to Walsingham. As she also was Queen Elizabeth, this may account for the tradition,
** One Generation of a Norfolk House, p. 61.
But there are other and more weighty reasons than those of distance for arriving at this conclusion. From the year 1569, when the foremost English Catholics attempted to liberate Mary Queen of Scots, the penal laws against Papists were redoubled in severity, and those who still clung to the old religion fell into disfavour. Elizabeth did indeed visit Euston Hall, near Thetford, in 1578, and Mr. Rookwood presumed to kiss her hand. But the Lord Chamberlain severely reprimanded him for so doing, sternly bade him stand aside, and charged him with being a recusant, unfit to be in the presence, much less to touch the sacred person, of his sovereign. He was required to attend the Council, under surveillance, and when he reached Norwich, in the queen's train, was committed to jail.
Many other recusants were treated in 1578 as Rookwood was. Two of the Lovells, Humphrey Bedingfeld of Quidenham, Sir Henry's brother, one Parry, and two others, "not worth memory for badness of belyffe," were confined in Norwich Castle" for obstinate papystrie."*
* Mason, History of Norfolk, p. 150.
"At Norwich, the Queen lodged at the bishop's palace, and spent her time, as far as the bad weather would allow, in listening to absurd speeches and witnessing grotesque pageants, but on the 19th August, she suddenly resolved to go a-hunting in the park of Cossey, five miles from Norwich, which belonged to Mr. Henry Jerningham, ancestor of the present Lord Stafford. Once more her host was a recusant, but this time it would have been too shameless to proceed against him. Mr. Jerningham had made himself very conspicuous in opposing the abominable attempts to set aside Mary and Elizabeth as heirs to the Crown at the death of Edward VI., and in return for his loyalty, had received this very domain of Cossey at Queen Mary's hands; but for him and his gallantry twenty years before, Elizabeth herself might never have been on the throne. So Mr. Jerningham was left unmolested at present, though his time was to come by-and-bye, and when three days after, the Council met and made order for the committal to jail of such of the Norfolk gentry as had not kept their church, and upon whom the hand of power had been so astutely laid, Mr. Jerningham's name was omitted, though his kinsman's, Mr. Bedingfeld's, name figures on the list, only to appear again and again hereafter."*
*One Generation of a Norfolk House, p. 62. Dr. Jessopp is mistaken in identifying this Mr. Jerningham with the friend and ally of Sir Henry Bedingfeld, who was associated with him in placing Mary on the throne. Sir Henry Jerningham died in 1572, aged 63, and Elizabeth's host at Cossey was his son.
Among the Acts of the Privy Council for 1578, it is stated that:—"This day [August 24th], there appeared before their lordships, as warned by the Sheriff of Norfolk, amongst persons refusing to come to the church within that county, Sir Henry Bedingfeld, Knight, and Edmund Wyndham, Doctor of the Civil Law, who, standing in their obstinacy in refusing to come to the church in time of prayer, sermons, and other divine service, were ordered, as others of the same sort before, at Norwich: Sir Henry Bedingfeld to be bound in 500 pounds, and Mr. Wyndham in 200 pounds, with the like conditions as they that were bound to remain in their lodgings at Norwich, as by their obligations remaining in the Council Chest it may appear. And for that their lordships were informed that divers of the household servants of Sir Henry Bedingfeld did and do refuse likewise to come to the church, it was ordered that the Lord Bishop of Norwich, or some person appointed by him, should visit his household, and so many of his said servants as should refuse to conform themselves to come to the church should be discharged by the said Bishop or his visitors, in that case, from his service."
The Council then wrote to two justices of the peace in Norfolk, ordering them to discharge Sir Henry's servants "that will not come to church as is above said, and that they be not maintained by the said Sir Henry Bedingfeld nor any other of their friends with any exhibition or otherwise, wheresoever they shall bestow themselves, nor that there be not any other servants admitted to serve Sir Henry Bedingfeld in any place or office about him that shall be suspected to be of that disposition in religion." On receiving an order to present himself before the Privy Council, Sir Henry, although suffering from illness, set out for London. This letter, signed by five of the members, met him on the road:—
"To our loving friend, Sir Henry Bedingfeld, Knight.
"After our hearty commendations. Whereas we are given to understand that upon some letters heretofore written, you are on the way repairing hither, forasmuch as we are informed by your son-in-law, Henry Seckford, that your sickness and infirmity is such as without danger you may not travel, we are very well contented if you shall not like to repair up, that you return again to the place where you were committed, there to remain until such time as further order shall be taken with you. And so fare you well.