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Reign of Henry the Eighth - (Concluded). page 16

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The old Dowager-Duchess of Norfolk was next brought into trouble. On hearing of the arrest of the queen, Derham, and Culpepper, the old lady taking alarm lest some boxes of Derham's, remaining in her house, should contain any papers which might implicate herself or the queen, instantly broke them open, and carried off and destroyed the contents. The Duke of Norfolk was dispatched by the king to the house of his step-mother, in Lambeth, to search for papers and effects belonging to Derham; and on arriving, and finding what the old duchess-dowager had done, he arrested her and all her servants, and brought them before the council. The evidence thus obtained amounted to this: - That the duchess had sent her confidential servant, Pewson, to Hampton Court, to learn what had taken place, - who returned, bringing word that the queen had played the king false with Derham, and that Catherine Tylney was privy to her guilt; that on hearing this the old lady said she could not believe it, but if it were true, they ought all to be hanged. She had also questioned Damport, the friend of Derham, expressing great alarm lest some mischief should befall the queen in consequence of evil reports, and gave him £10, as if to purchase his discretion.

The old lady confessed to having broken open the coffers, and taken away the papers in the presence of Ashby, her comptroller, and Dunn, the yeoman of her cellar; and Ashby said that she had remarked, "That if there were no offence since the marriage, the queen ought not to die for what was done before;" and had asked whether the pardon - but what pardon is not explained - would not secure other persons who knew of her conduct before marriage.

On the 31st of November, Culpepper and Derham were arraigned for high treason in Guildhall, contrary to all previous form or usage of law. Probably the case was taken out of the boundaries of the court, and tried before the City magistrate, to give it an air of impartiality; but with the Lord Mayor sat, as judges, the Lord Chancellor, the Duke of Suffolk, the Lord Privy Seal, the Earls of Sussex and Hertford, and others of the council. Some of these great officers of state had already examined the prisoners by torture, and they now condemned them, as guilty of high treason, to die with all the cruelties attached to the punishment of that crime. Instead of immediately suffering, however, they were reserved for fresh examinations by torture, in order, if possible, to criminate the queen. But no tortures, however terrible, could draw from these men any confession criminating the queen since her marriage. Damport, the friend of Derham, was also put to the torture, and had his teeth forced out by the brakes, an instrument supposed to be the same as "the Duke of Exeter's daughter." All that they could force from him was that a lady in the queen's chamber once, pointing to Derham, had said, "That is he who fled away to Ireland for the queen's sake." On such pretence of evidence these two gentlemen were executed at Tyburn, on the 10th of December; Culpepper being beheaded, and Derham hanged and quartered. Their heads were placed on London Bridge.

But Henry and his ministers were not satisfied with the death and confiscation of the property of the principals in this affair; they carried their intentions of confiscation and crimination as far as possible amongst the queen's relations. Not only the aged Duchess of Norfolk, but her son, the Lord "William Howard, his wife, and Lady Bridge water, Lord William's sister, were arrested on the charge of being aware of the amours of Derham and the queen. The Howard family had cause, indeed, to rue their too near proximity to this modern Nero of a king; for, besides all these arrested and imprisoned members of it, whose property was seized upon with infamous avidity, Lord Thomas Howard, another brother of Lord William, and uncle of the queen, was thrown into the Tower, and punished for the grievous offence of having dared to make love to Margaret Douglas, the king's niece, daughter of Margaret of Scotland; and before the king's death, he completed the tragedy by dipping his hands in the blood of the Earl of Surrey, the eldest brother of this nobleman, and a man whose poetic talents have made him one of the great names of England.

It is most revolting to contemplate the eager greed with which Henry and his bloodhounds, Wriothesley and Rich - whom a modern historian truly describes as "the two most unprincipled and sanguinary of the whole swarm of parvenus of whom Henry's cabinet was composed" - fell on the property of these noble victims; for Henry always had an eye to making his butchery profitable. The king's council expressed their fears, in a letter to the king, that, "as the Duchess of Norfolk is old and testy, she may die out of perversity, to defraud the king's highness of the confiscation of her goods; therefore, it will be most advisable that she, and all the other parties named in a former letter, may be indicted forthwith of misprision of treason, whereby the Parliament should have better grounds to confiske their goods, than if any of them chanced to die before the bill of attainder passed."

Southampton, Wriothesley, and Sadler were sent to search the house of the old duchess; and, on the 11th of December, they wrote triumphantly to say that they had discovered 2,000 marks in money, and plate of the value of 600 or 700 marks. On the 21st they wrote again, to announce that the old duchess, who was very ill, had voluntarily confessed where she had hidden 800 marks more. Thinking now that they had discovered all they could, they told the old lady that the king had graciously consented to spare her life; for all this money these inquisitors had squeezed out of her under the fear of death. The poor tortured invalid, on hearing that, fell on her knees with uplifted hands, and fell into such a paroxysm of hysterical weeping, that these tender-hearted commissioners were "sorely troubled to raise her up again."

Meantime, Sir John Gorstwick and John Skinner were sent off to Ryegate, to the house of Lord William Howard, to make an inventory of all the money, jewels, goods, and chattels they could find there, and bring the same to the Council. Wriothesley, Mr. Pollard, and Mr. Attorney were dispatched to the Duchess of Norfolk's and Lord William's house in Lambeth, for the like purpose; Sir Richard Long and Sir Thomas Pope to the Lady Bridge -water's houses in Kent and Southwark, and the Countess of Rochford’s house at Blickling, in Norfolk: the Duchess of Norfolk's house at Horsham had been already ransacked.

But how had it fared with the queen herself, whilst so many were undergoing imprisonment, torture, and loss of property on her account? When first informed of the change, Catherine, who had the fate of Anne Boleyn before her eyes, like Anne, endeavoured to get to the presence of the king and plead her own cause; but care was taken to prevent this. She was as effectually a prisoner in her own rooms at Hampton Court, as if she were already in the Tower. She is said to have called frantically and incessantly on Henry, and demanded to be allowed to go to him; and she made two desperate attempts to break away and reach him. The first time was at the hour when she knew that he was in the royal closet in the chapel. She rushed from her bedroom into the queen's entrance to the royal closet in the chapel, and was but just seized in time, and prevented bursting in and throwing herself at her husband's feet. She was forced, and even carried back, struggling violently, and screaming so wildly that her cries were heard all over the chapel. Another time she escaped through a low door in an alcove at the bed's head, and reached the foot of the private stairs, called "the maid of honour's stairs," before she was overtaken and secured. Though these demonstrations of excitement almost to madness did not move the king to see her, they probably occasioned him to make his precipitate retreat to Oatlands.

No sooner was he gone, than the council waited upon her in a body, and laid the charge against her specifically before her. She denied the truth of it with such vehemence, that no sooner were they gone than she fell into fits so terrible that her reason and her life were deemed to be in jeopardy. On hearing this, the king sent Cranmer to her in the morning, promising her that if she would confess her guilt he would spare her life, though it was forfeited by law.. This was a favourite mode of proceeding with Henry - to promise his victims pardon if they would criminate themselves; the certain consequence of which, the unhappy parties must have felt, would, on the contrary, at once send them to death. He who did not spare the innocent, though they protested their innocence, was not likely to do it if they admitted that they were guilty. We have Cranmer's letter to the king in the "State Papers," detailing the mode which he pursued with the wretched queen on this occasion, and verily his management was that of a wily inquisitor. Ho states that he found her "in such lamentation and heaviness that he never saw no creature, so that it would have pitied any man's heart in the world to have looked upon her." On his second visit, the rage of her grief had been such, that he found her, "as he supposed, far entered; towards a franzy" that is, she was on the verge of madness; and, therefore, before attempting to draw any confession from her, he was obliged first to give her, he says, the assurance of the king's mercy; whereupon she held up her hands and gave most humble thanks. But she soon relapsed into what Cranmer calls "a new rage much worse than before;" and he adds - "Now I do use her thus: when I do see her in any such extreme braids, I do travel with her to know the cause, and then, as much as I can, I do labour to take away, or at least to mitigate the cause, and so I did at that time. I told her there was some new fantasy come into her head, which I desired her to open unto me; and after a certain time, when she had recovered herself that she might speak, she cried and said, 'Alas! my lord, that I am alive! The fear of death did not grieve me so much as doth now the remembrance of the king's goodness,'" &c.

It must not be forgotten that it was this same Cranmer who had made this very charge against her; who had brought her, to save himself and party, into this awful predicament, and who was now wilily seeking to draw from her what should condemn her. In this softened state, therefore, she confessed her frailty before marriage - years before - with Derham, but protested her entire innocence since the marriage. It was - and that Cranmer full well knew - resolved to take the queen's life. The report of the Privy Council is express on that head. If a pre-contract of marriage betwixt Catherine and Derham were pleaded, then there could be no adultery - no high treason, the marriage would be null, and the queen could be properly divorced; but there could be no just ground to take her life. To avoid this, it was determined to steer clear of this pre-contract, though, according to the custom of the times, such contract, though a verbal one, clearly existed, and was provable by various witnesses. Knowing this, the privy council report states: -

"It is the king's resolution to lay before the Parliament and judges the abominable behaviour of the queen, but without any mention of pre-contract to Derham which might serve for her defence, but only to open and make manifest the king's highness's just cause of indignation and displeasure. Therefore the king's majesty willeth, that whosoever among you know, not only the whole matter, but how it was first detected, by whom, and by what means it came to the king's majesty's knowledge, with the whole of the king's majesty's sorrowful behaviour and careful proceeding in it, should, upon the Sunday coming, assemble all the ladies and gentlewomen and gentlemen being in the queen's household, and declare unto them the whole process of the matter, except that ye make no mention of the pre-contract, but omitting that, set forth such matter as might confound their misdemeanour." This was the system now pursued; there was to be obtained every point to prove adultery with Derham, and all mention of a pre-contract was to be carefully suppressed. It was alleged as a crime, as it certainly was a gross imprudence, that Catherine had allowed Derham to return from Ireland, and enter the king's household; but as nothing could be brought to bear against Derham, the charge was shifted to Thomas Culpepper, the queen's cousin.

It was alleged that an intrigue was going on betwixt the queen and Culpepper on the northern progress, at Lincoln and York, and that one night Culpepper was in the same room with the queen and Lady Rochford for three hours. But when it was attempted to establish this fact on the evidence of women in attendance, Catherine Tylney and Margaret Morton, this evidence dwindled to mere surmise. Tylney deposed that on two nights at Lincoln, the queen went to the room of Lady Rochford, and stayed late, but affirmed "on her peril that she never saw who came unto the queen and my Lady Rochford, nor heard what was said between them." Morton's evidence amounted only to this, that, at Pontefract, Lady Rochford conveyed letters betwixt the queen and Culpepper, as was supposed; and one night when the king went to the queen's chamber, the door was bolted, and it was some time before he could be admitted. This circumstance must have been satisfactorily accounted for to Henry at the time, jealous person as he was, yet on such paltry grounds was it necessary to build the charge of criminal conduct in the queen.

In the midst of the proceedings against the queen, an extraordinary circumstance took place. The Duke of Cleves, thinking Catherine certain to be executed, made haste to propose the restoration of his sister Anne. He sent over an ambassador, giving him letters from Oslynger, his vice-chancellor, to Cranmer and the Earl of Southampton, entreating them to lay the matter before the king. But this was a hopeless business; Henry had never liked Anne from the first, and would never consent to take a woman who was disagreeable to him a second time. Cranmer, with his timid nature, fought shy of the affair, telling the ambassador curtly, that it was a matter of great importance, and that he must pardon him, but he would have nothing further to do with it but to lay it before the king, and give him his answer. Of course the answer came to nothing.

The condemnation of Catherine now made rapid progress. No man was more her enemy than her own uncle, the Duke of Norfolk. This nobleman displayed an especially mean and dastardly nature on this as on other occasions. He had assisted in dethroning and destroying his other niece, Anne Boleyn, insulting her in the midst of her misery, and presiding at her trial with a callous and revolting arrogance. He now turned with the same vile readiness against the whole of his immediate family who were involved in the queen's disgrace. His stepmother, the old duchess, his brother, Lord William, his sister, the Lady Bridgewater, and the queen, his niece, were all given up to destruction by him with a trembling anxiety to flatter the bloody and rapacious king, and save himself, which no honest mind can read without indignation and the profoundest contempt.

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