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Reign of Henry the Eighth - (Concluded). page 21

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Whatever were the causes of this abrupt change, they were successful, and the cardinal and his friends, thus far triumphant, planned another conversion, that of Angus and his adherents. It certainly is greatly to the honour of Beaton and his friends, that instead of endeavouring to extirpate or ruin their opponents, they endeavoured on all occasions to win them over, and unite them in the great cause of the independence, and of what they believed to be the true religion of their country. But Angus and his party were not composed of the same yielding materials as Arran. They rejected the overture to attend the coronation of the young queen, and to assist, by their presence in Parliament, towards the restoration of the unity and peace of the country. Angus and his confederates spurned the pacific proposal, retired to Douglas castle, and there, in the midst of a strong force, drew up a covenant, pledging themselves to fulfil their engagements to Henry, and concerted measures for the destruction of their opponents. In proof of their sincerity they sent their covenant by Lord Somerville to the King of England. Meantime the regent summoned a new council, including the leaders of the Papist party, and swore to govern by their advice: the coronation took place at Stirling, and it was resolved that a convention should be summoned to meet at Edinburgh to settle all disputes with England relative to the non-performance of the treaty, in a calm and amicable manner.

Thus, once more there was an opportunity of Henry achieving the great object of the marriage of Prince Edward and the Scottish queen, but the violence of his temper again dashed down all hope of it. In his fury at these changes, he instantly dispatched a herald to Scotland, denouncing instant war if the treaties were not at once fulfilled. By him he sent a letter to the magistrates of Edinburgh, menacing them with a terrible retribution if they did not protect his ambassador from the wrath of the populace; and he ordered Sir Thomas Wharton to liberate certain chiefs of the Armstrongs, whom he had in prison, on condition that they should raise the borders, and make war on the estates of the lords who were opposed to him. At the same time he determined to muster his forces in the spring, and invade the country with an overwhelming power. Not all the experience of ages, in which the Edwards and the Henrys had endeavoured by the strong arm to force Scotland into subjection, availed to convince the haughty and unrestrainable spirit of Henry, that that country might be won by kindness, but could never be coerced by violence.

Cardinal Beaton, seduced by his success, relaxed something of his usual foresight, and thereby lost the adhesion of Lennox, who was guided entirely by personal considerations; and who, thinking himself not sufficiently regarded after his services to that party, went over to the side of England, thus immediately punishing Beaton for his neglect. It was Lennox who had arranged the negotiations with France, and by his advice the Sieur de la Brosse was sent to Scotland with a fleet bearing military stores, fifty pieces of artillery, and ten thousand crowns. Lennox, posted in the strong castle of Dumbarton, awaited the arrival of the ambassador, who presently cast anchor off the town. Lennox and Glencairn went on board the French fleet, and de la Brosse paid over the money, not knowing the change in the policy of Lennox, who secured the booty in the castle, and left the ambassador to discover the mistake at leisure.

But, though the money was lost, the presence of the French ambassador and of Grimani, the Papal legate, and, Patriarch of Aquileia, who accompanied him, wonderfully strengthened the Papal party, and revived the old predilection for France. The legate gave great entertainments during the winter; and Sadler informed Henry that such was the enthusiasm of the Scottish people for the French alliance, and their jealousy of England, that nothing but force would tell upon them. Henry waited with impatience the arrival of the time which should favour his vengeance on this refractory people; and, in the meantime, prosecuted, through his facile agent, Ralph Sadler, his usual attempts at corruption. Sadler entered into communication with the Scottish merchants whose vessels had been seized, and informed them that, if they would assist Henry in his designs on their native country, they should receive back their vessels and property. The base offer received an indignant reply; the honest merchants protesting that they would not only sacrifice their property, but their lives, rather than prove such traitors.

At the same time some of Henry's real traitors of a-higher rank were taken and exposed. The Lords Somerville and Maxwell, Angus's principal agents in his intrigues with England, were seized, and on them was discovered the bond signed at Douglas, pledging the disaffected nobles to assist Henry in the subjugation of their country, and letters disclosing the plans in agitation for the purpose. This roused the resentment of the regent and the cardinal. They summoned a Parliament to meet in December, in order to impeach Angus and his party of high treason. That chief immediately put himself in an attitude of war; his confederate barons assembled their forces, and Angus fortified himself in his strong castle of Tantallan, where Sadler took refuge, having forfeited every claim to the character of ambassador, and by the laws of every nation incurred the penalty of death for his practices while bearing that sacred office.

But the Scottish Government did not allow the traitors time to strike any effectual blow. Arran seized Dalkeith and Pinkie, two of the chief strongholds of the Douglases, and summoned Angus to dismiss Sadler from Tantallan. Immediately on the meeting of Parliament, Angus and all his party were declared traitors, and the treaty with England was declared at an end, in consequence of these attempts of Henry to corrupt the subjects of the realm, and his seizure of the Scottish; merchant-fleet, contrary to the faith of that treaty. The French ambassadors, De la Brosse and Mesnaige, were then introduced, who announced that Francis I. was anxious to sever the alliance betwixt the two countries, and offered immediate assistance to defend the kingdom and the queen against the usurpation of England - a country, it was truly said, which was always endeavouring to assert a superiority repugnant to every feeling of Scottish patriotism, whilst France desired nothing but the friendship of Scotland, and had on many occasions assisted it in its utmost need, to maintain its liberty and independence. The offer of Francis was accepted with enthusiasm, a select council was appointed to renew the treaty with France; Secretary Panter and Campbell of Lundy proceeded to the French Court; an envoy was dispatched to solicit the co-operation of Denmark, and others to the emperor and Duke of Bavaria, announcing the war with England, and requesting that on this ground, all molestation of the Scottish commerce should be abstained from. Hamilton, the abbot of Paisley, was appointed treasurer, in the place of Sir William Kirkaldy, of Grange, a partisan of England; and the cardinal was made chancellor of the kingdom, instead of the Archbishop of Glasgow.

Well would it have been for the fame and fortunes of the cardinal if these energetic measures had been the only ones; but, elated with the success of his plans, he gave a loose to his persecuting disposition, and lost his popularity with a large body of the people. It was now sixteen years since the burning of Hamilton, but since then Russell and Kennedy had suffered at the stake, and the memory of these things had made a deep impression on the public mind. Protestantism had grown and flourished on the ground fertilised by the ashes of martyrdom, and Beaton having now the power in his hands, and the opposition of Arran being removed by his conversion, the cardinal made a progress to Perth, to strike terror into the heretics. Four men, Lamb, Anderson, Ronald, and Hunter, were accused of heresy, one of them having interrupted a friar in his sermon, and others of having broken and ridiculed an image of St. Francis. They were hanged, Lamb at the gallows denouncing in strong terms not only the errors of Popery, but the well-known profligate life of the cardinal. But the fate of a poor woman, the wife of one of these martyrs, excited the deepest commiseration. She was charged with the heinous offence of refusing to pray to the Virgin during her confinement, declaring that she should direct her prayers to God alone. For this she was refused the poor satisfaction of hanging with her husband, but was drowned - the death of a witch. Taking the infant undauntedly from her breast, she cried out to her husband, "It matters not, dear partner; we have lived together many happy days, but this ought to be the most joyful of ill, when we are about to have joy for ever. Therefore, I will not bid you good night, for ere the night shall close, we shall be united in the kingdom of heaven."

The year 1544 found Henry bent on war both with Scotland and France. Francis had deeply offended Henry by disapproving of his divorce and murder of Anne Boleyn, and by his refusal to follow his advice in repudiating his allegiance to the Pope. Francis had declared that he was Henry's friend, but only as far as the altar. Charles V., aggravated as had been the conduct of Henry towards him, by his divorce of his aunt Catherine, and the stigma of illegitimacy which he had cast on her daughter, the Princess Mary, was yet by no means displeased to observe the growing differences betwixt Henry and his rival Francis. He therefore, like a genuine politician, dropped his resentment on account of Catherine, and professed to believe that it was time to bury these remembrances in oblivion. The only obstacle to peace betwixt them was the declared illegitimacy and exclusion from the succession of Mary. Henry lost no time in getting over this point. He had no need to confess himself wrong; he had a stanch Parliament who would do anything he required. Parliament, therefore, passed an Act restoring both Mary and Elizabeth to their political rights. Nothing was said of their illegitimacy, but they were restored to their place in the succession. Thus the Parliament had gone backward and forward at Henry's bidding, to such an extent, that now it was treason to assert the legitimacy of the princesses, and it was treason to deny it; for if they were illegitimate they could not claim the throne. It was treason to be silent, according to the former Act on this head, and it was now treason to refuse to take an oath on it when required. To such infamy did honourable members of Parliament stoop under this extraordinary despot.

This sorry "amende" being made, and accepted by the necessities rather than the will of the emperor, Henry and he now made a treaty on these terms: 1st. That they should jointly require the French king to renounce his alliance with the Turks, and to make reparation to the Christians for all the losses which they had sustained in consequence of that alliance. 2nd. That Francis should be compelled to pay up to the King of England the arrears of his pension, and give security for a more punctual payment in future. 3rd. That if Francis did not comply with these terms within forty days, the emperor should seize the duchy of Burgundy, Henry all the territories of France that had belonged to his ancestors, and that both monarchs should be ready to enforce these claims at the head of a competent army.

As Francis refused to listen to these terms, and would not even permit the messengers of the newly allied sovereigns to cross his frontiers, the emperor, who was now desirous of recovering the towns which he had lost in Flanders, obtained from Henry a reinforcement of 6,000 men under Sir John Wallop, who laid siege to Landreci; whilst Charles himself, with a still greater force, overran the duchy of Cleves, and compelled the duke, the devoted partisan of France, to acknowledge the imperial allegiance. Charles then marched to the siege of Landreci, and Francis approached at the head of a large army. A great battle now appeared inevitable: but Francis, manoeuvring as for a fight, contrived to throw provisions into the town and withdrew. Imperialists and English pursued the retiring army; and the English, by too much impetuosity, suffered considerable loss. Henry promised himself more decided advantage in the next campaign, which he intended to conduct in person. This he had not been able to make illustrious by his presence; for he had been busily engaged with his approaching marriage to a sixth wife.

The lady who had this time been elevated to this perilous eminence was the Lady Catherine Latimer, the widow of Lord Latimer, already mentioned for his concern in the Pilgrimage of Grace. She was born Catherine Parr, a daughter of Sir Thomas Parr, who claimed a long and honourable descent from Ivo de Tallebois, the Norman, of the time of the Conquest; and still more so from the Saxon wife of Tallebois, the sister of the renowned Earls Morcar and Edwin. His ancestors in after times included the great Nevilles, Earls of Westmoreland, the Beauforts, and, through the Lords de Roos, Alexander II. of Scotland. She was fourth cousin to Henry himself, but had been twice married previous to his wedding her. She was the widow of Lord Borough, of Gainsborough, at fifteen, and was about thirty when Henry married her, only a few months after the death of her second husband, Lord Latimer.

Catherine Parr, as she still continues to be called, was educated under the care of her mother at Kendall Castle, and Deceived a very learned education for a woman of those times. She read and wrote Latin fluently, had some knowledge of Greek, and was mistress of several modern languages. She is said to have been handsome, but of very small and delicate features. At all times she appears to have been of remarkable thoughtfulness and prudence, extremely amiable, and became thoroughly devoted to Protestantism; and she may, indeed, justly be styled the first Protestant Queen of England, for Anne of Cleves, though educated in the Protestant faith, became a decided Papist in this country. It was not till after the death of Lord Latimer that her Protestant tendencies, however, became known; yet then, she appears to have made no secret of them, for her house became the resort of Cover-dale, Latimer, Packhurst, and other eminent Reformers, and sermons were frequently preached in her chamber of state, which it is surprising did not attract the attention of the king. But it seems that his senses were too much fascinated by the charms of the handsome wealthy widow, to perceive the atmosphere of heresy which surrounded her. The fair historian of our queens has happily compared the elevation of the Protestant Catherine Parr to the throne of the persecuting Henry, to that of the Queen Esther by Ahasuerus; Protestantism in the one case, as the Jews in the other, was destined to receive its ultimate ascendency by this event; for Catherine Parr became the step-mother of Edward VI. and Queen Elizabeth, and their active instructress, and thoroughly imbued their minds with her new opinions and the knowledge of the Bible, though she could not effect the same result in the older and more fixed bosom of Mary. The circumstance is joyfully alluded to in the metrical chronicle of her cousin, Sir Thomas Throckmorton: -

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