Reign of Henry the Eighth - (Concluded). page 26
The cardinal, who had slept through the greater part of this time, at length awoke by the unusual bustle, threw open his chamber window and demanded the cause of it. The reply was that Norman Leslie had taken the castle, on which the cardinal rushed to the postern to escape; but finding it in possession of Kirkaldy, he returned as rapidly to his chamber, and, assisted by a page, pushed the heaviest furniture against the door to defend entrance till an alarm could be given. But the conspirators did not allow him time for that. They called for fire to burn down the door, and Beaton, finding resistance useless, threw open the door, when John Leslie and Carmichael rushed upon him, as he cried for mercy, and stabbed him in several places. Melville, however, with a mockery of justice, bade them desist, saying that though the deed was done in secret, it was an act of national justice, not that of mercenary assassins, and must be executed with all due decorum. Then, turning the point of the sword towards the wretched cardinal, he said, with formal gravity, "Repent thee, thou wicked cardinal, of all thy sins and iniquities, especially of the murder of Wishart, that instrument of God for the conversion of these lands. It is his death which now cries for vengeance on thee. "We are sent by God to inflict the deserved punishment. For here, before the Almighty, I protest that it is neither hatred of thy person, nor love of thy riches, nor fear of thy power, which moves me to seek thy death; but only because thou hast been, and still remainest, an obstinate enemy to Christ Jesus and his holy Gospel." With that he plunged his sword repeatedly into his body, and laid him dead at his feet.
By this time the workmen and attendants of the cardinal had spread the alarm through the town. The great bell was rung; the citizens rushed to the castle demanding the cardinal, but were told by Norman Leslie that they were a set of unreasonable fools to demand an audience of a dead man; and with that he hung the bleeding body on the wall, tied to a sheet, and bade them go every man about his business; having verified to the awe-struck multitude the words of Wishart at his execution, when seeing Beaton watching his approaching death from the castle, he said to the officer commanding the guard, "Captain, may God forgive yonder man who lies so proudly on the wall: within a few days he shall be seen lying there in as much shame as he now shows pomp and vanity." The conspirators having done their work, wrote to King Henry, in whose employ they were, informing him of the deed being accomplished, and offering to hold the castle for him.
In the whole round of history there is no transaction in which the evidence has been so clearly and fully preserved as this of the murder of Beaton, by the order of Henry VIII., through the agency of Sir Ralph Sadler, and by the hands of the men held in pay for this especial purpose by this Royal murderer. The whole of this strange evidence has now been published, and may be consulted by any one, in the State Papers published by Government, vol. v., part iv., and in Sadler's State Papers, vol. i. In these we have the whole bargaining for the murder, the refusal of the lords to do it without a distinct order from the king, and the reply of Sadler that the king's honour must be saved, but that they may rely upon him, and that the murder being done he will engage to pay the money, though he should do it out of his own pocket. The lords, however, were too cautious, and then the Laird of Brunston was employed. This man was originally a familiar and confidential servant of the cardinal's, and entrusted by him with his secret letters to Rome. It was, no doubt, on account of this knowledge of all the cardinal's most secret affairs, that he was selected. He was afterwards a secret agent of Arran, the governor, and after that was bought up by Sadler for Henry.
The death of Cardinal Beaton was at the same time the death-blow to the Papist Church in Scotland. Though he was a man of corrupt moral life, and of a persecuting disposition, he was one of the most able men of his time, and resisted the designs of Henry, for the subjugation of his native country, with a vigour and perseverance which made Henry feel that whilst he lived Scotland was independent. The death of Beaton, so ardently desired, and so highly paid for by Henry, did not, however, bring him nearer to the reduction of the country, or the accomplishment of his son's marriage with the queen. On the contrary, so intense was the hatred of him and of England, which his tyrannic and detestable conduct had created in every rank and class of the Scottish people, that these objects were now further off than ever. Henry's own embarrassments were, in consequence of his Scotch and French wars, become so intolerable, that he was compelled to make peace with France in the month of June, by a treaty called the Treaty of Campe, and to agree to deliver up Boulogne, on which he had spent vast sums in fortifications, on condition that Francis paid up the arrears of his pension, and to submit a claim of 500,000 crowns upon him to arbitration. Francis took care to have Scotland included in the peace, and Henry bound himself not to interfere with it except on receiving some fresh provocation.
The castle of St. Andrews, in which the murderers were enclosed, was besieged by Arran, the regent; and, supplied by England with money, engineers, and provisions, it held out for five months, when Francis sent over a fleet and army, with able engineers, who compelled the castle to surrender, and conveyed the murder-agents of Henry to France, where they were for some time employed as galley-slaves. The people of Scotland expressed their exultation over that event by a song, the burden of which was: -
"Priests content ye now,
Henry was now drawing to a close of that life which might have been so splendid, and which he had made so horrible. To the last moment he was employed in base endeavours to elude the peace which he had submitted to with Scotland; in the struggles betwixt the two great religious factions, and in still further shocking executions for treason and heresy. Henry himself was become in mind and person a most loathsome object. A life of vile pleasures, and furious and unrestrained passions, succeeded, as other appetites decayed, by a brutal habit of gormandising, had swollen him to an enormous size, and made his body one huge mass of corruption. The ulcer in his leg had become revoltingly offensive; his weight and helplessness were such that he could not pass through any ordinary door, nor be removed from one part of the house to another, except by the aid of machinery and by the help of numerous attendants. The constant irritation of his festering legs made his terrible temper still more terrible.
Of those about him, his queen, Catherine Parr, had the most miraculous escape. With wonderful patience, she had borne his whims, his rages, and his offensive person. She had shown an affectionate regard for his children, and had assisted with great wisdom in the progress of their education, living all the time as with a sword suspended over her head by a hair. She was devotedly attached to the reformed principles, and loved to converse with sincere Protestants. But two of the most bloody and relentless persecutors that the annals of the Church exhibit - Gardiner and Bonner, with their unprincipled confederate, Wriothesley - were always keeping strict watch over her with murderous eyes; and Cranmer, the head of the opposite party, was too timid for a moment's reliance upon him in the hour of danger. All the gaieties and fetes which in earlier days enlivened the Court were now suspended, and a silence as gloomy as the spirit of the tyrant who created it lay over the palace. Catherine spent her days in a hopeless yet patient endeavour to soothe her irascible consort, and even ventured to enter with him upon the discussion of religious topics. This was a most ticklish subject; for Henry, vain in every region of his mind, was vainest of all of his polemical powers. The "defender of the faith" was not likely to bear the slightest contradiction in such matters, least of all from a mere woman, as he designated his wife. It was not long before he burst forth upon the astounded queen, who no doubt had by far the best of the argument; for Catherine had gone thoroughly into the study of the Scriptures, and had had about her all those most conversant with them. She had made Miles Coverdale her almoner, and rendered him every assistance in his translation of the Bible. She employed the learned Nicholas Udall, Master of Eton, to edit the translations of Erasmus's "Paraphrases on the Four Gospels," which, according to Strype, she published at her own cost. Stimulated by her example, many ladies of rank pursued the study of the learned languages and of Scriptural knowledge. "It was a common thing," Udall observes, "to see young virgins so nouzled and trained in the study of letters, that they willingly set all other pastimes at nought for learning's sake. It was now no news at all to see queens and ladies of most high estate and progeny, instead of courtly dalliance, to embrace virtuous exercises, reading, and writing, with most earnest study, early and late, to apply themselves to the acquirement of knowledge."
Of this school, and on-e of Catherine's own pupils, was Lady Jane Grey; and another lovely and noble victim, Anne Askew, whose turn it was to fall under the destroying hand of Henry VIII. at this moment, was highly esteemed and encouraged by her. Anne Askew was the second daughter of Sir William Askew, of Kelsey, in Lincolnshire. She was married at an early age, and, as it is said, against her will, to a Mr. Kyme, a wealthy neighbour, who had been engaged to her elder sister, but was prevented marrying her by her early death. After having two children by Kyme, she left him, or, as other accounts have it, was driven out of his house by him, on account of her Protestant opinions, went to London, resumed her maiden name, and devoted herself zealously to the diffusion of the Scripture doctrines. She soon became acquainted with the most distinguished ladies of the Court. Lady Herbert, the queen's sister, the Duchess of Suffolk, and other ladies, were greatly interested in her. She had given books to the queen in the presence of Lady Herbert, Lady Tyrwhitt, and the youthful Lady Jane Grey. These circumstances marked her out to Gardiner and Bonner as just the person to implicate the queen, if they laid hands on her.
Anne Askew was, therefore, soon summoned before Bonner, Bishop of London, who terrified her into a recantation, and an acknowledgment of her faith in the doctrines of the Romish Church; but no sooner was she discharged than, despising herself for her weakness, she resumed her exertions for the spread of Protestant ideas, and spoke boldly against transubstantiation and other Popish dogmas. This soon brought her into custody again. She was examined before the Privy Council, when she defended herself so stoutly, and quoted Scripture so ably, that they committed her to Newgate, and soon after, she and some others were sentenced to death at Guildhall.
Whilst lying under sentence of death, they sent Shaxton, formerly Bishop of Salisbury, to her, to persuade her to renounce her faith and save her life. Shaxton, who had manfully resisted the passing of the Six Articles, called the " Bloody Statute," and had resigned his see on their being passed, had endured many years' imprisonment, and at length was condemned to the flames. This reduced his courage - probably his spirit being enfeebled by long confinement and suffering - and he recanted. But his arguments, and far less his example, could not influence Anne. She told him to spare his labour, and that it had been better for him if he had never been born. Finding this attempt useless, her tormentors removed her to the Tower, and there she was questioned by Gardiner and Wriothesley as to her connection with the ladies of the Court. She refused to implicate them. They then told her that the king was aware of her intercourse with several of the Court ladies, and she had better confess; adding, that if she had not powerful friends, how had she lived in prison? She replied that her maid had lamented her case to the apprentices in the streets, and they had sent her money. She had also received money in the name of ladies of the Court, but she had no means of learning whether it really came from them.
They then put her to the torture, and when Sir Anthony Knevet, the Lieutenant of the Tower, endeavoured to check the ferocious cruelty of Wriothesley, that base man, and the equally base Rich, threw off their coats, and applied their hands to the rack, till, as Anne herself declared, they well-nigh plucked her joints asunder.
When Sir Anthony Knevet saw this infernal work going on, he got into his boat, and hastened to inform the king of the shameful scene he had just witnessed. Henry pretended to be incensed at it; but so far from taking an^ steps to prevent this dastardly treatment of a noble and beautiful young woman, he is asserted, on contemporary authority, to have ordered the racking himself, m punishment of her bringing heretical books amongst the ladies of his Court.
Whilst Anne Askew's dislocated frame was one universal agony, and totally disabled, she was carried to the flames in Smithfield. With her were burnt John Lascelles, a gentleman of a good family of Nottinghamshire, and belonging to the Royal household; Nicholas Belenian, a Shropshire clergyman; and John Adams, a poor tailor of London. Shaxton, the fallen ex-Bishop of Salisbury, preached a sermon on the occasion, and Wriothesley, John Russell, and others of the council, came to witness the execution, and offered Anne the king's pardon if she would recant. She treated their proposals with scorn, and bore, says a spectator, "an angel's countenance, and a smiling face."
Sir George Blagge, and a lady named Joan Bouchier, were also condemned to die. But Joan Bouchier escaped till the next reign; and Blagge, who was a great favourite of the king, and called by him, in his jocose moments, his pig, was rescued by Henry learning his situation in time, and sending an angry message to Wriothesley for his release. On Blagge hastening into the king's presence to thank him, Henry exclaimed, "Ah! my pig! are you here safe again?" "Yes, sire," replied Blagge; "but if your majesty had not been better than your bishops, your pig had been roasted ere this time." Poor Anne Askew, not being able to act the pig, perished; and the sanguinary ministers of this sanguinary monarch now looked closer to the king's person for a fresh victim. "Gardiner," says a contemporary, "had bent his bow to bring down some of the head deer."
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