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Reign of Henry the Eighth - (Concluded). page 6


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And what strange consequences flowed directly from this judgment. If Anne never were legally married to Henry, then she could not have committed adultery against him. Then the sentence which condemned her for this was altogether an unrighteous sentence. If this judgment were valid, then all the treasons based upon the validity of the marriage were done away with; and the men now condemned, were condemned, even if guilty with Anne, yet without any guilt against the king or crown. But if the act of settlement remained good, spite of the judgment, then the judgment itself was a treason, for it had "slandered and impugned the marriage," a circumstance which the act of settlement pronounced to be most treasonable. But the law in this gloomy time was merely what the tyrant decreed, and all classes were alike paralysed by this terrific despotism. The Convocation and the Parliament confirmed the judgment of Cranmer, for they knew it was the judgment of the king.

On the same day that Cranmer pronounced this judgment, the condemned courtiers were executed, Smeaton, on account of the inferiority of his rank, was hanged; the other four were beheaded. Nothing was more remarkable in their deaths than that they all used an ambiguous sort of language in the few words which they addressed to the spectators, neither declaring themselves innocent nor guilty of the charge under which they Buffered. The leaden weight of despotism weighed on their very souls till the rope strangled or the axe fell; and even the four who had so stoutly all through denied their guilt, seemed on the scaffold almost half to admit it. Was it that they had been only allowed to address the spectators on condition of saying nothing in prejudice of the king; or was the report of the officials, which was entered on the records, garbled by them to please their crowned master? Lord Rochford, indeed, spoke out more distinctly than the rest, for he declared that he had "never offended the king," which was, in fact, most fully asserting his innocence. Rochford was a very accomplished man, and an elegant poet, some of his poems being published along with those of his friend Sir Thomas Wyatt. He is said to have sung, on the evening before his death, a very popular lyric of his, which yet remains, and which was most applicable to his situation: -

"Farewell, my lute, this is the last
Labour that thou and I shall waste,
For ended is that we began.
Now is the song both sung and past:
My lute, be still, for I have done."

Henry VIII. seemed to have a particular pleasure in destroying genius; and, if he had committed no other crimes, his murders of Sir Thomas More, Lord Rochford, and the Earl of Surrey would make his name execrable to all time.

Queen Anne had two more days allowed her, which she spent chiefly with her confessor in devotional preparation for her death. Amid her devotions, however, she was not insensible to her reputation, for she calculated strongly on Mark Smeaton doing her that justice on the scaffold for which the hope of life had made him too weak. But when she heard that he had not, she exclaimed indignantly, "Has he not, then, cleared me from the public shame he hath done me? Alas! I fear his soul will suffer from the false witness he hath borne. My brother and the rest are now, I doubt not, before the face of the greater King, and I shall follow to-morrow." Like her brother, she endeavoured to soothe her agitated spirit with poetry. The following stanzas, composed by her after her condemnation, show that she possessed talents too good to have been stifled in the Court of a sensual despot like Henry VIII.: -

"O Death, rock me asleep,
Bring on my quiet rest;
Let pass my very guiltless ghost
Out of my careful breast.
King out the doleful knell:
Let its sound my death tell, -
For I must die,
There's no remedy,
For now I die!
"My pains who can express?
Alas! they are so strong,
My dolour will not suffer strength,
My life for to prolong!
Alone, in prison strange,
I wail my destiny.
Woe worth this cruel hap, that I
Should taste this misery!
"Farewell, my pleasures past;
Welcome, my present pain:
I feel my torments so increase,
That life cannot remain.
Sound now the passing-bell,
Rung is my doleful knell,
For its sound my death doth tell.
Death doth draw nigh,
Sound the knell dolefully,
For now I die!"

Two stanzas, also said to have been written at the same time, express her sense of the infamy cast upon her, and her firm conviction that it would not endure: -

"Defiled is my name full sore,
Through cruel spite and false report,
That I may say, for evermore,
Farewell to joy; adieu, comfort.
"For wrongfully ye judge of me,
Unto my fame a mortal wound:
Say what ye list, it may not be,
Ye seek for that shall not be found."

With all the merits attributed to her as a Church reformer, Anne died a decided Roman Catholic. She not only made full use of confession, but also received the sacraments according to the doctrine of consubstantiation. One confession also she made, which showed that the memory of her rigorous treatment of the ill-used child of Catherine, the Princess Mary, lay heavily upon her in that hour. This is Speed's account of the circumstance: - -"The day before she suffered death, being attended by six ladies in the Tower, she took the Lady Kingston into her presence-chamber, and there, locking the door upon them, willed her to sit down in the chair of state. Lady Kingston answered, that 'it was her duty to stand, and not to sit at all in her presence, much less upon the seat of state of her the queen.' 'Ah! madam,' replied Anne, 'that title is gone: I am a condemned person, and by law have no estate left me in this life; but for clearing of my conscience, I pray you sit down.' 'Well,' said Lady Kingston. 'I have often played the fool in my youth, and to fulfil your command, I will do it once more in mine age,' and thereupon sat down under the cloth of estate upon the throne. Then the queen most humbly fell on her knees before her, and, holding up her hands with tearful eyes, charged her, 'as in the presence of God and his angels, and as she would answer to her before them when all should appear to judgment, that she would so fall down before the Lady Mary's grace, her daughter-in-law, and in like manner ask her forgiveness for the wrongs she had done her; for till that was accomplished,' she said, 'her conscience could not be quiet.'"

Friday, the 19th of May, was the day fixed for her execution, and on that morning she rose at two o'clock and resumed her devotions with her almoner. She sent for Sir William Kingston to be witness to her last solemn protest of her innocence before taking the sacrament. As Henry had wantonly tantalised her with the hope of life after her condemnation, he now again put her on the rack of suspense by leaving the hour of her execution uncertain. Servilely submissive as were all about him, the tyrant had yet his fears of the effect of this execution, for it was a piece of brutality which no king before him had attempted. There had not yet existed, in England a monarch so debased, so unmanly as to send his queen to the block under any circumstances, however aggravated. He therefore had apprehensions whether the public would tolerate such an outrage on the queen. To make all sure, he therefore not only ordered the execution to take place on the green, within the Tower walls, and all strangers to be excluded, but kept the hour unknown. The poor victim, worn out with suspense, sent for Kingston, and said, "Mr. Kingston, I hear that I shall not die before noon, and I am very sorry therefore, for I thought to be dead by this time, and past my pain." Kingston assured her that "the pain would be little, it was so subtle." She then said, "I have heard say the executioner is very good, and I have a little neck," putting her hands about it, and laughing heartily. Kingston, in his report to Cromwell, said that he had seen both men and women executed, and they had been in great sorrow; but that the queen, to his knowledge, "had much joy and pleasure in death."

A few minutes before twelve o'clock she was led forth by the Lieutenant of the Tower to the scaffold. There she saw amongst the few spectators admitted, the Duke of Suffolk, one of her most spiteful enemies, come to feast his eyes on her blood, with the Duke of Richmond, Henry's natural son, and Cromwell, who, though he had risen chiefly by her means, was one of the most willing instruments of her death. Probably the consciousness that the manner in which she met her death would be carried by those courtiers to the king, might have given Anne additional power to go off the stage with the dignity becoming a queen. She had a rich colour in her cheeks, and a bright splendour of the eyes, which astonished the spectators. "Never," said a foreign gentleman present, "had the queen looked so beautiful before." Her composure was equal to her beauty. She removed her hat and collar herself, and put a small linen cap upon her head, saying, "Alas! poor head, in a very brief space thou wilt roll in the dust on the scaffold; and as in life thou didst not merit to wear a crown, so in death thou deserved not better doom than this." She then took a very affectionate farewell of her ladies. The speech which she is said to have addressed to the spectators is differently related, and probably was reported so as to suit the ears of the tyrant who was to hear it. In the shortest, she is made to say: - ''Masters, I here humbly submit me to the law, as the law hath judged me; and as for my offences (I here accuse no man), God knoweth them. I remit them to God, beseeching him to have mercy on my soul; and I beseech Jesu save my sovereign and master, the king, the most goodliest, noblest, and gentlest prince that is, and make him long to reign over you." The latter part of this speech was clearly got up by Cromwell, or some other of the sycophant spectators, or in Anne is a severe irony. It is certain that she sent the king a very cutting message before her death, for it was enclosed in her letter which we have given, by Cromwell, in whose possession it was found. "Commend me to His Majesty, and tell him he hath ever been constant in his cause of advancing me. From a private gentlewoman he made me a marchioness, from a marchioness a queen; and now he hath left no higher degree of honour, he gives my innocency the crown of martyrdom."

Having given to Mary Wyatt, the sister of Sir Thomas Wyatt, who attended her through all her trouble, the little book of devotions which she held in her hand, and whispered to her some parting words, she laid her head on the block, one of the ladies covered her eyes with a bandage, and saying, "O Lord, have mercy on my soul," the executioner, who had been sent for from Calais, severed her head from her body at one stroke with, a sword. Her body was thrust into a chest used for keeping arrows in, and buried in the same grave with that of her brother, Lord Rochford, no coffin being provided.

"We have been necessarily led to observe the weak and defective side of Anne Boleyn's character, in tracing her progress. Her ambition, her levity, her little regard for the feelings and patience of her Royal mistress, her regardlessness of her good fame by living so openly with the king before their marriage, and her great culpability in marrying him whilst the real queen was not only still living, but undivorced, exhibit her but as a worldly woman of a conduct most censurable. But we should do violence to historic impartiality if we did not also bear witness that she had a better side to her character, better feelings in her heart. Though she never was a Protestant, however much a certain party may labour to represent her as such, but conformed to all the rites and maintained all the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church to the last, yet she was at the same time kindly disposed towards the Reformers, and was not only a reader of the Bible in Tyndal's translation, but is said to have recommended its perusal to the king - to very little purpose, it must be confessed. She rescued the good and simple Hugh Latimer from the persecuting clutches of Stokesley, the Bishop of London, received him, and listened to his preaching, made him her chaplain, and, it is said, became much more serious and considerate of others under his faithful guidance. She got him. promoted to the see of Worcester, and showed the effect of his more enlightened Christian philosophy upon her, by setting aside a certain portion of privy-purse allowance to establish manufactures for the permanent support of the people, and for relieving those she could not employ in every parish in the kingdom. In | alms alone, within the last nine months of her life, she distributed 14,000, and selected young men of talent, and sent them to college at her own expense, that they might become able ministers in the Church.

The Royal rank for which she sacrificed her conscience and her life she possessed but three years, for it was on the 28th of May, 1533, that Cranmer declared her marriage lawful, and on the 19th of May, 1536, she perished on the scaffold, being only thirty-six years of age. The scandalous haste with which Henry pushed on her final tragedy has been well expressed by Bishop Godwin. " The Court of England was now like a stage, whereon are represented the vicissitudes of ever-various fortune; for within one and the same month, it saw Queen Anne flourishing, accused, condemned, executed, and another assumed into her place, both of bed and honour. The 1st day of May she was, it seems, informed against; the 2nd, imprisoned; the 15th, condemned; the 17th, deprived of her brother and friends, who suffered in her cause; and the 19th, executed. On the 20th the king married Jane Seymour, who, on the 29th, was publicly showed as queen."

But what marks how thoroughly Henry VIII. was by this time sunk from the grade and spirit of the man he was into a gross and ferocious animal, destitute it would seem of humanity, and even the consciousness of decency, was the manner in which he watched for and observed the solemnity of his wife's death. On the morning appointed for her execution, he clad himself in white, and went to hunt in Epping Forest. During breakfast, he was observed by his attendants to be silent, fidgety, and impatient. At length they heard the preconcerted signal, the report of a gun at the Tower - when he started up, crying, "Ha! it is done! The business is done! Uncouple the dogs, and let us follow the sport!" In the evening he returned gaily from the chase, and on the following morning he married Jane Seymour!

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