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Reign of Edward VI page 10


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But, instead of coming, Warwick and his party ordered the Lieutenant of the Tower, and the Lord Mayor and aldermen, to be summoned, who duly attended and proffered their obedience. They then dispatched letters to the nobility and gentry in different parts of the kingdom, informing them of their doings and the motives for it. Alarmed at this aspect of affairs, Somerset conveyed the king to Windsor, under escort of 500 men; Cranmer and Sir William Paget alone, of all the Council, accompanying them. King Edward, in his journal, says, "The lords sat in open places of London, calling for gentlemen before them, and declaring the causes of accusation of the Lord Protector, and caused the same to be proclaimed. After which time few came to Windsor, but only mine own men of the guard, whom the lords willed, fearing the rage of the people so lately quieted. Then began the Protector to treat by letters, sending Sir Philip Hoby, lately come from his embassage in Flanders, to see to his family, who brought on his return a letter to the Protector, very gentle, which he delivered to him; another to me, another to my house, to declare his faults, ambition, vain-glory, entering into rash wars in my youth, negligent looking on Newhaven, enriching himself of my treasure, following of his own opinion, and doing all by his own authority."

Somerset at first resolved to defend himself by arms; he surrounded himself with troops, and wrote to Lord Russell to hasten up out of the west, where he yet remained, with all the power that he could. But his heart failed him, and the next day he wrote to the lords of the Council, stating that if they meant no harm to the Royal person, the king was prepared to hear anything which they desired to lay before him. This sudden evidence of timidity, after a show of preparations for resistance, at once opened the eyes of the Council to the fact that the Protector succumbed before them. They treated his letter with contempt, giving it no answer, but proceeded to the house of the Lord Mayor, whence they issued a proclamation accusing him of evil and malicious designs, of being the occasion of the late insurrection, of the losses in France, his arrogance and vain-glory, especially as shown in his sumptuous and costly buildings during the king's troubles at home and abroad, leaving his majesty's soldiers unpaid, sowing dissension betwixt the nobles and gentlemen and the Commons, with various other misdemeanours, for which they pronounced him a great traitor, and called upon the Lords and Commons to aid them in removing him from the king.

Somerset, growing more faint-hearted at these proceedings, then made a vain appeal to Warwick, reminding him of their friendship from their earliest youth, and of the manner in which he had always promoted his interests. So far from this producing any effect, the Protector's pusillanimity only hastened his fall. His only friends, on whom he had relied - Lord Russell, Sir John Baker, Speaker of the House of Commons, and three more gentlemen, who had hitherto remained neutral - went over to Warwick, who was regarded as the certain successor of Somerset.

The scene now rapidly darkened round the Protector. Not a single adherent had come to Windsor, and the leaders of the hostile party now amounted to two-and-twenty of the councillors and executors of the late king. Warwick, at their head, demanded that Somerset should resign his office, dismiss his forces, and be contented to be ordered according to justice and reason. Somerset pre tended to the king that he was willing to leave the settlement of all disputes betwixt himself and the lords of the Council to four arbitrators, two to be chosen by each party. This offer was conveyed to them in a letter from Cranmer, Paget, and Secretary Smith; stating, moreover, that a report had reached them that there was a design upon the life of the duke, and therefore it was necessary that it should be known, before he resigned his office, on what condition the resignation was required. The king also added a letter, requiring the lords "to bring these uprores unto a quiet," and reminding them that what ever were the crimes which the Protector was charged with, it was in his power, as king, to grant him a pardon. The lords, conscious of their strength, whilst they disclaimed all vindictive motives, insisted on an unconditional surrender.

Convinced that it was useless to contend long with his adversaries, an order was issued inviting the Council to Windsor, whither the members repaired; and on the 13th of October they met, and called before them Mr. Secretary Smith and others of Somerset's servants, whom they committed. The next day the Protector was sent for, and twenty-nine articles of treason and misdemeanour were exhibited against him, upon which he was ordered to be committed to the Tower. He was conducted thither on horseback by the Earls of Essex and Huntingdon, accompanied by several other lords and gentlemen, and an escort of 300 horse, the lord mayor and aldermen keeping guard in the streets as he passed. King Edward was at the same time reconducted from Windsor to Hampton Court.

It may be supposed that the imprisonment of Somerset created a great alarm amongst the Reformers. Warwick was known to be an adherent of the old faith, and it was feared that both his ambition and his religious zeal might lead him to seek the execution of Somerset, and with that the restoration of Papacy. But Warwick was too unprincipled a man to sacrifice any interest for religion, and he was aware that not only the king, but a strong body of the nobility, were zealous for the Reformed Church. He soon learned that the young king looked with aversion to the shedding of the blood of another uncle, and he acted accordingly. He affected to be perfectly indifferent to the decisions of the Council or of Parliament, so that they were for the public good. When Parliament met on the 4th of November, he seldom attended in his place, professing to leave the members to their full freedom of opinion; and their acts soon went to reassure the hopes of the Reformers. They immediately passed a bill, making it felony for more than twelve persons to meet for the object of asserting the right to commons or highways, for lowering the rents of farms or the prices of provisions, or for breaking down houses or parks, if they did not disperse within an hour after an order to do so from a magistrate, sheriff, or bailiff. If the object of the assembly was to alter the laws, or to kill or imprison any of the king's Council, it became treason.

This was followed at Christmas by various fresh enforcements of the new order of things. A circular letter was addressed to the clergy commanding them to deliver up all the books of the ancient service, that they might be destroyed; and lest this should not be fully complied with, an Act of Parliament was passed making it punishable for any one, clergyman or layman, to retain any copy of such service in his possession, for the first and second offence by fine; for the third, by imprisonment. A new form of ordination for all ranks of the clergy was enacted, and six prelates, with six other learned persons, were appointed to have it ready by April, after which all archbishops, bishops, priests, and deacons, were to be consecrated by the new form, and by none other. There was a motion made to restore the powers of the episcopal courts, but this Warwick himself opposed, and it fell through.

Whilst these affairs had been progressing, the Council had not by any means neglected the case of Somerset. The articles prepared against him being gone through, it was at length intimated to him that they were so fully proved that there was no ground for a pardon, unless ho would submit to a free and full admission of his guilt. This must have been most humiliating to his proud spirit; but he was no hero prepared to die rather than degrade himself, and he humbly on his knees confessed his guilt, his presumption, and incapacity. Having signed this, he was promised his life, but on condition that he should forfeit all his appointments, his goods and chattels, and so much of his estates as amounted to 2,000 a year. A bill to this effect passed both Houses of Parliament in January. Somerset remonstrated against the extent of this forfeiture, but the Council replied to him with so much sternness that the abject -spirited man shrunk in terror, and on the 2nd of February signed a still more ignominious submission, disclaiming all idea of justifying himself, and expressing his gratitude to the king and Council for sparing his life and being content with a fine. On the 6th of February he was discharged from the Tower, and ten days after received a formal pardon. His officers and servants, who had been imprisoned, also recovered their liberty, but were heavily fined.

The actors of this revolution received reward and promotion immediately after the close of the Parliament. Warwick was made great master and lord admiral; the Marquis of Northampton great chamberlain; Lords Russell and St. John were created Earls of Bedford and Wiltshire, and appointed lord privy seal and lord treasurer; but two of the party, the Earls of Arundel and Southampton, who had been amongst the most active supporters of Warwick, were dismissed from the Council, and both, for some cause or other, in disgrace. Southampton had revenged himself on Somerset without acquiring the confidence of Warwick; it is even said that he had begun an attempt to undermine him, and he soon after died - according to some, of sheer chagrin, according to others, from poison, self-administered. Arundel and Sir Richard Southwell, belonging to Warwick's party, were also fined - Arundel 12,000, and Southwell 500.

Warwick had humbled Somerset, but he could not prevent the country being humbled with him; and his party had blamed the Protector for proposing to surrender Boulogne, but they were now compelled, by the exhausted and disordered state of the nation, to accept from France even more disgraceful terms. During the winter the French had cut off all communication betwixt Boulogne and Calais, and the Earl of Huntingdon found himself unable to re-open it; though he led against the enemy all his bands of mercenaries and 3,000 English veterans, His treasury and his storehouses were exhausted, and the French calculated confidently on taking the place at spring. Unable to send the necessary succours, a fresh proposal was made to the emperor to occupy it, and this not tempting him, it was proposed by the Council to cede it to him in full sovereignty, on condition that it should never be surrendered to France. Charles declined, and as a last resource a Florentine merchant, Antonio Guidotti, was employed to make the French aware that England was not averse to a peace. The French embraced the offer, but under such circumstances they were not likely to be very modest in their terms of accommodation.

The conferences betwixt the ambassadors was opened on the 21st of January, and the English proposed that, as an equivalent for the surrender of Boulogne, Mary of Scotland should be contracted to Edward. To this the French replied, bluntly, that that was impossible, as Henry had already agreed to marry her to the dauphin. The next proposition was that the arrears of money due from the Crown of France should be paid up, and the payment of the fixed pension continued. To this the ambassadors of Henry replied, in a very different tone to that which English monarchs had been accustomed to hear from those of France, that their king would never condescend to pay tribute to any foreign Crown; that Henry VIII. had been enabled by the necessities of France to extort a pension from Francis; and that they would now avail themselves of the present difficulties of England to compel Edward to renounce it. The English envoys appeared, on this bold declaration, highly indignant, and as if they would break off the conference; but every day they receded more and more from their pretensions, and they ended by subscribing, on the 24th of March, to all the demands of their opponents.

These conditions were that there should be peace and union betwixt the two countries, not merely for the lives of the present monarchs, but to the end of time. That Boulogne should be surrendered to the King of France with all its stores and ordnance; and that, in return for the money expended on the fortifications, they should pay to Edward 200,000 crowns on the delivery of the place, and 200,000 more in five months. But the English were previously to surrender Douglas and Lauder to the Queen of Scots, or if they were already in the hands of the Scotch, should raze the fortresses of Aymouth and Roxburgh to the ground; Scotland was to be comprehended in the treaty if the queen desired it, and Edward bound himself not to make war on Scotland unless some fresh provocation were given.

So disgraceful was this treaty - such a surrender of the nation's dignity, that the people regarded it as an eternal opprobrium to the country; and from that hour the boastful claims of England on the French Crown were no more heard of, except in the ridiculous retention of the title of King of France by our sovereigns.

Freed from the embarrassments of foreign politics, the Council now proceeded with the work of Church reform; and during this and part of the next year was busily engaged checking on the one hand the opposition of the Romanist clergy, and on the other the latitudinarian tendencies of the Protestants. Bonner and Gardiner were the most considerable of the uncomplying prelates, and they were first brought under notice. Bonner had been called before the Council in August of 1549, for not complying with the requisitions of the Court in matters of religion; and in April of this year he was deprived of his see of London, and remanded to the Marshalsea, where he remained till the king's death. Ridley was appointed to the bishopric of London. The bishopric of Westminster was dissolved by Royal authority, and Ridley accepted its lands and revenues instead of those of the see of London, which were immediately divided betwixt three of the courtiers, Rich, lord chancellor; Wentworth, lord chamberlain; and Sir Thomas Darcey, vice-chamberlain.

Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, equally immovable in his resistance to the new ritual and opinions, was also deprived of his see, and was sent back to the Tower, where he was confined in a meaner cell, every person, except one of the warders, being refused access to him, and was prohibited the use of pen, ink, and paper. The chief reason for this severity was alleged to be that he had in his defence before the Council called his judges heretics and sacramentaries. Poynet, Bishop of Rochester, succeeded him in his see of Winchester, with the same clipping process as that which had taken place in the revenues of the see of London. The new prelate was required to surrender into the hands of the Council all the lands and revenues of that opulent bishopric, and received instead, rectories and lands to the value of 2,000 marks annually. A great portion of this property was divided again amongst the courtiers, the friends of Warwick. Sir Thomas Wroth received a pension of 100 a year; and Gates, Hobey, Seymour, Dudley, Nevil, and Fitzwilliam, valuable grants of lands and manors. These changes, however, were not completed till March of 1551.

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