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Reign of Edward VI page 12

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These strangers were not too daring in the expression of opinions which might injure their interest with the heads of the new Church; but the celebrated John Hooper, who had been nominated by the king to the bishopric of Gloucester, was far more sturdy in the avowal of his faith, and the denunciation of tenets and ceremonies that he did not approve. Hooper had imbibed those stern and uncompromising sentiments from the foreign and Calvinistic divines, which afterwards became known as Puritanism. He refused to receive consecration in the canonical habits. He asked how he could honestly swear obedience to the metropolitan, when he believed that he owed no obedience, except to God and to the Bible? how he could, moreover, conscientiously assume the episcopal habit, which he had so often pronounced to be the livery of the harlot of Babylon? Cranmer, Ridley, Bucer, and Martyr entreated him to look upon the mere habit as a non-essential, and of no consequence where the life and the doctrine were sound. On the other hand, the Swiss divines applauded his consistent firmness; and the king, to put an end to the controversy, instead of admitting Hooper to his see, sent him to the Fleet prison. The solitude of the prison tamed him to the extent that he yielded to a compromise, consenting to wear the canonical habit when called to preach before the king, or in his own cathedral; but on all other occasions dispensing with it. Fourteen months after his installation at Gloucester, that bishopric was united to Worcester, and a fresh bonus provided for the greedy courtiers, by the bishop receiving a less income from the two bishoprics than he had done for the one, the rest of the lands and revenues going amongst the men who in this reign founded the most ample estates, and embellished them by the aristocratic titles which they have handed down to their posterity, even till our own times. The see of Gloucester was degraded to an exempted archdeaconry.

The attention of the nation at this juncture was called from ecclesiastical affairs, however, to the struggle again commenced betwixt Somerset and Warwick. Somerset had escaped from his enemies and the block for a time by the deepest humiliation. After such a fall and exposure, such an ample confession of his rapacity and his weakness, it might have been supposed that he would never again dare to aspire to the brilliant, but dizzy elevation from which he had been precipitated. He never again regained the respect or confidence of the nation; but the frivolity of his character soon led him to review his condition, and his nearness of affinity to the king seemed to make a re-ascent possible, and not over difficult. The king, as was not unnatural towards an only uncle, soon began to evidence a return of kindliness, if that, indeed, had ever been extinguished. He granted him a general pardon, he cancelled his bonds, restored his personal property, admitted him again, not only to Court, but into his Council; and by the end of March, within less than two months since his liberation from the Tower, appointed him a lord of the bedchamber.

Warwick, as if he would make some amends for his harsh proceedings against him, or deeming that he could make him useful in pushing his own fortunes, whilst he could apprehend nothing from his revenge unsupported by courage or ability, made an apparently sincere reconciliation with him, and even now entered into an alliance with his family by the marriage of Lord Lisle, his eldest son, to Anne, one of Somerset's daughters. This marriage was followed the next day by one still more remarkable - that of Warwick's fourth son, Robert Dudley, afterwards the famous Earl of Leicester, and the lovely but unfortunate Amy Robsart, the daughter of Sir John Robsart.

The king, delighted at the restoration of harmony betwixt his uncle and his able minister, Warwick, accompanied by his Court, joined in all the festivities of the time. But this calm did not last long. With all the outward show of friendship, and the apparent union of this new alliance, it was impossible that Somerset and Warwick could be sincere friends. They were equally ambitious, equally unprincipled; and Somerset could as little forgive what he had suffered as Warwick could believe himself forgiven. Somerset could not rest without regaining the power and dignity which had been wrung from him; Warwick was not likely to resign those which he had gained. Warwick, however, was far the stronger in the firmness and caution of his disposition, and in having all his old associates around him in the Council. Somerset, to regain his lost footing, endeavoured by his agents to secure the interest and votes of some of the peers in Parliament. This did not escape the lynx eyes of Warwick, and on the 16th of February we find by the king's journal that a person of the name of Whaley was examined before the Council, on the charge of persuading several peers of the. realm to make Somerset Protector in the next Parliament. Whaley stoutly denied it, but it was as stoutly asseverated by the Earl of Rutland.

Foiled in this attempt, Somerset next ventured on the imprudent step of endeavouring to persuade the king to marry his daughter, the Lady Jane Seymour. For this purpose he employed the good offices of Lord Strange, who was much in favour with the king. This scheme, also, was defeated by the vigilance of Warwick's party, and to cut off the possibility of such an endeavour, the Council came to the resolution of immediately asking the hand of Elizabeth, the daughter of the French king. The occasion, however, did not pass over without mutual animosity and alarms. Lord Gray at once departed for the northern counties, and Somerset was about to follow him, when he was solemnly assured by Sir William Herbert that no injury was intended. A second reconciliation was formally gone through by the adverse parties; and to satisfy the country of their amity - for strange rumours of discord and danger were getting abroad - on the 24th of April the lords of the two factions met in the City, and for four days entertained each other at banquets.

No time, however, was lost in seeking to effectuate the French marriage. On the 17th of May all was in readiness, and the Marquis of Northampton, attended by three earls, the eldest sons of Somerset-and Warwick, and a numerous train of other nobles and gentlemen, set out for Paris on the negotiation. Betraying, however, the undying regret of the English Court for the loss of the young Queen of Scots, the ambassador first demanded her hand for Edward; which, as was certain to be the case, was as promptly declined as before. He then solicited that of the Princess Elizabeth, which was as readily conceded; and it was proposed that, as soon as she reached her twelfth year, the marriage should take place. When they came, however, to settle the amount of dowry, the French offered 200,000 crowns, and the English demanded 1,200,000. This vast difference betwixt the offer and the demand appeared as if it would be fatal to the negotiation; but no doubt the Warwick party at home urged the necessary reduction of terms on the English part; and after a suspension of treaty for two months' duration, the English ambassador accepted the French proposal, and agreed to give her the same annual value in Crown lands as had been granted to Catherine of Spain, the first wife of Henry VIII., namely, 10,000 marks yearly.

The English embassy was soon followed to London by the Marshal St. Andre and a numerous retinue, bringing to the King of England the order of St. Michael, in return for that of the Garter, which Edward had sent to his proposed father-in-law. The envoy was met on landing by the gentlemen of the county and 1,000 horsemen; and, avoiding London, which was suffering from a severe attack of the sweating-sickness - which, though it lasted only about eleven days, carried off 872 people - they conducted the embassage to Hampton Court, where the king was, and where they were received by Somerset and Warwick, and conducted to his presence. A succession of banquets and entertainments were given, which lasted till the end of March, when the marshal took his leave, having received presents to the value of 3,000, whereas the Marquis of Northampton had received from the French king gifts of the value only of 500.

The remainder of the summer was spent by Somerset in intriguing for the increase of his favour, which these transactions were meant to thwart. He surrounded himself with a strong body of armed men; there were secret debates amongst his friends on the possibility of raising the City in his cause, and he did not hesitate to drop hints that assassination only could free him from his implacable enemies. But whilst the irresolute Somerset plotted, Warwick acted. He secured for himself the appointment of warden of the Scottish marches, thus cutting off the danger which had lately appeared of Somerset's retreat thither. Armed with the preponderating influence which that office conferred in the northern districts, on the 27th of September or the 17th of October he was announced as Duke of Northumberland, a title venerated by the border people, and which had been extinct since the attainder of Earl Percy in 1527. In this formidable position of power and dignity, he was strengthened by his friends and partisans being at the same time elevated in the peerage. The Marquis of Dorset was created Duke of Suffolk, the Earl of Wiltshire, Marquis of Winchester, and Sir William Herbert, Baron of Cardiff and Earl of Pembroke. Cecil, Cheek, Sidney, and Nevil received the honour of knighthood.

This movement in favour of Warwick was followed by consequences of still more startling character to the Duke of Somerset. His enemies now felt on secure ground, and on the 16th of October, the news flew through London that he was arrested on a charge of conspiracy and high treason, and committed to the Tower. He had been apprised that depositions of a serious character had been made against him by Sir Thomas Palmer, a partisan of Warwick's, whereupon he sent for Palmer, and strictly interrogated him, but on his positive denial, let him go. Not satisfied, however, he wrote to Cecil, telling him that he suspected something was in agitation against him. Cecil replied with his characteristic astuteness, that if he were innocent he could have nothing to fear; if he were guilty, he could only lament his misfortune. Piqued at this reply, he sent a letter of defiance, but took no means for the security of his person. Palmer, notwithstanding his denial, had, however, it seems, really lodged this charge against him on the 7th of the month with Warwick: - That in a conference with Somerset in April last, in his garden, the duke assured him that at the time that the solemn declaration of Sir William Herbert had prevented him from going northward, he had sent Lord Gray to raise their friends there; and that after that he had formed the design of inviting Warwick, Northampton, and the chiefs of that party, and of assassinating them, either there or on their return home. That at this very moment he was planning to raise an insurrection in London, to destroy his great enemy, and to seize the direction of government. That Sir Miles Partridge was to call out the apprentices of the city, kill the city guard, and get possession of the great seal. That Sir Thomas Arundel had secured the Tower, and Sir Ralph Vane had a force of 2,000 men ready to support them.

Probably this was a mixture of some truth with a much greater portion of convenient falsehood. The duke was accordingly arrested, and the next day the duchess, with her favourites, Mr. and Mrs. Crane, Sir Miles Partridge, Sir Thomas Arundel, Sir Thomas Holcroft, Sir Michael Stanhope, and others of the duke's friends, were also arrested and committed to the Tower. The king was already brought up from Hampton Court to Westminster for greater security and convenience during the trials of the conspirators. A message was sent in the king's name to the lord mayor and corporation, informing them that the conspirators had agreed to seize the Tower, kill the guards of the City, seize the broad seal, set fire to the town, and depart for the Isle of Wight; and they were, therefore, ordered to keep the gates well, and maintain a strong patrol in the streets.

Whilst the duke was lying in prison, his nephew, the youthful king, was called upon to maintain an air of gaiety and even rejoicing at his Court, where, from the circumstances of the time and the character of the guest on whose account the festivities were held, there could not be much real pleasure. The Queen-Dowager of Scotland had been on a visit to her daughter in Paris, and on her return, through the mediation of Henry II., she obtained permission to pay her court to Edward, and continue her journey by land. The steady hostility which Mary of Guise had shown to the alliance of her daughter with Edward, and to the reforms in religion which he had so much at heart, must have rendered her anything but a welcome guest; but policy, as in all these cases, put on the face of friendship, and to oblige Henry of France, with whom Edward was contemplating a family union, he invited her to London, received her at the entrance of the great hall at Westminster, kissed her, and taking her by the hand, conducted her to her chamber. For the two days of her stay, every attention was shown; the king made her a present of a valuable diamond; the City of London presented her with 100 marks at the gates, and she was accompanied for some distance on her way by a splendid escort of ladies and gentlemen.

This piece of Royal courtesy being performed, preparations were made for Somerset's trial. Such of the persons arrested as could be induced to give evidence, were summoned before the Privy Council, and their depositions taken. Palmer, however, was the chief and the only ready witness. He repeated his account of the intended plot for raising London. If the attempt to destroy the gendarmerie had failed, he said the duke was to ride through the streets, crying, "Liberty! liberty!" to raise the apprentices, and then retire to the Isle of Wight. That he intended to have 2,000 infantry under Crane, and thus to make sure of the massacre of the guards, to seize the Royal person, and issue a proclamation for the arrest of Northumberland, Northampton, and Pembroke, on a charge of treason against the king, and of attempts to alienate his affections from his sister, Mary.

According to the king's journal, Crane confessed quite as much as Palmer asserted, and more: - That the earls were to have been assassinated in the house of Lord Paget; that the Earl of Arundel knew of the matter as well as he did, and that Sir Michael Stanhope was the messenger betwixt them. Some of the others confessed that the duke kept a guard of twenty men to prevent his arrest, and the Lord Strange confessed that the duke had moved him to persuade the king to marry his third daughter, the Lady Jane, and to become a spy on all the king's sayings and doings, and to inform the duke when any of his Council had private interviews with him.

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