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Reign of Edward VI page 2

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This extraordinary statement of Paget's was fully confirmed by Denny and Herbert, who said that, on Paget quitting the room, the king related to them what had passed, and made Denny thereupon write it down; and Herbert observing that Paget, the secretary, had remembered every one but himself, the king ordered them to write down 400 a year for him.

Perhaps this is the most barefaced example on record of a set of executors helping themselves out of the estate of the testator, on the mere assertion that he promised them these good things, without a word of such particulars in the will; and it has also been well observed by Burnet and Lingard, that though there was a vague clause in the body of the will, recommending the keeping of the king's promises, yet the will bore date the 30th of December) and these conversations were represented to have taken place on the king's death-bed, Henry dying on the 28th of January, nearly a month after. When it became known abroad, the people said it was enough for them to have drained the dead king of his treasure, but now they were sharing honours amongst themselves which should only have been granted when the new king came of age. The discrepancy betwixt the date of the will and the date of the alleged conversation made the public regard the whole as what, no doubt, it was - a gross and impudent fabrication.

Without regarding public opinion, however, the honest courtiers proceeded to endow one another with the honours and estates agreed upon. They hesitated to sell the king's jewels or plate, but there was property still more to their taste, as it would give hereditary estates in connection with the desired titles - there were different manors and lordships belonging to the dissolved monasteries, or to bishoprics still existing. With the new peerage titles different to those first named were bestowed. The Earl of Hertford was buried, as it were, under a whole mountain of honours and titles. His style ran thus: - "The most noble and victorious Prince Edward, Duke of Somerset, Earl of Hertford, Viscount Beauchamp, Lord Seymour, governor of the person of the king's majesty, and protector of all his realms, his lieutenant-general of all his armies both by land and sea, Lord High Treasurer and Earl Marshal of England, Governor of the Isles of Guernsey and Jersey, and Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter." And it is added, "Because he was thus great, so he was also a very generous and good man, and a sincere favourer of the Gospel; he was entirely beloved of those that professed it, and for the most part, by the populacy, and therefore was commonly called 'The Good Duke.'"

Essex, that is Parr, brother of the late queen, became Marquis of Northampton; Lisle, Earl of Warwick j Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton; Sir Thomas Seymour, Baron Seymour of Sudeley, and Lord High Admiral; Rich became Baron Rich; Willoughby, Baron Willoughby; Sheffield, Baron Sheffield; St. Leger and Danby alone refused both peerage and estate.

Having thus first seized on the property of the late king, or rather of the nation, these bold courtiers proceeded to bury the body of the deceased sovereign, which, till then, had remained above ground. The body lay in state in the chapel of Whitehall till the 14th of February, when it was removed to Sion House, on the loth to Windsor, and the next day was interred in the midst of the choir, near to the body of Jane Seymour. Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, preached the sermon and read the funeral service. When he cast the mould into the grave, saying "Pulvis pulveri, cinis cineri," the lord great master, the lord chamberlain, the treasurer, comptroller, and gentlemen ushers broke their staves in three parts over their heads, and threw the fragments upon the coffin. The psalm "De profundis" was then sung, and Garter King-at-Arms, attended by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Durham, immediately proclaimed the style of the new sovereign. Four days afterwards the coronation of Edward took place in Westminster Abbey, but with considerable variations and abridgments, to accommodate the ceremony to the tender age of the king, and to the changes which had taken place in the laws of the realm.

The greatest innovation was in the form which had been prescribed by our Saxon ancestors, to remind the monarch that he held the crown by the free choice of the people. It had always been the custom for the king to take the oath to preserve the liberties of the nation, and then for the archbishop to ask the people whether they were willing to have him reign over them. But now the archbishop asked the people first whether they would have him as their liege lord, and then put the oath as if it were a matter of the Royal option. Still more, in addressing the people, the primate took care to let them know that the king held the throne, not by popular will, but by descent and heirdom. "Sirs," said the primate, "I here present King Edward, rightful and undoubted inheritor by the laws of God and man, to the Royal dignity and crown imperial of this realm, whose consecration, inunction, and coronation is appointed by all the nobles and peers of the land to be this day. Will ye serve at this time, and give your good wills and assents to the same consecration, inunction, and coronation, as by your duty of allegiance ye be bound to do?"

To clench the matter still farther, and let the people know that the new king acknowledged no obligation to the people for his crown, but held it as lord in his own right, Cranmer, in his address which he gave instead of the usual sermon, told the young king that the promises he had just made could not affect his right to sway the sceptre of his dominions. That right he, like his predecessors, had derived from God, whence it followed that neither the Bishop of Rome, nor any other bishop, could pretend to interfere with his title. The inference was, that just as little had the people, under any circumstances, any right to dispute his proceedings, or call him to account. Such were the high and arbitrary notions instilled into this boy's mind - principles which, in only ninety-eight years from, this period, cost a similarly instructed monarch his head, and, for a time, destroyed the ancient monarchy of England. After this inculcation of kingly right, Cranmer had the grace, however, to recommend the little king to rule well, "to reward virtue, and revenge vice; to justify the innocent, and relieve the poor; to repress violence, and execute justice; and then he promised him that he should become a second Josias, whose fame would remain to the end of days." According to ancient usage, a general pardon was then proclaimed to all State offenders, with some exceptions, amongst which were the names of the Duke of Norfolk and Cardinal Pole.

But it was not the king who was destined to reign for many a day yet, even if he lived to his majority, but his proud uncle Somerset. With all the soaring ambition of an upstart, he was prepared to grasp the reins of government in his own hands, and use the innocent lad as a mere puppet for his own purposes. He had placed himself at the head of the council, and, therefore, of the Government; but he lost no time in endeavouring to make himself not only superior to, but independent of, both king and council. Somerset had sworn never to act without the assent of the majority of the council, but he had little thought indeed of abiding by that oath. He could rely on Cranmer's support in his attempts at supreme authority, as the primate calculated, through his means, to carry out the most extensive innovations in religion; but there was one man whom he well knew would oppose his aspiring proceedings - Wriothesley, the new Earl of Southampton. His legal knowledge and ability were not readily to be coped with; and he had recently shown that he would not fail to resist any domineering conduct in the Protector, especially where religion was concerned. Southampton, therefore, must be put quickly out of the way, and occasion was soon found. That stanch lawyer, finding it necessary to watch closely the proceedings of Somerset, put the great seal to a commission, empowering four masters to hear all causes in Chancery, and giving to their decisions all the force of his own, provided that, before they were enrolled, they received his signature. But the Protector, aware of the chancellor's object, very soon moved several lawyers to petition against this arrangement. The petition was referred by the council to the judges, who declared that the act of putting the great seal to this commission was punishable with loss of office, and fine and imprisonment at the royal pleasure. Southampton boldly contended that the commission was perfectly legal; that even had it been illegal, they could only revoke it, to which he made no objection; that he held his office by patent from the late king, and they had no power to deprive him of it. But legal arguments had no weight with the council. Somerset had secured a majority in it, and Southampton was compelled to resign, and retire to his residence at Ely House, or expect worse. He surrendered the seal the same evening, which was given to Lord St. John. But that was not enough for Somerset: Southampton was ordered to confine himself to his own house as a prisoner, till the amount of the fine was determined.

Having thus ousted this dangerous opponent, Somerset immediately procured letters patent under the great seal, conferring on himself alone the whole authority of the crown. This patent was signed by his facile and devoted friends Cranmer, St. John, Russell, Northampton, Cheney, Paget, and Browne, and thus did these men, who had gorged themselves with the property of the Church, and arrayed one another with titles, basely surrender to this adventurer the whole of the will of King Henry, which they had sworn to maintain, as far as it regarded the safeguards of the crown during the minority.

Having thus seized and secured the actual sovereign power in England, Somerset began to turn his attention to foreign affairs. Henry VIII. had left it as a strict injunction to his council to secure the marriage of the Queen of Scots with his son Edward. Somerset, therefore, addressed a letter to the Scottish nobility, calling upon them to complete an arrangement which he recommended as equally advantageous with that to which they were bound by oaths, promises, and seals. The Scotch took little notice of this communication from the man who had carried the commands of the late king through their land with fire and sword.

Whilst this fruitless intercourse was passing, Francis I. died at Rambouillet, on the 31st of March, about two months after Henry VIII. From some cause, probably some astrological calculation, Francis entertained a firm conviction that the lives of himself and Henry were bound together in some mysterious union. On the news, therefore, of Henry's decease, he dreamed that his own hour was at hand, and fell into a deep melancholy and dejection, which nothing could chase away. With all their sparrings, fightings, and jealousies, Francis appears to have felt a considerable regard for his brother of England, and seemed to feel an affection for his heir. Proposals for the renewal of alliance and friendship betwixt the two monarchs had been made and accepted, and messengers already appointed to receive their oaths, when Francis died. His successor, his son Henry, pursued a very different policy. He was greatly guided by the counsels of the Duke of Guise and the Cardinal of Lorraine, the brothers of the queen-dowager of Scotland. The Guises were bigoted Romanists, and of course the queen-dowager was a resolute opponent of the English plans. To her they were the most fearful heretics, and she not only educated her daughter in opinions diametrically opposed to those of Edward VI., and which made her the least fitted for his wife as the queen of Protestant England, but she naturally clung to a closer alliance with France. Henry II., who sympathised with her in her religious views, saw also the vast advantages offered to France by espousing the cause of the infant Queen of Scotland. Still he preserved the appearance of concord with England.

The castle of St. Andrews, which the murderers of Cardinal Beaton held out against Arran, had in the course of this summer been surrendered to a French force, and the conspirators were conveyed to France. Some of them were confined in fortresses on the coast of Brittany, and others, amongst whom was John Knox, were sent to work in the galleys, whence they were not released till 1550. By the month of August, Somerset was once more prepared to invade Scotland, and to force, if possible, the young queen from the hands of Arran and the queen-mother. Under the name of Hertford he was already too well known as the scourge which Henry VIII. had repeatedly sent thither, and who had executed the remorseless vengeance of the tyrant on that unhappy country in the same spirit as that in which it had been dictated: what that was we may learn from these literal orders with which Henry furnished him for his expedition in 1543-4. He commands him, through a despatch of the privy council, to make an inroad into Scotland, " there to put all to fire and sword; to burn Edinburgh town; and to raze and deface it, when you have sacked it, and gotten what ye can out of it, as that it may remain for ever a perpetual memory of the vengeance of God lighted upon it for its falsehood and disloyalty. Do what you can out of hand, and without long tarrying, to beat down and overthrow the castle, sack Holyrood House, and as many towns and villages about Edinburgh as ye conveniently can; sack Leith, and burn and subvert it and all the rest, putting man, woman, and child to fire and sword, without exception, when any resistance shall be made against you; and this done, pass over to the Fife land, and extend like extremities and destructions in all towns and villages whereunto ye may reach conveniently, not forgetting, amongst all the rest, to spoil and turn upside-down the cardinal's town of St, Andrews, as the upper stone may be the nether, and not one stick stand by another, sparing no creature alive within the same, specially such as, either in friendship or blood, be allied to the cardinal."

Hertford, so far as he was able, had carried this out to the letter. And now he set out to make a campaign in Scotland on his own account; and the manner in which he conducted' himself showed how well he had studied Henry's savage system of Christian warfare. The army collected at Newcastle, and there Somerset himself arrived, on the 27th of August. Warwick, the second in command, and Sir Ralph Sadler, deep in the mysteries of feeing Scotland's sons against herself, or of directing his own countrymen how best they might most completely harry the devoted land, were already there. The forces were reviewed, and on the 29th they commenced their march. On the 2nd of September they were at Berwick, where they found Lord Clinton with the fleet, and from that point the army marched along the shore, supported by the ships at sea. Somerset took Douglas Castle, the property of Sir George Douglas, without resistance. The castle being rifled, was then blown up with gunpowder, as were also the peels of Thornton and Anderwick. Passing by Dunbar and the castle of Tantallan, the army, on Friday the 8th of September, sat down near Preston-pans, the fleet being stationed opposite the town of Musselburgh.

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