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Reign of Edward VI page 6


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On the king's death Catherine went to live at her fine jointure house at Chelsea, on the banks of the Thames, which, with its gardens and extensive grounds, occupied Cheyne Pier. There Seymour used to visit her in the night, and so cautiously that Catherine, in one of her letters, discloses the fact that she herself waited at the park-gate, when all others had retired to rest, to let him in. "When it shall be your pleasure to repair hither, you must take some pain to come early in the morning, that you may be gone again by seven o'clock, and so I suppose you may come without suspect. I pray you let me have knowledge over-night at what hour you will come, that your portress may wait at the gate to the fields for you." But such an affair could not long escape attention, and though they were married, Seymour began to take steps for soliciting the king's consent to the alliance. First ho wrote to the Princess Mary, entreating her to break it to her brother Edward, and to plead for it; but Mary declined so delicate a commission, saying, "Wherefore I shall most earnestly require you, the premises considered, to think none unkindness in me, though I refuse to be a meddler any ways in this matter; assuring you that, wooing matters set apart, wherein, being a maid, I am nothing cunning, I shall most willingly aid you, if otherwise it shall lie in my power."

Failing here, a plan was laid for inducing Edward, not merely to consent to the marriage of his step-mother with his uncle Seymour, but for his own asking her to accept Seymour, which he did \ and was made to believe that the match actually proceeded from his own suggestion. Catherine Parr played a part in this scheme - as appears by King Edward's own letters and journal - which shows that with all her piety and reputation for discreetness, and even wisdom, she was not averse on occasion to practise all the art of the diplomatist. She went on professing her deep love and devotion to the memory of his father long after she was secretly the wife of Seymour, till the young unsuspecting king was completely wrought over to her wishes. Yet that he did not interfere in this affair without a good deal of repugnance, or without good advice against it, appears from his own statement: - "Lord Seymour came to me in the last Parliament at Westminster, and desired me to write a thing for him. I asked him what. He said, 'It is no ill thing; it is for the queen's majesty.' I said, 'If it were good, the lords would allow it; if it were ill, I would not write it.' Then he said, ' They would take it in better part if I would write,' I desired him to let me alone in that matter. Choke (his tutor) said to mo afterwards, 'Ye were best not to write.'"

When the marriage became known Somerset was highly incensed at Seymour's audacity in contracting a marriage of this lofty and important kind without consulting the Council, or without the authority of the Crown. He was stimulated to strong expression of his indignation by his haughty duchess, who had been accustomed to regard her husband and herself as the chief people in the realm, next to the king and his sisters. The proud duchess had long borne an ill-concealed dislike to Catherine, thinking it scorn that the wife of the great Somerset should bear the train, as was her office, of a queen who had formerly been a subject like herself. Now she openly rebelled against the fulfilment of this office, alleging that "it was unsuitable for her to submit to perform that service for the wife of her husband's youngest brother." It was, in fact, more tolerable to bear the train of Catherine as queen than to have her as her superior in the family. The feuds on this subject became warm. Catherine, with all her prudence, was roused by the Protector's language regarding the marriage, and declared that she would call him to account for it before the king; but not the less did Somerset's proud duchess struggle audaciously with the queen-dowager for precedence, "so that," says Lloyd, "what between the train of the queen and the long gown of the duchess, they raised so much dust at Court as at last put out the eyes of both their husbands, and caused their executions."

The duchess declared that, as wife of the Lord Protector, she had the right to take precedence of everybody in England, in her proud mind not even excepting the princesses; but as she was soon compelled to submit she cherished a hatred both against Catherine and Lord Seymour, which, no doubt, had its full effect in urging her husband to imbrue his hands in his brother's blood. According to Hay ward, in his life of Edward VI., Anne Stanhope, Duchess of Somerset, was a woman for many imperfections intolerable, but for pride monstrous. She was both exceedingly violent and subtle in accomplishing her ends, for which she spurned all respects of conscience or shame. This woman did bear such invincible hate to the queen-do wager, first for light causes and women's quarrels, and especially because she (the queen-dowager) had precedency over her, being the wife of the greatest peer in the land." He also says that she was accustomed to abuse Queen Catherine in the grossest terms, and in this strain: - "Did not Henry VIII. marry Catherine Parr in his doting days, when he had brought himself so low by his lust and cruelty that no lady that stood on her honour would venture on him? And shall I now give place to her who in her former estate was but Latimer's widow, and is now fain to cast herself for support on a younger brother? If master admiral teach Ms wife no better I am, she that will,"

The immediate consequence of this ill-will in Somerset and his termagant wife towards Catherine was, that she was refused all the jewels which had been presented to her by the late king, her husband, on the plea that they were Crown property. The Protector next called upon her to give up the use of her favourite manor of Fausterne for a creature of his of the name of Long, and though Catherine indignantly refused to do it, by his power he compelled her to give way, and receive Long as tenant.

On the other hand, Seymour used every means to ingratiate himself with the young king, both through the means of his wife, for whom Edward had a great regard, and through the Princess Elizabeth and Lady Jane Grey, who had been pupils of Catherine Parr's. Edward appears to have really liked Seymour much better than he did Somerset. The former furnished him with money, of which Somerset seems to have kept him. very scant; and though the Duchess of Somerset was pleased to say that Catherine Parr "was fain to cast herself for support on a younger brother," this could not mean pecuniary support, for the match with Catherine was a very desirable one, independent of her elevated position. She was amply dowered by Parliament and the king's patents; she had two dowers besides, as widow of the Lords Borough and Latimer, and was supposed to have saved a very large sum whilst she was queen-consort. Seymour, therefore, with her property and his own grants, was extremely rich.

Both the brothers intrigued actively to get their Royal nephew married, so as to serve their own ambition. The plan of Somerset was to marry the king to his own daughter, Jane Seymour, a lady of much learning, but the admiral plotted against that by endeavouring to place the still more learned Lady Jane Grey continually in his way, who was strongly recommended to Edward by Catherine Parr, who had a real affection for both of them. The Marquis of Dorset, the father of Lady Jane Grey, was induced to allow his daughter to reside in the admiral's family on a distinct proposition of this kind. King Edward was very fond of stealing away from his courtiers into the apartments of Catherine Parr, who had always been the only person like a mother that he had ever known, and, going there by a private entrance without any attendants, he could converse freely with her, her ladies, and the admiral. This excited the deepest jealousy on the part of the Protector, who exerted every means to prevent this intercourse, and so to surround him. with his spies that he could rarely find himself alone.

The Royal boy, however, had too much of his father's self-will, however weak he might seem, to be led into either of these alliances. He expressed much indignation at the Protector's attempt, and wrote in his journal that he would choose for himself; and not a subject, but "a foreign princess, well stuffed and jewelled." That is, having not only a princely dower, but also a princely wardrobe and royal ornaments.

Whilst these intrigues were going on around her, Catherine Parr gave birth to a daughter, on the 30th of August, 15-18, and on the 7th of September, only eight days after, she died of puerperal fever. Rumours of her husband having poisoned her, to enable him to aspire to the hand of the Princess Elizabeth, were spread by his enemies, for which there does not appear the slightest; foundation. The lord admiral, who had found it difficult to keep out of danger during the life of his wife, partly through his own rash ambition, and partly through the malice of his near relatives, soon fell into it after her death. In July of 1548, he had been called before the Council on the charge of having endeavoured to prevail on the king to write a letter, complaining of the arbitrary conduct of the Protector, and of the restraint in which he was kept by him. He was seeking, in fact, to supersede the Protector, and was threatened with imprisonment in the Tower; but the matter for that time was made up, and the Protector added 800 per annum to his income, by way of conciliating him.

But with Catherine departed his good genius. He gave a free play to his ambitious desires, and renewed his endeavours to compass a clandestine marriage with the Princess Elizabeth, as he had done with Catherine. Finding, however, that such a marriage would annul the claims of Elizabeth to the throne, he next devised means to extort from the Council a consent, which he was well aware it would never yield voluntarily. For this purpose he is said to have courted the friendship of the discontented portion of the nobility, and made such a display of his wealth and retainers as was calculated to alarm the Protector and his party. The Protector was now resolved to get rid of so dangerous an enemy, though his own brother. Sharington, master of the mint at Bristol, being accused of gross peculation by clipping the coin, issuing testoons, or shilling pieces, of a false value, and making fraudulent entries in his books, was boldly defended by the admiral, who owed him 3,000. But Sharington ungratefully, to save his life, betrayed that of his advocate. He confessed that he had promised to coin money for the admiral, who could reckon on the services of 10,000 men, with whose aid he meant to carry off the king and change the government. This charge, made, no doubt, solely to save his own life, was enough for Somerset: Seymour was arrested on the 16th of January, 1549, on a charge of high treason, and committed to the Tower.

There was no lack of charges against him, true or false. It was stated that he had resolved to seize the king's person, and carry him to his castle of Holt, in Denbighshire, which had come to him in one of the Royal grants; that he had confederated for this purpose with various noblemen and others, and had laid in great store of provisions and a great mass of money at that castle. He was also charged with having abused his authority as lord admiral, and encouraged piracy and smuggling, and with having circulated reports against the Lord Protector and Council too vile to be repeated. But the most remarkable were the charges against him for endeavouring, both before and after his marriage with the queen-dowager, to compass a marriage with the king's sister, the Lady Elizabeth, second inheritor to the Crown, to the peril of the king's person and danger to the throne.

Mrs. Catherine Ashly, the governess of Elizabeth, who was brought before the Council, and made what are called her confessions, certainly opened up a curious course of conduct which had been going on in the household and lifetime of the prudent Catherine Parr, in which she figured remarkably herself. She stated that at Chelsea, where the princess was living under the care of the

queen-dowager, being then about sixteen years of age, the admiral used to go into Elizabeth's chamber before she was dressed, and sometimes before she was out of bed. "At Seymour Place, when the queen slept there, ho did use awhile to come up every morning in his nightgown and slippers. When he found my Lady Elizabeth up, and at her book, then he would look in at the gallery door, and bid her good morrow, and go on his way; and the deponent told my lord it was an unseemly sight to see a man so little dressed in a maiden's chamber, with which he was angry, but left it."

This highly imprudent and discreditable conduct at length proceeded to such an extreme, that Catherine Parr had cause to repent having suffered it. Elizabeth herself told Thomas Parry, the cofferer of her household, that she feared the admiral loved her too well, and had done so a long while; that the queen was jealous of them both, insomuch that, coming suddenly upon them when they were all alone, he having her in his arms, the queen severely reprimanded both the admiral and the princess. She also scolded Mrs. Ashly for her neglect of her charge, and took instant measures for having Elizabeth removed to her own household establishment.

Elizabeth herself was subjected to inquiry, and as to whether Mrs. Ashly had encouraged her to marry the admiral, which she declared she had never done, except by the consent of the Protector and the Council. Elizabeth wrote to the Lord Protector from Hatfield, stating that the vilest rumours regarding her were in circulation, namely, that she was confined in the Tower, being "enceinte" by the lord admiral; which she protested were shameful slanders, and demanded that, to put them down, she should be allowed to proceed alone to Court, that she might show herself as she was.

It may be supposed what consternation and mortification these scandals and examinations gave to a girl of sixteen; but Elizabeth displayed no small portion of that leonine and sagacious spirit on the occasion which so greatly characterised her afterwards. Sir Robert Tyrwhitt, the husband of Lady Tyrwhitt, already mentioned, was sent by the Protector to Hatfield to interrogate her. He informed Somerset that when Lady Browne communicated to her that Mrs. Ashly and Parry were sent to the Tower, she was greatly confounded and abashed, and wept bitterly for a long time, and demanded whether they had confessed anything or not; that on his arrival, he assured her what sort of characters Ashly and the others were, and said that if she would open all things herself, she should wholly be excused on account of her youth, and all the blame should be laid on them. But Elizabeth replied that she had nothing to confess; "and yet," asserts Tyrwhitt, "I see it in her face that she is guilty."

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