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Reign of Edward VI page 7

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Presuming on this consciousness of guilt, Tyrwhitt the next day asked her if she would have married the lord admiral if the Council had given their consent. She fired up, and astonished him by telling him that she was not going to make him her confessor; demanded what he meant by such a question to her, and who bade him ask it. Tyrwhitt was soon made aware that "she hath a very good wit, and nothing is gotten of her but by great policy." A few days after, however, the politic agent had the opportunity of trying both her wit and her fortitude, by putting into her hand the confessions of Parry and Ashly. The exposures of the flirtations with the admiral must have startled and shamed her to the extreme. "At the reading of Mrs. Ashly's letter," Tyrwhitt wrote to Somerset, "she was much abashed, and half breathless, or she could read it to the end, and perused all their names perfectly, and knew both Mrs. Ashly's hand and the cofferer's hand with half a sight: so that fully she thinketh they have confessed all they know."

It is a significant fact that Elizabeth, so strong in her feelings and resentments, never seems to have retained any ill-will towards Mrs. Ashly for these awkward disclosures, but, on the other hand, interested herself zealously on her behalf. There can be no doubt that her far-seeing and politic mind immediately perceived the necessity of getting that woman in her own hands, and out of those of others, as soon as possible. Accordingly, we find her in the following March writing to Somerset, entreating him to give her freedom to Mrs. Ashly, on the grounds that she had been in her service many years, and had exerted herself diligently for her "bringing up in learning and honesty;" that whatever she had done in the matter of the lord admiral was because he was one of the Council, and therefore she thought he would undertake nothing without the consent of the Council; and that she had heard her say repeatedly that she would never have her marry any one without the approbation of the Lord Protector and the Council. She finally added, that people seeing one she loved so well in such a place would think that she herself was not clear of guilt, though it might have been pardoned in her. This was an episode in Elizabeth's life which might have made her rather more lenient, in after clays, in judging of the love affairs of the young people about her.

The unfortunate admiral now found all the world against him, if we may except his wife's brother, the Marquis of Northampton, his brother-in-law, Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, his cousin, Sir Nicholas Thockmorton, and Sir Thomas Throckmorton, the poet. The latter, in his homely verse, says of Seymour -

"Thus guiltless he through malice went to pot,
Not answering for himself nor knowing cause."

That these noblemen and gentlemen, the near kinsmen of Catherine Parr, should remain his firm and almost only friends, is ample proof that they, who had the best means of knowing, held him perfectly guiltless of any ill-usage, much less of poisoning his wife. For the rest, all combined to destroy him, and to curry favour with the all-powerful Protector. Even Wriothesley, the new Earl of Southampton, who had been dismissed from office, came forward and joined in the proceedings against him. lie was again and again examined privately and searchingly by deputations from the Privy Council, who endeavoured to persuade him to confess, and submit himself to the grace of the Protector and Council. But Seymour stood boldly on his innocence of any treasonable design, and demanded a fair and open trial. But the fact was, that the Council had no evidence of any treasonable design, or of anything but to take the place, as a matter of political ambition, in the government which his brother now held - a perfectly legitimate object; and to have given him a fair trial would not serve the purpose of the Protector, which was to be rid of him and his rivalry together.

Finding that ho would not move an. iota from, his just demands of a trial by his peers, the right of every Englishman, the whole Council adjourned to the Tower on the 23rd of February, and read to him a list of thirty-three articles which they had drawn out against him. They then again used strenuous endeavours to persuade him to submit; but he stood firm, and demanded an open trial, and to be brought face to face with his accusers. Finding that he could make no impression upon the Council, he at length said that if they would leave the articles with him, he would consider them; but even this they refused, and the next day they proceeded to report to the king, and to request him to leave the matter to Parliament. The poor boy had, no doubt, been worried into a consent to the sacrifice of his favourite uncle. After listening to the arguments of the different members of the Council, and to the hypocritical pretence of the Protector, that "it was a most sorrowful business to him, but, were it a son or brother, he must prefer his majesty's safety to them, for he weighed his allegiance more than his blood," he then said, "We perceive that there are great things objected and laid to my lord admiral, my uncle, and they tend to treason; and we perceive that you require but justice to be done. We think it reasonable, and we will that you proceed according to your request."

This lesson, which, without doubt, had been well drilled into him, was repeated with such gravity, that the Council professed to go into raptures over the Royal precocity of wisdom. Hearty thanks were returned to this boy-Solomon; and the next day a bill of attainder was introduced into the House of Lords. It was almost unanimously declared that the articles amounted to treason, and the bill passed without a division. In the Commons there was more spirit; it was opposed by many, who objected to proceeding by attainder instead of fair trial, as most unconstitutional and dangerous. They commented severely on the peers, who, after listening to some mere hearsay slander, should proceed on such grounds to attaint their fellows. They demanded that the accused should be brought to the bar and allowed to plead for himself. In reply to this a message came down from the Lords, purporting that the Lords who had taken the evidence should, if the House required it, come to the bar and detail that evidence; but the House declining this, and calling for the admiral himself, on the 4th of March a message was sent from the king, that "he thought-it not necessary to send for the admiral." The spirit of the Commons had reached its height: at the Royal command it sank at once, and out of 400 members, only about a dozen ventured to vote against the bill.

On the 14th the Royal assent was given to the bill; the Parliament was prorogued and on the 17th the warrant was issued for the admiral's execution. To this warrant Cranmer, contrary to the canon law, put his signature; but it was not less contrary to the higher laws of nature that Somerset should set his hand to this shedding of his brother's blood. The Bishop of Ely was commissioned to inform Seymour of this solemn fact; and the admiral requested that Latimer should be sent to him, and also that some of his servants should be allowed to attend him. He petitioned, moreover, that his infant daughter should be confided to the Duchess of Suffolk to be brought up. His execution took place on the 20th of March, on Tower Hill; Seymour declaring loudly that he had been condemned without law or justice. Before laying his head on the block, he was overheard to tell an attendant of the Lieutenant of the Tower to "bid his man speed the thing he wot of." The servant was arrested immediately, and threatened till he confessed that his master had made some ink in the Tower by some means, and, plucking an aiglet from his dress, had, with its point, written a letter to each of the Princesses Mary and Elizabeth, which he had placed between the leathers of a velvet shoe-sole. The shoe was opened, and the letters found, filled with the bitterest complaints against his brother and all who had conspired for his destruction. The servant, notwithstanding his confession, was executed.

In the whole of this unrighteous business, scarcely any one shows to more disadvantage than the zealous reformer, and generally honest Hugh Latimer. He preached a sermon on the death of the admiral, which is, perhaps, unrivalled as a specimen of all uncharitable-ness. It may be supposed that the admiral had not received the recommendations of Latimer to confess himself guilty; for he left him with an ebullition of spleen which swallowed all commiseration for his fate.

To the assumption that Seymour must have been innocent, or he would not have died so boldly, Latimer replied that that was a very "deceivable argument." "This I say," he added, "if they ask me what I think of his death, That he died very dangerously, irksomely, horribly." Latimer was lost in wonder at the ingenuity of Seymour in furnishing himself so cleverly with pen and ink. "I was a prisoner in the Tower myself," he cried," and I could never invent to make ink so. "What would he have done, if he had lived still, that invented this gear when he laid his head on the block at the end of his life?" He concluded a most vituperative harangue by declaring that Seymour "was a man farthest from the fear of God that ever I knew or heard of in England;" adding, that he had heard say that he believed not in the immortality of the soul; that when the good Queen Catherine Parr had prayers in her house both forenoon and afternoon, he would get away like a mole digging in the earth. "He shall be to me," he exclaimed, "Lot's wife as long as I live. He was a covetous man - an horrible covetous man: I would there were no mo in England. He was an ambitious man: I would there were no mo in England. He was a seditious man - a contemner of the Common Prayer: I would there were no mo in England. He is gone: I would he had left none behind him."

But he certainly had left a much more horrible and more covetous man in the Protector, whose work poor Latimer was thus doing; for Somerset not only slew his brother, but took possession of his estates. Seymour's only child, the infant daughter of Catherine Parr, not only lost her father's ample patrimony by his attainder, but by an Act of Parliament entitled "An Act for disinheriting Mary Seymour, daughter and heir of the late Lord Sudley, Admiral of England, and of the late queen," lost also her mother's noble estates. A subsequent Act restored her to her rights, but only nominally, for her uncles held her property fast in their selfish gripe, Catherine's brother Thomas Parr, Marquis of

Northampton, was as unnaturally cruel to his sister's orphan as Somerset himself. Sudley was granted to him on Seymour's attainder, and he not only held it fast, but maintained a heartless indifference to the fate of his niece, whose champion he ought to have been, having owed his fortune in the world to her mother's influence.

This unhappy child, the daughter of Seymour and Catherine, was consigned, as Seymour wished, to the care of the Countess of Suffolk, but we find her writing the most urgent letters to Cecil, the secretary of Somerset, afterwards the famous minister of Elizabeth, complaining that she can obtain no allowance for her support, nor even her linen and plate, which were rigorously detained by Somerset and his heartless and revolting wife. The poor girl is stated by Lodge, but without giving any authority, to have died in her thirteenth year; but it has been satisfactorily shown by Miss Strickland that she lived and was married to Sir Edward Bushell, and has still descendants in the family of the Lawsons, of Herefordshire and Kent, a branch of the ancient family of the Lawsons of Yorkshire and Westmoreland, who still retain several heirlooms once the property of Catherine Parr.

The Protector no sooner had put his brother out of his path into a bloody grave, than he was called upon to contend with a whole host of enemies. A variety of causes had reduced the common people to a condition of I deep distress and discontent. The depreciation of the coinage by Henry VIII. had produced its certain consequence - the proportionate advance of the price of all purchasable articles. But with the rise of price in food and clothing, there had been no rise in the price of labour. The dissolution of the monasteries had thrown a vast number of people on the public without any resource. Besides the vast number of monks and nuns who, instead of affording alms, were now obliged to seek a subsistence of some kind, the hundreds of thousands who had received daily assistance at the doors of convents and monasteries were obliged to beg, work, or starve. But the new proprietors who had obtained the abbey and chantry lands, found wool so much in demand, that instead of cultivating the land, and thus at once employing the people and growing corn for them, they threw their fields out of tillage, and made great enclosures where their profitable flocks could range without even the necessity of a shepherd.

The people thus driven to starvation were still more exasperated by the change in the religion of the country, in the destruction of their images, and the desecration of the shrines of their saints. Their whole public life had been changed by the change of their religion. Their oldest and most sacred associations were broken. Their pageants, their processions, their pilgrimages were all rudely swept away as superstitious rubbish; their gay holidays had become a gloomy blank. What their fathers and their pastors had taught them as peculiarly holy and essential to their spiritual well-being, their rulers had now pronounced to be damnable doctrines and the delusions of priestcraft; and whilst smarting under this abrupt privation of their bodily and spiritual support, they beheld the new lords of the ancient church lands greedily cutting off not only the old streams of benevolence, but the means of livelihood by labour, and showing not the slightest regard for their sufferings. The priests, the monks, the remaining heads of the Papist party did not fail to point assiduously at all these things, and to fan the fires of the popular discontent.

The timidity of the Protector roused the ferment to its climax by the very means which he resorted to in order to mitigate it. He ordered all the new enclosures to be thrown open by a certain day. The people rejoiced at this, believing that now they had the Government on their side. But they waited in vain to see the Protector's order obeyed. The Royal proclamation fully bore out the complaints of the populace. It declared that many villages, in which from one hundred to two hundred people had lived, were entirely destroyed; that one shepherd now dwelt where numerous industrious families dwelt before; and that the realm was wasted by turning arable land into pasture, and letting houses and families fall, decay, and lie waste. Hales, the commissioner, stated that the laws which had forbade any one to keep more than 2,000 sheep, and commanded the owners of church lands to keep household on the same, being disobeyed, the numbers of the king's subjects had wonderfully diminished. But though the Government admitted all this, it took no measures to make its proclamation effective; the land-owners disregarded it, and the people, believing that they were only seconding the law, assembled in great numbers, chose their captains or leaders, broke down the enclosures, killed the deer in the parks, and began to spoil and waste, according to Holinshed, after the manner of an open rebellion. The day approached when the use of the old liturgy was to cease, and instead of the music, the spectacle, and all the imposing ceremonies of high mass, they would be called on to listen to a plain sermon. Goaded to desperation by these combined grievances, the people rose in almost every part of the country.

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