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The Reign of Queen Mary page 10


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If Mary, however, shut out her people, she did not close her heart to her guilty sister. She sent for Elizabeth, who was brought under a strong guard from Woodstock. On arriving at Hampton Court she had her admitted to her bed-chamber, where Elizabeth fell on her knees, and protested as firmly as ever her innocence. If the statements of the intercepted letters are to be relied on, Mary had too convincing proofs in her own hands to allow her to give credit to Elizabeth's asseverations, and to cut the matter short she replied, putting a valuable ring on Elizabeth's finger, "Whether you be guilty or innocent, I forgive you." Mary, however, without making Elizabeth a prisoner, thought it necessary to place a trusty person in her house under the character of comptroller of her household, and Sir Thomas Pope was chosen for this office. Subsequent events showed the prudence of this arrangement, for though. Elizabeth was repeatedly tempted to listen to artful plotters, such a guard was maintained over her that she never again fell under disgrace with the queen.

On the 11th of November the third Parliament of Mary's reign was summoned, and she and her Royal husband rode from Hampton Court to Whitehall to open the session. The king and queen rode side by side, a sword of state being borne before each to betoken their independent sovereignties. The queen was extremely anxious to restore the lands reft from the Church by her father and brother to their ancient uses, but she must have known little of the men into whose hands those lands had fallen, if she could seriously hope for such a sacrifice. The Earl of Bedford, than whom no one had more deeply gorged himself with Church plunder, on hearing the proposition, tore his rosary from his girdle, and flung it into the fire, saying, he valued the abbey of Wobern more than any fatherly council that could come from Rome. All the rest of the council were of the same way of thinking as Bedford, and Mary saw that it was a hopeless case to move them on that point, though she set them a very honourable example by surrendering the lands which still remained in the hands of the Crown, to the value of 60,000 a year.

Though Mary could not recover the property to the Church, she resolved to restore that Church to unity with Rome. She expressed her earnest desire to have the presence of her kinsman, Cardinal Pole, in her kingdom, and he now set out for England, from which he had been banished so many years; and he rendered this return the more easy, by bringing with him from the Pope a bull, which confirmed the nobles in their possession of the Church property, on condition that the Papal supremacy was restored. The queen dispatched Sir Edward Hastings to accompany the cardinal; and Sir William Cecil, who had been Edward's unhesitating minister in stripping the Church, set out of his own accord to pay homage to the Papal representative. Cecil's only real religion was ambition, and Mary knew that so well that, spite of all his time-serving, she never would place any confidence in him, whence his bitter hostility to her memory.

Pole, on his arrival, ascended the Thames from Greenwich in a splendid state barge, at the prow of which he fixed a large silver cross, thus marking the entrance of the legatine and Papal authority into the country, as it were, in a triumphal manner.

Gardiner, the chancellor, received him at the Watergate; King Philip at the grand entrance, and the queen at the head of the stairs, where she exclaimed on seeing him, "The day that I ascended the throne I did not feel such joy." His arrival was celebrated by grand banquetings and a tournament, at which the English and Spanish nobles contended, with King Philip at their head. In this tournament the Spaniards introduced a novelty - the Moorish game of throwing the jeered, or cane.

The cardinal had assigned him for his residence the archiepiscopal palace at Lambeth, vacant by the imprisonment of the primate; and thus was the old faith placed in the ascendancy, its highest representative in this country occupying the official residence of the reforming metropolitan.

On the 24th of November the king and queen met the united Parliament in the presence-chamber of the palace of Whitehall: this was owing to the indisposition of the queen. Gardiner introduced the business, which, he told them, was the weightiest that ever happened in this realm, and begged their utmost attention to Cardinal Pole, who would open the same. Pole then made a long speech, reverting to his own history as well as that of the nation. All listened in solemn seriousness and yet apprehension when he announced to them the fact that the Pope was ready to absolve the English from their crimes of heresy and contumacy. But when he added that this was to be done without any reclamation of the Church lands, there was a unanimous vote of both Houses for reconciliation with Rome.

The next morning, the king, queen, and Parliament met again in the presence-chamber, when, Pole presenting himself, Philip and Mary rose, and bowing profoundly to him, presented him with the vote of Parliament. The cardinal, on receiving it, offered up thanks to God for this auspicious event, and then ordered his commission to be read. The Peers and Commons then fell on their knees and received absolution and benediction from the hands of the cardinal, and thus for a time again was the great breach betwixt England and the Papacy healed, or rather skinned over. The whole assembly, including their majesties, proceeded to St. Stephen's Chapel, where "Te Deum" was sung, and the next Sunday the legate made his public entry into London, and he and Philip attended at St. Paul's Cross, where Gardiner preached, making great lamentation over his own backslidings and those of the nation in the reign of Henry VIII., and exhorting all now to do as he had done, and make reparation for their apostacy by seeking the unity of the Church.

Parliament proceeded to pass acts confirming all that was now done, repealing all the statutes which had passed against the Roman Church since the 20th of Henry VIII., and the clergy in Convocation making formal resignation of the possessions which had passed into the hands of laymen. The legate also issued decrees authorising all cathedral churches, hospitals, and schools, founded since the schism, to be preserved, and that all persons who had contracted marriages within prescribed degrees should remain married notwithstanding.

The Christmas of 1554 was celebrated with unusual splendour and gaiety. The wedding festivities of the queen had been cut short by the death of Norfolk, and it was intended to make these a sort of reparation to the pleasure-loving courtiers. The queen and the Princess Elizabeth being reconciled, that lady was present and treated with all distinction by both the king and queen. It was a popular idea that Philip was anxious to send Elizabeth to Spain and have her consigned to some convent there, but Philip was too politic for that. He had no children by his English queen, though there were confident expectations of that kind, and till he was secure of an English heir, it was his policy to maintain Elizabeth in the position of the heir-apparent, as a set off to the Queen of Scots, who was about to be married to the heir of the French throne.

Besides Elizabeth, there were now assembled at the English Court a number of persons destined to fill the most prominent places in the history of Europe, for good as for evil. There was the Duke of Alva, veiling under the graces of a fine person one of the most cruel and dangerous spirits which ever exercised its malignant force on human destinies. There were two, also, of the celebrated victims of Philip and Alva - the Counts Egmont and Home, the patriots of Flanders, who shed their blood on the scaffold for defending their country against the tyranny of this king and this his minister. There was Ruy Gomez, the future famous prime minister of Spain; Philibert Emanuel of Savoy, the lover of Elizabeth and conqueror of St. Quintin; and the Prince of Orange, calmly mixing with the festive throng, unconscious that it was his high destiny to pluck oppressed Holland from the iron grasp of this same Philip. So closed, in a blaze of brief splendour, the year 1554.

To Mary the honour is due of concluding, early in the following year, the first commercial treaty with Russia. She sent Chancellor, the northern explorer, on an embassy to the Czar Iwan Wasiljevitch, who brought back with him Osep Napea Gregorivitch as the first Russian ambassador who ever appeared in England. She incorporated by charter the company of merchant adventurers trading to Muscovy. Napea was received with great distinction by Mary at Court, in May, 1555, and astonished the courtiers by the enormous size of the pearls and gems on his cap, and the ouches which he wore on his robes.

The year 1555 opened with dark and threatening features. The queen's health was failing; and, under the idea that she was merely suffering maternal inconvenience, she was rapidly advancing in a dropsy which, in less than two years, was destined to sink her to the tomb. The king, gloomy, despotic, and, consequently, unpopular, though he often endeavoured to act against his nature, and assume a popular character, still hoping for an heir to the English crown, had obtained from Parliament an act constituting him regent, in case Mary should die after the birth of a child, during the minority of that child. Thus, whether the queen lived or died, he appeared to possess a reasonable prospect of obtaining the supreme power in this country; and how he would have used it, we may judge from his government of Spain and the Netherlands. If the child was a female, he was made governor till her fifteenth year; if a male, till his eighteenth year. Philip protested on his honour that he would give up the government faithfully when the child came of age; but Lord Paget asked "who was to sue the bond if he did not?" - a suggestion never forgiven. With this flattering but illusive prospect before him, the tempest of persecution soon burst forth; and, had Providence permitted, England would soon have exhibited the same scene of tyranny, bloodshed, and insult which Flanders did under his rule. As it was, for a short period, terrible war for conscience sake burst forth, the prisons were thronged, and the fires of death blazed out in every quarter of the island. Mary, with failing health, and doting absurdly on her husband, was easily drawn to acquiesce in deeds and measures which have made her name a terror and a byword to all future times.

One little gleam of mercy and magnanimity preceded this reign of horror, like the streak of red in the morning sky which often heralds a tempestuous day. Gardiner, accompanied by several members of the Council, went to the Tower, and by royal authority, and, as he said, at the intercession of the emperor, liberated the state prisoners confined there on account of their participation in the attempts of Northumberland and Wyatt. These were Holgate, Archbishop of York, Ambrose, Henry, and Andrew Dudley, sons to the late Duke of Northumberland, Sir James Crofts, and Sir Nicholas Throckmorton. Courtenay, who had been liberated from Fotheringay, received a permission to travel, a permission believed to be tantamount to a command. Indeed, the presence of this handsome but contemptible man could not be pleasant to himself or any one else at the English Court. He had shown himself cowardly, dissipated, and ungrateful. He had rebelled in his heart, if not by any daring act, against Mary, who liberated him from a life-long prison. He had entered into those designs with Elizabeth which must make his presence a continual reproach to her, and he had not strength of character to grow wiser or better by experience. He appears to have continued his life of low debauch on the Continent, and died at Padua in 1556, leaving the title of Earl of Devon extinct in the Courtenay family, for nearly three centuries.

In February, the Viscount Montague, the Bishop of Ely, and Sir Edward Came, were dispatched to Borne to ratify the union which had taken place betwixt England and the Papal Court. Two Popes died whilst they were on their journey, Julius III. and Marcellus II.; and Paul IV. was elected just before their arrival, Cardinal Pole having on both occasions been an unsuccessful candidate for the tiara. Paul received the ambassadors, naturally, with much pleasure. At the petition of Philip and Mary, he raised the lordship of Ireland to the dignity of a kingdom. The ambassadors, on their part, recognised the Pontiff as the head of the universal Church, presented him a copy of the Act by which his authority was restored in England, and obtained his ratification of the acts of his legate, granting absolution to all for the offence of the schism, and confirming the bishoprics created during that period.

Whilst the ambassadors were thus cementing again the ancient alliance at Rome, the Spanish rule in England was growing every day more unpopular. Few of the Spaniards as had been allowed to remain, the English saw them with unconquerable aversion. They could not pass them in the streets without insulting them. These fracas became so frequent and violent, and the English had such a positive notion that Philip meant to bring this country under Spanish rule, that he was obliged to try and hang a Spaniard who had killed an Englishman at Charing Cross. The people were ready to listen to any story which confirmed this idea, or which promised to unsettle the Government, and amongst other projects there was one of the Simnel and Warbeck class, though a very threadbare one.

A youth appeared in Kent, who gave himself out as Edward VI., who, he declared, had only been in a trance, and not actually dead, and had been recovered from the tomb. The story, improbable as it was, soon flew far and wide amongst the people, and reaching the ears of the Council, excited so much apprehension, that the lad was seized at Eltham, and conducted to Hampton Court. He there confessed that he had been put upon this scheme, and he was sent in a cart through London with a paper over his head, stating that he was the impostor who had pretended to be King Edward. He was then conveyed to Westminster, exhibited in the hall, and afterwards whipped at a cart's tail back through the streets of London, and then sent off into the north, whence, it seems, he came. Being afterwards found rambling about and repeating the same tale, he was hanged, drawn, and quartered at Tyburn, in the following year.

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