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The Reign of Queen Mary page 11


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"The fact of whether the torpid and half-dead queen was the instigator of a persecution the memory of which curdles the blood with horror, at this distance of time, is a question of less moral import at the present day than a close analysation of the evils with which selfish interests had infected the legislative powers of our country. It was in vain that Mary almost abstained from creation of peers, and restored the ancient custom of annual Parliaments; the majority of the persons composing the Houses of Peers and Commons were dishonest, indifferent to all religions, and willing to establish the most opposing rituals, so that they might retain their grasp on the accursed thing with which their very souls were corrupted - for corrupted they were, though not by the unfortunate queen. The Church j lands with which Henry VIII. had bribed his aristocracy, titled and untitled, into co-operation with his enormities, both personal and political, had induced national depravity. The leaders of the Marian persecution, Gardiner and Bonner, were of the apostate class of persecutors. 'Flesh bred in murder,' they had belonged to the Government of Henry VIII., which sent the zealous Roman Catholic and the pious Protestant to the same stake. For the sake of worldly advantage, either for ambition or power, Gardiner and Bonner had, for twenty years, promoted the burning or quartering of the advocates of Papal supremacy; they now turned with the tide, and burnt, with the same degree of conscientiousness, the opposers of Papal supremacy.

"The persecution appears to have been greatly aggravated by the caprice or the private vengeance of these prelates; for a great jurist of our times (Sir James Macintosh), who paid unprejudiced attention to the facts, has thus summed up the case: - 'Of fourteen bishoprics, the Catholic prelates used their influence so successfully as altogether to prevent bloodshed in nine, and to reduce it within limits in the remaining five. Bonner, "whom all generations call bloody," raged so furiously in the diocese of London, as to be charged with burning half the martyrs in the kingdom.' Cardinal Pole, the queen's relative and familiar friend, took no part in these horrible condemnations. He considered that his vocation was the reformation of manners; he used to blame Gardiner for his reliance on the arm of flesh, and was known to rescue from Bonner's crowded pile of martyrs the inhabitants of his own district. It is more probable that the queen's private opinion leaned rather to her cousin, who had retained the religion she loved unchanged> than to Gardiner, who had been its persecutor; but Gardiner was armed with the legislative powers of the kingdom, unworthy as its time-serving legislators were to exercise them. Yet all ought not to be included in one sweeping censure; a noble minority of good men, disgusted at the detestable penal laws which lighted the torturing fires for Protestants, seceded bodily from the House of Commons, after vainly opposing them. This glorious band, for the honour of human nature, was composed of Catholics as well as Protestants; it was headed by the great jurist Plowden, a Catholic so firm as to refuse the chancellorship when persuaded to take it by Queen Elizabeth, because he would not change his religion. This secession was the first indication of a principle of merciful toleration to be found among any legislators in England. Few were the numbers of these good men (thirty-seven in all), and it was long before their principles gained ground; for, truly, the world had not made sufficient advance in Christian civilisation at that time to recognise any virtue in religious toleration."

We are now called upon to pass through a reign of terror, a time of fire and blood, such as has no parallel in the history of England. With the Spaniards had come to England, if not the Inquisition in its bodily form, yet the spirit of the Inquisition. The first burst of the storm fell upon the married priests, who were insulted and driven from their livings. In London, a number of them were made to march in procession round St. Paul's Church, wrapped in white sheets, and bearing in their hands scourges and tapers. They were then publicly whipped, and this was a precedent for the same indignities in other parts of the kingdom. The wives of these priests were treated with the utmost contumely. The statutes against the Lollards enacted in the reigns of Richard II., Henry IV., and Henry V., were revived and were to come into force on the 20th of January. Bonner, accompanied by eight bishops and 160 priests, made a grand procession through the streets of London, and had services of public thanksgiving for the happy restoration of Catholicism. A commission was then held in the Church of St. Mary Overy, in Southwark, for the trial of heretics. The first man brought before this court, over which Gardiner presided, was John Rogers, a prebendary of St. Paul's, who had nobly distinguished himself by defending the first priest sent by Mary to preach Papacy at St. Paul's Cross. He had been lying in a vile prison amongst thieves for more than a year. He now came forth prepared for death, with a bravery that nothing could daunt. He boldly asked Gardiner, who was browbeating and insulting him, whether he himself did not for twenty years renounce the Pope, and put up prayers for his eternal exclusion from England. Gardiner endeavoured to parry this home-thrust by saying that he was forced to it by cruelty. "And," rejoined Rogers, "does it become you to practise this same cruelty on us?" He not only thus addressed Gardiner but appealed to the whole Court, whether they had not sworn, year after year under Henry and Edward, to maintain the laws which they introduced on the subject of religion, and how could they now condemn others for persisting conscientiously in that course? He vindicated his marriage as being originally contracted in Germany, where the marriages of clergymen were legal, and as being since allowed also in this country, and reminded them that he had not brought his wife into this country until such marriages were made lawful here.

The Court condemned him to be burnt, and on the 4th of February this horrible sentence was executed in the most barbarous manner. The day of his death was kept a profound secret from him, and early that morning he was suddenly awakened out of a sound sleep, and informed that he was to be burnt that day. The condemned man, so far from sinking under the appalling announcement, only calmly observed, "Then I need not truss my points." He requested to be permitted to take leave of his wife and children, of whom he had eleven - one still at the breast - but this Bonner refused. As he was led by the sheriffs towards Smithfield, where he was to suffer, he sang the "Miserere." His wife and children were placed where he would have a full view of them at the stake, and it was expected that this would induce him to recant and save his life, and thus induce others to follow his example; but outwardly unmoved, he maintained the most sublime fortitude. Noailles, the French ambassador, who was a spectator, wrote to his own sovereign, who was equally persecuting the Protestants in his kingdom: "This day the confirmation of the alliance between the Pope and this kingdom has been made by a public and solemn sacrifice of a preaching doctor named Rogers, who has been burnt alive for being a Lutheran, but he has met his death persisting in his opinion; at which the greater part of the people here took such pleasure that they did not fear to give him many acclamations to comfort his courage: and even his children stood by consoling him in such a way, that he looked as if they were conducting him to a merry marriage."

Bishop Hooper, Ferrar, Bishop of St. David's, Dr. Rowland Taylor of Hadleigh, in Suffolk, and Lawrence Saunders, Rector of Allhallows, Coventry, were all condemned to the same death, and, like Rogers, offered their lives on recantation, which one and all refused. The treatment of the pious Bishop Hooper was a most glaring case of ingratitude. Decided Protestant as he was, and of the most primitive simplicity of faith, he had from the first manifested the most stanch loyalty to Mary. In. his own account of himself, he says, "When Mary's fortunes were at the worst, I rode myself from place to place, as is well known, to win and stay the people to her party, And whereas, when another was proclaimed (Lady Jane Grey) I preferred our queen, notwithstanding the proclamations. I sent horses in both shires (Gloucestershire and Worcester) to serve her in great danger, as Sir John Talbot and William Lygon, Esq., can testify."

Hooper was sent down to Gloucester, his own diocese, to suffer, where he was burnt on the 9th of February, in a slow fire, to increase and prolong his agonies to the utmost. On the same day Dr. Taylor was burnt at Hadleigh. He had formerly been chaplain in the house of Cranmer, who gave him the living of Hadleigh. Taylor, an ancestor of the pious and eloquent Jeremy Taylor, was a man of a singular boldness and promptness in avowing his opinions. The change in the State religion soon manifested itself in his church. The rector of the neighbouring parish of Aldham, on Mary's accession, presented himself at Hadleigh Church to celebrate mass, because Taylor firmly refused to perform it himself. On hearing of his arrival, Taylor hastened to the church to prevent him, but found him clad in the vestments of a priest, already before a newly-erected altar, and preparing to say mass, defended by a number of men with drawn swords. "Thou devil!" exclaimed the plain-spoken Taylor; "who made thee so bold as to enter into this church of Christ?" "Thou traitor," retorted the Rector of Aldham, "what dost thou here to let the queen's proceedings?" "I am no traitor," replied Taylor, "but the shepherd whom God hath appointed to feed his flock in this place, and I command thee, thou Popish wolf, in the name of God, to avoid hence," The Rector of Aldham and his followers, however, pushed Taylor out of his own church, and fastened the door, whilst they proceeded with the service. The rector's parishioners, sympathising with their pastor, flung stones through the windows. Taylor was advised to hide himself from the certain vengeance of the Government; but he replied that he was too old for flight, and had already lived too long to witness such unhappy changes.

When brought before Gardiner, the undaunted man told the bishop to his face that it ill became him, who had so often sworn under Henry VIII. and Edward to maintain the new form of religion, to break his oaths and attempt to compel others to break them. He was committed to prison, on his own confession that he was a married man, and one who held the mass to be a vile idolatry. On the 4th of February, Bonner went to Taylor's prison to degrade him from the priesthood, and found him as courageous as ever. When Bonner was about to strike him on the head with the crosier, according to the formula on such occasions, his chaplain, alarmed, cried out, "My lord, strike him not, for he will surely strike again!" "Yea, by St. Peter, will I," said Taylor; "for the cause is Christ's, and I were no good Christian if I refused to fight in my master's quarrel." When brought to the stake at Hadleigh, one of the sheriff's men, probably out of a compassionate motive, struck him on the head with his halberd, and thrust him in the centre of the flames, thus mercifully shortening his sufferings.

Ferrar, the Bishop of St. David's, was burnt in his own diocese on the 30th of March, and Lawrence Saunders, Rector of Allhallows, was burnt at Coventry. On Easter day a monk of the name of Flower or Branch, who had become a Protestant, was so excited against a priest who was administering the sacrament to the people in the Roman fashion in the church of St. Margaret's, Westminster, that he stabbed him; and for this sacrilegious crime had his right hand cut off on the 24th of April, and was afterwards burnt in the Sanctuary, near St. Margaret's churchyard.

The burnings now went on as a matter of course. John Cardmaker, chancellor of the church at Wells, was burnt in London on the 31st of May; John Broadfoot, a most learned and pious man, suffered the same death, in the same place, about a month afterwards. About the same time, Thomas Hawkes, a gentleman of Essex, was burnt at Coggeshall; John Lawrence, a priest, at Colchester; Tomkins, a weaver, at Shoreditch; Piggott, a butcher, at Braintree; Knight, a barber, at Maldon; and Hunter, a silk-weaver's apprentice, at Brentwood. These were followed by a crowd of others in different parts of the kingdom; and the prisons everywhere were crowded with the unfortunate Protestants, who suffered all the horrors which confinement in the appalling prisons of these times - prisons dark, unventilated, undrained, having no provisions for cleanliness and decency - inevitably inflicted.

This shocking state of things was interrupted for some time by the sudden and extraordinary outbreak of Alphonso di Castro, the confessor of King Philip, a Spanish friar, who preached before the Court a sermon in which ho most vehemently and eloquently inveighed against the wickedness and inhumanity of burning people for their opinions. He declared that the practice was not learned in the Scriptures, but the contrary; for it was decidedly opposed to both the letter and the spirit of the New Testament; that it was the duty of the Government and the clergy to win men to the Gospel by mildness, and not to kill but to instruct the ignorant. A mystery has always hung over this singular demonstration. Some thought Philip, some that Mary, had ordered him to preach this sermon, but it is far more probable that it was the spontaneous act of zeal in a man who was enlightened beyond his age and his country. It is not probable that it proceeded from Philip, for he could at once have commanded this change; it is besides contrary to his life-long policy. Had it been the will of the sovereigns it would have produced a permanent effect. As it was, it took the Court and country by surprise. The impression on the Court was so powerful that all further burnings ceased for five weeks, by which time the good friar's sermon had lost its effect; and the religious butcheries went on as fiercely as ever, till more than two hundred persons had been slaughtered on account of their faith in this short reign. Miles Coverdale, the venerable translator of the Bible, was saved from this death by the King of Denmark writing to Mary and claiming him as his subject.

Mary had now, according to the custom of English queens, formally taken to her chamber in expectation of giving birth to an heir to the throne. She chose Hampton Court as the scene of this vainly hoped-for event, and went there on the 3rd of April, where she continued secluded from her subjects, only being seen on one occasion, till the 21st of July, after she had again returned to St. James's. This occasion was on the 23rd of May, St. George's Day, when she stood at a window of the palace to see the procession of the Knights of the Garter with Philip at their head, attended by Gardiner, the lord chancellor, and a crowd of priests with crosses, march round the courts and cloisters of Hampton Court. A few days afterwards there was a report that a prince was born, and there was much ringing of bells and singing "Te Deum" in the City and other places. But it soon became known that there was no hope of an heir, but that the queen was suffering under a mortal disease, and that such was her condition, "that she sat whole days together on the ground crouched together with her knees higher than her head." On the 21st of July she removed for her health from London to Eltham Palace.

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Pictures for The Reign of Queen Mary page 11

Queen Mary I
Queen Mary I >>>>
The Crown of England offered to Lady Jane Grey.
The Crown of England offered to Lady Jane Grey. >>>>
Lady Jane Grey and Roger Ascham
Lady Jane Grey and Roger Ascham >>>>
Execution of the Duke of Northumberland on Tower Hill.
Execution of the Duke of Northumberland on Tower Hill. >>>>
Philip of Spain
Philip of Spain >>>>
Allington Castle
Allington Castle >>>>
Great Seal of Queen Mary
Great Seal of Queen Mary >>>>
Autograph of Queen Mary
Autograph of Queen Mary >>>>
Queen Mary in her Private Oratory
Queen Mary in her Private Oratory >>>>
Wyatt
Wyatt >>>>
Lady Jane Grey
Lady Jane Grey >>>>
Carving ascribed to John Dudley
Carving ascribed to John Dudley >>>>
Inscription cut by the Husband of Lady Jane Grey on the wall of his prison
Inscription cut by the Husband of Lady Jane Grey on the wall of his prison >>>>
The Princess Elizabeth
The Princess Elizabeth >>>>
Reception of the First Russian Embassy in England
Reception of the First Russian Embassy in England >>>>
Lord Guildford Dudleys room
Lord Guildford Dudleys room >>>>
The Burning of Archbishop Cranmer
The Burning of Archbishop Cranmer >>>>
The Recantation of Archbishop Cranmer
The Recantation of Archbishop Cranmer >>>>
Place of Execution, Smithfield
Place of Execution, Smithfield >>>>
Martyrs Stone at Hadleigh
Martyrs Stone at Hadleigh >>>>
Siege of Calais
Siege of Calais >>>>
Queen Elizabeth
Queen Elizabeth >>>>
Queen Elizabeth acknowledged by the Bishops
Queen Elizabeth acknowledged by the Bishops >>>>

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