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The Reign of Queen Mary page 11

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Before launching into the horrors that are now before us, we will quote the observations of Miss Strickland in her life of Queen Mary, because they take a view of the character of Mary, and of the real origin of the persecutions of her reign, different from the general estimate, and, at all events, deserving of being heard.

"Noailles expressly assured his sovereign, the King of [France, that it was of little use appealing to Queen Mary as an independent sovereign; for from the day of her marriage, Philip of Spain ruled virtually in every pleasure, domestic or foreign, in the kingdom of England.

"The bishops received notice to make processions and prayers for the life and safety of the heir to the throne, of which the queen expected to become mother.

"It is true that her hope of bringing offspring was utterly delusive^ the increase of her figure was but symptomatic of dropsy, attended by a complication of the most dreadful disorders which can afflict the female frame, under which every faculty of her mind and body sank for months. At this time commenced that horrible persecution of the Protestants which has stained her name to all futurity; but if eternal obloquy was incurred by the half-dead queen, what is the duo of the Parliaments which legalised the acts of cruelty committed in her name? Shall we call the House of Lords bigoted, when its majority, which sanctioned this wickedness, were composed of the same individuals who had planted, very recently, the Protestant Church of England? Surely not; for the name implies honest though wrong-headed attachment to one religion. Shall we suppose that the land groaned under the iron sway of a standing army? or that the Spanish bridegroom had introduced foreign forces? But reference to facts will prove that even Philip's household servants were sent back with his fleet, and a few valets, fools, and fiddlers belonging to the grandees, his bridesmen, were all the forces permitted to land - no very formidable band to Englishmen. The queen had kept her word rigorously when she asserted 'that no alteration should be made in religion without universal consent.'

"Three times in two years had she sent the House of Commons back to their constituents, although they were most compliant in any measure relative to her religion. If she had bribed one Parliament, why did she not keep it sitting during her short reign? If the Parliament had been honest as herself, her reign would have been the pride of her country, instead of its reproach; because if they had clone their duty in guarding their fellow-creatures from bloody penal laws respecting religion, the queen, by her first regal act in restoring the free constitution of the great Plantagenets, had put it out of the power of her Government to take furtive vengeance on. any individual who opposed it. She had exerted all the energies of her great eloquence to impress on the minds of her judges that they were to sit 'as indifferent umpires between herself and her people.' She had 110 standing army to awe Parliament - no rich civil list to bribe them. By restoring the great estates of the Howards, the Percys, and many other victims of Henry VIII., and of the regency of Edward VI., by giving back the revenues of the plundered bishoprics and the Church lands possessed by the Crown, she had reduced herself to poverty as complete as the most enthusiastic lover of freedom could desire. But her personal expenditure was extremely economical, and she successfully struggled with poverty till her husband involved England in a French war. The French ambassador affirmed in his despatches that the queen was so very poor that her want of money was apparent in everything pertaining to herself, even to the dishes put upon her own table. Such self-denial contributed to render her unpopular among her courtiers, and penuriousness has been added to the list of her ill qualities; but those who reckon up the vast sums she had restored to their rightful owners, or refused to appropriate in confiscation, will allow that hers was an honourable poverty.

"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.

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