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The Reign of Queen Mary page 12

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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.

Whilst Mary was thus suffering frightfully in person - from a complication of complaints, from dropsy, excessive head-aches, her head often being enormously swelled, and from hysterics - and whilst her reputation was suffering still more from the cruelties practised on her Protestant subjects, her heartless husband was leading a dissolute life, and even attempting to corrupt the maids of honour. Mary probably never knew anything of this, "for sometimes," says Pox, "she laid for weeks without speaking, as one dead, and more than once the rumour went that she had died in childbed."

Gardiner took advantage of the pause in persecution caused by the sermon of Di Castro, to withdraw from his odious office of chief inquisitor. Might lie not have instigated the friar to express his opinion so boldly, for it is obvious that he wanted to be clear of the dreadful work of murdering his fellow-subjects for their faith? He therefore withdrew from the office, and a more sanguinary man took it up. This was Bonner, Bishop of London. He opened his inquisitorial court in the consistory court of St. Paul's, and compelled the lord mayor and aldermen to attend and countenance his proceedings. Bonner condemned men to the flames with unrivalled facility, at the rate of half-a-dozen per day; and in this work he was stimulated to diligence by the Privy Council, who urged him continually forward. Burnet gives a letter written in the name of Philip and Mary exhorting him to increased activity; but from what we have seen of Mary's condition we may safely attribute the spur to Philip. Cardinal Pole did all in his power to put an end to the persecutions, but in vain.

It was now resolved to proceed to extremities with the three eminent prelates, Cranmer, Ridley, and Latimer. They had been long in prison, and had now been for the space of a year removed from the Tower to Oxford. They were all, in the eyes of the law, guilty of high treason, for they had all done their best to exclude the present queen from the throne. Cranmer had made the first breach in the Papal power in England by suggesting to Henry VIII. the mode of getting rid of Catherine, and of assuming the supremacy in the Church. Though obliged to conform to Henry's notions during his reign, he had under Edward given a great start to Protestantism, and had cordially concurred with Northumberland in setting aside Mary in the will of Edward. Ridley had openly espoused the cause of Lady Jane Grey, and Latimer had publicly preached, both in Edward's time and at the accession of Mary, against her succession- to the throne on account of her Popery.

But the charge of high treason was dropped, undoubtedly because it was hoped that they might, by the prospect of the flames, be brought as heretics to recantation. On the 15th of April, 1554, they were led from their prisons to St. Mary's Church, where the doctors of the university sat in judgment upon them. They were promised a free and fair discussion of their tenets, and the still more vain assurance was given them that if they could convince their opponents, they should be set free. The so-called disputation continued three days, but it much more truly represented a bear-baiting, than the honest discussion of men in quest of the truth.

On the 16th of April, the day appointed, Cranmer appeared before this disorderly assembly in the divinity school. He was treated with peculiar indignity, for they had a deep hatred of him from the long and conspicuous part which he had enacted in the work of Reformation. It was in vain that he attempted to state his views, for he was interrupted at every moment by half-a-dozen persons at once; and whenever he advanced anything particularly difficult of answer, the doctors denounced him as ignorant and unlearned, and the students hissed and clapped their hands outrageously. The next day Ridley experienced the same treatment, but he was a man of a much more bold and determined character, of profound learning, and ready address, and spite of the most disreputable clamour and riot, he made himself heard above all the storm, and with telling effect. When his adversaries shouted at him five or six at a time, he calmly observed, "I have but one tongue, I cannot answer all at once."

Poor old Latimer was not only oppressed by age, but by sickness, and he was scarcely able to stand. He appealed to his base judges to pity his weakness and give him a fair hearing. "Ha! good master," he said to Weston, the moderator, "I pray ye be good to an old man; ye may be once as old as I am: ye may come to this age and this debility." But he appealed in vain, his judges and hearers were lost to all sense of what is due to truth and religion, of what is due to the age and spirit of a veteran servant of God, whatever may have been his errors or failings. The rude students only laughed, hissed, clapped their hands, and mocked the old man the more. Seeing that all hopes of a hearing were vain, he told the rabble of his judges and spectators, for such they truly were, "that he had spoken before attentive kings for two and three hours at a time, but that he could not declare his mind there for a quarter of an hour for mockings, revilings, checks, rebukes, and taunts, such as he had not felt the like in such an audience all his life long." The three insulted and unheard prisoners wrote to the queen that they had been silenced by the noise, not by the arguments of their opponents, and Cranmer in his letter said, "I never knew nor heard of a more confused disputation in all my life; for albeit there was one appointed to dispute against me, yet every man spake his mind, and brought forth what him liked without order; and such haste was made, that no answer could be suffered to be given."

On the 28th of April, they were all three brought again into St. Mary's Church, and there asked by Weston whether they were willing to conform, and on replying in the negative, were condemned as obstinate heretics, and returned to their prison. There they lay till the October of the following year, when Ridley and Latimer were ordered to prepare for the stake. On the 16th of that month, a stake was erected in the town ditch opposite to Baliol College. Soto, a Spanish priest, had been sent to them in person to try to convert them, but in vain; Latimer would not even listen to him; and now at the stake a Dr. Smith, who had renounced Popery in King Edward's time, and was again a pervert, preached a sermon on the text, "Though I give my body to be burned and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing." The two martyrs cheered each other, and exhorted one another to be courageous, Ridley, on approaching the pile, turned to Latimer who was following him, embraced and kissed him, saying, "Be of good heart, brother, for God will either assuage the fury of the flame, or strengthen us to bear it;" and when Latimer was tied to the stake back to back with his fellow-sufferer, he returned the consolation, exclaiming, "Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man; we shall this day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out."

A lighted fagot was placed at the feet of Ridley, and matches applied to the pile. Bags of gunpowder were hung round their necks to shorten their sufferings, and as the flames ascended, Latimer was very quickly dead, probably through suffocation in the smoke; but Ridley suffered long. His brother-in-law had piled the faggots high about him. to hasten his death, but the flames did not readily find their way amongst them from their closeness, and a spectator hearing him cry out that he could not burn, opened the pile, and an explosion of gunpowder almost instantly terminated his existence.

Cranmer was reserved for a future day. The punctilios of ecclesiastical form were strictly observed, and as he enjoyed the dignity of primate of England, it required higher authority to decide his fate than that which had pronounced judgment on his companions. Latimer and Ridley had been sentenced by the commissioners of the legate, Cranmer must only be doomed by the Pontiff himself. He was, therefore, waited on in his cell by Brooks, Bishop of Gloucester, as Papal sub-delegate, and two Royal commissioners, and there cited to appear before him at Rome within eighty days, and answer for his heresies. As this was impossible, the citation was a mockery and an insult. When the archbishop saw his two friends led forth to their horrible death, his resolution, which never was very great, began to fail, and he now presented a woful image of terror and irresolution, very different to the bravery of his departed friends. He expressed a possibility of conversion to Rome, and desired a conference with Cardinal Pole. But soon he became ashamed of his own weakness, and wrote to the queen defending his own doctrines, which she commissioned the cardinal to answer. When the eighty days had expired, and the Pope had pronounced his sentence, and had appointed Bonner, and Thirlby, Bishop of Ely, to degrade him, and see his sentence executed, he once more trembled with apprehension, and gave out that he was ready to submit to the judgment of the queen; that he believed in the creed of the Catholic Church, and deplored and condemned his past apostacy. He forwarded this submission to the Council, which they found too vague, and required a more full and distinct confession, which he supplied. When the Bishops of London and Ely arrived to degrade him, he appealed from the judgment of the Pope to that of a general Council, but that not being listened to, he sent two other papers to the commissioners before they left Oxford, again fully and explicitly submitting to all the statutes of the realm regarding the supremacy, and professing his faith in all the doctrines and rites of the Romish Church.

It is asserted by the Protestant party that, in order to induce him to recant, he was promised his life on full conversion, but Lingard, on the authority of Strype, asserts that no such expectations were held out to him; that they were distinctly to Latimer and Ridley, but when the question was put whether the same favour should be extended to Cranmer, the Council decided in the negative, on the ground that, independent of his political offences, he was the cause of the schism in the reign of Henry, and of the change of religion in the reign of Edward, and that such offences required that he should suffer for example's sake; that the writ was directed to the mayor or bailiffs of Oxford, the day of execution fixed, and that, still hoping for pardon, he made a fifth recantation, as full as his adversaries could possibly desire, abjuring all his Protestant principles as erroneous doctrines; that he sent this paper to Cardinal Pole, praying a respite of a few days that he might prepare a still more convincing proof of his repentance, and do away, before his death, the scandal given by his past conduct. This prayer, it is said, the queen cheerfully granted; and if the persons in whose hands he was at Oxford held out a prospect of final pardon, this was probably a base and unwarranted deceit on their part, in order to induce the frail prelate to humiliate himself and his cause the more. But we are told that they now removed him from his prison to the house of the Dean of Christchurch, where they treated him luxuriously and did everything to make life sweet, and the prospect of the burning stake awful to him; that he was allowed to walk about at his pleasure, to play at bowls, and that he was assured that the queen loved him and only wished for his conversion; that the Council were rather his friends than his enemies, and would be glad to see him again amongst them in honour and dignity. Whoever authorised these false pretences, whether in high or low station, were guilty of the most infamous conduct. Under these delusions he now penned his sixth confession, acknowledging that he had been a greater persecutor of the Church than Paul, and trusted that, like Paul, he might make ample reparation. What he had thrown down he could not restore; but, like the penitent thief upon the cross, he trusted to obtain mercy through his confession. He declared himself worthy of eternal punishment; that he had blasphemed against the sacrament, had sinned against heaven and his sovereign, and implored pardon from the Pope, the king, and queen.

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