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The Reign of Queen Mary page 13


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On the 21st of March, 1556, Cranmer was conducted to St. Mary's Church, where Dr. Cole, provost of Eton College, preached a sermon, in which he stated that notwithstanding Cranmer's full repentance, he had done the Church so much mischief that he must die. That morning Garcina, a Spanish friar, had waited on him before leaving his cell, and presented him with a paper making a complete statement of his recantation and repentance, which he requested him to transcribe and sign. It seems that his enemies calculated that, having so fully committed himself, the fallen primate would not at the last hour depart from his confession; but they were mistaken, Cranmer now saw nothing but death before him, and he most bitterly repented of his weakness and the renunciation of what he felt to be the holy truth. He had, therefore, transcribed once more the paper which had been brought to him, but in place of the latter part of it he wrote in a very different conclusion. Accordingly, when he read his paper at the conclusion of the sermon there was a profound silence till he came to the fifth article of it, which went on to declare that through fear of death, and beguiled by hopes of pardon, he had been led to renounce his genuine faith, but that he now declared that all his recantations were false; that he recalled them every one, rejected the Papal authority, and confirmed the whole doctrine contained in his book. The amazement was intense, the audience became agitated by various passions, there were mingled murmurings and approbation. The Lord Williams of Thame called to him to "remember himself and play the Christian." That was touching a string which woke the response of the hero and the martyr in the primate. He replied that he did remember; that it was now too late to dissemble, and he must now speak the truth.

This was the time which was to atone for all the weakness of nature in Cranmer, for all his shrinkings, his compliances, his concealments, and almost for his persecutions of others. He saw death certain, and its terrors vanished. The mighty and sublime truth which he had always worshipped in his heart, but which he had not always had the strength to testify and maintain, though he had still been permitted to serve it essentially, now assumed its whole place in his soul, and nerved him for one final and glorious victory.

When the first astonishment at this unlooked-for declaration had passed, there was a rush to drag down Cranmer, and hurry him to the stake in the same spot where his friends Ridley and Latimer had suffered. There he was speedily stripped to the shirt and tied to the stake; through it all he was firm and calm. He no longer trembled at his fate; he declared that he had never changed his belief; hope of life only had wrung from him his recantation; and the moment that the flames burst out he thrust his right hand into them saying, "This hath offended." The writers of those times say, that he stood by the stake whilst the fire raged round him, as immovable as the stake itself, and lifting up his eyes to heaven, exclaimed, "Lord, receive my spirit," and very soon expired.

The burning of Latimer, Ridley, and Cranmer has justly been pronounced a gross political blunder. The noble firmness and dignity with which these eminent men died, made a profound and lasting impression on the public mind. Their faith was, as it were, burnt into the general heart with their death. The enemies of Cranmer had particularly calculated on dishonouring the Reformation in him; at the last moment he rose, and threw new lustre on it. Men might have despised a faith which its adherents were weak enough to renounce; but its opponents drove their triumph too far, and it became the triumph of their victims, whose end, ennobled by their religion, made men reflect on that, and gave new impulse, and widely different influence to it.

The day after the death of Cranmer, Cardinal Pole, who had now taken priest's orders, was consecrated Archbishop of Canterbury; and showed his anxiety to check this fierce and impolitic persecution, but, as we shall find, with no great result.

Whilst these terrible transactions had been taking place King Philip had quitted the kingdom. With all his endeavours to become popular with the English, Philip never could win their regard. He conformed to many national customs, and affected to enjoy the national amusements; threw off much of his hauteur, especially in his intercourse with the nobles, and conferred pensions on them on the plea that they had stood by the queen during the insurrection. But nothing could inspire the English with confidence in him. They had always an idea that the object of the Spaniards was to introduce the Spanish rule and dominance here. They had always the persuasion that it was no longer their own queen but the future King of Spain and the Netherlands who ruled. It was clearly seen that Philip never had any real affection for Mary; it was the public opinion that he had now less than ever, whilst the poor invalid Mary doated on him, and was ready to yield up everything but the actual sovereignty to him. And now came a very sufficient cause for the departure of Philip from England. His father, Charles V., wearied of governing his vast empire, was anxious to abdicate in favour of his son. Philip embarked at Dover on the 4th of September, 1555. Mary accompanied him from Hampton to Greenwich, riding through London in a litter, in order, as the French ambassador states, "that her people might see that she was not dead." The queen was anxious to proceed as far as Dover, and see him embark, but her health did not permit this; and after parting with him with passionate grief, she endeavoured to console herself by having daily prayers offered for his safety and speedy return.

Before quitting the kingdom, Philip took care to leave with Cardinal Pole directions for the guidance of the Council, and these directions, which remain in the cardinal's handwriting, are as absolute, and as void of reference to any option of the queen's, as if there were no such person. This is plain proof that the English were quite right when they ascribed to Philip the real and sole government of the country, the queen having an idea that it was her duty as a wife to submit in all things to her husband. This important fact is fully substantiated by an oration of Sir Thomas Smith, in which he traced all the cruelty of Mary's reign to her marriage; by Fuller, the Church historian, who, whilst recording all the horrors of her reign, admits that "she had been a worthy princess if as little cruelty had been done under her as by her;" and by Fox, in his "Book of Martyrs," who declares that "she was a woman every way excellent while she followed her own inclination." Nor did the queen resume more power in his absence, for we are assured by Noailles, that he maintained a constant correspondence with his ministers, and no appointment or measure was carried into effect without his previous knowledge and consent.

Scarcely was Philip gone when Mary alarmed the nobility by agitating the question of the resumption of the Church lands, declaring that they had been taken from the proper owners in the time of schism. She offered to resign those held by the Crown on the same principle; but Parliament would listen to neither of these propositions for some time, and finally only permitted the Government to restore the first-fruits, tenths, and impropriations, fearing that it might only be a prelude to a demand of the Church lands held by themselves. On the 12th of November, 1558, before the closing of the Parliament, Gardiner died, and Heath, the Archbishop of York, a man of much inferior talent, was made chancellor.

During Philip's absence in 1556, he sent continual demands for money. It was impossible to supply this, and it was contrary to the marriage treaty. Mary, in resigning the tenths and first-fruits, gave up an income of 60,000 a year; and when she applied to Parliament, the Commons asked whether it was reasonable that the subjects should be taxed to relieve the necessities of the sovereign when she refused to avail herself of the resources lawfully in her own hands. There were public complaints that Philip was draining the country for his own Continental purposes. Disappointed in Parliament, she next endeavoured to raise a loan. She named 1,000 persons, and demanded a contribution of 60 from each, to make up a sum of 60.000, Next 60,000 marks were levied on 7,000 yeomen, who had not contributed to the loan, and from the merchants 36,000. These sums not sufficing, still more extraordinary means were resorted to. Embargoes and prohibitions of exportation of goods were laid on to benefit merchants who had already goods in foreign markets, and who paid largely for this monopoly. Being refused a loan by the English Company in Antwerp, three ships laden with goods for the Antwerp fair were seized in the English ports, and detained till they agreed to the loan of 60,000 and to a charge of twenty shillings on each piece of goods.

Whilst Mary at home was thus incurring great odium by these arbitrary measures, her heartless husband, for whom the money was extorted, was living a dissolute life, and even ridiculing the person and manners of his wife amongst his courtiers. But though he could be jocose on this subject, so disgraceful in a husband, his influence on the country of his wife was disastrous and oppressive. All who were inclined to maintain their fidelity to the reformed opinions, were safe only in the deepest retirement. The Earls of Oxford, Westmorland, and Bedford, and the Lord Willoughby got into trouble on account of their religion, and Bedford was imprisoned for a short time. Even Sir Ralph Sadler, who had shown so little conscience in his Scotch diplomacy, retired to his rural mansion at Hackney, and avoided exciting attention till the accession of Elizabeth. Sir William Cecil, the soul of caution itself, having in vain tried to get into the service of Queen Mary, studied to avoid the observation of her ministers, and is said to have laid down a plan for the conduct of the Princess Elizabeth during this hazardous period, which she afterwards repaid by high honours and deep confidence. But the treatment of one illustrious man at this period excited great indignation amongst the liberal party. Sir John Cheke, one of the finest scholars of the age, whose name Milton apostrophises in his sonnets, as he

"Who first taught Cambridge and King Edward Greek,"

had taken part in the attempt to place Lady Jane Grey on the throne. He was thrown into the Tower, but was, after a while, liberated, and allowed to retire to the Continent. There he stayed some time, at Basle, in Switzerland, enjoying the Protestant worship. Thence he visited Rome, and returned safe to Flanders on his way homewards. Philip, hearing of his visit to his old friends, Lord Paget and Sir John Mason, Mary's ambassadors to the Netherlands, and now converts to Romanism, had him seized on the road betwixt Antwerp and Brussels, bound hand and foot, thrown into a cart, and carried off to a vessel bound for England. He was conveyed, gagged and muffled, to the Tower, where he was, through fear of death, compelled to sign his recantation, and have it published in the most humiliating manner. He is even said to have been compelled to sit on the bench by Bonner, and take part in persecuting those of his own faith. These shameful oppressions so affected him as to terminate his life at the age of forty-seven.

The hateful Star Chamber was now in full operation. It was, in fact, an English inquisition. Commissioners were empowered to inquire into heresies, and sale or possession of heretical books, to seize all persons offending in such particulars, and bring them to trial. They were authorised to break open houses, to search premises, compel attendance of witnesses, and to apply torture where they met with any stubbornness. Informers and secret spies abounded; they were to give secret information to the justices, and these were to examine the prisoners secretly and without permitting them to see their accusers. Nothing but the name of the Inquisition was wanting, for there were in active operation all its main elements - spies, secret seizure and imprisonment, tortures and the stake. Crimes grew and multiplied with the reign of terror; fifty-two malefactors were executed at Oxford at one assizes; yet this did not clear the highways of thieves, and some of these were of aristocratic rank. A son of Lord Sandys was hanged in London for a robbery on Whit-Sunday of property valued at 4,000. A son of Sir Edmund Peckham and one John Daniel were hanged soon afterwards and beheaded, on Tower Hill, for an attempt to rob the Treasury. There were deep discontents and plots, and in Norfolk, one Clever, who had been a schoolmaster, and three brothers of the name of Lincoln, were hanged, drawn, and quartered for an attempt at insurrection. To complete the dismal catalogue of the miseries of this gloomy time, fires and fatal maladies raged in the cities.

The Emperor Charles V., at the age of only fifty-five, had now resigned his immense empire to his son; and Spain, the Netherlands, Naples, Sicily, Milan, and the new and beautiful lands of South America, owned Philip as their lord. On the 25th of October, 1555, Charles, in an assembly of the States of the Netherlands, formally resigned the government of these countries to Philip, and in a few months later he also put him in possession of all his other governments. He then retired to the monastery of St. Just, near Placentia, on the borders of Spain and Portugal, where this great king, who had so long exercised so strong an influence on the destinies of Europe, shrunk into the condition of a private gentleman, retaining only a few servants and a single horse for his own use, and employing his now abundant leisure in religious exercises, in gardening, and clock-making.

During Philip's absence, a series of insurrections took place which disturbed the quiet of the queen, and in which the King of France seems to have borne no inconsiderable part. His assiduous minister, Noailles, disseminated reports that Mary, hopeless of issue, had resolved to settle the crown on her husband. This having produced its effect, a conspiracy was set on foot to put Elizabeth on the throne, and depose Mary. Henry Dudley, a relative of the late Duke of Northumberland, was to head it, and the French king, to secure his interest, had settled a handsome pension upon him. The worthless Courtenay, who was at this moment on his way to Italy, whence he never returned, was still to play the part of husband to Elizabeth, though the management of the plot was to be consigned to Dudley. Elizabeth had again, it is said, fully consented to this plot, though the health of Mary was such as must have promised her the throne at no distant day. Dudley was already on the coast of Normandy with some of his fellow conspirators, making preparations, when the King of France unexpectedly concluded a truce for five years with Philip. He therefore advised Dudley and his accomplices to lie quiet for a more favourable opportunity. This was a paralysing blow to the scheme of insurrection, and the coadjutors in England had gone so far that they did not think it safe to stop. Kingston, Udal, Throckmorton, Staunton, and others of the league determined to seize the treasure in the Tower, and once in possession of that, to raise forces and drive the queen from the throne. But one of them revealed the design, several of them were seized and executed, and others escaped to France. Mary applied by her ambassador, Lord Clinton, to Henry II. to have them delivered up, and received a polite promise of endeavour to secure them, which there was in reality no intention to fulfil. Amongst the conspirators arrested were two officers of the household of Elizabeth, Peckham and Werne, who made very awkward confessions; but again the princess escaped, it is said at the intercession of Philip, who was apprehensive, if Elizabeth was removed from the succession, of the claims of the French king on behalf of his daughter-in-law, the Queen of Scots. Elizabeth at all events escaped, protesting her innocence as stoutly as ever, but receiving from the Council in place of those two officers executed, two other trusty ones, Sir Thomas Pope and Robert Cage.

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