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The Reign of Queen Mary page 16

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It appeared as if the war would be brought to a conclusion by a pitched battle betwixt the sovereigns of France and Spain. Philip had joined his general, the Duke of Savoy, and they lay near Dourlens with an army of 45,000 men. Henry had come into the camp of the Duke of Guise near Amiens, who had an army of nearly equal strength. All the world looked now for a great and decisive conflict. But Philip, though superior in numbers, as well as crowned with the prestige of victory, listened to offers of accommodation from Henry, and dismissing their armies into winter quarters, they betook themselves to negotiation. From the first no agreement appeared probable. Philip demanded the restoration of Calais, Henry that of Navarre, and they were still pursuing the hopeless phantom of accommodation, when the news of Queen Mary's death changed totally the position of Philip, and put an end to the attempt.

Mary was sinking to the grave before Philip left England the last time, and his conduct was not calculated to prolong her life. The loss of Calais also fell heavily on her diseased frame and melancholy mind. Her dispute with the Pope, the continual appearances of insurrection, the bitterness and hostile activity of the Protestants, whom all her persecutions had not daunted, and the fears that her anxious endeavours to re-establish the Papal Church would all prove vain, knowing the secret bias of her sister and successor, were a combination of causes, added to her inveterate dropsy, which brought her daily nearer and nearer to her end. Her heart, yearning with affection towards her husband, had been grievously disappointed. Her soul, yearning still more fervently for the triumph of her beloved Church, had found no consolation in hope. She had alienated the love of her subjects, and covered her name with a sanguinary reproach. To make her situation still more desolate and depressing, nature during her reign had, as it were, sympathised with the unhappy course and character of events. A series of most wet, cold, and dismal seasons had been followed by their natural consequences, famines, fevers, and agues. Strange meteors were seen in the damp autumns near the end of Mary's reign, and all these things, certainly the natural precursors of disease and death, were regarded as the manifestations of Divine wrath against the nation for the cruelties practised on the Protestants. The blazing exhalations of the marshes were thought to be supernatural reminders, especially, of the fires of Smithfield.

Amid such lurid lights and superstitious gloom, the sun of Queen Mary went down. She had caught an intermittent fever at Richmond in the spring, and the great specific, Peruvian bark, had not yet made itself sufficiently known to be available, still less were sanitary ( principles understood. From Richmond Palace she was removed to Hampton Court, a situation of equal disadvantage to an aguish patient, and, getting no better, was removed, in the autumn, to St. James's Palace. There she received the news of the death of her old kinsman and counsellor, Charles V., which took place in September, 1558. Her other able kinsman and counsellor, Cardinal Pole, was also lying on his death-bed, his exit expected from day to day. Instead of a conciliatory visit from her husband, he sent over to her the Count de Feria, with a ring and a message of condolence. By Feria he also sent to her the recommendation of Elizabeth as her successor - a politic step on the part of Philip, who, aware of the high spirit and distinguished abilities of that princess, was thus anxious to secure her favour.

Mary had already intimated to Elizabeth that she regarded her as her successor, and charged her to pay all debts which she had contracted under the privy seal, and to maintain religion as she had left it. Elizabeth had steadfastly refused all offers of marriage which would have drawn her away from England; the Prince of Denmark, the King of Sweden, the Duke of Savoy, had offered their hands in vain, and she now saw the whole Court and nobility flocking round her as the queen sank from day to day. Hatfield House, the residence of Elizabeth, was now much more of a Court than St. James's. The dying queen seemed to look on this with indifference; but even in the midst of flattery it sunk deep into the soul of Elizabeth, and when the end of her reign was approaching, she often referred to the circumstance and refused to name a successor.

On receiving Philip's recommendation of Elizabeth, Mary sent the Countess de Feria, formerly Jane Dormer, to her sister with her jewels, and to these were added, by Philip's own order, a very precious casket of his own jewels which ho had let at St. James's, and which Elizabeth had greatly admired. By the Countess de Feria, Mary again repeated her solemn injunction that Elizabeth should pay her debts and maintain the Church as established, both of which the countess reported that she swore to do.

On the 17th of November, between four and five o'clock in the morning, her end visibly approaching, at her desire mass was performed in her chamber. At the elevation of the host, she lifted her weary eyes towards heaven, and as the benediction was spoken her head dropped, and she expired in the forty-second year of her age. Cardinal Pole being informed of her decease, expressed his deep satisfaction at the prospect of so speedily following her, and within two and twenty hours also took his mortal departure.

Mary was interred on the north side of Henry VII.'s chapel. No tomb was ever erected to her memory. James I. placed two black tablets with Latin inscriptions to mark the graves of Mary and Elizabeth, and when the Royal vault was opened in 1670, for the funeral of Monk, Duke of Albemarle, the hearts of the two sisters were found in urns.

With all the bigotry of Mary, and the horrors which her concession to the persecuting spirit of her Spanish husband brought upon this country, she had many good and amiable qualities, and had she reached the throne in an age when no religious strife existed, would probably have left a name regarded with much favour by posterity. None of our sovereigns ever maintained a less expensive court. None of them were ever so anxious to avoid unnecessarily taxing the country. When obliged to go to war with France, she regarded the expenditure incurred in a great measure as her own, and in her will treated the remaining debt as if it were her private obligation.

She was careful to avoid burdening her subjects, even by the processions which it was the custom of our monarchs -.to make, and in which her successor, Elizabeth, was especially fond of indulging. She seldom went farther than to her palace at Croydon, where she lived in a most unostentatious manner, walked about amongst the poor with her maids without any distinction of dress, inquired into their wants, and had them relieved. She restored to the universities that portion of their revenues which had been seized by the Crown in the late reigns. She built the public schools in the University of Oxford, though in no magnificent style; and during her reign Sir Thomas Pope founded Trinity College, and Sir Thomas White St. John's, on the site of Bernard's College; and in Cambridge Dr. Caius made such additions to Gonvil Hall, and endowed it with so many advowsons, manors, and demesnes, that it is now chiefly known by his name. Mary also granted a mansion on Bennet's Hill, near St. Paul's, for the Herald's College, which remains so to this day. She refounded the hospital of the Savoy, which had been confiscated by Henry VIII.; and the ladies of her Court, at her instigation, assisted in furnishing it with beds. But what is a perpetual honour to her memory is, that she was the first to propose a hospital for old or invalid soldiers, and in her will to leave funds for the purpose, which, however, never were appropriated. "Forasmuch," she says, "as there is no house or hospital specially ordained and provided for the relief of poor and old soldiers - namely, of such as have been hurt or maimed in the wars and service of this realm - the which, we think, both honour, conscience, and charity willeth should be provided for; and, therefore, my mind and will is that my executors shall, as shortly as they may after my decease, provide some convenient house within or nigh the suburbs of the City of London, the which house I would have founded and created, being governed with one master and two brethren; and I will that this hospital be endowed with manors, lands, and possessions to the value of four hundred marks yearly."

In her Court Mary preserved strict morals; and in everything, except in the toleration of religion, she showed a most careful regard to the maintenance of the constitution and the law, in most striking contrast to the practice of her father, and even of her sister Elizabeth. One of the insurgents whom she had pardoned, presented her with a plan by which she might make herself independent of Parliament, and this plan was recommended to her by the Spanish ambassador. She sent, however, for Gardiner, her own chancellor, and putting it into his hand, bade him peruse it, and, as he should answer at the judgment-seat of God, declare his real opinion of it. "Madam," replied Gardiner, on reading it, "it is a pity that so virtuous a lady should be surrounded by such sycophants. The book is naught; it is filled with things too horrible to be thought of." She thanked him, and threw the paper into the fire.

Precisely similar was her conduct when she appointed Morgan Chief Justice of the Common Pleas. "I charge you," she said, "to minister the justice and law indifferently, without respect of persons; and, notwithstanding the old error among you, which will not admit any witness to speak or other matter to be heard in favour of the adversary, the Crown being a party, it is my pleasure that whatever can be brought in favour of the subject may be admitted and heard. You are to sit there, not as advocates for me, but as indifferent judges between me and my people."

Mary was also attentive to the interests of trade. She was the first to make a commercial treaty with Russia, by which the woollen cloths and linens of England were exchanged to great advantage for the skins and furs of northern Muscovy; and she revoked the privileges of the Hanse Town merchants in London, or "merchants of the Steelyard," as they were called, which had been very injurious to the interests of her own subjects.

All these facts, fully confirmed by the modern researches of the great historical antiquaries, Tytler and Sir Frederick Madden, give us a very different idea of Mary from that hitherto suggested in history. Taking a complete view of her with these modern lights, we are bound to believe that, as a woman, she was naturally mild, but that the persecution of her own faith, in her mother and herself personally, produced a fatal reaction, which yet, had it not been for the more fatal Spanish marriage, would have been to some extent restrained by her better qualities.

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