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The Reign of Queen Mary page 4


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On Tuesday, the 22nd of August, Northumberland, Gates, and Palmer were brought from the Tower to execution on Tower Hill. Of the eleven condemned, only these three were executed - an instance of clemency, in so gross a conspiracy to deprive a sovereign of a throne, which is without parallel. When the Duke i of Northumberland and Gates met on the scaffold, they each accused the other of being the author of the treason. Northumberland charged the whole design on Gates and the Council; Gates charged it more truly on Northumberland and his high authority. They protested, however, that they entirely forgave each other, and Northumberland, stepping to the rail, made a long speech, praying for a long and happy reign to the queen; calling on the people to bear witness that he died in the true Catholic faith. Ambition, he said, had led him to conform to the new faith, though he condemned it in his heart, and the adoption of which had filled both England and Germany with constant dissensions, troubles, and civil wars. After repeating the "Miserere," "De Profundis," and the "Paternoster," with some portion of another psalm, concluding with the words, "Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit," he laid his Head on the block, saying that he deserved a thousand deaths, and it was severed at a stroke. Gates and Palmer died professing great penitence.

The Lancaster herald, an old servant of the duke's, obtained an audience of the queen after the execution, and, no doubt, impressed with the idea that the head of Northumberland would be impaled in some public spot as that of a traitor, prayed that it might be given to him for burial. Mary bade him, in God's name, see that both head and body received proper interment; and, accordingly, the gory remains of the duke were deposited in the chapel of St. Peter, in the Tower, by the side of his victim, Somerset, so that, says Stowe, there now lay before the high altar two headless dukes betwixt two headless queens - the Dukes of Somerset and Northumberland betwixt Queen Anne Boleyn and Queen Catherine Howard.

During these transactions Mary was residing at Richmond Palace, having quitted the Tower on the 12th of the month. It would soon be necessary to return thither, preparatory to her coronation; but there was one person whom she sent thither as a prisoner previous to her revisiting the awful old fortress herself, and that was Cranmer. With all Mary's natural goodness and kindness of heart, with all the proofs which she had lately given of her forgiveness of her enemies, there was one subject which, above all others, she deemed lay as a sacred duty upon her, and from which neither her own life nor that of others would turn her aside. Though she had pledged herself not to alter the form of religion which had been established by her late brother, there is no doubt that she had vowed in her own innermost heart to remove it, notwithstanding, and to restore that only worship which she believed to be the true one. From her earliest years the fate of her mother and of her religion had been strangely blended together, and stamped into her heart by sad and solemn memories, Her mother had been compelled to give place to another queen, who had the reputation of favouring the Reformers. With her mother's persecutions her own commenced. When her mother was declared not to be the lawful wife of Henry, she was declared to be illegitimate. Anne Boleyn, that mother's successful rival, had been her harsh stepmother and bitter enemy, sowing hatred against her in her father's mind, which conduct she deeply repented in the hour of death. Her father and her father's ministers had banished her from Court, shut her up in country houses surrounded by spies, and pursued her with constant annoyance to compel her to renounce her mother's faith. She had been forced to sign humiliating deeds, acknowledging her birth illegitimate, and her religion a vile superstition. This treatment had been continued through the reign of her brother, and by his last act she was again branded as a heretic and a bastard; and both on the plea of her birth and her religion excluded from the throne. It would have been a wonder if she had not been stiffened into a bigot by a long course of outrage; and still more, if leaning with a kindly feeling on her mother's family, as those who alone had shown any regard for her, any disposition to defend her interests, she had not been encouraged by their counsels to rebuild the religious fabric which her enemies had thrown down.

Cranmer was the most prominent figure in the ranks of the hostile religionists. He was, and had been, the grand leader of the movement. It was he who had first advised the abandonment of the Papal authority, and the procedure to her mother's divorce on the authority of universities and of learned jurists. It was he who declared Catherine's marriage null, and that of Anne Boleyn legal; he who had sanctioned the assumption of the supremacy of the Church by her father, Henry; and who had framed and established the reformed creed under her brother. In Mary's eyes Cranmer appeared an arch-heretic, and the main designer and executor of the mischief that had taken place. It was not to be expected that she would long leave him in the continuance of a career which she regarded as equally illegal and unholy. One of her first acts was to order him to confine himself to his palace at Lambeth, thus interdicting the exercise of his archiepiscopal functions. Whilst thus confined to his house, word was brought him that the old service had been performed in his cathedral at Canterbury; and what mortified him still more, was to learn that it was commonly reported that this was by his own consent, if not direction. He had during the reign of Henry VIII. been so timid in the assertion of his real opinions - had, out of terror of death, so long sacrificed his conscience to his safety, swearing to the Six Articles of the tyrant, and even submitting to sit in judgment on Protestants, and to sentence them to death for the courageous avowal of opinions which he held himself, yet dared not disclose - that the public now were ready enough to believe that he would again conform to the commands of a Papist queen, rather than renounce his lofty station, and run the risk of the stake. But Cranmer now displayed a courage more worthy of himself. Assisted by his friend, Peter Martyr, he put forth a declaration of his opinions, boldly designating Romanism as the invention of the devil, and the doctrines and ritual established by Edward VI. as those held and practised by the primitive Church. He vindicated himself from the charge of apostacy, and declared that the mass had not been performed in his church at Canterbury by any order or permission of his, but was the act of a false, time-serving monk. He offered to show to the queen the many false doctrines and terrible blasphemies contained in the Papal missal. Copies of this manifesto having found their way into the streets, the archbishop was arrested and brought before the Council on the 13th of September, and after a long hearing was committed to the Tower for treason against the queen, and for aggravating the same by spreading abroad seditious bills, and moving tumults amongst the people. A few days after, Latimer was also arrested on a similar charge, and sent to the Tower for "his seditious demeanour."

The Royal advisers, increasing in boldness, counselled the same rigorous treatment of the heretic Princess Elizabeth. They declared that the Reformers were looking to her as their hope for the restoration of their Church, and that Mary could only be safe by placing her in custody. Mary would not listen to these suggestions. She rather hoped to win over the mind of Elizabeth by persuasion than by attempts of coercion, which had succeeded so ill in her own case. Elizabeth, however, showed no signs of changing her religion, till it was suggested that her firmness resulted not from any conscientious views, but from the prospects of superseding her sister on account of her faith, which was held out to her by the Reformers. Elizabeth is said then to have expressed a willingness to inquire into the grounds of the old religion, to have finally professed herself a convert, and to have established a chapel in her own house. Such are the statements of the French and Spanish ambassadors, and Mary showed the utmost regard for Elizabeth, taking her by the hand on all great occasions, and never dining in public without her.

The accession of Mary was a joyful event to the Papal Court. Julius III. appointed Cardinal Pole his legate to the queen; but Pole was by no means in haste, without obtaining further information, to fill this office in a country where the people, whose sturdy character he well knew, had to so great an extent imbibed the doctrines of the Reformation. Dandino, the Papal legate at Brussels, therefore dispatched a gentleman of his suite to proceed to London and cautiously spy out the land. Before making himself known, this emissary, Gianfrancesco Commendone, went about London for some days gathering up all evidences of the public feeling on the question of the Church. He then procured a private interview with Mary, and was delighted to hear from her own lips that she was fully resolved on reconciling her kingdom to the Papal See, and meant to obtain the repeal of all laws restricting the doctrines or discipline of the Roman Church; but that it required caution, and that no trace of any correspondence with Rome must come to light.

Mary was, however, inclined to go faster and farther than some of her advisers, and Gardiner, though so staunch a Papist, was too much of an Englishman to wish to see the supremacy restored to the Pontiff. But others were not so patriotic. Throughout the kingdom the Protestant preachers were silenced. The great bell at Christchurch, Oxford, was just recast, and the first use of it was to call the people to mass. "That bell then rung," says Fuller, "the knell of Gospel truth in the city of Oxford, afterwards filled with Protestant tears."

Such was the state of affairs when the queen's coronation took place on the 1st of October. Three days previous to this she proceeded from Whitehall to the Tower attended by a splendid retinue in barges, and was met by the lord mayor and the officers of the corporation in their barges, and with music. She had borrowed 20,000 from the City to defray the expenses of this ceremony till Parliament met, and granted her supplies, lie next day she knighted fifteen knights of the Bath, amongst whom were her cousin Courtenay, Earl of Devon, and the Earl of Surrey. The following day Mary rode trough the city in procession. She was borne in a magnificent litter betwixt six white horses; the Princess Elizabeth rode next in a rich open chariot, and by her side Anne of Cleves. They were preceded by a procession of 500 noblemen and gentlemen on horseback} including the foreign ambassadors and prelates; and after the chariot of Elizabeth, Sir Edward Hastings, the queen's Master of the Horse, led her palfrey. Then came a train of seventy ladies riding on horseback and in chariots, in alternate succession. The queen was attired in blue velvet furred with ermine, bearing on her head a caul of gold network, set with pearls and jewels, so heavy that she was obliged to support it with one hand. The ladies were chiefly dressed in kirtles of gold and silver cloths and robes of crimson velvet, the gentlemen in equally gorgeous costume.

The City presented a variety of pageants. In Fen-church Street four giants addressed Her Majesty in orations, and in Gracechurch Street a stupendous angel, with a stupendous trumpet, sat upon a triumphal arch, and played a solo, to the astonishment of the people. In Cornhill and Cheapside the conduits ran with wine; and in the latter street the corporation presented the queen with a purse containing 1,000 marks of gold. Stowe says that "in Paul's Churchyard, against the school, one Master Heywood sat in a pageant under a vine, and made to her an oration in Latin and English. Then there was one Peter, a Dutchman, stood on the weathercock of St. Paul's steeple, holding a streamer in his hand of five yards long; and waving thereof, stood some time on one foot, and some time on the other, and then kneeled on his knees, to the great marvel of all people."

The next day, the 1st of October, the coronation was conducted with equal splendour, the walls of the choir of Westminster Abbey being hung with rich arras, and blue cloth being laid from the marble chair in Westminster Hall to the pulpit in Westminster Abbey, for the queen to walk on. Directly after the queen walked Elizabeth, followed by Anne of Cleves, Mary showing an amiable desire to give every distinction to these near connections. Gardiner, in the absence of the imprisoned primate, placed the crown upon her head, or rather three crowns - first, the crown of St. Edward, then the imperial crown of England, and, lastly, a very rich diadem made expressly for her.

Four days later, Mary opened her first Parliament; and she opened it in a manner which showed plainly what was to come. Both peers and commoners were called upon to attend her majesty at a solemn mass of the Holy Ghost. This was an immediate test of what degree of compliance was to be expected in the attempt to return to the ancient order of things; and the success of the experiment was most encouraging. With the exception of Taylor Bishop of Lincoln, and Harley Bishop of Hereford, the whole Parliament - peers, prelates, and commoners - fell on their knees at the elevation of the host, and participated with an air of devotion in that which in the last reign they had declared an abomination. But such was the zeal now for the lately abhorred mass, that the two uncomplying bishops were rudely thrust out of the queen's presence, and out of the abbey altogether. There were those who insinuated that the emperor furnished Mary with funds to bribe her Parliament on this occasion] but, besides that Charles was not so lavish of his money, events soon showed that the Parliament, though so exceedingly pliant in the matter of religion, was stubborn enough regarding the estates obtained from the Church, and also concerning Mary's scheme of a Spanish marriage.

The first act of legislation was to restore the securities to life and property which had been granted in the twenty-fifth year of Edward III., and which had been so completely prostrated by the Acts of Henry VIII. Such an Act had been passed at the commencement of the last reign, but had been again violated in the cases of the two Seymours. The defiance of all the safeguards of the constitution by Henry VIII. had been such, that it has been calculated that no less than 72,000 persons perished on the gibbet in his reign. The Parliament, looking back on the sanguinary lawlessness of that monarch, did not think the country sufficiently safe from charges of constructive treason and felony without a fresh enactment. It next passed an Act annulling the divorce of Queen Catherine of Arragon, by Cranmer, and declaring the present queen legitimate. This Act indeed tacitly declared Elizabeth illegitimate, but there was no getting altogether out of the difficulties which the licentious proceedings of Henry VIII. had created, and it was deemed best to pass that point over in silence, leaving the queen to treat her sister as if born in genuine wedlock.

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