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The Reign of Queen Mary page 6


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Noailles, the French ambassador, was delighted with this movement, and took much credit to himself for inciting influential parties to it; but Mary believed it to originate with Gardiner, and the lion spirit of her father coming over her, she vowed that she would prove a match for the cunning of the Chancellor. That very night she sent for the Spanish ambassador, and bidding him follow her into her private oratory, she there knelt down before the altar, and after chanting the hymn, "Veni Creator Spiritus," she made a vow to God that she would marry Philip of Spain, and whilst she lived, no other man but him. Thus she put it out of her power, if she kept her vow, to marry any other person should she outlive Philip, showing the force of the paroxysm of determination which was upon her. The effort would seem to have been very violent, for immediately after she was taken ill, and continued so for some days.

It was on the last day of October that this curious circumstance took place, and on the 17th of November she sent for the House of Commons, when the Speaker read the address giving her their advice regarding hei marriage; and, instead of the Chancellor returning the answer, as was the custom, Mary answered herself, thanking them for their care that she should have a succession in her own children, but rebuking them for presuming to dictate to her the choice of a husband. She declared that the marriages f her predecessors had always been free, a privilege which, she assured them, she was resolved to maintain. At the same time, she added, she should be careful to make such a selection as should contribute both to her own happiness and to that of her people.

The plain declaration of the queen to her Parliament was not necessary to inform those about her who were interested in the question; they had speedy information of her having favoured the Spanish suit, and Noailles was certainly mixed up in conspiracies to defeat it. It was proposed to place Courtenay at the head of the reformed party, and if Mary would not consent to marry him, to assassinate Arundel and Paget, the advocates of the Spanish match; to marry Elizabeth to Courtenay, and raise the standard of rebellion in Devonshire. It appears from the despatches of Noailles that the Duke of Suffolk, the father of Lady Jane Grey, was in this conspiracy. But the folly and the unstable character of their hero, Courtenay, was fatal to their design, and of that Noailles very soon became sensible. It was proposed by some of the parties that Courtenay should steal away from Court, get across to France, and thence join the conspirators in Devonshire; but Noailles opposed this plan, declaring that the moment Courtenay quitted the coast of England his chance was utterly lost; and he wrote to his own Government, saying that the scheme would fall to nothing; for although Courtenay and Elizabeth were fitting persons to cause a rising, that such was the want of decision of Courtenay, that he would let himself be taken before he would act - the thing which actually came to pass.

On the 6th of December the queen dissolved Parliament, and took an affectionate leave of Elizabeth, who went to her seat at Ashridge. There had not been wanting whisperers to sow dissension betwixt the sisters, by representing Elizabeth as cognisant of the conspiracies with Courtenay, and of having received nocturnal visits from Noailles. The queen questioned the princess on these heads, professed herself quite satisfied of Elizabeth not having received any such visits from the French ambassador, and closing her ears against all attempts to make her sister suspected by her, she presented her on her departure with two sets of large pearls, and several rosaries splendidly studded with jewels.

On the 2nd of January, 1554, a splendid embassy, sent by the Emperor, headed by the Counts Egmont and Lalain, the Lord of Courrieres, and the Sieur de Nigry, landed in Kent, to arrange the marriage betwixt Mary and Philip. The unpopularity of this measure was immediately manifested, for the men of Kent, taking Egmont for Philip, rose in fury, and would have torn him to pieces if they could have got hold of him. Having, however, reached Westminster in safety, on the 14th of January, a numerous assembly of nobles, prelates, and courtiers was summoned to the queen's presence-chamber, where Gardiner, who had found it necessary to relinquish his opposition, stated to them, the proposed conditions of the treaty; The greatest care was evidently taken to disarm the fears of the English, and nothing could appear more moderate than the terms of this alliance. Philip and Mary were to confer on each other the titles of their respective kingdoms, but each kingdom was still to be governed by its own laws and constitution. None but English subjects were to hold office in this country, not even in the king's private service. If the queen had an heir, it was to be her successor in her own dominions, and also in all Philip's dominions of Burgundy, Holland, and Flanders, which were for ever to become part and parcel of England. This certainly, on the face of it, was a most advantageous condition for England, but which, had it taken effect, would undoubtedly have proved a most disastrous one, involving us perpetually in the wars and struggles of the Continent, and draining these islands to defend those foreign territories. Providence protected this nation from the alluring mischief. Another condition of the treaty was that Mary was not to be carried out of the kingdom except at her own request, nor any of her children, except by the consent of the peers. The Commons were totally ignored in the matter. Philip was not to entangle England in the Continental wars of his father, nor to appropriate any of the naval or military resources of this country, or the property or jewels of the Crown, to any foreign purposes. If there was no issue of the marriage, all the conditions of the treaty at once became void, and Philip ceased to be king even in name. If he died first, which was not very probable, Mary was to enjoy a dower of 60,000 ducats per annum, secured on lands in Spain and Flanders. No mention was made of any payment to Philip if he were the survivor. But there was one little clause, which stipulated that Philip should aid Mary in governing her kingdom - an ominous word, which might be made of vast significance.

By this treaty the interests of Don Carlos, the son of Philip by a former marriage, were strangely overlooked, and to his intense indignation. In case of children by this new marriage, Burgundy and Flanders were to pass away from him, and if he had himself no issue, Spain, Sicily, Milan, and the rest of the Spanish territories were to fall to Mary's offspring.

Notwithstanding all these promises of aggrandisement to England, the match acquired no favour in the eyes of the people. The next day, the Lord Mayor, aldermen, and forty of the most eminent citizens of London were summoned to Court, and Gardiner there made known to them what had taken place, and detailed all the conditions, amplifying and making them as imposing as possible, and bidding these City authorities rejoice in so auspicious an event. But the affair by this means becoming known to the public, there was such a ferment that the Spanish embassy was glad to get away in safety. Many years after, Elizabeth, reminded of it by the opposition to a proposed marriage of her own just as unpopular, wrote to Stafford, her ambassador in France, her reminiscences of it: - "It happened," she said, "in Queen Mary's days, that, when a solemn embassade of five or six at least were sent from the Emperor and King of Spain, even after her marriage articles were signed and sealed, and the matter divulged, the danger was so near the queen's chamber-door, that it was high time for those messengers to depart without leave taking, and bequeath themselves to the speed of the river stream, and by water pass by with all possible haste to Gravesend."

Within five days came the startling news that three insurrections had broken out in different quarters of the kingdom. One was a-foot in the midland counties, where the Duke of Suffolk and the Grey family had property and influence. There the cry was for the Lady Jane. Mary had been so completely deceived by the Duke of Suffolk, whom she had pardoned and liberated from the Tower, and in return for which he affected so hearty an approval of her marriage, that she instantly thought of him as the man to put down the other rebellions, and sending for him, found that he and his brothers, Lord Thomas and Lord John Grey, had ridden off with a [strong body of horse to Leicestershire, proclaiming Lady Jane in every town through which they passed. They found no response to their cry, a fact which any but the most rash speculators might have been certain of. The Earl of Huntingdon, a relative of the queen's, took the field against the Greys, who by their folly brought certain death to Lady Jane, and defeated them near Coventry, upon which they fled for their lives,

The second insurrection was in the west, under Sir Peter Carew, whose project was to place Elizabeth and Courtenay, Earl of Devon, on the throne, and restore the Protestant religion. These parties, as well as the third under Sir Thomas Wyatt, had consented to act together, and thus paralyse the efforts of Mary, by the simultaneous outbreak in so many quarters. But the miserable folly of their plans became evident at once. They did not even unite in the choice of the same person as their future monarch, and had they put down Mary, must then have come to blows amongst themselves. Carew found Devonshire as indifferent to his call as the Greys had found Leicestershire. Courtenay was to have put himself at their head, but never went; and Carew, Gibbs, and Champernham called on the people of Exeter to sign an address to the queen, stating that they would have no Spanish despot. The people of Devon gave no support to the movement. The Earl of Bedford appeared at the head of the queen's troops. A number of the conspirators were seized, and Carew with others fled to France.

But the most formidable section of this tripartite rebellion was that under Sir Thomas Wyatt. Wyatt was the son of Sir Thomas Wyatt the poet, the friend of Surrey and of Anne Boleyn. He had accompanied his father on an embassy to Spain, where the latter fell into danger of the Inquisition, and he had conceived such a dreadful idea of the bigotry and cruelty of the Spaniards, that, though he was a Papist, and had been one of the foremost to support Mary, and to oppose Northumberland, a relative of his own, he now determined to risk his very life to prevent the establishment of a Spanish prince and Spanish notions in England. He had, therefore, readily entered into the conspiracy with Suffolk and Carew, and undertook to attempt the seizure of the Tower, where Lady Jane and her husband lay, and the possession of London, whilst the other insurgent chiefs raised the country. He unfurled the standard of revolt in Kent, and 1,500 men immediately ranged themselves round it, and 5,000 more declared themselves ready at the first call to march out and join him. He fixed his head-quarters at Rochester, having a fleet of five sail, under his associate Winter, which brought him ordnance and ammunition. Wyatt was only a youth of twenty-three, but he was fall of both courage and enthusiasm, and endeavoured to rouse the people of Canterbury to follow him. There, however, he was not successful, and this cast a damp upon his adherents. Sir Robert Southwell defeated a party of the insurgents under Knevet, and the Lord Abergavenny another party under Isley, and the spirits of his troops began to sink rapidly. Many of his supporters sent to the Council, offering to surrender on promise of full pardon, and a little delay would probably have witnessed the total dispersion of his force.

But on the 29th of January, the Duke of Norfolk marched from London with a detachment of the guards under Sir Henry Jerningham. On reaching Rochester they found Wyatt encamped in the ruins of the old castle, and the bridge bristling with cannon, and with well-armed Kentishmen. Norfolk endeavoured to dissolve the hostile force by sending a' herald to proclaim a pardon to all that would lay down their arms, but Wyatt would not permit him to read the paper. Norfolk then ordered his troops to force the bridge; but this duty falling to a detachment of 500 of the train-bands of the city under Captain Brett, the moment they reached the bridge Brett turned round, and addressed his followers thus: - "Masters, we go about to fight against our native countrymen of England, and our friends, in a quarrel unrightful and wicked; for they, considering the great miseries that are like t fall upon us, if we shall be under the rule of the proud Spaniards, or strangers, are here assembled to make resistance to their coming, for the avoiding the great mischiefs likely to alight not only upon themselves, but upon every of us and the whole realm; wherefore I think no English heart ought to say against them. I and others will spend our blood in their quarrel."

On hearing this, his men shouted, one and all, "A Wyatt! a Wyatt!" and turned their guns not against the bridge, but against Norfolk's forces. At this sight Norfolk and his officers, imagining a universal treason, turned their horses and fled at full speed, leaving behind them their cannon and ammunition. The train-bands crossed the bridge and joined Wyatt's soldiers; followed by three-fourths of the queen's troops, and some companies of the guard. Norfolk and his fugitive officers galloping into London carried with them the direst consternation. In City and Court alike, the most terrible panic prevailed. The lawyers in Westminster Hall pleaded in suits of armour hidden under their robes, and Dr. Weston preached before the queen in Whitehall Chapel, on Candlemas Day, in armour under his clerical vestments. Mary alone seemed calm and self-possessed. She mounted her horse, and, attended by her ladies and her Council, rode into the City, where, summoning Sir Thomas White, lord mayor and tailor, and the aldermen to meet, who all came clad in armour under their civic livery, she ascended a chair of state, and with her sceptre in hand addressed them. She informed them that the pretence of the rebels was to prevent the marriage between her and the Prince of Spain, but that their demands showed that the marriage was the least of all their objects; that these wanted to control her person, and direct her Government as they pleased. But her father had found them of the City loving subjects, and she trusted to do the same in spite of this Wyatt or any other rebel. She then went on: -

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