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The Reign of Queen Mary page 7


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"Now concerning my intended marriage. I am neither so desirous of wedding, nor so precisely wedded to my will, that I needs must have a husband. Hitherto I have lived a virgin, and I doubt, not with God's grace, so to live still. But if, as my ancestors have done, it might please God that I should leave you a successor, to be your governor, I trust you would rejoice thereat; also I know it would be to your comfort. Yet, if I thought this marriage would endanger any of you my loving subjects, or the Royal estate of this English realm, I would never consent thereto, nor marry while I lived. On the word of a queen I assure you, that if this marriage appear not before the high court of Parliament, nobility, and Commons, for the singular benefit of the whole realm, then I will abstain, not only from this, but from any other.

"Wherefore, good subjects, pluck up your hearts! Like true men stand fast with your lawful sovereign against these rebels and fear them not; for I do not, I assure you. I leave with you my Lord Howard and my lord treasurer, to assist my lord mayor in the safe guard of the City from spoil and sack, which is the only aim of the rebellious crew."

Having made this short speech, to which the people shouted "God save Queen Mary and the Prince of Spain!" she mounted and rode with her train across Cheap side to the water-stairs of the Three Cranes in the Vintry. As she alighted and was about to step into her barge, a hosier stepped out of the crowd and said to her, "Your Grace will do well to make your fore-ward of battle of your bishops and priests, for they be trusty and will not deceive you." Her ironic adviser was' instantly seized and sent to Newgate. She bade her rowers "take her as near as possible to London Bridge, where the attack of Wyatt was expected; and then was rowed to Whitehall, where she appointed the Earl of Pembroke the general of her forces, which were mustering for the defence of the palace and St. James's. Scarcely had she reached her house when she received the welcome tidings of the defeat of the Duke of Suffolk in the midland counties, and of Carew in Devonshire. She forthwith offered a pardon to all the Kentish men, except Wyatt, Sir George Harper, and the other leaders. She offered also a reward of lands, with 100 a year to any one who would take or kill Wyatt.

Prom some cause that insurgent had not pushed forward with the celerity which the flight of Norfolk appeared to make easy. Instead of marching upon the City and taking advantage of its panic, he was three days in reaching Deptford and Greenwich, and he then lay three more days there, though his success was said to have raised his forces to 15,000 men. Meantime the City had recovered its courage by the valiant bearing of the queen, and the news of the dispersion of the other two divisions of the rebels. The golden opportunity was irrevocably lost. On the 3rd of February he marched along the river side to Southwark. He entered Southwark by Kent Street, and proceeded by St. George's Church, finding no opposition, but on the contrary was cheered by the people, and joined by many of them and of country people who were awaiting them in the inns. Wyatt ordered his men to avoid all pillage, and to pay for what they had, but a number of his officers led their men to a palace of Gardiner's in Southwark, which they plundered, leaving not so much as a lock on the doors, and destroying his noble library, by tearing, burning, and cutting to pieces his books; "so that," says Stowe, "you might have waded to the knees in the leaves of books cut, and thrown under foot."

Coming to the end of London Bridge, Wyatt found the drawbridge raised, the gates closed, and the citizens, headed by the lord mayor and aldermen in armour, in strong force ready to resist his entrance. He was surprised to find the Londoners determined not to admit him, for he had been led to believe that they were as hostile to the marriage as himself. He planted two pieces of artillery at the foot of the bridge, but this was evidently with the view of defending his own position, and not of forcing the gates, for he cut a deep ditch bewixt the bridge and the fort which he occupied, and then protected his flanks from attack by other guns, one pointing down Bermondsey Street, one by St. George's Church, and the third towards the Bishop of Winchester's house. He must still have hoped for a demonstration in the City in his favour, for he remained stationary two whole days, without making an attack on the bridge. On the third morning this inaction was broken by the garrison in the Tower opening a brisk cannonade against him with all their heavy ordnance, doing immense damage to the houses in the vicinity of the bridge fort, and to the towers of St. Olave's and St. Mary Overy's.

The people of Southwark, seeing the inaction of Wyatt and the mischief done to their property, now cried out amain, and desired him to take himself away, which he did. He told the people that he would not have them hurt on his account, and forthwith commenced a march towards Kingston, hoping to be able to cross the bridge there, which he supposed would be unguarded, and that so he might fall on Westminster and London, on that side where they were but indifferently fortified. On his way he met a Mr. Dorell, a merchant of London, and said to him, "Ah, cousin Dorell, I pray you commend me unto your citizens, and say unto them, from me, that when liberty was offered to them, they would not receive it, neither would they admit me within their gates, who for their freedom, and for relieving them, from the oppression of foreigners, would frankly spend my blood in this cause and quarrel."

These words are clear proof that Wyatt had been led confidently to expect the Londoners to co-operate with him, and it is equally clear from his subsequent conduct that he still clung to this hope. He reached Kingston about four o'clock in the afternoon of the 6th of February, where he found a part of the bridge broken down, and an armed force ready to oppose his passage. His object being to cross here, and not, as at London Bridge,, to await a voluntary admission, he brought up his artillery, swept the enemy from the opposite bank, and by the help of some sailors, who brought up boats and barges, he had the bridge made passable, and his troops crossed over. By this time it was eleven o'clock at night; his troops were extremely fatigued by their march and their labours here, but he now deemed it absolutely necessary to push on, and allow the Government no more time than he could help to collect forces into his path, and strengthen their position. He marched on, therefore, through a miserable winter night, and staying most imprudently to re-mount a heavy gun which had broken down, it was broad daylight when he arrived at Hyde Park, and the Earl of Pembroke was posted with the Royal forces to receive him.

The alarm in the palace that night had been inconceivable. The women were weeping and bewailing their danger, the councillors and ministers of the queen were crowding round her, and imploring her to take refuge in the Tower. Gardiner on his knees besought her to comply, and to enter a boat which awaited her at "Whitehall Stairs. But Mary, with the spirit of the Tudor, was, amid all the terror and heart-failing around, calm and resolute, and replied that " she would set no example of cowardice. If Pembroke and Clinton were true to their posts, she would not desert hers."

Lord Clinton headed the cavalry, and took his station with a battery of cannon on the rising ground opposite to the palace of St. James's, at the top of the present St. James's Street, and his cavalry extended from that spot to the present Jermyn Street. All that quarter of dense building, including Piccadilly, Pall Mall, and St. James's Square, was then open and called St. James's Fields. About nine o'clock appeared the advanced guard of Wyatt's army. The morning was dismal, gloomy, and rainy, and his troops, who had been wading through muddy roads all night, were in no condition to face a fresh army. Many had deserted at Kingston, many more had dropped off since, and seeing the strength of the force placed to obstruct him, he divided his own into three parts. One of these, led by Captain Cobham, took the way through St. James's Park at the back of the palace, which was barricaded at all points, and guards stationed at all the windows, even those of the queen's bed-chamber and withdrawing-rooms. Cobham's division fired on the palace as it passed, whilst another division under Captain Knevet, holding more to the right, assaulted the palaces of "Westminster and Whitehall,

But Wyatt, at the head of the main division, charged Clinton's cavalry; the cannon were brought up, and a general engagement took place betwixt the rebel army and the troops both tinder Clinton and the infantry under Pembroke. Wyatt's charge seemed to make the cavalry give way, but it was only a stratagem on the part of Clinton, who opened his ranks to let Wyatt and about 400 of his followers pass, when he closed and cut off the main body from their commander. In all Wyatt's proceedings he displayed great bravery, but little military experience or caution.

His main forces, now deprived of their leader, wavered and gave way, but instead of breaking took another course to reach the City. Wyatt, as if unconscious that he had left the great body of his army behind him, and had now the enemy betwixt it and himself, rushed along past Charing Cross and through the Strand to Ludgate, in the fond hope still that the citizens would admit him and join him. In the passages of the Strand were posted bodies of soldiers under the Earl of Worcester and the contemptible Courtenay, who, on the sight of Wyatt, fled. It was supposed to be cowardice on his part, but was most probably treason, for he had engaged to unite with Wyatt, but had not the honesty to do one thing or another. He was at once traitor to the queen and to Wyatt - a miserable coward and poltroon.

On reaching Ludgate, Wyatt found the gates closed, and instead of the citizens who had promised to receive him, Lord William Howard appeared over the gate, crying, sternly, "Avaunt, traitor! avaunt; you enter not here!" Finding no access there, the unhappy man turned to rejoin and assist his troops, but he was met by those of Pembroke, who had poured after him like a flood. In the desperation of despair he fought his way back as far as the Temple, where he found only about fifty of his followers surviving. Then Norroy King-at-Arms rode up to him and called upon him to yield, and not madly to sacrifice the lives of his brave associates. Wyatt continued fighting like a maniac, but was forced back by the overwhelming body of opponents down Fleet Street, till, sitting completely exhausted on a fish-stall opposite to the Belle Sauvage, he threw away his sword, which was broken, and surrendered himself to Sir Maurice Berkeley, who immediately mounted him behind him and carried him off to Court.

Meantime the battle raged around the palaces of Westminster and Whitehall. Knevet's forces attacked the rear of these two palaces, whilst the troops of Cobham had pushed their way past St. James's Palace to Charing Cross, and were stoutly fighting with the soldiers of Pembroke and Clinton. Had Wyatt been able to cut his way back to Cobham at Charing Cross, the issue might have been doubtful; but he was missing, and the brave Kentish men were obliged to contend under every disadvantage. They were covered with mud and soaked with rain from their wretched night-march, and the queen's troops cried, "Down with the draggle tails!" Still the fight continued: the hottest work was about the rear of Westminster Palace, which was chiefly protected by the gate-house, an old castellated portal leading to the abbey. The queen is said to have stood on the gallery of the gate-house in the fiercest crisis of the battle, and saw her guards under Sir John Gage give way before the insurgents led on by Knevet. Sir John himself, an old man, was knocked down in the mud, but was recovered, and conveyed into the palace court. The guards rushed into the court after him and ran to hide themselves in the offices. The porter managed to clap to the gates, and exclude the enemy, and with them a considerable number of the guards. Their case being reported to the queen, she ordered the gates to be flung open, but had it announced to them that she expected them to stand to their arms and defend the palace. The lawyers, who had been pleading in Westminster Hall in full armour, came to their aid and greatly encouraged them.

It would seem that by this time the queen had retreated to Whitehall, for we are told that Courtenay, having fled from Wyatt, rushed into her presence there, crying that "her battle was broke, that all was lost and surrendered to Wyatt." Mary replied with infinite scorn, " that such might be the opinion of those who dared not to go near enough to see the truth of the trial, but that for herself, she would abide the upshot of her rightful quarrel, or die with the brave men then fighting for her." The palace at that moment was surrounded by the forces of Cobham, and the contest was raging at Charing Cross, from which they could hear the firing and shouting. The gentlemen-at-arms had hard work to beat back the assailants with their battle-axes, from both the front and the rear of the palace. They were continually discouraged by fugitives from, the battle running thither and crying, "Away, away, all is lost! a barge, a barge!" But the queen would not move a step, nor did she change colour, but asking where Lord Pembroke was, and being told in the battle, "Well, then," she replied, "all that dare not fight may fall to prayers, and I warrant we shall hear better news anon. God will not deceive me, in whom my chief trust is."

Pembroke's detachment had now fought its way to the vicinity of the palace, and the queen being made aware of it, went out to the front and stood betwixt two gentlemen-at-arms within arquebuse shot of the enemy to witness the last struggle. Pembroke routed the enemy, and the band of gentlemen-at-arms, all of them men o: family and many of them of high rank, being then admitted to the queen's presence, she thanked them most cordially for their gallant defence of her palace and person. It is difficult to say whether they or their queen had shown the more undaunted spirit.

Mary had displayed the most extraordinary clemency on the termination of the former conspiracy, for which not only the emperor but her own ministers had blamed her. Her Council now urged her to make a more salutary example of these offenders, to prevent a repetition of rebellion. On the previous occasion she had permitted only three of the ringleaders to be put to death. On this occasion five of the chief conspirators were condemned, and four of them were executed, Croft being pardoned. Suffolk fell without any commiseration. It was difficult to decide whether his folly or his ingratitude had been the greater. He had twice been a traitor to the queen, the second time after being most mercifully pardoned. He had twice put his amiable and excellent daughter's life in jeopardy; the second time after seeing how hopeless was the attempt to place her on the throne, and therefore, to a certainty, by the second revolt, involving her death; and to add to his infamy, he endeavoured to win escape for himself by betraying others. He was beheaded on the 23rd of February. Wyatt was kept in the Tower till the 11th of April, when he was executed. Unlike Suffolk, he tried to exculpate others, declaring in his last moments that neither the Princess Elizabeth nor Courtenay, who were suspected of being privy to his designs, knew anything of them. Wyatt seems to have been a brave and honest man, who believed himself acting the part of a patriot in endeavouring to preserve the country from the Spanish yoke, and who, in the sincerity of his own heart, had too confidently trusted to the assurances of faithless men. Had he succeeded, and placed the Protestant Princess Elizabeth on the throne, his name, instead of remaining that of a traitor, would have stood side by side with that of Hampden. His body was quartered and exposed in different places. His head was stuck on a pole at Hay Hill, near Hyde Park, whence it was stolen by some of his friends.

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