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The Reign of Queen Mary page 8

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On the 17th of the same month Lord Thomas Grey, the brother of Suffolk, was executed on Tower Hill, and William Thomas, who was clerk of the Council in the last reign, and who wrote a very apologetic account of the deeds of Henry VIII., was hanged on the 18th of May at Tyburn, after having attempted suicide in prison.

Sir Nicholas Throckmorton was the sixth, who was tried at Guildhall on the 17th of April, the very day of Lord Grey's execution. His condemnation and death were regarded as certain; but on being brought to the bar he adroitly pleaded that the recent statute abolishing all treasons since the reign of Edward III., covered anything which he could possibly have done, and that his offence being only words, were by the same statute declared to be no overt act at all. He stated this with so much skill and eloquence, at the same time contending that there was not a particle of evidence of his having been an active accomplice of the rebels, that the jury acquitted him. The judges were confounded at such a result. "How!" cried Sir Thomas Bromley, the lord chief justice, "remember yourselves better. This business concerns the queen's highness^ Take heed what ye do."

The jury, one and all respectable London merchants, stood to their verdict, and no brow-beating on the part of the attorney-general, or menaces on the part of the judges, could intimidate them to surrender it. Sir Nicholas claimed to be liberated on the plain verdict of the jury, and the lord chief justice having no other alternative, admitted that he must discharge him on the payment of fees, but, added he, with a lawyer's ready sophistry, "Take him back, Master Lieutenant to the Tower, nevertheless, for there are other things to be laid to his charge." Sir Nicholas was remanded and kept prisoner still for some time, but finally escaped with less punishment than his independent jury. It was so strange a novelty for a jury to exercise its most undoubted right, that the attorney-general suggested that they should each be bound in a recognisance of 500, to answer to such charges as the queen might present against them for their conduct; they were, therefore, notwithstanding their remonstrances, committed to prison. Four of them in a while made their submission, implored pardon, and were discharged: the other and nobler eight were detained in prison for more than six months, when they were brought into the abominable and illegal court of Star Chamber, where they as boldly declared that they had given their verdict according to their consciences, and demanded to be set at liberty. The judges, astonished and most indignant at such daring, decreed that the foreman and the other members of the jury who had spoken so undauntedly in court should pay 2,000 each as a fine, and the rest 1,000 marks each. They refused, and were recommitted to prison, whence they did not escape till they had been there altogether eight months, and paid five of them 220 a-piece, and the other three, who were much poorer men, 60 each.

Of the humbler victims, Brett, the captain of the train-bands, and about twenty of his common soldiers, who had gone over to Wyatt at Rochester Bridge, were sent down there and executed as traitors, and gibbeted. A proclamation was issued, forbidding any one on pain of death to harbour any of Wyatt's faction, and commanding all men to bring them forth and deliver them forthwith to the lord mayor and the queen's justices. "By reason of this proclamation," says Holinshed, "a great number of these poor caitiffs were brought forth, being so many in number that all the prisons in number sufficed not to receive them; so that for lack of place they were fain to bestow them in divers churches of the said City. And shortly after there were set up in London, for a terror to the common sort - because the White-Coats (train-bands) being sent out of the City, as before ye have heard, revolted from the queen's part to the aid of Wyatt - twenty pair of gallows, on the which were hanged in several places to the number of fifty persons."

These gibbets and their revolting burdens were not removed till July, when Phillip was about to enter London. Four hundred other prisoners were conducted to the palace with halters about their necks, where the queen appeared at a balcony, pronounced their pardon, and dismissed them to their homes. Mary has been accused of great cruelty in the punishment of these insurgents, but her really cruel deeds had not commenced yet. To us there appears a wonderful clemency and moderation in her treatment of them. When we consider that this was a second attempt to dethrone he. within six months, and remember the surprising vengeance which her father, and even her brother, took on like occasions, and still more the bloody recompence of rebellion in 1715 and 1745, we must pronounce the conduct of Mary mild in the extreme.

The execution which caused and still causes the deepest interest, and which always appears as a shadow on the character of Queen Mary, was that of her cousin, Lady Jane Grey. Till this second unfortunate insurrection, Mary steadily refused to listen to any persuasions to shed the blood of Lady Jane. She had had her tried and condemned to death, but she still permitted her to live, gave her a considerable degree of liberty and unusual indulgences, and it was generally understood that she meant eventually to pardon her. The ambassadors of Charles V. had strenuously urged her to prevent future danger by executing her rival, but she had replied that she could not find in her conscience to put her unfortunate kinswoman to death, who had not been an accomplice of Northumberland, but merely an unresisting instrument in his hands; but now that the very mischief had taken place which the emperor and her own Council had prognosticated, she was importuned on all sides to take what they described as the only prudent course. Poynet, the Bishop of Winchester, says that those lords of the Council who had been the most instrumental at the death of Edward VI. in thrusting Royalty on Lady Jane - namely, Pembroke and Winchester - and who had been amongst the first to denounce Mary as illegitimate, were now the most remorseless advocates for Lady Jane's death.

Accordingly, the day after the fall of Wyatt, Mary signed the warrant for the execution of "Guildford Dudley and his wife," to take place within three days. On the morning of the execution the queen sent Lady Jane permission to have an interview with her husband, but she declined the favour as too trying, saying she should meet him within a few hours in heaven. The queen also sent to her her own chaplain, Dr. Feckenham, the Dean of St. Paul's, to offer her religious consolation; but Lady Jane, knowing that there could be neither consolation nor use in discussing their differing creeds, told him her time was too short for controversy. She added that she was prepared to receive patiently her death in any manner it would please the queen to appoint; that it was true her flesh shuddered, as was natural to frail mortality, but her spirit would spring rejoicing into the eternal light, where she hoped the angels of God would receive it. She saw her husband go to execution from the window of the lodging in Master Partridge's house, and beheld the headless trunk borne back to be buried in the chapel. Lord Guildford Dudley was executed on Tower Hill in sight of a vast concourse, but a scaffold was erected for her in the Tower green. Immediately after his corpse had passed she was led forth by the Lieutenant of the Tower, and appeared to go to her fate without any discomposing fear, but in a serious frame, not a tear dimming her eye, though her gentlewomen, Elizabeth Tilney and Mistress Helen, were weeping greatly. She continued j engaged in prayer, which, she read from a book, till she came to the scaffold; there she made a short speech to the spectators, declaring that she deserved her punishment for allowing herself to be made the instrument of the ambition of others. "That device, however," she said, "was never of my seeking, but by the counsel of those who appeared to have better understanding of such things than I. As for the procurement or desire of such dignity by me, I wash my hands thereof before God and all you Christian people this day." She caused her gentlewomen to disrobe her, bandaged her own eyes with a handkerchief, and laying her head on the block, at one stroke it was severed from the body, "Such," says Bishop Goodwin, "was the end of Jane Grey, a lady renowned for the greatness of her birth, but far more for her virtues and excellency of art; who, swayed by the ambition of her father-in-law and imperious mother, took on her that fatal title of queen: and being presently hurried from a kingdom to a scaffold, suffered for the faults of others, having overcome all the frowns of adverse fortune by constancy and innocence." It should not be forgotten that this amiable young woman, the victim of hard and ruthless politicians, was only sixteen years of ago.

But this conspiracy had approached the queen much more nearly than in the person of Wyatt or the friends of Lady Jane Grey. It was discovered by intercepted letters of Wyatt, of Noailles, the French ambassador, and by one supposed to have been written by Elizabeth herself to the French king, that she was deeply implicated, and that the design of marrying her and Courtenay and placing them on the throne was well known, and apparently quite agreeable to her.

The refusal of Elizabeth to join her sister at the outbreak of the insurrection, and the flight of Courtenay at the moment of Wyatt's entry of London, excited suspicion, and this suspicion was soon converted into something very like fact by the three despatches of Noailles, written in cipher, and dated January 26th, 28th, and 30th. These despatches detailed the steps taken in her favour. Besides these there were two notes sent by Wyatt to Elizabeth, the first advising her to remove to Donnington, the next informing her of his successful entry into Southwark. Then came what appeared clearly a letter of Elizabeth to the King of France. The Duke of Suffolk's confession was again corroborative of these details, namely, that the object of the insurrection was to depose Mary and place Elizabeth on the throne. William Thomas supported this, adding that it was intended to put the queen immediately to death. Croft confessed that he had solicited Elizabeth to return to Donnington; Lord Russell said he had conveyed letters from Wyatt to Elizabeth, and another witness deposed to his knowledge of a correspondence betwixt Courtenay and Carew respecting Courtenay's marriage with the princess.

With all these startling facts in her possession, Mary wrote to Elizabeth with an air of unsuspicious kindness, requesting her to come to her from Ashridge, informing her that malicious and ill-disposed persons accused her of favouring the late insurrection; but appearing not to believe it, and giving as a reason for her wishing her to be nearer, that the times were so unsettled that she would be in greater security with her. Elizabeth pleaded illness for not complying; but the queen sent Hastings, Southwell, and Cornwallis, members of Council, whom she received in her bed, and complained of being afflicted with a severe and dangerous malady. Mary, well acquainted with the deep dissimulation of her sister's character, then sent three of her own physicians, accompanied by Lord William Howard; and the physicians having given their opinion that she was quite able to travel, she was obliged to accompany them by short stages, borne in a litter. She appeared pale and bloated. It was said that she was irrecoverably poisoned; but in a week she was quite well, and demanded an audience of the queen; but Mary had so much evidence in her hands of Elizabeth's proceedings, that she sent her word that it was necessary first to prove her innocence.

Courtenay had been arrested on the 12th of February, at the house of the Earl of Essex, and committed to the Tower. Mary was averse to send her sister there, and asked each of the lords of the Council in rotation to admit Elizabeth to their houses, and to take charge of her. All without exception declined the dangerous office; she was, therefore, compelled to sign the warrant for her committal, and she was conducted to the Tower by the Earl of Sussex and another nobleman on the 18th of March. Even whilst performing this duty, it appears that Elizabeth had influence enough with these noblemen to make them dilatory in the execution of their office, to the great anger of the queen, who upbraided them with their remissness, telling them they dared not have done such a thing in her father's time, and wishing that " he were alive for a month." Elizabeth on entering the Tower was dreadfully afraid that she was doomed to leave it as so many princes and nobles had done, without a head. She inquired whether Lady Jane's scaffold were removed, and was greatly relieved to hear that it was. But what alarmed Elizabeth still more, was that the Constable of the Tower was discharged from his office, and Sir Henry Bedingfield, a zealous Romanist, appointed in his place, The fact of Sir Robert Brackenbury having been seventy years before, in like manner, removed, and Sir James Tyrrell put in, when the princes were murdered, appeared an ominous precedent, but there was no real cause for apprehension; Mary had no wish to shed her sister's blood. Elizabeth, spite of the evidence against her, protested vehemently her innocence, and wished "that God might confound her eternally if she was in any manner implicated with Wyatt."

The Court of Spain, through Renard the ambassador, urged perseveringly the execution of Elizabeth and Courtenay. Renard represented from his sovereign that there could be no security for her throne so long as Elizabeth and Courtenay were suffered to live. But Mary replied that though they had both of them, no doubt, listened willingly to the conspirators, and would have been ready had they succeeded to step into her throne, yet they had been guilty of no overt act, and therefore, by the constitutional law of England which had been enacted in her first Parliament, they could not be put to death, but could only be imprisoned, or suffer forfeiture of their goods. Some authorities accuse Gardiner of joining in the plan for the execution of Elizabeth, at the same time that he was earnest to save Courtenay; but others exonerate him of this charge, and make him more consistent.

In the Council it was, moreover, mooted to send Elizabeth abroad, either to be kept at Brussels, or put under the care of the Queen of Hungary, or - the favourite scheme of Philip - to marry her to Philibert Emanuel of Savoy, the disinherited Prince of Piedmont. But Mary would consent to none of these plans contrary to Elizabeth's free will and consent; she therefore removed her sister from the Tower, first to Richmond, and thence, under the care of Lord Williams of Tame and Sir Henry Bedingfield, to Woodstock. Bedingfield, who was keeper, does not seem, with all his vigilance, to have been an unkind one, for he was in favour with Elizabeth after she became queen, and frequently repaired to Court to pay his respects to her. Courtenay, in the week following Elizabeth's removal from the Tower, was also sent thence to Fotheringay Castle.

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