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The Reign of Queen Mary page 9

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Mary had dismissed her Parliament on the 5th of May. Before this dissolution the peers had unanimously enacted that the ancient penalties against heretics should be enforced. These heretics were the members of the Church which these same peers, only four years before, had, with every appearance of enthusiasm, established; and, to add to the infamy of their character, Renard, the emperor's ambassador, openly boasted of having bribed them to this work of evil. Previous to the dissolution of Parliament, the queen had taken every opportunity of parading her religion before the people. On the 3rd of May, that is, in Rogation week, she had made a procession with five bishops mitred, and her heralds and serjeants-at-arms, to St. Giles's-in-the-Field, St. Martin's-in-the-Field, and to Westminster, where they had a sermon and song-mass, and made good cheer, and afterwards went about the park, and home to St. James's Court there.

These displays, and the approaching arrival of the Prince of Spain, gave the greatest disgust to a large body of her subjects, and there were various conspiracies against her life and reputation, The Court and clergy were greatly incensed at finding a cat with shorn crown, and in the costume of a Catholic priest, hanging on a gallows in Cheapside. As Dr. Pendleton was preaching Catholicism at St. Paul's Cross, he was shot at, and narrowly escaped with his life. A strange piece of mummery was also at this time played off in the City against the queen's religion. Crowds of people, said to amount to 17,000 at one time, were daily assembled about an empty house in Aldersgate Street, from the wall of which there came a voice, which many declared was that of an angel denouncing the queen's marriage. When the crowd shouted "God save the queen," it preserved silence. When they shouted "God save the Lady Elizabeth," it answered, "So be it." When they asked what the mass was, it answered, "Idolatry."

To examine into the character of this seditious oracle, the Council deputed Lord Admiral Howard and Lord Paget. They ordered the wall to be pulled down where the voice came from, and soon laid bare the spirit in the shape of a young woman of the name of Elizabeth Crofts, who confessed that she was hired for the purpose by one Drakes, a servant to Sir Anthony Neville. "She had lain whistling," says Stowe, "in a strange whistle made for the purpose; and there were other companions - one named Miles, clerk of St. Botolph's without Aldersgate, a player, a weaver, Hill, clerk of St. Leonard's, in Forbes Lane, and other confederates with her, which, putting themselves amongst the press, took upon them to interpret what the spirit said, expressing certain seditious words against the queen, the Prince of Spain, the mass, confession, &c." Some said it was an angel and a voice from heaven, some the Holy Ghost, &c. The young woman was made to stand upon a scaffold at St. Paul's; Cross during the sermon, and there before all the people to confess the trick. The punishment was certainly lenient. Henry VIII. would have burned her, and hanged all her accomplices. This clemency was even confessed by the queen's Protestant enemies, as in some doggrel verses laid on the desk of her chapel -

"And yet you do seem merciful
In midst of tyranny,
And holy, whereas you maintain
Most vile idolatry."

But very different were the atrocious attacks upon her character which were scattered about, both written and printed, and many of them of a very gross character industriously thrown in her way. Of all the strange conspiracies, however, against her, the strangest was that related by Lord Bacon: - "I have heard that there was a conspiracy to kill Queen Mary as she walked in St. James's Park, by means of a burning-glass, fixed on the leads of, a neighbouring house."

Spite, however, of all warnings and the most universal expression of dislike to the match, Mary persisted in her engagement of marriage with Philip of Spain, though he himself showed no unequivocal reluctance to the completion of it; never writing to her, but submitting to his fate, as it were, in obedience to the parental command. At the end of May the unwilling bridegroom resigned his government of Castile - which he held for his insane grandmother, Juana - into the hands of his sister, the Princess-Dowager, of Portugal, and bade adieu to his family. He embarked at Corunna on the 13th of July for England, and landed at Southampton on the 20th, after a week's voyage. Mary had discussed ere his arrival the position and title which Philip was to bear in England. She appeared disposed to give him all the power and dignity that she could, but in much of this she was very properly opposed by her Council, and especially by Gardiner, her chancellor, who, though he was a positive bigot and a fierce persecutor on account of religion, had many of the qualities of a sterling patriot. On the other hand, Renard was on the watch to claim for his master all the concessions possible. The first point mooted was whether the name of the king or the queen should stand first. Gardiner contended that as Mary was queen-regnant of her own kingdom, and Philip mere king-consort, the queen's name must take precedence. This Renard stoutly opposed, and as the queen was too ready to concede, it was decided that Philip's name should stand first. Mary next proposed that Philip should receive the honour of a coronation, but on this head Gardiner would not yield, and therefore the coronation was set aside. The queen next proposed, with as little success, that Philip should be crowned with the diadem of the queens-consort of England, and she was obliged to content herself with the arrangement that he should be invested with the collar and mantle of the Garter the moment he set foot on English ground.

These matters being settled, she retired with her Court to the palace of Guildford, to be near Southampton, where the prince was expected to land. When the fleet was expected in July she sent Lord Russell, privy-seal, to await his arrival, with the injunction to obey his commands in all things. This was the one weakness which ruined Mary's happiness, involved her in the horrors of persecution, and blackened her character to all futurity - the fond idea that she must in all things be subject to her husband.

Her courtiers were far from participating in this feeling. The Lord-Admiral Howard had been dispatched by Mary to meet and escort the prince to England. Howard was furnished with a fine fleet, and the emperor's ambassador, Renard, offered him a pension in token of the prince's sense of this service, but Howard declined accepting it, only referring him to the queen. Mary gave her consent for the grant: it in no degree subdued the blunt John Bullism of the admiral. The same ambassador was very soon excessively indignant at the admiral, on the joining of the fleets, irreverently calling the Spanish and Flemish vessels mussel-shells. Howard conceived a great contempt for the Spanish admiral, and quarrelled with him. The sailors were just as rough and uncomplimentary as their commander. They pushed and elbowed the Spanish sailors whenever they met, and the Spanish admiral forbade his men going on shore, during the month they lay off Corunna waiting for Philip, to prevent downright bloodshed. When they came into the narrow seas the English admiral insisted on the Spanish commander lowering topsails out of respect for the British fleet, and when he refused, Howard fired a gun over the admiral's ship, notwithstanding the prince being aboard, to compel him.

When the news arrived of Philip having landed at Southampton, the queen, who happened then to be at Windsor, set off the next day with a gay retinue to meet him at Winchester, where the marriage was fixed to take place. She arrived there on the 23rd of July, that is, three days after her bridegroom. He came attended by many Spanish officers of high rank, and amongst them the Duke of Alva, whose name afterwards became so infamous for his atrocities committed in the Netherlands on the Protestants. Philip, on ascending the stairs from the beach at Southampton, was received by a great concourse of nobles and ladies deputed for that purpose by the queen. He was immediately invested with the insignia of the order of the Garter, and, mounted on a beautiful genet, which the queen had sent him by the Master of the Horse, he rode to the church of the Holy Rood, and returned thanks for his safe voyage.

Philip was dressed simply in black velvet, having a barret-cap of the same, with small chains of gold. He was described as a man of singular beauty, but the judgment of others is not in accordance with these representations: "his complexion being cane-coloured, his hair sandy and scanty, his eyes small, blue, and weak, with a glowing expression of face, which is peculiarly odious in a person of very light complexion. A mighty volume of brain, although it sloped too much towards the top of the head, denoted that this unpleasant-looking prince was a man of considerable abilities."

The weather was terribly rainy and tempestuous, although July. "It was a cruel rain," says Baoardo, an Italian who was present, through which Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, came to welcome Don Philip, accompanied by fifty gentlemen with rich gold chains about their necks, dressed in black velvet, passamented with gold, and a hundred other gentlemen dressed in black cloth bound with gold. The Duchess of Alva landed in the evening, and was carried on shore in a chair of black velvet, borne by four of her gentlemen. Don Philip dispatched the next morning his grand chamberlain, Don Ruy Gomez de Silva, with a magnificent offering of jewels of the value of 50,000 ducats, as a present to his Royal bride. That day being Sunday, after mass he dined in public, and was waited upon by his newly-appointed English officers of the household, to the great chagrin of his Spanish attendants, most of whom were, according to the marriage treaty, obliged to return with the Spanish fleet. Don Philip courted popularity. He told his new attendants in Latin that he was come to live among them like an Englishman; and in proof thereof, drank some ale for the first time, which he gravely commended as "the wine of the country." The next day he and his retinue set forward for Winchester in still pouring rain; which they, however, only suffered in common with the Earl of Pembroke and a splendid cavalcade of 150 gentlemen and nobles in black velvet and gold chains, and a body-guard of 100 archers mounted, and wearing the prince's livery of yellow cloth, striped with red velvet, and with cordons of white and crimson silk. Besides these there were 4,000 spectators variously mounted, who closed the procession.

A ludicrous incident soon occurred. A gentleman came riding fast from the queen, praying him to proceed no further in such weather. Philip, seeing him present a small ring, and but imperfectly understanding his language, immediately imagined that the queen had sent to warn him of some menaced danger from his discontented subjects, for he was well aware how ill-disposed they were to the marriage. He therefore called Alva and Egmont to him, in great consternation; and consulted what was to be done; but a nobleman, who overheard their discourse, dissipated their alarm by telling them in French that the queen had sent her loving greeting, and prayed him not to commence his journey to Winchester in such weather. The message was intended to reach him before setting out.

All fears being dissipated, the prince resolved gallantly to go forward, and the procession proceeded with true Spanish gravity; so that, although Winchester is only ten miles from Southampton, it was betwixt six and seven o'clock when they arrived.

The queen was not favoured with any better weather when three days afterwards she arrived and took up her abode in the episcopal palace. The wedding ceremony took place in the cathedral with great state and much magnificence. The chair on which Mary sat, which was said to have been sent from Rome and blessed by the Pope, is still preserved in the cathedral. After the marriage came great banqueting; but however the king and queen might harmonise, there was many a feud and frown amongst their followers. One of the most singular men of the age, Edward Underhill, called the "hot gospeller," who, though a most independent and undaunted Protestant, was always one of the most chivalrous Attendants of the queen as gentleman-at-arms, had been strongly objected to by the Earl of Arundel as being included in the cortege. He was not the less coolly Looked on by his old enemy, Norreys, now queen's usher. Norreys, coming into the presence-chamber, and seeing Underhill, fixed his eyes on him, and demanded what he did there. "Marry, sir," replied the bold Protestant, "what do you do here?" Norreys, confounded at this address, vowed to report him to the queen, when another of the gentlemen-at-arms condemned the language of Norreys, declaring that Underhill was one of the most devoted and respected servants of Her Majesty, and was only discharging his proper office.

By slow degrees the new-married monarchs approached their capital. They went first to Basing House on a visit to Paulet, Marquis of Winchester, and thence to Windsor Castle, where, on the 5th of August, was held a grand festival of the Garter, at which Philip was admitted, and immediately took his place as the sovereign of the order. On the 9th they removed to Richmond Palace, where they remained till the 27th, embarking then on the Thames, and being rowed in great state to the City, where they were received with the usual pageantry and quaint devices, amidst which the citizens did not omit a hint of their regret at the change in religion. Amongst the figures stood one of Henry VIII. holding a book, as if he would present it to the queen, inscribed, verbum dei. The queen was indignant at the reminder, and had the words so hastily painted out, that they obliterated her father's fingers with them.

The most grateful sight to the citizens, and the best calculated to make the presence of the Spaniards tolerable, was that of ninety-five chests of bullion, each dust a yard and a quarter long. This goodly load was piled in twenty carts, and conducted to the Tower with all befitting ostentation.

Having held their Court at Whitehall and received the visits of their nobility and gentry, Philip and Mary took the occasion of the death of the old Duke of Norfolk to put a stop to the festivities, to dismiss the courtiers, and to retire to Hampton Court, where they remained for some time in great seclusion, so much so that the public found cause of great complaint in the new Spanish custom. "Formerly,'' the people said, "the gates of our palaces were open all day long, and the faithful subject could have access, at least, to a view of his sovereign;" but now, since the Spanish marriage, the gates were closed, and no one could be admitted without stating his identity and his business.

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