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Reign of Henry VII. - (continued) page 7


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As the king and prince approached Dogmersfield they learned that the princess had arrived there some hours before them, but they were met by a cavalcade of solemn Spanish grandees, who had come forward to inform them that, according to Spanish custom, neither the king nor prince could be introduced to the princess till they met at the altar. Ceremonious as Henry was himself, according to the frank notions of his subjects, this excess of formality was too much for him. He summoned around him on the open field such members of his privy council as were in his train, and asked them, "What they thought of it?" They replied, "That the Spanish infanta was now in His Majesty's own dominions, where he, and not the King of Spain, was master, and that he might look at the princess if he liked."

On this Henry rode forward to Dogmersfield, and, presenting himself at Catherine's lodgings, demanded to be admitted to her presence. This peremptory conduct threw the whole of the Spanish embassage into the most terrible confusion. The prothonotary of Spain, an archbishop, a bishop, and a host of dignitaries, assured him that such a thing was impossible, for "the lady infanta had retired to her chamber." Not at all disturbed by this intelligence, Henry coolly assured them that "if she were even in her bed, he meant to see and speak with her, for that was his mind, and the whole intent of his coming."

Spanish etiquette being obliged by English bluffness to give way, the king was admitted to her third chamber, and there, though neither of them could speak a syllable of any common tongue, they made signs of much joy on seeing one another. Soon after arrived the prince, and was also admitted, and the two betrothed lovers managed to talk, as they had long corresponded, in Latin. They were then betrothed anew; and after a pleasant evening - during which the princess, who seems quickly to have thrown off her Spanish stiffness, entertained them with some of her country dances, and the prince, not to be behindhand with his bride, danced an English dance with Lady Guildford, the governess of his sister - they set forward the next day for London. At Kingston-on-Thames Catherine was met by the Duke of Buckingham, and a train of 400 noblemen, gentlemen, and clergy, and conducted to Kennington, whence, on the 17th of November, she was conducted by a great concourse of lords and ladies into the city to the bishop's palace, where she was to remain till the nuptials. On this occasion the Duke of York, afterwards her second husband and Henry VIII., rode on her right hand, and the Pope's legate on her left.

The appearance of that Spanish procession must have been a new sight in London. The princess rode on a large mule, Spanish fashion. She wore a large hat like a cardinal's hat, tied with a lace of gold which kept it upon her head. Under the hat she had a coif, whence the hair, of a rich auburn, streamed over her shoulders. Near her rode her duenna, the Donna Elvira, dressed all in black, with a kerchief on her head and black cloth hanging down beside her cheeks, like a religious woman. The princess's saddle is described as resembling an armchair richly ornamented. Four Spanish ladies followed in broad hats like their mistress, and their mules were led by as many English ladies mounted on palfreys, and clad in cloth of gold. Unluckily, the English and Spanish ladies rode on different sides, so that they went back to back, as if they had quarrelled - a circumstance afterwards remembered as ominous.

On the 14th of November, 1501, the marriage was celebrated at St. Paul's, Arthur's younger brother and her future husband, Henry Duke of York, conducting her from the bishop's palace to the church. On coming out, at the door of the cathedral, and before all the people, Arthur endowed her with one-third of his property. The king, for once, opened his heart, and spent a considerable sum of money in tournaments, maskings, and other festivities. No doubt he meant the Spanish grandees to carry a good account of the magnificence of the reception to their own Court and country. The nobility vied with him in expense; so much so, that many of them ruined themselves. In the quaint masques and pageants, Arthur was complimented for his descent from King Arthur of old renown, and Catherine from John of Gaunt. At these fetes Catherine wore the Spanish farthingale, and thus introduced into England the hooped petticoat.

The festivities over, Arthur retired to his castle of Ludlow with his bride, and there kept a Court modelled on that of the king. Great hopes and auguries were drawn from this marriage, and wonderful futures to them and their descendants were promised them by the astrologers. But little more than five months sufficed to falsify all the earthly predictions; for the young prince fell suddenly ill and died. Various reasons for his death are assigned by different authorities. Some assert that he died of consumption; others declare that he was perfectly sound and robust, and that he died of some epidemic - the sweating sickness, or, as the Spanish historian says, the plague. Great sickness of some kind was prevailing in the neighbourhood, so that at Worcester the funeral, according to the Spanish herald, was but thinly attended. Prince Arthur died on the 2nd of April, 1502. So far as the extreme youth of Arthur permitted a judgment, he was a prince of great promise, and the beauty of his person, the sweetness of his manner, and his great accomplishments, had won him universal favour, which was equally shared by his young bride.

Lingard has quoted a passage from the "Excerpta Historica," shewing that Henry condoled kindly with the queen in this severe and unexpected loss, which makes it probable that, however cold he had been towards her in the commencement of their marriage, he was now grown more attached to her. He also instances, from the MS. of Andre and the "Herald's Journal," his

frequent presents to her of "money, jewels, frontlets, and other ornaments," as well as of his paying her debts.

The death of Arthur was a shock to the political arrangements, as well as to the affections of the royal parties on both sides. Ferdinand was anxious to retain a close alliance with England, as a counterpoise to the ascendancy of France. He therefore proposed to Henry hat Catherine should be affianced to Henry Duke of York, Prince Arthur's younger brother. This was a very legitimate project according to the Jewish law, but not so much in accordance with the practice of the Christian world. Henry VII. appeared to hesitate - it may safely be surmised with no intention of allowing the young princess, and her dower of 200,000 crowns, to escape him; but rather, it may be supposed, with a design to exact something more. To hasten his decision, however, the Spanish monarch announced as the alternative, that Catherine must be immediately restored to her parents, with the half of the marriage portion already paid. This had a decisive effect on the deliberations of Henry. He showed himself ready to assent, if there were an additional incentive added in the shape of an additional sum. Ferdinand and Isabella were firm. They declared themselves ready to pay the remaining 100,000 crowns on the contract of the marriage, which should take effect two months after the receipt of a dispensation from the Pope. Henry tried every art to extort a larger sum, and it was not till June, 1503, that this proposition was finally accepted. The solemnisation of the marriage was to take place on the young Prince Henry completing his fourteenth year.

But the difficulties were not yet over. The two monarchs continued, like two skilful players, to try every move which might delay the payment of the money, or compel it with an augmentation. Ferdinand, on the receipt of the dispensation, and the signing of the contract, still did not remit the stipulated 100,000 crowns, and Henry, having the princess in his possession, made himself sure of the ultimate payment, and on the watch for further advantage. A strange means towards this end was resorted to. Henry, the young prince, on arriving at fourteen years of age, the time at which the marriage was to have taken place, appeared in the Court of the Bishop of Winchester, and stated that he was now at or upon the age of puberty; in fact, he would complete his fourteenth year on the 28th of June, 1503, and he made this statement the day previous. He then alluded to the contract of marriage with Catherine of Arragon, which had been entered into by his parents whilst he was below the age, and declared that it had been made without his consent, and that he did now revoke that contract, lest his silence might seem to confirm it, and held himself free from it, and at liberty to marry any other person. By this means it became optional with Henry VII. to proceed with this marriage or not, and it was plain that he did not mean to proceed till he had the cash in hand, and as little meant to let the princess escape him. In this state the matter remained till 1504, when Henry and Catherine, on the 25th of June, were betrothed, but still not married, at the house of the Bishop of Salisbury, in Fleet Street.

Nothing can be conceived more miserable than the condition of Catherine, now Dowager Princess of Wales, in England. Henry VII. resolved to force the payment of the remainder of her dowry, and not succeeding, resolved to revenge himself by keeping Catherine in the most severe destitution, so that she might complain to her father of her sufferings for want of money, and thus move him to send the delayed dowry. Betwixt two such cunning, selfish kings - Ferdinand, guided by the still more crafty counsels of Cardinal Ximenes, and Henry by those of his monstrous avarice - the poor princess was in a miserable plight. The death of the queen, Elizabeth of York, which took place immediately after the birth of another daughter, February 11th, 1503, only aggravated this condition, for the queen had been kind and consolatory to her. This was followed by a worse calamity, the death of her own mother, the famous Isabella of Castille, which took place November 26th, 1504. Had Isabella lived, nothing but the iron grasp of Henry VII. on her person and on her 100,000 crowns, would have prevented the cancelling of the contract of Catherine's marriage, and her return to Spain. Catherine had written to her mother piteous accounts of her condition, and of her decided aversion to a second marriage in England. Isabella, uneasy at the small prospect of happiness for her daughter in any connection with the Court of the crowned miser, Henry VII., had sent to Rome, earnestly entreating for a copy of the bull of dispensation permitting her daughter's marriage, declaring she could not die easy without seeing it. But Isabella died; and her unfortunate daughter was left in the hands of three of the most extraordinary diplomatists that ever exerted their wits for the accomplishment of their own selfish ends which the world ever saw - Henry, Ferdinand of Spain, and his minister Ximenes. With them, human feelings, or the happiness of any individual, went for nothing in the scale with political intrigue; but the story of Catherine's sorrows, which is a long one, we must interrupt, to trace other passing events. Scarcely had the eyes of Elizabeth of York closed, at the early age of thirty-seven, than Henry was on the look-out for another wife, for it was another opportunity of making a profit. His eyes glanced over the courts and courtly dames of Europe; and the lady who struck him as the most attractive in the world was the widow of the late King of Naples - for the deceased monarch had bequeathed her an immense property. Her ducats were charms that told on the gold-loving heart of Henry most ravishingly. He posted off three private gentlemen, well skilled in such delicate inquiries, to Naples, to learn from real sources whether all was safe as to this grand dowry. Poor Catherine was even made to play a part in this notable scheme of courtship, by furnishing the emissaries with a letter to her relative, the queen-do wager. The gentlemen reported in the most glowing terms the charms of the queen-dowager's person, the sweetness of her disposition, and the brilliant endowments of her mind; but they were obliged to add that, though the lady's fortune was in justice as large as fame reported it, the present king refused to carry out the will by which it was conferred. This one unlucky fact at once blotted out all the rest, and Henry, giving not another thought to the Do wager-Queen of Naples, turned his attention to the Dowager-Duchess of Savoy, who was also reported to be rich; and a circumstance which we shall speedily have to relate seemed to put this lady almost entirely in his power.

While Henry, however, was traversing Europe with his thoughts to add to his ever-growing hoards, he was equally diligent at home in prosecuting every art by which he could add another mark to his heap. He sought out and kept in his pay clever and unprincipled lawyers to search the old statute-books for laws grown obsolete, but which had never been formally repealed; and he had another set of spies in correspondence with them, who went to and fro throughout the whole kingdom to make out all such persons of property as had transgressed these slumbering laws. Gentlemen, on refusing to pay the demands made upon them on these grounds, were arrested and cast into prison, where, instead of being duly brought to trial, they were kept in a state of constant alarm, by reports carried to them of the grievous punishments preparing for them. This was done to extort large sums from them by way of compromise. When this failed, the unhappy men were brought to trial - not in the regular courts of justice, but before courts of commissioners appointed by the king, where there were juries of equally venal and abandoned character ready to condemn them. Even the very show of juries was in a while abandoned. The king, having concluded treaties with the monarchs abroad, especially those of France, Spain, and Scotland, and having put down and destroyed all his enemies at home, carried matters as he pleased; and all his efforts were directed to the single end of sucking up fresh streams of gold to gratify - but not satisfy, for that was insatiable - his thirsty dropsy of avarice. He soon ceased to proceed against his victims by indictment, but arrested them by precept, and tried them within the closed door of his Star Chamber, or in the private houses of his arbitrary commissioners.

Such a state of things could never have been tolerated In any former reign; but the wars of the Roses had cut off all the chief nobility, and the House of Commons,

terrified by the summary proceedings against offenders; had become utterly cowed, and trembled at the mere word of this imperious monarch. Never, therefore, was the English people at any time so completely prostrated beneath the talons of a royal vampire as at this period, The rich merchants of London found themselves accused of mal-practices in the discharge of their civic offices, and were subjected to the same process of squeezing in Henry's universal press. We have noticed the seizure of Capel, the Lord Mayor of London, and his long imprisonment to extract a fine, grounded on such a charge, of 2,700, and ultimately compounded for 1.600. Another lord mayor, Thomas Knesworth, and his two sheriffs were imprisoned on similar charges, and lay for a long time in prison, till they submitted to pay 1,400. Hawis, a mercer and alderman, was harassed by these harpies of the crown till, not being able to satisfy their demands, he died of a broken heart; and Sir Lawrence Alemore and His two sheriffs were fined 1,000, and did not escape from prison whilst Henry lived. Had the grasping Tudor had a corporation as rich as the present metropolitan one, what a gold mine the city would have been to him!

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