History of England (Froude)/Chapter 11
TRIAL AND DEATH OF ANNE BOLEYN.
THE first act of the great drama appeared to have closed. No further changes were for the present in contemplation. The Church was re-established under its altered constitution; and the Parliament had been dissolved under the impression that it would be unnecessary to summon another for an indefinite time. Within four weeks of the dissolution, writs were issued for a fresh election, under the pressure of a misfortune which is alike calamitous, under whatever aspect we regard it; and which blotted the Reformation with a black and frightful stain. The guilt must rest where it is due; but under any hypothesis, guilt there was, dark, mysterious, and most miserable.
The fate of Queen Catherine had by this time completed itself. She had taken her leave of a world which she had small cause to thank for the entertainment which it had provided for her; and she died, as she had lived, resolute, haughty, and unbending. In the preceding October (1535), she was in bad health; her house, she imagined, disagreed with her, and at her own desire she was removed to Kimbolton. But there were no symptoms of immediate danger. She revived under the change, and was in better spirits than she had shown for many previous months, especially after she heard of the new Pope's resolution to maintain her cause. 'Much resort of people came daily to her.' The vexatious dispute upon her title had been dropped, from an inability to press it; and it seemed as if life had become at least endurable to her, if it never could be more. But the repose was but the stillness of evening as night is hastening down. The royal officers of the household were not admitted into her presence; the Queen lived wholly among her own friends and her own people; she sank unperceived; and so effectually had she withdrawn from the observation of those whom she desired to exclude, that the King was left to learn from the Spanish ambassador that she was at the point of death, before her chamberlain was aware that she was more than indisposed. In the last week of December Henry learnt that she was in danger. On the 2nd of January the ambassador went down from London to Kimbolton, and spent the day with her. On the 5th Sir Edmund Bedingfield wrote that she was very ill, and that the Jan. 7.issue was doubtful. On the morning of the th she received the last sacrament, and at two o'clock on that day she died. On her deathbed she dictated the following letter of farewell to him whom she still called her most dear lord and husband.
'The hour of my death now approaching, I cannot choose but, out of the love I bear you, advise you of your soul's health, which you ought to prefer before all considerations of the world or flesh whatsoever; for which yet you have cast me into many calamities, and yourself into many troubles. But I forgive you all, and pray God to do so likewise. For the rest I commend unto you Mary our daughter, beseeching you to be a good father to her, as I have heretofore desired. I must entreat you also to respect my maids, and give them in marriage, which is not much, they being but three; and to all my other servants a year's pay besides their due, lest otherwise they should be unprovided for. Lastly, I make this vow, that mine eyes desire you above all things. Farewell.'
This letter reached Henry with the intimation that she was gone. He was much affected, and is said to have shed tears. The Court was ordered into mourning—a command which Anne Boleyn distinguished herself by imperfectly obeying. Catherine was buried at Peterborough, with the estate of Princess Royal; and shortly after, on the foundation of the new bishoprics, the See of Peterborough was established in her memory. We may welcome, however late, these acts of tardy respect. Henry, in the few last years, had grown wiser in the ways of women; and had learnt to prize more deeply the austerity of virtue, even in its unloveliest aspect. Tke death of Catherine was followed, four months later, by the tragedy which I have now to relate. The ground on which I am about to tread is so critical, and the issues at stake affect so deeply the honour of many of our most eminent English statesmen, that I must be pardoned if I cannot here step boldly out with a flowing narrative, but must pick my way slowly as I can: and I, on my part, must ask my readers to move slowly also, and be content to allow their judgment, for a few pages, to remain in suspense.
And first, I have to say that, as with all the great events of Henry's reign, so especially with this, we must trust to no evidence which is not strictly contemporary. During periods of revolution, years do the work of centuries in colouring actions and disturbing forms; and events are transferred swiftly from the deliberation of the judgment to the precipitate arrogance of party spirit. When the great powers of Europe were united against Elizabeth, and when Elizabeth's own character was vilely and wantonly assailed, the Catholic writers dipped their pens in the stains which blotted her mother's name; and, more careless of truth than even theological passion can excuse, they poured out over both alike a stream of indiscriminate calumny. On the other hand, as Elizabeth's lordly nature was the pride of all true-hearted Englishmen, so the Reformers laboured to reflect her virtues backwards. Like the Catholics, they linked the daughter with the parent; and became no less extravagant in their panegyrics than their antagonists in their gratuitous invective. But the Anne Boleyn, as she appears in contemporary letters, is not the Anne Boleyn. of Foxe, or Wyatt, or the other champions of Protestantism, who saw in her the counterpart of her child. These writers, though living so near to the events which they described, yet were divided from the preceding generation by an impassable gulf. They were surrounded with the heat and flame of a controversy, in which public and private questions were wrapped inseparably together; and the more closely we scrutinize their narratives, the graver occasion there appears for doing so.
While, therefore, in following out this miserable subject, I decline so much as to entertain the stories of Sanders, who has represented Queen Anne as steeped in profligacy from her childhood; so I may not any more accept those late memorials of her saintliness, which are alike unsupported by the evidence of those who knew her. If Protestant legends are admitted as of authority, the Catholic legends must enter with them, and we shall only deepen the confusion. I cannot follow Burnet, in reporting out of Meteren a version of Anne Boleyn's trial, unknown in England. The subject is one on which rhetoric and rumour are alike unprofitable. We must confine ourselves to accounts written at the time by persons to whom not the outline of the facts only was known, but the circumstances which surrounded them; by persons who had seen the evidence upon the alleged offences, which, though now lost irrecoverably, can be proved to have once existed.
We are unable, as I early observed, to form any trustworthy judgment of Anne Boleyn before her marriage. Her education had been in the worst school in Europe. On her return from the French Court to England, we have seen her entangled in an unintelligible connection with Lord Percy; and if the account sent to the Emperor was true, she was Lord Percy's actual wife; and her conduct was so criminal as to make any after-charges against her credible.
If the Protestants, again, found in her a friend and supporter, she was capable, as Wolsey experienced, of inveterate hatred; and although among the Reformers she had a reputation for generosity which is widely confirmed, yet it was exercised always in the direction in which her interests pointed; and kindness of feeling is not incompatible, happily, with seriously melancholy faults.
The strongest general evidence in her favour is that of Cranmer, who must have known her intimately, and who, at the crisis of her life, declared that he 'never had better opinion in woman than he had in her.' Yet there had been circumstances in her conduct, as by her own after-confessions was amply evident, which justified Sir Thomas More in foretelling a stormy end to her splendour; and her relations with the King, whether the fault rested with him, or rested with her, grew rapidly cool when she was his wife. In 1534, perhaps sooner, both she herself, her brother, and her relations had made themselves odious by their insolence; her overbearing manners had caused a decline in the King's affection for her; and on one side it was reported that he was likely to return to Catherine, on the other that he had transferred his attention to some other lady, and that the Court encouraged his inconstancy to separate him from Anne's influence. D'Inteville confirms the account of a new love affair, particularising nothing, but saying merely that Anne was falling out of favour; and that the person alluded to as taking her place was Jane Seymour, appears from a letter written after Anne's execution, by the Regent Mary to the Emperor of Austria, and from the letter written (supposing it genuine) by Anne herself to the King before her trial.
On the other hand, it is equally clear that whether provoked or not by infidelity on the part of Henry, her own conduct had been singularly questionable. We know verjr little, but waiving for the present the exposures at her trial, we know, by her own confession, that arrogance and vanity had not been her only faults, and that she had permitted the gentlemen who were the supposed partners of her guilt, to speak to her of their passion for herself.
In January, 1535, Henry's mind had been filled with ' doubts and strange suspicions ' about his wife. There had been a misunderstanding, in which she had implored the intercession of Francis I.
In February, 1536, she miscarried, with a dead boy, which later rumour dwelt on as the cause of Henry's displeasure. But conversations such as those which she described with her supposed paramours, lay bare far deeper wounds of domestic unhappiness; and assure us, that if we could look behind the scenes, we should see there estrangements, quarrels, jealousies, the thousand dreary incidents that, if we knew them, would break the suddenness with which at present the catastrophe bursts upon us. It is the want of preparation, the blank ignorance in which we are left of the daily life and daily occurrences of the Court, which places us at such disadvantage for recovering the truth. We are unable to form any estimate whatever of those antecedent likelihoods which, in the events of our own ordinary lives, guide our judgment so imperceptibly, yet so surely. Henry is said to have been inconstant, but those who most suspected Henry's motives charge Anne at the same time with a long notorious profligacy. We cannot say what is probable or what is improbable; except, indeed, that the guilt of every person is improbable antecedent to evidence; and in the present instance, since, either on the side of the Queen or of the King, there was and must have been most terrible guilt, these opposite presumptions neutralize each other.
April.To proceed with the story. Towards the middle of April, 1536, certain members of the privy council were engaged secretly in receiving evidence which implicated the Queen in adultery. Nothing is known of the quarter from which the information came which led to the inquiry. Something, however, there was to call for inquiry, or something there was thought to be; and on the 24th of April the case was considered sufficiently complete to make necessary a public trial. On that day an order was issued for a special commission. The members of the tribunal were selected with a care proportioned to the solemnity of the occasion. It was composed of the lord chancellor, the first noblemen of the realm, and of the judges. The investigation had, however, been conducted so far with profound secrecy; and the object for which it was to assemble was unknown even to Cranmer, himself a member of the privy council. With the same mysterious silence on the cause of so unexpected a measure, the writs were issued for a general election, and Parliament was required to assemble as soon as possible. Thursday, April 27.On Thursday, the 27th, the first arrest was made. Sir William Brereton, a gentleman of the King's household, was sent suddenly to the Tower; Sunday, April 30.and on the Sunday after, Mark Smeton, of whom we know only that he was a musician high in favour at the Court, apparently a spoilt favourite of royal bounty. May 1.The day following was the 1st of May. It was the day on which the annual festival was held at Greenwich, and the Queen appeared as usual, with her husband and the Court at the tournament. Lord Rochford, the Queen's brother, and Sir Henry Norris, both of them implicated in the fatal charge, were defender and challenger. The tilting had commenced when the King rose suddenly with signs of disturbance in his manner, left the Court, and rode off with a small company to London. Rumour, which delights in dramatic explanations of great occurrences, has discovered that a handkerchief dropped by the Queen, and caught by Norris, roused Henry's jealousy; and that his after-conduct was the result of a momentary anger. The incidents of the preceding week are a sufficient reply to this romantic story. The mine was already laid, the match was ready for the fire.
The King did not return: he passed the night in London, and Anne remained at Greenwich. Tuesday, May 2.On the morning of Tuesday the privy council assembled in the palace under the presidency of the Duke of Norfolk, and she was summoned to appear before it. The Duke of Norfolk, her uncle, was anxious, as Burnet insinuates, on political grounds that his niece should be made away with. Such accusations are easily brought, especially when unsupported by evidence. She was unpopular from her manner. The London merchants looked on her with no favour as having caused a breach in the alliance with Flanders, and the duke was an Imperialist and at heart a friend of Queen Catherine; but he had grown old in the service of the State with an unblemished reputation; and he felt too keenly the disgrace which Anne's conduct had brought upon her family, to have contrived a scheme for her removal at once so awkward and so ignominious. On her examination, she declared herself innocent; the details of what passed are unknown; only she told Sir William Kingston that she was cruelly handled at Greenwich with the King's council; 'and that the Duke of Norfolk, in answer to her defence, had said, 'Tut, tut, tut,' shaking his head three or four times.' The other prisoners were then examined; not Brereton, it would seem, but Smeton, who must have been brought down from the Tower, and Sir Henry Norris, and Sir Francis Weston, two young courtiers, who had both of them been the trusted friends of the King. Each day the shadow was stretching further. The worst was yet to come.
On being first questioned, these three made general admissions, but denied resolutely that any actual offence had been committed. On being pressed further and cross-examined, Smeton confessed to actual adultery. Morris hesitated: being pressed, however, by Sir William Fitzwilliam to speak the truth, he also made a similar acknowledgment, although he afterwards withdrew from what he had said. Weston persisted in declaring himself innocent. The result was unsatisfactory, and it was thought that it would 'much touch the King's honour' if the guilt of the accused was not proved more clearly. 'Only Mark,' Sir Edward Baynton said, would confess 'of any actual thing;' although he had no doubt 'the other two' were 'as fully culpable as ever was he.' They were, however, for the present, recommitted to the Tower; whither also in the afternoon the council conducted the Queen, and left her in the custody of Sir William Kingston.
She was brought up the river; the same river along which she sailed in splendour only three short years before. She landed at the same Tower Stairs; and, as if to complete the misery of the change, she was taken 'to her own lodgings in which she lay at her coronation.' She had feared that she was to go to a dungeon. When Kingston told her that these rooms had been prepared for her, 'It is too good for me,' she said, 'Jesu have mercy on me;' 'and kneeled down, weeping a great space; and in the same sorrow fell into a great laughing.' She then begged that she might have the sacrament in the closet by her chamber, that she might pray for mercy, declaring 'that she was free from the company of man as for sin,' and was 'the King's true wedded wife.'
She was aware that the other prisoners were in the Tower, or, at least, that Smeton, Weston, and Norris were there. Whether she knew at that time of the further dreadful accusation which was hanging over her, does not appear; but she asked anxiously for her brother; and, if she had suspected anything, her fears must have been confirmed by Kingston's evasive replies. It is so painful to dwell upon the words and actions of a poor woman in her moments of wretchedness, that Kingston may describe his conversation with her in his own words. Lord Rochford had returned to London at liberty; he seems to have been arrested the same Tuesday afternoon. 'I pray you,' she said, 'to tell me where my Lord Rochford is?' 'I told her,' Kingston wrote, that 'I saw him afore dinner, in the court.' 'Oh, where is my sweet brother?' she went on. 'I said I left him at York-place; and so I did.' 'I hear say,' said she, 'that I should be accused with three men; and I can say no more but nay, without I should open my body,'—and therewith she opened her gown, saying, 'Oh, Norris, hast thou accused me? Thou art in the Tower with me, and thou and I shall die together. And, Mark, thou art here too. Oh, my mother, thou wilt die for sorrow.' And much she lamented my Lady of Worcester, for because her child did not stir in her body. And my wife said, 'What should be the cause?' She said, 'For the sorrow she took for me.' And then she said, 'Mr Kingston, shall I die without justice?' And I said, 'The poorest subject the King hath, had justice;' and therewith she laughed.'
Lady Boleyn, her aunt, had been sent for, with a Mrs Cousins, and two other ladies, selected by the King. They were ordered to attend upon the Queen, but to observe a strict silence; and to hold no communication with her, except in the presence of Lady Kingston. This regulation, it was found, could not be insisted on. Lady Boleyn and Mrs Cousins slept in the Queen's room, and conversation could not be prevented. Mrs Cousins undertook, on her part, to inform Kingston if anything was said which 'it was meet that he should know.'
Wednesday, May 3.In compliance with this promise, she told him, the next morning, that the Queen had been speaking to her about Norris. On the preceding Sunday, she said that Norris had offered to 'swear for the Queen, that she was a good woman.' 'But how,' asked Mrs Cousins, very naturally, 'how came any such things to be spoken of at all?' 'Marry,' the Queen said, 'I bade him do so: for I asked him why he went not through with his marriage; and he made answer, that he would tarry a time. Then, I said, You look for dead men's shoes; for if aught came to the King but good, you would look to have me. And he said, if he should have any such thought, he would his head were off. And then she said she could undo him, if she would. And therewith they fell out.' 'But she said she more feared Weston; for on Whitsun Tuesday last, Weston told her that Norris came more unto her chamber for her than for Mage.' Afterwards, 'The Queen spake of Weston, that she had spoken to him, because he did love her kinswoman, Mrs Skelton, and that she said he loved not his wife; and he made answer to her again, that he loved one in her house better than them both. She asked him who is that? to which he answered, that it is yourself. 'And then,' she said, 'she defied him.''
So passed Wednesday at the Tower. Let us feel our very utmost commiseration for this unhappy woman; if she was guilty, it is the more reason that we should pity her; but I am obliged to say, that conversations of this kind, admitted by herself, disentitle her to plead her character in answer to the charges against her. Young men do not speak of love to young and beautiful married women, still less to ladies of so high rank, unless something more than levity has encouraged them; and although to have permitted such language is no proof of guilt, yet it is a proof of the absence of innocence.
'Now I think that your Grace best knoweth that, next unto your Grace, I was most bound unto her of all creatures living. Wherefore, I most humbly beseech your Grace to suffer me in that which both God's law, nature, and also her kindness bindeth me unto: that is, that I may with your Grace's favour wish and pray for her that she may declare herself inculpable and innocent. And if she be found culpable, considering your Grace's goodness to her, and from what condition your Grace of your only mere goodness took her, and set the crown upon her head, I repute him not your Grace's faithful servant and subject, nor true unto the realm, that would not desire the offence without mercy to be punished, to the example of all other. And as I loved her not a little for the love which I judged her to bear towards God and his gospel; so if she be proved culpable, there is not one that loveth God and his gospel, that will ever favour her, but must hate her above all other; and the more they favour the gospel, the more they will hate her; for there never was creature in our time that so much slandered the gospel. And God hath sent her this punishment for that she feignedly hath professed his gospel in her mouth, and not in heart and deed. And though she hath offended so that she hath deserved never to be reconciled to your Grace's favour, yet Almighty God hath manifoldly declared his goodness towards your Grace, and never offended you. But your Grace, I am sure, acknowledgeth that you have offended Him. Wherefore I trust that your Grace will bear no less entire favour unto the truth of the gospel than you did before; forasmuch as your Grace's favour to the gospel was not led by affection unto her, but by zeal unto the truth. And thus I beseech Almighty God, whose gospel he hath ordained your Grace to be defender of, ever to preserve your Grace from all evil, and give you at the end the promise of his gospel. From Lambeth, the third of May.'
The letter was written; it was not, however, sent upon the instant; and in the course of the morning the Archbishop was requested to meet the Lord Chancellor, Lord Oxford, Lord Sussex, and the Lord Chamberlain, in the Star Chamber. He went, and on his return to Lambeth he added a few words in a postscript. In the interview from which he had at the moment returned, those noblemen, he said, had declared unto him such things as his Grace's pleasure was they should make him privy unto; for the which he was most bouiiden unto his Grace. 'What communications we had together,' he added, 'I doubt not but they will make the true report thereof unto your Grace. I am exceedingly sorry that such faults can be proved by the Queen, as I heard of their relation.'
If we may believe, as I suppose we may, that Cranmer was a man of sound understanding, and of not less than ordinary probity, this letter is of the greatest value; it shows the impression which was made upon a sensible person by the first rumours of the discovery; it shows also the Archbishop's opinion of the King's character, with the effect upon his own mind of the evidence which the chancellor, at the King's command, had laid before him.
We return to the prisoners in the Tower. Mark Smeton, who had confessed his guilt, was ironed. The other gentlemen, not in consideration of their silence, but of their rank, were treated more leniently. To the Queen, with an object which may be variously interpreted, Friday, May 5.Henry wrote the Friday succeeding her arrest, holding out hopes of forgiveness if she would be honest and open with him. Persons who assume that the whole transaction was the scheme of a wicked husband to dispose of a wife of whom he was weary, will believe that he was practising upon her terror to obtain his freedom by a lighter crime than murder. Those who consider that he possessed the ordinary qualities of humanity, and that he was really convinced of her guilt, may explain his offer as the result of natural feeling. But in whatever motive his conduct originated, it was ineffectual. Anne, either knowing that she was innocent, or trusting that her guilt could not be proved, trusting, as Sir Edmund Baynton thought, to the constancy of Weston and Morris, declined to confess anything. 'If any man accuse me,' she said to Kingston, 'I can but say nay; and they can bring no witness.' Instead of acknowledging any guilt in herself, she perhaps retaliated upon the King in the celebrated letter which has been thought a proof both of her own innocence, and of the conspiracy by which she was destroyed. This letter also, although at once so well known and of so dubious authority, it is fair to give entire.
Saturday, May 6.'Sir, Your Grace's displeasure and my are imprisonment are things so strange unto me, as what to write, or what to excuse, I am altogether ignorant. Whereas you send unto me (willing [me] to confess a truth, and to obtain your favour) by such an one whom you know to be mine antient professed enemy, I no sooner conceived this message by him, than I rightly conceived your meaning; and if, as you say, confessing a truth indeed may procure my safety, I shall with all willingness and duty perform your command.
'But let not your Grace ever imagine that your poor wife will ever be brought to acknowledge a fault where not so much as a thought thereof proceeded. And to speak a truth, never prince had wife more loyal in all duty, and in all true affection, than you have ever found in Anne Boleyn; with which name and place I could willingly have contented myself, if God and your Grace's pleasure had been so pleased. Neither did I at any time so far forget myself in my exaltation or received queenship, but that I always looked for such an alteration as now I find: for the ground of my preferment being on no surer foundation than your Grace's fancy, the least alteration I knew was fit and sufficient to draw that fancy to some other subject. You have chosen me from a low estate to be your queen and companion, far beyond my desert or desire. If then you found me worthy of such honour, good your Grace, let not any light fancy or bad counsel of mine enemies withdraw your princely favour from me; neither let that stain, that unworthy stain, of a disloyal heart towards your good Grace, ever cast so foul a blot on your most dutiful wife, and the infant princess, your daughter.
'Try me, good King, but let me have a lawful trial; and let not my sworn enemies sit as my accusers and my judges; yea, let me receive an open trial, for my truth shall fear no open shame. Then shall you see either mine innocency cleared, your suspicions and conscience satisfied, the ignominy and slander of the world stopped, or my guilt openly declared; so that, whatsoever God or you may determine of me, your Grace may be freed from an open censure; and mine offence being so lawfully proved, your Grace is at liberty, both before God and man, not only to execute worthy punishment on me, as an unlawful wife, but to follow your affection already settled on that party for whose sake I am now as I am, whose name I could some good while since have pointed unto; your Grace not being ignorant of my suspicion therein.
But if you have already determined of me; and that not only my death, but an infamous slander, must bring you the enjoying of your desired happiness; then I desire of God that He will pardon your great sin therein, and likewise my enemies the instruments thereof; and that He will not call you to a strict account for your unprincely and cruel usage of me, at His general judgment-seat, where both you and my self must shortly appear; and in whose judgment, I doubt not, whatsoever the world may think of me, mine innocence shall be openly known and sufficiently cleared.'My last and only request shall be, that myself may only bear the burden of your Grace's displeasure, and that it may not touch the innocent souls of those poor gentlemen who, as I understand, are likewise in strait imprisonment for my sake. If ever I have found favour in your sight, if ever the name of Anne Boleyn hath been pleasing in your ears, then let me obtain this request; and I will so leave to trouble your Grace any further; with mine earnest prayers to the Trinity, to have your Grace in his good keeping, and to direct you in all your actions. From my doleful prison in tho Tower, this 6th of May. Your most loyal and ever faithful wife,
This letter is most affecting; and although it is better calculated to plead the Queen's cause with posterity than with the King, whom it could only exasperate, yet if it is genuine it tells (so far as such a composition can tell at all) powerfully in her favour. On the same page of the manuscript, carrying the same authority, and subject to the same doubt, is a fragment of another letter, supposed to have been written subsequently, and therefore in answer to a second invitation to confess. In this she replied again, that she could confess no more than she had already spoken; that she might conceal nothing from the King, to whom she did acknowledge herself so much bound for so many favours; for raising her first from a mean woman to be a marchioness; next to be his queen; and now, seeing he could bestow no further honours upon her on earth, for purposing by martyrdom to make her a saint in heaven. This answer also was unwise in point of worldly prudence; and I am obliged to add, that the tone which was assumed, both in this and in her first letter, was unbecoming (even if she was innocent of actual sin) in a wife who, on her own showing, was so gravely to blame. It is to be remembered that she had betrayed from the first the King's confidence; and she knew at the moment at which she was writing that she had never been legally married to him.
Her spirits meanwhile had something rallied, though still violently fluctuating. 'One hour,' wrote Kingston, 'she is determined to die, and the next hour much contrary to that.' Sometimes she talked in a wild, wandering way, wondering whether any one made the prisoners' beds, with other of those light trifles which women's minds dwell upon so strangely, when strained beyond their strength. 'There would be no rain,' she said, 'till she was out of the Tower; and if she died, they would see the greatest punishment for her that ever came to England.' 'And then,' she added, 'I shall be a saint in heaven, for I have done many good deeds in my days; but I think it much unkindness in the King to put such about me as I never loved.' Kingston was a hard chronicler, too convinced of the Queen's guilt to feel compassion for her; and yet these rambling fancies are as touching as Ophelia's; and, unlike hers, are no creation of a poet's imagination, but words once truly uttered by a poor human being in her hour of agony. Yet they prove nothing. And if her wanderings seem to breathe of innocence, they are yet compatible with the absence of it. We must remind ourselves, that two of the prisoners had already confessed both their own guilt and hers.
The Queen demanded a trial; it was not necessary to ask for it. Both she and her supposed accomplices were tried with a scrupulousness without a parallel, so far as I am aware, in the criminal records of the time. The substance of the proceedings is preserved in an official summary; and distressing as it is to read of such sad matters, the importance of arriving at a fair judgment must excuse the details which will be entered into. The crime was alike hideous, whether it was the crime of the Queen or of Henry; we may not attempt to hide from ourselves the full deformity of it.
On the 24th of April, then, a special commission was appointed, to try certain persons for offences committed at London, at Hampton Court, and at the palace at Greenwich. The offences in question having been committed in Middlesex and in Kent, bills were first to be returned by the grand juries of both counties.
Men are apt to pass vaguely over the words 'a commission' or 'a jury,' regarding them rather as mechanical abstractions than as bodies of responsible men. I shall therefore give the list of the persons who, in these or any other capacities, were engaged upon the trials. The special commission consisted of Sir Thomas Audeley, the lord chancellor; the Duke of Norfolk, uncle of the Queen and of Lord Rochford; the Duke of Suffolk, the King's brother-in-law; the Earl of Wiltshire, the Queen's father; the Earls of Oxford, Westmoreland, and Sussex; Lord Sandys; Thomas Cromwell; Sir William Fitzwilliam, the lord high admiral, an old man whose career had been of the most distinguished brilliancy; Sir William Paulet, lord treasurer, afterwards Marquis of Winchester; and, finally, the nine judges of the courts of Westminster, Sir John Fitzjames, Sir John Baldewyn, Sir Richard Lister, Sir John Porte, Sir John Spelman, Sir Walter Luke, Sir Anthony Fitzherbert, Sir Thomas Englefield, and Sir William Shelley. The duty of this tribunal was to try the four commoners accused of adultery with the Queen. She herself, with her brother, would be tried by the House of Lords. Of the seven peers, three were her own nearest connections; the remaining commissioners were those who, individually and professionally, might have been considered competent for the conduct of the cause above all other persons in the realm. Antecedently to experience, we should not have expected that a commission so constituted would have lent itself to a conspiracy; and if foul play had been intended, we should have looked to see some baser instruments selected for so iniquitous a purpose.
Wednesday, May 10.In the middle of the second week in May, the grand juries had completed their work. On the 10th, a true bill was found at Westminster, by the oaths of Giles Heron, Esq.; Roger More, Esq.; Richard Awnsham, Esq.; Thomas Byllyngton, Esq.; Gregory Lovel, Esq.; John Worsop, Esq.; William Goddard, gentleman; William Blakwall, gentleman; John Wylford, gentleman; William Berd, gentleman; Henry Hubbylthorne, gentleman; William Huning, gentleman; Robert Walys, gentleman; John Englond, gentleman; Henry Lodysman, gentleman; and John Averey, gentleman.
Thursday May 11.On the 11th a true bill was found at Deptford by the oaths of Sir Richard Clement, Sir William Fynche, Sir Edward Boughton, Anthony St Leger, Esq.; John Cromer, Esq.; John Fogg, Esq.; Thomas Wylleford, Esq.; John Norton, Esq.; Humphrey Style, Esq.; Robert Fisher, gentleman; Thomas Sybbell, gentleman; John Lovelace, gentleman; Walter Harrington, gentleman; Edmund Page, gentleman; Thomas Fereby, gentleman; and Lionel Ansty, gentleman.
I am thus particular in recording the names of these jurors, before I relate the indictment which was found by them, because, if that indictment was unjust, it stamps their memory with infamy; and with the judges, the commissioners, the privy council, the King, with every living person who was a party, active or passive, to so enormous a calumny, they must be remembered with shame for ever.
The indictment, then, found by the grand jury of Middlesex was to the following effect:
1. That the Lady Anne, Queen of England, having been the wife of the King for the space of three years and more, she, the said Lady Anne, contemning the marriage so solemnized between her and the King, and bearing malice in her heart against the King, and following her frail and carnal lust, did falsely and traitorously procure, by means of indecent language, gifts, and other acts therein stated, divers of the King's daily and familiar servants to be her adulterers and concubines; so that several of the King's servants, by the said Queen's most vile provocation and invitation, became given and inclined to the said Queen.
'2. That the Queen [on the] 6th of October, 25 Hen. VIII. , at Westminster, by words, &c., procured and incited one Henry Norris, Esq., one of the gentlemen of the King's privy chamber, to have illicit intercourse with her; and that the act was committed at Westminster, 12th October, 25 Hen. VIII.
'3. That the Queen, 2nd of November, 27 Hen. VIII. ? by the means therein stated, procured and incited George Boleyn, knight, Lord Rochford, her own natural brother, to have illicit intercourse with her; and that the act was committed 5th of November in the same year, at Westminster, against the commands of Almighty God, and all laws human and divine.
'4. That the Queen, 3rd December, 25 Hen. VIII., procured and incited William Brereton, Esq., one of the gentlemen of the King's privy chamber, to have illicit intercourse with her; and that the act was committed at Hampton Court, 25th December, 25 Hen. VIII.
5. That the Queen, 8th of May, 26 Hen. VIII., procured and incited Francis Weston, one of the gentlemen of the King's privy chamber, to have illicit intercourse with her; and that the act was committed at Westminster, 20th May, 26 Hen. VIII.
'6. That the Queen, 12th of April, 26 Hen. VIII., procured and incited Mark Smeton, Esq., one of the grometers of the King's chamber, to have illicit intercourse with her; and that the act was committed at Westminster, 26th April, 26 Hen. VIII.
'7. Furthermore, that the said George, Lord Rochford, Henry Norris, William Brereton, Sir Francis Weston, and Mark Smeton, being thus inflamed by carnal love of the Queen, and having become very jealous of each other, did, in order to secure her affections, satisfy her inordinate desires; and that the Queen was equally jealous of the Lord Rochford and other the beforementioiied traitors; and she would not allow them to show any familiarity with any other woman, without her exceeding displeasure and indignation; and that on the 27th day of November, 27 Hen. VIII., and other days, at Westminster, she gave them gifts and great rewards, to inveigle them to her will.
'8. Furthermore, that the Queen, and other the said traitors, jointly and severally, 3ist of October, 27 Hen. VIII., and at various times before and after, compassed and imagined the King's death; and that the Queen had frequently promised to marry some one of the traitors, whenever the King should depart this life, affirming she never would love the King in her heart.
'9. Furthermore, that the King, having within a short time before become acquainted with the beforementioned crimes, vices, and treasons, had been so grieved that certain harms and dangers had happened to his royal body.'
I suppose that persons who have made up their minds conclusively, and are resolved to abide by the popular verdict of English historians, will turn with disgust from these hideous charges; seeming, as they do, to overstep all ordinary bounds of credibility. On one side or the other there was indeed no common guilt. The colours deepen at every step. But it is to be remembered that if the improbability of crimes so revolting is becoming greater, the opposite improbability increases with equal strength—that English noblemen and gentlemen could have made themselves a party to the invention of the story. For invention is unfortunately the only word; would indeed that any other were admissible! The discovery of the indictment disposes at once of Burnet's legend, that the Queen was condemned on hearsay evidence; or that her guilt was conjectured from an exaggerated report of foolish conversations. But see the account of the trial in the Appendix. It cuts off all hope, too, of possible mistake. I have heard the name of Leontes mentioned as a parallel to Henry; and if the question lay only between the King and his wife, we would gladly welcome the alternative. Charity would persuade us that a husband had been madly blind, sooner far than that a queen had been madly wicked. But this road for escape is closed. The mistake of Leontes was transparent to every eye but his own. The charges against Anne Boleyn were presented by two grand juries before the highest judicial tribunal in the realm. There was nothing vague, nothing conjectural. The detail was given of acts and conversations stretching over a period of two years and more; and either there was evidence for these things or there was none. If there was evidence, it must have been close, elaborate, and minute; if there was none, these judges, these juries and noblemen, were the accomplices of the King in a murder perhaps the most revolting which was ever committed.
It may be thought that the evidence was pieced together in the secrets of the cabinet; that the juries found their bills on a case presented to them by the council. This would transfer the infamy to a higher stage; but if we try to imagine how the council proceeded in such a business, we shall not find it an easy task. The council, at least, could not have been deceived. The evidence, whatever it was, must have been examined by them; and though we stretch our belief in the complacency of statesmen to the furthest limit of credulity, can we believe that Cromwell would have invented that dark indictment,—Cromwell who was, and who remained till his death, the dearest friend of Latimer? Or the Duke of Norfolk, the veteran who had won his spurs at Flodden? Or the Duke of Suffolk and Sir William Fitzwilliam, the Wellington and the Nelson of the sixteenth century? Scarcely among the picked scoundrels of Newgate could men be found for such work; and shall we believe it of men like these? It is to me impossible. Yet, if it was done at all, it was done by those four ministers.
Even if we could believe that they forged the accusations, yet they would at least limit the dimensions of them. The most audacious villain will not extend his crimes beyond what he requires for his object; and if the King desired only to rid himself of his wife, to what purpose the multiplication of offenders, and the long list of acts of guilt, when a single offence with the one accomplice who was ready to abide by a confession, would have sufficed? The four gentlemen gratuitously, on this hypothesis, entangled in the indictment, were nobly connected; one of them, Lord Rochford, was himself a peer; they had lived, all four, several years at the Court, and were personally known to every member of the council. Are we to suppose that evidence was invented with no imaginable purpose, for wanton and needless murders?—that the council risked the success of their scheme, by multiplying charges which only increased difficulty of proof, and provoked the interference of the powerful relations of the accused?
Such are the difficulties in which, at this early stage of the transaction, we are already implicated. They will not diminish as we proceed.
Friday, May 12.Friday, the 12th of May, was fixed for the opening of the Court. On that day, a petty jury was returned at Westminster, for the trial of Sir Henry Norris, Sir Francis Weston, Sir William Brereton, and Mark Smeton. The commission sat—the Earl of Wiltshire sitting with them—and the four prisoners were brought to the bar. On their arraignment, Mark Smeton, we are told, pleaded guilty of adultery with the Queen; not guilty of the other charges. Norris, Weston, and Brereton severally pleaded not guilty. Verdict, guilty. The King's sergeant and attorney pray judgment. Judgment upon Smeton, Korris, Weston, and Brereton as usual in cases of high treason. This is all which the record contains. The nature of the evidence is not mentioned. But again there was a jury; and if we have not the evidence which convinced that jury, we have the evidence that they were, or professed to be, convinced.
The Queen and her brother were to be tried on the following Monday. Their crime was not adultery only, but was coloured with the deeper stain of incest. On the Friday, while the other prisoners were at the bar, 'Letters patent were addressed to Thomas, Duke of Norfolk, Treasurer and Earl Marshal of England, setting forth that the Lady Anne, Queen of England, and Sir George Boleyn, knight, Lord Rochford, had been indicted of certain capital crimes; and that the King, considering that justice was a most excellent virtue, and pleasing to the Most Highest; and inasmuch as the office of High Steward of England, whose presence for the administration of the law in this case is required, was vacant, the King therefore appointed the said duke Lord High Steward of England, with full powers to receive the indictments found against Queen Anne and the Lord Rochford, and calling them before him, for the purpose of hearing and examining them, and compelling them to answer thereto.' The duke was to collect also 'such and so many lords, peers, and magnates of the kingdom of England, peers of the said Queen Anne and Lord Rochford, by whom the truth could be better known; and the truth being known, to give judgment according to the laws and customs of England, and to give sentence and judgment, and to direct execution, with the other usual powers.' As a certain number only of the peers were summoned, it may be imagined that some fraud was practised in the selection, and that those only were admitted whose subserviency could be relied upon. I will therefore give the names as before.
The two English Dukes, of Norfolk and Suffolk. The one English Marquis, of Exeter. The Earls of Arundel, Oxford, Northumberland (the Queen's early lover), Westmoreland, Derby, Worcester, Rutland, Sussex, and Huntingdon; all the Earls in the peerage except four—those of Shrewsbury, Essex, Cumberland,and Wiltshire. Why the first three were omitted I donot know. Lord Wiltshire had already fulfilled his; share of the miserable duty; he was not compelled to play the part of Brutus, and condemn, in person, his two children. The remaining peers were the Lords Audeley, De la Ware, Montague, Morley, Dacre, Cobham, Maltravers, Powis, Mounteagle, Clinton, Sandys, Windsor, Wentworth, Burgh, and Mordaunt: twenty-seven in all: men hitherto of unblemished honour—the noblest blood in the realm.
Monday, May 15.These noblemen assembled in the Tower on the 15th of May. The Queen was brought before them; and the record in the Baga de Secretis relates the proceedings as follows:—
'Before the Lord High Steward at the Tower, Anne, Queen of England, comes in the custody of Sir William Kingston, Constable of the Tower, and is brought to the bar. Being arraigned of the before-mentioned treasons, she pleads not guilty, and puts herself upon her peers; whereupon the Duke of Suffolk, Marquis of Exeter, and others the before-mentioned earls and barons, peers of the said Queen, being charged by the said Lord High Steward to say the truth, and afterwards being examined severally by the Lord High Steward, from the lowest peer to the highest, each of them severally saith that she is guilty.
'Judgment—that the Queen be taken by the said Constable back to the King's prison within the Tower; and then, as the King shall command, be brought to the green within the said Tower, and there burned or beheaded, as shall please the King.'
In such cold lines is the story of this tragedy unrolling itself to its close. The course which it followed, however, was less hard in the actual life; and men's hearts, even in those stern times, could beat with human emotions. The Duke of Norfolk was in tears as he passed sentence. The Earl of Northumberland 'was obliged by a sudden illness to leave the Court.' The sight of the woman whom he had once loved, and to whom he was perhaps married, in that dreadful position, had been more than he could bear; and the remainder of the work of the day went forward without him.
The Queen withdrew. Her brother took his place at the bar. Like Anne, he declared himself innocent. Like Anne, he was found guilty, and sentenced to die.
We can form no estimate of the evidence; for we do not know what it was. We cannot especially accuse the form of the trial; for it was the form which was always observed. But the fact remains to us, that these twenty-seven peers, who were not ignorant, as we are, but were fully acquainted with the grounds of the prosecution, did deliberately, after hearing the Queen's defence, pronounce against her a unanimous verdict. If there was foul play, they had advantages infinitely greater than any to which we can pretend for detecting it. The Boleyns were unpopular, and Anne herself was obnoxious to the Imperialists and Catholics; but all parties, Catholic and Protestant alike, united in the sentence.
Looking at the case, then, as it now stands, we have the report for some time current, that the Queen was out of favour, and that the Ring's affection was turned in another direction, a report, be it observed, which had arisen before the catastrophe, and was not, therefore, an afterthought, or legend; we have also the antecedent improbability, which is very great, that a lady in the Queen's position could have been guilty of the offences with which the indictment charges her. We have also the improbability, which is great, that the King, now forty-four years old, who in his earlier years had been distinguished for the absence of those vices in which contemporary princes indulged themselves, in wanton weariness of a woman for whom he had revolutionized the kingdom, and quarrelled with half Christendom, suddenly resolved to murder her; that, instead of resorting to poison, or to the less obtrusive methods of criminality, he invented, and persuaded his council to assist him in inventing, a series of accusations which reflected dishonour on himself, and which involved the gratuitous death of five persons, with whom he had no quarrel, who were attached to his Court and person. To maintain these accusations, he would have to overawe into an active participation in his crime, judges, juries, peers, the dearest relations of those whom he was destroying, and this with no standing army, no prætorians or janissaries at his back, with no force but the yeomen of the guard, who could be scattered by a rising of the apprentices. He had gone out of his way, moreover, to call a Parliament; and the summons had been so hasty that no time was left to control the elections; while again to fail was ruin; and the generation of Englishmen to whom we owe the Reformation were not so wholly lost to all principles of honour, that Henry could have counted beforehand upon success in so desperate a scheme with that absolute certainty without which he would scarcely have risked the experiment. Certainly there is some improbability here. Unlikely as it is that queens should disgrace themselves, history contains unfortunately more than one instance that it is not impossible. That queens in that very age vere capable of profligacy was proved, but a few years later, by the confessions of Catherine Howard. I believe history will be ransacked vainly to find a parallel for conduct at once so dastardly, so audacious, and so foolishly wicked as that which the popular hypothesis attributes to Henry VIII.
This is a fair statement of the probabilities; not, I believe, exaggerated on either side. Turning to the positive facts which are known to us, we have amongst those which make for the Queen her own denial of her guilt; her supposed letter to the King, which wears the complexion of innocence; the assertions of three out of the five other persons who were accused, up to the moment of their execution; and the sympathizing story of a Flemish gentleman who believed her innocent, and who says that many other people in England believed the same. On the other side, we have the judicial verdict of more than seventy noblemen and gentlemen, no one of whom had any interest in the deaths of the accused, and some of whom had interests the most tender in their acquittal; we have the assent of the judges who sat on the commission, and who passed sentence, after full opportunities of examination, with all the evidence before their eyes; the partial confession of one of the prisoners, though afterwards withdrawn; and the complete confession of another, maintained till the end, and not withdrawn upon the scaffold. Mr Hallam must pardon me for saying that this is not a matter in which doubt is unpermitted.
A brief interval only was allowed between the judgment and the final close. Wednesday, May 17.On Wednesday, the 17th, the five gentlemen were taken to execution. Smeton was hanged; the others were beheaded. Smeton and Brereton acknowledged the justice of their sentence. Brereton said that if he had to die a thousand deaths, he deserved them all; and Brereton was the only one of the five whose guilt at the time was doubted. Morris died silent; Weston, with a few general lamentations on the wickedness of his past life. None denied the crime for which they suffered; all but one were considered by the spectators to have confessed. Rochford had shown some feeling while in the Tower. Kingston on one occasion found him weeping bitterly. The day of the trial he sent a petition to the King, to what effect I do not learn; and on the Tuesday he begged to see Cromwell, having something on his conscience, as he said, which he wished to tell him. His desire, however, does not seem to have been complied with; he spoke sorrowfully on the scaffold of the shame which he had brought upon the gospel, and died with words which, appeared to the spectators, if not a confession, yet something very nearly resembling it. 'This said lord,' wrote a spectator to the Court at Brussels, 'made a good Catholic address to the people. He said that he had not come there to preach to them, but rather to serve as a mirror and an example. He acknowledged the crimes which he had committed against God, and against the King his sovereign; there was no occasion for him, he said, to repeat the cause for which he was condemned; they would have little pleasure in hearing him tell it. He prayed God, and he prayed the King, to pardon his offences; and all others whom he might have injured he also prayed to forgive him as heartily as he forgave every one. He bade his hearers avoid the vanities of the world, and the flatteries of the Court, which had brought him to the shameful end which had overtaken him. Had he obeyed the lessons of that gospel which he had so often read, he said he should not have fallen so far; it was worth more to be a good doer than a good reader. Finally, he forgave those who had adjudged him to die, and he desired them to pray God for his soul.'
The Queen was left till a further mystery had perplexed yet deeper the disgraceful exposure. Henry had desired Cranmer to be her confessor. The Archbishop was with her on the day after her trial, and she then made an extraordinary avowal, either that she had been married or contracted in early life, or had been entangled in some connection which invalidated her marriage with the King. The letter to the Emperor which I have already quoted, furnishes the solitary explanation of the mystery which remains. Some one, apparently the Imperial ambassador, informed Charles that she was discovered to have been nine years before married to Lord Percy, not formally only, but really and completely. If this be true, her fate need scarcely excite further sympathy. On Wednesday she made a confession to Cranmer, and the Archbishop, sitting judicially in court at Lambeth to consider the effect of it, pronounced her marriage with the King to have been null and void. The supposition, that this business was a freak of caprice or passion, is too puerile to be considered. It is certain that she acknowledged something; and it is certain also that Lord Northumberland was examined upon the subject before the Archbishop. In person upon oath indeed, and also in a letter to Cromwell, Northumberland denied that he had ever been legally connected with her; but perhaps Northumberland was afraid to make an admission so dangerous to himself, or perhaps the confession itself was a vague effort which she made to save her life. But whatever she said, and whether she spoke truth or falsehood, she was pronounced divorced, and the divorce did not save her. Friday, the 19th, was fixed for her death; and when she found that there was no hope she recovered her spirits. The last scene was to be on the green inside the Tower. The public were to be admitted; but Kingston suggested that to avoid a crowd it was desirable not to fix the hour, since it was supposed that she would make no further confession.
Thursday, May 18.'This morning she sent for me,' he added, 'that I might be with her at such time as she received the good Lord, to the intent that I should hear her speak as touching her innocency always to be clear. 'Mr Kingston,' she said, 'I hear say I shall not die before noon, and I am very sorry therefore, for I thought to be dead by this time, and past my pain.' I told her it should be no pain, it was so subtle; and then she said, 'I heard say the executioner was very good, and I have a little neck,' and put her hands about it, laughing heartily. I have seen many men, and also women, executed, and they have been in great sorrow; and to my knowledge, this lady hath much joy and pleasure in death.'
We are very near the termination of the tragedy. Friday, May 19.On the 19th of May, at nine in the morning, Anne Boleyn, Queen of England, was led down to the green. Foreigners were not admitted, but the scene was public to all native-born Englishmen. The yeomen of the guard were there, and a crowd of citizens; the lord mayor in his robes, the deputies of the guilds, the sheriffs, and the aldermen; they were come to see a spectacle which England had never seen before a head which had worn the crown falling under the sword of an executioner.
On the scaffold, by the King's desire, there were present Cromwell, the Lord Chancellor, the Duke of Suffolk, and lastly, the Duke of Richmond, who might now, when both his sisters were illegitimized, be considered heir presumptive to the throne. As in the choice of the commission, as in the conduct of the trial, as in the summons of Parliament, as in every detail through which the cause was passed, Henry had shown outwardly but one desire to do all which the most strict equity prescribed; so around this last scene he had placed those who were nearest in blood to himself, and nearest in rank to the Crown. If she who was to suffer was falling under a forged charge, he acted his part with horrible completeness.
The Queen appeared walking feebly, supported by the Lieutenant of the Tower. She seemed half stupified, and looked back from time to time at the ladies by whom she was followed. On reaching the platform, she risked if she might say a few words, and permission being granted she turned to the spectators and said: 'Christian people, I am come to die. And according to law, and by law, I am judged to death; and therefore I will speak nothing against it. I am come hither to accuse no man, nor to speak anything of that whereof I am accused and condemned to die. But I pray God save the King, and send him long to reign over you; for a gentler and more merciful prince was there never; and to me he was ever a good, a gentle, and sovereign lord. If any person will meddle of my cause, I require him to judge the best. And thus I take my leave of the world and of you; and I heartily desire you all to pray for me. Oh, Lord, have mercy on me. To God I commend my soul.' 'These words,' says Stow, 'she spoke with a smiling countenance.' She wore an ermine cloak which was then taken off. She herself removed her headdress, and one of her attendants gave her a cap into which she gathered her hair. She then knelt, and breathing faintly a commendation of her soul to Christ, the executioner with a single blow struck off her head. A white handkerchief was thrown over it as it fell, and one of the ladies took it up and carried it away. The other women lifted the body and bore it into the Chapel of the Tower, where it was buried in the choir.
Thus she too died without denying the crime for which she suffered. Smeton confessed from the first. Brereton, Weston, Rochford, virtually confessed on the scaffold. Norris said nothing. Of all the sufferers not one ventured to declare that he or she was innocent—and that six human beings should leave the world with the undeserved stain of so odious a charge on them, without attempting to clear themselves, is credible only to those who form opinions by their wills, and believe or disbelieve as they choose.
To this end the Queen had come at last, and silence is the best comment which charity has to offer upon it. Better far it would have been if the dust had been allowed to settle down over the grave of Anne Boleyn, and her remembrance buried in forgetfulness. Strange it is that a spot which ought to have been sacred to pity, should have been made the arena for the blind wrestling of controversial duellists. Blind, whatever was the truth; for there has been little clearness of judgment, little even of common prudence in the choice of sides. If the Catholics could have fastened the stain of murder on the King and the statesmen of England, they would have struck the faith of the establishment a harder blow, than by a poor tale of scandal against a weak, erring, suffering woman: and the Protestants, in mistaken generosity, have courted an infamy for the names of those to whom they owe their being, which, staining the fountain, must stain for ever the stream which flows from it. It has been no pleasure to me to rake among the evil memories of the past, to prove a human being sinful whom the world has ruled to have been innocent. Let the blame rest with those who have forced upon our history the alternative of a re-assertion of the truth, or the shame of noble names which have not deserved it at our hands.
No sooner had the result of the trial appeared to be certain, than the prospects of the succession to the throne were seen to be more perplexed than ever. The prince so earnestly longed for had not been born. The disgrace of Anne Boleyn, even before her last confession, strengthened the friends of the Princess Mary. Elizabeth, the child of a doubtful marriage which had terminated in adultery and incest, would have had slight chance of being maintained, even if her birth had suffered no further stain; and by the Lambeth sentence she was literally and legally illegitimate. The King of Scotland was now the nearest heir; and next to him stood Lady Margaret Douglas, his sister, who had been born in England, and was therefore looked upon with better favour by the people. As if to make confusion worse confounded, in the midst of the uncertainty Lord Thomas Howard, taking advantage of the moment, and, as the Act of his attainder says, 'being seduced by the devil, and not having the fear of God before his eyes,' persuaded this lady into a contract of marriage with him; 'The presumption being,' says the same Act, 'that he aspired to the crown by reason of so high a marriage; or, at least, to the making division for the same; having a firm hope and trust that the subjects of this realm would incline and bear affection to the said Lady Margaret, being born in this realm; and not to the King of Scots, her brother, to whom this realm hath not, nor ever had, any affection; but would resist his attempt to the crown of this realm to the uttermost of their powers.'
Before the discovery of this proceeding, but in anticipation of inevitable intrigues of the kind, the privy council and the peers, on the same grounds which had before led them to favour the divorce from Catherine, petitioned the King to save the country from the perils which menaced it, and to take a fresh wife without hour's delay. Henry's experience of matrimony had been so discouraging, that they feared he might be reluctant to venture upon it again. Nevertheless, for his country's sake, they trusted that he would not refuse.
Henry, professedly in obedience to this request, May 20.was married, immediately after the execution, to Jane, daughter of Sir John Seymour. The indecent haste is usually considered a proof entirely conclusive of the cause of Anne Boleyn's ruin. Under any aspect it was an extraordinary step, which requires to be gravely considered. Henry, who waited seven years for Anne Boleyn, to whom he was violently attached, was not without control over his passions; and if appetite had been the moving influence with him, he would scarcely, with the eyes of all the world upon him, have passed so extravagant an insult upon the nation of which he was the sovereign. If Jane Seymour had really been the object of a previous unlawful attachment, her conduct in accepting so instantly a position so frightfully made vacant, can scarcely be painted in too revolting colours. Yet Jane Seymour's name, at home and abroad, by Catholic and Protestant, was alike honoured and respected. Among all Henry's wives she stands out distinguished by a stainless name, untarnished with the breath of reproach.
If we could conceive the English nation so tongue-tied that they dared not whisper their feelings, there were Brussels, Paris, Rome, where the truth could be told; yet, with the exception of a single passage in a letter of Mary of Hungary, there is no hint in the correspondence, either in Paris, Simancas, or Brussels, that there was a suspicion of foul play. If Charles or Francis had believed Henry really capable of so deep atrocity, no political temptation would have induced either of them to commit their cousins or nieces to the embrace of a monster, yet no sooner was Jane Seymour dead, than we shall find them competing eagerly with each other to secure his hand.
It is quite possible that when Anne Boleyn was growing licentious the King may have distinguished a lady of acknowledged excellence by some in no way improper preference, and that when desired by the council to choose a wife immediately, he should have taken a person as unlike as possible to the one who had disgraced him. This was the interpretation which was given to his conduct by the Lords and Commons of England. In the absence of any evidence, or shadow of evidence, that among contemporaries who had means of knowing the truth, another judgment was passed upon it, the deliberate assertion of an Act of Parliament must be considered a safer guide than modern unsupported conjecture.
This matter having been accomplished, the King returned to London to meet Parliament. June 8.The Houses assembled on the 8th of June; the Peers had hastened up in unusual numbers, as if sensible of the greatness of the occasion. The Commons were untried and unknown; and if Anne Boleyn was an innocent victim, no King of England was ever in so terrible a position as Henry VIII. when he entered the Great Chamber fresh from his new bridal. He took his seat upon the throne; and then Audeley, the Lord Chancellor, rose and spoke:
'At the dissolution of the late Parliament, the King's Highness had not thought so soon to meet you here again. He has called you together now, being moved thereunto by causes of grave moment, affecting both his own person and the interests of the commonwealth. You will have again to consider the succession to the crown of this realm. His Highness knows himself to be but mortal, liable to fall sick, and to die. At present he perceives the peace and welfare of the kingdom to depend upon his single life; and he is anxious to leave it, at his death, free from peril. He desires you therefore to nominate some person as his heir-apparent, who, should it so befall him (which God forbid!) to depart out of this world without children lawfully begotten, may rule in peace over this land, with the consent and the goodwill of the inhabitants thereof.
'You will also deliberate upon the repeal of a certain Act passed in the late Parliament, by which the realm is bound to obedience to the Lady Anne Boleyn, late wife of the King, and the heirs lawfully begotten of them twain, and which declares all persons who shall, by word or deed, have offended against this lady or her offspring, to have incurred the penalties of treason.
'These are the causes for which you are assembled; and if you will be advised by me, you will act in these matters according to the words of Solomon, with whom our most gracious King may deservedly be compared. The 'wise man' counsels us to bear in mind such things as be past, to weigh well such things as be present, and provide prudently for the things which be to come. And you I would bid to remember, first, those sorrows and those burdens which the King's Highness did endure on the occasion of his first unlawful marriage—a marriage not only judged unlawful by the most famous universities in Christendom, but so determined by the consent of this realm; and to remember further the great perils which have threatened his most royal Majesty from the time when he entered on his second marriage.
'Then, turning to the present, you will consider in what state the realm now standeth with respect to the oath by which we be bound to the Lady Anne and to her offspring; the which Lady Anne, with her accomplices, has been found guilty of high treason, and has met the due reward of her conspiracies. And then you will ask yourselves, what man of common condition would not have been deterred by such calamities from venturing a third time into the state of matrimony. Nevertheless, our most excellent prince, not in any carnal concupiscence, but at the humble entreaty of his nobility, hath consented once more to accept that condition, and has taken to himself a wife who in age and form is deemed to be meet and apt for the procreation of children.
'Lastly, according to the third injunction, let us now do our part in providing for the things to come. According to the desire of his most gracious Highness, let us name some person to be his heir; who, in case (quod absit) that he depart this life leaving no offspring lawfully begotten, may be our lawful sovereign. But let us pray Almighty God that He will graciously not leave our prince thus childless; and let us give Him thanks for that He hath preserved his Highness to us out of so many dangers; seeing that his Grace's care and efforts be directed only to the ruling his subjects in peace and charity so long as his life endures, and to the leaving us, when he shall come to die, in sure possession of these blessings.'
Three weeks after Anne Boleyn's death and the King's third marriage, the chancellor dared to address the English legislature in these terms: and either he spoke like a reasonable man, which he may have done, .or else he was making an exhibition of effrontery to be paralleled only by Seneca's letter to the Roman Senate after the murder of Agrippina. The legislature adopted the first interpretation, and the heads of the speech were embodied in an Act of Parliament. While the statute was in preparation, they made use of the interval in continuing the business of the Reformation. They abolished finally the protection of sanctuary in cases of felony, extending the new provisions even to persons in holy orders: they calmed the alarms of Cranmer and the Protestants by re-asserting the extinction of the authority of the Pope; and they passed various other laws of economic and social moment. July 1.At length, on the 1st of July, in a crowded house, composed, of fourteen bishops, eighteen abbots, and thirty-nine lay peers, a bill was read a first time of such importance that I must quote at length its own most noticeable words.
The preamble commenced with reciting those provisions of the late Acts which were no longer to remain in force. It then proceeded, in the form of an address to the King, to adopt and endorse the divorce and the execution. 'Albeit,' it ran, 'most dread Sovereign Lord, that these Acts were made, as it was then thought, upon a pure, perfect, and clear foundation; your Majesty's nobles and commons, thinking the said marriage then had between your Highness and the Lady Anne in their consciences to have been pure, sincere, perfect, and good, and so was reputed and taken in the realm; [yet] now of late God, of his infinite goodness, from whom no secret things can be hid, hath caused to be brought to light evident and open knowledge of certain just, true, and lawful impediments, unknown at the making of the said Acts; and since that time confessed by the Lady Anne, before the Most Reverend Father in God, Thomas, Archbishop of Canterbury, sitting judicially for the same; by the which it plainly appeareth that the said marriage was never good, nor consonant to the laws, but utterly void and of none effect; by reason whereof your Highness was and is lawfully divorced from the bonds of the said marriage in the life of the said Lady Anne:
'And over this, most dread Lord, albeit that your Majesty, not knowing of any lawful impediments, entered into the bonds of the said unlawful marriage, and advanced the same Lady Anne to the honour of the sovereign estate of the Queen of this realm; yet she, nevertheless, inflamed with pride and carnal desires of her body, putting apart the dread of God and excellent benefits received of your Highness, confederated herself with George Boleyn, late Lord Rochford, her natural brother, Henry Norris, Esq., Francis Weston, Esq., William Brereton, Esq., gentlemen of your privy chamber, and Mark Smeton, groom of your said privy chamber; and so being confederate, she and they most traitorously committed and perpetrated divers detestable and abominable treasons, to the fearful peril and danger of your royal person, and to the utter loss, disherison, and desolation of this realm, if God of his goodness had not in due time brought their said treasons to light; for the which, being plainly and manifestly proved, they were convict and attainted by due course and order of your common law of this realm, and have suffered according to the merits:'
In consequence of these treasons, and to lend, if possible, further weight to the sentence against her, the late Queen was declared attainted by authority of Parliament, as she already was by the common law. The Act then proceeded:
'And forasmuch, most gracious Sovereign, as it hath pleased your royal Majesty—(notwithstanding the great intolerable perils and occasions which your Highness hath suffered and sustained, as well by occasion of your first unlawful marriage, as by occasion of your second); at the most humble petition and intercession of us your nobles of this realm, for the ardent love and fervent affection which your Highness beareth to the conservation of the peace and amity of the same, and of the good and quiet governance thereof, of your most excellent goodness to enter into marriage again; and [forasmuch as you] have chosen and taken a right noble, virtuous, and excellent lady, Queen Jane, to your true and lawful wife; who, for her convenient years, excellent beauty, mid pureness of flesh and blood, is apt to conceive issue by your Highness; which marriage is so pure and sincere, without spot, doubt, or impediment, that the issue presented under the same, when it shall please Almighty God to send it, cannot be truly, lawfully, nor justly interrupted or disturbed of the right and title in the succession of your crown: May it now please your Majesty, for the extinguishment of all doubts, and for the pure and perfect unity of us your subjects, and all our posterities, that inasmuch as the marriage with the Lady Catherine having been invalid, the issue of that marriage is therefore illegitimate; and the marriage with the Lady Anne Boleyn having been upon true and just causes deemed of no value nor effect, the issue of this marriage is also illegitimate; the succession to the throne be now therefore determined to the issue of the marriage with Queen Jane.'
Thus was every step which had been taken in this great matter deliberately sanctioned by Parliament. The criminality of the Queen was considered to have been proved; the sentence upon her to have been just. The King was thanked in the name of the nation for having made haste with the marriage which has been regarded as the temptation to his crime. It is wholly impossible to dismiss facts like these with a few contemptuous phrases; and when I remember that the purity of Elizabeth is an open question among our historians, although the foulest kennels must be swept to find the filth with which to defile it; while Anne Boleyn is ruled to have been a saint, notwithstanding the solemn verdict of the Lords and Commons, the clergy, the council, judges, and juries, pronounced against her,—I feel that with such a judgment caprice has had more to do than a just appreciation of evidence.
The Parliament had not yet, however, completed their work. It was possible, as the lord chancellor had said, that the last marriage might prove unfruitful, and this contingency was still unprovided for. The King had desired the Lords and Commons to name his successor; they replied with an act which showed the highest confidence in his patriotism; they conferred a privilege upon him unknown to the constitution, yet a power which, if honestly exercised, offered by far the happiest solution of the difficulty.
Henry had three children. The Duke of Richmond was illegitimate in the strictest sense, but he had been bred as a prince; and I have shown that, in default of a legitimate heir, the King had thought of him as his possible successor. Mary and Elizabeth were illegitimate also, according to law and form; but the illegitimacy of neither the one nor the other could be pressed to its literal consequences. They were the children, each of them, of connections which were held legal at the period of their birth. They had each received the rank of a princess; and the instincts of justice demanded that they should be allowed a place in the line of inheritance. Yet, while this feeling was distinctly entertained, it was difficult to give effect to it by statute, without a further complication of questions already too complicated, and without provoking intrigue and jealousy in other quarters. The Princess Mary also had not yet receded from the defiant attitude which she had assumed. She had lent herself to conspiracy, she had broken her allegiance, and had as yet made no submission. To her no favour could be shown while she remained in this position; and it was equally undesirable to give Elizabeth, under the altered circumstances, a permanent preference to her sister.
The Parliament, therefore, with as much boldness as good sense, cut the knot, by granting Henry the power to bequeath the crown by will. He could thus advance the Duke of Richmond, if Richmond's character as a man fulfilled the promise of his youth; and he could rescue his daughters from the consequences of their mother's misfortunes or their mother's faults. It was an expression of confidence, as honourable to the country as to the King; and if we may believe, as the records say, that the tragedy of the past month had indeed grieved and saddened Henry, the generous language in which the legislature committed the future of the nation into his hands, may have something soothed his wounds.
Forasmuch as it standeth,' they said, 'in the only pleasure and will of Almighty God, whether your Majesty shall have heirs begotten and procreated from this (late) marriage, or else any lawful heirs or issues hereafter of your own body, begotten by any other lawful wife; and if such heirs should fail (as God defend), and no provision be made in your life who should rule and govern this realm, then this realm, after your transitory life, shall be destitute of a governor, or else percase [be] encumbered with a person that would count to aspire to the same, whom the subjects of this realm shall not find in their hearts to love, dread, and obediently serve as their sovereign lord; and if your Grace, before it be certainly known whether ye shall have heirs or not, should suddenly name and declare any person or persons to succeed after your decease, then it is to be doubted that such person so named might happen to take great heart and courage, and by presumption fall to inobedience and rebellion; by occasion of which premises, divisions and dissensions are likely to arise and spring in this realm, to the great peril and destruction of us, your most humble and obedient servants, and all our posterities: For reformation and remedy hereof, we, your most bounden and loving subjects, most obediently acknowledging that your Majesty, prudently, victoriously, politicly, and indifferently, hath maintained this realm in peace and quietness during all the time of your most gracious reign, putting our trust and confidence in your Highness, and nothing doubting but that your Majesty, if you should fail of heirs lawfully begotten, for the love and affection that ye bear to this realm, and for avoiding all the occasions of divisions afore rehearsed, so earnestly mindeth the wealth of the same, that ye can best and most prudently provide such a governour for us and this your realm, as will succeed and follow in the just and right tract of all your proceedings, and maintain, keep, and defend the same and all the laws and ordinances established in your Grace's time for the wealth of the realm, which we all desire, do therefore most humbly beseech your Highness, that it may be enacted, for avoiding all ambiguities, doubts, and divisions, that your Highness shall have full and plenary power and authority to dispose, by your letters patent under your great seal, or else by your last will made in writing, and signed with your hand, the imperial crown of this realm, and all other the premises thereunto belonging, to such person or persons as shall please your Highness.
'And we, your humble and obedient subjects, do faithfully promise to your Majesty, by one common assent, that after your decease, we, our heirs and successors, shall accept and take, love, dread, and only obey such person or persons, male or female, as your Majesty shall give your imperial crown unto; and wholly to stick to them as true and faithful subjects ought to do.'
- The letters of Eustace Chapuys which I have discovered at Vienna throw fresh light upon the story of Anne Boleyn's fall, and almost wholly clear up the mystery attaching to it. I leave the text of this chapter unaltered, but refer the reader to Chapuys's account, Divorce of Catherine of Aragon, cap. 21.
- Speech of the Lord Chancellor: Lords' Journals, p. 84.
- Strype's Mem.,vol. i. p. 370.
- Sir Edmund Bedingfield to Cromwell: State Papers, vol. i. p. 451. For particulars of Catherine's death, see Divorce of Catherine of Aragon, p. 424 et seq.
- Strype's Memorials, vol. i., and see Appendix, p. 241 et seq.
- State Papers, vol. i. p. 452.
- Lord Herbert, p. 188.
- Lord Herbert, p. 188. It will have been observed, that neither in this letter, nor in the other authentic papers connected with her death, is there any allusion to Cardinal Pole's famous story, that being on her death-bed, Queen Catherine prayed the King to allow her to see her daughter for the last time, and that the request was refused. Pole was not in England at the time. He drew his information from Catholic rumour, as vindictive as it was credulous; and in the many letters from members of the privy council to him which we possess, his narrative is treated as throughout a mere wild collection of fables. Reasons of state had obliged the King to separate Mary from her mother, during the preceding year. The ambassador applied for leave to take her with him to Kimbolton at the end of November, when the illness was first considered serious. The King then said that he would think about it. Catherine afterwards rallied, and it does not appear that the request was renewed.
- See Lingard, vol. v. p. 30. Hall says—'Queen Anne wore yellow for mourning.'
- The directions for the funeral are printed in Lingard, vol. v. Appendix, p. 267.
- It ought not to be necessary to say that her will was respected—Lord Herbert, p. 188; but the King's conduct to Catherine of Arragon has provoked suspicion even where suspicion is unjust; and much mistaken declamation has been wasted in connection with this matter upon an offence wholly imaginary.
In making her bequests, Catherine continued to regard herself as the King's wife, in which capacity she professed to have no power to dispose of her property. She left her legacies in the form of a petition to her husband. She had named no executors; and being in the eyes of the law 'a sole woman,' the administration lapsed in consequence to the nearest of kin, the Emperor. Some embarrassment was thus, created, and the attorney-general was obliged to evade the difficulty by a legal artifice, before the King could take possession, and give effect to the bequests.—See Strype's. Memor., vol. i. Appendix, pp. 252–5.
- See vol. i. p. 183.
- Foxe speaks very strongly on this point. In Ellis's Letters we find many detailed instances, and indeed in all contemporary authorities.
- Cranmer's Letter to the King: Burnet, vol. i. p. 323.
- More's Life of More, and see p. 268, note.
- Il Re de Inghilterra haveva fatto venire in la Corte sua il majordomo de la Regina et mostrava esserse mitigato alquanto. La causa della mitigation precede del buon negotiar ha fatto et fa la Catolica Mata con lo Ambaxiatore del Re de Inghilterra con persuadirle con buoni paroli et pregeri che debbia restituir la Regina in la antigua dignita.
Dicano anchore che la Anna e mal voluta degli Si di Inghilterra si per la sua superbia, si anche per l' insolentia et mali portementi che fanno nel regno li fratelli e parenti di Anna e che per questo il Re non la porta la affezione que soleva.—'Nuevas de Inglaterra': MS. Archives of Simancas.
- Il Re festeggia una altra donna della quale se mostra esser inamorato; e molti S di Inghilterra lo ajutano nel seguir el preditto amore per desviar questo Re de la pratica di Anna.—Ibid.
- Burnet's Collectanea, p. 87.
- Pilgrim, p. 117.
- Le Laboureur, i. 405: quoted in Lingard, vol. v. p. 30.
- Quoy qu'il en soit l'on me luy peult faire grand tort quand cires l'on a reputé pour meschante. Car ce a este des longtemps son stile.—The Regent Mary to Ferdinand: MS. Brussels.
- Later writers point to the ladies of the Court, but report could not agree upon any single person: and nothing is really known. But see Appendix.
- Baga De Secretis, pouch 8: Appendix II. to the Third Report of the Deputy Keeper of the Public Records.
- Cranmer to the King: Burnet, vol. i. p. 322.
- I must draw particular attention to this. Parliament had been just dissolved, and a fresh body of untried men were called together for no other purpose than to take cognizance of the supposed discovery.—See the Speech of the Lord Chancellor: Lords' Journals, p. 84. If the accusations were intentionally forged by the King, to go out of the way to court so needless publicity was an act most strange and most incomprehensible.
- Constantyne says, Smeton was arrested first on Saturday evening, at Stepney; but he seems inconsistent with himself. See his Memorial, Archæologia, vol. xxiii. p. 63.
- His name repeatedly occurs in 'the Privy Purse Expenses of Henry VIII.'
- Five years later, after the similar misbehaviour of Catherine Howard, the duke wrote to the King of 'the abominable deeds done by two of my nieces against your Highness;' which he said have 'brought me into the greatest perplexity that ever poor wretch was in, fearing that your Majesty, having so often and by so many of my kyn been thus falsely and traitorously handled, might not only conceive a displeasure in your heart against me and all other of that kyn, but also in manner abhor to hear speak of any of the same.'—Norfolk to Henry VIII.: State Papers, vol. i. p. 721.
- Kingston to Cromwell: Singer's Cavendish, p. 456 et seq., in Strype's Memorials, vol. i.
- Sir Edward Baynton to the Lord Treasurer, from Greenwich: Singer's Cavendish, p. 458.
- See Lingard, vol. v. p. 33. It is not certain whether the examination of the prisoners was at Greenwich or at the Tower. Baynton's letter is dated from Greenwich, but that is not conclusive. Constantyne says (Archæologia, vol. xxiii. p. 63) that the King took Norris with him to London, and, as he heard say, urged him all the way to confess, with promises of pardon if he would be honest with him. Norris persisted in his denial, however, and was committed to the Tower. Afterwards, before the council, he confessed. On his trial his confession was read to him, and he said he was deceived into making it by Sir W. Fitzwilliam.
- Letter to the Lord Treasurer.
- Kingston to Cromwell: Singer's Cavendish, p. 451.
- Kingston to Cromwell: Singer's Cavendish, p. 451.
- She said, 'I think it much unkindness in the King to put such about me as I never loved.' I showed her that the King took them to be honest and good women. 'But I would have had of mine own privy chamber,' she said, 'which I favour most.'—Kingston to Cromwell: Ibid p. 457.
- Ibid. p. 453.
- The disorder of which the King ultimately died—ulceration in the legs—had already begun to show itself.
- The lady, perhaps, to whom Norris was to have been married. Sir Edward Baynton makes an allusion to a Mistress Margery. The passage is so injured as to be almost unintelligible:—'I have mused much et … of Mistress Margery, which hath used her … strangely towards me of late, being her friend as I have been. But no doubt it cannot be but she must be of councell therewith. There hath been great friendship between the Queen and her of late.'—Sir E. Baynton to the Lord Treasurer: Singer, p. 458.
- Kingston to Cromwell: Singer, pp. 452–3. Of Smeton she said—'He was never in my chamber but at Winchester;' she had sent for him 'to play on the virginals,' for there her lodging was above the King's.… 'I never spoke with him since,' she added, 'but upon Saturday before May day, and then I found him standing in the round window in my chamber of presence, and I asked why he was so sad, and he answered and said it was no matter; and then she said, 'You may not look to have me speak to you as I should to a nobleman, because you be an inferior person.' 'No, no, madam; a look sumceth me [he said], and thus fare you well.''—Ibid. p. 455.
- Printed in Burnet, vol. i. p. 322 et seq.
- 'Mark is the worst cherished of any man in the house, for he wears irons.'—Kingston to Cromwell. Later writers have assured themselves that Smeton's confession was extorted from him by promises of pardon. Why, then, was the Government so impolitic as to treat him with especial harshness so early in the transaction? When he found himself 'ironed,' he must have been assured that faith would not be kept with him; and he had abundant time to withdraw what he had said.
- The sentence is mutilated, but the meaning seems intelligible: 'The Queen standeth stiffly in her opinion that she wo … which I think is in the trust that she [hath in the] other two'—i.e. Norris and Weston.—Baynton to the Lord Treasurer. The Government seems to have been aware of some secret communication between her and Norris.—Ibid.: Singer, p. 458
- Kingston to Cromwell: Singer, p. 457.
- My first impression of this letter was strongly in favour of its authenticity. I still allow it to stand in the text because it exists, and because there is no evidence, external or internal, to prove it to be a forgery. The more carefully I have examined the MS., however, the greater uncertainty I have felt about it. It is not an original. It is not an official copy. It does not appear, though here I cannot speak conclusively, to be even a contemporary copy. The only guide to the date is the watermark on the paper, and in this instance the evidence is indecisive.—Note to the 2nd edition.
- Burnet's Collectanea, p. 87; Cotton. MS.
- Strype's Eccles. Memorials, vol. i. Lord Bacon speaks of these words as a message sent by the Queen on the morning of the execution.
- Kingston to Cromwell: Singer, p. 456.
- Ibid. p. 457.
- Baga De Secretis, pouches 8 and 9: Appendix II. to the Third Report of the Deputy Keeper of the Public Records.
- We shall meet him again in Ireland: he was the Queen's cousin, and a man of good character and some ability. The grand jury of Kent were nominated by Sir Thomas Wyatt, who was sheriff for that year. This is not unimportant, for Wyatt in past times had been Anne's intimate friend, if not her lover.
- The indictment found at Deptford was exactly similar: referring to other acts of the same kind, committed by the same persons at Greenwich.
- Baga de Secretis, pouch 9.
- Sir Francis Bryan, the Queen's cousin, was at first suspected. He was absent from the Court, and received a message from Cromwell to appear instantly on his allegiance. The following extract is from the Deposition of the Abbot of Woburn.—MS. Cotton. Cleopatra, E iv.:
'The said abbot remembereth that at the fall of Queen Anne, whom God pardon, Master Bryan, being in the country, was suddenly sent for by the Lord Privy Seal, as the said Master Bryan afterwards showed me, charging him upon his allegiance to come to him wheresoever he was within this realm upon the sight of his letter, and so he did with all speed. And at his next repair to Ampthill, I came to visit him there, at what time the Lord Grey of Wilton, with many other men of worship, was with him in the great court at Ampthill aforesaid. And at my coming in at the outer gate Master Bryan perceived me, and of his much gentleness came towards meeting me; to whom I said, 'Now welcome home and never so welcome.' He, astonished, said unto me, 'Why so?' The said abbot said, 'Sir, I shall show you that at leisure,' and walked up into the great chamber with the men of worship. And after a pause it pleased him to sit down upon a bench and willed me to sit by him, mid after that demanded of me what I meant when I said, 'Never so welcome as then;' to whom I said thus: 'Sir, Almighty God in his first creation made an order of angels, and among all made one principal, which was the ——, who would not be content with his estate, but affected the celsitude and rule of Creator, for the which he was divested from the altitude of heaven into the profundity of hell into everlasting darkness, without repair or return, with those that consented unto his pride. So it now lately befell in this our worldly hierarchy of the Court by the fall of Queen Anne as a worldly Lucifer, not content with her estate to be true unto her creator, making her his queen, but affected unlawful concupiscence, fell suddenly out of that felicity wherein she was set, irrecoverably with all those that consented unto her lust, whereof I am glad that ye were never; and, therefore, now welcome and never so welcome, here is the end of my tale.' And then he said unto me: 'Sir, indeed, as you say, I was suddenly sent for, marvelling thereof and debating the matter in my mind why this should be; at the last I considered and knew myself true and clear in conscience unto my prince, and with all speed and without fear [hastily set] me forward and came to my Lord Privy Seal, and after that to the King's Grace, and nothing found ia me, nor never shall be, but just and true to my master the King's Grace.' And then I said 'Benedictus, but this was a marvellous peremptory commandment,' said I, 'and would have astonished the wisest man in this realm.' And he said, 'What then, he must needs do his master's commandment, and I assure you there never was a man wiser to order the King's causes than he is; I pray God save his life.''
The language both of Sir Francis Bryan and the abbot is irreconcileable with any other supposition, except that they at least were satisfied of the Queen's guilt.
- Baga de Secretis, pouch 8. The discovery of these papers sets at rest the controversy whether the Earl of Wiltshire took part in the trial. He was absent at the trial of his children; he was present at the trial of the other prisoners.
- Baga de Secretis, pouch 9.
- The Duke of Richmond was under age.
- Lord Wiltshire offered to attend, and was spared. See Appendix.
- Baga de Secretis, pouch 9.
- Constantyne, Archæologia, vol. xxiii. p. 66.
- Baga de Secretis. When the Pilgrimage of Grace broke out four months later, Northumberland was the only nobleman in the power of the insurgents who refused to join in the rebellion. They threatened to kill him; but 'at that and all times the Earl was very earnest against the commons in the King's behalf and the Lord Privy Seal's.'—Confession of William Stapleton: Rolls House MS., A 2, 2. See chap. xiii. of this work.
- I know not whether I should here add the details which Meteren gives of these trials. His authority, a Flemish gentleman, was in London at the time, hut was not present in the court. The Lord of Milherve (that was this gentleman's name) was persuaded that the Queen was unjustly accused, and he worked out of the rumours which he heard an interesting picture, touched with natural sympathy. It has heen often repeated, however. It may he read elsewhere; and as an authority it is but of faint importance. If we allow it its fullest weight, it proves that a foreigner then in England believed the Queen innocent, and that she defended herself with an eloquence which deeply touched her hearers. His further assertion, that 'Smeton's confession was all which was alleged' against her, is certainly inaccurate; and his complaint, which has heen so often echoed, of the absence of witnesses, implies only a want of knowledge of the forms which were observed in trials for high treason. The witnesses were not brought into Court and confronted with the prisoner: their depositions were taken on oath before the grand juries and the privy council, and on the trial were read out for the accused to answer as they could.
- Two grand juries, the petty jury, and the twenty-seven peers.
- Constantyne's Memor., Archæol., vol. xxiii. pp. 63–66. Constantyne was an attendant of Sir Henry Norris at this time, and a friend and schoolfellow of Sir W. Brereton. He was a resolute Protestant, and he says that at first he and all other friends of the gospel were unable to believe that the Queen had behaved so abominably. 'As I may be saved before God,' he says, 'I could not believe it, afore I heard them speak at their death.' … But on the scaffold, he adds, 'In a manner all confessed but Mr Norris, who said almost nothing at all.'
- Kingston to Cromwell: Singer, p. 459.
- The Pilgrim: Appendix, p. 116.
- Kingston to Cromwell; and see Constantyne's Memorial.
- 'Now of late, God, of his infinite goodness, from whom no secret things can be hid, hath caused to be brought to light, evident and open knowledge of certain just, true, and lawful impediments, unknown at the making of the said Acts [by which the marriage had been declared legitimate], and since that time confessed by the Lady Anne, by the which it plainly appearcth that the said marriage was never good nor consonant to the laws.'—28 Henry VIII. cap. 7.
- Vol. i. p. 184.
- On the day on which she first saw the Archbishop, she said, at dinner, that she expected to be spared, and that she would retire to a nunnery.—Kingston to Cromwell: Singer, p. 460.
- Burnet raises a dilemma here. If, he says, the Queen was not married to the King, there was no adultery; and the sentence of death and the sentence of divorce mutually neutralize each other. It is possible that in the general horror at so complicated a delinquency, the technical defence was overlooked.
- Kingston to Cromwell: Singer. 461.
- Letter of —— to ——: The Pilgrim, p. 116.
- Wyatt's Memoirs, Hall, Stow, Constantyne's Memorial. There is some little variation in the different accounts, but none of importance.
- Pilgrim, p. 116.
- 28 Hen. VIII. cap. 24.
- This paragraph is of great importance: it throws a light on many of the most perplexing passages in this and the succeeding reigns.
- 28 Hen. VIII. cap. 24.
- Speech of the Lord Chancellor: Lords' Journals, p. 84. Statutes of the Realm; 28 Henry VIII. cap. 7. Similarly, on the death of Jane Seymour, the council urged immediate re-marriage on the King, considering a single prince an insufficient security for the future. In a letter of Cromwell's to the English ambassador at Paris, on the day of Jane Seymour's death, there is the following passage:—
'And forasmuch as, though his Majesty is not anything disposed to marry again—albeit his Highness, God be thanked, taketh this chance as a man that by reason with force overcometh his affections may take such an extreme adventure—yet as sundry of his Grace's council here have thought it meet for us to be most humble suitors to his Majesty to consider the state of his realm, and to enter eftsoons into another matrimony: so his tender zeal to us his subjects hath already so much overcome his Grace's said disposition, and framed his mind both to be indifferent to the thing and to the election of any person from any part that, with deliberation, shall be thought meet for him, that we live in hope that his Grace will again couple himself to our comforts.'—State Papers, vol. viii. p. 1.
- 'The King has. I understand, already married another woman, who, they say, is a good Imperialist. I know not whether she will so continue. He had shown an inclination for her before the other's death; and as neither that other herself, nor any of the rest who were put to death, confessed their guilt, except one who was a musician, some people think he invented the charge to get rid of her. However it be, no great wrong can have been done to the woman herself. She is known to have been a worthless person. It has been her character for a long time.
'I suppose, if one may speak so lightly of such things, that when he is tired of his new wife he will find some occasion to quit himself of her also. Our sex will not be too well satisfied if these practices come into vogue; and, though I have no fancy to expose myself to danger, yet, being a woman, I will pray with the rest that God will have mercy on us.'—The Pilgrim, p. 117.
- Within four months the northern counties were in arms. Castle and cottage and village pulpit rang with outcries against the Government. Yet, in the countless reports of the complaints of the insurgents, there is no hint of a suspicion of foul play in the late tragedy. If the criminality of the King is self-evident to us, how could it have been less than evident to Aske and Lord Darcy?
- Lord's Journals, p. 84.
- He had been very ill.
- 26 Hen. VIII. cap. 1.
- 26 Hen. VIII. cap. 10.
- Including Latimer and Cranmer.
- Lord's Journals.
- 28 Henry VIII. cap. 7. The three last paragraphs, I need scarcely say, are a very brief epitome of very copious language.
- The Archbishop's sentence of divorce was at the same time submitted to Convocation and approved by it.
- The King of Scots: 28 Hen. VIII. c. 24.
- 28 Hen. VIII. cap. 7. For the whole story of Anne Boleyn's fall and the re-marriage of the King, I must again refer the reader to the minute narrative of Chapuys, Divorce of Catherine of Aragon, cap. 21, 22.