« AnteriorContinuar »
seldom thought of any other attachment than that of marriage ; and in order to attain this end, he underwent more difficulties, and committed greater crimes, than those which he sought to avoid by forming that legal connexion. And having thus entertained the design of raising his new mistress to his bed and throne, he more willingly hearkened to every suggestion which threw any imputation of guilt on the unfortunate Anne Boleyn.
The king's jealousy first appeared openly in a tilting at Greenwich, where the queen happened to drop her handkerchief ; an incident probably casual, but interpreted by him as an instance of gallantry to some of her paramours. He immediately retired from the place ; sent orders to confine her to her chamber, arrested Norris, Brereton, Weston, and Smeton, together with her brother Rocheford, and threw them into prison. The queen, astonished at these instances of his fury, thought that he only meant to try her ; but finding him in earnest, she reflected on his obstinate unrelenting spirit, and she prepared herself for that melancholy doom which was awaiting her. Next day she was sent to the Tower; and on her way thither she was informed of her supposed offences, of which she had hitherto been ignorant. She made earnest protestations of her innocence ; and when she entered the prison she fell on her knees, and prayed God so to help her, as she was not guilty of the crime imputed to her. Her surprise and confusion threw her into hysterical disorders, and in that situation she thought that the best proof of her innocence was to make an entire confession, and she revealed some indiscretions and levities which her simplicity had equally betrayed her to commit and to arow. She owned that she had once rallied Norris on his delaying his marriage, and had told him that he probably expected her when she should be a widow : she had reproved Weston, she said, for his affection to a kinswoman of hers, and his indifference towards his wife ; but he told her that she had mistaken the object of his affection, for it was herself : upon which she defied him. She affirmed that Smeton had never been in her chamber but twice, when he played on the harpsichord, but she acknowledged that he had once had the boldness to tell her, that a look sufficed him. The king, instead of being satisfied with the candour and sincerity of her confession, regarded these indiscretions only as preludes to greater and more criminal intimacies.
Of all those multitudes whom the beneficence of the queen’s temper had obliged during her prosperous fortune, no one durst interpose between her and the king's fury; and the person whose advancement every breath had favoured, and every countenance had smiled upon, was now left neglected and abandoned.
Even her uncle the Duke of Norfolk, preferring the connections of party to the ties of blood, was become her most dangerous enemy; and all the retainers to the catholic religion hoped that her death would terminate the king's quarrel with Rome, and leave him again to his natural and early bent, which had inclined him to maintain the most intimate union with the Apostolic See. Cranmer alone, of all the queen's adherents, still retained his friendship for her ; and, as far as the king's impetuosity permitted him, he endeavoured to moderate the violent prejudices entertained against her.
The queen herself wrote Henry a letter from the Tower, full of the most tender expostulations, and of the warmest protestations of innocence. This letter had no influence on the unrelenting mind of Henry, who was determined to pave the way for his new marriage by the death of Anne Boleyn. Norris, Weston, Brereton, and Smeton, were tried ; but no legal evidence was produced against them. The chief proof of their guilt consisted in a hearsay from one lady Winkfield, who was dead. Smeton was prevailed on, by the vain hopes of life, to confess a criminal correspondence with the queen ; but even her enemies expected little advantage from this
confession ; for they never dared to confront hira with her; and he was immediately executed; as were also Brereton and Weston. Norris had been much in the king's favour ; and an offer of life was made him, if he would confess his crime, and accuse the queen; but he generously rejected the proposal, and said, that in his conscience he believed her entirely guiltless, but for his part he could accuse her of nothing, and he would rather die a thousand deaths than calumniate an innocent person,
The queen and her brother were tried by a jury of peers, consisting of the duke of Suffolk, the marquis of Exeter, the earl of Arundel, and twenty-three more, Their uncle the duke of Norfolk presided as high steward. Part of the charge against her was that she hảd affirmed to her minions that the king never had her heart; and had said to each of them apart, that she loved him better than any person whatsoever. Which was to the slander of the issue begotten between the king and her. By this strained interpretation, her guilt was brought under the statute of the 25th of this reign ; in which it was declared criminal to throw any slander upon the king, queen, or their issue. Such palpable absurdities were at that time admitted ; and they were regarded by the peers of England as a sufficient reason for sacrificing an innocent queen to the cruelty of their tyrant. Though unassisted by counsel, she defended herself with presence of mind ; and the spectators could not forbear pronouncing her entirely innocent. Judgment, however, was given by the court, both against the queen and lord Rocheford ; and her verdict contained, that she should be burned or beheaded, at the king's pleasure. When this dreadful sentence was pronounced she was not terrified, but lifting up her hands said, "0! Father! 0! Creator ! thou who art the way, the truth, and the life, thou knowest that I have not deserved this fate.” And then turning to the judges, made the most pathetic declarations of her innocence.
Henry, not satisfied with this cruel vengeance, was resolved entirely to annul his marriage with Anne Boleyn, and to declare her issue illegitimate. He recalled to his memory, that a little after her appearance in the English court some attachment had been acknowledged between her and the Earl of Northumberland, then Lord Percy; and he now questioned the nobleman with regard to these engagements. Northumberland took an oath before the two archbishops, that no contract or promise of marriage had ever passed between them. He received the sacrament upon it, before the Duke of Norfolk and others of the privy council ; and this solemn act he accompanied with the most solemn protestations of veracity. The queen, however, was shaken with menaces of executing the sentence against her in its greatest rigour, and was prevailed on to confess in court some lawful impediment to her marriage with the king. The afflicted primate who sat as judge thought himself obliged by this confession, to pronounce the marriage pull and invalid. Henry, in the transports of his fury, did not perceive that his proceedings were totally inconsistent, and that if her marriage were from the beginning invalid, she could not possibly be guilty of adultery.
The queen now prepared for suffering the death to which she was sentenced. She sent her last message to the king, and acknowledged the obligations which she owed him, in his uniformly continuing his endeavours for her advancement. From a private gentlewoman, she said, he had first made her a marchioness, then a queen, and now, since he could raise her no higher in this world, he was sending her to be a saint iu heaven. She then renewed the protestations of her innocence, and recommended her daughter to his care. Before the lieutenant of the Tower, and all who approached her, she made the like declarations; and continued to behave herself with her usual serenity, and even with cheerfulness. “The executioner.” she said to the lieutenant, “is, I hear, very expert ; and my neck is very slender.'
Upon which she grasped it in her hand, and smiled. When brought, however, to the scaffold, she softened her tone a little with regard to her protestations of innocence. She probably reflected that the obstinacy of queen Katherine, and her opposition to the king's will, had much alienated him from the Lady Mary. Her own maternal concern, therefore, for Elizabeth, prevailed in these last moments over that indignation which the unjust sentence by which she suffered, naturally excited in her. She said that she was come to die, as she was sentenced by the law. She would accuse none, nor say any thing of the ground upon which she was judged. She prayed heartily for the king; called him a most merciful and gentle prince; and acknowledged that he had always been to her a good and gracious sovereign ; and if any one should think proper to canvas her cause, she desired him to judge the best. She was beheaded by the executioner of Calais, who was sent for as more expert than any in England. Her body was negligently thrown into a common chest of elm tree, made to hold arrows, and was buried in the Tower.
The innocence of this unfortunate queen cannot reasonably be called in question. Henry himself, in the violence of his rage, knew not whom to accuse as her lover.
But the king made the most effectual apology for her, by marrying Jane Seymour the very day after her execution. His impatience to gratify this new passion, caused him to forget all regard to decency; and his cruel heart was not softened a moment by the bloody catastrophe of a person who had so long been the object of his most tender affections.
157.--ANNE BOLEYN'S LETTER.
“Sir, your grace's displeasure and my imprisonment are things so strange unto me, as what to write or what to accuse I am altogether ignorant. Whereas you send unto me (willing me to confess a truth, and so obtain your favour) by such an one whom you know to be mine ancient professed enemy, I no sooner received 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 preceded. 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 me anti 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 I now 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 soine other object. 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 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 judges ; yea let me receive an open trial, for my truth shall fear no open shame: then shall you see either mine innocence cleared, your suspicion and conscience satisfied, the ignominy and slander of the world stopped, or my guilt openly declared. So that
whatsoever God and 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 set 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 mine 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 myself 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 farther, 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 the Tower, this sixth of May,
"Your most loyal and ever faithful wife,
6 “ ANNE BOLEYN."
158.—THE TRAGEDY OF ANNE BOLEYN.
REV. H. H. MILMAN.
Queen. The king so wills it : mine obedience rather
I had dared
Weston. Our mistress thus commanding, what true knight Can fail or falter ?
Queen. Courteous words, Sir Francis ; But I mistake me or that name calls up Another, and in truth, a fairer lady.
Weston. Not—as I live.
Queen. Take heed ! false oath false knight :
Norreys. We kiss your highness' hands,
[Mark Smeaton kneels also.
Truth, noble sirs,
Gardiner. I've seen a raging madman loose ; he came
The game is wop ere played !