Imagens das páginas

before. This nobleman is one instance that Henry was not altogether incapable of & cordial and steady friendship; and Suffolk seems to have been worthy of the , favour which, from his earliest youth, he had enjoyed with his master. The king was sitting in council when informed of Suffolk's death ; and he took the opportupity both to express his own sorrow for the loss, and to celebrate the merits of the deceased. He declared, that during the whole course of their friendship, his brotherin-law had never made one attempt to injure an adversary, and had uever whispered a word to the disadvantage of any person. “Is there any of you, my lords, who can say as much ?” When the king subjoined these words, he looked round in all their faces, and saw that confusion which the consciousness of secret guilt naturally threw upon them.

Cranmer himself, when bereaved of this support, was the more exposed to those , cabals of the courtiers, which the opposition in party and religion, joined to the usual motives of interest, rendered so frequent among Henry's ministers and counsellors. The catholics took hold of the king by his passion for orthodoxy; and they represented to him, that if his laudable zeal for enforcing the truth met with no better success, it was altogether owing to the primate, whose example and en-, couragement were, in reality, the secret supports of heresy. Henry, seeing the point at which they aimed, feigned a compliance, and desired the council to make inquiry into Cranmer's conduct ; promising that, if he were found guilty, he should be committed to prison, and brought to condign punishment. Every body now considered the primate as lost; and his old friends, from interested views, as well as the opposite party from animosity, began to show him marks of neglect and disregard. He was obliged to stand several hours among the lacqueys at the door of the council-chamber before he could be admitted ; and when he was at last called in, he was told, that they had determined to send him to the Tower. Cranmer said, that he appealed to the king himself ; and finding his appeal disregarded, he produced a ring, which Henry had given him as a pledge of favour and protection. The council were confounded ; and when they came before the king, he reproved them in the severest terms, and told them that he was well acquainted with Cranmer's merit, as well as with their malignity and envy : but he was determined to crush all their cabals, and to teach them, by the severest discipline, since gentle methods were ineffectual, a more dutiful concurrence in promoting his service. Norfolk, who was Cranmer's capital enemy, apologised for their conduct, and said, that their only intention was to set the primate's innocence in a full light, by bringing him to an open trial ; and IIenry obliged them all to embrace him as a sign of their cordial reconciliation. The mild temper of Cranmer rendered this agreement more sincere on his part, than is usual in such forced compliances.

But though Henry's favour for Cranmer rendered fruitless all accusations against him, his pride and peevishness, irritated by his declining state of health, impelled him to punish with fresh severity all others who presumed to entertain a different opinion from himself, particularly in the capital point of the real presence. Anne Ascue, a young woman of merit as well as beauty, who had great connections with the chief ladies at court, and with the queen herself, was accused of dogmatizing on that delicate article ; and Henry, instead of shewing indulgence to the weakness of her sex and age, was but the more provoked that a woman should dare to oppose his theological sentiments. She was prevailed on by Bonner's menaces to make a seeming recantation : but she qualified it with some reserves, which did not satisfy that zealous prelate. She was thrown into prison, and she there employed herself in composing prayers and discourses, by which she fortified her resolution to endure the utmost extremity rather than relinquish her religious principles. She even wrote to the king, and told him, that as to the Lord's supper, she believed

as much as Christ himself had said of it, and as much of his divine doctrine as the catholic church had required. But while she could not be brought to acknowledge an assent to the king's explications, this declaration availed her nothing, and was rather regarded as a fresh insult. The chancellor Wriothesely, who had succeeded Audley, and who was much attached to the catholic party, was sent to examine her with regard to her patrons at court, and the great ladies who were in correspondence with her ; but she maintained a laudable fidelity to her friends, and would confess nothing. She was put to the torture in the most barbarous manner, and continued still resolute in preserving secrecy. Some authors add an extraordinary circumstance: That the chancellor, who stood by, ordered the lieutenant of the Tower to stretch the rack still farther ; but that officer refused compliance. The chancellor menaced him, but met with a new refusal. Upon which that magistrate, who was otherwise a person of merit, but intoxicated with religious zeal, put his own hand to the rack, and drew it so violently that he almost tore her body asunder. Her constancy still surpassed the barbarity of her persecutors, and they found all their efforts to be baffled. She was then condemned to be burned alive ; and being so dislocated by the rack that she could not stand, she was carried to the stake in a chair. Together with her were conducted Nicholas Belenian a priest, John Lassels of the king's household, and John Adams a taylor, who had been condemned for the same crime to the same punishment. They were all tied to the stake ; and in that dreadful situation the chancellor sent to inform them that their pardon was rearly drawn and signed, and should instantly be given them, if they would merit it by a récantation. They only regarded this offer as a new ornament to their crown of martyrdom ; and they saw with tranquillity the executioner kindle the flames which consumed them. Wriothesely did not consider that this public and noted situation interested their honour the more to maintain a steady perseverance.

Though the secrecy and fidelity of Ann Ascue saved the queen from this peril, that princess soon after fell into a new danger, from which she narrowly escaped. An ulcer had broken out in the king's leg, which, added to his extreme corpulency, and his bad habit of body, began both to threaten his life, and to render him even more than usually peevish and passionate. The queen attended him with the most tender and dutiful care, and endeavoured by every soothing art and compliance, to allay those gusts of humour to which he was become so subject. His favourite topic of conversation was theology, and Catherine, whose good sense enabled her to discourse on any subject, was frequently engaged in the argument; and being secretly inclined to the principles of the reformers, she unwarily betrayed too much of her mind on these occasions. Henry, highly provoked that she should presume to differ from him complained of her obstinacy to Gardiner, who gladly laid hold of the opportunity to inflame the quarrel. He praised the king's anxious concern for preserving the orthodoxy of his subjects ; and represented, that the more elevated the person was who was chastised, and the more near to his person, the greater terror would the example strike into every one, and the more glorious would the sacrifice appear to posterity. The chancellor, being consulted, was engaged by religious zeal to second these topics ; and Henry hurried on by his own impetuous temper, and encouraged by his counsellors, went so far as to order articles of impeachment to be drawn up against his consort. Wriothesely executed his commands, and soon after brought the paper to him to be signed ; for as it was high-treason to throw slander upon the queen, he might otherwise have been questioned for his temerity. By some means this important paper fell into the hands of one of the queen's friends, who immediately carried the intelligence to her. She was sensible of the extreme danger to which she was exposed ; but did

not despair of being able, by her prudence and address, still to elude the efforts of her enemies. She paid her usual visit to the king, and found him in a more serene disposition than she had reason to expect. He entered on the subject which was so familiar to him, and he seemed to challenge her to an argument iu divinity. She gently declined the conversation, and remarked that such profound speculations were ill suited to the natural imbecility of her sex. Women, she said, by their first creation, were made subject to meu : the male was created after the image of God, the female after the image of the male : it belonged to the husband to choose principles for his wife ; the wife's duty was, in all cases, to adopt implicitly the sentiments of her husband. And as to herself

, it was doubly her duty, being blest with a husband who was qualified by his judgment and learning not only to choose principles for his own family, but for the most wise and knowing of every nation. * Not so! by St. Mary," replied the king ; “ you are now become a doctor, Kate ; and better fitted to give than receive instruction.” She meekly replied, that she was sensible how little she was entitled to these praises ; that though she usually declined not any conversation, however sublime, when proposed by his majesty, she well knew, that her conceptions could serve to no other purpose than to give him a little momentary amusement ; that she found the conversation apt to languish, when not revived by some opposition, and she had ventured sometimes to feign a contrariety of sentiments, in order to give him the pleasure of refuting her; and that she also purposed, by this innocent artifice, to engage him into topics whence she had observed by frequent experience that she reaped profit and instruction. “And is it so, sweetheart ? " replied the king, “then are we perfect friends again.” He embraced her with great affection, and sent her away with assurances of his protection and kindness. Her enemies, who knew nothing of this sudden change, prepared next day to convey her to the Tower, pursuant to the king's warrant. Henry and Catherine were conversing amicably in the garden when the chancellor appeared with forty of the pursuivants. The king spoke to him at some distance from her, and seemed to expostulate with him in the severest manner.

She even overheard the appellations of knave, fool, and beast, which he liberally bestowed upon that magistrate; and then ordered him to depart his presence. She afterwards interposed to mitigate his anger : he said to her, “Poor soul! you know not how ill entitled this man is to your good offices.” Thenceforth the queen having narrowly escaped so great a danger, was careful not to offend Henry's humour by any contradiction ; and Gardiner, whose malice had endeavoured to widen the breach, could never afterwards regain his favour and good opinion.

But Henry's tyrannical disposition, soured by ill health, burst out soon after to the destruction of a man who possessed a much superior rank to that of Gardiner. The duke of Norfolk and his father, during this whole reign, and even a part of the foregoing, had been regarded as the greatest subjects in the kingdom, and had rendered considerable service to the crown. The duke himself had in his youth acquired reputation by naval enterprises : he had much contributed to the victory gained over the Scots at Flouden: he had suppressed a dangerous rebellion in the North : and he had always done his part with honour in all the expeditions against France. Fortune seemed to conspire with his own industry, in raising him to the greatest elevation. From the favours heaped on him by the crown he had acquired an immense estate : The king had successively been married to two of his nieces ; and the king's natural son, the duke of Richmond, had married his daughter. Besides his descent from the ancient family of the Moubrays, by which he was allied to the throne, he had espoused a daughter of the duke of Buckingham, who was descended by a female from Edward III. ; And as he was believed still to adhere secretly to the ancient religion, he was regarded, both abroad and at home, as the

head of the catholic party. But all these circumstances, in proportion as they exalted the duke, provoked the jealousy of Henry; and he foresaw danger, during his son's minority, both to the public tranquillity and to the new ecclesiastical system, from the attempts of so potent a subject. But nothing tended more to expose Norfolk to the king's displeasure, than the prejudices which Henry had entertained against the earl of Surrey, son of that nobleman.

Surrey was a young man of the most promising hopes, and had distinguished himself by every accomplishment which became a scholar, a courtier, and a soldier. He excelled in all the military exercises which were then in request: he encouraged the fine arts by his patronage and example: he had made some successful attempts in poetry; and being smitten with the romantic gallantry of the age, he celebrated the praises of his mistress, by his pen and his lance, in every masque and tournament. His spirit and ambition were equal to his talents and his quality; and he did not always regulate his conduct by the caution and reserve which his situation required. He had been left governor of Boulogne when that town was taken by Henry : but though his personal bravery was unquestioned, he had been unfortunate in some rencounters with the French. The king somewhat displeased with his conduct, had sent over Hertford to command in his place ; and Surrey was so imprudent as to drop some menacing expressions against the ministers, on account of this affront which was put upon him. And as he had refused to marry Hertford's daughter, and even waved every other proposal of marriage, Henry imagined that he had entertained views of espousing the lady Mary; and he was instantly determined to repress, by the most severe expedients, so dangerous an ambition.

Actuated by all these motives, and perhaps influenced by that old disgust with which the ill conduct of Catherine Howard had inspired him against her whole family, he gave private orders to arrest Norfolk and Surrey; and they were on the same day confined in the Tower. Surrey being a commoner, his trial was the more expeditious; and as to proofs, neither parliaments nor juries seem ever to have given the least attention to them in any cause of the crown during this whole reign. He was accused of entertaining in his family some Italians who were suspected to be spies; a servant of his had paid a visit to cardinal Pole in Italy, whence he was suspected of holding a correspondence with that obnoxious prelate ; he had qnartered the arms of Edward the Confessor on his scutcheon, which made him be suspected of aspiring to the crown, though both he and his ancestors had openly, during the course of many years, maintained that practice, and the heralds had even justified it by their authority. These were the crimes for which a jury, notwithstanding his eloquent and spirited defence, condemned the earl of Surrey for high treason; and their sentence was soon after executed upon him.

The innocence of the duke of Norfolk was still, if possible, more apparent than that of his son ; and his services to the crown had been greater. His dutchess, with whom he lived on bad terms, had been so base as to carry intelligence to his enemics of all she knew against him : Elizabeth Holland, a mistress of his, had been equally subscrvient to the designs of the court. Yet with all these advantages his accusers discovered no greater crime than his once saying that the king was sickly, and could not hold out long; and the kingdom was likely to fall into disorders, through the diversity of religious opinions. He wrote a pathetic letter to the king, pleading his past services, and protesting his innocence. Soon after, he embraced a more proper expedient for appeasing Her:ry, by making a submission and confession, such as his enemies required: but nothing could molify the unrelenting temper of the king. He assembled a parliament, as the surest and most expeditious instrument of his tyranny; and the house of peers, without examining the prisoner, without trial or evidence, passed a bill of attainder against him, and sent

it down to the commons. Cranmer, though engaged for many years in an opposite party to Norfolk, and though he had received many and great injuries from him, would have no hand in so unjust a prosecution ; and he retired to his seat at Croydon. The king was now approaching fast towards his end; and fearing lest Norfolk should escape him, he sent a message to the commons, by which he desired them to hasten the bill, on pretence that Norfolk enjoyed the dignity of earl marshal, and it was necessary to appoint another, who might officiate at the ensuing ceremony of installing his son prince of Wales. The obsequious commons obeyed his directions, though founded on so frivolous a pretence; and the king, having affixed the royal assent to the bill by commissioners, issued orders for the execution of Norfolk on the morning of the twenty-ninth of January. Büt news being carried to the Tower, that the king himself had expired that night, the lieutenant deferred obeying the warrant; and it was not thought adviseable by the council to begin a new reign by the death of the greatest nobleman in the kingdom, who had been condemned by a sentence so unjust and tyrannical.

The king's health had long been in a declining state ; but for several days all those near him plainly saw his end approaching. He was become so froward, that no one durst inform him of his condition ; and as some persons during this reign had suffered as traitors for foretelling the king's death, every one was afraid lest in the transports of his fury he might, on this pretence, punish capitally the author of such friendly intelligence. At last Sir Anthony Denny ventured to disclose to him the fatal secret, and exhorted him to prepare for the fate which was awaiting him. He expressed his resignation ; and desired that Cranmer might be sent for. But before the prelate arrived he was speechless, though he still seemed to retain his senses. Cranmer desired him to give some sign of his dying in the faith of Christ: he squeezed the prelate's hand, and immediately expired, after a reign of thirty-seven years and nine months; and in the fifty-sixth year of his age.

It is difficult to give a just summary of this prince's qualities. He was so different from himself in different parts of his reign, that, as is well remarked by lord Herbert, his history is his best character and description. The absolute uncontrolled authority which he maintained at home, and the regard which he acquired among foreign nations, are circumstances which entitle him in some degree to the appellation of a great prince ; while his tyranny and barbarity exclude him from the character of a good one. He possessed, indeed, great vigour of mind, which qualified him for exercising dominion over men, courage, intrepidity, vigilance, inflexibility : and though these qualities lay not always under the guidance of a regular and solid judgment, they were accompanied with good parts and an extensive capacity; and every one dreaded a contest with a man who was known never to yield or to forgive, and who, in every controversy was determined either to ruin himself or his antagonist. A catalogue of his vices would comprehend many of the worst qualities incident to human nature : violence, cruelty, profusion, rapacity, injustice, obstinacy, arrogance, bigotry, presumption, caprice : but neither was he subject to all these vices in the most extreme degree, nor was he at intervals alto gether destitute of virtue : he was sincere, open, gallant, liberal, and capable at least of a temporary friendship and attachment. In this respect he was unfortunate, that the incidents of his reign served to display his faults in their full light : the treatment which he met with from the court of Rome provoked him to violence; the danger of a revolt from his superstitious subjects, seemed to require the most extreme severity. But it must at the same time be acknowledged, that his situation tended to throw an additional lustre on what was great and magnanimous in his character. The emulation between the emperor and the French king rendered his alliance, notwithstanding his impolitic conduct, of great importance in

« AnteriorContinuar »