England Under Mary

England Under Mary.

History Of England
Author: Dickens, Charles

The Duke of Northumberland was very anxious to keep the young king's
death a secret, in order that he might get the two princesses into his power.
But the Princess Mary, being informed of that event as she was on her way to
London to see her sick brother, turned her horse's head, and rode away into
Norfolk. The Earl of Arundel was her friend; and it was he who sent her
warning of what had happened.

As the secret could not be kept, the Duke of Northumberland and the
council sent for the Lord Mayor of London and some of the aldermen, and made a
merit of telling it to them. Then they made it known to the people, and set
off to inform Lady Jane Grey that she was to be queen.

She was a pretty girl of only sixteen, and was amiable, learned, and
clever. When the lords who came to her fell on their knees before her, and
told her what tidings they brought, she was so astonished that she fainted. On
recovering, she expressed her sorrow for the young king's death, and said that
she knew she was unfit to govern the kingdom; but that, if she must be queen,
she prayed God to direct her. She was then at Sion House, near Brentford; and
the lords took her down the river in state to the Tower, that she might remain
there (as the custom was) until she was crowned. But the people were not all
favorable to Lady Jane, considering that the right to be queen was Mary's, and
greatly disliking the Duke of Northumberland. They were not put into a better
humor by the duke's causing a vintner's servant, one Gabriel Pot, to be taken
up for expressing his dissatisfaction among the crowd, and to have his ears
nailed to the pillory, and cut off. Some powerful men among the nobility
declared on Mary's side. They raised troops to support her cause, had her
proclaimed queen at Norwich, and gathered around her at the Castle of
Framlingham, which belonged to the Duke of Norfolk. For she was not
considered so safe as yet, but that it was best to keep her in a castle on the
sea-coast, from whence she might be sent abroad if necessary.

The council would have despatched Lady Jane's father, the Duke of
Suffolk, as the general of the army against this force; but as Lady Jane
implored that her father might remain with her, and as he was known to be but
a weak man, they told the Duke of Northumberland that he must take the command
himself. He was not very ready to do so, as he mistrusted the council much;
but there was no help for it, and he set forth with a heavy heart, observing
to a lord who rode beside him through Shoreditch at the head of the troops,
that, although the people pressed in great numbers to look at them, they were
terribly silent.

And his fears for himself turned out to be well founded. While he was
waiting at Cambridge for further help from the council, the council took it
into their heads to turn their backs on Lady Jane's cause, and to take up the
Princess Mary's. This was chiefly owing to the before-mentioned Earl of
Arundel, who represented to the lord mayor and aldermen, in a second interview
with those sagacious persons, that as for himself, he did not perceive the
reformed religion to be in much danger, - which Lord Pembroke backed by
flourishing his sword as another kind of persuasion. The lord mayor and
aldermen thus enlightened, said there could be no doubt that the Princess Mary
ought to be queen. So she was proclaimed at the Cross by St. Paul's; and
barrels of wine were given to the people, and they got very drunk, and danced
round blazing bonfires, little thinking, poor wretches, what other bonfires
would soon be blazing in Queen Mary's name.

After a ten-days' dream of royalty, Lady Jane Grey resigned the crown
with great willingness, saying that she had only accepted it in obedience to
her father and mother, and went gladly back to her pleasant house by the
river, and her books. Mary then came on towards London; and at Wanstead, in
Essex, was joined by her half-sister, the Princess Elizabeth. They passed
through the streets of London to the Tower; and there the new queen met some
eminent prisoners then confined in it, kissed them, and gave them their
liberty. Among these was that Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, who had been
imprisoned in the last reign for holding to the unreformed religion. Him she
soon made chancellor.

The Duke of Northumberland had been taken prisoner, and together with his
son and five others, was quickly brought before the council. He, not
unnaturally, asked that council, in his defence, whether it was treason to
obey orders that had been issued under the great seal; and, if it were,
whether they, who had obeyed them too, ought to be his judges? But they made
light of these points; and, being resolved to have him out of the way, soon
sentenced him to death. He had risen into power upon the death of another
man, and made but a poor show (as might be expected) when he himself lay low.
He entreated Gardiner to let him live, if it were only in a mouse's hole; and,
when he ascended the scaffold to be beheaded on Tower Hill, addressed the
people in a miserable way, saying that he had been incited by others, and
exhorting them to return to the unreformed religion, which he told them was
his faith. There seems reason to suppose that he expected a pardon even then,
in return for this confession; but it matters little whether he did or not.
His head was struck off.

Mary was now crowned queen. She was thirty-seven years of age, short and
thin, wrinkled in the face, and very unhealthy. But she had a great liking
for show and for bright colors, and all the ladies of her court were
magnificently dressed. She had a great liking, too, for old customs, without
much sense in them; and she was oiled in the oldest way, and blessed in the
oldest way, and done all manner of things to in the oldest way, at her
coronation. I hope they did her good.

She soon began to show her desire to put down the reformed religion, and
put up the unreformed one; though it was dangerous work as yet, the people
being something wiser than they used to be. They even cast a shower of stones
- and among them a dagger - at one of the royal chaplains who attacked the
reformed religion in a public sermon. But the queen and her priests went
steadily on. Ridley, the powerful bishop of the last reign, was seized and
sent to the Tower. Latimer, also celebrated among the clergy of the last
reign, was likewise sent to the Tower, and Cranmer speedily followed. Latimer
was an aged man; and as his guards took him through Smithfield, he looked
round it, and said, "This is a place that hat hath long groaned for me." For
he knew well what kind of bonfires would soon be burning. Nor was the
knowledge confined to him. The prisons were fast filled with the chief
Protestants, who were there left rotting in darkness, hunger, dirt, and
separation from their friends; many, who had time left them for escape, fled
from the kingdom, and the dullest of the people began now to see what was

It came on fast. A parliament was got together; not without strong
suspicion of unfairness; and they annulled the divorce, formerly pronounced by
Cranmer between the queen's mother and King Henry the Eighth, and unmade all
the laws on the subject of religion that had been made in the last King
Edward's reign. They began their proceedings, in violation of the law, by
having the old mass said before them in Latin, and by turning out a bishop who
would not kneel down. They also declared guilty of treason Lady Jane Grey,
for aspiring to the crown; her husband, for being her husband; and Cranmer,
for not believing in the mass aforesaid. They then prayed the queen
graciously to choose a husband for herself, as soon as might be.

Now the question who should be the queen's husband had given rise to a
great deal of discussion, and to several contending parties. Some said
Cardinal Pole was the man; but the queen was of opinion that he was not the
man, he being too old and too much of a student. Others said that the gallant
young Courtenay, whom the queen had made Earl of Devonshire, was the man, -
and the queen thought so too for a while, but she changed her mind. At last it
appeared that Philip, Prince of Spain, was certainly the man, - though
certainly not the people's man; for they detested the idea of such a marriage
from the beginning to the end, and murmured that the Spaniard would establish
in England, by the aid of foreign soldiers, the worst abuses of the popish
religion, and even the terrible Inquisition itself.

These discontents gave rise to a conspiracy for marrying young Courtenay
to the Princess Elizabeth, and setting them up with popular tumults all over
the kingdom, against the queen. This was discovered in time by Gardiner; but
in Kent, the old bold county, the people rose in their old bold way. Sir
Thomas Wyat, a man of great daring, was their leader. He raised his standard
at Maidstone, marched on to Rochester, established himself in the old castle
there, and prepared to hold out against the Duke of Norfolk, who came against
him with a party of the queen's guards and a body of five hundred London men.
The London men, however, were all for Elizabeth, and not at all for Mary. They
declared, under the castle walls, for Wyat; the Duke retreated; and Wyat came
on to Deptford, at the head of fifteen thousand men.

But these, in their turn, fell away. When he came to Southwark, there
were only two thousand left. Not dismayed by finding the London citizens in
arms, and the guns at the Tower ready to oppose his crossing the river there,
Wyat led them off to Kingston-upon-Thames, intending to cross the bridge that
he knew to be in that place, and so to work his way round to Ludgate, one of
the old gates of the city. He found the bridge broken down, but mended it,
came across, and bravely fought his way, up Fleet Street, to Ludgate Hill.
Finding the gate closed against him, he fought his way back again, sword in
hand, to Temple Bar Here, being overpowered, he surrendered himself, and three
or four hundred of his men were taken, besides a hundred killed. Wyat, in a
moment of weakness (and perhaps of torture), was afterwards made to accuse the
Princess Elizabeth as his accomplice to some very small extent. But his
manhood soon returned to him, and he refused to save his life by making any
more false confessions. He was quartered and distributed in the usual brutal
way, and from fifty to a hundred of his followers were hanged. The rest were
led out, with halters round their necks, to be pardoned, and to make a parade
of crying out, "God save Queen Mary!"

In the danger of this rebellion, the queen showed herself to be a woman
of courage and spirit. She disdained to retreat to any place of safety, and
went down to the Guildhall, sceptre in hand, and made a gallant speech to the
Lord Mayor and citizens. But on the day after Wyat's defeat she did the most
cruel act, even of her cruel reign, in signing the death-warrant for the
execution of Lady Jane Grey.

They tried to persuade Lady Jane to accept the unreformed religion; but
she steadily refused. On the morning when she was to die, she saw from her
window the bleeding and headless body of her husband brought back in a cart
from the scaffold on Tower Hill, where he had laid down his life. But, as she
had declined to see him before his execution, lest she should be overpowered
and not make a good end, so she even now showed a constancy and calmness that
will never be forgotten. She came up to the scaffold with a firm step and a
quiet face, and addressed the bystanders in a steady voice. They were not
numerous; for she was too young, too innocent and fair, to be murdered before
the people on Tower Hill, as her husband had just been; so the place of her
execution was within the Tower itself. She said that she had done an unlawful
act in taking what was Queen Mary's right; but that she had done so with no
bad intent, and that she died a humble Christian. She begged the executioner
to despatch her quickly, and she asked him, "Will you take my head off before
I lay me down?" He answered, "No, madam," and then she was very quiet while
they bandaged her eyes. Being blinded, and unable to see the block on which
she was to lay her young head, she was seen to feel about for it with her
hands, and was heard to say, confused, "O, what shall I do? Where is it?"
Then they guided her to the right place, and the executioner struck off her
head. You know to well, now, what dreadful deeds the executioner did in
England, through many, many years, and how his axe descended on the hateful
block through the necks of some of the bravest, wisest, and best in the land.
But it never struck so cruel and so vile a blow as this.

The father of Lady Jane soon followed, but was little pitied. Queen
Mary's next object was to lay hold of Elizabeth, and this was pursued with
great eagerness. Five hundred men were sent to her retired house at Ashridge,
by Berkhampstead, with orders to bring her up, alive or dead. They got there
at ten at night, when she was sick in bed. But their leaders followed her
lady into her bedchamber, whence she was brought out betimes next morning, and
put into a litter to be conveyed to London. She was so weak and ill that she
was five days on the road; still, she was so resolved to be seen by the people
that she had the curtains of the litter opened; and so, very pale and sickly,
passed through the streets. She wrote to her sister, saying she was innocent
of any crime, and asking why she was made a prisoner; but she got no answer,
and was ordered to the Tower. They took her in by the Traitor's Gate, to
which she objected, but in vain. One of the lords who conveyed her offered to
cover her with his cloak, as it was raining; but she put it away from her,
proudly and scornfully, and passed into the Tower, and sat down in a courtyard
on a stone. They besought her to come in out of the wet; but she answered
that it was better sitting there than in a worse place. At length she went to
her apartment, where she was kept a prisoner, though not so close a prisoner
as at Woodstock whither she was afterwards removed, and where she is said to
have one day envied a milkmaid whom she heard singing in the sunshine as she
went through the green fields. Gardiner, than whom there were not many worse
men among the fierce and sullen priests, cared little to keep secret his stern
desire for her death; being used to say that it was of little service to shake
off the leaves, and lop the branches of the tree of heresy, if its root, the
hope of heretics, were left. He failed, however, in his benevolent design.
Elizabeth was at length released; and Hatfield House was assigned to her as a
residence, under the care of one Sir Thomas Pope.

It would seem that Philip, the Prince of Spain, was a main cause of this
change in Elizabeth's fortunes. He was not an amiable man, being, on the
contrary, proud, overbearing, and gloomy; but he and the Spanish lords who
came over with him assuredly did discountenance the idea of doing any violence
to the princess. It may have been mere prudence, but we will hope it was
manhood and honor. The queen had been expecting her husband with great
impatience; and at length he came, to her great joy, though he never cared
much for her. They were married by Gardiner, at Winchester, and there was
more holiday-making among the people; but they had their old distrust of this
Spanish marriage, in which even the Parliament shared. Though the members of
that parliament were far from honest, and were strongly suspected to have been
bought with Spanish money, they would pass no bill to enable the queen to set
aside the Princess Elizabeth, and appoint her own successor.

Although Gardiner failed in this object, as well as in the darker one of
bringing the princess to the scaffold, he went on at a great pace in the
revival of the unreformed religion. A new parliament was packed, in which
there were no Protestants. Preparations were made to receive Cardinal Pole in
England as the pope's messenger, bringing his holy declaration that all the
nobility who had acquired Church property should keep it; which was done to
enlist their selfish interest on the pope's side. Then a great scene was
enacted, which was the triumph of the queen's plans. Cardinal Pole arrived in
great splendor and dignity, and was received with great pomp. The Parliament
joined in a petition expressive of their sorrow at the change in the national
religion, and praying him to receive the country again into the Popish Church.
With the queen sitting on her throne, and the king on one side of her, and the
cardinal on the other, and the Parliament present, Gardiner read the petition
aloud. The cardinal then made a great speech, and was so obliging as to say
that all was forgotten and forgiven, and that the kingdom was solemnly made
Roman Catholic again.

Everything was now ready for the lighting of the terrible bonfires. The
queen having declared to the council, in writing, that she would wish none of
her subjects to be burnt without some of the council being present, and that
she would particularly wish there to be good sermons at all burnings, the
council knew pretty well what was to be done next. So after the cardinal had
blessed all the bishops as a preface to the burnings, the Chancellor Gardiner
opened a high court at St. Mary Overy, on the Southwark side of London Bridge,
for the trial of heretics. Here two of the late Protestant clergymen, Hooper,
Bishop of Gloucester, and Rogers, a prebendary of St. Paul's, were brought to
be tried. Hooper was tried first for being married, though a priest, and for
not believing in the mass. He admitted both of these accusations, and said
that the mass was a wicked imposition. Then they tried Rogers, who said the
same. Next morning the two were brought up to be sentenced; and then Rogers
said that his poor wife, being a German woman and a stranger in the land, he
hoped might be allowed to come to speak to him before he died. To this the
inhuman Gardiner replied, that she was not his wife. "Yea, but she is, my
lord," said Rogers; "she hath been my wife these eighteen years." His request
was still refused, and they were both sent to Newgate; all those who stood in
the streets to sell things being ordered to put out their lights that the
people might not see them. But the people stood at their doors with candles
in their hands, and prayed for them as they went by. Soon afterwards Rogers
was taken out of jail to be burnt in Smithfield; and, in the crowd as he went
along, he saw his poor wife and his ten children, of whom the youngest was a
little baby. And so he was burnt to death.

The next day Hooper, who was to be burnt at Gloucester, was brought out
to take his last journey, and was made to wear a hood over his face that he
might not be known by the people. But they did know him for all that, down in
his own part of the country; and when he came near Gloucester, they lined the
road, making prayers and lamentations. His guards took him to a lodging,
where he slept soundly all night. At nine o'clock next morning, he was
brought forth leaning on a staff; for he had taken cold in prison, and was
infirm. The iron stake, and the iron chain which was to bind him to it, were
fixed up near a great elm-tree, in a pleasant open place before the cathedral,
where, on peaceful Sundays, he had been accustomed to preach and to pray when
he was Bishop of Gloucester. This tree, which had no leaves then, it being
February, was filled with people; and the priests of Gloucester College were
looking complacently on from a window; and there was a great concourse of
spectators in every spot from which a glimpse of the dreadful sight could be
beheld. When the old man kneeled down on the small platform at the foot of
the stake, and prayed aloud, the nearest people were observed to be so
attentive to his prayers that they were ordered to stand farther back; for it
did not suit the Romish Church to have those Protestant words heard. His
prayers concluded, he went up to the stake, and was stripped to his shirt, and
chained ready for the fire. One of his guards had such compassion on him,
that, to shorten his agonies, he tied some packets of gunpowder about him.
Then they heaped up wood and straw and reeds, and set them all alight. But
unhappily the wood was green and damp, and there was a wind blowing that blew
what flame there was away. Thus, through three quarters of an hour, the good
old man was scorched and roasted and smoked, as the fire rose and sank; and
all that time they saw him, as he burned, moving his lips in prayer, and
beating his breast with one hand, even after the other was burnt away and had
fallen off.

Cranmer, Ridley, and Latimer were taken to Oxford to dispute with a
commission of priests and doctors about the mass. They were shamefully
treated; and it is recorded that the Oxford scholars hissed and howled and
groaned, and misconducted themselves in anything but a scholarly way. The
prisoners were taken back to jail, and afterwards tried in St. Mary's Church.
They were all found guilty. On the 16th of the month of October, Ridley and
Latimer were brought out to make another of the dreadful bonfires.

The scene of the suffering of these two good Protestant men was in the
city ditch, near Baliol College. On coming to the dreadful spot, they kissed
the stakes, and then embraced each other. And then a learned doctor got up
into a pulpit which was placed there, and preached a sermon from the text,
"Though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me
nothing." When you think of the charity of burning men alive, you may imagine
that this learned doctor had a rather brazen face. Ridley would have answered
his sermon when it came to an end, but was not allowed. When Latimer was
stripped, it appeared that he had dressed himself, under his other clothes, in
a new shroud; and, as he stood in it before all the people, it was noted of
him, and long remembered, that, whereas he had been stooping and feeble but a
few minutes before, he now stood upright and handsome, in the knowledge that
he was dying for a just and a great cause. Ridley's brother-in-law was there
with bags of gunpowder; and, when they were both chained up, he tied them
round their bodies. Then a light was thrown upon the pile to fire it. "Be of
good comfort, Master Ridley," said Latimer at that awful moment, "and play the
man! We shall this day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England, as I
trust shall never be put out." And then he was seen to make motions with his
hands as if he were washing them in the flames, and to stroke his aged face
with them, and was heard to cry, "Father of Heaven! receive my soul." He died
quickly; but the fire, after having burned the legs of Ridley, sunk. There he
lingered, chained to the iron post, and crying, "O, I cannot burn! O, for
Christ's sake, let the fire come unto me!" And still, when his brother-in-law
had heaped on more wood, he was heard through the blinding smoke still
dismally crying, "O, I cannot burn, I cannot burn!" At last the gunpowder
caught fire, and ended his miseries.

Five days after this fearful scene, Gardiner went to his tremendous
account before God, for the cruelties he had so much assisted in committing.

Cranmer remained still alive and in prison. He was brought out again in
February, for more examining and trying, by Bonner, Bishop of London, -
another man of blood, who had succeeded to Gardiner's work, even in his
lifetime, when Gardiner was tired of it. Cranmer was now degraded as a
priest, and left for death; but, if the queen hated any one on earth, she
hated him; and it was resolved that he should be ruined and disgraced to the
utmost. There is no doubt that the queen and her husband personally urged on
these deeds, because they wrote to the council, urging them to be active in
the kindling of the fearful fires. As Cranmer was known not to be a firm man,
a plan was laid for surrounding him with artful people, and inducing him to
recant to the unreformed religion. Deans and friars visited him, played at
bowls with him, showed him various attentions, talked persuasively with him,
gave him money for his prison comforts, and induced him to sign, I fear, as
many as six recantations. But when, after all, he was taken out to be burnt,
he was nobly true to his better self, and made a glorious end.

After prayers and a sermon, Dr. Cole, the preacher of the day (who had
been one of the artful priests about Cranmer in prison), required him to make
a public confession of his faith before the people. This Cole did, expecting
that he would declare himself a Roman Catholic. "I will make a profession of
my faith," said Cranmer, "and with a good will too."

Then he arose before them all, and took from the sleeve of his robe a
written prayer, and read it aloud. That done, he knelt and said the Lord's
Prayer, all the people joining; and then he arose again, and told them that he
believed in the Bible; and that in what he had lately written, he had written
what was not the truth; and that, because his right hand had signed those
papers, he would burn his right hand first when he came to the fire. As for
the pope, he did refuse him and denounce him, as the enemy of Heaven Hereupon
the pious Dr. Cole cried out to the guards to stop that heretic's mouth, and
take him away.

So they took him away, and chained him to the stake, where he hastily
took off his own clothes to make ready for the flames. And he stood before
the people with a bald head and a white and flowing beard. He was so firm now
when the worst come, that he again declared against his recantation, and was
so impressive and so undismayed, that a certain lord, who was one of the
directors of the execution, called out to his men to make haste. When the
fire was lighted, Cranmer, true to his latest word, stretched out his right
hand, and crying out, "This hand hath offended!" held it among the flames,
until it blazed and burned away. His heart was found entire among his ashes,
and he left at last a memorable name in English history. Cardinal Pole
celebrated the day by saying his first mass; and next day he was made
Archbishop of Canterbury in Cranmer's place.

The queen's husband, who was now mostly abroad in his own dominions, and
generally made a coarse jest of her to his more familiar courtiers, was at war
with France, and came over to seek the assistance of England. England was
very unwilling to engage in a French war for his sake; but it happened that
the King of France, at this very time, aided a descent upon the English coast.
Hence, war was declared, greatly to Philip's satisfaction; and the queen
raised a sum of money with which to carry it on, by every unjustifiable means
in her power. It met with no profitable return; for the French Duke of Guise
surprised Calais, and the English sustained a complete defeat. The losses
they met with in France greatly mortified the national pride, and the queen
never recovered the blow.

There was a bad fever raging in England at this time; and I am glad to
write that the queen took it, and the hour of her death came. "When I am
dead, and my body is opened," she said to those around her, "ye shall find
Calais written on my heart." I should have thought, if anything were written
on it, they would have found the words. "Jane Grey, Hooper, Rogers, Ridley,
Latimer, Cranmer, and three hundred people burnt alive within four years of my
wicked reign, including sixty women and forty little children." But it is
enough that their deaths were written in heaven.

The queen died on the 17th of November, 1558, after reigning not quite
five years and a half, and in the forty-fourth year of her age. Cardinal Pole
died of the same fever next day.

As Bloody Queen Mary, this woman has become famous; and as Bloody Queen
Mary she will ever be justly remembered with horror and detestation in Great
Britain. Her memory has been held in such abhorrence, that some writers have
arisen in later years to take her part, and to show that she was, upon the
whole, quite an amiable and cheerful sovereign! "By their fruits ye shall
know them," said our Saviour. The stake and the fire were the fruits of this
reign, and you will judge this queen by nothing else.

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