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of doctrinal points with him on all possible occasions. She
had very nearly done this to her own destruction. After one
of these conversations, the king, in a very black mood, actually
instructed Gardiner, one of the bishops who favored the popish
opinions, to draw a bill of accusation against her, which would
have inevitably brought her to the scaffold where her predeces-
sors had died, but that one of her friends picked up the paper of
instructions which had been dropped in the palace, and gave
her timely notice. She fell ill with terror ; but managed the
king so well when he came to entrap her into further state-
ments, — by saying that she had only spoken on such points to
divert his mind, and to get some information from his ex-
traordinary wisdom, — that he gave her a kiss, and called her his
sweetheart. And when the chancellor came next day, actually
to take her to the Tower, the king sent him about his business,
and honored him with the epithets of a beast, a knave, and a
fool. So near was Catherine Parr to the block, and so narrow
was her escape !

There was war with Scotland in this reign, and a short,
clumsy war with France for favoring Scotland ; but the events
at home were so dreadful, and leave such an enduring stain
on the country, that I need say no more of what happened

A few more horrors, and this reign is over. There was a
lady, Anne Askew, in Lincolnshire, who inclined to the Protes-
tant opinions, and whose husband, being a fierce Catholic,
turned her out of the house. She came to London, and was
considered as offending against the six articles, and was taken
to the Tower, and put upon the rack, — probably because it was
hoped she might, in her agony, criminate some obnoxious per-
sons ; if falsely, so much the better. She was tortured without
uttering a cry, until the Lieutenant of the Tower would suffer
his men to torture her no more ; and then two priests, who


were present, actually pulled off their robes, and turned the
wheels of the rack with their own hands, so rending and twist-
ing and breaking her that she was afterwards carried to the
fire in a chair. She was burned with tliree others, — a gentle-
man, a clergyman, and a tailor ; and so the world went on.

Either the king became afraid of the power of the Duke of
Norfolk, and his son, the Earl of Surrey, or they gave him some
offence ; but he resolved to pull thein down, to follow all the
rest who were gone. The son was tried first, — of course foT
nothing, — and defended himself bravely ; but of course he was
found guilty, and of course he was executed. Then his father
was laid hold of, and left for death too.

But the king himself was left for death by a greater King,
and the earth was to be rid of him at last. He was now a
swollen, hideous spectacle, with a great hole in his leg, and so
odious to every sense that it was dreadful to approach him.
When he was found to be dying, Cranmer was sent for from
his palace at Croydon, and came with all speed, but found him
speechless. Happily, in that hour he perished. He was in
the fifth-sixth year of his age, and thirty-eighth of his reign.

Henry the Eighth has been favored by some Protestant
writers, because the Reformation was achieved in his time.
But the mighty merit of it lies with other men, and not with
him ; and it can be rendered none the worse by this monster's
crimes, and none the better by any defence of them. The
plain truth is, that he was a most intolerable ruffian, a disgrace
to human nature, and a blot of blood and grease upon the his-
tory of England.



Henry the Eighth had made a will, appointing a counci\
of sixteen to govern the kingdom for his son while he was undei
age (he was now only ten years old), and another council ol
twelve to help them. The most powerful of the first council
was the Earl of Hertford, the young king's uncle, who lost no
time in bringing his nephew with great state up to Enfield, and
thence to the Tower. It was considered, at the time, a strik-


ing proof of virtue in the young king that he was sorry for his
father's death ; but as common subjects have that virtue too,
sometimes, we will say no more about it.

There was a curious part of the late king's will, requiring
his executors to fulfil whatever promises he had made. Some
of the court wondering what these might be, the Earl of Hert-
ford and the other noblemen interested said that they were
promises to advance and enrich them. So the Earl of Hertford
made himself Duke of Somerset, and made his brother Edward
Seymour a baron ; and there were various similar promotions
all very agreeable to the parties concerned, and very dutiful,
no doubt, to the late king's memory. To be more dutiful still,
they made themselves rich out of the Church lands, and were
very comfortable. The new Duke of Sc/merset caused himself
to be declared Protector of the kingdom, and was, indeed, the

As young Edward the Sixth had been brought up in the
principles of the Protestant religion, everybody knew that they
would be maintained. But Cranmer, to whom they were chiefly
intrusted, advanced them steadily and temperately. Many
superstitious and ridiculous practices were stopped ; but prac-
tices which were harmless were not interfered with.

The Duke of Somerset, the Protector, was anxious to have
the young king engaged in marriage to the young Queen of
Scotland, in order to prevent that princess from making an al-
liance with any foreign power ; but, as a large party in Scotland
were unfavorable to this plan, he invaded that country. His
excuse for doing so was, that the Border-men — that is, the
Scotch who lived in that part of the country where England
and Scotland joined — troubled the English very much. But
there were two sides to this question ; for the English Border-
men troubled the Scotch too ; and, through many long years,
there were perpetual Border quarrels, which gave rise to num-
bers of old tales and songs. However, the Protector invaded
Scotland ; and Arran, Scottish Regent, with an army twice as
large as his, advanced to meet him. They encountered on the
banks of the river Esk, within a few miles of Edinburgh ; and
there, after a little skirmish, the Protector made such moderate
proposals, in offering to retire if the Scotch would only engage
not to marry their princess to any foreign prince, that the
regent thought the English were afraid. But in this he made
a horrible mistake ; for the English soldiers on land, and the
English sailors on the water, so set upon the Scotch, that they
broke and fled, and more than ten thousand of them were



killed. It was a dreadful battle, for the fugitives were slain
without mercy. The ground for four miles, all the way to Edin-
burgh, was strewn with dead men, and with arms and legs and
heads. Some hid themselves in streams, and were drowned ,
some threw away their armor, and were killed running, almost
naked ; but in this battle of Pinkey the English lost only two
or three hundred men. They were much better clothed than
the Scotch, at the poverty of whose appearance and country
they were exceedingly astonished.

A parliament was called when Somerset came back ; and
it repealed the whip with six strings, and did one or two other
good things ; though it unhappily retained the punishment of
burning for those people who did not make believe to believe,
in all religious matters, what the government had declared that
they must and should believe. It also made a foolish law
(meant to put down beggars), that any man who lived idly, and
loitered about for three days together, should be burned with a
hot iron, made a slave, and wear an iron fettei. But this sav-
age absurdity soon came to an end, and went the way of a great
many other foolish laws.

The Protector was now so proud, that he sat in parliament
before all the nobles, on the right hand of the throne. Many
other noblemen, who only wanted to be as proud if they could
get a chance, became his enemies of course ; and it is supposed
that he came hack suddenly from Scotland because he had
received news that his brother, Lord Seymour, was becoming
dangerous to him. This lord was now High Admiral of Eng-
land ; a very handsome man, and a great favorite with the
court ladies, — even with the young Princess Elizabeth, who
romped with him a little more than young princesses in these
times do with any one. He had married Catherine Parr, the
late king's widow, who was now dead ; and, to strengthen his
power, he secretly supplied the young king with money. He
may even have engaged with some of his brother's enemies in
a plot to carry the boy off. On these and other accusations,
at any rate, he was confined in the Tower, impeached, and
found guilty ; his own brother's name being — unnatural and
sad to tell — the first signed to the warrant for Lis execution.
He was executed on Tower Hill, and died denying his treason.
One of his last proceedings in this world was to write two let-
ters, one to the Princess Elizabeth, and one to the Princess
Mary, which a servant of his took charge of, and concealed in
his shoe. These letters are supposed to have urged them
against his brother, and to revenge his death. What they truly


contained is not known ; but there is no doubt that he had, at
one time, obtained great influence over the Princess Elizabeth.

All this while the Protestant religion was making progress.
The images which the people had gradually come to worship
were removed from the churches ; the people were informed
that they need not confess themselves to priests unless they
chose ; a common prayer-book was drawn up in the English
language, which all could understand ; and many other improve-
ments were made, — still moderately ; for Cranmer was a very
moderate man, and even restrained the Protestant clergy from
violently abusing the unreformed religion, as they very often
did, and which was not a good example. But the people were
s«-t this time in great distress. The rapacious nobility who had
come into possession of the Church lands were very ba"d land-
lords. They enclosed great quantities of ground for the feed-
ing of sheep, which was then more profitable than the growing
of crops j and this increased the general distress. So the peo-
ple, who still understood little of what was going on about
them, and still readily believed what the homeless monks told
them, — many of whom had been their good friends in their
better days, — took it into their heads that all this was owing to
the reformed religion, and therefore rose in many parts of the

The most powerful risings were in Devonshire and Norfolk.
In Devonshire, the rebellion v/as so strong that ten thousand
men united within a few days, and even laid siege to Exeter.
But Lord Russell, coming to the assistance of the citizens who
defended that town, defeated the rebels ; and not only hanged
the mayor of one place, but hanged the vicar of another from
his own church steeple. What with hanging, and killing by
the sword, four thousand of the rebels are supposed to have
fallen in that one county. In Norfolk (where the rising was
more against the enclosure of open lands than against the
reformed religion), the popular leader was a man named Robert
Ket, a tanner of Wymondham The mob were, in the first
instance, excited against the tanner by one John Flowerdew, a
gentleman who owed him a grudge ; but the tanner was more
than a match for the gentleman, since he soon got the people
on his side, and established himself near Norwich, with quite
an army. There was a large oak-tree in that place, on a spot
called Household Hill, which Ket named the Tree of Refor-
mation ; and under its green boughs, he and his men sat in the
midsummer weather, holding courts of justice, and debating
affairs of state. They were even impartial enough to allow



some rather tiresome public speakers to get up into this Tree
of Reformation, and point out their errors to them in long dis-
courses, while they lay listening (not always without' some
grumbling and growling) in the shade below. At last, one
sunny July day, a herald appeared below the tree, and pro-
claimed Ket and all his men traitors, unless from that moment
they dispersed and went home j in which case they were to
receive a pardon. But Ket and his men made light of the
herald, and became stronger than ever, until the Earl of War-
wick went after them with a sufficient force, and cut them all
to pieces. A few were hanged, drawn, and quartered as trai-
tors ; and their limbs were sent into various country places to
be a terror to the people. Nine of them were hanged upon
nine green branches of the Oak of Reformation ; and so, for
the time, that tree may be said to have withered away.

The Protector, though a haughty man, had compassion for
the real distresses of the common people, and a sincere desire
to help them. But he was too proud and too high in degree
to hold even their favor steadily ; and many of the nobles
always envied and hated him, because they were as proud and
not as high as he. He was at this time building a great palace
in the Strand ; to get the stone for which he blew up church-
steeples with gunpowder, and pulled down bishop's houses ;
thus making himself still more disliked. At length, his princi-
pal enemy, the Earl of Warwick, — Dudley by name, and the
son of that Dudley who had made himself so odious with
Empson, in the reign of Henry the Seventh, — joined with seven
other members of the council against him, formed a separate
council, and, becoming stronger in a few days, sent him to the
lower under twenty-nine articles of accusation. After being
sentenced by the council to the forfeiture of all his offices and
lands, he was liberated and pardoned on making a very hum-
ble submission. He was even taken back into the council
again, after having suffered this fall, and married his daughter,
Lady Anne Seymour, to Warwick's eldest son. But such a.
reconciliation was little likely to last, and did not outlive a
year. Warwick, having got himself made Duke of Northum-
berland, and having advanced the more important of his
friends, then finished the history by causing the Duke of Somer-
set and his friend Lord Grey, and others, to be arrested foi
treason, in having conspired to seize and dethrone the king.
They were also accused of having intended to seize the new
Duke of Northumberland, with his friends. Lord Northampton
and Lord Pembroke, to murder them if they found need, and


to raise the city to revolt. All this the fallen Protector pos
itively denied \ except that he confessed to having spoken of
the murder of those three noblemen, but having never designed
it. He was acquitted of the charge of treason, and found guilty
of the other charges ; so when the people — who remembered
his having been their friend, now that he was disgraced and in
danger — saw him come out from his trial with the axe turned
from him, they thought he was altogether acquitted, and set up
a loud shout of joy.

But the Duke of Somerset was ordered to be beheaded on
Tower Hill, at eight o'clock in the morning, and proclamations
were issued bidding the citizens keep at home until after ten.
They filled the streets, however, and crowded the place of
execution as soon as it was light ; and, with sad faces and sad
hearts, saw the once powerful Protector ascend the scaffold to
lay his head upon the dreadful block. While he was yet say-
ing his last words to them with manly courage, and telling
them in particular how it comforted him, at that pass, to have
assisted in reforming the national religion, a member of the
council was seen riding up on horseback. They again thought
that the duke was saved by his bringing a reprieve, and again
shouted for joy. But the duke himself told them they were
mistaken, and laid down his head and had it struck off at a

Many of the bystanders rushed forward, and steeped their
handkerchiefs in his blood, as a mark of their affection. He
had, indeed, been capable of many good acts, and one of them
was discovered after he was no more. The Bishop of Durham, a
very good man, had been informed against to the council, when
the duke was in power, as having answered a treacherous letter
proposing a rebellion against the reformed religion. As the
answer could not be found, he could not be declared guilty ;
bnt it was now discovered, hidden by the duke himself among
some private papers, in his regard for that good man. The
bishop lost his office, and was deprived of his possessions.

It is not very pleasant to know that while his uncle lay in
prison under sentence of death, tne young king was being vastly
entertained by plays and dances and sham fights ; but there is
no doubt of it, for he kept a journal himself. It is pleasanter
to know that not a single Roman Catholic was burnt in this reign
for holding that religion ; though two wretched victims suffered
for heresy. One, a woman named Joan Bocher, for professing
some opinions that even she could only explain in unintelligible
jargon. The o^ther, a Dutchman, named Von Paris, who prac-


tised as a surgeon in London. Edward was to his credit, ex-
ceedingly unwilling to sign the warrant for the woman's execu-
tion, shedding tears before he did so, and telling Cranmer, who
urged him to do it (though Cranmer really would have spared
the woman at first, but for her own determined obstinacy), that
the guilt was not his, but that of the man who so strongly
urged the dreadful act. We shall see, too soon, v\hether the
time ever came when Cranmer is likely to have remembered
this with sorrow and remorse.

Cranmer and Ridley (as first Bishop of Rochester, and after-
wards Bishop of London) were the most powerful of the clergy
of this reign. Others were imprisoned and deprived of their
property for still adhering to the unreformed religion ; the most
important among whom were Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester,
Heath, Bishop of Worcester, Day, Bishop of Chichester, and
Bonner, that Bishop of London wliO was superseded by Ridlc}-.
The Princess Mary, who inherited her mother's gloomy temper
and hated the reformed religion as connected with her mother's
wrongs and sorrows, — she knew nothing else about it, always
refusing to read a single book in which it was truly described,
— held by the unreformed religion too, and was the only person
in the kingdom for whom the old mass was allowed to be per-
formed ; nor would the young king have made that exception
even in her favor, but for the strong persuasions of Cranmer
and Ridley. He always viewed it with horror ; and when he
fell into a sickly condition, after having been very ill, first of
the measles and then of the small-pox, he was greatly troubled
in mind to think that if he died, and slie, the next heir to the
throne, succeeded, the Roman Catholic religion would be set
up again.

This uneasiness, the Duke of Northumberland was not slow
to encourage ; for if the Princess Mary came to the throne, he,
who had taken part with the Protestants, was sure to be dis-
graced. Now the Duchess of Suffolk was descended from King
Henry the Seventh ; and if she resigned what little or no right
she had, in favor of her daughter, Lady Jane Grey, that would
be the succession to promote the duke's greatness ; because
Lord Guilford Dudley, one of his sons, was, at this very time,
newly married to her. So he worked upon the king's fears, and
persuaded him to set aside both the Princess Mary and the
Princess Elizabeth, and assert his right to appoint his successor.
Accordingly the young king handed to the crown lawyers a
writing signed half a dozen times over by himself, appointing
Lady Jane Grey to succeed to the crown ; and requiring them to


have his will made out according to law. They were much
against it at first, and told the king so ; but the Duke of North-
unberland being so violent about it that the lawyers even ex-
pected him to beat them, and hotly declaring that, stripped to
his shirt, he would fight any man in such a quarrel, they yielded.
Cranmer also at first hesitated ; pleading that he had sworn to
maintain the succession of the crown to the Princess Mary ; but
he was a weak man in his resolutions, and afterwards signed
the document with the rest of the council.

It was completed none too soon ; for Edward was now sink-
ing in a rapid decline ; and, by way of making him better, they
handed him over to a woman-doctor who pretended to be able
to cure it. He speedily got worse. On the 6th of July, in the
year 1553, he died, very peaceably and piously, praying God,
with his last breath, to protect the reformed religion.

The king died in the sixteenth year of his age, and in the
seventh of his reign. It Is difficult to judge what the character
of one so young might afterwards have become among so many
bad, ambitious, quarrelling nobles. But he was an amiable boy,
of very good abilities, and had nothing coarse or cruel or brutal
in his disposition, which in the son of such a father is rather



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 in-
formed 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 Northum-
berland 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 tidinofs thev brought,
she was so astonished that she fainted. On recovering she ex-
pressed 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 mii,dn remain there (as the
custom was) until she was crowned. But the people were not
at all favorable to Ladv Jane, considering that the right to be
queen was Mary's, and greatly disliking the Duke of North-
umberland. Tiiey 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 dissatisfaciion 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 Nor-
wich, and gathered around her at the Castle of Framlingham,
which belonged to the Duke of Norfolk. For she was not con-
sidered so safe as yet, but that it was best to keep her in a
castle on the sea-coast, fiom 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 w ih
her, and he was known to be but a \\eak man, they told the
Duke of Northumberland that he must take the command him-
self. 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
through Shoreditch at the head of the troops, that, although the
people pressed in great- numbers to look at them, they were

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

Online LibraryCharles DickensA child's history of England → online text (page 25 of 38)