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Studies from Court and Cloister: being essays, historical and literary dealing mainly with subjects relating to the XVIth and XVIIth centuries online

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to turn his back upon Cleves and the rest of the German princes;
moreover, he had no further need of Cromwell himself, who was rather in
the way of his new plans, unless the minister could find a means to
disentangle the imbroglio he had created with regard to Anne.

Like a child with a new toy, Henry was now engrossed in the fun of
being Pope in his own dominions; and as Head of the Church of England
whom it behoved to reprobate heresy in every shape and form, he
conducted a trial against one John Nicholson, who, refusing to recant
his heretical opinions, was burned at Smithfield. After this he felt
confident of being as Catholic as the real Pope, and safe from
opprobrium. He proceeded to bring forward deliberations in Parliament
on the subject of religion, with the result that the famous Act of the
Six Articles was passed. This Act, nicknamed by the Lutherans "the whip
with six cords," brought in a reaction in favour of the old religion,
which lasted till Henry's death, but matters between England and Rome
remained as they were.

Meanwhile, the lady Anne of Cleves had made her unwelcome appearance.
One of the most curious and indeed incomprehensible facts concerning
Henry VIII., is the admiring awe and grovelling gratitude with which he
was adored by most of the women whom he had the privilege of
ill-treating. After the year 1527, when he first conceived the desire
of raising Anne Boleyn to the throne, and of divorcing Katharine,
except for the short period during which he was married to Jane
Seymour, there were always two rival claimants for his hand. Not only
was Katharine ever generously ready to forget past insults if he would
graciously extend his clemency towards her, and send Anne away, but
every other woman with whom he came in contact, addressed him in words
more suited to a divinity than to an earthly king. His daughter Mary,
after having been spurned as the most degraded and abject creature of
the realm, longed for nothing more ardently than "to attain the
fruition of his most desired presence."

Although the personal appearance of Anne of Cleves did not bear out the
exaggerated reports of the German agent Mont, who had told Henry that
her beauty exceeded that of the Duchess of Milan "as the sun outshines
the silver moon," she was found on her arrival in England to be "tall,
bright, and graceful," her liveliness making amends for any defect as
to regularity of feature. Comparing her claim to beauty with that of
the other wives of Henry VIII., it does not appear that she contrasted
unfavourably with any, not even with Katharine Howard, who was very
generally admired. The king himself observed to Cromwell that Anne was
"well and seemly, and had a queenly manner," but that he found it
difficult to converse with her as she knew no word of any language but
German.

He had first met her privately at Rochester, and had dined with her,
their public meeting taking place about half a mile from the foot of
Shooter's Hill, where she rested in a gorgeous pavilion prepared for
the occasion. Henry came marching through Greenwich Park with a
brilliant escort, and the bride and bridegroom met full merrily. The
king embraced the lady ceremoniously, and the chronicler Hall, some
time afterwards, in describing their entry into Greenwich, breaks out
into one of his eulogistic periods:

"O what a sight was this, to see so goodly a Prince and so noble a King
to ride with so fair a lady, of so goodly a stature, and so womanly a
countenance, and in especial of so good qualities. I think no creature
could see them but his heart rejoiced!"

Nevertheless, Henry's moody question, "What remedy?" which obviously
had its origin in no mere disappointment in the matter of Anne's beauty
or power to charm, was calculated to strike terror into Cromwell's
soul, the chancellor knowing full well that all this bravery was but an
appearance, and that his great scheme of Lutheranising England to the
greater glory of himself was irrevocably wrecked, and his own fate
sealed. The king went on to say that if it were not that the lady had
come so far, and for fear of making a ruffle in the world, and of
driving her brother into the emperor's arms and those of the French
king, he would not go through with the marriage ceremony.

As a forlorn hope of escape, the bride was asked to make a declaration
that she was free from all precontracts, which she did without the
least hesitation, and there was nothing to be done but for Henry "to
put his head into the yoke," and to make an insignificant political
alliance, which would thenceforth serve no political end. As a Catholic
king, Head of the Church and Defender of the Faith, there was no room
in his plans for a Lutheran queen. However, he no longer regarded the
marriage tie as a knot that could not be undone at a pinch. Cranmer
could be counted on to be pliable in that matter, and if Cromwell made
difficulties, a sword was hanging over him that could be made to fall
at any moment, and Henry knew that the death of the man who had been
the terror of England for ten years would be hailed with enthusiasm by
the whole nation. Henry's foreign policy had always been a
non-committal one, and Cromwell's daring intrigues had carried his
master further than he intended to go. As the chancellor could find no
means of getting him out of the mess, he lost his life, and Anne of
Cleves her barely assumed dignity.

The disgusting letters which Cromwell wrote from the Tower, in the hope
that his tardy playing into the king's hands would obtain him a pardon,
were of immense use to Henry in confusing the public mind as to the
real reason for his repudiation of Anne, for he was anxious in breaking
off from Protestant Germany not to turn the Duke of Cleves into an
enemy. The want of decency and the unchivalrous sacrifice of Anne's
honour and dignity are perhaps not surprising between such men as Henry
and Cromwell, but it is startling to find the lady's brother swallowing
the insult calmly. Nevertheless, Henry's diplomatic insight had
correctly gauged the coarsening effect of Luther's moral code on a mind
that could see less offence in a stain of this kind than in a frank
rupture of the marriage-treaty before Anne had been allowed to set foot
in England. There is this, however, to be said, that the possession of
the lady gave Henry a decided advantage over her brother.

A few weeks after the marriage, or what passed for such, Anne was sent
to Richmond on the pretext of being out of reach of the plague, but
there was no talk at that time of any plague, and if there had been,
Henry would certainly have gone away also, for no one feared the
epidemic more than he. On her departure, a commission was appointed
under the Great Seal to inquire into the validity of her marriage, and
in an incredibly short space of time it was declared null, by reason of
a pre-contract with the son of the Duke of Lorraine. Henry then endowed
his ex-queen with lands to the value of 4000 pounds annually, with a
house at Richmond, and another at Bletchingly.

Whatever she may have felt, Anne expressed herself willing to be
divorced - perhaps she was thankful to escape with her head - and desired
the Duke of Cleves' messenger "to commend her to her brother, and say
she was merry and well entreated." He reported of her that she said
this "with such alacrity and pleasant gesture, that he might well
testify that he found her not miscontented. After she had dined she
sent the King the ring delivered unto her at their pretended marriage,
desiring that it might be broken in pieces as a thing which she knew of
no force or value." Henry sent her many gifts and tokens "as his sister
and none otherwise," and told her that she was to be the first lady in
the realm next after the queen and the king's children. He exhorted her
to be "quiet and merry," and subscribed himself "your loving brother
and friend." After his fifth marriage she was designated as "the old
Queen, the King's sister."

The French ambassador, in a letter of the 6th August 1540, wrote: -

"The King being lately with a small party at Hampton Court, ten miles
hence, supped at Richmond with the Queen that was so merrily that some
thought he meant to reinstate her, but others think it was done to get
her consent to the dissolution of the marriage, and make her subscribe
what she had said thereupon, which is not only what they wanted, but
also what she thinks they expected. The latter opinion is the more
likely, as the King drew her apart, in company with the three first
councillors he had, who are not commonly called in to such confidence."

Marillac goes on to say that he thinks it would be great inconsistency
to take her back now, and that moreover she did not sup with him as she
did when she was queen, but at another table adjoining his, as other
ladies who are not of the blood do, when he eats in company.

On the 15th he wrote to the Duke de Montmorency: -

"As for her who is called Madame de Cleves, far from pretending to be
distressed, she is as joyous as ever, and wears new dresses every day,
which argues either prudent dissimulation or stupid forgetfulness of
what should so closely touch her heart. Be it as it may, it has thrown
the poor ambassador of Cleves into a fever, who sends every day to ask
if I have no news of his master."

Even if Anne's first feeling had been one of relief that a worse fate
had not befallen her, her gaiety was obviously forced, and no doubt the
lady did "protest too much," but she had been ordered to be "quiet and
merry," and if after such a mandate she had ventured to put on a
sorrowful countenance, or to express a vain regret, her quondam husband
would probably have been - such was his disposition - less flattered by
the compliment than irritated by the command disobeyed. And so she
prudently accepted her fate and "sate like patience on a monument
smiling at grief," as it afterwards transpired, and in her efforts to
please, imposed upon herself what must have been the most trying
ordeals.

Her marriage had taken place on the feast of the Epiphany, 1540, and in
July of the same year Henry was united to Katharine Howard,
grand-daughter of the Duke of Norfolk. This young woman's reputation
was already so notoriously bad, that it is impossible to believe that
the king could be in ignorance of the fact. Nevertheless, for the time
being, he was deeply in love, and his scruples and righteous anger were
wont to come - afterwards. Marillac describes the new queen "as rather
graceful than beautiful, and of short stature." He says: -

"The King is so amorous of her that he cannot treat her well enough,
and caresses her more than he did the others. She and all the Court
ladies dress in the French style, and her device is Non autre volonte
que la sienne. Madame de Cleves is as cheerful as ever, as her
brother's ambassador says."

But others besides Anne of Cleves had reason to mourn, and Melancthon
complained that atrocious crimes were reported from England, that the
divorce with the lady of Juliers was already made, and another married,
and that "good men of our opinion in religion are murdered."

On the 27th September, the papal nuncio wrote grimly to Cardinal
Farnese, that "SO FAR" the King of England was pleased with his new
wife, and the other, "sister of Cleeves has retired and 'LIVES.'"
Rumours, however, were persistently current that Henry intended to take
back Anne, until in November, Marillac informed his master that the new
queen had "completely acquired the King's grace," and that the other
was "no more thought of than if she were dead."

But Marillac had soon reason to see that in making this statement he
had somewhat exaggerated. The Princess Mary seems to have been well
informed of the loose character and behaviour of Katharine Howard, and
contrived to find pretexts for a long time for absenting herself from
court, so that the queen complained to Henry that his daughter did not
treat her with the respect she had shown to the two former queens.

But Anne of Cleves had no scruples about associating with Katharine,
and was perhaps keen to note every detail concerning her brilliant
rival, who had been more successful than herself in capturing the
king's roving fancy. She was probably as much in the dark as most
people, as to the politico-religious embarrassment she constituted.

The French ambassador gives an amusing description of her New Year's
visit to the court: -

"Sire, to omit nothing that may be written about this country, Madame
Anne, sister of the Duke of Cleves, formerly Queen of England, passed
the recent festivities at Richmond, four miles from Hampton Court, to
which place the King and also the Queen sent her, on the first day of
the year, rich presents of clothes, plate and jewels, valued at six or
seven thousand crowns. And on the second day she was summoned to appear
at Hampton Court, where she was very honourably conducted by several of
the nobility, and being arrived, the King received her very graciously,
as did also the Queen, with whom she remained nearly the whole
afternoon. They danced together, and seemed so happy that neither did
the new Queen appear to be jealous or afraid that the other had come to
raise the siege, as it was rumoured, nor did the said lady of Cleves
show any sign of discontent at seeing her rival in her place. Moreover,
Sire, if it please you to hear the end of this farce, that evening, and
the next, the two ladies supped at the King's table together, although
the lady of Cleves sat a little backward, in a corner, where the
Princess of England, Madame Mary, is wont to be; and the following day,
the said lady of Cleves returned with the same escort to Richmond,
where she is visited by all the personages of the court, which makes
people think she is about to be reinstated in her former position." *

* De Marillac, Correspondance Politique, p. 258.


Eustace Chapuys, the imperial ambassador, also wrote an account of this
strange visit. He says: -

"On the 3rd [January 1541], the lady Anne of Cleves sent the King a New
Year's present of two large horses, with violet velvet trappings, and
presented herself at Hampton Court, with her suite, accompanied only by
Lord William, the Duke of Norfolk's brother, who happened to meet her
on the road to this city. She was received by the Duchess of Suffolk,
the Countess of Hertford, and other ladies, who conducted her to her
lodgings and then to the Queen's apartments. She insisted on addressing
the Queen on her knees, for all the Queen could say, who showed her the
utmost kindness. The King then entered, and after a low bow to Lady
Anne, embraced and kissed her. She occupied a seat near the bottom of
the table at supper, but after the King had retired, the Queen and Lady
Anne danced together, and next day all three dined together. At this
time the King sent his Queen a present of a ring and two small dogs,
which she passed over to Lady Anne. That day Lady Anne returned to
Richmond."*

* Chapuys to the Emperor; Gairdner, Cal. 16, No. 436.


The public rumour of the likelihood of Anne's restoration arose
probably as much from the common talk of the queen's immoral conduct as
from the circumstance of Anne's appearance at court. The reports at
length reached Katharine's ears, and it was possibly her accusing
conscience that betrayed itself in her visible depression of spirits.

"Some days ago [wrote Chapuys to the Queen of Hungary on 6th May 1541],
this Queen being rather sad, the King wished to know the cause, and she
said it was owing to a rumour that he was going to take back Anne of
Cleves. The King told her that she was wrong to think such things, and
[that] even if he were in a position to marry, he had no mind to take
back Anne; which is very probable, as his love never returns for a
woman he has once abandoned. Yet many thought he would be reconciled to
her for fear of the King of France making war on him at the
solicitation of the Duke of Cleves and the King of Scotland."

This was the first intimation of the storm that was soon to burst When
it suited Henry to give ear to the scandals afloat about the queen, his
grief and indignation, or what it pleased him should pass for such,
knew no bounds.

The palace at Hampton Court where Katharine was imprisoned, was so
strictly guarded that none but certain officers could enter or leave
it. The Princess Mary, who had spent the last few months with her
stepmother, presenting a strange contrast to her surroundings, was now
sent to join Prince Edward, and her father announced that he was
heartbroken at the queen's immorality and perfidy. Anne was thought by
Chapuys to rejoice greatly at Katharine's fall, but her execution
caused little comment throughout the country. Either the nation was
indifferent or it had become accustomed to the disgrace of queen
consorts.

Marillac, writing to Francis I. on the 11th November, says: -

"The way taken is the same as with Queen Anne who was beheaded. She has
taken no kind of pastime, but kept in her chamber, whereas, before, she
did nothing but dance and rejoice; and now when the musicians come,
they are told that this is no more the time to dance . . . . As to whom
the King will take, everyone thinks it will be the lady he has left,
who has conducted herself wisely in her affliction, and is more
beautiful than she was, and more regretted and commiserated than Queen
Katharine (of Arragon) was in like case. Besides, the King shows no
inclination to any other lady, and will have some remorse of
conscience, and no man in England dare suggest one of such quality as
the lady in question, for fear, if she were repudiated of falling en
quelque gros inconvenient."

The imperial ambassador had, it is seen, estimated Henry's character
more correctly than Marillac did, for as to "remorse of conscience," we
do not find throughout the whole length of his life that the royal
miscreant ever made an attempt to expiate any one of his crimes, or to
make amends to a single individual for wrong done.

According to Marillac, the king was so shocked and grieved at
Katharine's behaviour, that he proposed never to take another wife; but
when it was suggested that in spite of her outrageous conduct the queen
might possibly escape the punishment of death, on account of her beauty
and her sweetness of disposition, the Duke of Norfolk said that she
must of necessity die, because the king could not marry again while she
lived.

Francis I. does not seem to have taken his envoy's account of Henry's
grief very seriously (he had known the King of England longer than
Marillac had), and replied with some apparent cheerfulness, that he was
sorry for his cousin's misfortune, and would soon send a gentleman to
condole with the king.

Chapuys, as usual, had with greater discernment, hit the more probable
mean.

"This King has wonderfully felt the case of the Queen, his wife, and
has certainly shown greater sorrow at her loss than at the fault, loss,
or divorce of his preceding wives. It is like the case of the woman who
cried more bitterly at the loss of her tenth husband than at the deaths
of all the others together, though they had all been good men; but it
was because she had never buried one of them before without being sure
of the next, and as yet it does not seem that he has formed any new
plan."

Katharine was beheaded on the 13th October 1542, on the same spot on
the Tower Green where Anne Boleyn had been executed. Her end, and that
of Lady Rochester who had encouraged her in her evil life, was
penitent, and even edifying. After the execution it was remarked that
the king was in better spirits, and during the last few days before
Lent there was much feasting at Court.

Chapuys describes the state of affairs thus: -

"Sunday was given up to the Lords of his Council, and Court; Monday to
the men of law; and Tuesday to the ladies, who all slept at the Court.
He himself in the morning did nothing but go from room to room to order
lodgings to be prepared for these ladies, and he made them great and
hearty cheer, without showing particular affection to any one. Indeed,
unless Parliament prays him to take another wife, he will not I think
be in a hurry to marry; besides, few if any ladies now at Court would
aspire to such an honour, for a law has just been passed, that should
any King henceforth wish to marry a subject, the lady will be bound on,
pain of death to declare if any charges of misconduct can be brought
against her, and all who know or suspect anything of the kind against
her, are bound to reveal it within twenty days, on pain of confiscation
of goods and imprisonment for life."

Perhaps it was this general indictment of the women of Henry's court,
most certainly the echo of public opinion, that had caused the people
to persist in the belief that Anne of Cleves would regain Katharine's
strangely coveted place. Where the reputation of a whole class was so
bad as to make the above kind of declaration impossible, virtue, such
as that attributed to the Lady Anne, was at a premium, and as it was
useless to think of a suitable foreign alliance in the state of Henry's
religious opinions, justice and necessity had alike seemed to point to
the reinstatement of the discarded queen. But Henry was exceedingly
annoyed at these repeated suggestions which, forsooth, had almost
appeared TO DICTATE TO HIM, and he determined to put a stop to the free
wagging of tongues on the subject of his matrimonial affairs.

After the fall of Katharine Howard, and before her execution, a State
Paper records that Jane Rattsay was "examined of her words to Elizabeth
Bassett, viz., 'What if God worketh this work to make the Lady Anne of
Cleves queen again?' She answered that it was an idle saying suggested
by Bassett's 'Praising the Lady Anne, and dispraising the Queen that
now is.' She declared that she never spoke at any other time of the
Lady Anne, and she thought the King's divorce from her good." Examined
as to her exclamation "What a man is the King! How many wives will he
have?" she answered that she said it "upon the sudden tidings declared
to her by Bassett, when she was sorry for the change and knew not so
much as she knows now."

But for all Anne's prudence, and the bold front the brave woman
presented to her misfortunes, she had been secretly hoping that when
the inevitable crash came, she would be restored to the rights which
she had only renounced, because she had no alternative. Henry, however,
made no sign, and in 1543 Katharine Parr appeared on the scene. The
first mention of the king's sixth wife in the public records is a
tailor's bill for numerous items of cotton, linen, buckram, etc., and
the making of Italian gowns, pleats, and sleeves, kirtles, French,
Dutch, and Venetian gowns, Venetian sleeves, French hoods, etc., of
various materials, the total amount of the bill being 8 pounds, 9s. 5d.
This bill was delivered "to my Lady Latymer," and was copied into the
book of Skutt the tailor.

Katharine Parr had been first married as a mere child to the old Lord
Borough of Gainsborough, and had been left a widow before she was
seventeen. She then married Lord Latimer, who died in 1543, and was
immediately sought in marriage by Sir Thomas Seymour, brother of the
king's third wife, who became Lord High Admiral in Edward's reign.
Katharine undoubtedly intended to become his wife, but as she
afterwards wrote, her "will was over-ruled by a higher power."

On the 20th June of the same year, Lady Latimer and her sister Mrs.
Herbert were at court "with my Lady Mary's Grace and my Lady
Elizabeth," and the next mention of her is in a licence of Thomas,
Archbishop of Canterbury, "authorised thereto by parliament to Henry
VIII. (who has deigned to marry the Lady Katharine, late wife of Lord
Latimer deceased) to have the marriage solemnised in any church,
chapel, or oratory, without the issue of banns." It took place on the
12th July following, in an upper oratory called the Queen's Privy
Closet, within the honour of Hampton Court, Gardiner, Bishop of
Winchester, officiating.

"Anne of Cleves [wrote Chapuys to Charles V.], would like to be in her
sherte [shroud] so to speak, with her mother, having especially taken
great grief and despair at the king's espousal of this last wife, who
is not nearly so beautiful as she, besides that there is no hope of
issue, seeing that she had none with her two former husbands."

Others, besides the poor, discarded Lady Anne were also in tribulation,
and a letter from one of the Lutherans in England to Henry Bullinger,
the reformer, reports that "the king has within these two months burnt



Online LibraryJ.M. StoneStudies from Court and Cloister: being essays, historical and literary dealing mainly with subjects relating to the XVIth and XVIIth centuries → online text (page 4 of 28)