« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
of placing Elizabeth on the throne as sole sovereign. Even her near relatives, her half-brother Dorset, and her uncle Lionel Woodville, bishop of Salisbury, when they raised the standard of revolt against Richard III. at Salisbury, (simultaneously with Buckingham's rebellion in the autumn of 1483,) proclaimed the Earl Richmond Henry VII., although he was a distant exile, who had done no more for the cause than taken an oath to marry Elizabeth, if he ever had it in his power. As these nobles had but just escaped from sanctuary, which they had shared with Elizabeth of York and her mother, and must have recently and intimately known their plans and wishes, this utter silence on her claims as the heiress of Edward IV. is the more surprising. In truth, it affords another remarkable instance of the manner in which Norman prejudice in favour of Salic law had corrupted the common or constitutional law of England regarding the succes, sion. The violation of this ancient national law had given rise to the most bloody civil wars which had vexed the country since the conquest.
Taking a considerable leap, we next copy out the account of the first interview of the unfortunate Katharine of Arragon, with the house of Tudor. A number of curious incidents crowd into the narrative; while the impression which it conveys of the extent to which the Moorish customs influenced the Spaniards in their bearing to the fair sex, cannot escape the attention of the historical student. This is the account of Henry the Seventh and Prince Arthur's interview with Katharine :
Next morning, the royal personages set forth again on a journey which was truly performed at a snail's gallop, and proceeded to the plains, (perhaps the downs,) when the prothonotary of Spain and a party of Spanish cavaliers were seen pacing over them, bound on a most solemn errand : this was no other than to forbid the approach of the royal bridegroom and his father to the presence of the Infanta, who, in the true Moorish fashion, was not to be looked upon by her betrothed till she stood at the altar; nay, it seems doubtful if the veil of the princess was to be raised, or the eye of man to look upon her, till she was a wife. This truly Asiatic injunction of King Ferdinand threw the whole royal party into consternation, and brought them to a dead halt. King Henry was formal and ceremonious enough in all reason, but such a mode of proceeding was wholly repugnant to him as an English-born prince. Therefore, after some minutes musing, he called round him in the open fields those nobles who were of his Privy Council, and propounded to them this odd dilemma. Although the pitiless rains of November were bepelting them, the Council delivered their opinions in very wordy harangues. The result was, " that the Spanish Infanta being now in the heart of this realm, of which King Henry was master, he might look at her if he liked." This advice Henry the Seventh took to the very letter; for, leaving the prince his son upon the downs, he made the best of his way forth with to Dogmersfield, the next town; where the Infanta had arrived two or three hours previously. The king's demand of seeing Katharine put all her retinue into a terrible perplexity. She seems to have been attended by the same train of prelates
and nobles enumerated by Bernaldes; for a Spanish archbishop, a bishop' and a count, opposed the king's entrance to her apartments, saying, “The lady Infanta had retired to her chamber;" but King Henry, whose curiosity seems to have been thoroughly excited by the prohibition, protested that “ if she were even in her bed he meant to see and speak to her, for that was his mind and the whole intent of his coming."
Finding the English monarch thus determined, the Infanta rose and dressed herself, and gave the king audience in her third chamber. Neither the king nor his intended daughter-in-law could address each other in an intelligible dialect : “ but,” pursues our informant, who was evidently an eye-witness of the scene, " there were the most goodly words uttered to each other, in the language of both parties, to as great joy and gladness as any persons conveniently might have." “ After the which welcomes ended, the king's grace deposed his riding-garments and changed them, and within half an hour the prince was announced as present;" Arthur being, it may be presumed, tired of waiting in a November evening on the downs. “ Then the king made his second entry with the prince into the next chamber of the Infanta ; and there, through the interpretation of the bishops, the speeches of both countries, by the means of Latin, were understood.” Prince Arthur and the Infanta had been previously betrothed by proxy; the king now caused them to pledge their troth in person ; and this ceremony over, he withdrew with the prince to supper.
Here follows the story of certain courtly amusements :
The diversions began with grand pageants of a mountain, a castle, and a ship, which were severally wheeled in before the royal dais. The ship was manned by mariners, “ who took care to speak wholly in seafaring terms." The castle was lighted inside gloriously, and had eight fresh gentlewomen within, each looking out of a window. At the top of the castle sat a representative of Katharine of Arragon herself, in a Spanish garb. The castle was drawn by marvellous beasts, gold and silver lions harnessed with huge gold chains ; but, lest the reader should be dubious regarding the possibility of such lions, the narrator (who must have been behind the scenes and would have been a worthy assistant to master Snug the joiner) explains discreetly, “ that in each of the marvellous beasts were two men, one in the fore and the other in the hind quarters, so well hid and apparelled that nothing appeared but their legs, which were disguised after the proportion and kind of the beast they were in.” Meantime, the representative of Katharine was much courted “ by two wellbehaved and well-beseen gentlemen, who called themselves Hope and Desire ;" but were treated by the bride's double with the greatest disdain. At last, all differences ended, like other ballets, with a great deal of capering; for the ladies came out of the castle, and the gentlemen from the ship and mountain, and danced a grand set of twenty-four with “goodly roundels and divers figures, and then vanished out of sight and presence."
* This term means they were dressed in new clothes, or new fashions.
Our next furnishes an attractive picture of the future bluff monarch, together with a proof of his caprice. He afterwards threw off his spouses with the recklessness which characterized his treatment of his robe.
Then came down Prince Arthur and the Princess Cecily his aunt, " and danced two bass dances, and then departed up again, the prince to his father and lady Cecil to the queen her sister." Eftsoons came down the bride, the Princess Katharine, and one of her ladies with her, apparelled likewise in Spanish garb, and danced other two bass dances, and then both departed up to the queen. It is possible these were Basque dances ; Katharine had been in England long enough for the introduction of her national dances. Lastly, Henry Duke of York, having with him his sister lady Margaret, the young queen of Scots, in his hand, came down and danced two dances, and went up to the queen. It appears the dancing of this pretty pair gave such satisfaction that it was renewed ; when the young duke, finding himself encumbered with his dress,“ suddenly threw off his robe and danced in his jacket with the said lady Margaret, in so goodly and pleasant a manner, that it was to King Henry and Queen Elizabeth great and singular pleasure. Then the duke departed up to the king, and the Princess Margaret to the queen." The parental pride and pleasure at the performance of their children manifested by Henry the Seventh and his queen, slightly as it is mentioned here, affords some proof of their domestic happiness.
Behold Henry in frolicsome humour when a youthful monarch:
While this fine fancy ball was performing, a very different scene was transacting at the lower end of the Whitehall. The golden arbour, which was intended to receive again the illustrious performers, had been rolled back to the end of the hall; where stood a vast crowd of the London populace, who were the constant witnesses of the grand doings of the English Court in the middle ages, and, indeed, on some occasions seem to have assimilated with the chorus of the Greek drama. Their proceedings this evening were, however, not quite so dignified : the arbour of gold having been rolled incautiously within reach of their acquisitive fingers, the foremost began to pluck and pull at its fine ornaments ; at last they made a regular inbreak, and completely stripped the pageant of all its ornaments ; nor could the Lord-Steward of the palace repel these intruders without having recourse to a degree of violence which must have disturbed the royal ballet. Meantime, the king and his band, having finished their stately pavons and corantos high " with the utmost success, his Majesty, in high good humour, bade the ladies come forward and pluck the golden letters and devices from his dress and that of his company. Little did the young king imagine what pickers and stealers were within hearing; for scarcely had he given leave for this courtly scramble, when forward rushed the plebeian intruders, and seizing not only on him, but his noble guests, plucked them bare of every glittering thing on their dresses with inconceivable celerity : what was worse, the
poor ladies were despoiled of their jewels, and the king was stripped to his doublet and drawers. As for the unfortunate Sir Thomas Knevet, who climbed on a high place, and fought for his finery, the mob carried off all his clothes. At last the guards succeeded in clearing the hall, without bloodshed. The king, laughing heartily, handed the queen to the banquet in his own chamber ; when the court sat down in their tattered condition, treating the whole scramble as a frolic, the king declaring that they must consider their losses as largess to the commonalty.
Such was a specimen of Henry's robust humour when it pleased him to make sport, and to indulge the commonalty, with whom, in fact, he contrived to preserve a very considerable amount of popularity. It was his courtiers, his ministers, and his wives, that had most cause to dread his tyranny. Let us take a stride in order to catch some glimpses of the embarrassments to which even he himself was reduced in the course of his matrimonial changes. Anne of Cleves and Katharine Howard are the queens, concerning whom, the following long extract enters into details :
Within sixteen months after Anne of Cleves had been compelled to resign the crown matrimonial of England, the fall of her fair successor took place. When the news reached Anne's quiet court at Richmond, of the explosion which had filled the royal bowers of Hampton with confusion, and precipitated Queen Katharine from a throne to a prison, the excitement among the female portion of Anne's household could not be restrained. The domestic troubles of the king were regarded by them as an immediate visitation of retributive justice for the unfounded aspersions he had cast upon their virtuous mistress : the feelings of some of these ladies carried them so far beyond the bounds of prudence, that two of them, Jane Batsey and Elizabeth Basset, were summoned before the council, and committed to prison, for having said, “What! is God working his own work to make Lady_ Anne of Cleves queen again ?" Jane Batsey added many praises of the Lady Anne, with disqualifying remarks on Queen Katharine, and said, “it was impossible that so sweet a queen as Lady Anne could be utterly put down;" to which Elizabeth Basset rejoined,
What a man the king is! How many wives will he have ?" The ladies were very sternly questioned by the council, as to their motives in presuming to utter such audacious coinments on the matrimonial affairs of the sovereign. On which Elizabeth Basset, being greatly alarmed, endeavoured to excuse herself by saying she was so greatly astounded at the tidings of Queen Katharine's naughty behaviour, that she must have lost her senses when she permitted herself to give utterance to the treasonable words, “ What a man the king is ! How many more wives will he have ?" Two days after, a more serious matter connected with Anne was brought before the council; for it was confidently reported that she had been brought to bed
“ faire boye,” of which the king was the father; but that she had neither apprised him nor his cabinet of the fact. This rumour threw both Henry and his council into great perplexity, especially as the capricious monarch had honoured his discarded consort with several private visits at
heř palace of Richmond ; and it is moreover evident, that Anne had actually passed some days at the royal residence at Hampton Court as the guest of Henry and his young queen, which seemed to give a colour to the tale. Henry expressed himself as highly displeased with the ladies and officers of state at Richmond, for not having apprised him of the supposed situation of the ex-queen. The affair came to nothing, and proved to be an unfounded scandal, which originated in some impertinent busy-body's comment on an illness that confined poor Anne to her bed at this momentous period. The said scandal was traced by the council, from one inveterate gossip to another, through no less than six persons, as we learn from the following minute of their proceedings, forming a curious interlude in the examinations touching Henry's other queen, Katharine Howard. “We examined also, partly before dinner and partly after, a new matter, being a report that the Lady Anne of Cleves should be delivered of a fair boy, and whose should it be but the king's majesty, which is a most abominable slander, and for this time necessary to be met withal. This matter was told to Taverner of the signet more than a fortnight ago, both by his mother-in-law, Lambert's wife the goldsmith, and by Taverner's own wife, who saith she heard it of Lilgrave's wife, and Lambert's wife heard it also of the old Lady Carew. Taverner kept it (concealed it,) but they (the women,) with others, have made it common matter of talk. Taverner never revealed it till Sunday night, at which time he told it to Dr. Cox, to be further declared if he thought good, who immediately disclosed it to me the lord privy seal. We have committed Taverner to the custody of me the bishop of Winchester ; likewise Lambert's wife (who seemeth to have been a dunce in it) to Mr. the chancellor of the argumentations." Absurd as the report was, it made a wonderful impression on the mind of the king, who occupied a ludicrous position in the eyes of Europe, as the husband of two living wives, who were both the subjects of a delicate investigation at the same moment. The attention of the privy council was distracted between the evidences on the respective charges against the rival queens for nearly a fortnight; a fact that has never been named in history. How obstinate Henry's suspicions of his ill-treated Flemish consort were, may be seen by the following order to his council :-“ His majesty thinketh it requisite to have it groundly (thoroughly) examined, and further ordered by your discretions, as the manner of the case requireth, to inquire diligently whether the said Anne of Cleves hath indeed had any child or no, as it is bruited (reported); for his majesty hath been informed that it is so indeed, in which part his majesty imputeth a great default in her officers for not advising his highness thereof, if it be true. Not doubting but your lordships will groundly examine the same, and finding out the truth of the whole matter, will advise his majesty thereof accordingly." Dorothy Winfield, one of the Lady Anne's bed-chamber women, and the officers of her household, were subjected to a strict examination before the council ; and it was not till the 30th of December that they came to the decision, that Frances Lilgrave, widow, having slandered the Lady Anne of Cleves, and touched also the king's person, she affirming to have heard the report of others, whom she refused to name, should be for her punishment committed to the Tower, and Richard Taverner, clerk of the signet.