Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

them with his white wand and looked inquiringly at his companion. Shrewsbury whispered that they were the remains of two abscesses from which she had suffered

while living with him at Sheffield. 24 When the psalm was finished, she felt for the block,

and laying down her head, muttered, “In manus, Domine tuas, commendo animam meam." The hard wood seemed to hurt her, for she placed her hands under her neck. The executioners gently removed them, lest they should

deaden the blow, and then, one of them holding her 25 slightly, the other raised the axe and struck. The scene

had been too trying even for the practiced headsman of the Tower. His arm wandered. The blow fell on the knot of the handkerchief, and scarcely broke the skin. She neither spoke nor moved. He struck again, this time effectively. The head hung by a shred of skin, which he divided without withdrawing the axe; and at once a metamorphosis was witnessed strange as was ever wrought by wand of fabled enchanter. The coif fell off, and the false plaits. The labored illusion vanished. The lady who had knelt before the block was in the maturity of grace and loveliness. The executioner, when he raised the head, as usual, to show it to the crowd, exposed the withered features of a grizzled, wrinkled old

woman.

26

“So perish all enemies of the Queen!” said the Dean of Peterborough. A loud“ Amen!” rose over the hall. “Such end,” said the Earl of Kent, rising and standing over the body, “to the Queen's and the Gospel's ene

mies!” 27 Orders had been given that everything which she had

worn should be immediately destroyed, that no relics should be carried off to work imaginary miracles. Sentinels stood at the doors who allowed no one to pass out

without permission; and after the first pause, the earls still keeping their places, the body was stripped. It then 28 appeared that a favorite lap-dog had followed its mistress unperceived, and was concealed under her clothes; when discovered, it gave a short cry, and seated itself between the head and the neck, from which the blood was still flowing. It was carried away and carefully washed, and then beads, paternoster, handkerchief-each particle of dress which the blood had touched-with the cloth on the block and on the scaffold, was burnt in the hall fire in the presence of the crowd. The scaffold itself was 29 next removed; a brief account of the execution was drawn up, with which Henry Talbot, Lord Shrewsbury's son, was sent to London, and then every one was dismissed. Silence settled down on Fotheringay, and the last scene of the life of Mary Stuart, in which tragedy and melodrama were so strangely intermingled, was over.

[blocks in formation]

To vindicate the fame of Henry VIII, and to reverse all our conceptions of his character, is one of the principal objects aimed at by Froude in his history. His ingenious and elaborate attempt to “make the worse appear the better reason” has proved a signal failure. No artistic delineation or dramatic coloring can transform a tyrant into a hero.

NATURE had been prodigal to him of her rarest gifts. 1 In person he is said to have resembled his grandfather, Edward IV, who was the handsomest man in Europe. His form and bearing were princely, and amid the easy

freedom of his address, his manner remained majestic. No knight in England could match him in the tournament except the Duke of Suffolk ; he drew with ease as strong a bow as was borne by any yeoman of his guard, and these powers were sustained in unfailing vigor by a temperate habit and by constant exercise. Of his intellectual ability we are not left to judge from the suspicious panegyrics of his contemporaries. His state papers and letters may be placed by the side of those of Wolsey or of Cromwell, and they lose nothing in the comparison. Though they are broadly different, the perception is equally clear, the expression equally powerful, and they 2 breathe throughout an irresistible vigor of purpose. In addition to this, he had a fine musical taste, carefully cultivated; he spoke and wrote in four languages; and his knowledge of a multitude of other subjects, with which his versatile ability made him conversant, would have formed the reputation of any ordinary man. He was among the best physicians of his age. He was his own engineer, inventing improvements in artillery, and new constructions in ship-building; and this not with the condescending incapacity of a royal amateur, but with thorough workmanlike understanding. His reading was vast, especially in theology, which has been ridiculously ascribed by Lord Herbert to his father's intention of educating him for the archbishopric of Canterbury—as if the scientific mastery of such a subject could have been acquired by a boy of twelve

years

of
age,

for he was no more when he became Prince of Wales He must have studied theology with the full maturity of his understanding; and he had a fixed, and perhaps unfortunate, interest in the subject itself. 3 In all directions of human activity Henry displayed natural powers of the highest order, at the highest stretch

of industrious culture. He was “attentive," as it is called,“ to his religious duties,” being present at the services in the chapel two or three times a day with unfailing regularity, and showing to outward appearance a real sense of religious obligation in the energy and purity of his life. In private, he was good-humored and goodnatured. His letters to his secretaries, though never undignified, are simple, easy, and unrestrained; and the letters written by them to him are similarly plain and business-like, as if the writers knew that the

person

whom they were addressing disliked compliments, and chose to be treated as a man. Again, from their correspondence with one another, when they describe interviews with him, we gather the same pleasant impression. He seems to have been always kind, always considerate, inquiring into their private concerns with genuine interest, and winning, as a consequence, their warm and unaffected attachment.

As a ruler, he had been eminently popular. All his 4 wars had been successful. He had the splendid tastes in which the English people most delighted, and he had substantially acted out his own theory of his duty, which was expressed in the following words :

“Scripture taketh princes to be, as it were, fathers and nurses to their subjects, and by Scripture it appeareth that it appertaineth unto the office of princes to see that right religion and true doctrine be maintained and taught, and that their subjects may be well ruled and governed by good and just laws; and to provide and care for them that all things necessary for them may be plenteous; and that the people and commonweal may increase; and to defend them from oppression and invasion, as well within the realm as without; and to see that justice be administered unto them indifferently; and to hear

benignly all their complaints; and to shew toward them, although they offend, fatherly pity. And, finally, so to correct them that the evil that they had, yet rather save them than lose them, if it were not for respect of justice, and maintenance of peace and good order in the commonweal.” 5 These principles do really appear to have determined

Henry's conduct in his earlier years. He had more than once been tried with insurrection, which he had soothed down without bloodshed, and extinguished in forgiveness; and London long recollected the great scene which followed “evil May-day," 1517, when the apprentices were brought down to Westminster Hall to receive their pardons. There had been a dangerous riot in the streets, which might have provoked a mild government to severity, but the King contented himself with punishing the five ringleaders; and four hundred other prisoners, after being paraded down the streets in white shirts with halters round their necks, were dismissed with an admoni

tion, Wolsey weeping as he pronounced it. 6 It is certain that, if he had died before the divorce

was mooted, Henry VIII, like that Roman emperor said by Tacitus to have been consensu omnium dignus imperii nisi imperasset, would have been considered by posterity as formed by Providence for the conduct of the Reformation, and his loss would have been deplored as a perpetual calamity. We must allow him, therefore, the benefit of his past career, and be careful to remember it when interpreting his later actions. Not many men would have borne themselves through the same trials with the same

integrity; but the circumstances of those trials had not y tested the true defects in his moral constitution. Like

all princes of the Plantagenet blood, he was a person of a most intense and imperious will. His impulses, in

« ElőzőTovább »