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The Reign of Queen Mary

Accession and deposition of the Lady Jane Grey--First entering of Queen Mary to the crown--Alterations of religion, and other perturbances happening the same time in England.

The attention of British protestants is now called to a period of church history which cannot fail to awaken in their hearts that sympathy for their ancestors, which at present lies dormant in too many bosoms. A long career of religious prosperity appears to have obliterated from their minds the cruel persecutions of their forefathers, who for them bled in every vein--for them were consigned to devouring flames in every part of their country--preparing and establishing for their descendants, by the sacrifice of themselves, genuine liberty of person and of conscience. And while we review with gratitude and admiration effects produced by such causes, let us learn to appreciate those blessings which, by the continued providence of God, we have so long enjoyed.

It has been asserted by Roman catholics, that all those who suffered death during the reign of queen Mary, had been adjudged guilty of high treason, in consequence of their having stood up in defence of lady Jane Grey's title to the crown. To disprove this, however, is no difficult matter, since every one conversant in history must know, that those who are tried on the statute of treason are to be hanged or beheaded. How can even papists affirm that ever men in England were burned for this crime? Some few suffered death in the ordinary way of process at common law, for their adherence to lady Jane; but none of those were burned. Why, if traitors, were they taken before the bishops, who have no power to judge in criminal cases? Even allowing the bishops, as peers, to have had power to judge, yet their own bloody statute did not empower them to execute. The proceedings against the martyrs are still extant, and they were carried on directly according to the forms prescribed by their own statute. There was not one of those burned in England ever accused of high-treason, much less were they tried at common law. And this should teach the reader to value a history of transactions in their own country, particularly of their blessed martyrs, in order that they may be able to see through the veil which falsehood has cast over the face of truth. It should also be observed, that Mary's title to the throne was acknowledge by a very large number whom she burned as heretics, and that none of her burnings were considered necessary to render her throne and crown secure.

What time king Edward, by long sickness, became more feeble and weak, the marriage was provided, concluded, and shortly after solemnized in May, 1553, between the lord Guilfor, son of the duke of Northumberland, and lady Jane Grey, daughter of the duke of Suffolk, and grand-niece of Henry VIII. When king Edward was dead, this lady Jane was established in the kingdom by the nobles' consent, and proclaimed queen at London, and in other cities where was any great resort. In the meantime, while things were working at London, Mary, who had knowledge of her brother's death, wrote to the lords of the council, reminding them of her title to the crown, and complaining the preparations made to withstand her. "Wherefore, my lords," she concluded, "we require you, and charge you and every one of you, that of your allegiance which you owe to God and us, and to none other, for our honour and the surety of our person, only employ yourselves; and forthwith, upon receipt hereof, cause our right and title to the crown and government of this realm to be proclaimed in our city of London and other places, as to your wisdom shall seem good, and as to this case appertaineth; not failing hereof, as our very trust is in you. And this letter, signed with our hand, shall be your sufficient warrant in this behalf."

To this letter the lords of the council replied, that after king Edward's death the lady Jane was invested with and possessed the just right and title to the imperial crown by the ancient laws of the realm, and also by the late king's letters patent, sealed with the great seal of England in presence of the most part of the nobles, councillors, and judges, with divers others grave and sage personages, assenting and subscribing to the same; and that they must therefore, as of most bounded duty and allegiance, assent unto her said grace, and to none other. At the same time reminding the lady Mary, that the marriage between her father and the lady Katharine being declared null, she was justly made illegitimate and uninheritable to the crown. "Wherefore," they said, "we can no less do, but, for the quiet both of the realm and you also, advertise you to surcease by any pretence to vex and molest any of our sovereign lady queen Jane's subjects from their true faith and allegiance due unto her grace: assuring you, that if you will for respect show yourself quiet and obedient, (as you ought,) you shall find us all and several ready to do you any service that we with duty may, and be glad, with your quietness, to preserve the common state of this realm, wherein you may be otherwise grievous unto us, to yourself, and to them. And thus we bid you most heartily well to fare, your ladyship's friends, showing yourself an obedient subject. From the Tower of London, in this ninth of July, 1553."

This letter was signed by Canterbury, Winchester, Ely, Northumberland, Bedford, Northampton, Suffolk, Arundel, Shrewsbury, Pembroke, Riche, and twelve other lords of the council. On receiving which the lady Mary withdrew into Norfolk and Suffolk, where the duke of Northumberland was hated for the service that had been done there under king Edward, in subduing the rebels; and there, gathering to her such aid of the common people on every side as she might, kept herself close for a space within Framlingham castle. Here she was joined by many who promised her their aid, on condition that she would not attempt the alteration of the religion established by king Edward. This was readily agreed to by Mary; upon which they asserted her right, and she promised to maintain the true religion, and the laws of the land.

Northumberland's proceeding against the duke of Somerset, and the suspicions that lay on him as the author of the late king's untimely death, begat a great aversion in the people to him, which disposed them to set up queen Mary. She in the mean time was very active. She gathered all in the neighbouring counties about her. The men of Suffolk were generally for the reformation, and a great body of them came to her, and asked if she would promise not to alter the religion established in king Edward's days. She assured them she would make no changes; but should be content with the private exercise of her own religion. Upon this they all vowed to live and die with her. The earl of Sussex and several others, raised forces and proclaimed her queen. When this reached the knowledge of the council, they sent the earl of Huntingdon's brother to raise men in Buckinghamshire, and meet the forces that should be sent from London, at Newmarket.

The duke of Northumberland was ordered to command the army. He was now much distracted in his thoughts; for it was of equal importance to keep London and the privy counsellors steady, and to conduct the army well: a misfortune in either of these was likely to be fatal to him. He was at a loss what to do: not a man of spirit who was firm to him could be left behind; and yet it was most necessary to disperse the force that was daily growing about queen Mary. The lady Jane and the council were removed to the Tower, not only for state, but for security; for here the council were upon the matter prisoners. He could do no more, but lay a strict charge on the council to be firm to lady Jane's interests. He therefore marched out of London with 2000 horse, and 6000 foot, on the 14th of July: but no acclamations or wishes of success were to be heard as he passed through the streets. The council gave the emperor notice of the lady Jane's succession, and complained of the disturbance that was raised by Mary, and that his ambassador had officiously meddled in their affairs; but the emperor would not receive the letters. Mary's party in the mean time continued daily to augment. Hastings went over to her with 4000 men out of Buckinghamshire, and she was proclaimed queen in many places. At length the privy council began to see their danger, and to think how to avoid it. The earl of Arundel hated Northumberland. The marquis of Winchester was dexterous in shifting sides for his advantage. The earl of Pembroke's son had married the lady Jane's sister, which made him think it necessary to redeem the danger he was in by a speedy turn. To these many others were joined. They pretended it was necessary to give an audience to the foreign ambassadors' who would not have it in the Tower: and the earl of Pembroke's house was chosen, he being least suspected.

When they got out, they resolved to declare for queen Mary, and rid themselves of Northumberland's uneasy yoke, which they knew they must bear if he were victorious. They sent for the lord mayor and aldermen, and easily gained their concurrence. They then went immediately to Cheapside, and proclaimed the queen; and from thence they went to St. Paul's, where Te deum was sung. They sent next to the Tower, requiring the duke of Suffolk to quit the government of that place, and the lady Jane to lay down the title of queen. To this she submitted with as much greatness of mind as her father shewed of abjectness. They sent also orders to Northumberland to dismiss his forces, and to obey Mary as queen; and the earl of Arundel and lord Paget were sent to carry these welcome tidings to her. When Northumberland heard of the change that was in London, he disbanded his forces, went to the market-place at Cambridge, where he then was, and proclaimed the queen. The earl of Arundel was sent to apprehend him, and when he was brought to him, in the most servile manner he fell at his feet to beg his favour. He and three of his sons, and Sir Thomas Palmer--his wicked instrument against the duke of Somerset--were all sent to the Tower. All people now flocked to implore the queen's favour, and Ridley among the rest; but he too was sent to the Tower: for she was both offended with him for his sermon, and resolved to put Bonner again in the see of London. Some of the judges, and several noblemen were also sent to the Tower; among the rest the duke of Suffolk, who was three days after set at liberty. He was a weak man, and could do little harm, he was consequently chosen as the first instance towards whom the queen should express her clemency.

She came to London on the 3rd of August, and on the way was met by her sister, lady Elizabeth, with a thousand horse, whom she had raised to come to the queen's assistance. On arriving at the Tower, she liberated the duke of Norfolk, the duchess of Somerset, and Gardiner; also the lord Courtenay, son to the mrquis of Exeter, who had been kept there ever since his father's attainder, whom she made earl of Devonshire. In this easy manner was Mary I. seated on the throne of England. To a disagreeable person and weak mind, she united bigotry, superstition, and cruelty. She seems to have inherited more of her mother's than her father's qualities. Henry was impatient, rough, and ungovernable; but Catherine, while she assumed the character of a saint, harboured bitter rancour and hatred against the protestants. It was the same with her daughter Mary, as appears from a letter in her own hand-writing, now in the British museum. In this letter, which is addressed to bishop Gardiner, she declares her fixed intention of burning every protestant; and it contains an insinuation, that as soon as circumstances would permit, she would restore back to the church the lands that had been taken from the convents. This, however, discovers an ignorance, equalled only by her tyranny, for the convents had been demolished, except a few of their churches; and the rents were in the hands of the first nobility, who, rather than part with them, would have overturned the government both in church and state.

On some occasions Mary had discovered no small degree of subtilty. During her father's life, "The king's displeasure at her was such," says bishop Burnet, "that neither the duke of Norfolk no Gardiner durst venture to intercede for her." Cranmer was the only man who hazarded it, and did it effectually. But after her mother's death, she hearkened to other counsels, so that upon Anne Boleyn's fall, she made a full submission to her father, as was mentioned before. She did also in many letters which she writ both to her father and to Cromwell, "Protest great sorrow for her former stubbornness, and declared, that she put her soul in his hand, and that her conscience should be always directed by him; and being asked what her opinion was concerning pilgrimages, purgatory, and reliques, she answered, that she had no opinion, but such as she received from the king, who had her whole heart in his keeping, and might imprint upon it in these and in all other matters whatever his inestimable virtue, high wisdom, and excellent learning, should think convenient for her." So perfectly had she learned the style that she knew was most acceptable to her father.

Her promise to the Suffolk men also shewed the craft of her character, which was eqalled only by its cruelty. The sword of power being now in her hand, she began to employ it against those who had supported the title of lady Jane Grey. This devoted victim remained with her husband, lord Guildford, almost five months in the Tower, waiting her pleasure. The duke of Northumberland had offers of pardon on condition of renouncing his religion and hearing mass; which he not only did, but also exhorted the people to return to the catholic faith. Notwithstanding this, within a month after confinement he was condemned and beheaded. The papists immediately published and spread abroad his recantation; but the duke, in consequence of his crimes arising from a sordid ambition, died unpitied; nay, he was insulted on the scaffold by those who remembered in what manner he had acted to their beloved Somerset.

Sir Thomas Palmer and Sir John Gates were the next who suffered. The former confessed his faith in the reformed religion, and lamented that he had not lived more conformably to its precepts. Mary having thus begun her reign with the blood of these men, and with hearing mass in the Tower, clearly evinced the career in which she intended to proceed, and that she should but little regard the promise she had made to the Suffolk men. Besides these ill omens, there were other things which every day more and more discomfited the people, and which too plainly betrayed the queen's aversion to the reformation. Gardiner was made lord chancellor and bishop of Winchester. Bonner was advanced to the bishopric of London, by displacing Ridley. Day was promoted to the see of Durham, by displacing Scory. Tonstal was made bishop of Chichester, and Heath bishop of Worcester: Hooper was committed to the Fleet; and Vesie was made bishop of Exeter, by removing Miles Coverdale. All these innovation greatly alarmed the protestants, and afforded equal rejoicings to their enemies. Having thus laid the foundation of her reign in blood and treachery, Mary removed from the Tower to Hampton-court, and caused a parliament to be summoned on the 10th of October ensuing.

We have mentioned Dr. Ridley, bishop of London, among those who were removed. He was a learned and pious prelate, who in the time of queen Jane, by order of the council, preached a sermon at Paul's Cross, declaring his opinion concerning the lady Mary, and enumerating the evils that might arise by admitting her to the crown: prophesying, as it were, that she would bring in a foreign power to reign over them, and subvert the christian religion then happily established. This, with another sermon after things were changed, disconcerted the queen beyond measure. The Sunday following her accession to the throne, Mr. Rogers preached, discoursing very learnedly on the gospel for the day. Whereupon Mary, perceiving things not to go forward according to her mind, consulted with her council how to bring about by other means, what by open law she could not well accomplish; and accordingly, by proclamation, prohibited any man from preaching or reading openly the word of God in churches, except by licence, which Gardiner took care to give only to such as would conform to his doctrine. The clergy differed in opinion how far they were bound to obey this prohibition: some thought they might forbear public preaching when they were so required, if they made it up by private conferences and instructions: others thought, that if this had been only a particular hardship upon a few, regard to peace and order should have obliged them to submit to it; but since it was general, and done on purpose to extinguish the light of the gospel, they ought to go on, and preach at their peril. Of this last sort several were put in prison for their disobedience, among others Hooper and Coverdale.

On the 22d of August, the queen declared in council, That though she was fixed in her own religion, yet she would not compel others to its observance; but would leave that to the motions of God's Spirit, and the labours of good preachers. The day after Bonner went to St. Paul's, and Bourne his chaplain preached, and extolled Bonner much, inveighing against the sufferings he had undergone. He took occasion from the gospel of the day to speak largely in justification of Bonner, saying that four years ago he had preached from the same text, and in the same place, for which he was most cruelly and unjustly cast into that most vile dungeon the Marshalsea, where he was confined during the reign of king Edward. The sermon provoked his hearers so as to cause them to murmur and stir in such a sort, that the mayor and aldermen feared an uproar: some cast stones at the preacher, and one hurled a dagger at him. In short, the tumult became so violent that Bourne was silenced, broke off his discourse, and durst no more appear in that place; his discourse tended much to the dispraise of king Edward, which the people could in no wise endure. Mr. Bradford then stood forth, at the request of Mr. Bourne's brother, and spoke so mildly and effectually to the people, that with a few words quite pacified them. This done, he and Mr. Rogers conducted Mr. Bourne home; for which generous conduct they were both, shortly after, rewarded with long imprisonment, and at last with fire in Smithfield, under the pretence, that the authority they shewed in quelling the tumult was a proof of their being the authors of it!

It has already been intimated that all the pulpits were now put under an interdict, till the preachers should obtain a licence from Gardiner: and that he resolved to grant licences to none but such as would preach as he should direct them. His conduct encouraged the papists generally, and in their love of ancient rites and superstitions they began speedily to replace their images, and to revive their ceremonies in many of the churches. Every thing in fact seemed to threaten a subversion of the reformation, and the immediate re-establishment of all the errors and enormities of the Romish church.