CHAPTER XIV. MARY (i), 1553-55 - THE SPANISH MARRIAGE

[The Marian Tragedies]

From first to last, Tragedy is the note of the reign of England's first Queen regnant: the human interest is so intense that the political and religious issues seem, great as they were, to sink into the background of the picture, mere accessories of the stage on which are presented the immortal figures of Doom. First is the tragedy of the sweet-souled and most innocent child, Lady Jane Grey, sacrificed to the self-seeking ambition of shameless intriguers. Then the tragedy of the Martyrs - of Rowland Taylor, of Ridley and Latimer, of Ferrar and Hooper, of many another of less note, who died for the Glory of God, giving joyful testimony to the faith that was in them; the tragedy of Cranmer, the gentle soul of wavering courage, the man born to pass peaceful days in cloistered shades, torn from them to be the unwilling pilot of revolution, who at the tenth hour fell as Peter fell, yet at the last rose to the noblest height. Last, and greatest, the tragedy of the royal-hearted woman whose passionate human love was answered only with cold scorn; who won her throne by the loyalty of her people only to bring upon her name such hate as attaches to but two or three other English monarchs; who, for the wrongs done to her personally, showed almost unexampled clemency, yet, shrinking not to shed blood like water in what she deemed a sacred cause, is popularly branded for ever amongst the tyrants of the earth; who, sacrificing her own heart in that cause, died in the awakening knowledge that by her own deeds it was irreparably ruined. No monarch has ever more utterly subordinated personal interests, personal affections, all that makes life desirable, to a passionate sense of duty; none ever failed more utterly to work anything but unmixed woe.

[1553 (July) Proclamation of Queen Jane]

Northumberland's plans had been carefully laid. The military forces were at the service of the Government. The whole Council - with varying degrees of sincerity and reluctance - had endorsed his scheme; the persons of its members were apparently at his mercy; he meant also to have Mary safely bestowed in the Tower before any opposition could be organised. The foreign ambassadors, and their masters, hardly dreamed that there was any alternative course to submission. Neither they nor Northumberland realised the intensity of the general feeling in Mary's favour, or its practical force; nor did they appreciate the capacity of Henry Tudor's daughters for rising to an emergency. On the day of Edward's death, Mary was on her way to London, when she was met with the secret warning that all was over. She turned and rode hard for safer country, just escaping the party who had been sent out to secure her. Jane Grey, the sixteen-year-old bride of a few days, was summoned to the throne by the Council; every person about her implored her to claim what they called her right and fulfil her duty in accepting the crown: what else could she do? Yet, child as she was, they found to their indignant astonishment that she would not move a hair's-breadth from the path her conscience approved. She knew enough to refuse point blank the notion that her young husband should be crowned King. The men of affairs, of religion, of law, having unanimously affirmed that the heritage of royalty was hers, she could not dispute it; but no one could pretend that the heritage was his. Her refusal was of ill omen for Northumberland's ascendancy, and the ill omens multiplied.

[Sidenote 1: The people support Mary] [Sidenote 2: Collapse of the Plot]

The refusal was given on the evening following the proclamation of Lady Jane as Queen: even at the proclamation, a 'prentice was bold enough to remark aloud that the Lady Mary's title was the better. That same night, a letter arrived from Mary herself, claiming the allegiance of the Council in true queenly style. They were not yet prepared to defy Northumberland, and a reply was penned the next day affirming Lady Jane's title. Two of the Duke's sons were already in pursuit of Mary, and a general impression prevailed that they had captured her and were on their way to London. They had indeed reached her, but their whole force promptly acclaimed her as queen, and the Dudleys had to fly for their lives. The Eastern midlands and the home counties were gathering in arms to her support. It was necessary to take the field without delay, but of those members of the Council who were fit to command there was none on whom Northumberland could rely, when once out of his reach. The Duke must go himself. On the eighth day after Edward's death, the fourth after the proclamation of Lady Jane, he rode gloomily from London at the head of a force which he mistrusted, without a plaudit from the populace which, for all its Protestantism, listened with apathy two days later to the declamations of Ridley at St. Paul's Cross. Northumberland was hardly on his way before news came that the crews of the fleet had compelled their captains to declare for Mary. He had not advanced far before his own followers in effect followed suit. In the meantime, the Council reinstated Paget; who had always been in ill odour with Dudley as being a friend of Somerset, and had been recently dismissed from office and relegated to the Tower. On the 19th came news of further reinforcements for Mary. On that day several members of the Council, who had hitherto been practically under guard in the Tower, escaped, and, headed by Pembroke, declared for Mary. One party returned in arms, to demand surrender; another marched to Paul's Cross and proclaimed Mary amid enthusiastic acclamations. That night they dispatched a message to Northumberland at Cambridge ordering him to lay down his arms. Before it reached him, he had thrown up the struggle. The messengers arrived to arrest a cringing traitor. The stream of his repentant supporters was already hastening to sue for pardon.

[The Queen's leniency]