[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]

Never did rebellion collapse more ignominiously; never were rebels treated so leniently. The conspicuous but calculated clemency of the seventh Henry pales in comparison with the magnanimity of his grand-child. Those who had been most active and prominent in word and deed were arrested; but after a brief interval the majority even of these were pardoned. Some, including the innocent figurehead of the rebellion, the nine days' queen, her husband, and Ridley, were detained, in ward; but even Suffolk was allowed to go free; and it was only in deference to the remonstrances of every adviser that the Queen ultimately consented to the execution of the Arch-traitor Northumberland with two of his companions.

[Meaning of the popular attitude]

Mary's triumph, swift and bloodless, in defiance of all prudent presumptions, requires some explanation; which is not to be found in the theory of a sweeping Catholic reaction. London and the eastern counties were the strongholds of the new ideas, yet they went uncompromisingly in her favour. But it seems to prove that the country had definitely made up its mind some years before to accept a given solution of the problem of the succession, and to abide by it. Mary and Elizabeth might both be illegitimate technically, but each had been supposed legitimate at the time of her birth, and it seemed only fair that both should be reinstated in the line of succession. But the decision had been left to Henry, and had gone precisely in accord with popular sentiment. The English people had no mind to allow their settled conclusions to be set aside at the dictation of the best-hated politician in the country. They would have none of Northumberland, and the attempt to coerce them simply collapsed. The fact that all their sympathies - apart from judgment - were with the hitherto persecuted princess, and were not extended to her helpless rival, is in no way remarkable; for Lady Jane had been brought up in retirement, and her charms of mind and of character, though known to posterity, were quite unknown to the world in her own day. She had lent herself, however innocently, to an outrageous conspiracy; nor would any one have thought of remonstrance if the Queen had followed the advice of her counsellors instead of the dictates of her own magnanimity, and sent the girl with her husband and her father to the block along with Northumberland.

[The Queen's marriage and the Reformation]

A woman more politic and less conscientious than Mary - a woman such as her sister Elizabeth - might now have seized a great opportunity for making herself exceptionally popular. The Roman allegiance had been wiped out by Henry, with the entire approval even of Bonner and Gardiner; but of late years the extreme puritan party had gone much further in imposing their theories than the nation generally approved. They, at least, might now have been bridled without exciting serious opposition. Toleration within reasonable limits was what the bulk of the people wanted. Too many of them had really taken hold of the new ideas for a ready assent to be given to a strong reaction; too many still clung to the old ideas for the censorship of the Knoxes and Hoopers to be acceptable.

No one was more thoroughly alive to the impolicy of religious coercion than the Queen's life-long adviser, Charles V. - who had had his lesson in Germany - and his ambassador at Mary's court, Simon Renard. A policy of judicious toleration was the first condition of domestic peace, and would have met with their entire approval. But there was another question of pressing importance on which counsels were likely to be divided - the question of the Queen's marriage. Popular sentiment was flatly opposed to her union with any one who, being a foreigner, might subordinate England's interests to those of his own country, and drag her into the vortex of continental broils. On these two points anxiety was concentrated when the Queen arrived in London.

[Mary's rivals]

The situation was the more complicated because, however popular Mary might be for the moment, there were at least three possible nominees who might be put forward if she lost her popularity. There was her half-sister Elizabeth, who was a protestant. There was Mary Stewart, whom the French would make every effort to place on the throne. Noailles, the French ambassador, would exercise all his powers of intrigue to shake Mary, on the chance of his master having an opportunity of intervention; indeed, but for the rapidity of the Queen's success, there is little doubt that French troops would have come to Northumberland's assistance - for the time; to turn affairs to their own account as soon as might be. And finally there was still Lady Jane, with a title of a sort.

[Moderate Reaction]

There was immediate alarm, when it was known that Mary intended her brother to be buried with the old rites; and though she was with difficulty dissuaded from carrying out that intention she nevertheless did celebrate a requiem Mass. It was however only natural that her first step was to release and restore the old Duke of Norfolk, young Edward Courtenay, [Footnote: Courtenay, a boy of eleven at the time, had been sent to the Tower when his father was executed in 1538.] son of the Marquis of Exeter, and the imprisoned bishops, making Gardiner her Chancellor: though London did not welcome Bonner. Mary frankly professed her desire that religion should return to the position at her father's death, but she was equally definite about exercising no compulsion without parliamentary sanction. The reinstated bishops had been suspended in the most arbitrary manner; those now dispossessed had been appointed under the new theory that they held office only during the royal pleasure. The prompt departure of the foreign preachers and their English allies was facilitated and encouraged. The imprisonment of Ridley was a legitimate reward for his activity on behalf of Lady Jane, in August, Latimer was arrested for seditious demeanour, but was carefully allowed the opportunity of flight. Cranmer was not touched till the draft of a letter he wrote, courageously repudiating the libel that he had restored the Mass, had been copied and widely disseminated. Then he was removed to the Tower, ostensibly for his support of Northumberland. He, like Latimer, was given ample opportunity to fly, but also like Latimer stood to his colours. In all this there was no savour of injustice, though it filled the Protestants with apprehension: as also did the removal of sundry bishops on the ground that they were married. Mary, like Gardiner, had always denied the validity of legislation during the minority; but to take action on that hypothesis without waiting for parliament was hardly consistent with her declarations. Great pressure was also brought to bear on Elizabeth, to induce her to recant her protestantism; but while she declared herself open to argument, and actually presented herself at Mass though with patent reluctance, she steadily refused to pronounce herself converted - which Renard at least attributed to political not to say treasonable intentions.

These events took place during August, and in the meantime Mary reopened communications with the Pope, resulting in the appointment of Cardinal Pole as legate - though more than a twelvemonth elapsed before he reached England. A matter of still greater importance was the Emperor's proposal, not at first openly put forward, that Mary should marry his son Philip.

[Proposed Spanish Marriage]

Now, the sequence of events of which the Peace of Passau between Charles and the Lutherans was a part had resulted in war between France and the Empire. To Charles, the projected marriage might obviously be of immense value. The French on the other hand desired not Mary's marriage but her deposition to make way for Mary Stewart. National sentiment in England demanded her union with an Englishman, pointing to Courtenay, now restored to the earldom of Devon; he and Reginald Pole being the representatives of the House of York. [Footnote: See Genealogical Table. Front.] Pole, though a Cardinal, had never taken priest's orders, so was also eligible as a husband, but had no desire for the position, recommending Mary to remain unwedded. Mary herself was already inclining towards the Spanish marriage, though Paget was almost the only prominent Englishman who favoured it; Gardiner being in strong opposition, and pressing for Courtenay. Noailles intrigued against it; but his object was to use Elizabeth as a stalking-horse for Mary Stewart. Finally, before anything could be done, parliament must meet to give its sanction; and before parliament could meet, the seal must be set on Mary's authority by her coronation. It is curious to note that Mary felt it necessary to obtain the Papal pardon for herself and Gardiner for the performance of the ceremony while the nation was still excommunicate. The Coronation took place on October 1st, and four days later parliament assembled.

[Oct. Parliament revokes Edward's legislation]

It began by abolishing once more all new treasons created since the ancient Act of Edward III., and new felonies since the accession of Henry VIII. It proceeded to declare Mary legitimate, though by so doing it did not invalidate Elizabeth's title as heir presumptive, since that rested on Henry's will, which had ignored equally the illegitimacy of both his daughters. It repealed the whole of the ecclesiastical legislation of the last reign, reverting to the position at Henry's death. As originally submitted, these two bills asserted the validity of the papal dispensation, and repealed Henry's ecclesiastical legislation as well as his son's: but in this form the Commons would not accept them. Some past attainders were also reversed, and the Archbishop, as well as Lady Jane, her husband, and one of his brothers, were attainted, though not, it would seem, with any present intention of inflicting the full penalty. Early in December, parliament was dissolved.

In the meantime the Queen definitely made up her mind that she would marry Philip, and was extremely indignant when the Commons petitioned her to wed, but not to wed a foreigner. So far, parliament at any rate did not ratify the Spanish connexion, though the Lords - including Gardiner - had practically lost all hope of resisting it, and were giving their attention to introducing into the treaty stipulations for the safe-guarding of English interests.

[1554 Wyatt's rebellion]

Enough however had been done to raise the anti-Spanish sentiment to a painful pitch; the national nerves being already over-strung with excitement and uncertainty as to the coming course of events, deliberately aggravated by the subtle manipulation of the French ambassador. The marriage treaty was signed on January 12th: within a week, there was a rising in Devon - the Courtenay country - a premature movement in the great conspiracy known as Wyatt's rebellion. The leaders were all strong protestants, and it is likely enough that fear of the reaction was with them the primary motive; but their cry was anti-Spanish, not anti-Catholic, they appealed to the national not the religious sentiment. The rising in Devon forced the hand of the other conspirators, before they were really ready to act. Suffolk, pardoned for his share in Northumberland's plot, ill requited the Queen's clemency by an attempt - futile though it was - to raise the Midlands; but for a time it seemed that Sir Thomas Wyatt, who headed the rebellion in Kent - a county prolific of popular movements against the Government - might actually succeed in dethroning Mary.


Ostensibly, the cry was against foreigners. There is very little doubt that Wyatt really intended to marry Elizabeth to Courtenay, and set her on the throne. Whether Elizabeth herself, now twenty years of age, was in the plot, remains uncertain. There were suspicious circumstances, but no proofs, and Wyatt himself ultimately exonerated her. But the atmosphere was thick with suspicions which later historians have crystallised into facts according to their sympathies. Mary is charged with having desired her sister's death, but on insufficient evidence; [Footnote: Stone, Mary I. Queen of England, p. 270. The historian asserts Elizabeth's complicity without proof, while criticising Froude for inventing a proof of Mary's culpability.] double-dealing was not the Queen's way, and her behaviour towards her sister points rather to a desire to believe in her innocence coupled with something like a conviction of her actual guilt. Renard certainly did his best to blacken Elizabeth's character, even while he urged her arrest - a measure to which both Gardiner and Paget were opposed.

[Progress of the rebellion]

The news of Wyatt's own rising arrived on January 26th, some days after Gardiner had frightened Courtenay into betraying at least the existence of the plot. Elizabeth had been summoned from Hatfield to London, but declared herself too ill to travel. While it was believed that the only aim was to stop the Spanish marriage, feeling favoured Wyatt, and it seems as if even Gardiner and his supporters were in no haste to put down the rising. Wyatt and his followers were at Rochester: Norfolk was sent down with guns and a company of Londoners to deal with him, but the men deserted to Wyatt crying "we are all English," and the Duke had to ride for safety. London was in a panic: the Council could only quarrel among themselves. Wyatt advanced towards the Capital. Mary rose to the occasion, and herself addressed the populace, her speech going far to allay the panic. Wyatt found the bridge at Southwark impassable, and after some hesitation marched up the river, crossing at Kingston. The loyalists however had plucked up heart. The insurgents' column, in the advance to London, was cut in two. Wyatt at the head of the leading section made a desperate effort to reach Ludgate with ever dwindling numbers; but when he arrived at the City gates, though he did indeed in his own words "keep touch," his small and exhausted following was in no condition for prolonged fighting. He was taken prisoner without difficulty. Many of his followers were captured. The whole affair was over in less than a fortnight from the first rising.

[Subsequent severities]

The leniency previously shown could not be repeated. It seemed dangerous to leave Lady Jane any longer as a possible centre for plots, and she was executed with her husband and father. Wyatt was beheaded; about a hundred of the rebels were hanged. Elizabeth and Courtenay were both committed to the Tower, but were liberated after some two months. At the worst the punishment meted out may be compared favourably with the proceedings after the Pilgrimage of Grace. It was severe, but could not reasonably be called cruel.

[The Marriage Treaty]

Neither the expectation of leniency nor the experience of severity allayed the antagonism to the Spanish marriage. The treaty however, which came up for ratification in Mary's second parliament - summoned to meet in London at the beginning of April - conceded every safeguard against Spanish domination which could be secured by words; and in addition the succession to Burgundy for the offspring of the union, in priority to Philip's son, born to him of his first wife. The terms could not have been more favourable, but the unpopular fact remained that the connexion would inevitably influence Mary's policy in Europe. It was not till July that it was considered that Philip could safely entrust his person in England, when the wedding was completed.

[Pole, Renard, and Gardiner]

Up to this point at least, the Emperor's influence had been exercised in favour of toleration, and in restraint of any disturbance of the subsisting religious conditions. On the other hand he had taken pains to impress upon Mary that the union itself was a practical step towards reconciliation with Rome, which he knew to be her ideal. But he was afraid of the protestants being so much alarmed as to make opposition to the marriage irresistible. For this reason he raised constant obstacles to the arrival in England of Cardinal Pole, believing that the legate's presence would be an irritant. Pole being also entrusted with the task of endeavouring to reconcile Charles with Henry II., it had not been difficult to find imperative reasons for occupying him on the Continent. But when the marriage was safely accomplished, an effective counterpoise secured to the betrothal of the young Queen of Scots to the Dauphin, and time allowed for the English to become accustomed to the new state of affairs and to settle down, it was no longer so important to exercise a restraining influence. Mary was eager for the country to be once more received into the bosom of the Church: and Gardiner, who was bent on the restoration of the old worship, had now come fully to the conclusion that the maintenance of it was conditioned by the restoration of the Roman obedience, although twenty years before at the time of the schism he had been one of Henry's most useful supporters. Still however it was necessary to ensure that the Pope would consent to leave the holders of former Church lands in undisturbed possession, as they might otherwise be relied on to become ardent protestants. It was not till these conditions were assured that the legate was allowed, in November, to set sail for England.

[Public tension]

Between the Wyatt rebellion which collapsed in February and the arrival of Pole in November, the great event was the royal marriage, but there were several other occurrences not without significance. Sir Nicholas Throgmorton, who had certainly been in communication with Wyatt, was nevertheless unanimously acquitted by a jury, and the result was hailed with acclamation by the populace though the jurymen were summoned before the Star-Chamber and fined. Renard, and, if Renard's accusations and the general tongue of rumour are to be trusted, Gardiner also, did their best to persuade Mary to strike at her sister; but Paget and the Council generally were stoutly opposed to the idea, and Mary herself declared that Elizabeth should not be condemned without full legal proof, which was not forthcoming. After some two months she was released from the Tower but kept under surveillance at Woodstock. A Romanising preacher at St. Paul's Gross was fired at, and the culprit was not given up. On the other hand, not only married Bishops but married clergy in general were deprived, though some were restored on doing penance and parting with their wives. These are said to have numbered about one-fifth of the beneficed clergy, a computation which does not seem excessive as Convocation had itself petitioned for the permission of marriage. Cranmer, Ridley, and Latimer, were taken from London to Oxford to hold a disputation on those doctrines as to which their views were held to be heretical. The ecclesiastical condemnation of their argument was of course a foregone conclusion. The parliament, however, which ratified the marriage treaty, was chiefly remarkable for following Paget in refusing assent to bills excluding Elizabeth from the succession and restoring the Six Articles Act and the old Act against Lollards. Paget acquired considerable strength from the fact that William, Lord Howard of Effingham, who was in command of the fleet, was known to be in agreement with his views. The parliament was dissolved in May. It is noteworthy also that France was affording harbourage to many gentlemen of the West Country who had been more or less implicated in the January rising.

[Nov. Reconciliation with Rome]

Mary's third parliament - in which the nation by its representatives was to be formally reconciled to Rome - was called in November. Its first task was to reverse the attainder against Pole which was of ancient date. The Cardinal had distinguished himself in Henry's time by the vehemence of his opposition (from abroad) to the divorce and to the King's subsequent ecclesiastical proceedings, and his brothers as well as his mother had all been found guilty of treason in connexion with real or manufactured conspiracies. The reversal of the attainder was required to legalise his position. On the 25th he landed with official pomp at Westminster. On the 29th, the Houses agreed - with but one dissentient in the Commons - to a "supplication" entreating for pardon and the restoration of the nation to communion with Rome. The next day was performed the ceremony of presenting the supplication to the Legate and receiving his solemn Absolution. Two days later, Gardiner from the pulpit confessed the sin of which he in common with the nation in general had been guilty in the great schism, and declared himself a loyal and repentant son of the Church. Since loyalty and repentance did not involve restitution of Church property, most of his countrymen were equally ready to declare themselves loyal and repentant. Yet were there not a few who would by no means repent.

[Sidenote 1: Reaction consummated] [Sidenote 2: 1555]

The Reconciliation of the Authorities to Rome was complete. It remained to compel her erring children to return to the fold. During the month following the submission, two fateful Acts were passed; one, almost without discussion, reviving the old acts, "De heretico comburendo" and others, which had been restricted under Henry and abolished under Somerset; the other repealing all the anti-Roman legislation since the twentieth year of Henry (1529), with a proviso, however, securing the alienated wealth of the Church to its present holders. On this there was more debate, and it was not actually passed till January 3rd. The former authority of the bishops and of the canon law was restored. It is to be observed that in all this legislation, the Commons were a good deal more amenable than the Lords; and this was even more markedly the case with the purely political measures. An Act was passed to secure the regency to Philip if there should be a child and Mary herself died, it being supposed at the time that the Queen wasenceinte. But the suggestion that the succession should be secured to Philip was emphatically rejected, and the regency was by the Lords made conditional on his residence in England. He bore the title of King of England, but his Coronation was refused. Parliament was dissolved on January 16th.