Etext prepared by Dianne Bean, Prescott Valley, Arizona.
STUDIES FROM COURT AND CLOISTER BEING ESSAYS, HISTORICAL AND LITERARY, DEALING MAINLY WITH SUBJECTS RELATING TO THE XVITH AND XVIITH CENTURIES
BY J. M. STONE
AUTHOR OF "MARY THE FIRST, QUEEN OF ENGLAND," "REFORMATION AND RENAISSANCE," ETC.
LONDON AND EDINBURGH SANDS AND COMPANY ST LOUIS, MO. B. HERDER, 17 SOUTH BROADWAY 1908
These studies on various crucial points connected with the history of religion in Europe at the close of the Middle Ages, its decline, revival, and the causes which led to both, have already appeared in print as regards their general outline, although they have for the most part been rewritten, added to, and in each case subjected to a careful revision.
Three of them were originally published in the Dublin Review, four in the Scottish Review, two in Blackwood's Magazine, and three in the Month. One was a contribution to the American Catholic Quarterly Review. By the courtesy of the respective editors of these publications I am enabled to gather them together in this volume.
It will be seen at a glance that a certain cohesion, historical and chronological, exists in their present arrangement, especially with reference to Part I.
The two first studies concern Henry VIII. and his sister the Queen of Scots, the significance of their matrimonial affairs, and the relations which their policy created between England, Scotland, France, and the Empire. The third study has for its subject the distinguished and much-maligned Lieutenant of the Tower of London, who contributed so largely to the accession of the rightful sovereign, and who was appointed to be governor of the Princess Elizabeth during her captivity at Woodstock. His subsequent persecution for the sake of religion was the consequence of Henry VIIIth's rupture with Rome, and Elizabeth's repudiation of England's Catholic past. And as we can only gain an intelligible view of any historical movement by studying its context, its broad outlines, and its connection with foreign nations, the fourth essay describes the condition to which the religious revolution had reduced Germany in the sixteenth century, and the reconversion of a great part of that country, as well as of Austria and Switzerland, to the Catholic faith. This was the work of the Jesuit, Peter Canisius, and we are thus led to a consideration of the newly-founded Society of Jesus and its methods. Its members soon became noted for sanctity and learning, and emperors, kings, and royal princes clamoured for Jesuits as confessors. The manner in which these acquitted themselves of the difficult and unwelcome task imposed on them, is unconsciously revealed by themselves, in the private correspondence of members of the old Society, which has now been given to the world by one of their Order. Selections from this correspondence are contained in the fifth study. As a further result of the revolution that had been effected in the casting off of old beliefs and traditions, we note the revival of Pantheism, an ancient, atheistic philosophy, whose modern apostle was the celebrated Giordano Bruno. His otherwise fruitless visit to England left a deep impression on certain minds, learned and ignorant, and we begin for the first time to hear of examinations and prosecutions for atheism in this country. And this forms the subject of the sixth essay. The recoil that invariably takes place after any great political, social, or religious upheaval was not wanting to the Reformation in England, and in the reign of Charles I. High-Churchism, under Archbishop Laud, was thought to indicate a desire on the part of the royalists for a return to Catholic unity. A Papal agent was dispatched to England to negotiate between the Catholic Queen, Henrietta Maria and Cardinal Barberini, with a view to the conversion of her husband, which would, it was hoped, ultimately issue in the corporate reunion of the country with Rome.
Thus, Part I. deals with some of the persons who had "their exits and their entrances", who made history during this interesting period. Part II. treats more especially the books and manuscripts connected with it. The theme is therefore the same.
Even before England was England, she was the Isle of Saints, and throughout the Middle Ages religion was her chief care, in a manner almost incredible in this secular and materialistic age. She not only covered the land with magnificent churches and cathedrals, to the architecture of which we cannot in these days approach, even by imitation, distantly, but she also built huge monasteries, and these monasteries were the cradles, the homes of vast stores of ever-accumulating knowledge. A system of philosophy, to which the world is even now returning, recognising that there is no better training for the human intellect, is so distinctly mediaeval, that all that savoured even remotely of St. Thomas Aquinas or Duns Scotus in the University was utterly destroyed in a great bonfire made at Oxford in 1549. At the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII., the labour, the learning, the genius of centuries were as nought. Exquisitely written and illuminated Bibles, missals and other choice manuscripts, displaying a wealth of palaeographic art to which we have lost the key, were torn from their jewelled bindings, and were either thrown aside to spoil and rot, or to become the prey of any who needed wrappers for small merchandise. It is a marvel that so many should have escaped destruction, to be collected when men had returned to their sane senses, and formed again into libraries for the delight and instruction of posterity to the end of time. And almost as strange as this circumstance, is the fact that so few among us know of the existence of these treasures which have become our national inheritance. Otherwise, how could the reviewer of one of our foremost literary publications, in his notice of the exhibition of medieval needlework at the Burlington Fine Arts Club, in the spring of 1905, have discovered in it a surprising revelation of the "refinement" of the Middle Ages?
The three last studies in the present volume are, therefore, devoted to a description of some of the precious spoils of mediaeval refinement. Where all is so splendidly beautiful, so deeply erudite, or so tenderly naif, choice is difficult; but at all events, here are a few of the priceless gems with which the Dark Ages have endowed a scornful after-world.
And lest it should be supposed that all this mediaeval piety and devotion sprang up suddenly, with no apparent raison d'etre, I have gone further back, and have shown that with the first dawn of Christianity over these Islands, religion was no other than in the twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth centuries. The Arthurian legends, which Sir Thomas Malory wove into one consecutive whole, had been handed down from generation to generation for many hundreds of years. Sometimes they had been written in the French language, but they lived in the minds of the people, and Sir Lancelot, who died "a holy man," was as vivid and real to them as was Richard, the troubadour king. With the story of his sharp penance, his fasting and prayers for the soul of Guinevere, was also handed down incidentally the tradition of Britain's obedience to the "Apostle Pope".
Some time after the Anglo-Saxon conquest, in the eighth century, was set up a wonderful churchyard Cross at Ruthwell in Scotland, a "folk-book in stone," alluded to in the Act passed by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1642, "anent the Idolatrous Monuments in Ruthwell," and already two years previously condemned by that enlightened body to be "taken down, demolished, and destroyed." The story of this ancient Cross, and that of the runes carved upon it, form the subject of the opening study of Part II.
Little need be said here of Foxe, the great calumniator of Queen Mary's bishops. His book, which so long deceived the world, is no more the power it once was, but in it lay the venom which poisoned the wells, as far as the ill-fated reign of Mary was concerned; and the essay which deals with it could scarcely have been omitted.
In the hope that I have been enabled to throw a faint ray of additional light on some vexed but interesting questions, this volume is put forward.
J. M. S.
I. MARGARET TUDOR
II. NOR WIFE NOR WIDOW
III. A NOTABLE ENGLISHMAN
IV. THE CATHOLIC REFORMATION IN GERMANY
V. JESUITS AT COURT
VI. GIORDANO BRUNO IN ENGLAND
VII. CHARLES THE FIRST AND THE POPISH PLOT
I. THE RUNIC CROSSES OF NORTHUMBRIA
II. A MISSING PAGE FROM THE "IDYLLS OF THE KING"
III. FOXES BOOK OF ERRORS
IV. THE SPOILS OF THE MONASTERIES
V. THE ROYAL LIBRARY
VI. THE HARLEIAN COLLECTION OF MANUSCRIPTS
STUDIES FROM COURT AND CLOISTER
I. MARGARET TUDOR
Notwithstanding the spy-system which was brought to so great a perfection under the Tudors, the study of human nature was in their days yet in its infancy. The world had long ceased to be ingenuous, but nations had not yet learned civilised methods of guarding themselves against their enemies. At a time when distrust was general, it was easier, like Machiavelli, to erect deceit and fraud into a science, and to teach the vile utility of lying, than to scrutinise character and weigh motives. It was then generally understood that opponents might legitimately be hoodwinked to the limits of their gullibility; but it was reserved for Lord Chesterfield, two centuries later, to show how a man's passions must be studied with microscopic intensity in order to discover his prevailing passion, and how, that passion once discovered, he should never be trusted where it was concerned. The study of men's characters and motives as we understand it, formed no part of the policy of sixteenth-century statecraft, or Wolsey would not have been disgraced, or Thomas Cromwell's head have fallen on the block. Wolsey and Cromwell were the subtlest statesmen of their age; indeed, in them statecraft may be said to have had its dawn; yet Henry VIII., by the sheer force of his tyranny and despotic will, baffled them both. While Cromwell, the greatest genius in Europe, thought he held all the threads of intrigue in his own hands, his royal master by the dogged pursuit of one end overthrew the minister's entire scheme. Saturated though he was with Machiavellian theories, a man of one book, and that book The Prince, Cromwell lost all by his inability to read the bent of Henry's mind and purpose.
Henry VIII. and his elder sister, Margaret, were strikingly alike in character. Both proved themselves to be cruel, vindictive, unscrupulous, sensual, and vain. Both were extraordinarily clever, but Henry being far better educated than his sister, contrived to cut a much more imposing, if not a more dignified, figure. In the matter of intrigue, there was nothing to choose between them. That Henry succeeded where Margaret failed, was owing to the fact that circumstances were in his favour and not in hers. Given two such characters, the only parts that were possible to them were dominating ones. Henry was master of the situation all through the piece; Margaret was not, but she could play no other part. Had she been differently constituted, had she been barely honest, true, constant, and pure, there is no limit to the love and loyalty she would certainly have inspired.
But, for want of insight into Margaret Tudor's disposition, the Scottish people were repeatedly betrayed by one whose interests they fondly hoped had become, by marriage with their king, identical with their own. She had come among them at an age when new impressions are quickly taken and experiences of every kind have necessarily been very limited, but to the end of her days she remained an alien in their midst.
From the moment that she set foot in Scotland, as a bride of thirteen, she began to sow discord; but although it was soon apparent that she would seize every occasion to turn public events to her own profit, James IV. had so mistaken a belief in her one day becoming a good Scotswoman, that when he went to his death on Flodden Field, he left the whole welfare of his country in her hands. Not only did he confide the treasure of the realm to her custody, but by his will he appointed her to the Regency, with the sole guardianship of his infant son.
Such a thing was unprecedented in Scotland, and it needed all the fidelity of the Scottish lords to their chivalrous sovereign, as well as their enthusiasm for his young and beautiful widow, to induce them to tolerate an arrangement so distasteful to them all. Had Margaret cared to fit herself for the duties that lay before her, her lot might have been a brilliant one. Instead of the wretched wars which made a perpetual wilderness of the Borders, keeping the nation in a constant state of ferment, an advantageous treaty would have secured prosperity to both England and Scotland, while the various disturbing factions, which rendered Scotland so difficult to govern by main force, would gradually have subsided under the gentle influence of a queen who united all parties through the loyalty she inspired. Fierce and rebellious as were so many of the elements which went to make up the Scottish people at that time, Margaret had a far easier task than her grand-daughter, Mary Stuart, for at least fanatical religious differences did not enter into the difficulties she had to encounter. But such a queen of Scotland as would have claimed the respect and won the lasting love of her subjects was by no means the Margaret Tudor of history, as she stands revealed in her correspondence.
While James IV. lived she had comparatively few opportunities of betraying State secrets, but from the disaster of Flodden to her death, her history is one long series of intrigues, the outcome of her ruling passions—vanity and greed. Her first short-sighted act of treachery after the death of James was to appropriate to her own use the treasure which he had entrusted to her for his successors, the queen thereby incurring life-long retribution in her ineffectual attempts to wring her jointure from an exchequer which she had herself wantonly impoverished. Hence the tiresome and ridiculous wrangling in connection with her "conjunct feoffment," neither Margaret nor Henry being conscious, in the complete absence of all sense of humour on their part, that the situation was occasionally grotesque. Stolidly unmindful of the effect they produced on the minds of others in the pursuit of their own selfish ends, they pursued the tenor of their way with bucolic doggedness. The doggedness ended in the defeat of all Henry's enemies; in Margaret's case it ended in her own.
The eleven months which elapsed between the 9th September 1513 to the 4th August 1514, were the most eventful of her whole life. The catastrophe of Flodden left her, perhaps not without cause, the least mournful woman in Scotland, for James IV., with all the heroism that attaches to his name, had little claim to be called a faithful husband. Unhindered, therefore, by any excess of grief, she was the better able to attend to the affairs of State, and to hasten the coronation of her little son, a baby of one year and five months. In December she convened the Parliament of Scotland to meet at Stirling Castle, and formally took up the dignity of regent with the consent of the assembled nobility of the realm. At this sitting the greatest unanimity prevailed. In the Acts of the Privy Council of Scotland, under date 12th January 1514, occurs the following entry: "To advise of the setting up of the Queen's household, and what persons and officers are necessary thereto, and to advise of the expenses for the supportation of the same, and by what ways it shall be gotten." All was peace for a short time, and the most friendly relations existed between the queen and her Council, till the first high-handed attempt of Henry VIII. to interfere through his sister in the government of Scotland, resulted in her temporary banishment, and the removal of the infant king from his mother's care.*
* P. Martyr, Ep. 535. For a detailed account of the state of Scotland for the first nine years after the disastrous defeat at Flodden, see vol. xiv. Of the Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, edited by George Burnett, LL.D., Lyon King-of-Arms, and A. Y. G. Mackay, M.A. (Oxon.), LL.D. (Edin.), etc., His Majesty's General Register House, Edinburgh.
On the 30th April Margaret gave birth to a posthumous son, who received the title of Duke of Rothesay; and scarcely had she reappeared in public after the birth of this child, when an envoy from the Emperor Maximilian brought overtures of marriage. About the same time, she received a like proposal from Louis XII. of France, who afterwards married her younger sister Mary. Dismissing both aspirants to her hand, before the first year of her widowhood had run its course, she married Archibald, Earl of Angus, Margaret being in her twenty-fifth, he in his nineteenth year. The union was equally unfortunate for the queen herself and for her wretched husband, who, when the first charm of novelty had passed, was disdainfully flung aside, and never restored to favour.
There was an ancient custom of the realm, which placed the executive power and the person of the king, should he be a minor at the death of the preceding sovereign, in the hands of the next male heir, and the appointment of James's widow to the regency and the guardianship of his son was made in distinct disregard of all recognised precedent. The consent of the Scottish lords to the innovation had been given entirely from a sense of loyalty to their beloved and unfortunate monarch James IV. But a proviso had been made in his will, that in the event of the queen's remarriage, the regency, as well as the guardianship of the king, should pass to John, Duke of Albany, the next heir to the throne.
But Margaret, who had not scrupled to make away with the royal treasure, was scarcely likely to be very conscientious in regard to the duty of laying down a sceptre, the pleasantness of which she had only just begun to taste. She was already at variance with her Council, who, in despair of any order being established, had invited Albany, then in France, to come over and take up the reins of government. As early as April 1514, a Bill for his recall had been read in Parliament, and it was formally enacted that all the fortresses in Scotland should be given up, a blow aimed primarily at Stirling, the queen's chief stronghold.* Here she and Angus had shut themselves up, on hearing that Beaton, Archbishop of Glasgow, was marching on Edinburgh. They were captured, but escaped and returned to Stirling, where they were besieged by John Hepburn, Prior of St. Andrews.
* Brewer—Preface to Cal. 2, part i. (note).
Margaret, assuming a tone of injured innocence, wrote to Henry VIII., telling him that she and her party are in great trouble till they know what help he will give them; that her enemies continue to usurp the king's authority in Parliament, holding her and her friends to be rebels; and she entreats him to hasten his army against Scotland by sea and by land.* This was clearly as much an act of treason as if she had deliberately invited any other foreign enemy to come and take possession of the realm; for although her object was merely to regain the powers she had lost by her own acts, she could estimate the ruin which would have resulted to Scotland, if Henry had really been in a position to invade the country. His answer to her appeal was to send the most urgent instructions to his sister to prevent Albany's landing by every means at her disposal. In the meanwhile she waited impatiently, but in vain, for both troops and money from Henry, who did not think it necessary to inform her that the French king had agreed to detain Albany in France, on condition that his dear cousin should send his sister no help, but leave the various parties in Scotland to fight out their quarrels alone.
* Queen Margaret to Henry VI II., 23rd November 1514; MS. Cott., Calig. B 1, 164; Brit. Mus.
As a result of this policy, Margaret at last began to find her position intolerable, and she, no less than her enemies looked forward to the duke's arrival as a means of extricating herself from a labyrinth of difficulties. This was perhaps what Francis I. had foreseen; notwithstanding his promise to Henry, he had no intention of permanently preventing Albany, who was more than half a Frenchman, from assuming a dignity that would result in a strong bond of union between Scotland and France. Albany was therefore quietly allowed to escape at a given moment; and when, after running the gauntlet of Henry's ships, which were watching for him, he landed in Scotland, Margaret resolved, for once wisely, to be friends with him.*
* Seb. Giustinian to the Doge, London, 5th August 1515; Venetian Archives.
But Henry instructed Lord Dacre, the formidable chief of the Marches, to stir up all the strife possible between his sister, the new regent, and the Scottish lords, and accordingly, whenever there was a sign of a better understanding between the three parties, Dacre was always careful to insinuate to the queen that her brother was her best friend. Finding that Albany had escaped the vigilance of his fleet, Henry wrote a high-handed letter to the Scottish Council requesting that he might be sent back to France forthwith. Their reply was as dignified as Albany's own conduct throughout, and in strong contrast to Margaret's attitude. They have, they say, received Henry's letter, dated 1st July 1516, desiring them to remove John, Duke of Albany, the regent from the person of their king, in order to promote the amity of the two realms. The duke was chosen Protector by the unanimous voice of the Three Estates, and was sent for by them from France; he left his master, his lady, his living; he has taken great pains in the king's service; he has given, and proposes to give, no cause for dissatisfaction, and if he would leave, they would not let him. Moreover, it is in exact conformity with their laws that the nearest in succession should have the governance; security has been taken by the queen and others to remove all cause of suspicion, and they will spend their lives if any attempt be made against his Highness.* This document was signed and sealed by twenty-eight spiritual and temporal lords, whose names are still legible. Ten other names are mutilated beyond recognition, although their seals remain.
* Scottish lords to Henry VIII., 4th July 1516; Record Office.
Albany had meanwhile written to Lord Dacre, denying that he had usurped the king's authority, and declaring that he had done nothing but by order of the Estates of the realm. But Henry was bent on picking a quarrel with him, and Dacre's letter to the King of England's Council shows the part which Dacre was instructed to play in the troubles of Scotland, fomenting feuds between Albany and every member of his government, in the hope of driving him out of the country.* Difficult, however, as Henry's policy made it, the regent was bent on maintaining peace, and would probably have succeeded but for Margaret.**
* Cotton MS., Calig. B 2, 341; Brit. Mus.
** Albany to Dacre,10th August 1515; R.O.
The good understanding between the regent and the queen was first broken by his summons to her to deliver up the royal children into his custody, a cruel but necessary proceeding, since the regency was inseparable from the governorship of the king and the next heir.
A true and tender chord is struck at last, when Margaret, appealing to Henry, exclaims, "God send I were such a woman as might go with my bairns in mine arms. I trow I should not be long fra you!" Nor is it possible to feel aught but sympathy for her, when she allows herself to be stormed in Stirling Castle before she suffers her children to be torn from her. Dacre professed to believe, and perhaps caused Margaret to fear, that they would be destroyed if they fell into the Duke of Albany's power. But the very day on which Dacre wrote to Henry's Council, advising that money should be sent to enable her to hold out, the regent prepared to bombard her, and it was not till her friends had forsaken her, flying for their lives and in terror of Albany's proclamation, that placing the keys of the fortress in her little son's hands, she desired him to give them to the regent, and to beg him to show favour to himself, to his brother, and to her husband. The regent answered that he would be good to the king, to his brother, and to their mother; but that as for Angus, he "would not dalye with no traitor." *
* Cotton MS. Calig. B 2, 369; B.M.
No sooner had Margaret given up her children, than she began to manoeuvre how to steal them back and spirit them over the Border. While pretending to be too ill to leave her palace at Linlithgow, where she gave out she had "taken to her chamber" in anticipation of her approaching confinement, she effected her escape into England, but her plan for capturing the king and his brother failed. Nothing could now exceed her desolate condition, as, wandering from place to place, alone, ill, and worse than friendless, she sought in vain a refuge in all that wild Border region where she might await her hour of peril. Angus, seeing the turn affairs had taken, had thought it prudent to abandon her to her fate, and, after helping her to escape, returned to Scotland in the hope of coming to terms with Albany. His wife was at last thankful to accept Lord Dacre's rough hospitality in his gloomy castle of Harbottle. Here in the midst of a brutal soldiery, with no woman to render her the most needful service, she gave birth to a daughter, the Lady Margaret Douglas, on the 5th October 1515. On the 10th she wrote to Albany to announce her delivery "of a cristen sowle beying a young lady," and miserably ill though she was, did not omit to demand "as tutrix of the young king and prince, her tender children, to have the whole rule and governance of Scotland."
To this letter Margaret received an answer written by the Council, stating that the governance of the realm had expired with the death of her husband, and had devolved to the Estates; that with her consent they had appointed the Duke of Albany; that she had forfeited the tutelage of her children by her second marriage, and that in all temporal matters the realm of Scotland had been immediately subject to Almighty God, not recognising the Pope or any superior upon earth.
Herewith the queen was forced to content herself; further words would have proved as unavailing as reeds against the tempest, and even words were soon beyond her power to write, for the birth of her daughter was succeeded by a long and painful illness which nearly proved fatal to the unhappy woman. To add to the bitterness of her trials, at the moment when she was beginning slowly to recover, came the news of the illness and death of the little Duke of Rothesay. Grief, anger, and anxiety for the safety of the king served naturally to increase the gravity of her condition, and for months she lay hovering between life and death, loudly accusing Albany of having murdered her child.
This accusation was reiterated to Albany himself as soon as her unsteady hand could grasp a pen; but the regent took no heed of her stinging words, continued to invite her to return to Scotland, in spite of her persistent refusal, and apparently succeeded at last in convincing her of his innocence.
On her recovery she wrote to him from Morpeth, to announce her departure for the south, Henry having invited her to his court, accompanying his invitation with presents of costly stuffs, and money, and clothing for the baby.
A letter from Margaret to the regent at this moment is significant of a sudden change in her demeanour towards him, and to judge by her subsequent behaviour, the change meant treachery. Instead of the fierce denunciations she had lately indulged in, she acknowledged that she had often received goodly and pleasant words as well as letters from him, and "though his conduct has not always corresponded to them, yet as matters are being accommodated" she hopes he will reform it. The meaning of this change of tactics became clear to all but the regent himself—-who seems to have been of a singularly unsuspicious nature—as soon as Margaret reached London.
Albany was still hoping for a permanent peace with Henry, and more than once expressed a wish to pay him a friendly visit. This both Henry and Margaret encouraged him to do, and writing to Wolsey about this time, the Scottish queen expressed the most fervent hope that the regent would come, counterbalanced by the fears that he would not.* Had the matter rested entirely with himself, the visit would certainly have taken place, but his Council having some reason to doubt Henry's fair and plausible words, were urgent in dissuading him. All things considered, it is probable that the duke would have repented of his temerity if he had placed his head within the lion's jaws.
* Cotton MS., Vesp. F 3, 36; B.M.
Having failed to inveigle the regent into their power, the brother and sister instructed Dacre to "sow debate" between him and his Council, but this scheme failed also. Dacre wrote, however, to show that he was not wanting in zeal in this behalf, saying that, being unable to interfere with Scottish affairs in any other way, he had given rewards to four hundred outlaws for burnings in various parts of the kingdom.* No means proved too vile, no instrument unworthy, to be employed in the work of destroying the regent and advancing Tudor interests. The queen even condescended to use her truant husband, and the part played by Angus is scarcely less reprehensible than Margaret's own, for while he pretended to be loyal to Albany and to Scotland, he possessed himself of every important State secret and transmitted it to his wife, in the hope of appeasing her for his desertion. She, of course, passed on all that she thus learned to Henry and Wolsey.
* Dacre to Wolsey; Calig. B 1, 150; B.M.
Margaret was entertained for a whole year in pomp and splendour at the English court, feasts and revels succeeding each other in bewildering magnificence— luxury in vivid contrast to the misery which she had undergone during the first months after her flight from Scotland. Pageants, tournaments, and banquets now took the place of privation and suffering; all that met the eye was changed, but the dark and treacherous under-currents known to but few of her contemporaries remained the same, and were the realities that shaped her course. In spite, however, of plots and intrigues, Margaret's position was not improving. Her visit to England could not be prolonged indefinitely, and as the queen was evidently not to return to Scotland in triumph, it was desirable to make as good terms for herself as she possibly could.
The regent promised that her jointure should be paid, and that Angus should be allowed to join her if he were willing to do so—a somewhat doubtful alternative, as he had not availed himself of the leave that had already been given him. As for Albany himself, he declared that it had always been his desire to gratify the queen, and to advise the best for her and for her son.* Reluctantly, therefore, she at last prepared to turn her face northwards, having obtained permission to take with her a suite befitting her station, safe-conduct being granted, except in the case of any person among them plotting harm to the kingdom; and to these conditions Henry set his great seal.
* Calig. B 2, 262; B.M.
A letter from the Venetian envoy to the Doge, dated 13th April 1517, says: "The truce between England and Scotland has been arranged. The queen is to return, but is not to be admitted to the administration of the kingdom. She may take with her twenty-four Englishmen, and as many Scotch as she pleases, provided they be not rebels"; and he adds that he has been assured of these facts by Albany's secretary.
All was done to make her journey as easy as possible; but when Margaret arrived at Berwick, it needed all Dacre's powers of persuasion to induce her to enter Scotland. At Lamberton Kirk, contrary to the regent's expectation, she was met by Angus, accompanied by Morton and others of the Scottish nobility, with three hundred men, chiefly Borderers. Albany had left for France, taking with him as hostages the heirs or younger brothers of the principal men in the country, whom he had bound over to keep the peace during his absence, which he then did not intend to prolong beyond five months.
There was now an excellent opportunity for beginning a new and better life, had the queen been so minded; but events proved her to be in a more querulous, treacherous, and discontented mood than ever. "Her Grace considereth now, the honour of England, and the poverty and wretchedness of Scotland," wrote Magnus to Wolsey, "which she did not afore, but in her opinion esteemed Scotland equal with England,"* and her complaints to Henry were frequent and loud.
* June 19, 1517; Calig. B 2, 253; B.M.
She complained of her husband, of her poverty, of the bad faith of the Scottish nation who still left her jointure unpaid, of not being allowed free access to her son. She had, she said, been obliged to lay in wed (pawn) the plate given to her by Henry, and was likely to be driven to extreme want, as Wolsey would learn by her messenger. She would have been still worse off, she caused her friends to write, had not Magnus and Dacre drawn up a book at Berwick, the day before her entry into Scotland, by which Angus, signing it, renounced all claim to her "conjunct feoffment."*
* Dacre to Wolsey, Harbottle, 5th March, 1518; R.O.
But Margaret did not stop at complaints; Henry must begin the war again. He may, she declares, reasonably cause Scottish ships to be taken; for she has suffered long and forborne to do evil, although she knew she would never get good from Scotland by fair means.
When by dint of constant urging to renewed contests the Borders had become one vast battlefield in her quarrel, she wrote to the Marquis of Dorset to beg him to spare the convent of Coldstream, whose abbess had done her good service in times past.* The motive for this intercession was no mere charitable one, the abbess being "one of the best spies for England."
* Thomas, Marquis of Dorset, to Henry VIII.; Calig. B 3, 255.
And now, for the first time, Margaret ventures to express the wish that has for long been forming itself in her mind. She has been much troubled by Angus since her coming to Scotland, and is so more and more daily. They have not met this half year, and—after some hovering of the word on her lips, she pronounces it boldly—she will part with him, if she may by God's law, and with honour to herself, for he loves her not. Unlike Henry, when seeking a pretext to divorce his first wife, Margaret was at no pains to disguise the motive which inspired her, and a possibility of a flaw in the marriage is openly but a pretext for getting rid of a husband of whom she was weary. We are at least spared the nausea caused by Henry's conscientious scruples. She first puts forward frankly her wish to be free from Angus, and then her determination to divorce him if she may lawfully. But it was the only piece of honesty in the whole business, for the suit itself was one long, dreary series of misrepresentation and falsehood, without which her cause could by no possibility have been gained.
The usual plea of pre-contracts was brought forward, but as these were of too flimsy a nature to bear investigation, Margaret declared that the late King of Scots, her husband, was still living three years after the battle of Flodden, and that consequently he was alive when she was married to the Earl of Angus.* As the king's body had never been found, this assertion could not be disproved, though there was no reasonable doubt as to James having fallen on that calamitous day.
* Magnus to Wolsey; State Papers, vol. iv., p. 385; R.O.
However, in spite of her bold swearing, Margaret was not so certain of success, but that she was anxious for Henry's support, and she not only entreated her brother to befriend her, but promised him that she would consult only his wishes in taking another husband, and that this time she would not part from him.* If she thought that a fellow-feeling would make him wondrous kind in this matter, she was disappointed. It was no part of Henry's policy that his sister should put Angus away, for although she had not consulted him in the choice of her second husband, Henry was very well satisfied with him. He could to a certain extent control him, and at all events, while married to him the queen could not contribute by any foreign alliance to the power and greatness of Scotland.
* Calig. B 1, 232; B.M.
But Angus was making himself obnoxious to his wife beyond her very limited capacity for endurance. Not only had he proved a faithless husband, but what was infinitely worse to her mind, he refused to give up the income of her Ettrick Forest estate, which she had made over to him in the days when his handsome face and figure had first struck her fancy, and when she thought nothing too costly to lavish upon him. She had made him great, to her own and the country's misfortune, and it was a difficult matter to make him small again; but all Scotland felt the evil effects of his power, of his ascendancy over the young king, and of the feuds which resulted therefrom. So great was the scourge felt to be, that the Council appealed to Margaret to recall the Regent Albany, that he might restore order.
Margaret was aware that Albany's return was the thing of all others that Henry wished to avoid, but it suited her for the nonce to act the part of a good Scotswoman, and she wrote an imploring letter to the duke, begging him to come back and take pity on his unhappy country.* Notwithstanding this, her complaints to Henry through Lord Dacre of her bad treatment, and her supplications to be allowed to return to England, did not cease. She had "liever be dead than live among the Scots," and she entreats that no peace may be renewed, unless "some good may be taken," that she may live at ease.**
* Calig. B 1, 232.
** Ibid. B 2, 195.
Wolsey was not sparing in his remarks on the queen's double-dealing, the facts of which had all been disclosed to him by spies. He has, he says, represented to the king her brother "the folly of Queen Margaret in leaning to her enemies, and departing from her husband," notwithstanding what Dacre has already written to her. Dacre, by the king's desire, is to tell her that if she persists in her dishonourable course she can expect no favour.*
* Ibid. B 3, 106
Meanwhile the Earl of Surrey had been dispatched with an army to the Borders, and threatened to invade Scotland, unless the Duke of Albany were abandoned, and Margaret reinstated as regent. On the 16th September 1523, he wrote two letters to the queen, one intended for her eyes alone, the other to be shown to her son's Council. In the first he says that the King of England would approve of her son's "coming forth," and shaking off all tutelage but his mother's, for Surrey is about to waste Scotland, and the young king's plea for emancipating himself should be that he cannot suffer his realm to be laid waste. Margaret is to summon the lords to take up arms in her son's defence, and she will then be in a position to command Surrey to retire. She will thus form a party for her son, and be enabled to send Albany and his Frenchmen back to France. Then Surrey will turn his arms against her enemies.
If Margaret keeps her promise, money will be forthcoming. In the event of her causing James V, to "come forth" to Edinburgh, he has no doubt that if the king will command his subjects on their allegiance to take his part, the most of them will do so, especially the Commons, who must be roused to drive the French to Dunbar. The Earl of Surrey will be ready to give assistance.*
* Calig. B 4, 196.
The second letter was to the same effect, though more cautiously worded. The King of England would be glad to hear of his nephew's prosperous estate, but would certainly be dissatisfied that his nobles suffered their monarch and themselves to be kept in subjection by Albany. Surrey was ready to help with men and money all who would come forward to protect their natural sovereign; but peace could never be between the two realms, if the Scots did not give up the duke. As for Margaret's hope that Henry would be a better friend to Scotland on her account, Surrey had been ordered to desist from doing any more hurt at her request. He had now waited along time, he wrote, hoping that the Scottish lords would have shown themselves more natural loving subjects than they now appeared, seeing that the day appointed for the Duke of Albany's arrival had passed, and that their king was in no greater safety than he was before. All the world would see that the fault was not Henry's, but that of the Scots, who refused to put HIM out of the realm who meant to destroy the king and usurp the crown. Henry would never refrain from making war upon Scotland until they forsook. Albany, and sued to him for peace. On their doing this, Surrey had full authority to treat with them, and to assist them with money and troops.*
* State Papers, iv. 21—"Copy of my letter to be showed to the lords of Scotland; in Surrey's hand"; R.O.
This advice produced no effect whatever on the Scottish lords, whose loyalty to the regent remained unshaken. But Margaret did not consider herself hampered by any pledges given to Albany, and two days after the receipt of the letters, she urged Surrey to come to Edinburgh, or somewhere near it, at once, declaring that the lords would certainly do as she desired. As for the threatened laying waste, however, "they laughed at injuries done only to the poor people." A thousand men with artillery would have Edinburgh at their mercy if they came suddenly. Surrey must go at it at once, or let it be. Failing this, she desired leave to come to England with her true servants, adding, "for I will come away and I should steal out of it."*
* Ibid. 26.
The truth was, that, far from being certain that the lords would agree to any part of the scheme, Margaret knew well that she had but a handful of friends in Scotland, and that her sole hope of regaining the regency lay in Henry's power of coercion. Trusting that Surrey would really march on Edinburgh, she did all she could to persuade the Council to allow the young king to be brought to that place, and to appoint new guardians, friendly to her interests. In both these endeavours she failed, and James remained at Stirling.
"The lords are all fallen away from the queen, and adhere to the governor," wrote the Abbess of Coldstream to Sir John Bulmer, and Surrey passed on the information to Wolsey, telling him that Margaret had no credit with the Scotch, and that they looked hourly for Albany's arrival.
As for Lord Surrey, even if he had been willing to besiege Edinburgh, he would have been frustrated by the want of sufficient means of transport for his victuals. Had he not caused his soldiers to carry their food in wallets, and their drink in bottles, it would not have been possible for him to have reached the North, and a raid into the enemy's country necessitated a far ampler stock of provisions than could be carried in this way. The queen's desire that he should take Edinburgh, arose, he thought, from her anxiety to provide herself with a way of escape from her difficulties.*
* Surrey to Wolsey, Berwick, 21st Sept. 1523; R.O.
In England it was commonly believed that the Scottish lords were in so great a fear of Albany, who was hourly expected to arrive, that they would break their covenant with him even though they had each given him four of the best of their sons as hostages. But Surrey declared vehemently that although they might deceive Margaret, they should not deceive him.
The suspense was ended at last, and Margaret wrote to inform him of the regent's arrival. Surrey replied at once, desiring to know further what number of horse and foot soldiers had come with him, and what countrymen they were. He could give her no advice about coming away, but would meet her in any given part of the Marches, and at whatever time she pleased. Margaret in return was to let him know when the Duke of Albany intended to invade England. In conclusion, hoping to prevent any rapprochement between her and the regent, he warned her that Albany would most certainly be king if the king were not well guarded, "for the Frenchmen can empoison one, and yet he shall not die for a year after."*
* Surrey's Letterbook; Tanner MS. 90, f. 47; Bodleian Library.
The slippery nature of Margaret's friendship was well known to Surrey, and he kept up the fiction of Albany's nefarious intentions, in the hope of making her faithful to English interests. Unluckily for his schemes, he did not sufficiently study the springs of her actions, which would have taught him to be more lavish with his bribes. The end of her next letter ought to have opened his eyes to the necessity of striking a bargain with her if he would hope to draw her into the English net. After telling him that the duke has held a council at Glasgow, and that he means to march into England in a fortnight, she goes on to warn him that Scotland was never before made so strong, and says that it is still a secret whether Albany intends to attack the east or west Border, but she thinks both. She gives him a detailed account of the numbers and condition of his soldiers, and estimates his French contingent at 6000 men, adding that German reinforcements are expected by the first fair wind. They trust to win Berwick, and if they succeed, she and her son are undone. Then she begs to know how she is to get away, and have some money. If Henry will not help her, she must perforce ask help of Albany; and she declares significantly, "and he will cause me to do as he will, or else he will give me nothing." He has not yet come to her, but he writes "very good writings of his own hand, and as many fair words as can be devised," to which however she professes to give no credence.*
*Calig. B 6, 379; State Papers, iv. 40.
Surrey was of the opinion that Margaret should remain in Scotland, as her coming to England would cause embarrassment and expense. Two thousand marks would hardly satisfy her in England, whereas she would be content with three or four hundred pounds a year in Scotland, to say nothing of the loss Henry would incur if she came away, in being deprived of the information she sent.
But it was just this haggling over bribes that prevented Margaret from being altogether on Henry's side, and threw her into the arms of the more generous Albany whenever there was the least hope of gain. Thus, a month later, after the somewhat hasty retreat from Wark, she told Surrey that she had been obliged to take what money the duke would give her; that she would do her best to keep her son, but that she could not displease Albany without Henry's support. She implored Surrey to plead with the king for her, and in return for his help she would inform him of all she knew; but he must keep it secret.*
* Calig. B 1, 281.
At the same time, she gave the duke to understand that she had incurred her brother's displeasure for his sake,* and the same legend was repeated to the lords of the Council. Complaining to them of the bad treatment she had received in Scotland, she begged them to bear in mind the loyalty she had always shown to her son, to the lord governor, and to the realm, incurring for the last three or four years her brother's displeasure, for Albany's sake, at whose desire she was always ready to write the best she could.** Immediately upon this remarkable statement came Henry's answer to her last appeal, in the guise of one hundred marks for information received, together with the refusal of the truce which Albany had repeatedly solicited.*** The smallness of the sum prompted Margaret to write a diplomatic letter to the Earl of Surrey, in which she declared that she had promised before the lords to be a good Scotswoman, and to agree to whatever was for the good of her son, with whom she was resolved to bide as long as she might, although the lords were bent on separating them. They cannot, they say, help her to her "conjunct feoffment" while her brother makes war on them, and she knows not where any other help may be got. If she is to live with her son, Henry must contribute to her support, as he has done to a certain extent already. She will do as he commands her, and have as few servants as possible. She had asked the governor and lords in Council why she was "holden suspect," and not allowed to be with her son; and the answer she received was that she was Henry's sister, and would perhaps take the king into England, and they knew well her brother would do more for her than any other. She had answered that her deeds had shown otherwise, and that she could prove the malice of such an accusation! THUS HENRY WOULD SEE HOW SHE SUFFERED FOR HIS SAKE.****
* Ibid. 159.
** Ibid. B 2, 268.
*** State Papers, iv. 60, 26th Nov. 1523; R.O.
**** Queen Margaret to the Earl of Surrey, Dec. 1523; R.O.
The next scene in the comedy is Margaret's anger on hearing that Albany is treating with Henry for peace, without her intervention. "It is hard," she complains, "to be out with the governor here, and not to know what the king will do for me!" If she had flattered Albany, she asserts, she might have had "great profits," but she will not take them till she knows Henry's mind. She has not spoken with Albany since Surrey left, and would not do so as long as he remained in Scotland, so discontented were they with each other.* Upon this follows an astounding revelation. Surrey had received a dispatch from the queen containing another document, the seals of which had been broken and closed again. It was a copy of an agreement between Margaret and the Duke of Albany, but the manner in which it came to be enclosed in her letter never transpired, though it was thought that the packet had been opened by a spy, and the paper inserted, in order to ruin her prospects with her brother.
* Calig. B 1, 209, 21st April 1524.
The enclosed document ran thus:—
The queen promises that during the minority of her son, she will never suffer anything contrary to the duke's authority, and will inform him of it, and hinder as much as she can any wrong intended against him; she will not consent to a truce or peace with England without the comprehension of her son's allies; she will assist to keep him securely, according to the decree of the last Parliament; she will do all she can to hinder any practice against him of which she may hear, and will inform the governor of it if he be in the country, and if not, those who have charge of the king; she will not consent to anything contrary to the alliance with France, or to the treaty of Rouen, and will further a marriage between her son and one of the daughters of the King of France. The governor promises to do the like, and to obtain for her an honourable reception by the King of France, if she incurs the enmity of her brother, and is forced to quit the country in consequence of the assistance he may give to Angus, or other evil-disposed persons who may interfere with her goods and conjunct feoffment; he will if she requests, send some of his servants with her, and will maintain her against everyone except the king her son. Both parties swear to keep these promises upon the Holy Gospels.*
* Add. MS. 24, 965, ff. 231 and 234; B.M.
Wolsey, upon receipt of this information, at once addressed instructions to Dacre, charging him to find out whether such an agreement had really been made, and if so, how the copy of it had found its way into the queen's letter.
Dacre therefore wrote to tell her of the discovery, and recapitulating the contents of the enclosed document, added that the king desired to know whether she had consented to it of her own free will, why it was done, whether she herself sent the copy, or if not who did send it, and with what intent.
Margaret replied by an indignant but weak denial. The instrument in question was one, she averred, which the duke had DESIRED her to execute, but which she had declined at all costs to meddle with.
This explanation was too improbable for Wolsey to accept, the whole course of Margaret's actions tending to show that had Albany tried and failed to draw her into such a compact, she would unhesitatingly have disclosed the negotiation in order to make capital out of her refusal. The opportunity for demanding large sums as a reward for her fidelity to Henry's interests would have proved irresistible; while as a matter of fact the transaction had never been so much as hinted at in any of her letters. Vague allusions, to the effect that Albany was continually outbidding Henry, had been her refrain for years; but whereas she sent minute and circumstantial details of every other secret likely to prejudice the country and the regent, she had been silent as to any definite overtures such as those contained in the document referred to.
The alternative was to believe that, while pretending to be false, for once she was true to Scotland; and yet she stands so deeply "rooted in dishonour," that her acquittal puts but little to her credit. Her only resource, when Dacre persisted in his accusation, was a feeble complaint of the bad treatment she was receiving at her brother's hands, pleading that he neither regarded herself nor her writing; that she had not failed, and did not mean to fail, but that if others had been in her place they would have acted very differently.*
* Add. MS. 24, 965, f. 223, 19th May 1524; B.M.
To this Dacre replied ruthlessly, that it was well known both in Scotland and in England, not only that she had assented to the bond found in her letter, but that it had passed her sign manual and seal, in return for which, the Duke of Albany had given her the wardship and marriage of the young Earl of Huntly and of others, together with other gifts and rewards—-a proceeding which, declared Dacre, was a great dishonour to her brother, and would perhaps after all avail her but little. He marvelled also greatly at her pretended ignorance of the negotiations pending between Albany and himself, because in his last letter he had informed her of all the proceedings.*
* Ibid. 965, f. 244, 27th May 1524.
For some time, Margaret continued to deny feebly having formally allied herself with the regent, murmuring at Dacre's "sharpness" towards her, notwithstanding which Dacre continued to bring fresh proofs of her duplicity before her, till Henry at last ordered him to let the matter drop, whereupon she was willing to do the same.*
* Add. MS. 24, 965, f. 253; B.M.
Having failed in the past to secure Margaret's undivided favour, Henry now took a more persuasive line, and sought to convince his sister how much good might in future accrue to her if she would but "go the fruitful way." The unfortunate Angus, who had taken refuge in England, was now sent back, in the hope that a possible reconciliation with her husband might detach her from Albany. But this was far from succeeding. Margaret could with difficulty be induced to receive him, and all the money that Henry sent to her went to strengthen the hands of her husband's enemies, so that Angus was obliged to entreat that no further supplies might be provided. Margaret then veered round, and said that Albany had sent to her with great offers if she would join his party, adding that perhaps the duke would marry her after getting her divorced. How this could be possible, considering that Albany had a wife already, might puzzle a mind more fettered by the logic of facts than was the queen's.
That she was seriously anxious to be agreeable to the duke is seen by the instructions which she delivered to John Cantely, who was to tell the regent of her goodwill towards him and the kingdom of France. And lest he should interpret unfavourably the circumstance of her having sent ambassadors to England, she assured him that she would do nothing without including France. Finally, she wished to know his intentions towards her and what he would give her. In the event of her taking his part against England, which she will certainly do if Henry continues to help Angus, Albany must secure for her the protection of the French king. If this king desires to have her and her son on his side, he must support them.
But Albany must keep the matter secret, and not allow her letters to be sent into England, as has been done formerly, and she will take his part against everyone except her son.*
* Double de la credence de la Royne et memoire de Mr. John Cantely; R.O.
This was written on the 22nd February 1525, but on the 31st March following, Margaret, in a stormy interview with Angus, angrily denied having negotiated with Albany at all. She swore that she had always sought to please Henry, and complained of his letters being "sore and sharp." She had taken a great matter on hand at his request, and had had much trouble with the duke for his sake, yet now that she had plainly told the regent that she followed Henry's pleasure, Henry would have no more to do with her. If he will not be kind to her, she hopes at least that he will not cause Angus to trouble her in her living. She has a plea against Angus before the Pope, and he cannot interfere with her by law.*
* Calig. B 7, 3.
It was clearly to Henry's interest to persuade Margaret to take her husband back, for Angus belonged with the whole Douglas family to Albany's bitterest enemies. The reconciliation between him and the regent had been but a short interlude brought about solely from self-interest on the part of Angus, and followed by a deep and lasting feud. Added to this claim on Henry's friendship was the fact that he possessed a powerful influence over the young King James. But with the page of Henry's own domestic history open before us, it is not possible to repress a smile at the arguments against her divorce which Henry put before Margaret, at the very moment when he was trying to force the Pope's hand, in order to obtain from him a sentence against his own marriage. The following substance of a letter, written it is true by Wolsey, but dictated by his master, applies in every detail as well to Henry's own case as to Margaret's. If we change the pronoun, substitute London for Rome, king for queen, Katharine for Angus, all that he causes Wolsey to say becomes as applicable to himself as to his sister.
After desiring her to accept favourably Henry's message, which, he says, much concerns the wealth of her son and her own repute, the cardinal urges her brother's hope that the "undeceivable spirit of God, which moved him to send to her, will effectually work." Amid the cares of his government he has never forgotten her, and he hopes she will turn to God's word, "the vyvely doctrine of Jesus Christ, the only ground of salvation" (1 Cor. 3). He reminds her of the divine ordinance of inseparable matrimony, first instituted in Paradise, and hopes her Grace will perceive how she was seduced by flatterers to an unlawful divorce from "the right noble Earl of Angus," etc., upon untrue and insufficient grounds. Furthermore, "the shameless sentence sent from Rome" plainly showed how unlawfully it was handled, judgment being given against a party neither present in person nor by proxy. He urges her further, for the weal of her soul, and to avoid the inevitable damnation threatened against "advoutrers," to reconcile herself with Angus as her true husband, or out of mere natural affection for her daughter, whose excellent beauty and pleasant behaviour, nothing less godly than goodly, furnished with virtuous and womanly demeanour, should soften her heart. That she should be reputed baseborn cannot be avoided, except the queen will relinquish the "advoutrous" company with him that is not, nor may not be, of right her husband.*
* Calig. B 6, 194.
The individual here mentioned was Harry Stuart, with whom Margaret had contracted a secret marriage, having by dint of perjury and a tissue of lies, obtained a declaration of invalidity against her union with Angus. She does not appear to have been in the least affected by Henry's hypocritical reasoning, but the manner in which her son received the news of her third marriage caused her some inconvenience. In his displeasure, James sent Lord Erskine to besiege his mother and her new husband in Stirling Castle; but what promised to be a tragedy had a somewhat ridiculous end, for Margaret, in terror of what might follow, at once gave up her husband, who after a short imprisonment was allowed to escape. He promptly rejoined the queen, and James subsequently forgave him, and created him Lord Methven.
But not even when her son had come to his own did Margaret cease to plot and intrigue. Henry's suspicious character imperatively demanded that all that was going on in Scotland should be known without delay at the English court, and his sister was the only possible agent for the purpose. It does not appear that her treachery, now doubly odious, ever cost her the least qualm. The climax was, however, reached, when after persuading James to confide to her his private instructions to the Scottish ambassador residing in London, she contrived that the information thus obtained should be in Henry's hands at the same moment that it reached its legitimate destination.
Fortunately for the affairs of Scotland, the treasonable correspondence was discovered; and Margaret narrowly escaped imprisonment. The immediate result was to put an end to the more friendly intercourse that had sprung up between the two countries, and to prevent a meeting between the two sovereigns, in process of negotiation.
At this interview, which was to have taken place at York, Henry hoped to convert his nephew to his own views regarding the Pope; and in order to pave the way to, a good understanding between them, he sent Barlow and Holcroft to Scotland with a lengthy document containing, with much fulsome flattery of James, all Henry's choice vocabulary of epithets hurled against the "Bishop of Rome."*
* Hamilton Papers—Instructions to Barlow and Holcroft, 3rd Oct. 1535, fol. 27.
Margaret, ignorant that her son had discovered her treachery, continued to urge him to proceed to York; but her eagerness only roused his suspicions that worse treason lay behind.
"The Queen, your Grace's sister," wrote Lord William Howard to Henry, "because she hath so earnestly solicited in the cause of meeting, is in high displeasure with the King, her son, he bearing her in hand that she received gifts of your Highness to betray him, with many other unkind and suspicious words."*
*State Papers, iv. 46; R.O.
Enough has been already seen of Margaret's methods to make it quite clear what her next step would be. Out of favour with James, she of course threw the whole brunt of her misfortune on Henry, for whose sake she had incurred so much danger and expense, having lived for the last six months at court for the sole purpose of advancing his affairs.* But Henry was beginning to weary of his sister's complaints and appeals for money. Besides, James would in future guard his secrets better, and Margaret almost cease to be useful as a spy. So she must not expect him to disburse notable sums, merely because she is his sister, and must henceforth learn to be content with the entirely sufficient provision made for her on her marriage with the King of Scots.**
* Add. MS. 32, 616, f. 87; B.M.
** State Papers, v. 56; R.O.
This was all the consolation he could afford her for some time to come, for besides his other reasons for disregarding the letters which she, nothing daunted by his silence, continued to send him, Henry was too much occupied with his own concerns to bestow much thought on a sister whose power of helping him was now small. It was the moment of Anne Boleyn's fall, and he was engrossed with the list of crimes of which he was about to accuse the unhappy woman.
On the subject of Margaret's various marriages, her brother had ever failed to manifest that sympathy which a similarity of tastes would seem to justify. He had assumed the tone of a moralist on her separation from Angus, and had treated Lord Methven in his letters with scant respect, and when in the course of time she began to be weary of her new spouse, and to complain of him with increasing bitterness, it was long before Henry could be roused to express any interest in the subject. At last, however, he found a convenient season for attending to her. She had written to inform him that whereas she did Lord Meffen (sic) the honour to take him as her husband, he had spent her lands and profits upon his own kin, and had brought her into debt, to the sum of 8000 marks Scots, and would give her no account of it. She trusted the king her son would treat her to his and her own honour; but if not, she had no refuge but in Henry, and she begged him not to suffer her to be wronged.
To this, Henry deigned to reply that he should be sorry if his good brother and nephew treated her otherwise than a son should treat his mother. As it appeared from certain evidence, she was well-handled, and had grown to much wealth and quiet; but according to other reports, quite the contrary, so that he was in doubt which to believe. "Also," he continues, "having heard at other times from you of your evil-treatment by your son and Lord Muffyn (sic), and as we are sending the bearer into those parts, on our business, we desire you to show him the points wherein you note yourself evil-handled, and whether you desire us to treat of them with your son, or only generally to recommend your condition." *
* State Papers, v. 63, 65.
Margaret had remained faithful to Lord Methven for about ten years, and it was not till 1537 that she thought of formally applying for a divorce, her chief plea being that be wasted her money, although she said she had "forty famous proofs" against him.*
* Hamilton Papers, 13th Oct. 1537, f. 105.
James was furious, and ordered that the divorce, whether obtained at the cost of more false oaths, or whether Margaret's so-called third husband really had a wife living when the union was contracted, should not be proclaimed in Scotland.
This constituted Margaret's famous grievance against James, his objection to her divorce being, his mother declared, the fear lest she should pass into England and remarry the Earl of Angus. "And this Harry Stuart, Lord of Methven, causes him to believe this of ME!" she exclaimed contemptuously.* One plea for getting rid of the now despised Harry Stuart is too amusing to be omitted. James was in France, whither he had gone to bring home his bride, the young and beautiful Magdalene, daughter of the French king, and Margaret thought to induce Henry to interest himself in her divorce through his jealousy of the French.
* State Papers, v. 119.
After begging him to send a special messenger to the king her son, to know his "utter mind," she says: "For now, dearest brother, your Grace I trust will consider that now the queen his wife is to come into this realm soon after Easter, as he hath sent word here, to make ready for the same, and that being, it will be great dishonour to him that I, his mother, having a just cause to part, can nought get a final end; and I trust your Grace will consider I may do your Grace and my son more honour to be without him (Lord Methven) than to have him, considering that he is but a sober man, and if the Queen that is to come, see me not entreated as I should be, she will think it an evil example." *
* Hamilton Papers, f. 109.
But all her efforts were fruitless; Henry could not be persuaded to take up her quarrel, and James was obdurate. His mother, however, then in her forty-ninth year, dispensed with legal formality altogether, and allied herself to a certain John Stuart, who, according to some, is identical with the adventurous Earl of Arran, so notorious in the reign of James VI.
A few more miserable years of petty intrigues, it being no longer in her power to carry on important ones, and Margaret came to the close of her faithless, undignified life. But before the end, a ray of sorrow for her mis-spent days brightened the hitherto unrelieved gloom of her career. Henry's messenger, sent after her death to gather up the details of her last moments, and above all, to find out whether she had made a will, wrote to the king as follows:—
"When she did perceive that death did approach, she did desire the friars that was her confessors, that they should sit on their knees before the King, and to beseech him that he would be good and gracious unto the Earl of Angwische, and did extremely lament and ask God mercy that she had offended unto the said Earl as she had."
The friars were also to plead with her son for the Lady Margaret Douglas, the daughter whom she had so remorselessly abandoned, and to beg him that she might have some of her mother's goods. And thus, making what reparation she could, with penitent words on her lips, Margaret Tudor passed away.
II. NOR WIFE NOR WIDOW
The history of the first two marriages of Henry VIII. is of such vital importance, affecting as they did the whole course of religion in England, from the first whisperings of the divorce down to the present day, that it is not to be wondered at if the royal Bluebeard's subsequent matrimonial alliances have been considered negligible quantities. And yet, at least one of them was of extreme political, and even religious, importance, and was fraught with so much mystery that until the most recent investigations, the true inwardness of the matter has been totally misapprehended. The story of Anne of Cleves' portrait, and Henry's supposed disappointment when he saw the lady herself for the first time, is authentic in so far as it was exactly what the king chose to have circulated about his fourth marriage. But if it contained half the truth, it was the other half that really mattered.
After the fall of Wolsey, Thomas Cromwell had by his astute policy succeeded in bringing about a religious state of things in England that approached very nearly to Lutheranism. Taking advantage of Henry's pique and anger at the Pope's refusal to grant him a divorce from Katharine of Arragon, Cromwell set about widening the breach between England and Rome. After weakening the power of the bishops and lower clergy, he was able to force the oath of supremacy upon the nation, and having thus satisfied his master's pride and vanity, his next step was by the dissolution of the monasteries to pander to Henry's greed, while at the same time he filled his own pockets.
In pursuit of these ends he had covered the land with gibbets, and caused the noblest heads in England to fall upon the block. He had branded the king's own daughter with the stigma of infamy, and to obtain her consent thereto had kept the axe suspended over her. He had been able to accomplish all this because thus far he had taken Henry's measure correctly, working upon his worst passions, and suggesting ever fresh means of satisfying them. Then came a point at which his interests and those of the king diverged.
Cromwell was deeply pledged to the Lutheran cause, and his plan was to throw Henry into the arms of the Lutheran princes of Germany. He had already flooded the country with foreign heretics, using them as his tools to protestantise the Church in England.
Jane Seymour died in 1537, and Cromwell at once negotiated a marriage between Henry and Anne, daughter of the Duke of Cleves, Henry consenting for the reason that it behoved him to fortify himself by an alliance that would enable him to make a stand against a possible combination of forces between the Pope, the Emperor, and the French King. But at the very moment when Cromwell, believing himself to be at the point of realising all his desires, was pledging his master to marry Anne of Cleves, a reaction had set in which he so completely disregarded as to seem in utter ignorance of it.
Nothing annoyed Henry more than to be twitted with being a heretic, and whenever Henry was annoyed a blow might be expected. The loathed epithet was now very frequently used in reference to him by the emperor and others, and he was bent on showing Europe that he could be a very good Catholic without the Pope. It irritated him to think that Cromwell had laid him open to retort in this contention by a formal alliance with the Lutherans, who were undeniably heretics. It served his purpose very well to play them off against the emperor and even Francis I., but it was not his will to be bound irrevocably by any contract. When Cromwell thought to put the finishing touch to his triumphant scheme, he only effected his own doom. He boasted to the Lutherans that he would soon bring England over to their forms of faith, and on this promise the match between Henry and Anne was concluded; but he failed to rouse the German princes to a contest with the emperor, which was all that Henry, apart from his minister's policy, had aimed at from the beginning. With Henry the whole scheme was tentative, and the proposed marriage but a detail of that scheme. When it fell through, he desired to turn his back upon Cleves and the rest of the German princes; moreover, he had no further need of Cromwell himself, who was rather in the way of his new plans, unless the minister could find a means to disentangle the imbroglio he had created with regard to Anne.
Like a child with a new toy, Henry was now engrossed in the fun of being Pope in his own dominions; and as Head of the Church of England whom it behoved to reprobate heresy in every shape and form, he conducted a trial against one John Nicholson, who, refusing to recant his heretical opinions, was burned at Smithfield. After this he felt confident of being as Catholic as the real Pope, and safe from opprobrium. He proceeded to bring forward deliberations in Parliament on the subject of religion, with the result that the famous Act of the Six Articles was passed. This Act, nicknamed by the Lutherans "the whip with six cords," brought in a reaction in favour of the old religion, which lasted till Henry's death, but matters between England and Rome remained as they were.
Meanwhile, the lady Anne of Cleves had made her unwelcome appearance. One of the most curious and indeed incomprehensible facts concerning Henry VIII., is the admiring awe and grovelling gratitude with which he was adored by most of the women whom he had the privilege of ill-treating. After the year 1527, when he first conceived the desire of raising Anne Boleyn to the throne, and of divorcing Katharine, except for the short period during which he was married to Jane Seymour, there were always two rival claimants for his hand. Not only was Katharine ever generously ready to forget past insults if he would graciously extend his clemency towards her, and send Anne away, but every other woman with whom he came in contact, addressed him in words more suited to a divinity than to an earthly king. His daughter Mary, after having been spurned as the most degraded and abject creature of the realm, longed for nothing more ardently than "to attain the fruition of his most desired presence."
Although the personal appearance of Anne of Cleves did not bear out the exaggerated reports of the German agent Mont, who had told Henry that her beauty exceeded that of the Duchess of Milan "as the sun outshines the silver moon," she was found on her arrival in England to be "tall, bright, and graceful," her liveliness making amends for any defect as to regularity of feature. Comparing her claim to beauty with that of the other wives of Henry VIII., it does not appear that she contrasted unfavourably with any, not even with Katharine Howard, who was very generally admired. The king himself observed to Cromwell that Anne was "well and seemly, and had a queenly manner," but that he found it difficult to converse with her as she knew no word of any language but German.
He had first met her privately at Rochester, and had dined with her, their public meeting taking place about half a mile from the foot of Shooter's Hill, where she rested in a gorgeous pavilion prepared for the occasion. Henry came marching through Greenwich Park with a brilliant escort, and the bride and bridegroom met full merrily. The king embraced the lady ceremoniously, and the chronicler Hall, some time afterwards, in describing their entry into Greenwich, breaks out into one of his eulogistic periods:
"O what a sight was this, to see so goodly a Prince and so noble a King to ride with so fair a lady, of so goodly a stature, and so womanly a countenance, and in especial of so good qualities. I think no creature could see them but his heart rejoiced!"
Nevertheless, Henry's moody question, "What remedy?" which obviously had its origin in no mere disappointment in the matter of Anne's beauty or power to charm, was calculated to strike terror into Cromwell's soul, the chancellor knowing full well that all this bravery was but an appearance, and that his great scheme of Lutheranising England to the greater glory of himself was irrevocably wrecked, and his own fate sealed. The king went on to say that if it were not that the lady had come so far, and for fear of making a ruffle in the world, and of driving her brother into the emperor's arms and those of the French king, he would not go through with the marriage ceremony.
As a forlorn hope of escape, the bride was asked to make a declaration that she was free from all precontracts, which she did without the least hesitation, and there was nothing to be done but for Henry "to put his head into the yoke," and to make an insignificant political alliance, which would thenceforth serve no political end. As a Catholic king, Head of the Church and Defender of the Faith, there was no room in his plans for a Lutheran queen. However, he no longer regarded the marriage tie as a knot that could not be undone at a pinch. Cranmer could be counted on to be pliable in that matter, and if Cromwell made difficulties, a sword was hanging over him that could be made to fall at any moment, and Henry knew that the death of the man who had been the terror of England for ten years would be hailed with enthusiasm by the whole nation. Henry's foreign policy had always been a non-committal one, and Cromwell's daring intrigues had carried his master further than he intended to go. As the chancellor could find no means of getting him out of the mess, he lost his life, and Anne of Cleves her barely assumed dignity.
The disgusting letters which Cromwell wrote from the Tower, in the hope that his tardy playing into the king's hands would obtain him a pardon, were of immense use to Henry in confusing the public mind as to the real reason for his repudiation of Anne, for he was anxious in breaking off from Protestant Germany not to turn the Duke of Cleves into an enemy. The want of decency and the unchivalrous sacrifice of Anne's honour and dignity are perhaps not surprising between such men as Henry and Cromwell, but it is startling to find the lady's brother swallowing the insult calmly. Nevertheless, Henry's diplomatic insight had correctly gauged the coarsening effect of Luther's moral code on a mind that could see less offence in a stain of this kind than in a frank rupture of the marriage-treaty before Anne had been allowed to set foot in England. There is this, however, to be said, that the possession of the lady gave Henry a decided advantage over her brother.
A few weeks after the marriage, or what passed for such, Anne was sent to Richmond on the pretext of being out of reach of the plague, but there was no talk at that time of any plague, and if there had been, Henry would certainly have gone away also, for no one feared the epidemic more than he. On her departure, a commission was appointed under the Great Seal to inquire into the validity of her marriage, and in an incredibly short space of time it was declared null, by reason of a pre-contract with the son of the Duke of Lorraine. Henry then endowed his ex-queen with lands to the value of 4000 pounds annually, with a house at Richmond, and another at Bletchingly.
Whatever she may have felt, Anne expressed herself willing to be divorced—perhaps she was thankful to escape with her head—and desired the Duke of Cleves' messenger "to commend her to her brother, and say she was merry and well entreated." He reported of her that she said this "with such alacrity and pleasant gesture, that he might well testify that he found her not miscontented. After she had dined she sent the King the ring delivered unto her at their pretended marriage, desiring that it might be broken in pieces as a thing which she knew of no force or value." Henry sent her many gifts and tokens "as his sister and none otherwise," and told her that she was to be the first lady in the realm next after the queen and the king's children. He exhorted her to be "quiet and merry," and subscribed himself "your loving brother and friend." After his fifth marriage she was designated as "the old Queen, the King's sister."
The French ambassador, in a letter of the 6th August 1540, wrote:—
"The King being lately with a small party at Hampton Court, ten miles hence, supped at Richmond with the Queen that was so merrily that some thought he meant to reinstate her, but others think it was done to get her consent to the dissolution of the marriage, and make her subscribe what she had said thereupon, which is not only what they wanted, but also what she thinks they expected. The latter opinion is the more likely, as the King drew her apart, in company with the three first councillors he had, who are not commonly called in to such confidence."
Marillac goes on to say that he thinks it would be great inconsistency to take her back now, and that moreover she did not sup with him as she did when she was queen, but at another table adjoining his, as other ladies who are not of the blood do, when he eats in company.
On the 15th he wrote to the Duke de Montmorency:—
"As for her who is called Madame de Cleves, far from pretending to be distressed, she is as joyous as ever, and wears new dresses every day, which argues either prudent dissimulation or stupid forgetfulness of what should so closely touch her heart. Be it as it may, it has thrown the poor ambassador of Cleves into a fever, who sends every day to ask if I have no news of his master."
Even if Anne's first feeling had been one of relief that a worse fate had not befallen her, her gaiety was obviously forced, and no doubt the lady did "protest too much," but she had been ordered to be "quiet and merry," and if after such a mandate she had ventured to put on a sorrowful countenance, or to express a vain regret, her quondam husband would probably have been—such was his disposition—less flattered by the compliment than irritated by the command disobeyed. And so she prudently accepted her fate and "sate like patience on a monument smiling at grief," as it afterwards transpired, and in her efforts to please, imposed upon herself what must have been the most trying ordeals.
Her marriage had taken place on the feast of the Epiphany, 1540, and in July of the same year Henry was united to Katharine Howard, grand-daughter of the Duke of Norfolk. This young woman's reputation was already so notoriously bad, that it is impossible to believe that the king could be in ignorance of the fact. Nevertheless, for the time being, he was deeply in love, and his scruples and righteous anger were wont to come—afterwards. Marillac describes the new queen "as rather graceful than beautiful, and of short stature." He says:—