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(1535 to May 1536.)
If feeble minds did not shrink from bending beneath the royal despotism, men of fanatical mould cherished vengeance in their hearts. Great wounds had been inflicted on the papacy, and they burnt to strike some signal blow against the cause of Reform. That also, they said, must have its victim. For all these monasteries sacrificed, one person must be immolated: one only, but taken from the most illustrious station. The king having, on the one side, struck his tutor and his friend, must now, to maintain the balance, strike his wife on the other. A tragedy was about to begin which would terminate in a frightful catastrophe. Anne Boleyn had not been brought up, as some have said, 'in the worst school in Europe,'[263] but in one of the best—in the household of the pious Margaret of Angoulême, who was the enlightened protectress not only of the learned, but of all friends of the Gospel. Anne had learnt from that princess to love the Reformation and the Reformers. And accordingly she was in the eyes of the papal partisans, the principal cause of the change that had been wrought in the king's mind, and by him throughout the kingdom. The Reformation, as we have seen, began in England about 1517 with the reading of the Holy
Scriptures in the universities; but the most accredited Roman doctors have preferred assigning it another origin, and, speaking of Cranmer's connexion with Anne Boleyn, thirteen years later, have said, 'Such is the beginning of the Reformation in England.'[264] In this assertion there is an error both of chronology and history.
Since her coronation, the queen had been in almost daily communication with the archbishop of Canterbury, and habitually—even her enemies affirmed it—the interests of the evangelical cause were treated of. At one time Anne prayed Cranmer to come to the assistance of the persecuted protestants. At another, full of the necessity of sending reapers into the harvest, she interested herself about such young persons as were poor, but whose pure morals and clear intellect seemed to qualify them for the practice of virtue and the study of letters;[265] these she assisted with great generosity.[266] This was also an example that Margaret of Valois had given her. The queen did not encourage these students heedlessly: she required testimonials certifying as to the purity of their morals and the capacity of their intellect. If she was satisfied, she placed them at Oxford or Cambridge, and required them to spread around them, even while studying, the New Testament and the writings of the reformers. Many of the queen's pensioners did great service to the Church and State in after years. With these queenly qualities Anne combined more domestic ones. Cranmer saw her, like good Queen Claude, gathering round her a number of young ladies distinguished by their birth and their virtues, and working with them at tapestry of admirable perfection for the palace of
Hampton Court, or at garments for the indigent. She established in the poor parishes vast warehouses, filled with such things as the needy wanted. 'Her eye of charity, her hand of bounty,' says a biographer, 'passed through the whole land.'[267] 'She is said in three quarters of a year,' adds Lord Herbert of Cherbury, the celebrated philosopher and historian, 'to have bestowed fourteen or fifteen thousand pounds in this way,' that is, in alms.[268] And this distinguished writer, ambassador of England at the court of Louis XIII., and known in France by the exertions he made in behalf of the protestants, adds: 'She had besides established a stock for poor artificers in the realm.'[269] Such were the works of Queen Anne. Cranmer, who had great discernment of men and things, being touched by the regard which the queen had for those who professed the Gospel, and seeing all that she did for the Reformation and the consolation of the wretched, declared that next to the king, Anne was of all creatures living 'the one to whom he was most bound.'[270]
Cranmer was not the only person among the evangelicals with whom Anne Boleyn entertained relations. From the first day she had seen Latimer, the Christian simplicity and apostolic manners of the reformer had touched her. When she heard him preach, she was delighted. The enthusiasm for that bold Christian preacher was universal. 'It is as impossible,' said his hearers, 'for us to receive into our minds all the treasures of eloquence and knowledge which fall from his lips, as it would be for a little river to contain the waters of the ocean in its bed.' From the period (1535) when Latimer preached the Lent Sermons before the king, he was one
of the most regular instruments of the queen's active charity.
A still more decided reformer had a high esteem for Anne Boleyn: this was Tyndale. No one, in his opinion, had declared with so much decision as the queen in favor of the New Testament and its circulation in English. Wishing, accordingly, to show his gratitude and respect, Tyndale presented her with a unique copy of his translation, printed in beautiful type on vellum, illuminated and bound in blue morocco, with these words in large red letters: Anne Regina Angliæ (Anne, queen of England).[271] This remarkable volume, now preserved in the library of the British Museum, is a monument of the veneration of the prisoner of Vilvorde for Anne Boleyn. A manuscript manual of devotion for the use of this princess has also been preserved: she used to present copies of it to her maids of honor. We see in it the value she attached to the Holy Scriptures: 'Give us, O Father of Mercies,' we read, 'the greatest of all gifts Thou hast ever conferred on man—the knowledge of Thy holy will, and the glad tidings of our salvation. Roman tyranny had long hidden it from us under Latin letters; but now it is promulgated, published, and freely circulated.'[272]
Anne having in 1535 lost Dr. Betts, one of her almoners, looked out for a man devoted to the Gospel to take his place, for she loved to be surrounded by the most pious persons in England. She cast her eyes upon Matthew Parker, a native of Norwich, professor at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, and a man who for two years had been preaching the truth with fervor. Parker loved retirement and obscurity; accordingly, when he received on the Wednesday following Palm Sunday two letters summoning him to court 'because
the queen wished to see him,'[273] he was amazed and confounded. At first he wanted to refuse so brilliant a call; but Latimer wrote to him: 'Show yourself to the world; hide yourself no longer; do good, whilst you have the opportunity. We know what you can do; let not your will be less than your power.'[274] Parker went to London, and in a short time his knowledge, piety, and prudence gained the entire esteem of the queen. That modest, intelligent, active man was just the person Anne wanted, and she took pleasure thenceforward in bestowing on him marks of her consideration. He himself tells us that if, in the course of his duties, he was called upon to receive friends at his table, the queen, eking out his narrow means, would send him a hare or a fawn taken in her parks.[275] Parker was from this time one of those employed by Anne to distribute her benevolence. He had hardly arrived at court, when he presented to the queen one W. Bill, a very young and very poor man, but by no means wanting in talent. Anne, rich in discernment, placed him in the number of students whom she was preparing for the ministry: he afterwards became dean of Westminster. Parker, who began his career with Anne, was to finish it with Elizabeth. When he was deprived of all his offices by Queen Mary in 1554, he exclaimed: 'Now that I am stripped of everything, I live in God's presence, and am full of joy in my conscience. In this charming leisure I find greater pleasures than those supplied by the busy and perilous life I led at the court.' Forced to hide himself, often to flee by night, to escape the pursuit of his persecutors, the peace which he enjoyed was never troubled. He looked upon trials as the privilege of the child of God. All of a sudden a strange and unexpected calamity
befell him. The daughter of Anne Boleyn, having ascended the throne, desired to have her mother's chaplain for archbishop of Canterbury and primate of all England. 'I kneel before your Majesty,' he said to Queen Elizabeth, 'and pray you not to burden me with an office which requires a man of much more talent, knowledge, virtue, and experience than I possess.' A second letter from Chancellor Bacon repeated the summons. Then the unhappy Parker exclaimed in the depth of his sorrow: 'Alas! alas! Lord God! for what times hast Thou preserved me![276] I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me. O Lord! strengthen me by Thy mighty Spirit!' Parker was at the head of the Church of England for sixteen years, and dignified the elevated seat on which he had been constrained to sit. Such were the men whom Anne Boleyn gathered round her.
We should be mistaken, however, if we represented the young queen as a bigot, living like Catherine in the practices of a rigid austerity. It appears even doubtful whether she knew by experience that inner, spiritual, and living Christianity which was found in Latimer, Tyndale, Cranmer, and Parker. She was a virtuous wife, a good protestant, attached to the Bible, opposed to the pope, fond of good works, esteeming men of God more than courtiers: but she had not renounced the world and its pomps. A woman of the world, upright, religious, loving to do good, a class of which there is always a large number, she was unacquainted with the pious aspirations of a soul that lives in communion with God. Even her position as queen and wife of Henry VIII. may have hindered her from advancing in the path of a Christian life. She thought it possible to love God without renouncing the enjoyments of the age, and looked upon worldly things as an innocent recreation. Desiring to
keep her husband's heart, she endeavored to please him by cheerful conversation, by organizing pleasure parties of which she was the life, and by receiving all his courtiers gracefully. Placed on a slippery soil and watched by prejudiced eyes, she may occasionally have let fall some imprudent expression. Her sprightliness and gaiety, her amiable freedom were in strong contrast with the graver and stiffer formalities of the English ladies. Latimer, who saw her closely, sometimes admonished her respectfully, when he was alone with her, and the grateful Anne would exclaim unaffectedly: 'You do me so much good![277] Pray never pass over a single fault.'
It is not from the writings of the pamphleteers that we must learn to know Anne Boleyn. Towards the end of the sixteenth century, opposite parties, in their extreme excitement, have painted her at one time in colors too dark, at another in colors too flattering. We must in this matter especially listen to men whose testimony is sanctioned by universal respect. There are not many princesses in history who have enjoyed, like Anne, the esteem of the most elevated minds—of Cranmer and Latimer, of Tyndale and Parker, and other Christians, less illustrious, perhaps, but not less respectable. In the eyes of the papal partisans, however, she had committed an unpardonable crime: she had separated England from the papacy; and accordingly their savage hatred has known no bounds, and they have never ceased to blacken her memory with their vile calumnies. Of all the misdeeds that history can commit, the greatest consists in representing the innocent as if they were guilty. It is wholesale calumny for the use not only of the present generation but for generations to come. Many writers have forged and still forge base imputations against the reformers Luther, Calvin, and others. Anne Boleyn
has had her full share of slander in this huge conspiracy of falsehood.[278]
The grandeur with which Anne was surrounded, had opened her heart to the tenderest sympathies. To be the joy of her husband and the delight of her relations, to protect the friends of the Gospel and to be loved by England—these were for some time the dreams of her young imagination. But ere long the crown of St. Edward pressed heavily on her forehead. The members of her own family became her enemies. Her uncle, the proud duke of Norfolk, the chief along with Gardiner of the ultramontane party, was animated by a secret hatred against the young woman who was the support of the evangelical party. Her father, the earl of Wiltshire, imagining he saw that the king was not flattered at being his son-in-law, had quitted London, regretting a union which his ambition had so much desired. Lady Rocheford, wife of Anne's brother, a woman of despicable character, whose former perfidies the queen had pardoned, and whom she had attached to the court, repaid this generous magnanimity by secretly plotting the ruin of a sister-in-law whose elevation had filled her with jealousy. At length, one of those who ate her bread and received favors from her, was about to show her ingratitude to the unfortunate queen.
Among her ladies of honor was Jane Seymour, who united all the attractions of youth and beauty, and whose disposition held a certain mean between the severe gravity of Queen Catherine and the fascinating sprightliness of Queen Anne. Constancy in affection was not a feature of Henry's character; his heart was easily
inflamed; his eye rested on the youthful Jane Seymour, and no sooner had he become sensible of her graces, than the charms of Anne Boleyn, which had formerly captivated him, became unendurable. The genial gaiety of the queen fatigued him; the accomplishments which are ordinarily the means of pleasing, gave him umbrage; the zeal she manifested for Protestantism alienated him. Anne's enemies, especially the duke of Norfolk and Lady Rocheford, observed this, and resolved to take advantage of it to ruin the woman who overshadowed them.
One circumstance, innocent enough of itself, favored the designs of the queen's enemies. Anne, who had been brought up in France, among a people distinguished for their inexhaustible stores of gaiety, easy conversation, witty and ingenious sallies, ironical phrases, and amiable hearts, had brought something of all this to London. Frank and prepossessing, she loved society; and her ordinary manners seemed too easy among a nation which, with deep affections, possesses much gravity and external coldness. Anne had found a certain freedom of speech in the court of France—it does not appear that she even imitated it; but in a moment of gaiety she might have let slip some keen railleries, some imprudent words, and thus furnished her enemies with weapons. She had some difficulty in conforming with the strict etiquette of the court of England, and had not been trained to the circumspection so necessary with a husband like Henry VIII.
Anne was, at the same time, a friend of the Reformation in the midst of a society that was catholic at heart, and a Frenchwoman in the midst of an English court; these were her two capital crimes. She was not understood. Her gaiety did not degenerate into frivolity: she did not possess that love of pleasure, which, carried to excess, engenders corruption of manners; we have named the truly pious men whom she loved to
gather round her. But it was quite enough for some persons that Anne was agreeable, like the ladies of St. Germains and Fontainebleau, to suspect her of being a flirt, like many of them. Moreover, she had married above her station. Having lived at court as the equal of the young nobles belonging to it, she was not always able, after she ascended the throne, to keep herself on the footing of a queen. From that time her enemies interpreted unfavorably the innocent amiability with which she received them. The mistrustful Henry VIII. began to indulge in suspicions, and Viscountess Rocheford endeavored to feed that prince's jealousy by crafty and perfidious insinuations.
Anne soon noticed the king's inclination for Jane Seymour: a thousand trifles, apparently indifferent, had struck her. She often watched the maid of honor; her pride was offended, and jealousy tortured her heart night and day. She endeavored to win back the king's love; but Henry, who perceived her suspicions, grew more angry with her every hour. The queen was not far from her confinement; and it was at the very moment when she hoped to give Henry the heir he had longed for during so many years, that the king withdrew from her his conjugal affection. Her heart was wrung, and, foreseeing a mournful future, she doubted whether a blow similar to that which had struck Catherine might not soon be aimed at her. Jane Seymour did not reject the king's advances. Historians of the most opposite parties relate that one day, towards the end of January 1536, the queen, unexpectedly entering a room in the palace, found the king paying his court to the young maid of honor in too marked a manner. They may possibly exaggerate,[279] but there is no doubt that Henry gave cause for very serious complaints on the part of his wife. It was as if a sword had pierced
the heart of the unfortunate Anne Boleyn: she could not bear up against so cruel a blow, and prematurely gave birth to a dead son. God had at length granted Henry that long-desired heir, but the grief of the mother had cost the child's life. What an affliction for her! For some time her recovery was despaired of. When the king entered her room, she burst into tears. That selfish prince, soured at the thought that she had borne him a dead son, cruelly upbraided her misfortune, instead of consoling her. It was too much: the poor mother could not restrain herself. 'You have no one to blame but yourself,' she exclaimed.[280] Henry, still more angry, answered her harshly and left the apartment.[281] These details are preserved by a well-informed writer of the time of Elizabeth. To present Henry under so unfavorable a light, if it were untrue, could hardly have been an agreeable mode of paying court, as some have insinuated, to a queen who took more after her father than her mother.
Anne now foresaw the misfortunes awaiting her: she recovered indeed after this storm, and exerted herself by taking part once more in conversaziones and fêtes; but she was melancholy and uneasy, like a foundering ship, which reappears on the waves of the sea after the storm, and still keeps afloat for a time, only to be swallowed up at last. All her attempts to regain her husband's affections were useless, and frightful dreams disturbed her during the slumbers of the night. This agony lasted three months.
The wind had changed: everybody noticed it, and it was, to certain heartless courtiers, like the signal given to an impatient pack of hounds. They set themselves to hunt down the prey, which they felt they could rend without danger. The ultramontanists regained their courage. They had feared that, owing to Anne's intervention,
the cause of Rome was lost in England, and their alarm was not unreasonable. Cranmer, uniting his efforts with those of the queen, never ceased pushing forward the Reformation. When some one spoke in the House of Lords about a General Council in Italy, he exclaimed: 'It is the Word of God alone that we must listen to in religious controversies.' At the same time, in concert with Anne, he circulated all over England a new Prayer-book, the Primer, intended to replace the dangerous books of the priests.[282] The people used it. A pious and spiritual reader of that book exclaimed one day, after meditating upon it: 'O bountiful Jesu! O sweet Saviour! despise not him whom Thou hast ransomed at the price of such a treasure—with Thy blood! I look with confidence to the throne of mercy.'[283] Religion was becoming personal with Anne Boleyn.
The queen and the archbishop had not stopped there: they had attempted, so far as Henry would permit, to place true shepherds over the flocks, instead of merchants who traded with their wool. The bishopric of Worcester, which had been taken from Ghinnucci, was given (as we have seen) to Latimer; so that the valley of the Severn, which four Italian bishops had plundered for fifty years, possessed at last a pastor who 'planted there the plenteousness of Jesus Christ.'[284] Shaxton, another of Anne's chaplains, who at this time professed a great attachment to Holy Scripture, had been appointed bishop of Salisbury, in place of the famous Cardinal Campeggio. Hilderly, formerly a Dominican prior—who had at one time defended the immaculate conception of the Virgin, but had afterwards acknowledged and worshipped Jesus Christ as the only Mediator—had been nominated to the see of Rochester,
in place of the unfortunate Bishop Fisher. Finally, George Brown, ex-provincial of the Augustines in England—an upright man, a friend of the poor, and who, caught by the truth, had exclaimed from the pulpit, 'Go to Christ and not to the saints!'—had been elected archbishop of Dublin, and thus became the first evangelical prelate of Ireland, a difficult post, which he occupied at the peril of his life.[285] Other prelates, like Fox, bishop of Hereford, although not true Protestants, proved themselves to be anti-Papists.
The members of the ultramontane party saw the influence of the queen in all these nominations. Who resisted the proposal that the English Church should be represented at the General Council? Who endeavored to make the king advance in the direction of the Reformation? Who threw England into the arms of the princes of Germany?—The queen, none but the queen. She felt unhappy, it was said, when she saw a day pass without having obtained some favor for the Reformation.[286] Men knew that the pope was ready to forgive everything, and even to unite with Henry against Charles V., if the king would submit to the conditions laid down in the bull—that is to say, if he would put away Anne Boleyn.[287]
The condition required by the pontiff was not an impossible one, for Henry liked to change his wives: he had six. Marriage was not to him a oneness of life. At the end of 1535, Anne had been his wife for three years; it was a long time for him, and he began to turn his eyes upon others. Jane Seymour's youth eclipsed the queen's. Unfortunate Boleyn! Sorrow had gradually diminished her freshness. Jane had natural allies, who might help her to ascend the throne. Her two
brothers, Edward and Thomas—the elder more moderate, the younger more arrogant—each possessing great ambition and remarkable capacity, thought that a Seymour was as worthy as a Boleyn to wear the English crown. The first blow did not however proceed from them, but from a member of the queen's family—from her sister-in-law. There is no room for indifference between near relations: they love or, if they do not love, they hate. Lady Rocheford, so closely allied to the queen, felt continually piqued at her. Jealousy had engendered a deep dislike in her heart, and this dislike was destined to lead her on to contrive the death of the detested object. Rendered desperate by the happiness and especially by the greatness of Anne Boleyn, it became her ruling passion to destroy them. One obstacle, however, rose up before her. Lord Rocheford, her husband and Anne's brother, would not enter into her perfidious schemes. That depraved woman, who afterwards suffered capital punishment for conniving at crime, determined to ruin her sister-in-law and her husband together. It was arranged that three of the courtiers should give Henry the first hints. 'Thus began,' says an author of that day, 'a comedy which was changed into a sorrowful tragedy.'[288] Nothing was omitted that tended to the success of one of the most infamous court intrigues recorded in history.
Anne became cognizant almost at the same time of her sister-in-law's hatred of her and of her husband's love for Jane Seymour. From that moment she foreboded an early death, and her most anxious thoughts were for her daughter. She wondered what would become of the poor child, and, desirous of having her brought up in the knowledge of the Gospel, she sent
for the pious simple-minded Parker, told him of her apprehensions and her wishes, and commended Elizabeth to him with all a mother's love.[289] Anne's words sank so deep into his heart that he never forgot them;[290] and twenty-three years later, when that child, who had become queen, raised him to the primacy, he declared to Lord Burghley, that if he were not under such great obligations to her mother, he would never have consented to serve the daughter in such an............
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