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John Heywood

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For a few days past the king's gout had grown worse, and, to his wrath
and grief, it confined him as a prisoner to his rolling chair.

The king was, therefore, very naturally gloomy and dejected, and hurled
the lightnings of his wrath on all those who enjoyed the melancholy
prerogative of being in his presence. His pains, instead of softening
his disposition, seemed only to heighten still more his natural
ferocity; and often might be heard through the palace of Whitehall the
king's angry growl, and his loud, thundering invectives, which no longer
spared any one, nor showed respect for any rank or dignity.

Earl Douglas, Gardiner, and Wriothesley very well knew how to take
advantage of this wrathful humor of the king for their purposes, and
to afford the cruel monarch, tortured with pain, one satisfaction at
least--the satisfaction of making others suffer also.

Never had there been seen in England so many burnt at the stake as
in those days of the king's sickness; never had the prisons been so
crowded; never had so much blood flowed as King Henry now caused to be
shed. [Footnote: During the king's reign, and at the instigation of the
clergy, twenty-eight hundred persons were burnt and executed, because
they would not recognize the religious institutions established by the
king as the only right and true ones.--Leti, vol. i, p. 34.] But all
this did not yet suffice to appease the blood-thirstiness of the king,
and his friends and counsellors, and his priests.

Still there remained untouched two mighty pillars of Protestantism that
Gardiner and Wriothesley had to overthrow. These were the queen and
Archbishop Cranmer.

Still there were two powerful and hated enemies whom the Seymours had
to overcome; these were the Duke of Norfolk and his son, the Earl of
Surrey.

But the various parties that in turn besieged the king's ear and
controlled it, were in singular and unheard-of opposition, and at the
same time inflamed with bitterest enmity, and they strove to supplant
each other in the favor of the king.

To the popish party of Gardiner and Earl Douglas, everything depended on
dispossessing the Seymours of the king's favor; and they, on the other
hand, wanted above all things to continue in power the young queen,
already inclined to them, and to destroy for the papists one of their
most powerful leaders, the Duke of Norfolk.

The one party controlled the king's ear through the queen; the other,
through his favorite, Earl Douglas.

Never had the king been more gracious and affable to his consort--never
had he required more Earl Douglas's presence than in those days of his
sickness and bodily anguish.

But there was yet a third party that occupied an important place in the
king's favor--a power which every one feared, and which seemed to keep
itself perfectly independent and free from all foreign influences. This
power was John Heywood, the king's fool, the epigrammatist, who was
dreaded by the whole court.

Only one person had influence with him. John Heywood was the friend
of the queen. For the moment, then, it appeared as if the "heretical
party," of which the queen was regarded as the head, was the most
powerful at court.

It was therefore very natural for the popish party to cherish an ardent
hatred against the queen; very natural for them to be contriving new
plots and machinations to ruin her and hurl her from the throne.

But Catharine knew very well the danger that threatened her, and she was
on her guard. She watched her every look, her every word; and Gardiner
and Douglas could not examine the queen's manner of life each day and
hour more suspiciously than she herself did.

She saw the sword that hung daily over her head; and, thanks to
her prudence and presence of mind, thanks to the ever-thoughtful
watchfulness and cunning of her friend Heywood! she had still known how
to avoid the falling of that sword.

Since that fatal ride in the wood of Epping Forest, she had not again
spoken to Thomas Seymour alone; for Catharine very well knew that
everywhere, whithersoever she turned her steps, some spying eye might
follow her, some listener's ear might be concealed, which might hear
her words, however softly whispered, and repeat them where they might be
interpreted into a sentence of death against her.

She had, therefore, renounced the pleasure of speaking to her lover
otherwise than before witnesses, and of seeing him otherwise than in the
presence of her whole court.

What need had she either for secret meetings? What mattered it to her
pure and innocent heart that she was not permitted to be alone with him?
Still she might see him, and drink courage and delight from the sight
of his haughty and handsome face; still she might be near him, and could
listen to the music of his voice, and intoxicate her heart with his
fine, euphonious and vigorous discourse.

Catharine, the woman of eight-and-twenty, had preserved the enthusiasm
and innocence of a young girl of fourteen. Thomas Seymour was her first
love; and she loved him with that purity and guileless warmth which is
indeed peculiar to the first love only.

It sufficed her, therefore, to see him; to be near him; to know that
he loved her; that he was true to her; that all his thoughts and wishes
belonged to her, as hers to him.

And that she knew. For there ever remained to her the sweet enjoyment of
his letters--of those passionately written avowals of his love. If
she was not permitted to say also to him how warmly and ardently she
returned this love, yet she could write it to him.

It was John Heywood, the true and discreet friend, that brought her
these letters, and bore her answers to him, stipulating, as a reward for
this dangerous commission, that they both should regard him as the sole
confidant of their love; that both should burn up the letters which he
brought them. He had not been able to hinder Catharine from this unhappy
passion, but wanted at least to preserve her from the fatal consequences
of it. Since he knew that this love needed a confidant, he assumed
this role, that Catharine, in the vehemence of her passion and in the
simplicity of her innocent heart, might not make others sharers of her
dangerous secret.

John Heywood therefore watched over Catharine's safety and happiness,
as she watched over Thomas Seymour and her friends. He protected and
guarded her with the king, as she guarded Cranmer, and protected him
from the constantly renewed assaults of his enemies.

This it was that they could never forgive the queen--that she
had delivered Cranmer, the noble and liberal-minded Archbishop of
Canterbury, from their snares. More than once Catharine had succeeded
in destroying their intriguing schemes, and in rending the nets that
Gardiner and Earl Douglas, with so sly and skilful a hand, had spread
for Cranmer.

If, therefore, they would overthrow Cranmer, they must first overthrow
the queen. For this there was a real means--a means of destroying at
once the queen and the hated Seymours, who stood in the way of the
papists.

If they could prove to the king that Catharine entertained criminal
intercourse with Thomas Seymour, then were they both lost; then were the
power and glory of the papists secured.

But whence to fetch the proofs of this dangerous secret, which the
crafty Douglas had read only in Catharine's eyes, and for which he had
no other support than his bare conviction? How should they begin to
influence the queen to some inconsiderate step, to a speaking witness of
her love?

Time hung so heavily on the king's hands! It would have been so easy to
persuade him to some cruel deed--to a hasty sentence of death!

But it was not the blood of the Seymours for which the king thirsted.
Earl Douglas very well knew that. He who observed the king day and
night--he who examined and sounded his every sigh, each of his softly
murmured words, every twitch of his mouth, every wrinkle of his brow--he
well knew what dark and bloody thoughts stirred the king's soul, and
whose blood it was for which he thirsted.

The royal tiger would drink the blood of the Howards; and that they
still lived in health, and abundance, and glory, while he, their
king and master, lonely and sad, was tossing on his couch in pain and
agony--that was the worm which gnawed at the king's heart, which made
his pains yet more painful, his tortures yet keener.

The king was jealous--jealous of the power and greatness of the Howards.
It filled him with gloomy hatred to think that the Duke of Norfolk, when
he rode through the streets of London, was everywhere received with
the acclamations and rejoicing of the people, while he, the king, was a
prisoner in his palace. It was a gnawing pain for him to know that Henry
Howard, Earl of Surrey, was praised as the handsomest and greatest man
of England; that he was called the noblest poet; the greatest scholar;
while yet he, the king, had also composed his poems and written his
learned treatises, aye, even a particular devout book, which he had
printed for his people, and ordered them to read instead of the Bible.
[Footnote: Burnet, vol. i, p. 95.]

It was the Howards who everywhere disputed his fame. The Howards
supplanted him in the favor of his people, and usurped the love and
admiration which were due to the king alone, and which should be
directed toward no one but him. He lay on his bed of pain, and without
doubt the people would have forgotten him, if he had not by the block,
the stake, and the scaffold, daily reminded them of himself. He lay on
his bed of pain, while the duke, splendid and magnificent, exhibited
himself to the people and transported them with enthusiasm by the
lavish and kingly generosity with which he scattered his money among the
populace.

Yes, the Duke of Norfolk was the king's dangerous rival. The crown was
not secure upon his head so long as the Howards lived. And who could
conjecture whether in time to come, when Henry closed his eyes, the
exultant love of the people might not call to the throne the Duke of
Norfolk, or his noble son, the Earl of Surrey, instead of the rightful
heir--instead of the little boy Edward, Henry's only son?

When the king thought of that, he had a feeling as though a stream of
fire were whirling up to his brain; and he convulsively clenched his
hands, and screamed and roared that he would take vengeance--vengeance
on those hated Howards, who wanted to snatch the crown from his son.

Edward, the little boy of tender age--he alone was the divinely
consecrated, legitimate heir to the king's crown. It had cost his father
so great a sacrifice to give his people this son and successor! In order
to do it, he had sacrificed Jane Seymour, his own beloved wife; he had
let the mother be put to death, in order to preserve the son, the heir
of his crown.

And the people did not once thank the king for this sacrifice that Jane
Seymour's husband had made for them. The people received with shouts the
Duke of Norfolk, the father of that adulterous queen whom Henry loved
so much that her infidelity had struck him like the stab of a poisoned
dagger.

These were the thoughts that occupied the king on his bed of pain, and
upon which he dwelt with all the wilfulness and moodiness of a sick man.

"We shall have to sacrifice these Howards to him!" said Earl Douglas to
Gardiner, as they had just again listened to a burst of rage from their
royal master. "If we would at last succeed in ruining the queen, we must
first destroy the Howards."

The pious bishop looked at him inquiringly, and in astonishment.

Earl Douglas smiled. "Your highness is too exalted and noble to be
always able to comprehend the things of this world. Your look, which
seeks only God and heaven, does not always see the petty and pitiful
things that happen here on the earth below."

"Oh, but," said Gardiner, with a cruel smile, "I see them, and it charms
my eye when I see how God's vengeance punishes the enemies of the Church
here on earth. Set up then, by all means, a stake or a scaffold for
these Howards, if their death can be to us a means to our pious and
godly end. You are certain of my blessing and my assistance. Only I do
not quite comprehend how the Howards can stand in the way of our plots
which are formed against the queen, inasmuch as they are numbered among
the queen's enemies, and profess themselves of the Church in which alone
is salvation."

"The Earl of Surrey is an apostate, who has opened his ear and heart to
the doctrines of Calvin!"

"Then let his head fall, for he is a criminal before God, and no one
ought to have compassion on him! And what is there that we lay to the
charge of the father?"

"The Duke of Norfolk is well-nigh yet more dangerous than his son; for
although a Catholic, he has not nevertheless the right faith; and his
soul is full of unholy sympathy and injurious mildness. He bewails those
whose blood is shed because they were devoted to the false doctrine of
the priests of Baal; and-he calls us both the king's blood-hounds."

"Well, then," cried Gardiner with an uneasy, dismal smile, "we will
show him that he has called us by the right name; we will rend him in
pieces!"

"Besides, as we have said, the Howards stand in the way of our schemes
in relation to the queen," said Earl Douglas, earnestly. "The king's
mind is so completely filled with this one hatred and this one jealousy,
that there is no room in it for any other feeling, for any other hate.
It is true he signs often enough these death-warrants which we lay
before him; but he does it, as the lion, with utter carelessness and
without anger, crushes the little mouse that is by chance under his
paws. But if the lion is to rend in pieces his equal, he must beforehand
be put into a rage. When he is raging, then you must let him have his
prey. The Howards shall be his first prey. But, then, we must exert
ourselves, that when the lion again shakes his mane his wrath may fall
upon Catharine Parr and the Seymours."

"The Lord our God will be with us, and enlighten us, that we may find
the right means to strike His enemies a sure blow!" exclaimed Gardiner,
devoutly folding his hands.

"I believe the right means are already found," said Earl Douglas, with a
smile; "and even before this day descends to its close, the gates of the
Tower will open to receive this haughty and soft-hearted Duke of Norfolk
and this apostate Earl Surrey. Perchance we may even succeed in striking
at one blow the queen together with the Howards. See! an equipage stops
before the grand entrance, and I see the Duchess of Norfolk and her
daughter, the Duchess of Richmond, getting out of the carriage. Only
see! they are making signs to us. I have promised to conduct these two
noble and pious ladies to the king, and I shall do so. Whilst we are
there, pray for us, your highness, that our words, like well-aimed
arrows, may strike the king's heart, and then rebound upon the queen and
the Seymours!"





Next: The Accusation

Previous: The Acknowledgment



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