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Le Roi Est Mort Vive La Reine!








King Henry lay a-dying. That life full of sin, full of blood and crime,
full of treachery and cunning, full of hypocrisy and sanctimonious
cruelty--that life was at last lived out. That hand, which had signed
so many death-warrants, was now clutched in the throes of death. It had
stiffened at the very moment when the king was going to sign the Duke
of Norfolk's death-warrant. [Footnote: historical. The king's own
words.--Leti, vol. I, p. 16.] And the king was dying with the gnawing
consciousness that he had no longer the power to throttle that enemy
whom he hated. The mighty king was now nothing more than a feeble,
dying old man, who was no longer able to hold the pen and sign this
death-warrant for which he had so long hankered and hoped. Now it lay
before him, and he no longer had the power to use it. God, in His wisdom
and His justice, had decreed against him the most grievous and horrible
of punishments; He had left him his consciousness; He had not crippled
him in mind, but in body only. And that motionless and rigid mass which,
growing chill in death, lay there on the couch of purple trimmed with
gold--that was the king--a king whom agony of conscience did not permit
to die, and who now shuddered and was horrified in view of death, to
which he had, with relentless cruelty, hunted so many of his subjects.

Catharine and the Archbishop of Canterbury, the noble Cranmer, stood
at his bedside: and whilst in convulsive agony he grasped Catharine's
hands, he listened to the devout prayers which Cranmer was saying over
him.

Once he asked with mumbling tongue: "My lord, what kind of a world then
is that where those who condemn others to die, are condemned to die
themselves?"

And as the pious Cranmer, touched by the agonies and tortures of
conscience which he read in the king's looks, and full of pity for the
dying tyrant, sought to comfort him, and spoke to him of the mercy of
God which has compassion on every sinner, the king groaned out: "No, no!
No mercy for him who knew no mercy!"

At length this awful struggle of death with life was ended; and death
had vanquished life. The king had closed his eyes to earth, to open them
again there above, as a guilt-laden sinner in the presence of God.

For three days his death was kept a secret. They wanted first to have
everything arranged, and to fill up the void which his death must make.
They wanted, when they spoke to the people of the dead king, to show
them also at the same time the living king. And since they knew that the
people would not weep for the dead, they were to rejoice for the living;
since they would sing no funeral psalms, they were to let their hymns of
joy resound.

On the third day the gates of Whitehall were thrown open, and a gloomy
funeral train moved through the streets of London. In dead silence the
populace saw borne past them the coffin of the king, before whom they
had trembled so much, and for whom they now had not a word of mourning
or of pity--no tears for the dead who for seven-and-thirty years had
been their king.

They were bearing the coffin to Westminster Abbey to the splendid
monument which Wolsey had built there for his royal master. But the way
was long, and the panting horses with black housings, which drew the
hearse, had often to stop and rest. And all of a sudden, as the carriage
stood still on one of the large open squares, blood was seen to issue
from the king's coffin. It streamed down in crimson currents and flowed
over the stones of the streets. The people with a shudder stood around
and saw the king's blood flowing, and thought how much blood he had
spilt on that same spot, for the coffin was standing on the square where
the executions were wont to take place, and where the scaffolds were
erected and the stakes set. As the people stood gazing at the blood
which flowed from the king's coffin, two dogs sprang forth from the
crowd and, with greedy tongue, licked the blood of King Henry the
Eighth. But the people, shuddering and horror-stricken, fled in all
directions, and talked among themselves of the poor priest who a few
weeks before was executed here on this very spot, because he would
not recognize the king as the supreme lord of the Church and God's
vicegerent; of that unfortunate man who cursed the king, and on the
scaffold said: "May the dogs one day drink the blood of this king who
has shed so much innocent blood!" And now the curse of the dying man
had found its fulfilment, and the dogs had drunk the king's blood.
[Footnote: Historical.--See Tytler, p. 481.]

When the gloomy funeral train had left the palace of Whitehall, when
the king's corpse no longer infected the halls with its awful stench of
corruption, and the court was preparing to do homage to the boy Edward
as the new king, Thomas Seymour, Earl of Sudley, entered the room of the
young royal widow. He came in a magnificent mourning suit, and his elder
brother, Edward Seymour, and Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury, walked
by his side.

With a blush and a sweet smile, Catharine bade them welcome.

"Queen," said Thomas Seymour with solemn air, "I come to-day to claim
of you the fulfilment of your vow! Oh, do not cast down your eyes, nor
blush for shame. The noble archbishop knows your heart, and he knows
that it is as pure as the heart of a maiden, and that an unchaste
thought has never sullied your pure soul. And my brother would not be
here, had he not faith in and respect for a love which has preserved
itself so faithful and constant amidst storms and dangers. I have
selected these two noble friends as my suitors, and in their presence I
will ask you: 'Queen Catharine, the king is dead, and no fetters longer
bind your heart; will you not give it me as my own? Will you accept me
as your husband, and sacrifice for me your royal title and your exalted
position?'"

With a bewitching smile she gave him her hand. "You well know,"
whispered she, "that I sacrifice nothing for you, but receive from you
all of happiness and love that I hope for."

"Will you then, in the presence of these two friends, accept me as your
future husband, and plight me your vow of truth and love?"

Catharine trembled and cast down her eyes with the bashfulness of a
young girl. "Alas!" whispered she, "do you not then see my mourning
dress? Is it becoming to think of happiness, while the funeral
lamentations have scarcely died away?"

"Queen Catharine," said Archbishop Cranmer, "let the dead bury their
dead! Life also has its rights; and man should not give up his claim on
happiness, for it is a most holy possession. You have endured much
and suffered much, queen, but your heart is pure and without guilt;
therefore you may now, with a clear conscience, bid welcome to happiness
also. Do not delay about it. In God's name I have come to bless your
love, and give to your happiness a holy consecration."

"And I," said Edward Seymour, "I have begged of my brother the honor of
being allowed to accompany him in order to say to your majesty that I
know how to duly appreciate the high honor which you show our family,
and that, as your brother-in-law, I shall ever be mindful that you were
once my queen and I your subject."

"But I," cried Thomas Seymour, "I would not delay coming to you, in
order that I might show you that love only brings me to you, and that no
other consideration could induce me. The king's will is not yet opened,
and I know not its contents. But however it may determine with respect
to all of us, it cannot diminish or increase my happiness in possessing
you. Whatever you may be, you will ever be to me only the adored woman,
the ardently loved wife; and only to assure you of this, I have come
this very day."

Catharine extended her hand to him with a bewitching smile. "I have
never doubted of you, Seymour," whispered she, "and never did I love you
more ardently than when I wanted to renounce you."

She bowed her head on her lover's shoulder, and tears of purest joy
bedewed her cheeks. The Archbishop of Canterbury joined their hands, and
blessed them as betrothed lovers; and the elder Seymour, Earl Hertford,
bowed and greeted them as a betrothed couple.

On that very same day the king's will was opened. In the large gilded
hall, in which King Henry's merry laughter and thundering voice of wrath
had so often resounded, were now read his last commands. The whole court
was assembled, as it was wont to be for a joyous festival; and
Catharine once more sat on the royal throne. But the dreaded tyrant, the
bloodthirsty King Henry the Eighth, was no longer at her side; but the
poor pale boy, Edward, who had inherited from his father neither energy
nor genius, but only his thirst for blood and his canting hypocrisy. At
his side stood his sisters, the Princesses Mary and Elizabeth. Both
were pale and of a sad countenance; but with both, it was not for their
father that they were grieving.

Mary, the bigoted Roman Catholic, saw with horror and bitter anguish the
days of adversity which were about to befall her church; for Edward was
a fanatical opponent of the Roman Catholic religion, and she knew that
he would shed the blood of the papists with relentless cruelty. On this
account it was that she mourned.

But Elizabeth, that young girl of ardent heart--she thought neither of
her father nor of the dangers threatening the Church; she thought only
of her love, she felt only that she had been deprived of a hope, of an
illusion--that she had awoke from a sweet and enchanting dream to the
rude and barren reality. She had given up her first love, but her heart
bled and the wound still smarted.

The will was read. Elizabeth looked toward Thomas Seymour during this
solemn and portentous reading. She wanted to read in his countenance
the impression made on him by these grave words, so pregnant with the
future; she wanted to search the depths of his soul, and to penetrate
the secret thoughts of his heart. She saw how he turned pale when, not
Queen Catharine, but his brother, Earl Hertford, was appointed regent
during Edward's minority; she saw the sinister, almost angry look which
he threw at the queen; and with a cruel smile she murmured:

"I am revenged! He loves her no longer!"

John Heywood, who was standing behind the queen's throne, had also
observed the look of Thomas Seymour, yet not like Elizabeth, with a
rejoicing, but with a sorrowful heart, and he dropped his head upon his
breast and murmured: "Poor Catharine! He will hate her, and she will be
very unhappy."

But she was still happy. Her eye beamed with pure delight when she
perceived that her lover was, by the king's will, appointed High Admiral
of England and guardian of the young king. She thought not of herself,
but only of him, of her lover; and it filled her with the proudest
satisfaction to see him invested with places of such high honor and
dignity.

Poor Catharine! Her eye did not see the sullen cloud which still rested
on the brow of her beloved. She was so happy and so innocent, and so
little ambitious! For her this only was happiness, to be her lover's, to
be the wife of Thomas Seymour.

And this happiness was to be hers. Thirty days after the death of
King Henry the Eighth she became the wife of the high admiral, Thomas
Seymour, Earl of Sudley. Archbishop Cranmer solemnized their union in
the chapel at Whitehall, and the lord protector, now Duke of Somerset,
formerly Earl of Hertford, the brother of Thomas Seymour, was the
witness of this marriage, which was, however, still kept a secret,
and of which there were to be no other witnesses. When, however, they
resorted to the chapel for the marriage, Princess Elizabeth came forward
to meet the queen, and offered her hand.

It was the first time they had met since the dreadful day on which they
confronted each other as enemies--the first time that they had again
seen each other eye to eye.

Elizabeth had wrung this sacrifice from her heart. Her proud soul
revolted at the thought that Thomas Seymour might imagine that she was
still grieving for him, that she still loved him. She would show him
that her heart was entirely recovered from that first dream of her
youth--that she had not the least regret or pain.

She accosted him with a haughty, cold smile, and presented Catharine
her hand. "Queen," said she, "you have so long been a kind and faithful
mother to me, that I may well once more claim the right of being your
daughter. Let me, therefore, as your daughter, be present at the solemn
transaction in which you are about to engage; and allow me to stand at
your side and pray for you, whilst the archbishop performs the sacred
service, and transforms the queen into the Countess of Sudley. May God
bless you, Catharine, and give you all the happiness that you deserve!"

And Princess Elizabeth knelt at Catharine's side, as the archbishop
blest this new marriage tie. And while she prayed her eye again glided
over toward Thomas Seymour, who was standing there by his young wife.
Catharine's countenance beamed with beauty and happiness, but upon
Thomas Seymour's brow still lay the cloud that had settled there on that
day when the king's will was opened--that will which did not make Queen
Catharine regent, and which thereby destroyed Thomas Seymour's proud and
ambitious schemes.

And that cloud remained on Thomas Seymour's brow. It sank down lower and
still lower. It soon overshadowed the happiness of Catharine's love, and
awakened her from her short dream of bliss.

What she suffered, how much of secret agony and silent woe she endured,
who can wish to know or conjecture? Catharine had a proud and a chaste
soul. She concealed from the world her pain and her grief, as bashfully
as she had once done her love. Nobody suspected what she suffered and
how she struggled with her crushed heart.

She never complained; she saw bloom after bloom fall from her life; she
saw the smile disappear from her husband's countenance; she heard his
voice, at first so tender, gradually harden to harsher tones; she
felt his heart growing colder and colder, and his love changing into
indifference, perhaps even into hate.

She had devoted her whole heart to love, but she felt day by day, and
hour by hour, that her husband's heart was cooling more and more. She
felt, with dreadful heartrending certainty, she was his with all her
love.

But he was no longer hers.

And she tormented her heart to find out why he no longer loved her--what
she had been guilty of, that he turned away from her. Seymour had not
the delicacy and magnanimity to conceal from her his inward thoughts;
and at last she comprehended why he neglected her.

He had hoped that Catharine would be Regent of England, that he then
would be consort of the regent. Because it had not happened so his love
had died.

Catharine felt this, and she died of it. But not suddenly, not at once,
did death release her from her sorrows and racking tortures. Six months
she had to suffer and struggle with them. After six months she died.

Strange rumors were spread at her death; and John Heywood never passed
by Earl Seymour without gazing at him with an angry look, and saying:
"You have murdered the beautiful queen! Deny it, if you can!"

Thomas Seymour laughed, and did not consider it worth his while
to defend himself against the accusations of the fool. He laughed,
notwithstanding he had not yet put off the mourning he wore for
Catharine.

In these mourning garments he ventured to approach the Princess
Elizabeth, to swear to her his ardent love, and sue for her hand. But
Elizabeth repelled him with coldness and haughty contempt; and, like the
fool, the princess also said: "You have murdered Catharine! I cannot be
the wife of a murderer!"

And God's justice punished the murderer of the innocent and noble
Catharine; and scarcely three months after the death of his wife, the
high admiral had to ascend the scaffold, and was executed as a traitor.

By Catharine's wish, her books and papers were given to her true friend
John Heywood, and he undertook with the greatest care an examination of
the same. He found among her papers many leaves written by herself, many
verses and poems, which breathed forth the sorrowfulness of her spirit.
Catharine herself had collected them into a book, and with her own hand
she had given to the book this title: "Lamentations of a Sinner."

Catharine had wept much as she penned these "Lamentations"; for in many
places the manuscript was illegible, and her tears had obliterated the
characters.

John Heywood kissed the spots where the traces of her tears remained,
and whispered: "The sinner has by her suffering been glorified into
a saint; and these poems are the cross and the monument which she has
prepared for her own grave. I will set up this cross, that the good may
take comfort, and the wicked flee from it." And he did so. He had
the "Lamentations of a Sinner" printed; and this book was the fairest
monument of Catharine.






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