The King And The Priest
Choosing A Confessor
Henry The Eighth And His Wives
Le Roi Est Mort Vive La Reine!
Gammer Gueton's Needle
Letter Fourth To Anne Boleyn
Least ViewedLetter Fifteenth To Anne Boleyn
Letter Sixteenth To Anne Boleyn
Letter Eighteenth To Anne Boleyn
Letter Eleventh To Anne Boleyn
Letter Seventh To Anne Boleyn
Letter Sixth To Anne Boleyn
Letter Ninth To Anne Boleyn
Letter Tenth To Anne Boleyn
Letter Fourteenth To Anne Boleyn
Letter Seventeenth To Anne Boleyn
Le Roi S'ennuit
King Henry was alone in his study. He had spent a few hours in writing
on a devout and edifying book, which he was preparing for his subjects,
and which, in virtue of his dignity as supreme lord of the Church, he
designed to commend to their reading instead of the Bible.
He now laid down his pen, and, with infinite complacency, looked over
the written sheets, which were to be to his people a new proof of his
paternal love and care, and so convince them that Henry the Eighth was
not only the noblest and most virtuous of kings, but also the wisest.
But this reflection failed to make the king more cheerful to-day;
perhaps because he had already indulged in it too frequently. To be
alone, annoyed and disturbed him--there were in his breast so many
secret and hidden voices, whose whispers he dreaded, and which,
therefore, he sought to drown--there were so many recollections of
blood, which ever and again rose before him, however often he tried to
wash them out in fresh blood, and which the king was afraid of, though
he assumed the appearance of never repenting, never feeling disquietude.
With hasty hand he touched the gold bell standing by him, and his face
brightened as he saw the door open immediately, and Earl Douglas make
his appearance on the threshold.
"Oh, at length!" said the lord, who had very well understood the
expression of Henry's features; "at length, the king condescends to be
gracious to his people."
"I gracious?" asked the king, utterly astonished. "Well, how am I so?"
"By your majesty's resting at length from his exertions, and giving a
little thought to his valuable and needful health. When you remember,
sire, that England's weal depends solely and alone on the weal of
her king, and that you must be and remain healthy, that your people,
likewise may be healthy."
The king smiled with satisfaction. It never came into his head to doubt
the earl's words. It seemed to him perfectly natural that the weal of
his people depended on his person; but yet it was always a lofty and
beautiful song, and he loved to have his courtiers repeat it.
The king, as we have said, smiled, but there was something unusual in
that smile, which did not escape the earl.
"He is in the condition of a hungry anaconda," said Earl Douglas to
himself. "He is on the watch for prey, and he will be bright and lively
again just as soon as he has tasted a little human flesh and blood. Ah,
luckily we are well supplied in that way. Therefore, we will render
unto the king what is the king's. But we must be cautious and go to work
He approached the king and imprinted a kiss on his hand.
"I kiss this hand," said he, "which has been to-day the fountain through
which the wisdom of the head has been poured forth on this blessed
paper. I kiss this paper, which will announce and explain to happy
England God's pure and unadulterated word; but yet I say let this
suffice for the present, my king; take rest; remember awhile that you
are not only a sage, but also a man."
"Yes and truly a weak and decrepit one!" sighed the king, as with
difficulty he essayed to rise, and in so doing leaned so heavily and the
earl's arm that he almost broke down under the monstrous load.
"Decrepit!" said Earl Douglas, reproachfully. "Your majesty moves to-day
with as much ease and freedom as a youth, and my arm was by no means
needed to help you up."
"Nevertheless, we are growing old!" said the king, who, from his
weariness, was unusually sentimental and low-spirited to-day.
"Old!" repeated Earl Douglas. "Old, with those eyes darting fire, and
that lofty brow, and that face, in every feature so noble! No, your
majesty, kings have this in common with the gods--they never grow old."
"And therein they resemble parrots to a hair!" said John Heywood, who
just then entered the room. "I own a parrot which my great-grandfather
inherited from his great-grandfather, who was hair-dresser to Henry the
Fourth, and which to-day still sings with the same volubility as he
did a hundred years ago: 'Long live the king! long live this paragon of
virtue, sweetness, beauty, and mercy! Long live the king!' He has cried
this for hundreds of years, and he has repeated it for Henry the Fifth
and Henry the Sixth, for Henry the Seventh and Henry the Eighth! And
wonderful, the kings have changed, but the song of praise has always
been appropriate, and has ever been only the simple truth! Just like
yours, my Lord Douglas! Your majesty may depend upon it, he speaks the
truth, for he is near akin to my parrot, which always calls him 'My
cousin,' and has taught him his immortal song of praise to kings."
The king laughed, while Earl Douglas cast at John Heywood a sharp,
"He is an impudent imp, is he not, Douglas?" said the king.
"He is a fool!" replied he, with a shrug.
"Exactly, and therefore I just now told you the truth. For you know
children and fools speak the truth. And I became a fool just on this
account, that the king, whom you all deceive by your lies, may have
about him some creature, besides his looking-glass, to tell him the
"Well, and what truth will you serve up for me today?"
"It is already served, your majesty. So lay aside for a little your
regal crown and your high priesthood, and conclude to be for awhile a
carnivorous beast. It is very easy to become a king. For that, nothing
more is necessary than to be born of a queen under a canopy. But it
is very difficult to be a man who has a good digestion. It requires a
healthy stomach and a light conscience. Come, King Henry, and let us
see whether you are not merely a king, but also a man that has a good
stomach." And with a merry laugh he took the king's other arm and led
him with the earl into the dining-room.
The king, who was an extraordinary eater, silently beckoned his suite
to take their places at the table, after he had seated himself in his
gilded chair. With grave and solemn air he then received from the hands
of the master of ceremonies the ivory tablet on which was the bill of
fare for the day. The king's dinner was a solemn and important affair. A
multitude of post-wagons and couriers were ever on the way to bring from
the remotest ends of the earth dainties for the royal table. The bill
of fare, therefore, to-day, as ever, exhibited the choicest and rarest
dishes; and always when the king found one of his favorite ones written
down he made an assenting and approving motion of the head, which always
lighted up the face of the master of ceremonies like a sunbeam. There
were birds' nests brought from the East Indies by a fast-sailing vessel,
built specially for the purpose. There were hens from Calcutta and
truffles from Languedoc, which the poet-king, Francis the First of
France, had the day before sent to his royal brother as a special token
of affection. There was the sparkling wine of Champagne, and the fiery
wine of the Island of Cyprus, which the Republic of Venice had sent to
the king as a mark of respect. There were the heavy wines of the Rhine,
which looked like liquid gold, and diffused the fragrance of a whole
bouquet of flowers, and with which the Protestant princes of Northern
Germany hoped to fuddle the king, whom they would have gladly placed
at the head of their league. There, too, were the monstrous, gigantic
partridge pastries, which the Duke of Burgundy had sent, and the
glorious fruits of the south, from the Spanish coast, with which the
Emperor Charles the Fifth supplied the King of England's table. For it
was well known that, in order to make the King of England propitious,
it was necessary first to satiate him; that his palate must first be
tickled, in order to gain his head or his heart.
But to-day all these things seemed insufficient to give the king the
blissful pleasure which, at other times, was wont to be with him when he
sat at table. He heard John Heywood's jests and biting epigrams with a
melancholy smile, and a cloud was on his brow.
To be in cheerful humor, the king absolutely needed the presence of
ladies. He needed them as the hunter needs the roe to enjoy the pleasure
of the chase--that pleasure which consists in killing the defenceless
and in declaring war against the innocent and peaceful.
The crafty courtier, Earl Douglas, readily divined Henry's
dissatisfaction, and understood the secret meaning of his frowns and
sighs. He hoped much from them, and was firmly resolved to draw some
advantage therefrom, to the benefit of his daughter, and the harm of the
"Your majesty," said he, "I am just on the point of turning traitor, and
accusing my king of an injustice."
The king turned his flashing eyes upon him, and put his hand, sparkling
with jewelled rings, to the golden goblet filled with Rhenish wine.
"Of an injustice--me--your king?" asked he, with stammering tongue.
"Yes, of an injustice, inasmuch as you are for me God's visible
representative on earth. I would blame God if He withdrew from us for
a day the brightness of the sun, the gorgeousness and perfume of His
flowers, for since we children of men are accustomed to enjoy these
glories, we have in a certain measure gained a right to them. So I
accuse you because you have withdrawn from us the embodied flowers and
the incarnate suns; because you have been so cruel, sire, as to send the
queen to Epping Forest."
"Not so; the queen wanted to ride," said Henry, peevishly. "The spring
weather attracted her, and since I, alas! do not possess God's
exalted attribute of ubiquity, I was, no doubt, obliged to come to the
resolution of being deprived of her presence. There is no horse capable
of carrying the King of England."
"There is Pegasus, however, and in masterly manner you know how to
manage him. But how, your majesty! the queen wanted to ride, though she
was deprived of your presence thereby? She wanted to ride, though this
pleasure-ride was at the same time a separation from you? Oh how cold
and selfish are women's hearts! Were I a woman, I would never depart
from your side, I would covert no greater happiness than to be near
you, and to listen to that high and exalted wisdom which pours from your
inspired lips. Were I a woman--"
"Earl, I opine that your wish is perfectly fulfilled," said John Heywood
seriously. "You make in all respects the impression of an old woman!"
All laughed. But the king did not laugh; he remained serious and looked
gloomily before him.
"It is true," muttered he, "she seemed excited with joy about this
excursion, and in her eyes shone a fire I have seldom seen there.
There must be some peculiar circumstance connected with this ride. Who
accompanied the queen?"
"Princess Elizabeth," said John Heywood, who had heard everything, and
saw clearly the arrow that the earl had shot at the queen. "Princess
Elizabeth, her true and dear friend, who never leaves her side. Besides,
her maids of honor, who, like the dragon in the fable, keep watch over
the beautiful princess."
"Who else is in the queen's company?" inquired Henry, sullenly.
"The master of horse, Earl of Sudley," said Douglas, "and--"
"That is an observation in the highest degree superfluous," interrupted
John Heywood; "it is perfectly well understood by itself that the master
of horse accompanies the queen. That is just as much his office as it is
yours to sing the song of your cousin, my parrot."
"He is right," said the king quickly. "Thomas Seymour must accompany
her, and it is my will also. Thomas Seymour is a faithful servant, and
this he has inherited from his sister Jane, my much loved queen, now at
rest with God, that he is devoted to his king in steadfast affection."
"The time has not yet come when one may assail the Seymours," thought
the earl. "The king is yet attached to them; so he will feel hostile
toward the foes of the Seymours. Let us then begin our attack on Henry
Howard--that is to say, on the queen."
"Who accompanied the queen besides?" inquired Henry the Eighth, emptying
the golden beaker at a draught, as though he would thereby cool the
fire which already began to blaze within him. But the fiery Rhenish wine
instead of cooling only heated him yet more; it drove, like a tempest,
the fire kindled in his jealous heart in bright flames to his head, and
made his brain glow like his heart.
"Who else accompanied her beside these?" asked Earl Douglas carelessly.
"Well, I think, the lord chamberlain, Earl of Surrey."
A dark scowl gathered on the king's brow. The lion had scented his prey.
"The lord chamberlain is not in the queen's train!" said John Heywood
"No," exclaimed Earl Douglas. "The poor earl. That will make him very
"And why think you that will make him sad?" asked the king in a voice
very like the roll of distant thunder.
"Because the Earl of Surrey is accustomed to live in the sunshine of
royal favor, sire; because he resembles that flower which always turns
its head to the sun, and receives from it vigor, color, and brilliancy."
"Let him take care that the sun does not scorch him," muttered the king.
"Earl," said John Heywood, "you must put on your spectacles so that you
can see better. This time you have confounded the sun with one of its
satellites. Earl Surrey is far too prudent a man to be so foolish as to
gaze at the sun, and thereby blind his eyes and parch his brain. And
so he is satisfied to worship one of the planets that circle round the
"What does the fool intend to say by that?" asked the earl
"The wise will thereby give you to understand that you have this time
mistaken your daughter for the queen," said John Heywood, emphasizing
sharply every word, "and that it has happened to you, as to many a great
astrologer, you have taken a planet for a sun."
Earl Douglas cast a dark, spiteful look at John Heywood, who answered it
with one equally piercing and furious.
Their eyes were firmly fixed on each other's, and in those eyes they
both read all the hatred and all the bitterness which were working in
the depths of their souls. Both knew that they had from that hour sworn
to each other an enmity burning and full of danger.
The king had noticed nothing of this dumb but significant scene. He was
looking down, brooding over his gloomy thoughts, and the storm-clouds
rolling around his brow gathered darker and darker.
With an impetuous movement he arose from his seat, and this time he
needed no helping hand to stand up. Wrath was the mighty lever that
threw him up.
The courtiers arose from their seats in silence, and nobody besides John
Heywood observed the look of understanding which Earl Douglas exchanged
with Gardiner, bishop of Winchester, and Wriothesley, the lord
"Ah, why is not Cranmer here?" said John Heywood to himself. "I see the
three tiger-cats prowling, so there must be prey to devour somewhere.
Well, I will at any rate keep my ears open wide enough to hear their
"The dinner is over, gentlemen!" said the king hastily; and the
courtiers and gentlemen in waiting silently withdrew to the anteroom.
Only Earl Douglas, Gardiner, and Wriothesley, remained in the hall,
while John Heywood crept softly into the king's cabinet and concealed
himself behind the hanging of gold brocade which covered the door
leading from the king's study to the outer anteroom.
"My lords," said the king, "follow me into my cabinet. As we are dull,
the most advisable thing for us to do is to divert ourselves while we
occupy ourselves with the weal of our beloved subjects, and consult
concerning their happiness and what is conducive to their welfare.
Follow me then, and we will hold a general consultation."
"Earl Douglas, your arm!" and as the king leaned on it and walked slowly
toward the cabinet, at the entrance of which the lord chancellor and the
Bishop of Winchester were waiting for him, he asked in a low voice:
"You say that Henry Howard dares ever intrude himself into the queen's
"Sire, I did not say that; I meant only that he is constantly to be seen
in the queen's presence."
"Oh, you mean that she perhaps authorizes him to do so," said the king,
grinding his teeth.
"Sire, I hold the queen to be a noble and dutiful wife."
"I should be quite inclined to lay your head at your feet if you did
not!" said the king, in whose face the first lightning of the bursting
cloud of wrath began to flash.
"My head belongs to the king!" said Earl Douglas respectfully. "Let him
do with it as he pleases."
"But Howard--you mean, then, that Howard loves the queen?"
"Yes, sire, I dare affirm that."
"Now, by the Mother of God, I will tread the serpent under my feet, as
I did his sister!" exclaimed Henry, fiercely. "The Howards are an
ambitious, dangerous, and hypocritical race."
"A race that never forgets that a daughter of their house has sat on
"But they shall forget it," cried the king, "and I must wash these proud
and haughty thoughts out of their brain with their own blood. They
have not then learned, from the example of their sister, how I punish
disloyalty. This insolent race needs another fresh example. Well, they
shall have it. Only put the means in my hand, Douglas, only a little
hook that I can strike into the flesh of these Howards, and I tell you,
with that little hook I will drag them to the scaffold. Give me proof of
the earl's criminal love, and I promise you that for this I will grant
you what you ask."
"Sire, I will give you this proof."
"In four days, sire! At the great contest of the poets, which you have
ordered to take place on the queen's birthday."
"I thank you, Douglas, I thank you," said the king with an expression
almost of joy. "In four days you will have rid me of the troublesome race
"But, sire, if I cannot give the proof you demand without accusing one
The king, who was just about to pass the door of his cabinet, stood
still, and looked steadily into the earl's eyes. "Then," said he, in a
tone peculiarly awful, "you mean the queen? Well, if she is guilty, I
will punish her. God has placed the sword in my hand that I may bear it
to His honor and to the terror of mankind. If the queen has sinned, she
will be punished. Furnish me the proof of Howard's guilt, and do not
trouble yourself if we thereby discover the guilt of others. We shall
not timidly shrink back, but let justice take its course."
Next: The Queen's Friend
Previous: The Declaration