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Elizabeth In The Tower



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Elizabeth In The Tower








1554-1555

Elizabeth's position.--Legitimacy of Mary and Elizabeth's birth.--Mary
and Elizabeth's differences.--Courteney's long imprisonment.--Mary's
attentions to Courteney.--Courteney's attentions to Elizabeth.--Mary's
plan to get Elizabeth in her power.--Elizabeth's wariness.--Wyatt
accuses Elizabeth.--Her seizure.--Elizabeth borne in a litter.--She is
examined and released.--Elizabeth again arrested.--Her letter to
Mary.--Situation of the Tower.--The Traitors' Gate.--Elizabeth conveyed
to the Tower.--She is landed at the Traitors' Gate.--Elizabeth's
reception at the Tower.--Her unwillingness to enter.--Elizabeth's
indignation and grief.--She is closely imprisoned.--Elizabeth in the
garden.--The little child and the flowers.--Elizabeth greatly
alarmed.--Her removal from the Tower.--Elizabeth's fears.--Mary's
designs.--Elizabeth taken to Richmond.--Mary's plan for
marrying her.--Elizabeth's journey to Woodstock.--Christmas
festivities.--Elizabeth persists in her innocence.--The torch-light
visit.--Reconciliation between Elizabeth and Mary.--Elizabeth's release.


The imprisonment of Queen Elizabeth in the Tower, which was briefly
alluded to in the last chapter, deserves a more full narration than was
possible to give to it there. She had retired from court some time
before the difficulties about the Spanish match arose. It is true that
she took sides with Mary in the contest with Northumberland and the
friends of Jane Grey, and she shared her royal sister's triumph in the
pomp and parade of the coronation; but, after all, she and Mary could
not possibly be very good friends. The marriages of their respective
mothers could not both have been valid. Henry the Eighth was so
impatient that he could not wait for a divorce from Catharine before he
married Anne Boleyn. The only way to make the latter marriage legal,
therefore, was to consider the former one null and void from the
beginning, and if the former one was not thus null and void, the latter
must be so. If Henry had waited for a divorce, then both marriages might
have been valid, each for the time of its own continuance, and both the
princesses might have been lawful heirs; but as it was, neither of them
could maintain her own claims to be considered a lawful daughter,
without denying, by implication at least, those of the other. They were
therefore, as it were, natural enemies. Though they might be outwardly
civil to each other, it was not possible that there could be any true
harmony or friendship between them.

A circumstance occurred, too, soon after Mary's accession to the throne,
which resulted in openly alienating the feelings of the two ladies from
each other. There was a certain prisoner in the Tower of London, a
gentleman of high rank and great consideration, named Courteney, now
about twenty-six years of age, who had been imprisoned in the Tower by
King Henry the Eighth when he was only twelve years old, on account of
some political offenses of his father! He had thus been a close prisoner
for fourteen years at Mary's accession; but Mary released him. It was
found, when he returned to society again, that he had employed his
solitary hours in cultivating his mind, acquiring knowledge, and
availing himself of all the opportunities for improvement which his
situation afforded, and that he came forth an intelligent,
accomplished, and very agreeable man. The interest which his appearance
and manners excited was increased by the sympathy naturally felt for the
sufferings that he had endured. In a word, he became a general favorite.
The rank of his family was high enough for Mary to think of him for her
husband, for this was before the Spanish match was thought of. Mary
granted him a title, and large estates, and showed him many other
favors, and, as every body supposed, tried very hard to make an
impression on his heart. Her efforts were, however, vain. Courteney gave
an obvious preference to Elizabeth, who was young then, at least, if not
beautiful. This successful rivalry on the part of her sister filled the
queen's heart with resentment and envy, and she exhibited her chagrin by
so many little marks of neglect and incivility, that Elizabeth's
resentment was roused in its turn, and she asked permission to retire
from court to her residence in the country. Mary readily gave the
permission, and thus it happened that when Wyatt's rebellion first broke
out, as described in the last chapter, Elizabeth was living in
retirement and seclusion at Ashridge, an estate of hers at some distance
west of London. As to Courteney, Mary found some pretext or other for
sending him back again to his prison in the Tower.

Mary was immediately afraid that the malcontents would join with
Elizabeth and attempt to put forward her name and her claims to the
crown, which, if they were to do, it would make their movement very
formidable. She was impressed immediately with the idea that it was of
great importance to get Elizabeth back again into her power. The most
probable way of succeeding in doing this, she thought, was to write her
a kind and friendly letter, inviting her to return. She accordingly
wrote such a letter. She said in it that certain evil-disposed persons
were plotting some disturbances in the kingdom, and that she thought
that Elizabeth was not safe where she was. She urged her, therefore, to
return, saying that she should be truly welcome, and should be protected
against all danger if she would come.

An invitation from a queen is a command, and Elizabeth would have felt
bound to obey this summons, but she was sick when it came. At least she
was not well, and she was not much disposed to underrate her sickness
for the sake of being able to travel on this occasion. The officers of
her household made out a formal certificate to the effect that Elizabeth
was not able to undertake such a journey.

In the mean time Wyatt's rebellion broke out; he marched to London, was
entrapped there and taken prisoner, as is related at length in the last
chapter. In his confessions he implicated the Princess Elizabeth, and
also Courteney, and Mary's government then determined that they must
secure Elizabeth's person at all events, sick or well. They sent,
therefore, three gentlemen as commissioners, with a troop of horse to
attend them, to bring her to London. They carried the queen's litter
with them, to bring the princess upon it in case she should be found
unable to travel in any other way.

This party arrived at Ashridge at ten o'clock at night. They insisted on
being admitted at once into the chamber of Elizabeth, and there they
made known their errand. Elizabeth was terrified; she begged not to be
moved, as she was really too sick to go. They called in some physicians,
who certified that she could be moved without danger to her life. The
next morning they put her upon the litter, a sort of covered bed, formed
like a palanquin, and borne, like a palanquin, by men. It was
twenty-nine miles to London, and it took the party four days to reach
the city, they moved so slowly. This circumstance is mentioned sometimes
as showing how sick Elizabeth must have been. But the fact is, there was
no reason whatever for any haste. Elizabeth was now completely in Mary's
power, and it could make no possible difference how long she was upon
the road.

The litter passed along the roads in great state. It was a princess that
they were bearing. As they approached London, a hundred men in handsome
uniforms went before, and an equal number followed. A great many people
came out from the city to meet the princess, as a token of respect. This
displeased Mary, but it could not well be prevented or punished. On
their arrival they took Elizabeth to one of the palaces at Westminster,
called Whitehall. She was examined by Mary's privy council. Nothing was
proved against her, and, as the rebellion seemed now wholly at an end,
she was at length released, and thus ended her first durance as a
political prisoner.

It happened, however, that other persons implicated in Wyatt's plot,
when examined, made charges against Elizabeth in respect to it, and
Queen Mary sent another force and arrested her again. She was taken now
to a famous royal palace, called Hampton Court, which is situated on the
Thames, a few miles above the city. She brought many of the officers of
her household and of her personal attendants with her; but one of the
queen's ministers, accompanied by two other officers, came soon after,
and dismissed all her own attendants, and placed persons in the service
of the queen in their place. They also set a guard around the palace,
and then left the princess, for the night, a close prisoner, and yet
without any visible signs of coercion, for all these guards might be
guards of honor.

The next day some officers came again, and told her that it had been
decided to send her to the Tower, and that a barge was ready at the
river to convey her. She was very much agitated and alarmed, and begged
to be allowed to send a letter to her sister before they took her away.
One of the officers insisted that she should have the privilege, and the
other that she should not. The former conquered in the contest, and
Elizabeth wrote the letter and sent it. It contained an earnest and
solemn disavowal of all participation in the plots which she had been
charged with encouraging, and begged Mary to believe that she was
innocent, and allow her to be released.

The letter did no good. Elizabeth was taken into the barge and conveyed
in a very private manner down the river. Hampton Court is above London,
several miles, and the Tower is just below the city. There are several
entrances to this vast castle, some of them by stairs from the river.
Among these is one by which prisoners accused of great political crimes
were usually taken in, and which is called the Traitors' Gate. There was
another entrance, also, from the river, by which a more honorable
admission to the fortress might be attained. The Tower was not solely a
prison. It was often a place of retreat for kings and queens from any
sudden danger, and was frequently occupied by them as a somewhat
permanent residence. There were a great number of structures within the
walls, in some of which royal apartments were fitted up with great
splendor. Elizabeth had often been in the Tower as a resident or a
visitor, and thus far there was nothing in the circumstances of the case
to forbid the supposition that they might be taking her there as a guest
or resident now. She was anxious and uneasy, it is true, but she was not
certain that she was regarded as a prisoner.

In the mean time, the barge, with the other boats in attendance, passed
down the river in the rain, for it was a stormy day, a circumstance
which aided the authorities in their effort to convey their captive to
her gloomy prison without attracting the attention of the populace.
Besides, it was the day of some great religious festival, when the
people were generally in the churches. This day had been chosen on that
very account. The barge and the boats came down the river, therefore,
without attracting much attention; they approached the landing-place at
last, and stopped at the flight of steps leading up from the water to
the Traitors' Gate.

Elizabeth declared that she was no traitor, and that she would not be
landed there. The nobleman who had charge of her told her simply, in
reply, that she could not have her choice of a place to land. At the
same time, he offered her his cloak to protect her from the rain in
passing from the barge to the castle gate. Umbrellas had not been
invented in those days. Elizabeth threw the cloak away from her in
vexation and anger. She found, however, that it was of no use to resist.
She could not choose. She stepped from the barge out upon the stairs in
the rain, saying, as she did so, "Here lands as true and faithful a
subject as ever landed a prisoner at these stairs. Before thee, O God, I
speak it, having now no friends but thee alone."

A large company of the warders and keepers of the castle had been drawn
up at the Traitors' Gate to receive her, as was customary on occasions
when prisoners of high rank were to enter the Tower. As these men were
always dressed in uniform of a peculiar antique character, such a parade
of them made quite an imposing appearance. Elizabeth asked what it
meant. They told her that that was the customary mode of receiving a
prisoner. She said that if it was, she hoped that they would dispense
with the ceremony in her case, and asked that, for her sake, the men
might be dismissed from such attendance in so inclement a season. The
men blessed her for her goodness, and kneeled down and prayed that God
would preserve her.

She was extremely unwilling to go into the prison. As they approached
the part of the edifice where she was to be confined, through the
court-yard of the Tower, she stopped and sat down upon a stone, perhaps
a step, or the curb stone of a walk. The lieutenant urged her to go in
out of the cold and wet. "Better sitting here than in a worse place,"
she replied, "for God knoweth whither you are bringing me." However, she
rose and went on. She entered the prison, was conducted to her room, and
the doors were locked and bolted upon her.

Elizabeth was kept closely imprisoned for a month; after that, some
little relaxation in the strictness of her seclusion was allowed.
Permission was very reluctantly granted to her to walk every day in the
royal apartments, which were now unoccupied, so that there was no
society to be found there, but it afforded her a sort of pleasure to
range through them for recreation and exercise. But this privilege could
not be accorded without very strict limitations and conditions. Two
officers of the Tower and three women had to attend her; the windows,
too, were shut, and she was not permitted to go and look out at them.
This was rather melancholy recreation, it must be allowed, but it was
better than being shut up all day in a single apartment, bolted and
barred.



There was a small garden within the castle not far from the prison, and
after some time Elizabeth was permitted to walk there. The gates and
doors, however, were kept carefully closed, and all the prisoners,
whose rooms looked into it from the surrounding buildings, were closely
watched by their respective keepers, while Elizabeth was in the garden,
to prevent their having any communication with her by looks or signs.
There were a great many persons confined at this time, who had been
arrested on charges connected with Wyatt's rebellion, and the
authorities seem to have been very specially vigilant to prevent the
possibility of Elizabeth's having communication with any of them. There
was a little child of five years of age who used to come and visit
Elizabeth in her room, and bring her flowers. He was the son of one of
the subordinate officers of the Tower. It was, however, at last
suspected that he was acting as a messenger between Elizabeth and
Courteney. Courteney, it will be recollected, had been sent by Mary back
to the Tower again, so that he and Elizabeth were now suffering the same
hard fate in neighboring cells. When the boy was suspected of bearing
communications between these friends and companions in suffering, he was
called before an officer and closely examined. His answers were all open
and childlike, and gave no confirmation to the idea which had been
entertained. The child, however, was forbidden to go to Elizabeth's
apartment any more. He was very much grieved at this, and he watched for
the next time that Elizabeth was to walk in the garden, and putting his
mouth to a hole in the gate, he called out, "Lady, I can not bring you
any more flowers."

After Elizabeth had been thus confined about three months, she was one
day terribly alarmed by the sounds of martial parade within the Tower,
produced by the entrance of an officer from Queen Mary, named Sir Thomas
Beddingfield, at the head of three hundred men. Elizabeth supposed that
they were come to execute sentence of death upon her. She asked
immediately if the platform on which Lady Jane Grey was beheaded had
been taken away. They told her that it had been removed. She was then
somewhat relieved. They afterward told her that Sir Thomas had come to
take her away from the Tower, but that it was not known where she was to
go. This alarmed her again, and she sent for the constable of the Tower,
whose name was Lord Chandos, and questioned him very closely to learn
what they were going to do with her. He said that it had been decided to
remove her from the Tower, and send her to a place called Woodstock,
where she was to remain under Sir Thomas Beddingfield's custody, at a
royal palace which was situated there. Woodstock is forty or fifty miles
to the westward of London, and not far from the city of Oxford.

Elizabeth was very much alarmed at this intelligence. Her mind was
filled with vague and uncertain fears and forebodings, which were none
the less oppressive for being uncertain and vague. She had, however, no
immediate cause for apprehension. Mary found that there was no decisive
evidence against her, and did not dare to keep her a prisoner in the
Tower too long. There was a large and influential part of the kingdom
who were Protestants. They were jealous of the progress Mary was making
toward bringing the Catholic religion in again. They abhorred the
Spanish match. They naturally looked to Elizabeth as their leader and
head, and Mary thought that by too great or too long-continued harshness
in her treatment of Elizabeth, she would only exasperate them, and
perhaps provoke a new outbreak against her authority. She determined,
therefore, to remove the princess from the Tower to some less odious
place of confinement.

She was taken first to Queen Mary's court, which was then held at
Richmond, just above London; but she was surrounded here by soldiers and
guards, and confined almost as strictly as before. She was destined,
however, here to another surprise. It was a proposition of marriage.
Mary had been arranging a plan for making her the wife of a certain
personage styled the Duke of Savoy. His dominions were on the confines
of Switzerland and France, and Mary thought that if her rival were once
married and removed there, all the troubles which she, Mary, had
experienced on her account would be ended forever. She thought, too,
that her sister would be glad to accept this offer, which opened such an
immediate escape from the embarrassments and sufferings of her situation
in England. But Elizabeth was prompt, decided, and firm in the rejection
of this plan. England was her home, and to be Queen of England the end
and aim of all her wishes and plans. She had rather continue a captive
for the present in her native land, than to live in splendor as the
consort of a sovereign duke beyond the Rhone.

Mary then ordered Sir Thomas Beddingfield to take her to Woodstock. She
traveled on horseback, and was several days on the journey. Her passage
through the country attracted great attention. The people assembled by
the wayside, expressing their kind wishes, and offering her gifts. The
bells were rung in the villages through which she passed. She arrived
finally at Woodstock, and was shut up in the palace there.

This was in July, and she remained in Woodstock more than a year, not,
however, always very closely confined. At Christmas she was taken to
court, and allowed to share in the festivities and rejoicings. On this
occasion--it was the first Christmas after the marriage of Mary and
Philip--the great hall of the palace was illuminated with a thousand
lamps. The princess sat at table next to the king and queen. She was on
other occasions, too, taken away for a time, and then returned again to
her seclusion at Woodstock. These changes, perhaps, only served to make
her feel more than ever the hardships of her lot. They say that one day,
as she sat at her window, she heard a milk-maid singing in the fields,
in a blithe and merry strain, and said, with a sigh, that she wished she
was a milk-maid too.

King Philip, after his marriage, gradually interested himself in her
behalf, and exerted his influence to have her released; and Mary's
ministers had frequent interviews with her, and endeavored to induce her
to make some confession of guilt, and to petition Mary for release as a
matter of mercy. They could not, they said, release her while she
persisted in her innocence, without admitting that they and Mary had
been in the wrong, and had imprisoned her unjustly. But the princess was
immovable. She declared that she was perfectly innocent, and that she
would never, therefore, say that she was guilty. She would rather remain
in prison for the truth, than be at liberty and have it believed that
she had been guilty of disloyalty and treason.

At length, one evening in May, Elizabeth received a summons to go to the
palace and visit Mary in her chamber. She was conducted there by
torch-light. She had a long interview with the queen, the conversation
being partly in English and partly in Spanish. It was not very
satisfactory on either side. Elizabeth persisted in asserting her
innocence, but in other respects she spoke in a kind and conciliatory
manner to the queen. The interview ended in a sort of reconciliation.
Mary put a valuable ring upon Elizabeth's finger in token of the
renewal of friendship, and soon afterward the long period of restraint
and confinement was ended, and the princess returned to her own estate
at Hatfield in Hertfordshire, where she lived some time in seclusion,
devoting herself, in a great measure, to the study of Latin and Greek,
under the instructions of Roger Ascham.





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Previous: The Spanish Match



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