Princess Elizabeth





The king sleeps. Let him sleep! He is old and infirm, and God

has severely punished the restless tyrant with a vacillating,

ever-disquieted, never-satisfied spirit, while He bound his body and

made the spirit prisoner of the body; while He made the ambitious king,

struggling for the infinite, a slave to his own flesh. How high soever

his thoughts soar, still the king remains a clumsy, confined, powerless

child of humanity; how much soever his conscience harasses him with

disquiet and dread, yet he must be calm and endure it. He cannot run

away from his conscience; God has fettered him by the flesh. The king is

sleeping! But the queen is not; and Jane Douglas is not; neither is

the Princess Elizabeth. She has watched with heart beating high. She is

restless, and, pacing her room up and down in strange confusion, waited

for the hour that she had appointed for the meeting. Now the hour had

arrived. A glowing crimson overspread the face of the young princess;

and her hand trembled as she took the light and opened the secret door

to the corridor. She stood still for a moment, hesitating; then, ashamed

of her irresolution, she crossed the corridor and ascended the small

staircase which led to the tower-chamber. With a hasty movement she

pushed open the door and entered the small slip that was at the end of

her journey, and Thomas Seymour was already there.



As she saw him, an involuntary trepidation came over her, and for the

first time she now became conscious of her hazardous step.



As Seymour, the ardent young man, approached her with a passionate

salutation, she stepped shyly back and pushed away his hand.



"How! you will not allow me to kiss your hand?" asked he, and she

thought she observed on his face a slight, scornful smile. "You make me

the happiest of mortals by inviting me to this interview, and now you

stand before me rigid and cold, and I am not once permitted to clasp you

in my arms, Elizabeth!"



Elizabeth! He had called her by her first name without her having

given him permission to do so. That offended her. In the midst of her

confusion, that aroused the pride of the princess, and made her aware

how much she must have forgotten her own dignity, when another could be

so forgetful of it.



She wished to regain it. At this moment she would have given a year of

her life if she had not taken this step--if she had not invited the earl

to this meeting.



She wanted to try and regain in his eyes her lost position, and again to

become to him the princess.



Pride in her was still mightier than love. She meant her lover should at

the same time bow before her as her favored servant.



Therefore she gravely said: "Earl Thomas Seymour, you have often begged

us for a private conversation; we now grant it to you. Speak, then! what

matter of importance have you to bring before us?"



And with an air of gravity she stepped to an easy-chair, on which she

seated herself slowly and solemnly like a queen, who gives audience to

her vassals.



Poor, innocent child, that in her unconscious trepidation wished to

intrench herself behind her grandeur, as behind a shield, which might

conceal her maidenly fear and girlish anxiety!



Thomas Seymour, however, divined her thoughts; and his proud and cold

heart revolted against this child's attempt to defy him.



He wanted to humble her; he wished to compel her to bow before him, and

implore his love as a gracious gift.



He therefore bowed low to the princess, and respectfully said: "Your

highness, it is true I have often besought you for an audience; but

you have so long refused me, that at last I could no longer summon up

courage to solicit it; and I let my wish be silent and my heart dumb.

Therefore seek not now, when these pains have been subdued, to excite

them again. My heart should remain dead, my lips mute. You have so

willed; and I have submitted to your will. Farewell, then, princess,

and may your days be happier and more serene than those of poor Thomas

Seymour!"



He bowed low before her, and then went slowly to the door. He had

already opened it and was about to step out, when a hand was suddenly

laid on his shoulder and drew him with vehement impetuosity back into

the room.



"Do you want to go?" asked Elizabeth, with fluttering breath and

trembling voice. "You want to leave me, and, flouting me, you want now,

it may be, to go to the Duchess of Richmond, your mistress, and

relate to her with a sneer that the Princess Elizabeth granted you an

interview, and that you have flouted her?"



"The Duchess of Richmond is not my mistress," said the earl, earnestly.



"No, not your mistress; but she will very soon be your wife!"



"She will never be my wife!"



"And why not?"



"Because I do not love her, princess."



A beam of delight passed over Elizabeth's pale, agitated face. "Why do

you call me princess?" asked she.



"Because you have come as a princess to favor your poor servant with an

audience. But, ah, it would be greatly abusing your princely grace did

I want to protract this audience still further. I therefore retire,

princess."



And again he approached the door. But Elizabeth rushed after him, and,

laying hold of his arms with both her hands, she wildly pushed him back.



Her eyes shot lightning; her lips trembled; a passionate warmth was

manifested in her whole being. Now she was the true daughter of her

father, inconsiderate and passionate in her wrath, destroying in her

ferocity.



"You shall not go," muttered she, with her teeth firmly set. "I will not

let you go! I will not let you confront me any longer with that cold,

smiling face. Scold me; cast on me the bitterest reproaches, because I

have dared to brave you so long; curse me, if you can! Anything but this

smiling calmness. It kills me; it pierces my heart like a dagger. For

you see well enough that I have no longer the power to withstand you;

you see well enough that I love you. Yes, I love you to ecstasy and to

desperation; with desire and dread. I love you as my demon and my angel.

I am angry, because you have so entirely crushed the pride of my heart.

I curse you, because you have made me so entirely your slave; and the

next moment I fall on my knees and beseech God to forgive me this crime

against you. I love you, I say--not as those soft, gentle-hearted women

love, with a smile on the lip; but with madness and desperation, with

jealousy and wrath. I love you as my father loved Anne Boleyn, whom, in

the hatred of his love and the cruel wrath of his jealousy, he made to

mount the scaffold, because he had been told that she was untrue to him.

Ah, had I the power, I would do as my father did; I would murder you, if

you should dare ever to cease to love me. And now, Thomas Seymour, now

say whether you have the courage to desire to leave me?"



She looked bewitching in the naming might of her passion; she was so

young, so ardent; and Thomas Seymour was so ambitious! In his eyes

Elizabeth was not merely the beautiful, charming maiden, who loved him:

she was more than that: she was the daughter of Henry the Eighth, the

Princess of England, perchance some day the heiress of the throne. It is

true, her father had disinherited her, and by act of Parliament declared

her unworthy of succeeding to the throne.[Footnote: Burnet, vol. i,

p. 138] But Henry's vacillating mind might change, and the disowned

princess might one day become queen.



The earl thought of this as he gazed on Elizabeth--as he saw her before

him, so charming, so young, and so glowing with passion. He thought of

it as he now clasped her in his arms, and pressed on her lips a burning

kiss.



"No, I will not go," whispered he. "I will never more depart from your

side, if you do not wish me to go. I am yours!--your slave, your vassal;

and I will never be anything else but this alone. They may betray me;

your father may punish me for high treason; yet will I exult in my good

fortune, for Elizabeth loves me, and it will be for Elizabeth that I

die!"



"You shall not die!" cried she, clinging fast to him. "You shall live,

live at my side, proud, great, and happy! You shall be my lord and my

master; and if I am ever queen, and I feel here in my heart that I must

become so, then will Thomas Seymour be King of England."



"That is to say, in the quiet and secrecy of your chamber I should

perhaps be so!" said he with a sigh. "But there without, before the

world, I shall still be ever only a servant; and at the best, I shall be

called the favorite."



"Never, never, that I swear to you! Said I not that I loved you?"



"But the love of a woman is so changeable! Who knows how long it will be

before you will tread under your feet poor Thomas Seymour, when once the

crown has adorned your brow."



She looked at him well-nigh horrified. "Can this be, then? Is it

possible that one can forget and forsake what he once loved?"



"Do you ask, Elizabeth? Has not your father already his sixth wife?"



"It is true," said she, as mournfully she dropped her head upon her

breast. "But I," said she, after a pause, "I shall not be like my father

in that. I shall love you eternally! And that you may have a guaranty of

my faithfulness, I offer myself to you as your wife."



Astonished, he looked inquiringly into her excited, glowing face! He did

not understand her.



But she continued, passionately: "Yes, you shall be my lord and my

husband! Come, my beloved, come! I have not called you to take upon

yourself the disgraceful role of the secret lover of a princess--I have

called you to be my husband. I wish a bond to unite us two, that is so

indissoluble that not even the wrath and will of my father, but only

death itself, can sever it. I will give you proof of my love and my

devotion; and you shall be forced to acknowledge that I truly love you.

Come, my beloved, that I may soon hail you as my husband!"



He looked at her as though petrified. "Whither will you lead me?"



"To the private chapel," said she, innocently. "I have written Cranmer

to await me there at daybreak. Let us hasten, then!"



"Cranmer! You have written to the archbishop?" cried Seymour, amazed.

"How! what say you? Cranmer awaits us in the private chapel?"



"Without doubt he is waiting for us, as I have written him to do so."



"And what is he to do? What do you want of him?"



She looked at him in astonishment. "What do I want of him? Why, that he

may marry us!"



The earl staggered back as if stunned. "And have you written him that

also?"



"Nay, indeed," said she, with a charming, childlike smile. "I know very

well that it is dangerous to trust such secrets to paper. I have only

written him to come in his official robes, because I have an important

secret to confess to him."



"Oh, God be praised! We are not lost," sighed Seymour.



"But how, I do not understand you?" asked she. "You do not extend me

your hand! You do not hasten to conduct me to the chapel!"



"Tell me, I conjure you, tell me only this one thing: have you ever

spoken to the archbishop of your--no--of our love? Have you ever

betrayed to him so much, as a syllable of that which stirs our hearts?"



She blushed deeply beneath the steady gaze which he fixed on her.

"Upbraid me, Seymour," whispered she. "But my heart was weak and

timorous; and as often as I tried to fulfil the holy duty, and confess

everything honestly and frankly to the archbishop, I could not do

it! The word died on my lips; and it was as though an invisible power

paralyzed my tongue."



"So, then, Cranmer knows nothing?"



"No, Seymour, he knows nothing as yet. But now he shall learn all;

now we will go before him and tell him that we love each other, and

constrain him, by our prayers, to bless our union, and join our hands."



"Impossible!" cried Seymour. "That can never be!"



"How! What do you say?" asked she in astonishment.



"I say that Cranmer will never be so insane, nay, so criminal, as to

fulfil your wish. I say that you can never be my wife."



She looked him full and square in the face. "Have you not then told me

that you loved me?" asked she. "Have I not sworn to you that I loved you

in return? Must we then not be married, in order to sanctify the union

of our hearts?"



Seymour sank his eyes to the ground before her pure innocent look, and

blushed for shame. She did not understand this blush; because he was

silent, she deemed him convinced.



"Come," said she, "come; Cranmer is waiting for us!"



He again raised his eyes and looked at her in amazement, "Do you not

see, then, this is all only a dream that can never become reality? Do

you not feel that this precious fantasy of your great and noble heart

will never be realized? How! are you then so little acquainted with your

father as not to know that he would destroy us both if we should dare to

set at naught his paternal and his royal authority? Your birth would not

secure you from his destroying fury, for you well know he is unyielding

and reckless in his wrath; and the voice of consanguinity sounds not so

loud in him that it would not be drowned by the thunder of his wrath.

Poor child, you have learned that already! Remember with what cruelty

he has already revenged himself on you for the pretended fault of your

mother; how he transferred to you his wrath against her. Remember that

he refused your hand to the Dauphin of France, not for the sake of

your happiness, but because he said you were not worthy of so exalted a

position. Anne Boleyn's bastard could never become Queen of France. And

after such a proof of his cruel wrath against you, will you dare cast

in his face this terrible insult?--compel him to recognize a subject, a

servant, as his son?"



"Oh, this servant is, however, the brother of a Queen of England!" said

she, shyly. "My father loved Jane Seymour too warmly not to forgive her

brother."



"Ah, ah, you do not know your father! He has no heart for the past; or,

if he has, it is only to take vengeance for an injury or a fault, but

not to reward love. King Henry would be capable of sentencing Anne

Boleyn's daughter to death, and of sending to the block and rack

Catharine Howard's brothers, because these two queens once grieved him

and wounded his heart; but he would not forgive me the least offence on

account of my being the brother of a queen who loved him faithfully and

tenderly till her death. But I speak not of myself. I am a warrior, and

have too often looked death in the face to fear him now. I speak only of

you, Elizabeth. You have no right to perish thus. This noble head must

not be laid upon the block. It is destined to wear a royal crown. A

fortune still higher than love awaits you--fame and power! I must not

draw you away from this proud future. The Princess Elizabeth, though

abused and disowned, may yet one day mount the throne of England. The

Countess Seymour never! she disinherits herself! Follow, then, your high

destiny. Earl Seymour retires before a throne."



"That is to say, you disdained me?" asked she, angrily stamping the

floor with her foot. "That is to say, the proud Earl Seymour holds the

bastard too base for his coronet! That is to say, you love me not!"



"No, it means that I love you more than myself--better and more purely

than any other man can love you; for this love is so great that it makes

my selfishness and my ambition silent, and allows me to think only of

you and your future."



"Ah," sighed she, mournfully, "if you really loved me, you would not

consider--you would not see the danger, nor fear death. You would think

of nothing, and know nothing, save love."



"Because I think of love, I think of you," said Seymour. "I think that

you are to move along over the world, great, powerful, and glorious, and

that I will lend you my arm for this. I think of this, that my queen of

the future needs a general who will win victories for her, and that

I will be that general. But when this goal is reached--when you are

queen--then you have the power from one of your subjects to make a

husband; then it rests with your own will to elevate me to be the

proudest, the happiest, and the most enviable of all men. Extend me your

hand, then, and I will thank and praise God that he is so gracious to

me; and my whole existence will be spent in the effort to give you the

happiness that you are so well entitled to demand."



"And until then?" asked she, mournfully.



"Until then, we will be constant, and love each other!" cried he, as he

gently pressed her in his arms. She gently repelled him. "Will you also

be true to me till then?"



"True till death!"



"They have told me that you would marry the Duchess of Richmond, in

order thereby to at length put an end to the ancient hatred between the

Howards and Seymours."



Thomas Seymour frowned, and his countenance grew dark. "Believe me, this

hatred is invincible," said he; "and no matrimonial alliance could wash

it away. It is an inheritance from many years in our families; and I am

firmly resolved not to renounce my inheritance. I shall just as little

marry the Duchess of Richmond, as Henry Howard will my sister, the

Countess of Shrewsbury."



"Swear that to me! Swear to me, that you say the truth, and that this

haughty and coquettish duchess shall never be your wife. Swear it to me,

by all that is sacred to you!"



"I swear it by my love!" exclaimed Thomas Seymour, solemnly.



"I shall then at least have one sorrow the less," sighed Elizabeth.

"I shall have no occasion to be jealous. And is it not true," she then

said, "is it not true we shall often see each other? We will both keep

this secret of this tower faithfully and sacredly; and after days full

of privation and disappointment, we will here keep festival the nights

full of blissful pleasure and sweet transport. But why do you smile,

Seymour?"



"I smile, because you are pure and innocent as an angel," said he, as

he reverently kissed her hand. "I smile, because you are an exalted,

godlike child, whom one ought to adore upon his knees, and to whom one

ought to pray, as to the chaste goddess Vesta! Yes, my dear, beloved

child, here we will, as you say, pass nights full of blissful pleasure;

and may I be reprobate and damned, if I should ever be capable of

betraying this sweet, guileless confidence with which you favor me, and

sully your angel purity!"



"Ah, we will be very happy, Seymour!" said she, smiling. "I lack only

one thing--a friend, to whom I can tell my happiness, to whom I can

speak of you. Oh, it often seems to me as if this love, which must

always be concealed, always shut up, must at last burst my breast; as if

this secret must with violence break a passage, and roar like a tempest

over the whole world. Seymour, I want a confidante of my happiness and

my love."



"Guard yourself well against desiring to seek such a one!" exclaimed

Seymour, anxiously. "A secret that three know, is a secret no more; and

one day your confidante will betray us."



"Not so; I know a woman who would be incapable of that--a woman who

loves me well enough to keep my secret as faithfully as I myself; a

woman who could be more than merely a confidante, who could be the

protectress of our love. Oh, believe me, if we could gain her to our

side, then our future would be a happy and a blessed one, and we might

easily succeed in obtaining the king's consent to our marriage."



"And who is this woman?"



"It is the queen."



"The queen!" cried Thomas Seymour, with such an expression of horror

that Elizabeth trembled; "the queen your confidante? But that is

impossible! That would be plunging us both inevitably into ruin. Unhappy

child, be very careful not to mention even a single word, a syllable of

your relation to me. Be very careful not to betray to her, even by the

slightest intimation, that Thomas Seymour is not indifferent to you! Ah,

her wrath would dash to pieces you and me!"



"And why do you believe that?" asked Elizabeth, gloomily. "Why do you

suppose that Catharine would fly into a passion because Earl Seymour

loves me? Or how?--it is she, perhaps, that you love, and you dare not

therefore let her know that you have sworn your love to me also? Ah,

I now see through it all; I understand it all! You love the queen--her

only. For that reason you will not go to the chapel with me; for that

reason you swore that you would not marry the Duchess of Richmond;

and therefore--oh, my presentiment did not deceive me--therefore that

furious ride in Epping Forest to-day. Ah, the queen's horse must of

course become raving, and run away, that his lordship, the master of

horse, might follow his lady, and with her got lost in the thicket

of the woods!--And now," said she, her eyes flashing with anger, and

raising her hand to heaven as if taking an oath, "now I say to you: Take

heed to yourself! Take heed to yourself, Seymour, that you do not, even

by a single word or a single syllable, betray your secret, for that

word would crush you! Yes, I feel it, that I am no bastard, that I am

my father's own daughter; I feel it in this wrath and this jealousy that

rages within me! Take heed to yourself, Seymour, for I will go hence

and accuse you to the king, and the traitor's head will fall upon the

scaffold!"



She was beside herself. With clenched fists and a threatening air she

paced the room up and down. Tears gushed from her eyes; but she shook

them out of her eyelashes, so that they fell scattering about her like

pearls. Her father's impetuous and untractable nature stirred within

her, and his blood seethed in her veins.



But Thomas Seymour had already regained his self-command and composure.

He approached the princess and despite her struggles clasped her in his

arms.



"Little fool!" said he, between his kisses. "Sweet, dear fool, how

beautiful you are in your anger, and how I love you for it! Jealousy is

becoming to love; and I do not complain, though you are unjust and cruel

toward me. The queen has much too cold and proud a heart ever to be

loved by any man. Ah, only to think this is already treason to her

virtue and modesty; and surely she has not deserved this from us two,

that we should disdain and insult her. She is the first that has always

been just to you; and to me she has ever been only a gracious mistress!"



"It is true," murmured Elizabeth, completely ashamed; "she is a true

friend and mother; and I have her to thank for my present position at

this court."



Then, after a pause, she said, smiling, and extending her hand to the

earl: "You are right. It would be a crime to suspect her; and I am a

fool. Forgive me, Seymour, forgive my absurd and childish anger; and I

promise you in return to betray our secret to no one, not even to the

queen."



"Do you swear that to me?"



"I swear it to you! and I swear to you more than that: I will never

again be jealous of her."



"Then you do but simple justice to yourself and to the queen also," said

the earl, with a smile, as he drew her again to his arms.



But she pushed him gently back. "I must now away. The morning dawns, and

the archbishop awaits me in the royal chapel."



"And what will you say to him, beloved?"



"I will make my confession to him."



"How! so you will then betray our love to him?"



"Oh," said she, with a bewitching smile, "that is a secret between us

and God; and only to Him alone can we confess it; because He alone can

absolve us from it. Farewell, then, Seymour, farewell, and think of me

till we see each other again! But when--say, when shall we meet again?"



"When there is a night like this one, beloved, when the moon is not in

the heavens. Oh, then I could wish there were a change of the moon every

week," said she, with the charming innocence of a child. "Farewell,

Seymour, farewell; we must part."



She clung to his tall, sturdy form as the ivy twines around the trunk of

an oak. Then they parted. The princess slipped again softly and

unseen into her apartments, and thence into the royal chapel; the earl

descended again the spiral staircase which led to the secret door of the

garden.



Unobserved and unseen he returned to his palace; even his valet, who

slept in the anteroom, did not see him, as the earl crept past him

lightly on his toes, and betook himself to his sleeping-room.



But no sleep came to his eyes that night, and his soul was restless and

full of fierce torment. He was angry with himself, and accused himself

of treachery and perfidy; and then again, full of proud haughtiness, he

still tried to excuse himself and to silence his conscience, which was

sitting in judgment on him.



"I love her--her only!" said he to himself. "Catharine possesses my

heart, my soul; I am ready to devote my whole life to her. Yes, I love

her! I have this day so sworn to her; and she is mine for all eternity!"



"And Elizabeth?" asked his conscience. "Have you not sworn truth and

love to her also?"



"No!" said he. "I have only received her oath; I have not given her mine

in return. And when I vowed never to marry the Duchess of Richmond; when

I swore this 'by my love,' then I thought only of Catharine--of that

proud, beautiful, charming woman, at once maidenly and voluptuous;

but not of this young, inexperienced, wild child--of this unattractive

little princess!"



"But the princess may one day become a queen," whispered his ambition.



"That, however, is very doubtful," replied he to himself. "But it is

certain that Catharine will one day be the regent, and if I am at that

time her husband, then I am Regent of England."



This was the secret of his duplicity and his double treachery. Thomas

Seymour loved nothing but himself, nothing but his ambition. He was

capable of risking his life for a woman; but for renown and greatness he

would have gladly sacrificed this woman.



For him there was only one aim, one struggle: to be come great and

powerful above all the nobles of the kingdom--to be the first man in

England. And to reach this aim, he would be afraid of no means; he would

shrink from no treachery and no sin.



Like the disciples of Loyola, he said, in justification of himself, "the

end sanctifies the means."



And thus for him every means was right which conducted him to the end;

that is to say, to greatness and glory.



He was firmly convinced that he loved the queen ardently; and in his

nobler hours he did really love her. Depending on the moment, a son of

the hour, in him feeling and will varied with the rapidity of lightning,

and he ever was wholly and completely that with which the moment

inflamed him.



When, therefore, he stood before the queen, he did not lie when he swore

that he loved her passionately. He really loved her, with double warmth,

since she had to his mind in some sort identified herself with his

ambition. He adored her, because she was the means that might conduct

him to his end; because she might some day hold in her hands the sceptre

of England. And on the day when this came to pass, he wished to be

her lover and her lord. She had accepted him as her lord, and he was

entirely certain of his future sway.



Consequently he loved the queen, but his proud and ambitious heart could

never be so completely animated by one love as that there should not

be room in it for a second, provided this second love presented him a

favorable chance for the attainment of the aim of his life.



Princess Elizabeth had this chance. And if the queen would certainly

become one day Regent of England, yet Elizabeth might some day perchance

become queen thereof. Of course, it was as yet only a perhaps, but one

might manage out of this perhaps to make a reality. Besides, this young,

passionate child loved him, and Thomas Seymour was himself too young

and too easily excitable to be able to despise a love that presented him

with such enticing promises and bright dreams of the future.



"It does not become a man to live for love alone," said he to himself as

he now thought over the events of the night. "He must struggle for the

highest and wish to reach the greatest, and no means of attaining this

end ought he to leave unemployed. Besides, my heart is large enough to

satisfy a twofold love. I love them both--both of these fair women who

fetch me a crown. Let fate decide to which of the two I shall one day

belong!"





Postscript By Henry Viii Revenge facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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