How King Henry The Eighth Held A Chapter Of The Garter

From a balcony overlooking the upper ward, Anne Boleyn beheld the

king's approach on his return from the Garter Tower, and waving her hand

smilingly to him, she withdrew into the presence-chamber. Hastening to

her, Henry found her surrounded by her ladies of honour, by the chief

of the nobles and knights who had composed her train from Hampton Court,

and by the Cardinals Wolsey and Campeggio; and having exchanged a few

words with her, he took her hand, and led her to the upper part of the

chamber, where two chairs of state were set beneath a canopy of crimson

velvet embroidered with the royal arms, and placed her in the seat

hitherto allotted to Catherine of Arragon. A smile of triumph irradiated

Anne's lovely countenance at this mark of distinction, nor was her

satisfaction diminished as Henry turned to address the assemblage.

"My lords," he said, "ye are right well aware of the scruples of

conscience I entertain in regard to my marriage with my brother's widow,

Catherine of Arragon. The more I weigh the matter, the more convinced am

I of its unlawfulness; and were it possible to blind myself to my sinful

condition, the preachers, who openly rebuke me from the pulpit, would

take care to remind me of it. Misunderstand me not, my lords. I have no

ground of complaint against the queen. Far otherwise. She is a lady

of most excellent character--full of devotion, loyalty, nobility, and

gentleness. And if I could divest myself of my misgivings, so far from

seeking to put her from me, I should cherish her with the greatest

tenderness. Ye may marvel that I have delayed the divorce thus long. But

it is only of late that my eyes have been opened; and the step was hard

to take. Old affections clung to me--old chains restrained me--nor could

I, without compunction, separate myself from one who has ever been to me

a virtuous and devoted consort."

"Thou hast undergone a martyrdom, gossip," observed Will Sommers, who

had posted himself at the foot of the canopy, near the king, "and shalt

henceforth be denominated Saint Henry."

The gravity of the hearers might have been discomposed by this remark,

but for the stern looks of the king.

"Ye may make a jest of my scruples, my lords," he continued, "and think

I hold them lightly; but my treatise on the subject, which has cost

me much labour and meditation, will avouch to the contrary. What would

befall this realm if my marriage were called in question after my

decease? The same trouble and confusion would ensue that followed on the

death of my noble grandfather, King Edward the Fourth. To prevent such

mischance I have resolved, most reluctantly, to put away my present

queen, and to take another consort, by whom I trust to raise up a worthy

successor and inheritor of my kingdom."

A murmur of applause followed this speech, and the two cardinals

exchanged significant glances, which were not unobserved by the king.

"I doubt not ye will all approve the choice I shall make," he pursued,

looking fiercely at Wolsey, and taking Anne Boleyn's hand, who arose

as he turned to her. "And now, fair mistress," he added to her, "as an

earnest of the regard I have for you, and of the honours I intend you,

I hereby create you Marchioness of Pembroke, and bestow upon you a

thousand marks a year in land, and another thousand to be paid out of my

treasury to support your dignity."

"Your majesty is too generous," replied Anne, bending the knee, and

kissing his hand.

"Not a whit, sweetheart--not a whit," replied Henry, tenderly raising

her; "this is but a slight mark of my goodwill. Sir Thomas Boleyn," he

added to her father, "henceforth your style and title will be that of

Viscount Rochford, and your patent will be made out at the same time as

that of your daughter, the Marchioness of Pembroke. I also elect you a

knight-companion of the most honourable Order of the Garter, and your

investiture and installation will take place to-day."

Having received the thanks and homage of the newly-created noble, Henry

descended from the canopy, and passed into an inner room with the Lady

Anne, where a collation was prepared for them. Their slight meal over,

Anne took up her lute, and playing a lively prelude, sang two or

three French songs with so much skill and grace, that Henry, who was

passionately fond of music, was quite enraptured. Two delightful hours

having passed by, almost imperceptibly, an usher approached the king,

and whispering a few words to him, he reluctantly withdrew, and Anne

retired with her ladies to an inner apartment.

On reaching his closet, the king's attendants proceeded to array him in

a surcoat of crimson velvet, powdered with garters embroidered in silk

and gold, with the motto--boni soft qui mal y pense--wrought within

them. Over the surcoat was thrown a mantle of blue velvet with a

magnificent train, lined with white damask, and having on the left

shoulder a large garter, wrought in pearls and Venice twists, containing

the motto, and encircling the arms of Saint George--argent, a cross

gules. The royal habiliments were completed by a hood of the same stuff

as the surcoat, decorated like it with small embroidered garters, and

lined with white satin. From the king's neck was suspended the collar

of the Great George, composed of pieces of gold, fashioned like garters,

the ground of which was enamelled, and the letters gold.

While Henry was thus arrayed, the knights-companions, robed in their

mantles, hoods, and collars, entered the closet, and waiting till he

was ready, marched before him into the presence-chamber, where were

assembled the two provincial kings-at-arms, Clarenceux and Norroy, the

heralds, and pursuivants, wearing their coats-of-arms, together with the

band of pensioners, carrying gilt poleaxes, and drawn up in two lines.

At the king's approach, one of the gentlemen-ushers who carried the

sword of state, with the point resting upon the ground, delivered it

to the Duke of Richmond,--the latter having been appointed to bear it

before the king during all the proceedings of the feast. Meanwhile, the

knights-companions having drawn up on either side of the canopy, Henry

advanced with a slow and stately step towards it, his train borne by

the Earl of Surrey, Sir Thomas Wyat, and other nobles and knights. As he

ascended the canopy, and faced the assemblage, the Duke of Richmond

and the chief officers of the Order drew up a little on his right. The

knights-companions then made their salutation to him, which he returned

by removing his jewelled cap with infinite grace and dignity, and

as soon as he was again covered they put on their caps, and ranging

themselves in order, set forward to Saint George's Chapel.

Quitting the royal lodgings, and passing through the gateway of the

Norman Tower, the procession wound its way along the base of the Round

Tower, the battlements of which bristled with spearmen, as did the walls

on the right, and the summit of the Winchester Tower, and crossing the

middle ward, skirted the tomb-house, then newly erected by Wolsey, and

threading a narrow passage between it and Saint George's Chapel, entered

the north-east door of the latter structure.

Dividing, on their entrance into the chapel, into two lines, the

attendants of the knights-companions flanked either side of the north

aisle; while between them walked the alms-knights, the verger, the

prebends of the college, and the officers-of-arms, who proceeded as far

as the west door of the choir, where they stopped. A slight pause then

ensued, after which the king, the knights-companions, and the chief

officers of the Order, entered the chapter-house--a chamber situated at

the north-east corner of the chapel--leaving the Duke of Richmond, the

sword-bearer, Lard Rochford, the knight-elect, the train-bearers, and

pensioners outside. The door of the chapter-house being closed by

the black-rod, the king proceeded to the upper end of the

vestments-board--as the table was designated--where a chair, cushions,

and cloth of state were provided for him; the knights-companions, whose

stalls in the choir were on the same side as his own, seating themselves

on his right, and those whose posts were on the prince's side taking

their places on the left. The prelate and the chancellor stood at the

upper end of the table; the Garter and register at the foot; while the

door was kept by the black-rod.

As soon as the king and the knights were seated, intimation was given by

an usher to the black-rod that the newly elected knight, Lord Rochford,

was without. The intelligence being communicated to the king, he ordered

the Dukes of Suffolk and Norfolk to bring him into his presence.

The injunction was obeyed, and the knight-elect presently made

his appearance, the Garter marching before him to the king. Bowing

reverently to the sovereign, Rochford, in a brief speech, expressed his

gratitude for the signal honour conferred upon him, and at its close

set his left foot upon a gilt stool, placed for him by the Garter, who

pronounced the following admonition:--"My good lord, the loving company

of the Order of the Garter have received you as their brother and

fellow. In token whereof, they give you this garter, which God grant you

may receive and wear from henceforth to His praise and glory, and to the

exaltation and honour of the noble Order and yourself."

Meanwhile the garter was girded on the leg of the newly-elected knight,

and buckled by the Duke of Suffolk. This done, he knelt before the king,

who hung a gold chain, with the image of Saint George attached to

it, about his neck, while another admonition was pronounced by

the chancellor. Rochford then arose, bowed to the monarch, to the

knights-companions, who returned his salutations, and the investiture

was complete.

Other affairs of the chapter were next discussed. Certain officers

nominated since the last meeting, were sworn; letters from absent

knights-companions, praying to be excused from attendance, were

read--and their pleas, except in the instance of Sir Thomas Cheney,

allowed. After reading the excuse of the latter, Henry uttered an angry

oath, declaring he would deprive him of his vote in the chapter-house,

banish him from his stall, and mulct him a hundred marks, to be paid

at Saint George's altar, when Will Sommers, who was permitted to be

present, whispered in his ear that the offender was kept away by the

devices of Wolsey, because he was known to be friendly to the divorce,

and to the interests of the lady Anne.

"Aha! by Saint Mary, is it so?" exclaimed Henry, knitting his brows.

"This shall be looked into. I have hanged a butcher just now. Let the

butcher's son take warning by his fate. He has bearded me long enough.

See that Sir Thomas Cheney be sent for with all despatch. I will hear

the truth from his own lips."

He then arose, and quitting the chapter-house, proceeded with the

knights-companions to the choir--the roof and walls of the sacred

structure resounding with the solemn notes of the organ as they

traversed the aisle. The first to enter the choir were the alms-knights,

who passed through the door in a body, and making low obeisances

toward the altar and the royal stall, divided into two lines. They

were succeeded by the prebends of the College, who, making similar

obeisances, stationed themselves in front of the benches before the

stalls of the knights-companions. Next followed the pursuivants,

heralds, and provincial kings-of-arms, making like reverences,

and ranging themselves with the alms-knights. Then came the

knights-companions, who performed double reverences like the others, and

took their stations under their stalls; then came the black-rod, Garter,

and register, who having gone through the same ceremony as the others,

proceeded to their form, which was placed on the south side of the choir

before the sovereign's stall; then came the chancellor and prelate,

whose form was likewise placed before the royal stall, but nearer to it

than that allotted to the other officers; and, lastly, Henry himself,

with the sword borne before him by the Duke of Richmond, who as he

approached the steps of his stall bowed reverently towards the altar,

and made another obeisance before seating himself.

Meanwhile the Duke of Richmond posted himself in front of the royal

stall, the Earl of Oxford, as lord chamberlain, taking his station on

the king's right, and the Earl of Surrey, as vice-chamberlain, on the

left. As these arrangements were made, the two cardinals arrived, and

proceeded to the altar.

Mass was then said, and nothing could be more striking than the

appearance of the chapel during its performance. The glorious choir with

its groined and pendent roof, its walls adorned with the richest stuffs,

its exquisitely carved stalls, above which hung the banners of the

knights-companions, together with their helmets, crests, and swords, its

sumptuously--decorated altar, glittering with costly vessels, its pulpit

hung with crimson damask interwoven with gold, the magnificent and

varied dresses of the assemblage--all these constituted a picture of

surpassing splendour.

Vespers over, the king and his train departed with the same ceremonies

and in the same order as had been observed on their entrance to the


On returning to the royal lodgings, Henry proceeded to his closet, where

having divested himself of his mantle, he went in search of the Lady

Anne. He found her walking with her dames on the stately terrace at the

north of the castle, and the attendants retiring as he joined her, he

was left at full liberty for amorous converse. After pacing the terrace

for some time, he adjourned with Anne to her own apartments, where he

remained till summoned to supper with the knights-companions in Saint

George's Hall.

The next morning betimes, it being the day of the Patron Saint of the

Order of the Garter, a numerous cavalcade assembled in the upper ward of

the castle, to conduct the king to hear matins in Saint George's Chapel.

In order to render the sight as imposing as possible, Henry had arranged

that the procession should take place on horseback, and the whole of the

retinue were accordingly mounted. The large quadrangle was filled with

steeds and their attendants, and the castle walls resounded with the

fanfares of trumpets and the beating of kettledrums. The most attractive

feature of the procession in the eyes of the beholders was the Lady

Anne, who, mounted on a snow-white palfrey richly trapped, rode on the

right of the king. She was dressed in a rich gown of raised cloth of

gold; and had a coronet of black velvet, decorated with orient pearls,

on her head. Never had she looked so lovely as on this occasion, and the

king's passion increased as he gazed upon her. Henry himself was more

sumptuously attired than on the preceding day. He wore a robe of purple

velvet, made somewhat like a frock, embroidered with flat damask gold,

and small lace intermixed. His doublet was very curiously embroidered,

the sleeves and breast being lined with cloth of gold, and fastened with

great buttons of diamonds and rubies. His sword and girdle were adorned

with magnificent emeralds, and his bonnet glistened with precious

stones. His charger was trapped in cloth of gold, traversed

lattice-wise, square, embroidered with gold damask, pearled on every

side, and having buckles and pendants of fine gold. By his side ran

ten footmen, richly attired in velvet and goldsmith's work. They were

followed by the pages of honour, mounted on great horses, trapped in

crimson velvet embroidered with new devices and knots of gold.

In this state Henry and his favourite proceeded to the great

western door of Saint George's Chapel. Here twelve gentlemen of the

privy-chamber attended with a canopy of cloth of gold, which they bore

over the king's bead, and that of the Lady Anne, as she walked beside

him to the entrance of the choir, where they separated--he proceeding

to his stall, and she to a closet at the north-east corner of the choir

over the altar, while her ladies repaired to one adjoining it.

Matins then commenced, and at the appointed part of the service the dean

of the college took a silver box, containing the heart of Saint George,

bestowed upon King Henry the Fifth by the Emperor Sigismund, and after

incense had been shed upon it by one of the canons, presented it to the

king and the knights-companions to kiss.

After the offertory, a carpet was spread on the steps before the altar,

the alms-knights, pursuivants, and heralds stationing themselves on

either side of it. The Garter then descended from his seat, and waving

his rod, the knights-companions descended likewise, but remained before

their stalls. The black-rod next descended, and proceeding towards the

altar, a groom of the wardrobe brought him a small carpet of cloth of

gold, and a cushion of the same stuff, which were placed on the larger

carpet, the cushion being set on the head of the steps. Taking a large

gilt bason to receive the offerings, the prelate stationed himself with

one of the prebends in the midst of the altar. The king then rose from

his stall, and making a reverence as before, proceeded to the altar,

attended by the Garter, register, and chancellor, together with the

Duke of Richmond bearing the sword; and having reached the upper step,

prostrated himself on the cushion, while the black-rod bending the knee

delivered a chain of gold, intended afterwards to be redeemed, to the

Duke of Suffolk, who was appointed to make the royal offering, and who

placed it in the bason held by the prelate. This ceremony over, the king

got up, and with similar reverences returned to his stall. Then the two

provincial kings, Clarenceux and Norroy, proceeded along the choir, and

making due reverences to the altar and the sovereign, bowed to the two

senior knights; who thereupon advanced towards the altar, and kneeling

down, made their offering. The other imitated their example, coming

forward according to their seniority.

The service ended, the officers and knights-companions quitted the

chapel in the same order they had entered it, the king being received

under the canopy at the door of the choir, and passing through the

west entrance of the chapel, where he waited for the Lady Anne. On

her arrival they both mounted their steeds, and rode up to the royal

lodgings amid flourishes of trumpets and acclamations. Dismounting

at the great gate, Henry proceeded to the presence-chamber, where the

knights-companions had assembled, and having received their salutations,

retired to his closet. Here he remained in deep consultation with the

Duke of Suffolk for some hours, when it having been announced to him

that the first course of the banquet was served, he came forth,

and proceeded to the presence-chamber, where he greeted the

knights-companions, who were there assembled, and who immediately

put themselves in order of procession. After this, the alms-knights,

prebends, and officers-of-arms passed on through the guard-chamber into

Saint George's Hall. They were followed by the knights-companions, who

drew up in double file, the seniors taking the uppermost place; and

through these lines the king passed, his train borne up as before, until

reaching the table set apart for him beneath a canopy, he turned

round and received the knights' reverences. The Earl of Oxford, as

vice-chamberlain, then brought him a ewer containing water, the Earl of

Surrey a bason, and Lord Rochford a napkin. Henry having performed his

ablutions, grace was said by the prelate, after which the king seated

himself beneath the canopy in an ancient chair with a curiously carved

back representing the exploit of Saint George, which had once belonged

to the founder, King Edward the Third, and called up the two cardinals,

who by this time had entered the hall, and who remained standing beside

him, one on either hand, during the repast.

As soon as the king was seated, the knights-companions put on their

caps, and retired to the table prepared for them on the right side of

the hall, where they seated themselves according to their degree--the

Duke of Richmond occupying the first place, the Duke of Suffolk the

second, and the Duke of Norfolk the third. On the opposite side of the

hall was a long beaufet covered with flasks of wine, meats, and dishes,

for the service of the knights' table. Before this stood the attendants,

near whom were drawn up two lines of pensioners bearing the second

course on great gilt dishes, and headed by the sewer. In front of the

sewer were the treasurer and comptroller of the household, each bearing

a white wand; next them stood the officers-of-arms in two lines, headed

by the Garter. The bottom of the hall was thronged with yeomen of the

guard, halberdiers, and henchmen. In a gallery at the lower end were

stationed a band of minstrels, and near them sat the Lady Anne and her

dames to view the proceedings.

The appearance of the hall during the banquet was magnificent, the upper

part being hung with arras representing the legend of Saint

George, placed there by Henry the Sixth, and the walls behind the

knights-companions adorned with other tapestries and rich stuffs.

The tables groaned with the weight of dishes, some of which may be

enumerated for the benefit of modern gastronomers. There were Georges on

horseback, chickens in brewis, cygnets, capons of high grease, carpes of

venison, herons, calvered salmon, custards planted with garters, tarts

closed with arms, godwits, peafowl, halibut engrailed, porpoise in

armour, pickled mullets, perch in foyle, venison pasties, hypocras

jelly, and mainemy royal.

Before the second course was served, the Garter, followed by Clarenceux

and Norroy, together with the heralds and pursuivants, advanced towards

the sovereign's canopy, and cried thrice in a loud voice, "Largesse!"

Upon this, all the knights-companions arose and took off their caps. The

Garter then proceeded to proclaim the king's titles in Latin and French,

and lastly in English, as follows:--"Of the most high, most excellent,

and most mighty monarch, Henry the Eighth, by the grace of God King of

England, France, and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, and Sovereign of

the most noble Order of the Garter."

This proclamation made, the treasurer of the household put ten golden

marks into the Garter's cap, who making a reverence to the sovereign,

retired from the hall with his followers.

"Come, my lord legate," said Henry, when this ceremony was at an end,

"we will drink to my future queen. What ho! wine!" he added to the Earl

of Surrey, who officiated as cup-bearer.

"Your highness is not yet divorced from your present consort," replied

Campeggio. "If it please you, I should prefer drinking the health of

Catherine of Arragon."

"Well, as your eminence pleases," replied the king, taking the goblet

from the hand of Surrey; "I shall not constrain you."

And looking towards the gallery, he fixed his eyes on the Lady Anne and

drained the cup to the last drop.

"Would it were poison," muttered Sir Thomas Wyat, who stood behind the

Earl of Surrey, and witnessed what was passing.

"Give not thy treasonable thoughts vent, gossip," said Will Sommers,

who formed one of the group near the royal table, "or it may chance that

some one less friendly disposed towards thee than myself may overhear

them. I tell thee, the Lady Anne is lost to thee for ever. Think'st thou

aught of womankind would hesitate between a simple knight and a king? My

lord duke," he added sharply to Richmond, who was looking round at him,

"you would rather be in yonder gallery than here."

"Why so, knave?" asked the duke.

"Because the Fair Geraldine is there," replied the jester. "And yet your

grace is not the person she would most desire to have with her."

"Whom would she prefer?" inquired the duke angrily.

The jester nodded at Surrey, and laughed maliciously.

"You heard the health given by the king just now, my lord," observed the

Duke of Suffolk to his neighbour the Duke of Norfolk; "it was a shrewd

hint to the lord legate which way his judgment should decline. Your

niece will assuredly be Queen of England."

"I did not note what was said, my lord," replied Norfolk; "I pray you

repeat it to me."

Suffolk complied, and they continued in close debate until the

termination of the banquet, when the king, having saluted the company,

returned to the presence-chamber.

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