Of The Interview Between Henry And Catherine Of Arragon In The Urswick Chapel

IT was now the joyous month of June; and where is June so joyous as

within the courts and halls of peerless Windsor? Where does the summer

sun shine so brightly as upon its stately gardens and broad terraces,

its matchless parks, its silver belting river and its circumference of

proud and regal towers? Nowhere in the world. At all seasons Windsor is

magnificent: whether, in winter, she looks upon her garnitures of woods

stripped of their foliage--her river covered with ice--or the wide

expanse of country around her sheeted with snow--or, in autumn, gazes

on the same scene--a world of golden-tinted leaves, brown meadows, or

glowing cornfields. But summer is her season of beauty--June is the

month when her woods are fullest and greenest; when her groves are

shadiest; her avenues most delicious; when her river sparkles like a

diamond zone; when town and village, mansion and cot, church and tower,

hill and vale, the distant capital itself--all within view--are seen to

the highest advantage. At such a season it is impossible to behold from

afar the heights of Windsor, crowned, like the Phrygian goddess, by

a castled diadem, and backed by lordly woods, and withhold a burst of

enthusiasm and delight. And it is equally impossible, at such a season,

to stand on the grand northern terrace, and gaze first at the proud

pile enshrining the sovereign mistress of the land, and then gaze on the

unequalled prospect spread out before it, embracing in its wide range

every kind of beauty that the country can boast, and not be struck

with the thought that the perfect and majestic castle--"In state

as wholesome as in state 'tis fit Worthy the owner, and the owner

it,"--together with the wide, and smiling, and populous district

around it, form an apt representation of the British sovereign and her

dominions. There stands the castle, dating back as far as the Conquest,

and boasting since its foundation a succession of royal inmates, while

at its foot lies a region of unequalled fertility and beauty-full of

happy homes, and loving, loyal hearts--a miniature of the old country

and its inhabitants. What though the smiling landscape may he darkened

by a passing cloud!--what though a momentary gloom may gather round

the august brow of the proud pile!--the cloud will speedily vanish, the

gloom disperse, and the bright and sunny scene look yet brighter and

sunnier from the contrast.

It was the chance of the writer of these lines upon one occasion to

behold his sovereign under circumstances which he esteems singularly

fortunate. She was taking rapid exercise with the prince upon the south

side of the garden-terrace. All at once the royal pair paused at the

summit of the ascent leading from George the Fourth's gateway. The

prince disappeared along the eastern terrace, leaving the queen alone.

And there she stood, her slight, faultless figure sharply defined

against the clear sky. Nothing was wanting to complete the picture: the

great bay-windows of the Victoria Tower on the one hand--the balustrade

of the terrace on the other--the home park beyond. It was thrilling to

feel that that small, solitary figure comprehended all the might and

majesty of England--and a thousand kindling aspirations were awakened by

the thought.

But it was, as has been said, the merry month of June, and Windsor

Castle looked down in all its magnificence upon the pomp of woods, and

upon the twelve fair and smiling counties lying within its ken. A joyous

stir was within its courts--the gleam of arms and the fluttering of

banners was seen upon its battlements and towers, and the ringing of

bells, the beating of drums, and the fanfares of trumpets, mingled with

the shouting of crowds and the discharge of ordnance.

Amidst this tumult a grave procession issued from the deanery, and took

its way across the lower quadrangle, which was thronged with officers

and men-at-arms, in the direction of the lower gate. Just as it arrived

there a distant gun was heard, and an answering peal was instantly

fired from the culverins of the Curfew Tower, while a broad standard,

emblazoned with the arms of France and England within the garter,

and having for supporters the English lion crowned and the red dragon

sinister, was reared upon the keep. All these preparations betokened the

approach of the king, who was returning to the castle after six weeks'


Though information of the king's visit to the castle had only preceded

him by a few hours, everything was ready for his reception, and the

greatest exertions were used to give splendour to it.

In spite of his stubborn and tyrannical nature, Henry was a popular

monarch, and never showed himself before his subjects but he gained

their applauses; his love of pomp, his handsome person, and manly

deportment, always winning him homage from the multitude. But at

no period was he in a more critical position than the present. The

meditated divorce from Catherine of Arragon was a step which found no

sympathy from the better portion of his subjects, while the ill-assorted

union of Anne Boleyn, an avowed Lutheran, which it was known would

follow it, was equally objectionable. The seeds of discontent had been

widely sown in the capital; and tumults had occurred which, though

promptly checked, had nevertheless alarmed the king, coupled as

they were with the disapprobation of his ministers, the sneering

remonstrances of France, the menaces of the Papal See, and the open

hostilities of Spain. But the characteristic obstinacy of his nature

kept him firm to his point, and he resolved to carry it, be the

consequences what they might.

All his efforts to win over Campeggio proved fruitless. The legate was

deaf to his menaces or promises, well knowing that to aid Anne Boleyn

would be to seriously affect the interests of the Church of Rome.

The affair, however, so long and so artfully delayed, was now drawing to

a close. A court was appointed by the legates to be holden on the 18th

of June, at Blackfriars, to try the question. Gardiner had been recalled

from Rome to act as counsel for Henry; and the monarch, determining

to appear by proxy at the trial, left his palace at Bridewell the day

before it was to come on, and set out with Anne Boleyn and his chief

attendants for Windsor Castle.

Whatever secret feelings might be entertained against him, Henry was

received by the inhabitants of Windsor with every demonstration of

loyalty and affection. Deafening shouts rent the air as he approached;

blessings and good wishes were showered upon him; and hundreds of caps

were flung into the air. But noticing that Anne Boleyn was received with

evil looks and in stern silence, and construing this into an affront to

himself, Henry not only made slight and haughty acknowledgment of the

welcome given him, but looked out for some pretext to manifest his

displeasure. Luckily none was afforded him, and he entered the castle in

a sullen mood.

The day was spent in gentle exercise within the home park and on the

terrace, and the king affected the utmost gaiety and indifference; but

those acquainted with him could readily perceive he was ill at ease.

In the evening he remained for some time alone in his closet penning

despatches, and then summoning an attendant, ordered him to bring

Captain Bouchier into his presence.

"Well, Bouchier," he said, as the officer made his appearance, "have you

obeyed my instructions in regard to Mabel Lyndwood?"

"I have, my liege," replied Bouchier. "In obedience to your majesty's

commands, immediately after your arrival at the castle I rode to the

forester's hut, and ascertained that the damsel was still there."

"And looking as beautiful as ever, I'll be sworn!" said the king.

"It was the first time I had seen her, my liege," replied Bouchier; "but

I do not think she could have ever looked more beautiful."

"I am well assured of it," replied Henry. "The pressure of affairs

during my absence from the castle had banished her image from my mind;

but now it returns as forcibly as before. And you have so arranged it

that she will be brought hither to-morrow night?"

Bouchier replied in the affirmative.

"It is well," pursued Henry; "but what more?--for you look as if you had

something further to declare."

"Your majesty will not have forgotten how you exterminated the band of

Herne the Hunter?" said Bouchier.

"Mother of Heaven, no!" cried the king, starting up; "I have not

forgotten it. What of them?--Ha! have they come to life again?--do they

scour the parks once more? That were indeed a marvel!"

"What I have to relate is almost as great a marvel," returned Bouchier.

"I have not heard of the resurrection of the band though for aught I

know it may have occurred. But Herne has been seen again in the forest.

Several of the keepers have been scared by him--travellers have been

affrighted and plundered--and no one will now cross the great park after


"Amazement!" cried Henry, again seating himself; "once let the divorce

be settled, and I will effectually check the career of this lawless and

mysterious being."

"Pray heaven your majesty may be able to do so!" replied Bouchier. "But

I have always been of opinion that the only way to get rid of the

demon would be by the aid of the Church. He is unassailable by mortal


"It would almost seem so," said the king. "And yet I do not like to

yield to the notion."

"I shrewdly suspect that old Tristram Lyndwood, the grandsire of the

damsel upon whom your majesty has deigned to cast your regards, is in

some way or other leagued with Herne," said Bouchier. "At all events, I

saw him with a tall hideous-looking personage, whose name I understand

to be Valentine Hagthorne, and who, I feel persuaded, must be one of the

remnants of the demon hunter's band."

"Why did you not arrest him?" inquired Henry.

"I did not like to do so without your majesty's authority," replied

Bouchier. "Besides, I could scarcely arrest Hagthorne without at the

same time securing the old forester, which might have alarmed the

damsel. But I am ready to execute your injunctions now."

"Let a party of men go in search of Hagthorne to-night," replied Henry;

"and while Mabel is brought to the castle to-morrow, do you arrest old

Tristram, and keep him in custody till I have leisure to examine him."

"It shall be done as you desire, my liege," replied Bouchier, bowing and


Shortly after this Henry, accompanied by Anne Boleyn, proceeded with his

attendants to Saint George's Chapel, and heard vespers performed. Just

as he was about to return, an usher advanced towards him, and making

a profound reverence, said that a masked dame, whose habiliments

proclaimed her of the highest rank, craved a moment's audience of him.

"Where is she?" demanded Henry.

"In the north aisle, an't please your majesty," replied the usher,

"near the Urswick Chapel. I told her that this was not the place for an

audience of your majesty, nor the time; but she would not be said nay,

and therefore, at the risk of incurring your sovereign displeasure, I

have ventured to proffer her request."

The usher omitted to state that his chief inducement to incur the risk

was a valuable ring, given him by the lady.

"Well, I will go to her," said the king. "I pray you, excuse me for a

short space, fair mistress," he added to Anne Boleyn.

And quitting the choir, he entered the northern aisle, and casting his

eyes down the line of noble columns by which it is flanked, and seeing

no one, he concluded that the lady must have retired into the Urswick

Chapel. And so it proved; for on reaching this exquisite little shrine

he perceived a tall masked dame within it, clad in robes of the richest

black velvet. As he entered the chapel, the lady advanced towards him,

and throwing herself on her knees, removed her mask--disclosing features

stamped with sorrow and suffering, but still retaining an expression of

the greatest dignity. They were those of Catherine of Arragon.

Uttering an angry exclamation, Henry turned on his heel and would have

left her, but she clung to the skirts of his robe.

"Hear me a moment, Henry--my king--my husband--one single moment--hear

me!" cried Catherine, in tones of such passionate anguish that he could

not resist the appeal.

"Be brief, then, Kate," he rejoined, taking her hand to raise her.

"Blessings on you for the word!" cried the queen, covering his hand with

kisses. "I am indeed your own true Kate--your faithful, loving, lawful


"Rise, madam!" cried Henry coldly; "this posture beseems not Catherine of


"I obey you now as I have ever done," she replied, rising; "though if

I followed the prompting of my heart, I should not quit my knees till I

had gained my suit."

"You have, done wrong in coming here, Catherine, at this juncture," said

Henry, "and may compel me to some harsh measure which I would willingly

have avoided."

"No one knows I am here," replied the queen, "except two faithful

attendants, who are vowed to secrecy; and I shall depart as I came."

"I am glad you have taken these precautions," replied Henry. "Now speak

freely, but again I must bid you be brief."

"I will be as brief as I can," replied the queen; "but I pray you

bear with me, Henry, if I unhappily weary you. I am full of misery and

affliction, and never was daughter and wife of king wretched as I am.

Pity me, Henry--pity me! But that I restrain myself, I should pour forth

my soul in tears before you. Oh, Henry, after twenty years' duty and

to be brought to this unspeakable shame--to be cast from you with

dishonour--to be supplanted by another--it is terrible!"

"If you have only come here to utter reproaches, madam, I must put an

end to the interview," said Henry, frowning.

"I do not reproach you, Henry," replied Catherine meekly, "I only wish

to show you the depth and extent of my affection. I only implore you to

do me right and justice--not to bring shame upon me to cover your own

wrongful action. Have compassion upon the princess our daughter--spare

her, if you will not spare me!"

"You sue in vain, Catherine," replied Henry. "I lament your condition,

but my eyes are fully opened to the sinful state in which I have so long

lived, and I am resolved to abandon it."

"An unworthy prevarication," replied Catherine, "by which you seek to

work my ruin, and accomplish your union with Anne Boleyn. And you will

no doubt succeed; for what can I, a feeble woman, and a stranger in your

country, do to prevent it? You will succeed, I say--you will divorce me

and place her upon the throne. But mark my words, Henry, she will not

long remain there."

The king smiled bitterly

"She will bring dishonour upon you," pursued Catherine. "The woman who

has no regard for ties so sacred as those which bind us will not respect

other obligations."

"No more of this!" cried Henry. "You suffer your resentment to carry you

too far."

"Too far!" exclaimed Catherine. "Too far!--Is to warn you that you are

about to take a wanton to your bed--and that you will bitterly repent

your folly when too late, going too far? It is my duty, Henry, no less

than my desire, thus to warn you ere the irrevocable step be taken."

"Have you said all you wish to say, madam?" demanded the king.

"No, my dear liege, not a hundredth part of what my heart prompts me

to utter," replied Catherine. "I conjure you by my strong and tried

affection--by the tenderness that has for years subsisted between us--by

your hopes of temporal prosperity and spiritual welfare--by all you hold

dear and sacred--to pause while there is yet time. Let the legates meet

to-morrow--let them pronounce sentence against me and as surely as those

fatal words are uttered, my heart will break."

"Tut, tut!" exclaimed Henry impatiently, "you will live many years in

happy retirement."

"I will die as I have lived--a queen," replied Catherine; "but my

life will not be long. Now, answer me truly--if Anne Boleyn plays you


"She never will play me false!" interrupted Henry.

"I say if she does," pursued Catherine, "and you are satisfied of her

guilt, will you be content with divorcing her as you divorce me?"

"No, by my father's head!" cried Henry fiercely. "If such a thing were

to happen, which I hold impossible, she should expiate her offence on

the scaffold."

"Give me your hand on that," said Catherine.

"I give you my hand upon it," he replied.

"Enough," said the queen: "if I cannot have right and justice I shall at

least have vengeance, though it will come when I am in my tomb. But it

will come, and that is sufficient."

"This is the frenzy of jealousy, Catherine," said Henry.

"No, Henry; it is not jealousy," replied the queen, with dignity. "The

daughter of Ferdinand of Spain and Isabella of Castile, with the

best blood of Europe in her veins, would despise herself if she could

entertain so paltry a feeling towards one born so much beneath her as

Anne Boleyn."

"As you will, madam," rejoined Henry. "It is time our interview


"Not yet, Henry--for the love of Heaven, not yet!" implored Catherine.

"Oh, bethink you by whom we were joined together!--by your father, Henry

the Seventh--one of the wisest princes that ever sat on a throne; and by

the sanction of my own father, Ferdinand the Fifth, one of the justest.

Would they have sanctioned the match if it had been unlawful? Were they

destitute of good counsellors? Were they indifferent to the future?"

"You had better reserve these arguments for the legates' ears tomorrow,

madam," said Henry sternly.

"I shall urge them there with all the force I can," replied Catherine,

"for I will leave nought untried to hinder an event so fraught with

misery. But I feel the struggle will be hopeless."

"Then why make it?" rejoined Henry.

"Because it is due to you--to myself--to the princess our daughter--to

our illustrious progenitors--and to our people, to make it," replied

Catherine. "I should be unworthy to be your consort if I acted

otherwise--and I will never, in thought, word, or deed, do aught

derogatory to that title. You may divorce me, but I will never assent to

it; you may wed Anne Boleyn, but she will never be your lawful spouse;

and you may cast me from your palace, but I will never go willingly."

"I know you to be contumacious, madam," replied Henry. "And now, I pray

you, resume your mask, and withdraw. What I have said will convince you

that your stay is useless."

"I perceive it," replied Catherine. "Farewell, Henry--farewell, loved

husband of my heart--farewell for ever!"

"Your mask--your mask, madam!" cried Henry impatiently. "God's death!

footsteps are approaching. Lot no one enter here!" he cried aloud.

"I will come in," said Anne Boleyn, stepping into the chapel just as

Catherine had replaced her mask. "Ah! your majesty looks confused. I

fear I have interrupted some amorous conference."

"Come with me, Anne," said Henry, taking her arm, and trying to draw her

away--"come with me."

"Not till I learn who your lady--love is," replied Anne pettishly. "You

affect to be jealous of me, my liege, but I have much more reason to be

jealous of you. When you were last at Windsor, I heard you paid a

secret visit to a fair maiden near the lake in the park, and now you are

holding an interview with a masked dame here. Nay, I care not for your

gestures of silence. I will speak."

"You are distraught, sweetheart," cried the king. "Come away."

"No," replied Anne. "Lot this dame be dismissed."

"I shall not go at your bidding, minion!" cried Catherine fiercely.

"Ah!" cried Anne, starting, "whom have we here?"

"One you had better have avoided," whispered Henry.

"The queen!" exclaimed Anne, with a look of dismay.

"Ay, the queen!" echoed Catherine, unmasking. "Henry, if you have any

respect left for me, I pray you order this woman from my presence. Lot

me depart in peace."

"Lady Anne, I pray you retire," said Henry. But Anne stood her ground


"Nay, let her stay, then," said the queen; "and I promise you she shall

repent her rashness. And do you stay too, Henry, and regard well her

whom you are about to make your spouse. Question your sister

Mary, somewhile consort to Louis the Twelfth and now Duchess of

Suffolk--question her as to the character and conduct of Anne Boleyn

when she was her attendant at the court of France--ask whether she had

never to reprove her for levity--question the Lord Percy as to her love

for him--question Sir Thomas Wyat, and a host of others."

"All these charges are false and calumnious!" cried Anne Boleyn.

"Let the king inquire and judge for himself," rejoined Catherine; "and if

he weds you, let him look well to you, or you will make him a scoff to

all honourable men. And now, as you have come between him and me--as

you have divided husband and wife--for the intent, whether successful or

not, I denounce you before Heaven, and invoke its wrath upon your head.

Night and day I will pray that you may be brought to shame; and when I

shall be called hence, as I maybe soon, I will appear before the throne

of the Most High, and summon you to judgment."

"Take me from her, Henry!" cried Anne faintly; "her violence affrights


"No, you shall stay," said Catherine, grasping her arm and detaining

her; "you shall hear your doom. You imagine your career will be a

brilliant one, and that you will be able to wield the sceptre you

wrongfully wrest from me; but it will moulder into dust in your

hand--the crown unjustly placed upon your brow will fall to the ground,

and it will bring the head with it."

"Take me away, Henry, I implore you!" cried Anne.

"You shall hear me out," pursued Catherine, exerting all her strength,

and maintaining her grasp, "or I will follow you down yon aisles,

and pour forth my malediction against you in the hearing of all your

attendants. You have braved me, and shall feel my power. Look at her,

Henry--see how she shrinks before the gaze of an injured woman. Look me

in the face, minion--you cannot!--you dare not!"

"Oh, Henry!" sobbed Anne.

"You have brought it upon yourself," said the king.

"She has," replied Catherine; "and, unless she pauses and repents, she

will bring yet more upon her head. You suffer now, minion, but how will

you feel when, in your turn, you are despised, neglected, and supplanted

by a rival--when the false glitter of your charms having passed away,

Henry will see only your faults, and will open his eyes to all I now

tell him?"

A sob was all the answer Anne could return.

"You will feel as I feel towards you," pursued the queen--"hatred

towards her; but you will not have the consolations I enjoy. You will

have merited your fate, and you will then think upon me and my woes, and

will bitterly, but unavailingly, repent your conduct. And now, Henry,"

she exclaimed, turning solemnly to him, "you have pledged your royal

word to me, and given me your hand upon it, that if you find this woman

false to you she shall expiate her offence on the block. I call upon you

to ratify the pledge in her presence."

"I do so, Catherine," replied the king. "The mere suspicion of her guilt

shall be enough."

"Henry!" exclaimed Anne.

"I have said it," replied the king.

"Tremble, then, Anne Boleyn!" cried Catherine, "tremble! and when you

are adjudged to die the death of an adulteress, bethink you of the

prediction of the queen you have injured. I may not live to witness your

fate, but we shall meet before the throne of an eternal Judge."

"Oh, Henry, this is too much!" gasped Anne, and she sank fainting into

his arms.

"Begone!" cried the king furiously. "You have killed her!"

"It were well for us both if I had done so," replied Catherine. "But she

will recover to work my misery and her own. To your hands I commit her

punishment. May God bless you, Henry!"

With this she replaced her mask, and quitted the chapel.

Henry, meanwhile, anxious to avoid the comments of his attendants,

exerted himself to restore Anne Boleyn to sensibility, and his efforts

were speedily successful.

"Is it then reality?" gasped Anne, as she gazed around. "I hoped it was

a hideous dream. Oh, Henry, this has been frightful! But you will not

kill me, as she predicted? Swear to me you will not!"

"Why should you be alarmed?" rejoined the king. "If you are faithful,

you have nothing to fear."

"But you said suspicion, Henry--you said suspicion!" cried Anne.

"You must put the greater guard upon your conduct," rejoined the

king moodily. "I begin to think there is some truth in Catherine's


"Oh no, I swear to you there is not," said Anne--"I have trifled

with the gallants of Francis's court, and have listened, perhaps too

complacently, to the love-vows of Percy and Wyat, but when your majesty

deigned to cast eyes upon me, all others vanished as the stars of

night before the rising of the god of day. Henry, I love you deeply,

devotedly--but Catherine's terrible imprecations make me feel more

keenly than I have ever done before the extent of the wrong I am about

to inflict upon her--and I fear that retributive punishment will follow


"You will do her no wrong," replied Henry. "I am satisfied of the

justice of the divorce, and of its necessity; and if my purposed union

with you were out of the question, I should demand it. Be the fault on

my head."

"Your words restore me in some measure, my liege," said Anne. "I

love you too well not to risk body and soul for you. I am yours for

ever--ah!" she exclaimed, with a fearful look.

"What ails you, sweetheart?" exclaimed the king.

"I thought I saw a face at the window," she replied--"a black and

hideous face like that of a fiend."

"It was mere fancy," replied the king. "Your mind is disturbed by what

has occurred. You had better join your attendants, and retire to your

own apartments."

"Oh, Henry!" cried Anne--"do not judge me unheard--do not believe what

any false tongue may utter against me. I love only you and can love only

you. I would not wrong you, even in thought, for worlds."

"I believe you, sweetheart," replied the king tenderly.

So saying, he led her down the aisle to her attendants. They then

proceeded together to the royal lodgings, where Anne retired to her own

apartments, and Henry withdrew to his private chamber.

Of The Ghostly Chase Beheld By The Earl Of Surrey And The Duke Of Richmond In Windsor Forest Of The Meeting Of King Henry The Eighth And Anne Boleyn At The Lower Gate facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail