Competition For Henry's Hand

Human nature is said to be the same in all ages and countries. Manners, if

it be so, signally vary. Among us, when a wife dies, some decent interval

is allowed before her successor is spoken of. The execution for adultery

of a Queen about whom all Europe had been so long and so keenly agitated

might have been expected to be followed by a pause. No pause, however,

ensued after the fall of Anne Boleyn. If Henry had been the most

interesting and popular of contemporary princes, there could not have been

greater anxiety to secure his vacant hand. Had he been the most pious of

Churchmen, the Pope could not have made greater haste to approach him with

offers of friendship. There was no waiting even for the result of the

trial. No sooner was it known that Anne had been committed to the Tower

for adultery than the result was anticipated as a certainty. It was

assumed as a matter of course that the King would instantly look for

another wife, and Francis and the Emperor lost not a moment in trying each

to be beforehand with the other. M. d'Inteville had come over to

intercede for Sir Francis Weston, but he brought a commission to treat for

a marriage between Henry and a French princess. To this overture the King

replied at once that it could not be, and, according to Chapuys, added

ungraciously, and perhaps with disgust, that he had experienced already

the effects of French education. The words, perhaps, were used to

Cromwell, and not to the French Ambassador; but Chapuys was hardly less

surprised when Cromwell, in reporting them, coolly added that the King

could not marry out of the realm, because, if a French princess

misconducted herself, they could not punish her as they had punished the

last. The Ambassador did not understand irony, and was naturally

startled, for he had received instructions to make a similar application

on behalf of his own master. Charles was eager to secure the prize, and,

anticipating Anne's fate, he despatched a courier to Chapuys on hearing of

her arrest, with orders to seize the opportunity. "If Hannaert's news be

true," he wrote on the 15th of May, the day of the trial at Westminster,

"the King, now that God has permitted this woman's damnable life to be

discovered, may be more inclined to treat with us, and there may be a

better foundation for an arrangement in favour of the Princess. But you

must use all your skill to prevent a marriage with France. The King should

rather choose one of his own subjects, either the lady for whom he has

already shown a preference or some other."

So far Charles had written when Chapuys's messenger arrived with later

news. "George has just come," the Emperor then continued, "and I have

heard from him what has passed about the Concubine. It is supposed that

she and the partners of her guilt will be executed, and that the King,

being of amorous complexion and anxious, as he has always pretended, for a

male heir, will now marry immediately. Overtures will certainly be made to

him from France. You will endeavour, either as of yourself or through

Cromwell, to arrange a match for him with the Infanta of Portugal, my

niece, who has a settlement by will of 400,000 ducats. Simultaneously you

will propose another marriage between the Princess Mary and the Infant of

Portugal, Don Louis, my brother-in-law. You will point out that these

alliances will remove past unpleasantness, and will unite myself, the

King, and our respective countries. You will show the advantage that will

accrue to the realm of England should a Prince be the result, and we may

reasonably hope that it will be so, the Infanta being young and well

nurtured. If you find the King disinclined to this marriage, you may

propose my niece, the Duchess Dowager of Milan, a beautiful young lady

with a good dowry."

On the same 15th of May Granvelle, no less eager, wrote to Chapuys also.

"M. l'Ambassadeur, my good brother and friend, I have received your

letters and have heard what your messenger had to tell me. You have done

well to keep us informed about the Concubine. It is indeed fine music and

food for laughter. God is revealing the iniquity of those from whom

so much mischief has risen. We must make our profit of it, and manage

matters as the Emperor directs. Use all your diligence and dexterity.

Immense advantage will follow, public and private. You will yourself not

fail of your reward for your true and faithful services."

So anxious was Charles for fresh matrimonial arrangements with Henry, that

he wrote again to the same purpose three days later--a strange wish if he

believed Catherine to have been murdered, or her successor to be on the

eve of execution because the King was tired of her. To Charles and

Granvelle, as to Chapuys himself, the unfortunate Anne was the English

Messalina. The Emperor and all the contemporary world saw in her nothing

but a wicked woman at last detected and brought to justice.

What came of these advances will be presently seen; but, before

proceeding, a glance must be given at the receipt of the intelligence of

Anne's fall at the Holy See. This also was chose de rire. Chapuys had

sent to Rome in the past winter a story that Henry had said Anne Boleyn

had bewitched him. The Pope had taken it literally, and had supposed that

when the witch was removed the enchantment would end. He sent for Sir

Gregory Casalis on the 17th of May, and informed him of what he had heard

from England. He said that he had always recognised the many and great

qualities of the King; and those qualities he did not doubt would now

show themselves, as he had been relieved from his unfortunate marriage.

Let the King reattach himself to Holy Church and take the Pope for an

ally; they could then give the law both to the Emperor and to the King of

France, and the entire glory of restoring peace to Christendom would

attach to Henry himself. The King, he said, had no cause to regard him as

an enemy; for he had always endeavored to be his friend. In the

matrimonial cause he had remonstrated in private with his predecessor. At

Bologna he had argued for four hours with the Emperor, trying to persuade

him that the King ought not to be interfered with. Never had he

desired to offend the King, although so many violent acts had been done in

England against the Holy See. He had made the Bishop of Rochester a

cardinal solely with a view to the General Council, and because the Bishop

had written a learned book against Luther. On the Bishop's execution, he

had been compelled to say and do certain things, but he had never intended

to give effect to them.

If the Pope had thought the King to have been right in his divorce suit,

it was not easy to understand why he had excommunicated him and tried to

deprive him of his crown because he had disobeyed a judgment thus

confessed to have been unjust. Casalis asked him if he was to communicate

what he had said to the King. The Pope, after reflecting a little, said

that Casalis might communicate it as of himself; that he might tell the

King that the Pope was well-disposed towards him, and that he might

expect every favour from the Pope. Casalis wrote in consequence that on

the least hint that the King desired a reconciliation, a Nuncio would be

sent to England to do everything that could be found possible; after the

many injuries which he had received, opinion at Rome would not permit the

Pope to make advances until he was assured that they would be well

received; but some one would be sent in Casalis's name bringing

credentials from his Holiness.

Never since the world began was a dastardly assassination, if Anne Boleyn

was an innocent woman, rewarded with so universal a solicitation for the

friendship of the assassin. In England the effect was the same. Except by

the Lutherans, Anne had been universally hated, and the king was regarded

with the respectful compassion due to a man who had been cruelly injured.

The late marriage had been tolerated out of hope for the birth of the

Prince who was so passionately longed for. Even before the discovery of

Anne's conduct, a considerable party, with the Princess Mary among them,

had desired to see the King separated from her and married to some other

respectable woman. Jane Seymour had been talked about as a steady friend

of Catherine, and, when Catherine was gone, of the Princess. The King had

paid her attentions which, if Chapuys's stories were literally true--as

probably they were not--had been of a marked kind. In all respects she was

the opposite of Anne. She had plain features, pale complexion, a low

figure--in short, had no personal beauty, or any pretensions to it, with

nothing in her appearance to recommend her, except her youth. She was

about twenty-five years of age. She was not witty either, or brilliant;

but she was modest, quiet, with a strong understanding and rectitude of

principle, and, so far as her age and her opportunities allowed, she had

taken Mary's part at the court. Perhaps this had recommended her to Henry.

Whether he had himself ever seriously thought of dismissing Anne and

inviting Jane Seymour to take her place is very dubious; nor has anyone a

right to suppose that under such conditions Jane Seymour would have

regarded such a proposal as anything but an insult. How soon after the

detection of Anne's crime the intention was formed is equally

uncertain. Every person at home and abroad regarded it as obvious

that he must marry some one, and marry at once. He himself professed to be

unwilling, "unless he was constrained by his subjects."

In Chapuys's letters, truth and lies are so intermixed that all his

personal stories must be received with distrust. Invariably, however, he

believed and reported the most scandalous rumours which he could hear.

Everybody, he said, rejoiced at the execution of the putaine; but there

were some who spoke variously of the King. He had heard, from good

authority, that in a conversation which passed between Mistress Seymour

and the King before the arrest of the Concubine, the lady urged him to

restore the Princess to the court. The King told her she was a fool; she

ought to be thinking more of the children which they might expect of their

own, than of the elevation of the other. The lady replied that in

soliciting for the Princess, she was consulting for the good of the King,

of herself, of her children should she have any, and of all the realm,

as, without it, the English nation would never be satisfied. Such a

conversation is not in itself likely to have been carried on before

Anne's arrest, and certainly not where it could be overheard by others;

especially as Chapuys admitted that the King said publicly he would not

marry anyone unless the Parliament invited him. One would like to know

what the trustworthy authority might have been. Unfortunately for the

veracity of his informant, he went on with an account of the King's

personal behaviour, the accuracy of which can be tested.

"People," he said, "had found it strange that the King, after having

received such ignominy, should have gone about at such a time banqueting

with ladies, sometimes remaining after midnight, and returning by the

river, accompanied by music and the singers of his chamber. He supped

lately," the Ambassador continued, "with several ladies at the house of

the Bishop of Carlisle, and showed extravagant joy." The Bishop came the

next morning to tell Chapuys of the visit, and added a story of the King

having said that he had written a tragedy on Anne's conduct which he

offered the Bishop to read. Of John Kite, the Bishop of Carlisle,

little is known, save that Sir William Kingston said he used to play

"penny gleek" with him. But it happens that a letter exists, written on

the same day as Chapuys's, which describes Henry's conduct at precisely

the same period.

John Husee, the friend and agent of Lord Lisle, was in London on some

errand from his employer. His business required him to speak to the King,

and he said that he had been unable to obtain admittance, the King having

remained in strict seclusion from the day of Anne's arrest to her

execution. "His Grace," Husee wrote, "came not abroad this fortnight,

except it was in the garden or in his boat, when it may become no man to

interrupt him. Now that this matter is past I hope to see him."

Chapuys was very clever; he may be believed, with limitations, when

writing on business or describing conversations of his own with particular

persons; but so malicious was he, and so careless in his matters of fact

or probability, that he cannot be believed at all when reporting

scandalous anecdotes which reached him from his "trustworthy authorities."

It is, however, true that, before the fortnight had expired, the King had

resolved to do what the Council recommended--marry Jane Seymour, and marry

her promptly, to close further solicitation from foreign Powers. There is

no sign that she had herself sought so questionable an elevation. A

powerful party in the State wished her to accept a position which could

have few attractions, and she seems to have acquiesced without difficulty.

Francis and Charles were offering their respective Princesses; the

readiest way to answer them without offence was to place the so much

coveted hand out of the reach of either. On the 20th of May, the morning

after Anne was beheaded, Jane Seymour was brought secretly by water to the

palace at Westminster, and was then and there formally betrothed to the

King. The marriage followed a few days later. On Ascension Day, the 25th

of May, the King, in rejecting the offered match from Francis, said that

he was not then actually married. On the 29th or 30th, Jane was formally

introduced as Queen.

Chapuys was disappointed in his expectation of popular displeasure. Not a

murmur was heard to break the expression of universal satisfaction. The

new Queen was a general favourite; everyone knew that she was a friend of

the Princess Mary, and everyone desired to see Mary replaced in her

rights. Fortunately for the Princess, the attempt at escape had never been

carried out. She had remained quietly watching the overthrow of her enemy,

and trusting the care of her fortunes to Cromwell, who, she knew, had

always been her advocate. She had avoided writing to him to intercede for

her, because, as she said, "I perceived that nobody dared speak for me as

long as that woman lived who is now gone, whom God in his mercy

forgive!" The time had now come for her to be received back into

favour. Submission of some kind it would be necessary for her to make; and

the form in which it was to be done was the difficulty. The King could not

replace in the line of the succession a daughter who was openly defying

the law. Cromwell drew for Mary a sketch of a letter which he thought

would be sufficient. It was to acknowledge that she had offended her

father, to beg his blessing and his forgiveness, and to promise obedience

for the future, to congratulate him on his marriage, and to ask permission

to wait on the new Queen. He showed the draft to Chapuys, for the Princess

to transcribe and send. Chapuys objected that the surrender was too

absolute. Cromwell said that he might alter it if he pleased, and a saving

clause was introduced, not too conspicuous. She was to promise to submit

in all things "under God." In this form, apparently, the letter was

despatched, and was said to have given great satisfaction both to Henry

and the new Queen. Now it was thought that Mary would be restored to her

rank as Princess. She would be excluded from the succession only if a son

or daughter should be born of the new marriage; but this did not alarm

Chapuys, for "according to the opinion of many," he said, "there was no

fear of any issue of either sex."

On Ascension Day, the Ambassador had been admitted to an audience, the

first since the unprosperous discussion at Greenwich. The subject of the

treaty with the Emperor had been renewed under more promising auspices.

The King had been gracious. Chapuys had told him that the Emperor desired

to explain and justify the actions of which the King had complained; but

before entering on a topic which might renew unpleasant feelings, he said

that the Emperor had instructed him to consult the King's wishes; and he

undertook to conform to them. The King listened with evident satisfaction;

and a long talk followed, in the course of which the Ambassador introduced

the various proposals which the Emperor had made for fresh matrimonial

connections. The King said that Chapuys was a bringer of good news; his

own desire was to see a union of all Christian princes; if the Emperor was

in earnest, he hoped that he would furnish the Ambassador with the

necessary powers to negotiate, or would send a plenipotentiary for that

particular purpose.

The offer of the Infanta of Portugal for the King himself was, of course,

declined, the choice being already made; but Cromwell said afterwards that

Don Luis might perhaps be accepted for the Princess, the position of the

Princess being the chief point on which the stability of all other

arrangements must depend. As to the "General Council," it was not to be

supposed that the King wanted to set up "a God of his own," or to

separate himself from the rest of Christendom. He was as anxious as any

one for a Council, but it must be a Council called by the Emperor as chief

of Christian Europe. It is to be observed that Henry, as Head of the

Church of England, took upon himself the entire ordering of what was or

was not to be. Even the form of consulting the clergy was not so much as

thought of. Chapuys could not answer for as much indifference on the

Emperor's part. The Council, he thought, must be left in the Pope's hand

at the outset. The Council itself, when it assembled, could do as it

pleased. He suggested, however, that Cromwell should put in writing his

conception of the manner in which a Council could be called by the

Emperor, which Cromwell promised to do.

All things were thus appearing to run smooth. Four days later, when the

marriage with Jane Seymour had been completed, Chapuys saw Henry again.

The King asked him if he had heard further from the Emperor. Chapuys was

able to assent. Charles's eager letters had come in by successive posts,

and one had just arrived in which he had expressed his grief and

astonishment at the conduct of Anne Boleyn, had described how he had

spoken to his own Council about the woman's horrible ingratitude, and had

himself offered thanks to God for having discovered the conspiracy, and

saved the King from so great a danger. Henry made graceful

acknowledgments, replied most politely on the offer of the Infanta, for

which he said he was infinitely obliged to the Emperor, and conducted the

Ambassador into another room to introduce him to the Queen.

Chapuys was all courtesy. At Henry's desire he kissed and congratulated

Jane. The Emperor, he said, would be delighted that the King had found so

good and virtuous a wife. He assured her that the whole nation was united

in rejoicing at her marriage. He recommended the Princess to her care, and

hoped that she would have the honourable name of peacemaker.

The King answered for her that this was her nature. She would not for the

world that he went to war.

Chapuys was aware that Henry was not going to war on the side of

Francis--that danger had passed; but that he would not go to war at all

was not precisely what Chapuys wished to hear. What Charles wanted was

Henry's active help against the French. The fourth condition of the

proposed treaty was an alliance offensive and defensive. Henry merely said

he would mediate, and, if France would not agree to reasonable terms, he

would then declare for the Emperor.

The Emperor, like many other persons, had attributed the whole of Henry's

conduct to the attractions of Anne Boleyn. He had supposed that after his

eyes had been opened he would abandon all that he had done, make his peace

with the Pope, and return to his old friends with renewed heartiness. He

was surprised and disappointed. Mediation would do no good at all, he

said. If the King would join him against France, the Emperor would

undertake to make no peace without including him, and would take security

for the honour and welfare of the realm. But he declined to quarrel with

the Pope to please the King; and if the King would not return to the

obedience of the Holy See or submit his differences with the Pope to the

Emperor and the Council, he said that he could make no treaty at all with

him. He directed Chapuys, however, to continue to discuss the matter in a

friendly way, to gain time till it could be seen how events would


How events did turn is sufficiently well known. The war broke out--the

French invaded Italy; the Emperor, unable to expel them, turned upon

Provence, where he failed miserably with the loss of the greater part of

his army.

Henry took no part. The state of Europe was considered at length before

the English Council. Chapuys was heard, and the French Ambassador was

heard; and the result was a declaration of neutrality--the only honourable

and prudent course where the choice lay between two faithless friends who,

if the King had committed himself to either, would have made up their own

quarrels at England's expense.