Illness Of The Princess Mary

England, to all appearance, was now on the eve of a bloody and desperate

war. The conspirators were confident of success; but conspirators

associate exclusively with persons of their own opinions, and therefore

seldom judge accurately of the strength of their opponents. Chapuys and

his friends had been equally confident about Ireland. Fitzgerald was now a

fugitive, and the insurrection was burning down; yet the struggle before

Henry would have been at least as severe as had been encountered by his

grandfather Edward, and the country itself would have been torn to pieces;

one notable difference only there was in the situation--that the factions

of the Roses had begun the battle of themselves, without waiting for help

from abroad; the reactionaries under Henry VIII., confessedly, were afraid

to stir without the avowed support of the Emperor; and Charles, when the

question came seriously before him, could not have failed to ask himself

why, if they were as strong as they pretended, and the King's party as

weak as they said it was, they endured what they could easily prevent.

These reflections naturally presented themselves both to the Emperor and

to the Spanish Council when they had to decide on the part which they

would take. If what Chapuys represented as a mere demonstration should

turn into serious war, England and France would then unite in earnest;

they would combine with Germany; and Europe would be shaken with a

convulsion of which it was impossible to foresee the end. The decision was

momentous, and Charles paused before coming to a resolution. Weeks passed,

and Chapuys could have no positive answer, save that he was to give

general encouragement to the Queen's friends, and let them know that the

Emperor valued their fidelity. Weary of his hesitation, and hoping to

quicken his resolution, Catherine sent Chapuys word that the Princess was

to be forced to swear to the Act of Supremacy, and that, on her refusal,

she was to be executed or imprisoned for life. Catherine wrote what she,

perhaps, believed, but could not know. But the suspense was trying, and

the worst was naturally looked for. News came that English sailors had

been burnt by the Inquisition at Seville as heretics. Cromwell observed to

Chapuys that "he had heard the Emperor was going to make a conquest of the

realm." The Ambassador had the coolness to assure him that he was

dreaming; and that such an enterprise had never been thought of. Cromwell

knew better. He had learnt, for one thing, of the plans for Mary's escape.

He knew what that would mean, and he had, perhaps, prevented it. The

project had been abandoned for the moment. Instead of escaping, she had

shown symptoms of the same dangerous illness by which she had been

attacked before. There was the utmost alarm, and, as a pregnant evidence

of the condition of men's minds, the physicians refused to prescribe for

her, lest, if she died, they should be suspected of having poisoned her.

The King's physician declined. Queen Catherine's physician

declined--unless others were called in to assist--and the unfortunate girl

was left without medical help, in imminent likelihood of death, because

every one felt that her dying at such a time would be set down to foul

play. The King sent for Chapuys and begged that he would select a doctor,

or two doctors, of eminence to act with his own. Chapuys, with polite

irony, replied that it was not for him to make a selection; the King must

be better acquainted than he could be with the reputation of the London

physicians; and the Emperor would be displeased if he showed distrust of

his Majesty's care for his child. Cromwell, who was present, desired that

if the Princess grew worse Chapuys would allow one of his own people to be

with her. Henry continued to express his grief at her sufferings. Some

members of the Council "had not been ashamed to say" that as men could

find no means of reconciling the King with the Emperor, God might open a

door by taking the Princess to himself. It was a very natural thought.

Clement had said the same about Catherine. But the aspiration would have

been better left unexpressed. Chapuys's suspicions were not removed.

He perceived the King's anxiety to be unfeigned; but he detested him too

sincerely to believe that in anything he could mean well. The Princess

recovered. Catherine took advantage of the attack to entreat again that

her daughter might be under her own charge. It was cruel to be obliged to


Chapuys presented the Queen's request. The King, he said, heard him

patiently and graciously, and, instead of the usual answer that he knew

best how to provide for his daughter, replied, gently, that he would do

his utmost for the health of the Princess, and, since her mother's

physician would not assist, he would find others. But to let Chapuys

understand that he was not ignorant of his secret dealings, he said he

could not forget what was due to his own honour. The Princess might be

carried out of the kingdom, or might herself escape. She could easily do

it if she was left in her mother's charge. He had perceived some

indications, he added significantly, that the Emperor wished to have her

in his hands.

Ambassadors have a privilege of lying. Chapuys boldly declared that there

was no probability of the Emperor attempting to carry off the Princess.

The controversy had lasted five years, and there had been no indication of

any such purpose. The King said that it was Catherine who had made the

Princess so obstinate. Daughters owed some obedience to their mothers, but

their first duty was to the father. This Chapuys did not dispute, but

proposed as an alternative that she should reside with her old governess,

Lady Salisbury. The King said the Countess was a foolish woman, and of no


The difficulty was very great. To refuse so natural a request was to

appear hard and unfeeling; yet to allow Catherine and Mary to be together

was to furnish a head to the disaffection, of the extent of which the King

was perfectly aware. He knew Catherine, and his words about her are a key

to much of their relations to one another. "She was of such high

courage," he said, "that, with her daughter at her side, she might raise

an army and take the field against him with as much spirit as her mother


Catherine of Aragon had qualities with which history has not credited her.

She was no patient, suffering saint, but a bold and daring woman, capable,

if the opportunity was offered her, of making Henry repent of what he had

done. But would the opportunity ever come? Charles was still silent.

Chapuys continued to feed the fire with promises. Granvelle, Charles's

Minister, might be more persuasive than himself. To Granvelle the

Ambassador wrote "that the Concubine had bribed some one to pretend a

revelation from God that she was not to conceive children while the Queen

and the Princess were alive. The Concubine had sent the man with the

message to the King, and never ceased [Wolsey had called Anne 'the night

crow'] to exclaim that the ladies were rebels and traitresses, and

deserved to die."

Norfolk, irritated at Anne's insolence to him, withdrew from court in

ill-humour. He complained to Reginald Pole's brother, Lord Montague, that

his advice was not attended to, and that his niece was intolerable. The

Marquis of Exeter regretted to Chapuys that the chance had not been

allowed him so far to shed his blood for the Queen and Princess. "Let the

movement begin, and he would not be the last to join." Mary,

notwithstanding the precautions taken to keep her safe, had not parted

with her hope of escape. If she could not be with her mother she thought

the Emperor might, perhaps, intercede with the King to remove her from

under Mrs. Shelton's charge. The King might be brought to consent; and

then, Chapuys said, with a pinnace and two ships in the river, she might

still be carried off when again at Greenwich, as he could find means to

get her out of the house at any hour of the night.

At length the suspense was at an end, and the long-waited-for decision of

the Emperor arrived. He had considered, he said, the communications of

Lord Darcy and Lord Sandys; he admitted that the disorders of England

required a remedy; but an armed interference was at the present time

impossible. It was a poor consolation to the English Peers and

clergy; and there was worse behind. Not only the Emperor did not mean to

declare war against Henry, but, spite of Catherine, spite of

excommunication, spite of heresy, he intended, if possible, to renew the

old alliance between England and the House of Burgundy. Politics are the

religion of princes, and if they are wise the peace of the world weighs

more with them than orthodoxy and family contentions. Honour, pride,

Catholic obligations recommended a desperate stroke. Prudence and a higher

duty commanded Charles to abstain. Sir John Wallop, the English

representative at Paris, was a sincere friend of Queen Catherine, but was

unwilling, for her sake, to see her plunge into an insurrectionary

whirlpool. Viscount Hannart, a Flemish nobleman with English connections,

was Charles's Minister at the same Court. Together they discussed the

situation of their respective countries. Both agreed that a war between

Henry and the Emperor would be a calamity to mankind; while in alliance

they might hold in check the impatient ambition of France. Wallop

suggested that they might agree by mutual consent to suspend their

differences on the divorce; might let the divorce pass in silence for

future settlement, and be again friends.

The proposal was submitted to the Spanish Council of State. The objections

to it were the wrongs done, and still being done, to the Queen and

Princess in the face of the Pope's sentence, and the obligations of the

Emperor to see that sentence enforced. An arrangement between the Emperor

and the King of England on the terms suggested would be ill received in

Christendom, would dispirit the two ladies, and their friends in England

who had hitherto supported the claims of the Princess Mary to the

succession; while it might, further, encourage other princes to divorce

their wives on similar grounds. In favour of a treaty, on the other hand,

were the notorious designs of the French King. France was relying on the

support of England. If nothing was done to compose the existing

differences the King of England might be driven to desperate courses. The

Faith of the Church would suffer. The General Council, so anxiously looked

for, would be unable to meet. The French King would be encouraged to go to

war. Both he and the King of England would support the German schism, and

the lives of the Princess and her mother would probably be sacrificed. A

provisional agreement might modify the King of England's action, the

Church might be saved, the ladies' lives be secured, and doubt and

distrust be introduced between England and France. The Emperor could then

deal with the Turks, and other difficulties could be tided over till a

Council could meet and settle everything.

Chapuys had written so confidently on the strength of the insurrectionary

party that it was doubted whether choice between the alternative courses

might not better be left for him to decide. Charles, who could better

estimate the value of the promises of disaffected subjects, determined

otherwise. The Ambassador, therefore, was informed that war would be

inconvenient. Lord Darcy's sword must remain in the scabbard, and an

attempt be made for reconciliation on the lines suggested by Sir John

Wallop. Meanwhile, directions were given to the Inquisitors at Seville to

be less precipitate in their dealings with English seamen.

From the first it had been Cromwell's hope and conviction that an open

quarrel would be escaped. The French party in the English Council--Anne

Boleyn, her family, and friends--had been urging the alliance with France,

and a general attack on Charles's scattered dominions. Cromwell, though a

Protestant in religion, distrusted an associate who, when England was once

committed, might make his own terms and leave Henry to his fate. In

politics Cromwell had been consistently Imperialist. He had already

persuaded the King to allow the Princess to move nearer to Kimbolton,

where her mother's physician could have charge of her. He sent thanks to

Charles in the King's name for his interference with the Holy Office. He

left nothing undone to soften the friction and prepare for a

reconciliation. Catherine and Mary he perceived to be the only obstacle to

a return to active friendship. If the broken health of one, and the acute

illness of the other, should have a fatal termination, as a politician he

could not but feel that it would be an obstacle happily removed.

Chapuys's intrigue with the confederate Peers had been continued to the

latest moment. All arrangements had been made for their security when the

rising should break out. Darcy himself was daily looking for the signal,

and begged only for timely notice of the issue of the Emperor's manifesto

to escape to his castle in the north. The Ambassador had now to trim

his sails on the other tack. The Emperor was ready to allow the execution

of Clement's sentence to stand over till the General Council, without

prejudice to the rights of parties, provided an engagement was made for

the respectful treatment of the Queen and Princess, and a promise given

that their friends should be unmolested. To Catherine the disappointment

was hard to bear. The talk of a treaty was the death-knell of the hopes on

which she had been feeding. A close and confidential intercourse was

established between Chapuys and Cromwell to discuss the preliminary

conditions, Chapuys, ill liking his work, desiring to fail, and on the

watch for any point on which to raise a suspicion.

The Princess was the first difficulty. Cromwell had promised that she

should be moved to her mother's neighbourhood. She had been sent no nearer

than Ampthill. Cromwell said that he would do what he could, but the

subject was disagreeable to the King, and he could say no more. He entered

at once, however, on the King's desire to be again on good terms with the

Emperor. The King had instructed him to discuss the whole situation with

Chapuys, and it would be unfortunate, he said, if the interests of two

women were allowed to interfere with weighty matters of State. The Queen

had been more than once seriously ill, and her life was not likely to be

prolonged. The Princess was not likely to live either; and it did not

appear that either in Spain or France there was much anxiety for material

alteration in their present position. Meanwhile, the French were

passionately importuning the King to join in a war against the Emperor.

Cromwell said that he had been himself opposed to it, and the present

moment, when the Emperor was engaged with the Turks, was the last which

the King would choose for such a purpose. The object to be arrived at was

the pacification of Christendom and the general union of all the leading

Powers. The King desired it as much as he, and had, so far, prevented war

from being declared by France.

It was true that the peace of the world was of more importance than the

complaints of Catherine and Mary. Catherine had rejected a compromise when

the Emperor himself recommended it, and Mary had defied her father and had

defied Parliament at her mother's bidding. There were limits to the

sacrifices which they were entitled to demand. Chapuys protested against

Cromwell's impression that the European Powers were indifferent. The

strongest interest was felt in their fate, he said, and many

inconveniences would follow should harm befall them. The world would

certainly believe that they had met with foul play. The Emperor would be

charged with having caused it by neglecting to execute the Pope's

sentence, and it would be said also that, but for the expectations which

the Emperor had held out to them of defending their cause, they would

themselves have conformed to the King's wishes; they would then have been

treated with due regard and have escaped their present miseries. Cromwell

undertook that the utmost care and vigilance should be observed that hurt

should not befall them. The Princess, he said, he loved as much as Chapuys

himself could love her, and nothing that he could do for them should be

neglected; but the Ambassador and the Emperor's other agents were like

hawks who soared high to stoop more swiftly on their prey. Their object

was to have the Princess declared next in succession to the crown, and

that was impossible owing to the late statutes.

Chapuys reported what had passed to his master, but scarcely concealed his

contempt for the business in which he was engaged. "I cannot tell," he

wrote, "what sort of a treaty could be made with this King as long as he

refuses to restore the Queen and Princess, or repair the hurts of the

Church and the Faith, which grow worse every day. No later than Sunday

last a preacher raised a question whether the body of Christ was

contained, or not, in the consecrated wafer. Your Majesty may consider

whither such propositions are tending."

A still more important conversation followed a few days later. It can

hardly be doubted, in the face of Chapuys's repeated declaration that both

Catherine and her daughter were in personal danger, that Anne Boleyn felt

her position always precarious as long as they were alive, and refused to

acknowledge her marriage. She perhaps felt that it would go hard with

herself in the event of a successful insurrection. She had urged, as far

as she dared, that they should be tried under the statute; but Henry would

not allow such a proposal to be so much as named to him. Other means,

however, might be found to make away with them, and Sir Arthur Darcy,

Lord Darcy's son, thought they would be safer in the King's hands in the

Tower than in their present residence. "The devil of a Concubine would

never rest till she had gained her object."

The air was thick with these rumours when Chapuys and Cromwell again met.

The overtures had been commenced by the Emperor. Cromwell said the King

had given him a statement in writing that he was willing to renew his old

friendship with the Emperor and make a new treaty with him, if proper

safeguards could be provided for his honour and reputation; but it was to

be understood distinctly that he would not permit the divorce question to

be reopened; he would rather forfeit his crown and his life than consent

to it, or place himself in subjection to any foreign authority; this was

his firm resolution, which he desired Chapuys to make known to the


The Spanish Ministry had been willing that the Pope's sentence should be

revised by a General Council. Why, Chapuys asked, might not the King

consent also to refer the case to the Council? The King knew that he was

right. He had once been willing--why should he now refuse? A Council, it

had been said, would be called by the Pope, and would be composed of

clergy who were not his friends; but Chapuys would undertake that there

should be no unfair dealing. Were the Pope and clergy to intend harm, all

the Princes of Christendom would interfere. The Emperor would recommend

nothing to which the King would not be willing to subscribe. The

favourable verdict of a Council would restore peace in England, and would

acquit the Emperor's conscience. The Emperor, as matters stood, was bound

to execute the sentence which had been delivered, and could not hold back

longer without a hope of the King's submission.

Cromwell admitted the reasonableness of Chapuys's suggestion. The Emperor

was showing by the advances which he had commenced that he desired a

reconciliation. A Council controlled by the princes of Europe might

perhaps be a useful instrument. Cromwell promised an answer in two days.

Then, after a pause, he returned to the subject of which he had spoken

before:--In a matter of so much consequence to the world as the good

intelligence of himself and the King of England, he said that the Emperor

ought not to hesitate on account of the Queen and the Princess. They were

but mortal. If the Princess was to die, her death would be no great

misfortune, when the result of it would be the union and friendship of the

two Princes. He begged Chapuys to think it over when alone and at

leisure. He then went on to inquire (for Chapuys had not informed him that

the Emperor had already made up his mind to an arrangement) whether the

ladies' business might not be passed over silently in the new treaty, and

be left in suspense for the King's life. A General Council might meet to

consider the other disorders of Christendom, or a congress might be held,

previously appointed jointly by the King and the Emperor, when the ladies'

rights might be arranged without mystery. Then once more, and, as Chapuys

thought, with marked emphasis, he asked again what harm need be feared if

the Princess were to die. The world might mutter, but why should it be

resented by the Emperor?

Chapuys says that he replied that he would not dwell on the trouble which

might arise if the Princess suddenly died in a manner so suspicious. God

forbid that such a thing should be! How could the Emperor submit to the

reproach of having consented to the death of his cousin, and sold her for

the sake of a peace?

Chapuys professed to believe, and evidently wished the Emperor to believe,

that Cromwell was seriously proposing that the Princess Mary should be

made away with. A single version of a secret conversation is an

insufficient evidence of an intended monstrous crime. We do not know in

what language it was carried on. Cromwell spoke no language but English

with exactness, and Chapuys understood English imperfectly. The recent and

alarming illness of the Princess, occasioned by restraint, fear, and

irritation, had made her condition a constant subject of Chapuys's

complaints, and Cromwell may have been thinking and speaking only of her

dying under the natural consequences of prolonged confinement. Chapuys's

unvarying object was to impress on the Emperor that her life was in

danger. But Cromwell he admitted had been uniformly friendly to Mary, and,

had foul play been really contemplated, the Emperor's Ambassador was the

last person to whom the intention would have been communicated.

The conversation did not end with Chapuys's answer. Cromwell went on, he

said (still dwelling on points most likely to wound Charles), to rage

against popes and cardinals, saying that he hoped the race would soon be

extinct, and that the world would be rid of their abomination and tyranny.

Then he spoke again of France, and of the pressure laid on Henry to join

with the French in a war. Always, he said, he had dissuaded his master

from expeditions on the Continent. He had himself refused a large pension

which the French Government had offered him, and he intended at the next

Parliament to introduce a Bill prohibiting English Ministers from taking

pensions from foreign princes on pain of death.

Men who have been proposing to commit murders do not lightly turn to

topics of less perilous interest.

Some days passed before Chapuys saw Cromwell again; but he continued to

learn from him the various intrigues which were going on. Until the King

was sure of his ground with Charles, the French faction at the court

continued their correspondence with Francis. The price of an Anglo-French

alliance was to be a promise from the French King to support Henry in his

quarrel with Rome at the expected Council, and Chapuys advised his master

not to show too much eagerness for the treaty, as he would make the King

more intractable.

The Emperor's way of remedying the affairs of England could not be better

conceived, he said, provided the English Government met him with an honest

response, provided they would forward the meeting of the Council, and

treat the Queen and Princess better, who were in great personal danger.

This, however, he believed they would never do. The Queen had instructed

him to complain to the Emperor that her daughter was still left in the

hands of her enemies, and that if she was to die it would be attributed to

the manner in which she had been dealt with; the Queen, however, was

satisfied that the danger would disappear if the King and the Emperor came

to an understanding; and, if she could be assured that matters would be

conducted as the Emperor proposed, he would be able to persuade her to

approve of the whole plan.

Chapuys never repeated his suspicion that danger threatened Mary from

Cromwell, and, if he had really believed it, he would hardly have failed

to make further mention of so dark a suggestion. He was not scrupulous

about truth: diplomatists with strong personal convictions seldom are. He

had assured the King that a thought had never been entertained of an armed

interference in England, while his letters for many months had been full

of schemes for insurrection and invasion. He was eager for the work to

begin. He was incredulous of any other remedy, and, if he dared, would

have forced the Emperor's hand. He depended for his information of what

passed at the court upon Anne Boleyn's bitterest enemies, and he put the

worst interpretation upon every story which was brought to him. Cromwell,

he said, had spoken like Caiaphas. It is hardly credible that Cromwell

would have ventured to insult the Emperor with a supposition that he would

make himself an accomplice in a crime. But though I think it more likely

that Chapuys misunderstood or misrepresented Cromwell than that he

accurately recorded his words, yet it is certain that there were members

of Henry's Council who did seriously desire to try and to execute both

Mary and her mother. Both of them were actively dangerous. Their friends

were engaged in a conspiracy for open rebellion in their names, and,

under the Tudor princes, nearness of blood or station to the Crown was

rather a danger than a protection. Royal pretenders were not gently dealt

with, even when no immediate peril was feared from them. Henry VII. had

nothing to fear from the Earl of Warwick, yet Warwick lay in a bloody

grave. Mary herself executed her cousin Jane Grey, and was hardly

prevented from executing her sister Elizabeth. Elizabeth, in turn,

imprisoned Catherine Grey, and let her die as Chapuys feared that Mary was

now about to die. The dread of another war of succession lay like a

nightmare on the generations which carried with them an ever-present

memory of the Wars of the Roses.