Henry The Eighth And His Wives
The calm of night had now succeeded to the tempest of the day, and after
so much bustle, festivity, and rejoicing, deep quiet now reigned in the
palace of Whitehall, and throughout London. The happy subjects of King
Henry might, without danger, remain for a few hours at least in their
houses, and behind closed shutters and bolted doors, either slumber and
dream, or give themselves to their devotional exercises, on account of
which they had that day, perhaps, been denounced as malefactors. They
might, for a few hours, resign themselves to the sweet, blissful dream
of being freemen untrammelled in belief and thought. For King Henry
slept, and likewise Gardiner and the lord chancellor had closed their
watchful, prying, devout, murderous eyes, and reposed awhile from the
Christian employment of ferreting out heretics.
And like the king, the entire households of both their majesties were
also asleep and resting from the festivities of the royal wedding-day,
which, in pomp and splendor, by far surpassed the five preceding
It appeared, however, as though not all the court officials were taking
rest, and following the example of the king. For in a chamber, not far
from that of the royal pair, one could perceive, from the bright beams
streaming from the windows, in spite of the heavy damask curtains which
veiled them, that the lights were not yet extinguished; and he who
looked more closely would have observed that now and then a human shadow
was portrayed upon the curtain.
So the occupant of this chamber had not yet gone to rest, and harassing
must have been the thoughts which cause him to move so restlessly to and
This chamber was occupied by Lady Jane Douglas, first maid of honor to
the queen. The powerful influence of Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, had
seconded Catharine's wish to have near her the dear friend of her youth,
and, without suspecting it, the queen had given a helping hand to
bring nearer to their accomplishment the schemes which the hypocritical
Gardiner was directing against her.
For Catharine knew not what changes had taken place in the character of
her friend in the four years in which she had not seen her. She did not
suspect how fatal her sojourn in the strongly Romish city of Dublin had
been to the easily impressible mind of her early playmate, and how much
it had transformed her whole being. Lady Jane, once so sprightly and
gay, had become a bigoted Romanist, who, with fanatical zeal, believed
that she was serving God when she served the Church, and paid unreserved
obedience to her priests.
Lady Jane Douglas had therefore--thanks to her fanaticism and the
teachings of the priests--become a complete dissembler. She could smile,
while in her heart she secretly brooded over hatred and revenge. She
could kiss the lips of those whose destruction she had perhaps just
sworn. She could preserve a harmless, innocent air, while she observed
everything, and took notice of every breath, every smile, every movement
of the eyelashes.
Hence it was very important for Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, to bring
his "friend" of the queen to court, and make of this disciple of Loyola
an ally and friend.
Lady Jane Douglas was alone; and, pacing up and down her room, she
thought over the events of the day.
Now, that no one was observing her, she had laid aside that gentle,
serious mien, which one was wont to see about her at other times; her
countenance betrayed in rapid changes all the various sad and cheerful,
tempestuous and tender feelings which agitated her.
She who had hitherto had only one aim before her eyes, to serve the
Church, and to consecrate her whole life to this service; she whose
heart had been hitherto open only to ambition and devotion, she felt
to-day wholly new and never-suspected feelings springing up within her.
A new thought had entered into her life, the woman was awakened in her,
and beat violently at that heart which devotion had overlaid with a hard
She had tried to collect herself in prayer, and to fill her soul so
entirely with the idea of God and her Church, that no earthly thought
or desire could find place therein. But ever and again arose before her
mind's eye the noble countenance of Henry Howard, ever and again she
fancied that she heard his earnest, melodious voice, which made her
heart shake and tremble like a magical incantation. She had at first
struggled against these sweet fancies, which forced upon her such
strange and undreamed-of thoughts; but at length the woman in her got
the better of the fanatical Romanist, and, dropping into a seat, she
surrendered herself to her dreams and fancies.
"Has he recognized me?" asked she of herself. "Does he still remember
that a year ago we saw each other daily at the king's court in Dublin?"
"But no," added she mournfully, "he knows nothing of it. He had then
eyes and sense only for his young wife. Ah, and she was beautiful and
lovely as one of the Graces. But I, am not I also beautiful? and
have not the noblest cavaliers paid me homage, and sighed for me in
unavailing love? How comes it, then, that where I would please, there
I am always overlooked? How comes it, that the only two men, for whose
notice I ever cared, have never shown any preference for me? I felt that
I loved Henry Howard, but this love was a sin, for the Earl of Surrey
was married. I therefore tore my heart from him by violence, and gave
it to God, because the only man whom I could love did not return my
affection. But even God and devotion are not able to entirely fill a
woman's heart. In my breast there was still room for ambition; and since
I could not be a happy wife, I would at least be a powerful queen. Oh,
everything was so well devised, so nicely arranged! Gardiner had already
spoken of me to the king, and inclined him to his plan; and while I
was hastening at his call from Duma, hither, this little Catharine Parr
comes between and snatches him from me, and overturns all our schemes.
I will never forgive her. I will find a way to revenge myself. I will
force her to leave this place, which belongs to me, and if there is no
other way for it, she must go the way of the scaffold, as did Catharine
Howard. I will be Queen of England, I will--"
She suddenly interrupted her soliloquy, and listened. She thought she
heard a slight knock at the door. She was not mistaken; this knock was
now repeated, and indeed with a peculiar, significant stroke.
"It is my father!" said Lady Jane, and, as she resumed again her grave
and quiet air, she proceeded to open the door.
"Ah, you expected me, then?" said Lord Archibald Douglas, kissing his
"Yes, I expected you, my father," replied Lady Jane with a smile. "I
knew that you would come to communicate to me your experiences and
observations during the day, and to give me directions for the future."
The earl seated himself on the ottoman, and drew his daughter down by
"No one can overhear us, can they?"
"Nobody, my father! My women are sleeping in the fourth chamber from
here, and I have myself fastened the intervening doors. The anteroom
through which you came is, as you know, entirely empty, and nobody can
conceal himself there. It remains, then, only to fasten the door leading
thence into the corridor, in order to be secure from interruption."
She hastened into the anteroom to fasten the door.
"Now, my father, we are secure from listeners," said she, as she
returned and resumed her place on the ottoman.
"And the walls, my child? know you whether or no the walls are safe?
You look at me with an expression of doubt and surprise! My God, what a
harmless and innocent little maiden you still are! Have I not constantly
reiterated the great and wise lesson, 'Doubt everything and mistrust
everything, even what you see.' He who will make his fortune at court,
must first of all mistrust everybody, and consider everybody his enemy,
whom he is to flatter, because he can do him harm, and whom he is to hug
and kiss, until in some happy embrace he can either plunge a dagger
into his breast wholly unobserved, or pour poison into his mouth. Trust
neither men nor walls, Jane, for I tell you, however smooth and innocent
both may appear, still there may be found an ambuscade behind the
smooth exterior. But I will for the present believe that these walls are
innocent, and conceal no listeners. I will believe it, because I
know this room. Those were fine and charming days in which I became
acquainted with it. Then I was yet young and handsome, and King Henry's
sister was not yet married to the King of Scotland, and we loved each
other so dearly. Ah, I could relate to you wonderful stories of those
happy days. I could--"
"But, my dear father," interrupted Lady Jane, secretly trembling at the
terrible prospect of being forced to listen yet again to the story of
his youthful love, which she had already heard times without number,
"but, my dear father, doubtless you have not come hither so late at
night in order to relate to me what I--forgive me, my lord--what I
long since knew. You will rather communicate to me what your keen and
unerring glance has discovered here."
"It is true," said Lord Douglas, sadly. "I now sometimes become
loquacious--a sure sign that I am growing old. I have, by no means, come
here to speak of the past, but of the present. Let us, then, speak of
it. Ah, I have to-day perceived much, seen much, observed much, and the
result of my observations is, you will be King Henry's seventh wife."
"Impossible, my lord!" exclaimed Lady Jane, whose countenance, in spite
of her will, assumed an expression of delight.
Her father remarked it. "My child," said he, "I observe that you have
not yet your features entirely under your control. You aimed just now,
for example, to play the coy and humble, and yet your face had the
expression of proud satisfaction. But this by the way! The principal
thing is, you will be King Henry's seventh wife! But in order to become
so, there is need for great heedfulness, a complete knowledge of
present relations, constant observation of all persons, impenetrable
dissimulation, and lastly, above all things, a very intimate and
profound knowledge of the king, of the history of his reign, and of his
character. Do you possess this knowledge? Know you what it is to wish
to become King Henry's seventh wife, and how you must begin in order to
attain this? Have you studied Henry's character?"
"A little, perhaps, but certainly not sufficiently. For, as you know, my
lord, worldly matters have lain upon my heart less than the holy Church,
to whose service I have consecrated myself, and to which I would have
presented my whole being, my whole soul, my whole heart, as a sacrifice,
had not you yourself determined otherwise concerning me. Ah, my father,
had I been allowed to follow my inclination, I would have retired into a
convent in Scotland in order to spend my life in quiet contemplation and
pious penances, and close my soul and ear to every profane sound. But
my wishes have not been regarded; and, by the mouth of His venerable and
holy priests, God has commanded me to remain in the world, and take upon
myself the yoke of greatness and regal splendor. If I then struggle
and strive to become queen, this is done, not because the vain pomp and
glory allure me, but solely because through me the Church, out of which
is no salvation, may find a fulcrum to operate on this weak and fickle
king, and because I am to bring him back again to the only true faith."
"Very well played!" cried her father, who had stared her steadily in the
face while she was speaking. "On my word, very well played. Everything
was in perfect harmony, the gesticulation, the play of the eyes, and the
voice. My daughter, I withdraw my censure. You have perfect control over
yourself. But let us speak of King Henry. We will now subject him to a
thorough analysis, and no fibre of his heart, no atom of his brain
shall remain unnoticed by us. We will observe him in his domestic, his
political, and his religious life, and get a perfectly clear view of
every peculiarity of his character, in order that we may deal with him
accordingly. Let us, then, speak first of his wives. Their lives and
deaths afford you excellent finger-posts; for I do not deny that it is
an extremely difficult and dangerous undertaking to be Henry's
consort. There is needed for it much personal courage and very great
self-control. Know you which, of all his wives, possessed these in
the highest degree? It was his first consort, Catharine of Aragon! By
Heaven, she was a sensible woman, and born a queen! Henry, avaricious as
he was, would gladly have given the best jewel in his crown, if he could
have detected but a shadow, the slightest trace of unfaithfulness in
her. But there was absolutely no means of sending this woman to the
scaffold, and at that time he was as yet too cowardly and too virtuous
to put her out of the way by poison. He, therefore, endured her long,
until she was an old woman with gray hairs, and disagreeable for his
eyes to look upon. So after he had been married to her seventeen
years, the good, pious king was all at once seized with a conscientious
scruple, and because he had read in the Bible, 'Thou shalt not marry
thy sister,' dreadful pangs of conscience came upon the noble and crafty
monarch. He fell upon his knees and beat his breast, and cried: 'I
have committed a great sin; for I have married my brother's wife, and
consequently my sister. But I will make amends for it. I will dissolve
this adulterous marriage!'--Do you know, child, why he would dissolve
"Because he loved Anne Boleyn!" said Jane, with a smile.
"Perfectly correct! Catharine had grown old, and Henry was still a young
man, and his blood shot through his veins like streams of fire. Hut he
was yet somewhat virtuous and timid, and the main peculiarity of his
character was as yet undeveloped. He was not yet bloodthirsty, that is
to say, he had not yet licked blood. But you will see how with each new
queen his desire for blood increased, till at length it has now become a
wasting disease. Had he then had the system of lies that he now has, he
would somehow have bribed a slanderer, who would have declared that
he was Catharine's lover. But he was yet so innocent; he wanted yet to
gratify his darling lusts in a perfectly legal way. So Anne Boleyn must
become his queen, that he might love her. And in order to attain this,
he threw down the glove to the whole world, became an enemy to the
pope, and set himself in open opposition to the holy head of the Church.
Because the Holy Father would not dissolve his marriage, King Henry
became an apostate and atheist. He constituted himself head of his
Church, and, by virtue of his authority as such, he declared his
marriage with Catharine of Aragon null and void. He said that he had
not in his heart given his consent to this marriage, and that it had
not consequently been properly consummated.[Footnote: Burnet, vol. i, p.
37.] It is true, Catharine had in the Princess Mary a living witness of
the consummation of her marriage, but what did the enamored and selfish
king care about that? Princess Mary was declared a bastard, and the
queen was now to be nothing more than the widow of the Prince of Wales.
It was strictly forbidden to longer give the title and to show the honor
due to a queen, to the woman who for seventeen years had been Queen of
England, and had been treated and honored as such. No one was permitted
to call her anything but the Princess of Wales; and that nothing might
disturb the good people or the noble queen herself in this illusion,
Catharine was banished from the court and exiled to a castle, which
she had once occupied as consort of Arthur, Prince of Wales. And Henry
likewise allowed her only the attendance and pension which the law
appoints to the widow of the Prince of Wales.[Footnote: Burnet, vol. i,
"I have ever held this to be one of the most prudent and subtle acts
of our exalted king, and in the whole history of this divorce the king
conducted himself with admirable consistency and resolution. But this
is to say, he was excited by opposition. Mark this, then, my child, for
this is the reason why I have spoken to you of these things so much at
length. Mark this, then: King Henry is every way entirely unable to bear
contradiction, or to be subjected to restraint. If you wish to win him
to any purpose, you must try to draw him from it; you must surround
it with difficulties and hinderances. Therefore show yourself coy and
indifferent; that will excite him. Do not court his looks; then will he
seek to encounter yours. And when finally he loves you, dwell so long on
your virtue and your conscience, that at length Henry, in order to quiet
your conscience, will send this troublesome Catharine Parr to the block,
or do as he did with Catharine of Aragon, and declare that he did not
mentally give his consent to this marriage, and therefore Catharine
is no queen, but only Lord Neville's widow. Ah, since he made himself
high-priest of his Church, there is no impediment for him in matters of
this kind, for only God is mightier than he.
"The beautiful Anne Boleyn, Henry's second wife, proved this. I have
seen her often, and I tell you, Jane, she was of wondrous beauty.
Whoever looked upon her, could not but love her, and he whom she smiled
upon felt himself fascinated and glorified. When she had borne to the
king the Princess Elizabeth, I heard him say, that he had attained the
summit of his happiness, the goal of his wishes, for the queen had borne
him a daughter, and so there was a regular and legitimate successor to
his throne. But this happiness lasted only a brief time.
"The king conceived one day that Anne Boleyn was not, as he had hitherto
believed, the most beautiful woman in the world; but that there were
women still more beautiful at his court, who therefore had a stronger
vocation to become Queen of England. He had seen Jane Seymour, and she
without doubt was handsomer than Anne Boleyn, for she was not as yet the
king's consort, and there was an obstacle to his possession of her--the
Queen Anne Boleyn. This obstacle must be got out of the way.
"Henry, by virtue of his plentitude of power, might again have been
divorced from his wife, but he did not like to repeat himself, he wished
to be always original; and no one was to be allowed to say that his
divorces were only the cloak of his capricious lewdness.
"He had divorced Catharine of Aragon on account of conscientious
scruples; therefore, some other means must be devised for Anne Boleyn.
"The shortest way to be rid of her was the scaffold. Why should not Anne
travel that road, since so many had gone it before her? for a new
force had entered into the king's life: the tiger had licked blood! His
instinct was aroused, and he recoiled no more from those crimson rills
which flowed in the veins of his subjects.
"He had given Lady Anne Boleyn the crimson mantle of royalty, why then
should she not give him her crimson blood? For this there was wanted
only a pretext, and this was soon found. Lady Rochfort was Jane
Seymour's aunt, and she found some men, of whom she asserted that they
had been lovers of the fair Anne Boleyn. She, as the queen's first lady
of the bed-chamber, could of course give the most minute particulars
concerning the matter, and the king believed her. He believed her,
though these four pretended lovers of the queen, who were executed for
their crime, all, with the exception of a single one, asseverated that
Anne Boleyn was innocent, and that they had never been in her presence.
The only one who accused the queen of illicit intercourse with him was
James Smeaton, a musician. [Footnote: Tytler.] But he had been promised
his life for this confession. However, it was not thought advisable to
keep this promise, for fear that, when confronted with the queen, he
might not have the strength to sustain his assertion. But not to be
altogether unthankful to him for so useful a confession, they showed him
the favor of not executing him with the axe, but the more agreeable and
easier death of hanging was vouchsafed to him.[Footnote: Burnet, vol. i,
"So the fair and lovely Anne Boleyn must lay her head upon the block.
The day on which this took place, the king had ordered a great hunt, and
early that morning we rode out to Epping Forest. The king was at first
unusually cheerful and humorous, and he commanded me to ride near him,
and tell him something from the chronique scandaleuse of our court. He
laughed at my spiteful remarks, and the worse I calumniated, the merrier
was the king. Finally, we halted; the king had talked and laughed so
much that he had at last become hungry. So he encamped under an oak,
and, in the midst of his suite and his dogs, he took a breakfast, which
pleased him very much, although he had now become a little quieter
and more silent, and sometimes turned his face toward the direction of
London with visible restlessness and anxiety. But suddenly was heard
from that direction the dull sound of a cannon. We all knew that this
was the signal which was to make known to the king that Anne Boleyn's
head had fallen. We knew it, and a shudder ran through our whole frames.
The king alone smiled, and as he arose and took his weapon from my hand,
he said, with cheerful face, 'It is done, the business is finished.
Unleash the dogs, and let us follow the boar.' [Footnote: The king's
very words. Tytler, p. 383. The oak under which this took place is
still pointed out in Epping Forest, and in fact is not less remarkable
as the oak of Charles II.]
"That," said Lord Douglas, sadly, "that was King Henry's funeral
discourse over his charming and innocent wife."
"Do you regret her, my father?" asked Lady Jane, with surprise. "But
Anne Boleyn was, it seems to me, an enemy of our Church, and an adherent
of the accursed new doctrine."
Her father shrugged his shoulders almost contemptuously. That did not
prevent Lady Anne from being one of the fairest and loveliest women of
Old England. And, besides, much as she inclined to the new doctrine,
she did us essential good service, for she it was who bore the blame
of Thomas More's death. Since he had not approved her marriage with the
king, she hated him, as the king hated him because he would not take the
oath of supremacy. Henry, however, would have spared him, for, at that
time, he still possessed some respect for learning and virtue, and
Thomas More was so renowned a scholar that the king held him in
reverence. But Anne Boleyn demanded his death, and so Thomas More must
be executed. Oh, believe me, Jane, that was an important and sad hour
for all England, the hour when Thomas More laid his head upon the block.
We only, we gay people in the palace of Whitehall, we were cheerful
and merry. We were dancing a new kind of dance, the music of which was
written by the king himself, for you know the king is not merely an
author, but also a composer, and as he now writes pious books, so he
then composed dances. [Footnote: Granger's "Biographical History of
England," vol. I, p. 137. of Tytler, p. 354.] That evening, after we
had danced till we were tired, we played cards. Just as I had won a few
guineas from the king, the lieutenant of the Tower came with the tidings
that the execution was over, and gave us a description of the last
moments of the great scholar. The king threw down his cards, and,
turning an angry look on Anne Boleyn, said, in an agitated voice, 'You
are to blame for the death of this man!' Then he arose and withdrew to
his apartments, while no one was permitted to follow him, not even the
queen. [Footnote: Tytler, p. 354] You see, then, that Anne Boleyn had
a claim on our gratitude, for the death of Thomas More delivered Old
England from another great peril. Melanchthon and Bucer, and with them
several of the greatest pulpit orators of Germany, had set out to come
to London, and, as delegates of the Germanic Protestant princes, to
nominate the king as head of their alliance. But the terrible news of
the execution of their friend frightened them back, and caused them to
return when half-way here. [Footnote: Tytler, p. 357. Leti, vol. I, p.
180. Granger, vol. I, p. 119.]
"Peace, then, to the ashes of unhappy Anne Boleyn! However, she was
avenged too, avenged on her successor and rival, for whose sake she was
made to mount the scaffold--avenged on Jane Seymour."
"But she was the king's beloved wife," said Jane, "and when she died the
king mourned for her two years."
"He mourned!" exclaimed Lord Douglas, contemptuously. "He has mourned
for all his wives. Even for Anne Boleyn he put on mourning, and in his
white mourning apparel, the day after Anne's execution, he led Jane
Seymour to the marriage altar! This outward mourning, what does it
signify? Anne Boleyn also mourned for Catharine of Aragon, whom she had
pushed from the throne. For eight weeks she was seen in yellow mourning
on account of Henry's first wife; but Anne Boleyn was a shrewd woman,
and she knew very well that the yellow mourning dress was exceedingly
becoming to her."
"But the king's mourning was not merely external," said Lady Jane.
"He mourned really, for it was two years before he resolved on a new
Earl Douglas laughed. "But he cheered himself during these two years
of widowhood with a very beautiful mistress, the French Marchioness
de Montreuil, and he would have married her had not the prudent beauty
preferred returning to France, because she found it altogether too
dangerous to become Henry's consort. For it is not to be denied, a
baleful star hovers over Henry's queens, and none of them has descended
from the throne in a natural way."
"Yet, father, Jane Seymour did so in a very natural way; she died in
"Well, yes, in childbed. And yet by no natural death, for she could have
been saved. But Henry did not wish to save her. His love had already
grown cool, and when the physicians asked him whether they should save
the mother or the child, he replied, 'Save the child, and let the mother
die. I can get wives enough.' [Footnote: Burnet.] Ah, my daughter, I
hope you may not die such a natural death as Jane Seymour did, for whom,
as you say, the king mourned two years. But after that period, something
new, something altogether extraordinary happened to the king. He fell
in love with a picture, and because, in his proud self-conceit, he was
convinced that the fine picture which Holbein had made of him, was not
at all flattered, but entirely true to nature, it did not occur to him
that Holbein's likeness of the Princess Anne of Cleves might be somewhat
flattered, and not altogether faithful. So the king fell in love with
a picture, and sent ambassadors to Germany to bring the original of
the portrait to England as his bride. He himself went to meet her at
Rochester, where she was to land. Ah, my child, I have witnessed many
queer and droll things in my eventful life, but the scene at Rochester,
however, is among my most spicy recollections. The king was as
enthusiastic as a poet, and deep in love as a youth of twenty, and so
began our romantic wedding-trip, on which Henry disguised himself and
took part in it, assuming the name of my cousin. As the king's master of
horse, I was honored with the commission of carrying to the young queen
the greeting of her ardent husband, and begging her to receive the
knight, who would deliver to her a present from the king. She granted my
request with a grin which made visible a frightful row of yellow teeth.
I opened the door, and invited the king to enter. Ah, you ought to
have witnessed that scene! It is the only farcical passage in the bloody
tragedy of Henry's married life. You should have seen with what hasty
impatience the king rushed in, then suddenly, at the sight of her,
staggered back and stared at the princess. Slowly retiring, he silently
thrust into my hand the rich present that he had brought, while at the
same time he threw a look of flaming wrath on Lord Cromwell, who had
brought him the portrait of the princess and won him to this marriage.
The romantic, ardent lover vanished with this look at his beloved. He
approached the princess again--this time not as a cavalier, but, with
harsh and hasty words, he told her he was the king himself. He bade her
welcome in a few words, and gave her a cold, formal embrace. He then
hastily took my hand and drew me out of the room, beckoning the rest
to follow him. And when at length we were out of the atmosphere of this
poor ugly princess, and far enough away from her, the king, with
angry countenance, said to Cromwell: 'Call you that a beauty? She is a
Flanders mare, but no princess.' [Footnote: Burnet, p. 174. Tytler,
p. 417.] Anne's ugliness was surely given her of God, that by it, the
Church, in which alone is salvation, might be delivered from the great
danger which threatened it. For had Anne of Cleves, the sister, niece,
granddaughter and aunt of all the Protestant princes of Germany, been
beautiful, incalculable danger would have threatened our church. The
king could not overcome his repugnance, and again his conscience, which
always appeared to be most tender and scrupulous, when it was farthest
from it and most regardless, must come to his aid.
"The king declared that he had been only in appearance, not in his
innermost conscience, disposed to this marriage, from which he now
shrank back, because it would be, properly speaking, nothing more than
perfidy, perjury, and bigamy. For Anne's father had once betrothed her
to the son of the Duke of Lorraine, and had solemnly pledged him his
word to give her as a wife to the young duke as soon as she was of age;
rings had been exchanged and the marriage contract already drawn up.
Anne of Cleves, therefore, was virtually already married, and Henry,
with his tender conscience, could not make one already married his wife.
[Footnote: Burnet.] He made her, therefore, his sister, and gave her
the palace at Richmond for a residence, in case she wished to remain
in England. She accepted it; her blood, which crept coldly and quietly
through her veins, did not rise at the thought of being despised and
repudiated. She accepted it, and remained in England.
"She was rejected because she was ugly; and now the king selected
Catharine Howard for his fifth consort, because she was pretty. Of this
marriage I know but little to tell you, for, at that time, I had already
gone to Dublin as minister, whither you soon followed me. Catharine was
very beautiful, and the king's heart, now growing old, once more flamed
high with youthful love. He loved her more warmly than any other of
his wives. He was so happy in her that, kneeling down publicly in the
church, with a loud voice he thanked God for the happiness which his
beautiful young queen afforded him. But this did not last long. Even
while the king was extolling it, his happiness had reached its highest
point, and the next day he was dashed down into the abyss. I speak
without poetical exaggeration, my child. The day before, he thanked God
for his happiness, and the next morning Catharine Howard was
already imprisoned and accused, as an unfaithful wife, a shameless
strumpet.[Footnote: Tytler, p. 432.] More than seven lovers had preceded
her royal spouse, and some of them had accompanied her even on the
progress through Yorkshire, which she made with the king her husband.
This time it was no pretence, for he had not yet had time to fall in
love with another woman, and Catharine well knew how to enchain him and
ever to kindle new flames within him. But just because he loved her, he
could not forgive her for having deceived him. In love there is so much
cruelty and hatred; and Henry, who but yesterday lay at her feet, burned
to-day with rage and jealousy, as yesterday with love and rapture. In
his rage, however, he still loved her, and when he held in his hand
indubitable proof of her guilt, he wept like a child. But since he could
no longer be her lover, he would be her hangman; since she had spotted
the crimson of his royal mantle, he would dye it afresh with her own
crimson blood. And he did so. Catharine Howard was forced to lay her
beautiful head upon the block, as Anne Boleyn had done before her; and
Anne's death was now once more avenged. Lady Rochfort had been Anne
Boleyn's accuser, and her testimony had brought that queen to the
scaffold; but now she was convicted of being Catharine Howard's
assistant and confidante in her love adventures, and with Catharine,
Lady Rochfort also ascended the scaffold.
"Ah, the king needed a long time to recover from this blow. He searched
two years for a pure, uncontaminated virgin, who might become his queen
without danger of the scaffold. But he found none; so he took then Lord
Neville's widow, Catharine Parr. But you know, my child, that
Catharine is an unlucky name for Henry's queens. The first Catharine he
repudiated, the second he beheaded. What will he do with the third?"
Lady Jane smiled. "Catharine does not love him," said she, "and I
believe she would willingly consent, like Anne of Cleves, to become his
sister, instead of his wife."
"Catharine does not love the king?" inquired Lord Douglas, in breathless
suspense. "She loves another, then!"
"No, my father! Her heart is yet like a sheet of white paper: no single
name is yet inscribed there."
"Then we must write a name there, and this name must drive her to the
scaffold, or into banishment," said her father impetuously. "It is your
business, my child, to take a steel graver, and in some way write a name
in Catharine's heart so deep and indelibly, that the king may some day
read it there."