The Acknowledgment

The Princess Elizabeth was sitting in her room, melancholy and absorbed

in thought. Her eyes were red with weeping; and she pressed her hand on

her heart, as if she would repress its cry of anguish.

With a disconsolate, perplexed look she gazed around her chamber, and

its solitude was doubly painful to her to-day, for it testified to her

forsaken condition, to the disgrace that still rested on her. For were

> it not so, to-day would have been to the whole court a day of rejoicing,

of congratulations.

To-day was Elizabeth's birthday; fourteen years ago to-day, Anne

Boleyn's daughter had seen the light of this world.

"Anne Boleyn's daughter!" That was the secret of her seclusion. That

was why none of the ladies and lords of the court had remembered her

birthday; for that would have been at the same time a remembrance of

Anne Boleyn, of Elizabeth's beautiful and unfortunate mother, who had

been made to atone for her grandeur and prosperity by her death.

Moreover, the king had called his daughter Elizabeth a bastard, and

solemnly declared her unworthy of succeeding to the throne.

Her birthday, therefore, was to Elizabeth only a day of humiliation and

pain. Reclining on her divan, she thought of her despised and joyless

past, of her desolate and inglorious future.

She was a princess, and yet possessed not the rights of her birth; she

was a young maiden, and yet doomed, in sad resignation, to renounce all

the delights and enjoyments of youth, and to condemn her passionate

and ardent heart to the eternal sleep of death. For when the Infante of

Spain sued for her hand, Henry the Eighth had declared that the bastard

Elizabeth was unworthy of a princely husband. But in order to intimidate

other suitors also, he had loudly and openly declared that no subject

should dare be so presumptuous as to offer his hand to one of his

royal daughters, and he who dared to solicit them in marriage should be

punished as a traitor.

So Elizabeth was condemned to remain unmarried; and nevertheless she

loved; nevertheless she harbored only this one wish, to be the wife of

her beloved, and to be able to exchange the proud title of princess for

the name of Countess Seymour.

Since she loved him, a new world, a new sun had arisen on her; and

before the sweet and enchanting whispers of her love, even the proud and

alluring voices of her ambition had to be silent. She no longer thought

of it, that she would never be a queen; she was only troubled that she

could not be Seymour's wife.

She no longer wanted to rule, but she wanted to be happy. But her

happiness reposed on him alone--on Thomas Seymour.

Such were her thoughts, as she was in her chamber on the morning of

her birthday, alone and lonely; and her eyes reddened by tears, her

painfully convulsed lips, betrayed how much she had wept to-day; how

much this young girl of fourteen years had already suffered.

But she would think no more about it; she would not allow the lurking,

everywhere-prying, malicious, and wicked courtiers the triumph of seeing

the traces of her tears, and rejoicing at her pains and her humiliation.

She was a proud and resolute soul; she would rather have died than to

have accepted the sympathy and pity of the courtiers.

"I will work," said she. "Work is the best balm for all pains."

And she took up the elaborate silk embroidery which she had begun for

her poor, unfortunate friend, Anne of Cleves, Henry's divorced wife. But

the work occupied only her fingers, not her thoughts.

She threw it aside and seized her books. She took Petrarch's Sonnets;

and his love plaints and griefs enchained and stirred her own love-sick


With streaming tears, and yet smiling and full of sweet melancholy,

Elizabeth read these noble and tender poems. It appeared to her as if

Petrarch had only said what she herself so warmly felt. There were her

thoughts, her griefs. He had said them in his language; she must now

repeat them in her own. She seated herself, and with hands trembling

with enthusiasm, fluttering breath, perfectly excited and glowing,

in glad haste she began a translation of Petrarch's first sonnet.

[Footnote: Elizabeth, who even as a girl of twelve years old spoke four

languages, was very fond of composing verses, and of translating the

poems of foreign authors. But she kept her skill in this respect very

secret, and was always very angry if any one by chance saw one of

her poems. After her death there were found among her papers many

translations, especially of Petrarch's Sonnets, which were the work of

her earliest youth.--Leti, vol. i, p. 150.] A loud knock interrupted

her; and in the hastily opened door now appeared the lovely form of the


"The queen!" exclaimed Elizabeth with delight. "Have you come to me at

such an early morning hour?"

"And should I wait till evening to wish my Elizabeth happiness on her

festival? Should I first let the sun go down on this day, which gave

to England so noble and so fair a princess?" asked Catharine. "Or you

thought, perhaps, I did not know that this was your birthday, and that

to-day my Elizabeth advances from the years of childhood, as a proud

maiden full of hope?"

"Full of hope?" said Elizabeth, sadly. "Anne Boleyn's daughter has no

hopes: and when you speak of my birthday, you remind me at the same time

of my despised birth!"

"It shall be despised no longer!" said Catharine, and, as she put

her arm tenderly around Elizabeth's neck, she handed her a roll of


"Take that, Elizabeth; and may this paper be to you the promise of a

joyful and brilliant future! At my request, the king has made this law,

and he therefore granted me the pleasure of bringing it to you."

Elizabeth opened the parchment and read, and a radiant expression

overspread her countenance.

"Acknowledged! I am acknowledged!" cried she. "The disgrace of my birth

is taken away! Elizabeth is no more a bastard--she is a royal princess!"

"And she may some day be a queen!" said Catharine, smiling.

"Oh," cried Elizabeth, "it is not that which stirs me with such joy. But

the disgrace of my birth is taken away; and I may freely hold up my head

and name my mother's name! Now thou mayst sleep calmly in thy grave, for

it is no longer dishonored! Anne Boleyn was no strumpet; she was King

Henry's lawful wife, and Elizabeth is the king's legitimate daughter! I

thank Thee, my God--I thank Thee!" And the young, passionate girl threw

herself on her knees, and raised her hands and her eyes to heaven.

"Spirit of my glorified mother," said she, solemnly, "I call thee! Come

to me! Overshadow me with thy smile, and bless me with thy breath! Queen

Anne of England, thy daughter is no longer a bastard, and no one dares

venture more to insult her. Thou wert with me when I wept and suffered,

my mother; and often in my disgrace and humiliation, it was as if I

heard thy voice, which whispered comfort to me; as if I saw thy heavenly

eyes, which poured peace and love into my breast! Oh, abide with me now

also, my mother--now, when my disgrace is taken away, abide with me

in my prosperity; and guard my heart, that it may be kept pure from

arrogance and pride, and remain humble in its joy! Anne Boleyn, they

laid thy beautiful, innocent head upon the block; but this parchment

sets upon it again the royal crown; and woe, woe to those who will now

still dare insult thy memory!"

She sprang from her knees and rushed to the wall opposite, on which was

a large oil painting, which represented Elizabeth herself as a child

playing with a dog.

"Oh, mother, mother!" said she, "this picture was the last earthly thing

on which thy looks rested; and to these painted lips of thy child thou

gavest thy last kiss, which thy cruel hangman would not allow to thy

living child. Oh, let me sip up this last kiss from that spot; let me

touch with my mouth the spot that thy lips have consecrated!"

She bent down and kissed the picture.

"And now come forth out of thy grave, my mother," said she, solemnly.

"I have been obliged so long to hide, so long to veil thee! Now thou

belongest to the world and to the light! The king has acknowledged me as

his lawful daughter; he cannot refuse me to have a likeness of my mother

in my room."

As she thus spoke, she pressed on a spring set in the broad gilt frame

of the picture; and suddenly the painting was seen to move and slowly

open like a door, so as to render visible another picture concealed

beneath it, which represented the unfortunate Anne Boleyn in bridal

attire, in the full splendor of her beauty, as Holbein had painted her,

at the desire of her husband the king.

"How beautiful and angelic that countenance is!" said Catharine,

stepping nearer. "How innocent and pure those features! Poor queen! Yet

thine enemies succeeded in casting suspicion on thee and bringing thee

to the scaffold. Oh, when I behold thee, I shudder; and my own future

rises up before me like a threatening spectre! Who can believe herself

safe and secure, when Anne Boleyn was not secure; when even she had

to die a dishonorable death? Ah, do but believe me, Elizabeth, it is a

melancholy lot to be Queen of England; and often indeed have I asked the

morning whether I, as still Queen of England, shall greet the evening.

But no--we will not talk of myself in this hour, but only of you,

Elizabeth--of your future and of your fortune. May this document be

acceptable to you, and realize all the wishes that slumber in your


"One great wish of mine it has fulfilled already," said Elizabeth, still

occupied with the picture. "It allows me to show my mother's likeness

unveiled! That I could one day do so was her last prayer and last wish,

which she intrusted to John Heywood for me. To him she committed this

picture. He alone knew the secret of it, and he has faithfully preserved


"Oh, John Heywood is a trusty and true friend," said Catharine,

heartily; "and it was he who assisted me in inclining the king to our

plan and in persuading him to acknowledge you."

With an unutterable expression Elizabeth presented both hands to her. "I

thank you for my honor, and the honor of my mother," said she; "I will

love you for it as a daughter; and never shall your enemies find with me

an open ear and a willing heart. Let us two conclude with each other a

league offensive and defensive! Lot us keep true to each other; and the

enemies of the one shall be the enemies of the other also. And where

we see danger we will combat it in common; and we will watch over each

other with a true sisterly eye, and warn one another whenever a chance

flash brings to light an enemy who is stealing along in the darkness,

and wants with his dagger to assassinate us from behind."

"So be it!" said Catharine, solemnly. "We will remain inseparable, and

true to one another, and love each other as sisters!"

And as she imprinted a warm kiss on Elizabeth's lips, she continued:

"But now, princess, direct your looks once more to that document, of

which at first you read only the beginning. Do but believe me, it is

important enough for you to read it quite to the end; for it contains

various arrangements for your future, and settles on you a suite and a

yearly allowance, as is suitable for a royal princess."

"Oh, what care I for these things?" cried Elizabeth, merrily. "That is

my major-domo's concern, and he may attend to it."

"But there is yet another paragraph that will interest you more,"

said Catharine, with a slight smile; "for it is a full and complete

reparation to my proud and ambitious Elizabeth. You recollect the answer

which your father gave to the King of France when he solicited your hand

for the dauphin?"

"Do I recollect it!" cried Elizabeth, her features quickly becoming

gloomy. "King Henry said: 'Anne Boleyn's daughter is not worthy to

accept the hand of a royal prince.'"

"Well, then, Elizabeth, that the reparation made to you may be complete,

the king, while he grants you your lawful title and honor, has decreed

that you are permitted to marry only a husband of equal birth; to give

your hand only to a royal prince, if you would preserve your right of

succeeding to the throne, Oh, certainly, there could be no more complete

recantation of the affront once put upon you. And that he consented

to do this, you owe to the eloquent intercession of a true and trusty

friend; you have John Hey wood to thank for it."

"John Heywood!" cried Elizabeth, in a bitter tone.

"Oh, I thank you, queen, that it was not you who determined my father to

this decision. John Heywood did it, and you call him my friend? You

say that he is a true and devoted servant to us both? Beware of his

fidelity, queen, and build not on his devotedness; for I tell you his

soul is full of falsehood; and while he appears to bow before you in

humbleness, his eyes are only searching for the place on your heel where

he can strike you most surely and most mortally. Oh, he is a serpent, a

venomous serpent; and he has just wounded me mortally and incurably. But

no," continued she, energetically, "I will not submit to this fraud; I

will not be the slave of this injurious law! I will be free to love and

to hate as my heart demands; I will not be shackled, nor be compelled

to renounce this man, whom I perhaps love, and to marry that one, whom I

perhaps abhor."

With an expression of firm, energetic resolve, she took the roll of

parchment and handed it back to Catharine. "Queen, take this parchment

back again; return it to my father, and tell him that I thank him for

his provident goodness, but will decline the brilliant lot which this

act offers me. I love freedom so much, that even a royal crown cannot

allure me when I am to receive it with my hands bound and my heart not


"Poor child!" sighed Catharine, "you know not, then, that the royal

crown always binds us in fetters and compresses our heart in iron

clamps? Ah, you want to be free, and yet a queen! Oh, believe me,

Elizabeth, none are less free than sovereigns! No one has less the right

and the power to live according to the dictates of his heart than a


"Then," exclaimed Elizabeth, with flashing eyes, "then I renounce the

melancholy fortune of being, perchance, one day queen. Then I do not

subscribe to this law, which wants to guide my heart and limit my will.

What! shall the daughter of King Henry of England allow her ways to be

traced out by a miserable strip of parchment? and shall a sheet of

paper be able to intrude itself between me and my heart? I am a royal

princess; and why will they compel me to give my hand only to a king's

son? Ay, you are right; it is not my father that has made this law,

for my father's proud soul has never been willing to submit to any such

constraint of miserable etiquette. He has loved where he pleased; and no

Parliament--no law--has been able to hinder him in this respect. I will

be my father's own daughter. I will not submit to this law!"

"Poor child!" said Catharine, "nevertheless you will be obliged to learn

well how to submit; for one is not a princess without paying for it. No

one asks whether our heart bleeds. They throw a purple robe over it, and

though it be reddened with our heart's blood, who then sees and suspects

it? You are yet so young, Elizabeth; you yet hope so much!"

"I hope so much, because I have already suffered so much--my eyes have

been already made to shed so many tears. I have already in my childhood

had to take before-hand my share of the pain and sorrow of life; now I

will demand my share of life's pleasure and enjoyment also."

"And who tells you that you shall not have it? This love forces on you

no particular husband; it but gives you the proud right, once disputed,

of seeking your husband among the princes of royal blood."

"Oh," cried Elizabeth, with flashing eyes, "if I should ever really be a

queen, I should be prouder to choose a husband whom I might make a king,

than such a one as would make me a queen. [Footnote: Elizabeth's own

words,--Leti, vol. ii, p. 62.] Oh, say yourself, Catharine, must it not

be a high and noble pleasure to confer glory and greatness on one we

love, to raise him in the omnipotence of our love high above all other

men, and to lay our own greatness, our own glory, humbly at his feet,

that he may be adorned therewith and make his own possession what is


"By Heaven, you are as proud and ambitious as a man!" said Catharine,

smiling. "Your father's own daughter! So thought Henry when he gave his

hand to Anne Boleyn; so thought he when he exalted me to be his queen.

But it behooves him thus to think and act, for he is a man."

"He thought thus, because he loved--not because he was a man."

"And you, too, Elizabeth--do you, too, think thus because you love?"

"Yes, I love!" exclaimed Elizabeth, as with an impulsive movement she

threw herself into Catharine's arms, and hid her blushing face in the

queen's bosom. "Yes, I love! I love like my father--regardless of my

rank, of my birth; but feeling only that my lover is of equally high

birth in the nobility of his sentiment, in his genius and noble mind;

that he is my superior in all the great and fine qualities which should

adorn a man, and yet are conferred on so few. Judge now, queen, whether

that law there can make me happy. He whom I love is no prince--no son of

a king."

"Poor Elizabeth!" said Catharine, clasping the young girl fervently in

her arms.

"And why do you bewail my fate, when it is in your power to make me

happy?" asked Elizabeth, urgently.

"It was you who prevailed on the king to relieve me of the disgrace that

rested on me; you will also have power over him to set aside this clause

which contains my heart's sentence of condemnation."

Catharine shook her head with a sigh. "My power does not reach so far,"

said she, sadly. "Ah, Elizabeth, why did you not put confidence in me?

Why did you not let me know sooner that your heart cherished a love

which is in opposition to this law? Why did you not tell your friend

your dangerous secret?"

"Just because it is dangerous I concealed it from you; and just on that

account I do not even now mention the name of the loved one. Queen, you

shall not through me become a guilty traitoress against your husband;

for you well know that he punishes every secret concealed from him as an

act of high treason. No, queen; if I am a criminal, you shall not he

my accomplice. Ah, it is always dangerous to be the confidant of such a

secret. You see that in John Heywood. He alone was my confidant, and he

betrayed me. I myself put the weapons into his hands, and he turned them

against me."

"No, no," said Catharine, thoughtfully; "John Heywood is true and

trusty, and incapable of treachery."

"He has betrayed me!" exclaimed Elizabeth, impetuously. "He knew--he

only--that I love, and that my beloved, though of noble, still is not of

princely birth. Yet it was he, as you said yourself, who moved the king

to introduce this paragraph into the act of succession."

"Then, without doubt, he has wished to save you from an error of your


"No, he has been afraid of the danger of being privy to this secret,

and at the cost of my heart and my happiness he wanted to escape this

danger. But oh, Catharine, you are a noble, great and strong woman; you

are incapable of such petty fear--such low calculation; therefore, stand

by me; be my savior and protectress! By virtue of that oath which we

have just now mutually taken--by virtue of that mutual clasp of

the hands just given--I call you to my help and my assistance. Oh,

Catharine, allow me this high pleasure, so full of blessing, of being at

some time, perhaps, able to make him whom I love great and powerful by

my will. Allow me this intoxicating delight of being able with my hand

to offer to his ambition at once power and glory--it may be even a

crown. Oh, Catharine, on my knees I conjure you--assist me to repeal

this hated law, which wants to bind my heart and my hand!"

In passionate excitement she had fallen before the queen, and was

holding up her hands imploringly to her.

Catharine, smiling, bent down and raised her up in her arms.

"Enthusiast," said she, "poor young enthusiast! Who knows whether you

will thank me for it one day, if I accede to your wish; and whether

you will not some time curse this hour which has brought you, perhaps,

instead of the hoped-for pleasure, only a knowledge of your delusion and


"And were it even so," cried Elizabeth, energetically, "still it is

better to endure a wretchedness we ourselves have chosen, than to

be forced to a happy lot. Say, Catharine--say, will you lend me your

assistance? Will you induce the king to withdraw this hated clause? If

you do it not, queen, I swear to you, by the soul of my mother, that I

will not submit to this law; that I will solemnly, before all the world,

renounce the privilege that is offered me; that I--"

"You are a dear, foolish child," interrupted Catharine--"a child, that

in youthful presumption might dare wish to fetch the lightnings down

from heaven, and borrow from Jupiter his thunderbolt. Oh, you are still

too young and inexperienced to know that fate regards not our murmurs

and our sighs, and, despite our reluctance and our refusal, still leads

us in its own ways, not our own. You will have to learn that yet, poor


"But I will not!" cried Elizabeth, stamping on the floor with all the

pettishness of a child. "I will not ever and eternally be the victim

of another's will; and fate itself shall not have power to make me its


"Well, we will see now," said Catharine, smiling. "We will try this

time, at least, to contend against fate; and I will assist you if I


"And I will love you for it as my mother and my sister at once," cried

Elizabeth, as with ardor she threw herself into Catharine's arms. "Yes,

I will love you for it; and I will pray God that He may one day give

me the opportunity to show my gratitude, and to reward you for your

magnanimity and goodness."