King Henry The Eighth
Letter First To Anne Boleyn
The King And The Priest
Choosing A Confessor
Henry The Eighth And His Wives
Letter Fourth To Anne Boleyn
Least ViewedLetter Fifteenth To Anne Boleyn
Letter Eighteenth To Anne Boleyn
Letter Sixteenth To Anne Boleyn
Letter Eleventh To Anne Boleyn
Letter Ninth To Anne Boleyn
Letter Seventeenth To Anne Boleyn
The Queen's Toilet
Letter Seventh To Anne Boleyn
Letter Sixth To Anne Boleyn
Letter Thirteenth To Anne Boleyn
The Queen's Rosette
The golden gallery, in which the tourney of the poets was to take place,
presented to-day a truly enchanting and fairy-like aspect. Mirrors
of gigantic size, set in broad gilt frames, ornamented with the moat
perfect carved work, covered the walls, and threw back, a thousand
times reflected, the enormous chandeliers which, with their hundreds and
hundreds of candles, shed the light of day in the vast hall. Here and
there were seen, arranged in front of the mirrors, clusters of the
rarest and choicest flowers, which poured through the hall their
fragrance, stupefying and yet so enchanting, and outshone in brilliancy
of colors even the Turkish carpet, which stretched through the whole
room and changed the floor into one immense flower-bed. Between the
clumps of flowers were seen tables with golden vases, in which were
refreshing beverages; while at the other end of the enormous gallery
stood a gigantic sideboard, which contained the choicest and rarest
dishes. At present the doors of the sideboard, which, when open, formed
a room of itself, were closed.
They had not yet come to the material enjoyments; they were still
occupied in absorbing the spiritual. The brilliant and select company
that filled the hall was still for some time condemned to be silent, and
to shut up within them their laughter and gossip, their backbiting and
slander, their flattery and hypocrisy.
Just now a pause ensued. The king, with Croke, had recited to his court
a scene from "Antigone"; and they were just taking breath from the
wonderful and exalted enjoyment of having just heard a language of which
they understood not a word, but which they found to be very beautiful,
since the king admired it.
Henry the Eighth had again leaned back on his golden throne, and,
panting, rested from his prodigious exertion; and while he rested and
dreamed, an invisible band played a piece of music composed by the king
himself, and which, with its serious and solemn movement, strangely
contrasted with this room so brilliant and cheerful--with this splendid,
laughing and jesting assembly.
For the king had bidden them amuse themselves and be gay; to give
themselves up to unrestrained chit-chat. It was, therefore, natural for
them to laugh, and to appear not to notice the king's exhaustion and
Besides, they had not for a long time seen Henry so cheerful, so full of
youthful life, so sparkling with wit and humor, as on this evening. His
mouth was overflowing with jests that made the gentlemen laugh, and the
beautiful, brilliant women blush, and, above all, the young queen,
who sat by him on the rich and splendid throne, and now and then threw
stolen and longing glances at her lover, for whom she would willingly
and gladly have given her royal crown and her throne.
When the king saw how Catharine blushed, he turned to her, and in his
tenderest tone begged her pardon for his jest, which, however, in its
sauciness, served only to make his queen still more beautiful, still
more bewitching. His words were then so tender and heartfelt, his looks
so full of love and admiration, that nobody could doubt but that the
queen was in highest favor with her husband, and that he loved her most
Only the few who knew the secret of this tenderness of the king, so
open and so unreservedly displayed, comprehended fully the danger which
threatened the queen; for the king was never more to be dreaded than
when he flattered; and on no one did his wrath fall more crushingly than
on him whom he had just kissed and assured of his favor.
This was what Earl Douglas said to himself, when he saw with what a
cordial look Henry the Eighth chatted with his consort.
Behind the throne of the royal pair was seen John Heywood, in his
fantastic and dressy costume, with his face at once noble and cunning;
and the king just then broke out into loud, resounding laughter at his
sarcastic and satirical observations.
"King, your laugh does not please me to-day," said John Heywood,
earnestly. "It smacks of gall. Do you not find it so, queen?"
The queen was startled from her sweet reveries, and that was what John
Heywood had wished. He, therefore, repeated his question.
"No, indeed," said she: "I find the king to-day quite like the sun. He
is radiant and bright, like it."
"Queen, you do not mean the sun, but the full moon," said John Heywood.
"But only see, Henry, how cheerfully Earl Archibald Douglas over there
is chatting with the Duchess of Richmond! I love that good earl.
He always appears like a blind-worm, which is just in the notion of
stinging some one on the heel, and hence it comes that, when near
the earl, I always transform myself into a crane. I stand on one leg;
because I am then sure to have the other at least safe from the earl's
sting. King, were I like you, I would not have those killed that the
blind-worm has stung; but I would root out the blind-worms, that the
feet of honorable men might be secure from them."
The king cast at him a quick, searching look, which John Heywood
answered with a smile.
"Kill the blind-worms, King Henry," said he; "and when you are once at
work destroying vermin, it will do no harm if you once more give these
priests also a good kick. It is now a long time since we burnt any of
them, and they are again becoming arrogant and malicious, as they
always were and always will be. I see even the pious and meek bishop of
Winchester, the noble Gardiner, who is entertaining himself with Lady
Jane over there, smiling very cheerfully, and that is a bad sign; for
Gardiner smiles only when he has again caught a poor soul, and prepared
it as a breakfast for his lord. I do not mean you, king, but his
lord--the devil. For the devil is always hungry for noble human souls;
and to him who catches one for him he gives indulgence for his sins for
an hour. Therefore Gardiner catches so many souls; for since he sins
every hour, every hour he needs indulgence."
"You are very spiteful to-day, John Heywood," said the queen, smiling,
while the king fixed his eyes on the ground, thoughtful and musing.
John Heywood's words had touched the sore place of his heart, and, in
spite of himself, filled his suspicious soul with new doubts.
He mistrusted not merely the accused, but the accusers also; and if
he punished the one as criminals, he would have willingly punished the
others as informants.
He asked himself: "What aim had Earl Douglas and Gardiner in accusing
the queen; and why had they startled him out of his quiet and
confidence?" At that moment, when he looked on his beautiful wife, who
sat by him in such serene tranquillity, unembarrassed and smiling, he
felt a deep anger fill his heart, not against Catharine, but against
Jane, who accused her. She was so lovely and beautiful! Why did they
envy him her? Why did they not leave him in his sweet delusion? But
perhaps she was not guilty. No, she was not. The eye of a culprit is
not thus bright and clear. The air of infidelity is not thus
unembarrassed--of such maidenly delicacy.
Moreover, the king was exhausted and disgusted. One can become satiated
even with cruelty; and, at this hour, Henry felt completely surfeited
His heart--for, in such moments of mental relaxation and bodily
enfeeblement, the king even had a heart--his heart was already in the
mood of pronouncing the word pardon, when his eye fell on Henry Howard,
who, with his father, the Duke of Norfolk, and surrounded by a circle of
brilliant and noble lords, was standing not far from the royal throne.
The king felt a deadly stab in his breast, and his eyes darted lightning
over toward that group.
How proud and imposing the figure of the noble earl looked; how high
he overtopped all others; how noble and handsome his countenance; how
kingly was his bearing and whole appearance!
Henry must admit all this; and because he must do so, he hated him.
Nay! no mercy for Catharine! If what her accusers had told him were
true--if they could give him the proofs of the queen's guilt, then she
was doomed. And how could he doubt it? Had they not told him that in
the rosette, which the queen would give Earl Surrey, was contained a
love-letter from Catharine, which he would find? Had not Earl Surrey, in
a confidential hour, yesterday imparted this to his sister, the Duchess
of Richmond, when he wished to bribe her to be the messenger of love
between the queen and himself? Had she not accused the queen of having
meetings by night with the earl in the deserted tower?
Nay, no compassion for his fair queen, if Henry Howard was her lover.
He must again look over at his hated enemy. There he still stood by his
father, the Duke of Norfolk. How sprightly and gracefully the old duke
moved; how slim his form; and how lofty and imposing his bearing!
The king was younger than the duke; and yet he was fettered to his
truckle-chair; yet he sat on his throne like an immovable colossus,
while he moved freely and lightly, and obeyed his own will, not
necessity. Henry could have crushed him--this proud, arrogant earl, who
was a free man, whilst his king was nothing but a prisoner to his own
flesh, a slave of his unwieldy body.
"I will exterminate it--this proud, arrogant race of Howards!" muttered
the king, as he turned with a friendly smile to the Earl of Surrey.
"You have promised us some of your poems, cousin!" said he. "So let us
now enjoy them; for you see, indeed, how impatiently all the beautiful
women look on England's noblest and greatest poet, and how very angry
with me they would be if I still longer withhold this enjoyment from
them! Even my fair queen is full of longing after your songs, so rich
in fancy; for you well know, Howard, she loves poetry, and, above all
Catharine had scarcely heard what the king said. Her looks had
encountered Seymour's, and their eyes were fixed on each other's. But
she had then cast down to the floor her eyes, still completely filled
with the sight of her lover, in order to think of him, since she no
longer dared gaze at him.
When the king called her name, she started up and looked at him
inquiringly. She had not heard what he had said to her.
"Not even for a moment does she look toward me!" said Henry Howard
to himself. "Oh, she loves me not! or at least her understanding is
mightier than her love. Oh, Catharine, Catharine, fearest thou death so
much that thou canst on that account deny thy love?"
With desperate haste he drew out his portfolio. "I will compel her to
look at me, to think of me, to remember her oath," thought he. "Woe to
her, if she does not fulfil it--if she gives me not the rosette, which
she promised me with so solemn a vow! If she does it not, then I will
break this dreadful silence, and before her king, and before her court,
accuse her of treachery to her love. Then, at least, she will not be
able to cast me off; for we shall mount the scaffold together."
"Does my exalted queen allow me to begin?" asked he aloud, wholly
forgetting that the king had already given him the order to do so, and
that it was he only who could grant such a permission.
Catharine looked at him in astonishment. Then her glance fell on Lady
Jane Douglas, who was gazing over at her with an imploring expression.
The queen smiled; for she now remembered that it was Jane's beloved
who had spoken to her, and that she had promised the poor young girl to
raise again the dejected Earl of Surrey and to be gracious to him.
"Jane is right," thought she; "he appears to be deeply depressed and
suffering. Ah, it must be very painful to see those whom one loves
suffering. I will, therefore, comply with Jane's request, for she says
this might revive the earl."
With a smile she bowed to Howard. "I beg you," said she, "to lend our
festival its fairest ornament--to adorn it with the fragrant flowers of
your poesy. You see we are all burning with desire to hear your verses."
The king shook with rage, and a crushing word was already poised upon
his lip. But he restrained himself. He wanted to have proofs first; he
wanted to see them not merely accused, but doomed also; and for that he
needed proofs of their guilt.
Henry Howard now approached the throne of the royal pair, and with
beaming looks, with animated countenance, with a voice trembling with
emotion, he read his love-song to the fair Geraldine. A murmur of
applause arose when he had read his first sonnet. The king only looked
gloomily, with fixed eyes; the queen alone remained uninterested and
"She is a complete actress," thought Henry Howard, in the madness of his
pain. "Not a muscle of her face stirs; and yet this sonnet must remind
her of the fairest and most sacred moment of our love."
The queen remained unmoved and cold. But had Henry Howard looked at Lady
Jane Douglas, he would have seen how she turned pale and blushed; how
she smiled with rapture, and how, nevertheless, her eyes filled with
Earl Surrey, however, saw nothing but the queen; and the sight of her
made him tremble with rage and pain. His eyes darted lightning: his
countenance glowed with passion; his whole being was in desperate,
enthusiastic excitement. At that moment he would have gladly breathed
out his life at Geraldine's feet, if she would only recognize him--if
she would only have the courage to call him her beloved.
But her smiling calmness, her friendly coolness, brought him to despair.
He crumpled the paper in his hand; the letters danced before his eyes;
he could read no more.
But he would not remain, mute, either. Like the dying swan, he would
breathe out his pain in a last song, and give sound and words to his
despair and his agony. He could no longer read; but he improvised.
Like a glowing stream of lava, the words flowed from his lips; in fiery
dithyrambic, in impassioned hymns, he poured forth his love and pain.
The genius of poesy hovered over him and lighted up his noble and
He was radiantly beautiful in his enthusiasm; and even the queen felt
herself carried away by his words. His plaints of love, his longing
pains, his rapture and his sad fancies, found an echo in her heart. She
understood him; for she felt the same joy, the same sorrow and the same
rapture; only she did not feel all this for him.
But, as we have said, he enchanted her; the current of his passion
carried her away. She wept at his laments; she smiled at his hymns of
When Henry Howard at length ceased, profound silence reigned in the vast
and brilliant hall.
All faces betrayed deep emotion; and this universal silence was the
poet's fairest triumph; for it showed that envy and jealousy were dumb,
and that scorn itself could find no words.
A momentary pause ensued; it resembled that sultry, ominous stillness
which is wont to precede the bursting of a tempest; when Nature stops a
moment in breathless stillness, to gather strength for the uproar of the
It was a significant, an awful pause; but only a few understood its
Lady Jane leaned against the wall, completely shattered and breathless.
She felt that the sword was hanging over their heads, and that it would
destroy her if it struck her beloved.
Earl Douglas and the Bishop of Winchester had involuntarily drawn
near each other, and stood there hand in hand, united for this unholy
struggle; while John Heywood had crept behind the king's throne, and in
his sarcastic manner whispered in his ear some epigrams, that made the
king smile in spite of himself.
But now the queen arose from her seat, and beckoned Henry Howard nearer
"My lord," said she, almost with solemnity, "as a queen and as a woman
I thank you for the noble and sublime lyrics which you have composed in
honor of a woman! And for that the grace of my king has exalted me to be
the first woman in England, it becomes me, in the name of all women, to
return to you my thanks. To the poet is due a reward other than that of
the warrior. To the victor on the battlefield is awarded a laurel crown.
But you have gained a victory not less glorious, for you have conquered
hearts! We acknowledge ourselves vanquished, and in the name of all
these noble women, I proclaim you their knight! In token of which,
accept this rosette, my lord. It entitles you to wear the queen's
colors; it lays you under obligation to be the knight of all women!"
She loosened the rosette from her shoulder, and handed it to the earl.
He had sunk on one knee before her, and already extended his hand to
receive this precious and coveted pledge.
But at this moment the king arose, and, with an imperious gesture, held
back the queen's hand.
"Allow me, my lady," said he, in a voice quivering with rage--"allow
me first to examine this rosette, and convince myself that it is worth
enough to be presented to the noble earl as his sole reward. Let me see
Catharine looked with astonishment into that face convulsed with passion
and fury, but without hesitation she handed him the rosette.
"We are lost!" murmured Earl Surrey, while Earl Douglas and Gardiner
exchanged with each other looks of triumph; and Jane Douglas murmured in
her trembling heart prayers of anxiety and dread, scarcely hearing
the malicious and exultant words which the Duchess of Richmond was
whispering in her ear.
The king held the rosette in his hand and examined it. But his hands
trembled so much that he was unable to unfasten the clasp which held it
He, therefore, handed it to John Heywood. "These diamonds are poor,"
said he, in a curt, dry tone. "Unfasten the clasp, fool; we will replace
it with this pin here. Then will the present gain for the earl a double
value; for it will come at the same time from me and from the queen."
"How gracious you are to-day!" said John Heywood, smiling--"as gracious
as the cat, that plays a little longer with the mouse before she devours
"Unfasten the clasp!" exclaimed the king, in a thundering voice, no
longer able to conceal his rage. Slowly John Heywood unfastened
the clasp from the ribbon. He did it with intentional slowness and
deliberation; he let the king see all his movements, every turn of his
fingers; and it delighted him to hold those who had woven this plot in
dreadful suspense and expectation.
Whilst he appeared perfectly innocent and unembarrassed, his keen,
piercing glance ran over the whole assembly, and he noticed well the
trembling impatience of Gardiner and Earl Douglas; and it did not escape
him how pale Lady Jane was, and how full of expectation were the intent
features of the Duchess of Richmond.
"They are the ones with whom this conspiracy originated," said John
Heywood to himself. "But I will keep silence till I can one day convict
"There, here is the clasp!" said he then aloud to the king. "It stuck as
tightly in the ribbon as malice in the hearts of priests and courtiers!"
The king snatched the ribbon out of his hand, and examined it by drawing
it through his fingers.
"Nothing! nothing at all!" said he, gnashing his teeth; and now,
deceived in his expectations and suppositions, he could no longer muster
strength to withstand that roaring torrent of wrath which overflowed his
heart. The tiger was again aroused in him; he had calmly waited for
the moment when the promised prey would be brought to him; now, when it
seemed to be escaping him, his savage and cruel disposition started up
within him. The tiger panted and thirsted for blood; and that he was not
to get it, made him raging with fury.
With a wild movement he threw the rosette on the ground, and raised his
arm menacingly toward Henry Howard. "Dare not to touch that rosette,"
cried he, in a voice of thunder, "before you have exculpated yourself
from the guilt of which you are accused."
Earl Surrey looked him steadily and boldly in the eye. "Have I been
accused, then?" asked he. "Then I demand, first of all, that I be
confronted with my accusers, and that my fault be named!"
"Ha, traitor! Do you dare to brave me?" yelled the king, stamping
furiously with his foot. "Well, now, I will be your accuser and I will
be your judge!"
"And surely, my king and husband, you will be a righteous judge," said
Catharine, as she inclined imploringly toward the king and grasped his
hand. "You will not condemn the noble Earl Surrey without having heard
him; and if you find him guiltless, you will punish his accusers?"
But this intercession of the queen made the king raging. He threw her
hand from him, and gazed at her with looks of such flaming wrath, that
she involuntarily trembled.
"Traitoress yourself!" yelled he, wildly. "Speak not of innocence--you
who are yourself guilty; and before you dare defend the earl, defend
Catharine rose from her seat and looked with flashing eyes into the
king's face blazing with wrath. "King Henry of England," said she,
solemnly, "you have openly, before your whole court, accused your queen
of a crime. I now demand that you name it!"
She was of wondrous beauty in her proud, hold bearing--in her imposing,
The decisive moment had come, and she was conscious that her life and
her future were struggling with death for the victory.
She looked over to Thomas Seymour, and their eyes met. She saw how he
laid his hand on his sword, and nodded to her a smiling greeting.
"He will defend me; and before he will suffer me to be dragged to the
Tower, he himself will plunge his sword into my breast," thought she,
and a joyous, triumphant assurance filled her whole heart.
She saw nothing but him, who had sworn to die with her when the decisive
moment came. She looked with a smile on the blade which he had
already half drawn from its scabbard; and she hailed it as a dear,
She saw not that Henry Howard also had lain his hand on his sword; that
he, too, was ready for her defence, firmly resolved to slay the king
himself, before his mouth uttered the sentence of death over the queen.
But Lady Jane Douglas saw it. She understood how to read the earl's
countenance; she felt that he was ready to go to death for his beloved;
and it filled her heart at once with woe and rapture.
She, too, was now firmly resolved to follow her heart and her love; and,
forgetting all else besides these, she hastened forward, and was now
standing by Henry Howard.
"Be prudent, Earl Surrey," said she, in a low whisper. "Take your hand
from your sword. The queen, by my mouth, commands you to do so!"
Henry Howard looked at her astonished and surprised; but he let his hand
slip from the hilt of his sword, and again looked toward the queen.
She had repeated her demand; she had once more demanded of the
king--who, speechless and completely overcome with anger, had fallen
back into his seat--to name the crime of which she was accused.
"Now, then, my queen, you demand it, and you shall hear it," cried he.
"You want to know the crime of which you are accused? Answer me then,
my lady! They accuse you of not always staying at night in your
sleeping-room. It is alleged that you sometimes leave it for many hours;
and that none of your women accompanied you when you glided through the
corridors and up the secret stairs to the lonely tower, in which, was
waiting for you your lover, who at the same time entered the tower
through the small street door."
"He knows all!" muttered Henry Howard; and again he laid his hand on his
sword, and was about to approach the queen.
Lady Jane held him back. "Wait for the issue," said she. "There is still
time to die!"
"He knows all!" thought the queen also; and now she felt within herself
the daring courage to risk all, that at least she might not stand there
a traitoress in the eyes of her lover.
"He shall not believe that I have been untrue to him," thought she. "I
will tell all--confess all, that he may know why I went and whither."
"Now answer, my Lady Catharine!" thundered the king. "Answer, and tell
me whether you have been falsely accused. Is it true that you,
eight days ago, in the night between Monday and Tuesday, left your
sleeping-room at the hour of midnight, and went secretly to the lonely
tower? Is it true that you received there a man who is your lover?"
The queen looked at him in angry pride. "Henry, Henry, woe to you, that
you dare thus insult your own wife!" cried she.
"Answer me! You were not on that night in your sleeping-room?"
"No," said Catharine, with dignified composure, "I was not there."
The king sank back in his seat, and a real roar of fury sounded from
his lips. It made the women turn pale, and even the men felt themselves
Catharine alone had not heeded it at all; she alone had heard nothing
save that cry of amazement which Thomas Seymour uttered; and she saw
only the angry and up-braiding looks which he threw across at her. She
answered these looks with a friendly and confident smile, and pressed
both her hands to her heart, as she looked at him.
"I will justify myself before him at least," thought she.
The king had recovered from his first shock. He again raised himself up,
and his countenance now exhibited a fearful, threatening coolness.
"You confess, then," asked he, "that you were not in your sleeping-room
on that night?"
"I have already said so," exclaimed Catharine, impatiently. The king
compressed his lips so violently, that they bled. "And a man was with
you?" asked he--"a man with whom you made an assignation, and whom you
received in the lonely tower?"
"A man was with me. But I did not receive him in the lonely tower; and
it was no assignation."
"Who was that man?" yelled the king. "Answer me! Tell me his name, if
you do not want me to strangle you myself!"
"King Henry, I fear death no longer!" said Catharine, with a
"Who was that man? Tell me his name!" yelled the king once more.
The queen raised herself more proudly, and her defiant look ran over the
"The man," said she, solemnly, "who was with me on that night--he is
"He is named John Heywood!" said this individual; as he seriously and
proudly walked forward from behind the king's throne. "Yes, Henry, your
brother, the fool John Heywood, had on that night the proud honor of
accompanying your consort on her holy errand; but, I assure you, that he
was less like the king, than the king is just now like the fool."
A murmur of surprise ran through the assembly. The king leaned back
in his royal seat speechless. "And now, King Henry," said Catharine,
calmly--"now I will tell you whither I went with John Heywood on that
She was silent, and for a moment leaned back on her seat. She felt that
the looks of all were directed to her; she heard the king's wrathful
groan; she felt her lover's flashing, reproachful glances; she saw the
derisive smile of those haughty ladies, who had never forgiven her--that
she, from a simple baroness, had become queen. But all this made her
only still bolder and more courageous.
She had arrived at the turning-point of her life, where she must risk
everything to avoid sinking into the abyss.
But Lady Jane also had arrived at such a decisive moment of her
existence. She, too, said to herself: "I must at this hour risk all, if
I do not want to lose all." She saw Henry Howard's pale, expectant face.
She knew, if the queen now spoke, the whole web of their conspiracy
would be revealed to him.
She must, therefore, anticipate the queen. She must warn Henry Howard.
"Fear nothing!" whispered she to him. "We were prepared for that. I have
put into her hands the means of escape!"
"Will you now at last speak?" exclaimed the king, quivering with
impatience and rage. "Will you at last tell us where you were on that
"I will tell!" exclaimed Catharine, rising up again boldly and
resolutely "But woe be to those who drive me to this! For I tell you
beforehand, from the accused I will become an accuser who demands
justice, if not before the throne of the King of England, yet before the
throne of the Lord of all kings! King Henry of England, do you ask me
whither I went on that night with John Heywood? I might, perhaps, as
your queen and consort, demand that you put this question to me not
before so many witnesses, but in the quiet of our chamber; but you seek
publicity, and I do not shun it. Well, hear the truth, then, all of
you! On that night, between Monday and Tuesday, I was not in my
sleeping-apartment, because I had a grave and sacred duty to perform;
because a dying woman called on me for help and pity! Would you know, my
lord and husband, who this dying woman was? It was Anne Askew!"
"Anne Askew!" exclaimed the king in astonishment; and his countenance
exhibited a less wrathful expression.
"Anne Askew!" muttered the others; and John Heywood very well saw how
Bishop Gardiner's brow darkened, and how Chancellor Wriothesley turned
pale and cast down his eyes.
"Yes, I was with Anne Askew!" continued the queen--"with Anne Askew, whom
those pious and wise lords yonder had condemned, not so much on account
of her faith, but because they knew that I loved her. Anne Askew was to
die, because Catharine Parr loved her! She was to go to the stake, that
my heart also might burn with fiery pains! And because it was so, I
was obliged to risk everything in order to save her. Oh, my king, say
yourself, did I not owe it to this poor girl to try everything in order
to save her? On my account she was to suffer these tortures. For they
had shamefully stolen from me a letter which Anne Askew, in the distress
of her heart, had addressed to me; and they showed this letter to you in
order to cast suspicion on me and accuse me to you. But your noble heart
repelled the suspicion; and now their wrath fell again on Anne Askew,
and she must suffer, because they did not find me punishable. She must
atone for having dared to write to me. They worked matters with you
so that she was put to the rack. But when my husband gave way to their
urging, yet the noble king remained still awake in him. 'Go,' said he,
'rack her and kill her; but see first whether she will not recant.'"
Henry looked astonished into her noble and defiant face. "Do you know
that?" asked he. "And yet we were alone, and no human being present. Who
could tell you that?"
"When man is no longer able to help, then God undertakes!" said
Catharine solemnly. "It was God who commanded me to go to Anne Askew,
and try whether I could save her. And I went. But though the wife of
a noble and great king, I am still but a weak and timid woman. I was
afraid to tread this gloomy and dangerous path alone; I needed a strong
manly arm to lean upon; and so John Heywood lent me his."
"And you were really with Anne Askew," interposed the king,
thoughtfully--"with that hardened sinner, who despised mercy, and in the
stubbornness of her soul would not be a partaker of the pardon that I
"My lord and husband," said the queen, with tears in her eyes, "she whom
you have just accused stands even now before the throne of the Lord, and
has received from her God the forgiveness of her sins! Therefore, do you
likewise pardon her; and may the flames of the stake, to which yesterday
the noble virgin body of this girl was bound, have consumed also the
wrath and hatred which had been kindled in your heart against her! Anne
Askew passed away like a saint; for she forgave all her enemies and
blessed her tormentors."
"Anne Askew was a damnable sinner, who dared resist the command of her
lord and king!" interrupted Bishop Gardiner, looking daggers at her.
"And dare you maintain, my lord, that you at that time fulfilled the
commands of your royal master simply and exactly?" asked Catharine. "Did
you keep within them with respect to Anne Askew? No! I say; for the king
had not ordered you to torture her; he had not bidden you to lacerate in
blasphemous wrath a noble human form, and distort that likeness of God
into a horrible caricature. And that, my lord, you did! Before God and
your king, I accuse you of it--I, the queen! For you know, my lord and
husband, I was there when Anne Askew was racked. I saw her agony, and
John Heywood saw it with me."
The eyes of all were now directed inquiringly to the king, of whose
ferocity and choler every one expected a violent outbreak.
But this time they were mistaken. The king was so well satisfied to find
his consort clear of the crime laid to her charge, that he willingly
forgave her for having committed a crime of less weighty character.
Besides, it filled him with respect to see his consort confronting her
accusers so boldly and proudly; and he felt toward them just as burning
wrath and hatred as he had before harbored against the queen. He was
pleased that the malignant and persistent persecutors of his fair and
proud wife should now be humbled by her before the eyes of all his
Therefore he looked at her with an imperceptible smile, and said with
deep interest: "But how could this happen, my lady? By what path did you
"That is an inquiry which any one except the king is authorized to make.
King Henry alone knows the way that I went!" said Catharine, with a
John Heywood, who was still standing behind the king's throne, now bent
down close to Henry's ear, and spoke with him a long time in a quick,
The king listened to him attentively; then he murmured so loud that the
bystanders could very well understand him: "By God, she is a spirited
and brave woman; and we should be obliged to confess that, even were she
not our queen!"
"Continue, my lady!" said he then aloud, turning to the queen with
a gracious look. "Relate to me, Catharine, what saw you then in the
"Oh, my king and lord, it horrifies me only to think of it," cried she,
shuddering and turning pale. "I saw a poor young woman who writhed in
fearful agony, and whose staring eyes were raised in mute supplication
to Heaven. She did not beg her tormentors for mercy; she wanted from
them no compassion and no pity; she did not scream and whine from the
pain, though her limbs cracked and her flesh snapped apart like glass;
she raised her clasped hands to God, and her lips murmured low prayers,
which, perhaps, made the angels of heaven weep, but were not able to
touch the hearts of her tormentors. You had ordered her to be racked,
if she would not retract. They did not ask her whether she would do
this--they racked her. But her soul was strong and full of courage;
and, under the tortures of the executioner, her lips remained mute. Let
theologians say and determine whether Anne Askew's faith was a false
one; but this they will not dare deny: that in the noble enthusiasm
of this faith, she was a heroine who at least did not deny her God.
At length, worn out with so much useless exertion, the assistant
executioners discontinued their bloody work, to rest from the tortures
which they had prepared for Anne Askew. The lieutenant of the Tower
declared the work of the rack ended. The highest degrees had been
applied, and they had proved powerless; cruelty was obliged to
acknowledge itself conquered. But the priests of the Church, with savage
vehemence, demanded that she should be racked once more. Dare deny
that, ye lords, whom I behold standing there opposite with faces pale
as death! Yes, my king, the servants of the rack refused to obey the
servants of God; for in the hearts of the hangman's drudges there was
more pity than in the hearts of the priests! And when they refused to
proceed in their bloody work, and when the lieutenant of the Tower, in
virtue of the existing law, declared the racking at an end, then I
saw one of the first ministers of our Church throw aside his sacred
garments; then the priest of God transformed himself into a hangman's
drudge, who, with bloodthirsty delight, lacerated anew the noble mangled
body of the young girl, and more cruel than the attendants of the rack,
unsparingly they broke and dislocated the limbs, which they had
only squeezed in their screws. [Footnote: Burnet's "History of the
Reformation," vol. i, p. 132.] Excuse me, my king, from sketching this
scene of horror still further! Horrified and trembling, I fled from that
frightful place, and returned to my room, shattered and sad at heart."
Catharine ceased, exhausted, and sank back into her seat.
A breathless stillness reigned around. All faces were pale and
colorless. Gardiner and Wriothesley stood with their eyes fixed, gloomy
and defiant, expecting that the king's wrath would crush and destroy
But the king scarcely thought of them; he thought only of his fair young
queen, whose boldness inspired him with respect, and whose innocence and
purity filled him with a proud and blissful joy.
He was, therefore, very much inclined to forgive those who in reality
had committed no offence further than this, that they had carried out a
little too literally and strictly the orders of their master.
A long pause had ensued--a pause full of expectation and anxiety for all
who were assembled in the hall. Only Catharine reclined calmly in her
chair, and with beaming eyes looked across to Thomas Seymour, whose
handsome countenance betrayed to her the gratification and satisfaction
which he felt at this clearing up of her mysterious night-wandering.
At last the king arose, and, bowing low before his consort, said in
a loud, full-toned voice: "I have deeply and bitterly injured you, my
noble wife; and as I publicly accused you, I will also publicly ask your
forgiveness! You have a right to be angry with me; for it behooved me,
above all, to believe with unshaken firmness in the truth and honor of
my wife. My lady, you have made a brilliant vindication of yourself; and
I, the king, first of all bow before you, and beg that you may forgive
me and impose some penance."
"Leave it to me, queen, to impose a penance on this repentant sinner!"
cried John Hey wood, gayly. "Your majesty is much too magnanimous, much
too timid, to treat him as roughly as my brother King Henry deserves.
Leave it to me, then, to punish him; for only the fool is wise enough to
punish the king after his deserts."
Catharine nodded to him with a grateful smile. She comprehended
perfectly John Heywood's delicacy and nice tact; she apprehended that he
wanted by a joke to relieve her from her painful situation, and put an
end to the king's public acknowledgment, which at the same time must
turn to her bitter reproach--bitter, though it were only self-reproach.
"Well," said she, smiling, "what punishment, then, will you impose upon
"The punishment of recognizing the fool as his equal!"
"God is my witness that I do so!" cried the king, almost solemnly.
"Fools we are, one and all, and we fall short of the renown which we
have before men."
"But my sentence is not yet complete, brother!" continued John Heywood.
"I furthermore give sentence, that you also forthwith allow me to recite
my poem to you, and that you open your ears in order to hear what John
Heywood, the wise, has indited!"
"You have, then, fulfilled my command, and composed a new interlude?"
cried the king, vivaciously.
"No interlude, but a wholly novel, comical affair--a play full of
lampoons and jokes, at which your eyes are to overflow, yet not with
weeping, but with laughter. To the right noble Earl of Surrey belongs
the proud honor of having presented to our happy England her first
sonnets. Well, now, I also will give her something new. I present her
the first comedy; and as he sings the beauty of his Geraldine, so I
celebrate the fame of Gammer Gurton's sewing-needle--Gammer Gurton's
needle--so my piece is called; and you, King Henry, shall listen to it
as a punishment for your sins!"
"I will do so," cried the king, cheerfully, "provided you permit it,
Kate! But before I do so, I make also one more condition--a condition
for you, queen! Kate, you have disdained to impose a penance on me, but
grant me at least the pleasure of being allowed to fulfil some wish of
yours! Make me a request, that I may grant it you!"
"Well, then, my lord and king," said Catharine with a charming smile,
"I beg you to think no more of the incidents of this day, and to forgive
those whom I accused, only because their accusation was my vindication.
They who brought charges against me have in this hour felt contrition
for their own fault. Let that suffice, king, and forgive them, as I do!"
"You are a noble and great woman, Kate!" cried the king; and, as
his glance swept over toward Gardiner with an almost contemptuous
expression, he continued: "Your request is granted. But woe to them who
shall dare accuse you again! And have you nothing further to demand,
"Nay, one thing more, my lord and husband!" She leaned nearer to the
king's ear, and whispered: "They have also accused your noblest and
most faithful servant; they have accused Cranmer. Condemn him not, king,
without having heard him; and if I may beg a favor of you, it is this:
talk with Cranmer yourself. Tell him of what they have charged him, and
hear his vindication."
"It shall be so, Kate," said the king, "and you shall be present! But
let this be a secret between us, Kate, and we will carry it out
in perfect silence. And now, then, John Heywood, let us hear your
composition; and woe to you, if it does not accomplish what you
promised--if it does not make us laugh! For you well know that you are
then inevitably exposed to the rods of our injured ladies."
"They shall have leave to whip me to death, if I do not make you laugh!"
cried John Heywood, gayly, as he drew out his manuscript.
Soon the hall rang again with loud laughter; and in the universal
merriment no one observed that Bishop Gardiner and Earl Douglas slipped
In the anteroom without, they stopped and looked at each other long and
silently; their countenances expressed the wrath and bitterness which
filled them; and they understood this mute language of their features.
"She must die!" said Gardiner in a short and quick tone. "She has for
once escaped from our snares; we will tie them all the tighter next
"And I already hold in my hand the threads out of which we will form
these snares," said Earl Douglas. "We have to-day falsely accused her
of a love-affair. When we do it again, we shall speak the truth. Did you
see the looks that Catharine exchanged with the heretical Earl Sudley,
"I saw them, earl!"
"For these looks she will die, my lord. The queen loves Thomas Seymour,
and this love will be her death."
"Amen!" said Bishop Gardiner, solemnly, as he raised his eyes devoutly
to heaven. "Amen! The queen has grievously and bitterly injured us
to-day; she has insulted and abused us before all the court. We will
requite her for it some day! The torture-chamber, which she has depicted
in such lively colors, may yet one day open for her, too--not that she
may behold another's agonies, but that she may suffer agonies herself.
We shall one day avenge ourselves!"
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