Accession To The Throne


Mary's unhappy reign.--Unrequited love.--Mary's sufferings.--Her

religious principles.--Progress of Mary's Catholic zeal.--Her

moderation at first.--Mary's terrible persecution of the

Protestants.--Burning at the stake.--The title of Bloody given to

Mary.--Mary and Elizabeth reconciled.--Scenes of festivity.--The war

with France.--Loss of Calais.--Murmurs of the English.--King of

den's proposal to Elizabeth.--Mary's energy.--Mary's privy council

alarmed.--Their perplexity.--Uncertainty about Elizabeth's future

course.--Her cautious policy.--Death of Mary.--Announcement to

Parliament.--Elizabeth proclaimed.--Joy of the people.--The Te

Deum.--Elizabeth's emotions.--Cecil made secretary of state.--His

faithfulness.--Elizabeth's charge to Cecil.--Her journey to

London.--Elizabeth's triumphant entrance into the Tower.--The

coronation.--Pageants in the streets.--Devices.--Presentation of the

Bible.--The heavy purse.--The sprig of rosemary.--The wedding ring.

If it were the story of Mary instead of that of Elizabeth that we were

following, we should have now to pause and draw a very melancholy

picture of the scenes which darkened the close of the queen's

unfortunate and unhappy history. Mary loved her husband, but she could

not secure his love in return. He treated her with supercilious coldness

and neglect, and evinced, from time to time, a degree of interest in

other ladies which awakened her jealousy and anger. Of all the terrible

convulsions to which the human soul is subject, there is not one which

agitates it more deeply than the tumult of feeling produced by the

mingling of resentment and love. Such a mingling, or, rather, such a

conflict, between passions apparently inconsistent with each other, is

generally considered not possible by those who have never experienced

it. But it is possible. It is possible to be stung with a sense of the

ingratitude, and selfishness, and cruelty of an object, which, after

all, the heart will persist in clinging to with the fondest affection.

Vexation and anger, a burning sense of injury, and desire for revenge,

on the one hand, and feelings of love, resistless and uncontrollable,

and bearing, in their turn, all before them, alternately get possession

of the soul, harrowing and devastating it in their awful conflict, and

even sometimes reigning over it, for a time, in a temporary but dreadful

calm, like that of two wrestlers who pause a moment, exhausted in a

mortal combat, but grappling each other with deadly energy all the time,

while they are taking breath for a renewal of the conflict. Queen Mary,

in one of these paroxysms, seized a portrait of her husband and tore it

into shreds. The reader, who has his or her experience in affairs of the

heart yet to come, will say, perhaps, her love for him then must have

been all gone. No; it was at its height. We do not tear the portraits of

those who are indifferent to us.

At the beginning of her reign, and, in fact, during all the previous

periods of her life, Mary had been an honest and conscientious Catholic.

She undoubtedly truly believed that the Christian Church ought to be

banded together in one great communion, with the Pope of Rome as its

spiritual head, and that her father had broken away from this

communion--which was, in fact, strictly true--merely to obtain a pretext

for getting released from her mother. How natural, under such

circumstances, that she should have desired to return. She commenced,

immediately on her accession, a course of measures to bring the nation

back to the Roman Catholic communion. She managed very prudently and

cautiously at first--especially while the affair of her marriage was

pending--seemingly very desirous of doing nothing to exasperate those

who were of the Protestant faith, or even to awaken their opposition.

After she was married, however, her desire to please her Catholic

husband, and his widely-extended and influential circle of Catholic

friends on the Continent, made her more eager to press forward the work

of putting down the Reformation in England; and as her marriage was now

effected, she was less concerned about the consequences of any

opposition which she might excite. Then, besides, her temper, never very

sweet, was sadly soured by her husband's treatment of her. She vented

her ill will upon those who would not yield to her wishes in respect to

their religious faith. She caused more and more severe laws to be

passed, and enforced them by more and more severe penalties. The more

she pressed these violent measures, the more the fortitude and

resolution of those who suffered from them were aroused. And, on the

other hand, the more they resisted, the more determined she became that

she would compel them to submit. She went on from one mode of coercion

to another, until she reached the last possible point, and inflicted the

most dreadful physical suffering which it is possible for man to inflict

upon his fellow-man.

This worst and most terrible injury is to burn the living victim in a

fire. That a woman could ever order this to be done would seem to be

incredible. Queen Mary, however, and her government, were so determined

to put down, at all hazards, all open disaffection to the Catholic

cause, that they did not give up the contest until they had burned

nearly three hundred persons by fire, of whom more than fifty were

women, and four were children! This horrible persecution was, however,

of no avail. Dissentients increased faster than they could be burned;

and such dreadful punishments became at last so intolerably odious to

the nation that they were obliged to desist, and then the various

ministers of state concerned in them attempted to throw off the blame

upon each other. The English nation have never forgiven Mary for these

atrocities. They gave her the name of Bloody Mary at the time, and she

has retained it to the present day. In one of the ancient histories of

the realm, at the head of the chapter devoted to Mary, there is placed,

as an appropriate emblem of the character of her reign, the picture of a

man writhing helplessly at a stake, with the flames curling around him,

and a ferocious-looking soldier standing by, stirring up the fire.

The various disappointments, vexations, and trials which Mary endured

toward the close of her life, had one good effect; they softened the

animosity which she had felt toward Elizabeth, and in the end something

like a friendship seemed to spring up between the sisters. Abandoned by

her husband, and looked upon with dislike or hatred by her subjects, and

disappointed in all her plans, she seemed to turn at last to Elizabeth

for companionship and comfort. The sisters visited each other. First

Elizabeth went to London to visit the queen, and was received with great

ceremony and parade. Then the queen went to Hatfield to visit the

princess, attended by a large company of ladies and gentlemen of the

court, and several days were spent there in festivities and rejoicings.

There were plays in the palace, and a bear-baiting in the court-yard,

and hunting in the park, and many other schemes of pleasure. This

renewal of friendly intercourse between the queen and the princess

brought the latter gradually out of her retirement. Now that the queen

began to evince a friendly spirit toward her, it was safe for others to

show her kindness and to pay her attention. The disposition to do this

increased rapidly as Mary's health gradually declined, and it began to

be understood that she would not live long, and that, consequently,

Elizabeth would soon be called to the throne.

The war which Mary had been drawn into with France, by Philip's threat

that he would never see her again, proved very disastrous. The town of

Calais, which is opposite to Dover, across the straits, and, of course,

on the French side of the channel, had been in the possession of the

English for two hundred years. It was very gratifying to English pride

to hold possession of such a stronghold on the French shore; but now

every thing seemed to go against Mary. Calais was defended by a citadel

nearly as large as the town itself, and was deemed impregnable. In

addition to this, an enormous English force was concentrated there. The

French general, however, contrived, partly by stratagem, and partly by

overpowering numbers of troops, and ships, and batteries of cannon, to

get possession of the whole. The English nation were indignant at this

result. Their queen and her government, so energetic in imprisoning and

burning her own subjects at home, were powerless, it seemed, in coping

with their enemies abroad. Murmurs of dissatisfaction were heard every

where, and Mary sank down upon her sick bed overwhelmed with

disappointment, vexation, and chagrin. She said that she should die, and

that if, after her death, they examined her body, they would find Calais

like a load upon her heart.

In the mean time, it must have been Elizabeth's secret wish that she

would die, since her death would release the princess from all the

embarrassments and restraints of her position, and raise her at once to

the highest pinnacle of honor and power. She remained, however, quietly

at Hatfield, acting in all things in a very discreet and cautious

manner. At one time she received proposals from the King of Sweden that

she would accept of his son as her husband. She asked the embassador if

he had communicated the affair to Mary. On his replying that he had not,

Elizabeth said that she could not entertain at all any such question,

unless her sister were first consulted and should give her approbation.

She acted on the same principles in every thing, being very cautious to

give Mary and her government no cause of complaint against her, and

willing to wait patiently until her own time should come.

Though Mary's disappointments and losses filled her mind with anguish

and suffering, they did not soften her heart. She seemed to grow more

cruel and vindictive the more her plans and projects failed. Adversity

vexed and irritated, instead of calming and subduing her. She revived

her persecutions of the Protestants. She fitted out a fleet of a hundred

and twenty ships to make a descent upon the French coast, and attempt to

retrieve her fallen fortunes there. She called Parliament together and

asked for more supplies. All this time she was confined to her sick

chamber, but not considered in danger. The Parliament were debating the

question of supplies. Her privy council were holding daily meetings to

carry out the plans and schemes which she still continued to form, and

all was excitement and bustle in and around the court, when one day the

council was thunderstruck by an announcement that she was dying.

They knew very well that her death would be a terrible blow to them.

They were all Catholics, and had been Mary's instruments in the terrible

persecutions with which she had oppressed the Protestant faith. With

Mary's death, of course they would fall. A Protestant princess was

ready, at Hatfield, to ascend the throne. Every thing would be changed,

and there was even danger that they might, in their turn, be sent to the

stake, in retaliation for the cruelties which they had caused others to

suffer. They made arrangements to have Mary's death, whenever it should

take place, concealed for a few hours, till they could consider what

they should do.

There was nothing that they could do. There was now no other

considerable claimant to the throne but Elizabeth, except Mary Queen of

Scots, who was far away in France. She was a Catholic, it was true; but

to bring her into the country and place her upon the throne seemed to be

a hopeless undertaking. Queen Mary's counselors soon found that they

must give up their cause in despair. Any attempt to resist Elizabeth's

claims would be high treason, and, of course, if unsuccessful, would

bring the heads of all concerned in it to the block.

Besides, it was not certain that Elizabeth would act decidedly as a

Protestant. She had been very prudent and cautious during Mary's reign,

and had been very careful never to manifest any hostility to the

Catholics. She never had acted as Mary had done on the occasion of her

brother's funeral, when she refused even to countenance with her

presence the national service because it was under Protestant forms.

Elizabeth had always accompanied Mary to mass whenever occasion

required; she had always spoken respectfully of the Catholic faith; and

once she asked Mary to lend her some Catholic books, in order that she

might inform herself more fully on the subject of the principles of the

Roman faith. It is true, she acted thus not because there was any real

leaning in her mind toward the Catholic religion; it was all merely a

wise and sagacious policy. Surrounded by difficulties and dangers as she

was during Mary's reign, her only hope of safety was in passing as

quietly as possible along, and managing warily, so as to keep the

hostility which was burning secretly against her from breaking out into

an open flame. This was her object in retiring so much from the court

and from all participation in public affairs, in avoiding all religious

and political contests, and spending her time in the study of Greek, and

Latin, and philosophy. The consequence was, that when Mary died, nobody

knew certainly what course Elizabeth would pursue. Nobody had any strong

motive for opposing her succession. The council, therefore, after a

short consultation, concluded to do nothing but simply to send a message

to the House of Lords, announcing to them the unexpected death of the


The House of Lords, on receiving this intelligence, sent for the Commons

to come into their hall, as is usual when any important communication is

to be made to them either by the Lords themselves or by the sovereign.

The chancellor, who is the highest civil officer of the kingdom in

respect to rank, and who presides in the House of Lords, clothed in a

magnificent antique costume, then rose and announced to the Commons,

standing before him, the death of the sovereign. There was a moment's

solemn pause, such as propriety on the occasion of an announcement like

this required, all thoughts being, too, for a moment turned to the

chamber where the body of the departed queen was lying. But the

sovereignty was no longer there. The mysterious principle had fled with

the parting breath, and Elizabeth, though wholly unconscious of it, had

been for several hours the queen. The thoughts, therefore, of the august

and solemn assembly lingered but for a moment in the royal palace, which

had now lost all its glory; they soon turned spontaneously, and with

eager haste, to the new sovereign at Hatfield, and the lofty arches of

the Parliament hall rung with loud acclamations, "God save Queen

Elizabeth, and grant her a long and happy reign."

The members of the Parliament went forth immediately to proclaim the new

queen. There are two principal places where it was then customary to

proclaim the English sovereigns. One of these was before the royal

palace at Westminster, and the other in the city of London, at a very

public place called the Great Cross at Cheapside. The people assembled

in great crowds at these points to witness the ceremony, and received

the announcement which the heralds made, with the most ardent

expressions of joy. The bells were every where rung; tables were spread

in the streets, and booths erected, bonfires and illuminations were

prepared for the evening, and every thing indicated a deep and universal


In fact, this joy was so strongly expressed as to be even in some degree

disrespectful to the memory of the departed queen. There is a famous

ancient Latin hymn which has long been sung in England and on the

Continent of Europe on occasions of great public rejoicing. It is called

the Te Deum, or sometimes the Te Deum Laudamus. These last are the

three Latin words with which the hymn commences, and mean, Thee, God,

we praise. They sung the Te Deum in the churches of London on the

Sunday after Mary died.

In the mean time, messengers from the council proceeded with all speed

to Hatfield, to announce to Elizabeth the death of her sister, and her

own accession to the sovereign power. The tidings, of course, filled

Elizabeth's mind with the deepest emotions. The oppressive sense of

constraint and danger which she had endured as her daily burden for so

many years, was lifted suddenly from her soul. She could not but

rejoice, though she was too much upon her guard to express her joy. She

was overwhelmed with a profound agitation, and, kneeling down, she

exclaimed in Latin, "It is the Lord's doing, and it is wonderful in our


Several of the members of Mary's privy council repaired immediately to

Hatfield. The queen summoned them to attend her, and in their presence

appointed her chief secretary of state. His name was Sir William Cecil.

He was a man of great learning and ability, and he remained in office

under Elizabeth for forty years. He became her chief adviser and

instrument, an able, faithful, and indefatigable servant and friend

during almost the whole of her reign. His name is accordingly

indissolubly connected with that of Elizabeth in all the political

events which occurred while she continued upon the throne, and it will,

in consequence, very frequently occur in the sequel of this history. He

was now about forty years of age. Elizabeth was twenty-five.

Elizabeth had known Cecil long before. He had been a faithful and true

friend to her in her adversity. He had been, in many cases, a

confidential adviser, and had maintained a secret correspondence with

her in certain trying periods of her life. She had resolved, doubtless,

to make him her chief secretary of state so soon as she should succeed

to the throne. And now that the time had arrived, she instated him

solemnly in his office. In so doing, she pronounced, in the hearing of

the other members of the council, the following charge:

"I give you this charge that you shall be of my privy

council, and content yourself to take pains for me and my

realm. This judgment I have of you, that you will not be

corrupted with any gift; and that you will be faithful to

the state; and that, without respect of my private will, you

will give me that counsel that you think best; and that, if

you shall know any thing necessary to be declared to me of

secrecy you shall show it to myself only; and assure

yourself I will not fail to keep taciturnity therein. And

therefore herewith I charge you."

It was about a week after the death of Mary before the arrangements were

completed for Elizabeth's journey to London, to take possession of the

castles and palaces which pertain there to the English sovereigns. She

was followed on this journey by a train of about a thousand attendants,

all nobles or personages of high rank, both gentlemen and ladies. She

went first to a palace called the Charter House, near London, where

she stopped until preparations could be made for her formal and public

entrance into the Tower; not, as before, through the Traitors' Gate, a

prisoner, but openly, through the grand entrance, in the midst of

acclamations as the proud and applauded sovereign of the mighty realm

whose capital the ancient fortress was stationed to defend. The streets

through which the gorgeous procession was to pass were spread with fine,

smooth gravel; bands of musicians were stationed at intervals, and

decorated arches, and banners, and flags, with countless devices of

loyalty and welcome, and waving handkerchiefs, greeted her all the way.

Heralds and other great officers, magnificently dressed, and mounted on

horses richly caparisoned, rode before her, announcing her approach,

with trumpets and proclamations; while she followed in the train,

mounted upon a beautiful horse, the object of universal homage. Thus

Elizabeth entered the Tower; and inasmuch as forgetting her friends is a

fault with which she can not justly be charged, we may hope, at least,

that one of the first acts which she performed, after getting

established in the royal apartments, was to send for and reward the

kind-hearted child who had been reprimanded for bringing her the


The coronation, when the time arrived for it, was very splendid. The

queen went in state in a sumptuous chariot, preceded by trumpeters and

heralds in armor, and accompanied by a long train of noblemen, barons,

and gentlemen, and also of ladies, all most richly dressed in crimson

velvet, the trappings of the horses being of the same material. The

people of London thronged all the streets through which she was to pass,

and made the air resound with shouts and acclamations. There were

triumphal arches erected here and there on the way, with a great variety

of odd and quaint devices, and a child stationed upon each, who

explained the devices to Elizabeth as she passed, in English verse,

written for the occasion. One of these pageants was entitled "The Seat

of worthy Governance." There was a throne, supported by figures which

represented the cardinal virtues, such as Piety, Wisdom, Temperance,

Industry, Truth, and beneath their feet were the opposite vices,

Superstition, Ignorance, Intemperance, Idleness, and Falsehood: these

the virtues were trampling upon. On the throne was a representation of

Elizabeth. At one place were eight personages dressed to represent the

eight beatitudes pronounced by our Savior in his sermon on the

Mount--the meek, the merciful, &c. Each of these qualities was

ingeniously ascribed to Elizabeth. This could be done with much more

propriety then than in subsequent years. In another place, an ancient

figure, representing Time, came out of a cave which had been

artificially constructed with great ingenuity, leading his daughter,

whose name was Truth. Truth had an English Bible in her hands, which she

presented to Elizabeth as she passed. This had a great deal of meaning;

for the Catholic government of Mary had discouraged the circulation of

the Scriptures in the vernacular tongue. When the procession arrived in

the middle of the city, some officers of the city government approached

the queen's chariot, and delivered to her a present of a very large and

heavy purse filled with gold. The queen had to employ both hands in

lifting it in. It contained an amount equal in value to two or three

thousand dollars.

The queen was very affable and gracious to all the people on the way.

Poor women would come up to her carriage and offer her flowers, which

she would very condescendingly accept. Several times she stopped her

carriage when she saw that any one wished to speak with her, or had

something to offer; and so great was the exaltation of a queen in those

days, in the estimation of mankind, that these acts were considered by

all the humble citizens of London as acts of very extraordinary

affability, and they awakened universal enthusiasm. There was one branch

of rosemary given to the queen by a poor woman in Fleet Street; the

queen put it up conspicuously in the carriage, where it remained all the

way, watched by ten thousand eyes, till it got to Westminster.

The coronation took place at Westminster on the following day. The crown

was placed upon the young maiden's head in the midst of a great throng

of ladies and gentlemen, who were all superbly dressed, and who made the

vast edifice in which the service was performed ring with their

acclamations and their shouts of "Long live the Queen!" During the

ceremonies, Elizabeth placed a wedding ring upon her finger with great

formality, to denote that she considered the occasion as the celebration

of her espousal to the realm of England; she was that day a bride, and

should never have, she said, any other husband. She kept this, the only

wedding ring she ever wore, upon her finger, without once removing it,

for more than forty years.