Elizabeth In The Tower


Elizabeth's position.--Legitimacy of Mary and Elizabeth's birth.--Mary

and Elizabeth's differences.--Courteney's long imprisonment.--Mary's

attentions to Courteney.--Courteney's attentions to Elizabeth.--Mary's

plan to get Elizabeth in her power.--Elizabeth's wariness.--Wyatt

accuses Elizabeth.--Her seizure.--Elizabeth borne in a litter.--She is

examined and released.--Elizabeth again arrested.-
Her letter to

Mary.--Situation of the Tower.--The Traitors' Gate.--Elizabeth conveyed

to the Tower.--She is landed at the Traitors' Gate.--Elizabeth's

reception at the Tower.--Her unwillingness to enter.--Elizabeth's

indignation and grief.--She is closely imprisoned.--Elizabeth in the

garden.--The little child and the flowers.--Elizabeth greatly

alarmed.--Her removal from the Tower.--Elizabeth's fears.--Mary's

designs.--Elizabeth taken to Richmond.--Mary's plan for

marrying her.--Elizabeth's journey to Woodstock.--Christmas

festivities.--Elizabeth persists in her innocence.--The torch-light

visit.--Reconciliation between Elizabeth and Mary.--Elizabeth's release.

The imprisonment of Queen Elizabeth in the Tower, which was briefly

alluded to in the last chapter, deserves a more full narration than was

possible to give to it there. She had retired from court some time

before the difficulties about the Spanish match arose. It is true that

she took sides with Mary in the contest with Northumberland and the

friends of Jane Grey, and she shared her royal sister's triumph in the

pomp and parade of the coronation; but, after all, she and Mary could

not possibly be very good friends. The marriages of their respective

mothers could not both have been valid. Henry the Eighth was so

impatient that he could not wait for a divorce from Catharine before he

married Anne Boleyn. The only way to make the latter marriage legal,

therefore, was to consider the former one null and void from the

beginning, and if the former one was not thus null and void, the latter

must be so. If Henry had waited for a divorce, then both marriages might

have been valid, each for the time of its own continuance, and both the

princesses might have been lawful heirs; but as it was, neither of them

could maintain her own claims to be considered a lawful daughter,

without denying, by implication at least, those of the other. They were

therefore, as it were, natural enemies. Though they might be outwardly

civil to each other, it was not possible that there could be any true

harmony or friendship between them.

A circumstance occurred, too, soon after Mary's accession to the throne,

which resulted in openly alienating the feelings of the two ladies from

each other. There was a certain prisoner in the Tower of London, a

gentleman of high rank and great consideration, named Courteney, now

about twenty-six years of age, who had been imprisoned in the Tower by

King Henry the Eighth when he was only twelve years old, on account of

some political offenses of his father! He had thus been a close prisoner

for fourteen years at Mary's accession; but Mary released him. It was

found, when he returned to society again, that he had employed his

solitary hours in cultivating his mind, acquiring knowledge, and

availing himself of all the opportunities for improvement which his

situation afforded, and that he came forth an intelligent,

accomplished, and very agreeable man. The interest which his appearance

and manners excited was increased by the sympathy naturally felt for the

sufferings that he had endured. In a word, he became a general favorite.

The rank of his family was high enough for Mary to think of him for her

husband, for this was before the Spanish match was thought of. Mary

granted him a title, and large estates, and showed him many other

favors, and, as every body supposed, tried very hard to make an

impression on his heart. Her efforts were, however, vain. Courteney gave

an obvious preference to Elizabeth, who was young then, at least, if not

beautiful. This successful rivalry on the part of her sister filled the

queen's heart with resentment and envy, and she exhibited her chagrin by

so many little marks of neglect and incivility, that Elizabeth's

resentment was roused in its turn, and she asked permission to retire

from court to her residence in the country. Mary readily gave the

permission, and thus it happened that when Wyatt's rebellion first broke

out, as described in the last chapter, Elizabeth was living in

retirement and seclusion at Ashridge, an estate of hers at some distance

west of London. As to Courteney, Mary found some pretext or other for

sending him back again to his prison in the Tower.

Mary was immediately afraid that the malcontents would join with

Elizabeth and attempt to put forward her name and her claims to the

crown, which, if they were to do, it would make their movement very

formidable. She was impressed immediately with the idea that it was of

great importance to get Elizabeth back again into her power. The most

probable way of succeeding in doing this, she thought, was to write her

a kind and friendly letter, inviting her to return. She accordingly

wrote such a letter. She said in it that certain evil-disposed persons

were plotting some disturbances in the kingdom, and that she thought

that Elizabeth was not safe where she was. She urged her, therefore, to

return, saying that she should be truly welcome, and should be protected

against all danger if she would come.

An invitation from a queen is a command, and Elizabeth would have felt

bound to obey this summons, but she was sick when it came. At least she

was not well, and she was not much disposed to underrate her sickness

for the sake of being able to travel on this occasion. The officers of

her household made out a formal certificate to the effect that Elizabeth

was not able to undertake such a journey.

In the mean time Wyatt's rebellion broke out; he marched to London, was

entrapped there and taken prisoner, as is related at length in the last

chapter. In his confessions he implicated the Princess Elizabeth, and

also Courteney, and Mary's government then determined that they must

secure Elizabeth's person at all events, sick or well. They sent,

therefore, three gentlemen as commissioners, with a troop of horse to

attend them, to bring her to London. They carried the queen's litter

with them, to bring the princess upon it in case she should be found

unable to travel in any other way.

This party arrived at Ashridge at ten o'clock at night. They insisted on

being admitted at once into the chamber of Elizabeth, and there they

made known their errand. Elizabeth was terrified; she begged not to be

moved, as she was really too sick to go. They called in some physicians,

who certified that she could be moved without danger to her life. The

next morning they put her upon the litter, a sort of covered bed, formed

like a palanquin, and borne, like a palanquin, by men. It was

twenty-nine miles to London, and it took the party four days to reach

the city, they moved so slowly. This circumstance is mentioned sometimes

as showing how sick Elizabeth must have been. But the fact is, there was

no reason whatever for any haste. Elizabeth was now completely in Mary's

power, and it could make no possible difference how long she was upon

the road.

The litter passed along the roads in great state. It was a princess that

they were bearing. As they approached London, a hundred men in handsome

uniforms went before, and an equal number followed. A great many people

came out from the city to meet the princess, as a token of respect. This

displeased Mary, but it could not well be prevented or punished. On

their arrival they took Elizabeth to one of the palaces at Westminster,

called Whitehall. She was examined by Mary's privy council. Nothing was

proved against her, and, as the rebellion seemed now wholly at an end,

she was at length released, and thus ended her first durance as a

political prisoner.

It happened, however, that other persons implicated in Wyatt's plot,

when examined, made charges against Elizabeth in respect to it, and

Queen Mary sent another force and arrested her again. She was taken now

to a famous royal palace, called Hampton Court, which is situated on the

Thames, a few miles above the city. She brought many of the officers of

her household and of her personal attendants with her; but one of the

queen's ministers, accompanied by two other officers, came soon after,

and dismissed all her own attendants, and placed persons in the service

of the queen in their place. They also set a guard around the palace,

and then left the princess, for the night, a close prisoner, and yet

without any visible signs of coercion, for all these guards might be

guards of honor.

The next day some officers came again, and told her that it had been

decided to send her to the Tower, and that a barge was ready at the

river to convey her. She was very much agitated and alarmed, and begged

to be allowed to send a letter to her sister before they took her away.

One of the officers insisted that she should have the privilege, and the

other that she should not. The former conquered in the contest, and

Elizabeth wrote the letter and sent it. It contained an earnest and

solemn disavowal of all participation in the plots which she had been

charged with encouraging, and begged Mary to believe that she was

innocent, and allow her to be released.

The letter did no good. Elizabeth was taken into the barge and conveyed

in a very private manner down the river. Hampton Court is above London,

several miles, and the Tower is just below the city. There are several

entrances to this vast castle, some of them by stairs from the river.

Among these is one by which prisoners accused of great political crimes

were usually taken in, and which is called the Traitors' Gate. There was

another entrance, also, from the river, by which a more honorable

admission to the fortress might be attained. The Tower was not solely a

prison. It was often a place of retreat for kings and queens from any

sudden danger, and was frequently occupied by them as a somewhat

permanent residence. There were a great number of structures within the

walls, in some of which royal apartments were fitted up with great

splendor. Elizabeth had often been in the Tower as a resident or a

visitor, and thus far there was nothing in the circumstances of the case

to forbid the supposition that they might be taking her there as a guest

or resident now. She was anxious and uneasy, it is true, but she was not

certain that she was regarded as a prisoner.

In the mean time, the barge, with the other boats in attendance, passed

down the river in the rain, for it was a stormy day, a circumstance

which aided the authorities in their effort to convey their captive to

her gloomy prison without attracting the attention of the populace.

Besides, it was the day of some great religious festival, when the

people were generally in the churches. This day had been chosen on that

very account. The barge and the boats came down the river, therefore,

without attracting much attention; they approached the landing-place at

last, and stopped at the flight of steps leading up from the water to

the Traitors' Gate.

Elizabeth declared that she was no traitor, and that she would not be

landed there. The nobleman who had charge of her told her simply, in

reply, that she could not have her choice of a place to land. At the

same time, he offered her his cloak to protect her from the rain in

passing from the barge to the castle gate. Umbrellas had not been

invented in those days. Elizabeth threw the cloak away from her in

vexation and anger. She found, however, that it was of no use to resist.

She could not choose. She stepped from the barge out upon the stairs in

the rain, saying, as she did so, "Here lands as true and faithful a

subject as ever landed a prisoner at these stairs. Before thee, O God, I

speak it, having now no friends but thee alone."

A large company of the warders and keepers of the castle had been drawn

up at the Traitors' Gate to receive her, as was customary on occasions

when prisoners of high rank were to enter the Tower. As these men were

always dressed in uniform of a peculiar antique character, such a parade

of them made quite an imposing appearance. Elizabeth asked what it

meant. They told her that that was the customary mode of receiving a

prisoner. She said that if it was, she hoped that they would dispense

with the ceremony in her case, and asked that, for her sake, the men

might be dismissed from such attendance in so inclement a season. The

men blessed her for her goodness, and kneeled down and prayed that God

would preserve her.

She was extremely unwilling to go into the prison. As they approached

the part of the edifice where she was to be confined, through the

court-yard of the Tower, she stopped and sat down upon a stone, perhaps

a step, or the curb stone of a walk. The lieutenant urged her to go in

out of the cold and wet. "Better sitting here than in a worse place,"

she replied, "for God knoweth whither you are bringing me." However, she

rose and went on. She entered the prison, was conducted to her room, and

the doors were locked and bolted upon her.

Elizabeth was kept closely imprisoned for a month; after that, some

little relaxation in the strictness of her seclusion was allowed.

Permission was very reluctantly granted to her to walk every day in the

royal apartments, which were now unoccupied, so that there was no

society to be found there, but it afforded her a sort of pleasure to

range through them for recreation and exercise. But this privilege could

not be accorded without very strict limitations and conditions. Two

officers of the Tower and three women had to attend her; the windows,

too, were shut, and she was not permitted to go and look out at them.

This was rather melancholy recreation, it must be allowed, but it was

better than being shut up all day in a single apartment, bolted and


There was a small garden within the castle not far from the prison, and

after some time Elizabeth was permitted to walk there. The gates and

doors, however, were kept carefully closed, and all the prisoners,

whose rooms looked into it from the surrounding buildings, were closely

watched by their respective keepers, while Elizabeth was in the garden,

to prevent their having any communication with her by looks or signs.

There were a great many persons confined at this time, who had been

arrested on charges connected with Wyatt's rebellion, and the

authorities seem to have been very specially vigilant to prevent the

possibility of Elizabeth's having communication with any of them. There

was a little child of five years of age who used to come and visit

Elizabeth in her room, and bring her flowers. He was the son of one of

the subordinate officers of the Tower. It was, however, at last

suspected that he was acting as a messenger between Elizabeth and

Courteney. Courteney, it will be recollected, had been sent by Mary back

to the Tower again, so that he and Elizabeth were now suffering the same

hard fate in neighboring cells. When the boy was suspected of bearing

communications between these friends and companions in suffering, he was

called before an officer and closely examined. His answers were all open

and childlike, and gave no confirmation to the idea which had been

entertained. The child, however, was forbidden to go to Elizabeth's

apartment any more. He was very much grieved at this, and he watched for

the next time that Elizabeth was to walk in the garden, and putting his

mouth to a hole in the gate, he called out, "Lady, I can not bring you

any more flowers."

After Elizabeth had been thus confined about three months, she was one

day terribly alarmed by the sounds of martial parade within the Tower,

produced by the entrance of an officer from Queen Mary, named Sir Thomas

Beddingfield, at the head of three hundred men. Elizabeth supposed that

they were come to execute sentence of death upon her. She asked

immediately if the platform on which Lady Jane Grey was beheaded had

been taken away. They told her that it had been removed. She was then

somewhat relieved. They afterward told her that Sir Thomas had come to

take her away from the Tower, but that it was not known where she was to

go. This alarmed her again, and she sent for the constable of the Tower,

whose name was Lord Chandos, and questioned him very closely to learn

what they were going to do with her. He said that it had been decided to

remove her from the Tower, and send her to a place called Woodstock,

where she was to remain under Sir Thomas Beddingfield's custody, at a

royal palace which was situated there. Woodstock is forty or fifty miles

to the westward of London, and not far from the city of Oxford.

Elizabeth was very much alarmed at this intelligence. Her mind was

filled with vague and uncertain fears and forebodings, which were none

the less oppressive for being uncertain and vague. She had, however, no

immediate cause for apprehension. Mary found that there was no decisive

evidence against her, and did not dare to keep her a prisoner in the

Tower too long. There was a large and influential part of the kingdom

who were Protestants. They were jealous of the progress Mary was making

toward bringing the Catholic religion in again. They abhorred the

Spanish match. They naturally looked to Elizabeth as their leader and

head, and Mary thought that by too great or too long-continued harshness

in her treatment of Elizabeth, she would only exasperate them, and

perhaps provoke a new outbreak against her authority. She determined,

therefore, to remove the princess from the Tower to some less odious

place of confinement.

She was taken first to Queen Mary's court, which was then held at

Richmond, just above London; but she was surrounded here by soldiers and

guards, and confined almost as strictly as before. She was destined,

however, here to another surprise. It was a proposition of marriage.

Mary had been arranging a plan for making her the wife of a certain

personage styled the Duke of Savoy. His dominions were on the confines

of Switzerland and France, and Mary thought that if her rival were once

married and removed there, all the troubles which she, Mary, had

experienced on her account would be ended forever. She thought, too,

that her sister would be glad to accept this offer, which opened such an

immediate escape from the embarrassments and sufferings of her situation

in England. But Elizabeth was prompt, decided, and firm in the rejection

of this plan. England was her home, and to be Queen of England the end

and aim of all her wishes and plans. She had rather continue a captive

for the present in her native land, than to live in splendor as the

consort of a sovereign duke beyond the Rhone.

Mary then ordered Sir Thomas Beddingfield to take her to Woodstock. She

traveled on horseback, and was several days on the journey. Her passage

through the country attracted great attention. The people assembled by

the wayside, expressing their kind wishes, and offering her gifts. The

bells were rung in the villages through which she passed. She arrived

finally at Woodstock, and was shut up in the palace there.

This was in July, and she remained in Woodstock more than a year, not,

however, always very closely confined. At Christmas she was taken to

court, and allowed to share in the festivities and rejoicings. On this

occasion--it was the first Christmas after the marriage of Mary and

Philip--the great hall of the palace was illuminated with a thousand

lamps. The princess sat at table next to the king and queen. She was on

other occasions, too, taken away for a time, and then returned again to

her seclusion at Woodstock. These changes, perhaps, only served to make

her feel more than ever the hardships of her lot. They say that one day,

as she sat at her window, she heard a milk-maid singing in the fields,

in a blithe and merry strain, and said, with a sigh, that she wished she

was a milk-maid too.

King Philip, after his marriage, gradually interested himself in her

behalf, and exerted his influence to have her released; and Mary's

ministers had frequent interviews with her, and endeavored to induce her

to make some confession of guilt, and to petition Mary for release as a

matter of mercy. They could not, they said, release her while she

persisted in her innocence, without admitting that they and Mary had

been in the wrong, and had imprisoned her unjustly. But the princess was

immovable. She declared that she was perfectly innocent, and that she

would never, therefore, say that she was guilty. She would rather remain

in prison for the truth, than be at liberty and have it believed that

she had been guilty of disloyalty and treason.

At length, one evening in May, Elizabeth received a summons to go to the

palace and visit Mary in her chamber. She was conducted there by

torch-light. She had a long interview with the queen, the conversation

being partly in English and partly in Spanish. It was not very

satisfactory on either side. Elizabeth persisted in asserting her

innocence, but in other respects she spoke in a kind and conciliatory

manner to the queen. The interview ended in a sort of reconciliation.

Mary put a valuable ring upon Elizabeth's finger in token of the

renewal of friendship, and soon afterward the long period of restraint

and confinement was ended, and the princess returned to her own estate

at Hatfield in Hertfordshire, where she lived some time in seclusion,

devoting herself, in a great measure, to the study of Latin and Greek,

under the instructions of Roger Ascham.