Elizabeth's Mother


Greenwich.--The hospital.--Its inmates.--Greenwich

Observatory.--Manner of taking time.--Henry the Eighth.--His

character.--His six wives.--Anne Boleyn.--Catharine of Aragon.--Henry

discards her.--Origin of the English Church.--Henry marries Anne

Boleyn.--Birth of Elizabeth.--Ceremony of christening.--Baptism of

Elizabeth.--Grand procession.--Train-bearers.--The church.--The silver

ont.--The presents.--Name of the infant princess.--Elizabeth made

Princess of Wales.--Matrimonial schemes.--Jane Seymour.--The

tournament.--The king's suspicions.--Queen Anne arrested.--She is

sent to the Tower.--Sufferings of the queen.--Her mental

distress.--Examination of Anne.--Her letter to the king.--Anne's

fellow-prisoners.--They are executed.--Anne tried and condemned.--She

protests her innocence.--Anne's execution.--Disposition of the

body.--The king's brutality.--Elizabeth's forlorn condition.

Travelers, in ascending the Thames by the steamboat from Rotterdam, on

their return from an excursion to the Rhine, have often their attention

strongly attracted by what appears to be a splendid palace on the banks

of the river at Greenwich. The edifice is not a palace, however, but a

hospital, or, rather, a retreat where the worn out, maimed, and crippled

veterans of the English navy spend the remnant of their days in comfort

and peace, on pensions allowed them by the government in whose service

they have spent their strength or lost their limbs. The magnificent

buildings of the hospital stand on level land near the river. Behind

them there is a beautiful park, which extends over the undulating and

rising ground in the rear; and on the summit of one of the eminences

there is the famous Greenwich Observatory, on the precision of whose

quadrants and micrometers depend those calculations by which the

navigation of the world is guided. The most unconcerned and careless

spectator is interested in the manner in which the ships which throng

the river all the way from Greenwich to London, "take their time" from

this observatory before setting sail for distant seas. From the top of a

cupola surmounting the edifice, a slender pole ascends, with a black

ball upon it, so constructed as to slide up and down for a few feet upon

the pole. When the hour of 12 M. approaches, the ball slowly rises to

within a few inches of the top, warning the ship-masters in the river to

be ready with their chronometers, to observe and note the precise

instant of its fall. When a few seconds only remain of the time, the

ball ascends the remainder of the distance by a very deliberate motion,

and then drops suddenly when the instant arrives. The ships depart on

their several destinations, and for months afterward when thousands of

miles away they depend for their safety in dark and stormy nights, and

among dangerous reefs and rocky shores, on the nice approximation to

correctness in the note of time which this descending ball had given


This is Greenwich, as it exists at the present day. At the time when the

events occurred which are to be related in this narrative, it was most

known on account of a royal palace which was situated there. This palace

was the residence of the then queen consort of England. The king

reigning at that time was Henry the Eighth. He was an unprincipled and

cruel tyrant, and the chief business of his life seemed to be selecting

and marrying new queens, making room for each succeeding one by

discarding, divorcing, or beheading her predecessor. There were six of

them in all, and, with one exception, the history of each one is a

distinct and separate, but dreadful tragedy. As there were so many of

them, and they figured as queens each for so short a period, they are

commonly designated in history by their personal family names, and even

in these names there is a great similarity. There were three Catharines,

two Annes, and a Jane. The only one who lived and died in peace,

respected and beloved to the end, was the Jane.

Queen Elizabeth, the subject of this narrative, was the daughter of the

second wife in this strange succession, and her mother was one of the

Annes. Her name in full was Anne Boleyn. She was young and very

beautiful, and Henry, to prepare the way for making her his wife,

divorced his first queen, or rather declared his marriage with her null

and void, because she had been, before he married her, the wife of his

brother. Her name was Catharine of Aragon. She was, while connected with

him, a faithful, true, and affectionate wife. She was a Catholic. The

Catholic rules are very strict in respect to the marriage of relatives,

and a special dispensation from the pope was necessary to authorize

marriage in such a case as that of Henry and Catharine. This

dispensation had, however, been obtained, and Catharine had, in reliance

upon it, consented to become Henry's wife. When, however, she was no

longer young and beautiful, and Henry had become enamored of Anne

Boleyn, who was so, he discarded Catharine, and espoused the beautiful

girl in her stead. He wished the pope to annul his dispensation, which

would, of course, annul the marriage; and because the pontiff refused,

and all the efforts of Henry's government were unavailing to move him,

he abandoned the Catholic faith, and established an independent

Protestant church in England, whose supreme authority would annul the

marriage. Thus, in a great measure, came the Reformation in England.

The Catholics reproach us, and, it must be confessed, with some justice,

with the ignominiousness of its origin.

The course which things thus took created a great deal of delay in the

formal annulling of the marriage with Catharine, which Henry was too

impatient and imperious to bear. He would not wait for the decree of

divorce, but took Anne Boleyn for his wife before his previous

connection was made void. He said he was privately married to her. This

he had, as he maintained, a right to do, for he considered his first

marriage as void, absolutely and of itself, without any decree. When, at

length, the decree was finally passed, he brought Anne Boleyn forward as

his queen, and introduced her as such to England and to the world by a

genuine marriage and a most magnificent coronation. The people of

England pitied poor Catharine, but they joined very cordially,

notwithstanding, in welcoming the youthful and beautiful lady who was to

take her place. All London gave itself up to festivities and rejoicings

on the occasion of these nuptials. Immediately after this the young

queen retired to her palace in Greenwich, and in two or three months

afterward little Elizabeth was born. Her birth-day was the 7th of

September, 1533.

The mother may have loved the babe, but Henry himself was sadly

disappointed that his child was not a son. Notwithstanding her sex,

however, she was a personage of great distinction from her very birth,

as all the realm looked upon her as heir to the crown. Henry was

himself, at this time, very fond of Anne Boleyn, though his feelings

afterward were entirely changed. He determined on giving to the infant a

very splendid christening. The usage in the Church of England is to make

the christening of a child not merely a solemn religious ceremony, but a

great festive occasion of congratulations and rejoicing. The unconscious

subject of the ceremony is taken to the church. Certain near and

distinguished friends, gentlemen and ladies, appear as godfathers and

godmothers, as they are termed, to the child. They, in the ceremony, are

considered as presenting the infant for consecration to Christ, and as

becoming responsible for its future initiation into the Christian faith.

They are hence sometimes called sponsors. These sponsors are supposed to

take, from the time of the baptism forward, a strong interest in all

that pertains to the welfare of their little charge, and they usually

manifest this interest by presents on the day of the christening. These

things are all conducted with considerable ceremony and parade in

ordinary cases, occurring in private life; and when a princess is to be

baptized, all, even the most minute details of the ceremony, assume a

great importance, and the whole scene becomes one of great pomp and


The babe, in this case, was conveyed to the church in a grand

procession. The mayor and other civic authorities in London came down to

Greenwich in barges, tastefully ornamented, to join in the ceremony. The

lords and ladies of King Henry's court were also there, in attendance at

the palace. When all were assembled, and every thing was ready, the

procession moved from the palace to the church with great pomp. The

road, all the way, was carpeted with green rushes, spread upon the

ground. Over this road the little infant was borne by one of her

godmothers. She was wrapped in a mantle of purple velvet, with a long

train appended to it, which was trimmed with ermine, a very costly kind

of fur, used in England as a badge of authority. This train was borne by

lords and ladies of high rank, who were appointed for the purpose by

the king, and who deemed their office a very distinguished honor.

Besides these train-bearers, there were four lords, who walked two on

each side of the child, and who held over her a magnificent canopy.

Other personages of high rank and station followed, bearing various

insignia and emblems, such as by the ancient customs of England are

employed on these occasions, and all dressed sumptuously in gorgeous

robes, and wearing the badges and decorations pertaining to their rank

or the offices they held. Vast crowds of spectators lined the way, and

gazed upon the scene.

On arriving at the church, they found the interior splendidly decorated

for the occasion. Its walls were lined throughout with tapestry, and in

the center was a crimson canopy, under which was placed a large silver

font, containing the water with which the child was to be baptized. The

ceremony was performed by Cranmer, the archbishop of Canterbury, which

is the office of the highest dignitary of the English Church. After it

was performed, the procession returned as it came, only now there was an

addition of four persons of high rank, who followed the child with the

presents intended for her by the godfathers and godmothers. These

presents consisted of cups and bowls, of beautiful workmanship, some

of silver gilt, and some of solid gold. They were very costly, though

not prized much yet by the unconscious infant for whom they were

intended. She went and came, in the midst of this gay and joyous

procession, little imagining into what a restless and unsatisfying life

all this pageantry and splendor were ushering her.

They named the child Elizabeth, from her grandmother. There have been

many queens of that name, but Queen Elizabeth of England became so much

more distinguished than any other, that that name alone has become her

usual designation. Her family name was Tudor. As she was never

married--for, though her life was one perpetual scene of matrimonial

schemes and negotiations, she lived and died a maiden lady--she has been

sometimes called the Virgin Queen, and one of the states of this Union,

Virginia, receives its name from this designation of Elizabeth. She is

also often familiarly called Queen Bess.

Making little Elizabeth presents of gold and silver plate, and arranging

splendid pageants for her, were not the only plans for her

aggrandizement which were formed during the period of her infantile

unconsciousness. The king, her father, first had an act of Parliament

passed, solemnly recognizing and confirming her claim as heir to the

crown, and the title of Princess of Wales was formally conferred upon

her. When these things were done, Henry began to consider how he could

best promote his own political schemes by forming an engagement of

marriage for her, and, when she was only about two years of age, he

offered her to the King of France as the future wife of one of his sons,

on certain conditions of political service which he wished him to

perform. But the King of France would not accede to the terms, and so

this plan was abandoned. Elizabeth was, however, notwithstanding this

failure, an object of universal interest and attention, as the daughter

of a very powerful monarch, and the heir to his crown. Her life opened

with very bright and serene prospects of future greatness; but all these

prospects were soon apparently cut off by a very heavy cloud which arose

to darken her sky. This cloud was the sudden and dreadful fall and ruin

of her mother.

Queen Anne Boleyn was originally a maid of honor to Queen Catharine, and

became acquainted with King Henry and gained his affections while she

was acting in that capacity. When she became queen herself, she had, of

course, her own maids of honor, and among them was one named Jane

Seymour. Jane was a beautiful and accomplished lady, and in the end she

supplanted her mistress and queen in Henry's affections, just as Anne

herself had supplanted Catharine. The king had removed Catharine to make

way for Anne, by annulling his marriage with her on account of their

relationship: what way could he contrive now to remove Anne, so as to

make way for Jane?

He began to entertain, or to pretend to entertain, feelings of jealousy

and suspicion that Anne was unfaithful to him. One day, at a sort of

tournament in the park of the royal palace at Greenwich, when a great

crowd of gayly-dressed ladies and gentlemen were assembled to witness

the spectacle, the queen dropped her handkerchief. A gentleman whom the

king had suspected of being one of her favorites picked it up. He did

not immediately restore it to her. There was, besides, something in the

air and manner of the gentleman, and in the attendant circumstances of

the case, which the king's mind seized upon as evidence of criminal

gallantry between the parties. He was, or at least pretended to be, in

a great rage. He left the field immediately and went to London. The

tournament was broken up in confusion, the queen was seized by the

king's orders, conveyed to her palace in Greenwich, and shut up in her

chamber, with a lady who had always been her rival and enemy to guard

her. She was in great consternation and sorrow, but she declared most

solemnly that she was innocent of any crime, and had always been true

and faithful to the king.

The next day she was taken from her palace at Greenwich up the river,

probably in a barge well guarded by armed men, to the Tower of London.

The Tower is an ancient and very extensive castle, consisting of a great

number of buildings inclosed within a high wall. It is in the lower part

of London, on the bank of the Thames, with a flight of stairs leading

down to the river from a great postern gate. The unhappy queen was

landed at these stairs and conveyed into the castle, and shut up in a

gloomy apartment, with walls of stone and windows barricaded with strong

bars of iron. There were four or five gentlemen, attendants upon the

queen in her palace at Greenwich, whom the king suspected, or pretended

to suspect, of being her accomplices in crime, that were arrested at

the same time with her and closely confined.

When the poor queen was introduced into her dungeon, she fell on her

knees, and, in an agony of terror and despair, she implored God to help

her in this hour of her extremity, and most solemnly called him to

witness that she was innocent of the crime imputed to her charge.

Seeking thus a refuge in God calmed and composed her in some small

degree; but when, again, thoughts of the imperious and implacable temper

of her husband came over her, of the impetuousness of his passions, of

the certainty that he wished her removed out of the way in order that

room might be made for her rival, and then, when her distracted mind

turned to the forlorn and helpless condition of her little daughter

Elizabeth, now scarcely three years old, her fortitude and

self-possession forsook her entirely; she sank half insane upon her bed,

in long and uncontrollable paroxysms of sobs and tears, alternating with

still more uncontrollable and frightful bursts of hysterical laughter.

The king sent a commission to take her examination. At the same time, he

urged her, by the persons whom he sent, to confess her guilt, promising

her that, if she did so, her life should be spared. She, however,

protested her innocence with the utmost firmness and constancy. She

begged earnestly to be allowed to see the king, and, when this was

refused, she wrote a letter to him, which still remains, and which

expresses very strongly the acuteness of her mental sufferings.

In this letter, she said that she was so distressed and bewildered by

the king's displeasure and her imprisonment, that she hardly knew what

to think or to say. She assured him that she had always been faithful

and true to him, and begged that he would not cast an indelible stain

upon her own fair fame and that of her innocent and helpless child by

such unjust and groundless imputations. She begged him to let her have a

fair trial by impartial persons, who would weigh the evidence against

her in a just and equitable manner. She was sure that by this course her

innocence would be established, and he himself, and all mankind would

see that she had been most unjustly accused.

But if, on the other hand, she added, the king had determined on her

destruction, in order to remove an obstacle in the way of his

possession of a new object of love, she prayed that God would forgive

him and all her enemies for so great a sin, and not call him to account

for it at the last day. She urged him, at all events, to spare the lives

of the four gentlemen who had been accused, as she assured him they were

wholly innocent of the crime laid to their charge, begging him, if he

had ever loved the name of Anne Boleyn, to grant this her last request.

She signed her letter his "most loyal and ever faithful wife," and dated

it from her "doleful prison in the Tower."

The four gentlemen were promised that their lives should be spared if

they would confess their guilt. One of them did, accordingly, admit his

guilt, and the others persisted to the end in firmly denying it. They

who think Anne Boleyn was innocent, suppose that the one who confessed

did it as the most likely mode of averting destruction, as men have

often been known, under the influence of fear, to confess crimes of

which it was afterward proved they could not have been guilty. If this

was his motive, it was of no avail. The four persons accused, after a

very informal trial, in which nothing was really proved against them,

were condemned, apparently to please the king, and were executed


Three days after this the queen herself was brought to trial before the

peers. The number of peers of the realm in England at this time was

fifty-three. Only twenty-six were present at the trial. The king is

charged with making such arrangements as to prevent the attendance of

those who would be unwilling to pass sentence of condemnation. At any

rate, those who did attend professed to be satisfied of the guilt of the

accused, and they sentenced her to be burned, or to be beheaded, at the

pleasure of the king. He decided that she should be beheaded.

The execution was to take place in a little green area within the Tower.

The platform was erected here, and the block placed upon it, the whole

being covered with a black cloth, as usual on such occasions. On the

morning of the fatal day, Anne sent for the constable of the Tower to

come in and receive her dying protestations that she was innocent of the

crimes alleged against her. She told him that she understood that she

was not to die until 12 o'clock, and that she was sorry for it, for she

wished to have it over. The constable told her the pain would be very

slight and momentary. "Yes," she rejoined, "I am told that a very

skillful executioner is provided, and my neck is very slender."

At the appointed hour she was led out into the court-yard where the

execution was to take place. There were about twenty persons present,

all officers of state or of the city of London. The bodily suffering

attendant upon the execution was very soon over, for the slender neck

was severed at a single blow, and probably all sensibility to pain

immediately ceased. Still, the lips and the eyes were observed to move

and quiver for a few seconds after the separation of the head from the

body. It was a relief, however, to the spectators when this strange and

unnatural prolongation of the mysterious functions of life came to an


No coffin had been provided. They found, however, an old wooden chest,

made to contain arrows, lying in one of the apartments of the tower,

which they used instead. They first laid the decapitated trunk within

it, and then adjusted the dissevered head to its place, as if vainly

attempting to repair the irretrievable injury they had done. They

hurried the body, thus enshrined, to its burial in a chapel, which was

also within the tower, doing all with such dispatch that the whole was

finished before the clock struck twelve; and the next day the unfeeling

monster who was the author of this dreadful deed was publicly married to

his new favorite, Jane Seymour.

The king had not merely procured Anne's personal condemnation; he had

also obtained a decree annulling his marriage with her, on the ground of

her having been, as he attempted to prove, previously affianced to

another man. This was, obviously, a mere pretense. The object was to cut

off Elizabeth's rights to inherit the crown, by making his marriage with

her mother void. Thus was the little princess left motherless and

friendless when only three years old.