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    Ch. 28 - Edward the Sixth

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    Chapter 28
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    HENRY THE EIGHTH had made a will, appointing a council of sixteen
    to govern the kingdom for his son while he was under age (he was
    now only ten years old), and another council of twelve to help
    them. The most powerful of the first council was the EARL OF
    HERTFORD, the young King's uncle, who lost no time in bringing his
    nephew with great state up to Enfield, and thence to the Tower. It
    was considered at the time a striking proof of virtue in the young
    King that he was sorry for his father's death; but, as common
    subjects have that virtue too, sometimes, we will say no more about
    it.

    There was a curious part of the late King's will, requiring his
    executors to fulfil whatever promises he had made. Some of the
    court wondering what these might be, the Earl of Hertford and the
    other noblemen interested, said that they were promises to advance
    and enrich THEM. So, the Earl of Hertford made himself DUKE OF
    SOMERSET, and made his brother EDWARD SEYMOUR a baron; and there
    were various similar promotions, all very agreeable to the parties
    concerned, and very dutiful, no doubt, to the late King's memory.
    To be more dutiful still, they made themselves rich out of the
    Church lands, and were very comfortable. The new Duke of Somerset
    caused himself to be declared PROTECTOR of the kingdom, and was,
    indeed, the King.

    As young Edward the Sixth had been brought up in the principles of
    the Protestant religion, everybody knew that they would be
    maintained. But Cranmer, to whom they were chiefly entrusted,
    advanced them steadily and temperately. Many superstitious and
    ridiculous practices were stopped; but practices which were
    harmless were not interfered with.

    The Duke of Somerset, the Protector, was anxious to have the young
    King engaged in marriage to the young Queen of Scotland, in order
    to prevent that princess from making an alliance with any foreign
    power; but, as a large party in Scotland were unfavourable to this
    plan, he invaded that country. His excuse for doing so was, that
    the Border men - that is, the Scotch who lived in that part of the
    country where England and Scotland joined - troubled the English
    very much. But there were two sides to this question; for the
    English Border men troubled the Scotch too; and, through many long
    years, there were perpetual border quarrels which gave rise to
    numbers of old tales and songs. However, the Protector invaded
    Scotland; and ARRAN, the Scottish Regent, with an army twice as
    large as his, advanced to meet him. They encountered on the banks
    of the river Esk, within a few miles of Edinburgh; and there, after
    a little skirmish, the Protector made such moderate proposals, in
    offering to retire if the Scotch would only engage not to marry
    their princess to any foreign prince, that the Regent thought the
    English were afraid. But in this he made a horrible mistake; for
    the English soldiers on land, and the English sailors on the water,
    so set upon the Scotch, that they broke and fled, and more than ten
    thousand of them were killed. It was a dreadful battle, for the
    fugitives were slain without mercy. The ground for four miles, all
    the way to Edinburgh, was strewn with dead men, and with arms, and
    legs, and heads. Some hid themselves in streams and were drowned;
    some threw away their armour and were killed running, almost naked;
    but in this battle of Pinkey the English lost only two or three
    hundred men. They were much better clothed than the Scotch; at the
    poverty of whose appearance and country they were exceedingly
    astonished.

    A Parliament was called when Somerset came back, and it repealed
    the whip with six strings, and did one or two other good things;
    though it unhappily retained the punishment of burning for those
    people who did not make believe to believe, in all religious
    matters, what the Government had declared that they must and should
    believe. It also made a foolish law (meant to put down beggars),
    that any man who lived idly and loitered about for three days
    together, should be burned with a hot iron, made a slave, and wear
    an iron fetter. But this savage absurdity soon came to an end, and
    went the way of a great many other foolish laws.

    The Protector was now so proud that he sat in Parliament before all
    the nobles, on the right hand of the throne. Many other noblemen,
    who only wanted to be as proud if they could get a chance, became
    his enemies of course; and it is supposed that he came back
    suddenly from Scotland because he had received news that his
    brother, LORD SEYMOUR, was becoming dangerous to him. This lord
    was now High Admiral of England; a very handsome man, and a great
    favourite with the Court ladies - even with the young Princess
    Elizabeth, who romped with him a little more than young princesses
    in these times do with any one. He had married Catherine Parr, the
    late King's widow, who was now dead; and, to strengthen his power,
    he secretly supplied the young King with money. He may even have
    engaged with some of his brother's enemies in a plot to carry the
    boy off. On these and other accusations, at any rate, he was
    confined in the Tower, impeached, and found guilty; his own
    brother's name being - unnatural and sad to tell - the first signed
    to the warrant of his execution. He was executed on Tower Hill,
    and died denying his treason. One of his last proceedings in this
    world was to write two letters, one to the Princess Elizabeth, and
    one to the Princess Mary, which a servant of his took charge of,
    and concealed in his shoe. These letters are supposed to have
    urged them against his brother, and to revenge his death. What
    they truly contained is not known; but there is no doubt that he
    had, at one time, obtained great influence over the Princess
    Elizabeth.

    All this while, the Protestant religion was making progress. The
    images which the people had gradually come to worship, were removed
    from the churches; the people were informed that they need not
    confess themselves to priests unless they chose; a common prayer-
    book was drawn up in the English language, which all could
    understand, and many other improvements were made; still
    moderately. For Cranmer was a very moderate man, and even
    restrained the Protestant clergy from violently abusing the
    unreformed religion - as they very often did, and which was not a
    good example. But the people were at this time in great distress.
    The rapacious nobility who had come into possession of the Church
    lands, were very bad landlords. They enclosed great quantities of
    ground for the feeding of sheep, which was then more profitable
    than the growing of crops; and this increased the general distress.
    So the people, who still understood little of what was going on
    about them, and still readily believed what the homeless monks told
    them - many of whom had been their good friends in their better
    days - took it into their heads that all this was owing to the
    reformed religion, and therefore rose, in many parts of the
    country.

    The most powerful risings were in Devonshire and Norfolk. In
    Devonshire, the rebellion was so strong that ten thousand men
    united within a few days, and even laid siege to Exeter. But LORD
    RUSSELL, coming to the assistance of the citizens who defended that
    town, defeated the rebels; and, not only hanged the Mayor of one
    place, but hanged the vicar of another from his own church steeple.
    What with hanging and killing by the sword, four thousand of the
    rebels are supposed to have fallen in that one county. In Norfolk
    (where the rising was more against the enclosure of open lands than
    against the reformed religion), the popular leader was a man named
    ROBERT KET, a tanner of Wymondham. The mob were, in the first
    instance, excited against the tanner by one JOHN FLOWERDEW, a
    gentleman who owed him a grudge: but the tanner was more than a
    match for the gentleman, since he soon got the people on his side,
    and established himself near Norwich with quite an army. There was
    a large oak-tree in that place, on a spot called Moushold Hill,
    which Ket named the Tree of Reformation; and under its green
    boughs, he and his men sat, in the midsummer weather, holding
    courts of justice, and debating affairs of state. They were even
    impartial enough to allow some rather tiresome public speakers to
    get up into this Tree of Reformation, and point out their errors to
    them, in long discourses, while they lay listening (not always
    without some grumbling and growling) in the shade below. At last,
    one sunny July day, a herald appeared below the tree, and
    proclaimed Ket and all his men traitors, unless from that moment
    they dispersed and went home: in which case they were to receive a
    pardon. But, Ket and his men made light of the herald and became
    stronger than ever, until the Earl of Warwick went after them with
    a sufficient force, and cut them all to pieces. A few were hanged,
    drawn, and quartered, as traitors, and their limbs were sent into
    various country places to be a terror to the people. Nine of them
    were hanged upon nine green branches of the Oak of Reformation; and
    so, for the time, that tree may be said to have withered away.

    The Protector, though a haughty man, had compassion for the real
    distresses of the common people, and a sincere desire to help them.
    But he was too proud and too high in degree to hold even their
    favour steadily; and many of the nobles always envied and hated
    him, because they were as proud and not as high as he. He was at
    this time building a great Palace in the Strand: to get the stone
    for which he blew up church steeples with gunpowder, and pulled
    down bishops' houses: thus making himself still more disliked. At
    length, his principal enemy, the Earl of Warwick - Dudley by name,
    and the son of that Dudley who had made himself so odious with
    Empson, in the reign of Henry the Seventh - joined with seven other
    members of the Council against him, formed a separate Council; and,
    becoming stronger in a few days, sent him to the Tower under
    twenty-nine articles of accusation. After being sentenced by the
    Council to the forfeiture of all his offices and lands, he was
    liberated and pardoned, on making a very humble submission. He was
    even taken back into the Council again, after having suffered this
    fall, and married his daughter, LADY ANNE SEYMOUR, to Warwick's
    eldest son. But such a reconciliation was little likely to last,
    and did not outlive a year. Warwick, having got himself made Duke
    of Northumberland, and having advanced the more important of his
    friends, then finished the history by causing the Duke of Somerset
    and his friend LORD GREY, and others, to be arrested for treason,
    in having conspired to seize and dethrone the King. They were also
    accused of having intended to seize the new Duke of Northumberland,
    with his friends LORD NORTHAMPTON and LORD PEMBROKE; to murder them
    if they found need; and to raise the City to revolt. All this the
    fallen Protector positively denied; except that he confessed to
    having spoken of the murder of those three noblemen, but having
    never designed it. He was acquitted of the charge of treason, and
    found guilty of the other charges; so when the people - who
    remembered his having been their friend, now that he was disgraced
    and in danger, saw him come out from his trial with the axe turned
    from him - they thought he was altogether acquitted, and sent up a
    loud shout of joy.

    But the Duke of Somerset was ordered to be beheaded on Tower Hill,
    at eight o'clock in the morning, and proclamations were issued
    bidding the citizens keep at home until after ten. They filled the
    streets, however, and crowded the place of execution as soon as it
    was light; and, with sad faces and sad hearts, saw the once
    powerful Protector ascend the scaffold to lay his head upon the
    dreadful block. While he was yet saying his last words to them
    with manly courage, and telling them, in particular, how it
    comforted him, at that pass, to have assisted in reforming the
    national religion, a member of the Council was seen riding up on
    horseback. They again thought that the Duke was saved by his
    bringing a reprieve, and again shouted for joy. But the Duke
    himself told them they were mistaken, and laid down his head and
    had it struck off at a blow.

    Many of the bystanders rushed forward and steeped their
    handkerchiefs in his blood, as a mark of their affection. He had,
    indeed, been capable of many good acts, and one of them was
    discovered after he was no more. The Bishop of Durham, a very good
    man, had been informed against to the Council, when the Duke was in
    power, as having answered a treacherous letter proposing a
    rebellion against the reformed religion. As the answer could not
    be found, he could not be declared guilty; but it was now
    discovered, hidden by the Duke himself among some private papers,
    in his regard for that good man. The Bishop lost his office, and
    was deprived of his possessions.

    It is not very pleasant to know that while his uncle lay in prison
    under sentence of death, the young King was being vastly
    entertained by plays, and dances, and sham fights: but there is no
    doubt of it, for he kept a journal himself. It is pleasanter to
    know that not a single Roman Catholic was burnt in this reign for
    holding that religion; though two wretched victims suffered for
    heresy. One, a woman named JOAN BOCHER, for professing some
    opinions that even she could only explain in unintelligible jargon.
    The other, a Dutchman, named VON PARIS, who practised as a surgeon
    in London. Edward was, to his credit, exceedingly unwilling to
    sign the warrant for the woman's execution: shedding tears before
    he did so, and telling Cranmer, who urged him to do it (though
    Cranmer really would have spared the woman at first, but for her
    own determined obstinacy), that the guilt was not his, but that of
    the man who so strongly urged the dreadful act. We shall see, too
    soon, whether the time ever came when Cranmer is likely to have
    remembered this with sorrow and remorse.

    Cranmer and RIDLEY (at first Bishop of Rochester, and afterwards
    Bishop of London) were the most powerful of the clergy of this
    reign. Others were imprisoned and deprived of their property for
    still adhering to the unreformed religion; the most important among
    whom were GARDINER Bishop of Winchester, HEATH Bishop of Worcester,
    DAY Bishop of Chichester, and BONNER that Bishop of London who was
    superseded by Ridley. The Princess Mary, who inherited her
    mother's gloomy temper, and hated the reformed religion as
    connected with her mother's wrongs and sorrows - she knew nothing
    else about it, always refusing to read a single book in which it
    was truly described - held by the unreformed religion too, and was
    the only person in the kingdom for whom the old Mass was allowed to
    be performed; nor would the young King have made that exception
    even in her favour, but for the strong persuasions of Cranmer and
    Ridley. He always viewed it with horror; and when he fell into a
    sickly condition, after having been very ill, first of the measles
    and then of the small-pox, he was greatly troubled in mind to think
    that if he died, and she, the next heir to the throne, succeeded,
    the Roman Catholic religion would be set up again.

    This uneasiness, the Duke of Northumberland was not slow to
    encourage: for, if the Princess Mary came to the throne, he, who
    had taken part with the Protestants, was sure to be disgraced.
    Now, the Duchess of Suffolk was descended from King Henry the
    Seventh; and, if she resigned what little or no right she had, in
    favour of her daughter LADY JANE GREY, that would be the succession
    to promote the Duke's greatness; because LORD GUILFORD DUDLEY, one
    of his sons, was, at this very time, newly married to her. So, he
    worked upon the King's fears, and persuaded him to set aside both
    the Princess Mary and the Princess Elizabeth, and assert his right
    to appoint his successor. Accordingly the young King handed to the
    Crown lawyers a writing signed half a dozen times over by himself,
    appointing Lady Jane Grey to succeed to the Crown, and requiring
    them to have his will made out according to law. They were much
    against it at first, and told the King so; but the Duke of
    Northumberland - being so violent about it that the lawyers even
    expected him to beat them, and hotly declaring that, stripped to
    his shirt, he would fight any man in such a quarrel - they yielded.
    Cranmer, also, at first hesitated; pleading that he had sworn to
    maintain the succession of the Crown to the Princess Mary; but, he
    was a weak man in his resolutions, and afterwards signed the
    document with the rest of the council.

    It was completed none too soon; for Edward was now sinking in a
    rapid decline; and, by way of making him better, they handed him
    over to a woman-doctor who pretended to be able to cure it. He
    speedily got worse. On the sixth of July, in the year one thousand
    five hundred and fifty-three, he died, very peaceably and piously,
    praying God, with his last breath, to protect the reformed
    religion.

    This King died in the sixteenth year of his age, and in the seventh
    of his reign. It is difficult to judge what the character of one
    so young might afterwards have become among so many bad, ambitious,
    quarrelling nobles. But, he was an amiable boy, of very good
    abilities, and had nothing coarse or cruel or brutal in his
    disposition - which in the son of such a father is rather
    surprising.
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