Queen Mary's Treatment Of Her Sister The Princess Elizabeth

The preservation of the princess Elizabeth may be reckoned a remarkable

instance of the watchful eye which Christ had over his church. The

bigotry of Mary regarded not the ties of consanguinity, of natural

affection, of national succession. Her mind, physically morose was under

the dominion of men who possessed not the milk of human kindness, and

whose principles were sanctioned and enjoined by the idolatrous tenets

the Romish pontiff. Could they have foreseen the short date of Mary's

reign, they would have imbrued their hands in the protestant blood of

Elizabeth, and, as a sine qua non of the queen's salvation, have

compelled her to bequeath the kingdom to some catholic prince. The

contest might have been attended with the horrors incidental to a

religious civil war, and calamities might have been felt in England

similar to those under Henry the Great in France, whom queen Elizabeth

assisted in opposing his priest-ridden catholic subjects. As if

Providence had the perpetual establishment of the protestant faith in

view, the difference of the durations of the two reigns is worthy of

notice. Mary might have reigned many years in the course of nature, but

the course of grace willed it otherwise. Five years and four months was

the time of persecution alloted to this weak, disgraceful reign, while

that of Elizabeth reckoned a number of years among the highest of those

who have sat on the English throne, almost nine times that of her

merciless sister!

Before Mary attained the crown, she treated her with a sisterly

kindness, but from that period her conduct was altered, and the most

imperious distance substituted. Though Elizabeth had no concern in the

rebellion of Sir Thomas Wyat, yet she was apprehended, and treated as a

culprit in that commotion. The manner too of her arrest was similar to

the mind that dictated it: the three cabinet members, whom she deputed

to see the arrest executed, rudely entered the chamber at ten o'clock at

night, and, though she was extremely ill, they could scarcely be induced

to let her remain till the following morning. Her enfeebled state

permitted her to be moved only by short stages in a journey of such

length to London; but the princess, though afflicted in person, had a

consolation in mind which her sister never could purchase: the people,

through whom she passed on her way, pitied her, and put up their prayers

for her preservation. Arrived at court, she was made a close prisoner

for a fortnight, without knowing who was her accuser, or seeing any one

who could console or advise her. The charge however was at length

unmasked by Gardiner, who, with nineteen of the council, accused her of

abetting Wyat's conspiracy, which she religiously affirmed to be false.

Failing in this, they placed against her the transactions of Sir Peter

Carew in the west in which they were as unsuccessful as in the former.

The queen now signified, it was her pleasure she should be committed to

the Tower, a step which overwhelmed the princess with the greatest alarm

and uneasiness. In vain she hoped the queen's majesty would not commit

her to such a place; but there was no lenity to be expected; her

attendants were limited, and a hundred northern soldiers appointed to

guard her day and night.

On Palm-Sunday she was conducted to the Tower. When she came to the

palace garden, she cast her eyes towards the windows, eagerly anxious to

meet those of the queen, but she was disappointed. A strict order was

given in London, that every one should go to church, and carry palms,

that she might be conveyed without clamour or commiseration to her


At the time of passing under London-bridge the fall of the tide made it

very dangerous, and the barge some time stuck fast against the

starlings. To mortify her the more, she was landed at Traitors' Stairs.

As it rained fast, and she was obliged to step in the water to land, she

hesitated; but this excited no complaisance in the lord in waiting. When

she set her foot on the steps, she exclaimed, "Here lands as true a

subject, being prisoner, as ever landed at these stairs; and before

thee, O God, I speak it, having no friend but thee alone!"

A large number of the wardens and servants of the Tower were arranged

in order, between whom the princess had to pass. Upon inquiring the use

of this parade, she was informed it was customary to do so. "If," said

she, "it is on account of me, I beseech you that they may be dismissed."

On this the poor men knelt down, and prayed that God would preserve her

grace, for which they were the next day turned out of their employments.

The tragic scene must have been deeply interesting, to see an amiable

and irreproachable princess sent like a lamb to languish in expectation

of cruelty and death; against whom there was no other charge than her

superiority in Christian virtues and acquired endowments. Her attendants

openly wept as she proceeded with a dignified step to the frowning

battlements of her destination. "Alas!" said Elizabeth, "what do you

mean? I took you to comfort, not to dismay me; for my truth is such,

that no one shall have cause to weep for me."

The next step of her enemies was to procure evidence by means which, in

the present day, are accounted detestable. Many poor prisoners were

racked, to extract, if possible, any matters of accusation which might

affect her life, and thereby gratify Gardiner's sanguinary disposition.

He himself came to examine her, respecting her removal from her house at

Ashbridge to Dunnington castle a long while before. The princess had

quite forgotten this trivial circumstance, and lord Arundel, after the

investigation, kneeling down, apologized for having troubled her in such

a frivolous matter. "You sift me narrowly," replied the princess, "but

of this I am assured, that God has appointed a limit to your

proceedings; and so God forgive you all."

Her own gentlemen, who ought to have been her purveyors, and served her

provision, were compelled to give place to the common soldiers, at the

command of the constable of the Tower, who was in every respect a

servile tool of Gardiner,--her grace's friends, however, procured an

order of council which regulated this petty tyranny more to her


After having been a whole month in close confinement, she sent for the

lord Chamberlain and lord Chandois, to whom she represented the ill

state of her health from a want of proper air and exercise. Application

being made to the council, Elizabeth was with some difficulty admitted

to walk in the queen's lodgings, and afterwards in the garden, at which

time the prisoners on that side were attended by their keepers, and not

suffered to look down upon her. Their jealousy was excited by a child of

four years old, who daily brought flowers to the princess. The child was

threatened with a whipping, and the father ordered to keep him from the

princess' chambers.

On the 5th of May the constable was discharged from his office, and Sir

Henry Benifield appointed in his room, accompanied by a hundred

ruffian-looking soldiers in blue. This measure created considerable

alarm in the mind of the princess, who imagined it was preparatory to

her undergoing the same fate as lady Jane Gray, upon the same block.

Assured that this project was not in agitation, she entertained an idea

that the new keeper of the Tower was commissioned to make away with her

privately, as his equivocal character was in conformity with the

ferocious inclination of those by whom he was appointed.

A report now obtained that her grace was to be taken away by the new

constable and his soldiers, which in the sequel proved to be true. An

order of council was made for her removal to the manor of Woodstock,

which took place on Trinity Sunday, May 13, under the authority of Sir

Henry Benifield and Lord Tame. The ostensible cause of her removal was

to make room for other prisoners. Richmond was the first place they

stopped at, and here the princess slept, not however without much alarm

at first, as her own servants were superseded by the soldiers, who were

placed as guards at her chamber door. Upon representation, Lord Tame

overruled this indecent stretch of power, and granted her perfect safety

while under his custody.

In passing through Windsor, she saw several of her poor dejected

servants waiting to see her. "Go to them," said she, to one of her

attendants, "and say these words from me, tanquim ovis, that is, like a

sheep to the slaughter."

The next night her grace lodged at the house of a Mr. Dormer, in her way

to which the people manifested such tokens of loyal affection, that Sir

Henry was indignant, and bestowed on them very liberally the names of

rebels and traitors. In some villages they rang the bells for joy,

imagining the princess's arrival among them was from a very different

cause; but this harmless demonstration of gladness was sufficient with

the persecuting Benefield to order his soldiers to seize and set these

humble persons in the stocks.

The day following, her grace arrived at Lord Tame's house, where she

staid all night, and was most nobly entertained. This excited Sir

Henry's indignation, and made him caution Lord Tame to look well to his

proceedings; but the humanity of Lord Tame was not to be frightened, and

he returned a suitable reply. At another time, this official prodigal,

to show his consequence and disregard of good manners, went up into a

chamber, where was appointed for her grace a chair, two cushions, and a

foot carpet, wherein he presumptuously sat and called his man to pull

off his boots. As soon as it was known to the ladies and gentlemen, they

laughed him to scorn. When supper was done, he called to his lordship,

and directed that all gentlemen and ladies should withdraw home,

marvelling much that he would permit such a large company, considering

the great charge he had committed to him. "Sir Henry," said his

lordship, "content yourself; all shall be avoided, your men and all."

"Nay, but my soldiers," replied Sir Henry, "shall watch all night." Lord

Tame answered, "There is no need." "Well," said he, "need or need not,

they shall so do."

The next day her grace took her journey from thence to Woodstock, where

she was enclosed, as before in the Tower of London, the soldiers

keeping guard within and without the walls, every day, to the number of

sixty; and in the night, without the walls were forty during all the

time of her imprisonment.

At length she was permitted to walk in the gardens, but under the most

severe restrictions, Sir Henry keeping the keys himself, and placing her

always under many bolts and locks, whence she was induced to call him

her jailer, at which he felt offended, and begged her to substitute the

word officer. After much earnest entreaty to the council, she obtained

permission to write to the queen; but the jailer, who brought her pen,

ink, and paper stood by her while she wrote, and, when she left off, he

carried the things away till they were wanted again. He also insisted

upon carrying it himself to the queen, but Elizabeth would not suffer

him to be the bearer, and it was presented by one of her gentlemen.

After the letter, doctors Owen and Wendy went to the princess, as the

state of her health rendered medical assistance necessary. They staid

with her five or six days, in which time she grew much better; they then

returned to the queen, and spoke flatteringly of the princess'

submission and humility, at which the queen seemed moved; but the

bishops wanted a concession that she had offended her majesty. Elizabeth

spurned this indirect mode of acknowledging herself guilty. "If I have

offended," said she, "and am guilty, I crave no mercy but the law, which

I am certain I should have had ere this, if any thing could have been

proved against me. I wish I were as clear from the peril of my enemies;

then should I not be thus bolted and locked up within walls and doors."

Much question arose at this time respecting the propriety of uniting the

princess to some foreigner, that she might quit the realm with a

suitable portion. One of the council had the brutality to urge the

necessity of beheading her, if the king (Philip) meant to keep the realm

in peace; but the Spaniards, detesting such a base thought, replied,

"God forbid that our king and master should consent to such an infamous

proceeding!" Stimulated by a noble principle, the Spaniards from this

time repeatedly urged to the king that it would do him the highest

honour to liberate the lady Elizabeth, nor was the king impervious to

their solicitation. He took her out of prison, and shortly after she was

sent for to Hampton court. It may be remarked in this place, that the

fallacy of human reasoning is shown in every moment. The barbarian who

suggested the policy of beheading Elizabeth little contemplated the

change of condition which his speech would bring about. In her journey

from Woodstock, Benefield treated her with the same severity as before;

removing her on a stormy day, and not suffering her old servant, who had

come to Colnbrook, where she slept, to speak to her.

She remained a fortnight strictly guarded and watched, before any one

dared to speak with her; at length the vile Gardiner with three more of

the council, came with great submission. Elizabeth saluted them,

remarked that she had been for a long time kept in solitary

confinement, and begged they would intercede with the king and queen to

deliver her from prison. Gardiner's visit was to draw from the princess

a confession of her guilt; but she was guarded against his subtlety,

adding, that, rather than admit she had done wrong, she would lie in

prison all the rest of her life. The next day Gardiner came again, and

kneeling down, declared that the queen was astonished she should persist

in affirming that she was blameless--whence it would be inferred that

the queen had unjustly imprisoned her grace. Gardiner farther informed

her that the queen had declared that she must tell another tale, before

she could be set at liberty. "Then," replied the high-minded Elizabeth,

"I had rather be in prison with honesty and truth, than have my liberty,

and be suspected by her majesty. What I have said, I will stand to; nor

will I ever speak falsehood!" The bishop and his friends then departed,

leaving her locked up as before.

Seven days after the queen sent for Elizabeth at ten o'clock at night,

two years had elapsed since they had seen each other. It created terror

in the mind of the princess, who, at setting out, desired her gentlemen

and ladies to pray for her, as her return to them again was uncertain.

Being conducted to the queen's bedchamber, upon entering it the princess

knelt down, and having begged of God to preserve her majesty, she humbly

assured her that her majesty had not a more loyal subject in the realm,

whatever reports might be circulated to the contrary. With a haughty

ungraciousness, the imperious queen replied, "You will not confess your

offence, but stand stoutly to your truth. I pray God it may so fall


"If it do not," said Elizabeth, "I request neither favour nor pardon at

your majesty's hands." "Well," said the queen, "you stiffly still

persevere in your truth. Besides, you will not confess that you have not

been wrongfully punished."

"I must not say so, if it please your majesty, to you."

"Why, then," said the queen, "belike you will to others."

"No, if it please your majesty: I have borne the burden, and must bear

it. I humbly beseech your majesty to have a good opinion of me and to

think me to be your subject, not only from the beginning hitherto, but

for ever, as long as life lasteth." They departed without any heart-felt

satisfaction on either side; nor can we think the conduct of Elizabeth

displayed that independence and fortitude which accompanies perfect

innocence. Elizabeth's admitting that she would not say neither to the

queen nor to others, that she had been unjustly punished, was in direct

contradiction to what she had told Gardiner, and must have arisen from

some motive at this time inexplicable.--King Philip is supposed to have

been secretly concealed during the interview, and to have been friendly

to the princess.

In seven days from the time of her return to imprisonment, her severe

jailer, and his men were discharged, and she was set at liberty, under

the constraint of being always attended and watched by some of the

queen's council. Four of her gentlemen were sent to the Tower without

any other charge against them than being zealous servants of their

mistress. This event was soon after followed by the happy news of

Gardiner's death, for which all good and merciful men glorified God,

inasmuch as it had taken the chief tiger from the den, and rendered the

life of the protestant successor of Mary more secure.

This miscreant, while the princess was in the Tower, sent a secret writ,

signed by a few of the council, for her private execution, and, had Mr.

Bridges, lieutenant of the Tower, been as little scrupulous of dark

assassination as this pious prelate was, she must have perished. The

warrant not having the queen's signature, Mr. Bridges hastened to her

majesty, to give her information of it, and to know her mind. This was a

plot of Winchester's, who, to convict her of treasonable practices,

caused several prisoners to be racked; particularly Mr. Edmund Tremaine

and Smithwicke were offered considerable bribes to accuse the guiltless


Her life was several times in danger. While at Woodstock, fire was

apparently put between the boards and ceiling under which she lay. It

was also reported strongly, that one Paul Penny, the keeper of

Woodstock, a notorious ruffian was appointed to assassinate her, but,

however this might be, God counteracted in this point the nefarious

designs of the enemies of the reformation. James Basset was another

appointed to perform the same deed: he was a peculiar favourite of

Gardiner, and had come within a mile of Woodstock, intending to speak

with Benefield on the subject. The goodness of God however so ordered

it, that while Basset was travelling to Woodstock, Benefield, by an

order of council, was going to London; in consequence of which, he left

a positive order with his brother, that no man should be admitted to the

princess during his absence, not even with a note from the queen; his

brother met the murderer, but the latter's intention was frustrated, as

no admission could be obtained.

When Elizabeth quitted Woodstock, she left the following lines written

with her diamond on the window:--

Much suspected by me,

Nothing proved can be. Quoth Elizabeth, prisoner.

With the life of Winchester ceased the extreme danger of the princess,

as many of her other secret enemies soon after followed him, and, last

of all, her cruel sister, who outlived Gardiner but three years. The

death of Mary was ascribed to several causes. The council endeavoured to

console her in her last moments, imagining it was the absence of her

husband that lay heavy at her heart, but though his treatment had some

weight, the loss of Calais, the last fortress possessed by the English

in France, was the true source of her sorrow. "Open my heart," said

Mary, "when I am dead, and you shall find Calais written there."

Religion caused her no alarm; the priests had lulled to rest every

misgiving of conscience, which might have obtruded, on account of the

accusing spirits of the murdered martyrs. Not the blood she had spilled,

but the loss of a town, excited her emotions in dying, and this last

stroke seemed to be awarded, that her fanatical persecution might be

paralleled by her political imbecility. We earnestly pray that the

annals of no country, catholic or pagan, may ever be stained with such a

repetition of human sacrifices to papal power, and that the detestation

in which the character of Mary is holden, may be a beacon to succeeding

monarchs to avoid the rocks of fanaticism!