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Ever since the disappointment at York in not meeting with James V., Henry had burned with rage against Cardinal Beaton. His character was certainly bad enough ; but whatever may be said of it elsewhere, we have now to do with that of Henry the Eighth.
Upon the Earl of Hertford first proceeding to Scotland in 1544, the following language is to be found in the commission then given to him by the King, of which previous historians were not aware.
“ You are there to put all to fire and sword ; to burn Edinburgh town, and to raze and deface it, when you have sacked it, and gotten what you can out of it ; as that it may remain for ever, a memory of the vengeance of God alighted upon it, for their falsehood and disloyalty! Do what you can out of hand, and without long tarrying,” (as he was going to France,) “ to beat down and overthrow the Castle, sack Holyroodhouse, and as many towns and villages about Edinburgh as ye conveniently can. Sack Leith, and burn and subvert it, and all the rest, putting man, woman, and child to fire and sword without exception, when any resistance shall be made against you! This done, pass over to the Fife land, and extend like extremities and destructions in all towns and villages whereunto ye may reach ; not forgetting amongst all the rest, so to spoil and turn upside down the Cardinals town of St. Andrew's, as the upper stone may be the nether, and not one stick stand by another, sparing no creature alire within the same, specially such as either in friendship or blood be allied to the Cardinal. This journey shall succeed most lo his Majesty's honour."
Shocking in the extreme as were these instructions, it will be remembered that the Castle of Edinburgh had defied Hertford. He never reached St. Andrews; and for the honour of humanity, it may be hoped that the heart of man revolted at literal obedience to these dreadful instructions ; but great as was the misery inflicted, it did not equal that which awaited other parts of Scotland in 1545, or last year.
For months, however, before Henry once more vented his vengeance on the country, he breathed with ardour after the death of Beaton, by any means, foul or fair ; and the prospect of reward from his exchequer, however exhausted, had begun to operate. The Earl of Cassillis, as early as May last, 1545, had written to Sir Ralph Sadler, who, with Tunstal and the Earl of Hertford, formed the Council of the North. In this letter he very deliberately made “ an offer for the killing of the Cardinal, if his Majesty would have it done, and would promise, when it were done, a reward !” In the guilt of such a nefarious proposal, IIenry's Northern Council felt no scruple in bearing a share, by immediately transmitting the letter to Paget, his Majesty's Principal Secretary; and what was the answer from Greenwich by the 30th of May, to the Earl of Hertford ?
“ His Majesty hath willed us to signify to your Lordship, that his Highness
i Hamilton MS. recently brought to light by Mr. Tytler.
reputing the fact not meet to be set forward expressly by his Majesty, will not se em to have to do in it ; and yet not misliking the offer, thinketh good that Mr. Sadler, to whom that letter was addressed, should write to the Earl, (Cassillis) of the receipt of his letter containing such an offer, which he thinketh not convenient to be communicated to the King's Majesty !” (this had been already done, and here is his reply!) “ To write to him what he thinketh of the matter, he shall say, that if he were in the Earl of Cassillis's place, and were as able to do his Majesty good service there, as he knoweth him to be, and thinketh a right good will in him to do it, he would surely do what he could for the execution of it: believing, verily, to do thereby not only an acceptable service to the King's Majesty, but also a special benefit to the realm of Scotland ; and would trust verily, the King's Majesty would consider his service in the same ; as you doubt not of his accustomed goodness to them which serve him, but he would do the same to him !"2
To say nothing of the falsehood and prevarication practised throughout, it appears that every movement in this deliberate purpose of murder, long carried on, was directed by the King personally. Hertford made no scruple in writing to him direct, and was never left without a reply ; while not fewer than twenty individuals were involved with Henry in the same condemnation. They not only entered cordially into the nefarious project, but gloried in the idea that they were doing God service. Sadler, in particular, the mouth-piece of his royal Master, made no scruple in speaking out boldly. He is writing in July to Crichton, the proprietor of Brunstain Castle, near Edinburgh.
“ I am of your opinion, and, as you write, think it to be acceptable service to God to take him out of the way. Albeit the King's Majesty, whose gracious nature and goodness I know, will not, I am sure, have to do nor meddle with this matter touching your said Cardinal, for sundry considerations ; yet if you could so work the matter with those gentlemen your friends, which have made that offer, that it may take effect, you shall undoubtedly do therein good service to God and to his Majesty! Wherefore, like as if I were in your place, it should be the first thing I would earnestly attempt-80 I shall give you mine advice, to travel in the same effectually with the said gentlemen, and to cause them to put the matter in execution ; assuring you that I know the King's Majesty's honour, liberality, and goodness to be such, (which also is not unknown to you,) as you may be sure his Majesty will so liberally reward them that do his Highness honest service as they shall have good cause to be contented. And if the execution of this matter do rest only upon the reward of the King's Majesty, I pray you advertise me what reward they do expect ; and, if it be not unreasonable, I will undertake it shall be paid immediately upon the act executed, though I do myself bear the charge of the same !"5
2 Gov. State Papers, V., p. 449. 3 Besides the King, we find ten noblemen, three knights, several commoners, and the two Bishops, Gardiner and Tunstal, all alike conversant with the affair. See the State Papers, vol. v.
4 Brunstain Castle, tetween Edinburgh and Musselburgh, now tenanted by a private family, and then the patrimonial residence of the Crichtons, was at a later period occupied by John Duke of Lauderdale.
5 Gov. State Papers, V., p. 471.
An Englishman named Thomas Forster had already been despatched by Sadler to the Earl of Cassillis and Sir George Douglas ; and from the latter he brought back the following message_“That if the King would have the Cardinal dead, if his Grace would promise a good reward for the doing thereof, so that the reward were known what it should be, he thinketh that that adventure would be proved.”6
To quote such language is no pleasing task, and we may well forbear ; but there can be no doubt that we have now before us above twenty men, with his Majesty of England at their head, like “ a troop of robbers waiting for a man, to murder him in the way by consent ;" and yet this is the very same King who, after all this, had the face to come forward and complain of “ malice” in his Privy Council, and want of " charity” in his Parliament !
Meanwhile, and before Henry can obtain his wishes, the Earl of Hertford must enter Scotland once more. At the head of an army, consisting not only of English, but a great many mercenary troops, Irish and Spaniards, Germans, and even Italians, the Earl began to move on the 5th of September. After destroying the abbeys of Kelso, Dryburgh, and Melrose ; plundering, by fire and sword, every village and farm, castle, or mansion, on the beautiful banks of the Tweed, the whole country had become a desert! When, without a farthing to pay the troops, and their own victuals being entirely spent, the army was obliged to return. Hertford, in exultation, wrote to his royal Master that more damage had been done by fire in Scotland, than had been done for the last hundred years. In describing the horrors of war, the Earl on his way homeward must discourse “such music as might suit the Sovereign's ear."
“ Yesterday, in the morning, sending the horsemen along the waters of Kaile and Bowbent, (Bowmont,) they forrayed, burnt, and wasted a great part of East Teviotdale; and, for the better execution, I sent with them 100 Irishmen, because the Borderers will not willingly burn their neighbours. Marching with the army towards Wark, we burnt and devastated the country on our way three or four miles on each hand, cast down sundry piles and stone houses, and burnt and destroyed such a deal of corn, as well in towns and lying in the fields, as also hid in woods and caves, that the Scots say themselves that they received not half so much loss and detriment by the last journey that was made to Edinburgh as they have done by this.”
“ Surely the country is very fair, and so good a corn country, and such plenty of the same, as we have not seen the more plenteous in England. Undoubtedly there is burnt a wonderful deal of corn ; for, by reason that the year hath been so forward, they had done much of their harvest, and made up their corn in stacks about their houses, or had it lying in shokes in the fields, and none at all left unshorn. 18 Sep. The burning whereof can be no little impoverishment to then, besides the burning and spoil of their houses. When the journey is
6 Gov. State Papers, v., p. 467.
ended, we shall make unto your Majesty a full declaration of the whole that hath, or shall be done in the same.”7
Some idea may be formed of all this misery, when it is stated, that by the 23d of September, they had burnt, razed, and destroyed, in the counties of Berwick and Roxburgh alone, 7 monasteries and friaries ; 16 castles, towers, and piles ; 5 market-towns, 243 villages ! 13 mills, and 3 hospitals. The Scots, in retaliation, had been doing what damage they could in the north-east parts of England ; though the raids of the Scots could by no means prove so wasteful as the forrays of the English.
September thus spent, by the 6th and the 20th of October it comes out that the project for murdering Beaton had been resumed, at the very period when Henry was reproving malice in his own Privy Council ; and though the Scotish Cardinal, by his cruelty and persecution, raised up other enemies in his own country, and fell at last as the immediate result of another quarrel, which we must not here anticipate, still the transactions of this period bear immediately on the characters of both Henry and his ministers.8 Upon his Majesty coming down to Parliament with his last oration, Hertford and Sadler, Wriothesly and Paget, Gardiner and Tunstal, with all the rest, were present. To say nothing of their being accomplices, what must they have thought of him, when he burst forth and read the whole House a lecture upon charity ?
It was in the beginning of June this year (1546) that Henry was at last informed of the murder of Beaton, on Saturday morning the 29th of May, in his castle of St. Andrews ; but, worn out with this double and expensive war into which he had plunged his country, he had begun to long for peace. Negotiations had commenced, indeed, in April, when, after “ long debating, and divers breaches,” peace was concluded with France. The Emperor was comprehended by both Princes, and Scotland also was included, if no new occasion were given—the latter being in fact, a hollow and crafty clause to serve for the future ; but, to France, peace was as welcome as to England.
It was professedly agreed that Francis should pay to Henry the arrears of pension due by the treaty of 1525 ; that commissioners, mutually appointed, should sit in judgment on a claim of debt due to England of 512,022 crowns; that, eight years hence, the King of England should receive 2,000,000 of crowns, as a compensation for arrears of pensions, and the charges of repairing and preserving Boulogne, which was to be restored to France.
In the foolish hope that this treaty was to be literally fulfilled, the peace was now proclaimed in London, and with great solemnity, on the 13th of June. It deserves notice merely on account of an incident perfectly characteristic of Henry after his wars were ended. On this occasion, the richest silver crosses, and the finest embroidered copes, collected from the different churches in London, were displayed ; but, the sight once over, it had proved too much for the envious eye of our ever-needful monarch. They were to grace processions no more ! This was the last time. His subjects, who ought to have been more cautious of displaying their finery, might have anticipated the result ; for, soon after, the whole of these splendid decorations, as well as the plate belonging to the churches, were ordered to be deposited in the royal treasury and wardrobe, Henry assigning no other reason than his will and pleasure. This, however, was a mere trifle, caught in passing. If we desire to know the true state of things once more, we may again first inquire what my Lord Chancellor was saying, now that his Majesty had finished his royal game. For above two years past he had sought diversion, both by sea and land, and made the sorrows of mankind his sport.
7 Gov. State Papers, V., p. 523. * See the scene in the Privy Council, under last year, pp. 174, 178.
The reader will not forget how much Parliament had done for the King last December, and for which he had stretched a point and caine down, first to thank the House, and then charge all present with such lack of charity ; but now, nine months after, Wriothesly is in no better humour than before.
“ As for money,” says he to the Privy Council on the 4th of September, "all the shift shall be made that is possible, but yet the store is very small. The contribution cometh very slowly in, which we shall help with letters if it amend not. The Mint is drawn dry, and much owing for bullion. The rest allege that they have little, but they shall have little rest unless we see they bestir them as appertaineth.” Three days after this—“ We cannot yet recover the money of the Mayor and City of London, due for corn, wherewith to pay the labourers at Boulogne. We caused £5000 to be delivered to the Admiralty yesterday for the alleviation of the King's Majesty's charges that way.” Only three days later, or the 10th—“ As touching the calling on the Mayor of London (Sir Martin Bowes) for the money due, we shall not fail to call, and cry till we get it.”—“ The Exchequer is closed up, and will help with nothing till the term come."9
Day after day Wriothesly sings the same song; and a fortnight later, or on the 25th of September, he is thus joined by Paulet and Gardiner in writing to the Council with the King :-“ Mr. Coferer hath declared to us this day his great lack of money for the King's Majesty's household; alleging that there is owing at this day above twelve thousand pounds, besides two thousand six hundred pounds to be paid this Michaelmas
which men look certainly to receive herein.” In short, they add_“ if the conduits be stopped, we shall be driven, of necessity, to tarry for the water !” 10
When Michaelmas-Even was come, to which they had alluded, Wri
9 Gov. Stato Papers, i., pp. 854, 861, 865, 878.
10 Idem, i., 879.