The condition of the country, moreover, instead of improving under his rule was considerably worse even than it had been under Somerset. The coinage had now reached its lowest point of debasement, the shilling containing only one quarter of silver to three quarters of copper, and even was ordered by decree to be only valued at half its face value.
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The gold had all left the country and foreign trade was killed by the lack of a decent currency. Labour, driven from the land by the wholesale conversion of the estates from tillage to pasture, crowded the towns clamouring for food, and the disgraceful treatment of the Princess Mary by the ruling minister had aroused a strong feeling against his injustice and tyranny. The Emperor was at war with France and the Lutherans, and was obliged to speak softly to Northumberland.
Again and again he tried to win him over to his side, and the ruler of England knew full well that, whatever he might do he was safe from any overt interference from the imperial power. But for this fact it is certain that Northumberland would not have attempted the bold stroke of disinheriting Mary and placing Jane Grey and his own son upon the throne of England.
When Edward VI was known by him to be sick beyond recovery Northumberland, with an eye to the near future, endeavoured to conciliate the Emperor somewhat and xxiii to bring about peace upon the Continent. His object in doing so was twofold—first to persuade Charles that he was still a potential friend; and, secondly, to set his French friends free from their war with the Emperor, and so enable them at the critical moment he foresaw to come to his aid in England if necessary.
This of course would have been a serious blow to the imperial cause; for it would in all probability mean the permanent adhesion of England to the French alliance. But Charles had swallowed so much humiliation to keep England friendly in the past that he was not disposed now to be too squeamish.
He did not know how far his enemies the French had gone in their promises of support to Northumberland when Edward should die, but if by blandishments and conciliatory acquiescence he could win the friendship of England he was willing to smile upon any occupant of the throne or any power behind it who would keep to the old alliance and turn a cold shoulder to the French.
You must endeavour also to maintain the confidence and good neighbourship which it is so important that our States should enjoy with England In short, the envoys were to promise anything and everything to secure the throne for Mary, even to endorsing the religious changes effected under Edward. But failing success in this it is made quite clear that the Emperor was willing to accept Jane Grey or any other sovereign who would consent to regard him as a friend and exclude French influence from the country.
The French were just as much on the alert to serve their own interests, and Northumberland, knowing how unpopular the French were at this juncture, and how much his supposed dependence upon them was resented, was extremely careful not to show ostensibly any leaning towards them. I will keep my eye upon them and will leave no effort untried to subvert them. At this juncture, which called, if ever one did, for prompt and bold action, only one of the several interests took a strong course, the Princess Mary herself.
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It is quite evident that everyone else had deceived himself and was paralysed in fear of action by another. Again and again the French ambassador expressed a belief that the coming of the imperial envoys portended an active interference on the part of the Emperor in favour of Princess Mary; and Northumberland and his council, notwithstanding all the protestations of the imperial envoys, were of the same opinion; whereas we now see that the Emperor was quite willing to throw over Mary, and even the Catholics, if only he could persuade Jane Grey and her government to join him against France.
Nor was the Emperor himself bolder than his envoys. Davey has indicated in the present book the eagerness with which the great imperial minister, Don Diego Hurtado de Mendoza, greeted Guildford Dudley as King of England. Just as the Emperor was paralysed in his action by the fear that he might alienate England from his side, so France allowed discretion to wait upon valour for fear of driving the English government irretrievably into the arms of the Emperor.
He confessed that Northumberland was excessively unpopular, but believed that his possession of the national forces would enable him to crush Mary and her malcontents. It is almost amusing, now that we have the correspondence xxvii of all parties before us, to see how they all deceived themselves. Both sides, indeed, were waiting to greet success without pledging themselves to a cause which might fail.
But the person who miscalculated most fatally of all was Northumberland himself.
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He had been during the whole time of his rule the humble servant of France. He was obliged, as has been shown, to cast his hazard when the public opinion was strongly against him, the commercial classes of England well nigh ruined, the labourers in a worse condition than had ever been known before, and the nobility jealous and apprehensive. Knowing this, as he did, it is difficult to believe that he would have dared to take up the position he assumed unless he had persuaded himself that, as a last resource, French armed aid would support him.
That such a thing was not remotely probable is now evident from the correspondence of the French ambassadors. And yet London itself was in a panic, born of the conviction that French troops were on their way to keep Jane upon the throne; Northumberland, in fact, presumably believing that his past services to France had deserved such aid, had actually sent and demanded it of the King.
If it had been afforded in effective time the whole history of England might have been changed. We know now, although none knew it then, that the Emperor would have greeted with smooth assurances the xxviii victorious Jane and Northumberland, and would have deserted his cousin Mary until a turn of the wheel gave her hopes of success again. There was, indeed, nothing to prevent Henry of France, but groundless fear of his rival, from sending to England the small force necessary to keep Jane upon the throne and defeat Mary. But time-serving cowardice ruled over all. The people of London, overwhelmingly Protestant as they were, greeted the Queen with effusion and had few words of pity for poor Jane, not because they loved the old observance but because they dreaded the French, and hated Northumberland the tyrannous and unjust servant of France.
In the country districts, too, where Catholicism was strong, the enthusiasm for Mary was not so much religious, for all the people wanted was quiet and some measure of prosperity, as expressive of joy at the hope of a return to the national policy of cordial relations with the sovereign of Flanders, which in past times had ensured English commerce from French depredations and the English coast from French menaces, with freedom from the arrogant minister who had harassed every English interest and had reduced to ruin all classes in the country.
Mary, in addition to her inherent right to the succession, which was her strong point, had only her own boldness and tenacity to thank for the success which she achieved. The Emperor, notwithstanding all his sympathy and the enormous importance xxix to him of her success, did nothing for her until she was independent of him, and only promised her armed aid then in case the French should attempt to overthrow her by force. Northumberland fell, not because the country at large and London above all, was yearning for the re-submission of England to the Pope, but because the eighteen months of his unchecked dictatorship had made him detested, and because he overrated the boldness and magnanimity of the King of France.
The English public, by instinct perhaps more than by reason, believed in the ideal policy of Henry VII : that of dexterously balancing English friendship between the rival continental powers, making the best market possible for her moral support, keeping at peace herself and adhering mostly to the more prosperous side without fighting for either.
Such a policy required statesmanship of the highest order, and Elizabeth alone was entirely successful in carrying it out. Somerset and Northumberland both failed because they were unequal to it. They were party leaders, both of them, and incapable of adopting the view above party considerations which marks the successful sovereign.
They pledged themselves too deeply to the respective foreign alliances traditional with their parties; and in both cases, as a penetrating statesman would have foreseen, their allies failed them at the critical moment. Not until Elizabeth came with her keen wit and her consummate mastery of the resources of chicanery was England placed and kept firmly again upon the road to greatness which had been traced for her by the first Tudor sovereign.
It stands in a sequestered corner, about three miles from the town of Leicester, amid arid slate hillocks, which slope down to the fertile valleys at their feet. There is a faire and plentiful spring of water brought by Master Brok as a man would judge agyne the hills through the lodge and thereby it driveth a mylle. Here cultivation has not, as so often on the Continent, disfigured Nature, but the park retains the wild beauty of its luxuriant elms and beeches that rise in native grandeur from amidst a wilderness of bracken, fern, and flags, to cast their shadows over heather-grown hillocks.
On the summit of one of the loftiest of these still stands the ruined palace that was the birthplace of Lady Jane Grey. The approaches to Bradgate are beautiful indeed, especially the pathway winding round by the old church along the banks of a trout-stream, which rises in the neighbourhood of the Priory of Ulverscroft, famous for the beauty of its lofty tower.
When Jane Grey was born, this Priory had been very recently suppressed, and the people were lamenting the departure of the monks, who, during the hard winter of , had fed six hundred starving peasants. Bradgate Manor House was standing as late as , but after that date it fell into gradual decay. Not much is now left of the original structure, but its outlines can still be traced; and the walls of the great hall and the chapel are nearly intact.
A late Lord Stamford and Warrington roofed and restored the old chapel, which contains a fine monument to that Henry Grey whose signature may be seen on the warrant for the execution of Charles I. A careful observation of the irregularities of the soil reveals traces of a tilt-yard and of garden terraces; but all is now overgrown by Spanish chestnut trees, wild flowers, nettles, and brambles.
The gardens were once considered amongst the finest in England, Lord Dorset taking great pride in the cultivation of all the fruits, herbs, and flowers then grown in Northern Europe. The parterres and terraces were formal, and there was a large fish-pond full of golden carp and water lilies. Lady Jane Grey must often have played in these stately avenues, and there is a legend that once, as a little girl, she toppled into the tank and was nearly drowned—a less hideous fate than that which was to befall her in her seventeenth year.
These sentimental lines were written in the eighteenth century, when deer still browsed in Bradgate Park, whence they have long since departed. Many curious traditions concerning Lady Jane are even now current among the local peasantry. Some believe that on St. It contains the headless form of the murdered Lady Jane. After a brief halt it drives away again into the mist. Then again, certain strange 3 stunted oaks are shown, trees which the woodmen pollarded when they heard that the fair girl had been beheaded.
It was hence he derived the surname of de Croy, afterwards anglicised to de Grey.
He was a man of great note. This force returned to England without doing service. The inheritance of this nobleman included the Marquisate of Dorset and the baronies of Ferrers, 4 Grey, Astley, Boneville, and Harrington, besides vast estates in Leicestershire and other parts of England. Henry Grey, though his portraits show him to have 5 been a very good-looking man, did not enjoy a good contemporary reputation for ability or strength of character.
This curious epistle, now in the British Museum, is much defaced and in parts illegible. The name of the person to whom it is addressed is undecipherable, but, taken in conjunction with two other letters previously addressed to Cromwell by the same correspondent, there can be little doubt as to its destination. Whether he mended his manners and paid her the money, we know not; but as the Dowager is occasionally mentioned as attending Court functions in company with her daughter-in-law, it seems probable that the ultimate issue of the difficulty, whatever it was, was satisfactory to her.
She was in much request, it seems, at royal christenings, for not only was she specially invited to that of Mary Tudor, afterwards Queen Mary I , but she enjoyed the signal honour of carrying the infant Elizabeth to the font. In recognition of his services, Henry attached young Charles Brandon to the person of his younger son, Prince Henry, who was of similar age to himself. Thus began a friendship which was only severed by death. In appearance the Prince and his comrade were singularly alike: both were tall and stalwart, both with red hair and fair complexions, and they were equally skilful and agile in sport and manly pastimes.
Charles was more intellectually gifted than Henry, but there was little to choose between them as regards their execrable views of moral responsibilities and their laxity in respect of their marriage vows.
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But though Margaret fell in love with him, such a match was soon seen to be impossible, even by the lady herself, and Brandon came out of the affair most ungallantly. For this or some other reason never clearly 8 explained, Brandon set aside his contract with Anne Browne, notwithstanding that by the laws of the period it was considered as binding as the completed marriage ceremony.
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We next learn that a probable reason for his unchivalrous conduct was a chance that suddenly offered itself to him of marrying the Lady Margaret, the rich widow of Sir John Mortimer of Essex. Charles and his mature consort—there was a difference of nearly thirty years between them—did not abide long together, for he presently endeavoured to annul this marriage on a plea of consanguinity, the Lady Margaret being sister to the mother of his neglected bride, Anne Browne, and consequently her aunt, a complication which surely ought to have been discovered at an earlier stage of the proceedings.