Зображення сторінки

led to the scaffold, and his rival, Northumberland, in possession of the young monarch's confidence. “ On the 22d of January, 1552,” writes Edward in his journal, “ the duke of Somerset had his head cut off upon Tower Hill, between eight and nine in the morning.” This duke of Somerset, whose execution is thus so coldly and briefly noticed, the reader is aware, was the youthful journalist's favourite uncle.

Edward had inherited a delicate constitution from his mother, and with it that precociousness of talent sometimes considered as indicative of a short career. His illness was now advancing rapidly to its fatal termination. On the 11th of June, 1553, Montague, chief justice of the Common Pleas, with two of the puisne judges, and the attorney and solicitor general, received a summons to attend the council at the palace of Greenwich. On their arrival the dying monarch informed them, that his anxiety for the welfare of his subjects had induced him to change the order of succession laid down by his royal father ; that he had seriously weighed the danger the kingdom might be exposed to if his sister Mary, with her popish predilections, should succeed to the throne, and the danger that might follow to the laws and religion of the country if either of the princesses married a stranger to both. The law officers were then ordered to draw up a legal instrument, declaring his cousin, the lady Jane Dudley, daughter of Grey, duke of Suffolk, and wife of a son of Northumberland, the prime originator of the whole proceeding, heir to the crown. After many delays and expostulations on the part of the chief justice and his colleagues, and reprimands and threats from the king and Northumberland, the instrument establishing a new order of succession was legally executed. On the 21st of June it was signed by the chancellor, the archbishop, judges, and the leading nobility. Cranmer at first refused the sanction of his name to the deed, and argued zealously against it at the council and in private. “I never liked it,” he says, in his letter to queen Mary, nor any thing grieved me so much as your grace's brother did and if by any means it had been to have hindered the making of that will, I should have done it." He yielded ultimately to Edward's personal entreaties. “So at length I was required by the king's majesty himself to set my hand to his will, saying, that he trusted that I alone would not be more repugnant to his will than the rest of the council were ; which words surely grieved my heart very sore, and so I granted him to subscribe his will, and to follow the same.” On the 6th of July the youthful monarch expired.

The nine-days' reign of the young, beautiful, and all-accomplished pupil of Roger Ascham, lady Jane Dudley, followed, with its fatal consequences to its innocent victim and guilty author. For the designing and unprincipled Northumberland there can be no pity; he justly died the death of a traitor ; but who that reads the artless narra

tive of the puppet-queen, but must lament that she should have been the ill-fated tool of her father-itlaw's ambition. Cranmer adhered faithfully to her interests to the last hour, though, as we have seen, he had embraced them with reluctance.

From Mary the archbishop could hope but for little mercy: all that was dark and resentful in her story was associated with his name. It was he that annulled her mother's marriage, and had declared herself illegitimate ; he was the subverter of her religion, and the head of the new system of worship that had been raised in its stead ; and he had joined in a conspiracy to snatch the crown from her brow, and was one of the last to abandon the fortunes of her competitor: a deep sense of private wrong, therefore, united with religious zeal in visiting his offences with the heaviest panishment. But the blow did not fall all at once: it was deemed prudent to wait till the new queen had become firmly seated on her throne.

King Edward was buried on the 8th of August, on which occasion Cranmer officiated according to the protestant ritual. He was next day ordered to confine himself to the archiepiscopal palace of Lambeth, and to furnish the council with an inventory of his moveable possessions. He was joined in his retirement by Peter Martyr, who had filed from Oxford, where the reformed doctrines had not even yet taken root, and who confirmed the fears of the archbishop, that their joint labours in establishing a scriptural system of worship would be unproductive during the reign of the present monarch. Cranmer conducted himself with great humility; so much so, indeed, as to induce his enemies to give out “that he was ready to submit himself in all things” to the will of the council. To add to his anxiety, it was communicated to him that mass had been performed in Canterbury cathedral with his alleged consent and permission. The honest zeal of Peter Martyr felt indignant at the imputation, and, by his advice, Cran. mer gave it a public denial. The declaration which he drew up on this occasion does honour, by its boldness, to his courage and sincerity. It stated, “that as the devil had at all times set on his instruments by lies to defame the servants of God, so he was now more than ordinarily busy. For whereas king Henry had begun the correcting the abuses of the mass, which his son had brought te a further perfection ; and so the Lord's Supper was restored to its first institution, and was cele. brated according to the pattern of the primitive church: now the devil, intending to bring the mass again into its room, as being his own invention, had stirred up some to give out that it had been set up in Canterbury by his, the said Cranmer's, order; and it was said, that he had undertaken to sing mass to the queen's majesty, both at king Edward's funeral at St. Paul's and other places; and though, for these twenty years, he had despised all such errors and false reports of hima as were spread abroad, yet he now thought it not

[ocr errors]

fit to lie under such misrepresentations; therefore he protests to all the world that the mass was not set up at Canterbury by his, the said Cranmer's, order, but that a fawning hypocritical monk had done it without his knowledge; and for what he was said to have undertaken to the queen, her majesty knew well how false that was, offering, if he might obtain her leave for it, to maintain that every thing in the communion service that was set out by their most innocent and good king Edward was according to Christ's institution, and the practice of the apostles and the ancient church for many ages, to which the mass was contrary, being full of errors and abuses; and although Peter Martyr was by some called an ignorant man, he with him, or other four or five such as he could choose, would be ready to defend, not only their Book of Common Prayer and the other rites of their service, but the whole doctrines and order of religion set forth by the late king as more pure and more agreeable to the word of God than any sort of religion that had been in England for a thousand years before it, provided that things should be judged by the Scriptures, and that the reasonings on both sides should be faithfully written down."*

On the 8th, Cranmer was summoned to answer for it before the council. On the 13th, "after a long and serious debate,” he was committed to the Tower, for matters of treason against the queen, and for dispersing of seditious bills. He was attainted in the ensuing parliament of treason, and the fruits of his archbishoprick seques. tered. The charge of treason was, however, forgiven or abandoned, it being determined that he should be proceeded against for heresy alone.

The rebellion of Wyat produced the usual effect of unsuccessful insurrection; it strengthened the power of the crown, and removed the obstacle of public inertia to its favourite measures. With its suppression began those burnings and persecutions which have entailed upon this reign the lasting odium of posterity. It was now resolved to proceed to extremities with Cranmer and the other leaders of the reformation. From the Tower, where they had been confined for the last seven months, the archbishop, Latimer, and Ridley were conducted to Oxford, there to hold a public disputation with the catholic theologians on the great points of difference between the two churches. The catholic was then the religion of the sovereign : of course the moderator in the disputation decided in favour of the divines of the state worship; Cranmer and his associates were declared to be vanquished and contumacious, and the hall resounded with the cries of “ Vincit veritas." It was in vain that they declared to the council that they had been silenced by noiset, and

not by argument; and that they appealed to the judgment of the Almighty from the decision of the moderator. The council hearkened not to their prayer, and left them to their fate. Two days after the decision against them they were brought before the commissioners, and asked whether they would subscribe to the ancient worship. They unanimously refused, and were condemned as obstinate heretics. The usual formalities of the papal code in heretical prosecutions were gone through. Cranmer was cited as an archbishop to appear before the pope within the canonical period (eighty days) laid down on such occasions, and at the expiration of the eighty days was delivered over to the secular power. He was accused of blasphemy and heresy for his writings against the Roman worship, of perjury for violating his oath of canonical obedience, and of incontinency for having married after his vow of celibacy; and was declared to be contumacious for not having (and he was a prisoner all the time) appeared at Rome, according to the letter of the citation. He was now in hourly expectation of his fate—the rather as Gardiner and Bonner, whom he had treated with great harshness in the late reign, were the queen's most influential counsellors. From them he could expect no favour: the implacable hatred of polemical antagonists being, in both, inflamed by the recollection of personal oppression. Had the archbishop been at this time led to the scaffold, --such was the resigned firmness of his mind,-his name would have probably been spared the stain of his subsequent recantations.

Hitherto Cranmer had displayed unremittent courage in his sufferings, and was prepared to prove his sincerity by his death. But with delay and suspense came vague hopes, and a damping of zeal and courage. From the window of his cell, he had seen his friends and fellow-labourers in the vineyard, Ridley and Latimer, led to execution.

The excruciating torments which they were made to endure shook his resolution. Hopes were held out to him that his life might be spared if he relented from his obstinacy; he wavered, and cxpressed a wish to have a conference with the legate. This fit of irresolution, however, soon passed over; and having expressed his regret for his weakness, he wrote a long letter to the queen in defence of the protestant doctrines. But Gardiner was well acquainted with that want of firmness which was the blemish of the archbishop's character, and knew that, having once hesitated, it was highly probable he would hesitate again. Cranmer was accordingly told to prepare himself for his speedy execution. The intelligence had its intended effect; his spirit was broken by confinement, his

Burnet.-This bold declaration was publicly read in Cheapside and elsewhere on the 5th of September.

| Cranmer, in his letter to the council, says,“ I nevor knewe nor hearde of a more confusied disputacyon

in all my life. For albeit there was one appoynted to dispute agaynste me, yet evrey man spak hys mynde, and brought forth what hym liked, without order; and such hast was made that no answere coulde be suffered to be given."

courage gave way, and death by burning presented itself to his imagination with all its features of horror. Six instruments of recantation still bear witness to his “human infirmity.” Thus

“ The base drachm Doth all the noble substance often dout

To his own scandal.” and thus the one defect of Cranmer's mind led to acts which his frequent heroism scarcely atoned for. He now feigned himself a reconvert to the Catholic doctrines, and for six weeks openly condemned the “ errors of Luther and Zuinglius, acknowledged the pope's supremacy, the seven sacraments, the corporal presence in the eucharist, purgatory, prayer for departed souls, the invocation of saints, to which was added his being sorry for his former errors; and concluded, exhorting all that had been deceived by his example or doctrines to return to the unity of the church, and protesting that he had signed his recantation willingly, only for the discharge of his conscience."*

Fortunately for the reputation of Cranmer, these humiliating recantations were not rewarded by a pardon. To Ridley and Latimer life had been offered on their renouncing their “heresies ;" but it was decided in the council that no recantation should save the archbishop. His political offences, it was said, might be overlooked; but his offences against religion required that he should suffer for the sake of example. A writ for his execution was accordingly despatched to Oxford, and a day fixed. But Cranmer with his firmness lost his dignity of mind. With the hope of still averting his fate, he signed another document, in which he declared he was not actuated by fear or favour, and that his former recantation was made unsolicitedly, for the ease of his own conscience and the instruction of others. A letter to cardinal Pole,-he knew he need not address Gardiner-accompanied this document, in which he begged that prelate's influence to obtain him a few days' respite, in order that he might give the world a still more convincing proof of his repentance. The respite was granted ; and Cranmer, in a sixth confession, declared that he had been a greater persecutor of the church than Paul, and that he wished, like that apostle, to make amends. He could not rebuild what he had destroyed ; but as the penitent thief on the cross by the testimony of his lips obtained mercy, so he trusted that he by the offering of his lips should move the clemency of the Almighty. He was an offender beyond the pale of temporal or eternal mercy; he had blasphemed the sacrament, and had deprived men of the benefit of the eucharist. To conclude, he entreated for forgiveness from the pope and the king and queen, and pity from all Christians. Fortunately, we repeat, for Cranmer's fame, his

Burnet, ii. 2. The reader will see six recantations, quoted at length, in Todd's life of Cranmer, just published.

offence against the honour of Mary's birth had made her inexorably resolved on his execution. Had he been then pardoned, and permitted to eke out his existence in obscurity, his name would now be a by-word synonymous with all that is loathsome in hypocrisy, cowardice, and apostacy. He would have been so degraded in his own eyes, that he could never have ventured again to present himself to that church of which he was the founder, but from which the fear of death had made him apostatise. Again, we repeat, his reputation is indebted to the profound hatred of the queen, who, unmoved by his cries for mercy, and his expressions of deep remorse, desired the law to take its course.

The 21st of March was the day fixed for his execution. To the last moment, Cranmer clung to the hope of mercy ; and was astounded when a Spanish friar announced to him, on the fatal niorning, that his hours were numbered, and that he should prepare himself for his last earthly trial. The friar then handed to him a paper, to be read at the stake as a dying testimony of his repentance. It was a summary of his recantations. Cranmer signed it; and having transcribed it, kept a copy for his own use. When the friar had departed he altered his copy, and made it equivalent to a disavowal of all his former abjurations and denials. At the usual hour the procession set forward : it halted at the church of St. Mary, where the last sermon was preached by a Dr. Cole. The archbishop stood on a platform opposite to the pulpit, according to an eye-witness (quoted by Strype,) “the very image of sorrow.” Remorse for his recent unworthy conduct had taken entire possession of his soul. His face was bathed in tears, and expressed “great inward confusion;" and his eyes were sometimes lifted up to heaven, now fixed downward on earth,“ as one ashamed of himself.” The sermon having been concluded, the preacher called on Cranmer to declare his faith. The archbishop then took out his paper : all were prepared for a repetition of his recantations, the rather as the merits of his conversion had been dwelt upon by Dr. Cole in his sermon. He was heard with profound attention, till he “spake to that which, he said, troubled his conscience more than any thing he had ever done in his whole life ; which was the subscribing a paper contrary to the truth, and against his conscience, out of fear of death and love of life ; and when he came to the fire, he was resolved that that hand. that had signed it should burn first.” He then repeated, that his former opinions on the papal usurpation, and on the eucharist, were those he died in. “Upon this there was a wonderful confusion in the assembly.” Lord Williams called to him to remember himself, and play the Christian. “I do,” replied Cranmer, with tears : “it is now too late to dissemble ; I must now speak the truth. I have been hitherto a hater of falsehood and a lover of simplicity, and never before

of his age.

this time have I disembled." He was immediate Cranmer possessed neither the genius nor the ly led to the stage which had been erected for his learning of the German theologian ; and though execution, opposite Baliol College, where he put naturally as candid and truth-loving, did not exoff his clothes in haste, and standing in his shirt, hibit the same ingenuous buoyancy in troubled and without shoes, was fastened with a chain to waters. The truth is, the very virtues of his the stake. Some of the crowd urged him to de character united with its defects in unfitting him clare in favour of his former recantations. He an for high stations in times like those which it was swered, showing his hand, “This is the hand that his fate to live in. wrote it, and therefore it shall suffer punishment.” He was constitutionally wedded to peace and Fire being applied to him, he stretched out his quietness ; and wanting, as we have seen, firmright hand into the flame, and held it there unmov ness and decision of purpose, and the higher and ed (except that once with it he wiped his face) sterner elements of moral greatness, was too glad till it was consumed, crying with a loud voice, to embrace repose from toil and danger upon al* This hand hath offended—this unworthy right most any terms. Hence we may conclude that, hand.” At last, the fire getting up, he soon ex had his lot been confined to private life, his conpired, never stirring or crying out all the while, duct would have been unexceptionably amiable, only keeping his eyes fixed on heaven, and re and himself universally respected ; and hence we peating more than once, “Lord Jesus, receive my may also affirm, that under no circumstances spirit !" Cranmer thus perished, in the 67th year could he have been a great man.

As it is, we

pity much more than we condemn him, and It is hardly necessary to offer additional remarks willingly shut our eyes on his defects and errors, on the character of Cranmer, as, we persuade when we recollect his cruel death, and his serviourselves, its leading features have been sufficient ces in aid of the reformation. These it is that have ly displayed to the reader in the course of our nar snatched his name from oblivion, or from indifferrative. His contemporaries unite in attributing ence, perhaps contempt, and that, in the teeth of to him all the virtues that adorn a private station. mutually admitted facts, have kept alive a conHe was bumble and affectionately kind to the troversy on the real merits of his character. By poor, ever attentive to their wants, ever happy in our own zealots he is held up to our admiration, relieving them. To the rich and powerful he is as the most glorious and faultless martyr of the also represented as uniformly courteous and re Church of England ; by the Romanists, his name spectful, equally remote from obsequiousness and, is branded with every epithet of meanness and what has been considered as not unusual in men inconsistency : as if, in this most absurd logoof his rank, episcopal arrogance. In the mildness machy, the character of the reformation, or the and yielding gentleness of his temper, and in the gospel purity of the rival creeds, were to be de* vicious feeblenesses” to which the excess of termined, or for a moment affected, by the conthose excellent qualities invariably leads, he very duct of indivduals ; and as if it was not among much resembled Philip Melancthon. Like that the most wonderful of the dispensations of Proviamiable man, too, he wanted the enthusiastic con dence, which “out of evil seeks to bring forth fidence in the goodness of his cause which spurns good,” that it has sometimes been pleased to emthe aid of unworthy expedients, and fearlessly ploy the guiltiest instruments in effecting its highpursues its straightforward course in all times est and holiest purposes. and seasons. But here the resemblance ends.



WILLIAM CECIL*, descended from an ancient and respectable family, was born at Bourn in Lincolnshire, in the year 1520.f Both his father and grandfather held honourable appointments under Henry VIII. His father was master of the robes; an office, in that age, of considerable distinction. During his early education, his progress either exhibited nothing remarkable, or has been overlook

ed by his biographers, amidst the splendour of his succeeding transactions; for we are merely informed, that he received the first rudiments of learning at the grammar schools of Grantham and Stamford.* But at St. John's college, Cambridge, to which he was removed in the fifteenth year of his age, he gave strong indications of the qualities calculated to raise him to future eminence. He suffered no irregularity to interrupt his pursuits ; and seemed resolute to excel his fellow-students,

* Life of William Lord Burghley, by one of his domestics, edited by Collins in 1732, p. 6.

This life is taken by permission from Macdiarmid's British Statesmen.

Lord Burleigh's Diary, in the British Museum, Harlcian MS No. 46.

by the certain means of incessant application. | learnt to express himself with ease and confidence; That he might daily devote several hours to study, while the extent of his information, and the sound. without any hazard of interruption, he made an ness of his judgment, prevented his fluency from agreement with the bell-ringer to be called up degenerating into declamation. every morning at four o'clock. The strength of These acquisitions, united to a singular indushis constitution, however, did not correspond with try, must have raised him, at an early period, to the ardour of his mind; for, in consequence of great eminence in his profession, had not an incimuch sitting, without proper intervals of exercise, dent, which introduced him to the notice of Henry he contracted a painful humour in his legs; and VIII., soon diverted his attention to a different though subsequently cured of this distemper, his career. Cecil, having accidentally met, in the physicians considered it as a principal cause of presence chamber, with two Irish priests, who had that inveterate gout which embittered the latter come to court in the train of O'Neil, their chieftain, part of his life.*

happened to enter into an argument with them on His indefatigable industry soon led to a profi the pope's supremacy, of which they were zealous ciency which drew on him the particular notice of abettors; and, by his superior knowledge and his teachers. The master of the college encourag. fluency, so baffled his antagonists, that they began ed his perseverance by occasional presentst, but to vent their uneasy feelings in violent expressions. his ambition seems to have required no such stimu This contest was conducted in Latin ; and the lant. He began, at sixteen, to put in practice the particulars of it having been reported to Henry, methods then usual of acquiring literary celebrity, the monarch, pleased with this indication of by delivering a public lecture. His first topic was talents, and still more with the successful refutathe logic of the schools ; but, three years after

tion of the pope's supremacy, desired to see the wards, he ventured to comment on the Greek lan

young man ; and, in the course of a long converguage, which had hitherto been cultivated with

sation, conceived so favourable an opinion of his more eagerness than success. He was afterwards

abilities, that he resolved to take him into his serambitious of excelling as a general scholar; and

vice, and directed his father (the master of the successively directed his industry to the various robes) to find out an office which might suit him. branches of literature then cultivated at the uni As no suitable situation happened to be vacant at versity. I

the time, his father pitched on the reversion of the When he was supposed to have laid a sufficient custos brevium in the Common Pleas, which was foundation of useful knowledge, he was removed readily granted.* from the university to Gray's Inn, where he applied From the time of this introduction at court, himself to the study of the law, with the same

which happened within the first year of his attendmethod and industry as he had observed at Cam

ance at Gray's Inn, and in the twenty-second year bridge. He found leisure also for several collate

of his age, though Cecil still continued his applicaral pursuits: the antiquities of the kingdom, and

tion to the law, his mind appears to have been more more especially the pedigrees and fortunes of the

intently fixed on political advancement. A very most distinguished families, occupied much of his

prudent and honourable alliance, which he this attention ; and such was his progress in these

year contracted by marriage, proved an effectual pursuits, that no man of his time was accounted

channel to future preferment. Introduced by his a more complete adept in heraldry.Ş This species

father-in-law, sir John Cheke, a man of great of information, had he adhered to the destination

respectability and influence, to the earl of Hertfor the bar, might have been of little utility; but, ford, maternal uncle to the young prince Edward, in his career of a statesman, it often proved of es

and afterwards better known as duke of Somerset, sential advantage. His practice was to record

he was enabled to cultivate a connection which, with his pen every thing worthy of notice which

in a few years, elevated him to the highest ofoccurred to him either in reading or observation,

fices.t arranging this information in the most methodical

About the commencement of the reign of Edmanner,-a singular example of diligence, which

ward VI. he succeeded to his office of custos is authenticated to posterity by collections of his

brevium, which brought him a revenue of 2401. & manuscripts, still preserved in many public and

year, equal to more than 10001. in the present age. private libraries. While, from this practice, he de While this accession to his fortune placed him in rived, besides other advantages, an uncommon fa comparative affluence, and enabled him to prosecility in committing his thoughts to writing, he

cute his plans more at ease, a new family connecneglected not to cultivate an accomplishment still tion, which he formed about the same time, openmore essential to his intended profession,-a ready ed to him the fairest access to royal patronage. and graceful enunciation. By frequenting various His first wife having died in the second year of companies, and entering into free discussion, he

their marriage, leaving him a son, he now married * Life of William Lord Burghley, p. 6.

a daughter of sir Anthony Cook, the director of the | Fuller's History of the University of Cambridge, | Life of William Lord Burghley, p. 7.

* Life of William Lord Burghley, p. 9. Bacon's Works, vol. iv. p. 358. edit. 1740.

† Camden's Annal. Eliz, p. 774.

P. 95.

« НазадПродовжити »