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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

In which Anne protests her innocence to the King


How

completely did the German ambassadors, who had come over with the expectation of seeing the victory in England of the theologians who were friendly to them, find themselves deceived! They still however cherished the hope that these resolutions would never be carried out. Their ground for hope lay in the King's marriage with a German Protestant princess, which was just then being arranged.

Some years before Anne Boleyn had fallen a victim to a dreadful fate. How had the King extolled her shortly before his marriage as a mirror of purity, modesty and maidenliness! hardly two years afterwards he accused her of adultery under circumstances which, if they were true, would make her one of the most depraved creatures under the sun. If we go through the statements that led to her condemnation, it is difficult to think them complete fictions: they have been upheld quite recently. If on the other hand we read the letter, so full of high feeling and inward truthfulness, in which Anne protests her innocence to the King, we cannot believe in the possibility of the transgressions for which she had to die. I can add nothing further to what has been long known, except that the King, soon after her coronation, in November 1533, already showed a certain discontent with her.[134] Was it after all not right in the eyes of the jealous autocrat that his former wife's lady in waiting now as Queen wore the crown as well as himself? Anne Boleyn too might not be without

blame in her demeanour which was not troubled by any strict rule. Or did it seem to the King a token of the divine displeasure against this marriage also, that Anne Boleyn in her second confinement brought a stillborn son into the world? It has been always said that the lively interest she took in the progress of the outspoken Protestantism, whose champions were almost all her personal friends, contributed most to her fall. For the house from which she sprung she certainly in this respect went too far. In the midst of religious and political parties, pursued by suspicion and slander, and in herself too tormented by jealousy, endangered rather than guarded by the possession of the highest dignity, she fell into a state of excitement bordering on madness.

On the day after her execution the King married one of her maids of honour, the very same who had awakened her jealousy, Jane Seymour. She indeed brought him the son for whom his soul longed, but she died in her confinement.

In the rivalry of parties Cromwell after some time formed the plan of strengthening his own side by the King's marriage with a German princess; he chose for this purpose Anne of Cleves, a lady nearly related to the Elector of Saxony, and whose brother as possessor of Guelders was a powerful opponent of the Emperor. This was at the time when the Emperor on his way to the Netherlands paid a visit to King Francis, and an alliance of these sovereigns was again feared. But by the time his new wife arrived all anxiety had already gone by, and with it the motive for a Protestant alliance for the King had ceased. Anne had not quite such disadvantages of nature as has been asserted: she was accounted amiable:[135] but she could not enchain a man like Henry; he had no scruple in dissolving the marriage already concluded; Anne made no opposition: the King preferred to her a Catholic lady of the house of Howard. But the consequent alteration was not limited to the change of a wife. The hopes the Protestants had cherished now completely dwindled away: it was the hardest blow they could receive. Cromwell, the person who had been the main instrument in carrying out the schism by law, and who had then placed himself at the head of the reformers, was devoted to destruction by the now dominant party. He was even more violently overthrown than Wolsey had been. In the middle of business one day at a meeting of the Privy Council he was informed that he was a prisoner; two of his colleagues there tore the orders which he wore from his person, since he was no longer worthy of them;[136] that which had been the ruin of so many under his rule, a careless word, was now his own.


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