Queen Elizabeth - Jacob Abbott

The Spanish Match

When Queen Mary ascended the throne, she was a maiden lady not far from thirty-five years of age. She was cold, austere, and forbidding in her appearance and manners, though probably conscientious and honest in her convictions of duty. She was a very firm and decided Catholic, or, rather, she evinced a certain strict adherence to the principles of her religious faith, which we generally call firmness when it is exhibited by those whose opinions agree with our own, though we are very apt to name it bigotry in those who differ from us.

For instance, when the body of young Edward, her brother, after his death, was to be deposited in the last home of the English kings in Westminster Abbey, which is a very magnificent cathedral a little way up the river from London, the services were, of course, conducted according to the ritual of the English Church, which was then Protestant. Mary, however, could not conscientiously countenance such services even by being present at them. She accordingly assembled her immediate attendants and personal friends in her own private chapel, and celebrated the interment there, with Catholic priests, by a service conformed to the Catholic ritual. Was it a bigoted, or only a firm and proper attachment to her own faith, which forbade her joining in the national commemoration? The reader must decide; but, in deciding, he is bound to render the same verdict that he would have given if it had been a case of a Protestant withdrawing thus from Catholic forms.

At all events, whether bigoted or not, Mary was doubtless sincere; but she was so cold and stern, and austere in her character, that she was very little likely to be loved. There were a great many persons who wished to become her husband, but their motives were to share her grandeur and power. Among these persons, the most prominent one, and the one apparently most likely to succeed, was a prince of Spain. His name was Philip.

Philip II of Spain


It was his father's plan, and not his own, that he should marry Queen Mary. His father was at this time the most wealthy and powerful monarch in Europe. His name was Charles. He is commonly called in history Charles V of Spain. He was not only King of Spain, but Emperor of Germany. He resided sometimes at Madrid, and sometimes at Brussels in Flanders. His son Philip had been married to a Portuguese princess, but his wife had died, and thus Philip was a widower. Still, he was only twenty-seven years of age, but he was as stern, severe, and repulsive in his manners as Mary. His personal appearance, too, corresponded with his character. He was a very decided Catholic also, and in his natural spirit, haughty, ambitious, and domineering.

The Emperor Charles, as soon as he heard of young Edward's death and of Mary's accession to the English throne, conceived the plan of proposing to her his son Philip for a husband. He sent over a wise and sagacious statesman from his court to make the proposition, and to urge it by such reasons as would be most likely to influence Mary's mind, and the minds of the great officers of her government. The ambassador managed the affair well. In fact, it was probably easy to manage it. Mary would naturally be pleased with the idea of such a young husband, who, besides being young and accomplished, was the son of the, greatest potentate in Europe, and likely one day to take his father's place on that lofty elevation. Besides, Mary Queen of Scots, who had rival claims to Queen Mary's throne, had married, or was about marry, the son of the King of France, and there was a little glory in outshining her, by having for a husband a son of the King of Spain. It might, however, perhaps, be a question which was the greatest match; for, though the court of Paris was the most brilliant, Spain, being at that time possessed of the gold and silver mines of its American colonies, was at least the richest  country in the world.

Mary's ministers, when they found that Mary herself liked the plan, fell in with it too. Mary had been beginning, very quietly indeed, but very efficiently, her measures for bringing back the English government and nation to the Catholic faith. Her ministers told her now, however, that if she wished to succeed in effecting this match, she must suspend all these plans until the match was consummated. The people of England were generally of the Protestant faith. They had been very uneasy and restless under the progress which the queen had been making in silencing Protestant preachers, and bringing back Catholic, rites and ceremonies; and mow, if they found that their queen was going to marry so rigid and uncompromising a Catholic as Philip of Spain, they would be doubly alarmed. She must suspend, therefore, for a time, her measures for restoring papacy, unless she was willing to give up her husband. The queen saw that this was the alternative, and she decided on following her ministers' advice. She did all in her power to quiet and calm the public mind, in order to prepare the way for announcing the proposed connection.

Rumors, however, began to be spread abroad that such a design was entertained before Mary was fully prepared to promulgate it. These rumors produced great excitement, and awakened strong opposition. The people knew Philip's ambitious and overbearing character, and they believed that if he were to come to England as the husband of the queen, the whole government would pass into his hands, and, as he would naturally be very much under the influence of his father, the connection was likely to result in making England a mere appendage to the already vast dominions of the emperor. The House of Commons appointed a committee of twenty members, and sent them to the queen, with a humble petition that she would not marry a foreigner. The queen was much displeased at receiving such a petition, and she dissolved the Parliament. The members dispersed, carrying with them every where expressions of their dissatisfaction and fear. England, they said, was about to become a province of Spain, and the prospect of such a consummation, wherever the tidings went, filled the people of the country with great alarm.

Queen Mary's principal minister of state at this time was a crafty politician, whose name was Gardiner. Gardiner sent word to the emperor that there was great opposition to his son's marriage in England, and that he feared that he should not be able to accomplish it, unless the terms of the contract of marriage were made very favorable to the queen and to England, and unless the emperor could furnish him with a large sum of money to use as a means of bringing influential persons of the realm to favor it. Charles decided to send the money. He borrowed it of some of the rich cities of Germany, making his son Philip give his bond to repay it as soon as he should get possession of his bride, and of the rich and powerful country over which she reigned. The amount thus remitted to England is said by the historians of those days to have been a sum equal to two millions of dollars. The bribery was certainly on a very respectable scale.

The emperor also sent a very magnificent embassy to London, with a distinguished nobleman at its head, to arrange the terms and contracts of the marriage. This embassy came in great state, and, during their residence in London, were the objects of great attention and parade. The eclat of their reception, and the influence of the bribes, seemed to silence opposition to the scheme. Open opposition ceased to be expressed, though a strong and inveterate determination against the measure was secretly extending itself throughout the realm. This, however, did not prevent the negotiations from going on. The terms were probably all fully understood and agreed upon before the embassy came, so that nothing remained but the formalities of writing and signing the articles.

Some of the principal stipulations of these articles were, that Philip was to have the title of King of England jointly with Mary's title of Queen. Mary was also to share with him, in the same way, his title in Spain. It was agreed that Mary should have the exclusive power of the appointment of officers of government in England, and that no Spaniards should be eligible at all. Particular provisions were made in respect to the children which might result from the marriage, as to how they should inherit rights of government in the two countries. Philip had one son already, by his former wife. This son was to succeed his father in the kingdom of Spain, but the other dominions of Philip on the Continent were to descend to the offspring of this new marriage, in modes minutely specified to fit all possible cases which might occur. The making of all these specifications, however, turned out to be labor lost, as Mary never had children.

It was also specially agreed that Philip should not bring Spanish or foreign domestics into the realm, to give uneasiness to the English people; that he would never take the queen out of England, nor carry any of the children away, without the consent of the English nobility; and that, if the queen were to die before him, all his rights and claims of every sort, in respect to England, should forever cease. He also agreed that he would never carry away any of the jewels or other property of the crown, nor suffer any other person to do so.

These stipulations, guarding so carefully the rights of Mary and of England, were intended to satisfy the English people, and remove their objections to the match. They produced some effect, but the hostility was too deeply seated to be so easily allayed. It grew, on the contrary, more and more threatening, until at length a conspiracy was formed by a number of influential and powerful men, and a plan of open rebellion organized.

The leader in this plan was Sir Thomas Wyatt, and the outbreak which followed is known in history as Wyatt's rebellion. Another of the leaders was the Duke of Suffolk, who, it will be recollected, was the father of Lady Jane Grey. This led people to suppose that the plan of the conspirators was not merely to prevent the con summation of the Spanish match, but to depose Queen Mary entirely, and to raise the Lady Jane to the throne. However this may be, an extensive and formidable conspiracy was formed. There were to have been several risings in different parts of the kingdom. They all failed except the one which Wyatt himself was to head, which was in Kent, in the southeastern part of the country. This succeeded so far, at least, that a considerable force was collected, and began to advance toward London from the southern side.

Queen Mary was very much alarmed. She had no armed force in readiness to encounter this danger. She sent messengers across the Thames and down the river to meet Wyatt, who was ads awing at the head of four thousand men, to ask what it was that he demanded. He replied that the queen must be delivered up as his prisoner, and also the Tower of London be surrendered to him. This showed that his plan was to depose the queen. Mary rejected these proposals at once, and, having no forces to meet this new enemy, she had to retreat from Westminster into the city of London and here she took refuge in the city hall, called the Guildhall, and put herself under the protection of the city authorities. Some of her friends urged her to take shelter in the Tower; but she had more confidence, she said, in the faithfulness and loyalty of her subjects than in castle walls.

Wyatt continued to advance. He was still upon the south side of the river. There was but one bridge across the Thames, at London, in those days, though there are half a dozen now, and this one was so strongly barricaded and guarded that Wyatt did not dare to attempt to cross it. He went up the river, therefore, to cross at a higher point; and this circuit, and several accidental circumstances which occurred, detained him so long that a considerable force had been got together to receive him when he was ready to enter the city. He pushed boldly on into the narrow streets, which received him like a trap or a snare. The city troops hemmed up his way after he had entered. They barricaded the streets, they shut the gates, and armed men poured in to take possession of all the avenues. Wyatt depended upon finding the people of London on his side. They turned, instead, against him. All hope of success in his enterprise, and all possibility of escape from his own awful danger, disappeared together. A herald came from the queen's officer calling upon him to surrender himself quietly, and save the effusion of blood. He surrendered in an agony of terror and despair.

The Duke of Suffolk learned these facts in another county, where he was endeavoring to raise a force to aid Wyatt. He immediately fled, and hid himself in the house of one of his domestics. He was betrayed, however, seized, and sent to the Tower. Many other prominent actors in the insurrection were arrested, and the others fled in all directions, wherever they could find concealment or safety.

Lady Jane's life had been spared thus far, although she had been, in fact, guilty of treason against Mary by the former attempt to take the crown. She now, however, two days after the capture of Wyatt, received word that she must prepare to die. She was, of course, surprised and shocked at the suddenness of this announcement; but she soon regained her composure, and passed through the awful scenes preceding her death with a fortitude amounting to heroism, which was very astonishing in one so young. Her husband was to die too. He was beheaded first, and she saw the headless body, as it was brought back from the place of execution, before her turn came. She acknowledged her guilt in having attempted to seize her cousin's crown. As the attempt to seize this crown failed, mankind consider her technically guilty. If it had succeeded, Mary, instead of Jane, would have been the traitor who would have died for attempting criminally to usurp a throne.

In the mean time Wyatt and Suffolk remained prisoners in the Tower. Suffolk was overwhelmed with remorse and sorrow at having been the means, by his selfish ambition, of the cruel death of so innocent and lovely a child. He did not suffer this anguish long, however, for five days after his son and Lady Jane were executed, his head fell too from the block. Wyatt was reserved a little longer.

He was more formally tried, and in his examination he asserted that the Princess Elizabeth was involved in the conspiracy. Officers were immediately sent to arrest Elizabeth. She was taken to a royal palace at Westminster, just above London, called Whitehall, and shut up there in close confinement, and no one was allowed to visit her or speak to her. The particulars of this imprisonment will be described more fully in the next chapter. Fifty or sixty common conspirators, not worthy of being beheaded with an ax, were hanged, and a company of six hundred more were brought, their hands tied, and halters about their necks, a miserable gang, into Mary's presence, before her palace, to be pardoned. Wyatt was then executed. When he came to die, however, he retracted what he had alleged of Elizabeth. He declared that she was entirely innocent of any participation in the scheme of rebellion. Elizabeth's friends believe that he accused her because he supposed that such a charge would be, agreeable to Mary, and that he should himself be more leniently treated in consequence of it, but that when at last he found that sacrificing her would not save him, his guilty conscience scourged him into doing her justice in his last hours.

All obstacles to the wedding were now apparently removed; for, after the failure of Wyatt's rebellion, nobody dared to make any open opposition to the plans of the queen, though there was still abundance of secret dissatisfaction. Mary was now very impatient to have the marriage carried into effect. A new Parliament was called, and its concurrence in the plan obtained. Mary ordered a squadron of ships to be fitted out and sent to Spain, to convey the bridegroom to England. The admiral who command had of this fleet wrote to her that the sailors were so hostile to Philip that he did not think it was safe for her to intrust him to their hands. Mary then commanded this force to be dismissed, in order to arrange some other way to bring Philip over. She was then full of anxiety and apprehension lest some accident might befall him. His ship might be wrecked, or he might fall into the hands of the French, who were not at all well disposed toward the match. Her thoughts and her conversation were running upon this topic all the time. She was restless by day and sleepless by night, until her health was at last seriously impaired, and her friends began really to fear that she might lose her reason. She was very anxious, too, lest Philip should find her beauty so impaired by her years, and by the state of her health, that she should fail, when he arrived, of becoming she object of his love.

In fact, she complained already that Philip neglected her. He did not write to her, or express in any way the interest and affection which she thought ought to be awakened in his mind by a bride who, as she expressed it, was going to bring a kingdom for a dowry. This sort of cold and haughty demeanor was, however, in keeping with the self-importance and the pride which then often marked the Spanish character, and which, in Philip particularly, always seemed to be extreme.

At length the time arrived for his embarkation. He sailed across the Bay of Biscay, and up the English Channel until he reached South Hampton, a famous port on the southern coast of England. There he landed with great pomp and parade. He assumed a very proud and stately bearing, which made a very unfavorable impression upon the English people who had been sent by Queen Mary to receive him. He drew his sword when he landed, and walked about with it, for a time, in a very pompous manner, holding the sword unsheathed in his hand, the crowd of by-standers that had collected to witness the spectacle of the landing looking on all the time, and wondering what such an action could be intended to intimate. It was probably intended simply to make them wonder. The authorities of Southampton had arranged it to come in procession to meet Philip, and present him with the keys of the gates, an emblem of an honorable reception into the city. Philip received the keys, but did not deign a word of reply. The distance and reserve which it had been customary to maintain between the English sovereigns and their people was always pretty strongly marked, but Philip's loftiness and grandeur seemed to surpass all bounds.

Mary went two thirds of the way from London to the coast to meet the bridegroom. Here the marriage ceremony was performed, and the whole party came, with great parade and rejoicings, back to London, and Mary, satisfied and happy, took up her abode with her new lord in Windsor Castle.

The poor queen was, however, in the end, sadly disappointed in her husband. He felt no love for her; he was probably, in fact, incapable of love. He remained in England a year, and then, growing weary of his wife and of his adopted country, he went back to Spain again, greatly to Queen Mary's vexation and chagrin. They were both extremely disappointed in not having children. Philip's motive for marrying Mary was ambition wholly, and not love; and when he found that an heir to inherit the two kingdoms was not to be expected, he treated his unhappy wife with great neglect and cruelty and finally went away from her altogether. He came back again, it is true, a year afterward, but it was only to compel Mary to join with him in a war against France. He told her that if she would not do this, he would go away from England and never see her again. Mary yielded; but at length, harassed and worn down with useless regrets and repinings, her mental sufferings are supposed to have shortened her days. She died miserably a few years after her marriage, and thus the Spanish match turned out to be a very unfortunate match indeed.