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HENRY VIII. AND HIS COUNCIL.
(From a contemporary Drawing.) As soon as Anne of Cleves had gone, the King arrived at the palace to pass his honeymoon with his new wife, Catherine Howard. No record is extant of the marriage
ceremony, but it must have taken place at Hampton Court about the 8th of August, on which day she was openly shown as Queen, and sat next to the King in the royal closet in the chapel. She afterwards dined in public at a grand banquet, where the Princess Elizabeth sat by her side. These bare facts are all the incidents to be chronicled of the wedding day of Henry VIII. and Catherine Howard.
Soon after this Henry and Catherine Howard went on an extended wedding tour, returning to Hampton Court on the 19th of December. Though they had, by that time, been married five months, Henry was still so much in love with her that he would not have their seclusion interfered with. They accordingly spent the following four or five months in retirement at this palace, where the Privy Council, with the King presiding, met almost daily for the transaction of the business of the nation. Here, also, they came back after a short summer progress, on the 24th of October, 1541.
So far the married life of Catherine Howard had been passed smoothly enough, and she might be considered happy, if such a word could be applied to a wife of Henry VIII. His affection for her appeared to grow deeper every day, and it seemed as though he had at length found a consort who suited him. The day after their return to the palace, Henry heard mass in the chapel, and “receiving his Maker, gave Him most hearty thanks for the good life he led and trusted to lead with his wife; and also desired the Bishop of Lincoln, his ghostly father, to make like prayer, and give like thanks with him on All Souls' Day.” But in the meanwhile Catherine's enemies had been at work, and the blow they were preparing was ready to fall upon her unsuspecting head. Henry was already seated at chapel hearing mass, when the insidious Cranmer came up to him, and, unobserved, slipped into his hand the paper containing the damning disclosures against the virtue of his Queen.
It is always difficult to trace the objects, or to gauge the motives of any action of Henry VIII.'s, for under his bluff geniality of manner there was a craftiness and subtlety, inherited from his father and his Yorkist ancestors, which would have done credit to Philip II. It is possible, therefore, that, notwithstanding all his protestations, he gladly seized on the accusations made against Catherine as a means
THE QUEEN ACCUSED AND ARRESTED,
of delivering himself from a tie that had already grown irksome to him. However this may be, on being first informed of them, he at least affected to be quite incapable of believing them, and when, in the short investigation that he immediately instituted, the early misconduct of the Queen was proved to him beyond all reasonable doubt, he was like a man pierced to the heart, appearing as distressed as he was undoubtedly mortified and enraged. After vainly struggling for utterance, his pride and firmness gave way, and he burst into a passion of tears. The Queen was at once confined to her own room, and next morning the King rode away to the neighbouring palace of Oatlands, never to set eyes on her again.
But before his departure a scene is said to have occurred, which, as it belongs to the legendary lore of the old palace, may be mentioned here; though it would be indiscreet to inquire too particularly after the authorities for a story of this sort. The old mysterious “Haunted Gallery,” the door of which is on the right hand as you go down the Queen's Great Staircase, has its name from being supposed to be haunted by the shrieking ghost of Queen Catherine Howard. It was here, at any rate, that she escaped from her own chamber, when confined in it before being sent to the Tower, and ran along to seek an interview with Henry VIII., who was hearing mass in the royal closet in the chapel. Just, however, as she reached the door, the guards rudely seized her, and carried her back; while her ruthless husband, in spite of her piercing screams, which were heard almost all over the palace, continued his devotions unmoved. And in this gallery, it is said, a female form, dressed in white, has been seen coming towards the door of the royal pew, and just as she reaches it, has been observed to hurry back with disordered garments and a ghastly look of despair, uttering at the same time the most unearthly shrieks, till she passes through the door at the end of the gallery. The gallery is now the lumber-room for old pictures, and, as the staircase is locked up at night, the voice of the shrieking Queen is said to be but rarely heard.
When Henry had left the palace, several members of the Council came to her, informed her of the specific accusations made, and solemnly charged her with high treason. While in their presence the unhappy Queen maintained a bold front, and vehemently denied all; but when they left her to realize alone the awful position in which she stood, her heart failed her, and she burst into an agony of passionate grief. Cranmer, who afterwards privately repaired to her, by the King's direction, to communicate his pleasure with regard to her, “found her," he says, in a letter to Henry, “in such lamentation and hevynes, as I never sawe no creature, so that it woulde have pityed any mannes harte in the worlde, to have loked opon her.” At one time her paroxysms were so intense that he feared for her reason, and even her life, and was obliged to leave her for awhile with her waiting-women, without attempting to discharge his commission. When he returned, he found her still in the same distress, but tried to calm her by assuring her of the King's benignity and mercy, craftily suggesting that if she would only confess her fault, the royal pardon should be extended to her.
At this “she held up her handes, and gave most humble thankes unto your Majestie, who had shewed unto her more grace and mercie, than she herself thought mete to sue for, or cowde have hoped of. And then, for a tyme, she beganne to be more temperate and quiete, savynge that she stil sobbed and wepte; but after a little pawsynge, she sodenly fel into a new rage, much worse than she was bifore.” Cranmer succeeded at last in somewhat mitigating her agitation, and he then entered on a long conversation with her, mainly directing his efforts to extort an acknowledgment from her that there had been a contract of marriage between herself and Derham, so that the King might have had his own marriage with her declared null and void. However, Catherine, with most unaccountable perversity, would not admit the pre-contract, which alone could have afforded some means of escape from her fate. But she signed a confession, which Cranmer had prepared, of the main charges against her, as regarded her conduct before marriage.
A few days after this interview a letter came down to Cranmer from the Council in London, most of whom were Catherine's deadly enemies, enjoining him to summon "all the ladies, gentlewomen, and gentlemen in the palace, and declare to them the abominable demeanour of the Queen,
CATHERINE HOWARD'S GHOST.
with the whole of the King's Majesty's sorrowful behaviour, and careful proceeding in it, so that the world may know and see that which is hitherto done to have just cause and foundation.” But they were now careful to add that no mention was to be made of the pre-contract, which might have served for her defence, and which Cranmer, to his credit be it said, had laboured to establish, out of compassion for
her, but which Henry would not hear of as an excuse. The declaration of the Queen's misbehaviour was made in the Great Watching Chamber, and all her household were discharged there and then.
From Hampton Court she was removed soon after this under an escort to Sion House, whence in a few weeks she was led to the Tower and the scaffold.
The many misfortunes in Henry VIII.'s matrimonial