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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 51

Mary (1553—1559.)

page 49

Mary (1553—1559.)

To Edward VI. succeeded his sister, Mary the Bloody. Her story is without complexity. She is the sullen, relentless, malignant bigot of English history—the religious persecutor par excellence—the female Torquemada. Almost as a matter of course she put to death Lady Jane Grey and her husband, Lord Guildford Dudley, who had aspired to the throne. That was a mere preface to her great undertaking, the extirpation of the Protestant heresy from her dominions.

She settled down to her work with a vigour worthy of her father, the Defender of the Faith. In the Marian persecution it is computed that no fewer than two hundred and seventy-seven persons perished at the stake, to say nothing of other forms of persecution. Five bishops were burnt, twenty-one clergymen, eight lay gentlemen, eighty-four tradesmen, one hundred husbandmen, fifty-five women, and four children! Among those who met their fate with heroic constancy were Hooper, Bishop of Gloucester; Ridley, Bishop of London; and Latimer, Bishop of Worcester; while even Cranmer atoned for previous inconstancy by a courageous end. His heart was found among the ashes, unscathed by the flames. "Be of good cheer!" cried Latimer to Ridley at the stake. "We shall this day kindle such a torch in England as, I trust in God, shall never be extinguished!" Mary literally burnt the Pope out of the kingdom, in spite of the scholarly Legate Pole, who vainly urged on the vindictive woman milder and more Christian measures. After a reign of little more than five years she died childless, in an agony of grief and frenzied distraction, amid execrations all but universal. The cardinal legate died the same day; and "a voice in the night," in our courtly Laureate's drama of "Queen Mary," thus forcibly bids them adieu:—

"God curse her and her legate! Gardiner burns
Already, but to pay them full in kind,
The hottest hold in all the devil's den
Were but a sort of winter! Sir, in Guernsey
I watched a woman burn; and in her agony
The mother came upon her—a child was born—
And, sir, they hurled it back into the fire,
That, being but baptized in fire, the babe
Might be in fire for ever. Ah, good neighbour!
There should be something firier than fire
To yield them their deserts! "