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Chapter NumberXXV BISHOP OF ROSS
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article19773001
Full Date1877-04-14
Page Number9
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Word Count3858
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Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939)
Trove TitleHer Majesty's Tower
article text

Her Majesty's Tower.

CHAPTER XXV. BISHOP OF ROSS.

BY WILLIAM HEPWORTH DIXON.

AT first, John Leslie, Bishop of Ross, was visited in his own house by Lord Sussex, and put under question as to the correspondence with Monsieur Charles, the mission of Ridolfi, and the letters

Charles, addressed to 30 and 40. He told a new set of lies, and Burghley knew that they were lies. Bailly'B confessions had told him much, and Mary's answers to questions, the object of which she could not guess, completed what the Fleming had left unsaid. Yet even now, with proofs of Leslie's treason in her hands, the Queen would not consent to lodge him in the Tower. He was an ambassador, the minister of a sovereign prince. Up to this moment Elizabeth had refused to recognise the state of things in Scotland, and to receive at her court an ambassador from King James. She had treated Mary as the actual Queen of Scots, and although that royalty was a mere shadow, Eliza beth would not agree to depress her cousin's party in the north so much as would be done by the arrest of her agent in the English court. But the plot was coming out shred by shred. Norfolk's servants confessed to much, and Norfolk himself, when locked in the Tower, told all the rest. Lord Cobham, too, alarmed by what he saw going on, came forward to confess having kept back the letters brought over by Monsieur Charles. The secret numbers were discovered to mean Norfolk and Lumley. When these facts were known, the case was again sub mitted by Burghley to the Queen. Who could answer for the public safety while the chief director of these plotters remained at large? Elizabeth saw the need for action, yet even now Bhe would have gladly seized on any excuse for leaving the Bishop of Boss alone. She said the crown lawyers should be consulted on a case. Burghley obeyed her hint, and in a short time reported that the orown lawyers were of opinion —in the first place, that a prince who had been lawfully deposed like Mary Stuart, had no sove reign rights at all; in the second place, that an ambassador who had been concerned in a con spiracy like John Leslie, forfeited his rights of representation. On reading these reports, Eliza beth gave way so far as to allow of the Bishop being lodged in the Tower, in the rooms which had been occupied by Cranmer, but she would in no wise consent that he should be either put to the rack or threatened with the rack. By a lucky chance, these merciful limitations of Burghleys powers were not hinted to the Bishop, who might have held out longer had he known that his bones were safe. But in his chamber in the Bloody tower, he heard from day to day of men being racked until they told the truth, and when Burghley rejected his first con fessions as idle talk, and gave him forty-fight hours to consider what he would say, his strength of will broke down. When the judges sent for him on the third day, Leslie answered the questions put to him with the frankness of a man who has done his best and worst, and looks back on his course with consuming scorn. Never was a foul heart emptied of more perilous stuff. He ex plained the secret history of Norfolk's doings in York; the part whioh he had taken in Northum berland's rising; the plot for seizing the Queen, for raising an insurrection in East Anglia, and for bringing the Walloons into Essex. He con fessed for Mary Stuart as well as for himself. He spoke of her privity to Darnley'B murder, and he accused her of meaning to kill Bothwell also. Finally, as a Catholic prelate, he wrote an ad monitory letter to his royal mistress, warning her not to meddle with plots in the time to come, but to trust in God and in her good sister the English Queen. Mary was profoundly moved on reading Leslie's words. " The hand is Esau's hand," she mur mured, " but the voice is Jacob's." After the rising of Percy and Nevill, Mary had been re moved from Tutbury to Chateworth, Coventry, Wingfield, and Sheffield, in the last of which places she was lying when made aware of her most serious loss. On finding that she had not only lost her ambassador, but found in him a critic and perhaps a foe, Bhe burst into sullen rage. "He is a flayed and fearful priest," she cried; "he has done what they would have him do." All this was true enough, but the royal lady's wrath could not help her to a servant equally adroit. Norfolk was the first to Buffer from these confessions. Leslie told enough to slay him, but William Herllie, the suffering saint of the Marshalsea, found out a good deal more. The Duke's servants and secretaries, thrown into the same ward with Herllie, were soon in the saint's confidence, and every night reports of what they told him were sent over the water to Burghley's house. No man in English story had more evidence of guilt to fight against than Norfolk. Would Elizabeth put him to death ? To the last moment she said nay. No Queen had ever such good reason to hold her own in the way of mercy; for since the day of her sister's death not a drop of blood had been shed on Tower HilL The fact is one without example. For two hundred years the axe on Tower Hill had never been at rest; it is doubtful whether in all the reigns from Richard of Bordeaux to Mary Tudor, a single year had escaped the stain of political murder. The reddest reign of all was that of Mary; a reign which lasted five years only ; yet filled the land with mourning, and smeared the page of history with blood. It is Elizabeth's glory that she put an end to this feast of death ; that for twelve years of her golden prime she never signed a political sentence; that, until Mary Stuart came into England, and the Papal bull was issued, she banished from English life the old dark image of the headsman and his block. What wonder that the poets called her country Merrie England! While the Queen was debating what to do, the Scottish prelate was making the best of his situation in the Bloody tower. Being called a Bishop, Sir Owen Hopton, the Lieutenant, had begun by treating him as an English baron, sup plying him with food, fire, and lights at the rate of 63b. 4d. a-week for diet, and 6s. Bd. a-week for fueL He had his own servant, Cuthbert Reid, a Scot, to wait upon him. But some of his indul-

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gencea were in time withdrawn. Reid, hie servant, left him. Hopton informed him that he must provide his own food and fuel; for the allowance made to prisoners was made from estates which had been seized to the prince's use; but Leslie had no estates to seize. In the winter he fell Bick of cramp and ague, a common disease in the Bloody tower, and he wrote to ask Fenelon, the French ambassador, for five hundred crowns to pay his weekly bills. As some solace in his misery, Leslie employed his knife in carving a record of his captivity in the Bloody tower. A long Latin inscription, which is un happily worn by damp and years, concludes with thin name and date: JO. EPS. ROBBEK. BCOTVB 1572. In the spring of this year a prospect of deli verance opened upon Leslie, which was perhaps more terrible to him than the chambers of the Bloody tower. Since the day when Percy crossed the border into Scotland, Burghley had never ceased to press the ruling Regents, Murray, Lennox, and Mar, for his surrender as a rebel to his Queen. Of course, the Regents had declined to meet him; yet Percy had been kept a prisoner in Lochleven Castle, under the charge of Sir William Douglas, a Highland chief. More than once, the Scottish court suggested the policy of an exchange ; of giving up the Earl of Northum berland, and taking in his place the Bishop of Ross; but to such an act of barter the pride of Elizabeth could not stoop. Nor was the Court of Scotland eager to give up the Earl; since a rebel of so much consequence on the border was a capital hostage to hold for the English Queen. But Leslie never could be sure that Burghley and Mar would not come to terms ; and he knew that once he were given up to Mar, his shrift was likely to be short At the end of May, he heard, to his great delight, that Percy was in English hands, having been sold by Sir William Douglas to Lord Hunsdon, Governor of Berwick, for two thousand pounds. This sale being made, the Bishop felt safe enough, for no English rebel of rank was now in captivity beyond the Tweed; and from his chambers in the Bloody tower he could watch with comparative comfort the dance of death. Norfolk was the first to die; and the fact that he was the first political offender since her Majesty's reign began, occurred to him on the scaffold; adding, as it would seem, a pang to the bitterness of his remorse. He died denouncing the Pope's religion, and humbly begging his pardon of the Queen. "I am the first in her Majesty's reign to suffer; may Ibe the last I" he cried. The assembly sobbed, " Amen." A few days later, Northumberland was put to the axe in York. Lord Hunsdon tried to save bim ; thinking him a better man than his heir, Sir Henry, second son of Sir Thomas the Pil grim. The title, entailed on this Sir Henry, could not be withdrawn for his brother's offence ; yet Hunsdon, who knew the northmen well, sent Burghley word that the new Earl would be far more dangerous than the old. But Burghley saw no way of pardoning such a man as Percy ; the leader of a great revolt and a great apostasy ; and towards the end of August, Leslie heard in the Bloody tower that the second of his illus trious victims had laid his head upon the block. For Northumberland, it is not likely that Leslie cared; but Norfolk was his confidential friend; and he must have felt that his plots had brought the unhappy Duke to his untimely end. Perhaps he consoled himself with the reflection that Norfolk might have done worse than die without knowing what Mary Stuart was. Any way, he made to Thomas Wilson, doctor of divinity, a confession which that clergyman reports to Burghley in these words : "He said further, upon Bpeech I had with him, that the Queen his mistress is not fit for any husband; for first, he saith, she poisoned her husband, the French king, as he hath credibly understood; again, she consented to the murder of her late husband, the Lord Darnley; thirdly, she matched with the mur derer, and brought him to the field to be murdered; and last of all, she pretended marriage with the Duke, with whom, as he thinks, she would not long have kept faith, and the Duke would not have had the best days with her." The English clergyman who reports the Bishop's words can only add, in comment: " What a Queen I and what an ambassador I" As nothing more could now be got from Leslie, he was suffered to depart from the Bloody tower, on the understanding that he was to live abroad, and trouble her Majesty no more. Chapter XXVI. MURDER Of NORTHUMBERLAND. The Bishop of Ross left his chamber in the Bloody tower to the third of his illustrious victims; to that Henry Percy who succeeded the Lochleven fugitive as the eighth Earl of Northumberland. Like all the great border chiefs of the Tudor age, Percy had been much employed against the Scots; though he was known to be one of those sticklers for the old creed who bowed with only a sullen and disdainful mind to the new order of things in Church and State. As a soldier he seems to have done his duty; fighting his friendß the French as fiercely as he fought his enemies the Scots; and standing by his mistress, even when his brother, the seventh earl, had joined with Lord Westmoreland against their queen. But the Jesuits in whom he trusted led him astray; and the man who had fought so gallantly at Leith againßt the Scots, became, under their guidance, one of Mary Stuart's stauncbest friends. To what reward for his services he looked we can only guess. Norfolk aspired to her hand; why should not Northumberland? To the laßt Mary was a siren; a being with the beaming eye, the wooing voice, which take the senses captive. But whether hope or piety led him on, Percy began to waver in bis faith; and the English council, who had spies in his closet, and knew what he was saying and doing, even in his private moments, commanded him, as an act of safety, to keep his house. This order, meant as a warning to him, was not strictly kept, since he was allowed to live at Sion, his princely seat on the Thames, and to ride down when he listed to Petworth, his fine estate on the Sussex downs. Yet chafed by a show of restraint, he listened more eagerly than ever to the tempter's voice. The Jesuits who had

gained his ear, soon made of him their tooL In what he thought the seclusion of his own gallery at Petworth, he held midnight interviews with Charles Paget, one of the most subtle and dangerous of the men employed by those who conducted the permanent conspiracy against their queen. Paget came over from Dieppe, landing on a lonely part of the Sussex coast; where he met William Shelley, of Michelgrove, one of the Earl's Catholic friends; and was housed by Percy in one of the lodges of Petworth Park. Here Thomas Lord Paget joined them ; and in their cups the three Catholic gentlemen talked a good deal of nonsense about the Pope, the Due de Guise, and the Queen of Scots. Percy meant no harm. Had the Guises come over, he was likely enough to be the first afield against them ; but, like all the old Perries, he was a man of odious temper and imperious habit; one who could ill endure to see such upstarts, as he called Hatton and Burghley, basking in royal favor, while barons of lofty lineage like himself were left in the shade. Much of his foolish prate with Paget and Shelley was woven by cunning hands into a net, which closed upon him when the time was ripe. To what extent, if any, he was guilty of actual treason we shall never learn ; his death cut short all process against him ; and the plausible story which was told by Hatton after his murder must be taken with a good many grains of salt One of the plotters, Francis Throckmorton, had, by his own confession, done his wont to persuade the Due de Guise to throw an army into Kent. The arrest of that conspirator warned the braggarts of their danger; and Northumber land persuaded Lord Paget to fly the realm. Lord Paget being the most eminent man who knew of his parley with the agents of disturbance, Percy supposed that his secret would be Bafe so Boon as Paget was beyond the sea. But he found, to his dismay, how little his cunning could contend againßt Burghley'b craft Paget got away; but the meshes were drawn about the humbler asso ciates of his crime; and when Percy, to his great astonishment, found himself lodged, under care of Sir Owen Hopton, in the Bloody tower, he heard that his friend Shelley was not only lodged in a neighboring vault, but had already been made to confess his offences on the rack. Percy sent a message to Shelley, begging him to be firm ; to which the poor gentleman replied that it was easy for a great baron, protected by his nobility from torture, to advise him to be firm ; but he, a country squire, had been twice on the rack, and he could not bear it. In fact, on being questioned once more, in the presence of Lord Chief Justice Anderson, as to the coming and going of Jesuits, as to the lodging of agonts in Petworth Park, as to conversations held in the Earl's book-room, Shelley told what he knew, and perhaps more than he knew. Men stretched on the rack became pliant to the judge; answering in their pain as the questioner wished; crying yea and nay, just as the cords were strained and the joints were torn. By Shelley's account, Charles Paget brought news to Petworth that the Pope had sanctioned a crusade against the Queen, that the Due de Guise would conduct the landing of foreign troops, and that the Church expected the Catholic barons to be ready. Shelley was made to confess that the Earl was a party to these schemes. Paget, in a letter to the Queen of Scots, denied the second part of Shelley's story. It was probably not true. Burghley made no efforts to bring Percy before the courts. A year passed by; yet Percy remained under Hopton's charge; a prisoner, awaiting his trial by the peers. That trial he was not to have. On a summer Sunday noon (June 21,1585,) Hopton, the Lieutenant, received two orders from court; the first, to arrest the Earl's three servants—men who had always waited on him-— and to lodge them in close custody for the night; the second, to place in the Bloody tower, as sole attendant on the Earl, one Thomas Bailiff, a gentleman, who brought the orders for that servioe. By two o'clock the new arrange ments had been made. Palmer, Price, and Pantin, Percy's old servants, were caged in their own cells; and Thomas Bailiff was housed in a room adjoining that in which the Earl ate and slept. When supper time came, Bailiff was at his post At nine the Earl retired in his usual health. About twelve o'clock an old fellow, who lay in an outer room, heard Bailiff shouting, and called the watch. On the watch coming up, Bailiff sent him to rouse the Lieutenant and beg him to come at once to the Earl of Northumber land's door. Hopton was soon there; and passing into the chamber found the Earl in bed) undressed, with his clothes in perfect order,_ and the bed-quilt decently drawn about his limbs. He was dead* On turning down the sheets Hopton saw that the bed was full of blood j that the body had a wound under the left breast, which seemed to have been made by a knife. He left the room for a few minutes, locking Bailiff inside, while he wrote an account of the Earl's death, which ho described as having been caußed by the plunge of a knife. When be returned to the chamber, Bailiff drew his eye to a pistol lying on the floor, about three feet from the bed, which he had not seen before. Sir Christopher Hatton, who managed the whole affair, Bet up a theory that Percy, over« whelmed by those proofs of his guilt which had been drawn from Shelley on the rack, had de stroyed himself, in order to escape a trial, a traitor's doom, and the forfeiture of bJB family honors and estates. A theory of self-murder would not Bquare with death by a knife, since three or four warders, who nißhed into the room on the first alarm of foul play being raised, had seen the bed on which Percy lay a corpse. No man could stab himself to death, and then draw the sheets about hiß limbß, as they had been found in Percy'B bed. But might he not take a pistol into his bed, fire it under the clothes, and die without a struggle ? Such was Hatton's ex planation of an event which filled the taverns of Cheapside and the aisles of St. Paula with wonder and alarm. An inquest on the body, held by the Tower coroner, a mere court official, failed to appease the public mind. Thousands of tongues accused the council of foul play, and to put an end to these bruits in the city, the Government was compelled to act and to explain. Hatton's line was taken in the affair by Burghley. The first letter, in which Sir Owen spoke of the hni/c, was kept back. A Star Chamber Council

was convened, at which the Lord Chancellor Bromley made a long statement of the Earl's offences, of his imprisonment, and of his suicide. Finally, a pamphlet was put forth, in order, as was Baid, to calm men's minds and to silence malicious tongues, in which Percy's servants were made to give evidence tending to Buggest that the Earl had meant to kill himself, while the tale told by Bailiff and Hopton was given in such a way as to show that be had carried out his plan. Fantin, it was said, confessed that the pistol belonged to his lord ; that it was bought from Adrian Mulan, a gunsmith, living in East Smitkfield; that Price, his fellow-servant, carried it into the tower; that the Earl concealed it in the chimney of his room; but fearing it would be found in that place and taken away, he had slipt it into the mattress of his bed. Bailiff was made to say that when the Earl supped and sent him away that night, he came to the door and bolted it inside, saying he could not sleep unless his door was made fast After that, said Bailiff, all was quiet until the hour of midnight, when he heard a great noise, as of a falling door, and springing out of bed, cried, " What is that, my lord?" Finding the Earl made no answer, he went on calling and crying until the old fellow in the next room answered him, when they called the watch, sent for Sir Owen, broke into the room by force, and found the Earl dead in his bed. In spite of all these assertions, folk would not believe that Percy died by his own hand. Hatton bore the odium of contriving a midnight murder; for many years the event was spoken of as a political assassination; and that by men who, like Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Robert Cecil, knew every mystery of the court. [to be continued.]