Page images
PDF
EPUB

planted culverin, and manned walls, these were the conceit of one hour: for the next a desperate sally, that they might cut out their way, and so by Highgate fly to the north, or farther!

"The stoutest counsels are the safest," quoth old Lord Sandys. "Tis more honourable for noblemen to die fighting than by the Axe."

But Essex, wavering in mind,.began anon to think of yielding; signifying that upon certain terms he would come in. The Lord Admiral refuseth all conditions. The Earl saith humbly he would liefer take than give conditions!

Then did the Earl of Essex and all his complotters fall upon their knees, delivering up their swords, and yielding to her Majesty.

'Twas about ten o'clock at night, and a foul night as any at that season, the bridge unpassable by water. Wherefore to his Grace the Archbishop's house at Lambheith were committed my Lord and the Earl his friend; whom, when the good Prelate saw in such plight, he was very sorrowful indeed. As for the others, into public prisons were they incontinently cast; her Grace would have stillness and order just now.

[graphic]

CHAPTER XX.

"Go thou, and, like an executioner,

Cut off the heads of too fast-growing sprays,
That look too lofty in our Commonwealth.
All must be even in our Government?

King Richard II. act in. sc. iv.

HAT awful memories hang over Westminster! As you land at Whitehall Stairs, that old Palace on your left, where her Grace at this season lieth, will it not tell you of your youthful days, when Leicester, Hatton, poor Arundel, nay, my dear Lord the Earl of Essex, were, by turns, the particular star of the young virgin Queen, her Court—her playful 66, Lyddes and Robin Redbreast? To your right, away down apiece, looming in the distance, that holy pile, the Abbey Church of S. Peter, it wanteth but a seemly tower to match it with the grandest. Do you not care that all the mighty Kings of England have there been crowned; ay, and for that matter, many there lie buried? Lo! the beautiful wrought Apse, the Lady Chapel, first architecture of the Tudor, almost the last specimen of the Gothic style; for, in truth, that House crushed the Gothic arch altogether —and other Freedoms beside! Her late Majesty sleepeth therein, under a plain stone, as yet no tablet written. Tis a hard thing for her sister, being a Protestant, to write a hopeful epitaph for the Rome-unctioned Mary!

[graphic]

There be some curious monuments of royalty and genius in that Abbey. There they lie, side by side; and there the kindred ashes of the Poet and of his Patron co-mingle! A little way beyond, hither and thither, you shall find a few scattered Chambers of the Old Palace, which the Lancastrian princes loved—that Jerusalem in which the Fourth Harry was so pleased to die. Then the worn cloisters; but you like not to hear of the Monks, though some wise ones paced these paths whilolm!

Here is the Great Hall—you had passed it i' the dark. Hath the time been when this was not? Mysterious erection! That immense space; that wide-stretched roof!

N

Westminster Hall. 285

Kings have banqueted here; and here horses have been stabled. Parliaments have been turbulently holden here; and here as rudely broken up. Here Stephen tyrannised. Here aids were given to John. Peer hath sat on Peer in honourable judgment, and the Sovereign hath suborned his own viceregent. Indifferent justice hath issued hence, time out of mind. Millions of wealth have changed hands, and generations of untrue decrees wrenched even hope from miserable suitors; while corruption, or the paltry quirks of law, have saved from righteous punishment unnumbered packs of criminous persons. Five or six centuries of law and litigation! Five or six centuries of trials, pleas, sentences—from breaches of the forest laws in Rufus's time, outlawries of the earlier Henries, down to the present hour —your forestalled and regrators, tavern-haunters and masterless men—if how much good, what a mass of violence, and falsehood, and dishonesty hath been perpetrated here! Close the door on't, a God's name! But enter and seek a standing, for 'tis getting clear, and anon the Court will sit.

There is already a throng; 'twill ask some shoveing and elbowing to reach the upper end, where a space hath been closed off by a Barre. All within is on a dais, covered with red baize. Many stools stand ranged in a half-moon. In the centre, above the Chair and Cloth of Estate, and against the wall, you see, on a fair escocheon, flourished with green and white draperies, after the Tudor fashion, the arms of France and England quarterly, surmounted with a model of the close crown, and supported on the dexter side by a Lyon regardant, royally crowned, carved, and gilded; and on the sinister, a huge Red Dragon segreant.

[graphic]

There is a press to see some one, but attention is carried off. A sound of cornets from within; when, from a sidedoor, enter two pursuivants; then a herald, in his tabard, flanked by trumpets; then three or four clerks, gravely attired, carrying rolls of paper and their inks; then some ushers and tipstaves; then the Lord Buckhurst, for the nonce Lord High Steward of England, bearing his wand of office erect, robed according to his order, with his coronet on his head, and a collar of SS. over his shoulders. Then a flourish, and a call for silence in the Queen's name. Behind, two by two, follow nine Earls, one Viscount, fifteen Barons, their robes and coronets, according to their

« PreviousContinue »