Saturday, May 19, 2012

Off With Her Head

‘Roland Graeme slept long and sound, and the sun was high over the
horizon, when the voice of his companion summoned him to resume their
pilgrimage; and when, hastily arranging his dress, he went to attend
her call, the enthusiastic matron stood already at the threshold,
prepared for her journey. There was in all the deportment of this
remarkable woman, a promptitude of execution, and a sternness of
perseverance, founded on the fanaticism which she nursed so deeply,
and which seemed to absorb all the ordinary purposes and feelings of
mortality. One only human affection gleamed through her enthusiastic
energies, like the broken glimpses of the sun through the rising
clouds of a storm. It was her maternal fondness for her grandson--a
fondness carried almost to the verge of dotage, in circumstances where
the Catholic religion was not concerned, but which gave way instantly
when it chanced either to thwart or come in contact with the more
settled purpose of her soul, and the more devoted duty of her life.
Her life she would willingly have laid down to save the earthly object
of her affection; but that object itself she was ready to hazard, and
would have been willing to sacrifice, could the restoration of the
Church of Rome have been purchased with his blood. Her discourse by
the way, excepting on the few occasions in which her extreme love of
her grandson found opportunity to display itself in anxiety for his
health and accommodation, turned entirely on the duty of raising up
the fallen honours of the Church, and replacing a Catholic sovereign
on the throne. There were times at which she hinted, though very
obscurely and distantly, that she herself was foredoomed by Heaven to
perform a part in this important task; and that she had more than mere
human warranty for the zeal with which she engaged in it. But on this
subject she expressed herself in such general language, that it was
not easy to decide whether she made any actual pretensions to a direct
and supernatural call, like the celebrated Elizabeth Barton, commonly
called the Nun of Kent; [Footnote: A fanatic nun, called the Holy Maid
of Kent, who pretended to the gift of prophecy and power of miracles.
Having denounced the doom of speedy death against Henry VIII. for his
marriage with Anne Boleyn, the prophetess was attainted in Parliament,
and executed with her accomplices. Her imposture was for a time so
successful, that even Sir Thomas More was disposed to be a believer.]
or whether she dwelt upon the general duty which was incumbent on all
Catholics of the time, and the pressure of which she felt in an
extraordinary degree.’

The paragraph above, from Walter Scott’s “The Abbot”, was lengthy, but too good to pass up for the introduction to today’s subject; Anne Boleyn.  The unfortunate queen lost her head this day, May 19th, in 1536. 

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