Of the Grand Procession to Windsor Castle—Of the Meeting of King Henry the Eighth and Anne Boleyn at the Lower Gate-Of their Entrance into the Castle—And how the Butcher was Hanged from the Curfew Tower.
A joyous day was it for Windsor and great were the preparations made by its loyal inhabitants for a suitable reception to their sovereign. At an early hour the town was thronged with strangers from the neighbouring villages, and later on crowds began to arrive from London, some having come along the highway on horseback, and others having rowed in various craft up the river. All were clad in holiday attire, and the streets presented an appearance of unwonted bustle and gaiety. The Maypole in Bachelors’ Acre was hung with flowers. Several booths, with flags floating above them, were erected in the same place, where ale, mead, and hypocras, together with cold pasties, hams, capons, and large joints of beef and mutton, might be obtained. Mummers and minstrels were in attendance, and every kind of diversion was going forward. Here was one party wrestling; there another, casting the bar; on this side a set of rustics were dancing a merry round with a bevy of buxom Berkshire lasses; on that stood a fourth group, listening to a youth playing on the recorders. At one end of the Acre large fires were lighted, before which two whole oxen were roasting, provided in honour of the occasion by the mayor and burgesses of the town; at the other, butts were set against which the Duke of Shoreditch and his companions, the five marquises, were practising. The duke himself shot admirably, and never failed to hit the bulls-eye; but the great feat of the day was performed by Morgan Fenwolf, who thrice split the duke’s shafts as they stuck in the mark.
“Well done!” cried the duke, as he witnessed the achievement; “why, you shoot as bravely as Herne the Hunter. Old wives tell us he used to split the arrows of his comrades in that fashion.”
“He must have learnt the trick from Herne himself in the forest,” cried one of the bystanders.
Morgan Fenwolf looked fiercely round in search of the speaker, but could not discern him. He, however, shot no more, and refusing a cup of hypocras offered him by Shoreditch, disappeared among the crowd.
Soon after this the booths were emptied, the bar thrown down, the Maypole and the butts deserted, and the whole of Bachelors’ Acre cleared of its occupants—except those who were compelled to attend to the mighty spits turning before the fires—by the loud discharge of ordnance from the castle gates, accompanied by the ringing of bells, announcing that the mayor and burgesses of Windsor, together with the officers of the Order of the Garter, were setting forth to Datchet Bridge to meet the royal procession.
Those who most promptly obeyed this summons beheld the lower castle gate, built by the then reigning monarch, open, while from it issued four trumpeters clad in emblazoned coats, with silken bandrols depending from their horns, blowing loud fanfares. They were followed by twelve henchmen, walking four abreast, arrayed in scarlet tunics, with the royal cypher H.R. worked in gold on the breast, and carrying gilt poleaxes over their shoulders. Next came a company of archers, equipped in helm and brigandine, and armed with long pikes, glittering, as did their steel accoutrements, in the bright sunshine. They were succeeded by the bailiffs and burgesses of the town, riding three abreast, and enveloped in gowns of scarlet cloth; after which rode the mayor of Windsor in a gown of crimson velvet, and attended by two footmen, in white and red damask, carrying white wands. The mayor was followed by a company of the town guard, with partisans over the shoulders. Then came the sheriff of the county and his attendants. Next followed the twenty-six alms-knights (for such was their number), walking two and two, and wearing red mantles, with a scutcheon of Saint George on the shoulder, but without the garter surrounding it. Then came the thirteen petty canons, in murrey-coloured gowns, with the arms of Saint George wrought in a roundel on the shoulder; then the twelve canons, similarly attired; and lastly the dean of the college, in his cope.
A slight pause ensued, and the chief officers of the Garter made their appearance. First walked the Black Rod, clothed in a russet-coloured mantle, faced with alternate panes of blue and red, emblazoned with flower-de-luces of gold and crowned lions. He carried a small black rod, the ensign of his office, surmounted with the lion of England in silver. After the Black Rod came the Garter, habited in a gown of crimson satin, paned and emblazoned like that of the officer who preceded him, hearing a white crown with a sceptre upon it, and having a gilt crown in lieu of a cap upon his head. The Garter was followed by the register, a grave personage, in a black gown, with a surplice over it, covered by a mantelet of furs. Then came the chancellor of the Order, in his robe of murrey-coloured velvet lined with sarcenet, with a badge on the shoulder consisting of a gold rose, enclosed in a garter wrought with pearls of damask gold. Lastly came the Bishop of Winchester, the prelate of the Order, wearing his mitre, and habited in a robe of crimson velvet lined with white taffeta, faced with blue, and embroidered on the right shoulder with a scutcheon of Saint George, encompassed with the Garter, and adorned with cordons of blue silk mingled with gold.
Brought up by a rear guard of halberdiers, the procession moved slowly along Thames Street, the houses of which, as well as those in Peascod Street, were all more or less decorated—the humbler sort being covered with branches of trees, intermingled with garlands of flowers, while the better description was hung with pieces of tapestry, carpets, and rich stuffs. Nor should it pass unnoticed that the loyalty of Bryan Bowntance, the host of the Garter, had exhibited itself in an arch thrown across the road opposite his house, adorned with various coloured ribbons and flowers, in the midst of which was a large shield, exhibiting the letters, b. and h. (in mystic allusion to Henry and Anne Boleyn) intermingled and surrounded by love-knots.
Turning off on the left into the lower road, skirting the north of the castle, and following the course of the river to Datchet, by which it was understood the royal cavalcade would make its approach, the procession arrived at an open space by the side of the river, where it came to a halt, and the dean, chancellor, and prelate, together with other officers of the Garter, embarked in a barge moored to the bank, which was towed slowly down the stream in the direction of Datchet Bridge—a band of minstrels stationed within it playing all the time.
Meanwhile the rest of the cavalcade, having again set for ward, pursued their course along the banks of the river, proceeding at a foot’s pace, and accompanied by crowds of spectators, cheering them as they moved along. The day was bright and beautiful, and nothing was wanting to enhance the beauty of the spectacle. On the left flowed the silver Thames, crowded with craft, filled with richly-dressed personages of both sexes, amid which floated the pompous barge appropriated to the officers of the Garter, which was hung with banners and streamers, and decorated at the sides with targets, emblazoned with the arms of St. George. On the greensward edging the stream marched a brilliant cavalcade, and on the right lay the old woods of the Home Park, with long vistas opening through them, giving exquisite peeps of the towers and battlements of the castle.
Half an hour brought the cavalcade to Datchet Bridge, at the foot of which a pavilion was erected for the accommodation of the mayor and burgesses. And here, having dismounted, they awaited the king’s arrival.
Shortly after this a cloud of dust on the Staines Road seemed to announce the approach of the royal party, and all rushed forth and held themselves in readiness to meet it. But the dust appeared to have been raised by a company of horsemen, headed by Captain Bouchier, who rode up the next moment. Courteously saluting the mayor, Bouchier informed him that Mistress Anne Boleyn was close behind, and that it was the king’s pleasure that she should be attended in all state to the lower gate of the castle, there to await his coming, as he himself intended to enter it with her. The mayor replied that the sovereign’s behests should be implicitly obeyed, and he thereupon stationed himself at the farther side of the bridge in expectation of Anne Boleyn’s arrival.
Presently the sound of trumpets smote his ear, and a numerous and splendid retinue was seen advancing, consisting of nobles, knights, esquires, and gentlemen, ranged according to their degrees, and all sumptuously apparelled in cloths of gold and silver, and velvets of various colours, richly embroidered. Besides these, there were pages and other attendants in the liveries of their masters, together with sergeants of the guard and henchmen in their full accoutrements. Among the nobles were the Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk—the king being desirous of honouring as much as possible her whom he had resolved to make his queen. The former was clothed in tissue, embroidered with roses of gold, with a baldric across his body of massive gold, and was mounted on a charger likewise trapped in gold; and the latter wore a mantle of cloth of silver, pounced in the form of letters, and lined with blue velvet, while his horse was trapped hardwise in harness embroidered with bullion gold curiously wrought. Both also wore the collar of the Order of the Garter. Near them rode Sir Thomas Boleyn, who, conscious of the dignity to which his daughter was to be advanced, comported himself with almost intolerable haughtiness.
Immediately behind Sir Thomas Boleyn came a sumptuous litter covered with cloth of gold, drawn by four white palfreys caparisoned in white damask down to the ground, and each having a page in white and blue satin at its head. Over the litter was borne a canopy of cloth of gold supported by four gilt staves, and ornamented at the corners with silver bells, ringing forth sweet music as it moved along. Each staff was borne by a knight, of whom sixteen were in attendance to relieve one another when fatigued.
In this litter sat Anne Boleyn. She wore a surcoat of white tissue, and a mantle of the same material lined with ermine. Her gown, which, however, was now concealed by the surcoat, was of cloth of gold tissue, raised with pearls of silver damask, with a stomacher of purple gold similarly raised, and large open sleeves lined with chequered tissue. Around her neck she wore a chain of orient pearls, from which depended a diamond cross. A black velvet cap, richly embroidered with pearls and other precious stones, and ornamented with a small white plume, covered her head; and her small feet were hidden in blue velvet brodequins, decorated with diamond stars.
Anne Boleyn’s features were exquisitely formed, and though not regular, far more charming than if they had been so. Her nose was slightly aquiline, but not enough so to detract from its beauty, and had a little retrousse; point that completed its attraction. The rest of her features were delicately chiselled: the chin being beautifully rounded, the brow smooth and white as snow, while the rose could not vie with the bloom of her cheek. Her neck—alas! that the fell hand of the executioner should ever touch it—was long and slender, her eyes large and blue, and of irresistible witchery—sometimes scorching the beholder like a sunbeam, anon melting him with soul-subduing softness.
Of her accomplishments other opportunities will be found to speak; but it may be mentioned that she was skilled on many instruments, danced and sang divinely, and had rare powers of conversation and wit. If to these she had not added the dangerous desire to please, and the wish to hold other hearts than the royal one she had enslaved, in thraldom, all might, perhaps, have been well. But, alas like many other beautiful women, she had a strong tendency to coquetry. How severely she suffered for it, it is the purpose of this history to relate. An excellent description of her has been given by a contemporary writer, the Comte de Chateaubriand, who, while somewhat disparaging her personal attractions, speaks in rapturous terms of her accomplishments: “Anne,” writes the Comte, “avait un esprit si deslie qui c’estoit a qui l’ouiroit desgoiser; et ci venoitelle a poetiser, telle qu’ Orpheus, elle eust faict les ours et rochers attentifs: puis saltoit, balloit, et dancoit toutes dances Anglaises ou Estranges, et en imagina nombre qui ont garde son nom ou celluy du galant pour qui les feit: puis scavoit tous les jeux, qu’elle jouoit avec non plus d’heur que d’habilite puis chantoit comme syrene, s’accompagnant de luth; harpoit mieueix que le roy David, et manioit fort gentilment fleuste et rebec; puis s’accoustroit de tant et si merveilleuses facons, que ses inventions, faisoient d’elle le parangon de toutes des dames les plus sucrees de la court; mais nulle n’avoit sa grace, laquelle, au dire d’un ancien, passe venuste’.” Such was the opinion of one who knew her well during her residence at the French court, when in attendance on Mary of England, consort of Louis XII., and afterwards Duchess of Suffolk.
At this moment Anne’s eyes were fixed with some tenderness upon one of the supporters of her canopy on the right—a very handsome young man, attired in a doublet and hose of black tylsent, paned and cut, and whose tall, well-proportioned figure was seen to the greatest advantage, inasmuch as he had divested himself of his mantle, for his better convenience in walking.
“I fear me you will fatigue yourself, Sir Thomas Wyat,” said Anne Boleyn, in tones of musical sweetness, which made the heart beat and the colour mount to the cheeks of him she addressed. “You had better allow Sir Thomas Arundel or Sir John Hulstone to relieve you.”
“I can feel no fatigue when near you, madam,” replied Wyat, in a low tone.
A slight blush overspread Anne’s features, and she raised her embroidered kerchief to her lips.
“If I had that kerchief I would wear it at the next lists, and defy all comers,” said Wyat.
“You shall have it, then,” rejoined Anne. “I love all chivalrous exploits, and will do my best to encourage them.”
“Take heed, Sir Thomas,” said Sir Francis Weston, the knight who held the staff on the other side, “or we shall have the canopy down. Let Sir Thomas Arundel relieve you.”
“No,” rejoined Wyat, recovering himself; “I will not rest till we come to the bridge.”
“You are in no haste to possess the kerchief,” said Anne petulantly.
“There you wrong me, madam!” cried Sir Thomas eagerly.
“What ho, good fellows!” he shouted to the attendants at the palfreys’ heads, “your lady desires you to stop.”
“And I desire them to go on—I, Will Sommers, jester to the high and mighty King Harry the Eighth!” cried a voice of mock authority behind the knight. “What if Sir Thomas Wyat has undertaken to carry the canopy farther than any of his companions, is that a reason he should be relieved? Of a surety not—go on, I say!”
The person who thus spoke then stepped forward, and threw a glance so full of significance at Anne Boleyn that she did not care to dispute the order, but, on the contrary, laughingly acquiesced in it.
Will Sommers—the king’s jester, as he described himself—was a small middle-aged personage, with a physiognomy in which good nature and malice, folly and shrewdness, were so oddly blended, that it was difficult to say which predominated. His look was cunning and sarcastic, but it was tempered by great drollery and oddity of manner, and he laughed so heartily at his own jests and jibes, that it was scarcely possible to help joining him. His attire consisted of a long loose gown of spotted crimson silk, with the royal cipher woven in front in gold; hose of blue cloth, guarded with red and black cloth; and red cordovan buskins. A sash tied round his waist served him instead of a girdle, and he wore a trencher-shaped velvet cap on his head, with a white tufted feather in it. In his hand he carried a small horn. He was generally attended by a monkey, habited in a crimson doublet and hood, which sat upon his shoulder, and played very diverting tricks, but the animal was not with him on the present occasion.