Queen Mary

Act IV

Scene I

Alfred Tennyson

A Room in the Palace


What have you there?

                        So please your Majesty,
A long petition from the foreign exiles
To spare the life of Cranmer. Bishop Thirlby,
And my Lord Paget and Lord William Howard,
Crave, in the same cause, hearing of your Grace.
Hath he not written himself—infatuated—
To sue you for his life?

                        His life? Oh, no;
Not sued for that—he knows it were in vain.
But so much of the anti-papal leaven
Works in him yet, he hath pray’d me not to sully
Mine own prerogative, and degrade the realm
By seeking justice at a stranger’s hand
Against my natural subject. King and Queen,
To whom he owes his loyalty after God,
Shall these accuse him to a foreign prince?
Death would not grieve him more. I cannot be
True to this realm of England and the Pope
Together, says the heretic.

                        And there errs;
As he hath ever err’d thro’ vanity.
A secular kingdom is but as the body
Lacking a soul; and in itself a beast.
The Holy Father in a secular kingdom
Is as the soul descending out of heaven
Into a body generate.

                        Write to him, then.

I will.

                And sharply, Pole.

                                Here come the Cranmerites!


Health to your Grace! Good morrow, my Lord Cardinal;
We make our humble prayer unto your Grace
That Cranmer may withdraw to foreign parts,
Or into private life within the realm.
In several bills and declarations, Madam,
He hath recanted all his heresies.

Ay, ay; if Bonner have not forged the bills.        [Aside.

Did not More die, and Fisher? he must burn.

He hath recanted, Madam.

                                The better for him.
He burns in Purgatory, not in Hell.

Ay, ay, your Grace; but it was never seen
That any one recanting thus at full,
As Cranmer hath, came to the fire on earth.

It will be seen now, then.

                                O Madam, Madam!
I thus implore you, low upon my knees,
To reach the hand of mercy to my friend.
I have err’d with him; with him I have recanted.
What human reason is there why my friend
Should meet with lesser mercy than myself?

My Lord of Ely, this. After a riot
We hang the leaders, let their following go.
Cranmer is head and father of these heresies,
New learning as they call it; yea, may God
Forget me at most need when I forget
Her foul divorce—my sainted mother—No!—

Ay, ay, but mighty doctors doubted there.
The Pope himself waver’d; and more than one
Row’d in that galley—Gardiner to wit,
Whom truly I deny not to have been
Your faithful friend and trusty councillor.
Hath not your Highness ever read his book.
His tractate upon True Obedience,
Writ by himself and Bonner?

                                I will take
Such order with all bad, heretical books
That none shall hold them in his house and live,
Henceforward. No, my Lord.

                        Then never read it.
The truth is here. Your father was a man
Of such colossal kinghood, yet so courteous,
Except when wroth, you scarce could meet his eye
And hold your own; and were he wroth indeed,
You held it less, or not at all. I say,
Your father had a will that beat men down;
Your father had a brain that beat men down—

Not me, my Lord.

                        No, for you were not here;
You sit upon this fallen Cranmer’s throne;
And it would more become you, my Lord Legate,
To join a voice, so potent with her Highness,
To ours in plea for Cranmer than to stand
On naked self-assertion.

                        All your voices
Are waves on flint. The heretic must burn.

Yet once he saved your Majesty’s own life;
Stood out against the King in your behalf.
At his own peril.

                        I know not if he did;
And if he did I care not, my Lord Howard.
My life is not so happy, no such boon,
That I should spare to take a heretic priest’s,
Who saved it or not saved. Why do you vex me?

Yet to save Cranmer were to serve the Church,
Your Majesty’s I mean; he is effaced,
Self-blotted out; so wounded in his honour,
He can but creep down into some dark hole
Like a hurt beast, and hide himself and die;
But if you burn him,—well, your Highness knows
The saying, ‘Martyr’s blood—seed of the Church.’

Of the true Church; but his is none, nor will be.
You are too politic for me, my Lord Paget.
And if he have to live so loath’d a life,
It were more merciful to burn him now.

O yet relent. O, Madam, if you knew him
As I do, ever gentle, and so gracious,
With all his learning—

                                Yet a heretic still.
His learning makes his burning the more just.

So worshipt of all those that came across him;
The stranger at his hearth, and all his house—

His children and his concubine, belike.

To do him any wrong was to beget
A kindness from him, for his heart was rich,
Of such fine mould, that if you sow’d therein
The seed of Hate, it blossom’d Charity.

‘After his kind it costs him nothing,’ there’s
An old world English adage to the point.
These are but natural graces, my good Bishop,
Which in the Catholic garden are as flowers,
But on the heretic dunghill only weeds.

Such weeds make dunghills gracious.

                                        Enough, my Lords.
It is God’s will, the Holy Father’s will,
And Philip’s will, and mine, that he should burn.
He is pronounced anathema.

                                Farewell, Madam,
God grant you ampler mercy at your call
Than you have shown to Cranmer.

[Exeunt Lords.

                                After this,
Your Grace will hardly care to overlook
This same petition of the foreign exiles
For Cranmer’s life.

                        Make out the writ to-night.


Queen Mary - Contents     |     Act IV - Scene II

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