Lamentation, p.1C. J. Sansom
To Roz Brody, Mike Holmes, Jan King and William Shaw, the stalwart writers’ group, for all their comments and suggestions for Lamentation as for the last seven books.
The details of religious differences in sixteenth-century England may seem unimportant today, but in the 1540s they were, literally, matters of life and death. Henry VIII had rejected the Pope’s supremacy over the English Church in 1532–33, but for the rest of his reign he oscillated between keeping traditional Catholic practices and moving towards Protestant ones. Those who wanted to keep traditional ways – some of whom would have liked to return to Roman allegiance – were variously called conservatives, traditionalists, and even papists. Those who wanted to move to a Lutheran, and later Calvinist practice, were called radicals or Protestants. The terms conservative and radical did not then have their later connotations of social reform. There were many who shifted from one side to the other during the years 1532–58, either from genuine non-alignment or opportunism. Some, though not all, religious radicals thought the state should do more to alleviate poverty; but radicals and conservatives alike were horrified by the ideas of the Anabaptists. Very few in number but a bogey to the political elite, the Anabaptists believed that true Christianity meant sharing all goods in common.
The touchstone of acceptable belief in 1546 was adherence to the traditional Catholic doctrine of ‘transubstantiation’ – the belief that when the priest consecrated the bread and wine during Mass, they were transformed into the physical body and blood of Christ. That was a traditionalist belief from which Henry never deviated; under his ‘Act of Six Articles’ of 1539, to deny this was treason, punishable by burning at the stake. His other core belief was in the Royal Supremacy; that God intended monarchs to be the supreme arbiters of doctrine in their territories, rather than the Pope.
The political events in England in the summer of 1546 were dramatic and extraordinary. Anne Askew really was convicted of heresy, tortured, and burned at the stake, and she did leave an account of her sufferings. The celebrations to welcome Admiral d’Annebault to London did take place, and on the scale described. The story of Bertano is true. There was a plot by traditionalists to unseat Catherine Parr; and she did write Lamentation of a Sinner. It was not, though, so far as we know, stolen.
Whitehall Palace, taken by Henry from Cardinal Wolsey and greatly expanded by him, occupied an area bounded roughly today by Scotland Yard, Downing Street, the Thames and the modern thoroughfare of Whitehall, with recreational buildings on the western side of the road. The whole palace was burned to the ground in two disastrous accidental fires in the 1690s; the only building to survive was the Banqueting House, which had not yet been built in Tudor times.
Some words in Tudor English had a different meaning from today. The term ‘Dutch’ was used to refer to the inhabitants of modern Holland and Belgium. The term ‘Scotch’ was used to refer to Scots.
The name ‘Catherine’ was spelt in several different ways – Catherine, Katharine, Katryn and Kateryn – it was the last spelling which the Queen used to sign her name. However, I have used the more common, modern Catherine.
PRINCIPAL DRAMATIS PERSONAE
and their places on the political–religious spectrum
In this novel there is an unusually large number of characters who actually lived, although, of course, the portrayal of their personalities is mine.
The royal family
King Henry VIII
Prince Edward, age 8, heir to the throne
The Lady Mary, age 30, strongly traditionalist
The Lady Elizabeth, age 12–13
Queen Catherine Parr
Family of Catherine Parr, all reformers (see Family Tree, here)
Lord William Parr, her uncle
Sir William Parr, her brother
Lady Anne Herbert, her sister
Sir William Herbert, her brother-in-law
Members of the King’s Privy Council
John Dudley, Lord Lisle, reformer
Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford, reformer
Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, reformer
Thomas, Lord Wriothesley, Lord Chancellor, no firm alignment
Sir Richard Rich, no firm alignment
Sir William Paget, Chief Secretary, no firm alignment
Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, traditionalist
Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, traditionalist
William Somers, the King’s fool
Jane, fool to Queen Catherine and the Lady Mary
Mary Odell, the Queen’s maid-in-waiting
William Cecil, later Chief Minister to Queen Elizabeth I
Sir Edmund Walsingham
Anne Askew (Kyme)
I DID NOT WANT to attend the burning. I have never liked even such things as the bearbaiting, and this was to be the burning alive at the stake of four living people, one a woman, for denying that the body and blood of Christ were present in the Host at Mass. Such was the pitch we had come to in England during the great heresy hunt of 1546.
I had been called from my chambers at Lincoln’s Inn to see the Treasurer, Master Rowland. Despite my status as a serjeant, the most senior of barristers, Master Rowland disliked me. I think his pride had never recovered from the time three years before when I had been – justly – disrespectful to him. I crossed the Inn Square, the red brickwork mellow in the summer sunshine, exchanging greetings with other black-gowned lawyers going to and fro. I looked up at Stephen Bealknap’s rooms; he was my old foe both in and out of court. The shutters at his windows were closed. He had been ill since early in the year and had not been seen outside for many weeks. Some said he was near death.
I went to the Treasurer’s offices and knocked at his door. A sharp voice bade me enter. Rowland sat behind his desk in his spacious room, the walls lined with shelves of heavy legal books, a d
‘God give you good morrow, Serjeant Shardlake,’ he said in his sharp voice. He put down the knife.
I bowed. ‘And you, Master Treasurer.’
He waved me to a stool and looked at me sternly.
‘Your business goes well?’ he asked. ‘Many cases listed for the Michaelmas term?’
‘A good enough number, sir.’
‘I hear you no longer get work from the Queen’s solicitor.’ He spoke casually. ‘Not for this year past.’
‘I have plenty of other cases, sir. And my work at Common Pleas keeps me busy.’
He inclined his head. ‘I hear some of Queen Catherine’s officials have been questioned by the Privy Council. For heretical opinions.’
‘So rumour says. But so many have been interrogated these last few months.’
‘I have seen you more frequently at Mass at the Inn church recently.’ Rowland smiled sardonically. ‘Showing good conformity? A wise policy in these whirling days. Attend church, avoid the babble of controversy, follow the King’s wishes.’
He took his sharpened quill and spat to soften it, then rubbed it on a cloth. He looked up at me with a new keenness. ‘You have heard that Mistress Anne Askew is sentenced to burn with three others a week on Friday? The sixteenth of July?’
‘It is the talk of London. Some say she was tortured in the Tower after her sentence. A strange thing.’
Rowland shrugged. ‘Street gossip. But the woman made a sensation at the wrong time. Abandoning her husband and coming to London to preach opinions clear contrary to the Act of Six Articles. Refusing to recant, arguing in public with her judges.’ He shook his head, then leaned forward. ‘The burning is to be a great spectacle. There has been nothing like it for years. The King wants it to be seen where heresy leads. Half the Privy Council will be there.’
‘Not the King?’ There had been rumours he might attend.
I remembered Henry had been seriously ill in the spring; he had hardly been seen since.
‘His majesty wants representatives from all the London guilds.’ Rowland paused. ‘And the Inns of Court. I have decided you should go to represent Lincoln’s Inn.’
I stared at him. ‘Me, sir?’
‘You take on fewer social and ceremonial duties than you should, given your rank, Serjeant Shardlake. No one seems willing to volunteer for this, so I have had to decide. I think it time you took your turn.’
I sighed. ‘I know I have been lax in such duties. I will do more, if you wish.’ I took a deep breath. ‘But not this, I would ask you. It will be a horrible thing. I have never seen a burning, and do not wish to.’
Rowland waved a hand dismissively. ‘You are too squeamish. Strange in a farmer’s son. You have seen executions, I know that. Lord Cromwell had you attend Anne Boleyn’s beheading when you worked for him.’
‘That was bad. This will be worse.’
He tapped a paper on his desk. ‘This is the request for me to send someone to attend. Signed by the King’s secretary, Paget himself. I must despatch the name to him tonight. I am sorry, Serjeant, but I have decided you will go.’ He rose, indicating the interview was over. I stood and bowed again. ‘Thank you for offering to become more involved with the Inn’s duties,’ Rowland said, his voice smooth once more. ‘I will see what other – ’ he hesitated – ‘activities may be coming up.’
ON THE DAY of the burning I woke early. It was set for midday but I felt in too heavy and mopish a frame of mind to go into chambers. Punctual as ever, my new steward Martin Brocket brought linen cloths and a ewer of hot water to my bedroom at seven, and after bidding me good morning laid out my shirt, doublet and summer robe. As ever, his manner was serious, quiet, deferential. Since he and his wife Agnes had come to me in the winter my household had been run like clockwork. Through the half-open door I could hear Agnes asking the boy Timothy to be sure and fetch some fresh water later, and the girl Josephine to hurry with her breakfast that my table might be made ready. Her tone was light, friendly.
‘Another fine day, sir,’ Martin ventured. He was in his forties, with thinning fair hair and bland, unremarkable features.
I had told none of my household about my attendance at the burning. ‘It is, Martin,’ I replied. ‘I think I shall work in my study this morning, go in this afternoon.’
‘Very good, sir. Your breakfast will be ready shortly.’ He bowed and went out.
I got up, wincing at a spasm in my back. Fortunately I had fewer of those now, as I followed my doctor friend Guy’s exercises faithfully. I wished I could feel comfortable with Martin, yet although I liked his wife there was something in his cool, stiff formality that I had never felt easy with. As I washed my face and donned a clean linen shirt scented with rosemary, I chid myself for my unreasonableness: as the master it was for me to initiate a less formal relationship.
I examined my face in the steel mirror. More lines, I thought. I had turned forty-four that spring. A lined face, greying hair and a hunched back. As there was such a fashion for beards now – my assistant Barak had recently grown a neat brown one – I had tried a short beard myself a couple of months before, but like my hair it had come out streaked with grey, which I thought unbecoming.
I looked out from the mullioned window onto my garden, where I had allowed Agnes to install some beehives and cultivate a herb garden. They improved its look, and the herbs were sweet-smelling as well as useful. The birds were singing and the bees buzzed round the flowers, everything bright and colourful. What a day for a young woman and three men to die horribly.
My eye turned to a letter on my bedside table. It was from Antwerp, in the Spanish Netherlands, where my nineteen-year-old ward, Hugh Curteys, lived, working for the English merchants there. Hugh was happy now. Originally planning to study in Germany, Hugh had instead stayed in Antwerp and found an unexpected interest in the clothing trade, especially the finding and assessing of rare silks and new fabrics, such as the cotton that was coming in from the New World. Hugh’s letters were full of pleasure in work, and in the intellectual and social freedom of the great city; the fairs, debates and readings at the Chambers of Rhetoric. Although Antwerp was part of the Holy Roman Empire, the Catholic Emperor Charles V did not interfere with the many Protestants who lived there – he did not dare imperil the Flanders banking trade, which financed his wars.
Hugh never spoke of the dark secret which we shared from the time of our meeting the year before; all his letters were cheerful in tone. In this one, though, was news of the arrival in Antwerp of a number of English refugees. ‘They are in a piteous state, appealing to the merchants for succour. They are reformers and radicals, afraid they will be caught up in the net of persecution they say Bishop Gardiner has cast over England.’
I sighed, donned my robe and went down to breakfast. I could delay no more; I must start this dreadful day.
THE HUNT FOR heretics had begun in the spring. During the winter the tide of the King’s fickle religious policy had seemed to turn towards the reformers; he had persuaded Parliament to grant him power to dissolve the chantries, where priests were paid under the wills of deceased donors to say Masses for their souls. But, like many, I suspected his motive had been not religious but financial – the need to cover the gigantic costs of the French war; the English still remained besieged in Boulogne. His debasement of the coinage continued, prices rising as they never had at any time before in man’s memory. The newest ‘silver’ shillings were but a film of silver over copper; already wearing off at the highest point. The King had a new nickname: ‘Old Coppernose’. The discount which traders dema
And then in March, Bishop Stephen Gardiner – the King’s most conservative adviser where religion was concerned – returned from negotiating a new treaty with the Holy Roman Emperor. From April onwards there was word of people high and low being taken in for questioning about their views on the Mass, and the possession of forbidden books. The questioning had reached into both the King’s household and the Queen’s; among the many rumours circulating the streets was that Anne Askew, the best known of those sentenced to death for heresy, had connections within the Queen’s court, and had preached and propagandized among her ladies. I had not seen Queen Catherine since involving her in a potentially dangerous matter the year before, and knew, much to my grief, that I was unlikely to see that sweet and noble lady again. But I had thought of her often and feared for her as the hunt for radicals intensified; last week a proclamation had been issued detailing a long list of books which it was forbidden to possess, and that very week the courtier George Blagge, a friend of the King’s, had been sentenced to burn for heresy.
I no longer had sympathies with either side in the religious quarrel, and sometimes doubted God’s very existence, but I had a history of association with reformers, and like most people this year I had kept my head down and my mouth shut.
I set out at eleven from my house, just up Chancery Lane from Lincoln’s Inn. Timothy had brought my good horse Genesis round to the front door and set out the mounting block. Timothy was thirteen now, growing taller, thin and gawky. I had sent my former servant boy, Simon, to be an apprentice in the spring, to give him a chance in life, and planned to do the same for Timothy when he reached fourteen.
‘Good morning, sir.’ He smiled his shy, gap-toothed grin, pushing a tangle of black hair from his forehead.
‘Good morning, lad. How goes it with you?’
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