From a balcony overlooking the upper ward, Anne Boleyn beheld the king's approach on his return from the Garter Tower, and waving her hand smilingly to him, she withdrew into the presence-chamber. Hastening to her, Henry found her surrounded by her ladies of honour, by the chief of the nobles and knights who had composed her train from Hampton Court, and by the Cardinals Wolsey and Campeggio; and having exchanged a few words with her, he took her hand, and led her to the upper part of the chamber, where two chairs of state were set beneath a canopy of crimson velvet embroidered with the royal arms, and placed her in the seat hitherto allotted to Catherine of Arragon. A smile of triumph irradiated Anne's lovely countenance at this mark of distinction, nor was her satisfaction diminished as Henry turned to address the assemblage.
"My lords," he said, "ye are right well aware of the scruples of conscience I entertain in regard to my marriage with my brother's widow, Catherine of Arragon. The more I weigh the matter, the more convinced am I of its unlawfulness; and were it possible to blind myself to my sinful condition, the preachers, who openly rebuke me from the pulpit, would take care to remind me of it. Misunderstand me not, my lords. I have no ground of complaint against the queen. Far otherwise. She is a lady of most excellent character -- full of devotion, loyalty, nobility, and gentleness. And if I could divest myself of my misgivings, so far from seeking to put her from me, I should cherish her with the greatest tenderness. Ye may marvel that I have delayed the divorce thus long. But it is only of late that my eyes have been opened; and the step was hard to take. Old affections clung to me -- old chains restrained me -- nor could I, without compunction, separate myself from one who has ever been to me a virtuous and devoted consort."
"Thou hast undergone a martyrdom, gossip," observed Will Sommers, who had posted himself at the foot of the canopy, near the king, " and shalt henceforth be denominated Saint Henry"
The gravity of the hearers might have been discomposed by this remark, but for the stern looks of the king.
"Ye may make a jest of my scruples, my lords," he continued, "and think I hold them lightly; but my treatise on the subject, which has cost me much labour and meditation, will avouch to the contrary. What would befall this realm if my marriage were called in question after my decease? The same trouble and confusion would ensue that followed on the death of my noble grandfather, King Edward the Fourth. To prevent such mischance I have resolved, most reluctantly, to put away my present queen, and to take another consort, by whom I trust to raise up a worthy successor and inheritor of my kingdom."
A murmur of applause followed this speech, and the two cardinals exchanged significant glances, which were not unobserved by the king.
"I doubt not ye will all approve the choice I shall make," he pursued, looking fiercely at Wolsey, and taking Anne Boleyn's hand, who arose as he turned to her. "And now, fair mistress," he added to her, "as an earnest of the regard I have for you, and of the honours I intend you, I hereby create you Marchioness of Pembroke, and bestow upon you a thousand marks a year in land, and another thousand to be paid out of my treasury to support your dignity."
"Your majesty is too generous," replied Anne, bending the knee, and kissing his hand.
"Not a whit, sweetheart -- not a whit," replied Henry, tenderly raising her; "this is but a slight mark of my goodwill. Sir Thomas Boleyn," he added to her father, "henceforth your style and title will be that of Viscount Rochford, and your patent will be made out at the same time as that of your daughter, the Marchioness of Pembroke. I also elect you a knight- companion of the most honourable Order of the Garter, and your investiture and installation will take place to-day."
Having received the thanks and homage of the newly-created noble, Henry descended from the canopy, and passed into an inner room with the Lady Anne, where a collation was prepared for them. Their slight meal over, Anne took up her lute, and playing a lively prelude, sang two or three French songs with so much skill and grace, that Henry, who was passionately fond of music, was quite enraptured. Two delightful hours having passed by, almost imperceptibly, an usher approached the king, and whispering a few words to him, he reluctantly withdrew, and Anne retired with her ladies to an inner apartment.
On reaching his closet, the king's attendants proceeded to array him in a surcoat of crimson velvet, powdered with garters embroidered in silk and gold, with the motto -- boni soft qui mal y pense -- wrought within them. Over the surcoat was thrown a mantle of blue velvet with a magnificent train, lined with white damask, and having on the left shoulder a large garter, wrought in pearls and Venice twists, containing the motto, and encircling the arms of Saint George -- argent, a cross gules. The royal habiliments were completed by a hood of the same stuff as the surcoat, decorated like it with small embroidered garters, and lined with white satin. From the king's neck was suspended the collar of the Great George, composed of pieces of gold, fashioned like garters, the ground of which was enamelled, and the letters gold.
While Henry was thus arrayed, the knights-companions, robed in their mantles, hoods, and collars, entered the closet, and waiting till he was ready, marched before him into the presence-chamber, where were assembled the two provincial kings-at-arms, Clarenceux and Norroy, the heralds, and pursuivants, wearing their coats-of-arms, together with the band of pensioners, carrying gilt poleaxes, and drawn up in two lines. At the king's approach, one of the gentlemen-ushers who carried the sword of state, with the point resting upon the ground, delivered it to the Duke of Richmond, -- the latter having been appointed to bear it before the king during all the proceedings of the feast. Meanwhile, the knights-companions having drawn up on either side of the canopy, Henry advanced with a slow and stately step towards it, his train borne by the Earl of Surrey, Sir Thomas Wyat, and other nobles and knights. As he ascended the canopy, and faced the assemblage, the Duke of Richmond and the chief officers of the Order drew up a little on his right. The knights-companions then made their salutation to him, which he returned by removing his jewelled cap with infinite grace and dignity, and as soon as he was again covered they put on their caps, and ranging themselves in order, set forward to Saint George's Chapel.