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THE SANCTUARY.-PERSONS WHO TOOK REFUGE THERE. THE GATE
HOUSE.-ITS HISTORY. TOTHILL STREET.-THE STREETS OF OLD
WESTMINSTER. - WESTMINSTER
THE famous Sanctuary,-a place of refuge for criminals apparently from the time of Edward the Confessor,—stood on the ground on which the Westminster Hospital and the Guildhall now stand The church which belonged to it, and which was in the form of a cross and of great antiquity, was pulled down about 1750, to make room for a market which was afterwards held on its site. Dr. Stukely, the antiquary, who remembered its destruction, informs us that its walls were of vast strength and thickness, and that it was not without difficulty that it was demolished.*
When Edward the Fourth, in 1470, was compelled to fly the kingdom at the approach of the king-maker, Warwick, with his victorious army, his beautiful Queen, Elizabeth Grey, flew for refuge to the Sanctuary at Westminster, and in its precincts she was delivered of her eldest son, afterwards
* “ Archæologia."
Edward the Fifth, whose subsequent tragical fate in the Tower is so well known.
I'll hence forth with unto the Sanctuary,
If Warwick take us, we are sure to die. Thirteen years afterwards, when the designs of Richard, Duke of Gloucester, against the life and authority of his young nephew were but too apparent, the Queen, with her young son, the Duke of York, again flew for refuge to the Sanctuary at Westminster. We all remember the beautiful passage in “Richard the Third,” where the brokenhearted Queen bids farewell to the Duchess of York, and hastens with her child to the only asylum which her enemies have left to her. Her eldest-born was already in the hands of the usurper:
I see the ruin of
Come, come, my boy, we will to sanctuary. Anxious by all means to get the young Duke of York in his power, and, enraged at his prey slipping through his hands, Richard summoned his council, and unhesitatingly proposed to take the young Prince from the Sanctuary by force. To the council he represented, in his usual plausible and jesuitical manner, the indignity which had been put on
the regency by the Queen's ill-grounded apprehensions, and the necessity of the Duke of York walking in procession at the coronation of his brother. He further insisted, that ecclesiastical privileges were originally intended only to give protection to persons persecuted for their crimes or debts, and could therefore in no way apply to one of tender years, who, having committed no offence, had no right to claim security from any sanctuary. There were present at the council-table Cardinal Bourchier, Archbishop of Canterbury, and Rotherham, Archbishop of York, who boldly protested against the sacrilege of the measure. The church of Westminster, to which the Sanctuary was attached, said the Archbishops, had been consecrated five hundred years since by St. Peter himself, who descended from heaven in the night, attended by multitudes of angels. No King of England, they added, had ever dared to violate that Sanctuary, and such an attempt would certainly draw down the just vengeance of God upon the whole kingdom. It was at length agreed that the two primates should wait on the Queen in the Sanctuary, and should first of all endeavour to bring the Queen to compliance by persuasion, before any more violent measures were resorted to. The scene between Gloucester's creature, the Duke of Buckingham, and Cardinal Bourchier, is admirably dramatized by Shakspeare:
Lord Cardinal, will your grace
If she deny-Lord Hastings go with him,
And from her jealous arms pluck him perforce.
Can from his mother win the Duke of York,
Would I be guilty of so deep a sin.
Too ceremonious, and traditional :
But Sanctuary children ne'er till now.
Come on, Lord Hastings, will you go with me? Hast. I go, my
Lord. There can be little doubt, from their established character for integrity, that when Cardinal Bourchier and the Archbishop of York waited on the unfortunate Queen, in the Sanctuary, they were both fully satisfied of Gloucester's good intentions, and consequently were quite sincere when they used every argument and entreaty to induce her to give up her beloved child. She remained for a long time obstinate, but finding herself unsupported in her opposition, and being assured that force would in all probability be used should she persist in her ob
mind for once,
duracy, she at last complied, and produced her son to the two prelates. At the moment of parting, she is said to have been struck with a strange presentiment of his future fate. But it was now too late to retract. Overcome with feelings which only a mother can experience, she caught the child in her arms, wetted him with her tears, and at last reluctantly delivered him to the Cardinal, who im. mediately conducted him to the Protector. Richard, we are told, no sooner caught a sight of his young nephew, than he ran towards him with open arms, and kissing him, exclaimed,—“Now welcome, my Lord, with all my heart.” The sequel of the melancholy history is too well known to require recapitulation.
The neighbourhood of the Sanctuary is intimately connected with the early, as well as with the closing history of Ben Jonson. When a scholar at Westminster School, he must often have wandered in its precincts,-in a house overlooking St. Margaret's church-yard, he died, and in the neighbouring Abbey he lies buried. Long since, in King James's time,” writes Aubrey, “I have heard my uncle Danvers say, who knew him, that Ben Jonson lived without Temple Bar, at a comb-maker's shop, about the Elephant and Castle. In his later time he lived in Westminster, in the house under which you pass as you go out of the church-yard into the old palace, where he died. He lies buried in the north aisle, in the path of square stone, (the rest is lozenge) opposite to the scutcheon of Robertus de