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Lady Lucy's Petition to the Queen

And is my dear papa shut up in this dismal place to which you are taking me, nurse? asked the little Lady Lucy Preston, raising her eyes fearfully to the Tower of London, as the coach in which she was seated with Amy Gradwell, her nurse, drove under the gateway.

She trembled and hid her face in Amy's cloak, when they alighted and she saw the soldiers on guard, with their crossed partizans, before the portals of that part of the fortress where the prisoners of state were confined, and where her own father, Lord Preston, of whom she was come to take a last farewell, then lay, under sentence of death.

Yes, my dear child, returned Amy, >mournfully, my lord, your father, is indeed within these sad walls. You are now going to visit him. Shall you be afraid of entering the place, my dear?

No, replied Lady Lucy, resolutely, I am not afraid of going to anyplace where my dear papa is. Yet she clung closer to the arm of her attendant, as they were admitted within the gloomy precincts of the building; her little heart fluttered fearfully as she glanced round her, and she whispered to the nurse, Was it not here that the young princes, Edward the Fifth and his brother Richard Duke of York, were murdered by their cruel uncle Richard Duke of Gloucester?

Yes, my love, it was; but do not be alarmed on that account, for no one will harm you, said old Amy, in an encouraging tone.

And was not good King Henry the Sixth murdered here also, by that same wicked Richard? continued the little girl, whose imagination was full of the records of the deeds of blood that had been perpetrated in this fatally celebrated place, many of which had been related to her by Bridget Oldworth, the housekeeper, since her father had been imprisoned in the Tower on a charge of high treason.

But do you think they will murder papa, nurse?* pursued the child, as they began to ascend the stairs leading to the apartment in which the unfortunate nobleman was confined.

Hush! hush! dear child; you must not talk of these things here, said Amy, or they will shut us both up in a room with bars and bolts, instead of admitting us to see my lord your father. Lady Lucy pressed closer to her nurse's side, and was silent till they were ushered into the room where her father was confined, when, forgetting every thing else in her joy at seeing him again, she sprang into his arms, and almost stifled him with her kisses.

Lord Preston was greatly affected at the sight of his little daughter, and overcome by her passionate demonstrations of fondness and his own anguish at the thought of his approaching separation from her, and the idea of leaving her an orphan at her tender age (for she had only just completed her ninth year and had lost her mother), he clasped her to his bosom, and bedewed her innocent face with his tears.

Why do you cry, dear papa? asked the little girl, who was herself weeping at the sight of his distress. And why will you not leave this gloomy place, and come home to your own hall again?

Attend to me, Lucy, and I will tell you the cause of my grief, said her father, seating the little girl on his knee. I shall never come home again, for I have been condemned to die for high treason which means, an offence against the king, and I shall not leave this place till they bring me forth on Tower Hill, where they will cut off my head with a sharp axe, and set it up afterwards over Temple Bar or London Bridge.

At this terrible intelligence, Lady Lucy screamed aloud, and hid her face in her father's bosom, which she wetted with her tears.

Be composed, my dear child, said Lord Preston, for I have much to say to you, and we may never meet again on this side the grave, since I am so soon to die.

No, no, dear papa, cried Lady Lucy, they shall not kill you, for I will cling so fast about your neck, that they shall not be able to cut off your head; and I will tell them all how good and kind you are, and then they will not want to kill you.

My dearest love, this is all simple talking, said Lord Preston; I have offended against the law as it is at present established, by trying to have King James, my old master, restored to the throne, and, therefore, I must die. Do you not remember Lucy, I took you once to Whitehall, to see King James, and how kindly he spoke to you?

Oh, yes, papa! and I recollect he laid his hand upon my head, and said, I was like what his daughter, the Princess of Orange, was at my age, replied Lady Lucy, with great animation.

Well, my child, very shortly after you saw King James at Whitehall, the Prince of Orange came over to England, and drove King James out of his palace and kingdom, and the people, who were displeased with King James on account of his professing the Roman Catholic religion, which they suspected he designed to re-establish in this country, deposed him, and made the Prince and Princess of Orange king and queen in his stead.

But was it not very wicked of the Princess of Orange to join with her husband to take her father's kingdom away from him? I am very sorry King James thought me like her, said Lady Lucy, earnestly.

Hush, hush, my love; you must not talk so of the Princess of Orange; for, perhaps, she considered she was doing right in depriving her father of his dominions, because it is against the law for a king of England to be a Catholic. Yet, I confess, I did not believe she would have consented to sign the death-warrants of so many of her father's old servants, on account of their faithful attachment to him, said Lord Preston with a sigh.

I have heard that the Princess of Orange is of a merciful disposition, said old Amy Gradwell, who had been a weeping spectator of the scene between the father and child;and perhaps she might be induced to spare your life, my lord, if your pardon were very earnestly entreated of her by some of your friends.

Alas! my good Amy, I have no one who will undertake the perilous office of soliciting the royal grace for an attainted traitor, lest they should be suspected of forwarding the cause of King James, said Lord Preston mournfully.

Dear papa! let me go to the queen, and entreat for your pardon, cried Lady Lucy, with a crimsoned cheek and sparkling eye. I will so beg and pray her to spare your life that she will not have the heart to deny me.

Simple child! exclaimed her father; what should you be able to say to the queen that would be of any avail?

God would teach me what to say, returned Lady Lucy piously; and he has also power to touch her heart with pity for a child's distress, and to open her ear to my earnest petition.

Her father clasped her to his bosom, but said, Thou wouldst be afraid of speaking to the queen, even if thou shouldst be admitted to her presence, my Lucy.

Why should I be afraid of speaking to the queen, papa? for even if she should be angry with me, and answer harshly at first, I should be thinking too much of your peril to mind it. Or if she were to send me to the Tower, and cutoff my head, she could only kill my body, you know; but would have no power at all to hurt my soul, which is under the protection of One who is greater than any king or queen upon earth.

You are right, my child, to fear God, and to have no other fear, said her father. It is He who hath perhaps put it into your young heart to plead with the queen for my life, which if it be His pleasure that she should grant, I shall feel it indeed a happiness for my child to be made the instrument of my deliverance from the perils of death which now encompass me ; but if it should be otherwise, His will be done. He hath promised to be a father to the fatherless, and he will not forsake my good and dutiful child when I am low in the dust.

But how will my Lady Lucy gain admittance to the queen's presence, my Lord? asked old Amy.

I will write a letter to her godmother, the Lady Clarendon, requesting her to accomplish the matter, said Lord Preston. He then wrote a few hasty lines to that lady, which together with his own petition for the royal mercy, he gave to his little daughter, telling her she was to go the next day to Hampton Court, properly attended, and to obtain a sight of Lady Clarendon, who was there in waiting upon the queen, and to deliver that letter to her with her own hand. He then kissed his child, tenderly blessed her, and bade her farewell.

Though the little girl wept much at parting with her father, she left the Tower with a far more composed mind than that with which she entered it, for see had formed her resolution, and her young heart was full of hope. She had silently committed her cause to God, and she trusted that He would dispose the event prosperously for her.

The next morning, before the lark had sung her matins, Lady Lucy was up and dressed in a suit of deep mourning, which Amy had provided, considering it the most suitable garb for a child whose only surviving parent was under sentence of death.

The servants, who had been informed of their young lady's intention to solicit the queen for her father's pardon, were all assembled in the entrance hall to see her depart, and as she passed through them, leaning on her nurse's arm, and attended by her father's confidential secretary and the old butler, they shed tears, and bade God bless her and prosper her in her pious design.

Lady Lucy arrived at Hampton Court, and was introduced into the Countess of Clarendon's apartment before her ladyship was out of bed ; and having told her artless tale with great earnestness, delivered her father's letter.

Lady Clarendon, who was wife to the queen's uncle, received her young god-daughter very affectionately, but plainly told her, she must not reckon on her influence with the queen, because the Earl of Clarendon was in disgrace on account of being suspected of carrying on a correspondence with King James, his brother-in-law; therefore she dared not solicit the queen on behalf of her friend Lord Preston, against whom her majesty was so deeply exasperated that she had declared she would not show him any mercy.

Oh! said the little girl, if I could only see the queen myself, I would not wish any one to speak for me, for I should plead so earnestly to her for my dear papa's life that she could not refuse me, I am sure.

Poor child! what could you say to the queen? asked the countess compassionately.

Only let me see her, and you shall hear, said Lady Lucy.

Well, my love, it were a pity but what thou shouldst have an opportunity, said Lady Clarendon; but much I fear thy little heart will fail thee, when thou seest the queen face to face, and thou wilt not be able to utter a syllable.

God will inspire me with courage, and direct the words of my lips, said the little girl, with tears in her eyes.

The countess was impressed with the piety and filial tenderness of her young god-daughter, and she hastened to rise and dress, that she might, without further delay, conduct the child into the palace gallery, where the queen usually passed an hour in walking, after her return from chapel, which she attended every morning.

Her majesty had not left the chapel when Lady Clarendon and Lucy entered the gallery, and her ladyship endeavoured to divert the anxious impatience of her little friend, by pointing out to her the portraits with which it was adorned.

I know that gentleman well, said the child, pointing to a noble whole-length portrait of James the Second.

That is the portrait of the deposed King James, Queen Mary's father, observed the Countess, sighing, and a very striking likeness it is of that unfortunate monarch; but hark! here comes the queen, with her chamberlain and ladies, from chapel, now, Lucy, is the time! I will step into the recess yonder; but you must remain alone standing where you are, and when her majesty approaches near enough, kneel down on one knee before her, and present your father's petition. She, who walks a little in advance of the other ladies, is the queen. Be of good courage, and address yourself to her.

Lady Clarendon then made a hasty retreat. Lady Lucy's heart fluttered violently when she found herself alone, but her resolution did not fail her; and while her lips moved silently in fervent prayer to the Almighty for his assistance in this trying moment, she stood with folded hands, pale, but composed and motionless as a statue, awaiting the queen's approach; and when her majesty drew near the spot, she advanced a step forward, knelt, and presented the petition.

The extreme beauty of the child, her deep mourning, the touching sadness of her look and manner, and, above all, the fast flowing tears which bedewed her innocent face, excited the queen's attention and interest; she paused, spoke kindly to her, and took the offered paper; but when she saw the name of Lord Preston, her colour rose, she frowned, cast the petition from her, and would have passed on, but Lucy, who had watched her countenance with a degree of anxious interest that amounted to agony, losing all awe for royalty in her fears for her father's life, put forth her hand, and grasping the queen's robe, cried in an imploring tone, Spare my father, my dear, dear father, royal lady!

Lucy had meant to say many persuasive things, but she forgot them all in her sore distress, and could only repeat the words, Mercy, mercy for my father, gracious queen! till her vehement emotion choked her voice, and throwing her arms round the queen's knees, she leaned her head against her majesty's person for support, while her rich profusion of flaxen ringlets, which partly concealed her fair face, floated over the queen's dress; she sobbed aloud in the uncontrolable anguish of her heart.

The intense sorrow of a child is always peculiarly touching; but the circumstances under which Lucy appeared were more than commonly affecting.

It was a daughter, not beyond the season of infancy, overcoming the timidity of that tender age, to become a suppliant of an offended sovereign for the life of a father.

Queen Mary pitied the distress of the young petitioner; but as she considered the death of Lord Preston a measure of political expediency, she told Lucy mildly, but firmly, that she could not grant her request.

And will you kill my dear papa, who is so good and kind to every one? said Lucy, raising her blue eyes, which were swimming in tears, to the face of the queen.

He may be so, my child, returned her majesty, but he has broken the laws of his country, and therefore he must die.

But you can pardon him if you choose to do so, madam, replied Lucy; and I have read that God is well pleased with those who forgive, for he has said, ' Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.'

It does not become a little girl like you to attempt to instruct me, replied the queen, gravely; I am acquainted with my duty, and as it is my place to administer justice impartially, it is not possible for me to pardon your father, however painful it may be for me to deny the request of so dutiful a child.

Lucy did not reply, she only raised her streaming eyes, with an appealing look to the queen, and then turned them expressively on the portrait of King James, opposite to which her majesty was standing.

There was something in that look which bore no ordinary meaning, and the queen, whose curiosity was excited by the peculiar manner of the child, could not refrain from asking her, wherefore she gazed so earnestly on that picture?

I was thinking, replied Lady Lucy, how strange it was that you should wish to kill my father, only because he loved yours so faithfully.

This wise, but artless reproof, from the lips of infant innocence, went to the heart of the queen. She raised her eyes to the once dear and honoured countenance of a parent, who, whatever were his political errors as a king, had ever been the tenderest of fathers to her; and when the remembrance that he was an exile in a foreign land, relying on the bounty of strangers for his daily bread, while she and her husband were invested with the regal inheritance of which he had been deprived, pressed upon her mind, the thought of the contrast of her conduct as a daughter, when compared with the filial piety of the child before her (whom a sentence of hers was about to render an orphan), smote her heart, and she burst into tears.

Rise, dear child, said she. Thou hast prevailed, thy father shall not die. I grant his pardon at thy entreaty, thy filial love has saved him.

Historical Summary

The conspiracy against the government of William the Third, and to effect the restoration of his exiled father-in-law, James the Second, for which Lord Preston and his friend, Mr. Ashton, were condemned to death, took place in 1692.

Sir John Dalyrymple relates the anecdote of the courageous child of Lord Preston, in his Memoirs. Ashton was put to death, but the presence of mind of the young lady saved Lord Preston's life.

Her name was Catherine, and not Lucy. Her brother Edward dying young, she, with her two sisters, became her father's co-heiresses; at seventeen she married a gallant young nobleman, the son of Lord Widdrington, with whom she led a most happy life. Her memory is still greatly respected for her virtues and talents, in Lancashire, her native county.