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The accession of Henry VIII. (1509-47) was hailed with joy by all classes in England. Young, handsome, well-developed both in mind and body, fond of outdoor games and amusements, affable and generous with whomsoever he came into contact, he was to all appearances qualified perfectly for the high office to which he had succeeded. With the exception of Empson and Dudley, who were sacrificed for their share in the execution of his father, most of the old advisers were retained at the royal court; but the chief confidants on whose advice he relied principally were his Chancellor Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Chancellor of England, Richard Fox, Bishop of Winchester and Lord Privy Seal, and Thomas Howard, afterwards Duke of Norfolk, Lord Treasurer of the kingdom. Soon, however, these trusted and loyal advisers were obliged to make way for a young and rising ecclesiastical courtier, Thomas Wolsey1 (1471-1530), who for close on twenty years retained the first place in the affections of his sovereign and the chief voice in the direction of English affairs. As a youth, Wolsey’s marvellous abilities astonished his teachers at Magdalen College, where the boy bachelor, as he was called because he obtained the B.A. degree at the age of fifteen, was regarded as a prodigy. As a young man he was pushed forward by his patrons, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Winchester, and won favour at court by the successful accomplishment of a delicate mission entrusted to him by Henry VII., till at last in 1511 he was honoured by a seat in the privy council. New dignities were heaped upon him by Pope and sovereign in turn. He was appointed Bishop of Lincoln and Archbishop of York (1514), was created a cardinal of the Roman Church (1515), and in a short time he accepted the offices of Lord Chancellor and papal legate for England. If he did not succeed in reaching the papal throne, a dignity to which he was induced to aspire by the promise of Charles V., his position as legate made him at least virtual head of the English Church. Instead of being annoyed, Henry VIII. was delighted at the honours showered upon his Lord Chancellor by the Roman court. With Wolsey as his obedient minister and at the same time an ecclesiastical dictator, he felt that he had more authority in ecclesiastical affairs than was granted to Francis I. by the Concordat of 1516, and, though possibly at the time he did not advert to it, he was thus preparing the way for exercising in his own name the control that he had exercised for years through his chief minister in the name of the Pope.
The dream of reconquering the English possessions in France induced Henry VIII., during the early years of his reign, to side with the Emperor Maximilian and Ferdinand of Spain against Louis XII.; but the comparative failure of the expeditions undertaken against France, the resentment of the people who were burdened with taxation, and the advice of Cardinal Wolsey, led him to forego his schemes of conquest for a time in favour of a policy of neutrality. The election of Charles V. in 1519 changed the whole aspect of affairs on the Continent, and raised new hopes both in the minds of Henry VIII. and of his faithful minister. An alliance with Charles V. might mean for England the complete subjugation of France, and for Cardinal Wolsey the votes of the cardinals at the approaching conclave. While pretending to act the part of mediator between the rival sovereigns, Henry concluded a secret alliance with the Emperor in 1521, and prepared to make war on France. The failure of the forces dispatched under the Earl of Surrey, the disappointment of Wolsey when he found himself deceived by Charles V. at the conclaves of 1521 and 1523, and the outcry raised in Parliament and throughout the country against the French war, induced Henry VIII. to reconsider his foreign policy. The defeat and capture of Francis I. at Pavia (1525) placed France at the mercy of the Emperor, and made it necessary for Henry to come to the relief of his old enemy unless he wished to see England sink to the level of an imperial province. Overtures for peace were made to France, and in April 1527 Grammont, Bishop of Tarbes, arrived in England to discuss the terms of an alliance. The position of Cardinal Wolsey, which had been rendered critical by the hatred of the nobles, who resented his rule as the rule of an upstart, and by the enmity of the people, who regarded him as the author of the French war and of the increased taxation, was now threatened seriously by the public discussion of difficulties that had arisen in the mind of the king regarding the validity of his marriage.
The Lutheran movement that broke out in Germany two years after Cardinal Wolsey’s acceptance of the twofold office of papal legate and royal chancellor, found little favour in England. Here and there, at Oxford, at Cambridge, and in London, individuals were found to subscribe to portion of Luther’s programme; but the great body of the people remained unmoved by the tirades of the German reformers against Rome. Henry VIII., whose attention to religion was noted as one of his characteristics by the observant Ambassador of Venice, did not hesitate to take the field against the enemies of the Holy See and more especially against Luther himself. In a work entitled Assertio Septem Sacramentorum (Defence of the Seven Sacraments)2 published against Luther in 1521, he defended in no uncertain terms the rights and privileges of the Holy See, and in return for the very valuable services that he rendered to religion he was honoured by Leo X. with the title Fidei Defensor (Defender of the Faith, 1521).3 The example of the king, and the activity of Cardinal Wolsey and of the bishops, made it impossible for the few individuals who favoured the German movement to spread their views.
Were it not for Henry’s eagerness to secure a separation from his wife, Catharine of Aragon, it is highly improbable that the anti-Roman agitation would have made any considerable progress in England.4 In 1499 Henry’s wife, Catharine of Aragon, had been betrothed by proxy to his brother Prince Arthur, heir-apparent to the English throne. She arrived in England two years later, and the marriage was solemnised at St. Paul’s on the 14th November, 1501. Prince Arthur was then only a boy of fifteen years of age, and of so delicate a constitution that fears were entertained by many that his wife must soon don the widow’s weeds. Unfortunately these fears were speedily justified. In April 1502 the Prince fell a victim to a pestilence that raged in the district round Ludlow Castle to which he and his wife had retired. To prevent quarrels between Ferdinand and Henry VII. regarding Catharine’s dowry, a marriage was arranged between Catharine and Prince Henry. The necessary dispensation for a marriage with a deceased brother’s wife was granted by Julius II. (December 1503), and according to the agreement between the courts of England and of Spain, the marriage should have taken place as soon as Henry reached the age of puberty; but owing to certain political changes in Spain, and the prospect of securing a better match for the heir presumptive to the English throne, Henry VII. arranged that Prince Henry should appear before Fox, Bishop of Winchester, and lodge a formal protest against a marriage agreement that had been concluded during his minority and which he now declared to be null and void (17th June, 1505). This protest was kept secret, but for years Catharine was treated with neglect and left in doubt regarding her ultimate fate. As soon, however, as Henry was free to act for himself on the death of his father, the marriage between himself and Catharine was solemnised publicly (1509), and on the 24th June of the same year the king and queen were crowned at Westminster Abbey.
For years Henry and Catharine lived happily together as man and wife. Several children were born to them, all of whom unfortunately died in their infancy except the Princess Mary, afterwards Queen Mary of England. Even before there was any question of separation from his wife, Henry’s relations with some of the ladies at court were not above suspicion. By one, Elizabeth Blount, he had a son whom he created Duke of Richmond and to whom at one time he thought of bequeathing the crown of England. In a short time Mary, the eldest sister of Anne Boleyn, succeeded to Elizabeth in the affections of the king. The fact that Catharine was some years older than her husband, that infirmity and sorrow for the death of her children had dimmed her charms, and that there could be no longer any hope for the birth of an heir to the throne, preyed on Henry’s mind and made him not unwilling to rid himself of a wife, whom, however, he could not but admire even though she had forfeited his love. Were he to die there was no one to succeed him but the Princess Mary, and her right to the throne might be contested. Even though she succeeded, her marriage must inevitably create great difficulties. Were she to marry a foreign prince, he feared that England might become a province; were she to accept the hand of an English nobleman, a disputed succession ending in civil war was far from being improbable. His gloomy anticipations were shared in by many of his advisers; and Wolsey, who had set his heart on uniting the forces of England and France against the Emperor, was not unwilling to set a seal on the new French anti-imperial alliance by repudiating Henry’s marriage with the Emperor’s aunt, if such a dissolution could be brought about without infringing the laws of God.
Though it would seem that doubts had long since arisen in Henry’s mind regarding the lawfulness of his marriage to his deceased brother’s wife, and that questions of policy may have influenced the attitude of his advisers towards the projected separation, yet it is certain that it was the charms of the young and accomplished Anne Boleyn, that brought matters to a crisis. With her experience of the gay and corrupt court of France, she was not likely to be mistaken about the influence of her charms or the violence of the king’s passion. She would be the king’s wife if he wished; but she would not be, like her sister, the king’s mistress. Overcome by the force of his desires, he determined to rid himself of a wife of whom he was tired, in favour of her young and more attractive rival. The fact that Catharine had been married to his brother Arthur was seized upon by him to furnish a decent pretext for the projected separation. His conscience, he averred, reproached him for such an incestuous alliance, and for his own peace of mind it was necessary, he maintained, to submit the validity of his marriage to the decision of the Church.
There is no convincing evidence that the idea of a separation from Catharine originated with Cardinal Wolsey, though the latter, longing for a matrimonial alliance of his king with a French princess, and not aware of Henry’s intention with regard to Anne, was probably not sorry when he learned of Henry’s scruples; and it is not true to say that the first doubts regarding the illegitimacy of the Princess Mary were raised by the French Ambassador in 1527. The whole story of the negotiations with France regarding Mary’s marriage at the time, makes it perfectly clear that her legitimacy was assumed. The divorce proceedings originated in Henry’s own mind, and the plan of marrying Anne Boleyn was kept a secret from Wolsey and from most of the royal advisers. When exactly the question of a separation from Catharine was first mooted is uncertain; but there can be no doubt that early in 1527 active steps were taken to secure a condemnation of the marriage. Wolsey entered warmly into the project, but most of the bishops whom he consulted were not anxious to assist him; and what was still more serious Fisher, the learned and saintly Bishop of Rochester, declared himself from the beginning a determined opponent. The capture of Rome by imperial troops (1527) made it imperative that the terms of the French alliance should be completed at once, and Cardinal Wolsey set out for Paris as the representative of England. While Wolsey was absent in France arranging the terms of the alliance, Anne Boleyn took occasion to warn Henry that his great minister was unreliable, that in his heart he was opposed to the separation, and that without his knowledge or consent negotiations should be opened directly with the Roman court. An agent was dispatched to Rome and succeeded in securing an interview with Clement VII., after the latter had made his escape from Rome to Orvieto (December 1527). It was contended on behalf of the king that the dispensation granted by Julius II. was null and void. In proof of this it was contended: that in the Bull it had been stated that Henry desired to marry Catharine, and that the marriage was necessary for preserving peace between England and Spain, both of which statements, it was alleged, were false; that at the time the disposition was granted Henry was only twelve years of age and therefore incapable of accepting it; that several persons mentioned in the Bull, as for example, Queen Isabella and Henry VII., had died before the marriage took place; and lastly that when Henry reached the age of puberty he had protested against the marriage, thereby renouncing for himself the favours granted in the Bull of dispensation.5 Later on it was contended, by those who favoured the separation, that the dispensation was issued by the Pope on the supposition that the marriage between Arthur and Catharine had not been consummated, and that therefore, since this condition was not verified, the dispensation was invalid. But here they were faced with the difficulty that the great weight of evidence favoured the view that the marriage had not been consummated; that in any case the dispensation was ample enough to cover both the impediment of affinity and public honesty; and that, whatever might be said against the Bull of dispensation, no such objection could be urged against the brief said to have been forwarded by the Pope to the court of Spain.6 As the English agents had been instructed to seek not merely the appointment of a commission to declare the invalidity of the dispensation, and consequently of the marriage, but also for a dispensation which would permit the king to marry a woman related to him in the first degree of affinity, whether the affinity had been contracted by a lawful or unlawful connexion, it was thought prudent not to lay stress on the argument that marriage with the deceased brother’s wife was prohibited by the divine law, and that, therefore, the Pope could not grant a dispensation such as had been issued by Julius II. At a later date great stress was laid upon this argument.
Clement VII., while not unwilling to grant the dispensation requested,7 did not think it consistent with his own honour or that of the king, to grant the commission according to the terms drawn up for him in England. A new embassy, consisting of Edward Foxe, and Dr. Stephen Gardiner, Wolsey’s secretary, was dispatched, and arrived at Orvieto in March 1528. The victorious progress of the French armies in Italy (1527-28), by relieving Clement VII. from the pressure of the imperial party, favoured the petition of Henry VIII. Arguments drawn from canon law and from theology were driven home by Gardiner with a fluency and wealth of knowledge that astonished the papal advisers, and when arguments failed, recourse was had to threats of an appeal to a general council, and of the complete separation of England from the Holy See. The decretal commission demanded by the English ambassadors was, however, refused; but, in its place, a decree was issued empowering Cardinal Wolsey and Cardinal Campeggio to try the case in England and to pronounce a verdict in accordance with the evidence submitted to them. As this fell very far short of what had been demanded by the English envoys, new demands were made for a more ample authority for the commission, and in view of the danger that threatened the Catholic Church in England, Clement VII. yielded so far as to promise that he would not revoke the jurisdiction of those whom he had entrusted with the trial of the case (July 1528).8
Meanwhile news of what was in contemplation was noised abroad. Many of the English merchants, fearing that hostility to the empire would lead to an interruption of their trade especially with the Netherlands, detested the new foreign policy of the king, while the great body of the people were so strongly on the side of Catharine that were a verdict to be given against her a popular rebellion seemed inevitable. So pronounced was this feeling even in the city of London itself, that Henry felt it necessary to summon the Lord Mayor and the Corporation to the royal palace, where he addressed them on the question that was then uppermost in men’s minds. He spoke of Catharine in terms of the highest praise, assured them that the separation proceedings were begun, not because he was anxious to rid himself of a wife whom he still loved, but because his conscience was troubled with scruples regarding the validity of his marriage, and that the safety of the kingdom was endangered by doubts which had been raised by the French ambassador regarding the legitimacy of Princess Mary. To put an end to these doubts, and to save the country from the horror of a disputed succession, the Pope had appointed a commission to examine the validity of the marriage; and to the judgment of that commission whatever it might be he was prepared to yield a ready submission. He warned his hearers, however, that if any person failed to speak of him otherwise than became a loyal subject towards his sovereign condign punishment would await him. To give effect to these words a search was made for arms in the city, and strangers were commanded to depart from London.9
Though the commission had been granted in April, Cardinal Campeggio was in no hurry to undertake the work that was assigned to him. He did not leave Rome till June, and he proceeded so leisurely on his journey through France that it was only in the first week of October that he arrived in London. In accordance with his instructions, he endeavoured to dissuade the king from proceeding further with the separation, but as Henry was determined to marry the lady of his choice even though it should prove the ruin of his kingdom, all the efforts of Campeggio in this direction were in vain. He next turned his attention to Catharine, in the hope of persuading her to enter a convent, only to discover that her refusal to take any step likely to cast doubts upon her own marriage and the legitimacy of her daughter was fixed and unalterable. At the queen’s demand counsel was assigned to her to plead her cause. The situation was complicated by the fact that Julius II. appears to have issued two dispensations for Henry’s marriage, one contained in the Bull sent to England, the other in a brief forwarded to Ferdinand in Spain. The queen produced a copy of the brief, which was drawn up in such a way as to elude most of the objections that were urged against the Bull on the ground that the marriage had been consummated. The original of the brief was in the hands of the Emperor, and various attempts were made to secure the original or to have it pronounced a forgery by the Pope; but the Emperor was too wily a diplomatist to be caught so easily, and the Pope refused either to order its production or to condemn it without evidence as a forgery.10 This question of the brief was seized upon by Cardinal Campeggio as a good opportunity for delaying the trial. At last on the 31st May 1529, the legates Wolsey and Campeggio opened the court at Blackfriars, and summoned Henry and Catharine to appear before them in person or by proxy on the 18th June. Both king and queen answered the summons, the latter, however, merely to demand justice publicly from the king, to protest against the competence and impartiality of the tribunal, and to lodge a formal appeal to Rome. Her appeal was disallowed, and on her refusal to take any further part in the trial she was condemned as contumacious; but even still she was not without brave and able defenders. Bishop Fisher of Rochester spoke out manfully against the unnatural and unlawful proceedings,11 and his protest found an echo not merely in the court itself but throughout the country. The friends of Henry, fearing that the Pope might revoke the power of the legates, clamoured for an immediate verdict; but this Campeggio was determined to prevent at all costs. By insisting upon all the formalities of law he took care to delay the proceedings till the 23rd July, when he announced that the legatine court should follow the rules of the Roman court, and should, therefore, adjourn to October. Already he was aware of the fact that Clement VII., yielding to the entreaties of Catharine and the demands of the Emperor, had reserved the decision of the case to Rome (19th July), and that the summons to the king and queen to proceed there to plead their cause was already on its way to England.12
Henry, disguising his real feelings, pretended to be satisfied; but in reality his disappointment was extreme. Anne Boleyn and her friends threw the blame entirely on Wolsey. They suggested that the cardinal had acted a double part throughout the entire proceedings. For a time there was a conflict in the king’s mind between the suggestions of his friends and the memory of Wolsey’s years of loyal service; but at last Henry was won over to the party of Anne, and Wolsey was doomed to destruction. He was deprived of the office of Lord Chancellor which was entrusted to Sir Thomas More (Oct. 1529), accused of violating the statute of Praemunire by exercising legatine powers, a charge to which he pleaded guilty though he might have alleged in his defence the permission and authority of the king, indicted before Parliament as guilty of high treason, from the penalty of which he was saved by the spirited defence of his able follower Thomas Cromwell (Dec.), and ordered to withdraw to his diocese of York (1530). His conduct in these trying times soon won the admiration of both friends and foes. The deep piety and religion of the man, however much they might have been concealed by his fondness for pomp and display during the days of his glory, helped him to withstand manfully the onslaughts of his opponents. His time was spent in prayer and in the faithful discharge of his episcopal duties, but the enemies who had secured his downfall at court were not satisfied. They knew that he had still a strong hold on the affections of the king, and they feared that were any foreign complications to ensue he might be recalled to court and restored to his former dignities. They determined therefore to bring about his death. An order for his arrest and committal to the Tower was issued, but death intervened and saved him from the fate that was in store for him. Before reaching London he took suddenly ill, and died after having received the last consolations of religion (Nov. 1530).
Henry, having failed to obtain a favourable verdict from the legatine commission, determined to frighten the Pope into compliance with his wishes by showing him that behind the King of England stood the English Parliament. The most elaborate precautions were taken to secure that members likely to be friendly were elected. In many cases together with the writs the names of those whose return the court desired were forwarded to the sheriffs.13 The Parliament that was destined to play such a momentous part in English affairs met in 1529. It was opened by the king in person attended by Sir Thomas More as Lord Chancellor. At a hint from the proper quarter it directed its attention immediately to the alleged abuses of the clergy. The principal complaints put forward were the excessive fees and delays in connection with the probate of wills, plurality of benefices, and the agricultural and commercial activity of priests, bishops, and religious houses, an activity that was detrimental to themselves and unfair to their lay competitors. Measures were taken in the House of Commons to put an end to these exactions and abuses, but when the bills reached the House of Lords Bishop Fisher lodged an emphatic protest for which he was called to account by the king. When Parliament had done enough to show the bishops and the Roman court what might be expected in case Henry’s wishes were not complied with it was prorogued (Dec. 1529), and in the following month a solemn embassy headed by the Earl of Wiltshire, Anne Boleyn’s father, was dispatched to interview the Pope and Charles V. at Bologna. The envoys were instructed to endeavour to win over the Emperor to the king’s plans, but Charles V. regarded their advances with indignation and refused to sacrifice the honour of his aunt to the friendship of England. The only result of the embassy was that a formal citation of Henry to appear at Rome was served on the Earl of Wiltshire, but at the request of the latter a delay of some weeks was granted. Unless some serious measures were taken immediately, Henry had every reason to expect that judgment might be given against him at Rome, and that he would find himself obliged either to submit unconditionally or to defend himself against the combined forces of the Emperor and the King of France.
To prevent or at least to delay such a result and to strengthen the hands of the English agents at Rome, he determined to follow the advice that had been given him by Thomas Cranmer, namely, to obtain for the separation from Catharine the approval of the universities and learned canonists of the world. Agents were dispatched to Cambridge and Oxford to obtain a verdict in favour of the king. Finding it impossible to secure a favourable verdict from the universities, the agents succeeded in having the case submitted to a small committee both in Cambridge and Oxford, and the judgment of the committees, though by no means unanimous, was registered as the judgment of the universities.14 Francis I. of France, who for political reasons was on Henry’s side throughout the whole proceedings, brought pressure to bear upon the French universities, many of which declared that Henry’s marriage to Catharine was null and void. In Italy the number of opinions obtained in favour of the king’s desires depended entirely upon the amount of money at the disposal of his agents.15 To support the verdict of the learned world Henry determined to show Rome that the nobility and clergy of his kingdom were in complete sympathy with his action. A petition signed by a large number of laymen and a few of the bishops and abbots was forwarded to Clement VII. (13th July, 1530).16 It declared that the question of separation, involving as it did the freedom of the king to marry, was of supreme importance for the welfare of the English nation, that the learned world had pronounced already in the king’s favour, and that if the Pope did not comply with this request England might be driven to adopt other means of securing redress even though it should be necessary to summon a General Council. To this Clement VII. sent a dignified reply (Sept.), in which he pointed out that throughout the whole proceedings he had shown the greatest regard for Henry, and that any delay that had occurred at arriving at a verdict was due to the fact that the king had appointed no legal representatives at the Roman courts.17 The French ambassador also took energetic measures to support the English agents threatening that his master might be forced to join hands with Henry if necessary; but even this threat was without result, and the king’s agents were obliged to report that his case at Rome was practically hopeless, and that at any moment the Pope might insist in proceeding with the trial.
When Henry realised that marriage with Anne Boleyn meant defiance of Rome he was inclined to hesitate. Both from the point of view of religion and of public policy separation from the Holy See was decidedly objectionable. While he was in this frame of mind, a prey to passion and anxiety, it was suggested to him, probably by Thomas Cromwell, the former disciple of the fallen cardinal, that he should seize this opportunity to strengthen the royal power in England by challenging the authority of the Pope, and by taking into his own hands the control of the wealth and patronage of the Church. The prospect thus held out to him was so enticing that Henry determined to follow the advice, not indeed as yet with the intention of involving his kingdom in open schism, but in the hope that the Pope might be forced to yield to his demands. In December 1530 he addressed a strong letter to Clement VII. He demanded once more that the validity of his marriage should be submitted to an English tribunal, and warned the Pope to abstain from interfering with the rights of the king, if he wished that the prerogatives of the Holy See should be respected in England.18
This letter of Henry VIII. was clearly an ultimatum, non-compliance with which meant open war. At the beginning of 1531 steps were taken to prepare the way for royal supremacy. For exercising legatine powers in England Cardinal Wolsey had been indicted and found guilty of the violation of the stature of Praemunire, and as the clergy had submitted to his legatine authority they were charged as a body with being participators in his guilt. The attorney-general filed an information against them to the court of King’s Bench, but when Convocation met it was intimated to the clergy that they might procure pardon for the offence by granting a large contribution to the royal treasury and by due submission to the king. The Convocation of Canterbury offered a sum of £100,000, but the offer was refused unless the clergy were prepared to recognise the king as the sole protector and supreme head of the church and clergy in England. To such a novel proposal Convocation showed itself decidedly hostile, but at last after many consultations had been held Warham, the aged Archbishop of Canterbury, proposed that they should acknowledge the king as “their singular protector only, and supreme lord, and as far as the law of Christ allows even supreme head.” “Whoever is silent,” said the archbishop, “may be taken to consent,” and in this way by the silence of the assembly the new formula was passed.19 At the Convocation of York, Bishop Tunstall of Durham, while agreeing to a money payment, made a spirited protest against the new title, to which protest Henry found it necessary to forward a reassuring reply. Parliament then ratified the pardon for which the clergy had paid so dearly, and to set at rest the fears of the laity a free pardon was issued to all those who had been involved in the guilt of the papal legate.
Clement VII. issued a brief in January 1531, forbidding Henry to marry again and warning the universities and the law courts against giving a decision in a case that had been reserved for the decision of the Holy See. When the case was opened at the Rota in the same month an excusator appeared to plead, but as he had no formal authority from the king he was not admitted. The case, however, was postponed from time to time in the hope that Henry might relent. In the meantime at the king’s suggestion several deputations waited upon Catharine to induce her to recall her appeal to Rome. Annoyed by her obstinacy Henry sent her away from court, and separated from her her daughter. After November 1531, the king and queen never met again. Popular feeling in London and throughout England was running high against the divorce, and against any breach with the Emperor, who might close the Flemish markets to the English merchants. The clergy, who were indignant that their representatives should have paid such an immense sum to secure pardon for an offence of which they had not been more guilty than the king himself, remonstrated warmly against the taxation that had been levied on their revenues. Unmindful of the popular commotion, Henry proceeded to usurp the power of the Pope and of the bishops, and though he was outwardly stern in the repression of heresy, the friends of the Lutheran movement in England boasted publicly that the king was on their side.
When Parliament met again (Jan. 1532), the attacks on the clergy were renewed. A petition against the bishops, drawn up by Thomas Cromwell at the suggestion of Henry,20 was presented in the name of the House of Commons to the king. In this petition the members were made to complain that the clergy enacted laws and statutes in Convocation without consulting the king or the Commons, that suitors were treated harshly before the ecclesiastical courts, that in regard to probates the people were worried by excessive fees and unnecessary delays, and that the number of holidays was injurious to trade and agriculture. This complaint was forwarded to Convocation for a reply. The bishops, while vindicating for the clergy the right to make their own laws and statutes, showed themselves not unwilling to accept a compromise, but Parliament at the instigation of Henry refused to accept their proposals. The king, who was determined to crush the power of the clergy, insisted that Convocation should abandon its right to make constitutions or ordinances without royal permission, and that the ordinances passed already should be submitted to a mixed commission appointed by the authority of the crown. Such proposals, so contrary to the customs of the realm and so destructive of the independence of the Church, could not fail to be extremely disagreeable to the bishops; but in face of the uncompromising attitude of the king they were forced to give way, and in a document known as the Submission of the Clergy they sacrificed the legislative rights of Convocation (May 1532). They agreed to enact no new canons, constitutions or ordinances without the king’s consent, that those already passed should be submitted to a committee consisting of clergy and laymen nominated by the king, and that the laws adopted by this committee and approved by the king should continue in full force. Sir Thomas More, who had worked hard in defence of the Church, promptly resigned his office of Lord Chancellor that he might have a freer hand in the crisis that had arisen.
In March 1532 another step was taken to overawe the Roman court and force the Pope to yield to Henry’s demands. An Act was passed abolishing the Annats or First Fruits paid to Rome by all bishops on their appointment to vacant Sees. If the Pope should refuse to appoint without such payments, it was enacted that the consecration should be carried out by the archbishop of the province without further recourse to Rome. Such a measure, tending so directly towards schism, met with strong opposition in the House of Lords from the bishops, abbots, and many of the lay lords, as it did also in the House of Commons. In the end, it was passed only on the understanding that it should not take effect for a year, and that in the meantime if an agreement could be arrived at with the Pope, the king might by letters patent repeal it. Henry instructed his ambassador at Rome to inform Clement VII. that this legislation against Annats was entirely the work of the Parliament, and that if the Pope wished for its withdrawal he must show a more conciliatory spirit towards the king and people of England.21
The Pope, however, refused to yield to such intimidation. When news arrived at Rome that Henry had sent away Catharine from court, the question of excommunication was considered, but as the excommunication of a king was likely to be fraught with such serious consequences for the English Church, Clement VII. hesitated to publish it in the hope that Henry might see the error of his ways. The trial was delayed from time to time until at last in November 1532 the Pope addressed a strong letter to the king, warning him under threat of excommunication to put away Anne Boleyn, and not to attempt to divorce Catharine or to marry another until a decision had been given in Rome.22 By this time the king had given up all hope of securing the approval of Rome for the step he contemplated. Even in England the divorce from Catharine found much opposition from both clergy and laity. Sir Thomas More and many of the nobles were on the side of Catharine, as were also Bishop Fisher of Rochester and Bishop Tunstall of Durham. Even Reginald Pole, the king’s own cousin, who had been educated at Henry’s expense, and for whom the Archbishopric of York had been kept vacant, refused the tempting offers that were made to him on condition that he would espouse the cause of separation. He preferred instead to leave England rather than act against his conscience by supporting Catherine’s divorce.23 Fortunately for Henry at this moment Warham, the aged Archbishop of Canterbury, who was a stout defender of the Holy See,24 passed away (Aug. 1532). The king determined to secure the appointment of an archbishop upon whom he could rely for the accomplishment of his designs, and accordingly Thomas Cranmer was selected and presented to Rome. After much hesitation, and merely as the lesser of two evils, his appointment was confirmed.
Thomas Cranmer was born in Nottingham, and educated in Cambridge. He married early in life, but his wife having died within a few months, he determined to take holy orders. His suggestion to submit the validity of Henry’s marriage to the judgment of the universities, coming as it did at a time when Henry was at his wits’ end, showed him to be a man of resource whose services should be secured by the court. He was appointed accordingly chaplain to Anne Boleyn’s father, and was one of those sent on the embassy to meet the Pope and Charles V. at Bologna. During his wanderings in Germany he was brought into close relationship with many of the leading Reformers, and following their teaching and example he took to himself a wife in the person of the well-known Lutheran divine, Osiander. Such a step, so highly objectionable to the Church authorities and likely to be displeasing to Henry, who in spite of his own weakness insisted on clerical celibacy, was kept a secret, though it is not at all improbable that the secret had reached the ears of the king. At the time when the latter had made up his mind to set Rome at defiance, he knew how important it was for him to sacrifice his own personal predilections, for the sake of having a man of Cranmer’s pliability as Archbishop of Canterbury, and head of the clergy in England. On the 30th March, 1533, Cranmer was consecrated archbishop, and took the usual oath of obedience and loyalty to the Pope; but immediately before the ceremony, he registered a formal protest that he considered the oath a mere form, and that he wished to hold himself free to provide for the reformation of the Church in England.25 Such a step indicates clearly enough the character of the first archbishop of the Reformation in England.
To prepare the way for the sentence that might be published at any moment by the Pope a bill was introduced forbidding appeals to Rome under penalty of Praemunire, and declaring that all matrimonial suits should be decided in England, and that the clergy should continue their ministrations in spite of any censures or interdicts that might be promulgated by the Pope. The bill was accepted by the House of Lords, but met with serious opposition in the Commons. An offer was made to raise £200,000 for the king’s use if only he would refer the whole question to a General Council, but in the end, partly by threats and partly by deception regarding the attitude of the Pope and the Emperor, the opposition was induced to give way and the bill became law. By this Act it was declared that the realm of England should be governed by one supreme head and king, to whom both spirituality and temporality were bound to yield, “next to God a natural and humble obedience,” that the English Church was competent to manage its own affairs without the interference of foreigners, and that all spiritual cases should be heard and determined by the king’s jurisdiction and authority.26 The question of the divorce was brought before the Convocation in March 1533, and though Fisher spoke out boldly in defence of Catharine’s marriage, his brethren failed to support him, and Convocation declared against the legitimacy of the marriage.
Henry was now free to throw off the mask. He could point to the verdict given in his favour by both Parliament and Convocation, and could rely on Cranmer as Archbishop of Canterbury to carry out his wishes. In order to provide for the legitimacy of the child that was soon to be born, he had married Anne Boleyn privately in January 1533. In April Cranmer requested permission to be allowed to hold a court to consider Henry’s marriage with Catharine, to which request, inspired as it had been by himself, the king graciously assented. The court sat at Dunstable, where Catharine was cited to appear. On her refusal to plead she was condemned as contumacious. Sentence was given by the archbishop that her marriage with Henry was invalid (23rd April, 1533). Cranmer next turned his attention to Henry’s marriage with Anne, and as might be expected, this pliant minister had no difficulty in pronouncing in its favour. On Whit Sunday (1533) Anne was crowned as queen in Westminster Abbey. The popular feeling in London and throughout the kingdom was decidedly hostile to the new queen and to the French ambassador, who was blamed for taking sides against Catharine, but Henry was so confident of his own power that he was unmoved by the conduct of the London mob. In September, to the great disappointment of the king who had been led by the astrologers and sorcerers to believe that he might expect the advent of an heir, a daughter was born to whom was given the name Elizabeth.
The Pope, acting on the request of the French and English ambassadors, had delayed to pronounce a definitive sentence, but the news of Henry’s marriage with Anne and of the verdict that had been promulgated by the Archbishop of Canterbury made it imperative that decisive measures should be taken. On the 11th July it was decreed that Henry’s divorce from Catharine and his marriage with Anne were null and void.27 Sentence of excommunication against him was prepared, but its publication was postponed till September, when an interview had been arranged to take place between the Pope and Francis I. Francis I. was not without hope even still that an amicable settlement could be arranged. Throughout the whole proceedings he had espoused warmly Henry’s cause, in the belief that England, having broken completely with Catharine’s nephew Charles V., might be forced to conclude an alliance with France; but he never wished that Henry VIII. should set the Holy See at defiance, or that England should be separated from the Catholic Church. To the Pope and to Henry he had addressed his remonstrances and petitions in turn, but events had reached such a climax that mediation was almost an impossibility. The interview arranged between the Pope and Francis I. took place at Marseilles in October 1533. Regardless of all the rules of diplomatic courtesy and of good manners, Henry’s representative forced his way into the presence of the Pope, and announced to him that the King of England had appealed from the verdict of Rome to the judgment of a General Council. Notices of this appeal were posted up in London, and preachers were ordered to declaim against the authority of the Pope, who was to be styled henceforth Bishop of Rome, and whose sentences and excommunications, the people were to be informed, were of no greater importance than those of any other foreign bishop. The way was now open for the final act of separation.
Parliament met in January 1534. The law passed the previous year against the payment of annats was now promulgated. According to this Act the Pope was not to be consulted for the future regarding appointments to English Sees. When a bishopric became vacant, the chapter having received the Congé d’élire should proceed to elect the person named in the royal letters accompanying the Congé, and the person so elected should be presented to the metropolitan for consecration. In case of a metropolitan See, the archbishop-elect should be consecrated by another metropolitan and two bishops or by four bishops appointed by the crown. Another Act was passed forbidding the payment of Peter’s Pence and all other fees and pensions paid formerly to Rome. The Archbishop of Canterbury was empowered to grant dispensations, and the penalties of Praemunire were levelled against all persons who should apply for faculties to the Pope. By a third Act a prohibition against appeals to Rome was renewed, although it was permitted to appeal from the court of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the king’s Court of Chancery. Convocation was forbidden to enact any new ordinances without the consent of the king, and those passed already were to be subject to revision by a royal commission. Finally, an Act was passed vesting the succession in the children of Henry and Anne to the exclusion of the Princess Mary. The marriage with Catharine was declared null and void by Parliament on the ground principally that no man could dispense with God’s law, and to prevent such incestuous unions in the future a list of the forbidden degrees was drawn up, and ordered to be exhibited in the public churches. To question the marriage of Henry with Anne Boleyn by writing, word, deed, or act was declared to be high treason, and all persons should take an oath acknowledging the succession under pain of misprision of treason. That the Parliament was forced to adopt these measures against its own better judgment is clear from the small number of members who took their seats in the House of Lords, as well as from the fact that some of the Commoners assured the imperial ambassador that were his master to invade England he might count on considerable support.
In Rome the agents of Francis I., fearing that an alliance between France and England would be impossible were Henry to throw off his allegiance to the Church, moved heaven and earth to prevent a definitive sentence. The fact that the Emperor was both unable and unwilling to enforce the decision of the Pope, and that instead of desiring the excommunication and deposition of Henry he was opposed to such a step, made it more difficult for the Pope to take decisive measures. Finally after various consultations with the cardinals, sentence was given declaring the marriage with Catharine valid and the children born of that marriage legitimate (23rd March, 1534). When the news of this decision reached England Henry was alarmed. He feared that the Emperor might declare war at any moment, that an imperial army might be landed on the English shores, and that Francis I. yielding to the entreaties of the Pope might make common cause with the imperialists. Orders were given to strengthen the fortifications, and to hold the fleet in readiness. Agents were dispatched to secure the neutrality of France, and preachers were commanded to denounce the Bishop of Rome. As matters stood, however, there was no need for such alarm. The Emperor had enough to engage his attention in Spain and Germany, and the enmity between Charles V. and the King of France was too acute to prevent them from acting together even in defence of their common religion.
Meantime it was clear to Henry that popular feeling was strong against his policy, but instead of being deterred by this, he became more obstinate and determined to show the people that his wishes must be obeyed. A nun named Elizabeth Barton, generally known as the “Nun of Kent,” claimed to have been favoured with special visions from on high. She denounced the king’s marriage with Anne, and bewailed the spread of heresy in the kingdom. People flocked from all parts to interview her, and even Cranmer pretended to be impressed by her statements. She and many of her principal supporters were arrested and condemned to death (Nov. 1534). It was hoped that by her confession it might be possible to placate Bishop Fisher, who was specially hated by Henry on account of the stand he had made on the question of the marriage, and the late Lord Chancellor, Sir Thomas More. Both had met the nun, but had been careful to avoid everything that could be construed even remotely as treason. In the Act of Attainder introduced into Parliament against Elizabeth Barton and her confederates, the names of Fisher and More were included, but so strong was the feeling in More’s favour that his name was erased. Fisher, although able to clear himself from all reasonable grounds of suspicion, was found guilty of misprision of treason and condemned to pay a fine of £300. Fisher and More were then called upon to take the oath of succession, which, as drawn up, included, together with an acknowledgement of the legitimacy of the children born of Henry and Anne, a repudiation of the primacy of the Pope, and of the validity of Henry’s marriage with Catharine. Both were willing to accept the succession as fixed by Act of Parliament, but neither of them could accept the other propositions. They were arrested therefore and lodged in the Tower (April 1534).
Commissions were appointed to minister the oath to the clergy and laity, most of whom accepted it, some through fear of the consequences of refusal and others in the hope of receiving a share of the monastic lands, which, it was rumoured, would soon be at the disposal of the king. A royal commission consisting of George Brown, Prior of the Augustinian Hermits, and Dr. Hilsey, Provincial of the Dominicans, was appointed to visit the religious houses and to obtain the submission of the members (April 1534). By threats of dissolution and confiscation they secured the submission of most of the monastic establishments with the exception of the Observants of Richmond and Greenwich and the Carthusians of the Charterhouse, London. Many of the members of these communities were arrested and lodged in the Tower, and the decree went forth that the seven houses belonging to the Observants, who had offered a strenuous opposition to the divorce, should be suppressed.28 The Convocations of Canterbury and York submitted, as did also the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge.
When Parliament met again in November 1534 a bill was introduced proclaiming the king supreme head of the Church in England. The measure was based upon the recognition of royal supremacy extracted from Convocation three years before, but with the omission of the saving clause “as far as the law of Christ allows.” According to this Act it was declared that the king “justly and rightly is and ought to be the supreme head of the Church in England, and to enjoy all the honours, dignities, pre-eminences, jurisdictions, privileges, authorities, immunities, profits and commodities” appertaining to the dignity of the supreme head of the Church.29 An Act of Attainder was passed against Fisher, More, and all others who had refused submission. The First Fruits, formerly paid to the Pope, were to be paid to the king, and bishops were allowed to appoint men approved by the crown to be their assistants.
By these measures the constitution of the Church, as it had been accepted for centuries by the English clergy and laity, was overturned. The authority of the Pope was rejected in favour of the authority of the king, who was to be regarded in the future as the source of all ecclesiastical jurisdiction. This great religious revolution was carried out without the consent of the bishops and clergy. With the single exception of Cranmer the bishops to a man opposed the change, and if they and the great body of the clergy made their submission in the end, they did so not because they were convinced by the royal arguments, but because they feared the royal displeasure. Neither was the change favoured by any considerable section of the nobles and people. The former were won over partly by fear, partly by hope of securing a share in the plunder of the Church; the latter, dismayed by the cowardly attitude shown by their spiritual and lay leaders, saw no hope of successful resistance. Had there been any strong feeling in England against the Holy See, some of the bishops and clergy would have spoken out clearly against the Pope, at a time when such a step would have merited the approval of the king. The fact that the measure could have been passed in such circumstances is in itself the best example of what is meant by Tudor despotism, in the days when an English Parliament was only a machine for registering the wishes of the king.
In January 1535 an order was made that the king should be styled supreme head of the Church of England. Thomas Cromwell, who had risen rapidly at court in spite of the disgrace of his patron, Cardinal Wolsey, was entrusted with the work of forcing the clergy and laity to renounce the authority of the Pope. The bishops were commanded to surrender the Bulls of appointment they had received from Rome, and to acknowledge expressly that they recognised the royal supremacy. Cromwell was appointed the king’s vicar-general, from whom the bishops and archbishops were obliged to take their directions. Severe measures were to be used against anybody who spoke even in private in favour of Rome. The Prior of the London Charterhouse and some other Carthusians were brought to trial for refusing to accept the royal supremacy (April, 1535). After an able and uncompromising defence they were found guilty of treason and were put to death with the most revolting cruelty.30 Bishop Fisher and Sir Thomas More, who were prisoners in the Tower, were allowed some time to consider their course of conduct. Fisher declared that he could not acknowledge the king as supreme head of the Church. While he lay in prison awaiting his trial, Paul III., in acknowledgment of his loyal services to the Church, conferred on him a cardinal’s hat. This honour, however well merited, served only to arouse the ire of the king. He declared that by the time the hat should arrive Fisher should have no head on which to wear it, and to show that this was no idle threat a peremptory order was dispatched that unless Fisher and More took the oath before the feast of St. John they should suffer the penalty prescribed for traitors. Fisher, together with some monks of the Carthusians, was brought to trial (June 1535), and was found guilty of treason for having declared that the king was not supreme head of the Church. The prisoners were condemned to be hanged, drawn, and quartered. In the case of the Carthusians the sentence was carried out to the letter, but as it was feared that Fisher might die before he reached Tyburn he was beheaded in the Tower (22nd June), and his head was impaled on London bridge.31
Sir Thomas More was placed on his trial in Westminster Hall before a special commission (1st July). Able lawyer as he was, he had no difficulty in showing that by silence he had committed no crime and broken no Act of Parliament, but no defence could avail him against the wishes of the king. The jury promptly returned a verdict of guilty. Before sentence was passed the prisoner spoke out manfully against royal supremacy, and in defence of the authority of Rome. He declared that the Act of Parliament, which conferred on the king the title of supreme head of the Church, was opposed both to the laws of God and man, that it was in flagrant contradiction to the Magna Charta, and that the king of England could no more refuse obedience to the Holy See than a child could refuse obedience to his father. Even after his trial and condemnation another attempt was made to induce him to submit, but he refused, and on the 6th July he finished his career as a martyr for Rome.32
The execution of Fisher and More showed plainly to all that the breach with Rome was not likely to be healed. When news of what had taken place in England reached Rome Paul III. was anxious to issue a decree of deposition against Henry. Had he done so, and had he been supported by the Emperor and Francis I. there is no doubt that many of the English noblemen would have joined the standard of the invaders, but the hostility between France and the Emperor saved Henry. Neither party was willing to aid the Pope lest the other should form an alliance with England. Fearing such a union, however, between Francis I. and Charles V. Henry hastened to seek the aid of the Protestant princes of Germany. From 1531 he had been in communication with them urging them to be careful about introducing religious innovations, but he was now so alarmed lest the Emperor and the King of France might join hands to assist the Pope in convoking a General Council, that English envoys were directed to meet the Protestant princes at Schmalkald (1535), to arrange for common action. A close union between England and the Protestant states of Germany could not be effected, because the Protestant princes insisted that Henry should accept the Confession of Augsburg, and Henry refused to permit such interference in the religious affairs of England. Still, English divines were instructed to remain at Wittenberg, and Lutheran theologians were invited to come to England for the discussion of religious differences.33
Meanwhile Cromwell was engaged in a visitation of the monasteries of England (1535). To bring home to the minds of the bishops the meaning of royal supremacy, he suspended their visitations while the royal visitors were at work. Cromwell, unable to undertake the duty himself, appointed delegates, and supplied them with the list of questions that should be administered. His principal delegates were Richard Leyton and Thomas Leigh, both men, as is evident from their own letters, who were not likely to be over scrupulous about the methods they employed. They were harsh, rude, and brutal in their treatment of both monks and nuns, especially in houses where they suspected hostility to the recent laws. They used every means in their power to break up the harmony of religious life, and to unsettle the minds of the younger members of the communities. In a few months the visitations were finished, and the reports of the visitors were presented to Cromwell. According to these reports most of the monasteries and convents were homes of sin and vice, and many of the monks and nuns were guilty of heinous crimes, but, though in particular instances there may have been some grounds for these charges, there is good reason for not accepting as trustworthy this account of monastic discipline. In the first place the royal visitors traversed the country with such lightning-like rapidity that it would have been impossible for them to arrive at a correct judgment even had they been impartial and honest men. That they were neither honest nor impartial is clear enough from their own correspondence. They were sent out by Cromwell to collect evidence that might furnish a decent pretext for suppressing the monasteries and for confiscating the monastic possessions, and they took pains to show their master that his confidence in them had not been misplaced. Their only mistake was that in their eagerness to black the character of the unfortunate religious they exceeded the limits of human credulity. They positively revelled in sin, and the scandals they reported were of such a gross and hideous kind that it is impossible to believe that they could have been true, else the people, instead of taking up arms to defend the religious houses, would have risen in revolt to suppress such abominations. Nor is it correct to say that the Comperta were submitted to Parliament for discussion, and that the members were so shocked by the tale they unfolded that they clamoured for the suppression of these iniquitous institutions. There is abundant evidence to prove that Parliament was reluctant to take any action against the religious houses, that it was only by the personal intervention of the king that the bill for the suppression of the lesser monasteries was allowed to pass, and that it is at least doubtful if any but general statements founded on the Comperta were brought before Parliament. The story of the production of the “Black Book” supposed to contain the reports is of a much later date, and comes from sources that could not be regarded as unprejudiced. It had its origin probably in a misunderstanding of the nature of the Compendium Compertorum, which dealt only with parishes of the northern province. It is strange that though the commissioners made no distinction between the condition of the larger and the smaller monasteries, the Act of Parliament based upon these reports decreed only the suppression of the smaller monasteries, as if vice and neglect of discipline were more likely to reign in the small rather than in the larger communities; and it is equally strange that the superiors of many of the houses, about which unfavourable reports had been presented, were promoted to high ecclesiastical offices by the king and by his vicar-general, who should have been convinced of the guilt and unworthiness of such ministers, had they trusted their own commissioners. In the case of some of the dioceses, as for example Norwich, it is possible to compare the results of an episcopal visitation held some years previously with the reports of Cromwell’s commissioners, and though it is sufficiently clear from these earlier reports that all was not well with discipline, the discrepancy between the accounts of the bishops and the royal commissioners is so striking, that it is difficult to believe that the houses could have degenerated so rapidly in so short a space of time as to justify the Comperta of the commissioners. But what is still more striking is the fact that after the decree of suppression had gone forth, other commissioners, drawn largely from the local gentry, many of whom were to share in the plunder of the monastic lands, visited several of the houses against which serious charges had been made, and found nothing worthy of special blame. These men were not likely to be prejudiced in favour of the monks and nuns. They were well acquainted with the people of the district, and had every opportunity of learning the verdict of the masses about the discipline of the religious communities. They were, therefore, in a much better position to arrive at the truth than the royal commissioners who could only pay a flying visit of a few hours or at most of a few days.34
The real object of the visitation and of the scandalous reports to which it gave rise, was to secure some specious pretext that would justify the king in the eyes of the nation in suppressing the monasteries and in confiscating their possessions. The idea that the monastic establishments enjoyed only the administration of their lands and goods, and that these might be seized upon at any moment for the public weal, was not entirely a new one either in the history of England or in that of some of the Continental countries. Years before, Cardinal Wolsey, for example, had dissolved more than twenty monasteries in order to raise funds for his colleges at Ipswich and Oxford, while not unfrequently the kings of England rewarded their favourites and servants by granting them a pension to be paid by a particular monastery. With the rise of the middle classes to power and the gradual awakening of greater agricultural and commercial activity, greedy eyes were turned to the monasteries and the farms owned by the religious institutions. Unlike the property of private individuals these lands were never likely to be in the market, and humanly speaking a transfer of ownership could be effected only by a violent revolution. Many people, therefore, though not unfriendly to the monks and nuns as such, were not disinclined to entertain the proposals of the king for the confiscation of religious property, particularly as hopes were held out to the nobles, wealthy merchants, and the corporations of cities and towns that the property so acquired could take the place of the taxes that otherwise must be raised to meet local and national expenditure.
For months before Parliament met (Feb. 1536) everything that could be done by means of violent pamphlets and sermons against the monks and the Papacy was done to prepare the country for the extreme measures that were in contemplation. The king came in person to warn the House of Commons that the reports of the royal commissioners, showing as they did the wretched condition of the monasteries and convents called for nothing less than the total dissolution of such institutions. The members do not appear, however, to have been satisfied with the king’s recommendations, and it was probably owing to their feared opposition to a wholesale sacrifice of the monasteries that, though the commissioners had made no distinction between the larger and the smaller establishments the measure introduced by the government dealt only with the houses possessing a yearly revenue of less than £200. Even in this mild form great pressure was required to secure the passage of the Act, for though here and there complaints might have been heard against the enclosures of monastic lands or about the competition of the clerics in secular pursuits, the great body of the people were still warmly attached to the monasteries. Once the decree of dissolution had been passed the work of suppression was begun. Close on four hundred religious houses were dissolved, and their lands and property confiscated to the crown. The monks and nuns to the number of about 2,000 were left homeless and dependent merely on the miserable pensions, which not unfrequently remained unpaid. Their goods and valuables including the church plate and libraries were seized. Their houses were dismantled, and the roofless walls were left standing or disposed of as quarries for the sale of stones.35 Such cruel measures were resented by the masses of the people, who were attached to the monasteries, and who had always found the monks and nuns obliging neighbours, generous to their servants and their tenants, charitable to the poor and the wayfarer, good instructors of the youth, and deeply interested in the temporal as well as in the spiritual welfare of those around them. In London and the south-eastern counties, where the new tendencies had taken a firmer root, a strong minority supported the policy of the king and Cromwell, but throughout England generally, from Cornwall and Devon to the Scottish borders, the vast majority of the English people objected to the religious innovations, detested Cromwell and Cranmer as heretics, looked to Mary as the lawful heir to the throne in spite of the decision of the court of Dunstable, and denounced the attacks on the monasteries as robbery and sacrilege. The excitement spread quickly, especially amongst the peasants, and soon news reached London that a formidable rebellion had begun in the north.
In October 1536 the men of Lincoln took up arms in defence of their religion. Many of the noblemen were forced to take part in the movement, with which they sympathised, but which they feared to join lest they should be exposed to the merciless vengeance of the king. The leaders proclaimed their loyalty to the crown, and announced their intention of sending agents to London to present their petitions. They demanded the restoration of the monasteries, the removal of heretical bishops such as Cranmer and Latimer, and the dismissal of evil advisers like Cromwell and Rich. Henry VIII. returned a determined refusal to their demands, and dispatched the Earl of Shrewsbury and the Duke of Suffolk to suppress the rebellion. The people were quite prepared to fight, but the noblemen opened negotiations with the king’s commanders, and advised the insurgents to disperse. The Duke of Suffolk entered the city of Lincoln amidst every sign of popular displeasure, although since the leaders had grown fainthearted no resistance was offered. Those who had taken a prominent part in the rebellion were arrested and put to death; the oath of supremacy was tendered to every adult; and by the beginning of April 1537, all traces of the rebellion had been removed.
The Pilgrimage of Grace in the north was destined to prove a much more dangerous movement. Early in October 1536 the people of York, determined to resist, and by the middle of the month the whole country was up in arms under the leadership of Robert Aske, a country gentleman and a lawyer well-known in legal services in London. Soon the movement spread through most of the counties of the north. York was surrendered to the insurgents without a struggle. Pomfret Castle, where the Archbishop of York and many of the nobles had fled for refuge, was obliged to capitulate, and Lord Darcy, the most loyal supporter of the king in the north, agreed to join the party of Aske. Hull opened its gates to the rebels, and before the end of October a well trained army of close on 40,000 men led by the principal gentlemen of the north lay encamped four miles north of Doncaster, where the Duke of Norfolk at the head of 8,000 of the king’s troops awaited the attack. The Duke, fully conscious of the inferiority of his forces and well aware that he could not count on the loyalty of his own soldiers, many of whom favoured the demands of the rebels, determined to gain time by opening negotiations for a peaceful settlement (27th Oct.). Two messengers were dispatched to submit their grievances to the king, and it was agreed that until an answer should be received both parties should observe the truce. The king met the demands for the maintenance of the old faith, the restoration of the liberties of the Church, and the dismissal of ministers like Cromwell by a long explanation and defence of his political and religious policy, and the messengers returned to announce that the Duke of Norfolk was coming for another conference. Many of the leaders argued that the time for peaceful remonstrances had passed, and that the issue could be decided now only by the sword. Had their advice been acted upon the results might have been disastrous for the king, but the extreme loyalty of both the leaders and people, and the fear that civil war in England would lead to a new Scottish invasion, determined the majority to exhaust peaceful means before having recourse to violence.
An interview between the leaders and the Duke of Norfolk, representing the king, was arranged to take place at Doncaster (5th Dec.). In the meantime a convocation of the clergy was called to meet at Pomfret to formulate the religious grievances, and a lay assembly to draw up the demands of the people. Both clergy and people insisted on the acceptance of papal supremacy, the restoration of all clergy who had been deposed for resisting royal supremacy, the destruction of heretical books, such as those written by Luther, Hus, Melanchthon, Tundale, Barnes, and St. German, the dismissal of heretical bishops and advisers such as Cromwell, and the re-establishment of religious houses. Face to face with such demands, backed as they were by an army of 40,000 men, Norfolk, fearing that resistance was impossible, had recourse to a dishonest strategy. He promised the rebels that a free Parliament would be held at York to discuss their grievances, that a full pardon would be granted to all who had taken up arms, and that in the meantime the monks and nuns would be supported from the revenues of the surrendered monasteries and convents. Aske, whose weak point had always been his extreme loyalty, agreed to these terms, and ordered his followers to disband. He was invited to attend in London for a conference with the king, and returned home to announce that Henry was coming to open the Parliament at York, and that the people might rely with confidence on the royal promises. But signs were not wanting to show that the insurgents had been betrayed, and that they must expect vengeance rather than redress. Soon it was rumoured that Hull and Scarborough were being strengthened, and that in both cities Henry intended to place royal garrisons. The people, alarmed by the dangers that threatened them, attempted vainly to seize these two towns, and throughout the north various risings took place. The Duke of Norfolk, taking advantage of this violation of the truce, and having no longer any strong forces to contend with, promptly suppressed these rebellions, proclaimed martial law, and began a campaign of wholesale butchery. Hundreds of the rebels, including abbots and priests, who were suspected of favouring the insurgents, were put to death. The leaders, Aske, Lord Darcy, Lord Hussey, Sir Thomas Percy, Sir Francis Bigod, together with the abbots of Jervaux and of Fountains, and the Prior of Bidlington were arrested. Some of them suffered the penalty of death in London, while others were sent back to be executed in their own districts. By these measures the rebellion was suppressed in the north, and the rest of the counties were intimidated into submission.36
Had the Emperor decided upon supporting the people of the north the course of English history might have been different, but as war had broken out once more between France and the empire, both nations, anxious to maintain good relations with England, abstained from active interference in English affairs. Pope Paul III., deeply interested as he was in the English revolution, summoned to his assistance one who understood better than most of his contemporaries the character of the king and the condition of the country, namely, Reginald Pole. The latter, turning his back on the favour of the king and the offer of the Archbishopric of York, had left England rather than approve of the king’s separation from Catharine. Henry, however, hoping to induce him to return to England, maintained friendly relations with Pole, and requested him to state frankly his views on royal supremacy. Pole replied in a long treatise afterwards published under the title Pro ecclesiasticae unitatis Defensione (1536), in which he reproved the conduct of the king, and warned him of the dangers that his religious policy might involve. Henry, though deeply mortified by the substance and tone of this work, pretended not to be displeased, and in the hope of silencing his distinguished kinsman whom he now both feared and hated he urged him to come back to England. Pole’s mother and brothers besought him to yield to the royal wishes, or else he should prove the ruin of all those who were dear to him. Though deeply affected by their appeals, he preferred duty to family affection. He went to Rome where he was created a cardinal (1536), and appointed to assist in drawing up a scheme of ecclesiastical reforms in preparation for the General Council. Soon news arrived in Rome that a rebellion had broken out in England, that the people were ready to die in defence of their religion, and that the king might be forced to adopt a more conciliatory attitude towards Rome. It was decided to appoint Cardinal Pole papal legate, and to send him to England. Such an appointment coming at such a time filled Henry with alarm. He feared that James V. of Scotland might be induced to lead an army across the borders to the assistance of the northern rebels, and that France and the Emperor might unite their forces against one who was regarded by both as little less than a heretic. He induced the privy council to address a letter to the cardinal (Jan. 1537) reproaching him for his ingratitude and disloyalty to the king, and inviting him to come to Flanders for a friendly discussion with the English agents. Before the legate could leave Italy the Pilgrimage of Grace had been suppressed, and all hope of a successful mission in England was lost. He passed through France and Flanders, where he received a very cool reception from Francis I. and the regent of the Netherlands, both of whom had been requested to deliver him to Henry VIII. After a short stay in the territory of the Prince-bishop of Liège he returned to Rome in August 1537.37
But though the rebellion in the north had been suppressed, it was sufficiently grave to show Henry the danger incurred at home by religious innovations, while the legatine mission of Cardinal Pole made it advisable to prove to the Catholic rulers of Europe that England had not gone over to the Lutheran camp. The greatest objection taken by the conservative party in England to the Ten Articles, drawn up by the king and accepted by Convocation in the previous year (1536), was the absence of express reference to any Sacrament except Baptism, Penance, and the Eucharist. At the meeting of Convocation (1537) the battle was waged between the Catholic-minded bishops let by Tunstall of Durham and the Lutheran party let by Cranmer. At last the other four Sacraments were “found again,” and a settlement agreeable to both parties arrived at and embodied in a treatise known as The Institution of a Christian Man. It consisted of four parts, the Apostle’s Creed, the Seven Sacraments, the Ten Commandments, and the Our Father and Hail Mary. Two separate articles dealing with justification and purgatory taken from the Ten Articles previously issued were appended. The bishops submitted The Institution to the judgment of the king, inviting him as supreme head of the Church to correct whatever was amiss with their doctrine, but Henry, anxious to hold himself free to bargain with the Lutheran princes if necessary, refused to take any responsibility for the work beyond ordering that it might be read in the churches for three years. Hence it was called the Bishop’s Book.38
Against this and as a concession to the reforming party in England Henry was pleased to approve of a translation of the Bible presented to him by Cranmer, and to order copies of it to be provided for the use of the faithful in every parish church (1537-38). William Tyndale, who had fled from England to Wittenberg, set himself to complete a translation of the Bible, which translation was published and smuggled into England in 1526. The translation was in itself bristling with errors, and the marginal notes were stupidly offensive. The bishops made desperate attempts to secure its suppression, but despite their efforts the obnoxious translation and even many of the more objectionable works written by the same author continued to find their way into England. The king, though nominally supporting the bishops, was not sorry that such works should be spread amongst the people, as a warning to the Pope of the consequences of a refusal to comply with the royal wishes. In 1530, however, he took counsel with the bishops and learned men to see what might be done to procure a good English translation of the Bible. They agreed that the reading of an English version of the Bible was not necessary for salvation, that, though the Scriptures in the vulgar tongue might be useful in certain circumstances and for certain people, they were more likely to be harmful at a time when erroneous books and heretical books were being propagated. Furthermore they advised that a proper correct translation should be made and placed in the king’s hands, so that he might order its publication whenever he thought that a favourable moment had arrived for such a work.
Cromwell was, however, determined to push forward the new religious teachings. He was in close correspondence with an apostate Augustinian friar named Coverdale, who had been obliged to leave the country on account of his heretical opinions. At Cromwell’s instigation Coverdale set himself to prepare a new translation of the Bible, and it was completed and published about 1535. Unlike that of Tyndale, who had gone to the Greek and Hebrew originals, Coverdale’s Bible was made from the Vulgate with the aid of the German Lutheran translation. It was if anything even more objectionable than Tyndale’s, but Cromwell intended to force it upon the clergy in the Injunctions drawn up for their guidance in 1536, though apparently on further consideration he doubted the prudence of such a step, and the clause regarding the English Bible was omitted.39 In 1537 Cranmer presented the English Bible to Cromwell for approval. It was supposed to contain “the Old and New Testament, truly and purely translated into English by Thomas Matthew,” but in reality it was only a compilation of the works of Tyndale and Coverdale made by one John Rogers. Though very objectionable from the point of view of Catholic doctrine it was approved by Cromwell as vicar-general, and copies were ordered to be placed in every church (1538). Nearly two years later Coverdale’s “Great Bible” with a preface by Cranmer was published.40
The results of the free use of such translations were soon apparent in the religious discussions that took place in many parts of England. Henry began to fear that he had acted unwisely in allowing the people to make their religion for themselves, and besides, as Cromwell had fallen, the conservative bishops like Gardiner of Winchester were in the ascendant. In the Convocation of 1542 grave objections were raised against these various translations, and with the approval of the king it was resolved to undertake a revision of them; but while the committee appointed for this revision was at work, a messenger arrived from the king forbidding Convocation to proceed further, as His Majesty had decided to take the matter out of the hands of the bishops and submit it to the universities. The bishops protested against this order, but their protests were unheeded, and an English Bible, that had been condemned by Convocation, was forced on the clergy and people against the advice of the ecclesiastical authorities. In 1543, however, an Act was passed in Parliament at the request of the king forbidding private individuals to take it upon themselves to interpret the Bible in any public assembly; noblemen, gentlemen householders, and even merchants might retain the English translation and read it, but this favour was denied to the lower classes “unless the king perceiving their lives to be amended by the doctrines he had set forth thought fit to give them liberty to read it.”41
Early in 1536 Queen Catharine died. Her heart had been broken by the conduct of the king and by separation from her daughter the Princess Mary. Time and again she had been commanded under threat of the severest punishment to accept the sentence of Cranmer’s court, but both herself and the Princess refused steadfastly to subscribe to such a dishonourable verdict. After Catharine’s death and merely to save her life Mary signed a document agreeing to the abolition of papal supremacy and the invalidity of her mother’s marriage, though nobody attached any importance to a submission that was obtained in such circumstances. The death of Catharine was a great relief to Henry and Anne, more especially to the latter, who had some reason for believing that she herself had lost her hold on the affections of the king. Henry had already grown weary of the woman for whose sake he had put his lawful wife away and separated his kingdom from the Catholic Church, and the disappointment of his hopes for the birth of an heir to the throne confirmed his intention of ridding himself of a partner, who was regarded by his own subjects and the nations of Europe only as his concubine. She was arrested on a charge of misconduct with her brother and other gentlemen of the court, was tried before a body of the peers, and was put to death at Tyburn (17th May, 1536). Cranmer, who in his heart was convinced of her innocence, promptly held a court and pronounced her marriage with Henry null and void. On the very day of her execution he issued a license for the king to marry Jane Seymour, one of Anne’s maids of honour, and before the end of the month the marriage was celebrated. In June Parliament confirmed Cranmer’s sentence by declaring the invalidity of Henry’s previous marriages, and the illegitimacy of Mary and Elizabeth, and by fixing the succession on the heirs of the king and Jane Seymour. Furthermore, in case there might be no children it empowered the king to determine by his will who should succeed. The object of this was to enable him to appoint as his heir his bastard son, the Duke of Richmond, but this intention was frustrated by the death of the Duke (July 1537).
While Parliament was in session Convocation assembled once more. Cromwell, as the king’s vicar-general in spirituals, claimed the right to preside either in person or by proxy. Many of the new bishops who had been appointed since 1533 were distinctly Lutheran in their ideas and tendencies. Latimer of Worcester, who was well known to favour German theology, was supported by five others, Shaxton, Goodrich, Edward Foxe, Hilsey, and Barlow. Though Latimer on a former occasion had been censured by Convocation he was selected to deliver the opening sermon, in which he inveighed against Purgatory, images, altars, relics, pilgrimages, the carelessness of the clergy, and the abuses of the spiritual courts. Convocation having approved of Cranmer’s verdict regarding Henry’s marriage with Anne Boleyn, a petition was sent up from the lower house to the bishops complaining of the erroneous views propagated by various preachers in the province of Canterbury. The vast body of the older bishops were determined to condemn these heretical views, which were little less than the renewal of the Lollard teaching with a slight admixture of Lutheran theology, but Cranmer, Latimer, and Foxe were equally determined to prevent such a condemnation. The dispute promised to be both warm and protracted. Cromwell, however, appeared in the assembly with a book of Ten Articles drawn up by the king for securing religious unanimity, and insisted that the prelates should accept them. The Articles were moderate in tone, and generally were not in opposition to the old theology. They approved of Transubstantiation, emphasised the importance and necessity of Baptism, Penance, and the Eucharist without affirming that these were the only three Sacraments, declared that good works were necessary for justification, that prayers might be offered for those who were dead, that the use of the word Purgatory was not to be recommended, that reverence should be shown to images and pictures, and that the older ceremonies should be retained. The great objection to these Articles was not the doctrine they set forth, but the fact that they were issued by the king’s authority. That the King of England could revise the beliefs and ceremonies of the Catholic Church was in itself a revolution, and should have opened the eyes of the Catholic-minded bishops to the full meaning of royal supremacy. Furthermore, Convocation declared that the Bishop of Rome could not convene a General Council without the permission and co-operation of the Christian princes. A few weeks later Cromwell issued a set of Injunctions to be observed by the clergy charged with the care of souls. They were to set forth the Articles drawn up by the king, to discourage pilgrimages and the observation of holidays that had not been abrogated, not to lay too much stress upon images and relics, and to warn the people to teach their children in English the Our Father, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments; they were to give one-fortieth of their incomes to the poor, one-fifth to the repair of the churches, and those who held the richer benefices were commanded to spend their surplus revenue in maintaining a student or students at Oxford and Cambridge.
In the autumn of 1536 three sets of royal commissioners were at work, one superintending the suppression of the lesser monasteries, a second charged with communicating Cromwell’s instructions to the clergy, and removing those priests who were unwilling to accept them, and a third entrusted with the collection of royal taxation on ecclesiastical benefices. By these commissions the entire face of the country was changed. The monastic institutions were suppressed and the servants and labourers in their employment were turned adrift, the relief to the poor and the wayfarer was discontinued, and the tenants awaited with nervousness the arrival of the new grandees. The possessions of the religious houses, instead of being spent on the development of education and the relief of the taxes, found their way for the most part into the royal treasury, or into the pockets of the officials charged with the work of suppression. Oxford and Cambridge were reduced to sullen submission, and obliged to accept a new set of statutes, to abolish the study of canon law in favour of civil law, to confine the divinity courses to lectures on the Scriptures, and to place in the hands of the students the classical authors together with the Humanist commentaries thereon, instead of the tomes of Duns Scotus or St. Thomas. Such changes, as has been shown, led to rebellion in different parts of the country, but especially in the north, where loyalty to Rome was still regarded as compatible with loyalty to the king.
After the suppression of the rebellions in the north and the failure of Cardinal Pole to bring about an European coalition against Henry, the war against the greater monasteries was begun (1537). Those situated in the northern counties were charged with having been implicated in the rebellion. Many of the abbots were put to death or imprisoned, and the goods of the communities were confiscated. Several others in order to escape punishment were induced to surrender their property to the king’s commissioners. In some cases the abbots were bribed by promises of special favours for themselves, in others they were forced to yield up their titles to avoid charges of treason on account of documents supposed to have been discovered in their houses or evidence that had been extracted from some of their monks or retainers. During the years 1538 and 1539 the monasteries fell one by one, while during the same period war was carried on against shrines and pilgrimages. The images of Our Lady of Ipswich and of Our Lady of Walsingham were destroyed; the tomb of St. Thomas à Becket was rifled of its precious treasures, and the bones and relics of the saint were treated with the greatest dishonour. Everywhere throughout the country preachers inspired by Cromwell and Cranmer, the latter of whom aimed at nothing less than a Lutheran revolution in England, were at work denouncing images, pilgrimages, invocation of saints, and Purgatory. So long as money poured into the royal treasury from the sale of surrendered monastical property and of the ecclesiastical goods, or so long as a blow could be struck at the Papacy by desecrating the tomb of a saint who had died as a martyr in defence of the Holy See, Henry looked on with indifference if not with pleasure.
But the news of such outrages could not fail to horrify the Catholic world, and to prove to Paul III. that there was little hope of any favourable change in Henry’s religious policy. It was determined to give effect to the Bull of excommunication that had been prepared for years, and to call upon the Catholic powers of Europe to put it into execution either by a joint declaration of war, or by an interruption of commercial relations with England. The time seemed specially favourable for the publication of such a sentence. After years of active or smouldering hostility the two great rivals Charles V. and Francis I. had arranged a ten years truce (June 1538), and Cardinal Pole was sent as legate to Spain and France to induce the Emperor and Francis I. to take common action. James V. of Scotland promised his assistance, and a papal envoy was dispatched to Scotland to bear the cardinal’s hat to Archbishop Beaton, and to encourage the king to co-operate with the Catholic rulers of the Continent.
When the news of these preparations reached England Henry was thoroughly alarmed for the safety of his kingdom. The brothers of Cardinal Pole, Sir Geoffrey Pole and Lord Montague, his mother, the Countess of Salisbury, Henry Courtenay, Marquis of Exeter, Lord Delawarr, Sir Edward Neville, Sir Nicholas Carew, and others were arrested, nominally on the charge of treason, but in reality because the Poles and the Courtenays were regarded as dangerous claimants to the English throne. With the exception of Sir Geoffrey Pole, who turned king’s evidence, and the Countess of Salisbury who was kept in confinement for years, the others were put to death, and commissioners were sent into Cornwall to suppress all attempts at rebellion. During the spring of 1539 preparations for repelling an invasion were pushed forward with feverish activity, and so great was the loyalty of the vast body of the English people, and so hateful to them was the idea of a foreign invasion that many, who detested Henry’s religious policy, came forward with their assistance. The fortresses along the coast and on the Scottish borders were strengthened, and replenished; the fleet was held in readiness in the Thames; and a volunteer army trained and equipped was raised to contest the progress of the invaders or at least to defend the capital. Negotiations with the Protestant princes of Germany for the conclusion of an offensive and defensive alliance were opened, and to prevent a commercial boycott a proclamation was issued that except in case of wool foreigners trading in England should be obliged to pay only the duties and customs imposed upon Englishmen. But as events showed there was no necessity for these warlike preparations. Francis I. could not dare to forward an ultimatum to England unless aided by the Emperor, and Charles V., confronted with a Turkish invasion and a Protestant rebellion in Germany, found it impossible to undertake an expedition against England. Nor was the project of a commercial boycott likely to be more successful. The Flemish merchants in the Netherlands were too deeply interested in English trade to permit them to look favourably upon a scheme that was likely to prove as ruinous to their own country as to England, particularly as the recent proclamation in favour of foreign merchants offered them a special opportunity for pushing their wares beyond the Channel.
A new Parliament was summoned to meet in April 1539. Cromwell, who was a past master in the art of selecting and managing such assemblies, took care that men should be returned who were likely to favour the projects of the king, and in this action he succeeded beyond expectation. An Act of Attainder was passed against Cardinal Pole and against the Countess of Salisbury, as well as against those who had been executed a short time before. As the Ten Articles on religion published by the king and the improved version of these Articles known as the Bishop’s Book had not proved sufficient to suppress religious controversy in the kingdom or to prevent England from being regarded as a heretical nation on the Continent, Henry determined to lay down a fixed rule of faith, that should be accepted by all his subjects, and that should prove to the Emperor and to France that England, though separated from Rome, was still loyal to the Catholic religion. A commission of bishops was appointed to prepare a report on the principal points of faith that had been called in question, but the bishops were divided into two hostile camps. While Cranmer, Latimer, Shaxton, Goodrich, and Barlow were strongly Lutheran in their tendencies, Archbishop Lee of York, Gardiner of Winchester, Tunstall of Durham, and Aldrich of Carlisle were opposed to all dogmatic innovations. Though Cromwell supported secretly the reforming party it soon became known that Henry VIII. favoured the conservatives. As no agreement could be arrived at by the bishops, the Duke of Norfolk, who was rising rapidly at court as the champion of conservative interests, took the matter out of the hands of the bishops, by proposing to the House of Lords Six Articles dealing with the main points of difference between the Catholics and the Lutherans of the Continent. On these Articles the laymen did not venture to express any opinion, but Cranmer, Latimer and their friends held out till at last Henry appeared himself and “confounded them all with God’s learning.”
The decision was embodied in an Act of Parliament entitled “An Act abolishing diversity of Opinions,” which having received the royal assent was placed upon the Statute Book (1539). The Articles agreed upon by Convocation and Parliament and published by the king’s authority were: (1) that in the Eucharist the substance of the bread and wine is changed into the Body and Blood of Christ; (2) that Communion under both kinds is not necessary for salvation; (3) that clerical celibacy should be observed; (4) that vows of chastity should be observed; (5) that private Masses ought to be retained; and (6) that auricular confession is expedient. Denial of the first article, namely, that regarding Transubstantiation, was to be deemed heresy punishable by death at the stake, and denial of the others was felony punishable by forfeiture for the first and by death for the second offence. Priests who had taken to themselves wives were commanded to put them away under threat of punishment for felony, and people, who refused to confess and receive the Eucharist at the usual times, were to be imprisoned or fined for the first offence, and to be judged guilty of felony for the second offence. The Act of Six Articles, as it is commonly known, or “the whip with six strings,” as it was nicknamed contemptuously by the Reformers, marked a distinct triumph for the conservative party, led by the Duke of Norfolk among the peers and by Gardiner and Tunstall amongst the bishops. Cranmer made his submission and concealed his wife, but Latimer and Shaxton with greater honesty resigned their Sees rather than accept the Act. The vast body of the clergy and people hailed it with delight as a crushing blow delivered against heresy, and as proof that Henry was determined to maintain the old religion in England.42
But if Cromwell had received a check on the question of dogma, he determined to curry favour with the king and at the same time to advance the cause he had at heart, by securing the suppression of the remaining monasteries. An Act was passed through all its stages in one day vesting in the king the property of all monasteries that had been suppressed or that were to be suppressed. This was done under the pretence that the monks, being ungodly and slothful, should be deprived of their wealth, which if handed over to the king could be devoted to the relief of poverty, the education of youth, the improvement of roads, and the erection of new bishoprics. Under threat of penalties nearly all the great monasteries surrendered their titles and lands except the abbots of Glastonbury, Reading, and Colchester, all of whom were arrested and put to death (1539). This punishment struck terror into the hearts of the others, and by the surrender of Waltham Abbey (March 1540) the last of the great English monasteries disappeared. Finally, to show the state of complete subserviency to which the English Parliament was reduced, it passed an Act giving to the royal proclamation with certain ill-defined limits the force of law (1539).
It was evident to all that the position of Cromwell at court had become very insecure. While England was threatened with an European coalition he had suggested an alliance with the Protestant princes of Germany, and as Henry’s third wife Jane Seymour had died (1537), after having given birth to a son (later on Edward VI.), he determined to cement the bond of friendship by a new matrimonial alliance. The Duke of Cleves was brother-in-law to the Elector of Saxony and one of the guiding spirits of the Schmalkaldic League, and as he had given mortal offence to the Emperor by his acceptance of the Duchy of Guelders, Cromwell decided that a marriage between the Duke’s sister, Anne, and Henry VIII. would secure for England both the alliance of the League of Schmalkald and at least the neutrality of France. Though Henry detested the Elector of Saxony and his friends as heretics, and though the Six Articles aroused considerable resentment in the Lutheran camp, the close union between Charles V. and Francis I. and the uncertainty of what steps they might take made it imperative to push forward Henry’s marriage. The marriage treaty was signed in October 1539, and in December Anne of Cleves landed at Deal. Henry, who had been led to believe that Anne was both accomplished and moderately beautiful, could not conceal his disappointment when he met his prospective bride; but, as his trusted counsellors could devise no plan of escape, he consented with bad grace to go through the ceremony of marriage (6th Jan., 1540). Henry was displeased and made no secret of his displeasure. Cromwell, whom he blamed specially for this matrimonial misfortune, felt himself in considerable danger, though at the same time he resolved not to yield without a struggle. The contest between Cranmer, backed by the Lutheran party in the council, and Gardiner, the Duke of Norfolk, and the conservatives was sharp though by no means decisive. The king appeared at one time to favour one side, at another the other side, unwilling to commit himself definitely to either, especially as Cromwell was still reaping a rich harvest from the suppression of the Knights of St. John and from the taxes imposed on the clergy.
Parliament met again in April 1540. To the surprise of many Cromwell was created Earl of Essex (17th April), while a little later Bishop Sampson was arrested as a supporter of the Pope. The hopes of Cromwell and of the reforming party rose rapidly, and they believed that victory was within their grasp. The committee of bishops was at work considering the sacraments, but as both the old and the new clung tenaciously to their opinions no progress could be made. Suddenly on the 10th June an officer appeared in the council chamber and placed Cromwell under arrest. The long struggle was at last ended, and the men who had followed Gardiner had won the day. The war clouds, that had driven Henry to negotiate with the heretical princes of Germany, had blown over, and Cromwell, who had taken a leading part in the German negotiations, must be sacrificed to satisfy his enemies at home and Catholic opinion on the Continent. He was committed to the Tower to await the sentence of death which he knew to be inevitable, but, before handing him over to the executioner, Henry insisted that he should perform for him one last service. As Cromwell had involved him in an undesirable marriage with Anne of Cleves, he should provide evidence that might set his master free to seek for a more congenial partner. At the command of the king Cromwell wrote a long letter, in which he showed that Henry never really consented to the marriage with Anne, against which marriage the existence of a pre-nuptial contract was also adduced. On the strength of this, Parliament demanded an investigation, and a commission was issued empowering the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and others of the clergy to examine into the validity of the marriage. Convocation decided that it was null and void (July 1540), a decision with which Anne expressed her complete satisfaction. She was assigned a residence and a pension of £4,000 a year. On the 28th July, 1540, Cromwell was led to execution at Tyburn, where he expressed publicly his adherence to the ancient faith, for the destruction of which in England he had contributed more than any single individual with the exception possibly of the king.43 A few days later Henry was married to Catharine Howard, a niece of the Duke of Norfolk, the recognised lay head of the conservative party in England.
The penalties prescribed in the Statute of the Six Articles were enforced with great vigour, and at the same time those who maintained papal supremacy were treated with equal severity. While the men who denied Transubstantiation were burned as heretics at Smithfield, their opponents, who dared to express views derogatory to royal supremacy, were hanged, drawn, and quartered as traitors. Latimer retired into private life; Cranmer showed no signs of open opposition to the king’s religious policy, and, practically speaking, all traces of the new teachings that had disturbed England for years disappeared. The aged Countess of Salisbury, mother of Cardinal Pole, was put to death in 1541, two years after sentence of attainder had been passed against her by Parliament, as were, also, a large number of priests and laymen suspected of having been implicated in an attempt to bring about another rebellion in the north. In consequence of this plot Henry determined to undertake a journey to York (1541) with the hope of strengthening his hold upon the people, and possibly also of securing the friendship of his nephew, James V. of Scotland, who had remained loyal to Rome and to France. The Archbishop of York made his submission on bended knees, presenting the king with a gift of £600 as a sign of the repentance of the people for their recent disobedience, an example that was followed in many of the cities and towns; but James V., unwilling to trust his life and liberty to the king, refused to cross the English border.
Henry returned to London only to find that serious charges of immorality were being brought against his wife, Catharine Howard. She was arrested and put to death with her chief accomplices (1542). Though the king could not conceal his joy at finding himself free once more, he hesitated for some time before choosing another wife; but at last in 1543, his choice fell upon Catharine Parr, a young widow twenty years his junior, who was believed to favour royal supremacy, though she had been married previously to one of the leaders of the Pilgrimage of Grace. It is said that once at least she stood in serious risk because she ventured to disagree with her husband’s theological views, but, however that may be, it is certain that she had the good fortune to survive the king.
The struggle between the old principles and the new continued, notwithstanding all Henry’s attempts to secure unanimity. As early as 1540 a set of questions had been circulated amongst the bishops, and as a result of the replies received and of the discussions that took place in Convocation a book was issued, entitled A Necessary Doctrine and an Erudition for any Christian Man (1543). It was issued by order of the king, and for this reason is known as the King’s Book in contradistinction to the Bishop’s Book, published with his permission but not by his authorisation. Just as the Bishop’s Book represented a revision of the Ten Articles, so the King’s Book was an extension or completion of the Bishop’s Book, in many respects even more Catholic in its tone than the original. The king was now nearing his end rapidly, and both parties in the royal council strove hard for mastery. Gardiner and Bonner, Bishop of London, stood firm in defence of Catholic doctrine, and once or twice it seemed as if they were about to succeed in displacing Cranmer from the favour of the king; but the danger of an attack from the united forces of France and the Emperor, especially after the peace of Crépy had been concluded (1544), made it necessary for Henry not to close the door against an alliance with the Protestant princes of Germany by an attack on Cranmer, who was regarded by them as an active sympathiser. Once indeed Henry ordered that the archbishop should be arrested, but a sudden change of mind took place, and the order for the arrest was cancelled.
A new Parliament met in 1545. The royal exchequer had been emptied by the war with France and Scotland, and to replenish it an Act was passed empowering the king to dissolve chantries, hospitals, and free chapels, and to appropriate their revenues for his own use. Henry addressed the Parliament on Christmas Eve 1545 in a speech in which he deplored the religious differences that divided his people, differences which were due, he said, partly to the obstinacy of the clergy, some of whom wished to cling to all the old ways, while others of them would be content with nothing less than a complete renewal; partly to the fault of the people who spoke scandalously of their clergy, and abused the Scriptures they had been permitted to read. In itself this speech was a sad commentary on Henry’s religious campaign, containing as it did a confession that despite all his violence and persecution, religious formularies imposed by royal authority were not sufficient to preserve religious unity. During the year 1546, though many persons were still sent to the stake for denying Transubstantiation, the power of Cranmer and his party was on the increase. The Earl of Hertford, uncle of the young Prince Edward and Cranmer secured the upper hand in the council, and the Duke of Norfolk, together with his son the Earl of Surrey, was imprisoned in the Tower (Dec. 1546). Surrey was tried and executed, and a similar fate was in store for the Duke, were it not that before the death-sentence could be carried out, Henry himself had been summoned before the judgment-seat of God (28th Jan. 1547). For some weeks before his death the condition of the king had been serious, but the Earl of Hertford and his party kept the sickness and even the death a secret until all their plans had been matured. On the 31st January Edward VI. was proclaimed king, and the triumph of the Lutheran party seemed assured.
On the death of Henry VIII. all parties looked forward to a complete change in the religious condition of England. On the one hand, those, who longed for a return to Roman obedience, believed that royal supremacy must of necessity prove both unintelligible and impracticable in the case of a mere child like Edward VI. (1547-53); while, on the other hand, those, who favoured a closer approximation to the theology and practices of Wittenberg or of Geneva, saw in the death of Henry and the succession of a helpless young king an exceptional opportunity for carrying out designs against which Henry had erected such formidable barriers. To both parties it was evident that at best Edward VI. could be but a tool in the hands of his advisers, and that whichever section could capture the king and the machinery of government might hope to mould the religious beliefs of the English people.
For more than a year before the death of Henry VIII., Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford and uncle of Edward VI., the Earl of Essex, brother of Catharine Parr, Viscount Lisle, Lord Admiral and afterwards Earl of Warwick, all of whom were in favour of religious innovations, had been advancing steadily in power, to the discomfiture of the conservative section led by Bishop Gardiner, the Duke of Norfolk, and the Lord Chancellor Wriothesley. The death of Henry VIII. had been kept a secret until the Earl of Hertford had all his plans matured for securing control, and for the proclamation of Edward VI.44 (31st Jan. 1547), then a boy of ten years. Henry VIII. had bequeathed the crown to his son, and on his death without heirs to his daughters in turn, the Princess Mary daughter of Catharine of Aragon, and Elizabeth daughter of Anne Boleyn. By his will also he appointed a council the members of which were to govern the kingdom as a body till the king should attain his eighteenth year, but he sought to provide against any serious innovations by authorising the king to repeal all changes that might have been made by the council during his minority. If one may judge from the terms of his will Henry’s religious views at his death were evidently what they had been when in 1539 he passed the Statute of Six Articles, but, at the same time, it is a noteworthy fact that he excluded Bishop Gardiner from the list of executors of his will, and appointed two divines well known for their leaning towards German theology as tutors to the young king.
In nearly every particular the council of executors failed to carry out the wishes of the late king. The Earl of Hertford, created later on Duke of Somerset, became Protector with almost royal powers, and instead of defending the religious settlement the majority of the council set themselves from the very beginning to initiate a more advanced policy. Cranmer as Archbishop of Canterbury could be relied upon to support such a course of action, while, of the principal men who might be expected to oppose it, the Duke of Norfolk was a prisoner in the Tower and the Lord Chancellor Wriothesley was dismissed to make way for a more pliable successor. The bishops, who were regarded merely as state officials, were commanded to take out new commissions. Cranmer obeyed without protest, as did all the others except Gardiner, who questioned the authority of the council to issue such a command at least until the supreme head of the Church should have reached his majority.45
Those who had been held in check by the repressive legislation of Henry VIII. felt themselves free to renew the attacks on the practices and doctrines of the Church. The royal preachers who had been appointed for the Lenten sermons, Dr. Barlow, Bishop of St. David’s, Ridley one of Cranmer’s chaplains, and others, not content with abusing the Bishop of Rome, declared war on images, relics, and even on the Lenten fasts and abstinences. Against such novelties Gardiner addressed an indignant protest to the Protector and council, warning them that during the minority of the king there was no power in England competent to change the religious settlement that had been accomplished by Henry VIII. But his protest fell on deaf ears. The war against images was carried on vigorously, though legally only those images that had been abused were forbidden, and even in Bishop Gardiner’s own diocese he was powerless to resist those who knew they could count on the support of the Protector.
In July 1547 two important publications were issued, one, The Injunctions of Edward VI., the other, The Book of Homilies, composed by Cranmer, and issued by the authority of the council. The former of these commanded that sermons should be delivered at fixed intervals against the Bishop of Rome, that images which had been abused, shrines, pictures, and other monuments of superstition should be destroyed, that the Gospels and Epistles should be read in English, that alms boxes should be set up in all churches, and that the clergy should inform their people that the money spent on pardons, pilgrimages, candles, and other blind devotions should now be devoted to the support of the poor.46 The Book of Homilies47 was to serve as a guide for preachers in their public services. A royal commission was appointed to insist upon the observance of these Injunctions, but in London Bishop Bonner refused at first to accept the commands of the visitors, and though later on he weakened in his resistance, he was committed to prison as a warning to others. Gardiner boldly denounced the visitation as illegal and unwarrantable, but the council instead of meeting his arguments and remonstrances ordered his arrest (September 1547). In many places the proclamation for the removal of images led to violent disturbances, and free fights within the churches were not uncommon. To put an end to any misunderstanding on this subject for the future the council ordered the removal of all images from the churches (Feb. 1548).
For various reasons the Protector and council delayed assembling Parliament as long as possible, but at last it was convoked to meet in November 1547. As happened in the case of all the Parliaments in the Tudor period, careful steps were taken to ensure that only men who could be relied upon were returned by the sheriffs. Neither from the lay members in the House of Lords, many of whom had been enriched by the plunder of the monasteries, nor from the spiritual peers lately appointed, could any effective resistance be expected, while the bishops who were still strongly Catholic in tone were deprived of a capable leader by the imprisonment of Gardiner. It was significant that in the Mass celebrated at the opening of Parliament the Gloria, Creed, and Agnus Dei were sung in English. The bishops had been taught a lesson already by being forced to take out new commissions like other officers of the crown, by having their jurisdiction suspended during the progress of the royal visitation, and by being prohibited from preaching outside their own cathedrals. But, lest they might have any lingering doubts about the source or extent of their jurisdiction, Parliament enacted that for the future bishops should be appointed not by election but by royal letters patent, and that all their official documents should be issued in the king’s name and under his seal or some other seal authorised by him.48 All the Acts against heresy that had been passed since the days of Richard II., including the Statute of Six Articles, were repealed; most of the new treason-felonies created during the previous reign were abolished; and, though denial of royal supremacy was accounted still as treason, it was enacted that by merely speaking against it one did not merit the punishment of death unless for the third offence.
The question of the Blessed Eucharist had come to the front rapidly owing to the violent and abusive sermons of some of the new preachers, and the irreverent and sacrilegious conduct of those who accepted their teaching. The bishops of the old school demanded that measures should be taken to prevent such attacks on the very centre point of Christian worship, while Cranmer and his supporters were determined to insist upon Communion under both kinds. Apparently two different measures were introduced, which were merged ultimately into one Act, whereby it was decreed that all who spoke irreverently against the Blessed Eucharist should be punished by fines and imprisonment, and that Communion should be administered under both kinds except necessity otherwise required. The linking together of these two Acts was a clever move to ensure the support of the bishops who desired to put down irreverence against the Eucharist, and it is noteworthy that out of the eleven bishops present five voted against the measure even in its improved form.49
Already an Act had been passed in the previous reign against colleges, chantries, guilds, etc., but since most of these remained as yet undisturbed, it was determined to replenish the royal treasury by decreeing their immediate dissolution, and by vesting their property in the king. This was done with the avowed object of diverting the funds from superstitious uses to the erection of grammar schools, the maintenance of students at the universities, and the relief of the poor; but in reality the property of the guilds, and of the free schools and chantry schools, was confiscated, and little if anything was done for the improvement of education or for the relief of the poor. Edward VI. is represented generally as the founder of the English grammar schools and colleges, but it would be much more correct to say that through his greedy ministers he was their destroyer. True, indeed, he established a few colleges and hospitals, but such beneficence was only a poor return for the wholesale overthrow of more than four hundred flourishing educational establishments, and for the confiscation of thousands of pounds bequeathed by generous benefactors for the education of the poor.50
Convocation had met on the day after the assembly of Parliament. The lower house presented four petitions to the bishops, the most important of which was that the proctors of the clergy should be admitted to Parliament, or at least that ecclesiastical legislation should not pass until the clergy had been consulted, but the bishops were too conscious of their helplessness to support such an appeal. It is doubtful if the bill regarding Communion under both kinds was ever submitted regularly to Convocation, though later on a proposal to abolish the canons enforcing clerical celibacy was carried by a majority. It is asserted, and apparently on good authority, that the higher and more learned of the clergy consented to this proposal only under pressure.
The year 1548 opened ominously for the Catholic party. Preachers, licensed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and protected openly by the court, delivered wild harangues against Catholic doctrines and practices. Pamphlets, for the most part translations of heretical works published in Germany or Switzerland attacking the Mass, Transubstantiation, and the Real Presence, were sold publicly in the market places without any interference from the authorities. In January a royal proclamation was issued enjoining the observance of the Lenten fasts, but ten days later an order was made forbidding the use of candles on Candlemas Day, of ashes on Ash Wednesday, or of palms on Palm Sunday. This was followed quickly by a command for the removal of all statues, images, pictures, etc. from the churches. The use of Communion under both kinds was to come into force at Easter 1548, and to prepare for this a royal proclamation was set forth making obligatory the English Order for Communion. As the new rite regarded only the Communion of the laity, the Latin Mass was to remain in use as heretofore “without any varying of any rite or ceremony.”51 The clergy were commanded to announce the Sunday on which they proposed to distribute Communion to their flocks. After the priest had himself communicated, the communicants, who did not wish to go to confession, should make a general confession, and should receive Communion under both kinds, the whole service being completed by the usual blessing. This was a clever trick to prepare the way for still greater changes. Owing to the retention of the Latin Mass it was expected that the new Communion service would not lead to serious trouble, while at the same time it would accustom the people to portions of the Mass being read in English, and would imply both that auricular confession was unnecessary and that Mass without Communion of the laity was of no particular importance. The council anticipated that the Communion service would prove unacceptable to many of the clergy, and their anticipations were fulfilled, though, as shall be seen, they adopted a novel method of allaying the trouble.
Bishop Gardiner, who had been kept in prison while Parliament was in session lest his presence in the Upper House might lead to trouble, was released in January 1548, but in May a peremptory summons was issued commanding him to come to London without delay. He obeyed, and for some time negotiations were carried on, until at last he was ordered to preach against the Pope, monasteries, confession, and in favour of the English Communion service (29th June). He was urged not to treat of the sacrifice of the Mass, or of Transubstantiation, and warned of the serious consequences that might ensue in case he disobeyed; but Gardiner was a man who could not be deterred by such means from speaking his mind, and as a consequence he was again placed under arrest, and sent as a prisoner to the Tower. Cranmer, who had rejected the authority of the Pope because he was a foreigner, finding that he could get no support from the clergy or the universities for in spite of everything that had taken place the theology of Oxford and Cambridge was still frankly conservative invited preachers to come from abroad to assist in weaning the English nation from the Catholic faith. The men who responded to his call formed a motley crowd. They were Germans like Martin Bucer and Paul Fagius, Italian apostate friars like Peter Martyr (Pietro Martire Vermigli) and Ochino, Frenchmen like Jean Véron, Poles like John à Lasco, Belgians like Charles Utenhove, à Lasco’s disciple, and Jews like Emmanuel Tremellius.52 The order for the total removal of images and for the Communion service in English led to serious disturbances even in the London churches, where the new opinions should have found the strongest support, and confusion reigned throughout the country.
The Communion service in England was, however, only the prelude to the total abolition of the Mass. Early in 1548 a series of questions had been addressed by Cranmer to the bishops regarding the value of the Mass as a religious service apart from the Communion.53 The bishops were asked to say also whether private Masses offered for the living and the dead should continue to be celebrated, and what language should be used. In their replies Cranmer and Ridley favoured innovation, and were supported generally by Holbeach, Barlow, Cox, and Taylor. One, Bishop Goodrich of Ely, expressed his willingness to accept whatever might be enjoined, while the rest of the bishops adopted a conservative attitude. But whatever might be the opinions of the bishops generally the Protector and Cranmer were determined to procure the abolition of the Mass. Later in the year an assembly of the bishops was held to discuss the new English service to be substituted in its place. It is difficult to determine what precisely was done at this meeting. From the discussions which took place afterwards in the House of Lords it is clear that the bishops could not agree upon the Eucharist, that all with one exception signed their names to a rough draft drawn up on the understanding that they did not commit themselves thereby to Cranmer’s views, and that the episcopal report was changed by some authority before it was presented to Parliament, especially by the omission of the word “oblation” in regard to the Mass. That the Book of Common Prayer as such was ever submitted to or approved by a formal convocation of the clergy cannot be shown.54
Parliament met in November 1548. To put an end to the religious confusion that had arisen an Act of Uniformity enjoining on all clergy the use of the Book of Common Prayer was introduced.55 The main discussion centred around the Eucharist and the Mass. Bishop Tunstall of Durham objected that by the omission of the Adoration it was implied that there was nothing in the Sacrament except bread and wine, a contention that he could not accept, as he believed in the Real Presence of the Body and Blood of Christ both spiritual and carnal. Bishop Thirlby of Westminster maintained that the bishops had never agreed to the doctrine contained in the Book regarding the Eucharist but had allowed it merely to go forward for discussion. The Protector reproved him warmly for his tone and statement, but Thirlby stood firmly by his point of view, adding the interesting item of information that when the Book left the hands of the bishops it contained the word “oblation” in reference to the Mass, which word had since been omitted. Bonner of London pointed out that the Book of Common Prayer, embodying as it did statements condemned abroad and in England as heresy, should not be accepted. Cranmer and Ridley defended strongly the Eucharistic doctrine it contained. When the disputation between the bishops had been closed (19th Dec., 1548) the Bill for Uniformity was brought down and read in the Commons. Of the bishops present in the House of Lords ten voted in favour of the measure and eight against it. Gardiner was still in prison, the Bishop of Llandaff, who had spoken against Cranmer, was absent from the division, and some others are not accounted for.56
The first Act of Uniformity (1548), as it is called, displaced the Mass as it had been celebrated for centuries in the English Church, and substituted in its place the new liturgy contained in the Book of Common Prayer.57 This latter while differing completely from any rite that had been followed in the Catholic Church, had a close affinity both in regard to the rites themselves and the ceremonies for the administration of the Sacraments to the liturgy introduced by the German Lutherans. According to the Act of Parliament it was to come into force on Whit Sunday the 9th June (1549). That it was expected to meet with strong opposition is evident from the prohibition against plays, songs, rhymes, etc., holding it up to ridicule, as well as by the heavy fines prescribed against those who might endeavour to prevent clergymen from following it. Forfeiture of a year’s revenue together with imprisonment for six months was the penalty to be inflicted on any clergyman who refused to follow the new liturgy. Complete deprivation and imprisonment were prescribed for the second offence, and the third offence was to be punished by life-long imprisonment. For preventing any clergyman from adopting the new liturgy the penalties were for the first offence a fine of £10, for the second £20, and for the third forfeiture and perpetual imprisonment. Finally Parliament satisfied Cranmer’s scruples by permitting clergy to contract marriages.
The attempt to abolish the Mass and to force the new liturgy on the English people led to risings and disturbances throughout the country. In London, where it might have been expected that the influence of the court should have secured its ready acceptance, many of the churches maintained the old service in spite of the frantic efforts of Cranmer and his subordinates. Bishop Bonner was reproved sharply for encouraging the disobedience of his clergy, and as he failed to give satisfaction to the government he was committed to prison. In Devonshire and Cornwall58 the peasants and country gentlemen rose in arms to protest against the new service which they had likened to a Christmas game, and to demand the restoration of the Mass, Communion under one kind, holy water, palms, ashes, images, and pictures. They insisted that the Six Articles of Henry VIII. should be enforced once more and that Cardinal Pole should be recalled from Rome, and honoured with a seat at the council. In the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, where royal visitors and hired foreigners like Peter Martyr, Bucer, and Ochino were doing their best to decatholicise these seats of learning, violent commotions took place, that served to arouse both students and people, and soon the country around Oxford was in a blaze. The religious disturbances encouraged those who preferred small farms and sturdy labourers to grazing inclosures and sheep to raise the standard of revolt against the new economical tendencies, and to accept the leadership of the Norfolk tanner, William Kett.59 By the strenuous exertions of the Protector and the council, backed as they were by foreign mercenaries raised in Italy and Germany to fight against Scotland, these rebellions were put down by force, and the leaders, both lay and clerical, were punished with merciless severity. The disturbed condition of the country, however, the open dissatisfaction of the Catholic party, the compromises that were offered to those who fought against inclosures, and the unfortunate war with France into which the country had been plunged, pointed to Somerset’s unfitness for the office of Protector. A combination was formed against him by the Earl of Warwick, assisted by the leaders of the Catholic party. He was arrested, found guilty, and deprived of all his offices (Dec. 1549), and the Earl of Warwick, created later Duke of Northumberland, secured the principal share in the new government.
Cranmer and his foreign assistants were filled with alarm for the future of their cause. They feared that the new administration would be controlled by Wriothesley, ex-Chancellor, the Arundels, Southwell and other prominent Catholics, that Gardiner and Bonner might be released from imprisonment, and that the demands of many of the insurgents for the abolition of the Book of Common Prayer and the restoration of the Mass might be conceded. The Catholic party were filled with new hope; in Oxford and throughout the country the old missals and vestments that had been hidden away were brought forth again, and the offices and Mass were sung as they had been for centuries.60 But Warwick soon showed that the change of rulers meant no change in the religious policy of the government. Gardiner and Bonner were still kept in confinement; Wriothesley was dismissed from the council; many of the other Catholic noblemen were imprisoned, and Somerset who was supposed to have fallen a victim to the hatred of the Catholics was released from his prison and re-admitted to the privy council (1550). By the inglorious war with France and by the still more inglorious peace of Boulogne the government felt itself free to devote its energies to the religious situation at home. Warwick went over completely to the camp of the reforming party and determined in consultation with them to push forward the anti-Catholic campaign.
The Parliament that assembled in November 1549 was distinctly radical in its tendencies. In the House of Lords the bishops complained that their authority had been destroyed, and that their orders were set at naught. In reply they were requested to formulate a proposal for redress, but on such a proposal having been submitted, their demands were regarded by the laymen as exorbitant. A commission was appointed against the wishes of a strong minority of the bishops to draw up a new Ordinal as a complement to the Book of Common Prayer. The committee was appointed on the 2nd February 1550, and it appears to have finished its work within a week. In the new Ordinal61 (1550) the ceremonies for the conferring of tonsure, minor orders, and sub-deaconship were omitted entirely, while the ordination rites for deacons, priests, and bishops were considerably modified. Just as the sacrificial character of the Mass had been dropped out of the Book of Common Prayer, so too the notion of a real priesthood disappeared from the forms for ordination. In spite of the opposition of a large body of the bishops, an Act was passed ordering the destruction of all missals, antiphonals, processionals, manuals, ordinals, etc., used formerly in the service of the Church and not approved of by the king’s majesty, as well as for the removal of all images “except any image or picture set or graven upon any tomb in any church, chapel or churchyard only for a monument of any king, prince, nobleman or other dead person who had not been commonly reputed and taken for a saint.”62 As a result of this measure a wholesale destruction of valuable books and manuscripts took place in the king’s own library at Westminster and throughout the country. The royal visitors, entrusted with the difficult work of Protestantising Oxford, acting under the guidance of Dr. Cox, chancellor of the University or “cancellor” as he was called, ransacked the college libraries, tore up and burned priceless manuscripts or sold them as waste paper, and even went so far as to demand the destruction of the chapel windows, lest these beautiful specimens of art might encourage loyalty to the old religion that had inspired their artists and donors.
As it had been determined to abandon completely the religious conservatism of the former reign it was felt absolutely necessary to remove the Catholic-minded bishops, to make way for men of the new school on whom the government could rely with confidence. Gardiner of Winchester and Bonner of London were already in prison. Heath of Worcester, who had refused to agree to the new Ordinal, was arrested in March 1550, as was also Day of Chichester in October. Tunstall of Durham, whose conservative views were well known to all, was placed under surveillance in May 1551, and thrown into prison together with his dean in the following November. In a short time a sentence of deprivation was issued against Bonner, Heath, Day and Gardiner. Bishop Thirlby of Westminster, who had given great offence by his uncompromising attitude regarding the Blessed Eucharist, was removed from Westminster, where his presence was highly inconvenient, to Norwich, and the aged Bishop Voysey was forced to resign the See of Exeter to make way for a more reliable and more active man. At the same time steps were taken in the universities to drive out the men whose influence might be used against the government’s plans. The Sees of Westminster and London were combined and handed over to Ridley of Rochester, one of Cranmer’s ablest and most advanced lieutenants. Hooper, who looked to Zwingli as his religious guide, was appointed to Gloucester; but as he objected to the episcopal oath, and episcopal vestments, and as he insisted on his rights of private judgment so far as to write publicly against those things that had been sanctioned by the supreme head of the Church, it was necessary to imprison him63 before he could be reduced to a proper frame of mind for the imposition of Cranmer’s hands (March 1551). Ponet was appointed to Rochester, and on the deprivation of Gardiner, to Winchester, where his scandalous and public connexion with the wife of a Nottingham burgher64 was not calculated to influence the longing of his flock for the new teaching. Scory was appointed to Rochester and afterwards to Chichester, and Miles Coverdale to Oxford.
The zeal of the new bishops in seeking out the suppression of papistical practices and their readiness to place the property of the churches at Northumberland’s disposal soon showed that those who selected them had made no mistake. On Ridley’s arrival in London he held a conference for the purpose of compelling the clergy to adopt the new liturgy in place of the Mass. He issued an order for the removal of altars, and for the erection in their places of “honest tables decently covered,” whereon Communion might be celebrated. The high altar in the Cathedral of St. Paul was pulled down, and a plain Communion table set up in its stead. As such a sacrilegious innovation was resented by a great body of both clergy and people, the council felt it necessary to instruct the sheriff of Middlesex to enforce the commands of the bishop. The example thus set in the capital was to be followed throughout the country. In November 1550 letters were sent out to all the bishops in the name of the youthful head of the Church, commanding them to pull down the altars in their dioceses, and for disobedience to this order Bishop Day was arrested. Hooper, once his scruples regarding the episcopal oath and vestments had been removed, threw himself with ardour into the work of reforming the clergy of his dioceses of Worcester and Gloucester, but only to find that nothing less than a royal decree could serve to detach them from their old “superstitions” (1552). While the wholesale work of destruction was being pushed forward care was taken that none of the spoils derived from the plunder of the churches should go to private individuals. Warwick insisted on the new bishops handing over large portions of episcopal estates to be conferred on his favourites, and royal commissions were issued to take inventories of ecclesiastical property. During the years 1551 and 1552 the churches were stripped of their valuables, and the church plate, chalices, copes, vestments, and altar cloths, were disposed of to provide money for the impecunious members of the council.
Violent measures such as these were not likely to win popularity for the new religion, nor to bring about dogmatic unity. Risings took place in Leicester, Northampton, Rutland, and Berkshire, and free fights were witnessed even in the churches of London. Rumours of conspiracy, especially in the north, where the Earls of Shrewsbury and Derby still clung to the Catholic faith, were circulated, and fears of a French invasion were not entirely without foundation. A new Act of Uniformity65 was decreed (1552) threatening spiritual and temporal punishments against laymen who neglected to attend common prayer on Sundays and holidays. Acts were passed for the relief of the poor who had been rendered destitute by the suppression of the monasteries and the wholesale inclosures, and to comfort the married clergy, whose children were still regarded commonly as illegitimate, a second measure was passed legalising such unions. Fighting in churches and churchyards was to be put down with a heavy hand. If spiritual punishments could not suffice for the maintenance of order offenders were to be deprived of an ear or branded on the cheek with a red hot iron.
Though according to some the Book of Common Prayer had been compiled under the guidance of the Holy Ghost, soon it came to be regarded by many as unsatisfactory. The men, who had rejected the authority of the Pope because he was a foreigner to follow the teaching of apostate friars from Switzerland, Italy, Poland, and Germany, clamoured for its revision on the ground that it seemed to uphold the Real and Corporeal Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Cranmer, who had accepted Transubstantiation in the days of Henry VIII., and had defended a kind of Real Presence in 1549, veered gradually towards Calvin’s teaching on the Eucharist. In order to remove the ambiguities and difficulties of the old Prayer Book, it was determined to subject it to a complete revision by which everything that implied a real objective presence of Christ in the Eucharist should be omitted. The second Book of Common Prayer was submitted and approved by Parliament (1552), and its use was authorised by royal proclamation. It was to come into force in November 1552, but late in September, when some copies of the Book were already printed, the council issued a command that the work should be stopped until further corrections had been made. It seems that by a new rubric inserted by Cranmer communicants were enjoined to receive the communion on bended knees, and John Knox, who had arrived lately in England and was high in the favour of the council, objected strongly to such an injunction as flavouring of papistry. Notwithstanding the spirited remonstrances of Cranmer, the council without authority from Parliament or Convocation obliged him to insert on a fly leaf the famous “Black Rubric” which remains in the Book of Common Prayer till the present day, except that in the time of Charles II. a change was made, by which “corporeal presence” was inserted in place of the “real and essential presence” repudiated in the first form of the rubric.66
One other matter was considered by Cranmer as necessary for the success of the new religious settlement, namely, the publication of an authoritative creed for the English Church. The great diversity of opinion in the country, the frantic appeals of men like Hooper who had tried in vain to make an unwilling clergy accept their own dogmatic standard, and the striking success of the Council of Trent in vindicating Catholic doctrine, made it necessary to show the English people what could be done by the supreme head of the Church at home even though he was only a helpless boy. In 1549 Cranmer drew up a series of Articles to be accepted by all preachers in his diocese. These he submitted to the body of the bishops in 1551, and later at the request of the privy council to a commission of six amongst whom was John Knox. They were returned with annotations to Cranmer, who having revised them besought the council to authorise their publication. Finally in June 1553 Edward VI., four weeks before his death, approved them, and commanded that they should be accepted by all his subjects. The Forty-two Articles represented the first attempt to provide the English Church with a distinct dogmatic creed. In the title page it was stated that the Articles had been agreed upon “by the bishops and other learned and godly men in the last Convocation held in London in the year of Our Lord 1552”; but notwithstanding this very explicit statement, it is now practically certain that the Articles were never submitted to or approved by Convocation. In other words, as Gairdner puts it,67 the title page is “nothing but a shameful piece of official mendacity” resorted to in order to deceive the people, and to prevent them from being influenced by the successful work accomplished by the Fathers of Trent.
The Duke of Northumberland, who had scrambled into power on the shoulders of the Catholic party, deserted his former allies, and went over completely to the party of Cranmer, Ridley, and Hooper. Taking advantage of England’s peaceful relations with France and Scotland and of the difficulties of the Emperor in Germany, he had risked everything to make England a Protestant nation. He had removed the bishops whose influence he feared, and had packed the episcopal bench with his own nominees. He had destroyed the altars and burned the missals to show his contempt for the Mass, and his firm resolve to uproot the religious beliefs of the English people. So determined were he and his friends to enforce the new religious service that even the Princess Mary was forbidden to have Mass celebrated in her presence, and her chaplains were prosecuted for disobeying the king’s law. Once indeed the Emperor felt it necessary to intervene in defence of his kinswoman, and to warn the council that if any attempt were made to prevent her from worshipping as she pleased, he would feel it necessary to recall his ambassador and to declare war (1551). The situation was decidedly embarrassing, and the council resolved to seek the advice of Cranmer, Ridley, and Hooper. The bishops replied that though to give licence to sin was sinful Mary’s disobedience might be winked at for the time.68 The suggestion was followed by the council, but later on when the Emperor’s hands were tied by the troubles in Germany, the attempt to overawe the princess was renewed. Mary, however, showed the true Tudor spirit of independence, and, as it would have been dangerous to imprison her or to behead her, she was not pushed to extremes.
In 1553 it was clear to Northumberland that Edward VI. could not long survive, and that with his death and the succession of Mary, his own future and the future of the religious settlement for which he had striven would be gravely imperilled. In defiance therefore of the late king’s will, and of what he knew to be the wishes of the English people, for all through Edward’s reign the Princess Mary was a great favourite with the nation, he determined to secure the succession for Lady Jane Grey, the grand-daughter of Henry VIII.’s sister Mary. Such a succession, he imagined, would guarantee his own safety and the triumph of Protestantism, more especially as he took care to bring about a marriage between the prospective queen and his son, Lord Guildford Dudley. When everything had been arranged the Chief Justice and the two leading law officers of the crown were summoned to the bedside of the dying king, and instructed to draw up a deed altering the succession. They implored the king to abandon such a project, and pointed out that it was illegal and would involve everyone concerned in it in the guilt of treason, but Northumberland’s violence overcame their scruples, particularly as their own safety was assured by a commission under the great seal and a promise of pardon. When the document was drawn up it was signed by the king, the judges, and the members of the council. Cranmer hesitated on the ground that he had sworn to uphold the will of Henry VIII., but as the situation was a desperate one, he agreed finally to follow the example that had been set (June 1553). The preachers were instructed to prepare the people for the change by denouncing both Mary and Elizabeth as bastards. On the 6th July Edward VI. died at Greenwich, but his death was kept a secret until Northumberland’s plans could be matured. Four days later Lady Jane Grey arrived in London, and the proclamation of her accession to the throne was received with ominous silence in the streets of the capital.
Chapter II Footnotes
1 The Life and Death of Thomas Wolsey, written by one of his Servants; ed. by Simpson, 1901. Cavendish, The Life of Cardinal Wolsey, 1885. Creighton, Cardinal Wolsey, 1888. Taunton, Thomas Wolsey, Legate and Reformer, 1902.
2 O’Donovan, Assertio Septem Sacramentorum, etc., 1908.
3 Id., 118-26.
4 On the Divorce proceedings, cf. Harpsfield, A Treatise on the Pretended Divorce between Henry VIII. and Catharine of Aragon, (written 1556, ed. 1878). Hope, The First Divorce of Henry VIII. as told in the State Papers, 1894. Ehses, Römische Dokumente zur Geschichte der Ehescheidung, 1893. Thurston, Clement VII., Campeggio and the Divorce (American Cath. Quart. Rev., 1904). Id., The Canon Law of the Divorce (Eng. Hist. Review, 1904). Gairdner, New Lights on the Divorce (Eng. Hist. Rev., 1897, also 1892). Friedman, Anne Boleyn, 2 vols., 1884.
5 Ehses, op. cit., 21-7.
6 Ehses, op. cit., p. xxxiii.
7 Id., 14-16.
8 Ehses, op. cit., pp. 28-31.
9 Political History of England, vol. v., 280-1.
10 Ehses, op. cit., p. xxxi., sqq.
11 Brewer, Reign of Hen. VIII., ii., 346-51.
12 Ehses, 120-5.
13 Brewer, op. cit., 466-7.
14 Pol. Hist. of England, v., 301.
15 Letters and Papers, Henry VIII., iv., 64-78.
16 Rymer, Foedera, xiv., 405.
17 Ehses, op. cit., 163-4.
18 Ehses, 167 sqq.
19 Gairdner, Lollardy and the Reformation, i., 300.
20 Gairdner, Hist. of Eng. Ch. in XVIth Century, 114.
21 Letters and Papers, v., 886.
22 Ehses, op. cit., 200-1.
23 Haile, The Life of Reginald Pole, 1910, p. 88.
24 For his dying statement against Royal Supremacy, vid. Dublin Review (April, 1894).
25 Pol. Hist. of England, v., 318.
26 Pol. Hist. of England, v., 318-19.
27 Ehses, op. cit., 212-13.
28 Gairdner, Lollardy and the Reformation, i., 48-52.
29 Pol. Hist. of England, v., 344.
30 Lollardy and the Reformation, i., 424-35.
31 Cf. Bridgett, Life of Blessed John Fisher, 1888. Stewart, Life of John Fisher, 1879. Baily (Hall), Life and Death of John Fisher, 1655.
32 Cf. Roper, The Life, Arraignment, and Death of ... Sir Thomas More, 1629 (reprinted 1903). Bridgett, Life and Writings of Sir Thomas More, 1891. Gairdner, Lollardy and the Reformation, (chap. iv., v.).
33 Pol. Hist. of England, v., 361.
34 Cf. Gasquet, Henry VIII. and the English Monasteries. Gairdner, Lollardy and the Reformation, II. (chap. ii., iii.).
35 Turnbull, Account of Monastic Treasures confiscated at the Dissolution, etc., 1836.
36 Gairdner, Letters and Papers Hen. VIII., xi., xii.
37 Haile, Life of Reginald Pole (chap. ix.-xi.).
38 Gairdner, Lollardy and the Reformation, vol. ii., 304 sqq.
39 Gairdner, Hist. of the Eng. Church in the XVIIth Cent., 177-8.
40 Gairdner, The Story of the English Bible (Loll. and the Ref., ii. 221 sqq.).
41 English Statutes, 34 and 35 Hen. VIII., c. 50.
42 Gairdner, German Protestants and the Act of Six Articles (op. cit., ii., 170-220.)
43 Merriman, Life and Letters of Thomas Cromwell, 2 vols., 1902.
44 Tytler, England under Edward VI. and Mary, 2 vols., 1839.
45 Gasquet-Bishop, Edw. VI. and the Book of Common Prayer, 43-4.
46 Cf. Dodd-Tierney, Church Hist. of England, ii., app. iii.
47 Id., app. iv.
48 Lee, Edw. VI., Supreme Head, 39.
49 Gasquet-Bishop, op. cit., 69-77.
50 Leach, Eng. Schools at the Reformation, 1-7.
51 Gasquet-Bishop, op. cit., 92-96.
52 Cambridge Mod. History, ii., 477.
53 Gasquet-Bishop, op. cit., 83 sqq. Dixon, History of the Church, ii., 476.
54 Gasquet-Bishop, op. cit., chap. ix.
55 Dodd-Tierney, ii., app. ix.
56 Gasquet-Bishop, op. cit., chap. x.
57 The First Prayer Book of King Edw. VI., 1549 (Westminster Library). Proctor-Frere, New History of the Book of Common Prayer, 1901.
58 Rose-Troup, The Western Rebellion of 1549, 1913.
59 Russell, Kett’s Rebellion, 1859.
60 Gairdner, Lollardy and the Reformation, iii., 125-7.
61 The Forme and Maner of makyng and consecratyng of Archebishoppes, Bishoppes, Priestes, and Deacons.
62 Stat. 3rd and 4th, Edw. VI., c. 10.
63 Gairdner, op. cit., iii., 273.
64 Lee, op. cit., 214.
65 Stat. 5th and 6th, Edw. III., c. 50.
66 Gairdner, op. cit., iii., 349-50.
67 Gairdner, op. cit., iii., 376-77.
68 Gairdner, op. cit., iii., 201.
Chapter II Bibliography
See bibliography, chap. i., Calendar of Letters and Papers Henry VIII., 18 vols., 1862-1902. Brewer Gairdner, The Reign of Henry VIII., 2 vols., 1884. Gairdner, Lollardy and the Reformation, 4 vols., 1908-13. Dodd, Church History of England (1500-1688), 1737-42 (a new edition by Tierney, 5 vols., 1839). Sander, Rise and Growth of the Anglican Schism (trans. by Lewis), 1877. Gasquet, Short History of the Catholic Church in England, 1903. Dixon, History of the Church in England from 1529, 6 vols., London, 1878-1902. Cobbett, A History of the Reformation in England and Ireland (edited by Gasquet). Pocock, Records of the Reformation 2 vols., 1870. Burnet, History of the Reformation (edited by Pocock), 1865. Gasquet and Bishop, Edward VI. and the Book of Common Prayer, 1890. Taunton, The English Black Monks of St. Benedict, 2 vols., 1897. Camm, Lives of the English Martyrs vol. i., 1904. Stone, An Account of the Sufferings of the English Franciscans, during the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, 1892. Pollen, Acts of English Martyrs, etc., 1891. Spillman, Die Englischen Martyrer unter Heinrich VIII., 2 auf., 1900. Martyrum Monachorum Carthusianorum in Anglia passio, etc. (An. Bolland., 1903). The Month (1882, 1883, 1902, 1905).
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