History of England (Froude)/Chapter 15
THE EXETER CONSPIRACY.
THOSE who believe that human actions obey the laws of natural causation, might find their philosophy confirmed by the conduct of the great powers of Europe during the early years of the Reformation. With a regularity uniform as that on which we calculate in the application of mechanical forces, the same combinations were attended with identical effects; and given the relations between France and Spain, between Spain and Germany, between England and either of the three, the political situation of all Western Christendom could be estimated with as much certainty as the figure and dimensions of a triangle from the length of one of its sides and the inclination of two of its angles. When England was making advances towards the Lutherans, we are sure that France and Spain were in conjunction under the Papacy, and were menacing the Reformation. When such advances had been pushed forward into prominence, and there was a likelihood of a Protestant league, the Emperor was compelled to neutralize the danger by concessions to the German Diet, or by an affectation of a desire for a reconciliation with Henry, to which Henry was always ready to listen. Then Henry would look coldly on the Protestants, and the Protestants on him. Then Charles could afford to lay the curb on Francis. Then Francis would again storm and threaten, till passion broke into war. War brought its usual consequences of mutual injury, disaster, and exhaustion; and then the Pope would interfere, and peace would follow, and the same round would repeat itself. Statesmen and kings made, as they imagined, their fine strokes of policy. A wisdom other than theirs condemned them to tread again and again the same ineffectual circle.
But while fact and necessity were thus inexorable, imagination remained uncontrolled; and efforts were made of all kinds, and on all sides, to find openings of escape. The Emperor had boasted, in 1528, that he would rid himself of the English difficulty by a revolution which should dethrone Henry. The experiment had been tried with no success hitherto, and with indifferent prospects for the future. Revolution failing, he believed that he might reconvert England to the Papacy; while both Henry and the Germans on their side had not ceased to hope that they might convert the Emperor to the Reformation. The perspective of Europe varied with the point of view of the various parties. The picture was arranged by prejudice, and coloured by inclination.
The overtures to England which Charles had commenced on the death of Catherine, had been checked by Henry's haughty answer; and Charles had replied by an indirect countenance, through his ambassador, to Pole, and to Lord Darcy. But the motives which had led to these overtures remained to invite their renewal; the insurrection was for the present prostrate, and the Emperor therefore withdrew his first step, and disowned his compromised minister in London. JuneIn June, 1537, Diego de Mendoza arrived at the English Court, with a commission to express in more emphatic terms the earnest wish of the Court of Spain for the renewal of the old alliance.
The King had done enough for the protection of his dignity; prudence now recommended him to believe in Charles's sincerity. A solid understanding with Flanders was the best passport to the hearts of large portions of his subjects, whose interests were connected with the wool trade: he was himself ardently anxious to resume his place in the fraternity of European sovereigns. Mendoza was graciously received. Sir Thomas Wyatt was despatched into Spain with a corresponding mission; and Wyatt's instructions were couched in language which showed that, although the English Government were under no delusion as to Charles's late proceedings, they were ready to close their eyes to objects which they did not wish to see. Wyatt was directed to say that the proposals for a reconciliation which had been made by the late ambassadors had appeared so feeble, as to seem rather a device of policy to prevent the King of England from allying himself with France, than as intended in sincerity; M. de Mendoza, however, had removed all such unpleasant impressions; and although, if the Emperor would consider the past differences between the two Courts impartially, he must feel that the fault rested with himself, yet the English Government, on their side, were ready to set aside all painful recollections. There were persons, indeed, who affirmed that the Emperor was still trifling, that Mendoza was playing a game, and that, in 'heart, deed, and words,' the Spanish Court were 'doing all they could to his Majesty's dishonour.' Nay, even individuals could be found who boasted themselves to have refused some honest offers because they were knit with vile and filthy conditions towards his Majesty. The King, however, set aside these rumours, as either without foundation, or as belonging to the past rather than the present. He required only, as a condition of renewed friendship, that if the Pope found the means of attacking England, Charles should bind himself to be no party to such an enterprise, but should oppose it 'to the uttermost of his power.' In return, the Emperor might perhaps require that the Lady Mary should ' be restored to her rank as princess.' Some difficulty no doubt continued, and must continue, on this point. But it was a difficulty rather in form than in substance. The King desired that his daughter might be trusted to his honour: she might expect much from his generosity, if he was not pressed to definite promises. Meanwhile, she herself had submitted without reserve; she had entreated pardon for her past disobedience, and accepted, her position as illegitimate. It was likely that she would retain her place in the line of succession. Should the King die without legitimate children, she would, in all probability, be his heir.
In confirmation of this language, Mary added a letter to the commission, in which, with her own hand, she assured the Emperor that she was satisfied, entreating him to 'repent,' as she had herself repented; and 'to take of her the tenour.'
Thus instructed, Wyatt proceeded to Spain; and his reception was, on the whole, auspicious. On both sides, indeed, the hope of agreement on points of religion disappeared with the first words upon the subject. Mendoza offered in London the Emperor's mediation with the Pope. He received for answer that he might spare his labour. 'The disposition of the King's Highness was immutably against the said Bishop.' The Emperor in his opening interview spoke to Wyatt of the sickness of England, from which he trusted it would soon be recovered. Wyatt replied that England was conscious only of having cast off a chronic sickness which had lasted too long.
On the other hand, Charles, with equal resolution, declined a theological discussion, to which Henry had challenged him. 'If your Majesty,' wrote Wyatt, 'would hearken to the reconciling with the Bishop of Rome, he would be glad to travel in it. But if not, yet he will go through with you, and will continue ever in that mind, the same notwithstanding. And like as he is not lettred, so will he not charge your Majesty with the argument of the Bishop's state, but leave it alone to them that it toucheth.'
On these terms, apparently satisfactory, the entente cordiale was restored between England and Spain. It was threatened by a cloud in November, when a truce was concluded between Charles and Francis; but the light suspicion was dispelled by assurances that if the truce was followed by a peace, 'the King of England should be in the same as a principal contrahent;' 'that nothing should be therein concluded which might redound to his dishonour or miscontentment.' The alliance promised stability: by skilful management it might be even more strongly cemented.
Dec. 23.The English council were now busily engaged in selecting a successor for Jane Seymour. Mendoza, in the name of the Emperor, proposed the Infanta of Portugal. 'The offer was thankfully taken,' but was from some cause unwelcome, and died in its first mention. Cromwell had thrown out feelers in the various European courts. Madame de Longueville was thought of, if she was not already destined for another throne. Hutton, the English agent in Flanders, recommended several ladies as more or less desirable—a daughter of the Lord of Brederode, the Countess of Egmont, Anne of Cleves (of the latter, however, adding, that she was said to be plain), and finally, and with especial emphasis, Christina of Denmark, the young relict of the Duke of Milan, and the niece of the Emperor. The Duchess was tall, handsome, and, though a widow, not more than sixteen. The alliance would be honourable in itself: it would be a link reconnecting England with the Empire; and, more important still, Charles in his consent would condone before the world the affront of the divorce of Catherine. One obstacle only presented itself, which, with skilful management, might perhaps prove a fresh recommendation. In the eyes of all persons of the Roman communion the marriage with Catherine was of course considered valid, and the lady stood towards her aunt's husband within the degrees of affinity in which marriage was unlawful without a dispensation from the Pope. This certainly was a difficulty; but it was possible that Charles's anxiety for the connection might induce him to break the knot, and break with the Papacy. On the Duchess of Milan, therefore, the choice of the English Government rested; Jan. 22.and in January Sir Thomas Wyatt was directed to suggest to the Emperor, as of his own motion, that his niece would be a fit wife for the King. The hint was caught at with gracious eagerness. Mendoza instantly received instructions to make the proposal in form, and, as if this single union was insufficient, to desire at the same time that Henry would bestow the Lady Mary on Don Louis of Portugal. Henry acquiesced, and, seeing Charles so forward, Feb. 22.added to his acquiescence the yet further suggestion that the Prince of Wales should be betrothed to the Emperor's daughter, and Elizabeth to one of the many sons of the King of the Romans. Both princes appeared to be overflowing with cordiality. Charles repeated his promises, that when peace was concluded with France, the King of England should be a contracting party. The Queen Regent wrote to Cromwell, thanking him for his zeal in forwarding the Emperor's interests with his master. The Duchess of Milan sat for her picture to Holbein for Henry's cabinet, and professed for herself that she was wholly at her uncle's disposal. Commissioners had only to be appointed to draw the marriage treaty, and all might at once be arranged. The dispensation so far had not been mentioned. Mendoza, indeed, had again pressed Henry to accept the Emperor's good offices at the Vatican; but he had been met with a refusal so absolute as to forbid the further mooting of the question; and the negotiations for these several alliances being continued as amicably as before, the King flattered himself that the difficulty was waived, or else would be privately disposed of.
Either the Emperor's true intentions were better known in Paris than in London, or Francis was alarmed at the rapid friendship, and desired to chill down its temperature. While gracious messages and compliments were passing between England and Spain and Flanders, the March.Bishop of Tarbes was sent over with an offer on the part of the French to make Henry sole mediator in the peace, and with a promise that, in the matter of the general council, and in all other things, Francis would be 'his good brother and most entire friend.' The Emperor, the Bishop asserted on his own knowledge, was playing a part of mere duplicity. Whatever he said, or whatever others said for him, he had determined that England should not be comprehended in the treaty. The King would be left out—dropped out—in some way or other got rid of—when his friendship ceased to be of moment; and so he would find to his cost.
The warning might have been well meant, the offer might have been sincere, but the experience was too recent of the elastic character of French promises. Henry refused to believe that Charles was deceiving him; he replied with a declaration of his full confidence in the Emperor's honour, and declined with cold courtesy the counter-advances of his rival. Yet he was less satisfied than he desired to appear. He sent to Sir T. Wyatt an account of the Bishop of Tarbes's expressions, desiring him to acquaint the Emperor with their nature, and with the answer which he had returned; but hinting at the same time, that although the general language of the Flemish and Spanish Courts was as warm as he could desire, yet so far it amounted only to words. The proposal to constitute him sole mediator in the peace was an advance upon the furthest positive step towards him which had been taken by Charles, and he requested a direct engagement in writing, both as to his comprehension in the intended treaty, and on the equally important subject alluded to by the Bishop, of the approaching council.
Meanwhile the marriages, if once they were completed, would be a security for good faith in other matters; and on this point no difliculties were interposed till the middle of the spring. The amount of dotes and dowries, with the securities for their payment, the conditions under which Mary was to succeed to the crown, and other legal details, were elaborately discussed. At length, when the substance seemed all to be determined, and the form only to remain, the first official conference was opened on the 5th of April, April 5.with the Spanish commissioners, who, as was supposed, had come to London for that single and special purpose. The card castle so carefully raised crumbled into instant ruins—the solid ground was unsubstantial air. The commissioners had no commission: they would agree to nothing, arrange nothing, promise nothing. 'I never heard so many gay words, and saw so little effect ensue of the same,' wrote Cromwell in the passion of his disappointment; 'I begin to perceive that there is scarce any good faith in this world.'
Henry's eyes were opening, but opening slowly and reluctantly. Though irritated for the moment, he listened readily to the excuses with which Charles was profusely ready; and if Charles had not been intentionally treacherous, he reaped the full advantage of the most elaborate deception. In the same month it was arranged between the Courts of France and Spain that the truce should, if possible, become a peace. The place of mediator, which Henry had rejected at the hands of France, had been offered to and accepted by the Pope, and the consequences foretold by the Bishop of Tarbes were now obviously imminent. Paul had succeeded at last, it seemed, in his great object—the two Catholic powers were about to be united. The effect of this reconciliation, brought about by such means, would be followed in all likelihood by a renewal of the project for an attack on the Reformation, and on all its supporters. Nice was chosen for the scene of the great event of pacification, which was to take place in June. The two sovereigns were to be present in person; the Pope would meet them, and sanctify the reconciliation with his blessing.
The Emperor continued, notwithstanding the change of circumstances, to use the same language of friendship towards Henry, and professed to be as anxious as ever for the maintenance of his connection with England. Wyatt himself partially, but not entirely, distrusted him, until his conduct no longer admitted any construction but the worst.
June.The affair at Nice was the central incident of the summer. Wyatt went thither in Charles's train. Paul came accompanied by Pole. Many English were present belonging to both parties: royal emissaries as spies—passionate Catholic exiles, flushed with hope and triumph. We see them, indistinctly, winding into one another's confidence—'practising' to worm out secrets—treachery undermined by greater treachery; and, at last, expectations but half gratified, a victory left but half gained. The two princes refused to see each other. They communicated only through the Pope. In the end, terms of actual peace could not be agreed upon. The conferences closed with the signature of a general truce, to last for ten years. One marked consolation only the Pope obtained. Notwithstanding the many promises, Henry's name was not so much as mentioned by the Emperor. He was left out, as Wyatt expressed it, 'at the cart's tail.' Against him the Pope remained free to intrigue and the princes free to act, could Pole or his master prevail upon them. The secret history of the proceedings cannot be traced in this place, if indeed the materials exist which allow them to be traced satisfactorily. With infinite comfort, however, in the midst of the diplomatic trickeries, we discover one little island of genuine life on which to rest for a few moments—a group, distinctly visible, of English flesh and blood existences.
Henry, unable, even after the Nice meeting had been agreed upon, to relinquish his hopes of inducing other princes to imitate his policy towards Rome, was determined, notwithstanding avowals of reluctance on the part of Charles, that his arguments should have a hearing; and, as the instrument of persuasion, he had selected the facile and voluble Dr Bonner. Charles was on his way to the congress when the appointment was resolved upon.
Bonner crossed France to meet him; but the Emperor, either distrustful of his ability to cope with so skilful a polemic, or too busy to be trifled with, declined resolutely to have anything to do with him. Bonner was thus thrown upon Wyatt's hospitality, and was received by him at Villa Franca, where, for convenience and economy, the English embassy had secured apartments remote from the heat and crowd in Nice itself. Sir John Mason, Mr Blage, and other friends of the ambassadors, were of the party. The future Bishop of London, it seems, though accepted as their guest, was not admitted to their intimacy; and, being set aside in his own special functions, he determined to console himself in a solid and substantial manner for the slight which had been cast upon him. In an evil hour for himself, three years after, he tried to revenge himself on Wyatt's coldness by accusations of loose living, and other calumnies. Wyatt, after briefly disposing of the charges against his own actions, retorted with a sketch of Bonner's.
'Come, now, nay Lord of London,' he said, 'what is my abominable and vicious living? Do ye know it, or have ye heard it? I grant I do not profess chastity—but yet I use not abomination. If ye know it, tell with whom and when. If ye heard it, who is your author? Have you seen me have any harlot in my house while you were in my company? Did you ever see a woman so much as dine or sup at my table? None but, for your pleasure, the woman that was in the galley—which, I assure you, may be well seen—for, before you came, neither she nor any other woman came above the mast; but because the gentlemen took pleasure to see you entertain her, therefore they made her dine and sup with you. And they liked well your looks—your carving to Madonna—your drinking to her—and your playing under the table. Ask Mason—ask Blage—ask Wolf that was my steward. They can tell how the gentlemen marked it and talked of it. It was play to them, the keeping your bottles, that no man might drink of them but yourself, and that the little fat priest was a jolly morsel for the signora. This was their talk. It was not my device. Ask others whether I do lie.'
Such was Bonner. The fame, or infamy, which he earned for himself in later years condemns his minor vices to perpetual memory; or perhaps it is a relief to find that he was linked to mankind by participating in their more venial frailties.
Leaving Nice, with its sunny waters, and intrigues, and dissipations, we return to England.
Here the tide, which had been checked for awhile by the rebellion, was again in full flow. The abbeys within the compass of the Act had fallen, or were rapidly falling. Among these the demolition was going actively forward. Among the larger houses fresh investigations were bringing secrets into light which would soon compel a larger measure of destruction. The restoration of discipline, which had been hoped for, was found impossible. Monks, who had been saturated with habits of self-indulgence, mutinied and became unmanageable when confined within the convent walls. Abbots in the confidence of the Government were accused as heretics. Catholic abbots were denounced as traitors. Countless letters lie among the State Papers, indicating in a thousand ways that the last hour of monasticism was approaching; that by no care of Government, no efforts to put back the clock of time, could their sickly vitality be longer sustained. Everywhere, as if conscious that their days were numbered, the fraternities were preparing for evil days by disposing of their relics, secreting or selling their plate and jewels, cutting down the timber on the estates, using in all directions their last opportunity of racking out their properties. Many, either from a hope of making terms for themselves, or from an honest sense that they were unfit to continue, declared voluntarily that they would burden the earth no longer, and voted their own dissolution.
'We do profoundly consider,' said the warden and friars of St Francis in Stamford, 'that the perfection of a Christian living doth not consist in douce ceremonies, wearing of a grey coat, disguising ourselves after strange fashions, ducking and becking, girding ourselves with a girdle of knots, wherein we have been misled in times past; but the very true way to please God, and to live like Christian men without hypocrisy or feigned dissimulation, is sincerely declared unto us by our master Christ, his Evangelists and Apostles. Being minded, therefore, to follow the same, conforming ourselves unto the will and pleasure of our Supreme Head under God in earth, and not to follow henceforth superstitious traditions, we do, with mutual assent and consent, surrender and yield up all our said house, with all its lands and tenements, beseeching the King's good grace to dispose of us as shall best stand with his most gracious pleasure.'
'We,' said the prior and convent of St Andrew's, 'called religious persons, taking on us the habit and outward vesture of our rule, only to the intent to lead our lives in idle quietness, and not in virtuous exercise, in a stately estimation, and not in obedient humility, have, under the shadow of the said rule, vainly, detestably, and ungodly devoured the yearly revenues of our possessions in continual ingurgitations and farcings of our bodies, and other supporters of our voluptuous and carnal appetites, to the manifest subversion of devotion and cleanness of living, and to the most notable slander of Christ's holy Evangile, withdrawing from the minds of his Grace's subjects the truth and comfort which they ought to have by the faith of Christ, and also the honour due to the glorious majesty of God Almighty, stirring them with persuasions, engines, and policy to dead images and counterfeit relics for our damnable lucre; which our horrible abominations and longcovered hypocrisy, we revolving daily, and pondering in our sorrowful hearts, constrained by the anguish of our consciences, with hearts most contrite and repentant, do lamentably crave his Highness' most gracious pardon'—they also submitting and surrendering their house.
Six years had passed since four brave Suffolk peasants had burnt the rood at Dovercourt; and for their reward had received a gallows and a rope. The high powers of state were stepping now along the road which these men had pioneered, discovering, after all, that the road was the right road, and that the reward had been altogether an unjust one. The 'materials' of monastic religion were the real or counterfeit relics of real or counterfeit saints, and images of Christ or the Virgin, supposed to work miraculous cures upon pilgrims, and not supposed, but ascertained, to bring in a pleasant and abundant revenue to their happy possessors. A special investigation into the nature of these objects of popular devotion was now ordered, with results which more than any other exposure disenchanted the people with superstition, and converted their faith into an equally passionate iconoclasm. At Hales in Worcestershire was a phial of blood, as famous for its powers and properties as the blood of St Januarius at Naples. The phial was opened by the visitors in the presence of an awe-struck multitude. No miracle punished the impiety. The mysterious substance was handled by profane fingers, and was found to be a mere innocent gum, and not blood at all, adequate to work no miracle either to assist its worshippers or avenge its violation. Another rare treasure was preserved at Cardigan. The story of Our Lady's taper there has a picturesque wildness, of which later ages may admire the legendary beauty, being relieved by three centuries of incredulity from the necessity of raising harsh alternatives of truth or falsehood. An image of the Virgin had been found, it was said, standing at the mouth of the Tivy river, with an infant Christ in her lap, and the taper in her hand burning. She was carried to Christ Church, in Cardigan, but 'would not tarry there.' She returned again and again to the spot where she was first found; and a chapel was at last built there to receive and shelter her. In this chapel she remained for nine years, the taper burning, yet not consuming, till some rash Welshman swore an oath, by her, and broke it; and the taper at once went out, and never could be kindled again. The visitors had no leisure for sentiment. The image was torn from its shrine. The taper was found to be a piece of painted wood, and on experiment was proved submissive to a last conflagration.
Kings are said to find the step a short one from deposition to the scaffold. The undeified images passed by a swift transition to the flames. The Lady of Worcester had been lately despoiled of her apparel. 'I trust,' wrote Latimer to the vicegerent, that 'your lordship will bestow our great sibyll to some good purpose—ut pereat memoria cum sonitu—she hath been the devil's instrument to bring many, I fear, to eternal fire. She herself, with her old sister of Walsingham, her younger sister of Ipswich, with their two other sisters of Doncaster and Penrice, would make a jolly muster in Smithfield. They would not be all day in burning.' The hard advice was taken. The objects of the passionate devotion of centuries were rolled in carts to London as huge dishonoured lumber; and the eyes of the citizens were gratified with a more innocent immolation than those with which the Church authorities had been in the habit of indulging them.
The fate of the rood of Boxley, again, was a famous incident of the time. At Boxley, in Kent, there stood an image, the eyes of which on fit occasions 'did stir like a lively thing.' The body bowed, the forehead frowned. It dropped its lower lip, as if to speak. The people saw in this particular rood, beyond all others, the living presence of Christ, and offerings in superabundant measure had poured in upon the monks. It happened that a rationalistic commissioner, looking closely, discovered symptoms of motion at the back of the figure. Suspicion caused inquiry, and inquiry exposure. The mystery had a natural explanation in machinery. The abbot and the elder brethren took refuge in surprise, and knew nothing. But the fact was patent; and the unveiled fraud was of a kind which might be useful. 'When I had seen this strange object,' said the discoverer, 'and considering that the inhabitants of the county of Kent had in times past a great devotion to the same image, and did keep continual pilgrimage thither, by the advice of others that were here with me, I did convey the said image unto Maidstone on the market day; and in the chief of the market time did shew it openly unto all the people then being present, to see the false, crafty, and subtle handling thereof, to the dishonour of God and illusion of the said people; who, I dare say, if the late monastery were to be defaced again (the King's Grace not offended), they would either pluck it down to the ground, or else burn it; for they have the said matter in wondrous detestation and hatred.'
February.But the rood was not allowed to be forgotten after a single exhibition; the imposture was gross, and would furnish a wholesome comment on the suppression, if it was shown off in London. From Maidstone, therefore, it was taken to the palace at Whitehall, and performed before the Court. From, the palace it was carried on to its last judgment and execution at Paul's Cross. It was placed upon a stage opposite the pulpit, and passed through its postures, while the Bishop of Rochester lectured upon it in a sermon. When the crowd was worked into adequate indignation, the scaffold was made to give way, the image fell, and in a few moments was torn in pieces.
Thus in all parts of England superstition was attacked in its strongholds, and destroyed there. But the indignation which was the natural recoil from credulity would not be satisfied with the destruction of images. The idol was nothing. The guilt was not with the wood and stone, but in the fraud and folly which had practised with these brute instruments against the souls of men. April.In Scotland and the Netherlands the work of retribution was accomplished by a rising of the people themselves in armed revolution. In England the readiness of the Government spared the need of a popular explosion; the monasteries were not sacked by mobs, or the priests murdered; but the same fierceness, the same hot spirit of anger, was abroad, though confined within the restraints of the law. The law itself gave effect, in harsh and sanguinary penalties, to the rage which had been kindled.
The punishments under the Act of Supremacy were not wholly censurable. No Governments can permit, their subjects to avow an allegiance to an alien and hostile power; and the executions were occasioned, I have observed already, by the same necessity, and must be regarded with the same feelings, as the deaths of brave men in battle, who, in questions of life and death, take their side to kill others or be killed. A blind animosity now betrays itself in an act of needless cruelty, for the details of which no excuse can be pleaded by custom or precedent, which clouds the memory of the greatest of the Reformers, and can be endured only, when regarded at a distance, as an instance of the wide justice of Providence, which punishes wrong by wrong, and visits on single men the offences of thousands.
Forest, the late Prior of the Observants' Convent at Greenwich, since the dissolution of his order in consequence of the affair of the Nun of Kent, had halted between a state of concealed disaffection and pretended conformity. In his office of confessor he was found to have instructed his penitents that, for himself, 'he had denied the Bishop of Rome in his outward, but not in his inward man;' and he had encouraged them, notwithstanding their oath, to persevere in their own allegiance. He had thus laid himself open to prosecution for treason; and whatever penalty was due to an avowal of being the Pope's liegeman had been doubly earned by treachery. If he had been tried and had suffered like Sir Thomas More and the Monks of the Charterhouse, his sentence would have ranked with theirs. The same causes which explained the executions of honourable men would have applied with greater force to that of one who had deepened his offences by duplicity. But the Crown prosecutors, for some unknown reason, bestowed upon him a distinction in suffering.
When first arrested he was terrified: he acknowledged his offences, submitted, and was pardoned. But his conscience recovered its strength: he returned to his loyalty to the Papacy; he declared his belief that, in matters spiritual, the Pope was his proper sovereign, that the Bishop of Rochester was a martyr, as Thomas à Becket had been a martyr. Becket he held up as the pattern of all churchmen's imitation, courting for himself Becket's fortunes. Like others, he attempted a distinction in the nature of allegiance. 'In matters secular his duty was to his prince.' But, on the threshold of the exception lay the difficulty which no Catholic could evade—what was the duty of a subject when a king was excommunicated, and declared to have forfeited his crown?
Forest, therefore, fell justly under the treason law. But, inasmuch as Catholic churchmen declared the denial of the Pope's supremacy to be heresy, so, for a few unfortunate months, English churchmen determined the denial of the King's supremacy to be heresy; Forest was to be proceeded against for an offence against spiritual truth as well as a crime against the law of the land; and Cranmer is found corresponding with Cromwell on the articles on which he was to be examined. I do not know that the document which I am about to quote was composed for this special occasion. For the first, and happily the last time, the meaning of it was acted upon.
In an official paper of about this date, I find 'heresy' defined to be 'that which is against Scripture.' 'To say, therefore, that Peter and his successors be heads of the universal Church, and stand stubbornly in it, is heresy, because it is against Scripture (Ecclesiastes v.); where it is written, 'Insuper universæ terræ rex imperat servienti'—that is to say, the King commandeth the whole country as his subjects; and therefore it followeth that the Bishop of Rome, which is in Italy where the Emperor is king, is subject to the Emperor, and that the Emperor may command him; and if he should be head of the universal Church, then he should be head over the Emperor, and command the Emperor, and that is directly against the said text, Ecclesiastes v. Wherefore, to stand in it opiniatively is heresy.' In the spirit, if not in the letter of this monstrous reasoning, Forest was indicted for heresy in a court where we would gladly believe that Cranmer did not sit as president. He was found guilty, and was delivered over, in the usual form, to the secular arm.
An accidental coincidence contributed to the dramatic effect of his execution. In a chapel at Llan Dderfel, in North Wales, there had stood a figure of an ancient Welsh saint, called Dderfel Gadern. The figure was a general favourite. The Welsh people 'came daily in pilgrimage to him, some with kyne, some with oxen and horses, and the rest with money, insomuch' (I quote a letter of Ellis Price, the Merionethshire visitor) 'that there were five or six hundred, to a man's estimation, that offered to the said image the fifth day of this month of April. The innocent people hath been sore allured and enticed to worship, insomuch that there is a common saying amongst them that, whosoever will offer anything to the image of Dderfel Gadern, he hath power to fetch him or them that so offer, out of hell.' The visitor desired to know what he should do with Dderfel Gadern, and received orders to despatch the thing at once to London. The parishioners offered to subscribe forty pounds to preserve their profitable possession, but in vain—Cromwell was ruthless. The image was sent to the same destination with the rest of his kind; and, arriving opportunely, it was hewn into fuel to form the pile where the victim of the new heresy court was to suffer.
May.A day at the end of May was fixed for Forest's death. Latimer was selected to preach on the occasion; and a singular letter remains from him from which I try to gather that he accepted reluctantly ths ungrateful service. 'Sir,' he addressed Cromwell, 'if it be your pleasure, as it is, that I shall play the fool after my customable manner when Forest shall suffer, I would wish that my stage stood near unto Forest, for I would endeavour myself so to content the people, that therewith I might also convert Forest, God so helping, or, rather, altogether working. Wherefore, I would that he shall hear what I shall say—si forte. If he would yet, with his heart, return to his abjuration, I would wish his pardon, such is my foolishness.' The gleam of pity, though so faint and feeble that it seemed a thing to be ashamed of, is welcome from that hard time. The preparations were made with a horrible completeness. It was the single supremacy case which was conducted upon ecclesiastical principles, and where treason was identified with heresy. A gallows was erected over the stake, from which the wretched victim was to be suspended in a cradle of chains. When the machinery was complete, and the chips of the idol lay ready, he was brought out and placed upon a platform. The Lord Mayor, the Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk, Lord Southampton, and Cromwell were present with a pardon, if at the last moment his courage should fail, and he would ask for it. The sermon began. It was of the usual kind—the passionate language of passionate conviction. When it was over Latimer turned to Forest, and asked him whether he would live or die. 'I will die,' was the gallant answer. 'Do your worst upon me. Seven years ago you durst not, for your life, have preached such words as these; and now, if an angel from heaven should come down and teach me any other doctrine than that which I learnt as a child, I would not believe him. Take me; cut me to pieces, joint from joint. Burn—hang—do what you will—I will be true henceforth to my faith.' It was enough. He was laid upon his iron bed, and slung off into the air, and the flame was kindled. In his mortal agony he clutched at the steps of the ladder, to sway himself out of the blaze; and the pitiless chronicler, who records the scene, could see only in this last weakness an evidence of guilt. 'So impatiently,' says Hall, 'he took his death as never any man that put his trust in God.'
Still the torrent rolled onward. Monasteries and images were gone, and fancied relics in endless numbers. There remained the peculiar treasures of the great abbeys and cathedrals—the mortal remains of the holy men in whose memories they had been founded, who by martyrs' deaths, or lives of superhuman loftiness, had earned the veneration of later ages. The bodies of the saints had been gathered into costly shrines, which a beautiful piety had decorated with choicest offerings. In an age which believed, without doubt or pretence, that the body of a holy man was incorporated into the body of Christ, that the seeming dust was pure as Christ's body was pure, and would form again the living home of the spirit which had gone away but for awhile, such dust was looked upon with awe and pious fear. Sacred influences were imagined to exhale from it. It was a divine thing, blessed and giving blessing. Alas! that the noblest feelings can pass so swiftly into their opposites, that reverent simplicity should become the parent of a miserable superstition! The natural instinct of veneration had ossified into idolatry, and saints' bones became charms and talismans. The saints themselves became invisible under the swathings of lies. The serpent of healing had become a Nehushtan—an accursed thing, and, with the system to which it belonged, was to pass away and come no more.
AugustThe sheriffs and magistrates of the various counties received circulars from the vicegerent, directing that 'whereas prayers were offered at the shrines which were due to God only, that the honour which belonged to the Creator was by a notable superstition given to the creature, and ignorant people, enticed by the clergy, had fallen thereby into great error and idolatry,' they were to repair severally to the cathedrals, churches, or chapels in which any such shrine might be. The relics, reliquaries, gold, silver, or jewels, which they contained, were to be taken out and sent to the King; and they were to see with their own eyes the shrine itself levelled to the ground, and the pavement cleared of it. The order was fulfilled with or without reluctance. Throughout England, by the opening of the year 1539, there was nothing left to tell of the presence of the saints but the names which clung to the churches which they had built, or the shadowy memories which hung about their desecrated tombs.
Only in one instance was the demolition of a shrine marked by anything peculiar.
The aim from the beginning of the movement, both of the King and the Parliament, had been to represent their measures, not as new things, but as a reassertion of English independence, a revival of the historical policy of the English kings. From the defeat of Henry II., on the death of Becket, to the accession of the House of Lancaster, the Plantagenet princes had fought inch by inch for the recovery of the ground which had been lost. After sleeping a century and a half, the battle had recommenced; and the Crown was determined to inaugurate its victories by the disgrace and destruction of the famous champion whose spirit still seemed to linger in the field. August 18.On the 18th of August Cranmer informed the vicegerent that he suspected that the blood of St Thomas of Canterbury shown in the cathedral was an imposture, like the blood of Hales, 'a feigned thing, made of some red ochre, or such like matter.' He desired that there might be an investigation, and mentioned Dr Legh and his own chaplain as persons fitted for the conduct of it. The request appears to have been granted, and the suspicion about the blood to have been confirmed. The opportunity was taken to settle accounts in full with the hero of the English Church. Sept. 30.On the 30th of September the shrine and the relics were shown, perhaps for the last time, to Madame de Montreuil and a party of French ladies. October.In the following month the bones of the martyr who for centuries had been venerated throughout Europe, which peers and princes had crossed the seas to look upon, which tens of thousands of pilgrims year after year for all those ages had crowded to reverence, were torn from their hallowed resting-place, and burnt to powder, and scattered to the winds. The golden plating of the shrine, the emeralds and rubies, the votive offerings of the whole Christian world, were packed in chests, and despatched to the treasury. The chiselled stone was splintered with hammers. The impressions worn upon the pavement by the millions of knees which had bent in adoration there, alone remained to tell of the glory which had been. Simultaneously with the destruction of his remains, Becket's name was erased out of the service-books, the innumerable church windows in which his history was painted were broken, the day which commemorated his martyrdom was forbidden to be observed; and in explanation of so exceptional a vehemence an official narrative was published by the Government of the circumstances of his end, in which he was described as a traitor to the State, who had perished in a scuffle provoked by his own violence.
The executions of More and Fisher had convulsed Europe; but the second shock was felt as much more deeply than the first as the glory of the saint is above the fame of the highest of living men. The impious tyrant, it now seemed, would transfer his warfare even into heaven, and dethrone the gods. The tomb of Becket was the property of Christendom rather than of England. There was scarcely a princely or a noble family on the Continent some member of which had not at one time or other gone thither on pilgrimage, whose wealth had not contributed something to the treasure which was now seized for the royal coffers. A second act had opened in the drama—a crisis fruitful in great events at home and abroad.
The first immediate effect was on the treaty for the King's marriage. Notwithstanding the trifling of the commissioners in April—notwithstanding the pacification of Nice, and the omission of the King's name among the contracting parties—Charles succeeded in persuading Wyatt that he was as anxious as ever for the completion of the entire group of the proposed connections; and Henry, on his part, was complacently credulous. The country was impatient to see him provided with a wife who might be the mother of a Duke of York. Day after day the council remonstrated with him on the loss of precious time; and however desirable in itself the Imperial alliance appeared, his subjects were more anxious that he should be rapidly married somewhere, than that even for such an object there should be longer delay.
Charles, meanwhile, on his side continued to give fair words; and the King, although warned, as he avowed, on all sides, to put no faith in them, refused to believe that the Emperor would cloud his reputation with so sustained duplicity; and in August, while still dallying with the French offers, he sent Sir Thomas Wriothesley to Flanders, to obtain, if possible, some concluding answer.
The Regent, in receiving Wriothesley, assured him that his master's confidence was well placed—that 'the Emperor was a prince of honour,' and never meant 'to proceed with any practice of dissimulation.' Whatever others might choose to say, both she and her brother remained in one mind and purpose, and desired nothing better than to see the Duchess Christina Queen of England. October.Her language remained similarly cordial till the beginning of October; and, as the least violent hypothesis is generally the safest, it may be believed that till this time the Emperor had really entertained, or had not as yet relinquished, the intention of bestowing his niece as he professed to wish. But from the end of the autumn the tide turned, and soon flowed visibly the other way. There was no abrupt conclusion—the preliminaries were wearily argued day after day. The English minister was still treated with courtesy; but his receptions had lost their warmth, and with Court and people his favour chilled with the changing season. He was taunted with the English apostasy from the Church. Nov. 20.'It is said that religion is extinct among us,' he wrote in November—'that we have no masses—that the saints are burned—and all that was taken for holy clearly subverted.' Each day the prospect became visibly darker: from cordiality there was a change to politeness—from politeness to distance—from distance to something like a menace of hostility. The alteration can without difficulty be interpreted.
The intentions of the Papal Court had been made known by Michael Throgmorton, in his letter to well. The Pope's movements were, perhaps, quickened when the insult to the martyr's bones became known to him. The opportunity was in every way favourable. France and Spain were at peace; the Catholic world was exasperated by the outrage at Canterbury. The hour was come—the Pontiff rose upon his throne, and launched with all his might his long-forged thunderbolt. Clement's censure had been mild sheet lightning, flickering harmlessly in the distance: Paul's was the forked flash, intended to blight and kill. Reginald Pole, his faithful adherent, had by this time re- written his book: he had enriched it with calumnies, either freshly learned, or made credible in his new access of frenzy. 1539. January.It was now printed, and sown broadcast over Christendom. Paul appended a postscript to his Bull of Deposition, explaining the delay in the issue: not, as he had explained that delay to Henry himself, by pretending that he had executed no more than a form which had never been intended for use; but professing to have withheld a just and necessary punishment at the intercession of the European sovereigns. But his mercy had been despised, his long-suffering had been abused, and the monstrous King had added crime to crime, killing living priests and profaning the sepulchres of the dead. In his contempt for religion he had cited the sainted Thomas of Canterbury to be tried as a traitor; he had passed an impious sentence upon him as contumacious. The blessed bones, through which Almighty God had worked innumerable miracles, he had torn from their shrine of gold, and burnt them sacrilegiously to ashes. He had seized the treasures consecrated to Heaven; he had wasted and robbed the houses of religion; and, as he had transformed himself into a wild beast, so to the beasts of the field he had given honour beyond human beings. He had expelled the monks from their houses, and turned his cattle among the vacant ruins. These things he had done, and his crimes could be endured no longer. As a putrid member he was cut off from the Church.
The book and the excommunication being thus completed and issued, Pole was once more despatched to rouse the Emperor to invasion, having again laid a train to explode, as he hoped successfully, when the Spanish troops should land.
The Pope's intentions must have been made known to Charles before they were put in force, and interpret the change of treatment experienced by Wriothesley. Whether, as a sovereign prince, he would or would not consent to give the active support which was to be demanded of him, the Emperor, perhaps, had not determined even in his own mind; but at least he would not choose the opportunity to draw closer his connection with the object of the Church's censures.
On the 21st of January Wriothesley wrote to Cromwell that he had no more hopes of the Duchess of Milan, and that the King must look elsewhere. 'If this marriage may not be had,' he said, 'I pray his Grace may fix his noble stomach in some such other place as may be to his quiet.' 'And then,' he added, chafed with the slight which had been passed upon his sovereign, 'I fear not to see the day, if God give me life but for a small season, that as his Majesty is father to all Christian Kings in time of reign and excellency of wisdom, so his Highness shall have his neighbours in that stay that they shall be glad to do him honour and to yield unto him his own.'
For the present, however, the feeling of the Netherlanders was of mere hostility. The ruin of England was talked of as certain and instant. James of Scotland and Francis were 'to do great things,' and 'the Emperor, it might be, would assist them.' The ambassador tossed aside their presages. 'These men,' said one of his despatches, 'publicly tell me how the Bishop of Rome hath now given a new sentence against the King's Majesty. I discourse to them how much every of the princes of Europe is bound to his Majesty; what every of them hath to do for himself; how little need we have to care for them if they would all break their faith and for kindness show ingratitude; and I show myself, besides, of no less hope than to see his Majesty, as God's minister, correct that tyrant—that usurper of Rome—even within Rome's gates, to the glory of God, Jan. 21.and the greatest benefit that ever came to Christendom.'
But, though Wriothesley carried himself proudly, his position was embarrassing. The Regent grew daily more distant, her ministers more threatening. The Spaniards resident in England were suddenly observed to be hastening away, carrying their properties with them. Feb. 21.At length, on the 21st of February, a proclamation was sent out laying all English ships in Flanders under arrest. Mendoza was recalled from London, and the common conversation on the Bourse at Antwerp was that the united force of France and the Empire would be thrown immediately on the English coasts.
For a closer insight into the Emperor's conduct, I must again go back over the ground. The history at this point is woven of many fibres.
1538. December.Pole's book was published in November or December. His expedition into Spain followed immediately after; and, feeling some little misgiving as to the Emperor's approbation of his conduct, he thought it prudent to prepare his appearance by a general defence of his position. A rebellious subject engaged in levying war against his sovereign might interest the Papacy; but the example might easily appear more questionable in the eyes of secular princes. His book, he said in an apology addressed to Charles, had been written originally in obedience to orders from England. He had published it when the Pope instructed him to vindicate the severity of the censures. His present duty was to expose in the European Courts the iniquity of the King of England—to show that, as an adversary of the Church, he was infinitely more formidable than the Sultan—and that the arms of the Emperor, if he wished well to the interests of religion, should be specially directed against the chief offender. When the King's crimes were understood in detail the Christian sovereigns would see in their enormity that such a monster must be allowed to vex the earth no longer. He recapitulated the heads of his book, and Henry's history as he there had treated it. In an invective against Cromwell he bathed his name in curses; while he compared the King to Nero, and found the Roman tyrant innocent in the contrast. Finally, he closed his address with a peroration, in which he quoted and applied the prophecy of Daniel on the man of sin. Henry of England was the king of fierce countenance and understanding dark sentences, who was to stand up in the latter time and set himself above all that was called God; whose power should be mighty, but not by his own power; who should destroy wonderfully, and prosper, and practise, and destroy the mighty and the holy people; who should rise up against the Prince of princes, but in the end be broken without hand.
Pole's business was to supply the eloquent persuasions. A despatch from Paul furnished the more worldly particulars which the Emperor would desire to know before engaging in an enterprise which had been discussed so often, and which did not appear more easy on closer inspection. James the Fifth, the Pope said, would be ready to assist, with his excellent minister, David Beton. If only the war with the Turks were suspended, the other difficulties might be readily overcome. The Turks could be defeated only at a great expense, and a victory over them would do little for religion. The heart of all the mischief in the world lay in England, in the person of the King. Charles must strike there, and minor diseases would afterwards heal of themselves.
JanuaryThe English Government had agents in Rome whose business was to overhear conversations, though held in the most secret closet in the Vatican; to bribe secretaries to make copies of private despatches; to practise (such was the word) for intelligence by fair means, or else by foul: and they did their work. Pole's movements and Pole's intentions were known in London as soon as they were known at Toledo; and simultaneously another fragment of information was forwarded from Italy, as important in itself, as, doubtless, the manner in which it was procured was questionable. Access was obtained, either by bribery or other form of treachery, to a letter from some person high in Paul's confidence at Rome, to the Cardinal of Seville; opportunity, perhaps, did not permit the completion of a transcript, but an analysis, with considerable extracts, found its way into the hands of Cromwell. The letter stated that an Irish nobleman, evidently the Earl of Desmond, had sent a confidential agent to the Pope to explain at length the weakness of the English authority in Ireland, to describe the impunity with which the Earl had resisted and despised it, and to state further how the same illustrious personage, for the discharge of his soul, was now ready to transfer his allegiance to his Holiness. 'England,' so Desmond had declared, was in confusion, utter and hopeless. 'Fathers were against sons, husbands against wives, the commonalty risen one against another;' … 'perceiving their divisions, he had been with a great part of Ireland to know their wills and minds, and also with the bishops and the religious houses; and not only the great men of power, but also the people, all with one voice would be ready to give aid against the King of England. He had added a demand which bore some witness to the energy with which Henry had strengthened the Government at Dublin since the Geraldine rebellion. 'Thirty thousand Spaniards,' the Earl said, 'with all things necessary for them, with artillery, powder, ships, galleys, and pinnaces, would be required to insure the conquest.' If these could be landed, Desmond would guarantee success, Ireland should be re-annexed to the Holy See; and he would himself undertake the Government as viceroy, paying a revenue to Paul of one hundred thousand ducats. The expedition would be costly, but the expenses would fall neither on his Holiness nor on the Emperor. Desmond, with armed privateers, would seize and deliver into the hands of the Pope the persons of a sufficient number of the heretical English, whose ransoms would defray the necessary outlay; and an insurrection in behalf of the Holy See might be anticipated with certainty in England itself.
This being the substance of the Irish message, 'His Holiness, perceiving the good mind of these gentlemen in God's behalf, had determined to desire amongst all Christian kings to have aid in this matter for charity, to aid the good Christian people of Ireland.'
'His Holiness says,' concluded the letter, 'that if at the general council amongst the kings he cannot have aid to obtain this holy work, then he will desire them that they will agree and consent that certain pardons may be received in their realms, and that they may give liberty that the bishops may constrain the commonalty to receive the said pardons, and it shall be declared that all such money shall be used for the conquest of Barbary; and that his Holiness will take upon him the said conquest of Barbary with the accord of the Emperor. If the above will not suffice, then his Holiness will give order and desire for the maintenance and defence of the holy faith, to all bishops, archbishops, cardinals, legates, deans, canons, priests, and curates, and also to all sorts of monasteries, to help with certain money which may be needful, to subdue and proceed in this good deed. And he will desire the Most Christian King of France, and also the King of Scots, to have amongst them aid in his behalf, inasmuch as they and their kingdoms are nigh to the said island of Ireland. And immediately that the fleet shall be together to go for Barbary, then shall the most part go for Ireland unto the gentleman that hath written to his Holiness to uphold the Holy See, that his Holiness may sustain Holy Mother Church from that tyrant of England, the which goes to confound the Holy See of St Peter and the governors and ministers of it. And God give unto all good Christians strength to confound the antichrist of England and the dog Luther his brother.'
Never, perhaps, since the beginning of time had such a provision of 'ways and means' been devised for a military enterprise as was found in the financial suggestions of this Papal Hibernian war scheme. Nevertheless, when so many Spanish ships annually haunted the harbours of Munster, a few thousand men might be thrown on shore there without particular difficulty. The exchequer was in no condition to endure a repetition of the insurrection of Lord Fitzgerald, which had cost forty thousand pounds; and, with the encouragement of an auxiliary force, another similar rising, with its accompanying massacres, might be easily anticipated. Though invasion might be confidently faced in England, it was within the limits of possibility that Ireland might be permanently lost.
With such materials in their hands, more skilful antagonists than Paul III. or Cardinal Pole might have accomplished something considerable; but Paul's practical ability may be measured by his war budget; and the vanity of the English enthusiast would have ruined the most skilful combinations. Incapable of any higher intellectual effort than declamatory exercises, he had matched himself against the keenest and coolest statesman in Europe. He had run a mine, as he believed, under Henry's throne, to blow it to the moon; and at the expected moment of his triumph his shallow schemes were blasted to atoms, and if not himself, yet his nearest kindred and dearest friends were buried in the ruins.
Lord Darcy had said that fifteen lords and great men had been banded together to put down the Reformation. Two peers had died on the scaffold. Lord Abergavenny, the head of the Nevilles, was dead also; he was, perhaps, a third. The knights and commoners who had suffered after the Pilgrimage of Grace had not covered the whole remaining number. The names revealed by the Nun of Kent, though unknown to the world, had not been forgotten by the Government. Cromwell knew where to watch, and how.
The country was still heaving uneasily from the after-roll of the insurrection, and Pole's expectations of a third commotion, it is likely, were as well known to the privy council as they were known to the Pope. Symptoms had appeared in the western counties strikingly resembling those, which had preceded the Yorkshire rising, when Cromwell's innocent order was issued for the keeping of parish registers. Rumours were continually flying that the Emperor would come and overthrow all things; and the busy haste with which the coast was being fortified seemed to sanction the expectation. The Pope had made James of Scotland Defensor fidei. Fleets were whispered to be on the seas. Men would wake suddenly and find the Spaniards arrived; and 'harness would again be occupied.' Superstition on one side, and iconoclasm on the other, had dethroned reason, and raised imagination in its place; and no sagacity at such times could anticipate for an hour the form of the future.
Pole's treason had naturally drawn suspicion on his family. The fact of his correspondence with them from Liège could hardly have been a secret from Cromwell's spies, if the contents of his letters were undiscovered; and the same jealousy extended also, and not without cause, to the Marquis of Exeter. Lord Exeter, as the grandson of Edward IV., stood next to the Tudor family in the line of succession. The Courtenays were petty sovereigns in Devonshire and Cornwall; and the marquis, though with no special intellectual powers, was regarded as a possible competitor for the crown by a large and increasing party. Lady Exeter we have already seen as a visitor at the shrine of the oracle of Canterbury; and both she and her husband were on terms of the closest intimacy with the Poles. The Poles and the Nevilles, again, were drawing as closely together as mutual intermarriages would allow. Lady Salisbury was regarded as the representative at once of the pure Plantagenet blood and of Warwick the Kingmaker. Lord Montague had married a daughter of Lord Abergavenny; and as any party in the State in opposition to the Government was a formidable danger, so a union between Lord Exeter, Lady Salisbury, and the Nevilles was, on all grounds, religious, political, and historical, the most dangerous which coidd be formed. It was the knowledge of the influence of his family which gave importance to Reginald Pole. It was this which sharpened the eyes of the Government to watch for the first buddings of treason among his connections.
Exeter's conduct had been for some time unsatisfactory. He had withdrawn for an unknown cause from his share in the command of the royal army on the Pilgrimage of Grace. He had gone down into Devonshire, where his duty would have been to raise the musters of the county; but, instead of it, he had courted popularity by interrupting the levy of the subsidy. The judges on circuit at the same time complained of the coercion and undue influence which he exercised in the administration of justice, and of the dread with which his power was regarded by juries. No indictment could take effect against the adherents of the Marquis of Exeter; no dependent of the Courtenays was ever cast in a cause.
From this and other causes altercations had arisen between Exeter and Cromwell at the council-board. High words had passed on Lord Darcy's arraignment. The Marquis had been compelled to sit as high steward; and Lord Delaware, in an account of the trial, stated that when the verdict was given of guilty, a promise had been exacted from Cromwell to save Darcy's life, and even to save his property from confiscation. Cromwell may have done his best, and Darcy's death have been the act of the King. With Henry guilt was ever in proportion to rank; he was never known to pardon a convicted traitor of noble blood. But the responsibility was cast by the peers on the privy seal. Once it was even reported that Exeter drew his dagger on the plebeian adventurer, who owed his life to a steel corslet beneath his dress; and that Cromwell on that occasion ordered the marquis to the Tower. If the story was true, more prudent counsels prevailed, or possibly there would have been an attempt at rescue in the streets. The relations between them were evidently approaching a point when one or the other would be crushed. Exeter was boldly confident. When Lord Montague's name was first mentioned with suspicion at the council-board (although, as was discovered afterwards, the marquis knew better than any other person the nature of schemes in which he was himself implicated so deeply), he stood forward in his friend's defence, and offered to be bound for him, body for body. This was a fresh symptom of his disposition. His conduct, if watched closely, might betray some deeper secrets. About the same time a story reached the Government from Cornwall, to which their recent experience in Lincolnshire and the north justified them in attaching the gravest importance.
April.The parish of St Kevern had already earned a reputation for turbulence. Here had been born and lived the famous blacksmith Michael Mammock, who forty-five years before had led the Cornish men to Blackheath; and the inhabitants were still true to their character—a wild, bold race, fit instruments for any enterprise of recklessness. A painter from the neighbourhood came one day to Sir William Godolphin, and told him that he had been desired by one of these St Kevern men to 'make a banner for the said parish, in the which banner they would have, first, the picture of Christ, with his wounds, and a banner in his hand; our Lady on the one side, holding her breasts in her hand, St John the Baptist on the other; the King's Grace and the Queen kneeling, and all the commonalty kneeling, with scrowls above their heads, making petitions to Christ that they might have their holydays.' The painter said he had asked what they intended to do with such a banner. The man gave him an incoherent account of certain people whom he had seen at Southampton, when he had been up selling fish there, and who had asked him why the Cornish men had not risen when the north rose; and now, he said, they had promised to rise, and were sworn upon the book. They wanted the banner to carry round among the neighbouring parishes, and to raise the people in Christ's name. Godolpliin would not create an alarm by making sudden arrests; but he despatched a private courier to London, and meanwhile held himself in readiness to crush any mutinous meetings on the instant of their assemblage: 'If there be stirring among them,' he said, 'by the precious body of God I will rid as many as be about the banner, or else I and a great many will die for it.'
Conspiracies against Henry VIII. met usually with ill hick. Lord Exeter had traitors among his domestic servants, who had repeatedly warned the council that all was not right, and that he was meditating some secret movement. At length particular information was given in, which connected itself with the affair at St Kevern. It was stated distinctly that two Cornish gentlemen named Kendall and Quyntrell had for some time past been secretly employed in engaging men who were to be ready to rise at an hour's warning. When notice should be given they were to assemble in arms, and declare the Marquis of Exeter heir-apparent to the throne. Here was the key to the high promises of Reginald Pole. The Government were on the eve of a fresh Pilgrimage of Grace—a fanatical multitude were about to rise again, with a Plantagenet pretender for a leader.
But Henry would not act without clearer proof against a nobleman of so high blood and influence. Cromwell sent orders to Godolphin to secure the man who had ordered the banner. The King despatched two gentlemen of the bedchamber into Cornwall, to make private inquiries, directing them to represent themselves as being merely on a visit to their friends, and to use their opportunities to discover the truth.
The result of the investigation was an entire confirmation of the story. For several years, even before the divorce of Queen Catherine, a project was found to have been on foot for a movement in favour of Exeter. The object had sometimes varied. Originally the enterprise of Blackheath was to have been renewed under more favourable auspices; and the ambition of Cornwall and Devonshire was to avenge their defeat by dethroning Henry, and giving a new dynasty to England. They would be contented now to set aside the Prince of Wales, and to declare Exeter the next in succession. But the enlistment was as certain as it was dangerous. 'Great numbers of the King's subjects' were found to have bound themselves to rise for him. We have here, perhaps, the explanation of these counties remaining quiet during the great insurrection. Exeter himself might have been willing (if the assistance of the Emperor was contemplated he must have been willing) to acknowledge the higher claims of the Princess Mary. But his adherents had possessed themselves of larger hopes, and a separate purpose would have embarrassed their movements. This difficulty existed no longer. Mary could have no claims in preference to Prince Edward; and the fairest hopes of the revolutionists might now be to close the line of the Tudor sovereigns with the life of the reigning King.
October.The meshes were thus cast fairly over Exeter. He was caught, and in Cromwell's power. But one disclosure led to another. At or near about the same time, some information led to the arrest of a secret agent of the Poles; and the attitude and objects of the whole party were drawn fully into light. The St Kevern fisherman had mentioned two men at Southampton who had spoken to him on the subject of the new rebellion. Efforts were made to trace these persons; and although the link is missing, and perhaps never existed, between the inquiry and its apparent consequences, a Southampton 'yeoman' named Holland was arrested on suspicion of carrying letters between Cardinal Pole and his mother and family. There is no proof that papers of consequence were found in Holland's custody; but the Government had the right man in their hands. He was to be taken to London; and, according to the usual mode of conveyance, he was placed on horseback, with, his feet tied under his horse's belly. On the road it so happened that he was met and recognized by Sir Geoffrey Pole, Reginald's younger brother. The worthlessness of conspirators is generally proportioned to their violence. Sir Geoffrey, the most deeply implicated of the whole family, except the cardinal, made haste to secure his own safety by the betrayal of the rest. A few words which he exchanged with Holland sufficed to show him that Cromwell was on the true scent. He judged Holland's cowardice by his own; and 'he bade him keep on his way, for he would not be long after.'
Lord Exeter's chances of escape were not yet wholly gone. His treasons were known up to a certain point, but forgiveness might generally be earned by confession and submission; and Cromwell sent his nephew Richard to him, with an entreaty that 'he would be frank and plain.' But the accused nobleman would make no revelation which would compromise others. His proud blood perhaps revolted against submission to the plebeian minister. Perhaps he did not know the extent to which his proceedings had been already discovered, and still less anticipated the treachery by which he was about to be overwhelmed.
Sir Geoffrey Pole made haste to London; and, preventing the accusations which, in a few days, would have overtaken him, he secured the opportunity which had been offered to Exeter of saving himself by confession. He presented himself to the privy council, and informed them that he, with Lord Montague, the Marquis and Marchioness of Exeter, Sir Edward Neville, and other persons whom he named, were in treasonable correspondence with his brother Reginald. They had maintained a steady communication with him from the time of his legation into Flanders. They were watching their opportunities. They had calculated the force which they could raise, the Marquis of Exeter's power in the west forming their especial reliance. The depositions survive only in portions. It does not appear how far the Poles would have supported Exeter's ambition for the crown; they intended, however, this time to avoid Lord Darcy's errors, and not to limit themselves to attacks upon the ministers. The death of Lord Abergavenny had been inopportune; but his brother, Sir Edward Neville, with Lady Salisbury, would supply his place in rallying the Neville powers. The Yorkshire rising had proved how large was the material of an insurrection if adequately managed; and the whole family, doubtless, shared with Reginald, or rather, to them Reginald himself owed the conviction which he urged so repeatedly on the Emperor and the Pope, that, on the first fair opportunity, a power could be raised which the Government would be unable to cope with.
If it is remembered that these discoveries occurred when the Bull of Deposition was on the point of publication—when the 'Liber de Unitate' was passing into print—when the pacification of Nice had restored the Continent to the condition most dangerous to England—when the Pope was known to be preparing again a mighty effort to gather against Henry the whole force of Christendom, this was not a time, it will be understood easily, when such plottings would be dealt with leniently, by a weaker hand than that which then ruled the destinies of England.
November.Exeter, Montague, and Neville were sent to the Tower on the 3rd and 4th of November. Lady Exeter followed with her attendant, Constance Beverley, who had been her companion on her secret pilgrimage to the Nun. It is possible that Sir Geoffrey's revelations were made by degrees; for the King was so unwilling to prosecute, that ten days passed before their trial was determined on. Lady Salisbury was not arrested; but Lord Southampton went down to Warblington, her residence in Hampshire, to examine her. She received his questions with a fierce denial of all knowledge of the matters to which they referred, and, for a time, he scarcely knew whether to think her innocent or guilty. 'Surely,' he said, in giving an account of his interview, 'there hath not been seen or heard of a woman so earnest, so manlike in countenance, so fierce as well in gesture as in words; either her sons have not made her privy to the bottom and pit of their stomachs, or she is the most arrant traitress that ever lived.' But her rooms were searched; letters, Papal bulls, and other matters were discovered, which left no doubt of her general tendencies, if they were insufficient to implicate her in actual guilt; and one letter, or copy of a letter, unsigned, but, as Southampton said, undoubtedly hers, and addressed to Lord Montague, was found, the matter of which compromised her more deeply. Nov. 16.She was again interrogated, and this time important admissions were extracted from her; but she carried herself with undaunted haughtiness. 'We have dealed with such an one,' the Earl said, 'as men have not dealed with tofore; we may rather call her a strong and constant man than a woman.' No decisive conclusions could be formed against her; but it was thought well that she should remain under surveillance; and three days later she was removed to Cowdray, a place belonging to Southampton himself, where she was detained in honourable confinement.
The general case meanwhile continued to enlarge. The surviving materials are too fragmentary to clear the whole circumstances; but allusions to witnesses by name whose depositions have not been preserved, show how considerable those materials were. The world at least was satisfied of the guilt of the chief prisoners. 'They would have made as foul a work,' says a letter written from London on the 21st of November, 'as ever was in England.' Henry made up his mind that they should be proceeded against. Treason at home was too palpably connected with conspiracies against England abroad; and the country could not risk a repetition of the Pilgrimage of Grace.
While preparations were made for the trials, the King took the opportunity of issuing a calming circular to the justices of the peace. The clergy, as before, had been the first to catch the infection of disorder: they had been again eager propagators of sedition, and had spread extravagant stories of the intentions of the Government against the Church. Emboldened by the gentleness with which the late insurgents had been handled, 'these miserable and Papistical superstitious wretches,' the King said, 'not caring what danger and mischief our people should incur, have raised the said old rumours, and forged new seditious tales, intending as much as in them lyeth a new commotion. Wherefore, for the universal danger to you and to all our good subjects, and trouble that might ensue unless good and earnest provision to repress them be taken thereupon, we desire and pray you that within the precincts of your charges ye shall endeavour yourselves to inquire and find out all such cankered parsons, vicars, and curates as bid the parishioners do as they did in times past, to live as their fathers, and that the old fashions is best. And also with your most effectual vigilance try out such seditious tale tellers, spreaders of brutes, tidings, and rumours, touching us in honour and surety, or [touching] any mutation of the laws and customs of the realm, or any other thing which might cause sedition.'
Dec. 3.And now once more the peers were assembled in Westminster Hall, to try two fresh members of their order, two of the noblest born among them, for high treason; and again the judges sat with them to despatch the lower offenders. On the 2nd and 3rd of December Lord Montague and Lord Exeter were arraigned successively. On the part of the Crown it was set forth generally that 'the King was supreme head on earth of the Church of England, and that his progenitors, from times whereof there was no memory to the contrary, had also been supreme heads of the Church of England; which authority and power of the said King, Paul the Third, Pope of Rome, the public enemy of the King and kingdom, without any right or title, arrogantly and obstinately challenged and claimed; and that one Reginald Pole, late of London, Esqr, otherwise Reginald Pole, late Dean of Exeter, with certain others of the King's subjects, had personally repaired to the said Pope of Rome, knowing him to be the King's enemy, and adhered to and became liege man of the said Pope, and falsely and unnaturally renounced the King, his natural liege lord; that Reginald Pole accepted the dignity of a cardinal of the Court of Rome without the King's license, in false and treasonable despite and contempt of the King, and had continued to live in parts beyond the seas, and was there vagrant, and denying the King to be upon earth supreme head of the Church of England.
Caring only to bring the prisoners within the letter of the Act, the prosecution made no allusion to Exeter's proceedings in Cornwall. It was enough to identify his guilt with the guilt of the great criminal. Against him, therefore, it was objected—
'That, as a false traitor, machinating the death of the King, and to excite his subjects to rebellion, and seeking to maintain the said Cardinal Pole in his intentions, the Marquis of Exeter did say to Geoffrey Pole the following words in English: 'I like well the proceedings of the Cardinal Pole; but I like not the proceedings of this realm; and I trust to see a change of this world.'
'Furthermore, that the Marquis of Exeter, machinating with Lord Montague the death and destruction of the King, did openly declare to the Lord Montague, 'I trust once to have a fair day upon those knaves which rule about the King; and I trust to see a merry world one day.'
'And, furthermore persevering in his malicious intention, he did say, 'Knaves rule about the King;' and then stretching his arm, and shaking his clenched fist, spoke the following words: 'I trust to give them a buffet one day.'
Sir Geoffrey Pole was in all cases the witness. The words were proved. It was enough. Dec. 3.A verdict of guilty was returned; and the marquis was sentenced to die.
If the proof of language of no darker complexion was sufficient to secure a condemnation, the charges against Lord Montague left him no shadow of a hope. Montague had expressed freely to his miserable brother his approbation of Reginald's proceedings. He had discussed the chances of the impending struggle and the resources of which they could dispose. He had spoken bitterly of the King; he had expressed a fear that when, the world 'came to strypes,' as come it would, 'there would be a lack of honest men,' with other such language, plainly indicative of his disposition. However justly, indeed, we may now accuse the equity which placed men on their trial for treason for impatient expressions, there can be no uncertainty that, in the event of an invasion, or of a rebellion with any promise of success in it, both Montague and Exeter would have thrown their weight into the rebel scale. Montague, too, was condemned.
The date of the expressions which were sworn against them is curious. They belong, without exception, to the time when Reginald Pole was in Flanders. That there was nothing later was accounted for by the distrust which Geoffrey said that soon after they had begun to entertain towards him. Evidently they had seen his worthlessness; and as their enterprise had become more critical, they had grown more circumspect. But he remembered enough to destroy them, and to save by his baseness his own miserable life.
He was himself tried, though to receive a pardon after conviction. With Sir Edward Neville and four other persons he was placed at the bar on charges of the same kind as those against Exeter and his brother. Neville had said that he 'would have a day upon the knaves that were about the King;' 'that the King was a beast, and worse than a beast;' 'machinating and conspiring to extinguish the love and affection of the King's subjects.' Sir Geoffrey Pole, beyond comparison the most guilty, had been in command of a company under the Duke of Norfolk at Doncaster; and was proved to have avowed an intention of deserting in the action, if an action was fought—real, bad, black treason. Of the others, two had spoken against the supremacy; one had carried letters to the cardinal; another had said to Lord Montague, that 'the King would hang in hell for the plucking down of abbeys.'
The last case was the hardest. Sir Nicholas Carew Master of the Horse, had been on the commission which had taken the indictments against Exeter, and had said 'that he marvelled it was so secretly handled; that the like was never seen.' The expression brought him under suspicion. He was found to have been intimate with Exeter; to have received letters from him of traitorous import, which he had concealed and burnt. With the rest he was brought in guilty, and received sentence as a traitor. On the 9th of December the Marquis of Exeter, Montague, and Sir Edward Neville were beheaded on Tower Hill. On the 16th the following proclamation was issued:—
'Be it known unto all men, that whereas Henry Courtenay, late Marquis of Exeter, knight companion of the most noble order of the Garter, hath lately committed and done high treason against the King our dread sovereign lord, sovereign of the said most noble order of the Garter, compassing and imagining the destruction of his most royal person in the most traitorous and rebellious wise, contrary to his oath, duty, and allegiance, intending thereby, if he might have obtained his purpose, to have subverted the whole good order of the commonwealth of England, for the which high and most detestable treason the said Henry hath deserved to be degraded of the said most noble order, and expelled out of the same company, and is not worthy that his arms, ensigns, and hatchments should remain amongst the virtuous and approved knights of the said most noble order, nor to have any benefit thereof,—the right wise King and supreme head of the most noble order, with the whole consent and council of the same, wills and commands that his arms, which he nothing deserveth, be taken away and thrown down, and he be clean put from this order, and never from henceforth to be taken of any of the number thereof; so that all others by his example, from henceforth for evermore, may beware how they commit or do the like crime or fault, unto like shame or rebuke.
'God save the King.
- 'December 16, 1538.'
Executions for high treason bear necessarily a character of cruelty, when the peril which the conspiracies create has passed away. In the sense of our own security we lose the power of understanding the magnitude or even the meaning of the danger. But that there had been no unnecessary alarm, that these noblemen were in no sense victims of tyranny, but had been cut off by a compelled severity, may be seen in the consequence of their deaths. Unjust sentences provoke indignation. Indignation in stormy times finds the means, sooner or later, of shaping itself into punishment. But the undercurrent of disaffection, which for ten years had penetrated through English life, was now exhausted, and gradually ceased to flow. The enemy had been held down; it acknowledged its master; and, with the exception of one unimportant commotion in Yorkshire, no symptom of this particular form of peril was again visible, until the King had received notice of departure in his last illness, and the prospect of his death warmed the hopes of confusion into life again. The prompt extinction of domestic treason, in all likelihood, was the cause which really saved the country from a visit from the Emperor. 'Laud be to God,' said an Englishman, 'we are all now united and knit with a firm love in our hearts towards our prince. Ye never read nor heard that ever England was overcome by outward realms, nor dare any outward prince enterprize to come hither, except they should trust of help within the realm, which I trust in God none such shall ever be found.' The speaker expressed the exact truth; and no one was more keenly aware of it than Charles V.
We must once more go back over our steps. The Emperor being on good terms with France, England, obedient to the necessity of its position, again held out its hand to Germany. Is"o sooner had the pacification of Nice been completed, and Henry had found that he was not, after all, to be admitted as a party contrahent, than, without quarrelling with Charles, he turned his position by immediate advances to the Smalcaldic League. In the summer of 1538 Lutheran divines were invited to England to discuss the terms of their confession with the bishops; and though unsuccessful in the immediate object of finding terms of communion, they did not return, without having established, as it seemed, a generally cordial relationship with the English Reformers. Purgatory, episcopal ordination, the marriage of the clergy, were the comparatively unimportant points of difference. On the vital doctrine of the real presence the Lutherans were as jealously sensitive as the vast majority of the English; and on the points on which they continued orthodox the Reformers, German and English, united in a bigotry almost equal to that of Rome. On the departure of the theological embassy, the Landgrave of Hesse took the opportunity of addressing a letter of warning to Henry on the progress of heresy in England, and expressing his anxiety that the King should not forget the duty of repressing and extirpating so dangerous a disorder. His advice found Cranmer and Cromwell as anxious as himself. The Catholics at home and abroad persisted Sept. 25.more and more loudly in identifying a separation from Rome with heresy. The presence of these very Germans had given opportunity, however absurdly, for scandal; and, taken in connection with the destruction of the shrines, was made a pretext for charging the King with a leaning towards doctrines with which he was most anxious to disavow a connection. The political clouds which were gathering abroad, added equally to the anxiety, both of the King and his ministers, to stand clear in this matter; and as Cromwell had recommended, after the Pilgrimage of Grace, that the Articles of Unity should be enforced against some offender or offenders in a signal manner—so, to give force to his principles, which had been faintly acted upon, either he, or the party to which he belonged, now chose out for prosecution a conspicuous member of the Christian brotherhood, John Lambert, who was marked with the dreadful reputation of a sacramentary. Dr Barnes volunteered as the accuser. Barnes, it will be remembered, had been himself imprisoned for heresy, and had done penance in St Paul's. He was a noisy, vain man, Lutheran in his views, and notorious for his hatred of more advanced Protestants. Tyndal had warned the brethren against him several years previously; but his German sympathies had recommended him to the vicegerent; he had been employed on foreign missions, and was for the time undergoing the temptation of a brief prosperity. Lambert, the intended victim, had been a friend at Cambridge of Bilney the martyr; a companion at Antwerp of Tyndal and Frith; and had perhaps taken a share in the translation of the Bible. Subsequently, he had been in trouble for suspicion of heresy; he had been under examination before Warham, and afterwards Sir Thomas More; and having been left in prison by the latter, he had been set at liberty by Cranmer. He was now arrested on the charge preferred by Dr Barnes, of having denied the real presence, contrary to the Articles of Faith. He was tried in the Archbishop's court; and, being condemned, he appealed to the King.
Henry decided that he would hear the cause in person. A few years before, a sacramentary was despatched with the same swift indifference as an ordinary felon: a few years later, a sacramentary had ceased to be a criminal. In the interval, the proportions of the cpime had so dilated in apparent magnitude, that a trial for it was a national event—an affair of vast public moment.
Nov. 16.On the 16th of November, while London was ringing with the arrest of the Marquis of Exeter, the court was opened in Westminster Hall. In the grey twilight of the late dawn, the whole peerage of England, lay and spiritual, took their seats, to the right and left of the throne. The twelve judges placed themselves on raised benches at the back. The prisoner was brought in; and soon after the King entered, 'clothed all in white,' with the yeomen of the guard.
The Bishop of Carlisle rose first to open the case. The King, he said, had put down the usurpations of the Bishop of Rome, but it was not to be thought, therefore, that he intended to give license to heresy. They were not met, at present, to discuss doctrines, but to try a person accused of a crime, by the laws of the Church and of the country.
Lambert was then ordered to stand forward.
'What is your name?' the King asked. 'My name is Nicholson,' he said, 'though I be called Lambert.' 'What!' the King said, 'have you two names? I would not trust you, having two names, though you were my brother.'
The persecutions of the bishops, Lambert answered, had obliged him to disguise himself; but now God had inspired the King's mind, enduing him with wisdom and understanding to stay their cruelty.
'I come not here,' said Henry, 'to hear mine own praises painted out in my presence. Go to the matter without more circumstance. Answer as touching the sacrament of the altar, is it the body of Christ or no?'
'I answer with St Augustine,' the prisoner said; 'it is the body of Christ after a certain manner.'
'Answer me not out of St Augustine,' said the King; 'tell me plainly whether it be He.'
'Then I say it is not,' was the answer.
'Mark well,' the King replied, 'you are condemned by Christ's own words 'Hoc est corpus meum.'' He turned to Cranmer, and told him to convince the prisoner of his error.
The argument began in the morning. First Craiimer, and after him nine other bishops, laboured out their learned reasons—reasons which, for fifteen hundred years, had satisfied the whole Christian world, yet had suddenly ceased to be of cogency. The torches were lighted before the last prelate had ceased to speak. Then once more the King asked Lambert for his opinion. 'After all these labours taken with you, are you yet satisfied? ' he said. ' Choose, will you live or will you die!'
'I submit myself to the will of your Majesty,' Lambert said.
'Commit your soul to God,' replied Henry, 'not to me.'
'I commit my soul to God,' he said, 'and my body to your clemency.'
'Then you must die,' the King said. 'I will be no patron of heretics.'
It was over. The appeal was rejected. Cromwell read the sentence. Four days' interval was allowed before the execution. In a country which was governed by law, not by the special will of a despot, the supreme magistrate was neither able, nor desired, so long as a law remained unrepealed by Parliament, to suspend the action of it.
The morning on which Lambert suffered he was taken to Cromwell's house, where he breakfasted simply in the hall; and afterwards he died at Smithfield, crying with his last breath, 'None but Christ—none but Christ.' Foxe relates, as a rumour, that Cromwell, before Lambert suffered, begged his forgiveness. A more accurate account of Cromwell's feelings is furnished by himself in a letter written a few days later to Sir Thomas Wyatt:—
Nov. 28.'The sixteenth of this present month, the King's Majesty, for the reverence of the holy sacrament of the altar, did sit openly in his hall, and there presided at the disputation, process, and judgment of a miserable heretic sacramentary, who was burnt the twentieth of the same month. It was a wonder to see how princely, with how excellent gravity, and inestimable majesty, his Majesty exercised the very office of a superior head of his Church of England; how benignly his Grace essayed to convert the miserable man; how strong and manifest reason his Highness alleged against him. I wished the princes of Christendom to have seen it; undoubtedly they should have much marvelled at his Majesty's most high wisdom and judgment, and reputed him none otherwise after the same than in manner the mirrour and light of all other kings and princes in Christendom. The same was done openly, with great solemnity.'
The circumstances which accompanied Pole's mission into Spain, and those which occasioned the catastrophe of the marriage treaties, can now be understood. The whole secret of the Emperor's intentions it is not easy, perhaps it is not necessary, to comprehend; but, as it was not till late in the spring that the threatening symptoms finally cleared, so it is impossible to doubt that an enterprise against England was seriously meditated, and was relinquished only when the paralysis of the domestic factions who were to have risen in its support could no longer be mistaken.
The official language of the Spanish Court through the winter 'had waxed from colder to coldest.' On Pole's arrival in the Peninsula, Sir Thomas Wyatt, by the King's instructions, protested against his reception. The Emperor, who in 1537 had forbidden his entrance into his dominions when on a similar errand, replied now that, 'if he was his own traitor, he could not refuse him audience, coming as a legate from the Holy Father.' The next step was the arrest of the English ships in Flanders, and the recall of the Spanish ambassador; and meanwhile a mysterious fleet was collected at Antwerp and in other ports, every one asking with what object, and no one being able, to answer, unless it were for a descent on Ireland or England. Mendoza's departure from London was followed immediately after by the withdrawal of M. de Chatillon, the ambassador of France. 'It is in every man's mouth,' reported Wriothesley, 'that we shall have war. It has been told me that the commission that was sent hither for our matters was despatched only to keep us in hopes, and to the intent that we might be taken tardy and without provision.'
Wriothesley's duty required him to learn the meaning of the arrests. The ministers at Brussels affected to say that the Emperor required sailors for his fleet, and, until it had sailed on its mysterious errand, no other vessels could leave the harbours. The ambassador refused to accept a reply so insolent and unsatisfactory; he insisted on an interview with the Regent herself, and pointing to the clause in the commercial treaty between England and Flanders which stipulated, on behalf of the ships of both nations, for free egress and ingress, he required an explanation of the infringement. 'You give us fair words,' he said to her, 'but your deeds being contrary, the King's Majesty my master shall join words and deeds together, and see that all is but finesse. If you had declared open war, by the law of nations merchant ships should have six weeks allowed them to depart;' while peace remained, they might not be detained a day. FebruaryThe Queen Regent, like her council, gave an evasive answer. The Emperor must be served, she said; the fleet would soon sail, and the ships would be free. She tried to leave him; his anxiety got the better of his courtesy; he placed himself between her and the door, and entreated some better explanation. But he could obtain nothing. She insisted on passing, and he found himself referred back to the council. Here he was informed that she could not act otherwise; she was obeying absolute orders from the Emperor. Wriothesley warned them that the King would not bear it, that he would make reprisals, and 'then should begin a broiling.' It was no matter; they seemed indifferent.
From their manner Wriothesley did not believe that they would begin a war; yet he could feel no security. 'I have heard,' he wrote to Cromwell, 'that the French King, the Bishop of Rome, and the King of Scots be in league to invade us this summer: and how the Emperor will send to their aid certain Spaniards which shall arrive in Scotland; which Spaniards shall, as it were in fury, upon the arrival in Spain of the ships here prepared, enter the same, half against the Emperor's will, with the oath never to return till they shall revenge the matter of the dowager.' 'This,' he added, 'I take for no gospel, howbeit our master is daily slandered and villanously spoken against. It is possible that all shall be well; but in the mean season, I pray to God to put in the King's Majesty's mind rather to spend twenty thousand pounds in vain, to be in perfect readiness, than to wish it had so been done if any malicious person would attempt anything. Weapons biddeth peace: and good preparation maketh men to look or they leap. The Emperor hath made great provision. It may yet be that he will do somewhat against the Turks; but as many think nay, as otherwise. But he maketh not his preparation in vain. England is made but a morsel among these choppers. They would have the Duke of Orleans a king; and the Duke of Guise, they say, will visit his daughter in Scotland. It is not unlike that somewhat may be attempted; which, nevertheless, may be defeated. God hath taken the King's Majesty into his own tuition.'
March.Each day the news from Flanders became more alarming. The wharves at Antwerp were covered with ammunition and military stores. Contributions had been levied on the clergy, who had been taught to believe that the money was to be spent in the Pope's quarrel against the King of England. On the 24th of March two hundred and seventy sail were reported as ready for sea; and the general belief was that, if no attack were ventured, the preparations to meet it, which Henry was known to have made, would be the sole cause of the hesitation. Information of a precisely similar kind was furnished from Spain. The agent of a London house wrote to his master: 'You shall understand that, four days past, we had news how the Bishop of Rome had sent a post to the Emperor, which came in seven days from Rome, and brought letters requiring and desiring his Majesty, jointly with the French King and the King of Scots, to give war against the King our sovereign lord; and all his subjects to be heretics and schismatics, and wherever they could win and take any of our nation by land or sea, to take us for Jews or infidels, and to use our persons as slaves. We have hope that in this the Emperor will not grant the request of his Holiness, being so much against charity, notwithstanding that divers our friends in this country give us secret monition to put good order for the safeguard of our goods; and they think, verily, the Emperor will have war with the King our master this March next, and that the army of men and ships in Flanders shall go against England.'
The thing to be feared, if there was cause for fear, was a sudden treacherous surprise. The point of attack would probably be the open coast of Kent. An army would be landed on the beach somewhere between Sandwich and Dover, and would march on London. Leaving Cromwell to see to the defence of the metropolis, Henry went down in person to examine his new fortresses, and to speak a few words of encouragement to the garrisons. The merchant-ships in the Thames were taken up by the Government and armed. Lord Southampton took command of the fleet at Portsmouth; Lord Russell was sent into the west; Lord Surrey into Norfolk. The beacons were fresh trimmed; the musters through the country were ordered to be in readiness. Sir Ralph Sadler, the King's private secretary, sent from Dover to desire Cromwell to lose no time in setting London in order: 'Use your diligence,' he wrote, 'for his Grace saith that diligence passe sense; willing me to write that French proverb unto your Lordship, the rather to quicken you in that behalf. Surely his Majesty mindeth nothing more than, like a courageous prince of valiant heart, to prepare and be in readiness, in all events, to encounter the malice of his enemies; in which part, no doubt, Almighty God will be his helper, and all good subjects will employ themselves to the uttermost, both lives and goods, to serve his Highness truly.… All that will the contrary, God send them ill-hap and short life.'
The inspection proving satisfactory, Sir Thomas Cheyne was left at Dover Castle, with command of the coast from the mouth of the Thames westward. We catch sight through March and April of soldiers gathering and moving. Lookout vessels hung about the Channel, watching the Flanders ports. One morning when the darkness lifted, sixty strange sail were found at anchor in the Downs; and swiftly two thousand men were in arms upon the sandflats towards Deal. Cheyne never took off his clothes for a fortnight. Strong easterly gales were blowing, which would bring the fleet across in a few hours. 'Mr Fletcher of Rye,' in a boat of his own construction, 'which he said had no fellow in England,' beat up in the wind's eye to Dover, 'of his own mind, to serve the King's Majesty.' At daybreak he would be off Gravelines, on the look-out; at noon he would be in the new harbour, with reports to the English commander. Day after day the huge armada lay motionless. At length sure word was brought that an order had been sent out for every captain, horseman, and footman to be on board on the last of March. In a few days the truth, whatever it was, would be known. The easterly winds were the chief cause of anxiety. If England was their object, they would come so quickly, Cheyne said, that although watch was kept night and day all along the coast, yet, 'if evil were, the best would be a short warning for any number of men to repulse them at their landing.' However, his information led him to think the venture would not be made.
April 7.He was right. A few days later the look-out boats brought the welcome news that the fleet had broken up. Part withdrew to the ports of Zealand, where the stores and cannon were relanded, and the vessels dismasted. Part were seen bearing down Channel before the wind, bound for Spain and the Mediterranean; and Cromwell, who had had an ague fit from anxiety, informed the King on the 19th of April that he had received private letters from Antwerp, telling him that the enterprise had been relinquished from the uncertainty which appeared of success.
Such, in fact, was the truth. The Emperor, longing, and yet fearing to invade, and prepared to make the attempt if he could be satisfied of a promising insurrection in his support, saw in the swift and easy extinction of the Marquis of Exeter's conspiracy an evidence of Henry's strength which Pole's eloquence could not gainsay. He had waited, uncertain perhaps, till time had proved the consequences of the execution; and when he found that the country was in arms, but only to oppose the invaders whom the English legate had promised it would welcome as deliverers, he was too wise to risk an overthrow which would have broken his power in Germany, and insured the enduring enmity of England. The time, he told the Pope, did not serve; and to a second more anxious message he replied that he could not afford to quarrel with Henry till Germany was in better order. The King of France might act as he pleased. He would not interfere with him. For himself, when the German difficulty was once settled, he would then take up arms and avenge the Pope's injuries and his own. Once more Pole had failed. He has been accused of personal ambition; but the foolish expectations of his admirers in Europe have been perhaps mistaken for his own. His worst crime was his vanity; his worst misfortune was his talent—a talent for discovering specious reasons for choosing the wrong side. The deliberate frenzy of his conduct shows the working of a mind not wholly master of itself; or, if we leave him the responsibility of his crimes, he may be allowed the imperfect pity which attaches to failure. The results of his labours to destroy the Reformation had, so far, been to bring his best friends and Lord Montague to the scaffold. His mother, entangled in his guilt, lay open to the same fate. His younger brother was a perjured traitor and a fratricide. In bitter misery he now shrank into the monastery of Carpentras, where he wrote to Contarini, that, if he might be allowed, he would hide his face for ever in mourning and prayer. Often, he said, he had heard the King of England speak of his mother as the most saintly woman in Christendom. First priests, then nobles, and now, as it seemed, women were to follow. Had the faith of Christ, from the beginning, ever known so deadly an enemy?
He went on to bewail the irresolution of Charles:—
'Surely,' he exclaimed, 'if the Emperor had pronounced against the tyrant, this worse antagonist of God than the Turk, he would have found God more favourable to him in the defence of his own empire. I the more dread some judgment upon Cæsar, for that I thought him chosen as a special instrument to do God's work in this matter. God, as we see in the Scriptures, was wont to stir up adversaries against those whom he desired to punish; and when I saw that enemy of all good in his decline into impiety commencing with an attack on Cæsar's honour and Cæsar's family, what could I think but that, as Cæsar's piety was known to all men, so God was in this manner influencing him to avenge the Church's wrongs with his own? Now we must fear for Cæsar himself. Other princes are ready in God's cause. He in whom all our hopes were centered is not ready. I have no consolation, save it be my faith in God and in Providence. To him who alone can save let us offer our prayers, and await his will in patience.'
May.A gleam of pageantry shoots suddenly across the sky. Pole delighted to picture his countrymen to himself cowering in terror before a cruel tyrant, mourning their ruined faith and murdered nobility. The impression was known to have contributed so largely to the hopes of the Catholics abroad, that the opportunity was taken to display publicly the real disposition of the nation. All England had been under arms in expectation of invasion; before the martial humour died away, the delight of the English in splendid shows was indulged with a military spectacle. May 8.On the 8th of May a review was held of the musters of the city of London.
'The King's Grace,' says a contemporary record, 'who never ceased to take pains for the advancement of the commonwealth, was informed by his trusty friends how that the cankered and venomous serpent Paul, Bishop of Rome, and the archtraitor Reginald Pole, had moved and stirred the potentates of Christendom to invade the realm of England with mortal war, and extermine and destroy the whole nation with fire and sword.'
The King, therefore, in his own person, 'had taken painful and laborious journeys towards the sea coast,' to prevent the invasion of his enemies; he had fortified all the coasts both of England and Wales; he had 'set his navy in readiness at Portsmouth,' 'in all things furnished for the wars.' The people had been called under arms, and the 'harness viewed,' in all counties in the realm; and the Lord Mayor of London was instructed by the Lord Thomas Cromwell that the King's Majesty 'of his most gentle nature' would take the pains to see 'his loving and benevolent subjects muster in order before his Excellent Highness.'
The mayor and his brethren 'determined, after long consultation,' 'that no alien, though he were a denizen, should muster,' but only native-born English; and 'for especial considerations, they thought it not convenient' that all their able-bodied men should be absent from the City at once. They would have but a picked number; 'such as were able persons, and had white harness and white coats, bows, arrows, bills, or poleaxes, and none other except such as bare morris pikes or handguns;' the whole to be 'in white hosen and cleanly shod.'
'And when it was known,' says the record, 'that the King himself would see the muster, to see how gladly every man prepared him, what desire every man had to do his prince service, it was a joyful sight to behold of every Englishman.'
White was the City uniform. The lord mayor and the aldermen rode in white armour, with light coats of black velvet, and the arms of London embroidered on them. Massive gold chains hung on their breasts. Their caps were of velvet with plumes; and steel battleaxes were slung at their side. Every alderman was attended by a body-guard, in white silk, with gilded halberds. The richer citizens were in white silk also, 'with broaches and owches,' and 'breastplates studded with silver.' The remainder had white coats of cotton, worked into a uniform, with the City arms, white shoes, and long woven, closely-fitting hose; 'every man with a sword and dagger,' besides his special arms. The whole number to be reviewed were fifteen thousand men, divided into. battles or battalions of five thousand each. The aldermen were at the head each of his ward. The wards were in companies of archers, pikemen, musketeers, and artillery. A preliminary review was held on the evening of the 7th of May. The next morning, before six o'clock, 'all the fields from Whitechapel to Mile-end, from Bethnal-green to Radcliffe and Stepney, were covered with men in bright harness, with glistening weapons.' 'The battle of pikes, when they stood still, seemed a great wood.'
At eight o'clock the advance began to move, each division being attended by a hundred and twenty outriders, to keep stragglers into line. First came thirteen fieldpieces, 'with powder and stones in carts,' followed by the banners of the City, the musketeers, 'five in a rank, every rank five foot from another, and every shoulder even with his fellows;' and next them the archers, five in a rank also, 'and between every man his bow's length.'
After the archers came 'the pikemen,' and then 'the billmen;' the five companies with their officers on horseback, their colours, and their separate bands.
The other divisions were preceded by an equal number of cannon. At the rear of the second, the banner of St George was carried, and the banner of the Prince of Wales. Behind these, 'at a convenient distance,' the sword-bearer of London, in white damask, 'upon a goodly horse, freshly trapped,' with the sword of the City, 'the scabbard whereof was set full of orient pearl.' Here, too, came the splendid cavalcade of Sir William Foreman, the lord mayor, with himself in person—a blaze of white silk, white satin, gold, crimson, and waving plumes—the choice company of the City; the retinue being composed, for their especial worth and approved valour, of the attorneys, the barristers, their clerks, and the clerks of the courts of law, with white silk over their armour, and chains, and clasps.
The first battalion entered the City at Aldgate, before nine o'clock, and 'so passed through the streets in good order, after a warlike fashion, till they came to Westminster.' Here, in front of the palace, the King was standing on a platform, 'with the nobility.' As the troops passed by, they fired volleys of musketry; the heavy guns were manœuvred, and 'shot off very terribly;' 'and so all three battles, in the order afore rehearsed, one after another, passed through the great Sanctuary at Westminster, and so about the park at St James's, into a great field before the same place, where the King, standing in his gate-house at Westminster, might both see them that came forward and also them that were passed before. Thence from St James's fields the whole army passed through Holborn, and so into Cheap, and at Leaden Hall severed and departed: and the last alderman came into Cheap about five of the clock; and so from nine of the clock in the forenoon till five at afternoon this muster was not ended.'
'To see how full of lords, ladies, and gentlemen,' continues the authority, 'the windows in every street were, and how the streets of the City were replenished with people, many men would have thought that they that had mustered had rather been strangers than citizens, considering that the streets everywhere were full of people; which was to strangers a great marvel.
'Whatsoever was done, and whatsoever pains was taken, all was to the citizens a great gladness; as to them also which with heart and mind would serve their sovereign lord King Henry the Eighth, whose High Majesty, with his noble infant Prince Edward, they daily pray unto God Almighty long to preserve in health, honour, and prosperity.'
- Pole to the Bishop of Liège: Epist. vol. ii. p. 41.
- Nott's Wyatt, p. 312.
- Ibid. p. 319.
- Ibid. p. 322.
- Mary's submission dates from the fall of Anne Boleyn. It was offered by her on the instant, in three successive letters; two of which are printed in the State Papers, a third is in MS. in the State Paper Office.
- 'And here Sir Thomas Wyatt shall deliver unto the Emperor the letter written unto him from the said Lady Mary, whereby it shall appear how she doth repent herself, and how she would that he should repent, and take of her the tenour. Whereof it shall like him to consider, it is not to be thought but it will acquit him therein, his Grace, nevertheless, being so good a lord and father to her as he is, and undoubtedly will be.'—Instructions to Sir Thomas Wyatt: Nott's Wyatt, p. 314.
- Cromwell to Wyatt: Nott p. 321.
- State Papers, vol. viii. p. 34.
- 'My lord: this shall he to advertise you that the Imperials and Frenchmen have taken a truce for ten months, which, as we think, be great news, and of great weight and moment. Howbeit, my trust is, the King's Highness knows what is the occasion of this sudden turn, or else it will trouble my brain to think of it.'—Sir William Fitzwilliam to Cromwell: MS. State Paper Office, second series, vol. xi.
- Henry VIII. to Wyatt: Nott's Wyatt.
- Cromwell to Wyatt, November 29, 1537: Nott's Wyatt.
- Better known as Mary of Guise, mother of Mary Queen of Scots.
- Commission of Peter Mewtas to Madame de Longueville: State Papers, vol. viii. p. 10.
- Hutton to Sir Thomas Wriothesley: State Papers, vol. viii. p. 9.
- Henry VIII. to Sir Thomas Wyatt: Nott's Wyatt.
- Same to the same: Nott's Wyatt.
- State Papers, vol. viii. p. 17.
- Hutton to Cromwell: ibid.
- A story passes current with popular historians, that the Duchess of Milan, when Henry proposed for her, replied that she had but one head; if she had two, one should be at his Majesty's service. The less active imagination of contemporaries was contented with reporting that she had said that the English ministers need not trouble themselves to make the marriage; ' they would lose their labours, for she minded not to fix her heart that way.' Sir Thomas "Wriothesley, who was then resident at Brussels, thought it worth his while to ask her whether these words had really been used by her.
'M. Ambassador,' she replied, 'I thank God He hath given me a better stay of myself than to be of so light sort. I assure you, that neither those words that you have spoken, nor any like to them, have passed at any time from my mouth; and so I pray you report for me.'
Wriothesley took courage upon this answer, and asked what was her real inclination in the matter.
At this she blushed exceedingly. 'As for mine inclination,' quoth she, 'what should I say? You know I am at the Emperor's commandment.' 'Yea, madam,' quoth Wriothesley; 'but this matter is of such nature, that there must be a concurrence between his commandment and your consent, or else you may percase repent it when it shall be too late. Your answer is such as may serve both for your modesty and for my satisfaction; and yet, if it were a little plainer, I could be the better contented.' With that she smiled, and again said, 'You know I am the Emperor's poor servant, and must follow his pleasure.' 'Marry,' quoth Wriothesley, 'then I may hope to be among the Englishmen that shall be first acquainted with my new mistress, for the Emperor hath instantly desired it. Oh, madam!' quoth he, 'how happy shall you be if it be your chance to be matched with my master. If God send you that hap, you shall be matched with the most gentle gentleman that liveth; his nature so benign and pleasant, that I think till this day no man hath heard many angry words pass his lips. As God shall help me, if he were no King, I think, an you saw him, you would say, that for his virtue, gentleness, wisdom, experience, goodliness of person, and all other qualities meet to be in a prince, he were worthy before all others to be made a king.' … She smiled, and Wriothesley thought would have laughed out, had not her gravity forbidden it … She said she knew his Majesty was a good and noble prince. Her honest countenance, he added, and the few words that she wisely spake, together with that which he knew by her chambcrers and servants, made him to think there could be no doubt of her.'—State Papers, vol. viii. p. 146.
- 'Mr Wyatt, now handle this matter in such earnest sort with the Emperor, as the King, who by your fair words hath conceived as certain to find assured friendship therein, be not deceived. The Frenchmen affirm so constantly and boldly that nothing spoken by the Emperor, either touching the principal contrahents or further alliance, hath any manner of good faith, but such fraud and deceit, that I assure you, on my faith, it would make any man to suspect his proceeding. Labour, Mr Wyatt, to cause the Emperor, if it be possible, to write.'—Cromwell to Wyatt: Nott's Wyatt, p. 333.
- Wyatt's Oration to the Judges: Nott's Wyatt.
- 'I have received three houses since I wrote last to your lordship, the which I think would not a little have moved your lordship, if ye had known the order of them: some sticking fast in windows, naked, going to drabs, so that the pillar was fain to be sawed, to have him out, some being plucked from under drabs' beds; some fighting, so that the knife hath stuck in the bones; with such other pretty business, of the which I have too much.'—Richard suffragan Bishop of Dover to Cromwell: Suppression of the Monasteries, p. 198
- A finger of St Andrew was pawned at Northampton for 40l.; 'which we intend not,' wrote a dry visitor, 'to redeem of the price, except we be commanded so to do.' Suppression of the Monasteries, p. 172.
- Printed in Fuller's Church History, vol. iii. p. 394.
- Fuller's Church History, vol. iii. p. 398.
- 'According to your commission, we have viewed a certain supposed relic, called the blood of Hales, which was enclosed within a round beryll, garnished and bound on every side with silver, which we caused to be opened in the presence of a great multitude of people. And the said supposed relic we caused to be taken out of the said beryll, and have viewed the same, being within a little glass, and also tried the same according to our powers, by all means; and by force of the view and other trials, we judge the substance and matters of the said supposed relic to be an unctuous gum, coloured, which, being in the glass, appeared to be a glistening red, resembling partly the colour of blood. And after, we did take out part of the said substance out of the glass, and then it was apparent yellow colour, like amber or base gold, and doth cleave as gum or bird-lime. The matter and feigned relic, with the glass containing the same, we have enclosed in red wax, and consigned it, with our seals.'—Hugh Bishop of Worcester, with the other Commissioners, to Cromwell: Latimer's Remains, p. 407.
The Abbot of Hales subsequently applied for permission to destroy the case in which the blood had been.
'It doth stand yet in the place where it was, so that I am afraid lest it should minister occasion to any weak person looking thereupon to abuse his conscience therewith; and therefore I beseech for license that I may put it down every stick and stone, so that no manner of token or remembrance of that forged relic shall remain.'—Abbot of Hales to Cromwell: MS. Tanner, 105.
- Barlow to Cromwell: Suppression of the Monasteries, p. 183.
- Latimer to Cromwell: Remains, p. 395.
- Jeoffrey Chambers to Cromwell: MS. State Paper Office, second series.
- Ibid. MS. State Paper Office, second series.
- 'Invisit aulam regis, regem ipsum novus hospes. Conglomerant ipsum risu aulico barones duces marchiones comites. Agit ille, minatur oculis, aversatur ore, distorquet nares; mittit deorsum caput, incurvat dorsum, annuit aut renuit. Rex ipse incertum gavisusne magis ob patefactam imposturam an magis doluerit ex animo tot seculis misene plebi fuisse impositum.'—Hooker to Bullinger: Original Letters on the Reformation.
- 'He said that blessed man St Thomas of Canterbury suffered death for the rights of the Church; for there was a great man meaning thereby King Harry the Second which, because St Thomas of Canterbury would not grant him such things as he asked, contrary to the liberties of the Church, first banished him out of this realm; and at his return he was slain at his own church, for the right of Holy Church, as many holy fathers have suffered now of late; as that holy father the Bishop of Rochester: and he doubteth not but their souls be now in heaven.
'He saith and believeth that he ought to have a double obedience: first, to the King's Highness, by the law of God; and the second to the Bishop of Rome, by his rule and profession.
'He confesseth that he used and practised to induce men in confession to hold and stick to the old fashion of belief, that was used in the realm of long time past."—Rolls House MS.
- 'The Bishop of Worcester and I will be to-morrow with your lordship, to know your pleasure concerning Friar Forest. For if we should proceed against him according to the order of the law, there must be articles devised beforehand which must be ministered unto him; and therefore it will be very well done that one draw them against our meeting.'—Cranmer to Cromwell: Cranmer's Works, vol. i. p. 239.
- Rolls House MS. A 1, 7, fol. 213.
- Ellis Price to Cromwell: MS. Cotton. Cleopatra, E 4.
- MS. State Paper Office, second series, vol. xxxiv.
- Latimer to Cromwell: MS. State Paper Office, second series, vol. xlix.; Latimer's Letters, p. 391.
- Stow's Chronicle, p. 575.
- Hall, p. 875, followed by Foxe.
- MS. State Paper Office, unarranged bundle. The command was obeyed so completely, that only a single shrine now remains in England; and the preservation of this was not owing to the forbearance of the Government. The shrine of Edward the Confessor, which stands in Westminster Abbey, was destroyed with the rest. But the stones ere not taken away. The supposed remains of St Edward were in some way preserved; and the shrine was reconstructed, and the dust replaced, by Abbot Feckenham, in the first year of Queen Mary.—Oration of Abbot Feckenham in the Parliament House: MS. Rawlinson, Bodleian Library.
- Cranmer to Cromwell: State Papers, vol. i.
- 'The abuses of Canterbury' are placed by the side of those of Boxley in one of the official statements of the times.—Sir T. Wriothesley to Henry VIII. Nov. 20, 1538: State Papers, vol. viii.
- Madame de Montreuil, though a Frenchwoman and a good Catholic, had caught the infection of the prevailing unbelief in saints and saintly relics.
'I showed her St Thomas's shrine,' writes an attendant, 'and all such other things worthy of sight, of the which she was not little marvelled of the great riches thereof, saying it to be innumerable, and that: if she had not seen it all the men in the world could never have made her to believe it. Thus overlooking and viewing more than an hour as well the shrine as St Thomas's head, being at both set cushions to kneel, the prior, opening St Thomas's head, said to her three times, this is St Thomas's head, and offered her to kiss it, hut she neither kneeled nor would kiss it, but (stood), still viewing the riches thereof.'—Penison to Cromwell: State Papers, vol. i. p. 583.
- These marks are still distinctly visible.
- Burnet's Collectanea, p. 494. A story was current on the Continent, aud so far believed as to be alluded to in the great bull of Paul the Third, that an apparitor was sent to Canterbury to serve a citation at Becket's tomb, summoning 'the late archbishop' to appear and answer to a charge of high treason. Thirty days were allowed him. When these were expired a proctor was charged with his defence. He was tried and condemned—his property, consisting of the offerings at the shrine, was declared forfeited—and he himself was sentenced to be exhumed and burnt. In the fact itself there is nothing absolutely improbable, for the form said to have been observed was one which was usual in the Church, when dead men, as sometimes happened, were prosecuted for heresy; and if I express my belief that the story is without foundation, I do so with diffidence, because negative evidence is generally of no value in the face of respectable positive assertion. All contemporary English authorities, however, are totally silent on a subject which it is hard to believe that they would not at least have mentioned. We hear generally of the destruction of the shrine, but no word of the citation and trial. A long and close correspondence between Cromwell and the Prior of Canterbury covers the period at which the process took place, if it took place at all, and not a letter contains anything which could be construed into an allusion to it.—Letters of the Prior of Canterbury to Cromwell: MS. State Paper Office, second series.
So suspicious a silence justifies a close scrutiny of the authorities on the other side. There exist two documents printed in Wilkins's Concilia, vol. iii. p. 835, and taken from Pollini's History of the English Reformation, which profess to be the actual citation and actual sentence issued on the occasion. If these are genuine, they decide the question; but, unfortunately for their authenticity, the dates of the documents are, respectively, April and May, 1538, and in both of them Henry is styled, among his official titles, Rex Hiberniæ. Now Henry did not assume the title of Rex Hiberniæ till two years later. Dominus Hiberniæ, or Lord of Ireland, is his invariable designation in every authentic document of the year to which these are said to belong. This itself is conclusively discrediting. If further evidence is required, it may be found in the word 'Londini,' or London, as the date of both citation and sentence. Official papers were never dated from London, but from Westminster, St James's, or Whitehall: or if from London, then from the particular place in London, as the Tower. Both mistakes would have been avoided by an Englishman, hut are exceedingly natural in a foreign inventor.
- 'We be daily instructed by our nobles and council to use short expedition in the determination of our marriage, for to get more increase of issue, to the assurance of our succession; and upon their oft admonition of age coming fast on, and (seeing) that the time flyeth and slippeth marvellously away, we be minded no longer to lose time as we have done, which is of all losses the most irrecuperable.'—Henry VIII. to Sir T. Wriothesley: State Papers, vol. viii. p. 116.
'Unless his Highness bore a notable affection to the Emperor, and had a special remembrance of their antient amity, his Majesty could never have endured to have been kept thus long in balance, his years, and the daily suits of his nobles and council well pondered.'—Wriothesley to Cromwell: ibid. p. 160.
- See the Wriothesley Correspondence: State Papers, vol. viii.
- Wriothesley to Henry VIII. November 20, 1538; State Papers vol. viii.
- Bull of Paul III. against Henry VIII.: printed in Burnet's Collectanea.
- Wriothesley Correspondence: State Papers, vol. viii.
- Wriothesley to Cromwell: State Papers, vol. viii.
- Stephen Vaughan to Cromwell, Feb. 21, 1539: ibid.
- 'Of the evils which now menace Christendom those are held most grievous which are threatened hy the Sultan. He is thought most powerful to hurt: he must first he met in arms. My words will bear little weight in this matter. I shall be thought to speak in my own quarrel against my personal enemy. But, as God shall judge my heart, I say that, if we look for victory in the East, we must assist first our fellow Christians, whom the adversary afflicts at home. This victory only will ensure the other.'—Apol. ad Car. Quint.
- He speaks of Cromwell as 'a certain man,' a 'devil's ambassador,' 'the devil in the human form.' He doubts whether he will defile his pages with his name. As great highwaymen, however, murderers, parricides, and others, are named in history for everlasting ignominy, as even the devils are named in Holy Scripture, so he will name Cromwell.—Apol. ad Car. Quint.
- Apol. ad Car. Quint.
- Instructions to Reginald Pole: Epist. vol. ii. p. 279, &c. Pole's admiring biographer ventures to say that 'he was declared a traitor for causes which do not seem to come within the article of treason.'—Philips's Life of Reginald Pole, p. 277.
- News which was sent from Rome unto the Cardinal Bishop of Seville Rolls House MS.
- 'There is much secret communication among the King's subjects, and many of them in the shires of Cornwall and Devonshire be in great fear and mistrust what the King's Highness and his council should mean, to give in commandment to the parsons and vicars of every parish, that they should make a book wherein is to be specified the names of as many as be wedded and buried and christened. Their mistrust is, that some charges more than hath been in times past shall grow to them by this occasion of registering.'—Sir Piers Edgecombe to Cromwell: State Papers, vol. i. p. 612.
- 'George Lascelles showed me that a priest, which late was one of the friars at Bristol, informed him that harness would yet be occupied, for he did know more than the King's council. For that at the last council whereat the Emperor, the French King, and the Bishop of Rome met, they made the King of Scots, by their counsel, Defensor fidei, and that the Emperor raised a great army, saying it was to invade the great Turk, which the said Emperor meaned by our sovereign lord.'—John Babington to Cromwell MS. State Paper Office, second series, vol. iii.
- I attach specimens from time to time of the 'informations' of which the Record Office contains so many. They serve to keep the temper of the country before the mind. The King had lately fallen from his horse and broken one of his ribs. A farmer of Walden was accused of having wished that he had broken his neck, and 'had said further that he had a bow and two sheaves of arrows, and he would shoot them all before the King's laws should go forward.' An old woman at Aylesham, leaning over a shop window, was heard muttering a chant, that 'there would be no good world till it fell together by the ears, for with clubs and clouted shoon should the deed be done.' Sir Thomas Arundel wrote from Cornwall, that 'a very aged man' had been brought before him with the reputation of a prophet, who had said that 'the priests should rise against the King, and make a field; and the priests should rule the realm three days and three nights, and then the white falcon should come out of the north-west, and kill almost all the priests, and they that should escape should be fain to hide their crowns with the filth of beasts, because they would not be taken for priests.' 'A groom of Sir William Paget's was dressing his master's horse one night in the stable in the White Horse in Cambridge,' when the ostler came in and began 'to enter into communication with him.' 'The ostler said there is no Pope, but a Bishop of Rome. And the groom said he knew well there was a Pope, and the ostler, moreover, and whosoever held of his part, were strong heretics. Then the ostler answered that the King's Grace held of his part; and the groom said that he was one heretic, and the King was another; and said, moreover, that this business had never been if the King had not married Anne Boleyn. And therewith they multiplied words, and waxed so hot, that the one called the other knave, and so fell together by the ears, and the groom broke the ostler's head with a faggot stick.'—Miscellaneous Depositions: MSS. State Paper Office, and Rolls House.
- Her blood was thought even purer than Lord Exeter's. A cloud of doubtful illegitimacy darkened all the children of Edward IV.
- 'At my lord marquis being in Exeter at the time of the rebellion, he took direction that all commissions for the second subsidy should stay the levy thereof for a time.'—Sir Piers Edgecombe to Cromwell: MS. State Paper Office, second series, vol. x.
- 'The marquis was the man that should help and do them good.' Men said, 'See the experience, how all those do prevail that were towards the marquis. Neither assizes, nisi prius, nor bill of indictment put up against them could take effect; and, of the contrary part, how it prevailed for them.'—Sir Thomas Willoughby to Cromwell: MS. Cotton. Titus, B 1, 386.
- Depositions relating to Lord Delaware: Rolls House MS. first series. 426.
- Depositions taken before Sir Henry Capel: Rolls House MS. first series, 1286.
- 'A man named Howett, one of Exeter's dependents, was heard to say, if the lord marquis had been put to the Tower, at the commandment of the lord privy seal, he should have been fetched out again, though the lord privy seal had said nay to it, and the best in the realm besides; and he the said Howett and his company were fully agreed to have had him out before they had come away.'—MS. ibid.
- Deposition of Geoffrey Pole; Rolls House MS.
- Jane Seymour was dead, and the King was not remarried; I am unable to explain the introduction of the words, unless (as was perhaps the case) the application to the painter was in the summer of 1537, and he delayed his information till the following year.
- Sir William Godolphin to Cromwell: MS. State Paper Office, second series, vol. xiii.
- Wriothesley to Sir Thos. Wyatt: Ellis, second series vol. ii.
- Godolphin's Correspondence: MS. State Paper Office, second series, vol. xiii.
- Instructions by the King's Highness to John Becket, Gentleman of his Grace's Chamber, and John Wroth, of the same: printed in the Archæologia.
- 'Kendall and Quyntrell were as arrant traitors as any within the realm, leaning to and favouring the advancement of that traitor Henry, Marquis of Exeter, nor letting nor sparing to speak to a great number of the King's subjects in those parts that the said Henry was heir-apparent, and should be king, and would be king, if the King's Highness proceeded to marry the Lady Anne Boleyn, or else it should cost a thousand men's lives. And for their mischievous intent to take effect, they retained divers and a great number of the King's subjects in those parts, to be to the lord marquis in readiness within an hour's warning.'—Sir Thomas Willoughby to Cromwell: MS. Cotton. Titus, B 1.
- Deposition of Alice Paytchet: MS. State Paper Office, second series, vol. xxxix.
- Examination of Lord Montague and the Marquis of Exeter: Rolls House MS. first series, 1262.
- 'The Lord Darcy played the fool,' Montague said; 'he went about to pluck the council. He should first have begun with the head. But I beshrew him for leaving off so soon.'—Baga de Secretis, pouch xi. bundle 2.
- 'I am sorry the Lord Abergavenny is dead; for if he were alive, he were able to make ten thousand men.'—Sayings of Lord Montague: Ibid.
- 'On Monday, the fourth of this month, the Marquis of Exeter and Lord Montague were committed to the Tower of London, being the King's Majesty so grievously touched Ly them, that albeit that his Grace hath upon his special favour borne towards them passed over many accusations made against the same of late by their own domestics, thinking with his clemency to conquer their cankeredness, yet his Grace was constrained, for avoiding of such malice as was prepensed, both against his person royal and the surety of my Lord Prince, to use the remedy of committing them to ward. The accusations made against them be of great importance, and duly proved by substantial witnesses. And yet the King's Majesty loveth them so well, and of his great goodness is so loath to proceed against them, that it is doubted what his Highness will do towards them.'—Wriothesley to Sir T. Wyatt: Ellis, second series, vol. ii.
- Southampton to Cromwell: Ellis, second series, vol. ii. p. 110.
- Ibid. p. 114.
- Robert Warren to Lord Fitzwaters: MS. Cotton. Titus, B 1, 143.
- Burnet's Collectanea, p. 494, &c.
- Hall, followed by the chroniclers, says that the executions were on the 9th of January; but he was mistaken. In a MS. in the State Paper Office, dated the 16th of December, 1538, Exeter is described as having suffered on the 9th of the same month. My account of these trials is taken from the records in the Baga de Secretis; from the Act of Attainder, 31 Henry VIII. cap. 15, not printed in the Statute Book, but extant on the Roll; and from a number of scattered depositions, questions, and examinations in the Rolls House and in the State Paper Office.
- The degrading of Henry Courtenay, late Marquis of Exeter, the 3rd day of December, and the same day convicted; and the 9th. day of the said month beheaded at Tower Hill; and the 16th day of the same month degraded at Windsor: MS. State Paper Office. Unarranged bundle.
- Examination of Christopher Chator: Rolls House MS. first series.
- Gibbon professes himself especially scandalized at the persecution of Servetus by men who themselves had stood in so deep need of toleration. The scandal is scarcely reasonable, for neither Calvin nor any other Reformer of the sixteenth century desired a 'liberty of conscience' in its modern sense. The Council of Geneva, the General Assembly at Edinburgh, the Smalcaldic League, the English Parliament, and the Spanish Inquisition held the same opinions on the wickedness of heresy; they differed only in the definition of the crime. The English and Scotch Protestants have been taunted with persecution. When nations can grow to maturity in a single generation, when the child can rise from his first grammar lesson a matured philosopher, individual men may clear themselves by a single effort from mistakes which are embedded in the heart of their age. Let us listen to the Landgrave of Hesse. He will teach us that Henry VIII. was no exceptional persecutor.
The Landgrave has heard that the errors of the Anabaptists are increasing in England. He depicts in warning colours the insurrection at Münster: 'If they grow to any multitude,' he says, 'their acts will surely declare their seditious minds and opinions. Surely this is true, the devil, which is an homicide, carrieth men that are entangled in false opinions to unlawful slaughters and the breach of society.… There are no rulers in Germany,' he continues, 'whether they be Popish or professors of the doctrines of the Gospel, that do suffer these men, if they come into their hands. All men punish them grievously. We use a just moderation, which God requireth of all good rulers. Whereas any of the sect is apprehended, we call together divers learned men and good preachers, and command them, the errors being confuted by the Word of God, to teach them rightlier, to heal them that be sick, to deliver them that were bound; and by this way many that are astray are come home again. These are not punished with any corporal pains, but are driven openly to forsake their errours. If any do stubbornly defend the ungodly and wicked errours of that sect, yielding nothing to such as can and do teach them truly, these are kept a good space in prison, and sometimes sore punished there; yet in such sort are they handled, that death is long deferred for hope of amendment; and, as long as any hope is, favour is showed to life. If there be no hope left, then the obstinate are put to death.' Warning Henry of the snares of the devil, who labours continually to discredit the truth by grafting upon it heresy, he concludes:—
'Wherefore, if that sect hath done any hurt there in your Grace's realm, we doubt not but your princely wisdom will so temper the matter, that both dangers be avoided, errours be kept down, and yet a difference had between those that are good men, and mislike the abuses of the Bishop of Rome's baggages, and those that be Anabaptists. In many parts of Germany where the Gospel is not preached, cruelty is exercised upon both sorts without discretion. The magistrates which obey the Bishop of Rome (whereas severity is to be used against the Anabaptists) slay good men utterly alien from their opinions. But your Majesty will put a difference great enough between these two sorts, and serve Christ's glory on the one side, and save the innocent blood on the other.'—Landgrave of Hesse to Henry VIII., September 25, 1538: State Papers, vol. viii.
- 'They have made a wondrous matter and report here of the shrines and of burning of the idol at Canterbury; and, besides that, the King's Highness and council be become sacramentarians by reason of this embassy which the King of Saxony sent late into England.'—Theobald to Cromwell, from Padua. October 22, 1538: Ellis, third series, vol. iii.
- The history of Lambert's trial is taken from Foxe, vol. v.
- Cromwell to Wyatt; Nott's Wyatt, p. 326.
- Cromwell to Wriothesley: State Papers, vol. viii. p. 155.
- Christopher Mount writes: 'This day (March 5) the Earl William a Furstenburg was at dinner with the Duke of Saxe, which asked of him what news. He answered that there is labour made for truce between the Emperor and the Turk. Then said the Duke, to what purpose should be all these preparations the Emperor maketh? The Earl answered, that other men should care for. Then said the Duke, the bruit is here it should be against the King of England. Then said the Earl, the King of England shall need to take heed to himself.'—State Papers, vol. i. p. 606.
- The negotiations for the marriages.
- Wriothesley to Cromwell: State Papers, vol. viii. p. 165.
- I. e. he was to marry the Princess Mary.
- Wriothesley to Cromwell: State Papers, vol. viii. p. 167.
- 'Within these fourteen days, it shall surely break out what they do purpose to do; as of three ways, one—Gueldres, Denmark, or England; notwithstanding, as I think, England is without danger, because they know well that the King's Grace hath prepared to receive them if they come. There be in Holland 270 good ships prepared; but whither they shall go no man can tell. Preparations of all manner of artillery doth daily go through Antwerp.
'All the spirituality here be set for to pay an innumerable sum of money. Notwithstanding, they will be very well content with giving the aforesaid money, if all things may be so brought to pass as they hope it shall, and as it is promised them—and that is, that the Pope's quarrel may be avenged upon the King's Grace of England.'—March 14, —— to Cromwell: MS. State Paper Office, second series, vol. xvi.
- William Ostrich to the worshipful Richard Ebbes, Merchant in London: MS. State Paper Office, first series, vol. ii.
- Sir Ralph Sadler to Cromwell, from Dover, March 16: MS. State Paper Office, second series, vol. xxxvii. Marillac, who came to England as ambassador from France in March, describes to the Constable the preparations to resist invasion:—
'The King, my lord, is in marvellous distrust as well of the King our master, as of the Emperor. He is confident that they intend to declare war against him; and he is therefore taking measures with the utmost haste for the defence of the realm. He foresees that if attacked at all, he will be attacked in force, and he is calling under arms the whole strength of the realm. As I passed through Dover I saw new ramparts and bulwarks on the rocks which face the sea. They had all been made since the return of M. de Chastillon, and were well furnished with artillery, large and small. No landing at Dover could be attempted now with a prospect of success.
'In Canterbury, and the other towns upon the road, I found every English subject in arms who was capable of serving. Boys of seventeen or eighteen have been called out, without exemption of place or person. The inhabitants of London are formed into a corps by themselves for the protection of the City. French subjects residing here for trade have not been spared; they too have been required to serve, whether they desire it or no. Some have answered bravely that they would not bear arms against their natural Sovereign. Others, taken unawares, have yielded through timidity.
'On the road I met a body of men. I was told there were six thousand of them, going as a garrison to Sandwich. As I approached the City I saw the King's ships and galleys all armed and ready to sail. A multitude of private vessels were fitting at their side with all speed; and when this flotilla goes to sea, and unites with the five-and-twenty or thirty ships at Portsmouth, the whole force will amount to a hundred and fifty sail.
'Merchants' traffic outward or inward is interdicted. Every vessel is under arrest, and no one is allowed to leave the realm. English subjects abroad have received orders to return, and are most of them by this time at home. Artillery and ammunition pass out incessantly from the Tower, and are despatched to all points on the coast where a landing is likely to be attempted. In short, my lord, they have made such progress that an invading force will not find them unprovided. They are prepared on all sides to the very extent of their ability, and the great lords are at their posts as if the enemy were already at their doors.
'The cause of the excitement, my lord, is a conviction on the part of their King that the Emperor, the Pope, and our master, are in a league to destroy him and his realm. The King told me himself that he knew from the best authority that the Most Christian King was concerting measures with the Emperor to fall upon him. Your secretary, my lord, he said, was waiting in Spain to bring you the Emperor's latest instructions. M. de Chastillon's sudden departure gave a show of reason to the alarm. The Emperor's ambassador demanded his passports directly after, and went away without speaking of a successor; and where before there was little doubt that mischief was meant the uncertainty was then at an end. They looked for nothing but immediate hostilities.
'At this moment there is especial agitation on account of the appearance of sixty sail of Flemings, said to be on their way to Spain for the expedition to Algiers. People here do not believe that Algiers is their real destination. They are vessels of large burden, unsuited to the Levant, and the impression is that they are transports. Fifty or sixty more have been discovered by scouts in the harbours of Zealand, and report says that they have ten thousand men on board them.
'These things have placed the King upon his mettle. He has sent troops northward, for he looks to be invaded over the Scottish Border. But his preparations are defensive merely, not aggressive. He will never choose such a time as the present to meddle with his neighbours of his own will, or to seize and fortify any second Calais on the French coast. As matters stand, his great anxiety is to be on friendly terms with our master, for never was our master's friendship of more importance to him.'
- Holinshed, Stow.
- Letters of Sir Thomas Cheyne to Cromwell, March and April, 1539: MS. State Paper Office, second series.
- Cromwell to the King: MS. Cotton. Titus, B 1, 271. On the 15th of April Marillac wrote:
Marillac to the Constable.
[MS. Bibliot. Impér. Paris.]
April 15, 1539.
My Lord,—They are mustering, drilling, and fortifying their exposed frontiers in all directions. They think of nothing else. The Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk, with the other great lords, are away in their counties, providing for the public safety. My lord, no invading force could show itself without the whole nation being warned, and every man will be ready to march wherever danger threatens. Most of the ships have already sailed. Those which remain are chiefly the property of private persons, English or foreign; but there are very few of them which are not in fighting order. Lord Cromwell has ten thousand men twenty-five miles off; and next Friday, St George's day, will be the review in London. There will be from fifty to sixty thousand men, perhaps, for not a man who can bear arms is excused. The foreigners resident have received orders to provide weapons and to appear in the City livery. Indeed, my lord, they are thoroughly prepared; and on the sea, although they have now but a hundred or a hundred and twenty ships, they say they will shortly have a hundred and fifty. Considering the time they have been at work they have not done badly.
- Philips's Life of Pole. Four letters of Cardinal Alexander Farnese to Paul III.: Epist. Reg. Pol., vol. ii. p. 281, &c.
- One of these, for instance, writes to him: 'Vale amplissime Pole quem si in meis auguriis aliquid veri est adhuc Regem Angliæ videbimus.' His answer may acquit him of vulgar selfishness: 'I know not where you found your augury. If you can divine the future, divine only what I am to suffer for my country, or for the Church of God, which is in my country.
εἲς οἰωνὸς ἄριστος, ἀμύνεσθαι περὶ πάτρης.
For me, the heavier the load of my affliction, for God and the Church, the higher do I mount upon the ladder of felicity.—Epist. Reg. Pol., vol. iii. pp. 37–39.
- Epist. Reg. Pol., vol. ii. p. 191, &c. The disappointment of the Roman ecclesiastics led them so far as to anticipate a complete apostasy on the part of Charles. The fears of Cardinal Contarini make the hopes so often expressed by Henry appear less unreasonable, that Charles might eventually imitate the English example. On the 8th of July, 1539, Contarini writes to Pole:—'De rebus Germaniæ audio quod molestissime tuli, indictum videlicet esse conventum Norimburgensem ad Kal. Octobris pro rebus Ecclesiæ componendis, ubi sunt conventuri oratores Cæsaris et Regis Christianissimi; sex autem pro parte Lutheranorum et totidem pro partibus Catholicorum, de rebus Fidei disputaturi; et hoc fieri ex decreto superiorum mensium Conventùs Francford; in quo nulla mentio fit, nee de Pontifice, nec de aliquo qui pro sede Apostolicâ interveniret. Vides credo quo ista tendunt. Utinam ego decipiar; sed hoc prorsus judico; etsi præsentibus omnibus conatibus regis Angliæ maxime sit obstandum, tamen non hunc esse qui maxime sedi Apostolicæ possit nocere; ego ilium timeo quem Cato ille in Republicâ Romanâ maxime timebat, qui sobrius accedit ad illam evertendam; vel potius illos timeo (nec enim unus est hoc tempore) et nisi istis privatis conventibus cito obviam eatur, ut non brevi major scissura in Ecclesiâ cum majori detrimento autoritatis sedis Apostolicæ oriatur, quam multis sæculis fuerit visa, non possum non maxime timere. Scripsit ad me his de rebus primus nuncius ex Hispaniâ; et postea certiora de iisdem ex Reverendissimo et Illustrissimo Farnesio cum huc transiret cognovi cui sententiam meam de toto periculo exposui. Ego certe talem nunc video Ecclesiæ statum, ut si unquam dixi ullâ in causâ cum Isaiâ, mitte me, nunc potius si rogarer dicerem cum Mose, Domine, mitte quem missurus es.'—Epist. Reg. Pol., vol. ii. p. 158.
- Account of the muster of the Citizens of London in the thirty-first year of the Reign of King Henry VIII., communicated (for the Archæologia), from the Records of the Corporation of London, by Thomas Lott, Esq.