History of England (Froude)/Chapter 23
THE DEATH OF HENRY VIII.
A WAR which had exhibited at a critical time the military power of England, repaid its cost in an increase of security; yet, though osculating in separate points with the deeper impulses of the age, it remained as it began, substantially unconnected with those impulses. Beneath the contests of diplomatists, the movements of armies, and the clash of hostile fleets, the tide of inward revolution flowed on upon its separate course, and the conflict, so absorbing while it continued, was but an expensive accident in respect to the vital interests of the nation. The result of greatest importance had been the destruction of pleasant illusions. The conservatives, who had fixed their hearts on the alliance with the Emperor—the Protestants, who would unite the fortunes of the Anglican and German Reformation, had alike been disappointed. The Emperor might remain, while it suited his convenience, a political confederate; in his heart he belonged to the Papacy. The Lutherans, timid and irresolute, had first held out their hand, and had shrunk back when it was accepted. Thus the two parties which divided England were left to determine by themselves the form of their future; and if the moderate good sense of the country could prevent an armed collision between the fanatics of either extreme, it was likely to arrange itself into a compromise. The elements of danger were still considerable; yet the revolution, which had already been securely accomplished, might inspire a reasonable confidence. Sixteen years had now elapsed since the memorable meeting of Parliament in 1529; and in those years the usurpation of Rome had been abolished; the phantom which overshadowed Europe 'had become a laughing-stock; the clergy for four centuries had been the virtual rulers in State and Church; their authority had extended over castle and cottage; they had monopolized the learned professions, and every man who could read was absorbed under the privileges of their order; supreme in the cabinet, in the law courts, and in the legislature, they had treated the Parliament as a shadow of Convocation, and the House of Commons as an instrument to raise a revenue, the administration of which was theirs: their gigantic prerogatives had now passed away from them; the Convocation which had prescribed laws to the State endured the legislation of the Commons, even on the Articles of the Faith; the religious houses were swept away; their broad lands had relapsed to the laity, with the powers which the ownership conveyed with it; the mitred abbots had ceased to exist; the temporal lords had a majority in the House of Peers: and the Bishops battled ineffectually to maintain the last fragment of their independent grandeur.
Tremendous as the outward overthrow must have seemed to those who remembered the old days, the inward changes were yet more momentous. A superstition which was but the counterpart of magic and witchcraft, which buried the Father of heaven and earth in the coffins of the saints, and trusted the salvation of the soul to the efficacy of mumbled words, had given place to a real, though indistinct, religion. Copies of the Bible were spread over the country in tens of thousands. Every English child was taught in its own tongue the Lord's Prayer, and the Creed, and the Commandments. Idolatry existed no longer; and the remaining difficulties lay only in the interpretation of the Sacred Text, and in the clinging sense, which adhered to all sides alike, that to misunderstand it was not an error, but a crime. Here, although Catholic doctrine, not only in its practical corruptions, but in its purest 'developments,' shook at the contact with the Gospels, yet the most thoughtful had been compelled to pause embarrassed. If mistake was fatal, and if the Divine nature and the Divine economy could not be subject to change, to reject the interpretations on which that doctrine had maintained itself, was to condemn the Christian Church to have been deserted for a thousand years by the spirit of truth, and this was a conclusion too frightful, too incredible to be endured. The laity, so bold against the Pope and the monasteries, turned their faces from it into the dogmatism of the Six Articles.
Yet still the genius of change went onward, caring little for human opposition. To move with it, or to move against it, affected little the velocity with which the English world was swept into the New Era. The truth stole into men's minds they knew not how. The King, as we have seen, began to shrink from persecution, and to shelter suspected persons from orthodox cruelty. The Parliament which would not yet alter the heresy law, tempered the action of it, and was rather contented to retard a movement which threatened to be too wildly precipitate than attempt any more to arrest it.
Next to the Bible, there are few things which have affected the character of the modern English more deeply than the Liturgy. The beautiful roll of its language mingles with the memories of childhood; it is the guide of our dawning thought, and accompanies us through each stage of our life with its chaste ceremonials from the font to the edge of the grave. Having been composed at a period when old and new beliefs were contending for supremacy, it contains some remnants of opinions which have no longer perhaps a place in our convictions; but the more arduous problems of speculation are concealed behind a purposed vagueness which shrinks from definition; and the spirit of the Prayer Book is the spirit of piety more than of theology, of wisdom more than of dogma.
Thus, although as an historical document the Liturgy is valuable as a picture of the minds of the English Reformers, it is with a keener interest that we watch the first germs of it passing into the form with which we are so familiar. Two English primers had been published since the commencement of the movement, one in 1535, another under the auspices of Cromwell in 1539; but the first of these was passionate and polemical, the second was slightly altered from the Breviary. If we except the Creed, the Commandments, and the Lord's Prayer, which were attached to the articles of religion sent out in 1536, the earliest portion of our own Prayer Book which appeared in English was the Litany, prepared by the King in the summer of 1544, and perhaps translated by him. On the eve of his departure to Boulogne he sent it, with the following letter, to Cranmer, to be circulated through the country.
'Right Reverend Father in God, right trusty and well beloved, we greet you well; and let you wit that, calling to our remembrance the miserable state of all Christendom, being at this present, besides all other troubles, so plagued with most cruel wars, hatreds, and dissensions, as no place of the same—almost being the whole reduced to a very narrow corner—remaineth in good peace and concord—the help and remedy hereof, far exceeding the power of any man, must be called for of Him who only is able to grant our petitions, and never forsaketh or repelleth any that firmly believe and faithfully call upon Him; unto whom also the examples of Scripture encourage us in all these and others our troubles and necessities to flee. Being therefore resolved to have continually, from henceforth, general processions in all cities, towns, churches, and parishes of this our realm, said and sung with such reverence and devotion as appertaineth, for as much as heretofore the people partly for lack of good instruction and calling, partly for that they understood no part of such prayers and suffrages as were used to be said and sung, have used to come very slackly to the processions, where the same have been commanded heretofore, we have set forth certain godly prayers and suffrages in our native English tongue, which we send you herewith; signifying unto you that, for the especial trust and confidence we have of your godly mind and earnest desire to the setting forward of the glory of God and the true worshipping of his most holy name, within that province committed by us unto you, we have sent unto you these suffrages, not to be for a month or two observed and after slenderly considered, as our other injunctions have, to our no little marvel, been used; but to the intent, as well the same as other our injunctions, may earnestly be set forth by preaching, good exhortation, and otherwise, to the people, in such sort as they, feeling the godly taste thereof, may godly and joyously, with thanks, embrace the same as appertaineth.'
In the year following a collection of English prayers was added to the Litany, a service for morning and evening, and for the burial of the dead; and the King, in a general proclamation, directed that they should be used in all churches and chapels in the place of the Breviary. It was the duty of the sovereign, he said, to endeavour that his subjects should pass their lives devoutly and virtuously, to the honour of God, and the salvation of their souls. Prayer was the appointed and the only means by which such a life was rendered possible; but prayer of the most passionate and ravishing kind was of little profit, if it was an emotion undirected by the understanding; and to make use of words in a foreign language, merely with a sentiment of devotion, the mind taking no fruit, could be neither pleasing to God, nor beneficial to man. The party that understood not the pith or effectualness of the talk that he made with God, might be as a harp or pipe, having a sound, but not understanding the noise that itself had made; a Christian man was more than an instrument; and he had therefore provided a determinate form of supplication in the English tongue, that his subjects might be able to pray like reasonable beings in their own language.
The surest testimony to wise and moderate measures is the disapproval of fanatics of all kinds. Amidst the factions which were raging round him, the King, with his rational advisers, had no desire to swell the clamour; he sought to accomplish something unquestionably genuine and good, which might bear fruit at a future time. But to the eager Protestants the prayers were tainted with Popery; falling short of their own extravagances they seemed as worthless as the Latin forms which they displaced: while the reactionaries, on the other hand, looked on with mere dismay, and watched for some change of fortune, or some fresh access of folly in their adversaries, to compel Henry once more to turn back upon his steps. As the moderate party was gaining ground, the discord between the extremes grew louder and more bitter; and in the midst of it Parliament met, after a longer interval than usual, in November 1545. From the 'Statute Book' it would have appeared that the business of the session had been principally secular, or, at least, had touched but lightly on theological controversy. Fresh war taxes were voted. There were measures of law reform, and for the simplification of landed tenures. A remarkable Act stated that the laws of high treason had been made the instruments of private malice. Anonymous libels had been put in circulation, accusing innocent persons of having used seditious language against the King; and, to prevent the multiplication of calumnies and suspicions, any person or persons who should have published any such charges, and not come forward in his own name to prove his statements in the Star Chamber, should in future suffer death as a felon. The Reformers obtained a victory in the dispensation from the vow of celibacy which was granted to the Knights of St John. A commission was again appointed to revise the canon law; and married laymen were permitted to exercise jurisdiction in the ecclesiastical courts.
The dissolution of the monasteries had shaken the stability of all other religious or semi-religious corporations. Grants for religious uses, of whatever description, were no longer supposed to be permanent; and the founders, or the representatives of the founders, of colleges, hospitals, fraternities, brotherhoods, and guilds, had shown a disposition to resume their gifts. In some places the wardens or the occupiers had been expelled; in others sales had been effected by fraudulent collusion; in others the lands belonging to the foundations had been granted away in leases upon lives, the incumbents securing their personal interests by fines. Irregularities so considerable required interference, and, by a sweeping Act, all such properties were at once vested in the Crown, that the institutions to which they had belonged might be refounded on a fresh basis, if their continued existence was desirable. A momentary panic was created at Oxford and Cambridge, where the colleges expected the fate of the religious houses; and Doctor Coxe, the prince's tutor, who was Dean of Christ Church, wrote, in some agitation, to Sir William Paget: 'Not,' he said, 'that I distrust the King's goodness, but because there are such a number of importunate wolves as are able to devour chauntries, cathedral churches, universities, and a thousand times as much.' The alarm was natural, but it was unnecessary. The King's object was rather to preserve and to restore than to destroy, and the scale and scope of his intentions were soon displayed so clearly as to dispel all uneasiness, by the foundation of the Hospital of St Bartholomew, and of Trinity College at Cambridge.
But the session, if the debates had been preserved to us, would have presented a less tranquil appearance than it wears in the records of its accomplished legislation. From the 'Journals of the House of Lords ' we discover that, November.on the 27th of November, four days after the meeting of Parliament, a fresh heresy bill was brought forward in the Upper House. It was referred to a committee, again brought in, discussed at length, and again set aside for consideration; finally, it was passed without a dissentient voice, and sent down to the Commons, where it disappeared. No hint remains of the provisions of this bill. The objects of it are described as the abolition of heresies, and the suppression of certain books infected with false opinions. Perhaps it was some severe measure of arbitrary repression, introduced by the reactionaries; perhaps it was a moderate endeavour to check Anabaptist and Puritan excesses, and was withdrawn or relinquished from experience of the past feebleness of legislative interference with opinion. The progress of the bill may have been stopped by the Lower House; it may have been arrested by the Crown. But, at all events, the phenomenon of the attempt and of the failure is not a little remarkable, and connects itself with a memorable scene with which the session was closed. December.On the 24th of December, the King for the last time in his life appeared in Parliament for the prorogation. When the business was over and the address was presented, the chancellor was beginning as usual to reply in his name, when Henry unexpectedly rose from his seat, and, with a half-apology for the interruption, requested to be allowed to speak in his own person.
The address had contained the ordinary compliments to royalty. The King commenced by saying that he regarded such expressions rather as a point of rhetoric, to put him in remembrance of qualities lacking in him, which he would use his endeavours to obtain; and he trusted his hearers would help him with their prayers. If any point or iota of them were already in him, God was therefore to be thanked, and not he, from whom came all goodness and virtuous quality. He then thanked the Houses for their liberality in the grant of the subsidy, for which, however, he said, considering it was to be employed not for his own use, but for the safety of the commonwealth, he felt not so much obliged, as for the permission which they had given him to dispose as he should think good of the chantries and colleges. This measure he accepted as a proof of their confidence as well in his integrity as in his discretion; and they would see in the dispositions which he intended to make, that he desired to serve God faithfully, and to provide for the wants of the poor.
His manner was unusual. 'He spoke,' said Sir John Mason, 'so sententiously, so kingly, so rather fatherly,' that he was listened to with peculiar emotion.
He had spoken of the business of the session. He then paused—hesitated—his voice shook—he burst into tears.
The present, he said, was not the first time that his subjects had allowed him to see their affection for him; he trusted that they knew that, as their hearts were towards him, so was his heart towards them. One other thing there was, however, in which he could not work alone; and he must call upon them all to help him, in the name and for the honour of Almighty God.
'I hear,' he continued, 'that the special foundation of our religion being charity between man and man, it is so refrigerate as there was never more dissension and lack of love between man and man, the occasions whereof are opinions only and names devised for the continuance of the same. Some are called Papists, some Lutherans, and some Anabaptists; names devised of the devil, and yet not fully without ground, for the severing of one man's heart by conceit of opinion from the other. For the remedy whereof, I desire, first, every man of himself to travel first for his own amendment. Secondly, I exhort the bishops and clergy, who are noted to be the salt and lamps of the world, by amending of their divisions, to give example to the rest, and to agree especially in their teaching which, seeing there is but one truth and verity, they may easily do, calling therein for the aid of God. Finally, I exhort the nobles and the lay fee not to receive the grace of God in vain; and albeit, by the instinct of God, the Scriptures have been permitted unto them in the English tongue, yet not to take upon them the judgment and exposition of the same, but reverendly and humbly, with fear and dread, to receive and use the knowledge which it hath pleased God to show unto them, and in any doubt to resort unto the learned, or at best the higher powers. I am very sorry to know and hear how unreverendly that precious jewel the Word of God is disputed, rhymed, sung, and jangled in every alehouse and tavern. This kind of man is depraved, and that kind of man; this ceremony and that ceremony. Of this I am sure, that charity was never so faint among you; and God Himself, amongst Christians, was never less reverenced, honoured, and served. Therefore, as I said before, be in charity one with another, like brother and brother. Have respect to the pleasing of God, and then I doubt not that love I spake of shall never be dissolved betwixt us. Then may I justly rejoice that thus long I have lived to see this day, and you, by verity, conscience, and charity between yourselves, may in this point, as you be in divers others, accounted among the rest of the world as blessed men.'
With these words Henry passed down from the throne and departed. Many of his hearers had been overcome, like himself, and were in tears; both in Parliament and the country a sensation was created, profound while it lasted; and perhaps it might have been more permanent in its effects, had not the remedy which the King prescribed been the exercise of the one virtue for ever unknown in controversies of religion. Yet, although the admonition was addressed to all sides, it was a declaration in favour of freedom. It prescribed toleration, which the Catholics considered to be a crime. It prescribed charity where they believed it to be their duty to hate. 1546. January.In January their alarm was increased by a circular prepared at the King's desire by Cranmer, forbidding the adoration of the cross on Palm Sunday and the ringing of bells on All-hallows Eve, which was a relic of Pagan superstition. Gardiner, who at the moment was busy completing at Brussels the revision of the treaty with the Emperor, succeeded in suspending for the moment the issue of the order. He assured the King that, if such an evidence of English tendencies was given to the world, his labours would be fruitless. But the intention was none the less alarming to the Bishop of Winchester's supporters, none the less encouraging to their opponents. The orthodox faction were still powerful. They had the law upon their side; the Duke of Norfolk stood by them, stoutly supported by Wriothesley, who was now chancellor, and the body of the peers. If they had failed in their late heresy bill, they had still the Six Articles to fall back upon; and as the King was as anxious as he had ever been to check the extravagances with whicn tne Protestant preachers were outraging the prejudices of the people, they had the advantage of a defensive position, and they determined to use their power so long as it remained to them.
They had not long to wait for their opportunity. Many of the chantries had been suppressed under the late Act, and their disappearance, if left to its silent operation, would have carried its own lesson. Dr Crome, a loud advocate of the party of movement, with the appetite for inconvenient dilemmas which belongs so frequently to clever unwise men, preached a sermon at the Mercers' Chapel, in which he worked the statute into an argument against purgatory. Either, he said, the mass priests ought to have been maintained, and a wrong had been done to the souls of those who had left lands to support them, or the singing of masses by living men did not and could not affect the condition of those souls. The reasoning was unanswerable; but where a victory is to be gained over a deep-rooted prejudice, sensible men are contented with the acceptance of premises, and leave the conclusions to follow of themselves. The preacher was invited, by an order from the King, to explain himself at Paul's Cross. He was warned to be careful 'of his brethren in London; not to yield to their fantasies; and to beware that he said not that he came not to recant.' May.He shuffled in the usual manner; he trifled as Jerome had trifled; and he was then summoned before the council, when he was compelled into a formal abjuration.
If the evil had rested with himself, his impatience would have met with a not undeserved reward; but the spirit of persecution once aroused, would not be appeased without a victim; and an attempt was next made to destroy a more formidable person.
Since his resignation of his bishopric, Latimer had remained in retirement; but his silence had not softened the exasperation which he had before provoked; Crome had received advice from him which might perhaps be heretical; he was sent for and examined.
More than once before, Latimer had been saved by the King. He was out of danger on the great point of transubstantiation, for he still adhered to the old belief; and in any lighter matter he felt that he might trust to the same support and defy the danger. The council 'ministered unto him an oath, with divers interrogatories.' He would not answer them. It was dangerous, he said; and their proceeding was more extreme than if he lived under the Turk. He was told that it was the King's will. He was altogether doubtful of that, he replied, 'and desired to speak with his Majesty himself.' He had been told that it was the King's will that he should give up his bishopric; and he found afterwards that the King had willed nothing of the kind, and had 'pitied his condition.' He was rebuked for his disrespect, but he was very indifferent; and when pressed further with questions, 'he answered them,' the council said, 'in such sort as they were left as wise as they were before.' A physician named Huick was next called in; but he imitated Latimer, and appealed. He drew up a statement of his belief in writing; but, in a purposed contempt of his examiners, he added to his answer that it was for the King only, and he desired that 'two or three gentlemen of the privy chamber' might take charge of it.
The council laid the behaviour of the prisoners before Henry, and the Reformers seemed to be bent on making their protection as difficult as possible; but, so far as we can discover by the event, the appeal was allowed, and they were troubled no further. Except against those who were heretical on the eucharist, it was plain that no further persecution would be permitted; and even here the Bishop of Winchester felt his prey sliding from his grasp. His enemies were in Parliament, on the council board, in the royal household, perhaps on the throne itself; and it seems to have been on this occasion that an attempt was made against Henry's last Queen. Unvouched for, unalluded to by any contemporary authority as yet discovered, diluted through Protestant tradition for two generations, till it reached the ears of Foxe, the popular legend can pretend to no authenticity of detail. We can believe, however, that, if the Queen had been actively encouraging the more vehement forms of Protestantism in the palace, she must have added materially to the difficulties of the King's position; that Gardiner brought complaints against her; that the King examined into them, and finding that the story was either an invention, or was maliciously exaggerated, dismissed the accusers with a reproof, as he had dismissed them before in their attacks upon Cranmer.
Success in a lower quarter, however, was still possible to the persecutors. John Lascelles, one of the gentlemen of the bed-chamber, had been examined with Crome and Latimer. He had declined to reply to the questions which were submitted to him unless he had a promise of the King's protection; but while in prison he collected his courage, and wrote a deliberate denial of the real presence. Three other persons were at the same time convicted of the same offence. Nicholas Belemian, a Shropshire priest, John Adams, a tailor, and a lady, the tragedy of whose martyrdom, being visible in all its details, overshadows the fate of her fellow-sufferers.
June.Anne, daughter of Sir William Ascue, was born at Kelsey, in Lincolnshire. In her early youth or womanhood she must have remembered the rebellion in which her father was, perhaps, unwillingly implicated, and she must have lived surrounded by the passions which it had roused. She was married to a violent conservative, a gentleman named Kyme; but from some cause she was unable to follow in the track of her husband and father; she became a Protestant, and was disowned and disclaimed by them; and then we find that she was to be seen from time to time in the aisles of Lincoln Cathedral reading the Bible, with groups of priests, in twos and threes, approaching to reason with her, 'yet going their ways again without words spoken.' In March, 1545, she was first arrested, in London. She was examined before the Lord Mayor, and afterwards brought before the Bishop of London, Bonner, who had a certain kind of coarse good nature amidst his many faults, treated her with courtesy. The Mayor had sent in a collection of idle exaggerated charges against her. Some of them she denied; some of them she passed over and avoided, and the Bishop would not press upon her hardly. He said that he was sorry for her trouble. If her conscience was disturbed, he trusted that she would be open with him, and no advantage should be taken of anything which she might say. When she declined to accept him for her confessor, he was ready to assist her to escape from her position. He drew up an orthodox formula on the real presence, which he desired her to sign. She took a pen, and wrote at the foot of the paper that she believed all manner of things contained in the faith of the Church; and, although irritated by the palpable evasion, Bonner allowed it to pass. She was remanded to prison for a few days, and then dismissed upon bail; and the Bishop, with, perhaps, a kinder purpose than that which Foxe attributes to him, of calumniating a Protestant saint, entered in his register that Anne Ascue had appeared before him, and had made an adequate profession of her belief
But her name was written among those who were to serve Heaven in their deaths rather than their lives. The following summer she was again seized and brought before the inquisitors, whose appetite had been sharpened by the escape of Latimer. The Gardiner and Wriothesley faction were now her judges. They required her to state explicitly her opinion on the eucharist; and she knew this time that they would either kill her or force her to deny her faith. 'She would not sing the Lord's song in a strange land,' she said; and when Gardiner told her that she spoke in parables, she answered as another had answered, 'If I tell you the truth, ye will not believe me.' She was questioned for five weary hours, but nothing could be extracted from her; and the day after, attempts were made to shake her resolution by private persuasion. The brilliant worldly Paget, to whom confessions of faith 'were no things to die for,' put out the eloquence which had foiled the diplomatists of Europe. His arguments fell off like arrows from enchanted armour. Lord Lisle and Lord Parr, who believed as she believed, tried to prevail on her to say as they said. 'It was shame for them,' she replied, 'to counsel contrary to their knowledge.' Gardiner told her she would be burnt. 'God,' she answered, 'laughed his threatenings to scorn.'
She was taken to Newgate, and, as if to insure her sentence with her own hands, she wrote—
'The bread is but a remembrance of his death, or a sacrament of thanksgiving for it. Written by me, Anne Ascue, that neither wish death, nor yet fear his might, and as merry as one that is bound towards Heaven.'
Her formal trial followed at the Guildhall, where she reasserted the same belief: 'That which you call your God,' she said, 'is a piece of bread; for proof thereof let it lie in a box three months and it will be mouldy. I am persuaded it cannot be God.'
The duty of a judge is to decide by the law, not by his conscience. If there had been a desire to acquit, the judges had no choice before them. After sentence of death had been passed upon her she was taken back to prison, where she wrote a letter to the King, not asking for mercy, but firmly and nobly asserting that she was innocent of crime. She enclosed it under cover to Wriothesley. Whether the chancellor delivered it or kept it, the law was left to take its course.
But the execution was delayed. The Anglo-Catholics had gained but half their object, and they required evidence from her, if possible, which would implicate higher offenders. The state of the King's health made the prospect of a long minority more near and more certain. Lord Audeley and the Duke of Suffolk, who had held a middle place by the side of the King, had died in the past year. The two parties in the Government were more sharply divided and more anxious to shake each other's credit. A strange incident was connected with Anne Ascue's imprisonment. She was found in possession of more comforts than the customs of Newgate supplied: when she was required to confess how she obtained them, it appeared that 'her maid went abroad into the streets and made moan to the prentices, and they by her did send in money.' But this explanation, so touching in its simplicity, failed to satisfy her questioners. They suspected Hertford and Cranmer, and perhaps the Queen; and could they prove their complicity, they had insured their own victory and the ruin of their rivals. The condemned lady was taken from Newgate to the Tower, where the chancellor and the solicitor- general were waiting for her. She was asked if Lady Hertford, the Duchess of Suffolk, or Lady Fitzwilliam belonged to her sect. She refused to say. They told her that they knew she had been maintained by certain members of the council, and they must have their names. She was still silent. 'Then,' she says (and this is no late legend or lying tradition, but a mere truth related at first hand, from the pen of the sufferer herself), 'they did put me on the rack because I confessed no ladies or gentlemen to be of my opinion, and thereupon they kept me a long time; and because I lay still and did not cry, my Lord Chancellor and Master Rich took pains to rack me with their own hands till I was nigh dead.' Sir Anthony Knyvet, the Lieutenant of the Tower, lifted her off in his arms. She swooned, and was laid on the floor; and when she recovered, the chancellor remained two hours longer labouring to persuade her to recant. But, as she said, she thanked God she had strength left to persevere; she preferred to die, and to death they left her.
July.On the 16th of July she was carried out with her three companions to the scene of so many horrors, and chained to a stake. Four members of the council, brought thither, it is to be said, by duty, not by curiosity or vindictiveness, took their places on a raised bench in front of St Bartholomew's Church, and when all preparations were completed, Shaxton, once the most troublesome of the Protestants, now, in the recoil of cowardice degenerate into a persecutor, preached a sermon. The sufferers listened calmly, and when the preacher ceased Wriothesley sent them their pardons on condition of recantation. But neither Anne nor her companions would even look at them. They merely said they were not come thither to deny their Lord and Master. The Mayor rose, and exclaimed, 'Fiat Justitia,' and the pile was lighted.
That the persecution had not been instigated by the King is evident from the whole tenor of his later years, and from the confidence with which all accused persons appealed to him. While these trials were going forward he was pressed by the bishops to issue a proclamation for the surrender of the forbidden volumes of Protestant theology. He consented, but he accompanied the order with a promise that no person who might bring in such volumes should be in danger for their possession under existing statutes; and he directed 'that no bishop, chancellor, commissary, sheriff, or constable should be curious to mark' who the persons were. He had ceased to sympathize with bigotry; how far he had endeavoured to check it is as difficult to know, as the extent of his responsibility is difficult to measure. It is no easy thing for a sovereign, when he sees his way but doubtfully, to set aside the law, in the face of a powerful party. But, after these last executions, he seems to have been finally revolted, and to have shaken himself free, by a resolute effort, of the whole accursed superstition. July 8.The persecutors, who had extended their operations into the counties, as well as exerted themselves in the capital, proceeded in the confidence of success to seize another member of the household, Sir George Blage. He was taken to the Guildhall, accused of heresy on the sacrament, tried and condemned. Only at the last moment Henry received an intimation of his servant's danger through Lord Russell; but he required him by a royal warrant to be instantly set at liberty.
The first step was followed up by a public evidence of his intentions far more marked. As long as he was embarrassed with the war his advances to the Germans were explained, and perhaps in their earlier stages had been caused, by political convenience. He was now himself at peace, and the danger from the Emperor, so long foreseen, was on the point of bursting upon Saxony. Their recent treatment of England had imposed but a slight obligation on the King; to interfere to help the Lutheran princes. August 30.He now once more, as if to signify to his own subjects and to the world his resolution to go forward with the Reformation, offered to unite with them in a league offensive and defensive, to be called 'the League Christian.' Inasmuch as he would be called on for larger contributions than any other prince, he desired for himself the principal authority; but his object, he said, was 'nothing more than the sincere union and conjunction of them all together in one godly and Christian judgment and opinion in religion, following the Holy Scriptures or the determination of the Primitive Church' in the first general councils. He entreated again that their 'learned men' would come to England, and settle with him their minor differences, and 'so, they being united and knit together in one strength and religion, it might be called indeed a very Christian league and confederacy.' At the same time he surprised Cranmer by telling him that he was prepared for the change at home of the mass into the modern communion. The danger for which Anne of Cleves had been divorced, for which Cromwell had been hunted to death, which the whole energies of the Anglo-Catholics had for ten years been exerted to prevent, had returned at last, and, as it seemed, irresistibly. The Germans, indeed, were so blind to their peril as again to hesitate, and to demand impossible conditions. September.The false promises of the French betrayed them to their ruin. But the King's intentions remained unaffected. Slow to resolve, he was never known to relinquish a resolution which once he had formed; and Elizabeth did but conclude and establish the changes which her father would have anticipated had another year of life been allowed to him.
But time was soon to exist no more for Henry. Well done or ill, his work on earth, was nearly finished. In a few more weeks he was to die. November.It was evident to himself and to all about him that the end was near. The wound in his leg had deepened and spread: he could no longer walk or stand, but he reclined upon a couch and was wheeled from room to room. His death might easily be close at hand. It could not be distant. Under such circumstances what were the prospects of the kingdom? The prince was but nine years old; and the saying 'Woe to the land where the king is a child,' was at that moment signally illustrated in the misery of Scotland. The baby-queen was a plaything, as Henry described it, 'among a sort of wolves'—was that to be the fortune of the boy for whom he and his country had so passionately longed? The Earl of Hertford was the person on whose natural affection he could most surely calculate; and Hertford was true to the Reformation. But a protectorate in the hands of a leader of one of two great parties regarding each other with the animosity which only religion could inspire, was a precarious experiment, and there were personal objections to the choice of no inconsiderable magnitude.
Hertford was hated as a parvenu by the old nobility, and by the smaller landowners, who with feudal deference accepted their opinions from the aristocracy; he was dreaded as a heretic by the whole body of the conservatives, whether laity or clergy. His popularity with the army which he had gained by his military successes, and the support of the enthusiastic but ungovernable Reformers, might have enabled him to make head as a leader in civil war, but would assist him little in carrying on the Government. Nor is it likely that the King could wholly place confidence in him. Able without being wise, the Earl possessed precisely the qualities which would be most dangerous to him if trusted with power in an arduous crisis.
Had the conservatives been prudent, they had a fair game in their hands; a power so great as to have compelled Henry VIII. to temporize with it would have recovered its influence with little difficulty in the necessary weakness of a minority. But, either their own hasty anxiety, or the headstrong ambition of one of their leaders, betrayed their interests prematurely, and secured the easy accomplishment of a Protestant revolution. In relating the story of the trial and execution of Lord Surrey, which historians have unanimously described as a gratuitous murder, it will be desirable for me to state with much nakedness the grounds on which I have formed a different opinion.
During the discussions on the succession which had preceded and occasioned the divorce of Queen Catherine, the Duke of Norfolk had been spoken of among those who were likely, in the event of the King's death, to succeed to the crown. Any hopes which he might have formed disappeared necessarily with the birth of the prince; but he remained one of the most powerful noblemen in England, and since the death of the Duke of Suffolk was without an equal in rank among the peers. He consistently declared and consistently conducted himself as the champion of Catholic doctrine. December.His expressions on the fall of Cromwell betrayed a regret even for the separation irom the Papacy,—as indeed the Anglicans generally were learning that there was no true standing ground for opinions divorced from their natural connection. To his father's hereditary sentiments Lord Surrey added a more than hereditary scorn of the 'new men' whom the change of times was bringing like the scum to the surface of the State, and an ambition which no portion of his father's prudence taught him to restrain. With brilliant genius, with reckless courage, with a pride which would brook no superior, he united a careless extravagance which had crippled him with debt, and a looseness of habit which had brought him unfavourably under the notice of the Government. So far a brief imprisonment had been considered sufficient punishment for an ordinary folly. He had done good service abroad, which the defeat at St Etienne had but partially eclipsed. There is no appearance that suspicion of any kind continued to attach to him.
Suddenly, however, there was a change. At the end of November, 1546, when the King's illness was notoriously dangerous, and he was in greatest embarrassment as to the settlement of the kingdom, it became known that the young lord had made an alteration in his shield; that where he was entitled to bear the arms of England in the second quarter, as a collateral descendant of the Plantagenets, he had assumed the quarterings which belonged especially and only to the heir-apparent to the throne. The Earl of Surrey's arms was not a subject entirely new. We may feel assured that, when the riot was inquired into, the remarks of his friends upon his family and his prospects had not been overlooked. A new and extraordinary affectation in the same matter naturally attracted notice. Questions were asked at the College of Heralds, where it appeared that Lord Surrey had inquired whether he might legitimately assume the royal bearings. He had been told, it was found, that he might not assume them; he had insisted that he would, and he had been served in consequence with a formal inhibition. A light matter became a large one, when it had been pursued with so peculiar obstinacy. Vanity alone could not have prompted conduct which was technically high treason, when the nature of it was so clearly understood. Suspicion being once aroused, many lips were immediately opened which the fear of Norfolk's family had hitherto kept sealed.
'Sir Edmund Warner, being commanded by Sir William Paget to put in writing all such words and communications as had heretofore been betwixt him and the Earl of Surrey that might in any wise touch the King's Highness and his posterity, or of any other person, what he had heard of the said Earl that might in any wise tend to the same effect, deposed, that of the Earl himself he had heard nothing; but in the summer last past Mr Devereux did tell him upon certain communications of the pride and vain-glory of the said Earl, that it was possible it might be abated one day; and when he, Sir Edmund Warner, asked what he meant thereby, he said, what if he were accused to the King that he should say, 'if God should call the King to his mercy, who were so meet to govern the prince as my lord his father?''
Sir Edward Rogers, being examined, deposed—
'Sir George Blage was in communication with the Earl and me, and the Earl entered in question with Blage, or Blage with the Earl, who were meetest to have the rule and governance of the prince in case God should disclose his pleasure on the King's Majesty. Blage said he thought meetest such as his Highness should appoint. The Earl contrarywise said that his father was the meetest personage to be deputed to that room, as well in respect of the good service that he had done as also for his estate. Blage answered, saying, he trusted never to see that day, and that the prince should be but evil taught if he were of his father's teaching; and further, in multiplying of words, said plainly to the Earl that, rather than it should come to pass that the prince should be under the governance of his father or you, I would bide the adventure to thrust this dagger in you. The Earl said he was very hasty, and God sent a shrewd cow short horns. 'Yea, my lord,' quoth Blage, 'and I trust your horns also shall be kept so short as you shall not be able to do hurt with them;' and thus they departed in choler.'
Sir George Blage's intemperance may be accounted for by his escape from the destination in Smithfield, which Norfolk's party had intended for him. It is easy from these fragments of evidence to gather that Surrey had for some time been speculating on a Norfolk regency. The prize was one for which he might naturally hope, for which ambition and the interests of his party would alike tempt him to strike; and it would be a recompense for the shadow under which his family had suffered since Catherine Howard had disgraced them.
But a darker charge against him was next to follow.
'Sir Gawin Carew, examined, said that my Lady of Richmond had discovered unto him as strange a practice of her brother as ever he heard of, which was that the aforesaid Earl, pretending the farce of a marriage to have succeeded between Sir Thomas Seymour and the said lady, did will and advise her that what time the King's Majesty should send for her (as it should be brought about that the King's Highness should move her in that behalf), she should so order herself as neither she should seem to grant nor to deny that his Majesty did will her unto, but rather to so temper her tale as his Highness might thereby have occasion to send for her again, and so possibly that his Majesty might cast some love unto her, whereby in process she should bear as great a stroke about him as Madame d'Estampes did about the French King.'
Another witness confirmed Carew's story. At the time when the proposition was made, when there was no thought of a prosecution of Surrey, Lady Richmond had complained of his language to her with abhorrence and disgust, and had added, 'that she defied her brother, and said that they should all perish, and she would cut her own throat, rather than she would consent to such a villany.'
It was proved further, that Surrey had used violent and menacing language against Hertford, who had superseded him at Boulogne, and had been sent to retrieve his blunders; and, more suspiciously, that one of his servants had been in secret communication with Cardinal Pole in Italy.
Dec. 12.This evidence was collected in the first and second weeks in December. Surrey and the Duke were immediately arrested, and the personal attendance of Lady Richmond being of course indispensable, Sir John Gates and Sir Richard Southwell were sent down for her into Norfolk to Keninghall, and were directed to bring with her at the same time a certain Elizabeth Holland, an ambiguous favourite of the Duke who resided with his family.
Lady Richmond, on learning the object of their visit, at first almost fainted. As soon as she could collect herself she fell on her knees and declared that she had always believed her father to be loyal. Her brother, she said, was a rash young man; but she would tell all that she knew, she would conceal nothing. The two ladies were brought immediately to London. Elizabeth Holland's depositions, when taken before the council, chiefly affected the Duke. He was not responsible for the alteration of the arms, for which, she said, he had censured Surrey; but he had spoken violently and bitterly of his opponents on the council. They hated him, he had said, because he was true to the Church and the faith, and was an enemy of heretics. The King did not love him, and had withdrawn his confidence from him; but the King would soon die, and the realm would be in confusion, and the less others set by him, the more he would set by himself.
Lady Richmond threw a shield over her father; but against her brother her evidence told fatally. She confirmed the story of the abominable advice which he had given her. She revealed his deep hate of the 'new men,' who, 'when the King was dead,' he had sworn, 'should smart for it.' The painful appearance of a sister bearing witness against her own blood, loses its offensiveness in the outrage which Surrey had dared upon her honour.
Meantime other secrets came to light. The Duke of Norfolk's midnight visits to Marillac were now for the first time made known to the Government, and threw light upon many past difficulties; and next it was said that Gardiner, when at Brussels, had planned a secret scheme with Granvelle for the restoration of the Papal authority in England; that Norfolk was privy to their intentions, and that they had been even aware of the treachery explained in Guzman's letter to the Emperor. The visits to Marillac could be proved, and, being an unexplained mystery, gave credit to what were perhaps but inventions. Truth and falsehood, suspicion and certainty, gathered up in one black ominous thundercloud.
The Duke made no attempt to save Surrey. He knew the schemes which had been formed, and he felt that it was idle to deny them. He contented himself with declaring his own innocence of bad intentions, and his ignorance of the intrigues of Gardiner. He drew up a confession, in which he acknowledged that he had criminally concealed the dangerous purposes of his son, and that, for himself, 'contrary to his duty and allegiance, he had at divers times, and to divers persons, disclosed secrets of the privy council, to the King's peril; for which offence he deserved to be attainted of high treason.' But in a letter to the council, he protested vehemently his general fidelity. To the King he declared that he was conscious of no real fault, unless his hatred of 'sacramentaries' was a fault. He insisted on his services; he disowned any leaning to the Papacy. He seemed to fear that the same measure would be dealt to him which he had dealt to Cromwell, and that he would be attainted and condemned without trial. Yet, even so, he said, Cromwell had been heard by the council; and though he might claim better treatment than had suited the deserts of a plebeian upslart, at least he desired that he might have no worse, and that Henry or the council would hear him.
Parliament was called at once, and circulars, as usual in such cases, were sent to the foreign ambassadors. The substance of the effect which they produced may be gathered from a letter of the Bishop of Westminster, who was then in Germany, to Paget.
'I would write unto you my heart if I could,' he said, 'against those two ungracious ingrate and inhuman non homines the Duke of Norfolk and his son; the elder of whom I confess that I did love, for that I ever supposed him a true servant to his master, like as both his allegiance and the manifold benefits of the King's Majesty bound him to have been. Before God I am so amazed at the matter that I know not what to say; therefore I shall leave them to receive for their deeds as they have worthily deserved, and thank God for his grace that hath opened this in time, so that the King's Majesty may see it reformed. Almighty God hath not now alone, but often and sundry times heretofore, not only letted the malice of such as hath imagined any treason against the King's Majesty, but hath so wonderfully manifested it, and in such time, that his Majesty's high wisdom might let that malice to take its effect.… All good Englishmen cannot herefor thank God enough, and for our part I pray God that we may, through his grace, so continue his servants, that hereafter we be not found unworthy to receive such a benefit at his hands. … To the King's Majesty herein I dare not write, for to enter the matter and not to detest it, as the case requireth, I think it not convenient; and, on the other side, to renew the memory of these men's ingratitude, wherewith noble and princely hearts above all others be soon wounded, I think it not wisdom.'
The Duke of Norfolk was aware of Surrey's intentions. How far he had committed himself to active participation in them may remain uncertain. For the Earl, as his sister's evidence places him beyond the reach of interest and almost of compassion, so no injustice is done to him if we conclude that he was ready to employ any means, however unworthy, to gain an influence over the King; that when Lady Richmond refused to be his instrument, he intended, on Henry's death, to claim the supreme power for Norfolk or himself as the right of their birth; that in the alteration of his arms he was placing prominently forward his connection with the blood-royal to give force to his assumption, and to assist him in taking his place as the premier nobleman of the ancient blood of England. This was the interpretation which at the time was assigned to his conduct; and as his success would have involved the triumph of the faction who had been straining their utmost to anticipate the Marian persecution, there is little to regret if the King saw no reason to look leniently on the insolent ambition which would have ruined a great cause, and filled England with the blood of innocents.
A paper of considerations, written partly by Henry himself, implies a belief that Surrey had even thought of setting the Prince of Wales aside and seizing the throne. 'If a man coming of the collateral line to the heir of the crown, who ought not to bear the arms of England but on the second quarter, with the difference of their ancestry, do presume to change his right place, and bear them on the first quarter, leaving out the true difference of the ancestry, and in the lieu thereof uses the very place only of the heir-apparent, how this man's intent is to be judged, and whether this impute any danger, peril, or slander to the title of the prince, and how it weigheth in our laws?
'If a man presume to take into his arms an old coat of the crown, which his ancestors never bare, nor he of right ought to bear, and use it without a difference, whether it may be to the peril or slander of the very heir of the crown, or be taken to tend to his disturbance in the same, and in what peril they be that consent that he should do so?
'If a man compassing with himself to govern the realm do actually go about to rule the King, and should for that purpose advise his daughter or his sister to become his harlot, thinking thereby to bring it to pass, and so would rule both father and son, what this importeth?
'If a man say these words, 'If the King die, who should have the rule of the prince but my father or I?' what it importeth?'
If a man say these words of a man or a woman of the realm, 'If the King were dead, I would shortly shut him up,' what it importeth?
If a man, provoked or compelled by his duty of allegiance, shall declare such matters as he heareth touching the King, and shall after be continually threatened by the person accused to be killed or hurt for it, what it importeth?'
The last of these questions refers to something of which the evidence is lost; the second to a right pretended by Surrey to bear the arms of Edward the Confessor. Whether the extremity of suspicion was justified is of little importance. Enough had been proved to bring Surrey under the letter of the treason law, and to make him far more than guilty under the spirit of it. He had played for a high stake; he had failed, and had now to pay the forfeit. 1547.
Jan. 13.On the 13th of January, the day before the meeting of Parliament, he was tried before a special commission at the Guildhall; and, after a rhetorical defence, he was found guilty, sentenced, and executed.
The Duke of Norfolk escaped a trial, but he was not to escape attainder. Immediately on the assembly of the Houses, the subject, by the King's desire, was brought before them, and they were requested to lose no time in proceeding with it. In the absence of proof, it cannot be said with certainty that Norfolk's death was not intended; but his long services perhaps pleaded in extenuation of his lighter guilt; and the causes which the King alleged for haste, point to another motive than a wish to shed blood. Feeling his end to be very near, he desired, as the best security for the prince's succession, to see him before he left the world created Prince of Wales and crowned. Every high officer of State had his place in the ceremony; and it was necessary to bestow elsewhere the dignities which Norfolk held, and of which the attainder would significantly deprive him. Thursday, Jan. 27.A message to this effect was delivered to the Parliament by the chancellor, Thursday, on the morning of the 27th of January. The bill had already passed both Lords and Commons; the royal assent only was wanting; and the King, too ill to attend, had sent down a commission empowering the chancellor to give his sanction. The order was read. The clerk of the Upper House at the close pronounced the customary words—soit faict comme il est desiré.
The peers, knights, and burgesses departed to their houses. Friday, Jan. 28.On the day which followed they met as usual for despatch of business; but their business was a form; they were no longer a Parliament. On the same morning, an hour after midnight, Henry VIII. had died. Late on Thursday evening the symptoms had become rapidly worse. He was asked which of his bishops he desired to see. He answered Cranmer. The Archbishop was sent for, but there was some delay; and when he reached Whitehall, the King, though conscious, was speechless. Cranmer, 'speaking comfortably to him, desired him to give him some token that he put his trust in God through Jesus Christ; therewith the King wrung hard the Archbishop's hand,' and expired.
The great event was come; and what would follow? Had it occurred a few weeks sooner it would have been the signal of confusion, persecution, perhaps insurrection and civil war. The peril was escaped for the moment; but whether for the moment only might depend on the foresight of the sovereign, who being dead was yet to speak; who had been empowered by the confidence of the country to order the succession, and to direct the form of the Government which was to rule the minority of the prince.
The will was produced. It was dated on the 30th of December, four weeks before, though there is reason to think it had been drawn in its leading features when the King crossed to Boulogne; and that only a few clauses were afterwards altered and certain names omitted. The formal bequests have long been satisfied or defeated. The wisdom or errors of the political provisions have been tried at the bar of time, and the verdict has been pronounced for centuries. But the last words of a remarkable man may still be studied as a reflex of his character and convictions, and as shedding some light upon a disposition which an altered age will never fully comprehend, but which is pregnant with indirect suggestions.
THE WILL OF KING HENRY THE EIGHTH.
'In the name of God and of the Glorious and Blessed Virgin our Lady St Mary, and of all the Holy Company of heaven,—
'We, Henry, by the Grace of God King of England, France, and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, and in earth immediately under God the Supreme Head of the Church of England and of Ireland, of that name the Eighth, calling to our remembrance the great gifts and benefits of Almighty God given unto us in this transitory life, give unto him our most lowly and humble thanks, knowledging ourself insufficient in any part to deserve or recompense the same, but fear that we have not worthily received the same;—
'And considering further, also, with ourself, that we be as all mankind is, mortal and born in sin, believing, nevertheless, and hoping that every Christian creature, living here in this transitory and wretched world under God, dying in steadfast and perfect faith, endeavouring and exercising himself to execute in his lifetime, if he have leisure, such good deeds and charitable works as Scripture commendeth, and as may be to the honour and pleasure of God, is ordained by Christ's passion to be saved and to obtain eternal life, of which number we verily trust by his grace to be one; and that every creature, the more high that he is in estate, honour, and authority in this world, the more he is bound to love, serve, and thank God, and the more diligently to endeavour himself to do good and charitable works to the laud, honour, and praise of Almighty God, and the profit of his soul;—
'Also calling to our remembrance the dignity, estate, honour, rule, and governance, that Almighty God hath called us into this world, and that neither we nor any other creature mortal knoweth the time nor place when nor where it shall please Almighty God to call him out of this transitory world;—willing, therefore, and minding, before our passage out of the same, to dispose and order our latter mind, will, and testament, in that sort as we trust it shall be acceptable to Almighty God, our only Saviour Jesus Christ, and all the whole company of heaven, and the due satisfaction of all godly brethren on earth, we therefore, now being of whole and perfect mind, adhering wholly to the right faith of Christ and his doctrine, repenting also our old and detestable life, and being in perfect will and mind by his grace never to return to the same nor such like, and minding by God's grace never to vary therefrom as long as any remembrance, breath, or inward knowledge doth or may remain within this mortal body, most humbly and heartily do commend and bequeath our soul to Almighty God, who in person of the Son redeemed the same with his most precious body and blood in time of his passion; and for our better remembrance thereof, hath left here with us, in his Church militant, the consecration and administration of his precious body and blood to our no little consolation and comfort, if we as thankfully accept the same as He lovingly and undeserved on man's behalf hath ordained it for our only benefit and not his.
'Also we do instantly require and desire the blessed Virgin Mary his mother, with all the holy company of heaven, continually to pray for us and with us while we live in this world and in the time of passing out of the same, that we may the sooner attain everlasting life after our departure out of this transitory life, which we do both hope and claim by Christ's passion and word.
'And as for my body which, when the soul is departed, shall then remain but as a cadaver, and so return to the vile matter it was made of, were it not for the room and dignity which God hath called us unto, and that we would not be noted an infringer of honest worldly policies and customs where they be not contrary to God's laws, we would be content to have it buried in any place accustomed for Christian folks, were it never so vile, for it is but ashes, and to ashes it shall again. Nevertheless, because we would be loath, in the reputation of the people, to do injury to the dignity which we unworthily are called unto, we are content and do will and ordain that our body be buried and interred in the quire of our college at Windsor, midway between the stalls and the high altar; and there to be made and set as soon as conveniently may be done after our decease by our executors at our cost and charges, if it be not done by us in our lifetime, an honourable tomb for our bodies to rest in, with a fair grate about it, in which we will that the bones and body of our true and loving wife Queen Jane be put also; and there be provided, made, and set a convenient altar, honourably prepared and apparelled with all manner of things requisite and necessary for daily masses there to be said perpetually while the world shall endure. Also we will that the tombs and altars of King Henry VI., and also of King Edward IV., our great uncle and grandfather, be made more princely in the same place where they now be at our charges; and, also, we will and specially desire that when and wheresoever it shall please God to call us out of this world transitory, to his infinite mercy and grace, be it beyond the sea, or in any other place without or within our realm of England, that our executors shall cause all divine service accustomed for dead folk to be celebrated for us in the next and most proper place where it shall fortune us to depart.
'And over that we will that our executors, in as goodly, brief, and convenient haste as they reasonably can or may, ordain and cause our body to be removed into our said college at Windsor, and the service of Placebo and Dirige, with a sermon and mass on the morrow, at our costs and charges, devoutly to be done and solemnly kept, there to be buried and interred in the place appointed for our said tomb; and all this to be done in as devout wise as can or may be done. And we will and charge our executors that they dispose and give in alms to the most poor and needy people that may be found (common beggars as much as may be avoided) in as short a space as possibly they may after our departure out of this transitory life, one thousand marks of lawful money of England, part in the place where it shall please Almighty God to call us to his mercy, part by the way, and part in the place of our burial, after their discretion; and to move the poor people that shall have our alms to pray heartily unto God for remission of our offences and the wealth of our soul.'
Lands and spiritual promotions, to the value of six hundred pounds a year, were then left to the dean and canons of St George's, to provide for the services at the altars, for annual alms to the poor, and for the support of thirteen poor knights, to be called the Knights of Windsor; and after these personal dispositions followed the orders for the settlement of the realm.
The crown was bequeathed to the prince and his issue, or, in default of such issue, to his own heirs, lawfully begotten of his entirely beloved wife Queen Catherine, or any other lawful wife whom he might hereafter marry. 'For lack of such issue and heirs' it was to descend, in compliance with the Act of Parliament, to the Lady Mary and her heirs, and next to Elizabeth and her heirs, provided they married not without the consent of their brother, or of the council to be named for his guardianship. If his own blood failed wholly, the Scottish line was passed over, and the persons next named were the children of the two daughters of his sister Mary, the late Duchess of Suffolk.
In the Government, during the minority, Henry desired the same moderately progressive spirit to prevail which had hitherto directed his own conduct; and, finding no single person whom he could trust, he committed his powers to the representatives of both the parties who had formed his own council. Gardiner's name had been in the list, but he had been compromised in the late conspiracy. The reformers were represented by Cranmer and Hertford and Lisle; the conservatives by the Bishop of Durham, the Chancellor, and Sir Anthony Brown The remainder represented the intervening shades of opinion, whose judgment had been formed by the King himself; and who, having been trusted with the secrets of his further intentions, might follow in the track which he had marked for them. Whatever man could do to ensure the rational progress of the revolution, was provided by these nominations. The King, in leaving his last instructions for their guidance, 'exhorted them in God's name that, for the singular trust and special confidence which he had in them, they would have a diligent eye, perfect zeal, love, and affection to the honour, surety, and estate of his son, and the good prosperity of the realm;' and his last wish was that 'all his trusty and assured servants, and all other his loving subjects, would aid and assist his said councillors in the performance of that his testament and last will, as they would answer before God at the day of judgment cum venerit judicare mortuos et vivos.'
An adjuration as vain as it was earnest: when the presiding will was gone and the presiding arm was withered, the advice was but as the wind. The years which followed witnessed the alternate supremacy of factions, where selfishness walked hand in hand with fanaticism, where petty passions disguised themselves under sacred names; and the just discontent of the nation with the reformers was allayed only at last when reaction had brought with it a bitter recompense of persecution, and the spirit of the dead King at length revived in Elizabeth. The true commentary on the Government of Henry VIII. is to be looked for in the reigns of his immediate successors. I know not whether I need add any other. To draw conclusions is the business of the reader. It has been mine to search for the facts among statutes and State Papers misinterpreted through natural prejudice and imperfect knowledge, and among neglected manuscripts fast perishing of decay.
But, as it would be affectation to seem to be unconscious that the character of the King, as presented in these volumes, is something different from that which modern tradition has ascribed to him, so for my own sake I desire to say that I have not advanced any novel paradox or conjectures of my own. The history of the reign of Henry VIII. is a palimpsest in which the original writing can still be read; and I have endeavoured only to reinstate the judgment upon his motives and his actions which was entertained by all moderate Englishmen in his own and the succeeding generation which was displaced only by the calumnies of Catholic or Antinomian fanatics, when the true records were out of sight; and when, in the establishment of a new order of things, the hesitating movements, the inconsistencies and difficulties, inevitable in a period of transition could no longer be understood without an effort.
The following passage, written by Ulpian Fulwell early in the reign of Elizabeth, must be received with much qualification. From the language of contemporary panegyric later reflection must ever find something to detract; nor was the writer a person whose judgment is of exceptional or particular value. His words, nevertheless, may be taken to express the general admiration of the King's character which survived in the minds of the people.
'Among the most fortunate kings and princes that ever reigned let the fortunes of King Henry VIII. have a special place. This I may boldly say, that he was blest of God above all kings and princes that ever I have read of, and happy was that prince that might stand most in his favour; for the which divers made great suit, and especially when they stood in need of aid against their enemies, because they perceived that fortune followed his power as handmaid to all his proceedings. A rare example no doubt it is, and meseemeth most strange, that one king should reign thirty-eight years, and that almost in continual wars, and never take foil, but always prevailed as a victor invicted, which, without the assistance of Almighty God, he could never have achieved; an evident token that God was on his side, and therefore who could stand against him. To write at large of all his worthiness and incomparable acts would fill a volume, and were too great a charge. But he was a prince of singular prudence, of passing stout courage, of invincible fortitude, of dexterity wonderful. He was a springing well of eloquence, a rare spectacle of humanity; of civility and good nature an absolute precedent, a special pattern of clemency and moderation, a worthy example of regal justice, a bottomless spring of largess and benignity. He was in all the honest arts and faculties profoundly seen, in all liberal discipline equal with the best, in no kind of literature inexpert. He was to the world an ornament, to England a treasure, to his friends a comfort, to his foes a terrour, to his faithful and loving subjects a tender father, to innocents a sure protector, to wilful malefactors a sharp scourge, to his common weal and good people a quiet haven and anchor of safeguard, to the disturbers of the same a rock of extermination. In heinous and intolerable crimes against the commonwealth a severe judge, in like offences committed against himself a ready port and refuge of mercy, except to such as would persist incorrigibly. A man he was in gifts of nature and of grace peerless; and, to conclude, a man above all praises. Such a King did God set to reign over England; whereof this realm may well vaunt above other nations.'
This is the portrait drawn without its shadows; yet the features described in the language of admiring exaggeration resemble the true image far more closely than the extravagant conception which floats in the modern belief. It is easy to understand how such a conception grew. Protestants and Catholics united to condemn a Government under which both had suffered, and a point on which enemies were agreed was assumed to be proved. When I commenced the examination of the records, I brought with me the inherited impression from which I had neither any thought nor any expectation that I should be disabused. I found that it melted between my hands, and with it disappeared that other fact so difficult to credit, yet as it had appeared so impossible to deny, that English parliaments, English judges, English clergy, statesmen whose beneficent legislature survives among the most valued of our institutions, prelates who were the founders and martyrs of the English Church, were the cowardly accomplices of abominable atrocities, and had disgraced themselves with a sycophancy which the Roman senate imperfectly approached when it fawned on Nero.
Henry had many faults. They have been exhibited in the progress of the narrative: I need not return to them. But his position was one of unexampled difficulty; and by the work which he accomplished, and the conditions, internal and external, under which his task was allotted to him, he, like every other man, ought to be judged. He was inconsistent; he can bear the reproach of it. He ended by accepting and approving what he had commenced with persecuting; yet it was with the honest inconsistency which distinguishes the conduct of most men of practical ability in times of change, and even by virtue of which they obtain their success. If at the commencement of the movement he had regarded the eucharist as a 'remembrance,' he must either have concealed his convictions or he would have forfeited his throne; if he had been a stationary bigot, the Reformation might have waited for a century, and would have been conquered only by an internecine war.
But as the nation moved the King moved, leading it, but not outrunning it; checking those who wenl too fast, dragging forward those who lagged behind. The conservatives, all that was sound and good among them, trusted him because he so long continued to share their conservatism; when he threw it aside he was not reproached with breach of confidence, because his own advance had accompanied theirs.
Protestants have exclaimed against the Six Articles Bill; Romanists against the Act of Supremacy. Philosophers complain that the prejudices of the people were needlessly violated, that opinions should have been allowed to be free, and the reform of religion have been left to be accomplished by reason. Yet, however cruel was the Six Articles Bill, the governing classes even among the laity were unanimous in its favour. The King was not converted by a sudden miracle; he believed the traditions in which he had been trained; his eyes, like the eyes of others, opened but slowly; and unquestionably, had he conquered for himself in their fulness the modern principles of toleration, he could not have governed by them a nation which was itself intolerant. Perhaps, of all living Englishmen who shared Henry's faith, there was not one so little desirous in himself of enforcing it by violence. His personal exertions were ever to mitigate the action of the law, while its letter was sustained; and England at its worst was a harbour of refuge to the Protestants compared to the Netherlands, to France, to Spain, or even to Scotland.
That the Romanists should have regarded him as a tyrant is natural; and were it true that English subjects owed fealty to the Pope, their feeling was just. But, however desirable it may be to leave religious opinion unfettered, it is certain that, if England was legitimately free, she could tolerate no difference of opinion on a question of allegiance, so long as Europe was conspiring to bring her back into slavery. So long as the English Romanists refused to admit without mental reservation that, if foreign enemies invaded this country in the Pope's name, their place must be at the side of their own sovereign, 'religion' might palliate the moral guilt of their treason, but it could not exempt them from its punishment.
But these matters have been discussed in the details of this history, where alone they can be understood.
Beyond and besides the Reformation, the constitution of these islands now rests in large measure on foundations laid in this reign. Henry brought Ireland within the reach of English civilization. He absorbed Wales and the Palatinates into the general English system. He it was who raised the House of Commons from the narrow duty of voting supplies, and of passing without discussion the measures of the privy council, and converted them into the first power in the State under the Crown. When he ascended the throne so little did the Commons care for their privileges, that their attendance at the sessions of Parliament was enforced by a law. They woke into life in 1529, and they became the right hand of the King to subdue the resistance of the House of Lords, and to force upon them a course of legislation which from their hearts they detested. Other kings in times of difficulty summoned their 'great councils,' composed of peers, or prelates, or municipal officials, or any persons whom they pleased to nominate. Henry VIII. broke through the ancient practice, and ever threw himself on the representatives of the people. By the Reformation, and by the power which he forced upon them, he had so interwoven the House of Commons with the highest business of the State, that the Peers thenceforward sunk to be their shadow.
Something, too, ought to be said of his individual exertions in the details of State administration. In his earlier life, though active and assiduous, he found leisure for elegant accomplishments, for splendid amusements, for relaxations careless, extravagant, sometimes questionable. As his life drew onwards his lighter tastes disappeared, and the whole energy of his intellect was pressed into the business of the commonwealth. Those who have examined the printed State Papers may form some impression of his industry from the documents which are his own composition, and the letters which he wrote and received: but only persons who have seen the original manuscripts, who have observed the traces of his pen in side notes and corrections, and the handwritings of his secretaries in diplomatic commissions, in drafts of Acts of Parliament, in expositions and formularies, in articles of faith, in proclamations, in the countless multitude of documents of all sorts, secular or ecclesiastical, which contain the real history of this extraordinary reign, only they can realize the extent of labour to which he sacrificed himself, and which brought his life to a premature close. His personal faults were great, and he shared, besides them, in the errors of his age; but far deeper blemishes would be but as scars upon the features of a sovereign who in trying times sustained nobly the honour of the English name, and carried the commonwealth securely through the hardest crisis in its history.
- Henry VIII. to the Archbishop of Canterbury: Wilkins's Concilia, vol. iii. p. 869.
- See Primers put forth in the Reign of Henry VIII. Oxford. 1834.
- Wilkins, vol. iii. p. 873.
- 37 Henry VIII. capp. 24, 25.
- Ibid. cap. 10. Details illustrative of the causes which occasioned this statute will be found in the Acts of the Privy Council, vol. vii.
- 37 Henry VIII. cap. 31.
- 37 Henry VIII. cap. 17.
- Ibid. cap. 4.
- Lord Herbert, p. 254. Another letter of Dr Coxe, written a short time previously, containing an account of the character and education of the prince, may be added in this place. The MS. is much injured, and the name of the person to whom the letter was addressed is wanting.
'As concerning my lord and dear scholar, it is kindly done of you to desire so gently to hear from him and of his proceedings in his valiant conquests. We can now read, and God be thanked sufficiently; [and as] He hath prospered the King's Majesty in his travels at Boulogne, surely [in] like [manner thanks be] unto God, my lord is not much behind on his part. He hath expunged and utterly conquered a great number of the captains of ignorance. The eight parts of speech he hath made them his subjects and servants, and can decline any manner Latin nown, and conjugate a verb perfectly, unless it be anomalum. These parts thus beaten down and conquered, he beginneth to build them up again, and frame them after his purpose with due order of construction, like as the King's Majesty framed up Boulogne after he had beaten it down. He understandeth and can frame well his three concords of grammar, and hath made already forty or fifty pretty Latin verses, and can answer well favouredly to the parts, and is now ready to enter into Cato, to some proper and profitable fables of Æsop, and other wholesome and godly lessons that shall be devised for him. Every day in the mass time he readeth a portion of Solomon's Proverbs for the exercise of his reading, wherein he delighteth much; and learneth there how good it is to give ear unto discipline, to fear God, to keep God's commandments, to beware of strange and wanton women, to be obedient to father and mother, to be thankful to him that telleth him of his faults. Captain 'Will' was an ungracious fellow, whom to conquer I was almost in despair. I went upon him with fair means, with foul means, that is, with menacing from time to time, so long that he took such courage that he thought utterly my meaning to be nothing but dalliance. Quid multa? Before we came from Sutton, upon a day I took my morice pike, and at 'Will' I went, and gave him such a wound that he wist not what to do, but picked him privately out of the place that I never saw him since. Methought it the luckiest day that ever I had in battle. I think that only wound shall be enough for me to daunt both 'Will' and all his fellows. Howbeit, there is another cumbrous captain that appeareth out of his pavilion, called 'Oblivion,' who by labour and continuance of exercise shall be easily chased away. He is a vessel most apt to receive all goodness and learning, witty, sharp, and pleasant.' Dr Coxe to ——: MS. State Paper Office, Domestic, vol. xvi.
- Lords Journals, 37 Henry VIII.
- 'Post longam examinationem.'-Ibid.
- Two independent accounts of this speech remain: one is given by Hall, whose language implies that he was present: the other is in a letter of Sir John Mason to Paget, in MS. in the State Taper Office. The first is the longest, the second is the most interesting from the description of the manner in which the words were spoken and of the effect which they produced.
- 'This was his term.'—Mason to Paget.
- His words, says Mason, 'to you that have been used to his daily talking, should have been no great wonder—and yet saw I some that hear him often enough largely water their plants—but to us that have not heard him often were such a joy and marvellous comfort, as I reckon this day one of the happiest of my life.'—Mason to Paget: MS.
- Jenkins's Cranmer. vol. i. pp. 318, 319: Foxe, vol. v.
- State Papers, vol. i. p. 843.
- Ibid. p. 848, &c.
- State Papers, vol. i. p. 848, &c.
- Foxe, vol. v. Foxe has weakened his story by a blunder in the only point on which we are able to test it. He connects the attack on the Queen with Gardiner's disgrace; and Gardiner's disgrace only followed on the discovery of Lord Surrey's designs upon the regency in the ensuing December.
- The body of the Council certainly were acting with Gardiner. Larimer's examiners were Wriothesley, Norfolk, Essex, Sir John Gage, Sir Anthony Browne, Sir Anthony Wingfield, the Bishops of Durham and Winchester, and, strange to say, Lord Russell. On the other side were only the small but powerful minority, composed of Cranmer, Lord Parr, Lord Hertford, and Lord Lisle.—See State Papers, vol. i. p. 851.
- Probably the same Lascelles who was mentioned as regretting the death of Cromwell, and perhaps the brother of the lady who revealed the iniquities of Catherine Howard, and who first carried the story to Cranmer. If he was indeed the same person, we can understand the animosity with which he must have been regarded by the Anglo-Catholics.
- Lascelles will not answer to that part of his conference with Crome that toucheth Scripture matters without he have the King's Majesty's express commandment, with his protection; for he saith it is neither wisdom or equity that he should kill himself.—State Papers, vol. i. p. 850.
- Foxe, vol. v. p. 551.
- The authority for the remarkable and otherwise incredible circumstances of Anne Ascue's persecution is a narrative, or rather a series of fragments, written by herself in the intervals of her harassing examinations, at the request of her friends These were printed by Foxe; though he does not say by what means they came into his hands, there is no reason to believe them forgeries; and the utmost value which can belong to internal evidence must be allowed to their unaffected simplicity.
- Anne Ascue's Diary: Foxe, vol. v.
- Anne Ascue's Narrative.
- The Solicitor-General.
- 'I understand,' she wrote subsequently, 'the council is not a little displeased that it should be reported abroad that I was racked in the Tower. They say now that what they did then was but to fear me, whereby I perceived they are ashamed of their uncomely doings, and fear much lest the King's Majesty should have information thereof.'—Foxe, vol. v. p. 548. The abominable cruelty of Wriothesley and Rich is perhaps the darkest page in the history of any English statesmen. Yet, as Wriothesley was a man who had shown at other times high and noble qualities, it is hard to believe that bigotry had entirely blinded him to till feelings of humanity. It is possible that the rack was, as he said, employed rather to terrify than to torture, and he may have himself taken charge of it to prevent rather than to insure the active infliction of pain. Anne Ascue may have swooned from fear as well as suffering; and it is to be remarked that ehe sat two hours with Wriothesley immediately afterwards, 'reasoning with him,' which she could not have done if the screws had been severely strained. Foxe indeed says, that she had been so tortured that she was carried in a chair to the place of execution: but she may have been exhausted by general ill-treatment, and the fact of her two hours' conversation rests on her own authority.
- Foxe adds that Knyvet, as soon as they were gone, sprung immediately into a boat and hurried to Whitehall to the King, who expressed himself 'not pleased at the extreme handling of the woman.' Anne herself, however, as may be seen in the last note, said, that the council were afraid lest the King should hear how she had been treated.
- 'Royal Proclamation against unlawful books.'—Foxe, vol. v.
- Henry VIII. to Bruno: State Papers, vol. xi. pp. 281, 282.
- See Foxe, vol. v. p. 692: and Jenkins's Cranmer, vol. i. p. 320.
- 'Unless the Protestants be succoured, the Cardinal du Beliay saith that actum est de negotio evangelii.… We had long communication of this matter, and, among other things, when I said to him that, if the Protestants could have been contented with reason, peradventure they might have been in league with us ere this. Marry, it is true, quoth he; but to speak frankly with you, they durst not for fear of us, for if they had so done without us we threatened to be against them too: and then, they, being loath to refuse directly your amity, did demand such things of yon as they knew you would not grant unto.'—Wotton to Paget: State Papers, vol. xi. pp. 354, 355.
- I say Elizabeth, rather than Cranmer and Hertford; for the Reformation under Edward VI. was conducted in another spirit. Hertford, however, knew what Henry's intentions were, and partially if not wholly fulfilled them. He wrote to Mary on her complaint of the changes which he had introduced, saying that 'his Grace died before he had fully finished such order as he was minded to have established if death had not prevented him. Religion was not established as he purposed, and a great many knew and could testify what he would further have done in it had he lived.'—Strype's Memorials, vol. i. p. 601.
- See Giustiniani's Letters from the Court of Henry VIII.
- 'I know not that I have offended any man, or that any man was offended with me, unless it were such as were angry with me for being quick against the sacramentaries.'—Duke of Norfolk to Henry VIII. Lord Herbert, p. 265.
- Vide supra, vol. iii. p. 446.
- Baga de Secretis; State Papers, vol. i. p. 891. Act of Attainder of the Earl of Surrey and the Duke of Norfolk.
- Vol. iii. p. 590.
- Depositions on Lord Surrey's Treasons: MS. State Paper Office, Domestic, vol. xix.
- Examination of Sir Edmund Warner: MS. State Paper Office, Domestic, vol. xix.
- Examination of Sir Edward Rogers: MS. State Paper Office, Domestic, vol. xix.
- Widow of Henry Fitz Roy, Duke of Richmond, daughter of the Duke of Norfolk, and sister of Surrey.
- Examination of Sir Gawin Carew: MS. State Paper Office, Domestic, vol. xix.
- MS. Ibid.
- The only information which we possess about this lady is in the letters of the mad Duchess of Norfolk, the daughter of the Duke of Buckingham; and little credit can be attached to stories which are tinged with a manifest insanity. On one occasion the Duchess says that Elizabeth Holland was originally a laundry-maid at Keninghall, and that Norfolk took her for his mistress. Elsewhere she describes her as a near relative of Lord Hussey, who was under her husband's protection. Both statsments are accompanied with descriptions of family quarrels, monstrous in themselves and refuted by the Duke's solemn denial; and it is an important feature in the case that both Surrey and his sister were on the father's side. The letters are among the Cotton MSS., and are many of them printed by Nott in an appendix to his Life of Surrey.
- State Papers, vol. i. p. 888, &c.
- Deposition: MS. State Paper Office, Domestic, vol. xix.
- MS. Ibid.
- Duke of Norfolk to the Lords of the Council: Nott's Surrey, appendix, p. 99.
- Printed by Lord Herbert, p. 265.
- Norfolk to the King: Lord Herbert, ibid.
- Perhaps truly; but if Surrey had succeeded, events would have probably, or assuredly, fallen into the course which they assumed under Mary, as the instinct of the sacramentaries told them. 'There was a nobleman in England,' wrote one of them to Bullinger, 'commonly called the Duke of Norfolk, who was a most bitter enemy to the Word of God, and who, with his son and others, made a secret attempt to restore the dominion of the Pope and the monks.'—Original Letters, p. 639.
- Thirlby to Paget: State Papers, vol. xi. p. 391. Dr Wotton also spoke of 'the devilish purpose of them that maliciously and traitorously conspired.' He was then at the French Court, and Francis inquired minutely into the circumstances. He asked if the treason was proved. Wotton said it was; and that Surrey had confessed 'both against himself and against his father too.' So far as I know, this is the only hint of a confession from Surrey.—Ibid, p. 388.
- The words in italics are the King's. They are alterations made by him in the original draft. The writing is tremulous and irregular.
- State Papers, vol. i. p. 891.
- The Duke of Norfolk's confession is dated the 12th.—See Lord Herbert.
- See Nott's Surrey: an epitome of the trial is in the Baga de Secretis.
- 'Hoc die Jovis, 27o Januarii, Dominus cancellarius admonuit omnes proceres utriusque ordinis suas Parliamentares Robas induere ac deinde Prolocutorem Milites et Burgenses omnes vocari jussit e Domo Communi, quo facto idem Cancellarius palam declaravit visum esse Regiæ Majestati ob certas quasdam causas specialiter moventes, ut sine ullâ dilatione expediatur Billa quædam pro attincturâ, Thomæ Ducis Norff. et Henrici Comitis Surrey, maxime vero ut officia quædam dicti Ducis in alios conferri possent et pleno jure per alios exerceri, in sacratissimam solemnitatem coronationis Edwardi Principis quæ jam instat.'—Lords Journals, 38 Henry VIII.
- It has been conjectured that delay in communicating the King's death was caused by a discussion in the council on the fate of the Duke of Norfolk. It is far more likely that, the suddenness of the end having taken the council by surprise, they were examining the will, and considering how to carry out the dispositions which had been made for the Government.
- Strype's Cranmer, vol. i. p. 199.
- See Foxe, vol. v.
- The careful reader will observe this language.
- In anticipation of his possible death in the war. The expression confirms the belief that the will was written in 1544; and the date perhaps explains the direction for the masses which were to be said at his tomb. The final advances in the King's mind belong to the two concluding years of his life. But, as he said himself, 'he would not be noted as an infringer of worldly policies and customs when they were not contrary to God's law.'
- Lord St John president of the council, Lord Russell, Sir Edward North chancellor of the augmentations, three of the judges, Sir Edward Montague, Sir Thomas Bromley, and Sir William Herbert, Sir Anthony Denny a member of the household, Sir William Paget, and the two Wottons, Dr Wotton and his brother Sir Edward.
- Rymer, vol. vi. part 3, p. 142.
- Ulpian Fulwell's Flower of Fame.