History of England (Froude)/Chapter 3
THE PARLIAMENT OF 1529.
NO Englishman can look back uninterested on the meeting of the Parliament of 1529. The era at which it assembled is the most memorable in the history of this country, and the work which it accomplished before its dissolution was of larger moment politically and spiritually than the achievements of the Long Parliament itself. For nearly seven years it continued surrounded by intrigue, confusion, and at length conspiracy, presiding over a people from whom the forms and habits by which they had moved for centuries were falling like the shell of a chrysalis. While beset with enemies within the realm and without, it effected a revolution which severed England from the Papacy, yet it preserved peace unbroken and prevented anarchy from breaking bounds; and although its hands are not pure from spot, and red stains rest on them which posterity have bitterly and long remembered; yet if we consider the changes which it carried through, and if we think of the price which was paid by other nations for victory in the same struggle, we shall acknowledge that the records of the world contain no instance of such a triumph, bought at a cost so slight and tarnished by blemishes so trifling.
The letters of the French ambassador describe to us the gathering of the members into London, and the hum of expectation sounding louder and louder as the day of the opening approached. In order that we may see distinctly what London felt on this occasion, that we may understand in detail the nature of those questions with which Parliament was immediately to deal, we will glance at some of the proceedings which had taken place in the Bishop's Consistory Courts during the few preceding years. The duties of the officials of these courts resembled, in theory the duties of the censors under the Roman Republic. In the middle ages, a lofty effort had been made to overpass the common limitations of government, to introduce punishment for sins as well as crimes, and to visit with temporal penalties the breach of the moral law. The punishment best adapted for such offences was some outward expression of the disapproval with which good men regard acts of sin; some open disgrace; some spiritual censure; some suspension of communion with the Church, accompanied by other consequences practically inconvenient, to be continued until the offender had made reparation, or had openly repented, or had given confirmed proof of amendment. The administration of such a discipline fell, as a matter of course, to the clergy. The clergy were the guardians of morality; their characters were a claim to confidence, their duties gave them opportunities of observation which no other men could possess; while their priestly office gave solemn weight to their sentences. Thus arose throughout Europe a system of spiritual surveillance over the habits and conduct of every man, extending from the cottage to the castle, taking note of all wrong dealing, of all oppression of man by man, of all licentiousness and profligacy, and representing upon earth, in the principles by which it was guided, the laws of the great tribunal of Almighty God.
Such was the origin of the Church courts, perhaps r the greatest institutions ever yet devised by man. But to aim at these high ideals is as perilous as it is noble; and weapons which may be safely trusted in the hands of saints become fatal implements of mischief when saints have ceased to wield them. For a time, we need not doubt, the practice corresponded to the intention. Had it not been so, the conception would have taken no root, and would have been extinguished at its birth. But a system which has once established itself in the respect of mankind will be tolerated long after it has forfeited its claim to endurance, as the name of a great man remains honoured though borne by worthless descendants; and the Consistory courts had continued into the sixteenth century with unrestricted jurisdiction, although they had been for generations merely perennially flowing fountains, feeding the ecclesiastical exchequer. The moral conduct of every English man and woman remained subject to them. Each private person was liable to be called in question for every action of his life; and an elaborate network of canon law perpetually growing, enveloped the whole surface of society. But between the original design and the degenerate counterfeit there was this vital difference,—that the censures were no longer spiritual. They were commuted in various gradations for pecuniary fines, and each offence against morality was rated at its specific money value in the episcopal tables. Suspension and excommunication remained as ultimate penalties; but they were resorted to only to compel unwilling culprits to accept the alternative.
The misdemeanours of which the courts took cognizance were 'offences against chastity,' 'heresy,' or 'matter sounding thereunto,' 'witchcraft,' 'drunkenness,' 'scandal,' 'defamation,' 'impatient words,' 'broken promises,' 'untruth,' 'absence from church,' 'speaking evil of saints,' 'non-payment of offerings,' and other delinquencies incapable of legal definition; matters, all of them, on which it was well, if possible, to keep men from going wrong; but offering wide opportunities for injustice; while all charges, whether well founded or ill, met with ready acceptance in courts where innocence and guilt alike contributed to the revenue. 'Mortuary claims' were another fertile matter for prosecution; and probate duties and legacy duties; and a further lucrative occupation was the punishment of persons who complained against the constitutions of the courts themselves; to complain against the justice of the courts being to complain against the Church, and to complain against the Church being heresy. To answer accusations on such subjects as these, men were liable to be summoned, at the will of the officials, to the metropolitan courts of the archbishops, hundreds of miles from their homes. No expenses were allowed; and if the charges were without foundation, it was rare that costs could be recovered. Innocent or guilty, the accused parties were equally bound to appear. If they failed, they were suspended for contempt. If after receiving notice of their suspension, they did not appear, they were excommunicated; and no proof of the groundlessness of the original charge availed to relieve them from their sentence, till they had paid for their deliverance.
Well did the Church lawyers understand how to make their work productive. Excommunication seems but a light thing when there are many communions. It was no light thing when it was equivalent to outlawry; when the person excommunicated might be seized and imprisoned at the will of the ordinary; when he was cut off from all holy offices; when no one might speak to him, trade with him, or show him the most trivial courtesy; and when his friends, if they dared to assist him, were subject to the same penalties. In the Register of the Bishop of London there is more than one instance to be found of suspension and excommunication for the simple crime of offering shelter to an excommunicated neighbour; and thus offence begot offence, guilt spread like a contagion through the influence of natural humanity, and a single refusal of obedience to a frivolous citation might involve entire families in misery and ruin.
The people might have endured better to submit to so enormous a tyranny, if the conduct of the clergy themselves had given them a title to respect, or if equal justice had been distributed to lay and spiritual offenders. 'Benefit of clergy,' unhappily, as at this time interpreted, was little else than a privilege to commit sins with impunity. The grossest moral profligacy in a priest was passed over with indifference; and so far from exacting obedience in her ministers to a higher standard than she required of ordinary persons, the Church extended her limits under fictitious pretexts as a sanctuary for lettered villany. Every person who could read wasclaimed by prescriptive usage as a clerk, and shielded under her protecting mantle; nor was any clerk amenable for the worst crimes to the secular jurisdiction, until he had been first tried and degraded by the ecclesiastical judges. So far was this preposterous exemption carried, that previous to the passing of the first of the 23rd of Henry the Eighth, those who were within the degrees might c6mm.it murder with impunity, the forms which it was necessary to observe in degrading a priest or deacon being so complicated as to amount to absolute protection. 
Among the clergy, properly so called, however, the prevailing offence was not crime, but licentiousness. A doubt has recently crept in among our historians as to the credibility of the extreme language in which the contemporary writers spoke upon this painful topic. It will scarcely be supposed that the picture has been overdrawn in the act books of the Consistory courts; and as we see it there it is almost too deplorable for belief, as well in its own intrinsic hideousness as in the unconscious connivance of the authorities. Brothels were kept in London for the especial use of priests; the 'confessional' was abused in the most open and abominable manner. Cases occurred of the same frightful profanity in the service of the mass, which at Rome startled Luther into Protestantism; and acts of incest between nuns and monks were too frequently exposed to allow us to regard the detected instances as exceptions. It may be said that the proceedings upon these charges prove at least that efforts were made to repress them. The bishops must have the benefit of the plea, and the two following instances will show how far it will avail their cause. In the Records of the London Court I find a certain Thomas Wyseman, priest, summoned for fornication and incontinency. He was enjoined for penance, that on the succeeding Sunday, while high mass was singing, he should offer at each of the altars in the Church of St Bartholomew a candle of wax, value one penny, saying therewith five Paternosters, five Ave Marys, and five Credos. On the following Friday he was to offer a candle of the same price before the crucifix, standing barefooted, and one before the image of our Lady of Grace. This penance accomplished, he appeared again at the court and compounded for absolution, paying six shillings and eightpence.
An exposure too common to attract notice, and a fine of six and eightpence, was held sufficient penalty for a mortal sin.
Even this, however, was a severe sentence compared with the sentence passed upon another priest who confessed to incest with the prioress of Kilbourn. The offender was condemned to bear a cross in a procession in his parish church, and was excused his remaining guilt for three shillings and fourpence.
I might multiply such instances indefinitely; but there is no occasion for me to stain my pages with them.
An inactive imagination may readily picture to itself the indignation likely to have been felt by a highminded people, when they were forced to submit their lives, their habits, their most intimate conversations and opinions, to a censorship conducted by clergy of such a character; when the offences of these clergy themselves were passed over with such indifferent carelessness. Men began to ask themselves who and what these persons were who retained the privileges of saints, and were incapable of the most ordinary duties; and for many years before the burst of the Reformation the coming storm was gathering. Priests were hooted, or 'knocked down into the kennel,' as they walked along the streets—women refused to receive the holy bread from hands which they thought polluted, and the appearance of an apparitor of the courts to serve a process or a citation in a private house was a signal for instant explosion. Yiolent words were the least which these officials had to fear, and they were fortunate if they escaped so lightly. A stranger had died in a house in St Dunstan's belonging to a certain John Fleming, and an apparitor had been sent 'to seal his chamber and his goods,' that the Church might not lose her dues. John Fleming drove him out, saying loudly unto him, 'Thou shalt seale no door here; go thy way, thou stynkyng knave, ye are but knaves and brybours everych one of you.' Thomas Banister, of St Mary Wolechurch, when a process was served upon him, 'did threaten to slay the apparitor.' 'Thou horson knave,' he said to him, 'without thou tell me who set thee awork to summon me to the court, by Goddis woundes, and by this gold, I shall brake thy head.' A 'waiter, at the sign of the Cock,' fell in trouble for saying that 'the sight of a priest did make him sick,' also, 'that he would go sixty miles to indict a priest,' saying also in the presence of many—'horsyn priests, they shall be indicted as many as come to my handling.' Often the officers found threats convert themselves into acts. The apparitor of the Bishop of London went with a citation into the shop of a mercer of St Bride's, Henry Clitheroe by name. 'Who does cite me?' asked the mercer. 'Marry, that do I,' answered the apparitor, 'if thou wilt anything with it;' whereupon, as the apparitor deposeth, the said Henry Clitheroe did hurl at him from off his finger that instrument of his art called the 'thymmelle,' and he, the apparitor, drawing his sword, 'the said Henry did snatch up his virga, Anglice, his yard, and did pursue the apparitor into the public streets, and after multiplying of many blows did break the head of the said apparitor.' These are light matters, but they were straws upon the stream; and such a scene as this which follows reveals the principles on which the courts awarded their judgment. One Richard Hunt was summoned for certain articles implying contempt, and for vilipending his lordship's jurisdiction. Being examined, he confessed to the words following: 'That all false matters were bolstered and clokyd in this court of Paul's Cheyne; moreover he called the apparitor, William Middleton, false knave in the full court, and his father's dettes, said he, by means of his mother-in-law and master commissary, were not payd; and this he would abide by, that he had now in this place said no more but truth.' Being called on to answer further, he said he would not, and his lordship did therefore excommunicate him. From so brief an entry we cannot tell on which side the justice lay; but at least we can measure the equity of a tribunal which punished complaints against itself with excommunication, and dismissed the confessed incest of a priest with a fine of a few shillings.
Such then were the English Consistory courts. I have selected but a few instances from the proceedings of a single one of them. If we are to understand the weight with which the system pressed upon the people, we must multiply the proceedings at St Paul's by the number of the English dioceses; the number of dioceses by the number of archdeaconries; we must remember that in proportion to the distance from London the abuse must have increased indefinitely from the absence of even partial surveillance; we must remember that appeals were permitted only from one ecclesiastical court to another; from the archdeacon's court to that of the bishop of the diocese, from that of the bishop to the Court of Arches; that any language of impatience or resistance furnished suspicion of heresy, and that the only security therefore was submission. We can then imagine what England must have been with an archdeacon's commissary sitting constantly in every town; exercising an undefined jurisdiction over general morality; and every court swarming with petty lawyers who lived upon the fees which they could extract. Such a system for the administration of justice was perhaps never tolerated before in any country.
But the time of reckoning at length was arrived; slowly the hand had crawled along the dial plate; slowly as if the event would never come: and wrong was heaped on wrong; and oppression cried, and it seemed as if no ear had heard its voice; till the measure of the circle was at length fulfilled, the finger touched the hour, and as the strokes of the great hammer rang out above the nation, in an instant the mighty fabric of iniquity was shivered into ruins. Wolsey had dreamed that it might still stand, self-reformed as he hoped to see it; but in his dread lest any hands but those of friends should touch the work, he had 'prolonged its sickly days,' waiting for the convenient season which was not to be; he had put off the meeting of Parliament, knowing that if Parliament were once assembled, he would be unable to resist the pressure which would be brought to bear upon him; and in the impatient minds of the people he had identified himself with the evils which he alone for the few last years had hindered from falling. At length he had fallen himself, and his disgrace was celebrated in London with enthusiastic rejoicing as the inauguration of the new era. October 18.On the eighteenth of October, 1529, Wolsey delivered up the seals. He was ordered to retire to Esher; and, 'at the taking of his barge,' Cavendish saw no less than a thousand boats full of men and women of the city of London, 'waffeting up and down in Thames,' to see him sent, as they expected, to the Tower. A fortnight later the same crowd was perhaps again assembled on a wiser occasion, and with truer reason for exultation, to see the King coming up in his barge from Greenwich to open Parliament.
Nov. 3.'According to the summons,' says Hall, the King of England began his high Court of Parliament the third day of November, on which day he came by water to his palace of Bridewell, and there he and his nobles put on their robes of Parliament, and so came to the Black Friar Church, where a mass of the Holy Ghost was solemnly sung by the King's chaplain; and after the mass, the King, with all his Lords and Commons which were summoned to appear on that day, came into the Parliament. The King sate on his throne or seat royal, and Sir Thomas More, his chancellor, standing on the right hand of the King, made an eloquent oration, setting forth the causes why at that time the King so had summoned them.'
'Like as a good shepherd,' More said, 'which not only keepeth and attendeth well his sheep, but also foreseeth and provideth for all things which either may be hurtful or noysome to his flock; so the King, which is the shepherd, ruler, and governor of his realm, vigilantly foreseeing things to come, considers how that divers laws, before this time made, are now, by long continuance of time and mutation of things, become very insufficient and imperfect; and also, by the frail condition of man, divers new enormities are sprung amongst the people, for the which no law is yet made to reform the same. For this cause the King at this time has summoned his high Court of Parliament; and I liken the King to a shepherd or herdsman, because if a prince be compared to his riches, he is but a rich man; if a prince be compared to his honour, he is but an honourable man; but compare him to the multitude of his people, and the number of his flock, then he is a ruler, a governor of might and puissance; so that his people maketh him a prince, as of the multitude of sheep cometh the name of a shepherd.
'And as you see that amongst a great flock of sheep some be rotten and faulty, which the good shepherd sendeth from the good sheep; so the great wether which is of late fallen, as you all know, so craftily, so scabedly, yea, so untruly juggled with the King, that all men must needs guess that he thought in himself, either the King had no wit to perceive his crafty doings, or else that he would not see nor know them.
'But he was deceived, for his Grace's sight was so quick and penetrable that he saw him; yea, and saw through him, both within and without; and according to his desert he hath had a gentle correction, which small punishment the King will not to be an example to other offenders; but clearly declareth that whosoever hereafter shall make like attempt, or shall commit like offence, shall not escape with like punishment.
'And because you of the Commons House be a gross multitude, and cannot all speak at one time, the King's pleasure is, that you resort to the Nether House, and then amongst yourselves, according to the old and antient custom, choose an able person to be your common mouth and speaker.'
The invective against 'the great wether' was not perhaps the portion of the speech to which the audience listened with least interest. In the minds of contemporaries, principles are identified with persons, who form, as it were, the focus on which the passions concentrate. At present we may consent to forget Wolsey, and fix our attention on the more permanently essential matter—the reform of the laws. The world was changing; how swiftly, how completely, no living person knew;—but a confusion no longer tolerable was a patent fact to all men; and with a wise instinct it was resolved that the grievances of the nation, which had accumulated through centuries, should be submitted to a complete ventilation, without reserve, check, or secrecy.
For this purpose it was essential that the Houses should not be interfered with, that they should be allowed full liberty to express their wishes and to act upon them. Accordingly, the practice then usual with ministers, of undertaking the direction of the proceedings, was clearly on this occasion foregone. In the House of Commons then, as much as now, there was in theory unrestricted liberty of discussion, and free right for any member to originate whatever motion he pleased. 'The discussions in the English Parliament,' wrote Henry himself to the Pope, 'are free and unrestricted; the Crown has no power to limit their debates or to controul the votes of the members. They determine everything for themselves, as the interests of the commonwealth require.' But so long as confidence existed between the Crown and the people, these rights were in great measure surrendered. The ministers prepared the business which was to be transacted; and the temper of the Houses was usually so well understood, that, except when there was a demand for money, it was rare that a measure was proposed the acceptance of which was doubtful, or the nature of which would provoke debate. So little jealousy, indeed, was in quiet times entertained of the power of the Crown, and so little was a residence in London to the taste of the burgesses and the country gentlemen, that not only were their expenses defrayed by a considerable salary, but it was found necessary to forbid them absenting themselves from their duties by a positive enactment.
In the composition of the House of Commons, however, which had now assembled, no symptoms appeared of such indifference. The election had taken place in the midst of great and general excitement; and the members chosen, if we may judge from their acts and their petitions, were men of that broad resolved temper, who only in times of popular effervescence are called forward into prominence. It would have probably been unsafe for the Crown to attempt dictation or repression at such a time, if it had desired to do so. Under the actual circumstances, its interest was to encourage the fullest expression of public feeling.
The proceedings were commenced with a formal 'act of accusation' against the clergy, which was submitted to the King in the name of the Commons of land, and contained a summary of the wrongs of which the people complained. This remarkable document must have been drawn up before the opening of Parliament, and must have been presented in the first week of the session, probably on the first day on which the House met to transact business. There is appearance of haste in the composition, little order being observed in the catalogue of grievances; but inasmuch as it contains the germ of all the Acts which were framed in the following years for the reform of the Church, and is in fact the most complete exhibition which we possess of the working of the Church system at the time when it ceased to be any more tolerable, I have thought it well to insert it uncurtailed. Although the fact of the presentation of this petition has been well known, it has not been accurately described by any of our historians, none of them appearing to have seen more than incorrect and imperfect epitomes of it. Nov. 3.
'TO THE KING OUR SOVEREIGN LORD.
In most humble wise show unto your Highness and your most prudent wisdom your faithful, loving, and most obedient servants the Commons in this your present Parliament assembled; that of late, as well through new fantastical and erroneous opinions grown by occasion of frantic seditious books compiled, imprinted, published, and made in the English tongue, contrary and against the very true Catholic and Christian faith; as also by the extreme and uncharitable behaviour and dealing of divers ordinaries, their commissaries and sumners, which have heretofore had, and yet have the examination in and upon the said errours and heretical opinions; much discord, variance, and debate hath risen, and more and more daily is like to increase and ensue amongst the universal sort of your said subjects, as well spiritual as temporal, each against the other—in most uncharitable manner, to the great inquietation, vexation, and breach of your peace within this your most Catholic Realm:
The special particular griefs whereof, which most principally concern your Commons and lay subjects, and which are, as they undoubtedly suppose, the very chief fountains, occasions, and causes that daily breedeth and nourisheth the said seditious factions, deadly hatred, and most uncharitable part taking, of either part of said subjects spiritual and temporal against the other, followingly do ensue.—
I. First the prelates and spiritual ordinaries of this your most excellent Realm of England, and the clergy of the same, have in their convocations heretofore made or caused to be made, and also daily do make many and divers fashions of laws, constitutions, and ordinances; without your knowledge or most Royal assent, and without the assent and consent of any of your lay subjects; unto the which laws your said lay subjects have not only heretofore been and daily be constrained to obey, in their bodies, goods, and possessions; but have also been compelled to incur daily into the censures of the same, and been continually put to importable charges and expenses, against all equity, right, and good conscience. And yet your said humble subjects ne their predecessors could ever be privy to the said laws; ne any of the said laws have been declared unto them in the English tongue, or otherwise published, by knowledge whereof they might have eschewed the penalties, dangers, or censures of the same; which laws so made your said most humble and obedient servants, under the supportation of your Majesty, suppose to be not only to the diminution and derogation of your imperial jurisdiction and prerogative royal, but also to the great prejudice, inquietation, and damage of your said subjects.
II. Also now of late there hath been devised by the Most Reverend Father in God, William, Archbishop of Canterbury, that in the courts which he calleth his Courts of the Arches and Audience, shall only be ten proctors at his deputation, which be sworn to preserve and promote the only jurisdiction of his said courts; by reason whereof, if any of your lay subjects should have any lawful cause against the judges of the said courts, or any doctors or proctors of the same, or any of their friends and adherents, they can ne may in nowise have indifferent counsel: and also all the causes depending in any of the said courts may by the confederacy of the said few proctors be in such wise tracted and delayed, as your subjects suing in the same shall be put to importable charges, costs, and expense. And further, in case that any matter there being preferred should touch your crown, your regal jurisdiction, and prerogative Royal, yet the same shall not be disclosed by any of the said proctors for fear of the loss of their offices. Your most obedient subjects do therefore, under protection of your Majesty, suppose that your Highness should have the nomination of some convenient number of proctors to be always attendant upon the said Courts of Arches and Audience, there to be sworn to the preferment of your jurisdiction and prerogative, and to the expedition of the causes of your lay subjects repairing and suing to the same.
III. And also many of your said most humble and obedient subjects, and specially those that be of the poorest sort, within this your Realm, be daily convented and called before the said spiritual ordinaries, their commissaries and substitutes, ex officio; sometimes, at the pleasure of the said ordinaries, for malice without any cause; and sometimes at the only promotion and accusement of their summoners and apparitors, being light and undiscreet persons; without any lawful cause of accusation, or credible fame proved against them, and without any presentment in the visitation: and your said poor subjects be thus inquieted, disturbed, vexed, troubled, and put to excessive and importable charges for them to bear—and many times be suspended and excommunicate for small and light causes upon the only certificate of the proctors of the adversaries, made under a feigned seal which every proctor hath in his keeping; whereas the party suspended or excommunicate many times never had any warning; and yet when he shall be absolved, if it be out of court, he shall be compelled to pay to his own proctor twenty pence; to the proctor which is against him other twenty pence, and twenty pence to the scribe, besides a privy reward that the judge shall have, to the great impoverishing of your said poor lay subjects.
IV. Also your said most humble and obedient servants find themselves grieved with the great and excessive fees taken in the said spiritual courts, and especially in the said Courts of the Arches and Audience; where they take for every citation two shillings and sixpence; for every inhibition six shillings and eightpence; for every proxy sixteen pence; for every certificate sixteen pence; for every libel three shillings and fourpence; for every answer for every libel three shillings and fourpence; for every act, if it be but two words according to the register, fourpence; for every personal citation or decree three shillings and fourpence; for every sentence or judgment, to the judge twenty-six shillings and eightpence; for every testament upon such sentence or judgment twenty-six shillings and eightpence; for every significavit twelve shillings; for every commission to examine witnesses twelve shillings, which charges be thought importable to be borne by your said subjects, and very necessary to be reformed.
V. And also the said prelates and ordinaries daily do permit and suffer the parsons, vicars, curates, parish priests, and other spiritual persons having cure of souls within this your Realm, to exact and take of your humble servants divers sums of money for the sacraments and sacramentals of Holy Church, sometimes denying the same without they be first paid the said sums of money, which sacraments and sacramentals your said most humble and obedient subjects, under protection of your Highness, do suppose and think ought to be in most reverend, charitable, and godly wise freely ministered unto them at all times requisite, without denial, or exaction of any manner sums of money to bo demanded or asked for the same.
VI. And also in the spiritual courts of the said prelates and ordinaries there be limited and appointed so many judges, scribes, apparitors, summoners, appraysers, and other ministers for the approbation of Testaments, which covet so much their own private lucres, and the satisfaction and appetites of the said prelates and ordinaries, that when any of your said loving subjects do repair to any of the said courts for the probate of any Testaments, they do in such wise make so long delays, or excessively do take of them so large fees and rewards for the same as is importable for them to bear, directly against all justice, law, equity, and good conscience. Therefore your most humble and obedient subjects do, under your gracious correction and supportation, suppose it were very necessary that the said ordinaries in their deputation of judges should be bound to appoint and assign such discreet, gracious, and honest persons, having sufficient learning, wit, discretion, and understanding; and also being endowed with such spiritual promotion, stipend, and salary; as they being judges in their said courts might and may minister to every person repairing to the same, justice—without taking any manner of fee or reward for any manner of sentence or judgment to be given before them.
VII. And also divers spiritual persons being presented as well by your Highness as others within this your Realm to divers benefices or other spiritual promotions, the said ordinaries and their ministers do not only take of them for their letters of institution and induction many large sums of money and rewards; but also do pact and covenant with the same, taking sure bonds for their indemnity to answer to the said ordinaries, for the firstfruits of their said benefices after their institution—so as they, being once presented or promoted, as aforesaid, are by the said ordinaries very uncharitably handled, to their no little hindrance and impoverishment; which your said subjects suppose not only to be against all laws, right, and good conscience, but also to be simony, and contrary to the laws of God.
VIII. And also the said spiritual ordinaries do daily confer and give sundry benefices unto certain young folks, calling them their nephews or kinsfolk, being in their minority and within age, not apt ne able to serve the cure of any such benefice: whereby the said ordinaries do keep and detain the fruits and profits of the same benefices in their own hands, and thereby accumulate to themselves right great and large sums of money and yearly profits, to the most pernicious example of your said lay subjects—and so the cures and promotions given unto such infants be only employed to the enriching of the said ordinaries; and the poor silly souls of your people, which should be taught in the parishes given as aforesaid, for lack of good curates [be left] to perish without doctrine or any good teaching.
IX. Also, a great number of holydays now at this present time, with very small devotion, be solemnized and kept throughout this your Kealm, upon the which many great, abominable, and execrable vices, idle and wanton sports, be used and exercised, which holydays, if it may stand with your Grace's pleasure, and specially such as fall in the harvest, might, by your Majesty, with the advice of your most honourable council, prelates, and ordinaries, be made fewer in number; and those that shall be hereafter ordained to stand and continue, might and may be the more devoutly, religiously, and reverendly observed, to the laud of Almighty God, and to the increase of your high honour and favour.
X. And furthermore the said spiritual ordinaries, their commissaries and substitutes, sometimes for their own pleasure, sometimes by the sinister procurement of other spiritual persons, use to make out process against divers of your said subjects, and thereby compel them to appear before themselves, to answer at a certain day and place to such articles as by them shall be, ex officio, then proposed; and that secretly and not in open places; and forthwith upon their appearance, without any declaration made or showed, commit and send them to ward, sometimes for [half] a year, sometimes for a whole year or more, before they may in anywise know either the cause of their imprisonment or the name of their accuser; and finally after their great costs and charges therein, when all is examined and nothing can be proved against them, but they clearly innocent for any fault or crime that can be laid unto them, they be again set at large without any recompence or amends in that behalf to be towards them adjudged.
XI. And also if percase upon the said process and appearance any party be upon the said matter, cause, or examination, brought forth and named, either as party or witness, and then upon the proof and trial thereof be not able to prove and verify the said accusation and testimony against the party accused, then the person so accused is for the more part without any remedy for his charges and wrongful vexation to be towards him adjudged and recovered.
XII. Also upon the examination of the said accusation, if heresy be ordinarily laid unto the charge of the parties so accused, then the said ordinaries or their ministers used to put to them such subtle interrogatories, concerning the high mysteries of our faith, as are able quickly to trap a simple unlearned, or yet a well-witted layman without learning, and bring them by such sinister introductions soon to their own confusion. And further, if there chance any heresy to be by such subtle policy, by any person confessed in words, and yet never committed neither in thought nor deed, then put they, without further favour, the said person either to make his purgation, and so thereby to lose his honesty and credence for ever; or else as some simple silly soul [may do], the said person may stand precisely to the testimony of his own well-known conscience, rather than confess his innocent truth in that behalf [to be other than he knows it to be], and so be utterly destroyed. And if it fortune the said party so accused to deny the said accusation, and to put his adversaries to prove the same as being untrue, forged and imagined against him, then for the most part such witnesses as are brought forth for the same, be they but two in number, never so sore diffamed, of little truth or credence, they shall be allowed and enabled, only by discretion of the said ordinaries, their commissaries or substitutes; and thereupon sufficient cause be found to proceed to judgment, to deliver the party so accused either to secular hands after abjuration, without remedy; or afore if he submit himself, as best happeneth, he shall have to make his purgation and bear a faggot, to his extreme shame and undoing.
In consideration of all these things, most gracious Sovereign Lord, and forasmuch as there is at this present time, and by a few years past hath been outrageous violence on the one part and much default and lack of patient sufferance, charity, and good will on the other part; and consequently a marvellous disorder [hath ensued] of the godly quiet, peace, and tranquillity in which this your Realm heretofore, ever hitherto, has been through your politic wisdom, most honourable fame, and catholic faith inviolably preserved; it may therefore, most benign Sovereign Lord, like your excellent goodness for the tender and universally indifferent zeal, benign love and favour which your Highness beareth towards both the said parties, that the said articles (if they shall be by your most clear and perfect judgment, thought any instrument of the said disorders and factions), being deeply and weightily, after your accustomed ways and manner, searched and considered; graciously to provide (all violence on both sides utterly and clearly set apart) some such necessary and behoveful remedies as may effectually reconcile and bring in perpetual unity, your said subjects, spiritual and temporal; and for the establishment thereof, to make and ordain on both sides such strait laws against transgressors and offenders as shall be too heavy, dangerous, and weighty for them, or any of them, to bear, suffer, and sustain.
Whereunto your said Commons most humbly and entirely beseech your Grace, as the only Head, Sovereign Lord and Protector of both the said parties, in whom and by whom the only and sole redress, reformation, and remedy herein absolutely resteth [of your goodness to consent]. By occasion whereof all your Commons in their conscience surely account that, beside the marvellous fervent love that your Highness shall thereby engender in their hearts towards your Grace, ye shall do the most princely feat, and show the most honourable and charitable precedent and mirrour that ever did sovereign lord upon his subjects; and therewithal merit and deserve of our merciful God eternal bliss—whose goodness grant your Grace in goodly, princely, and honourable estate long to reign, prosper, and continue as the Sovereign Lord over all your said most humble and obedient servants.'
But little comment need be added in explanation of this petition, which, though drawn with evident haste, is no less remarkable for temper and good feeling, than for the masterly clearness with which the evils complained of are laid bare. Historians will be careful for the future how they swell the charges against Wolsey with quoting the lamentations of Archbishop Warham, when his Court of Arches was for a while superseded by the Legate's Court, and causes lingering before his commissaries were summarily despatched at a higher tribunal. The Archbishop professed, indeed, that he derived no personal advantage from his courts, and as we have only the popular impression to the contrary to set against his word, we must believe him; yet it was of small moment to the laity who were pillaged, whether the spoils taken from them filled the coffers of the master, or those of his followers and friends.
When we consider, also, the significant allusion to the young folks whom the bishops called their nephews, we cease to wonder at their lenient dealing with the poor priests who had sunk under the temptations of frail humanity; and still less can we wonder at the rough handling which was soon found necessary to bring back these high dignitaries to a better mind.
The House of Commons, in casting their grievances into the form of a petition, showed that they had no desire to thrust forward of themselves violent measures of reform; they sought rather to explain firmly and decisively what the country required. The King, selecting out of the many points noticed those which seemed most immediately pressing, referred them back to the Parliament, with a direction to draw up such enactments as in their own judgment would furnish effective relief. In the mean time he submitted the petition itself to the consideration of the bishops, requiring their immediate answer to the charges against them, and accompanied this request with a further important requisition. The legislative authority of Convocation lay at the root of the evils which were most complained of. The bishops and clergy held themselves independent of either Crown or Parliament, passing canons by their own irresponsible and unchecked will, irrespective of the laws of the land, and sometimes in direct violation of them; and to these canons the laity were amenable without being made acquainted with their provisions, learning them only in the infliction of penalties for their unintended breach. The King required that thenceforward the Convocation should consent to place itself in the position of Parliament, and that his own consent should be required and received before any law passed by Convocation should have the force of statute.
Little notion, indeed, could the bishops have possessed of the position in which they were standing. It seemed as if they literally believed that the promise of perpetuity which Christ had made to his Church was a charm which would hold them free in the quiet course of their injustice; or else, under the blinding influence of custom, they did not really know that any injustice adhered to them. They could see in themselves only the ideal virtues of their saintly office, and not the vices of their fragile humanity; they believed that they were still holy, still spotless, still immaculate, and therefore that no danger might come near them. It cannot have been but that, before the minds of such men as Warham and Fisher, some visions of a future must at times have floated, which hung so plainly before the eyes of Wolsey and of Sir Thomas More. They could not have been wholly deaf to the storm in Germany; and they must have heard something of the growls of smothered anger which for years had been audible at home, to all who had ears to hear. Yet if any such thoughts at times did cross their imagination, they were thrust aside as an uneasy dream, to be shaken off like a nightmare, or with the coward's consolation, 'It will last my time.' If the bishops ever felt an uneasy moment, there is no trace of uneasiness in the answer which they sent in to the King, and which now, when we read it with the light which is thrown back out of the succeeding years, seems like the composition of mere lunacy. Perhaps they had confidence in the support of Henry. In their courts they were in the habit of identifying an attack upon themselves with an attack upon the doctrines of the Church; and reading the King's feelings in their own, they may have considered themselves safe under the protection of a sovereign who had broken a lance with Luther, and had called himself the Pope's champion. Perhaps they thought that they had bound him to themselves by a declaration which they had all signed in the preceding summer in favour of the divorce. Perhaps they were but steeped in the dulness of official lethargy. The defence is long, wearying the patience to read it; wearying the imagination to invent excuses for the falsehoods which it contains. Yet it is well to see all men in the light in which they see themselves; and justice requires that we allow the bishops the benefit of their own reply. It was couched in the following words:—
'After our most humble wise, with our most bounden duty of honour and reverence to your excellent Majesty, endued from God with incomparable wisdom and goodness. Please it the same to understand that we, your orators and daily bounden bedemen, have read and perused a certain supplication which the Commons of your Grace's honourable Parliament now assembled have offered unto your Highness, and by your Grace's commandment delivered unto us, that we should make answer thereunto. We have, as the time hath served, made this answer following, beseeching your Grace's indifferent benignity graciously to hear the same.
'And first for that discord, variance, and debate which, in the preface of the said supplication, they do allege to have risen among your Grace's subjects, spiritual and temporal, occasioned, as they say, by the uncharitable behaviour and demeanour of divers ordinaries: to this we, the ordinaries, answer, assuring your Majesty that in our hearts there is no such discord or variance on our part against our brethren in God and ghostly children your subjects, as is induced in this preface; but our daily prayer is and shall be that all peace and concord may increase among your Grace's true subjects our said children, whom God be our witness we love, have loved, and shall love ever with hearty affection; never intending any hurt ne harm towards any of them in soul or body; ne have we ever enterprised anything against them of trouble, vexation, or displeasure; but only have, with all charity, exercised the spiritual jurisdiction of the Church, as we are bound of duty, upon certain evil-disposed persons infected with the pestilent poison of heresy. And to have peace with such had been against the Gospel of our Saviour Christ, wherein he saith, Non veni mittere pacem sed gladium. Wherefore, forasmuch as we know well that there be as well-disposed and well-conscienced men of your Grace's Commons in no small number assembled, as ever we knew at any time in Parliament; and with that consider how on our part there is given no such occasion why the whole number of the spirituality and clergy should be thus noted unto your Highness; we humbling our hearts to God and remitting ihe judgment of this our inquietation to Him, and trusting, as his Scripture teacheth, that if we love him above all, omnia coöperabuntur in bonum, shall endeavour to declare to your Highness the innocency of us, your poor orators.
'And where, after the general preface of the same supplication, your Grace's Commons descend to special particular griefs, and first to those divers fashions of laws concerning temporal things, whereon, as they say, the clergy in their Convocation have made and daily do make divers laws, to their great trouble and inquietation, which said laws be sometimes repugnant to the statutes of your Realm, with many other complaints thereupon: To this we say, that forasmuch as we repute and take our authority of making of laws to be grounded upon the Scriptures of God and the determination of Holy Church, which must be the rule and square to try the justice and righteousness of all laws, as well spiritual as temporal, we verily trust that in such laws as have been made by us, or by our predecessors, the same being sincerely interpreted, and after the meaning of the makers, there shall be found nothing contained in them but such as may be well justified by the said rule and square. And if it shall otherwise appear, as it is our duty whereunto we shall always most diligently apply ourselves to reform our ordinances to God's commission, and to conform our statutes to the determination of Scripture and Holy Church; so we hope in God, and shall daily pray for the same, that your Highness will, if there appear cause why, with the assent of your people, temper your Grace's laws accordingly; whereby shall ensue a most sure and hearty conjunction and agreement; God being lapis angularis.
'And as concerning the requiring of your Highness's royal assent to the authorizing of such laws as have been made by our predecessors, or shall be made by us, in such points and articles as we have authority to rule and order; we knowing your Highness's wisdom, virtue, and learning, nothing doubt but that the same perceiveth how the granting thereunto dependeth not upon our will and liberty, and that we may not submit the execution of our charges and duty certainly prescribed to us by God to your Highness's assent; although, indeed, the same is most worthy for your most princely and excellent virtues, not only to give your royal assent, but also to devise and command what we should for good order or manners by statutes and laws provide in the Church. Nevertheless, we considering we may not so nor in such sort restrain the doing of our office in the feeding and ruling of Christ's people, we most humbly desire your Grace (as the same hath done heretofore) to show your Grace's mind and opinion unto us, which we shall most gladly hear and follow if it shall please God to inspire us so to do; and with all humility we therefore beseech your Grace, following the steps of your most noble progenitors, to maintain and defend such laws and ordinances as we, according to our calling and by the authority of God, shall for his honour make to the edification of virtue and the maintaining of Christ's faith, whereof your Highness is defender in name, and hath been hitherto indeed a special protector.
'Furthermore, where there be found in the said supplication, with mention of your Grace's person, other griefs that some of the said laws extend to the goods and possessions of your said lay subjects, declaring the transgressors not only to fall under the terrible censure of excommunication, but also under the detestable crime of heresy:
'To this we answer that we remember no such, and yet if there be any such, it is but according to the common law of the Church, and also to your Grace's law, which determine and decree that every person spiritual or temporal condemned of heresy shall forfeit his moveables or immoveables to your Highness, or to the lord spiritual or temporal that by law hath right to them. Other statutes we remember none that toucheth lands or goods. If there be, it were good that they were brought forth to be weighed and pondered accordingly.
'Item as touching the second principal article of the said supplication, where they say that divers and many of your Grace's obedient subjects, and especially they that be of the poorest sort, be daily called before us or before our substitutes ex officio; sometimes at the pleasure of us, the ordinaries, without any probable cause, and sometimes at the only promotion of our summoner, without any credible fame first proved against them, and without presentment in the visitation or lawful accusation:
'On this we desire your high wisdom and learning to consider that albeit in the ordering of Christ's people, your Grace's subjects, God of His spiritual goodness assisteth His Church, and inspireth by the Holy Ghost as we verily trust such rules and laws as tend to the wealth of his elect folk; yet upon considerations to man unknown, his infinite wisdom leaveth or permitteth men to walk in their infirmity and frailty; so that we cannot ne will arrogantly presume of ourselves, as though being in name spiritual men, we were also in all our acts and doings clean and void from all temporal affections and carnality of this world, or that the laws of the Church made for spiritual and ghostly purpose be not sometime applied to worldly intent. This we ought and do lament, as becometh us, very sore. Nevertheless, as the evil deeds of men be the mere defaults of those particular men, and not of the whole order of the clergy, nor of the law wholesomely by them made; our request and petition shall be with all humility and reverence; that laws well made be not therefore called evil because by all men and at all times they be not well executed; and that in such defaults as shall appear such distribution may be used ut unusquisque onus suum portet, and remedy be found to reform the offenders; unto the which your Highness shall perceive as great towardness in your said orators as can be required upon declaration of particulars. And other answer than this cannot be made in the name of your whole clergy, for though in multis offendimus omnes, as St James saith, yet not 'in omnibus offendimus omnes;' and the whole number can neither justify ne condemn particular acts to them unknown but thus. He that calleth a man ex officio for correction of sin, doeth well. He that calleth men for pleasure or vexation, doeth evil. Summoners should be honest men. If they offend in their office, they should be punished. To prove first [their faults] before men be called, is not necessary. He that is called according to the laws ex officio or otherwise, cannot complain. He that is otherwise ordered should have by reason convenient recompence and so forth; that is well to be allowed, and misdemeanour when it appeareth to be reproved.
'Item where they say in the same article that upon their appearance ex officio at the only pleasure of the ordinaries, they be committed to prison without bail or mainprize; and there they lie some half a year or more before they come to their deliverance; to this we answer,—
'That we use no prison before conviction but for sure custody, and only of such as be suspected of heresy, in which crime, thanked be God, there hath fallen no such notable person in our time, or of such qualities, as hath given occasion of any sinister suspicion to be conceived of malice or hatred to his person other than the heinousness of their crime deserveth. Truth it is that certain apostates, friars, monks, lewd priests, bankrupt merchants, vagabonds, and lewd idle fellows of corrupt intent, have embraced the abominable and erroneous opinions lately sprung in Germany; and by them some have been seduced in simplicity and ignorance. Against these, if judgment has been exercised according to the laws of the Church, and conformably to the laws of this realm, we be without blame. If we have been too remiss and slack, we shall gladly do our duty from henceforth. If any man hath been, under pretence of this [crime], particularly offended, it were pity to suffer any man to be wronged; and thus it ought to be, and otherwise we cannot answer, no man's special case being declared in the said petition.
'Item where they say further that they so appearing ex officio, be condemned to answer to many subtle questions by the which a simple, unlearned, or else a well-witted layman without learning sometimes is, and commonly may be trapped and induced into peril of open penance to their shame, or else [forced] to redeem their penance for money, as is commonly used; to this we answer that we should not use subtlety, for we should do all things plainly and openly; and if we do otherwise, we do amiss. We ought not to ask questions, but after the capacities of the man. Christ hath defended his true doctrine and faith in his Catholic Church from all subtlety, and so preserved good men in the same, as they have not (blessed be God) been vexed, inquieted, or troubled in Christ's Church. Thereupon evil men fall in danger by their own subtlety; we protest afore God we have neither known, read, nor heard of any one man damaged or prejudiced by spiritual jurisdiction in this behalf, neither in this realm nor any other, but only by his own deserts. Such is the goodness of God in maintaining the cause of his Catholic faith.
'Item where they say they be compelled to do open penance, or else redeem the same for money; as for penance, we answer it consisteth in the arbitre of a judge who ought to enjoin such penance as might profit for correction of the fault. Whereupon we disallow that judge's doing who taketh money for penance for lucre or advantage, not regarding the reformation of sin as he ought to do. But when open penance may sometimes work in certain persons more hurt than good, it is commendable and allowable in that case to punish by the purse, and preserve the fame of the party; foreseeing always the money be converted in usus pios et eleemosynam, and thus we think of the thing, and that the offenders should be punished.
'Item where they complain that two witnesses be admitted, be they never so defamed, of little truth or credence, adversaries or enemies to the parties; yet in many cases they be allowed by the discretion of the ordinaries to put the party defamed, ex officio, to open penance, and then to redemption for money; so that every of your subjects, upon the only will of the ordinaries or their substitutes, without any accuser, proved fame, or presentment, is or may be infamed, vexed, and troubled, to the peril of their lives, their shames, costs, and expenses:
'To this we reply, the Gospel of Christ teacheth us to believe two witnesses; and as the cause is, so the judge must esteem the quality of the witness; and in heresy no exception is necessary to be considered if their tale be likely; which hath been highly provided lest heretics without jeopardy might else plant their heresies in lewd and light persons, and taking exception to the witnesses, take boldness to continue their folly. This is the universal law of Christendom, and hath universally done good. Of any injury done to any man thereby we know not.
'Item where they say it is not intended by them to take away from us our authority to correct and punish sins, and especially the detestable crime of heresy:
'To this we answer, in the prosecuting heretics we regard our duty and office whereunto we be called, and if God will discharge us thereof, or cease that plague universal, as, by directing the hearts of princes, and specially the heart of your Highness (laud and thanks be unto Him), His goodness doth commence and begin to do, we should and shall have great cause to rejoice; as being our authority therein costly, dangerous, full of trouble and business, without any fruit, pleasure, or commodity worldly, but a continued conflict and vexation with pertinacity, wilfulness, folly, and ignorance, whereupon followeth their bodily and ghostly destruction, to our great sorrow.
'Item where they desire that by assent of your Highness (if the laws heretofore made be not sufficient for the repression of heresy) more dreadful and terrible laws may be made; this we think is undoubtedly a more charitable request than as we trust necessary, considering that by the aid of your Highness, and the pains of your Grace's statutes freely executed, your realm may be in short time clean purged from the few small dregs that do remain, if any do remain.
'Item where they desire some reasonable declaration may be made to your people, how they may, if they will, avoid the peril of heresy. No better declaration, we say, can be made than is already by our Saviour Christ, the Apostles, and the determination of the Church, which if they keep, they shall not fail to eschew heresy.
'Item where they desire that some charitable fashion may be devised by your wisdom for the calling of any of your subjects before us, that it shall not stand in the only will and pleasure of the ordinaries at their own imagination, without lawful accusation by honest witness, according to your law; to this we say that a better provision cannot be devised than is already devised by the clergy in our opinion; and if any default appear in the execution, it shall be amended on declaration of the particulars, and the same proved.
'Item where they say that your subjects be cited out of the diocese which they dwell in, and many times be suspended and excommunicate for light causes upon the only certificate devised by the proctors, and that all your subjects find themselves grieved with the excessive fees taken in the spiritual courts:
'To this article, for because it concerneth specially the spiritual courts of me the Archbishop of Canterbury, please it your Grace to understand that about twelve months past I reformed certain things objected here; and now within these ten weeks I reformed many other things in my said courts, as I suppose is not unknown unto your Grace's Commons; and some of the fees of the officers of my courts I have brought down, to halves, some to the third part, and some wholly taken away and extincted; and yet it is objected to me as though I had taken no manner of reformation therein. Nevertheless I shall not cease yet; but in such things as I shall see your Commons most offended I will set redress accordingly, so as, I trust, they will be contented in that behalf. And I, the said archbishop, beseech your Grace to consider what service the doctors in civil law, which have had their practice in my courts, have done your Grace concerning treaties, truces, confederations, and leagues devised and concluded with outward princes; and that without such learned men in civil law your Grace could not have been so conveniently served as at all times you have been, which thing, perhaps, when such learned men shall fail, will appear more evident than it doth now. The decay whereof grieveth me to foresee, not so greatly for any cause concerning the pleasure or profit of myself, being a man spent, and at the point to depart this world, and having no penny of any advantage by my said courts, but principally for the good love which I bear to the honour of your Grace and of your realm. And albeit there is, by the assent of the Lords Temporal and the Commons of your Parliament, an Act passed thereupon already, the matter depending before your Majesty by way of supplication offered to your Highness by your said Commons; yet, forasmuch as we your Grace's humble chaplains, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, be bounden by oath to be intercessors for the rights of our churches; and forasmuch as the spiritual prelates of the clergy, being of your Grace's Parliament, consented to the said Act for divers great causes moving their conscience, we your Grace's said chaplains show unto your Highness that it hath appertained to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York for the space of four hundred years or thereabouts to have spiritual jurisdiction over all your Grace's subjects dwelling within the provinces; and to have authority to call before them, not only in spiritual causes devolved to them by way of appeal, but also by way of querimony and complaint; which right and privilege pertaineth not only to the persons of the said archbishops, but also to the pre-eminences of their churches. Insomuch that when the archbishop of either of the sees dieth, the said privileges do not only remain to his successor (by which he is named Legatus natus), but also in the mean time of vacation the same privilege resteth in the churches of Canterbury and York; and is executed by the prior, dean and chapter of the said churches; and so the said Act is directly against the liberty and privileges of the churches of Canterbury and York; and what dangers be to them which study and labour to take away the liberties and privileges of the Church, whoso will read the general councils of Christendom and the canons of the fathers of the Catholic Church ordained in that behalf, shall soon perceive. And further, we think verily that our churches, to which the said privileges were granted, can give no cause why the Pope himself (whose predecessors granted that privilege) or any other (the honour of your Grace ever except) may justly take away the same privileges so lawfully prescribed from our churches, though we [ourselves] had greatly offended, abusing the said privileges. But when in our persons we trust we have given no cause why to lose that privilege, we beseech your Grace of your goodness and absolute power to set such orders in this behalf as we may enjoy our privileges lawfully admitted so long.
'Item where they complain that there is exacted and demanded in divers parishes of this your realm, other manner of tythes than hath been accustomed to be paid this hundred years past; and in some parts of this your realm there is exacted double tythes, that is to say, threepence, or twopence-halfpenny, for one acre, over and beside the tythe for the increase of cattle that pastureth the same:
'To this we say, that tythes being due by God's law, be so duly paid (thanked be God), by all good men, as there needeth not exaction in the most parts of this your Grace's realm. As for double tythes, they cannot be maintained due for one increase; whether in any place they be unduly exacted in fact we know not. This we know in learning, that neither a hundred years, nor seven hundred of non-payment, may debar the right of God's law. The manner of payment, and person unto whom to pay, may be in time altered, but the duty cannot by any means be taken away.
'Item where they say that when a mortuary is due, curates sometimes, before they will demand it, will bring citation for it; and then will not receive the mortuaries till they may have such costs as they say they have laid out for the suit of the same; when, indeed, if they would first have charitably demanded it, they needed not to have sued for the same, for it should have been paid with good will:
'We answer that curates thus offending, if they were known, ought to be punished, but who thus doeth we know not.
'Item where they say that divers spiritual persons being presented to benefices within this your realm, we and our ministers do take of them great sums of money and reward; we reply that this is a particular abuse, and he that taketh reward doeth not well; and if any penny be exacted above the accustomed rate and after convenient proportion, it is not well done. But in taking the usual fee for the sealing, writing, and registering the letters, which is very moderate, we cannot think it to be reputed as any offence; neither have we heard any priests in our days complain of any excess therein.
'And where they say in the same article that such as be presented be delayed without reasonable cause, to the intent that we the ordinaries may have the profit of the benefice during the vacation, unless they will pact and convent with us by temporal bonds, whereof some bonds contain that we should have part of the profit of the said benefice, which your said subjects suppose to be not only against right and conscience, but also seemeth to be simony, and contrary to the laws of God:
'To this we do say that a delay without reasonable cause, and for a lucrative intent, is detestable in spiritual men, and the doers cannot eschew punishment: but otherwise a delay is sometimes expedient to examine the clerk, and sometimes necessary when the title is in variance. All other bargains and covenants being contrary to the law ought to be punished, as the quality is of the offence more or less, as simony or inordinate covetousness.
'Item where they say that we give benefices to our nephews and kinsfolk, being in young age or infants, whereby the cure is not substantially looked into, nor the parishioners taught as they should be; we reply to this that the thing which is not lawful in others is in spiritual men more detestable. Benefices should be disposed of not secundum carnem et sanguinem, sed secundum merita. And when there is a default it is not authorized by the clergy as good, but reproved; whereupon in this the clergy is not to be blamed, but the default as it may appear must be laid to particular men.
'And where they say that we take the profit of such benefices for the time of the minority of our said kinsfolk, if it be done to our own use and profit it is not well; if it be bestowed to the bringing up and use of the same parties, or applied to the maintenance of the Church and God's service, or distributed among the poor, we do not see but that it may be allowed.
'Item where they say that divers and many spiritual persons, not contented with the convenient livings and promotions of the Church, daily intromit and exercise themselves in secular offices and rooms, as stewards, receivers, auditors, bailiffs, and other temporal occupations, withdrawing themselves from the good contemplative lives that they have professed, not only to the damage but also to the perilous example of your loving and obedient subjects; to this we your bedesmen answer that beneficed men may lawfully be stewards and receivers to their own bishops, as it evidently appeareth in the laws of the Church; and we by the same laws ought to have no other. And as for priests to be auditors and bailiffs, we know none such.
'And where, finally, they, in the conclusion of their supplication, do repeat and say that forasmuch as there is at this present time, and by a few years past hath been much misdemeanour and violence upon the one part, and much default and lack of patience, charity, and good will on the other part; and marvellous discord in consequence of the quiet, peace, and tranquillity in which this your realm hath been ever hitherto preserved through your politic wisdom:
'To the first part as touching such discord as is reported, and also the misdemeanour which is imputed to us and our doings, we trust we have sufficiently answered the same, humbly beseeching your Grace so to esteem and weigh such answer with their supplication as shall be thought good and expedient by your high wisdom. Furthermore we ascertain your Grace as touching the violence which they seem to lay to our charge, albeit divers of the clergy of this your realm have sundry times been rigorously handled, and with much violence entreated by certain ill-disposed and seditious persons of the lay fee, have been injured in their bodies, thrown down in the kennel in the open streets at mid-day, even here within your city, and elsewhere, to the great rebuke and disquietness of the clergy of your realm, the great danger of the souls of the said misdoers, and perilous example of your subjects. Yet we think verily, and do affirm the same, that no violence hath been so used on our behalf towards your said lay subjects in any case; unless they esteem this to be violence that we do use as well for the health of their souls as for the discharge of our duties, in taking, examining, and punishing heretics according to the law: wherein we doubt not but that your Grace, and divers of your Grace's subjects, do understand well what charitable entreaty we have used with such as have been before us for the same cause of heresy; and what means we have devised and studied for safeguard specially of their souls; and that charitably, as God be our judge, and without violence as [far as] we could possibly devise. In execution whereof, and also of the laws of the Church for repression of sin, and also for reformation of mislivers, it hath been to our great comfort that your Grace hath herein of your goodness, assisted and aided us in this behalf for the zeal and love which your Grace beareth to God's Church and to His ministers; specially in defence of His faith whereof your Grace only and most worthily amongst all Christian princes beareth the title and name. And for that marvellous discord and grudge among your subjects as is reported in the supplication of your Commons, we beseech your Majesty, all the premises considered, to repress those that be misdoers; protesting in our behalf that we ourselves have no grudge nor displeasure towards your lay subjects our ghostly children. We intreat your Grace of your accustomed goodness to us your bedemen to continue our chief protector, defender, and aider in and for the execution of our office and duty; specially touching repression of heresy, reformation of sin, and due behaviour and order of all your Grace's subjects, spiritual and temporal; which (no doubt thereof) shall be much to the pleasure of God, great comfort to men's souls, quietness and unity of all your realm; and, as we think, most principally to the great comfort of your Grace's Majesty. Which we beseech lowly upon our knees, so entirely as we can, to be the author of unity, charity, and concord as above, for whose preservation we do and shall continually pray to Almighty God long to reign and prosper in most honourable estate to his pleasure.'
This was the bishops' defence; the best which, under the circumstances, they considered themselves capable of making. The House of Commons had stated their complaints in the form of special notorious facts; the bishops replied with urging the theory of their position, and supposed that they could relieve the ecclesiastical system from the faults of its ministers, by laying the sole blame on the unworthiness of individual persons. The degenerate representatives of a once noble institution could not perhaps be expected to admit their degeneracy, and confess themselves, as they really were, collectively incompetent; yet the defence which they brought forward would have been valid only so long as the blemishes were the rare exceptions in the working of an institution which was still generally beneficent. It was no defence at all when the faults had become the rule, and when there was no security in the system itself for the selection of worth and capacity to exercise its functions. The clergy, as I have already said, claimed the privileges of saints, while their conduct fell below the standard of that of ordinary men; and the position taken in this answer was tenable only on the hypothesis which it, in fact, deliberately asserted, that the judicial authority of the Church had been committed to it by God Himself; and that no misconduct of its ministers in detail could forfeit their claims or justify resistance to them.
There is something touching in the bishops' evidently sincere unconsciousness that there could be real room for blame. Warham, who had been Archbishop of Canterbury thirty years, took credit to himself for the reforms which, under the pressure of public opinion, he had introduced, in the last few weeks or months; and did not know that in doing so he had passed sentence on a life of neglect. In the opinion of the entire bench no infamy, however notorious, could shake the testimony of a witness in a case of heresy; no cruelty was unjust when there was suspicion of so horrible a crime; while the appointment of minors to church benefices (not to press more closely the edge of the accusation) they admitted while they affected to deny it; since they were not ashamed to defend the appropriation of the proceeds of benefices occupied by such persons, if laid out on the education and maintenance of the minors themselves.
Yet these things were as nothing in comparison with the powers claimed for Convocation; and the prelates of the later years of Henry's reign must have looked back with strange sensations at the language which their predecessors had so simply addressed to him. If the canons which Convocation might think good to enact were not consistent with the laws of the realm, 'his Majesty' was desired to produce the wished-for uniformity by altering the laws of the realm; and although the bishops might not submit their laws to his Majesty's approval, they would be happy, they told him, to consider such suggestions as he might think proper to make. The spirit of the Plantagenets must have slumbered long before such words as these could have been addressed to an English sovereign, and little did the bishops dream that these light words were the spell which would burst the charm, and bid that spirit wake again in all its power and terror.
The House of Commons in the mean time had not been idle. To them the questions at issue were unencumbered with theoretic difficulties. Enormous abuses had been long ripe for solution, and there was no occasion to waste time in unnecessary debates. At such a time, with a House practically unanimous, business could be rapidly transacted, the more rapidly indeed in proportion to its importance. In six weeks, for so long only the session lasted, the astonished Church authorities saw bill after bill hurried up before the Lords, by which successively the pleasant fountains of their incomes would be dried up to flow no longer; or would flow only in shallow rivulets along the beds of the once abundant torrents. The jurisdiction of the spiritual courts was not immediately curtailed, and the authority which was in future to be permitted to Convocation lay over for further consideration, to be dealt with in another manner. But probate duties and legacy duties, hitherto assessed at discretion, were dwarfed into fixed proportions,
not to touch the poorer laity any more, and bearing even upon wealth with a reserved and gentle hand. Mortuaries were shorn of their luxuriance; when effects were small, no mortuary should be required; when large, the clergy should content themselves with a modest share. No velvet cloaks should be stripped any more from strangers' bodies to save them from a rector's grasp; no shameful battles with apparitors should disturb any more the recent rest of the dead. Such sums as the law would permit should be paid thenceforward in the form of decent funeral fees for householders dying in their own parishes, and there the exactions should terminate.
The carelessness of the bishops in the discharge of their most immediate duties obliged the legislature to trespass also in the provinces purely spiritual, and undertake the discipline of the clergy. The Commons had complained in their petition that the clergy, instead of attending to their duties, were acting as auditors, bailiffs, stewards, or in other capacities, as laymen; they were engaged in trade also, in farming, in tanning, in brewing, in doing anything but the duties which they were paid for doing; while they purchased dispensations for non- residence on their benefices; and of these benefices, in favoured cases, single priests held as many as eight or nine. It was thought unnecessary to wait for the bishops' pleasure to apply a remedy here. If the clergy were unjustly accused of these offences, a law of general prohibition would not touch them. If the belief of the House of Commons was well founded, there was no occasion for longer delay. It was therefore enacted—'for the more quiet and virtuous increase and maintenance of divine service, the preaching and teaching the Word of God with godly and good example, for the better discharge of cures, the maintenance of hospitality, the relief of poor people, the increase of devotion and good opinion of the lay fee towards spiritual persons'—that no such persons thenceforward should take any land to farm beyond what was necessary, bonâ fide, for the support of their own households; that they should not buy merchandise to sell again; that they should keep no tanneries or brewhouses, or otherwise directly or indirectly trade for gain. Pluralities were not to be permitted with benefices above the yearly value of eight pounds, and residence was made oligatory under penalty in cases of absence without special reason, of ten pounds for each month of such absence. The law against pluralities was limited as against existing holders, each of whom, for their natural lives, might continue to hold as many as four benefices. But dispensations, either for non-residence or for the violation of any other provision of the Act, were made penal in a high degree, whether obtained from the bishops or from the Court of Home.
These bills struck hard and struck home. Yet even persons who most disapprove of the Reformation will not at the present time either wonder at their enactment or complain of their severity. They will be desirous rather to disentangle their doctrine from suspicious connection, and will not be anxious to compromise their theology by the defence of unworthy professors of it.
The bishops, however, could ill tolerate an interference with the privileges of the ecclesiastical order. The Commons, it was exclaimed, were heretics and schismatics; the cry was heard everywhere, of Lack of faith, Lack of faith; and the lay peers being constitutionally conservative, and perhaps instinctively apprehensive of the infectious tendencies of innovation, it seemed likely for a time that an effective opposition might be raised in the Upper House. The clergy commanded an actual majority in that House from their own body, which they might employ if they dared; and although they were not likely to venture alone on so bold a measure, yet a partial support from the other members was a sufficient encouragement. The aged Bishop of Rochester was made the spokesman of the ecclesiastics on this occasion. 'My Lords,' he said, 'you see daily what bills come hither from the Commons House, and all is to the destruction of the Church. For God's sake see what a realm the kingdom of Bohemia was; and when the Church went down, then fell the glory of that kingdom. Now with the Commons is nothing but Down with the Church, and all this meseemeth is for lack of faith only.' 'In result,' says Hall, 'the Acts were sore debated; the Lords Spiritual would in no wise consent, and committees of the two Houses sat continually for discussion.' The spiritualty defended themselves by prescription and usage, to which a Gray's Inn lawyer something insolently answered, on one occasion, 'the usage hath ever been of thieves to rob on Shooter's Hill, ergo, it is lawful.' 'With this answer,' continues Hall, 'the spiritual men were sore offended because their doings were called robberies, but the temporal men stood by their sayings, insomuch that the said gentleman declared to the Archbishop of Canterbury, that both the exaction of probates of testaments and the taking of mortuaries were open robbery and thefts.'
At length, people out of doors growing impatient, and dangerous symptoms threatening to show themselves, the King summoned a meeting in the Star-chamber between eight members of both Houses. The lay peers, after some discussion, conclusively gave way; and the bishops, left without support, were obliged to yield. They signified their unwilling consent, and the bills, 'somewhat qualified,' were the next day agreed to—'to the great rejoicing of the lay people, and the great displeasure of the spiritual persons.'
Nor were the House of Commons contented with the substance of victory. The reply to their petition had perhaps by that time been made known to them, and at any rate they had been accused of sympathy with heresy, and they would not submit to the hateful charge without exacting revenge. The more clamorous of the clergy out of doors were punished probably by the stocks; from among their opponents in the Upper House, Fisher was selected for especial and signal humiliation. The words of which he had made use were truer than the Commons knew; perhaps the latent truth of them was the secret cause of the pain which they inflicted; but the special anxiety of the English reformers was to disconnect themselves, with marked emphasis, from the movement in Germany, and they determined to compel the offending bishop to withdraw his words.
They sent the speaker, Sir Thomas Audeley, to the King, who 'very eloquently declared what dishonour it was to his Majesty and the realm, that they which were elected for the wisest men in the shires, cities, and boroughs within the realm of England, should be declared in so noble a presence to lack faith.' It was equivalent to saying 'that they were infidels, and no Christians—as ill as Turks and Saracens.' Wherefore he 'most humbly besought the King's Highness to call the said bishop before him, and to cause him to speak more discreetly of such a number as was in the Commons House.' Henry consented to their request, it is likely with no great difficulty, and availed himself of the opportunity to read a lesson much needed to the remainder of the bench. He sent for Fisher, and with him for the Archbishop of Canterbury, and for six other bishops. The speaker's message was laid before them, and they were asked what they had to say. It would have been well for the weak trembling old men if they could have repeated what they believed and had maintained their right to believe it. Bold conduct is ever the most safe; it is fatal only when there is courage but for the first step, and fails when a second is required to support it. But they were forsaken in their hour of calamity, not by courage only, but by prudence, by judgment, by conscience itself. The Bishop of Rochester stooped to an equivocation too transparent to deceive any one; he said that 'he meant only the doings of the Bohemians were for lack of faith, and not the doings of the Commons House'—'which saying was confirmed by the bishops present.' The King allowed the excuse, and the bishops were dismissed; but they were dismissed into ignominy, and thenceforward, in all Henry's dealings with them, they were treated with contemptuous disrespect. For Fisher himself we must feel only sorrow. After seventy-six years of a useful and honourable life, which he might have hoped to close in a quiet haven, he was launched suddenly upon stormy waters, to which he was too brave to yield, which he was too timid to contend against; and the frail vessel drifting where the waves drove it, was soon piteously to perish.
Dec. 17.Thus triumphant on every side, the Parliament, in the middle of December, closed its session, and lay England celebrated its exploits as a national victory. 'The King removed to Greenwich, and there kept his Christmas with the Queen with great triumph, with great plenty of viands, and disguisings, and interludes, to the great rejoicing of his people;' the members of the House of Commons, we may well believe, following the royal example in town and country, and being the little heroes of the day. Only the bishops carried home sad hearts within them, to mourn over the perils of the Church and the impending end of all things; Fisher, unhappily for himself, to listen to the wailings of the Nun of Kent, and to totter slowly into treason.
Here, for the present, leaving the clergy to meditate on their future, and reconsider the wisdom of their answer to the King respecting the ecclesiastical jurisdiction (a point on which they were not the less certain to be pressed, because the process upon it was temporarily suspended), we must turn to the more painful matter which for a time longer ran parallel with the domestic reformation, and as yet was unable to unite with it. After the departure of Campeggio, the further hearing of the divorce cause had been advoked to Rome, where it was impossible for Henry to consent to plead; while the appearance of the supposed brief had opened avenues of new difficulty which left no hope of a decision within the limits of an ordinary lifetime. Henry was still, however, extremely reluctant to proceed to extremities, and appeal to the Parliament. He had threatened that he would tolerate no delay, and Wolsey had evidently expected that he would not. Queen Catherine's alarm had gone so far, that in the autumn she had procured an injunction from the Pope, which had been posted in the churches of Flanders, menacing the King with spiritual censures if he took any further steps. Even this she feared that he would disregard, and in March, 1529–30, a second inhibition was issued at her request, couched in still stronger language. But these measures were needless, or at least premature. Henry expected that the display of temper in the country in the late session would produce an effect both on the Pope and on the Emperor; and proposing to send an embassy to remonstrate jointly with them on the occasion of the Emperor's coronation, which was to take place in the spring at Bologna, he had recourse in the mean time to an expedient which, though blemished in the execution, was itself reasonable and prudent.
Among the many technical questions which had been raised upon the divorce, the most serious was on the validity of the original dispensation; a question not only on the sufficiency of the form the defects of which the brief had been invented to remedy; but on the more comprehensive uncertainty whether Pope Julius had not exceeded his powers altogether in granting a dispensation where there was so close affinity. No one supposed that the Pope could permit a brother to marry a sister; a dispensation granted in such a case would be ipso facto void.—Was not the dispensation similarly void which permitted the marriage of a brother's widow? The advantage which Henry expected from raising this difficulty was the transfer of judgment from the partial tribunal of Clement to a broader court. The Pope could not, of course, adjudicate on the extent of his own powers; especially as he always declared himself to be ignorant of the law; and the decision of so general a question rested either with a general council, or must be determined by the consent of Christendom, obtained in some other manner. If such general consent declared against the Pope, the cause was virtually terminated. If there was some approach to a consent against him,, or even if there was general uncertainty, Henry had a legal pretext for declining his jurisdiction, and appealing to a council.
Thomas Cranmer, then a doctor of divinity at Cambridge, is said to have been the person who suggested this ingenious expedient, and to have advised the King, as the simplest means of carrying it out, to consult in detail the universities and learned men throughout Europe. His notorious activity in collecting the opinions may have easily connected him. with the origination of the plan, which probably occurred to many other persons as well as to him; but whoever was the first adviser, it was immediately acted upon, and English agents were despatched into Germany, Italy, and France, carrying with them all means of persuasion, intellectual, moral, and material, which promised to be of most cogent potency with lawyers' convictions.
This matter was in full activity when the Earl of Wiltshire, Anne Boleyn's father, with Cranmer, the Bishop of London, and Edward Lee, afterwards Jan. 20.Archbishop of York, was despatched to Bologna to lay Henry's remonstrances before the Emperor, who was come at last in person to enjoy his miserable triumph, and receive from the Pope the Imperial crown. Sir Nicholas Carew who had been sent forward a few weeks previously, described in piteous language the state to which Italy had been reduced by him. Passing through Pavia, the English emissary saw the children crying about the streets for bread, and dying of hunger; the grapes in midwinter rotting on the vines, because there was no one to gather them; and for fifty miles scarcely a single creature, man or woman, in the fields. 'They say,' added Carew, 'and the Pope also showed us the same, that the whole people of that country, withDec. 12. divers other places in Italia, with war, famine, and pestilence, are utterly dead and gone.' Such had been the combined work of the vanity of Francis and the cold selfishness of Charles; and now the latter had arrived amidst the ruins which he had made, to receive his crown from the hands of a Pope who was true to Italy, if false to all the world besides, and whom, but two years before, he had imprisoned and disgraced. We think of Clement as the creature of the Emperor, and such substantially he allowed himself to be; but his obedience was the obedience of fear to a master whom he hated, and the Bishop of Tarbès, who was present at the coronation, Feb. 24.and stood at his side through the ceremony, saw him trembling under his robes with emotion, and heard him sigh bitterly. Very unwillingly, we may be assured, he was compelled to act his vacillating part to England, and England, at. this distance of time, may forgive him for faults to which she owes her freedom, and need not refuse him some tribute of sympathy in his sorrows.
Fallen on evil times, which greater wisdom and greater courage than had for many a century been found in the successors of St Peter would have failed to encounter successfully, Clement VII. remained, with all his cowardice, a true Italian; his errors were the errors of his age and nation, and were softened by the presence, in more than usual measure, of Italian genius and grace. Benvenuto Cellini, who describes his character with much minuteness, has left us a picture of a hot-tempered, but genuine and kind-hearted man, whose taste was elegant, and whose wit, from the playful spirit with which it was pervaded, and from a certain tendency to innocent levity, approached to humour. He was liable to violent bursts of feeling; and his inability to control himself, his gesticulations, his exclamations, and his tears, all represent to us a person who was an indifferent master of the tricks of dissimulation to which he was reduced, and whose weakness entitles him to pity, if not to respect. The Papacy had fallen to him at the crisis of its deepest degradation. It existed as a politically organized institution, which it was convenient to maintain, but from which the private hearts of all men had fallen away; and it depended for its very life upon the support which the Courts of Europe would condescend to extend to it. Among these Governments, therefore, distracted as they were by mutual hostility, the Pope was compelled to make his choice; and the fatality of his position condemned him to quarrel with the only prince on whom, at the outset of these complications, he had a right to depend.
In 1512, France had been on the point of declaring her religious independence; and as late as 1525, Francis entertained thoughts of offering the patriarchate to Wolsey. Charles V., postponing his religious devotion for the leisure of old age, had reserved the choice of his party, to watch events and to wait upon opportunity; while, from his singular position, he wielded in one hand the power of Catholic Spain, in the other that of Protestant Germany, ready to strike with either, as occasion or necessity recommended. If his Spaniards had annexed the New World to the Papacy, his German lanzknechts had stormed the Holy City, murdered cardinals, and outraged the Pope's person: while both Charles and Francis, alike caring exclusively for their private interests, had allowed the Turks to overrun Hungary, ta conquer Rhodes, and to collect an armament at Constantinople so formidable as to threaten Italy itself, and the very Christian faith. Hemy alone had shown hitherto a true feeling for religion; Henry had made war with Louis XII. solely in the Pope's quarrel; Henry had broken an old alliance with the Emperor to revenge the capture of Rome, and had won Francis back to his allegiance. To Henry, if to any one, the Roman bishop had a right to look with confidence. But the power of England was far off, and could not reach to Rome. Francis had been baffled and defeated, his armies destroyed, his political influence in the Peninsula annihilated. The practical choice which remained to Clement lay only, as it seemed, between the Emperor and martyrdom; and having, perhaps, a desire for the nobler alternative, yet being without the power to choose it, his wishes and his conduct, his words to private persons and his open actions before the world, were in perpetual contradiction. He submitted while his heart revolted; and while at Charles's dictation he was threatening Henry with excommunication if he proceeded further with his divorce, he was able at that very time to say, in confidence, to the Bishop of Tarbes, that he would be well contented if the King of England would marry on his own responsibility, availing himself of any means which he might possess among his own people, so only that he himself was not committed to a consent or the privileges of the Papacy were not trenched upon.
Two years later, when the course which the Pope would really pursue under such circumstances was of smaller importance, Henry gave him an opportunity of proving the sincerity of this language; and the result was such as he expected it to be. As yet, however, he had not relinquished the hope of succeeding by a more open course.
In March, 1529—30, the English ambassadors appeared at Bologna. Their instructions were honest, manly, and straightforward. They were directed to explain, ab initio, the grounds of the King's proceedings, and to appeal to the Emperor's understanding of the obligations of princes. Full restitution was to be offered of Catherine's dowry, and the Earl of Wiltshire was provided with letters of credit adequate to the amount. If these proposals were not accepted, they were to assume a more peremptory tone, and threaten the alienation of England; and if menaces were equally ineffectual, they were to declare that Henry, having done all which lay within his power to effect his purpose with the goodwill of his friends, since he could not do as he would, must now do as he could, and discharge his conscience. If the Emperor should pretend that he would 'abide the law, and would defer to the Pope,' they were to say, 'that the sacking of Rome by the Spaniards and Germans had so discouraged the Pope and cardinals, that they feared for body and goods,' and had ceased to be free agents; and concluding finally that the King would fear God rather than man, and would rely on comfort from the Saviour against those who abused their authority, they were then to withdraw. The tone of the directions was not sanguine, and the political complications of Europe, on which the Emperor's reply must more or less have depended, were too involved to allow us to trace the influences which were likely to have weighed with him. There seems no primâ facie reason, however, why the attempt might not have been successful. The revolutionary intrigues in England had decisively failed, and the natural sympathy of princes, and a desire to detach Henry from Francis, must have combined to recommend a return of the old cordiality which had so long existed between the sovereigns of England and Flanders. But whatever was the cause, the opening interview assured the Earl of Wiltshire that he had nothing to look for. He was received with distant courtesy; but Charles objected even to hearing him read his instructions, as an interested party. The Earl replied that he stood there, not as the father of the Queen's rival, but as the representative of his sovereign; but the objection declared the attitude which Charles was resolved to maintain, and which, in fact, he maintained throughout. 'The Emperor,' wrote Lord Wiltshire to Henry, 'is stiffly bent against your Grace's matter, and is most earnest in it; while the Pope is led by the Emperor, and neither will nor dare displease him.' From that quarter, so long as parties remained in their existing attitude, there was no hope. It seems to have been hinted, indeed, that if war broke out again between Charles and Francis, something might be done as the price of Henry's surrendering the French alliance; 1530
June 12. but the suggestion, if it was made, June 12. wag probably ironical; and as Charles was unquestionably acting against his interest in rejecting the English overtures, it is fair to give him credit for having acted, on this one occasion of his life, upon generous motives. A respectful compliment was paid to his conduct by Henry himself in the reproaches which he addressed to the Pope.
So terminated the first and the last communication on this subject which Henry attempted with Charles V. The ambassadors remained but a few days at Bologna, and then discharged their commission and returned. The Pope, however, had played his part with remarkable skill, and by finessing dexterously behind the scenes, had contrived to prevent the precipitation of a rupture with himself. His simple and single wish was to gain time, trusting to accident or Providence to deliver him from his dilemma. On the one hand, he yielded to the Emperor in refusing to consent to Henry's demand; on the other, he availed himself of all the intricacies of the case to parry Catherine's demand for a judgment in her favour. He even seemed to part with, the Emperor on doubtful terms. 'The latter,' said the Bishop of Tarbes, 'before leaving Bologna, desired his Holiness to place two cardinals' hats at his disposal, to enable him to reward certain services.' His Holiness ventured to refuse. During his imprisonment, he said he had been compelled to nominate several persons for that office whose conduct had been a disgrace to their rank; and when the Emperor denied his orders, the Pope declared that he had seen them. March.The cardinals' hats would be granted only when they were deserved, 'when the Lutherans in Germany had been reduced to obedience, and Hungary had been recovered from the Turks.' If this was acting, it was skilfully managed, and it deceived the eyes of the French ambassador.
Still further to gratify Henry, the Pope made a public declaration with respect to the dispute which had arisen on the extent of his authority, desiring, or professing to desire, that all persons whatever throughout Italy should be free to express their opinions without fear of incurring his displeasure. This declaration, had it been honestly meant, would have been creditable to Clement's courage: unfortunately for his reputation, his outward and his secret actions seldom corresponded, and the Emperor's agents were observed to use very dissimilar language in his name. The double policy, nevertheless, was still followed to secure delay. Delay was his sole aim, either that Catherine's death, or his own, or Henry's, or some relenting in one or other of the two princes who held their minatory arms extended over him, might spare himself and the Church the calamity of a decision. For to the Church any decision was fatal. If he declared for Charles, England would fall from it; if for Henry, Germany and Flanders were lost irrecoverably, and Spain itself might follow. His one hope was to procrastinate; and in this policy of hesitation for two more years he succeeded, till at length the patience of Henry and of England was worn out, and all was ended. When the Emperor required sentence to be passed, he pretended to be about to yield; and at the last moment, some technical difficulty ever interfered to make a decision impossible. When Henry was cited to appear at Rome, a point of law was raised upon the privilege of kings, threatening to .open into other points of law, and so to multiply to infinity. The Pope, indeed, finding his own ends so well answered by evasion, imagined that it would answer equally those of the English nation, and he declared to Henry's secretary that 'if the King of England would send a mandate ad totam causam, then if his Highness would, there might be given so many delays by reason of matters which his Highness might lay in, and the remissorials that his Grace might ask, ad partes, that peradventure in ten years or longer a sentence should not be given.' In point of worldly prudence, his conduct was unexceptionably wise; but something beyond worldly prudence was demanded of a tribunal which claimed to be inspired by the Holy Ghost.
The dreary details of the negotiations I have no intention of pursuing. They are of no interest to any one, a miserable tissue of insincerity on one side, and hesitating uncertainty on the other. There is no occasion for us to weary ourselves with the ineffectual efforts to postpone an issue which was sooner or later inevitable.
I may not pass over in similar silence another unpleasant episode in this business, the execution of Cranmer's project for collecting the sentiments of Europe on the Pope's dispensing power. The details of this transaction are not wearying only, but scandalous; and while the substantial justice of Henry's cause is a reason for deploring the means to which he allowed himself to be driven in pursuing it, we may not permit ourselves either to palliate those means or to conceal them. The project seemed a simple one, and likely to be effective and useful. Unhappily, the appeal was still to ecclesiastics, to a body of men who were characterized throughout Europe by a universal absence of integrity, who were incapable of pronouncing an honest judgment, and who courted intimidation and bribery by the readiness with which they submitted to be influenced by them. Corruption was resorted to on all sides with the most lavish unscrupulousness, and the result arrived at was general discredit to all parties, and a conclusion which added but one more circle to the labyrinth of perplexities. Croke, a Doctors' Commons lawyer, who was employed in Italy, described the state of feeling in the peninsula as generally in Henry's favour; and he said that he could have secured an all but universal consent, except for the secret intrigues of the Spanish agents, and their open direct menaces, when intrigue was insufficient. He complained bitterly of the treachery of the Italians who were in the English pay; the two Cassalis, Pallavicino, and Ghinucci, the Bishop of Worcester. These men, he said, were betraying Henry when they were pretending to serve him, and were playing secretly into the hands of the Emperor. His private despatches were intercepted, or the contents of them by some means were discovered; for the persons whom he named, as inclining against the Papal claims, became marked at once for persecution. One of them, a Carmelite friar, was summoned before the Cardinal Governor of Bologna, and threatened with death; and a certain Father Omnibow, a Venetian who had been in active co-operation with Dr Croke, wrote himself to Henry, informing him in a very graphic manner of the treatment to which, by some treachery, he had been exposed. July 4.Croke and Omnibow were sitting one morning in the latter's cell, 'when there entered upon them the Emperor's great ambassador, accompanied with many gentlemen of Spain, and demanded of the Father how he durst be so bold to take upon him tointermeddle in so great and weighty a matter, the which did not only lessen and enervate the Pope's authority, but was noyful and odious to all Realms Christened.' Omnibow being a man of some influence in Venice, the ambassador warned him on peril of his life to deal no further with such things: there was not the slightest chance that the King of England could obtain a decision in his favour, because the question had been placed in the hands of six cardinals who were all devoted to the Emperor: the Pope, it was sternly added, had been made aware of his conduct, and was exceedingly displeased, and the general of his order had at the same time issued an injunction, warning all members to desist at their peril from intercourse with the English agents. The Spanish party held themselves justified in resorting to intimidation to defend themselves against English money; the English may have excused their use of money as a defence against Spanish intimidation; and each probably had recourse to their several methods prior to experience of the proceedings of their adversaries, from a certain expectation of what those proceedings would be. Substantially, the opposite manoeuvres neutralized each other, and in Catholic countries, opinions on the real point at issue seem to have been equally balanced. The Lutheran divines, from their old suspicion of Henry, were more decided in their opposition to him. 'The Italian Protestants,' wrote Croke to the King, 'be utterly against your Highness in this cause, and have letted as much as with their power and malice they could or might,' July.In Germany Dr Barnes and Cranmer found the same experience. Luther himself had not forgotten his early passage at arms with the English Defender of the Faith, and was coldly hostile; the German theologians, although they expressed themselves with reserve and caution, saw no reason to court the anger of Charles by meddling in a quarrel in which they had no interest; they revenged the studied slight which had been passed by Henry on themselves, with a. pardonable indifference to the English ecclesiastical revolt.
If, however, in Germany and Italy the balance of unjust interference lay on the Imperial side, it was more than adequately compensated by the answering pressure which was brought to bear in England and in France on the opposite side. Under the allied sovereigns, the royal authority was openly exercised to compel such expressions of sentiment as the Courts of London and Paris desired; and the measures which were taken oblige us more than ever to regret the inventive efforts of Cranmer's genius. For, in fact, these manœuvres, even if honestly executed, were all unrealities. June 12.The question at issue was one of domestic English politics, and the metamorphosis of it into a question of ecclesiastical law was a mere delusion. The discussion was transferred to a false ground, and however the King may have chosen to deceive himself, was not being tried upon its real merits. A complicated difficulty vitally affecting the interests of a great nation, was laid for solution before a body of persons incompetent to understand or decide it, and the laity, with the alternative before them of civil war, and the returning miseries of the preceding century, could brook no judgment which did not answer to their wishes.
The French King, contemptuously indifferent to justice, submitted to be guided by his interest; feeling it necessary for his safety to fan the quarrel between Henry and the Emperor, he resolved to encourage whatever measures would make the breach between them irreparable. The reconciliation of Herod and Pontius Pilate was the subject of his worst alarm; and a slight exercise of ecclesiastical tyranny was but a moderate price by which to ensure himself against so dangerous a possibility.
Accordingly, at the beginning of June, the University of Paris was instructed by royal letters to pronounce an opinion on the extent to which the Pope might grant dispensations for marriage within the forbidden degrees. The letters were presented by the grand master, and the latter in his address to the faculty, maintained at the outset an appearance of impartiality. The doctors were required to decide according to their conscience, having the fear of God before their eyes; and no open effort was ventured to dictate the judgment which was to be delivered.
The majority of the doctors understood their duty and their position, and a speedy resolution was anticipated, when a certain Dr Beda, an energetic Ultramontane, commenced an opposition. He said that, on a question which touched the power of the Pope, they were not at liberty to pronounce an opinion without the permission of his Holiness himself; and that the deliberation ought not to go forward till they had applied for that permission and had received it. This view was supported by the Spanish and Italian party in the University. The debate grew warm, and at length the meeting broke up in confusion without coming to a resolution. Beda, when remonstrated with on the course which he was pursuing, did not hesitate to say that he had the secret approbation of his prince; that, however Francis might disguise from the world his real opinions, in his heart he only desired to see the Pope victorious. An assertion so confident was readily believed, nor is it likely that Beda ventured to make it without some foundation. But being spoken of openly it became a matter of general conversation, and reaching the ears of the English ambassador, it was met with instant and angry remonstrance. 'The ambassador,' wrote the grand master to Francis, 'has been to me in great displeasure, and has told me roundly that his master is trifled with by us. We give him words in plenty to keep his beak in the water; but it is very plain that we are playing false, and that no honesty is intended. Nor are his words altogether without reason; for many persons declare openly that nothing will be done. If the alliance of England, therefore, appear of importance to your Highness, it would be well for you to write to the Dean of the Faculty, directing him to close an impertinent discussion, and require an answer to the question asked us quickly as possible.' The tone of this letter proves, with sufficient clearness, the true feelings of the French Government; but at the moment the alternative suggested by the grand master might not be ventured. Francis could not afford to quarrel with England, or to be on less than cordial terms with it, and for a time at least his brother sovereigns must continue to be at enmity. The negotiations for the recovery of the French princes out of their Spanish prison, were on the point of conclusion; and, as Francis was insolvent, Henry had consented to become security for the money demanded for their deliverance. Beda had, moreover, injured his cause by attacking the Gallican liberties; and as this was a point on which the Government was naturally sensitive, some tolerable excuse was furnished for the lesson which it was thought proper to administer to the offending doctor.
June 17.On the seventeenth of June, 1530, therefore, Francis wrote as follows to the President of the Parliament of Paris:— 'We have learnt, to our great displeasure, that one Beda, an Imperialist, has dared to raise an agitation among the theologians, dissuading them from giving their voices on the cause of the King of England.—On receipt of this letter, therefore, you shall cause the said Beda to appear before you, and you shall show him the grievous anger which he has given us cause to entertain towards him. And further you shall declare to him, laying these our present writings before his eyes that he may not doubt the truth of what you say, that if he does not instantly repair the fault which he has committed, he shall be punished in such sort as that he shall remember henceforth what it is for a person of his quality to meddle in the affairs of princes. If he venture to remonstrate; if he allege that it is matter of conscience, and that before proceeding to pronounce an opinion it is necessary to communicate with the Pope; in our name you shall forbid him to hold any such communication: and he and all who abet him, and all persons whatsoever, not only who shall themselves dare to consult the Pope on this matter, but who shall so much as entertain the proposal of consulting him, shall be dealt with in such a manner as shall be an example to all the world. The liberties of the Gallican Church are touched, and the independence of our theological council, and there is no privilege belonging to this realm on which we are more peremptorily determined to insist.'
The haughty missive, a copy of which was sent to England, produced the desired effect. The doctors became obedient and convinced, and the required declaration of opinion in Henry's favour, was drawn up in the most ample manner. They made a last desperate effort to escape from the position in which they were placed when the seal of the university was to be affixed to the decision; but the resistance was hopeless, the authorities were inexorable, and they submitted. It is not a little singular that the English political agent employed on this occasion, and to whose lot it fell to communicate the result to the King, was Reginald Pole. He it was, who behind the scenes, and assisting to work the machinery of the intrigue, first there, perhaps, contracted his disgust with the cause on which he was embarked. Therelearning to hate the ill with which he was forced immediately into contact, he lost sight of the greater ill to which it was opposed; and in the recoil commenced the first steps of a career, which brought his mother to the scaffold, which overspread all England with an atmosphere of treason and suspicion, and which terminated at last, after years of exile, rebellion, and falsehood, in a brief victory of blood and shame. So ever does wrong action beget its own retribution, punishing itself by itself, and wrecking the instruments by which it works. The letter which Pole wrote from Paris to Henry will not be uninteresting. It revealed his distaste for his occupation, though prudence held him silent as to his deeper feelings.
'Please it your Highness to be advertised, that the determination and conclusion of the divines in this University was achieved and finished according to your desired purpose, upon Saturday last past. The sealing of the same has been put off unto this day, nor never could be obtained before for any soliciting on our parts which were your agents here, which never ceased to labour, all that lay in us, for the expedition of it, both with the privy president and with all such as we thought might in any part aid us therein. But what difficulties and stops hath been, to let the obtaining of the seal of the University, notwithstanding the conclusion passed and agreed unto by the more part of the faculty, by reason of such oppositions as the adversary part hath made to embezzle the determination that it should not take effect nor go forth in that same form as it was concluded, it may please your Grace to be advertised by this bearer, Master Fox; who, with his prudence, diligence, and great exercise in the cause, hath most holp to resist all these crafts, and to bring the matter to that point as your most desired purpose hath/been to have it. He hath indeed acted according to that hope which I had of him at the beginning and first breaking of the matter amongst the faculty here, when I, July.somewhat fearing and foreseeing such contentions, altercations, and empeschements as by most likelihood might ensue, did give your Grace advertisement, how necessary I thought it was to have Master Fox's presence. And whereas I was informed by Master Fox how it standeth with your Grace's pleasure, considering my fervent desire thereon, that, your motion once achieved and brought to a final conclusion in this University, I should repair to your presence, your Grace could not grant me at this time a petition more comfortable unto me. And so, making what convenient speed I may, my trust is shortly to wait upon your Highness. Thus Jesu preserve your most noble Grace to his pleasure, and your most comfort and honour. Written at Paris, the seventh day of July, by your Grace's most humble and faithful servant, Reginald Pole.'
We must speak of this transaction as it deserves, and call it wholly bad, unjust, and inexcusable. Yet we need not deceive ourselves into supposing that the opposition which was crushed so roughly was based on any principle of real honesty. In Italy, intrigue was used against intimidation. In France intimidation was used against intrigue; and the absence of rectitude in the parties whom it was necessary to influence, provoked and justified the contempt with which they were treated.
The conduct of the English Universities on the same occasion was precisely what their later characters would have led us respectively to expect from them. At Oxford the heads of houses and the senior doctors and masters submitted their consciences to State dictation, without opposition, and, as it seemed, without reluctance. Henry was wholly satisfied that the right was on his own side; he was so convinced of it, that an opposition to his wishes among his own subjects, he could attribute only to disloyalty or to some other unworthy feeling; and therefore, while he directed the Convocation, 'giving no credence to sinister persuasions, to show and declare their just and true learning in his cause,' he was able to dwell upon the answer which he expected from them, as a plain matter of duty; and obviously as not admitting of any uncertainty whatever. 'We will and command you,' he said, 'that ye, not leaning to wilful and sinister opinions of your own several minds, considering that we be your sovereign liege lord [and] totally giving your time, mind, and affections to the true overtures of divine learning in this behalf, do show and declare your true and just learning in the said cause, like as ye will abide by: wherein ye shall not only please Almighty God, but also us your liege lord. And we, for your so doing, shall be to you and to our University there so good and gracious a lord for the same, as ye shall perceive it well done in your well fortune to come. And in case you do not uprightly, according to divine learning, handle yourselves herein, ye may be assured that we, not without great cause, shall so quickly and sharply look to your unnatural misdemeanour herein, that it shall not be to your quietness and ease hereafter.' The admonitory clauses were sufficiently clear; they were scarcely needed, however, by the older members of the University. An enlarged experience of the world which years, at Oxford as well as elsewhere, had not failed to bring with them, a just apprehension of the condition of the kingdom, and a sense of the obligations of subjects in times of political difficulty, sufficed to reconcile the heads of the colleges to obedience; and threats were not required where it is unlikely that a thought of hesitation was entertained. But there was a class of residents which appears to be perennial in that University, composed out of the younger masters; a class of men who, defective alike in age, in wisdom, or in knowledge, were distinguished by a species of theoretic High Church fanaticism; who, until they received their natural correction from advancing age, required from time to time to be protected against their own extravagance by some form of external pressure. These were the persons whom the King was addressing in his more severe language, and it was not without reason that he had recourse to it.
In order to avoid difficulty, and to secure a swift and convenient resolution, it was proposed that both at Oxford and Cambridge the Universities should be represented by a committee composed of the heads of houses, the proctors, and the graduates in divinity and law: that this committee should agree upon the form of a reply; and that the University seal should then be affixed without further discussion. This proposition was plausible as well as prudent, for it might be supposed reasonably that young half-educated students were incapable of forming a judgment on an intricate point of law; and to admit their votes was equivalent to allowing judgment to be given by party feeling. The masters who were to be thus excluded refused however to entertain this view of their incapacity. The question whether the committee should be appointed was referred to Convocation, where, having the advantage of numbers, they coerced the entire proceedings: and some of them 'expressing themselves in a very forward manner' to the royal commissioners, and the heads of houses being embarrassed, and not well knowing what to do, the King found it necessary again to interpose. He was unwilling, as he said, to violate the constitution of the University by open interference, 'considering it to exist under grant and charter from the Crown as a body politic, in the ruling whereof in things to be done in the name of the whole, the number of private suffrages doth prevail.' 'He was loth, too,' he added, 'to show his displeasure, whereof he had so great cause ministered unto him, unto the whole in general, whereas the fault perchance consisted and remained in light and wilful heads,' and he trusted that it might suffice if the masters of the colleges used their private influence and authority in overcoming the opposition. For the effecting of this purpose, however, and in order to lend weight to their persuasion, he assisted the Convocation towards a conclusion with the following characteristic missive:—
'To our trusty and well-beloved the heads of houses, doctors, and proctors of our University of Oxford:
'Trusty and well-beloved, we greet you well; and of late being informed, to our no little marvel and discontentation, that a great part of the youth of that our University, with contentious and factious manner daily combining together, neither regarding their duty to us their sovereign lord, nor yet conforming themselves to the opinions and orders of the virtuous, wise, sage, and profound learned men of that University, wilfully do stick upon the opinion to have a great number of regents and non-regents to be associate unto the doctors, proctors, and bachelors of divinity for the determination of our question; which we believe hath not been often seen, that such a number of right small learning in regard to the other should be joined with so famous a sort, or in a manner stay their seniors in so weighty a cause. And forasmuch as this, we think, should be no small dishonour to our University there, but most especially to you the seniors and rulers of the same; and as also, we assure you, this their unnatural and unkind demeanour is not only right much to our displeasure, but much to be marvelled of, upon what ground and occasion they, being our mere subjects, should show themselves more unkind and wilful in this matter than all other universities, both in this and all other regions do: we, trusting in the dexterity and wisdom of you and other the said discreet and substantial learned men of that University, be in perfect hope that you will conduce and frame the said young persons unto order and conformity as it becometh you to do. Whereof we be desirous to hear with incontinent diligence; and doubt you not we shall regard the demeanour of every one of the University according to their merits and deserts. And if the youth of the University will play masteries as they begin to do, we doubt not but they shall well perceive that non est bonum irritare crabrones.
'Given under our hand and seal, at our Castle of Windsor.
It is scarcely necessary to say, that, armed with this letter, the heads of houses subdued the recalcitrance of the overhasty 'youth;' and Oxford duly answered as she was required to answer.
The proceedings at Cambridge were not very dissimilar; but Cambridge being distinguished by greater openness and largeness of mind on this as on the other momentous subjects of the day than the sister University, was able to preserve a more manly bearing, and escape direct humiliation. Cranmer had written a book upon the divorce in the preceding year, which, as coming from a well-known Cambridge man, had occasioned a careful ventilation of the question there; the resident masters had been divided by it into factions nearly equal in number, though unharmoniously composed. The heads of houses, as at Oxford, were inclined to the King, but they were embarrassed and divided by the presence on the same side of the suspected liberals, the party of Shaxton, Latimer, and Cranmer himself. The agitation of many months had rendered all members of the University, young and old, so well acquainted (as they supposed) with the bearings of the difficulty, that they naturally resisted, as at the other University, the demand that their power should be delegated to a committee: and the Cambridge Convocation, as well as that of Oxford, threw out this resolution when it was first proposed to them. A king's letter having made them more amenable, a list of the intended committee was drawn out, which, containing Latimer's name, occasioned a fresh storm. But the number in the senate house being nearly divided, 'the labour of certain friends' turned the scale; the vote passed, and the committee was allowed, on condition that the question should be argued publicly in the presence of the whole University. Finally, judgment was obtained on the King's side, though in a less absolute form than he had required, and the commissioners did not think it prudent to press for a more extreme conclusion. They had been desired to pronounce that the Pope had no power to permit a man to marry his brother's widow. They consented only to say that a marriage within those degrees was contrary to the divine law; but the question of the Pope's power was left unapproached.
It will not be uninteresting to follow this judgment a further step, to the delivery of it into the hands of the King, where it will introduce us to a Sunday at Windsor Castle three centuries ago. We shall find present there, as a significant symptom of the time, Hugh Latimer, appointed freshly select preacher in the royal chapel, but already obnoxious to English orthodoxy, on account of his Cambridge sermons. These sermons, it had been said, contained many things good and profitable, 'on sin, and godliness, and virtue,' but much also which was disrespectful to established beliefs, the preacher being clearly opposed to 'candles and pilgrimages,' and 'calling men unto the works that God commanded in his Holy Scripture, all dreams and unprofitable glosses set aside and utterly despised.' The preacher had, therefore, been cited before consistory courts and interdicted by bishops, 'swarms of friars and doctors flocking against Master Latimer on every side.' This also was to be noted about him, that he was one of the most fearless men who ever lived. Like John Knox, whom he much resembled, in whatever presence he might be, whether of poor or rich, of laymen or priests, of bishops or kings, he ever spoke out boldly from his pulpit what he thought, directly if necessary to particular persons whom he saw before him respecting their own actions. Even Henry himself he did not spare where he saw occasion for blame; and Henry, of whom it was said that he never was mistaken in a man—loving a man where he could find him with all his heart had, notwithstanding, chosen this Latimer as one of his own chaplains.
The unwilling bearer of the Cambridge judgment was Dr Buckmaster, the vice-chancellor, who, in a letter to a friend, describes his reception at the royal castle.
'To the right worshipful Dr Edmonds, vicar of Alborne, in Wiltshire, my duty remembered,
'I heartily commend me unto you, and I let you understand that yesterday week, being Sunday at afternoon, I came to Windsor, and also to part of Mr Latimer's sermon; and after the end of the same I spake with Mr Secretary [Cromwell], and also with Mr Provost; and so after evensong I delivered our letters in the Chamber of Presence, all the Court beholding. The King, with Mr Secretary, did there read them; and did then give me thanks and talked with me a good while. He much lauded our wisdom and good conveyance in the matter, with the great quietness in the same. He showed me also what he had in his hands for our University, according to that which Mr Secretary did express unto us, and so he departed from me. But by and by he greatly praised Mr Latimer's sermon; and in so praising said on this wise: 'This displeaseth greatly Mr Vice-Chancellor yonder; yon same,' said he to the Duke of Norfolk, 'is Mr Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge,' and so pointed unto me. Then he spake secretly unto the said Duke, which, after the King's departure, came unto me and welcomed me, saying, among other things, the King would speak with me on the next day. And here is the first act. On the next day I waited until it was dinner time; and so at the last Dr Butts [king's physician] came unto me, and brought a reward, twenty nobles, for me, and five marks for the junior proctor which, was with me, saying that I should take that for a resolute answer, and that I might depart from the Court when I would. Then came Mr Provost, and when I had shewed him of the answer, he said I should speak with the King after dinner for all that, and so he brought me into a privy place where after dinner he would have me wait. I came thither and he both; and by one of the clock the King entered in. It was in a gallery. There were Mr Secretary, Mr Provost, Mr Latimer, Mr Proctor, and I, and no more. The King then talked with us until six of the clock. I assure you he was scarce contented with Mr Secretary and Mr Provost, that this was not also determined, an Papa possit dispensare. I made the best, and confirmed the same that they had shewed his Grace before; and how it would never have been so obtained. He opened hismind, saying he would have it determined after Easter, and of the same was counselled awhile.
'Much other communication we had, which were too long here to recite. Then his Highness departed, casting a little holy water of the Court; and I shortly after took my leave of Mr Secretary and Mr Provost, with whom I did not drink, nor yet was bidden, and on the morrow departed from thence, thinking more than I did say, and being glad that I was out of the Court, where many men, as I did both hear and perceive, did wonder at me. And here shall be an end for this time of this fable.
'All the world almost crieth out of Cambridge for act, and specially on me; but I must bear it as well as I may. I have lost a benefice by it, which I should have had within these ten days; for there hath one fallen in Mr Throgmorton's gift which he hath faithfully promised unto me many a time, but now his mind is turned and alienate from me. If ye go to Court after Easter I pray you have me in remembrance. Mr Latimer preacheth still,—quod æmuli ejus graviter ferunt.
'Thus fare you well. Your own to his power,
- 'William Buckmaster.
- 'Cambridge, Monday after Easter, 1530.'
It does not appear that Cambridge was pressed further, and we may, therefore, allow it to have acquitted itself creditably. If we sum up the results of Cranmer's measure as a whole, it may be said that opinions had been given by about half Europe directly or indirectly unfavourable to the Papal claims; and that, therefore, the King had furnished himself with a legal pretext for declining the jurisdiction of the court of Rome, and appealing to a general council. Objections to the manner in which the opinions had been gained could be answered by recriminations equally just; and in the technical aspect of the question a step had certainly been gained. It will be thought, nevertheless, on wider grounds, that the measure was a mistake; that it would have been far better if the legal labyrinth had never been entered, and if the divorce had been claimed only upon those considerations of policy for which, it had been first demanded, and which formed the true justification of it. Not only might a shameful chapter of scandal have been spared out of the world's history, but the point on which the battle was being fought lay beside the real issue. Europe was shaken with intrigue, hundreds of books were written, and tens of thousands of tongues were busy for twelve months weaving logical subtleties, and all for nothing. The truth was left unspoken because it was not convenient to speak it, and all parties agreed to persuade themselves and accept one another's persuasions, that they meant something which they did not mean. Beyond doubt the theological difficulty really affected the King. We cannot read his own book upon it without a conviction that his arguments were honestly urged, that his misgivings were real, and that he meant every word which he said. Yet it is clear at the same time that these misgivings would not have been satisfied, if all the wisdom of the world—Pope, cardinals, councils, and all the learned faculties together—had declared against him, the true secret of the matter lying deeper, understood and appreciated by all the chief parties concerned, and by the English laity, whose interests were at stake; but in all these barren disputings ignored as if it had no existence.
It was perhaps less easy than it seems to have followed the main road. The by-ways often promise best at first entrance into them, and Henry's peculiar temper naver allowed him to believe beforehand that a track which he had chosen could lead to any conclusion except that to which he had arranged that it should lead. With, an intellect endlessly fertile in finding reasons to justify what he desired, he could see no justice on any side but his own, or understand that it was possible to disagree with him except from folly or ill-feeling. Starting always with a foregone conclusion, he arrived of course where he wished to arrive. His 'Glasse of Truth' is a very picture of his mind. 'If the marshall of the host bids us do anything,' he said, 'shall we do it if it be against the great captain? Again, if the great captain bid us do anything, and the king or the emperor commandeth us to do another, dost thou doubt that we must obey the commandment of the king or emperor, and contemn the commandment of the great captain? Therefore if the king or the emperor bid one thing, and God another, we must obey God, and contemn and not regard neither king nor emperor.' And, therefore, he argued, 'we are not to obey the Pope, when the Pope commands what is unlawful.' These were but many words to prove what the Pope would not have questioned; and either they concluded nothing or the conclusion was assumed.
We cannot but think that among the many misfortunes of Henry's life his theological training was the greatest; and that directly or indirectly it was the parent of all the rest. If in this unhappy business he had trusted only to his instincts as an English statesman; if he had been contented himself with the truth, and had pressed no arguments except those which in the secrets of his heart had weight with him, he would have spared his own memory a mountain of undeserved reproach, and have spared historians their weary labour through these barren deserts of unreality.
- Letters of the Bishop of Bayonne, Legrand, vol. iii. pp. 368, 378, &c., and see Divorce of Catherine of Aragon, p. 123.
- See Hale's Criminal Causes from the Records of the Consistory Court of London.
- Petition of the Commons, infra, p. 208, &c.
- Reply of the Ordinaries to the petition of the Commons, infra p. 223, &c.
- Petition of the Commons. 23 Hen. VIII. c. 9.
- Hale's Criminal Causes, p. 4.
- An Act that no person committing murder, felony, or treason should be admitted to his clergy under the degree of sub-deacon.
- In May, 1528, the evil had become so intolerable, that Wolsey drew the Pope's attention to it. Priests, he said, both secular and regular, were in the habit of committing atrocious crimes, for which, if not in orders, they would have been promptly executed; and the laity were scandalized to see such persons not only not degraded, but escaping with complete impunity. Clement something altered the law of degradation in consequence of this representation, but quite inadequately.—Rymer, vol. vi. part 2, p. 96.
- Thomas Cowper et ejus uxor Margarita pronubæ horribiles, et instigant mulieres ad fornicandum cum quibuscunque laicis, religiosis, fratribus minoribus, et nisi fornicant in domo suâ ipsi diffamabunt nisi voluerint dare eis ad voluntatem eorum; et vir est pronuba uxori, et vult relinquere eam apud fratres minores pro peccatis habendis.—Hale, Criminal Causes, p. 9.
Joanna Cutting communis pronuba at præsertm inter presbyteros fratres monachos et canonicos et etiam inter Thomam Peise et quandam Agnetam, &c.—Hale, Criminal Causes, p. 28.
See also Ibid. pp. 15, 22, 23, 39, &c.
In the first instance the parties accused 'made their purgation' and were dismissed. The exquisite corruption of the courts, instead of inviting evidence and sifting accusations, allowed accused persons to support their own pleas of not guilty by producing four witnesses, not to disprove the charges, but to swear that they believed the charges untrue. This was called 'purgation.'
Clergy, it seems, were sometimes allowed to purge themselves simply on their own word.—Hale, p. 22; and see the Preamble of the 1st of the 23rd of Henry VIII.
- Complaints of iniquities arising from confession were laid before Parliament as early as 1394.
'Auricularis confessio quæ dicitur tarn necessaria ad salvationem hominis, cum fictâ potestate absolutionis exaltat superbiam sacerdotum, et dat illis opportunitatem secretarum sermocinationum quas nos nolumus dicere, quia domini et dominæ attestantur quod pro timore confessorum suorum non audent dicere veritatem; et in tempore confessionis est opportunum tempus procationis id est of wowing et aliarum secretarum conventionum ad peccata mortalia. Ipsi dicunt quod sunt commissarii Dei ad judicandum de omni peccato perdonandum et mundandum quemcunque eis placuerint. Dicunt quod habent claves cœli et inferni et possunt excommunicare et benedicere ligare et solvere in voluntatem eorum: in tantum quod pro bussello vel 12 denariis volunt vendere benedictionem cœli per chartam et clausulam de warrantiâ sigillatâ sigillo communi. Ista conclusio sic est in usu quod non eget probatione aliquâ.'—Extract from a Petition presented to Parliament: Wilkins, vol. iii. p. 221.
This remarkable paper ends with the following lines:—
'Plangunt Anglorum gentes crimen Sodomorum
Paulus fert horum sunt idola causa malorum
Surgunt ingrati Giezitæ Simone nati
Nomine prælati hoc defensare parati
Qui reges estis populis quicunque præstis
Qualiter his gestis gladios pro hibere potestis.'
See also Hale, p. 42, where an abominable instance is mentioned, and a still worse in the Suppression of the Monasteries, pp. 45–50.
- Hale, p. 12.
- Hale, pp. 75, 83; Suppression of the Monasteries, p. 47.
- Suppression of the Monasteries, p. 80.
- Hale, p. 83.
- I have been taunted with my inability to produce more evidence. For the present I will mention two additional instances only, and perhaps I shall not be invited to swell the list further.
1. In the State Paper Office is a report to Cromwell by Adam Bekenshaw, one of his diocesan visitors, in which I find this passage:—
'There be knights and divers gentlemen in the diocese of Chester who do keep concubines and do yearly compound with the officials for a small sum without monition to leave their naughty living.'
2. In another report I find also the following:—
'The names of such persons as be permitted to live in adultery and fornication for money:—
'The Vicar of Ledbury.
The Vicar of Brasmyll.
The Vicar of Stow.
The Vicar of Cloune.
The Parson of Wentnor.
The Parson of Rusbury.
The Parson of Plowden.
The Dean of Pountsbury.
The Parson of Stratton.
Sir Matthew of Montgomery.
Sir —— of Lauvange.
Sir John Brayle.
Sir Morris of Clone.
Sir Adam of Clone.
Sir Pierce of Norbury.
Sir Gryffon ap Egmond.
Sir John Orkeley.
Sir John of Mynton.
Sir John Reynolds.
Sir Morris of Knighton, priest.
Cadwallader ap Gern.
Edward ap Meyrick.
With many others of the diocese of Hereford.'
The originals of both these documents are in the State Paper Office. There are copies in the Bodleian Library.—MS. Tanner, 105.
- Skelton gives us aspecimen of the popular criticisms:—
'Thus I, Colin Clout,
As I go about,
And wondering as I walk,
I hear the people talk:
Men say for silver and gold
Mitres are bought and sold.
A straw for Goddys curse,
What are they the worse?
'What care the clergy though Gill sweat,
Or Jack of the Noke?
The poor people they yoke
With sumners and citacions,
About churches and markets
The bishop on his carpets
At home soft doth sit.
This is a fearful fit,
To hear the people jangle.
How wearily they wrangle!
'But Doctor Bullatus
At the broad gate-house.
And Bachelor Bacheleratus,
Drunken as a mouse
At the ale-house,
Taketh his pillion and his cap
At the good ale-tap,
For lack of good wine.
As wise as Robin Swine,
Under a notary's sign,
Was made a divine;
As wise as Waltham's calf,
Must preach in Goddys half;
In the pulpit solemnly;
More meet in a pillory;
For by St Hilary
He can nothing smatter
Of logic nor school matter.
'Such temporal war and bate
As now is made of late
Against holy church estate,
Or to maintain good quarrels;
The laymen call them barrels
Full of gluttony and of hypocrisy,
That counterfeits and paints
As they were very saints.
'By sweet St Marke,
This is a wondrous warke,
That the people talk this.
Somewhat there is amiss.
The devil cannot stop their mouths,
But they will talk of such uncouths
All that ever they ken
Against spiritual men.'
I am unable to quote more than a few lines from Roy's Satire. At the close of a long paragraph of details an advocate of the clergy ventures to say that the bad among them are a minority. His friend answers:—
'Make the company great or small,
Among a thousand find them shall
Scant one chaste of body or mind.'
- Answer of the Bishops to the Commons' Petition: Rolls House MS.
- Joanna Leman notatur officio quod non venit ad ecclesiam parochialem; et dicit se nolle accipere panem benedictum a manibus rectoris; et vocavit eum 'horsyn preste.'—Hale, p. 99.
- Hale, p. 63.
- Ibid. p. 98.
- Ibid. p. 38.
- Hale, p. 67.
- Ibid. p. 100.
- Cavendish, Life of Wolsey, p. 251.
- Hall, p. 764.
- Hall, p. 764.
- State Papers, vol. vii. p. 361.
- 6 Hen. VIII. cap. 16.
- The session lasted six weeks only, and several of the subjects of the petition were disposed of in the course of it, as we shall see.
- The MS. from which I have transcribed this copy is itself imperfect, as will be seen in the 'reply of the bishops,' which supplies several omitted articles. See p. 226 et seq. It is in the Rolls House.
- The penny, as I have shown, equalled, in terms of a poor man's necessities, a shilling. See chap. i.
- See instances in Hale: p. 62, Omnium Sanctorum in muro.—M. Gulielmus Edward curatus notatur officio quod recusat ministrare sacranicnta ecclesiastica ægrotantibus nisi prius habitis pecuniis pro suo labore: p. 64, St Mary Magdalen.—Curatus notatur officio propter quod recusavit solemnizare matrimonium quousque habet pro hujusmodi solemnizatione, 3s. 8d.; and see pp. 52, 75.
- I give many instances of this practice in my sixth chapter. It was a direct breach of the statute of Henry IV., which insists on all examinations for heresy being conducted in open court. 'The diocesan and his commissaries,' says that Act, 'shall openly and judicially proceed against persons arrested.'—2 Hen. IV. c. 15.
- Again breaking the statute of Hen. IV., which limited the period of imprisonment previous to public trial to three months.—2 Hen. IV. c. 15.
- To be disposed of at Smithfield. Abjuration was allowed once. For a second offence there was no forgiveness.
- Petition of the Commons: Rolls House MS.
- See Strype, Eccles. Memorials, vol. i. p. 191-2, who is very eloquent in his outcries upon this subject.
- Answer of the Bishops, p. 223, &c.
- Explanations are not easy; but the following passage may suggest the meaning of the House of Commons:—'The holy Father Prior of Maiden Bradley hath but six children, and but one daughter married yet of the goods of the monastery; trusting shortly to marry the rest.'—Dr Leyton to Cromwell: Suppression of the Monasteries, p. 58.
- Reply of the Bishops, infra.
- Cavendish, Life of Wolsey, p. 390. More's Life of More, p. 109.
- Populus diu oblatrans. Fox to Wolsey. Strype, Eccl. Mem., voL i. appendix, p. 27.
- Rymer, vol. vi. part 2, p. 119.
- The answer of the Ordinaries to the supplication of the worshipful the Commons of the Lower House of Parliament offered to our Sovereign Lord the King's most noble Grace.—Rolls House MS.
- The terms of the several articles of complaint are repeated verbally from the petition. I condense them to spare recapitulation.
- 2 Hen. IV. cap. 15; 2 Hen. V. cap. 7.
- An Act that no person shall be cited out of the diocese in which he dwells, except in certain cases. It received the Royal assent two years later. See 23 Hen. VIII. cap. 9.
- 21 Hen. VIII. cap. 5. An Act concerning fines and sums of money to be taken by the ministers of bishops and other ordinaries of holy Church for the probate of testaments.
- Hale, Precedents, p. 86.
- 21 Hen. VIII. cap. 6. An Act concerning the taking of mortuaries, or demanding, receiving, or claiming the same.
In Scotland the usual mortuary was a cow and the uppermost cloth or counterpane on the bed in which the death took place. A bishop reprimanding a suspected clergyman for his leanings toward the Reformation, said to him:—
'My joy, Dean Thomas, I am informed that ye preach the epistle and gospel every Sunday to your parishioners, and that ye take not the cow nor the upmost cloth from your parishioners; which thing is very prejudicial to the churchmen. And therefore, Dean Thomas, I would ye took your cow and upmost cloth, or else it is too much to preach every Sunday, for in so doing ye may make the people think we should preach likewise.'—Calderwood,. vol. i. p. 126.
The bishop had to burn Dean Thomas at last, being unable to work conviction into him in these matters.
- 21 Hen. VIII. cap. 13. An Act that no spiritual person shall take farms; or buy and sell for lucre and profit; or keep tan-houses or breweries. And for pluralities of benefices and for residence.
- Hall, p. 767.
- Hall, p. 766.
- Hall, p. 767.
- Hall, p. 766.
- Hall, p. 768.
- So reluctant was he, that at one time he had resolved, rather than compromise the unity of Christendom, to give way. When the disposition of the Court of Rome was no longer doubtful, 'his difficultatibus permotus, cum in hoc statu res essent, dixerunt qui ejus verba exceperunt, post profundam secum de universo negotio deliberationem et mentis agitationem, tandem in hæc verba prorupisse, se primum tentâsse illud divortium persuasum ecclesiam Romanam hoc idem probaturum—quod si ita illa abhorreret ab illâ sententiâ ut nullo modo permittendum censeret se nolle cum eâ contendere neque amplius in illo negotio progredi.'
Pole, on whose authority we receive these words, says that they were heard with almost unanimous satisfaction at the council board. The moment of hesitation was, it is almost certain, at the crisis which preceded or attended Wolsey's fall. It endured but for three days, and was dispelled by the influence of Cromwell, who tempted both the King and Parliament into their fatal revolt.—Poli Apologia ad Carolum Quintum.
- Legrand, vol. iii. p. 446. The censures were threatened in the first brief, but the menace was withdrawn under the impression that it was not needed.
- Legrand, vol. iii. p. 446. The second brief is dated March 7, and declares that the King, if he proceeds, shall incur ipso facto the greater excommunication; that the kingdom will fall under an interdict. And see Divorce of Catherine of Aragon, p. 151.
- Cranmer was born in 1489, and was thus forty years old when he first emerged into eminence.
- State Papers, vol. vii. p. 226.
- Je croy qu'il nc feist en sa vie cereraonie qui luy touchast si prés du cœur, ne dont je pense qu'il luy doive advenir moins du bien. Car aucunes fois qu'il pensoit qu'on ne le regardast, il faisoit de si grands soupirs que pour pesante que fust sa chappe, il la faisoit bransler à bon escient.—Lettre de M. de Gramont, Evêque de Tarbès. Legrand. vol. iii. p. 386.
- Ellis, Third Series, vol. ii. p. 98. 'In the letters showed us by M. de Buclans from the Emperor, of the which mention was made in ciphers, it was written in terms that the French king would offer unto your Grace the papalite of France vel Patriarchate, for the French men would no more obey the Church of Rome.'—Lee to Wolsey.
- A ce qu'il m'en a declaré des fois plus de trois en secret, il seroit content que le dit mariage, fust ja faict, ou par dispense du Legat d'Angleterre ou autrement; mais que ce ne fust par son autorité, in aussi diminuant sa puissance, quant aux dispenses, et limitation de droict divin.—Dechiffrement de Lettres de M. de Tarbes.—Legrand, vol. iii. p. 408.
- Legrand, vol. iii. p. 408.
- State Papers, vol. vii. p. 230.
- The Bishop of Tarbes to the King of France. Legrand, vol. iii. p. 401.
- State Papers, vol. vii. p. 234.
- State Papers, vol. vii. p. 235.
- We demand a service of you which it is your duty to concede; and your first thought is lest you should offend the Emperor. We do not blame him. That in such a matter he should be influenced by natural affection is intelligible and laudable. But for that very reason we decline to submit to so partial a judgment.—Henry VIII. to the Pope: Burnet's Collectanea, p. 431.
- Legrand, vol. iii. p. 394.
- State Papers, vol. vii. p. 317.
- For Croke's Mission, see Burnet, vol. i. p. 144 c.
- State Papers, vol. vii. p. 241.
- Friar Pallavicino to the Bishop of Bath. Rolls House MS.
- Croke and Omnibow to the King. Rolls House MS.
- Generalis magister nostri ordinis mandavit omnibus suse religionis professoribus, ut nullus audeat de auctoritate Pontificis quicquam loqui. Denique Orator Cæsareus in talia verba prorupit, quibus facile cognovi ut me a Pontifice vocari studeat et tune timendum esset saluti meæ. Father Omnibow to Henry VIII. Rolls House MS.
- Burnet's Collect., p. 50. Burnet labours to prove that on Henry's side there was no bribery, and that the Emperor was the only offender; an examination of many MS. letters from Croke and other agents in Italy leads me to believe that, although the Emperor only had recourse to intimidation, because he alone was able to practise it, the bribery was equally shared between both parties.
- Legrand, vol. iii. p. 458. The Grand Master to the King of France:—De l'autre part, adventure, il n'est moins a craindre, que le Roy d'Angleterre, irrité de trop longues dissimulations, trouvast moyen de parvenir a ses intentions du consentement de l'Empereur, et que par l'advenement d'un tiers se fissent amis Herode et Pilate.
- Legrand, vol. iii. p. 467, &c.
- Letter from the King of France to the President of the Parliament of Paris. Rolls Home MS.
- Letter from Reginald Pole to Henry VIII. Rolls House MS.
- Pole to Henry VIII. Rolls House MS.
- Burnet, Collectanea, p. 429.
- State Papers, vol. i. p. 377.
- Burnet's Collectanea, p. 430; State Papers, vol. i. p. 378.
- It is not good to stir a hornet's nest.
- Burnet's Collectanea, p. 431.
- Burnet's Collectanea, p. 48.
- Preface to Latimer's Sermons. Parker Society's edition, p. 3.
- 'King Harry loved a man,' was an English proverb to the close of the century. See Sir Robert Naunton's Fragmenta Regalia, London, 1641. p. 14.
- Sir George Throgmorton, who distinguished himself by his opposition to the Reformation in the House of Commons.
- Burnet's Collect., p. 429.
- A Glasse of Truth.
- Glasse of Truth, p. 144.