Seventeen lectures on the study of medieval and modern history and kindred subjects/Parliament under Henry VIII.
PARLIAMENT UNDER HENRY VIII.
(June 9, 1881.)
THE great question of the reign of Henry VIII is, no doubt, this: to what extent did he, in the remarkable career of destruction and reconstruction, of public and private self-will, of commingled revolutionism and conservatism, carry with him the assent and goodwill of his people? then, when we have determined to what extent the national participation in his measures is to be admitted, would be the time to ask by what means, he obtained that assent and goodwill. I do not flatter myself that I am going to answer the question or to solve the problem, either to your satisfaction or to my own. Far too many considerations are concerned in both, far too many facts of doubtful interpretation, and certainly too many historical theories. All that I can undertake to do is to prepare the clearing of the way for some later and more fully equipped investigator; more fully equipped, I say, because, as you will see, there is every reason to hope that in a few years, owing to the labours of the scholars employed in calendaring the State papers, many of the facts which are now capable of contradictory interpretations will be set forth in their true light and relation to one another.
In the former lecture I confined myself to such illustrations of the subject as belong to the royal character of Henry VIII himself; and you will not have mistaken my provisional conclusion that the great factor in the whole complication is the strong, intelligent, self-willed force of the king; that that alone seems to give purpose and . consistency to the eventful policy of the period; that Henry VIII is neither the puppet of parties, nor the victim of circumstances, nor the shifty politician, nor the capricious tyrant, but a man of light and leading, of power, force and foresight, a man of opportunities, stratagems, and surprises, but not the less of iron will and determined purpose; purpose not at once realised or systematised, but widening, deepening, and strengthening as the way opens before it; a man accordingly who might have been very great, and could under no circumstances be accounted less than great, but who would have been infinitely greater, and better, and more fortunate, if he would have lived for his people, and not for himself.
But the subject of the present lecture is the parliamentary history of the reign; and I will keep back any general or personal remarks until that has been treated as it can be treated in a public lecture. It helps to answer the question and problem which I have stated, for it is through the Parliament that Henry inquires of the goodwill and support of the nation, as it is through the Convocation he inquires of the goodwill and support of the clergy. If we believe the Acts of Parliament, we shall find the nation not merely acquiescing in but petitioning for measures, some of which had no importance except as fulfilling the wishes of the king, others of which were in strong opposition to all that is known of national feeling both in and out of parliament; if we look at the early ecclesiastical measures we find the same acquiescence in great constitutional changes, abdications of power which could not be spontaneous, and acknowledgements of the truth of statements and principles which, if true at all, were far too novel to have been accepted without discussion. We may, if we please, admit the conclusion that the nation accepted the king's action as that of a divinely constituted dictator; a theory which involves the assumption, which is altogether groundless, that the nation saw, or thought they saw, the existing circumstances to be such as demanded a dictatorship. I do not think they did, and I am persuaded that the theory is based on that process of reading history backward, which it has been my fate, in this Chair, to have constantly to struggle against.
There was nothing in the circumstances of Europe during the whole life of Henry VIII, such as there was under Queen Elizabeth, which might persuade people then living of the need of such an extraordinary officer. We, looking back on the time, may see how dangerous a time it was, how full of pitfalls and snares, and how, in the result, a great advantage was gained by England having had such a hand as even the blood-stained hand of Henry to guide her through: but the critical character of the time was not apparent to the time, or to the leading men of England during it; and the later reading of it cannot be made to account for the condition of feeling and action that we are now contemplating.
The opposite view, that Henry and his advisers concocted the parliamentary acts and manifestos in such a way as to make them embody a national adhesion, sympathy, and even enthusiasm, by the simple process of falsification, is, on the other hand, too arbitrary, too shameful, for us to contemplate with equanimity: history may be, and ought to be, tested at every turn; acts of parliament, when they are tested, may, and often do, turn out very unsound and unsatisfactory in their statements of fact, and disputable and inconsistent in their statements of law; but, if we could believe in such a wholesale perversion of evidences as this theory involves, we must resign all theories of history at once, and relegate the inquiring world to a combination of natural laws with historical novels. The fact of the matter, I take it, we may accept: that the nation and the Church accepted, acquiesced in, and petitioned for, in parliament and in convocation, the things which the acts of parliament and convocation declare that they accepted, acquiesced in, and petitioned for; but the question remains how we are to interpret that cooperation, and by what means the conceivable measure of co-operation was obtained. With so much preface, more than I intended, let us approach this branch of the subject, the history, modifications, and alterations of the government by parliament and convocation, as it appears to be modified and altered or maintained during the great changes of the reign.
I have already mentioned that Henry VIII held nine parliaments in his thirty-eight years, and that of those one was extended over the best part of seven years, that is the great organic parliament, which began in 1539 and ran on to the spring of 1536: a parliament which, both on account of its length and for the importance of its acts, may deserve the title of the Long Parliament of Henry VIII. Of the other eight parliaments, two, that summoned in 151 3 and that summoned in 154a, ran over three years with short sessions; the others are all shorter, of one or two sessions. All these parliaments were held in London, either at Westminster or, in one instance and possibly an occasional sitting, at Blackfriars, and in the old places of assembly; the convocation of Canterbury met at S. Paul's, and so continued to meet, as it still does on the first day of the session. In 1533 Wolsey summoned it to Westminster; and, after the Submission in 1533, it was frequently adjourned from S. Paul's to Westminster for the convenience of the bishops, whose hands were full of business in both chambers. The House of Lords continued to meet in the parliament chamber, and the Commons sat in the chapter-house or refectory of the Abbey until the end of the reign; Edward VI, in his first parliament, took the Commons to S. Stephen's Chapel. The parliament chamber, or the chamber of the Holy Cross, the situation of which is unknown to me unless it was the Painted Chamber under a new name, was the place of opening the session under Henry VII and Henry VIII.
Our first question, however, is concerned with the personal composition of the assembly. The House of Lords is the chamber that undergoes the greatest modifications during the period. We take the lords spiritual first; the parliaments of Henry VII had contained two archbishops, nineteen bishops, and twenty-eight abbots; Henry VIII added three abbots, the abbot of Tewkesbury in 1513, the abbot of Tavistock in 1514, and the abbot of Burton in 1534; and after the foundation of the new bishoprics, he added the six new bishops of Oxford, Peterborough, Gloucester, Bristol, Chester, and Westminster: but before that was done the abbots had disappeared from parliament; so at the beginning of the reign the number of spiritual peers was 49; at the maximum in 1534 it was 52, and, after the dissolution of the monasteries, it fell to 16. The number of lay peers varied little, for there were few new creations except where an old peerage had been extinguished. The minimum number was called in 1523, being only a8, several of the peers being that year employed in military affairs abroad; the maximum was in 1536, in the parliament called to approve of the destruction of Anne Boleyn, and the number was 51. In the other parliaments it varied between 36 and 46. It will be thus observed that, until the dissolution of the monasteries, the spiritual lords were always in a numerical majority, but that the tendency was decided towards an equalisation; a tendency which is ocularly perceptible in the journals where, in the list of attendances which from 15 15 onwards are marked daily, the two bodies arranged in parallel columns. It would, however, be wrong to infer from this that there was an equality of voting bodies, for of the clerical members the attendance was throughout the reign very irregular; and the proportion, on most critical occasions, seems to have been about 20 bishops and abbots to 30 lay lords. It is true they both had the power of giving proxies, but the irregularity of attendance does not seem to be compensated by the proxies: the prelate who is attendant one day is absent the next, doubtless without proxy; and some are absent for whole sessions.
Convocation during the whole reign sits at the same time with the parliament; and generally the Friday in each week, sometimes the Tuesday also, is marked by adjournment that the prelates may attend convocation, the Wednesday in some cases being likewise surrendered for the session of the Star Chamber. No doubt the business of the Upper House of Convocation engrossed the time of most of the absent bishops and abbots, for that assembly was, before the dissolution, a very large body, nearly as large as the House of Commons; it included, as is seen in the great divisions on the divorce, between two and three hundred abbots and priors; and much of the business undertaken in it was of a far more critical character than that which was gone through in the Parliament.
The House of Commons was a little, only a little, so far as concerns England proper, modified by Henry VIII: Preston, Lancaster, Thetford, Orford, Berwick, and possibly one or two more towns, gained the privilege of representation; but by bestowing representation on the towns and counties of Wales, Calais, and Chester, Henry added in 1543 thirty-two members, knights and burgesses, to the old number.
The suffrage, as we know from the case of Leicester, was in the corporate towns being altogether appropriated by the councillors and other officers who constituted the corporation. This loss of distinctly representative importance is accompanied by a certain rise in the position of the borough members. Up to this time the office of Speaker has been engrossed by the knights of the shire, and the only names of men who have taken a prominent part in the debates of the Commons have been those of county members. In this reign, however, Humfrey Wingfield, member for Yarmouth, was chosen Speaker in succession to Audley; and the only persons who axe found taking a leading part in the discussions of the Long Parliament of 1529–1536 are Thomas Cromwell, member for Taunton, who before he placed himself in the king's service had succeeded in throwing out the bill of attainder against Wolsey, and Mr. Temys, the member for Westbury, who had proposed that the king should, be asked to give up his plan for divorce.
Still we do not possess journals of the proceedings of the Commons before the year 1547. Those of the Lords begin in 1509, and furnish us with much of the information that we have looked for in vain in the older Rolls of Parliament. From them we learn to how large an extent the use of proxies prevailed in the House of Lords, notwithstanding the careful way in which it was limited and tested; a usage which shows how it was so easy for the king, by dealing with one or two of the more prominent prelates, generally to secure an ecclesiastical majority in parliament, and even in convocation. In the Lower House the Speaker of the Tudor reigns is in very much the same position as the Chancellor in the Upper House; he is the manager of business on the part of the crown, and probably the nominee either of the king himself or of the chancellor. Although the forms of election, apology and protest, of address to the king and royal admission, were maintained and developed, we know both from Sir Thomas Smith and from Coke that the king appointed the Speaker: even in the House of Lords the sovereign exercised the same right when the chancellor was not a peer; in 1539, as we learn from Chapuys' dispatches, that Warham was elected, but set aside as too old. The result was that the Speaker, instead of being the defender of the liberties of the house, had often to reduce it to an order that meant obsequious reticence or sullen submission. Happily it was not every Speaker that was like Rich, whose extant addresses to the king are nauseous compliments on his majesty's gifts of nature, fortune, and grace, the beauty of his person, the felicity of his enterprises, the perfect virtue of his character; compliments which the king deprecates with a modest reference to the Giver of all good gifts, but with a conscious acquiescence as ridiculous as the mock humility of the Speaker. But where even More himself had the greatest difficulty in behaving with decent independence, so poor a creature as Rich may stand excused.
The Speakers of the reign were Sir Thomas Englefield, M.P. for Berks; Sir Thomas Sheffield, for Lincolnshire; Sir Thomas Nevill, probably for Kent; all men of dignity and simplicity. The Speaker of 1523 was Sir Thomas More; he was succeeded in the parliament of 1529 by Audley, who succeeded him also as Chancellor in 1533. Humfrey Wingfield, whom I have mentioned, succeeded Audley; Rich was Speaker in 1536, Sir Nicolas Hare in 1539, and Sir Thomas Moyle in 1542. Moyle's speeches were formed on the model of Rich's; Hare's speech in 1540) although scarcely less complimentary, was better put together; he congratulated the realm on the felicity of having such a king as Henry, who had won, a boon which had fallen to the lot of no other Christian commonwealth, the distinction that under him, without any single calamity, the land had not only flourished but had been restored to her perfect freedom. These words had a meaning; no doubt the absence of external calamity was a feature of Henry's reign, and was one cause of his influence with the people: on the other hand, the recovery of what seemed to the age to be spiritual liberty from Rome was a real thing in Hare's mind, not the mere compliment that was designed in the comparison by which Rich equalled Henry with Solomon, Samson and Absalom; or with the sun itself, as drying up noxious vapours and cherishing the growth of all good seeds. Hare, however, had a difficult part to play, for, just before he made this speech, he had been sent to the Tower for offending against the king's prerogative; he had regained his liberty and his appointment as Speaker by a complete submission. There is no evidence, so far as I know, that the Commons had treated this imprisonment as a matter of privilege.
It would be easy to parallel from the speeches of the chancellor the fulsome compliments of the Speakers, but I must hasten on to the more important questions of the direct dealings of the king or his prime ministers with the two houses; and as it would be impossible to go into any thorough details on this, I must content myself with occasional illustrations. Henry was generally present at the opening and closing of the sessions, but he did not, in his later years, scruple to interpose from time to time in the deliberations of either house, and influence the voting. The first sensational event of the kind is Wolsey's adventure in the parliament of 1523, when More was Speaker. The great chancellor had in the usual way come down to the Commons and told them that the king's needs amounted to a sum of £800,000, and to raise that amount a subsidy of a fifth would be required, payable in five years. After the Cardinal's departure a discussion arose on particulars, which is amusingly described by Cromwell as a communing on war, peace, strife, contention, debate, murmur, grudge, riches, poverty, penury, truth, falsehood, justice, equity, deceit, oppression, magnanimity, force, activity, temperance, treason, murder, felony, and how a commonwealth might be edified and continued in our realm. But the economical discussions were pulled up by the announcement of another visit from the chancellor. Then arose the question, how is he to come; is he to come as chancellor, or as cardinal in state; let him come as cardinal, for then, if there should be a riot, the blame can be laid on his attendants. So he comes in state, and asks an answer about the subsidy. He is met with sullen silence; not even Mr. Marney, who is just going to be made a baron, and whom Wolsey applies to directly, win utter a word. Then poor More, on his knees, has to represent to the cardinal, who had made him Speaker, that this manner of coming, on which, you observe, he and the House had already calculated, was not expedient or in conformity with ancient liberties. So the cardinal had to go away in a rage; the Commons were willing to listen to him, but would not debate in his presence. Still the visit was not in vain; the deliberation was resumed, and a very heavy impost was agreed to, when Sir John Hussey, the member for Lincolnshire, who also was made a peer soon after, proposed a substantial addition on the tax from land; only eleven or twelve members voted for it, but, notwithstanding the abstention of the majority, it was allowed to be added; then the session was prorogued. After the vacation it was proposed by the knights of the shire to extend to goods the tax which Hussey had fixed on the land; a division took place with the curious result that all the county members voted one way and all the burgesses the other; yet, notwithstanding the enormous majority against the tax. More in his capacity of the king's agent, prevailed on the House to pass the bill.
Here you have a very illustrative ease of the way in which even a most unpopular measure could be forced through parliament; well might Cromwell conclude the letter in which he describes the session, 'after seventeen weeks of discussion we have done as our predecessors have been wont to do, that is to say as well as we might, and have left off where we began.' I do not think that any of the fourteenth century parliaments would have stood this; Wolsey can have been no believer in parliaments, for this is the only one that was held whilst he was chancellor.
I pass on to the Long Parliament of 1539-1536, of the early doings of which, thanks to the chronicle of Hall and the reports of the Imperial ambassador, we know more minute detail than we do of any preceding session. Cromwell's defence of Wolsey in the first session, which prevented the passing of the bill of attainder in the House of Commons, is a fact which rests on historical testimony too good to be rejected; but the circumstances in which it took place are obscure; there can be little doubt that Henry acquiesced in, perhaps prompted the rejection; and it is quite certain that to have forced it through parliament would have made a serious addition to his already awkward complications.
There were two other pieces of debateable policy in the short session of 1539: the remittal of the loans of 1533-8, and the opening of the attack on the minor privileges of the clergy. The convocation passed the bill of remittal, and it was likewise read three times by the Lords; the Commons however were sorely perplexed by it; hitherto the royal receipt and promise to repay had been regarded as good security; new debts had been incurred on the strength of it and men had left it to their children as an adequate and safe provision. Now it was proposed to deprive pay, receipts and bonds, of all validity; the Commons refused to pass the bill without conditions^ and the only condition to be got was a general pardon, out of which the penalties for praemunire, which had been so fatal to Wolsey, were omitted: the nominal victory was with the Commons, the substantial fruits were with the king, who saw his way to the great exaction from the clergy obtained in the next session.
The other contest involves more interest and more questions. Already Henry was beginning to feel his way against the clergy; the clergy themselves were discussing points of reform, and these points were even hinted at in the opening speech of the Chancellor More. The points raised seem to us, in the light of the later history, only small points; the expenses of probate and mortuaries, non-residence and pluralities, and the interference of the clergy as farmers and tanners with the trade of the laity. But unfortunately they were points that divided the ecclesiastical interest: the bishops were willing to enforce discipline on the lower clergy; the lower clergy were willing to reduce the profits of probate which went to the officials of the bishops; but the lower clergy would defend their trade and their benefices, and the bishops could not allow the profits of their courts to be touched. Both would have agreed in strong measures against heresy; and both agreed in regarding the discussion of these things in parliament as an attack, as indeed they were, on the Church itself. Bishop Fisher, in his apprehension, proclaimed that lack of faith ruins the country in which it prevails, as it was ruining Bohemia. This imputation roused the spirit of the faithful Commons; the Speaker Audley and thirty other members were sent to complain to the king, and the bishop had to explain that he meant only to refer to Bohemia. Archbishop Warham and six other bishops attesting this apology, the king accepted the excuse and reported it to the Commons. Fanning the flame of dissension, he then suggested that the Commons should pass the two most obnoxious bills, strike a blow at the bishops by the bill on probate, and at the parochial clergy by the bill against mortuaries. This was done. The other points, non-residence, pluralities, and trading, were decided likewise: the lords spiritual by their majority in the upper house rejected the bills; the Commons insisted on pressing them; the king suggested a conference, in Star Chamber, of eight members from each house; the lay lords on the committee voted with the Commons, and by this contrivance the bills were passed. This Little trick shows that it was not by force alone that the parliament was manipulated to pass the king's bills. More as chancellor must, in this business, as in 1533, when he was Speaker, have acted as the king's agent, but the burden was already too heavy for his back.
If I were now tracing the progress of the Reformation, I might say more on the antagonism thus established between the clergy and the commons; it is enough however to observe that Henry had clearly got a parliament on which he could depend; and that every point he now gained became a fresh vantage-ground from which he could grasp at more.
In 1530 there was no parliamentary session; the king- and his agents were busily collecting opinions about the divorce; and the constitutional struggle begins again in 1531. Not even now did the king think matters ripe for discussion of the divorce in parliament; and, in the council which was held preparatory to the session, it was determined that the queen's business should not be brought forward; the chief thing proposed was the exaction of money from the clergy under the threat of præmunire. The Duke of Norfolk, who was to all intents and purposes the prime minister, was negotiating with the emperor, and is said to have sworn that nothing in that parliament should be done against Katharine; Anne Boleyn and her father were drawing to the Protestants, but their time was not yet come. All the important business was done in convocation. Parliament, as the imperial envoy remarked, were employed on nothing more serious than crossbows and hand-guns. But in the convocation matters were important indeed; the king was the only person who had the skill to understand, or the will to define, the doctrine of præmunire, and it was not by præmunire alone that he could manipulate the clergy; he tried to tamper with Warham, threatened intrigue with the German Protestants, or the restraint of mortmain, or the appointment of a council of heresy which would take that question out of the hands of convocation, and other things which, vague threats at first, became realities of oppression as soon as they were familiarised to his mind. By threats and blandishments he obtained the Recognition of his headship of the Church, and the payment of £100,000. It was not done all at once; the clergy kicked against the pricks very hard: they offered 160,000 ducats, the king insisted on 400,000; the papal nuncio was pressed into the service, and even forced his way into the lower house of convocation: but the clergy, following the example of the commons of 1533, stopped their ears, and bade him negotiate in the right way through the Archbishop: as yet there was no breach with Clement VII, and in the delay of the divorce both parties were for the moment at peace. At last the clergy granted the king's terms; but they did not like the form of Reeognition, and in the end it was passed by an evasion for which Warham must answer. He proposed the form suggested by Lord Rochford, and, in putting it to the vote, added, 'qui tacet consentire videtur.' The clergy by an anticipation of Jesuitic subterfuge, and by a practical Irish bull, cried out, 'Itaque tacemus omnes.' By this levity the great act was consummated, which was to be the fulcrum for the whole ecclesiastical policy of the future; the Recognition was understood to be passed unanimously.
But not even here were matters completely arranged; the king now haggled about the præmunire; the clergy threatened to withdraw their promise to pay unless this mysterious monster were defined as well as remitted. It ended however as I have said; the clergy voted the money and the king promised the pardon. But the pardon must be secured by the confirmation of parliament; and, when the bill came before the Commons they soon saw that it did not comprise the laity, and refused to pass it. The king's agents urged that this opposition would damage the clergy and not benefit the Commons; that the king could not be compelled to pardon, and that, without their consent, he could pass the pardon under the great seal. The Speaker and a committee attended the king, and, getting no other answer, went away sorrowing and declaring that Cromwell had betrayed their proceedings to Henry. Then there was some bitter talking about the exactions and the remittal of the loan; but at last the king issued the pardon, and the Commons, knowing that something would be taken for the boon, sulkily accepted it.
The next day the chancellor laid before them the documents touching the divorce, and the Commons were enlightened by speeches on the subject from the Bishops of London and Bath. But they remained sulky; whether it was that the king was not prepared to go further, or that the attitude of parliament, still faithful to the queen and indisposed to quarrel with the Pope, dismayed him, there the matter stayed, and the Commons were ordered to carry down to their constituencies the information laid before them. So the session ended, and the convocation, which had engaged on the reform of grammar schools and the publishing of a uniform Latin grammar, in addition to the restoration of discipline and the translation of the Scriptures, was prorogued at the same time. The same measures which passed the Canterbury Convocation were likewise adopted at York; that is the clergy remitted the loans, paid £18,840 for the pardon, and acknowledged the supremacy. Bishop Tunstall however made a protest against the form of Recognition, and proposed that for fear of misinterpretation by heretics, the words in temporalibus post Christum should be inserted; but this had only the effect of offending the king, who directed that the bishop's house at Auckland should be searched for heretical books; and also, according to Chapuys, omitted to summon him to the next session of parliament.
I go on now to that third session of the Long Parliament; it opened on the 22nd of January 1532. Its events are extremely important, and fortunately are illustrated fairly well by contemporary evidence. It was understood, says the imperial resident, to have been called for two purposes, money and the divorce. The king wanted 2,000,000 ducats; Rochford and Anne Boleyn were apparently given carte blanche as to their dealing with the clergy for the divorce; Henry, however, keeping watch, and ready to make the most of an opportunity. The clergy were now having their eyes opened; a bold attempt made by the Boleyns to 'suborn,' that is, I suppose, to bribe Archbishop Warham, at last shook the old man's faith in the stability of things. Norfolk and Rochford, who were now acting together, proposed that matrimonial causes should be declared a matter of temporal jurisdiction. Warham, as an old lawyer, protested in a formal document against all legislation which might be enacted against ecclesiastical or papal power. This protest seems to have had the effect of deterring any further procedure on the divorce itself during the archbishop's life, but to have provoked the king to more trenchant action against the constitutional arrangements which Warham and his party now saw to be assailed.
The history of the session falls into two sections, divided by a short recess at Easter for about a fortnight. The first portion was devoted to the question of supplies, the second to that of Church reform: convocation sat during the whole time. The measures proposed by the king with a view to increase the royal revenue were fair enough, and were, as it seems to me, in strict analogy with the policy of his greatest ancestor, Edward I. The first was the bill for the withdrawal of Annates from the pope; a measure intended to secure for the king the profits and firstfruits on all appointments to bishoprics; the act allowed the king to compound with the pope for all reasonable payments, and also provided for the confirmation and consecration of bishops without recourse to Rome. As a companion to this measure the king introduced bills of the same purport affecting the laity; just as on the transmission of ecclesiastical property the firstfruits went to Rome, so, on the transmission of lay property in land, by the operation of the doctrine of wills and uses, the king lost his reliefs and primer seisins; accordingly he proposed two measures, or one measure with double purpose,—a statute of wills, allowing a man to devise half his land by will, provided the other half, left to the heir, secured the king in his feudal rights; and a statute of uses, intended to take the force out of the old practice of feoffment to uses. Both these statutes ultimately passed in a modified form, the Statute of Uses in 1536 and the Statute of Wills in 1540. By that time it would seem it was discovered that they might be accepted as boons, now they were vehemently objected to, and the opposition they excited threw the Commons for the moment on the side of the pope, and into opposition to the Annates Bill. The latter bill was presented to the Commons as a measure of their own: the king protested and pretended, sending Norfolk to assure the imperial ambassador that the Commons had called for it; that he himself was borne on and overpowered by their zeal for reform; the prelates had refused their consent, but the people willed to have it; at last by the 19th of March, after two personal visitations, the king forced it through the Lords; all the bishops and two abbots voted against it; of the lay peers only one lord, Arundel, had the courage to support them; thirty lay lords formed a majority for the bill and it went down to the Commons. There also the king's presence was required; in the house the noes had it. Then Henry insisted on a division; a taking of single votes which, from some other illustrations which it would be tedious now to refer to, we infer to have been as yet an exceptional method of ascertaining the sense of the house. Partly by promising that there should be no more acts against the pope, partly by the terror of his majestic eyes, he obtained a majority; men could not comfortably vote in the presence of the definer of all præmunires. This much was accomplished before the Easter adjournment; the Statutes of Wills and Uses passed the Lords but were rejected by the Commons, and the king did not press them at the time.
The question of the Annates had opened his eyes to his power of obtaining further concessions. In the beginning of March, by the contrivance of Rochford, the parliament was discussing the possibility of transferring to the king all the power and authority of the archbishops and bishops: the divorce question was simmering in both houses; and Warham had plucked up spirit to speak up for the queen. This was not to be endured. Accordingly the old antagonism of the Commons to the spiritual courts was utilised, and an address drawn up by the king's secretaries was put in their hands to be delivered to the king as the prayer of the Commons. Audley, as Speaker, and a number of his own servile party presented it; it contained a bitter attack on the canon law and ecclesiastical jurisdictions generally, and, in twelve clauses, some of greater and some of less importance, singled out points for reform. The king received it on the 18th of March, and, as soon as Easter was over, it was laid before convocation for an answer. Both Houses of convocation discussed it in detail; the Upper House prepared an answer on the points that touched the bishops; the Lower on those touching the parochial clergy: both agreed in demanding a specific statement instead of general charges. The answer was sent to the king about the 27th of April; and the king was of course prepared to find it unsatisfactory.
On the 30th his Majesty sent for the speaker and showed him the answer, referring it, as a very slender production, to the consideration of that 'grete sorte of wise men to be found in the House of Commons.' There were indeed both wise men and foolish in that assembly; and both had the divorce business in their minds. They were again busy on the supplies: Henry wanted money to fortify the border and the coast: they offered a tenth and fifteenth, £28,000; that was not enough; the Statutes of Wills and Uses were again broached and rejected. Independent members went further, Mr. Thomas Temys, M.P. for Westbury, proposed, and found a seconder, that the king should be asked to take back his wife; 'if he would, there would be no danger from the emperor; if he would not, fortification would be useless.' The king could not stand that: he sent for Audley, and through him explained to the Commons what a horrible conscience a man had who married his brother's wife. The question of the divorce was not before them: if they would mind their own business he would help them against the clergy; if not, not.
Whilst this was going on in Parliament convocation was asked for a grant: the clergy discussed the subject, and determined to send to the king a supplication for help. They were in a strait; the Commons were insisting on severer measures against heresy, and still were impugning the laws and courts, by which only heresy could be extirpated. Rochford and Cromwell were intriguing with the heretics; Henry himself, pretending to stand aloof, was watching every point of vantage. But they got little comfort: in answer to their supplication, the king sent down to them in a bill the three points of submission, the abdication of the right to legislate in convocation, the consent to the reform of ecclesiastical law, and the sufferance of existing canons only under the king's approval. The day after this bill was sent to the clergy, Henry, still intent on exciting the Commons against them, summoned Audley and his friends, and put before him the oath taken by the prelates to the pope on appointment; an oath which he declared incompatible with their allegiance to himself That was something for the Commons to consider: the Lords were consulted on the points which had been laid before convocation. The imperial ambassador was on the watch for results: the king was proposing, he heard, to abolish synods and synodal legislation, and to take into his own hands all coercive jurisdiction on heresy; the bishops might have the souls of the sinners, he would have their bodies; it was a strange thing; priests would be of less account than shoemakers, who at least might regulate their own trade. The Venetian ambassador foresaw a new præmunire, and fixed the amount of money that the king would take, 400,000 crowns from the clergy, a vote of a fifteenth, and a year's income as succession duty. Evidently a storm was rising. The royal propositions were, however, on the 15th of May, accepted by convocation, after brisk discussion and several significant divisions. In the House of Lords the chancellor and the bishops opposed them, and prevented them from becoming law as yet. The great Lion was nearer a defeat than he had ever been before: and, when More resigned the great seal, which he did on the day that the Submission was presented, the king became very sulky. On the day of prorogation he would not show himself: as for the grant of money, the fifteenth, he did not care about it; he would neither accept nor refuse, and the clergy would not now grant more; as a matter of fact no subsidy was granted. But the clergy were brought to their knees, and the king lost his wisest and most faithful adviser. The session ended on the 14th of May; convocation was prorogued on the 15th, and on the 16th More resigned. His successor was the Speaker Audley; a change indeed.
After losing More, Henry seems to have acted more and more on the counsels of the Boleyns; and circumstances rapidly accelerated the course of events. Gardiner, who was probably his near kinsman and who certainly had helped him in every way until now, left the court, and was in disgrace for refusing to preach in favour of the divorce. Warham's death, in the following August, removed the last of the old party whose advice had any chance of being listened to. A visit to Francis I in the next month seems to have determined the king to cut the knot by peremptory action. Immediately on his return he is said to have married Anne Boleyn. As each old friend dropped off Cromwell rose a step, and the royal determination increased. Cranmer was designated for the primacy; Audley from being Lord Keeper was raised to the Chancellorship; the parliament, which had been prorogued to November, was adjourned to January, and in January both Houses and convocation met.
For the session of 1533 we have no journals, and the reports of the Venetian ambassador do not supply the gap caused by the imperfect continuation of the Austrian dispatches. Two subjects, however, alone occupied both the secular and the ecclesiastical assemblies: the divorce and the abolition of appeals to Rome. In parliament the divorce business proceeded slowly; the king visited it more than once with a view to expediting that, and the provision of an army against the Scots; but the month of February passed over without any real business being done. At last Henry resumed the plan by which he had succeeded in 1532, putting the initiation of his own measures in the mouth of a private member of the Commons; on the 15th of March a London member was found to propose that the judges of the divorce should be appointed in England. Immediately after this Cranmer was consecrated, and he undertook to deal with convocation. In convocation the two questions on which the divorce turned were debated in the manner of University disputations; the theologians disputed as to the dispensability of a marriage with a brother's widow, the canonists on the facts of Arthur's marriage with Katharine: there were formal divisions, but the conclusion was foregone, the bishop of Rochester was the only steady opponent. In the same way the York convocation was dealt with by Archbishop Lee.
Notwithstanding the acquiescence of convocation, the Commons as late as April 10 were still reluctant. We are told that one of the members for London offered to raise £200,000 if the king would refer the question of the divorce to a general council. But in vain. The servility of Cranmer and Lee had provided a short and easy method; on the 33rd of May, at Dunstable, Cranmer, on the strength of the opinions thus obtained, pronounced in favour of the divorce and Boleyn marriage; and on the 1st of June Anne Boleyn was crowned; parliament having adjourned from April 12 to June 7.
The other great act of the year was the statute of Appeals, of the discussion of which we have few data. On the 14th of March, according to Chapuys, it was proposed in parliament to make a statute declaring that the pope has no authority in this kingdom; the king was set upon it and was arranging all his policy to that end. On the 30th it is mentioned in the Venetian dispatches as being then pushed in convocation. The next day the imperial envoy announces that the convocation has passed the Divorce Bill, but the House of Commons has refused to pass the Statute of Appeals, mainly on the ground that, if the pope were offended, he might injure the wool trade. But before the 10th of April he has to record that the opposition has given way before the king's threat to enforce the penalties of præmunire against the laity. A week later he reports that he has remonstrated with Henry and put him in a rage. Yet raging, still he was not without hope; he had sent to tell the pope that if, even now, he would send a dispensation for the second marriage, he would undo all that, in his wish to please his people, he had done against Rome. It is no doubt an exaggeration of Chapuys when he says that the nation would have welcomed the emperor as a deliverer, but there can be no reason to question his statements as to the sincerity of the opposition. The work of the year ended there; no business session was again attempted; the question of supplies, which had been brought forward in February, dropped and no grant was made.
The next session, that of January 1534, was a heavy one: we have the Lords' Journals, but very scanty details about convocation, which is unfortunate as the most important business was ecclesiastical. We know, however, from the Lords' Journals, that the clerical assembly sat on regular days, every Friday and sometimes on Tuesdays, the lords adjourning on those days for the convenience of the prelates, and on the Wednesdays for the session of Star Chamber. The attendance of prelates in the House of Lords was very scanty, and they were generally outnumbered two to one by the lay lords:
there were discussions and differences of opinion between the Lords and Commons; a Bill on the consecration of bishops sent up from the Commons was rejected by the Lords, and a new Bill drawn by the Lords was passed by the Commons. The Submission Bill or second Statute of Appeals was presented by the Commons in a body on the 27th of March, and passed on the 30th. In convocation, on the 31st, the question that the pope has no more power than any other bishop was determined; this being probably regarded as their formal judgment on more than one of the statutes which had passed the Commons. We look in vain for any more determined or resolute action on either side. And again the session passes without a money grant. A second session was held in November mainly for this purpose; and a second meeting of convocation, in which the king was petitioned to expedite the authoritative translation of the Bible. I enumerated I think in the last lecture the important acts of these sessions.
There was no session in 1535. The Long Parliament came to an end in 1536. Of its last session we have no definite details, simply the Acts which it passed: the Journals of Convocation deal only with the question of the subsidy. Henry had, we may presume, quelled all opposition in Parliament; and, if contemporary annotators had been minded to preserve particulars, they were lost in the grand and tragic interest of public events. The dissolution of the monasteries, the death of Queen Katharine, the awful tragedy that closed the career of the Boleyns, the pilgrimage of grace, and mutterings of rebellion in north and south, fill the pages of the annalists.
For the second Parliament of 1536, that newly elected after the fall of Anne Boleyn, we have much material: it sat for six weeks, and has left full journals, as has convocation also. There is no reaction traceable in either. If the Seymours inherited the influence of the Boleyns, they were even more zealous for change and plunder than their predecessors: but the real hero of the hour is Cromwell, doing his master's work with zeal. Cromwell, as the king's vicegerent, claims for himself or his deputy the presidency of Convocation, and by his presence there invests the proceedings of that body with an importance that Cranmer could not have given. All that he proposes in the way of change is passed without show of division; and, even in the direction of doctrinal reform, he carries things as far as the king allowed. The legislation in parliament likewise is mainly ecclesiastical; and the journals record nothing but assents.
I must pass on very rapidly now. The session of 1539, in which the dissolution of the greater monasteries was accomplished and the Bill of Six Articles passed, was likewise held under the predominating power of Cromwell, who had, however, learned to sink his protestant tendencies before his master's stern orthodoxy. Convocation again worked with the Parliament, and there are traces also that the clergy attended under the præmunientes clause; but the new prelates of Henry's nomination now outnumbered the old, and in both assemblies the abbots and priors knew that they appeared for the last time.
Yet abject as was the condition of a parliament which could pass the Proclamation Act, there were still two parties at work in it. The secret history of the Six Articles, when it is known, will show that Cromwell's influence was already shaken. The king proposes to abolish the diversities of religion; Cromwell, the two archbishops, and six bishops, are named as a committee on the 3rd of May. On the 16th the Duke of Norfolk announces that the committee cannot agree, and proposes that the Six Articles be discussed in parliament. After some delay two committees are, on the 23rd, appointed to draw up alternative schemes for the king's approval on the following Sunday; the king approves apparently that which is subsequently chosen. It goes down in Cromwell's hand to the Convocation and is accepted there on June a. Between June 7 and June 16 it passes the Lords, and the Commons also adopt it before the 28th, on which day the session ends. Of the other important acts of the session that which empowered the king to create new sees was passed through the whole of its stages in both houses in one day: the Proclamation Act and another for the rehabilitation of the religious, were, on the other hand, rejected by the Commons, redrawn and passed after several days' discussion.
I must now pass very briefly over the incident of the remaining parliaments. In that of 1540 the king's matrimonial relations with Anne of Cleves were, by petition of parliament, referred to and discussed in the convocations: the abbots finally disappeared from parliament; the House of Lords agreed that Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays should be devoted, by the Royal Commissioners appointed for the purpose, to the preparation of measures of religious reform. Bishop Tunstall is bold enough to draw up a protest against the subsidy, but this is the only trace of opposition. Cromwell's fall was sudden and without sympathy; the Bill of Attainder for treason passed the House of Lords without an opposing vote; the Commons added attaint for heresy as well as for treason; not a voice seems to have been raised for him. Nay, in the House of Lords not a single measure of the king's was opposed at all, and it is left on record in the most unsentimental of all registers, the Journals of the Lords, that not a single division occurred during the whole session. In 1543, in the same way, no protest is made against the sacrifice of Catherine Howard. But the king is not satisfied with silent acquiescence; he does not hesitate to urge both houses to work harder at that and other public business; again we find Tunstall protesting alone against some minor measure:, the most remarkable event, from our point of view, is the withdrawal from the House of Lords, at the request of convocation, of a bill allowing laymen to act as ecclesiastical judges; a measure which, though withdrawn now, became law in 1545. The convocation itself was very busy in the matter of the translation of the Bible and Scriptural formulae of prayer and belief. The same work occupied the session of 1543, in which we find Lord Mountjoy voting by himself against the amplification of the Proclamation Act; and four bishops opposing the Bill for Collectors and Receivers. Clearly the independent spirit, has nearly evaporated. The ecclesiastical bills pass without a protest, but the Lords are not reduced so low as they were in 1540. The remaining sessions, those of 1544, 1545, and 1546, furnish nothing' that illustrates our subject: the journals record no opposition or protest; the king has his own way in everything. Time would fail me if I were to attempt to go into the minor parliamentary cases of privilege, or to clothe or colour the dry facts that I have been retailing to you; or I might describe how, when the Duke of Suffolk opened parliament, all the members, every time the king's name occurred, bowed until their heads all but touched the ground; or how Henry himself closed the session of 1545 with a sermon on charity; how in 1515 parliament and convocation were so comfortably at one that Taylor, the clerk of the parliament, was prolocutor of the Lower House of Canterbury: or how ecstatically Hare and Moyle praised the beauty of their royal master; or how, when he brought the news of the king's death, the rough old Wriothesley could not speak for tears: or how weary the clerk of the parliament was of Audley's speeches, which took such a long time to deliver, and so much more to write out and read.
All our authorities, even the dry journals themselves, furnish matters of amusement to inquiring minds. But time has failed me already, and I must wind up with a few words of sentiment.
I think, that after what I have said, you will allow me to say that I have grounds for believing that Henry VIII was the master, and in no sense the minister, of his people: that, where he carried their good will with him, it was y forcing not by anticipating or even educating it. I am obliged altogether to reject the notion that he was the interpreter in any sense of the wishes of his people: the utmost that he did in this direction was to manipulate and utilise their prejudices to his own purposes. I allow fully the truth of the theory that one great principle of his policy was to obtain for his measures, for all his measures, the acquiescence of his people, and thus to invest them with a safe, irrefragable authority; but I must add that he knew how to turn opposition into acquiescence, or to take acquiescence for granted. Further, I am convinced, as I said in the last lecture, that he was his own chief, I might say sole, counsellor, not one of his other advisers, after the fall of Wolsey, succeed- ing in becoming anything more than the instrument of a grand, imperious, ever encroaching will.
And now let me confess that I do not think so badly of Henry VIII as the received views of either his advocates or his enemies would suggest. The unhappy, most unhappy history of his wives, has brought upon him an amount of moral hatred which is excessive. Nine kings out of any ten whom you may pick out of the list would have saved their character for humanity by simple self-indulgence. No absolutely profligate king could have got into the miser- able abyss in which we find Henry VIII struggling during the latter half of his reign. I do not believe that he was abnormally profligate : in this region of morality he was not better perhaps than Charles V, but he was much better than Francis I, and Philip II, and Henry IV, But he was cruelly, royally vindictive ; there was in him an ever-increasing, ever- encroaching self-will, ever grasping and grasping more and more of power : a self-will guided by a high intellect, and that sort of sincerity which arises from a thorough belief in himself. I am not prepared to deny that deep, cunning, unscrupulous men, like Cromwell, traded on their knowledge of his character ; but not one of those who tried to work their own ends through Henry escaped the doom to which false friends and open foes alike found their way.
Well, you say, you would not wish to see him worse cursed. I do not condemn him. God forbid, in whose hand are the hearts of kings. I do not believe him to have been a monster of lust and blood, as so many of the Roman Catholic writers regard him. I cannot accept at all the picture which Mr. Froude has drawn. I think that even Lord Herbert's estimate of him is deficient in the perception of his surpassing self-wilfulness. I do not attempt to pourtray him after my own idea ; but I seem to see in him a grand gross figure, very far removed from ordinary human sympathies, self-engrossed, self-confident, self-willed; unscrupulous in act, violent and crafty, but justifying to himself, by his belief in himself, both unscrupulousness, violence, and craft. A man who regarded himself as the highest justice, and who looked on mercy as a mere human weakness. And with all this, as needs must have been, a very unhappy man, wretched in his family, wretched in his friends, wretched in his servants, most wretched in his loneliness: that awful loneliness in which a king lives, and which the worst as well as the best of despots realises. Have I drawn the outline of a monster? Well, perhaps; but not the popular notion of this particular portent. A strong, high-spirited, ruthless, disappointed, solitary creature; a thing to hate, or to pity, or to smile at, or to shudder at, or to wonder at, but not to judge.