The Divorce of Catherine of Aragon/Chapter 16


Prosecution of Lord Dacre—Failure of the Crown—Rebellion in Ireland—Lord Thomas Fitzgerald—Delight of the Catholic party—Preparations for a rising in England—The Princess Mary—Lord Hussey and Lord Darcy—Schemes for insurrection submitted to Chapuys—General disaffection among the English Peers—Death of Clement VII.—Election of Paul III.—Expectation at Rome that Henry would now submit—The expectation disappointed—The Act of Supremacy—The Italian conjuror—Reginald Pole—Violence and insolence of Anne Boleyn—Spread of Lutheranism—Intended escape of the Princess Mary out of England.

The English Peers are supposed to have been the servile instruments of Henry VIII.'s tyrannies and caprices, to have been ready to divorce or murder a wife, or to execute a bishop, as it might please the King to command. They were about to show that there were limits to their obedience, and that when they saw occasion they could assert their independence. Lord Dacre of Naworth was one of the most powerful of the northern nobles. He had distinguished himself as a supporter of Queen Catherine, and was particularly detested by the Lady Anne. His name appears prominently in the lists supplied to Chapuys of those who could be counted upon in the event of a rising. The Government had good reason, therefore, to watch him with anxiety. As Warden of the Marches he had been in constant contact with the Scots, and a Scotch invasion in execution of the Papal censures had been part of Chapuys' s scheme. Dacre was suspected of underhand dealings with the Scots. He had been indicted at Carlisle for treason in June, and had been sent to London for trial. He was brought to the bar before the Peers, assisted by the twelve Judges. An escape of a prisoner was rare when the Crown prosecuted; the Privy Council prepared the evidence, drew up their case, and in bringing a man to the bar made themselves responsible for the charge; failure, therefore, was equivalent to a vote of censure. The prosecution of Dacre had been set on foot by Cromwell, who had perhaps been informed of particulars of his conduct which it was undesirable to bring forward. The Peers looked on Cromwell as another Wolsey—as another intruding commoner who was taking liberties with the ancient blood. The Lady Anne was supposed to have borne malice against Dacre. The Lady Anne was to be made to know that there were limits to her power. Dacre spoke for seven hours to a sympathetic court; he was unanimously acquitted, and the City of London celebrated his escape with bonfires and illuminations. The Court had received a sharp rebuff. Norfolk, who sate as High Steward, had to accept a verdict of which he alone disapproved.[1] At Rome the acquittal was regarded as perhaps the beginning of some commotion with which God was preparing to punish the King of England.[2]

More serious news arrived from Ireland. While the English Catholics were muttering discontent and waiting for foreign help. Lord Thomas Fitzgerald, "the youth of promise" whom Chapuys had recommended to Charles's notice, had broken into open rebellion, and had forsworn his allegiance to Henry as an excommunicated sovereign. Fitzgerald was a ferocious savage, but his crimes were committed in the name of religion. In my history of this rebellion I connected it with the sacred cause of More and Fisher, and was severely rebuked for my alleged unfairness. The fresh particulars here to be mentioned prove that I was entirely right, that the rising in Ireland was encouraged by the same means, was part of the same conspiracy, that it was regarded at Rome and by the Papal party everywhere as the first blow struck in a holy war.

It commenced with the murder of the Archbishop of Dublin, a feeble old man, who was dragged out of his bed and slaughtered by Fitzgerald's own hand. It spread rapidly through the English Pale, and Chapuys recorded its progress with delight. The English had been caught unprepared. Skeffington, the Deputy, was a fool. Ireland, in Chapuys's opinion, was practically recovered to the Holy See, and with the smallest assistance from the Emperor and the Pope the heretics and all their works would be made an end of there.[3]

A fortnight later he wrote still more enthusiastically. Kildare's son was absolute master of the island. He had driven the King to ask for terms; he had refused to listen, and was then everywhere expelling the English or else killing them.

The pleasure felt by all worthy people, Chapuys said, was incredible. Such a turn of events was a good beginning for a settlement in England, and the Catholic party desired his Majesty most passionately not to lose the opportunity. On all sides the Ambassador was besieged with entreaties. "An excellent nobleman had met him by appointment in the country, and had assured him solemnly that the least move on the Emperor's part would end the matter." The Irish example had "fired all their hearts. They were longing to follow it."

As this intelligence might fail to rouse Charles, the Ambassador again added as a further reason for haste that the Queen and Princess were in danger of losing their lives. Cromwell had been heard to say that their deaths would end all quarrels. Lord Wiltshire had said the same, and the fear was that when Parliament reassembled the ladies might be brought to trial under the statute.[4]

If Cromwell and Lord Wiltshire used the words ascribed to them, no evil purpose need have been implied or intended. Catherine was a confirmed invalid; the Princess Mary had just been attacked with an alarming illness. Chapuys had dissuaded Mary at last from making fresh quarrels with her governess; she had submitted to the indignities of her situation with reluctant patience, and had followed unresistingly in the various removals of Elizabeth's establishment. The irritation, however, had told on her health, and at the time of Chapuys's conversation with the "excellent nobleman" her life was supposed to be in danger from ordinary causes. That Anne wished her dead was natural enough; Anne had recently been again disappointed, and had disappointed the King in the central wish of his heart. She had said she was enceinte, but the signs had passed off. It was rumoured that Henry's feelings were cooling towards her. He had answered, so Court scandal said, to some imperious message of hers that she ought to be satisfied with what he had done for her; were things to begin again he would not do as much. Report said also that there were nouvelles amours; but, as the alleged object of the King's attention was a lady devoted to Queen Catherine, the amour was probably innocent. The Ambassador built little upon this; Anne's will to injure the Princess he knew to be boundless, and he believed her power over Henry still to be great. Mary herself had sent him word that she had discovered practices for her destruction.

Any peril to which she might be exposed would approach her, as Chapuys was obliged to confess, from one side only. He ascertained that "when certain members of the Council had advised harsh measures to please the Lady Anne," the King had told them that he would never consent, and no one at the Court—neither the Lady nor any other person—dared speak against the Princess. "The King loved her," so Cromwell said, "a hundred times more than his latest born." The notion that the statute was to be enforced against her life was a chimera of malice. In her illness he showed the deepest anxiety; he sent his own physician to attend on her, and he sent for her mother's physician from Kimbolton. Chapuys admitted that he was naturally kind—"d'aymable et cordiale nature"—that his daughter's death would be a serious blow to himself, however welcome to Anne and to politicians, and that, beyond his natural feeling, he was conscious that, occurring under the present circumstances, it would be a stain on his reputation.

More than once Henry had interfered for Mary's protection. He had perhaps heard of what Anne had threatened to do to her on his proposed journey to Calais. She had been the occasion, at any rate, of sharp differences between them. He had resented, when he discovered it, the manner in which she had been dragged to the More, and had allowed her, when staying there, to be publicly visited by the ladies and gentlemen of the court, to the Lady's great annoyance. Nay, Mary had been permitted to refuse to leave her room when Anne had sent for her, and the strictest orders had been given through Cromwell that anyone who treated her disrespectfully should be severely punished.[5]

True as all this might be, however, Chapuys's feelings towards the King were not altered, his fears diminished, or his desire less eager to bring about a rebellion and a revolution. Lord Thomas Fitzgerald's performances in Ireland were spurring into energy the disaffected in England. The nobleman to whom Chapuys had referred was Lord Hussey of Lincolnshire, who had been Chamberlain to the Princess Mary when she had an establishment of her own as next in succession to the crown. Lord Hussey was a dear friend of her mother's. Having opened the ground he again visited the Ambassador "in utmost secrecy." He told him that he and all the honest men in the realm were much discouraged by the Emperor's delay to set things straight, as it was a thing which could so easily be done. The lives of the Queen and Princess were undoubtedly threatened; their cause was God's cause, which the Emperor was bound to uphold, and the English people looked to him as their natural sovereign. Chapuys replied that if the Emperor was to do as Lord Hussey desired, he feared that an invasion of England would cause much hurt and suffering to many innocent people. Lord Hussey was reputed a wise man. Chapuys asked him what would he do himself if he were in the Emperor's place. Lord Hussey answered that the state of England was as well known to Chapuys as to himself. Almost everyone was looking for help to the Emperor. There was no fear of his injuring the people; their indignation was so great that there would be no resistance. The war would be over as soon as it was begun. The details, he said, Lord Darcy would explain better than he could do. The Emperor should first issue a declaration. The people would then take arms, and would be joined by the nobles and the clergy.

Fisher had used the same language. Fisher was in the Tower, and no longer accessible. Lord Darcy of Templehurst has been already seen in drawing the indictment against Wolsey. He was an old crusader; he had served under Ferdinand and Isabella, was a Spaniard in sympathy, and was able, as he represented, to bring eight thousand men into the field from the northern counties. On Lord Hussey's recommendation Chapuys sent a confidential servant to Darcy, who professed himself as zealous as his friend. Darcy said that he was as loyal as any man, but things were going on so outrageously, especially in matters of religion, that he, for one, could not bear it longer. In the north there were six hundred lords and gentlemen who thought as he did. Measures were about to be taken in Parliament to favour the Lutherans. He was going himself into Yorkshire, where he intended to commence an opposition. If the Emperor would help him he would take the field behind the crucifix, and would raise the banner of Castile. Measures might be concerted with the Scots; a Scotch army might cross the border as soon as he had himself taken arms; an Imperial squadron should appear simultaneously at the mouth of the Thames, and a battalion of soldiers from Flanders should be landed at Hull, with arms and money for the poorer gentlemen. He and the northern lords would supply their own forces. Many of the other Peers, he said, entirely agreed with him. He named especially Lord Derby and Lord Dacre.[6]

This letter is of extreme importance, as explaining the laws which it was found necessary to pass in the ensuing Parliament. A deeply rooted and most dangerous conspiracy was actively forming—how dangerous the Pilgrimage of Grace afterwards proved—in which Darcy and Hussey were the principal leaders. The Government was well served. The King and Cromwell knew more than it was prudent to publish. The rebellion meditated was the more formidable because it was sanctified by the name of religion, with the avowed purpose of executing the Papal Brief. Fitzgerald's rising in Ireland was but the first dropping of a storm designed to be universal. Half the Peers who surrounded Henry's person, and voted in Parliament for the reforming statutes, were at heart leagued with his enemies. He had a right to impose a test of loyalty on them, and force them to declare whether they were his subjects or the Pope's.

For a moment it seemed as if the peril might pass over. It became known in England in October that Clement VII. had ended his pontificate, and that Cardinal Farnese reigned in his stead as Paul III. On Clement's death the King, according to Chapuys, had counted on a schism in the Church, and was disappointed at the facility with which the election had been carried through; but Farnese had been on Henry's side in the divorce case, and the impression in the English Council was that the quarrel with Rome would now be composed. The Duke of Norfolk, who had been the loudest in his denunciations of Clement, was of the opinion that the King, as a Catholic Prince, would submit to his successor. Even Cromwell laid the blame of the rupture on Clement personally, and when he heard that he was gone, exclaimed that "the Great Devil was dead." Henry knew better than his Minister that "the Great Devil" was not this or that pontiff, but the Papacy itself. He had liberated his kingdom; he did not mean to lead it back into bondage. "Let no man," he said to Norfolk, "try to persuade me to such a step. I shall account no more of the Pope than of any priest in my realm."[7] Farnese undoubtedly expected that Henry would make advances to him, and was prepared to meet them; he told Casalis that he had taken a legal opinion as to whether his predecessor's judgment in the divorce case could be reopened, and a decision given in the King's favour; the lawyers had assured him that there would been no difficulty, and the Pope evidently wished the King to believe that he might now have his way if he would place himself in the Pope's hands. Henry, however, was too wary to be caught. He must have deeds, not words, he said. If the Pope was sincere he would revoke his predecessor's sentence of his own accord. Francis, by whose influence Farnese had been elected, tried to bring Henry to submission, but to no purpose. The King was no longer to be moved by vague phrases like those to which he had once trusted to his cost. Surrounded by treachery though he knew himself to be, he looked no longer for palliatives and compromises, and went straight on upon his way. The House of Commons was with him, growing in heartiness at each succeeding session. The Peers and clergy might conspire in secret. In public, as estates of the realm, they were too cowardly to oppose.

Parliament met in November. The other Acts which were passed by it this year are relatively unimportant, and may be read elsewhere. The great business of the session, which has left its mark on history, was to pass the Act of Supremacy, detailing and explaining the meaning of the title which Convocation two years previously had conferred upon the King. Unentangled any longer with saving clauses, the sovereign authority under the law in all causes, ecclesiastical and civil, was declared to rest thenceforward in the Crown, and the last vestiges of Roman jurisdiction in England were swept off and disappeared. No laws, no injunctions, no fancied rights over the consciences of English subjects were to be pleaded further as a rule to their conduct which had not been sanctioned by Crown and Parliament. No clergy, English or foreign, were to exercise thenceforward any power not delegated to them and limited under the law of the land, except what could not be taken from them—their special privilege of administering the sacraments. Double loyalty to the Crown and to the Papacy was thenceforward impossible. The Pope had attempted to depose the King. The Act of Supremacy was England's answer.

But to enact a law was not enough. With Ireland in insurrection, with half the nobles and more than half the clergy, regular and secular, in England inviting a Spanish invasion, the King and Commons, who were in earnest in carrying through the reforms which they had begun, were obliged to take larger measures to distinguish their friends from their enemies. If the Catholics had the immense majority to which they pretended, the Constitution gave them the power of legitimate opposition. If they were professing with their lips and sustaining with their votes a course of policy which they were plotting secretly to overthrow, it was fair and right to compel them to show their true colours. Therefore the Parliament further enacted that to deny the royal supremacy—in other words, to maintain the right of the Pope to declare the King deprived—should be high treason, and the Act was so interpreted that persons who were open to suspicion might be interrogated, and that a refusal to answer should be accepted as an acknowledgment of guilt. In quiet times such a measure would be unnecessary, and therefore tyrannical. Facta arguantur dicta iminine sint. In the face of Chapuys's correspondence it will hardly be maintained that the reforming Government of Henry VIII. was in no danger. The Statute of Supremacy must be judged by the reality of the peril which it was designed to meet. If the Reformation was a crime, the laws by which it defended itself were criminal along with it. If the Reformation was the dawning of a new and brilliant era for Imperial England, if it was the opening of a fountain from which the English genius has flowed out over the wide surface of the entire globe, the men who watched over its early trials and enabled the movement to advance, undishonoured and undisfigured by civil war, deserve rather to be respected for their resolution than reviled as arbitrary despots. To try the actions of statesmen in a time of high national peril by the canons of an age of tranquillity is the highest form of historical injustice.

The naked truth—and nakedness is not always indecent—was something of this kind. A marriage with a brother's wife was forbidden by the universal law of Christendom. Kings, dukes, and other great men who disposed as they pleased of the hands of their sons and daughters, found it often desirable, for political or domestic reasons, to form connections which the law prohibited, and therefore they maintained an Italian conjuror who professed to be able for a consideration to turn wrong into right. To marriages so arranged it was absurd to attach the same obligations as belonged to unions legitimately contracted. If, as often happened, such marriages turned out ill, the same conjuror who could make could unmake. This function, also, he was repeatedly called on to exercise, and, for a consideration also, he was usually compliant. The King of England had been married as a boy to Catherine of Aragon, carrying out an arrangement between their respective fathers. The marriage had failed in the most important object for which royal marriages are formed: there was no male heir to the crown, nor any prospect of one. Henry, therefore, as any other prince in Europe would have done, applied to the Italian for assistance. The conjuror was willing, confessing that the case was one where his abilities might properly be employed. But another of his supporters interfered, and forced him to refuse. The King of England had always paid his share for the conjuror's maintenance. He was violently deprived of a concession which it was admitted that he had a right to claim. But for the conjuror's pretensions to make the unlawful lawful he would not have been in the situation in which he found himself. What could be more natural than that, finding himself thus treated, he should begin to doubt whether the conjuror, after all, had the power of making wrong into right? whether the marriage had not been wrong from the beginning? And, when the magical artist began to curse, as his habit was when doubts were thrown on his being the Vicar of the Almighty, what could be more natural also than to throw him and his tackle out of window?

The passing of the Act increased the anxiety about the position of the Princess Mary. In the opinion of most reasonable persons her claim to the succession was superior to that of Elizabeth, and, if she had submitted to her father, it would probably have been allowed and established. In the eyes of the disaffected, however, she was already, by Clement's sentence, the legitimate possessor of the throne. Reginald Pole, Lady Salisbury's son and grandson of the Duke of Clarence, was still abroad. Henry had endeavoured to gain him over, but had not succeeded. He was of the blood of the White Rose, and, with his brother, had gone by instinct into opposition. His birth, in those days of loyalty to race, gave him influence in England, and Catherine, as has been seen, had fixed upon him as Mary's husband. He had been brought already under Charles's notice as likely to be of use in the intended rebellion. The Queen, wrote Chapuys to the Emperor, knew no one to whom she would better like her daughter to be married; many right-minded people held that the right to the crown lay in the family of the Duke of Clarence, Edward's children having been illegitimate; if the Emperor would send an army across with Lord Reginald attached to it everyone would declare for him; his younger brother Geoffrey was a constant visitor to himself; once more he insisted that nothing could be more easy than the conquest of the whole kingdom.[8]

The object with Chapuys was now to carry Mary abroad, partly that she might be married to Pole, partly for her own security. Notwithstanding the King's evident care for her health and good treatment he could not look into the details of her daily life, and Anne was growing daily more dangerous. Both Catherine and the Princess had still many friends among the ladies of the Court. To one of these, young and beautiful—and, therefore, certainly not the plain Jane Seymour—the King was supposed to have paid attentions. Like another lady who had been mentioned previously, she was devoted to Catherine's interests, and obviously not, therefore, a pretender to Henry's personal affections. Anne had affected to be jealous, and under other aspects had reason for uneasiness. She had demanded this lady's dismissal from the court, and had been so violent that "the King had left her in displeasure, complaining of her importunacy and vexatiousness." The restoration of Mary to favour was a constant alarm to Anne, and she had a party of her own which had been raised by her patronage, depended on her influence, and was ready to execute her pleasure. Thus the petty annoyances of which both Catherine and her daughter complained were not discontinued. The household at Kimbolton was reduced; a confidential maid who had been useful in the Queen's correspondence was discovered and dismissed. Mary was left under the control of Mrs. Shelton, who dared not openly displease Anne. It was Anne that Chapuys blamed.

Anne hated the Princess. The King had a real love for her. In her illness he had been studiously kind. When told it had been caused by mental trouble he said, with a sigh, "that it was pity her obstinacy should prevent him from treating her as he wished and as she deserved. The case was the harder, as he knew that her conduct had been dictated by her mother, and he was therefore obliged to keep them separate."[9]

The Privy Councillors appear to have remonstrated with Anne on her behaviour to Mary. Passionate scenes, at any rate, had occurred between her and Henry's principal Ministers. She spoke to her uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, in terms "which would not be used to a dog." Norfolk left the room in indignation, muttering that she was a "grande putaine." The malcontents increased daily and became bolder in word and action. Lord Northumberland, Anne's early lover, of whom Darcy had been doubtful, professed now to be so disgusted with the malice and arrogance of the Lady that he, too, looked to the Emperor's coming as the only remedy. Lord Sandys, Henry's chamberlain, withdrew to his house, pretending sickness, and sent Chapuys a message that the Emperor had the hearts of the English people, and, at the least motion which the Emperor might make, the realm would be in confusion.[10] The news from Fitzgerald was less satisfactory. His resources were failing, and he wanted help, but he was still standing out. England, however, was more and more sure; the northern counties were unanimous, in the south and west the Marquis of Exeter and the Poles were superior to any force which could be brought against them; the spread of Lutheranism was creating more exasperation than even the divorce. Moderate men had hoped for an arrangement with the new Pope. Instead of it, the heretical preachers were more violent than ever, and the King was believed to have encouraged them. Dr. Brown, an Augustinian friar, and General of the Mendicant Order, who, as some believed, had married the King and Anne, had dared to maintain in a sermon "that the Bishops and all others who did not burn the Bulls which they had received from the Pope, and obtain others from the King, deserved to be punished. Their authority was derived from the King alone. Their sacred chrism would avail them nothing while they obeyed the Idol of Rome, who was a limb of the Devil."

"Language so abominable," said Chapuys, in reporting it, "must have been prompted by the King, or else by Cromwell, who made the said monk his right hand in all things unlawful;" Cromwell and Cranmer being of Luther's opinion that there was no difference between priests and bishops, save what the letters patent of the Crown might constitute. "Cromwell," Chapuys said, "had been feeling his way with some of the Bench on the subject." At a meeting of Council he had asked Gardiner and others whether the King could not make and unmake bishops at his pleasure. They were obliged to answer that he could, to save their benefices.[11]

Outrages so flagrant had shocked beyond longer endurance the Conservative mind of England. Darcy, at the beginning of the new year (a year which, as he hoped, was to witness an end to them), sent Chapuys a present of a sword, as an indication that the time was come for sword-play.[12] Let the Emperor send but a little money; let a proclamation be drawn in his name that the nation was in arms for the cause of God and the Queen, the comfort of the people, and the restoration of order and justice, and a hundred thousand men would rush to the field. The present was the propitious moment. If action was longer delayed it might be too late.[13]

To the enthusiastic and the eager the cause which touches themselves the nearest seems always the most important in the world. Charles V. had struggled long to escape the duty which the Pope and destiny appeared to be combining to thrust upon him. With Germany unsettled, with the Turks in Hungary, with Barbarossa's corsair-fleet commanding the Mediterranean and harassing the Spanish coast, with another French war visibly ahead, and a renewed invasion of Italy, Charles was in no condition to add Henry to the number of his enemies. Chapuys and Darcy, Fisher and Reginald Pole allowed passion to persuade them that the English King was Antichrist in person, the centre of all the disorder which disturbed the world. All else could wait, but the Emperor must first strike down Antichrist and then the rest would be easy. Charles was wiser than they, and could better estimate the danger of what he was called on to undertake; but he could not shut his ears entirely to entreaties so reiterated. Before anything could be done, however, means would have to be taken to secure the persons of the Queen and Princess—of the Princess especially, as she would be in most danger. So far he had discouraged her escape when it had been proposed to him, since, were she once in his hands, he had thought that war could no longer be avoided. He now allowed Chapuys to try what he could do to get her out of the country, and meanwhile to report more particularly on the landing of an invading force.

The escape itself presented no great difficulty. The Princess was generally at the Palace at Greenwich. Her friends would let her out at night; an armed barge could be waiting off the walls, and a Flemish man-of-war might be ready at the Nore, of size sufficient to beat off boats that might be sent in pursuit. Should she be removed elsewhere the enterprise would not be so easy. In the event of an insurrection while she was still in the realm, Chapuys said the first step of the Lords would be to get possession of her mother and Mary. If they failed, the King would send them to the Tower: but in the Tower they would be out of danger, as the Constable, Sir William Kingston, was their friend. In any case he did not believe that hurt would be done them, the King feeling that, if war did break out, they would be useful as mediators, like the wife and mother of Coriolanus.

  1. Chapuys to Charles V., July 27, 1534.—Calendar, Foreign and Domestic, vol. vii. p. 389.
  2. Cifuentes to Charles V., Aug. 1, 1534.—Spanish Calendar, vol. v. p. 229.
  3. Chapuys to Charles V., Aug. 11, 1534.—Spanish Calendar, vol. v. pp. 243–4.
  4. Chapuys to Charles V., Aug. 29, 1534.—Spanish Calendar, p. 250.
  5. Chapuys to Charles V., Oct. 24, 1534.—Spanish Calendar, vol. v. pp. 294 et seq.
  6. Chapuys to Charles V., Sept. 30, 1534.—Calendar, Foreign and Domestic, vol. vii. p. 466; Spanish Calendar, vol. v. p. 608.
  7. Chapuys to Charles V., Oct. 13, 1534.—Spanish Calendar, vol. v. p. 279.
  8. Chapuys to Charles V., Nov. 3, 1534.—Calendar, Foreign and Domestic, vol. vii. p. 519.
  9. Chapuys to Charles V., Dec. 19, 1534.—Spanish Calendar, vol. v, p. 343.
  10. Chapuys to Charles V., Jan. 14, 1535.—Calendar, Foreign and Domestic, vol. viii. p. 14.
  11. Chapuys to Charles V., Jan. 28, 1535.—Calendar, Foreign and Domestic, vol. viii. p. 38.
  12. "Veuillant denoter par icelle, puisqne n'a moyen de m'envoyer dire securement, que la saison sera propice pour jouer des cousteaulx."—Ibid. Jan. 1, p. 1; and MS. Vienna.
  13. Chapuys to Charles V., Jan. 28, 1535.—Calendar, Foreign and Domestic, vol. viii. p. 38.