CHAPTER IX. HENRY VIII (v), 1533-40 - MALLEUS MONACHORUM
The warning was perhaps necessary; for in the beginning of 1539 the attitude of the foreign Powers was menacing. The Pope was planning a sort of crusade, with invasion and insurrection in Ireland as its basis. The marriage of James of Scotland to Mary of Guise would make matters the more dangerous if France assumed a definitely hostile attitude; and the pretence of negotiating the union between Henry and the Duchess of Milan had been ended by the reconciliation of Charles and Francis. A combination including the Emperor was threatening. Wriothesly the English ambassador in the Low Countries, did not believe on the whole that there would be a breach of the peace, unless the Imperialists felt that their victory would be assured. Nevertheless, a great armament was assembled in the Dutch harbours. England, however, had awakened to the need of defence in the Channel; fleets were assembled and forts manned. The solidarity of the country had been demonstrated by the easy suppression of the Courtenays and Poles. If an invasion was contemplated - which can hardly be doubted - the invaders thought better of the situation, and the armada dispersed without any overt hostilities taking place.
[Sidenote 1: The King and Lutheranism] [Sidenote 2: The Six Articles]
The Lutheran conference of the previous year had been without direct results: but it had the effect of forcing to the front the settlement of the official position as to several points of doctrine. The advanced bishops were distinctly inclined to admit the Lutheran views: the other powerful body within the English Church was in strong opposition. Theologically, the King was in agreement with the latter section, although he retained a particularly strong and persistent personal affection for Cranmer - apparently the only persistent affection of his life. The result was the production of the Six Articles Act, pronouncing in favour of Transubstantiation, clerical celibacy, auricular confession, communion in one kind only for the laity, prayers for the dead, and the permanence of vows once taken. On the first head there was not as yet any real difference of opinion. As to the second, Cranmer was actually a married man when he became archbishop, and many of the clergy, especially in country districts, had wives, in spite of the fact that the law did not recognise the relationship: so that an awkward situation was created. Considering the abolition of the monasteries, the Article concerning vows was remarkable. But on all these doctrines the views of the reformers were not yet sufficiently crystallised to prevent their submission when the Jaw demanded it, though it justified a determined opposition to the passing of the law; in this Cranmer was particularly conspicuous, and two of the bishops, Latimer and Shaxton, lost their sees. That the Act should have been passed is not surprising; but the ferocity of the attendant penalties is best explained by the fact that, on an attempt being made to apply the statute in a wholesale fashion, the accused were promptly pardoned and set at liberty. The object was not so much to punish as to silence the advanced section.
[Final Suppression of Monasteries]
At the same time two other Acts of grave import were passed. One was the Act for the suppression and forfeiture of those religious houses which had not been accounted for in the Act of 1536. The new Act was merely the logical corollary of the old one. The distinction in morals between the lesser and greater monasteries was not marked: and to the old charges of the commissioners were added the new charges of complicity in the rebellion of the North and in Exeter's conspiracy, and of fomenting disloyalty generally. The measure was carried out with great harshness, and especial severity was shown in the cases where abbots and monks attempted to conceal the monastic treasures. The aged and beloved abbot of Glastonbury was found guilty of treason and put to death. The great estates became for the most part the prizes of the nobility. Some few of the houses were converted into Chapters. There was a scheme for constructing twenty-one new bishoprics out of the proceeds of the suppression, but the twenty-one dwindled to six. [Footnote: Chester, Peterborough, Oxford, Gloucester, Bristol and Westminster.] A fraction of the money was expended on the Channel defences. But broadly speaking the vast bulk of the spoils went to no national or ecclesiastical purpose but to the enrichment of private individuals. Still the amount realised by the National Exchequer did no doubt relieve the present necessity for taxation in other forms, which would have been a more fruitful source of murmuring and discontent than sympathy with the dispossessed monks.
[Royal Proclamations Act]
The second measure was the Royal Proclamations Act, giving to Royal Proclamations made with the assent of the Privy Council the force of law. This was the coping stone of that edifice of absolutism built up by parliamentary enactments of which Cromwell was the Architect: an adaptation of the system initiated by Henry VII. and developed by Wolsey; springing now from the assertion of the doctrine of the Supreme Head, continuing with the novel practical interpretations of that doctrine in matters ecclesiastical, and buttressed by the Treasons Act, which effectually translated discontent into Treason. Now the King was left in such a position that his will became formally law unless his Privy Council opposed him.
[Anne of Cleves]