CHAPTER IX. HENRY VIII (v), 1533-40 - MALLEUS MONACHORUM
Cromwell had shattered the ecclesiastical power of resistance: he had shattered also the dangerous elements among the nobility: he had systematically secured parliamentary confirmation for every step. But he wished to carry still further the anti-clericalism which was part of his policy. He desired the domination in England of the Lutheranising section of Churchmen, and the central idea of his foreign policy was the construction of a Protestant League. In these respects he went beyond his master, and in the attempt to carry his master with him, he made ship-wreck of himself. The question of another marriage for Henry was still unsettled; if more children were to be hoped for, it must be settled soon. Cromwell fixed upon Anne of Cleves as politically the wife to be desired. By wedding with her, Henry would be drawn into closer relations with the Protestant League of Schmalkald. He painted for the King a misleading picture of the lady's charms: the King consented to his plans; the negotiation flowed smoothly.
[Sidenote 1: 1540 The Marriage] [Sidenote 2: Fall of Cromwell]
Early in the year (1540) the bride came to England; bringing disillusionment. Matters had gone too far for the King to draw back, and the marriage was carried out; but his wrath was kindled against its projector. The blow fell not less suddenly than with Wolsey. The Earl of Essex - such was the title recently bestowed on Cromwell - was without warning arrested and attainted of high treason. The instrument he himself had forged and ruthlessly wielded with such terrible effect was turned as ruthlessly against him. He had over-ridden the law. He had countenanced and protected anti-clerical law-breakers. He had spoken in arrogant terms of his own power. As it had availed Wolsey nothing that his breach of praemunire had been countenanced by the King, so it availed Cromwell nothing that the King had seemed to support him. If the King had done so, in each case, it was merely because he in his innocence had been misled by his minister, so that in fact their crime was aggravated. For the merciless minister, there was no mercy. That the process against Essex was by attainder and not by an ordinary trial is of little moment. His fate would have been the same in any case; nor was he so scrupulous in such matters that he can claim sympathy on that head. No voice but Cranmer's - in lamentation rather than protest - was raised on his behalf. The mighty minister, the most dreaded of all men who have swayed the destinies of England, found himself in a moment as utterly helpless as the feeblest of his victims had been. He was flung into the Tower; his stormy protests were unheeded by the King; on July 28th, his head fell beneath the executioner's axe.
Cromwell had learned his ethics and his state-craft in that school whose doctrines are formulated in "The Prince" of Macchiavelli. He had applied those principles with remorseless logic, untinged by the fear of God or man, to the single end of making his master actually the most complete autocrat that ever sat on the throne of England. His loyalty was as unfailing as it was unscrupulous; his work had been thorough and complete - the King was placed beyond further need of him. His reward was the doom of a traitor. Unpitying he lived, unpitied he died. Regardless of justice, he had swept down each obstacle in the way of his policy: regardless of justice he was in turn struck down. By his own standards he was judged; his end was the end he had compassed for More and Fisher. History has no more perfect example of Nemesis.