CHAPTER IX. HENRY VIII (v), 1533-40 - MALLEUS MONACHORUM

In January 1536 the deeply-injured Katharine died; to be followed ere many months had passed by her supplanter. Ostensibly, Henry had married Anne Boleyn, because a male heir was needed to secure the succession; but she had borne him only a daughter and a still-born son. Henry was disappointed in her. Moreover, his passion had for some time been cooling: nor was her character - even on the most favourable reading - calculated to retain affections that had begun to wane. She was frivolous and undignified; her arrogance and her assumption had left her few friends. She was jealous of the attentions paid by her husband to Jane Seymour, who had been one of Katharine's ladies-in-waiting - attentions which she received with a becoming reserve. Suddenly it appeared that Anne had been guilty of gross misconduct. Sundry gentlemen of the court, including her brother Lord Rochford were charged with sharing her guilt. One of them ultimately made confession - true or false. There were stories, flatly denied, that she had been contracted to Northumberland: that she had actually been his wife when she married Henry. There were stories that the marriage was void, because of earlier relations between Henry and her mother and sister. Whether the queen was guilty or not, the judges of course did what they were expected to do; she was tried for treason and condemned. Cranmer was torn between an affectionate conviction that she was really a good woman and an inability to believe that the King could be misled, much less do her a deliberate and conscious wrong. But some sort of admission which she made before him was interpreted by the Archbishop as involving the nullity of the marriage. Anne was executed: next day, the King married Jane Seymour; the marriage with Anne was officially declared to have been invalid; Elizabeth being of course de-legitimatised, and so occupying precisely the same position as Mary. Thus Henry was left with three illegitimate children (the third being the Duke of Richmond who died not long after), and no legitimate heir - truly an ironical outcome of that divorce which his apologists defend as having been demanded by the need of a successor with an indisputable title to the throne!

[The Succession]

Within three weeks of Anne Boleyn's execution (May 19th, 1536), a new parliament was sitting; for that which had commenced its sessions at the end of 1529 had been dissolved in the spring of this year. The first business was formally to ratify the late proceedings, and fix the succession on the offspring of the new queen; the second was formally to authorise the King himself to lay down the order of succession thereafter. Incidentally we may note that the actual legitimate heir presumptive [Footnote: See Appendix B, and Front.] to the throne was now the King of Scotland, the son of Henry's elder sister Margaret. The claims of a child of Jane Seymour could alone on legitimist principles take precedence of his, if the judgments invalidating the two previous marriages held good. It is only by admitting the power of parliament to fix or delegate its power of fixing the succession, that James's claim to be heir presumptive could be challenged. But there was no sort of doubt that it would be in actual fact challenged, simply because the English would not take a King from another land. There was not much room in England for advocates of the doctrine of Divine Right. Neither Henry IV, and his successors, nor Henry VII., nor Elizabeth, could have maintained a plausible claim to the throne apart from their title by Act of Parliament. Of present importance however was the fact that both Katharine and Anne were dead before the marriage of Queen Jane; there could therefore be absolutely no ground for challenging the legitimacy of any children of hers, while any conceivable claims on behalf of either Mary or Elizabeth would necessarily yield precedence to the claim of Jane's son, should she bear one. Moreover, since there was now no Katharine to claim rights as a queen, and her supplanter had died a traitor's death, Mary might without risk be re-instated as a Princess on sufficient grounds. Thus a door was opened for a renewal of amity with the Emperor.

[Punishment of Heresy]

The aims and objects of the Reformation in England had been entirely political and financial. There had been no official movement towards a new doctrinal standpoint. On the contrary, the suppression of heresy had been not less active after Cranmer's accession to the primacy than before. The prosecutions however do not at any time appear to have originated with the clergy: and the Ordinaries habitually endeavoured to procure the recantation of heresy rather than the exaction of its penalties. But the most advanced of the clergy, even those who like Latimer were continually verging on doctrines which their stricter brethren regarded as heretical, showed as little mercy as any one to the upholders of Anabaptism; whose theology was usually combined - or supposed to be so - with perverted views on the political and social order. To this class belong most of the martyrs of the period; with the notable exception of John Frith. Frith was a young man of great piety and learning, who would probably never have been arrested but for his association with the distributors of forbidden literature. Being arrested, he maintained - in spite of earnest efforts to persuade him to recant - the Zwinglian doctrine of the Lord's Supper: but further he stood almost alone in declaring that to hold a correct opinion on this point of doctrine could not be essential to salvation. Frith was the first and almost the only martyr (July, 1533) to the theory of toleration, to which neither Romanists nor Protestants, Anglicans nor Zwinglians, were yet ready to give ear.