CHAPTER II. THE RELIGIOUS CHANGES UNDER HENRY VIII. AND EDWARD VI.

The accession of Henry VIII. (1509-47) was hailed with joy by all classes in England. Young, handsome, well-developed both in mind and body, fond of outdoor games and amusements, affable and generous with whomsoever he came into contact, he was to all appearances qualified perfectly for the high office to which he had succeeded. With the exception of Empson and Dudley, who were sacrificed for their share in the execution of his father, most of the old advisers were retained at the royal court; but the chief confidants on whose advice he relied principally were his Chancellor Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Chancellor of England, Richard Fox, Bishop of Winchester and Lord Privy Seal, and Thomas Howard, afterwards Duke of Norfolk, Lord Treasurer of the kingdom. Soon, however, these trusted and loyal advisers were obliged to make way for a young and rising ecclesiastical courtier, Thomas Wolsey[1] (1471-1530), who for close on twenty years retained the first place in the affections of his sovereign and the chief voice in the direction of English affairs. As a youth, Wolsey's marvellous abilities astonished his teachers at Magdalen College, where the boy bachelor, as he was called because he obtained the B.A. degree at the age of fifteen, was regarded as a prodigy. As a young man he was pushed forward by his patrons, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Winchester, and won favour at court by the successful accomplishment of a delicate mission entrusted to him by Henry VII., till at last in 1511 he was honoured by a seat in the privy council. New dignities were heaped upon him by Pope and sovereign in turn. He was appointed Bishop of Lincoln and Archbishop of York (1514), was created a cardinal of the Roman Church (1515), and in a short time he accepted the offices of Lord Chancellor and papal legate for England. If he did not succeed in reaching the papal throne, a dignity to which he was induced to aspire by the promise of Charles V., his position as legate made him at least virtual head of the English Church. Instead of being annoyed, Henry VIII. was delighted at the honours showered upon his Lord Chancellor by the Roman court. With Wolsey as his obedient minister and at the same time an ecclesiastical dictator, he felt that he had more authority in ecclesiastical affairs than was granted to Francis I. by the Concordat of 1516, and, though possibly at the time he did not advert to it, he was thus preparing the way for exercising in his own name the control that he had exercised for years through his chief minister in the name of the Pope.

The dream of reconquering the English possessions in France induced Henry VIII., during the early years of his reign, to side with the Emperor Maximilian and Ferdinand of Spain against Louis XII.; but the comparative failure of the expeditions undertaken against France, the resentment of the people who were burdened with taxation, and the advice of Cardinal Wolsey, led him to forego his schemes of conquest for a time in favour of a policy of neutrality. The election of Charles V. in 1519 changed the whole aspect of affairs on the Continent, and raised new hopes both in the minds of Henry VIII. and of his faithful minister. An alliance with Charles V. might mean for England the complete subjugation of France, and for Cardinal Wolsey the votes of the cardinals at the approaching conclave. While pretending to act the part of mediator between the rival sovereigns, Henry concluded a secret alliance with the Emperor in 1521, and prepared to make war on France. The failure of the forces dispatched under the Earl of Surrey, the disappointment of Wolsey when he found himself deceived by Charles V. at the conclaves of 1521 and 1523, and the outcry raised in Parliament and throughout the country against the French war, induced Henry VIII. to reconsider his foreign policy. The defeat and capture of Francis I. at Pavia (1525) placed France at the mercy of the Emperor, and made it necessary for Henry to come to the relief of his old enemy unless he wished to see England sink to the level of an imperial province. Overtures for peace were made to France, and in April 1527 Grammont, Bishop of Tarbes, arrived in England to discuss the terms of an alliance. The position of Cardinal Wolsey, which had been rendered critical by the hatred of the nobles, who resented his rule as the rule of an upstart, and by the enmity of the people, who regarded him as the author of the French war and of the increased taxation, was now threatened seriously by the public discussion of difficulties that had arisen in the mind of the king regarding the validity of his marriage.