[1533 Ecclesiastical Parties]

WE have noted that a proportion of the higher clergy were at least not unwilling to be freed from the domination and the financial exactions of Rome; this attitude being either the cause or the effect of the line they took as to the divorce. When, however, it was borne in upon them that the price of escaping the yoke of the Popedom was to be the subjection of the Church, in form to the lay monarch, and in fact to the State, the bulk of them endeavoured to protest against the newly imposed subordination. With the "Submission of the Clergy" and the appointment of Cranmer as Warham's successor, it became entirely clear that to protest or resist would be worse than useless. Accordingly we shall now find this section of the clerical body, including such prelates as Gardiner of Winchester, Stokesley of London, and Tunstal of Durham, devoting themselves to evading or rendering nugatory the directions of the Temporal power and its instrument Cranmer, under colour of obedience, while dissociating themselves from the more rigid of the Old Catholics such as Fisher of Rochester, More, the London Carthusians and others. On the other hand, the newer school, who were much more antagonistic to the papacy, such as Cranmer, Latimer and Barlow, found more personal favour with the King and with Cromwell, though their leanings towards the doctrinal tenets of Continental reformers were checked from time to time with sufficient rudeness.

[Pope or King?]

A very peculiar situation however soon resulted from the Royal rejection of the Papal supremacy. To hold the opinion that the Pope was head of the Church implied the recognition of a divided allegiance, casting a doubt on the holder's loyalty to the Secular Sovereign, and easily translated into treason; since the papal party were bound to maintain in theory the validity of the marriage with Katharine, and the rights of her daughter Mary. Henry never lacked a plausible theory to justify his most tyrannous actions. Modern historians however who carry their support of Henry to the extreme point ignore the two facts, that to hold an opinion which if acted on would lead to treason is not in itself treason; and that it was quite logical to maintain the supreme authority of the Pope in matters spiritual, without admitting his power to depose a recalcitrant monarch or to determine the line of succession - which was in fact the position adopted by Sir Thomas More.

[1534 Confirmatory Acts]

The Spring session of Parliament in 1534 was devoted mainly to the passing of Acts in confirmation and extension of what already been done. The Submission of the Clergy and the Restraint of Appeals were re-affirmed in one Act; but with the important difference that the whole of the Canon law was to be subjected to the Commission when appointed, [Footnote: See p. 128, ante]. till which time the clergy would be acting at their peril in enforcing any rules which might subsequently be condemned as against the Royal Prerogative. This was accompanied by an Act in confirmation of the Annates Act, coupled with thecongé d'élire, assuring to the King the right of nomination to ecclesiastical appointments under the form of permitting the Chapters to elect his nominee. A third, the "Peter Pence" Act, abolished the remaining contributions to the Papal Treasury. At the same time the "exempt" monasteries - those, that is, which had not been subject to the supervision of the bishops - were conveyed to the King's control, still without episcopal intervention. A fourth Act, not prima facie ecclesiastical in character, was the Act of Succession, declaring the offspring of Anne Boleyn (the princess Elizabeth had been born in the previous September) heirs to the throne.

[The Pope's last word]

While these proceedings were in progress, the last attempt to subdue the Pope by diplomacy was failing. At the end of March, Clement gave the long deferred judgment on the divorce, pronouncing the marriage with Katharine valid, and that with Anne Boleyn void. Clement survived but a short time. His successor Paul III. had at one time been in Henry's favour; but reconciliation was now outside the range of practical politics, and the new Pope soon found himself more definitely antagonistic to the English monarch than his predecessor had been.

[The Nun of Kent]

The prevailing superstitions of the day and their reality as factors even in public life are curiously illustrated by the story of the "Nun of Kent" - a story concluded by her execution about this time. The "Nun" was a young woman named Elizabeth Barton of humble birth, who was subject to fits or trances, presumably epileptic in character, in which trances she gave vent to utterances which were supposed to be inspired, being generally religious in their bearing. Having acquired some notoriety and a reputation for sanctity, her prophesyings before long took the form of denunciation of the divorce, at that time in its earlier stages. She was exploited by sundry fanatical persons honest or otherwise - in such cases it is seldom possible to fathom the extent to which mania, intentional deception, conscious or unconscious suggestion, and mere credulity, are mingled. In those days, there were few people who would venture to attribute such phenomena to purely natural causes. Such a man as Thomas More, who was eminently rational as well as deeply religious, was not easily beguiled; but the more credulous and equally honest bishop of Rochester was unable to regard the prophesyings as mere imposture, as was also the case with Warham; and being thus countenanced, when the Nun's utterances reached the point of denouncing the wrath of Heaven upon those who consented to the Divorce, she became really dangerous. She and her associates were charged with treason and executed, while Fisher was necessarily to some degree implicated. Before her death the Nun made a confession of elaborate imposture, but too much weight should not be attached to confessions made under such conditions. Given a certain degree of mental aberration, the case is not without parallels pointing to an absence of conscious fraud. But whether in her case it was fraud or mania, the important fact remains that there were numbers of people who attributed her utterances neither to the one nor the other but to inspiration; numbers more who were in doubt on the point; and that those utterances were to some extent utilised in a seditious propaganda; for to declare as a message from on high that the King and his advisers had brought upon themselves the curse of the Almighty must be recognised as effectively, even if not intentionally, preaching sedition.

[Sidenote 1: The Act of Succession] [Sidenote 2: The oath refused]

The proceedings against Elizabeth Barton had been accompanied by revelations of more or less suspicious conduct on the part of the Countess of Salisbury and of Poles, [Footnote: The Countess of Salisbury's children. The de la Poles were now extinct. The Nevilles were the Countess's kinsfolk, her mother having been a daughter of the Kingmaker. See Front.] Courtenays and Nevilles, while the Princess Mary declined to regard herself as illegitimate. This was made the pretext for adopting a very irregular course in connexion with the Act of Succession. The Act not only established the order of Succession to the throne, but in the preamble asserted the invalidity of Katharine's marriage, it was accompanied by an authority to exact an oath of obedience to the Statute, the form of the oath not being laid down. Commissioners were appointed to exact the oath, which was drawn up in a form accepting the entire terms of the Act, not merely promising adhesion to its provisions. Presented to them in this form, both More and Fisher refused to take the oath. Both were prepared to swear to maintain the succession as laid down; neither would avow a belief that the marriage with Katharine was void ab initio. More laid down definitely the doctrine that it was in the power of the State to determine the succession, and the duty of the citizen to accept its decision; but that obviously does not involve an opinion that the reasons for its decision are sound. Cranmer would fain have persuaded the King to accept the oath thus modified as sufficient - not realising that the primary object of Henry and Cromwell was to drive the opponents of the divorce into a public recantation of their opinion. More and Fisher were resolute, and were sent to the Tower, though in form an indictment ought first to have been brought against them in the courts. Cromwell expressed and no doubt felt a very genuine regret at the failure of the plan; but it was ever Cromwell's method to strike at the most influential opponents of his policy. If they would bend, well: if not, they must break. The device of the oath would force the surrender or else the destruction of the best members of the high Catholic party. Three of the most zealous and most irreproachable monastic establishments - the London Carthusians, the Richmond Observants, and the Brentford Brigittines - were inveigled or cowed into temporary submission, but later reverted to the position of More and Fisher, and suffered accordingly. The Greenwich Observants refused submission altogether, and were dissolved.

["The Bishop of Rome"]

Before the administration of the oath, the news of Clement's decision had come from Rome, with a Bull of Excommunication to follow. It was well for Henry that Francis could be relied on to keep Charles in check; for the foreign ambassadors, whether well-informed or mainly because the wish was father to the thought, were reporting serious disaffection in the country, which otherwise might have led to armed intervention by the Emperor. The answer to Rome however took the emphatic form of a declaration by Convocation and the Universities that "the Bishop of Rome has no more authority in England than any other foreign Bishop"; in addition to the Acts of Parliament already recorded.

[Sidenote 1: Parliament (Nov.)] [Sidenote 2: Treasons Act]

Before the end of the year (1534) Parliament was again in session. The argument submitted to the Pope before the passing of the Annates Act - that it pressed with undue severity on the bishops - was shown in its true character by a new Annates Act which appropriated to the King the funds of which the Pope had been deprived. The relief of the bishops was ignored. By the "Act of the Supreme Head," Parliament also professedly confirmed the declaration of Convocation in 1531; but omitted the saving [Footnote: See p. 125] clause; and by a fresh Act of Succession, regularised the treatment of More and Fisher, enforcing the oath in the form in which it had been submitted to them, retrospectively. Then came the Treasons Act, the coping stone of Resolute Government; bringing into the category of Treason not only the specific overt actions to which it had been limited by the Act of Edward III., but also "verbal treason" and even the refusal to answer incriminating questions. It is easy to see what vast opportunities were thus given for fastening a practically irrefutable charge of treason on any victim selected, when the recognised principle was that the onus probandi lay with the accused. An irresistible instrument of tyranny was created, justified of course by the usual argument that without such powers it was not possible to deal adequately with the abnormal dangers of the situation. It need only be remarked that where there is practically no check on the abuse of such powers save the scrupulosity of the persons in whom they are vested, the risk of flagrant injustice becomes almost incalculable. Since the days of Edward III., no monarch had occupied the throne with less risk of serious treason than Henry VIII. Under all save Henry V. there had been active rebellion, and under him there was at least one serious plot. Yet the treason statute of Edward III. had under them been held sufficient. The new Act was in truth but one step in the systematic development of autocracy under constitutional forms to which the policy of Thomas Cromwell was devoted.

[Sidenote 1: 1529-34 The New Policy] [Sidenote 2: Cromwell]

When Wolsey fell in 1529 the Duke of Norfolk became ostensibly the King's most powerful subject. But it is impossible to trace to him or to his following among the nobility the formulation of any sort of definite policy. Nevertheless, a quite definite policy had been initiated after a short lapse of time. Starting with the checking of palpable ecclesiastical abuses, it had gone on to assert with steadily increasing rigour the subjection of the entire clerical organisation to the Supreme Head, and to embody the assertion of the theory in practical legislation, and dictation to Convocation. It had threatened the papacy, till the threats issued virtually in an ultimatum followed by repudiation of papal authority. It had placed papal and ecclesiastical perquisites under gradual restrictions, till by the last Annates Act it began transferring them openly to the Crown. In many instances, the initiative had been ostensibly taken by Parliament; in others, the King had exercised direct pressure on the clergy, but had obtained from Parliament a ratification of the ecclesiastical concessions. The whole trend of the policy, culminating in the Treasons Act, was to concentrate effective control in the hands of the sovereign, by consent of Parliament. And now Cromwell emerges as the man who was to give that policy tremendous effect, and by inference at least as its probable creator and organiser from the close of 1530. It is not till 1535 however that he becomes openly and indisputably first minister; Wolsey's successor in Henry's confidence - and to Henry's gratitude.

[1535 More and Fisher]

Before the prorogation of Parliament in February (1535) the two recalcitrants in the Tower, More and Fisher, were attainted High Treason for maintaining their refusal to take the prescribed oath under the Act of Succession. It was perhaps in the hope that the King might hesitate to proceed to extremities, in the face of a very marked expression of sentiment, that the new Pope, Paul III., proceeded to nominate Fisher a Cardinal. It ought to have been obvious that the very contrary effect would have been produced: the step was naturally looked upon as a challenge. More and Fisher were condemned to death and executed in the summer - martyrs assuredly to conscience. The whole of their offence consisted in the single fact that they could not and would not recant their belief in the validity of Katharine's marriage. Had they sought to make converts to that opinion, or to make it a text for preaching sedition, there might have been some colour of justice in their punishment. As it was, such danger as there might be in their holding that view lay entirely in the advertisement of it by insistence on the oath. All Europe shuddered, and half England trembled at the demonstration of ruthless power, when those two were struck down - the aged bishop whose spotless character and saintly life had for many a year given the lie to those who included all the higher clergy in a universal condemnation; and the ex-chancellor, the friend of Erasmus, whose wide learning, kindly wit, intellectual eminence, and unswerving rectitude had won for him a European reputation greater than that of any other Englishman of his time. The Carthusians, Brigittines, and Observants who had been induced to give way on the question of the Oath reverted to the position of More and Fisher. Their heads also were put to death, and the houses broken up.

The wrath of the Pope was expressed in a Bull of Deposition; which however on second thoughts he found it advisable to hold in suspense till three years later.

[Cromwell made Vicar-General]

When More and Fisher opposed themselves obstinately to the King's will, there was no doubt that the King would see to it that they paid the penalty. But we may suspect that it was not Henry's brain but Cromwell's which devised the policy of presenting them with the fatal dilemma. Before they were put to death, the minister's supremacy was already established by his appointment as Vicar-General, with full power to exercise on the King's behalf all the rights vested in the Supreme Head of the Church: rights which - however it might be asserted that they were and had been at all times inherent in the sovereign - were now to be interpreted in a novel and comprehensive spirit. But besides the development alike in extent and intensity of the attack on the clerical organisation, we now find foreign policy taking a new direction for which Cromwell was assuredly responsible.

[Sidenote 1: The German Lutherans] [Sidenote 2: Overtures]

Hitherto, since the fall of Wolsey, the Emperor had been in steady antagonism to the English King: so had the Pope, except when he had hopes of the Imperial pressure on him being removed. France had on the whole given support to England, usually of a lukewarm character. But it does not appear that, until this time, Henry had learnt to look upon the German Lutherans as an available political force: while his active hostility to the Lutheran theology seemed to preclude anything in the nature of a rapprochement with the Protestant princes. Yet the Lutherans, like Henry, had repudiated papal authority. Recently the French King had taken up the idea of bringing about a compromise between the Pope on one side, and the Lutherans and English on the other, which would place Charles in dangerous straits. The prospect however was unpromising at the best; a reconciliation with Rome was really impossible. Cromwell, then, conceived the idea of a Protestant league, which would suggest to Francis the advantage of following Henry's lead in throwing off the Roman allegiance, and ranging himself with the Lutherans and the English. Henry's own theological predilections stood in the way, and the Lutherans regarded him with suspicion: but Cromwell looked to political expediency as a potent salve for healing controversial differences. Thus in the late summer of 1535, the first advances were made in the direction of seeking a mutual understanding with the German Protestants - not without hints that Henry had an open mind on the subject of the Augsburg Confession. The Germans however were in no haste to accept Henry as a brand plucked from the burning; rather, they had a not unnatural suspicion that he merely wanted to make use of them. They propounded conditions, which Cromwell submitted to Gardiner, at this time ambassador at Paris. Whatever Gardiner's views were as to papal ascendancy, he was no Lutheran; and he pointed out that to accept the terms would deprive England of her ecclesiastical independence. Thus the negotiations fell through - as might have been expected. Nevertheless, the desire for the Lutheran alliance remained at the back of Cromwell's policy; not avowed but latent; and it was in an attempt to entangle Henry irrevocably in that policy that he committed, not five years later, the blunder which cost him his head.

[Visitation of the Monasteries]

In the same Autumn - 1535 - Cromwell as Vicar-General opened his great campaign against the monasteries; actuated, according to the historians on one side, by a determination to remove a cancer which was destroying the morality of the nation; according to the historians on the other side, by the vast opportunities afforded for plunder.

[1536 Suppression of Lesser Houses]

Heretofore the visitation of "exempt" monasteries had lain with the Superiors of their respective orders, except when special authority had been granted by the Pope to a Morton or a Wolsey. In other cases it had been deputed to the bishops, each in his own diocese. At the time of the recent Peter Pence Act (1534) the exempt houses had been formally subjected to the King. Cromwell now took upon himself the right of visitation, not only of the exempt monasteries, but of the others as well, suspending the jurisdiction of the bishops while his enquiries were going forward, and thus emphasising the doctrine that that jurisdiction was derived from the King. Commissioners were appointed - Legh, Leyton, Bedyl, and Ap Rice - to investigate and report upon the conduct and the finances of the various houses. In a period of about three months (Oct.-Jan.), they made their investigations and prepared their report, keeping up an active correspondence with Cromwell in the meantime. On the strength of this report, a bill was laid before Parliament and passed in February (1536), suppressing all houses with less than £200 a year, 376 in number - of which however 31 were reinstated later in the year as having been well conducted. In part, their inmates were to be redistributed among the greater houses; in part they were to be released from their vows; and in part they were to receive some compensation.

[The evidence discussed]

Now it is clear that in the time at their disposal, the commissioners could not possibly have sifted thoroughly the evidence brought before them. In many cases there was enough that was gross, palpable, obvious, to warrant condemnation at sight. But the scandalous levity and domineering insolence with which they carried out their task must have suggested to the ill-conditioned members of every community that slander and false-witness might lead to favour and profit, and were not likely to be too carefully tested: while it is easy to see how the insulting interrogatories would be angrily resented, and answers be refused, or given in the most injudicious manner, by perfectly innocent persons; while demands for inventories of valuables were met by prevarication and concealment, when the object of the commissioners was suspected of being spoliation. The letters of Leyton and Legh convey the impression that the fouler the scandals unearthed or retailed, the more enjoyment and humour they discovered in their occupation. There can be no doubt that the state of things they found was in general bad; but by their own statement it was by no means universally so; and it is also clear that they accepted adverse witness almost without examination and wilfully minimised all that was favourable.

[The Black Book]

Also, it is very doubtful whether the "black book" of monastic offences was ever laid before parliament. The preamble to the bill set forth, luridly enough, the conclusions arrived at by the King and the vicar-general, and summed up the grounds for them. But it seems by no means improbable that parliament simply accepted the statement thus laid before it. The black book itself disappeared. The Protestant historians of Elizabeth's reign said that Bonner destroyed it; the Roman Catholics affirm that it was the other party who took care that the evidence on which they acted should never be made known. The actual surviving evidence is to be found in the partial summaries known as the Comperta and in the letters of the commissioners to Cromwell. The examination of these can hardly fail to leave the reader with a conviction that the methods of the Commissioners were atrociously iniquitous, but that a strictly judicial investigation would still have revealed a state of things often appalling, not seldom vicious, and commonly reprehensible, without the elements which might have made effective reform possible: while it is beyond a doubt that especially among the younger monks and nuns, the desire to escape from the bonds of monastic rule was common.

[The Consequent Commission]

In favour of the monasteries however, it is to be noted that these 376 minor houses were suppressed not as having been individually condemned, but on the theory that the report pointed to the system of maintaining minor houses as bad. Mixed commissions were now appointed to continue the visitation, carry out the suppression, and recommend exemptions when it was desirable; and the reports of these commissions were of a far less unfavourable character, though (as we have seen) only 31 houses were actually reinstated. It is to be observed also, in a somewhat different connexion, that the further visitation was accompanied by the issuing of Injunctions for the conduct of monastic establishments which may have been designed solely with a view to enforcing a pure and pious manner of living, but are undoubtedly open to the suspicion of having been deliberately calculated to make the monastic life insupportable and so to encourage the religious houses to efface themselves by voluntary surrender - a course which was not infrequently adopted.

[The policy discussed]

There was sufficient precedent for laying the Church under heavy contributions to the exchequer. The idea of deliberately confiscating Church property had before now been seriously put forward. There had been previous suppressions of monastic establishments; but in these cases the funds, ostensibly at least, had been diverted to other purposes recognised as ecclesiastical, such as Wolsey's schools and colleges. The differentiating feature of Cromwell's confiscation was that the funds were for the most part withdrawn from any ecclesiastical purpose whatever. [Footnote: There was precedent for the proposal however in Parliamentary petitions of Richard II.'s reign; but these had not taken effect in legislation.] The monastic lands passed to lay owners by grant or purchase; they enriched the King or his friends or those whom Cromwell thought fit to enrich or to gratify. The evidence that in the public interest it was time for the religious houses to go is convincing; the method of proceeding against the smaller houses first was tactically shrewd, as evoking less opposition at the outset; but even if it be conceded that the Church had forfeited her property, it is impossible to find any excuse for the application of the spoils to other than public objects. The Church might simply be looked upon as a vast corporation, holding its wealth in trust for the nation, and rightly deprived of that wealth when it failed to fulfil the trust. But on that view, the wealth was bound to be handed over to another body, to administer as a trust for the nation. The fact that this was not done makes possible only one conclusion as to the motive of the suppression. The Church was both the wealthiest and the least dangerous victim available for bleeding, besides being open to the charge of deserving to be penalised.

[Sidenote 1: Anne Boleyn threatened] [Sidenote 2: Her condemnation and death]

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.

[Sidenote 1: Progressive Movement] [Sidenote 2: The Ten Articles]

Although, however, there had been no revolt from orthodox doctrine the course of the Reformation abroad could not be without influence in England. There was a growing inclination to think and speak of minor questions as being debatable; an increasing suspicion on one side that the spread of knowledge and of discussion tended to heresy and to irreverence - on the other, that they tended to edification. In theory the leading ecclesiastics agreed that an authorised translation of the Bible would be good, but half of them were afraid that it would lead to novel and dangerous interpretations. The general attitude may be regarded as one of uneasiness. Hence the commission appointed under Cranmer's auspices did little; and Cranmer himself, whose heart was really in the scheme, was overjoyed [Footnote: Dr. Gairdner (Eng. Church, p. 192) thinks however that it was Matthew's Bible, issued next year, to which Cranmer's expressions of satisfaction were applied.] when Coverdale produced a rendering to which an authoritative imprimatur could be given. The general sense of unrest, aggravated perhaps by some alarm lest the Augsburg Confession should attract adherents - especially since the Lutherans had been told that there might be room for its discussion - led to the enunciation of the first of the Anglican formulae of Faith, known as the Ten Articles "for establishing Christian Quietness," in July 1536: professedly prepared by the King's own hand. These Articles contained no deviation from orthodox dogma; but their most notable feature lay in the distinction drawn between institutions necessary and convenient, with the implication that the latter were liable to modification.

[The Lincolnshire rising]

The issuing of these Articles with the sanction alike of King, Parliament, and Convocation, was probably intended to counteract the alarm attendant on the visitation and suppression of the monasteries. Those institutions, though not popular in cities, and viewed with jealousy by the secular clergy, provided in many country districts the only existing charitable or educational organisations; and moreover, whatever their defects were in the eyes of the Economist, they were much more lenient landlords than the average lay landowner. It would have been strange indeed if some of the dispersed monks had not allowed their tongues to wag, to the stirring up of alarm and discontent. In the autumn of this year, the effect of these things were seen in a rising in Lincolnshire. This was promptly suppressed without any undue tenderness either of speech or action; but it was very soon followed by the much more significant and formidable insurrection in the North, known as the Pilgrimage of Grace.

[The Pilgrimage of Grace]

The insurgents were headed by a very remarkable man, a lawyer named Robert Aske of a good North-country family. He had taken no part in inciting rebellion; but the position of leader was thrust upon him, and as it would seem not unwillingly accepted. His abilities were great: the rising was organised with much skill, and with wonderful system and discipline. Yet Aske's very virtues unfitted him for his office under the existing conditions. He was honest himself; he wished to avoid bloodshed: what he sought was the remedying of genuine grievances. As with the Lincolnshire insurgents, this meant the restoration of the monasteries, the removal of evil councillors, notably Cromwell, the removal of the advanced bishops, such as Cranmer and Latimer, the remission of a tax granted in 1534 which a commission was collecting, the repeal of a recent land-act ("Statute of Uses") which had increased the difficulty of providing younger sons with sufficient endowments, the restoration to the Church of revenues lately attached by the Crown. All over the North, cities and strongholds fell into the hands of Aske's followers without a blow. With thirty thousand well equipped and fairly disciplined troops he advanced to the Don, where he was faced by Norfolk with a far smaller force.

[Sidenote 1: Aske beguiled] [Sidenote 2: 1537 Suppression of the rising]

It was then that Aske committed his fatal but noble error. Had he struck then, he could in all probability have marched triumphantly to London and have dictated his own terms. But he did not wish to strike. He sought a conference, and laid his proposals before Norfolk. Norfolk temporised, and referred the proposals to London. The insurgents were allowed to believe that they would be pardoned, and their demands be essentially conceded. The nobles and gentry among them were appealed to privately; Norfolk even sought to get Aske betrayed into his hands. Aske still would not give up the hope of a peaceful solution. At last in December the King gave Norfolk powers to concede a free pardon and a Parliament at York; but there is no doubt that Norfolk's statements to the insurgents gave the totally different impression that they could count upon the fulfilment of their demands. By the King's command the leaders went South to be personally interviewed, and returned in sanguine mood. But their army was breaking up, and it was very soon apparent that in fact the North was being rapidly garrisoned for the King. The pardons were accompanied by a new oath of allegiance which showed very clearly that the grievances were not going to be remedied. Wild spirits broke out again in deeds of violence. By this time, the royal armies were in a position to strike. It was declared that the conditions of the pardon had been violated; the insurgents had now no prospect of making head in the field. Hangings were freely resorted to; Aske and other leaders were seized and executed: an impressive series of abbots and priors was among the victims. And so, early in 1537, ended the one formidable insurrection of Henry's reign.

[The rising turned to account]

Not only had half the nobility and gentry of the North been seriously implicated in the rising; the clergy had taken active part in fomenting it. Being followed up by a visitation from Cromwell's most energetic commissioners, such guilt as there had been was presented in the strongest colours and was made a new ground for Suppression, or the application of the drastic regulations which induced voluntary surrender; and at the same time pains were taken to impress the Ten Articles on the public mind. These were supplemented by the publication of the "Institution of a Christian Man" otherwise known as the "Bishops' Book"; in which some points which had been omitted or left vague in the Articles were laid down with a more defined orthodoxy, though the prelates of every shade of opinion had their share in the work. On the other hand, the preparation of an authorised version of the Scriptures was going forward. In spite of Cromwell's Injunction that the Bible should be set up in English and Latin in the Churches, Coverdale's work had not been adopted; and though this was followed by "Matthew's Bible," a combination of Tindal's and Coverdale's, in 1537, it was not till the issue of the revised version, known on account of its size as the Great Bible, more than a year later, that the injunction was given general effect.

[1533-36 James V.]

Abroad, the reluctant but anxious desire to maintain friendly relations with England which attended the domination of Wolsey had practically disappeared since the Cardinal's fall. From 1529 to 1536, there had been no prospect of a reconciliation between Henry and Charles; Francis had only at intervals been disposed to make advances; the demeanour of the Lutheran princes had been cold at the best. In Scotland, the young King, who only attained his majority in 1533, displayed that lack of confidence in the disinterested generosity of England which seems to be always a cause of pained surprise to the English politicians and historians. In fact it was his firm and extremely natural conviction that his uncle was responsible for keeping the whole border country in a perpetual state of unrest, fomenting the rivalries of the Scottish nobility, and generally promoting disorder, in order to bring about the subordination of the Northern to the Southern kingdom. The clerical body in Scotland, which had always been most energetic in maintaining resistance to England, was of course rendered more Anglophobe than ever by Henry's ecclesiastical policy; and its influence was strong, since it had done a good deal in the way of fighting James's battles with his nobles. Henry proposed a conference with his nephew, to be held at York, in 1538; James had at first welcomed the proposal, but presently evaded it in the belief that his uncle would kidnap him, as he had before designed to kidnap Beton. Instead he went to France, to arrange a marriage with a daughter of Francis; and on his return was reported to have given encouragement to the North-country rebels.

[1536-37 Naval measures]

Meantime, in the Channel, the estimation in which England was held had been shown by the increasingly piratical proceedings of French, Spanish, and Flemish ships; since of late Henry's hands had been too full for him to give clue attention to naval affairs. Now however the opportunity was taken to devote some of the monastic funds to coast defence. A series of forts was raised, commanding the principal harbours on the south coast; and a few ships, secretly prepared, were suddenly sent out under competent captains, to teach the channel pirates a lesson in English seamanship; which was very effectively accomplished.

[Sidenote 1: 1537 Birth of Prince Edward] [Sidenote 2: Marriage projects]

The problem of the succession to the throne was at last settled by the birth of a prince in October (1537). There was now an heir whose claims if he lived would be unassailable. But within a few weeks the queen died; and there was still only the life of one baby to shield the country from anarchy, in case Henry himself should die. With probably genuine reluctance, the King agreed that he would marry again if a suitable wife could be found for him; and the whirligig of intriguing for his union with one or another foreign princess was set in motion; princesses related to Charles, or to Francis, or to one of the Lutheran chiefs. Two years elapsed before the choice was made which, led to Cromwell's downfall. And in the meantime Mary of Guise (or Lorraine) was withdrawn from the lists by her marriage with James V., whose Queen Madeleine had died a few months after the nuptials: while the Duchess of Milan, a youthful niece of the Emperor, was for some time utilised by Charles as a diplomatic asset. The risk of an Anglo-Imperial alliance was employed by him in negotiations with Francis; and when these negotiations were brought to a successful issue the proposed alliance was gradually allowed to drop.

[1538 Diplomatic moves]

During 1538 however, this marriage was being dangled before Henry, accompanied by the hope that it might cause a rupture between Charles and the Pope, from whom a dispensation would be necessary - a question which could not now be raised without the kindling of explosive materials. Further the English quarrel with Rome was being embittered by a campaign against spurious relics, miracle-working shrines, and the like, involving a particularly virulent attack on St. Thomas of Canterbury, the type of defiant ecclesiasticism. Moreover, the arrival of a deputation of Lutheran divines in England was ominous of the closer association of the bodies which had revolted from Rome. Reginald Pole, a member of the house which stood high in the Yorkist line of succession [Footnote: See Front.], who had been not long before raised to the Cardinalate, had for some time been carrying on from the Continent a violent propaganda against Henry. Pope Paul's Bull of Deposition was again being talked of, though there is some doubt as to whether it was actually published.

[Sidenote 1: The Exeter Conspiracy] [Sidenote 2: Cromwell strikes]

Under all these circumstances, it is scarcely surprising that a new and formidable conspiracy, essentially Yorkist, was brought to light. In fact the whole country was sown with spies, and there was not much difficulty in obtaining information of treasonable speeches, when hasty expressions of discontent counted for treason. Now outside the offspring of Henry VII., the Marquis of Exeter, Edward Courtenay, was a grandson of Edward IV.; the Poles were grandsons of his brother, Clarence, whose daughter, their mother the Countess of Salisbury, was living still. The theory that a tyrant might be deposed and another scion of the royal house substituted, had ample precedent; and it is in no way improbable that the Courtenays, who were all-powerful in the West, might have been ready enough in conjunction with the Poles to make a bid for the throne, if they could have found or created a favourable opportunity. The Cardinal had warning from Cromwell that the safety of his kinsmen was jeopardised by his diatribes; while Lord Montague, the head of the family, was on very close terms of friendship with Exeter. Exeter's own conduct on the occasion of the Pilgrimage of Grace had been suspicious. Out of these materials there was no difficulty in constructing a damning case against as many members of these Plantagenet houses as might be considered advisable: since there was no need to prove that rebellion was actually organised. It was enough to have a record of the use of disloyal expressions, or even of the concealment of the knowledge that such expressions had been used. Finally it was notorious that there was no love lost between Cromwell and the suspected nobles. Cromwell, having collected sufficient evidence for his purpose, struck. Geoffrey Pole, a younger brother, learned that the blow was coming in time to turn informer. How far there was anything really deserving the name of a conspiracy the evidence produced did not show; but the existence of treason under the Treasons Act was indisputable. The policy which had struck down Buckingham nearly a score of years before was repeated even more ruthlessly. The materials for formulating a Yorkist rising were destroyed; there was no figure-head for one left when Exeter and Montague had been executed (Dec.), even though the old Countess of Salisbury's doom was deferred. And men realised afresh - if there was need that they should do so - the irresistible machinery that Cromwell had prepared for the certain annihilation of any one worth annihilating.

[1539 Menace of Invasion]

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]

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.