History of the Catholic Church from the Renaissance to the French Revolution Volume 2 by Rev. James MacCaffrey

HISTORY OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH FROM THE RENAISSANCE TO THE FRENCH REVOLUTION VOLUME II by Rev. JAMES MacCAFFREY Lic. Theol. (Maynooth), Ph.D. (Freiburg i. B.) Professor of Ecclesiastical History, St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth Nihil Obstat: Thomas O’Donnell, C.M. Censor Theol. Deput. Imprimi Potest: Guilielmus, Archiep. Dublinen., Hiberniæ Primas. Dublini, 16 Decembris, 1914. HISTORY OF THE
This page contains affiliate links. As Amazon Associates we earn from qualifying purchases.
  • 1912
Buy it on Amazon FREE Audible 30 days



Lic. Theol. (Maynooth), Ph.D. (Freiburg i. B.) Professor of Ecclesiastical History, St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth

Nihil Obstat:
Thomas O’Donnell, C.M.
Censor Theol. Deput.

Imprimi Potest:
Archiep. Dublinen.,
Hiberniæ Primas.

Dublini, 16 Decembris, 1914.


From the Renaissance to the
French Revolution



Wilkins, /Concilia Magnae Britanniae/, iii., 1737. /Historia Regis Henrici Septimi a Bernardo Andrea Thosolate/ (André of Toulouse), edited by J. Gairdner, 1858. Capella-Sneyd, /A Relation or True Account of the Isle of England … under Henry VII./ (written by Capella, the Venetian Ambassador, 1496-1502, and edited by C. A. Sneyd, 1847). /A London Chronicle during the reigns of Henry VII. and Henry VIII./ (Camden Miscellany, vol. iv., 1859). Sir Thomas More’s /Utopia/ (written 1516, edited by E. Arber, 1869). More’s English works, edited by William Rastell, 1557. Bridgett, /Life and Writings of Sir Thomas More/, 1891. Busch-Todd, /England under the Tudors/, 1892-95. Gasquet, /The Eve of the Reformation/, 1900; /Henry VIII. and the English Monasteries/, 1888; /The Old English Bible/, etc., 1897; /The Great Pestilence/, 1893; /Parish Life in Mediaeval England/, 1906; /English Monastic Life/, 1904. Capes, /A History of the English Church in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries/, 1909. Seebohm, /Oxford Reformers/ (3rd edition), 1877. Stone, /Reformation and Renaissance Studies/, 1904. Gairdner, /Lollardy and the Reformation/, vol. i., 1908. Lilly, /Renaissance Types/, 1901. Bridgett, /History of the Holy Eucharist in Great Britain/ (new edition, 1908). Rivington, /Rome and England/, 1897. Lingard, /History of England/, 10 vols., 1849. Hunt-Poole, /Political History of England/, v., 1910. /Cambridge Modern History/, vol. i., 1902.

With the advent of Henry VII. to the throne (1485) a new era opened in the history of England. The English nation, weakened by the Wars of the Roses and tired of a contest that possessed little interest for the masses, was not unwilling to submit itself without reserve to the guidance of a strong ruler provided he could guarantee peace both at home and abroad. Practically speaking, hitherto absolutism had been unknown. The rights that had been won by the barons on the plains of Runnymede were guarded jealously by their descendants, and as a result the power of the king, more especially in regard to taxation, was hedged round by several restrictions. But during the long struggle between the houses of Lancaster and York many of the great feudal barons had fallen on the field of battle or by the hands of the executioner, and the power of the nobles as a body had been undermined. While the Lords could muster their own retainers under their standard and put into the field a strong army almost at a moment’s notice, it was impossible for the sovereign to rule as an absolute monarch. It was because he recognised this fact that Henry VII. took steps to enforce the Statute of Liveries passed by one of his predecessors, and to provide that armies could be levied only in the king’s name.

The day of government by the aristocracy had passed for ever to be succeeded by the rule of the people, but in the interval between the sinking of one and the rise of the other Tudor absolutism was established firmly in England. In selecting his ministers Henry VII. passed over the nobles in favour of the middle classes, which were gaining ground rapidly in the country, but which had not yet realised their strength as they did later in the days of the Stuarts. He obtained grants of tonnage and poundage enjoyed by some of his Yorkist predecessors, had recourse to the system of forced grants known as benevolences, set up the Star Chamber nominally to preserve order but in reality to repress his most dangerous opponents, and treated Parliament as a mere machine, whose only work was to register the wishes of the sovereign. In brief, Henry VII., acting according to the spirit of the age, removed the elements that might make for national disunion, consolidated his own power at the expense of the nobility, won over to his side the middle and lower classes whose interests were promoted and from whom no danger was to be feared, and laid the foundations of that absolute government, which was carried to its logical conclusions by his son and successor, Henry VIII.

By nature Henry VII. was neither overbearing nor devoid of tact, and from the doubtful character of his title to the throne he was obliged to be circumspect in his dealings with the nation. It was not so, however, with Henry VIII. He was a young, impulsive, self-willed ruler, freed from nearly all the dangers that had acted as a restraint upon his father, surrounded for the most part by upstarts who had no will except to please their master, and intensely popular with the merchants, farmers, and labourers, whose welfare was consulted, and who were removed so far from court that they knew little of royal policy or royal oppression. The House of Lords, comprising as it did representatives of the clergy and nobles, felt itself entirely at the mercy of the king, and its members, alarmed by the fate of all those who had ventured to oppose his wishes, would have decreed the abolition of their privileges rather than incur his displeasure, had they been called upon to do so. The House of Commons was composed to a great extent of the nominees of the Crown, whose names were forwarded to the sheriffs for formal confirmation. The Parliament of 1523 did show some resistance to the financial demands necessitated by the war with France, but the king’s answer was to dissolve it, and to govern England by royal decrees for a space of six years. Fearing for the results of the divorce proceedings and anxious to carry the country with him in his campaign against the Pope, Henry VIII. convoked another Parliament (1529), but he took careful measures to ensure that the new House of Commons would not run counter to his wishes. Lists of persons who were known to be jealous of the powers of the Church and to be sympathetic towards any movement that might limit the pretensions of the clergy were forwarded to the sheriffs, and in due course reliable men were returned. That the majority of the members of the lower House were hostile to the privileges of the Church is clear enough, but there is no evidence that any important section desired a reformation which would involve a change of doctrine or separation from Rome. The legislation directed against the rights of the Pope sanctioned by this Parliament was accepted solely through the influence of royal threats and blandishments, and because the Parliament had no will of its own. Were the members free to speak and act according to their own sentiments it is impossible to believe that they would have confirmed and annulled the successive marriages of the king, altered and realtered the succession to meet every new matrimonial fancy of his, and proved themselves such negligent guardians of the rights of the English nation as to allow him to dispose of the crown of England by will as he might dispose of his private possessions. Henry VIII. was undisputed master of England, of its nobles, clergy, and people, of its Convocation, and Parliament. His will was the law. Unless this outstanding fact, royal absolutism and dictatorship be realised, it is impossible to understand how a whole nation, which till that time had accepted the Pope as the Head of the Church, could have been torn against its will from the centre of unity, separated from the rest of the Catholic world, and subjected to the spiritual jurisdiction of a sovereign, whose primary motive in effecting such a revolution was the gratification of his own unbridled passions.

It is not true to assert, as some writers have asserted, that before the Reformation England was a land shrouded in the mists of ignorance; that there were no schools or colleges for imparting secular education till the days of Edward VI.; that apart from practices such as pilgrimages, indulgences, and invocation of the saints, there was no real religion among the masses; that both secular and regular clergy lived after a manner more likely to scandalise than to edify the faithful; that the people were up in arms against the exactions and privileges of the clergy, and that all parties only awaited the advent of a strong leader to throw off the yoke of Rome. These are sweeping generalisations based upon isolated abuses put forward merely to discredit the English mediaeval Church, but wholly unacceptable to those who are best acquainted with the history of the period. On the other side it would be equally wrong to state that everything was so perfect in England that no reforms were required. Many abuses, undoubtedly, had arisen in various departments of religious life, but these abuses were of such a kind that they might have been removed had the Convocations of the clergy been free to pursue their course, nor do they justify an indiscriminate condemnation of the entire ecclesiastical body.

It is true that the Renaissance movement had made great progress on the other side of the Alps before its influence could be felt even in educated circles in England, but once the attention of the English scholars was drawn to the revival of classical studies many of them made their way to the great masters of Italy, and returned to utilise the knowledge they had acquired for the improvement of the educational system of their country. Selling and Hadley, both monks, Linacre, one of the leaders of medical science in his own time, Dean Colet of Westminster whose direction of St. Paul’s College did so much to improve the curriculum of the schools,[1] Bishop Fisher of Rochester described by Erasmus as “a man without equal at this time both as to integrity of life, learning, or broadminded sympathies” with the possible exception of Archbishop Warham of Canterbury,[2] and Sir Thomas More, Lord Chancellor of England and one of the earliest martyrs for the faith in the reign of Henry VIII., were but a few of the prominent men in a movement that made itself felt throughout the entire country. Nowhere did Erasmus find a more enthusiastic welcome or more generous patrons and nowhere were his writings more thoroughly appreciated than in England.

Nor is it true to say that the advocates of classical learning were animated by hostility to the Catholic Church in their demand for an improvement in educational methods. Some murmurs were, indeed, heard in certain quarters, and charges of unorthodoxy were formulated vaguely against Colet and others of his party, but these were but the criticisms levelled in all ages against those who are in advance of their time, nor do they require serious refutation. The English Humanists had nothing in common with the neo-pagan writers of the Italian Renaissance as regards religion, and they gave no indication of hostility to Rome. Whatever other influences may have contributed to bring about the religious revolution in England, it was certainly not due to the Renaissance, for to a man its disciples were as loyal to the Catholic Church as were their two greatest leaders Fisher and More, who laid down their lives rather than prove disloyal to the successor of St. Peter.

Nor was education generally neglected in the country. The lists of students attending Oxford and Cambridge[3] in so far as they have been preserved point to the fact that in the days immediately preceding the Reformation these great seats of learning were in a most flourishing condition, and that for them the religious revolt fell little short of proving disastrous. The explanation of the sudden drop in the number of students attending the universities is to be found partially at least in the disturbed condition of the country, but more particularly in the destruction of the religious houses, which sent up many of their members to Oxford and Cambridge, and which prepared a great number of pupils in their schools for university matriculation, as well as in the confiscation of the funds out of which bishops, chapters, monasteries, religious confraternities, and religious guilds, presented exhibitions to enable the children of the poor to avail themselves of the advantages of higher education. Nor was England of the fifteenth century without a good system of secondary schools. It is a common belief that Edward VI. was the founder of English secondary colleges, and that during the first fifty years after the Reformation more was done for this department of education than had been done in the preceding three hundred years. That such a belief is entirely erroneous may be proved from the records of the commissions held in the reigns of Henry VIII. and Edward VI., from which it appears that there were close on three hundred secondary schools in England before 1549, and that Henry VIII. and particularly Edward VI. ought to be regarded as the despoilers rather than as the patrons of the English colleges. Distinct from the universities and from the mere primary schools there were in existence at the beginning of the reign of Henry VIII. seven classes of educational establishments, namely, cathedral, collegiate, and monastic colleges, colleges in connexion with hospitals, guilds, chantries, and independent institutions. These were worked in perfect co-ordination with the universities, and in most cases exhibitions were provided for the poorer scholars. “The Grammar Schools which existed,” says a reliable authority, “were not mere monkish schools or choristers’ schools or elementary schools. Many of them were the same schools which now live and thrive. All were schools of exactly the same type, and performing precisely the same sort of functions as the public schools and grammar schools of to-day. There were indeed also choristers’ schools and elementary schools. There were scholarships at schools and exhibitions thence to the universities, and the whole paraphernalia of secondary education. Nor was secondary education understood in any different sense to that in which it was understood up to fifty years ago. It was conducted on the same lines and in the main by instruments of the same kind, if not identically the same, as those in use till the present generation.”[4]

It cannot be said with justice that the English people at the time were either badly instructed in the principles of their religion or indifferent to the practices of the Church to which they belonged. The decrees of the Synod of Oxford (1281), commanding the clergy who had care of souls to explain regularly in simple language, intelligible to their hearers the articles of the creed, the commandments, the sacraments, the seven deadly sins and the seven works of mercy, were renewed more than once, and presumably were enforced by the bishops. The books published for the instruction of the faithful as for example, /The Work for Householders/, /Dives et Pauper/, /The Interpretation and Signification of the Mass/, /The Art of Good Living/, etc., emphasise very strongly the duty of attending the religious instruction given by the clergy, while the manuals written for the guidance of the clergy make it very clear that preaching was a portion of their duties that should not be neglected. The fact that religious books of this kind were multiplied so quickly, once the art of printing had been discovered, affords strong evidence that neither priests nor people were unmindful of the need for a thorough understanding of the truths of their religion. The visitations of the parishes, during which some of the prominent parishioners were summoned to give evidence about the manner in which the priests performed their duty of instructing the people, were in themselves a great safeguard against pastoral negligence, and so far as they have been published they afford no grounds for the statement that the people were left in ignorance regarding the doctrines and practices of their religion. Apart entirely from the work done by the clergy in the pulpits and churches, it should be remembered that in the cities and even in the most remote of the rural parishes religious dramas were staged at regular intervals, and were of the greatest assistance in bringing before the minds even of the most uneducated the leading events of biblical history and the principal truths of Christianity.

That the people of England as a body hearkened to the instructions of their pastors is clear enough from the testimony of foreign visitors, from the records of the episcopal visitations, the pilgrimages to shrines of devotion at home and abroad, from the anxiety for God’s honour and glory as shown in the zeal which dictated the building or decoration of so many beautiful cathedrals and churches, the funds for which were provided by rich and poor alike, and from the spirit of charity displayed in the numerous bequests for the relief of the poor and the suffering. The people of England at the beginning of the sixteenth century were neither idol-worshippers nor victims of a blind superstition. They understood just as well as Catholics understand at the present day devotions to Our Lady and to the Saints; Images, Pictures and Statues, Purgatory, Indulgences and the effects of the Mass. Nor were they so ignorant of the Sacred Scriptures as is commonly supposed. The sermons were based upon some Scripture text taken as a rule from the epistle and gospel proper to the Sunday or festival, and were illustrated with a wealth of references and allusions drawn from both the Old and New Testament sufficient to make it clear that the Bible was not a sealed book either for the clergy or laity. The fact that there was such a demand for commentaries on and concordances to the Scriptures makes it clear that the clergy realised sufficiently the importance of Scriptural teaching from the pulpits, and the abundant quotations to be found in the books of popular devotion, not to speak of the religious dramas based upon events in biblical history, go far to show that the needs of the laity in this respect were not overlooked.[5]

It is said, however, that the use of the Scriptures in the vernacular was forbidden to the English people, and a decree of a Synod held at Oxford in 1408 is cited in proof of this statement. The Synod of Oxford did not forbid the use of vernacular versions. It forbade the publication or use of unauthorised translations,[6] and in the circumstances of the time, when the Lollard heretics were strong and were endeavouring to win over the people to their views by disseminating corrupt versions of the Scripture, such a prohibition is not unintelligible. It should be borne in mind that French was the language of the educated and was the official language of the English law courts and of the Parliament till after 1360. The French or Latin versions then current were, therefore, amply sufficient for those who were likely to derive any advantage from the study of the Bible, while at the same time the metrical paraphrases of the important books of the Old Testament and of the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles, and the English prose translation of the Psalms, went far to meet the wants of the masses. From the clear evidence of writers like Sir Thomas More, Lord Chancellor of England and one of the best informed men of his time, of Cranmer, the first Protestant Archbishop of Canterbury, and of Foxe the author of the so-called Martyrology, it can be established beyond the shadow of a doubt that prior to the Reformation there existed an English Catholic version of the Scriptures, which was approved for use by the ecclesiastical authorities.[7] It is true, indeed, that the bishops of England made extraordinary efforts to prevent the circulation of the versions made by Tyndale and Coverdale, but considering the glosses, the corruptions, and the mis-translations with which these abound no fair-minded person could expect them to have acted otherwise. Their action was not dictated by hostility to the reading of the Scriptures but by their opposition to heretical doctrines, which it was sought to disseminate among the people by means of dishonest versions of the Scriptures. The English bishops were not content merely with prohibiting the use of these works. They were most anxious to bring out a correct translation of the Scriptures for general use, and were prevented from doing so only by the action of Henry VIII. and of the heretical advisers, who urged him to make it impossible for the bishops to carry out their design.[8]

It would, however, be far from the truth to assert that everything was faultless during the years preceding the Reformation, or that all the clergy were as perfect as they might have been. England, like every other country at the same period, was afflicted with the terrible evils resulting from the appropriation of parishes by laymen and by religious establishments, a system which made it impossible for a bishop to govern his diocese properly, from the non-residence of both bishops and higher clergy, and from the plurality of benefices, which meant that a person might be permitted to hold two or more benefices to which the care of souls was attached, thereby rending impossible the proper discharge of pastoral duties. More priests, too, were ordained than could be provided with appointments, and consequently many of the clergy were forced to act as chaplains and tutors in private families, where they were treated as servants rather than as equals, and where it was only too easy for them to lose the sense of respect for their dignity and for themselves, and to sink to the level of those with whom they were obliged to consort. It is not to be wondered at if evidence is forthcoming that in particular cases, more especially in Wales, clerical celibacy was not observed as it should have been, or that in several instances the duty of preaching and instructing the people was not discharged, nor is it surprising to find that men who were comparatively unlearned were promoted over the heads of their more educated companions to the disgust of the universities and of those interested in the better education of the clergy. Considering the fact that so many of the bishops were engaged in the service of the State to the neglect of their duties in their dioceses, and bearing also in mind the selfish use made too frequently of the rights of lay patronage and the disorganisation to which even the most enlightened use of such patronage was likely to lead, it is little less than marvellous that the great body of the clergy were as educated, zealous, and irreproachable as they can be proved to have been.

As a result of the disorganisation wrought by the Black Plague, the civil strife which disturbed the peace of the country, and the constant interference of the crown and lay patrons, many of the religious houses, influenced to some extent by the general spirit of laxity peculiar to the age, fell far short of the standard of severity and discipline that had been set in better days. While on the one hand it should be admitted freely that some of the monastic and conventual establishments stood in urgent need of reform, there is, on the other side, no sufficient evidence to support the wild charges of wholesale corruption and immorality levelled against the monks and nuns of England by those who thirsted for their destruction. The main foundation for such an accusation is to be sought for in the letters and reports (/Comperta/) of the commissioners sent out to examine into the condition of the monasteries and convents in 1535. Even if these documents could be relied upon as perfectly trustworthy they affect only a very small percentage of the religious houses, since not more than one-third of these establishments were visited by the commissioners during their hurried tour through the country, and as regards the houses visited serious crimes were preferred against at most two hundred and fifty monks and nuns.

But there are many solid grounds for rejecting the reliability of these documents. The commissioners were appointed by Cromwell with the professed object of preparing the public mind for the suppression of the monasteries and convents. They showed themselves to be his most obsequious agents, always ready to accept as testimony popular rumours and suspicions founded in many cases on personal dislikes, and, like their master, more anxious to extract money bribes from the religious than to arrive at the truth about their lives or the condition of their establishments. That they were prejudiced witnesses, arrogant and cruel towards the monks and nuns, and willing to do anything that might win them the approval of Cromwell and the king is evident from their own letters and reports, while if we are to credit the statements of contemporaries, backed by a tradition, which survived for centuries amongst the Catholic body in England, they were most unscrupulous and immoral in their attitude towards the unfortunate nuns who were placed at their mercy. Indeed the charges which they make are so filthy and repulsive, and the delight with which they revel in such abominations is so apparent, that one is forced to the conviction that they must have been men of depraved tastes quite capable of committing or of attempting to commit the crimes laid to their charge. Even if it had been otherwise, had the two commissioners been unprejudiced and fair in their proceedings, it is impossible to understand how they could have had an opportunity of making a really searching investigation into the condition of the monasteries and convents during the short time assigned for the work. They began only in July 1535 and their work was completed in February 1536.

In favour of the reliability of these reports the fact is urged that they were placed before Parliament, and that the members of both Houses were so impressed by the tale of corruption and wickedness which they disclosed that they decided on the immediate suppression of the monasteries. If this were true and if Parliament in the days of Henry VIII. enjoyed the same rights and privileges as it enjoys to-day such action would be in itself a strong corroboration of the veracity of the commissioners. But there is no sufficient evidence to prove that the reports or compilations made from them were ever submitted to Parliament. The king and Cromwell informed the Houses of the charges made by the commissioners, and demanded their consent to the bill of suppression. The whole measure was passed in a few days (11th to 18th March, 1536) and there is no proof that the /Comperta/ or a “Black Book” were presented to the members. On the contrary, it is clear from the preamble to the Act that in the larger monasteries “religion was right well kept and observed,” and that it was only in the smaller houses with less than twelve members that disorder and corruption existed, whereas in the reports of the commissioners no such distinction is observed, the charges being levelled just as strongly against the larger as against the smaller communities. Had Parliament been in possession of the reports or had there been any adequate discussion, it is difficult to see how such an arbitrary distinction, founded neither on the nature of things, nor on the findings of the commissioners, could have been allowed to pass. It is noteworthy too that many of the individuals, whose names were associated in the /Comperta/ with very serious crimes, were placed in the possession of pensions on the dissolution of the monasteries, and some of them were promoted to the highest ecclesiastical offices in the gift of the crown.

Besides, if the reports of Leigh and Leyton be compared with the episcopal visitations of the same houses or with those of the royal visitors appointed in 1536 to carry out the suppression of the smaller monasteries, it will be found that in regard to the very same houses there exists a very open contradiction between their findings. Unfortunately the accounts of the visitations have disappeared to a great extent except in case of the diocese of Norwich. In this diocese the visitations were carried out very strictly and very minutely, and although some abuses were detected the bishop could find nothing of the wholesale corruption and immorality discovered a few years later by the minions of Cromwell. Similarly the commission appointed in 1536 to superintend the suppression decreed in that year, the members of which were drawn from the leading men in each county, report in the highest terms of houses which were spoken of as hot-beds of iniquity only a few months before. Finally, if the monasteries and convents were really so bad as they are painted, it is a curious fact that although Leigh and Leyton were empowered by Cromwell to open the doors to many of the monks and nuns they could find in the thirteen counties which they visited only two nuns and fifty-three monks willing to avail themselves of the liberty which they offered.[9]

As a general rule the monasteries were regarded with kindly feelings by the great body of the people on account of their charity and hospitality towards the poor and the wayfarer, their leniency and generosity as compared with other employers and landlords, their schools which did so much for the education of the district, and their orphanages and hospitals. Many of them were exceedingly wealthy, while some of them found it difficult to procure the means of existence, and all of them suffered greatly from the financial burdens imposed upon them in the shape of pensions, etc., by the king or by the family by whom their endowments were provided originally. For this reason some of the religious houses, imitating the example of the landowners generally, began to form grazing enclosures[10] out of their estates which had been hitherto under cultivation, a step that led in some cases to eviction and in all cases to a great reduction in the number of labourers employed. Others of them set up tanneries and such like industries that had been best left to the laymen. These measures led to ill-feeling and to a certain amount of hostility, but that the religious houses were not hated by the people is proved to demonstration by the rebellions which their suppression evoked in so many different parts of the country.

It may be said in a general way that the relations between priests and people were neither particularly close nor particularly strained. The rights and privileges claimed by the clergy did indeed give rise to murmurings and complaints in certain quarters, but these were neither so serious nor so general as to indicate anything like a deep-rooted and sharp division between priests and people. The question of the rights of sanctuary, according to which criminals who escaped into the enclosures of monasteries and churches were guaranteed protection from arrest, led to a sharp conflict between the ecclesiastical and secular jurisdictions, but with a little moderation on both sides it was not a matter that could have excited permanent ill-feeling. In the days when might was right the privileges of sanctuary served a useful purpose. That in later times they occasioned serious abuses could not be denied, and on the accession of Henry VII. the Pope restricted the rights of sanctuary very considerably, thereby setting an example which it was to be expected would have been followed by his successors. The /privilegium fori/, by which clerics were exempted from punishment by a secular tribunal, was another cause of considerable friction. In 1512 Parliament passed a law abolishing this privilege in case of clerics accused of murder, etc., and though it was to have force only for two years it excited the apprehension of the clergy more on account of what it heralded than of what it actually enacted. When it came up again for discussion in 1515 even those of the clergy who were most remarkable for their subservience to the king protested vehemently against it. In a discussion that took place in the presence of Henry VII. one of the friars brought forward many arguments to prove that such a law was not outside the competence of the state, much to the disgust of the bishops and of Cardinal Wolsey. The king was most emphatic in his declaration that he intended to take such action as would vindicate and safeguard his rights as supreme lord of England, but notwithstanding this sharp reproof to his opponents the measure was allowed to drop.

The excessive fees charged in the episcopal courts for the probate of wills, the gifts known as mortuaries claimed on occasions of death, the absence of the bishops and the clergy from their dioceses and parishes to the consequent neglect of their duties to the people, the bestowal of benefices oftentimes on poorly qualified clerics to the exclusion of learned and zealous priests, the appointment of clerics to positions that should have been filled by laymen on the lands of the bishops and monasteries, and the interference of some of the clergy both secular and regular in purely secular pursuits were the principal grievances brought forward in 1529 by the House of Commons against the spirituality. But in determining the value of such a document it should be remembered that it was inspired by the king, and in fact drafted by Thomas Cromwell, at a time when both king and minister were determined to crush the power of the Church, and that, therefore, it is not unreasonable to expect that it is exaggerated and unfair. According to the express statement of Sir Thomas More, Lord Chancellor of England, who was in a position to know and appreciate the relations between clergy and people, the division was neither so acute nor so serious as it was painted by those who wished to favour religious innovations or to ingratiate themselves with the king and his advisers.[11]

But, even though there existed some differences of opinion about matters concerned with the temporalities of the Church or the privileges of the clergy, there is no indication during the thirty years preceding the revolt of any marked hostility to the doctrines and practices of the Church. In an earlier age the Lollards, as the followers of Wycliff were called, put forward doctrines closely akin to those advocated by the early Reformers, notably in regard to the constitution of the Church, the Papacy, the Scriptures, Transubstantiation, Purgatory, and Tradition, but the severe measures adopted by both Church and State had succeeded in breaking the influence of Lollardy in England. Very few if any followers of this sect remained to disturb the peace of the community in the early years of the reign of Henry VIII., though it is quite possible that the memory of their teaching and of the sturdy struggle which they had waged did not fail to produce its effects at a later period. It is true that in 1512 the statement is attributed to the Bishop of London in connexion with the trial of an ecclesiastic, that on account of their leaning towards heresy any twelve men of the city would bring in a verdict of guilty against a cleric placed on his trial before them,[12] but it is impossible to believe that such a statement conveys an accurate view of the state of affairs. It is out of harmony with the results of the episcopal visitations, with the records of the few trials for heresy which took place, most of which resulted in the repentance of the alleged culprits, and with the considered judgment of such a well qualified contemporary authority as Sir Thomas More.

It is certain that during the first quarter of the sixteenth century the student of history will search in vain for any evidence of opposition among the clergy and people of England to the spiritual supremacy of the Holy See. Disputes there had been, some of which were peculiarly bitter in their tone, between the English sovereigns and the Pope. Complaints had been made by the clergy against what they considered the unwarranted interferences of the Roman Curia in domestic affairs; but these disputes and complaints were concerned either with purely secular matters, as for example the annual tribute claimed by the Holy See since the famous surrender of the kingdom made by King John, or with the temporal side of the spiritual jurisdiction. The clergy and people resented generally the wholesale rights of reservation exercised by the Pope in regard to English benefices, the appointment of foreigners to offices in England, the heavy taxes levied by the Roman Curia directly or indirectly in the shape of Annats or First Fruits, the withdrawal of comparatively trivial cases from the local courts, and the exercise of jurisdiction over the highest dignitaries of England by the legates commissioned by the Holy See. But it is one thing to criticise the actual working of papal supremacy as interpreted by Roman officials, or to seek to limit its exercise in the every-day life of any particular church, and another to call in question the supremacy itself. The English clergy and people did, indeed, object to allow papal supremacy to be pushed too far in what they regarded as purely domestic affairs, but even in the most prolonged and heated discussions they never once questioned the fact that the Pope was Supreme Head of the Church in England, or that he was Supreme Head of the Catholic Church throughout the world.

The Statute of Provisors (1350-1), by which all appointments to English benefices were to be made by canonical election or by the nomination of lay patrons to the exclusion of papal provisions, is cited sometimes as a proof that the English nation disregarded the claims of the Holy See, but with equal justice and for a similar reason it might be maintained that the Council of Trent rejected the Supremacy of the Pope (Session xxiv., chap. 19). The Statute was called for, owing to the spiritual and economic losses inflicted on the country by the appointment of foreigners, and its passage was secured mainly by the lay patrons, whose rights of patronage were infringed by the constant stream of papal provisions. It was neither inspired by hostility to the Holy See, nor by any doubt about the supremacy of the Pope, and in itself it was a piece of legislation that might have merited the approval of the most loyal supporters of Rome. But as a matter of fact, lest their acceptance of such a measure might be misunderstood, the English bishops offered the most strenuous opposition to the Statute of Provisors and insisted that their protests against it should be registered, a policy which, it might be added, was followed by the University of Oxford. The bishops demanded later on that it should be repealed. Their request was not granted, but from the numerous provisions made to bishoprics in England and from the appointments made to English benefices during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries it is evident that the Statute was allowed to fall into abeyance. Similarly the Statute of Praemunire (1353) by which it was forbidden under the penalty of forfeiture and outlawry to bring cases cognizable in the English courts before foreign courts, or to introduce into the realm provisions, reservations, or letters contrary to the rights of the king or his subjects, was passed to prevent an undoubted abuse at the time, and was enforced rarely as the frequent appeals to Rome amply prove.

These measures serve to indicate at most only the attitude of the Crown towards the Pope, not the attitude of the English clergy and people. The loyal submission of the latter is evidenced from the papal appointments to bishoprics and benefices, from the First Fruits paid willingly to the Holy See by those who were called upon to pay them, by the constant interference of the Holy See in regard to the division and boundaries of parishes, the visitation of monasteries, the rights of bishops, etc., as well as by the courts held in England in virtue of the jurisdiction of the Pope. That the Pope was above the law and that to dispute the authority of a papal decree was to be guilty of heresy was a principle recognised by the English ecclesiastical authorities and accepted also in practice by English jurists. The oaths of loyalty to the Holy See taken by all the archbishops and bishops, the tone and form of the letters addressed to the Pope, the assertion of papal rights against the errors and attacks of Wycliff and Luther, the full admission of papal supremacy contained in Henry VIII.’s /Assertio Septem Sacramentorum/, and in the formal dying declaration of Archbishop Warham of Canterbury (1533), and the resolute attitude of two such learned representatives of the English clergy and laity as Bishop Fisher of Rochester and Sir Thomas More, are in themselves sufficient to establish the fact that in the days of Henry VIII. England joined with the rest of the Catholic world in recognising the supreme spiritual jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome.[13]

The controversies which had raged were not concerned with spiritual supremacy nor were they peculiar to England. Much worse ones had arisen to disturb the friendly relations that should exist between the Holy See and France or Spain, and yet nobody would care to deny that both of these nations acknowledged their subjection to Rome. Neither were they between the English clergy or the English people and the Pope; they were waged rather between the Crown and the Holy See. As royal absolutism began to develop in Europe the policy of kings was to increase their power over the ecclesiastical organisation in their dominions by lessening the authority of the Pope. This tendency is brought out clearly in the concessions wrung from the Pope by Ferdinand I. of Spain and Louis XII. of France, but more especially in the Concordat negotiated between Leo X. and Francis I. (1516), according to which all appointments in the French Church were vested practically in the hands of the king. Henry VIII. was a careful observer of Continental affairs and was as anxious as Francis I. to strengthen his own position by grasping the authority of the Church. He secured a /de facto/ headship of the Church in England when he succeeded in getting Cardinal Wolsey invested with permanent legatine powers. Through Wolsey he governed ecclesiastical affairs in England for years, and on the fall of Wolsey he took into his own hands the control that he had exercised already through his favourite and minister. Had Leo X. consented to a concordat similar to that concluded with France, whereby the royal demands would have been conceded frankly and occasions of dispute removed, or else had he taken the strong step of refusing to delegate his authority indefinitely to a minister of the king, he would have prevented trouble and misunderstanding, and would have made the battle for royal supremacy much more difficult than it proved to be in reality. ———-

[1] Lupton, /Life of Dean Colet/, 1887.

[2] Gasquet, /Eve of the Reformation/, 142.

[3] Chalmers, /History of the College … of Oxford/. Mullinger, /The University of Cambridge to 1535/.

[4] Leach, /English Schools at the Reformation/, 1896, p. 6 (a valuable book).

[5] Gasquet, op. cit., ix-xiii., English works of Sir Thomas More, 1557, (especially /The Dyalogue/, 1529).

[6] Wilkins, /Concilia/, iii. 317.

[7] Gasquet, op. cit., chap. viii., /The Old English Bible/, iv., v. Maitland, /The Dark Ages/, 1845, no. xii.

[8] Gairdner, /Lollardy and the Reformation/, vol. ii., 221-303.

[9] On this subject, cf. Gasquet, /Henry VIII. and the English Monasteries/. Gairdner, /Lollardy and the Reformation/, vol. ii., 3-221. Jessopp, /Visitation of the Diocese of Norwich/, 1492-1532 (Camden Society).

[10] /Cambridge Modern History/, i., chap. xv.

[11] On the relations between the clergy and the laity, cf. Gairdner, op. cit., vol. i., 243-86. Gasquet, op. cit., chap. iii.-v. Gairdner, /History of the English Church in the Sixteenth Century/, 41-59.

[12] Gairdner, /History of the English Church/, p. 31.

[13] On this subject, cf. Lingard, /History of England/, iii., 126-33. Wilkins, /Concilia/ (for documents bearing on the authority of the Pope in England, see Index to this work). Lyndewood’s /Provinciale seu Constitutiones Angliae/ (1501, Synodal Constitutions of the Province of Canterbury). Moyes, /How English Bishops were made before the Reformation/ (/Tablet/, Dec., 1893). Maitland, /The Roman Law in the Church of England, and English Law and the Renaissance/, 1901. Gairdner, /Lollardy/, etc., i., 495-8.



See bibliography, chap. i., /Calendar of Letters and Papers Henry VIII./, 18 vols., 1862-1902. Brewer Gairdner, /The Reign of Henry VIII./, 2 vols., 1884. Gairdner, /Lollardy and the Reformation/, 4 vols., 1908-13. Dodd, /Church History of England (1500-1688)/, 1737-42 (a new edition by Tierney, 5 vols., 1839). Sander, /Rise and Growth of the Anglican Schism/ (trans. by Lewis), 1877. Gasquet, /Short History of the Catholic Church in England/, 1903. Dixon, /History of the Church in England from 1529/, 6 vols., London, 1878-1902. Cobbett, /A History of the Reformation in England and Ireland/ (edited by Gasquet). Pocock, /Records of the Reformation/ 2 vols., 1870. Burnet, /History of the Reformation/ (edited by Pocock), 1865. Gasquet and Bishop, /Edward VI. and the Book of Common Prayer/, 1890. Taunton, /The English Black Monks of St. Benedict/, 2 vols., 1897. Camm, /Lives of the English Martyrs/ vol. i., 1904. Stone, /An Account of the Sufferings of the English Franciscans, during the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries/, 1892. Pollen, /Acts of English Martyrs/, etc., 1891. Spillman, /Die Englischen Martyrer unter Heinrich VIII./, 2 auf., 1900. /Martyrum Monachorum Carthusianorum in Anglia passio/, etc. (/An. Bolland./, 1903). /The Month/ (1882, 1883, 1902, 1905).

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.

The Lutheran movement that broke out in Germany two years after Cardinal Wolsey’s acceptance of the twofold office of papal legate and royal chancellor, found little favour in England. Here and there, at Oxford, at Cambridge, and in London, individuals were found to subscribe to portion of Luther’s programme; but the great body of the people remained unmoved by the tirades of the German reformers against Rome. Henry VIII., whose attention to religion was noted as one of his characteristics by the observant Ambassador of Venice, did not hesitate to take the field against the enemies of the Holy See and more especially against Luther himself. In a work entitled /Assertio Septem Sacramentorum/ (Defence of the Seven Sacraments)[2] published against Luther in 1521, he defended in no uncertain terms the rights and privileges of the Holy See, and in return for the very valuable services that he rendered to religion he was honoured by Leo X. with the title /Fidei Defensor/ (Defender of the Faith, 1521).[3] The example of the king, and the activity of Cardinal Wolsey and of the bishops, made it impossible for the few individuals who favoured the German movement to spread their views.

Were it not for Henry’s eagerness to secure a separation from his wife, Catharine of Aragon, it is highly improbable that the anti-Roman agitation would have made any considerable progress in England.[4] In 1499 Henry’s wife, Catharine of Aragon, had been betrothed by proxy to his brother Prince Arthur, heir-apparent to the English throne. She arrived in England two years later, and the marriage was solemnised at St. Paul’s on the 14th November, 1501. Prince Arthur was then only a boy of fifteen years of age, and of so delicate a constitution that fears were entertained by many that his wife must soon don the widow’s weeds. Unfortunately these fears were speedily justified. In April 1502 the Prince fell a victim to a pestilence that raged in the district round Ludlow Castle to which he and his wife had retired. To prevent quarrels between Ferdinand and Henry VII. regarding Catharine’s dowry, a marriage was arranged between Catharine and Prince Henry. The necessary dispensation for a marriage with a deceased brother’s wife was granted by Julius II. (December 1503), and according to the agreement between the courts of England and of Spain, the marriage should have taken place as soon as Henry reached the age of puberty; but owing to certain political changes in Spain, and the prospect of securing a better match for the heir presumptive to the English throne, Henry VII. arranged that Prince Henry should appear before Fox, Bishop of Winchester, and lodge a formal protest against a marriage agreement that had been concluded during his minority and which he now declared to be null and void (17th June, 1505). This protest was kept secret, but for years Catharine was treated with neglect and left in doubt regarding her ultimate fate. As soon, however, as Henry was free to act for himself on the death of his father, the marriage between himself and Catharine was solemnised publicly (1509), and on the 24th June of the same year the king and queen were crowned at Westminster Abbey.

For years Henry and Catharine lived happily together as man and wife. Several children were born to them, all of whom unfortunately died in their infancy except the Princess Mary, afterwards Queen Mary of England. Even before there was any question of separation from his wife, Henry’s relations with some of the ladies at court were not above suspicion. By one, Elizabeth Blount, he had a son whom he created Duke of Richmond and to whom at one time he thought of bequeathing the crown of England. In a short time Mary, the eldest sister of Anne Boleyn, succeeded to Elizabeth in the affections of the king. The fact that Catharine was some years older than her husband, that infirmity and sorrow for the death of her children had dimmed her charms, and that there could be no longer any hope for the birth of an heir to the throne, preyed on Henry’s mind and made him not unwilling to rid himself of a wife, whom, however, he could not but admire even though she had forfeited his love. Were he to die there was no one to succeed him but the Princess Mary, and her right to the throne might be contested. Even though she succeeded, her marriage must inevitably create great difficulties. Were she to marry a foreign prince, he feared that England might become a province; were she to accept the hand of an English nobleman, a disputed succession ending in civil war was far from being improbable. His gloomy anticipations were shared in by many of his advisers; and Wolsey, who had set his heart on uniting the forces of England and France against the Emperor, was not unwilling to set a seal on the new French anti-imperial alliance by repudiating Henry’s marriage with the Emperor’s aunt, if such a dissolution could be brought about without infringing the laws of God.

Though it would seem that doubts had long since arisen in Henry’s mind regarding the lawfulness of his marriage to his deceased brother’s wife, and that questions of policy may have influenced the attitude of his advisers towards the projected separation, yet it is certain that it was the charms of the young and accomplished Anne Boleyn, that brought matters to a crisis. With her experience of the gay and corrupt court of France, she was not likely to be mistaken about the influence of her charms or the violence of the king’s passion. She would be the king’s wife if he wished; but she would not be, like her sister, the king’s mistress. Overcome by the force of his desires, he determined to rid himself of a wife of whom he was tired, in favour of her young and more attractive rival. The fact that Catharine had been married to his brother Arthur was seized upon by him to furnish a decent pretext for the projected separation. His conscience, he averred, reproached him for such an incestuous alliance, and for his own peace of mind it was necessary, he maintained, to submit the validity of his marriage to the decision of the Church.

There is no convincing evidence that the idea of a separation from Catharine originated with Cardinal Wolsey, though the latter, longing for a matrimonial alliance of his king with a French princess, and not aware of Henry’s intention with regard to Anne, was probably not sorry when he learned of Henry’s scruples; and it is not true to say that the first doubts regarding the illegitimacy of the Princess Mary were raised by the French Ambassador in 1527. The whole story of the negotiations with France regarding Mary’s marriage at the time, makes it perfectly clear that her legitimacy was assumed. The divorce proceedings originated in Henry’s own mind, and the plan of marrying Anne Boleyn was kept a secret from Wolsey and from most of the royal advisers. When exactly the question of a separation from Catharine was first mooted is uncertain; but there can be no doubt that early in 1527 active steps were taken to secure a condemnation of the marriage. Wolsey entered warmly into the project, but most of the bishops whom he consulted were not anxious to assist him; and what was still more serious Fisher, the learned and saintly Bishop of Rochester, declared himself from the beginning a determined opponent. The capture of Rome by imperial troops (1527) made it imperative that the terms of the French alliance should be completed at once, and Cardinal Wolsey set out for Paris as the representative of England. While Wolsey was absent in France arranging the terms of the alliance, Anne Boleyn took occasion to warn Henry that his great minister was unreliable, that in his heart he was opposed to the separation, and that without his knowledge or consent negotiations should be opened directly with the Roman court. An agent was dispatched to Rome and succeeded in securing an interview with Clement VII., after the latter had made his escape from Rome to Orvieto (December 1527). It was contended on behalf of the king that the dispensation granted by Julius II. was null and void. In proof of this it was contended: that in the Bull it had been stated that Henry desired to marry Catharine, and that the marriage was necessary for preserving peace between England and Spain, both of which statements, it was alleged, were false; that at the time the disposition was granted Henry was only twelve years of age and therefore incapable of accepting it; that several persons mentioned in the Bull, as for example, Queen Isabella and Henry VII., had died before the marriage took place; and lastly that when Henry reached the age of puberty he had protested against the marriage, thereby renouncing for himself the favours granted in the Bull of dispensation.[5] Later on it was contended, by those who favoured the separation, that the dispensation was issued by the Pope on the supposition that the marriage between Arthur and Catharine had not been consummated, and that therefore, since this condition was not verified, the dispensation was invalid. But here they were faced with the difficulty that the great weight of evidence favoured the view that the marriage had not been consummated; that in any case the dispensation was ample enough to cover both the impediment of affinity and public honesty; and that, whatever might be said against the Bull of dispensation, no such objection could be urged against the brief said to have been forwarded by the Pope to the court of Spain.[6] As the English agents had been instructed to seek not merely the appointment of a commission to declare the invalidity of the dispensation, and consequently of the marriage, but also for a dispensation which would permit the king to marry a woman related to him in the first degree of affinity, whether the affinity had been contracted by a lawful or unlawful connexion, it was thought prudent not to lay stress on the argument that marriage with the deceased brother’s wife was prohibited by the divine law, and that, therefore, the Pope could not grant a dispensation such as had been issued by Julius II. At a later date great stress was laid upon this argument.

Clement VII., while not unwilling to grant the dispensation requested,[7] did not think it consistent with his own honour or that of the king, to grant the commission according to the terms drawn up for him in England. A new embassy, consisting of Edward Foxe, and Dr. Stephen Gardiner, Wolsey’s secretary, was dispatched, and arrived at Orvieto in March 1528. The victorious progress of the French armies in Italy (1527-28), by relieving Clement VII. from the pressure of the imperial party, favoured the petition of Henry VIII. Arguments drawn from canon law and from theology were driven home by Gardiner with a fluency and wealth of knowledge that astonished the papal advisers, and when arguments failed, recourse was had to threats of an appeal to a general council, and of the complete separation of England from the Holy See. The decretal commission demanded by the English ambassadors was, however, refused; but, in its place, a decree was issued empowering Cardinal Wolsey and Cardinal Campeggio to try the case in England and to pronounce a verdict in accordance with the evidence submitted to them. As this fell very far short of what had been demanded by the English envoys, new demands were made for a more ample authority for the commission, and in view of the danger that threatened the Catholic Church in England, Clement VII. yielded so far as to promise that he would not revoke the jurisdiction of those whom he had entrusted with the trial of the case (July 1528).[8]

Meanwhile news of what was in contemplation was noised abroad. Many of the English merchants, fearing that hostility to the empire would lead to an interruption of their trade especially with the Netherlands, detested the new foreign policy of the king, while the great body of the people were so strongly on the side of Catharine that were a verdict to be given against her a popular rebellion seemed inevitable. So pronounced was this feeling even in the city of London itself, that Henry felt it necessary to summon the Lord Mayor and the Corporation to the royal palace, where he addressed them on the question that was then uppermost in men’s minds. He spoke of Catharine in terms of the highest praise, assured them that the separation proceedings were begun, not because he was anxious to rid himself of a wife whom he still loved, but because his conscience was troubled with scruples regarding the validity of his marriage, and that the safety of the kingdom was endangered by doubts which had been raised by the French ambassador regarding the legitimacy of Princess Mary. To put an end to these doubts, and to save the country from the horror of a disputed succession, the Pope had appointed a commission to examine the validity of the marriage; and to the judgment of that commission whatever it might be he was prepared to yield a ready submission. He warned his hearers, however, that if any person failed to speak of him otherwise than became a loyal subject towards his sovereign condign punishment would await him. To give effect to these words a search was made for arms in the city, and strangers were commanded to depart from London.[9]

Though the commission had been granted in April, Cardinal Campeggio was in no hurry to undertake the work that was assigned to him. He did not leave Rome till June, and he proceeded so leisurely on his journey through France that it was only in the first week of October that he arrived in London. In accordance with his instructions, he endeavoured to dissuade the king from proceeding further with the separation, but as Henry was determined to marry the lady of his choice even though it should prove the ruin of his kingdom, all the efforts of Campeggio in this direction were in vain. He next turned his attention to Catharine, in the hope of persuading her to enter a convent, only to discover that her refusal to take any step likely to cast doubts upon her own marriage and the legitimacy of her daughter was fixed and unalterable. At the queen’s demand counsel was assigned to her to plead her cause. The situation was complicated by the fact that Julius II. appears to have issued two dispensations for Henry’s marriage, one contained in the Bull sent to England, the other in a brief forwarded to Ferdinand in Spain. The queen produced a copy of the brief, which was drawn up in such a way as to elude most of the objections that were urged against the Bull on the ground that the marriage had been consummated. The original of the brief was in the hands of the Emperor, and various attempts were made to secure the original or to have it pronounced a forgery by the Pope; but the Emperor was too wily a diplomatist to be caught so easily, and the Pope refused either to order its production or to condemn it without evidence as a forgery.[10] This question of the brief was seized upon by Cardinal Campeggio as a good opportunity for delaying the trial. At last on the 31st May 1529, the legates Wolsey and Campeggio opened the court at Blackfriars, and summoned Henry and Catharine to appear before them in person or by proxy on the 18th June. Both king and queen answered the summons, the latter, however, merely to demand justice publicly from the king, to protest against the competence and impartiality of the tribunal, and to lodge a formal appeal to Rome. Her appeal was disallowed, and on her refusal to take any further part in the trial she was condemned as contumacious; but even still she was not without brave and able defenders. Bishop Fisher of Rochester spoke out manfully against the unnatural and unlawful proceedings,[11] and his protest found an echo not merely in the court itself but throughout the country. The friends of Henry, fearing that the Pope might revoke the power of the legates, clamoured for an immediate verdict; but this Campeggio was determined to prevent at all costs. By insisting upon all the formalities of law he took care to delay the proceedings till the 23rd July, when he announced that the legatine court should follow the rules of the Roman court, and should, therefore, adjourn to October. Already he was aware of the fact that Clement VII., yielding to the entreaties of Catharine and the demands of the Emperor, had reserved the decision of the case to Rome (19th July), and that the summons to the king and queen to proceed there to plead their cause was already on its way to England.[12]

Henry, disguising his real feelings, pretended to be satisfied; but in reality his disappointment was extreme. Anne Boleyn and her friends threw the blame entirely on Wolsey. They suggested that the cardinal had acted a double part throughout the entire proceedings. For a time there was a conflict in the king’s mind between the suggestions of his friends and the memory of Wolsey’s years of loyal service; but at last Henry was won over to the party of Anne, and Wolsey was doomed to destruction. He was deprived of the office of Lord Chancellor which was entrusted to Sir Thomas More (Oct. 1529), accused of violating the statute of Praemunire by exercising legatine powers, a charge to which he pleaded guilty though he might have alleged in his defence the permission and authority of the king, indicted before Parliament as guilty of high treason, from the penalty of which he was saved by the spirited defence of his able follower Thomas Cromwell (Dec.), and ordered to withdraw to his diocese of York (1530). His conduct in these trying times soon won the admiration of both friends and foes. The deep piety and religion of the man, however much they might have been concealed by his fondness for pomp and display during the days of his glory, helped him to withstand manfully the onslaughts of his opponents. His time was spent in prayer and in the faithful discharge of his episcopal duties, but the enemies who had secured his downfall at court were not satisfied. They knew that he had still a strong hold on the affections of the king, and they feared that were any foreign complications to ensue he might be recalled to court and restored to his former dignities. They determined therefore to bring about his death. An order for his arrest and committal to the Tower was issued, but death intervened and saved him from the fate that was in store for him. Before reaching London he took suddenly ill, and died after having received the last consolations of religion (Nov. 1530).

Henry, having failed to obtain a favourable verdict from the legatine commission, determined to frighten the Pope into compliance with his wishes by showing him that behind the King of England stood the English Parliament. The most elaborate precautions were taken to secure that members likely to be friendly were elected. In many cases together with the writs the names of those whose return the court desired were forwarded to the sheriffs.[13] The Parliament that was destined to play such a momentous part in English affairs met in 1529. It was opened by the king in person attended by Sir Thomas More as Lord Chancellor. At a hint from the proper quarter it directed its attention immediately to the alleged abuses of the clergy. The principal complaints put forward were the excessive fees and delays in connection with the probate of wills, plurality of benefices, and the agricultural and commercial activity of priests, bishops, and religious houses, an activity that was detrimental to themselves and unfair to their lay competitors. Measures were taken in the House of Commons to put an end to these exactions and abuses, but when the bills reached the House of Lords Bishop Fisher lodged an emphatic protest for which he was called to account by the king. When Parliament had done enough to show the bishops and the Roman court what might be expected in case Henry’s wishes were not complied with it was prorogued (Dec. 1529), and in the following month a solemn embassy headed by the Earl of Wiltshire, Anne Boleyn’s father, was dispatched to interview the Pope and Charles V. at Bologna. The envoys were instructed to endeavour to win over the Emperor to the king’s plans, but Charles V. regarded their advances with indignation and refused to sacrifice the honour of his aunt to the friendship of England. The only result of the embassy was that a formal citation of Henry to appear at Rome was served on the Earl of Wiltshire, but at the request of the latter a delay of some weeks was granted. Unless some serious measures were taken immediately, Henry had every reason to expect that judgment might be given against him at Rome, and that he would find himself obliged either to submit unconditionally or to defend himself against the combined forces of the Emperor and the King of France.

To prevent or at least to delay such a result and to strengthen the hands of the English agents at Rome, he determined to follow the advice that had been given him by Thomas Cranmer, namely, to obtain for the separation from Catharine the approval of the universities and learned canonists of the world. Agents were dispatched to Cambridge and Oxford to obtain a verdict in favour of the king. Finding it impossible to secure a favourable verdict from the universities, the agents succeeded in having the case submitted to a small committee both in Cambridge and Oxford, and the judgment of the committees, though by no means unanimous, was registered as the judgment of the universities.[14] Francis I. of France, who for political reasons was on Henry’s side throughout the whole proceedings, brought pressure to bear upon the French universities, many of which declared that Henry’s marriage to Catharine was null and void. In Italy the number of opinions obtained in favour of the king’s desires depended entirely upon the amount of money at the disposal of his agents.[15] To support the verdict of the learned world Henry determined to show Rome that the nobility and clergy of his kingdom were in complete sympathy with his action. A petition signed by a large number of laymen and a few of the bishops and abbots was forwarded to Clement VII. (13th July, 1530).[16] It declared that the question of separation, involving as it did the freedom of the king to marry, was of supreme importance for the welfare of the English nation, that the learned world had pronounced already in the king’s favour, and that if the Pope did not comply with this request England might be driven to adopt other means of securing redress even though it should be necessary to summon a General Council. To this Clement VII. sent a dignified reply (Sept.), in which he pointed out that throughout the whole proceedings he had shown the greatest regard for Henry, and that any delay that had occurred at arriving at a verdict was due to the fact that the king had appointed no legal representatives at the Roman courts.[17] The French ambassador also took energetic measures to support the English agents threatening that his master might be forced to join hands with Henry if necessary; but even this threat was without result, and the king’s agents were obliged to report that his case at Rome was practically hopeless, and that at any moment the Pope might insist in proceeding with the trial.

When Henry realised that marriage with Anne Boleyn meant defiance of Rome he was inclined to hesitate. Both from the point of view of religion and of public policy separation from the Holy See was decidedly objectionable. While he was in this frame of mind, a prey to passion and anxiety, it was suggested to him, probably by Thomas Cromwell, the former disciple of the fallen cardinal, that he should seize this opportunity to strengthen the royal power in England by challenging the authority of the Pope, and by taking into his own hands the control of the wealth and patronage of the Church. The prospect thus held out to him was so enticing that Henry determined to follow the advice, not indeed as yet with the intention of involving his kingdom in open schism, but in the hope that the Pope might be forced to yield to his demands. In December 1530 he addressed a strong letter to Clement VII. He demanded once more that the validity of his marriage should be submitted to an English tribunal, and warned the Pope to abstain from interfering with the rights of the king, if he wished that the prerogatives of the Holy See should be respected in England.[18]

This letter of Henry VIII. was clearly an ultimatum, non-compliance with which meant open war. At the beginning of 1531 steps were taken to prepare the way for royal supremacy. For exercising legatine powers in England Cardinal Wolsey had been indicted and found guilty of the violation of the stature of Praemunire, and as the clergy had submitted to his legatine authority they were charged as a body with being participators in his guilt. The attorney-general filed an information against them to the court of King’s Bench, but when Convocation met it was intimated to the clergy that they might procure pardon for the offence by granting a large contribution to the royal treasury and by due submission to the king. The Convocation of Canterbury offered a sum of £100,000, but the offer was refused unless the clergy were prepared to recognise the king as the sole protector and supreme head of the church and clergy in England. To such a novel proposal Convocation showed itself decidedly hostile, but at last after many consultations had been held Warham, the aged Archbishop of Canterbury, proposed that they should acknowledge the king as “their singular protector only, and supreme lord, and as far as the law of Christ allows even supreme head.” “Whoever is silent,” said the archbishop, “may be taken to consent,” and in this way by the silence of the assembly the new formula was passed.[19] At the Convocation of York, Bishop Tunstall of Durham, while agreeing to a money payment, made a spirited protest against the new title, to which protest Henry found it necessary to forward a reassuring reply. Parliament then ratified the pardon for which the clergy had paid so dearly, and to set at rest the fears of the laity a free pardon was issued to all those who had been involved in the guilt of the papal legate.

Clement VII. issued a brief in January 1531, forbidding Henry to marry again and warning the universities and the law courts against giving a decision in a case that had been reserved for the decision of the Holy See. When the case was opened at the Rota in the same month an excusator appeared to plead, but as he had no formal authority from the king he was not admitted. The case, however, was postponed from time to time in the hope that Henry might relent. In the meantime at the king’s suggestion several deputations waited upon Catharine to induce her to recall her appeal to Rome. Annoyed by her obstinacy Henry sent her away from court, and separated from her her daughter. After November 1531, the king and queen never met again. Popular feeling in London and throughout England was running high against the divorce, and against any breach with the Emperor, who might close the Flemish markets to the English merchants. The clergy, who were indignant that their representatives should have paid such an immense sum to secure pardon for an offence of which they had not been more guilty than the king himself, remonstrated warmly against the taxation that had been levied on their revenues. Unmindful of the popular commotion, Henry proceeded to usurp the power of the Pope and of the bishops, and though he was outwardly stern in the repression of heresy, the friends of the Lutheran movement in England boasted publicly that the king was on their side.

When Parliament met again (Jan. 1532), the attacks on the clergy were renewed. A petition against the bishops, drawn up by Thomas Cromwell at the suggestion of Henry,[20] was presented in the name of the House of Commons to the king. In this petition the members were made to complain that the clergy enacted laws and statutes in Convocation without consulting the king or the Commons, that suitors were treated harshly before the ecclesiastical courts, that in regard to probates the people were worried by excessive fees and unnecessary delays, and that the number of holidays was injurious to trade and agriculture. This complaint was forwarded to Convocation for a reply. The bishops, while vindicating for the clergy the right to make their own laws and statutes, showed themselves not unwilling to accept a compromise, but Parliament at the instigation of Henry refused to accept their proposals. The king, who was determined to crush the power of the clergy, insisted that Convocation should abandon its right to make constitutions or ordinances without royal permission, and that the ordinances passed already should be submitted to a mixed commission appointed by the authority of the crown. Such proposals, so contrary to the customs of the realm and so destructive of the independence of the Church, could not fail to be extremely disagreeable to the bishops; but in face of the uncompromising attitude of the king they were forced to give way, and in a document known as the /Submission of the Clergy/ they sacrificed the legislative rights of Convocation (May 1532). They agreed to enact no new canons, constitutions or ordinances without the king’s consent, that those already passed should be submitted to a committee consisting of clergy and laymen nominated by the king, and that the laws adopted by this committee and approved by the king should continue in full force. Sir Thomas More, who had worked hard in defence of the Church, promptly resigned his office of Lord Chancellor that he might have a freer hand in the crisis that had arisen.

In March 1532 another step was taken to overawe the Roman court and force the Pope to yield to Henry’s demands. An Act was passed abolishing the Annats or First Fruits paid to Rome by all bishops on their appointment to vacant Sees. If the Pope should refuse to appoint without such payments, it was enacted that the consecration should be carried out by the archbishop of the province without further recourse to Rome. Such a measure, tending so directly towards schism, met with strong opposition in the House of Lords from the bishops, abbots, and many of the lay lords, as it did also in the House of Commons. In the end, it was passed only on the understanding that it should not take effect for a year, and that in the meantime if an agreement could be arrived at with the Pope, the king might by letters patent repeal it. Henry instructed his ambassador at Rome to inform Clement VII. that this legislation against Annats was entirely the work of the Parliament, and that if the Pope wished for its withdrawal he must show a more conciliatory spirit towards the king and people of England.[21]

The Pope, however, refused to yield to such intimidation. When news arrived at Rome that Henry had sent away Catharine from court, the question of excommunication was considered, but as the excommunication of a king was likely to be fraught with such serious consequences for the English Church, Clement VII. hesitated to publish it in the hope that Henry might see the error of his ways. The trial was delayed from time to time until at last in November 1532 the Pope addressed a strong letter to the king, warning him under threat of excommunication to put away Anne Boleyn, and not to attempt to divorce Catharine or to marry another until a decision had been given in Rome.[22] By this time the king had given up all hope of securing the approval of Rome for the step he contemplated. Even in England the divorce from Catharine found much opposition from both clergy and laity. Sir Thomas More and many of the nobles were on the side of Catharine, as were also Bishop Fisher of Rochester and Bishop Tunstall of Durham. Even Reginald Pole, the king’s own cousin, who had been educated at Henry’s expense, and for whom the Archbishopric of York had been kept vacant, refused the tempting offers that were made to him on condition that he would espouse the cause of separation. He preferred instead to leave England rather than act against his conscience by supporting Catherine’s divorce.[23] Fortunately for Henry at this moment Warham, the aged Archbishop of Canterbury, who was a stout defender of the Holy See,[24] passed away (Aug. 1532). The king determined to secure the appointment of an archbishop upon whom he could rely for the accomplishment of his designs, and accordingly Thomas Cranmer was selected and presented to Rome. After much hesitation, and merely as the lesser of two evils, his appointment was confirmed.

Thomas Cranmer was born in Nottingham, and educated in Cambridge. He married early in life, but his wife having died within a few months, he determined to take holy orders. His suggestion to submit the validity of Henry’s marriage to the judgment of the universities, coming as it did at a time when Henry was at his wits’ end, showed him to be a man of resource whose services should be secured by the court. He was appointed accordingly chaplain to Anne Boleyn’s father, and was one of those sent on the embassy to meet the Pope and Charles V. at Bologna. During his wanderings in Germany he was brought into close relationship with many of the leading Reformers, and following their teaching and example he took to himself a wife in the person of the well-known Lutheran divine, Osiander. Such a step, so highly objectionable to the Church authorities and likely to be displeasing to Henry, who in spite of his own weakness insisted on clerical celibacy, was kept a secret, though it is not at all improbable that the secret had reached the ears of the king. At the time when the latter had made up his mind to set Rome at defiance, he knew how important it was for him to sacrifice his own personal predilections, for the sake of having a man of Cranmer’s pliability as Archbishop of Canterbury, and head of the clergy in England. On the 30th March, 1533, Cranmer was consecrated archbishop, and took the usual oath of obedience and loyalty to the Pope; but immediately before the ceremony, he registered a formal protest that he considered the oath a mere form, and that he wished to hold himself free to provide for the reformation of the Church in England.[25] Such a step indicates clearly enough the character of the first archbishop of the Reformation in England.

To prepare the way for the sentence that might be published at any moment by the Pope a bill was introduced forbidding appeals to Rome under penalty of Praemunire, and declaring that all matrimonial suits should be decided in England, and that the clergy should continue their ministrations in spite of any censures or interdicts that might be promulgated by the Pope. The bill was accepted by the House of Lords, but met with serious opposition in the Commons. An offer was made to raise £200,000 for the king’s use if only he would refer the whole question to a General Council, but in the end, partly by threats and partly by deception regarding the attitude of the Pope and the Emperor, the opposition was induced to give way and the bill became law. By this Act it was declared that the realm of England should be governed by one supreme head and king, to whom both spirituality and temporality were bound to yield, “next to God a natural and humble obedience,” that the English Church was competent to manage its own affairs without the interference of foreigners, and that all spiritual cases should be heard and determined by the king’s jurisdiction and authority.[26] The question of the divorce was brought before the Convocation in March 1533, and though Fisher spoke out boldly in defence of Catharine’s marriage, his brethren failed to support him, and Convocation declared against the legitimacy of the marriage.

Henry was now free to throw off the mask. He could point to the verdict given in his favour by both Parliament and Convocation, and could rely on Cranmer as Archbishop of Canterbury to carry out his wishes. In order to provide for the legitimacy of the child that was soon to be born, he had married Anne Boleyn privately in January 1533. In April Cranmer requested permission to be allowed to hold a court to consider Henry’s marriage with Catharine, to which request, inspired as it had been by himself, the king graciously assented. The court sat at Dunstable, where Catharine was cited to appear. On her refusal to plead she was condemned as contumacious. Sentence was given by the archbishop that her marriage with Henry was invalid (23rd April, 1533). Cranmer next turned his attention to Henry’s marriage with Anne, and as might be expected, this pliant minister had no difficulty in pronouncing in its favour. On Whit Sunday (1533) Anne was crowned as queen in Westminster Abbey. The popular feeling in London and throughout the kingdom was decidedly hostile to the new queen and to the French ambassador, who was blamed for taking sides against Catharine, but Henry was so confident of his own power that he was unmoved by the conduct of the London mob. In September, to the great disappointment of the king who had been led by the astrologers and sorcerers to believe that he might expect the advent of an heir, a daughter was born to whom was given the name Elizabeth.

The Pope, acting on the request of the French and English ambassadors, had delayed to pronounce a definitive sentence, but the news of Henry’s marriage with Anne and of the verdict that had been promulgated by the Archbishop of Canterbury made it imperative that decisive measures should be taken. On the 11th July it was decreed that Henry’s divorce from Catharine and his marriage with Anne were null and void.[27] Sentence of excommunication against him was prepared, but its publication was postponed till September, when an interview had been arranged to take place between the Pope and Francis I. Francis I. was not without hope even still that an amicable settlement could be arranged. Throughout the whole proceedings he had espoused warmly Henry’s cause, in the belief that England, having broken completely with Catharine’s nephew Charles V., might be forced to conclude an alliance with France; but he never wished that Henry VIII. should set the Holy See at defiance, or that England should be separated from the Catholic Church. To the Pope and to Henry he had addressed his remonstrances and petitions in turn, but events had reached such a climax that mediation was almost an impossibility. The interview arranged between the Pope and Francis I. took place at Marseilles in October 1533. Regardless of all the rules of diplomatic courtesy and of good manners, Henry’s representative forced his way into the presence of the Pope, and announced to him that the King of England had appealed from the verdict of Rome to the judgment of a General Council. Notices of this appeal were posted up in London, and preachers were ordered to declaim against the authority of the Pope, who was to be styled henceforth Bishop of Rome, and whose sentences and excommunications, the people were to be informed, were of no greater importance than those of any other foreign bishop. The way was now open for the final act of separation.

Parliament met in January 1534. The law passed the previous year against the payment of annats was now promulgated. According to this Act the Pope was not to be consulted for the future regarding appointments to English Sees. When a bishopric became vacant, the chapter having received the /Congé d’élire/ should proceed to elect the person named in the royal letters accompanying the /Congé/, and the person so elected should be presented to the metropolitan for consecration. In case of a metropolitan See, the archbishop-elect should be consecrated by another metropolitan and two bishops or by four bishops appointed by the crown. Another Act was passed forbidding the payment of Peter’s Pence and all other fees and pensions paid formerly to Rome. The Archbishop of Canterbury was empowered to grant dispensations, and the penalties of Praemunire were levelled against all persons who should apply for faculties to the Pope. By a third Act a prohibition against appeals to Rome was renewed, although it was permitted to appeal from the court of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the king’s Court of Chancery. Convocation was forbidden to enact any new ordinances without the consent of the king, and those passed already were to be subject to revision by a royal commission. Finally, an Act was passed vesting the succession in the children of Henry and Anne to the exclusion of the Princess Mary. The marriage with Catharine was declared null and void by Parliament on the ground principally that no man could dispense with God’s law, and to prevent such incestuous unions in the future a list of the forbidden degrees was drawn up, and ordered to be exhibited in the public churches. To question the marriage of Henry with Anne Boleyn by writing, word, deed, or act was declared to be high treason, and all persons should take an oath acknowledging the succession under pain of misprision of treason. That the Parliament was forced to adopt these measures against its own better judgment is clear from the small number of members who took their seats in the House of Lords, as well as from the fact that some of the Commoners assured the imperial ambassador that were his master to invade England he might count on considerable support.

In Rome the agents of Francis I., fearing that an alliance between France and England would be impossible were Henry to throw off his allegiance to the Church, moved heaven and earth to prevent a definitive sentence. The fact that the Emperor was both unable and unwilling to enforce the decision of the Pope, and that instead of desiring the excommunication and deposition of Henry he was opposed to such a step, made it more difficult for the Pope to take decisive measures. Finally after various consultations with the cardinals, sentence was given declaring the marriage with Catharine valid and the children born of that marriage legitimate (23rd March, 1534). When the news of this decision reached England Henry was alarmed. He feared that the Emperor might declare war at any moment, that an imperial army might be landed on the English shores, and that Francis I. yielding to the entreaties of the Pope might make common cause with the imperialists. Orders were given to strengthen the fortifications, and to hold the fleet in readiness. Agents were dispatched to secure the neutrality of France, and preachers were commanded to denounce the Bishop of Rome. As matters stood, however, there was no need for such alarm. The Emperor had enough to engage his attention in Spain and Germany, and the enmity between Charles V. and the King of France was too acute to prevent them from acting together even in defence of their common religion.

Meantime it was clear to Henry that popular feeling was strong against his policy, but instead of being deterred by this, he became more obstinate and determined to show the people that his wishes must be obeyed. A nun named Elizabeth Barton, generally known as the “Nun of Kent,” claimed to have been favoured with special visions from on high. She denounced the king’s marriage with Anne, and bewailed the spread of heresy in the kingdom. People flocked from all parts to interview her, and even Cranmer pretended to be impressed by her statements. She and many of her principal supporters were arrested and condemned to death (Nov. 1534). It was hoped that by her confession it might be possible to placate Bishop Fisher, who was specially hated by Henry on account of the stand he had made on the question of the marriage, and the late Lord Chancellor, Sir Thomas More. Both had met the nun, but had been careful to avoid everything that could be construed even remotely as treason. In the Act of Attainder introduced into Parliament against Elizabeth Barton and her confederates, the names of Fisher and More were included, but so strong was the feeling in More’s favour that his name was erased. Fisher, although able to clear himself from all reasonable grounds of suspicion, was found guilty of misprision of treason and condemned to pay a fine of £300. Fisher and More were then called upon to take the oath of succession, which, as drawn up, included, together with an acknowledgement of the legitimacy of the children born of Henry and Anne, a repudiation of the primacy of the Pope, and of the validity of Henry’s marriage with Catharine. Both were willing to accept the succession as fixed by Act of Parliament, but neither of them could accept the other propositions. They were arrested therefore and lodged in the Tower (April 1534).

Commissions were appointed to minister the oath to the clergy and laity, most of whom accepted it, some through fear of the consequences of refusal and others in the hope of receiving a share of the monastic lands, which, it was rumoured, would soon be at the disposal of the king. A royal commission consisting of George Brown, Prior of the Augustinian Hermits, and Dr. Hilsey, Provincial of the Dominicans, was appointed to visit the religious houses and to obtain the submission of the members (April 1534). By threats of dissolution and confiscation they secured the submission of most of the monastic establishments with the exception of the Observants of Richmond and Greenwich and the Carthusians of the Charterhouse, London. Many of the members of these communities were arrested and lodged in the Tower, and the decree went forth that the seven houses belonging to the Observants, who had offered a strenuous opposition to the divorce, should be suppressed.[28] The Convocations of Canterbury and York submitted, as did also the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge.

When Parliament met again in November 1534 a bill was introduced proclaiming the king supreme head of the Church in England. The measure was based upon the recognition of royal supremacy extracted from Convocation three years before, but with the omission of the saving clause “as far as the law of Christ allows.” According to this Act it was declared that the king “justly and rightly is and ought to be the supreme head of the Church in England, and to enjoy all the honours, dignities, pre-eminences, jurisdictions, privileges, authorities, immunities, profits and commodities” appertaining to the dignity of the supreme head of the Church.[29] An Act of Attainder was passed against Fisher, More, and all others who had refused submission. The First Fruits, formerly paid to the Pope, were to be paid to the king, and bishops were allowed to appoint men approved by the crown to be their assistants.

By these measures the constitution of the Church, as it had been accepted for centuries by the English clergy and laity, was overturned. The authority of the Pope was rejected in favour of the authority of the king, who was to be regarded in the future as the source of all ecclesiastical jurisdiction. This great religious revolution was carried out without the consent of the bishops and clergy. With the single exception of Cranmer the bishops to a man opposed the change, and if they and the great body of the clergy made their submission in the end, they did so not because they were convinced by the royal arguments, but because they feared the royal displeasure. Neither was the change favoured by any considerable section of the nobles and people. The former were won over partly by fear, partly by hope of securing a share in the plunder of the Church; the latter, dismayed by the cowardly attitude shown by their spiritual and lay leaders, saw no hope of successful resistance. Had there been any strong feeling in England against the Holy See, some of the bishops and clergy would have spoken out clearly against the Pope, at a time when such a step would have merited the approval of the king. The fact that the measure could have been passed in such circumstances is in itself the best example of what is meant by Tudor despotism, in the days when an English Parliament was only a machine for registering the wishes of the king.

In January 1535 an order was made that the king should be styled supreme head of the Church of England. Thomas Cromwell, who had risen rapidly at court in spite of the disgrace of his patron, Cardinal Wolsey, was entrusted with the work of forcing the clergy and laity to renounce the authority of the Pope. The bishops were commanded to surrender the Bulls of appointment they had received from Rome, and to acknowledge expressly that they recognised the royal supremacy. Cromwell was appointed the king’s vicar-general, from whom the bishops and archbishops were obliged to take their directions. Severe measures were to be used against anybody who spoke even in private in favour of Rome. The Prior of the London Charterhouse and some other Carthusians were brought to trial for refusing to accept the royal supremacy (April, 1535). After an able and uncompromising defence they were found guilty of treason and were put to death with the most revolting cruelty.[30] Bishop Fisher and Sir Thomas More, who were prisoners in the Tower, were allowed some time to consider their course of conduct. Fisher declared that he could not acknowledge the king as supreme head of the Church. While he lay in prison awaiting his trial, Paul III., in acknowledgment of his loyal services to the Church, conferred on him a cardinal’s hat. This honour, however well merited, served only to arouse the ire of the king. He declared that by the time the hat should arrive Fisher should have no head on which to wear it, and to show that this was no idle threat a peremptory order was dispatched that unless Fisher and More took the oath before the feast of St. John they should suffer the penalty prescribed for traitors. Fisher, together with some monks of the Carthusians, was brought to trial (June 1535), and was found guilty of treason for having declared that the king was not supreme head of the Church. The prisoners were condemned to be hanged, drawn, and quartered. In the case of the Carthusians the sentence was carried out to the letter, but as it was feared that Fisher might die before he reached Tyburn he was beheaded in the Tower (22nd June), and his head was impaled on London bridge.[31]

Sir Thomas More was placed on his trial in Westminster Hall before a special commission (1st July). Able lawyer as he was, he had no difficulty in showing that by silence he had committed no crime and broken no Act of Parliament, but no defence could avail him against the wishes of the king. The jury promptly returned a verdict of guilty. Before sentence was passed the prisoner spoke out manfully against royal supremacy, and in defence of the authority of Rome. He declared that the Act of Parliament, which conferred on the king the title of supreme head of the Church, was opposed both to the laws of God and man, that it was in flagrant contradiction to the Magna Charta, and that the king of England could no more refuse obedience to the Holy See than a child could refuse obedience to his father. Even after his trial and condemnation another attempt was made to induce him to submit, but he refused, and on the 6th July he finished his career as a martyr for Rome.[32]

The execution of Fisher and More showed plainly to all that the breach with Rome was not likely to be healed. When news of what had taken place in England reached Rome Paul III. was anxious to issue a decree of deposition against Henry. Had he done so, and had he been supported by the Emperor and Francis I. there is no doubt that many of the English noblemen would have joined the standard of the invaders, but the hostility between France and the Emperor saved Henry. Neither party was willing to aid the Pope lest the other should form an alliance with England. Fearing such a union, however, between Francis I. and Charles V. Henry hastened to seek the aid of the Protestant princes of Germany. From 1531 he had been in communication with them urging them to be careful about introducing religious innovations, but he was now so alarmed lest the Emperor and the King of France might join hands to assist the Pope in convoking a General Council, that English envoys were directed to meet the Protestant princes at Schmalkald (1535), to arrange for common action. A close union between England and the Protestant states of Germany could not be effected, because the Protestant princes insisted that Henry should accept the Confession of Augsburg, and Henry refused to permit such interference in the religious affairs of England. Still, English divines were instructed to remain at Wittenberg, and Lutheran theologians were invited to come to England for the discussion of religious differences.[33]

Meanwhile Cromwell was engaged in a visitation of the monasteries of England (1535). To bring home to the minds of the bishops the meaning of royal supremacy, he suspended their visitations while the royal visitors were at work. Cromwell, unable to undertake the duty himself, appointed delegates, and supplied them with the list of questions that should be administered. His principal delegates were Richard Leyton and Thomas Leigh, both men, as is evident from their own letters, who were not likely to be over scrupulous about the methods they employed. They were harsh, rude, and brutal in their treatment of both monks and nuns, especially in houses where they suspected hostility to the recent laws. They used every means in their power to break up the harmony of religious life, and to unsettle the minds of the younger members of the communities. In a few months the visitations were finished, and the reports of the visitors were presented to Cromwell. According to these reports most of the monasteries and convents were homes of sin and vice, and many of the monks and nuns were guilty of heinous crimes, but, though in particular instances there may have been some grounds for these charges, there is good reason for not accepting as trustworthy this account of monastic discipline. In the first place the royal visitors traversed the country with such lightning-like rapidity that it would have been impossible for them to arrive at a correct judgment even had they been impartial and honest men. That they were neither honest nor impartial is clear enough from their own correspondence. They were sent out by Cromwell to collect evidence that might furnish a decent pretext for suppressing the monasteries and for confiscating the monastic possessions, and they took pains to show their master that his confidence in them had not been misplaced. Their only mistake was that in their eagerness to black the character of the unfortunate religious they exceeded the limits of human credulity. They positively revelled in sin, and the scandals they reported were of such a gross and hideous kind that it is impossible to believe that they could have been true, else the people, instead of taking up arms to defend the religious houses, would have risen in revolt to suppress such abominations. Nor is it correct to say that the /Comperta/ were submitted to Parliament for discussion, and that the members were so shocked by the tale they unfolded that they clamoured for the suppression of these iniquitous institutions. There is abundant evidence to prove that Parliament was reluctant to take any action against the religious houses, that it was only by the personal intervention of the king that the bill for the suppression of the lesser monasteries was allowed to pass, and that it is at least doubtful if any but general statements founded on the /Comperta/ were brought before Parliament. The story of the production of the “Black Book” supposed to contain the reports is of a much later date, and comes from sources that could not be regarded as unprejudiced. It had its origin probably in a misunderstanding of the nature of the /Compendium Compertorum/, which dealt only with parishes of the northern province. It is strange that though the commissioners made no distinction between the condition of the larger and the smaller monasteries, the Act of Parliament based upon these reports decreed only the suppression of the smaller monasteries, as if vice and neglect of discipline were more likely to reign in the small rather than in the larger communities; and it is equally strange that the superiors of many of the houses, about which unfavourable reports had been presented, were promoted to high ecclesiastical offices by the king and by his vicar-general, who should have been convinced of the guilt and unworthiness of such ministers, had they trusted their own commissioners. In the case of some of the dioceses, as for example Norwich, it is possible to compare the results of an episcopal visitation held some years previously with the reports of Cromwell’s commissioners, and though it is sufficiently clear from these earlier reports that all was not well with discipline, the discrepancy between the accounts of the bishops and the royal commissioners is so striking, that it is difficult to believe that the houses could have degenerated so rapidly in so short a space of time as to justify the /Comperta/ of the commissioners. But what is still more striking is the fact that after the decree of suppression had gone forth, other commissioners, drawn largely from the local gentry, many of whom were to share in the plunder of the monastic lands, visited several of the houses against which serious charges had been made, and found nothing worthy of special blame. These men were not likely to be prejudiced in favour of the monks and nuns. They were well acquainted with the people of the district, and had every opportunity of learning the verdict of the masses about the discipline of the religious communities. They were, therefore, in a much better position to arrive at the truth than the royal commissioners who could only pay a flying visit of a few hours or at most of a few days.[34]

The real object of the visitation and of the scandalous reports to which it gave rise, was to secure some specious pretext that would justify the king in the eyes of the nation in suppressing the monasteries and in confiscating their possessions. The idea that the monastic establishments enjoyed only the administration of their lands and goods, and that these might be seized upon at any moment for the public weal, was not entirely a new one either in the history of England or in that of some of the Continental countries. Years before, Cardinal Wolsey, for example, had dissolved more than twenty monasteries in order to raise funds for his colleges at Ipswich and Oxford, while not unfrequently the kings of England rewarded their favourites and servants by granting them a pension to be paid by a particular monastery. With the rise of the middle classes to power and the gradual awakening of greater agricultural and commercial activity, greedy eyes were turned to the monasteries and the farms owned by the religious institutions. Unlike the property of private individuals these lands were never likely to be in the market, and humanly speaking a transfer of ownership could be effected only by a violent revolution. Many people, therefore, though not unfriendly to the monks and nuns as such, were not disinclined to entertain the proposals of the king for the confiscation of religious property, particularly as hopes were held out to the nobles, wealthy merchants, and the corporations of cities and towns that the property so acquired could take the place of the taxes that otherwise must be raised to meet local and national expenditure.

For months before Parliament met (Feb. 1536) everything that could be done by means of violent pamphlets and sermons against the monks and the Papacy was done to prepare the country for the extreme measures that were in contemplation. The king came in person to warn the House of Commons that the reports of the royal commissioners, showing as they did the wretched condition of the monasteries and convents called for nothing less than the total dissolution of such institutions. The members do not appear, however, to have been satisfied with the king’s recommendations, and it was probably owing to their feared opposition to a wholesale sacrifice of the monasteries that, though the commissioners had made no distinction between the larger and the smaller establishments the measure introduced by the government dealt only with the houses possessing a yearly revenue of less than £200. Even in this mild form great pressure was required to secure the passage of the Act, for though here and there complaints might have been heard against the enclosures of monastic lands or about the competition of the clerics in secular pursuits, the great body of the people were still warmly attached to the monasteries. Once the decree of dissolution had been passed the work of suppression was begun. Close on four hundred religious houses were dissolved, and their lands and property confiscated to the crown. The monks and nuns to the number of about 2,000 were left homeless and dependent merely on the miserable pensions, which not unfrequently remained unpaid. Their goods and valuables including the church plate and libraries were seized. Their houses were dismantled, and the roofless walls were left standing or disposed of as quarries for the sale of stones.[35] Such cruel measures were resented by the masses of the people, who were attached to the monasteries, and who had always found the monks and nuns obliging neighbours, generous to their servants and their tenants, charitable to the poor and the wayfarer, good instructors of the youth, and deeply interested in the temporal as well as in the spiritual welfare of those around them. In London and the south- eastern counties, where the new tendencies had taken a firmer root, a strong minority supported the policy of the king and Cromwell, but throughout England generally, from Cornwall and Devon to the Scottish borders, the vast majority of the English people objected to the religious innovations, detested Cromwell and Cranmer as heretics, looked to Mary as the lawful heir to the throne in spite of the decision of the court of Dunstable, and denounced the attacks on the monasteries as robbery and sacrilege. The excitement spread quickly, especially amongst the peasants, and soon news reached London that a formidable rebellion had begun in the north.

In October 1536 the men of Lincoln took up arms in defence of their religion. Many of the noblemen were forced to take part in the movement, with which they sympathised, but which they feared to join lest they should be exposed to the merciless vengeance of the king. The leaders proclaimed their loyalty to the crown, and announced their intention of sending agents to London to present their petitions. They demanded the restoration of the monasteries, the removal of heretical bishops such as Cranmer and Latimer, and the dismissal of evil advisers like Cromwell and Rich. Henry VIII. returned a determined refusal to their demands, and dispatched the Earl of Shrewsbury and the Duke of Suffolk to suppress the rebellion. The people were quite prepared to fight, but the noblemen opened negotiations with the king’s commanders, and advised the insurgents to disperse. The Duke of Suffolk entered the city of Lincoln amidst every sign of popular displeasure, although since the leaders had grown fainthearted no resistance was offered. Those who had taken a prominent part in the rebellion were arrested and put to death; the oath of supremacy was tendered to every adult; and by the beginning of April 1537, all traces of the rebellion had been removed.

The Pilgrimage of Grace in the north was destined to prove a much more dangerous movement. Early in October 1536 the people of York, determined to resist, and by the middle of the month the whole country was up in arms under the leadership of Robert Aske, a country gentleman and a lawyer well-known in legal services in London. Soon the movement spread through most of the counties of the north. York was surrendered to the insurgents without a struggle. Pomfret Castle, where the Archbishop of York and many of the nobles had fled for refuge, was obliged to capitulate, and Lord Darcy, the most loyal supporter of the king in the north, agreed to join the party of Aske. Hull opened its gates to the rebels, and before the end of October a well trained army of close on 40,000 men led by the principal gentlemen of the north lay encamped four miles north of Doncaster, where the Duke of Norfolk at the head of 8,000 of the king’s troops awaited the attack. The Duke, fully conscious of the inferiority of his forces and well aware that he could not count on the loyalty of his own soldiers, many of whom favoured the demands of the rebels, determined to gain time by opening negotiations for a peaceful settlement (27th Oct.). Two messengers were dispatched to submit their grievances to the king, and it was agreed that until an answer should be received both parties should observe the truce. The king met the demands for the maintenance of the old faith, the restoration of the liberties of the Church, and the dismissal of ministers like Cromwell by a long explanation and defence of his political and religious policy, and the messengers returned to announce that the Duke of Norfolk was coming for another conference. Many of the leaders argued that the time for peaceful remonstrances had passed, and that the issue could be decided now only by the sword. Had their advice been acted upon the results might have been disastrous for the king, but the extreme loyalty of both the leaders and people, and the fear that civil war in England would lead to a new Scottish invasion, determined the majority to exhaust peaceful means before having recourse to violence.

An interview between the leaders and the Duke of Norfolk, representing the king, was arranged to take place at Doncaster (5th Dec.). In the meantime a convocation of the clergy was called to meet at Pomfret to formulate the religious grievances, and a lay assembly to draw up the demands of the people. Both clergy and people insisted on the acceptance of papal supremacy, the restoration of all clergy who had been deposed for resisting royal supremacy, the destruction of heretical books, such as those written by Luther, Hus, Melanchthon, Tundale, Barnes, and St. German, the dismissal of heretical bishops and advisers such as Cromwell, and the re-establishment of religious houses. Face to face with such demands, backed as they were by an army of 40,000 men, Norfolk, fearing that resistance was impossible, had recourse to a dishonest strategy. He promised the rebels that a free Parliament would be held at York to discuss their grievances, that a full pardon would be granted to all who had taken up arms, and that in the meantime the monks and nuns would be supported from the revenues of the surrendered monasteries and convents. Aske, whose weak point had always been his extreme loyalty, agreed to these terms, and ordered his followers to disband. He was invited to attend in London for a conference with the king, and returned home to announce that Henry was coming to open the Parliament at York, and that the people might rely with confidence on the royal promises. But signs were not wanting to show that the insurgents had been betrayed, and that they must expect vengeance rather than redress. Soon it was rumoured that Hull and Scarborough were being strengthened, and that in both cities Henry intended to place royal garrisons. The people, alarmed by the dangers that threatened them, attempted vainly to seize these two towns, and throughout the north various risings took place. The Duke of Norfolk, taking advantage of this violation of the truce, and having no longer any strong forces to contend with, promptly suppressed these rebellions, proclaimed martial law, and began a campaign of wholesale butchery. Hundreds of the rebels, including abbots and priests, who were suspected of favouring the insurgents, were put to death. The leaders, Aske, Lord Darcy, Lord Hussey, Sir Thomas Percy, Sir Francis Bigod, together with the abbots of Jervaux and of Fountains, and the Prior of Bidlington were arrested. Some of them suffered the penalty of death in London, while others were sent back to be executed in their own districts. By these measures the rebellion was suppressed in the north, and the rest of the counties were intimidated into submission.[36]

Had the Emperor decided upon supporting the people of the north the course of English history might have been different, but as war had broken out once more between France and the empire, both nations, anxious to maintain good relations with England, abstained from active interference in English affairs. Pope Paul III., deeply interested as he was in the English revolution, summoned to his assistance one who understood better than most of his contemporaries the character of the king and the condition of the country, namely, Reginald Pole. The latter, turning his back on the favour of the king and the offer of the Archbishopric of York, had left England rather than approve of the king’s separation from Catharine. Henry, however, hoping to induce him to return to England, maintained friendly relations with Pole, and requested him to state frankly his views on royal supremacy. Pole replied in a long treatise afterwards published under the title /Pro ecclesiasticae unitatis Defensione/ (1536), in which he reproved the conduct of the king, and warned him of the dangers that his religious policy might involve. Henry, though deeply mortified by the substance and tone of this work, pretended not to be displeased, and in the hope of silencing his distinguished kinsman whom he now both feared and hated he urged him to come back to England. Pole’s mother and brothers besought him to yield to the royal wishes, or else he should prove the ruin of all those who were dear to him. Though deeply affected by their appeals, he preferred duty to family affection. He went to Rome where he was created a cardinal (1536), and appointed to assist in drawing up a scheme of ecclesiastical reforms in preparation for the General Council. Soon news arrived in Rome that a rebellion had broken out in England, that the people were ready to die in defence of their religion, and that the king might be forced to adopt a more conciliatory attitude towards Rome. It was decided to appoint Cardinal Pole papal legate, and to send him to England. Such an appointment coming at such a time filled Henry with alarm. He feared that James V. of Scotland might be induced to lead an army across the borders to the assistance of the northern rebels, and that France and the Emperor might unite their forces against one who was regarded by both as little less than a heretic. He induced the privy council to address a letter to the cardinal (Jan. 1537) reproaching him for his ingratitude and disloyalty to the king, and inviting him to come to Flanders for a friendly discussion with the English agents. Before the legate could leave Italy the Pilgrimage of Grace had been suppressed, and all hope of a successful mission in England was lost. He passed through France and Flanders, where he received a very cool reception from Francis I. and the regent of the Netherlands, both of whom had been requested to deliver him to Henry VIII. After a short stay in the territory of the Prince-bishop of Liège he returned to Rome in August 1537.[37]

But though the rebellion in the north had been suppressed, it was sufficiently grave to show Henry the danger incurred at home by religious innovations, while the legatine mission of Cardinal Pole made it advisable to prove to the Catholic rulers of Europe that England had not gone over to the Lutheran camp. The greatest objection taken by the conservative party in England to the /Ten Articles/, drawn up by the king and accepted by Convocation in the previous year (1536), was the absence of express reference to any Sacrament except Baptism, Penance, and the Eucharist. At the meeting of Convocation (1537) the battle was waged between the Catholic-minded bishops let by Tunstall of Durham and the Lutheran party let by Cranmer. At last the other four Sacraments were “found again,” and a settlement agreeable to both parties arrived at and embodied in a treatise known as /The Institution of a Christian Man/. It consisted of four parts, the Apostle’s Creed, the Seven Sacraments, the Ten Commandments, and the Our Father and Hail Mary. Two separate articles dealing with justification and purgatory taken from the Ten Articles previously issued were appended. The bishops submitted /The Institution/ to the judgment of the king, inviting him as supreme head of the Church to correct whatever was amiss with their doctrine, but Henry, anxious to hold himself free to bargain with the Lutheran princes if necessary, refused to take any responsibility for the work beyond ordering that it might be read in the churches for three years. Hence it was called the /Bishop’s Book/.[38]

Against this and as a concession to the reforming party in England Henry was pleased to approve of a translation of the Bible presented to him by Cranmer, and to order copies of it to be provided for the use of the faithful in every parish church (1537-38). William Tyndale, who had fled from England to Wittenberg, set himself to complete a translation of the Bible, which translation was published and smuggled into England in 1526. The translation was in itself bristling with errors, and the marginal notes were stupidly offensive. The bishops made desperate attempts to secure its suppression, but despite their efforts the obnoxious translation and even many of the more objectionable works written by the same author continued to find their way into England. The king, though nominally supporting the bishops,