H. D. (Henry Duff) Traill.

Social England; a record of the progress of the people in religion, laws, learning, arts, industry, commerce, science, literature and manners, from the earliest times to the present day (Volume 3) online

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the king rapidly learned that it was nearly as easy, and much
safer and more specious, to work with a Parliament, to flatter
and bribe it, to play upon it and make it his mouthpiece.
Above all, it became clear to him that if he was to secure his
divorce from Katherinc and his marriage with Anne Boleyn, it
must be by a rupture with the Papacy and by the nation sup-
porting him in such a course; and this, again, could only be
effected by utilising the national jealousies against the clerical
order, and by thus breaking down the power of the Church for
resistance. The first step to this was to emphasise the ancient
doctrine of Prsemunire (Vol. II, p. 200). This doctrine, imply-
ing the denial of any foreign authority over the English Church
and the complete subordination of the spiritual courts to the
supreme jurisdiction of the Crown, had already been asserted in
the remarkable case of Doctor Standish in 1515. Accordingly,
in the Long Parliament of the Reformation ecclesiastical abuses
were at once assailed, and by adroit manipulation the king got
bills passed against them. In 1531 he forced the clergy to buy
off the penalties by paying a fine, set with a show of legal
precision, at an exact sum (118,840 8s. 8cl), and by acknow-
ledging him as " Supreme Head of the Church after Christ "
" a futile reservation," as Chapuis, the astute imperial envoy,
contemptuously characterises it. In 1532 Henry presenting
himself in person both in the Lords and the Commons, forced
through both Houses his bill transferring " first fruits " from
pope to king, and later got the Commons to accept as their own
the attack on clerical jurisdiction drawn up by himself. By


THE OLD ORDER Cll.l .\<;l-:i>.



1533 \Yarham and More Lad boon replaced by Cranmer and
Audlcy; Cromwell was now the chief minister; the king had
already secretly married Anne; the lords had been brought
round to the side of the Boleyns ; and the Parliament was
coerced into finally ratifying the Statute of Appeals. The
rupture with Rome Avas thus an accomplished fact. Later
Parliaments show similar submissiveness. They allowed the
king to repudiate his debts and to be reimbursed for such as he
had already paid ; they gave his proclamations the force of law,
adding the suicidal declaration that if this power were not
conferred the king would be forced to assume it for himself.
They legalised the surrender of the monasteries retrospectively.
They made it treason to reject a form of oath under the Succes-
sion Act, and left the king to draw up the terms of that oath.
They stirred not a finger to save Katherine, or More, or Fisher,
any more than to save Anne or Cromwell. They gave Henry
the unheard-of right to dispose of the crown by his Avill. They
accepted in 1536 the Statute of Uses (pp. 55, 171), and in 1540
the Statute of Wills, against both of which they had tit first
protested in 1532. They bowed to the ground when the royal
name was mentioned ; they wept aloud when the king himself
addressed them. No wonder that some writers have maintained
that in all he did the king was the interpreter of the real
wishes of the nation, that the preambles of the statutes are
simple statements of facts, that the people desired a dictator.
Others represent the nation as submitting, in a sort of dream,
to acts Avhich none fully realised, and statements which none
could approve, as intimidated, tricked, and bribed by the
deep-laid plans of a Avholly conscienceless and masterful ruler.

The truth lies somewhere between these two extremes.
But the exact discrimination in more than one important point
still awaits determination from a further knowledge of foreign
and domestic State-papers. Perhaps, in the nature of the
case, it can never be finally determined, but Avill continue to be
someAvhat differently judged by each inquirer according to his
religious and political bias.

It is as natural to connect the years 1529 to 1540 Avith the
cromweii. mme of Thomas Cromwell, as to connect the years before 1529
Avith the name of Thomas Wolsey. But, as a matter of fact,
when Shakespeare so dramatically makes the fallen minister's



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loyal champion succeed him at once, he is using some poetic
licence. There was an interval of some three and a half years
between Wolsey's disgrace and Cromwell's rise to the chief
position. When Chapuis says " he rules everything," it is
towards the close of 1533. This interval, like the time before
Wolsey's rise and the time after Cromwell's fall, was occupied
by the influence of the great nobles, especially the Howards, the
Duke of Norfolk, and the Earl of Wiltshire, Anne Boleyn's
uncle and father. But abler heads and tempers more flexible
than those of proud nobles were needed to conduct a policy in
the critical months when Henry was expecting an invasion by
Charles and a possible rising at home. The man who now
stepped to the front, and for six years at least seemed the
virtual ruler of England, was one whose career had already had
strange experiences, and whose inmost character and aims still
remain to some extent a mystery. Thomas Cromweil was at
this time about forty- eight years old. He had lived in Italy
the school of courtesy as well as of statecraft ; he had served
there as a common soldier and then as a clerk ; he had lived as
a merchant in Flanders, and from 1513 was a law-agent in
London. The next year he entered Wolsey's service, and con-
ducted the dissolution of some small monasteries for him. He
had become so identified with Wolsey's schemes that he must
needs stand by his ruined master ; and he did so with great
apparent courage. But it is probable that he played a double
game winning the king's favour while he facilitated his designs
on the cardinal's wealth, saving the victim at the cost of his
benefices and his intended colleges. It was his subtle suggestion
for Cardinal Pole's account is too emphatic and circumstantial
to be rejected which encouraged the king to cut the knot of
the divorce by getting himself declared Head of the Church. It
was. again, his open boast to Pole that he took his views of
government, not from the dreams of Plato, but from the practical
wisdom of " a deadly book" -Macchiavelli's " Prince," then just
coming into notice. It was by his double dealing, the Commons
complained in 1531, that the laity were not expressly included
in the pardon granted to the clergy. He was not merely
unrivalled as a bold and original councillor, and as an unerring
go-between : he was also a most adept and indefatigable contriver
in finance. This combination of qualities made him indis-



pensabk ; and in rapid succession he was made Privy Coun-
cillor, Master of the Jewels, Clerk of the Hanaper, Master of the
Wards, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Royal Secretary, Master of
the Rolls, general Visitor of monasteries; and, finally, in 1534,
the king's vicegerent in all causes ecclesiastical, with precedence
over all prelates and peers. On him rests the immediate, as on
Henry the ultimate, responsibility for the scandalous manner
in which the suppression of the monasteries was effected and
the punishment of the recalcitrant Carthusians (p. G4). By
his advice, though with Henry's full complicity, the nobles
and gentry were bribed into acquiescence by a wliolesale
participation in the spoils. It was he who managed the
trial and execution of Anne Boleyn, and the shameless per-
secution of the Princess Mary. Naturally enough, therefore,
the " Pilgrimage of Grace," the armed rising of Lincolnshire
and the North, was directed against " the villein blood in the
king's council," and the rebels denounced him as a heretic
and a traitor.

That which distinguishes the great rising of 1536-37 from The
all other such movements is its complex character. It was
at once aristocratic and popular, clerical and lay. It was Grace,
revolutionary and yet conservative ; reactionary as well as
progressive. Its watchwords are sometimes political, some-
times religious, sometimes merely agrarian. The cries of
" Down with Cromwell ! " or " Down with enclosures ! " swell
now and again almost to a demand for a separate adminis-
tration of the North, or a clamour for the dethronement of
Henry by Scotch and Papal aid.

The leaders were remarkable men. Yet they were only
the mouthpieces of a deep and widespread feeling already
armed and organised. To this feeling all classes contributed,
for each class had its own grievance. The lords hated the
recent changes and their low-born authors. The gentry raged
against the new statutes which forbade a man, they said, to
leave aught to his daughters or his younger sons. The " poor
commons " saw in " enclosures " the cause of rent-raising,
decay of husbandry, and depopulation of parishes. The whole
of the North resented the growing concentration of lawsuits
at Westminster ; and still more the destruction of the abbeys
which were their pride and veneration ; which furnished








48 '/'//A,' OLD OltliKI! <'1I.\X<;ED.

[1509 1547

teachers for their sons, and trustees for their estates: which
were tiic centres of culture and traflic, of hospitality and
industry to the scattered folk.

Finally, all classes were united in detestation of the idea
of heresy. In the autumn of 1536 three commissions were at
work, any one of them adequate to produce a revolt one for
assessing the subsidy, one for suppression of monasteries, and
one for a visitation of parish clergy. At Louth, in Lincoln-
shire, on Sunday, ]st October, l.~>:!i;, the people rose under
" Captain Cobbler." By Wednesday, 4th October, the whole
shire was in revolt. Their banner bore a plough, a chalice
and host, the five wounds of Christ, and a horn. Vicars and
priests, seven or eight hundred in number, headed them ;
and they sent their demands to the king at Windsor. Henry
acted with true Tudor spirit ; and his lieutenant, Lord Shrews-
bury, was undaunted. But he had only 4,000 men. By
October 6th there were 30,000 rebels gathered at Lincoln. But
by October llth the king's muster under the Duke of Suffolk
had come up. The rebels were already dispersing for lack of
provisions. A split took place among their leaders : the gentry
were nearly murdered by the clergy and the commons. On
Friday, the 13th, Suffolk entered Lincoln. The revolt was
over. No wonder the royal letter, pardoning all but a few
ringleaders, spoke with scorn of the presumption of " the rude
commons of one shire, and that the most brute and beastly of
the whole realm."

But already the great shire of York had taken up the cause,
and this time the cause was guided by the wise and active
brain of Robert Aske. His orders ran like royal writs from
Humber to Tweed. On 16th October 40,000 men in harness
were encamped in and around York. The Archbishop of York
joined them. So did Lord Darcy, the chief noble in the East
Riding and a soldier ot sixty years' experience. " The king
feareth much this matter," wrote his secretary. The only
great houses of the North who remained wholly loyal were
the Cliffords and Dacres. At Done-aster the ro\-al array under
Norfolk, some 8,000 in number, saw that only the swollen river
was between them and 30,000 "as tall men and well horsed
and appointed as any men could be." What saved England
from a civil war was mainly the rebel leaders' generous cen-







'/'///; OLD (i HI) /:/,' < 'II. \XCED.

sion and

of the


own cause and in the

fidence in the righteousness of thru
royal justice.

Norfolk agreed to their terms. They sent envoys to fin-
king, who gained them over by fair words. He promised in
December a general pardon, a northern Parliament, to be held
at York, and (so Norfolk as well as Dairy thought) some con-
cession to their demands. It is noteworthy that the popular
grievances (enclosures, lines, subsidies) had some remedies
applied; but in the direction of reaction desired by the clergy
and the nobles the king would not stir a foot. Garrisons were
placed in the North ; the oath of allegiance reimposed. A
new rebellion blazing up again in January and February, 1537,
was made an excuse to arrest the leaders of the former revolt.

The king's councillors knew that the Scots king was plan-
ning an invasion ; and Reginald Pole, from Flanders, was
corresponding with malcontents in England. The vengeance
taken was exemplary, and was perhaps treacherous ; but there
was no wholesale bloodshed. Punishment fell on the chiefs
alone. Of the Lincolnshiremen. Lord Hussey, the Abbot of
Kirksted, and seventeen others were executed. Of the North-
erners, sixteen were condemned in due legal form ; Darcy
was beheaded, the heir of the Percies hanged, with live gentle-
men and the Abbots of Fountains and Jervaulx. Lady Buhner
was burned. Aske and Constable were paraded through the
Eastern counties and hanged in chains, one at York, the
other at Hull. Darcy 's fierce outbreak on his trial ("Cromwell,
thou art the cause of this rebellion. ... I trust ere thou die
there shall one noble head remain to strike off thy head ")
showed the bitter wrath of the nobles. Pole's eager hopes and
the wild words of the Northern vicars show the deep fury of
the clergy.


Uut neither nobles nor clergy could stay the destruction
that was laying low the two orders. Only on the popular side
of this remarkable movement can we discern its importance for
the future. It is in the resolute pleadings of Aske, in the
passionate cries of " the poor commons," that we catch the
first mutterino's of that mighty voice of the people, before Avhich

O O /

a century hence, the fabric of absolutism reared by the Tudors
was to fall for ever to the ground.

Meantime Cromwell had been addiner office to office : he




was made Lord Privy Seal, Baron Cromwell, a Knight of the
Garter, Dean of Wells and Prebend of Sarum, Warden of the
Forests north of Trent, Captain of Carisbrooke, Constable of
"Leeds. The revenues of four great monasteries were made over
to him.

But all along there were signs that, once the hour had
struck, his fall would be even more sudden and irretrievable
than Wolsey's. Even in the height of his power, " the king
beknaveth him once or twice a week and sometimes knocks him
about the pate" (p. 203). He committed the fatal error of trying


to guide the king where he should have been humbly seconding
him. Already, in 1539, the passing of the Six Articles Act
indicated a check in the forward policy which he had pursued.
By his zeal in pushing negotiations for the king's marriage
Avith Anne of Cleves, he doubtless intended to make it im-
possible for the king to draw back from the alliance with the
Lutheran princes which would arrest any further relapse in
English policy from the onward progress of the Reformation
movement. With that inscrutable tigerish humour which is so
marked a feature in Henry's character, the king continued to
heap honours on the servant he must already have determined



Fall of

The King

to destroy, and < -routed liini Lord Chamberlain in 1539, Earl of
Essex in 1540. The king wus disgusted with Anne of Cloves, the
"great Flanders mare" < p. 341); the Lutheran alliance was needed
no more ; Cromwell had accumulated upon himself and diverird
from bis master as much unpopularity as was possible ; his
usefulness was over ; he was to be struck down as mercilessly
as he himself had struck down others. Indicted for acts of
which it was pretended the king was not cognisant, attainted
by Parliament without a trial, refused leave even to speak in
his own defence, his last appeals for life left unanswered, he
was beheaded 2<Sth July, 1540. Few, if any, English ministers
had higher abilities than Thomas Cromwell ; perhaps no single
one ever wielded wider powers or a more critical influence;
certainly none presents so strange a career and so enigmatic
a character. This " hammer of monks," this iconoclast and
destroyer of the Church, can hardly be credited, nevertheless,
with any sincere Protestantism. In life he inveighed agiiinst
Lutheranism ; at the block he declared he died a true Catholic ;
in his will he left money for masses. There were even wild
rumours that he was plotting to marry the Princess Mary
and to make himself king. We are fain to confess that over the
man himself and his fate there still hangs a mystery.

After Cromwell's death there was, indeed, no further need
of anyone to stand between the king and any possible oppo-
sition, for opposition had ceased. Clergy, lords, commons-
all seem to have no will of their own left. Even the influence
of the Howards ceased when the immorality of Queen Katherine
Howard was discovered in 1542, and she was hurried to
execution with the same ferocious abruptness as the others.
The elastic theory of " constructive treason " undid the pro-
tecting work of Plantagenet Parliaments. It was easy thereby
to dispose of the victims to dynastic or personal jealousy :
de la Pole, beheaded in 1513, Edward Stafford, Duke of
Buckingham, in 1521, were possible rivals. Henry Courtenay,
Marquis of Exeter, was descended from Edward IV.; Margaret,
Countess of Salisbury, from Edward's brother Clarence. Sueh
pedigrees suggested the scaffold, and the head of the Marquis
fell in 1539, of the aged Countess in 1541. Even the Howards
could not escape: on trumpery charges, the Duke of Norfolk
and his sou the Earl of Surrey were imprisoned. Surrey was


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54 Till-: OLD Oli-IH-:i: CHANGED.


put to death, and Norfolk only owed his life to the fact that
the king died that very morning. This might seem enough
to cow the nobles into submission. But they were bribed, too.
For example, Urandon, Duke of Suffolk, received no less than
thirty grunts of monastic foundations in the single county of
Lincolnshire. Out of the confiscated ('hurch lands new families
were built up by the royal favour. Kussell, ( 'avendish, Sey-
mour, (irey, Dudley, Sidney, (Veil, Herbert, Fitzwilliam these
are the names that henceforth replace the Mortimers, llohuns,
and Bigods, the Mowbrays and Nevilles, of the Middle Ages
So that in this respect as in others Henry VIII. 's reign and
Henry V i I l.'s personal will have exercised a permanent influence
on our national history. But neither intimidation nor corrup-
tion exhausts the list of means by which the Tudors controlled
the great houses. The State-papers show an intricate system
of loans, fines, remittances, official appointments, by which an
irresistible network of financial obligations was draAvn about
the embarrassed lords and greater gentry. And in that ago of
costly pageants and reckless personal expense, of rapid fluctua-
tions in money-values and of fast-changing economic conditions,
there Avere few Avho Avere not embarrassed.

The similar question How the Tudors managed to secure
such an astonishing acquiescence on the part of the people at
large must be answered somewhat differently. No doubt, it
was due in a great measure to the fact that the people desired,
above all things, peace and order. They had not forgotten the
Wars of the Pioses. Xo doubt, too, the Parliamentary struggles
and victories of the fourteenth century had been obscured, and
Parliament itself discredited, by the humiliating failure of
Parliamentary government under Henry VI. Moreover, as the
nations of Europe passed- from the feudal to the modern mould,
there Avas an imperative demand for a strong central power
in each to Avatch over the transition; and England was now
feeling what France and Spain had already experienced. But,
true as these considerations are, there were two further factors
in the case which historians have been apt to ignore. One is
the very real and present sense there was of probable attacks
upon England either by France and Scotland, or later on by
the emperor: the other factor is the extraordinary skill with
which Henry manufactured public opinion, or at anv rate




anticipated and magnified it. There still remains enough to
admire in what he achieved and presented to the nation as its
own deliberate acts. But the State-papers begin to give us
some insight into the means by which it was all done.

That there were limits to his power, that the popular spirit The
of freedom was dormant but not dead, he himself probably saw,
and more clearly than we can. A good instance is the conduct


he pursued in regard to the Statutes of Uses and Wills (p. 171). statut? of
The former had been introduced in 1531. It was in strict !
analogy with the ecclesiastical reforms. By the practice which
had grown up of creating " uses," or equitable interests in land,
the king lost his succession-dues on estates, just as by the prac-
tice of paying " annates," or first-fruits, to the Pope, the king
lost his succession-dues on benefices. The remedy was to bring

Online LibraryH. D. (Henry Duff) TraillSocial England; a record of the progress of the people in religion, laws, learning, arts, industry, commerce, science, literature and manners, from the earliest times to the present day (Volume 3) → online text (page 10 of 68)