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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uses within the common law, just as the Church jurisdiction
had been brought. Similarly, the extra-legal power of devise
which had grown up should be allowed as to one-half a man's
lands; to the other half the heir must succeed, and so the king
would recover his old feudal rights. It was a great social and
legal reform, and a justly conceived one. But there was great
uproar, as Chapuis tells us ; men clamoured that the king \vas
taking half of each man's lands. The king was not of yielding
stuff, and he had right and common-sense on his side this time.
But he had to postpone the Statute of Uses till 1530, and the
Pilgrimage of Grace extorted from- him the Statute of Wills
in 1540, which gave him far less than he had aimed to get
in 1531.

For the last seven years of the reign Henry was more than
ever his own minister. The Parliaments were fewer, of briefer

struction. tenure, and more deferential than ever. His hold on the people
was unshaken. The spoliation side of his Church policy went
011 sweepingly. The chantries, hospitals, colleges and guilds
were attacked in 1545 ; the Oxford and Cambridge colleges were
some of them dissolved, and all in danger. The scheme of new
and sounder foundations w T as a fraud ; Christ Church, Oxford,
and Trinity, Cambridge, were simply the salvage from greater
wrecks. In spite of fifteen years of plunder on this Gargantuan
scale, despite " amicable loans " and benevolences, pensions from
France, and confiscated estates at home, this royal robber, who
had inherited the vast treasure laid up by Henry VII., ended by
that financial crime and blunder rarely perpetrated in England,
a systematic debasement of the coinage (p. 165).

In other respects his policy aimed at an immovable balance
between " the rash party" and " the dull party,'' to use his own
words. He had become " Supreme Head of the Church," but
he remained "Defender of the Faith." With his last wife.
Katharine Parr, there came more Protestant influences about
the court ; but if Latimer was protected in his plain speaking,
yet Anne Askew was tortured and burned for denying tran-

character In the thousand years' record of our English kings, not one

vin. enry i s so h ar( l to J lu l? as Henry VIII. The idol of his people in

earlier years, their unquestioned master throughout, who

harangues them from a superior height as much of goodness as




(Showing Gothic Architecture.)


of wisdom and power, he is apt to strike the modern sense
as almost a monster of selfishness, cruelty, and lust, It is,
indeed, the truth to say that he was revengeful, self-willed,

superlatively wasteful, and self-
indulgent ; that he was a
profligate, if not beyond con-
temporary rulers, yet with a
harder and more unredeemed
grossness ; that we never see
him touched by gratitude,
remorse, or even misgiving,
never see him waver in that
belief in himself, that self-
worship, which is almost sub-
lime. It is not, perhaps, much
defence to point out that this
self-worship, coupled with a
long tenure of absolute power,
did much towards the degradation of his character. Fisher
had been his father's counsellor and his own; More had been
his intimate friend. It is after sacrificing them that his worst
deeds are done: the trumping-
up of charges against Anne,
the heartlessness of taking a
new wife the day after Anne's
execution, the brutal treatment
of Cromwell. The extraor-
dinary thing is the ascendancy
which he had over the mind,
the will, almost the conscience
even, of the best and greatest
men. It must be remembered
that he was cultured and
learned, many - sided in his
interests and his accomplish-
ments, and had thought
deeply on the stirring ques-
tions of his day. He was, in fact, a man of exceptional
abilities ; abilities which were predominantly practical. Ho
had a clear and fixed view of what was the wisest policy to

(Showing Renaissance Architecture.)


'/'///: OLD OHJiKi; CHANGED.


and this view lie forced through to tin.- end, often with
violence or fraud, with greed or cruelty. The moralist, the
religious biographer, the constitutional lawyer, will condemn
him. Yet in the general verdict of history it must be allowed
that much that he did was necessary, much was good, and out

HKMtV VIII. AT II IS DEVU'fluNS (MS. Hoy. _ A. xvi.).

of the evil itself came goodness in the final issue. Ho must
he pronounced the strongest, ablest, and most individual
personality among all English kings.

CHARLES THE immediate effect of the breach with Rome, the im-
BEAZLEY. position of the royal supremacy on the Church of England, the

The sever- subjection of Convocation to impotence, and the dissolution

ance from . . ,

Rome. ot the monasteries, was "not to vary, as Henry said, "in any

jot from the faith catholic," but to sever English Christianity
from the older ^Yestern federation, and to interweave Church
and State so closely that the Church became the nation in



one of its aspects, but without power of independent action,
controlled by that same nation in another aspect, by the lay
power represented in Parliament and the king.

Here was the secret of the permanence of the English church
Reformation in the social victory of the great lay classes
over the clerical estate, and their resolution to keep the
upper hand. So the reaction, when it comes in 1539, in 1553, is
limited in the nature of things. Mary herself flinches before
the question of the abbey lands. The poorer classes are at
least Catholic in sympathy, and both upper and middle
classes will sometimes profess repentance, but they will not
disgorge. For all interests were committed to the main work
of Henry VIII. Edward's doctrinal changes and practical
misrule made men willing to return to the older faith ; but at
the restoration of religious property and priestly power they
stopped. Rome was finally rejected because she never forgot
a claim or relinquished a possession that had once been hers.
The lay power in the State this, and not reformed doctrine,
or liberty of conscience, or a vernacular prayer-book, or
Catholic antiquity was the ultimate social principle of the
struggle. These other ideas had their place ; but they ail
rested upon that of mastery who is to rule ?

The new position of the Church was seen in the empha-
sised, half-spiritual dependence of the bishops on the Crown,
in the attempt to treat them as royal nominees appointed on
good behaviour, during the sovereign's lifetime, and so bound
to sue out new commissions at his death, ordained, translated,
and deposed at his will.

The same appears in the treatment of the lower clergy,
in the pulpit- tuning of Cromwell's regime, in the wholesale
revocation of preaching licences, in the destruction of the
monastic life. Again, in the tine of 1531, in the transfer of
annates from the Pope to the king, and in the general Church
plunder of these years perhaps equal to 4,000,000 in modern
value the clergy paid a direct compulsory tribute. It was no
"amicable loan" or "benevolence"; it was the submission to
the altered balance of power.

Lastly, a regal papacy was evolved out of a royal supremacy.
The "headship" clause of 1531, the articles of 1532 on Church
legislation, the Restraint of Appeals in 1533, the Act of





The Royal Supreme Head, together with the Acts of Succession and
Treason in 1534, and the king's commission to revise canon
law in 153G, give us the stages of this development. " For
subordinate purposes, such as dispensations and faculties,
Henry allowed Cramner as Primate to hold a qnasi-legatinc
authority under himself in Chancery, but in all such matters
he was the fountain both of power and justice ; and by
appointing Cromwell as Vicar-General, with authority and
precedence over all prelates and nobles, he exactly repro-
duced the Pope's exercise of direct powers through a Legate a
LaU-iv." In the same Avay it is by royal letters patent that
the English Bible is printed, and the new bishoprics 1 created, in
1539. Even the theological training of the people is under-
taken by the king, who approves or dictates the ' : Institution "
and " Erudition " " of a Christian Man " in 1537 and 1543 : " for
the King's Majesty hath the care of his subjects' souls as well
as of their bodies."

The last twenty years of Henry's reign Ml into two periods :
one of anti- clerical, an ti- Roman movement from 1529-39 ; one
of seeming Catholic reaction (1539-47). It will be necessary to
summarise the history of Church and State during these years,
noting the central interest in the struggle of clergy and laity,
and then perhaps the changes of the time will find their best
illustration in the history of religious usages.

First, in 1529 (November 3), a new era begins with the
Reformation Parliament. In the same year the Probate Act,
the Mortuaries Act, and the Pluralities Act are passed into
law, receiving the royal assent December 17th, in spite of the
opposition of Fisher to the two former, by which some of the
fees paid to the clergy were "revised." On November 30th,
1530, Wolsey dies at Leicester Abbey, and in December of the
same year the whole body of the clergy are declared to be
involved in his pramiunire.

On January 16th, 1531, the king's pardon is granted to
the province of Canterbury on a tine of 100,000 : on
February 7-1 1th, the article of Royal Supremacy is proposed
in Convocation, amended by Warham's rider, " as far as
Christ's law alloweth," and unanimously adopted. On May

1 Westminster. Oseney (Oxford). Chester. Gloucester. Bristol. Peterborough.
A Bull for erecting six new bishoprics had been obtained from Rome in 1 ~>3-.

The Anti




4th the Province of York buys the pardon for 18,000, and
the same submission to Henry's protectorate ; but next year
the attack is renewed in Parliament.

In the legislation of 1532 Benefit of Clergy is limited
to the higher orders (" sub-deacon at least "), and a suppli-
cation is presented against clerical legislation by the ordinaries
(March LS). On April 30th the Papal authority is tirst dis-
tinctly touched in the Act for Restraint of Annates, which,
however, is not even conditionally ratified till July 9th, 1533,


two days before the Papal decision against the divorce, but
is kept in reserve and held over the Court of Rome to
"compel them to hear reason."

On August 23rd Warham's death enables the king to place
a creature of his own, Thomas Cramner, in the primacy, and
to obtain from the chief of his clergy a formal sentence of
divorce from Catherine, and of sanction for his new marriage
with Anne (May 23 -June 1, 1533).

So far there had been no formal breach with Rome, but
only with the clerical ascendancy in the State even the

62 77/7-: <>LD ORDER CHARGED.


Annates Hill had not yet been confirmed: luit in June, 1533,
the king received certain news of the impending Papal decision,
given on July llth against the divorce. Accordingly he
appealed from the Pope to a General Council (June 29) and
summoned Parliament for the session of 1533-4 to pass the
Restraint of Appeals, the Restraint of Annates, and the Act
against Dispensations and Peter's Pence. This, with the
submission 1 of the clergy to a State revision of the canon law,
and the Act of Succession, completed the rough work of the
Judicial revolution. What followed was the result of the four
anti-Roman and the nine anti-clerical Acts of the past five
years. The meaning of the whole movement. " to make this


realm of England an empire governed by one lord," was
gathered up in the Act of the King's Supreme Headship
(November 3, 1534), and in the proclamation of the new title
(January 15, 1535). The Primate passed from a Legate of the
Apostolic See into a Metropolitan : the new State authority
over Church law was expressed in the commission of thirty-two
actually appointed for the revision of canons in 1536, and the
several great Acts of Spoliation completed the destructive work.
For before the end of 1534 the annates, now definitely taken
from the Pope, were given to the Crown, and the suppression
of the smaller monasteries in 1536, and of the greater- in 1539,
provided the sinews of Avar for later struggles.

THE suppression of religious houses in England was not effected
by one act of legislation, nor accomplished at one time.

1 The exact share of Convocation in the work of the Eeformation Parlia-
ment is hard to fix. Latimer says in a sermon (June I), 153<>), preached lief ore
Convocation : " What have ye done these seven years, that England hath been
the better of a hair / Two things only : one. that ye burned a dead man ;
the other, that ye went about to burn one being alive." Yet, on the other
hand, it was maintained (<;/'. Fuller. V.. 1SS) that "nothing was done in the
I Jr formation but what was asked by Convocation, or grounded on some act of
theirs precedent," and the list of measures taken in Convocation gives us:
(1 ). in i:>34, a declaration that the Bishop of Rome hath no greater authority
in England than any other foreign bishop, and a Petition for an authorised
English Bible : (2). in l.~>3i>. a complaint of forty-nine popular errors and the
passing of Ten Articles of Religion "to stablish Christian quietness" ; (3), in
i:>3!), the Six Articles approved ; (4), in l. r >42, the '-First Book of Homilies"
introduced and authorised; (.V). in i:>43. the "Erudition" confirmed; (<i), in
l.~)44. the English Litany authorised.


Several events led np to, and prepared the way for, the first F- A.
Act of Parliament by which the lesser monastic establishments The ms-
were dissolved, liiirhtlv or wrongly, the general body of solution

11- 1 J TT ' 1 ' Of the

conventual ecclesiastics were regarded as against Henry in his Monas-
qnarrel with Rome, and their convents were described as so teries -
many " garrisons of the Pope " in England. In the matter
of his divorce from Katherine, too, the king had reason for
thinking that some of the religious bodies were in practical


[//( u-liicli the "Holy Maid" prophesied.]

sympathy with the queen and opposed to his wishes. The The
Friars Observant the strictest and most respected branch of observant,
the Franciscan Order were the first to experience the resent-
ment of Henry. Two of these friars were implicated with the
"Holy Maid of Kent," and suffered with her at Tyburn on
20th April, 1584. Two others, Friars Peto and Elstow,
had, in their church at Greenwich and in the royal
presence, boldly attacked his marriage with Anne. By the
early summer of 1534, Parliament, under the skilful manage-
ment of Cromwell, had proved itself so pliable to Henry's will



that he was able to proceed against the Greenwich friars. They
were called upon to profess their adherence to the royal
supremacy, to reject Papal authority, and to take an oath
of allegiance to (^ueen Anne. Numerous attempts were made
to bend these friars to the Royal will, but in vain ; and the
suppression of the entire Order of Observants followed quickly
upon their refusal of the articles proposed by the king's officials.
Before the end of August, 1534, the seven houses of English
Observant Friars had been emptied of their members, and about
two hundred were thrown into prison.

The car- Before the final dispersion of the Franciscan Observants

the Crown had commenced its conflict with the Carthusian
Order. These secluded religious had taken no active part in
the thorny questions which surrounded the divorce, but yet
their influence, which, owing to the undoubted sanctity of their
lives, was considerable, was unquestionably exercised against
Henry's rejection of Papal supremacy. In the spring of 1534,
therefore, the troubles of the monks of the London Charterhouse
commenced. The king was by this time fully committed to the
breach with Rome, and had already made up his mind to
override all opposition to this determination. The London
Carthusians had the highest reputation for strictness of life,
whilst a fearless superior, Prior John Houghton, presided over
them. Chauncy, one of his subjects, says: "He was admired
and sought after by all, and by his community was most beloved
and esteemed." Early in April, 1534, the royal officials visited
the monastery and demanded the signatures of the fathers to
the oath of succession. First at a private interview and then
publicly in Chapter, Houghton refused, saying " he could not
understand how it was possible that a marriage ratified by the
Church and so long unquestioned could be undone." To this
view the whole community adhered.

Prior Houghton and Humfrey Middlemore, the procurator
of the convent, were quickly committed to the Tower ;
there they remained for some weeks. Then, persuaded by
the arguments of some who visited them, they consented to
take the oath "as far as it was lawful." Six months later, on
.January 15th, 1535, the new title of "Supreme Head" was,
by decree of Council, incorporated in the king's style, and in
April Prior Houghton, Robert Laurence, the prior of tho




Charterhouse of Beauvale, and Augustine Webster, prior of
Axholme, in Lincolnshire, anticipated the coming of the Royal
Commissioners, and in a personal interview with Cromwell,
declared that they could never take the required oath. They
were forthwith sent once more to the Tower, and on the 28th
of April were indicted for that they " did, on the 26th April,
27 Henry VIIL, at the Tower of London . . . openly declare


{From cm old print.)

and say, ' the king, our sovereign lord, is not supreme head in
earth of the Church of England.' ' They were found guilty
of this new form of verbal treason, and executed at Tyburn on
the 4th of May of this same year, 1535. Over the gateway of
the Charterhouse in London the arm of Prior Houghton was
fixed as a warning to his brethren. A week or two later three
more were lodged in prison, where, as the historian StoAv relates,
they " first stood in prison upright chained from the neck to



the arms, and their legs fettered with locks and chains, by the
space of thirteen days," when they were executed.

For two years the rest of the community were kept with
great strictness in their house, whilst every effort was made to
induce them to comply with Henry's demand. Most of them
continued unshaken in their determination, and in May,
1530, those who held out Avere sent to other houses. At
length, in May, 1537, the Commissioners attended at the
Charterhouse to demand the oath. Twenty took it, but ten
still resolutely refused and were carried off to prison, where,
in a few Aveeks, as StoAV says, nine of their number died " Avith
stink and miserably smothered." The tenth lingered on in
prison till 4th August, 1540, Avhen he Avas hanged at Tyburn.
The tAventy members AA T !IO had taken the oath on the promise
of a pension, surrendered their house to the king. They con-
tinued, hoAvever, to liA-e there until the 15th of November,
1539, when they Avere forcibly expelled, the monastic buildings
being subsequently granted out as a place 'to store royal tents
and engines of Avar.

The Meantime, preparations were being pushed on for a measure

visitation f more general suppression of religious houses. By the middle
of 1534 Commissioners were at work in all parts of England
tendering the neAv oath of supremacy, which, in the minds
of king and ir.lnister, Avas to be accounted the touchstone
of loyalty and religion. Lord Herbert states that the scheme
for the dissolution of monasteries Avas discussed at a meeting
of the Council, Avhere it met with considerable opposition.
The disapproval of the measure must haA'e convinced the king
of the need of caution. In the authority to visit all monasteries
formerly subject to the Pope, Avhich Parliament had bestoAved
upon the king tAvo years previously, Henry, or more probably
CromAvell, Avas not S!OAV to recognise a valuable aid to attain
the desired end. A general visitation of all religious houses
Avas consequently determined upon. The chief visitors
Legh, Lay ton, Ap Rice, London, and Bedyll were armed
Avith the most complete authority, and their own letters
are sufficient evidence that they fully understood that the
purpose of the visitation Avas to find a suitable pretext for
suppression, or by their A'exatious injunctions to compel sur-
render. The visitors passed very rapidly from place to place




in the autumn of 1535 and till the meeting of Parliament in
February, 1536. The reports, or compertes as they were called,
which the agents furnished to Cromwell, seem to show that by
no means all the monastic houses had been inspected. Suffi-
cient had, however, been done to serve the royal purpose, and,
true or false, their tales were used to induce Parliament to
suppress the lesser religious establishments and to hand over
their possessions to the king.

The comperta or compertes, together with the various letters

Photo: York & Son, Sotting Hill, 1C.

written by the visitors whilst on their rounds, are the chief
grounds of accusation against the character of the monks. It
should in fairness be borne in mind that they do not profess
to be more than reports, and there is no evidence of any
investigation ; Avhilst, as Mr. Gairdner, the historian of this
period, says, " considering the rapidity with which the work
was done, the investigations could hardly have been very
judicially conducted." It may be admitted that the summary
of what was alleged against the moral state of many religious



houses, even, be it remembered, some of the greatest in the
kingdom, presents u Muck enough picture. Still it, should lie
remembered that the whole of the charges rests upon the;
worth of the visitors' word alone.

Tlie In March, 1536, Parliament passed the Act by which the

Houses smaller monasteries were dissolved. The preamble of 1 1n-
Dissolved, measure itself contains practically all that is known of its
origin and of the motives which induced the House to p:iss
it. From this it would seem that the Bill was promoted by
the Crown, and was accepted on the assurance of the king
that evil lives were being led in religious houses where the
number of inmates was less than twelve. Of this, says the pre-
amble, Henry had " knowledge ... as well by the com pcrtc*
of his late visitation as by sundry credible informations."
And as a further reason, it was stated that the religious in
the smaller monasteries would be useful to swell the ranks of
" divers and great solemn monasteries of this realm (wherein,
thanks be to God. religion is right well kept and observed),"
and which "be destitute of such full numbers of religious
persons as they ought and may keep." Acting upon this
declaration, " the Lords and Commons by a great deliberation
finally resolved " that the king should take possession of all
monasteries which possessed an income of less than 200 a
year ; so " that his highness may . . . dispose of them, or
any of them, at his will and pleasure to the honour of (!od
and the wealth of this realm."

To deal with the lands, movables, and other possessions
which would come into the king's hands by this measure of
suppression, Parliament sanctioned the creation of a special
court, called the " Court of Augmentations " The institution of
this has been regarded by historians as an indication that, at
the time of the dissolution of the lesser monasteries, Henry
contemplated further and more extensive measures in regard
to ecclesiastical property. It was constituted, with Sir Richard
Rich as first chancellor and Sir Thomas Pope as treasurer, on
the 24th of April, 1536.

As a first step to the taking possession of the monastic
possessions, it became necessary to determine which houses
came within the pecuniary limit of 200 a year. With this
object, the royal commission was directed to some of the leading

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 11 of 68)