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him a' kind message and a ring, he alighted from his mule, took
off his cap, and kneeled down in the dirt. His poor fool, whom
in his prosperous days he had always kept in his palace to en-
tertain him, cut a far better figure than he ; for when the car-
dinal said to the chamberlain that he had nothing to send to
his lord the king as a present but that jester, who was a most
excellent one, it took six strong yeomen to remove the faithful
fool from his maste*"


The once proud cardinal was soon further disgraced, and
wrote the most abject letters to his vile sovereign, who hum-
bled him one day and encouraged him the next, according to
his liumor, until he was at last ordered to go and reside in his
diocese of York. He said he was too poor ; but I don't know
how he made that out ; for he took a hundred and sixty ser-
vants with him, and seventy-two cart-loads of furniture, food,
and wine. He remained in that part of the country for the
best part of a year, and showed himself so improved by his mis-
fortunes, and was so mild and so conciliating, that he won all
hearts. And indeed, even in his proud days, he had done
some magnificent things for learning and education. At last
he was arrested for high treason ; and, coming slowly on his
journey towards London, got as far as Leicester. Arriving at
Leicester Abbey after dark, and very ill, he said — when the
monks came out at the gate with lighted torches to receive him
■ — that he had come to lay his bones among them. He had in-
deed ; for he was taken to a bed, from which he never rose
again. His last words were, " Had I but served God as
diligently as I have served the king, he would not have given
me over in my gray hairs. Howbeit, this is my just reward for
/ny pains and diligence, not regarding my service to God, but
cnly my duty to my prince." The news of his death was quickly
carried to the king, who was amusing himself with archery in
the garden of the magnificent palace at Hampton Court, which
that very Wolsey had presented to him. The greatest emotion
/lis royal mind displayed at the loss of a servant, so faithful and
so ruined, was a particular desire to lay hold of fifteen hundred
pounds which the cardinal was reported to have hidden some-

The opinions concerning the divorce, of the learned doctors
and bishops and others, being at last collected, and being gen-
erally in the king's favor, were forwarded to the pope, with an
entreaty that he would now grant it. The unfortunate pope,
who was a timid man, was half distracted between his fear of
his authority being set aside in England if he did not do as he
was asked, and his dread of offending the Emperor of Germany,
who was Queen Catherine's nephew. In this state of mind he
still evaded, and did nothing. Then Thomas Cromwell, who
had been one of Wolsey's faithful attendants, and had remained
so even in his decline, advised the king to take the matter into
his own hands, and make himself the head of the whole Church.
This the king, by various artful means, began to do ; but he
recompensed the clergy by allowing theflft to burn as many


people as tliey pleased for holding Luther's opinions. You
must understand that Sir Thomas More, the wise man who had
helped the king with his book, had been made chancellor in
Wolsey's place. But, as he was truly attached to the Church
as it was, even in its abuses, he, in this state of things, resigned.

Being now quite resolved to get rid of Queen Catherine, and
to marry Anne Boleyn without more ado, the king made Cran-
mer Archbishop of Canterbury, and directed Queen Catherine
to leave the court. She obeyed ; but replied that, wherever she
went, she was Queen of England still, and would remain so to
the last. The king then married Anne Boleyn privately ; and
the new Archbishop of Canterbury, within half a year, declared
his marriage with Queen Catherine void, and crowned Anne
Boleyn queen.

She might have known that no good could ever come from
such wrong, and that the corpulent brute who had been so faith-
less and so cruel to his first wife could be more faithless and
more cruel to his second. She might have known, that even
when he was in love with her, he had been a mean and selfish
coward, running away, like a frightened cur, from her society
and her house, when a dangerous sickness broke out in it, and
when she might easily have taken it and died, as several of the
household did. But Anne Boleyn arrived at all this knowledge
too late, and bought it at a dear price. Her bad marriage with
a worse man came to its natural end. Its natural end was not,
as we shall too soon see, a natural death for her.


england under henry the eighth.

Part the Second.

The pope was thrown into a very angry state of mind when
he heard of the king's marriage, and fumed exceedingly. Many
of the English monks and friars, seeing that their order was in
danger, did the same ; some even declaimed against the king
in church, before his face, and were not to be stopped until he
himself roared out, •' Silence ! " The king, not much the worse
for this, took it pretty quietly \ and was very glad when his



queen gave birth to a daughter, who was christened Elizabeth
and declared Princess of Wales, as her sister Mary had alread'

One of the most atrocious features of this reign was tha»
Henry the Eighth was always trimming between the reformea
religion and the unreformed one ; so that the more he quarrelled
with the pope, the more of his own subjects he roasted alive
for not holding the pope's opinion. Thus, an unfortunate stu-
dent named John Frith, and a poor simple tailor named Andrew
Hewet, who loved him very much, and said that whatever Johr
Frith believed, he believed, were burnt in Smithfield, — to shov
what a capital Christian the king was.

But these were speedily followed by two much greater v* -
tims. Sir Thomas More, and John Fisher, the Bishop of Roch'^s-
ter. The latter, who was a good and amiable old man, had
committed no greater offence than believing in Elizabeth Bar-
ton, called the Maid of Kent, — another of those ridiculous
women who pretended to be inspired, and to make all sorts of
heavenly revelations, though they indeed uttered nothing but
evil nonsense. For this offence — as it was pretended, but
really for denying the king to be the supreme head of the
Church — he got into trouble, and was put in prison ; but, even
then, he might have been suffered to die naturally (short work
having been made of executing the Kentish Maid and her prin-
cipal followers), but that the pope, to spite the king, resolved
lo make him a cardinal. Upon that the king made a ferocious
Joke to the effect that the pope might send Fisher a red hat
(which is the way they make a cardinal), but he should have no
head on which to wear it ; and he wa3 tried with all unfairness
and injustice, and sentenced to death. He died like a noble
And virtuous old man, and left a worthy name behind him. The
i^ing supposed, I daresay, that Sir Thomas More would be
frightened by this example ; but as he was not easily terrified,
and, thoroughly believing in the pope, had made up his mind
that the king was not the rightful head of the Church, he posi-
tively refused to say that he was. For this crime, he too, was
tried and sentenced, after having been in prison a whole year.
When he was doomed to death, and came away from his trial
with the edge of the executioner's axe turned towards him, — as
was always done in those times when a state prisoner came to
that hopeless pass, — he bore it quite serenely, and gave his
blessing to his son, who pressed through the crowd in West-
minster Hall, and kneeled down to receive it. But when he got
to the Tower wharf, on his way back to his prison, and his


favorite daughter, Margaret Roper, a very good woman, rushed
through the guards again and again to kiss him, and to weep
upon his neck, he was overcome at last. He soon recovered,
and never more showed any feeling but cheerfulness and cour-
age. Wh^n he was going up the steps of the scaffold to his
death, he said jokingly to the lieutenant of the Tower, observ-
ing that they were weak and shook beneath his tread, " I pray
you. Master Lieutenant, see me safe up ; and, for my coming
down, I can shift for himself." Also he said to the executioner
after he had laid his head upon the block, '* Let me put my
beard out of the way ; for that, at least, has never committed
any treason." Then his head was struck off at a blow. These
two executions were worthy of King Henry the Eighth. Sir
Thomas More was one of the most virtuous men in his domin-
ions, and the bishop was one of his oldest and truest friends.
But to be a friend of that fellow was almost as dangerous as to
be his wife.

When the news of these two murders got to Rome, the pope
raged against the murderer more than ever pope raged since
the world began, and prepared a bull, ordering his subjects to
take arms against him and dethrone him. The king took all
possible precautions to keep that document out of his domin-
ions, and set to work in return to suppress a great number of
the English monasteries and abbeys.

This destruction was begun by a body of commissioners, of
whom Cromwell (whom the king had taken into great favor)
was the head ; and was carried on through some few years to
its entire completion. There is no doubt that many of these
religious establishments were religious in nothing but in name,
and were crammed with lazy, indolent, and sensual monks.
There is no doubt that they imposed upon the people in every
possible way ; that they had images moved by wires, which they
pretended were miraculously moved by Heaven ; that they had
among them a whole tun-measure full of teeth, all purporting to
have come out of the head of one saint, who must indeed have
been a very extraordinary person with that enormous allowance
of grinders ; that they had bits of coal which they said had
fried St. Lawrence, and bits of toe-nails which they said be-
longed to other famous saints, penknives and boots and girdles
which they said belonged to others ; and that all these bits of
rubbish were called relics, and adored by the ignorant people.
But, on the other hand, there is no doubt, either, that the
king's officers and men punished the good monks with the bad ;
did great injustice ; demolished many .beautiful things and


many valuable libraries , destroyed numbers of paintings, stained-
glass windows, fine pavements, and carvings ; and that ihe
whole court were ravenously greedy and rapacious for the divi-
sion of this great spoil among them. The king seems to have
grown almost mad m the ardor of this pursuit ; for he declared
Thomas a Becket a traitor, though he had been dead so manv
years, and had his body dug up out of his grave. He mus\
have been as miraculous as the monks pretended. If they had
told the truth ; for he was found with one head on his shoulders,
and they had shown another as his undoubted and genuine
head ever since his death ; it had brought them vast sums of
money too. The gold and jewels on his shrine filled two great
chests, and eight men tottered as they carried them away. How
rich the monasteries were you may infer from the tact, diat
when they were all suppressed, one hundred and thirty thousand
pounds a year — in those days an immense sum — came to the

These things were not done without causing great discon-
tent among the people. The monks had been good landlords
and hospitable entertainers of all travellers, and had been ac-
customed to give away a great deal of corn and fruit and meat
and other things. \w those da\ s it was difficult to chansfe goods
mto money, in consequence of the roads being very few and
very bad, and the carts and wagons of the worst description ;
and they must either have given away some of the good things
they possessed in enormous quanities, or have suffered them
to spoil and moulder. So, many of the jDeople missed what it
was more agreeable to get idly than to work for ; and the
monks, who were driven out of their homes and wandered
about, encouraged their discontent, and there were, conse-
quently, great risings in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire. These
were put down by terrific executions, from which the monks
themselves did not escape ; and the king went on grunting and
growling in his own fat way, like a royal pig.

I have told this story of the religious houses at one time, to
make it plainer, and to get back to the king's domestic aftairs.

The unfortunate Queen Catherine was by this time dead ;
and the king was by this time tired of his second queen as he
had been of his first. As he had fallen in love with Anne when
she was in the service of Catherine, so he now fell in love with
another lady in the service of Anne. See how wicked deeds
are punished and how bitterly and self-reproachful the queen
must now have thought of her own rise to the throne ! The
new fancy was a Lady Jane Seymour ; and the king no sooner



set his mind on her, than he resolved to have Anne Bo\eyn'»
head. So he brought a number of charges against Anne, ac-
cusing her of dreadful crimes which she had never committed,
and impHcating in them her own brother and certain gentlemen
in her service, am»ong whom one Norris, and Mark Smeaton,
are best remembered. As the lords and councillors were as
afraid of the king and as subservient to him as the meanest
peasant in England was, they brought in Anne Boleyn guilty^
and the other unfortunate persons accused with her, guilty too.
Those gentlemen died like men, with the exception of Smeaton,
who had been tempted by the king into telling lies, which he
called confessions, and who had expected to be pardoned ; but
who, I am very glad to say, was not. There was then only the
queen to dispose of. She had been surrounded in the Tower
with women spies, had been monstrously persecuted and foully
slandered, and had received no justice. But her spirit rose
with her afflictions ; and after having in vain tried to soften the
king by writing an affecting letter to him which still exists,
" from her doleful prison in the tower," she resigned herself to
death. She said to those about her, very cheerfully, that she
had heard say that the executioner was a good one, and that she
had a little neck (she laughed and clasped it v.'ith her hands as
she said that), and would soon be out of her pain. And she
was soon out of pain, poor creature ! on the green inside the
Tower ; and her body was flung into an old box, and put away
into the ground under the chapel.

There is a story that the king sat in his palace listening
very anxiously for the sound of the cannon which was to an-
nounce this new murder ; and that, when he heard it come
booming on the air, he rose up in great spirits, and ordered out
his dogs to go a hunting. He was bad enough to do it ; but
whether he did it or not, it is certain that he married Jane Sey-
mour the very next day.

I have not much pleasure in recording that she lived just long
enough to give birth to a son, who was christened Edward, and
then to die of fever ; for I cannot but think that any woman
who married such a ruffian, and knew what innocent blood was
on his hands. deser\'ed the axe that would assuredly have fallen
on the neck of Jane Seymour if she had lived much longer.

Cranmer had done what he could to save some of the Church
property for purposes of religion and education ; but the great
families had been so hungry to get hold of it, that very little
could be rescued for such objects. Even Miles Coverdale, who
did the people the inestimable service of translating the Bible


Into English (which the unreformed religion never permitted to
be done), was left in poverty while ihe great families clutched
the Church lands and money. The people had been told that,
when the crown came into possession of these funds, it would
not be necessary to tax them ; but they were taxed afresh,
directly afterwards. It was fortunate for them, indeed, that so
many nobles were so greedy for this wealth ; since, if it had
remained with the crown, there might have been no end to
tyranny for hundreds of years. One of the most active writers
on the Church's side against the king was a member of his own
family, a sort of distant cousin, Reginald Pole by name, who
attacked him in the most violent manner (though he received a
pension from him all the time), and fought for the Church with
his pen, day and night. As he was beyond the king's reach,
being in Italy, the king politely invited him over to discuss the
subject ; but he, knowing better than to come, and wisely stay-
ing where he was, the king's rage fell upon his brother. Lord
Montague, the Marquis of Exeter, and some other gentlemen,
who were tried for high treason in corresponding with him and
aiding him, which they probably did, and were all executed.
The pope made Reginald Pole a cardinal ; but so much against
his will, that it is thought he even aspired in his own mind to
the vacant throne of England, and had hopes of marr}dng the
Princess Mary. His being made a high priest, however, put an
end to all that. His mother, the venerable Countess of Salis-
bury, who was, unfortunately for herself, within the tyrant's
reach, was the last of his relatives on whom his wrath fell.
When she was told to lay her gray head upon the block, she
answered the executioner, "No! my head never committed
treason, and if you want it, you shall seize it ! " So she ran
round and round the scaffold, with the executioner striking at
her, and her gray hair bedabbled with blood ; and, even when
they held her down upon the block, she moved her head about
to the last, resolved to be no party to her own barbarous mur-
der. All this the people bore, as they had borne ever\t'.:i!.^

Indeed, they bore much more ; for the slow fires of Smith-
field were continually burning, and people were constantly
being roasted to death, — still to show what a good Christian
the king was. He defied the pope and his bull, which was now
issued, and had come into England ; but he burned innumerable
people whose only offence was that they differed from the pope's
religious opinions. There was a wretched man named Lambert
among others, who was tried for this before the king, and with



whom six bishops argued, one after another. When he was
quite exhausted (as well he might be, after six bishops'), he
threw himself on the king's mercy ; but the king blustered out
that he had no mercy for heretics. So he^ too, fed the fire.

All this the people bore, and more than all this yet. The
national spirit seems to have been banished from the kingdom
at this time. The very people who were executed for treason,
the very wives and friends of the " bluff ** king, spoke of him on
the scaffold as a good prince, and a gentle prince, just as serfs
in similar circumstances have been known to do, under the
sultan and bashaws of the East, or under the fierce old tyrants
of Russia, who poured boiling and freezing water on them al-
ternately, until they died. The Parliament was as bad as the
rest, and gave the king whatever he wanted ; among other vile
accommodations, they gave him new powers of murdering, at
his will and pleasure, anyone whom he might choose to call a
traitor. But the worst measure they passed was an act of six
articles, commonly called, at the time, " the whip with six
strings," which punished offences against the pope's opinions
without mercy, and enforced the very worst parts of the
monkish religion. Cranmer would have modified it, if he
could ; but, being overborne by the Romish party, had not the
power. As one of the articles declared that the priest should
not marry, and as he was married himself, he sent his wife and
children into Germany, and began to tremble at his danger ;
none the less because he was, and had long been the king's
friend. This whip of six strings was made under the king's
own eye. It should never be forgotten of him how cruelly he
supported the worst of the popish doctrines wlien there was
nothing to be got by opposing them.

This amiable monarch now thought of taking another wife.
He proposed to the French king to have some of tliC ladies of
the French court exhibited before him, that he might make his
royal choice ; but the French king answered that he would
rather not have his ladies trotted out to be shown like horses
at a fair. He proposed to the Dowager Duchess of Milan, who
replied that she might have thought of such a match if she had
had two heads ; but that, only owning one, she must beg to
keep it safe. At last Cromwell represented that there was a
Protestant princess in Germany, — those who held the reformed
religion were called Protestants, because their leaders had pro-
tested against the abuses and impositions of the unreformed
church, — named Anne of Cleves, who was beautiful and would
answer the purpose admirably. The king said, Was she a large



woman I because he must have a fat wife, " O yes ! " said
Cromwell ; "she was very large, just the thing." On hearing
this, the king sent over his famous painter, Hans Holbein, to
take her portrait. Hans made her out to be so good-looking
that the king was satisfied, and the marriage was arranged.
But whether anybody had paid Hans to touch up the picture,
or whether Hans, like one or two other painters, flattered a
princess in the ordinary way of business, I cannot say ; all I
know is, that when Anne came over, and the king went to
Rochester to meet her, and first saw her without her seeing
him, he swore she was " a great Flanders mare," and said he
would never marry her. Being obliged to do it, now matters
had gone so far, he would not give her the presents he had
prepared, and would never notice her. He never forgave
Cromwell his part in the affair. His downfall dates from that

It was quickened by his enemies, in the interests of the un-
reformed religion, putting in the king's way, at a state dinner,
a niece of the Duke of Norfolk, Catherine Howard, a young
lady of fascinating manners, though small in stature and not
particularly beautiful. Falling in love with her on the spot, the
king soon divorced Anne of Cleves, after making her the sub-
ject of much brutal talk, on pretence that she had been pre-
viously betrothed to some one else, — which would never do for
(3ne of his dignity, — and married Catherine. It is probable
that on his wedding day, of all days in the year, he sent his
faithful Cromwell to the scaffold, and had his head struck off.
He further celebrated the occasion by burning at one t:mc. and
causing to be drawn to the fire on the same hurdles, some Prot-
estant prisoners for denying the pope's doctrines, and some
Roman Catholic prisoners for denying his own supremacy.
Still the people bore it, and not a gentleman in Englar.d
raised his hand.

But, by a just retribution, it soon came out that Catherine
Howard, before her marriage, had been really guilty of such
crimes as the king had falsely attributed to his second wife,
Anne Boleyn ; so again the dreadful axe made the king a
widower, and this queen passed away as so many in that reign
had passed away before her. As an appropriate pursuit under
the circumstances, Henry then applied himself to superintend-
ing the composition of a religious book, called " A Necessary
Doctrine for any Christian Man." He must have been a little
confused in his mind, I think, at about this period ; for he was so
talse to himself as tc beirue to some one, — that some one being


Cranmer, whom the Duke of Norfolk and others of his enemies
tried to ruin, but to whom the king was steadfast, and to whom
he one night gave his ring, charging him, when he should hnd
himself, next day, accused of treason, to show it to the council
board. This Cranmer did, to the confusion of his enemies. 1
suppose the king thought he might want him a little longer.

He married yet once more. Yes ; strange to say, he found
in England another woman who would become his wife ; and
she was Catherine Parr, widow of Lord Latimer. She leaned
towards the reformed religion ; and it is some comfort to know,
that she tormented the king considerably by arguing a variety

Online LibraryCharles DickensA child's history of England → online text (page 24 of 38)