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spiracy. Compelled perhaps in the infancy of his power
to prefer policy to arms, he sought to govern Ireland
through its local chiefs, the greatest of whom was Kil-
dare, the head of the bastard sept of Geraldine, saying,
when he was told that all Ireland could not govern
Kildare, that if it were so Kildare must govern all Ire-
land. He, however, sent over a strong deputy in the
1494 person of Sir Edward Poynings, and brought the parlia-
ment of Ireland, which was merely that of' the Pale, under
the control of the English government by two enact-
ments, one requiring all Irish legislation to receive the
1494 previous assent of the English council, the other making
all English laws operative in Ireland. Henry VIII.,
strong in the power which his father had bequeathed to
1542 him, took the title of king of Ireland in place of that of
lord under the pope, and resumed the task of conquest.
But he also was drawn away by his vanity to chimerical
adventure on the continent, and the Irish service was
starved. Soon, to the deadly animosities of race in that,
island of strife, was to be added the deadly animosity of

The event of the reign, however, is that which here is

not very aptly called the Reformation. The time for the

revolt of the Teutonic nations against the Latin theocracy

was now fully come. The papacy, after its return from

1408 Avignon to Rome, had in some measure recovered its

1378- authority. But it had since been disgraced by schism,

1439 ^y ^^® portentous appearance of three rival popes, by the

arraignment of its scandalous chiefs and the exposure of

their corruption before general councils, by the monstrous


vices of the Borgias, the outrageous secularism of Julius II.,
and the paganism of Leo X. Cultured and sceptical in-
telligence with the pen of Erasmus, the Voltaire of his
day, had mocked at its superstitions, its thaumaturgy,
its false miracles and apocryphal relics, its ignorant and
obscurantist monkery. Erasmus had made a satirical
pilgrimage to the shrine of the great ecclesiastical martyr,
Thomas Becket. In terrible earnest Luther, Zwingli, and
the young Calvin, representatives of the serious spirit of
the Teuton and his love of truth, had given the signal for
revolt from the falsehood and the formalism which wer'e
destructive of spiritual life. Northern Germany and
Switzerland had renounced the papal faith and rule.
Some time before, the seeds of Wycliffism had been carried
by students to Bohemia, who in her own wild way had
raised the standard of religious rebellion, and had given
martyrs to reform in the persons of John Huss and Jerome 1415
of Prague. Catholics of the more liberal and evangelical 1416
school, such as Contarini and Pole, were ready not only
to reform abuses, but to make doctrinal concessions to
protestantism, even to recognize as fundamental the doc-
trine of justification by faith. For the reunion of Chris-
tendom they looked forward to a general council. Their
hope might have been fulfilled and Christendom might
have been spared two centuries of havoc, material and
moral, the moral worse than the material, if the wealth
and earthly greatness of an enormously rich and powerful
priesthood had not been bound up with papal supremacy,
priestly control of the spiritual life through the sacra-
ments, transubstantiation, purgatory, and the confessional;
if, it may be added, there had not been a vital bond be- '
tween priestcraft and kingcraft, between papal supremacy


and royal absolutism, between spiritual thraldom and po-
litical submission. As it was, the hope of Contarini and
Pole was vain. When the general council, so much
desired, came, it was not a council of healing and reunion,
1545 but the council of Trent.


In England the revolution was less doctrinal than po-
litical and social. Lollardism, if not dead, had slunk
into obscurity. Of Wycliffe, there remained in Eng-
land little more than his Bible, Avhich, like his doc-
trines, was proscribed. In the reign of Henry VI.,
Pecock, a liberal divine, the Arnold or Stanley of his
day, had essayed to preach a rational and comprehensive
religion, but he had been at once put down. The people
in general, in the rural districts at least, still were,
and long continued to be, attached in a dull way to the
old religion, with its ritual and its festivals, with its
transubstantiation and its seven sacraments, with its
purgatory and its prayers for the dead. Nor can we
wonder at its hold when we see its resurrection, fleeting
though it may be, in our own day. The chief religious
movement was among the men of intellect, such as More,
Colet, Linacre, Grocyn, and Pole, of whose circle Eras-
mus, when he paid them a visit, was the centre. These
men looked to the sun of learning and education to chase
away the shadows of superstition ; warred rather against
monkish stupidity and torpor than against anything in
the creed or constitution of the church; and hoped that
enlightened authority, assuming the guidance of reform,
would make the past slide quietly into the future.

To the English people in general the pope, though
undisputed head of Christendom and holder of the keys,
had always been a foreign power, revered, perhaps, and


dreaded, but not greatly loved. The tribute wliich he
extorted, and which the exigencies of his ambitious quar-
rels made more grinding, had always been grudgingly
paid, particularly when it took the scandalous form of the
appropriation of English benefices to Italians who drew
the incomes at Rome. Resistance to papal abuse, fiscal
and in the way of patronage, had been commenced by
Grosseteste in the reign of Henry III. It was continued
at intervals from that time. Edward I. had compelled
the clergy to submit to national taxation. The statute 1350
of Provisors had barred the appropriation of benefices by
the pope, that of Praemunire had barred papal interfer- 1393
ence by means of bulls and legatine commissions ; though
the statute of Provisors was much evaded, the crown
going shares with ^ tlie pope, while the statute of Prae-
munire was at that time unequivocally set at naught by
Wolsey's commission as legate. The pope still drew his
first-fruits from English benefices; he still received his
Peter's pence; the Roman Curia still sold to English
suitors ecclesiastical judgments and dispensations from
the canon law, particularly from the law of marriage.*
The crown having the power of granting licenses in mort-
main, and chancellors being churchmen, the wealth of the
church, notwithstanding the statute, had continued to
grow. Her estates, apart from tithe, formed by this time
no small portion of the landed property of the realm.
They were ever on the increase; they could never come
back into circulation ; and as of their possessors a great
many were drones, they were an incubus on the industry
of the nation. In the Reformation, economical as well
as spiritual and intellectual causes were largely at work.
Church courts also excited intense hatred by their vexa-


tious enforcement of an effete system of discipline for the
sake of the fees and fines; by their interference with
wills, a province of law which they had usurped; by the
prying tyranny of the official harpies who lived on them;
and at this time by their inquisitorial persecutions of
what they and the law styled heresy. The inhabitants of
the cities, especially, vexed in their purses and in their
persons, learnt to hate the clergy, and, if active-minded,
to question the clerical creed. A citizen of London,
confined on a charge of heresy in the bishops' prison,
was found hanged in his cell. It was given out that he
had committed suicide. But the chancellor of the diocese
was indicted for murder, and it was held that if the case
came to trial before a common jury there would be little
chance of his acquittal, since, as a bishop said, London
juries were so prejudiced against the church that they
would have found Abel guilty of the murder of Cain.
The immunities of the clerical order from the criminal
law, though by this time reduced, still sheltered criminal
clerks from justice. The noxious privilege of sanctuary
still prevailed. Clerical corruption and indolence, the
sure offspring of a plethoric establishment; the concu-
binage to which the rule of celibacy drove men, whose
passions it could not extinguish, and of which popes and
prelates, Wolsey among them, set the example ; the abuse
of church patronage as payment for secular services, or
for the purposes of nepotism; the pluralities; the sine-
curism; the robbery of parishes by the monastic appro-
priation of tithes; the knavish mendicity of the friars;
the worldly greed and pride of the whole clerical order,
could not fail to produce their effect on opinion. These
things stirred the people more than theological doubt


or spiritual aspiration. Yet it is truly said that there
was growing up, especially among the middle classes in
the cities, a plain morality which revolted from the for-
malities, hypocrisies, and casuistries of the church. The
printing press was now in full activity. Opinion had
become popular and European. The continental move-
ment could not in any case have failed at last to make
its way to England.

In Catholicism, however, there was some salt of genu-
ine religion still left. There was a spiritual life which
was still essentially sacerdotal and sacramental. There
was an intense attachment to the unity of the church.
Catholicism will have its martyrs; it will have popular
risings in its favour; it will presently have its revival
and its self-reform. Even in our own day it will draw
back to it gifted and cultivated minds.

Wolsey, an English Leo X., was, like his Italian
counterpart, a loose liver, and as a non-resident arch-
bishop a signal instance of ecclesiastical abuse. But,
like Leo, he was a friend of learning, and thus a reformer
in the intellectual way. Nothing was dearer to his heart
than his foundations at Oxford and Ipswich. He patron-
ized the new studies; nor does he seem in the choice of
teachers for his colleges to have shrunk from the new
ideas. Probably, like Leo, he despised rather than hated
the religious enthusiasm of the Reformers. His master,
on the other hand, was a strong papist, had descended
from his throne to enter the lists of controversy against
Luther, and for the aid of his royal pen had received
from the pope, and was proud to bear, the title of 1521
Defender of the Faith. Protestantism, connected as it
was with social and political innovation, could not fail


to repel an absolutist monarch. A convert to its
doctrines this monarch never was. Assuredly if by
protestantism is meant freedom of religious thought and
liberty of private judgment, nobody was ever less a
protestant than Henry Tudor. In the midst of his own
ecclesiastical innovations he offers to orthodoxy a holo-
caust of Anabaptists. An Act for the punishment of
1534 heresy went hand in hand with his renunciation of the

The sole cause of Henry's secession from the papacy
and of religious revolution so far as he personally
was concerned was his desire of a divorce. Divorce, it
is called, and Pope Clement is arraigned for having
refused, from fear of the Emperor's wrath, to exercise the
power which he is assumed to have possessed of dissolv-
ing the marriage of Henry with Catherine of Aragon,
that there might be a male heir to the throne. The pope
had no such power. Marriage in the church of Rome is
a sacrament, and when solemnized between baptized per-
sons and consummated, if not even without consumma-
tion, is indissoluble. All that the pope could do was to
declare the marriage with Catherine void from the begin-
ning, on the ground that Catherine had been the widow
of Henry's brother Arthur, and that this was a degree of
affinity beyond the power of papal dispensation, being pro-
hibited by the law of God, whereby he would have been
reversing the act of his predecessor in the chair of infalli-
bility, who had granted and confirmed the dispensation.
It is true that the dissolution of marriages with liberty of
marrying again on pretended grounds of affinity or pre-
contract had been common, and that the church, the pro-
fessed guardian of matrimony, had thus pandered largely

XVI HENRY VllI . 319

to license among the classes which could afford to pay
for her decrees. But the voidance of a marriage on the
ground of affinity or pre-contract is a different thing from
a divorce.

Whether weariness of Catherine of Aragon, a wife
six years older than her husband, and now without
hope of male offspring, had preceded in Henry's mind
his passion for the pretty, coy, and artful maid of honour,
Anne Boleyn, is a question alike insoluble and unim-
portant. Nor can we tell whether he succeeded in self-
mystification so far as to persuade himself that he was
moved by a scruple of conscience to gratify his weariness
of one woman and his passion for another. The letter to
Anne Boleyn in which he blends theology with the coarse
outpouring of his passion, is probably a fair key to his
state of mind. He had lived with Catherine for eighteen
years without misgiving. She had been a good and
faithful wife to him, and she had borne him several
children, though Mary alone had lived. With con-
tinence he cannot be credited. He owned to one natural
son. In his ways of compassing his object conscience
assuredly had no part. He first tried a collusive suit
before the ecclesiastical authorities of his own realm.
As this device failed of effect, he plied all the arts of a
sinister diplomacy through unscrupulous envoys at the
papal court. He extracted opinions in his favour from his
own universities by bullying, from foreign universities by
political influence or corruption. He suggested that the
queen should be induced to take in common with him
monastic vows, and that when the nunnery door had
closed upon her he should be released by the pope. He
lied to the pope. He lied to Catherine. He lied to his


people, whose hearts were with the wronged wife, while
their commerce dreaded a rupture with the Emperor,
Catherine's nephew, who was master of Flanders, their
principal mart. If we may trust the chronicle, he most
solemnly assured a great public assembly that he loved
Catherine above all women, and vowed that nothing
but his conscientious scruples prevented him from keep-
ing her as his wife; this at a time when he was moving
heaven and earth to get rid of her, and declaring his
love to another woman. He tried to get into his hands,
through his influence over Catherine, a document impor-
tant to her case which was in the keeping of her nephew,
with the evident intention of destroying it. He insulted
his wife and unmasked himself by openly installing in the
palace his paramour as a rival queen. The draft dispen-
sation for his marriage to Anne submitted to the pope,
and the table of affinities engrafted on a subsequent
1534 Act of Succession, with evident relation to his marriage
with Anne, coincide with the report current at the time,
that Anne's sister, Mary Boleyn, had been Henry's mis-
tress ; in which case the conscience of the king, if he was
to be believed, was driving him out of a wedlock of pro-
hibited affinity into a wedlock of incest. This would
hardly have been possible in any age but that of the
Borgias and Julius II. The conduct of Catherine, nobly
firm in maintaining her right, the right of her daughter,
and that of all wives, yet loyal and gentle, is the redeem-
ing element in a vortex of villainy and falsehood. The
heart of the people was with her and against the new
wife, even in cities such as London, which were the
centres of the new opinions.

The pope, of course, could not be deceived as to


Henry's motive, or as to the moral rights of the case.
But what he would have done had he not been in awe
of the Emperor we cannot say. He was placed between
two millstones. He was apparently ready to connive at
anything if he could only escape responsibility. Wolsey,
in the cause of his master's passion, plied all his diplo-
matic arts. But the upshot was a legatine commission 1528
in which Campeggio was paired with Wolsey. Cam-
peggio, Catherine resolutely refusing to take monastic
vows, went with his colleague through the form of a
trial, in which Henry, to exalt his royal dignity, appeared
as a suitor before a foreign tribunal in his own domin- 1529
ions. Catherine, resisting all insidious overtures, ap-
pealed against the tribunal, and the end, after a tissue
of chicanery, was an avocation of the cause to Rome.

The vizier having failed, though through no fault of
his own, to do what the sultan wanted, his head fell. 1529
Wolsey, having served the king all these years with
untiring industry and unscrupulous devotion, faced for
him the hatred of the people, lifted him to a height
among kings to which he never could have raised him-
self, was not only cast down from power but disgraced,
not only disgraced but prosecuted under the statute of
Praemunire, condemned, and stripped of his goods. The
pretext was* his exercise of legatine power, which Henry,
for his own purposes, had used his influence at Rome to
procure for him. Henry and Anne Boleyn went to York
Place, Wolsey's palace, to gloat with greedy eyes over
their rich spoil. Ipswich was seized by the royal robber.
The cardinal's college at Oxford escaped after an hour of
extreme peril with the loss of a part of its endowment,
while the title of Founder was usurped by the king.

VOL. I — 21


1530 Adversity restored Wolsey to Ijimself. He went down
to his diocese of York, . did his duty there as an arch-
bishop, led a religious life, and won the hearts of his
people. Henry, with a lingering spark of good feeling,
or possibly from a lurking fear of a man whose powerful
mind he knew, had kept on the mask towards Wolsey,
and sent him a ring as pledge of regard. But the woman
at his side fancied that Wolsey had crossed her design,
while the members of the aristocratic party at court, to
which the plebeian statesman was with good reason hate-
ful, alarmed by his popularity in the north, and fearing

^ that he might recover the king's favour, determined to
finish the work. Setting on foot a plot of which a
faithless dependent was probably the instrument, they pro-
cured the cardinal's arrest for high treason and were
bringing him from Yorkshire as a prisoner, with the
intention, probably, of dealing with him as he had dealt
with Buckingham, when he was snatched from their

1530 grasp by death. " If I had served God as diligently as I
have done the king. He would not have given me over in
my grey hairs ; " so said Wolsey in his last hour. God,
whom he had not served, had not deserted him in the day
of his misfortune, making it his better day. The touch-
ing fidelity of Cavendish and others of Wolsey's house-
hold to their fallen master partly redeemed the age.

Seeing that he had been duped, and that there was no

hope from Rome, where the Emperor upheld the cause

or of his aunt, Henry rushed into a private marriage. In

^^^^ so doing he broke with the papacy, and though he tried
to repair the breach, negotiation proved vain. At a later

1535 stage of the contest the pope, Paul III., excommunicated

1536 him, and at last pronounced sentence of deposition.


The rupture was complete. Teutonic England, \vith
other Teutonic nations, secedes from Latin Christendom.
Europe will henceforth be no longer a catholic federation,
but a group of nations, each moving on its own path, x
intellectually as well as politically, and with no bond,
apart from special alliances, but that of a common
morality, the main articles of which survived the schism,
and so much as there might be of regard for international
law. Religion is no longer universal but national, and
instead of being a link of union is often a source of
mortal enmity between nations. The great catholic mon-
archies remain grouped round the papacy, though they
also are more national than before. Opposed to them
will be the protestant powers, without unity of creed,
but linked together by a common enmity and a common

The divorce was to be pronounced and the new mar-
riage was to be confirmed by home authority. With a
view to this and in fulfilment of the king's designs upon
the church, the archbishopric of Canterbury was given to 1533
Cranmer, a good man, but pliant, now called to be the
theologian and liturgist of the Anglican Reformation.
Cranmer had suggested the reference to the universities.
He was privately married against the canon, and was thus
at the mercy of the king, who could at any time have un-
frocked him for breach of vow. He did his master's will.

By her coy and patient artifice Anne Boleyn had
won the crown. She wore it not long. She bore the
king a daughter, Elizabeth, but not the male heir on 1533
whose birth his heart was fixed and his hopes were built.
Henry grew weary of her, bickered with her, fell in love
with Jane Seymour, a lady of the court. On a sudden


1536 Anne was arrested and accused of treason in flirting witfi
three gentlemen of the court, Norris, Brereton, and
Weston, and with Smeaton, a musician. To swell and
blacken the indictment she was also hideously accused
of incest with her brother. Viscount Rochford. She pro-
tested her innocence, and of her alleged paramours one
only, Smeaton, confessed, and he under terror of the
rack, a regular though illegal engine of Tudor tyranny.
She was tried by a court of subservient peers, over which
professionally presided the villain and sycophant Aud-
- ley. As high steward sat her uncle, the Duke of Nor-
folk; from that den of tyranny and intrigue natural
affection as well as justice had fled. Before her mock

1536 trial parliament had been called, in anticipation of the
verdict, to re-settle the succession. After her conviction
she was made to confess to Cranmer in secret something
which had been an impediment to her marriage with the
king, that her marriage might be declared null and her
child excluded from the succession. What she confessed
there can be little doubt was that her sister had been the
mistress of the king. If the marriage was null, it fol-
lowed that she had never been queen consort, and could
not by her adultery have committed treason; but law
stood in the way of the despot as little as justice. Anne
Boleyn probably was a bad woman. Perhaps she had
upon her head the blood of catholic martyrs, and would
have had that of Wolsey had he not been rescued by
death. But she was Henry's wife. Her head had been
laid upon his breast. She was the mother of his child.
Probably she was the only woman whom he had really
loved. While she was being tried for her life he shocked
the people by the indecency of his revels. The day after


her execution he took to wife Jane Seymour, on whom he 1536
had set his affections, and for whose sake, partly at least,
it cannot be doubted, Anne was murdered.

Of those who were accused with Anne, Smeaton alone
confessed. But the others failed to protest their inno-
cence, and this is a feature common in the judicial mur-
ders of the reign. It rested with the king to say whether
the condemned should be beheaded or suffer the death of
torture prescribed by the treason law. It rested with the
king to say whether the wife and children should be
deprived of bread. But, moreover, the despotism spread
a pall of terror beneath which all hearts, as well as
heads, bowed to the decree of the despot, as that of some
superior and almost superhuman power. History can
produce a parallel. When Philip Mary, tyrant of Milan,
to get rid of his wife, Beatrice, of whom he was tired,
accused her of an intrigue with Michael Orombelli,
though the charge was undoubtedly false and was to the
last denied by Beatrice, Orombelli repeated on the scaf-
fold the confession which had been first wrung from him
b}' the rack.

The divorced wife had put an end to the fear of the Em- 1536
peror's intervention by preceding her rival to the tomb,
not without suspicion of foul play. When she died the
king gave a court ball, appeared at it in gay attire, and
carried the little princess Elizabeth round the circle
in triumph. There have been bloodier tyrants than

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