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Henry VIII. ; there never was one more brutal. There
never was one who more trampled on affection. Those
who deem affection a small part of our life and weal, or
of our civilization, may think Henry a good king.

Henry meantime had been borne forward in religious



326 THE UNITED KINGDOM chap.

innovation. He had now found a new vizier, a layman,
not a cardinal, and one ready to go all lengths. Thomas
Cromwell, a trusted servant of Wolsey, had leapt nimbly,
and not without grace, from the foundering barque of his
maker's fortunes into the royal ship, of which he presently
grasped the helm. Doubt hangs and fable has gathered
about the early part of this man's career. He appears to
have been a roving adventurer, afterwards a scrivener and
money lender; then a confidential dependent of the car-
dinal, and employed in the suppression of monasteries for
the cardinal's foundation at Oxford, which gave him the
first taste of confiscation. Cromwell was exceedingly
able, daring, and absolutely without scruple ; the English
counterpart of William of Nogaret, the familiar of Philip
the Fair, and destined to a Avork not unlike the outrage
on Pope Boniface and the destruction of the Templars.
His gospel was Machiavelli. Religious conviction he
probably had none. Of conscience he was wholly devoid.
But he saw that, in the king's present temper, protest-
antism, or at least war on the pope and clergy, was the
winning game. He pricked the king onward and opened
to him a vista not only of power, but of immense spoils.
The first blow was struck at the clergy. They were
1531 all pronounced liable to the penalties of Praemunire for
having submitted to Wolsey's exercise of the legatine
power, and an enormous sum of blackmail was demanded
of them as the price of their pardon. As the king him-
self had not only sanctioned Wolsey's legateship, but
appeared in the case for the divorce as a suitor in Wol-
sey's legatine court, this was an act of brigandage made
fouler by chicane. The clergy, however, succumbed and
the blackmail was paid. The laity had been formally



XVI HENRY VIII 327

included in the Praemunire, but to levy the blackmail on
them would have been unsafe.

The attack was presently turned against the pope. His
first-fruits were made over to the king. His Peter's pence 1534
were stopped. His appellate jurisdiction was swept away,
and the judgment of the king's courts, ecclesiastical as
well as civil, was made final. The absolute appointment
of archbishops and bishops was vested in the crown,
though under the form of a compulsory election by the
chapter. Advancing, the king transferred to himself the
entire papal authority, causing himself to be declared by
parliament the only supreme head in earth of the church 1635
of England. Convocation bent, assuredly against its
conscience, to thd royal will. Cromwell, a layman,
was made vicar general and presided in convocation 1535
for the king, while the legislative power of that assem-
bly was brought absolutely under royal control. Thus
an estate of the realm which had hitherto been in
some measure independent, having a European centre
beyond the royal power, and had formed an important
factor in the conflict of forces by which the constitution
was wrought out, lost its independence, and became a
momentous addition to the force of the crown, the politi-
cal fortunes of which it henceforth shares. On the other
hand, the English monarchy had severed itself from the
catholic monarchies, and from the common cause of kings.
Alone it will have to face the spirit of innovation which
it has evoked, and which will presently turn to political
revolution.

The king had now grasped dominion over the spiritual
as well as the political and social life of the nation, and
in the spiritual sphere his power was untempered even



328 THE UNITED KINGDOM chap.

by a packed assembly, since convocation had become a
mere organ of the crown. He presently exercised his
papal power by giving his subjects a religion under the

1537 title of "The Institution of a Christian Man." It was
substantially the old religion with the king substituted
for the pope. In putting it forth the king proclaimed
himself responsible for the souls as well as the bodies of
his subjects. It is to the king, he says, that scripture
gives all power of determining causes, of correcting errors,
heresies, and sins. That the nation could tamely allow
such a man to put himself practically in place of God
shows that the monarchy must have been strong, and that
hatred of the papacy must have been deep.

But there were catholic consciences in England. Sir
Thomas More, whose character as a man, as a judge, and
as a Christian shines like a star in the night of iniquity,
was a humanist and a reformer of the intellectual school.

1516 When he wrote his " Utopia " he was a thorough-going
liberal. But he grew devout; the excesses of religious
innovation made him conservative; he wrote vehemently
against heresy. In office he treated it as a crime, as by
law and universal opinion it then was. He had to plead
guilty to some acts of personal severity against heretics.
That he put heretics to death is untrue. Erasmus posi-
tively denied it in the face of Europe. Nor was per-
secution More's crime in the eyes of the despot, who
was always burning heretics, while he treated as heretics
all who refused to bow their consciences to his will.
More had been a familiar friend of the king and had
helped him in the composition of his treatise against
Luther. He had warned the king against excessive
exaltation of the pope's authority, and the king had



XVI HENRY VIII 329

replied that he could not say too much in favour of the
authority to which he owed his crown. He understood
Henry's character, and to one who congratulated him on
the signs of the royal favour he said that the king was
kind to him, but that if his head could buy a castle in
France it would go. On Wolsey's fall he became chan- 1529
cellor. Upon the breach Avith the papacy he resigned.
He did no seditious act; he spoke no disloyal word; but
he declined to swear against his conscience to the Act of
Succession, framed, in defiance of the papal authority,
to legitimize the marriage with Anne and make her
descendants heirs to the crown, or to the Act of Suprem-
acy making an earthly despot head of the church. It
was the special infamy of these statutes that they vio-
lated the sanctuary of conscience, and required not only
submission but an oath of assent. A base attempt was
made to entrap More into a treasonable avowal through
Rich, solicitor-general, a miscreant conspicuous even in
that age. He was attainted and murdered. With him 1535
for the same cause died Bishop Fisher, the best of the 1535
catholic prelates. The real crime of both was that, with
their high reputation, their rectitude smote the conscience
of the king and probably that of his paramour. Indigna-
tion filled the catholic world, and found eloquent expres-
sion by the pen of Erasmus. It extended even to the
Lutherans, who had looked up to More, catholic though
he was, as a reviver of learning and of light. In vain
the government put forth in its defence a lying mani-
festo. The sophisms by which these murders have been
defended may be passed over with scorn. Words are not
treason; much less is silence, the only crime of Fisher
and More. That England was then threatened with in-



530 THE UNITED KINGDOM chap.

vasion by catholic Europe is a figment. Nor if she had
been, would her government have been rendered safer by
acts which filled with horror not only the catholic world
abroad but the great majority of her own people. That
More and Fisher would have been led by their principles
to join an invading army is a suggestion too ridiculous
for discussion. If the object in these proceedings was the-
reform of religion, could the religion of Jesus Christ be
restored by shedding innocent blood? O Liberty, what
things have been done in thy name! O Jesus, what
things have been done in Thine ! The plea of inevitable
necessity is pathetically put forward by a paradoxi-
cal defender of these executions. Why was a train of
judicial murders indispensable to the Reformation in Eng-
land any more than in Germany, Holland, or Switzerland ?

Partners with More and Fisher in martyrdom, not to
the catholic faith alone, but to spiritual liberty and
truth, were the monks of the Charter House, in whose
heroism the religion of the middle ages shot a departing
ray. Refusing, as not only every catholic but every
protestant worthy of the name would now refuse to take,
the tyrant's tests, they were iniquitously and cruelly
butchered. Of some of them who are in prison one of
Cromwell's minions writes to his master "that they be
almost despatched by the hand of God"; that is, they
had been nearly killed by being kept chained upright to
posts, or by the filth and stench of their dungeons.

Tlie schism, and the murder of Fisher and More, stung
to frenzy Reginald Pole, a kinsman of the king and one
of the most distinguished ecclesiastics of the day. Pole
was a member of the liberal circle of Contarini, which
sought reconciliation with the protestants on favourable



XVI HENRY VIII 331

terms, including the recognition of justification by faith
as a cardinal doctrine. But like other men of his time
he believed in the necessity of church unity, and could
ill brook its disruption by a despot's lust. He wrote a
violent treatise in defence of church unity and against 1535
royal usurpation. He most unwisely tried to stir the
catholic powers to a crusade, but. found that the politi-
cians were cool-headed and that the age of crusades was
past. Nor was it ever possible to allay the mutual jeal-
ousies of the two great rivals, the ^mperor Charles V. and
Francis I. of France, so far as to get them to draw their
swords in the same cause. The only result was the exe-
cution, after a mock trial for treason, of Pole's mother, 1538
the Countess of Salisbury, and of his brother. Lord Mon- 1541
tague, with others of his friends.

To govern without parliament had been Wolsey's aim.
Once only, pressed by financial need, he had called a
parliament, and with that parliament he had quarrelled.
To govern with a packed parliament seems to have been
the policy of his successor. The king in his conflict with
the pope and with the body of European sentiment on the
side of the pope, required the apparent support of the
nation, which a packed parliament could ostensibly afford.

Cromwell now offered his master, whom extravagance
kept needy, a flood of wealth to be drawn from the con-
fiscation of monastic estates. The end of monasticism
in England had come. Asceticism, a false aspiration,
though useful in its day as a protest against barbarian
sensuality, had by this time decisively failed. It had
degenerated into torpor, or something worse than torpor,
with a prayer-mill. Rules had been relaxed. In the
lesser monasteries especially corruption had frequently



332 THE UNITED KINGDOM chap.

set in. Monastic life having become a life of drones, the
lazy .were sure to take to it, and laziness was pretty sure
to breed vice. Monasteries in parts of the country where
there were no inns were still useful as hospices. They
fed the poor at their gates, fostering mendicancy, how-
ever, by their almsgiving. As havens of learning and
places of ^education they had been largely superseded by
universities, grammar schools, and libraries. Printing
had put an end to the use of their writing-rooms for copy-
ing books. Instead of being in a narrow way pioneers of
intellectual progress they had become a bar to it. Of all
that was reactionary and obscurantist in the church they
were the strongliolds, and some of them subsisted by the
grossest impostures of superstition. To parochial reli-
gion they were noxious as appropriators of parish tithes.
Easy landlords they probably were, but not, as in the
early Cistercian days, agricultural improvers. The estates
of some of them, it seems, had been mismanaged to the
extent of dilapidation. They had, in short, generally
become an incubus on the community. Not all were
corrupt, or even useless. The brightest exceptions were
some of the nunneries, which, as places of education for
women, had still a work to do. Already there had been
partial dissolutions ; for when the crusading spirit passed
away the order of the Temple was abolished, alien
priories had afterwards been made over to the crown, and
Wolsey had dissolved a number of small monasteries to
form an endowment for his college at Oxford. Parlia-
ments more than once had cast a covetous eye on the vast
estates which, they said, did no service to the com-
monwealth. Cromwell now, in the name of the king,
1535 sent forth commissioners of inquiry. These commis-



XVI HENRY VIII 333

sioners no doubt were tools. They found, what they
were sent to find, reasons for a sweeping confiscation.
Sometimes their report preceded inquiry. But there is
no reason to doubt that they found facts enough for their
purpose in the abodes of idleness, dulness, and routine
religion. From most of the abbots and priors surrenders
were obtained, manifestly against law, since the tenant
for life could not alienate or forfeit the property of the
corporation. But three of the abbots, refusing to sur-
render, were falsely attainted of treason and put to death.
Cromwell sets down memoranda for disposing of them
in his notebook; "Item, The Abbot of Reading to be
sent down to be tried and executed at Reading with his
complices. Item, The Abbot of Glaston to be tried at
Glaston, and also to be executed there with his com-
plices. Item, To see that the evidence be well sorted and
the indictments well drawn against the said abbots and
their complices. Item, To remember specially the Lady
of Sar (Salisbury). Item, What the King will have done
with the Lady of Sarum. Item, To send Gendon to the
Tower to be racked. Item, To appoint preachers to go
throughout this realm to preach the gospel and true word
of God." The restoration of pure Christianity by such
religious reformers as Henry VIII. and Thomas Cromwell
is painted in these words.

We have recently seen a dissolution of the monasteries 1866
in Italy. The Italian monks proved content, most of
them, to go back to domestic life. To the English
monks small pensions were assigned. The houses were
unroofed, left to decay, or used as quarries. Their hoary
ruins touch us more than their demolition seems to have
touched the generation which saw their fall. Treasures



334 THE UNITED KINGDOM chap

of medieval art, illuminated missals and books, church
plate and vestments, the thought of which fills the vir-
tuoso with anguish, were destroyed. Less to be mourned
were the shrines of apocryphal saints, the false relics,
the winking crucifixes, the wonder-working images, and
other stage properties of a fraudulent superstition, Eng-
lish counterparts of the Holy Coat of Treves, Pilate's
Stairs, and the House of Loretto. Thomas Becket was
cast out of his sumptuous shrine, the treasures of which
went to the king's coffers, while the martyr of church
privilege was proclaimed a traitor who had been killed
in a brawl. Among the populace this carnival of icono-
clasm took the shape of blasphemies and profanation of
the Host which were sure to provoke catholic reaction.

The dissolution of the monasteries removing the mitred
abbots from the House of Lords, reduced the number of
ecclesiastical members from forty-nine to twenty-six, and
turned the balance in favour of the lay element, which
had been in a minority before.

Of the fund obtained by the dissolution of the monas-
teries, some was spent in national defences, a small part
in the foundation of new bishoprics. Far the greater part
became the prey of the king and his minions. The vast
estates of noble houses remain monuments of the confis-
cation, and they bound those houses to the cause of
protestantism and a protestant government so long as the
conflict lasted. This is the origin, and hence were
derived the politics, of the houses of Russell, Cavendish,
Seymour, Grey, Dudley, Sidney, Cecil, Herbert, Fitz-
william. Rich, which replaced the feudal baronage of the
middle ages, linked to protestantism and constitutional-
ism by their possession of the church lands. The effect



XVI HENRY VIII 335

was felt as late as the Stuart rising in 1745. Flushed
with rapine, the spoilers spared nothing which could be
called monastic. Augustinian and Benedictine colleges
at Oxford were sequestrated. The tithes, which had
been appropriated by the monasteries, were not restored
to the parishes but embezzled by the spoilers, and as the
property of lay impropriators remain a scandal to this
hour. That no public use could have been found for the
funds it seems difficult to maintain. Education called
for endowment; public works of many kinds, such as
roads and bridges, were much needed; so were hospitals,
for lack of which in time of plague the people died like
flies. At any rate, the taxpayer might have been re-
lieved, and government might have been spared recourse
to fraud and extortion. The king had scarcely gathered
the wealth of the monasteries into his coffers when he
resorted to the extortion of benevolences and the debase- 1545
ment of the coin. Rapacity, though gorged with the
plunder of the monasteries, was not satisfied; the endow-
ments of the universities, of the chantries, of the guilds,
were at last placed in the king's clutches arid were for
the moment saved by his death.

Rapine was not statesmanship, nor did it walk in
statesmanlike ways. The hour of the monasteries had
come, but dissolution might have been gradual. It
might have respected local circumstance and feeling. In
the wild and ill-peopled north monasteries were still
useful as hospices, as almshouses, as dispensaries, as
record offices, as schools, perhaps in a rough way as cen-
tres of civilization. Their faith was still that of the
people; their prayers and masses for the dead were still
prized. Their destruction and the religious innovations



336 THE UNITED KINGDOM chap.

of the government brought on a dangerous insurrection
153(5 in the north, called the Pilgrimage of Grace, in the sup-
pression of which the government showed its perfidy as
well as its savage recklessness of blood.

If, as is reckoned, the number of monks and nuns
turned adrift first and last was not less than eight thou-
sand, and ten times that number of dependents were
turned adrift at the same time, great must have been the
distress. This, with the disbanding of soldiers hired for
the wars with France and the discharge of labourers from
farms turned into sheep-walks, may account for the
prevalence of vagabondage, the bloody vagrancy laws, and
the fearful activity of the gallows.

Henry wished to encourage trade, respecting the inter-
ests of which he was not without light. But whatever
good he did by relaxation of the usury law or by his
bankruptcy law must have been more than countervailed
by the debasement of the currency. The shilling in 1551
contained less than one-seventh of the amount of fine silver
in the shilling of 1527, while the discoveries of silver in
Mexico and Peru by the Spaniards lowered the value
of that metal, so that a very great rise in prices must
have ensued. The result cannot have failed to be ruin-
ous to industry and trade. That after forced loans, the
exactions of enormous fines from the clergy, great for-
feitures, and the confiscation of the monastic estates, the
king should have been driven to resort to debasement of
the coin, shows that his waste in palace-building, gam-
bling, and court pageantry must have been enormous. It
can hardly be doubted that his rule was, on the whole,
materially as well as morally, a curse to the nation.

Theological history belongs to the theologian. Through



XVI HENRY VIII 337

the rest of the reign there runs a wavering conflict in the
king's councils between the party of the new men, such as
Cromwell and Cranmer, which presses religious change,
and that of the old nobles, headed by Norfolk, a veteran
of Flodden, which, as much from political as religious
motives, clings to the ancient faith ; while some, like Bishop
Gardiner, are in favour of a national church and inde-
pendence of Rome, but against doctrinal innovation. The
king aimed at trimming the ship. Perhaps his average
policy, that of secularization and national independence
without much change of doctrine or ritual, coincided with
the average tendency of the nation. Into the spoliation
of the monasteries he goes with all his heart, as he does
also into everything which extends his despotism over the
church. Under the influence of Cromwell and Cranmer
he for a time appears to lean to protestantism, and gives
the reins to innovation, though he shrinks from alliance
with the thorough-going protestantism of the Germans.
He puts forth trimming manuals and injunctions. He
allows the people to read the Bible in English, though he
afterwards restricts the permission. Presently, being not
so much under the influence of Cromwell, alarmed perhaps
by catholic insurrection in the north, and governed by the
party of Norfolk and the old nobles, he veers round and
makes his parliament pass the act for abolishing diversity 1539
of opinion, usually called the Six Articles, re-enacting the
cardinal doctrines and rules of Roman Catholicism; tran-
substantiation, communion in one kind, the celibacy of
the priesthood, the obligation of vows of chastity, private
Masses, and auricular confession. Whoever denied the
first article was to be burned as a heretic; breach of any
one of the rest entailed, for the first offence, forfeiture of
VOL. 1 вАФ 22



338 THE UNITED KINGDOM chap

property, for the second, death. All marriages of priests
were declared void ; continuance in them was made a
felony; so that Archbishop Cranmer, if he kept his wife,
would be a felon. It was felony to refuse to go to con-
fession, felony to refuse to receive the sacrament. Latimer
and Shaxton, protestant bishops, were driven from their
sees. A score of people suffered under this act. The
via media was kept by sending catholics and protestants
together to the stake. To display his learning Henry
himself holds a public disputation with Lambert, a poor
sectary, in defence of transubstantiation, and failing to
convince him, shows his own chivalry by sending his
hapless antagonist to Smithfield.

The king's policy was swayed by his matrimonial advent-
ures. Jane Seymour having died after bearing him one
son, Cromwell, anxious for a protestant alliance, persuaded

1540 him to give his hand to Anne of Cleves, assuring him that
she was a beauty. She proved to be "a Flemish mare."
There was a meeting like that of George IV. with Caro-
line of Brunswick in after days, and convocation, now
reduced to complete subservience, was ordered to declare

1540 the marriage void on pretences too thin to be dignified
with the name of deceit. Cromwell had overreached him-
self, and he found what it was to play with a tiger. He
had also gone beyond the mark in religious change. His
enemies, the old nobility and party of reaction, pounced on
their advantage. He fell from favour, and for a slave of
Henry to fall from favour was death. Steeped in innocent

1540 blood as well as in robbery, Cromwell died by the knife
which he had whetted for the throats of others. To annul
the last safeguard of liberty he had obtained from the
judges an opinion that an Act of Attainder would hold



XVI HENRY VllI 339

good though the accused had not been heard. Under
such an Act of Attainder unheard he died, putting up
abject prayers for mercy to one who knew not w^hat it
meant, and who, when the slave had done his work, slew
him as he would have slain a dog. Like a dog Thomas
Cromwell deserved to be slain. Even in the height of his
power the low-born minister had been treated like a
menial, his master " beknaving him once or twice a week,
and sometimes knocking him about the pate."

One service the king had done the revolution which
none of his waverings or backslidings could cancel. He
had authorized an English translation of the Bible and 1536
had put it, though grudgingly, into the hands of the
people. The Bible was an authority superior to that of
the priesthood to w^hich any layman could appeal, and
which the priest could not dispute, though, as he well
knew, it was subversive of his system and ruinous to his
profession. The birthday of protestantism is the day



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