J.M. Stone.

Studies from Court and Cloister: being essays, historical and literary dealing mainly with subjects relating to the XVIth and XVIIth centuries online

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These studies on various crucial points connected with the history of
religion in Europe at the close of the Middle Ages, its decline,
revival, and the causes which led to both, have already appeared in
print as regards their general outline, although they have for the most
part been rewritten, added to, and in each case subjected to a careful

Three of them were originally published in the Dublin Review, four in
the Scottish Review, two in Blackwood's Magazine, and three in the
Month. One was a contribution to the American Catholic Quarterly
Review. By the courtesy of the respective editors of these publications
I am enabled to gather them together in this volume.

It will be seen at a glance that a certain cohesion, historical and
chronological, exists in their present arrangement, especially with
reference to Part I.

The two first studies concern Henry VIII. and his sister the Queen of
Scots, the significance of their matrimonial affairs, and the relations
which their policy created between England, Scotland, France, and the
Empire. The third study has for its subject the distinguished and
much-maligned Lieutenant of the Tower of London, who contributed so
largely to the accession of the rightful sovereign, and who was
appointed to be governor of the Princess Elizabeth during her captivity
at Woodstock. His subsequent persecution for the sake of religion was
the consequence of Henry VIIIth's rupture with Rome, and Elizabeth's
repudiation of England's Catholic past. And as we can only gain an
intelligible view of any historical movement by studying its context,
its broad outlines, and its connection with foreign nations, the fourth
essay describes the condition to which the religious revolution had
reduced Germany in the sixteenth century, and the reconversion of a
great part of that country, as well as of Austria and Switzerland, to
the Catholic faith. This was the work of the Jesuit, Peter Canisius,
and we are thus led to a consideration of the newly-founded Society of
Jesus and its methods. Its members soon became noted for sanctity and
learning, and emperors, kings, and royal princes clamoured for Jesuits
as confessors. The manner in which these acquitted themselves of the
difficult and unwelcome task imposed on them, is unconsciously revealed
by themselves, in the private correspondence of members of the old
Society, which has now been given to the world by one of their Order.
Selections from this correspondence are contained in the fifth study.
As a further result of the revolution that had been effected in the
casting off of old beliefs and traditions, we note the revival of
Pantheism, an ancient, atheistic philosophy, whose modern apostle was
the celebrated Giordano Bruno. His otherwise fruitless visit to England
left a deep impression on certain minds, learned and ignorant, and we
begin for the first time to hear of examinations and prosecutions for
atheism in this country. And this forms the subject of the sixth essay.
The recoil that invariably takes place after any great political,
social, or religious upheaval was not wanting to the Reformation in
England, and in the reign of Charles I. High-Churchism, under
Archbishop Laud, was thought to indicate a desire on the part of the
royalists for a return to Catholic unity. A Papal agent was dispatched
to England to negotiate between the Catholic Queen, Henrietta Maria and
Cardinal Barberini, with a view to the conversion of her husband, which
would, it was hoped, ultimately issue in the corporate reunion of the
country with Rome.

Thus, Part I. deals with some of the persons who had "their exits and
their entrances", who made history during this interesting period. Part
II. treats more especially the books and manuscripts connected with it.
The theme is therefore the same.

Even before England was England, she was the Isle of Saints, and
throughout the Middle Ages religion was her chief care, in a manner
almost incredible in this secular and materialistic age. She not only
covered the land with magnificent churches and cathedrals, to the
architecture of which we cannot in these days approach, even by
imitation, distantly, but she also built huge monasteries, and these
monasteries were the cradles, the homes of vast stores of
ever-accumulating knowledge. A system of philosophy, to which the world
is even now returning, recognising that there is no better training for
the human intellect, is so distinctly mediaeval, that all that savoured
even remotely of St. Thomas Aquinas or Duns Scotus in the University
was utterly destroyed in a great bonfire made at Oxford in 1549. At the
dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII., the labour, the
learning, the genius of centuries were as nought. Exquisitely written
and illuminated Bibles, missals and other choice manuscripts,
displaying a wealth of palaeographic art to which we have lost the key,
were torn from their jewelled bindings, and were either thrown aside to
spoil and rot, or to become the prey of any who needed wrappers for
small merchandise. It is a marvel that so many should have escaped
destruction, to be collected when men had returned to their sane
senses, and formed again into libraries for the delight and instruction
of posterity to the end of time. And almost as strange as this
circumstance, is the fact that so few among us know of the existence of
these treasures which have become our national inheritance. Otherwise,
how could the reviewer of one of our foremost literary publications, in
his notice of the exhibition of medieval needlework at the Burlington
Fine Arts Club, in the spring of 1905, have discovered in it a
surprising revelation of the "refinement" of the Middle Ages?

The three last studies in the present volume are, therefore, devoted to
a description of some of the precious spoils of mediaeval refinement.
Where all is so splendidly beautiful, so deeply erudite, or so tenderly
naif, choice is difficult; but at all events, here are a few of the
priceless gems with which the Dark Ages have endowed a scornful

And lest it should be supposed that all this mediaeval piety and
devotion sprang up suddenly, with no apparent raison d'etre, I have
gone further back, and have shown that with the first dawn of
Christianity over these Islands, religion was no other than in the
twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth centuries. The Arthurian legends,
which Sir Thomas Malory wove into one consecutive whole, had been
handed down from generation to generation for many hundreds of years.
Sometimes they had been written in the French language, but they lived
in the minds of the people, and Sir Lancelot, who died "a holy man,"
was as vivid and real to them as was Richard, the troubadour king. With
the story of his sharp penance, his fasting and prayers for the soul of
Guinevere, was also handed down incidentally the tradition of Britain's
obedience to the "Apostle Pope".

Some time after the Anglo-Saxon conquest, in the eighth century, was
set up a wonderful churchyard Cross at Ruthwell in Scotland, a
"folk-book in stone," alluded to in the Act passed by the General
Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1642, "anent the Idolatrous
Monuments in Ruthwell," and already two years previously condemned by
that enlightened body to be "taken down, demolished, and destroyed."
The story of this ancient Cross, and that of the runes carved upon it,
form the subject of the opening study of Part II.

Little need be said here of Foxe, the great calumniator of Queen Mary's
bishops. His book, which so long deceived the world, is no more the
power it once was, but in it lay the venom which poisoned the wells, as
far as the ill-fated reign of Mary was concerned; and the essay which
deals with it could scarcely have been omitted.

In the hope that I have been enabled to throw a faint ray of additional
light on some vexed but interesting questions, this volume is put

J. M. S.

September 1905.



















Notwithstanding the spy-system which was brought to so great a
perfection under the Tudors, the study of human nature was in their
days yet in its infancy. The world had long ceased to be ingenuous, but
nations had not yet learned civilised methods of guarding themselves
against their enemies. At a time when distrust was general, it was
easier, like Machiavelli, to erect deceit and fraud into a science, and
to teach the vile utility of lying, than to scrutinise character and
weigh motives. It was then generally understood that opponents might
legitimately be hoodwinked to the limits of their gullibility; but it
was reserved for Lord Chesterfield, two centuries later, to show how a
man's passions must be studied with microscopic intensity in order to
discover his prevailing passion, and how, that passion once discovered,
he should never be trusted where it was concerned. The study of men's
characters and motives as we understand it, formed no part of the
policy of sixteenth-century statecraft, or Wolsey would not have been
disgraced, or Thomas Cromwell's head have fallen on the block. Wolsey
and Cromwell were the subtlest statesmen of their age; indeed, in them
statecraft may be said to have had its dawn; yet Henry VIII., by the
sheer force of his tyranny and despotic will, baffled them both. While
Cromwell, the greatest genius in Europe, thought he held all the
threads of intrigue in his own hands, his royal master by the dogged
pursuit of one end overthrew the minister's entire scheme. Saturated
though he was with Machiavellian theories, a man of one book, and that
book The Prince, Cromwell lost all by his inability to read the bent of
Henry's mind and purpose.

Henry VIII. and his elder sister, Margaret, were strikingly alike in
character. Both proved themselves to be cruel, vindictive,
unscrupulous, sensual, and vain. Both were extraordinarily clever, but
Henry being far better educated than his sister, contrived to cut a
much more imposing, if not a more dignified, figure. In the matter of
intrigue, there was nothing to choose between them. That Henry
succeeded where Margaret failed, was owing to the fact that
circumstances were in his favour and not in hers. Given two such
characters, the only parts that were possible to them were dominating
ones. Henry was master of the situation all through the piece; Margaret
was not, but she could play no other part. Had she been differently
constituted, had she been barely honest, true, constant, and pure,
there is no limit to the love and loyalty she would certainly have

But, for want of insight into Margaret Tudor's disposition, the
Scottish people were repeatedly betrayed by one whose interests they
fondly hoped had become, by marriage with their king, identical with
their own. She had come among them at an age when new impressions are
quickly taken and experiences of every kind have necessarily been very
limited, but to the end of her days she remained an alien in their

From the moment that she set foot in Scotland, as a bride of thirteen,
she began to sow discord; but although it was soon apparent that she
would seize every occasion to turn public events to her own profit,
James IV. had so mistaken a belief in her one day becoming a good
Scotswoman, that when he went to his death on Flodden Field, he left
the whole welfare of his country in her hands. Not only did he confide
the treasure of the realm to her custody, but by his will he appointed
her to the Regency, with the sole guardianship of his infant son.

Such a thing was unprecedented in Scotland, and it needed all the
fidelity of the Scottish lords to their chivalrous sovereign, as well
as their enthusiasm for his young and beautiful widow, to induce them
to tolerate an arrangement so distasteful to them all. Had Margaret
cared to fit herself for the duties that lay before her, her lot might
have been a brilliant one. Instead of the wretched wars which made a
perpetual wilderness of the Borders, keeping the nation in a constant
state of ferment, an advantageous treaty would have secured prosperity
to both England and Scotland, while the various disturbing factions,
which rendered Scotland so difficult to govern by main force, would
gradually have subsided under the gentle influence of a queen who
united all parties through the loyalty she inspired. Fierce and
rebellious as were so many of the elements which went to make up the
Scottish people at that time, Margaret had a far easier task than her
grand-daughter, Mary Stuart, for at least fanatical religious
differences did not enter into the difficulties she had to encounter.
But such a queen of Scotland as would have claimed the respect and won
the lasting love of her subjects was by no means the Margaret Tudor of
history, as she stands revealed in her correspondence.

While James IV. lived she had comparatively few opportunities of
betraying State secrets, but from the disaster of Flodden to her death,
her history is one long series of intrigues, the outcome of her ruling
passions - vanity and greed. Her first short-sighted act of treachery
after the death of James was to appropriate to her own use the treasure
which he had entrusted to her for his successors, the queen thereby
incurring life-long retribution in her ineffectual attempts to wring
her jointure from an exchequer which she had herself wantonly
impoverished. Hence the tiresome and ridiculous wrangling in connection
with her "conjunct feoffment," neither Margaret nor Henry being
conscious, in the complete absence of all sense of humour on their
part, that the situation was occasionally grotesque. Stolidly unmindful
of the effect they produced on the minds of others in the pursuit of
their own selfish ends, they pursued the tenor of their way with
bucolic doggedness. The doggedness ended in the defeat of all Henry's
enemies; in Margaret's case it ended in her own.

The eleven months which elapsed between the 9th September 1513 to the
4th August 1514, were the most eventful of her whole life. The
catastrophe of Flodden left her, perhaps not without cause, the least
mournful woman in Scotland, for James IV., with all the heroism that
attaches to his name, had little claim to be called a faithful husband.
Unhindered, therefore, by any excess of grief, she was the better able
to attend to the affairs of State, and to hasten the coronation of her
little son, a baby of one year and five months. In December she
convened the Parliament of Scotland to meet at Stirling Castle, and
formally took up the dignity of regent with the consent of the
assembled nobility of the realm. At this sitting the greatest unanimity
prevailed. In the Acts of the Privy Council of Scotland, under date
12th January 1514, occurs the following entry: "To advise of the
setting up of the Queen's household, and what persons and officers are
necessary thereto, and to advise of the expenses for the supportation
of the same, and by what ways it shall be gotten." All was peace for a
short time, and the most friendly relations existed between the queen
and her Council, till the first high-handed attempt of Henry VIII. to
interfere through his sister in the government of Scotland, resulted in
her temporary banishment, and the removal of the infant king from his
mother's care.*

* P. Martyr, Ep. 535. For a detailed account of the state of Scotland
for the first nine years after the disastrous defeat at Flodden, see
vol. xiv. Of the Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, edited by George Burnett,
LL.D., Lyon King-of-Arms, and A. Y. G. Mackay, M.A. (Oxon.), LL.D.
(Edin.), etc., His Majesty's General Register House, Edinburgh.

On the 30th April Margaret gave birth to a posthumous son, who received
the title of Duke of Rothesay; and scarcely had she reappeared in
public after the birth of this child, when an envoy from the Emperor
Maximilian brought overtures of marriage. About the same time, she
received a like proposal from Louis XII. of France, who afterwards
married her younger sister Mary. Dismissing both aspirants to her hand,
before the first year of her widowhood had run its course, she married
Archibald, Earl of Angus, Margaret being in her twenty-fifth, he in his
nineteenth year. The union was equally unfortunate for the queen
herself and for her wretched husband, who, when the first charm of
novelty had passed, was disdainfully flung aside, and never restored to

There was an ancient custom of the realm, which placed the executive
power and the person of the king, should he be a minor at the death of
the preceding sovereign, in the hands of the next male heir, and the
appointment of James's widow to the regency and the guardianship of his
son was made in distinct disregard of all recognised precedent. The
consent of the Scottish lords to the innovation had been given entirely
from a sense of loyalty to their beloved and unfortunate monarch James
IV. But a proviso had been made in his will, that in the event of the
queen's remarriage, the regency, as well as the guardianship of the
king, should pass to John, Duke of Albany, the next heir to the throne.

But Margaret, who had not scrupled to make away with the royal
treasure, was scarcely likely to be very conscientious in regard to the
duty of laying down a sceptre, the pleasantness of which she had only
just begun to taste. She was already at variance with her Council, who,
in despair of any order being established, had invited Albany, then in
France, to come over and take up the reins of government. As early as
April 1514, a Bill for his recall had been read in Parliament, and it
was formally enacted that all the fortresses in Scotland should be
given up, a blow aimed primarily at Stirling, the queen's chief
stronghold.* Here she and Angus had shut themselves up, on hearing that
Beaton, Archbishop of Glasgow, was marching on Edinburgh. They were
captured, but escaped and returned to Stirling, where they were
besieged by John Hepburn, Prior of St. Andrews.

* Brewer - Preface to Cal. 2, part i. (note).

Margaret, assuming a tone of injured innocence, wrote to Henry VIII.,
telling him that she and her party are in great trouble till they know
what help he will give them; that her enemies continue to usurp the
king's authority in Parliament, holding her and her friends to be
rebels; and she entreats him to hasten his army against Scotland by sea
and by land.* This was clearly as much an act of treason as if she had
deliberately invited any other foreign enemy to come and take
possession of the realm; for although her object was merely to regain
the powers she had lost by her own acts, she could estimate the ruin
which would have resulted to Scotland, if Henry had really been in a
position to invade the country. His answer to her appeal was to send
the most urgent instructions to his sister to prevent Albany's landing
by every means at her disposal. In the meanwhile she waited
impatiently, but in vain, for both troops and money from Henry, who did
not think it necessary to inform her that the French king had agreed to
detain Albany in France, on condition that his dear cousin should send
his sister no help, but leave the various parties in Scotland to fight
out their quarrels alone.

* Queen Margaret to Henry VI II., 23rd November 1514; MS. Cott., Calig.
B 1, 164; Brit. Mus.

As a result of this policy, Margaret at last began to find her position
intolerable, and she, no less than her enemies looked forward to the
duke's arrival as a means of extricating herself from a labyrinth of
difficulties. This was perhaps what Francis I. had foreseen;
notwithstanding his promise to Henry, he had no intention of
permanently preventing Albany, who was more than half a Frenchman, from
assuming a dignity that would result in a strong bond of union between
Scotland and France. Albany was therefore quietly allowed to escape at
a given moment; and when, after running the gauntlet of Henry's ships,
which were watching for him, he landed in Scotland, Margaret resolved,
for once wisely, to be friends with him.*

* Seb. Giustinian to the Doge, London, 5th August 1515; Venetian

But Henry instructed Lord Dacre, the formidable chief of the Marches,
to stir up all the strife possible between his sister, the new regent,
and the Scottish lords, and accordingly, whenever there was a sign of a
better understanding between the three parties, Dacre was always
careful to insinuate to the queen that her brother was her best friend.
Finding that Albany had escaped the vigilance of his fleet, Henry wrote
a high-handed letter to the Scottish Council requesting that he might
be sent back to France forthwith. Their reply was as dignified as
Albany's own conduct throughout, and in strong contrast to Margaret's
attitude. They have, they say, received Henry's letter, dated 1st July
1516, desiring them to remove John, Duke of Albany, the regent from the
person of their king, in order to promote the amity of the two realms.
The duke was chosen Protector by the unanimous voice of the Three
Estates, and was sent for by them from France; he left his master, his
lady, his living; he has taken great pains in the king's service; he
has given, and proposes to give, no cause for dissatisfaction, and if
he would leave, they would not let him. Moreover, it is in exact
conformity with their laws that the nearest in succession should have
the governance; security has been taken by the queen and others to
remove all cause of suspicion, and they will spend their lives if any
attempt be made against his Highness.* This document was signed and
sealed by twenty-eight spiritual and temporal lords, whose names are
still legible. Ten other names are mutilated beyond recognition,
although their seals remain.

* Scottish lords to Henry VIII., 4th July 1516; Record Office.

Albany had meanwhile written to Lord Dacre, denying that he had usurped
the king's authority, and declaring that he had done nothing but by
order of the Estates of the realm. But Henry was bent on picking a
quarrel with him, and Dacre's letter to the King of England's Council
shows the part which Dacre was instructed to play in the troubles of
Scotland, fomenting feuds between Albany and every member of his
government, in the hope of driving him out of the country.* Difficult,
however, as Henry's policy made it, the regent was bent on maintaining
peace, and would probably have succeeded but for Margaret.**

* Cotton MS., Calig. B 2, 341; Brit. Mus.

** Albany to Dacre,10th August 1515; R.O.

The good understanding between the regent and the queen was first
broken by his summons to her to deliver up the royal children into his
custody, a cruel but necessary proceeding, since the regency was
inseparable from the governorship of the king and the next heir.

A true and tender chord is struck at last, when Margaret, appealing to
Henry, exclaims, "God send I were such a woman as might go with my
bairns in mine arms. I trow I should not be long fra you!" Nor is it
possible to feel aught but sympathy for her, when she allows herself to
be stormed in Stirling Castle before she suffers her children to be
torn from her. Dacre professed to believe, and perhaps caused Margaret
to fear, that they would be destroyed if they fell into the Duke of
Albany's power. But the very day on which Dacre wrote to Henry's
Council, advising that money should be sent to enable her to hold out,
the regent prepared to bombard her, and it was not till her friends had
forsaken her, flying for their lives and in terror of Albany's
proclamation, that placing the keys of the fortress in her little son's
hands, she desired him to give them to the regent, and to beg him to
show favour to himself, to his brother, and to her husband. The regent

Online LibraryJ.M. StoneStudies from Court and Cloister: being essays, historical and literary dealing mainly with subjects relating to the XVIth and XVIIth centuries → online text (page 1 of 28)