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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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* Mason, History of Norfolk, p. 150.


"At Norwich, the Queen lodged at the bishop's palace, and spent her
time, as far as the bad weather would allow, in listening to absurd
speeches and witnessing grotesque pageants, but on the 19th August, she
suddenly resolved to go a-hunting in the park of Cossey, five miles
from Norwich, which belonged to Mr. Henry Jerningham, ancestor of the
present Lord Stafford. Once more her host was a recusant, but this time
it would have been too shameless to proceed against him. Mr. Jerningham
had made himself very conspicuous in opposing the abominable attempts
to set aside Mary and Elizabeth as heirs to the Crown at the death of
Edward VI., and in return for his loyalty, had received this very
domain of Cossey at Queen Mary's hands; but for him and his gallantry
twenty years before, Elizabeth herself might never have been on the
throne. So Mr. Jerningham was left unmolested at present, though his
time was to come by-and-bye, and when three days after, the Council met
and made order for the committal to jail of such of the Norfolk gentry
as had not kept their church, and upon whom the hand of power had been
so astutely laid, Mr. Jerningham's name was omitted, though his
kinsman's, Mr. Bedingfeld's, name figures on the list, only to appear
again and again hereafter."*

*One Generation of a Norfolk House, p. 62. Dr. Jessopp is mistaken in
identifying this Mr. Jerningham with the friend and ally of Sir Henry
Bedingfeld, who was associated with him in placing Mary on the throne.
Sir Henry Jerningham died in 1572, aged 63, and Elizabeth's host at
Cossey was his son.


Among the Acts of the Privy Council for 1578, it is stated that: - "This
day [August 24th], there appeared before their lordships, as warned by
the Sheriff of Norfolk, amongst persons refusing to come to the church
within that county, Sir Henry Bedingfeld, Knight, and Edmund Wyndham,
Doctor of the Civil Law, who, standing in their obstinacy in refusing
to come to the church in time of prayer, sermons, and other divine
service, were ordered, as others of the same sort before, at Norwich:
Sir Henry Bedingfeld to be bound in 500 pounds, and Mr. Wyndham in 200
pounds, with the like conditions as they that were bound to remain in
their lodgings at Norwich, as by their obligations remaining in the
Council Chest it may appear. And for that their lordships were informed
that divers of the household servants of Sir Henry Bedingfeld did and
do refuse likewise to come to the church, it was ordered that the Lord
Bishop of Norwich, or some person appointed by him, should visit his
household, and so many of his said servants as should refuse to conform
themselves to come to the church should be discharged by the said
Bishop or his visitors, in that case, from his service."

The Council then wrote to two justices of the peace in Norfolk,
ordering them to discharge Sir Henry's servants "that will not come to
church as is above said, and that they be not maintained by the said
Sir Henry Bedingfeld nor any other of their friends with any exhibition
or otherwise, wheresoever they shall bestow themselves, nor that there
be not any other servants admitted to serve Sir Henry Bedingfeld in any
place or office about him that shall be suspected to be of that
disposition in religion." On receiving an order to present himself
before the Privy Council, Sir Henry, although suffering from illness,
set out for London. This letter, signed by five of the members, met him
on the road: -

"To our loving friend, Sir Henry Bedingfeld, Knight.

"After our hearty commendations. Whereas we are given to understand
that upon some letters heretofore written, you are on the way repairing
hither, forasmuch as we are informed by your son-in-law, Henry
Seckford, that your sickness and infirmity is such as without danger
you may not travel, we are very well contented if you shall not like to
repair up, that you return again to the place where you were committed,
there to remain until such time as further order shall be taken with
you. And so fare you well.

"From Richmond, the 1st Dec. 1578."

Further relief was extended to him, as appears by another letter from
the Council, allowing him to remain in his house till Lady Day, when he
was to appear and answer to the charge of papistry, "unless in the
meantime God shall turn his heart otherwise."

Slight as were the penalties inflicted on Sir Henry when compared with
those which his brothers were called upon to endure, troubles were not
wanting to him in his old age He was not only a prisoner within five
miles of his own house, subject to heavy fines for the privilege of
absenting himself from the new service, but he was liable at any time
to have his house searched* for priests and church-stuff, to have his
household dismissed, and to be called on to endure religious
conferences. He was, moreover, in feeble health, and to complete his
misfortunes, his devoted wife was taken from him. On this occasion a
letter from eight members of the Privy Council was delivered to him: -

* For "the search at Mr. Bedingfeld's house," and the anonymous letter
which led to it, see Calendar of State Payers, Dom. Eliz. 1581-1590, p.
648, No. 76. A copy of a letter found directed to Cromwell accused Sir
Henry of treasonable designs in conjunction with papists and recusants.
"Diligent searches have been made at the house of Mr. Henry
Bedingfelde, but nothing suspicious found."


"To our loving friend, Sir Henry Bedingfeld.

"We commend us unto you. Whereas about three years past, when you were
sent for to have appeared before us, touching your disobedience in
Religion, we were then moved in consideration of your sickness and
infirmity, and the humble suit of Henry Seckford, your son, you being
then in the way hitherward, to licence you to return back unto your own
house, whither you were before committed, there to remain until further
order should be taken with you. And whereas at this time your son has
made like humble suit unto us that you may be suffered to remove from
your said house unto St. Mary's, Wignollen, in Marshland, a house of
your daughter Seckford, there to remain for a season until you may pass
over the grief and remembrance of the lady, your wife, lately deceased,
these are in that respect to give you licence so to do. And therefore
you may, at your liking remove to that place, continuing yourself in
like degree of restraints as you did in your own house, and these shall
be your warrant in that behalf. So fare you well.

"From the Court at Whitehall, 28 of Dec. 1581. Your loving friends."*

* Exactly the same treatment was endured by his descendant Sir Henry
Arundell Bedingfeld in 1713. The following instance affords a proof of
the extraordinary persistence with which the penal laws against
Catholics were enforced 110 years after Elizabeth's death.


"Licence from the justices, August 10, 1713, for Sir Henry Bedingfeld
to go from home for a month.

"Whereas Sir Henry Bedingfeld of Oxburgh, Bart., being a recusant, and
confined to the usual place of his abode, or within the compass of five
miles from the same, and whereas it has been represented to us on the
part of the said Sir Henry Bedingfeld that he has very necessary and
urgent business, which does require his attention at this time, and
whereas the said Sir Henry Bedingfeld has made an oath before us of the
truth of the same, and that he will not make any causeless stay from
his said place of habitation, we therefore, four of his Majesty's
Justices of the Peace for the said county upon examination taken by us
as of the premisses, do give this our licence to the said Sir Henry
Bedingfeld to travel out of the precincts or compass of five miles from
the place of his abode limited by the statute at all times, from the 13
of this instant August, until the thirteenth of September following, by
which time he is to return again to his place of abode at the parish of
Oxburgh, aforesaid. Given under our hand and seal this Loth of August
1713." Signed in the margin, "E. Bacon, T. De Grey, Tho. Wright, Nath.
Life, H. Partridge, Dep. Lieut. I do assent to this licence."

Sir Henry Bedingfeld succumbed to his infirmities in 1583, and was
buried in the Bedingfeld chapel in Oxburgh church, where an elaborate
monument to his memory may still be seen. It is to be regretted that
the loss of the Privy Council Registers for the year 1583 entails also
the loss of any mention of the last days of this celebrated Englishman.


IV. THE CATHOLIC REFORMATION IN GERMANY

In spite of the valiant efforts of isolated Catholic reformers in
Germany, to stem the tide of corruption which threatened to sweep the
Church into a vortex of ruin, for a long time little impression was
made on the vast sea of abuses, and but little permanent good was
effected. It almost seemed as though the Poor Clares of Nuremburg, the
brave Dominicanesses of Strassburg, Johannes Busch, Johannes Geiler,
Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa, St. John Capistran, the Brethren of the
Common Life, and the celebrated author of the Imitation of Christ had
lived and fought, suffered and preached, in vain. They, and some few
others were like brilliant meteors, only making the darkness of the
night more apparent.

The nations were as little responsive to preachers of reform as were
the princes of Europe to the appeals of the Pope for a crusade against
the infidel Turk, who menaced, after his conquest of Constantinople,
the very centre of Christendom. While the citadel was in danger, those
who should have assembled vast cohorts in its defence were either
suffering from the inertia that follows on some kinds of disease, or
were actively employed in spreading the new heresies. Then at last
struck the hour for the dawning of a new day. And here perhaps lies the
solution to the problem why so much energy, self-denial, penance on the
part of the preachers of reform, produced so little result; why such
brave efforts failed to restore, renew and edify the Church. Was she
then incapable of rising to a new life? The answer lies in the words of
her Divine Founder: "My hour is not yet come." Until then, all
reformers preached more or less in the wilderness; for few had ears to
hear. God's hour was assuredly winging its flight, but it would not
come till the Church was almost in extremis; till decay of faith
following on decay of morals threatened her very existence. The
catastrophe was hastened by the fatal pouring of the new wine of the
later Renaissance into the old, now worn-out bottles of Mediaevalism,
thereby paganising Rome and corrupting the College of Cardinals to so
large an extent, that the election to the papacy of a Rodrigo Borgia
was made possible.

Neither the fiery denunciations of Fra Girolamo Savonarola, nor the
cold sarcasms of Erasmus of Rotterdam had a more lasting effect on the
world than had Busch's missionary zeal or Geiler's ascetic discourses.
Then arose Martin Luther, and centered in himself all those scandals
and floating heresies, which for a hundred years had poisoned the
spiritual and intellectual atmosphere. Insidious disease lurking in
dark places was now become a stalking pestilence that braved the
daylight unabashed. Faith was all but moribund. But the Church's
extremity was God's opportunity; His hour had struck at last, and the
spirit of the Lord brooded on the face of the waters.

Then the whole situation was changed. The enemy was not yet crushed,
but formidable hosts were everywhere set in opposition to him. Instead
of isolated efforts there was an almost universal movement towards
reform. Begun in Italy, it spread into every country of Europe.
Seminaries sprang up for the education of priests; St. Philip Neri
became the Apostle of Rome, St. Charles Borromeo that of Milan. The
Order of Theatines was founded, and the Barnabite Order, devoted to the
education of youth was ready to send its members wherever the need was
greatest. Above all, the long-deferred General Council, assembled at
Trent in 1545, gave cohesion to all the various movements that were set
on foot by defining disputed doctrines, and by drawing up a formula
which declared the belief of the Catholic Church on all points attacked
by the new sectaries. The Church was threatened with a dozen heresies,
but so completely did she vindicate her doctrines at the Council of
Trent, that for more than three hundred years no further General
Council was needed. If Italy may boast of the victories achieved by her
great Catholic reformers, France, though somewhat later in the field
had her Bossuet, Bourdaloue, St. Francis of Sales, St. Vincent of Paul,
and many other Catholic champions. To Spain were given St. Ignatius of
Loyola, St. Francis Borgia, St. Francis Xavier, St. Peter of Alcantara,
St. John of the Cross, St. John of God, St. Joseph Calasanctius, St.
Teresa, and others whose names have first added a splendour to their
native land, and have then gone forth to illumine the uttermost ends of
the earth.

St Ignatius died in 1556, but the effect of the Society of Jesus on the
Church was only just beginning. One of the earliest and most important
tasks of his immediate disciples was the formation of the Carmelite nun
Teresa, and her spiritual guidance in the unusual paths she was called
to tread. Even in Catholic Spain hearts had grown cold and minds lax.
The religious houses had long fallen from their first fervour. During
the space of sixteen years St. Teresa founded seventeen convents, all
following the original strict Carmelite rule. As early as 1474 Pope
Eugenius IV. had formed the project of re-establishing the strict
observance of the rule in all religious communities, but the times were
not then favourable for carrying it out. He had therefore approved
provisionally of a mitigated rule for all Carmelite houses, by means of
which discipline was to be restored. The Carmelite general, John
Soreth, made great efforts to enforce it, but his success was partial
and short-lived.

In 1524, when Teresa de Ahumeda was still a child, Clement VII.
addressed a brief to the General Chapter of the Carmelites, assembled
at Venice, commanding them to reform their order. The brief was
cordially received, and the Chapter passed many resolutions all aiming
at the removal of abuses, such as the careless and hasty admission of
members, so that thenceforth no person might be received into the order
without the consent of the provincial, or before the age of fifteen.
Another resolution passed in this Chapter referred to the private
property of the friars; but lest more harm than good should be done by
sudden and violent measures, it was decreed that in every province
certain houses should be set apart for those members who had received
the mitigated rule of Pope Eugenius, and who were therefore considered
as reformed. But together with these houses others should be tolerated
for a season, while the religious were gradually accustomed to a state
of discipline. Those who had not accepted the mitigated rule were to be
allowed temporarily to enjoy their patrimony, as also the emoluments
accruing to them from teaching, preaching, and other services rendered.
There was to be no difference in their treatment, and the religious
habit was to be the same for the reformed and the unreformed brethren.
Subsequent Chapters-General continued to pass similar wise regulations,
but they were by no means promptly carried out; and at Vicenza, in
1539, it was decreed that provincials and friars must undertake the
reform of their convents in the course of one year, in default of which
their subjects were to be released from the obedience they owed them.
Only reformed friars might be elected superiors.*

* Monsignanus, Bullarium, ii. 59 c, 47 b.


At this assembly, the representatives of the Lower Rhine Province were
Theodoric of Gouda, Martin Cuperus, and Eberhard Billick. They
presented a petition praying that the Universities of Mainz and Trier
might be included in the course open to Carmelite students, the reason
being that in order to successfully combat the Lutheran heresies, great
need was felt of men of wide knowledge, possessing degrees high enough
to inspire respect in their opponents. Many students, by reason of the
evil times, were not in a position to meet the expenses attendant upon
a sojourn at Cologne and Louvain, and the living at Mainz and Trier was
cheaper. To this petition the Carmelite general answered by ranking
Cologne first, Louvain second, Mainz third, and Trier fourth, in the
curriculum of studies.

But the progress made in Germany was the reverse of rapid; opposition
was encountered at every step; nevertheless, the resolutions passed at
the Chapter-General at Venice in 1524, had introduced the thin end of
the wedge, and it is apparent from the decrees of the Provincial
Chapter held at Mechlin in 1531, and presided over by the general
himself, that nearly all the houses of the Lower Rhine Province had by
that time accepted the mitigated rule. It was enforced in this Chapter
that if a convent fell away from the reform, the provincial was to
appoint a reformed prior, and to send thither reformed brethren. Friars
who refused the reform were to be banished for ten years. Another
accentuated point was the rule which forbade the possession of private
property. One common purse only was allowed, and thenceforth, no
Carmelite might, under pain of excommunication, keep money in his
possession for more than twenty-four hours. Absolution for an
infringement of this rule could only be obtained from the provincial or
general. Those religious, who at their death were found to possess
property were to be buried in unconsecrated ground. When, a year later,
Theodoric of Gouda presented himself at the Chapter-General held at
Padua, he was able to state that the Lower Rhine Province had joined
the observance, and was entitled to the privileges belonging thereto.

But another and more insidious danger had arisen. In many of the
Carmelite houses of Germany the new doctrines had been more than
favourably received; and at Strassburg, the rector, Tilmann Lyn had
been deprived of his office for having openly preached the Lutheran
heresy. Three other friars of the same house who with him had gone
astray were imprisoned. In vain the friars were forbidden, under pain
of excommunication, to possess or to read books that had been condemned
by the Holy See. Heretical writings continued to find entrance into
many of the religious houses, and were even read aloud in refectories,
and used as text-books by the professors. It must, however, be admitted
that some of these books, including several works of Erasmus which were
also prohibited, would now scarcely come into the category of heretical
writings. Still, many of the diatribes which Erasmus permitted himself
against the religious orders were not in any sense edifying, though
there was much truth in his pungent satire; so that the papal legate
Aleander did not hesitate to declare that the Dutch scholar had done
more to undermine faith than even Luther, and he accused him of being
the fomenter of all the troubles, of subverting the Netherlands, and
all the Rhine district. This may indeed have been the truth indirectly
in spite of the certainty that Erasmus had no intention of playing into
the hands of the Lutherans, whom he hated. But he was a cynic, and a
cynic's eyes are not the best through which to see things. The monks
offended him, and he poured out upon them, not the vials of his wrath
but the sharp vinegar of sarcasm. His favourite, oft-recurring themes,
the ignorance, immorality, and greed to be found in monasteries, the
quarrelsomeness and worldliness of the friars would lead the unwary to
suppose that there was not a religious community left where the rule
was kept and the religious led commonly respectable lives. But even a
slight acquaintance with Erasmus shows us that he is incapable of
justice towards monks and friars. They loved scholasticism, the enemy
which he considered himself born to slay, and there was war to the
knife between him and all upholders of Scotus and Aquinas. The monks of
the Charterhouse, who died the death of martyrs rather than perjure
themselves, win no meed of praise from Erasmus - they were, forsooth,
schoolmen; and the noble Friars-Observants who, when threatened with a
living tomb in the river Thames, for the same cause, calmly replied
that the road to heaven was as near by water as by land, are nothing to
him, for did they not learn their theology of Duns Scotus. Even Henry
VIII. himself at one time begged the Pope's favour for the Observants,
saying that he could not sufficiently express his admiration for their
strict adherence to poverty, for their sincerity, their charity, their
devotion;* but they were Scotists, and Erasmus could not therefore
admire them.

* Henry VIII. to Leo X., Add. MS. 15,387, f. 17; B.M. Printed by Ellis,
3, 1st series, 165.


From his own showing it appears that the Canons Regular of St.
Augustine at Emmaus in Holland led a good life, but he makes no
honourable exception of them when he denounces other houses. He
complains of all monks that they are gluttons and wine-bibbers, utterly
careless of their rule; yet his own plea for returning to the world
after taking his vows is that his health would not stand the fasts and
vigils, the long prayers and the fish diet, things which accord ill
with a reputation for laxity. In a letter to his former prior, he says:
"I left my profession, not because I had any fault to find with it, but
because I would not be a scandal to the order." And again, "My
constitution was too weak to bear your rule."* These are either empty
phrases, or they mean that the life was a strict one.

* Life and Letters of Erasmus, lectures delivered at Oxford by J. A.
Froude, pp. 24, 162.


Nevertheless it would be idle to say that there was not or had not been
a great falling-off in the fervour of monks and friars generally at
this period. As the new doctrines spread, so did also the distaste for
the religious life, and the number of those who renounced their vows
increased yearly. But many, from various causes, soon repented, and
desired to return to the cloister, and it became necessary to legislate
for such contingencies also. Moreover, it was made obligatory on every
prior to arrest notorious apostates, and all those who, without letters
of obedience, or who, abusing them, were found wandering about the
country. They were to be punished conformably to the rule, and if
necessary were to be imprisoned.

One good effect at least resulted from Erasmus's attacks on the
ignorance of monks, and this was the revival of learning in most of the
religious orders. Every inducement was offered by the Carmelite
superiors in the Lower Rhine Province to cultivate a taste for study.
Those who had gone through a three or four years' course of theology
creditably had a distinct right to a post of some dignity, and took
rank immediately after those priests of the order who had celebrated
their jubilee, and before all conventuals who had an inferior record as
to studies. The faithful discharge of offices for a prolonged period
was also rewarded by honourable recognition. The sentiments thus
appealed to may not have been of the loftiest, but it must be
remembered that the reform was to be gradual, and higher motives could
be suggested when the subject was ready for them. The superiors of this
province were supported in all their efforts by the general, who was
bent on a thorough renewal of the religious spirit throughout the
Order; but in the midst of all these righteous aspirations it is a
little startling to find that a decree of the Chapter-General was
needed to put down drinking-bouts in sundry houses of the Rhine
Province.*

* Dr. Alois Postina, Der Karmelit Eberhard Billick. Ein Lebensbild aus
dem 16, Jahrhundert, Freiburg im Breisgau, 1901, p. 25.


In 1541, Eberhard Billick was appointed provincial, and almost
immediately began to visit the houses in his jurisdiction. At Cologne
he found a condition of things sufficient to make the boldest reformer
quail. The Lutherans had entirely gained the upper hand, and a certain
Count William of Neuenar and Mors, who had been for some tine a
follower of the new doctrines, was bent on introducing them by force
into Mors. He first forbade the practise of the Catholic religion among
his tenants, and then tried to seduce the religious. They were
forbidden to say Mass except on Sundays, and then even none outside the
convent were to be admitted to it. Their church was given over to the



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 8 of 28)