Read CHAPTER VII - THE LAST EFFORTS OF DIPLOMACY of The Reign of Henry the Eighth‚ Volume I, free online book, by James Anthony Froude, on

I have now to resume the thread of the political history where it was dropped at the sentence of divorce pronounced by Cranmer, and the coronation of the new queen.  The effect was about to be ascertained of these bold measures upon Europe; and of what their effect would be, only so much could be foretold with certainty, that the time for trifling was past, and the pope and Francis of France would be compelled to declare their true intentions.  If these intentions were honest, the subordination of England to the papacy might be still preserved in a modified form.  The papal jurisdiction was at end, but the spiritual supremacy of the Bishop of Rome, with a diminished but considerable revenue attached to it, remained unaffected; and it was for the pope to determine whether, by fulfilling at last his original engagements, he would preserve these remnants of his power and privileges, or boldly take up the gage, excommunicate his disobedient subjects, and attempt by force to bring them back to their allegiance.

The news of what had been done did not take him wholly by surprise.  It was known at Brussels at the end of April that the king had married.  The queen regent spoke of it to the ambassador sternly and significantly, not concealing her expectation of the mortal resentment which would be felt by her brothers; and the information was forwarded with the least possible delay to the cardinals of the imperial faction at Rome.  The true purposes which underlay the contradiction of Clement’s language are undiscoverable.  Perhaps in the past winter he had been acting out a deep intrigue perhaps he was drifting between rival currents, and yielded in any or all directions as the alternate pressure varied; yet whatever had been the meaning of his language, whether it was a scheme to deceive Henry, or was the expression only of weakness and good-nature desiring to avoid a quarrel to the latest moment, the decisive step which had been taken in the marriage, even though it was nominally undivulged, obliged him to choose his course and openly adhere to it.  After the experience of the past, there could be no doubt what that course would be.

On the 12th of May a citation was issued against the King of England, summoning him to appear by person or proxy at a stated day.  It had been understood that no step of such a kind was to be taken before the meeting of the pope and Francis; Bennet, therefore, Henry’s faithful secretary, hastily inquired the meaning of this measure.  The pope told him that it could not be avoided, and the language which he used revealed to the English agent the inevitable future.  The king, he said, had defied the inhibitory brief which had been lately issued, and had incurred excommunication; the imperialists insisted that he should be proceeded against for contempt, and that the excommunication should at once be pronounced.  However great might be his own personal reluctance, it was not possible for him to remain passive; and if he declined to resort at once to the more extreme exercise of his power, the hesitation was merely until the emperor was prepared to enforce the censures of the church with the strong hand.  It stood not “with his honour to execute such censures,” he said, “and the same not to be regarded." But there was no wish to spare Henry; and if Francis could be detached from his ally, and if the condition of the rest of Christendom became such as to favour the enterprise, England might evidently look for the worst which the pope, with the Catholic powers, could execute.  If the papal court was roused into so menacing a mood by the mere intimation of the secret marriage, it was easy to foresee what would ensue when the news arrived of the proceedings at Dunstable.  Bennet entreated that the process should be delayed till the interview; but the pope answered coldly that he had done his best and could do no more; the imperialists were urgent, and he saw no reason to refuse their petition. This was Clement’s usual language, but there was something peculiar in his manner.  He had been often violent, but he had never shown resolution, and the English agents were perplexed.  The mystery was soon explained.  He had secured himself on the side of France; and Francis, who at Calais had told Henry that his negotiations with the see of Rome were solely for the interests of England, that for Henry’s sake he was marrying his son into a family beneath him in rank, that Henry’s divorce was to form the especial subject of his conference with the pope, had consented to allow these dangerous questions to sink into a secondary place, and had relinquished his intention, if he had ever seriously entertained it, of becoming an active party in the English quarrel.

The long-talked-of interview was still delayed.  First it was to have taken place in the winter, then in the spring; June was the date last fixed for it, and now Bennet had to inform the king that it would not take place before September; and that, from the terms of a communication which had just passed between the parties who were to meet, the subjects discussed at the conference would not be those which he had been led to expect.  Francis, in answer to a question from the pope, had specified three things which he proposed particularly to “intreat.”  The first concerned the defence of Christendom against the Turks, the second concerned the general council, and the third concerned “the extinction of the Lutheran sect." These were the points which the Most Christian king was anxious to discuss with the pope.  For the latter good object especially, “he would devise and treat for the provision of an army.”  In the King of England’s cause, he trusted “some means might be found whereby it might be compounded;" but if persuasion failed, there was no fear lest he should have recourse to any other method.

It was this which had given back to the pope his courage.  It was this which Bennet had now to report to Henry.  The French alliance, it was too likely, would prove a broken reed, and pierce the hand that leant upon it.

Henry knew the danger; but danger was not a very terrible thing either to him or to his people.  If he had conquered his own reluctance to risk a schism in the church, he was not likely to yield to the fear of isolation; and if there was something to alarm in the aspect of affairs, there was also much to encourage.  His parliament was united and resolute.  His queen was pregnant.  The Nun of Kent had assigned him but a month to live after his marriage; six months had passed, and he was alive and well; the supernatural powers had not declared against him; and while safe with respect to enmity from above, the earthly powers he could afford to defy.  When he finally divorced Queen Catherine, he must have foreseen his present position at least as a possibility, and if not prepared for so swift an apostasy in Francis, and if not yet wholly believing it, we may satisfy ourselves he had never absolutely trusted a prince of metal so questionable.

The Duke of Norfolk was waiting at the French court, with a magnificent embassy, to represent the English king at the interview.  The arrival of the pope had been expected in May.  It was now delayed till September; and if Clement came after all, it would be for objects in which England had but small concern.  It was better for England that there should be no meeting at all, than a meeting to devise schemes for the massacre of Lutherans.  Henry therefore wrote to the Duke, telling him generally what he had heard from Rome; he mentioned the three topics which he understood were to form the matter of discussion; but he skilfully affected to regard them as having originated with the imperialists, and not with the French king.  In a long paper of instructions, in which earnestness and irony were strangely blended, he directed the ambassador to treat his good brother as if he were still exclusively devoted to the interests of England; and to urge upon him, on the ground of this fresh delay, that the interview should not take place at all.

“Our pleasure is,” he wrote, “that ye shall say that we be not a little moved in our heart to see our good brother and us, being such princes of Christendom, to be so handled with the pope, so much to our dishonour, and to the pope’s and the emperor’s advancement; seeming to be at the pope’s commandment to come or tarry as he or his cardinals shall appoint; and to depend upon his pleasure when to meet that is to say, when he list or never.  If our good brother and we were either suitors to make request, the obtaining whereof we did much set by, or had any particular matter of advantage to entreat with him, these proceedings might be the better tolerated; but our good brother having no particular matter of his own, and being ... that [no] more glory nor surety could happen to the emperour than to obtain the effect of the three articles moved by the pope and his cardinals, we think it not convenient to attend the pleasure of the pope, to go or to abyde.  We could have been content to have received and taken at the pope’s hand, jointly with our good brother, pleasure and friendship in our great cause; [but] on the other part, we cannot esteem the pope’s part so high, as to have our good brother an attendant suitor therefore ... desiring him, therefore, in anywise to disappoint for his part the said interview; and if he have already granted thereto upon some new good occasion, which he now undoubtedly hath to depart from the same.

“For we, ye may say, having the justness of our cause for us, with such an entire and whole consent of our nobility and commons of our realm and subjects, and being all matters passed, and in such terms as they now be, do not find such lack and want of that the pope might do, with us or against us, as we would for the obtaining thereof be contented to have a French king our so perfect a friend, to be not only a mediator but a suitor therein, and a suitor attendant to have audience upon liking and after the advice of such cardinals as repute it among pastymes to play and dally with kings and princes; whose honour, ye may say, is above all things, and more dear to us in the person of our good brother, than is any piece of our cause at the pope’s hands.  And therefore, if there be none other thing but our cause, and the other causes whereof we be advertised, our advice, counsel, special desire also and request is, [that our good brother shall] break off the interview, unless the pope will make suit to him; and [unless] our said good brother hath such causes of his own as may particularly tend to his own benefit, honour, and profit wherein he shall do great and singular pleasure unto us; giving to understand to the pope, that me know ourselves and him both, and look to be esteemed accordingly.

Should it appear that on receipt of this communication, Francis was still resolved to persevere, and that he had other objects in view to which Henry had not been made privy, the ambassadors were then to remind him of the remaining obligations into which he had entered; and to ascertain to what degree his assistance might be calculated upon, should the pope pronounce Henry deposed, and the emperor attempt to enforce the sentence.

After forwarding these instructions, the king’s next step was to anticipate the pope by an appeal which would neutralise his judgment should he venture upon it; and which offered a fresh opportunity of restoring the peace of Christendom, if there was true anxiety to preserve that peace.  The hinge of the great question, in the form which at last it assumed, was the validity or invalidity of the dispensation by which Henry had married his brother’s widow.  Being a matter which touched the limit of the pope’s power, the pope was himself unable to determine it in his own favour; and the only authority by which the law could be ruled, was a general council.  In the preceding winter, the pope had volunteered to submit the question to this tribunal; but Henry believing that it was on the point of immediate solution in another way, had then declined, on the ground that it would cause a needless delay.  He was already married, and he had hoped that sentence might be given in his favour in time to anticipate the publication of the ceremony.  But he was perfectly satisfied that justice was on his side; and was equally confident of obtaining the verdict of Europe, if it could be fairly pronounced.  Now, therefore, under the altered circumstances, he accepted the offered alternative.  He anticipated with tolerable certainty the effect which would be produced at Rome, when the news should arrive there of the Dunstable divorce; and on the 29th of June, he appealed formally, in the presence of the Archbishop of York, from the pope’s impending sentence, to the next general council.

Of this curious document the substance was as follows: It commenced with a declaration that the king had no intention of acting otherwise than became a good Catholic prince; or of injuring the church or attacking the privileges conceded by God to the Holy See.  If his words could be lawfully shown to have such a tendency he would revoke, emend, and correct them in a Catholic spirit.

The general features of the case were then recapitulated.  His marriage with his brother’s wife had been pronounced illegal by the principal universities of Europe, by the clergy of the two provinces of the Church of England, by the most learned theologians and canonists, and finally, by the public judgment of the church. He therefore had felt himself free; and, “by the inspiration of the Host High, had lawfully married another woman.”  Furthermore, “for the common weal and tranquillity of the realm of England, and for the wholesome rule and government of the same, he had caused to be enacted certain statutes and ordinances, by authority of parliaments lawfully called for that purpose.”  “Now, however,” he continued, “we fearing that his Holyness the Pope ... having in our said cause treated us far otherwise than either respect for our dignity and desert, or the duty of his own office required at his hands, and having done us many injuries which we now of design do suppress, but which hereafter we shall be ready, should circumstances so require, to divulge ... may now proceed to acts of further injustice, and heaping wrong on wrong, may pronounce the censures and other penalties of the spiritual sword against ourselves, our realm, and subjects, seeking thereby to deprive us of the use of the sacraments, and to cut us off, in the sight of the world, from the unity of the church, to the no slight hurt and injury of our realm and subjects: 

“Fearing these things, and desiring to preserve from detriment not only ourselves, our own dignity and estimation, but also our subjects, committed to us by Almighty God; to keep them in the unity of the Christian faith, and in the wonted participation in the sacraments; that, when in truth they be not cut off from the integrity of the church, nor can nor will be so cut off in any manner, they may not appear to be so cut off in the estimation of men; [desiring further] to check and hold back our people whom God has given to us, lest, in the event of such injury, they refuse utterly to obey any longer the Roman Pontiff, as a hard and cruel pastor:  [for these causes] and believing, from reasons probable, conjectures likely, and words used to our injury by his Holiness the Pope, which in divers manners have been brought to our ears, that some weighty act may be committed by him or others to the prejudice of ourselves and of our realm; We, therefore, in behalf of all and every of our subjects, and of all persons adhering to us in this our cause, do make our appeal to the next general council, which shall be lawfully held, in place convenient, with the consent of the Christian princes, and of such others as it may concern not in contempt of the Holy See, but for defence of the truth of the Gospel, and for the other causes afore rehearsed.  And we do trust in God that it shall not be interpreted as a thing ill done on our part, if preferring the salvation of our soul and the relief of our conscience to any mundane respects or favours, we have in this cause regarded more the Divine law than the laws of man, and have thought it rather meet to obey God than to obey man."

By the appeal and the causes which were assigned for it, Henry pre-occupied the ground of the conflict; he entrenched himself in the “debateable land” of legal uncertainty; and until his position had been pronounced untenable by the general voice of Christendom, any sentence which the pope could issue would have but a doubtful validity.  It was, perhaps, but a slight advantage; and the niceties of technical fencing might soon resolve themselves into a question of mere strength; yet, in the opening of great conflicts, it is well, even when a resort to force is inevitable, to throw on the opposing party the responsibility of violence; and Henry had been led, either by a refinement of policy, or by the plain straightforwardness of his intentions, into a situation where he could expect without alarm the unrolling of the future.

The character of that future was likely soon to be decided.  The appeal was published on the 29th of June; and as the pope must have heard, by the middle of the month at latest, of the trial and judgment at Dunstable, a few days would bring an account of the manner in which he had received the intelligence.  Prior to the arrival of the couriers, Bennet, with the assistance of Cardinal Tournon, had somewhat soothed down his exasperation.  Francis, also, having heard that immediate process was threatened, had written earnestly to deprecate such a measure; and though he took the interference “very displeasantly," the pope could not afford to lose, by premature impatience; the fruit of all his labour and diplomacy, and had yielded so far as to promise that nothing of moment should be done.  To this state of mind he had been brought one day in the second week of June.  The morning after, Bennet found him “sore altered.”  The news of “my Lord of Canterbury’s proceedings” had arrived the preceding night; and “his Holiness said that [such] doings were too sore for him to stand still at and do nothing." It was “against his duty towards God and the world to tolerate them.”  The imperialist cardinals, impatient before, clamoured that the evil had been caused by the dilatory timidity with which the case had been handled from the first. The consistory sate day after day with closed doors; and even such members of it as had before inclined to the English side, joined in the common indignation.  “Some extreme process” was instantly looked for, and the English agents, in their daily interviews with the pope, were forced to listen to language which it was hard to bear with equanimity.  Bennet’s well-bred courtesy carried him successfully through the difficulty; his companion Bonner was not so fortunate.  Bonner’s tongue was insolent, and under bad control.  He replied to menace by impertinence; and on one occasion was so exasperating, that Clement threatened to burn him alive, or boil him in a caldron of lead. When fairly roused, the old man was dangerous; and the future Bishop of London wrote to England in extremity of alarm.  His letter has not been found, but the character of it may be perceived from the reassuring reply of the king.  The agents, Henry said, were not to allow themselves to be frightened; they were to go on calmly, with their accustomed diligence and dexterity, disputing the ground from point to point, and trust to him.  Their cause was good, and, with God’s help, he would be able to defend them from the malice of their adversaries.

Fortunately for Bonner, the pope’s passion was of brief duration, and the experiment whether Henry’s arm could reach to the dungeons of the Vatican remained untried.  The more moderate of the cardinals, also, something assuaged the storm; and angry as they all were, the majority still saw the necessity of prudence.  In the heat of the irritation, final sentence was to have been pronounced upon the entire cause, backed by interdict, excommunication, and the full volume of the papal thunders.  At the close of a month’s deliberation they resolved to reserve judgement on the original question, and to confine themselves for the present to revenging the insult to the pope by “my Lord of Canterbury.”  Both the king and the archbishop had disobeyed a formal inhibition.  On the 12th of July, the pope issued a brief, declaring Cranmer’s judgment to have been illegal, the English process to have been null and void, and the king, by his disobedience, to have incurred, ipso facto, the threatened penalties of excommunication.  Of his clemency he suspended these censures till the close of the following September, in order that time might be allowed to restore the respective parties to their old positions:  if within that period the parties were not so restored, the censures would fall. This brief was sent into Flanders, and fixed in the usual place against the door of a church in Dunkirk.

Henry was prepared for a measure which was no more than natural.  He had been prepared for it as a possibility when he married.  Both he and Francis must have been prepared for it on their meeting at Calais, when the French king advised him to marry, and promised to support him through the consequences.  His own measures had been arranged beforehand, and he had secured himself in technical entrenchments by his appeal.  After the issue of the brief, however, he could allow no English embassy to compliment Clement by its presence on his visit to France.  He “knew the pope,” as he said.  Long experience had shown him that nothing was to be gained by yielding in minor points; and the only chance which now remained of preserving the established order of Christendom, was to terrify the Vatican court into submission by the firmness of his attitude.  For the present complications, the court of Rome, not he, was responsible.  The pope, with a culpable complacency for the emperor, had shrunk from discharging a duty which his office imposed upon him; and the result had been, that the duty was discharged by another.  Henry could not blame himself for the consequences of Clement’s delinquency.  He rather felt himself wronged in having been driven to so extreme a measure against his will.  He resolved, therefore, to recall the embassy, and once more, though with no great hope that he would be successful, to invite Francis to fulfil his promise, and to unite with himself in expressing his resentment at the pope’s conduct.

His despatch to the Duke of Norfolk on this occasion was the natural sequel of what he had written a few weeks previously.  That letter had failed wholly of its effect.  The interview was resolved upon for quite other reasons than those which were acknowledged, and therefore was not to be given up.  A promise, however, had been extracted, that it should be given up, if in the course of the summer the pope “innovated anything” against the King of England; and Henry now required, formally, that this engagement should be observed.  “A notorious and notable innovation” had been made, and Francis must either deny his words, or adhere to them.  It would be evident to all the world, if the interview took place under the present circumstances, that the alliance with England was no longer of the importance with him which it had been; that his place in the struggle, when the struggle came, would be found on the papal side.

The language of Henry throughout this paper was very fine and noble.  He reminded Francis that substantially the cause at issue was the cause of all princes; the pope claiming a right to summon them to plead in the courts of Rome, and refusing to admit their exemption as sovereign rulers.  He had been required not only to undo his marriage, and cancel the sentence of divorce, but, as a condition of reconciliation with the Holy See, to undo also, the Act of Appeals, and to restore the papal jurisdiction.  He desired it to be understood, with emphasis, that these points were all equally sacred, and the repeal of the act was as little to be thought of as the annulling the marriage.  “The pope,” he said, “did inforce us to excogitate some new thing, whereby we might be healed and relieved of that continual disease, to care for our cause at Rome, where such defence was taken from us, as by the laws of God, nature, and man, is due unto us.  Hereupon depended the wealth of our realm; hereupon consisted the surety of our succession, which by no other means could be well assured.”  “And therefore,” he went on, “you [the Duke] shall say to our good brother, that the pope persisting in the ways he hath entered, ye must needs despair in any meeting between the French king and the pope, to produce any such effect as to cause us to meet in concord with the pope; but we shall be even as far asunder as is between yea and nay.  For to the pope’s enterprise to revoke or put back anything that is done here, either in marriage, statute, sentence, or proclamation of which four members is knit and conjoined the surety of our matter, nor any can be removed from the other, lest thereby the whole edifice should be destroyed we will and shall, by all ways and means say nay, and declare our nay in such sort as the world shall hear, and the pope feel it.  Wherein ye may say our firm trust, perfect hope, and assured confidence is, that our good brother will agree with us; as well for that it should be partly dishonourable for him to see decay the thing that was of his own foundation and planting:  as also that it should be too much dishonourable for us having travelled so far in this matter, and brought it to this point, that all the storms of the year passed, it is now come to harvest, trusting to see shortly the fruit of our marriage, to the wealth, joy, and comfort of all our realm, and our own singular consolation that anything should now be done by us to impair the same, and to put our issue either in peril of bastardy, or otherwise disturb that [which] is by the whole agreement of our realm established for their and our commodity, wealth, and benefit.  And in this determination ye know us to be so fixed, and the contrary hereof to be so infeasible, either at our hands, or by the consent of the realm, that ye must needs despair of any order to be taken by the French king with the pope.  For if any were by him taken wherein any of these four pieces should be touched that is to say, the marriage of the queen our wife, the revocation of the Bishop of Canterbury’s sentence, the statute of our realm, or our late proclamation, which be as it were one and as walls, covering, the foundation make a house, so they knit together, establish, and make one matter ye be well assured, and be so ascertained from us, that in no wise we will relent, but will, as we have before written, withstand the same.  Whereof ye may say that ye have thought good to advertise him, to the intent he make no farther promise to the pope therein than may be performed.”

The ambassadors were the more emphatically to insist on the king’s resolution, lest Francis, in his desire for conciliation, might hold out hopes to the pope which could not be realised.  They were to say, however, that the King of England still trusted that the interview would not take place.  The see of Rome was asserting a jurisdiction which, if conceded, would encourage an unlimited usurpation.  If princes might be cited to the papal courts in a cause of matrimony, they might be cited equally in other causes at the pope’s pleasure; and the free kingdoms of Europe would be converted into dependent provinces of the see of Rome.  It concerned alike the interest and the honour of all sovereigns to resist encroachments which pointed to such an issue; and, therefore, Henry said he hoped that his good brother would use the pope as he had deserved, “doing him to understand his folly, and [that] unless he had first made amends, he could not find in his heart to have further amity with him.”

If notwithstanding, the instructions concluded, “all these persuasions cannot have place to let the said meeting, and the French king shall say it is expedient for him to have in his hands the duchess, under pretence of marriage for his son, which he cannot obtain but by this means, ye shall say that ye remember ye heard him say once he would never conclude that marriage but to do us good, which is now infaisible; and now in the voice of the world shall do us both more hurt in the diminution of the reputation of our amity than it should do otherwise profit.  Nevertheless, [if] ye cannot let his precise determination, [ye] can but lament and bewail your own chance to depart home in this sort; and that yet of the two inconvénients, it is to you more tolerable to return to us nothing done, than to be present at the interview and to be compelled to look patiently upon your master’s enemy.”

After having entered thus their protest against the French king’s conduct, the embassy was to return to England, leaving a parting intimation of the single condition under which Henry would consent to treat.  If the pope would declare that “the matrimony with the Lady Catherine was and is nought, he should do somewhat not to be refused;” except with this preliminary, no offer whatever could be entertained.

This communication, as Henry anticipated, was not more effectual than the former in respect of its immediate object.  At the meeting of Calais the interests of Francis had united him with England, and in pursuing the objects of Henry he was then pursuing his own.  The pope and the emperor had dissolved the coalition by concessions on the least dangerous side.  The interests of Francis lay now in the other direction, and there are few instances in history in which governments have adhered to obligations against their advantage from a spirit of honour, when the purposes with which they contracted those obligations have been otherwise obtained.  The English embassy returned as they were ordered; the French court pursued their way to Marseilles; not quarrelling with England; intending to abide by the alliance, and to give all proofs of amity which did not involve inconvenient sacrifices; but producing on the world at large by their conduct the precise effect which Henry had foretold.  The world at large, looking to acts rather than to words, regarded the interview as a contrivance to reconcile Francis and the emperor through the intervention of the pope, as a preliminary for a packed council, and for a holy war against the Lutherans a combination of ominous augury to Christendom, from the consequences of which, if Germany was to be the first sufferer, England would be inevitably the second.

Meanwhile, as the French alliance threatened to fail, the English government found themselves driven at last to look for a connection among those powers from whom they had hitherto most anxiously disconnected themselves.  At such a time.  Protestant Germany, not Catholic France, was England’s natural friend.  The Reformation was essentially a Teutonic movement; the Germans, the English, the Scotch, the Swedes, the Hollanders, all were struggling on their various roads towards an end essentially the same.  The same dangers threatened them, the same inspiration moved them; and in the eyes of the orthodox Catholics they were united in a black communion of heresy.  Unhappily, though this identity was obvious to their enemies, it was far from obvious to themselves.  The odium theologicum is ever hotter between sections of the same party which are divided by trifling differences, than between the open representatives of antagonist principles; and Anglicans and Lutherans, instead of joining hands across the Channel, endeavoured only to secure each a recognition of themselves at the expense of the other.  The English plumed themselves on their orthodoxy.  They were “not as those publicans,” heretics, despisers of the keys, disobedient to authority; they desired only the independence of their national church, and they proved their zeal for the established faith with all the warmth of persecution.  To the Germans national freedom was of wholly minor moment, in comparison with the freedom of the soul; the orthodoxy of England was as distasteful to the disciples of Luther as the orthodoxy of Rome and the interests of Europe were sacrificed on both sides to this foolish and fatal disunion.  Circumstances indeed would not permit the division to remain in its first intensity, and their common danger compelled the two nations into a partial understanding.  Yet the reconciliation, imperfect to the last, was at the outset all but impossible.  Their relations were already embittered by many reciprocal acts of hostility.  Henry VIII. had won his spurs as a theologian by an attack on Luther.  Luther had replied by a hailstorm of invectives.  The Lutheran books had been proscribed, the Lutherans themselves had’ been burnt by Henry’s bishops.  The Protestant divines in Germany had attempted to conciliate the emperor by supporting the cause of Catherine; and Luther himself had spoken loudly in condemnation of the king.  The elements of disunion were so many and so powerful, that there was little hope of contending against them successfully.  Nevertheless, as Henry saw, the coalition of Francis and the emperor, if the pope succeeded in cementing it, was a most serious danger, to which an opposite alliance would alone be an adequate counterpoise; and the experiment might at least be tried whether such an alliance was possible.  At the beginning of August, therefore, Stephen Vaughan was sent on a tentative mission to the Elector of Saxe, John Frederick, at Weimar. He was the bearer of letters containing a proposal for a resident English ambassador; and if the elector gave his consent, he was to proceed with similar offers to the courts of the Landgrave of Hesse and the Duke of Lunenberg. Vaughan arrived in due time at the elector’s court, was admitted to audience and delivered his letters.  The prince read them, and in the evening of the same day returned for answer a polite but wholly absolute refusal.  Being but a prince elector, he said, he might not aspire to so high an honour as to be favoured with the presence of an English ambassador.  It was not the custom in Germany, and he feared that if he consented he should displease the emperor. The meaning of such a reply delivered in a few hours was not to be mistaken, however disguised in courteous language.  The English emissary saw that he was an unwelcome visitor, and that he must depart with the utmost celerity.  “The elector,” he wrote, “thirsted to have me gone from him, which I right well perceived by evident tokens which declared unto me the same.”  He had no anxiety to expose to hazard the toleration which the Protestant dukedoms as yet enjoyed from the emperor, by committing himself to a connection with a prince with whose present policy he had no sympathy, and whose conversion to the cause of the Reformation he had as yet no reason to believe sincere.

The reception which Vaughan met with at Weimar satisfied him that he need go no further; neither the Landgrave nor the Duke of Lunenberg would be likely to venture on a course which the elector so obviously feared.  He, therefore, gave up his mission, and returned to England.

The first overtures in this direction issued in complete failure, nor was the result wholly to be regretted.  It taught Henry (or it was a first commencement of the lesson) that so long as he pursued a merely English policy he might not expect that other nations would embroil themselves in his defence.  He must allow the Reformation a wider scope, he must permit it to comprehend within its possible consequences the breaking of the chains by which his subjects’ minds were bound not merely a change of jailors.  Then perhaps the German princes might return some other answer.

The disappointment, however, fell lightly; for before the account of the failure had reached England, an event had happened, which, poor as the king might be in foreign alliances, had added most material strength to his position in England.  The full moment of that event he had no means of knowing.  In its immediate bearing it was matter for most abundant satisfaction.  On the seventh of September, between three and four in the afternoon, at the palace of Greenwich, was born a princess, named three days later in her baptism, after the king’s mother, Elizabeth. A son had been hoped for.  The child was a daughter only; yet at least Providence had not pronounced against the marriage by a sentence of barrenness; at least there was now an heir whose legitimacy the nation had agreed to accept.  Te Deums were sung in all the churches; again the river decked itself in splendour; again all London steeples were musical with bells.  A font of gold was presented for the christening.  Francis, in compensation for his backslidings, had consented to be godfather; and the infant, who was soon to find her country so rude a stepmother, was received with all the outward signs of exulting welcome.  To Catherine’s friends the offspring of the rival marriage was not welcome, but was an object rather of bitter hatred; and the black cloud of a sister’s jealousy gathered over the cradle whose innocent occupant had robbed her of her title and her expectations.  To the king, to the parliament, to the healthy heart of England, she was an object of eager hope and an occasion for thankful gratitude; but the seeds were sown with her birth of those misfortunes which were soon to overshadow her, and to form the school of the great nature which in its maturity would re-mould the world.

Leaving Elizabeth for the present, we return to the continent, and to the long-promised interview, which was now at last approaching.  Henry made no further attempt to remonstrate with Francis; and Francis assured him, and with all sincerity, that he would use his best efforts to move the pope to make the necessary concessions.  The English embassy meanwhile was withdrawn.  The excommunication had been received as an act of hostility, of which Henry would not even condescend to complain; and it was to be understood distinctly that in any exertions which might be made by the French king, the latter was acting without commission on his own responsibility.  The intercession was to be the spontaneous act of a mutual friend, who, for the interests of Christendom, desired to heal a dangerous wound; but neither directly nor indirectly was it to be interpreted as an expression of a desire for a reconciliation on the English side.

It was determined further, on the recal of the Duke of Norfolk, that the opportunity of the meeting should be taken to give a notice to the pope of the king’s appeal to the council; and for this purpose, Bennet and Bonner were directed to follow the papal court from Rome.  Bennet never accomplished this journey, dying on the route, worn out with much service. His death delayed Bonner, and the conferences had opened for many days before his arrival.  Clement had reached Marseilles by ship from Genoa, about the 20th of October.  As if pointedly to irritate Henry, he had placed himself under the conduct of the Duke of Albany. He was followed two days later by his fair niece, Catherine de Medici; and the preparations for the marriage were commenced with the utmost swiftness and secrecy.  The conditions of the contract were not allowed to transpire, but they were concluded in three days; and on this 25th of October the pope bestowed his precious present on the Duke of Orleans, he himself performing the nuptial ceremony, and accompanying it with his paternal benediction on the young pair, and on the happy country which was to possess them for its king and queen.  France being thus securely riveted to Rome, other matters could be talked of more easily.  Francis made all decent overtures to the pope in behalf of Henry; if the pope was to be believed indeed, he was vehemently urgent. Clement in turn made suggestions for terms of alliance between Francis and Charles, “to the advantage of the Most Christian king;" and thus parried the remonstrances.  The only point positively clear to the observers, was the perfect understanding which existed between the King of France and his spiritual father. Unusual activity was remarked in the dockyards; Italian soldiers of fortune were about the court in unusual numbers, and apparently in favour. An invasion of Lombardy was talked of among the palace retinue; and the emperor was said to distrust the intentions of the conference.  Possibly experience had taught all parties to doubt each other’s faith.  Possibly they were all in some degree waiting upon events; and had not yet resolved upon their conduct.

In the midst of this scene arrived Doctor Bonner, in the beginning of November, with Henry’s appeal.  He was a strange figure to appear in such a society.  There was little probity, perhaps, either in the court of France, or in their Italian visitors:  but of refinement, of culture, of those graces which enable men to dispense with the more austere excellences of character which transform licentiousness into elegant frailty, and treachery and falsehood into pardonable finesse of these there was very much:  and when a rough, coarse, vulgar Englishman was plunged among these delicate ladies and gentlemen, he formed an element which contrasted strongly with the general environment.  Yet Banner, perhaps, was not without qualifications which fitted him for his mission.  He was not, indeed, virtuous; but he had a certain downright honesty about him, joined with an entire insensibility to those finer perceptions which would have interfered with plain speaking, where plain speaking was desirable; he had a broad, not ungenial humour, which showed him things and persons in their genuine light, and enabled him to picture them for us with a distinctness for which we owe him lasting thanks.

He appeared at Marseilles on the 7th of November, and had much difficulty in procuring an interview.  At length, weary of waiting, and regardless of the hot lead with which he had been lately threatened, he forced his way into the room where “the pope was standing, with the Cardinals De Lorraine and Medici, ready apparelled with his stole to go to the consistory.”

“Incontinently upon my coming thither,” he wrote to Henry, “the pope, whose sight is incredulous quick, eyed me, and that divers times; making a good pause in one place; at which time I desired the datary to advertise his Holiness that I would speak with him; and albeit the datary made no little difficulty therein, yet perceiving that upon refusal I would have gone forthwith to the pope, he advertised the pope of my said desire.  His Holiness dismissing as then the said cardinals, and letting his vesture fall, went to a window in the said chamber, calling me unto him.  At which time I showed unto his Holiness how that your Highness had given me express and strait commandment to intimate unto him how that your Grace had solemnly provoked and appealed unto the general council; submitting yourself to the tuition and defence thereof; which provocation and appeal I had under authentic writings then with me, to show for that purpose.  And herewithal I drew out the said writing, showing his said Holiness that I brought the same in proof of the premises, and that his Holiness might see and perceive all the same.  The pope having this for a breakfast, only pulled down his head to his shoulders, after the Italian fashion, and said that because he was as then fully ready to go into the consistory, he would not tarry to hear or see the said writings, but willed me to come at afternoon.”

The afternoon came, and Bonner returned, and was admitted.  There was some conversation upon indifferent matters; the pope making good-natured inquiries about Bennet, and speaking warmly and kindly of him.

“Presently,” Bonner continues, “falling out of that, he said that he marvelled your Highness would use his Holiness after such sort as it appears ye did.  I said that your Highness no less did marvel that his Holiness having found so much benevolence and kindness at your hands in all times past, would for acquittal show such unkindness as of late he did.  And here we entered in communication upon two points:  one was that his Holiness, having committed in times past, and in most ample form, the cause into the realm, promising not to revoke the said commission, and over that, to confirm the process and sentence of the commissaries, should not at the point of sentence have advoked the cause, retaining it at Rome forasmuch as Rome was a place whither your Highness could not, ne yet ought, personally to come unto, and also was not bound to send thither your proctor.  The second point was, that your Highness’s cause being, in the opinion of the best learned men in Christendom, approved good and just, and so [in] many ways known unto his Holiness, the same should not so long have retained it in his hands without judgment.

“His Holiness answering the same, as touching the first point, said that if the queen (meaning the late wife of Prince Arthur, calling her always in his conversation the queen) had not given an oath refusing the judges as suspect, he would not have advoked the matter at all, but been content that it should have been determined and ended in your realm.  But seeing she gave that oath, appealing also to his court, he might and ought to hear her, his promise made to your Highness, which was qualified, notwithstanding.  As touching the second point, his Holiness said that your Highness only was the default thereof, because ye would not send a proxy to the cause.  These matters, however, he said, had been many times fully talked upon at Rome; and therefore [he] willed me to omit further communication thereupon, and to proceed to the doing of such things that I was specially sent for.

“Whereupon making protestation of your Highness’s mind and intent towards the see apostolic not intending anything to do in contempt of the same I exhibited unto his Holiness the commission which your Highness had sent unto me; and his Holiness delivering it to the datary, commanded him to read it; and hearing in the same the words (referring to the injuries which he had done to your Highness), he began to look up after a new sort, and said, ‘O questo et multo vero! (this is much true!)’ meaning that it was not true indeed.  And verily, sure not only in this, but also in many parts of the said commission, he showed himself grievously offended; insomuch that, when those words, ’To the next general council which shall be lawfully held in place convenient,’ were read, he fell in a marvellous great choler and rage, not only declaring the same by his gesture and manner, but also by words:  speaking with great vehemence, and saying, ’Why did not the king, when I wrote to my nuncio this year past, to speak unto him for this general council, give no answer unto my said nuncio, but referred him for answer to the French king? at what time he might perceive by my doing, that I was very well disposed, and much spake for it.’  ’The thing so standing, now to speak of a general council!  Oh, good Lord! but well! his commission and all his other writings cannot be but welcome unto me;’ which words methought he spake willing to hide his choler, and make me believe that he was nothing angry with their doings, when in vary deed I perceived, by many arguments, that it was otherwise.  And one among others was taken here for infallible with them that knoweth the pope’s conditions, that he was continually folding up and unwinding of his handkerchief, which he never doth but when he is tickled to the very heart with great choler.”

At length the appeal was read through; and at the close of it Francis entered, and talked to the pope for some time, but in so low a voice that Bonner could not hear what was passing.  When he had gone, his Holiness said that he would deliberate upon the appeal with the consistory, and after hearing their judgments would return his answer.

Three days passed, and then the English agent was informed that he might again present himself.  The pope had recovered his calmness.  When he had time to collect himself, Clement could speak well and with dignity; and if we could forget that his conduct was substantially unjust, and that in his conscience he knew it to be unjust, he would almost persuade us to believe him honest.  “He said,” wrote Bonner, “that his mind towards your Highness always had been to minister justice, and to do pleasure to you; albeit it hath not been so taken:  and he never unjustly grieved your Grace that he knoweth, nor intendeth hereafter to do.  As concerning the appeal, he said that, forasmuch as there was a constitution of Pope Pius, his predecessor, that did condemn and reprove all such appeals, he did therefore reject your Grace’s appeal as frivolous, forbidden, and unlawful.”  As touching the council, he said generally, that he would do his best that it should meet; but it was to be understood that the calling a general council belonged to him, and not to the King of England.

The audience ended, and Bonner left the pope convinced that he intended, on his return to Rome, to execute the censures and continue the process without delay.  That the sentence which he would pronounce would be against the king appeared equally certain.

It appeared certain, yet after all no certain conclusion is possible.  Francis I., though not choosing to quarrel with the see of Rome to do a pleasure to Henry, was anxious to please his ally to the extent of his convenience; at any rate, he would not have gratuitously deceived him; and still less would he have been party to an act of deliberate treachery.  When Bonner was gone he had a last interview with the pope, in which he urged upon him the necessity of complying with Henry’s demands; and the pope on this occasion said that he was satisfied that the King of England was right; that his cause was good; and that he had only to acknowledge the papal jurisdiction by some formal act, to find sentence immediately pronounced in his favour.  Except for his precipitation, and his refusal to depute a proxy to plead for him, his wishes would have been complied with long before.  In the existing posture of affairs, and after the measures which had been passed in England with respect to the see of Rome, he himself, the pope said, could not make advances without some kind of submission; but a single act of acknowledgment was all which he required.

Extraordinary as it must seem, the pope certainly bound himself by this engagement:  and who can tell with what intention?  To believe him sincere and to believe him false seems equally impossible.  If he was persuaded that Henry’s cause was good, why did he in the following year pronounce finally for Catherine? why had he imperilled so needlessly the interests of the papacy in England? why had his conduct from the beginning pointed steadily to the conclusion at which he at last arrived? and why throughout Europe were the ultramontane party, to a man, on Catherine’s side?  On the other hand, what object at such a time can be conceived for falsehood?  Can we suppose that he designed to dupe Henry into submission by a promise which he had predetermined to break?  It is hard to suppose even Clement capable of so elaborate an act of perfidy; and it is, perhaps, idle to waste conjectures on the motives of a weak, much-agitated man.  He was, probably, but giving a fresh example of his disposition to say at each moment whatever would be most agreeable to his hearers.  This was his unhappy habit, by which he earned for himself a character for dishonesty, I labour to think, but half deserved.

If, however, Clement meant to deceive, he succeeded, undoubtedly, in deceiving the French king.  Francis, in communicating to Henry the language which the pope had used, entreated him to reconsider his resolution.  The objection to pleading at Rome might be overcome; for the pope would meet him in a middle course.  Judges could be appointed, who should sit at Cambray, and pass a sentence in condemnation of the original marriage; with a definite promise that their sentence should not again be called in question.  To this arrangement there could be no reasonable objection; and Francis implored that a proposal so liberal should not be rejected.  Sufficient danger already threatened Christendom, from heretics within and from the Turks without; and although the English parliament were agreed to maintain the second marriage, it was unwise to provoke the displeasure of foreign princes.  To allow time for the preliminary arrangements, the execution of the censures had been further postponed; and if Henry would make up the quarrel, the French monarch was commissioned to offer a league, offensive and defensive, between England, France, and the Papacy.  He himself only desired to be faithful to his engagements to his good brother; and as a proof of his good faith, he said that he had been offered the Duchy of Milan, if he would look on while the emperor and the pope attacked England.

This language bears all the character of sincerity; and when we remember that it followed immediately upon a close and intimate communication of three weeks with Clement, it is not easy to believe that he could have mistaken the extent of the pope’s promises.  We may suppose Clement for the moment to have been honest, or wavering between honesty and falsehood; we may suppose further that Francis trusted him because it was undesirable to be suspicious, in the belief that he was discharging the duty of a friend to Henry, and of a friend to the church, in offering to mediate upon these terms.

But Henry was far advanced beyond the point at which fair words could move him.  He had trusted many times, and had been many times deceived.  It was not easy to entangle him again.  It mattered little whether Clement was weak or false; the result was the same he could not be trusted.  To an open English understanding there was something monstrous in the position of a person professing to be a judge, who admitted that a cause which lay before him was so clear that he could bind himself to a sentence upon it, and could yet refuse to pronounce that sentence, except upon conditions.  It was scarcely for the interests of justice to leave the distribution of it in hands so questionable.

Instead, therefore, of coming forward, as Francis hoped, instead of consenting to entangle himself again in the meshes of diplomatic intrigue, the king returned a peremptory refusal.

The Duke of Norfolk, and such of the council as dreaded the completion of the schism, assured d’Inteville, the French ambassador, that for themselves they considered Francis was doing the best for England which could be done, and that they deprecated violent measures as much as possible; but in all this party there was a secret leaning to Queen Catherine, a dislike of Queen Anne and the whole Boleyn race, and a private hope and belief that the pope would after all be firm.  Their tongues were therefore tied.  They durst not speak except alone in whispers to each other; and the French ambassador, who did dare, only drew from Henry a more determined expression of his resolution.

As to his measures in England, the king said, the pope had begun the quarrel by issuing censures and by refusing to admit his reasons for declining to plead at Rome.  He was required to send a proctor, and was told that the cause should be decided in favour of whichever party was so represented there.  For the sake of all other princes as well as himself, he would send no proctor, nor would he seem to acquiesce in the pretences of the papal see.  The King of France told him that the pope admitted the justice of his cause.  Let the pope do justice, then.  The laws passed in parliament were for the benefit of the commonwealth, and he would never revoke them.  He demanded no reparation, and could make no reparation.  He asked only for his right, and if he could not obtain it, he had God and truth on his side, and that was enough.  In vain d’Inteville answered feebly, that his master had done all that was in his power; the king replied that the French council wished to entangle him with the pope; but for his own part he would never more acknowledge the pope in his pretended capacity.  He might be bishop of Rome, or pope also, if he preferred the name; but the see of Rome should have no more jurisdiction in England, and he thought he would be none the worse Christian on that account, but rather the better.  Jesus Christ he would acknowledge, and him only, as the true Lord of Christian men, and Christ’s word only should be preached in England.  The Spaniards might invade him as they threatened.  He did not fear them.  They might come, but they might not find it so easy to return.

The King had taken his position and was prepared for the consequences.  He had foreseen for more than a year the possibility of an attempted invasion; and since his marriage, he had been aware that the chances of success in the adventure had been discussed on the Continent by the papal and imperial party.  The pope had spoken of his censures being enforced, and Francis had revealed to Henry the nature of the dangerous overtures which had been made to himself.  The Lutheran princes had hurriedly declined to connect themselves in any kind of alliance with England; and on the 25th of September, Stephen Vaughan had reported that troops were being raised in Germany, which rumour destined for Catherine’s service. Ireland, too, as we shall hear in the next chapter, was on the verge of an insurrection, which had been fomented by papal agents.

Nevertheless, there was no real danger from an invasion, unless it was accompanied with an insurrection at home, or with a simultaneous attack from Scotland; and while of the first there appeared upon the surface no probability, with Scotland a truce for a year had been concluded on the 1st of October. The king, therefore, had felt himself reasonably secure.  Parliament had seemed unanimous; the clergy were submissive; the nation acquiescent or openly approving; and as late as the beginning of November, 1533, no suspicion seems to have been entertained of the spread of serious disaffection.  A great internal revolution had been accomplished; a conflict of centuries between the civil and spiritual powers had been terminated without a life lost or a blow struck.  Partial murmurs there had been, but murmurs were inevitable, and, so far as the government yet knew, were harmless.  The Scotch war had threatened to be dangerous, but it had been extinguished.  Impatient monks had denounced the king from the pulpits, and disloyal language had been reported from other quarters, which had roused vigilance, but had not created alarm.  The Nun of Kent had forced herself into the royal presence with menacing prophecies; but she had appeared to be a harmless dreamer, who could only be made of importance by punishment.  The surface of the nation was in profound repose.  Cromwell, like Walsingham after him, may perhaps have known of the fire which was smouldering below, and have watched it silently till the moment came at which to trample it out; but no symptom of uneasiness appears either in the conduct of the government or in the official correspondence.  The organisation of the friars, the secret communication of the Nun with Catherine and the Princess Mary, with the papal nuncio, or with noble lords and reverend bishops, was either unknown, or the character of those communications was not suspected.  That a serious political conspiracy should have shaped itself round the ravings of a seeming lunatic, to all appearance had not occurred as a possibility to a single member of the council, except to those whose silence was ensured by their complicity.

So far as we are able to trace the story (for the links of the chain which led to the discovery of the design’s which were entertained, are something imperfect), the suspicions of the government were first roused in the following manner: 

Queen Catherine, as we have already seen, had been called upon, at the coronation of Anne Boleyn, to renounce her title, and she had refused.  Mary had been similarly deprived of her rank as princess; but either her disgrace was held to be involved in that of her mother, or some other cause, perhaps the absence of immediate necessity, had postponed the demand for her own personal submission.  As, however, on the publication of the second marriage, it had been urged on Catherine that there could not be two queens in England, so on the birth of the Princess Elizabeth, an analogous argument required the disinheritance of Mary.  It was a hard thing; but her mother’s conduct obliged the king to be peremptory.  She might have been legitimatised by act of parliament, if Catherine would have submitted.  The consequences of Catherine’s refusal might be cruel, but they were unavoidable.

Mary was not with her mother.  It had been held desirable to remove her from an influence which would encourage her in a useless opposition; and she was residing at Beaulieu, afterwards New Hall, in Essex, under the care of Lord Hussey and the Countess of Salisbury.  Lord Hussey was a dangerous guardian; he was subsequently executed for his complicity in the Pilgrimage of Grace, the avowed object of which was the restoration of Mary to her place as heir-apparent.  We may believe, therefore, that while under his surveillance she experienced no severe restraint, nor received that advice with respect to her conduct which prudence would have dictated.  Lord Hussey, however, for the present enjoyed the confidence of the king, and was directed to inform his charge, that for the future she was to consider herself not as princess, but as the king’s natural daughter, the Lady Mary Tudor.  The message was a painful one; painful, we will hope, more on her mother’s account than on her own; but her answer implied that, as yet, Henry VIII. was no object of especial terror to his children.

“Her Grace replied,” wrote Lord Hussey to the council in communicating the result of his undertaking, that “she could not a little marvel that I being alone, and not associate with some other the king’s most honourable council, nor yet sufficiently authorised neither by commission not by any other writing from the King’s Highness, would attempt to declare such a high enterprise and matter of no little weight and importance unto her Grace, in diminishing her said estate and name; her Grace not doubting that she is the king’s true and legitimate daughter and heir procreate in good and lawful matrimony; [and] further adding, that unless she were advertised from his Highness by his writing that his Grace was so minded to diminish her estate, name, and dignity, which she trusteth his Highness will never do, she would not believe it.”

Inasmuch as Mary was but sixteen at this time, the resolution which she displayed in sending such a message was considerable.  The early English held almost Roman notions on the nature of parental authority, and the tone of a child to a father was usually that of the most submissive reverence.  Nor was she contented with replying indirectly through her guardian.  She wrote herself to the king, saying that she neither could nor would in her conscience think the contrary, but that she was his lawful daughter born in true matrimony, and that she thought that he in his own conscience did judge the same.

Such an attitude in so young a girl was singular, yet not necessarily censurable.  Henry was not her only parent, and if we suppose her to have been actuated by affection for her mother, her conduct may appear not pardonable only, but spirited and creditable.  In insisting upon her legitimacy, nevertheless, she was not only asserting the good name and fame of Catherine of Arragon, but unhappily her own claim to the succession to the throne.  It was natural that under the circumstances she should have felt her right to assert that claim; for the injury which she had suffered was patent not only to herself, but to Europe.  Catherine might have been required to give way that the king might have a son, and that the succession might be established in a prince; but so long as the child of the second marriage was a daughter only, it seemed substantially monstrous to set aside the elder for the younger.  Yet the measure was a harsh necessity; a link in the chain which could not be broken.  The harassed nation insisted above all things that no doubt should hang over the future, and it was impossible in the existing complications to recognise the daughter of Catherine without excluding Elizabeth, and excluding the prince who was expected to follow her.  By asserting her title, Mary was making herself the nucleus of sedition, which on her father’s death would lead to a convulsion in the realm.  She might not mean it, but the result would not be affected by a want of purpose in herself; and it was possible that her resolution might create immediate and far more painful complications.  The king’s excommunication was imminent, and if the censures were enforced by the emperor, she would be thrust into the unpermitted position of her father’s rival.

The political consequences of her conduct, notwithstanding, although evident to statesmen, might well be concealed from a headstrong, passionate girl.  There was no suspicion that she herself was encouraging any of these dangerous thoughts, and Henry looked upon her answer to Lord Hussey and her letter to himself as expressions of petulant folly.  Lord Oxford, the Earl of Essex, and the Earl of Sussex were directed to repair to Beaulieu, and explain to her the situation in which she had placed herself.

“Considering,” wrote the king to them, “how highly such contempt and rebellion done by our daughter and her servants doth touch not only us, and the surety of our honour and person, but also the tranquillity of our realm; and not minding to suffer the pernicious example hereof to spread far abroad, but to put remedy to the same in due time, we have given you commandment to declare to her the great folly, temerity, and indiscretion that she hath used herein, with the peril she hath incurred by reason of her so doing.  By these her ungodly doings hitherto she hath most worthily deserved our high indignation and displeasure, and thereto no less pain and punition than by the order of the laws of our realm doth appertain in case of high treason, unless our mercy and clemency should be shewed in that behalf. [If, however, after] understanding our mind and pleasure, [she will] conform herself humbly and obediently to the observation of the same, according to the office and duty of a natural daughter, and of a true and faithful subject, she may give us cause hereafter to incline our fatherly pity to her reconciliation, her benefit and advancement."

The reply of Mary to this message is not discoverable; but it is certain that she persisted in her resolution, and clung either to her mother’s “cause” or to her own rank and privilege, in sturdy defiance of her father.  To punish her insubordination or to tolerate it was equally difficult; and the government might have been in serious embarrassment had not a series of discoveries, following rapidly one upon the other, explained the mystery of these proceedings, and opened a view with alarming clearness into the under-currents of the feeling of the country.

Information from time to time had reached Henry from Rome, relating to the correspondence between Catherine and the pope.  Perhaps, too, he knew how assiduously she had importuned the emperor to force Clement to a decision. No effort, however, had been hitherto made to interfere with her hospitalities, or to oblige her visitors to submit to scrutiny before they could be admitted to her presence.  She was the mistress of her own court and of her own actions; and confidential agents, both from Rome, Brussels, and Spain, had undoubtedly passed and repassed with reciprocal instructions and directions.

The crisis which was clearly approaching had obliged Henry, in the course of this autumn, to be more watchful; and about the end of October, or the beginning of November, two friars were reported as having been at Bugden, whose movements attracted suspicion from their anxiety to escape observation.  Secret agents of the government, who had been “set” for the purpose, followed the friars to London, and notwithstanding “many wiles and cautells by them invented to escape,” the suspected persons were arrested and brought before Cromwell.  Cromwell, “upon examination” could gather nothing from them of any moment or great importance; but, “entering on further communication,” he said, “he found one of them a very seditious person, and so committed them to ward.”  The king was absent from London, but had left directions that, in the event of any important occurrence of the kind, Archbishop Cranmer should be sent for; but Cranmer not being immediately at hand, Cromwell wrote to Henry for instructions; inasmuch as, he said, “it is undoubted that they (the monks) have intended, and would confess, some great matter, if they might be examined as they ought to be that is to say, by pains.”

The curtain here falls over the two prisoners; we do not know whether they were tortured, whether they confessed, or what they confessed; but we may naturally connect this letter, directly or indirectly, with the events which immediately followed.  In the middle of November we find a commission sitting at Lambeth, composed of Cromwell, Cranmer, and Latimer, ravelling out the threads of a story, from which, when the whole was disentangled, it appeared that by Queen Catherine, the Princess Mary, and a large and formidable party in the country, the king, on the faith of a pretended revelation, was supposed to have forfeited the crown; that his death, either by visitation of God or by visitation of man, was daily expected; and that whether his death took place or not, a revolution was immediately looked for, which would place the princess on the throne.

The Nun of Kent, as we remember, had declared that if Henry persisted in his resolution of marrying Anne, she was commissioned by God to tell him that he should lose his power and authority.  She had not specified the manner in which the sentence would be carried into effect against him.  The form of her threats had been also varied occasionally; she said that he should die, but whether by the hands of his subjects, or by a providential judgment, she left to conjecture; and the period within which his punishment was to fall upon him was stated variously at one month or at six. She had attempted no secresy with these prophecies; she had confined herself in appearance to words; and the publicity which she courted having prevented suspicion of secret conspiracy, Henry quietly accepted the issue, and left the truth of the prophecy to be confuted by the event.  He married.  The one month passed; the six months passed; eight nine months.  His child was born and was baptised, and no divine thunder had interposed; only a mere harmless verbal thunder, from a poor old man at Rome.  The illusion, as he imagined, had been lived down, and had expired of its own vanity.

But the Nun and her friar advisers were counting on other methods of securing the fulfilment of the prophecy than supernatural assistance.  It is remarkable that hypocrites and impostors as they knew themselves to be, they were not without a half belief that some supernatural intervention was imminent; but the career on which they had entered was too fascinating to allow them to forsake it when their expectation failed them.  They were swept into the stream which was swelling to resist the Reformation, and allowed themselves to be hurried forward either to victory or to destruction.

The first revelation being apparently confuted by facts, a second was produced as an interpretation of it; which, however, was not published like the other, but whispered in secret to persons whose dispositions were known.

“When the King’s Grace,” says the report of the commissioners, “had continued in good health, honour, and prosperity more than a month, Dr. Bocking shewed the said Nun, that as King Saul, abjected from his kingdom by God, yet continued king in the sight of the world, so her said revelations might be taken.  And therefore the said Nun, upon this information, forged another revelation, that her words should be understanded to mean that the King’s Grace should not be king in the reputation or acceptation of God, not one month or one hour after that he married the Queen’s Grace that now is.  The first revelation had moved a great number of the king’s subjects, both high and low, to grudge against the said marriage before it was concluded and perfected; and also induced such as were stiffly bent against that marriage, daily to look for the destruction of the King’s Grace within a month after he married the Queen’s Grace that now is.  And when they were deluded in that expectation, the second revelation was devised not only as an interpretation of the former, but to the intent to induce the king’s subjects to believe that God took the King’s Grace for no king of this realm, and that they should likewise take him for no righteous king, and themselves not bounden to be his subjects; which might have put the King and the Queen’s Grace in jeopardy of their crown and of their issue, and the people of this realm in great danger of destruction."

It was no light matter to pronounce the king to be in the position of Saul after his rejection; and read by the light of the impending excommunication, the Nun’s words could mean nothing but treason.  The speaker herself was in correspondence with the pope; she had attested her divine commission by miracles, and had been recognised as a saint by an Archbishop of Canterbury; the regular orders of the clergy throughout the realm were known to regard her as inspired; and when the commission recollected that the king was threatened further with dying “a villain’s death;” and that these and similar prophecies were carefully written out, and were in private circulation through the country, the matter assumed a dangerous complexion:  it became at once essential to ascertain how far, and among what classes of the state, these things had penetrated.  The Friars Mendicant were discovered to be in league with her, and these itinerants were ready-made missionaries of sedition.  They had privilege of vagrancy without check or limit; and owing to their universal distribution and the freemasonry among themselves, the secret disposition of every family in England was intimately known to them.  No movement, therefore, could be securely over-looked in which these orders had a share; the country might be undermined in secret; and the government might only learn their danger at the moment of explosion.

No sooner, therefore, were the commissioners in possession of the general facts, than the principal parties that is to say, the Nun herself and five of the monks of Christ Church at Canterbury with whom her intercourse was most constant, were sent to the Tower to be “examined” the monks it is likely by “torture,” if they could not otherwise be brought to confession.  The Nun was certainly not tortured.  On her first arrest, she was obstinate in maintaining her prophetic character; and she was detected in sending messages to her friends, “to animate them to adhere to her and to her prophecies." But her courage ebbed away under the hard reality of her position.  She soon made a full confession, in which her accomplices joined her; and the half-completed web of conspiracy was ravelled out.  They did not attempt to conceal that they had intended, if possible, to create an insurrection.  The five monks Father Bocking, Father Rich, Father Rysby, Father Dering, and Father Goold had assisted the Nun in inventing her “Revelations;” and as apostles, they had travelled about the country to communicate them in whatever quarters they were likely to be welcome.  When we remember that Archbishop Warham had been a dupe of this woman, and that even Wolsey’s experience and ability had not prevented him from believing in her power, we are not surprised to find high names among those who were implicated.  Vast numbers of abbots and priors, and of regular and secular clergy, had listened eagerly; country gentlemen also, and London merchants.  The Bishop of Rochester had “wept for joy” at the first utterances of the inspired prophetess; and Sir Thomas More, “who at first did little regard the said revelations, afterwards did greatly rejoice to hear of them." We learn, also, that the Nun had continued to communicate with “the Lady Princess Dowager” and “the Lady Mary, her daughter."

These were names which might have furnished cause for regret, but little for surprise or alarm.  The commissioners must have found occasion for other feelings, however, when among the persons implicated were found the Countess of Salisbury and the Marchioness of Exeter, with their chaplains, households, and servants; Sir Thomas Arundel, Sir George Carew, and “many of the nobles of England." A combination headed by the Countess of Salisbury, if she were supported even by a small section of the nobility, would under any circumstances have been dangerous; and if such a combination was formed in support of an invasion, and was backed by the blessings of the pope and the fanaticism of the clergy, the result might be serious indeed.  So careful a silence is observed in the official papers on this feature of the Nun’s conspiracy, that it is uncertain how far the countess had committed herself; but she had listened certainly to avowals of treasonable intentions without revealing them, which of itself was no slight evidence of disloyalty; and that the government were really alarmed may be gathered from the simultaneous arrest of Sir William and Sir George Neville, the brothers of Lord Latimer.  The connection and significance of these names I shall explain presently; in the meantime I return to the preparations which had been made by the Nun.

As the final judgment drew near which, unless the king submitted, would be accompanied, with excommunication, and a declaration that the English nation was absolved from allegiance, “the said false Nun,” says the report, “surmised herself to have made a petition to God to know, when fearful war should come, whether any man should take my Lady Mary’s part or no; and she feigned herself to have answer by revelation that no man should fear but that she should have succour and help enough; and that no man should put her from her right that she was born unto.  And petitioning next to know when it was the pleasure of God that her revelations should be put forth to the world, she had answer that knowledge should be given to her ghostly father when it should be time."

With this information Father Goold had hastened down to Bugden, encouraging Catherine to persevere in her resistance; and while the imperialists at Rome were pressing the pope for sentence (we cannot doubt at Catherine’s instance), the Nun had placed herself in readiness to seize the opportunity when it offered, and to blow the trumpet of insurrection in the panic which might be surely looked for when that sentence should be published.

For this purpose she had organised, with considerable skill, a corps of fanatical friars, who, when the signal was given, were simultaneously to throw themselves into the midst of the people, and call upon them to rise in the name of God.  “To the intent,” says the report, “to set forth this matter, certain spiritual and religious persons were appointed, as they had been chosen of God, to preach the false revelations of the said Nun, when the time should require, if warning were given them; and some of these preachers have confessed openly, and subscribed their names to their confessions, that if the Nun had so sent them word, they would have preached to the king’s subjects that the pleasure of God was that they should take him no longer for their king; and some of these preachers were such as gave themselves to great fasting, watching, long prayers, wearing of shirts of hair and great chains of iron about their middle, whereby the people had them in high estimation of their great holiness, and this strait life they took on them by the counsel and exhortation of the said Nun."

Here, then, was the explanation of the attitude of Catherine and Mary.  Smarting under injustice, and most naturally blending their private quarrel with the cause of the church, they had listened to these disordered visions as to a message from heaven, and they had lent themselves to the first of those religious conspiracies which held England in chronic agitation for three quarters of a century.  The innocent Saint at Bugden was the forerunner of the prisoner at Fotheringay; and the Observant friars, with their chain girdles and shirts of hair, were the antitypes of Parsons and Campion.  How critical the situation of England really was, appears from the following letter of the French ambassador.  The project for the marriage of the Princess Mary with the Dauphin had been revived by the Catholic party; and a private arrangement, of which this marriage was to form the connecting link, was contemplated between the Ultramontanes in France, the pope, and the emperor.

D’Inteville to Cardinal Tournon.

“MY LORD, You will be so good as to tell the Most Christian king that the emperor’s ambassador has communicated with the old queen.  The emperor sends a message to her and to her daughter, that he will not return to Spain till he has seen them restored to their rights.

“The people are so much attached to the said ladies that they will rise in rebellion, and join any prince who will undertake their quarrel.  You probably know from other quarters the intensity of this feeling.  It is shared by all classes, high and low, and penetrates even into the royal household.

“The nation is in marvellous discontent.  Every one but the relations of the present queen, is indignant on the ladies’ account.  Some fear the overthrow of religion; others fear war and injury to trade.  Up to this time, the cloth, hides, wool, lead, and other merchandise of England have found markets in Flanders, Spain, and Italy; now it is thought navigation will be so dangerous that English merchants must equip their ships for war if they trade to foreign countries; and besides the risk of losing all to the enemy, the expense of the armament will swallow the profits of the voyage.  In like manner, the emperor’s subjects and the pope’s subjects will not be able to trade with England.  The coasts will be blockaded by the ships of the emperor and his allies; and at this moment men’s fears are aggravated by the unseasonable weather throughout the summer, and the failure of the crops.  There is not corn enough for half the ordinary consumption.

“The common people, foreseeing these inconveniences, are so violent against the queen, that they say a thousand shameful things of her, and of all who have supported her in her intrigues.  On them is cast the odium of all the calamities anticipated from the war.

“When the war comes, no one doubts that the people will rebel as much from fear of the dangers which I have mentioned, as from the love which is felt for the two ladies, and especially for the Princess.  She is so entirely beloved that, notwithstanding the law made at the last Parliament, and the menace of death contained in it, they persist in regarding her as Princess.  No Parliament, they say, can make her anything but the king’s daughter, born in marriage; and so the king and every one else regarded her before that Parliament.

“Lately, when she was removed from Greenwich, a vast crowd of women, wives of citizens and others, walked before her at their husbands’ desire, weeping and crying that notwithstanding all she was Princess.  Some of them were sent to the Tower, but they would not retract.

“Things are now so critical, and the fear of war is so general, that many of the greatest merchants in London have placed themselves in communication with the emperor’s ambassador, telling him, that if the emperor will declare war, the English nation will join him for the love they bear the Lady Mary.

“You, my Lord, will remember that when you were here, it was said you were come to tell the king that he was excommunicated, and to demand the hand of the Princess for the Dauphin.  The people were so delighted that they have never ceased to pray for you.  We too, when we arrived in London, were told that the people were praying for us.  They thought our embassy was to the Princess.  They imagined her marriage with the Dauphin had been determined on by the two kings, and the satisfaction was intense and universal.

“They believe that, except by this marriage, they cannot possibly escape war; whereas, can it be brought about, they will have peace with the emperor and all other Christian princes.  They are now so disturbed and so desperate that, although at one time they would have preferred a husband for her from among themselves, that they might not have a foreign king, there now is nothing which they desire more.  Unless the Dauphin will take her, they say she will continue disinherited; or, if she come to her rights, it can only be by battle, to the great incommodity of the country.  The Princess herself says publicly that the Dauphin is her husband, and that she has no hope but in him.  I have been told this by persons who have heard it from her own lips.

“The emperor’s ambassador inquired, after you came, whether we had seen her.  He said he knew she was most anxious to speak with us; she thought we had permission to visit her, and she looked for good news.  He told us, among other things, that she had been more strictly guarded of late, by the orders of the queen that now is, who, knowing her feeling for the Dauphin, feared there might be some practice with her, or some attempt to carry her off.

“The Princess’s ladies say that she calls herself the Dauphin’s wife.  A time will come, she says, when God will see that she has suffered pain and tribulation sufficient; the Dauphin will then demand her of the king her father, and the king her father will not be able to refuse.

“The lady who was my informant heard, also, from the Princess, that her governess, and the other attendants whom the queen had set to watch her, had assured her that the Dauphin was married to the daughter of the emperor; but she, the Princess, had answered it was not true the Dauphin could not have two wives, and they well knew that she was his wife:  they told her that story, she said, to make her despair, and agree to give up her rights; but she would never part with her hopes.

“You may have heard of the storm that broke out between her and her governess when we went to visit her little sister.  She was carried off by force to her room, that she might not speak with us; and they could neither pacify her nor keep her still, till the gentleman who escorted us told her he had the king’s commands that she was not to show herself while we were in the house.  You remember the message the same gentleman brought to you from her, and the charge which was given by the queen.

“Could the king be brought to consent to the marriage, it could be a fair union of two realms, and to annex Britain to the crown of France would be a great honour to our Sovereign; the English party desire nothing better; the pope will be glad of it; the pope fears that, if war break out again, France will draw closer to England on the terms which the King of England desires; and he may thus lose the French tribute as he has lost the English.  He therefore will urge the emperor to agree, and the emperor will assist gladly for the love which he bears to his cousin.

“If the emperor be willing, the King of England can then be informed; and he can be made to feel that, if he will avoid war, he must not refuse his consent.  The king, in fact, has no wish to disown the Princess, and he knows well that the marriage with the Dauphin was once agreed on.

“Should he be unwilling, and should his wife’s persuasions stil have influence with him, he will hesitate before he will defy, for her sake, the King of France and the emperor united.  His regard for the queen is less than it was, and diminishes every day.  He has a new fancy, as you are aware.”

The actual conspiracy, in the form which it had so far assumed, was rather an appeal to fanaticism than a plot which could have laid hold of the deeper mind of the country; but as an indication of the unrest which was stealing over the minds of men, it assumed an importance which it would not have received from its intrinsic character.

The guilt of the principal offenders admitted of no doubt.  As soon as the commissioners were satisfied that there was nothing further to be discovered, the Nun, with the monks, was brought to trial before the Star Chamber; and conviction followed as a matter of course.

The unhappy girl finding herself at this conclusion, after seven years of vanity, in which she had played with popes, and queens, and princesses, and archbishops, now, when the dream was thus rudely broken, in the revulsion of feeling could see nothing in herself but a convicted impostor.  We need not refuse to pity her.  The misfortunes of her sickness had exposed her to temptations far beyond the strength of an ordinary woman:  and the guilt which she passionately claimed for herself rested far more truly with the knavery of the Christ Church monks and the incredible folly of Archbishop Warham. But the times were too stern to admit of nice distinctions.  No immediate sentence was pronounced, but it was thought desirable for the satisfaction of the people that a confession should be made in public by the Nun and her companions.  The Sunday following their trial they were placed on a raised platform at Paul’s Cross by the side of the pulpit, and when the sermon was over they one by one delivered their “bills” to the preacher, which by him were read to the crowd.

After an acknowledgment of their imposture the prisoners were remanded to the Tower, and their ultimate fate reserved for the consideration of parliament, which was to meet in the middle of January.

The chief offenders being thus disposed of, the council resolved next that peremptory measures should be taken with respect to the Princess Mary. Her establishment was broken up, and she was sent to reside as the Lady Mary in the household of the Princess Elizabeth a hard but not unwholesome discipline. As soon as this was done, being satisfied that the leading shoot of the conspiracy was broken, and that no immediate danger was now to be feared, they proceeded leisurely to follow the clue of the Nun’s confession, and to extend their inquiries.  The Countess of Salisbury was mentioned as one of the persons with whom the woman had been in correspondence.  This lady was the daughter of the Duke of Clarence, brother of Edward IV.  Her mother was a Neville, a child of Richard the Kingmaker, the famous Earl of Warwick, and her only brother had been murdered to secure the shaking throne of Henry VII.  Margaret Plantagenet, in recompense for the lost honours of the house, was made Countess of Salisbury in her own right.  The title descended from her grandfather, who was Earl of Salisbury and Warwick; but the prouder title had been dropped as suggestive of dangerous associations.  The Earldom of Warwick remained in abeyance, and the castle and the estates attached to it were forfeited to the Crown.  The countess was married after her brother’s death to a Sir Richard Pole, a supporter and relation of the king; and when left a widow she received from Henry VIII. the respectful honour which was due to the most nobly born of his subjects, the only remaining Plantagenet of unblemished descent.  In his kindness to her children the king had attempted to obliterate the recollection of her brother’s wrongs, and she had been herself selected to preside over the household of the Princess Mary.  During the first twenty years of Henry’s reign the countess seems to have acknowledged his attentions with loyal regard, and if she had not forgotten her birth and her childhood, she never connected herself with the attempts which during that time were made to revive the feuds of the houses.  Richard de la Pole, nephew of Edward IV., and called while he lived “the White Rose,” had more than once endeavoured to excite an insurrection in the eastern counties; but Lady Salisbury was never suspected of holding intercourse with him; she remained aloof from political disputes, and in lofty retirement she was contented to forget her greatness for the sake of the Princess Mary, to whom she and her family were deeply attached.  Her relations with the king had thus continued undisturbed until his second marriage.  As the representative of the House of York she was the object of the hopes and affections of the remnants of their party, but she had betrayed no disposition to abuse her influence, or to disturb the quiet of the nation for personal ambition of her own.

If it be lawful to interpret symptoms in themselves trifling by the light of later events, it would seem as if her attitude now underwent a material change.  Her son Reginald had already quarrelled with the king upon the divorce.  He was in suspicious connection with the pope, and having been required to return home upon his allegiance, had refused obedience.  His mother, and his mother’s attached friend, the Marchioness of Exeter, we now find among those to whom the Nun of Kent communicated her prophecies and her plans.  It does not seem that the countess thought at any time of reviving her own pretensions; it does seem that she was ready to build a throne for the Princess Mary out of the ruined supporters of her father’s family.  The power which she could wield might at any moment become formidable.  She had two sons in England, Lord Montague and Sir Geoffrey Pole.  Her cousin, the Marquis of Exeter, a grandson himself of Edward IV., was, with the exception of the Duke of Norfolk, the most powerful nobleman in the realm; and he, to judge by events, was beginning to look coldly on the king. We find her surrounded also by the representatives of her mother’s family Lord Abergavenny, who had been under suspicion when the Duke of Buckingham was executed, Sir Edward Neville, afterwards executed, Lord Latimer, Sir George and Sir William Neville, all of them were her near connections, all collateral heirs of the King-maker, inheriting the pride of their birth, and resentfully conscious of their fallen fortunes.  The support of a party so composed would have added formidable strength to the preaching friars of the Nun of Kent; and as I cannot doubt that the Nun was endeavouring to press her intrigues in a quarter where disaffection if created would be most dangerous, so the lady who ruled this party with a patriarchal authority had listened to her suggestions; and the repeated interviews with her which were sought by the Marchioness of Exeter were rendered more than suspicious by the secresy with which these interviews were conducted.

These circumstances explain the arrest, to which I alluded above, of Sir William and Sir George Neville, brothers of Lord Latimer.  They were not among “the many noblemen” to whom the commissioners referred; for their confessions remain, and contain no allusion to the Nun; but they were examined at this particular time on general suspicion; and the arrest, under such circumstances, of two near relatives of Lady Salisbury, indicates clearly an alarm in the council, lest she might be contemplating some serious movements.  At any rate, either on her account or on their own, the Nevilles fell under suspicion, and while they had no crimes to reveal, their depositions, especially that of Sir William Neville, furnish singular evidence of the temper of the times.

The confession of the latter begins with an account of the loss of certain silver spoons, for the recovery of which Sir William sent to a wizard who resided in Cirencester.  The wizard took the opportunity of telling Sir William’s fortune:  his wife was to die, and he himself was to marry an heiress, and be made a baron; with other prospective splendours.  The wizard concluded, however, with recommending him to pay a visit to another dealer in the dark art more learned than himself, whose name was Jones, at Oxford.

“So after that,” said Sir William [Midsummer, 1532], “I went to Oxford, intending that my brother George and I should kill a buck with Sir Simon Harcourt, which he had promised me; and there at Oxford, in the said Jones’s chamber, I did see certain stillatories, alembics, and other instruments of glass, and also a sceptre and other things, which he said did appertain to the conjuration of the four kings; and also an image of white metal; and in a box, a serpent’s skin, as he said, and divers books and things, whereof one was a book which he said was my Lord Cardinal’s, having pictures in it like angels.  He told me he could make rings of gold, to obtain favour of great men; and said that my Lord Cardinal had such; and promised my said brother and me, either of us, one of them; and also he showed me a round thing like a ball of crystal.

“He said that if the King’s Grace went over to France [the Calais visit of October, 1532], his Grace should marry my Lady Marchioness of Pembroke before that his Highness returned again; and that it would be dangerous to his Grace, and to the most part of the noblemen that should go with him; saying also that he had written to one of the king’s council to advise his Highness not to go over, for if he did, it should not be for his Grace’s profit.”

The wizard next pretended that he had seen a vision of a certain room in a tower, in which a spirit had appeared with a coat of arms in his hand, and had “delivered the same to Sir William Neville.”  The arms being described as those of the Warwick family, Sir William, his brother, and Jones rode down from Oxford to Warwick, where they went over the castle.  The wizard professed to recognise in a turret chamber the room in which he had seen the spirit, and he prophesied that Sir William should recover the earldom, the long-coveted prize of all the Neville family.

On their return to Oxford, Jones, continues Sir William, said further, “That there should be a field in the north about a se’n-night before Christmas, in which my Lord my brother [Lord Latimer] should be slain; the realm should be long without a king; and much robbery would be within the realm, specially of abbeys and religious houses, and of rich men, as merchants, graziers, and others; so that, if I would, he at that time would advise me to find the means to enter into the said castle for mine own safeguard, and divers persons would resort unto me. None of Cadwallader’s blood, he told me, should reign more than twenty-four years; and also that Prince Edward [son of Henry VI. and Margaret of Anjou, killed at Tewkesbury], had issue a son which was conveyed over sea; and there had issue a son which was yet alive, either in Saxony or Almayne; and that either he or the King of Scots should reign next after the King’s Grace that now is.  To all which I answered,” Sir William concluded, “that there is nothing which the will of God is that a man shall obtain, but that he of his goodness will put in his mind the way whereby he shall come by it; and that surely I had no mind to follow any such fashion; and that, also, the late Duke of Buckingham and others had cast themselves away by too much trust in prophecies, and other jeoparding of themselves, and therefore I would in no wise follow any such way.  He answered, if I would not, it would be long ere I obtained it.  Then I said I believed that well, and if it never came, I trusted to God to live well enough."

Sir George Neville confirmed generally his brother’s story, protesting that they had never intended treason, and that “at no time had he been of counsel” when any treason was thought of.

The wizard himself was next sent for.  The prophecies about the king he denied wholly.  He admitted that he had seen an angel in a dream giving Sir William Neville the shield of the earldom in Warwick Castle, and that he had accompanied the two brothers to Warwick, to examine the tower.  Beyond that, he said that he knew nothing either of them or of their intentions.  He declared himself a good subject, and he would “jeopard his life” to make the philosopher’s stone for the king in twelve months if the king pleased to command him.  He desired “no longer space than twelve months upon silver and twelve and a half upon gold;” to be kept in prison till he had done it; and it would be “better to the King’s Grace than a thousand men."

The result of these examinations does not appear, except it be that the Nevilles were dismissed without punishment; and the story itself may be thought too trifling to have deserved a grave notice.  I see in it, however, an illustration very noticeworthy of the temper which was working in the country.  The suspicion of treason in the Neville family may not have been confirmed, although we see them casting longing looks on the lost inheritance of Warwick; but their confessions betray the visions of impending change, anarchy, and confusion, which were haunting the popular imagination.  A craving after prophecies, a restless eagerness to search into the future by abnormal means, had infected all ranks from the highest to the lowest; and such symptoms, when they appear, are a sure evidence of approaching disorder, for they are an evidence of a present madness which has brought down wisdom to a common level with folly.  At such times, the idlest fancy is more potent with the mind than the soundest arguments of reason.  The understanding abdicates its functions; and men are given over, as if by magic, to the enchantments of insanity.

Phenomena of this eccentric kind always accompany periods of intellectual change.  Most men live and think by habit; and when habit fails them, they are like unskilful sailors who have lost the landmarks of their course, and have no compass and no celestial charts by which to steer.  In the years which preceded the French Revolution, Cagliostro was the companion of princes at the dissolution of paganism the practicers of curious arts, the watches and the necromancers, were the sole objects of reverence in the Roman world; and so, before the Reformation, archbishops and cardinals saw an inspired prophetess in a Kentish servant girl; Oxford heads of colleges sought out heretics with the help of astrology; Anne Boleyn blessed a basin of rings, her royal fingers pouring such virtue into the metal that no disorder could resist it; Wolsey had a magic crystal; and Cromwell, while in Wolsey’s household, “did haunt to the company of a wizard." These things were the counterpart of a religion which taught that slips of paper, duly paid for, could secure indemnity for sin.  It was well for England that the chief captain at least was proof against the epidemic no random scandal seems ever to have whispered that such delusions had touched the mind of the king.

While the government were prosecuting these inquiries at home, the law at the Vatican had run its course; November passed, and as no submission had arrived, the sentence of the 12th of July came into force, and the king, the queen, and the Archbishop of Canterbury were declared to have incurred the threatened censures.

The privy council met on the 2nd of December, and it was determined in consequence that copies of the “Act of Appeals,” and of the king’s “provocation” to a general council, should be fixed without delay on every church door in England.  Protests were at the same time to be drawn up and sent into Flanders, and to the other courts in Europe, “to the intent the falsehood and injustice of the Bishop of Rome might appear to all the world.”  The defences of the country were to be looked to; and “spies” to be sent into Scotland to see “what they intended there,” “and whether they would confeder themselves with any outward princes.”  Finally, it was proposed that the attempt to form an alliance with the Lutheran powers should be renewed on a larger scale; that certain discreet and grave persons should be appointed to conclude “some league or amity with the princes of Germany” “that is to say, the King of Poland, the King of Hungary, the Duke of Saxony, the Duke of Bavaria, the Duke of Brandenburg, the Landgrave of Hesse, and other potentates." Vaughan’s mission had been merely tentative, and had failed.  Yet the offer of a league, offensive and defensive, the immediate and avowed object of which was a general council at which the Protestants should be represented, might easily succeed where vague offers of amity had come to nothing.  The formation of a Protestant alliance, however, would have been equivalent to a declaration of war against Catholic Europe; and it was a step which could not be taken, consistently with the Treaty of Calais, without first communicating with Francis.

Henry, therefore, by the advice of the council, wrote a despatch to Sir John Wallop, the ambassador at Paris, which was to be laid before the French court.  He explained the circumstances in which he was placed, with the suggestion which the council had made to him.  He gave a list of the princes with whom he had been desired by his ministers to connect himself and the object was nothing less than a coalition of Northern Europe.  He recapitulated the injuries which he had received from the pope, who at length was studying “to subvert the rest and peace of the realm;” “yea, and so much as in him was, utterly to destroy the same.”  The nobles and council, he said, for their own sake as well as for the sake of the kingdom, had entreated him to put an end, once for all, to the pope’s usurpation; and to invite the Protestant princes, for the universal weal of Christendom, to unite in a common alliance.  In his present situation he was inclined to act upon this advice.  “As concerning his own realm, he had already taken such order with his nobles and subjects, as he would shortly be able to give to the pope such a buffet as he never had heretofore;” but as a German alliance was a matter of great weight and importance, “although,” he concluded, “we consider it to be right expedient to set forth the same with all diligence, yet we intend nothing to do therein without making our good brother first privy thereunto.  And for this cause and consideration only, you may say that we have at this time addressed these letters unto you, commanding you to declare our said purpose unto our good brother, and to require of him on our behalf his good address and best advice.  Of his answer we require you to advertise us with all diligence, for according thereunto we intend to attemper our proceedings.  We have lately had advertisements how that our said good brother should, by the labour of divers affectionate Papists, be minded to set forth something with his clergy in advancement of the pope and his desires.  This we cannot believe that he will do."

The meaning of this letter lies upon the surface.  If the European powers were determined to leave him no alternative, the king was prepared to ally himself with the Lutherans.  But however he might profess to desire that alliance, it was evident that he would prefer, if possible, a less extreme resource.  The pope had ceased to be an object of concern to him; but he could not contemplate, without extreme unwillingness, a separation from the orderly governments who professed the Catholic faith.  The pope had injured him; Francis had deceived him; they had tempted his patience because they knew his disposition.  The limit of endurance had been reached at length; yet, on the verge of the concluding rupture, he turned once more, as if to offer a last opportunity of peace.

The reply of Francis was an immediate mission of the Bishop of Bayonne (now Bishop of Paris), first into England, and from England to Rome, where he was to endeavour, to the best of his ability, to seam together the already gaping rent in the church with fair words a hopeless task the results of which, however, were unexpectedly considerable, as will be presently seen.

Meanwhile, on the side of Flanders, the atmosphere was dubious and menacing.  The refugee friars, who were reported to be well supplied with money from England, were labouring to exasperate the people, Father Peto especially distinguishing himself upon this service. The English ambassador, Sir John Hacket, still remained at Brussels, and the two governments were formally at peace; but when Hacket required the queen-regent to forbid the publication of the brief of July in the Netherlands, he was met with a positive refusal.  “M.  Ambassador,” she said, “the Emperor, the King of Hungary, the Queen of France, the King of Portugal, and I, understand what are the rights of our aunt our duty is to her and such letters of the pope as come hither in her favour we shall obey.  Your master has no right to complain either of the emperor or of myself, if we support our aunt in a just cause." At the same time, formal complaints were made by Charles of the personal treatment of Queen Catherine, and the clouds appeared to be gathering for a storm.  Yet here, too, there was an evident shrinking from extremities.  A Welsh gentleman had been at Brussels to offer his services against Henry, and had met with apparent coldness.  Sir John Hacket wrote, on the 15th of December, that he was assured by well-informed persons, that so long as Charles lived, he would never be the first to begin a war with England, “which would rebound to the destruction of the Low Countries." A week later, when the queen-regent was suffering from an alarming illness, he said it was reported that, should she die, Catherine or Mary, if either of them was allowed to leave England, would be held “meet to have governance of the Low Countries." This was a generous step, if the emperor seriously contemplated it.  The failure of the Nun of Kent had perhaps taught him that there was no present prospect of a successful insurrection.  In his conduct towards England, he was seemingly governing himself by the prospect which might open for a successful attack upon it.  If occasion offered to strike the government in connection with an efficient Catholic party in the nation itself, he would not fail to avail himself of it. Otherwise, he would perhaps content himself with an attitude of inactive menace; unless menaced himself by a Protestant confederation.

Amidst these uneasy symptoms at home and abroad, parliament re-assembled on the 15th of January.  It was a changed England since these men first came together on the fall of Wolsey.  Session after session had been spent in clipping the roots of the old tree which had overshadowed them for centuries.  On their present meeting they were to finish their work, and lay it prostrate for ever.  Negotiations were still pending with the See of Rome, and this momentous session had closed before the final catastrophe.  The measures which were passed in the course of it are not, therefore, to be looked upon as adopted hastily, in a spirit of retaliation, but as the consistent accomplishment of a course which had been deliberately adopted, to reverse the positions of the civil and spiritual authority within the realm, and to withdraw the realm itself from all dependence on a foreign power.

The Annates and Firstfruits’ Bill had not yet received the royal assent; but the pope had refused to grant the bulls for bishops recently appointed, and he was no longer to receive payment for services which he refused to render.  Peter’s pence were still paid, and might continue to be paid, if the pope would recollect himself; but, like the Sibyl of Cuma, Henry destroyed some fresh privilege with each delay of justice, demanding the same price for the preservation of what remained.  The secondary streams of tribute now only remained to the Roman See; and communion with the English church, which it was for Clement to accept or refuse.

The circumstances under which the session opened were, however, grave and saddening.  Simultaneously with the concluding legislation on the church, the succession to the throne was to be determined in terms which might, perhaps, be accepted as a declaration of war by the emperor; and the affair of the Nun of Kent had rendered necessary an inquiry into the conduct of honoured members of the two Houses, who were lying under the shadow of high treason.  The conditions were for the first time to be plainly seen under which the Reformation was to fight its way.  The road which lay before it was beset not merely with external obstacles, which a strong will and a strong hand could crush, but with the phantoms of dying faiths, which haunted the hearts of all living men; the superstitions, the prejudices, the hopes, the fears, the passions, which swayed stormily and fitfully through the minds of every actor in the great drama.

The uniformity of action in the parliament of 1529, during the seven years which it continued, is due to the one man who saw his way distinctly, Thomas Cromwell.  The nation was substantially united in the divorce question, could the divorce be secured without a rupture with the European powers.  It was united also on the necessity of limiting the jurisdiction of the clergy, and cutting short the powers of the consistory courts.  But in questions of “opinion” there was the most sensitive jealousy; and from the combined instincts of prejudice and conservatism, the majority of the country in a count of heads would undoubtedly have been against a separation from Rome.

The clergy professed to approve the acts of the government, but it was for the most part with the unwilling acquiescence of men who were without courage to refuse.  The king was divided against himself.  Nine days in ten he was the clear-headed, energetic, powerful statesman; on the tenth he was looking wistfully to the superstition which he had left, and the clear sunshine was darkened with theological clouds, which broke in lightning and persecution.  Thus there was danger at any moment of a reaction, unless opportunity was taken at the flood, unless the work was executed too completely to admit of reconsideration, and the nation committed to a course from which it was impossible to recede.  The action of the conservatives was paralysed for the time by the want of a fixed purpose.  The various parts of the movement were so skilfully linked together, that partial opposition to it was impossible; and so long as the people had to choose between the pope and the king, their loyalty would not allow them to hesitate.  But very few men actively adhered to Cromwell.  Cromwell had struck the line on which the forces of nature were truly moving the resultant, not of the victory of either of the extreme parties, but of the joint action of their opposing forces.  To him belonged the rare privilege of genius, to see what other men could not see; and therefore he was condemned to rule a generation which hated him, to do the will of God, and to perish in his success.  He had no party.  By the nobles he was regarded with the same mixed contempt and fear which had been felt for Wolsey.  The Protestants, perhaps, knew what he was, but he could only purchase their toleration by himself checking their extravagance.  Latimer was the only person of real power on whose friendship he could calculate, and Latimer was too plain spoken on dangerous questions to be useful as a political supporter.

The session commenced on the 15th of January.

The first step was to receive the final submission of convocation.  The undignified resistance was at last over, and the clergy had promised to abstain for the future from unlicensed legislation.  To secure their adherence to their engagements, an act was passed to make the breach of that engagement penal; and a commission of thirty-two persons, half of whom were to be laymen, was designed for the revision of the Canon law.

The next most important movement was to assimilate the trials for heresy with the trials for other criminal offences.  I have already explained at length the manner in which the bishops abused their judicial powers.  These powers were not absolutely taken away, but ecclesiastics were no longer permitted to arrest ex officio and examine at their pleasure.  Where a charge of heresy was to be brought against a man, presentments were to be made by lawful witnesses before justices of the peace; and then, and not otherwise, he might fall under the authority of the “ordinary.”  Secret examinations were declared illegal.  The offender was to be tried in open court, and, previous to his trial, had a right to be admitted to bail, unless the bishop could show cause to the contrary to the satisfaction of two magistrates.

This was but a slight instalment of lenity; but it was an indication of the turning tide.  Limited as it was, the act operated as an effective check upon persecution till the passing of the Six Articles Bill.

Turning next to the relations between England and Rome, the parliament reviewed the Annates Act, which had been left unratified in the hope that the pope might have consented to a compromise, and that “by some gentle ways the said exaction might have been redressed and reformed.”  The expectation had been disappointed.  The pope had not condescended to reply to the communication which had been made to him, and the act had in consequence received the royal assent.  An alteration had thus become necessary in the manner of presentation to vacant bishoprics.  The anomalies of the existing practice have been already described.  By the Great Charter the chapters had acquired the right of free election.  A congé d’elire was granted by the king on the occurrence of a vacancy, with no attempt at a nomination.  The chapters were supposed to make their choice freely, and the name of the bishop-elect was forwarded to the pope, who returned the Pallium and the Bulls, receiving the Annates in exchange.  The pope’s part in the matter was now terminated.  No Annates would be sent any longer to Rome, and no Bulls would be returned from Rome.  The appointments lay between the chapters and the crown; and it might have seemed, at first sight, as if it would have been sufficient to omit the reference to the papacy, and as if the remaining forms might continue as they were.  The chapters, however, had virtually long ceased to elect freely; the crown had absorbed the entire functions of presentation, sometimes appointing foreigners, sometimes allowing the great ecclesiastical ministers to nominate themselves; while the rights of the chapters, though existing in theory, were not officially recognised either by the pope or by the crown.  The king affected to accept the names of the prelates-elect, when returned to him from Rome, as nominations by the pope; and the pope, in communicating with the chapters, presented them with their bishops as from himself. The papal share in the matter was a shadow, but it was acknowledged under the forms of courtesy; the share of the chapters was wholly and absolutely ignored.  The crisis of a revolution was not the moment at which their legal privileges could be safely restored to them.  The problem of re-arrangement was a difficult one, and it was met in a manner peculiarly English.  The practice of granting the congé d’elire to the chapters on the occurrence of a vacancy, which had fallen into desuetude, was again adopted, and the church resumed the forms of liberty:  but the licence to elect a bishop was to be accompanied with the name of the person whom the chapter was required to elect; and if within twelve days the person so named had not been chosen, the nomination of the crown was to become absolute, and the chapter would incur a Premunire.

This act, which I conceive to have been more arbitrary in form than in intention, was followed by a closing attack upon the remaining “exactions” of the Bishop of Rome.  The Annates were gone.  There were yet to go, “Pensions, Censes, Peter’s Pence, Procurations, Fruits, Suits for Provision, Delegacies and Rescripts in causes of Contention and Appeals, Jurisdictions legatine also Dispensations, Licenses, Faculties, Grants, Relaxations, Writs called Perinde valere, Rehabilitations, Abolitions,” with other unnamed (the parliament being wearied of naming them) “infinite sorts of Rules, Briefs, and instruments of sundry natures, names, and kinds.”  All these were perennially open sluices, which had drained England of its wealth for centuries, returning only in showers of paper, and the Commons were determined that streams so unremunerative should flow no longer.  They conceived that they had been all along imposed upon, and that the “Bishop of Rome was to be blamed for having allured and beguiled the English nation, persuading them that he had power to dispense with human laws, uses, and customs, contrary to right and conscience.”  If the king so pleased, therefore, they would not be so beguiled any more.  These and all similar exactions should cease; and all powers claimed by the Bishop of Rome within the realm should cease, and should be transferred to the crown.  At the same time they would not press upon the pope too hardly; they would repeat the same conditions which they had offered with the Annates.  He had received these revenues as the supreme judge in the highest court in Europe, and he might retain his revenues or receive compensation for them, if he dared to be just.  It was for himself to resolve, and three months were allowed for a final decision.

In conclusion, the Commons thought it well to assert that they were separating, not from the church of Christ, but only from the papacy.  A judge who allowed himself to be overawed against his conscience by a secular power, could not any longer be recognised; but no thing or things contained in the act should be afterwards “interpreted or expounded, that his Grace (the king), his nobles and subjects, intended by the same to decline or vary from the congregation of Christ’s church in anything concerning the articles of the Catholic faith of Christendom, or in any other things declared by the Holy Scripture and the Word of God necessary for salvation; but only to make an ordinance, by policies necessary and convenient, to repress vice, and for the good conservation of the realm in peace, unity, and tranquillity, from ravin and spoil ensuing much the old antient customs of the realm in that behalf."

The most arduous business was thus finished the most painful remained.  The Nun of Kent and her accomplices were to be proceeded against by act of parliament; and the bill of their attainder was presented for the first time in the House of Lords, on the 18th of February.  The offence of the principal conspirators was plainly high treason; their own confessions removed uncertainty; the guilt was clear the sentence was inevitable.  But the fault of those who had been listeners only was less easy of measurement, and might vary from comparative innocence to a definite breach of allegiance.

The government were unwilling to press with severity on the noble lords and ladies whose names had been unexpectedly brought to light; and there were two men of high rank only, whose complicity it was thought necessary to notice.  The Bishop of Rochester’s connection with the Nun had been culpably encouraging; and the responsibility of Sir Thomas More was held also to be very great in having countenanced, however lightly, such perilous schemers.

In the bill, therefore, as it was first read, More and Fisher found themselves declared guilty of misprision of treason.  But the object of this measure was rather to warn than to punish, nor was there any real intention of continuing their prosecution.  Cromwell, under instructions from the king, had communicated privately with both of them.  He had sent a message to Fisher through his brother, telling him that he had only to ask for forgiveness to receive it; and he had begged More through his son-in-law, Mr. Roper, to furnish him with an explicit account of what had passed at any time between himself and the Nun, with an intimation that, if honestly made, it would be accepted in his favour.

These advances were met by More in the spirit in which they were offered.  He heartily thanked Cromwell, “reckoning himself right deeply beholden to him;" and replied with a long, minute, and evidently veracious story, detailing an interview which he had held with the woman in the chapel of Sion Monastery.  He sent at the same time a copy of a letter which he had written to her, and described various conversations with the friars who were concerned in the forgery.  He did not deny that he had believed the Nun to have been inspired, or that he had heard of the language which she was in the habit of using respecting the king.  He protested, however, that he had himself never entertained a treasonable thought.  He told Cromwell that “he had done a very meritorious deed in bringing forth to light such detestable hypocrisy, whereby every other wretch might take warning, and be feared to set forth their devilish dissembled falsehoods under the manner and colour of the wonderful work of God." More’s offence had not been great.  His acknowledgments were open and unreserved; and Cromwell laid his letter before the king, adding his own intercession that the matter might be passed over.  Henry consented, expressing only his grief and concern that Sir Thomas More should have acted so unwisely. He required, nevertheless, as Cromwell suggested, that a formal letter should be written, with a confession of fault, and a request for forgiveness.  More obeyed; he wrote, gracefully reminding the king of a promise when he resigned the chancellorship, that in any suit which he might afterwards have to his Grace, either touching his honour or his profit, he should find his Highness his good and gracious lord. Henry acknowledged his claim; his name was struck out of the bill, and the prosecution against him was dropped.

Fisher’s conduct was very different; his fault had been far greater than More’s, and promises more explicit had been held out to him of forgiveness.  He replied to these promises by an elaborate and ridiculous defence not writing to the king, as Cromwell desired him, but vindicating himself as having committed no fault; although he had listened eagerly to language which was only pardonable on the assumption that it was inspired, and had encouraged a nest of fanatics by his childish credulity.  The Nun “had showed him not,” he said, “that any prince or temporal lord should put the king in danger of his crown.”  He knew nothing of the intended insurrection.  He believed the woman to have been a saint; he supposed that she had herself told the king all which she had told to him; and therefore he said that he had nothing for which to reproach himself. He was unable to see that the exposure of the imposture had imparted a fresh character to his conduct, which he was bound to regret.  Knowingly or unknowingly, he had lent his countenance to a conspiracy; and so long as he refused to acknowledge his indiscretion, the government necessarily would interpret his actions in the manner least to his advantage.

If he desired that his conduct should be forgotten, it was indispensable that he should change his attitude, and so Cromwell warned him.  “Ye desire,” the latter wrote, “for the passion of Christ, that ye be no more quickened in this matter; for if ye be put to that strait ye will not lose your soul, but ye will speak as your conscience leadeth you; with many more words of great courage.  My Lord, if ye had taken my counsel sent unto you by your brother, and followed the same, submitting yourself by your letter to the King’s Grace for your offences in this behalf, I would have trusted that ye should never be quickened in the matter more.  But now where ye take upon you to defy the whole matter as ye were in no default, I cannot so far promise you.  Wherefore, my Lord, I would eftsoons advise you that, laying apart all such excuses as ye have alleged in your letters, which in my opinion be of small effect, ye beseech the King’s Grace to be your gracious lord and to remit unto you your negligence, oversight, and offence committed against his Highness in this behalf; and I dare undertake that his Highness shall benignly accept you into his gracious favour, all matter of displeasure past afore this time forgotten and forgiven."

Fisher must have been a hopelessly impracticable person.  Instead of following More’s example, and accepting well-meant advice, he persisted in the same tone, and drew up an address to the House of Lords, in which he repeated the defence which he had made to Cromwell.  He expressed no sorrow that he had been engaged in a criminal intrigue, no pleasure that the intrigue had been discovered; and he doggedly adhered to his assertions of his own innocence.

There was nothing to be done except to proceed with his attainder.  The bill passed three readings, and the various prisoners were summoned to the Star Chamber to be heard in arrest of judgment.  The Bishop of Rochester’s attendance was dispensed with on the ground of illness, and because he had made his defence in writing. Nothing of consequence was urged by either of the accused.  The bill was most explicit in its details, going carefully through the history of the imposture, and dwelling on the separate acts of each offender.  They were able to disprove no one of its clauses, and on the 12th of March it was read a last time.  On the 21st it received the royal assent, and there remained only to execute the sentence.  The Nun herself, Richard Masters, and the five friars being found guilty of high treason, were to die; the Bishop of Rochester, Father Abel, Queen Catherine’s confessor, and four more, were sentenced for misprision of treason to forfeiture of goods and imprisonment.  All other persons implicated whose names did not appear, were declared pardoned at the intercession of Queen Anne.

The chief offenders suffered at Tyburn on the 21st of April, meeting death calmly, as it appears; receiving a fate most necessary and most deserved, yet claiming from us that partial respect which is due to all persons who will risk their lives in an unselfish cause.  For the Nun herself, we may feel even a less qualified regret.  Before her death she was permitted to speak a few words to the people, which at the distance of three centuries will not be read without emotion.

“Hither am I come to die,” she said, “and I have not been the only cause of mine own death, which most justly I have deserved; but also I am the cause of the death of all these persons which at this time here suffer.  And yet I am not so much to be blamed, considering that it was well known unto these learned men that I was a poor wench without learning; and therefore they might have easily perceived that the things which were done by me could not proceed in no such sort; but their capacities and learning could right well judge that they were altogether feigned.  But because the things which I feigned were profitable unto them, therefore they much praised me, and bare me in hand that it was the Holy Ghost and not I that did them.  And I being puffed up with their praises, fell into a pride and foolish fantasye with myself, and thought I might feign what I would, which thing hath brought me to this case, and for the which I now cry God and the King’s Highness most heartily mercy, and desire all you good people to pray to God to have mercy on me, and on all them that here suffer with me."

And now the closing seal was to be affixed to the agitation of the great question of the preceding years.  I have said that throughout these years the uncertainty of the succession had been the continual anxiety of the nation.  The birth of a prince or princess could alone provide an absolute security; and to beget a prince appeared to be the single feat which Henry was unable to accomplish.  The marriage so dearly bought had been followed as yet only by a girl; and if the king were to die, leaving two daughters circumstanced as Mary and Elizabeth were circumstanced, a dispute would open which the sword only could decide.  To escape the certainty of civil war, therefore, it was necessary to lay down the line of inheritance by a peremptory order; to cut off resolutely all rival claims; and in legislating upon a matter so vital, and hitherto so uncertain and indeterminate, to enforce the decision with the most stringent and exacting penalties.  From the Heptarchy downwards English history furnished no fixed rule of inheritance, but only a series of precedents of uncertainty; and while at no previous time had the circumstances of the succession been of a nature so legitimately embarrassing, the relations of England with the pope and with foreign powers doubly enhanced the danger.  But I will not use my own language on so important a subject.  The preamble of the Act of Succession is the best interpreter of the provisions of that act.

“In their most humble wise show unto your Majesty your most humble and obedient subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal and the Commons, in this present parliament assembled; that since it is the natural inclination of every man gladly and willingly to provide for the safety of both his title and succession, although it touch only his private cause; we therefore, most rightful and dreadful Sovereign Lord, reckon ourselves much more bounden to beseech and intreat your Highness (although we doubt not of your princely heart and wisdom, mixed with a natural affection to the same) to foresee and provide for the most perfect surety of both you and of your most lawful successors and heirs, upon which dependeth all our joy and wealth; in whom also is united and knit the only mere true inheritance and title of this realm without any contradiction.  We, your said most humble and obedient servants, call to our remembrance the great divisions which in times past hath been in this realm by reason of several titles pretended to the imperial crown of the same; which some time and for the most part ensued by occasion of ambiguity, and [by] doubts then not so perfectly declared but that men might upon froward intents expound them to every man’s sinister appetite and affection after their senses; whereof hath ensued great destruction and effusion of man’s blood, as well of a great number of the nobles as of other the subjects and specialty inheritors in the same.  The greatest occasion thereof hath been because no perfect and substantial provision by law hath been made within this realm itself when doubts and questions have been moved; by reason whereof the Bishops of Rome and See Apostolic have presumed in times past to invest who should please them to inherit in other men’s kingdoms and dominions, which thing we your most humble subjects, both spiritual and temporal, do much abhor and detest.  And sometimes other foreign princes and potentates of sundry degrees, minding rather dissension and discord to continue in the realm than charity, equity, or unity, have many times supported wrong titles, whereby they might the more easily and facilly aspire to the superiority of the same.

“The continuance and sufferance of these things, deeply considered and pondered, is too dangerous and perilous to be suffered any longer; and too much contrary to unity, peace, and tranquillity, being greatly reproachable and dishonourable to the whole realm.  And in consideration thereof, your said subjects, calling further to their remembrance, that the good unity, peace, and wealth of the realm, specially and principally, above all worldly things, consisteth in the surety and certainty of the procreation and posterity of your Highness, in whose most Royal person at this time is no manner of doubt, do therefore most humbly beseech your Highness that it may be enacted, with the consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal and the Commons in this present parliament assembled

“1.  That the marriage between your Highness and the Lady Catherine, widow of the late Prince Arthur, be declared to have been from the beginning, null, the issue of it illegitimate, and the separation pronounced by the Archbishop of Canterbury good and valid.

“2.  That the marriage between your Highness and your most dear and entirely beloved wife, Queen Anne, be established and held good, and taken for undoubtful, true, sincere, and perfect, ever hereafter."

The act then assumed a general character, laying down a table of prohibited degrees, within which marriage might not under any pretence be in future contracted; and demanding that any marriage which might already exist within those degrees should be at once dissolved.  After this provision, it again returned to the king, and fixed the order in which his children by Queen Anne were to succeed.  The details of the regulations were minute and elaborate, and the rule to be observed was the same as that which exists at present.  First, the sons were to succeed with their heirs.  If sons failed, then the daughters, with their heirs; and, in conclusion, it was resolved that any person who should maliciously do anything by writing, printing, or other external act or deed to the peril of the king, or to the prejudice of his marriage with Queen Anne, or to the derogation of the issue of that marriage, should be held guilty of high treason; and whoever should speak against that marriage, should be held guilty of misprision of treason severe enactments, such as could not be justified at ordinary times, and such as, if the times had been ordinary, would not have been thought necessary but the exigencies of the country could not tolerate an uncertainty of title in the heir to the crown; and the title could only be secured by prohibiting absolutely the discussion of dangerous questions.

The mere enactment of a statute, whatever penalties were attached to the violation of it, was still, however, an insufficient safeguard.  The recent investigation had revealed a spirit of disloyalty, where such a spirit had not been expected.  The deeper the inquiry had penetrated, the more clearly appeared tokens, if not of conspiracy, yet of excitement, of doubt, of agitation, of alienated feeling, if not of alienated act.  All the symptoms were abroad which provide disaffection with its opportunity; and in the natural confusion which attended the revolt from the papacy, the obligations of duty, both political and religious, had become indefinite and contradictory, pointing in all directions, like the magnetic needle in a thunderstorm.

It was thought well, therefore, to vest a power in the crown, of trying the tempers of suspected persons, and examining them upon oath, as to their willingness to maintain the decision of parliament.  This measure was a natural corollary of the statute, and depended for its justification on the extent of the danger to which the state was exposed.  If a difference of opinion on the legitimacy of the king’s children, or of the pope’s power in England, was not dangerous, it was unjust to interfere with the natural liberty of speech or thought.  If it was dangerous, and if the state had cause for supposing that opinions of the kind might spread in secret so long as no opportunity was offered for detecting their progress, to require the oath was a measure of reasonable self-defence, not permissible only, but in a high degree necessary and right.

Under the impression, then, that the circumstances of the country demanded extraordinary precautions, a commission was appointed, consisting of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lord Chancellor, the Duke of Norfolk, and the Duke of Suffolk; and these four, or any three of them, were empowered to administer, at the pleasure of the king, “to all and singular liege subjects of the realm,” the following oath:

“Ye shall swear to bear your faith, truth, and obedience only to the King’s Majesty, and to the heirs of his body, according to the limitation and rehearsal within the statute of succession; and not to any other within this realm, or foreign authority, prince, or potentate:  and in case any oath be made or hath been made by you to any other person or persons, that then you do repute the same as vain and annihilate:  and that to your cunning, wit, and utmost of your power, without guile, fraud, or other undue means, ye shall observe, keep, maintain, and defend this act above specified, and all the whole contents and effects thereof; and all other acts and statutes made since the beginning of this present parliament, in confirmation or for due execution of the same, or of anything therein contained.  And thus ye shall do against all manner of persons, of what estate, dignity, degree, or condition soever they be; and in no wise do or attempt, or to your power suffer to be done or attempted, directly or indirectly, any thing or things, privily or apertly, to the let, hindrance, damage, or derogation thereof, by any manner of means, or for any pretence or cause, so help you God and all saints."

With this last resolution the House rose, having sat seventy-five days, and despatched their business swiftly.  A week later, the news arrived from Rome that there too all was at length over; that the cause was decided, and decided against the king.  The history of the closing catastrophe is as obscure as it is strange, and the account of the manner in which it was brought about is unfortunately incomplete in many important particulars.  The outline only can be apprehended, and that very imperfectly.

On the receipt in Paris of the letter in which Henry threatened to organise a Protestant confederacy, Du Bellay, in genuine anxiety for the welfare of Christendom, had volunteered his services for a final effort.  Not a moment was to be lost, for the courts of Rome were already busy with the great cause; but the king’s evident reluctance to break with the Catholic powers, gave room for hope that something might still be done; and going in person to England, the bishop had induced Henry, at the last extremity, either to entrust him with representative powers, or else to allow him after all to make some kind of concession.  I am unable to learn the extent to which Henry yielded, but that an offer was made of some kind is evident from the form of the story. The winter was very cold, but the bishop made his way to Rome with the haste of good will, and arrived in time to stay judgment, which was on the point of being pronounced.  It seemed, for the moment, as if he would succeed.  He was permitted to make engagements on the part of Henry; and that time might be allowed for communication with England, the pope agreed to delay sentence till the 23rd of March.  This bishop’s terms were approved by the king, and a courier was sent off with letters of confirmation; Sir Edward Karne and Dr. Revett following leisurely, with a more ample commission.  The stone which had been laboriously rolled to the summit of the hill was trembling on the brink, and in a moment might rebound into the plain.

But this was not to be the end.  Some accidental cause delayed the courier; the 23rd of March came, and he had not arrived.  Du Bellay implored a further respite.  The King of England, he said, had waited six years; it was not a great thing for the papal council to wait six days.  The cardinals were divided; but the Spanish party were the strongest, and when the votes were taken carried the day.  The die was cast, and the pope, in spite of himself, his promises, and his conscience, drove at length upon the rocks to which he had been so long drifting. In deference to the opinion of the majority of the cardinals, he pronounced the original marriage to have been valid, the dispensation by which it was permitted to have been legal; and, as a natural consequence, Henry, King of England, should he fail in obedience to this judgment, was declared to be excommunicate from the fellowship of the church, and to have forfeited the allegiance of his subjects.

Lest the censures should be discredited by a blank discharge, engagements were entered into, that within four months of the promulgation of the sentence, the emperor would invade England, and Henry should be deposed. The imperialists illuminated Rome; cannon were fired; bonfires blazed; and great bodies of men paraded the streets with shouts of “the Empire and Spain." Already, in their eager expectation, England was a second Netherlands, a captured province under the regency of Catherine or Mary.

Two days later, the courier arrived.  The pope, at the entreaties of the Bishop of Paris, re-assembled the consistory, to consider whether the steps which had been taken should be undone.  They sat debating all night, and the result was nothing.  No dependence could be placed on the cardinals, Du Bellay said, for they spoke one way, and voted another.

Thus all was over.  In a scene of general helplessness the long drama closed, and, what we call accident, for want of some better word, cut the knot at last over which human incapacity had so vainly laboured.  The Bishop of Paris retired from Rome in despair.  On his way back, he met the English commissioners at Bologna, and told them that their errand was hopeless, and that they need not proceed.  “When we asked him,” wrote Sir Edward Karne to the king, “the cause of such hasty process, he made answer that the imperialists at Rome had strengthened themselves in such a manner, that they coacted the said Bishop of Rome to give sentence contrary to his own mind, and the expectation of himself and of the French king.  He showed us also that the Lady Princess Dowager sent lately, in the month of March past, letters to the Bishop of Rome, and also to her proctors, whereby the Bishop of Rome was much moved for her part.  The imperials, before the sentence was given, promised, in the emperor’s behalf, that he would be the executor of the sentence."

This is all which we are able to say of the immediate catastrophe which decided the fate of England, and through England, of the world.  The deep impenetrable falsehood of the Roman ecclesiastics prevents us from discovering with what intentions the game of the last few weeks or months had been played; it is sufficient for Englishmen to remember that, whatever may have been the explanation of his conduct, the pope, in the concluding passage of his connection with this country, furnished the most signal justification which was ever given for the revolt from an abused authority.  The supreme judge in Christendom had for six years trifled with justice, out of fear of an earthly prince; he concluded these years with uniting the extreme of folly with the extreme of improbity, and pronounced a sentence, willingly or unwillingly, which he had acknowledged to be unjust.

Charity may possibly acquit Clement of conscious duplicity.  He was one of those men who waited upon fortune, and waited always without success; who gave his word as the interest of the moment suggested, trusting that it might be convenient to observe it; and who was too long accustomed to break his promises to look with any particular alarm on that contingency.  It is possible, also, for of this Clement was capable that he knew from the beginning the conclusion to which he would at last be driven; that he had engaged himself with Charles to decide in Catherine’s favour as distinctly as he had engaged himself with Francis to decide against her; and that all his tortuous scheming was intended either to weary out the patience of the King of England, or to entangle him in acknowledgments from which he would not be able to extricate himself.

He was mistaken, certainly, in the temper of the English nation; he believed what the friars told him; and trusting to the promises of disaffection, insurrection, invasion those ignes fatui which for sixty years floated so delusively before the Italian imagination, he imagined, perhaps, that he might trifle with Henry with impunity.  This only is impossible, that, if he had seriously intended to fulfil the promises which he had made to the French king, the accidental delay of a courier could have made so large a difference in his determination.  It is not possible that, if he had assured himself, as he pretended, that justice was on the side against which he had declared, he would not have availed himself of any pretext to retreat from a position which ought to have been intolerable to him.

The question, however, had ended, “as all things in this world do have their end.”  The news of the sentence arrived in England at the beginning of April, with an intimation of the engagements which had been entered upon by the imperial ambassador for an invasion.  Du Bellay returned to Paris at the same time, to report the failure of his undertaking; and Francis, disappointed, angry, and alarmed, sent the Duke of Guise to London with promises of support if an attempt to invade was really made, and with a warning at the same time to Henry to prepare for danger.  Troops were gathering in Flanders; detachments were on their way out of Italy, Germany, and Bohemia, to be followed by three thousand Spaniards, and perhaps many more; and the object avowed for these preparations was wholly incommensurate with their magnitude. For his own sake Francis could not permit a successful invasion of England, unless, indeed, he himself was to take part in it; and therefore, with entire sincerity, he offered his services.  The cordial understanding for which Henry had hoped was at an end; but the political confederacy remained, which the interests of the two countries combined for the present to preserve unbroken.

Guise proposed another interview at Calais between the sovereigns.  The king for the moment was afraid to leave England, lest the opportunity should be made use of for an insurrection; but prudence taught him, though disappointed in Francis, to make the best of a connection too convenient to be sacrificed.  The German league was left in abeyance till the immediate danger was passed, and till the effect of the shock in England itself had been first experienced.  He gladly accepted, in lieu of it, an offer that the French fleet should guard the Channel through the summer; and meanwhile, he collected himself resolutely, to abide the issue, whatever the issue was to be.

The Tudor spirit was at length awake in the English sovereign.  He had exhausted the resources of patience; he had stooped even to indignity to avoid the conclusion which had come at last.  There was nothing left but to meet defiance by defiance, and accept the position to which the pope had driven him.  In quiet times occasionally wayward and capricious, Henry, like Elizabeth after him, reserved his noblest nature for the moment of danger, and was ever greatest when peril was most immediate.  Woe to those who crossed him now, for the time was grown stern, and to trifle further was to be lost.  The suspended act of parliament was made law on the day (it would seem) of the arrival of the sentence.  Convocation, which was still sitting, hurried through a declaration that the pope had no more power in England than any other bishop. Five years before, if a heretic had ventured so desperate an opinion, the clergy would have shut their ears and run upon him:  now they only contended with each other in precipitate obsequiousness.  The houses of the Observants at Canterbury and Greenwich, which had been implicated with the Nun of Kent, were suppressed, and the brethren were scattered among monasteries where they could be under surveillance.  The Nun and her friends were sent to execution. The ordnance stores were examined, the repairs of the navy were hastened, and the garrisons were strengthened along the coast.  Everywhere the realm armed itself for the struggle, looking well to the joints of its harness and to the temper of its weapons.

The commission appointed under the Statute of Succession opened its sittings to receive the oaths of allegiance.  Now, more than ever, was it necessary to try men’s dispositions, when the pope had challenged their obedience.  In words all went well:  the peers swore; bishops, abbots, priors, heads of colleges swore with scarcely an exception, the nation seemed to unite in an unanimous declaration of freedom.  In one quarter only, and that a very painful one, was there refusal.  It was found solely among the persons who had been implicated in the late conspiracy.  Neither Sir Thomas More nor the Bishop of Rochester could expect that their recent conduct would exempt them from an obligation which the people generally accepted with good will.  They had connected themselves, perhaps unintentionally, with a body of confessed traitors.  An opportunity was offered them of giving evidence of their loyalty, and escaping from the shadow of distrust.  More had been treated leniently; Fisher had been treated far more than leniently.  It was both fair and natural that they should be called upon to give proof that their lesson had not been learnt in vain; and, in fact, no other persons, if they had been passed over, could have been called upon to swear, for no other persons had laid themselves open to so just suspicion.

Their conduct so exactly tallied, that they must have agreed beforehand on the course which they would adopt; and in following the details, we need concern ourselves only with the nobler figure.

The commissioners sate at the archbishop’s palace at Lambeth; and at the end of April, Sir Thomas More received a summons to appear before them. He was at his house at Chelsea, where for the last two years he had lived in deep retirement, making ready for evil times.  Those times at length were come.  On the morning on which he was to present himself, he confessed and received the sacrament in Chelsea church; and “whereas,” says his great-grandson, “at other times, before he parted from his wife and children, they used to bring him to his boat, and he there kissing them bade them farewell, at this time he suffered none of them to follow him forth of his gate, but pulled the wicket after him, and with a heavy heart he took boat with his son Roper." He was leaving his home for the last time, and he knew it.  He sat silent for some minutes, and then, with a sudden start, said, “I thank our Lord, the field is won.”  Lambeth Palace was crowded with people who had come on the same errand with himself.  More was called in early, and found Cromwell present with the four commissioners, and also the Abbot of Westminster.  The oath was read to him.  It implied that he should keep the statute of succession in all its parts, and he desired to see the statute itself.  He read it through, and at once replied that others might do as they pleased; he would blame no one for taking the oath; but for himself it was impossible.  He would swear willingly to the part of it which secured the succession to the children of Queen Anne. That was a matter on which parliament was competent to decide, and he had no right to make objections.  If he might be allowed to take an oath to this portion of the statute in language of his own, he would do it; but as the words stood, he would “peril his soul” by using them.  The Lord Chancellor desired him to re-consider his answer.  He retired to the garden, and in his absence others were called in; among them the Bishop of Rochester, who refused in the same terms.  More was then recalled.  He was asked if he persisted in his resolution; and when he replied that he did, he was requested to state his reasons.  He said that he was afraid of increasing the king’s displeasure, but if he could be assured that he might explain himself safely he was ready to do so.  If his objection could then be answered to his satisfaction, he would swear; in the meantime, he repeated, very explicitly, that he judged no one he spoke only for himself.

An opening seemed to be offered in these expressions which was caught at by Cranmer’s kind-hearted casuistry.  If Sir Thomas More could not condemn others for taking the oath, the archbishop said, Sir Thomas More could not be sure that it was sin to take it; while his duty to his king and to the parliament was open and unquestioned.

More hesitated for an instant, but he speedily recovered his firmness.  He had considered what he ought to do, he said; his conscience was clear about it, and he could say no more than he had said already.  They continued to argue with him, but without effect; he had made up his mind; the victory, as he said, had been won.

Cromwell was deeply affected.  In his passionate regret, he exclaimed, that he had rather his only son had lost his head than that More should have refused the oath.  No one knew better than Cromwell that intercession would be of no further use; that he could not himself advise the king to give way.  The parliament, after grave consideration, had passed a law which they held necessary to secure the peace of the country; and two persons of high rank refused obedience to it, whose example would tell in every English household.  Either, therefore, the act was not worth the parchment on which it was written, or the penalties of it must be enforced:  no middle way, no compromise, no acquiescent reservations, could in such a case be admitted.  The law must have its way.

The recusants were committed for four days to the keeping of the Abbot of Westminster; and the council met to determine on the course to be pursued.  Their offence, by the act, was misprision of treason.  On the other hand, they had both offered to acknowledge the Princess Elizabeth as the lawful heir to the throne; and the question was raised whether this offer should be accepted.  It was equivalent to a demand that the form should be altered, not for them only, but for every man.  If persons of their rank and notoriety were permitted to swear with a qualification, the same privilege must be conceded to all.  But there was so much anxiety to avoid extremities, and so warm a regard was personally felt for Sir Thomas More, that this objection was not allowed to be fatal.  It was thought that possibly an exception might be made, yet kept a secret from the world; and the fact that they had sworn under any form might go far to silence objectors and reconcile the better class of the disaffected. This view was particularly urged by Cranmer, always gentle, hoping, and illogical. But, in fact, secresy was impossible.  If More’s discretion could have been relied upon, Fisher’s babbling tongue would have trumpeted his victory to all the winds.  Nor would the government consent to pass censure on its own conduct by evading the question whether the act was or was not just.  If it was not just, it ought not to be:  maintained at all; if it was just, there must be no respect of persons.

The clauses to which the bishop and the ex-chancellor declined to bind themselves were those which declared illegal the marriage of the king with Catherine, and the marriage legal between the king and Queen Anne.  To refuse these was to declare Mary legitimate, to declare Elizabeth illegitimate, and would do more to strengthen Mary’s claims than could be undone by a thousand oaths.  However large might be More’s estimate of the power of parliament, he could have given no clear answer and far less could Fisher have given a clear answer if they had been required to say the part which they would take, should the emperor invade the kingdom under the pope’s sanction.  The emperor would come to execute a sentence which in their consciences they believed to be just; how could they retain their allegiance to Henry, when their convictions must be with the invading army?

What ought to have been done let those say who disapprove of what was actually done.  The high character of the prisoners, while it increased the desire, increased the difficulty of sparing them; and to have given way would have been a confession of a doubtful cause, which at such a time would not have been dangerous, but would have been fatal.  Anne Boleyn is said to have urged the king to remain peremptory; but the following letter of Cromwell’s explains the ultimate resolution of the council in a very reasonable manner.  It was written to Cranmer in reply to his arguments for concession.

“My Lord, after mine humble commendation, it may please your Grace to be advertised that I have received your letter, and showed the same to the King’s Highness; who, perceiving that your mind and opinion is, that it were good that the Bishop of Rochester and Master More should be sworn to the act of the king’s succession, and not to the preamble of the same, thinketh that if their oaths should be taken, it were an occasion to all men to refuse the whole, or at least the like.  For, in case they be sworn to the succession, and not to the preamble, it is to be thought that it might be taken not only as a confirmation of the Bishop of Rome’s authority, but also as a reprobation of the king’s second marriage.  Wherefore, to the intent that no such things should be brought into the heads of the people, by the example of the said Bishop of Rochester and Master More, the King’s Highness in no wise willeth but that they shall be sworn as well to the preamble as to the act.  Wherefore his Grace specially trusteth that ye will in no wise attempt to move him to the contrary; for as his Grace supposeth, that manner of swearing, if it shall be suffered, may be an utter destruction to his whole cause, and also to the effect of the law made for the same."

Thus, therefore, with much regret the council decided and, in fact, why should they have decided otherwise?  They were satisfied that they were right in requiring the oath; and their duty to the English nation obliged them to persevere.  They must go their way; and those who thought them wrong must go theirs; and the great God would judge between them.  It was a hard thing to suffer for an opinion; but there are times when opinions are as dangerous as acts; and liberty of conscience was a plea which could be urged with a bad grace for men who, while in power, had fed the stake with heretics.  They were summoned for a last time, to return the same answer as they had returned before; and nothing remained but to pronounce against them the penalties of the statute, imprisonment at the king’s pleasure, and forfeiture.  The latter part of the sentence was not enforced.  More’s family were left in the enjoyment of his property.  Fisher’s bishoprick was not taken from him.  They were sent to the Tower, where for the present we leave them.

Meanwhile, in accordance with the resolution taken in council on the and of December, but which seems to have been suspended till the issue of the trial at Rome was decided, the bishops, who had been examined severally on the nature of the papal authority, and whose answers had been embodied in the last act of parliament, were now required to instruct the clergy throughout their diocèses and the clergy in turn to instruct the people in the nature of the changes which had taken place.  A bishop was to preach each Sunday at Paul’s Cross, on the pope’s usurpation.  Every secular priest was directed to preach on the same subject week after week, in his parish church.  Abbots and priors were to teach their convents; noblemen and gentlemen their families and servants; mayors and aldermen the boroughs.  In town and country, in all houses, at all dinner-tables, the conduct of the pope and the causes of the separation from Rome were to be the one subject of conversation; that the whole nation might be informed accurately and faithfully of the grounds on which the government had acted.  No wiser method could have been adopted.  The imperial agents would be busy under the surface; and the mendicant friars, and all the missionaries of insurrection.  The machinery of order was set in force to counteract the machinery of sedition.

Further, every bishop, in addition to the oath of allegiance, had sworn obedience to the king as Supreme Head of the Church; and this was the title under which he was to be spoken of in all churches of the realm.  A royal order had been issued, “that all manner of prayers, rubrics, canons of Mass books, and all other books in the churches wherein the Bishop of Rome was named, or his presumptuous and proud pomp and authority preferred, should utterly be abolished, eradicated, and rased out, and his name and memory should be never more, except to his contumely and reproach, remembered; but perpetually be suppressed and obscured."

Nor were these mere idle sounds, like the bellow of unshotted cannon; but words with a sharp, prompt meaning, which the king intended to be obeyed.  He had addressed his orders to the clergy, because the clergy were the officials who had possession of the pulpits from which the people were to be taught; but he knew their nature too well to trust them.  They were too well schooled in the tricks of reservation; and, for the nonce, it was necessary to reverse the posture of the priest and of his flock, and to set the honest laymen to overlook their pastors.

With the instructions to the bishops circulars went round to the sheriffs of the counties, containing a full account of these instructions, and an appeal to their loyalty to see that the royal orders were obeyed.  “We,” the king wrote to them, “seeing, esteeming, and reputing you to be of such singular and vehement zeal and affection towards the glory of Almighty God, and of so faithful, loving, and obedient heart towards us, as you will accomplish, with all power, diligence, and labour, whatsoever shall be to the preferment and setting forth of God’s word, have thought good, not only to signify unto you by these our letters, the particulars of the charge given by us to the bishops, but also to require and straitly charge you, upon pain of your allegiance, and as ye shall avoid our high indignation and displeasure, [that] at your uttermost peril, laying aside all vain affections, respects, and other carnal considerations, and setting only before your eyes the mirrour of the truth, the glory of God, the dignity of your Sovereign Lord and King, and the great concord and unity, and inestimable profit and utility, that shall by the due execution of the premises ensue to yourselves and to all other faithful and loving subjects, ye make or cause to be made diligent search and wait, whether the said bishops do truly and sincerely, without all manner of cloke, colour, or dissimulation, execute and accomplish our will and commandment, as is aforesaid.  And in case ye shall hear that the said bishops, or any other ecclesiastical person, do omit and leave undone any part or parcel of the premises, or else in the execution and setting forth of the same, do coldly and feignedly use any manner of sinister addition, wrong interpretation, or painted colour, then we straitly charge and command you that you do make, undelayedly, and with all speed and diligence, declaration and advertisement to us and to our council of the said default.

“And forasmuch as we upon the singular trust which we have in you, and for the special love which we suppose you bear towards us, and the weal and tranquillity of this our realm, have specially elected and chosen you among so many for this purpose, and have reputed you such men as unto whose wisdom and fidelity we might commit a matter of such great weight and importance:  if ye should, contrary to our expectation and trust which we have in you, and against your duty and allegiance towards us, neglect, or omit to do with all your diligence, whatsoever shall be in your power for the due performance of our pleasure to you declared, or halt or stumble at any part or specialty of the same; Be ye assured that we, like a prince of justice, will so extremely punish you for the same, that all the world beside shall take by you example, and beware contrary to their allegiance to disobey the lawful commandment of their Sovereign Lord and Prince.

“Given under our signet, at our Palace of Westminster, the 9th day of June, 1534."

So Henry spoke at last.  There was no place any more for nice distinctions and care of tender consciences.  The general, when the shot is flying, cannot qualify his orders with dainty periods.  Swift command and swift obedience can alone be tolerated; and martial law for those who hesitate.

This chapter has brought many things to a close.  Before ending it we will leap over three months, to the termination of the career of the pope who has been so far our companion.  Not any more was the distracted Clement to twist his handkerchief, or weep, or flatter, or wildly wave his arms in angry impotence; he was to lie down in his long rest, and vex the world no more.  He had lived to set England free an exploit which, in the face of so persevering an anxiety to escape a separation, required a rare genius and a combination of singular qualities.  He had finished his work, and now he was allowed to depart.

In him, infinite insincerity was accompanied with a grace of manner which regained confidence as rapidly as it was forfeited.  Desiring sincerely, so far as he could be sincere in anything, to please every one by turns, and reckless of truth to a degree in which he was without a rival in the world, he sought only to escape his difficulties by inactivity, and he trusted to provide himself with a refuge against all contingencies by waiting upon time.  Even when at length he was compelled to act, and to act in a distinct direction, his plausibility long enabled him to explain away his conduct; and, honest in the excess of his dishonesty, he wore his falsehood with so easy a grace that it assumed the character of truth.  He was false, deceitful, treacherous; yet he had the virtue of not pretending to be virtuous.  He was a real man, though but an indifferent one; and we can refuse to no one, however grave his faults, a certain ambiguous sympathy, when in his perplexities he shows us features so truly human in their weakness as those of Clement VII.