Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

power; and it happens that the separation of England from the supremacy of the pope—that great event in her national annals—is identified with the private passions of the same orthodox defender of the faith. Queen Catharine having been the wife of Arthur, Henry's brother, previously to her marriage with the king himself, an objection to the legitimacy of this latter union had, on more than one occasion, been proposed. It appears that Henry's favourite author, Thomas Aquinas, had objected to marriage between such near relations as he and Catharine had been. A similar view, the king remarked, was entertained by his confessor. All the English prelates too, except Fisher, bishop of Rochester, agreed that the marriage was unlawful. And to crown all, Anne Boleyn, a maid of honour to Catharine herself, about this time attracted the fancy of the king. For his marriage with Catharine a papal dispensation had been formerly obtained. In this, however, it is alleged, there were flaws of such a kind that, by the rules of the papal court, it might be recalled. Henry applied to Pope Clement VII. for a divorce. The latter was now a prisoner in the hands of Charles V., but access to him was obtained, and his holiness expressed a willingness to agree to Henry's wish. When at length he had obtained his liberty, he still remained under the influence of Charles, and even showed less readiness in granting the English king's request. At last, however, Clement gave secret instructions for having the validity of the royal marriage inquired into. But Henry's counsellors advised their master not to act on this uncertain and underhand permission, and in February 1528, Stephen Gardiner and Edward Fox, were despatched to Rome to obtain security, if possible, for the pope's adherence to the decision of the commission to whom he had given authority to inquire into. the matter. Clement renewed his commission to Wolsey, with whom he now joined Cardinal Campeggio, an adherent of his own. The latter came to England in October, and although he at first attempted to get the scheme of a divorce suppressed, he sought to gratify the king, and even showed at court a papal bull for annulling the marriage with the queen, -a document, however, which Campeggio, in the course of events, was directed to destroy. On the 31st of May, 1529, the papal commission proceeded to the trial of the cause, and the royal parties appeared before them. At the opening of the court, Catharine fell at Henry's feet, and made a pathetic expostulation with him on bis conduct in wishing to be divided from his tried and faithful queen.

She then rose and retired. The king admitted her fidelity before the cardinals, and gave a statement of his reasons for seeking a divorce. The queen was again summoned to appear: but she had appealed to Rome, and did not answer to the citation of the court. It pronounced her contumacious, and proceeded to examine evidence on the matter of debate. The court was prorogued until the beginning of October, but at that time the cause was called to Rome in order to be tried-a measure for securing which the queen had received the emperor's support. Now began Wolsey's overthrow. There is reason to suppose that he was more cautious and less vigorous in gratifying the headstrong passions of the king, than suited the inclination of his master. That master, and his favourite Anne Boleyn, were offended by his conduct respecting an object in which both had such a tender interest; and it is not without reason that, in speaking of this subject, Mr. Hume re

marks—“constant experience evinces how rarely a high confidence and affection receives the least diminution, without sinking into absolute indifference or even running into the opposite extreme. In October, Wolsey was deprived of the great seal,- he was even banished from his house in London. Soon thereafter the king appeared in some measure to relent, and sent him a ring in token of regard. After his trial and condemnation, both in the Star chamber and in parliament, Henry granted him a pardon, and even after Wolsey's death, appears to have

done honour to his memory. Nor surely is it to be wondered at that even in the selfish heart of Henry, some gleams still lingered of the light which he had, perhaps too liberally, cast around the footsteps of his favourite. Yet after all, it was when under arrest on a charge of high treason, founded apparently on Wolsey's opposition to the king's continued efforts at obtaining a divorce, that in November, 1530, this proud cardinal, -not to say with the chamberlain in Shakspeare, “this bold, bad man,"_expired. In connexion with the history of his royal master, he stands a memorable witness not only of the instability of earthly greatness, but of the passionate energy of Henry's mind, feeling and assuming it as its own prerogative, alike immeasurably, to give or to withdraw its favour:

Pone, meum est, inquit,pono tristisque recedo. About the time when the cause of Henry and his queen was withdrawn to the papal court, the former agreed to certain provisions for the regulation of the clergy, passed by parliament, which also, professedly on account of the king's attention and liberality towards the nation, discharged him from the debts he had contracted since his accession to the throne. Besides that a large proportion of the nation seems to have been disposed to support him in his aim at a divorce, it was with great satisfaction that he received the suggestion of Dr. Thomas Cranmer, that he should apply for the opinions of the universities of Europe, respecting the validity of the marriage. The suggestion was adopted, and it is only fair, perhaps, to grant that his favourable inclination towards the plan appears to indicate that he was not without a real misgiving respecting the lawfulness of his union with the queen. The universities were in his favour, as also the convocations of Canterbury and York. A letter of the nobility to his holiness even ventured to warn him that he might find it dangerous to refuse agreement to the proposal of the king. The latter sent reasons, by Anne Boleyn's father, who had now been created Earl of Wiltshire, for declining to appear by proxy, accordiug to the summons of the pope ; and it is remarked, that the earl declined to kiss the foot of his holiness. By the convocation which met at the beginning of the year 1531, and in which the ecclesiastics who had submitted to the legantine court of Wolsey, condemned by this time as unlawful, agreed to purchase a pardon of Henry, the king was pronounced Head of the church of England."6 After being importuned by the commons, from his own goodness,' as he himself professed, he pardoned the laity for their submission to Wolsey's court. The following year an act was passed, for withholding from the court of Rome the first-fruits, which had been accustomed to

1

3 Rymer, vol. xiv. p. 390.-Burnet.

6 Burnet.

be paid; power, however, being left with the king to suspend the law, if he should please. This was a bold stroke at the long-established authority of the pope; and such was Henry's disposition towards the papal power, that it now lost him the services, as lord chancellor, of that accomplished scholar, but bigotted Romanist, Sir Thomas More. The king continued to decline appearing, by proxy, before his holiness, alleging the insufficiency of a proxy to represent him in this matter of conscience, and the danger of permitting appeals to be carried from his own kingdom—the doing of which, in cases of matrimony and other ecclesiastical causes, was prohibited, the following year, by act of parliament. After the private celebration of a marriage with Anne Boleyn, who had now been created marchioness of Pembroke, the king publicly acknowledged the union, in April, 1533. Soon thereafter Anne was crowned, and, 7th September, was delivered of a daughter. The marriage had been previously confirmed by Cranmer, now archbishop of Canterbury, who had also, after an examination of the previous one with Catharine, declared the latter to be invalid, and who now, at the desire of the king, stood godfather to the royal infant.

Henry, before his marriage with Anne, had held an interview with the king of France, on the cause at issue. That prince made an attempt to mediate between his holiness and the English king, and Henry agreed to submit his cause to the court at Rome, if the cardinal, attached to the emperor, Catharine's brother, should be excluded. But his written promise on the subject being detained beyond the time prescribed, and a report having gone to Italy that ridicule had been cast on the pope and cardinals in a ludicrous exhibition represented before the English king, the consistory, 23 March, 1534, declared Catharine to be Henry's lawful wife, and the king excommunicated, should he refuse obedience to the decision of the court. This was a decisive step on the part of Rome, and similarly decisive was the conduct of the king and his obedient parliament. This year he received the title of only supreme head on earth of the church of England;'? the authority of the pope, who had issued bulls, however, for Cranmer's appointment to the archbishopric of Canterbury, was annulled, and the succession was removed from Mary, Henry's daughter by Catharine, and settled on the issue of the new qneen. Severity was resorted to, in enforcement of the innovation respecting the supremacy : for their resistance to which, Bishop Fisher and Sir Thomas More were brought to trial, condemned and executed, in 1535. At the beginning of the following year, Catharine—to whom the king had given the title of princess-dowager of Wales, and from whom he had ordered the honours appropriate to royalty to be withheld—died at Kimbolton, after a lingering illness. Shortly before her death she had written a letter to the king, expressing forgiveness and affection, and commending their daughter Mary to his kindness,-a document by which the king is said to have been moved to tears, though Anne, who was shortly after delivered of a still-born son, is represented as expressing pleasure on occasion of her rival's death.

But the year which opened on the death-bed of Catharine was to close over the grave of Anne, whose melancholy fate will be related at

7 260 Henry VIII. c. i. 3.

D

The proo

length, in our memoir of that unfortunate woman. Henry had fixed his affections on another lady, Jane Seymour, a maid of honour to the queen. Anne was beheaded on the 19th of May,—another victim to the impetuous passions of the man whom, almost immediately before her death, she called ' a most merciful and gentle prince.' With disgusting want of decency, he, next day, consummated a marriage with Jane Seymour, which he represented to parliament as entered into for their benefit. They confirmed the divorce from Anne, and set aside the claim of the issue of the marriage with that unfortunate queen, as well as of the previous one with Catharine, to the succession, which was settled on Henry's children by Jane Seymour. They also increased his personal prerogative, continuing that course of accordance with Henry's capricious will which marked the proceedings of his parliaments. The king had by this time suppressed the monasteries whose annual revenues were under £200, the property of which was transferrer to the king. But, according to the image of Bishop Fisher, in speaking of the subject, “ the axe had got a handle, and proceeded to cut down the cedars.” Notwithstanding a revolt both in Lincolnshire and in the north of England, one of the grounds of which was Henry's conduct in reference to the monastic houses, he now betook himself, with the rude energy by which his character is marked, to the suppression of the greater ones, in which, as well as in the others, great immorality appears to have been practised. The annual revenue accruing to the crown, from the multitude of monasteries and other ecclesiastical houses suppressed by Henry, amounted to upwards of £160,000. ceeding was a very bold, and perhaps an unadvised, one; but a proportion of the revenue was granted by the king towards erecting bishoprics, and forming pensions for abbots and priors, deprived, by the suppression, of their former income. His favourites also shared in the spoil; he sold or exchanged on terms disadvantageous to the crown; and he is said to have paid a cook, who pleased him by a pudding, with the revenue of a convent.

But Henry had not renounced the theological doctrines of the Romish church along with the supremacy of its acknowledged head. Persons maintaining articles of the reformed faith were even subjected to severe persecutions, and when the king, in 1535, requested a visit from Melancthon and others of the foreign reformers, it was intimated to him, that his severity to Protestants destroyed his claim to be considered a sound Protestant prince. That year, however, Coverdale's translation of the Bible was published, with a dedication to the king, and, in 1536, it was ordered to be used in churches. About the same time, the convocation framed a body of theological articles, in some degree inclining to the protestant belief, though not without a considerable proportion of the Romish creed. In 1538, Henry aimed at a union with the German Protestants, and in the following year was published a new translation of the Bible, undertaken, some years before, by the convocation of the church, notwithstanding the publication of Tindal's improved version, which was rejected by the ecclesiastics as not sufficiently correct. On the title-page of the new translation, the king, according

• Herbert, ii. • There were suppressed in this reigu 615 monasteries, having 28 abbots in parliament, 90 colleges, 2,374 chapels and chantries, 110 hospitals,

to a design attributed to Hans Holbein as represented as delivering the Bible into the hands of Archbishop Cranmer and of Thomas Cromwell, for distribution-as the design has been explained-among the clergy and the laity.10 The reformer, Tindal, however, had suffered at the stake, in 1536, betrayed, it is alleged, to the procurator of the emperor of Germany, by a man employed by Henry and his council, and had died, with these words upon his lips—“Lord, open the king of England's eyes!" But Henry continued, in his doctrinal creed, a Romanist; he cautioned the people respecting the use of the new translation of the Bible; and, in 1538, he even met, in theological debate, with a schoolmaster of the name of Lambert, with whoin he entered into public disputation, at Westminster, respecting the real presence in the eucharist, and who, after a long debate, supported by several of the bishops, was sentenced by Thomas Cromwell, who was soon after created earl of Essex, and who, on this occasion, in a letter to Sir Thomas Wyat, thus describes the part taken by his master, in the Interview with Lambert:-“It was a wonder to see how princely, with how excellent gravity and inestimable majesty, his highness exer. cised there the very office of supreme head of the church of England. How benignly his grace essayed to convert the miserable man; how strong and manifest reasons his highness alleged against him. I wish the princes and potentates of Christendom to have had a meet place to have seen it. Undoubtedly they should have much marvelled at bis majesty's most high wisdom and judgment, and reputed him no otherwise after the same, than, in a manner, the mirror and light of all other kings and princes in Christendom.” The Romish doctrine of the presence in the eucharist seems to have been one of which Henry was particularly jealous; but, in 1539, it was combined with five others in the celebrated .Six Articles, called by protestants, the Bloody bill,' which parliament passed, in conformity, we may well suppose, to the inclinations of the king. A signal monument truly, of the “ benignity and most high judgment and wisdom” of this “mirror and light of all other kings and princes in Christendom !” The other articles enforced by this infamous bill, besides the real presence, were, communion in one kind, private masses, the celibacy of the clergy, vows of chastity, and auricular confession. For the trial of persons accused of Protestant heresy on these points the king was to appoint a commission; and, by the same parliament, his proclamation was ordained to have the force of statute laws. The Six Articles were warmly opposed by Archbishop Cranmer; but on the passing of the bill, he sent back his wife, the daughter of a foreign protestant, to Germany, and retired from court. The king, however, sent Essex and Norfolk to condole with him.

In October, 1538, on the birth of his son, Prince Edward, the king had lost his favourite queen, Jane Seymour,-immediately after which event he bethought himself of entering into another marriage. This was effected, sixth January, 1540, with Anne of Cleves, but in circumstances that augured little for the matrimonial happiness of either of the parties. Henry had previously set bis affections on the duchess

10 The central part of the design on this admired title-page has been copied into Mr Thomson's Illustrations of British History, vol. i., and is animated and striking. On occasion of Queen Mary's marriage with Philip, her father, Henry VIII., was publicly represented with a Bible in his hand, but the painter was directed to exchange the Bible for a pair of gloves.

« AnteriorContinuar »