Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 4, 1524-1530. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1875.
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Introduction, Section 12
Wolsey is unconscious of his danger.
All this time Wolsey was at Cawood, wholly unconscious of the danger which awaited him. On the 1st of November Sir Walter Walshe, one of the gentlemen of the Privy Chamber who had been employed in the King's correspondence with Anne Boleyn, was despatched with a warrant to the earl of Northumberland. The Earl had been brought up in Wolsey's household, but had now become one of his bitterest enemies; not, as some have supposed, because the Cardinal had broken off the Earl's contract of marriage with Anne Boleyn, (for its existence was solemnly denied by the Earl,) but in consequence of a sharp remonstrance addressed to him by Wolsey for real or supposed misconduct in the North. This had galled his harsh and imperious spirit, and was never forgiven. Besides this provocation there had been continual feuds between the archbishops of York and the powerful house of Percy, and consequently they were rarely upon friendly terms. It was upon the Friday following, the 4th of November, preceding the Monday of Wolsey's proposed installation, that the Earl and his associates, with a great company of servants and gentlemen, entered the hall of Cawood Castle, where the Cardinal's officers were at dinner. Wolsey had dined, and retired to an upper chamber, where he was still sitting at his dessert. On entering the court-yard of the castle the Earl demanded the keys of the porter, who refused at first to deliver them, but after some short discussion complied, and was immediately sworn into the King's service. As soon as Percy had entered the hall he posted sentries at all the passages to prevent egress, and ordered a guard to keep the stairs that led to the Cardinal's chamber, "so that no man could pass up again that was come down."
Is made a prisoner.
All this time Wolsey was ignorant of what was passing below. At last one of his attendants, chancing to look down into the hall from a loop in the gallery, espied the earl of Northumberland, and on the news being communicated to Wolsey, who was not a little astonished, he ordered his gentleman usher (Cavendish) to ascertain the truth. On finding it confirmed, he rose from the table, and as he was going down the stairs he encountered the Earl, who was coming up, with all his men about him. After they had embraced each other, and the Cardinal had expressed a wish that the Earl had sent him word of his coming before, in order that he might have been better provided to receive him, he led the Earl into the chamber where he had dined, saying to him, "Sir, now ye may perceive how far forth we were at our dinner." Then leading the Earl to the fire he said to him, "Ye shall go into my bed-chamber, and there shift your apparel until your chamber is ready." Then, addressing a few courteous remarks to the Earl's attendants, he took the Earl by the hand, and led him into his bed-chamber; "and they being there all alone, save only I," says Cavendish, to whom we are indebted for these details, "that kept the door, according to my duty, being gentleman usher, the two standing at a window by the chimney in my Lord's bed-chamber, the Earl trembling said, with a very faint and soft voice, unto my Lord, laying his hand upon his arm, 'My 'Lord, I arrest you of high treason.'" (fn. 1) At these words the Cardinal was marvellously astonished; and both stood for a considerable time without uttering a word. Then Wolsey, breaking silence, demanded of the Earl his commission; and, on his refusal to produce it, declined, he said, to obey his authority. As they were debating the matter, Walshe, who had been busy in arresting Augustine, drove him, with pretended violence, into the chamber, exclaiming, "Go in, traitor, or I shall make thee;" and as soon as both had entered he pulled off a cotton hood in which he had disguised himself, and as he kneeled Wolsey said to him, "My Lord of Northumberland hath arrested me of treason, but on what authority he avoweth me not, but, he says, he hath one. If you are privy thereto, or be joined therein with him, I pray you show me." Walshe answered in the affirmative, but, like Northumberland, refused to produce his commission. Finding it useless to contend, the Cardinal surrendered himself to Walshe, remarking, "You are a sufficient commis- sioner of yourself, for you are one of the King's Privy Chamber. The worst person there, is a sufficient warrant to arrest the greatest peer of the realm, by the King's only commandment, without any commission. I am ready to be ordered and disposed of at your pleasure." Then they delivered him into the custody of certain gentlemen, and Walshe and the Earl proceeded to take the keys of his coffers. (fn. 2) To maintain the deceit, and obviate suspicion, Augustine, attended by guards, was despatched to London, with his feet tied under his horse's belly, as if to prevent his escape. Saturday passed, and the greater part of Sunday. No access to Wolsey was allowed, and no intimation was given him of the charges on which he was arrested. He was plunged in the profoundest agony of grief and agitation, breaking out now and then into lamentations, which, as his biographer justly remarks, "would have caused the flintiest heart to have relented, and burst for sorrow." But even then his grief was as much for others as for himself. In his total abandonment by those who had once kneeled before him to supplicate his favor, in the ingratitude of the King and his obdurate mistress, who had forgotten all his services and joined with his enemies, he could not fail being struck with the unselfish constancy of the few who still continued to serve him in his adversity, without any expectation of reward; and not the least for the honesty, truth and fidelity of his gentleman usher and biographer, Cavendish, who remained with him to the last. "Alas," he exclaimed, seeing the kindly and unwearied efforts of Cavendish to console him, "I am left here bare and wretched, without help or succour, but of God alone. 'Howbeit,' quoth he to me, calling me by my name, 'I am a true man, 'and therefore you shall never receive shame of me 'for your service.' I, perceiving his heaviness and lamentable words, said thus unto him: 'My lord, I nothing mistrust your truth, and for the same I dare and will be sworn before the King's person 'and his honourable Council ... I doubt not, but coming to your answer, you shall so acquit and clear yourself of all surmised and feigned accusations, that it shall be to the King's contentation, and much to your advancement and restitution of your former dignity and estate. 'Yea,' quoth he, 'if I may come to mine answer, I fear no man alive; for he liveth not upon the earth that shall look upon this face (pointing to his own face) shall be able to accuse me of any untruth; and that knoweth mine enemies full well, which will be an occasion that I shall not have indifferent justice, but they will rather seek some other sinister ways to destroy me.'"
Begins his last journey.
On Sunday, after dinner, as it drew towards night, he was conducted to Pomfret with five of his attendants only. At his departure, which had now got wind, a multitude of the country people assembled to testify their grief at his arrest, praying that "the foul fiend "might catch" all those who had taken the Cardinal from them. The custody of his person was apparently committed to Sir Roger Lascelles by the Earl, who remained behind in Cawood Castle to take charge of the effects. From the abbey of Pomfret he proceeded next day to Doncaster, where he lodged with the Black Friars; the day after, to Sheffield Park, where he was received by the earl and countess of Shrewsbury with great affability. (fn. 3) The Earl embraced him, affirming that he was heartily welcome, but that he would have been far more pleased if Wolsey had come in a different fashion; saying to him, after some further remarks, "I will not receive you as a prisoner, but as my good lord and the King's true, faithful subject; and here is my wife come to salute you;" whom my Lord kissed bare-headed, and all her gentlewomen, and took my Lord's servants by the hand, as well gentlemen as yeomen and other. (fn. 4) At Sheffield Park he remained for eighteen days, and was treated by his host with great consideration and generosity. Once every day he was visited by the Earl, who sought to comfort his unfortunate prisoner. But he resolutely repelled all the efforts that were made to console him, applying himself wholly to devotion, and renouncing all earthly pleasure. Though he was not more than 59 years of age, his health and strength had been completely broken down by his long and laborious occupations, and the incessant vexations to which he had been exposed since his disgrace. Even in his most prosperous days he had never been a strong man; now his great anxiety of mind, and the enormous pressure upon his faculties during the progress of the divorce, had wholly undermined his constitution. He was attacked by dysentery, brought on by shattered health and excessive agitation; but it was more immediately caused by eating Warden pears, and was increased apparently by the unskilful treatment of his apothecary.
The cause of his arrest not divulged.
Methods taken to break it to the Cardinal.
The final and heaviest blow was reserved for his last moments. The reasons for his arrest had been studiously kept from him; but as upon all occasions when the King had resolved to strike, he struck once, and never wavered, so it was now. When Henry had abandoned himself to his resentment he was borne along its current with the blind impetuosity of fate. No doubt was allowed to enter his mind. No question of the wisdom or justice of his own determination, no feeling of pity, no sense of past services, however great, were allowed to arrest his hand. He had ordered Sir William Kingston, the keeper of the Tower, to proceed to Sheffield to receive the Earl's prisoner, and bring him to the Tower. It required the greatest delicacy to break the dreadful news to the unhappy Cardinal. For this purpose the Earl, who seems to have been unusually humane and considerate, hit upon the following expedient. During his conversations with Wolsey, when the latter expressed his apprehensions lest he should be condemned unheard, the Earl either took, or pretended to take, an opportunity of writing to the King in Wolsey's behalf. Then calling Cavendish to him, he said, "My Lord, your master, has often desired me to write to the King that he might answer his accusers in the King's presence. Even so have I done; and this day I have received letters from his Grace, by Sir William Kingston, by which I perceive that the King holds the Cardinal in very good estimation, and has sent for him by Sir William, who is now here, to come up and make his answer. But do you play the part of a wise man, and break the matter unto him warily; for he is always so full of sorrow when he is in my company, that I am afraid he will not take it quietly." Cavendish promised to comply, but added, with a clear apprehension of the true meaning of the Earl's stratagem, that the moment he mentioned the name of Sir William Kingston to the Cardinal, his worst suspicions would be confirmed; "because," said he, "he is constable of the Tower, and has brought twenty-four of the guard to attend upon him." The Earl kindly suggested reasons for removing these unfounded fears, as he was pleased to term them, but evidently with little effect. Cavendish proceeded to break the news. "I found him," he says, "sitting at the upper end of the gallery upon a trussing chest of his own, with his beads and staff in hand." "What news," said he, seeing Cavendish come from the Earl. "Forsooth, Sir," he replied, assuming the best appearance of cheerfulness he could master, though his voice sadly belied his words, "I bring you the best news that ever came to you in your life." "I pray God it be so," said Wolsey; "what is it ?" "Forsooth, Sir," replied Cavendish, "my lord of Shrewsbury, perceiving how desirous you were to come before the King, has so exerted himself that the King has sent Master Kingston with twenty-four of his guard to bring you into his presence." "Master Kingston, Master Kingston," exclaimed the unhappy Cardinal, musing for a time, as if to recollect himself; and then clapping his hand on his thigh, he gave a deep sigh. Cavendish endeavored to cheer him. He urged the old argument that the King had no other intention by this act than to bring Wolsey into his presence; and had sent the Constable with a guard of honor out of consideration for Wolsey's high estate, and he had no reason therefore to mistrust his master's kindness. All his efforts were useless. The Cardinal knew too well the King's temper to be deceived. He had not served him so long without being fully aware how implacable and immoveable were his resentments. "I perceive," he said, with very significant words,—(the shadow of Buckingham must have crossed his imagination as he was speaking,)—"more than you can imagine or can know. Experience of old has taught me."
Meanwhile the Earl came into the gallery to reinforce the arguments of Cavendish; but with no better success. "Well, Sir," quoth the Cardinal, "as God will, so be it. Where is Master Kingston ?" On this Kingston was introduced, and, according to the usual fashion, kneeled down to the Cardinal as he saluted him in the King's behalf. "I pray you, stand up," said Wolsey; "kneel not unto a very wretch, replete with misery, nor worthy to be esteemed, as a vile object, utterly cast away. Stand up, or I will myself kneel down by you." The Lieutenant assured the unhappy prelate that the King bore him as much goodwill and favor as ever; and though it was necessary he should be sent to trial, there was no doubt he would be able to clear himself from all accusations. "Therefore," said he, "be of good cheer, and when it is your pleasure to take your journey I shall give mine attendance." "If I were as able and as lusty as I had been lately, I would not fail," replied Wolsey, "to ride post with you, but I am sick and very weak. Alas! all these comfortable words which you have spoken to me are only to bring me into a fool's paradise. I know what is provided for me. Notwithstanding, I thank you, and will be ready to-morrow."
The stroke of death.
Arrives at Leicester.
It was the sentence of death, and he knew it full well; but his despondency and waning health anticipated the sword of the executioner, and disappointed the malice of his enemies. That night his disease, turning to a violent dysentery, increased rapidly; he became very weak, and was scarce able to stir. The next day he commenced his journey; and lodged at night, still very sick, at Hardwick Hall. The day after he rode to Nottingham, his sickness and infirmity increasing at every stage. On Saturday (Nov. 26) he rode his last stage to Leicester Abbey; "and by the way he waxed so sick that he was divers times likely to have fallen from his mule." As the journey was necessarily impeded by these delays, Sir William and his prisoner did not reach Leicester until late at night; where, on his entering the gates, the Abbot with all his convent went out to meet him, with the light of many torches, and received him with great demonstrations of respect. "To whom my Lord said, 'Father Abbot, I am come hither to leave my bones among you.' " (fn. 5) They then brought him on his mule to the stair's foot of his chamber, where Kingston took him by the arm, and led him up. Immediately he went to his bed. On the Monday morning, "as I stood by his bedside," says Cavendish, "about eight of the clock, the windows being close shut, having lights burning upon the cupboard, I beheld him, as meseemed, drawing fast to his end. He, perceiving my shadow upon the wall by his bedside, asked who was there; and inquiring what was the clock, 'Sir,' "said Cavendish," 'it is past eight of the clock in the morning.' 'Eight of the clock, eight of the clock!' slowly repeated the dying man; 'nay, that cannot be, for by eight of the clock you must lose your master. My time draweth nigh.'"
His dying hour.
But even in these last faltering moments he was not allowed to remain unmolested. The King had received information from Northumberland that by an account found in Cawood the Cardinal had in his possession 1,500l., of which no portion could be found. Anxious to obtain the money, the King's impatience could brook no delay, although the Cardinal was now on his way to the Tower. He sent a special messenger to Kingston, commanding him to examine the Cardinal, and discover where this money was deposited. The commission would have been immediately executed; but the weakness of the Cardinal was so great, and increased so rapidly, that Kingston was obliged to put off the examination till the next day. The same night Wolsey was very sick, and swooned often, but rallied a little at four the next morning, being St. Andrew's Eve (29th November). After taking a little broth, he remembered that it was a fast day. "What though it be, Sir," said his confessor, Dr. Palmes; "ye be excused by reason of your sickness." "Yea," quoth he, "What though ? I will eat no more." About seven, Kingston entered the room, intending to fulfil the King's command respecting the money. But seeing the feeble condition of the patient, he endeavored to encourage him with the usual topic, telling the Cardinal that he was sad and pensive from dread of that which he had no occasion to apprehend. "Well, well, Master Kingston," replied Wolsey, "I see the matter against me, how it is framed; but if I had served God as diligently as I have served the King, He would not have given me over in my grey hairs. Howbeit, this is the just reward that I must receive for my worldly diligence and pains that I have had to do him service. Commend me to his Majesty, beseeching him to call to his remembrance all that has passed between him and me to the present day, and most chiefly in his great matter; then shall his conscience declare whether I have offended him or no. He is a prince of royal courage, (fn. 6) and hath a princely heart; and rather than he will miss or want part of his appetite he will hazard the loss of one-half of his kingdom. I assure you I have often kneeled before him in his privy chamber, the space of an hour or two, to persuade him from his will and appetite, but I could never dissuade him." Then urging him to warn the King to have a care of the rapid increase of Lutheranism as destructive to the authority of princes, his words and his voice failed him. His eyes grew fixed and glazed. Incontinently the clock struck eight, and he breathed his last. "And calling to our remembrance," says Cavendish, "his words the day before, how he said that at eight of the clock we should lose our master, we stood looking upon each other, supposing he had prophesied of his departure."
As the lieutenant of the Tower had now no further charge, and was anxious to be gone, the burial was fixed for the next day. The body was placed in a rude coffin of wood, with mitre, cross, and ring, and other archiepiscopal ornaments. He lay in state until five o'clock in the afternoon, when he was carried down into the church, with great solemnity, by the abbot and convent, with many torches. Here the corpse rested all night in the Lady Chapel, watched by four men holding lights in their hands, whilst the convent chanted the old and solemn requiem for the dead. About four in the morning, whilst it was yet dark, they sung a mass. By six they had laid him in his grave, on that cold and dreary November morning, unwept and unlamented by all, except by the very few who, for the glory of human nature, amidst so much of baseness, greed, ingratitude, and cruelty, remained loving and faithful to the last. (fn. 7)
Cruel to him in his life, the age was not less cruel to his memory. "The cardinal of York," said Chapuys, "died on St. Andrew's day (eve), at a place where king Richard was killed. They are both buried in the same church, which the people call The Tyrants' Sepulchre." (fn. 8) I draw these remarks to an end by an extract from the letters of the Venetian ambassador, Scarpinello, already mentioned. It is valuable as faithfully reflecting the opinions and rumors of the times. "I wrote," he says, "on the 17th ultimo, an account of the occurrents here, more especially of the recent arrest of cardinal Wolsey. Subsequently, the King, having determined on his removal to the Tower, sent "its constable, Kingston, with a guard to arrest him. Arriving at a place sixty miles off, he found the Cardinal very ill, and in bed; and although the Constable exhorted him to rely on the King's mercy, declaring he was sent to convey him at his own convenience, and he might remain where he was as long as he pleased, at the end of two days he departed this life, drawing a deep and loud sigh at the close of it. Some six hours afterwards there was put into the earth that personage, who had prepared for his remains a more costly mausoleum than any royal or papal monument in the world. (fn. 9) This the King intends shall serve for himself, post multos et felices annos, and has therefore erased from it the Cardinal's arms.
"It is said that the Cardinal's indisposition was preceded by two very bad symptoms. When first arrested he would take no food, owing to mental depression, and when pressed to do so, dysentery followed, and he could retain nothing on his stomach. According to report, his mind never wandered to the last; and, on seeing the Constable, he made his attendants raise him in his bed, where he knelt, and whenever he heard the King's name mentioned, he bowed his head, putting his face downwards. He then asked Kingston where his guards were, and on being told that lodgings had been prepared for them on the ground floor of the castle, he requested they might be brought into his presence. After as many had entered as the place would hold, he raised himself as well as he could, saying that on the day before he had confessed and communicated, and expected to find himself shortly before God's judgment- seat; and as God should judge him, he called them all to witness that he had never thought to do any disservice to the King.
"The nobles, however, who are at the head of this government say, without entering into any details, that the King was induced for great reasons to order the Cardinal's arrest. With him they seized a physician in his service, Messer Augustino, a Venetian, and at the commencement of these proceedings they brought him to London, to the house of the duke of Norfolk, and examined him without violence (i.e. the torture). He has found great favour with the Duke, who gives him a good character. It is supposed that his deposition justified the Cardinal's arrest. Cer- tainly the King would not have acted as he has done without good cause. It is undeniable that a few days before his arrest, certain letters of the said Augustino were intercepted, containing a few lines in cipher. According to report, they were addressed to the French ambassador, De Vaux, who was then building a hermitage at Dover. It is said that the cipher merely contained a request for the Christian king to intercede with his Majesty here." Scarpinello then repeats the vulgar rumors, which he did not credit, such as Wolsey's attempt to escape to France, or to Scotland, or to Rome, and his communications with the Pope. He adds, in conclusion, that the King somewhat regretted this catastrophe, more especially as, a few days before the arrest was ordered, in discussing affairs with the Privy Council, he exclaimed, "Every day I miss the cardinal of York." (fn. 10)
It would be pleasant to believe that Henry paid even so slight a tribute to the memory of his great minister. Probably he missed his energy, his abilities, his long experience; but he missed and regretted his money more. When Cavendish was summoned to his presence, to give him the details of Wolsey's last hours, the interview lasted the unusual length of an hour and more, "during which time he examined me," says Cavendish, "of divers weighty matters concerning my Lord, wishing that liever than twenty thousand pounds the Cardinal had lived." But he was far more concerned to discover what had become of the 1,500l. with inquiries after which he had troubled the last hours of the dying Cardinal. "Sir," said Cavendish, "I think I can tell your Grace partly where it is." "Yea, can you ?" said the King,—his curiosity and greed now piqued to the uttermost;—"then I pray you tell me, and you shall do us much pleasure, and shall not go unrewarded." Cavendish informed him it was in the hands of a certain priest. "Is this true," said the King. "Let me alone; keep this gear (fn. 11) secret between yourself and me, and let no man be made privy thereto; for if I hear any more of it, I shall know by whom it is come to knowledge. Three may keep counsel, if two be away; and if I thought that my cap knew my counsel, I would cast it into the fire and burn it." (fn. 12) Never had the King spoken a truer word, or described himself more accurately. Few would have thought that, under so careless and splendid an exterior,—the very ideal of bluff, open-hearted good humour and frankness,—there lay a watchful and secret eye, that marked what was going on, without appearing to mark it; kept its own counsel until it was time to strike, and then struck, as suddenly and remorselessly as a beast of prey. It was strange to witness so much subtlety combined with so much strength.
So fell the great Cardinal. Had he been really guilty of the crimes laid to his charge, so unwearied was the pertinacity and malice of his enemies, that it cannot be doubted they would have been able to furnish more satisfactory evidence of his guilt. Of that guilt they never produced any particulars. They allowed it to rest on the vaguest and most improbable suspicions. The promises made to foreign courts—for the King thought it necessary to justify himself in the eyes of contemporary sovereigns from the charge of injustice and caprice in his extraordinary treatment of his once powerful favorite—were never fulfilled. He was satisfied that the memory of the Cardinal should be buried under a load of infamy, as a cankered and ambitious plotter against his master, who had only been too leniently treated "for his seditious and traitorous misbehaviour." So fell the great Cardinal; and the greatness and the splendour of Henry's reign departed with him. There may be qualities which men desire more than these, and consider more conducive to the interest and happiness of nations; but these will not be denied to Wolsey's administration; nor in these respects can any of his successors be compared with him, for greatness and magnanimity are not the qualities we should attribute to Cranmer or to Cromwell. From a third-rate kingdom of little account in Europe, Wolsey raised this nation to an equality with the highest. For a time, at all events, peace and war depended on its fiat. It held the scales between the two great contending powers; and if that was any satisfaction to a proud and ambitious prince, Henry had the satisfaction of seeing the two most powerful monarchs of Christendom contending for his favor. No nation ever yet achieved greatness by its internal policy alone. It is only by mixing in the wide theatre of the world, by its external relations, by measuring its strength with others, that any nation attains to eminence; and without greatness even its virtues are apt to reflect the littleness of its vices. With all its faults—and they were not few,—in all true nobleness, in all that exalts a people, the reign of Henry VIII. was incomparably superior to that of Henry VII.; yet in all the virtues which exalt the man, in temperance, moderation, self-control, and political sagacity, Henry VII. was far superior to Henry VIII. But able as were the ministers of Henry VII. they have been completely obscured by the brilliant abilities of Wolsey. His name still stands out pre-eminent above all others as the one great statesman before the Reformation; and even now, of the very few who have since deserved that distinction, it is of profounder interest and significance than any other. This is due, perhaps, to two special characteristics: first, that, churchman as he was, he was still more of an Englishman, and the honor and aggrandisement of his country, or rather perhaps of its king, as the head of it, occupied a much higher place in his affections than the exaltation of the ecclesiastical order, or of the hierarchy, of which he was so eminent a member. And secondly, able and skilful as he was as a politician, and fitted by nature and inclination to shine as a statesman, the man was not, as in other instances, totally absorbed in the politician. The impression of his feelings and affections is visible in his measures, and in all his foreign policy. And though by some this may be considered as a defect, and as detracting from his unquestionable ability as a statesman, it invests his life and career with far more interest for the historian than if he had been the mere pale and bloodless representative of a transient political system. So much more permanent is any phase of human nature, however remote from modern types, than the most ingenious and successful political combinations, the most surprising feats of strategy, or the greatest victories of mere diplomacy.
No man was less disposed to persecution; or, upon the whole, though furiously attacked with satire, misrepresentation, and the grossest abuse, from all sides, less inclined to avenge himself. When the Reformers held him up to popular execration for the splendor and magnificence of his houses, his entertainments, and his retinue, he bore their reproaches with indifference. He even condescended on one occasion to hold a personal conference with one of the most eminent among his assailants, and to hear with patience his objections, and to reply in his own defence. And it must be admitted that in defending himself, and justifying his assumption of so much dignity and splendor, he had far the best of the argument. (fn. 13) That he was lofty and sour with the lofty and overbearing feudal aristocracy of the age, who could not endure a rival near the throne, still less a rival of such consummate ability, may be admitted. But that, in the poet's words, he was "sweet as summer" to those who sought him, or requested his favor,—that he was a considerate and generous master, and willing to acknowledge and reward merit in those about him,—there are numerous indications in these volumes.
No man ever met with harder measure from his contemporaries; and never was the verdict of contemporaries less challenged than in his case by subsequent inquirers. In no instance has mankind been less careful to test and analyse motives and actions; or have shown themselves more ready to accept obloquy, heaped upon the memory of the dead, with less discrimination or hesitation. They have accepted the estimate of his character and conduct from those who were specially concerned to misrepresent and blacken both. To the professor of the old faith Wolsey was nothing less than the author and promoter of the divorce, the unscrupulous opponent of the Pope, the enemy of her whose cause was bound up with the survival of the old religion. To the Reformer he was the type of the wealth, the luxury, and the worldliness of the ancient church, which the Reformer hated and despised. He was the proud prelate who, by his insolence and ambition, had overshadowed the salutary influence of the royal authority, and represented in his own person and actions the intolerable aggressions of the spiritual on the temporal authority. No one, indeed, accused him of persecution; for it was notorious that in the three short years of the chancellorship of the mildest and kindest of men, Sir Thomas More, persecution raged more bitterly than during the whole twenty years of Wolsey's administration.
From either of these—for the nation was sharply divided into two portions, who could neither understand nor esteem each other's position, and were only unanimous in condemning the one man of the age who rigidly belonged to neither—it is impossible to obtain a just, fair, or discriminating estimate of Wolsey's character or measures. A reformer, so far as to show no especial interest in maintaining the strict ultramontanism of doctrine or discipline of his own time,—an earnest promoter of education and the new learning, if not unfriendly to the religious orders, yet anxious to convert their endowments to better uses,—he was still a faithful adherent to the ancient faith and practice, in his love of splendid ceremonial, in his political dislike of Lutheranism, in his conviction of the need of a great central spiritual authority to preserve the peace and unity of Christendom. If he had lived longer,—if, like Richelieu, whom he resembled in the grandeur of his conceptions, in his sense of reorganization, in his vast powers of work, he had had for his master a king like Louis XIII. instead of Henry VIII.,—he would probably have introduced into England reforms as great, as extensive, and as permanent. The wasteful expenditure of the King's household he reduced into order, and placed upon a more rigid and economical footing; and for this cause he incurred the displeasure of all those menials and thriftless gentlemen who found their advantage in the idleness, luxury, and prodigality of an ill-regulated and disorderly establishment. He devised stricter and more equitable regulations for the Court of Chancery, which from that time began to rise into its present importance, and thus incurred the hatred and displeasure of powerful suitors and unscrupulous advocates. He had intended to convert the monastic institutions, wholly or in part, to the higher purposes of education, and enforce the retirement of inefficient and imbecile abbots; and for this he was detested and opposed by the religious orders. He had proposed to redeem by an equitable arrangement the annates and first-fruits paid by the clergy to the Court of Rome, and, without breaking with the Pope, to render his relations with the Church of England more simple and more equitable. An economist, exercising a salutary restraint on the King's tendency to prodigality and extravagance, he had intended to reform the finances, and bring the irresponsible expenditure of the sovereign within juster limits; for in those ages the King had complete control over the revenue, and no account was rendered of the sums lavished upon crafty and worthless favorites. But in all these projects, and many more, devised for the good of the Church and of the State, he was hampered by the will of an imperious master, who was apt to listen to interested advisers; and when once he had given ear to their suggestions, whatever they put into his head, none of his ablest councillors could ever put out again. (fn. 14)
During the last years of his life his energies were so completely absorbed by the divorce, that whatever designs he entertained for the good of the nation were necessarily curtailed or blighted, or had to be abandoned. To that divorce, in the first instance, he was most vigorously opposed, not because he was aware of the King's affection for Anne Boleyn, or because he was at this time afraid that his own authority would be impaired by her ascendancy. If he had succeeded in obtaining the consent of the Court of Rome to her marriage with the King, he would probably have been as acceptable to her as to Henry himself. At all events he was not likely to find in her a worse friend than in queen Katharine. But perceiving that the King's mind was fully resolved, and knowing better than any man how impossible it was to shake his determination, he stooped to that which he considered was unavoidable. It is absurd to suppose that he was not sincere in promoting the divorce: the contrary is evident from all his correspondence. It is equally absurd to suppose that he held secret communications with the Court of Rome for the purpose of thwarting the King's wishes. The King was fully persuaded of the nullity of his marriage. He regarded it as a breach of those divine laws with which no Pope could dispense. How he had arrived at that conclusion, or how far his wishes agreed with his arguments, it is needless to inquire here. He had studied the subject for years; had listened to the arguments of divines and canonists; until, as Campeggio himself remarked, no man was better master of the whole subject, or could add anything to his knowledge. The question was one of considerable difficulty, and if his judgment had not been swayed by motives no one can defend, and his conduct marked with deceit and violence towards his Queen, there was nothing in the mere discussion of the question any one could fairly condemn. Nor was the solution of it so easy as some have imagined. Foreign Reformers, like Luther and Melancthon, acting on the principle fieri non debuit factum valet, admitted the illegality of the marriage, even when they condemned the divorce. The English nobility and prelates were divided in their opinion; the common people generally, swayed by their feelings and a sentiment of pity, espoused the part of Katharine. Yet there wanted not arguments for the other side:—the dread of a disputed succession, the great disparity of years, the apprehension of increasing evils to come, the certainty that the divorce would in effect be real, if it were not nominally conceded,—the intense necessity of a king to the nation in the growing religious and civil confusion of the times, in the weakness and debasement of all other authority, spiritual as well as secular. For a king, and a strong one,—an arbitrary one, if need be, rather than a weak and powerless ruler,—men were prepared to sacrifice many scruples. For without a king who had a will of his own, and was prepared to assert it, the nation, they felt, would be left in its own hands, without a head to guide it; and for lack of good order in the common weal, "utter destruction and desolation "would come upon the realm," and with it, as Wolsey believed, the ruin of the Church and the reign of infidelity.
Nor were the obligations of marriage so well understood in those days as they are now. They had become grossly perverted by dispensations, and the subtle distinctions of the canonists. The solution of matrimonial questions was too frequent and too fertile a source of profit to the ecclesiastical courts to be simplified or diminished. The ease with which divorces were granted to those who could afford to pay for them, was the occasion of no little confusion in the minds of the laity, not to say a pregnant source of immorality.
To many, therefore, the divorce of Henry VIII. offered nothing strange: to many it was a mere question for the Church to decide, and if the Church had decided the result, it would have been accepted as a matter of course, and neither Katharine nor her friends could possibly have objected. But the question for decision, in the first instance, was whether there was any need to refer to the Papal Court in a matter so obvious. For, let it be observed, it was not a divorce that was required of the Pope, as is sometimes imagined. It would have been no very unusual stretch of the Papal prerogative to declare that marriage with a brother's wife was illegal; for if it had been legal, what necessity was there for a dispensation from Julius II.? What Henry really required was that Clement should pronounce the dispensation of his predecessor illegal. If that could be obtained the dissolution of his marriage with Katharine would follow, as a matter of course, and needed no formal dissolution. The King had at first resolved to treat it as a nullity, and regard his marriage as void ab initio. To Wolsey this seemed to be a perilous disregard of what was due to the supreme authority of the Church, whose aid had been invoked to legalize the marriage, and could not now be unceremoniously set aside by a king who had signalized himself throughout Christendom for his assertion of the Papal authority,—at a time when, from the spread of Lutheranism and Lollardism, as Wolsey regarded it, the most dangerous disregard was everywhere exhibited for civil and spiritual authority. And let it be remembered—otherwise his policy and character will appear wholly unintelligible—that the one was necessary to the other, and the stability of both was essential to the peace and maintenance of society. To both Lollardism was destructive, as he thought. Unlike the majority of Henry's councillors, Wolsey did not take upon himself to dispute the nullity of the marriage; but he insisted that, for the avoiding of public scandal, the Church, which had been called in to legalize and consecrate the marriage, should now be required to revoke its act, and declare the dispensation invalid by its supreme representative, or permit a court in England to declare it. This could not be done without the Pope's sanction, for no authority less than his could invalidate the authority of a Pope. Round this point the whole discussion centered; Henry contending that the dispensation had been granted on insufficient grounds; that it claimed to override obligations it could not overrule; eventually, that it was a forgery, or invalidated by a subsequent decision. This is clear from the Pope's reply. If the King, he urged, is satisfied with the nullity of his marriage, let him proceed to second nuptials; but to invalidate, as he was asked to do, the acts of his predecessor,—still more, on ex parte statements to delegate his authority to a commission, and suffer no appeal to himself,—these things it was not in his office as Supreme Judge to grant. It is obvious that the two great principles which came into fatal conflict at the Reformation were here involved, and the attempt to combine and reconcile the two was impossible. If the Papal authority was to be maintained, a final appeal to the Pope in all matters connected with his supremacy must be permitted: if the independence of national churches, of kings and their courts, is to be preferred, then any appeal from their decisions to external authority cannot be allowed. The experiment was now tried to accommodate the two, and ended, as might have been anticipated, in a signal failure.
It is nothing to the point whether in these negociations Clement was guilty of timidity, or even had recourse to evasions to avoid the King's importunity. He had penetration enough to see that the question in dispute really involved the maintenance of his spiritual supremacy, and the independence of the Holy See. If he had yielded to the menaces or the flattery of the King and his ministers, if he had parted with any portion of his jurisdiction and authority at their desire, in so important a case as this, he would not only have sacrificed to his own wishes or personal convenience the rights and dignity of his office, but would have completely betrayed that ecclesiastical jurisdiction and order he was bound to uphold, and of which he was the professed head and representative. Marriage was a sacrament. From the earliest days of Christianity all questions connected with it, as an ecclesiastical rite, had been finally settled by ecclesiastical authority. To abandon the right of such determination now, to give it over into other hands, to let it be settled by any court not acting by his express consent, or independent of his sanction,—in fact, by any national court whose decision should be final, and from which there should be no appeal,—what was this except to set up some special court above the court of Christendom ? What else, but to concede the principle of the Reformation ?
To the King, of course, it was a matter of no moment whether the spiritual authority, hitherto universally admitted on these matters, suffered or not, provided he obtained his divorce. But to Wolsey it is clear that the difficulty presented itself at the outset; though he did not well see how the collision could be avoided. Unable to resist the imperious desires of the King, conscious of his own personal danger, perhaps influenced by considerations as a statesman, and the necessity of avoiding greater perils, he was anxious for the divorce; if that could be obtained, salvo jure ecclesiastico, he probably thought that any informality would be sufficiently atoned for by the increased support thus secured for the spiritual supremacy by the gratitude of his master. Moreover, ecclesiastic as he was, he was not a divine, but a statesman; much less of a divine, as he was much more of a statesman, than Sir Thomas More. Above all, he was an Englishman of the sixteenth century, profoundly impressed, as Englishmen then were, with the greatness and nobility of his nation; believing also, as Englishmen then did, that its welfare and its aggrandizement depended on the authority and aggrandizement of its monarch. Neither he nor they felt any apprehension lest that authority should be unduly exercised,—whether they were reformers like Tyndall and Cranmer, or opposed, like Wolsey himself, to the subversive and vague tendencies of the Reformation. The King was the centre of English society and of English nationality; round him all parties revolved with unhesitating obedience,—alike those who wished to see him independent of all spiritual control, and his authority enlisted in favor of the Reformation, as those who believed that such authority was the strongest barrier against dangerous innovations, and the surest safeguard for the Church. The temptation was great; still more so as each party narrowly scanned the strength or progress of its opponents, and looked upon the King as the sole arbiter of the contest. So both were concerned to magnify the royal authority as much as possible, and oppose it as little as they might, not criticizing narrowly Henry's actions or his wishes, but blindly believing that in serving him they were serving the highest interests of the Faith which they professed. (fn. 15) If Wolsey, in his grief, disgrace, and leisure moments, regarded his service to the King as incompatible with his service to God, this was not the conviction of his stronger hours, nor yet of many others besides himself. Possibly all that he meant by those memorable words was not the incompatibility of the two in themselves, but that the hours necessarily occupied by secular employments had detracted too much from those opportunities of prayer, devotion, and contemplation, in which the service of God consisted, and for which the monastic and religious institutions and practices of his times furnished so many opportunities, and held out numerous examples.
No statesman of such eminence ever died less lamented. On no one did his own contemporaries pile a greater load of obloquy; not one stone of which has posterity seriously attempted to remove. Even his kindliest of biographers, Cavendish, rather regards his life as pointing a moral against loftiness and ambition; as if this were all,—as if kings were never ungrateful, or the world was always infallible in its verdict. The greatest of dramatists lifted the veil for a moment; and, notwithstanding his intense respect for the general judgment of mankind, and the universal impression of his own days, saw that there was a better and a brighter side, which even the unanimous and uncritical prejudices of history and tradition could not wholly obscure. To men whose knowledge and estimation of such events were exclusively derived from the pages of Foxe and Hall, this defence of the Cardinal, beautiful, yet slight and insufficient as it was, put in the mouth of Katharine's receiver, must have appeared no less remarkable for its boldness than for its innovation on long established prejudices. Protestant and even Catholic historians had shut every avenue to clearer and more faithful intelligence. They had followed each other, repeating the same idle stories, the same misrepresentation of facts, the same unfounded assumptions, the same blind disregard of motives. The bitterness and unscrupulousness of party, the exaggeration of satirists, official injustice, indifferent alike to the reputations and the lives of men, had all been accepted as so many trustworthy and independent witnesses, whose evidence was not to be examined or disputed. Yet in spite of all these heavy imputations on his memory, in spite of all this load of obloquy, obscuring our view of the man, and distorting his lineaments, the Cardinal still remains and will ever remain, as the one prominent figure of this period. The interest concentrated in his life, character, and actions is not eclipsed by any of his contemporaries. The violent calumnies resting on his memory have in some degree been already lightened by juster and clearer views of the events of his time, and the characters of the chief agents. It needs not apprehend an examination still more rigid and more dispassionate. Not free from faults, by any means, especially from those faults and failings the least consistent with his ecclesiastical profession, the Cardinal was perfectly free from those meaner though less obtrusive vices which disfigured the age and the men that followed him,—vices to which moralists are tolerant, and the world indulgent. Magnificent in all his designs and doings, he inspired a grandeur and a loftiness into the minds of Englishmen, of which he himself was a conspicuous example, such as had not been found in this nation from the days of Henry V. He extorted deference and respect for his master and his country, from kings, popes, and emperors, when they were as unwilling as they had been unused to grant it. Left to himself, or to such councillors as Cromwell or Cranmer, if we may judge by his actions after Wolsey's death, Henry VIII. would have inaugurated no grand policy, he would not have extended his thoughts beyond his pleasures and the means of providing for them. Even for these he would scarcely have ventured to defy the Pope and the opinion of Europe, which he so much coveted, had he not by Wolsey's policy converted his hereditary enemy into his ally,—had he not also, by Wolsey's policy and sagacity, been transformed from a third-rate and precarious monarch into the head of a great nation, and the arbiter of Christendom. Ruler of England alone, in the face of a great confederacy, headed by Francis I, and Charles V., menaced by Scotland on one side, and by Ireland on the other, the Pope might have found in him as faithful a vassal as in his father, and Anne Boleyn would never have worn the crown of Katharine. On these things, however, it is useless to speculate; but when historians insist on the greatness and energy of the Tudor sovereign, it should be remembered that it was Wolsey who led the way; it was the reign of Henry VIII. that was present to the minds of his most energetic successors.
Leaves a son and a daughter.
At the time of his death he was 59 (fn. 16) years of age, and left two children, a son and a daughter, "by one Larck's daughter," according to the words of the indictment, (fn. 17) who was afterwards married to "one Leghe of Aldington." On this son, who went by the name of Wynter, dean of Wells, he bestowed numerous preferments. (fn. 18) He was carefully educated in Paris, and had in succession various eminent scholars for his instructors; among others, Maurice Byrchynshaw, (fn. 19) with whom he studied at Louvain. In 1523 he was with Clerk in Italy, but was obliged to return in consequence of his health, and was settled shortly after in Paris, under the tuition of Lupset. (fn. 20) At the Cardinal's disgrace he was stripped of most of his preferments, and complains in a letter to Cromwell, written about 1533, that he had fallen into distress, and had been abandoned by most of the friends he had known in his prosperity. He outlived Cromwell, who appears to have befriended him in his troubles; for in 1543 he resigned the archdeaconry of Cornwall, which he had held since 1537. After that date I have not been able to discover any trace of him. He had among his most intimate friends, and apparently for his instructor in his palmy days, a celebrated Scotch scholar, named Florentius Volusenus (Wolsey or Wilson), whose wonderful command of the Latin tongue, even at the time when the style of Cicero was so assiduously cultivated, attracted the admiration of Sadoleti and the most fastidious of the great Italian scholars. Wynter's letters to Cromwell are not unworthy of his master, as models of ease, elegance, and pure Latinity. To judge by his correspondence, he had very little of his reputed father's energy, ambition, or ability, still less of his delight in the stormy winds and waves of statesmanship. He was mild and gentle, and either unable or unwilling to cope with the hardships of life, still less with the harder times and men of his own generation. He had imbibed a taste for literary ease, and made no effort to advance himself, or even preserve the promotions heaped upon him by the Cardinal, and ruthlessly plucked from him by the selfishness of those who owed their advancement to Wolsey's favor. On the dispersion of Wynter's household at Wolsey's fall, Volusenus entered the service of the celebrated Du Bellay, bishop of Paris, and afterwards visited Sadoleti, who was much struck with his appearance, manners, and scholarship. Sadoleti has left an interesting record of his conversation at dinner with an eminent physician, in which Volusenus showed himself in all respects far superior in ease and good temper to his doughty opponent, as he was superior to him in learning and philosophy. It is only right to state that Volusenus in this interview asserted that Wynter was the son of Wolsey's brother; an evidence not to be outweighed, if that were all, by the assertions of Bale, who merely repeats the popular rumor, or by the charge in the Act of Attainder, to which I have already referred; for such Acts in those days were drawn up without any regard to precision and accuracy, and embodied every form of popular rumor or suspicion against the accused. (fn. 21)
But whatever may be the truth of Wynter's paternity, it is certain that Wolsey left behind him a daughter, who was committed, under the name of Dorothy Clansey, to the care of the abbess of Shaftesbury, where she afterwards became a nun. When the house was suppressed in 1540 she received a pension of 4l. 13s. 4d., and was living in the year 1553. (fn. 22) The following curious letter contains the only other particulars of her history with which I am acquainted.
"Right honorable, after most humble commendations, I likewise beseech you that the contents of this my simple letter may be secret; and that forasmuch as I have great cause to go home, I beseech your good mastership to command Master Herytage to give attendance upon your mastership for the knowledge of your pleasure in the said secret matter, which is this: my lord Cardinal caused me to put a young gentlewoman to the monastery [of] St. Mary of Shaftesbury, and there to be professed, and willed her to be named my daughter; and the truth is, she was his daughter; and now by your visitation she hath commandment to depart, and knoweth not whither; wherefore I humbly beseech your mastership to direct your letter to the abbess there, that she may there continue at her full age, to be professed. Without doubt she is either 24 years full, or shall be at such time of the year as she was born, which was about Michaelmas. In this your doing your mastership shall do a very charitable deed, and also bind her and me to do you such service as lieth in our little powers, as knoweth our Lord God, whom I humbly beseech prosperously and long to preserve you.
JOHN CLASEY (CLANSEY).
This letter is addressed "to the right honorable and his most especial good master, Master Cromwell, secretary to our sovereign lord the King," and must have been written in 1534 or early in 1536; and this would carry the date of her birth back to 1510 or 1511.
It is to be observed that both of these children were born of the same mother, though neither bore her name; and further, that both of them were born before Wolsey was created a bishop, first of Tournay, afterwards of Lincoln. Whether, like other ecclesiastics (as Cranmer), he was married to their mother,—so far, that is to say, as such marriages could be regarded as valid, which were not, and could not be, celebrated in the face of the Church or acknowledged by the laws of the land,—it is impossible to say. Clandestine marriages among the parochial clergy were not unfrequent; especially in the 16th century, when clerical discipline had become relaxed by the confusion of the civil wars and the general disorganization of Europe. In England the celibacy of the priesthood was never universal. It never could be universally enforced. In the more remote districts it was openly set at nought. Here, as in other Catholic countries at the present day, or at least until recently, the marriage of the parochial clergy had to be tolerated more generally than is supposed;—marriage, that is, which depended only on the consent of the parties, at a time when none were legal without the sanction of the Church. But as in all higher promotions, for which the consent of the Pope was required, the strict Roman law of celibacy could be enforced, the parties separated by mutual agreement. Allusions to this disastrous state of things are frequent among the writings of the Reformers. Its effects on the morality of the age need not be described; but, what with the example of the clergy, and the intricacies of the canon law in reference to marriage, dispensations, and divorces, the relations between the two sexes had fallen into the greatest confusion. (fn. 23) But justice requires that when historians bring charges of immorality against the clergy, especially from the records of the Consistory Courts, they should remember that in many instances such offences involved no greater transgression of the moral law than the civil marriage of the priesthood does to this day among nations acknowledging allegiance to the Pope; such marriages, for instance, as are now contracted by the English prelates and clergy, and were contracted by Cranmer and others before, the Reformation. For the sanction of the civil law weighs nothing with the ecclesiastical.
Henry's reluctance to break with Rome.
It will, I think, appear extraordinary to many, that after his bitter disappointment the King should still have prosecuted his divorce in the Court of Rome with no less assiduity than before. As he had fully resolved to marry Anne Boleyn—if he were not married to her already; (fn. 24) —as he had more than once expressed his anger against the Pope in the most aggravated and contumelious terms;—what was to prevent him from throwing off the Papal supremacy at once, and following the bent of his own inclinations ? Was the nation riper for this step in 1534 than it was in 1529 ? Without anticipating what may have to be said hereafter, I must express my conviction that Henry never, in the first instance, seriously contemplated separation from Rome, and, until the inevitable step was reluctantly forced upon him, would gladly have avoided it. He was a victim to his own devices. Throughout the divorce, and even after the fall of his great minister, two purposes are evident in all his actions,—an intense desire to marry Anne Boleyn, and an equally intense desire to compass this object with the sanction and approbation of the Pope. When that approbation was withheld, in spite of the prayers of Wolsey and the menaces of the King himself, he did not abandon all hope, still less all effort, to obtain it. Had he obtained it, there would have been no Reformation in his reign, at least so far as the King could personally have prevented it. Even after his marriage with Anne Boleyn, he still sought the Pope's concurrence, and urgently deprecated his dis- approbation. His wrath and indignation upon finding himself disappointed,—his unsuccessful efforts in persuading Francis I. to follow and support his example,—all show how bitterly he felt his position. How great was the value he set upon the Pope's approval is manifest by the violent terms in which he denounced the Papal authority and pretensions, seeking to gratify his mortification by the ignoble expedient of reviling the Pope's conduct, and blotting out his name from all books and manuscripts.
Nor is this strange. Above all monarchs the Tudors were covetous of popularity. None were more restless or more concerned than they to stand well in the opinion of the world, and of their subjects especially. The whole life of Henry VIII., till within the last few years, had been spent in displaying to admiring eyes the splendor of his person and the perfection of his bodily accomplishments. When the praises these provoked had failed to please, or seemed mechanical and monotonous, he had come forward to display his Latinity and his other theological accomplishments, in a task still most august and redoubtable—no less than that of shoring up the declining authority of the Papacy. And no knight-errant who had slaughtered a magician or a giant regarded his feat with greater satisfaction than did Henry regard his championship of the Holy See. It had won for him, or he was told that it had, the gratitude of the Pope and the applause of Christendom. More than all, it had gained for him the title of Defender of the Faith,—a distinction he was not inclined to surrender, even when he had ceased to deserve it.
To us these things are pale and shadowy—vox et præterea nihil,—for Protestantism has trampled on and degraded the Papacy. To us the braggadocio of king John has come to express a national sentiment.
"Thou canst not, Cardinal, devise a name
So slight, unworthy, and ridiculous,
To charge me to an answer, as the Pope."
Then it was far otherwise. The Papacy was not only the highest but it was the oldest monarchy of Europe. Compared with it all other kingships and dignities were of recent growth;—no small consideration at a time when aristocracy and long descent were so highly valued. It was fenced round with traditions mounting up to Heaven. It had been the great and chosen instrument of God for propagating and preserving the lore, the faith, and the love of Christ among ignorant and unsophisticated nations,—a prophet among babes, an apostle among barbarians. It had been the chief, at one time the sole, depository of wisdom, art, law, literature, and science to uninstructed and admiring men. Whether St. Peter founded or not a primacy at Rome might be a question of interest and importance to the disputants of the 17th and the 19th century: it was of no import whatever to men before the Reformation. Circumstances quite independent of St. Peter,—deeds which the Middle Ages could understand, services of the highest nature rendered to mankind, the silent and even the obtrusive attestation of spiritual truths, of spiritual order and authority rising above the confusion and the janglings of this world,—these and similar influences were the true causes of the primacy of St. Peter. For these, kings and emperors felt themselves constrained to bow down before the representative of a heavenly authority, and grovel for reconciliation and forgiveness at his footstool. To be at amity with the Pope, to be dignified with some distinction as his champion or assistant in the Faith, was an honor coveted beyond all others. It was the more highly esteemed because it was extended to very few. To be one of so select a circle was to hold a higher rank in the comity of nations. To stand aloof, to be excluded, was to forfeit a distinction which kings and their subjects coveted and appreciated. Looking at the whole career of Henry, considering his education, the influence of long custom, his own character, the subtle influence pervading the very atmosphere of the time, it would be unnatural to suppose that he now intended to break entirely with Rome, and stand alone in his defiance of the Pope's authority. It is unlikely that he would have braved the good opinion of Christendom, had he not been betrayed into a position from which escape was impossible.
To this result he was brought by slow and silent steps. He had so long threatened to break with the Pope, that he was compelled at last to make his own threats good. For his own purposes he had done so much to encourage attacks upon the Papacy, to question its dispensing power, to menace its authority, that to retrace his steps, had he felt inclined to attempt it, was impossible. The marriage of Anne Boleyn completed the recoil. He had stooped down from monarchy to match with a plebeian. He had forfeited his rank among the rulers of Christendom. It mattered little to take one step further, and sacrifice his place among Christian rulers, whose dignity and rule were endorsed and authenticated by the Pope.
Parliament, and the effects of Tyndall's translation of the New Testament.
The Parliament of 1529.
There are other subjects embraced in these volumes, on which I have not time or space to enlarge. They must be left to another occasion. Yet two of them, regarded by some as of the utmost importance to the history of this period, must not be left wholly unnoticed. I refer to Tyndall's translation of the New Testament in 1527, and the meeting of Parliament in 1529. The two have, of late, been blended together in popular imagination, as if there were some necessary and inseparable connection between them. It has been supposed that this Parliament differed greatly in its character, independence, and aims, from all its predecessors; that it was animated with a spirit of liberty never manifested before, and with a resolution to remove ancient abuses—of the clergy especially,—the burthen of which had now become intolerable. So novel a spirit in an assembly, gathered, as it had been before, from known supporters of the Court, and generally returned at the King's nomination, has been attributed to the new doctrines disseminated by Tyndall and others, and especially to the effects produced by the circulation of the New Testament in the vulgar tongue. From this training, it has been supposed that the Parliament of 1529, gathering up its loins to a final and effectual struggle with the ancient Faith, nerved itself to a resolution of shaking off the domination of the clergy, undeterred by the threats of the Crown, much less of the Pope. It must be a very lively imagination, indeed, that can find in the dry records and authenticated proceedings of this Parliament any support for such captivating notions. There is no ground for imagining that it differed much from other Parliaments assembled by the Tudors, in the mode of its election, in the choice of its members, in the measures it passed, or in its exemption from the dictation and interference of the Crown. The choice of the electors was still determined by the King, or his powerful ministers, with as much certainty and assurance as that of the sheriffs. Independence of discussion prevailed so far, and on such questions, as the Crown thought good; no further, and no more. As Henry required no grants of money from his Parliament, as he was now engaged in no war, was exacting from the clergy, by the Act of Præmunire, a larger sum than he could ever have expected from Parliament, he was independent of its decisions. To him, as to others of his race, Parliament was nothing better than a court to register the King's decrees, and assume a responsibility for acts, the unpopularity of which he did not care to take upon himself. To foreign powers—of whose good opinion he was exceedingly jealous, and who knew nothing of our English Constitution—it was convenient to make it appear that his people, not he, were the authors of his severity against his ministers and the clergy. He had good reason, therefore, to write to the Pope that "the discussions of the English Parliament were free and unrestricted";—as, of course, they were, so long as such discussions were kept within the direction and the limits prescribed by the Crown. Of these remarks, the election of a member of this Parliament, not the least important, furnishes a very fair proof. In answer to Cromwell's inquiries, who had despatched him to London for the purpose of securing his election, Ralph Sadleyr writes, that he had spoken with Mr. Gage, the vice-chamberlain, at Court, and, according to Cromwell's command, had requested him to speak with the duke of Norfolk for "a burgess's room of the Parliament," on Cromwell's behalf. In compliance with this request, the Duke had spoken to the King on the subject, who was content that Cromwell should be elected if he would "follow the Duke's instructions." Sadleyr adds: "It will be well for you to speak with the duke "of Norfolk as soon as possible tomorrow, to know "the King's pleasure how you shall order yourself "in the Parliament House." (fn. 25) The evidence that the King throughout his reign interfered with the elections for Parliament, determined its measures, regulated its debates, is too clear and too abundant to be disputed. It faithfully reflected the King's wishes and his policy, as shadowed forth in the acts of his chief minister for the time; and there is no reason to suppose that the Parliament of 1529 formed any exception to this rule, or was more independent than its predecessors.
It was not from Parliament, but from Convocation, that the King had to anticipate any show of independence or opposition. The former was as tame and submissive as the most arbitrary monarch could desire; and there is scarcely an instance on record, in this or any succeeding Parliament throughout the reign, of a parliamentary patriot protesting against a single act of the Crown, however unjust and tyrannical it might be. Convocation had, at least, the advantage in this respect: it did resist, though its resistance was short and ineffectual. Consequently, the King, in his desire to concentrate all the powers of the State in his own hands, spared the Parliament and the laity, depriving the Convocation of its independence, on the Tudor maxim—
Parcere subjectis et debellare superbos.
Nor, in examining the lists of the members, do they appear by any means to have been impregnated with the spirit of reform,—or to have been influenced by that broad and bold temperament which rises to the surface in times of popular effervescence and excitement. Many of them belonged to a profession more remarkable for its mild conservatism than for the audacity of political fugle-men, who despise all precedents, and are indifferent to the law and its professors. Lawyers are not in general enemies to things established; they are not inimical to the clergy, though they may sometimes despise the pretensions of the clergy, or entertain a professional dislike to the Canon Law, and the fees exacted by the ecclesiastical courts. So was it on this occasion. The Parliament of 1529, instead of any burning questions, any heroic assertion of spiritual freedom or the rights of conscience, directed its first attention to mortuary fees, to fines for probates taken by the ecclesiastical courts, to regulations for executors, to pluralities, and the like. The other reforms inaugurated by it were equally professional and unpretending: "—Concerning delays in Assizes;" "Recoveries by Covyn;" "Restitution to persons robbed by felons." Their loftiest efforts in the direction of morality and religion rise to no higher level than an Act "to release the King from repayment of the loans he had borrowed;" another, to the "Rearing of calves;" a third, to "Limiting the price of woollen hats made beyond sea;" a fourth to the "true making of cables at Bridport in Dorsetshire." (fn. 26) Like moderate and sober men, they proceeded gravely and deliberately. Not one of them imagined he was armed with a hammer to break down institutions and usages which had stood for centuries. They were lawyers and country gentlemen entertaining unlimited notions of the royal prerogative. If the King wished to burn heretics, they were willing he should burn them. If he wished to threaten the Pope by abolishing annates and first-fruits, they offered no objection. Parliament did not pay them. With them it would have been equally orthodox and scriptural to pass an Act at one time for asserting the King's supremacy, and at another the Six Articles denouncing the Creed of Protestantism. In the reign of Henry VIII. the Reformation is the work of the King, in all respects, as far as it went, and of his minister Cromwell. It was otherwise under Edward VI. and Elizabeth.
Tyndall's New Testament.
And as there is no indication whatever that Parliament was influenced in its temper or deliberations by Tyndall's translations or polemical writings, there is also no reason for thinking that his books were regarded by the nation in general in any other light than as books forbidden by competent authority. Parliament made no attempt to remove the restrictions imposed on their importation into England. It expressed no sympathy what-ever with the Reformers; nor does it ever appear to have made the least effort in behalf of the preachers of the new Faith. Tyndall and his friends remained in hopeless exile. Their writings were proscribed and burnt. Those who remained in England, and held the same tenets, were more fiercely persecuted than in the days of Wolsey, who was better satisfied that a heretic should wear a faggot on his sleeve than feel the effects of its flames upon his person. Nor, indeed, is it possible that Tyndall's writings and translations could at this early period have produced any such impression, as is generally surmised, or have fallen into the hands of many readers. His works were printed abroad; their circulation was strictly forbidden; the price of them was far beyond the means of the poorer classes, even supposing that the knowledge of letters was at that time more generally diffused than it was for centuries afterwards. To imagine that ploughmen and shepherds in the country read the New Testament in English by stealth under hedges, or that smiths and carpenters, in towns, pored over its pages in the corners of their masters' workshops, is to mistake the character and acquirements of the age. So far as doctrine and the study of the Bible are con- cerned, the Reformation belongs to a later period. It did not commence with the lower classes, or with the laity, but with the scholars and clergy of the two Universities; with men like Frith, Barns, Latymer, and Cranmer; with friars and converts from the religious orders, like Coverdale, like Luther and his associates; or with parish priests like Tyndall. That these men, devoted to learning and the study of theology from early life, acquainted with the writings of Luther and Erasmus, should, on the diffusion of letters, have grown discontented with the ignorance of their age,—that the obstinacy and arrogance of others less thoughtful and studious should be distasteful,—that in disputes, which were sure to arise, appeal should be made to Scripture on one side, to tradition and authority on the other,—was natural enough. And equally natural was it that as these men began to contrast more carefully than before the plain letter of Scripture with the practices they saw around them, they should be struck with the wide difference of the two, and welcome whatever help they could obtain for facilitating their studies. So Tyndall's translation made from the original, to men who only knew the Scriptures through the Latin Vulgate, was a great boon. It was prized the more highly because, in discussions with their opponents, now becoming more frequent, it could be appealed to before an ignorant audience as an independent and conclusive authority. "It is not so in the "Greek" was an irresistible argument to those who knew no Greek. Such of the clergy and the religious Orders as favored the Reformation read it by stealth, or repeated portions of it to small and secret circles inclined to the same opinions as themselves. But these, in comparison with the population at large, cannot have been numerous at this time, nor can the writings of Tyndall have been so generally read as his admirers would have us believe.
The true origin of the Reformation.
But the Reformation did not owe its origin to Tyndall or to Parliament,—to the corruptions of the clergy, or to the oppressions of the Ecclesiastical Courts. There is no reason to suppose that the nation as a body was discontented with the old religion. Facts point to the opposite conclusion. Had it been so, Mary, whose attachment to the Faith of her mother was well known, would never have been permitted to mount the throne, or have found the task comparatively easy, seeing that the Reformers under Edward VI. had been suffered to have their own way unchecked, and to displace from honor and influence all who opposed their religious principles. Long down into the reign of Elizabeth, according to the testimony of a modern historian, the old Faith still numbered a majority of adherents in England. The experiment would have been hazardous at any time, from Henry VIII. to the Spanish invasion, if a plébiscite could have been impartially taken of the religious sentiments of the people. This rooted attachment to the old Faith, and the difficulty every-where experienced by the government and the bishops in weaning the clergy and their flocks from their ancient tendencies, is a sufficient proof that it was not unpopular. Nor, considering the temper of the English people, is it probable that immorality could have existed among the ancient clergy to the degree which the exaggeration of poets, preachers, and satirists might lead us to suppose. The existence of such corruption is not justified by authentic documents, or by an impartial and broad estimate of the character and conduct of the nation before the Reformation. There is nothing more difficult than for contemporaries to form, from their own limited experience, a just estimate of the morality of the times in which they live; and if the complaints of preachers and moralists are to be accepted as authoritative on this head, there would be no difficulty in producing abundant evidence from the Reformers themselves that the abuses and enormities of their own age, under Edward VI. and Elizabeth, were far greater than in the ages preceding. (fn. 27)
We must then look for the real cause of the Reformation elsewhere; and to those who carefully consider its rise and progress under the Tudors, and its stationary character ever since, there will be no difficulty in arriving at a true solution. The Reformed Church of England has always found its strongest hold in the middle classes of this country; unlike dissent, unlike Roman Catholicism—an expression I must use for want of a better,—whose influence is with the upper and the lower, and little with the classes between the two. Among the upper and the lower elements of society, though its ministrations may be accepted as a matter of course, the Church of the Reformation has never excited much enthusiasm. They have neither built nor filled its churches, at least as compared with the adherents of the older Faith, whose grand and mighty structures, even in remote parochial districts, fill the spectator with astonishment, as if their founders out of worldly vanity built temples to God ten times larger then the requirements of the population. It is from the middle classes that the Church of England derives its strength; it is among them that it counts its most zealous admirers and supporters. It is among the middle classes that its worshippers are mainly found; and in spite of all efforts to the contrary,—open churches, gratuitous sittings, missionary efforts in the homes and haunts of the poor,—the middle classes, or those rising into the middle classes, take possession, not of the places occupied by the poor, but of places the poor do not care to occupy. And as the Reformed Church of England is the church of the middle classes, its services, its teaching, its character, are in a great degree moulded by the tastes and requirements of the middle classes. Its intense loyalty, its exaggerated respect for established order and decorum, its dislike of mysticism, its tendency to dwell exclusively on the practical side of Christianity, are so many indications of the class who watched over its birth and superintended its progress. Its efforts to accommodate itself to the wants of busy men and the exigencies of society, as if it were not the sole foundation, but a portion only, and perhaps no better than a permitted portion of the nation, betray the influences to which it was subjected from its cradle. Other Faiths apply themselves to the feelings, emotions, and imaginations of men; this to their reason and their conscience. Other churches lay hold of the spiritual nature of man; this of his moral and utilitarian. The Englishman of the middle-class estimates a church, established or otherwise, by its utility; he measures its importance by its usefulness to his family, to his village or to his parish, and lastly, perhaps least of all, to himself. For the secular society in which he moves, its opinions, its rules, and its usages, have a stronger hold upon him than any other; its frowns and its anathemas are more terrible, because more tangible and more material, than any spiritual censure. Hence it is that though his Christianity is decorous, it is never enthusiastic; though it enters into his daily life, it is not elevated. He is moral, but not devout; religious, but not fervent; strictly observant of his duties, but intolerant and impatient of anything beyond them. For the old Church, with its imaginative tendencies, its spiritual exercises, its retreats, its saints' days, and its vigils, he feels little favor, partly as interfering with business, to success in which he owes his importance, and loves for its own sake, partly because he regards these things as relapses into superstition, or at best as excuses for idleness. Hence the Reformation has produced no books of devotion comparable to Thomas à Kempis or Francis de Sales. And whereas for ten centuries previous to the Reformation there was scarce a period in the history of the Church in which works of religious meditation and devotional writings did not appear, there is but one book of devotion in the Church of England which has held its place and obtained any general acceptance among its people, and that is the Book of Common Prayer;—as a book of Social Prayer the most wonderful achievement of any age,—the greatest, next the Bible, of any human production. But the bitter opposition which the Prayer Book encountered from the Reformers themselves, the contempt with which it was treated, because it was derived in the main from the ancient services, the preference felt for sermons, polemics, and invectives against the Pope and the Papacy, the inadequate appreciation of its excellence even now, and the impenetrable self-satisfaction with which lay and clerical reformers, who could not compose one of the simplest of its collects, propose to dismember, to reform, or to modify it, are evidences enough that it is not the genuine product of the Reformation. Nothing can show this more clearly than the total absence of any similar book of devotion in kingdoms and societies where the work of the Reformation was less fettered than it was in England.
It was then to the rise and influence of the middle classes that the Reformation owed its origin; as the Reformed Church of England to this day reproduces in its work the salient characteristics of the middle classes. The civil wars of the 15th century almost entirely annihilated the old feudal aristocracy, and the jealousy of the Tudors continued the work of destruction. The aristocracy that succeeded was of a different kind; it was inspired with different sentiments. It was taken from a lower class; it owed its elevation, not to great territorial possessions, in the first instance, but to personal, not to say menial, services rendered to the sovereign, which the old baronial peerage would have regarded with contempt. For the first time almost in our history even subordinate offices in the King's household, in his chamber or his kitchen, were the passports to wealth and distinction. Secretaries, chamberlains, lords of the bedchamber, grooms of the closet and the stole, supplanted the ancient proud aristocracy. Such a personal nobility, indebted for their rank, their emoluments, their importance, and their employment, to their personal services about the king,—enriched by wardships, by marriages, by forfeitures, by stewardships on the royal demesnes, continually augmented by impeachments of the older houses,—raised up round the throne a nobility wholly unlike the old feudal aristocracy. They owed everything to the King: they repaid the obligation with exaggerated deference to the royal authority. Originally of small means and narrow estates, until they had been enriched by the confiscation of the monastic property, they maintained none of the old feudal grandeur and sumptuous living of the former territorial nobility. Churches and monasteries owed little to their munificence. Many of them, like Sir Thomas Boleyn, risen from small fortunes, and obliged in youth to practise habits of economy, carried their frugality with them, when it was no longer required, into wealthier conditions. The gentry, impoverished by the civil wars and the extravagance of the Court of Henry VIII., where large sums of money were squandered in cardplaying, dress, and jewelry, fell irretrievably into debt, pawned their estates, and were supplanted by their tenant-farmers and yeomen, who had no such temptations, and became the possessors of the land they tilled. The discovery of the New World, the rapid increase of commerce, fostered by the peaceful times of Henry VII. and Henry VIII., so disastrous to the men of the sword, raised the small merchant and shipowner into importance. The increasing taste for luxury and the produce of foreign countries poured new riches into the coffers of the tradesman. Thus it was that everything tended to exalt the middle classes of the nation, as much from their ever increasing wealth and importance, as from the weakness and want of influence in the classes above and below them; the latter of whom still remained stationary, no better than they had been for centuries in all that related to the comforts and improvements of life; admitted to no power, possessing no influence.
To men who were thus indebted for their importance to habits of frugality, activity, and industry, brought less than any other under the direct influence of the Church, and weighing the worth of most things by its money-value, the old Church, with its splendid ceremonials, its constant holidays, its wide waste places of idleness and devotion, its multiplied orders and intricate ritual, appeared little suited to the altered circumstances of the times. They listened with avidity to proposals for a more beneficial distribution of the Church's property; they began to reckon how the burthens of the State might be shifted from their own shoulders by a new appropriation of ecclesiastical and monastic endowments. But until now, against any such attempt they had to fear the displeasure of the Church itself and its sovereign Pontiff, not altogether an empty terror. Nor could they hope for any reforms except through the power and supremacy of the sovereign. Hence their tendency to exalt the royal authority above all other; their unreasoning loyalty to the Crown, augmented into fanaticism by the vigor, determination, and courage which signalized Henry's proceedings against the Pope and the clergy. In their minds the King of necessity became the representative of the supreme authority in the nation, and they were prepared to support him in the utmost extension of his pretensions. In these reforms they were aided by every device calculated to render the spiritual authority odious and comtemptible in the person of its chief representative. It was the policy of Henry, by proclamations, by sermons, by popular appeals, to decry and calumniate adherence to the Papacy, as something unmanly, un-English, and unholy. So the civil authority gained strength in the person of the King, notwithstanding his violence and his injustice. But beyond this,—beyond the successful assertion of the prerogatives of the sovereign, which would not have been so readily admitted had the old feudal nobility survived,—the Reformation advanced no further in the reign of Henry VIII. The suppression of the monasteries, as the constant assertors of an opposite principle, followed as a matter of course. But their fall and the transfer of their property to the Crown became the easier, because it was a realization of those utilitarian schemes of the middle classes, which appear again and again, for converting ecclesiastical property to secular uses. Monasteries had been erected by kings and nobles in ancient times. Within their walls founders and benefactors had found a refuge and a quiet retreat, when, aged and sick of the violence of the world, war and the tournament offered them fascinations no longer. But the thriving middle classes, of this or of any other century, had no need of and no taste for such retreats. Their employments were not amidst the horrors and destructions of war, they were not absorbed in the search for a Holy Graal, or spiritual idealism of any kind. The pursuits of commerce are attended by no bitter remorse, no fears of blood, no spiritual wrestlings of wasted frames and bended knees, no knight-errantry for Heaven. (fn. 28)
It is probable also that they saw only the worthless and the useless sides of those religious foundations, which were continually brought before them, and studiously represented in the most odious light. There was no one to suggest a better application of monastic revenues. Political sagacity, and independence such as might be expected in men lately risen to importance, were utterly wanting. Their facility and submission in implicitly adopting whatever Cromwell suggested may be some excuse for their imprudence and injustice. With a thoughtlessness only due to weakness or inexperience, they did their best to convert this monarchy into an arbitrary government, and make the King as independent of Parliament as he was of Convocation.
But though the Reformation advanced no further under Henry VIII., and he still maintained the rites, ceremonies, and doctrines of the ancient Faith, it was already in his reign irrevocably established. Its triumph was complete. The abolition of the Papal power, the destruction of those societies where that power had been most vigorously maintained, the transfer of the spiritual supremacy to the Crown, altered the whole position of the Church of England. It was no longer tied to a consensus of doctrine or of discipline involved in the determination of the Pope as the supreme representative of the Catholic Church. The very antagonism to which it was committed by the rancorous hatred of Henry VIII. bound it in some degree to depart widely from whatever depended on papal approbation. And though in its new career and modified independence it professed to be guided by primitive antiquity, it was of necessity influenced by the sentiments and opinions of those classes to whom it was mainly indebted for its new position. Its clergy and its bishops were married men, taken generally from the middle classes. They mixed more freely among the middle classes than the unmarried clergy had done in former times; knew and shared their likes and dislikes, and could not fail of being influenced by them, still more when the ancient independent tribunal of ecclesiastical opinion had been removed, and there was none other to take its place. Old habits, of course, remained, and could not entirely and at once be shaken off. To the prayers and the ritual they had been familiar with from their childhood, the clergy still adhered. Their devotional exercises had been prescribed in ancient manuals; their knowledge of the Scriptures was derived from the Latin Vulgate. What was more, in constitution the Church remained the same. The pre-eminence of its episcopate, the ordination of its priests and deacons, were visible and solemn indications of its organic connexion with the ancient Church. So the Reformation in England, though propagated and moulded in a great measure by the influence of the middle classes, could not help retaining an element in itself which was not due to them, and has never heartily or wholly commanded their sympathies or their obedience.
To the character thus impressed upon it at the outset, it has remained honestly faithful throughout its career. It has submitted, more than once, with comparative indifference, to the dictation of the middle classes; whether that dictation was indirectly expressed through the general influence exercised by them over public opinion, or directly by their accredited representatives, the Houses of Lords and Commons. For no one who has read the history of this nation to any purpose will suppose that the House of Lords has been occupied, since the Reformation, in vindicating the peculiar rights or feudal privileges of the aristocracy, any more than it represents that aristocracy in its present tastes and pursuits. No one will accuse it of holding towards the Church of England an attitude essentially different from that held by the House of Commons. In this respect both Houses have faithfully reflected the feelings and wishes of the middle classes,—whether, in common with the rest of the nation, and in their exaggerated loyalty to the Crown, they have been content with registering the Royal decrees, as in the times of the Tudors, with confining their discussions, and the subjects of them, to the dictates of the sovereign; or whether, as under the Stuarts—a race uniformly unpopular with the middle classes,—they have advocated the notions and wishes of these classes against the Crown and the hierarchy. (fn. 29) In every great epoch of the Church's history, in every modification of its ritual and teaching, whether by legislation, or tacit consent independent of legislation, such concessions have been uniformly made to the will of the laity, or rather to those classes of the laity who have always been most interested in the Church. On no occasion has the appeal been made to some supposed standard of Catholic antiquity.
A striking confirmation of these remarks will be found in the conduct of those to whom the spiritual rule of the Church has been committed since the reign of Henry VIII., when the power of the episcopate over the inferior clergy became much greater and more absolute than before; and Henry VIII. could justly boast, so far as its government was concerned, that he had procured for the Church an independence it had not enjoyed under the Papal supremacy. The power and wealth of the monastic institutions, the opportunity of constant appeal to the Pope, the restraining influence of synods and convocations, a rule of faith and practice emanating from the Catholic Church, and admitted by all its members,—these served as a system of checks upon the hierarchy, which were either extinguished entirely, or became inefficacious at the Reformation. The necessity of keeping the clergy under control by a small and responsible body inclined the sovereign to augment the power and influence of the hierarchy, no less for the advantage of the Crown than of the Church itself. It was thus that the dominion of the bishops over their clergy became absolute to a degree never known before, or in any other country. The privilege conceded to a diocesan of deciding, on his own authority, questions affecting his clergy, without consulting his presbyters, without any regard to ecclesiastical precedent, any deference to supreme and spiritual authority, was extraordinary, to say the least. It had no precedent in ecclesiastical usage. Granted at a time when submission to the voice of antiquity was the rule, and respect for the canon of Faith, derived from long habit and earlier times, was supposed to be still prominent in determining episcopal judgments, it was imagined that this authority would be employed in strict conformity with pure Catholic usage and acknowledge Catholic standards. It was, in fact, rather intended as a counterpoise against those lay influences to which the clergy had now become subject, and as a means of securing for them some measure of that independence of which they were deprived. It was never imagined that bishops would be less faithful to ecclesiastical precedent than the undignified clergy; or, from their learning and training, be less inclined than others to maintain the privileges of the Church. Ritual and ceremonies might be unsafe in the hands of men who, from the days of Tyndall, denounced all subordination of orders, all ceremonies, all habits distinguishing the clergy from the laity; but they could not be unsafe, it was supposed, in the keeping of those who were bound to maintain them, and see that others maintained them. With the exception, however, of Laud, if that can be called an exception, and of those who attempted to imitate him, an opposite tendency has been tacitly and steadily advancing with the advance of the Church of England. Deference to the wishes of the great middle classes has, at all times, been the ruling influence in quarters where it might have been least expected. (fn. 30) One century after another exhibits the same phenomenon. Whatever of ancient faith or of strict ecclesiastical character the Church of England still retains, it owes to a period antecedent to the Reformation. Its merely popular elements are of later date. Any great divergence from its orbit, by influences external or internal, is of a merely temporary nature; for the same forces which determined its career at the outset will be sure to draw it back again eventually into its original path.
So long then as the middle classes remain the governing body and main power in the nation, so long will the Church of England remain as the representative of their religious peculiarities and convictions, their plain good sense of duty, their love of order, their intense loyalty, their indifference to ideal excellence, their dislike of novelty, their suspicion of all departures from the common and familiar types of human honesty and goodness. So long also will they interpret and justify the prayers and creeds of the Church of England, not by some standard of the Catholic Church in this or that century, but by the same feelings which demanded and modified the Reformation at its origin. It is only when political power shall have been transferred to new hands, and new classes shall have supplanted the old, that the Church of England will cease to be their exclusive representative, or the rigid exponent of the Reformation. Only then will it be called upon to modify its teaching, and enlarge its sympathies.
* * *
At this stage of my labors, I feel that it is only due to the memory of the late Lord Romilly to remind the public how much they owe to the judgment which planned these publications, and the care with which they were set on foot. Amid all the arduous labors of his public life—labors which might well have excused him from taking a very active interest in the Office of which he was the nominal head—Lord Romilly never ceased for a moment to care about the public records committed to his charge, and to take counsel with those most able to advise him how they could be made more useful and more accessible to the public. The publication of these Calendars was entirely due to him; and it may be said that they have solved a problem which had been in the mind of the nation, and waiting solution, for a century before. Record Commissions had been issued again and again, but had failed to make the public acquainted with their own documents. Even the establishment of the present Public Record Office in the year 1840,—however great an improvement on the old system of fees and exclusive custodies,—and the amalgamation with it of the State Paper Office at a more recent date, failed entirely to effect this object. Official business, or obstacles of one kind or another, were always sure to hamper the action of official editors, even when specially qualified for the work of compiling Calendars; and the Calendars entrusted to these editors only appeared at distant intervals. Special men, who had made a study of particular epochs, had to be selected, and special powers in some cases had to be given them, that the work might go on with reasonable efficiency and despatch.
By employing editors who had devoted their attention to particular epochs, Lord Romilly, at a moderate remuneration, and little additional cost to the nation, secured the services of competent persons who were untrammeled by official duties. Their labors are now before the nation. They have produced a series of works, which have met with such reception from historical writers as leaves their value unquestionable. The contents of our State Papers, from the reign of Henry VIII. to that of Charles II., have at last become better known to the public, and may be studied, as they could never be studied before, by the distant student in his closet, as well as by frequenters of the Record Office. With respect to the reign of Henry VIII., I need say little, for I have sufficiently explained in my Preface to the first volume of these Calendars the wide dispersion and utter confusion in which the Papers for that period of our history were found when I was invited by Lord Romilly to undertake the editorship of this work. Throughout this irksome and laborious task I have had from the first the assistance of Mr. James Gairdner; the value of whose friendly, loyal, and unwearied services, no thanks on my part can sufficiently express. I have also to acknowledge my obligations, for very effectual aid, to Mr. C. T. Martin, a clerk of the same Office.