Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 9, August-December 1535. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1886.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying and sponsored by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. All rights reserved.
It is not easy for the present generation of Englishmen to realise the change that was effected in their country when the Pope's jurisdiction was abolished, and the Royal supremacy over the Church was established by Act of Parliament. By what strong coercion that change was enforced we have seen in the preceding volume. But the consequences of that severity were themselves very disquieting; and we have good reason to believe that never before in all his reign, and perhaps never afterwards either, was Henry so deeply harassed by anxiety as during the six months following the death of Fisher and Sir Thomas More.
At home he had no opposition to fear. Even of passive refusal to acquiesce in the King's proceedings little more could now be expected. We hear, indeed, from two different sources of a few further martyrdoms shortly after the death of More, (fn. 1) among whom, it was said abroad, though the report was happily unfounded, were nine more Carthusians. But severity had done its work. These remorseless executions made resistance out of the question, and though some solitary friar might still preach (at no small peril to himself) the primacy of St. Peter, or some other doctrine denounced as seditious and unscriptural, (fn. 2) the examples of such boldness were but few. The King's measures for establishing his supremacy were accordingly everywhere carried out, save that the Pope's name was not erased from books and MSS. with sufficient diligence to satisfy Henry's officials. Now and then some country vicar would try to elude the watchfulness of visitors, and save his MSS. from disfigurement, by covering the Pontiff's title, wherever it occurred, with little pieces of paper. But in most cases mere neglect or imperfect carrying out of the King's injunctions was the utmost extent of disobedience shown to authority. (fn. 3) Open resistance was simply out of the question.
But what if Henry being excommunicated by the Pope should be declared to have forfeited his kingdom? We have seen that even before the recent executions many of the leading noblemen would have welcomed a foreign invasion to redress the tyranny at home; (fn. 4) and now the Pope had intimated his intention to pronounce sentence of deprivation if only the other princes of Europe would give effect to it when passed. (fn. 5) That the Pope was in earnest there could be no manner of doubt. Even if no other offence had been given, the insult to the Holy See in the execution of a new made Cardinal would have stirred to indignation the mildest Pontiff that ever reigned. But without secular aid indignation would spend itself in vain. What was the prospect that other princes would actively interfere?
The Emperor was engaged in his Tunis expedition, which Henry fervently hoped might be unsuccessful. There was little doubt that he at least would have been glad to promote execution of the papal sentence if it only involved no risk to himself. But he knew well enough that if he declared war against England, even in vindication of public morals and the authority of the Holy See, Francis would be only too glad of the opportunity to make common cause with Henry and endeavour to recover Milan. Nothing, in fact, served the purposes of Francis better than Henry's outrageous crimes. He was now able to make his bargain either with the Pope or with Henry as might suit his convenience best. The Papal legate at the French court reported that Francis was quite willing to act against the Turk, and against England, provided he might have Milan. (fn. 6) But without some little security for this—unless the Duchy were at least handed over to the Pope's keeping—there was no hope of French assistance; and when the legate showed Francis the brief, doing all that he possibly could to inflame him against Henry, he acknowledged the king of England's impiety and the justice of the Holy Father's procedure, but declined to give a definite answer. (fn. 7) All that he would do was to despatch the bailly of Troyes to England with the Papal brief, and see if he could in any way bring the unruly King to reason. (fn. 8)
The Bailly started on his mission, but its main object was not to terrify Henry with the brief. His coming, in fact, had been anxiously expected in England for more than a fortnight before he arrived; (fn. 9) and it was not expected that he was to be the bringer of disagreeable messages. For Francis had still been studiously maintaining in all his communications with Henry the attitude of a cordial brother and ally. He had just lately assured the king of England that he had always maintained the justice of his proceedings, both to the late and to the present Pope; and although even he appears to have considered the recent executions of More and Fisher "marvellous extreme," his remonstrance on the subject had been evidently of the mildest possible character. (fn. 10) He allowed, indeed, "a great obsequy" for the illustrious martyrs to be celebrated for six days together at Paris,—and even this was hard enough for Henry's partizans to digest; (fn. 11) but he disavowed all thought for his own part of criticising either the laws or the administration of justice in the kingdom of his ally.
Englishmen, indeed, could not be wholly free from anxiety upon the subject, and Norfolk, who was thinking of sending one of his sons to France, begged to have the earliest intimation of Cromwell's opinion after the Bailly's arrival, as to the prospect of amity between the two countries. (fn. 12) But so far as diplomacy had yet gone there was no great reason to be alarmed, and Francis had distinctly promised that the usual pensions should be paid to those of the English court. (fn. 13) Still, the delay of the Bailly's coming occasioned some uneasiness, and when he at length arrived his message was not by any means so comfortable as Henry and Cromwell had hoped. For he was the bearer of the Papal brief, and though he made it tolerably clear that Francis might even yet be induced to maintain his alliance with England, he showed, with equal plainness, that the friendship of France must be purchased at a higher rate than formerly. What the precise terms offered were—at least the principal ones—we do not find recorded, but just after his despatch Francis sent him a further commission to insist that if the French king were driven to defend himself against the Emperor, and should afterwards employ his forces in recovering Milan, Genoa, and Asti, Henry should contribute a third of the expense of the expedition. And this concession Henry was expected to make in his own interest, as the Bailly was to assure him Francis set the army on foot mainly for his defence. (fn. 14)
It was in the middle of September that the Bailly arrived, commissioned to make demands so unexpected. Even the resident French ambassador Castelnau, bishop of Tarbes, seems to have been quite unacquainted with the object of his mission; and it was said that the King, after reading the letters he presented, was visibly dejected. (fn. 15) A day or two later Henry determined to send the bishop of Winchester (Gardiner) to France with his reply to the Bailly's message. (fn. 16) The occasion was one which required all possible gifts of diplomacy, and there was not a member of Henry's council who possessed them in greater fulness. From the instructions (fn. 17) given him, which we may reasonably conjecture were in great part drawn up by himself, we can appreciate the delicacy of the problem. Hitherto Henry had been able to presume that the friendship of England was at least as necessary to France as that of France could possibly be to England. But the tone of Gardiner's instructions reveals a change in this respect. He was commissioned to thank the French king for his steadfast friendship and desire of amity at a time when the King's proceedings had exposed him to calumny and misrepresentation. He was to assure him that the truth had fully justified an opinion expressed by Francis himself to Henry, at their interview at Boulogne, that he would be sure to find all Popes "false, untrue, and malicious." He was to explain recent occurrences, and show that nothing in religion or Church government had been affected that might "by any temperance be suffered in the realm of England."He was to urge the advantage of an English alliance against both the Emperor and the Pope, who had not only sent Francis a brief much to Henry's dishonor, but arrogantly summoned him to give up his alliance with England at his bidding. He was to endeavour to extract from Francis a pledge that he would formally intimate to the Pope his approval of Henry's proceedings and his determination to support him against Papal censures. And, finally, he was to make counter proposals as to the terms of the treaty.
That Henry had been over-sanguine as to the influence he possessed over Francis was the opinion not merely of Chapuys, in England, but of the Papal nuncio, in France; (fn. 18) and the latter derived his information on the subject from the French admiral, Brion. Brion had learned that when Henry first heard it was intended to send the Bailly to England, he mounted the high horse and declared that Francis had come to repent his coolness in the spring when Rochford went over to Calais on a fruitless mission to arrange the terms of a new alliance. (fn. 19) But when the Bailly came over and presented to him the Papal brief he had no mind to crow over Francis any longer. It was all very well to throw contempt upon Papal authority; but when his most trusty ally gave warning that he might have to cast him off things wore a very different aspect. Even the Papal brief would have to be answered. To Gardiner was committed a task which must have been no small humiliation to a mind, on the whole, far more honest and independent than the average of Henry's councillors. But Gardiner had more than once failed to satisfy the King in some matters; (fn. 20) he had shown a much greater dislike of heresy than suited Henry's purposes; (fn. 21) and to live continually under a cloud was simply unendurable. He had recently done some service to the Court by an oration— on what occasion does not appear—in which even his old comrade Foxe discovered a piece of questionable morality. (fn. 22) He now drew up an answer to the Papal brief; (fn. 23) and if that answer be, as seems only too probable, the document printed in last volume (No. 1118), it cannot be called worthy of an upright and high-minded statesman. As a matter of fact, Gardiner's conduct at this time lowered him greatly in the eyes of those by whom he had been formerly respected. (fn. 24)
Still, there was one great matter in which—unless Charles could be induced to satisfy Francis about Milan—England and France had a common interest. The Pope was seeking to promote a General Council. Henry had appealed to one against the sentence of Clement VII., but he was anxious by every possible means to prevent its meeting. (fn. 25) Francis, of course, desired to make matters uncomfortable for the Emperor in Germany, and had sent Langey to the Diet at Esslingen to lay before the German princes his views upon the subject. (fn. 26) His policy was not to counsel direct opposition to a project which was everywhere regarded with favor, but to urge upon each of the opposing sections that it would be desirable in their own interests to have it delayed a while. (fn. 27) He had some time before invited Melancthon into France to see how far the Protestants could be got to act along with him; but as the whole world had just then been startled with the horror of the executions in England, Henry dreaded that the visit might rather lead to a general pacification, and was anxious that the Reformer should come to England first. (fn. 28) For this reason Barnes was despatched to Germany, and Heynes and Mont secretly to France, to persuade him, if he had arrived there already, to make no long stay, but cross the Channel to Henry, whose views in Church matters, it might be presumed, would prove more acceptable to the Germans than those of Francis. (fn. 29)
The matter cooled for some time. Heynes and Mont found that there was no immediate probability of Melancthon visiting France; indeed, he was sure to remain in Germany till September. (fn. 30) Then Mont received orders to go to him in Germany; but Francis renewed his invitation in a manner more captivating than before. (fn. 31) The French king, however, was more distrusted in Germany than Henry VIII. with all his atrocities, for he had burned Lutherans at Paris, though he had not decapitated cardinals. Luther, therefore, thought some good might come of Melancthon visiting England; (fn. 32) but the elector of Saxony saw reasons why he should remain in Germany, and refused him permission to go. (fn. 33)
Thus the main object, not only of the mission of Heynes and Mont to France, but also of that of Barnes to Germany, was disappointed. But Barnes could do good service otherwise. An Augustinian, like Luther, and a strong upholder of justification by faith, he was in high favor both with his Sovereign and with the German Protestants; and he gave them to understand that the King's principles and the Confession of Augsburg so nearly approached each other that Henry might be willing to join a league with them if they would inform him what points of doctrine they would uphold in the Council, and promise to agree to nothing that might be done there without his consent. He also notified that the King was on the point of despatching another ambassador to them with whom they could discuss these matters more fully. (fn. 34)
That ambassador was Edward Foxe, the King's almoner, now Bishop Elect of Hereford. His appointment as ambassador, and his promotion in the Church, were both determined in the beginning of August; (fn. 35) at which time we find him to have been constantly with Cranmer at Lambeth, (fn. 36) discussing, no doubt, beforehand, the deep and intricate questions of moral law, theology, and Church government, on which he would have to confer with the German Protestants. It was on the 31st August that he received his charge from the King at Bromham, in Wiltshire, with credentials to some, at least, of the German princes. (fn. 37) He was first to go to the elector of Saxony, commend his zeal for the Gospel, and point out the need of union and agreement among those who repudiated Papal claims in connexion with the General Council, endeavouring if possible to obtain the concurrence of the Elector and his friends with the King's own particular reasons for throwing off the Pope's authority, but by no means declining to act along with them if they at all hesitated to justify his pleas for his own divorce and re-marriage. (fn. 38)
His despatch, however, was delayed through all the month of September. On the 4th October Henry gave him, at Southampton, a letter of credence. for the Count Palatine. (fn. 39) On the 8th he wrote to inform Lord Lisle that he intended to start on his mission on the following Tuesday, and be at Dover ready to cross on Thursday the 15th, but he does not seem to have got into communication with the German Reformers till shortly before Christmas; and it was on Christmas Day that he received at Smalcalde an answer from the elector of Saxony and the Landgrave, declaring the terms of union which they offered to the king of England. (fn. 40)
As regards his Scandinavian policy Henry was still living in a fool's paradise at the date at which this volume opens. His adventurous protégé, Sir Marcus Mayer, had indeed done wonders. He had at one time nearly paid the penalty of his daring, and had consequently been shut up in Warberg castle in Scania; but by a clever stratagem he had not only freed himself, but obtained possession of the fortress. (fn. 41) This was in March. After a while he sent a messenger to Henry, who reached England in July, offering not only to deliver the castle into the king of England's hands, but also to put him in possession of Malmoe, Landscrona, Copenhagen, and Elsinore. (fn. 42) The offer was most acceptable to Henry, and he actually had some stones hewn and carved with his arms, to be built in over the gate of Warberg. (fn. 43) He evidently believed that the new King, Christian of Denmark, whom he, like others, only recognised as duke of Holstein, had very little chance of making good his claims. The tide, however, which had already begun to flow in Christian's favor when he sent Suavenius to England early in the year, still continued propitious to him during the summer. (fn. 44) By August he and his ally the king of Sweden had quite gained the upper hand in Denmark, and were winning daily victories over the Lubeckers. (fn. 45) The citizens of Dantzic rejoiced at the discomfiture of their rivals, and English merchants in the Sound found to their cost that Christian was paying off old scores with Henry at their expense. The Maudlyn was arrested at Copenhagen, her victuals, ordnance, and stores taken away, and her crew told on making their complaint that they must await the arrival of the king of Denmark out of Sweden before they could have redress. (fn. 46) The men attributed their misfortune to the men of Dantzic whom Englishmen generally regarded with no great goodwill, (fn. 47) and other English vessels returning from that port met with the same treatment as the Maudlyn. (fn. 48)
Ignorant, however, of these captures, and of some other facts to be mentioned presently, Henry was, in the beginning of September, preparing to despatch his master gunner, Christopher Morres, to Warberg, in the Sweepstake, with two other vessels, a company of 92 soldiers, a store of artillery, ammunition and weapons, and a good large sum in ready money, in aid of Sir Marcus Meyer, to whom also he was to be the bearer of a complete suit of armour, made for the King himself three years before. (fn. 49) It was pretended that the ships were going to Holland; but Morres had been in Denmark the year before, and the real object of the enterprise was pretty evident to the Imperial ambassador. Just, however, as the expedition was about to sail came news not only that the duke of Holstein, encouraged by his successes against open enemies, had captured several English ships, and begun to lay siege to Copenhagen; but that a revolution had taken place in the government of Lubeck, and Wullenwever had been removed from his office; and, worst of all, that the castle of Warberg had been re-taken; so that the whole aim of the expedition was now frustrated. Never did bad news come so thick or were plans so thoroughly disconcerted. (fn. 50)
The last item in this catalogue of misfortunes was, indeed, a mistake. Even the town of Warberg did not fall into the hands of Christian until a few days (fn. 51) after this false rumour had reached London; and Meyer did not surrender the fortress till May following. How soon the actual state of matters was known to Henry VIII. we are not distinctly informed; but from this time he made no further effort in Meyer's favor. To do so would probably have been hopeless now that Christian and his ally Gustavus were so strong, both by sea and land. Indeed, Bonner and Cavendish, who had been with Meyer at Warberg, (fn. 52) were only allowed a safe-conduct to come away on pledging themselves to do nothing to aid the enemies of king Christian. (fn. 53) And in view of all the other bad news, great fears were entertained in England that even the King's ship Minion, which took them to Warberg, had been arrested by the victorious king of Denmark. (fn. 54) Indeed, it was actually reported that she had been captured and broken to pieces. (fn. 55)
The report was not confirmed; but significant hints were sent to England that the prizes already taken "were but the assay of the wine," which the king of Denmark and his allies meant to come and drink next spring. (fn. 56) The King took a bad revenge on the Hanse merchants in London, who had nothing to do with his mishaps, and ordered all their ships and goods to be arrested, declaring that they should not be released till his own ships returned to him safe; but after two or three weeks he released all except those of the men of Dantzic, whom he believed to be chiefly culpable, as they were enemies of the Lubeckers and friends of Gustavus Vasa. (fn. 57) He could not but see that his real adversary was one whom he had unduly despised, who understood his intrigues, and who was now treating him with that provoking coolness which implies that you know your own acts cannot be safely challenged. For Christian, in answer to his complaints, wrote to him that the English ships had been taken during his absence in Sweden,—that he was very sorry, and had no thought of doing anything unfriendly,—that it was only because the Lubeckers had been so troublesome,—and that now, for the same reason, convinced of Henry's friendship, he must reserve three of the captured vessels for use against his enemies. (fn. 58) The others were sent back. (fn. 59)
It seems rather extraordinary that, while Henry had no real friends upon the Continent, he had still no enemies likely to prove dangerous. He was often compared with the Turk, as the enemy of Christianity; but, like the Turk, he remained secure against attack because the Christian princes of Europe could not agree among themselves. The proposed bull of deprivation was not forthcoming. The Pope could not issue it without the Emperor's support, the Emperor could not promise aid unless he was sure of Francis, and Francis continually told the Papal nuncio that the Emperor ought to act first in the matter. (fn. 60) Tired of waiting, the Pope would declare his own resolution to proceed, and apparently would have been glad to do it alone. Letters from the unhappy Katharine made him still more determined; but he was invariably held back by one or other party. Even when he ordered the privation to be concluded con toda furia, as the Spanish ambassador expressed it, that ambassador himself thought a little delay advisable, that the Pope might not appear to act on letters of the Queen without reference to his master the Emperor. (fn. 61) And so the matter went on from day to day and from week to week, the Pope at one time trying to persuade the Emperor's agents that pledges from Francis were unnecessary, at another time obliged to delay matters till the Emperor arrived at Naples. And after he had got to Naples, you may be sure the sentence that he was prepared to give was so criticised and objected to by the French, that, after repeated discussions in Consistory, even in December, nothing whatever had been done. (fn. 62)
Yet in England people only wondered why the Pope and the Emperor did not proceed. (fn. 63) It was the opinion, not merely of Chapuys, the Imperialist, but even of the bishop of Tarbes and the bailly of Troyes, that a war against England would make the people rebel against their rulers. (fn. 64) The wrongs of Katharine and Mary were resented by all who were not dependent on the Court. The country, besides, was suffering from a serious apprehension of famine. (fn. 65) The fine weather of the year 1533, to which Henry VIII. had not been ashamed to appeal as evidence that his second marriage had met with the approval of Heaven, (fn. 66) was replaced by one of the rainiest of seasons, and the argument was consequently turned the other way. (fn. 67) Many were convinced that the King's iniquities were the cause of the bad weather; and besides constant rain and a bad harvest, there was a sore mortality from pestilence. (fn. 68) The Inns of Court suspended their vacation lectures early in the month of August; (fn. 69) the dean of the Arches desired to be released from keeping his court in October; (fn. 70) the law term was deferred till 3rd November; and Parliament, which was to have met that day, was prorogued till the 4th February following. (fn. 71) The King, who had been moving about for three months in Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, and Hampshire, was thinking, in October, of returning through Farnham to Windsor, when the news of the mortality again breaking out in that neighbourhood induced him to change his "giestes," and make a circuit by Basing and Easthampstead. (fn. 72)
Meanwhile the new doctrine of Royal supremacy was carried out in the Church in a manner which made the monks and clergy wince. The valuation of benefices had been going on through all the summer, and the books for the different dioceses had been mostly sent up by October; they were submitted to careful examination, and full explanations were called for when anything in them appeared unsatisfactory. (fn. 73) Greatly against his own will Archbishop Lee was made responsible for the returns of all his diocese, (fn. 74) and had much difficulty in satisfying Cromwell that he had fully complied. (fn. 75) But these, of course, were mere secular affairs. A more striking novelty was the strong decisive manner in which the Crown vindicated its new spiritual supremacy. Besides the measures which had been instituted in January for annulling the authority of the See of Rome, (fn. 76) the bishops were inhibited from visiting their dioceses, or made to compound for leave to exercise their regular jurisdiction. A royal visitation for the present superseded their authority, and even the obsequious Hilsey, who had most unworthily succeeded the martyred Fisher in the see of Rochester, was taken sharply to task for his presumption in visiting without Royal licence, though he had previously sued to Cromwell for leave to exercise his episcopal jurisdiction. (fn. 77)
The idea of suspending the functions of bishops does not appear to have been originally a part of the King and Cromwell's programme, or, if it was, they got others to take upon themselves the responsibility of the suggestion. It arose out of a work which had by that time been already set on foot—the Royal visitation of the monasteries. The new functions of the Crown were already embarrassing in their complexity, the pressure of business thus created was enormous, and some little confusion seems to have arisen even as to the limits of temporal and spiritual jurisdiction. (fn. 78) But matters would have become still more involved if the great monasteries had been allowed to retain their old exemption from episcopal jurisdiction. Indeed, this was in itself impossible, for formerly they had their own superiors, and each particular Order had visitors of its own, who were nominated in most cases by some foreign head. That control had now ceased, and would naturally have devolved upon the bishops. But to allow the bishops a power of visitation which they had never been accustomed to exercise was no part of the King's intentions; and to exempt them from a Royal visitation, to which even mitred abbots were subject, besides being invidious, might have created nice questions of jurisdiction. At all events, the visitation of the monasteries had already made some progress when the King, on the 18th September, by his letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury, formally forbade any episcopal visitations to take place while the Royal visitation was being held. Yet for once there seems to have been some little hesitation, even in Cranmer, to obey immediately a Royal mandate; and it was not till the 2nd October that he sent letters of inhibition to his suffragans in pursuance of his orders. (fn. 79)
But in the middle of August Cromwell's commissioners, Dr. Thomas Legh and John Ap-Rice, were already in Wiltshire visiting the monasteries there; (fn. 80) and even they were not the first to exercise those functions. Dr. Richard Layton, one of the clerks of the Council who had examined More and Fisher in the Tower, having a taste for further employment, had been petitioning Cromwell for a commission to correct the negligence of Archbishop Lee by visiting his province of York, which the Archbishop had been afraid to do, expecting a Royal visitation afterwards. (fn. 81) This was not conceded to him, but in July he got leave to go with the Court into Gloucestershire, and by the end of the month he had not only obtained a commission to visit monasteries but had actually made a preliminary visitation of some in that neighbourhood, leaving a set of interim injunctions, which he called monitions, to be observed until others should be issued to every house under the King's Great Seal, and suspending further proceedings until the 8th August. (fn. 82) About that time we hear of him again as having visited the Cathedral priory of Bath, where he reports that he found the prior virtuous, but the monks very dissolute; the house in good repair, but 400l. in debt. He had also visited Farley, a cell of the great priory of Lewes, which he found far worse. There every kind of grossness seemed to be practised, and he had reason to believe the parent house at Lewes was little better. He took away their superstitious relics—the chains of St. Peter, the combs of Mary Magdalene, St. Dorothy, and St. Margaret, and sent them up to London. He found it "a very great mockery and abuse" that the chains of St. Peter "which women put about them at the time of their delivery" should be carried in procession every Lammas Day in a silver basin; and he put an end to the practice once and for all. (fn. 83)
From Bath and Farley, Layton went on to Bristol; but meanwhile complaints were made of the laxity of his proceedings by his fellow visitor, Dr. Legh, who wrote to Cromwell from Laycock, in Wiltshire, and again from Bruton, complaining that Layton had not restrained the heads of houses, as he had done himself, from leaving the precincts of the monasteries. He thought Layton ought to have the same instructions as himself, with a view to united action. (fn. 84) And the united action he contemplated was to lay down new rules very much in the spirit of rules framed two or three hundred years before, and found unworkable in practice. Even John Ap-Rice, another visitor who went the same circuit along with him, wrote to Cromwell that he thought Legh was pressing matters a good deal beyond what was politic. The Carthusians themselves, he said, had found it necessary long ago to allow their prior to go abroad on the business of their monastery, and appoint a proctor as resident in his place. (fn. 85)
The severe discipline of Legh, however, was warranted by the instructions that he had received, and the monastery of Bruton, which had been already visited by Layton, was visited again by Legh on the 23rd August. The abbot objected that he had already submitted to visitation, on which the commissary commanded him to exhibit the comperta (that is to say, the catalogue of offences and irregularities discovered), and to show cause why the house should not be visited again on the 3rd September following; giving him strict injunctions, at the same time, not to leave his house without special licence, either from the King or Cromwell. (fn. 86) That it was not really practicable to observe these restrictions, Legh himself seems to have been pretty well aware, but he excused himself to Cromwell for his severity by saying that he was merely following his instructions, and, moreover, that it would compel the monks the more readily to acknowledge the King's ecclesiastical power, by forcing them to apply either to him or to Cromwell for relief. (fn. 87)
No doubt this suited the King and Cromwell's policy pretty well; but there was one drawback in the amount of correspondence it would involve, and Cromwell thought fit to allow the visitors a little discretion. But Legh expressed his fears that the inferiors would feel it a grievance if the injunctions were only relaxed to their heads and not to themselves; and he declined to release any until he had further instructions, or had an opportunity of conferring with Cromwell upon the advantages of severity. What those advantages were he pretty clearly indicated in a passage suggesting that the granting of daily dispensations by Cromwell would be "to their great heart's ease and your no little commodity." (fn. 88) The advice seem to have been taken; and this volume is accordingly flooded with letters from abbots and priors to Cromwell desiring release from the severity of these restrictions. (fn. 89)
But if the new order of things tended to impose on heads of houses restrictions which it was hard to bear, it had not always the same effect on their subordinates. In fact, it went far to break down entirely the old discipline of the monasteries, and to make order and government impossible within their walls. It encouraged monks to turn informers against those to whom they owed subjection. Malicious informations, backed by fulsome flattery of the King and Cromwell, disturbed the tranquillity of many houses. Dan Peter of Winchcombe desired permission of his abbot to leave the monastery and go to Cromwell. On being asked for what purpose, he informed the abbot that he meant to complain of him for not reading the lesson one day according to the injunctions, and also for inviting the prior and the chaunter to dine with him. (fn. 90) John Musard, a monk of Worcester, imprisoned by his prior—no doubt for very sufficient reasons—did not gain the sympathy even of the visitors, Dr. Legh and Mr. John Ap-Rice; but he wrote to state his case to the King and Cromwell, declaring that it was only by his loyalty that he had incurred the displeasure of his superior, whom he accused of treason. (fn. 91) Of course, the treason consisted in maintaining Katharine to be Queen, and disapproving of the conduct of Henry VIII. and Anne Boleyn,—accusations which he brought against another monk of the house as well. Dan William Fordham, another of the brethren, joined with Musard in the accusation, and thought it most ungracious in anyone to rebel against such a benignant King as Henry VIII. "In this reign," he wrote to Cromwell, "no man has suffered but he has said, 'I have deserved to suffer,' and divers might have lived if they would." The King's "merciful pardon," it seems, "was always ready, and martyrs had died by nothing but their own folly." (fn. 92)
Dan William Fordham had been cellarer of the monastery, but had been dismissed from his office for extravagance and peculation. (fn. 93) Dan Roger Neckham had been subprior, and had likewise been removed. (fn. 94) But the prior having now got into trouble, through the accusations of Fordham and Musard, the rule of the house was given to Roger Neckham, (fn. 95) and Fordham was restored to his old office of cellarer, much against the will of the whole convent, who wrote a letter with seven and twenty signatures to Cromwell to justify Thomas Sudbury, the cellarer whom they had appointed in his place, against the charges of wastefulness and mismanagement brought against him by his rival. (fn. 96) The almost unanimous feeling within the convent was that they were the victims of one or two conspirators. Lady Margery Sandys also wrote to Cromwell in the same sense, and hoped the matter would be thoroughly sifted, assuring him that the prior, who was still detained at Gloucester, was "a true monk to God and the King," while his accuser, Dr. Neckham, was known to bear a very different character. But it was clear matters now went by favor, not by justice; for Lady Margery Sandys herself had to insinuate in behalf of her protégé: "He will be glad to give you in ready money as much as any other man." (fn. 97)
Another example of an insubordinate monk depending on Court favor was John Horwode of Winchcombe, otherwise called Placet or Placidus. When the King's Commissioners visited the monastery, his conscience, as he wrote to Cromwell, compelled him to speak of some things, and he desired a commission to bring in certain books touching the Pope's authority, St. Patrick's Purgatory, miracles and other subjects, which exercised a very mischievous influence over simple souls. He wished also that his fellow monk, William Overbury, should be commissioned to preach the supremacy every Sunday, "and have his chamber, books, and fire." (fn. 98) He himself had made a little treatise against "the usurped power of the bishop of Rome," and he thought that the King's title was not proclaimed as it ought to be. (fn. 99) William Overbury also was much of the same way of thinking, and wrote to Cromwell of the necessity of counteracting a number of perverse men, some of whom seemed pillars of the Church, "which do dilaniate the flock of Christ." (fn. 100) How far such zeal was stimulated by the prospect of personal indulgences we may perhaps surmise when we find Horwode obtaining from Cromwell a dispensation from rising at midnight and from some other observances from which the other brethren were not to be released. (fn. 101)
From specimens like these, few as the cases may be that have come to light, we may form some estimate of the discord and demoralisation created within the walls of monasteries by the proceedings of Cromwell's visitors. The wonder indeed is that the recorded cases are so few, and that, in spite of all the inducement offered under the new régime to appeal to the King's vicegerent or the visitors, there are not more frequent instances of such appeal being actually made,—a fact which, duly considered, seems to imply that the rule in most houses was far more wholesome and more willingly submitted to than many have been hitherto disposed to believe. Only here and there within the walls of some great abbey did one or two of the more audacious monks brave the displeasure of their heads and the ill-will of their brethren by malicious tale-bearing, though undoubtedly there were many refractory members, such as there must be in all large communities, who did not love the discipline imposed on them.
Perhaps also the tyranny of the visitors was mitigated to some extent by the fear of that to which they too were subject. Dr. Legh was accused to Cromwell for his pride and arrogance—or, as the informer called them, his "triumphant and sumptuous usage and gay apparel;" and not only did Cromwell think fit to give him a strong admonition on the subject, but he also expressed his displeasure with Ap-Rice, who went the same circuit with Legh, for not reporting his manner of proceeding. (fn. 102) We are almost inclined to doubt whether the latter reprimand was merited; for official reprimands were sometimes arranged for the express purpose of shielding an informer. Ap-Rice, however, pleaded in his defence that he would have complained before but that the complaints of others, such as the abbot of Bruton, to whom Legh had behaved very insolently, had met with so little attention. He wished, therefore, that the information should come from others, not (at least directly) from himself. Now, however, that his tongue was untied he did not spare his colleague. He declared that Dr. Legh was too insolent and pompous; 'that wherever he went he treated the heads of houses very roughly, sometimes for causes which were merely trivial, such as their not meeting him at the door when warned of his coming. He was not only young and arrogant, but also "excessive in taking," demanding 20l. at every monastic election, a sum never demanded in similar cases before. He would refuse a reward which he thought insufficient, and compel the monasteries to send after him such sums as he considered adequate; and Ap-Rice gave a list of the sums he had taken in particular cases. "Religious men," wrote Ap-Rice, "were never so much afraid of Dr. Alen as they are of him, he uses such rough fashion." (fn. 103)
Nevertheless, it is to Legh and Ap-Rice jointly that the questionable honor belongs of having proposed and drafted the inhibitions to the bishops. The Royal letters, as we have seen, were dated the 18th Sept. On the 24th the two visitors wrote from Wintney, in Hampshire, to Cromwell in a style which probably has never been approached before or since in official correspondence. "Please it your Mastership to be adver "tised," they began, "that we, supposing that the bishops would be in hand with you again touching the inhibitions, thought good to show you such reasons as moved us to cause them to be made after that manner." The King's vicegerent had handed over the bench of bishops, like a class of refractory schoolboys, to a couple of new masters, who, he seemed to think, understood very thoroughly how to deal with them. Their jurisdiction must be for a time suspended altogether, and taken into the King's hands, otherwise they might suppose they did not receive it from him. They must not be allowed to claim it as of right; for how could the right have come? They must have received it either from the law of God, from the bishop of Rome, or from the King. If the first, let them show it in Scripture; but Legh did not think they would be rash enough to say so; if the second, let them exercise it still if they dared; if the third, they had no reason to object to the King's recalling the power into his own hands. (fn. 104) The logic was severe, and the visitors were masters of the situation.
It is clear that these observations must have been written in answer to some strong remonstrances made in private against putting in force the Royal letters of the 18th September. They were written nearly a week after the date of those letters; and another week even yet elapsed before Cranmer yielded obedience to them. It was a new thing to subject the whole bench of bishops to such overbearing tyranny; but the Church had already lost its old independence, and the day for effectual remonstrance was gone by.
As for the monks, there were means of escaping from oppression in some cases. The visitation, indeed, was tyrannical mainly towards heads of houses who wished to do their duty. All novices under twentyfour years of age were discharged, and in some monasteries it was said all the able persons were expelled, leaving only the infirm to keep up the wonted services so long as the system lasted. (fn. 105) But it was already beginning to appear that it could not last much longer. Conscientious abbots had grown weary of their lives with the restrictions imposed upon them, and the encouragement given to immoral monks boldly to defy their authority. (fn. 106) In November we have a remarkable complaint that the prior and convent of Ingham in Norfolk have sold their abbey and lands, and this in violation of their promise to another than the purchaser that he should have the first offer. (fn. 107) About the same time we meet with the first steps taken towards suppressing one or two of the smaller monasteries.
Dr. Layton had passed through Sussex in October, visiting the monasteries and generally finding evidences of gross immorality, occasionally combined with the more serious offence of treason. (fn. 108) He went on to Folkstone and Dover, where a pair of small houses engaged rather more than usual attention. He gave a very black account of them, and found it necessary to return to Folkstone and take an inventory of the goods and chattels inside. He then went on to a small monastery called Langden, about three miles north of Dover, where, after taking measures to prevent the abbot's escape, and knocking for some time, he dashed the door in pieces with a pole axe and roamed the house armed with this weapon, for the abbot, as he reported, was a "dangerous desperate knave and hardy." A woman was taken on the premises and sent to the mayor of Dover for eight days' imprisonment. The abbot Layton brought with him to Canterbury. As the final result of his investigation Layton reported that the priories of Dover, Langden, and Folkstone were dens of vice; that the last named contained only a prior and a sick monk; that the house was in utter decay, though the barns were filled with corn; and that the prior ought to be deposed and the priory turned into a vicarage, of which the King should be patron, and which he might, perhaps, be good enough to grant as a parsonage to him, Dr. Layton himself! (fn. 109)
A Commission was sent down to sequestrate the goods of all three monasteries, of which inventories were duly taken. The houses were to be surrendered into the King's hands. The Commissioners themselves, however, found some redeeming features in the characters of the inmates which the visitors had not thought fit to mention. The abbot of Langden indeed was unthrifty, and his convent ignorant. The prior of Dover, however, had repaired the house and reduced the debt from 180l. to 100l., and the good people of Dover were sorry for his case. The prior of Folkestone was "a good husband and beloved by his neighbours." (fn. 110) We may, therefore, credit what the latter says in his own defence,—that during the three years he had held the office (he himself was but 31 years old) he had been at great expense repairing the church, doing many things at his own cost, laying down a new pavement, supplying new vestments, repairing the bakehouse and the dortour, and making the place more fit for the reception of strangers from abroad, as it was a part of his charge very frequently to entertain both English and foreign ambassadors, landing or embarking on their missions. (fn. 111) It looks as if the house was scarcely so ill regulated as Dr. Layton reported it to be.
Of the visitation of the universities there are fewer notices than we could wish, the most interesting being those relating to Oxford. The merry letter of Layton, who visited that seat of learning along with Tregon well, and set Duns in Bocardo, (fn. 112) is already well known. The visitors abolished the lectures on canon law and instituted one in civil law in every college. They also established in particular colleges lectures in Greek, a study daily growing in public estimation, and some in Latin; which seem to have been well received. They also took "professions" from the university and from each individual college. (fn. 113) Magdalen college was particularly grateful for the reformation of its studies, especially for the promotion of Greek and the abolition of Duns. (fn. 114)
The visitation of Cambridge was committed to Legh, who delivered his injunctions there on the 22nd Oct. (fn. 115) Those injunctions, however, had been prepared and submitted to Cromwell a month before, as we find Legh forwarding two additional articles from Wintney on the 24th September, and asking that the whole should be re-written on parchment. (fn. 116) Cromwell had been elected Chancellor of this University on the 30th August (fn. 117) in the room of bishop Fisher; and on the 23rd October, Legh's colleague, Ap-Rice, as the King's principal registrar in ecclesiastical causes, made a notarial attestation of the oath which the new Chancellor had taken. (fn. 118)
To turn from these matters to one of greater interest. The personal notices of Katharine and Mary in their seclusion are fewer than usual, till quite at the end of the volume we meet with the news of that last illness of the divorced Queen, which very soon proved fatal. But on this subject we may as well reserve what we have to say till the appearance of next volume. As to Mary, she had another attack of illness at the beginning of September, and, as usual, we find Chapuys her only helper, who, though denied permission to visit her, contrived by repeated solicitations to get her case attended to, (fn. 119) while the King hypocritically protested, or Cromwell protested for him, that no one else could feel so much care and anxiety about her as he himself did. (fn. 120)
Henry, however, not only refused Chapuys permission to visit the Princess, but even prevented him from communicating with her so freely as he had done hitherto. (fn. 121) He, moreover, gave vent to his real sentiments in private in words of fearful meaning. His divorced wife and his ill-used daughter had become to him a political inconvenience and an obstacle beyond endurance. It was in vain that he had got his daughter bastardised and his second marriage ratified by Act of Parliament. Foreign opinion would not regard the princess Mary as a bastard. Even his political ally Francis, though he had maintained the King's right to repudiate Katharine, and was ready to shield him to any extent against Papal interference for the purpose of obtaining his support against the Emperor, clearly looked upon Mary as likely to succeed her father before Elizabeth; and this belief he had brought home to Henry in a way that could not be overlooked. The friendship of France, it was clear, could not be reckoned on a day longer than suited the interests of Francis; and if once the latter got satisfaction of his claims from the Emperor, the power of both princes would be turned against Henry. This being the state of matters, the reader will understand the tidings which Chapuys wrote on the 6th November to the Emperor:—
"Sire, the marchioness of Exeter has sent to inform me that the King lately told some of his confidential councillors that he would no longer remain in the trouble, fear, and suspense he had so long endured on account of the Queen and Princess, and that they should see at the coming Parliament to get him released therefrom, swearing most obstinately that he would wait no longer. The Marchioness declares that this is as true as the Gospel, and begs me to inform your Majesty and to pray you to have pity on the ladies, and for the honor of God and the bond of kin to find a remedy." (fn. 122)
And in a letter of the same date to Anthony Perrenot, the Imperial secretary, Chapuys, wrote that "this shedevil of a concubine" (Anne Boleyn) would never be satisfied till she was delivered from these poor ladies; "for which," he adds, "she is working by all possible means." (fn. 123) A fortnight later Chapuys wrote again, both to the Emperor and to Granvelle, that he had received a second visit from the Marchioness, who came to him in disguise for the express purpose of confirming the news which she had already sent him by a messenger, and to conjure him to urge the Emperor to take steps in defence of his aunt and cousin.
"She added that the King, seeing some of those to whom he used this language shed tears, said that tears and wry faces were of no avail, because, even if he lost his crown, he would not forbear to carry his purpose into effect."
"These things," adds Chapuys not unnaturally, "are too monstrous to be believed;" but considering what has passed and goes on daily, the long continuance of these menaces, and the fact that the concubine, who long ago conspired the death of the said ladies, and thinks of nothing but getting rid of them, is the person who governs everything, and the King is unable to contradict her, the matter is very dangerous. The King would fain, as I have already written, make his Parliament participators and even authors of such crimes, in order that, losing all hope of the clemency of your Majesty, the whole people should be more determined to defend themselves when necessary." (fn. 124)
Further in his letter to Granvelle the Ambassador wrote in a postscript:—
"The person before mentioned has sent to say that four or five days ago the King, talking to someone about the Princess, said, 'Let them see to it at once that she should have no need of more company, and that she should be an example to show that no one ought to disobey the laws.' He added that he meant to fulfil what was foretold of him,—that is, that at the beginning of his reign he would be gentle as a lamb, and at the end worse than a lion, and that he would despatch those who were at the Tower, and some that were not there as well." (fn. 125)
Whether Henry, with all his overbearing tyranny, could really have succeeded in extorting from Parliament their consent to the execution of his true wife and daughter is a question which for the honor of humanity we trust can only be answered one way. The very demand would assuredly have provoked rebellion. But none the less was it the firm belief of some at least of his Council— for the marchioness of Exeter doubtless derived her information from her husband — but of queen Katharine also (though the truth seems for a while to have been mercifully concealed from her), that the demand would be actually made. On the 13th December she wrote urgently to the Emperor and to Ortiz at Rome—the last letters which it was to be in her power to write—urging the extreme necessity of getting the Pope to act immediately in the matter. (fn. 126) Chapuys enclosed her letter to the Emperor, stating that she had urged him also to write many things "which would move a stone to compassion;" but he had already written of them so frequently that it was unnecessary to say more, especially as the Emperor, he was sure, had those matters at heart no less than the Queen herself. (fn. 127) And, indeed, the Emperor, if ever in his life he allowed himself to write in despatches the common language of nature and humanity, must have written what he really felt on the 29th December. "The ill will of the king of England," he said, "to the Queen and Princess is cruel and horrible. It is impossible to believe that he would be so unnatural as to put them to death ...... He probably intends by threats to make them swear to and approve his statutes." The only immediate remedy, however, that he had to offer was,—not the Papal sentence of deprivation, but his advice that, as a last resource, they should take the oath required of them rather than lose their lives, protesting that they did it only under constraint. (fn. 128) The matter had now gone too far to admit of his offering them any more efficient aid.
It is impossible within the limits of this preface to devote to every subject the space that might seem to be its due; and we will now content ourselves with briefly indicating the substance of the information to be found on some matters not yet touched upon. Foremost among these is the intelligence from Ireland, which continued to be unusually favorable. In August, notwithstanding the illness of the deputy Skeffington, (fn. 129) lord Thomas Fitzgerald, as he was called (now rightfully earl of Kildare by the death of his father), was taken by lord Leonard Grey, and brought to England by his captor. He was taken to the Court, and allowed to go about at liberty; for although by Skeffington's report he had submitted unconditionally to lord Leonard, yet the latter seems to have offered to intercede for him if he would throw himself unreservedly on the King's mercy; and while the King, as he wrote to Skeffington, would have preferred that he had been apprehended "after such sort as was convenable to his deservings," it was deemed politic for a time to treat him well, and even allow him to entertain hopes of pardon. (fn. 130) But before the 2nd Oct. he was committed to the Tower, from which he was never destined to be released, and questions were prepared for his examination, quite as much devised to implicate others as to bring himself within the meshes of the law. (fn. 131)
Through these questions Henry evidently hoped to sound the depths of disloyalty in Ireland, and be more fully prepared against future trouble. But for the present matters were going on favorably. O'Connor had surrendered to Skeffington about the same time that Kildare yielded to lord Leonard, (fn. 132) and Leinster was comparatively quiet. Later on the deputy and others went to Dundalk to meet the Northern chieftains, and there seemed good hope of tranquillity in Ulster. (fn. 133) Finally Dungarvan castle surrendered to lord James Butler, and several chieftains in the south came in. (fn. 134) Lord Leonard Grey returned to Ireland as Chief Marshal of the army, and there hardly ever seemed a better prospect of bringing the whole island into complete subjection. (fn. 135)
Of Scotland the notices in this volume refer mainly to three subjects,—James V.'s installation as a knight of the Garter, which took place on the 24th August, (fn. 136) the mission of Barlow to Scotland in October, (fn. 137) —vainly intended, as it would seem, to win James from Popery, (fn. 138) so as to prevent his combining against Henry in case of a sentence of deprivation,—and the negociations of the Scotch ambassadors in France for James's marriage with the daughter of the duke of Vendôme, (fn. 139) —negociations which were finally broken off in November just after everything had been seemingly arranged, and the Scotch ambassadors were only awaiting orders to fetch away the bride. (fn. 140) But for these matters it may suffice to refer the reader to the abstracts in the Calendar.
In November the King sent Sir Francis Brian to Francis, who was then just beginning to recover from a severe illness, (fn. 141) ostensibly, perhaps, to congratulate him on his convalescence, for which great public rejoicings had been made on the 12th, with a solemn procession of bishops and mitred abbots through the streets of London, (fn. 142) but mainly, as it would seem, by conferences with the queen of Navarre to endeavour to counteract the influence of Brion and Montmorency, both of whom were then in favour of peace, and encourage Francis to despise the Papal authority and boldly ally himself with Henry against the Emperor. (fn. 143) Gardiner and Wallop were already in France, but there were ominous appearances that the hostility of Francis towards the Emperor was held in check by some of his Council, and that the possible aid of England was not too much regarded. Some English vessels had been arrested at Bordeaux, and Brian was the bearer of letters to the two resident ambassadors to demand their re-delivery. On his reaching Calais he heard news of the death of Francis Sforza, duke of Milan,— an event which in itself was not unlikely to prove a powerful argument with Francis in favor of a war policy. (fn. 144)
One further matter connected with foreign politics we shall merely mention here. The ambitious Wullenwever, already deposed from his office of burgomaster, having left Lubeck privately, was captured in November in the territory of his arch-enemy the bishop of Bremen; (fn. 145) and a further crushing blow was thus inflicted on the policy of Henry VIII. in Northern Europe.
I must now bring these remarks to a close.
There are certainly other subjects contained in this volume which might fairly justify more or less of comment, but it is impossible to do justice to everything. The papers must speak for themselves, and the condensed abstracts, I trust, will be found a sufficient guide. So, merely repeating former acknowledgments to my friend Mr. Friedmann, and to Messrs. Martin and Brodie of this Office, I once more take leave of the reader.