Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 13 Part 2, August-December 1538. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1893.
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The latter half of the year 1538 was marked by a revival of those vindictive executions by which Henry's subjects were so repeatedly warned of the danger that attended treason. The most distinguished victims of the King's severity fell in December; but even in August there were one or two whose fate deserves to be noticed. By this time it might have been supposed that the rebellion in the North, at least, had been fully expiated; but if anyone imagined that the King would be satisfied with hanging a host of active and willing insurgents, he did not know Henry. Weakness in yielding to rebels was to him the same thing as rebellion, and required to be dealt with in the same way. Time only might be necessary in some cases to give effect to the decisive blow without making enemies of all the world at once. For this cause, apparently, the proceedings against Thomas Miller, Lancaster herald, for having bowed the knee to Aske, and endeavoured to pacify the rebels with assurances that their demands would be conceded, were only taken a year and a half after the date of his offences. Private enmity on the part of two other members of the Heralds' College seems also to have assisted in procuring his ruin. (fn. n1) He was tried at York assizes, along with Henry Litherland, vicar of Newark, and Robert Moreby, a monk of Fountains abbey, who were accused of other treasons. All three were found guilty and suffered capitally, with fifteen more commonplace offenders. (fn. n2)
About the same time one Edmund Coningsby, a groom of the King's Chamber, (fn. n3) was convicted in London of having counterfeited the King's sign manual and privy signet, and was hanged, drawn, and quartered at Tyburn. (fn. n4) There were also some attainders of felony and high treason at Exeter, which were not for political offences. (fn. n5)
Such cases can hardly be called characteristic of the times. But we get some insight into the social condition of the country from a case heard before certain justices of the peace in Lincolnshire at the end of August. One Thomas Bawmburgh, of Barrow, was brought before them for using "proud words" to the abbot of Thornton. He was rebuked by Thomas Dymok from the bench, who told him there were too many such busy fellows as he in the country. The man replied with an oath, "By God's blood, there will be "mo or they be fewer;" whereupon he was committed to the stocks. From the circumstances as reported one would say that he had brought his punishment upon himself; but apparently he had only given vent to feelings which were shared by many, and his father, Laurence Bawmburgh, reviled the constable who had apprehended him, saying, "This doing is polling (extortion), and I trust this world will amend once." The constable, James Clarke, took down his words in writing and presented them to Sir William Ayscough next day at Stallingborough. But Sir William, apparently thinking that a justice of the peace ought not to encourage discord, said severely, "Get you home and agree together, for you will never let till one of you undo another." The constable, however, was not to be silenced and carried the case to Sir Robert Tyrwhit, who found Laurence Bawmburgh's words "heinous against the King," and committed him to Lincoln Castle. The constable, moreover, complained of being interfered with by two other men both in this matter and some others. The chief of the two offenders was sentenced to stand an hour in the pillory, first at Barton and afterwards at Caister; the other at Barton only. Sir William Ayscough complained of these sentences as unprecedented in their severity; but one of his colleagues said they had the King's letter for the punisment of such offenders, and Sir Robert Tyrwhit gave him a severe rebuke for his indulgence towards disorderly characters. (fn. n6) It is clear that even a country justice in those days only laid himself open to censure by endeavouring to administer the law with gentleness.
The suppression of the monasteries, meanwhile, still went on. By various arts and means the heads of these establishments were induced to surrender, and occasionally, when an abbot was found, as in the case of Woburn, to have committed treason in the sense of recent statutes, the house (by a stretch of the tyrannical laws) was forfeited to the King by his attainder. But attainders certainly were exceptional, surrenders being the general rule. In May the abbey of Bordesley, in Worcestershire, surrendered to Dr. Legh, (fn. n7) and the great, historic abbey of Battle, in Sussex, to Dr. Layton. (fn. n8) Magnificent the latter must still have been externally, as its ruins are to this day; but the very grandeur of the Conqueror's design had been too costly to maintain, and the Visitor's remarks are a little humiliating:— "So beggary a house I never see, nor so filthy stuff!" (fn. n9) In June Legh took the surrender of Halesowen, in Worcestershire, (fn. n10) and proceeded to Thurgarton, in Nottinghamshire, and thence again to Axholme, in Lincolnshire, (fn. n11) both of which houses likewise yielded to him. Bisham, in Berkshire, which had been already dissolved in the preceding year as a priory, and refounded by the King as an abbey (apparently to please Jane Seymour) with endowments from the spoils of Chertsey, (fn. n12) surrendered again to Layton, (fn. n13) and a commission was sent down into Wales to take possession of its cell, the priory of Cardigan. (fn. n14) About the same time Welbeck, in Nottinghamshire, and Roche, in Yorkshire, surrendered to Dr. Peter. (fn. n15) In July Huntingdon priory and St. Katharine's, Lincoln, did the same to Dr. Legh; (fn. n16) and on the 27th of that month Layton, according to the Close Roll, took the surrender of Combermere in Cheshire. But either the date is an error, or Layton's name has been wrongly inserted in the inrolment; for it is certain that on the 30th he was in Kent and took the surrender of the venerable abbey of St. Augustine's, Canterbury. (fn. n17)
In August the great priory of Walsingham (fn. n18) was the principal booty. The image of Our Lady, which had been the object of so many pilgrimages, had not long before been removed, and Prior Vowel had petitioned, but petitioned in vain, that the house might at least be converted into a college. Dr. Peter (fn. n19) took the acknowledgment of the surrender. On the 25th St. James's Abbey, Northampton, surrendered to Dr. Layton; (fn. n20) on the 28th, St. Mary Pré Abbey, Leicester, yielded to Dr. Cave. (fn. n21) On the 1st September Dr. Legh captured the small priory of Fordham or Bigyng, and on the 3rd the abbey of nuns at Chateris, in Cambridgeshire. (fn. n22) On the 7th a surrender of Vale Royal Abbey, in Cheshire, was taken by a Mr. Holcroft, but the abbot wrote two days later from Lichfield, where it appears he was very ill, though he had gone so far on the journey up to London to remonstrate, protesting that neither he nor his monks had ever consented to surrender; and the abbot's signature attached to the document is undoubtedly in a different hand from the abbot's own letter. (fn. n23) Thus this particular case has a suspicious character of its own ; but the result was the same as in all other cases, for the abbot's remonstrance, of course, was ineffectual. On the 8th Croxton abbey, in Leicestershire, surrendered to Dr. Legh, along with its cell of Horneby, in Lancashire, On the 14th he took Tutbury into his hands, and on the 16th Rocester; on the 18th Hulton or Hilton, and on the 20th Sulby; (fn. n24) while Dr. Peter, in Lincolnshire, received nine Gilbertine priories (fn. n25) for the King, and the abbey of Biddlesden, in Buckinghamshire, surrendered to Dr. London. (fn. n26)
The bishop of Dover, meanwhile, was carrying out his programme as to the Friars, and since we left him at Marlborough in July (fn. n27) he had not only taken the Bristol houses into his hands, but also those of Worcester, (fn. n28) Bridgenorth, Lichfield, Stafford. Newcastle-under-Lyne, two of the houses at Shrewsbury, and those of Chester, Rhuddlan, Denbigh, Bangor, Llanvaes, Ludlow, Hereford, and Carmarthen before the month of August was out. (fn. n29) His own accounts of his proceedings in consecutive letters to Cromwell (fn. n30) certainly show the character of a bishop most singularly merged in that of a man of business. Whatever else he omitted he never failed to appraise the houses, lead and furniture; and generally the houses were very poor and had no lead at all but only tiles or slates upon the roof. Yet the friars who were least able to live through poverty were most unwilling to give up. The Grey Friars gave him more trouble than all the rest; for any of the brethren who could learn that he was coming gave notice to the rest, and they did their best before he arrived to defeat his purpose. (fn. n31) They were no doubt hiding their church plate or handing it over to others to take care of. And that was serious, for the church plate was nearly all the Bishop could rely on to pay the expense of the visitation.
In September he pursued his work at Haverford West, Cardiff, Newport in Monmouthshire, Bristol, Ilchester, Bridgewater, Exeter, Plymouth, Bodmin, Truro and Dorchester. (fn. n32) In all these places he took surrenders, while in the East of England the friars' houses at Thetford and Lynn were given up to other agents. (fn. n33) To these should be added the Grey Friars at Norwich, of which the duke of Norfolk would have taken the surrender, but being ill he sent his son, the earl of Surrey, who did so in his place. The two other houses of friars in that city were left for a time; but the Duke thought that they should be enjoined to make no more waste; for the Black Friars, clearly perceiving what was coming, had already sold their greatest bell. (fn. n34)
The bishop of Dover while in the Midlands strongly urged Cromwell, as Vicar-General, to send down dispensations to allow friars to put off their habits and mix with the world as secular priests or laymen. (fn. n35) No great pressure perhaps might be necessary to make them take this course, for, though they were not communicative, it was evident that they could not live so easily as before under their old rule, and their scruples, which were very real, would yield to obvious necessity. The advice was pretty well in keeping with the Vicar-General's policy, except that mere suasion probably never entered his thoughts. Indeed, rumours sprang up at this time that not only friars but monks also would soon be expected to abandon their habits, and the prior of Christchurch, Canterbury, wrote earnestly to urge that such a measure should not be applied to him and his brethren, to break the observance of over nine hundred years. (fn. n36) His entreaty, however, was of no avail. Cromwell himself happening to be at Canterbury with the King in the beginning of September, intimated to the monks in the chapter house that the change was actually resolved on, and Dr. Richard Thornden, warden of the cathedral manors, who was accustomed to provide new apparel for them yearly at All Hallows' day, wrote to ask when it was to take place (fn. n37) The friars, however, were compelled to change at once. (fn. n38) We know, indeed, on the authority Foxe the Martyrologist, a warm admirer of Cromwell's arbitrary proceedings, one example at least of the coercion by which the change was enforced; and the instance is worth quoting for more reasons than one:— (fn. n39)
"Hereunto also," says Foxe, "pertaineth the example of Friar Bartley, who wearing still his friar's cowl after the suppression of religious houses, Cromwell, coming through Paul's Churchyard, and espying him in Rheines's (fn. n40) shop, 'Yea,' said he, 'will not that cowl of yours be left off yet? And if I hear by one o'clock that this apparel be not changed, thou shalt be hanged immediately, for example to all others.' And so, putting his cowl away, he durst never wear it after." (fn. n41)
The unfortunate friar who was treated in this arbitrary manner was the celebrated Alexander Barclay, the poet, translator of Sebastian Brandt's "Ship of Fools." (fn. n42) This work he tells us himself he had composed "in the College of St. Mary Ottery, in the county of Devonshire," in 1508, and though in the opinion of his most recent biographers he had terminated his connection with that college, and even with the West country, a few years later, it is certain that he was in Devonshire again, and also in Cornwall, in the autumn of 1538. He had meanwhile passed through some curious changes; for by 1520 he had become a monk. In that year he is spoken of as "the Black monk and poet" whose services were wanted "to devise histoires and convenient raisons" for the buildings at the Field of the Cloth of Gold. (fn. n43) In 1528 either he or a namesake (perhaps for giving offence to Wolsey) was a refugee abroad like Roy and Tyndale. (fn. n44) At some uncertain date he had ceased to be a Benedictine and entered the Franciscan Order of Friars; and probably it was in August or September of this year, 1538, that the above incident occurred of his meeting Cromwell in St. Paul's Churchyard. In October, William Dynham, a country gentleman who had been sheriff, writing of him from Lifton in Devonshire, calls him "a frere in a somewhat honester weed" (implying that by this time he had put off his friar's habit), but reports that his preaching had been decidedly objectionable, and relates some conversations he had held with him at the priory of St. Germains in Cornwall, in which the squire vindicated the Royal theology to the divine, and told the latter that he was a false knave who sought to hinder the truth. (fn. n45) Possibly it was Dynham also who wrote to Latimer "Frere Bartlow doth much hurt in Cornwall and Devonshire, both with open preaching and also with private communication." (fn. n46)
In October, the work of suppression still went on, and a very brief notice must suffice of what was done during the remainder of the year. Dr. Peter concluded his work among the Gilbertine priories by receiving a tenth house, Mattersey in Nottinghamshire, for the King on the 3rd October. (fn. n47) Dr. Legh in Warwickshire received Mereval on the 13th; (fn. n48) from which he passed on to the Black Ladies (or Benedictine Nuns) of Brewood in Staffordshire whose surrender he took on the 16th, and that of Lilleshall in Salop the same day. (fn. n49) On the 17th he took that of St. Thomas' priory, Stafford; (fn. n50) on the 20th that of Dieulacres in Staffordshire. (fn. n51) On the same day Wetherall in Cumberland surrendered; but it was only on the 28th January following that, he took the acknowledgment of surrender. (fn. n52) On the 22nd, Darley; on the 24th, Dale; and on the 25th, Repton in Derbyshire (fn. n53) fell into his hands. On the 27th Grace Dieu in Leicestershire did the same. (fn. n54) On the 1st November he was at Bardney Abbey in Lincolnshire, which he likewise captured; (fn. n55) on the 5th he obtained possession of Pipwell in Northamptonshire; (fn. n56) on the 8th, of Barnwell in Cambridgeshire. (fn. n57) Two days later he was in London, where he took the surrender of the White Friars. (fn. n58)
During the same period, his colleague Layton took the surrenders of Marmonde in Cambridgeshire on the 14th October, (fn. n59) and Shouldham in Norfolk next day; (fn. n60) of Chicksand in Bedfordshire on the 22nd; (fn. n61) and of Malling in Kent on the 29th. (fn. n62) In taking this last surrender he was assisted by Dr. Peter, who had nine days before taken that of St. Thomas' of Acon in London. (fn. n63) Winter being now at hand, both Legh and Layton came to London, where, as already mentioned, on the 10th November the former took the surrender of the White Friars. On the 12th, they both joined in taking that of the Grey Friars, but took separately those of the Austin, the Crutched, and the Black Friars. (fn. n64) Surrenders in the country, however, still went on. Bishop Roland Lee along with Mr. Justice Sulyard took that of Wigmore Abbey on the 18th November. (fn. n65) Sir George Lawson and other Commissioners took those of Worksop in Nottinghamshire on the 15th, of Monk Bretton in Yorkshire on the 21st or 22nd, of Byland on the 30th, of Rievaulx on the 3rd December, of Kirkham on the 8th, and of Knaresborough later in the month. (fn. n66) In another part of the country, John Williams, by royal commission, took that of Eynsham on the 4th December and Nutley on the 9th. (fn. n67) In London, also, Dr. Peter took that of St. Helen's priory on the 25th, Christmas day. (fn. n68)
The houses of friars suppressed during the last quarter of the year were also very numerous; so that, in fact, at the end of December there were very few left standing. By the beginning of October the Bishop of Dover had reached Salisbury, where he took the surrenders of the Grey Friars and the Black. (fn. n69) On the 6th he took that of the Austin Friars at Southampton; on the 8th those of the Grey and Black Friars at Chichester; on the 10th, that of the Black Friars at Arundel, and on the same day that of the Black Friars at Guildford. (fn. n70) A brief silence in the records shortly after this implies that he was with Cromwell in London; after which, as he says in a later letter, he received to the King's use the Black Friars in Dunstable, the Grey in Ware, Babwell, and Walsingham, the Black and White in Norwich, the Black, White, and Grey in Yarmouth, the Austin in Gorleston, and then, coming through Suffolk and Essex various other houses in Dunwich, Orford, Ipswich, Clare, Colchester, Maldon, and Chelmsford. (fn. n71) After this he put out the Friars of King's Langley, of which he was himself prior, and made a valuation of the house, of which he hoped Cromwell's influence would procure him a gift from the King. (fn. n72) No wonder such an assiduous visitor and suppressor thought this a fair reward for his services.
Then there was Dr. London, no less active though not so great a traveller. On the 1st October he took the surrender of the Grey Friars at Aylesbury and handed over the house by command to "Mr. Geffrey, the King's servant." (fn. n73) On the 3rd he took that of the Grey Friars, Bedford, and handed it over in like manner to Mr. Gostwick, with whose help he proposed to turn all the friars into secular priests. (fn. n74) On the 6th he had got to Stamford, where he first took the surrender of the Austin Friars on the 6th, then of the Black Friars on 7th, and of the Grey and White Friars on the 8th. (fn. n75) From thence he proceeded to Coventry, where he took the surrenders of two houses of White and Grey Friars. (fn. n76) The next stage was Warwick, where the Black Friars surrendered to him on the 20th. (fn. n77) A few miles south of Warwick was Thelesford, a house of Crossed Friars, which surrendered to him on the 26th. (fn. n78) Here he had the satisfaction of putting down an "idol" named Maiden Cutbroghe, which received offerings of oats from country people to cure headaches. (fn. n79) A day, or, it may be two days later, he reached Northampton, where the Black and the White Friars both surrendered to him, but certainly not on the 20th, the date actually given in the documents. (fn. n80) He was still at Northampton on the 29th, having also dissolved the Augustinians, whose prior he found it necessary to put in prison with most of his convent. The prior, he wrote, was one of the most unthrifty he had met with—a great dicer and reveller; but, what evidently was more serious in Dr. London's eyes, he and the convent had pawned away all their plate and stuff on feigned bills of sale, not having received a penny, in some cases, of the consideration money. But shortly before Dr. London's arrival he divided 30l. of "plate money" among his brethren. Altogether their transactions had an ugly look, and the friars, when examined in prison accused each other. (fn. n81) Returning towards Oxford, Dr. London pressed the prioress of Godstow to surrender her house, but she took his coming "pensively" and refused to surrender except at the King's command or Cromwell's. (fn. n82) In fact, she succeeded in preserving her monastery for full twelve months more. On the 30th November Dr. London completed his work for the year by taking the surrender of the Trinitarian friars at Donnington in Berkshire. (fn. n83)
Of the remaining houses of friars the Grey Friars of Grimsby were dissolved by John Freeman on the 9th October. (fn. n84) Three houses at Leicester surrendered to local commissioners on the 10th November. (fn. n85) Later in the month a number of houses in Yorkshire also surrendered, viz., at Doncaster, Tickhill, Pontefract, and York itself, (fn. n86) and on the 20th December the White Friars of Northallerton. (fn. n87) Their surrenders were taken by the same commissioners who received the Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire Monasteries.
The crusade against superstition was also going on more vigorously than ever. Even in the early spring it seems to have been determined that the image of Our Lady of Walsingham and that of St. Thomas of Canterbury should be sent up to London to be destroyed like the Rood of Boxley; (fn. n88) and in June Latimer wrote to Cromwell expressing his ardent desire that "our great Sibyl" as he called the image of the Virgin in his own Cathedral, should meet with similar treatment. She had been the Devil's instrument, he feared, to bring many to eternal fire; and he thought she and her young sister of Ipswich, and her sisters at Doncaster and Penrice, would make "a jolly muster" in Smithfield. They would not be all day, he said, in burning. (fn. n89) Commissioners came down in July (fn. n90) and removed the image of Walsingham with all the gold and silver things in the chapel there. (fn. n91) "Her young sister of Ipswich" was likewise sent up to London and stowed away for a time in Cromwell's "wardrobe of beds" by his careful servant Thomas Thacker. (fn. n92) Meanwhile bishop Barlow in Pembrokeshire was removing "idolatrous" images as quietly as he could, pleading at the same time all the more strongly for the transference of his see to Carmarthen that the people might be the better rescued from Popish delusions. (fn. n93) At Cambridge, the prior of the Black Friars, wise in his generation, asked for power to remove the image of Our Lady in his own house before Sturbridge fair as much pilgrimage had been made to her in past years. (fn. n94) At Buxton and Burton-on-Trent, Sir William Basset took away and sent up to Cromwell the images of St. Anne and St. Modwen, defacing the "tabernacles" where they had stood, and carrying off the "crutches, shirts, and sheets" placed as votive offerings by grateful patients who had received benefit from the healing waters. Nay, to check the "fond trust" the people had in those images he even locked up the baths and wells of Buxton that none might wash therein any more till Cromwell's pleasure were known. (fn. n95) Of this pair of female saints Thacker also took the custody and placed them beside Our Lady of Ipswich. (fn. n96) At Basingstoke lord Sands received orders to pull down another noted image, and sent it up likewise to Cromwell's house at Austin Friars. (fn. n97)
Relics, too, were sent up as well, as at Wisborough Green in Sussex, where Sir William Goryng compelled the churchwardens to deliver a crucifix with a crystal containing some of Our Lady's milk and various other articles almost equally doubtful. (fn. n98)
But a far more notable case occurred in the beginning September, of which we hear singularly little just at the moment, though the outcry which it occasioned immediately afterwards rang through Europe. "Mr. Pollard," John Husee writes to his mistress, lady Lisle, "has been so busy, night and day in prayer with offering unto St. Thomas' shrine and head with other dead relics that he could have no idle worldly time to peruse your Ladyship's book for the draft of your Ladyship's letters." (fn. n99) This satirical statement conveyed the intimation that Richard Pollard, an important officer of the Exchequer, was busy at the time carrying off the spoils of that magnificent shrine at Canterbury, which was the wonder of all Christendom, and had been the goal of continual pilgrimages for three centuries past. The gold and precious stones taken from it, according to Stowe, filled two great chests such as six or seven strong men could do no more than convey one of them at once out of the church. (fn. n100) The booty, of course, was all carefully secured, and the different relics of the saint in different parts of the church, the skull encased in silver which many generations had kissed,—the amputated crown, kept apart from the true head—the bones within the shrine itself— were all ignominiously burned. (fn. n101)
Opposition to things done by the Kind's authority was hopleless; but gratuities were paid to "sundry monks and chief officers" of the monastery for their actual co-operation in the "disgarnishing" of the shrine. (fn. n102) A week later Pollard was at Reading, from which he sent up to London the spoil of the Grey Friars; (fn. n103) and within another week he was at Winchester along with Wriothesley "making an end" of the shrine there. (fn. n104) It was certainly a much poorer one than that of Canterbury — "no gold, nor ring, nor true stone in it, but all great counterfeits." In the Cathedral, however, were a cross of emeralds, a gold cross called Jerusalem, and another gold cross, besides further valuables well worth taking away. (fn. n105) Meanwhile the image of Our Lady of Penrice in the diocese of Llandaff was taken down "as secretly as might be" by Cromwell's orders (fn. n106) — to do such things openly in Wales was evidently dangerous. Dr. London probably had less difficulty when he pulled down the image of Our Lady of Caversham, near Reading, and took away the lights, shrouds, crutches, and images of wax set about her; then locked up the chapel, turning out the canon who kept it, and sent the relics that were inside to Cromwell. These included two that may have been genuine,—the daggers with which Henry VI. and St. Edward the King and Martyr had been assassinated,—along with such curiosities as the halter with which Judas was hanged and "an angel with one wing that brought to Caversham the spear's head that pierced our Saviour's side upon the Cross." (fn. n107)
Of course it was an object to put down superstitious relics; but where their suppression did not enrich the royal treasury the case was not so urgent. "The Blood of Hailes" had been denounced by Hilsey as an imposture at Paul's Cross as early as the 24th February; (fn. n108) and the abbot, as we have seen, (fn. n109) had gone up to London to ask Cromwell's advice what to do about such a questionable curiosity. He had not gone, apparently, without rather strong suggestions from Latimer, in whose diocese the abbey was situated, and he declared that the journey had been to him and his house a peculiarly expensive one. But when he told his brethren in the cloister that his going to London had cost him besides travelling expenses, 140l., and required "the best mitre, the best cross, and another thing or two," to meet the expenses, he must have meant that the Court had its eye on the spoils of their monastery and they must consider how to protect themselves against rapacity. Latimer was afraid that all the jewels of the house might thus be "surveyed" away without Cromwell's knowledge, and evidently considered that "the Bloody Abbot," as he called him, required sharp looking after. (fn. n110) As for the Blood itself, however, the inquiry was not instituted till October, when a commission was issued for the purpose to Bishop Latimer and his zealous assistant, Prior Holbeche, of Worcester, the Abbot himself and Richard Tracy. Considering that the thing to be done must jar with many prejudices their proceedings were certainly judicious. They probably called the neighbouring gentry as witnesses; at least they told Cromwell afterwards that they had acted in the presence of a great multitude. They took the glass containing the liquid out of the silver-mounted "berall" (fn. n111) in which it was enclosed, and subjected it to careful examination. They found it was a viscous substance, cleaving like gum or birdlime; in the glass it looked red, but when a little was taken out it had a colour like amber. After the examination they sealed it up in red wax and locked it in a coffer, which they placed in the Abbot's custody, giving the key to Richard Tracy till the King's further pleasure was known what should be done with it. (fn. n112) But what was done with it ultimately we are not told. (fn. n113)
It is curious to note that three months before this, that is to say, in July, but still while the war against superstition was at its height—when Our Lady of Walsingham had just been sent up to London and Our Lady of Ipswich was about to follow her, the King was supposed by some to have had a supernatural warning to go on pilgrimage himself. He was then at Portsmouth, and it was said that an angel, or according to another version, that his last Queen, Jane Seymour, had appeared to him, and had warned him to go on pilgrimage to St. Michael's Mount, and offer a noble there on pain of death. Widow Nowell at Salisbury was even informed that he had actually bent a noble for the purpose of offering it, and she said to a neighbour as she entered his house to procure fire, "God save the King! I trust we shall go a pilgrimage again." (fn. n114) The rumour, of course, was speedily checked by the city authorities.
An incident of more secular character, and, except as to its scale, and as to its final result, very much like an incident of modern times, was what we should call a "strike" of shoemakers at Wisbeach. On the 21st July one-and-twenty journeymen shoemakers assembled at a mill hill outside that town called the Millfield, to make a compact that none should work unless their masters agreed to give them 18d. instead of 15d. for sewing every dozen pair of shoes; and one of the men taking a primer out of his bosom caused another to administer an oath to that effect. The matter was presently reported to the bishop of Ely, who merely as a leading justice of the peace could do no less than apprehend six of the men and take their depositions. One of these men was, it seems, a brother of the notorious "Captain Cobbler," the insurgent leader of Lincolnshire in 1536. (fn. n115) Everyone of course was concerned to inquire about this new revolt against authority, and the duke of Norfolk despatched from Kenninghall on the 12th August the treasurer of his house to Cromwell, with information that he had collected on the subject. (fn. n116) Next day the bishop of Ely wrote that he had got eight more of the shoemakers apprehended, making 14 in all; and that of the remainder three were still in the town and could be taken when desirable; one had fled to Lynn, where he had been arrested and examined, and three others could not be found, though their wives remained in the town. (fn. n117) Here our information on the subject ends.
To the King, of course, a shoemakers' strike, especially on such a very minute scale, and any idle gossip about visions that he had seen at Portsmouth were matters of profound indifference. Nothing had actually happened at this time within the kingdom which was calculated to give him uneasiness. But what might happen if foreign princes only cared a little less either for his threats or for his amity he could not but foresee. Intelligence gradually drifted into England of the interview between Francis and the Emperor at Aigues Mortes, and of the peace, as it was called, made between them previously at Nice. It was formally, as we have seen, only a ten years' truce, brought about by the Pope's mediation; (fn. n118) but the interview which so closely followed had produced quite a new state of cordiality and a genuine conviction on both sides that peace was for their mutual advantage. (fn. n119) Cut off from direct sources of information, Henry's subjects could not realise the situation as well as he did himself. (fn. n120) Even the French ambassador did not receive intelligence as speedy, or as complete, as might have been expected, and made no sign of a satisfaction which he did not really feel when the Emperor's two representatives were fully in possession of the news. (fn. n121) But the King understood fully its significance; and it was not without a thought of defensive operations in the future that he determined to visit Dover in August and inspect the progress made with the harbour, which he had been for years constructing. (fn. n122) In point of fact hasty orders had been issued to strengthen the defences both of Dover and other ports with men and gunpowder. And similar precautions were taken on the frontiers of Calais. (fn. n123)
Meanwhile the German ambassadors in England, after nearly two months' conference with the Bishops, were anxious to re burn to their own country. Their theological discussions had not led to any particular result, but they expressed themselves hopeful of fuller agreement. Three further papal abuses, they considered, required to be eradicated in England,—the prohibition of Communion in both kinds, private masses, and the compulsory celibacy of the clergy. On these subjects they set forth their own minds with full arguments in writing, hoping that the Bishops would answer them in the same manner. But the Bishops, knowing that the King intended to do so, declined the responsibility; and Henry wrote a reply to them at considerable length, upholding each of the usages objected to, but promising to take further counsel. The ambassadors were unable to leave before October; (fn. n124) they seem to have been shamefully ill-lodged, and one of them was seriously ill in September; but their mission at least served to assure the Lutherans of Henry's most friendly regard for them, and in writing to the duke of Saxony on their return he begged once more that Melancthon and some other of their divines might be sent over to him to complete matters. (fn. n125)
The real problem with regard to his own subjects, as Henry knew quite well, was not to force on a number of further changes, but to give fuller and more complete effect to those which had already taken place. All the while he was plundering the churches of their treasures he must assert his own supreme authority over the Church of the realm, and compel the clergy to obey him in all things. On the 5th September accordingly Cromwell as the King's Vicegerent issued a new set of injunctions to the clergy instructing them how to discharge henceforth their pastoral duties. Each incumbent was to provide, at the joint expense of himself and the parish, an English bible "of the largest volume," to be set up in the Church, and to do all in his power to encourage his parishioners to read it there, admonishing them, however, "to avoid all contention and altercation therein." He was also to recite publicly the Paternoster and the Creed in English, one small part every Sunday, and afterwards the Ten Commandments, that his parishioners might learn them by degrees, and examine them on the two former in Lent as a condition of receiving the Sacrament. He was to preach at least once every quarter of a year, discouraging pilgrimages and the offering of candles or money to images, to take down all images that were associated with such superstitions, and not allow any lights except one by the rood loft, one before the Sacrament, and one about "the sepulchre." Various other observances also were to be discontinued, among them "the commemoration of Thomas Becket," and every parson was enjoined henceforth to keep a register of weddings, christenings, and burials. (fn. n126)
What was the meaning of that last innovation? Parish registers have been kept in this country from that day to this, but people had done very well without them hitherto, and apparently did not want them. They were certainly not thankful for their institution. For, ever since the beginning of the preceding year, when the North of England was full of disaffection, it had been hinted that the King was bent on new and unheard of methods of taxation. Besides a general plunder of church plate, with the suppression of two parish churches out of three, and various other extortions, it was said that he contemplated a tax on weddings, christenings, and burials. (fn. n127) And there is really nothing to show that the surmise was incorrect, although it is clear that Henry did not venture to put the design (if he entertained it) either now or at any time afterwards into execution. That would certainly have been too dangerous. But the institution of parish registers might facilitate such taxation in future if it was thought later on that the people could endure it. And this, apparently, was the interpretation commonly put upon the measure, though, so long as no new exactions were levied men refrained from uttering their suspicions aloud. (fn. n128)
In theology Henry had, with fine political astuteness, carefully guarded his position. His destruction of images and of St. Thomas' shrine, whatever his own subjects thought of it, was enough in itself to secure him much sympathy from the German Protestants, who still looked to him for further acts of reformation. (fn. n129) On the other hand, he claimed, for his own part, to be still a "Defender of the Faith" as much as ever, and to be most zealous against every effort to corrupt it. Before the German ambassadors had left England he must have received a letter from the duke of Saxony and the Landgrave of Hesse, warning him that they had found evidence of the spread of Anabaptist opinions in England, and that individual Anabaptists in Germany felt much desire to go thither as to a land where the truth (as they held it) was silently making its way. (fn. n130) Henry certainly acted in the spirit of this admonition, and on the 1st October, the very day that he wrote to the duke of Saxony upon the return of the envoys, he issued a commission to the archbishop of Canterbury and other divines to search for and examine these objectionable heretics, and hand over all those who would not renounce their errors, to the secular power for punishment. (fn. n131) Next month he issued a proclamation commanding all Anabaptists who were not the King's born subjects, even if they if they had revoked their heresy, to leave the realm within twelve days on pain of death, and forbidding the King's own subjects, under a like penalty, either to hold or to teach such doctrines. (fn. n132) The result was seen on the following Sunday, the 24th of the month, when four Dutch or Flemish Anabaptists—three men and a woman—recanted and bore faggots at St. Paul's. On the 29th, St. Andrew's Eve, two others—a man and a woman—were burned in Smithfield ; and on St. Andrew's Day itself, a young German of twenty two—the husband of the last victim, suffered the like fate at Colchester. (fn. n133)
Shortly before this proclamation against Anabaptists, another proclamation had been issued having a more general bearing on heresies and on Church authority in general as it was now to be interpreted. In the first place, literature was to be very carefully protected against poisonous doctrine. No books in the vulgar tongue were to be published, imported, or sold without special license. None were even to be printed except under the eye of the Privy Council or of some one appointed by the King; and licensed books must bear a notification that the license extended only to their printing—the printers, apparently, being still held responsible for their contents. Then, no one was to discuss the doctrine of the Sacrament, except divines in the schools; and as touching matters of ritual, holy bread, holy water, kneeling and creeping to the Cross on Good Friday, and a number of other old ceremonies were to be kept up until the King pleased to alter them. Priests known to have wives were to be deprived, and those marrying in future were to be liable to imprisonment. Bishops and other preachers were to set forth clearly in their sermons the differences between divine ordinances and ceremonies depending only on usage in the Church; and Becket was to be no longer treated as a Saint, but his name was to be razed out of every service book, his "pictures" (or images) were to be removed in every church, and his festival was no longer to be observed. (fn. n134)
Between these two proclamations—or rather on the precise date of each—was enacted a tragedy in two distinct parts, which commanded no small amount of public attention. John Nicholson, otherwise called Lambert, a priest, who having, as Foxe tells us, early imbibed the views of Bilney in Norfolk, where he was brought up, had naturally found the world generally against him for some twenty years—apparently from the days when he was a student at Cambridge. In 1521 even Katharine of Arragon's influence proved insufficient to get him a fellowship at Queen's college, because he could not give satisfactory evidence of his learning, though he was then a bachelor of Arts. Other facts in his early history, such as that he was chaplain to "the English house" at Antwerp till disturbed by Sir Thomas More, and brought to London and examined for heresy by archbishop Warham shortly before that prelate's death, appear to have been ascertained by Foxe from sources now unknown. At this time, as the same writer informs us, having ventured to criticise a sermon by Dr. Taylor, rector of St. Peter's, Cornhill, he was led into a discussion both with him and Dr. Barnes which ended in his being charged with heresy. He objected, it seems, not only to the doctrine of the Real Presence, but also to infant baptism, and other parts of the Church's teaching. Of course he had been called on to recant, but he appealed to the king as Supreme Head of the Church, and professing great confidence in Cromwell, who had done so much for the spread of the Gospel, declared he was quite ready to meet his accusers in argument. The king agreed to hear him in person; and on the 16th November he was brought into the hall at York Place, where great preparations had been made of scaffolds and seats for his trial. The King was seated on a platform or "hautt place" at the end of the hall with a number of bishops, judges, and temporal lords about him and the mayor and aldermen of London; and his Majesty deigned himself to reason with the prisoner, confuting his arguments, of course, to the admiration of all present; so that in the end, we are told, Lambert had nothing to say for himself. The spectacle was, no doubt, impressive, and even in a private letter to Lord Lisle John Husee could not forbear telling how it "rejoiced" all faithful subjects "that saw and heard how his Grace "handled the matter." It would be a precedent for all time, so that no one should hereafter attempt to propagate such mischievous doctrine. We need not wonder, of course, that Sir Thomas Elyot in dedicating his "Dictionary" to Henry VIII. Is no less laudatory of the King's behaviour on the occasion, and of his "wonderful patience" in meeting the heretic's "foolish and tedious objections." (fn. n135)
But if Lambert had nothing to say for himself in answer to such an august antagonist, he at least did not give in; and tie 22nd November witnessed his execution. "Yesterday," wrote Husee to Lord Lisle on the 23rd, "was brent in Smithfield Lambert, alias John Nycolson; and the same day two Flemings and a woman, one of their wives, adjudged to death, and the third man abjured. These were Anabaptists. It is thought more of that sect shall to the fire." (fn. n136)
Henry could never afford to lose the repute of being zealous for Orthodoxy. It was half the secret of his power. He might compel the Church to accept his supremacy; he might plunder shrines and force monasteries to surrender; he might even seem to turn back the tide of centuries (now no doubt already on the ebb) by forbidding pilgrimages and denouncing as a rebel "the holy blissful martyr" who had died in defence of the civil rights at one time conceded to the Church. But all this he could not have done if he had not carefully weighed in his own mind the demands he made upon the spirituality, and been able to vindicate what he had done like a theologian to whom the matters of the Faith were no less dear than his crown to a temporal ruler. Never was it more necessary than now to impress the world with his absolute supremacy and his perfectly clear insight into all questions both of Church and State For, however his own subjects stood in awe of him, well he knew that a storm was gathering with which it required his utmost energy and vigilance to cope. The treaty between Francis and the Emperor had become an accomplished fact; it seemed almost growing into a cordial alliance, and whatever remained of ancient grudges between the two sovereigns they were alike at heart in their utter detestation of a King to whom from sheer distrust of each other they had both hitherto been far too complacent.
Henry knew it all perfectly; but his policy was to appear undaunted. The more the danger thickened the more audacious his proceedings were. How he blinded the eyes of Castillon we have seen before; but it is amusing to observe how he succeeded even after the receipt of intelligence which should have undeceived the ambassador in persuading him that the Emperor could not afford to quarrel with him. "And what about the duchy of Milan?" he inquired, when Castillon himself reported the great amity that now existed between the Emperor and Francis. "The friendship will not last "long," he added; "I once held interviews with the "Emperor for three weeks." And he threw out a hint to the ambassador that he, too, would have a meeting with the Emperor, to neutralise the effect of that with Francis. (fn. n137) But Castillon appreciated the true state of matters very shortly afterwards on receipt of letters from his master, and he felt not a little ashamed of his credulity, though want of frequent information from his own Government might be pleaded as an extenuation. He now spoke to Henry of the cordiality between Francis and the Emperor as an assured fact, and the King saw clearly enough that he was no longer to be imposed upon.
Henry, indeed, cut rather a ludicrous figure in the conversation which followed. For months he had been insinuating to Castillon that the Emperor attached greater value to his alliance than Francis did, and Castillon had been strongly urging the importance of counteracting this impression by the offer of a suitable French bride. (fn. n138) Sir Francis Brian, too, who had been sent over in the spring, with the view, as it was supposed, of taking Gardiner's place as ambassador at the French court, (fn. n139) obtained a portrait of the Duke of Guise's second daughter, sister of James V.'s new queen, which he sent over to Henry. Her appearance certainly pleased the King, but like a discreet man, fully conscious of the importance of a matrimonial choice, he desired to see other ladies as well before making up his mind, and his worthy representative Brian, whose sense of delicacy in such matters was quite equal to his own, suggested to Francis in his master's name that he should allow not only Mademoiselle de Guise, but also some other ladies of the houses of Lorraine and Vendôme to go in company with his sister the Queen of Navarre as far as Calais, where Henry coming over could see them with his own eyes and select a bride for himself from among them. The proposal to trot out young ladies "like hackneys" excited at the French court a ridicule greater even than disgust; but the disgust was very real and no doubt had much to do with the coldness shown to Brian afterwards. (fn. n140) The King, however, treated the refusal of Francis as a serious cause of complaint in conversation with Castillon. He was, indeed, at the time in very ill humour at the amity between Francis and the Emperor, which Castillon in vain assured him would not affect the cordiality of the former to himself. If so, he asked the ambassador, why did Francis decline to gratify him about the ladies? He could not select a wife by deputy. That was a matter which concerned him too closely. Castillon smiled and made a very gross suggestion in reply as giving fuller expression to the King's meaning, adding ironically, "Was it not thus that the Knights of the Round Table used to treat ladies in this country in the days of yore?" For once Henry's face was covered with blushes, and he could not help laughing. But recovering himself he said he was resolved not to marry unless either Francis or the Emperor preferred his friendship to that which they had with each other, and he tried to make Castillon still believe that he could secure the latter result without difficulty by allying himself in marriage with the Emperor. (fn. n141)
He saw clearly enough, however, that he must now adopt a different course from that which he had been pursuing. He was very angry at Brian for his ill success, and ordered not only him but Gardiner and Thirleby also to return home on being replaced by Bonner, who was then in Spain. (fn. n142) Brian had certainly blundered egregiously ; he had been checked at every move, and had not only failed to prevent the good understanding between Francis and the Emperor, but was not without suspicion, till Francis assured him to the contrary, that they had concluded something against his master. (fn. n143) When he reached home he met with such a reception from the King that he immediately took to bed "sore sick of a burning ague." So very ill he was that on the report of his physician, Dr. Cromer, the King was induced to send him his own physician, Dr. Michael, for further advice; and, cheered no doubt, by this token of returning favour quite as much as benefited by the consultation, he began to revive somewhat. But even a week later he was not expected to recover, and one country gentleman at least made application to Cromwell for some of the offices he would leave vacant. (fn. n144)
As for Gardiner, he had already been treated harshly by the King while abroad on this embassy, having been compelled to give up, sorely against his will, his pleasant mansion at Esher, with lands around it reaching from Cobham to Kingston, the property of his see, and been severely rebuked by Cromwell for expressing regret in doing so. (fn. n145) His duties as ambassador had been painful enough, and he had been promised his recall in May, 1537, but the state of affairs was such that his services could not be dispensed with. (fn. n146) Now, after an interval of fifteen months, he was at last released from his duties. But to be supplanted by a younger diplomatist was not agreeable; the man, moreover, was not to his liking, and the way in which he was authorised to take his place made the fact peculiarly unpalatable. Bonner was clearly rising in the King's favour, and took with him royal letters authorising him to demand of Gardiner and Thirleby, whom he was sent to replace, such plate as the latter had of the King's, and such necessary outfit as the former could spare from his private property, to keep up appearances as an ambassador. (fn. n147) Compensation was to be given to Gardiner when he got home; but as a matter of fact he had nothing that he could spare. He could not, he said, give him his table linen—for the curious reason, that none was needed in France,—nor his mules, as he should have to get others for himself; nor his "mulet cloths," because his arms were upon them. Bonner replied that, as he would give him nothing, he in return would thank him for nothing, and a most unseemly altercation ensued. (fn. n148) Gardiner's temper was not improved when within some ten days or a fortnight afterwards he was informed that the King had nominated Bonner to the vacant bishopric of Hereford. (fn. n149)
But the new representative of England at the French Court could do little more than the old ones. Henry had not the slightest influence either with Francis or with the Emperor, save what might be due to some faint remains of old suspicions; and for the present these seemed, to have been put aside. Henry's idle boasts to Castillon that he would hold an interview with the Emperor and get his daughter made duchess of Milan no longer deceived even the ambassador to whom they were addressed. For Castillon and Chapuys now took counsel together freely, and so did French and Imperial agents everywhere. (fn. n150) They communicated to each other without reserve the suggestions made by England to promote mutual jealousy. Moreover, a meeting had been arranged and was just about to take place, between the Queen of France and Queen Mary of Hungary, Regent of the Netherlands, (fn. n151) which would certainly tend to unite the Emperor and Francis all the more closely—especially as Francis himself was to be there a little later. Nay, a rumour had reached England that the Emperor might possibly go from Spain to the Netherlands through France; and though the Imperial ambassadors had not been informed of any such intention, they saw no reason why it should not be fulfilled. (fn. n152) (fn. n153)
The King was almost at the end of his resources. He had visibly lost much of his usual buoyancy of spirits. (fn. n154) But diplomacy might still do something with the Emperor if not with Francis. There had been nothing, indeed, approaching to a rupture with either Prince, but the game in France had been spoiled by Brian's maladroitness. With the Emperor all was smooth—as far at least as mere courtesy went. Two marriage alliances had been under discussion all the year, which were to bind England and the Emperor together more firmly. The first was between the King himself and the Duchess Dowager of Milan ; the second—a much older proposal—between the King's daughter Mary and Dom Luiz, Infant of Portugal. Conferences had been held on these subjects in London in February between the Imperial ambassadors and commissioners appointed by the King. (fn. n155) Then the matters were referred to the Emperor in Spain, who in June sent back Wyatt to England with a statement of the terms on which he thought the negociations should proceed. (fn. n156) Henry made some criticisms, apparently not to commit himself too deeply till he knew what offers he was likely to obtain from France. (fn. n157) Then it was arranged that English commissioners should go over to negociate the matter in the Netherlands with the Regent, Queen Mary of Hungary, to whom the Emperor sent authority to treat of both marriages, and to conclude and ratify that of Mary with Dom Luiz. (fn. n158) On this Don Diego de Mendoza, a special ambassador sent by Charles to England to negociate the latter marriage so long ago as March 1537, and who had remained in the country ever since, received instructions at last to take his leave of the King and betake himself to the Court of Mary of Hungary. He accordingly sought out the King in Sussex, who with much cordiality said he relied on him to advance the matters to the best of his power, and begged he would urge both the Emperor and the Queen of Hungary to be a little more frank with him. (fn. n159)
He also expressed a hope that Don Diego would write to him frequently from Flanders—a thing which the courteous Spaniard very properly declined to do, saying that he thought it would be quite sufficient if he wrote to Chapuys, who remained still resident. Henry also hoped that both he and Chapuys would do their best in the matter, and get the Queen of Hungary to transmit to him the substance of the powers she had received from the Emperor; otherwise he did not see how the thing was to be managed. Here the ambassadors were perplexed, and said they were instructed by the Queen of Hungary to make a similar demand of him—which, in fact, was a more reasonable commencement. But Henry stuck to his point, and went into some further discourse about the importance of the matter to himself, as he was too far advanced in years to wait much longer; and yet that he was more intent now on his daughter's marriage than his own ; all which did not tend to increase the estimate the ambassadors had formed of his sincerity, especially as they believed his chief object in pressing the marriage of the Princess was to extract from the Emperor some declaration about Milan, which he might use in stirring up dissensions once more between the two leading powers of Europe. (fn. n160)
The policy was not a hopeful one. From the first. Mary of Hungary had been perfectly convinced of the insincerity of the English with reference to the proposed marriage with the Duchess of Milan; (fn. n161) and we may be quite sure that the Emperor had formed the same opinion. But it was the policy of both all along to meet dissimulation with dissimulation, and avoid unpleasantness as long as possible, till the Emperor and France could act together with full assurance. Just before his embarcation at Dover, Don Diego found that the King had arrived there with Cromwell before him, and he sent a message to know if Henry would like to see him again. No, the King was too busy banquetting some French ladies (the suite of the deceased Queen of Scotland, (fn. n162) now returning to France) unless the business was very urgent. And yet Cromwell informed him privately that Henry was much displeased with the Queen of Hungary for not letting him know at once that she was in possession of the Emperor's power for negociating the two marriages, which seemed to have been given her with no real view to business. Don Diego had no difficulty in retorting the charge of coldness on the King himself and his advisers, and Cromwell could not but acknowledge that there had been remissness in the past, for which the King was now anxious, he said, to make amends. But the real meaning of the King's great anxiety for these alliances was quite apparent to the ambassador. The measures taken at that very moment to fortify Calais, Dover, and the coast, explained it fully; and Cromwell only made it still more clear by the jealousy he expressed of the coming interview between Mary of Hungary and the King and Queen of France. (fn. n163)
At length, Thomas Wriothesley, one of the King's secretaries, having finished, along with Pollard, the demolition of the shrines of Canterbury and Winchester, was despatched to Mary of Hungary to discuss matters. He had a joint commission along with Stephen Vaughan, who had gone over a little in advance of him—apparently in consequence of the death of Hutton, the King's ambassador at Brussels. They were to represent that the desire expressed both by her and by the Emperor, for the promotion of the two marriages had been very feebly manifested in practice, and there had been very long delays. For, first, the Emperor's commissions to his ambassadors in England were found insufficient, and then, when at the King's suggestion the Emperor had sent a commission to her in Flanders, Henry had written to her by Don Diego and received no reply. Worse still, the King had heard that other matches had been proposed for the Duchess of Milan, both in Prance and in Juliers, though he could not believe that the Regent would be guilty of such bad faith towards himself as to countenance any such projects. (fn. n164)
To Vaughan, who arrived at Brussels and had his first audience with the Regent while Wriothesley was on his journey through Kent, (fn. n165) she succeeded in excusing herself with plausible grace. Whatever the French might report neither she nor the Emperor was otherwise than sincere. She had heard that the King himself seemed cold and had been seeking a French bride, so that they made the less haste, but she would write to the Emperor again for a speedy despatch. With that she dismissed Vaughan, promising a fuller answer before she started, four days later, for the meeting with the King and Queen of France at Compiegne. (fn. n166) But she failed to fulfil her promise till she reached Valenciennes, where she gave audience to Vaughan and Wriothesley together, and patiently listened while they again referred to rumours importing great dissimulation used towards their master. She again protested her own and the Emperor's complete sincerity, said she had written to the King some days before, and waived further explanations till she should return from the interview. (fn. n167) Wriothesley and Vaughan, notwithstanding that the former was ill of an intermittent fever, brought on, apparently, by his too rapid travelling, followed the Regent to Compiegne, where they were joined by Carne, sent over to assist them; while Sir Anthony Browne and Bonner arrived at the same place in attendance on the French court. Thus the English envoys alike to France and the Low Countries were brought into personal communication for a time, and were able to compare notes on their equally fruitless attempts at diplomacy. Browne and Bonner had been treated with a neglect which was resented as positive incivility, while Wriothesley and his colleagues had met with the utmost, courtesy and consideration. But the result was the same in both cases. The two Courts were entirely occupied with mutual civilities and could afford no audiences to Henry VIII.'s representatives. And as for Wriothesley and his colleagues, even after the Queen Regent's return to Brussels, they met with a civil dilatoriness, with continued excuses and makeshifts for delay, that gave abundant evidence of what her own confidential correspondence with the Emperor shows distinctly— (fn. n168) that she and the Emperor were only keeping the English in play with a full determination to come to no result whatever. Neither the King nor his ambassadors were deceived as to their intention, which was indeed not very unlike his own. It was only a question whether in the course of long negociations and conferences some diplomatic advantages could be gained that might be turned to account elsewhere. And in this long game of chess Wriothesley, Vaughan and Carne were detained in Flanders during the whole of the winter until the succeeding spring. (fn. n169)
With these remarks I leave the diplomacy of the time to be pursued in detail by those who desire so to study it. Henry's interest in continental affairs was mainly directed to the Courts of Spain, France and the Netherlands; but he also studied on the map the doings of Barbarossa in the Mediterranean, with not a little delight when the Christian squadrons were defeated by the Infidel. (fn. n170) Whatever tended to alarm the other powers of Europe and draw off forces from a possible attack on England—a new irruption of the Turks into Hungary—a defeat of Andrea Doria off Corfu—anything that reminded the Emperor in particular that his large and scattered dominions were vulnerable at various points, besides being weak internally in some quarters—was welcome news to Henry. For well he knew what the uninterrupted tranquility of Europe would mean as regards himself. At Rome and elsewhere he had been pointed at as the real Turk for years; but he had defied and insulted Rome, and however much in fear of the temporal powers, he treated the spiritual head of Christendom with more marked contempt than ever. The news of the outrage on Becket's shrine filled the College of Cardinals, to whom it was announced by the Pope in consistory on the 25th October, with a horror greater even than that of the defeat of the Christian fleet by the Turks. (fn. n171) But what was to be done to avenge this new impiety? Excommunication had been tried years ago to correct Henry's former excesses, and -it had been tried in vain. But excommunication was the utmost limit to which a mere spiritual power could go, and nothing more, apparently, could be done unless the temporal powers of Europe would aid Paul III. to carry out the sentence.
The question was referred to a committee of four cardinals, two of whom had held English bishoprics in time past, and one of them at least (Ghinucci) had continued anxious to do service to England even after his deprivation. The step ultimately taken was no doubt in accordance with their report. It consisted in the reissue with some additions of the bull of excommunication dated the 30th August 1535, (fn. n172) after citing which at full length the document went on to relate how the Pope had been induced to suspend its execution at the request of various princes in the hope that Henry would amend, and how that hope, which he had cherished for nearly three years, had been altogether disappointed. For the King every day increased in his ferocity, which he now exhibited, not merely against living priests and bishops as before, but even against dead saints. He had caused the bones of St. Thomas of Canterbury, which had been preserved in a golden shrine, to be "exhumed" and burned and scattered to the winds, after having, in gross contempt of religion, called the saint to judgment, condemned him as contumacious, and declared him a traitor. He had also appropriated all the precious gifts appended to the shrine; and, as if that were not enough, he had further spoiled the monastery of St. Augustine in the same city, expelled the monks and put in deer in their place—an enormity unheard of even among the Turks. It was impossible to deal with such a disease except by cutting off the rotten member. The Pope therefore was now resolved to publish the bull and proceed to execution; but as there was a difficulty in conveying its tenor to Henry himself, its publication at Dieppe and Boulogne in France, or St. Andrews and Coldstream in Scotland, or Tuam and Ardfert in Ireland, instead of at Tournay and Dunkirk, the places mentioned in the former bull, should be taken as equivalent to a personal intimation of it to the King and his subjects. (fn. n173)
This was all that the Pope could do; but whether the bull even yet would ever be published, either in the Low Countries, in France, in Scotland, or in Ireland, depended on political considerations which were beyond his Holiness's control. Charles towards the end of the year was thinking more of an expedition to Constantinople against the Turk (fn. n174) than of making any effort for the coercion of England, until his own interests elsewhere were a little better established. Francis, indeed, was less interested in this matter, and though he promised to join it after the expiration of his truce with Solyman, he was of opinion that Christendom ought first to be purified within by the reduction of the king of England and the Lutherans to the true faith. (fn. n175) The French were really horrified at Henry's atrocities, and Francis was probably quite sincere in wishing for a perfect understanding with the Emperor and the Pope to bring him to his knees. (fn. n176) If the Emperor would only bind himself to break off all diplomatic intercourse with England, Francis was quite ready to do the same. (fn. n177) But if the Emperor thought the Turk a more pressing danger to him than England it was clear that Francis would do nothing, and the execution of this new bull, like that of its predecessor, would have to be deferred.
At Rome there was one Englishman painfully interested in the situation. From what he doubtless felt to be a really patriotic point of view—and even (as it may have seemed to him at first) for the preservation of his own family in England from their impending fate — cardinal Pole strongly urged the Emperor's ministers to take the Pope's part at once and free his country from a sacrilegious tyranny. (fn. n178) Later in the year he was commissioned to go to Spain as legate to plead the same cause to the Emperor himself; (fn. n179) while David Beton was raised to the Cardinalate and sent to Scotland to animate James V. in the same way. (fn. n180)
But Henry had long been arming himself against danger, either within the kingdom or from without. As early as March there was a talk about a new bodyguard for the King. The body of yeomen of the guard instituted by Henry VII., partly for dignity and partly for personal protection, had become inefficient from the laxity used in allowing many absences on account of private business; and it was intended to appoint a Great Master of the Household as in France, with fifty spears under him. The scheme remained some months in abeyance, and was expected ultimately to take effect at Christmas, though it is rather doubtful whether it ever took effect at all. The new body was to consist of a hundred gentlemen, members of the Household, each of whom had three horses in his own keeping. They were to be under the command of Fitzwilliam Earl of Southampton, the lord Admiral. (fn. n181)
Further, the King kept a watchful eye on all those powerful and prominent families which, it might reasonably be suspected, seriously disliked his proceedings; and long before the new body was constituted he had struck an appalling blow at some of the old nobility, Cardinal Pole's near relations being among the principal victims. At the end of August Sir Geoffrey Pole, the Cardinal's younger brother, was committed to the Tower. (fn. n182) His arrest was followed by that of his personal friend, at one time his servant, Hugh Holland, a Hampshire yeoman, who was taken up to London with his hands bound behind him and his legs tied under his horse's belly. The reason was not divulged, but a rumour arose among the country people that Holland was suspected of carrying letters over sea, and that if Sir Geoffrey Pole had not been interfered with he would have sent a band of men abroad to his brother the Cardinal. (fn. n183) The story was traced to a harper of Havant, whom the earl of Southampton put in gaol after he had been too lightly dismissed by a Sussex justice of the peace. But the reason for the detention of Sir Geoffrey and Holland was still kept a secret. After he had been nearly two months in prison a set of very searching interrogatories was administered to the former, as to the approval he had expressed of his brother the Cardinal's proceedings, the correspondence he had kept up with him and the medium of communication between them, and further, as to his intercourse with John Helyar, vicar of East Meon, in Hampshire, (fn. n184) who had fled abroad some years before to avoid the tyranny at home, and whether he had not arranged to meet him at Louvain, perhaps with the intention of going further to visit his brother the Cardinal, and what preparations he had made for his departure? Further, what persons had conversed with him and expressed agreement with himself in wishing for "a change of this world"? (fn. n185)
To these interrogatories he made an imperfect answer on the 26th October before Fitzwilliam, earl of Southampton, and others commissioned to take his depositions in the Tower; but imperfect as it was, it implicated more or less, various other persons, among whom were his brother, lord Montague, the marquis of Exeter, lord Delawarr, and some of the canons of Chichester. Apparently the information was extracted by fear of torture after much discomfort in prison, and he was driven, by very terror, to beg "that he might have good keeping and cherishing," and he would then fully open all he knew, whether it touched mother, brother, uncle, or any other. He was brought up once more for examination on the 2nd November, and again on the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, 11th and 12th, and made more full revelations every time. (fn. n186) Meanwhile a number of other arrests were made and a number of other depositions taken. Montague and the marquis of Exeter were taken to the Tower on the 4th. "I think few lords in this country are safe," wrote the French ambassador in communicating the fact to Montmorency. (fn. n187) The marchioness of Exeter was examined and put her signature to depositions touching her husband, lord Montague and Sir Edward Nevill; (fn. n188) and inventories were taken of the property of the Marquis and descriptive lists of all his servants. (fn. n189)
The specific information elicited from day to day will be seen in the depositions. (fn. n190) Among other points that came to light there was found to have been some very suspicious burning of private correspondence at the houses both of lord Montague and of Sir Geoffrey Pole. (fn. n191) Old accusations against the marquis and marchioness of Exeter were revived—how the marchioness had ridden in disguise in years past to consult the Nun of Kent, and how the Marquis had been put in the Tower in 1531, charged with assembling the people of Cornwall and aspiring to be King. (fn. n192) Being the son of Katharine, daughter of Edward IV., he was next in succession to the crown if the King died without lawful issue; and the fact could not but be much in people's minds. Lord Montague and Sir Geoffrey Pole, with the Cardinal, their brother, were also of the House of York, being sons of Margaret countess of Salisbury, the daughter of that ill-fated Clarence said to have been drowned in a malmsey butt. Their mother, too, was questioned closely, and it must be added brutally, by Fitzwilliam, earl of Southampton, and Goodrich, bishop of Ely, (fn. n193) as to her knowledge, either of her son the Cardinal's original departure from England, or of the flight of other exiles, or of the burning of papers or anything else in the conduct of her sons at home that looked like disloyalty; all which she steadily denied and maintained her own perfect innocence until, after Fitzwilliam had removed her to his own house at Cowdrey, some papal bulls and private correspondence were found in her house at Warblington which had escaped notice at a survey of her goods taken by Fitzwilliam himself, and which seemed to serve the purpose of the accusers. (fn. n194)
It is needless to pursue the story in detail. Montague and Exeter were brought to their trial as peers on the 3rd December before lord Chancellor Audeley as High Steward, with the result that might have been foreseen. Next day Sir Geoffrey Pole, Sir Edward Nevill, Hugh Holland, George Croftes, late Chancellor of Chichester Cathedral, and John Colyns, clerk, were brought before the King's Bench. All but Nevill pleaded guilty, though Croftes at first stood out. The jury, however, found Nevill guilty with the rest, and the usual sentence was passed upon all. (fn. n195) On Monday the 9th December, (fn. n196) Holland and Dr. Croftes were hanged and quartered at Tyburn, and immediately afterwards the two lords, Exeter and Montague, with Sir Edward Nevill, were beheaded on Tower Hill. Sir Geoffrey Pole ultimately received a pardon from the King, but what could a pardon do for his peace of mind? Soon after his arrest he had made a desperate effort to commit suicide (fn. n197) and avoid the protracted examination which betrayed his family. He was now a miserable man for life. But even on the last day of the year his formal pardon does not seem to have been yet granted. He was still in the Tower, and the French ambassador wan informed that they were still hoping to learn more from him. (fn. n198)
If anyone living in happier times be disposed to wonder at all this tyranny and injustice, and how it could have been safely perpetrated on prominent men in a high spirited nation like the English, he must remember that the merits of the case were not at all clearly or fully set before the public. The mode of trial always bore hard upon the accused, and if the people at large suspected, as they did, that all was not perfectly equitable, matters of State were not theirs to pry into. They could only compassionate in silence the victims of oppression. On the other hand there were men who thought the King could not be wrong whatever he did, and whose zeal for the overthrow of monasteries seems to have clouded their moral judgment as regards other parts of the King and Cromwell's policy. It is painful in the extreme to find a man like Latimer applauding the destruction of an innocent family in such words as he addressed to Cromwell on the 13th December: — "Blessed be God of England that worketh all, whose instrument you be! I heard you say once, after you had seen that furious invective of Cardinal Pole, that you would make him to eat his own heart; which you have now, I trow, brought to pass, for he must needs now eat his own heart and be as heartless as he is graceless." (fn. n199)
The ruin of Pole's unhappy family had been determined on long before; (fn. n200) and, sad to say, Latimer knew it, yet approved of the accomplished fact. The whole family were doubtless, in his eyes, enemies of "the truth." The Countess of Salisbury, who was not proceeded against, like her son, by any form of law, but was reserved for execution two and a half years later under an act of attainder, was strongly opposed to what she and most other people called "the new learning," though Latimer and the King's friends considered it the true Gospel; and one Gervase Tyndall, otherwise named Clifton, whose visits were unwelcome at Warblington, had not long before suggested the examination of her chaplains as likely to give information of some seditious speaking in her household. It was this Tyndall, apparently, who set in motion the inquisitorial machinery that was sure to do its work. His expenses were paid by Wriothesley in September for a double journey to and from Lewes and for living there two or three days, doubtless about the 27th August when Cromwell was there— (fn. n201) just before the date of Sir Geoffrey Pole's arrest. And there it was, no doubt, that he revealed to Cromwell things imparted to himself in confidence by members of lady Salisbury's household — how lady Salisbury forbade the reading in her house of English New Testaments and other new books authorised by the King,—under what circumstances John Helyar the fugitive rector of Warblington had a few years before escaped beyond sea,—and, most important of all, how Hugh Holland had of late been passing to and fro across the Channel, conveying letters to Helyar and forwarding some, it was believed, to the arch-traitor Cardinal Pole himself, by which all the secrets of the realm were known to "the Bishop of Rome." (fn. n202)
With this imperfect survey of the leading facts contained in the papers before us we must draw our remarks to a close. There are indeed many other subjects which invite attention on which we have not space to enlarge. Among these are the Duchess of Guise's letters to her daughter the new Queen of Scotland, the Irish, the Scotch, and the Border correspondence, which will probably invite retrospective treatment hereafter; the acquisition of land by the Crown for a new park, and the building of Nonsuch palace; also the well-known story of the English bible printed in France, of which we have some few further notices in documents not hitherto made known. But these subjects must be left to the reader to study for himself.
One thing more remains to be said. I have so frequently expressed my deep indebtedness to Mr. Brodie for his steadfast, able, and judicious assistance, that repetition might almost seem to be uncalled for. But it is only right to say that his great industry and sound judgment have added most materially to the value of these volumes, having enabled me in many cases to detect and eliminate, before it was too late, a large portion of those inevitable errors to which a work like this is continually liable, even with the most constant vigilance on the part of its Editor. I may add that these services are likely to be all the more important now, when owing to my no longer holding an official position in the Record Office, a coadjutor in constant attendance is an indispensable condition of the work being carried on as it has been.