THE KING AND HIS PARLIAMENT.
In the closing days of July, 1529, a courier came posting from Rome with despatches announcing the alliance of Clement and Charles, and the revocation to the Papal Court of the suit between Henry VIII and the Emperor's aunt. Henry replied with no idle threats or empty reproaches, but his retort was none the less effective. On the 9th of August writs were issued from Chancery summoning that Parliament which met on the 3rd of November and did not separate till the last link in the chain which bound England to Rome was sundered, and the country was fairly launched on that sixty years' struggle which the defeat of the Spanish Armada concluded. The step might well seem a desperate hazard. The last Parliament had broken up in discontent; it had been followed by open revolt in various shires; while from others there had since then come demands for the repayment of the loan, which Henry was in no position to grant. Francis and Charles, on whose mutual enmity England's safety largely depended, had made their peace at Cambrai; and the Emperor was free to foment disaffection in Ireland and to instigate Scotland to war. His chancellor was boasting that the imperialists could, if they would, drive Henry from his kingdom within three months, and he based his hopes on revolt among Henry's own subjects. The divorce had been from the beginning, and remained to the end, a stumbling-block to the people. Catherine received ovations wherever she went, while the utmost efforts of the King could scarcely protect Anne Boleyn from popular insult. The people were moved, not only by a creditable feeling that Henry's first wife was an injured woman, but by the fear lest a breach with Charles should destroy their trade in wool, on which, said the imperial ambassador, half the realm depended for sustenance.
To summon a Parliament at such a conjuncture seemed to be courting certain ruin. In reality, it was the first and most striking instance of the audacity and insight which were to enable Henry to guide the whirlwind and direct the storm of the last eighteen years of his reign. Clement had put in his hands the weapon with which he secured his divorce and broke the bonds of Rome. "If," wrote Wolsey a day or two before the news of the revocation arrived, "the King be cited to appear at Rome in person or by proxy, and his prerogative be interfered with, none of his subjects will tolerate it. If he appears in Italy, it will be at the head of a formidable army." A sympathiser with Catherine expressed his resentment at his King being summoned to plead as a party in his own realm before the legatine Court; and it has even been suggested that those proceedings were designed to irritate popular feeling against the Roman jurisdiction. Far more offensive was it to national prejudice, that England's king should be cited to appear before a court in a distant land, dominated by the arms of a foreign prince. Nothing did more to alienate men's minds from the Papacy. Henry would never have been able to obtain his divorce on its merits as they appeared to his people. But now the divorce became closely interwoven with another and a wider question, the papal jurisdiction in England; and on that question Henry carried with him the good wishes of the vast bulk of the laity. There were few Englishmen who would not resent the petition presented to the Pope in 1529 by Charles V. and Ferdinand that the English Parliament should be forbidden to discuss the question of divorce. By summoning Parliament, Henry opened the floodgates of anti-papal and anti-sacerdotal feelings which Wolsey had long kept shut; and the unpopular divorce became merely a cross-current in the main stream which flowed in Henry's favour.
It was thus with some confidence that Henry appealed from the Pope to his people. He could do so all the more surely, if, as is alleged, there was no freedom of election, and if the House of Commons was packed with royal nominees. But these assertions may be dismissed as gross exaggerations. The election of county members was marked by unmistakable signs of genuine popular liberty. There was often a riot, and sometimes a secret canvass among freeholders to promote or defeat a particular candidate. In 1547 the council ventured to recommend a minister to the freeholders of Kent. The electors objected; the council reprimanded the sheriff for representing its recommendation as a command; it protested that it never dreamt of depriving the shire of its "liberty of election," but "would take it thankfully" if the electors would give their voices to the ministerial candidate. The electors were not to be soothed by soft words, and that Government candidate had to find another seat.In the boroughs there was every variety of franchise. In some it was almost democratic; in others elections were in the hands of one or two voters. In the city of London the election for the Parliament of 1529 was held on 5th October, immensa communitate tunc presente, in the Guildhall; there is no hint of royal interference, the election being conducted in the customary way, namely, two candidates were nominated by the mayor and aldermen, and two by the citizens. The general tendency had for more than a century, however, been towards close corporations in whose hands the parliamentary franchise was generally vested, and consequently towards restricting the basis of popular representation. The narrower that basis became, the greater the facilities it afforded for external influence. In many boroughs elections were largely determined by recommendations from neighbouring magnates, territorial or official. At Gatton the lords of the manor nominated the members for Parliament, and the formal election was merely a matter of drawing up an indenture between Sir Roger Copley and the sheriff, and the Bishop of Winchester was wont to select representatives for more than one borough within the bounds of his diocese. The Duke of Norfolk claimed to be able to return ten members in Sussex and Surrey alone.
But these nominations were not royal, and there is no reason to suppose that the nominees were any more likely to be subservient to the Crown than freely elected members unless the local magnate happened to be a royal minister. Their views depended on those of their patrons, who might be opposed to the Court; and, in 1539, Cromwell's agents were considering the advisability of setting up Crown candidates against those of Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester. The curious letter to Cromwell in 1529, upon which is based the theory that the House of Commons consisted of royal nominees, is singularly inconclusive. Cromwell sought Henry's permission to serve in Parliament for two reasons; firstly, he was still a servant of the obnoxious and fallen Cardinal; secondly, he was seeking to transfer himself to Henry's service, and thought he might be useful to the King in the House of Commons. If Henry accepted his offer, Cromwell was to be nominated for Oxford; if he were not elected there, he was to be put up for one of the boroughs in the diocese of Winchester, then vacant through Wolsey's resignation. Even with the King's assent, his election at Oxford was not regarded as certain; and, as a matter of fact, Cromwell sat neither for Oxford, nor for any constituency in the diocese of Winchester, but for the borough of Taunton. Crown influence could only make itself effectively felt in the limited number of royal boroughs; and the attempts to increase that influence by the creation of constituencies susceptible to royal influence were all subsequent in date to 1529. The returns of members of Parliament are not extant from 1477 to 1529, but a comparison of the respective number of constituencies in those two years reveals only six in 1529 which had not sent members to a previous Parliament; and almost if not all of these six owed their representation to their increasing population and importance, and not to any desire to pack the House of Commons. Indeed, as a method of enforcing the royal will upon Parliament, the creation of half a dozen boroughs was both futile and unnecessary. So small a number of votes was useless, except in the case of a close division of well-drilled parties, of which there is no trace in the Parliaments of Henry VIII. The House of Commons acted as a whole, and not in two sections. "The sense of the House" was more apparent in its decisions then than it is to-day. Actual divisions were rare; either a proposal commended itself to the House, or it did not; and in both cases the question was usually determined without a vote.
The creation of boroughs was also unnecessary. Parliaments packed themselves quite well enough to suit Henry's purpose, without any interference on his part. The limiting of the county franchise to forty-shilling (i.e., thirty pounds in modern currency) freeholders, and the dying away of democratic feeling in the towns, left parliamentary representation mainly in the hands of the landed gentry and of the prosperous commercial classes; and from them the Tudors derived their most effective support. There was discontent in abundance during Tudor times, but it was social and economic, and not as a rule political. It was directed against the enclosers of common lands; against the agricultural capitalists, who bought up farms, evicted the tenants, and converted their holdings to pasture; against the large traders in towns who monopolised commerce at the expense of their poorer competitors. It was concerned, not with the one tyrant on the throne, but with the thousand petty tyrants of the villages and towns, against whom the poorer commons looked to their King for protection. Of this discontent Parliament could not be the focus, for members of Parliament were themselves the offenders. "It is hard," wrote a contemporary radical, "to have these ills redressed by Parliament, because it pricketh them chiefly which be chosen to be burgesses.... Would to God they would leave their old accustomed choosing of burgesses! For whom do they choose but such as be rich or bear some office in the country, many times such as be boasters and braggers? Such have they ever hitherto chosen; be he never so very a fool, drunkard, extortioner, adulterer, never so covetous and crafty a person, yet, if he be rich, bear any office, if he be a jolly cracker and bragger in the country, he must be a burgess of Parliament. Alas, how can any such study, or give any godly counsel for the commonwealth?" This passage gives no support to the theory that members of Parliament were nothing but royal nominees. If the constituencies themselves were bent on electing "such as bare office in the country," there was no call for the King's intervention; and the rich merchants and others, of whom complaint is made, were almost as much to the royal taste as were the officials themselves.
For the time being, in fact, the interests of the King and of the lay middle classes coincided, both in secular and ecclesiastical affairs. Commercial classes are generally averse from war, at least from war waged within their own borders, from which they can extract no profit. They had every inducement to support Henry's Government against the only alternative, anarchy. In ecclesiastical politics they, as well as the King, had their grievances against the Church. Both thought the clergy too rich, and that ecclesiastical revenues could be put to better uses in secular hands. Community of interests produced harmony of action; and a century and a half was to pass before Parliament again met so often, or sat so long, as it did during the latter half of Henry's reign. From 1509 to 1515 there had been on an average a parliamentary session once a year, and in February, 1512, Warham, as Lord Chancellor, had in opening the session discoursed on the necessity of frequent Parliaments. Then there supervened the ecclesiastical despotism of Wolsey, who tried, like Charles I, to rule without Parliament, and with the same fatal result to himself; but, from Wolsey's fall till Henry's death, there was seldom a year without a parliamentary session. Tyrants have often gone about to break Parliaments, and in the end Parliaments have generally broken them. Henry was not of the number; he never went about to break Parliament. He found it far too useful, and he used it. He would have been as reluctant to break Parliament as Ulysses the bow which he alone could bend.
No monarch, in fact, was ever a more zealous champion of parliamentary privileges, a more scrupulous observer of parliamentary forms, or a more original pioneer of sound constitutional doctrine. In 1543 he first enunciated the constitutional principle that sovereignty is vested in the "King in Parliament". "We," he declared to the Commons, "at no time stand so highly in our estate royal as in the time of Parliament, wherein we as head and you as members are conjoined and knit together in one body politic, so as whatsoever offence or injury during that time is offered to the meanest member of the House, is to be judged as done against our person and the whole Court of Parliament." He was careful to observe himself the deference to parliamentary privilege which he exacted from others. It is no strange aberration from the general tenor of his rule that in 1512 by Strode's case the freedom of speech of members of Parliament was established, and their freedom from arrest by Ferrers' case in 1543. In 1515 Convocation had enviously petitioned for the same liberty of speech as was enjoyed in Parliament, where members might even attack the law of the land and not be called in question therefor. "I am," writes Bishop Gardiner, in 1547, apologising for the length of a letter, "like one of the Commons' house, that, when I am in my tale, think I should have liberty to make an end;" and again he refers to a speech he made during Henry's reign "in the Parliament house, where was free speech without danger". Wolsey had raised a storm in 1523 by trying to browbeat the House of Commons. Henry never erred in that respect. In 1532 a member moved that Henry should take back Catherine to wife. Nothing could have touched the King on a tenderer spot. Charles I, for a less offence, would have gone to the House to arrest the offender. All Henry did was to argue the point of his marriage with the Speaker and a deputation from the Commons; no proceedings whatever were taken against the member himself. In 1529 John Petit, one of the members for London, opposed the bill releasing Henry from his obligation to repay the loan; the only result apparently was to increase Petit's repute in the eyes of the King, who "would ask in Parliament time if Petit were on his side". There is, in fact, nothing to show that Henry VIII. intimidated his Commons at any time, or that he packed the Parliament of 1529. Systematic interference in elections was a later expedient devised by Thomas Cromwell. It was apparently tried during the bye-elections of 1534, and at the general elections of 1536 and 1539. Cromwell then endeavoured to secure a majority in favour of himself and his own particular policy against the reactionary party in the council. His schemes had created a division among the laity, and rendered necessary recourse to political methods of which there was no need, so long as the laity remained united against the Church. Nor is it without significance that its adoption was shortly followed by Cromwell's fall. Henry did not approve of ministers who sought to make a party for themselves. The packing of Parliaments has in fact been generally the death-bed expedient of a moribund Government. The Stuarts had their "Undertakers," and the only Parliament of Tudor times which consisted mainly of Government nominees was that gathered by Northumberland on the eve of his fall in March, 1553; and that that body was exceptionally constituted is obvious from Renard's inquiry in August, 1553, as to whether Charles V would advise his cousin, Queen Mary, to summon a general Parliament or merely an assembly of "notables" after the manner introduced by Northumberland.
But, while Parliament was neither packed nor terrorised to any great extent, the harmony which prevailed between it and the King has naturally led to the charge of servility. Insomuch as it was servile at all, Parliament faithfully represented its constituents; but the mere coincidence between the wishes of Henry and those of Parliament is no proof of servility. That accusation can only be substantiated by showing that Parliament did, not what it wanted, but what it did not want, out of deference to Henry. And that has never been proved. It has never been shown that the nation resented the statutes giving Henry's proclamations the force of laws, enabling him to settle the succession by will, or any of the other acts usually adduced to prove the subservience of Parliament. When Henry was dead, Protector Somerset secured the repeal of most of these laws, but he lost his head for his pains. There is, indeed, no escape from the conclusion that the English people then approved of a dictatorship, and that Parliament was acting deliberately and voluntarily when it made Henry dictator. It made him dictator because it felt that he would do what it wanted, and better with, than without, extraordinary powers. The fact that Parliament rejected some of Henry's measures is strong presumption that it could have rejected more, had it been so minded. No projects were more dear to Henry's heart than the statutes of Wills and of Uses, yet both were rejected twice at least in the Parliament of 1529-36.
The general harmony between King and Parliament was based on a fundamental similarity of interests; the harmony in detail was worked out, not by the forcible exertion of Henry's will, but by his careful and skilful manipulation of both Houses. No one was ever a greater adept in the management of the House of Commons, which is easy to humour but hard to drive. Parliaments are jealous bodies, but they are generally pleased with attentions; and Henry VIII was very assiduous in the attentions he paid to his lay Lords and Commons. From 1529 he suffered no intermediary to come between Parliament and himself. Cromwell was more and more employed by the King, but only in subordinate matters, and when important questions were at issue Henry managed the business himself. He constantly visited both Houses and remained within their precincts for hours at a time, watching every move in the game and taking note of every symptom of parliamentary feeling. He sent no royal commands to his faithful Commons; in this respect he was less arbitrary than his daughter, Queen Elizabeth. He submitted points for their consideration, argued with them, and frankly gave his reasons. It was always done, of course, with a magnificent air of royal condescension, but with such grace as to carry the conviction that he was really pleased to condescend and to take counsel with his subjects, and that he did so because he trusted his Parliament, and expected his Parliament to place an equal confidence in him. Henry VIII. acted more as the leader of both Houses than as a King; and, like modern parliamentary leaders, he demanded the bulk of their time for measures which he himself proposed.
The fact that the legislation of Henry's reign was initiated almost entirely by Government is not, however, a conclusive proof of the servility of Parliament. For, though it may have been the theory that Parliament existed to pass laws of its own conception, such has never been the practice, except when there has been chronic opposition between the executive and the legislature. Parliament has generally been the instrument of Government, a condition essential to strong and successful administration; and it is still summoned mainly to discuss such measures as the executive thinks fit to lay before it. Certainly the proportion of Government bills to other measures passed in Henry's reign was less than it is to-day. A private member's bill then stood more chance of becoming law, and a Government bill ran greater risks of being rejected. That, of course, is not the whole truth. One of the reasons why Henry's House of Commons felt at liberty to reject bills proposed by the King, was that such rejection did not involve the fall of a Government which on other grounds the House wished to support. It did not even entail a dissolution. Not that general elections possessed any terrors for sixteenth-century Parliaments. A seat in the House of Commons was not considered a very great prize. The classes, from which its members were drawn, were much more bent on the pursuit of their own private fortunes than on participation in public affairs. Their membership was not seldom a burden, and the long sessions of the Reformation Parliament constituted an especial grievance. One member complained that those sessions cost him equivalent to about five hundred pounds over and above the wages paid him by his constituents. Leave to go home was often requested, and the imperial ambassador records that Henry, with characteristic craft, granted such licences to hostile members, but refused them to his own supporters. That was a legitimate parliamentary stratagem. It was not Henry's fault if members preferred their private concerns to the interests of Catherine of Aragon or to the liberties of the Catholic Church.
Henry's greatest advantage lay, however, in a circumstance which constitutes the chief real difference between the Parliaments of the sixteenth century and those of to-day. His members of Parliament were representatives rather than delegates. They were elected as fit and proper persons to decide upon such questions as should be submitted to them in the Parliament House, and not merely as fit and proper persons to register decisions already reached by their constituents. Although they were in the habit of rendering to their constituents an account of their proceedings at the close of each session, and although the fact that they depended upon their constituencies for their wages prevented their acting in opposition to their constituents' wishes, they received no precise instructions. They went to Parliament unfettered by definite pledges. They were thus more susceptible, not only to pressure, but also to argument; and it is possible that in those days votes were sometimes affected by speeches. The action of members was determined, not by previous engagements or party discipline, but by their view of the merits and necessities of the case before them. Into that view extraneous circumstances, such as fear of the King, might to a certain extent intrude; but such evidence as is available points decisively to the conclusion that co-operation between the King and Parliament was secured, partly by Parliament doing what Henry wanted, and partly by Henry doing what Parliament wanted. Parliament did not always do as the King desired, nor did the King's actions always commend themselves to Parliament. Most of the measures of the Reformation Parliament were matters of give and take. It was due to Henry's skill, and to the circumstances of the time that the King's taking was always to his own profit, and his giving at the expense of the clergy. He secured the support of the Commons for his own particular ends by promising the redress of their grievances against the bishops and priests. It is said that he instituted the famous petitions urged against the clergy in 1532, and it is hinted that the abuses, of which those petitions complained, had no real existence. No doubt Henry encouraged the Commons' complaints; he had every reason to do so, but he did not invent the abuses. If the Commons did not feel the grievances, the King's promise to redress them would be no inducement to Parliament to comply with the royal demands. The hostility of the laity to the clergy, arising out of these grievances, was in fact the lever with which Henry overthrew the papal authority, and the basis upon which he built his own supremacy over the Church.
This anti-ecclesiastical bias on the part of the laity was the dominant factor in the Reformation under Henry VIII. But the word in its modern sense is scarcely applicable to the ecclesiastical policy of that King. Its common acceptation implies a purification of doctrine, but it is doubtful whether any idea of interfering with dogma ever crossed the minds of the monarchs, who, for more than a generation, had been proclaiming the need for a reformation. Their proposal was to reform the practice of the clergy; and the method they favoured most was the abolition of clerical privileges and the appropriation of ecclesiastical property. The Reformation in England, so far as it was carried by Henry VIII., was, indeed, neither more nor less than a violent self-assertion of the laity against the immunities which the Church had herself enjoyed, and the restraints which she imposed upon others. It was not primarily a breach between the Church of England and the Roman communion, a repudiation on the part of English ecclesiastics of a harassing papal yoke; for it is fairly obvious that under Henry VIII. the Church took no measures against Rome that were not forced on it by the State. It was not till the reigns of Edward VI. and Elizabeth that the Church accorded a consent, based on conviction, to a settlement originally extorted by force. The Reformation was rather a final assertion by the State of its authority over the Church in England. The breach with the Roman Church, the repudiation of papal influence in English ecclesiastical affairs, was not a spontaneous clerical movement; it was the effect of the subjection of the Church to the national temporal power. The Church in England had hitherto been a semi-independent part of the political community. It was semi-national, semi-universal; it owed one sort of fealty to the universal Pope, and another to the national King. The rising spirit of nationality could brook no divided allegiance; and the universal gave way to the national idea. There was to be no imperium in imperio, but "one body politic," with one Supreme Head. Henry VIII. is reported by Chapuys as saying that he was King, Emperor and Pope, all in one, so far as England was concerned. The Church was to be nationalised; it was to compromise its universal character, and to become the Church of England, rather than a branch of the Church universal in England.
The revolution was inevitably effected through the action of the State rather than that of the Church. The Church, which, like religion itself, is in essence universal and not national, regarded with abhorrence the prospect of being narrowed and debased to serve political ends. The Church in England had moreover no means and no weapons wherewith to effect an internal reformation independent of the Papacy; as well might the Court of King's Bench endeavour to reform itself without the authority of King and Parliament. The whole jurisdiction of the Church was derived in theory from the Pope; when Wolsey wished to reform the monasteries he had to seek authority from Leo X; the Archbishop of Canterbury held a court at Lambeth and exercised juridical powers, but he did so as legatus natus of the Apostolic See, and not as archbishop, and this authority could at any time be superseded by that of a legate a latere, as Warham's was by Wolsey's. It was not his own but the delegated jurisdiction of another. Bishops and archbishops were only the channels of a jurisdiction flowing from a papal fountain. Henry charged Warham in 1532 with præmunire because he had consecrated the Bishop of St. Asaph before the Bishop's temporalties had been restored. The Archbishop in reply stated that he merely acted as commissary of the Pope, "the act was the Pope's act," and he had no discretion of his own. He was bound to consecrate as soon as the Bishop had been declared such in consistory at Rome. Chapters might elect, the Archbishop might consecrate, and the King might restore the temporalties; but none of these things gave a bishop jurisdiction. There were in fact two and only two sources of power and jurisdiction, the temporal sovereign and the Pope; reformation must be effected by the one or the other. Wolsey had ideas of a national ecclesiastical reformation, but he could have gone no farther than the Pope, who gave him his authority, permitted. Had the Church in England transgressed that limit, it would have become dead in schism, and Wolsey's jurisdiction would have ipso facto ceased. Hence the fundamental impossibility of Wolsey's scheme; hence the ultimate resort to the only alternative, a reformation by the temporal sovereign, which Wycliffe had advocated and which the Anglicans of the sixteenth century justified by deriving the royal supremacy from the authority conceded by the early Fathers to the Roman Emperor—an authority prior to the Pope's.
Hence, too, the agency employed was Parliament and not Convocation. The representatives of the clergy met of course as frequently as those of the laity, but their activity was purely defensive. They suggested no changes themselves, and endeavoured without much success to resist the innovations forced upon them by King and by Parliament. They had every reason to fear both Henry and the Commons. They were conscious that the Church had lost its hold upon the nation. Its impotence was due in part to its own corruption, in part to the fact that thriving commercial and industrial classes, like those which elected Tudor Parliaments, are as a rule impatient of religious or at least sacerdotal dictation. God and Mammon, in spite of all efforts at compromise, do not really agree. In 1529, before the meeting of Parliament, Campeggio had appealed to Henry to prevent the ruin of the Church; he felt that without State protection the Church could hardly stand. In 1531 Warham, the successor of Becket and Langton, excused his compliance with Henry's demands by pleading Ira principis mors est. In the draft of a speech he drew up just before his death, the Archbishop referred to the case of St. Thomas, hinted that Henry VIII. was going the way of Henry II, and compared his policy with the constitutions of Clarendon. The comparison was extraordinarily apt; Henry VIII was doing what Henry II had failed to do, and the fate that attended the Angevin king might have befallen the Tudor had Warham been Becket and the Church of the sixteenth been the same as the Church of the twelfth century. But they were not, and Warham appealed in vain to the liberties of the Church granted by Magna Carta, and to the "ill end" of "several kings who violated them". Laymen, he complained, now "advanced" their own laws rather than those of the Church. The people, admitted so staunch a churchman as Pole, were beginning to hate the priests. "There were," wrote Norfolk, "infinite clamours of the temporalty here in Parliament against the misuse of the spiritual jurisdiction.... This realm did never grudge the tenth part against the abuses of the Church at no Parliament in my days, as they do now."
These infinite clamours and grudging were not the result of the conscientious rejection of any Catholic or papal doctrine. Englishmen are singularly free from the bondage of abstract ideas, and they began their Reformation not with the enunciation of some new truth, but with an attack on clerical fees. Reform was stimulated by a practical grievance, closely connected with money, and not by a sense of wrong done to the conscience. No dogma plays such a part in the English Reformation as Justification by Faith did in Germany, or Predestination in Switzerland. Parliament in 1530 had not been appreciably affected by Tyndale's translation of the Bible or by any of Luther's works. Tyndale was still an exile in the Netherlands, pleading in vain for the same toleration in England as Charles V. permitted across the sea. Frith was in the Tower—a man, wrote the lieutenant, Walsingham, whom it would be a great pity to lose, if only he could be reconciled—and Bilney was martyred in 1531. A parliamentary inquiry was threatened in the latter case, not because Parliament sympathised with Bilney's doctrine, but because it was said that the clergy had procured his burning before obtaining the State's consent. Parliament was as zealous as Convocation against heresy, but wanted the punishment of heretics left in secular hands.
In this, as in other respects, the King and his Parliament were in the fullest agreement. Henry had already given proof of his anti-clerical bias by substituting laymen for churchmen in those great offices of State which churchmen had usually held. From time immemorial the Lord Chancellor had been a Bishop, but in 1529 Wolsey was succeeded by More, and, later on, More by Audley. Similarly, the privy seal had been held in Henry's reign by three bishops successively, Fox, Ruthal and Tunstall: now it was entrusted to the hands of Anne Boleyn's father, the Earl of Wiltshire. Gardiner remained secretary for the time, but Du Bellay thought his power would have increased had he abandoned his clerical vows, and he, too, was soon superseded by Cromwell. Even the clerkship of Parliament was now given up to a layman. During the first half of Henry's reign clerical influence had been supreme in Henry's councils; during the second it was almost entirely excluded. Like his Parliament, he was now impugning the jurisdiction of the clergy in the matter of heresy; they were doctors, he said, of the soul, and had nothing to do with the body. He was even inclining to the very modern theory that marriage is a civil contract, and that matrimonial suits should therefore be removed from clerical cognisance. As early as 1529 he ordered Wolsey to release the Prior of Reading, who had been imprisoned for Lutheranism, "unless the matter is very heinous". In 1530 he was praising Latimer's sermons; and in the same year the Bishop of Norwich complained of a general report in his diocese that Henry favoured heretical books. "They say that, wherever they go, they hear that the King's pleasure is that the New Testament in English shall go forth." There seems little reason to doubt Hall's statement that Henry now commanded the bishops, who, however, did nothing, to prepare an English translation of the Bible to counteract the errors of Tyndale's version. He wrote to the German princes extolling their efforts towards the reformation of the Church; and many advisers were urging him to begin a similar movement in England. Anne Boleyn and her father were, said Chapuys, more Lutheran than Luther himself; they were the true apostles of the new sect in England.
But, however Lutheran Anne Boleyn may have been, Henry was still true to the orthodox faith. If he dallied with German princes, and held out hopes to his heretic subjects, it was not because he believed in the doctrines of either, but because both might be made to serve his own ends. He rescued Crome from the flames, not because he doubted or favoured Crome's heresy, but because Crome appealed from the Church to the King, and denied the papal supremacy; that, said Henry, is not heresy, but truth. When he sent to Oxford for the articles on which Wycliffe had been condemned, it was not to study the great Reformer's doctrine of the mass, but to discover Wycliffe's reasons for calling upon the State to purify a corrupt Church, and to digest his arguments against the temporal wealth of the clergy. When he lauded the reforms effected by the German princes he was thinking of their secularisation of ecclesiastical revenues. The spoliation of the Church was consistent with the most fervent devotion to its tenets. In 1531 Henry warned the Pope that the Emperor would probably allow the laity "to appropriate the possessions of the Church, which is a matter which does not touch the foundations of the faith; and what an example this will afford to others, it is easy to see". Henry managed to improve upon Charles's example in this respect. "He meant," he told Chapuys in 1533, "to repair the errors of Henry II. and John, who, being in difficulties, had made England and Ireland tributary to the Pope; he was determined also to reunite to the Crown the goods which churchmen held of it, which his predecessors could not alienate to his prejudice; and he was bound to do this by the oath he had taken at his coronation." Probably it was about this time, or a little later, that he drew up his suggestions for altering the coronation oath, and making the royal obligations binding only so far as the royal conscience thought fit. The German princes had a further claim to his consideration beyond the example they set him in dealing with the temporalties of the Church. They might be very useful if his difference with Charles over Catherine of Aragon came to an open breach; and the English envoys, who congratulated them on their zeal for reform, also endeavoured to persuade them that Henry's friendship might be no little safeguard against a despotic Emperor.
All these phenomena, the Reformation in Germany, heresy at home, and the anti-sacerdotal prejudices of his subjects, were regarded by Henry merely as circumstances which might be made subservient to his own particular purpose; and the skill with which he used them is a monument of farsighted statecraft. He did not act on the impulse of rash caprice. His passions were strong, but his self-control was stronger; and the breach with Rome was effected with a cold and calculated cunning, which the most adept disciple of Machiavelli could not have excelled. He did not create the factors he used; hostility to the Church had a real objective existence. Henry was a great man; but the burdens his people felt were not the product of Henry's hypnotic suggestion. He could only divert those grievances to his own use. He had no personal dislike to probate dues or annates; he did not pay them, but the threat of their abolition might compel the Pope to grant his divorce. Heresy in itself was abominable, but if heretics would maintain the royal against the papal supremacy, might not their sins be forgiven? The strength of Henry's position lay in the fact that he stood between two evenly balanced parties. It is obvious that by favouring the anti-clericals he could destroy the power of the Church. It is not so certain, but it is probable that, by supporting the Church, he could have staved off its ruin so long as he lived. Parliament might have been urgent, but there was no necessity to call it together. The Reformation Parliament, which sat for seven years, would probably have been dissolved after a few weeks had Clement granted the divorce. It met session after session, to pass one measure after another, each of which was designed to put fresh pressure on the Pope. It began with the outworks of the papal fortress; as soon as one was dismantled, Henry cried "Halt," to see if the citadel would surrender. When it refused, the attack recommenced. First one, then another of the Church's privileges and the Pope's prerogatives disappeared, till there remained not one stone upon another of the imposing edifice of ecclesiastical liberty and papal authority in England.
"DOWN WITH THE CHURCH."
The Reformation Parliament met for its first session on the 3rd of November, 1529, at the Black Friars' Hall in London. No careful observer was in any doubt as to what its temper would be with regard to the Church. It was opened by the King in person, and the new Lord Chancellor, Sir Thomas More, delivered an address in which he denounced his predecessor, Wolsey, in scathing terms. Parliament had been summoned, he said, to reform such things as had been used or permitted in England by inadvertence. On the following day both Houses adjourned to Westminster on account of the plague, and the Commons chose, as their Speaker, Sir Thomas Audley, the future Lord Chancellor. One of their first duties was to consider a bill of attainder against Wolsey, and the fate of that measure seems to be destructive of one or the other of two favourite theories respecting Henry VIII.'s Parliaments. The bill was opposed in the Commons by Cromwell and thrown out; either it was not a mere expression of the royal will, or Parliament was something more than the tool of the Court. For it is hardly credible that Henry first caused the bill to be introduced, and then ordered its rejection. The next business was Henry's request for release from the obligation to repay the loan which Wolsey had raised; that, too, the Commons refused, except on conditions. But no such opposition greeted the measures for reforming the clergy. Bills were passed in the Commons putting a limit on the fees exacted by bishops for probate, and for the performance of other duties then regarded as spiritual functions. The clergy were prohibited from holding pluralities, except in certain cases, but the act was drawn with astonishing moderation; it did not apply to benefices acquired before 1530, unless they exceeded the number of four. Penalties against non-residents were enacted, and an attempt was made to check the addiction of spiritual persons to commercial pursuits.
These reforms seem reasonable enough, but the idea of placing a bound to the spiritual exaction of probate seemed sacrilege to Bishop Fisher. "My lords," he cried, "you see daily what bills come hither from the Common House, and all is to the destruction of the Church. For God's sake, see what a realm the kingdom of Bohemia was; and when the Church went down, then fell the glory of the kingdom. Now with the Commons is nothing but 'Down with the Church!' And all this, meseemeth, is for lack of faith only." The Commons thought a limitation of fees an insufficient ground for a charge of heresy, and complained of Fisher to the King through the mouth of their Speaker. The Bishop explained away the offensive phrase, but the spiritual peers succeeded in rejecting the Commons' bills. The way out of the deadlock was suggested by the King; he proposed a conference between eight members of either House. The Lords' delegates were half spiritual, half temporal, peers. Henry knew well enough that the Commons would vote solidly for the measures, and that the temporal peers would support them. They did so; the bills were passed; and, on 17th December, Parliament was prorogued. We may call it a trick or skilful parliamentary strategy; the same trick, played by the Tiers État in 1789, ensured the success of the French Revolution, and it was equally effective in England in 1529.
These mutterings of the storm fell on deaf ears at Rome. Clement was deaf, not because he had not ears to hear, but because the clash of imperial arms drowned more distant sounds. "If any one," wrote the Bishop of Auxerre in 1531, "was ever in prison or in the power of his enemies, the Pope is now." He was as anxious as ever to escape responsibility. "He has told me," writes the Bishop of Tarbes to Francis I. on the 27th of March, 1530, "more than three times in secret that he would be glad if the marriage (with Anne Boleyn) was already made, either by a dispensation of the English legate or otherwise, provided it was not by his authority, or in diminution of his power as to dispensation and limitation of Divine law." Later in the year he made his suggestion that Henry should have two wives without prejudice to the legitimacy of the children of either. Henry, however, would listen to neither suggestion. He would be satisfied with nothing less than the sanction of the highest authority recognised in England. When it became imperative that his marriage with Anne should be legally sanctioned, and evident that no such sanction would be forthcoming from Rome, he arranged that the highest ecclesiastical authority recognised by law in England should be that of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Meanwhile, the exigencies of the struggle drove Clement into assertions of papal prerogative which would at any time have provoked an outburst of national anger. On 7th March, 1530, he promulgated a bull to be affixed to the church doors at Bruges, Tournay and Dunkirk, inhibiting Henry, under pain of the greater excommunication, from proceeding to that second marriage, which he was telling the Bishop of Tarbes he wished Henry would complete. A fortnight later he issued a second bull forbidding all ecclesiastical judges, doctors, advocates and others to speak or write against the validity of Henry's marriage with Catherine. If he had merely desired to prohibit discussion of a matter under judicial consideration, he should have imposed silence also on the advocates of the marriage, and not left Fisher free to write books against the King and secretly send them to Spain to be printed. On the 23rd of December following it was decreed in Consistory at Rome that briefs should be granted prohibiting the Archbishop of Canterbury from taking cognisance of the suit, and forbidding Henry to cohabit with any other woman than Catherine, and "all women in general to contract marriage with the King of England". On the 5th of January, 1531, the Pope inhibited laity as well as clergy, universities, parliaments and courts of law from coming to any decision in the case.
To these fulminations the ancient laws of England provided Henry with sufficient means of reply. "Let not the Pope suppose," wrote Henry to Clement, "that either the King or his nobles will allow the fixed laws of his kingdom to be set aside." A proclamation, based on the Statutes of Provisors, was issued on 12th September, 1530, forbidding the purchasing from the Court of Rome or the publishing of anything prejudicial to the realm, or to the King's intended purposes; and Norfolk was sent to remind the papal nuncio of the penalties attaching to the importation of bulls into England without the King's consent. But the most notorious expedient of Henry's was the appeal to the universities of Europe, first suggested by Cranmer. Throughout 1530 English agents were busy abroad obtaining decisions from the universities on the question of the Pope's power to dispense with the law against marrying a deceased brother's wife. Their success was considerable. Paris and Orléans, Bourges and Toulouse, Bologna and Ferrara, Pavia and Padua, all decided against the Pope. Similar verdicts, given by Oxford and Cambridge, may be as naturally ascribed to intimidation by Henry, as may the decisions of Spanish universities in the Pope's favour to pressure from Charles; but the theory that all the French and Italian universities were bribed is not very credible. The cajolery, the threats and the bribes were not all on one side; and in Italy at least the imperial agents would seem to have enjoyed greater facilities than Henry's. In some individual cases there was, no doubt, resort to improper inducements; but, if the majority in the most famous seats of learning in Europe could be induced by filthy lucre to vote against their conscience, it implies a greater need for drastic reformation than the believers in the theory of corruption are usually disposed to admit. Their decisions were, however, given on general grounds; the question of the consummation of Catherine's marriage with Arthur seems to have been carefully excluded. How far that consideration would have affected the votes of the universities can only be assumed; but it does not appear to have materially influenced the view taken by Catherine's advocates. They allowed that Catherine's oath would not be considered sufficient evidence in a court of law; they admitted the necessity of proving that urgent reasons existed for the grant of the dispensation, and the only urgent reason they put forward was an entirely imaginary imminence of war between Henry VII. and Ferdinand in 1503. Cardinal Du Bellay, in 1534, asserted that no one would be so bold as to maintain in Consistory that the dispensation ever was valid; and the papalists were driven to the extreme contention, which was certainly not then admitted by Catholic Europe, that, whether the marriage with Arthur was merely a form or not, whether it was or was not against Divine law, the Pope could, of his absolute power, dispense.
Pending the result of Henry's appeal to the universities, little was done in the matter in England. The lords spiritual and temporal signed in June, 1530, a letter to the Pope urging him to comply with their King's request for a divorce. Parliament did not meet until 16th January, 1531, and even then Chapuys reports that it was employed on nothing more important than cross-bows and hand-guns, the act against which was not, however, passed till 1534. The previous session had shown that, although the Commons might demur to fiscal exactions, they were willing enough to join Henry in any attack on the Church, and the question was how to bring the clergy to a similar state of acquiescence. It was naturally a more difficult task, but Henry's ingenuity provided a sufficient inducement. His use of the statutes of præmunire was very characteristic. It was conservative, it was legal, and it was unjust. Those statutes were no innovation designed to meet his particular case; they had been for centuries the law of the land; and there was no denying the fact that the clergy had broken the law by recognising Wolsey as legate. Henry, of course, had licensed Wolsey to act as legate, and to punish the clergy for an offence, at which he had connived, was scarcely consistent with justice; but no King ever showed so clearly how the soundest constitutional maxims could be used to defeat the pleas of equity; it was frequently laid down during his reign that no licence from the King could be pleaded against penalties imposed by statute, and not a few parliamentary privileges were first asserted by Henry VIII. So the clergy were cunningly caught in the meshes of the law. Chapuys declares that no one could understand the mysteries of præmunire; "its interpretation lies solely in the King's head, who amplifies it and declares it at his pleasure, making it apply to any case he pleases". He at least saw how præmunire could be made to serve his purposes.
These, at the moment, were two. He wanted to extract from the clergy a recognition of his supremacy over the Church, and he wanted money. He was always in need of supplies, but especially now, in case war should arise from the Pope's refusal to grant his divorce; and Henry made it a matter of principle that the Church should pay for wars due to the Pope. The penalty for præmunire was forfeiture of goods and imprisonment, and the King probably thought he was unduly lenient in granting a pardon for a hundred thousand pounds, when he might have taken the whole of the clergy's goods and put them in gaol as well. The clergy objected strongly; in the old days of the Church's influence they would all have preferred to go to prison, and a unanimous refusal of the King's demands would even now have baulked his purpose. But the spirit was gone out of them. Chapuys instigated the papal nuncio to go down to Convocation and stiffen the backs of the clergy. They were horrified at his appearance, and besought him to depart in haste, fearing lest this fresh constitutional breach should be visited on their heads. Warham frightened them with the terrors of royal displeasure; and the clerics had to content their conscience with an Irish bull and a subterfuge. "Silence gives consent," said the Archbishop when putting the question; "Then are we all silent," cried the clergy. To their recognition of Henry as Supreme Head of the Church, they added the salvo "so far as the law of Christ allows". It was an empty phrase, thought Chapuys, for no one would venture to dispute with the King the point where his supremacy ended and that of Christ began; there was in fact "a new Papacy made here". The clergy repented of the concession as soon as it was granted; they were "more conscious every day," wrote Chapuys, "of the great error they committed in acknowledging the King as sovereign of the Church"; and they made a vain, and not very creditable, effort to get rejected by spiritual votes in the House of Lords the measures to which they had given their assent in Convocation. The Church had surrendered with scarcely a show of fight; henceforth Henry might feel sure that, whatever opposition he might encounter in other quarters, the Church in England would offer no real resistance.
In Parliament, notwithstanding Chapuys' remark on the triviality of its business, more than a score of acts were passed, some limiting such abuses as the right of sanctuary, some dealing in the familiar way with social evils like the increase of beggars and vagabonds. The act depriving sanctuary-men, who committed felony, of any further protection from their sanctuary was recommended to Parliament by the King in person. So was a curious act making poisoning treason. There had recently been an attempt to poison Fisher, which the King brought before the House of Lords. However familiar poisoning might be at Rome, it was a novel method in England, and was considered so heinous a crime that the ordinary penalties for murder were thought to be insufficient. Then the King's pardon to the clergy was embodied in a parliamentary bill. The Commons perceived that they were not included, took alarm, and refused to pass the bill. Henry at first assumed a superior tone; he pointed out that the Commons could not prevent his pardoning the clergy; he could do it as well under the Great Seal as by statute. The Commons, however, were not satisfied. "There was great murmuring among them," says Chapuys, "in the House of Commons, where it was publicly said in the presence of some of the Privy Council that the King had burdened and oppressed his kingdom with more imposts and exactions than any three or four of his predecessors, and that he ought to consider that the strength of the King lay in the affections of his people. And many instances were alleged of the inconveniences which had happened to princes through the ill-treatment of their subjects." Henry was too shrewd to attempt to punish this very plain speaking. He knew that his faithful Commons were his one support, and he yielded at once. "On learning this," continues Chapuys, "the King granted the exemption which was published in Parliament on Wednesday last without any reservation." The two acts for the pardon of the spiritualty and temporalty were passed concurrently. But, whereas the clergy had paid for their pardon with a heavy fine and the loss of their independence, the laity paid nothing at all. The last business of the session was the reading of the sentences in Henry's favour obtained from the universities. Parliament was then prorogued, and its members were enjoined to relate to their constituents that which they had seen and heard.
Primed by communion with their neighbours, members of Parliament assembled once more on 15th January, 1532, for more important business than they had yet transacted. Every effort was made to secure a full attendance of Peers and Commons; almost all the lords would be present, thought Chapuys, except Tunstall, who had not been summoned; Fisher came without a summons, and apparently no effort was made to exclude him. The readiness of the Commons to pass measures against the Church, and their reluctance to consent to taxation, were even more marked than before. Their critical spirit was shown by their repeated rejection of the Statutes of Wills and Uses designed by Henry to protect from evasion his feudal rights, such as reliefs and primer seisins. This demand, writes Chapuys, "has been the occasion of strange words against the King and the Council, and in spite of all the efforts of the King's friends, it was rejected". In the matter of supplies they were equally outspoken; they would only grant one-tenth and one-fifteenth, a trifling sum which Henry refused to accept. It was during this debate on the question of supplies that two members moved that the King be asked to take back Catherine as his wife. They would then, they urged, need no fresh armaments and their words are reported to have been well received by the House. The Commons were not more enthusiastic about the bill restraining the payment of annates to the Court at Rome. They did not pay them; their grievance was against bishops in England, and they saw no particular reason for relieving those prelates of their financial burdens. Cromwell wrote to Gardiner that he did not know how the annates bill would succeed; and the King had apparently to use all his persuasion to get the bill through the Lords and the Commons. Only temporal lords voted for it in the Upper House, and, in the Lower, recourse was had to the rare expedient of a division. In both Houses the votes were taken in the King's presence. But it is almost certain that his influence was brought to bear, not so much in favour of the principle of the bill, as of the extremely ingenious clause which left the execution of the Act in Henry's discretion, and provided him with a powerful means of putting pressure on the Pope. That was Henry's statement of the matter. He told Chapuys, before the bill was passed, that the attack on annates was being made without his consent; and after it had been passed he instructed his representatives at Rome to say that he had taken care to stop the mouth of Parliament and to have the question of annates referred to his decision. "The King," writes the French envoy in England at the end of March, "has been very cunning, for he has caused the nobles and people to remit all to his will, so that the Pope may know that, if he does nothing for him, the King has the means of punishing him." The execution of the clauses providing for the confirmation and consecration of bishops without recourse to Rome was also left at Henry's option.
But no pressure was needed to induce the Commons to attack abuses, the weight of which they felt themselves. Early in the session they were discussing the famous petition against the clergy, and, on 28th February, Norfolk referred to the "infinite clamours" in Parliament against the Church. The fact that four corrected drafts of this petition are extant in the Record Office, is taken as conclusive proof that it really emanated from the Court. But the drafts do not appear to be in the known hand of any of the Government clerks. The corrections in Cromwell's hand doubtless represent the wishes of the King; but, even were the whole in Cromwell's hand, it would be no bar to the hypothesis that Cromwell reduced to writing, for the King's consideration, complaints which he heard from independent members in his place in Parliament. The fact that nine-tenths of our modern legislation is drawn up by Government draughtsmen, cannot be accepted as proof that that legislation represents no popular feeling. On the face of them, these petitions bear little evidence of Court dictation; the grievances are not such as were felt by Henry, whose own demands of the clergy were laid directly before Convocation, without any pretence that they really came from the Commons. Some are similar to those presented to the Parliament of 1515; others are directed against abuses which recent statutes had sought, but failed, to remedy. Such were the citation of laymen out of their dioceses, the excessive fees taken in spiritual courts, the delay and trouble in obtaining probates. Others complained that the clergy in Convocation made laws inconsistent with the laws of the realm; that the ordinaries delayed instituting parsons to their benefices; that benefices were given to minors; that the number of holy-days, especially in harvest-time, was excessive; and that spiritual men occupied temporal offices. The chief grievance seems to have been that the ordinaries cited poor men before the spiritual courts without any accuser being produced, and then condemned them to abjure or be burnt. Henry, reported Chapuys, was "in a most gracious manner" promising to support the Commons against the Church "and to mitigate the rigours of the inquisition which they have here, and which is said to be more severe than in Spain".
After debating these points in Parliament, the Commons agreed that "all the griefs, which the temporal men should be grieved with, should be put in writing and delivered to the King"; hence the drafts in the Record Office. The deputation, with the Speaker at its head, presented the complaints to Henry on 18th March. Its reception is quite unintelligible on the theory that the grievances existed only in the King's imagination. Henry was willing, he said, to consider the Commons' petition. But, if they expected him to comply with their wishes, they must make some concession to his; and he recommended them to forgo their opposition to the bills of Uses and Wills, to which the Lords had already agreed. After Easter he sent the Commons' petition to Convocation; the clergy appealed to the King for protection. Henry had thus manœuvred himself into the position of mediator, in which he hoped, but in vain, to extract profit for himself from both sides. From Convocation he demanded submission to three important claims; the clergy were to consent to a reform of ecclesiastical law, to abdicate their right of independent legislation, and to recognise the necessity of the King's approval for existing canons. These demands were granted. As usual, Henry was able to get what he wanted from the clergy; but from the Commons he could get no more than they were willing to give. They again rejected the bills of Uses and Wills, and would only concede the most paltry supplies. But they passed with alacrity the bills embodying the submission of the clergy. These were the Church's concessions to Henry, but it must bend the knee to the Commons as well, and other measures were passed reforming some of the points in their petition. Ordinaries were prohibited from citing men out of their proper dioceses, and benefit of clergy was denied to clerks under the order of sub-deacon who committed murder, felony, or petty treason; the latter was a slight extension of a statute passed in 1512. The bishops, however, led by Gardiner and aided by More, secured in the House of Lords the rejection of the concessions made by the Church to the King, though they passed those made to the Commons. Parliament, which had sat for the unusual space of four months, was prorogued on the 14th of May; two days later, More resigned the chancellorship and Gardiner retired in disfavour to Winchester.
Meanwhile the divorce case at Rome made little progress. In the highest court in Christendom the facilities afforded for the law's delays were naturally more extended than before inferior tribunals; and two years had been spent in discussing whether Henry's "excusator," sent merely to maintain that the King of England could not be cited to plead before the Papal Court, should be heard or not. Clement was in suspense between two political forces. In December, 1532, Charles was again to interview the Pope, and imperialists in Italy predicted that his presence would be as decisive in Catherine's favour as it had been three years before. But Henry and Francis had, in October, exhibited to the world the closeness of their friendship by a personal interview at Boulogne. No pomp or ceremony, like that of the Field of Cloth of Gold, dazzled men's eyes; but the union between the two Kings was never more real. Neither Queen was present; Henry would not take Catherine, and he objected so strongly to Spanish dress that he could not endure the sight of Francis's Spanish Queen. Anne Boleyn, recently created Marquis (so she was styled, to indicate the possession of the peerage in her own right) of Pembroke, took Catherine's place; and plans for the promotion of the divorce formed the staple of the royal discussions. Respect for the power of the two Kings robbed the subsequent interview between Emperor and Pope of much of its effect; and before Charles and Clement parted, the Pope had secretly agreed to accord a similar favour to Francis; he was to meet him at Nice in the following summer. Long before then the divorce had been brought to a crisis. By the end of January Henry knew that Anne Boleyn was pregnant. Her issue must at any cost be made legitimate. That could only be done by Henry's divorce from Catherine, and by his marriage with Anne Boleyn. There was little hope of obtaining these favours from Rome. Therefore it must be done by means of the Archbishop of Canterbury; and to remove all chance of disputing his sentence, the Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury must, before his decision was given, be recognised as the supreme tribunal for English ecclesiastical cases.
These circumstances, of which not a hint was suffered to transpire in public, dictated Henry's policy during the early months of 1533. Never was his skill more clearly displayed; he was, wrote Chapuys in December, 1532, practising more than ever with his Parliament, though he received the Spanish ambassador "as courteously as ever". The difficulties with which he was surrounded might have tried the nerve of any man, but they only seemed to render Henry's course more daring and steady. The date of his marriage with Anne Boleyn is even now a matter of conjecture. Cranmer repudiated the report that he performed the ceremony. He declares he did not know of it until a fortnight after the event, and says it took place about St. Paul's Day (25th January). A more important question was the individuality of the archbishop who was to pronounce the nullity of Henry's marriage with Catherine of Aragon. He must obviously be one on whom the King could rely. Fortunately for Henry, Archbishop Warham had died in August, 1532. His successor was to be Thomas Cranmer, who had first suggested to Henry the plan of seeking the opinions of the universities on the divorce, and was now on an embassy at the Emperor's Court. No time was to be lost. Henry usually gathered a rich harvest during the vacancy of great bishoprics, but now Canterbury was to be filled up without any delay, and the King even lent Cranmer 1,000 marks to meet his expenses. But would the Pope be so accommodating as to expedite the bulls, suspecting, as he must have done, the object for which they were wanted?
For this contingency also Henry had provided; and he was actually using the Pope as a means for securing the divorce. An appearance of friendship with Clement was the weapon he now employed with the greatest effect. The Pope was discussing with the French ambassadors a proposal to remit the divorce case to some neutral spot, such as Cambrai, and delaying that definite sentence in Catherine's favour which imperialists had hoped that his interview with Charles would precipitate; the papal nuncio was being feasted in England, and was having suspiciously amicable conferences with members of Henry's council. Henry himself was writing to Clement in the most cordial terms; he had instructed his ambassadors in 1531 to "use all gentleness towards him," and Clement was saying that Henry was of a better nature and more wise than Francis I. Henry was now willing to suspend his consent to the general council, where the Pope feared that a scheme would be mooted for restoring the papal States to the Emperor; and he told the papal nuncio in England that, though he had studied the question of the Pope's authority and retracted his defence of the Holy See, yet possibly Clement might give him occasion to probe the matter further still, and to reconfirm what he had originally written. Was he not, moreover, withholding his assent from the Act of Annates, which would deprive the Pope of large revenues? Backed by this gentle hint, Henry's request not merely for Cranmer's bulls, but for their expedition without the payment of the usual 10,000 marks, reached Rome. The cardinals were loth to forgo their perquisites for the bulls, but the annates of all England were more precious still, and, on 22nd February, Consistory decided to do what Henry desired.
The same deceptive appearance of concord between King and Pope was employed to lull both Parliament and Convocation. The delays in the divorce suit disheartened Catherine's adherents. The Pope, wrote Chapuys, would lose his authority little by little, unless the case were decided at once; every one, he said, cried out "au murdre" on Clement for his procrastination on the divorce, and for the speed with which he granted Cranmer's bulls. There was a general impression that "he would betray the Emperor," and "many think that there is a secret agreement between Henry and the Pope". That idea was sedulously fostered by Henry. Twice he took the Pope's nuncio down in state to Parliament to advertise the excellent terms upon which he stood with the Holy See. In the face of such evidence, what motive was there for prelates and others to reject the demands which Henry was pressing upon them? The Convocations of Canterbury and York repeated the submission of 1532, and approved, by overwhelming majorities, of two propositions: firstly, that, as a matter of law, the Pope was not competent to dispense with the obstacle to a marriage between a man and his deceased brother's wife, when the previous marriage had been consummated; and secondly, that, as a matter of fact, the marriage between Catherine and Prince Arthur had been so consummated. In Parliament, the Act forbidding Appeals to Rome, and providing for the confirmation and consecration of bishops without recourse to the Papal Court, was discussed. It was, like the rest of Henry's measures, based on a specious conservative plea. General councils had, the King said, decreed that suits should be determined in the place in which they originated; so there was no need for appeals to go out of England. Such opposition as it encountered was based on no religious principle. Commercial interests were the most powerful impulse of the age, and the Commons were afraid that the Act of Appeals might be followed by a papal interdict. They did not mind the interdict as depriving them of religious consolations, but they dreaded lest it might ruin their trade with the Netherlands. Henry, however, persuaded them that the wool trade was as necessary to Flemings as it was to Englishmen, and that an interdict would prove no more than an empty threat. He was careful to make no other demands upon the Commons. No subsidies were required; no extension of royal prerogative was sought; and eventually the Act of Appeals was passed with a facility that seems to have created general surprise.
Henry's path was now clear. Cranmer was archbishop and legatus natus with a title which none could dispute. By Act of Parliament his court was the final resort for all ecclesiastical cases. No appeals from his decision could be lawfully made. So, on 11th April, before he was yet consecrated, he besought the King's gracious permission to determine his "great cause of matrimony, because much bruit exists among the common people on the subject". No doubt there did; but that was not the cause for the haste. Henry was pleased to accede to this request of the "principal minister of our spiritual jurisdiction"; and, on the 10th of May, the Archbishop opened his Court at Dunstable. Catherine, of course, could recognise no authority in Cranmer to try a cause that was before the papal curia. She was declared contumacious, and, on the 23rd, the Archbishop gave his sentence. Following the line of Convocation, he pronounced that the Pope had no power to license marriages such as Henry's, and that the King and Catherine had never been husband and wife. Five days later, after a secret investigation, he declared that Henry and Anne Boleyn were lawfully married, and on Whitsunday, the 1st of June, he crowned Anne as Queen in Westminster Abbey. Three months later, on Sunday, the 7th of September, between three and four in the afternoon, Queen Anne gave birth to a daughter at Greenwich. The child was christened on the following Wednesday by Stokesley, Bishop of London, and Cranmer stood godfather. Chapuys scarcely considered the matter worth mention. The King's amie had given birth to a bastard, a detail of little importance to any one, and least of all to a monarch like Charles V. Yet the "bastard" was Queen Elizabeth, and the child, thus ushered into a contemptuous world, lived to humble the pride of Spain, and to bear to a final triumph the banner which Henry had raised.
"THE PREVAILING OF THE GATES OF HELL."
That victorious issue of the Tudor struggle with the power, against which Popes proclaimed that the gates of hell should not prevail, was distant enough in 1533. Then the Tudor monarch seemed rushing headlong to irretrievable ruin. Sure of himself and his people, and feeling no longer the need of Clement's favour, Henry threw off the mask of friendship, and, on the 9th of July, confirmed, by letters patent, the Act of Annates. Cranmer's proceedings at Dunstable, Henry's marriage, and Anne's coronation, constituted a still more flagrant defiance of Catholic Europe. The Pope's authority was challenged with every parade of contempt. He could do no less than gather round him the relics of his dignity and prepare to launch against Henry the final ban of the Church. So, on the 11th of July, the sentence of the greater excommunication was drawn up. Clement did not yet, nor did he ever, venture to assert his claims to temporal supremacy in Christendom, by depriving the English King of his kingdom; he thought it prudent to rely on his own undisputed prerogative. His spiritual powers seemed ample; and he applied to himself the words addressed to the Prophet Jeremiah, "Behold, I have set thee above nations and kingdoms that thou mayest root up and destroy, build and plant, a lord over all kings of the whole earth and over all peoples bearing rule". In virtue of this prerogative Henry was cut off from the Church while he lived, removed from the pale of Christian society, and deprived of the solace of the rites of religion; when he died, he must lie without burial, and in hell suffer torment for ever.
What would be the effect of this terrific anathema? The omens looked ill for the English King. If he had flouted the Holy See, he had also offended the temporal head of Christendom. The Emperor's aunt had been divorced, his cousin's legitimacy had been impugned, and the despatches of his envoy, Chapuys, were filled with indignant lamentations over the treatment meted out to Catherine and to her daughter. Both proud and stubborn women, they resolutely refused to admit in any way the validity of Henry's acts and recent legislation. Catherine would rather starve as Queen, than be sumptuously clothed and fed as Princess Dowager. Henry would give her anything she asked, if she would acknowledge that she was not the Queen, nor her daughter the Princess; but her bold resistance to his commands and wishes brought out all the worst features of his character. His anger was not the worst the Queen and her daughter had to fear; he still preserved a feeling of respect for Catherine and of affection for Mary. "The King himself," writes Chapuys, "is not ill-natured; it is this Anne who has put him in this perverse and wicked temper, and alienates him from his former humanity." The new Queen's jealous malignity passed all bounds. She caused her aunt to be made governess to Mary, and urged her to box her charge's ears; and she used every effort to force the Princess to serve as a maid upon her little half-sister, Elizabeth.
This humiliation was deeply resented by the people, who, says Chapuys, though forbidden, on pain of their lives, to call Catherine Queen, shouted it at the top of their voices. "You cannot imagine," he writes a few weeks later to Charles, "the great desire of all this people that your Majesty should send men. Every day I have been applied to about it by Englishmen of rank, wit and learning, who give me to understand that the last King Richard was never so much hated by his people as this King." The Emperor, he went on, had a better chance of success than Henry VII., and Ortiz at Rome was cherishing the belief that England would rise against the King for his contumacy and schismatic disobedience. Fisher was urgent that Charles should prepare an invasion of England; the young Marquis of Exeter, a possible claimant to the throne, was giving the same advice. Abergavenny, Darcy and other peers brooded in sullen discontent. They were all listening to the hysterical ravings of Elizabeth Barton, the Nun of Kent, who prophesied that Henry had not a year to live. Charles's emissaries were busy in Ireland, where Kildare was about to revolt. James V. of Scotland was hinting at his claims to the English crown, should Henry be deprived by the Pope; and Chapuys was divided in mind whether it would be better to make James the executor of the papal sentence, or marry Mary to some great English noble, and raise an internal rebellion. At Catherine's suggestion he recommended to the Emperor Reginald Pole, a grandson of George, Duke of Clarence, as a suitor for Mary's hand; and he urged, on his own account, Pole's claims to the English throne. Catherine's scruples, not about deposing her husband, or passing over the claims of Henry's sisters, but on the score of Edward IV.'s grandson, the Marquis of Exeter, might, thought Chapuys, be removed by appealing to the notorious sentence of Bishop Stillington, who, on the demand of Richard III, had pronounced Edward IV's marriage void and his children illegitimate. Those who had been the King's firm supporters when the divorce first came up were some of them wavering, and others turning back. Archbishop Lee, Bishops Tunstall and Gardiner, and Bennet, were now all in secret or open opposition, and even Longland was expressing to Chapuys regrets that he had ever been Henry's confessor; like other half-hearted revolutionists, they would never have started at all, had they known how far they would have to go, and now they were setting their sails for an adverse breeze. It was the King, and the King alone, who kept England on the course which he had mapped out. Pope and Emperor were defied; Europe was shocked; Francis himself disapproved of the breach with the Church; Ireland was in revolt; Scotland, as ever, was hostile; legislation had been thrust down the throats of a recalcitrant Church, and, we are asked to believe, of a no less unwilling House of Commons, while the people at large were seething with indignation at the insults heaped upon the injured Queen and her daughter. By all the laws of nature, of morals, and of politics, it would seem, Henry was doomed to the fate of the monarch in the Book of Daniel the Prophet, who did according to his will and exalted and magnified himself above every god; who divided the land for gain, and had power over the treasures of gold and silver; who was troubled by tidings from the east and from the north; who went forth with great fury to destroy and utterly make away many, and yet came to his end, and none helped him.
All these circumstances, real and alleged, would be quite convincing as reasons for Henry's failure; but they are singularly inconclusive as explanations of his success, of the facts that his people did not rise and depose him, that no Spanish Armada disgorged its host on English shores, and that, for all the papal thunderbolts, Henry died quietly in his bed fourteen years later, and was buried with a pomp and respect to which Popes themselves were little accustomed. He may have stood alone in his confidence of success, and in his penetration through these appearances into the real truth of the situation behind. That, from a purely political or non-moral point of view, is his chief title to greatness. He knew from the beginning what he could do; he had counted the cost and calculated the risks; and, writes Russell in August, 1533, "I never saw the King merrier than he is now". As early as March, 1531, he told Chapuys that if the Pope issued 10,000 excommunications he would not care a straw for them. When the papal nuncio first hinted at excommunication and a papal appeal to the secular arm, Henry declared that he cared nothing for either. He would open the eyes of princes, he said, and show them how small was really the power of the Pope; and "when the Pope had done what he liked on his side, Henry would do what he liked here". That threat, at least, he fulfilled with a vengeance. He did not fear the Spaniards; they might come, he said (as they did in 1588), but perhaps they might not return. England, he told his subjects, was not conquerable, so long as she remained united; and the patriotic outburst with which Shakespeare closes "King John" is but an echo and an expansion of the words of Henry VIII.
This England never did, nor never shall,
Lie at the proud foot of a conqueror,
But when it first did help to wound itself....
Come the three corners of the world in arms,
And we shall shock them. Nought shall make us rue,
If England to itself do rest but true.
The great fear of Englishmen was lest Charles should ruin them by prohibiting the trade with Flanders. "Their only comfort," wrote Chapuys, "is that the King persuades the people that it is not in your Majesty's power to do so." Henry had put the matter to a practical test, in the autumn of 1533, by closing the Staple at Calais. It is possible that the dispute between him and the merchants, alleged as the cause for this step, was real; but the King could have provided his subjects with no more forcible object-lesson. Distress was felt at once in Flanders; complaints grew so clamorous that the Regent sent an embassy post-haste to Henry to remonstrate, and to represent the closing of the Staple as an infraction of commercial treaties. Henry coldly replied that he had broken no treaties at all; it was merely a private dispute between his merchants and himself, in which foreign powers had no ground for intervention. The envoys had to return, convinced against their will. The Staple at Calais was soon reopened, but the English King was able to demonstrate to his people that the Flemings "could not do without England's trade, considering the outcry they made when the Staple of Calais was closed for only three months".
Henry, indeed, might almost be credited with second-sight into the Emperor's mind. On 31st May, 1533, Charles's council discussed the situation. After considering Henry's enormities, the councillors proceeded to deliberate on the possible remedies. There were three: justice, force and a combination of both. The objections to relying on methods of justice, that is, on the papal sentence, were, firstly, that Henry would not obey, and secondly, that the Pope was not to be trusted. The objections to the employment of force were, that war would imperil the whole of Europe, and especially the Emperor's dominions, and that Henry had neither used violence towards Catherine nor given Charles any excuse for breaking the Treaty of Cambrai. Eventually, it was decided to leave the matter to Clement. He was to be urged to give sentence against Henry, but on no account to lay England under an interdict, as that "would disturb her intercourse with Spain and Flanders. If, therefore, an interdict be resorted to, it should be limited to one diocese, or to the place where Henry dwells." Such an interdict might put a premium on assassination, but otherwise neither Henry nor his people were likely to care much about it. The Pope should, however, be exhorted to depose the English King; that might pave the way for Mary's accession and for the predominance in England of the Emperor's influence; but the execution of the sentence must not be entrusted to Charles. It would be excellent if James V or the Irish would undertake to beard the lion in his den, but the Emperor did not see his way clear to accepting the risk himself.
Charles was, indeed, afraid, not merely of Henry, but of Francis, who was meditating fresh Italian schemes; and various expedients were suggested to divert his attention in other directions. He might be assisted in an attack upon Calais. "Calais," was Charles's cautious comment, "is better as it is, for the security of Flanders." The Pope hinted that the grant of Milan would win over Francis. It probably would; but Charles would have abandoned half a dozen aunts rather than see Milan in French possession. His real concern in the matter was not the injustice to Catherine, but the destruction of the prospect of Mary's succession. That was a tangible political interest, and Charles was much less anxious to have Henry censured than to have Mary's legitimate claim to the throne established. He was a great politician, absolutely impervious to personal wrong when its remedy conflicted with political interests. "Though the Emperor," he said, "is bound to the Queen, this is a private matter, and public considerations must be taken into account." And public considerations, as he admitted a year later, "compelled him to conciliate Henry". So he refused Chapuys' request to be recalled lest his presence in England should lead people to believe that Charles had condoned Henry's marriage with Anne Boleyn, and dissuaded Catherine from leaving England. The least hint to Francis of any hostile intent towards Henry would, thought Charles, be at once revealed to the English King, and the two would join in making war on himself. War he was determined to avoid, for, apart from the ruin of Flanders, which it would involve, Henry and Francis had long been intriguing with the Lutherans in Germany. A breach might easily precipitate civil strife in the Empire; and, indeed, in June, 1534, Würtemberg was wrested from the Habsburgs by Philip of Hesse with the connivance of France. Francis, too, was always believed to have a working agreement with the Turk; Barbarossa was giving no little cause for alarm in the Mediterranean; while Henry on his part had established close relations with Lübeck and Hamburg, and was fomenting dissensions in Denmark, the crown of which he was offered but cautiously declined.
This incurable jealousy between Francis and Charles made the French King loth to weaken his friendship with Henry. The English King was careful to impress upon the French ambassador that he could, in the last resort, make his peace with Charles by taking back Catherine and by restoring Mary to her place in the line of succession. Francis had too poignant a recollection of the results of the union between Henry and Charles from 1521 to 1525 ever to risk its renewal. The age of the crusades and chivalry was gone; commercial and national rivalries were as potent in the sixteenth century as they are to-day. Then, as in subsequent times, mutual suspicions made impossible an effective concert of Europe against the Turk. The fall of Rhodes and the death of one of Charles's brothers-in-law at Mohacz and the expulsion of another from the throne of Denmark had never been avenged, and, in 1534, the Emperor was compelled to evacuate Coron. If Europe could not combine against the common enemy of the Faith, was it likely to combine against one who, in spite of all his enormities, was still an orthodox Christian? And, without a combination of princes to execute them, papal censures, excommunications, interdicts, and all the spiritual paraphernalia, served only to probe the hollowness of papal pretensions, and to demonstrate the deafness of Europe to the calls of religious enthusiasm. In Spain, at least, it might have been thought (p. 313) that every sword would leap from its scabbard at a summons from Charles on behalf of the Spanish Queen. "Henry," wrote Chapuys, "has always fortified himself by the consent of Parliament." It would be well, he thought, if Charles would follow suit, and induce the Cortes of Aragon and Castile, "or at least the grandees," to offer their persons and goods in Catherine's cause. Such an offer, if published in England, "will be of inestimable service". But here comes the proof of Charles's pitiful impotence; in order to obtain this public offer, the Emperor was "to give them privately an exemption from such offer and promise of persons and goods". It was to be one more pretence like the others, and unfortunately for the Pope and for the Emperor, Henry had an inconvenient habit of piercing disguises.
The strength of Henry's position at home was due to a similar lack of unity among his domestic enemies. If the English people had wished to depose him, they could have effected their object without much difficulty. In estimating the chances of a possible invasion, it was pointed out how entirely dependent Henry was upon his people: he had only one castle in London, and only a hundred yeomen of the guard to defend him. He would, in fact, have been powerless against a united people or even against a partial revolt, if well organised and really popular. There was chronic discontent throughout the Tudor period, but it was sectional. The remnants of the old nobility always hated Tudor methods of government, and the poorer commons were sullen at their ill-treatment by the lords of the land; but there was no concerted basis of action between the two. The dominant class was commercial, and it had no grievance against Henry, while it feared alike the lords and the lower orders. In the spoliation of the Church temporal lords and commercial men, both of whom could profit thereby, were agreed; and nowhere was there much sympathy with the Church as an institution apart from its doctrine. Chapuys himself admits that the act, depriving the clergy of their profits from leases, was passed "to please the people"; and another conservative declared that, if the Church were deprived of all its temporal goods, many would be glad and few would bemoan. Sympathy with Catherine and hatred of Anne were general, but people thought, like Charles, that these were private griefs, and that public considerations must be taken into account. Englishmen are at all times reluctant to turn out one Government until they see at least the possibility of another to take its place, and the only alternative to Henry VIII. was anarchy. The opposition could not agree on a policy, and they could not agree on a leader. There were various grandchildren of Edward IV. and of Clarence, who might put forward distant claims to the throne; and there were other candidates in whose multitude lay Henry's safety. It was quite certain that the pushing of any one of these claimants would throw the rest on Henry's side. James V., whom at one time Chapuys favoured, knew that a Scots invasion would unite the whole of England against him; and Charles was probably wise in rebuking his ambassador's zeal, and in thinking that any attempt on his own part would be more disastrous to himself than to Henry. For all this, the English King was, as Chapuys remarks, keeping a very watchful eye on the countenance of his people, seeing how far he could go and where he must stop, and neglecting no precaution for the peace and security of himself and his kingdom. Acts were passed to strengthen the navy, improvements in arms and armament were being continually tested, and the fortifications at Calais, on the Scots Borders and elsewhere were strengthened. Wales was reduced to law and order, and, through the intermediation of Francis, a satisfactory peace was made with Scotland.
Convinced of his security from attack at home and abroad, Henry proceeded to accomplish what remained for the subjugation of the Church in England and the final breach with Rome. Clement had no sooner excommunicated Henry than he began to repent; he was much more alarmed than the English King at the probable effects of his sentence. Henry at once recalled his ambassadors from Rome, and drew up an appeal to a General Council. The Pope feared he would lose England for ever. Even the Imperialists proved but Job's comforters, and told him that, after all, it was only "an unprofitable island," the loss of which was not to be compared with the renewed devotion of Spain and the Emperor's other dominions; possibly they assured him that there would never again be a sack of Rome. Clement delayed for a time the publication of the sentence against Henry, and in November he went to his interview with Francis I. at Marseilles. While he was there, Bonner intimated to him Henry's appeal to a General Council. Clement angrily rejected the appeal as frivolous, and Francis regarded this defiance of the Pope as an affront to himself in the person of his guest, and as the ruin of his attempts to reconcile the two parties. "Ye have clearly marred all," he said to Gardiner; "as fast as I study to win the Pope, you study to lose him," and he declared that, had he known of the intimation beforehand, it should never have been made. Henry, however, had no desire that the Pope should be won. He was, he told the French ambassador, determined to separate from Rome; "he will not, in consequence of this, be less Christian, but more so, for in everything and in every place he desires to cause Jesus Christ to be recognised, who alone is the patron of Christians; and he will cause the Word to be preached, and not the canons and decrees of the Pope."
Parliament was to meet to effect this purpose in January, 1534, and during the previous autumn there are the first indications, traceable to Cromwell's hand, of an attempt to pack it. He drew up a memorandum of such seats as were vacant from death or from other causes; most of the new members appear to have been freely elected, but four vacancies were filled by "the King's pleasure." More extensive and less doubtful was the royal interference in the election of abbots. Many abbeys fell vacant in 1533, and in every case commissioners were sent down to secure the election of the King's nominee; in many others, abbots were induced to resign, and fresh ones put in their place. It is not clear that the main object was to pack the clerical representation in the House of Lords, because only a few of these abbots had seats there, the abbots gave much less trouble than the bishops in Parliament, and Convocation, where they largely outnumbered the bishops, was much more amenable than the House of Peers, where the bishops' votes preponderated. It is more probable that the end in view was already the dissolution of the monasteries by means of surrender. Cromwell, who was now said to "rule everything," was boasting that he would make his King the richest monarch in Christendom, and his methods may be guessed from his praise of the Sultan as a model to other princes for the authority he wielded over his subjects. Henry, however, was fortunate in 1533, even in the matter of episcopal representation. He had, since the fall of Wolsey, had occasion to fill up the Sees of York, Winchester, London, Durham and Canterbury; and in this year five more became vacant: Bangor, Ely, Coventry and Lichfield by death, and Salisbury and Worcester through the deprivation by Act of Parliament of their foreign and absentee pastors, Campeggio and Ghinucci. Of the other bishops, Clerk of Bath and Wells, and Longland of Lincoln, had been active in the divorce, which, indeed, Longland, the King's confessor, was said to have originally suggested about the year 1523; the Bishops of Norwich and of Chichester were both over ninety years of age. Llandaff was Catherine's confessor, a Spaniard who could not speak a word of English. On the whole bench there was no one but Fisher of Rochester who had the will or the courage to make any effective stand on behalf of the Church's liberty.
Before Parliament met Francis sent Du Bellay, Bishop of Paris, to London to make one last effort to keep the peace between England and Rome. Du Bellay could get no concessions of any value from Henry. All the King would promise was that, if Clement would before Easter declare his marriage with Catherine null and that with Anne valid, he would not complete the extirpation of the papal authority. Little enough of that remained, and Henry himself had probably no expectation and no wish that his terms should be accepted. Long before Du Bellay had reached Rome, Parliament was discussing measures designed to effect the final severance. Opposition was of the feeblest character alike in Convocation and in both Houses of Parliament. Chapuys himself gloomily prophesied that there would be no difficulty in getting the principal measures, abolishing the Pope's authority and arranging for the election of bishops, through the House of Lords. The second Act of Appeals embodied the concessions made by Convocation in 1532 and rejected that year in the House of Lords. Convocation was neither to meet nor to legislate without the King's assent; Henry might appoint a royal commission to reform the canon law; appeals were to be permitted to Chancery from the Archbishop's Court; abbeys and other religious houses, which had been exempt from episcopal authority, were placed immediately under the jurisdiction of Chancery. A fresh Act of Annates defined more precisely the new method of electing bishops, and provided that, if the Chapter did not elect the royal nominee within twelve days, the King might appoint him by letters patent. A third act forbade the payment of Peter-pence and other impositions to the Court of Rome, and handed over the business of dispensations and licences to the Archbishop of Canterbury; at the same time it declared that neither King nor realm meant to vary from the articles of the Catholic Faith of Christendom.
Another act provided that charges of heresy must be supported by two lay witnesses, and that indictments for that offence could only be made by lay authorities. This, like the rest of Henry's anti-ecclesiastical legislation, was based on popular clamour. On the 5th of March the whole House of Commons, with the Speaker at their head, had waited on the King at York Place and expatiated for three hours on the oppressiveness of clerical jurisdiction. At length it was agreed that eight temporal peers, eight representatives of the Lower House and sixteen bishops "should discuss the matter and the King be umpire"—a repetition of the plan of 1529 and a very exact reflection of Henry's methods and of the Church-and-State situation during the Reformation Parliament.
The final act of the session, which ended on 30th March, was a constitutional innovation of the utmost importance. From the earliest ages the succession to the crown had in theory been determined, first by election, and then by hereditary right. In practice it had often been decided by the barbarous arbitrament of war. For right is vague, it may be disputed, and there was endless variety of opinion as to the proper claimant to the throne if Henry should die. So vague right was to be replaced by definite law, which could not be disputed, but which, unlike right, could easily be changed. The succession was no longer to be regulated by an unalterable principle, but by the popular (or royal) will expressed in Acts of Parliament. The first of a long series of Acts of Succession was now passed to vest the succession to the crown in the heirs of the King by Anne Boleyn; clauses were added declaring that persons who impugned that marriage by writing, printing, or other deed were guilty of treason, and those who impugned it by words, of misprision. The Government proposal that both classes of offenders should be held guilty of treason was modified by the House of Commons.
On 23rd March, a week before the prorogation of Parliament, and seven years after the divorce case had first begun, Clement gave sentence at Rome pronouncing valid the marriage between Catherine and Henry. The decision produced not a ripple on the surface of English affairs; Henry, writes Chapuys, took no account of it and was making as good cheer as ever. There was no reason why he should not. While the imperialist mob at Rome after its kind paraded the streets in crowds, shouting "Imperio et Espagne," and firing feux-de-joie over the news, the imperialist agent was writing to Charles that the judgment would not be of much profit, except for the Emperor's honour and the Queen's justification, and was congratulating his master that he was not bound to execute the sentence. Flemings were tearing down the papal censures from the doors of their churches, and Charles was as convinced as ever of the necessity of Henry's friendship. He proposed to the Pope that some one should be sent from Rome to join Chapuys in "trying to move the King from his error"; and Clement could only reply that "he thought the embassy would have no effect on the King, but that nothing would be lost by it, and it would be a good compliment!" Henry, however was less likely to be influenced by compliments, good or bad, than by the circumstance that neither Pope nor Emperor was in a position to employ any ruder persuasive. There was none so poor as to reverence a Pope, and, when Clement died six months later, the Roman populace broke into the chamber where he lay and stabbed his corpse; they were with difficulty prevented from dragging it in degradation through the streets. Such was the respect paid to the Supreme Pontiff in the Holy City, and deference to his sentence was not to be expected in more distant parts.
Henry's political education was now complete; the events of the last five years had proved to him the truth of the assertion, with which he had started, that the Pope might do what he liked at Rome, but that he also could do what he liked in England, so long as he avoided the active hostility of the majority of his lay subjects. The Church had, by its actions, shown him that it was powerless; the Pope had proved the impotence of his spiritual weapons; and the Emperor had admitted that he was both unable and unwilling to interfere. Henry had realised the extent of his power, and the opening of his eyes had an evil effect upon his character. Nothing makes men or Governments so careless or so arbitrary as the knowledge that there will be no effective opposition to their desires. Henry, at least, never grew careless; his watchful eye was always wide open. His ear was always strained to catch the faintest rumbling of a coming storm, and his subtle intellect was ever on the alert to take advantage of every turn in the diplomatic game. He was always efficient, and he took good care that his ministers should be so as well. But he grew very arbitrary; the knowledge that he could do so much became with him an irresistible reason for doing it. Despotic power is twice cursed; it debases the ruler and degrades the subject; and Henry's progress to despotism may be connected with the rise of Thomas Cromwell, who looked to the Great Turk as a model for Christian princes. Cromwell became secretary in May, 1534; in that month Henry's security was enhanced by the definitive peace with Scotland, and he set to work to enforce his authority with the weapons which Parliament had placed in his hands. Elizabeth Barton, and her accomplices, two Friars Observants, two monks, and one secular priest, all attainted of treason by Act of Parliament, were sent to the block. Commissioners were sent round, as Parliament had ordained, to enforce the oath of succession throughout the land. A general refusal would have stopped Henry's career, but the general consent left Henry free to deal as he liked with the exceptions. Fisher and More were sent to the Tower. They were willing to swear to the succession, regarding that as a matter within the competence of Parliament, but they refused to take the oath required by the commissioners; it contained, they alleged, a repudiation of the Pope not justified by the terms of the statute. Two cartloads of friars followed them to the Tower in June, and the Order of Observants, in whose church at Greenwich Henry had been baptised and married, and of whom in his earlier years he had written in terms of warm admiration, was suppressed altogether.
In November Parliament reinforced the Act of Succession by laying down the precise terms of the oath, and providing that a certificate of refusal signed by two commissioners was as effective as the indictment of twelve jurors. Other acts empowered the King to repeal by royal proclamation certain statutes regulating imports and exports. The first-fruits and tenths, of which the Pope had been already deprived, were now conferred on the King as a fitting ecclesiastical endowment for the Supreme Head of the Church. That title, granted him four years before by both Convocations, was confirmed by Act of Parliament; its object was to enable the King as Supreme Head to effect the "increase of virtue in Christ's Religion within this Realm of England, and to repress and extirp all Errors, Heresies and other Enormities, and Abuses heretofore used in the same". The Defender of the Faith was to be armed with more than a delegate power; he was to be supreme in himself, the champion not of the Faith of any one else, but of his own; and the qualifying clause, "as far as the law of Christ allows," was omitted. His orthodoxy must be above suspicion, or at least beyond the reach of open cavil in England. So new treasons were enacted, and any one who called the King a heretic, schismatic, tyrant, infidel, or usurper, was rendered liable to the heaviest penalty which the law could inflict. As an earnest of the royal and parliamentary desire for an increase of virtue in religion, an act was concurrently passed providing for the creation of a number of suffragan bishops.
Henry was now Pope in England with powers no Pope had possessed. The Reformation is variously regarded as the liberation of the English Church from the Roman yoke it had long impatiently borne, as its subjection to an Erastian yoke which it was henceforth, with more or less patience, long to bear, or as a comparatively unimportant assertion of a supremacy which Kings of England had always enjoyed. The Church is the same Church, we are told, before and after the change; if anything, it was Protestant before the Reformation, and Catholic after. It is, of course, the same Church. A man may be described as the same man before and after death, and the business of a coroner's jury is to establish the identity; but it does not ignore the vital difference. Even Saul and Paul were the same man. And the identity of the Church before and after the legislation of Henry VIII. covers a considerable number of not unimportant changes. It does not, however, seem strictly accurate to say that Henry either liberated or enslaved the Church. Rather, he substituted one form of despotism for another, a sole for a dual control; the change, complained a reformer, was merely a translatio imperii. The democratic movement within the Church had died away, like the democratic movements in national and municipal politics, before the end of the fifteenth century. It was never merry with the Church, complained a Catholic in 1533, since the time when bishops were wont to be chosen by the Holy Ghost and by their Chapters.
Since then the Church had been governed by a partnership between King and Pope, without much regard for the votes of the shareholders. It was not Henry who first deprived them of influence; neither did he restore it. What he did was to eject his foreign partner, appropriate his share of the profits, and put his part of the business into the hands of a manager. First-fruits and tenths were described as an intolerable burden; but they were not abolished; they were merely transferred from the Pope to the King. Bishops became royal nominees, pure and simple, instead of the joint nominees of King and Pope. The supreme appellate jurisdiction in ecclesiastical causes was taken away from Rome, but it was not granted the English Church to which in truth it had never belonged. Chancery, and not the Archbishop's Court, was made the final resort for ecclesiastical appeals. The authority, divided erstwhile between two, was concentrated in the hands of one; and that one was thus placed in a far different position from that which either had held before.
The change was analogous to that in Republican Rome from two consuls to one dictator. In both cases the dictatorship was due to exceptional circumstances. There had long been a demand for reform in the Church in England as well as elsewhere, but the Church was powerless to reform itself. The dual control was in effect, as dual controls often are, a practical anarchy. The condition of the Church before the Reformation may be compared with that of France before the Revolution. In purely spiritual matters the Pope was supreme: the conciliar movement of the fifteenth century had failed. The Pope had gathered all powers to himself, in much the same way as the French monarch in the eighteenth century had done; and the result was the same, a formal despotism and a real anarchy. Pope and Monarch were crushed by the weight of their own authority; they could not reform, even when they wanted to. From 1500 to 1530 almost every scheme, peaceful or bellicose, started in Europe was based on the plea that its ultimate aim was the reform of the Church; and so it would have continued, vox et præterea nihil, had not the Church been galvanised into action by the loss of half its inheritance.
In England the change from a dual to a sole control at once made that control effective, and reform became possible. But it was a reform imposed on the Church from without and by means of the exceptional powers bestowed on the Supreme Head. Hence the burden of modern clerical criticism of the Reformation. Objection is raised not so much to the things that were done, as to the means by which they were brought to pass, to the fact that the Church was forcibly reformed by the State, and not freed from the trammels of Rome, and then left to work out its own salvation. But such a solution occurred to few at that time; the best and the worst of Henry's opponents opposed him on the ground that he was divorcing the Church in England from the Church universal. Their objection was to what was done more than to the way in which it was done; and Sir Thomas More would have fought the Reformation quite as strenuously had it been effected by the Convocations of Canterbury and York. On the other side there was equally little thought of a Reformation by clerical hands. Henry and Cromwell carried on and developed the tradition of the Emperor Frederick II and Peter de Vinea, of Philippe le Bel and Pierre Dubois, of Lewis the Bavarian and Marsiglio of Padua who maintained the supremacy of the temporal over the spiritual power and asserted that the clergy wielded no jurisdiction and only bore the keys of heaven in the capacity of turnkeys. It was a question of the national State against the universal Church. The idea of a National Church was a later development, the result and not the cause of the Reformation.
Henry's dictatorship was also temporary in character. His supremacy over the Church was royal, and not parliamentary. It was he, and not Parliament, who had been invested with a semi-ecclesiastical nature. In one capacity he was head of the State, in another, head of the Church. Parliament and Convocation were co-ordinate one with another, and subordinate both to the King. The Tudors, and especially Elizabeth, vehemently denied to their Parliaments any share in their ecclesiastical powers. Their supremacy over the Church was their own, and, as a really effective control, it died with them. As the authority of the Crown declined, its secular powers were seized by Parliament; its ecclesiastical powers fell into abeyance between Parliament and Convocation. Neither has been able to vindicate an exclusive claim to the inheritance; and the result of this dual claim to control has been a state of helplessness, similar in some respects to that from which the Church was rescued by the violent methods of Henry VIII.