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HOME > Classical Novels > History of the Reformation in Europe in the Time of Calvin > CHAPTER VIII.
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(1534 to 1535.)
Henry VIII. having thrown down the pillar of the papacy—the monks—felt the necessity of strengthening the work he had begun by alliances with the continental protestants. He did not turn to the Swiss or the French Reformers: their small political importance, as well as the decided character of their Reform, alienated him from them. 'What inconsiderate men they are,' said Calvin, 'who exalt the king of England. To ascribe sovereign authority to the prince in everything, to call
him supreme head of the Church under Christ, is in my opinion blasphemy.'[222]
Henry hoped more from Germany than from Switzerland. As early as 1534 three senators of Lubeck had presented to him the Confession of Augsburg, and proposed an alliance against the Roman pontiff.[223] Anne Boleyn pressed the king to unite with the protestants, and in the spring of 1535 Barnes was sent to Wittemberg, where he induced the Reformers to claim his master's protection. Melanchthon, who was more inclined than Luther to have recourse to princes, since he did not refuse to unite with Francis I., did not reject the advances of Henry VIII. 'Sire,' he wrote in March 1535, 'this is now the golden age for Britain.[224] In times of old, when the armies of the Goths had stifled letters in Europe, your island restored them to the universe. I entreat you in the name of Jesus Christ to plead for us before kings.' The illustrious doctor dedicated to this prince the new edition of his Common-Places, and commissioned Alesius, a Scotchman, to present it with the hope that he should see England become the salvation of many nations, and even of the whole Church of Christ.[225] Alesius, who had taken refuge in Saxony, was happy to return to that island from which the fanaticism of the Scotch clergy had compelled him flee. He was presented to the uncle of his king, and Henry, delighted with the Scotchman, said to him: 'I name you my scholar,' and directed Cranmer to send Melanchthon two hundred crowns.
They were accompanied by a letter for the illustrious professor, in which the king signed himself: Your friend Henry.
But it was not long before the hopes of a union between Germany and England seemed to vanish. Scarcely had Melanchthon vaunted in his dedication to Henry VIII. the moderation of the king—a moderation worthy (he had said) of a wise prince—when he heard of the execution of Fisher and More. He shrank back with terror. 'Morus,' he exclaimed, 'has been put to death, and others with him.' The cruelties of the king tortured the gentle Philip. The idea that a man of letters like More should fall by the hands of the executioner, scandalized him. He began to fear for his own life. 'I am myself,' he said, 'in great peril.'[226]
Henry did not suspect the horror which his crime would excite on the continent, and had just read with delight a passage of Melanchthon's in which the latter compared him to Ptolemy Philadelphus! He therefore said to Barnes: 'Go and bring him back with you.' Barnes returned to Wittemberg in September and delivered his message. But the doctor of Germany had never received so alarming an invitation before. He imagined it to be a treacherous scheme. 'The mere thought of the journey,' he said, 'overwhelms me with distress.' Barnes tried to encourage him. 'The king will give you a magnificent escort,' he said, 'and even hostages, if you desire it.'[227] Melanchthon, who had More's bleeding head continually before him, was immovable. Luther also regarded Barnes with an unfavorable eye, and called him the black Englishman.[228]
The envoy was more fortunate with the elector. John Frederick, hearing that the king of England was
desirous of forming an alliance with the princes of Germany, replied that he would communicate this important demand to them. He then entertained Barnes at a sumptuous breakfast, made him handsome presents, and wrote to Henry VIII. that the desire manifested by him to reform religious doctrine augmented his love for him, 'for,' he added, 'it belongs to kings to propagate Christ's gospel far and wide.'[229]
Luther also, but from other motives than those of the elector, did not look so closely as Melanchthon; the suppression of the monasteries prepossessed him in favor of his ancient adversary. The penalties with which the Carthusians and others had been visited did not alarm him. Vergerio, the papal legate, who was at Wittemberg at the beginning of November, invited Luther to breakfast with him. 'I know,' he said, 'that king Henry kills cardinals and bishops, but ...' and biting his lips, he made a significant movement with his hand, as if he wished to cut off the king's head. When relating this anecdote to Melanchthon, who was then at Jena, Luther added: 'Would to God that we possessed several kings of England to put to death those bishops, cardinals, legates, and popes who are nothing but robbers, traitors, and devils!'[230] Luther was less tender than he is represented when contrasted with Calvin. Those hasty words expressed really the thoughts of all parties. The spiritual leaven of the gospel had to work for a century or more upon the hard material of which the heart of man is made, before the errors of Romish legislation, a thousand years old, were banished. No doubt there was an immediate mitigation produced by the Reformation; but if any one had told the men of the
sixteenth century that it was wrong to put men to death for acts of impiety, they would have been as astonished, and perhaps more so, than our judges, if they were abused because, in conformity with the law, they visited murder with capital punishment. It is strange, however, that it required so many centuries to understand those glorious words of our Saviour: The Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them.[231]
The condition which the protestants placed on their union with Henry VIII. rendered the alliance difficult. 'We only ask one thing,' said the Reformers to Barnes, 'that the doctrine which is in conformity with Scripture be restored to the whole world;'[232] but Henry still observed the catholic doctrine. But he was told that the Lutherans and Francis I., thanks to Melanchthon's mediation, were probably coming to an agreement, and that a general council would be summoned. What treatment could he expect from such an assembly, he who had so grievously offended the papacy! Desirous of preventing a council at any price, the king determined in September, 1535, to send a more important embassy to the Lutherans, in order to persuade them to renounce the idea of coming to terms with the pope, and rather to form an alliance with England.
Consequently Fox, bishop of Hereford, a proud and insolent courtier, and Archdeacon Hare, an amiable and enlightened man, with some others, started for Germany and joined Barnes and Mount who had preceded them. On the 24th of December they were admitted into the presence of the Elector of Saxony, the Landgrave of Hesse, and other protestant deputies and princes: 'The king our master,' they said, 'has abolished the power of the Roman bishop throughout his dominions, and rejected
his pretended pardons and his old wives' stories.[233] Accordingly the pope, in a transport of fury, has summoned all the kings of the earth to take arms against him. But neither pope nor papists alarm our prince. He offers you his person, his wealth, and his sceptre to combat the Roman power. Let us unite against it, and the Spirit of God will bind our confederation together.'[234] The princes replied to this eloquent harangue, 'that if the king engaged to propagate the pure doctrine of the faith as it had been confessed at the diet of Augsburg; if he engaged, like them, never to concede to the Roman bishop any jurisdiction in his States, they would name him Defender and Protector of their confederation.'[235] They added that they would send a deputation, including one man of excellent learning (meaning Melanchthon), to confer with the king upon the changes to be made in the Church. The Englishmen could not conceal their joy, but the theologian had lost all confidence in Henry VIII. 'The death of More distresses me: I will have nothing to do with the business.'[236] Nevertheless the treaty of alliance was signed on the 25th December, 1535.[237] The catholic party, especially in England, was troubled at the news, and Gardiner, then ambassador in France, lost no time in writing to oppose designs which would establish protestantism in the Anglican Church.
While the king was uniting with the Confession of Augsburg, his relations with the most decided partisans of the papacy were far from improving. His daughter Mary, whose temper was melancholy and irritable, observed
no bounds as regards her father's friends or acts, and refused to submit to his orders. 'I bid her renounce the title of princess,' said Henry in a passion.—'If I consented not to be regarded as such,' she answered, 'I should go against my conscience and incur God's displeasure.'[238] Henry, no friend of half-measures, talked of putting his daughter to death, and thus frightening the rebels. That wretched prince had a remarkable tendency for killing those who were nearest to him. We may see a father correct his child with a stripe; but with this man, a blow from his hand was fatal. There was already some talk of sending the princess to the Tower, when the evangelical Cranmer ventured to intercede in behalf of the catholic Mary. He reminded Henry that he was her father, and that if he took away her life, he would incur universal reprobation. The king gave way to these representations, predicting to the archbishop that this intervention would some day cost him dear. In fact, when Mary became queen she put to death the man who had saved her life. Henry was content to order his daughter to be separated from her mother. On the other hand, the terrified Catherine endeavored to mollify the princess. 'Obey the king in all things,' she wrote from Buckden, where she was living, 'except in those which would destroy your soul. Speak little; trouble yourself about nothing, play on the spinet or lute.' This unhappy woman, who had found so much bitterness in the conjugal estate, added: 'Above all, do not desire a husband, nor even think of it, I beg you in the name of Christ's passion.
'Your loving mother, Catherine the Queen.'[239]
But the mother was not less decided than the daughter in maintaining her rights, and would not renounce
her title of queen, notwithstanding Henry's orders. A commission composed of the Duke of Suffolk, Lord Sussex, and others, arrived at Buckden to try and induce her to do so, and all the household of the princess was called together. The intrepid daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella said with a firm voice: 'I am the queen, the king's true wife.'[240] Being informed that it was intended to remove her to Somersham and separate her from some of her best friends, she answered: 'I will not go unless you bind me with ropes.'[241] And to prevent this she took to her bed and refused to dress, saying she was ill.[242] The king sent two catholic p............
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