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HOME > Classical Novels > History of the Reformation in Europe in the Time of Calvin > CHAPTER XI.
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(Summer, 1536.)
After queen Anne's death the two parties were agitated in opposite directions. The friends of the Reformation wished to show that the disgrace of that princess did not carry with it the disgrace of the cause they had at heart, and consequently believed that they ought to accelerate the Reform movement. The friends of Rome and its doctrines, imagining, on their part, that the queen's death had put their affairs in good train, thought they had but to redouble their activity to gain a complete victory. The latter seemed indeed to have some reasons for encouragement. If Catherine's death
had reconciled Henry VIII. and the emperor just when the latter was threatening England with invasion, the death of Anne Boleyn appeared as if it would reconcile the king with Paul III., who was ready to issue his terrible bull. Henry's wives played a great part in his private history, but they had also a certain importance in his relations with the powers of Europe, especially with the pope. As soon as the pontiff had seen Charles V. and Francis I. preparing for war, he had instructed his son to hint to Da Casale, that the court of Rome was very desirous of reviving the ancient friendship which had united it to England.[360] These desires increased rapidly.
On the 20th of May, when the news of the queen's prosecution arrived in Rome, both pope and cardinals were transported with joy. The frightful calumnies of which that princess was the victim, served the cause of the papacy too well not to be accepted as truths, and all felt persuaded that, if Anne fell from the throne, the acts done at London against the Italian primacy would fall with her. When Da Casale informed the pope that the queen had been sent to prison, Paul exclaimed with delight: 'I always thought, when I saw Henry endowed with so many virtues, that heaven would not forsake him. If he is willing to unite with me,' he added, 'I shall have authority enough to enjoin the emperor and the king of France to make peace; and the king of England, reconciled with the Church, will command the powers of Europe.' At the same time Paul III. confessed that he had made a mistake in raising Fisher to the cardinalate, and wound up this pontifical effusion in the kindest of terms. Da Casale, much delighted on his part, asked whether he was to repeat these matters to the king. 'Tell him,' answered the pope, 'that his majesty
may, without hesitation, expect everything from me.'[361] Da Casale, therefore, made his report to London, and intimated that, if Henry made the least sign of reconciliation, the pope would immediately send him a nuncio. Thus Paul left not a stone unturned to win over the king of England. He extolled his virtues, promised him the foremost place in Europe, flattered his vanity as an author, and did not fear—he the infallible one—to acknowledge that he had made a mistake. Everybody at the court of Rome felt convinced that England was about to return to the bosom of the Church; cardinal Campeggi even sent his brother to London to resume possession of the bishopric of Salisbury, of which he had been deprived in 1534.[362] Up to the end of June, the pope and the cardinals became kinder and more respectful to the English, and entertained the most flattering expectations regarding the return of England.
Would these expectations be realized? Henry VIII. was not one man, but two: his domestic passions and his public acts formed two departments entirely distinct. Guided as an individual by passion, he was, as a king, sometimes led by just views. He believed that neither pope nor foreign monarch had a right to exercise the smallest jurisdiction in England. He was therefore decided—and this saved Great Britain—to maintain the rupture with Rome. One circumstance might have taught him that in all respects it was the best thing he could do.
Rome has two modes of bringing back princes under her yoke—flattery and abuse. The pope had adopted
the first: a person, at that time without influence, Reginald Pole, an Englishman, and also a relative and protégé of Henry's, undertook the second. In 1535 he was in the north of Italy; burning with love for the papacy and hatred for the king, his benefactor, he wrote ab irato a defence of the unity of the Church, addressed to Henry VIII., and overflowing with violence. The wise and pious Contarini, to whom he showed it, begged him to soften a tone that might cause much harm. As Pole refused, Contarini entreated him at least to submit his manuscript to the pope; but the young Englishman, fearing that Paul would require him to suppress the untoward publication, declined acceding to his friend's request. His object was, not to convert the king, but to stir up the English against their lawful prince, and induce them to fall prostrate again before the Roman pontiff. The treatise, finished in the winter of 1536, before Anne's trial, reached London the first week in June. Tonstall, bishop of Durham, and Pole's friend, read the book, which contained a few truths mixed up with great errors, and then communicated it to the king. Never did haughty monarch receive so rude a lesson.
'Shall I write to you, O prince,' said the young Englishman, 'or shall I not? Observing in you the certain symptoms of the most dangerous malady, and assured as I am that I possess the remedies suitable to cure you, how can I refrain from pronouncing the word which alone can preserve your life? I love you, sire, as son never loved his father, and God perhaps will make my voice to be like that of his own Son, whose voice even the dead hear. O prince, you are dealing the most deadly blow against the Church that it can possibly receive, you rob it of the chief whom it possesses upon earth. Why should a king, who is the supreme head of the State, occupy a similar place in the Church? If we may trust the arguments of your doctors, we must conclude
that Nero was the head of the Church.[363] We should laugh, if the laughter were not to be followed by tears. There is as great a distance between the ecclesiastical and the civil power, as there is between heaven and earth. There are three estates in human society: first, the people; then the king, who is the son of the people; and lastly, the priest, who being the spouse of the people is consequently the father of the king.[364] But you, in imitation of the pride of Lucifer, set yourself above the vicar of Jesus Christ.
'What! you have rent the Church, as it was never before rent in that island, you have plundered and cruelly tormented it, and you claim, in virtue of such merits, to be called its supreme head. There are two Churches: if you are at the head of one, it is not the Church of Christ; if you are, it is like Satan, who is the prince of the world, which he oppresses under his tyranny.... You reign, but after the fashion of the Turks. A simple nod of your head has more power than ancient laws and rights. Sword in hand you decide religious controversies. Is not that thoroughly Turkish and barbarian?[365]
'O England! if you have not forgotten your ancient liberty, what indignation ought to possess you, when you see your king plunder, condemn, murder, squander all your wealth, and leave you nothing but tears. Beware, for if you let your grievances be heard, you will be afflicted with still deeper wounds. O my country! it is in your power to change your great sorrow into greater joy. Neither Nero nor Domitian, nor—I dare
affirm—Luther himself, if he had been king of England,[366] would have wished to avenge himself by putting to death such men as Fisher and Sir Thomas More!
'What king has ever given more numerous signs of respect to the supreme pontiff than that Francis I. who spoke of you, O Henry, in words received with applause by the whole Christian world: "your friend,—till the altar," Amicus—usque ad aras.—The emperor Charles has just subdued the pirates; but is there any pirate that is worse than you? Have you not plundered the wealth of the Church, thrown the bodies of the saints into prison, and reduced men's souls to slavery? If I heard that the emperor with all his fleet was sailing for Constantinople, I would fall at his feet, and say—were it even in the straits of the Hellespont—"O emperor, what are you thinking of? Do you not see that a much greater danger than the Turks threatens the Christian republic? Change your route. What would be the use of expelling the Turks from Europe, when new Turks are hatched among us?" Certainly the English for slighter causes have forced their kings to put off their crowns.'[367]
After the apostrophe addressed to Charles V., Reginald Pole returns to Henry VIII., and imagining himself to be the prophet Elijah before king Ahab, he says with great boldness: 'O king, the Lord hath commanded me to curse you; but if you will patiently listen to me, he will return you good for evil. Why delay to confess your sin? Do not say that you have done everything according to the rules of Holy Scripture. Does not the Church, which gives it authority, know what is to be received and what rejected? You have forsaken the fountain of wisdom. Return to the Church, O prince!
and all that you have lost you shall regain with more splendor and glory.
'But if anyone hears the sound of the trumpet and does not heed it, the sword is drawn from the scabbard, the guilty is smitten, and his blood is upon his own head.'
We have hardly given the flower of this long tirade, written in the style of the 16th century, which, divided into four books, fills one hundred and ninety-two folio pages. It reached England at the moment of the condemnation of the innocent Anne, which Pole unconsciously protested against as unjust, more unjust even than the sentences of Fisher and More. Henry did not at first read his 'pupil's' philippic through. He saw enough, however, to regard it as an insult, a divorce which Italy had sent him. He ordered Pole to return to England; but the latter remembered too well the fate of Fisher and Sir Thomas More to run the risk. Bishop Tonstall, one of the enemies of the Reformation, wrote, however, to Pole, that as Christ was the head of the Church, to separate it from the pope was not to separate from its head. This refutation was short but complete.
The king was resolved to maintain his independence of the pope. Some have ascribed this determination to Pole's treatise, and others to the influence of Jane Seymour. Both these circumstances may have had some weight in Henry's mind; but the great cause, we repeat, is that he would not suffer any master but himself in England. Gardiner replied to Pole in a treatise which he entitled: On True Obedience,[368] to which Bonner wrote the preface.
Paul III. was not the only one who descried the signal of triumph in Anne's death: the princess Mary believed that she would now become heiress-presumptive to the crown. Lady Kingston, having discharged
Anne Boleyn's Christian commission, Catherine's daughter, but slightly affected by this touching conduct, took advantage of it for her own interest, and charged that lady with a letter addressed to Cromwell, in which she begged him to intercede for her with the king, so that the rank which belonged to her should be restored. Henry consented to receive his daughter into favor, but not without conditions: 'Madam,' said Norfolk, who had been sent to her by the king, 'here are the articles which require your signature.'
The daughter of the proud Catherine of Aragon was to acknowledge four points: the supremacy of the king, the imposture of the pope, the incest of her own mother, and her own illegitimacy. She refused, but as Norfolk was not to be shaken, she signed the two first articles;[369] then laying down the pen, she exclaimed: 'As for my own shame and my mother's—never!' Cromwell threatened her, called her obstinate and unnatural, and told her that her father would abandon her: the unhappy princess signed everything. She was restored to favor, and from that time received yearly three thousand pounds sterling; but she was deceived in thinking that the misfortune of her little sister Elizabeth would replace her on the steps of the throne.
Parliament met on the 8th of June, when the chancellor announced to them that the king, notwithstanding his mishaps in matrimony, had yielded to the humble solicitations of the nobility, and formed a new union. The two houses ratified the accomplished facts. No man desired to stir the ashes from which sparks might issue and kindle a great conflagration. At no price would they compromise the most exalted persons in the kingdom, and especially the king. All the allegations, even the most absurd, were admitted: Parliament wanted to have done with the matter. It even went further: the king was thanked for the most excellent goodness which
had induced him to marry a lady whose brilliant youth, remarkable beauty, and purity of blood were the sure pledges of the happy issue which a marriage with her could not fail to produce; and his most respectful subjects determined to bury the faults of their prince under flowers, compared him for beauty to Absalom, for strength to Samson, and for wisdom to Solomon. Parliament added, that as the daughters of Catherine and Anne were both illegitimate, the succession had devolved upon the children of Jane Seymour. As, however, it was possible that she might not have any issue, parliament granted him the privilege of naming his successor in his will: an enormous prerogative, conferred upon the most capricious of monarchs. Those who refused to take the oath required by the statute were to be declared guilty of high treason.
Parliament having thus arranged the king's business, set about the business of the country. 'My lords,' said ministers on the 4th of July to the upper house, 'the bishop of Rome, whom some persons call pope, wishing to have the means of satisfying his love of luxury and tyranny, has obscured the Word of God, excluded Jesus Christ from the soul, banished princes from their kingdoms, monopolized the mind, body, and goods of all Christians, and, in particular, extorted great sums of money from England by his dreams and superstitions.' Parliament decided that the penalties of præmunire should be inflicted on everybody who recognized the authority of the Roman pontiff, and that every student, ecclesiastic, and civil functionary should be bound to renounce the pope in an oath made in the name of God and all his saints.[370]
This bill was the cause of great joy in England; the protestant spirit was stirred; there was a great outburst of sarcasms, and one could see that the citizens of the
capital naturally were not friends to the papacy. Man is inclined to laugh at what he has respected when he finds that he has been deceived, and then readily classes among human follies what he had once taken for the wisdom of Heaven. A contest of epigrams was begun in London, similar to that which had so often taken place at Rome between Pasquin and Marforio: perhaps, however, the jokes were occasionally a little heavy. 'Do you see the stole round the priest's neck?' said one wit; 'it is nothing else but the bishop of Rome's rope.'[371]—'Matins, masses, and evensong are nothing but a roaring, howling, whistling, murmuring, tomring, and juggling.'[372]—'It is as lawful to christen a child in a tub of water at home or in a ditch by the way, as in a font-stone in the church.'—Gradually this jesting spirit made its way to the lower classes of society.—'Holy water is very useful,' said one who haunted the London taverns; 'for as it is already salted, you have only to put an onion in it to make sauce for a gibbet of mutton.'—'What is that you say,' replied some blacksmith, 'it is a very good medicine for a horse with a galled back.'[373] But while frivolity and a desire to show one's wit, however coarse it might be, gave birth to silly jests merely provocative of laughter, the love of truth inspired the evangelical Christians with serious words which irritated the priests more than the raillery of the jesters. 'The Church,' they said, 'is not the clergy, the Church is the congregation of good men only. All ceremonies accustomed in the Church and not clearly expressed in Scripture ought to be done away. When the sinner is converted, all the sins over which he sheds tears are remitted freely by the Father who is in heaven.'[374]
After the words of the profane and of the pious came the words of the priests. A convocation of the clergy was summoned to meet at St. Paul's. The bishops came
and took their places, and anyone might count the votes which Rome and the Reformation had on the episcopal bench. For the latter there were: archbishop Cranmer; Goodrich, bishop of Ely; Shaxton, bishop of Salisbury; Fox, bishop of Hereford; Latimer, bishop of Worcester; Hilsey, bishop of Rochester; Barlow, bishop of St. David's; Warton, bishop of St. Asaph; and Sampson, bishop of Chichester—nine votes in all. For Rome there were: Lee, archbishop of York; Stokesley, bishop of London; Tonstall, bishop of Durham; Longland, bishop of Lincoln; Vesey, bishop of Exeter; Clerk, bishop of Bath; Lee, bishop of Lichfield; Salcot, bishop of Bangor; and Rugge, bishop of Norwich—nine a............
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