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Alarm Of Catherine And The Growth Of Lutheranism

Absolution Of Lord Thomas Fitzgerald For The Murder Of The Archbishop Of Dublin

Anger Of Anne Boleyn And The Duke Of Norfolk

Anne Boleyn Chosen By Henry To Succeed Catherine

Unpopularity Of Anne Boleyn And Removal Of Catherine From The Court

The Divorce

The Court At Blackfriars

Warlike Resolution Of The Pope Restrained By The Cardinals

Danger Of Challenging The Papal Dispensing Power

Illness Of The Pope



Least Viewed

Expectation That Henry Would Return To The Roman Communion

Intended Escape Of The Princess Mary Out Of England

Anne Sentenced To Die

Illness Of The Princess Mary

Competition For Henry's Hand

The Pope's Authority Abolished In England

Likelihood Of A Separation Of The King From Anne

Illness Of Queen Catherine

Coronation Of Anne Boleyn

Henry Advised To Marry Without Waiting For Sentence






Anne Boleyn Chosen By Henry To Succeed Catherine








It was believed at the time--and it was the tradition afterwards--that
Wolsey, in his mission to Paris, intended to replace Catherine by a French
princess, the more surely to commit Francis to the support of Henry in the
divorce, and to strengthen the new alliance. Nothing can be inherently
more likely. The ostensible reason, however, was to do away with any
difficulties which might have been suggested by the objection of the
Bishop of Tarbes to the legitimacy of the Princess Mary. If illegitimate,
she would be no fitting bride for the Duke of Orleans. But she had been
born bona fide parentum. There was no intention of infringing her
prospective rights or of altering her present position. Her rank and title
were to be secured to her in amplest measure.

The Cardinal went upon his journey with the splendour attaching to his
office and befitting a churchman who was aspiring to be the spiritual
president of the two kingdoms. On his way to the coast he visited two
prelates whose support to his policy was important. Archbishop Warham had
been cold about the divorce, if not openly hostile. Wolsey found him "not
much changed from his first fashion," but admitting that, although it
might be unpleasant to the Queen, truth and justice must prevail. Bishop
Fisher was a more difficult subject. He had spoken in the Legate's court
in Catherine's favour. It was from him, as the King supposed, that
Catherine herself had learnt what was impending over her. Wolsey called at
his palace as he passed through Rochester. He asked the Bishop plainly if
he had been in communication with the Queen. The Bishop, after some
hesitation, confessed that the Queen had sought his advice, and said that
he had declined to give an opinion without the King's command. Before
Wolsey left London, at a last interview at York Place, the King had
directed him to explain "the whole matter" to the Bishop. He went through
the entire history, mentioned the words of the Bishop of Tarbes, and
discussed the question which had risen upon it, on account of which he had
been sent into France. Finally, he described the extreme violence with
which Catherine had received the intelligence.

The Bishop greatly blamed the conduct of the Queen, and said he thought
that if he might speak to her he might bring her to submission. He agreed,
or seemed to agree, that the marriage had been irregular, though he did
not himself think that it could now be broken. Others of the bishops, he
thought, agreed with him; but he was satisfied that the King meant nothing
against the laws of God, and would be fully justified in submitting his
misgivings to the Pope.

Mendoza's and the Queen's letters had meanwhile been despatched to Spain,
to add to the anxieties which were overwhelming the Emperor. Nothing
could have been less welcome at such a juncture than a family quarrel with
his uncle of England, whose friendship he was still hoping to retain. The
bird that he had caged at Rome was no convenient prisoner. The capture of
Rome had not been ordered by himself, though politically he was obliged to
maintain it. The time did not suit for the ambitious Church reforms of
Lope de Soria. Peace would have to be made with the Pope on some moderate
conditions. His own Spain was hardly quieted after the revolt of the
Comunidades. Half Germany was in avowed apostasy from the Church of
Rome. The Turks were overrunning Hungary, and sweeping the Mediterranean
with their pirate fleets, and the passionate and restless Francis was
watching his opportunity to revenge Pavia and attack his captor in the Low
Countries and in Italy. The great Emperor was moderate, cautious, prudent
to a fault. In a calmer season he might have been tempted to take the
Church in hand; and none understood better the condition into which it had
fallen. But he was wise enough to know that if a reform of the Papacy was
undertaken at all it must be undertaken with the joint consent of the
other Christian princes, and all his present efforts were directed to
peace. He was Catherine's natural guardian. Her position in England had
been hitherto a political security for Henry's friendship. It was his duty
and his interest to defend her, and he meant to do it; not, however, by
sending roving expeditions to land in Cornwall and raise a civil war; all
means were to be tried before that; to attempt such a thing, he well knew,
would throw Europe into a blaze. The letters found him at Valladolid. He
replied, of course, that he was shocked at a proceeding so unlooked for
and so scandalous, but he charged Mendoza to be moderate and to confine
himself to remonstrance. He wrote himself to Henry--confidentially, as
from friend to friend, and ciphering his letter with his own hand. He was
unable to believe, he said, that Henry could contemplate seriously
bringing his domestic discomforts before the world. Even supposing the
marriage illegitimate--even supposing that the Pope had no power to
dispense in such cases--"it would be better and more honourable to keep
the matter secret, and to work out a remedy." He bade Mendoza remind the
King that to question the dispensing power affected the position of other
princes besides his own; that to touch the legitimacy of his daughter
would increase the difficulties with the succession, and not remove them.
He implored the King "to keep the matter secret, as he would do himself."
Meanwhile, he told Mendoza, for Catherine's comfort, that he had written
to demand a mild brief from the Pope to stop the scandal. He had requested
him, as Catherine had suggested, to revoke Wolsey's powers, or at least to
command that neither he nor any English Court should try the case. If
heard at all it must be heard before his Holiness and the Sacred
College. But he could not part with the hope that he might still bring
Wolsey to his own and the Queen's side. A council of Cardinals was to meet
at Avignon to consider the Pope's captivity. The Cardinal of England was
expected to attend. Charles himself might go to Perpignan. Wolsey might
meet him there, discuss the state of Europe, and settle the King's secret
affair at the same time. Should this be impossible, he charged Mendoza
once more to leave no stone unturned to recover Wolsey's friendship. "In
our name," he said, "you will make him the following offers:--

"1. The payment of all arrears on his several pensions, amounting to 9,000
ducats annually.

"2. Six thousand additional ducats annually until such a time as a
bishoprick or other ecclesiastical endowment of the same revenue becomes
vacant in our kingdom.

"3. The Duke, who is to have Milan, to give him a Marquisate in that
Duchy, with an annual rent of 12,000 ducats, or 15,000 if the smaller sum
be not enough; the said Marquisate to be held by the Cardinal during his
life, and to pass after him to any heir whom he shall appoint."

As if this was not sufficient, the Emperor paid a yet further tribute to
the supposed all-powerful Cardinal. He wrote himself to him as to his
"good friend." He said that if there was anything in his dominions which
the Cardinal wished to possess he had only to name it, as he considered
Wolsey the best friend that he had in the world.

For the ministers of great countries deliberately to sell themselves to
foreign princes was the custom of the age. The measure of public virtue
which such a custom indicates was not exalted; and among the changes
introduced by the Reformation the abolition or suspension of it was not
the least beneficial. Thomas Cromwell, when he came to power, set the
example of refusal, and corruption of public men on a scale so
scandalously enormous was no more heard of. Gold, however, had flowed in
upon Wolsey in such enormous streams and from so many sources that the
Emperor's munificence and attention failed to tempt him. On reaching Paris
he found Francis bent upon war, and willing to promise anything for
Henry's assistance. The belief at the French Court was that the Emperor,
hearing that the Churches of England and France meant to decline from
their obedience to the Roman Communion, would carry the Pope to Spain;
that Clement would probably be poisoned there, and the Apostolic See would
be established permanently in the Peninsula. Wolsey himself wrote
this, and believed it, or desired Henry to believe it, proving the extreme
uncertainty among the best-informed of contemporary politicians as to the
probable issue of the capture of Rome. The French Cardinals drew and sent
an address to the Pope, intimating that as long as he was in confinement
they could accept no act of his as lawful, and would not obey it. Wolsey
signed at the head of them. The Cardinals Salviati, Bourbon, Lorraine, and
the Chancellor Cardinal of Sens, signed after him. The first stroke in
the game had been won by Wolsey. Had the Pope recalled his powers as
legate, an immediate schism might have followed. But a more fatal blow had
been prepared for him by his master in England. Trusting to the Cardinal's
promises that the Pope would make no difficulty about the divorce, Henry
had considered himself at liberty to choose a successor to Catherine. He
had suffered once in having allowed politics to select a wife for him.
This time he intended to be guided by his own inclination. When Elizabeth
afterwards wished to marry Leicester, Lord Sussex said she had better fix
after her own liking; there would be the better chance of the heir that
her realm was looking for. Her father fixed also after his liking in
selecting Elizabeth's mother.

Anne Boleyn was the second daughter of Sir Thomas Boleyn, a Norfolk knight
of ancient blood, and himself a person of some distinction in the public
service. Lady Boleyn was a Howard, daughter of the Duke of Norfolk. Anne
was born in 1507, and by birth and connection was early introduced into
the court. When a girl she was taken to Paris to be educated. In 1522 she
was brought back to England, became a lady-in-waiting, and, being a witty,
brilliant young woman, attracted and encouraged the attentions of the
fashionable cavaliers of the day. Wyatt, the poet, was among her adorers,
and the young Percy, afterwards Earl of Northumberland. It was alleged
afterwards that between her and Percy there had been a secret marriage
which had been actually consummated. That she had been involved in some
dangerous intrigue or other she herself subsequently confessed. But she
was attractive, she was witty; she drew Henry's fancy, and the fancy
became an ardent passion. Now, for the first time, in Wolsey's absence,
the Lady Anne's name appears in connection with the divorce. On the 16th
of August Mendoza informed Charles, as a matter of general belief, that if
the suit for the divorce was successful the King would marry a daughter of
Master Boleyn, whom the Emperor would remember as once ambassador at the
Imperial court. There is no direct evidence that before Wolsey had
left England the King had seriously thought of Anne at all. Catherine
could have had no suspicion of it, or her jealous indignation would have
made itself heard. The Spanish Ambassador spoke of it as a new feature in
the case.

The Boleyns were Wolsey's enemies, and belonged to the growing faction
most hostile to the Church. The news as it came upon him was utterly
distasteful. Anne in turn hated Wolsey, as he probably knew that she
would, and she compelled him to stoop to the disgrace of suing for her
favour. The inference is reasonable, therefore, that the King took the
step which in the event was to produce such momentous consequences when
the Cardinal was not at hand to dissuade him. He was not encouraged even
by her own family. Her father, as will be seen hereafter, was from the
first opposed to his daughter's advancement. He probably knew her
character too well. But Henry, when he had taken an idea into his head,
was not to be moved from it. The lady was not beautiful: she was rather
short than tall, her complexion was dark, her neck long, her mouth broad,
her figure not particularly good. The fascinating features were her long
flowing brown hair, a pair of effective dark eyes, and a boldness of
character which might have put him on his guard, and did not.

The immediate effect was to cool Wolsey's ardour for the divorce. His
mission in France, which opened so splendidly, eventuated in little. The
French cardinals held no meeting at Avignon. They had signed the address
to Clement, but they had not made the Cardinal of York into their
patriarch. Rouen was not added to his other preferments. Could he but have
proposed a marriage for his sovereign with the Princess of Alencon, all
might have been different, but it had fared with him as it fared with the
Earl of Warwick, whom Henry's grandfather had sent to France to woo a
bride for him, and in his absence married Elizabeth Grey. He perhaps
regretted the munificent offers of the Emperor which he had hastily
rejected, and he returned to England in the autumn to feel the
consequences of the change in his situation. Mr. Brewer labours in vain to
prove that Wolsey was unfavourable to the divorce from the beginning.
Catherine believed that he was the instigator of it. Mendoza was of the
same opinion. Unquestionably he promoted it with all his power, and made
it a part of a great policy. To maintain that he was acting thus against
his conscience and to please the King is more dishonouring to him than to
suppose that he was either the originator or the willing instrument. All,
however, was altered when Anne Boleyn came upon the stage, and she made
haste to make him feel the change. "The Legate has returned from France,"
wrote Mendoza on the 26th of October. He went to visit the King at
Richmond, and sent to ask where he could see him. The King was in his
chamber. It happened that the lady, who seemed to entertain no great
affection for the Cardinal, was in the room with the King, and before the
latter could answer the message she said for him, "Where else is the
Cardinal to come? Tell him he may come here where the King is." The Legate
felt that such treatment boded no good to him, but concealed his
resentment. "The cause," said Mendoza, "is supposed to be that the said
lady bears the Legate a grudge, for other reasons, and because she has
discovered that during his visit to France the Legate proposed to have an
alliance for the King found in that country." Wolsey persuaded Mendoza
that the French marriage had been a fiction, but at once he began to
endeavour to undo his work, and prevent the dissolution of the marriage
with Catherine. He tried to procure an unfavourable opinion from the
English Bishops before legal proceedings were commenced. Mendoza, however,
doubted his stability if the King persisted in his purpose, and advised
that a papal decision on the case should be procured and forwarded as soon
as possible.

The Pope's captivity, however, would destroy the value of any judgment
which he might give while he continued in durance. The Emperor, encouraged
by the intimation that Wolsey was wavering, reverted to his previous hope.
In a special memorandum of measures to be taken, the most important,
notwithstanding the refusal of the previous offers, was still thought to
be to "bribe the Cardinal." He must instantly be paid the arrears of his
pensions out of the revenues of the sees of Palencia and Badajoz. If there
was not money enough in the treasury, a further and larger pension of
twelve or fourteen thousand crowns was to be given to him out of some rich
bishopric in Castile. The Emperor admitted that he had promised the Cortes
to appoint no more foreigners to Spanish sees, but such a promise could
not be held binding, being in violation of the liberties of the Church.
Every one would see that it was for the good of the kingdom.

The renewed offer was doubtless conveyed to Wolsey, but he probably found
that he had gone too deep to retire. If he made such an effort as Mendoza
relates, he must have speedily discovered that it would be useless. He had
encouraged the King in a belief that the divorce would be granted by the
Pope as a matter of course, and the King, having made up his own mind, was
not to be moved from it. If Wolsey now drew back, the certain inference
would be that he had accepted an imperial bribe. There was no recourse,
therefore, but to go on.

While Wolsey had been hesitating, the King had, unknown to him, sent his
secretary, Dr. Knight, to Rome with directions to obtain access if
possible to the Pope, and procure the dispensation which had been already
applied for to enable him to marry a second time without the formalities
of a judgment. Such an expedient would be convenient in many ways. It
would leave Catherine's position unaffected and the legitimacy of the
Princess Mary unimpugned. Knight went. He found that without a passport he
could not even enter the city, still less be allowed an interview. "With
ten thousand crowns he could not bribe his way into St. Angelo." He
contrived, however, to have a letter introduced, which the Pope answered
by telling Knight to wait in some quiet place. He (the Pope) would "there
send him all the King's requests in as ample a form as they were desired."
Knight trusted in a short time "to have in his custody as much, perfect,
sped, and under lead, as his Highness had long time desired."

Knight was too sanguine. The Emperor, finding the Pope's detention as a
prisoner embarrassing, allowed him, on the 9th of December, to escape to
Orvieto, where he was apparently at liberty; but he was only in a larger
cage, all his territories being occupied by Imperial troops, and he
himself watched by the General of the Observants, and warned at his peril
to grant nothing to Catherine's prejudice. Henry's Secretary followed him,
saw him, and obtained something which on examination proved to be
worthless. The negotiations were left again in Wolsey's hands, and were
pressed with all the eagerness of a desperate man.

Pope Clement had ceased to be a free agent. He did not look to the rights
of the case. He would gladly have pleased Henry could he have pleased him
without displeasing Charles. The case itself was peculiar, and opinions
differed on the rights and wrongs of it. The reader must be from time to
time reminded that, as the law of England has stood ever since, a marriage
with a brother's widow was not a marriage. As the law of the Church then
stood, it was not a marriage unless permitted by the Pope; and according
to the same law of England the Pope neither has, nor ever had, any
authority to dispense with the law. Therefore Henry, on the abstract
contention, was in the right. He had married Catherine under an error. The
problem was to untie the knot with as little suffering to either as the
nature of the case permitted. That the negotiations were full of
inconsistencies, evasions, and contradictions, was natural and inevitable.
To cut the knot without untying it was the only direct course, but that
all means were exhausted before the application of so violent a remedy was
rather a credit than a reproach.

The first inconsistency was in the King. He did not regard his marriage as
valid; therefore he thought himself at liberty to marry again; but he did
not wish to illegitimatise his daughter or degrade Catherine. He disputed
the validity of the dispensation of Julius II.; yet he required a
dispensation from Clement which was equally questionable to enable him to
take a second wife. The management of the case having reverted to Wolsey,
fresh instructions were sent to Sir Gregory Casalis, the regular English
agent at the Papal court, to wait on Clement. Casalis was "bid consider
how much the affair concerned the relief of the King's conscience, the
safety of his soul, the preservation of his life, the continuation of his
succession, the welfare and repose of all his subjects now and hereafter."
The Pope at Orvieto was personally accessible. Casalis was to represent to
him the many difficulties which had arisen in connection with the
marriage, and the certainty of civil war in England should the King die
leaving the succession no better provided for. He was, therefore, to
request the Pope to grant a commission to Wolsey to hear the case and to
decide it, and (perhaps as an alternative) to sign a dispensation, a draft
of which Wolsey enclosed. The language of the dispensation was peculiar.
Wolsey explained it by saying that "the King, remembering by the example
of past times what false claims [to the crown] had been put forward, to
avoid all colour or pretext of the same, desired this of the Pope as
absolutely necessary." If these two requests were conceded, Henry
undertook on his part to require the Emperor to set the Pope at liberty,
or to declare war against him if he refused.

A dispensation, which was to evade the real point at issue, yet to convey
to the King a power to take another wife, was a novelty in itself and
likely to be carefully worded. It has given occasion among modern
historians to important inferences disgraceful to everyone concerned. The
sinister meaning supposed to be obvious to modern critics could not have
been concealed from the Pope himself. Here, therefore, follow the words
which have been fastened on as for ever fatal to the intelligence and
character of Henry and his Ministers.

The Pope, after reviewing the later history of England, the distractions
caused by rival claimants of the crown, after admitting the necessity of
guarding against the designs of the ambitious, and empowering Henry to
marry again, was made to address the King in these words:--

"In order to take away all occasion from evil doers, we do in the
plenitude of our power hereby suspend hac vice all canons forbidding
marriage in the fourth degree, also all canons de impedimento publicae
honestatis preventing marriage in consequence of clandestine espousals,
further all canons relating to precontracts clandestinely made but not
consummated, also all canons affecting impediments created by affinity
rising ex illicito coitu, in any degree even in the first, so far as the
marriage to be contracted by you, the petitioner, can be objected to or in
any wise be impugned by the same. Further, to avoid canonical objections
on the side of the woman by reason of former contract clandestinely made,
or impediment of public honesty or justice arising from such clandestine
contract, or of any affinity contracted in any degree even the first, ex
illicito coitu: and in the event that it has proceeded beyond the second
or third degrees of consanguinity, whereby otherwise you, the petitioner,
would not be allowed by the canons to contract marriage, we hereby license
you to take such woman for wife, and suffer you and the woman to marry
free from all ecclesiastical objections and censures."

The explanation given by Wolsey of the wording of this document is that it
was intended to preclude any objections which might be raised to the
prejudice of the offspring of a marriage in itself irregular. It was
therefore made as comprehensive as possible. Dr. Lingard, followed by Mr.
Brewer, and other writers see in it a transparent personal application to
the situation in which Henry intended to place himself in making a wife of
Anne Boleyn. Two years subsequent to the period when this dispensation was
asked for, when the question of the divorce had developed into a battle
between England and the Papacy, and the passions of Catholics and
Reformers were boiling over in recrimination and invective, the King's
plea that he was parting from Catherine out of conscience was met by
stories set floating in society that the King himself had previously
intrigued with the mother and sister of the lady whom he intended to
marry; precisely the same obstacle existed, therefore, to his marriage
with Anne, being further aggravated by incest. No attempt was ever made to
prove these charges; no particulars were given of time or place. No
witnesses were produced, nor other evidence, though to prove them would
have been of infinite importance. Queen Catherine, who if any one must
have known it if the accusation was true, never alludes to Mary Boleyn in
the fiercest of her denunciations. It was heard of only in the
conversation of disaffected priests or secret visitors to the Spanish
Ambassador, and was made public only in the manifesto of Reginald Pole,
which accompanied Paul III.'s Bull for Henry's deposition. Even this
authority, which was not much in itself, is made less by the fact that in
the first draft of "Pole's Book," sent to England to be examined in 1535,
the story is not mentioned. Evidently, therefore, Pole had not then heard
of it or did not believe it. The guilt with the mother is now abandoned as
too monstrous. The guilt with the sister is peremptorily insisted on, and
the words of the dispensation are appealed to as no longer leaving room
for doubt. To what else, it is asked, can such extraordinary expressions
refer unless to some disgraceful personal liaison?

The uninstructed who draw inferences of fact from the verbiage of legal
documents will discover often what are called "mare's nests." I will
request the reader to consider what this supposition involves. The
dispensation would have to be copied into the Roman registers, subject to
the inspection of the acutest canon lawyers in the world. If the meaning
is so clear to us, it must have been clear to them. We are, therefore, to
believe that Henry, when demanding to be separated from Catherine, as an
escape from mortal sin, for the relief of his conscience and the surety of
his succession, was gratuitously putting the Pope in possession of a
secret which had only to be published to extinguish him and his plea in an
outburst of scorn and laughter.

There was no need for such an acknowledgment, for the intrigue could not
be proved. It could not be required for the legitimation of the children
that were to be born; for a man of Wolsey's ability must have known that
no dispensation would be held valid that was granted after so preposterous
a confidence. It was as if a man putting in a claim for some great
property, before the case came on for trial privately informed both judge
and jury that it was based on forgery.

We are called on to explain further, why, when all Europe was shaken by
the controversy, no hint is to be found in any public document of a fact
which, if true, would be decisive; and yet more extraordinary, why the
Pope and the Curia, when driven to bay in all the exasperation of a
furious controversy, left a weapon unused which would have assured them an
easy victory. Wolsey was not a fool. Is it conceivable that he would have
composed a document so fatal and have drawn the Pope's pointed attention
to it? My credulity does not extend so far. We cannot prove a negative; we
cannot prove that Henry had not intrigued with Mary Boleyn, or with all
the ladies of his court. But the language of the dispensation cannot be
adduced as an evidence of it, unless King, Pope, and all the interested
world had parted with their senses.

As to the story itself, there is no ground for distinguishing between the
mother and the daughter. When it was first set circulating both were named
together. The mother only has been dropped, lest the improbability should
seem too violent for belief. That Mary Boleyn had been the King's mistress
before or after her own marriage is now asserted as an ascertained fact by
respectable historians--a fact sufficient, can it be proved, to cover with
infamy for ever the English separation from Rome, King, Ministers,
Parliaments, Bishops, and every one concerned with it. The effectiveness
of the weapon commends it to Catholic controversialists. I have only to
repeat that the evidence for the charge is nothing but the floating gossip
of Catholic society, never heard of, never whispered, till the second
stage of the quarrel, when it had developed into a passionate contest;
never even then alleged in a form in which it could be met and answered.
It could not have been hid from Queen Catherine if it was known to
Reginald Pole. We have many letters of Catherine, eloquent on the story of
her wrongs; letters to the Emperor, letters to the Pope; yet no word of
Mary Boleyn. What reason can be given save that it was a legend which grew
out of the temper of the time? Nothing could be more plausible than to
meet the King's plea of conscience with an allegation which made it
ridiculous. But in the public pleadings of a cause which was discussed in
every capital in Europe by the keenest lawyers and diplomatists of the
age, an accusation which, if maintained, would have been absolutely
decisive, is never alluded to in any public document till the question had
passed beyond the stage of discussion. The silence of all responsible
persons is sufficient proof of its nature. It was a mere floating calumny,
born of wind and malice.

Mr. Brewer does indeed imagine that he has discovered what he describes as
a tacit confession on Henry's part. When the Act of Appeals was before the
House of Commons which ended the papal jurisdiction in England, a small
knot of Opposition members used to meet privately to deliberate how to
oppose it. Among these one of the most active was Sir George Throgmorton,
a man who afterwards, with his brother Michael, made himself useful to
Cromwell and played with both parties, but was then against the divorce
and against all the measures which grew out of it. Throgmorton, according
to his own account, had been admitted to an interview with the King and
Cromwell. In 1537, after the Pilgrimage of Grace, while the ashes of the
rebellion were still smouldering, after Michael Throgmorton had betrayed
Cromwell's confidence and gone over to Reginald Pole, Sir George was
reported to have used certain expressions to Sir Thomas Dyngley and to two
other gentlemen, which he was called on by the Council to explain. The
letter to the King in which he replied is still extant. He said that he
had been sent for by the King after a speech on the Act of Appeals, "and
that he saw his Grace's conscience was troubled about having married his
brother's wife." He professed to have said to Dyngley that he had told the
King that if he did marry Queen Anne his conscience would be more troubled
at length, for it was thought he had meddled both with the mother and the
sister; that his Grace said: "Never with the mother," and my Lord Privy
Seal (Cromwell), standing by, said, "nor with the sister neither, so put
that out of your mind." Mr. Brewer construes this into an admission of the
King that Mary Boleyn had been his mistress, and omits, of course, by
inadvertence, that Throgmorton, being asked why he had told this story to
Dyngley, answered that "he spake it only out of vainglory, to show he was
one that durst speak for the Commonwealth." Nothing is more common than
for "vainglorious" men, when admitted to conversations with kings, to make
the most of what they said themselves, and to report not very accurately
what was said to them. Had the conversation been authentic, Throgmorton
would naturally have appealed to Cromwell's recollection. But Mr. Brewer
accepts the version of a confessed boaster as if it was a complete and
trustworthy account of what had actually passed. He does not ask himself
whether if the King or Cromwell had given their version it might not have
borne another complexion. Henry was not a safe person to take liberties
with. Is it likely that if one of his subjects, who was actively opposing
him in Parliament, had taxed him with an enormous crime, he would have
made a confession which Throgmorton had only to repeat in the House of
Commons to ruin him and his cause? Mr. Brewer should have added also that
the authority which he gave for the story was no better than Father Peto,
afterwards Cardinal Peto, as bitter an enemy of the Reformation as Pole
himself. Most serious of all, Mr. Brewer omits to mention that Throgmorton
was submitted afterwards to a severe cross-examination before a Committee
of Council, the effect of which, if he had spoken truly, could only be to
establish the authenticity of a disgraceful charge.

The last evidence alleged is the confession made by Anne Boleyn, after her
condemnation, of some mystery which had invalidated her marriage with the
King and had been made the ground of an Act of Parliament. The confession
was not published, and Catholic opinion concluded, and concludes still,
that it must have been the Mary Boleyn intrigue. Catholic opinion does not
pause to inquire whether Anne could have been said to confess an offence
of the King and her sister. The cross-examination of Throgmorton turns the
conjecture into an absurdity. When asked, in 1537, whom he ever heard say
such a thing, he would have had but to appeal to the proceedings in
Parliament in the year immediately preceding.

Is it likely finally that if Throgmorton's examination proves what Mr.
Brewer thinks it proves, a record of it would have been preserved among
the official State Papers?

If all the stories current about Henry VIII. were to be discussed with as
much detail as I have allowed to this, the world would not contain the
books which should be written. An Irish lawyer told me in my youth to
believe nothing which I heard in that country which had not been sifted in
a court of justice, and only half of that. Legend is as the air
invulnerable, and blows aimed at it, if not "malicious mockery" are waste
of effort. Charges of scandalous immorality are precious to
controversialists, for if they are disproved ever so completely the stain
adheres.





Next: Anxiety Of The Pope To Satisfy The King

Previous: Catherine Incapable Of Having Further Children



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