Expectation That Henry Would Return To The Roman Communion

Whether Henry, on the exposure of the character of the woman for whom, in

the world's union, he had quarrelled with Rome and broken the union of

Christendom, would now reverse his course and return to the communion of

the Apostolic See, was the question on which all minds were exercising

themselves. The Pope and the European Powers were confident, believing the

reports which had reached them of the discontent in England. Cranmer
feared it, as he almost confessed in the letter which he wrote to the King

when he first heard of the arrest of Anne. She had been conspicuously

Lutheran; her family and her party were Lutheran, and the disgrace might

naturally extend to the cause which they represented. The King was to show

that he had not, as he said himself, "proceeded on such light grounds."

The divorce had been the spark which kindled the mine; but the explosive

force was in the temper of the English nation. The English nation was

weary of a tribunal which sold its decrees for money, or allowed itself to

be used as a tool by the Continental Sovereigns. It was weary of the

iniquities of its own Church Courts, which had plundered rich and poor at

their arbitrary pleasure--of a clergy which, protected by the immunities

which Becket had won for them, and restrained by no laws save those which

they themselves allowed, had made their lives a scandal and their

profession an offence. The property which had been granted them in pious

confidence for holy uses was squandered in luxurious self-indulgence; and

they had replied to the reforms which were forced upon them by disloyalty

and treason. They had been coerced into obedience; they had been brought

under the control of the law, punished for their crimes in spite of their

sacred calling under which they had claimed exemption, and been driven

into the position of ordinary citizens. Their prelates were no longer able

to seize and burn ex officio obnoxious preachers, or imprison or ruin

under the name of heretics rash persons who dared to speak the truth of


In exasperation at the invasion of these time-honoured privileges, they

denounced as sacrilege the statutes which had been required to restrain

them. They had conspired to provoke the Pope to excommunicate their

Sovereign, and solicited the Catholic Powers to invade their country and

put the Reformers down with fire and sword. The King, who had been the

instrument of their beneficent humiliation, did not intend either to

submit the internal interests of the country to the authority of a foreign

bishop, or to allow the black regiments at home to recover the power which

they had so long abused.

Cromwell's commissioners were still busy on the visitation of the

religious houses. Each day brought in fresh reports of their condition.

These communities, supposed to be special servants of God, had become

special servants of the Devil. The eagerness with which the Pope solicited

Henry's return, the assurance that he had always been his friend--had

always maintained that Henry was right in the divorce case, when he had a

Bull ready in his desk taking his crown from him--was in itself sufficient

evidence of the fitness of such a ruler to be the Supreme Judge in

Christendom. Just as little could the Emperor be trusted, whose

affectations of friendship were qualified by secret reservations. The King

had undertaken a great and beneficent work in his own realm and meant to

go through with it. The Pope might do as he pleased. The Continental

Princes might quarrel or make peace, hold their Councils, settle as they

liked their own affairs, in their own way; England was sufficient for

herself. He had called his people under arms; he had fortified the coasts;

he had regenerated the navy. The nation, or the nobler part of it, he

believed to be loyal to himself--to approve what he had done and to be

ready to stand by him. He was not afraid of attack from abroad. If there

was a rebellious spirit at home, if the clergy were mutinous because the

bit was in their mouths, if the Peers of the old blood were alarmed at the

growth of religious liberty and were discontented because they could no

longer deal with it in the old way, the King was convinced that he was

acting for the true interests of the country, that Parliament would uphold

him, and that he could control both the ecclesiastics and the nobles. The

world should see that the reforms which he had introduced into England

were not the paltry accidents of a domestic scandal, but the first steps

of a revolution deliberately resolved on and sternly carried out which was

to free the island for ever from the usurped authority of an Italian

Prelate, and from the poisonous influences within the realm of a corrupt

and demoralising superstition.

The call of Parliament after Anne's execution was the strongest evidence

of confidence in his people which Henry had yet given. He had much to

acknowledge and much to ask. He had to confess that, although he had been

right in demanding a separation from his brother's wife, he had fatally

mistaken the character of the woman whom he had chosen to take her place.

The succession which he had hoped to establish he had made more intricate

than before. He had now three children, all technically illegitimate. The

Duke of Richmond was the son of the only mistress with whom he was ever

known to have been really connected. The Duke was now eighteen years old.

He had been educated as a Prince, but had no position recognised by the

law. Elizabeth's mother had acknowledged to having committed herself

before her marriage with the King, and many persons doubted whether

Elizabeth was the King's true daughter. Mary's claim was justly considered

as the best, for, though her mother's marriage had been declared illegal,

she had been born bona fide parentum. What Parliament would do in such

extraordinary circumstances could not be foreseen with any certainty, and

the elections had to be made with precipitancy and without time for

preparation. The writs were issued on the 7th of May. The meeting was to

be on the 8th of June. The Crown could influence or control the elections

at some particular places. At Canterbury Cromwell named the

representatives who were to be chosen, as, till the Reform Bill of

1832, they continued to be named by the patrons of boroughs. Yet it would

be absurd to argue from single instances that the Crown could do what it

pleased. Even with leisure to take precautions and with the utmost

exercise of its powers, it could only affect the returns, in the great

majority of the constituencies, through the Peers and landowners, and the

leading citizens in the corporations. With only four weeks to act in, a

Queen to try and execute, and a King to marry in the interval, no

ingenuity and no industry could have sufficed to secure a House of Commons

whose subserviency could be counted on, if subserviency was what the King

required. It is clear only that, so far as concerned the general opinion

of the country, the condemnation of Anne Boleyn had rather strengthened

than impaired his popularity. As Queen she had been feared and disliked.

Her punishment was regarded as a creditable act of justice, and the King

was compassionated as a sufferer from abominable ingratitude.

Little is known in detail of the proceedings of this Parliament. The Acts

remain: the debates are lost. The principal difficulties with which it had

to deal concerned Anne's trial and the disposition of the inheritance of

the Crown. On the matter of real importance, on the resolution of King and

Legislature to go forward with the Reformation, all doubts were promptly

dispelled. An Act was passed without opposition reasserting the extinction

of the Pope's authority, and another taking away the protection of

sanctuary from felonious priests. The succession was a harder problem. Day

after day it had been debated in the Council. Lord Sussex had proposed

that, as all the children of the King were illegitimate, the male should

be preferred to the female and the crown be settled on the Duke of

Richmond. Richmond was personally liked. He resembled his father in

appearance and character, and the King himself was supposed to favour this

solution. With the outer world the favourite was the Princess Mary. Both

she and her mother were respected for a misfortune which was not due to

faults of theirs, and the Princess was the more endeared by the danger to

which she was believed to have been exposed through the machinations of

Anne. The new Queen was her strongest advocate, and the King's affection

for her had not been diminished even when she had tried him the most. He

could not have been ignorant of her correspondence with Chapuys: he

probably knew that she had wished to escape out of the realm, and that the

Pope, who was now suing to him, had meant to bestow his own crown upon

her. But her qualities were like his own, tough and unmalleable, and in

the midst of his anger he had admired her resolution. Every one expected

that she would be restored to her rank after Anne's death. The King had

apparently been satisfied with her letter to him. Cromwell was her friend,

and Chapuys, who had qualified her submission, was triumphant and

confident. He was led to expect that an Act would be introduced declaring

her the next heir--nay, he had thought that such an Act had been passed.

Unfortunately for him the question of her acknowledgment of the Act of

Supremacy was necessarily revived. Had she or had she not accepted it? The

Act had been imposed, with the Statute of Treasons attached, as a test of

loyalty to the Reformation. It was impossible to place her nearest to the

throne as long as she refused obedience to a law essential to the

national independence. To refuse was to confess of a purpose of undoing

her father's work, should he die and the crown descend to her. She had

supposed that "she was out of her trouble" while she had saved her

conscience by the reservation in her submission. Chapuys found her again

"in extreme perplexity and anger." The reservation had been observed. The

Duke of Norfolk, Lord Sussex, a Bishop, and other Privy Councillors, had

come with a message to her, like those which had been so often carried

ineffectually to her mother, to represent the necessity of obedience.

Chapuys said that she had confounded them with her wise answers, and that,

when they could not meet her arguments, they "told her that, if she was

their daughter, they would knock her head against the wall till it was as

soft as a baked apple." In passing through Mary and through Chapuys the

words, perhaps, received some metaphorical additions. It is likely enough,

however, that Norfolk, who was supporting her claims with all his power,

was irritated at the revival of the old difficulties which he had hoped

were removed. The Princess "in her extreme necessity" wrote for advice to

the Ambassador. The Emperor was no longer in a condition to threaten, and

to secure Mary's place as next in the succession was of too vital

importance to the Imperialists to permit them to encourage her in scruples

of conscience. Chapuys answered frankly that, if the King persisted, she

must do what he required. The Emperor had distinctly said so. Her life was

precious, she must hide her real feelings till a time came for the redress

of the disorders of the realm. Nothing was demanded of her expressly

against God or the Articles of Faith, and God looked to intentions rather

than acts.

Mary still hesitated. She had the Tudor obstinacy, and she tried her will

against her father's. The King was extremely angry. He had believed that

she had given way and that the troubles which had distracted his family

were at last over. He had been exceptionally well-disposed towards her. He

had probably decided to be governed by the wishes of the people and to

appoint her by statute presumptive heir, and she seemed determined to make

it impossible for him. He suspected that she was being secretly

encouraged. To defend her conduct, as Cromwell ventured to do, provoked

him the more, for he felt, truly, that to give way was to abandon the

field. Lady Hussey was sent to the Tower; Lord Exeter and Sir William

Fitzwilliam were suspended from attendance on the Council; and even

Cromwell, for four or five days, counted himself a lost man. Jane Seymour

interceded in vain. To refuse to acknowledge the supremacy was treason,

and had been made treason for ample reason. Mary, as the first subject in

the realm, could not be allowed to deny it. Henry sent for the Judges, to

consider what was to be done, and the Court was once more in terror. The

Judges advised that a strict form of submission should be drawn, and that

the Princess should be required to sign it. If she persisted in her

refusal, she would then be liable to the law. The difficulty was overcome,

or evaded, in a manner characteristic of the system to which Mary so

passionately adhered. Chapuys drew a secret protest that, in submitting,

she was yielding only to force. Thus guarded, he assured her that her

consent would not be binding, that the Pope would not only refrain from

blaming her, but would highly approve. She was still unsatisfied, till she

made him promise to write to the Imperial Ambassador at Rome to procure a

secret absolution from the Pope for the full satisfaction of her

conscience. Thus protected, she disdainfully set her name to the paper

prepared by the Judges, without condescending to read it, and the marked

contempt, in Chapuys's opinion, would serve as an excuse for her in the


While the crisis lasted the Council were in permanent session. Timid Peers

were alarmed at the King's peremptoriness, and said that it might cost him

his throne. The secret process by which Mary had been brought to yield may

have been conjectured, and her resistance was not forgotten, but she had

signed what was demanded, and it was enough. In the Court there was

universal delight. Chapuys congratulated Cromwell, and Cromwell led him to

believe that the crown would be settled as he wished. The King and Queen

drove down to Richmond to pay the Princess a visit. Henry gave her a

handsome present of money and said that now she might have anything that

she pleased. The Queen gave her a diamond. She was to return to the court

and resume her old station. One cloud only remained. If it was generally

understood that the heir presumptive in her heart detested the measures in

which she had formally acquiesced, the country could no longer be expected

to support a policy which would be reversed on the King's death. Mary's

conduct left little doubt of her real feelings, and therefore it was not

held to be safe to give her by statute the position which her friends

desired for her. The facility with which the Pope could dispense with

inconvenient obligations rendered a verbal acquiescence an imperfect

safeguard. Parliament, therefore, did not, after all, entail the crown

upon her, in the event of the King's present marriage being unfruitful,

but left her to deserve it and empowered the King to name his own


Chapuys, however, was able to console himself with the reflection that the

Bastard, as he called Elizabeth, was now out of the question. The Duke of

Richmond was ill--sinking under the same weakness of constitution which

had been so fatal in the Tudor family and of which he, in fact, died a few

weeks later. The prevailing opinion was that the King could never have

another child. Mary's prospects, therefore, were tolerably "secure. I must

admit," Chapuys wrote on the 8th of July, "that her treatment improves

every day. She never had so much liberty as now, or was served with so

much state even by the little Bastard's waiting-women. She will want

nothing in future but the name of Princess of Wales, and that is of

no consequence, for all the rest she will have more abundantly than


Mary, in fact, now wanted nothing save the Pope's pardon for having

abjured his authority. Chapuys had undertaken that it would be easily

granted. The Emperor had himself asked for it, yet not only could not

Cifuentes obtain the absolution, but he did not so much as dare to speak

to Paul on the subject. The absolution for the murder of an Archbishop of

Dublin had been bestowed cheerfully and instantly on Fitzgerald. Mary was

left with perjury on her conscience, and no relief could be had. There

appeared to be some technical difficulty. "Unless she retracted and

abjured in the presence of the persons before whom she took the oath, it

was said that the Pope's absolution would be of no use to her." There was,

perhaps, another objection. Cifuentes imperfectly trusted Paul. He feared

that if he pressed the request the secret would be betrayed and that

Mary's life would be in danger.

Time, perhaps, and reflection alleviated Mary's remorse and enabled her to

dispense with the Papal anodyne, while Cromwell further comforted the

Ambassador in August by telling him that the King felt he was growing old,

that he was hopeless of further offspring, and was thinking seriously of

making Mary his heir after all.

Age the King could not contend with, but for the rest he had carried his

policy through. The first act of the Reformation was closing, and he was

left in command of the situation. The curtain was to rise again with the

Lincolnshire and Yorkshire rebellion, to be followed by the treason of the

Poles. But there is no occasion to tell a story over again which I can

tell no better than I have done already, nor does it belong to the subject

of the present volume. The Pilgrimage of Grace was the outbreak of the

conspiracy encouraged by Chapuys to punish Henry, and to stop the progress

of the Reformation; Chapuys's successors in the time of Elizabeth followed

his example; and with them all the result was the same--the ruin of the

cause which with such weapons they were trying to maintain, and the deaths

on the scaffold of the victims of visionary hopes and promises which were

never to be made good.

All the great persons whom Chapuys names as willing to engage in the

enterprise--the Peers, the Knights, who, with the least help from the

Emperor, would hurl the King from his throne, Lord Darcy and Lord Hussey,

the Bishop of Rochester, as later on, the Marquis of Exeter, Lord

Montague, and his mother--sank one after another into bloody graves. They

mistook their imaginations for facts, their passions for arguments, and

the vain talk of an unscrupulous Ambassador for solid ground on which to

venture into treason. In their dreams they saw the phantom of the Emperor

coming over with an army to help them. Excited as they had been, they

could not part with their hopes. They knew that they were powerful in

numbers. Their preparations had been made, and many thousands of clergy

and gentlemen and yeomen had been kindled into crusading enthusiasm. The

flame burst out sporadically and at intervals, without certain plan or

purpose, at a time when the Emperor could not help them, even if he had

ever seriously intended it, and thus the conflagration, which at first

blazed through all the northern counties, was extinguished before it

turned to civil war. The common people who had been concerned in it

suffered but lightly. But the roots had penetrated deep; the conspiracy

was of long standing; the intention of the leaders was to carry out the

Papal censures, and put down what was called heresy. The rising was really

formidable, for the loyalty of many of the great nobles was not above

suspicion, and, if not promptly dealt with, it might have enveloped the

whole island. Those who rise in arms against Governments must take the

consequences of failure, and the leaders who had been the active spirits

in the sedition were inexorably punished. In my History of the time I have

understated the number of those who were executed. Care was taken to

select only those who had been definitely prominent. Nearly three hundred

were hanged in all--in batches of twenty-five or thirty, in each of the

great northern cities; and, to emphasize the example and to show that the

sacerdotal habit would no longer protect treason, the orders were to

select particularly the priests and friars who had been engaged. The

rising was undertaken in the name of religion. The clergy had been the

most eager of the instigators. Chapuys had told the Emperor that of all

Henry's subjects the clergy were the most disaffected, and the most

willing to supply money for an invasion. They were therefore legitimately

picked out for retribution, and in Lincoln, York, Hull, Doncaster,

Newcastle, and Carlisle, the didactic spectacle was witnessed of some

scores of reverend persons swinging for the crows to eat in the sacred

dress of their order. A severe lesson was required to teach a

superstitious world that the clerical immunities existed no longer and

that priests who broke the law would suffer like common mortals; but it

must be clearly understood that, if these men could have had their way,

the hundreds who suffered would have been thousands, and the victims would

have been the poor men who were looking for a purer faith in the pages of

the New Testament.

When we consider the rivers of blood which were shed elsewhere before the

Protestant cause could establish itself, the real wonder is the small cost

in human life of the mighty revolution successfully accomplished by Henry.

With him, indeed, Chapuys must share the honour. The Catholics, if they

had pleased, might have pressed their objections and their remonstrances

in Parliament; and a nation as disposed for compromise as the English

might have mutilated the inevitable changes. Chapuys's counsels tempted

them into more dangerous and less pardonable roads. By encouraging them in

secret conspiracies he made them a menace to the peace of the realm. He

brought Fisher to the block. He forced the Government to pass the Act of

Supremacy as a defence against treason, and was thus the cause also of the

execution of Sir Thomas More and the Charterhouse Monks.

To Chapuys, perhaps, and to his faithful imitators later in the

century--De Quadra and Mendoza--the country owes the completeness of the

success of the Reformation. It was a battle fought out gallantly between

two principles--a crisis in the eternal struggle between the old and the

new. The Catholics may boast legitimately of their martyrs. But the

Protestants have a martyrology longer far and no less honourable, and

those who continue to believe that the victory won in England in the

sixteenth century was a victory of right over wrong, have no need to blush

for the actions of the brave men who, in the pulpit or in the Council

Chamber, on the scaffold or at the stake, won for mankind the spiritual

liberty which is now the law of the world.