The mythic element cannot be eliminated out of history. Men who play

leading parts on the world's stage gather about them the admiration of

friends and the animosity of disappointed rivals or political enemies. The

atmosphere becomes charged with legends of what they have said or

done--some inventions, some distortions of facts, but rarely or never

accurate. Their outward acts, being public, cannot be absolutely

ed; their motives, being known only to themselves, are an open

field for imagination; and as the disposition is to believe evil rather

than good, the portraits drawn may vary indefinitely, according to the

sympathies of the describer, but are seldom too favourable. The more

distinguished a man is the more he is talked about. Stories are current

about him in his own lifetime, guaranteed apparently by the highest

authorities; related, insisted upon; time, place, and circumstance

accurately given--most of them mere malicious lies; yet, if written down,

to reappear in memoirs a hundred years hence, they are likely to pass for

authentic, or at least probable. Even where there is no malice,

imagination will still be active. People believe or disbelieve, repeat or

suppress, according to their own inclinations; and death, which ends the

feuds of unimportant persons, lets loose the tongues over the characters

of the great. Kings are especially sufferers; when alive they hear only

flattery; when they are gone men revenge themselves by drawing hideous

portraits of them, and the more distinguished they may have been the more

minutely their weaknesses are dwelt upon. "C'est un plaisir indicible,"

says Voltaire, "de donner des decrets contre des souverains morts quand on

ne peut en lancer contre eux de leur vivant de peur de perdre ses

oreilles." The dead sovereigns go their way. Their real work for good or

evil lives after them; but they themselves are where the opinions

expressed about their character affect them no more. To Caesar or Napoleon

it matters nothing what judgment the world passes upon their conduct. It

is of more importance for the ethical value of history that acts which as

they are related appear wicked should be duly condemned, that acts which

are represented as having advanced the welfare of mankind should be duly

honoured, than that the real character of individuals should be correctly

appreciated. To appreciate any single man with complete accuracy is

impossible. To appreciate him even proximately is extremely difficult.

Rulers of kingdoms may have public reasons for what they do, which at the

time may be understood or allowed for. Times change, and new interests

rise. The circumstances no longer exist which would explain their conduct.

The student looks therefore for an explanation in elements which he thinks

he understands--in pride, ambition, fear, avarice, jealousy, or

sensuality; and, settling the question thus to his own satisfaction,

resents or ridicules attempts to look for other motives. So long as his

moral judgment is generally correct, he inflicts no injury, and he suffers

none. Cruelty and lust are proper objects of abhorrence; he learns to

detest them in studying the Tiberius of Tacitus, though the character

described by the great Roman historian may have been a mere creation of

the hatred of the old Roman aristocracy. The manifesto of the Prince of

Orange was a libel against Philip the Second; but the Philip of Protestant

tradition is an embodiment of the persecuting spirit of Catholic Europe

which it would be now useless to disturb. The tendency of history is to

fall into wholesome moral lines whether they be accurate or not, and to

interfere with harmless illusions may cause greater errors than it aspires

to cure. Crowned offenders are arraigned at the tribunal of history for

the crimes which they are alleged to have committed. It may be sometimes

shown that the crimes were not crimes at all, that the sufferers had

deserved their fate, that the severities were useful and essential for

some great and valuable purpose. But the reader sees in the apology for

acts which he had regarded as tyrannical a defence of tyranny itself.

Preoccupied with the received interpretation, he finds deeds excused which

he had learnt to execrate; and in learning something which, even if true,

is of no real moment to him, he suffers in the maiming of his perceptions

of the difference between right and wrong. The whitewashing of the

villains of tradition is, therefore, justly regarded as waste of labour.

If successful, it is of imperfect value; if unsuccessful, it is a misuse

of industry which deserves to be censured. Time is too precious to be

squandered over paradoxes. The dead are gone; the censure of mankind has

written their epitaphs, and so they may be left. Their true award will be

decided elsewhere.

This is the common sense verdict. When the work of a man is done and

ended; when, except indirectly and invisibly, he affects the living world

no more, the book is closed, the sentence is passed, and there he may be

allowed to rest. The case is altered, however, when the dead still live in

their actions, when their principles and the effects of their conduct are

still vigorous and operative, and the movements which they initiated

continue to be fought over. It sometimes happens that mighty revolutions

can be traced to the will and resolution of a single man, and that the

conflict continues when he is gone. The personal character of such a man

becomes then of intrinsic importance as an argument for attack or defence.

The changes introduced by Henry VIII. are still denounced or defended with

renewed violence; the ashes of a conflict which seemed to have been

decided are again blown into a flame; and what manner of man Henry was,

and what the statesmen and churchmen were who stood by him and assisted

him in reshaping the English constitution, becomes a practical question of

our own time. By their fruits ye shall know them. A good tree cannot bear

evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Roman

Catholics argue from the act to the man, and from the man back to the act.

The Reformation, they say, was a rebellion against an authority appointed

by God for the rule of the world; it was a wicked act in itself; the

author or the authors of it were presumably, therefore, themselves wicked;

and the worst interpretation of their conduct is antecedently probable,

because a revolt against the Church of Christ could only have originated

in depraved hearts. Or again, inverting the argument, they say with

sufficient plausibility that the sins and crimes of the King are

acknowledged facts of history; that from so bad a man no good thing could

ever rise; that Henry was a visible servant of the devil, and therefore

the Reformation, of which he was the instrument, was the devil's work. If

the picture drawn of him by his Catholic contemporaries is correct, the

inference is irresistible. That picture, however, was drawn by those whose

faith he wounded and whose interests he touched, and therefore might be

regarded with suspicion. Religious animosity is fertile in calumny,

because it assumes beforehand that every charge is likely to be true in

proportion to its enormity, and Catholic writers were credulous of evil

when laid to the charge of so dangerous an adversary. But the Catholics

have not been Henry's only accusers; all sorts and sects have combined in

the general condemnation. The Anglican High Churchman is as bitter against

him as Reginald Pole himself. He admits and maintains the separation from

Rome which Henry accomplished for him; but he abhors as heartily as Pole

or Lingard the internal principles of the Reformation. He resents the

control of the clergy by the civil power. He demands the restoration of

the spiritual privileges which Henry and his parliaments took away from

them. He aspires to the recovery of ecclesiastical independence. He

therefore with equal triumph points to the blots in Henry's character, and

deepens their shade with every accusation, proved or unproved, which he

can find in contemporary records. With him, too, that a charge was alleged

at the time is evidence sufficient to entitle him to accept it as a fact.

Again, Protestant writers have been no less unsparing from an imprudent

eagerness to detach their cause from a disreputable ally. In Elizabeth's

time it was a point of honour and loyalty to believe in the innocence of

her mother. If Anne Boleyn was condemned on forged or false evidence to

make way for Jane Seymour, what appears so clearly to us must have been

far clearer to Henry and his Council; of all abominable crimes committed

by tyrannical princes there was never one more base or cowardly than

Anne's execution; and in insisting on Anne's guiltlessness they have

condemned the King, his ministers, and his parliaments. Having discovered

him to have murdered his wife, they have found him also to have been a

persecutor of the truth. The Reformation in England was at its outset

political rather than doctrinal. The avarice and tyranny of the Church

officials had galled the limbs of the laity. Their first steps were to

break the chains which fretted them, and to put a final end to the

temporal power of the clergy. Spiritual liberty came later, and came

slowly from the constitution of the English mind. Superstition had been

familiarised by custom, protected by natural reverence, and shielded from

inquiry by the peculiar horror attaching to unbelief. The nation had been

taught from immemorial time that to doubt on the mysteries of faith was

the worst crime which man could commit; and while they were willing to

discover that on their human side the clergy were but brother mortals of

questionable character, they drew a distinction between the Church as a

national institution and the doctrines which it taught. An old creed could

not yield at once. The King did much; he protected individual Lutherans to

the edge of rashness. He gave the nation the English Bible. He made

Latimer a bishop. He took away completely and for ever the power of the

prelates to punish what they called heresy ex officio and on their own

authority; but the zeal of the ultra-Protestants broke loose when the

restraint was taken off; the sense of the country was offended by the

irreverence with which objects and opinions were treated which they

regarded as holy, and Parliament, which had put a bit in the mouth of the

ecclesiastical courts, was driven to a substitute in the Bill of the Six

Articles. The advanced section in popular movements is usually unwise. The

characteristic excellence of the English Reformation is, that throughout

its course it was restrained by the law, and the Six Articles Bill,

tempered as it was in the execution, was a permissible, and perhaps

useful, measure in restraint of intemperance. It was the same in Germany.

Anabaptists continued to be burnt in Saxony and Hesse long after Luther's

revolt; Calvin thought the stake a fitting penalty for doubts upon the

Trinity. John Knox, in Scotland, approved of witch-burning and sending

mass-priests to the gallows. Henry could not disregard the pronounced

feeling of the majority of the English people. He was himself but one of

them, and changed slowly as they changed. Yet Protestant tradition has

assumed that the bloody whip with six strings was an act of arbitrary

ferocity. It considers that the King could, and ought to, have advanced at

once into an understanding of the principle of toleration--toleration of

the new opinions, and a more severe repression of the old. The Puritans

and Evangelicals forgot that he had given them the English Testament. They

forgot that by setting his foot upon the bishops he had opened the pulpits

to themselves, and they classed him among the persecutors, or else joined

in the shallow laughs of the ultramontane Catholics at what they pleased

to call his inconsistency.

Thus from all sides a catena of invective has been wrapped about Henry's

character. The sensible part of the country held its tongue. The speakers

and writers were the passionate and fanatical of both persuasions, and by

them the materials were supplied for the Henry VIII. who has been brought

down to us by history, while the candid and philosophic thinkers of the

last and present centuries have accepted the traditional figure. In their

desire to be impartial they have held the balance equal between Catholics

and Protestants, inclining slightly to the Catholic side, from a wish to

conciliate a respectable body who had been unjustly maligned and

oppressed; while they have lavished invectives upon the early Reformers

violent enough to have satisfied even Pole himself, whose rhetoric has

formed the base of their declamation.

Liberal philosophy would have had a bad time of it in England, perhaps in

all Europe, if there had been no Henry VIII. to take the Pope by the

throat. But one service writers like Macaulay have undoubtedly

accomplished. They have shown that it is entirely impossible to separate

the King from his ministers--to condemn Henry and to spare Cranmer.

Protestant writers, from Burnet to Southey, have tried to save the

reforming bishops and statesmen at Henry's expense. Cranmer, and Latimer,

and Ridley have been described as saints, though their master was a

villain. But the cold impartiality of Macaulay has pointed out

unanswerably that in all Henry's most questionable acts his own ministers

and his prelates were active participants--that his Privy Council, his

parliaments, his judges on the bench, the juries empanelled to try the

victims of his tyranny, were equally his accomplices; some actively

assisting; the rest, if these acts were really criminal, permitting

themselves to be bribed or terrified into acquiescence. The leading men of

all descriptions, the nation itself, through the guilt of its

representatives, were all stained in the same detestable colours. It may

be said, indeed, that they were worse than the King himself. For the King

at least may be pleaded the coarse temptations of a brutal nature; but

what palliation can be urged for the peers and judges who sacrificed Anne

Boleyn, or More, or Fisher, according to the received hypothesis? Not even

the excuse of personal fear of an all-powerful despot. For Henry had no

Janissaries or Praetorians to defend his person or execute his orders. He

had but his hundred yeomen of the guard, not more numerous than the

ordinary followers of a second-rate noble. The Catholic leaders, who were

infuriated at his attacks upon the Church, and would if they could have

introduced foreign armies to dethrone him, insisted on his weakness as an

encouragement to an easy enterprise. Beyond those few yeomen they urged

that he had no protection save in the attachment of the subjects whom he

was alienating. What strange influence was such a king able to exercise

that he could overawe the lords and gentry of England, the learned

professions, the municipal authorities? How was it that he was able to

compel them to be the voluntary instruments of his cruelty? Strangest of

all, he seems to have needed no protection, but rather to have been

personally popular, even among those who disapproved his public policy.

The air was charged with threats of insurrection, but no conspiracy was

ever formed to kill him, like those which so often menaced the life of his

daughter. When the North was in arms in the Pilgrimage of Grace, and a

question rose among the leaders whether in the event of victory the King

was to be deposed, it was found that anyone who proposed to remove him

would be torn in pieces by the people.

Granting that Henry VIII. was, as Dickens said of him, "a spot of blood

and grease" on the page of English history, the contemporary generation of

Englishmen must have been fit subjects of such a sovereign. Every country,

says Carlyle, gets as good a government as it deserves. The England of the

Cromwells and the Cranmers, the Howards and the Fitzwilliams, the

Wriothesleys and the Pagets, seems to have been made of baser materials

than any land of which mankind has preserved a record. Roman Catholics may

fairly plead that out of such a race no spiritual reform is likely to have

arisen which could benefit any human soul. Of all the arguments which can

be alleged for the return of England to the ancient fold, this is surely

the most powerful.

Yet England shows no intention of returning. History may say what it

pleases, yet England remains tenacious of the liberties which were then

won for us, and unconscious of the disgrace attaching to them;

unconscious, also, that the version of the story which it accepts contains

anything which requires explanation. The legislation of Henry VIII., his

Privy Council, and his parliaments is the Magna Charta of the modern

world. The Act of Appeals and the Act of Supremacy asserted the national

independence, and repudiated the interference of foreign bishop, prince,

or potentate within the limits of the English empire. The clergy had held

for many centuries an imperium in imperio. Subject themselves to no law

but their own, they had asserted an irresponsible jurisdiction over the

souls and bodies of the people. The Act for the submission of these

persons reduced them to the common condition of subjects under the control

of the law. Popes were no longer allowed to dispense with ordinary

obligations. Clerical privileges were abolished. The spiritual courts,

with their intolerable varieties of iniquity, were swept away, or coerced

within rational limits. The religious houses were suppressed, their

enormous wealth was applied for the defence of the realm, and the worse

than Augean dunghill of abuses was cleared out with resolute hand. These

great results were accomplished in the face of papal curses, in defiance

of superstitious terrors, so despicable when bravely confronted, so

terrible while the spectre of supernatural power was still unexorcised; in

the face, too, of earthly perils which might make stout hearts shake, of

an infuriated priesthood stirring the people into rebellion, of an

exasperated Catholic Europe threatening fire and sword in the name of the

Pope. These were distinguished achievements, not likely to have been done

at all by an infamous prince and infamous ministers; yet done so well that

their work is incorporated in the constitution almost in the form in which

they left it; and this mighty revolution, the greatest and most

far-reaching in modern times, was accomplished without a civil war, by

firmness of hand, by the action of Parliament, and a resolute enforcement

of the law. Nor has the effect of Henry's legislation been confined to

England. Every great country, Catholic or Protestant, has practically

adopted its chief provisions. Popes no longer pretend a power of deposing

princes, absolving subjects from their allegiance, or selling

dispensations for offences against the law of the land. Appeals are no

longer carried from the national courts to the court of the Rota. The

papal treasury is no longer supplied by the plunder of the national

clergy, collected by resident papal officials. Bishops and convocations

have ceased to legislate above and independent of the secular authority,

and clerks who commit crimes bear the same penalties as the profane. The

high quality of the Reformation statutes is guaranteed by their endurance;

and it is hard to suppose that the politicians who conceived and carried

them out were men of base conditions. The question is not of the character

of the King. If nothing was at issue but the merits or demerits of a

single sovereign, he might be left where he lies. The question is of the

characters of the reforming leaders, who, jointly with the King, were the

authors of this tremendous and beneficent revolution. Henry in all that he

did acted with these men and through them. Is it possible to believe that

qualities so opposite as the popular theory requires existed in the same

persons? Is it possible, for instance, that Cranmer, who composed or

translated the prayers in the English Liturgy, was the miserable wretch

which Macaulay or Lingard describes? The era of Elizabeth was the

outspring of the movement which Henry VIII. commenced, and it was the

grandest period in English history. Is it credible that so invigorating a

stream flowed from a polluted fountain?

Before accepting a conclusion so disgraceful--before consigning the men

who achieved so great a victory, and risked and lost their lives in the

battle, to final execration--it is at least permissible to pause. The

difficulty can only be made light of by impatience, by prejudice, or by

want of thought. To me at any rate, who wished to discover what the real

history of the Reformation had been, it seemed so considerable, that,

dismissing the polemical invectives of later writers, I turned to the

accounts of their conduct, which had been left behind by the authors of it

themselves. Among the fortunate anomalies of the situation, Henry departed

from previous custom in holding annual parliaments. At every step which

he took, either in the rearrangement of the realm or in his own domestic

confusions, he took the Lords and Commons into his council, and ventured

nothing without their consent. The preambles of the principal statutes

contain a narrative clear and precise of the motives of everything that he

did--a narrative which at least may have been a true one, which was not

put forward as a defence, but was a mere explanation of acts which on the

surface seemed violent and arbitrary. If the explanation is correct, it

shows us a time of complications and difficulties, which, on the whole,

were successfully encountered. It shows us severe measures severely

executed, but directed to public and necessary purpose, involving no

sycophancy or baseness, no mean subservience to capricious tyranny, but

such as were the natural safeguards during a dangerous convulsion, or

remedies of accidents incidental to hereditary monarchy. The story told is

clear and distinct; pitiless, but not dishonourable. Between the lines can

be read the storm of popular passions, the beating of the national heart

when it was stirred to its inmost depths. We see established institutions

rooted out, idols overthrown, and injured worshippers exasperated to fury;

the air, as was inevitable at such a crisis, full of flying rumours, some

lies, some half lies with fragments of truth attaching to them, bred of

malice or dizzy brains, the materials out of which the popular tradition

has been built. It was no insular revolution. The stake played for was the

liberty of mankind. All Europe was watching England, for England was the

hinge on which the fate of the Reformation turned. Could it be crushed in

England, the Catholics were assured of universal victory, and therefore

tongues and pens were busy everywhere throughout Christendom, Catholic

imagination representing Henry as an incarnate Satan, for which, it must

be admitted, his domestic misadventures gave them tempting opportunities.

So thick fell the showers of calumny, that, bold as he was, he at times

himself winced under it. He complained to Charles V. of the libels

circulated about him in France and Flanders. Charles, too, had suffered in

the same way. He answered, humorously, that "if kings gave occasion to be

spoken about they would be spoken about; kings were not kings of tongues."

Henry VIII. was an easy mark for slander; but if all slanders are to pass

as true which are flung at public men whose policy provides them with an

army of calumniators, the reputation of the best of them is but a spotted

rag. The clergy were the vocal part of Europe. They had the pulpits; they

had the writing of the books and pamphlets. They had cause to hate Henry,

and they hated him with an intensity of passion which could not have been

more savage had he been the devil himself. But there are men whose enmity

is a compliment. They libelled Luther almost as freely as they libelled

the English king. I myself, after reading and weighing all that I could

find forty years ago in prints or manuscripts, concluded that the real

facts of Henry's conduct were to be found in the Statute Book and nowhere

else; that the preambles of the Acts of Parliament did actually represent

the sincere opinion about him of the educated laymen of England, who had

better opportunities of knowing the truth than we can have, and that a

modern Englishman may be allowed to follow their authority without the

imputation of paradox or folly.

With this impression, and with the Statute Book for a guide, I wrote the

opening portion of my "History of England, from the Fall of Wolsey to the

Defeat of the Armada." The published criticisms upon my work were

generally unfavourable. Catholic writers inherited the traditions and the

temper of their forefathers, and believed the catena of their own

historians. Protestants could not believe in a defence of the author of

the Six Articles Bill. Secular reviewers were easily witty at the "model

husband" whom they supposed me to be imposing upon them, and resented the

interference with a version of the story authenticated by great names

among my predecessors. The public, however, took an interest in what I had

to say. The book was read, and continues to be read; at the close of my

life, therefore, I have to go once more over the ground; and as I am still

substantially alone in maintaining an opinion considered heretical by

orthodox historians, I have to decide in what condition I am to leave my

work behind me. In the thirty-five years which have elapsed since those

early volumes appeared large additions have been made to the materials for

the history of the period. The vast collection of manuscripts in the

English Record Office, which then were only partially accessible, have

been sorted, catalogued, and calendared by the industry of my friends Mr.

Brewer and Mr. Gairdner. Private collections in great English houses have

been examined and reported on by the Historical Manuscripts Commission.

Foreign archives at Paris, Simancas, Rome, Venice, Vienna, and Brussels

have been searched to some extent by myself, but in a far larger degree by

able scholars specially appointed for the purpose. In the despatches, thus

made accessible, of the foreign ambassadors resident at Henry's court we

have the invaluable, if not impartial, comments of trained and responsible

politicians who related from day to day the events which were passing

under their eyes. Being Catholics, and representatives of Catholic

powers, they were bitterly hostile to the Reformation--hostile alike on

political grounds and religious--and therefore inclined to believe and

report the worst that could be said both of it and of its authors. But

they wrote before the traditions had become stereotyped; their accounts

are fresh and original; and, being men of the world, and writing in

confidence to their own masters, they were as veracious as their

prejudices would allow them to be. Unconsciously, too, they render another

service of infinite importance. Being in close communication with the

disaffected English peers and clergy, and engaged with them secretly in

promoting rebellion, the ministers of Charles V. reveal with extraordinary

clearness the dangers with which the Government had to deal. They make it

perfectly plain that the Act of Supremacy, with its stern and peremptory

demands, was no more than a legitimate and necessary defence against

organised treason.

It was thus inevitable that much would have to be added to what I had

already published. When a microscope is applied to the petal of a flower

or the wing of an insect, simple outlines and simple surfaces are resolved

into complex organisms with curious and beautiful details. The effect of

these despatches is precisely the same--we see with the eyes, we hear with

the ears, of men who were living parts of the scenes which they describe.

Stories afterwards elaborated into established facts we trace to their

origin in rumours of the hour; we read innumerable anecdotes, some with

the clear stamp of truth on them, many mere creations of passing wit or

malice, no more authentic than the thousands like them which circulate in

modern society, guaranteed by the positive assertions of personal

witnesses, yet visibly recognisable as lies. Through all this the reader

must pick his way and use his own judgment. He knows that many things are

false which are reported about his own eminent contemporaries. He may be

equally certain that lies were told as freely then as now. He will

probably allow his sympathies to guide him. He will accept as fact what

fits in with his creed or his theory. He will share the general

disposition to believe evil, especially about kings and great men. The

exaggerated homage paid to princes, when they are alive, has to be

compensated by suspecting the worst of them as soon as they are gone. But

the perusal of all these documents leaves the broad aspect of the story,

in my opinion, precisely where it was. It is made more interesting by the

greater fulness of particulars; it is made more vivid by the clear view

which they afford of individual persons who before were no more than

names. But I think now, as I thought forty years ago, that through the

confusions and contradictions of a stormy and angry time, the statute-book

remains the safest guide to follow. If there be any difference, it is that

actions which till explained appeared gratuitously cruel, like the

execution of Bishop Fisher, are seen beyond dispute to have been

reasonable and just. Bishop Fisher is proved by the words of the Spanish

Ambassador himself to have invited and pressed the introduction of a

foreign Catholic army into England in the Pope's interest.

Thus I find nothing to withdraw in what I then wrote, and little to alter

save in correcting some small errors of trivial moment; but, on the other

hand, I find much to add; and the question rises in what way I had better

do it, with fair consideration for those who have bought the book as it

stands. To take the work to pieces and introduce the new material into

the text or the notes will impose a necessity of buying a new copy, or of

being left with an inferior one, on the many friends who least deserve to

be so treated. I have concluded, therefore, on writing an additional

volume, where such parts of the story as have had important light thrown

upon them can be told over again in ampler form. The body of the history I

leave as it stands. It contains what I believe to be a true account of the

time, of the immediate causes which brought about the changes of the

sixteenth century, and of the characters and principles of the actors in

them. I have only to fill up certain deficiencies and throw light into

places hitherto left dark. For the rest, I do not pretend to impartiality.

I believe the Reformation to have been the greatest incident in English

history; the root and source of the expansive force which has spread the

Anglo-Saxon race over the globe, and imprinted the English genius and

character on the constitution of mankind. I am unwilling to believe more

evil than I can help of my countrymen who accomplished so beneficent a

work, and in a book written with such convictions the mythical element

cannot be wholly wanting. Even things which immediately surround us,

things which we see and touch, we do not perceive as they are; we perceive

only our own sensations, and our sensations are a combined result of

certain objects and of the faculties which apprehend them. Something of

ourselves must always be intermixed before knowledge can reach us; in

every conclusion which we form, in every conviction which is forced upon

us, there is still a subjective element. It is so in physical science. It

is so in art. It is so in our speculations on our own nature. It is so in

religion. It is so even in pure mathematics. The curved and rectilineal

figures on which we reason are our own creation, and have no existence

exterior to the reasoning mind. Most of all is it so in history, where we

have no direct perceptions to help us, but are dependent on the narratives

of others whose beliefs were necessarily influenced by their personal

dispositions. The first duty of an historian is to be on his guard against

his own sympathies; but he cannot wholly escape their influence. In

judging of the truth of particular statements, the conclusion which he

will form must be based partly upon evidence and partly upon what he

conceives to be likely or unlikely. In a court of justice, where witnesses

can be cross-examined, uncertain elements can in some degree be

eliminated; yet, after all care is taken, judges and juries have been

often blinded by passion and prejudice. When we have nothing before us but

rumours set in circulation, we know not by whom or on what authority, and

we are driven to consider probabilities, the Protestant, who believes the

Reformation to have been a victory of truth over falsehood, cannot come to

the same conclusion as the Catholic, who believes it to have been a curse,

or perhaps to the same conclusion as the indifferent philosopher, who

regards Protestant and Catholic alike with benevolent contempt. For

myself, I can but say that I have discriminated with such faculty as I

possess. I have kept back nothing. I have consciously distorted nothing

which conflicts with my own views. I have accepted what seems sufficiently

proved. I have rejected what I can find no support for save in hearsay or

prejudice. But whether accepting or rejecting, I have endeavoured to

follow the rule that incidents must not be lightly accepted as authentic

which are inconsistent with the universal laws of human nature, and that

to disprove a calumny it is sufficient to show that there is no valid

witness for it.

Finally, I do not allow myself to be tempted into controversy with

particular writers whose views disagree with my own. To contradict in

detail every hostile version of Henry VIII.'s or his ministers' conduct

would be as tedious as it would be irritating and unprofitable. My censors

have been so many that a reply to them all is impossible, and so

distinguished that a selection would be invidious. Those who wish for

invectives against the King, or Cranmer, or Cromwell, can find them

everywhere, from school manuals to the grave works of elaborate

historians. For me, it is enough to tell the story as it presents itself

to my own mind, and to leave what appears to me to be the truth to speak

for itself.

The English nation throughout their long history have borne an honourable

reputation. Luther quotes a saying of Maximilian that there were three

real sovereigns in Europe--the Emperor, the King of France, and the King

of England. The Emperor was a king of kings. If he gave an order to the

princes of the Reich, they obeyed or disobeyed as they pleased. The King

of France was a king of asses. He ordered about his people at his will,

and they obeyed like asses. The King of England was king of a loyal nation

who obeyed him with heart and mind as loyal and faithful subjects. This

was the character borne in the world by the fathers of the generation whom

popular historians represent as having dishonoured themselves by

subserviency to a bloodthirsty tyrant. It is at least possible that

popular historians have been mistaken, and that the subjects of Henry

VIII. were neither much better nor much worse than those who preceded or

came after them.