Reign of Henry the Eighth - (Concluded). page 7
His conduct was quite uniform throughout. His daughter Mary, now a young lady of twenty years of age, thought the removal of Queen Anne, who had shown no liking to her, was a good opportunity to endeavour to escape from her confinement at Hunsdon, and obtain more indulgence from her father. Lady Kingston, as we have seen, was charged by Anne Boleyn with a sacred message to the princess, and, through her, she sent a letter to Cromwell, begging to be allowed to write to her father. This Cromwell permitted, on condition that the letter should be first submitted to him. The consequence was that a deputation from the council soon appeared at Hunsdon, who required her, as the price of the king's favour, to subscribe a paper admitting that the marriage of her mother with Henry had been unlawful and incestuous; and, moreover, that Henry was the head of the Church. The poor girl recoiled from so revolting a proposal with horror, but Cromwell wrote a most base and cruel letter on her refusal, telling her that "she was an obstinate and obdurate woman, deserving the reward of malice in the extremity of mischief," and that if she did not submit he would take his leave of her presence, "reputing her the most ungrateful, unnatural, and obstinate person living, both to God and her father." He told her by her disobedience she had rendered herself "unfit to live in a Christian congregation, of which he was so convinced, that he refused the mercy of Christ if it were not true."
We are amazed beyond expression in contemplating the moral condition of this Court; its hardness and insensibility to every honourable feeling. What a master and what a man! The poor confounded princess, overwhelmed by such terrible denunciations, submitted in affright, and signed the paper, branding her mother with disgrace, and herself with illegitimacy. But that did not satisfy this tender father - he demanded who they were who had advised her former obstinacy, and her present submission. This the princess, spite of her recent vow of obedience in everything, refused to disclose, declaring that she would sooner die than expose others to injury. Henry was obliged to be content, and gave her an establishment more suited to her years and rank. But he was in no degree disposed to do her or any one essential justice. He repealed the late act of settlement, and passed a new one through the compliant Parliament, entailing the crown on the issue by Jane Seymour. He obtained, moreover, a power to bequeath the succession by letters patent, or by his last will, in case of having no fresh issue of his own, on any person that he thought proper. In life and in death he demanded the absolute power over every principle of the constitution, and this Parliament, which would have granted him anything, conceded it. It was well understood that he meant to cut off his daughters, and to confer the crown on his illegitimate son, the Duke of Richmond. But as if Providence would punish him in the very act, this son died before he could give his Royal assent to the bill.
But if Henry had found a very submissive body in the Parliament, there was much discontent amongst the people, who were encouraged in their murmurs by the monks who had been dispossessed of their monasteries, or who feared the approach of their fall, and the clergy, who were equally alarmed at the progress of the opinions of the Reformers in the nation. There were two great factions in the Church and the Government, the opposed members of which were denominated the men of the old and the new learning. At the head of the old or Romanist faction were Lee, Archbishop of York; Stokesley, Bishop of London; Tunstall, Bishop of Durham; Gardiner, of Winchester; Sherbourne, of Chichester; Nix, of Norwich; and Kite, of Carlisle. These received the countenance and support of the Duke of Norfolk and of Wriothesley, the premier secretary. The leaders of the reforming faction were Cranmer, the primate; Latimer, Bishop of Worcester; Shaxton, of Salisbury; Hilsey, of Rochester; Fox, of Hereford; and Barlow, of St. David's. These were especially patronised by Cromwell, whose power as Vicar-General was great, and who was now made Lord Cromwell by the king.
Each of these parties, supported by a great body in the nation, endeavoured to make their way by flattering the vanity or the love of power of the capricious king. The Papist party swayed him to their side, by his love of all the old doctrines and rites; and Reformers, by his pride in opposing the Pope, and the gratification of his love of power as the independent head of the Church. As they applied these different forces, so the king oscillated to one side or the other, but they were never sure of him. Some particular circumstance would make him start off at a tangent, and fill all those with terror who the moment before felt most secure. Each party was continually compelled to sacrifice its own opinions outwardly, and act the hypocrite. Gardiner and the Papal party submitted to renounce the Papal supremacy, and subscribe to every Royal innovation in the ancient Church; Cranmer and his adherents, on the other hand, submitted to teach the doctrines which they disapproved, to practice the rites and ceremonies that they deemed idolatrous, and to send men to the stake for the declaration of opinions which they themselves secretly entertained.
In this transition state of things, the doctrines of the English. Church, as settled by the Convocations exhibited a singular medley, and were liable at any moment to be disturbed by the momentary bias of the king, whose word was the only law of both Church and State. The Reformers succeeded in having the standard of faith recognised as existing in the Scriptures and the three creeds - the Apostolic, Nicene, and Athanasian; but then the Romanists had secured the retention of auricular confession and penance. As to marriage, extreme unction, confirmation, or holy orders, it was found that there could be no agreement in the belief in them as sacraments, and, therefore, they remained unmentioned, every one following his own fancy. The real presence was admitted in the sacrament of the supper. The Roman Catholics asserted the warrant of Scripture for the use of images; but the Protestants denied this, and warned the people against idolatry in praying to them. The use of holy water, the ceremonies practised on Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and other festivals, were still maintained, but the Convocation, yielding to the Reformers, admitted that they had no power to remit sin.
The same divided doctrine was held regarding purgatory. The article on this point is a fine specimen of the ambiguous jargon produced by this conflict of opinions: - "Since according to the due order of charity, and the book of Maccabaeus, and divers ancient authors, it is a very good and charitable deed to pray for souls departed; and since such a practice has been maintained in the Church from the beginning, all bishops and teachers should instruct the people not to be grieved for the continuance of the same. But since the place where departed souls are retained before they reach paradise, as well as the nature of their pains, is left uncertain in Scripture, all such questions are to be submitted to God; to whose mercy it is meet and convenient to commend the deceased, trusting that he accepteth our prayers for them."
The Church being in this divided state, each party pushed its own opinions and practice where it could, and the certain consequence was there was much feud and heart-burning, and the people were pulled hither and thither. In those places where the Reformers prevailed. they saw the images thrown down or removed, the ancient rites neglected or despised; and they felt themselves aggrieved, but more especially with the ordinances of Cromwell as Vicar-General, who retrenched many of their ancient holidays. He also incensed the clergy, by prohibiting the resort to places of pilgrimage, and the exhibition of relics. These greatly reduced the emoluments of the clergy, whom he on the other hand compelled to lay aside a considerable portion of their revenues for the repairs of the churches, and the assistance of the poor. This caused them to foment the discontents of the people, and the thousands of monks now wandering over the country without a home and a subsistence, found out too ready listeners in the vast population which had been accustomed to draw their main support from the daily alms of the convents and monasteries. The people, seeing all these ancient sources of a lazy support suddenly cut off by Government, grew furious; and their disaffection was strengthened by observing that many of the nobility and gentry were equally malcontent, whose ancestry had founded monasteries, and who, therefore, looked upon them with feelings of family pride, and, moreover, regarded them as a certain provision for some of their younger children. There were many of all classes who thought with horror of the souls of their ancestors and friends, who, they believed, would now remain for ages in all the torments of purgatory, for want of masses to relieve them.
All these causes operating together produced formidable insurrections, both in the north and south. The first rising was in Lincolnshire. It was headed by Dr. Mackrel, the Prior of Barlings, who was disguised like a mechanic, and by another man in disguise, calling himself Captain Cobbler. The first attack was occasioned by the demand of a subsidy for the king, but the public mind was already in a state of high excitement, and this was only the spark that produced the explosion. Twenty thousand men quickly rose in arms, and forced several lords and gentlemen to be their leaders. Such as refused, they either threw into prison or killed on the spot. Amongst the latter was the Chancellor of Longland, an ecclesiastic by no means popular. The king sent a force against them under the Duke of Suffolk, attended by the Earls of Shrewsbury, Kent, Rutland, and Huntingdon.
Suffolk found the insurgents in such force that he thought it best to temporise, and demanded of them what they had to complain of. Thereupon, the men of Lincolnshire drew up and presented to him a list of six articles of grievance. These consisted, first and foremost, of the suppression of the monasteries, by which they said such numbers of persons were put from their livings, and the poor of the realm were left unrelieved. Another complaint was of the fifteenth voted by Parliament, and of having to pay fourpence for a beast, and twelvepence for every twenty sheep. They affirmed that the king had taken into his councils personages of low birth and small reputation, who had got the forfeited lands into their hands, "most especial for their singular lucre and advantage."
This was aimed by name, and with only too much justice, at Cromwell and Lord Rich, who had grown wealthy on the spoils of the abbeys. To these men they added the names of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishops of Rochester, Salisbury, St. David's, and Dublin, whom they accused of having perverted the faith of the realm; and they especially attributed the severe exactions on the people to the Bishop of Lincoln and the officers of Cromwell, of whom it was rumoured that they meant to take the plate, jewels, and ornaments of the parish churches, as they had taken those of the religious houses.
This story of grievances was forwarded by Suffolk to the king, who returned an answer thus: "First, we begin, and make answer to the fourth and sixth articles, because upon them dependeth much of the rest concerning choosing of counsellors. I never have read, heard, or known that princes, counsellors, and prelates should be appointed by rude and ignorant common people; nor that they were persons meet and of ability to discern and choose meet and sufficient counsellors for a prince. How presumptuous then are ye, the rude commons of one shire, and that one of the most brute and beastly of the whole realm, and of least experience - to find fault with your prince for the electing of his counsellors and prelates, and to take upon you, contrary to God's law and man's law, to rule your prince, whom, ye are bound by all laws to obey and serve, with both your lives, lands, and goods, and for no worldly cause to withstand; the contrary whereof you, like traitors and rebels, have attempted, and not like true subjects, as ye name yourselves. As to the suppression of religious houses and monasteries, we will that ye, and all our subjects, should well know that this is granted us by all the nobles spiritual and temporal of this our realm, and by all the commons of the same, by act of Parliament, and not set forth by any counsellor or counsellors upon their mere will and phantasy, as ye full falsely would persuade our realm to believe. And when ye alleged that the service of God is much thereby diminished, the truth thereof is contrary; for there be no houses suppressed where God was well served, but where most vice, mischief, and abomination of living was used; and that doth well appear by their own confessions, subscribed by their own hands, in the time of visitations. And yet were suffered a great many of them, more than are by the act needed, to stand; wherein, if they amend not their living, we fear we have more to answer for than for the suppression of all the rest."
He concludes by flatly refusing their petition, bidding them meddle no more in the affairs of their undoubted prince; but to deliver up their ringleaders, and leave governing to him and his counsellors and noblemen. This bluster appears to have frightened the simple clodhoppers of the Fens; and we have, a few days later, another letter from the same swelling hand, telling them that he has heard from the Earl of Shrewsbury that they have shown a fitting repentance and sorrow for their folly and their heinous crimes; and assuring them that in any other Christian country they, their wives and children, would have been exterminated with fire and sword. He orders them to pile their arms in the market-place of Lincoln, and get away to their proper habitations and business, or, if they remain a day longer in arms, he will execute on them, their wives and children, the most terrible judgments that the world had ever known. On the 30th of October, this frightened rabble, which seems to have been led on and then deserted by the clergy and gentry, dispersed, having first delivered up to the king's general fifteen of their ringleaders, amongst whom were Dr. Mackrel, the prior of Barlings, and Captain Cobbler, said to have been a man of the name of Melton. All these prisoners were afterwards executed as traitors, with all the barbarities of the age.
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