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Reign of Henry the Eighth - (Concluded). page 8


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Whilst the Lincolnshire insurgents were in arms, a butcher of Windsor was reported to have said he wished the poor fellows in Lincolnshire had the meat upon his stall, rather than he should sell it at the price offered; and that a priest standing by said he wished indeed they had it, for they had need of it. No sooner did this reach the ears of Henry than he had them seized and hanged, on the 9th of October; and Dr. Mallet, who had been chaplain to Queen Catherine, was hanged at Chelmsford, in Essex, for similar remarks.

Scarcely, however, was the disturbance in Lincolnshire suppressed, when a far more formidable one broke out in the north. The people there were much more accustomed to arms, and their vicinity to the Scots created great alarm, lest they should take advantage to make an inroad into the country. The insurrection quickly spread over Northumberland, Durham, Yorkshire, Westmoreland, and Lancashire. The Lord Darcy was conspicuous in it on the Borders, and there were calculated to be not less than 40,000 men in arms. Henry was this time greatly alarmed, and sent Cromwell to the Jewel-house in the Tower, to take as much plate as he thought could possibly be spared, and have it coined to pay troops, for he had no money in his coffers, notwithstanding all the monasteries he had seized. Wriothesley, the Secretary of State, wrote in haste from Windsor to Cromwell to expedite this business, superscribing his letter, "In haste - haste for thy life;" and telling him that the king appeared to fear much this matter, especially if he should want money, "for on the Lord Darcy his grace had no great trust."

As soon as money could be coined, a good sum was sent to the Duke of Suffolk, who was posted at Newark, and who made free use of it in buying over some of the ringleaders, and in sowing dissensions amongst the insurgents. Meantime, the Earl of Shrewsbury was made the king's Lord-Lieutenant north of the Trent, and the Duke of Norfolk was dispatched into Yorkshire, to command there with 5,000 men. Robert Aske, a gentleman of ability, was at the head of the rebel forces, and he had given a religious character to the movement by styling it "The Pilgrimage of Grace." Priests marched in the van, in the habits of their various orders, carrying crosses, and banners, on which were emblazoned the figure of Christ on the cross, the sacred chalice, and the five wounds of the Saviour. On their sleeves, too, were embroidered the five wounds, and the name of Christ on their centre. They had all sworn an oath that they had entered into the pilgrimage from no other motive than the love of God, the care of the king's person and issue, the desire of purifying the nobility, of driving base persons from the king, of restoring the Church, and suppressing heresy.

Wherever they came, they compelled the people to join their ranks, as they would answer it at the day of judgment, as they would bear the pulling down of their houses, and the loss of their goods and of their lives. They restored the monks and nuns to their houses, as they went along. The cities of York, Hull, and Pontefract had opened their gates, and taken the prescribed oaths. The Archbishop of York, the Lords Darcy, Lumley, Latimer, and Nevill, with a vast number of knights and gentlemen, gathered to their standard, either by free will or compulsion, and the army presented a most formidable aspect. Rut, in reality, there were already disunion and controversy in the host. The money of the Duke of Suffolk was doing its work, and Wriothesley soon wrote that they were falling to talking amongst themselves, and, if that went on, a pair of light heels would soon be worth five pair of hands to them. The Earl of Cumberland repulsed them from his castle of Skipton; Sir Ralph Evers defended Scarborough against them; Courtenay, Marquis of Exeter, the Earls of Huntingdon, Derby, and Rutland, took the field against them; and they only managed to take Pomfret Castle, because the Lord Darcy and the Archbishop of York, lying there, were supposed to be secretly in league with them, and only wanted a show of force, which they might plead in case of failure.

The passages of the Trent at Nottingham and Newark were secured against them, and when they moved upon Doncaster they were encountered by the united forces of the Duke of Norfolk and the Earl of Shrewsbury, who had thrown up a strong battery in front of the town. The rebel army, nevertheless, determined to attack them in the morning; but, during the night, such heavy rains fell that the river was impassable, and Norfolk, who had received a fresh remittance of 10,000, took the opportunity to attempt to negotiate matters with them. He was instructed by the king to go artfully to work with them, offering to all the nobility and gentry who had joined them a free pardon, if they would quit the enterprise. With this purpose he sent a herald to Aske, who received him sitting in a chair of state, with the Archbishop of York on one hand, and Lord Darcy on the other. Aske presented a memorial, consisting of complaints similar to those in the petition of the men of Lincolnshire, and a number of others going still further. It demanded that the heresies of Wickliffe, Huss, Luther, Melanchthon, and others should be rooted out of the Church; that all heretical books should be destroyed; the supremacy of the Church should be restored to the Pope, who should enjoy the consecration of bishops, the tenths, and the first-fruits as formerly; that the Princess Mary should be declared legitimate, and all statutes to the contrary should be annulled; that the pains and penalties which had been decreed against such as kept hand-guns and cross-bows should be repealed, except as to their being used in the king's parks and forests against his deer; that the statute for treason in words spoken should be annulled, and the common law be restored as it was in the commencement of the king's reign; and that Parliament should be reinvested with its ancient privileges, and the election of the knights of shires and the members of boroughs should be reformed.

This was a most surprising attack upon all Henry's innovations, civil and ecclesiastical, and contained a most just but unavailing protest against his tyranny. It was decided that the insurgents should send this memorial to the king by Sir Ralph Elckers and Mr. Bowes, that the Duke of Norfolk should himself go up to second the petition, and that there should be a cessation of hostilities till the return of the messengers.

Nothing could be more advantageous to the Royal cause, or more fatal to that of the people, than this arrangement. The royalist troops had now plenty of pay and good quarters, whilst the insurgents were suffering the extremities of cold and hunger. Great numbers of them deserted; still more obtained leave of absence till they should be recalled. The people had great confidence in the mediation of the Duke of Norfolk, knowing that in all matters of faith he was wholly with them; and probably he thought it would be better to let the insurgents thus disperse, and so spare them, than to come to slaughter them. Be this as it may, the duke, on arriving in London, found Henry had summoned the nobility to meet him in arms at Northampton; but he convinced him that it was unnecessary, and that, by a little management, the insurgents would soon disperse of themselves.

But, of all men, Henry was the most unmanageable person. He wrote a reply to the memorial again, with his own hand, repeating all his assertions as to the justice and necessity of suppressing the monasteries; and as to the government of the Church, he told them bluntly it was no business of theirs; and as to the laws, he bade them remember that blind men were no judges of colours. That it was manifest that the laws never were so wholesome, commodious, and beneficial. It was a gross absurdity, he said, for them to tell him that he did not know what was good for the realm better than they, or even than himself when he first came to the throne, seeing he had been so long king. The men of his council, he said, were good men, just and true, and admirable administrators both of God's laws and his own. Some of them, it was true, were not of noble birth; neither had those been that his father left him, who, for the most part, were scarcely well-born gentlemen, of small estate, and the rest lawyers and priests. He would not concede an iota of their demands, but would freely pardon their rebellion on their delivering up to him six of their ringleaders, whom he named, and four whom he would proceed to name.

On hearing this answer the insurgents were greatly enraged, and summoned their forces back again; and Norfolk found that he had not an army strong enough to contend with them. He therefore once more tried to negotiate, and made them great promises, which Henry again refusing to fulfil, the insurgents became desperate, and compelled the Royal army to retreat to the south of the Don and the Trent. The Court became then really alarmed, lest the rebels should cross the Trent and advance upon the south, and Norfolk was empowered to offer a general pardon, without exceptions; and the weather operating with the Royal clemency, the bulk of the insurgents returned home. The king wrote gracious letters to "his trusty and well-loved" Captain Aske, Lord Darcy, and others, inviting them to come to London that he might converse with them; but these leaders were not to be taken by so shallow an artifice, Aske proffered to go, if a sufficient hostage were sent in exchange; and on this, Henry threw off the mask, and said he knew no gentleman nor other person of so little worth as to be put in pledge for such a villain.

The insurgents, quite aware that the Government was only waiting to seize and crush the leaders, again took the field in the very midst of winter. On the 23rd of January, 1537, bills were stuck on the church-doors by night, calling on the commoners to come forth and to be true to one another, for the gentlemen had deceived them, yet they should not want for captains. There was great distrust lest the gentlemen had been won over by the pardon and by money. The rebels, however, marched out under two leaders of the name of Musgrave and Tilby, and, 8,000 strong, they laid siege to Carlisle, where they were repulsed; and, being encountered in their retreat by Norfolk, they were defeated and put to flight. All their officers, except Musgrave, were taken and put to death, to the number of seventy. Sir Francis Bigot and one Halam attempted to surprise Hull, but failed; and other risings in the north proving equally abortive, the king now bade Norfolk spread his banner, march through the northern counties with martial law, and, regardless of the pardon he had issued, to punish the rebels without mercy. In his usual violence of passion, he was ready to destroy the innocent with the guilty. In his instructions to Norfolk he says: - "Our pleasure is, that before you shall close up our banner, you shall in any wise cause such dreadful execution to be done upon a good number of the inhabitants of every town, village, and hamlet as have offended in this rebellion, as well by the hanging them up in tens as by the quartering of them, and the setting of their heads and quarters in every town, great and small, and in all such other places, as they may be a fearful spectacle to all other hereafter that would practise any like matter; which we require you to do without pity or respect."

As the monks had obviously been greatly at the bottom of this commotion, Henry let loose his vengeance especially upon them. He ordered Norfolk to go to Sawley, Hexham, Newminster, Lannercost, St. Agatha, and all other places that had made resistance, and there seize certain priors and canons and send them up to him, and immediately to hang up "all monks and canons that be in any wise faulty, without further delay or ceremony." He ordered the Earl of Surrey and other officers in the north to charge all the monks there with grievous offences, to try their minds, and see whether they would Lot submit themselves gladly to his will. Under these sanguinary orders, the whole of England north of the Trent became a scene of horror and butchery, and ghastly heads and mangled bodies, or corpses swinging from the trees. Nor did this admirable reformer of religion neglect to look after the property of his victims. Their lands and goods were all to be forfeited and taken possession of; "for we are informed," he says, "that there were amongst them divers freeholders and rich men, whose lands and goods, well looked unto, will reward others that with their truth have deserved the same."

Besides Aske, Sir Thomas Constable, Sir John Bulmer, Sir Thomas Percy, Sir Stephen Hamilton, Nicholas Tempest, William Lumley, and others, though they had taken the benefit of the pardon, were found guilty, and most of them were executed. Lord Hussey was, found guilty of being an accomplice in the Lincolnshire rising, and was executed at Lincoln. Lord Darcy, though he pleaded compulsion, and a long life spent in the service of the Crown, was executed on Tower Hill. Lady Bulmer, the wife of Sir John Bulmer, was burnt in Smithfield; and Robert Aske was hung in chains on one of the towers of York. Having thus satiated his vengeance, and struck a profound terror into all the disaffected, Henry once more published a general pardon, to which he adhered; and even complied with one of the demands which the insurgents had made, that of erecting by patent a court of justice at York for deciding lawsuits in the northern counties.

But though Henry could crush his enemies in England, and command silence there, the world abroad which adhered to the Roman Catholic faith failed not to regard his sanguinary proceedings with horror, and to condemn him in no measured terms. There was one man, above all, whose stinging eloquence reached the ears and the heart of Henry, and made him writhe on his throne. This was Cardinal Pole, his own relative, whom we have seen him endeavouring, by offers of the highest ecclesiastical promotion, to bind to his cause, but in vain. Pole, a decided Romanist, could not bring his conscience to accept wealth and honours in lieu of what he regarded as the most sacred and most momentous truths. Pole had quitted England and taken up his abode in Rome in 1536, and there received the cardinal's hat. He had spread the infamy of the treatment of Queen Catherine, and the murder of the venerable Fisher and the illustrious More, over the whole of the civilised world. He had thrown all his great talents and learning into the composition of his work, "De Unione Ecclesiastica" - the Union of the Church - a work of singular erudition and eloquence, in which he had poured out his sarcasm and contempt on Henry with a terrible force. Henry burned with a deadly spirit of vengeance against this undaunted enemy, but could not reach him; yet Cromwell vowed that he would find means to make Pole eat his own heart with vexation.

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