The Progress of the Nation page 4
RELIGION AND THE CHURCH
We have so fully in the preceding chapters related the great struggle betwixt the Papal hierarchy and the increasing Protestant power both in England and Scotland, that we may here pass cursorily over the subject. There are, however, some features of the great crisis which demand placing in greater prominency, in order to a complete understanding of the causes in operation. And, in the first place, we must remark that complete and terrible as was the overthrow of the ancient hierarchy in these realms, it came at last with a rapidity which astonished even the friends of the change. From the time of Richard II. the new doctrine had been afloat amongst the people, and even in his day had availed to shake the throne, and fill the public mind with prognostics of Papal decay. Yet reign after reign had passed, and the Church had not only maintained its position, but had seemed to crush with a successful hand the Protestant schismatics. The fires which consumed the more daring advocates of the new opinions seemed to scare the rest into obscurity. The triumphant Church of Rome still presented a front of determined strength, and lorded it over the land with a magnificence which seemed destined to endure for ever.
Henry VII. was a firm upholder of the Roman Catholic hierarchy. "He advanced churchism," says Bacon; "he was tender of the privileges of sanctuaries, though they did him much mischief; he built and endowed many religious foundations, besides his memorable hospital of the Savoy; and yet he was a great alms-giver in secret, which showed that his works in public were rather dedicated to God's glory than his own." The fact was that Henry VII. was too cautious a man to become a reformer. He was too fond of money to risk its loss by the most distant chance of an unsuccessful enterprise, and he was too recently placed on the throne of a; vanquished dynasty to venture on so bold a measure of i ecclesiastical revolution had he been thus inclined, which he was far enough from being, On the contrary, his ministers were almost all great and able churchmen. Cardinals Bourchier and Morton, Archbishops Deane and Warham, were the accomplished churchmen who conducted the governmental affairs of Henry; and when the public outcry against the worldly and dissolute lives of the clergy, both secular and regular, became too loud to be disregarded, these clerical ministers of the king endeavoured with one hand to reduce the corruption by advice and remonstrance, and to check the progress of heresy by the stake and fagot. Henry VII. permitted this mode of extinguishing opinion by destroying the entertainers of it; and in the ninth year of his reign Joan Boughton was burnt in Smithfield, and this auto-da-fe was followed by a number of others; as William Tylsworth, at Amersham, whose daughter was compelled | to set fire to the pile which destroyed her father; Laurence Guest, at Salisbury, and others; besides numbers who were burnt in the cheek, imprisoned, and otherwise cruelly treated. These atrocities, as usual, so far from diminishing the heresy, only excited the abhorrence of the people, and weakened their attachment to the Church.
Henry VIII. continued the persecuting practices of his father with unabated rigour. In his earlier days he appeared determined to do honour to the Church beyond most of his predecessors. He raised up and created in Cardinal Wolsey such a colossus of ecclesiastical pomp and greatness as the world had rarely seen. In 1513 Wolsey was made Bishop of Tournay, in France; in 1514, Bishop of Lincoln and Archbishop of York; in 1515, the king's almoner, cardinal, and lord high chancellor of the kingdom; in 1518 he became the Pope's legate "a latere," Bishop of Bath and Wells; in 1521, Abbot of St. Albans; in 1523, Bishop of Durham, in exchange for the bishopric of Bath and Wells; and in 1529, Bishop of Winchester, in exchange for the bishopric of Durham. Besides all these dignities, he had pensions from the King of France, the Emperor of Germany, the Pope, and other princes. The whole power of the kingdom was in his hands; for Henry, so far from feeling any jealousy of his greatness, only felt himself the greater for having a servant who in pride and splendour rivalled the greatest monarchs. The state with which we have seen, in the course of our narrative of the reign of Henry VIII., this meteor of priestly eminence and affluence blazing along its course, would lead us to believe that the Church had reached a still higher pitch of power and grandeur than ever in this country. His palaces were more gorgeous, and crowded with more evidences of enormous wealth, than those of kings. The retinue of servants and attendants, many of the latter being nobles or the sons of nobles, was something inconceivable. It was only at Hampton Court that the whole train of his servants and the crowd of his visitors, including the nobility and ambassadors of foreign courts, could be suitably lodged and entertained. His secretary, Cavendish, says that his establishment consisted of 1,000 persons. His "cheine roll," he says, was of itself 800 persons, besides the servants of visitors. There was his steward, a clergyman; his treasurer, a knight; his comptroller, an esquire. His master cook presided in his kitchen clad in velvet or satin, and wearing a gold chain, besides two under cooks and their six labourers; yeomen, and grooms of the larder, the scullery, the ewry, the buttery, the cellary, the chandlery, and the wafery. He had a master of the wardrobe, and twenty assistants; yeomen and grooms again of the laundry, the office of purveyance, of the bakehouse, the wood-yard, the barn, of his gate, his barge, his stables, his farriers, his yeomen of the stirrup, his maltster, with all their under grooms, horses, &c.
There were then the dean and sub-dean of his chapel; repeater of the choir, the gospeller, the epistler, the master of the singers, with his men and children. In his processions were seen forty priests, all in rich capes and other vestments of white satin, or scarlet, or crimson. The altar in his chapel was covered with massy plate, and blazed with jewels and precious stones. In his privy chamber he had his chief chamberlain, vice-chamberlain, and two gentlemen ushers; six gentlemen waiters and twelve yeomen, and at their head nine or ten lords to attend on him, each with their two or three servants, and some more, to wait on them, the Earl of Derby having five. Three gentlemen cup-bearers, gentlemen carvers and servers, forty in number; six gentlemen ushers, and eight grooms. Attending his table were twelve doctors and chaplains, clerk of the closet, two clerks of the signet, four counsellors learned in the law, and two secretaries. Besides these there were his riding-clerk, clerk of the crown, clerk of the hamper and chaffer, clerk of the cheque for the chaplains, clerk for the yeomen of the chamber, fourteen footmen garnished with rich running coats whenever he had a journey; a herald-at-arms, sergeant-at-arms, physician, apothecary, four minstrels, Deeper of the tents, an armourer, an instructor of his Wards in chancery, "an instructor of his wardrop of roabes," a keeper of his chamber, a surveyor of York, and clerk of the green cloth.
"All these," says his secretary, Cavendish, "were daily attending, down-lying, and uprising; and at need he had eight continual boards for the chamberlains and, gentlemen-officers, having a mess of young lords and another of gentlemen, every one of which had two or three others to wait upon him."
This was his state at home. When ho prepared to attend term at Westminster Hall, he was attired in his cardinal's robes, and was followed by all his retinue. His upper vesture was of scarlet or crimson taffeta, or crimson satin, ingrained; his pillion scarlet, with a sable tippet about his neck. He had in his hand an orange, which having the inside taken out, was refilled with a sponge and aromatic vinegar, lest in the crowd he might imbibe any pestilence. Before him were carried the great seal of England and the cardinal's hat, by "some lord or gentleman right solemnly." On entering his presence-chamber his two great crosses were borne before him, and the gentlemen ushers cried, "On, masters, on, and make room for my lord." On descending to the hall of his palace, he was preceded by additional officers, a sergeant-at-arms with a great silver mace, and two gentlemen bearing great plates of silver. Arriving at his gate, he mounted his mule, trapped all in crimson velvet, with a saddle of the same, and thus he proceeded to Westminster - His cross-bearers, and pillar-bearers were all upon great horses, and in fine scarlet, with a train of gentry, footmen with battle-axes, &c. When he went to the Court at Greenwich, he went in his barge in equal state, and when he proceeded to the Continent on great embassages, with far more. He astonished the people abroad by the actually regal splendour with which he travelled, attended by such a retinue of knights, nobles, and prelates, amounting to 4,000 horsemen or more, with his cardinal's hat carried before him on a cushion, as had never been seen in the proudest days of the Church, except in the pontiffs themselves. And this ostentatious parade was only in keeping with his substantial power. For a long course of years the whole government of England was in his hands. The king did nothing without him; and as prime minister and Lord Chancellor of England, Archbishop of York, and chief judge in the court of Star Chamber, there was no man or his estate that was not in his power. His revenues from a hundred sources were immense, and such was the magnificence of his position and influence, that well might he forget himself and utter the famous words of unparalleled egotism - "Ego et rex meus."
Who could have deemed that the Papal Church was near its end as the State religion of this country, whilst the king thus delighted to honour its dignitaries? The very greatness of Wolsey hastened the fall of the Church as well as of himself. The envy born of such towering grandeur watched to avenge itself upon it. The arrogant demeanour, the rapacity, and the frequent injustice of the proud minister made for him and his Church deadly enemies. "For," says Strype, "he disobliged not only the inferior sort by his pride and haughty behaviour, but by laying his hands upon the rights, privileges, and profits of the gentry and clergy, he made them his implacable enemies too. He took upon him to bestow benefices, though the real right of patronage lay in others. He called all offending persons before him, whether of the laity or clergy, and compelled them to compound as his officers thought fit."
But this swollen apparition of mortal grandeur was but the creature of the most violent and capricious of men. A breath had made him, and a breath unmade. A single word and he fell headlong, assuredly shaking in his fall the great hierarchy of which he had seemed the most gorgeous pillar and ornament; for the whole system was corrupt and rotten to the core. The wealth of the monastic orders had especially demoralised them. Both the regular and secular clergy were accused of not only spending their time in taverns and gambling-houses, but of abandoning in such resorts the very costume which distinguished them from the laity; of wearing daggers, gowns, and hoods of silk and embroidery, and letting their hair grow long and fall on their shoulders. The interiors of the monastic houses were described as very dens of licentiousness, both in monks and nuns. We have it on the evidence of one of the letters of reproof addressed by Archbishop Morton to the Abbot of St. Alban's, that that famous abbey was filled with every species of vice and sensuality. The abbot is declared to have turned out all the nuns of two nunneries under his charge, and filled them with women of scandalous character, and that both he and Ms monks led the most vile lives amongst them; that they besides this kept concubines, who are especially named, and indulged in still more monstrous excesses. He charges them with cutting down the woods, wasting and embezzling the property of the Church, stealing the plate, and even picking out the jewels from the shrine of the patron saint.
Whilst such was the corruption of the clergy - a corruption so complete that no warnings nor censures availed to produce amendment; though the criminal horde was well aware that every day the Reformers were growing in numbers and noting their enormities with vigilant eyes - these infatuated men fell to quarrelling amongst themselves, thus giving the last sign of a falling house, the being divided against itself. The most remarkable circumstance, moreover, in this schism is, the very question which has just recently furnished such a fiery theme of discussion in both Romanist and Protestant Churches - the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin.
The Franciscans, or Grey Friars, were the champions of this doctrine; the Dominicans assumed the opposite position, admitting, however, that the Virgin became entirely purified in her mother's womb; so that the difference of opinion was so little that it might have satisfied any but ecclesiastical combatants. But these two parties divided the whole Catholic community, and thus threw the public into a very blaze of animosity. In vain did the Pope himself endeavour to conclude the strife by stepping forth as the champion of the immaculate dogma. The feud burned on; but the Franciscans, by the sanction of the Vatican, carrying the people with them, the Dominicans resorted to one of those pious frauds so frequent in the Church of Rome, and produced an image of the Virgin, which, besides moving her eyes, | shedding tears, rising up and sitting down, also denied | the immaculateness of her conception, and declared the Franciscans impostors. The people, overcome by this miracle, at once abandoned the Franciscans; who, however, too well versed in such mysteries, seized the image, and exhibited to the public the springs and machinery by which it had been worked. This fatal exposure being made, the four Dominicans who had been most active in the trick were delivered over to their enemies, the provincial of the order being one of them, and were burned at the stake. The Franciscans triumphed, but the Church received a mortal wound.
With the blind tenacity which often induces falling bodies to assert their prerogatives with an arrogant obstinacy, the Church, in the fourth year of Henry VIII., commenced a daring opposition to the Government, in defence of the benefit of clergy. Henry VII., as we have stated, had limited this much abused privilege, by his statute ordering such laymen as claimed it under charge of murder, to be burnt in the brawn of the thumb with the letter M. Henry VIII. had a bill introduced into Parliament for the purpose of still further limiting this mischievous right, and denying benefit of clergy to all murderers and robbers whatever. This the clergy opposed in Parliament, and preached against in the pulpit. The Lords and Commons were unanimously in favour of the bill as well as the public at large, but the clergy determined not to give way. Whilst the public mind was in a ferment on this subject, a tailor of London, of the name of Hunne, was brought into conflict with the incumbent of his parish, on account of mortuary dues; and being sued in the spiritual court, with a boldness which marked the rising spirit of the times, and which the clergy ought to have noted seriously, he took out a writ of praemunire against his prosecutor, for appealing to a foreign jurisdiction, the spiritual court, but still under the authority of the Pope. Enraged at this audacity, they threw the tailor into prison on a charge of heresy, where he was found hanging and dead. A coroner's inquest found the officers of the prison guilty of murder, and it appeared that the Bishop of London's chancellor, the sumner, and bell-ringer had perpetrated the crime. This threw the deepest odium on the clergy, and greatly alienated the people from them; yet they did not cease to prosecute their claim of privilege, and after much contest, Wolsey prayed the king to refer the matter to the Pope. But even at this early period Henry showed that he was tenacious of his own power, and gave a striking foretaste of what he would one day do. He replied, "By permission and ordinance of God, we are King of England; and the kings of England in times past hath never had any superior, but God only. Therefore know you well that we will maintain the right of our crown, and of our temporal jurisdiction, as well in this as in all other points, in as ample a manner as any of our progenitors have done before our time."
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