Reign of Henry the Eighth - (Continued) page 16
The people, from one end of the country to the other, were on the side of Catherine. They justly looked upon her as a virtuous, amiable, and religious queen, who was; thrust aside to make way for a younger rival; and they did not hesitate to express their opinion of that rival's; conduct. They cried out against "Nan Bullen" lustily on all occasions, and declared that they would have none of her. The monastic orders, who were writhing under the privation of their ancient houses and estates, and who foresaw further and more extensive spoliations in the Reformation tendencies of Cranmer and the new queen, preached everywhere hatred to the "Bullen" usurper of the throne, and bold denunciations of the licentious conduct of the king himself. One Friar Peyto, a very devout and zealous member of the order of Observants, preached before the king and queen at
Greenwich, and denounced, in uncompromising terms, the most terrible judgments on them both. He reminded them of the story of Ahab, and cried out, "Even where the dogs licked the blood of Naboth, shall they lick the blood of Jezebel." He told Henry that, like the King of Israel of old, he had got his lying prophets to prophecy what he willed: "but," continued he, "I am Micheas (Micaiah), whom thou wilt hate because I must tell thee truly that this marriage is unlawful; and I know I shall eat the bread of affliction and drink the waters of sorrow; yet, because our Lord hath put it into my mouth, I must speak of it."
Henry, for a wonder, restrained himself, and preferred to set one of his chaplains to answer the friar. Probably the knowledge that the general opinion was that of the friar might induce Henry to this course, so different to his conduct in after years. The next Sunday, being the 8th of May, Dr. Curwen preached in the same place, and, after endeavouring to answer his arguments, made a furious attack on the friar himself, calling him a dog, a slanderer, a base, beggarly friar, a rebel and traitor. He denounced him as a foul slanderer of persons in authority and asserted that, so far from the king's marriage being an offence to God or man, it was a measure both highly desirable and highly commendable, as that which was to establish a righteous royal seed for ever; and then, supposing that his eloquence had completely defeated and put to flight the friar, he challenged him by name, shouting, "I speak to thee, Peyto, that makest thyself Micheas, that thou mayest speak evil of kings; but now thou art not to be found, being fled for fear and shame, as being unable to answer my arguments."
But there came an answer - though not from Peyto - which was not greatly to the credit or the foresight of the preacher, for in the rood-loft, one Elstow, a friar of the same house as Peyto, stood up, and in a loud and undaunted manner said, "Good sir, you know well enough that Father Peyto, as he was commanded, is gone to a provincial council holden at Canterbury, and is not fled from any fear of you, but to-morrow will return again. And meantime, here am I, another Micheas, ready to lay down my life to prove all those things true which he hath taught out of the Holy Scriptures; and to this combat I challenge thee before God and all equal judges; even unto thee, Curwen, I say it, which art one of the four hundred prophets into whom the spirit of lying is entered, and seekest by adultery to establish succession; betraying the king into endless perdition, more for thine own vain-glory and hope of promotion than for the discharge of thy clogged conscience, and the king's salvation." The friar went on in the same strain, growing bolder and bolder, and hurling the most awful denunciations at the head of the king, and none could bring him to silence, till Henry, in a voice of thunder, commanded him to be still. The king did not pass this over. The two friars the next day were summoned before the council, and sternly rebuked and threatened. The Earl of Essex told them they deserved to be put into sacks and thrown into the Thames. "Threaten those things," said Elstow, smiling, "to the rich and dainty folk, which are clothed in purple and fine linen, and fare sumptuously every day, and have their chieifest hope in this world; but we heed them not - nay, we are joyful that for the discharge of our duties we are driven hence; and, thanks to God, we know the way to heaven to be as ready by water as by land, and therefore care not which way we go." The end of this plain speaking was, that the friars, with all their order, were soon after banished; and Curwen, as Friar Elstow had prophesied, was promoted to the episcopal bench.
Yet no complaints of the clergy or the people could prevent the ruthless king wringing the heart of his forsaken wife, by demands of her renunciation of all title to royalty. On the 3rd of July Lord Mountjoy, who had formerly been her page, waited on her from the king to announce to her the completion of the divorce, and to warn her to take a lower style and address than that of queen. Catherine was living quietly at Ampthill, and the martyrdom through which she had lately been made to pass had shaken her health severely. It was some days before she could see the messenger, and when she did she was still lying sick on her couch, and suffering from a thorn which by some accident she had run into her foot. She had a number of her servants assembled to hear what was said, and she then demanded whether the message were in writing or was to be delivered by word of mouth. Lord Mountjoy said he had both a verbal and a written command, but when he began to address her as the Princess of Wales, she stopped him, and let him know that she was not princess dowager, but the queen, and withal the king's true wife; had been crowned and anointed queen, and by the king had had lawful issue; had committed no crime by which real forfeiture of her rank and estate could come, but that the estate and name of queen she would vindicate, challenge, and maintain during her lifetime.
Mountjoy begged to remind her that she had not only been divorced but that this divorce was confirmed by the Act of Parliament in both Houses, and that the Lady Anne had also been anointed and crowned Queen of England, which act was also confirmed by the lords spiritual and temporal, and the commoners of the realm; but Catherine, with undaunted spirit, repudiated all such proceedings, as effected by bribery and unfair means, declaring that neither universities, convocations, nor parliaments had power to divorce, but the Court of Rome alone, to which she still appealed. Mountjoy then represented to her that her obstinacy might occasion popular commotions in the kingdom, to which she replied that she should much regret that,- she trusted there would be no dissensions in the realm on her account, which she never contemplated, nor ever would; but she would never consent to injure her daughter's rights and the health of her own soul by compliance; and if she should be so unfortunate as to forfeit the favour of the people, still, she trusted to go to heaven "cum fama et infama," for it was not for the favour of the people, nor yet for any trouble or adversity that might be devised for her, that she would lose the favour of God. When Mountjoy showed her the report which he had drawn up of the interview, she called for pen and ink, and carefully struck out the words princess-dowager wherever they occurred. She also treated the whole divorce as a mere farce, being pronounced in the king's own realm, by "a man of the king's own making," Cranmer, whom she asserted to be a person by do means impartial.
Henry had accomplished his long striven-for object: he had deposed his old queen, and secured his new one; he had assumed great power over the Church, and derived some wealth from it, but he had no satisfaction in it. His movements had originated in passion, not in principle; he was no Reformer by nature, but fast bound in the prejudices of his education, and he felt a constant longing to reconcile himself again with the Pope. His proceedings were nowhere popular. Over the whole of Europe Catherine was an object of sincere sympathy. In his own dominions we have seen the vehemence of popular expression against his marriage, and the women were more indignant than the men. In his own Court, and amongst the very relatives of Anne Boleyn, he found stout partisans of the discarded queen. The wife of Anne's own brother, the Countess of Rochford, had been lady of the bedchamber to Catherine, and with other Court ladies were so open and violent in condemning the treatment of her, that Henry sent Lady Rochford and another lady of high rank to the Tower.
On the other hand, the Pope was as unwilling to break entirely with Henry. England was a valuable fief of the Holy See, but Clement was held tight to his opposition to Henry's proceedings by the emperor, who may be said, with his aunt, Queen Catherine, to have been far more really the artificers of the severance of England from Rome, than Henry, Cranmer, or Anne Boleyn. If Queen Catherine had submitted readily to the divorce, induced by an easy disposition or the offer of rewards and honours, and if Charles had not exerted all his power and all his menaces to keep the Pope firm, there would have come no break with Henry. As it was, led by their mutual regrets, and by the active offices of Francis I., who was eager to join a fresh coalition against Charles, the Pope consented to meet Henry's ambassadors at Marseilles. In July, under the influence of Charles and his brother Ferdinand, he had annulled the sentence of divorce pronounced by Cranmer, and excommunicated Henry and Anne if they did not separate before the end of September; and now on the 25th of September, he embarked on board the French fleet to meet Francis and the English envoys. No sooner, however, was it settled that Clement and Francis should meet than Henry was seized with alarm lest they should enter into a secret league prejudicial to him. He sent over to Francis the Duke of Norfolk, accompanied by the Viscount Rochford, Parolet, Brown, and Bryan, with a retinue of 160 horsemen, as if to accompany Francis, but in reality furnished with secret instructions to dissuade Francis from proceeding to the interview, and offering him a large subsidy if he would countenance him by establishing a patriarch in France, and forbid the transmission of money to the papal treasury. When Francis refused to listen to this advice, Henry recalled the Duke of Norfolk, who was a zealous Catholic, and whom Henry probably thought too anxious to agree with the Pope, and sent in his place the Bishop of Winchester and Bryan.
These envoys professed that they were come to execute the wishes of Francis, and encouraged by this, Francis refused to proceed with other business until Clement had done everything possible to arrange amicably the affairs of Henry. Great, therefore, was the astonishment of both the Pope and the King of France to find, on proceeding to this business, that these ambassadors had come unfurnished with any powers to treat either with the Pontiff or the French King. They were only commissioned to watch the proceedings, and report them to their master. Henry, with all his desire of reconciliation, was still in constant fear of committing himself, and finding that the Pope had been prevailed on to decide against him, Francis insisted that the envoys should dispatch a messenger for Ml powers to treat; and, in the meantime, a marriage was concluded betwixt the Duke of Orleans, the son of Francis, and Catherine de Medici, the niece of Clement, an alliance which proved a great curse to France. The result of the dispatch to England appeared in the arrival of Bonner, afterwards Bishop of London, and one of the bitterest persecutors who ever lived, who, on the 7th of November, instead of proceeding to an accordance with Francis and the Pope, to their amazement presented from Henry an appeal from the Pope to a general council.
This unexpected renunciation İf the authority of the Pope spoke plainly the distrust in Henry's mind of him, or of the influence behind him, All parties were now aiming at impossibilities. Henry would fain be reconciled with the ancient Church, but he was mortally afraid of the power of Charles over the Pontiff, and these fears were sedulously stimulated by the party at home, headed by Cromwell, Cranmer, and his own queen. Clement desired the reunion, but was a puppet in the hands of the emperor: and Francis was bent upon his own views without possessing the confidence of either the Pope or Henry. Both Clement and Francis resented the conduct of Henry, yet neither was willing to give him up. Bonner pretended that the appeal to a council would throw no real obstacles in the way, and Francis, knowing that the Bishop of Bayonne stood well with Henry, sent him to London to propose that he should undertake the management of his affair with the Pope. Henry readily consented, and the bishop, in high spirits, hastened back, proceeded to Rome in the depth of winter, and set zealously to work to bring the matter to a favourable issue. The concession which the bishop flattered himself that he should now obtain was, that the divorce should be once more tried in England, and that the Pope should ratify the sentence, and England should remain in full obedience to the Papal See. So conceding did Henry appear, that he authorised the Bishop of Bayonne to promise, not merely obedience, but benefits to Rome, in proportion to the readiness of Clement to oblige him.
The long-contested question of the divorce, and the threatened consequence - severance of England from the Papal See - now appeared in a fair way of being settled. They were never farther off from such a consummation. However sincere and earnest the two principals in this contest, the Pope and Henry, might be, there were at work in the Court of England and the Court of Rome parties really more powerful than their principals, who were resolved that the two desiderata to this pacification never should be yielded. No sooner had the Bishop of Bayonne set out for Rome, than Cromwell and his party commenced an active campaign in Parliament for breaking beyond remedy the tie with Rome, and establishing an independent church in this country. This able man, who for his past services was now made Chancellor of the Exchequer for life, framed two bills, and introduced them to Parliament, soon after the Christmas holidays. The first was an act establishing the title of the king as supreme head of the English Church, and vesting in him the right to appoint to all bishoprics, and to decide all ecclesiastical causes. All payments or appeals to Rome were strictly forbidden; and the submission of the clergy to these ^enactments, which in the former bill confined it to one year, was made perpetual, by the omission of that qualification.
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