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a hissing sound. At once the Mermaid began to settle rapidly.

source:Unpretentious behavior networkedit:twotime:2023-12-04 13:41:22

Commissions were appointed to minister the oath to the clergy and laity, most of whom accepted it, some through fear of the consequences of refusal and others in the hope of receiving a share of the monastic lands, which, it was rumoured, would soon be at the disposal of the king. A royal commission consisting of George Brown, Prior of the Augustinian Hermits, and Dr. Hilsey, Provincial of the Dominicans, was appointed to visit the religious houses and to obtain the submission of the members (April 1534). By threats of dissolution and confiscation they secured the submission of most of the monastic establishments with the exception of the Observants of Richmond and Greenwich and the Carthusians of the Charterhouse, London. Many of the members of these communities were arrested and lodged in the Tower, and the decree went forth that the seven houses belonging to the Observants, who had offered a strenuous opposition to the divorce, should be suppressed.[28] The Convocations of Canterbury and York submitted, as did also the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge.

a hissing sound. At once the Mermaid began to settle rapidly.

When Parliament met again in November 1534 a bill was introduced proclaiming the king supreme head of the Church in England. The measure was based upon the recognition of royal supremacy extracted from Convocation three years before, but with the omission of the saving clause "as far as the law of Christ allows." According to this Act it was declared that the king "justly and rightly is and ought to be the supreme head of the Church in England, and to enjoy all the honours, dignities, pre-eminences, jurisdictions, privileges, authorities, immunities, profits and commodities" appertaining to the dignity of the supreme head of the Church.[29] An Act of Attainder was passed against Fisher, More, and all others who had refused submission. The First Fruits, formerly paid to the Pope, were to be paid to the king, and bishops were allowed to appoint men approved by the crown to be their assistants.

a hissing sound. At once the Mermaid began to settle rapidly.

By these measures the constitution of the Church, as it had been accepted for centuries by the English clergy and laity, was overturned. The authority of the Pope was rejected in favour of the authority of the king, who was to be regarded in the future as the source of all ecclesiastical jurisdiction. This great religious revolution was carried out without the consent of the bishops and clergy. With the single exception of Cranmer the bishops to a man opposed the change, and if they and the great body of the clergy made their submission in the end, they did so not because they were convinced by the royal arguments, but because they feared the royal displeasure. Neither was the change favoured by any considerable section of the nobles and people. The former were won over partly by fear, partly by hope of securing a share in the plunder of the Church; the latter, dismayed by the cowardly attitude shown by their spiritual and lay leaders, saw no hope of successful resistance. Had there been any strong feeling in England against the Holy See, some of the bishops and clergy would have spoken out clearly against the Pope, at a time when such a step would have merited the approval of the king. The fact that the measure could have been passed in such circumstances is in itself the best example of what is meant by Tudor despotism, in the days when an English Parliament was only a machine for registering the wishes of the king.

a hissing sound. At once the Mermaid began to settle rapidly.

In January 1535 an order was made that the king should be styled supreme head of the Church of England. Thomas Cromwell, who had risen rapidly at court in spite of the disgrace of his patron, Cardinal Wolsey, was entrusted with the work of forcing the clergy and laity to renounce the authority of the Pope. The bishops were commanded to surrender the Bulls of appointment they had received from Rome, and to acknowledge expressly that they recognised the royal supremacy. Cromwell was appointed the king's vicar-general, from whom the bishops and archbishops were obliged to take their directions. Severe measures were to be used against anybody who spoke even in private in favour of Rome. The Prior of the London Charterhouse and some other Carthusians were brought to trial for refusing to accept the royal supremacy (April, 1535). After an able and uncompromising defence they were found guilty of treason and were put to death with the most revolting cruelty.[30] Bishop Fisher and Sir Thomas More, who were prisoners in the Tower, were allowed some time to consider their course of conduct. Fisher declared that he could not acknowledge the king as supreme head of the Church. While he lay in prison awaiting his trial, Paul III., in acknowledgment of his loyal services to the Church, conferred on him a cardinal's hat. This honour, however well merited, served only to arouse the ire of the king. He declared that by the time the hat should arrive Fisher should have no head on which to wear it, and to show that this was no idle threat a peremptory order was dispatched that unless Fisher and More took the oath before the feast of St. John they should suffer the penalty prescribed for traitors. Fisher, together with some monks of the Carthusians, was brought to trial (June 1535), and was found guilty of treason for having declared that the king was not supreme head of the Church. The prisoners were condemned to be hanged, drawn, and quartered. In the case of the Carthusians the sentence was carried out to the letter, but as it was feared that Fisher might die before he reached Tyburn he was beheaded in the Tower (22nd June), and his head was impaled on London bridge.[31]

Sir Thomas More was placed on his trial in Westminster Hall before a special commission (1st July). Able lawyer as he was, he had no difficulty in showing that by silence he had committed no crime and broken no Act of Parliament, but no defence could avail him against the wishes of the king. The jury promptly returned a verdict of guilty. Before sentence was passed the prisoner spoke out manfully against royal supremacy, and in defence of the authority of Rome. He declared that the Act of Parliament, which conferred on the king the title of supreme head of the Church, was opposed both to the laws of God and man, that it was in flagrant contradiction to the Magna Charta, and that the king of England could no more refuse obedience to the Holy See than a child could refuse obedience to his father. Even after his trial and condemnation another attempt was made to induce him to submit, but he refused, and on the 6th July he finished his career as a martyr for Rome.[32]

The execution of Fisher and More showed plainly to all that the breach with Rome was not likely to be healed. When news of what had taken place in England reached Rome Paul III. was anxious to issue a decree of deposition against Henry. Had he done so, and had he been supported by the Emperor and Francis I. there is no doubt that many of the English noblemen would have joined the standard of the invaders, but the hostility between France and the Emperor saved Henry. Neither party was willing to aid the Pope lest the other should form an alliance with England. Fearing such a union, however, between Francis I. and Charles V. Henry hastened to seek the aid of the Protestant princes of Germany. From 1531 he had been in communication with them urging them to be careful about introducing religious innovations, but he was now so alarmed lest the Emperor and the King of France might join hands to assist the Pope in convoking a General Council, that English envoys were directed to meet the Protestant princes at Schmalkald (1535), to arrange for common action. A close union between England and the Protestant states of Germany could not be effected, because the Protestant princes insisted that Henry should accept the Confession of Augsburg, and Henry refused to permit such interference in the religious affairs of England. Still, English divines were instructed to remain at Wittenberg, and Lutheran theologians were invited to come to England for the discussion of religious differences.[33]

Meanwhile Cromwell was engaged in a visitation of the monasteries of England (1535). To bring home to the minds of the bishops the meaning of royal supremacy, he suspended their visitations while the royal visitors were at work. Cromwell, unable to undertake the duty himself, appointed delegates, and supplied them with the list of questions that should be administered. His principal delegates were Richard Leyton and Thomas Leigh, both men, as is evident from their own letters, who were not likely to be over scrupulous about the methods they employed. They were harsh, rude, and brutal in their treatment of both monks and nuns, especially in houses where they suspected hostility to the recent laws. They used every means in their power to break up the harmony of religious life, and to unsettle the minds of the younger members of the communities. In a few months the visitations were finished, and the reports of the visitors were presented to Cromwell. According to these reports most of the monasteries and convents were homes of sin and vice, and many of the monks and nuns were guilty of heinous crimes, but, though in particular instances there may have been some grounds for these charges, there is good reason for not accepting as trustworthy this account of monastic discipline. In the first place the royal visitors traversed the country with such lightning-like rapidity that it would have been impossible for them to arrive at a correct judgment even had they been impartial and honest men. That they were neither honest nor impartial is clear enough from their own correspondence. They were sent out by Cromwell to collect evidence that might furnish a decent pretext for suppressing the monasteries and for confiscating the monastic possessions, and they took pains to show their master that his confidence in them had not been misplaced. Their only mistake was that in their eagerness to black the character of the unfortunate religious they exceeded the limits of human credulity. They positively revelled in sin, and the scandals they reported were of such a gross and hideous kind that it is impossible to believe that they could have been true, else the people, instead of taking up arms to defend the religious houses, would have risen in revolt to suppress such abominations. Nor is it correct to say that the /Comperta/ were submitted to Parliament for discussion, and that the members were so shocked by the tale they unfolded that they clamoured for the suppression of these iniquitous institutions. There is abundant evidence to prove that Parliament was reluctant to take any action against the religious houses, that it was only by the personal intervention of the king that the bill for the suppression of the lesser monasteries was allowed to pass, and that it is at least doubtful if any but general statements founded on the /Comperta/ were brought before Parliament. The story of the production of the "Black Book" supposed to contain the reports is of a much later date, and comes from sources that could not be regarded as unprejudiced. It had its origin probably in a misunderstanding of the nature of the /Compendium Compertorum/, which dealt only with parishes of the northern province. It is strange that though the commissioners made no distinction between the condition of the larger and the smaller monasteries, the Act of Parliament based upon these reports decreed only the suppression of the smaller monasteries, as if vice and neglect of discipline were more likely to reign in the small rather than in the larger communities; and it is equally strange that the superiors of many of the houses, about which unfavourable reports had been presented, were promoted to high ecclesiastical offices by the king and by his vicar-general, who should have been convinced of the guilt and unworthiness of such ministers, had they trusted their own commissioners. In the case of some of the dioceses, as for example Norwich, it is possible to compare the results of an episcopal visitation held some years previously with the reports of Cromwell's commissioners, and though it is sufficiently clear from these earlier reports that all was not well with discipline, the discrepancy between the accounts of the bishops and the royal commissioners is so striking, that it is difficult to believe that the houses could have degenerated so rapidly in so short a space of time as to justify the /Comperta/ of the commissioners. But what is still more striking is the fact that after the decree of suppression had gone forth, other commissioners, drawn largely from the local gentry, many of whom were to share in the plunder of the monastic lands, visited several of the houses against which serious charges had been made, and found nothing worthy of special blame. These men were not likely to be prejudiced in favour of the monks and nuns. They were well acquainted with the people of the district, and had every opportunity of learning the verdict of the masses about the discipline of the religious communities. They were, therefore, in a much better position to arrive at the truth than the royal commissioners who could only pay a flying visit of a few hours or at most of a few days.[34]

The real object of the visitation and of the scandalous reports to which it gave rise, was to secure some specious pretext that would justify the king in the eyes of the nation in suppressing the monasteries and in confiscating their possessions. The idea that the monastic establishments enjoyed only the administration of their lands and goods, and that these might be seized upon at any moment for the public weal, was not entirely a new one either in the history of England or in that of some of the Continental countries. Years before, Cardinal Wolsey, for example, had dissolved more than twenty monasteries in order to raise funds for his colleges at Ipswich and Oxford, while not unfrequently the kings of England rewarded their favourites and servants by granting them a pension to be paid by a particular monastery. With the rise of the middle classes to power and the gradual awakening of greater agricultural and commercial activity, greedy eyes were turned to the monasteries and the farms owned by the religious institutions. Unlike the property of private individuals these lands were never likely to be in the market, and humanly speaking a transfer of ownership could be effected only by a violent revolution. Many people, therefore, though not unfriendly to the monks and nuns as such, were not disinclined to entertain the proposals of the king for the confiscation of religious property, particularly as hopes were held out to the nobles, wealthy merchants, and the corporations of cities and towns that the property so acquired could take the place of the taxes that otherwise must be raised to meet local and national expenditure.

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