The Leading Facts of English History
by D.H. Montgomery
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

310. Murder of Lord Hastings and the Two Princes.

Richard shortly after showed his object. Lord Hastings was one of the council who had voted to make him Lord Protector, but he was unwilling to help him in his plot to seize the crown. While at the council table in the Tower of London Richard suddenly started up and accused Hastings of treason, saying, "By St. Paul, I will not to dinner till I see thy head off!" Hastings was dragged out of the room, and without either trial or examination was beheaded on a stick of timber on the Tower green.

The way was now clear for the accomplishment of the Duke's purpose. The Queen Mother (Elizabeth Woodville, widow of Edward IV) (S305) took her younger son and his sisters, one of whom was the Princess Elizabeth of York, and fled for protection to the sanctuary (S95) of Westminster Abbey, where, refusing all comfort, "she sat alone, on the rush-covered stone floor." Finally, Richard half persuaded and half forced the unhappy woman to give up her second son to his tender care.

With bitter weeping and dread presentiments of evil she parted from him, saying: "Farewell, mine own sweet son! God send you good keeping! Let me kiss you once ere you go, for God knoweth when we shall kiss together again." That was the last time she saw the lad. He and Edward, his elder brother, were soon after murdered in the Tower, and Richard rose by that double crime to the height he coveted.

311. Summary.

Edward V's nominal reign of less than three months must be regarded simply as the time during which his uncle, the Duke of Gloucester, perfected his plot for seizing the crown by the successive murders of Rivers, Grey, Hastings, and the two young Princes.

Richard III (House of York, White Rose)—1483-1485

312. Richard's Accession; he promises Financial Reform.

Richard used the preparations which had been made for the murdered Prince Edward's coronation for his own (S310). He probably gained over an influential party by promises of financial reform. In their address to him at his accession, Parliament said, "Certainly we be determined rather to adventure and commit us to the peril of our lives...than to live in such thraldom and bondage as we have lived long time heretofore, oppressed and injured by extortions and new impositions, against the laws of God and man, and the liberty, old policy and laws of this realm, wherein every Englishman is inherited."[1]

[1] Taswell-Langmead's "Constitutional History of England."

313. Richard III's Character.

Several attempts have been made of late years to defend the King against the odium heaped upon him by the older historians. But these well-meant efforts to prove him less black than tradition painted him are answered by the fact that his memory was thoroughly hated by those who knew him best. No one of the age when he lived thought of vindicating his character. He was called a "hypocrite" and a "hunchback."

We must believe then, until it is clearly proved to the contrary, that the last of the Yorkist kings was what common report and Shakespeare have together represented him,[2]—distorted in figure, and with ambition so unrestrained that the words the great English poet has seen fit to put into his mouth may have really expressed Richard's own thought:

"Then, since the heavens have shap'd my body so, Let hell make crookt my mind to answer it."[1]

[2] In this connection it may be well to say a word in regard to the historical value of Shakespeare's utterances, which have been freely quoted in this book. He generally followed the Chronicles of Hall and Holinshed, which constitute two important sources of information on the periods of which they treat; and he sometimes followed them so closely that he simply turned their prose into verse. Mr. James Gairdner, who is a high authority on the Wars of the Roses, calls Shakespeare "an unrivaled interpreter" of that long and terrible conflict. (See the preface to his "Houses of Lancaster and York.") In the preface to his "Richard III" Mr. Gairdner is still more explicit. He says: "A minute study of the facts of Richard's life has tended more and more to convince me of the general fidelity of the portrait with which we have been made familiar by Shakespeare and Sir Thomas More." On Shakespeare's faithful presentation of history see also A.G.S. Canning's "Thoughts on Shakespeare," p. 295; the Dictionary of National (British) Biography under "Holinshed"; Garnett and Gosse's "English Literature," Vol. II, p. 68; and H.N. Hudson's "Shakespeare's Life and Characters," Vol. II, pp. 5-8. See, too, S298, note 1. [1] Shakespeare's "Henry VI," Part III, Act V, scene vi.

Personally he was as brave as he was cruel and unscrupulous. He promoted some reforms; he encouraged Caxton in his great work (S306), and he abolished the forced loans ironically called "benevolences" (S307), at least for a time.

314. Revolts; Buckingham; Henry Tudor.

During his short reign of two years, several revolts broke out, but came to nothing. The Duke of Buckingham, who had helped Richard III to the throne, turned against him because he did not get the rewards he expected. He headed a revolt; but as his men deserted him, he fell into the King's hands, and the executioner speedily did the rest.

Finally, a more formidable enemy arose. Before he gained the crown Richard had cajoled or compelled the unfortunate Anne Neville, widow of that Prince Edward, son of Henry VI, who was slain at Tewkesbury (S305), into becoming his wife. She might have said with truth, "Small joy have I in being England's Queen." The King intended that his son should marry Elizabeth of York, sister to the two Princes he had murdered in the Tower (S310). By so doing he would strengthen his position and secure the succession to the throne to his own family. But Richard's son shortly after died, and the King, having mysteriously got rid of his wife, now made up his mind to marry Elizabeth himself.

The Princess, however, was already betrothed to Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, the engagement having been effected during that sad winter which she and her mother spent in sactuary (S95) at Westminster Abbey, watched by Richard's soldiers to prevent their escape (S310). The Earl of Richmond, who was an illegitimate descendant of the House of Lancaster (see the Genealogical Table, p. 172), had long been waiting on the Continent for an opportunity to invade England and claim the crown.

Owing to the enmity of Edward IV and Richard toward him, the Earl had been, as he himself said, "either a fugitive or a captive since he was five years old." He now determined to remain so no longer. He landed (1485) with a force at Milford Haven, in Wales, where he felt sure of a welcome, since his paternal ancestors were Welsh.[1]

Advancing through Shrewsbury, he met Richard on Bosworth Field, in Leicestershire.

[1] Descent of Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond:

Henry V (House of Lancaster) married Catharine of France, who after his death married Owen Tudor, a Welshman of Anglesey Henry VI Edmund Tudor (Earl of Richmond) married Margaret Beaufort, a descendent of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster [she was granddaughter of John, Earl of Somerset; see p. 161] Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond (also called Henry of Lancaster)

315. Battle of Bosworth Field, 1485.

There the decisive battle was fought between the great rival houses of York and Lancaster (S300). Richard represented the first, and Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, the second. The King went out the evening before to look over the ground. He found one of his sentinels slumbering at his post. Drawing his sword, he stabbed him in the heart, saying, "I found him asleep and I leave him asleep." Going back to his tent, he passed a restless night. The ghosts of all his murdered victims seemed to pass in procession before him. Such a sight may well, as Shakespeare says, have "struck terror to the soul of Richard."[2]

[2] Shakespeare's "Richard III," Act V, scene iii.

At sunrise the battle began. Before the attack, Richard, it is said, confessed to his troops the murder of his two nephews (S310), but pleaded that he had atoned for the crime with "many salt tears and long penance." It is probably that had it not been for the treachery of some of his adherents the King would have won the day.

When he saw that he was deserted by those on whose help he had counted, he uttered the cry of "Treason! treason!" and dashed forward into the thick of the fight. With the fury of despair he hewed his way into the very presence of Henry Tudor, and killing the standard bearer, flung the Lancastrian banner to the ground. But he could go no further. Numbers overpowered him, and he fell.

During the battle Richard had worn his crown. After all was over, it was found hanging on a hawthorn bush[1] and handed to the victor, who placed it on his own head. The army then gathered round Henry Tudor thus crowned, and moved by one impulse joined in the exultant hymn of the Te Deum.[2] Thus ended the last of the Plantagenet line (S159). "Whatever their faults or crimes, there was not a coward among them."[3]

[1] An ancient stained-glass window in the east end of Henry VII's Chapel (Westminster Abbey) commemorates this incident. [2] "Te Deum laudamus" (We praise thee, O God): a Roman Catholic hymn of thanksgiving, now sung in English in the Episcopal and other churches. [3] W. Stubb's "Constitutional History of England."

316. End of the Wars of the Roses (1485); their Effects.

With Bosworth Field the Wars of the Roses ceased (SS299, 300). During the thirty years they had continued, fourteen pitched battles had been fought, in a single one of which (Towton) (S303) more Englishmen lost their lives than in the whole course of the wars with France during the preceding forty years. In all, eighty princes of the blood royal and more than half of the nobility of the realm perished.

Of those who escaped death by the sword, many died on the scaffold. The remnant who were saved had hardly a better fate. They left their homes only to suffer in foreign lands. A writer of the day[4] says, "I, myself, saw the Duke of Exeter, the King of England's brother-in-law, walking barefoot in the Duke of Burgundy's train, and begging his bread from door to door."

[4] See the "Paston Letters."

Every individual of two families of the great houses of Somerset and Warwick (SS296, 300) fell either on the field or under the executioner's ax. In tracing family pedigrees it is startling to see how often the record reads, "killed at St. Albans," "slain at Towton," "beheaded after the battle of Wakefield," and the like.[5]

[5] Guest's "Lectures on English History."

When the contest closed, the feudal baronage was broken up (SS113, 114, 150). In a majority of cases the estates of the nobles either fell to the Crown for lack of heirs, or they were fraudulently seized by the King's officers. Thus the greater part of the wealthiest and most powerful aristocracy in the world disappeared so completely that they ceased to have either a local habitation or a name.

But the elements of civil discord at last exhausted themselves. Bosworth Field was a turning point in English history. When the sun went down, it saw the termination of the desperate struggle between the White Rose of York and the Red Rose of Lancaster; when it ushed in a new day, it shone also on a new King, Henry VII, who introduced a new social and political period.

317. Summary.

The importance of Richard's reign is that it marks the close of the Wars of the Roses. Those thirty years of civil strife destroyed the predominating influence of the feudal barons. Henry Tudor (S314) now becomes the central figure, and will ascend the throne as Henry VII.

General Reference Summary of the Lancastrian and Yorkist Period (1399-1485)

I. Government. II. Religion. III. Military Affairs. IV. Literature, Learning, and Art. V. General Industry and Commerce. VI. Mode of Life, Manners, and Customs

I. Government

318. Parliament and the Royal Succession.

The period began with the parliamentary recognition of the claim to the crown of Henry, Duke of Lancaster, son of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, fourth son of Edward III. By this act the claim of Edmund Mortimer, a descendant of Edward III by his third son, Lionel, Duke of Clarence, was deliberately set aside, and this change in the order of succession eventually furnished an excuse for civil war.[1]

[1] Before the accession of Henry III, Parliament made choice of any one of the King's sons whom it considered best fitted to rule. After hat time it was understood that the King's eldest son should be chosen to succeed him; or incase of his death during the lifetime of his father, the eldest son of the eldest son; and so forward in that line. The action taken by Parliament in favor of Henry IV was a departure from that principle, and a reassurtion of its ancient right to choose and descendant of the royal family it deemed best. (See Genealogical Table, p. 140.)

319. Disfranchisement of Electors; Benevolences.

Under Henry VI a property qualification was established by act of Parliament which cut off all persons from voting for countyy members of the House of Commons who did not have an income of forty shillings (say 40 pounds, or $200, in modern money) from freehold land. County elections, the statute said, had "of late been made by a very great, outrageous, and excessive number of people...of which the most part were people of small substance and of no value."

Later, candidates for the House of Commons from the counties were required to be gentlemen by birth, and to have an income of not less than 20 pounds (or say 400 pounds, or $2000, in modern money). Though the tendency of such laws was to make the House of Commons represent property holders more than the freemen as a body, yet no apparent change seems to have taken place in the class of county members chosen.

Eventually, however, these and other interferences with free elections caused the rebellion of Jack Cade, in which the insurgents demanded the right to choose such representatives as they saw fit. But the movement appears to have had no practical result. During the civil war which ensued, King Edward IV compelled wealthy subjects to lend him large sums (seldom, if ever, repaid) called "benevolences." Richard III abolished this obnoxious system, but afterward revived it, and it became conspicuously hateful under his successor in the next period.

Another great grievance was Purveyance. By it the King's purveyors had the right to seize provisions and means of transportation for the King and his hundreds of attendants whenever they journeyed through the country on a "royal progress." The price offered by the purveyors was always much below the real value of what was taken, and frequently even that was not paid. Purveyance, which had existed from the earliest times, was not finally abolished until 1660.

II. Religion

320. Suppression of Heresy.

Under Henry IV the first act was passed by Lords and clergy, apparently with the assent of the House of Commons, for punishing heretics by burning at the stake, and the first martyr suffered in that reign. Later, the Lollards, or followers of Wycliffe, who appear in many cases to have been socialists as well as religious reformers, were punished by imprisonment, and occasionally with death. The whole number of martyrs, however, was small.

III. Military Affairs

321. Armor and Arms.

The armor of the period was made of steel plate, fitting and completely covering the body. It was often inlaid with gold and elegantly ornamented. Firearms had not yet superseded the old weapons. Cannon were in use, to some degree, and also clumsy handguns fired with a match.

The long bow continued to be the chief arm of the foot soldiers, and was used with great dexterity and fatal effect. Targets were set up by law in every parish, and the yeomen were required to practice frequently at contests in archery. The principle wars were the civil wars and those with France.

IV. Literature, Learning, and Art

322. Introduction of Printing; Books.

The art of printing was introduced into England about 1477 by Caxton, a London merchant. Up to that time all books had been written on either parchment or paper, at an average rate of about fifty cents per page in modern money. The age was not favorable to literature, and produced no great writers; but Caxton edited and published a large number of works, many of which he translated from the French and Latin.

The two books which throw most light on the history of the times are the "Sir John Paston Letters" (1424-1506), and a work by Chief Justice Fortescue on government, intended for the use of Prince Edward (slain at Tewkesbury). The latter work is remarkable for its bold declaration that the King "has the delegation of power from the people, and he has no just claims to any other power than this." The chief justice also praises the courage of his countrymen, and declares with honest pride that "more Englishmen are hanged in England in one year for robbery and manslaughter than are hanged in France in seven years."

323. Education.

Henry VI took a deep interest in education, and founded the great public school of Eton, which ranks next in age to that of Winchester. The money for its endowment was obtained by the appropriation of the revenues of alien or foreign monasteries which had been erected in England, and which were confiscated by Henry V. The King watched the progress of the building from the windows of Windsor Castle, and to supplement the course of education to be given there, he furthermore erected and endowed the magnificent King's College, Cambridge.

324. Architecture.

There was a new development of Gothic architecture in this period, the Decorated giving place to the Perpendicular. The latter derives its name from the perpendicular divisions of the lights in the arches of the windows. It marks the final period of the Gothic or Pointed style, and is noted for the exquisite carved work of its ceilings. King's College Chapel, Cambridge, St. George's Chapel, Windsor, and Henry VII's Chapel (built in the next reign), connected with Westminster Abbey, are among the most celebrated examples of this style of architecture, whic his peculiar to England.

The mansions of the nobility at this period exhibited great elegance. Crosby Hall, London, at one time the residence of Richard III, was one of the best examples of the "Inns" of the great families and wealthy knights. The Hall was pulled down in 1903, but it has been reerected on the Chelsea Embankment, on the Thames.

V. General Industry and Commerce

325. Agriculture and Trade.

Notwithstanding the Civil Wars of the Roses, agriculture was prosperous and foreign trade largely increased. The latter was well represented by Sir Richard Whittington, thrice mayor of London, who, according to tradition, lent Henry V large sums of money, and then at an entertainment which he gave to the King and Queen in his city mansion, generously canceled the debt by throwing the bonds into the open sandalwood fire. There is a fine fresco, representing this scene, in the Royal Exchange, London.

Goldsmiths from Lombardy had now settled in London in such numbers as to give the name of Lobard Street to the quarter they occupied. They succeeded the Jews in the business of money lending and banking, and Lombard Street still remains famous for its bankers and brokers.

VI. Mode of Life, Manners, and Customs

326. Dress.

Great sums were spent on dress by both sexes, and the courtiers' doublets, or jackets, were of the most costly silks and velvets, elaborately puffed and slashed. During the latter part of the period the pointed shoes, which had formerly been of prodigious length, suddenly began to grow broad, with such rapidity that Parliament passed a law limiting the width of the toes to six inches.

At the same time the court ladies adopted the fashion of wearing horns as huge in proportion as the noblemen's shoes. The government tried legislating them down, and the clergy fulminated a solemn curse against them; but fashion was more powerful than Church and Parliament combined, and horns and hoofs came out triumphant.


"One half her soil has walked the rest In poets, heroes, martyrs, sages!" O. W. Holmes

Political Reaction—Absolutism of the Crown—The English Reformation and the New Learning

Crown or Pope?

House of Tudor (1485-1603)

Henry VII, 1485-1509 Henry VIII, 1509-1547 Edward VI, 1547-1553 Mary, 1553-1558 Elizabeth, 1558-1603

[1] Reference Books on this period will be found in the Classified List of Books in the Appendix. The pronunciation of names will be found in the Index. The Leading Dates stand unenclosed; all others are in parentheses.

327. Union of the Houses of Lancaster and York.

Before leaving the Continent Henry Tudor (S314) had promised the Yorkist party that he would marry Elizabeth, eldest daughter of Edward IV (see Genealogical Table, p. 179), and sister to the young Princes murdered by Richard III (S310). Such a marriage would unite the rival houses of Lancaster and York, and put an end to the civil war.

A few months after the new King's accession the wedding was duly celebrated, and in the beautiful east window of stained glass in Henry VII's Chapel, Westminster Abbey, the Roses are seen joined; so that, as the quaint verse of that day says:

"Both roses flourish—red and white— In love and sisterly delight; The two that were at strife are blended, And all old troubles now are ended."

Peace came from the union, but it was peace interrupted by insurrections which lasted for several years.

Origin of the House of Tudor

Edward III 1 2 3 4 5 Edward William, Lionel, Duke John of Gaunt, Edmund, Duke of York (the Black no of Clarence, Duke of Prince) issue from whom Lancaster / - descended in Edward, Duke of Richard, Richard II the fourth Henry IV York, no issue Earl of generation Cambridge, *Richard, Henry V (Catharine, m. Anne Duke of York his widow, Mortimer, great- Henry VI married granddaughter of - Owen Tudor, Lionel, Duke of a Welsh gentleman) Clarence; their Edward IV Richard III son was Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richard, - Richmond, m. Margaret Duke of York Beaufort, a descendant +Edward V +Richard, Elizabeth of John of Gaunt, Duke Duke of York of York, of Lancaster, see m. Henry VII pages 161, 172 (of Lancaster) Henry (Tudor) VII (formerly Earl of Richmond), m. Elizabeth of York, thus uniting the House of Lancaster (Red Rose) and York (White Rose) in the new royal House of Tudor

*Inherited the title Duke of York from his uncle Edward. See No. 5. +The Princes murdered by Richard III.

328. Condition of the Country; Power of the Crown.

Henry, it is said, had his claim to the throne printed by Caxton, and distributed broadcast over the country (S306). It was the first political appeal to the people made through the press, and was a sign of the new period upon which English history had entered. Since Caxton began his great work, the kingdom had undergone a most momentous change.

The leading nobles, like the Earl of Warwick (SS296, 303), were, with few exceptions, dead. Their estates were confiscated, their thousands of followers either buried on the battlefield or dispersed throughout the land (S316). The small number of titled families remaining was no longer to be feared. The nation itself, though it had taken comparatively little part in the war, was weary of bloodshed, and ready for peace on any terms.

The accession of the Welsh house of Tudor (S39) marks the beginning of a long period of almost absolute royal power. The nobility were too weak to place any check on the King. The clergy, who had not recovered from their dread of Lollardism (SS255, 283) and its attacks on their wealth and influence, were anxious for a strong conservative government such as Henry promised. The House of Commons had no clear united policy, and though the first Parliament put certain restrainst on the Crown, yet they were never really enforced.[1] The truth is, that the new King was both too prudent and too crafty to give them an opportunity. By avoiding foreign wars he dispensed with the necessity of summoning frequent Parliaments, and with demanding large sums of money from them.

[1] At the accession of Henry VII, Parliament imposed the following checks on the power of the King: (1) No new tax to be levied without consent of Parliament; (2) No new law to be made without the same consent; (3) No committal to prison without a warrant specifying the offense, and the trial to be speedy; (4) Criminal charges and questions of fact in civil cases to be decided by jury; (5) The King's officers to be held responsible to the nation.

By thus ruling alone for a large part of the time, Henry got the management of affairs into his own hands, and transmitted the power to those who came after him. In this way the Tudors with their successors, the Stuarts, built up a system of "personal sovereignty"— or "one-man power"—unchecked by constitutional restraints. It continued for a hundred and fifty years, when the outbreak of the great Civil War brought it to an end forever.

329. Growth of a Stronger Feeling of Nationality.

It would be an error, however, to consider this absolutism of the Crown as an unmitigated evil. On the contrary, it was in one important direction an advantage. There are times when the great need of a people is not more individual liberty, but greater national unity. Spain and France were two countries consisting of a collection of petty feudla states. Their nobility were always trying to steal each other's possessions and cut each other's throats.

But the rise in each country of a royal despotism forced the turbulent barons to make peace, and to obey a common central law. By this means both realms ultimately developed into great and powerful kingdoms.

When the Tudors came to the throne, England was still full of rankling hate engendered by the Wars of the Roses (S299). Held down by the heavy hand of Henry VII, and later, by the still heavier one of Henry VIII, the country learned the same salutary lesson of growth under repression which had benefited Spain and France.

Henceforth Englishmen of all classes no longer boasted that they belonged to the Yorkist or the Lancastrian faction (S300), but began to pride themselves on their loyalty to Crown and country, and their readiness to draw their swords to defend both.[1]

[1] But the passage of Poyning's Act (1494) in Ireland prohibited the Irish Parliament from passing any law which did not receive the sanction of the English Council. This act was not repealed until 1782.

330. Henry's Methods of raising Money; the Court of Star Chamber.

Henry's reign was in the interest of the middle classes,—the farmers, tradesmen, and mechanics. His policy was to avoid heavy taxation, to exempt the poor from the burdens of state, and so ingratiate himself with a large body of the people.

In order to accomplish this, he revived "benevolences" (SS307, 313), and by a device suggested by his chief minister, Cardinal Morton, and hence known and dreaded as "Morton's Fork," he extorted large sums from the rich and well-to-do.[2]

[2] Those whose income from land was less than $2, or whose movable property did not exceed 15 pounds (Say 150 pounds and $1125 now), were exempt. The lowest rate of assessment for the "benevolences" was fixed at twenty pence on the pound on land, and half that rate on other property.

The Cardinal's agents made it their business to learn every man's income, and visit him accordingly. If a person lived handomely, the Cardinal would insist on a correspondingly liberal gift; if, however, a citizen lived very plainly, the King's minister insisted none the less, telling the unfortunate man that by his economy he must surely have accumulated enough to bestow the required "benevolence."[3] Thus on one prong or the other of his terrible "fork" the shrewd Cardinal impaled his writhing victims, and speedily filled the royal treasury as it had never been filled before.[4]

[3] Richard Reed, a London alderman, refused to contribute a "benevolence." He was sent to serve as a soldier in the Scotch wars at his own expense, and the general was ordered to "use him in all things according to sharp military discipline." The effect was such that few after that ventured to deny the King what he asked. [4] Henry is said to have accumulated a fortune of nearly two millions sterling, an amount which would perhaps represent upwards of $90,000,000 now.

But Henry VII had other methods for raising money. He sold offices in Church and State, and took bribes for pardoning rebels. When he summoned a Parliament he obtained grants for putting down some real or pretended insurrection, or to defray the expenses of a threatened attack from abroad, and then quietly pocketed the appropriation,—a device not altogether unknown to modern government officials.

A third and last method for getting funds was invented in Henry's behalf by two lawyers, Empson and Dudley, who were so rapacious and cut so close that they were commonly known as "the King's skin shearers." They went about the country enforcing old and forgotten laws, by which they reaped a rich harvest.

Their chief instrument for gain, however, was a revival of the Statute of Liveries. This law imposed enormous fines on those noblemen who dared to equip their followers in military garb, or designate them by a badge equivalent to it, as had been the custom during the late civil wars (S296).

In order to thoroughly enforce the Statute of Liveries, Henry organized the Court of Star Chamber, so called from the starred ceiling where the tribunal met. This court had for its object the punishment of such crimes committed by the great families, or their adherents, as the ordinary law courts could not, or through intimidation dared not, deal with. It had no power to inflict death, but might impose long terms of imprisonment and ruinous fines. It, too, first made use of torture in England to extort confessions of guilt.

Henry seemed to have enforced the Law of Livery against friend and foe alike. Said the King to the Earl of Oxford, as he left his castle, where a large number of retainers in uniform were drawn up to do him honor, "My lord, I thank you for your entertainment, but my attorney must speak to you." The attorney, who was the notorious Empson, brought suit in the Star Chamber against the Earl, who was fined fifteen thousand marks, or something like $750,000, for the incautious display he had made.

331. The Introduction of Artillery strengthens the Power of the King.

It was easier for Henry to pursue this arbitrary course because the introduction of artillery had changed the art of war. Throughout the Middle Ages the call of a great baron had, as Macaulay says, been sufficient to raise a formidable revolt. Countrymen and followers took down their tough yew long bows from the chimney corner, knights buckled on their steel armor, mounted their horses, and in a few days an army threatened the holder of the throne, who had no troops save those furnished by loyal subjects.

But since then, men had "digged villainous saltpeter out of the bowels of the harmless earth" to manufacture powder, and others had invented cannon (S239), "those devilish iron engines," as the poet Spenser called them, "ordained to kill." Without artillery, the old feudal army, with its bows, swords, and battle-axes, could do little against a king like Henry, who had it. For this reason the whole kingdom lay at his mercy; and though the nobles and the rich might groan, they saw that it was useless to fight.

332. The Pretenders Symnel and Warbeck.

During Henry's reign, two pretenders laid claim to the crown: Lambert Symnel, who represented himself to be Edward Plantagenet, nephew of the late King; and Perkin Warbeck, who asserted that he was Richard, Duke of York (S310), who had been murdered in the Tower by his uncle, Richard III. Symnel's attempt was easily suppressed, and he commuted his claim to the crown for the position of scullion in the King's kitchen.

Warbeck kept the kingdom in a turmoil for more than five years, during which time one hundred and fifty of his adherents were executed, and their bodies exposed on gibbets along the south coast of England to deter their master's French supporters from landing. At length Warbeck was captured, imprisoned, and finall hanged at Tyburn.

333. Henry's Politic Marriages.

Henry accomplished more by the marriages of his children and by diplomacy than other monarchs had by their wars. He gave his daughter Margaret to King James IV of Scotland, and thus prepared the way for the union of the two kingdoms in 1603. He married his eldest son, Prince Arthur, to Catharine of Aragon, daughter of the King of Spain, by which he secured a very large marriage portion for the Prince, and, what was of equal importance, the alliance of Spain against France.

Arthur died soon afterward, and the King got a dispensation from the Pope, granting him permission to marry his younger son Henry to Arthur's widow. It was this Prince who eventually became King of England, with the title of Henry VIII, and we shall hereafter see that this marriage was destined by its results to change the whole course of the country's history.

334. The World as known at Henry's Accession (1485).

The King also took some small part in certain other events, which seemed to him, at the time, of less consequence than these matrimonial alliances. But history has regarded them in a different light from that in which the cunning and cautious monarch considered them.

A glance at the map (opposite) will sho how different our world is from that with which the English were acquainted when Henry was crowned. Then the earth was generally supposed to be a flat body surrounded by the ocean. The only countries of which anything was certainly known, with the exception of Europe, were parts of western Asia, together with a narrow strip of the northern, eastern, and western coasts of Africa. The knowledge which had once existed of India, China, and Japan appears to have died out in great measure with the travelers and merchants of earlier times who had brought it. The land farthest west of which anything was then known was Iceland.

335. First Voyages of Exploration; the Cabots, 1497.

About the time of Henry's accession a new spirit of exploration sprang up. The Portuguese had coasted along the western shores of Africa as far as the Gulf of Guinea, and had established trading posts there. Later, they reached and doubled the Cape of Good Hope (1487). Stimulated by what they had done, Columbus, who believed the earth to be round, determined to sail westward in the hope of reaching the Indies. In 1492 he made his first voyage, and discovered a number of the West India Islands.

Five years afterward John Cabot, a Venetian residing in Bristol, England, with his son Sebastian, persuaded the King to aid them in a similar undertaking. They sailed from that port. On a map drawn by the father after his return we read the following lines: "In the year of our Lord 1497, John Cabot and his son Sebastian discovered that country which no one before his time had ventured to approach, on the 24th June, about 5 o'clock in the morning." That entry is supposed to record the discovery of Cape Breton Island; a few days later they set foot on the mainland. This made the Cabots the first discoverers of the American CONTINENT.

As an offset to that record we have the following, taken from the King's private account book: "10. Aug. 1497, To him that found the new isle 10 pounds."

Such was the humble beginning of a series of explorations which gave England possession of the largest part of North America.

336. Henry VII's Reign the Beginning of a New Epoch.

A few years after Cabot's return Henry laid the corner stone of that "solemn and sumptuous chapel" which bears his own name, and which joins Westminster abbey on the east. There he gave orders that his tomb should be erected, and that prayers should be said over it "as long as the world lasted."

Emerson remarks in his "English Traits" that when the visitor to the Abbey mounts the flight of twelve black marble steps which lead from it to the edifice where Henry lies buried, he passes from the medieval to the beginning of the modern age,—a change which the different style of the architecture distinctly marks (S324).

The true significance of Henry's reign is, that it, in like manner, stands for a new epoch,—new in modes of government, in law, in geographical discovery, in letters, art, and religion.

The century just closing was indeed one of the most remarkable in history, not only in what it had actually accomplished, but still more in the seed it was sowing for the future. The celebrated German artist Kaulbach, in his fresco of "The Age of the Reformation," has summed up all that it was, and all that it was destined to become in its full development.

Therein we see it as the period which witnessed the introduction of firearms, and the consequent overthrow of feudal warfare and feudal institutions; the growth of the power of royalty and of nationality through royalty; the sailing of Columbus and of Cabot; the revival of classical learning; the publication of the first printed book; and finally, the birth of Martin Luther, the monk who broke away from the Catholic Church, and persuaded many people to become Protestants.

337. Summary.

Looking back, we find that with Henry VII the absolutism of the Crown, or "personal monarchy," began in England. Yet the repressive power of that "personal monarchy" procured peace for the English people and, despite "benevolences" and other exactions, they grew into a stronger national unity.

Simultaneously with this increase of royal authority came the discovery of a "New World," in which England and her colonies were to have the chief part. A century will elapse before those discoveries begin to bear fruit. After that, our attention will no longer be confined to the British Islands, but will be fixed as well on that western continent where British enterprise and English love of liberty were destined to find a new and broader field of activity.

Henry VIII—1509-1547

338. Henry's Advantages.

Henry VIII was not quite eighteen when he came to the throne. The country was at peace, was fairly prosperous, and the young King had everything in his favor. He was handsome, well educated, and fond of athletic sports. His frank disposition won friends everywhere, and he had inherited from his father the largest private fortune that had ever descended to an English sovereign. Intellectually, he was in hearty sympathy with the revival of learning, then in progress both on the Continent and in England.

339. The New Learning; Colet, Erasmus, More.

During the greater part of the Middle Ages the chief object of education was to make men monks, and originally the schools established at Oxford and Cambridge were exclusively for that purpose. In their day they did excellent work; but a time came when men ceased to found monasteries, and began to erect colleges and hospitals instead.[1]

[1] In the twelfth century four hundred and eighteen monasteries were founded in England; in the next century, only about a third as many; in the fourteenth, only twenty-three; after that date their establishment may be said to cease.

In the course of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries William of Wykeham and King Henry VI built and endowed colleges which were specially designed to fit their pupils to live in the world and serve the state, instead of withdrawing from it to seek their own salvation.

These new institutions encouraged a broader range of studies, and in Henry VI's time particular attention was given to the Latin classics, hitherto but little known. The geographical discoveries of Henry VII's reign, made by Columbus, Cabot, and others (S335), began to stimulate scientific thought. It was evident that the day was not far distant when questions about the earth and the stars would no longer be settled by a text from Scripture which forbade further inquiry.

With the accession of Henry VIII education received a still further impulse. A few zealous English scholars had just returned from Italy to Oxford, full of ardor for a new study,—that of Greek. Among them was a young clergyman named John Colet. He saw that by means of that language, of which the alphabet was as yet hardly known in England, men might put themselves in direct communication with the greatest thinkers and writers of the past.

Better still, they might acquire the power of reading the Gospels and the writings of St. Paul in the original, and thus reach their true meaning and feel their full influence. Colet's intimate friend and fellow worker, the Dutch scholar Erasmus, had the same enthusiasm. When in sore need of everything, he wrote in one of his letters, "As soon as I get some money I shall buy Greek books, and then I may buy some clothes." The third young man, who, with Erasmus and Colet, devoted himself to the study of Greek and to the advancement of learning, was Thomas More, who later became Lord Chancellor (SS145, 351).

The three looked to King Henry for encouragement in the work they had undertaken; nor did they look in vain. Colet, who had become a doctor of divinity and a dean of St. Paul's Cathedral, London, encountered a furious storm of opposition on account of his devotion to the "New Learning," as it was sneeringly called. His attempts at educational reform met the same resistance.

But Henry liked the man's resolute spirit, and said, "Let others have what doctors they will; this is the doctor for me." The King also took a lively interest in Erasmus, who was appointed professor of Greek at Cambridge, where he began his great work of preparing an edition of the Greek Testament with a Latin translation in parallel columns.

Up to this time the Greek Testament had existed in scattered manuscripts only. The publication of the work in printed form gave an additional impetus to the study of the Scriptures, helped forward the Reformation, and in a measure laid the foundation for a revised English translation of the Bible far superior to Wycliffe's (S254). In the same spirit of genuine love of learning Henry founded Trinity College, Cambridge, and at a later date confirmed and extended Cardinal Wolsey's endowment of Christ Church College, Oxford.

340. Henry against Luther.

The King continued, however, to be a staunch Catholic, and certainly had no thought at this period of doing anything which should tend to undermine the authority of that ancient form of worship. In Germany, Martin Luther was making ready to begin his tremendous battle against the power and teachings of the Papacy. In 1517 he nailed to the door of the church of Wittenberg that famous series of denunciations which started the movement that ultimately protested against the authority of Rome, and gave the name of Protestant to all who joined it.

A few years later Henry published a reply to one of Luther's books, and sent a copy bound in cloth of gold to the Pope. The Pope was so delighted with what he termed Henry's "angelic spirit" that he forthwith conferred on him the title of "Defender of the Faith." The English sovereigns have persisted in retaining this title to the present time, though for what reason, and with what right, even a royal intellect might be somewhat puzzled to explain.

With this new and flattering title the Pope also sent the King a costly two-handed sword, intended to represent Henry's zeal in smiting the enemies of Rome. But it was destined by fate to become to tsymbol of the King's final separation from the power that bestowed it (S349).

341. Victory of Flodden (1513); "Field of the Cloth of Gold" (1520).

Politically, Henry was equally fortunate. The Scotch had ventured to attack the kingdom during the King's absence on the Continent. At Flodden, on the borders of Scotland and England, they were defeated by the Earl of Surrey, with great slaughter. (See map facing p. 120.) This victory placed Scotland at Henry's feet.[1]

[1] See Scott's "Marmion."

The King of France and the Emperor Charles V of Germany now vied with each other in seeking Henry's alliance. The Emperor visited England in order to meet the English sovereign, while the King of France arranged an interview in his own dominions, known, from the magnificence of its appointments, as the "Field of the Cloth of Gold." Henry held the balance of power by which he could make France or Germany predominate as he saw fit. It was owing to his able diplomatic policy, or to that of Cardinal Wolsey, his chief counsellor, that England reaped advantages from both sides, and advanced from a comparatively low position to one that was fully abreast of the foremost nations of Europe.

342. Henry's Marriage with his Brother's Widow.

Such was the King at the outset. In less than twenty years he had become another man. At the age of twelve he had married at his father's command, and solely for political and mercenary reasons, Catharine of Aragon, his brother Arthur's widow (S333), who was six years his senior. Such a marriage was forbidden, except in certain cases, by the Old Testament and by the ordinances of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Pope, however, had granted his permission, and when Henry ascended the throne, the ceremony was performed a second time. Several children were the fruit of this union, all of whom died in infancy, except one daughter, Mary, unhappily fated to figure as the "Bloody Mary" of later history (S374).

343. The King's Anxiety for a Successor; Anne Boleyn.

No woman had yet ruled in her own right, either in England or in any prominent kingdom of Europe, and Henry was anxious to have a son to succeed him. He could not bear the thought of being disappointed; in fact he sent the Duke of Buckingham to the block for casually saying, that if the King died without issue, he should consider himself entitled to receive the crown.

It was while meditating this question of the succession, that Henry became attached to Anne Boleyn, one of the Queen's maids of honor; she was a sprightly brunette of nineteen, with long black hair and strikingly beautiful eyes.

The light that shone in those eyes, though hardly that "Gospel light" which the poet calls it,[1] was yet bright enough to effectually clear up all difficulties in the royal mind. The King now declared that he felt conscientiously moved to obtain a divorce from his old wife, and to marry a new one. In that determination lay most momentous consequences, since it finally separated England from the jurisdiction of the Church of Rome.

[1] "When love could teach a monarch to be wise, And Gospel light first dawned from Bullen's [Boleyn's] eyes." —Gray.

344. Wolsey favors the Divorce from Catharine.

Cardinal Wolsey, Henry's chief counselor,—the man who thought that he ruled both King and Kingdom,[2]—lent his powerful aid to bring about the divorce, but with the expectation that the King would marry a princess from France, and thus form an alliance with that country. If so, his own ambitious schemes would be forwarded, since the united influence of the two kingdoms might elevate him to the Papacy.

[2] The Venetian ambassador in a dispatch to his government, wrote of Cardinal Wolsey: "It is he who rules both the King and the entire Kingdom. At first the Cardinal used to say, 'His Majesty will do so and so'; subsequently he went on, forgetting himself, and commenced saying, 'We shall do so and so'; at present (1519) he has reached such a pitch that he says, 'I shall do so and so.'"

When Wolsey learned that the King's choice was Anne Boleyn (S343), he fell on his knees, and begged him not to persist in his purpose; but his entreaties had no effect, and the Cardinal was obliged to continue what he had begun.

345. The Court at Blackfriars (1529).

The King had applied to the Pope to annul the marriage with Catharine (S342) on the ground of illegality; but the Emperor Charles V, who was the Queen's nephew, used his influence in her behalf. Vexatious delays now became the order of the day. At last, a court composed of Cardinal Wolsey and Cardinal Campeggio, an Italian, as papal legates, or representatives, was convened at Blackfriars, London, to test the validity of the marriage.

Henry and Catharine were summoned. The first appeared and answered to his name. When the Queen was called she declined to answer, but throwing herself at Henry's feet, begged him with tears and sobs not to put her away without cause. Finding him inflexible, she left the court, and refused to attend again, appealing to Rome for justice.

This was in the spring (1529). Nothing was done that summer, and in the autumn, the court, instead of reaching a decision, dissolved. Campeggio, the Italian legate, returned to Italy, and Henry, to his disappointment and rage, received an order from Rome to carry the question to the Pope for settlement.

346. Fall of Wolsey (1529).

Both the King and Anne Boleyn believed that Wolsey had played false with them. They now resolved upon his destruction. The Cardinal had a presentiment of his impending doom. The French ambassador, who saw him at this juncture, said that his face had shrunk to half its size. But his fortunes were destined to shrink even more than his face.

By a law of Richard II no representative of the Pope had any rightful authority in England[1] (S265). Though the King had given his consent to Wolsey's holding the office of legate, yet now that a contrary result to what he expected had been reached, he proceeded to prosecute him to the full extent of the law.

[1] Act of Praemunire. See S243 and Summary of Constitutional History in the Appendix, p. xiii, S14, and p. xxxii.

It was an easy matter for him to crush the Cardinal. Erasmus said of him, "He was feared by all, he was loved by few—I may say by nobody." His arrogance and extravagant ostentation had excited the jealous hate of the nobility; his constant demands for money in behalf of the King set Parliament against him; and his exactions from the common people had, as the chronicle of the time tells us, made them weep, beg, and "speak cursedly."

Wolsey bowed to the storm, and to save himself gave up everything; his riches, pomp, power, all vanished as suddenly as they had come. It was Henry's hand that stripped him, but it was Anne Boleyn who moved that hand. Well might the humbled favorite say of her:

"There was the weight that pulled me down. ... all my glories In that one woman I have lost forever."[1]

[1] Shakespeare's "Henry VIII," Act III, scene ii.

Thus deprived of well-nigh everything but life, the Cardinal was permitted to go into retirement in the north; less than a twelve-month later he was arrested on a charge of high treason. Through the irony of fate, the warrant was served by a former lover of Anne Boleyn's, whom Wolsey, it is said, had separated from her in order that she might consummate her unhappy marriage with royalty. On the way to London Wolsey fell mortally ill, and turned aside at Leicester to die in the abbey there, with the words:

"...O, Father Abbot, An old man, broken with the storms of state, Is come to lay his weary bones among ye: Give him a little earth for charity!"[2]

[2] Shakespeare's "Henry VIII," Act IV, scene ii.

347. Appeal to the Universities.

Before Wolsey's death, Dr. Thomas Cranmer, of Cambridge, suggested that the King lay the divorce question before the universities of Europe. Henry caught eagerly at this proposition, and exclaimed, "Cranmer has the right pig by the ear." The scheme was at once adopted. Several universities returned favorable answers. In a few instances, as at Oxford and Cambridge, where the authorities hesitated, a judicious use of bribes or threats soon brought them to see the matter in a proper light.

348. The Clergy declare Henry Head of the Church, 1531.

Armed with these decisions in his favor, Henry now charged the whole body of the English Church with being guilty of the same crime of which Wolsey had been accused (S346). The clergy, in their terror, made haste to buy a pardon at a cost reckoned at nearly $5,000,000 at the present value of money.

They furthermore declared Henry to be the supreme head on earth of the Church of England, adroitly adding, "in so far as is permitted by the law of Christ." Thus the Reformation came into England "by a side door, as it were." Nevertheless, it came.

349. Henry marries Anne Boleyn; Act of Supremacy, 1534.

Events now moved rapidly toward a crisis. In 1533, after having waited over five years, Henry privately married Anne Boleyn (S343), and she was soon after crowned in Westminster Abbey. When the Pope was informed of this, he ordered the King, under pain of excommunication (S194), to put her away, and to take back Queen Catharine (S345).

Parliament met that demand by passing the Act of Supremacy, 1534, which declared Henry to be without reservation the sole head of the Church, making denial thereof high treason.[1] As he signed the act, the King with one stroke of his pen overturned the traditions of a thousand years, and England stood boldly forth with a National Church independent of the Pope.[2]

[1] Henry's full title was now "Henry VIII, by the Grace of God, King of England, France, and Ireland, Defender of the Faith and of the Church of England, and also of Ireland, on earth the Supreme Head." [2] Attention is called to the fact that a controversy, more or less serious in its character, had been going on, at intervals for nearly five hundred years, between the English sovereigns (or the barons) and the popes. It began with William the Conqueror in 1076 (S118). It was continued by Henry I (S136), by Henry II (SS163-170), by John (S194), by the barons under Henry III (S211), by the Parliament of Merton (S211), by Edward I (S226), and it may be said to have practically culminated under Henry VIII in the Act of Supremacy of 1534 (S349). But after the formal establishment of Protestantism by Edward VI in 1549 (S362) we find the Act of Supremacy reaffirmed, in slightly different form, by Queen Elizabeth in 1559 (S382). Finally, the Revolution of 1688 settled the question (S497).

350. Subserviency of Parliament.

But as Luther said, Henry had a pope within him. The King now proceeded to prove the truth of Luther's declaration. We have already seen (S328) that since the Wars of the Roses had destroyed the power of the barons, there was no effectual check on the despotic will of the sovereign. The new nobility were the creatures of the Crown, hence bound to support it; the clergy were timid, the Commons anything but bold, so that Parliament gradually became the servile echo and ready instrument of the throne.

That body twice released the King from the discharge of his just debts. It even exempted him from paying certain forced loans which he had extorted from his people. Parliament also repeatedly changed the laws of succession to the Crown to please him. Moreover it promptly attainted and destroyed such victims as he desired to put out of the way (S351). Later (1539) it declared that proclamations, concerning religious doctrines, when made by the King and Council, should have the force of acts of Parliament. This new power enabled Henry to pronounce heretical many opinions which he disliked and to punish them with death.

351. Execution of More and Fisher (1535).

Thomas Cromwell had been Cardinal Wolsey's private secretary; but he had now become chief counselor to the King, and in his crooked and cruel policy reduced bloodshed to a science. He first introduced the practice of condemning an accused prisoner without any form of trial (by Act of Attainder), and sending him to the block[1] without allowing him to speak in his own defense (S356). No one was now safe who did not openly side with the King.

[1] Act of Attainder. See Constitutional Documents in Appendix, p. xxxii.

Sir Thomas More, who had been Lord Chancellor (S339), and the aged Bishop Fisher were executed because they could not affirm that they conscientiously believed that Henry was morally and spiritually entitled to be the head of the English Church (S349).

Both died with Christian fortitude. More said to the governor of the Tower with a flash of his old humor, as the steps leading to the scaffold shook while he was mounting them, "Do you see me safe up, and I will make shift to get down by myself."

352. Destruction of the Monasteries; Seizure of their Property, 1536-1539.

When the intelligence of the judicial murder of the venerable ex-chancellor reached Rome, the Pope issued a bull of excommunication and deposition against Henry (S194). It delivered his soul to Satan, and his kingdom to the first invader.

The King retaliated by the suppression of the monasteries. In doing so, he simply hastened a process which had already begun. Years before, Cardinal Wolsey had not scrupled to shut up several, and take their revenues to found Christ Church College at Oxford. The truth was, that, in most cases, monasticism "was dead long before the Reformation came to bury it" (S339, note 1). It was dead because it had done its work,—in many respects a great and good work, which the world could ill have spared (SS43, 45, 46, 60). The monasteries simply shared the fate of all human institutions, however excellent they may be.

"Our little systems have their day; They have their day and cease to be: They are but broken lights of Thee, And Thou, O Lord, art more than they."[1]

[1] Tennyson's "In Memoriam."

Henry, however, had no such worthy object as Wolsey had. His pretext was that these institutions had sunk into a state of ingnorance, drunkenness, and profligacy. This may have been true of some of the smaller monasteries, though not of the large ones. But the vices of the monasteries the King had already made his own. It was their wealth which he now coveted. The smaller religious houses were speedily swept out of existence (1536). This caused a furious insurrection in the North, called the "Pilgrimage of Grace" (1537); but the revolt was soon put down.

Though Parliament had readily given its sanction to the extinction of the smaller monasteries, it hesitated about abolishing the greater ones. Henry, it is reported, sent for a leading member of the House o Commons, and, laying his hand on the head of the kneeling representative, said, "Get my bill passed by to-morrow, little man, or else to-morrow this head of yours will come off." The next day the bill passed, and the work of destruction began anew (1539). Property worth millions of pounds was confiscated, and abbots like those of Glastonbury and Charter House, who dared to resist, were speedily hanged.[1]

[1] The total number of religious houses destroyed was 645 monasteries, 2374 chapels, 90 collegiate churches, and 110 charitable institutions. Among the most famous of these ruins are Glastonbury, Kirkstal, Furness, Netley, Tintern, and Fountains abbeys.

The magnificent monastic buildings throughout England were now stripped of everything of value, and left as ruins. (See map opposite.) The beautiful windowes of stained glass were wantonly broken; the images of the saints were cast down from their niches; the chimes of bells were melted and cast into cannon; while the valuable libraries were torn up and sold to grocers and soap boilers for wrapping paper.

At Canterbury, Becket's tomb (S170) was broken open, and after he had been nearly four centuries in his grave, the saint was summoned to answer a charge of rebellion and treason. The case was tried at Westminster Abbey, the martyr's bones were sentenceeed to be burned, and the jewels and rich offerings of his shrine were seized by the King.

Among the few monastic buildings which escaped was the beautiful abbey church, now the cathedral of Peterborough, where Catharine of Aragon (S345), who died soon after the King's marriage with her rival, was buried. Henry had the grace to give orders that on her account it should be spared, saying that he would leave to her memory "one of the goodliest monuments in Christendom."

The great estates thus suddenly acquired by the Crown were granted to favorites or thrown away at the gambling table. "It is from this date," says Hallam, "that the leading families of England, both within and without the peerage, became conspicuous through having obtained possession of the monastery lands." These were estimated to comprise about one fourth of the whole area of the kingdom.

353. Effects of the Destruction of Monasteries.

The sweeping character of this act had a twofold effect. First, it made the King more absolute than before, for, since it removed the abbots, who had held seats in the House of Lords, that body was made just so much smaller and less able to resist the royal will.

Next, the abolition of so many religious institutions necessarily caused much misery, for the greater part of the monks and all of the nuns were turned out upon the world destitute of means. In the end, however, no permanent injury was done, since the monasteries, by their profuse and indiscriminate charity, had undoubtably encouraged much of the very pauperism which they had relieved.

354. Distress among the Laboring Classes.

An industrial revolution was also in progress at this time, which was productive of widespread suffering. It had begun early in Henry's reign through the great numbers of discharged soldiers, who could not readily find work.

Sir Thomas More had given a striking picture of their miserable condition in his "Utopia," a book in which he urged the government to consider measures for their relief; but the evil had since become much worse. Farmers, having discovered that wool growing was more profitable than the raising of grain, had turned their fields into sheep pastures; so that a shepherd with his dog now took the place of several families of laborers.

This change brought multitudes of poor people to the verge of starvation; and as the monasteries no longer existed to hold out a helping hand, the whole realm was overrun with beggars and thieves. Bishop Latimer, a noted preacher of that day, declared that if every farmer should raise two acres of hemp, it would not make rope enough to hang them all. Henry, however, set to work with characteristic vigor and made away, it is said, with great numbers, but without materially abating the evil (S403).

355. Execution of Anne Boleyn; Marriage with Jane Seymour (1536).

Less than three years after her coronation, the new Queen, Anne Boleyn (SS343, 349), for whom Henry had "turned England and Europe upside down," was accused of unfaithfulness. She was sent a prisoner to the Tower. A short time after, her head rolled in the dust, the light of its beauty gone out forever.

The next morning Henry married Jane Seymour, Anne's maid of honor. Parliament passed an act of approval, declaring that it was all done "of the King's most excellent goodness." It also declared Henry's two previous marriages, with Catharine and with Anne Boleyn, void, and affirmed that their children, the Princesses Mary and Elizabeth, were not lawfully the King's daughters. A later act of Parliament gave Henry the extraordinary power of naming his successor to the crown.[1] A year afterwards Henry's new Queen died, leaving an infant son, Edward. She was no sooner gone than the King began looking about for some one to take her place.

[1] By his last will he made Mary and Elizabeth heirs to the crown in case all male and female issue by himself or his son Edward failed (S361). Henry's eldest sister, Margaret (see No. 3 in Genealogical Table on page 207), was passed by entirely. But long after Henry's death, Parliament set his will aside (1603) and made James I (a descendent of Margaret) King of England.

356. More Marriages (1540).

Thomas Cromwell, the King's trusted adviser (S351), succeeded in persuading his master to agree to marry Anne of Cleves, a German Protestant Princess. Henry had never seen her, but her portrait represented her as a woman of surpassing beauty.

When Anne reached England, Henry hurried to meet her with all a lover's ardor. To his dismay, he found that not only was she ridiculously ugly, but that she could speak—so he said—"nothing but Dutch," of which he did not understand a word. Matters, however, had gone too far to retract, and the marriage was duly solemnized (1540). The King obtained a divorce within six months, and then took his revenge by cutting off Cromwell's head. What is more, he cut it off by virtue of that very Act of Attainder which Cromwell had used so unscrupulously in Henry's behalf (S351).

The same year (1540) Henry married Catharine Howard, a fascinating girl still in her teens, whose charms so moved the King that it is said he was tempted to have a special thanksgiving service prepared to commemorate the day he found her.

Unfortunately, Catharine was accused of having been guilty of misconduct before her marriage. She confessed her fault, but for such cases Henry had no mercy. The Queen was tried for high treason, and soon walked that fatal road in which Anne Boleyn had preceded her (S355).

Not to be baffled in his matrimonial experiments, the King took Catherine Parr for his sixth and last wife (1543). She was inclined to be a zealous Protestant, and she too might have gone to the block, on a charge of heresy, but her quick wit came to her rescue. She flattered the King's self-conceit as a profound theologian and the compliment saved her life.

357. Henry's Action respecting Religion.

Though occupied with these rather numerous domestic infelicities, Henry was not idle in other directions. By an act known as the Six Articles, or, as the Protestants called it, the "Bloody Act," or the "Whip with Six Lashes" (1539), the King established a new and peculiar form of religion. In words, at least, it seemed to be practically the same as that upheld by the Pope, but with the Pope left out.[1]

[1] The Six Articles: The chief article ordered that all persons who denied the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation should be burned at the stake as heretics and that all their possessions should be forfeited to the Crown. The remaining five articles affirmed the obligation of all persons to accept and obey certain other Catholic doctrines under pain of punishment for felony, if they refused.

Geographically, the country was about equally divided between Catholicism and Protestantism. The northwestern half clung to the ancient faith; the southeastern half, including most of the large cities where Wycliffe's doctrines had formerly prevailed was favorable to the Reformation.

On the one hand, Henry prohibited the Lutheran or Protestant doctrine (S340); on the other, he caused the Bible to be translated (SS254, 339), and ordered a copy to be chained to a desk in every parish church in England (1538); but though all persons might now freely read the Scriptures, no one but the clergy was allowed to interpret them. Later in his reign, the King became alarmed at the spread of discussion about religious subjects, and prohibited the reading of the Bible by the "lower sort of people."

358. Henry versus Treason.

Men now found themselves in a strange and cruel delimma. If it was dangerous to believe too much, it was equally dangerous to believe too little. Traitor and heretic were dragged to execution on the same hurdle; for Henry burned as heretics those who declared their belief in Protestantism, and hanged or beheaded, as traitors, those who acknowledged the authority of the Pope and denied the supremacy of the King (S349).

Thus Anne Askew, a young and beautiful woman, was nearly wrenched asunder on the rack, in the hope of making her implicate the Queen in her heresy. She was afterward burned because she insisted that the bread and wine used in the communion service seemed to her to be simply bread and wine, and not in any sense the actual body and blood of Christ, as the King's statute of the Six Articles (S357) solemnly declared.

On the other hand, the aged Countess of Salisbury suffered for treason; but with a spirit matching the King's, she refused to kneel at the block, and told the executioner he must get her gray head off as best he could.

359. Henry's Death.

But the time was at hand when Henry was to cease his hangings, beheadings, and marriages. Worn out with debauchery, he died at the age of fifty-six, a loathsome, unwieldy, and helpless mass of corruption. In his will he left a large sum of money to pay for perpetual prayers for the repose of his soul. Sir Walter Raleigh said of him, "If all the pictures and patterns of a merciless prince were lost in the world, they might all again be painted to the life out of the story of this king."

It may be well to remember this, and along with it this other saying of one of the ablest writers on English constitutional history, that "the world owes some of tis greatest debts to men from whose memory it recoils."[1] The obligation it is under to Henry VIII is that through his influence—no matter what the motive—England was lifted up out of the old medieval ruts, and placed squarely and securely on the new highway of national progress.

[1] W. Stubbs's "Constitutional History of England."

360. Summary.

In this reign we find that though England lost much of her former political freedom, yet she gained that order and peace which came from the iron hand of absolute power. Next, from the destruction of the monasteries, and the sale or gift of their lands to favorites of the King, three results ensued:

1. A new nobility was in great measure created, dependent on the Crown. 2. The House of Lords was made less powerful by the removal of the abbots who had had seats in it. 3. Pauperism and distress were temporarily increased. 4. Finally, England completely severed her connection with the Pope, and established for the first time an independent National Church, having the King as its head.

Edward VI—1547-1553

361. Bad Government; Seizure of Unenclosed Lands; High Rents; Latimer's Sermon.

Edward, son of Henry VIII by Jane Seymour (S355), died at sixteen. In the first part of his reign of six years the goverment was managed by his uncle, the Duke of Somerset, an extreme Protestant, whose intentions were good, but who lacked practical judgement. During the latter part of his life Edward fell under the control of the Duke of Northumberland, who was the head of a band of scheming and profligate men.

They, with other nobles, seized the unenclosed lands of the country and fenced them in for sheep pastures, thus driving into beggary many who had formerly got a good part of their living from these commons. At the same time farm rents rose in somee cases ten and even twenty fold,[1] depriving thousands of the means of subsistence, and reducing to poverty many who had been in comfortable circumstances.

[1] This was oweing to the greed for land on the part of the mercantile classes, who had now acquired wealth, and wished to become landed proprietors. See Froude's "England."

The bitter complaints of the sufferers found expression in Bishop Latimer's outspoken sermon, preached before King Edward, in which he said: "My father was a yeoman [small farmer], and had no lands of his own, only he had a farm of three or four pounds [rent] by year, and hereupon tilled so much as kept half a dozen men; he had walk [pasture] for a hundred sheep, and my mother milked thirty kine.

"He was able and did find the King a harness [suit of armor] with himself and his horse, until he came to the place where he should receive the King's wages. I can remember that I buckled his harness when he went into Blackheath Field. He kept me to school, or else I had not been able to have preached before the King's majesty now. He married my sisters with five pounds [dower] ... apiece. He kept hospitality for his poor neighbors, and some alms he gave to the poor.

"And all this he did off the said farm, where he that now hath it payeth sixteen pounds a year or more, and is not able to do anything for his prince, for himself, nor for his children, or give a cup of drink to the poor." But as Latimer patheticall said, "Let the preacher preach till his tongue be worn to the stumps, nothing is amended."[1]

[1] Latimer's first sermon before King Edward VI, 8th of March, 1549.

362. Edward establishes Protestantism, 1549.

Henry VIII had made the Church of England independent of the Pope (S349). His son took the next great step, and made it practically Protestant in doctrine. At his desire, Archbishop Cranmer compiled a book of Common Prayer in English. It was taken largely from the Roman Catholic Prayer Book, which was in Latin (1549). The first Act of Uniformity, 1549 (reenacted 1552), obliged all churches to use the new English Prayer Book, thereby, (for the time) establishing a modified form of Protestantism throughout England (S405).[2]

[2] On the Church of England, see Macaulay's "England," I, 40-42.

Edward's sister, the Princess Mary, was a most devout Catholic. She refused to adopt the new service, saying to Bishop Ridley, who urged her to accept it as God's word, "I cannot tell what you call God's word, for that is not God's word now which was God's word in my father's time." It was at this period (1552) that the Articles of Religion of the Church of England were first drawn up; but they did not take their final form until the reign of Elizabeth (S383).

363. King Edward and Mary Stuart.

Henry VIII had attempted to marry his son Edward to young Queen Mary Stuart, a daughter of the King of Scotland, but the match had been broken off. Edward's guardian now insisted that it should be carried out. He invaded Scotland with an army, and attempted to effect the marriage by force of arms, at the battle of Pinkie (1547).

The English gained a decided victory, but the youthful Queen, instead of giving her hand to young King Edward, left the country and married the son of the King of France. She will appear with melancholy prominence in the reign of Elizabeth. Had Mary Queen of Scots married Edward, we should perhaps have been spared that tragedy in which she was called to play both the leading and the losing part (SS394-397).

364. Renewed Confiscation of Church Property; Schools founded.

The confiscation of such Roman Catholic church property as had been spared was now renewed (S352). The result of this confiscation and of the abandonment of Catholicism as the established form of worship was in certain respects disastrous to the country. In the general break-up, many who had been held in restraint by the old form of faith now went to the other extreme, and rejected all religion.

Part of the money obtained from the sale of church property was devoted, mainly through Edward's influence, to the endowment of upwards of forty grammar schools, besides a number of hospitals, in different sections of the country. But for a long time the destruction of the monastic schools (SS45, 60), poor as many of them had become, was a serious blow to the education of the common people.

365. Edward's London Charities; Christ's Hospital.

Just before his death Edward established Christ's Hospital, or home for the support and education of fatherless children, and refounded and renewed the St. Thomas and St. Bartholomew hospitals for the sick in London. Thus "he was the founder," says Burnet, "of those houses which, by many great additions since that time, have risen to be amongst the noblest of Europe."

Christ's Hospital was, perhaps, the first Protestant charity school opened in England; many more were patterned on it. It, and others like it, are known as "Blue-Coat Schools," from the costume of the boys,—a relic of the days of Edward VI. This consists of a long, blue coat, like a monk's gown, reaching to the ankles, girded with a broad leather belt, long, bright yellow stockings, and buckle shoes. Most of the boys go bareheaded winter and summer.

An exciting game of football, played in the schoolyard in this peculiar medieval dress, used to seem strangely in contrast with the sights of modern London streets. It was as though the spectator, by passing through a gateway, had gone back over three centuries of time. Coleridge, Lamb, and other noted men of letters were educated there, and have left most interesting reminiscences of their school life, especially Lamb, in his delightful "Essays of Elia." Late in the nineteenth century this famous institution was removed to the country, and part of the site of the ancient school is now covered with a great business structure.

366. Effect of Catholicism versus Protestantism.

Speaking of the Protestant Reformation, of which Edward VI may be taken as a representative, Macaulay remarks that "it is difficult to say whether England received most advantage from the Roman Catholic religion or from the Reformation. For the union of the Saxon and Norman races, and the abolition of slavery, she is chiefly indebted to the influence which the priesthood in the Middle Ages exercised over the people" (S47); "for political and intellectual freedom, and for all the blessings which they have brought in their train, she owes the most to the great rebellion of the people against the priesthood."

367. Summary.

The establishment of the Protestant faith in England, and of a large number of Protestant charity schools known as Edward VI's or "Blue-Coat Schools" may be regarded as the leading events of Edward's brief reign of six years.


368. Lady Jane Grey claims the Crown.

On the death of King Edward, Lady Jane Grey, a descendant of Henry VII, and a relative of Edward VI, was persuaded by her father-in-lawe, the Duke of Northumberland, to assume the crown, which had been left to her by the will of the late King.

Edward's object in naming Lady Jane was to secure a Protestant successor, since his elder sister, Mary, was a zealous Catholic, while from his younger sister, Elizabeth, he seems to have been estranged. By birth, though not directly by Henry VIII's will, Mary was without doubt the rightful heir.[1] Queen Mary received the support of the country, and Lady Jane Grey and her husband, Lord Dudley, were arrested and sent to the Tower of London.

[1] Table showing the respective claims of Queen Mary and Lady Jane Grey to the crown. By his last will Henry VIII left the crown to Edward VI, and (in case he had no issue) to his daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, followed by the issue of his sister Mary. Edward VI's will undertook to change this order of succession.

Henry VII 1 2 3 4 = - H Arthur, b. 1486 Henry VIII Margaret Mary, m. d. 1502, no H Charles Brandon issue ======================= James V of H H H Scotland, Frances Mary, b. Elizabeth, Edward VI, d. 1542 Brandon, m. 1516, d. 1558 b. 1533, b. 1538, Henry Grey d. 1603 d. 1553 Mary Queen of Scots, JANE GREY, b. 1542, m. Lord d. 1587 Guilford Dudley, beheaded 1554 James VI of Scotland and I of England, crowned 1603

369. Question of Mary's Marriage; Wyatt's Rebellion (1554).

While they were confined there, the question of the Queen's marriage came up. Out of several candidates for her hand, Mary gave preference to her cousin, Philip II of Spain. Her choice was very unpopular, for it was known in England that Philip was a selfish and gloomy fanatic, who cared for nothing but the advancement of the Roman Catholic faith.

An insurrection now broke out, led by Sir Thomas Wyatt, the object of which was to place the Princess Elizabeth on the throne, and thus secure the crown to Protestantism. Lady Jane Grey's father was implicated in the rebellion. The movement ended in failure, the leaders were executed, and Mary ordered her sister Elizabeth, who was thought to be in the plot, to be seized and imprisoned in the Tower (1554).

A little later, Lady Jane Grey and her husband perished on the scaffold. The name JANE, deeply cut in the stone wall of the Beauchamp Tower,[1] remains as a memorial of the nine days' Queen. She died at the age of seventeen, an innocent victim of the greatness which had been thrust upon her.

[1] The Beauchamp Tower is part of the Tower of London. On its walls are scores of names cut by those who were imprisoned in it.

370. Mary marries Philip II of Spain (1554); Efforts to restore Catholicism.

A few months afterward the royal marriage was celebrated, but Philip soon found that the air of England had too much freedom in it to suit his delicate constitution, and he returned to the more congenial climate of Spain.

From that time Mary, who was left to rule alone, directed all her efforts to the restoration of the Catholic Church. Hallam says her policy was acceptable to a large part of the nation.[2] On the other hand, the leaders in Scotland bound themselves by a solemn Covenant (1557) to crush out all attempts to reestablish the Catholic faith. Through her influence Parliament repealed the legislation of Henry VIII's and Edward VI's reigns, in so far as it gave support to Protestantism. She revived the persecuting statutes against heretics (S283). The old relations with the Pope were resumed but the monastic lands were left in the hands of their new owners (S352). To accomplish her object in supporting her religion, the Queen resorted to the arguments of the dungeon, the rack, and the fagot, and when Bishops Bonner and Gardiner slackened their work of persecution and death, Mary, half crazed by Philip's desertion, urged them not to stay their hands.

[2] See A. H. Hallam's "Constitutional History of England," and compare J. Lingard's excellent "History of England," to the same effect.

371. Devices for reading the Bible.

The penalty for reading the English Scriptures, or for offering Protestant prayers, was death. In his autobiography, Benjamin Franklin says that one of his ancestors, who lived in England in Mary's reign, adopted the following expedient for giving his family religious instruction. He fastened an open Bible with strips of tape on the under side of a stool. When he wished to read it aloud he placed the stool upside down on his knees, and turned the pages under the tape as he read them. One of the children stood watching at the door to give the alarm if any one approached; in that case, the stool was set quickly on its feet again on the floor, so that nothing could be seen.

372. Religious Toleration unknown in Mary's Age.

Mary would doubtless have bravely endured for her faith the full measure of suffering which she inflicted. Her state of mind was that of all who then held strong convictions. Each party believed it a duty to convert or exterminate the other, and the alternative offered to the heretic was to "turn or burn."

Sir Thomas More, who gave his life as a sacrifice to conscience in Henry's reign (S351), was eager to put Tyndale to the torture for translating the Bible. Cranmer (S362), who perished at Oxford (1556), had been zealous in sending to the flames those who differed from him. Even Latimer (S361), who died bravely at the stake, exhorting his companion Ridley (1555) "to be of good cheer and play the man, since they would light such a candle in England that day as in God's grace should not be put out," had abetted the kindling of slow fires under men as honest and determined as himself but on the opposite side.

In like spirit Queen Mary kept Smithfield, London, ablaze with martyrs, whose blood was the seed of Protestantism. Yet persecution under Mary never reached the proportions that it did on the Continent. At the most, but a few hundred died in England for the sake of their religion, while Mary's husband, Philip II, during the last of his reign, covered Holland with the graves of Protestants, who had been tortured and put to cruel deaths, or buried alive, by tens of thousands.

373. Mary's Death (1558).

But Mary's career was short. She died (1558) near the close of an inglorious war with France, which ended in the fall of Calais, the last English possession on the Continent (S240). It was a great blow to her pride, and a serious humiliation to the country. "After my death," she said, "you will find Calais written on my heart." Could she have foreseen the future, her grief would have been greater still. For with the end of her reign the Pope lost all power in England, never to regain it.

374. Mary deserving of Pity rather than Hatred.

Mary's name has come down to us associated with an epithet expressive of the utmost abhorrence (S342); but she deserves pity rather than detestation. Froude justly says, "If any person may be excused for hating the Reformation, it was Mary."

Separated from her mother, the unfortunate Catharine of Aragon, when she was only sixteen, Mary was ill-treated by Henry's new Queen, Anne Boleyn, and hated by her father. Thus the springtime of her youth was blighted.

Her marriage brought her no happiness; sickly, ill-favored, childless, unloved, the poor woman spent herself for naught. Her first great mistake was that she resolutely turned her face toward the past; her second, that she loved Philip II of Spain (S369) with all her heart, soul, and strength; and so, out of devotion to a bigot, did a bigot's work, and earned that execration which never fails to be a bigots reward. But the Queen's cruelty was the cruelty of sincerity, and never, like her father's hangings, beheadings, and burnings (S358), the result of tyranny, indifference, or caprice. A little book of prayers which she left, soiled by constant use and stained with many tears, tells the story of her broken and disappointed life.

375. Summary.

This reign should be looked upon as a period of reaction. The temporary check which Mary gave to Protestantism deepened and strengthened it. Nothing builds up a religious faith like martyrdom, and the next reign showed that every heretic that Mary had burned helped to make at least a hundred more.


376. Accession of Elizabeth.

Elizabeth, the last of the Tudor family, was the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn (S349). At the time of Mary's death she was living in seclusion in Hatfield House, near London, spending most of her time in studying Greek and Latin authors. When the news was brought to her, she was deeply moved, and exclaimed, "It is the Lord's doings; it is marvelous in our eyes." Five days afterwards she went up to London by that road over which the last time she had traveled it she was being carried a prisoner to the Tower (S369).

377. Difficulty of Elizabeth's Position.

An act of Parliament declared Elizabeth to be the true and lawful heir to the crown[1] (S355); but her position was full of difficulty, if not absolute peril. Mary Stuart of Scotland, now by marriage Queen of France (S363),[2] claimed the English crown through descent from Henry VII. She based her claim on the ground that Elizabeth, the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, was not lawfully entitled to the throne, because the Pope had refused to recognize Henry's second marriage (S349). Both France and Rome supported Mary Stuart's claim.

[1] See Genealogical Table, p. 207. [2] After Elizabeth, Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, stood next in order of hereditary succession. See Table, p. 207.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13     Next Part
Home - Random Browse