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Title: History of the English People, Volume III (of 8) - The Parliament, 1399-1461; The  Monarchy 1461-1540
Author: Green, John Richard, 1837-1883
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "History of the English People, Volume III (of 8) - The Parliament, 1399-1461; The  Monarchy 1461-1540" ***

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      The index for the entire 8 volume set of _History of
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Honorary Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford

THE MONARCHY, 1461-1540

First Edition, Demy 8vo, November 1877;
Reprinted December 1877, 1881, 1885, 1890.
Eversley Edition, 1895.
London MacMillan and Co. and New York 1896


    Volume III

        Book IV -- The Parliament -- 1399-1461

            Chapter V -- The House of Lancaster -- 1399-1422

            Chapter VI -- The Wars of the Roses -- 1422-1461

        Book V -- The Monarchy -- 1461-1540

            Authorities for Book V

            Chapter I -- The House of York -- 1461-1485

            Chapter II -- The Revival of Learning -- 1485-1514

            Chapter III -- Wolsey -- 1514-1529

            Chapter IV -- Thomas Cromwell -- 1529-1540


    The Wars of the Roses

In Chapter I. some changes have been made which exactly follow corrections
  made by Mr. Green himself in the margin of his volume of the original

                                                               A.S. Green.




[Sidenote: Henry the Fourth]

Once safe in the Tower, it was easy to wrest from Richard a resignation of
his crown; and this resignation was solemnly accepted by the Parliament
which met at the close of September 1399. But the resignation was
confirmed by a solemn Act of Deposition. The coronation oath was read, and
a long impeachment which stated the breach of the promises made in it was
followed by a solemn vote of both Houses which removed Richard from the
state and authority of king. According to the strict rules of hereditary
descent as construed by the feudal lawyers by an assumed analogy with the
rules which governed descent of ordinary estates the crown would now have
passed to a house which had at an earlier period played a leading part in
the revolutions of the Edwards. The great-grandson of the Mortimer who
brought about the deposition of Edward the Second had married the daughter
and heiress of Lionel of Clarence, the third son of Edward the Third. The
childlessness of Richard and the death of Edward's second son without
issue placed Edmund Mortimer, the son of the Earl who had fallen in
Ireland, first among the claimants of the crown; but he was now a child of
six years old, the strict rule of hereditary descent had never received
any formal recognition in the case of the Crown, and precedent suggested a
right of Parliament to choose in such a case a successor among any other
members of the Royal House. Only one such successor was in fact possible.
Rising from his seat and crossing himself, Henry of Lancaster solemnly
challenged the crown, "as that I am descended by right line of blood
coming from the good lord King Henry the Third, and through that right
that God of his grace hath sent me with help of my kin and of my friends
to recover it: the which realm was in point to be undone by default of
governance and undoing of good laws." Whatever defects such a claim might
present were more than covered by the solemn recognition of Parliament.
The two Archbishops, taking the new sovereign by the hand, seated him upon
the throne, and Henry in emphatic words ratified the compact between
himself and his people. "Sirs," he said to the prelates, lords, knights,
and burgesses gathered round him, "I thank God and you, spiritual and
temporal, and all estates of the land; and do you to wit it is not my will
that any man think that by way of conquest I would disinherit any of his
heritage, franchises, or other rights that he ought to have, nor put him
out of the good that he has and has had by the good laws and customs of
the realm, except those persons that have been against the good purpose
and the common profit of the realm."

[Sidenote: Statute of Heresy]

The deposition of a king, the setting aside of one claimant and the
elevation of another to the throne, marked the triumph of the English
Parliament over the monarchy. The struggle of the Edwards against its
gradual advance had culminated in the bold effort of Richard the Second to
supersede it by a commission dependent on the Crown. But the House of
Lancaster was precluded by its very position from any renewal of the
struggle. It was not merely that the exhaustion of the treasury by the war
and revolt which followed Henry's accession left him even more than the
kings who had gone before in the hands of the Estates; it was that his
very right to the Crown lay in an acknowledgement of their highest
pretensions. He had been raised to the throne by a Parliamentary
revolution. His claim to obedience had throughout to rest on a
Parliamentary title. During no period of our early history therefore were
the powers of the two Houses so frankly recognized. The tone of Henry the
Fourth till the very close of his reign is that of humble compliance in
all but ecclesiastical matters with the prayers of the Parliament, and
even his imperious successor shrank almost with timidity from any conflict
with it. But the Crown had been bought by pledges less noble than this.
Arundel was not only the representative of constitutional rule; he was
also the representative of religious persecution. No prelate had been so
bitter a foe of the Lollards, and the support which the Church had given
to the recent revolution had no doubt sprung from its belief that a
sovereign whom Arundel placed on the throne would deal pitilessly with the
growing heresy. The expectations of the clergy were soon realized. In the
first Convocation of his reign Henry declared himself the protector of the
Church and ordered the prelates to take measures for the suppression of
heresy and of the wandering preachers. His declaration was but a prelude
to the Statute of Heresy which was passed at the opening of 1401. By the
provisions of this infamous Act the hindrances which had till now
neutralized the efforts of the bishops to enforce the common law were
utterly taken away. Not only were they permitted to arrest all preachers
of heresy, all schoolmasters infected with heretical teaching, all owners
and writers of heretical books, and to imprison them even if they recanted
at the king's pleasure, but a refusal to abjure or a relapse after
abjuration enabled them to hand over the heretic to the civil officers,
and by these--so ran the first legal enactment of religious bloodshed
which defiled our Statute-book--he was to be burned on a high place before
the people. The statute was hardly passed when William Sautre became its
first victim. Sautre, while a parish priest at Lynn, had been cited before
the Bishop of Norwich two years before for heresy and forced to recant.
But he still continued to preach against the worship of images, against
pilgrimages, and against transubstantiation, till the Statute of Heresy
strengthened Arundel's hands. In February, 1401, Sautre was brought before
the Primate as a relapsed heretic, and on refusing to recant a second time
was degraded from his orders. He was handed to the secular power, and on
the issue of a royal writ publicly burned.

[Sidenote: England and France]

The support of the nobles had been partly won by a hope hardly less fatal
to the peace of the realm, the hope of a renewal of the strife with
France. The peace of Richard's later years had sprung not merely from the
policy of the English king, but from the madness of Charles the Sixth of
France. France fell into the hands of its king's uncle, the Duke of
Burgundy, and as the Duke was ruler of Flanders and peace with England was
a necessity for Flemish industry, his policy went hand in hand with that
of Richard. His rival, the king's brother, Lewis, Duke of Orleans, was the
head of the French war-party; and it was with the view of bringing about
war that he supported Henry of Lancaster in his exile at the French court.
Burgundy on the other hand listened to Richard's denunciation of Henry as
a traitor, and strove to prevent his departure. But his efforts were in
vain, and he had to witness a revolution which hurled Richard from the
throne, deprived Isabella of her crown, and restored to power the baronial
party of which Gloucester, the advocate of war, had long been the head.
The dread of war was increased by a pledge which Henry was said to have
given at his coronation that he would not only head an army in its march
into France but that he would march further into France than ever his
grandfather had done. The French Court retorted by refusing to acknowledge
Henry as king, while the truce concluded with Richard came at his death
legally to an end. In spite of this defiance however Burgundy remained
true to the interests of Flanders, and Henry clung to a truce which gave
him time to establish his throne. But the influence of the baronial party
in England made peace hard to keep; the Duke of Orleans urged on France to
war; and the hatred of the two peoples broke through the policy of the two
governments. Count Waleran of St. Pol, who had married Richard's
half-sister, put out to sea with a fleet which swept the east coast and
entered the Channel. Pirates from Britanny and Navarre soon swarmed in the
narrow seas, and their ravages were paid back by those of pirates from the
Cinque Ports. A more formidable trouble broke out in the north. The enmity
of France roused as of old the enmity of Scotland; the Scotch king Robert
the Third refused to acknowledge Henry, and Scotch freebooters cruised
along the northern coast.

[Sidenote: Richard's death]

Attack from without woke attack from within the realm. Henry had shown
little taste for bloodshed in his conduct of the revolution. Save those of
the royal councillors whom he found at Bristol no one had been put to
death. Though a deputation of lords with Archbishop Arundel at its head
pressed him to take Richard's life, he steadily refused, and kept him a
prisoner at Pomfret. The judgements against Gloucester, Warwick, and
Arundel were reversed, but the lords who had appealed the Duke were only
punished by the loss of the dignities which they had received as their
reward. Richard's brother and nephew by the half-blood, the Dukes of
Exeter and Surrey, became again Earls of Huntingdon and Kent. York's son,
the Duke of Albemarle, sank once more into Earl of Rutland. Beaufort, Earl
of Somerset, lost his new Marquisate of Dorset; Spenser lost his Earldom
of Gloucester. But in spite of a stormy scene among the lords in
Parliament Henry refused to exact further punishment; and his real temper
was seen in a statute which forbade all such appeals and left treason to
be dealt with by ordinary process of law. But the times were too rough for
mercy such as this. Clouds no sooner gathered round the new king than the
degraded lords leagued with the Earl of Salisbury and the deposed Bishop
of Carlisle to release Richard and to murder Henry. Betrayed by Rutland in
the spring of 1400, and threatened by the king's march from London, they
fled to Cirencester; but the town was against them, its burghers killed
Kent and Salisbury, and drove out the rest. A terrible retribution
followed. Lord Spenser and the Earl of Huntingdon were taken and summarily
beheaded; thirty more conspirators fell into the king's hands to meet the
same fate. They drew with them in their doom the wretched prisoner in
whose name they had risen. A great council held after the suppression of
the revolt prayed "that if Richard, the late king, be alive, as some
suppose he is, it be ordained that he be well and securely guarded for the
safety of the states of the king and kingdom; but if he be dead, then that
he be openly showed to the people that they may have knowledge thereof."
The ominous words were soon followed by news of Richard's death in prison.
His body was brought to St. Paul's, Henry himself with the princes of the
blood royal bearing the pall: and the face was left uncovered to meet
rumours that the prisoner had been assassinated by his keeper, Sir Piers

[Sidenote: Revolt of Wales]

In June Henry marched northward to end the trouble from the Scots. With
their usual policy the Scottish army under the Duke of Albany withdrew as
the English crossed the border, and looked coolly on while Henry invested
the castle of Edinburgh. The wants of his army forced him in fact to raise
the siege; but even success would have been fruitless, for he was recalled
by trouble nearer home. Wales was in full revolt. The country had been
devoted to Richard; and so notorious was its disaffection to the new line
that when Henry's son knelt at his father's feet to receive a grant of the
Principality a shrewd bystander murmured, "He must conquer it if he will
have it." The death of the fallen king only added to the Welsh disquiet,
for in spite of the public exhibition of his body he was believed to be
still alive. Some hold that he had escaped to Scotland, and an impostor
who took his name was long maintained at the Scottish Court. In Wales it
was believed that he was still a prisoner in Chester Castle. But the
trouble would have died away had it not been raised into revolt by the
energy of Owen Glyndwr or Glendower. Owen was a descendant of one of the
last native Princes, Llewelyn-ap-Jorwerth, and the lord of considerable
estates in Merioneth. He had been squire of the body to Richard the
Second, and had clung to him till he was seized at Flint. It was probably
his known aversion from the revolution which had deposed his master that
brought on him the hostility of Lord Grey of Ruthin, the stay of the
Lancastrian cause in North Wales; and the same political ground may have
existed for the refusal of the Parliament to listen to his prayer for
redress and for the restoration of the lands which Grey had seized. But
the refusal was embittered by words of insult; when the Bishop of St.
Asaph warned them of Owen's power the lords retorted that "they cared not
for barefoot knaves." They were soon to be made to care. At the close of
1400 Owen rose in revolt, burned the town of Ruthin, and took the title of
Prince of Wales.

[Sidenote: Owen Glyndwr]

His action at once changed the disaffection into a national revolt. His
raids on the Marches and his capture of Radnor marked its importance, and
Henry marched against him in the summer of 1401. But Glyndwr's post at
Corwen defied attack, and the pressure in the north forced the king to
march away into Scotland. Henry Percy, who held the castles of North Wales
as Constable, was left to suppress the rebellion, but Owen met Percy's
arrival by the capture of Conway, and the king was forced to hurry fresh
forces under his son Henry to the west. The boy was too young as yet to
show the military and political ability which was to find its first field
in these Welsh campaigns, and his presence did little to stay the growth
of revolt. While Owen's lands were being harried Owen was stirring the
people of Caermarthen into rebellion and pressing the siege of
Abergavenny; nor could the presence of English troops save Shropshire from
pillage. Everywhere the Welshmen rose for their "Prince"; the Bards
declared his victories to have been foretold by Merlin; even the Welsh
scholars at Oxford left the University in a body and joined his standard.
The castles of Ruthin, Hawarden, and Flint fell into his hands, and with
his capture of Conway gave him command of North Wales. The arrival of help
from Scotland and the hope of help from France gave fresh vigour to Owen's
action, and though Percy held his ground stubbornly on the coast and even
recovered Conway he at last threw up his command in disgust. A fresh
inroad of Henry on his return from Scotland again failed to bring Owen to
battle, and the negotiations which he carried on during the following
winter were a mere blind to cover preparations for a new attack. So strong
had Glyndwr become in 1402 that in June he was able to face an English
army in the open field at Brynglas and to defeat it with a loss of a
thousand men. The king again marched to the border to revenge this blow.
But the storms which met him as he entered the hills, storms which his
archers ascribed to the magic powers of Owen, ruined his army, and he was
forced to withdraw as of old. A raid over the northern border distracted
the English forces. A Scottish army entered England with the impostor who
bore Richard's name, and though it was utterly defeated by Henry Percy in
September at Homildon Hill the respite had served Owen well. He sallied
out from the inaccessible fastnesses in which he had held Henry at bay to
win victories which were followed by the adhesion of all North Wales and
of great part of South Wales to his cause.

[Sidenote: The Percies]

What gave life to these attacks and conspiracies was the hostility of
France. The influence of the Duke of Burgundy was still strong enough to
prevent any formal hostilities, but the war party was gaining more and
more the ascendant. Its head, the Duke of Orleans, had fanned the growing
flame by sending a formal defiance to Henry the Fourth as the murderer of
Richard. French knights were among the prisoners whom the Percies took at
Homildon Hill; and it may have been through their intervention that the
Percies themselves were now brought into correspondence with the court of
France. No house had played a greater part in the overthrow of Richard, or
had been more richly rewarded by the new king. But old grudges existed
between the house of Percy and the house of Lancaster. The Earl of
Northumberland had been at bitter variance with John of Gaunt; and though
a common dread of Richard's enmity had thrown the Percies and Henry
together the new king and his powerful subjects were soon parted again.
Henry had ground indeed for distrust. The death of Richard left the young
Mortimer, Earl of March, next claimant in blood of the crown, and the king
had shown his sense of this danger by imprisoning the earl and his sisters
in the Tower. But this imprisonment made their uncle, Sir Edmund Mortimer,
the representative of their house; and Edmund withdrew to the Welsh
Marches, refusing to own Henry for king. The danger was averted by the
luck which threw Sir Edmund as a captive into the hands of Owen Glyndwr in
the battle of Brynglas. It was natural that Henry should refuse to allow
Mortimer's kinsmen to ransom so formidable an enemy; but among these
kinsmen Henry Percy ranked himself through his marriage with Sir Edmund's
sister, and the refusal served as a pretext for a final breach with the

[Sidenote: Overthrow of the Percies]

Percy had withdrawn from the Welsh war in wrath at the inadequate support
which Henry gave him; and his anger had been increased by a delay in
repayment of the sums spent by his house in the contest with Scotland, as
well as by the king's demand that he should surrender the Earl of Douglas
whom he had taken prisoner at Homildon Hill. He now became the centre of a
great conspiracy to place the Earl of March upon the throne. His father,
the Earl of Northumberland, his uncle, Thomas Percy, the Earl of
Worcester, joined in the plot. Sir Edmund Mortimer negotiated for aid from
Owen Glyndwr; the Earl of Douglas threw in his fortunes with the
confederates; and Henry Percy himself crossed to France and obtained
promises of support. The war party had now gained the upper hand at the
French court; in 1403 preparations were made to attack Calais, and a
Breton fleet put to sea. At the news of its presence in the Channel Henry
Percy and the Earl of Worcester at once rose in the north and struck
across England to join Owen Glyndwr in Wales, while the Earl of
Northumberland gathered a second army and advanced more slowly to their
support. But Glyndwr was still busy with the siege of Caermarthen, and the
king by a hasty march flung himself across the road of the Percies as they
reached Shrewsbury. On the twenty-third of July a fierce fight ended in
the defeat of the rebel force. Henry Percy was slain in battle, the Earl
of Worcester taken and beheaded; while Northumberland, who had been
delayed by an army under his rival in the north, Neville, Earl of
Westmoreland, was thrown into prison, and only pardoned on his
protestations of innocence. The quick, hard blow did its work. The young
Earl of March betrayed the plans of his partizans to purchase pardon. The
Breton fleet, which had defeated an English fleet in the Channel and made
a descent upon Plymouth, withdrew to its harbours; and though the Duke of
Burgundy was on the point of commencing the siege of Calais the plans of
an attack on that town were no more heard of.

[Sidenote: Henry's difficulties]

But the difficulty of Wales remained as great as ever. The discouragement
of Owen at the failure of the conspiracy of the Percies was removed by the
open aid of the French Court. In July 1404 the French king in a formal
treaty owned Glyndwr as Prince of Wales, and his promises of aid gave
fresh heart to the insurgents. What hampered Henry's efforts most in
meeting this danger was the want of money. At the opening of 1404 the
Parliament grudgingly gave a subsidy of a twentieth, but the treasury
called for fresh supplies in October, and the wearied Commons fell back on
their old proposal of a confiscation of Church property. Under the
influence of Archbishop Arundel the Lords succeeded in quashing the
project, and a new subsidy was voted; but the treasury was soon as empty
as before. Treason was still rife; the Duke of York, who had played so
conspicuous a part in Richard's day as Earl of Rutland, was sent for a
while to the Tower on suspicion of complicity in an attempt of his sister
to release the Earl of March; and Glyndwr remained unconquerable.

[Sidenote: Turn of the tide]

But fortune was now beginning to turn. The danger from Scotland was
suddenly removed. King Robert resolved to send his son James for training
to the court of France, but the boy was driven to the English coast by a
storm and Henry refused to release him. Had the Scots been friends, the
king jested, they would have sent James to him for education, as he knew
the French tongue quite as well as King Charles. Robert died of grief at
the news; and Scotland fell into the hands of his brother, the Duke of
Albany, whose one aim was that his nephew should remain a prisoner. James
grew up at the English Court; and, prisoner though he was, the excellence
of his training was seen in the poetry and intelligence of his later life.
But with its king as a hostage Scotland was no longer to be dreaded as a
foe. France too was weakened at this moment; for in 1405 the
long-smouldering jealousy between the Dukes of Orleans and of Burgundy
broke out at last into open strife. The break did little indeed to check
the desultory hostilities which were going on. A Breton fleet made
descents on Portland and Dartmouth. The Count of Armagnac, the strongest
supporter of Orleans and the war party, led troops against the frontier of
Guienne. But the weakness of France and the exhaustion of its treasury
prevented any formal denunciation of the truce or declaration of war.
Though Henry could spare not a soldier for Guienne Armagnac did little
hurt. An English fleet repaid the ravages of the Bretons by harrying the
coast of Britanny; and the turn of French politics soon gave Frenchmen too
much work at home to spare men for work abroad. At the close of 1407 the
murder of the Duke of Orleans by the order of the Duke of Burgundy changed
the weak and fitful strife which had been going on into a struggle of the
bitterest hate. The Count of Armagnac placed himself at the head of the
murdered duke's partizans; and in their furious antagonism Armagnac and
Burgundian alike sought aid from the English king.

[Sidenote: Prince Henry]

But the fortune which favoured Henry elsewhere was still slow to turn in
the West. In the opening of 1405 the king's son, Henry Prince of Wales,
had taken the field against Glyndwr. Young as he was, Henry was already a
tried soldier. As a boy of thirteen he had headed an incursion into
Scotland in the year of his father's accession to the throne. At fifteen
he fought in the front of the royal army in the desperate fight at
Shrewsbury. Slight and tall in stature as he seemed, he had outgrown the
weakness of his earlier years and was vigorous and swift of foot; his
manners were courteous, his air grave and reserved; and though wild tales
ran of revels and riots among his friends, the poets whom he favoured and
Lydgate whom he set to translate "the drery piteous tale of him of Troy"
saw in him a youth "both manful and vertuous." There was little time
indeed for mere riot in a life so busy as Henry's, nor were many
opportunities for self-indulgence to be found in campaigns against
Glyndwr. What fitted the young general of seventeen for the thankless work
in Wales was his stern, immoveable will. But fortune as yet had few smiles
for the king in this quarter, and his constant ill-success continued to
wake fresh troubles within England itself. The repulse of the young prince
in a spring campaign in 1405 was at once followed by a revolt in the
north. The pardon of Northumberland had left him still a foe; the Earl of
Nottingham was son of Henry's opponent, the banished Duke of Norfolk;
Scrope, Archbishop of York, was brother of Richard's counsellor, the Earl
of Wiltshire, who had been beheaded on the surrender of Bristol. Their
rising in May might have proved a serious danger had not the treachery of
Ralph Neville, the Earl of Westmoreland, who still remained steady to the
Lancastrian cause, secured the arrest of some of its leaders. Scrope and
Lord Nottingham were beheaded, while Northumberland and his partizan Lord
Bardolf fled into Scotland and from thence to Wales. Succours from France
stirred the king to a renewed attack on Glyndwr in November; but with the
same ill-success. Storms and want of food wrecked the English army and
forced it to retreat; a year of rest raised Glyndwr to new strength; and
when the long-promised body of eight thousand Frenchmen joined him in 1407
he ventured even to cross the border and to threaten Worcester. The threat
was a vain one and the Welsh army soon withdrew; but the insult gave fresh
heart to Henry's foes, and in 1408 Northumberland and Bardolf again
appeared in the north. Their overthrow at Bramham Moor put an end to the
danger from the Percies; for Northumberland and Bardolf alike fell on the
field. But Wales remained as defiant as ever. In 1409 a body of Welshmen
poured ravaging into Shropshire; many of the English towns had fallen into
Glyndwr's hands; and some of the Marcher Lords made private truces with

[Sidenote: Oldcastle]

The weakness which was produced by this ill-success in the West as well as
these constant battlings with disaffection within the realm was seen in
the attitude of the Lollards. Lollardry was far from having been crushed
by the Statute of Heresy. The death of the Earl of Salisbury in the first
of the revolts against Henry's throne, though his gory head was welcomed
into London by a procession of abbots and bishops who went out singing
psalms of thanksgiving to meet it, only transferred the leadership of the
party to one of the foremost warriors of the time, Sir John Oldcastle. If
we believe his opponents, and we have no information about him save from
hostile sources, he was of lowly origin, and his rise must have been due
to his own capacity and services to the Crown. In his youth he had
listened to the preaching of Wyclif, and his Lollardry--if we may judge
from its tone in later years--was a violent fanaticism. But this formed no
obstacle to his rise in Richard's reign; his marriage with the heiress of
that house made him Lord Cobham; and the accession of Henry of Lancaster,
to whose cause he seems to have clung in these younger days, brought him
fairly to the front. His skill in arms found recognition in his
appointment as sheriff of Herefordshire and as castellan of Brecknock; and
he was among the leaders who were chosen in later years for service in
France. His warlike renown endeared him to the king, and Prince Henry
counted him among the most illustrious of his servants. The favour of the
royal house was the more noteable that Oldcastle was known as "leader and
captain" of the Lollards. His Kentish castle of Cowling served as the
headquarters of the sect, and their preachers were openly entertained at
his houses in London or on the Welsh border. The Convocation of 1413
charged him with being "the principal receiver, favourer, protector, and
defender of them; and that, especially in the dioceses of London,
Rochester, and Hereford, he hath sent out the said Lollards to preach ...
and hath been present at their wicked sermons, grievously punishing with
threatenings, terror, and the power of the secular sword such as did
withstand them, alleging and affirming among other matters that we, the
bishops, had no power to make any such Constitutions" as the Provincial
Constitutions, in which they had forbidden the preaching of unlicensed
preachers. The bold stand of Lord Cobham drew fresh influence from the
sanctity of his life. Though the clergy charged him with the foulest
heresy, they owned that he shrouded it "under a veil of holiness." What
chiefly moved their wrath was that he "armed the hands of laymen for the
spoil of the Church." The phrase seems to hint that Oldcastle was the
mover in the repeated attempts of the Commons to supply the needs of the
State by a confiscation of Church property. In 1404 they prayed that the
needs of the kingdom might be defrayed by a confiscation of Church lands,
and though this prayer was fiercely met by Archbishop Arundel it was
renewed in 1410. The Commons declared as before that by devoting the
revenues of the prelates to the service of the state maintenance could be
made for fifteen earls, fifteen hundred knights, and six thousand squires,
while a hundred hospitals might be established for the sick and infirm.
Such proposals had been commonly made by the baronial party with which the
house of Lancaster had in former days been connected, and hostile as they
were to the Church as an establishment they had no necessary connexion
with any hostility to its doctrines. But a direct sympathy with Lollardism
was seen in the further proposals of the Commons. They prayed for the
abolition of episcopal jurisdiction over the clergy and for a mitigation
of the Statute of Heresy.

[Sidenote: Action of Prince Henry]

But formidable as the movement seemed it found a formidable opponent. The
steady fighting of Prince Henry had at last met the danger from Wales, and
Glyndwr, though still unconquered, saw district after district submit
again to English rule. From Wales the Prince returned to bring his will to
bear on England itself. It was through his strenuous opposition that the
proposals of the Commons in 1410 were rejected by the Lords. He gave at
the same moment a more terrible proof of his loyalty to the Church in
personally assisting at the burning of a layman, Thomas Badby, for a
denial of transubstantiation. The prayers of the sufferer were taken for a
recantation, and the Prince ordered the fire to be plucked away. But when
the offer of life and a pension failed to break the spirit of the Lollard
Henry pitilessly bade him be hurled back to his doom. The Prince was now
the virtual ruler of the realm. His father's earlier popularity had
disappeared amidst the troubles and heavy taxation of his reign. He was
already a victim to the attack of epilepsy which brought him to the grave;
and in the opening of 1410 the Parliament called for the appointment of a
Continual Council. The Council was appointed, and the Prince placed at its
head. His energy was soon seen in a more active interposition in the
affairs of France. So bitter had the hatred grown between the Burgundian
and Armagnac parties that both in turn appealed again to England for help.
The Burgundian alliance found favour with the Council. In August, 1411,
the Duke of Burgundy offered his daughter in marriage to the Prince as the
price of English aid, and four thousand men with Lord Cobham among their
leaders were sent to join his forces at Paris. Their help enabled Duke
John to bring his opponents to battle at St. Cloud, and to win a decisive
victory in November. But already the king was showing himself impatient of
the Council's control; and the Parliament significantly prayed that "as
there had been a great murmur among your people that you have had in your
heart a heavy load against some of your lieges come to this present
Parliament," they might be formally declared to be "faithful lieges and
servants." The prayer was granted, but in spite of the support which the
Houses gave to the Prince, Henry the Fourth was resolute to assert his
power. At the close of 1411 he declared his will to stand in as great
freedom, prerogative, and franchise as any of his predecessors had done,
and annulled on that ground the appointment of the Continual Council.

[Sidenote: Death of Henry the Fourth]

The king's blow had been dealt at the instigation of his queen, and it
seems to have been prompted as much by a resolve to change the outer
policy which the Prince had adopted as to free himself from the Council.
The dismissal of the English troops by John of Burgundy after his victory
at St. Cloud had irritated the English Court; and the Duke of Orleans took
advantage of this turn of feeling to offer Catharine, the French king's
daughter, in marriage to the Prince, and to promise the restoration of all
that England claimed in Guienne and Poitou. In spite of the efforts of the
Prince and the Duke of Burgundy a treaty of alliance with Orleans was
signed on these terms in May, 1412, and a force under the king's second
son, the Duke of Clarence, disembarked at La Hogue. But the very profusion
of the Orleanist offers threw doubt on their sincerity. The Duke was only
using the English aid to put a pressure on his antagonist, and its landing
in August at once brought John of Burgundy to a seeming submission. While
Clarence penetrated by Normandy and Maine into the Orleanais and a second
English force sailed for Calais, both the French parties joined in
pledging their services to King Charles "against his adversary of
England." Before this union Clarence was forced in November to accept
promise of payment for his men from the Duke of Orleans and to fall back
on Bordeaux. The failure no doubt gave fresh strength to Prince Henry. In
the opening of 1412 he had been discharged from the Council and Clarence
set in his place at its head; he had been defeated in his attempts to
renew the Burgundian alliance, and had striven in vain to hinder Clarence
from sailing. The break grew into an open quarrel. Letters were sent into
various counties refuting the charges of the Prince's detractors, and in
September Henry himself appeared before his father with a crowd of his
friends and supporters demanding the punishment of those who accused him.
The charges made against him were that he sought to bring about the king's
removal from the throne; and "the great recourse of people unto him, of
which his court was at all times more abundant than his father's," gave
colour to the accusation. Henry the Fourth owned his belief in these
charges, but promised to call a Parliament for his son's vindication; and
the Parliament met in the February of 1413. But a new attack of epilepsy
had weakened the king's strength; and though galleys were gathered for a
Crusade which he had vowed he was too weak to meet the Houses on their
assembly. If we may trust a charge which was afterwards denied, the king's
half-brother, Bishop Henry of Winchester, one of the Beaufort children of
John of Gaunt, acting in secret co-operation with the Prince, now brought
the peers to pray Henry to suffer his son to be crowned in his stead. The
king's refusal was the last act of a dying man. Before the end of March he
breathed his last in the "Jerusalem Chamber" within the Abbot's house at
Westminster; and the Prince obtained the crown which he had sought.

[Sidenote: Suppression of the Lollards]

The removal of Archbishop Arundel from the Chancellorship, which was given
to Henry Beaufort of Winchester, was among the first acts of Henry the
Fifth; and it is probable that this blow at the great foe of the Lollards
gave encouragement to the hopes of Oldcastle. He seized the opportunity of
the coronation in April to press his opinions on the young king, though
probably rather with a view to the plunder of the Church than to any
directly religious end. From the words of the clerical chroniclers it is
plain that Henry had no mind as yet for any open strife with either party,
and that he quietly put the matter aside. He was in fact busy with foreign
affairs. The Duke of Clarence was recalled from Bordeaux, and a new truce
concluded with France. The policy of Henry was clearly to look on for a
while at the shifting politics of the distracted kingdom. Soon after his
accession another revolution in Paris gave the charge of the mad King
Charles, and with it the nominal government of the realm, to the Duke of
Orleans; and his cause derived fresh strength from the support of the
young Dauphin, who was afterwards to play so great a part in the history
of France as Charles the Seventh. John of Burgundy withdrew to Flanders,
and both parties again sought Henry's aid. But his hands were tied as yet
by trouble at home. Oldcastle was far from having abandoned his projects,
discouraged as they had been by his master; while the suspicions of
Henry's favour to the Lollard cause which could hardly fail to be roused
by his favour to the Lollard leader only spurred the bold spirit of
Arundel to energetic action. A council of bishops gathered in the summer
to denounce Lollardry and at once called on Henry to suffer Oldcastle to
be brought to justice. The king pleaded for delay in the case of one who
was so close a friend, and strove personally to convince Lord Cobham of
his errors. All however was in vain, and Oldcastle withdrew to his castle
of Cowling, while Arundel summoned him before his court and convicted him
as a heretic. His open defiance at last forced the king to act. In
September a body of royal troops arrested Lord Cobham and carried him to
the Tower; but his life was still spared, and after a month's confinement
his imprisonment was relaxed on his promise of recantation. Cobham however
had now resolved on open resistance. He broke from the Tower in November,
and from his hiding-place organized a vast revolt. At the opening of 1414
a secret order summoned the Lollards to assemble in St. Giles's Fields
outside London. We gather, if not the real aims of the rising, at least
the terror it caused, from Henry's statement that its purpose was "to
destroy himself, his brothers, and several of the spiritual and temporal
lords"; from Cobham's later declarations it is probable that the pretext
of the rising was to release Richard, whom he asserted to be still alive,
and to set him again on the throne. But the vigilance of the young king
prevented the junction of the Lollards within the city with their
confederates without, and these as they appeared at the place of meeting
were dispersed by the royal troops.

[Sidenote: Renewal of the French War]

The failure of the rising only increased the rigour of the law.
Magistrates were directed to arrest all heretics and hand them over to the
bishops; a conviction of heresy was made to entail forfeiture of blood and
estate; and the execution of thirty-nine prominent Lollards as traitors
gave terrible earnest of the king's resolve to suppress their sect.
Oldcastle escaped, and for four years longer strove to rouse revolt after
revolt. He was at last captured on the Welsh border and burned as a
heretic; but from the moment when his attempt at revolt was crushed in St.
Giles's Fields the dread of Lollardry was broken and Henry was free to
take a more energetic course of policy on the other side the sea. He had
already been silently preparing for action by conciliatory measures, by
restoring Henry Percy's son to the Earldom of Northumberland, by the
release of the Earl of March, and by the solemn burial of Richard the
Second at Westminster. The suppression of the Lollard revolt was followed
by a demand for the restoration of the English possessions in France, and
by alliances and preparations for war. Burgundy stood aloof in a sullen
neutrality, and the Duke of Orleans, who was now virtually ruler of the
French kingdom, in vain proposed concession after concession. All
negotiation indeed broke down when Henry formally put forward his claim on
the crown of France. No claim could have been more utterly baseless, for
the Parliamentary title by which the House of Lancaster held England could
give it no right over France, and the strict law of hereditary succession
which Edward asserted could be pleaded, if pleaded at all, only by the
House of Mortimer. Not only the claim indeed, but the very nature of the
war itself was wholly different from that of Edward the Third. Edward had
been forced into the struggle against his will by the ceaseless attacks of
France, and his claim of the crown was little but an afterthought to
secure the alliance of Flanders. The war of Henry on the other hand,
though in form a mere renewal of the earlier struggle on the close of the
truce made by Richard the Second, was in fact an aggression on the part of
a nation tempted by the helplessness of its opponent and galled by the
memory of former defeat. Its one excuse lay in the attacks which France
for the past fifteen years had directed against the Lancastrian throne,
its encouragement of every enemy without and of every traitor within.
Henry may fairly have regarded such a ceaseless hostility, continued even
through years of weakness, as forcing him in sheer self-defence to secure
his realm against the weightier attack which might be looked for, should
France recover her strength.

[Sidenote: Agincourt]

In the summer of 1415 the king prepared to sail from Southampton, when a
plot reminded him of the insecurity of his throne. The Earl of March was
faithful: but he was childless, and his claim would pass at his death
through a sister who had wedded the Earl of Cambridge, a son of the Duke
of York, to her child Richard, the Duke who was to play so great a part in
the War of the Roses. It was to secure his boy's claims that the Earl of
Cambridge seized on the king's departure to conspire with Lord Scrope and
Sir Thomas Grey to proclaim the Earl of March king. The plot however was
discovered and the plotters beheaded before the king sailed in August for
the Norman coast. His first exploit was the capture of Harfleur. Dysentery
made havoc in his ranks during the siege, and it was with a mere handful
of men that he resolved to insult the enemy by a daring march like that of
Edward upon Calais. The discord however on which he probably reckoned for
security vanished before the actual appearance of the invaders in the
heart of France; and when his weary and half-starved force succeeded in
crossing the Somme it found sixty thousand Frenchmen encamped on the field
of Agincourt right across its line of march. Their position, flanked on
either side by woods, but with a front so narrow that the dense masses
were drawn up thirty men deep, though strong for purposes of defence was
ill suited for attack; and the French leaders, warned by the experience of
Crécy and Poitiers, resolved to await the English advance. Henry on the
other hand had no choice between attack and unconditional surrender. His
troops were starving, and the way to Calais lay across the French army.
But the king's courage rose with the peril. A knight in his train wished
that the thousands of stout warriors lying idle that night in England had
been standing in his ranks. Henry answered with a burst of scorn. "I would
not have a single man more," he replied. "If God give us the victory, it
will be plain we owe it to His grace. If not, the fewer we are, the less
loss for England." Starving and sick as they were, the handful of men whom
he led shared the spirit of their king. As the chill rainy night passed
away he drew up his army on the twenty-fifth of October and boldly gave
battle. The English archers bared their arms and breasts to give fair play
to "the crooked stick and the grey goose wing," but for which--as the rime
ran--"England were but a fling," and with a great shout sprang forward to
the attack. The sight of their advance roused the fiery pride of the
French; the wise resolve of their leaders was forgotten, and the dense
mass of men-at-arms plunged heavily forward through miry ground on the
English front. But at the first sign of movement Henry had halted his
line, and fixing in the ground the sharpened stakes with which each man
was furnished his archers poured their fatal arrow-flights into the
hostile ranks. The carnage was terrible, for though the desperate charges
of the French knighthood at last drove the English archers to the
neighbouring woods, from the skirt of these woods they were still able to
pour their shot into the enemy's flanks, while Henry with the men-at-arms
around him flung himself on the French line. In the terrible struggle
which followed the king bore off the palm of bravery: he was felled once
by a blow from a French mace and the crown of his helmet was cleft by the
sword of the Duke of Alençon; but the enemy was at last broken, and the
defeat of the main body of the French was followed by the rout of their
reserve. The triumph was more complete, as the odds were even greater,
than at Crécy. Eleven thousand Frenchmen lay dead on the field, and more
than a hundred princes and great lords were among the fallen.

[Sidenote: Conquest of Normandy]

The immediate result of the battle of Agincourt was small, for the English
army was too exhausted for pursuit, and it made its way to Calais only to
return to England. Through 1416 the war was limited to a contest for the
command of the Channel, till the increasing bitterness of the strife
between the Burgundians and Armagnacs, and the consent of John of Burgundy
to conclude an alliance, encouraged Henry to resume his attempt to recover
Normandy. Whatever may have been his aim in this enterprise--whether it
were, as has been suggested, to provide a refuge for his house, should its
power be broken in England, or simply to acquire a command of the
seas--the patience and skill with which his object was accomplished raise
him high in the rank of military leaders. Disembarking in July 1417 with
an army of forty thousand men near the mouth of the Touque, he stormed
Caen, received the surrender of Bayeux, reduced Alençon and Falaise, and
detaching his brother the Duke of Gloucester in the spring of 1418 to
occupy the Cotentin made himself master of Avranches and Domfront. With
Lower Normandy wholly in his hands, he advanced upon Evreux, captured
Louviers, and seizing Pont-de-l'Arche, threw his troops across the Seine.
The end of these masterly movements was now revealed. Rouen was at this
time the largest and wealthiest of the towns of France; its walls were
defended by a powerful artillery; Alan Blanchard, a brave and resolute
patriot, infused the fire of his own temper into the vast population; and
the garrison, already strong, was backed by fifteen thousand citizens in
arms. But the genius of Henry was more than equal to the difficulties with
which he had to deal. He had secured himself from an attack on his rear by
the reduction of Lower Normandy, his earlier occupation of Harfleur
severed the town from the sea, and his conquest of Pont-de-l'Arche cut it
off from relief on the side of Paris. Slowly but steadily the king drew
his lines of investment round the doomed city; a flotilla was brought up
from Harfleur, a bridge of boats thrown over the Seine above the town, the
deep trenches of the besiegers protected by posts, and the desperate
sallies of the garrison stubbornly beaten back. For six months Rouen held
resolutely out, but famine told fast on the vast throng of country folk
who had taken refuge within its walls. Twelve thousand of these were at
last thrust out of the city gates, but the cold policy of the conqueror
refused them passage, and they perished between the trenches and the
walls. In the hour of their agony women gave birth to infants, but even
the new-born babes which were drawn up in baskets to receive baptism were
lowered again to die on their mothers' breasts. It was little better
within the town itself. As winter drew on one-half of the population
wasted away. "War," said the terrible king, "has three handmaidens ever
waiting on her, Fire, Blood, and Famine, and I have chosen the meekest
maid of the three." But his demand of unconditional surrender nerved the
citizens to a resolve of despair; they determined to fire the city and
fling themselves in a mass on the English lines; and Henry, fearful lest
his prize should escape him at the last, was driven to offer terms. Those
who rejected a foreign yoke were suffered to leave the city, but his
vengeance reserved its victim in Alan Blanchard, and the brave patriot was
at Henry's orders put to death in cold blood.

[Sidenote: Death of Henry the Fifth]

A few sieges completed the reduction of Normandy. The king's designs were
still limited to the acquisition of that province; and pausing in his
career of conquest, he strove to win its loyalty by a remission of
taxation and a redress of grievances, and to seal its possession by a
formal peace with the French Crown. The conferences however which were
held for this purpose at Pontoise in 1419 failed through the temporary
reconciliation of the French factions, while the length and expense of the
war began to rouse remonstrance and discontent at home. The king's
difficulties were at their height when the assassination of John of
Burgundy at Montereau in the very presence of the Dauphin with whom he had
come to hold conference rekindled the fires of civil strife. The whole
Burgundian party with the new Duke of Burgundy, Philip the Good, at its
head flung itself in a wild thirst for revenge into Henry's hands. The mad
king, Charles the Sixth, with his queen and daughters was in Philip's
power; and in his resolve to exclude the Dauphin from the throne the Duke
stooped to buy English aid by giving Catharine, the eldest of the French
princesses, in marriage to Henry, by conferring on him the Regency during
the life of Charles, and recognizing his succession to the crown at that
sovereign's death. A treaty which embodied these terms was solemnly
ratified by Charles himself in a conference at Troyes in May 1420; and
Henry, who in his new capacity of Regent undertook to conquer in the name
of his father-in-law the territory held by the Dauphin, reduced the towns
of the Upper Seine, and at Christmas entered Paris in triumph side by side
with the king. The States-General of the realm were solemnly convened to
the capital; and strange as the provisions of the Treaty of Troyes must
have seemed they were confirmed without a murmur. Henry was formally
recognized as the future sovereign of France. A defeat of his brother
Clarence at Baugé in Anjou in the spring of 1421 called him back to the
war. His reappearance in the field was marked by the capture of Dreux, and
a repulse before Orleans was redeemed in the summer of 1422 by his success
in the long and obstinate siege of Meaux. At no time had the fortunes of
Henry reached a higher pitch than at the moment when he felt the touch of
death. In the month which followed the surrender of Meaux he fell ill at
Corbeil; the rapidity of his disease baffled the skill of the physicians;
and at the close of August, with a strangely characteristic regret that he
had not lived to achieve the conquest of Jerusalem, the great conqueror
passed away.


[Sidenote: Plans of Henry V]

At the moment when death so suddenly stayed his course the greatness of
Henry the Fifth had reached its highest point. In England his victories
had hushed the last murmurs of disaffection. The death of the Earl of
Cambridge, the childhood of his son, removed all danger from the claims of
the house of York. The ruin of Lord Cobham, the formal condemnation of
Wyclif's doctrines in the Council of Constance, broke the political and
the religious strength of Lollardry. Henry had won the Church by his
orthodoxy, the nobles by his warlike prowess, the whole people by his
revival of the glories of Crécy and Poitiers. In France his cool policy
had transformed him from a foreign conqueror into a legal heir to the
crown. The King was in his hands, the Queen devoted to his cause, the Duke
of Burgundy was his ally, his title of Regent and of successor to the
throne rested on the formal recognition of the estates of the realm.
Although southern France still clung to the Dauphin, the progress of Henry
to the very moment of his death promised a speedy mastery of the whole
country. His European position was a commanding one. Lord of the two great
western kingdoms, he was linked by close ties of blood with the royal
lines of Portugal and Castille; and his restless activity showed itself in
his efforts to procure the adoption of his brother John as her successor
by the queen of Naples, and in the marriage of a younger brother,
Humphrey, with Jacqueline, the Countess of Holland and Hainault. Dreams of
a vaster enterprise filled the soul of the great conqueror himself; he
loved to read the story of Godfrey of Bouillon and cherished the hope of a
crusade which should beat back the Ottoman and again rescue the Holy Land
from heathen hands. Such a crusade might still have saved Constantinople,
and averted from Europe the danger which threatened it through the century
that followed the fall of the imperial city. Nor was the enterprise a
dream in the hands of the cool, practical warrior and ruler of whom a
contemporary could say, "He transacts all his affairs himself, he
considers well before he undertakes them, he never does anything

[Sidenote: John of Bedford]

But the hopes of far-off conquests found a sudden close in Henry's death.
His son, Henry the Sixth of England, was a child of but nine months old:
and though he was peacefully recognized as king in his English realm and
as heir to the throne in the realm of France his position was a very
different one from his father's. The death of King Charles indeed, two
months after that of his son-in-law, did little to weaken it; and at first
nothing seemed lost. The Dauphin at once proclaimed himself Charles the
Seventh of France: but Henry was owned as Sovereign over the whole of the
territory which Charles had actually ruled; and the incursions which the
partizans of Charles, now reinforced by Lombard soldiers from the Milanese
and by four thousand Scots under the Earl of Douglas, made with fresh
vigour across the Loire were easily repulsed by Duke John of Bedford, the
late king's brother, who had been named in his will Regent of France. In
genius for war as in political capacity John was hardly inferior to Henry
himself. Drawing closer his alliance with the Duke of Burgundy by marriage
with that prince's sister, and holding that of Britanny by a patient
diplomacy, he completed the conquest of Northern France, secured his
communications with Normandy by the capture of Meulan, and made himself
master of the line of the Yonne by a victory near Auxerre. In 1424 the
Constable of Buchan pushed from the Loire to the very borders of Normandy
to arrest his progress, and attacked the English army at Verneuil. But a
repulse hardly less disastrous than that of Agincourt left a third of the
French knighthood on the field: and the Regent was preparing to cross the
Loire for a final struggle with "the King of Bourges" as the English in
mockery called Charles the Seventh when his career of victory was broken
by troubles at home.

[Sidenote: Humphrey of Gloucester]

In England the Lancastrian throne was still too newly established to
remain unshaken by the succession of a child of nine months old. Nor was
the younger brother of Henry the Fifth, Duke Humphrey of Gloucester, whom
the late king's will named as Regent of the realm, a man of the same noble
temper as the Duke of Bedford. Intellectually the figure of Humphrey is
one of extreme interest, for he is the first Englishman in whom we can
trace the faint influence of that revival of knowledge which was to bring
about the coming renascence of the western world. Humphrey was not merely
a patron of poets and men of letters, of Lydgate and William of Worcester
and Abbot Whethamstede of St. Albans, as his brother and other princes of
the day had been, but his patronage seems to have sprung from a genuine
interest in learning itself. He was a zealous collector of books and was
able to bequeath to the University of Oxford a library of a hundred and
thirty volumes. A gift of books indeed was a passport to his favour, and
before the title of each volume he possessed the Duke wrote words which
expressed his love of them, "moun bien mondain," "my worldly goods"!
Lydgate tells us how "notwithstanding his state and dignyte his corage
never doth appalle to studie in books of antiquitie." His studies drew him
to the revival of classic learning which was becoming a passion across the
Alps. One wandering scholar from Forli, who took the pompous name of Titus
Livius and who wrote at his request the biography of Henry the Fifth,
Humphrey made his court poet and orator. The Duke probably aided Poggio
Bracciolini in his search for classical manuscripts when he visited
England in 1420. Leonardo Aretino, one of the scholars who gathered about
Cosmo de Medici, dedicated to him a translation of the _Politics_ of
Aristotle, and when another Italian scholar sent him a fragment of a
translation of Plato's _Republic_ the Duke wrote to beg him to send the
rest. But with its love of learning Humphrey combined the restlessness,
the immorality, the selfish, boundless ambition which characterized the
age of the Renascence. His life was sullied by sensual excesses, his greed
of power shook his nephew's throne. So utterly was he already distrusted
that the late king's nomination of him as Regent was set aside by the
royal Council, and he was suffered only to preside at its deliberations
with the nominal title of Protector during Bedford's absence. The real
direction of affairs fell into the hands of his uncle, Henry Beaufort, the
Bishop of Winchester, a legitimated son of John of Gaunt by his mistress
Catharine Swynford.

[Sidenote: Jacqueline of Hainault]

Two years of useless opposition disgusted the Duke with this nominal
Protectorship, and in 1424 he left the realm to push his fortunes in the
Netherlands. Jacqueline, the daughter and heiress of William, Count of
Holland and Hainault, had originally wedded John, Duke of Brabant; but
after a few years of strife she had procured a divorce from one of the
three claimants who now disputed the Papacy, and at the close of Henry the
Fifth's reign she had sought shelter in England. At his brother's death
the Duke of Gloucester avowed his marriage with her and adopted her claims
as his own. To support them in arms however was to alienate Philip of
Burgundy, who was already looking forward to the inheritance of his
childless nephew, the Duke of Brabant; and as the alliance with Burgundy
was the main strength of the English cause in France, neither Bedford, who
had shown his sense of its value by a marriage with the Duke's sister, nor
the English council were likely to support measures which would imperil or
weaken it. Such considerations however had little weight with Humphrey;
and in October 1424 he set sail for Calais without their knowledge with a
body of five thousand men. In a few months he succeeded in restoring
Hainault to Jacqueline, and Philip at once grew lukewarm in his adherence
to the English cause. Though Bedford's efforts prevented any final break,
the Duke withdrew his forces from France to aid John of Brabant in the
recovery of Hainault and Holland. Gloucester challenged Philip to decide
their claims by single combat. But the enterprise was abandoned as hastily
as it had been begun. The Duke of Gloucester was already disgusted with
Jacqueline and enamoured of a lady in her suite, Eleanor, the daughter of
Lord Cobham; and in the summer of 1425 he suddenly returned with her to
England and left his wife to defend herself as she might.

[Sidenote: Henry Beaufort]

What really called him back was more than his passion for Eleanor Cobham
or the natural versatility of his temper; it was the advance of a rival in
England to further power over the realm. This was his uncle, Henry
Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester. The bishop had already played a leading
political part. He was charged with having spurred Henry the Fifth to the
ambitious demands of power which he made during his father's lifetime; he
became chancellor on his accession; and at his death the king left him
guardian of the person of his boy. He looked on Gloucester's ambition as a
danger to his charge, withstood his recognition as Regent, and remained at
the head of the Council that reduced his office of Protector to a name.
The Duke's absence in Hainault gave fresh strength to his opponent: and
the nomination of the Bishop to the Chancellorship marked him out as the
virtual ruler of the realm. On the news of this appointment Gloucester
hurried back to accept what he looked on as a challenge to open strife.
The Londoners rose in his name to attack Beaufort's palace in Southwark,
and at the close of 1425 Bedford had to quit his work in France to appease
the strife. In the following year Gloucester laid a formal bill of
accusation against the bishop before the Parliament, but its rejection
forced him to a show of reconciliation, and Bedford was able to return to
France. Hardly was he gone however when the quarrel began anew. Humphrey
found a fresh weapon against Beaufort in his acceptance of the dignity of
a Cardinal and of a Papal Legate in England; and the jealousy which this
step aroused drove the Bishop to withdraw for a while from the Council and
to give place to his unscrupulous opponent.

[Sidenote: Siege of Orleans]

Beaufort possessed an administrative ability, the loss of which was a
heavy blow to the struggling Regent over sea, where Humphrey's restless
ambition had already paralyzed Bedford's efforts. Much of his strength
rested on his Burgundian ally, and the force of Burgundy was drawn to
other quarters. Though Hainault had been easily won back on Gloucester's
retreat and Jacqueline taken prisoner, her escape from prison enabled her
to hold Holland for three years against the forces of the Duke of Brabant
and after his death against those of the Duke of Burgundy to whom he
bequeathed his dominions. The political strife in England itself was still
more fatal in diverting the supplies of men and money which were needful
for a vigorous prosecution of the war. To maintain even the handful of
forces left to him Bedford was driven to have recourse to mere forays
which did little but increase the general misery. The north of France
indeed was being fast reduced to a desert by the bands of marauders which
traversed it. The husbandmen fled for refuge to the towns till these in
fear of famine shut their gates against them. Then in their despair they
threw themselves into the woods and became brigands in their turn. So
terrible was the devastation that two hostile bodies of troops failed at
one time even to find one another in the desolate Beauce. Misery and
disease killed a hundred thousand people in Paris alone. At last the
cessation of the war in Holland and the temporary lull of strife in
England enabled the Regent to take up again his long-interrupted advance
upon the South. Orleans was the key to the Loire; and its reduction would
throw open Bourges where Charles held his court. Bedford's resources
indeed were still inadequate for such a siege; and though the arrival of
reinforcements from England under the Earl of Salisbury enabled him to
invest it in October 1428 with ten thousand men, the fact that so small a
force could undertake the siege of such a town as Orleans shows at once
the exhaustion of England and the terror which still hung over France. As
the siege went on however even these numbers were reduced. A new fit of
jealousy on the part of the Duke of Burgundy brought about a recall of his
soldiers from the siege, and after their withdrawal only three thousand
Englishmen remained in the trenches. But the long series of English
victories had so demoralized the French soldiery, that in February 1429 a
mere detachment of archers under Sir John Fastolfe repulsed a whole army
in what was called "the Battle of the Herrings" from the convoy of
provisions which the victors brought in triumph into the camp before
Orleans. Though the town swarmed with men-at-arms not a single sally was
ventured on through the six months' siege, and Charles the Seventh did
nothing for its aid but shut himself up in Chinon and weep helplessly.

[Sidenote: Jeanne Darc]

But the success of this handful of besiegers rested wholly on the spell of
terror which had been cast over France, and at this moment the appearance
of a peasant maiden broke the spell. Jeanne Darc was the child of a
labourer of Domrémy, a little village in the neighbourhood of Vaucouleurs
on the borders of Lorraine and Champagne. Just without the cottage where
she was born began the great woods of the Vosges where the children of
Domrémy drank in poetry and legend from fairy ring and haunted well, hung
their flower garlands on the sacred trees, and sang songs to the "good
people" who might not drink of the fountain because of their sins. Jeanne
loved the forest; its birds and beasts came lovingly to her at her
childish call. But at home men saw nothing in her but "a good girl, simple
and pleasant in her ways," spinning and sewing by her mother's side while
the other girls went to the fields, tender to the poor and sick, fond of
church, and listening to the church-bell with a dreamy passion of delight
which never left her. This quiet life was broken by the storm of war as it
at last came home to Domrémy. As the outcasts and wounded passed by the
little village the young peasant girl gave them her bed and nursed them in
their sickness. Her whole nature summed itself up in one absorbing
passion: she "had pity," to use the phrase for ever on her lip, "on the
fair realm of France." As her passion grew she recalled old prophecies
that a maid from the Lorraine border should save the land; she saw
visions; St. Michael appeared to her in a flood of blinding light, and
bade her go to the help of the king and restore to him his realm.
"Messire," answered the girl, "I am but a poor maiden; I know not how to
ride to the wars, or to lead men-at-arms." The archangel returned to give
her courage, and to tell her of "the pity" that there was in heaven for
the fair realm of France. The girl wept and longed that the angels who
appeared to her would carry her away, but her mission was clear. It was in
vain that her father when he heard her purpose swore to drown her ere she
should go to the field with men-at-arms. It was in vain that the priest,
the wise people of the village, the captain of Vaucouleurs, doubted and
refused to aid her. "I must go to the King," persisted the peasant girl,
"even if I wear my limbs to the very knees." "I had far rather rest and
spin by my mother's side," she pleaded with a touching pathos, "for this
is no work of my choosing, but I must go and do it, for my Lord wills it."
"And who," they asked, "is your Lord?" "He is God." Words such as these
touched the rough captain at last: he took Jeanne by the hand and swore to
lead her to the king. She reached Chinon in the opening of March, but here
too she found hesitation and doubt. The theologians proved from their
books that they ought not to believe her. "There is more in God's book
than in yours," Jeanne answered simply. At last Charles himself received
her in the midst of a throng of nobles and soldiers. "Gentle Dauphin,"
said the girl, "my name is Jeanne the Maid. The Heavenly King sends me to
tell you that you shall be anointed and crowned in the town of Reims, and
you shall be lieutenant of the Heavenly King who is the King of France."

[Sidenote: Relief of Orleans]

Orleans had already been driven by famine to offers of surrender when
Jeanne appeared in the French court, and a force was gathering under the
Count of Dunois at Blois for a final effort at its relief. It was at the
head of this force that Jeanne placed herself. The girl was in her
eighteenth year, tall, finely formed, with all the vigour and activity of
her peasant rearing, able to stay from dawn to nightfall on horseback
without meat or drink. As she mounted her charger, clad in white armour
from head to foot, with a great white banner studded with fleur-de-lys
waving over her head, she seemed "a thing wholly divine, whether to see or
hear." The ten thousand men-at-arms who followed her from Blois, rough
plunderers whose only prayer was that of La Hire, "Sire Dieu, I pray you
to do for La Hire what La Hire would do for you, were you captain-at-arms
and he God," left off their oaths and foul living at her word and gathered
round the altars on their march. Her shrewd peasant humour helped her to
manage the wild soldiery, and her followers laughed over their camp-fires
at an old warrior who had been so puzzled by her prohibition of oaths that
she suffered him still to swear by his bâton. For in the midst of her
enthusiasm her good sense never left her. The people crowded round her as
she rode along, praying her to work miracles, and bringing crosses and
chaplets to be blest by her touch. "Touch them yourself," she said to an
old Dame Margaret; "your touch will be just as good as mine." But her
faith in her mission remained as firm as ever. "The Maid prays and
requires you," she wrote to Bedford, "to work no more distraction in
France but to come in her company to rescue the Holy Sepulchre from the
Turk." "I bring you," she told Dunois when he sallied out of Orleans to
meet her after her two days' march from Blois, "I bring you the best aid
ever sent to any one, the aid of the King of Heaven." The besiegers looked
on overawed as she entered Orleans and, riding round the walls, bade the
people shake off their fear of the forts which surrounded them. Her
enthusiasm drove the hesitating generals to engage the handful of
besiegers, and the enormous disproportion of forces at once made itself
felt. Fort after fort was taken till only the strongest remained, and then
the council of war resolved to adjourn the attack. "You have taken your
counsel," replied Jeanne, "and I take mine." Placing herself at the head
of the men-at-arms, she ordered the gates to be thrown open, and led them
against the fort. Few as they were, the English fought desperately, and
the Maid, who had fallen wounded while endeavouring to scale its walls,
was borne into a vineyard, while Dunois sounded the retreat. "Wait a
while!" the girl imperiously pleaded, "eat and drink! so soon as my
standard touches the wall you shall enter the fort." It touched, and the
assailants burst in. On the next day the siege was abandoned, and on the
eighth of May the force which had conducted it withdrew in good order to
the north.

[Sidenote: Coronation of Charles]

In the midst of her triumph Jeanne still remained the pure, tender-hearted
peasant girl of the Vosges. Her first visit as she entered Orleans was to
the great church, and there, as she knelt at mass, she wept in such a
passion of devotion that "all the people wept with her." Her tears burst
forth afresh at her first sight of bloodshed and of the corpses strewn
over the battle-field. She grew frightened at her first wound, and only
threw off the touch of womanly fear when she heard the signal for retreat.
Yet more womanly was the purity with which she passed through the brutal
warriors of a mediæval camp. It was her care for her honour that led her
to clothe herself in a soldier's dress. She wept hot tears when told of
the foul taunts of the English, and called passionately on God to witness
her chastity. "Yield thee, yield thee, Glasdale," she cried to the English
warrior whose insults had been foulest as he fell wounded at her feet;
"you called me harlot! I have great pity on your soul." But all thought of
herself was lost in the thought of her mission. It was in vain that the
French generals strove to remain on the Loire. Jeanne was resolute to
complete her task, and while the English remained panic-stricken around
Paris she brought Charles to march upon Reims, the old crowning-place of
the kings of France. Troyes and Châlons submitted as she reached them,
Reims drove out the English garrison and threw open her gates to the king.

[Sidenote: Capture of Jeanne]

With his coronation the Maid felt her errand to be over. "O gentle King,
the pleasure of God is done," she cried, as she flung herself at the feet
of Charles and asked leave to go home. "Would it were His good will," she
pleaded with the Archbishop as he forced her to remain, "that I might go
and keep sheep once more with my sisters and my brothers: they would be so
glad to see me again!" But the policy of the French Court detained her
while the cities of the North of France opened their gates to the
newly-consecrated king. Bedford however, who had been left without money
or men, had now received reinforcements. Excluded as Cardinal Beaufort had
been from the Council by Gloucester's intrigues, he poured his wealth
without stint into the exhausted treasury till his loans to the Crown
reached the sum of half-a-million; and at this crisis he unscrupulously
diverted an army which he had levied at his own cost for a crusade against
the Hussites in Bohemia to his nephew's aid. The tide of success turned
again. Charles, after a repulse before the walls of Paris, fell back
behind the Loire; while the towns on the Oise submitted anew to the Duke
of Burgundy, whose more active aid Bedford had bought by the cession of
Champagne. In the struggle against Duke Philip Jeanne fought with her
usual bravery but with the fatal consciousness that her mission was at an
end, and during the defence of Compiègne in the May of 1430 she fell into
the power of the Bastard of Vendôme, to be sold by her captor into the
hands of the Duke of Burgundy and by the Duke into the hands of the
English. To the English her triumphs were victories of sorcery, and after
a year's imprisonment she was brought to trial on a charge of heresy
before an ecclesiastical court with the Bishop of Beauvais at its head.

[Sidenote: Death of Jeanne]

Throughout the long process which followed every art was used to entangle
her in her talk. But the simple shrewdness of the peasant girl foiled the
efforts of her judges. "Do you believe," they asked, "that you are in a
state of grace?" "If I am not," she replied, "God will put me in it. If I
am, God will keep me in it." Her capture, they argued, showed that God had
forsaken her. "Since it has pleased God that I should be taken," she
answered meekly, "it is for the best." "Will you submit," they demanded at
last, "to the judgement of the Church Militant?" "I have come to the King
of France," Jeanne replied, "by commission from God and from the Church
Triumphant above: to that Church I submit." "I had far rather die," she
ended passionately, "than renounce what I have done by my Lord's command."
They deprived her of mass. "Our Lord can make me hear it without your
aid," she said, weeping. "Do your voices," asked the judges, "forbid you
to submit to the Church and the Pope?" "Ah, no! our Lord first served."
Sick, and deprived of all religious aid, it was no wonder that as the long
trial dragged on and question followed question Jeanne's firmness wavered.
On the charge of sorcery and diabolical possession she still appealed
firmly to God. "I hold to my Judge," she said, as her earthly judges gave
sentence against her, "to the King of Heaven and Earth. God has always
been my Lord in all that I have done. The devil has never had power over
me." It was only with a view to be delivered from the military prison and
transferred to the prisons of the Church that she consented to a formal
abjuration of heresy. She feared in fact among the soldiery those outrages
to her honour, to guard against which she had from the first assumed the
dress of a man. In the eyes of the Church her dress was a crime and she
abandoned it; but a renewed affront forced her to resume the one safeguard
left her, and the return to it was treated as a relapse into heresy which
doomed her to death. At the close of May, 1431, a great pile was raised in
the market-place of Rouen where her statue stands now. Even the brutal
soldiers who snatched the hated "witch" from the hands of the clergy and
hurried her to her doom were hushed as she reached the stake. One indeed
passed to her a rough cross he had made from a stick he held, and she
clasped it to her bosom. As her eyes ranged over the city from the lofty
scaffold she was heard to murmur, "O Rouen, Rouen, I have great fear lest
you suffer for my death." "Yes! my voices were of God!" she suddenly cried
as the last moment came; "they have never deceived me!" Soon the flames
reached her, the girl's head sank on her breast, there was one cry of
"Jesus!"--"We are lost," an English soldier muttered as the crowd broke
up; "we have burned a Saint."

[Sidenote: Death of Bedford]

The English cause was indeed irretrievably lost. In spite of a pompous
coronation of the boy-king Henry at Paris at the close of 1431, Bedford
with the cool wisdom of his temper seems to have abandoned from this time
all hope of permanently retaining France and to have fallen back on his
brother's original plan of securing Normandy. Henry's Court was
established for a year at Rouen, a university founded at Caen, and
whatever rapine and disorder might be permitted elsewhere, justice, good
government, and security for trade were steadily maintained through the
favoured provinces. At home Bedford was resolutely backed by Cardinal
Beaufort, whose services to the state as well as his real powers had at
last succeeded in outweighing Duke Humphrey's opposition and in restoring
him to the head of the royal Council. Beaufort's diplomatic ability was
seen in the truces he wrung from Scotland, and in his personal efforts to
prevent the impending reconciliation of the Duke of Burgundy with the
French king. But the death of the duke's sister, who was the wife of
Bedford, severed the last link which bound Philip to the English cause. He
pressed for peace: and conferences for this purpose were held at Arras in
1435. Their failure only served him as a pretext for concluding a formal
treaty with Charles; and his desertion was followed by a yet more fatal
blow to the English cause in the death of Bedford. The loss of the Regent
was the signal for the loss of Paris. In the spring of 1436 the city rose
suddenly against its English garrison and declared for King Charles.
Henry's dominion shrank at once to Normandy and the outlying fortresses of
Picardy and Maine. But reduced as they were to a mere handful, and fronted
by a whole nation in arms, the English soldiers struggled on with as
desperate a bravery as in their days of triumph. Lord Talbot, the most
daring of their leaders, forded the Somme with the water up to his chin to
relieve Crotoy, and threw his men across the Oise in the face of a French
army to relieve Pontoise.

[Sidenote: Richard of York]

Bedford found for the moment an able and vigorous successor in the Duke of
York. Richard of York was the son of the Earl of Cambridge who had been
beheaded by Henry the Fifth; his mother was Anne, the heiress of the
Mortimers and of their claim to the English crown as representatives of
the third son of Edward the Third, Lionel of Clarence. It was to assert
this claim on his son's behalf that the Earl embarked in the fatal plot
which cost him his head. But his death left Richard a mere boy in the
wardship of the Crown, and for years to come all danger from his
pretensions was at an end. Nor did the young Duke give any sign of a
desire to assert them as he grew to manhood. He appeared content with a
lineage and wealth which placed him at the head of the English baronage;
for he had inherited from his uncle the Dukedom of York, his wide
possessions embraced the estates of the families which united in him, the
houses of York, of Clarence, and of Mortimer, and his double descent from
Edward the Third, if it did no more, set him near to the Crown. The nobles
looked up to him as the head of their order, and his political position
recalled that of the Lancastrian Earls at an earlier time. But the
position of Richard was as yet that of a faithful servant of the Crown;
and as Regent of France he displayed the abilities both of a statesman and
of a general. During the brief space of his regency the tide of ill
fortune was stemmed; and towns and castles were recovered along the

[Sidenote: Eleanor Cobham]

His recall after a twelvemonth's success is the first indication of the
jealousy which the ruling house felt of triumphs gained by one who might
some day assert his claim to the throne. Two years later, in 1440, the
Duke was restored to his post, but it was now too late to do more than
stand on the defensive, and all York's ability was required to preserve
Normandy and Maine. Men and money alike came scantily from England--where
the Duke of Gloucester, freed from the check which Bedford had laid on him
while he lived, was again stirring against Beaufort and the Council. But
his influence had been weakened by a marriage with his mistress, Eleanor
Cobham, and in 1441 it was all but destroyed by an incident which paints
the temper of the time. The restless love of knowledge which was the one
redeeming feature in Duke Humphrey's character drew to him not only
scholars but a horde of the astrologers and claimants of magical powers,
who were the natural product of an age in which the faith of the Middle
Ages was dying out before the double attack of scepticism and heresy.
Amongst these was a priest named Roger Bolinbroke. Bolinbroke was seized
on a charge of compassing the king's death by sorcery; and the sudden
flight of Eleanor Cobham to the sanctuary at Westminster was soon
explained by a like accusation. Her judges found that she had made a waxen
image of the king and slowly melted it at a fire, a process which was held
to account for Henry's growing weakness both of body and mind. The Duchess
was doomed to penance for her crime; she was led bareheaded and barefooted
in a white penance-sheet through the streets of London, and then thrown
into prison for life. Humphrey never rallied from the blow. But his
retirement from public affairs was soon followed by that of his rival,
Cardinal Beaufort. Age forced Beaufort to withdraw to Winchester; and the
Council was from that time swayed mainly by the Earl of Suffolk, William
de la Pole, a grandson of the minister of Richard the Second.

[Sidenote: The Beauforts]

Few houses had served the Crown more faithfully than that of De la Pole.
His father fell at the siege of Harfleur; his brother had been slain at
Agincourt; William himself had served and been taken prisoner in the war
with France. But as a statesman he was powerless in the hands of the
Beauforts, and from this moment the policy of the Beauforts drew England
nearer and nearer to the chaos of civil war. John Beaufort, Duke of
Somerset, and his brother, Edmund, Earl of Dorset, were now the
representatives of this house. They were grandsons of John of Gaunt by his
mistress, Catharine Swynford. In later days Catharine became John's wife,
and his uncle's influence over Richard at the close of that king's reign
was shown in a royal ordinance which legitimated those of his children by
her who had been born before marriage. The ordinance was confirmed by an
Act of Parliament, which as it passed the Houses was expressed in the
widest and most general terms; but before issuing this as a statute Henry
the Fourth inserted provisions which left the Beauforts illegitimate in
blood so far as regarded the inheritance of the crown. Such royal
alterations of statutes however had been illegal since the time of Edward
the Third; and the Beauforts never recognized the force of this provision.
But whether they stood in the line of succession or no, the favour which
was shown them alike by Henry the Fifth and his son drew them close to the
throne, and the weakness of Henry the Sixth left them at this moment the
mainstay of the House of Lancaster. Edmund Beaufort had taken an active
part in the French wars, and had distinguished himself by the capture of
Harfleur and the relief of Calais. But he was hated for his pride and
avarice, and the popular hate grew as he showed his jealousy of the Duke
of York. Loyal indeed as Richard had proved himself as yet, the
pretensions of his house were the most formidable danger which fronted the
throne; and with a weak and imbecile king we can hardly wonder that the
Beauforts deemed it madness to leave in the Duke's hands the wide power of
a Regent in France and the command of the armies across the sea. In 1444
York was recalled, and his post was taken by Edmund Beaufort himself.

[Sidenote: Loss of Normandy]

But the claim which York drew from the house of Mortimer was not his only
claim to the crown; as the descendant of Edward the Third's fifth son the
crown would naturally devolve upon him on the extinction of the House of
Lancaster, and of the direct line of that house Henry the Sixth was the
one survivor. It was to check these hopes by continuing the Lancastrian
succession that Suffolk in 1445 brought about the marriage of the young
king with Margaret, the daughter of Duke René of Anjou. But the marriage
had another end. The English ministers were anxious for the close of the
war; and in the kinship between Margaret and King Charles of France they
saw a chance of bringing it about. A truce was concluded as a prelude to a
future peace, and the marriage-treaty paved the way for it by ceding not
only Anjou, of which England possessed nothing, but Maine, the bulwark of
Normandy, to Duke René. For his part in this negotiation Suffolk was
raised to the rank of marquis; but the terms of the treaty and the delays
which still averted a final peace gave new strength to the war-party with
Gloucester at its head, and troubles were looked for in the Parliament
which met at the opening of 1447. The danger was roughly met. Gloucester
was arrested as he rode to Parliament on a charge of secret conspiracy;
and a few days later he was found dead in his lodging. Suspicions of
murder were added to the hatred against Suffolk; and his voluntary
submission to an enquiry by the Council into his conduct in the
marriage-treaty, which was followed by his acquittal of all blame, did
little to counteract this. What was yet more fatal to Suffolk was the
renewal of the war. In the face of the agitation against it the English
ministers had never dared to execute the provisions of the
marriage-treaty; and in 1448 Charles the Seventh sent an army to enforce
the cession of Le Mans. Its surrender averted the struggle for a moment.
But in the spring of 1449 a body of English soldiers from Normandy,
mutinous at their want of pay, crossed the border and sacked the rich town
of Fougères in Britanny. Edmund Beaufort, who had now succeeded to the
dukedom of Somerset, protested his innocence of this breach of truce, but
he either could not or would not make restitution, and the war was
renewed. From this moment it was a mere series of French successes. In two
months half Normandy was in the hands of Dunois; Rouen rose against her
feeble garrison and threw open her gates to Charles; and the defeat at
Fourmigny of an English force which was sent to Somerset's aid was a
signal for revolt throughout the rest of the provinces. The surrender of
Cherbourg in August, 1450, left Henry not a foot of Norman ground.

[Sidenote: National discontent]

The loss of Normandy was generally laid to the charge of Somerset. He was
charged with a miserly hoarding of supplies as well as planning in
conjunction with Suffolk the fatal sack of Fougères. His incapacity as a
general added to the resentment at his recall of the Duke of York, a
recall which had been marked as a disgrace by the despatch of Richard into
an honourable banishment as lieutenant of Ireland. But it was this very
recall which proved most helpful to York. Had he remained in France he
could hardly have averted the loss of Normandy, though he might have
delayed it. As it was the shame of its loss fell upon Somerset, while the
general hatred of the Beauforts and the growing contempt of the king whom
they ruled expressed itself in a sudden rush of popular favour towards the
man whom his disgrace had marked out as the object of their ill-will. From
this moment the hopes of a better and a stronger government centred
themselves in the Duke of York. The news of the French successes was at
once followed by an outbreak of national wrath. Political ballads
denounced Suffolk as the ape with his clog that had tied Talbot, the good
"dog" who was longing to grip the Frenchmen. When the Bishop of
Chichester, who had been sent to pay the sailors at Portsmouth, strove to
put off the men with less than their due, they fell on him and slew him.
Suffolk was impeached, and only saved from condemnation by submitting
himself to the king's mercy. He was sent into exile, but as he crossed the
sea he was intercepted by a ship of Kentishmen, beheaded, and his body
thrown on the sands at Dover.

[Sidenote: Revolt of Kent]

Kent was the centre of the national resentment. It was the great
manufacturing district of the day, seething with a busy population, and
especially concerned with the French contest through the piracy of the
Cinque Ports. Every house along its coast showed some spoil from the wars.
Here more than anywhere the loss of the great province whose cliffs could
be seen from its shores was felt as a crowning disgrace, and as we shall
see from the after complaints of its insurgents, political wrongs added
their fire to the national shame. Justice was ill administered; taxation
was unequal and extortionate. Redress for such evils would now naturally
have been sought from Parliament; but the weakness of the Crown gave the
great nobles power to rob the freeholders of their franchise and return
the knights of the shire. Nor could redress be looked for from the Court.
The murder of Suffolk was the act of Kentishmen, and Suffolk's friends
still held control over the royal councils. The one hope of reform lay in
arms; and in the summer of 1450, while the last of the Norman fortresses
were throwing open their gates, the discontent broke into open revolt. The
rising spread from Kent over Surrey and Sussex. Everywhere it was general
and organized--a military levy of the yeomen of the three shires. The
parishes sent their due contingent of armed men; we know that in many
hundreds the constables formally summoned their legal force to war. The
insurgents were joined by more than a hundred esquires and gentlemen; and
two great landholders of Sussex, the Abbot of Battle and the Prior of
Lewes, openly favoured their cause. John Cade, a soldier of some
experience in the French wars, took at this crisis the significant name of
Mortimer and placed himself at their head. The army, now twenty thousand
men strong, marched in the beginning of June on Blackheath. On the advance
of the king with an equal force however they determined to lay their
complaint before the royal Council and withdraw to their homes. The
"Complaint of the Commons of Kent" is of high value in the light which it
throws on the condition of the people. Not one of the demands touches on
religious reform. The question of villeinage and serfage finds no place in
it. In the seventy years which had intervened since the last peasant
rising, villeinage had died naturally away before the progress of social
change. The Statutes of Apparel, which from this time encumber the
Statute-book, show in their anxiety to curtail the dress of the labourer
and the farmer the progress of these classes in comfort and wealth; and
from the language of the statutes themselves it is plain that as wages
rose both farmer and labourer went on clothing themselves better in spite
of sumptuary provisions. With the exception of a demand for the repeal of
the Statute of Labourers, the programme of the Commons was not social but
political. The "Complaint" calls for administrative and economical
reforms; it denounces the exclusion of the Duke of York and other nobles
from the royal councils; it calls for a change of ministry, a more careful
expenditure of the royal revenue, and for the restoration of freedom of
election which had been broken in upon by the interference both of the
Crown and the great landowners.

[Sidenote: Suppression of the revolt]

The Council refused to receive the "Complaint," and a body of troops under
Sir Humphrey Stafford fell on the Kentishmen as they reached Sevenoaks.
This attack however was roughly beaten off, and Cade's host turned back to
encounter the royal army. But the royal army itself was already calling
for justice on the traitors who misled the king; and at the approach of
the Kentishmen it broke up in disorder. Its dispersion was followed by
Henry's flight to Kenilworth and the entry of the Kentishmen into London,
where the execution of Lord Say, the most unpopular of the royal
ministers, broke the obstinacy of his colleagues. For three days the
peasants entered the city freely, retiring at nightfall to their camp
across the river: but on the fifth of July the men of London, goaded by
the outrages of the rabble whom their presence roused to plunder, closed
the bridge against them, and beat back an attack with great slaughter. The
Kentishmen still however lay unbroken in Southwark, while Bishop Waynflete
conferred with Cade on behalf of the Council. Their "Complaint" was
received, pardons were granted to all who had joined in the rising, and
the insurgents dispersed quietly to their homes. Cade had striven in vain
to retain them in arms; on their dispersion he formed a new force by
throwing open the gaols, and carried off the booty he had won to
Rochester. Here however his men quarrelled over the plunder; his force
broke up, and Cade himself was slain by Iden, the Sheriff of Kent, as he
fled into Sussex.

[Sidenote: York and the Beauforts]

Kent remained restless through the year, and a rising in Wiltshire showed
the growing and widespread trouble of the time. The "Complaint" indeed had
only been received to be laid aside. No attempt was made to redress the
grievances which it stated or to reform the government. On the contrary
the main object of popular hate, the Duke of Somerset, was at once
recalled from Normandy to take his place at the head of the royal Council.
York on the other hand, whose recall had been pressed in the "Complaint,"
was looked upon as an open foe. "Strange language," indeed, had long
before the Kentish rising been uttered about the Duke. Men had threatened
that he "should be fetched with many thousands," and the expectation of
his coming to reform the government became so general that orders were
given to close the western ports against his landing. If we believe the
Duke himself, he was forced to move at last by efforts to indict him as a
traitor in Ireland itself. Crossing at Michaelmas to Wales in spite of the
efforts to arrest him, he gathered four thousand men on his estates and
marched upon London. No serious effort was made to prevent his approach to
the king; and Henry found himself helpless to resist his demand of a
Parliament and of the admission of new councillors to the royal
council-board. Parliament met in November, and a bitter strife between
York and Somerset ended in the arrest of the latter. A demand which at
once followed shows the importance of his fall. Henry the Sixth still
remained childless; and Young, a member for Bristol, proposed in the
Commons that the Duke of York should be declared heir to the throne. But
the blow was averted by repeated prorogations, and Henry's sympathies were
shown by the committal of Young to the Tower, by the release of Somerset,
and by his promotion to the captaincy of Calais, the most important
military post under the Crown. The Commons indeed still remained resolute.
When they again met in the summer of 1451 they called for the removal of
Somerset and his creatures from the king's presence. But Henry evaded the
demand, and the dissolution of the Houses announced the royal resolve to
govern in defiance of the national will.

[Sidenote: Failure of York]

The contest between the Houses and the Crown had cost England her last
possessions across the Channel. As York marched upon London Charles closed
on the fragment of the duchy of Guienne which still remained to the
descendants of Eleanor. In a few months all was won. Bourg and Blaye
surrendered in the spring of 1451, Bordeaux in the summer; two months
later the loss of Bayonne ended the war in the south. Of all the English
possessions in France only Calais remained; and in 1452 Calais was
threatened with attack. The news of this crowning danger again called York
to the front. On the declaration of Henry's will to resist all change in
the government the Duke had retired to his castle of Ludlow, arresting the
whispers of his enemies with a solemn protest that he was true liegeman to
the king. But after events show that he was planning a more decisive
course of action than that which had broken down with the dissolution of
the Parliament, and the news of the approaching siege gave ground for
taking such a course at once. Somerset had been appointed Captain of
Calais, and as his incapacity had lost England Normandy, it would cost
her--so England believed--her last fortress in France. It was said indeed
that the Duke was negotiating with Burgundy for its surrender. In the
spring of 1452 therefore York again marched on London, but this time with
a large body of ordnance and an army which the arrival of reinforcements
under Lord Cobham and the Earl of Devonshire raised to over twenty
thousand men. Eluding the host which gathered round the king and Somerset
he passed by the capital, whose gates had been closed by Henry's orders,
and entering Kent took post at Dartford. His army was soon fronted by the
superior force of the king, but the interposition of the more moderate
lords of the Council averted open conflict. Henry promised that Somerset
should be put on his trial on the charges advanced by the Duke, and York
on this pledge disbanded his men. But the pledge was at once broken.
Somerset remained in power. York found himself practically a prisoner, and
only won his release by an oath to refrain from further "routs" or

[Sidenote: Loss of Guienne]

Two such decisive failures seemed for the time to have utterly broken
Richard's power. Weakened as the crown had been by losses abroad, it was
clearly strong enough as yet to hold its own against the chief of the
baronage. A general amnesty indeed sheltered York's adherents and enabled
the Duke himself to retire safely to Ludlow, but for more than a year his
rival Somerset wielded without opposition the power Richard had striven to
wrest from him. A favourable turn in the progress of the war gave fresh
vigour to the Government. The French forces were abruptly called from
their march against Calais to the recovery of the south. The towns of
Guienne had opened their gates to Charles on his pledge to respect their
franchises, but the need of the French treasury was too great to respect
the royal word, and heavy taxation turned the hopes of Gascony to its old
masters. On the landing of an English force under Talbot, Earl of
Shrewsbury, a general revolt restored to the English their possessions on
the Garonne. Somerset used this break of better fortune to obtain heavy
subsidies from Parliament in 1453; but ere the twenty thousand men whose
levy was voted could cross the Channel a terrible blow had again ruined
the English cause. In a march to relieve Castillon on the Dordogne
Shrewsbury suddenly found himself face to face with the whole French army.
His men were mown down by its guns, and the Earl himself left dead on the
field. His fall was the signal for a general submission. Town after town
again threw open its gates to Charles, and Bordeaux capitulated in

[Sidenote: Madness of the King]

The final loss of Gascony fell upon England at a moment when two events at
home changed the whole face of affairs. After eight years of childlessness
the king became in October the father of a son. With the birth of this boy
the rivalry of York and the Beauforts for the right of succession ceased
to be the mainspring of English politics; and the crown seemed again to
rise out of the turmoil of warring factions. But with the birth of the son
came the madness of the father. Henry the Sixth sank into a state of
idiotcy which made his rule impossible, and his ministers were forced to
call a great Council of peers to devise means for the government of the
realm. York took his seat at this council, and the mood of the nobles was
seen in the charges of misgovernment which were at once made against
Somerset, and in his committal to the Tower. But Somerset was no longer at
the head of the royal party. With the birth of her son the queen, Margaret
of Anjou, came to the front. Her restless despotic temper was quickened to
action by the dangers which she saw threatening her boy's heritage of the
crown; and the demand to be invested with the full royal power which she
made after a vain effort to rouse her husband from his lethargy aimed
directly at the exclusion of the Duke of York. The demand however was
roughly set aside; the Lords gave permission to York to summon a
Parliament as the king's lieutenant; and on the assembly of the Houses in
the spring of 1454, as the mental alienation of the king continued, the
Lords chose Richard Protector of the Realm. With Somerset in prison little
opposition could be made to the Protectorate, and that little was soon put
down. But the nation had hardly time to feel the guidance of Richard's
steady hand when it was removed. At the opening of 1455 the king recovered
his senses, and York's Protectorate came at once to an end.

[Sidenote: York's revolt]

Henry had no sooner grasped power again than he fell back on his old
policy. The queen became his chief adviser. The Duke of Somerset was
released from the Tower and owned by Henry in formal court as his true and
faithful liegeman. York on the other hand was deprived of the government
of Calais, and summoned with his friends to a council at Leicester, whose
object was to provide for the surety of the king's person. Prominent among
these friends were two Earls of the house of Neville. We have seen how
great a part the Nevilles played after the accession of the house of
Lancaster; it was mainly to their efforts that Henry the Fourth owed the
overthrow of the Percies, their rivals in the mastery of the north; and
from that moment their wealth and power had been steadily growing. Richard
Neville, Earl of Salisbury, was one of the mightiest barons of the realm;
but his power was all but equalled by that of his son, a second Richard,
who had won the Earldom of Warwick by his marriage with the heiress of the
Beauchamps. The marriage of York to Salisbury's sister, Cecily Neville,
had bound both the earls to his cause, and under his Protectorate
Salisbury had been created Chancellor. But he was stripped of this office
on the Duke's fall; and their summons to the council of Leicester was held
by the Nevilles to threaten ruin to themselves as to York. The three
nobles at once took arms to secure, as they alleged, safe access to the
king's person. Henry at the news of their approach mustered two thousand
men, and with Somerset, the Earl of Northumberland, and other nobles in
his train, advanced to St. Albans.

[Sidenote: The civil war]

On the 23rd of May York and the two Earls encamped without the town, and
called on Henry "to deliver such as we will accuse, and they to have like
as they have deserved and done." The king's reply was as bold as the
demand. "Rather than they shall have any lord here with me at this time,"
he replied, "I shall this day for their sake and in this quarrel myself
live and die." A summons to disperse as traitors left York and his
fellow-nobles no hope but in an attack. At eventide three assaults were
made on the town. Warwick was the first to break in, and the sound of his
trumpets in the streets turned the fight into a rout. Death had answered
the prayer which Henry rejected, for the Duke of Somerset with Lord
Clifford and the Earl of Northumberland was among the fallen. The king
himself fell into the victors' hands. The three lords kneeling before him
prayed him to take them for his true liegemen, and then rode by his side
in triumph into London, where a parliament was at once summoned which
confirmed the acts of the Duke; and on a return of the king's malady again
nominated York as Protector. But in the spring of 1456 Henry's recovery
again ended the Duke's rule; and for two years the warring parties
sullenly watched one another. A temporary reconciliation between them was
brought about by the misery of the realm, but an attempt of the queen to
arrest the Nevilles in 1458 caused a fresh outbreak of war. Salisbury
defeated Lord Audley in a fight at Bloreheath in Staffordshire, and York
with the two Earls raised his standard at Ludlow. But the crown was still
stronger than any force of the baronage. The king marched rapidly on the
insurgents, and a decisive battle was only averted by the desertion of a
part of the Yorkist army and the disbanding of the rest. The Duke himself
fled to Ireland, the Earls to Calais, while the queen, summoning a
Parliament at Coventry in November, pressed on their attainder. But the
check, whatever its cause, had been merely a temporary one. York and
Warwick planned a fresh attempt from their secure retreats in Ireland and
Calais; and in the midsummer of 1460 the Earls of Salisbury and Warwick,
with Richard's son Edward, the young Earl of March, again landed in Kent.
Backed by a general rising of the county they entered London amidst the
acclamations of its citizens. The royal army was defeated in a hard-fought
action at Northampton in July. Margaret fled to Scotland, and Henry was
left a prisoner in the hands of the Duke of York.

[Sidenote: Richard claims the crown]

The position of York as heir-presumptive to the crown by his descent from
Edmund of Langley had ceased with the birth of a son to Henry the Sixth:
but the victory of Northampton no sooner raised him to the supreme control
of affairs than he ventured to assert the far more dangerous claims which
he had secretly cherished as the representative of Lionel of Clarence, and
to their consciousness of which was owing the hostility of Henry and his
queen. Such a claim was in direct opposition to that power of the two
Houses whose growth had been the work of the past hundred years. There was
no constitutional ground for any limitation of the right of Parliament to
set aside an elder branch in favour of a younger, and in the Parliamentary
Act which placed the House of Lancaster on the throne the claim of the
House of Mortimer had been deliberately set aside. Possession, too, told
against the Yorkist pretensions. To modern minds the best reply to
Richard's claim lay in the words used at a later time by Henry himself.
"My father was King; his father also was King; I myself have worn the
crown forty years from my cradle: you have all sworn fealty to me as your
sovereign, and your fathers have done the like to mine. How then can my
right be disputed?" Long and undisturbed possession as well as a
distinctly legal title by free vote of Parliament was in favour of the
House of Lancaster. But the persecution of the Lollards, the interference
with elections, the odium of the war, the shame of the long misgovernment,
told fatally against the weak and imbecile king whose reign had been a
long battle of contending factions. That the misrule had been serious was
shown by the attitude of the commercial class. It was the rising of Kent,
the great manufacturing district of the realm, which brought about the
victory of Northampton. Throughout the struggle which followed London and
the great merchant towns were steady for the House of York. Zeal for the
Lancastrian cause was found only in Wales, in northern England, and in the
south-western shires. It is absurd to suppose that the shrewd traders of
Cheapside were moved by an abstract question of hereditary right, or that
the wild Welshmen believed themselves to be supporting the right of
Parliament to regulate the succession. But it marks the power which
Parliament had gained that, directly as his claims ran in the teeth of a
succession established by it, the Duke of York felt himself compelled to
convene the two Houses in October and to lay his claim before the Lords as
a petition of right. Neither oaths nor the numerous Acts which had settled
and confirmed the right to the crown in the House of Lancaster could
destroy, he pleaded, his hereditary claim. The bulk of the Lords refrained
from attendance, and those who were present received the petition with
hardly concealed reluctance. They solved the question, as they hoped, by a
compromise. They refused to dethrone the king, but they had sworn no
fealty to his child, and at Henry's death they agreed to receive the Duke
as successor to the crown.

[Illustration: The Wars of the Roses]

[Sidenote: Wars of the Roses]

But the open display of York's pretensions at once united the partizans of
the royal House in a vigorous resistance; and the deadly struggle which
received the name of the Wars of the Roses from the white rose which
formed the badge of the House of York and the red rose which was the
cognizance of the House of Lancaster began in a gathering of the North
round Lord Clifford and of the West round Henry, Duke of Somerset, the son
of the Duke who had fallen at St. Albans. York, who hurried in December to
meet the first with a far inferior force, was defeated and slain at
Wakefield. The passion of civil war broke fiercely out on the field. The
Earl of Salisbury who had been taken prisoner was hurried to the block.
The head of Duke Richard, crowned in mockery with a diadem of paper, is
said to have been impaled on the walls of York. His second son, Lord
Rutland, fell crying for mercy on his knees before Clifford. But
Clifford's father had been the first to fall in the battle of St. Albans
which opened the struggle. "As your father killed mine," cried the savage
baron, while he plunged his dagger in the young noble's breast, "I will
kill you!" The brutal deed was soon to be avenged. Richard's eldest son,
Edward, the Earl of March, was busy gathering a force on the Welsh border
in support of his father at the moment when the Duke was defeated and
slain. Young as he was Edward showed in this hour of apparent ruin the
quickness and vigour of his temper, and routing on his march a body of
Lancastrians at Mortimer's Cross struck boldly upon London. It was on
London that the Lancastrian army had moved after its victory at Wakefield.
A desperate struggle took place at St. Albans where a force of Kentish men
with the Earl of Warwick strove to bar its march on the capital, but
Warwick's force broke under cover of night and an immediate advance of the
conquerors might have decided the contest. Margaret however paused to
sully her victory by a series of bloody executions, and the rough
northerners who formed the bulk of her army scattered to pillage while
Edward, hurrying from the west, appeared before the capital. The citizens
rallied at his call, and cries of "Long live King Edward!" rang round the
handsome young leader as he rode through the streets. A council of Yorkist
lords, hastily summoned, resolved that the compromise agreed on in
Parliament was at an end and that Henry of Lancaster had forfeited the
throne. The final issue however now lay not with Parliament, but with the
sword. Disappointed of London, the Lancastrian army fell rapidly back on
the North, and Edward hurried as rapidly in pursuit. On the 29th of March,
1461, the two armies encountered one another at Towton Field, near
Tadcaster. In the numbers engaged, as well as in the terrible obstinacy of
the struggle, no such battle had been seen in England since the fight of
Senlac. The two armies together numbered nearly 120,000 men. The day had
just broken when the Yorkists advanced through a thick snowfall, and for
six hours the battle raged with desperate bravery on either side. At one
critical moment Warwick saw his men falter, and stabbing his horse before
them, swore on the cross of his sword to win or die on the field. The
battle was turned at last by the arrival of the Duke of Norfolk with a
fresh force from the Eastern Counties, and at noon the Lancastrians gave
way. A river in their rear turned the retreat into a rout, and the flight
and carnage, for no quarter was given on either side, went on through the
night and the morrow. Edward's herald counted more than 20,000 Lancastrian
corpses on the field. The losses of the conquerors were hardly less heavy
than those of the conquered. But their triumph was complete. The Earl of
Northumberland was slain; the Earls of Devonshire and Wiltshire were taken
and beheaded; the Duke of Somerset fled into exile. Henry himself with his
queen was forced to fly over the border and to find a refuge in Scotland.
The cause of the House of Lancaster was lost; and with the victory of
Towton the crown of England passed to Edward of York.



Edward the Fifth is the subject of a work attributed to Sir Thomas More,
and which almost certainly derives much of its information from Archbishop
Morton. Whatever its historical worth may be, it is remarkable in its
English form as the first historical work of any literary value which we
possess written in our modern prose. The "Letters and Papers of Richard
the Third and Henry the Seventh," some "Memorials of Henry the Seventh,"
including his life by Bernard André of Toulouse, and a volume of
"Materials" for a history of his reign have been edited for the Rolls
Series. A biography of Henry is among the works of Lord Bacon. The history
of Erasmus in England must be followed in his own interesting letters; the
most accessible edition of the typical book of the revival, the "Utopia,"
is the Elizabethan translation, published by Mr. Arber. Mr. Lupton has
done much to increase our scanty knowledge of Colet by his recent editions
of several of his works. Halle's Chronicle extends from the reign of
Edward the Fourth to that of Henry the Eighth; for the latter he is copied
by Grafton and followed by Holinshed. Cavendish has given a faithful and
touching account of Wolsey in his later days, but for any real knowledge
of his administration or the foreign policy of Henry the Eighth we must
turn from these to the invaluable Calendars of State Papers for this
period from the English, Spanish, and Austrian archives, with the prefaces
of Professor Brewer and Mr. Bergenroth. Cromwell's early life as told by
Foxe is a mass of fable, and the State Papers afford the only real
information as to his ministry. For Sir Thomas More we have a touching
life by his son-in-law, Roper. The more important documents for the
religious history of the time will be found in Mr. Pocock's edition of
Burnet's "History of the Reformation"; those relating to the dissolution
of the monasteries in the collection of letters on that subject published
by the Camden Society, and in the "Original Letters" of Sir Henry Ellis. A
mass of materials of very various value has been accumulated by Strype in
his collections, which commence at this period.


[Sidenote: English freedom]

With the victory of Towton the war of the succession came practically to
an end. Though Margaret still struggled on the northern border and the
treachery of Warwick for a while drove the new king from his realm, this
gleam of returning fortune only brought a more fatal ruin on the House of
Lancaster and seated the House of York more firmly on the throne. But the
Wars of the Roses did far more than ruin one royal house or set up
another. They found England, in the words of Commines, "among all the
world's lordships of which I have knowledge, that where the public weal is
best ordered, and where least violence reigns over the people." An English
king--the shrewd observer noticed--"can undertake no enterprise of account
without assembling his Parliament, which is a thing most wise and holy,
and therefore are these kings stronger and better served" than the
despotic sovereigns of the Continent. The English kingship, as a judge,
Sir John Fortescue, could boast when writing at this time, was not an
absolute but a limited monarchy; the land was not a land where the will of
the prince was itself the law, but where the prince could neither make
laws nor impose taxes save by his subjects' consent. At no time had
Parliament played so constant and prominent a part in the government of
the realm. At no time had the principles of constitutional liberty seemed
so thoroughly understood and so dear to the people at large. The long
Parliamentary contest between the Crown and the two Houses since the days
of Edward the First had firmly established the great securities of
national liberty--the right of freedom from arbitrary taxation, from
arbitrary legislation, from arbitrary imprisonment, and the responsibility
of even the highest servants of the Crown to Parliament and to the law.

[Sidenote: Results of the Wars of the Roses]

But with the close of the struggle for the succession this liberty wholly
disappeared. If the Wars of the Roses failed in utterly destroying English
freedom, they succeeded in arresting its progress for more than a hundred
years. With them we enter on an epoch of constitutional retrogression in
which the slow work of the age that went before it was rapidly undone.
From the accession of Edward the Fourth Parliamentary life was almost
suspended, or was turned into a mere form by the overpowering influence of
the Crown. The legislative powers of the two Houses were usurped by the
royal Council. Arbitrary taxation reappeared in benevolences and forced
loans. Personal liberty was almost extinguished by a formidable spy-system
and by the constant practice of arbitrary imprisonment. Justice was
degraded by the prodigal use of bills of attainder, by a wide extension of
the judicial power of the royal Council, by the servility of judges, by
the coercion of juries. So vast and sweeping was the change that to
careless observers of a later day the constitutional monarchy of the
Edwards and the Henries seemed suddenly to have transformed itself under
the Tudors into a despotism as complete as the despotism of the Turk. Such
a view is no doubt exaggerated and unjust. Bend and strain the law as he
might, there never was a time when the most wilful of English rulers
failed to own the restraints of law; and the obedience of the most servile
among English subjects lay within bounds, at once political and religious,
which no theory of king-worship could bring them to overpass. But even if
we make these reserves, the character of the monarchy from the days of
Edward the Fourth to the days of Elizabeth remains something strange and
isolated in our history. It is hard to connect the kingship of the old
English, the Norman, the Angevin, or the Plantagenet kings with the
kingship of the House of York or of the House of Tudor.

[Sidenote: New strength of the Crown]

The primary cause of this great change lay in the recovery of its older
strength by the Crown. Through the last hundred and fifty years the
monarchy had been hampered by the pressure of the war. Through the last
fifty it had been weakened by the insecurity of a disputed succession. It
was to obtain supplies for the strife with Scotland and the strife with
France that the earlier Plantagenets had been forced to yield to the
ever-growing claims which were advanced by the Parliament. It was to win
the consent of Parliament to its occupation of the throne and its support
against every rival that the House of Lancaster bent yet more humbly to
its demands. But with the loss of Guienne the war with France came
virtually to an end. The war with Scotland died down into a series of
border forays. The Wars of the Roses settled the question of the
succession, first by the seeming extinction of the House of Lancaster, and
then by the utter ruin of the House of York. The royal treasury was not
only relieved from the drain which had left the crown at the mercy of the
Third Estate; it was filled as it had never been filled before by the
forfeitures and confiscations of the civil war. In the one bill of
attainder which followed Towton twelve great nobles and more than a
hundred knights and squires were stripped of their estates to the king's
profit. Nearly a fifth of the land is said to have passed into the royal
possession at one period or other of the civil strife. Edward the Fourth
and Henry the Seventh not only possessed a power untrammelled by the
difficulties which had beset the Crown since the days of Edward the First,
but they were masters of a wealth such as the Crown had never known since
the days of Henry the Second.

[Sidenote: Its New Policy]

Throughout their reigns these kings showed a firm resolve to shun the two
rocks on which the monarchy had been so nearly wrecked. No policy was too
inglorious that enabled them to avoid the need of war. The inheritance of
a warlike policy, the consciousness of great military abilities, the cry
of his own people for a renewal of the struggle, failed to lure Edward
from his system of peace. Henry clung to peace in spite of the threatening
growth of the French monarchy: he refused to be drawn into any serious war
even by its acquisition of Britanny and of a coast-line that ran unbroken
along the Channel. Nor was any expedient too degrading if it swelled the
royal hoard. Edward by a single stroke, the grant of the customs to the
king for life, secured a source of revenue which went far to relieve the
Crown from its dependence on Parliament. He stooped to add to the gold
which his confiscations amassed by trading on a vast scale; his ships,
freighted with tin, wool, and cloth, made the name of the merchant-king
famous in the ports of Italy and Greece. Henry was as adroit and as
shameless a financier as his predecessor. He was his own treasurer, he
kept his own accounts, he ticked off with his own hand the compositions he
levied on the western shires for their abortive revolts.

[Sidenote: Suspension of Parliamentary life]

With peace and a full treasury the need for calling Parliament together
was removed. The collapse of the Houses was in itself a revolution. Up to
this moment they had played a more and more prominent part in the
government of the realm. The progress made under the earlier Plantagenets
had gone as steadily on under Henry the Fourth and his successors. The
Commons had continued their advance. Not only had the right of
self-taxation and of the initiation of laws been explicitly yielded to
them, but they had interfered with the administration of the state, had
directed the application of subsidies, and called royal ministers to
account by repeated instances of impeachment. Under the first two kings of
the House of Lancaster Parliament had been summoned almost every year.
Under Henry the Sixth an important step was made in constitutional
progress by abandoning the old custom of presenting the requests of
Parliament in the form of petitions which were subsequently moulded into
statutes by the royal Council. The statute itself in its final shape was
now presented for the royal assent and the Crown deprived of all
opportunity of modifying it. But with the reign of Edward the Fourth not
only this progress but the very action of Parliament comes almost to an
end. For the first time since the days of John not a single law which
promoted freedom or remedied the abuses of power was even proposed. The
Houses indeed were only rarely called together by Edward; they were only
twice summoned during the last thirteen years of Henry the Seventh.

[Sidenote: Parliament and the Civil War]

But this discontinuance of Parliamentary life was not due merely to the
new financial system of the Crown. The policy of the kings was aided by
the internal weakness of Parliament itself. No institution suffered more
from the civil war. During its progress the Houses had become mere
gatherings of nobles with their retainers and partizans. They were like
armed camps to which the great lords came with small armies at their
backs. When arms were prohibited the retainers of the warring barons
appeared, as in the Club Parliament of 1426, with clubs on their
shoulders. When clubs were forbidden they hid stones and balls of lead in
their clothes. Amidst scenes such as these the faith in and reverence for
Parliaments could hardly fail to die away. But the very success of the
House of York was a more fatal blow to the trust in them. It was by the
act of the Houses that the Lancastrian line had been raised to the throne.
Its title was a Parliamentary title. Its existence was in fact a
contention that the will of Parliament could override the claims of blood
in the succession to the throne. With all this the civil war dealt roughly
and decisively. The Parliamentary line was driven from the throne. The
Parliamentary title was set aside as usurpation. The House of York based
its claim to the throne on the incapacity of Parliament to set aside
pretensions which were based on sheer nearness of blood. The fall of the
House of Lancaster, the accession of the Yorkist kings, must have seemed
to the men who had witnessed the struggle a crushing defeat of the

[Sidenote: Ruin of Feudal Organization]

Weakened by failure, discredited by faction, no longer needful as a source
of supplies, it was easy for the Monarchy to rid itself of the check of
the two Houses, and their riddance at once restored the Crown to the power
it had held under the earlier kings. But in actual fact Edward the Fourth
found himself the possessor of a far greater authority than this. The
structure of feudal society fronted a feudal king with two great rival
powers in the Baronage and the Church. Even in England, though feudalism
had far less hold than elsewhere, the noble and the priest formed
effective checks on the monarchy. But at the close of the Wars of the
Roses these older checks no longer served as restraints upon the action of
the Crown. With the growth of Parliament the weight of the Baronage as a
separate constitutional element in the realm, even the separate influence
of the Church, had fallen more and more into decay. For their irregular
and individual action was gradually substituted the legal and continuous
action of the three Estates; and now that the assembly of the estates
practically ceased it was too late to revive the older checks which in
earlier days had fettered the action of the Crown. Nor was the growth of
Parliament the only cause for the weakness of these feudal restraints. The
older social order which had prevailed throughout Western Europe since the
fall of the Roman Empire was now passing away. The speculation of the
twelfth century, the scholastic criticism of the thirteenth, the Lollardry
and socialism of the fourteenth century, had at last done their work. The
spell of the past, the spell of custom and tradition, which had enchained
the minds of men was roughly broken. The supremacy of the warrior in a
world of war, the severance of privileged from unprivileged classes, no
longer seemed the one natural structure of society. The belief in its
possession of supernatural truths and supernatural powers no longer held
man in unquestioning awe of the priesthood. The strength of the Church was
sapped alike by theological and moral revolt, while the growth of new
classes, the new greed of peace and of the wealth that comes of peace, the
advance of industry, the division of property, the progress of centralized
government, dealt fatal blows at the feudal organization of the state.

[Sidenote: Weakness of the Baronage]

Nor was the danger merely an external one. Noble and priest alike were
beginning to disbelieve in themselves. The new knowledge which was now
dawning on the world, the direct contact with the Greek and Roman
literatures which was just beginning to exert its influence on Western
Europe, told above all on these wealthier and more refined classes. The
young scholar or noble who crossed the Alps brought from the schools of
Florence the dim impression of a republican liberty or an imperial order
which disenchanted him of the world in which he found himself. He looked
on the feudalism about him as a brutal anarchy, he looked on the Church
itself as the supplanter of a nobler and more philosophic morality.
Besides this moral change, the barons had suffered politically from the
decrease of their numbers in the House of Lords. The statement which
attributes the lessening of the baronage to the Wars of the Roses seems
indeed to be an error. Although Henry the Seventh, in dread of opposition
to his throne, summoned only a portion of the temporal peers to his first
Parliament, there were as many barons at his accession as at the accession
of Henry the Sixth. Of the greater houses only those of Beaufort and
Tiptoft were extinguished by the civil war. The decline of the baronage,
the extinction of the greater families, the break-up of the great estates,
had in fact been going on throughout the reign of the Edwards; and it was
after Agincourt that the number of temporal peers sank to its lowest ebb.
From that time till the time of the Tudors they numbered but fifty-two. A
reduction in the numbers of the baronage however might have been more than
compensated by the concentration of great estates in the hands of the
houses that survived. What wrecked it as a military force was the
revolution which was taking place in the art of war. The introduction of
gunpowder ruined feudalism. The mounted and heavily-armed knight gave way
to the meaner footman. Fortresses which had been impregnable against the
attacks of the Middle Ages crumbled before the new artillery. Although
gunpowder had been in use as early as Crécy, it was not till the accession
of the House of Lancaster that it was really brought into effective
employment as a military resource. But the revolution in warfare was
immediate. The wars of Henry the Fifth were wars of sieges. The "Last of
the Barons," as Warwick has picturesquely been styled, relied mainly on
his train of artillery. It was artillery that turned the day at Barnet and
Tewkesbury, and that gave Henry the Seventh his victory over the
formidable dangers which assailed him. The strength which the change gave
to the Crown was in fact almost irresistible. Throughout the Middle Ages
the call of a great baron had been enough to raise a formidable revolt.
Yeomen and retainers took down the bow from their chimney corner, knights
buckled on their armour, and in a few days a host threatened the throne.
Without artillery however such a force was now helpless, and the one train
of artillery in the kingdom lay at the disposal of the king.

[Sidenote: Weakness of the Church]

The Church too was in no less peril than the baronage. In England as
elsewhere the great ecclesiastical body still seemed imposing from the
memories of its past, its immense wealth, its tradition of statesmanship,
its long association with the intellectual and religious aspirations of
men, its hold on social life. But its real power was small. Its moral
inertness, its lack of spiritual enthusiasm, gave it less and less hold on
the religious minds of the day. Its energies indeed seemed absorbed in a
mere clinging to existence. For in spite of steady repression Lollardry
still lived on, no longer indeed as an organized movement, but in
scattered and secret groups whose sole bond was a common loyalty to the
Bible and a common spirit of revolt against the religion of their day.
Nine years after the accession of Henry the Sixth the Duke of Gloucester
was traversing England with men-at-arms to repress the risings of the
Lollards and hinder the circulation of their invectives against the
clergy. In 1449 "Bible men" were still formidable enough to call a prelate
to the front as a controversialist: and the very title of Bishop Pecock's
work, "A Repressor of overmuch blaming of the clergy," shows the damage
done by their virulent criticism. Its most fatal effect was to rob the
priesthood of moral power. Taunted with a love of wealth, with a lower
standard of life than that of the ploughman and weaver who gathered to
read the Bible by night, dreading in themselves any burst of emotion or
enthusiasm as a possible prelude to heresy, the clergy ceased to be the
moral leaders of the nation. They plunged as deeply as the men about them
into the darkest superstition, and above all into the belief in sorcery
and magic which formed so remarkable a feature of the time. It was for
conspiracy with a priest to waste the king's life by sorcery that Eleanor
Cobham did penance through the streets of London. The mist which wrapped
the battle-field of Barnet was attributed to the incantations of Friar
Bungay. The one pure figure which rises out of the greed, the selfishness,
the scepticism of the time, the figure of Joan of Arc, was looked on by
the doctors and priests who judged her as that of a sorceress.

The prevalence of such beliefs tells its own tale of the intellectual
state of the clergy. They were ceasing in fact to be an intellectual class
at all. The monasteries were no longer seats of learning. "I find in
them," says Poggio, an Italian scholar who visited England some twenty
years after Chaucer's death, "men given up to sensuality in abundance but
very few lovers of learning and those of a barbarous sort, skilled more in
quibbles and sophisms than in literature." The statement is no doubt
coloured by the contempt of the new scholars for the scholastic philosophy
which had taken the place of letters in England as elsewhere, but even
scholasticism was now at its lowest ebb. The erection of colleges, which
began in the thirteenth century but made little progress till the time we
have reached, failed to arrest the quick decline of the universities both
in the numbers and learning of their students. Those at Oxford amounted to
only a fifth of the scholars who had attended its lectures a century
before, and Oxford Latin became proverbial for a jargon in which the very
tradition of grammar had been lost. Literature, which had till now rested
mainly in the hands of the clergy, came almost to an end. Of all its
nobler forms history alone lingered on; but it lingered in compilations or
extracts from past writers, such as make up the so-called works of
Walsingham, in jejune monastic annals, or worthless popular compendiums.
The only real trace of mental activity was seen in the numerous treatises
which dealt with alchemy or magic, the elixir of life, or the
philosopher's stone; a fungous growth which even more clearly than the
absence of healthier letters witnessed to the progress of intellectual

Somewhat of their old independence lingered indeed among the lower clergy
and the monastic orders; it was in fact the successful resistance of the
last to an effort made to establish arbitrary taxation which brought about
their ruin. Up to the terrible statutes of Thomas Cromwell the clergy in
convocation still asserted boldly their older rights against the Crown.
But it was through its prelates that the Church exercised a directly
political influence, and these showed a different temper from the clergy.
Their weakness told directly on the constitutional progress of the realm,
for through the diminution in the number of the peers temporal the greater
part of the House of Lords was now composed of spiritual peers, of bishops
and the greater abbots. Driven by sheer need, by the attack of the barons
on their temporal possessions and of the Lollard on their spiritual
authority, into dependence on the Crown, their weight was thrown into the
scale of the monarchy.

[Sidenote: Change in the Lower House]

And while the ruin of the baronage, and the weakness of the prelacy, broke
the power of the House of Lords, the restriction of the suffrage broke the
growing strength of the House of Commons. Even before the outbreak of the
civil war the striving of the proprietary classes, landowners and
merchants, after special privileges which the Crown alone could bestow,
had produced important constitutional results. The character of the House
of Commons had been changed by the restriction of both the borough and the
county franchise. Up to this time all freemen settling in a borough, and
paying their dues to it became by the mere fact of settlement its

[Sidenote: Restriction of Borough Freedom]

But during the reign of Henry the Sixth and still more under Edward the
Fourth this largeness of borough life was roughly curtailed. The trade
companies which vindicated civic freedom from the tyranny of the older
merchant gilds themselves tended to become a narrow and exclusive
oligarchy. Most of the boroughs had by this time acquired civic property,
and it was with the aim of securing their own enjoyment of this against
any share of it by "strangers" that the existing burgesses for the most
part procured charters of incorporation from the Crown, which turned them
into a close body and excluded from their number all who were not
burgesses by birth or who failed henceforth to purchase their right of
entrance by a long apprenticeship. In addition to this narrowing of the
burgess-body the internal government of the boroughs had almost
universally passed since the failure of the Communal movement in the
thirteenth century from the free gathering of the citizens in borough-mote
into the hands of Common Councils, either self-elected or elected by the
wealthier burgesses; and to these councils, or to a yet more restricted
number of "select men" belonging to them, clauses in the new charters
generally confined the right of choosing their representatives in
Parliament. It was with this restriction that the long process of
degradation began which ended in reducing the representation of our
boroughs to a mere mockery. Influences which would have had small weight
over the town at large proved irresistible by the small body of
corporators or "select men." Great nobles, neighbouring landowners, the
Crown itself, seized on the boroughs as their prey, and dictated the
choice of their representatives. Corruption did whatever force failed to
do: and from the Wars of the Roses to the days of Pitt the voice of the
people had to be looked for not in the members for the towns but in the
knights for the counties.

[Sidenote: Restriction of County Franchise]

The restriction of the county franchise on the other hand was the direct
work of the Parliament itself. Economic changes were fast widening the
franchise in the shires. The number of freeholders increased with the
subdivision of estates and the social changes which we have already
noticed. But this increase of independence was marked by "riots and
divisions between the gentlemen and other people" which the statesmen of
the day attributed to the excessive number of voters. In many counties the
power of the great lords undoubtedly enabled them to control elections
through the number of their retainers. In Cade's revolt the Kentishmen
complained that "the people of the shire are not allowed to have their
free elections in the choosing of knights for the shire, but letters have
been sent from divers estates to the great nobles of the county, the which
enforceth their tenants and other people by force to choose other persons
than the common will is." It was primarily to check this abuse that a
statute of the reign of Henry the Sixth restricted in 1430 the right of
voting in shires to freeholders holding land worth forty shillings, a sum
equal in our money to at least twenty pounds a year and representing a far
higher proportional income at the present time. Whatever its original
purpose may have been, the result of the statute was a wide
disfranchisement. It was aimed, in its own words, against voters "of no
value, whereof every of them pretended to have a voice equivalent with the
more worthy knights and esquires dwelling in the same counties." But in
actual working the statute was interpreted in a more destructive fashion
than its words were intended to convey. Up to this time all suitors who
attended at the Sheriff's Court had voted without question for the Knight
of the Shire, but by the new statute the great bulk of the existing
voters, every leaseholder and every copyholder, found themselves
implicitly deprived of their franchise.

[Sidenote: The French War and the Baronage]

The kingship of Edward and his successors therefore was not a mere
restoration of the kingship of John or of Henry the Second. It was the
kingship of those kings apart from the constitutional forces which in
their case stood side by side with kingship, controlling and regulating
its action, apart from the force of custom, from the strong arm of the
baron, from the religious sanctions which formed so effective a weapon in
the hands of the priest, in a word, apart from that social organization
from which our political constitution had sprung; even the power of
Parliament itself died down at the very moment when the cessation of war,
the opening of new sources of revenue, the cry for protection against
social anarchy, doubled the strength of the Crown. The force of the
monarchy however lay above all in its position as the one representative
of national order and in its policy of peace. For two hundred years
England had been almost constantly at war, and to war without had been
added discord and misrule within. The violence and anarchy which had
always clung like a taint to the baronage grew more and more unbearable as
the nation moved forward to a more settled peacefulness and industry. At
the very time however when this movement became most pronounced under
Edward the Third, the tendency of the nobles to violence received a new
impulse from the war with France. Long before the struggle was over it had
done its fatal work on the mood of the English noble. His aim had become
little more than a lust for gold, a longing after plunder, after the
pillage of farms, the sack of cities, the ransom of captives. So intense
was the greed of gain that in the later years of the war only a threat of
death could keep the fighting-men in their ranks, and the results of
victory after victory were lost through the anxiety of the conquerors to
deposit their booty and captives safely at home. The moment the hand of
such leaders as Henry the Fifth or Bedford was removed the war died down
into mere massacre and brigandage. "If God had been a captain now-a-days,"
exclaimed a French general, "he would have turned marauder."

[Sidenote: Grant of Liveries]

The temper thus nursed on the fields of France found at last scope for
action in England itself. Even before the outbreak of the War of the Roses
the nobles had become as lawless and dissolute at home as they were greedy
and cruel abroad. But with the struggle of York and Lancaster and the
paralysis of government which it brought with it, all hold over the
baronage was gone; and the lawlessness and brutality of their temper
showed itself without a check. The disorder which their violence wrought
in a single district of the country is brought home by the Paston Letters,
an invaluable series of domestic correspondence which lifts for us a
corner of the veil that hides the social state of England in the fifteenth
century. We see houses sacked, judges overawed or driven from the bench,
peaceful men hewn down by assassins or plundered by armed bands, women
carried off to forced marriages, elections controlled by brute force,
parliaments degraded into camps of armed retainers. As the number of their
actual vassals declined with the progress of enfranchisement and the
upgrowth of the freeholder, the nobles had found a substitute for them in
the grant of their "liveries," the badges of their households, to the
smaller gentry and farmers of their neighbourhood, and this artificial
revival of the dying feudalism became one of the curses of the day. The
outlaw, the broken soldier returning penniless from the wars, found
shelter and wages in the train of the greater barons, and furnished them
with a force ready at any moment for violence or civil strife. The same
motives which brought the freeman of the tenth century to commend himself
to thegn or baron forced the yeoman or smaller gentleman of the fifteenth
to don the cognizance of his powerful neighbour, and ask for a grant of
"livery," or to seek at his hand "maintenance" in the law-courts, and thus
secure his aid and patronage in fray or suit. For to meddle with such a
retainer was perilous even for sheriff or judge; and the force which a
noble could summon at his call sufficed to overawe a law-court or to drag
a culprit from prison or dock. The evils of the system of "maintenance"
had been felt long before the Wars of the Roses; and statutes both of
Edward the First and of Richard the Second had been aimed against it. But
it was in the civil war that it showed itself in its full force. The
weakness of the Crown and the strife of political factions for supremacy
left the nobles masters of the field; and the white rose of the House of
York, the red rose of the House of Lancaster, the portcullis of the
Beauforts, the pied bull of the Nevilles, the bear and ragged staff which
Warwick borrowed from the Beauchamps, were seen on hundreds of breasts in
Parliament or on the battle-field.

[Sidenote: The Social Revolution]

The lawlessness of the baronage tended as it had always tended to the
profit of the crown by driving the people at large to seek for order and
protection at the hands of the monarchy. And at this moment the craving
for such a protection was strengthened by the general growth of wealth and
industry. The smaller proprietors of the counties were growing fast both
in wealth and numbers, while the burgess class in the cities were drawing
fresh riches from the developement of trade which characterized this
period. The noble himself owed his importance to his wealth. Poggio, as he
wandered through the island, noted that "the noble who has the greatest
revenue is most respected; and that even men of gentle blood attend to
country business and sell their wool and cattle, not thinking it any
disparagement to engage in rural industry." Slowly but surely the foreign
commerce of the country, hitherto conducted by the Italian, the Hanse
merchant, or the trader of Catalonia or southern Gaul, was passing into
English hands. English merchants were settled at Florence and at Venice.
English merchant ships appeared in the Baltic. The first faint upgrowth of
manufactures was seen in a crowd of protective statutes which formed a
marked feature in the legislation of Edward the Fourth. The weight which
the industrial classes had acquired was seen in the bounds which their
opinion set to the Wars of the Roses. England presented to Philippe de
Commines the rare spectacle of a land where, brutal as was its civil
strife, "there are no buildings destroyed or demolished by war, and where
the mischief of it falls on those who make the war." The ruin and
bloodshed were limited in fact to the great lords and their feudal
retainers. If the towns once or twice threw themselves, as at Towton, into
the struggle, the trading and agricultural classes for the most part stood
wholly apart from it. While the baronage was dashing itself to pieces in
battle after battle justice went on undisturbed. The law-courts sat at
Westminster. The judges rode on circuit as of old. The system of jury
trial took more and more its modern form by the separation of the jurors
from the witnesses.

But beneath this outer order and prosperity the growth of wealth in the
trading classes was fast bringing about a social revolution which tended
as strongly as the outrages of the baronage to the profit of the crown.
The rise in the price of wool was giving a fresh impulse to the changes in
agriculture which had begun with the Black Death and were to go steadily
on for a hundred years to come. These changes were the throwing together
of the smaller holdings, and the introduction of sheep-farming on an
enormous scale. The new wealth of the merchant classes helped on the
change. They began to invest largely in land, and these "farming gentlemen
and clerking knights," as Latimer bitterly styled them, were restrained by
few traditions or associations in their eviction of the smaller tenants.
The land indeed had been greatly underlet, and as its value rose with the
peace and firm government of the early Tudors the temptation to raise the
customary rents became irresistible. "That which went heretofore for
twenty or forty pounds a year," we learn in Henry the Eighth's day, "now
is let for fifty or a hundred." But it had been only by this low scale of
rent that the small yeomanry class had been enabled to exist. "My father,"
says Latimer, "was a yeoman, and had no lands of his own; only he had a
farm of three or four pounds by the year at the uttermost, and hereupon he
tilled so much as kept half-a-dozen men. He had walk for a hundred sheep,
and my mother milked thirty kine; he was able and did find the king a
harness with himself and his horse while he came to the place that he
should receive the king's wages. I can remember that I buckled his harness
when he went to Blackheath Field. He kept me to school: he married my
sisters with five pounds apiece, so that he brought them up in godliness
and fear of God. He kept hospitality for his poor neighbours, and some
alms he gave to the poor, and all this he did of the same farm, where he
that now hath it payeth sixteen pounds by 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."

[Sidenote: Evictions and Enclosures]

Increase of rent ended with such tenants in the relinquishment of their
holdings, but the bitterness of the ejections which the new system of
cultivation necessitated was increased by the iniquitous means that were
often employed to bring them about. The farmers, if we believe More in
1515, were "got rid of either by fraud or force, or tired out with
repeated wrongs into parting with their property." "In this way it comes
to pass that these poor wretches, men, women, husbands, orphans, widows,
parents with little children, households greater in number than in wealth
(for arable farming requires many hands, while one shepherd and herdsman
will suffice for a pasture farm), all these emigrate from their native
fields without knowing where to go." The sale of their scanty household
stuff drove them to wander homeless abroad, to be thrown into prison as
vagabonds, to beg and to steal. Yet in the face of such a spectacle as
this we still find the old complaint of scarcity of labour, and the old
legal remedy for it in a fixed scale of wages. The social disorder, in
fact, baffled the sagacity of English statesmen, and they could find no
better remedy for it than laws against the further extension of
sheep-farms, and a formidable increase of public executions. Both were
alike fruitless. Enclosures and evictions went on as before and swelled
the numbers and the turbulence of the floating labour class. The riots
against "enclosures," of which we first hear in the time of Henry the
Sixth and which became a constant feature of the Tudor period, are
indications not only of a perpetual strife going on in every quarter
between the landowners and the smaller peasant class, but of a mass of
social discontent which was to seek constant outlets in violence and

And into this mass of disorder the break-up of the military households and
the return of wounded and disabled soldiers from the wars introduced a
dangerous leaven of outrage and crime. England for the first time saw a
distinct criminal class in the organized gangs of robbers which began to
infest the roads and were always ready to gather round the standard of
revolt. The gallows did its work in vain. "If you do not remedy the evils
which produce thieves," More urged with bitter truth, "the rigorous
execution of justice in punishing thieves will be vain." But even More
could only suggest a remedy which, efficacious as it was subsequently to
prove, had yet to wait a century for its realization. "Let the woollen
manufacture be introduced, so that honest employment may be found for
those whom want has made thieves or will make thieves ere long." The
extension of industry at last succeeded in absorbing this mass of surplus
labour, but the process was not complete till the close of Elizabeth's
day, and throughout the time of the Tudors the discontent of the labour
class bound the wealthier classes to the crown. It was in truth this
social danger which lay at the root of the Tudor despotism. For the
proprietary classes the repression of the poor was a question of life and
death. Employer and proprietor were ready to surrender freedom into the
hands of the one power which could preserve them from social anarchy. It
was to the selfish panic of the landowners that England owed the Statute
of Labourers and its terrible heritage of pauperism. It was to the selfish
panic of both landowner and merchant that she owed the despotism of the

[Sidenote: The Nevilles]

Thus we find that in the years which followed the Wars of the Roses a
change passed over the spirit of English government which was little short
of a revolution. As the country tasted the sweets of rest and firm
government that reaction of feeling, that horror of fresh civil wars, that
content with its own internal growth and indifference to foreign
aggrandizement, which distinguished the epoch of the Tudors, began to
assert its power. The Crown became identified with the thought of national
prosperity, almost with the thought of national existence. Loyalty drew to
itself the force of patriotism. Devotion to the crown became one in men's
minds with devotion to their country. For almost a hundred years England
lost all sense of a national individuality; it saw itself only in the
Crown. The tendency became irresistible as the nation owned in the power
of its kings its one security for social order, its one bulwark against
feudal outrage and popular anarchy. The change however was a slow and
gradual one. It is with the victory of Towton that the new power of the
Monarchy begins, but in the years that immediately followed this victory
there was little to promise the triumph of the Crown. The king, Edward the
Fourth, was but a boy of nineteen; and decisive as his march upon London
proved, he had as yet given few signs of political ability. His luxurious
temper showed itself in the pomp and gaiety of his court, in feast and
tourney, or in love-passages with city wives and noble ladies. The work of
government, the defence of the new throne against its restless foes, he
left as yet to sterner hands. Among the few great houses who recalled the
might of the older baronage two families of the northern border stood
first in power and repute. The Percies had played the chief part in the
revolution which gave the crown to the House of Lancaster. Their rivals,
the Nevilles, had set the line of York on the throne. Fortune seemed to
delight in adding lands and wealth to the last powerful family. The
heiress of the Montacutes brought the Earldom of Salisbury and the barony
of Monthermer to a second son of their chief, the Earl of Westmoreland;
and Salisbury's son, Richard Neville, won the Earldom of Warwick with the
hand of the heiress of the Beauchamps. The ruin of the Percies, whose
lands and Earldom of Northumberland were granted to Warwick's brother,
Lord Montagu, raised the Nevilles to unrivalled greatness in the land.
Warwick, who on his father's death added the Earldom of Salisbury to his
earlier titles, had like his father warmly espoused the cause of Richard
of York, and it was to his counsels that men ascribed the decisive step by
which his cousin Edward of March assumed the crown. From St. Albans to
Towton he had been the foremost among the assailants of the Lancastrian
line; and the death of his uncle and father, the youth of the king, and
the glory of the great victory which confirmed his throne, placed the Earl
at the head of the Yorkist party.

[Sidenote: Warwick]

Warwick's services were munificently rewarded by a grant of vast estates
from the confiscated lands of the Lancastrian baronage, and by his
elevation to the highest posts in the service of the State. He was Captain
of Calais, Admiral of the fleet in the Channel, and Warden of the Western
Marches. The command of the northern border lay in the hands of his
brother, Lord Montagu. A younger brother, George Neville, already raised
to the post of Lord Chancellor, was soon to receive the See of York.
Lesser rewards fell to Warwick's uncles, the minor chiefs of the House of
Neville, Lords Falconberg, Abergavenny, and Latimer. The vast power which
such an accumulation of wealth and honours placed at the Earl's disposal
was wielded with consummate ability. In outer seeming Warwick was the very
type of the feudal baron. He could raise armies at his call from his own
earldoms. Six hundred liveried retainers followed him to Parliament.
Thousands of dependants feasted in his courtyard. But few men were really
further from the feudal ideal. Active and ruthless warrior as he was, his
enemies denied to the Earl the gift of personal daring. In war he showed
himself more general than soldier, and in spite of a series of victories
his genius was not so much military as diplomatic. A Burgundian chronicler
who knew him well describes him as the craftiest man of his day, "le plus
soubtil homme de son vivant." Secret, patient, without faith or loyalty,
ruthless, unscrupulous, what Warwick excelled in was intrigue, treachery,
the contrivance of plots, and sudden desertions.

His temper brought out in terrible relief the moral disorganization of the
time. The old order of the world was passing away. Since the fall of the
Roman Empire civil society had been held together by the power of the
given word, by the "fealty" and "loyalty" that bound vassal to lord and
lord to king. A common faith in its possession of supernatural truths and
supernatural powers had bound men together in the religious society which
knew itself as the Church. But the spell of religious belief was now
broken and the feudal conception of society was passing away. On the other
hand the individual sense of personal duty, the political consciousness of
each citizen that national order and national welfare are essential to his
own well-being, had not yet come. The bonds which had held the world
together through so many ages loosened and broke only to leave man face to
face with his own selfishness. The motives that sway and ennoble the
common conduct of men were powerless over the ruling classes. Pope and
king, bishop and noble, vied with each other in greed, in self-seeking, in
lust, in faithlessness, in a pitiless cruelty. It is this moral
degradation that flings so dark a shade over the Wars of the Roses. From
no period in our annals do we turn with such weariness and disgust. Their
savage battles, their ruthless executions, their shameless treasons, seem
all the more terrible from the pure selfishness of the ends for which men
fought, for the utter want of all nobleness and chivalry in the contest
itself, of all great result in its close. And it is this moral
disorganization that expresses itself in the men whom the civil war left
behind it. Of honour, of loyalty, of good faith, Warwick knew nothing. He
had fought for the House of Neville rather than for the House of York, had
set Edward on the throne as a puppet whom he could rule at his will, and
his policy seemed to have gained its end in leaving the Earl master of the

[Sidenote: Edward the Fourth]

In the three years which followed Towton the power of the Nevilles
overshadowed that of the king. Warwick was now all-powerful in the state,
but the cessation of the war was the signal for a silent strife between
the Earl and his young sovereign. In Edward indeed Warwick was to meet not
only a consummate general but a politician whose subtlety and rapidity of
conception were far above his own. As a mere boy Edward had shown himself
among the ablest and the most pitiless of the warriors of the civil war.
He had looked on with cool ruthlessness while grey-haired nobles were
hurried to the block. The terrible bloodshed of Towton woke no pity in his
heart; he turned from it only to frame a vast bill of attainder which
drove twelve great nobles and a hundred knights to beggary and exile. When
treachery placed his harmless rival in his power he visited him with cruel
insult. His military ability had been displayed in his rapid march upon
London, the fierce blow which freed him from his enemy in the rear, the
decisive victory at Towton. But his political ability was slower in
developing itself. In his earliest years he showed little taste for the
work of rule. While Warwick was winning triumphs on battle-field after
battle-field, the young king seemed to abandon himself to a voluptuous
indolence, to revels with the city wives of London, and to the caresses of
mistresses like Jane Shore. Tall in stature and of singular beauty, his
winning manners and gay carelessness of bearing secured Edward a
popularity which had been denied to nobler kings. When he asked a rich old
lady for ten pounds towards a war with France, she answered, "For thy
comely face thou shalt have twenty." The king thanked and kissed her, and
the old woman made her twenty forty. In outer appearance indeed no one
could contrast more utterly with the subtle sovereigns of his time, with
the mean-visaged Lewis of France or the meanly-clad Ferdinand of Aragon.
But Edward's work was the same as theirs and it was done as completely.
While jesting with aldermen, or dallying with mistresses, or idling over
new pages from the printing press at Westminster, Edward was silently
laying the foundations of an absolute rule.

The very faults of his nature helped him to success. His pleasure-loving
and self-indulgent temper needed the pressure of emergency, of actual
danger, to flash out into action. Men like Commines who saw him only in
moments of security and indolence scorned Edward as dull, sensual, easy to
be led and gulled by keener wits. It was in the hour of need and despair
that his genius showed itself, cool, rapid, subtle, utterly fearless,
moving straight to its aim through clouds of treachery and intrigue, and
striking hard when its aim was reached. But even in his idler hours his
purpose never wavered. His indolence and gaiety were in fact mere veils
thrown over a will of steel. From the first his aim was to free the Crown
from the control of the baronage. He made no secret of his hostility to
the nobles. At Towton as in all his after battles he bade his followers
slay knight and baron, but spare the commons. In his earliest Parliament,
that of 1461, he renewed the statutes against giving of liveries, and
though this enactment proved as fruitless as its predecessors to reduce
the households of the baronage it marked Edward's resolve to adhere to the
invariable policy of the Crown in striving for their reduction. But
efforts like these, though they indicated the young king's policy, could
produce little effect so long as the mightiest of the barons overawed the
throne. Yet even a king as bold as Edward might well have shrunk from a
struggle with Warwick. The Earl was all-powerful in the state; the
military resources of the realm were in his hands. As Captain of Calais he
was master of the one disciplined force at the disposal of the Crown, and
as admiral he controlled the royal fleet. The strength he drew from his
wide possessions, from his vast wealth (for his official revenues alone
were estimated at eighty thousand crowns a year), from his warlike renown
and his wide kinship, was backed by his personal popularity. Above all the
Yorkist party, bound to Warwick by a long series of victories, looked on
him rather than on the young and untried king as its head.

[Sidenote: Lewis the Eleventh]

The policy of Warwick pointed to a close alliance with France. The Hundred
Years War, though it had driven the English from Guienne and the south,
had left the French Monarchy hemmed in by great feudatories on every other
border. Britanny was almost independent in the west. On the east the house
of Anjou lay, restless and ambitious, in Lorraine and Provence, while the
house of Burgundy occupied its hereditary duchy and Franche Comté. On the
northern frontier the same Burgundian house was massing together into a
single state nearly all the crowd of counties, marquisates, and dukedoms
which now make up Holland and Belgium. Nobles hardly less powerful or more
dependent on the Crown held the central provinces of the kingdom when
Lewis the Eleventh mounted its throne but a few months after Edward's
accession. The temper of the new king drove him to a strife for the
mastery of his realm, and his efforts after centralization and a more
effective rule soon goaded the baronage into a mood of revolt. But Lewis
saw well that a struggle with it was only possible if England stood aloof.
His father's cool sagacity had planned the securing of his conquests by
the marriage of Lewis himself to an English wife, and though this project
had fallen through, and the civil wars had given safety to France to the
end of Charles's reign, the ruin of the Lancastrian cause at Towton again
roused the danger of attack from England at the moment when Lewis mounted
the throne. Its young and warlike king, the great baron who was still
fresh from the glory of Towton, might well resolve to win back the
heritage of Eleanor, that Duchy of Guienne which had been lost but some
ten years before. Even if such an effort proved fruitless, Lewis saw that
an English war would not only ruin his plans for the overthrow of the
nobles, but would leave him more than ever at their mercy. Above all it
would throw him helplessly into the hands of the Burgundian Duke. In the
new struggle as in the old the friendship of Burgundy could alone bring a
favourable issue, and such a friendship would have to be paid for by
sacrifices even more terrible than those which had been wrenched from the
need of Charles the Seventh. The passing of Burgundy from the side of
England to the side of France after the Treaty of Arras had been bought by
the cession to its Duke of the towns along the Somme, of that Picardy
which brought the Burgundian frontier to some fifty miles from Paris.
Sacrifices even more costly would have to buy the aid of Burgundy in a
struggle with Edward the Fourth.

[Sidenote: The Triple Alliance]

How vivid was his sense of these dangers was seen in the eagerness of
Lewis to get the truce with England renewed and extended. But his efforts
for a general peace broke down before the demands of the English council
for the restoration of Normandy and Guienne. Nor were his difficulties
from England alone. An English alliance was unpopular in France itself.
"Seek no friendship from the English, Sire!" said Pierre de Brézé, the
Seneschal of Normandy, "for the more they love you, the more all Frenchmen
will hate you!" All Lewis could do was to fetter Edward's action by giving
him work at home. When Margaret appealed to him for aid after Towton he
refused any formal help, but her pledge to surrender Calais in case of
success drew from him some succour in money and men which enabled the
queen to renew the struggle in the north. Though her effort failed, the
hint so roughly given had been enough to change the mood of the English
statesmen; the truce with France was renewed, and a different reception
met the new proposals of alliance which followed it. Lewis indeed was now
busy with an even more pressing danger. In any struggle of the king with
England or the nobles what gave Burgundy its chief weight was the
possession of the towns on the Somme, and it was his consciousness of the
vital importance of these to his throne that spurred Lewis to a bold and
dexterous diplomacy by which Duke Philip the Good, under the influence of
counsellors who looked to the French king for protection against the
Duke's son, Charles of Charolais, was brought to surrender Picardy on
payment of the sum stipulated for its ransom in the Treaty of Arras. The
formal surrender of the towns on the Somme took place in October 1463, but
they were hardly his own when Lewis turned to press his alliance upon
England. From Picardy, where he was busy in securing his newly-won
possessions, he sought an interview with Warwick. His danger indeed was
still great; for the irritated nobles were already drawing together into a
League of the Public Weal, and Charles of Charolais, indignant at the
counsellors who severed him from his father and at the king who traded
through them on the Duke's dotage, was eager to place himself at its head.
But these counsellors, the Croys, saw their own ruin as well as the ruin
of Lewis in the success of a league of which Charles was the head; and at
their instigation Duke Philip busied himself at the opening of 1464 as the
mediator of an alliance which would secure Lewis against it, a triple
alliance between Burgundy and the French and English kings.

[Sidenote: Warwick's Policy]

Such an alliance had now become Warwick's settled policy. In it lay the
certainty of peace at home as abroad, the assurance of security to the
throne which he had built up. While Henry was sheltered in Scotland where
French influence was supreme, and while Margaret of Anjou could look for
aid from France, the house of York could hope for no cessation of the
civil war. A union between France, Burgundy, and England left the
partizans of Lancaster without hope. When Lewis therefore summoned him to
an interview on the Somme, Warwick, though unable to quit England in face
of the dangers which still threatened from the north, promised to send his
brother the Chancellor to conduct a negotiation. Whether the mission took
place or no, the questions not only of peace with France but of a marriage
between Edward and one of the French king's kinswomen were discussed in
the English Council as early as the spring of 1464, for in the May of that
year a Burgundian agent announced to the Croys that an English embassy
would be despatched to St. Omer on the coming St. John's day to confer
with Lewis and Duke Philip on the peace and the marriage-treaty. But at
this very moment Warwick, followed by the king, was hurrying to meet a new
rising which Margaret had brought about by a landing in the north. On 15th
May the Lancastrians were finally routed by Lord Montagu in the battle of
Hexham, and the queen and her child driven over the Scotch border. The
defeat of this rising seemed at last to bring the miserable war to a
close. The victory of Hexham, with the capture of Henry that followed a
year later, successes which were accepted by foreign powers as a final
settlement of the civil strife, left Edward's hands free as they had never
been free before, while his good fortune quickened the anxiety of Lewis,
who felt every day the toils of the great confederacy of the French
princes closing more tightly round him. But Margaret was still in his
hands, and Warwick remained firm in his policy of alliance. At Michaelmas
the Earl prepared to cross the sea for the meeting at St. Omer.

[Sidenote: Edward's Marriage]

It was this moment that Edward chose for a sudden and decisive blow. Only
six days before the departure of the embassy the young king informed his
Council that he was already wedded. By a second match with a Kentish
knight, Sir Richard Woodville, Jacquetta of Luxemburg, the widow of the
Regent Duke of Bedford, had become the mother of a daughter Elizabeth.
Elizabeth married Sir John Grey, a Lancastrian partizan, but his fall some
few years back in the second battle of St. Albans left her a widow, and
she returned to her mother's home. Here on his march northward to meet the
rising which ended at Hexham, she caught the young king's fancy. At the
opening of May, at the moment when Warwick's purpose to conclude the
marriage-treaty was announced to the court of Burgundy, Edward secretly
made her his wife. He reserved, however, the announcement of his marriage
till the very eve of the negotiations, when its disclosure served not only
to shatter Warwick's plans but to strike a sudden and decisive blow at the
sway he had wielded till now in the royal Council. The blow in fact was so
sudden and unexpected that Warwick could only take refuge in a feigned
submission. "The King," wrote one of his partizans, Lord Wenlock, to the
Court of Burgundy, "has taken a wife at his pleasure, without knowledge of
them whom he ought to have called to counsel him; by reason of which it is
highly displeasing to many great lords and to the bulk of his Council. But
since the marriage has gone so far that it cannot be helped, we must take
patience in spite of ourselves." Not only did the negotiations with France
come to an end, but the Earl found himself cut off from the king's
counsels. "As one knows not," wrote his adherent, "seeing the marriage is
made in this way, what purpose the King may have to go on with the other
two points, truce or peace, the opinion of the Council is that my Lord of
Warwick will not pass the sea till one learns the King's will and pleasure
on that point." Even Warwick indeed might have paused before the new
aspect of affairs across the Channel. For at this moment the growing
weakness of Duke Philip enabled Charles of Charolais to overthrow the
Croys, and to become the virtual ruler of the Burgundian states. At the
close of 1464 the League of the Public Weal drew fast to a head, and
Charles despatched the Chancellor of Burgundy to secure the aid of
England. But the English Council met the advances of the League with
coldness. Edward himself could have seen little save danger to his throne
from its triumph. Count Charles, proud of his connexion with the House of
Lancaster through his Portuguese mother, a descendant of John of Gaunt,
was known to be hostile to the Yorkist throne. The foremost of his
colleagues, John of Calabria, was a son of René of Anjou and a brother of
Margaret. Another of the conspirators, the Count of Maine, was Margaret's
uncle. It was significant that the Duke of Somerset had found a place in
the train of Charles of Charolais. On the other hand the warmest advocates
of the French alliance could hardly press for closer relations with a king
whose ruin seemed certain, and even Warwick must have been held back by
the utter collapse of the royal power when the League attacked Lewis in
1465. Deserted by every great noble, and cooped up within the walls of
Paris, the French king could only save himself by a humiliating submission
to the demands of the Leaguers.

[Sidenote: The Woodvilles]

The close of the struggle justified Edward's policy of inaction, for the
terms of the peace told strongly for English interests. The restoration of
the towns on the Somme to Burgundy, the cession of Normandy to the king's
brother, Francis, the hostility of Britanny, not only detached the whole
western coast from the hold of Lewis, but forced its possessors to look
for aid to the English king who lay in their rear. Edward himself seemed
at this moment freed from the last danger of revolt at home, for after
some helpless wanderings Henry the Sixth was betrayed into the hands of
his enemies and brought in triumph to London. His feet were tied to the
stirrups, he was led thrice round the pillory, and then sent as a prisoner
to the Tower. But Edward had little time to enjoy his good luck at home
and abroad. No sooner had the army of the League broken up than its work
was undone. The restless genius of Lewis detached prince from prince, won
over the houses of Britanny and Anjou to friendship, snatched back
Normandy in January 1466, and gathered an army in Picardy to meet attack
either from England or Count Charles. From neither however was any serious
danger to be feared. Charles was held at home till the close of the year
by revolts at Liége and Dinant, while a war of factions within Edward's
court distracted the energies of England. The young king had rapidly
followed up the blow of his marriage by raising his wife's family to a
greatness which was meant to balance that of the Nevilles. The queen's
father, Lord Rivers, was made treasurer and constable; her brothers and
sisters were matched with great nobles and heiresses; the heiress of the
Duke of Exeter, Edward's niece, whose hand Warwick sought for his
brother's son, was betrothed to Elizabeth's son by her former marriage.
The king's confidence was given to his new kinsmen, and Warwick saw
himself checked even at the council-board by the influence of the
Woodvilles. Still true to an alliance with France, he was met by their
advocacy of an alliance with Burgundy, where Charles of Charolais through
his father's sickness and age was now supreme. Both powers were equally
eager for English aid. Lewis despatched an envoy to prolong the truce from
his camp on the Somme, and proposed to renew negotiations for a marriage
treaty by seeking the hand of Edward's sister, Margaret, for a French
prince. Though "the thing which Charles hated most," as Commines tells us,
"was the house of York," the stress of politics drew him as irresistibly
to Edward. His wife, Isabella of Bourbon, had died during the war of the
League, and much as such a union was "against his heart," the activity of
Lewis forced him at the close of 1466 to seek to buy English aid by
demanding Margaret's hand in marriage.

[Sidenote: The two Alliances]

It is from this moment that the two great lines of our foreign policy
become settled and defined. In drawing together the states of the Low
Countries into a single political body, the Burgundian Dukes had built up
a power which has ever since served as a barrier against the advance of
France to the north or its mastery of the Rhine. To maintain this power,
whether in the hands of the Dukes or their successors, the Spaniard or the
Emperor, has always been a foremost object of English statesmanship; and
the Burgundian alliance in its earlier or later shapes has been the
constant rival of the alliance with France. At this moment however the
attitude of Burgundy was one rather of attack than of defence. If Charles
did not aim at the direct conquest of France, he looked to such a
weakening of it as would prevent Lewis from hindering the great plan on
which he had set his heart, the plan of uniting his scattered dominions on
the northern and eastern frontier of his rival by the annexation of
Lorraine, and of raising them into a great European power by extending his
dominion along the whole course of the Rhine. His policy was still to
strengthen the great feudatories against the Crown. "I love France so
much," he laughed, "that I had rather it had six kings than one"; and weak
as the league of the Public Weal had proved he was already trying to build
up a new confederacy against Lewis. In this confederacy he strove that
England should take part. Throughout 1466 the English court was the field
for a diplomatic struggle between Charles and Lewis. Warwick pressed
Margaret's marriage with one of the French princes. The marriage with
Charles was backed by the Woodvilles. Edward bore himself between the two
parties with matchless perfidy. Apparently yielding to the counsels of the
Earl, he despatched him in 1467 to treat for peace with Lewis at Rouen.
Warwick was received with honours which marked the importance of his
mission in the French king's eyes. Bishops and clergy went out to meet
him, his attendants received gifts of velvet robes and the rich stuffs of
Rouen, and for twelve days the Earl and Lewis were seen busy in secret
conference. But while the Earl was busy with the French king the Great
Bastard of Burgundy crossed to England, and a sumptuous tourney, in which
he figured with one of the Woodvilles, hardly veiled the progress of
counter-negotiations between Charles and Edward himself. The young king
seized on the honours paid to Warwick as the pretext for an outburst of
jealousy. The seals were suddenly taken from his brother, the Archbishop
of York, and when the Earl himself returned with a draft-treaty,
stipulating a pension from France and a reference of the English claims on
Normandy and Guienne to the Pope's decision, Edward listened coldly and
disavowed his envoy.

[Sidenote: The overthrow of Warwick]

Bitter reproaches on his intrigues with the French king marked even more
vividly the close of Warwick's power. He withdrew from court to his castle
of Middleham, while the conclusion of a marriage-treaty between Charles
and Margaret proved the triumph of his rivals. The death of his father in
the summer of 1467 raised Charles to the Dukedom of Burgundy, and his
diplomatic success in England was followed by preparations for a new
struggle with the French king. In 1468 a formal league bound England,
Burgundy, and Britanny together against Lewis. While Charles gathered an
army in Picardy Edward bound himself to throw a body of troops into the
strong places of Normandy which were held by the Breton Duke; and six
thousand mounted archers under the queen's brother, Anthony, Lord Scales,
were held ready to cross the Channel. Parliament was called together in
May, and the announcement of the Burgundian alliance and of the king's
purpose to recover his heritage over sea was met by a large grant of
supplies from the Commons. In June the pompous marriage of Margaret with
the Burgundian Duke set its seal on Edward's policy. How strongly the
current of national feeling ran in its favour was seen in Warwick's
humiliation. Warwick was helpless. The king's dexterous use of his
conference with Lewis and of the honours he had received from him gave him
the colour of a false Englishman and of a friend to France. Warwick lost
power over the Yorkists. The war party, who formed the bulk of it, went
hotly with the king; the merchants, who were its most powerful support,
leaned to a close connexion with the master of Flanders and the Lower
Rhine. The danger of his position drove Warwick further and further from
his old standing ground; he clung for aid to Lewis; he became the French
king's pensioner and dependent. At the French court he was looked upon
already as a partizan of the House of Lancaster. Edward dexterously seized
on the rumour to cut him off more completely from his old party. He called
on him to confront his accusers; and though Warwick purged himself of the
charge, the stigma remained. The victor of Towton was no longer counted as
a good Yorkist. But, triumphant as he was, Edward had no mind to drive the
Earl into revolt, nor was Warwick ready for revenge. The two subtle
enemies drew together again. The Earl appeared at court; he was formally
reconciled both to the king and to the Woodvilles; as though to announce
his conversion to the Burgundian alliance he rode before the new Duchess
Margaret on her way to the sea. His submission removed the last obstacle
to the king's action, and Edward declared his purpose to take the field in
person against the king of France.

[Sidenote: The Marriage of Clarence]

But at the moment when the danger seemed greatest the quick, hard blows of
Lewis paralyzed the League. He called Margaret from Bar to Harfleur, where
her faithful adherent Jasper Tudor, the Earl of Pembroke, prepared to
cross with a small force of French soldiers into Wales. The dread of a
Lancastrian rising should Margaret land in England hindered Lord Scales
from crossing the sea; and marking the slowness with which the Burgundian
troops gathered in Picardy Lewis flung himself in September on the Breton
Duke, reduced him to submission, and exacted the surrender of the Norman
towns which offered an entry for the English troops. His eagerness to
complete his work by persuading Charles to recognize his failure in a
personal interview threw him into the Duke's hands; and though he was
released at the end of the year it was only on humiliating terms. But the
danger from the triple alliance was over; he had bought a fresh peace with
Burgundy, and Edward's hopes of French conquest were utterly foiled. We
can hardly doubt that this failure told on the startling revolution which
marked the following year. Master of Calais, wealthy, powerful as he was,
Warwick had shown by his feigned submission a consciousness that
single-handed he was no match for the king. In detaching from him the
confidence of the Yorkist party which had regarded him as its head, Edward
had robbed him of his strength. But the king was far from having won the
Yorkist party to himself. His marriage with the widow of a slain
Lancastrian, his promotion of a Lancastrian family to the highest honours,
estranged him from the men who had fought his way to the Crown. Warwick
saw that the Yorkists could still be rallied round the elder of Edward's
brothers, the Duke of Clarence; and the temper of Clarence, weak and
greedy of power, hating the Woodvilles, looking on himself as heir to the
crown yet dreading the claims of Edward's daughter Elizabeth, lent itself
to his arts. The spring of 1469 was spent in intrigues to win over
Clarence by offering him the hand of Warwick's elder daughter and
co-heiress, and in preparations for a rising in Lancashire. So secretly
were these conducted that Edward was utterly taken by surprise when
Clarence and the Earl met in July at Calais and the marriage of the Duke
proved the signal for a rising at home.

[Sidenote: Warwick's failure]

The revolt turned out a formidable one. The first force sent against it
was cut to pieces at Edgecote near Banbury, and its leaders, Earl Rivers
and one of the queen's brothers, taken and beheaded. Edward was hurrying
to the support of this advanced body when it was defeated; but on the news
his force melted away and he was driven to fall back upon London. Galled
as he had been by his brother's marriage, the king saw nothing in it save
the greed of Clarence for the Earl's heritage, and it was with little
distrust that he summoned Warwick with the trained troops who formed the
garrison of Calais to his aid. The Duke and Earl at once crossed the
Channel. Gathering troops as they moved, they joined Edward near Oxford,
and the end of their plot was at last revealed. No sooner had the armies
united than Edward found himself virtually a prisoner in Warwick's hands.
But the bold scheme broke down. The Yorkist nobles demanded the king's
liberation. London called for it. The Duke of Burgundy "practised
secretly," says Commines, "that King Edward might escape," and threatened
to break off all trade with Flanders if he were not freed. Warwick could
look for support only to the Lancastrians, but the Lancastrians demanded
Henry's restoration as the price of their aid. Such a demand was fatal to
the plan for placing Clarence on the throne, and Warwick was thrown back
on a formal reconciliation with the king. Edward was freed, and Duke and
Earl withdrew to their estates for the winter. But the impulse which
Warwick had given to his adherents brought about a new rising in the
spring of 1470. A force gathered in Lincolnshire under Sir Robert Welles
with the avowed purpose of setting Clarence on the throne; and Warwick and
the Duke, though summoned to Edward's camp on pain of being held for
traitors, remained sullenly aloof. The king however was now ready for the
strife. A rapid march to the north ended in the rout of the insurgents,
and Edward turned on the instigators of the rising. But Clarence and the
Earl could gather no force to meet him. Yorkist and Lancastrian alike held
aloof, and they were driven to flight. Calais, though held by Warwick's
deputy, repulsed them from its walls, and the Earl's fleet was forced to
take refuge in the harbours of France.

[Sidenote: Warwick in France]

The long struggle seemed at last over. In subtlety as in warlike daring
the young king had proved himself more than a match for the "subtlest man
of men now living." He had driven him to throw himself on "our adversary
of France." Warwick's hold over the Yorkists was all but gone. His own
brothers, the Earl of Northumberland and the Archbishop of York, held with
the king, and Edward counted on the first as a firm friend. Warwick had
lost Calais. Though he still retained his fleet he was forced to support
it by making prizes of Flemish ships, and this involved him in fresh
difficulties. The Duke of Burgundy made the reception of these ships in
French harbours the pretext for a new strife with Lewis; he seized the
goods of French merchants at Bruges and demanded redress. Lewis was in no
humour for risking for so small a matter the peace he had won, and refused
to see or speak with Warwick till the prizes were restored. But he was
soon driven from this neutral position. The violent language of Duke
Charles showed his desire to renew the war with France in the faith that
Warwick's presence at the French court would ensure Edward's support; and
Lewis resolved to prevent such a war by giving Edward work to do at home.
He supplied Warwick with money and men, and pressed him to hasten his
departure for England. "You know," he wrote to an agent, "the desire I
have for Warwick's return to England, as well because I wish to see him
get the better of his enemies as that at least through him the realm of
England may be again thrown into confusion, so as to avoid the questions
which have arisen out of his residence here." But Warwick was too cautious
a statesman to hope to win England with French troops only. His hopes of
Yorkist aid were over with the failure of Clarence; and, covered as he was
with Lancastrian blood, he turned to the House of Lancaster. Margaret was
summoned to the French court; the mediation of Lewis bent her proud spirit
to a reconciliation on Warwick's promise to restore her husband to the
throne, and after a fortnight's struggle she consented at the close of
July to betroth her son to the earl's second daughter, Anne Neville. Such
an alliance shielded Warwick, as he trusted, from Lancastrian vengeance,
but it at once detached Clarence from his cause. Edward had already made
secret overtures to his brother, and though Warwick strove to reconcile
the Duke to his new policy by a provision that in default of heirs to the
son of Margaret Clarence should inherit the throne, the Duke's resentment
drew him back to his brother's side. But whether by Edward's counsel or no
his resentment was concealed; Clarence swore fealty to the house of
Lancaster, and joined in the preparations which Warwick was making for a
landing in England.

[Sidenote: Edward driven out]

What the Earl really counted on was not so much Lancastrian aid as Yorkist
treason. Edward reckoned on the loyalty of Warwick's brothers, the
Archbishop of York and Lord Montagu. The last indeed he "loved," and
Montagu's firm allegiance during his brother's defection seemed to justify
his confidence in him. But in his desire to redress some of the wrongs of
the civil war Edward had utterly estranged the Nevilles. In 1469 he
released Henry Percy from the Tower, and restored to him the title and
estates of his father, the attainted Earl of Northumberland. Montagu had
possessed both as his share of the Yorkist spoil, and though Edward made
him a marquis in amends he had ever since nursed plans of revenge. From
after events it is clear that he had already pledged himself to betray the
king. But his treachery was veiled with consummate art, and in spite of
repeated warnings from Burgundy Edward remained unconcerned at the threats
of invasion. Of the Yorkist party he held himself secure since Warwick's
desertion of their cause; of the Lancastrians he had little fear; and the
powerful fleet of Duke Charles prisoned the Earl's ships in the Norman
harbours. Fortune however was with his foes. A rising called Edward to the
north in September, and while he was engaged in its suppression a storm
swept the Burgundian ships from the Channel. Warwick seized the
opportunity to cross the sea. On the thirteenth of September he landed
with Clarence at Dartmouth, and with an army which grew at every step
pushed rapidly northward to meet the king. Taken as he was by surprise,
Edward felt little dread of the conflict. He relied on the secret promises
of Clarence and on the repeated oaths of the two Nevilles, and called on
Charles of Burgundy to cut off Warwick's retreat by sea after the victory
on which he counted. But the Earl's army no sooner drew near than cries of
"Long live King Henry!" from Montagu's camp announced his treason. Panic
spread through the royal forces; and in the rout that followed Edward
could only fly to the shore, and embarking some eight hundred men who
still clung to him in a few trading vessels which he found there set sail
for the coast of Holland.

[Sidenote: Warwick's triumph]

In a single fortnight Warwick had destroyed a throne. The work of Towton
was undone. The House of Lancaster was restored. Henry the Sixth was drawn
from the Tower to play again the part of king, while his rival could only
appeal as a destitute fugitive to the friendship of Charles the Bold. But
Charles had small friendship to give. His disgust at the sudden overthrow
of his plans for a joint attack on Lewis was quickened by a sense of
danger. England was now at the French king's disposal, and the coalition
of England and Burgundy against France which he had planned seemed likely
to become a coalition of France and England against Burgundy. Lewis indeed
was quick to seize on the new turn of affairs. Thanksgivings were ordered
in every French town. Margaret and her son were feasted royally at Paris.
An embassy crossed the sea to conclude a treaty of alliance, and Warwick
promised that an immediate force of four thousand men should be despatched
to Calais. With English aid the king felt he could become assailant in his
turn; he declared the Duke of Burgundy a rebel, and pushed his army
rapidly to the Somme. How keenly Charles felt his danger was seen in his
refusal to receive Edward at his court, and in his desperate attempts to
conciliate the new English government. His friendship, he said, was not
for this or that English king but for England. He again boasted of his
Lancastrian blood. He despatched the Lancastrian Dukes of Somerset and
Exeter, who had found refuge ever since Towton at his court, to carry fair
words to Margaret. The queen and her son were still at Paris, detained as
it was said by unfavourable winds, but really by the wish of Lewis to hold
a check upon Warwick and by their own distrust of him. Triumphant indeed
as he seemed, the Earl found himself alone in the hour of his triumph. The
marriage of Prince Edward with Anne Neville, which had been promised as
soon as Henry was restored, was his one security against the vengeance of
the Lancastrians, and the continued delays of Margaret showed little
eagerness to redeem her promise. The heads of the Lancastrian party, the
Dukes of Somerset and Exeter, had pledged themselves to Charles the Bold
at their departure from his court to bring about Warwick's ruin. From
Lewis he could look for no further help, for the remonstrances of the
English merchants compelled him in spite of the treaty he had concluded to
keep the troops he had promised against Burgundy at home. Of his own main
supporters Clarence was only waiting for an opportunity of deserting him.
Even his brother Montagu shrank from striking fresh blows to further the
triumph of a party which aimed at the ruin of the Nevilles, and looked
forward with dread to the coming of the queen.

[Sidenote: Fall of Warwick]

The preparations for her departure in March brought matters to a head.
With a French queen on the throne a French alliance became an instant
danger for Burgundy, and Charles was driven to lend a secret ear to
Edward's prayer for aid. Money and ships were placed at his service, and
on the fourteenth of March 1471 the young king landed at Ravenspur on the
estuary of the Humber with a force of two thousand men. In the north all
remained quiet. York opened its gates when Edward professed to be seeking
not the crown but his father's dukedom. Montagu lay motionless at Pomfret
as the little army marched by him to the south. Routing at Newark a force
which had gathered on his flank, Edward pushed straight for Warwick, who
had hurried from London to raise an army in his own county. His forces
were already larger than those of his cousin, but the Earl cautiously
waited within the walls of Coventry for the reinforcements under Clarence
and Montagu which he believed to be hastening to his aid. The arrival of
Clarence however was at once followed by his junction with Edward, and the
offer of "good conditions" shows that Warwick himself was contemplating a
similar treason when the coming of two Lancastrian leaders, the Duke of
Exeter and the Earl of Oxford, put an end to the negotiation. The union of
Montagu with his brother forced Edward to decisive action; he marched upon
London, followed closely by Warwick's army, and found its gates opened by
the perfidy of Archbishop Neville. Again master of Henry of Lancaster who
passed anew to the Tower, Edward sallied afresh from the capital two days
after his arrival with an army strongly reinforced. At early dawn on the
fourteenth of April the two hosts fronted one another at Barnet. A thick
mist covered the field, and beneath its veil Warwick's men fought fiercely
till dread of mutual betrayal ended the strife. Montagu's followers
attacked the Lancastrian soldiers of Lord Oxford, whether as some said
through an error which sprang from the similarity of his cognizance to
that of Edward, or as the Lancastrians alleged while themselves in the act
of deserting to the enemy. Warwick himself was charged with cowardly
flight. In three hours the medley of carnage and treason was over. Four
thousand men lay on the field; and the Earl and his brother were found
among the slain.

[Sidenote: Battle of Tewkesbury]

But the fall of the Nevilles was far from giving rest to Edward. The
restoration of Henry, the return of their old leaders, had revived the
hopes of the Lancastrian party; and in the ruin of Warwick they saw only
the removal of an obstacle to their cause. The great Lancastrian lords had
been looking forward to a struggle with the Earl on Margaret's arrival,
and their jealousy of him was seen in the choice of the queen's
landing-place. Instead of joining her husband and the Nevilles in London
she disembarked from the French fleet at Weymouth, to find the men of the
western counties already flocking to the standards of the Duke of Somerset
and of the Courtenays, the Welsh arming at the call of Jasper Tudor, and
Cheshire and Lancashire only waiting for her presence to rise. A march
upon London with forces such as these would have left Warwick at her mercy
and freed the Lancastrian throne from the supremacy of the Nevilles. The
news of Barnet which followed hard on the queen's landing scattered these
plans to the winds; but the means which had been designed to overawe
Warwick might still be employed against his conqueror. Moving to Exeter to
gather the men of Devonshire and Cornwall, Margaret turned through Taunton
on Bath to hear that Edward was already encamped in her front at
Cirencester. The young king's action showed his genius for war. Barnet was
hardly fought when he was pushing to the west. After a halt at Abingdon to
gain news of Margaret's movements he moved rapidly by Cirencester and
Malmesbury towards the Lancastrians at Bath. But Margaret was as eager to
avoid a battle before her Welsh reinforcements reached her as Edward was
to force one on. Slipping aside to Bristol, and detaching a small body of
troops to amuse the king by a feint upon Sodbury, her army reached
Berkeley by a night-march and hurried forward through the following day to
Tewkesbury. But rapid as their movements had been, they had failed to
outstrip Edward. Marching on an inner line along the open Cotswold country
while his enemy was struggling through the deep and tangled lanes of the
Severn valley, the king was now near enough to bring Margaret to bay; and
the Lancastrian leaders were forced to take their stand on the slopes
south of the town, in a position approachable only through "foul lanes and
deep dykes." Here Edward at once fell on them at daybreak of the fourth of
May. His army, if smaller in numbers, was superior in military quality to
the motley host gathered round the queen, for as at Barnet he had with him
a force of Germans armed with hand-guns, then a new weapon in war, and a
fine train of artillery. It was probably the fire from these that drew
Somerset from the strong position which he held, but his repulse and the
rout of the force he led was followed up with quick decision. A general
advance broke the Lancastrian lines, and all was over. Three thousand were
cut down on the field, and a large number of fugitives were taken in the
town and abbey. To the leaders short shrift was given. Edward was resolute
to make an end of his foes. The fall of the Duke of Somerset extinguished
the male branch of the house of Beaufort. Margaret was a prisoner; and
with the murder of her son after his surrender on the field and the
mysterious death of Henry the Sixth in the Tower which followed the king's
return to the capital the direct line of Lancaster passed away.

[Sidenote: Charles and the Empire]

Edward was at last master of his realm. No noble was likely to measure
swords with the conqueror of the Nevilles. The one rival who could revive
the Lancastrian claims, the last heir of the house of Beaufort, Henry
Tudor, was a boy and an exile. The king was free to display his genius for
war on nobler fields than those of Barnet and Tewkesbury, and for a while
his temper and the passion of his people alike drove him to the strife
with France. But the country was too exhausted to meddle in the attack on
Lewis which Charles, assured at any rate against English hostility,
renewed in 1472 in union with the Dukes of Guienne and Britanny, and which
was foiled as of old through the death of the one ally and the desertion
of the other. The failure aided in giving a turn to his policy, which was
to bring about immense results on the after history of Europe. French as
he was in blood, the nature of his possessions had made Charles from the
first a German prince rather than a French. If he held of Lewis his duchy
of Burgundy, his domain on the Somme, and Flanders west of the Scheldt,
the mass of his dominions was held of the Empire. While he failed too in
extending his power on the one side it widened rapidly on the other. In
war after war he had been unable to gain an inch of French ground beyond
the towns of the Somme. But year after year had seen new gains on his
German frontier. Elsass and the Breisgau passed into his hands as security
for a loan to the Austrian Duke Sigismund; in 1473 he seized Lorraine by
force of arms, and inherited from its Duke Gelderland and the county of
Cleves. Master of the Upper Rhine and Lower Rhine, as well as of a crowd
of German princedoms, Charles was now the mightiest among the princes of
the Empire, and in actual power superior to the Emperor himself. The house
of Austria, in which the Imperial crown seemed to be becoming hereditary,
was weakened by attacks from without as by divisions within, by the loss
of Bohemia and Hungary, by the loss of its hold over German Switzerland,
and still more by the mean and spiritless temper of its Imperial head,
Frederick the Third. But its ambition remained boundless as ever; and in
the Burgundian dominion, destined now to be the heritage of a girl, for
Mary was the Duke's only child, it saw the means of building up a
greatness such as it had never known. Its overtures at once turned the
Duke's ambition from France to Germany. He was ready to give his
daughter's hand to Frederick's son, Maximilian; but his price was that of
succession to the Imperial crown, and his election to the dignity of King
of the Romans. In such an event the Empire and his vast dominions would
pass together at his death to Maximilian, and the aim of the Austrian
House would be realized. It was to negotiate this marriage, a marriage
which in the end was destined to shape the political map of modern Europe,
that Duke and Emperor met in 1473 at Trier.

[Sidenote: Peace with France]

But if Frederick's policy was to strengthen his house the policy of the
princes of the Empire lay in keeping it weak; and their pressure was
backed by suspicions of the Duke's treachery, and of the possibility of a
later marriage whose male progeny might for ever exclude the house of
Austria from the Imperial throne. Frederick's sudden flight broke up the
conference; but Charles was far from relinquishing his plans. To win the
mastery of the whole Rhine valley was the first step in their realization,
and at the opening of 1474 he undertook the siege of Neuss, whose
reduction meant that of Köln and of the central district which broke his
sway along it. But vast as were the new dreams of ambition which thus
opened before Charles, he had given no open sign of his change of purpose.
Lewis watched his progress on the Rhine almost as jealously as his
attitude on the Somme; and the friendship of England was still of the
highest value as a check on any attempt of France to interrupt his plans.
With this view the Duke maintained his relations with England and fed
Edward's hopes of a joint invasion. In the summer of 1474, on the eve of
his march upon the Rhine, he concluded a treaty for an attack on France
which was to open on his return after the capture of Neuss. Edward was to
recover Normandy and Aquitaine as well as his "kingdom of France";
Champagne and Bar were to be the prizes of Charles. Through the whole of
1474 the English king prepared actively for war. A treaty was concluded
with Britanny. The nation was wild with enthusiasm. Large supplies were
granted by Parliament: and a large army gathered for the coming campaign.
The plan of attack was a masterly one. While Edward moved from Normandy on
Paris, the forces of Burgundy and of Britanny on his right hand and his
left were to converge on the same point. But the aim of Charles in these
negotiations was simply to hold Lewis from any intervention in his
campaign on the Rhine. The siege of Neuss was not opened till the close of
July, and its difficulties soon unfolded themselves. Once master of the
whole Rhineland, the house of Austria saw that Charles would be strong
enough to wrest from it the succession to the Empire; and while Sigismund
paid back his loan and roused Elsass to revolt the Emperor Frederick
brought the whole force of Germany to the relief of the town. From that
moment the siege was a hopeless one, but Charles clung to it with stubborn
pride through autumn, winter, and spring, and it was only at the close of
June 1475 that the menace of new leagues against his dominions on the
upper Rhineland forced him to withdraw. So broken was his army that he
could not, even if he would, have aided in carrying out the schemes of the
preceding year. But an English invasion would secure him from attack by
Lewis till his forces could be reorganized; and with the same unscrupulous
selfishness as of old Charles pledged himself to co-operate and called on
Edward to cross the Channel. In July Edward landed with an army of
twenty-four thousand men at Calais. In numbers and in completeness of
equipment no such force had as yet left English shores. But no Burgundian
force was seen on the Somme; and after long delays Charles proposed that
Edward should advance alone upon Paris on his assurance that the
fortresses of the Somme would open their gates. The English army crossed
the Somme and approached St. Quentin, but it was repulsed from the walls
by a discharge of artillery. It was now the middle of August, and heavy
rains prevented further advance; while only excuses for delay came from
Britanny and it became every day clearer that the Burgundian Duke had no
real purpose to aid. Lewis seized the moment of despair to propose peace
on terms which a conqueror might have accepted, the security of Britanny,
the payment of what the English deemed a tribute of fifty thousand crowns
a year, and the betrothal of Edward's daughter to the Dauphin. A separate
treaty provided for mutual aid in case of revolt among the subjects of
either king; and for mutual shelter should either be driven from his
realm. In spite of remonstrances from the Duke of Burgundy this truce was
signed at the close of August and the English soldiers recrossed the sea.

[Sidenote: Edward's policy]

The desertion of Charles threw Edward, whether he would or no, on the
French alliance; and the ruin of the Duke explains the tenacity with which
he clung to it. Defeated by the Swiss at Morat in the following year,
Charles fell in the opening of 1477 on the field of Nanci, and his vast
dominion was left in his daughter's charge. Lewis seized Picardy and
Artois, the Burgundian duchy and Franche Comté: and strove to gain the
rest by forcing on Mary of Burgundy the hand of the Dauphin. But the
Imperial dreams which had been fatal to Charles had to be carried out
through the very ruin they wrought. Pressed by revolt in Flanders, and by
the French king's greed, Mary gave her hand to the Emperor's son,
Maximilian; and her heritage passed to the Austrian house. Edward took no
part in the war between Lewis and Maximilian which followed on the
marriage. The contest between England and France had drifted into a
mightier European struggle between France and the House of Austria; and
from this struggle the king wisely held aloof. He saw what Henry the
Seventh saw after him, and what Henry the Eighth learned at last to see,
that England could only join in such a contest as the tool of one or other
of the combatants, a tool to be used while the struggle lasted and to be
thrown aside as soon as it was over. With the growth of Austrian power
England was secure from French aggression; and rapidly as Lewis was adding
province after province to his dominions his loyalty to the pledge he had
given of leaving Britanny untouched and his anxiety to conclude a closer
treaty of amity in 1478 showed the price he set on his English alliance.
Nor was Edward's course guided solely by considerations of foreign policy.
A French alliance meant peace; and peace was needful for the plans which
Edward proceeded steadily to carry out. With the closing years of his
reign the Monarchy took a new colour. The introduction of an elaborate spy
system, the use of the rack, and the practice of interference with the
purity of justice gave the first signs of an arbitrary rule which the
Tudors were to develope. It was on his creation of a new financial system
that the king laid the foundation of a despotic rule. Rich, and secure at
home as abroad, Edward had small need to call the Houses together; no
parliament met for five years, and when one was called at last it was
suffered to do little but raise the custom duties, which were now granted
to the king for life. Sums were extorted from the clergy; monopolies were
sold; the confiscations of the civil war filled the royal exchequer;
Edward did not disdain to turn merchant on his own account. The promise of
a French war had not only drawn heavy subsidies from the Commons, much of
which remained in the royal treasury through the abrupt close of the
strife, but enabled the king to deal a deadly blow at the liberty which
the Commons had won. Edward set aside the usage of contracting loans by
authority of parliament; and calling before him the merchants of London,
begged from each a gift or "benevolence" in proportion to the royal needs.
How bitterly this exaction was resented even by the classes with whom the
king had been most popular was seen in the protest which the citizens
addressed to his successor against these "extortions and new impositions
against the laws of God and man and the liberty and laws of this realm."
But for the moment resistance was fruitless, and the "benevolence" of
Edward was suffered to furnish a precedent for the forced loans of Wolsey
and of Charles the First.

[Sidenote: Popularization of knowledge]

In the history of intellectual progress his reign takes a brighter colour.
The founder of a new despotism presents a claim to our regard as the
patron of Caxton. It is in the life of the first English printer that we
see the new upgrowth of larger and more national energies which were to
compensate for the decay of the narrower energies of the Middle Age.
Beneath the mouldering forms of the old world a new world was bursting
into life; if the fifteenth century was an age of death it was an age of
birth as well, of that new birth, that Renascence, from which the after
life of Europe was to flow. The force which till now concentrated itself
in privileged classes was beginning to diffuse itself through nations. The
tendency of the time was to expansion, to diffusion. The smaller gentry
and the merchant class rose in importance as the nobles fell. Religion and
morality passed out of the hands of the priesthood into those of the
laity. Knowledge became vulgarized, it stooped to lower and meaner forms
that it might educate the whole people. England was slow to catch the
intellectual fire which was already burning brightly across the Alps, but
even amidst the turmoil of its wars and revolutions intelligence was being
more widely spread. While the older literary class was dying out, a glance
beneath the surface shows us the stir of a new interest in knowledge
amongst the masses of the people itself. The very character of the
authorship of the time, its love of compendiums and abridgements of such
scientific and historical knowledge as the world believed it possessed,
its dramatic performances or mysteries, the commonplace morality of its
poets, the popularity of its rimed chronicles, are proof that literature
was ceasing to be the possession of a purely intellectual class, and was
beginning to appeal to the nation at large. The correspondence of the
Paston family not only displays a fluency and grammatical correctness
which would have been impossible a few years before, but shows country
squires discussing about books and gathering libraries. The increased use
of linen paper in place of the costlier parchment helped in the
popularization of letters. In no former age had finer copies of books been
produced; in none had so many been transcribed. This increased demand for
their production caused the processes of copying and illuminating
manuscripts to be transferred from the scriptoria of the religious houses
into the hands of trade-gilds like the Gild of St. John at Bruges or the
Brothers of the Pen at Brussels. It was in fact this increase of demand
for books, pamphlets, or fly-sheets, especially of a grammatical or
religious character, in the middle of the fifteenth century that brought
about the introduction of printing. We meet with the first records of the
printer's art in rude sheets struck off from wooden blocks, "block-books"
as they are now called. Later on came the vast advance of printing from
separate and moveable types. Originating at Maintz with the three famous
printers, Gutenberg, Fust, and Schoeffer, this new process travelled
southward to Strassburg, crossed the Alps to Venice, where it lent itself
through the Aldi to the spread of Greek literature in Europe, and then
floated down the Rhine to the towns of Flanders.

[Sidenote: Caxton]

It was probably at the press of Colard Mansion, in a little room over the
porch of St. Donat's at Bruges, that William Caxton learned the art which
he was the first to introduce into England. A Kentish boy by birth, but
apprenticed to a London mercer, Caxton had already spent thirty years of
his manhood in Flanders as Governor of the English gild of Merchant
Adventurers there when we find him engaged as copyist in the service of
Edward's sister, Duchess Margaret of Burgundy. But the tedious process of
copying was soon thrown aside for the new art which Colard Mansion had
introduced into Bruges. "For as much as in the writing of the same,"
Caxton tells us in the preface to his first printed work, the Tales of
Troy, "my pen is worn, my hand weary and not steadfast, mine eyes dimmed
with over much looking on the white paper, and my courage not so prone and
ready to labour as it hath been, and that age creepeth on me daily and
feebleth all the body, and also because I have promised to divers
gentlemen and to my friends to address to them as hastily as I might the
said book, therefore I have practised and learned at my great charge and
dispense to ordain this said book in print after the manner and form as ye
may see, and is not written with pen and ink as other books be, to the end
that every man may have them at once, for all the books of this story here
emprynted as ye see were begun in one day and also finished in one day."
The printing-press was the precious freight he brought back to England in
1476 after an absence of five-and-thirty years. Through the next fifteen,
at an age when other men look for ease and retirement, we see him plunging
with characteristic energy into his new occupation. His "red pale," or
heraldic shield marked with a red bar down the middle, invited buyers to
the press he established in the Almonry at Westminster, a little enclosure
containing a chapel and almshouses near the west front of the church,
where the alms of the abbey were distributed to the poor. "If it please
any man, spiritual or temporal," runs his advertisement, "to buy any pyes
of two or three commemorations of Salisbury use emprynted after the form
of the present letter, which be well and truly correct, let him come to
Westminster into the Almonry at the red pale, and he shall have them good
chepe." Caxton was a practical man of business, as this advertisement
shows, no rival of the Venetian Aldi or of the classical printers of Rome,
but resolved to get a living from his trade, supplying priests with
service books and preachers with sermons, furnishing the clerk with his
"Golden Legend" and knight and baron with "joyous and pleasant histories
of chivalry." But while careful to win his daily bread, he found time to
do much for what of higher literature lay fairly to hand. He printed all
the English poetry of any moment which was then in existence. His
reverence for that "worshipful man, Geoffrey Chaucer," who "ought to be
eternally remembered," is shown not merely by his edition of the
"Canterbury Tales," but by his reprint of them when a purer text of the
poem offered itself. The poems of Lydgate and Gower were added to those of
Chaucer. The Chronicle of Brut and Higden's "Polychronicon" were the only
available works of an historical character then existing in the English
tongue, and Caxton not only printed them but himself continued the latter
up to his own time. A translation of Boethius, a version of the Æneid from
the French, and a tract or two of Cicero, were the stray first-fruits of
the classical press in England.

[Sidenote: Caxton's work]

Busy as was Caxton's printing-press, he was even busier as a translator
than as a printer. More than four thousand of his printed pages are from
works of his own rendering. The need of these translations shows the
popular drift of literature at the time; but, keen as the demand seems to
have been, there is nothing mechanical in the temper with which Caxton
prepared to meet it. A natural, simple-hearted taste and enthusiasm,
especially for the style and forms of language, breaks out in his curious
prefaces. "Having no work in hand," he says in the preface to his Æneid,
"I sitting in my study where as lay many divers pamphlets and books,
happened that to my hand came a little book in French, which late was
translated out of Latin by some noble clerk of France--which book is named
Eneydos, and made in Latin by that noble poet and great clerk Vergyl--in
which book I had great pleasure by reason of the fair and honest termes
and wordes in French which I never saw to-fore-like, none so pleasant nor
so well ordered, which book as me seemed should be much requisite for
noble men to see, as well for the eloquence as the histories; and when I
had advised me to this said book I deliberated and concluded to translate
it into English, and forthwith took a pen and ink and wrote a leaf or
twain." But the work of translation involved a choice of English which
made Caxton's work important in the history of our language. He stood
between two schools of translation, that of French affectation and English
pedantry. It was a moment when the character of our literary tongue was
being settled, and it is curious to see in his own words the struggle over
it which was going on in Caxton's time. "Some honest and great clerks have
been with me and desired me to write the most curious terms that I could
find"; on the other hand, "some gentlemen of late blamed me, saying that
in my translations I had over many curious terms which could not be
understood of common people, and desired me to use old and homely terms in
my translations." "Fain would I please every man," comments the
good-humoured printer, but his sturdy sense saved him alike from the
temptations of the court and the schools. His own taste pointed to
English, but "to the common terms that be daily used" rather than to the
English of his antiquarian advisers. "I took an old book and read therein,
and certainly the English was so rude and broad I could not well
understand it," while the Old-English charters which the Abbot of
Westminster lent as models from the archives of his house seemed "more
like to Dutch than to English." To adopt current phraseology however was
by no means easy at a time when even the speech of common talk was in a
state of rapid flux. "Our language now used varieth far from that which
was used and spoken when I was born." Not only so, but the tongue of each
shire was still peculiar to itself and hardly intelligible to men of
another county. "Common English that is spoken in one shire varieth from
another so much, that in my days happened that certain merchants were in a
ship in Thames for to have sailed over the sea into Zealand, and for lack
of wind they tarried at Foreland and went on land for to refresh them. And
one of them, named Sheffield, a mercer, came into a house and asked for
meat, and especially he asked them after eggs. And the good wife answered
that she could speak no French. And the merchant was angry, for he also
could speak no French, but would have eggs, but she understood him not.
And then at last another said he would have eyren, then the good wife said
she understood him well. Lo! what should a man in these days now write,"
adds the puzzled printer, "eggs or eyren? certainly it is hard to please
every man by cause of diversity and change of language." His own
mother-tongue too was that of "Kent in the Weald, where I doubt not is
spoken as broad and rude English as in any place in England"; and coupling
this with his long absence in Flanders we can hardly wonder at the
confession he makes over his first translation, that "when all these
things came to fore me, after that I had made and written a five or six
quires, I fell in despair of this work, and purposed never to have
continued therein, and the quires laid apart, and in two years after
laboured no more in this work." He was still however busy translating when
he died. All difficulties in fact were lightened by the general interest
which his labours aroused. When the length of the "Golden Legend" makes
him "half desperate to have accomplished it" and ready to "lay it apart,"
the Earl of Arundel solicits him in no wise to leave it and promises a
yearly fee of a buck in summer and a doe in winter, once it were done.
"Many noble and divers gentle men of this realm came and demanded many and
often times wherefore I have not made and imprinted the noble history of
the 'San Graal.'" We see his visitors discussing with the sagacious
printer the historic existence of Arthur. Duchess Margaret of Somerset
lent him her "Blanchardine and Eglantine"; an Archdeacon of Colchester
brought him his translation of the work called "Cato"; a mercer of London
pressed him to undertake the "Royal Book" of Philip le Bel. Earl Rivers
chatted with him over his own translation of the "Sayings of the
Philosophers." Even kings showed their interest in his work; his "Tully"
was printed under the patronage of Edward the Fourth, his "Order of
Chivalry" dedicated to Richard the Third, his "Fayts of Arms" published at
the desire of Henry the Seventh. Caxton profited in fact by the wide
literary interest which was a mark of the time. The fashion of large and
gorgeous libraries had passed from the French to the English princes of
his day: Henry the Sixth had a valuable collection of books; that of the
Louvre was seized by Duke Humphrey of Gloucester and formed the basis of
the fine library which he presented to the University of Oxford. Great
nobles took an active and personal part in the literary revival. The
warrior, Sir John Fastolf, was a well-known lover of books. Earl Rivers
was himself one of the authors of the day; he found leisure in the
intervals of pilgrimages and politics to translate the "Sayings of the
Philosophers" and a couple of religious tracts for Caxton's press. A
friend of far greater intellectual distinction however than these was
found in John Tiptoft Earl of Worcester. He had wandered during the reign
of Henry the Sixth in search of learning to Italy, had studied at her
universities and become a teacher at Padua, where the elegance of his
Latinity drew tears from the most learned of the Popes, Pius the Second,
better known as Æneas Sylvius. Caxton can find no words warm enough to
express his admiration of one "which in his time flowered in virtue and
cunning, to whom I know none like among the lords of the temporality in
science and moral virtue." But the ruthlessness of the Renascence appeared
in Tiptoft side by side with its intellectual vigour, and the fall of one
whose cruelty had earned him the surname of "the Butcher" even amidst the
horrors of civil war was greeted with sorrow by none but the faithful
printer. "What great loss was it," he says in a preface printed long after
his fall, "of that noble, virtuous, and well-disposed lord; when I
remember and advertise his life, his science, and his virtue, me thinketh
(God not displeased) over great the loss of such a man considering his
estate and cunning."

[Sidenote: Richard of Gloucester]

Among the nobles who encouraged the work of Caxton was the king's youngest
brother, Richard Duke of Gloucester. Edward had never forgiven Clarence
his desertion; and his impeachment in 1478 on a charge of treason, a
charge soon followed by his death in the Tower, brought Richard nearer to
the throne. Ruthless and subtle as Edward himself, the Duke was already
renowned as a warrior; his courage and military skill had been shown at
Barnet and Tewkesbury; and at the close of Edward's reign an outbreak of
strife with the Scots enabled him to march in triumph upon Edinburgh in
1482. The sudden death of his brother called Richard at once to the front.
Worn with excesses, though little more than forty years old, Edward died
in the spring of 1483, and his son Edward the Fifth succeeded peacefully
to the throne. The succession of a boy of thirteen woke again the fierce
rivalries of the court. The Woodvilles had the young king in their hands;
but Lord Hastings, the chief adviser of his father, at once joined with
Gloucester and the Duke of Buckingham, the heir of Edward the Third's
youngest son and one of the greatest nobles of the realm, to overthrow
them. The efforts of the queen-mother to obtain the regency were foiled,
Lord Rivers and two Woodvilles were seized and sent to the block, and the
king transferred to the charge of Richard, who was proclaimed by a great
council of bishops and nobles Protector of the Realm. But if he hated the
queen's kindred Hastings was as loyal as the Woodvilles themselves to the
children of Edward the Fourth; and the next step of the two Dukes was to
remove this obstacle. Little more than a month had passed after the
overthrow of the Woodvilles when Richard suddenly entered the
Council-chamber and charged Hastings with sorcery and attempts upon his
life. As he dashed his hand upon the table the room filled with soldiery.
"I will not dine," said the Duke, turning to the minister, "till they have
brought me your head." Hastings was hurried to execution in the courtyard
of the Tower, his fellow-counsellors thrown into prison, and the last
check on Richard's ambition was removed. Buckingham lent him his aid in a
claim of the crown; and on the twenty-fifth of June the Duke consented
after some show of reluctance to listen to the prayer of a Parliament
hastily gathered together, which, setting aside Edward's children as the
fruit of an unlawful marriage and those of Clarence as disabled by his
attainder, besought him to take the office and title of king.

[Sidenote: Henry Tudor]

Violent as his acts had been, Richard's career had as yet jarred little
with popular sentiment. The Woodvilles were unpopular, Hastings was
detested as the agent of Edward's despotism, the reign of a child-king was
generally deemed impossible. The country, longing only for peace after all
its storms, called for a vigorous and active ruler; and Richard's vigour
and ability were seen in his encounter with the first danger that
threatened his throne. The new revolution had again roused the hopes of
the Lancastrian party. With the deaths of Henry the Sixth and his son all
the descendants of Henry the Fourth passed away; but the line of John of
Gaunt still survived in the heir of the Beauforts. The legality of the
royal act which barred their claim to the crown was a more than
questionable one; the Beauforts had never admitted it, and the conduct of
Henry the Sixth in his earlier years points to a belief in their right of
succession. Their male line was extinguished by the fall of the last Duke
of Somerset at Tewkesbury, but the claim of the house was still maintained
by the son of Margaret Beaufort, the daughter of Duke John and
great-grand-daughter of John of Gaunt. While still but a girl Margaret had
become both wife and mother. She had wedded the Earl of Richmond, Edmund
Tudor, a son of Henry the Fifth's widow, Katharine of France, by a
marriage with a Welsh squire, Owen Tudor; and had given birth to a son,
the later Henry the Seventh. From very childhood the life of Henry had
been a troubled one. His father died in the year of his birth; his uncle
and guardian, Jasper, Earl of Pembroke, was driven from the realm on the
fall of the House of Lancaster; and the boy himself, attainted at five
years old, remained a prisoner till the restoration of Henry the Sixth by
Lord Warwick. But Edward's fresh success drove him from the realm, and
escaping to Britanny he was held there, half-guest, half-prisoner, by its
Duke. The extinction of the direct Lancastrian line had given Henry a new
importance. Edward the Fourth never ceased to strive for his surrender,
and if the Breton Duke refused to give him up, his alliance with the
English king was too valuable to be imperilled by suffering him to go
free. The value of such a check on Richard was seen by Lewis of France;
and his demands for Henry's surrender into his hands drove the Duke of
Britanny, who was now influenced by a minister in Richard's pay, to seek
for aid from England. In June the king sent a thousand archers to
Britanny; but the troubles of the Duchy had done more for Henry than Lewis
could have done. The nobles rose against Duke and minister; and in the
struggle that followed the young Earl was free to set sail as he would.

[Sidenote: Richard's reign]

He found unexpected aid in the Duke of Buckingham, whose support had done
much to put Richard on the throne. Though rewarded with numerous grants
and the post of Constable, Buckingham's greed was still unsated; and on
the refusal of his demand of the lands belonging to the earldom of
Hereford the Duke lent his ear to the counsels of Margaret Beaufort, who
had married his brother, Henry Stafford, but still remained true to the
cause of her boy. Buckingham looked no doubt to the chance of fooling
Yorkist and Lancastrian alike, and of pressing his own claims to the
throne on Richard's fall. But he was in the hands of subtler plotters.
Morton, the exiled Bishop of Ely, had founded a scheme of union on the
disappearance of Edward the Fifth and his brother, who had been imprisoned
in the Tower since Richard's accession to the throne, and were now
believed to have been murdered by his orders. The death of the boys left
their sister Elizabeth, who had taken sanctuary at Westminster with her
mother, the heiress of Edward the Fourth; and the scheme of Morton was to
unite the discontented Yorkists with what remained of the Lancastrian
party by the marriage of Elizabeth with Henry Tudor. The queen-mother and
her kindred gave their consent to this plan, and a wide revolt was
organized under Buckingham's leadership. In October 1483 the Woodvilles
and their adherents rose in Wiltshire, Kent, and Berkshire, the Courtenays
in Devon, while Buckingham marched to their support from Wales. Troubles
in Britanny had at this moment freed Henry Tudor, and on the news of the
rising he sailed with a strong fleet and five thousand soldiers on board.
A proclamation of the new pretender announced to the nation what seems as
yet to have been carefully hidden, the death of the princes in the Tower.
But, whether the story was believed or no, the duration of the revolt was
too short for it to tell upon public opinion. Henry's fleet was driven
back by a storm, Buckingham was delayed by a flood in the Severn, and the
smaller outbreaks were quickly put down. Richard showed little inclination
to deal roughly with the insurgents. Buckingham indeed was beheaded, but
the bulk of his followers were pardoned, and the overthrow of her hopes
reconciled the queen-mother to the king. She quitted the sanctuary with
Elizabeth, and thus broke up the league on which Henry's hopes hung. But
Richard was too wary a statesman to trust for safety to mere force of
arms. He resolved to enlist the nation on his side. During his brother's
reign he had watched the upgrowth of public discontent as the new policy
of the monarchy developed itself, and he now appealed to England as the
restorer of its ancient liberties. "We be determined," said the citizens
of London in a petition to the king, "rather to adventure and to commit us
to the peril of our lives and jeopardy of death than to live in such
thraldom and bondage as we have lived some time heretofore, oppressed and
injured by extortions and new impositions against the laws of God and man
and the liberty and laws of this realm wherein every Englishman is
inherited." Richard met the appeal by convoking Parliament in January
1484, and by sweeping measures of reform. The practice of extorting money
by benevolences was declared illegal, while grants of pardons and
remissions of forfeitures reversed in some measure the policy of terror by
which Edward at once held the country in awe and filled his treasury.
Numerous statutes broke the slumbers of Parliamentary legislation. A
series of mercantile enactments strove to protect the growing interests of
English commerce. The king's love of literature showed itself in a
provision that no statutes should act as a hindrance "to any artificer or
merchant stranger, of what nation or country he be, for bringing into this
realm or selling by retail or otherwise of any manner of books, written or
imprinted." His prohibition of the iniquitous seizure of goods before
conviction of felony which had prevailed during Edward's reign, his
liberation of the bondmen who still remained unenfranchised on the royal
domain, and his religious foundations show Richard's keen anxiety to
purchase a popularity in which the bloody opening of his reign might be

[Sidenote: Bosworth Field]

It was doubtless the same wish to render his throne popular which led
Richard to revive the schemes of a war with France. He had strongly
remonstrated against his brother's withdrawal and alliance in 1475, and it
must have been rather a suspicion of his warlike designs than any horror
at the ruthlessness of his ambition which led Lewis the Eleventh on his
death-bed to refuse to recognize his accession. At the close of Edward the
Fourth's reign the alliance which had bound the two countries together was
brought to an end by the ambition and faithlessness of the French king.
The war between Lewis and Maximilian ended at the close of 1482 through
the sudden death of Mary of Burgundy and the reluctance of the Flemish
towns to own Maximilian's authority as guardian of her son, Philip, the
heir of the Burgundian states. Lewis was able to conclude a treaty at
Arras, by which Philip's sister, Margaret, was betrothed to the Dauphin
Charles, and brought with her as dower the counties of Artois and
Burgundy. By the treaty with England Charles was already betrothed to
Edward's daughter, Elizabeth; and this open breach of treaty was followed
by the cessation of the subsidy which had been punctually paid since 1475.
France in fact had no more need of buying English neutrality. Galled as he
was, Edward's death but a few months later hindered any open quarrel, but
the refusal of Lewis to recognize Richard and his attempts to force from
Britanny the surrender of Henry Tudor added to the estrangement of the two
courts; and we can hardly wonder that on the death of the French king only
a few months after his accession Richard seized the opportunity which the
troubles at the French court afforded him. Charles the Eighth was a minor;
and the control of power was disputed as of old between the Regent, Anne
of Beaujeu, and the Duke of Orleans. Orleans entered into correspondence
with Richard and Maximilian, whom Anne's policy was preventing from
gaining the mastery over the Low Countries, and preparations were making
for a coalition which would have again brought an English army and the
young English king on to the soil of France. It was to provide against
this danger that Anne had received Henry Tudor at the French court when
the threat of delivering him up to Richard forced him to quit Britanny
after the failure of his first expedition; and she met the new coalition
by encouraging the Earl to renew his attack. Had Richard retained his
popularity the attempt must have ended in a failure even more disastrous
than before. But the news of the royal children's murder had slowly spread
through the nation, and even the most pitiless shrank aghast before this
crowning deed of blood. The pretence of a constitutional rule too was soon
thrown off, and in the opening of 1485 a general irritation was caused by
the levy of benevolences in defiance of the statute which had just been
passed. The king felt himself safe; the consent of the queen-mother to his
contemplated marriage with her daughter Elizabeth appeared to secure him
against any danger from the discontented Yorkists; and Henry, alone and in
exile, seemed a small danger. Henry however had no sooner landed at
Milford Haven than a wide conspiracy revealed itself. Lord Stanley had as
yet stood foremost among Richard's adherents; he had supported him in the
rising of 1483 and had been rewarded with Buckingham's post of Constable.
His brother too stood high in the king's confidence. But Margaret
Beaufort, again left a widow, wedded Lord Stanley; and turned her third
marriage, as she had turned her second, to the profit of her boy. A pledge
of support from her husband explains the haste with which Henry pressed
forward to his encounter with the king. The treason however was skilfully
veiled; and though defection after defection warned Richard of his danger
as Henry moved against him, the Stanleys still remained by his side and
held command of a large body of his forces. But the armies no sooner met
on the twenty-second of August at Bosworth Field in Leicestershire than
their treason was declared. The forces under Lord Stanley abandoned the
king when the battle began; a second body of troops under the Earl of
Northumberland drew off as it opened. In the crisis of the fight Sir
William Stanley passed over to Henry's side. With a cry of "Treason!
treason!" Richard flung himself into the thick of the battle, and in the
fury of his despair he had already dashed the Lancastrian standard to the
ground and hewed his way into the presence of his rival when he fell
overpowered with numbers, and the crown which he had worn and which was
found as the struggle ended lying near a hawthorn bush was placed on the
head of the conqueror.


[Sidenote: Henry the Seventh]

Still young, for he was hardly thirty when his victory at Bosworth placed
him on the throne, the temper of Henry the Seventh seemed to promise the
reign of a poetic dreamer rather than of a statesman. The spare form, the
sallow face, the quick eye, lit now and then with a fire that told of his
Celtic blood, the shy, solitary humour which was only broken by outbursts
of pleasant converse or genial sarcasm, told of an inner concentration and
enthusiasm; and to the last Henry's mind remained imaginative and
adventurous. He dreamed of crusades, he dwelt with delight on the legends
of Arthur which Caxton gave to the world in the year of his accession. His
tastes were literary and artistic. He called foreign scholars to his court
to serve as secretaries and historiographers; he trained his children in
the highest culture of their day; he was a patron of the new printing
press, a lover of books and of art. The chapel at Westminster which bears
his name reflects his passion for architecture. But life gave Henry little
leisure for dreams or culture. From the first he had to struggle for very
existence against the dangers that beset him. A battle and treason had
given him the throne; treason and a battle might dash him from it. His
claim of blood was an uncertain and disputable one even by men of his own
party. He stood attainted by solemn Act of Parliament; and though the
judges ruled that the possession of the crown cleared all attaint the
stigma and peril remained. His victory had been a surprise; he could not
trust the nobles; of fifty-two peers he dared summon only a part to the
Parliament which assembled after his coronation and gave its recognition
to his claim of the crown. The Act made no mention of hereditary right, or
of any right by conquest, but simply declared "that the inheritance of the
crown should be, rest, remain, and abide in the most royal person of their
sovereign Lord, King Henry the Seventh, and the heirs of his body lawfully
ensuing." Such a declaration gave Henry a true Parliamentary title to his
throne; and his consciousness of this was shown in a second Act which
assumed him to have been king since the death of Henry the Sixth and
attainted Richard and his adherents as rebels and traitors. But such an
Act was too manifestly unjust to give real strength to his throne; it was
in fact practically undone in 1495 when a new statute declared that no one
should henceforth be attainted for serving a de facto king; and so
insecure seemed Henry's title that no power acknowledged him as king save
France and the Pope, and the support of France--gained as men believed by
a pledge to abandon the English claims on Normandy and Guienne--was as
perilous at home as it was useful abroad.

[Sidenote: Revolt of Simnel]

It was in vain that he carried out his promise to Morton and the
Woodvilles by marrying Elizabeth of York; he had significantly delayed the
marriage till he was owned as king in his own right, and a purely
Lancastrian claim to the throne roused wrath in every Yorkist which no
after match could allay. During the early years of his reign the country
was troubled with local insurrections, some so obscure that they have
escaped the notice of our chroniclers, some, like that of Lovel and of the
Staffords, general and formidable. The turmoil within was quickened by
encouragement from without. The Yorkist sympathies of the Earl of Kildare,
the deputy of Ireland, offered a starting-point for a descent from the
west; while the sister of Edward the Fourth, the Duchess Margaret of
Burgundy, a fanatic in the cause of her house, was ready to aid any
Yorkist attempt from Flanders. A trivial rising in 1486 proved to be the
prelude of a vast conspiracy in the following year. The Earl of Warwick,
the son of the Duke of Clarence and thus next male heir of the Yorkist
line, had been secured by Henry as by Richard in the Tower; but in the
opening of 1487 Lambert Simnel, a boy carefully trained for the purpose of
this imposture, landed under his name in Ireland. The whole island
espoused Simnel's cause, the Lord Deputy supported him, and he was soon
joined by the Earl of Lincoln, John de la Pole, the son of a sister of
Edward the Fourth by the Duke of Suffolk, and who on the death of
Richard's son had been recognized by that sovereign as his heir. Edward's
queen and the Woodvilles seem to have joined in the plot, and Margaret
sent troops which enabled the pretender to land in Lancashire. But Henry
was quick to meet the danger, and the impostor's defeat at Stoke near
Newark proved fatal to the hopes of the Yorkists. Simnel was taken and
made a scullion in the king's kitchen, Lincoln fell on the field.

[Sidenote: Henry's Government]

The victory of Stoke set Henry free to turn to the inner government of his
realm. He took up with a new vigour and fulness the policy of Edward the
Fourth. Parliament was only summoned on rare and critical occasions. It
was but twice convened during the last thirteen years of Henry's reign.
The chief aim of the king was the accumulation of a treasure which should
relieve him from the need of ever appealing for its aid. Subsidies granted
for the support of wars which Henry evaded formed the base of a royal
treasure which was swelled by the revival of dormant claims of the crown,
by the exaction of fines for the breach of forgotten tenures, and by a
host of petty extortions. Benevolences were again revived. A dilemma of
Henry's minister, which received the name of "Morton's fork," extorted
gifts to the exchequer from men who lived handsomely on the ground that
their wealth was manifest, and from those who lived plainly on the plea
that economy had made them wealthy. Still greater sums were drawn from
those who were compromised in the revolts which chequered the king's rule.
It was with his own hand that Henry endorsed the rolls of fines imposed
after every insurrection. So successful were these efforts that at the end
of his reign the king bequeathed a hoard of two millions to his successor.
The same imitation of Edward's policy was seen in Henry's civil
government. Broken as was the strength of the baronage, there still
remained lords whom the new monarch watched with a jealous solicitude.
Their power lay in the hosts of disorderly retainers who swarmed round
their houses, ready to furnish a force in case of revolt, while in peace
they became centres of outrage and defiance to the law. Edward had ordered
the dissolution of these military households in his Statute of Liveries,
and the statute was enforced by Henry with the utmost severity. On a visit
to the Earl of Oxford, one of the most devoted adherents of the
Lancastrian cause, the king found two long lines of liveried retainers
drawn up to receive him. "I thank you for your good cheer, my Lord," said
Henry as they parted, "but I may not endure to have my laws broken in my
sight. My attorney must speak with you." The Earl was glad to escape with
a fine of £10,000. It was with a special view to the suppression of this
danger that Henry employed the criminal jurisdiction of the royal Council.
The king in his Council had always asserted a right in the last resort to
enforce justice and peace by dealing with offenders too strong to be dealt
with by his ordinary courts. Henry systematized this occasional
jurisdiction by appointing in 1486 a committee of his Council as a regular
court, to which the place where it usually sat gave the name of the Court
of Star Chamber. The king's aim was probably little more than a purpose to
enforce order on the land by bringing the great nobles before his own
judgement-seat; but the establishment of the court as a regular and no
longer an exceptional tribunal, whose traditional powers were confirmed by
Parliamentary statute, and where the absence of a jury cancelled the
prisoner's right to be tried by his peers, furnished his son with an
instrument of tyranny which laid justice at the feet of the monarchy.

[Sidenote: War of Britanny]

In his foreign policy Henry like Edward clung to a system of peace. His
aim was to keep England apart, independent of the two great continental
powers which during the Wars of the Roses had made revolutions at their
will. Peace indeed was what Henry needed, whether for the general welfare
of the land, or for the building up of his own system of rule. Peace
however was hard to win. The old quarrel with France seemed indeed at an
end; for it was Henry's pledge of friendship which had bought the French
aid that enabled him to mount the throne. But in England itself hatred of
the French burned fiercely as ever; and the growth of the French monarchy
in extent and power through the policy of Lewis the Eleventh, his
extinction of the great feudatories, and the administrative centralization
he introduced, made even the coolest English statesman look on it as a
danger to the realm. Only Britanny broke the long stretch of French coast
which fronted England; and the steady refusal of Edward the Fourth to
suffer Lewis to attack the Duchy showed the English sense of its value.
Under its new king however, Charles the Eighth, France showed her purpose
of annexing Britanny. Henry contented himself for a while with sending a
few volunteers to aid in resistance; but when the death of the Duke left
Britanny and its heiress, Anne, at the mercy of the French king the
country called at once for war. Henry was driven to find allies in the
states which equally dreaded the French advance, in the house of Austria
and in the new power of Spain, to call on Parliament for supplies, and to
cross the Channel in 1492 with twenty-five thousand men. But his allies
failed him; a marriage of Charles with Anne gave the Duchy irretrievably
to the French king; and troubles at home brought Henry to listen to terms
of peace on payment of a heavy subsidy.

[Sidenote: Henry and Ireland]

Both kings indeed were eager for peace. Charles was anxious to free his
hands for the designs he was forming against Italy. What forced Henry to
close the war was the appearance of a new pretender. At the opening of
1492, at the moment when the king was threatening a descent on the French
coast, a youth calling himself Richard, Duke of York, landed suddenly in
Ireland. His story of an escape from the Tower and of his bringing up in
Portugal was accepted by a crowd of partizans; but he was soon called by
Charles to France, and his presence there adroitly used to wring peace
from the English king as the price of his abandonment. At the conclusion
of peace the pretender found a new refuge with Duchess Margaret; his
claims were recognized by the House of Austria and the king of Scots;
while Henry, who declared the youth's true name to be Perkin Warbeck,
weakened his cause by conflicting accounts of his origin and history.
Fresh Yorkist plots sprang up in England. The Duchess gathered a fleet,
Maximilian sent soldiers to the young claimant's aid, and in 1495 he
sailed for England with a force as large as that which had followed Henry
ten years before. But he found a different England. Though fierce
outbreaks still took place in the north, the country at large had tasted
the new sweets of order and firm government, and that reaction of feeling,
that horror of civil wars, which gave their strength to the Tudors had
already begun to show its force. The pretender's troops landed at Deal
only to be seized by the country folk and hanged as pirates. Their leader
sailed on to Ireland. Here too however he found a new state of things.
Since the recall of Richard and his army in 1399 English sovereignty over
the island had dwindled to a shadow. For a hundred years the native
chieftains had ruled without check on one side the Pale, and the lords of
the Pale had ruled with but little check on the other. But in 1494 Henry
took the country in hand. Sir Edward Poynings, a tried soldier, was
despatched as deputy to Ireland with troops at his back. English officers,
English judges were quietly sent over. The Lords of the Pale were scared
by the seizure of their leader, the Earl of Kildare. The Parliament of the
Pale was bridled by a statute passed at the Deputy's dictation; the famous
Poynings Act, by which it was forbidden to treat of any matters save those
first approved of by the English king and his Council. It was this new
Ireland that the pretender found when he appeared off its coast. He
withdrew in despair, and Henry at once set about finishing his work. The
time had not yet come when England was strong enough to hold Ireland by
her own strength. For a while the Lords of the Pale must still serve as
the English garrison against the unconquered Irish, and Henry called his
prisoner Kildare to his presence. "All Ireland cannot rule this man,"
grumbled his ministers. "Then shall he rule all Ireland," laughed the
king, and Kildare returned as Lord Deputy to hold the country loyally in
Henry's name.

[Sidenote: Henry and Scotland]

The same political forecast, winning from very danger the elements of
future security, was seen in the king's dealings with Scotland. From the
moment when England finally abandoned the fruitless effort to subdue it
the story of Scotland had been a miserable one. Whatever peace might be
concluded, a sleepless dread of the old danger from the south tied the
country to an alliance with France, and this alliance dragged it into the
vortex of the Hundred Years War. But after the final defeat and capture of
David on the field of Neville's Cross the struggle died down on both sides
into marauding forays and battles, like those of Otterburn and Homildon
Hill, in which alternate victories were won by the feudal lords of the
Scotch or English border. The ballad of "Chevy Chase" brings home to us
the spirit of the contest, the daring and defiance which stirred Sidney's
heart "like a trumpet." But the effect of the struggle on the internal
developement of Scotland was utterly ruinous. The houses of Douglas and of
March which it raised into supremacy only interrupted their strife with
England to battle fiercely with one another or to coerce their king. The
power of the Crown sank in fact into insignificance under the earlier
sovereigns of the line of Stuart which succeeded to the throne on the
extinction of the male line of Bruce in 1371. Invasions and civil feuds
not only arrested but even rolled back the national industry and
prosperity. The country was a chaos of disorder and misrule, in which the
peasant and the trader were the victims of feudal outrage. The Border
became a lawless land, where robbery and violence reigned utterly without
check. So pitiable seemed the state of the kingdom that at the opening of
the fifteenth century the clans of the Highlands drew together to swoop
upon it as a certain prey; but the common peril united the factions of the
nobles, and the victory of Harlaw saved the Lowlands from the rule of the

[Sidenote: Margaret Tudor]

A great name at last broke the line of the Scottish kings. Schooled by a
long captivity in England, James the First returned to his realm in 1424
to be the ablest of her rulers as he was the first of her poets. In the
twelve years of a wonderful reign justice and order were restored for the
while, the Scotch Parliament organized, the clans of the Highlands
assailed in their own fastnesses and reduced to swear fealty to the
"Saxon" king. James turned to assail the great houses; but feudal violence
was still too strong for the hand of the law, and a band of ruffians who
burst into his chamber left the king lifeless with sixteen stabs in his
body. His death in 1437 was the signal for a struggle between the House of
Douglas and the Crown which lasted through half a century. Order however
crept gradually in; the exile of the Douglases left the Scottish monarchs
supreme in the Lowlands; while their dominion over the Highlands was
secured by the ruin of the Lords of the Isles. But in its outer policy the
country still followed in the wake of France; every quarrel between French
king and English king brought danger with it on the Scottish border; and
the war of Britanny at once set James the Fourth among Henry's foes. James
welcomed the fugitive pretender at his court after his failure in Ireland,
wedded him to his cousin, and in 1497 marched with him to the south. Not a
man however greeted the Yorkist claimant, the country mustered to fight
him; and an outbreak among his nobles, many of whom Henry had in his pay,
called the Scot-king back again. Abandonment of the pretender was the
first provision of peace between the two countries. Forced to quit
Scotland the youth threw himself on the Cornish coast, drawn there by a
revolt in June, only two months before his landing, which had been stirred
up by the heavy taxation for the Scotch war, and in which a force of
Cornishmen had actually pushed upon London and only been dispersed by the
king's artillery on Blackheath. His temper however shrank from any real
encounter; and though he succeeded in raising a body of Cornishmen and
marched on Taunton, at the approach of the royal forces he fled from his
army, took sanctuary at Beaulieu, and surrendered on promise of life. But
the close of this danger made no break in Henry's policy of winning
Scotland to a new attitude towards his realm. The lure to James was the
hand of the English king's daughter, Margaret Tudor. For five years the
negotiations dragged wearily along. The bitter hate of the two peoples
blocked the way, and even Henry's ministers objected that the English
crown might be made by the match the heritage of a Scottish king. "Then,"
they said, "Scotland will annex England." "No," said the king with shrewd
sense; "in such a case England would annex Scotland, for the greater
always draws to it the less." His steady pressure at last won the day. In
1502 the marriage-treaty with the Scot-king was formally concluded; and
quiet, as Henry trusted, secured in the north.

[Sidenote: The Spanish Marriage]

The marriage of Margaret was to bring the House of Stuart at an after time
to the English throne. But results as momentous and far more immediate
followed on the marriage of Henry's sons. From the outset of his reign
Henry had been driven to seek the friendship and alliance of Spain. Though
his policy to the last remained one of peace, yet the acquisition of
Britanny forced him to guard against attack from France and the mastery of
the Channel which the possession of the Breton ports was likely to give to
the French fleet. The same dread of French attack drew Ferdinand of Aragon
and Isabel of Castile, whose marriage was building up the new monarchy of
Spain, to the side of the English king; and only a few years after his
accession they offered the hand of their daughter Catharine for his eldest
son. But the invasion of Italy by Charles the Eighth drew French ambition
to a distant strife, and once delivered from the pressure of immediate
danger Henry held warily back from a close connexion with the Spanish
realms which might have involved him in continental wars. It was not till
1501 that the marriage-treaty was really carried out. The Low Countries
had now passed to the son of Mary of Burgundy by her husband Maximilian,
the Austrian Archduke Philip. The Yorkist sympathies of the Duchess
Margaret were shared by Philip, and Flanders had till now been the
starting-point of the pretenders who had threatened Henry's crown. But
Philip's marriage with Juana, the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabel, bound
him to the cause of Spain, and it was to secure his throne by winning
Philip's alliance, as well as to gain in the friendship of the Low
Countries a fresh check upon French attack, that Henry yielded to
Ferdinand's renewed demand for the union of Arthur and Catharine. The
match was made in blood. Henry's own temper was merciful and even
generous; he punished rebellion for the most part by fines rather than
bloodshed, and he had been content to imprison or degrade his rivals. But
the Spanish ruthlessness would see no living claimant left to endanger
Catharine's throne, and Perkin Warbeck and the Earl of Warwick were put to
death on a charge of conspiracy before the landing of the bride.

Catharine however was widow almost as soon as wife, for only three months
after his wedding Arthur sickened and died. But a contest with France for
Southern Italy, which Ferdinand claimed as king of Aragon, now made the
friendship of England more precious than ever to the Spanish sovereigns;
and Isabel pressed for her daughter's union with the king's second son,
Henry, whom his brother's death left heir to the throne. In his anxiety to
avoid a breach with Spain the king suffered Henry to be betrothed to
Catharine, and threw the burthen of decision on Rome. A dispensation was
necessary, and the case was of course the more difficult if the first
marriage had been completed. The pleadings were put in, though both Julius
the Second and Henry were in no haste for a decision. But the victories of
Spain in Southern Italy enabled Isabel to put fresh pressure on the Pope,
and on a denial being given of the consummation of the earlier marriage
Julius was brought to sign a bull legitimating, even in case of such a
consummation, the later one. Henry however still shrank from any real
union. His aim was neither to complete the marriage, which would have
alienated France, nor to wholly break it off and so alienate Spain. A
balanced position between the two battling powers allowed him to remain at
peace, to maintain an independent policy, and to pursue his system of
home-government. He guarded his son's interests therefore by suggesting
that he should enter a secret protest against the validity of his
betrothal; and Catharine remained through the later years of his reign at
the English court betrothed but unmarried, sick with love-longing and
baffled pride.

[Sidenote: The Renascence]

But great as were the issues of Henry's policy, it shrinks into littleness
if we turn from it to the weighty movements which were now stirring the
minds of men. The world was passing through changes more momentous than
any it had witnessed since the victory of Christianity and the fall of the
Roman Empire. Its physical bounds were suddenly enlarged. The discoveries
of Copernicus revealed to man the secret of the universe. Portuguese
mariners doubled the Cape of Good Hope and anchored their merchant fleets
in the harbours of India. Columbus crossed the untraversed ocean to add a
New World to the Old. Sebastian Cabot, starting from the port of Bristol,
threaded his way among the icebergs of Labrador. This sudden contact with
new lands, new faiths, new races of men quickened the slumbering
intelligence of Europe into a strange curiosity. The first book of voyages
that told of the Western World, the travels of Amerigo Vespucci, was soon
"in everybody's hands." The "Utopia" of More, in its wide range of
speculation on every subject of human thought and action, tells us how
roughly and utterly the narrowness and limitation of human life had been
broken up. At the very hour when the intellectual energy of the Middle
Ages had sunk into exhaustion the capture of Constantinople by the Turks
and the flight of its Greek scholars to the shores of Italy opened anew
the science and literature of an older world. The exiled Greek scholars
were welcomed in Italy; and Florence, so long the home of freedom and of
art, became the home of an intellectual Revival. The poetry of Homer, the
drama of Sophocles, the philosophy of Aristotle and of Plato woke again to
life beneath the shadow of the mighty dome with which Brunelleschi had
just crowned the City by the Arno. All the restless energy which Florence
had so long thrown into the cause of liberty she flung, now that her
liberty was reft from her, into the cause of letters. The galleys of her
merchants brought back manuscripts from the East as the most precious
portion of their freight. In the palaces of her nobles fragments of
classic sculpture ranged themselves beneath the frescoes of Ghirlandajo.
The recovery of a treatise of Cicero's or a tract of Sallust's from the
dust of a monastic library was welcomed by the group of statesmen and
artists who gathered in the Rucellai gardens with a thrill of enthusiasm.
Foreign scholars soon flocked over the Alps to learn Greek, the key of the
new knowledge, from the Florentine teachers. Grocyn, a fellow of New
College, was perhaps the first Englishman who studied under the Greek
exile, Chalcondylas; and the Greek lectures which he delivered in Oxford
on his return in 1491 mark the opening of a new period in our history.
Physical as well as literary activity awoke with the rediscovery of the
teachers of Greece; and the continuous progress of English science may be
dated from the day when Linacre, another Oxford student, returned from the
lectures of the Florentine Politian to revive the older tradition of
medicine by his translation of Galen.

[Sidenote: John Colet]

But from the first it was manifest that the revival of letters would take
a tone in England very different from the tone it had taken in Italy, a
tone less literary, less largely human, but more moral, more religious,
more practical in its bearings both upon society and politics. The
awakening of a rational Christianity, whether in England or in the
Teutonic world at large, begins with the Italian studies of John Colet;
and the vigour and earnestness of Colet were the best proof of the
strength with which the new movement was to affect English religion. He
came back to Oxford utterly untouched by the Platonic mysticism or the
semi-serious infidelity which characterized the group of scholars round
Lorenzo the Magnificent. He was hardly more influenced by their literary
enthusiasm. The knowledge of Greek seems to have had one almost exclusive
end for him, and this was a religious end. Greek was the key by which he
could unlock the Gospels and the New Testament, and in these he thought
that he could find a new religious standing-ground. It was this resolve of
Colet to throw aside the traditional dogmas of his day and to discover a
rational and practical religion in the Gospels themselves which gave its
peculiar stamp to the theology of the Renascence. His faith stood simply
on a vivid realization of the person of Christ. In the prominence which
such a view gave to the moral life, in his free criticism of the earlier
Scriptures, in his tendency to simple forms of doctrine and confessions of
faith, Colet struck the keynote of a mode of religious thought as strongly
in contrast with that of the later Reformation as with that of Catholicism
itself. The allegorical and mystical theology on which the Middle Ages had
spent their intellectual vigour to such little purpose fell before his
rejection of all but the historical and grammatical sense of the Biblical
text. In his lectures on the Romans we find hardly a single quotation from
the Fathers or the scholastic teachers. The great fabric of belief built
up by the mediæval doctors seemed to him simply "the corruptions of the
Schoolmen." In the life and sayings of its Founder he saw a simple and
rational Christianity, whose fittest expression was the Apostles' creed.
"About the rest," he said with characteristic impatience, "let divines
dispute as they will." Of his attitude towards the coarser aspects of the
current religion his behaviour at a later time before the famous shrine of
St. Thomas at Canterbury gives us a rough indication. As the blaze of its
jewels, its costly sculptures, its elaborate metal-work burst on Colet's
view, he suggested with bitter irony that a saint so lavish to the poor in
his lifetime would certainly prefer that they should possess the wealth
heaped round him since his death. With petulant disgust he rejected the
rags of the martyr which were offered for his adoration and the shoe which
was offered for his kiss. The earnestness, the religious zeal, the very
impatience and want of sympathy with the past which we see in every word
and act of the man burst out in the lectures on St. Paul's Epistles which
he delivered at Oxford in 1497. Even to the most critical among his
hearers he seemed "like one inspired, raised in voice, eye, his whole
countenance and mien, out of himself."

[Sidenote: Erasmus]

Severe as was the outer life of the new teacher, a severity marked by his
plain black robe and the frugal table which he preserved amidst his later
dignities, his lively conversation, his frank simplicity, the purity and
nobleness of his life, even the keen outbursts of his troublesome temper,
endeared him to a group of scholars, foremost among whom stood Erasmus and
Thomas More. "Greece has crossed the Alps," cried the exiled Argyropulos
on hearing a translation of Thucydides by the German Reuchlin; but the
glory, whether of Reuchlin or of the Teutonic scholars who followed him,
was soon eclipsed by that of Erasmus. His enormous industry, the vast
store of classical learning which he gradually accumulated, Erasmus shared
with others of his day. In patristic study he may have stood beneath
Luther; in originality and profoundness of thought he was certainly
inferior to More. His theology, though he made a greater mark on the world
by it than even by his scholarship, he derived almost without change from
Colet. But his combination of vast learning with keen observation, of
acuteness of remark with a lively fancy, of genial wit with a perfect good
sense--his union of as sincere a piety and as profound a zeal for rational
religion as Colet's with a dispassionate fairness towards older faiths, a
large love of secular culture, and a genial freedom and play of mind--this
union was his own, and it was through this that Erasmus embodied for the
Teutonic peoples the quickening influence of the New Learning during the
long scholar-life which began at Paris and ended amidst sorrow and
darkness at Basle. At the time of Colet's return from Italy Erasmus was
young and comparatively unknown, but the chivalrous enthusiasm of the new
movement breaks out in his letters from Paris, whither he had wandered as
a scholar. "I have given up my whole soul to Greek learning," he writes,
"and as soon as I get any money I shall buy Greek books--and then I shall
buy some clothes." It was in despair of reaching Italy that the young
scholar made his way in 1498 to Oxford, as the one place on this side the
Alps where he would be enabled through the teaching of Grocyn to acquire a
knowledge of Greek. But he had no sooner arrived there than all feeling of
regret vanished away. "I have found in Oxford," he writes, "so much polish
and learning that now I hardly care about going to Italy at all, save for
the sake of having been there. When I listen to my friend Colet it seems
like listening to Plato himself. Who does not wonder at the wide range of
Grocyn's knowledge? What can be more searching, deep, and refined than the
judgement of Linacre? When did Nature mould a temper more gentle,
endearing, and happy than the temper of Thomas More?"

[Sidenote: Revival of Letters]

But the new movement was far from being bounded by the walls of Oxford.
The printing press was making letters the common property of all. In the
last thirty years of the fifteenth century ten thousand editions of books
and pamphlets are said to have been published throughout Europe, the most
important half of them of course in Italy. All the Latin authors were
accessible to every student before the century closed. Almost all the more
valuable authors of Greece were published in the twenty years that
followed. The profound influence of this burst of the two great classic
literatures on the world at once made itself felt. "For the first time,"
to use the picturesque phrase of M. Taine, "men opened their eyes and
saw." The human mind seemed to gather new energies at the sight of the
vast field which opened before it. It attacked every province of
knowledge, and in a few years it transformed all. Experimental science,
the science of philology, the science of politics, the critical
investigation of religious truth, all took their origin from this
Renascence--this "New Birth" of the world. Art, if it lost much in purity
and propriety, gained in scope and in the fearlessness of its love of
Nature. Literature, if crushed for the moment by the overpowering
attraction of the great models of Greece and Rome, revived with a grandeur
of form, a large spirit of humanity, such as it has never known since
their day. In England the influence of the new movement extended far
beyond the little group in which it had a few years before seemed
concentrated. The great churchmen became its patrons. Langton, Bishop of
Winchester, took delight in examining the young scholars of his episcopal
family every evening, and sent all the most promising of them to study
across the Alps. Learning found a yet warmer friend in the Archbishop of

[Sidenote: Warham]

Immersed as Archbishop Warham was in the business of the state, he was no
mere politician. The eulogies which Erasmus lavished on him while he
lived, his praises of the Primate's learning, of his ability in business,
his pleasant humour, his modesty, his fidelity to friends, may pass for
what eulogies of living men are commonly worth. But it is difficult to
doubt the sincerity of the glowing picture which he drew of him when death
had destroyed all interest in mere adulation. The letters indeed which
passed between the great churchman and the wandering scholar, the quiet,
simple-hearted grace which amidst constant instances of munificence
preserved the perfect equality of literary friendship, the enlightened
piety to which Erasmus could address the noble words of his preface to St.
Jerome, confirm the judgement of every good man of Warham's day. The
Archbishop's life was a simple one; and an hour's pleasant reading, a
quiet chat with some learned new-comer, alone broke the endless round of
civil and ecclesiastical business. Few men realized so thoroughly as
Warham the new conception of an intellectual and moral equality before
which the old social distinctions of the world were to vanish away. His
favourite relaxation was to sup among a group of scholarly visitors,
enjoying their fun and retorting with fun of his own. Colet, who had now
become Dean of St. Paul's and whose sermons were stirring all London,
might often be seen with Grocyn and Linacre at the Primate's board. There
too might probably have been seen Thomas More, who, young as he was, was
already famous through his lectures at St. Lawrence on "The City of God."
But the scholar-world found more than supper or fun at the Primate's
board. His purse was ever open to relieve their poverty. "Had I found such
a patron in my youth," Erasmus wrote long after, "I too might have been
counted among the fortunate ones." It was with Grocyn that Erasmus on a
second visit to England rowed up the river to Warham's board at Lambeth,
and in spite of an unpromising beginning the acquaintance turned out
wonderfully well. The Primate loved him, Erasmus wrote home, as if he were
his father or his brother, and his generosity surpassed that of all his
friends. He offered him a sinecure, and when he declined it he bestowed on
him a pension of a hundred crowns a year. When Erasmus wandered to Paris
it was Warham's invitation which recalled him to England. When the rest of
his patrons left him to starve on the sour beer of Cambridge it was Warham
who sent him fifty angels. "I wish there were thirty legions of them," the
Primate puns in his good-humoured way.

[Sidenote: Henry the Eighth]

Real however as this progress was, the group of scholars who represented
the New Learning in England still remained a little one through the reign
of Henry the Seventh. But the king's death in 1509 wholly changed their
position. A "New Order," to use their own enthusiastic phrase, dawned on
them in the accession of his son. Henry the Eighth had hardly completed
his eighteenth year when he mounted the throne; but his manly beauty, his
bodily vigour, and skill in arms, seemed matched by a frank and generous
temper and a nobleness of political aims. Pole, his bitterest enemy, owned
in later days that at the beginning of his reign Henry's nature was one
"from which all excellent things might have been hoped." Already in
stature and strength a king among his fellows, taller than any, bigger
than any, a mighty wrestler, a mighty hunter, an archer of the best, a
knight who bore down rider after rider in the tourney, the young monarch
combined with this bodily lordliness a largeness and versatility of mind
which was to be the special characteristic of the age that had begun. His
fine voice, his love of music, his skill on lute or organ, the taste for
poetry that made him delight in Surrey's verse, the taste for art which
made him delight in Holbein's canvas, left room for tendencies of a more
practical sort, for dabbling in medicine, or for a real skill in
shipbuilding. There was a popular fibre in Henry's nature which made him
seek throughout his reign the love of his people; and at its outset he
gave promise of a more popular system of government by checking the
extortion which had been practised under colour of enforcing forgotten
laws, and by bringing his father's financial ministers, Empson and Dudley,
to trial on a charge of treason. His sympathies were known to be heartily
with the New Learning; he was a clever linguist, he had a taste that never
left him for theological study, he was a fair scholar. Even as a boy of
nine he had roused by his wit and attainments the wonder of Erasmus, and
now that he mounted the throne the great scholar hurried back to England
to pour out his exultation in the "Praise of Folly," a song of triumph
over the old world of ignorance and bigotry that was to vanish away before
the light and knowledge of the new reign. Folly in his amusing little book
mounts a pulpit in cap and bells, and pelts with her satire the
absurdities of the world around her, the superstition of the monk, the
pedantry of the grammarian, the dogmatism of the doctors, of the schools,
the selfishness and tyranny of kings.

[Sidenote: Colet's School]

The irony of Erasmus was backed by the earnest effort of Colet. He seized
the opportunity to commence the work of educational reform by devoting in
1510 his private fortune to the foundation of a Grammar School beside St.
Paul's. The bent of its founder's mind was shown by the image of the Child
Jesus over the master's chair with the words "Hear ye Him" graven beneath
it. "Lift up your little white hands for me," wrote the Dean to his
scholars in words which prove the tenderness that lay beneath the stern
outer seeming of the man,--"for me which prayeth for you to God." All the
educational designs of the reformers were carried out in the new
foundation. The old methods of instruction were superseded by fresh
grammars composed by Erasmus and other scholars for its use. Lilly, an
Oxford student who had studied Greek in the East, was placed at its head.
The injunctions of the founder aimed at the union of rational religion
with sound learning, at the exclusion of the scholastic logic, and at the
steady diffusion of the two classical literatures. The more bigoted of the
clergy were quick to take alarm. "No wonder," More wrote to the Dean,
"your school raises a storm, for it is like the wooden horse in which
armed Greeks were hidden for the ruin of barbarous Troy." But the cry of
alarm passed helplessly away. Not only did the study of Greek creep
gradually into the schools which existed, but the example of Colet was
followed by a crowd of imitators. More grammar schools, it has been said,
were founded in the latter years of Henry than in the three centuries
before. The impulse only grew the stronger as the direct influence of the
New Learning passed away. The grammar schools of Edward the Sixth and of
Elizabeth, in a word the system of middle-class education which by the
close of the century had changed the very face of England, were the
outcome of Colet's foundation of St. Paul's.

[Sidenote: The Universities]

But the "armed Greeks" of More's apologue found a yet wider field in the
reform of the higher education of the country. On the Universities the
influence of the New Learning was like a passing from death to life.
Erasmus gives us a picture of what happened in 1516 at Cambridge where he
was himself for a time a teacher of Greek. "Scarcely thirty years ago
nothing was taught here but the _Parva Logicalia_, Alexander, those
antiquated exercises from Aristotle, and the _Quæstiones_ of Scotus. As
time went on better studies were added, mathematics, a new, or at any rate
a renovated, Aristotle, and a knowledge of Greek literature. What has been
the result? The University is now so flourishing that it can compete with
the best universities of the age." William Latimer and Croke returned from
Italy and carried on the work of Erasmus at Cambridge, where Fisher,
Bishop of Rochester, himself one of the foremost scholars of the new
movement, lent it his powerful support. At Oxford the Revival met with a
fiercer opposition. The contest took the form of boyish frays, in which
the youthful partizans and opponents of the New Learning took sides as
Greeks and Trojans. The young king himself had to summon one of its
fiercest enemies to Woodstock, and to impose silence on the tirades which
were delivered from the University pulpit. The preacher alleged that he
was carried away by the Spirit. "Yes," retorted the king, "by the spirit,
not of wisdom, but of folly." But even at Oxford the contest was soon at
an end. Fox, Bishop of Winchester, established the first Greek lecture
there in his new college of Corpus Christi, and a Professorship of Greek
was at a later time established by the Crown. "The students," wrote an
eye-witness in 1520, "rush to Greek letters, they endure watching,
fasting, toil, and hunger in the pursuit of them." The work was crowned at
last by the munificent foundation of Cardinal College, to share in whose
teaching Wolsey invited the most eminent of the living scholars of Europe,
and for whose library he promised to obtain copies of all the manuscripts
in the Vatican.

[Sidenote: Church Reform]

From the reform of education the New Learning pressed on to the reform of
the Church. It was by Warham's commission that Colet was enabled in 1512
to address the Convocation of the Clergy in words which set before them
with unsparing severity the religious ideal of the new movement. "Would
that for once," burst forth the fiery preacher, "you would remember your
name and profession and take thought for the reformation of the Church!
Never was it more necessary, and never did the state of the Church need
more vigorous endeavours." "We are troubled with heretics," he went on,
"but no heresy of theirs is so fatal to us and to the people at large as
the vicious and depraved lives of the clergy. That is the worst heresy of
all." It was the reform of the bishops that must precede that of the
clergy, the reform of the clergy that would lead to a general revival of
religion in the people at large. The accumulation of benefices, the luxury
and worldliness of the priesthood, must be abandoned. The prelates ought
to be busy preachers, to forsake the Court and labour in their own
dioceses. Care should be taken for the ordination and promotion of worthy
ministers, residence should be enforced, the low standard of clerical
morality should be raised. It is plain that the men of the New Learning
looked forward, not to a reform of doctrine but to a reform of life, not
to a revolution which should sweep away the older superstitions which they
despised but to a regeneration of spiritual feeling before which these
superstitions would inevitably fade away. Colet was soon charged with
heresy by the Bishop of London. Warham however protected him, and Henry to
whom the Dean was denounced bade him go boldly on. "Let every man have his
own doctor," said the young king after a long interview, "but this man is
the doctor for me!"

[Sidenote: Henry's Temper]

But for the success of the new reform, a reform which could only be
wrought out by the tranquil spread of knowledge and the gradual
enlightenment of the human conscience, the one thing needful was peace;
and peace was already vanishing away. Splendid as were the gifts with
which Nature had endowed Henry the Eighth, there lay beneath them all a
boundless selfishness. "He is a prince," said Wolsey as he lay dying, "of
a most royal courage; sooner than miss any part of his will he will
endanger one half of his kingdom, and I do assure you I have often kneeled
to him, sometimes for three hours together, to persuade him from his
appetite and could not prevail." It was this personal will and appetite
that was in Henry the Eighth to shape the very course of English history,
to override the highest interests of the state, to trample under foot the
wisest counsels, to crush with the blind ingratitude of fate the servants
who opposed it. Even Wolsey, while he recoiled from the monstrous form
which had revealed itself, could hardly have dreamed of the work which
that royal courage and yet more royal appetite was to accomplish in the
years to come. As yet however Henry was far from having reached the height
of self-assertion which bowed all constitutional law and even the religion
of his realm beneath his personal will. But one of the earliest acts of
his reign gave an earnest of the part which the new strength of the crown
was to enable an English king to play. Through the later years of Henry
the Seventh Catharine of Aragon had been recognized at the English court
simply as Arthur's widow and Princess Dowager of Wales. Her betrothal to
Prince Henry was looked upon as cancelled by his protest, and though the
king was cautious not to break openly with Spain by sending her home, he
was resolute not to suffer a marriage which would bring a break with
France and give Ferdinand an opportunity of dragging England into the
strife between the two great powers of the west.

[Sidenote: France]

But with the young king's accession this policy of cautious isolation was
at once put aside. There were grave political reasons indeed for the quick
resolve which bore down the opposition of counsellors like Warham. As cool
a head as that of Henry the Seventh was needed to watch without panic the
rapid march of French greatness. In mere extent France had grown with a
startling rapidity since the close of her long strife with England.
Guienne had fallen to Charles the Seventh. Provence, Roussillon, and the
Duchy of Burgundy had successively swelled the realm of Lewis the
Eleventh. Britanny had been added to that of Charles the Eighth. From
Calais to Bayonne, from the Jura to the Channel, stretched a wide and
highly organized realm, whose disciplined army and unrivalled artillery
lifted it high above its neighbours in force of war. The efficiency of its
army was seen in the sudden invasion and conquest of Italy while England
was busy with the pretended Duke of York. The passage of the Alps by
Charles the Eighth shook the whole political structure of Europe. In
wealth, in political repute, in arms, in letters, in arts, Italy at this
moment stood foremost among the peoples of Western Christendom, and the
mastery which Charles won over it at a single blow lifted France at once
above the states around her. Twice repulsed from Naples, she remained
under the successor of Charles, Lewis the Twelfth, mistress of the Duchy
of Milan and of the bulk of Northern Italy; the princes and republics of
Central Italy grouped themselves about her; and at the close of Henry the
Seventh's reign the ruin of Venice in the League of Cambray crushed the
last Italian state which could oppose her designs on the whole peninsula.
It was this new and mighty power, a France that stretched from the
Atlantic to the Mincio, that fronted the young king at his accession and
startled him from his father's attitude of isolation. He sought
Ferdinand's alliance none the less that it meant war, for his temper was
haughty and adventurous, his pride dwelt on the older claims of England to
Normandy and Guienne, and his devotion to the Papacy drew him to listen to
the cry of Julius the Second, and to long like a crusader to free Rome
from the French pressure. Nor was it of less moment to a will such as the
young king's that Catharine's passionate love for him had roused as ardent
a love in return.

[Sidenote: Ferdinand of Aragon]

Two months therefore after his accession the Infanta became the wife of
Henry the Eighth. The influence of the king of Aragon became all-powerful
in the English council chamber. Catharine spoke of her husband and herself
as Ferdinand's subjects. The young king wrote that he would obey Ferdinand
as he had obeyed his own father. His obedience was soon to be tested.
Ferdinand seized on his new ally as a pawn in the great game which he was
playing on the European chess-board, a game which left its traces on the
political and religious map of Europe for centuries after him. It was not
without good ground that Henry the Seventh faced so coolly the menacing
growth of France. He saw what his son failed to see, that the cool, wary
king of Aragon was building up as quickly a power which was great enough
to cope with it, and that grow as the two rivals might they were matched
too evenly to render England's position a really dangerous one. While the
French kings aimed at the aggrandizement of a country, Ferdinand aimed at
the aggrandizement of a House. Through the marriage of their daughter and
heiress Juana with the son of the Emperor Maximilian, the Archduke Philip,
the blood of Ferdinand and Isabel had merged in that of the House of
Austria, and the aim of Ferdinand was nothing less than to give to the
Austrian House the whole world of the west. Charles of Austria, the issue
of Philip's marriage, had been destined from his birth by both his
grandfathers, Maximilian and Ferdinand, to succeed to the empire; Franche
Comté and the state built up by the Burgundian Dukes in the Netherlands
had already passed into his hands at the death of his father; the madness
of his mother left him next heir of Castille; the death of Ferdinand would
bring him Aragon and the dominion of the kings of Aragon in Southern
Italy; that of Maximilian would add the Archduchy of Austria, with the
dependencies in the south and its hopes of increase by the winning through
marriage of the realms of Bohemia and Hungary. A share in the Austrian
Archduchy indeed belonged to Charles's brother, the Archduke Ferdinand;
but a kingdom in Northern Italy would at once compensate Ferdinand for his
abandonment of this heritage and extend the Austrian supremacy over the
Peninsula, for Rome and Central Italy would be helpless in the grasp of
the power which ruled at both Naples and Milan. A war alone could drive
France from the Milanese, but such a war might be waged by a league of
European powers which would remain as a check upon France, should she
attempt to hinder this vast union of states in the hand of Charles or to
wrest from him the Imperial Crown. Such a league, the Holy League as it
was called from the accession to it of the Pope, Ferdinand was enabled to
form at the close of 1511 by the kinship of the Emperor, the desire of
Venice and Julius the Second to free Italy from the stranger, and the
warlike temper of Henry the Eighth.

[Sidenote: The Holy League]

Dreams of new Crécys and Agincourts roused the ardour of the young king;
and the campaign of 1512 opened with his avowal of the old claims on his
"heritage of France." But the subtle intriguer in whose hands he lay
pushed steadily to his own great ends. The League drove the French from
the Milanese. An English army which landed under the Marquis of Dorset at
Fontarabia to attack Guienne found itself used as a covering force to
shield Ferdinand's seizure of Navarre, the one road through which France
could attack his grandson's heritage of Spain. The troops mutinied and
sailed home; Scotland, roused again by the danger of France, threatened
invasion; the world scoffed at Englishmen as useless for war. Henry's
spirit however rose with the need. In 1513 he landed in person in the
north of France, and a sudden rout of the French cavalry in an engagement
near Guinegate, which received from its bloodless character the name of
the Battle of the Spurs, gave him the fortresses of Térouanne and Tournay.
A victory yet more decisive awaited his arms at home. A Scotch army
crossed the border, with James the Fourth at its head; but on the 9th of
September it was met by an English force under the Earl of Surrey at
Flodden in Northumberland. James "fell near his banner," and his army was
driven off the field with heavy loss. Flushed with this new glory, the
young king was resolute to continue the war when in the opening of 1514 he
found himself left alone by the dissolution of the League. Ferdinand had
gained his ends, and had no mind to fight longer simply to realize the
dreams of his son-in-law. Henry had indeed gained much. The might of
France was broken. The Papacy was restored to freedom. England had again
figured as a great power in Europe. But the millions left by his father
were exhausted, his subjects had been drained by repeated subsidies, and,
furious as he was at the treachery of his Spanish ally, Henry was driven
to conclude a peace.

[Sidenote: Protest of the New Learning]

To the hopes of the New Learning this sudden outbreak of the spirit of
war, this change of the monarch from whom they had looked for a "new
order" into a vulgar conqueror, proved a bitter disappointment. Colet
thundered from the pulpit of St. Paul's that "an unjust peace is better
than the justest war," and protested that "when men out of hatred and
ambition fight with and destroy one another, they fight under the banner,
not of Christ, but of the devil." Erasmus quitted Cambridge with a bitter
satire against the "madness" around him. "It is the people," he said, in
words which must have startled his age,--"it is the people who build
cities, while the madness of princes destroys them." The sovereigns of his
time appeared to him like ravenous birds pouncing with beak and claw on
the hard-won wealth and knowledge of mankind. "Kings who are scarcely
men," he exclaimed in bitter irony, "are called 'divine'; they are
'invincible' though they fly from every battle-field; 'serene' though they
turn the world upside down in a storm of war; 'illustrious' though they
grovel in ignorance of all that is noble; 'Catholic' though they follow
anything rather than Christ. Of all birds the Eagle alone has seemed to
wise men the type of royalty, a bird neither beautiful nor musical nor
good for food, but murderous, greedy, hateful to all, the curse of all,
and with its great powers of doing harm only surpassed by its desire to do
it." It was the first time in modern history that religion had formally
dissociated itself from the ambition of princes and the horrors of war, or
that the new spirit of criticism had ventured not only to question but to
deny what had till then seemed the primary truths of political order.

[Sidenote: The Jerome of Erasmus]

But the indignation of the New Learning was diverted to more practical
ends by the sudden peace. However he had disappointed its hopes, Henry
still remained its friend. Through all the changes of his terrible career
his home was a home of letters. His boy, Edward the Sixth, was a fair
scholar in both the classical languages. His daughter Mary wrote good
Latin letters. Elizabeth began every day with an hour's reading in the
Greek Testament, the tragedies of Sophocles, or the orations of
Demosthenes. The ladies of the Court caught the royal fashion and were
found poring over the pages of Plato. Widely as Henry's ministers differed
from each other, they all agreed in sharing and fostering the culture
around them. The panic of the scholar-group therefore soon passed away.
Colet toiled on with his educational efforts; Erasmus forwarded to England
the works which English liberality was enabling him to produce abroad.
Warham extended to him as generous an aid as the protection he had
afforded to Colet. His edition of the works of St. Jerome had been begun
under the Primate's encouragement during the great scholar's residence at
Cambridge, and it appeared with a dedication to the Archbishop on its
title-page. That Erasmus could find protection in Warham's name for a work
which boldly recalled Christendom to the path of sound Biblical criticism,
that he could address him in words so outspoken as those of his preface,
shows how fully the Primate sympathized with the highest efforts of the
New Learning. Nowhere had the spirit of enquiry so firmly set itself
against the claims of authority. "Synods and decrees, and even councils,"
wrote Erasmus, "are by no means in my judgement the fittest modes of
repressing error, unless truth depend simply on authority. But on the
contrary, the more dogmas there are, the more fruitful is the ground in
producing heresies. Never was the Christian faith purer or more undefiled
than when the world was content with a single creed, and that the shortest
creed we have." It is touching even now to listen to such an appeal of
reason and of culture against the tide of dogmatism which was soon to
flood Christendom with Augsburg Confessions and Creeds of Pope Pius and
Westminster Catechisms and Thirty-nine Articles.

[Sidenote: The New Testament of Erasmus]

But the principles which Erasmus urged in his "Jerome" were urged with far
greater clearness and force in a work that laid the foundation of the
future Reformation, the edition of the Greek Testament on which he had
been engaged at Cambridge and whose production was almost wholly due to
the encouragement and assistance he received from English scholars. In
itself the book was a bold defiance of theological tradition. It set aside
the Latin version of the Vulgate which had secured universal acceptance in
the Church. Its method of interpretation was based, not on received
dogmas, but on the literal meaning of the text. Its real end was the end
at which Colet had aimed in his Oxford lectures. Erasmus desired to set
Christ himself in the place of the Church, to recall men from the teaching
of Christian theologians to the teaching of the Founder of Christianity.
The whole value of the Gospels to him lay in the vividness with which they
brought home to their readers the personal impression of Christ himself.
"Were we to have seen him with our own eyes, we should not have so
intimate a knowledge as they give us of Christ, speaking, healing, dying,
rising again, as it were in our very presence." All the superstitions of
mediæval worship faded away in the light of this personal worship of
Christ. "If the footprints of Christ are shown us in any place, we kneel
down and adore them. Why do we not rather venerate the living and
breathing picture of him in these books? We deck statues of wood and stone
with gold and gems for the love of Christ. Yet they only profess to
represent to us the outer form of his body, while these books present us
with a living picture of his holy mind." In the same way the actual
teaching of Christ was made to supersede the mysterious dogmas of the
older ecclesiastical teaching. "As though Christ taught such subtleties,"
burst out Erasmus: "subtleties that can scarcely be understood even by a
few theologians--or as though the strength of the Christian religion
consisted in man's ignorance of it! It may be the safer course," he goes
on with characteristic irony, "to conceal the state mysteries of kings,
but Christ desired his mysteries to be spread abroad as openly as was
possible." In the diffusion, in the universal knowledge of the teaching of
Christ the foundation of a reformed Christianity had still, he urged, to
be laid. With the tacit approval of the Primate of a Church which from the
time of Wyclif had held the translation and reading of the Bible in the
common tongue to be heresy and a crime punishable with the fire, Erasmus
boldly avowed his wish for a Bible open and intelligible to all. "I wish
that even the weakest woman might read the Gospels and the Epistles of St.
Paul. I wish that they were translated into all languages, so as to be
read and understood not only by Scots and Irishmen, but even by Saracens
and Turks. But the first step to their being read is to make them
intelligible to the reader. I long for the day when the husbandman shall
sing portions of them to himself as he follows the plough, when the weaver
shall hum them to the tune of his shuttle, when the traveller shall while
away with their stories the weariness of his journey." From the moment of
its publication in 1516 the New Testament of Erasmus became the topic of
the day; the Court, the Universities, every household to which the New
Learning had penetrated, read and discussed it. But, bold as its language
may have seemed, Warham not only expressed his approbation, but lent the
work--as he wrote to its author--"to bishop after bishop." The most
influential of his suffragans, Bishop Fox of Winchester, declared that the
mere version was worth ten commentaries, one of the most learned, Fisher
of Rochester, entertained Erasmus at his house.

[Sidenote: More]

Daring and full of promise as were these efforts of the New Learning in
the direction of educational and religious reform, its political and
social speculations took a far wider range in the "Utopia" of Thomas More.
Even in the household of Cardinal Morton, where he had spent his
childhood, More's precocious ability had raised the highest hopes.
"Whoever may live to see it," the grey-haired statesman used to say, "this
boy now waiting at table will turn out a marvellous man." We have seen the
spell which his wonderful learning and the sweetness of his temper threw
at Oxford over Colet and Erasmus; and young as he was, More no sooner
quitted the University than he was known throughout Europe as one of the
foremost figures in the new movement. The keen, irregular face, the grey
restless eye, the thin mobile lips, the tumbled brown hair, the careless
gait and dress, as they remain stamped on the canvas of Holbein, picture
the inner soul of the man, his vivacity, his restless, all-devouring
intellect, his keen and even reckless wit, the kindly, half-sad humour
that drew its strange veil of laughter and tears over the deep, tender
reverence of the soul within. In a higher, because in a sweeter and more
loveable form than Colet, More is the representative of the religious
tendency of the New Learning in England. The young law-student who laughed
at the superstition and asceticism of the monks of his day wore a hair
shirt next his skin, and schooled himself by penances for the cell he
desired among the Carthusians. It was characteristic of the man that among
all the gay, profligate scholars of the Italian Renascence he chose as the
object of his admiration the disciple of Savonarola, Pico di Mirandola.
Free-thinker as the bigots who listened to his daring speculations termed
him, his eye would brighten and his tongue falter as he spoke with friends
of heaven and the after-life. When he took office, it was with the open
stipulation "first to look to God, and after God to the King."

In his outer bearing indeed there was nothing of the monk or recluse. The
brightness and freedom of the New Learning seemed incarnate in the young
scholar with his gay talk, his winsomeness of manner, his reckless
epigrams, his passionate love of music, his omnivorous reading, his
paradoxical speculations, his gibes at monks, his schoolboy fervour of
liberty. But events were soon to prove that beneath this sunny nature lay
a stern inflexibility of conscientious resolve. The Florentine scholars
penned declamations against tyrants while they covered with their
flatteries the tyranny of the house of Medici. More no sooner entered
Parliament in 1504 than his ready argument and keen sense of justice led
to the rejection of the demand for a heavy subsidy. "A beardless boy,"
said the courtiers,--and More was only twenty-six,--"has disappointed the
King's purpose"; and during the rest of Henry the Seventh's reign the
young lawyer found it prudent to withdraw from public life. But the
withdrawal had little effect on his buoyant activity. He rose at once into
repute at the bar. He wrote his "Life of Edward the Fifth," the first work
in which what we may call modern English prose appears written with purity
and clearness of style and a freedom either from antiquated forms of
expression or classical pedantry. His ascetic dreams were replaced by the
affections of home. It is when we get a glimpse of him in his house at
Chelsea that we understand the endearing epithets which Erasmus always
lavishes upon More. The delight of the young husband was to train the girl
he had chosen for his wife in his own taste for letters and for music. The
reserve which the age exacted from parents was thrown to the winds in
More's intercourse with his children. He loved teaching them, and lured
them to their deeper studies by the coins and curiosities he had gathered
in his cabinet. He was as fond of their pets and their games as his
children themselves, and would take grave scholars and statesmen into the
garden to see his girls' rabbit-hutches or to watch the gambols of their
favourite monkey. "I have given you kisses enough," he wrote to his little
ones in merry verse when far away on political business, "but stripes
hardly ever."

[Sidenote: The Utopia]

The accession of Henry the Eighth drew More back into the political
current. It was at his house that Erasmus penned the "Praise of Folly,"
and the work, in its Latin title, "Moriæ Encomium," embodied in playful
fun his love of the extravagant humour of More. He was already in Henry's
favour; he was soon called to the royal court and used in the king's
service. But More "tried as hard to keep out of court," says his
descendant, "as most men try to get into it." When the charm of his
conversation gave so much pleasure to the young sovereign "that he could
not once in a month get leave to go home to his wife or children, whose
company he much desired,... he began thereupon to dissemble his nature,
and so, little by little, from his former mirth to dissemble himself." He
shared to the full the disappointment of his friends at the sudden
outbreak of Henry's warlike temper, but the Peace again brought him to
Henry's side and he was soon in the king's confidence both as a counsellor
and as a diplomatist. It was on one of his diplomatic missions that More
describes himself as hearing news of the Kingdom of "Nowhere." "On a
certain day when I had heard mass in Our Lady's Church, which is the
fairest, the most gorgeous and curious church of building in all the city
of Antwerp and also most frequented of people, and service being over I
was ready to go home to my lodgings, I chanced to espy my friend Peter
Gilles talking with a certain stranger, a man well stricken in age, with a
black sun-burnt face a large beard, and a cloke cast trimly about his
shoulders, whom by his favour and apparell forthwith I judged to be a
mariner." The sailor turned out to have been a companion of Amerigo
Vespucci in those voyages to the New World "that be now in print and
abroad in every man's hand," and on More's invitation he accompanied him
to his house, and "there in my garden upon a bench covered with green
turves we sate down, talking together" of the man's marvellous adventures,
his desertion in America by Vespucci, his wanderings over the country
under the equinoctial line, and at last of his stay in the Kingdom of

It was the story of "Nowhere," or Utopia, which More began in 1515 to
embody in the wonderful book which reveals to us the heart of the New
Learning. As yet the movement had been one of scholars and divines. Its
plans of reform had been almost exclusively intellectual and religious.
But in More the same free play of thought which had shaken off the old
forms of education and faith turned to question the old forms of society
and politics. From a world where fifteen hundred years of Christian
teaching had produced social injustice, religious intolerance, and
political tyranny the humourist philosopher turned to a "Nowhere" in which
the mere efforts of natural human virtue realized those ends of security,
equality, brotherhood, and freedom for which the very institution of
society seemed to have been framed. It is as he wanders through this
dreamland of the new reason that More touches the great problems which
were fast opening before the modern world, problems of labour, of crime,
of conscience, of government. Merely to have seen and to have examined
questions such as these would prove the keenness of his intellect, but its
far-reaching originality is shown in the solutions which he proposes.
Amidst much that is the pure play of an exuberant fancy, much that is mere
recollection of the dreams of bygone dreamers, we find again and again the
most important social and political discoveries of later times anticipated
by the genius of Thomas More.

[Sidenote: Labour and Health]

In some points, such as his treatment of the question of Labour, he still
remains far in advance of current opinion. The whole system of society
around him seemed to him "nothing but a conspiracy of the rich against the
poor." Its economic legislation from the Statute of Labourers to the
statutes by which the Parliament of 1515 strove to fix a standard of wages
was simply the carrying out of such a conspiracy by process of law. "The
rich are ever striving to pare away something further from the daily wages
of the poor by private fraud and even by public law, so that the wrong
already existing (for it is a wrong that those from whom the State derives
most benefit should receive least reward) is made yet greater by means of
the law of the State." "The rich devise every means by which they may in
the first place secure to themselves what they have amassed by wrong, and
then take to their own use and profit at the lowest possible price the
work and labour of the poor. And so soon as the rich decide on adopting
these devices in the name of the public, then they become law." The result
was the wretched existence to which the labour class was doomed, "a life
so wretched that even a beast's life seems enviable." No such cry of pity
for the poor, of protest against the system of agrarian and manufacturing
tyranny which found its expression in the Statute-book had been heard
since the days of Piers Ploughman. But from Christendom More turns with a
smile to "Nowhere." In "Nowhere" the aim of legislation is to secure the
welfare, social, industrial, intellectual, religious, of the community at
large, and of the labour-class as the true basis of a well-ordered
commonwealth. The end of its labour-laws was simply the welfare of the
labourer. Goods were possessed indeed in common, but work was compulsory
with all. The period of toil was shortened to the nine hours demanded by
modern artizans, and the object of this curtailment was the intellectual
improvement of the worker. "In the institution of the weal public this end
is only and chiefly pretended and minded that what time may possibly be
spared from the necessary occupations and affairs of the commonwealth, all
that the citizens should withdraw from bodily service to the free liberty
of the mind and garnishing of the same. For herein they conceive the
felicity of this life to consist." A public system of education enabled
the Utopians to avail themselves of their leisure. While in England half
of the population could read no English, every child was well taught in
"Nowhere." The physical aspects of society were cared for as attentively
as its moral. The houses of Utopia "in the beginning were very low and
like homely cottages or poor shepherd huts made at all adventures of every
rude piece of timber that came first to hand, with mud walls and ridged
roofs thatched over with straw." The picture was really that of the common
English town of More's day, the home of squalor and pestilence. In Utopia
however they had at last come to realize the connexion between public
morality and the health which springs from light, air, comfort, and
cleanliness. "The streets were twenty feet broad; the houses backed by
spacious gardens, and curiously builded after a gorgeous and gallant sort,
with their stories one after another. The outsides of the walls be made
either of hard flint, or of plaster, or else of brick; and the inner sides
be well strengthened by timber work. The roofs be plain and flat, covered
over with plaster, so tempered that no fire can hurt or perish it, and
withstanding the violence of the weather better than lead. They keep the
wind out of their windows with glass, for it is there much used, and
sometimes also with fine linen cloth dipped in oil or amber, and that for
two commodities, for by this means more light cometh in and the wind is
better kept out."

[Sidenote: Crime]

The same foresight which appears in More's treatment of the questions of
Labour and the Public Health is yet more apparent in his treatment of the
question of Crime. He was the first to suggest that punishment was less
effective in suppressing it than prevention. "If you allow your people to
be badly taught, their morals to be corrupted from childhood, and then
when they are men punish them for the very crimes to which they have been
trained in childhood--what is this but to make thieves, and then to punish
them?" He was the first to plead for proportion between the punishment and
the crime, and to point out the folly of the cruel penalties of his day.
"Simple theft is not so great an offence as to be punished with death." If
a thief and a murderer are sure of the same penalty, More shows that the
law is simply tempting the thief to secure his theft by murder. "While we
go about to make thieves afraid, we are really provoking them to kill good
men." The end of all punishment he declares to be reformation, "nothing
else but the destruction of vice and the saving of men." He advises "so
using and ordering criminals that they cannot choose but be good, and what
harm soever they did before, the residue of their lives to make amends for
the same." Above all he urges that to be remedial punishment must be
wrought out by labour and hope, so that "none is hopeless or in despair to
recover again his former state of freedom by giving good tokens and
likelihood of himself that he will ever after that live a true and honest
man." It is not too much to say that in the great principles More lays
down he anticipated every one of the improvements in our criminal system
which have distinguished the last hundred years.

[Sidenote: Religion]

His treatment of the religious question was even more in advance of his
age. If the houses of Utopia were strangely in contrast with the halls of
England, where the bones from every dinner lay rotting in the dirty straw
which strewed the floor, where the smoke curled about the rafters, and the
wind whistled through the unglazed windows; if its penal legislation had
little likeness to the gallows which stood out so frequently against our
English sky; the religion of "Nowhere" was in yet stronger conflict with
the faith of Christendom. It rested simply on nature and reason. It held
that God's design was the happiness of man, and that the ascetic rejection
of human delights, save for the common good, was thanklessness to the
Giver. Christianity indeed had already reached Utopia, but it had few
priests; religion found its centre rather in the family than in the
congregation: and each household confessed its faults to its own natural
head. A yet stranger characteristic was seen in the peaceable way in which
it lived side by side with the older religions. More than a century before
William of Orange More discerned and proclaimed the great principle of
religious toleration. In "Nowhere" it was lawful to every man to be of
what religion he would. Even the disbelievers in a Divine Being or in the
immortality of man, who by a single exception to its perfect religious
indifference were excluded from public office, were excluded, not on the
ground of their religious belief, but because their opinions were deemed
to be degrading to mankind and therefore to incapacitate those who held
them from governing in a noble temper. But they were subject to no
punishment, because the people of Utopia were "persuaded that it is not in
a man's power to believe what he list." The religion which a man held he
might propagate by argument, though not by violence or insult to the
religion of others. But while each sect performed its rites in private,
all assembled for public worship in a spacious temple, where the vast
throng, clad in white, and grouped round a priest clothed in fair raiment
wrought marvellously out of birds' plumage, joined in hymns and prayers so
framed as to be acceptable to all. The importance of this public devotion
lay in the evidence it afforded that liberty of conscience could be
combined with religious unity.

[Sidenote: Political Liberty]

But even more important than More's defence of religious freedom was his
firm maintenance of political liberty against the monarchy. Steady and
irresistible as was the growth of the royal power, it was far from seeming
to the keenest political thinker of that day so natural and inevitable a
developement of our history as it seems to some writers in our own. In
political hints which lie scattered over the whole of the Utopia More
notes with a bitter irony the advance of the new despotism. It was only in
"Nowhere" that a sovereign was "removable on suspicion of a design to
enslave his people." In England the work of slavery was being quietly
wrought, hints the great lawyer, through the law. "There will never be
wanting some pretence for deciding in the king's favour; as that equity is
on his side, or the strict letter of the law, or some forced
interpretation of it: or if none of these, that the royal prerogative
ought with conscientious judges to outweigh all other considerations." We
are startled at the precision with which More describes the processes by
which the law-courts were to lend themselves to the advance of tyranny
till their crowning judgement in the case of ship-money. But behind these
judicial expedients lay great principles of absolutism, which partly from
the example of foreign monarchies, partly from the sense of social and
political insecurity, and yet more from the isolated position of the
Crown, were gradually winning their way in public opinion. "These
notions"--More goes boldly on in words written, it must be remembered,
within the precincts of Henry's court and beneath the eye of
Wolsey--"these notions are fostered by the maxim that the king can do no
wrong, however much he may wish to do it; that not only the property but
the persons of his subjects are his own; and that a man has a right to no
more than the king's goodness thinks fit not to take from him." It is only
in the light of this emphatic protest against the king-worship which was
soon to override liberty and law that we can understand More's later
career. Steady to the last in his loyalty to Parliaments, as steady in his
resistance to mere personal rule, it was with a smile as fearless as the
smile with which he penned the half-jesting words of his Utopia that he
sealed them with his blood on Tower Hill.


[Sidenote: Wolsey's rise]

"There are many things in the Commonwealth of Nowhere that I rather wish
than hope to see embodied in our own." It was with these words of
characteristic irony that More closed the first work which embodied the
dreams of the New Learning. Destined as they were to fulfilment in the
course of ages, its schemes of social, religious, and political reform
broke in fact helplessly against the temper of the time. At the moment
when More was pleading the cause of justice between rich and poor social
discontent was being fanned by new exactions and sterner laws into a
fiercer flame. While he was advocating toleration and Christian
comprehension Christendom stood on the verge of a religious strife which
was to rend it for ever in pieces. While he aimed sarcasm after sarcasm at
king-worship the new despotism of the Monarchy was being organised into a
vast and all-embracing system by the genius of Thomas Wolsey. Wolsey was
the son of a wealthy townsman of Ipswich whose ability had raised him into
notice at the close of the preceding reign, and who had been taken by
Bishop Fox into the service of the Crown. The activity which he showed in
organizing and equipping the royal army for the campaign of 1513 won for
him a foremost place in the confidence of Henry the Eighth. The young king
lavished dignities on him with a profusion that marked the completeness of
his trust. From the post of royal almoner he was advanced in 1513 to the
see of Tournay. At the opening of 1514 he became bishop of Lincoln; at its
close he was translated to the archbishoprick of York. In 1515 Henry
procured from Rome his elevation to the office of cardinal and raised him
to the post of chancellor. So quick a rise stirred envy in the men about
him; and his rivals noted bitterly the songs, the dances, and carousals
which had won, as they believed, the favour of the king. But sensuous and
worldly as was Wolsey's temper, his powers lifted him high above the level
of a court favourite. His noble bearing, his varied ability, his enormous
capacity for toil, the natural breadth and grandeur of his mind, marked
him naturally out as the minister of a king who showed throughout his
reign a keen eye for greatness in the men about him.

[Sidenote: Wolsey's policy]

Wolsey's mind was European rather than English; it dwelt little on home
affairs but turned almost exclusively to the general politics of the
European powers and of England as one of them. Whatever might be Henry's
disappointment in the issue of his French campaigns the young king might
dwell with justifiable pride on the general result of his foreign policy.
If his direct gains from the Holy League had been little, he had at any
rate won security on the side of France. The loss of Navarre and of the
Milanese left Lewis a far less dangerous neighbour than he had seemed at
Henry's accession, while the appearance of the Swiss soldiery during the
war of the League destroyed the military supremacy which France had
enjoyed from the days of Charles the Eighth. But if the war had freed
England from the fear of French pressure Wolsey was as resolute to free
her from the dictation of Ferdinand, and this the resentment of Henry at
his unscrupulous desertion enabled him to bring about. Crippled as she
was, France was no longer formidable as a foe; and her alliance would not
only break the supremacy of Ferdinand over English policy but secure Henry
on his northern border. Her husband's death at Flodden and the infancy of
their son raised Margaret Tudor to the Scotch regency, and seemed to
promise Henry a hold on his troublesome neighbours. But her marriage a
year later with the Earl of Angus, Archibald Douglas, soon left the Regent
powerless among the factions of warring nobles. She appealed to her
brother for aid, while her opponents called on the Duke of Albany, the son
of the Albany who had been driven to France in 1484 and heir to the crown
after the infant king, to return and take the regency. Albany held broad
lands in France; he had won fame as a French general; and Scotland in his
hands would be simply a means of French attack. A French alliance not only
freed Henry from dependence on Ferdinand but would meet this danger from
the north; and in the summer of 1514 a treaty was concluded with the
French king and ratified by his marriage with Henry's youngest sister,
Mary Tudor.

[Sidenote: Francis the First]

The treaty was hardly signed when the death of Lewis in January 1515 undid
this marriage and placed his young cousin, Francis the First, upon the
throne. But the old king's death brought no change of policy. Francis at
once prepared to renew the war in Italy, and for this purpose he needed
the friendship of his two neighbours in the west and the north, Henry and
the ruler of the Netherlands, the young Charles of Austria. Both were
willing to give their friendship. Charles, jealous of Maximilian's desire
to bring him into tutelage, looked to a French alliance as a security
against the pressure of the Emperor, while Henry and Wolsey were eager to
despatch Francis on a campaign across the Alps, which would at any rate
while it lasted remove all fear of an attack on England. A yet stronger
ground in the minds of both Charles and Henry for facilitating the French
king's march was their secret belief that his invasion of the Milanese
would bring the young king to inevitable ruin, for the Emperor and
Ferdinand of Aragon were leagued with every Italian state against Francis,
and a Swiss army prepared to dispute with him the possession of the
Milanese. Charles therefore betrothed himself to the French king's sister,
and Henry concluded a fresh treaty with him in the spring of 1515. But the
dreams of both rulers were roughly broken. Francis succeeded both in
crossing the Alps and in beating the Swiss army. His victory in the
greatest battle of the age, the battle of Marignano, at once gave him the
Milanese and laid the rest of Italy at his feet. The work of the Holy
Alliance was undone, and the dominion which England had dreaded in the
hands of Lewis the Twelfth was restored in the younger and more vigorous
hands of his successor. Neither the king nor the Cardinal could hide their
chagrin when the French minister announced his master's victory, but it
was no time for an open breach. All Wolsey could do was to set himself
secretly to hamper the French king's work. English gold hindered any
reconciliation between France and the Swiss, and enabled Maximilian to
lead a joint army of Swiss and Imperial soldiers in the following year
over the Alps.

[Sidenote: Charles the Fifth]

But the campaign broke down. At this juncture indeed the death of
Ferdinand in January 1516 changed the whole aspect of European politics.
It at once opened to Charles of Austria his Spanish and Neapolitan
heritage. The presence of the young king was urgently called for by the
troubles that followed in Castile, and Charles saw that peace was needed
for the gathering into his hands of realms so widely scattered as his own.
Maximilian too was ready to set aside all other aims to secure the
aggrandizement of his house. After an inactive campaign therefore the
Emperor negotiated secretly with France, and the treaty of Noyon which
Charles concluded with Francis in August 1516 was completed in March 1517
by the accession of Maximilian to their alliance in the Treaty of Cambray.
To all outer seeming the Treaty of Cambray left Francis supreme in the
west, unequalled in military repute, a soldier who at twenty had withstood
and broken the league of all Europe in arms, master of the Milanese, and
through his alliances with Venice, Florence, and the Pope virtually master
of all Italy save the Neapolitan realm. On the other hand the treaty left
England exposed and alone, should France choose this moment for attack.
Francis was well aware of Wolsey's efforts against him, and the state of
Scotland offered the ready means of bringing about a quarrel. While Henry,
anxious as he was to aid his sister, was fettered by the fear that English
intervention would bring French intervention in its train and endanger the
newly concluded alliance, Albany succeeded in evading the English cruisers
and landing in the May of 1515. He was at once declared Protector of the
realm by the Parliament at Edinburgh. Margaret on the other hand was
driven into Stirling, and after a short siege forced to take refuge in
England. The influence of Albany and the French party whom he headed
secured for Francis in any struggle the aid of Scotland. But neither Henry
nor his minister really dreaded danger from the Treaty of Cambray; on the
contrary it solved all their difficulties. So well did they understand the
aim of Charles in concluding it that they gave him the gold which enabled
him to reach Spain. Master of Castile and Aragon, of Naples and the
Netherlands, the Spanish king rose into a check on the French monarchy
such as the policy of Henry or Wolsey had never been able to construct
before. Instead of towering over Europe, Francis found himself confronted
in the hour of his pride by a rival whom he was never to overcome; while
England, deserted and isolated as she seemed for the moment, was eagerly
sought in alliance by both princes. In October 1518 Francis strove to bind
her to his cause by a new treaty of peace, in which England sold Tournay
to France and the hand of the French dauphin was promised to Henry's
daughter Mary, now a child of two years old.

[Sidenote: Wolsey's greatness]

At the close of 1518 therefore the policy of Wolsey seemed justified by
success. He had found England a power of the second order, overawed by
France and dictated to by Ferdinand of Spain. She now stood in the
forefront of European affairs, a state whose alliance was desired alike by
French king and Spanish king, and which dealt on equal terms with Pope or
Emperor. In European cabinets Wolsey was regarded as hardly less a power
to be conciliated than his royal master. Both Charles and Francis sought
his friendship; and in the years which followed his official emoluments
were swelled by pensions from both princes. At home the king loaded him
with new proofs of favour. The revenues of two sees whose tenants were
foreigners fell into his hands; he held the bishoprick of Winchester and
the abbacy of St. Albans. He spent this vast wealth with princely
ostentation. His pomp was almost royal. A train of prelates and nobles
followed him as he moved; his household was composed of five hundred
persons of noble birth, and its chief posts were occupied by knights and
barons of the realm. Two of the houses he built, Hampton Court and York
House, the later Whitehall, were splendid enough to serve at his fall as
royal palaces. Nor was this magnificence a mere show of power. The whole
direction of home and foreign affairs rested with Wolsey alone. His toil
was ceaseless. The morning was for the most part given to his business as
chancellor in Westminster Hall and at the Star-Chamber; but nightfall
still found him labouring at exchequer business or home administration,
managing Church affairs, unravelling the complexities of Irish
misgovernment, planning schools and colleges, above all drawing and
studying despatches and transacting the whole diplomatic correspondence of
the state. Greedy as was his passion for toil, Wolsey felt the pressure of
this enormous mass of business, and his imperious tones, his angry
outbursts of impatience, showed him to be overworked. Even his vigorous
frame gave way. Still a strong and handsome man in 1518 at the age of
forty-seven, Wolsey was already an old man, broken by disease, when he
fell from power at fifty-eight. But enormous as was the mass of work which
he undertook, it was thoroughly done. His administration of the royal
treasury was rigidly economical. The number of his despatches is hardly
less remarkable than the care he bestowed on each. Even More, an avowed
enemy, owns that as Chancellor he surpassed all men's expectations. The
court of Chancery indeed became so crowded through the character for
expedition and justice which it gained under his rule that subordinate
courts had to be created for its relief.

[Sidenote: Concentration of secular and ecclesiastical power]

But not even with this concentration of authority in a single hand was
Henry content. At the close of 1517 he procured from the Pope the
Cardinal's appointment as Legate _a latere_ in the realm. Such a Legate
was entrusted with powers almost as full as those of the Pope himself; his
jurisdiction extended over every bishop and priest, it overrode every
privilege or exemption of abbey or cell, while his court superseded that
of Rome as the final court of ecclesiastical appeal for the realm. Already
wielding the full powers of secular justice in his capacity of Chancellor
and of president of the royal Council, Wolsey wielded the full power of
spiritual justice in his capacity of Legate. His elevation was no mere
freak of royal favour; it was the result of a distinct policy. The moment
had come when the Monarchy was to gather up all government into the
personal grasp of the king. The checks which had been imposed on the
action of the sovereign by the presence of great prelates and lords at his
council were practically removed. His fellow-councillors learned to hold
their peace when the haughty minister "clapped his rod on the board." The
restraints of public justice were equally done away. Even the distant
check of Rome was gone. All secular, all ecclesiastical power was summed
up in a single hand. It was this concentration of authority in Wolsey
which accustomed England to a system of personal government under Henry
and his successors. It was the Cardinal's long tenure of the whole Papal
authority within the realm, and the consequent suspension of appeals to
Rome, that led men to acquiesce at a later time in Henry's own claim of
religious supremacy. For proud as was Wolsey's bearing and high as were
his natural powers he stood before England as the mere creature of the
king. Greatness, wealth, authority he held, and owned he held, simply at
the royal will. In raising his low-born favourite to the head of church
and state Henry was gathering all religious as well as all civil authority
into his personal grasp. The nation which trembled before Wolsey learned
to tremble before the master who could destroy Wolsey with a breath.

[Sidenote: Rivalry of Charles and Francis]

The rise of Charles of Austria gave a new turn to Wolsey's policy. Till
now France had been a pressing danger, and the political scheme both of
Henry and his minister lay in organizing leagues to check her greatness or
in diverting her activity to the fields of Lombardy. But from the moment
of Ferdinand's death this power of Francis was balanced by the power of
Charles. Possessor of the Netherlands, of Franche Comté, of Spain, Charles
already pressed France on its northern, eastern, and southern borders when
the death of his grandfather Maximilian in the spring of 1519 added to his
dominions the heritage of the House of Austria in Swabia and on the
Danube. It did yet more for him in opening to him the Empire. The
intrigues of Maximilian had secured for Charles promises of support from a
majority of the Electors, and though Francis redoubled his efforts and
Henry the Eighth sent an envoy to push his own succession, the cry of
Germany for a German head carried all before it. In June 1519 Charles was
elected Emperor; and France saw herself girt in on every side by a power
whose greed was even greater than her own. For, boy of nineteen as he was,
Charles from the first moment of his rule meant to make himself master of
the world; and France, thrown suddenly on the defensive, nerved herself
for the coming struggle. Both needed the gold and friendship of England.
Convinced as he was of Henry's treachery in the Imperial election, where
the English sovereign had promised Francis his support, the French king
clung to the alliance which Wolsey in his uncertainty as to the actual
drift of Charles had concluded in 1518, and pressed for an interview with
Henry himself. But the need of France had woke dreams of more than mere
safety or a balanced neutrality in Wolsey and his master. The time seemed
come at last for a bolder game. The claim on the French crown had never
been waived; the dream of recovering at least Guienne and Normandy still
lived on in the hearts of English statesmen; and the subtle, unscrupulous
youth who was now planning his blow for the mastery of the world knew well
how to seize upon dreams such as these. Nor was Wolsey forgotten. If Henry
coveted France, his minister coveted no less a prize than the Papacy; and
the young Emperor was lavish of promises of support in any coming
election. The result of his seductions was quickly seen. While Henry
deferred the interview with Francis till the summer of 1520, Charles had
already planned a meeting with his uncle in the opening of the year.

[Sidenote: League with Charles]

What importance Charles attached to this meeting was seen in his leaving
Spain ablaze with revolt behind him to keep his engagement. He landed at
Dover in the end of May, and King and Emperor rode alone to Canterbury,
but of the promises or pledges which passed we know little save from the
after-course of English politics. Nothing could have differed more vividly
from this simple ride than the interview with Francis which followed in
June. A camp of three hundred white tents surrounded a faery palace with
gilded posterns and brightly-coloured oriels which rose like a dream from
the barren plain of Guisnes, its walls hung with tapestry, its roof
embossed with roses, its golden fountain spouting wine over the
greensward. But all this pomp and splendour, the chivalrous embraces and
tourneys of the kings, the gorgeous entry of Wolsey in his crimson robe on
a mule trapped with gold, the fresh treaty which ratified the alliance,
hardly veiled the new English purpose. A second interview between Charles
and his uncle as he returned from the meeting with Francis ended in a
secret confederacy of the two sovereigns and the promise of the Emperor to
marry his cousin, Henry's one child, Mary Tudor. With her hand passed the
heritage of the English Crown. Henry had now ceased to hope for a son from
Catharine, and Mary was his destined successor. Her right to the throne
was asserted by a deed which proved how utterly the baronage now lay at
the mercy of the king. The Duke of Buckingham stood first in blood as in
power among the English nobles; he was the descendant of Edward the
Third's youngest son, and if Mary's succession were denied he stood heir
to the throne. His hopes had been fanned by prophets and astrologers, and
wild words told his purpose to seize the crown on Henry's death in
defiance of every opponent. But word and act had for two years been
watched by the king; and in 1521 the Duke was arrested, condemned as a
traitor by his peers, and beheaded on Tower Hill. His blood was a pledge
of Henry's sincerity which Charles could not mistake. Francis on the other
hand had never for a moment been deceived by the profuse assurances of
friendship which the king and Wolsey lavished on him. A revolt of the
Spanish towns offered a favourable opportunity for an attack on his rival,
and a French army passed over the Pyrenees into Navarre while Francis
himself prepared to invade the Netherlands. Both princes appealed for aid
under their separate treaties to Henry; and the English sovereign, whom
the quick stroke of the French had taken by surprise, could only gain time
by a feigned mediation in which Wolsey visited both Emperor and King. But
at the close of the year England was at last ready for action, and
Wolsey's solemn decision that Francis was the aggressor was followed in
November by a secret league which was concluded at Calais between the
Pope, the Emperor, and Henry.

[Sidenote: Benevolences]

The conquest of the Milanese by the imperial generals turned at this
moment the balance of the war, and as the struggle went on the accession
of Venice and the lesser Italian republics, of the king of Hungary and
Ferdinand of Austria, to whom Charles had ceded his share in the
hereditary duchy of their house, to the alliance for the recovery of Italy
from the French, threatened ruin to the cause of Francis. In real power
however the two combatants were still fairly matched. If she stood alone,
France was rich and compact, while her opponents were scattered,
distracted by warring aims, and all equally poor. The wealth which had
given Henry his weight in the counsels of Europe at the opening of his
reign had been exhausted by his earlier wars, and Wolsey's economy had
done nothing more than tide the crown through the past years of peace. But
now that Henry had promised to raise forty thousand men for the coming
campaign the ordinary resources of the treasury were utterly insufficient.
With the instinct of despotism Wolsey shrank from reviving the tradition
of the Parliament. Though Henry had thrice called the Houses together to
supply the expenses of his earlier struggle with France his minister had
governed through seven years of peace without once assembling them. War
made a Parliament inevitable, but for a while Wolsey strove to delay its
summons by a wide extension of the practice which Edward the Fourth had
invented of raising money by gifts called "Benevolences," or by forced
loans nominally to be repaid by a coming Parliament. Large sums were
assessed upon every county. Twenty thousand pounds were exacted from
London, and its wealthier citizens were summoned before the Cardinal and
required to give an account of the value of their estates. Commissioners
were sent into each shire for the purposes of assessment, and precepts
were issued on their information, requiring in some cases supplies of
soldiers, in others a tenth of a man's income, for the king's service. So
poor however was the return that the Earl of Surrey, who was sent as
general to Calais, could muster only a force of seventeen thousand men;
and while Charles succeeded in driving the French from Milan, the English
campaign dwindled into a mere raid upon Picardy, from which the army fell
back, broken with want and disease.

[Sidenote: Wolsey and the Parliament]

The Cardinal was driven to call the Estates together in April 1523; and
the conduct of the Commons showed how little the new policy of the
Monarchy had as yet done to change the temper of the nation or to break
its loyalty to the tradition of constitutional freedom. Wolsey needed the
sum of eight hundred thousand pounds, and proposed to raise it by a
property tax of twenty per cent. Such a demand was unprecedented, but the
Cardinal counted on his presence to bear down all opposition, and made the
demand in person. He was received with obstinate silence. It was in vain
that he called on member after member to answer; and his appeal to More,
who had been elected to fill the chair of the House of Commons, was met by
the Speaker's falling on his knees and representing his powerlessness to
reply till he had received instructions from the House itself. The effort
to overawe the Commons had in fact failed, and Wolsey was forced to
retire. He had no sooner withdrawn than an angry debate began, and the
Cardinal returned to answer the objections which were raised to the
subsidy. But the Commons again foiled the minister's attempt to influence
their deliberations by refusing to discuss the matter in his presence. The
struggle continued for a fortnight; and though successful in procuring a
grant the court party were forced to content themselves with less than
half of Wolsey's original demand. The Church displayed as independent a
spirit. Wolsey's aim of breaking down constitutional traditions was shown,
as in the case of the Commons, by his setting aside the old assembly of
the provincial convocations, and as Legate summoning the clergy to meet in
a national synod. But the clergy held as stubbornly to constitutional
usage as the laity, and the Cardinal was forced to lay his demand before
them in their separate convocations. Even here however the enormous grant
he asked was disputed for four months, and the matter had at last to be
settled by a compromise.

[Sidenote: War with France]

It was plain that England was far from having sunk to a slavish submission
to the monarchy. But galled as Wolsey was by the resistance, his mind was
too full of vast schemes of foreign conquest to turn to any resolute
conflict with opposition at home. The treason of the Duke of Bourbon
stirred a new hope of conquering France. Bourbon was Constable of France,
the highest of the French nobles both from his blood and the almost
independent power he wielded in his own duchy and in Provence. But a legal
process by which Francis sought to recall his vast possessions to the
domain of the crown threatened him with ruin; and driven to secret revolt,
he pledged himself to rise against the king on the appearance of the
allied armies in the heart of the realm. His offer was eagerly accepted,
and so confident were the conspirators of success that they at once
settled the division of their spoil. To Henry his hopes seemed at last
near their realization; and while Burgundy fell naturally to Charles, his
ally claimed what remained of France and the French crown. The departure
of Francis with his army for Italy was to be the signal for the execution
of the scheme, a joint army of English and Imperialists advancing to
Bourbon's aid from the north while a force of Spaniards and Germans
marched to the same point from the south. As the French troops moved to
the Alps a German force penetrated in August into Lorraine, an English
army disembarked at Calais, and a body of Spaniards descended from the
Pyrenees. But at the moment of its realization the discovery of the plot
and an order for his arrest foiled Bourbon's designs; and his precipitate
flight threw these skilful plans into confusion. Francis remained in his
realm. Though the army which he sent over the Alps was driven back from
the walls of Milan it still held to Piedmont, while the allied force in
northern France under the command of the Duke of Suffolk advanced to the
Oise only to find itself unsupported and to fall hastily back, and the
slow advance of the Spaniards frustrated the campaign in Guienne. In
Scotland alone a gleam of success lighted on the English arms. At the
close of the former war Albany had withdrawn to France and Margaret
regained her power; but a quarrel both with her husband and the English
king brought the queen-mother herself to invite the Duke to return. On the
outbreak of the new struggle with Francis Henry at once insisted on his
withdrawal, and though Albany marched on England with a large and
well-equipped army, the threats of the English commander so wrought on him
that he engaged to disband it and fled over sea. Henry and his sister drew
together again; and Margaret announced that her son, James the Fifth, who
had now reached his twelfth year, assumed the government as king, while
Lord Surrey advanced across the border to support her against the French
party among the nobles. But the presence of an English army roused the
whole people to arms. Albany was recalled; and Surrey saw himself forced
to retreat while the Duke with sixty thousand men crossed the border and
formed the siege of Wark. But again his cowardice ruined all. No sooner
did Surrey, now heavily reinforced, advance to offer battle than Albany
fell back to Lauder. Laying down the regency he set sail for France, and
the resumption of her power by Margaret relieved England from its dread of
a Scotch attack.

[Sidenote: Henry and Charles]

Baffled as he had been, Henry still clung to his schemes of a French
crown; and the defeat of the French army in Lombardy in 1524, the
evacuation of Italy, and the advance of the Imperialist troops into France
itself revived his hopes of success. Unable to set an army on foot in
Picardy, he furnished the Emperor with supplies which enabled his troops
to enter the south. But the selfish policy of Charles was at once shown by
the siege of Marseilles. While Henry had gained nothing from the alliance
Charles had gained the Milanese, and he was now preparing by the conquest
of Provence and the Mediterranean coast to link his possessions in Italy
with his possessions in Spain. Such a project was more practical and
statesmanlike than the visions of a conquest of France; but it was not to
further the Emperor's greatness that England had wasted money and men.
Henry felt that he was tricked as he had been tricked in 1523. Then as now
it was clearly the aim of Charles to humble Francis, but not to transfer
the French crown to his English ally. Nor was the resentment of Wolsey at
the Emperor's treachery less than that of the king. At the death of Leo
the Tenth, as at the death of his successor, Charles had fulfilled his
pledge to the Cardinal by directing his party in the Sacred College to
support his choice. But secret directions counteracted the open ones; and
Wolsey had seen the tutor of the Emperor, Adrian the Sixth, and his
partizan, Clement the Seventh, successively raised to the papal chair. The
eyes of both king and minister were at last opened, and Henry drew
cautiously from his ally, suspending further payments to Bourbon's army,
and opening secret negotiations with France. But the face of affairs was
changed anew by the obstinate resistance of Marseilles, the ruin and
retreat of the Imperialist forces, and the sudden advance of Francis with
a new army over the Alps. Though Milan was saved from his grasp, the
Imperial troops were surrounded and besieged in Pavia. For three months
they held stubbornly out, but famine at last forced them to a desperate
resolve; and in February 1525, at a moment when the French army was
weakened by the despatch of forces to Southern Italy, a sudden attack of
the Imperialists ended in a crushing victory. The French were utterly
routed and Francis himself remained a prisoner in the hands of the
conquerors. The ruin as it seemed of France roused into fresh life the
hopes of the English king. Again drawing closely to Charles he offered to
join the Emperor in an invasion of France with forty thousand men, to head
his own forces, and to furnish heavy subsidies for the cost of the war.
Should the allies prove successful and Henry be crowned king of France, he
pledged himself to cede to Bourbon Dauphiny and his duchy, to surrender
Burgundy, Provence, and Languedoc to the Emperor, and to give Charles the
hand of his daughter, Mary, and with it the heritage of two crowns which
would in the end make him master of the world.

[Sidenote: Resistance to Benevolences]

Though such a project seemed hardly perhaps as possible to Wolsey as to
his master it served to test the sincerity of Charles in his adhesion to
the alliance. But whether they were in earnest or no in proposing it, king
and minister had alike to face the difficulty of an empty treasury. Money
was again needed for action, but to obtain a new grant from Parliament was
impossible, nor was Wolsey eager to meet fresh rebuffs from the spirit of
the Commons or the clergy. He was driven once more to the system of
Benevolences. In every county a tenth was demanded from the laity and a
fourth from the clergy by the royal commissioners. But the demand was met
by a general resistance. The political instinct of the nation discerned as
of old that in the question of self-taxation was involved that of the very
existence of freedom. The clergy put themselves in the forefront of the
opposition, and preached from every pulpit that the commission was
contrary to the liberties of the realm and that the king could take no
man's goods but by process of law. Archbishop Warham, who was pressing the
demand in Kent, was forced to write to the court that "there was sore
grudging and murmuring among the people." "If men should give their goods
by a commission," said the Kentish squires, "then it would be worse than
the taxes of France, and England should be bond, not free." So stirred was
the nation that Wolsey bent to the storm and offered to rely on the
voluntary loans of each subject. But the statute of Richard the Third
which declared all exaction of Benevolences illegal was recalled to
memory; the demand was evaded by London, and the Commissioners were driven
out of Kent. A revolt actually broke out among the weavers of Suffolk; the
men of Cambridge banded for resistance; the Norwich clothiers, though they
yielded at first, soon threatened to rise. "Who is your captain?" the Duke
of Norfolk asked the crowd. "His name is Poverty," was the answer, "for he
and his cousin Necessity have brought us to this doing." There was in fact
a general strike of the employers. Clothmakers discharged their workers,
farmers put away their servants. "They say the King asketh so much that
they be not able to do as they have done before this time." Such a peasant
insurrection as was raging in Germany was only prevented by the
unconditional withdrawal of the royal demand.

[Sidenote: End of the Austrian Alliance]

The check was too rough a one not to rouse both Wolsey and the king. Henry
was wroth at the need of giving way before rebels, and yet more wroth at
the blow which the strife had dealt to the popularity on which he set so
great a store. Wolsey was more keenly hurt by the overthrow of his hopes
for a decisive campaign. Without money it was impossible to take advantage
of the prostration of France or bring the Emperor to any serious effort
for its subjection and partition. But Charles had no purpose in any case
of playing the English game, or of carrying out the pledges by which he
had lured England into war. He concluded an armistice with his prisoner,
and used Wolsey's French negotiations in the previous year as a ground for
evading fulfilment of his stipulations. The alliance was in fact at an
end; and the schemes of winning anew "our inheritance of France" had ended
in utter failure. So sharp a blow could hardly fail to shake Wolsey's
power. The popular clamour against him on the score of the Benevolences
found echoes at court; and it was only by a dexterous gift to Henry of his
newly-built palace at Hampton Court that Wolsey again won his old
influence over the king. Buried indeed as both Henry and his minister were
in schemes of distant ambition, the sudden and general resistance of
England woke them to an uneasy consciousness that their dream of
uncontrolled authority was yet to find hindrances in the temper of the
people they ruled. And at this moment a new and irresistible power began
to quicken the national love of freedom and law. It was the influence of
religion which was destined to ruin the fabric of the Monarchy; and the
year which saw the defeat of the Crown in its exaction of Benevolences saw
the translation of the English Bible.

[Sidenote: Luther]

While Charles and Francis were struggling for the lordship of the world,
Germany had been shaken by the outburst of the Reformation. "That Luther
has a fine genius!" laughed Leo the Tenth when he heard in 1517 that a
German Professor had nailed some Propositions denouncing the abuse of
Indulgences, or of the Papal power to remit certain penalties attached to
the commission of sins, against the doors of a church at Wittemberg. But
the "Quarrel of Friars," as the controversy was termed contemptuously at
Rome, soon took larger proportions. If at the outset Luther flung himself
"prostrate at the feet" of the Papacy and owned its voice as the voice of
Christ, the sentence of Leo no sooner confirmed the doctrine of
Indulgences than their opponent appealed to a future Council of the
Church. In 1520 the rupture was complete. A Papal Bull formally condemned
the errors of the Reformer, and Luther publicly consigned the Bull to the
flames. A second condemnation expelled him from the bosom of the Church,
and the ban of the Empire was soon added to that of the Papacy. Charles
the Fifth had bought Leo's alliance with himself and England by a promise
of repressing the new heresy; and its author was called to appear before
him in a Diet at Worms. "Here stand I; I can none other," Luther replied
to the young Emperor as he pressed him to recant; and from a hiding-place
in the Thuringian forest where he was sheltered after his condemnation by
the Elector of Saxony he denounced not merely, as at first, the abuses of
the Papacy, but the Papacy itself. The heresies of Wyclif were revived;
the infallibility, the authority of the Roman See, the truth of its
doctrines, the efficacy of its worship, were denied and scoffed at in
vigorous pamphlets which issued from his retreat and were dispersed
throughout the world by the new printing-press. Germany welcomed them with
enthusiasm. Its old resentment against the oppression of Rome, the moral
revolt in its more religious minds against the secularity and corruption
of the Church, the disgust of the New Learning at the superstition which
the Papacy now formally protected, combined to secure for Luther a
widespread popularity and the protection of the northern princes of the

[Sidenote: Luther and the New Learning]

In England his protest seemed at first to find no echo. The king himself
was both on political and religious grounds firm on the Papal side.
England and Rome were drawn to a close alliance by the identity of their
political position. Each was hard pressed between the same great powers;
Rome had to hold its own between the masters of southern and the masters
of northern Italy, as England had to hold her own between the rulers of
France and of the Netherlands. From the outset of his reign to the actual
break with Clement the Seventh the policy of Henry is always at one with
that of the Papacy. Nor were the king's religious tendencies hostile to
it. He was a trained theologian and proud of his theological knowledge,
but to the end his convictions remained firmly on the side of the
doctrines which Luther denied. In 1521 therefore he entered the lists
against Luther with an "Assertion of the Seven Sacraments" for which he
was rewarded by Leo with the title of "Defender of the Faith." The
insolent abuse of the Reformer's answer called More and Fisher into the
field. The influence of the New Learning was now strong at the English
Court. Colet and Grocyn were among its foremost preachers; Linacre was
Henry's physician; More was a privy councillor; Pace was one of the
Secretaries of State; Tunstall was Master of the Rolls. And as yet the New
Learning, though scared by Luther's intemperate language, had steadily
backed him in his struggle. Erasmus pleaded for him with the Emperor.
Ulrich von Hutten attacked the friars in satires and invectives as violent
as his own. But the temper of the Renascence was even more antagonistic to
the temper of Luther than that of Rome itself. From the golden dream of a
new age wrought peaceably and purely by the slow progress of intelligence,
the growth of letters, the developement of human virtue, the Reformer of
Wittemberg turned away with horror. He had little or no sympathy with the
new culture. He despised reason as heartily as any Papal dogmatist could
despise it. He hated the very thought of toleration or comprehension. He
had been driven by a moral and intellectual compulsion to declare the
Roman system a false one, but it was only to replace it by another system
of doctrine just as elaborate, and claiming precisely the same
infallibility. To degrade human nature was to attack the very base of the
New Learning; and his attack on it called the foremost of its teachers to
the field. But Erasmus no sooner advanced to its defence than Luther
declared man to be utterly enslaved by original sin and incapable through
any efforts of his own of discovering truth or of arriving at goodness.
Such a doctrine not only annihilated the piety and wisdom of the classic
past, from which the New Learning had drawn its larger views of life and
of the world; it trampled in the dust reason itself, the very instrument
by which More and Erasmus hoped to regenerate both knowledge and religion.
To More especially, with his keener perception of its future effect, this
sudden revival of a purely theological and dogmatic spirit, severing
Christendom into warring camps and ruining all hopes of union and
tolerance, was especially hateful. The temper which hitherto had seemed so
"endearing, gentle, and happy," suddenly gave way. His reply to Luther's
attack upon the king sank to the level of the work it answered; and though
that of Bishop Fisher was calmer and more argumentative the divorce of the
New Learning from the Reformation seemed complete.

[Sidenote: Tyndale]

But if the world of scholars and thinkers stood aloof from the new
movement it found a warmer welcome in the larger world where men are
stirred rather by emotion than by thought. There was an England of which
even More and Colet knew little in which Luther's words kindled a fire
that was never to die. As a great social and political movement Lollardry
had ceased to exist, and little remained of the directly religious impulse
given by Wyclif beyond a vague restlessness and discontent with the system
of the Church. But weak and fitful as was the life of Lollardry the
prosecutions whose records lie scattered over the bishops' registers
failed wholly to kill it. We see groups meeting here and there to read "in
a great book of heresy all one night certain chapters of the Evangelists
in English," while transcripts of Wyclif's tracts passed from hand to
hand. The smouldering embers needed but a breath to fan them into flame,
and the breath came from William Tyndale. Born among the Cotswolds when
Bosworth Field gave England to the Tudors, Tyndale passed from Oxford to
Cambridge to feel the full impulse given by the appearance there of the
New Testament of Erasmus. From that moment one thought was at his heart.
He "perceived by experience how that it was impossible to establish the
lay people in any truth except the scripture were plainly laid before
their eyes in their mother-tongue." "If God spare my life," he said to a
learned controversialist, "ere many years I will cause a boy that driveth
the plough shall know more of the scripture than thou dost." But he was a
man of forty before his dream became fact. Drawn from his retirement in
Gloucestershire by the news of Luther's protest at Wittemberg, he found
shelter for a year with a London Alderman, Humfrey Monmouth. "He studied
most part of the day at his book," said his host afterwards, "and would
eat but sodden meat by his good will and drink but small single beer." The
book at which he studied was the Bible. But it was soon needful to quit
England if his purpose was to hold. "I understood at the last not only
that there was no room in my lord of London's palace to translate the New
Testament, but also that there was no place to do it in all England." From
Hamburg, where he took refuge in 1524, he probably soon found his way to
the little town which had suddenly become the sacred city of the
Reformation. Students of all nations were flocking there with an
enthusiasm which resembled that of the Crusades. "As they came in sight of
the town," a contemporary tells us, "they returned thanks to God with
clasped hands, for from Wittemberg, as heretofore from Jerusalem, the
light of evangelical truth had spread to the utmost parts of the earth."

[Sidenote: Translation of the Bible]

Such a visit could only fire Tyndale to face the "poverty, exile, bitter
absence from friends, hunger and thirst and cold, great dangers, and
innumerable other hard and sharp fightings," which the work he had set
himself was to bring with it. In 1525 his version of the New Testament was
completed, and means were furnished by English merchants for printing it
at Köln. But Tyndale had soon to fly with his sheets to Worms, a city
whose Lutheran tendencies made it a safer refuge, and it was from Worms
that six thousand copies of the New Testament were sent in 1526 to English
shores. The king was keenly opposed to a book which he looked on as made
"at the solicitation and instance of Luther"; and even the men of the New
Learning from whom it might have hoped for welcome were estranged from it
by its Lutheran origin. We can only fairly judge their action by viewing
it in the light of the time. What Warham and More saw over sea might well
have turned them from a movement which seemed breaking down the very
foundations of religion and society. Not only was the fabric of the Church
rent asunder and the centre of Christian unity denounced as "Babylon," but
the reform itself seemed passing into anarchy. Luther was steadily moving
onward from the denial of one Catholic dogma to that of another; and what
Luther still clung to his followers were ready to fling away. Carlstadt
was denouncing the reformer of Wittemberg as fiercely as Luther himself
had denounced the Pope, and meanwhile the religious excitement was
kindling wild dreams of social revolution, and men stood aghast at the
horrors of a Peasant-War which broke out in Southern Germany. It was not
therefore as a mere translation of the Bible that Tyndale's work reached
England. It came as a part of the Lutheran movement, and it bore the
Lutheran stamp in its version of ecclesiastical words. "Church" became
"congregation," "priest" was changed into "elder." It came too in company
with Luther's bitter invectives and reprints of the tracts of Wyclif,
which the German traders of the Steelyard were importing in large numbers.
We can hardly wonder that More denounced the book as heretical, or that
Warham ordered it to be given up by all who possessed it.

[Sidenote: Wolsey and Lutheranism]

Wolsey took little heed of religious matters, but his policy was one of
political adhesion to Rome, and he presided over a solemn penance to which
some Steelyard men submitted in St. Paul's. "With six and thirty abbots,
mitred priors, and bishops, and he in his whole pomp mitred" the Cardinal
looked on while "great baskets full of books ... were commanded after the
great fire was made before the Rood of Northen," the crucifix by the great
north door of the cathedral, "thus to be burned, and those heretics to go
thrice about the fire and to cast in their fagots." But scenes and
denunciations such as these were vain in the presence of an enthusiasm
which grew every hour. "Englishmen," says a scholar of the time, "were so
eager for the gospel as to affirm that they would buy a New Testament even
if they had to give a hundred thousand pieces of money for it." Bibles and
pamphlets were smuggled over to England and circulated among the poorer
and trading classes through the agency of an association of "Christian
Brethren," consisting principally of London tradesmen and citizens, but
whose missionaries spread over the country at large. They found their way
at once to the Universities, where the intellectual impulse given by the
New Learning was quickening religious speculation. Cambridge had already
won a name for heresy; Barnes, one of its foremost scholars, had to carry
his fagot before Wolsey at St. Paul's; two other Cambridge teachers,
Bilney and Latimer, were already known as "Lutherans." The Cambridge
scholars whom Wolsey introduced into Cardinal College which he was
founding spread the contagion through Oxford. A group of "Brethren" was
formed in Cardinal College for the secret reading and discussion of the
Epistles; and this soon included the more intelligent and learned scholars
of the University. It was in vain that Clark, the centre of this group,
strove to dissuade fresh members from joining it by warnings of the
impending dangers. "I fell down on my knees at his feet," says one of
them, Anthony Dalaber, "and with tears and sighs besought him that for the
tender mercy of God he should not refuse me, saying that I trusted verily
that he who had begun this on me would not forsake me, but would give me
grace to continue therein to the end. When he heard me say so he came to
me, took me in his arms, and kissed me, saying, 'The Lord God Almighty
grant you so to do, and from henceforth ever take me for your father, and
I will take you for my son in Christ.'"

[Sidenote: Latimer]

In 1528 the excitement which followed on this rapid diffusion of Tyndale's
works forced Wolsey to more vigorous action; many of the Oxford Brethren
were thrown into prison and their books seized. But in spite of the panic
of the Protestants, some of whom fled over sea, little severity was really
exercised. Henry's chief anxiety indeed was lest in the outburst against
heresy the interest of the New Learning should suffer harm. This was
remarkably shown in the protection he extended to one who was destined to
eclipse even the fame of Colet as a popular preacher. Hugh Latimer was the
son of a Leicestershire yeoman, whose armour the boy had buckled on in
Henry the Seventh's days ere he set out to meet the Cornish insurgents at
Blackheath field. Latimer has himself described the soldierly training of
his youth. "My father was delighted to teach me to shoot with the bow. He
taught me how to draw, how to lay my body to the bow, not to draw with
strength of arm as other nations do but with the strength of the body." At
fourteen he was at Cambridge, flinging himself into the New Learning which
was winning its way there with a zeal that at last told on his physical
strength. The ardour of his mental efforts left its mark on him in
ailments and enfeebled health from which, vigorous as he was, his frame
never wholly freed itself. But he was destined to be known, not as a
scholar, but as a preacher. In his addresses from the pulpit the sturdy
good sense of the man shook off the pedantry of the schools as well as the
subtlety of the theologian. He had little turn for speculation, and in the
religious changes of the day we find him constantly lagging behind his
brother reformers. But he had the moral earnestness of a Jewish prophet,
and his denunciations of wrong had a prophetic directness and fire. "Have
pity on your soul," he cried to Henry, "and think that the day is even at
hand when you shall give an account of your office, and of the blood that
hath been shed by your sword." His irony was yet more telling than his
invective. "I would ask you a strange question," he said once at Paul's
Cross to a ring of Bishops; "who is the most diligent prelate in all
England, that passeth all the rest in doing of his office? I will tell
you. It is the Devil! of all the pack of them that have cure, the Devil
shall go for my money; for he ordereth his business. Therefore, you
unpreaching prelates, learn of the Devil to be diligent in your office. If
you will not learn of God, for shame learn of the Devil." But Latimer was
far from limiting himself to invective. His homely humour breaks in with
story and apologue; his earnestness is always tempered with good sense;
his plain and simple style quickens with a shrewd mother-wit. He talks to
his hearers as a man talks to his friends, telling stories such as we have
given of his own life at home, or chatting about the changes and chances
of the day with a transparent simplicity and truth that raises even his
chat into grandeur. His theme is always the actual world about him, and in
his simple lessons of loyalty, of industry, of pity for the poor, he
touches upon almost every subject from the plough to the throne. No such
preaching had been heard in England before his day, and with the growth of
his fame grew the danger of persecution. There were moments when, bold as
he was, Latimer's heart failed him. "If I had not trust that God will help
me," he wrote once, "I think the ocean sea would have divided my Lord of
London and me by this day." A citation for heresy at last brought the
danger home. "I intend," he wrote with his peculiar medley of humour and
pathos, "to make merry with my parishioners this Christmas, for all the
sorrow, lest perchance I may never return to them again." But he was saved
throughout by the steady protection of the Court. Wolsey upheld him
against the threats of the Bishop of Ely; Henry made him his own chaplain;
and the king's interposition at this critical moment forced Latimer's
judges to content themselves with a few vague words of submission.

[Sidenote: Anne Boleyn]

What really sheltered the reforming movement was Wolsey's indifference to
all but political matters. In spite of the foundation of Cardinal College
in which he was now engaged, and of the suppression of some lesser
monasteries for its endowment, the men of the New Learning looked on him
as really devoid of any interest in the revival of letters or in their
hopes of a general enlightenment. He took hardly more heed of the new
Lutheranism. His mind had no religious turn, and the quarrel of faiths was
with him simply one factor in the political game which he was carrying on
and which at this moment became more complex and absorbing than ever. The
victory of Pavia had ruined that system of balance which Henry the Seventh
and in his earlier days Henry the Eighth had striven to preserve. But the
ruin had not been to England's profit, but to the profit of its ally.
While the Emperor stood supreme in Europe Henry had won nothing from the
war, and it was plain that Charles meant him to win nothing. He set aside
all projects of a joint invasion; he broke his pledge to wed Mary Tudor
and married a princess of Portugal; he pressed for a peace with France
which would give him Burgundy. It was time for Henry and his minister to
change their course. They resolved to withdraw from all active part in the
rivalry of the two powers. In June, 1525, a treaty was secretly concluded
with France. But Henry remained on fair terms with the Emperor; and though
England joined the Holy League for the deliverance of Italy from the
Spaniards which was formed between France, the Pope, and the lesser
Italian states on the release of Francis in the spring of 1526 by virtue
of a treaty which he at once repudiated, she took no part in the lingering
war which went on across the Alps. Charles was too prudent to resent
Henry's alliance with his foes, and from this moment the country remained
virtually at peace. No longer spurred by the interest of great events, the
king ceased to take a busy part in foreign politics, and gave himself to
hunting and sport. Among the fairest and gayest ladies of his court stood
Anne Boleyn. She was sprung of a merchant family which had but lately
risen to distinction through two great marriages, that of her grandfather
with the heiress of the Earls of Ormond, and that of her father, Sir
Thomas Boleyn, with a sister of the Duke of Norfolk. It was probably
through his kinship with the Duke, who was now Lord Treasurer and high in
the king's confidence, that Boleyn was employed throughout Henry's reign
in state business, and his diplomatic abilities had secured his
appointment as envoy both to France and to the Emperor. His son, George
Boleyn, a man of culture and a poet, was among the group of young
courtiers in whose society Henry took most pleasure. Anne was his youngest
daughter; born in 1507, she was still but a girl of fifteen when the
outbreak of war drew her from a stay in France to the English court. Her
beauty was small, but her bright eyes, her flowing hair, her gaiety and
wit, soon won favour with the king, and only a month after her return in
1522 the grant of honours to her father marked her influence over Henry.
Fresh gifts in the following years showed that the favour continued; but
in 1524 a new colour was given to this intimacy by a resolve on the king's
part to break his marriage with the queen. Catharine had now reached
middle age; her personal charms had departed. The death of every child
save Mary may have woke scruples as to the lawfulness of a marriage on
which a curse seemed to rest; the need of a male heir for public security
may have deepened this impression. But whatever were the grounds of his
action we find Henry from this moment pressing the Roman See to grant him
a divorce.

[Sidenote: The Divorce]

It is probable that the matter was already mooted in 1525, a year which
saw new proof of Anne's influence in the elevation of Sir Thomas Boleyn to
the baronage as Lord Rochford. It is certain that it was the object of
secret negotiation with the Pope in 1526. No sovereign stood higher in the
favour of Rome than Henry, whose alliance had ever been ready in its
distress and who was even now prompt with aid in money. But Clement's
consent to his wish meant a break with the Emperor, Catharine's nephew;
and the exhaustion of France, the weakness of the league in which the
lesser Italian states strove to maintain their independence against
Charles after the battle of Pavia, left the Pope at the Emperor's mercy.
While the English envoy was mooting the question of divorce in 1526 the
surprise of Rome by an Imperial force brought home to Clement his utter
helplessness. It is hard to discover what part Wolsey had as yet taken in
the matter or whether as in other cases Henry had till now been acting
alone, though the Cardinal himself tells us that on Catharine's first
discovery of the intrigue she attributed the proposal of divorce to "my
procurement and setting forth." But from this point his intervention is
clear. As legate he took cognizance of all matrimonial causes, and in May
1527 a collusive action was brought in his court against Henry for
cohabiting with his brother's wife. The king appeared by proctor; but the
suit was suddenly dropped. Secret as were the proceedings, they had now
reached Catharine's ear; and as she refused to admit the facts on which
Henry rested his case her appeal would have carried the matter to the
tribunal of the Pope, and Clement's decision could hardly be a favourable

[Sidenote: Wolsey and the Divorce]

The Pope was now in fact a prisoner in the Emperor's hands. At the very
moment of the suit Rome was stormed and sacked by the army of the Duke of
Bourbon. "If the Pope's holiness fortune either to be slain or taken,"
Wolsey wrote to the king when the news of this event reached England, "it
shall not a little hinder your Grace's affairs." But it was needful for
the Cardinal to find some expedient to carry out the king's will, for the
group around Anne were using her skilfully for their purposes. A great
party had now gathered to her support. Her uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, an
able and ambitious man, counted on her rise to set him at the head of the
council-board; the brilliant group of young courtiers to which her brother
belonged saw in her success their own elevation; and the Duke of Suffolk
with the bulk of the nobles hoped through her means to bring about the
ruin of the statesman before whom they trembled. What most served their
plans was the growth of Henry's passion. "If it please you," the king
wrote at this time to Anne Boleyn, "to do the office of a true, loyal
mistress, and give yourself body and heart to me, who have been and mean
to be your loyal servant, I promise you not only the name but that I shall
make you my sole mistress, remove all others from my affection, and serve
you only." What stirred Henry's wrath most was Catharine's "stiff and
obstinate" refusal to bow to his will. Wolsey's advice that "your Grace
should handle her both gently and doulcely" only goaded Henry's
impatience. He lent an ear to the rivals who charged his minister with
slackness in the cause, and danger drove the Cardinal to a bolder and yet
more unscrupulous device. The entire subjection of Italy to the Emperor
was drawing closer the French alliance; and a new treaty had been
concluded in April. But this had hardly been signed when the sack of Rome
and the danger of the Pope called for bolder measures. Wolsey was
despatched on a solemn embassy to Francis to promise an English subsidy on
the despatch of a French army across the Alps. But he aimed at turning the
Pope's situation to the profit of the divorce. Clement was virtually a
prisoner in the Castle of St. Angelo; and as it was impossible for him to
fulfil freely the function of a Pope, Wolsey proposed in conjunction with
Francis to call a meeting of the College of Cardinals at Avignon which
should exercise the papal powers till Clement's liberation. As Wolsey was
to preside over this assembly, it would be easy to win from it a
favourable answer to Henry's request.

[Sidenote: The Legatine Commission]

But Clement had no mind to surrender his power, and secret orders from the
Pope prevented the Italian Cardinals from attending such an assembly. Nor
was Wolsey more fortunate in another plan for bringing about the same end
by inducing Clement to delegate to him his full powers westward of the
Alps. Henry's trust in him was fast waning before these failures and the
steady pressure of his rivals at court, and the coldness of the king on
his return in September was an omen of his minister's fall. Henry was in
fact resolved to take his own course; and while Wolsey sought from the
Pope a commission enabling him to try the case in his legatine court and
pronounce the marriage null and void by sentence of law, Henry had
determined at the suggestion of the Boleyns and apparently of Thomas
Cranmer, a Cambridge scholar who was serving as their chaplain, to seek
without Wolsey's knowledge from Clement either his approval of a divorce,
or if a divorce could not be obtained a dispensation to re-marry without
any divorce at all. For some months his envoys could find no admission to
the Pope; and though in December Clement succeeded in escaping to Orvieto
and drew some courage from the entry of the French army into Italy, his
temper was still too timid to venture on any decided course. He refused
the dispensation altogether. Wolsey's proposal for leaving the matter to a
legatine court found better favour; but when the commission reached
England it was found to be "of no effect or authority." What Henry wanted
was not merely a divorce but the express sanction of the Pope to his
divorce, and this Clement steadily evaded. A fresh embassy with Wolsey's
favourite and secretary, Stephen Gardiner, at its head reached Orvieto in
March 1528 to find in spite of Gardiner's threats hardly better success;
but Clement at last consented to a legatine commission for the trial of
the case in England. In this commission Cardinal Campeggio, who was looked
upon as a partisan of the English king, was joined with Wolsey.

[Sidenote: The Papal difficulties]

Great as the concession seemed, this gleam of success failed to hide from
the minister the dangers which gathered round him. The great nobles whom
he had practically shut out from the king's counsels were longing for his
fall. The Boleyns and the young courtiers looked on him as cool in Anne's
cause. He was hated alike by men of the old doctrine and men of the new.
The clergy had never forgotten his extortions, the monks saw him
suppressing small monasteries. The foundation of Cardinal College failed
to reconcile to him the scholars of the New Learning; their poet, Skelton,
was among his bitterest assailants. The Protestants, goaded by the
persecution of this very year, hated him with a deadly hatred. His French
alliances, his declaration of war with the Emperor, hindered the trade
with Flanders and secured the hostility of the merchant class. The country
at large, galled with murrain and famine and panic-struck by an outbreak
of the sweating sickness which carried off two thousand in London alone,
laid all its suffering at the door of the Cardinal. And now that Henry's
mood itself became uncertain Wolsey knew his hour was come. Were the
marriage once made, he told the French ambassador, and a male heir born to
the realm, he would withdraw from state affairs and serve God for the rest
of his life. But the divorce had still to be brought about ere marriage
could be made or heir be born. Henry indeed had seized on the grant of a
commission as if the matter were at an end. Anne Boleyn was installed in
the royal palace, and honoured with the state of a wife. The new legate,
Campeggio, held the bishoprick of Salisbury, and had been asked for as
judge from the belief that he would favour the king's cause. But he bore
secret instructions from the Pope to bring about if possible a
reconciliation between Henry and the queen, and in no case to pronounce
sentence without reference to Rome. The slowness of his journey presaged
ill; he did not reach England till the end of September, and a month was
wasted in vain efforts to bring Henry to a reconciliation or Catharine to
retirement into a monastery. A new difficulty disclosed itself in the
supposed existence of a brief issued by Pope Julius and now in the
possession of the Emperor, which overruled all the objections to the
earlier dispensation on which Henry relied. The hearing of the cause was
delayed through the winter, while new embassies strove to induce Clement
to declare this brief also invalid. Not only was such a demand glaringly
unjust, but the progress of the Imperial arms brought vividly home to the
Pope its injustice. The danger which he feared was not merely a danger to
his temporal domain in Italy. It was a danger to the Papacy itself. It was
in vain that new embassies threatened Clement with the loss of his
spiritual power over England. To break with the Emperor was to risk the
loss of his spiritual power over a far larger world. Charles had already
consented to the suspension of the judgement of his diet at Worms, a
consent which gave security to the new Protestantism in North Germany. If
he burned heretics in the Netherlands, he employed them in his armies.
Lutheran soldiers had played their part in the sack of Rome. Lutheranism
had spread from North Germany along the Rhine, it was now pushing fast
into the hereditary possessions of the Austrian House, it had all but
mastered the Low Countries. France itself was mined with heresy; and were
Charles once to give way, the whole continent would be lost to Rome.

[Sidenote: The Trial of the Divorce]

Amidst difficulties such as these the Papal court saw no course open save
one of delay. But the long delay told fatally for Wolsey's fortunes. Even
Clement blamed him for having hindered Henry from judging the matter in
his own realm and marrying on the sentence of his own courts, and the
Boleyns naturally looked upon his policy as dictated by hatred to Anne.
Norfolk and the great peers took courage from the bitter tone of the girl;
and Henry himself charged the Cardinal with a failure in fulfilling the
promises he had made him. King and minister still clung indeed
passionately to their hopes from Rome. But in 1529 Charles met their
pressure with a pressure of his own; and the progress of his arms decided
Clement to avoke the cause to Rome. Wolsey could only hope to anticipate
this decision by pushing the trial hastily forward, and at the end of May
the two Legates opened their court in the great hall of the Blackfriars.
King and queen were cited to appear before them when the court again met
on the eighteenth of June. Henry briefly announced his resolve to live no
longer in mortal sin. The queen offered an appeal to Clement, and on the
refusal of the Legates to admit it flung herself at Henry's feet. "Sire,"
said Catharine, "I beseech you to pity me, a woman and a stranger, without
an assured friend and without an indifferent counsellor. I take God to
witness that I have always been to you a true and loyal wife, that I have
made it my constant duty to seek your pleasure, that I have loved all whom
you loved, whether I have reason or not, whether they are friends to me or
foes. I have been your wife for years; I have brought you many children.
God knows that when I came to your bed I was a virgin, and I put it to
your own conscience to say whether it was not so. If there be any offence
which can be alleged against me I consent to depart with infamy; if not,
then I pray you to do me justice." The piteous appeal was wasted on a king
who was already entertaining Anne Boleyn with royal state in his own
palace; the trial proceeded, and on the twenty-third of July the court
assembled to pronounce sentence. Henry's hopes were at their highest when
they were suddenly dashed to the ground. At the opening of the proceedings
Campeggio rose to declare the court adjourned to the following October.

[Sidenote: Henry's wrath]

The adjournment was a mere evasion. The pressure of the Imperialists had
at last forced Clement to summon the cause to his own tribunal at Rome,
and the jurisdiction of the Legates was at an end. "Now see I," cried the
Duke of Suffolk as he dashed his hand on the table, "that the old saw is
true, that there was never Legate or Cardinal that did good to England!"
The Duke only echoed his master's wrath. Through the twenty years of his
reign Henry had known nothing of opposition to his will. His imperious
temper had chafed at the weary negotiations, the subterfuges and perfidies
of the Pope. Though the commission was his own device, his pride must have
been sorely galled by the summons to the Legates' court. The warmest
adherents of the older faith revolted against the degradation of the
crown. "It was the strangest and newest sight and device," says Cavendish,
"that ever we read or heard of in any history or chronicle in any region
that a King and Queen should be convented and constrained by process
compellatory to appear in any court as common persons, within their own
realm and dominion, to abide the judgement and decree of their own
subjects, having the royal diadem and prerogative thereof." Even this
degradation had been borne in vain. Foreign and Papal tribunal as that of
the Legates really was, it lay within Henry's kingdom and had the air of
an English court. But the citation to Rome was a summons to the king to
plead in a court without his realm. Wolsey had himself warned Clement of
the hopelessness of expecting Henry to submit to such humiliation as this.
"If the King be cited to appear in person or by proxy and his prerogative
be interfered with, none of his subjects will tolerate the insult.... To
cite the King to Rome, to threaten him with excommunication, is no more
tolerable than to deprive him of his royal dignity.... If he were to
appear in Italy it would be at the head of a formidable army." But Clement
had been deaf to the warning, and the case had been avoked out of the

[Sidenote: Wolsey's fall]

Henry's wrath fell at once on Wolsey. Whatever furtherance or hindrance
the Cardinal had given to his re-marriage, it was Wolsey who had dissuaded
him from acting at the first independently, from conducting the cause in
his own courts and acting on the sentence of his own judges. Whether to
secure the succession by a more indisputable decision or to preserve
uninjured the prerogatives of the Papal See, it was Wolsey who had
counselled him to seek a divorce from Rome and promised him success in his
suit. And in this counsel Wolsey stood alone. Even Clement had urged the
king to carry out his original purpose when it was too late. All that the
Pope sought was to be freed from the necessity of meddling in the matter
at all. It was Wolsey who had forced Papal intervention on him, as he had
forced it on Henry, and the failure of his plans was fatal to him. From
the close of the Legatine court Henry would see him no more, and his
favourite, Stephen Gardiner, who had become chief Secretary of State,
succeeded him in the king's confidence. If Wolsey still remained minister
for a while, it was because the thread of the complex foreign negotiations
which he was conducting could not be roughly broken. Here too however
failure awaited him. His diplomacy sought to bring fresh pressure on the
Pope and to provide a fresh check on the Emperor by a closer alliance with
France. But Francis was anxious to recover his children who had remained
as hostages for his return; he was weary of the long struggle, and
hopeless of aid from his Italian allies. At this crisis of his fate
therefore Wolsey saw himself deceived and outwitted by the conclusion of
peace between France and the Emperor in a new treaty at Cambray. Not only
was his French policy no longer possible, but a reconciliation with
Charles was absolutely needful, and such a reconciliation could only be
brought about by Wolsey's fall. In October, on the very day that the
Cardinal took his place with a haughty countenance and all his former pomp
in the Court of Chancery, an indictment was preferred against him by the
king's attorney for receiving bulls from Rome in violation of the Statute
of Præmunire. A few days later he was deprived of the seals. Wolsey was
prostrated by the blow. In a series of abject appeals he offered to give
up everything that he possessed if the king would but cease from his
displeasure. "His face," wrote the French ambassador, "is dwindled to half
its natural size. In truth his misery is such that his enemies, Englishmen
as they are, cannot help pitying him." For the moment Henry seemed
contented with his disgrace. A thousand boats full of Londoners covered
the Thames to see the Cardinal's barge pass to the Tower, but he was
permitted to retire to Esher. Although judgement of forfeiture and
imprisonment was given against him in the King's Bench at the close of
October, in the following February he received a pardon on surrender of
his vast possessions to the Crown and was permitted to withdraw to his
diocese of York, the one dignity he had been suffered to retain.


[Sidenote: The new Despotism]

The ten years which follow the fall of Wolsey are among the most momentous
in our history. The Monarchy at last realized its power, and the work for
which Wolsey had paved the way was carried out with a terrible
thoroughness. The one great institution which could still offer resistance
to the royal will was struck down. The Church became a mere instrument of
the central despotism. The people learned their helplessness in rebellions
easily suppressed and avenged with ruthless severity. A reign of terror,
organized with consummate and merciless skill, held England panic-stricken
at Henry's feet. The noblest heads rolled from the block. Virtue and
learning could not save Thomas More; royal descent could not save Lady
Salisbury. The putting away of one queen, the execution of another, taught
England that nothing was too high for Henry's "courage" or too sacred for
his "appetite." Parliament assembled only to sanction acts of unscrupulous
tyranny, or to build up by its own statutes the fabric of absolute rule.
All the constitutional safeguards of English freedom were swept away.
Arbitrary taxation, arbitrary legislation, arbitrary imprisonment were
powers claimed without dispute and unsparingly used by the Crown.

The history of this great revolution, for it is nothing less, is the
history of a single man. In the whole line of English statesmen there is
no one of whom we would willingly know so much, no one of whom we really
know so little, as of Thomas Cromwell. When he meets us in Henry's service
he had already passed middle life; and during his earlier years it is
hardly possible to do more than disentangle a few fragmentary facts from
the mass of fable which gathered round them. His youth was one of roving
adventure. Whether he was the son of a poor blacksmith at Putney or no, he
could hardly have been more than a boy when he was engaged in the service
of the Marchioness of Dorset, and he must still have been young when he
took part as a common soldier in the wars of Italy, a "ruffian," as he
owned afterwards to Cranmer, in the most unscrupulous school the world
contained. But it was a school in which he learned lessons even more
dangerous than those of the camp. He not only mastered the Italian
language but drank in the manners and tone of the Italy around him, the
Italy of the Borgias and the Medici. It was with Italian versatility that
he turned from the camp to the counting-house; he was certainly engaged as
a commercial agent to one of the Venetian traders; tradition finds him as
a clerk at Antwerp; and in 1512 history at last encounters him as a
thriving wool merchant at Middelburg in Zealand.

[Sidenote: Cromwell and Wolsey]

Returning to England, Cromwell continued to amass wealth as years went on
by adding the trade of scrivener, something between that of a banker and
attorney, to his other occupations, as well as by advancing money to the
poorer nobles; and on the outbreak of the second war with France we find
him a busy and influential member of the Commons in Parliament. Five years
later, in 1528, the aim of his ambition was declared by his entering into
Wolsey's service. The Cardinal needed a man of business for the
suppression of the smaller monasteries which he had undertaken as well as
for the transfer of their revenues to his foundations at Oxford and
Ipswich, and he showed his usual skill in the choice of men by finding
such an agent in Cromwell. The task was an unpopular one, and it was
carried out with a rough indifference to the feelings it aroused which
involved Cromwell in the hate that was gathering round his master. But his
wonderful self-reliance and sense of power only broke upon the world at
Wolsey's fall. Of the hundreds of dependants who waited on the Cardinal's
nod, Cromwell, hated and in danger as he must have known himself to be,
was the only one who clung to his master at the last. In the lonely hours
of his disgrace at Esher Wolsey "made his moan unto Master Cromwell, who
comforted him the best he could, and desired my Lord to give him leave to
go to London, where he would make or mar, which was always his common
saying." His plan was to purchase not only his master's safety but his
own. Wolsey was persuaded to buy off the hostility of the courtiers by
giving his personal confirmation to the prodigal grants of pensions and
annuities which had been already made from his revenues, while Cromwell
acquired importance as the go-between in these transactions. "Then began
both noblemen and others who had patents from the King," for grants from
the Cardinal's estate, "to make earnest suit to Master Cromwell for to
solicit their causes, and for his pains therein they promised not only to
reward him, but to show him such pleasure as should be in their power."
But if Cromwell showed his consummate craft in thus serving himself as
well as his master, he can have had no personal reasons for the stand he
made in the Parliament which was summoned in November against a bill for
disqualifying the Cardinal for all after employment, which was introduced
by Norfolk and More. It was by Cromwell that this was defeated and it was
by him that the negotiations were conducted which permitted the fallen
minister to withdraw pardoned to York.

A general esteem seems to have rewarded this rare instance of fidelity to
a ruined patron. "For his honest behaviour in his master's cause he was
esteemed the most faithfullest servant, and was of all men greatly
commended." Cromwell however had done more than save himself from ruin.
The negotiations for Wolsey's pensions had given him access to the king,
and "by his witty demeanour he grew continually in the King's favour." But
the favour had been won by more than "witty demeanour." In a private
interview with Henry Cromwell boldly advised him to cut the knot of the
divorce by the simple exercise of his own supremacy. The advice struck the
key-note of the later policy by which the daring counsellor was to change
the whole face of Church and State; but Henry still clung to the hopes
held out by the new ministers who had followed Wolsey, and shrank perhaps
as yet from the bare absolutism to which Cromwell called him. The advice
at any rate was concealed; and, though high in the king's favour, his new
servant waited patiently the progress of events.

[Sidenote: The Howards]

The first result of Wolsey's fall was a marked change in the system of
administration. Both the Tudor kings had carried on their government
mainly through the agency of great ecclesiastics. Archbishop Morton and
Bishop Fox had been successively ministers of Henry the Seventh. Wolsey
had been the minister of Henry the Eighth. But with the ruin of the
Cardinal the rule of the churchmen ceased. The seals were given to Sir
Thomas More. The real direction of affairs lay in the hands of two great
nobles, of the Duke of Suffolk who was President of the Council, and of
the Lord Treasurer, Thomas Howard, the Duke of Norfolk. From this hour to
the close of the age of the Tudors the Howards were to play a prominent
part in English history. They had originally sprung from the circle of
lawyers who rose to wealth and honour through their employment by the
Crown. Their earliest known ancestor was a judge under Edward the First;
and his descendants remained wealthy landowners in the eastern counties
till early in the fifteenth century they were suddenly raised to
distinction by the marriage of Sir Robert Howard with a wife who became
heiress of the houses of Arundel and Norfolk, the Fitz-Alans and the
Mowbrays. John Howard, the issue of this marriage, was a prominent Yorkist
and stood high in the favour of the Yorkist kings. He was one of the
councillors of Edward the Fourth, and received from Richard the Third the
old dignities of the house of Mowbray, the office of Earl Marshal and the
Dukedom of Norfolk. But he had hardly risen to greatness when he fell
fighting by Richard's side at Bosworth Field. His son was taken prisoner
in the same battle and remained for three years in the Tower. But his
refusal to join in the rising of the Earl of Lincoln was rewarded by Henry
the Seventh with his release, his restoration to the Earldom of Surrey,
and his employment in the service of the crown where he soon took rank
among the king's most trusted councillors. His military abilities were
seen in campaigns against the Scots which won back for him the office of
Earl Marshal, and in the victory of Flodden which restored to him the
Dukedom of Norfolk. The son of this victor of Flodden, Thomas, Earl of
Surrey, had already served as lieutenant in Ireland and as general against
Albany on the Scottish frontier before his succession to the dukedom in
1524. His coolness and tact had displayed themselves during the revolt
against Benevolences, when his influence alone averted a rising in the
Eastern Counties. Since Buckingham's death his house stood at the head of
the English nobility: his office of Lord Treasurer placed him high at the
royal council board; and Henry's love for his niece, Anne Boleyn, gave a
fresh spur to the duke's ambition. But his influence had till now been
overshadowed by the greatness of Wolsey. With the Cardinal's fall however
he at once came to the front. Though he had bowed to the royal policy, he
was known as the leader of the party which clung to alliance with the
Emperor, and now that such an alliance was needful Henry counted on
Norfolk to renew the friendship with Charles.

[Sidenote: The Parliament]

An even greater revolution was seen in the summons of a Parliament which
met in November 1529. Its assembly was no doubt prompted in part by the
actual needs of the Crown, for Henry was not only penniless but
overwhelmed with debts and Parliament alone could give him freedom from
these embarrassments. But the importance of the questions brought before
the Houses, and their repeated assembly throughout the rest of Henry's
reign, point to a definite change in the royal system. The policy of
Edward the Fourth, of Henry the Seventh, and of Wolsey was abandoned.
Instead of looking on Parliament as a danger the monarchy now felt itself
strong enough to use it as a tool. The obedience of the Commons was seen
in the readiness with which they at once passed a bill to release the
crown from its debts. But Henry counted on more than obedience. He
counted, and justly counted, on the warm support of the Houses in his
actual strife with Rome. The plan of a divorce was no doubt unpopular. So
violent was the indignation against Anne Boleyn that she hardly dared to
stir abroad. But popular feeling ran almost as bitterly against the
Papacy. The sight of an English king and an English queen pleading before
a foreign tribunal revived the old resentment against the subjection of
Englishmen to Papal courts. The helplessness of Clement in the grasp of
the Emperor recalled the helplessness of the Popes at Avignon in the grasp
of the kings of France. That Henry should sue for justice to Rome was
galling enough, but the hottest adherent of the Papacy was outraged when
the suit of his king was granted or refused at the will of Charles. It was
against this degradation of the Crown that the Statutes of Provisors and
Præmunire had been long since aimed. The need of Papal support to their
disputed title which had been felt by the Houses of Lancaster and York had
held these statutes in suspense, and the Legatine Court of Wolsey had
openly defied them. They were still however legally in force; they were
part of the Parliamentary tradition; and it was certain that Parliament
would be as ready as ever to enforce the independent jurisdiction of the

[Sidenote: Hopes of the New Learning]

Not less significant was the attitude of the New Learning. On Wolsey's
fall the seals had been offered to Warham, and it was probably at his
counsel that they were finally given to Sir Thomas More. The chancellor's
dream, if we may judge it from the acts of his brief ministry, seems to
have been that of carrying out the religious reformation which had been
demanded by Colet and Erasmus while checking the spirit of revolt against
the unity of the Church. His severities against the Protestants,
exaggerated as they have been by polemic rancour, remain the one stain on
a memory that knows no other. But it was only by a rigid severance of the
cause of reform from what seemed to him the cause of revolution that More
could hope for a successful issue to the projects of reform which the
council laid before Parliament. The Petition of the Commons sounded like
an echo of Colet's famous address to the Convocation. It attributed the
growth of heresy not more to "frantic and seditious books published in the
English tongue contrary to the very true Catholic and Christian faith"
than to "the extreme and uncharitable behaviour of divers ordinaries." It
remonstrated against the legislation of the clergy in Convocation without
the king's assent or that of his subjects, the oppressive procedure of the
Church Courts, the abuses of ecclesiastical patronage, and the excessive
number of holydays. Henry referred the Petition to the bishops, but they
could devise no means of redress, and the ministry persisted in pushing
through the Houses their bills for ecclesiastical reform. The importance
of the new measures lay really in the action of Parliament. They were an
explicit announcement that church-reform was now to be undertaken, not by
the clergy, but by the people at large. On the other hand it was clear
that it would be carried out in a spirit of loyalty to the church. The
Commons forced from Bishop Fisher an apology for words which were taken as
a doubt thrown on their orthodoxy. Henry forbade the circulation of
Tyndale's translation of the Bible as executed in a Protestant spirit. The
reforming measures however were pushed resolutely on. Though the questions
of Convocation and the Bishops' courts were adjourned for further
consideration, the fees of the courts were curtailed, the clergy
restricted from lay employments, pluralities restrained, and residence
enforced. In spite of a dogged opposition from the bishops the bills
received the assent of the House of Lords, "to the great rejoicing of lay
people, and the great displeasure of spiritual persons."

[Sidenote: Death of Wolsey]

Not less characteristic of the New Learning was the intellectual pressure
it strove to bring to bear on the wavering Pope. Cranmer was still active
in the cause of Anne Boleyn; he had just published a book in favour of the
divorce; and he now urged on the ministry an appeal to the learned opinion
of Christendom by calling for the judgement of the chief universities of
Europe. His counsel was adopted; but Norfolk trusted to coarser means of
attaining his end. Like most of the English nobles and the whole of the
merchant class, his sympathies were with the House of Burgundy; he looked
upon Wolsey as the real hindrance to the divorce through the French policy
which had driven Charles into a hostile attitude; and he counted on the
Cardinal's fall to bring about a renewal of friendship with the Emperor
and to ensure his support. The father of Anne Boleyn, now created Earl of
Wiltshire, was sent in 1530 on this errand to the Imperial Court. But
Charles remained firm to Catharine's cause, and Clement would do nothing
in defiance of the Emperor. Nor was the appeal to the learned world more
successful. In France the profuse bribery of the English agents would have
failed with the university of Paris but for the interference of Francis
himself, eager to regain Henry's goodwill by this office of friendship. As
shameless an exercise of the king's own authority was needed to wring an
approval of his cause from Oxford and Cambridge. In Germany the very
Protestants, then in the fervour of their moral revival and hoping little
from a proclaimed opponent of Luther, were dead against the king. So far
as could be seen from Cranmer's test every learned man in Christendom but
for bribery and threats would have condemned the royal cause. Henry was
embittered by failures which he attributed to the unskilful diplomacy of
his new counsellors; and it was rumoured that he had been heard to regret
the loss of the more dexterous statesman whom they had overthrown. Wolsey,
who since the beginning of the year had remained at York, though busy in
appearance with the duties of his see, was hoping more and more as the
months passed by for his recall. But the jealousy of his political enemies
was roused by the king's regrets, and the pitiless hand of Norfolk was
seen in the quick and deadly blow which he dealt at his fallen rival. On
the fourth of November, on the eve of his installation feast, the Cardinal
was arrested on a charge of high treason and conducted by the Lieutenant
of the Tower towards London. Already broken by his enormous labours, by
internal disease, and the sense of his fall, Wolsey accepted the arrest as
a sentence of death. An attack of dysentery forced him to rest at the
abbey of Leicester, and as he reached the gate he said feebly to the
brethren who met him, "I am come to lay my bones among you." On his
death-bed his thoughts still clung to the prince whom he had served. "Had
I but served God as diligently as I have served the king," murmured the
dying man, "He would not have given me over in my grey hairs. But this is
my due reward for my pains and study, not regarding my service to God, but
only my duty to my prince."

[Sidenote: Cromwell's Policy]

No words could paint with so terrible a truthfulness the spirit of the new
despotism which Wolsey had done more than any of those who went before him
to build up. From tempers like his all sense of loyalty to England, to its
freedom, to its institutions, had utterly passed away, and the one duty
which the statesman owned was a duty to his "prince." To what issues such
a conception of a statesman's duty might lead was now to be seen in the
career of a greater than Wolsey. The two dukes had struck down the
Cardinal only to set up another master in his room. Since his interview
with Henry Cromwell had remained in the king's service, where his steady
advance in the royal favour was marked by his elevation to the post of
Secretary of State. His patience was at last rewarded by the failure of
the policy for which his own had been set aside. At the close of 1530 the
college of cardinals formally rejected the king's request for leave to
decide the whole matter in his own spiritual courts; and the defeat of
Norfolk's project drove Henry nearer and nearer to the bold plan from
which he had shrunk at Wolsey's fall. Cromwell was again ready with his
suggestion that the king should disavow the Papal jurisdiction, declare
himself Head of the Church within his realm, and obtain a divorce from his
own Ecclesiastical Courts. But he looked on the divorce as simply the
prelude to a series of changes which the new minister was bent upon
accomplishing. In all his chequered life what had left its deepest stamp
on him was Italy. Not only in the rapidity and ruthlessness of his
designs, but in their larger scope, their clearer purpose, and their
admirable combination, the Italian state-craft entered with Cromwell into
English politics. He is in fact the first English minister in whom we can
trace through the whole period of his rule the steady working out of a
great and definite aim, that of raising the king to absolute authority on
the ruins of every rival power within the realm. It was not that Cromwell
was a mere slave of tyranny. Whether we may trust the tale that carries
him in his youth to Florence or no, his statesmanship was closely modelled
on the ideal of the Florentine thinker whose book was constantly in his
hand. Even as a servant of Wolsey he startled the future Cardinal,
Reginald Pole, by bidding him take for his manual in politics the "Prince"
of Machiavelli. Machiavelli hoped to find in Cæsar Borgia or in the later
Lorenzo de' Medici a tyrant who after crushing all rival tyrannies might
unite and regenerate Italy; and terrible and ruthless as his policy was,
the final aim of Cromwell seems to have been that of Machiavelli, an aim
of securing enlightenment and order for England by the concentration of
all authority in the crown.

[Sidenote: The Headship of the Church]

The first step towards such an end was the freeing the monarchy from its
spiritual obedience to Rome. What the first of the Tudors had done for the
political independence of the kingdom, the second was to do for its
ecclesiastical independence. Henry the Seventh had freed England from the
interference of France or the House of Burgundy; and in the question of
the divorce Cromwell saw the means of bringing Henry the Eighth to free it
from the interference of the Papacy. In such an effort resistance could be
looked for only from the clergy. But their resistance was what Cromwell
desired. The last check on royal absolutism which had survived the Wars of
the Roses lay in the wealth, the independent synods and jurisdiction, and
the religious claims of the church; and for the success of the new policy
it was necessary to reduce the great ecclesiastical body to a mere
department of the State in which all authority should flow from the
sovereign alone, his will be the only law, his decision the only test of
truth. Such a change however was hardly to be wrought without a struggle;
and the question of national independence in all ecclesiastical matters
furnished ground on which the crown could conduct this struggle to the
best advantage. The secretary's first blow showed how unscrupulously the
struggle was to be waged. A year had passed since Wolsey had been
convicted of a breach of the Statute of Præmunire. The pedantry of the
judges declared the whole nation to have been formally involved in the
same charge by its acceptance of his authority. The legal absurdity was
now redressed by a general pardon, but from this pardon the clergy found
themselves omitted. In the spring of 1531 Convocation was assembled to be
told that forgiveness could be bought at no less a price than the payment
of a fine amounting to a million of our present money, and the
acknowledgement of the king as "the chief protector, the only and supreme
lord, and Head of the Church and Clergy of England." Unjust as was the
first demand, they at once submitted to it; against the second they
struggled hard. But their appeals to Henry and Cromwell met only with
demands for instant obedience. A compromise was at last arrived at by the
insertion of a qualifying phrase "So far as the law of Christ will allow";
and with this addition the words were again submitted by Warham to the
Convocation. There was a general silence. "Whoever is silent seems to
consent," said the Archbishop. "Then are we all silent," replied a voice
from among the crowd.

[Sidenote: Catharine put away]

There is no ground for thinking that the "Headship of the Church" which
Henry claimed in this submission was more than a warning addressed to the
independent spirit of the clergy, or that it bore as yet the meaning which
was afterwards attached to it. It certainly implied no independence of
Rome, for negotiations were still being carried on with the Papal Court.
But it told Clement plainly that in any strife that might come between
himself and Henry the clergy were in the king's hand, and that he must
look for no aid from them in any struggle with the crown. The warning was
backed by an address to the Pope from the Lords and some of the Commons
who assembled after a fresh prorogation of the Houses in the spring. "The
cause of his Majesty," the Peers were made to say, "is the cause of each
of ourselves." They laid before the Pope what they represented as the
judgement of the Universities in favour of the divorce; but they faced
boldly the event of its rejection. "Our condition," they ended, "will not
be wholly irremediable. Extreme remedies are ever harsh of application;
but he that is sick will by all means be rid of his distemper." In the
summer the banishment of Catharine from the king's palace to a house at
Ampthill showed the firmness of Henry's resolve. Each of these acts was no
doubt intended to tell on the Pope's decision, for Henry still clung to
the hope of extorting from Clement a favourable answer, and at the close
of the year a fresh embassy with Gardiner, now Bishop of Winchester, at
its head was despatched to the Papal court. But the embassy failed like
its predecessors, and at the opening of 1532 Cromwell was free to take
more decisive steps in the course on which he had entered.

[Sidenote: More's withdrawal]

What the nature of his policy was to be had already been detected by eyes
as keen as his own. More had seen in Wolsey's fall an opening for the
realization of those schemes of religious and even of political reform on
which the scholars of the New Learning had long been brooding. The
substitution of the Lords of the Council for the autocratic rule of the
Cardinal-minister, the break-up of the great mass of powers which had been
gathered into a single hand, the summons of a Parliament, the
ecclesiastical reforms which it at once sanctioned, were measures which
promised a more legal and constitutional system of government. The
question of the divorce presented to More no serious difficulty. Untenable
as Henry's claim seemed to the now Chancellor, his faith in the
omnipotence of Parliament would have enabled him to submit to any statute
which named a new spouse as queen and her children as heirs to the crown.
But as Cromwell's policy unfolded itself he saw that more than this was
impending. The Catholic instinct of his mind, the dread of a rent
Christendom and of the wars and bigotry that must come of its rending,
united with More's theological convictions to resist any spiritual
severance of England from the Papacy. His love for freedom, his revolt
against the growing autocracy of the crown, the very height and grandeur
of his own spiritual convictions, all bent him to withstand a system which
would concentrate in the king the whole power of Church as of State, would
leave him without the one check that remained on his despotism, and make
him arbiter of the religious faith of his subjects. The later revolt of
the Puritans against the king-worship which Cromwell established proved
the justice of the prevision which forced More in the spring of 1532 to
resign the post of Chancellor.

[Sidenote: England and Rome]

But the revolution from which he shrank was an inevitable one. Till now
every Englishman had practically owned a double life and a double
allegiance. As citizen of a temporal state his life was bounded by English
shores and his loyalty due exclusively to his English king. But as citizen
of the state spiritual he belonged not to England but to Christendom. The
law which governed him was not a national law but a law that embraced
every European nation, and the ordinary course of judicial appeals in
ecclesiastical cases proved to him that the sovereignty in all matters of
conscience or religion lay not at Westminster but at Rome. Such a
distinction could scarcely fail to bring embarrassment with it as the
sense of national life and national pride waxed stronger; and from the
reign of the Edwards the problem of reconciling the spiritual and temporal
relations of the realm grew daily more difficult. Parliament had hardly
risen into life when it became the organ of the national jealousy whether
of any Papal jurisdiction without the realm or of the separate life and
separate jurisdiction of the clergy within it. The movement was long
arrested by religious reaction and civil war. But the fresh sense of
national greatness which sprang from the policy of Henry the Eighth, the
fresh sense of national unity as the Monarchy gathered all power into its
single hand, would have itself revived the contest even without the spur
of the divorce. What the question of the divorce really did was to
stimulate the movement by bringing into clearer view the wreck of the
great Christian commonwealth of which England had till now formed a part
and the impossibility of any real exercise of a spiritual sovereignty over
it by the weakened Papacy, as well as by outraging the national pride
through the summons of the king to a foreign bar and the submission of
English interests to the will of a foreign Emperor.

[Sidenote: Act of Appeals]

With such a spur as this the movement which More dreaded moved forward as
quickly as Cromwell desired. The time had come when England was to claim
for herself the fulness of power, ecclesiastical as well as temporal,
within her bounds; and in the concentration of all authority within the
hands of the sovereign which was the political characteristic of the time
to claim this power for the nation was to claim it for the king. The
import of that headship of the Church which Henry had assumed in the
preceding year was brought fully out in one of the propositions laid
before the Convocation of 1532. "The King's Majesty," runs this memorable
clause, "hath as well the care of the souls of his subjects as their
bodies; and may by the law of God by his Parliament make laws touching and
concerning as well the one as the other." The principle embodied in these
words was carried out in a series of decisive measures. Under strong
pressure the Convocation was brought to pray that the power of independent
legislation till now exercised by the Church should come to an end, and to
promise "that from henceforth we shall forbear to enact, promulge, or put
into execution any such constitutions and ordinances so by us to be made
in time coming, unless your Highness by your royal assent shall license us
to make, promulge, and execute them, and the same so made be approved by
your Highness's authority." Rome was dealt with in the same unsparing
fashion. The Parliament forbade by statute any further appeals to the
Papal Court; and on a petition from the clergy in Convocation the Houses
granted power to the king to suspend the payments of first-fruits, or the
year's revenue which each bishop paid to Rome on his election to a see.
All judicial, all financial connexion with the Papacy was broken by these
two measures. The last indeed was as yet but a menace which Henry might
use in his negotiations with Clement. The hope which had been entertained
of aid from Charles was now abandoned; and the overthrow of Norfolk and
his policy of alliance with the Empire was seen at the midsummer of 1532
in the conclusion of a league with France. Cromwell had fallen back on
Wolsey's system; and the divorce was now to be looked for from the united
pressure of the French and English kings on the Papal court.

[Sidenote: Marriage of Anne Boleyn]

But the pressure was as unsuccessful as before. In November Clement
threatened the king with excommunication if he did not restore Catharine
to her place as queen and abstain from all intercourse with Anne Boleyn
till the case was tried. But Henry still refused to submit to the
judgement of any court outside his realm; and the Pope, ready as he was
with evasion and delay, dared not alienate Charles by consenting to a
trial within it. The lavish pledges which Francis had given in an
interview during the preceding summer may have aided to spur the king to a
decisive step which closed the long debate. At the opening of 1533 Henry
was privately married to Anne Boleyn. The match however was carefully kept
secret while the Papal sanction was being gained for the appointment of
Cranmer to the See of Canterbury which had become vacant by Archbishop
Warham's death in the preceding year. But Cranmer's consecration at the
close of March was the signal for more open action, and Cromwell's policy
was at last brought fairly into play. The new primate at once laid the
question of the king's marriage before the two Houses of Convocation, and
both voted that the licence of Pope Julius had been beyond the Papal
powers and that the marriage which it authorized was void. In May the
king's suit was brought before the Archbishop in his court at Dunstable;
his judgement annulled the marriage with Catharine as void from the
beginning, and pronounced the marriage with Anne Boleyn, which her
pregnancy had forced Henry to reveal, a lawful marriage. A week later the
hand of Cranmer placed upon Anne's brow the crown which she had coveted so

[Sidenote: Act of Supremacy]

"There was much murmuring" at measures such as these. Many thought "that
the Bishop of Rome would curse all Englishmen, and that the Emperor and he
would destroy all the people." Fears of the overthrow of religion told on
the clergy; the merchants dreaded an interruption of the trade with
Flanders, Italy, and Spain. But Charles, though still loyal to his aunt's
cause, had no mind to incur risks for her; and Clement, though he annulled
Cranmer's proceedings, hesitated as yet to take sterner action. Henry on
the other hand, conscious that the die was thrown, moved rapidly forward
in the path that Cromwell had opened. The Pope's reversal of the primate's
judgement was answered by an appeal to a General Council. The decision of
the cardinals to whom the case was referred in the spring of 1534, a
decision which asserted the lawfulness of Catharine's marriage, was met by
the enforcement of the long-suspended statute forbidding the payment of
first-fruits to the Pope. Though the King was still firm in his resistance
to Lutheran opinions and at this moment endeavoured to prevent by statute
the importation of Lutheran books, the less scrupulous hand of his
minister was seen already striving to find a counterpoise to the hostility
of the Emperor in an alliance with the Lutheran princes of North Germany.
Cromwell was now fast rising to a power which rivalled Wolsey's. His
elevation to the post of Lord Privy Seal placed him on a level with the
great nobles of the Council board; and Norfolk, constant in his hopes of
reconciliation with Charles and the Papacy, saw his plans set aside for
the wider and more daring projects of "the blacksmith's son." Cromwell
still clung to the political engine whose powers he had turned to the
service of the Crown. The Parliament which had been summoned at Wolsey's
fall met steadily year after year; and measure after measure had shown its
accordance with the royal will in the strife with Rome. It was now called
to deal a final blow. Step by step the ground had been cleared for the
great Statute by which the new character of the English Church was defined
in the session of 1534. By the Act of Supremacy authority in all matters
ecclesiastical was vested solely in the Crown. The courts spiritual became
as thoroughly the king's courts as the temporal courts at Westminster. The
Statute ordered that the king "shall be taken, accepted, and reputed the
only supreme head on earth of the Church of England, and shall have and
enjoy annexed and united to the Imperial Crown of this realm as well the
title and state thereof as all the honours, jurisdictions, authorities,
immunities, profits, and commodities to the said dignity belonging, with
full power to visit, repress, redress, reform, and amend all such errors,
heresies, abuses, contempts, and enormities, which by any manner of
spiritual authority or jurisdiction might or may lawfully be reformed."

[Sidenote: The Vicar-General]

The full import of the Act of Supremacy was only seen in the following
year. At the opening of 1535 Henry formally took the title of "on earth
Supreme Head of the Church of England," and some months later Cromwell was
raised to the post of Vicar-General or Vicegerent of the king in all
matters ecclesiastical. His title, like his office, recalled the system of
Wolsey. It was not only as Legate but in later years as Vicar-General of
the Pope that Wolsey had brought all spiritual causes in England to an
English court. The supreme ecclesiastical jurisdiction in the realm passed
into the hands of a minister who as Chancellor already exercised its
supreme civil jurisdiction. The Papal power had therefore long seemed
transferred to the Crown before the legislative measures which followed
the divorce actually transferred it. It was in fact the system of
Catholicism itself that trained men to look without surprise on the
concentration of all spiritual and secular authority in Cromwell.
Successor to Wolsey as Keeper of the Great Seal, it seemed natural enough
that Cromwell should succeed him also as Vicar-General of the Church and
that the union of the two powers should be restored in the hands of a
minister of the king. But the mere fact that these powers were united in
the hands not of a priest but of a layman showed the new drift of the
royal policy. The Church was no longer to be brought indirectly under the
royal power; in the policy of Cromwell it was to be openly laid prostrate
at the foot of the throne.

[Sidenote: Subjection of the Bishops]

And this policy his position enabled him to carry out with a terrible
thoroughness. One great step towards its realization had already been
taken in the statute which annihilated the free legislative powers of the
convocations of the Clergy. Another followed in an act which under the
pretext of restoring the free election of bishops turned every prelate
into a nominee of the king. The election of bishops by the chapters of
their cathedral churches had long become formal, and their appointment had
since the time of the Edwards been practically made by the Papacy on the
nomination of the Crown. The privilege of free election was now with
bitter irony restored to the chapters, but they were compelled on pain of
præmunire to choose whatever candidate was recommended by the king. This
strange expedient has lasted till the present time, though its character
has wholly changed with the developement of constitutional rule. The
nomination of bishops has ever since the accession of the Georges passed
from the King in person to the Minister who represents the will of the
people. Practically therefore an English prelate, alone among all the
prelates of the world, is now raised to his episcopal throne by the same
popular election which raised Ambrose to his episcopal chair at Milan. But
at the moment of the change Cromwell's measure reduced the English bishops
to absolute dependence on the Crown. Their dependence would have been
complete had his policy been thoroughly carried out and the royal power of
deposition put in force as well as that of appointment. As it was Henry
could warn the Archbishop of Dublin that if he persevered in his "proud
folly, we be able to remove you again and to put another man of more
virtue and honesty in your place." By the more ardent partizans of the
Reformation this dependence of the bishops on the Crown was fully
recognized. On the death of Henry the Eighth Cranmer took out a new
commission from Edward for the exercise of his office. Latimer, when the
royal policy clashed with his belief, felt bound to resign the See of
Worcester. If the power of deposition was quietly abandoned by Elizabeth,
the abandonment was due not so much to any deference for the religious
instincts of the nation as to the fact that the steady servility of the
bishops rendered its exercise unnecessary.

[Sidenote: The Religious Houses]

A second step in Cromwell's policy followed hard on this enslavement of
the episcopate. Master of Convocation, absolute master of the bishops,
Henry had become master of the monastic orders through the right of
visitation over them which had been transferred by the Act of Supremacy
from the Papacy to the Crown. The monks were soon to know what this right
of visitation implied in the hands of the Vicar-General. As an outlet for
religious enthusiasm monasticism was practically dead. The friar, now that
his fervour of devotion and his intellectual energy had passed away, had
sunk into a mere beggar. The monks had become mere land-owners. Most of
the religious houses were anxious only to enlarge their revenues and to
diminish the number of those who shared them. In the general carelessness
which prevailed as to the spiritual objects of their trust, in the
wasteful management of their estates, in the indolence and self-indulgence
which for the most part characterized them, the monastic establishments
simply exhibited the faults of all corporate bodies that have outlived the
work which they were created to perform. They were no more unpopular
however than such corporate bodies generally are. The Lollard cry for
their suppression had died away. In the north, where some of the greatest
abbeys were situated, the monks were on good terms with the country gentry
and their houses served as schools for their children; nor is there any
sign of a different feeling elsewhere.

[Sidenote: Suppression of the Lesser Monasteries]

But they had drawn on themselves at once the hatred of the New Learning
and of the Monarchy. In the early days of the revival of letters Popes and
bishops had joined with princes and scholars in welcoming the diffusion of
culture and the hopes of religious reform. But though an abbot or a prior
here or there might be found among the supporters of the movement, the
monastic orders as a whole repelled it with unswerving obstinacy. The
quarrel only became more bitter as years went on. The keen sarcasms of
Erasmus, the insolent buffoonery of Hutten, were lavished on the "lovers
of darkness" and of the cloister. In England Colet and More echoed with
greater reserve the scorn and invective of their friends. The Monarchy had
other causes for its hate. In Cromwell's system there was no room for
either the virtues or the vices of monasticism, for its indolence and
superstition, or for its independence of the throne. The bold stand which
the monastic orders had made against benevolences had never been forgiven,
while the revenues of their foundations offered spoil vast enough to fill
the royal treasury and secure a host of friends for the new reforms. Two
royal commissioners therefore were despatched on a general visitation of
the religious houses, and their reports formed a "Black Book" which was
laid before Parliament in 1536. It was acknowledged that about a third of
the houses, including the bulk of the larger abbeys, were fairly and
decently conducted. The rest were charged with drunkenness, with simony,
and with the foulest and most revolting crimes. The character of the
visitors, the sweeping nature of their report, and the long debate which
followed on its reception, leaves little doubt that these charges were
grossly exaggerated. But the want of any effective discipline which had
resulted from their exemption from all but Papal supervision told fatally
against monastic morality even in abbeys like St. Albans; and the
acknowledgement of Warham, as well as a partial measure of suppression
begun by Wolsey, go some way to prove that in the smaller houses at least
indolence had passed into crime. A cry of "Down with them" broke from the
Commons as the report was read. The country however was still far from
desiring the utter downfall of the monastic system, and a long and bitter
debate was followed by a compromise which suppressed all houses whose
income fell below £200 a year. Of the thousand religious houses which then
existed in England nearly four hundred were dissolved under this Act and
their revenues granted to the Crown.

[Sidenote: Enslavement of the Clergy]

The secular clergy alone remained; and injunction after injunction from
the Vicar-General taught rector and vicar that they must learn to regard
themselves as mere mouthpieces of the royal will. The Church was gagged.
With the instinct of genius Cromwell discerned the part which the pulpit,
as the one means which then existed of speaking to the people at large,
was to play in the religious and political struggle that was at hand; and
he resolved to turn it to the profit of the Monarchy. The restriction of
the right of preaching to priests who received licenses from the Crown
silenced every voice of opposition. Even to those who received these
licenses theological controversy was forbidden; and a high-handed process
of "tuning the pulpits" by express directions as to the subject and tenor
of each special discourse made the preachers at every crisis mere means of
diffusing the royal will. As a first step in this process every bishop,
abbot, and parish priest was required by the new Vicar-General to preach
against the usurpation of the Papacy and to proclaim the king as supreme
Head of the Church on earth. The very topics of the sermon were carefully
prescribed; the bishops were held responsible for the compliance of the
clergy with these orders; and the sheriffs were held responsible for the
obedience of the bishops.

[Sidenote: The Terror]

While the great revolution which struck down the Church was in progress
England looked silently on. In all the earlier ecclesiastical changes, in
the contest over the Papal jurisdiction and Papal exactions, in the reform
of the Church courts, even in the curtailment of the legislative
independence of the clergy, the nation as a whole had gone with the king.
But from the enslavement of the priesthood, from the gagging of the
pulpits, from the suppression of the monasteries, the bulk of the nation
stood aloof. There were few voices indeed of protest. As the royal policy
disclosed itself, as the Monarchy trampled under foot the tradition and
reverence of ages gone by, as its figure rose bare and terrible out of the
wreck of old institutions, England simply held her breath. It is only
through the stray depositions of royal spies that we catch a glimpse of
the wrath and hate which lay seething under this silence of the people.
For the silence was a silence of terror. Before Cromwell's rise and after
his fall from power the reign of Henry the Eighth witnessed no more than
the common tyranny and bloodshed of the time. But the years of Cromwell's
administration form the one period in our history which deserves the name
that men have given to the rule of Robespierre. It was the English Terror.
It was by terror that Cromwell mastered the king. Cranmer could plead for
him at a later time with Henry as "one whose surety was only by your
Majesty, who loved your Majesty, as I ever thought, no less than God." But
the attitude of Cromwell towards the king was something more than that of
absolute dependence and unquestioning devotion. He was "so vigilant to
preserve your Majesty from all treasons," adds the Primate, "that few
could be so secretly conceived but he detected the same from the
beginning." Henry, like every Tudor, was fearless of open danger, but
tremulously sensitive to the lightest breath of hidden disloyalty; and it
was on this dread that Cromwell based the fabric of his power. He was
hardly secretary before spies were scattered broadcast over the land.
Secret denunciations poured into the open ear of the minister. The air was
thick with tales of plots and conspiracies, and with the detection and
suppression of each Cromwell tightened his hold on the king.

As it was by terror that he mastered the king, so it was by terror that he
mastered the people. Men felt in England, to use the figure by which
Erasmus paints the time, "as if a scorpion lay sleeping under every
stone." The confessional had no secrets for Cromwell. Men's talk with
their closest friends found its way to his ear. "Words idly spoken," the
murmurs of a petulant abbot, the ravings of a moon-struck nun, were, as
the nobles cried passionately at his fall, "tortured into treason." The
only chance of safety lay in silence. "Friends who used to write and send
me presents," Erasmus tells us, "now send neither letter nor gifts, nor
receive any from any one, and this through fear." But even the refuge of
silence was closed by a law more infamous than any that has ever blotted
the Statute-book of England. Not only was thought made treason, but men
were forced to reveal their thoughts on pain of their very silence being
punished with the penalties of treason. All trust in the older bulwarks of
liberty was destroyed by a policy as daring as it was unscrupulous. The
noblest institutions were degraded into instruments of terror. Though
Wolsey had strained the law to the utmost he had made no open attack on
the freedom of justice. If he shrank from assembling Parliaments it was
from his sense that they were the bulwarks of liberty. But under Cromwell
the coercion of juries and the management of judges rendered the courts
mere mouthpieces of the royal will: and where even this shadow of justice
proved an obstacle to bloodshed, Parliament was brought into play to pass
bill after bill of attainder. "He shall be judged by the bloody laws he
has himself made," was the cry of the Council at the moment of his fall,
and by a singular retribution the crowning injustice which he sought to
introduce even into the practice of attainder, the condemnation of a man
without hearing his defence, was only practised on himself.

[Sidenote: Cromwell's Temper]

But ruthless as was the Terror of Cromwell it was of a nobler type than
the Terror of France. He never struck uselessly or capriciously, or
stooped to the meaner victims of the guillotine. His blows were effective
just because he chose his victims from among the noblest and the best. If
he struck at the Church, it was through the Carthusians, the holiest and
the most renowned of English Churchmen. If he struck at the baronage, it
was through Lady Salisbury, in whose veins flowed the blood of kings. If
he struck at the New Learning, it was through the murder of Sir Thomas
More. But no personal vindictiveness mingled with his crime. In temper
indeed, so far as we can judge from the few stories which lingered among
his friends, he was a generous, kindly-hearted man, with pleasant and
winning manners which atoned for a certain awkwardness of person, and with
a constancy of friendship which won him a host of devoted adherents. But
no touch either of love or hate swayed him from his course. The student of
Machiavelli had not studied the "Prince" in vain. He had reduced bloodshed
to a system. Fragments of his papers still show us with what a
business-like brevity he ticked off human lives among the casual
"remembrances" of the day. "Item, the Abbot of Reading to be sent down to
be tried and executed at Reading." "Item, to know the King's pleasure
touching Master More." "Item, when Master Fisher shall go to his
execution, and the other." It is indeed this utter absence of all passion,
of all personal feeling, that makes the figure of Cromwell the most
terrible in our history. He has an absolute faith in the end he is
pursuing, and he simply hews his way to it as a woodman hews his way
through the forest, axe in hand.

[Sidenote: Cromwell and More]

The choice of his first victim showed the ruthless precision with which
Cromwell was to strike. In the general opinion of Europe the foremost
Englishman of the time was Sir Thomas More. As the policy of the divorce
ended in an open rupture with Rome he had withdrawn silently from the
ministry, but his silent disapproval of the new policy was more telling
than the opposition of obscurer foes. To Cromwell there must have been
something specially galling in More's attitude of reserve. The religious
reforms of the New Learning were being rapidly carried out, but it was
plain that the man who represented the very life of the New Learning
believed that the sacrifice of liberty and justice was too dear a price to
pay even for religious reform. In the actual changes which the divorce
brought about there was nothing to move More to active or open opposition.
Though he looked on the divorce and re-marriage as without religious
warrant, he found no difficulty in accepting an Act of Succession passed
in 1534 which declared the marriage of Anne Boleyn valid, annulled the
title of Catharine's child, Mary, and declared the children of Anne the
only lawful heirs to the crown. His faith in the power of Parliament over
all civil matters was too complete to admit a doubt of its competence to
regulate the succession to the throne. But by the same Act an oath
recognizing the succession as then arranged was ordered to be taken by all
persons; and this oath contained an acknowledgement that the marriage with
Catharine was against Scripture and invalid from the beginning. Henry had
long known More's belief on this point; and the summons to take this oath
was simply a summons to death. More was at his house at Chelsea when the
summons called him to Lambeth, to the house where he had bandied fun with
Warham and Erasmus or bent over the easel of Holbein. For a moment there
may have been some passing impulse to yield. But it was soon over.
Triumphant in all else, the monarchy was to find its power stop short at
the conscience of man. The great battle of spiritual freedom, the battle
of the Protestant against Mary, of the Catholic against Elizabeth, of the
Puritan against Charles, of the Independent against the Presbyterian,
began at the moment when More refused to bend or to deny his convictions
at a king's bidding.

[Sidenote: More sent to the Tower]

"I thank the Lord," More said with a sudden start as the boat dropped
silently down the river from his garden steps in the early morning, "I
thank the Lord that the field is won." At Lambeth Cranmer and his
fellow-commissioners tendered to him the new oath of allegiance; but, as
they expected, it was refused. They bade him walk in the garden that he
might reconsider his reply. The day was hot and More seated himself in a
window from which he could look down into the crowded court. Even in the
presence of death the quick sympathy of his nature could enjoy the humour
and life of the throng below. "I saw," he said afterwards, "Master Latimer
very merry in the court, for he laughed and took one or twain by the neck
so handsomely that if they had been women I should have weened that he
waxed wanton." The crowd below was chiefly of priests, rectors, and
vicars, pressing to take the oath that More found harder than death. He
bore them no grudge for it. When he heard the voice of one who was known
to have boggled hard at the oath a little while before calling loudly and
ostentatiously for drink, he only noted him with his peculiar humour. "He
drank," More supposed, "either from dryness or from gladness" or "to show
quod ille notus erat Pontifici." He was called in again at last, but only
repeated his refusal. It was in vain that Cranmer plied him with
distinctions which perplexed even the subtle wit of the ex-chancellor;
More remained unshaken and passed to the Tower. He was followed there by
Bishop Fisher of Rochester, the most aged and venerable of the English
prelates, who was charged with countenancing treason by listening to the
prophecies of a religious fanatic called "The Nun of Kent." But for the
moment even Cromwell shrank from their blood. They remained prisoners
while a new and more terrible engine was devised to crush out the silent
but widespread opposition to the religious changes.

[Sidenote: Death of More]

By a statute passed at the close of 1534 a new treason was created in the
denial of the king's titles; and in the opening of 1535 Henry assumed as
we have seen the title of "on earth supreme head of the Church of
England." The measure was at once followed up by a blow at victims hardly
less venerable than More. In the general relaxation of the religious life
the charity and devotion of the brethren of the Charter-house had won the
reverence even of those who condemned monasticism. After a stubborn
resistance they had acknowledged the royal Supremacy and taken the oath of
submission prescribed by the Act. But by an infamous construction of the
statute which made the denial of the Supremacy treason, the refusal of
satisfactory answers to official questions as to a conscientious belief in
it was held to be equivalent to open denial. The aim of the new measure
was well known, and the brethren prepared to die. In the agony of waiting
enthusiasm brought its imaginative consolations; "when the Host was lifted
up there came as it were a whisper of air which breathed upon our faces as
we knelt; and there came a sweet soft sound of music." They had not long
however to wait, for their refusal to answer was the signal for their
doom. Three of the brethren went to the gallows; the rest were flung into
Newgate, chained to posts in a noisome dungeon where, "tied and not able
to stir," they were left to perish of gaol-fever and starvation. In a
fortnight five were dead and the rest at the point of death, "almost
despatched," Cromwell's envoy wrote to him, "by the hand of God, of which,
considering their behaviour, I am not sorry." Their death was soon
followed by that of More. The interval of imprisonment had failed to break
his resolution, and the new statute sufficed to bring him to the block.
With Fisher he was convicted of denying the king's title as only supreme
head of the Church. The old Bishop approached the scaffold with a book of
the New Testament in his hand. He opened it at a venture ere he knelt, and
read, "This is life eternal, to know Thee, the only true God." In July
More followed his fellow-prisoner to the block. Just before the fatal blow
he moved his beard carefully from the reach of the doomsman's axe. "Pity
that should be cut," he was heard to mutter with a touch of the old sad
irony, "that has never committed treason."

[Sidenote: Cromwell and the Nobles]

Cromwell had at last reached his aim. England lay panic-stricken at the
feet of the "low-born knave," as the nobles called him, who represented
the omnipotence of the crown. Like Wolsey he concentrated in his hands the
whole administration of the state; he was at once foreign minister and
home minister, and vicar-general of the Church, the creator of a new
fleet, the organizer of armies, the president of the terrible Star
Chamber. His Italian indifference to the mere show of power stood out in
strong contrast with the pomp of the Cardinal. Cromwell's personal habits
were simple and unostentatious; if he clutched at money, it was to feed
the army of spies whom he maintained at his own expense, and whose work he
surveyed with a ceaseless vigilance. For his activity was boundless. More
than fifty volumes remain of the gigantic mass of his correspondence.
Thousands of letters from "poor bedesmen," from outraged wives and wronged
labourers and persecuted heretics flowed in to the all-powerful minister
whose system of personal government turned him into the universal court of
appeal. But powerful as he was, and mighty as was the work which he had
accomplished, he knew that harder blows had to be struck before his
position was secure. The new changes, above all the irritation which had
been caused by the outrages with which the dissolution of the monasteries
was accompanied, gave point to the mutinous temper that prevailed
throughout the country; for the revolution in agriculture was still going
on, and evictions furnished embittered outcasts to swell the ranks of any
rising. Nor did it seem as though revolt, if it once broke out, would want
leaders to head it. The nobles who had writhed under the rule of the
Cardinal, writhed yet more bitterly under the rule of one whom they looked
upon not only as Wolsey's tool, but as a low-born upstart. "The world will
never mend," Lord Hussey had been heard to say, "till we fight for it."
"Knaves rule about the king!" cried Lord Exeter, "I trust some day to give
them a buffet." At this moment too the hopes of political reaction were
stirred by the fate of one whom the friends of the old order looked upon
as the source of all their troubles. In the spring of 1536, while the
dissolution of the monasteries was marking the triumph of the new policy,
Anne Boleyn was suddenly charged with adultery, and sent to the Tower. A
few days later she was tried, condemned, and brought to the block. The
queen's ruin was everywhere taken as an omen of ruin to the cause which
had become identified with her own, and the old nobility mustered courage
to face the minister who held them at his feet.

[Sidenote: Pilgrimage of Grace]

They found their opportunity in the discontent of the north, where the
monasteries had been popular, and where the rougher mood of the people
turned easily to resistance. In the autumn of 1536 a rising broke out in
Lincolnshire, and this was hardly quelled when all Yorkshire rose in arms.
From every parish the farmers marched with the parish priest at their head
upon York, and the surrender of this city determined the waverers. In a
few days Skipton Castle, where the Earl of Cumberland held out with a
handful of men, was the only spot north of the Humber which remained true
to the king. Durham rose at the call of the chiefs of the house of
Neville, Lords Westmoreland and Latimer. Though the Earl of Northumberland
feigned sickness, the Percies joined the revolt. Lord Darcy, the chief of
the Yorkshire nobles, surrendered Pomfret, and was acknowledged as their
chief by the insurgents. The whole nobility of the north were now enlisted
in the "Pilgrimage of Grace," as the rising called itself, and thirty
thousand "tall men and well horsed" moved on the Don demanding the
reversal of the royal policy, a reunion with Rome, the restoration of
Catharine's daughter, Mary, to her rights as heiress of the Crown, redress
for the wrongs done to the Church, and above all the driving away of
base-born councillors, or in other words, the fall of Cromwell. Though
their advance was checked by negotiation, the organization of the revolt
went steadily on throughout the winter, and a Parliament of the North
which gathered at Pomfret formally adopted the demands of the insurgents.
Only six thousand men under Norfolk barred their way southward, and the
Midland counties were known to be disaffected.

[Sidenote: Its Suppression]

But Cromwell remained undaunted by the peril. He suffered indeed Norfolk
to negotiate; and allowed Henry under pressure from his Council to promise
pardon and a free Parliament at York, a pledge which Norfolk and Darcy
alike construed into an acceptance of the demands made by the insurgents.
Their leaders at once flung aside the badge of the Five Wounds which they
had worn with a cry, "We will wear no badge but that of our Lord the
King," and nobles and farmers dispersed to their homes in triumph. But the
towns of the North were no sooner garrisoned and Norfolk's army in the
heart of Yorkshire than the veil was flung aside. A few isolated outbreaks
in the spring of 1537 gave a pretext for the withdrawal of every
concession. The arrest of the leaders of the "Pilgrimage of Grace" was
followed by ruthless severities. The country was covered with gibbets.
Whole districts were given up to military execution. But it was on the
leaders of the rising that Cromwell's hand fell heaviest. He seized his
opportunity for dealing at the northern nobles a fatal blow. "Cromwell,"
one of the chief among them broke fiercely out as he stood at the Council
board, "it is thou that art the very special and chief cause of all this
rebellion and wickedness, and dost daily travail to bring us to our ends
and strike off our heads. I trust that ere thou die, though thou wouldst
procure all the noblest heads within the realm to be stricken off, yet
there shall one head remain that shall strike off thy head." But the
warning was unheeded. Lord Darcy, who stood first among the nobles of
Yorkshire, and Lord Hussey, who stood first among the nobles of
Lincolnshire, went alike to the block. The Abbot of Barlings, who had
ridden into Lincoln with his canons in full armour, swung with his brother
Abbots of Whalley, Woburn, and Sawley from the gallows. The Abbots of
Fountains and of Jervaulx were hanged at Tyburn side by side with the
representative of the great line of Percy. Lady Bulmer was burned at the
stake. Sir Robert Constable was hanged in chains before the gate of Hull.

[Sidenote: Ireland]

The defeat of the northern revolt showed the immense force which the
monarchy had gained. Even among the rebels themselves not a voice had
threatened Henry's throne. It was not at the king that they aimed these
blows, but at the "low-born knaves" who stood about the king. At this
moment too Henry's position was strengthened by the birth of an heir. On
the death of Anne Boleyn he had married Jane Seymour, the daughter of a
Wiltshire knight; and in 1537 this queen died in giving birth to a boy,
the future Edward the Sixth. The triumph of the Crown at home was doubled
by its triumph in the great dependency which had so long held the English
authority at bay, across St. George's Channel. Though Henry the Seventh
had begun the work of bridling Ireland he had no strength for exacting a
real submission; and the great Norman lords of the Pale, the Butlers and
Geraldines, the De la Poers and the Fitzpatricks, though subjects in name,
remained in fact defiant of the royal authority. In manners and outer
seeming they had sunk into mere natives; their feuds were as incessant as
those of the Irish septs; and their despotism combined the horrors of
feudal oppression with those of Celtic anarchy. Crushed by taxation, by
oppression, by misgovernment, plundered alike by native marauders and by
the troops levied to disperse them, the wretched descendants of the first
English settlers preferred even Irish misrule to English "order," and the
border of the Pale retreated steadily towards Dublin. The towns of the
seaboard, sheltered by their walls and their municipal self-government,
formed the only exceptions to the general chaos; elsewhere throughout its
dominions the English Government, though still strong enough to break down
any open revolt, was a mere phantom of rule. From the Celtic tribes
without the Pale even the remnant of civilization and of native union
which had lingered on to the time of Strongbow had vanished away. The
feuds of the Irish septs were as bitter as their hatred of the stranger;
and the Government at Dublin found it easy to maintain a strife which
saved it the necessity of self-defence among a people whose "nature is
such that for money one shall have the son to war against the father, and
the father against his child." During the first thirty years of the
sixteenth century the annals of the country which remained under native
rule record more than a hundred raids and battles between clans of the
north alone.

[Sidenote: Ireland and Cromwell]

But the time came at last for a vigorous attempt on the part of England to
introduce order into this chaos of turbulence and misrule. To Henry the
Eighth the policy of forbearance, of ruling Ireland through the great
Irish lords, was utterly hateful. His purpose was to rule in Ireland as
thoroughly and effectively as he ruled in England, and during the latter
half of his reign he bent his whole energies to accomplish this aim. From
the first hour of his accession indeed the Irish lords felt the heavier
hand of a master. The Geraldines, who had been suffered under the
preceding reign to govern Ireland in the name of the Crown, were quick to
discover that the Crown would no longer stoop to be their tool. Their
head, the Earl of Kildare, was called to England and thrown into the
Tower. The great house resolved to frighten England again into a
conviction of its helplessness; and a rising of Lord Thomas Fitzgerald in
1534 followed the usual fashion of Irish revolts. A murder of the
Archbishop of Dublin, a capture of the city, a repulse before its castle,
a harrying of the Pale, ended in a sudden disappearance of the rebels
among the bogs and forests of the border on the advance of the English
forces. It had been usual to meet such an onset as this by a raid of the
same character, by a corresponding failure before the castle of the
rebellious noble, and a retreat like his own which served as a preliminary
to negotiations and a compromise. Unluckily for the Fitzgeralds Henry
resolved to take Ireland seriously in hand, and he had Cromwell to execute
his will. Skeffington, a new Lord Deputy who was sent over in 1535,
brought with him a train of artillery which worked a startling change in
the political aspect of the island. The castles that had hitherto
sheltered rebellion were battered into ruins. Maynooth, a stronghold from
which the Geraldines threatened Dublin and ruled the Pale at their will,
was beaten down in a fortnight. So crushing and unforeseen was the blow
that resistance was at once at an end. Not only was the power of the great
Norman house which had towered over Ireland utterly broken, but only a
single boy was left to preserve its name.

[Sidenote: Conquest of Ireland]

With the fall of the Fitzgeralds Ireland felt itself in a master's grasp.
"Irishmen," wrote one of the Lord Justices to Cromwell, "were never in
such fear as now. The king's sessions are being kept in five shires more
than formerly." Not only were the Englishmen of the Pale at Henry's feet
but the kerns of Wicklow and Wexford sent in their submission; and for the
first time in men's memory an English army appeared in Munster and reduced
the south to obedience. The border of the Pale was crossed, and the wide
territory where the Celtic tribes had preserved their independence since
the days of the Angevins was trampled into subjection. A castle of the
O'Briens which guarded the passage of the Shannon was taken by assault,
and its fall carried with it the submission of Clare. The capture of
Athlone brought about the reduction of Connaught, and assured the loyalty
of the great Norman house of the De Burghs or Bourkes who had assumed an
almost royal authority in the west. The resistance of the tribes of the
north was broken in a victory at Bellahoe. In seven years, partly through
the vigour of Skeffington's successor, Lord Leonard Grey, and still more
through the resolute will of Henry and Cromwell, the power of the Crown,
which had been limited to the walls of Dublin, was acknowledged over the
length and breadth of the land.

[Sidenote: Henry's Irish Government]

But submission was far from being all that Henry desired. His aim was to
civilize the people whom he had conquered--to rule not by force but by
law. But the only conception of law which the king or his ministers could
frame was that of English law. The customary law which prevailed without
the Pale, the native system of clan government and common tenure of land
by the tribe, as well as the poetry and literature which threw their
lustre over the Irish tongue, were either unknown to the English statesmen
or despised by them as barbarous. The one mode of civilizing Ireland and
redressing its chaotic misrule which presented itself to their minds was
that of destroying the whole Celtic tradition of the Irish people--that of
"making Ireland English" in manners, in law, and in tongue. The Deputy,
Parliament, Judges, Sheriffs, which already existed within the Pale,
furnished a faint copy of English institutions; and it was hoped that
these might be gradually extended over the whole island. The English
language and mode of life would follow, it was believed, the English law.
The one effectual way of bringing about such a change as this lay in a
complete conquest of the island, and in its colonization by English
settlers; but from this course, pressed on him as it was by his own
lieutenants and by the settlers of the Pale, even the iron will of
Cromwell shrank. It was at once too bloody and too expensive. To win over
the chiefs, to turn them by policy and a patient generosity into English
nobles, to use the traditional devotion of their tribal dependence as a
means of diffusing the new civilization of their chiefs, to trust to time
and steady government for the gradual reformation of the country, was a
policy safer, cheaper, more humane, and more statesmanlike.

It was this system which, even before the fall of the Geraldines, Henry
had resolved to adopt; and it was this that he pressed on Ireland when the
conquest laid it at his feet. The chiefs were to be persuaded of the
advantages of justice and legal rule. Their fear of any purpose to "expel
them from their lands and dominions lawfully possessed" was to be
dispelled by a promise "to conserve them as their own." Even their
remonstrances against the introduction of English law were to be regarded,
and the course of justice to be enforced or mitigated according to the
circumstances of the country. In the resumption of lands or rights which
clearly belonged to the Crown "sober ways, politic shifts, and amiable
persuasions" were to be preferred to rigorous dealing. It was this system
of conciliation which was in the main carried out by the English
Government under Henry and his two successors. Chieftain after chieftain
was won over to the acceptance of the indenture which guaranteed him in
the possession of his lands and left his authority over his tribesmen
untouched on condition of a pledge of loyalty, of abstinence from illegal
wars and exactions on his fellow-subjects, and of rendering a fixed
tribute and service in war-time to the Crown. The sole test of loyalty
demanded was the acceptance of an English title and the education of a son
at the English court; though in some cases, like that of the O'Neills, a
promise was exacted to use the English language and dress, and to
encourage tillage and husbandry. Compliance with conditions such as these
was procured not merely by the terror of the royal name but by heavy
bribes. The chieftains in fact profited greatly by the change. Not only
were the lands of the suppressed abbeys granted to them on their
assumption of their new titles, but the English law-courts, ignoring the
Irish custom by which the land belonged to the tribe at large, regarded
the chiefs as the sole proprietors of the soil. The merits of the system
were unquestionable; its faults were such as a statesman of that day could
hardly be expected to perceive. The Tudor politicians held that the one
hope for the regeneration of Ireland lay in its absorbing the civilization
of England. The prohibition of the national dress, customs, laws, and
language must have seemed to them merely the suppression of a barbarism
which stood in the way of all improvement.

[Sidenote: Cromwell's Reform of Religion]

With England and Ireland alike at his feet Cromwell could venture on a
last and crowning change. He could claim for the monarchy the right of
dictating at its pleasure the form of faith and doctrine to be taught
throughout the land. Henry had remained true to the standpoint of the New
Learning; and the sympathies of Cromwell were mainly with those of his
master. They had no wish for any violent break with the ecclesiastical
forms of the past. They desired religious reform rather than religious
revolution, a simplification of doctrine rather than any radical change in
it, the purification of worship rather than the introduction of any wholly
new ritual. Their theology remained, as they believed, a Catholic
theology, but a theology cleared of the superstitious growths which
obscured the true Catholicism of the early Church. In a word their dream
was the dream of Erasmus and Colet. The spirit of Erasmus was seen in the
Articles of religion which were laid before Convocation in 1536, in the
acknowledgement of Justification by Faith, a doctrine for which the
founders of the New Learning, such as Contarini and Pole, were struggling
at Rome itself, in the condemnation of purgatory, of pardons, and of
masses for the dead, as it was seen in the admission of prayers for the
dead and in the retention of the ceremonies of the church without material
change. A series of royal injunctions which followed carried out the same
policy of reform. Pilgrimages were suppressed; the excessive number of
holy days was curtailed; the worship of images and relics was discouraged
in words which seem almost copied from the protest of Erasmus. His appeal
for a translation of the Bible which weavers might repeat at their shuttle
and ploughmen sing at their plough received at last a reply. At the outset
of the ministry of Norfolk and More the king had promised an English
version of the scriptures, while prohibiting the circulation of Tyndale's
Lutheran translation. The work however lagged in the hands of the bishops;
and as a preliminary measure the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the Ten
Commandments were now rendered into English, and ordered to be taught by
every schoolmaster and father of a family to his children and pupils. But
the bishops' version still hung on hand; till in despair of its appearance
a friend of Archbishop Cranmer, Miles Coverdale, was employed to correct
and revise the translation of Tyndale; and the Bible which he edited was
published in 1538 under the avowed patronage of Henry himself.

[Sidenote: The Lutheran Alliance]

But the force of events was already carrying England far from the
standpoint of Erasmus or More. The dream of the New Learning was to be
wrought out through the progress of education and piety. In the policy of
Cromwell reform was to be brought about by the brute force of the
Monarchy. The story of the royal supremacy was graven even on the
titlepage of the new Bible. It is Henry on his throne who gives the sacred
volume to Cranmer, ere Cranmer and Cromwell can distribute it to the
throng of priests and laymen below. Hitherto men had looked on religious
truth as a gift from the Church. They were now to look on it as a gift
from the king. The very gratitude of Englishmen for fresh spiritual
enlightenment was to tell to the profit of the royal power. No conception
could be further from that of the New Learning, from the plea for
intellectual freedom which runs through the life of Erasmus or the craving
for political liberty which gives nobleness to the speculations of More.
Nor was it possible for Henry himself to avoid drifting from the
standpoint he had chosen. He had written against Luther; he had persisted
in opposing Lutheran doctrine; he had passed new laws to hinder the
circulation of Lutheran books in his realm. But influences from without as
from within drove him nearer to Lutheranism. If the encouragement of
Francis had done somewhat to bring about his final breach with the Papacy,
he soon found little will in the French king to follow him in any course
of separation from Rome; and the French alliance threatened to become
useless as a shelter against the wrath of the Emperor. Charles was goaded
into action by the bill annulling Mary's right of succession; and in 1535
he proposed to unite his house with that of Francis by close intermarriage
and to sanction Mary's marriage with a son of the French king, if Francis
would join in an attack on England. Whether such a proposal was serious or
no, Henry had to dread attack from Charles himself and to look for new
allies against it. He was driven to offer his alliance to the Lutheran
princes of North Germany, who dreaded like himself the power of the
Emperor, and who were now gathering in the League of Schmalkald.

[Sidenote: The Articles of 1536]

But the German Princes made agreement as to doctrine a condition of their
alliance; and their pressure was backed by Henry's partizans among the
clergy at home. In Cromwell's scheme for mastering the priesthood it had
been needful to place men on whom the king could rely at their head.
Cranmer became Primate, Latimer became Bishop of Worcester, Shaxton and
Barlow were raised to the sees of Salisbury and St. David's, Hilsey to
that of Rochester, Goodrich to that of Ely, Fox to that of Hereford. But
it was hard to find men among the clergy who paused at Henry's theological
resting-place; and of these prelates all except Latimer were known to
sympathize with Lutheranism, though Cranmer lagged far behind his fellows
in their zeal for reform. The influence of these men as well as of an
attempt to comply at least partly with the demand of the German Princes
left its stamp on the Articles of 1536. For the principle of Catholicism,
of a universal form of faith overspreading all temporal dominions, the
Lutheran states had substituted the principle of territorial religion, of
the right of each sovereign or people to determine the form of belief
which should be held within their bounds. The severance from Rome had
already brought Henry to this principle; and the Act of Supremacy was its
emphatic assertion. In England too, as in North Germany, the repudiation
of the Papal authority as a ground of faith, of the voice of the Pope as a
declaration of truth, had driven men to find such a ground and declaration
in the Bible; and the Articles expressly based the faith of the Church of
England on the Bible and the three Creeds. With such fundamental
principles of agreement it was possible to borrow from the Augsburg
Confession five of the ten articles which Henry laid before the
Convocation. If penance was still retained as a sacrament, baptism and the
Lord's Supper were alone maintained to be sacraments with it; the doctrine
of Transubstantiation which Henry stubbornly maintained differed so little
from the doctrine maintained by Luther that the words of Lutheran
formularies were borrowed to explain it; Confession was admitted by the
Lutheran Churches as well as by the English. The veneration of saints and
the doctrine of prayer to them, though still retained, was so modified as
to present little difficulty even to a Lutheran.

[Sidenote: The Irish Churches]

However disguised in form, the doctrinal advance made in the Articles of
1536 was an immense one; and a vehement opposition might have been looked
for from those of the bishops like Gardiner, who while they agreed with
Henry's policy of establishing a national Church remained opposed to any
change in faith. But the Articles had been drawn up by Henry's own hand,
and all whisper of opposition was hushed. Bishops, abbots, clergy, not
only subscribed to them, but carried out with implicit obedience the
injunctions which put their doctrine roughly into practice; and the
failure of the Pilgrimage of Grace in the following autumn ended all
thought of resistance among the laity. But Cromwell found a different
reception for his reforms when he turned to extend them to the sister
island. The religious aspect of Ireland was hardly less chaotic than its
political aspect had been. Ever since Strongbow's landing there had been
no one Irish Church, simply because there had been no one Irish nation.
There was not the slightest difference in doctrine or discipline between
the Church without the Pale and the Church within it. But within the Pale
the clergy were exclusively of English blood and speech, and without it
they were exclusively of Irish. Irishmen were shut out by law from abbeys
and churches within the English boundary, and the ill-will of the natives
shut out Englishmen from churches and abbeys outside it. As to the
religious state of the country, it was much on a level with its political
condition. Feuds and misrule told fatally on ecclesiastical discipline.
The bishops were political officers, or hard fighters like the chiefs
around them; their sees were neglected, their cathedrals abandoned to
decay. Through whole dioceses the churches lay in ruins and without
priests. The only preaching done in the country was done by the begging
friars, and the results of the friars' preaching were small. "If the King
do not provide a remedy," it was said in 1525, "there will be no more
Christentie than in the middle of Turkey."

[Sidenote: Ireland and the Supremacy]

Unfortunately the remedy which Henry provided was worse than the disease.
Politically Ireland was one with England, and the great revolution which
was severing the one country from the Papacy extended itself naturally to
the other. The results of it indeed at first seemed small enough. The
Supremacy, a question which had convulsed England, passed over into
Ireland to meet its only obstacle in a general indifference. Everybody was
ready to accept it without a thought of the consequences. The bishops and
clergy within the Pale bent to the king's will as easily as their fellows
in England, and their example was followed by at least four prelates of
dioceses without the Pale. The native chieftains made no more scruple than
the Lords of the Council in renouncing obedience to the Bishop of Rome,
and in acknowledging Henry as the "Supreme Head of the Church of England
and Ireland under Christ." There was none of the resistance to the
dissolution of the abbeys which had been witnessed on the other side of
the Channel, and the greedy chieftains showed themselves perfectly willing
to share the plunder of the Church. But the results of the measure were
fatal to the little culture and religion which even the past centuries of
disorder had spared. Such as they were, the religious houses were the only
schools that Ireland contained. The system of vicars, so general in
England, was rare in Ireland; churches in the patronage of the abbeys were
for the most part served by the religious themselves, and the dissolution
of their houses suspended public worship over large districts of the
country. The friars, hitherto the only preachers, and who continued to
labour and teach in spite of the efforts of the Government, were thrown
necessarily into a position of antagonism to the English rule.

[Sidenote: Ireland and the Religious Changes]

Had the ecclesiastical changes which were forced on the country ended here
however, in the end little harm would have been done. But in England the
breach with Rome, the destruction of the monastic orders, and the
establishment of the Supremacy, had roused in a portion of the people
itself a desire for theological change which Henry shared and was
cautiously satisfying. In Ireland the spirit of the Reformation never
existed among the people at all. They accepted the legislative measures
passed in the English Parliament without any dream of theological
consequences or of any change in the doctrine or ceremonies of the Church.
Not a single voice demanded the abolition of pilgrimages, or the
destruction of images, or the reform of public worship. The mission of
Archbishop Browne in 1535 "for the plucking down of idols and
extinguishing of idolatry" was a first step in the long effort of the
English Government to force a new faith on a people who to a man clung
passionately to their old religion. Browne's attempts at "tuning the
pulpits" were met by a sullen and significant opposition. "Neither by
gentle exhortation," the Archbishop wrote to Cromwell, "nor by evangelical
instruction, neither by oath of them solemnly taken, nor yet by threats of
sharp correction may I persuade or induce any whether religious or secular
since my coming over once to preach the Word of God nor the just title of
our illustrious Prince." Even the acceptance of the Supremacy, which had
been so quietly effected, was brought into question when its results
became clear. The bishops abstained from compliance with the order to
erase the Pope's name out of their mass-books. The pulpits remained
steadily silent. When Browne ordered the destruction of the images and
relics in his own cathedral, he had to report that the prior and canons
"find them so sweet for their gain that they heed not my words." Cromwell
however was resolute for a religious uniformity between the two islands,
and the Primate borrowed some of his patron's vigour. Recalcitrant priests
were thrown into prison, images were plucked down from the rood-loft, and
the most venerable of Irish relics, the staff of St. Patrick, was burned
in the market-place. But he found no support in his vigour save from
across the Channel. The Irish Council looked coldly on; even the Lord
Deputy still knelt to say prayers before an image at Trim. A sullen dogged
opposition baffled Cromwell's efforts, and their only result was to unite
all Ireland against the Crown.

[Sidenote: The English Protestants]

But Cromwell found it easier to deal with Irish inaction than with the
feverish activity which his reforms stirred in England itself. It was
impossible to strike blow after blow at the Church without rousing wild
hopes in the party who sympathized with the work which Luther was doing
over-sea. Few as these "Lutherans" or "Protestants" still were in numbers,
their new hopes made them a formidable force; and in the school of
persecution they had learned a violence which delighted in outrages on the
faith which had so long trampled them under foot. At the very outset of
Cromwell's changes four Suffolk youths broke into a church at Dovercourt,
tore down a wonder-working crucifix, and burned it in the fields. The
suppression of the lesser monasteries was the signal for a new outburst of
ribald insult to the old religion. The roughness, insolence, and extortion
of the Commissioners sent to effect it drove the whole monastic body to
despair. Their servants rode along the road with copes for doublets or
tunicles for saddle-cloths, and scattered panic among the larger houses
which were left. Some sold their jewels and relics to provide for the evil
day they saw approaching. Some begged of their own will for dissolution.
It was worse when fresh ordinances of the Vicar-General ordered the
removal of objects of superstitious veneration. Their removal, bitter
enough to those whose religion twined itself around the image or the relic
which was taken away, was embittered yet more by the insults with which it
was accompanied. A miraculous rood at Boxley, which bowed its head and
stirred its eyes, was paraded from market to market and exhibited as a
juggle before the Court. Images of the Virgin were stripped of their
costly vestments and sent to be publicly burned at London. Latimer
forwarded to the capital the figure of Our Lady, which he had thrust out
of his cathedral church at Worcester, with rough words of scorn: "She with
her old sister of Walsingham, her younger sister of Ipswich, and their two
other sisters of Doncaster and Penrice, would make a jolly muster at
Smithfield." Fresh orders were given to fling all relics from their
reliquaries, and to level every shrine with the ground. In 1538 the bones
of St. Thomas of Canterbury were torn from the stately shrine which had
been the glory of his metropolitan church, and his name was erased from
the service-books as that of a traitor.

The introduction of the English Bible into churches gave a new opening for
the zeal of the Protestants. In spite of royal injunctions that it should
be read decently and without comment, the young zealots of the party
prided themselves on shouting it out to a circle of excited hearers during
the service of mass, and accompanied their reading with violent
expositions. Protestant maidens took the new English primer to church with
them and studied it ostentatiously during matins. Insult passed into open
violence when the Bishops' Courts were invaded and broken up by Protestant
mobs; and law and public opinion were outraged at once when priests who
favoured the new doctrines began openly to bring home wives to their
vicarages. A fiery outburst of popular discussion compensated for the
silence of the pulpits. The new Scriptures, in Henry's bitter words of
complaint, were "disputed, rimed, sung, and jangled in every tavern and
alehouse." The articles which dictated the belief of the English Church
roused a furious controversy. Above all, the Sacrament of the Mass, the
centre of the Catholic system of faith and worship, and which still
remained sacred to the bulk of Englishmen, was attacked with a scurrility
and profaneness which passes belief. The doctrine of Transubstantiation,
which was as yet recognized by law, was held up to scorn in ballads and
mystery plays. In one church a Protestant lawyer raised a dog in his hands
when the priest elevated the Host. The most sacred words of the old
worship, the words of consecration, "Hoc est corpus," were travestied into
a nickname for jugglery as "Hocus-pocus."

[Sidenote: The Six Articles]

It was by this attack on the Mass, even more than by the other outrages,
that the temper both of Henry and the nation was stirred to a deep
resentment. With the Protestants Henry had no sympathy whatever. He was a
man of the New Learning; he was proud of his orthodoxy and of his title of
Defender of the Faith. And above all he shared to the utmost his people's
love of order, their clinging to the past, their hatred of extravagance
and excess. The first sign of reaction was seen in the Parliament of 1539.
Never had the Houses shown so little care for political liberty. The
Monarchy seemed to free itself from all parliamentary restrictions
whatever when a formal statute gave the king's proclamations the force of
parliamentary laws. Nor did the Church find favour with them. No word of
the old opposition was heard when a bill was introduced granting to the
king the greater monasteries which had been saved in 1536. More than six
hundred religious houses fell at a blow, and so great was the spoil that
the king promised never again to call on his people for subsidies. But the
Houses were equally at one in withstanding the new innovations in
religion, and an act for "abolishing diversity of opinions in certain
articles concerning Christian religion" passed with general assent. On the
doctrine of Transubstantiation, which was reasserted by the first of six
Articles to which the Act owes its usual name, there was no difference of
feeling or belief between the men of the New Learning and the older
Catholics. But the road to a further instalment of even moderate reform
seemed closed by the five other articles which sanctioned communion in one
kind, the celibacy of the clergy, monastic vows, private masses, and
auricular confession. A more terrible feature of the reaction was the
revival of persecution. Burning was denounced as the penalty for a denial
of transubstantiation; on a second offence it became the penalty for an
infraction of the other five doctrines. A refusal to confess or to attend
Mass was made felony. It was in vain that Cranmer, with the five bishops
who partially sympathized with the Protestants, struggled against the bill
in the Lords: the Commons were "all of one opinion," and Henry himself
acted as spokesman on the side of the articles. In London alone five
hundred Protestants were indicted under the new act. Latimer and Shaxton
were imprisoned, and the former forced into a resignation of his see.
Cranmer himself was only saved by Henry's personal favour.

[Sidenote: Cromwell's last Struggle]

But the first burst of triumph was no sooner spent than the hand of
Cromwell made itself felt. Though his opinions remained those of the New
Learning and differed little from the general sentiment which found itself
represented in the act, he leaned instinctively to the one party which did
not long for his fall. His wish was to restrain the Protestant excesses,
but he had no mind to ruin the Protestants. In a little time therefore the
bishops were quietly released. The London indictments were quashed. The
magistrates were checked in their enforcement of the law, while a general
pardon cleared the prisons of the heretics who had been arrested under its
provisions. A few months after the enactment of the Six Articles we find
from a Protestant letter that persecution had wholly ceased, "the Word is
powerfully preached and books of every kind may safely be exposed for
sale." Never indeed had Cromwell shown such greatness as in his last
struggle against Fate. "Beknaved" by the king, whose confidence in him
waned as he discerned the full meaning of the religious changes which
Cromwell had brought about, met too by a growing opposition in the Council
as his favour declined, the temper of the man remained indomitable as
ever. He stood absolutely alone. Wolsey, hated as he had been by the
nobles, had been supported by the Church; but Churchmen hated Cromwell
with an even fiercer hate than the nobles themselves. His only friends
were the Protestants, and their friendship was more fatal than the hatred
of his foes. But he showed no signs of fear or of halting in the course he
had entered on. So long as Henry supported him, however reluctant his
support might be, he was more than a match for his foes. He was strong
enough to expel his chief opponent, Bishop Gardiner of Winchester, from
the royal Council. He met the hostility of the nobles with a threat which
marked his power. "If the lords would handle him so, he would give them
such a breakfast as never was made in England, and that the proudest of
them should know."

[Sidenote: The Courtenays and the Poles]

He soon gave a terrible earnest of the way in which he could fulfil his
threat. The opposition to his system gathered above all round two houses
which represented what yet lingered of the Yorkist tradition, the
Courtenays and the Poles. Courtenay, the Marquis of Exeter, was of royal
blood, a grandson through his mother of Edward the Fourth. He was known to
have bitterly denounced the "knaves that ruled about the King"; and his
threats to "give them some day a buffet" were formidable in the mouth of
one whose influence in the western counties was supreme. Margaret, the
Countess of Salisbury, a daughter of the Duke of Clarence by the heiress
of the Earl of Warwick, and a niece of Edward the Fourth, had married Sir
Richard Pole, and became mother of Lord Montacute as of Sir Geoffry and
Reginald Pole. The temper of her house might be guessed from the conduct
of the younger of the three brothers. After refusing the highest favours
from Henry as the price of his approval of the divorce, Reginald Pole had
taken refuge at Rome, where he had bitterly attacked the king in a book on
"The Unity of the Church." "There may be found ways enough in Italy,"
Cromwell wrote to him in significant words, "to rid a treacherous subject.
When Justice can take no place by process of law at home, sometimes she
may be enforced to take new means abroad." But he had left hostages in
Henry's hands. "Pity that the folly of one witless fool," Cromwell wrote
ominously, "should be the ruin of so great a family. Let him follow
ambition as fast as he can, those that little have offended (saving that
he is of their kin), were it not for the great mercy and benignity of the
prince, should and might feel what it is to have such a traitor as their
kinsman." The "great mercy and benignity of the prince" was no longer to
shelter them. In 1538 the Pope, Paul the Third, published a bull of
excommunication and deposition against Henry, and Pole pressed the Emperor
vigorously though ineffectually to carry the bull into execution. His
efforts only brought about, as Cromwell had threatened, the ruin of his
house. His brother Lord Montacute and the Marquis of Exeter, with other
friends of the two great families, were arrested on a charge of treason
and executed in the opening of 1539, while the Countess of Salisbury was
attainted in Parliament and sent to the Tower.

[Sidenote: The Lutheran Marriage]

Almost as terrible an act of bloodshed closed the year. The abbots of
Glastonbury, Reading, and Colchester, men who had sate as mitred abbots
among the lords, were charged with a denial of the king's supremacy and
hanged as traitors. But Cromwell relied for success on more than terror.
His single will forced on a scheme of foreign policy whose aim was to bind
England to the cause of the Reformation while it bound Henry helplessly to
his minister. The daring boast which his enemies laid afterwards to
Cromwell's charge, whether uttered or not, is but the expression of his
system, "In brief time he would bring things to such a pass that the King
with all his power should not be able to hinder him." His plans rested,
like the plan which proved fatal to Wolsey, on a fresh marriage of his
master. Henry's third wife, Jane Seymour, had died in childbirth; and in
the opening of 1540 Cromwell replaced her by a German consort, Anne of
Cleves, a sister-in-law of the Lutheran Elector of Saxony. He dared even
to resist Henry's caprice when the king revolted on their first interview
from the coarse features and unwieldy form of his new bride. For the
moment Cromwell had brought matters "to such a pass" that it was
impossible to recoil from the marriage, and the minister's elevation to
the Earldom of Essex seemed to proclaim his success. The marriage of Anne
of Cleves however was but the first step in a policy which, had it been
carried out as he designed it, would have anticipated the triumphs of
Richelieu. Charles and the House of Austria could alone bring about a
Catholic reaction strong enough to arrest and roll back the Reformation;
and Cromwell was no sooner united with the princes of North Germany than
he sought to league them with France for the overthrow of the Emperor.

[Sidenote: Fall of Cromwell]

Had he succeeded, the whole face of Europe would have been changed,
Southern Germany would have been secured for Protestantism, and the Thirty
Years War averted. But he failed as men failed who stand ahead of their
age. The German princes shrank from a contest with the Emperor, France
from a struggle which would be fatal to Catholicism; and Henry, left alone
to bear the resentment of the House of Austria and chained to a wife he
loathed, turned savagely on his minister. In June the long struggle came
to an end. The nobles sprang on Cromwell with a fierceness that told of
their long-hoarded hate. Taunts and execrations burst from the Lords at
the Council table as the Duke of Norfolk, who had been entrusted with the
minister's arrest, tore the ensign of the Garter from his neck. At the
charge of treason Cromwell flung his cap on the ground with a passionate
cry of despair. "This then," he exclaimed, "is my guerdon for the services
I have done! On your consciences, I ask you, am I a traitor?" Then with a
sudden sense that all was over he bade his foes make quick work, and not
leave him to languish in prison. Quick work was made. A few days after his
arrest he was attainted in Parliament, and at the close of July a burst of
popular applause hailed his death on the scaffold.


*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "History of the English People, Volume III (of 8) - The Parliament, 1399-1461; The  Monarchy 1461-1540" ***

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