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Title: Las inquietudes de Shanti Andía
Author: Baroja, Pío
Language: Spanish
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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.

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TEN TUDOR STATESMEN


[Illustration: _HENRY VII._

_From a Painting by an unknown Flemish artist, in the National Portrait
Gallery_]



  TEN TUDOR
  STATESMEN

  _By_ ARTHUR D. INNES

  _AUTHOR OF_
  “ENGLAND UNDER THE TUDORS”

  [Illustration]

  LONDON
  EVELEIGH NASH
  1906



  Printed by BALLANTYNE & CO. LIMITED
  Tavistock Street, London



PREFATORY


The series of studies contained in this volume is in no way a history
of the Tudor period. My object in preparing it has been first to
form in my own mind and secondly to present to my readers a clear
and consistent conception of the character of sundry persons, who in
their own day either exercised an effective influence on the course of
politics, or embodied political ideas which have influenced succeeding
generations. The events narrated are considered not in the light
of their intrinsic importance, but as they bear on the particular
character under investigation.

To arrive at a fair estimate of any man’s character, the primary
necessity is to endeavour to realise his point of view, to appreciate
his preconceptions. If we require of him that his preconceptions shall
coincide with our own, we may reconstruct an interesting dramatic
figure, but we shall not discover the man as he really was. And if we
do succeed in placing ourselves at his point of view, we shall almost
inevitably find that the man who ultimately emerges is different
from, and probably somewhat better than, the man as we had previously
conceived him.

Concerning these ten figures, two curious points may be noted. Eight of
them may be described as ministers: not one of the eight was actually
of noble birth, two were not even of gentle birth. That fact emphasises
the change in the political centre of gravity which accompanied the
establishment of the Tudor Dynasty. Secondly, of those eight, four
perished on the scaffold and one at the stake: a sixth was in custody
under accusation of treason when death released him. That illustrates
not less emphatically the distance at which we stand from the Tudors
to-day.

            A. D. I.



CONTENTS


  I

  HENRY VII
                                                               PAGE

     I. INTRODUCTORY                                              3

    II. HENRY’S EARLY YEARS, ACCESSION, AND ESTABLISHMENT
          OF THE DYNASTY                                          5

   III. THE TUDOR ABSOLUTION AND THE EXCHEQUER                   11

    IV. COMMERCIAL AND INDUSTRIAL POLICY                         16

     V. JUDICATURE                                               21

    VI. FOREIGN POLICY                                           23

   VII. CHARACTER                                                27


  II

  CARDINAL WOLSEY

     I. APPRECIATIONS                                            35

    II. CARDINALIS PACIFICATOR                                   38

   III. WOLSEY AND THE FRENCH WAR                                46

    IV. DOMESTIC POLICY                                          48

     V. THE DIVORCE                                              53

    VI. WOLSEY AND THE REFORMATION                               62

   VII. WOLSEY’S FALL AND CHARACTER                              67


  III

  SIR THOMAS MORE

     I. INTRODUCTORY                                             75

    II. UNDER HENRY VII                                          77

   III. THE EARLY YEARS OF HENRY VIII                            82

    IV. THE “UTOPIA”                                             85

     V. MORE IN PUBLIC LIFE                                      94

    VI. INDIGNATIO PRINCIPIS                                    103

   VII. CHARACTER AND DEATH                                     106


  IV

  THOMAS CROMWELL

     I. THOMAS CROMWELL                                         115

    II. EARLIER CAREER AND RISE TO POWER                        117

   III. PLANNING THE CAMPAIGN                                   125

    IV. CONTRA ECCLESIAM                                        130

     V. THE FABRIC OF DESPOTISM                                 135

    VI. CROMWELL AND PROTESTANTISM                              146

   VII. CROMWELL’S FALL                                         151


  V

  HENRY VIII

     I. APPRECIATIONS                                           157

    II. THE CARDINAL RULES                                      159

   III. WAR                                                     167

    IV. THE DIVORCE                                             170

     V. THE NEW POLICY                                          177

    VI. DIVERGENCES BETWEEN HENRY AND CROMWELL                  182

   VII. HENRY’S CLOSING YEARS                                   187

  VIII. HENRY’S MARRIAGES                                       192

    IX. HENRY’S CHARACTER                                       198


  VI

  PROTECTOR SOMERSET

     I. MISCONCEPTIONS                                          205

    II. THE PROTECTOR AND HIS PROBLEMS                          207

   III. SOMERSET AND SCOTLAND                                   212

    IV. SOMERSET’S RELIGIOUS POLICY                             217

     V. SOMERSET AND THE SOCIAL PROBLEM                         222

    VI. THE LORD ADMIRAL                                        225

   VII. THE EX-PROTECTOR                                        230


  VII

  ARCHBISHOP CRANMER

     I. INTRODUCTORY                                            237

    II. CRANMER AT CAMBRIDGE                                    239

   III. RISE TO THE ARCHBISHOPRIC                               244

    IV. HENRY’S PRIMATE                                         248

     V. CRANMER AND SOMERSET                                    258

    VI. THE FLOWING TIDE OF PROTESTANTISM                       263

   VII. DE PROFUNDIS                                            267


  VIII

  WILLIAM CECIL (LORD BURGHLEY)

     I. THE MINISTERS OF QUEEN ELIZABETH                        279

    II. CECIL UNDER EDWARD VI. AND MARY                         281

   III. FOREIGN AFFAIRS AT ELIZABETH’S ACCESSION                288

    IV. DOMESTIC AND SCOTTISH POLICY                            296

     V. CECIL AND PROTESTANTISM                                 303

    VI. ELIZABETH’S SECOND PERIOD                               307

   VII. THE WAR WITH SPAIN                                      315

  VIII. AN APPRECIATION                                         319


  IX

  SIR FRANCIS WALSINGHAM

     I. WALSINGHAM’S CHARACTER                                  325

    II. WALSINGHAM’S RISE                                       328

   III. AMBASSADOR AT PARIS                                     332

    IV. ENTANGLEMENTS                                           339

     V. DETECTIVE METHODS                                       348

    VI. THE END                                                 355


  X

  SIR WALTER RALEIGH

     I. CHARACTER                                               361

    II. RALEIGH’S RISE                                          363

   III. VIRGINIA                                                369

    IV. AFTER THE ARMADA                                        376

     V. FAVOUR AND FALL                                         381

    VI. CAPTIVE AND VICTIM                                      387



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


  HENRY VII.                                         _Frontispiece_

    _From a Painting by an unknown Flemish artist, in the
    National Portrait Gallery_

                                                     _To face page_
  CARDINAL WOLSEY                                                36

      _From a Painting by_ HOLBEIN _in the collection at Christ
  Church, Oxford_


  SIR THOMAS MORE                                                76

    _From a Painting by_ HOLBEIN _in the National Portrait
    Gallery_


  THOMAS CROMWELL, 1ST EARL OF ESSEX                            116

    _By_ HOLBEIN, _from an Engraving by Houbraken in the
    British Museum_


  HENRY VIII.                                                   158

    _From a Portrait by_ JOST VAN CLEEF _in the Royal
    Collection at Hampton Court Palace_


  PROTECTOR SOMERSET                                            206

    _From a Painting by_ HOLBEIN


  THOMAS CRANMER                                                238

    _From a Painting by_ G. FLICCIUS _in the National
    Portrait Gallery_


  WILLIAM CECIL (LORD BURGHLEY)                                 280

    _From a Portrait by_ MARC GHEERAEDTS (?) _in the
    National Portrait Gallery_


  SIR FRANCIS WALSINGHAM                                        326

    _From an engraving by_ G. VERTUE _after the picture by
    Holbein, in the British Museum_


  SIR WALTER RALEIGH                                            362

    _From the Painting by_ FEDERIGO ZUCCARO _in the
    National Portrait Gallery_



HENRY VII


I

INTRODUCTORY

“This King, to speak of him in terms equal to his deserving, was one
of the best sort of wonders, a wonder for wise men.” In those words
Francis Bacon summed up Henry VII., a hundred years after the first
Tudor king had been laid in his grave. Bacon’s history still is,
and is likely to remain, the classic narrative. Not that he was a
“contemporary,” or that he had access to any extraordinary sources
of information; but because being at once a practical politician, a
student of political theory, and a literary artist, any historical work
from his pen could hardly have failed to be of the highest interest,
and the subject he actually chose was--to him--peculiarly sympathetic.

It is in fact quite evident that Henry was held in the very highest
estimation by his biographer. The history is addressed to Prince
Charles, and it can hardly be doubted that in calling his hero “the
English Solomon,” Bacon had in mind the reigning king’s description as
the “Scottish Solomon”; the direct suggestion of a parallel (repeated
in other terms in the Preface) must have been meant to be looked
upon as a compliment by James. Henry was at least to be accounted
the shrewdest ruler amongst the very astute princes who were more or
less his contemporaries. Yet, for all the impression of shrewdness,
Bacon fails to win our sympathy for Henry, perhaps because those
two minds had too close kinship. Bacon, except in the case of a few
enthusiasts, does not inspire affection. Pope’s summary is too accurate
an expression of what is at least the popular conception; and Henry
is judged to have been not quite so bright, nearly but not quite
so wise--and still more mean. English history provides examples of
monarchs whom every one actively hates like King John, or scorns like
Edward II.; other monarchs too, who, if they had evil qualities, yet
display something of the heroic; towards whom our feelings, if mixed,
are still warm. But Henry VII. inspires almost universally a strong
sentiment of cold dislike, such as no one else creates.

There is justice in that impression, but there is also injustice. In
his latter years, it is hardly too much to call him detestable. He had
reigned for fourteen years before he committed the one commonplace
crime of tyrants which stains his record, the execution of Warwick.
From that time a kind of degeneration seems to have come upon him,
accelerated by the deaths first of his wisest counsellor Morton,
then, two years later, of the son he loved, and then of his wife. To
these years belongs nearly every story which tells seriously to his
discredit. But during the earlier and longer half of his reign, his
record is remarkably free from blemish, and shows an enlightenment
which under happier conditions might have won him a place not only
among the kings who have deserved well of the State--that, at least
in the historian’s eyes, he did achieve--but among those whose memory
posterity have cherished.


II

HENRY’S EARLY YEARS, ACCESSION, AND ESTABLISHMENT OF THE DYNASTY

After the death of Henry V., his widow accepted in marriage the hand
of a Welsh knight of ancient lineage, Owen Tudor. In 1456, their son
Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond, took to himself a very youthful bride,
the Lady Margaret Beaufort, the representative of John of Gaunt’s
family by Katherine Swynford, legitimatised by Act of Parliament in
the reign of Richard II. On January 28, 1457, Margaret gave birth to a
son, Henry, some weeks after Edmund himself had died; the charge of the
boy devolving mainly upon Edmund’s brother Jasper, Earl of Pembroke.
During the next fourteen years, the great Earl of Warwick was playing
see-saw with the fortunes of the rival houses of York and Lancaster.
In 1461, the Yorkists won the upper hand; but Jasper held out in
Wales for Lancaster, for nearly seven years. Then Harlech Castle was
surrendered, and young Henry was placed in charge of its captor, the
new Earl of Pembroke, and was well enough treated. Then Lancaster had
a turn of success, but the party was crushed at the battles of Barnet
and Tewkesbury, and the line was quenched by the deaths of Henry VI.
and his son. Yorkists and Lancastrians alike fixed upon young Henry
Tudor as being now the representative of John of Gaunt; England was
too dangerous a habitation for a possible claimant to the throne; and
the boy in his fifteenth year was successfully shipped off by his
friends to Brittany, where for twelve years he abode under the Duke’s
protection.

If the dynasty of York had established itself in regular fashion--if
Edward IV. had been followed by an Edward V. as Henry IV. had been
followed by Henry V.--there would have been little enough to fear. But
Edward’s brother usurped the throne by a particularly foul murder, and
being on it proved himself a tyrant. Men’s eyes turned to the one scion
of the Plantagenets whom it was possible to set up as a claimant to the
crown. If he could be set on the throne with Edward’s daughter at his
side, the rival factions of York and Lancaster might be stilled. The
first attempt to challenge the usurper failed completely. Buckingham’s
plan of campaign was ruined by the flooding of the Severn, and by a
storm which scattered the fleet wherewith Richmond sailed from Brittany
to co-operate. Henry, returning thither, had to flee very soon after
to safer shelter in France. But it was not long before the attempt was
renewed, this time with success. On Bosworth field Richard was slain,
and Henry declared King of England.

The victor was a young man of eight-and-twenty. For fourteen years he
had lived in England, amidst civil broils and perpetual alarms. For
fourteen more he had lived mainly in Brittany, conscious that he was in
perpetual danger of being surrendered into the hands of those who might
at any time find his destruction convenient. All his life he had been
in an atmosphere of suspicion, of possible treachery, encompassed with
deeds of blood. He had learned to study others and to trust himself. He
had learned that his life might depend on alertness and self-restraint.
And he had been able to see that Louis XI. was incomparably the most
successful master of state-craft of his generation. These were lessons
calculated to kill all youthful qualities, and at twenty-eight Henry
might as well have been forty.

This was the man who had grasped a sceptre to which it was impossible
to establish for him a legal title. In plain truth, he was King of
England because he was the only man of the blood-royal who was able to
challenge the usurper who was wearing the crown. As far as right of
inheritance went, if Edward IV.’s daughters were barred by their sex,
the son of Clarence was indubitably the heir of Edward III., whether
descent through the female line were admitted or no. Henry might marry
Elizabeth of York and claim the crown in her right; but then her death
would leave him in a highly anomalous position; it was imperative that
he should be accepted himself as the lawful king in his own person.
The marriage might make matters perfectly safe for a son, but not for
him. Hence even the semblance of depending on his wife’s title must be
avoided.

He had won the realm by the sword; that was the first step. The second
was to commit the representatives of the nation to affirm that he
was the lawful sovereign: this was effected by a Declaratory Act in
Parliament, which judiciously abstained from naming the grounds on
which his claim rested. After that was to come the marriage, which
should muzzle the partisans of York. This took place in the following
January; but it is easy to see that the king had good reason for not
proceeding to his wife’s coronation at least till a son should be
born. Not long after that son was born, the Simnel plot was brewing;
the coronation under those circumstances might have taken the colour
of a defensive measure. Consequently the ceremony was not performed
until Elizabeth had been his wife for very nearly two years, being thus
emphasised as a mere act of grace.

No doubt if, by marrying the Plantagenet princess, Henry could have
appropriated the Yorkist title to himself personally whether his queen
lived or died, he would have been able to do without repressing the
heads of the Yorkist faction at all. But, as things stood, that could
not be risked. Warwick, Clarence’s young son, was imprisoned in the
Tower, and some of the last king’s principal supporters were attainted.
Being thus kept dissatisfied, it was a long time before active Yorkist
plots ceased. The Dowager Duchess of Burgundy, Margaret, sister of
Edward IV., made her Court a regular centre of anti-Tudor intrigue; nor
did Henry ever feel really safe till the myth of a surviving Richard of
York was finally exploded and the actual Edward Plantagenet, Earl of
Warwick, had been done to death. The course which Henry took involved
a certain degree of injustice--but _Fiat Justitia, Ruat Cælum_, is
a maxim that princes with an uncertain title are rarely, if ever,
disposed to adopt without reservation. One is disposed to wonder rather
that Warwick was allowed to live so long than that Henry ultimately
yielded to the temptation to slay him.

This plain business of securing himself on the throne was necessarily
the first consideration. Only an established dynasty could restore
steady government in a country which within a hundred years had seen
four kings slain and the great bulk of her ancient baronage wiped
out. Between foreign wars, successful or the reverse, and a wild
warfare of armed factions at home, stability had been destroyed.
The prolonged reign of strong rulers maintaining one policy was an
absolute condition of recuperation. The way in which Henry secured it
was entirely characteristic and entirely successful. The sword, the
poniard, and the headman’s axe or the dungeon, were normally relied on
by rulers whose seat was uncertain. Henry acted on a strictly original
scheme. When he took the field against rebels, he sent before him
proclamations of pardon to those who would come in; and he kept his
word. He did not massacre the routed foe: he spared them, seizing only
their leaders. He was responsible for no murders. A Lambert Simnel or
a Perkin Warbeck when captured was not hanged out of hand, but sent to
join the scullions, or set in the stocks as an impostor. Executions
were singularly rare; rebels who might become powerful merely had their
claws clipped by fines and confiscations--very efficiently clipped, no
doubt. Where imprisonment was resorted to, the confinement was seldom
harsh; and the king never had qualms about restoring a quondam rebel
to favour and authority, if he judged that his man would show himself
worthy of the faith reposed in him. When Surrey’s gaoler offered to let
him go free, Surrey refused to escape; the king had put him in ward,
and the king alone should release him. The king did so, and gave him a
command of the highest trust. Kildare set authority at defiance when
he was Deputy in Ireland, and when he was deposed, “All Ireland cannot
rule this man,” said his enemies. “Then let this man rule all Ireland,”
quoth Henry, and restored him to the Deputyship. Neither Surrey nor
Kildare gave him cause for repentance.

Such a record would have entitled Henry to praise as a prince of
unparalleled magnanimity, but for its common-sense accompaniment
of fines and confiscations. But in fact, to penalise rebellion in
some sort was an absolute necessity; not to have done so would have
jeopardised the throne. The method adopted might not be heroic, but it
was supremely practical; inasmuch as it wrought the minimum of positive
injury to the punished, while at once depriving them of power to harm
and supplying the king himself with the sinews of government, of which
he was sorely in need. It was dictated quite as much by policy as by
magnanimity, but the mere fact that Henry recognised it from the outset
as sounder policy than any precedents, recent at any rate, suggested,
is testimony to the acuteness of his moral perceptions as well as to
the keenness of his intelligence. Nor is it fair to deprive Henry of
the credit of magnanimity, merely because the magnanimity paid. To
realise that it did pay and prove completely successful, we have only
to observe that after the battle of Stoke there was no baronial rising
in England. Warbeck got all his support either from the exiles or from
foreign courts: when he tried to raise the West of England on his own
account, he collapsed ignominiously. It is true that an army of Cornish
insurgents had marched to Blackheath just before, and had there been
broken up; but that was a purely popular rising in protest against
taxation, and its chiefs were a blacksmith and a lawyer.


III

THE TUDOR ABSOLUTISM AND THE EXCHEQUER

It was not sufficient, however, merely to secure the sceptre in the
hands of a strong king; it was necessary further to establish a strong
system. For half a century the great power and estates of individual
barons had enabled them to keep the country in perpetual turmoil.
The idea of universal obedience to the established government simply
because it was established had vanished from the military and political
classes: the idea even of concerted government by one class, guided by
its interests as a class, had disappeared; it was only the personal
factor, personal interests, that counted. Below the baronage, the
gentry who bordered on the baronage, and their retainers, townsfolk and
country folk stood aloof from the fighting, and lived as peacefully
as they might--all things considered, with a wonderful freedom from
disturbance. But standing aloof from the fighting, they had perforce
stood aloof also from the business of government, which fell to the
military faction that happened for the time being to have the upper
hand. They were in short ready to support and profit by a government
which gave promise of peace and stability, order and justice; but
they were not ready to organise such a government for themselves, or
to take a prominent part in conducting it. Under such conditions, the
Yorkists had established a despotism, as the only workable form of
government. But their despotism was one that rested almost exclusively
on the personal forcefulness of the ruler. It was Henry’s task to keep
the effective power concentrated in the King’s hands, but to give it
a constitutional colour--to make the nation feel it as a government
by consent. It was therefore necessary to eliminate factors which
naturally tended to disturbance--in other words, to deprive the
individual barons of the power of aggressive self-assertion; and at the
same time, so to treat the naturally orderly elements of society as to
keep them on the side of the government.

This was the root-principle of the Tudor Absolutism, devised and put
into practice by the first Tudor king, and systematically carried
out by his son and grand-daughter. The system carried England to the
first place among the nations. But it broke down when the Stuarts
ignored its fundamental principle, and so treated the naturally orderly
elements of society as to turn them against the government. For under
the system, those elements acquired the power of organisation and
self-protection, as the accompaniment of the prosperity they enjoyed
increasingly; and it followed that the system could only remain stable
so long as there was essential harmony and sympathy between the monarch
and his subjects.

For the concentration of power, effective power, in the king’s hands,
money was essential; while to keep the general population contented, it
was necessary that their purses should not be subjected to too severe
exactions, which must fall elsewhere. Henry directed them against the
nobility. The nation at large had no objection; the king’s treasury was
filled and the power of the nobles curtailed by the same operation.
Thus the king eliminated the disturbing factor, or allowed it to
eliminate itself. When noblemen got themselves mixed up with treasons,
they could not complain if their lives were spared and their goods paid
the forfeit. They had been wont to maintain great households, every man
having in his service the nucleus of an army. These crowds of retainers
were forbidden by law, as being, for obvious reasons, a public danger.
If noblemen, accustomed to over-ride the law, chose to keep up their
households in despite of it, they could not expect sympathy when they
were called upon to pay in cash the penalty of breaking the law. These
measures were not only thoroughly defensible as being entirely free
from any taint of injustice; they also served directly to relieve
taxation, to fill the royal coffers, and to make wanton insurrection
difficult.

Yet, while keeping within what might be called legitimate bounds, as he
habitually did while Morton was alive, the king undoubtedly permitted
himself to apply methods which savoured of trickery. He made great
parade of a war with France, appealing to national patriotism to supply
the funds. The appeal was successful, but there was no corresponding
expenditure on the campaign. Excellent reasons for inactivity were of
course forthcoming, but it is none the less certain that no activity
was ever contemplated. All that was intended was a demonstration which
might induce the French monarch to buy the English king off with
solid cash--as he eventually did. The whole transaction was eminently
profitable, but Henry had certainly got his money out of his own
subjects by false pretences. The same plea was resorted to, to get
benevolences authorised, when the famous dilemma traditionally--but
as it would seem quite unjustly--attributed to Cardinal Morton
was applied. People who lived handsomely could obviously afford a
contribution by curtailing their extravagance; people who did not live
handsomely must have wealth laid by. In either case, there could be
no inability to serve the king’s need. The spirit which prompted the
invention of that dilemma is illustrated in a story reported by Bacon
as traditional. Henry paid a visit to the Earl of Oxford at Henningham,
where he was sumptuously entertained, and on his departure passed
out through a lane of the earl’s retainers drawn up to do him honour.
“These, no doubt, are your menial servants,” observed the king. The
earl demurred; they were not menials, but retainers, who had turned out
to do him credit when he had so distinguished a guest. Whereupon “The
king started a little, and said, ‘By my faith, my lord, I thank you for
my good cheer, but I may not endure to have my laws broken in my sight.
My attorney must speak with you.’ And it is part of the report that the
earl compounded for no less than fifteen thousand marks.” It is obvious
that such a story might have been developed out of some really quite
justifiable incident; but it is tolerably certain that it was not only
in his closing years that Henry displayed what we may call an unkingly
acquisitiveness.

In passing, however, it may be remarked that this was a family trait.
Elizabeth inherited her grandfather’s prejudice against spending a
shilling that could be kept in her purse, or neglecting any plausible
pretext for attracting coin into it. She also inherited his business
principle of repaying every loan he contracted with unfailing
punctuality. Henry VIII. did not indeed practise economy, but he could
haggle over a money bargain as keenly as his father or his daughter,
and his generosity, when he indulged it, was usually at the expense of
another pocket than his own. The art of appropriating in the public
eye credit to which he was not in the least entitled, was one of which
he was a past master; it was one the value of which his father, who
certainly neglected any efforts to make himself personally popular,
somewhat underrated. Thrift is a virtue; for Henry VII., a particularly
necessary virtue; but it is not one that under any circumstances helps
to make him who exercises it attractive. When it assumes a sordid
aspect, it becomes definitely repellent.

That did not trouble Henry; he wanted money, and during the greater
part of his reign he got it without flagrant extortion; with such
success, too, that in his later years he was able almost entirely to
work without calling Parliament: the skill with which he conducted his
foreign negotiations on the same cash principles contributing not a
little to this result.


IV

COMMERCIAL AND INDUSTRIAL POLICY

It was characteristic of Henry, and somewhat unfortunate for his
reputation, that he cared nothing at all about investing his policy
with any showiness unless some specific end was to be gained thereby.
The objects his government had in view were essentially prosaic:
commonplace they cannot be called, because in a mediæval monarch they
were eminently original. It was customary for kings to interfere in
commercial affairs chiefly when they saw their way to collect by so
doing contributions to the exchequer, or when it seemed worth while
to make enactments in favour of capital as against labour. Henry has
the credit of being the first English king who clearly recognised
commercial development as a primary care of government: which hitherto
only the oligarchical city-states of Italy and the German free-towns
had done. It is true that he was quite ready to subordinate the
commercial to a political end; to attack those who sheltered his
enemies, not with pikes and culverins but with commercial restrictions
only less injurious to English trade than to that of the antagonist.
He did so without suffering from the illusion that the loss of the
foreign merchant was the gain of the English. In these cases he
weighed the economic loss against the political gain. In mediæval
practice, the economic consideration would have counted for practically
nothing in the scale. In the eyes of some politicians to-day, no
political advantage would be worth counting as against an economic
inconvenience--and it is usually extremely difficult to show that a
political advantage will accompany an economic inconvenience. But Henry
was only just emerging from mediæval conceptions. The remarkable thing
is that he realised commerce as an object of policy at all, not that
he rated its importance lower than Adam Smith: that he relaxed the
mediæval theory, not that he did not discard it altogether.

This argument is not to be misunderstood. It has nothing to do with
the rightness or wrongness of any economic theory, but only with the
place of economics in the whole scheme of government. Henry thought it
worth while, as every king before him would have done, almost to cut
off England from her best market for her most paying product, wool,
if he could thereby force the archduke’s government to withdraw its
effective countenance from Perkin Warbeck. But he made it a constant
object of his policy to negotiate the opening of fresh markets for that
commodity, and when he came to terms with the archduke, the commercial
benefits to be secured by the treaty known as the _Intercursus Magnus_
were his first care.

As Henry was the first to give commercial considerations a leading
place in his system, so he is to be distinguished for the attention he
gave to shipping; on which head Bacon has a rather remarkable note, to
the effect that he deserves praise for perceiving that in this instance
it was worth while to diminish commerce for the sake of developing
the marine--to subordinate the economic loss to the political gain.
If Bacon read Henry’s mind aright, he was not under the delusion
that the protection of English shipping interests by his successive
Navigation Acts was of direct economic advantage; but he did see that
it was worth while to pay the price in order to give England such a
mercantile navy as in Bacon’s own day enabled her to win the supremacy
of the seas. Those Acts, restricting the importation of foreign goods
to English ships, raised the price of imports without benefiting any
English industry at all except that of the shippers; but the impetus
given to shipping provided the country with a fighting force at sea
which ultimately enabled her to challenge the might of Spain. The naval
development of England was the work of the Tudor dynasty, though Edward
I., Edward III., and Henry V., had ideas. Whether the Navigation Acts
really did give the impetus attributed to them--as to which economists
may dispute--the intention is unmistakable, and the foresight which
deliberately set up naval development as an end to be pursued is a very
clear mark of Henry’s statesmanship. The creation of the English navy
is generally credited either to King Alfred or to Henry VIII.; but the
latter certainly inherited the conception from his father.

It is matter for regret, but hardly for reproach, that the king did not
apply his ideas of maritime expansion more actively in another field,
that of oceanic exploration. Portugal and Spain were allowed to take
the lead. Yet it was so well known that the English king was favourable
to such enterprises that it appears only to have been an accident which
placed Christopher Columbus in the service of Ferdinand and Isabella
instead of in Henry’s. How history might have been affected if the
West Indies had fallen in the first instance to England instead of to
Spain, is an interesting subject of speculation. But Spain won the
prize. The sailors who put out from Bristol port tried their chance in
more northerly latitudes; the territories they discovered were very
unpromising; and after the outset the Genoese (or Venetian) Cabots,
sailing in command of English crews, naturally enough got little
support from the king. But at the outset--that is, before it seemed
probable if not certain that Spain and Portugal, by right of priority
backed by a Papal Bull, had, so to speak, staked out a claim to
all that was worth having--Henry gave material encouragement to the
exploring spirit.

There was, indeed, one important economic problem--with
concomitants--at grappling with which no serious attempt was made. This
was the growing agricultural depression: due in part to legitimate and
in part to illegitimate action on the part of landowners. There was a
very large demand for English wool for foreign looms. Sheep-breeding
was seen to be highly lucrative, whereas tillage was not. The landowner
saw no sufficient reason why he should be called upon to provide
employment for a quantity of labour which brought him in a small
return, when the employment of a very little labour over the same area
would bring him a large return. Therefore he converted his arable
lands into pasture for sheep. Economic history abounds in cases of
the displacement of labour by the decay, temporary or permanent, of
some industry which is ceasing to be lucrative: it abounds also with
examples of legislative attempts to maintain the decaying industries,
and to compel some one or other to provide employment for the displaced
labour. Such attempts appear to be doomed to failure. No remedy has
yet been found except the development of fresh industries which in
course of time absorb that displaced labour. Even in the twentieth
century, that is a process which might take years to accomplish; in
the period which we are considering, the rural displacement took a
century to remedy. Political altruists, like More or Somerset, tried
to set legislation to work, but with the usual want of success. The
encouragement of commercial enterprise which begets new industries
was the only hopeful direction to work in, and to that Henry’s policy
tended; but it was not till Elizabeth’s government pursued the same
policy that the industrial situation was appreciably affected.
Legislation did a little towards checking the rapidity with which small
holdings were being absorbed into great estates, and great estates were
being converted into sheep-runs, but it never amounted to more than a
very feeble brake. The problem is one which still awaits a satisfactory
solution.


V

JUDICATURE

Bacon enumerates with applause a variety of good laws enacted by Henry.
He was not in fact remarkable as a legislator, but his modifications
of the law were all save one in the nature of removal of abuses. There
are, however, two of his enactments which demand special attention. The
first of these was the Act of 1487, which gave statutory recognition
to judicial functions which had for some time been exercised by the
Privy Council or a committee thereof, sitting in a room known as the
Star Chamber. In later days, this Court of Star Chamber was perverted
into an instrument of tyranny; in Henry’s time, it was the only
judicial body which was out of reach of the fear or suspicion of being
terrorised by a powerful noble. It had come into being because the
Sanction of the ordinary law was inadequate to deal with barons who
chose to over-ride the law. The Privy Council could make and enforce
its decrees without fear. Under these conditions, the powers it had
assumed were necessary to the assertion of the royal authority against
offenders who contemned the normal Courts.

Without the confident maintenance of the king’s authority against such
offenders, the recurrence of the anarchy of the last fifty years would
have constantly threatened; but it is obvious that the powers needed
to that end might be misused for the ends of tyranny. Yet for more
than a century the Court exercised its functions unmistakably for the
public weal. Henry’s Act is notable, not as creating the Court, but as
formally recognising and regulating its duties; a sound step, tending
to prevent its abuse, not to introduce its use.

The other Act, however, that of 1495, is not capable of any such
defence. It was abused from the beginning, and was the great instrument
of those exactions by the notorious Empson and Dudley, which so stain
the record of the latter half of Henry’s reign. Its repeal was one
of the first and most popular acts of his successor. It is to be
remembered, however, that though Empson and Dudley were not slow in
getting to their evil work, their grosser activities were exercised in
the last decade of the reign after Cardinal Morton’s decease. Henry
was never generous; but the thrift and “nearness” of his earlier
days took some time in developing into the grasping sordidness of
his later years. More than half his reign had passed before the term
extortionate could be applied to him without exaggeration. The Act,
when it was passed, purported to be, and probably was, intended to
prevent offenders against the law from escaping justice through lack
of an accuser. It permitted judges to institute in their own Courts,
on information laid by a resident in the district, proceedings for
offences not involving penalties affecting the life or limb of
the guilty party. Such men as Empson and Dudley, however, had no
difficulty--with partial if not complete connivance from the king--in
procuring information which would enable them under colour of law to
impose extortionate fines for the king’s benefit and incidentally to
extract from the victims very handsome perquisites for themselves.


VI

FOREIGN POLICY

The reign of Henry V. had made the English king as powerful a monarch
as any in Europe. The sixty-three years that intervened between his
death and the accession of Henry VII. saw England lose her pride of
place among the nations. On the other hand, the attempt of Charles
the Bold to create a central Burgundian kingdom had failed, while,
partly on the wreck of his schemes, Louis XI. had consolidated the
French monarchy, and the kingdom he left to Charles VIII. required
for its completion only the effective absorption of Brittany. The
union of Aragon and Castile by the marriage of Ferdinand and Isabella
had raised Spain to a new position, which in like manner lacked but
one thing, the conquest of the Moorish kingdom of Granada, for its
complete establishment. Maximilian, “King of the Romans,” heir to
Austria and practically heir to the Imperial crown, had strengthened
his own position by marrying the Duchess of Burgundy, Charles the
Bold’s daughter, and thus acquiring a paramount interest in the wealthy
Netherlands. England, with her internal turmoils and her lost military
prestige, had for the moment lost all weight in the counsels of Europe.
Even had the immediate termination of civil discord been assured, she
was too much exhausted to recover her place by force of arms; and as
long as there was a Yorkist Pretender at large, civil discord could not
be regarded as conclusively at an end. Nevertheless, even during the
years while his dynasty was threatened, the king’s diplomatic skill
completely changed the relations of England and the Continental Powers;
while his policy towards Scotland kept the normal hostility of the
Northern kingdom in check, and bore ultimate fruit in the union of the
crowns, a century afterwards. He did not, like Wolsey--his disciple as
far as methods were concerned--achieve or aim at a dominant position;
but when English interests were concerned, the voice of England could
not in his later years be neglected, as at the beginning of the reign.

He worked not by exploits in the stricken field but by diplomacy,
therein illustrating his modernity. He sent armies into Brittany
and Picardy, but they were intended to threaten, not to strike. He
found a kindred spirit in Ferdinand of Aragon: of whom Louis XII. in
later years complained that he had once cheated him. “He lies,” said
Ferdinand, with pride; “I have cheated him three times.” Ferdinand’s
respect was reserved for Henry, whom he could not cheat at all, or even
out-wit, which is not quite the same thing. Henry did not cheat--that
is, he did not break faith; but his engagements were always so
carefully hedged that the smallest evasion on the part of an ally could
be made an adequate ground for complete evasion on his own. He could
not prevent the absorption of Brittany; but the French king, as soon as
he turned his ambitions towards Italy, found that Henry could hamper
him so seriously that he willingly bought him off. Maximilian remained
impecunious--harmless, therefore, unless he could persuade some one
else to finance him--since the Netherlands declined to recognise his
authority. As for Ferdinand, Henry fought him with his own weapons; and
evenly matched as they were, the Englishman did not prove less adept
than the Spaniard. Their first treaty seemed a very one-sided affair;
but Henry in fact won by it that recognition which was of the first
importance to him at that early stage, while he appeared to render in
return a great deal more than he actually gave. In 1495, the Spanish
sovereigns attached so much value to his alliance that in spite of
haggling they were obliged next year to concede him his own terms,
which, though not extravagant, were much higher than they liked, and
very much higher than he would have ventured even to propose six or
seven years earlier. But they could still regard the betrothal of their
daughter Katherine to the Prince of Wales as something of an act of
grace on their part. Four years later, it is evident that they thought
Henry could better afford to break that marriage off than they could
themselves: and again a little later, when Prince Arthur died, they
were not a whit less desirous than Henry himself of betrothing the
young widow to the new Prince of Wales. This restoration of status
Henry achieved at the cost of nothing more than some military parade
which was very much more than recouped out of the French treasury.

The key to Henry’s success is to be found just in the fact that the
most astute of his rivals was quite unable to trick him; secondly, in
his skilful avoidance of any measures which committed him to a position
from which he could not retreat without loss of prestige. His value
to Spain lay chiefly in his ability to hamper France. Presently Spain
awoke to his capacity for restricting the hampering process precisely
within the limits which were convenient to himself, which might be very
much narrower than suited her. Presently again it appeared that he
might find it still more convenient to join hands with France, which
would minimise the use to be made of Maximilian. Instead of Henry being
in need of assistance against France, which might be doled out at the
convenience of Spain, Spain had to supply inducements to keep England
on her side. As a matter of fact, Henry to the last needed Ferdinand
quite as much as Ferdinand needed him, but succeeded in giving a
different impression.


VII

CHARACTER

Our survey so far seems to show conclusively that for some two-thirds
of his reign Henry conducted the business which had devolved upon
him not only with remarkable practical success but without at
all justifying the sinister impression of his character which is
indubitably prevalent. Yet, even without the record of his later years,
as to which something remains to be said, this unattractive impression
is not unnatural. We feel that a great ruler of a great nation ought to
have something about him, majestic, splendid, heroic. We even forgive a
man for evil deeds done in a grand style; we do not feel our admiration
stirred even by good deeds done in a pedestrian style. Magnanimity
loses its flavour when we scent policy in it. We are offended with
a king who is not kingly, and kingliness demands those Aristotelian
virtues which are generally rendered as Magnanimity and Magnificence.
They are attributes in which the seventh Henry is conspicuously
deficient.

A phrase at the beginning of the foregoing paragraph was employed
with definite intention. Henry treated kingship as a business. He
entered upon it very much as a new managing director might enter upon
the conduct of a great concern which demands re-organisation. He knows
that the retention of his position depends on his successfulness; that
success is possible only if he has a free hand, while his board likes
to think that it is exercising the real control. He has to establish
confidence in himself within, and to re-establish confidence in the
house without. He avoids palpable injustice; no one can call him
dishonest; he knows exactly how far he can trust clients, and rely
on the co-operation of other establishments in a joint policy; and
he makes that business a distinct success--but he is not very likely
to make himself personally popular, or in any sense an object of
enthusiasm. For that, something is needed over and above a strict and
capable attention to business; and the something over and above was
wanting in Henry Tudor. In keenness of intelligence, he was more than
a match for the most astute of living statesmen. The general rectitude
of his aims was commendable; the moderation of his methods was
meritorious. He did good service to the nation over which he ruled. He
was not cruel; he was not capricious; he was never guided by prejudice
or passion; but he remains hopelessly and irredeemably unsympathetic.

Yet had he died within a year or two of his best minister, his portion
would have been cold praise, but still praise. He outlived Morton by
nearly nine years, whose baleful shadow is over his whole career,
turning a negative into a positive dislike. For in those years every
baser quality of which there is any hint in the earlier days becomes
intensified.

He had always treated marriage primarily as an affair of politics,
as was natural and inevitable, but with a sufficient respect for its
moral aspects to keep him faithful to his own wife. Yet when his son
died, the idea of joining the widow to his second son had for him
none of that repulsion which it excited almost universally in his
day. It is even said that when his own queen died he contemplated
marrying Katherine himself. It is quite certain that he contemplated
marrying Katherine’s sister Joanna of Castile, although he knew her
to be mentally deranged. His economy degenerated into niggardliness;
his politic scheming to fill his treasury developed into a griping
greed for gold. Empson and Dudley carried on their nefarious work of
extortion with his knowledge and sanction. He grew vindictive, and when
Thomas More opposed a subsidy in the Parliament of 1504, he sought an
excuse for fining the father, and the “beardless boy” himself had to
retire into private life, lest a worse thing should befall him. He had
always considered himself at liberty to break the spirit of a promise
provided that he kept the letter; but, if tradition does not wrong him,
when the Earl of Suffolk was surrendered on promise that he would not
put him to death, he took care to suggest to the Prince of Wales that
the promise would not bind his heir when his time came.

The man revealed to us in these later years is ugly, sordid, very
unlovely. But this man does not truly or fairly present to us the
real Henry who restored order in England, and recovered for her a
respectable position among the nations; holding his own in a singularly
difficult situation and keeping at bay the onslaughts of an embittered
faction at the cost of a quite astonishingly small amount of bloodshed,
and with the minimum of anything that could reasonably be called
injustice towards antagonists. This at least England owes to him, that
he did more than any of his predecessors to lay the foundations of her
commercial greatness; that he recognised more clearly than any of them
the benefit of her maritime development.

The man moreover was not altogether lacking in some finer qualities
which seem to have withered when his degeneration set in. He who
seems almost an incarnation of chill-blooded, unemotional craftiness
was capable of very human and very tender feeling. A record from the
hand of an anonymous contemporary, when his son Arthur died, has been
transcribed before, and is worth transcribing again.

“In the year of our Lord God 1502, the second day of April, in the
castle of Ludlow, deceased Prince Arthur, first begotten son of our
sovereign Lord, King Henry the Seventh, and in the 17th year of his
reign. Immediately after his death Sir Richard Poole his Chamberlain,
with other of his Council, wrote and sent letters to the King and
Council to Greenwich, where his Grace and the Queen’s lay, and
certified them of the Prince’s departure. The which Council discreetly
sent for the King’s ghostly father, a friar observant, to whom they
showed this most sorrowful and heavy tidings, and desired him in his
best manner to show it to the King. He in the morning of the Tuesday
following, and somewhat before the time accustomed, knocked at the
King’s chamber door; and when the King understood that it was his
Confessor, he commanded to let him in. The Confessor then commanded all
those there present to avoid, and after one salutation began to say _Si
bona de Manu Domini suscipimus, mala autem quare non sustineamus?_ and
so showed his Grace that his dearest son was departed to God. When his
Grace understood that sorrowful heavy tidings he sent for the Queen,
saying that he and his Queen would take the painful sorrows together.
After that she was come, and saw the King her lord and that natural and
painful sorrow, as I have heard say, she with full great and constant
comfortable words, besought his Grace that he would, first after God,
remember the weal of his own noble person, the comfort of his realm
and of her. She then said that my lady his mother had never no more
children but him only, and that God by his grace had ever preserved him
and brought him where that he was; over that, how that God had left
him yet a fair prince, two fair princesses; and that God is where he
was, and we are both young enough; and that the prudence and wisdom of
his Grace sprung over all Christendom, so that it should please him
to take this accordingly thereunto. Then the King thanked her of her
good comfort. After that she was departed and come to her own chamber,
natural and motherly loss smote her so sorrowful to the heart, that
those that were about her were fain to send for the King to comfort
her. Then his Grace, of true, gentle, and faithful love, in good haste
came and relieved her, and showed her how wise counsel she had given
him before; and he for his part would thank God for his son, and would
she should do in like wise.”

That story, obviously derived from an actual witness, gives a fine
impression of Elizabeth; but it no less obviously implies a very
genuine affection subsisting between her and Henry, and a very
sincere devotion in both to their son. Henry, however, was by nature
a reserved and somewhat lonely man, and Elizabeth’s death not long
after deprived him of the last softening influence. His whole life
had been a tremendous strain. His boyhood and early manhood aged him
prematurely. From the day that he landed in England to wrest the
sceptre from Richard, the strain had never relaxed; the bow had never
been slackened. At five-and-forty, he may well have been as much worn
out as are men less severely tried twenty-five years later in life.
The work he had to do was anything but inspiriting; he did it with
dogged patience. The task was thankless, and he got little thanks. It
was accomplished ungraciously, and he receives no grace in return. A
dreary life, and a dreary reign; yet the reign is not without admirable
qualities, nor the life without gleams of nobility.



CARDINAL WOLSEY


I

APPRECIATIONS

                              He was a man
    Of an unbounded stomach, ever ranking
    Himself with princes; one that by suggestion
    Tied all the kingdom: simony was fair-play:
    His own opinion was his law: i’ the presence
    He would say untruths and be ever double,
    Both in his words and meaning. He was never,
    But when he meant to ruin, pitiful:
    His promises were, as he then was, mighty:
    But his performance, as he is now, nothing.

In these words, Shakespeare or another has summed up the character of
the great Cardinal as it presented itself to his enemies. As Katharine
painted him, posterity has for the most part regarded him. Men who have
risen from the ranks, and in their prosperity assume the state and
splendour appropriate to hereditary position, are rarely popular. When
they are so, it is because they have identified their names in some
sort with popular causes. Of all the statesmen who for a long term of
years controlled or seemed to control the destinies of England, not one
perhaps has found apologists so few as Thomas Wolsey.

Of recent years, however, there has been a change. It has hardly
yet made its way into popular accounts; but the attitude of serious
historians has been at least largely modified by the publication of the
State Papers under the editorship of the late Dr. Brewer, and of his
Introductions to those volumes. The doctrine used to be that Wolsey was
a man of exceeding arrogance who acquired a pernicious mastery over the
mind of Henry VIII., and whose political achievement consisted mainly
in a miserably fruitless meddling with foreign affairs in which England
had no concern, dictated by an insatiable ambition for the Papal crown.
Whereas Dr. Brewer and Bishop Creighton after him have laid it down
that Wolsey raised England from the position of a third or fourth-rate
Power to an equality with the greatest nations in Europe.

During the years of his power, it is at least clear that Wolsey did
achieve for England such a position among the nations as she had not
held, at any rate since the days of Henry V.; and that he did this,
not, like Henry V., by aggressive militarism, but by diplomatic skill:
that he sought to be, and to a great extent succeeded in being, the
pacificator of Europe as well as the aggrandiser of England. In his
aim and method, however, he followed in the footsteps of Henry VII.,
and his policy was a natural development, though a vast extension, of
that laid down by that astute monarch. And in the second aspect of his
policy, he was again developing that of the old king, in striving to
make the power of the Crown independent alike of the old nobility and
of Parliament.

[Illustration: _CARDINAL WOLSEY_

_From a Painting by_ HOLBEIN _in the collection at Christ Church,
Oxford_]

But a recent biographer[A] has ventured so far as to declare that
“Wolsey stands out as the greatest statesman England has ever produced;
and it is not going beyond what records reveal if we say his was the
master-mind of his age”--the age of Erasmus and Luther.

      [A] Taunton, “Thomas Wolsey, Legate and Reformer,” p. 3.

That is unfortunately a species of criticism which excites the spirit
of hostility. Wolsey was of that type of politicians, rare in England,
who have made foreign affairs their first interest: also he was, what
probably no other Englishman ever has been, beyond all comparison the
ablest diplomatist among his contemporaries. Diplomacy is a field in
which the reputation of England does not stand high. But one asks
at once--What in fact did his diplomacy achieve? And, diplomacy
apart, the great upheaval which issued in the Reformation was in full
activity when Wolsey was at the height of his power and influence. The
master-mind of his age therefore could hardly have failed to leave his
mark on the Reformation. What did Wolsey accomplish--nay, what did he
even attempt to accomplish--in that connexion?


II

CARDINALIS PACIFICATOR

Thomas Wolsey was born probably in 1471. His father was a citizen of
Norwich--a grazier. The popular voice calls him a butcher. The boy was
sent very young to Oxford, taking his degree when he was only fourteen
years old, and otherwise achieving high distinction. At Magdalen he
remained, fulfilling various college functions till the end of 1499.
Before that date, John Colet, five years his senior, had commenced his
famous course of lectures, introducing a new style of scholarship and
a new type of biblical criticism. Thomas More, seven years his junior,
had finished his University career. Erasmus had paid Oxford a flying
visit. There is no trace of any personal association between Wolsey and
these lights of the new school: yet there is no doubt whatever that
as an educationist he was in close sympathy with them. The facts are
therefore the more significant of some incompatibility of temperament:
for we should naturally have expected scholars, agreed upon an
innovating theory, to have been drawn together.

Acting at this time in a tutorial capacity to the sons of the
Marquess of Dorset, Wolsey was rewarded by a living at Limington: and
the ex-bursar of Magdalen was in a very short time a quite notable
pluralist, and in close personal relations with various important
personages, culminating in his appointment as Chaplain to Henry VII.
in 1506. The king, whose only living rival in diplomatic astuteness
was Ferdinand of Spain, was prompt to discern the kindred abilities of
his new servant, who within a year or two was successfully employed to
carry through important negotiations both in Flanders and in Scotland.

In April 1509 the old king died. His successor was hailed with
acclamation on all hands. Of splendid physique, and glowing with
martial ardour as was natural in a healthy boy of eighteen, the
military section of society saw in him promise of a revival of the
glories of Agincourt. The scholars too claimed their part in him,
as he joyously claimed fellowship with them. The populace shouted
applause when the detested Empson and Dudley were sent to the block.
The veterans who occupied the chief thrones of Europe dreamed that the
innocent youth would be to them as clay in the hands of the potter.
Every one was satisfied.

For a little while all went merrily. The English nobles thirsted
for war with France: Ferdinand and Maximilian had no difficulty in
persuading the young monarch that in alliance with them he might
achieve the laurels for which he hankered. He was to begin the
fighting, they were to play at supporting him, and if by good luck
something more substantial than laurels should be achieved, that of
course would go to his partners.

Wolsey’s old pupil the Marquess of Dorset was sent to Spain in command
of the expedition which was to begin the war, with the conquest of
Guienne in view. Dorset’s army wanted beer: they could only get wine,
which they considered thin. In effect they went on strike, and insisted
on coming home again. The marquess brought them back ignominiously,
without so much as a laurel-leaf.

Fox, Bishop of Winchester, perhaps the best of the old king’s surviving
ministers, had been pressed into the background by the warlike nobles;
but he had succeeded in introducing into the Council the man who was
to sweep the nobles themselves into the background. Wolsey was nobody
in particular, but he was a very clever man with immense organising
ability and an infinite capacity for detail and for hard work. The
fiasco was not repeated. In 1513, the army of invasion went to its
proper field, Picardy. It was not a haphazard picnic party, and it
captured Terouenne and Tournai. In the meantime, Surrey was shattering
the Scots army at Flodden. A few months later, Henry had discovered
that Ferdinand and Maximilian were using him as a cat’s-paw. Again a
few months passed, and Wolsey had beaten them at their own game. France
and England were in alliance. Then the uncontrollable changed the face
of things. King Louis died: Francis I. succeeded. But the brief dream
of the old kings had been finally dissipated: Henry was going to be
nobody’s cats-paw. He had found a minister more than worthy to follow
in his father’s footsteps.

In 1515 Wolsey was fully established not as the king’s chief adviser,
but in effect as his sole minister. In 1513 he was not yet guiding
the king’s policy: his work was mainly administrative. In 1514
the distinctive principle of his policy comes into full play. The
anti-Gallic theory is discarded. Thenceforth, the hand of England is
not against any Power in particular. As Foreign Minister, Wolsey’s
business is to see that the balance of power is maintained; that no
one prince shall be too far aggrandised; that each of them shall be a
check on the aggression of others; that all shall maintain a habitual
attitude of concession to England for the sake of her support; and that
this is to be effected without involving England in actual warfare.
Ferdinand dies in 1516; Maximilian in 1519. Charles V. succeeds both to
Spain and to the Empire. In the latter year, the destinies of Europe
are in the hands of three monarchs not one of whom is thirty years
old. Wolsey during the following years remains in effect the arbiter
of Europe till his hand is forced by Henry, and he finds himself
compelled to overt hostility with France. After the disaster of Pavia,
the blunder becomes manifest; his own policy is again allowed free
play, and the old domination is all but recovered when the affair of
the divorce wipes all other questions out of the field. The king’s
will must be carried out at all costs. Failing therein, the Cardinal
falls--irretrievably.

Two leading facts emerge. First: so long as Wolsey is allowed a free
hand to carry out his own policy, he does it with complete success.
Second: if the king elects to lay down a different policy, the Cardinal
has to carry that policy through as best he may. The idea that he ruled
the king is entirely fallacious. For some years, the king had the
wisdom to recognise that his minister’s views were sound. Then his
anti-Gallic leanings dominated him. Then he perceived his error, and
reverted to his minister’s policy; till again a purely personal motive
intervened, and policy again went to the winds. Since the personal
motive could not be satisfied without a revolution, Henry conducted
the revolution himself. The _rôle_ the king required of his minister
was one demanding other abilities than those of the Cardinal, and the
Cardinal was thrown to the wolves.

Effectively then it is true to say that while Wolsey held sway in
England, he was the arbiter of Europe. Whether it was for the good
of England that she should concern herself with being the arbiter of
Europe is another matter. It may be argued that the less she has to do
with Europe the better for her. But the theory of splendid isolation
for Great Britain is not the same thing as that theory applied to
England when Scotland was an independent nation in habitual alliance
with France, and always ready for hostilities. Even after Flodden the
menace on the Northern Border had to be taken into perpetual count.
Moreover, the advocates of that doctrine must still recognise that the
opposite view is legitimately maintainable; and it follows that the
statesman who, acting on the opposite view, successfully upheld English
predominance without plunging the country into sanguinary wars, is
entitled to a very high meed of praise.

Yet this does not express the whole of Wolsey’s achievement: for, when
he began to guide England’s policy, he had to win position for her,
not merely to maintain a position already held--a hard enough task
in itself. To say that she was no more than a third or fourth-rate
Power is an exaggeration. It was true in 1485: it had ceased to be
true in 1500. Long before the close of his reign, the first Tudor had
made himself a person of very considerable importance, whom none of
the continental Powers dreamed of ignoring, and with whom they treated
on something very like equal terms. This, however, was in no small
degree a matter of personal prestige. Henry’s reputation for astuteness
stood so high, not to speak of his credit for accumulated wealth, that
the Courts of the continent paid England’s king an amount of respect
which they would not have rendered to the power of England. With the
removal of his personality, England dropped to a lower plane, but
certainly did not become a negligeable quantity. If there was a brief
disposition to regard her not as negligeable but as futile, that was
due merely to the hastily formed conclusion that the young king was
a tender innocent. The old Henry’s position was recovered the moment
that Wolsey’s abilities were recognised. The marriage of the young
princess Mary to the old King of France in 1514, was precisely the kind
of stroke which Henry VII. would have made. It marked the fact that in
any leagues or combinations which foreign princes might contemplate, an
England thoroughly alive to her own interests, and thoroughly capable
of safe-guarding them, must be reckoned with. In producing this result,
Wolsey’s administrative ability as well as his diplomatic skill had
played no small part; since to that was owing, in a great degree, the
successes which attended the English arms in 1513; successes which were
effective reminders that what English troops had done before they might
learn to do again.

So far, however, what Wolsey had done was little if at all more than
to restore the position of 1508; though this was accompanied by a
suggestion that English interference in Continental affairs might be
of a less purely defensive order than it had been under the late king.
The suggestion was very soon to be turned into fact; and for some
years kings and emperors and popes were to find that, whatever designs
they might have in hand, they would have no chance of carrying them
out beyond the point which Wolsey might be induced to sanction. The
distinguishing feature of Wolsey’s method was his reliance on purely
diplomatic action, to which end he had the aid of a particularly
capable subordinate in Richard Pace. The Cardinal habitually posed as
an arbitrator, composing the differences of Christendom and maintaining
that general peace which it was theoretically the special function of
the Roman Pontiff to secure.

For Ferdinand of Aragon, the leading idea was always to find an ally
who could be inveigled into doing his fighting for him without any
return. For Maximilian, the leading idea was to find an ally who would
subsidise him to do the fighting while he could evade his own part of
the bargain. Wolsey, by his alliance with Louis XII., turned the tables
on both of them. The alliance itself was practically terminated by the
accession of Francis in January 1515. France reaped the immediate
profit, for neither Spain nor the emperor would risk a course which
depended for success on a mutual fulfilment of obligations. Ferdinand
became friendly to Francis, but without any intention of giving him
effective support. When the latter’s progress in Italy seemed likely
to be too rapid, Wolsey entered into relations with Maximilian which
served as a check on Francis without filling the emperor’s purse. When
Ferdinand died, Charles, his successor, was only sixteen, and though
his counsellors were well disposed to France, being mainly Flemings,
there was no present prospect of vigorous intervention on his behalf.
Active hostility on the part of England would be dangerous, and when
Maximilian in turn died, both Charles and Francis were suitors for the
favour of the supreme minister in England. The turn of the wheel had
made them inevitable rivals. The imperial election went in favour of
Charles, that being less dangerous than the success of Francis would
have been, and it was now Wolsey’s policy to hold the balance between
the two. An era of universal peace was inaugurated; Charles and Francis
did not join in formal alliance, but England united with each of them.


III

WOLSEY AND THE FRENCH WAR

The inauguration of an era of universal peace is usually the prelude
to a war. A year after the Field of the Cloth of Gold, Charles and
Francis were on the verge of hostilities. Wolsey negotiated with both,
ostensibly to bring about an accord. But in fact, England was committed
to support Charles: and the responsibility was with the Cardinal.

The conclusion to which the circumstances point is that the pressure
was too great for him to resist. Popular sentiment in England was
opposed to the French alliance. The queen was a warm adherent of her
young kinsman. The king was personally jealous of the achievements
of Francis, and had visions of the French crown or at least of the
recovery of Guienne. Wolsey probably felt that if he tried to maintain
his own policy he would alienate Henry, and if he alienated Henry--who
had just annihilated Buckingham--he would meet Buckingham’s fate amid
universal applause, and the anti-French policy would triumph in any
case. He elected to carry out the anti-French policy and remain at the
helm. Hostile critics would suggest that he was actuated by the desire
of obtaining the support of the emperor when the Papacy should become
vacant. Charles failed to keep his promise when Leo died, and gave his
support to another candidate; but neither then nor in the following
year when Clement VII. was elected--again with the support of
Charles--did Wolsey show any sign of changing his policy in consequence.

The English people had wanted the war; when they got it they paid for
it at first cheerfully. But no advantage accrued, not even appreciable
glory, and they tired of it. After Pavia, Henry thought the opportunity
had come to strike for the French crown; but such an effort demanded
more money. The business of getting it of course devolved on the
Cardinal. There was no hope of obtaining it legitimately from a
Parliament; Wolsey tried illegitimate methods--and failed. There was
no alternative but to drop the war policy. Wolsey made an advantageous
peace, and Charles promptly found himself obliged to come to terms with
Francis. But it is clear that from this moment Wolsey’s position with
his master became painfully uncertain.

Here then is the practical termination of Wolsey’s great period.
After this, the king is absorbed by the divorce, and the minister,
willy-nilly, must devote himself to that object--his own ruin being
the alternative. His diplomatic labours achieved no permanent result,
because the position won for England could only be maintained by
continuity of diplomatic effort and diplomatic skill. After her own
very different fashion, Elizabeth fifty years later was balancing
continental forces, and manipulating them to her own ends, in a manner
much less impressive and often indeed singularly undignified, but
certainly not less successful. And with her, the result was that the
England which Philip of Spain had hoped to make an appanage of his
own established herself as the indisputable mistress of the seas. The
change in the relative position of England between 1558 and 1588 was
far greater than between 1508 and 1528.

But Elizabeth worked with a perfectly free hand. Wolsey worked for a
master, who was quite capable of wrecking the minister’s schemes for
a purely personal end. He had to persuade that master to sanction
a policy which he never adopted with enthusiasm. He had to carry
it through in spite of the hostility of the governing classes, the
ill-will of the queen--who was still on terms of accord with her
husband--and his own extreme unpopularity with the mob. That is, he
had to work single-handed amidst extremely adverse conditions; and all
the circumstances being taken together, it may fairly be said that he
displayed a diplomatic genius unique among English statesmen.


IV

DOMESTIC POLICY

In the field of foreign affairs Wolsey’s policy and his methods were
both derived from Henry VII.: or perhaps it would be more accurate to
say he applied the same methods to a development of the same policy.
The invaluable make-weight was converted into the inevitable arbiter:
the means, a process of peaceful bargain-driving. The bargains were
usually in both cases profitable for England. Incidentally, they
generally contained unwritten clauses which were profitable also to the
Cardinal. There is no reason to suppose that any case occurred in which
Wolsey permitted essentials to be in the slightest degree affected by
considerations of his own gain. But he himself would never have thought
of disputing that he accumulated great profits out of his diplomatic
transactions.

The first objective then of Wolsey’s policy was the establishment of
England not merely as an important factor but as the dominant factor
in European politics: therein going beyond anything that Henry VII.
had contemplated, but still acting on lines laid down by him. In his
second objective, he was still a disciple of the old king. This was the
establishment of the Crown as a practical autocracy.

The primary condition of an absolutist government was a full treasury;
and here Wolsey had the immense advantage of the great hoards
accumulated during the last reign. In spite of the heavy expenditure
involved in ministering to the king’s pleasures, and on such pageantry
as the Field of the Cloth of Gold, government in Wolsey’s hands was
economically conducted. The great revenues which fell into his own
hands not merely from the numerous preferments he held in England,
but also from foreign sources, enabled him to defray the magnificence
of his own establishment, public as well as private: and there were
indirect methods of throwing much of the cost of the Court upon private
persons. It was not till 1523 that the Cardinal found himself forced
to look to the country for supplies by the necessities of a war budget.
For very nearly ten years he had carried on the government without
calling Parliament, although it had hardly been summoned during the
preceding decade; under a continuance of the same _régime_, England
might have become accustomed to doing almost without Parliament.

The second principle in establishing absolutism was the further
depression of the nobility, who--again, as in the days of Henry
VII.--were steadily kept from offices of State. Even the Howards
exercised no control; and the most powerful of all, the Duke of
Buckingham, was suddenly brought to the block. In that, as in
everything the king did that was unpopular, the minister was charged
with being the moving spirit, and his determination to destroy all
rivals was accounted the moving cause. As a matter of fact, the duke’s
execution fitted in with the Cardinal’s policy: but there is no direct
ground for supposing that he had any active share in the matter. On the
whole, there is no evidence that he was particularly vindictive. Still,
personal ambition apart, since none of the nobles would willingly
have been associated with him as a colleague it was necessary to the
carrying out of his policy that his rivals should have their talons
pared as far as possible; and also of course that there should be none
powerful enough to form a disaffected party. Wolsey knew that, except
for one or two ecclesiastics who had already in effect retired from the
political arena, he stood practically alone. He had to make himself
necessary to the king, and, since he could not be loved by the nobles,
it undoubtedly suited him that they should fear him. In the result he
succeeded so completely in destroying all possibility of opposition to
Henry’s will that there was no man in the kingdom whom the king could
not destroy if he chose merely to raise a finger.

Successful as he was in building up the power of the Crown, he was
still apparently at the height of his own influence when he learnt
that the power of the purse still lay elsewhere; and the king learnt
a very important lesson at the same time--a lesson which he was to
turn to account before very long--the importance of conciliating
popular sentiment. Money was needed for the French war. Wolsey would
have treated the Parliament, called to provide it, as a mere passive
instrument for carrying out the royal behest. Had the House of Commons
in 1523 suffered itself to be brow-beaten, it would have virtually
surrendered its place in the Constitution. The House refused to be
brow-beaten: it refused point-blank to discuss or to vote in the
Cardinal’s presence. When he retired in wrath, a substantial sum was
voted, but as a free grant to the king, not obligatory. Two years
later, more money was wanted. Wolsey did not dare to ask a Parliament
for it. He resorted to Benevolences, and found the citizens of London
obstinate in their assertion that Benevolences were illegal. However
willing Parliaments or burgesses might be to leave measures to the king
and his minister, they were absolutely determined to provide nothing
out of their own pockets unless their own consent had first been
obtained through strictly constitutional channels.

In this thing Henry was quick to prove himself shrewder than the
Cardinal. Like his daughter after him, he had an intuitive perception
of the national temper, and lost no time in repudiating the idea of
coercion. His personal popularity was doubled, and all the odium for
the attempt fell upon the minister. But the scheme towards which he was
strongly predisposed had been foiled, and Wolsey, though the result
favoured his own views, knew that it would be fatal to him if he failed
a second time to give effect to the king’s desires.

Therefore the Cardinal now gave himself up to the effort to meet his
master’s demands in the matter on which he had set his heart, the
separation from Katharine. But in this one matter, success for him was
sufficiently improbable from the outset, and as time went on events
which he was wholly unable to control made it a sheer impossibility. He
failed, and the failure spelt his ruin. Giving himself utterly to the
king’s service, his compliance did not save him. Hitherto he had been
a statesman, pursuing ends which certainly magnified both his country
and his sovereign with extraordinary ability and amazing success, by
methods certainly not more unscrupulous than were sanctioned by the
universal practice of the time. Now he devoted himself to an object
wholly unworthy, which he must have felt to be utterly unrighteous. The
king for whom he degraded himself served him--characteristically. Did
the fallen man feel that his punishment was just, even while the hand
that dealt it was supremely unjust? It would seem so. The sentiment, if
not the words, which Shakespeare put in his mouth is authentic:

                    O Cromwell, Cromwell!
    Had I but served my God with half the zeal
    I served my king, he would not in mine age
    Have left me naked to mine enemies.


V

THE DIVORCE

The whole story of the divorce is an ugly one; no amount of sophistry
will ever make it anything else. Mr. Froude succeeded in persuading
himself that pure unsullied patriotism was Henry’s ruling motive: and
brings himself, apparently with some difficulty, to grant a qualified
pardon to Katharine for her resistance, on the ground that after all
she was a woman, and weak. If Henry had acted as some others have done,
and had taken up definitely the position that by hook or by crook the
legalisation of a new marriage for him was a national necessity, in
order that a male heir to the throne might be born, the issue would
have been a plain one. If bigamy could be justified on the grounds of
national expediency, there was a decently good case for authorising
a bigamous union. To provide a technical trick for evading the form
of bigamy would no doubt have made the process easier, not affecting
the ethics of it one way or other. But it followed logically that
national interests alone were first to be taken into consideration in
the selection of the new spouse. The fact that in that choice Henry was
guided by passion and no other consideration whatever is sufficient
proof that the actuating motive with him was not _salus populi suprema
lex_. The grotesque nemesis by which later on Henry found himself with
three acknowledged children of his body of whom two were born in what
was supposed to be wedlock, both in virtue of marriages which the
Courts had subsequently declared void, while the third, a boy, had no
pretensions to legitimate birth--that nemesis is really a _reductio ad
absurdum_ of the whole position.

If on the other hand the awakening of Henry’s conscientious scruples
had not coincided with a violent passion for another woman it would
have been easier to believe that they were genuine, and that all he
really wanted--as he frequently affirmed--was to have those scruples
allayed. A genuine doubt would assuredly have demanded an authoritative
pronouncement. Unfortunately, he made it perfectly clear that no
authority could allay the scruples; he was absolutely determined that
the Pope and the Cardinal between them must see to it that the doubts
should be confirmed.

The precise stage at which Henry discovered that the weal of his people
required a male heir of his body at any cost; at which his conscience
began to question the validity of the dispensation under which he had
married Katharine; at which he determined that Anne Boleyn should
supplant the queen: all these are matter of some doubt. It is fairly
clear that in 1526--certainly in 1527--if not before, Wolsey had been
made aware that the king was desirous of exchanging Katharine for Anne;
that Wolsey on his knees entreated the king to think better of it; that
he found the king obdurate. There is no sign at all that the ethics of
the divorce troubled Wolsey in any way; on the other hand no one has
ever questioned that the Boleyn marriage was a thing hateful to him
from every point of view. But he had to choose between lending himself
to the king’s desire and rushing on his own ruin. Perhaps there are
not many men who would have dared to take the nobler course; Wolsey,
_deteriora secutus_, none the less fell.

It would seem that Wolsey first set himself to discover some legal
expedient for nullifying the marriage, hit upon the idea that the
dispensation granted by Julius was invalid, and tried more than one
scheme with a view to its being pronounced invalid--hoping, it may
be, that the law’s delays would give the king time to get over his
infatuation for Anne, and that when--if ever--he should be legally free
to take a new wife, the new wife would be a more fitting person.

First of all then, Wolsey, as Papal Legate, took steps for holding a
Legatine Court in England before which the issue should be tried. But
this plan contained a material flaw. Katharine might appeal to the
Pope against the decision of the Legatine Court, and Wolsey, in the
event of such appeal, would become a mere party in the suit instead
of a judge. The Pope therefore must be induced either to give a
favourable pronouncement on his own account, or to appoint a Legatine
Court _ad hoc_--a Court whose judgment would be final. A very difficult
matter; for precisely at this time the recent misfortunes of France
were bearing their fruit: the emperor became entirely predominant in
Italy, and obtained complete control of Clement--and the emperor was
Katharine’s most affectionate nephew. So the hapless Pope, who was
very anxious to keep friends with Henry but was naturally even more
anxious not to offend Charles, desired above everything to evade giving
a decision himself. On the other hand, Wolsey felt that there must be
no pretext for subsequently questioning the legality of the process
by which the dispensation was to be quashed, and therefore it was
imperative that in form that process should convey the Papal sanction.
Besides this, he had a very powerful personal reason for insisting on
it. In England the Boleyn connection, who knew perfectly well what were
Wolsey’s views about Anne, were working hard and not without success
to destroy the king’s trust in the Cardinal, who saw his influence
tottering. Failure to procure the divorce would certainly mean for him
destruction; success, followed by the Boleyn marriage, would place more
power in the hands of the most hostile faction, and he would be left
absolutely alone to bear the whole obloquy of an extremely unpopular
measure, unless the ultimate responsibility could be forced on the
reluctant Pope.

As far as Wolsey was concerned, Clement won the game after apparently
yielding. A Legatine Commission was appointed, but Campeggio was
associated with Wolsey as judge: he managed to spend the best part
of a year in reaching England; it was in fact fifteen months after
the appointment that the Court began its sittings. A few weeks later,
the Pope revoked the case to Rome. For all practical purposes, the
revocation sealed the Cardinal’s fate.

For two years past Wolsey’s position, for all that it seemed to the
world so assured, had been extremely precarious. The king had sent
one agent to Rome behind his minister’s back. The agent’s mission
failed ignominiously, but the thing was significant. Wolsey had gone
to France on a diplomatic errand; on his return, instead of being
summoned to a confidential meeting with the king, he found Anne Boleyn
in the presence. He had been soundly rated by the king because, in
appointing an abbess to Wilton, he had rejected a most unsuitable
_protégée_ of the Boleyns. He knew the stake for which he was playing:
he can hardly have doubted, from the beginning of what was called “The
King’s Affair,” that his fate was bound up with success or failure.
The illusion that he ruled the king was one from which it does not
appear that he ever suffered himself. All he did was to rule England
and English policy precisely so long as he retained the personal
favour of the king, and his policy did not clash with any of the royal
predilections.

In this matter of the “divorce,” Wolsey has found an earnest apologist
in Father Taunton. In his view, it would seem that the Cardinal was
justified, because he believed that there really was a technical flaw
in the form of the dispensation as granted by Pope Julius: if there
was such a flaw, the king was entitled to the benefit of it: and its
existence would enable the Pope to quash the dispensation, without so
much as raising the question whether the granting of it at all was
_ultra vires_ for any Pope. Now the ingenuity of the lawyer who wins
his client’s case on a technical quibble may be admired--in a way: the
ingenuity of the ecclesiastic, who would have provided the Pope with a
golden bridge for evading an awkward question, is also to be admired.
But in presenting these grounds for admiration, the last possibility of
a _moral_ defence is given away. Persons honestly believing that the
relation between Henry and Katharine was by the moral law incestuous,
and could not be otherwise, despite any possible Papal dispensation,
were entitled to urge the dissolution of their union. But if that
relation was not inherently immoral, and was capable of being made
legal as well, then the barest sense of justice demanded, that no
dubious point of law should be brought in, in order to engineer a
dissolution.

The whole case for Wolsey, according to Father Taunton, rests precisely
on this very dubious point of law. The dispensation was formally
drawn to make the marriage between Henry and Katharine lawful even
if affinity had been contracted. But in the ordinary course, as the
law stood, a woman being not married but fully betrothed to a man
might not--although no actual marriage had taken place--marry that
man’s brother, her doing so being against “public honesty.” Since the
greater includes the less, and the whole includes the part, it would
seem obvious that a dispensation covering the actual marriage _ipso
facto_ covered the pre-contract. Yet the apologist would have it that
the Cardinal was satisfied to rest the _whole_ case for nullifying the
marriage on the position that the dispensation was technically invalid
because it did not specifically refer to “public honesty” as well as to
affinity. Such was the contemptible quibble by which the “master-mind
of his age” was prepared to procure a pronouncement that Katharine was
no wife--so that the Papacy might escape an awkward dilemma.

It is at least intelligible to maintain that circumstances may arise
under which, for the public safety, flagrant injustice towards an
individual may be and ought to be committed. That is undoubtedly the
feeling at the bottom of Mr. Froude’s argument. Possibly also it was
at the back of Father Taunton’s mind; but he does not put it forward.
If the doctrine itself be admitted, a loyal son of the Roman Church
is perhaps entitled to hold that it was right to sacrifice Katharine
in order to avoid raising a question extremely inconvenient to the
Papacy. Perhaps also that view is the excuse least derogatory to Wolsey
which can be offered. A review, however, of the entire context of the
documents which Father Taunton cites in part points rather to the
conclusion that the Cardinal did mean to argue that--dispensation or
no dispensation--affinity was an absolute bar; and intended to fall
back on the quibble only as a last desperate resort if the contraction
of affinity were disproved; that he at least wished to find the moral
ground for nullity maintained, but, if that should prove impossible,
was prepared to surrender the extreme Papal claim.

The view of the whole business resulting from a consideration of all
the facts so far as they can be certainly ascertained is entirely
consistent with the rest of the Cardinal’s career. Ambition made him
desire power; like other men of great intellect and strong will, he
knew himself fitted to hold it; like many other statesmen, and with
a good deal more reason than some, he imagined himself the only safe
guide for the State; and he knew that if he once fell there would
be for him no recovery. About 1526, when for a dozen years he had
been the greatest figure in the eyes of the Western world, he found
himself presented with a dilemma. He must execute the king’s will in a
particular matter--or fall.

The king’s will would at least serve the State well in one respect if
it issued in providing a male heir to the throne. Also, if the marriage
were really contrary to the moral law and outside the dispensing power,
it would be in the interest of public morals that the fact should be
declared. So far, no one could possibly be blamed for maintaining the
king’s case. That was the line subsequently taken by Cranmer. But
for Wolsey the situation was much more difficult than for Cranmer,
because for Wolsey it was a _sine qua non_ that the Pope’s official
authority should be maintained. He could not, therefore, adopt any
course which ignored that authority even so far as by not requiring its
open sanction: much less could he, like Cranmer, defy it. Whether, for
the sake of preserving that authority the more rigidly, he intended
to ignore the one moral defence for the desired measure and content
himself with pleading a legal quibble, is a question that can be
argued; but it is quite clear that he was prepared to do so in the last
resort. In short, if the only way to avoid his own downfall was by
sacrificing an innocent victim, the innocence of the victim should not
save her. He would have preferred, no doubt, that the sacrifice should
not be made, but, under the circumstances, he did not hesitate. His
moral plane was too conventionally low for the alternative course. More
or Fisher would have acted otherwise. But the successful statesman who
is ready to commit political suicide rather than actively participate
in an unrighteous deed which he cannot prevent, is not often to be
met with. And Wolsey had the further excuse that he hoped to save
the Church, as he conceived it, from the disastrous results which he
foresaw if the matter fell into other hands.


VI

WOLSEY AND THE REFORMATION

From the attitude of Wolsey to the Papacy in the matter of the divorce,
we are naturally led to a consideration of his whole position in
matters ecclesiastical and religious.

The great revolution which we call the Reformation had two main
aspects. Employing the term “the Church” as representing not the whole
body of professing Christians but the clerical organisation: the
Reformation in the first place changed everywhere, though in varying
degrees, the relation of the secular governments to the Church within
their borders; in the second place it changed the relations of the
various geographical sections of the Church to the whole Catholic body
of which they were members. Thus the State in England assumed a new
attitude to the Church in England, and the Church in England as well as
the State was placed in a new relation to the Roman pontificate. These
changes were essentially political.

In its second aspect, the Reformation was a religious revolution; a
revision of ethical standards; a revival of that ardour of sentiment
and of conviction whereof martyrs are born; a spiritual movement,
accompanied by a doctrinal upheaval. That portion of Christendom which
adhered to the Roman pontificate, confining its doctrinal modifications
within the limits set by the Council of Trent, arrogated to itself
the title of Catholic. The rest arrogated to themselves the title
of the Reformed Churches, accepting the general label of Protestants
originally appropriate only to the Lutheran section. Like all political
labels, all three of these terms were incorrect, “Protestant” being
improperly extended, while the “Reformed” Churches might be Catholic,
and the “Catholic” Church was itself reformed. Perhaps it would be of
advantage rather to treat the doctrinal Reformation as a third aspect,
and to distinguish the great actors by the parts they played in the
political, the religious, and the doctrinal Reformations respectively,
whether in restraining or in promoting change. Thus, religion did not
enter into the programme of Henry VIII.; as to doctrine he certainly
was not a reformer; politically, he emerged as a revolutionary. Men
like More and Colet were ardent reformers of religion; in theology and
on the political side, they were conservative. Luther, Calvin and Knox
were of the advanced party in each case. But it must be definitely laid
down that of the three aspects of the Reformation the most vital was
the religious, not the political or the theological; and the men who,
whether Catholic or Protestant, were the religious leaders, are on a
higher plane of greatness than the rest; it is amongst them that we
must look for the “master-minds” of the age.

Now it does not appear that in any single one of these three aspects
Wolsey as a matter of fact influenced the great movement, already
fairly under weigh, in any appreciable degree. Had he, instead of
Clement, occupied the Papal throne, the political power of the Papacy
would indubitably have been for the time greatly advanced. Had his own
power in England survived the divorce business, the secular onslaught
on the ecclesiastical body conducted by Cromwell would not have taken
place. It is conceivable that under modified circumstances he might
have evolved a _modus vivendi_ for Church and State more favourable
to the Church than that which emerged from the thirty tempestuous
years which followed his death. But in fact the whole manner of the
Cardinal’s life, his immersion in secular politics, the magnificence
of his household, his many benefices, his vast accumulation of wealth,
the arrogance of his demeanour, typified and flaunted before the public
eye precisely those shortcomings of the clergy at large on which the
anti-clerical spirit of the laity was battening. The Cardinal might
have strengthened the Church’s power of resistance; he certainly was
in no small degree the cause of the animosity of her assailants. In
the eyes of the whole world, he was essentially a man of the world,
worldly; and in worldliness, far more than in the temptations of the
Flesh or the Devil, the best of the reformers found the Church’s
besetting sin.

No political skill, no state-craft, no loyalty to his order, could
have gone to the root of the matter by removing the moral grounds of
hostility to the ecclesiastical organisation. A moral enthusiasm of
which--to put it mildly--no hint whatever is to be found in the great
minister, was absolutely essential for any man who was either to
renovate the prestige of the clergy so that the people should follow
them or so to inspire the people that the clergy should follow the
popular movement. In England there arose no prophet, but for that
much-needed _rôle_ Wolsey was about as little fitted as any imaginable
leader.

Nevertheless, something he did and more he was willing to do. There
were specific grievances which up to a certain point he sought to
remedy. Without surrendering any of the privileges of his order, he
made in his own Legatine Courts a vast improvement on the practice of
the ordinary Ecclesiastical Courts. He did away with a considerable
number of small religious Houses whose condition was more or less of
a scandal. His visitations brought about improved discipline in many
of the larger Houses; some of his appointments, as to the Abbey at
Glastonbury, were notably admirable; in rejecting an unworthy abbess
for Wilton he braved the anger of the king at a time when he ran an
exceptionally heavy risk in doing so. Above all, he was fully alive
to the necessity of educating a new generation of clergy up to a high
standard; and to that end he created his great foundations of Ipswich
and Cardinal College (Christ Church), Oxford, carrying out on a much
more extensive scale what Dean Colet and Bishop Fox had set themselves
to do before him. His college was crippled and his school was wrecked
when he fell; but in this at least he deserves to be honoured by the
side of William of Wickham. Yet the name of William is hardly to be
coupled with those of Luther or Loyola. Wolsey was a real and sincere
patron of education; he had a sufficiently keen sense of order and
public decency to be a just judge and something of a disciplinarian;
but much more than this would have been required to make him a potent
moral force; and without being that he could not, even had he become
Pope, have affected the Reformation in a permanent manner, though he
might have modified its political course. He was the consummation
of the old school of political ecclesiastics. Probably he was never
so much as conscious that a moral revolution was in progress. What
he did know was that the political position of the Holy See, and of
the whole ecclesiastical system, was threatened, and his legatine
and Papal ambitions may fairly be attributed as much to a belief in
his own fitness to pilot the ship as to selfishly personal motives.
But the mere fact that, with the powers he did acquire and the vast
abilities he possessed, he yet accomplished practically nothing either
as a reformer or as a bulwark of the old order, is fairly conclusive
proof that he was neither the “greatest of English statesmen” nor “the
master-mind of his age.”


VII

WOLSEY’S FALL AND CHARACTER

The Legatine Court was suspended, and the question of the divorce
advoked to Rome, in July 1529. The signs of Wolsey’s doom were quick to
gather. His master practically ceased to hold personal communication
with him. It was evident, when writs for a Parliament were issued in
September, that the Cardinal was no longer directing the king: for he
had consistently aimed so far as possible at the suppression of the
functions of Parliament. Campeggio was hardly out of the country when
his colleague was indicted under the Statute of Præmunire for having
exercised the legatine office contrary to the law. The Dukes of Norfolk
and Suffolk deprived him of the Great Seal which he held as Chancellor.
Ill and despairing, he retired to his house at Esher, shorn of all
his offices. He was attainted in the House of Peers, and the Bill was
passed. In the Commons, however, the vigorous opposition to it made
by Cromwell, and a feeling that the king was not unfavourable to its
rejection, resulted in its being thrown out.

Probably Henry had not yet thoroughly made up his mind as to his course
of action, and wished to preserve a possibility of recalling his
minister to his counsels. He was told that he might be permitted to
discharge some of his pastoral functions, and was allowed to retire in
the spring to York, to take up the duties of the Archbishopric; and in
spite of the immense fines imposed on him, he was by no means stripped
bare of this world’s goods. York was fixed on as being more remote from
the neighbourhood both of Henry and of the Continent than Winchester.
He threw himself into the unaccustomed _rôle_ with apparent zest, and
seemed on the verge of achieving an unexpected reputation for pastoral
piety and devotion, when a fresh blow fell. He was summoned to London
on a charge of treason. He had been unwise enough to write to Francis I
and pray for his intercession with Henry; he was also accused, though
groundlessly, of having made really treasonous proposals to the Pope.
Already ill when he started, he became rapidly worse on his journey
south, and having reached the Abbey of Leicester, was unable again to
rise from his bed. There he passed away, pathetically forlorn; but at
least spared the last undeserved ignominy of a traitor’s doom.

On the high road to success and in the height of his power, Wolsey
extorts an admiration which is still somewhat reluctant. His figure
cannot be called attractive. Over the business of the divorce it is
difficult not to feel him positively repellent. But in his fall he rose
to moral heights of which his previous career gives no warning. What
shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?
Here, it would seem, was one who--not voluntarily surrendering but
forcibly bereft of the world, when he had gained it--found thereby his
soul’s salvation. Through tears and tribulation, pain of the worn-out
body, anguish of the spirit, he won it. In the day of his triumph, his
countrymen hated him while they could not but admire; hated him with a
rare bitterness which made even Thomas More ungenerous; save some few
of his own household, none felt a touch of sympathy, unless perhaps the
king, who condescended to send him one or two kindly messages to salve
his own royal conscience while he was stripping his most loyal servant
of everything he possessed. Yet in the months of his retirement,
while, in his diocese of York, he devoted himself to the care of his
spiritual flock, the fallen Cardinal won on all hands a passionate
affection bestowed only upon men and women who can forget themselves in
their thought for others. At bottom there must have been in the man an
essential sweetness and loveableness repressed--dried up in the fires
of ambition, parched in the sunshine of prosperity, welling forth in
the shadow of adversity. Gone was the power that swayed the politics of
a continent; gone the gorgeous pomp, the insolent state, that stirred
the impotent malice of the lesser men he had overshadowed. But with
their loss, the hidden best that was in the fallen minister found free
play.

Wolsey’s chroniclers have been against him. Those who wished to
magnify the king pointed to the Cardinal as the evil genius who had
prompted every ill-judged deed. The nobility hated him as an insolent
and upstart foe to their order. Katharine’s party hated him, because
he was credited not only with anti-Spanish policy but with being the
prime mover of the divorce. The Boleyn party hated him, because they
knew that he loathed the Boleyn marriage. He had no sympathy from
the Protestants, since he stood for the old ecclesiastical order;
none from the later Catholics, since his attitude to the Papacy was
misunderstood; none from the populace, because he embodied the most
unpopular characteristics of ecclesiasticism. Even Cavendish, who
admired him, is careful in his record to point the moral that pride
goeth before a fall, lest his praise of the Cardinal’s demeanour in his
last year of life should be regarded as unduly laudatory. From Skelton
to Fox the martyrologist, every man had some motive for throwing a
stone at him.

But if Shakespeare--or another--has summed up for us the libels of his
enemies, the same hand has shaped the far truer eulogium pronounced by
the “honest chronicler” Griffith in the same play. By his own talents
he had made himself great: in his high station, if in some respects he
abused his power, yet in the main he worked for the glory of England.
It is inconceivable that when he fell, when the world slipped from
the grasp of one who had been the very type of worldliness, he should
have kissed the rod with perfect resignation, and found no taste of
bitterness in the cup allotted to him. Yet there was at least a solid
proportion of truth in the pious words of Griffith:

    His overthrow heaped happiness upon him;
    For then, and not till then, he felt himself,
    And found the blessedness of being little;
    And, to add greater honours to his age
    Than man could give him, he died fearing God.

No amount of historical inquiry will ever suffice to displace in the
public mind a portrait bearing Shakespeare’s signature. The Wolsey of
the play is not easy to reconcile with the Wolsey Griffith described
after his disappearance from the stage: but these words are still a
part of the Shakespearean portrait.



SIR THOMAS MORE


I

INTRODUCTORY

Reverence for tradition is not inconsistent with a belief in progress.
History yields us abundant instances of great minds which have combined
a keen appreciation of the ideas of liberty and equality with a strong
predilection in favour of time-honoured institutions. Sometimes, but
rarely, the conservative instinct predominates in youth, and gives
way to the liberal instinct as time goes on. Sometimes, not rarely,
the liberalism of youth yields to the conservatism of later life. In
either case, we are presented with the apparent paradox of the man who,
maintaining the complete consistency of his own career, is found to be
at one period of his life on the side of the reformers, and at another
period on the side of the reactionaries. When political movements are
comparatively slow, these paradoxes do not obtrude themselves: but when
revolutions are in the air, they become conspicuous. There are two eras
which are particularly fruitful in such phenomena; those, namely, of
the Reformation and of the French Revolution.

Each of those periods presents us in England with one political
thinker of the highest rank whose utterances before the great
change are cited in authority by progressives, while their later
pronouncements or actions are cited with approbation by the opposing
forces. There is nothing surprising about the change in political
attitude which unexpected events produce in a Stephen Gardiner or a
William Pitt; it is merely a divergence from the earlier course. But
Burke and More give a _prima facie_ impression of a complete reversal
of principle. “Miscalculation and inconsistency were the moving causes
of the vicissitudes of Thomas More’s career”; so Mr. Sidney Lee has
very recently written of him; as other critics have fallen back on the
theory that Burke’s intellect went to pieces. Both these great men
did, in fact, misinterpret the very startling events of which they
were witness, partly because actual facts was misrepresented to them.
Neither believed that a work-a-day world with established institutions
could be accommodated to ideal polities where those institutions had
never grown up. They had in practice to adapt their ideals to what they
saw as hard facts. Hence they condemned in the concrete what they would
have approved in the abstract. Yet both were close and acute reasoners,
and probably neither would have admitted for a moment that he had
deserted in later life a single principle which he had maintained at an
earlier stage.

[Illustration: _SIR THOMAS MORE_

_From a Painting by_ HOLBEIN _in the National Portrait Gallery_]

But whether critics differ in their attempts to reconcile the More
who wrote the “Utopia” with the Lord Chancellor More, or give up the
attempt to explain the paradox as hopeless, the attractiveness and
nobility of the man stand unchallenged, as his intellectual eminence
is indisputable. It is impossible not to love and admire him. Of the
other nine men treated in this volume, all have apologists more or less
enthusiastic, but all have bitterly or contemptuously hostile critics.
More is one of the few men that have left their mark on our history,
who has won the tribute of universal affection and esteem.


II

UNDER HENRY VII

Thomas More was born in London in 1478, seven years after Thomas
Wolsey, and about the same length of time before Thomas Cromwell. There
is a rather curious prevalence of the name Thomas among prominent men
at this time, Cranmer being a fourth, and the youngest of the quartet.
More’s father was a barrister, who later became a judge; a gentleman
with a pleasant humour, a turn for economy, and conservative views.
John More was married thrice, and seems to have been comfortably wived,
being responsible for a witticism on the subject of matrimony such
as usually emanates from men whose personal experience contradicts
it. “Taking a wife,” said he, “is like putting your hand into a bag
containing a number of snakes and one eel. You _may_ lay hold of the
eel.” His son was not warned off the experiment, either by the jest or
by his experience of step-mothers.

Young Thomas was a lad of parts; his father was a person of distinction
in the great city. Morton, Archbishop and Lord Chancellor, and
subsequently a Cardinal, the wise counsellor of Henry VII. throughout
the first half of his reign, took the boy into his service, and
evidently found much satisfaction in cultivating and encouraging his
remarkable intelligence and wit; prophesying “marvellous things”
of him. The great man’s kindness was repaid by the very attractive
portrait which his _protégé_ has given us in the first book of the
“Utopia.” By Morton’s influence, Thomas, at fourteen, was sent to
Oxford--not an unusual age. Cranmer too was sent to Cambridge at
fourteen: while Wolsey’s youth was exceptional, for he took his degree
at the same age. More’s undergraduate career, however, was brief. He
was intended by his father to follow the profession of the law, and
John More took alarm when he found that his son was being beguiled into
an enthusiasm for the recently introduced study of Greek. There was
no connexion between law and Greek; besides, Greek was unsettling: it
seemed to put new-fangled and heterodox ideas into folk’s heads. So
after two years, More was withdrawn from Oxford, entered at New Inn
to study the law, and in February, 1496, was admitted a student at
Lincoln’s Inn: just about the time when John Colet was returning from
Italy.

There is every probability that Colet and his younger contemporary
had already foregathered at Oxford, in listening to the teaching of
Grocyn: otherwise it is not very easy to account for the warm intimacy
which arose between the Oxford Divinity Lecturer and the young student
of Lincoln’s Inn: though the fact that both their fathers were men of
such eminence in London, that the families may easily have been brought
into contact, must not be forgotten. In any case, the names of Colet,
Erasmus and More became closely associated between 1496 and 1500.
Erasmus paid a flying visit to England in 1498. Colet’s discourses were
already famous, and the Dutchman and the Englishman were introduced to
each other by Prior Charnock of the College of St. Mary the Virgin: to
their great mutual satisfaction. As the story runs, Colet told Erasmus
of the surprising genius of his young friend Thomas More, and told More
of the amazing endowments of his new acquaintance. The two, unknown
to each other, met at the same table, and fell into a dialectical
discussion which neither could resist; till at last the elder, putting
two and two together, exclaimed “Aut tu es Morus, aut nullus,” the
younger promptly responding “Aut tu es Erasmus, aut Diabolus.” Whether
the tale be true or not, the acquaintance was made, and ripened
rapidly into the warmest of friendships. In those days, complimentary
epithets between scholars were nearly as cheap and meant nearly as
little, as vituperative ones; but there is no mistake about the genuine
and spontaneous character of the terms in which Erasmus wrote to
and of Thomas More. He is always _dulcissimus_, _iucundissimus_, or
something equally endearing. Erasmus had superlatives for other people
too, but there is no one else on whom he lavishes the same wealth of
playful affection. It was to Robert Fisher that the scholar about
this time wrote his classic appreciation of his young friend--_Thomae
Mori ingenio quid unquam finxit natura vel mollius, vel dulcius, vel
felicius?_ “What hath nature ever fashioned more tender, more charming,
more happy, than the character of Thomas More?”

It was during this visit that More played a characteristic trick
on Erasmus, one which shows how well the quondam page of Cardinal
Morton (who had just entered on the last year of his life) stood in
distinguished quarters. Erasmus was staying at Greenwich with his
patron Lord Mountjoy. Thither came More, with a friend, to see him
and carry him off for a walk, in the course of which they came to a
handsome building, where More said he wished to pay his respects.
Somewhat to his dismay, Erasmus found on entering that they were
invading a royal domain, and that their visit was to Prince Henry and
his brother and sisters who wanted him there and then to produce them
a poem. He demurred, but was let off on condition of his promising to
send them one--a promise faithfully carried out.

More shared with his older friend a capacity for perceiving the
humorous side of things which stood him in good stead all his life. But
he had a deeper vein of seriousness, and to him--as to Colet--religion
meant a great deal more than it did to the cosmopolitan scholar. The
profession for which he was still training--he was not yet called
to the Bar--was one to which his abilities were eminently adapted,
and his intimacy with Colet did not prevent him from loyally devoting
his time and his studies to that training, as his father desired.
But as soon as he was duly called, he began to give his natural
predilections freer play, and we find him delivering in the City a
course of lectures on Augustine’s _De Civitate Dei_: to the admiration
of his old master Grocyn and others. Not, however, to the neglect of
his legal pursuits, for he was appointed Reader at Furnivall’s Inn;
or of larger ambitions, for, young as he was, he appeared as a member
of Henry VII.’s Parliament of 1504. The story of the “beardless boy”
persuading that assembly to reject a royal demand for cash, as told by
his son-in-law William Roper, is familiar; and even if not altogether
accurately reported, leaves no doubt that he did so offend Henry that
he felt it advisable to retire into political obscurity--the king
characteristically taking his revenge by extracting a fine from his
father.

It may have been this episode which gave him a temporary inclination to
betake himself to a monastic life: but this did not last. Investigation
did not lead to the conclusion that life in a monastery was quite the
same in practice as in theory, and a _penchant_ for asceticism could be
indulged without entering the cloister. Moreover, this summer Colet was
in London, probably to commence work at St. Paul’s, where he had just
been nominated to the Deanery; and Colet was not the man to counsel
such a step. On the contrary, he advised his friend to marry, and the
advice was taken next year.[B] The story is quaintly characteristic.
Visiting “one Mr. Colte a gentleman of Essex,” he was attracted by the
three daughters of the house. The second being the prettiest, took
his fancy, but he thought it would be hard on the elder sister if the
younger got a husband first, so he “of a certayne pittie framed his
fancie towardes her” instead--with excellent results.

      [B] Roper’s chronology is not very intelligible. He says
          that--after being called to the Bar--More was three
          years a Reader at Furnivall’s Inn, and then passed four
          years in the Charterhouse without taking the vows. The
          other evidence, however, points pretty conclusively to
          1505 as the date of his marriage.

On the whole it does not look as if More went in any very great fear
of the old king’s wrath. Mr. Colte would not have been in a hurry to
bestow his daughter in marriage on a young man whom Henry was seeking
occasion to slay: and probably More himself would have hesitated to
give hostages to fortune under those conditions.


III

THE EARLY YEARS OF HENRY VIII

Whatever reason he may have had to fear ill-will from Henry VII.--who
seldom wasted vindictive sentiments on people whose punishment could
not be substantially expressed in terms of hard cash--More could count
on the goodwill of his young successor. More than one of the princes of
those days ranked among the most accomplished men of their times; and
like his brother-in-law of Scotland, Henry would have more than held
his own in any company, intellectual or athletic. As yet, the world did
not know that his abilities were matched by a ruthless selfishness. He
seemed a brilliant and charming boy, frank-hearted and open-handed,
with just the carelessness becoming to his age: the very reverse of
the old king as men thought of him in his later years, sordid, crafty,
griping. The reign of Empsons and Dudleys was at an end; the approach
to the new king’s favour was to be through very different avenues. To
have been in the black books of Henry VII. was no reason for fearing
Henry VIII.

More prospered rapidly in his profession, and had no desire to be drawn
to Court or into the whirl of politics. He was very soon appointed to
the important office of Under-Sheriff in the City, and his private
practice was ere long bringing him a very substantial income. Also, to
his great satisfaction, the expectation of a more cheerful _régime_
in England was bringing Erasmus back again--there had been one flying
visit in the interval--to write the _Encomium Moriae_ under More’s
own roof, and still further to enrich and stimulate that congenial
intellectual society in which More himself had been living ever since
Colet had taken up his duties as Dean of St. Paul’s.

But however little ambitious More might be, his talents were too
conspicuous to permit of his being left alone. In 1515, the commercial
war with Flanders--an outcome of the foreign complications in which
Henry VIII. had become involved--was embarrassing both countries so
much that there was a strong desire for adjustment. An embassy was to
be sent, with Cuthbert Tunstall at its head. The merchants of London
desired to be represented; they wanted More to represent them; Wolsey,
now supreme, acceded; More was attached to the embassy, and the
abilities he displayed marked him out as a man fitted for the king’s
service. For a time More resisted; but his masterly conduct of a case
in which he was appointed as counsel for the Pope (in respect of a
ship which the Crown claimed as forfeit) caused Henry to put renewed
pressure on him. In 1518, he had become a courtier in his own despite.
This, by the way, may have some bearing on the fact that in that year
his father was elevated to the judicial Bench.

Some years earlier, More’s domestic life had suffered: his first wife
dying in 1512 and leaving him with four little children on his hands.
To provide the orphans with a mother, he took to himself a second wife,
some years older than himself; a kindly conventional soul, as it would
seem, who quite understood that her husband was a very clever man,
but was eternally puzzled by his disregard of worldly considerations,
and hopelessly confused by the whimsical irony with which he loved to
meet her “Tilly vally, Sir Thomas,” when he had been doing something
peculiarly exasperating from her point of view. She mothered his
children, and himself as much as he would let her; and never succeeded
in disturbing his humorous equanimity, though her own must have been
everlastingly ruffled.

The embassy to the Netherlands sealed More’s fate, by forcing him into
political life. It is also intimately associated with the one great
original literary work produced in England in the first half of the
sixteenth century: a work which established the fame of its author as
a political thinker of the highest rank, in spite of the intentionally
fantastic form in which it was cast.


IV

THE UTOPIA

Throughout More’s life, revolutionary forces had been at work in the
political, the intellectual, and the religious world; but as yet they
had not concentrated in any volcanic explosion. At present, More’s
most intimate associates stood in the very forefront of the most
advanced school, and his “Utopia” was to make his position beside
them as conspicuous to the world as it was assured in fact. He had
taken to Greek, in spite of his anxious parent, like a duck to water:
his affinity to the Platonic Socrates is obvious. John Colet was his
guide, philosopher and friend; and the downright reactionaries, like
the Bishop of London, had vain hankerings to suppress Colet as a
dangerous heretic. He was the chosen intellectual mate of Erasmus, who
had done or was doing more than any man living, to rid men’s minds
of the shackles of the old scholastic formalism. The grosser popular
superstitions, the worship of the letter and neglect of the spirit,
the pursuit of worldly advancement by the successors of the apostles,
were constant subjects for pulpit castigations by the one friend, and
the lively and scathing mockery of the other. The mediæval theory that
war is a pastime for the ambitions of princes was vigorously denounced
by both. In all these things More was with them heart and soul; and
he had already given audacious indication of his belief that the
function of government is to seek the good not of the governors but of
the governed, when he incurred the displeasure of Henry VII. in 1504.
This progressive attitude of mind found its complete expression in the
fantasy of Utopia.

The notion of constructing an imaginary Commonwealth under ideal
conditions on ideal lines was of course derived straight from Plato’s
Republic. That any existing State could be reformed into the semblance
of such a Commonwealth by the fiat of legislators, neither Plato nor
More ever dreamed. Neither the Republic nor the Utopia is in the
nature of one of those paper Constitutions whose devisers would fain
impose them in all their logical perfection upon recalcitrant nations.
They aim at setting forth those fundamental principles which must
indeed lie at the root of all healthy forms of government, but must
also inevitably materialise into different shapes under differing
conditions. The reproach that such schemes are not practical, which
is damning to a paper Constitution, is here wholly irrelevant. They
were never meant to be practical. Sir Galahad is not a practical model
for the British citizen, who would take warning from the career of the
Knight of La Mancha. Yet the conception of Sir Galahad is worthy of
serious contemplation by the British citizen, who may therefrom derive
not a little practical direction in the conduct of his life. To condemn
the presentation of avowed ideals as unpractical, is merely to display
a complete misapprehension of the meaning and use of ideals.

More, however, did not derive his method from Plato. The Athenian
started by looking for the logical principles on which a State should
be constructed, and built it, storey by storey. The Englishman imagined
his State already complete and expounded the finished structure; taking
example by other myths than the Republic. With happy ingenuity, he
made use of a suggestion from the records of the voyages of Amerigo
Vespucci to locate his dream-city in realms which some of that
eminent traveller’s company might have visited, alone of Europeans.
In similarly happy vein, he utilised his embassy to the Netherlands
to provide an introduction, the form of which was doubtless suggested
by Platonic precedent, though it is in no sense an imitation. The
characterisation of the persons whose conversation is reported is not
unworthy of the master.

The work is in two parts: the account of Utopia itself, and this
preliminary book, which introduces the traveller Hythloday, with his
criticisms on European politics in general, and the state of England
in particular. This, More would have us believe, is the way in which
a foreign Odysseus having “viewed the cities and marked the ways of
many a People” would judge the institutions on which the Englishman
prided himself. The suggestion that he wished to make himself safe
by attributing those criticisms to some one else is hardly tenable.
It does not appear that any one ever suspected Hythloday of having
had a more material existence than Lemuel Gulliver after him. The
intention is simply to dispose the reader’s mind so as to accept the
verisimilitude of what he knows to be a fiction; the intention of every
dramatic artist. Reason tells you that you are sitting in a theatre
and watching actors behind the footlights. Imagination tells you that
real events are going on before your eyes. If imagination fails,
tragedy becomes burlesque, and comedy silliness. The description of
Utopia appeals with tenfold force when your imagination accepts it as a
place which a real human traveller has seen; and the illusion is only
possible when the real human traveller has been convincingly presented.
Raphael Hythloday is as real as Robinson Crusoe. But there is no
reason to suppose that More wanted any one to think that Hythloday
had an address in Antwerp--as Peter Giles says, “Some ... for that
his minde and affection was altogether set and fixed upon Utopia, say
that he hathe taken his voyage thetherwards agayne.” “No-where land”
is the unsubstantial resting-place of the non-material but convincing
traveller.

Similarly, by putting his criticisms on English affairs into the
mouth of a foreign observer, from whose lips they come with a perfect
fitness, the artist procures for them an attention and consideration
which would be refused if they were being thought of as the criticisms
of an Englishman vilifying his own country. Again, the illusion is
needed only till the required effect is produced, namely, recognition
of the validity of the criticism.

The illusion is created with subtle skill. More relates how he was sent
on the Netherlands embassy, with various references to his associates,
and the actual facts of that episode in his career, and tells how
his (real) friend, Peter Giles of Antwerp, introduced the traveller
Hythloday--an interesting person who had voyaged to those lands of
which Europeans as yet knew exceedingly little and imagined an infinite
deal. More draws him out, and extracts from him his impression of
England, where he had visited Cardinal Morton, of the state of Europe
in general, and finally, by way of contrast, of that remote and unknown
State of Utopia, which has opened his eyes to what lies at the root
of so much that is unsatisfactory in the realms of Christendom. Thus
More is enabled to win interested attention to his own criticism of
the social and political conditions prevalent, and his own political
philosophy. Whatever the latter may be, the former is as practical as
possible.

The picture given of the world in which men were actually living and
moving, and pursuing their business or their pleasure, is vivid and
impressive. Moreover, its truth is borne out by all other evidence.
It is the work of a keen and humorous observer; and the analysis of
the causes of the pervading evils is unerring. It was no doubt wise of
More to antedate the description by a score or so of years, referring
it to Cardinal Morton’s days; but in 1515, every evil depicted had
become even more marked--and, it may be said, continued to increase
progressively until the reign of Elizabeth, the same causes continuing
to operate, with the addition of others which intensified the effects.
Every rising in the reigns of Henry VIII., of Edward VI., and of Mary,
whatever its ostensible ground, bears unmistakeable signs that the
agricultural depression with its attendant evils was a secondary, if
not the primary cause.

It would be too much to expect that the remedies More recommended
should have been equally above criticism. Economic science was in its
earliest infancy; in spite of experience, no one had begun to suspect
the inefficacy of legislation in certain directions, and there are
plenty of people who still believe that natural forces can be regulated
by statute. In no single respect was any thinker of his times in
advance of Sir Thomas More in these matters. But in many respects he
was in advance not only of the foremost of his contemporaries, but even
of current opinion and practice three hundred years later.

Thus, after describing the prevalence of thieving and robbery, he
points to idleness as its cause, but dwells emphatically on the
distinction between the idleness which is of choice and that which
is enforced by lack of employment. Half the thieves would be honest
labourers if they had the chance. The maintenance or development of
industries which provide employment would be an effective cure; but
instead of seeking a cure, the authorities fall back on punishment. But
the severity of the law, instead of checking the minor misdemeanours,
converts the pickpocket into a dangerous robber who--having no worse
penalty to fear for the graver offence--resorts to violence without
hesitation: so that the system regularly manufactures the worst
ruffianism.

The instability and disorganisation of industry produced by what
we now call “corners,” has its prototype in the “engrossing” and
“forestalling,” by which wealthy men make themselves monopolists. The
inevitable tendency of capital to flow in dividend-producing, not
philanthropic, channels, is foreshadowed by the steady conversion by
wealth-seeking landlords of arable land into sheep-runs; a process
which left much of the rural population without work, wages, food, or
home. Incidentally it may be noted that, while modern historians are
disposed rather to dwell on the substitution of greedy laymen for the
monasteries as landlords as one of the later causes of this particular
trouble, More expressly includes “certeyn abbottes, holy men no doubt,”
in his denunciation thereof. He may, however, mean no more than that
even the Church was not exempt from this reproach. In dealing with this
economic tendency for capital to seek the most lucrative channel, More
made the universal mistake of his day in believing that it could be
effectively restrained by Acts of Parliament.

In a vein no less practical, and no less opposed to the conventional
ideas of the time, and with a still more playful seriousness, the
traveller discourses of high politics and finance as they were debated
in the Cabinets of Europe, with the aggrandisement and enrichment of
monarchs as the one end in view. “‘This myne advyce, maister More,’
says he, ‘how think you it would be harde and taken?’ ‘So God helpe me,
not very thankefully’ quod I.’”

By this discussion, the way is prepared for Hythloday to favour his
company with an account of the remarkable polity which he found in
Utopia (a State as to the whereabouts of which More subsequently writes
in anxious inquiry to Peter Giles, who answers in the like vein of
pretended regret at being unable to answer the question). This account
occupies the second book, forming about two-thirds of the whole work.

In this fantasy, practicality vanishes at the outset. Such are the
defences, natural or artificial, of this most favoured island, that any
would-be invader is doomed to certain destruction, while the country
produces everything that man requires for comfort. It needs no army and
no navy, self-defence and self-assertion being equally superfluous: its
relations with foreign States are purely complimentary. The Utopians
make no foreign leagues. Where the bonds of goodwill are not sufficient
to maintain friendly relations, nations enter upon leagues, but only
to desert them at the first call of interest. Such is the strange
conviction of the Utopians, though they had not themselves experienced
the kaleidoscopic permutations and combinations of Ferdinand the
Catholic, Maximilian, Louis XII., Henry VII., Julius II., and the
Venetians. If by any chance they find it necessary to go to war, there
is a convenient breed of fighting men in a country not too far away,
who can always be hired for the purpose.

Being thus preserved from the creation of a military caste, while
universal education has prevented knowledge from being concentrated in
a priestly caste, it has been easy to prevent the development of any
sort of privileged class through the accumulation of private property,
which is prohibited. Hence, in Utopia, communism is practicable, and
the whole system is as a matter of course communistic, though the
principle is not extended to the relations between the sexes. Having
arrived at their religion not through the Christian Revelation, but
by Reason, any religious views are tolerated which are not manifestly
anti-social. It is a corollary of these conditions that government is
in the hands of elected magistrates, who have neither class interests
nor personal interests to deflect them from their proper function
of ruling with a single eye to the interests of the whole people.
The possibility that sectarian interests might have developed as a
disturbing factor does not seem to have presented itself; perhaps,
where no religious views might be aggressively expressed or repressed,
no strife of sects was to be feared.

In every direction, of course, the manners and customs of the Utopians
suggest that the manners and customs of the English are susceptible of
improvement. They take a philosophic view of the pleasures of life,
reckoning the gratification of animal appetites exceedingly low in
practice as well as in theory. They have no lust of gold and jewels.
They have no craving for display, for gambling, for the baser forms
of sport. On the other hand, they appreciate the value of sanitation.
There is no idleness, since every one is required to do his share of
work, but there is ample leisure for all; instead of one half of the
population having too much, and the other half too little, to do. Thus
they can enjoy in abundance those rational pleasures in which they take
a true delight, abiding in health and wealth.


V

MORE IN PUBLIC LIFE

It should be sufficiently clear that no one was more thoroughly aware
than Sir Thomas More himself that the Utopian conditions could not be
produced in a European State, and that Utopian institutions could only
exist under Utopian conditions. Of that fact he was destined to give
practical demonstration when called upon to discharge the functions of
a practical ruler.

In 1518 More became a Privy Councillor, and probably his influence
may be detected in the efforts, renewed about this time, to check
the conversion of arable land into pasture, and the evil practice of
enclosures. But Martin Luther’s activity was just beginning, and its
results were to make the contrast between Utopia and England even more
marked than previously. Before entering, however, on More’s attitude to
this new phase of the Reformation, we have to note some other points in
this stage of his career.

More stood in high favour. He had not climbed to a great position by
arduous effort; greatness, worthy of it as he was, had been thrust upon
him. His advancement was promoted by Wolsey, who was seldom vindictive
except towards rivals whose power might make them dangerous. In 1521
he was knighted. When Parliament was summoned in 1523 he was made
Speaker, by no means at his own desire, but chiefly at that of the
King and the Cardinal. The result was probably not quite what Wolsey
had anticipated. On his appointment, he had implied very clearly,
though in diplomatic terms, that he meant to uphold freedom of speech
in the House. But the business on hand was the voting of money, and
Wolsey made the mistake of attempting to overawe the Commons by coming
down to the House himself. The Members declined to speak or vote in
his presence; the Cardinal’s demands were received with dead silence.
Wolsey turned on the Speaker. The Speaker made it perfectly clear that
the House could not give way on the question of privilege. When Wolsey
withdrew, Parliament demonstrated its loyalty by making a substantial
grant.

According to More’s son-in-law, this incident brought More into the
black books of the Cardinal, who with ill intent tried to get him sent
on an embassy to Spain, under colour of complimenting him. If Wolsey
really meant evil by him, his designs came to nothing, for there was no
sign of any diminution in the royal favour. Already, however, in 1525,
Wolsey’s position was becoming precarious, though to all appearance
he was as dominant as ever. More’s next advancement was to the
Chancellorship of the Duchy of Lancaster in 1526; and from this time
Henry’s personal demands on his time and his society became exceedingly
pressing. A year later, the whole of the king’s real interest was
absorbed in the divorce question, which was to seal Wolsey’s fate
directly, and More’s indirectly. Henry consulted him about it, and More
then as always told his master honest truth--he did not see how the
marriage with Katharine could lawfully be voided. From that position
he never swerved. The king could respect conscientious scruples on the
part of a favourite, and did so as long as More remained a favourite.
More, however, had no illusions about the king’s constancy. “If my
head,” he told Roper, “would win him a castle in France, it should not
fail to go.” But when Henry decided that Wolsey could no longer serve
his turn, it was More whom he selected to fill the office of Lord
Chancellor, in spite of his views of the divorce.

During these years, the uprising of Luther had developed into a
widespread religious revolt. Henry, having no quarrel with Pope Leo,
and proud of his own attainments as a theologian, chose to enter the
lists for the demolition of Luther; producing an apologia for the
Papacy which earned him the title of “Defender of the Faith.” Before
publishing this work he showed it to More, who warned him, with shrewd
foresight, that, if ever he did come to have a quarrel with the Pope,
he would find it very difficult to get over his own argument, which
proved too much in support of Papal authority. Henry, however, would
not modify the view then expressed, and succeeded in satisfying his
counsellor that it was sound. In due course the prophecy came true:
Henry repudiated the position he had formerly defended. Unhappily for
More, however, the king had finally convinced him, and he declined to
surrender his conviction: with fatal consequences.

Viewed even exclusively as a religious movement, Luther’s revolt
would not have attracted More’s sympathies. He had never doubted any
of the dogmas of the Church, though he had a plentiful contempt for
many prevailing corruptions which were recognised as such by men to
whom heresy was never imputed by their bitterest enemy. He believed
with conviction a great deal that Erasmus accepted merely _pro forma_.
Luther not only propounded views on specific dogmas which More regarded
as heretical, he challenged the whole authority of Rome; and More
believed in the authority of Rome. But beyond all this the Lutheran
revolt was very soon followed by the German Peasant revolt, which
deluged half Europe with blood. The Peasants’ War was completely
misapprehended in England, where the agricultural troubles, bad as
they were, could bear no comparison with the oppression from which the
German peasants suffered; but its leadership fell, naturally enough,
into the hands of men as fanatical in their zeal for religious as for
social reform. The overthrow of all authority and the universal triumph
of sheer anarchy appeared to be their goal; and the world believed,
or was taught to believe, that it was Luther who had started the
conflagration. The heretical pamphlets which issued from Germany and
Switzerland--lumped together, by those who did not know the facts, as
Lutheran--gave colour to this belief by the virulence of their attacks
on the Papacy and the clergy; and it is small wonder that many of the
most liberal-minded men could anticipate nothing but stark ruin, the
coming of chaos, unless the torrent were stayed. The threatening crash
of all reverence, of all authority save such as could be enforced
by push of pike, seemed to be brought measurably closer, when, in
1527, the Imperial armies sacked Rome in emulation of Alaric, and the
representative of St. Peter was held a prisoner by the representative
of Caesar Augustus.

In the abstract, and under Utopian conditions, More was singularly
alive to the beauty of the principle of practically universal
toleration. But Europe and England were presenting a problem which
could never have arisen in Utopia at all. Even in Utopia, it was
recognised that certain negations were directly anti-social, and that
the propagation of them must be repressed. Here in Europe, it seemed
as if every negation of a received dogma was to be turned into an
anti-social engine. Under the conditions, the toleration of any heresy,
certainly of all such as palpably involved an attack on authority,
tended to anarchy. The conclusion that what was good unreservedly in
Utopia would not be good in England is obvious. We can all see now,
of course, that More misinterpreted the facts. The anarchism was an
accident of the religious movement, which it shed of itself, not an
inherent part of it: the Church lost as much ground by the action of
her own zealots as by the attacks of her most fanatical opponents. But
for a man who interpreted the facts as More did, there was nothing
inconsistent in declaring for toleration in Utopia, but in England
repression.

There is another point, too, which is generally unnoticed. The Utopians
arrived at their religion by reason; they had no way of ascertaining
truth except through reason; hence, for one man to condemn another for
holding a different “doxy” would be in itself irrational. Christendom,
in More’s view, was in a different position. It had received Truth by
direct Revelation, and an Exponent of Truth by Divine appointment.
What the Church had definitely pronounced to be heterodox was to be
regarded finally and conclusively as false. To permit the preaching
of doctrine known to be false was quite different from permitting the
discussion or inculcation of divergent opinions on which there was no
authority qualified to pronounce absolutely. Even at the moment when
More was describing the religion of Utopia, before he had ever heard
the name of Luther, he might with perfect consistency have held that
heresy ought to be repressed in Christian countries. The argument, of
course, has nothing to do with the wisdom or unwisdom of a repressive
policy; it is concerned merely with the “inconsistency” of More’s
Utopian theory and his Catholic practice. Those who found the Divine
Revelation not in the voice of the Church but in the text of Scripture,
were equally convinced that deviation from indisputable Truth should be
punished by the strong hand.

Broadly, the suggestion here put forward is that the Utopian religions
are philosophies: that all philosophies are matter of argument; that
intolerance of opinions which are matter of argument is irrational. On
the other hand (to More), Catholic Christianity is not a philosophy,
but is revealed truth; not therefore matter of argument, except so
far as details have not been defined; that suppression of doctrines
subversive of Catholic truth is certainly legitimate, and may be
necessary.

However that may be, it is undeniable that More appears in the least
favourable light as a Catholic controversialist; losing balance and
tone, he writes _currente calamo_, without restraint, with lapse of
dignity, and with only an occasional redeeming turn of humour. That is
to say, he drops to the normal level of contemporary controversialists
on both sides, instead of abiding in that serene atmosphere which
otherwise distinguishes him. The aggressive bellicosity of princes
grieved him, and the king’s divorce business vexed him: but the spread
of heresy was the one thing which upset his equanimity. “I pray God,”
said he to Roper, “that some of us, as heigh as we seeme to sitt upon
the mountaines, treadinge heretickes under our feete like annts, live
not the day that we gladly would wish to be at leagge and composition
with them, to let them have their Churches quietly to themselves; soe
that they would be content to lett us have ours quietly to our selves.”

Similarly, the one and only ground of reproach against his conduct in
any public matter is that as Chancellor he may have sanctioned putting
heretics to the torture, and did during the last six months of his
office--not before--send certain heretics to the stake. It is true that
the only men in England, in those days, who, having the opportunity,
did not send a single heretic to the fire, were the much-abused
Protector Somerset and the still more abused Wolsey. But we would fain
have had Thomas More an exception. Still, it can at least be affirmed
positively that the penalty was only inflicted when all hope was over
of persuading the “heretics” to recognise their error, and save their
bodies as well as their souls; and that every effort was made to give
them the opportunity of doing so. Given More’s premises, the conclusion
that their death would tend to the salvation of other souls was
irresistible.

It was towards the end of 1529 that Wolsey was struck down, and More,
very much against his will, was elevated to the Chancellorship.
For a commoner and a layman to receive the appointment was almost
revolutionary--at least it was a very signal mark of the depression of
the nobility, although it was many a year since any but an ecclesiastic
had held the office. In everything, More proved himself a notably
admirable occupant of the post, dealing out justice with unprecedented
despatch; not only without allowing himself to be corrupted, in which
he was not unique, but also without accepting those substantial
compliments from suitors which less rigidly scrupulous judges were
in the habit of profiting by, even when they did not allow their
decisions to be affected. No personal or professional considerations
were ever permitted by him to interfere with the ends of justice, the
most exact that it was in his power to achieve. But his tenure of the
Chancellorship was brief. More was unique in many respects, and in his
own day he was unique in refusing to retain office when he could no
longer do so without violating his conscience--without making himself
a party to a policy which he held to be wrong. Other men shifted the
responsibility on to the king; More felt that the responsibility could
not be shifted, and in 1532 he resigned.

The cause of the resignation was Henry’s ecclesiastical policy; its
immediate occasion, the submission of the clergy. The fall of Wolsey
was simultaneous with the summoning of the famous “Seven Years” or
“Reformation” Parliament of Henry VIII. The king had given no sort of
sign of any disposition to relax the severity of his attitude towards
heresy; but as the months and years passed, it became increasingly
evident that his rigid orthodoxy was to be accompanied by a prolonged
anti-clerical and anti-Papal campaign, the meaning whereof was to be
revealed only by degrees. A twelvemonth had barely passed when the
clergy were suddenly notified that they had as a body been guilty of a
breach of _Præmunire_ in accepting the Legatine authority of Wolsey,
and this was followed up by requiring Convocation to affirm that the
king was sole and Supreme Protector and Head of the Church. No new
authority was directly claimed for the Crown--without reading between
the lines; though it was tolerably clear that a good deal more might
be read into the declaration. The clergy yielded. Then the Commons
presented their supplication against the ordinaries. The subsequent
operations showed that the Royal Supremacy was to be applied after
quite a new fashion. The clergy yielded to the logic of force, and made
their “submission.” More, holding that no layman, king or not, could
by any possibility be rightfully head of the Church in this new sense,
concluded that he had no alternative but to retire into private life.


VI

INDIGNATIO PRINCIPIS

The divorce was Henry’s first objective; it was duly pronounced by
the new Archbishop in the following spring. The step, however, was
intensely unpopular. The more clearly this was brought home to the
king’s mind, the more anxious he became to have the avowed support
of every one whose opinion carried weight. Irritation reached its
climax over the affair of the “Nun of Kent,” a young woman named
Elizabeth Barton, who had for some little time been posing as a
sort of prophetess. How far she believed in her own imposture it is
not possible to tell, but she was certainly exploited by fanatical
adherents of the Papacy, and when she took to denouncing the wrath of
God against the king for the divorce, there was a real risk that the
superstition of the day would make her ravings dangerous. There were
two men whom no persuasions had prevailed upon to pronounce in favour
of the Boleyn marriage--Fisher of Rochester and Sir Thomas More. It
was found that both had had some sort of dealings with the nun. Henry
determined that they should both suffer as her accomplices, unless
they would openly range themselves with his supporters. But the case
against More was so hopelessly futile that the king’s advisers warned
him that the ex-Chancellor’s inclusion in the Bill of Attainder could
only result in the Bill itself being thrown out. His name was therefore
removed, to the great rejoicing of his friends. More saw farther into
the king’s mind than they did. “_Quod defertur non aufertur_,” he said
to his daughter.

He was right. The king and Cromwell were ready to go to the last
extremity to force the two recalcitrants into line. An Act had been
passed, fixing the succession to the throne on the children of Anne
Boleyn. The ratification of the marriage had led him to remark to
Roper: “God give grace, son, that these matters be not in a while
confirmed with oaths.” The Act of Succession carried with it authority
to impose an oath to maintain it; but the oath subsequently formulated
was so worded as to bind the subscriber to the admission of the
invalidity of the marriage with Katharine, and the denial of the Papal
authority. The oath was proffered to More and Fisher; both refused it,
though both were ready to maintain the succession. Both were sent to
the Tower.

It was in fact more than doubtful whether the Act warranted the
imposition of the oath in the prescribed form. The imprisonment of the
culprits without trial was in any case illegal, and every attempt to
persuade them to yield failed. The King always preferred to have the
letter of the law on his side; and it was impossible to pretend that
the refusal to subscribe involved treason. To give their destruction a
legal colour, a fresh Act of Succession was passed at the end of the
year (1534), expressly confirming the form of the oath; and this was
accompanied by an Act of Supremacy, making it treason to refuse to
affirm the Royal Supremacy. After that, it was simple enough to send
More and Fisher to their doom. To deny the Supremacy was one thing;
More had abstained from that. To refuse to affirm it was another; More
had always done so. He maintained his position, and was condemned to
death as a traitor, under the law which had been framed expressly
to enmesh him. His defence was only that the law itself was invalid
as being against the law of Christendom, and the liberties of the
Church as affirmed in _Magna Charta_; which of course the judges
could not admit. A week later, on July 6--the Eve of St. Thomas (of
Canterbury)--1535, Sir Thomas More was beheaded.


VII

CHARACTER AND DEATH

Thanks mainly to the charm of the biography by his son-in-law, William
Roper, the private life and character of Thomas More are among the
most familiar to us in history. It is a life good to dwell upon, sweet
and wholesome. Even in its public aspects there is but the single
note that jars, his harshness--_molestia_ he called it--towards the
heretics, whom he classed with homicides and robbers: in its domestic
aspects it is wholly charming. In his private capacity he could love
even a heretic. Roper himself, the sympathetic husband of his favourite
daughter Margaret, was bitten with Lutheran doctrines, which even the
persuasiveness of his revered father-in-law could not induce him to
relinquish. To the error, as he deemed it, which was not accompanied by
propagandism, More was as tender as could be desired. “Meg,” he said to
Mistress Roper, “I have borne long with thy husband; I have reasoned
long time with him, and still given him my fatherly counsel; but I
perceive none of this can call him home again. And therefore, Meg, I
will no longer dispute with him, nor yet will I give him over, but I
will go another way to work, and get me to God and pray for him.”

There we have the natural Thomas More, obeying the kindly dictates of
his own heart, which held no rancour towards any one who had not in
some sort constituted himself an enemy of the “weal publick.” Personal
hostility to himself he held of no account. Shortly before he was made
Lord Chancellor, an old servant of his came to him in great indignation
against some merchants who had been “liberally rayling” at More.
Would he not, seeing what his favour was with the king, punish these
scurrilous people as they deserved? But More’s reply was a very sound
piece of philosophy in his usual humorous vein--“Would you have me
punish them by whome I receave more benefitt than by you all that be my
friends? Lett them a God’s name speake as lewedly as they list of me,
and shoote never soe many arrowes at me, so long as they do not hitt
me, what am I the worse? But if they should once hitt me, then would it
a little trouble me. Howbeit, I trust by Gode’s helpe, there shall none
of them all be able once to touch me. I have more cause, I assure thee,
to pittie them than to be angrie with them.”

We are told much of his simple piety and faith. The same ardently
reverent spirit, which made him cling to the Church and uphold her
authority, at one time very nearly sent him into the cloister, and did
cause him to retain so much of the ascetic tradition that he wore a
hair-shirt next his skin all his days; though it was only by accident
that any one save his beloved “Meg,” Margaret Roper, became aware of
the fact. His subjugation of the flesh was free from its too common
accompaniment of arrogant or morbid austerity. It was little more than
an avoidance of insidious and apparently harmless temptations, an
appreciation of the unimportance of gratifying physical appetites. He
reaped his reward. The sudden descent from ample wealth to a narrow
income, involved in his resignation of the Chancellorship, had no
terrors for him. He had tried hard fare at Oxford, less hard at New
Inn, something better at Lincoln’s Inn. He and his family could very
well live by the Lincoln’s Inn standard. If they found that too high
for the reduced exchequer, there was the New Inn standard to fall back
on, and after that the Oxford standard. And even after that “May we
yeat with bagges and walletts go a-begging togither ... and soe still
keepe companie merrily together.” A cheery philosophy.

Two of Roper’s anecdotes show, in the dramatic touches which bring a
very living Duke of Norfolk before us, how the son-in-law profited
by his father-in-law’s example; besides illustrating More’s quaint
combination of seriousness and humour. The duke went to see him about
his resignation, at Chelsea, and found him singing in the Church choir.
“To whome after service, as they went home togither arme in arme, the
duke said, ‘God body, God body, my Ld. Chancellor, a parish Clarke, a
parish Clarke, you dishonour the King and his office.’ ‘Nay,’ quoth Sir
Thomas Moore smilinge upon the Duke, ‘your Grace may not thinke, that
the Kinge your Master and myne, will with me for serving God his Master
be offended, or thereby count his office dishonoured.’” And again,
when he had escaped the Bill of Attainder: “The Duke sayd unto him,
‘By the masse, Mr. Moore, it is perillous strivinge with Princes, and
therefore I would wish you somewhat to inclyne to the Kinge’s pleasure.
For by Gode’s body Mr. Moore _Indignatio principis mors est_.’ ‘Ys that
all, my Lord?’ quoth he. ‘Is there in good fayth noe more difference
betweene your Grace and me but that I shall dye to day and you
tomorrow?’”

But in the last days, the never-failing humour has an exquisitely
pathetic setting.

The worthy wife, “somewhat worldlie too,” comes to see her husband in
the Tower; she cannot understand why he is so silly as to stop there,
when he might so easily recover the king’s goodwill by doing “as all
the Busshopps and best learned of this realm have done.” He listens
placidly to the outburst, then: “I pray thee, good Mistress Alice, tell
me one thing: is not this house as nighe heaven as mine own?” We are
reminded of the last words Humphrey Gilbert was heard to utter before
the _Squirrel_ foundered: “We are as near God by sea as by land.” But
there was no one to reply to Gilbert as “shee, after her accustomed
fashion, not likeinge such talke, answeared _Tille valle, tille
valle_.” The good soul has no patience for such incomprehensible folly.
Margaret Roper visits him, the darling daughter, of all his children
the likest to him in wit and in person; with her he is sure of perfect
sympathy. She knows that his doom is absolutely certain, nor is she one
to dissuade him from following the dictates of his conscience. After
the sentence in Westminster Hall, she is waiting at the Tower wharf for
the last fond farewell, the parting blessing. Heedless of spectators,
she darts through the press of halberdiers guarding the prisoner, to
fling herself on his neck, pour out her tears and her love on his
breast. He soothes her with words of tender counsel and affection. At
last she tears herself away, but overcome with the passion of devotion,
“suddenlye turned back againe, and rann to him as before, tooke him
about the necke, and divers times togeather most lovingely kissed him,
and at last with a full heavie harte was fayne to separate from him:
the behouldinge whereof was to manye of them that were present thereat
soe lamentable that it made them for very sorrow to mourne and weepe.”

Shall we wonder at such love for the man who on receiving sentence
could say to his judges, as reported by Anthony St. Leger, “I verily
trust and right heartily pray that though your lordships have now in
earth been Judges to my condemnation, we may yet hereafter in heaven
merrily all meet together to our everlasting salvation”; whose spirit
was so imperturbable in its serenity, that it looked upon death as a
mere casual episode which in no wise ruffled his habitual humour. “I
pray you, Mr. Lieutenant,” he said, with his foot on the scaffold,
noticing how ill it had been put together, “see me safe up. For my
coming down, let me shift for myself”: and as he laid his neck on
the block, moving his beard aside, “Pity that should be cut; it hath
committed no treason.”

His head, according to custom, was set on Temple Bar, but Margaret
Roper, she “who clasped in her last trance her murdered father’s head,”
was allowed to obtain possession of it, and preserved it in spices till
her own death. The news of the execution was conveyed to Charles V.
His comment is endorsed by posterity--“If we had been master of such a
servant, we would rather have lost the best city of our dominions than
have lost such a worthy Councillor.”



THOMAS CROMWELL


I

THOMAS CROMWELL

For six years, Thomas Cromwell was palpably and unmistakably the
ruler of England--subject to the approval of the king. For the four
years preceding, it is practically certain that he both suggested
and organised Henry’s policy. England has never known a statesman so
irresistible, so relentless, while his power lasted; nor one whose
downfall was more sudden or so universally applauded. He is the most
terrifying because he is the most passionless figure in our history.
He wrought like fate, with a perfect disregard of all human sentiment
and emotion; a scourge of God. Not, however, a mere scourge like
the earthquake and the pestilence; not a mere destroyer; for, while
he shattered, he built. But for Cromwell, it may be doubted whether
Elizabeth’s England could have come into being.

For a second time Henry VIII. found the man most consummately fitted
to minister to his own ambition; to plan, to organise, to smite--and
to be smitten. As Wolsey, having accomplished his work, fell because
he failed to engineer his master’s matrimonial projects, so Cromwell,
having accomplished his work, fell in attempting to engineer a
matrimonial project which displeased his master. Both the great
ministers were men of humble birth at the best: popular report gave
out that the father of the one was a butcher, that of the other a
blacksmith. The one mounted to power, the last and perhaps the greatest
product of the old relation between Church and State; the other was
the first layman who, lacking even gentle blood, achieved the highest
position in the State, and shattered her old relation with the Church.
The reign of Henry VIII. abounds in huge ironies: it is not perhaps the
least of them that the Hammer of the Monks passed into the service of
the king from the service of the Cardinal.

[Illustration: _THOMAS CROMWELL 1st EARL OF ESSEX_

_By_ HOLBEIN, _from an Engraving by Houbraken in the British Museum_]

Diversities in the judgments passed on Thomas Cromwell are less
marked than in the case of most of the statesmen portrayed in this
volume. There is no possibility of questioning the utter absence
of moral scruple in the methods by which he pursued his ends, the
completeness with which he subordinated every other consideration to
their achievement, the vast organising power he displayed. That he
was actuated by a moral repulsion to the Roman system, or a religious
enthusiasm for the purity of the Gospel, is a view that can only
be put forward on the sweeping assumption that everybody concerned
in the Reformation at all was so actuated, except feeble or wicked
bigots who clung to the old order. Cromwell as a Protestant Martyr is
very much like Frederic the Great as Protestant Hero. Every one who
believes that it was good for England to reject the Papal authority
and to subordinate the Church in England to the State, is bound
to consider that the man who did these things for England rendered
his country a great service. Every one who holds the contrary view as
to the Papacy and the Church must hold that he rendered her almost
immeasurable dis-service. But these are judgments not on the man but on
the circumstances.

Yet there is one very curious fact about Thomas Cromwell. Although he
set his mark indelibly on the history of his country, and in spite
of the exceptionally dramatic course of his career, his name seems
to convey very little to most Englishmen--save as the secretary whom
Wolsey charged to “fling away ambition.” Oliver looms so large that it
is difficult to grasp the idea that another person of the same name
also loomed large a hundred years earlier. No playwright or novelist
has made him a central figure in drama or novel. Yet it may at least be
argued that of the ten characters here examined, his personality was
the one which most decisively influenced the course of history.


II

EARLIER CAREER AND RISE TO POWER

In the last quarter of the fifteenth century there was dwelling in
Putney one Walter Cromwell, alias Smyth, who appears to have been a
brewer, smith, and armourer, and incidentally to have been a very
troublesome person with a taste for breaking the law in minor matters.
There is no doubt that Walter was the father of Thomas: whose birth
conjecture places about 1485. Down to 1512, the accounts of Cromwell’s
life rest entirely on later gossip, sometimes professedly derived
from remarks which he himself let fall. All reports, however, agree
in saying that he went to Italy when very young--“fleeing from his
father,” one of them avers. It needs no evidence to show that he had
a remarkably enterprising and self-reliant spirit, and if he did
run away from a turbulent parent to seek his fortune by his wits,
it was a course thoroughly consonant with his subsequent career.
The reports state further that he served as a man-at-arms under an
Italian nobleman, and with the French in 1503. Allowing for presumable
inaccuracies of detail, there is no reason to doubt that he tried his
hand as a trader of sorts in the Low Countries and in Italy. There is,
however, definite ground for believing that he returned to England
about 1512, and married the next year. If Mistress Elizabeth Wykeys did
not bring something fairly handsome in the way of a fortune, Thomas
Cromwell must have strangely forgotten himself. For some years, it
may be affirmed with confidence that he took part in business as a
wool-merchant or “shearman,” combining this trade with practice as an
attorney. Documentary evidence puts it effectively beyond doubt that he
was professionally known as a man of law to Wolsey in 1520. In 1523 he
sat in the House of Commons as a Member of that Parliament which, under
Sir Thomas More’s Speakership, declined to discuss the voting of a
subsidy in the Cardinal’s presence.

By this time we are getting away from the region of conjecture,
anecdote, and hearsay, into that of definite records. What we know of
Cromwell’s share in this Parliament is derived from two documents;
one, a letter of his own, in which he gibes at his fellow members for
having babbled at large about everything under the sun without doing
anything. “I have endured,” he says, “a Parliament which continued by
the space of seventeen whole weeks, where we communed of war, peace,
strife, contention, debate, murmur, grudge, riches, poverty, penury,
truth, falsehood, justice, equity, deceit, oppression, magnanimity,
activity, force, temperance, treason, murder, felony, and also how a
commonwealth might be edified and continued within our realm. Howbeit,
in conclusion we have done as our predecessors have been wont to do;
that is to say, as well as we might, and left where we began.’ If
Carlyle had lighted upon that, how his heart would have rejoiced! The
second document, however, suggests that if Cromwell, like Carlyle, had
no great opinion of talkers, he meant his own voice to be heard: since
it is almost certainly the MS. draft of a speech which he prepared for
delivery in that same Parliament. The speech is exceedingly clever, and
most diplomatically expressed--but is dead against Wolsey’s subsidy.
Perhaps he thought better of it, and kept it in MS. If not, it was an
audacious speech to make, for a man who was getting in touch with the
Cardinal, from whose good graces much might be hoped. Still, a like
audacity paid him well some six years later. It may have been carefully
calculated in both instances; but in both there were big risks.@

At any rate, his favour with the great minister increased. He dropped
his wool-business, extended his private legal practice, was entrusted
with much legal work by the Cardinal, and became known as the person
through whom suitors to Wolsey might find it advisable to make their
applications. It was not long before he found, in his capacity as a
man of law, congenial employment in the suppression of small religious
Houses, and the appropriation of their endowments to Wolsey’s colleges
at Ipswich and Oxford. This business he did to the entire satisfaction
of his master; and since he never at any time hesitated to accept or
extract material contributions to his private exchequer from any one
concerned, his accumulations grew _pari passu_ with his favour. So
also, incidentally, did his unpopularity, for which he cared absolutely
nothing. His confidential relations with the apparently all-powerful
minister made him a person of considerable though unofficial
importance; bringing him in contact with people of high position. Thus
in 1527 he was well-known to Reginald Pole (afterwards Cardinal),
whom he counselled to drop high-flown ideas, and learn the practical
business of a politician by studying Machiavelli’s “Prince”--a work of
which he must have obtained a MS. copy, as it had not yet been printed,
though written probably as early as 1513.

But the toils of the divorce business were already enmeshing Cromwell’s
patron; as the year 1529 advanced, clouds, lightning-charged, were
gathering over his head, and the secretary knew that the hour was about
to strike when he himself must either “make or mar.”

We have seen that practically nothing is known with absolute certainty
as to Cromwell’s early years; we have seen also that the reports
about that period of his life are sufficiently consistent with each
other and with his later career to warrant us in assuming that they
were tolerably well grounded. It would be difficult to conceive of
any man thus trained, turning out otherwise than a cynic. At home, we
have the father, a man in a respectable position, who is, however,
eternally being summonsed for some breach of the law. The clever and
independent youngster quarrels with his father, and takes himself off
to foreign parts. He makes for Italy--the land of all others where
brains counted most; the land also where morals counted least; the
land _par excellence_ of poison and poniards; the land where every
one was formally orthodox, and hardly any one--least of all the
priests--believed anything much. Only a religious enthusiast could
pass through the ordeal of life in Italy--at the age of twenty or
thereabouts--without becoming a sceptic. That a Cromwell should have
passed through it without conceiving a most heart-felt contempt for the
whole Roman system would be incredible; but it is hardly more credible
that he should have been converted into a cold, stern moralist. If he
was, he kept the cold, stern morality pretty thoroughly in abeyance
until it found vent in the destruction of the monasteries.

After a brief experience of life in camp and in the guard-room, the
young man is apparently for some ten years knocking about from Venice
to Antwerp, acquiring a sound knowledge of trade and a mastery of the
ways of traders. Then he returns to England and turns his knowledge
to account, combining with it a lucrative practice, as a presumably
somewhat unscrupulous but amazingly clever attorney. Always it is the
seamy side of life which concerns him; and at any rate, after he has
sown his wild oats and acquired experience, he adds to the conviction
that most men would be knaves if they could, the certainty that, at
least in comparison with Thomas Cromwell, most of them are fools. This
consciousness makes him ambitious. He manages to attract the great
Cardinal’s attention by his abilities. The summoning of a Parliament
gives him an opportunity. He prepares a speech for it, which will
certainly make him a man of some mark if it is delivered--and a clever
speech in opposition, as many parliamentarians learned when Parliament
had become a real power, is not always an obstacle to government
favour. Cromwell is still a man of the people, and the speech is on the
people’s side. Whether he made that speech pay him by delivering it or
by suppressing it remains uncertain--either is possible. Anyhow, from
that date his favour and his prosperity advanced rapidly; his thorough
knowledge of law, of business, and of character, and his immense
mastery of detail, making him a quite invaluable servant. And he who
has become invaluable to the first minister of the Court may become
invaluable to the Court itself.

Now what would be the natural political attitude of such a man?
Had there been room for a career as a demagogue when he sat in the
Parliament of 1523, he might have adopted that _rôle_: aiming, of
course, at a dictatorship. But there was no opening. To such a man,
however, it is quite certain that the absolute rule of one man would
present itself as the sole really strong form of government. Absolutism
was taking the place of the old Feudalism all over Europe; Henry VII.
had laid sure foundations for it in England; Wolsey had carried on
the work; it would be the business of Wolsey’s successor to complete
it. The political theory of Machiavelli was not in itself novel; it
must have been familiar, as a latent theory, to every one who knew
anything of the Italy of the Medicis and the Borgias. The novelty
lay in stating it boldly in the open. That, even the author of the
“Prince” had not done as yet: he had merely formulated it for private
circulation. Publication was deferred. But the Machiavellian creed
had reached the hands of Wolsey’s secretary, who had adopted it with
complete appreciation. Its central tenets are the complete divorce
between ethical considerations and political methods, and the complete
concentration of all power under the control of one will. The “Prince”
became Cromwell’s political text-book, whose principles and maxims
he was prepared to apply with appalling thoroughness if ever the
opportunity offered.

It was remarked that before the appointment of Sir Thomas More in 1529,
no one had held the office of Lord Chancellor unless he was either of
noble birth or an ecclesiastic. More, however, was of gentle blood. It
required a yet more violent departure from precedent for the king to
take as his own most confidential adviser a layman of plebeian origin;
and some considerable time elapsed before Cromwell held openly the
position which in effect had already long been his. The story of his
elevation will occupy the section now following: here we have attempted
to present the figure of the man who in the autumn of 1529 was nothing
more than the confidential secretary of a minister who was on the very
verge of the historic “farewell to all his greatness.” The secretary
presents in many respects a very marked contrast to his master, but the
contrast with his master’s successor in the Chancellorship is still
more striking. England never knew a statesman whose politics were so
entirely ethical as More; never one who ignored ethics so completely as
Cromwell. With the one, conscience stood unmistakeably first; with the
other it was non-existent, as far as state-craft was concerned. That is
not to say that the man himself was without conscience or moral sense;
just as Machiavelli, his master, was the last statesman in Italy who
could be called a scoundrel. Cromwell held with Machiavelli that the
political end justifies any means; the only question for the statesman
is, whether in the particular instance a flagrantly immoral method
may frustrate the end sought instead of furthering it, by shocking
sentiments which require to be conciliated. The Italian would not
personally practise all that he preached: his English disciple went
farther. Both doctrine and practice were the direct contradictions of
the doctrine and practice of Thomas More.


III

PLANNING THE CAMPAIGN

The blow fell: the Cardinal was struck suddenly down. What did Cromwell
do? In effect, we have two authorities--Cavendish, Wolsey’s honest
but not over astute biographer, and Foxe, honest too, but ready to
believe whatever chimed in best with his own theories. On Hallowmass
Day, November 1, Cavendish found the secretary in the Great Chamber at
Esher, whither the fallen Cardinal had retired; in much perturbation
of spirit over the prospect of his own ruin for his faithful service
to Wolsey, and resolved, in his own phrase, to go up to London, and
“make or mar.” He did not desert his master, but he went up to London
and made haste to commend himself to the other side. He played his
cards boldly, bidding directly for the favour of Norfolk, with whose
approbation he forthwith entered the newly-called Parliament as member
for Taunton. In fact, he had the wit to recognise that by skilful
management he could be loyal to Wolsey and push his own prospects at
the same time. The move was audacious, and successful. He had three
possible courses. A baser or a less astute man would have tried to win
favour with his master’s enemies by turning and rending his master. A
less daring one would have carefully dropped out of sight, taking his
chance of being able some day to retrieve his position. Cromwell was
bold enough to take up the cudgels openly in defence of the Cardinal,
thereby winning much credit for courage and loyalty: at the same time,
retaining the fallen minister’s confidence. Thus he was also enabled to
manœuvre for Wolsey, and to mollify some of his enemies by judicious
presents, bestowed under his advice and direction--and passing through
his hands. There is no need to discredit either the loyalty or the
courage displayed, but there is no denying that in displaying it he
served his own interests better than he could have done in any other
way.

Cromwell’s public defence of the Cardinal did not in fact mean much
more than active opposition in Parliament to the Bill of Attainder;
and Henry, at any rate, was not thirsting for Wolsey’s blood. It was
probably some time before he quite made up his mind that he could do
better without the man who had done so much for him. It is not unlikely
that what ultimately decided him was the growing perception that he
could make the combination of Cromwell and Cranmer serve his turn
more effectively. He had just caught from the Cambridge Doctor the
idea of discarding the Papal jurisdiction in the divorce in favour of
the National Ecclesiastical Courts supported by the opinion of the
qualified University doctors of Europe. There is very little doubt that
one of the first steps taken by Cromwell was to obtain an interview
with the king, nominally to defend himself against the malice of the
Cardinal’s enemies; and that he turned the interview to account by
hinting pretty openly that he could work out for the king a policy
which would not only ensure the divorce, but bring him much profit in
other ways, making him “the richest king that ever was in England,”
says Chapuys, the emperor’s ambassador.

Now Henry’s was not the type of mind which invents large and
far-reaching schemes of political action; but it was the type which
can appreciate and appropriate a big scheme designed by some one
else. Hitherto, until he became awake to the idea that Clement, under
pressure from the emperor, might actually deny him the divorce, there
is no reason to suppose that he had ever dreamt of quarrelling with the
Papacy as an institution, or with the ecclesiastical body in England.
Recently things had looked as if there might be a serious personal
quarrel with Clement, of a kind for which there were precedents,
and Stephen Gardiner had used distinctly threatening expressions in
that sense to his Holiness. Wolsey’s difficulties had been largely
due to his anxiety lest the divorce should lead to something still
more serious; but that had been all. Now, however, Wolsey was hardly
displaced when the first moves were made in what was revealed later
as a huge campaign, directed in the first instance against clerical
abuses, extending to privileges, and finally absorbing property; in
the course of which every pretension of the Holy See to jurisdiction,
authority or tribute in the realm of England was flatly and decisively
repudiated.

The whole thing worked out in its successive stages with such
systematic precision that there is no room for doubt of its having
been completely planned from a very early stage. Throughout, Henry
identified himself with it thoroughly. But it is almost inconceivable
that he should have had any such plan in his head when he was making
Sir Thomas More his Chancellor, and Norfolk to all appearance his
principal counsellor. On the other hand, the scheme is precisely such
a one as would have formed in the brain of the student of Machiavelli
who felt himself to be the one man who was able and willing to carry
it out in the king’s service. The old Baronage was already hardly
dangerous; a very few judicious blows would make it utterly incapable
of organised resistance; but if the English ecclesiastical body, with
its great corporate wealth, worked in harmonious accord with the
Papacy, under skilful leadership, in opposition to the Crown, the
Crown might not get the best of the conflict. With the Church brought
to heel in England, itself severed from the Papacy, and its wealth in
the grip of the sovereign, the royal will would be irresistible. To
suggest this new policy to the king, with himself as the instrument to
put it in execution, not perhaps all at once, but enough at a time to
carry the king along with him, would be a stroke which could hardly
fail of success; especially as, in enumerating the advantages the
policy offered, the certainty of getting the desired divorce could be
placed in the forefront. Henry could be perfectly relied upon to see
his own advantage in the proposal; he was equally certain to recognise
in the designer of the scheme the qualities needed for carrying it out.
Everything points to Cromwell, not Henry, as the deviser. The only
alternative is, that Henry had already made his plan, but only began to
regard it as practicable after he had guessed at and tested Cromwell’s
capacities as an instrument; a very much less probable hypothesis on
the face of it. Moreover, it is quite certain that neither before 1529
nor after 1540 did Henry show any power of creating out of his own
head a deeply considered and far-reaching policy. When he was left to
himself, or when he went counter to Wolsey or Cromwell, he never showed
himself a statesman who naturally took “long views.”

Cromwell, then, is to be regarded not as the able and unscrupulous
instrument chosen by Henry to carry out his own preconceived design
of revolutionising the relations between the secular sovereign, the
Church in England, and the Papal authority. Henry had the ability to
appreciate and to adopt the plan, but the brain which both conceived
and organised it, as well as the hand which executed it, belonged not
to the king but to the minister.


IV

CONTRA ECCLESIAM

It does not in effect militate against this view, that before Cromwell
could have set any agency in motion, Parliament did itself lead the way
by attacking certain minor and universally recognised abuses, without
waiting for Convocation to deal with them. It needed nothing in the
way of a campaign to ensure reforms being demanded and approved where
the clergy themselves admitted that the existing state of things was
scandalous. The first real blow was struck some months after Cromwell
had obtained the king’s ear, when Convocation, towards the close of
1530, was startled by a message that the whole of the clergy had
offended against the Statute of Præmunire in admitting the Legatine
authority of the deceased Cardinal. That authority had of course been
sanctioned by the approval of the king; but the fact that it was
illegal was not thereby altered. Technically, there was no possibility
of evading the charge. The clergy had broken the law; they must pay the
penalty. They did, fining themselves to the tune of a million or so
of our money. If they had not been perfectly helpless, the impudence
of the demand, coming from the king, would have been simply colossal:
but a demand which cannot be gainsaid can hardly be called impudent.
Wolsey, of course, had been penalised for exercising the authority, but
then there was the superficial excuse that he had obtained his master’s
sanction by beguiling his unsuspecting innocence. Here the king could
not even produce that flimsy excuse.

This financial operation, however, struck the keynote of the
Cromwellian policy. Wolsey had over-ridden the law in procuring the
Legatine appointment: he had sought to do so by demanding Benevolences:
he had sought to do so by overawing Parliament. Now, everything was
to be done under form of law. Even if--unwittingly of course--the
authorities transgressed their legal powers, the transgression was
to be regularised by a statute _ad hoc_. The principle was equally
agreeable to the tender conscience of Henry and the legal proclivities
of his minister.

The huge fine, however, did not satisfy the requirements. Convocation,
in passing the Bill, was compelled to pass also a clause acknowledging
the king as the “Only Supreme Head” of the Church, though it was
allowed to introduce the qualifying phrase “so far as the law of Christ
permits.” Except as an ingenious salve to clerical consciences, the
qualification was futile, since, in the exercise of his supremacy,
Henry would certainly not admit that he was going farther than those
laws permitted, and he would also be the _de facto_ judge on the
question if any one should dare to raise it. The whole clause might be
interpreted as meaning everything, or as meaning nothing--but the king
would be the interpreter.

The Bill, with the clause, was passed in 1531. Again the campaign
rested for about a year. So far, apart from a slight rectification of
abuses, nothing more--in form--had been done than to exact from the
clergy a penalty to which they had rendered themselves technically
liable, and to demand from them the formal admission of what was
asserted to be already the constitutional position of the Crown in
relation to them. In theory there had been nothing in the nature of
innovation. Now, it was time for innovation; so Parliament had to be
called in, as against the Church. But the innovation was to threaten
the Papal claims, so the Church must share the responsibility. Thus a
fresh phase of the campaign opened with the beginning of 1532.

Again there were in the first place obvious abuses which were dealt
with under Acts concerning mortmain and benefit of clergy. These,
of themselves, implied nothing in particular. But it was a very
different thing with the Annates Act: the first direct and manifest
challenge of a Papal claim. Rome had claimed from every bishop on his
appointment to a See the whole of the first year’s revenue. This, as
the Act pointed out, was a very grievous burden on the bishops, for
whose relief this system was to be stopped. Until quite recently, it
has never been disputed that this Bill was introduced in response
to the actual petition of Convocation. That idea was based on the
existence of a document which--closer examination leaves no doubt--did
not proceed from Convocation at all, as had hitherto been supposed.
Chapuys reported at the time that the bishops opposed the measure.
By this time, doubtless, the supremacy business had awakened their
alarm, and others besides Fisher were beginning to dread a rupture
with the Papacy. There are however, two special features which
demand our attention. The Bill was framed ostensibly for the relief
of the clergy, implying that the Crown, not the Papacy, was the true
protector of their interests, and emphasising an antagonism between
English Churchmen and the Pope. Also, it was not required to be put
in immediate execution, but was to be held in suspense during the
king’s pleasure. A double purpose was served thereby, though the
intention was masked. Clement could buy the withdrawal of the measure
by conceding the divorce: while if he should elect to close that door
to reconciliation, it would not be too late to divert the annates into
the king’s pocket, instead of abolishing the impost. The clergy would
be none the better in either event, but the trick would have helped to
keep them on the king’s side till it was too late to change. Henry was
still playing for a divorce with the Papal sanction; he had not come
to regard a final breach with the Papacy as an end desirable _per se_.
Cromwell, we may assume, took a different view, but of course could not
dream of forcing Henry’s hand: what he could do was to have everything
in thorough order for a decisive breach, if and when the moment should
come.

There was something more, however, for Parliament to do, namely its
presentation of the Supplication against the Ordinaries. There is no
doubt at all that in every essential this was Cromwell’s personal
handiwork. It was a double-barrelled attack, from the popular point
of view, on the way in which the Church exercised its jurisdiction;
from the sovereign’s point of view, on the authority of the Church’s
legislation. The whole intention of it was to force the clergy as a
body to admit that their authority, whether as individuals or as a
corporate body, was subordinate to that of the sovereign. Its object
was attained with entire success: it resulted in what was known as the
“Submission of the Clergy,” virtually a complete surrender. The defeat
was practically the death-blow of the aged Archbishop Warham; while the
Lord Chancellor, Sir Thomas More, found himself so totally opposed to
the principle involved that he resigned office and went into retirement.

Warham’s death at this juncture was most convenient. The old man had
not been sufficiently stout of heart to offer a stubborn resistance to
the new policy, but he had yielded with much misgiving and soreness
of spirit. He had been restive enough to make it doubtful whether in
the last resort he might not decline to pronounce a judgment against
Katharine in defiance of the Pope. By appointing Cranmer to the
Archbishopric, Henry made sure of a primate who would have no qualms
on the point. This security made him ready to precipitate the crisis
which the Pope was craving to postpone or evade. The simple truth was
that Clement felt himself to be completely in the grip of the emperor,
and no conceivable threats from England could have extracted the
desired verdict from him. The fact was unmistakeably revealed by the
publication, in February, of what was in effect an order to Henry to
re-instate Katharine on pain of excommunication. The reply was the Act
in Restraint of Appeals--in form an Act declaratory of the existing
law of England, in effect an announcement of independence--immediately
followed by Cranmer’s judicial pronouncement invalidating the marriage
with Katharine _ab initio_. Until Clement retorted by declaring
Cranmer’s judgment void, Henry abstained from confirming either the Act
in Restraint of Appeals or the Annates Act; their confirmation was his
rejoinder. After that, there might be talk of reconciliation, but the
practical possibility was gone past recall.


V

THE FABRIC OF DESPOTISM

The year 1533 may be regarded as marking the irreparable breach with
the Papacy, though it was not till 1534 that Clement gave his own
formal judgment in favour of Katharine, and Convocation issued its
own declaration that the “Bishop of Rome” derives from Scripture no
more jurisdiction in England than “any other foreign bishop”--two
sentences which may perhaps be regarded as merely bolting an already
locked door. The purpose of Cromwell’s anti-clerical campaign was
so far achieved that the clergy had been driven out of their main
strongholds by their “submission,” and had next been cut off from the
aid of a Papal alliance. These were the preliminary measures to the
assertion in very concrete guise of the untrammelled supremacy of
the Crown in things ecclesiastical and temporal alike, which was the
aim of the policy we have ascribed primarily to Cromwell rather than
his master. An additional reason for so ascribing it is to be found
in the strong presumption afforded by the evidence that Henry himself
did not wish to cast off the Papal allegiance utterly, until he found
that he could get the divorce in no other way. Apart from his fixed
resolution to make Anne Boleyn his wife at all costs, it may be doubted
if he reckoned that the complication of foreign relations involved in
a final repudiation of the Pope’s authority would be compensated by
the more unqualified control of ecclesiastical matters at home. For
him the divorce turned the scale: and since he could not escape the
disadvantages of revolting, he meant to have every scrap of advantage
that could be reaped from it too. The differences which presently arose
between the king and his minister on the conduct of foreign affairs
will be found to have some bearing on this view of the case.

At any rate, the breach being made, Henry was as ready as Cromwell for
aggression; and Cromwell was let loose to carry out his policy--within
the realm--to the uttermost: no longer working in the background, but
in a position as openly dominant as Wolsey himself had occupied.

The first business was to confirm formally the positions already taken
up, in a fresh series of Acts of Parliament, in the early session of
1534; embodying the recent measures, but generally carrying them a step
further. Thus “Peter Pence” were abolished as well as Annates. An
appeal to the King’s Court of Chancery from the Ecclesiastical Courts
was substituted for the Appeal to Rome abolished by the Restraint of
Appeals. The “submission of the clergy” was extended so as to bring the
whole instead of a part only of the canon law under the purview of the
commission to be appointed for its examination. The corollary of the
Boleyn marriage was an Act of Succession in favour of the offspring of
Anne: but the Act carried with it a murderous sting. “I pray that these
things be not confirmed with oaths,” More had said when the marriage
was ratified. His anticipation was justified. An oath of obedience to
the Act was to be administered.

In this affair of the oath, we as usual find Henry and Cromwell in
perfect accord as to policy, but not actuated by precisely the same
motive. The thing in Cromwell’s mind is the Royal Supremacy; he is
determined to be rid of conditions which check the activities of the
Crown, and of men whose influence tends to keep alive doubts as to
the Crown’s legitimate powers. Henry’s point of view is the personal
one. He has done a very unpopular thing in divorcing Katharine and
marrying Anne, and is determined to make every one admit that he was
entirely in the right. Now, there was in England no ecclesiastic so
universally esteemed for probity and saintliness as Fisher, the Bishop
of Rochester; there was no layman who could compare for intellectual
eminence and beauty of character with Thomas More. It was known to the
world that both these men held that Katharine’s marriage had been
valid, and that both disapproved the recent anti-Papal developments. So
also it was known that in the Houses of Religion which stood highest
in reputation for sincerity and austerity, and were untouched by the
breath of scandal, the divorce and the revolt were regarded with
horror. To force these recalcitrants openly to declare in favour of the
divorce and the Royal Supremacy, would be a great triumph. On the other
hand, nothing would so terrorise opposition as the smiting down, before
the horrified eyes of the world, of victims so distinguished. Cromwell
therefore drafted the oath of obedience to the Act of Succession in
such terms that the subscriber would have to swear not only loyalty to
the provisions of the Act, but acceptance of the divorce as right, and
of the Royal Supremacy as theoretically sound. More, Fisher, and some
of the monks to whom the oath was administered, refused to desert their
principles. They would swear to maintain the succession as laid down,
since it lay within the function of the State to order the succession;
but they would not take the oath as it stood. Thereupon they were sent
to prison.

It may readily be believed that the minister, as reported, swore a
great oath when he heard More’s refusal. The moral effect of winning
such converts would have been incalculable: preferable certainly to
shocking public sentiment as the alternative course must do. But he was
not in the least afraid of shocking public sentiment, at any rate if he
at the same time inspired terror; if circumstances demanded victims,
the more conspicuous they were, the better.

For once, however, a point had been overlooked: it appeared impossible
lawfully to proceed to extremities on the ground of refusal to take the
oath. The omission was rectified in the next session of Parliament.
In a fresh Act of Succession, the oath as administered was expressly
ratified, and the occasion was seized to pass a new Treasons Act,
inadequately described as drastic. It was made treason to question the
titles of the queen and the heirs apparent, or to impute heresy or
schism to the king; and the lawyers were able so to interpret it that
mere silence might be construed as treason--it was enough to refuse to
affirm the Supremacy and the rest of it. The two new Acts were brought
to bear on the victims, who remained firm and were executed in the
following summer. There is no shadow of a hint anywhere that Cromwell
suffered a single qualm in working out the destruction of either
More or Fisher, but it is hardly necessary to make him responsible
for the equally ruthless attitude of the king. According to Roper’s
circumstantial narrative, Henry was so vindictive towards More when
once he had turned against him, that he could hardly be persuaded to
have him left out of the Bill of Attainder in the affair of the Nun
of Kent, until the Chancellor, Lord Audley, and others succeeded in
convincing him that Parliament could not possibly pass the Bill with
More’s name included. If ever there was a chance of life for Fisher and
More, it was destroyed when Henry’s fury was roused by the new Pope
making Fisher a Cardinal. These facts illustrate the difference between
Henry’s attitude and Cromwell’s. To Cromwell, More and Fisher are
merely obstructions to his policy. They must either cease to obstruct
or be crushed. To spare them for sentimental reasons would be absurd,
but there is no passion or vindictiveness or animosity about their
destruction, as far as he is concerned.

Never had any king of England wielded so deadly an engine of despotism
as was placed in Henry’s hands by this Treasons Act of Cromwell;
whereof, however, the full force depended on its manipulation by
its designer. The country was in a very short time so sown with the
minister’s spies that the moment any one became obnoxious to authority
it was the simplest thing possible to procure an information of a
hasty word spoken or passed by in silence, of a phrase that might have
carried a double meaning; and the victim’s doom was virtually sealed.
The excuse, of course, was the one on which a tyranny that seeks to
justify itself invariably falls back--that an unparalleled emergency
demands extraordinary powers. It was not, indeed, quite obvious that
there was an unparalleled emergency in existence, but then it might
arise at any moment. Cromwell was going on to a series of measures
which might prove acceptable, but might on the other hand provoke a
storm of indignation. With the Treasons Act ready to his hand, he could
anticipate conspiracy by striking wherever and whenever it pleased him.
It was an integral part of his political theory that Government--_i.e._
the Despot--should have that power. It was not, of course, aimed
specifically at the Church; it was only incidentally concerned with
More and Fisher. The repression of clericalism was only a part of
the scheme for a legalised Despotism. The climax, the theoretical
coping-stone of the edifice, was not achieved till the Act which in
1539 gave Royal Proclamations the force of law; but for practical
purposes, the Treasons Act made Henry a monarch more absolute than any
other in Christendom.

Cromwell, however, had not as yet fulfilled the promise he is said to
have given of making Henry “the richest king that ever was in England.”
As a matter of fact, whatever riches had come in his way Henry would
never have kept a full treasury, since he always emptied it with both
hands. But Cromwell in his capacity as Vicar-General, or representative
of the Supreme Head with unlimited powers--which office was bestowed
on him early in 1535, a few months after the Treasons Act--was to make
him a record present. It was a matter of principle with him, in his
methods, to make rude display to the higher clergy of the fact that
they must now recognise themselves as mere menials of the Crown, whose
functions might be superseded at the royal pleasure; and on those lines
he acted in striking his next blow, sending out a commission of his own
creatures to “visit” the monasteries, and report upon them. It is only
necessary to recall one of his casual memoranda at a later date--“Item,
the Abbot of Reading, to be sent down to be tried _and executed_”--to
feel properly satisfied that the case of the monasteries was prejudged.
The commission was intended to report evil concerning them, and not
good; and the commissioners acted up to their instructions. It is
quite possible that a perfectly impartial tribunal after complete
investigation would have found the evidence hardly less damning; but
what the commissioners did was to pay a series of hasty visits, collect
all the scandal they could get any one to retail to them, insult or
frighten respectable and responsible inmates till they gave confused or
evasive answers, or none at all, to interrogatories, and so to produce
what passed as evidence of a very abominable and corrupt state of
affairs. Whereupon Parliament passed an Act dissolving between three
and four hundred Houses, in effect handing their property over to the
Crown. Some of this wealth was theoretically appropriated to endowing
new bishoprics and to other corresponding purposes; but in practice a
fraction of it only was so utilised. Some of the lands were given away
to people whom it was convenient for the king--or Cromwell--to placate;
most were sold at low prices--with the effect of establishing a new
landed proprietary which in the years long after was to play a part in
the national politics which their creator can hardly have foreseen. It
was not Cromwell’s way to reach for more than he could grasp; before
he made one stride, he had calculated for the next, but he did not
take it till his own time. So he did not wipe out the monastic system
at a blow. The completion of the business waited--like the Royal
Proclamations Act--till 1539. For the present, Cromwell was content to
impose on the greater monasteries, and such of the lesser ones as still
survived, a disciplinary code which professed to have in view the
enforcement of a becoming austerity, but was felt to be so intolerably
severe as effectually to bring about several voluntary dissolutions or
surrenders.

Cromwell’s royal partner, no doubt, in a famous phrase of much later
date, “stood amazed at his own moderation.” But the country hardly
took the same view. The year which saw, in February, the first Act
dissolving the lesser monasteries, saw also in the autumn a rising
in Lincolnshire, very shortly followed by the organised Yorkshire
insurrection known as the Pilgrimage of Grace. As in all the religious
rebellions of the Reformation, the issues were a good deal mixed up
with social discontents; and the last straw was probably a piece of
Cromwell’s handiwork which had nothing to do with ecclesiastical
matters, being a measure known as the Statute of Uses, designed
to get rid of a maze of legal complications which had arisen from
ingenious evasions of the law as to the inheritance of land. The
insurgents, however, put the religious innovations in the forefront
of their schedule of grievances: openly demanding the dismissal of
both Cromwell and Cranmer. The military management of the suppression
of the rebellion was left to the Dukes of Suffolk and Norfolk, but no
collision was allowed till the northern levies had been diplomatically
induced to disperse; after which some sporadic outbreaks were used,
after the turn of the year, as an excuse for an extremely heavy-handed
exaction of retribution. Cromwell, however, turned the whole thing to
account; as certain abbots and priors had been more or less deeply
implicated, whereby the opportunity was given for suppressing several
considerable religious communities, and hanging some highly placed
Churchmen. A further result was the re-organisation of the government
of the counties constituting the Marches--those which were always
living with an eye on Scotland, and enjoyed or suffered a special
system of control--by the establishment of a new Council of the North
which diminished the power of the nobility in those regions; Cromwell
always maintaining the same end persistently in view, the weakening of
all power of organised resistance to the king’s will.

Another year brought another opportunity. In 1538, Cromwell discovered
a conspiracy. The South-west of England, like the North, was ever on
what may be called the Romantic side when developments, political or
religious, were in progress. It was now perturbed over the innovations.
It appeared that the Marquis of Exeter, the king’s first cousin and a
grandson of Edward IV., was engaged in some sort of conspiracy with
the Poles, whose mother was the old Countess of Salisbury, daughter
of “false fleeting perjured Clarence.” Amongst them, they stood for
the relics of the old Yorkist anti-Tudor faction. Cromwell had already
taken occasion to warn Reginald Pole--whose diatribes against Henry,
issued from abroad, had brought him under the royal ban--that his
kinsmen in England might pay the penalty for his audacity. Whether
there was any real body in the conspiracy is open to doubt, but there
was quite enough evidence to go upon under the Treasons Act. The
process by attainder practically suppressed any defence. Exeter,
Montague (the head of the Poles) and others were executed; and there
were sufficient means for involving some more Houses of religion, with
their heads, notably the revered Abbot of Glastonbury, who were hanged
as traitors.

Thus, by the opening of 1539, everything was ready for the two final
measures. The regrettable conduct of the monastic establishments in
associating themselves with treason provided a final justification for
the complete suppression of the system, and incidentally the further
enrichment of the Crown. In the field of constitutional practice,
the Crown had frequently proceeded by Royal Proclamations, but there
was generally some attendant danger of the authority of these being
challenged. Parliament was now called upon formally to concede to such
proclamations the effect of regular Statutes. It may be remarked in
passing that the Parliament called in 1529 had been responsible for the
whole of the legislation down to its last session in the early spring
of 1536, when it passed the Act dissolving the lesser monasteries.
Whether it was subservient or not, Cromwell had nothing to do with
packing it: it was only at the last moment that he was provided with
a seat in it. But there is no doubt that the subsequent Parliaments,
beginning with that summoned in May 1536, were packed by Cromwell and
his agents. That was an inevitable part of the system which was to make
the king absolute, whilst preserving the traditional forms.


VI

CROMWELL AND PROTESTANTISM

The policy of organising a Despotism was necessarily anti-Papal and
also anti-clerical. In the former aspect, it complicated foreign
relations; in the latter, it was involved with the movement towards a
spiritual and dogmatic reformation of religion. Cromwell’s course in
foreign politics was dictated by anti-Papal considerations. So long as
Katharine, the aunt of Charles V., was alive, there was no prospect of
reconciliation between the Emperor and Henry, so that England could
not work on Wolsey’s favourite line of holding the balance between
Charles and the French king, who felt himself perfectly safe from any
risk of a renewed combination between his rivals. Hence, Cromwell
usually hankered for close association with the German Protestant
princes, united in the League of Schmalkad, as an effective counter
to the Emperor. Such an alliance might either coerce Charles into a
reconciliation with Protestantism and England, or might make Francis
think it worth his while to join an anti-Papal league. Having this
idea in his mind, Cromwell’s attitude towards Lutheranism abroad and
the religious progressives in England was always friendly: since he
realised that the course of events must divide Christendom under the
Papal and anti-Papal standards, which came to be called Catholic and
Protestant respectively. If Rome were cast off by some of her children,
while others remained faithful, sooner or later the latter would be
compelled to unite for the purpose of crushing the rebels. Thus the
defiance of Rome and of Charles by the pronouncement of the divorce in
1533, was attended by overtures to the League of Protestant Princes.

The Lutherans, however, looked askance. They feared the Greeks _et
dona ferentes_; had not Henry taken the field conspicuously against
their leader? German Lutheranism was deep-rooted in a genuine religious
feeling; it could feel no confidence in the king of England as a
convert to the Augsburg confession. Therefore the princes and the
divines of Protestant Germany went warily. On the other hand, the
isolation of England made Francis more than careless of an English
alliance unless on terms extremely profitable to himself. The death
of Katharine, however, in January 1536, changed the situation. It was
no longer necessary for the emperor to range himself against England.
It is noteworthy that the immediate effect on Cromwell was to make
him desire an Imperial (which meant the old Burgundian) alliance, but
he was promptly pulled up by the king, who had learnt once before
that Wolsey had been right in his policy of holding the balance, and
that he himself had erred in forcing an alliance with Charles. The
emperor and Francis fell to fighting again, and for a while England was
approximately in the old position of having each of the great Powers
intriguing for her alliance, while she held aloof and coquetted with
both. Then the combatants grew tired, and, with the improved prospect
of their reconciliation, their ardour for English friendship cooled.

Just before this time, Henry’s third wife died. Neither his first nor
his second spouse had provided him with a male heir; he had divorced
the one, and cut off the head of the other. Jane Seymour did what was
expected of her, but died in the execution of her duty. One not too
sturdy baby boy, and two daughters who had been judicially pronounced
illegitimate, gave room for uneasiness as to the succession. A
fourth matrimonial venture was thus rendered advisable: providing
opportunities for diplomatic intrigue. The royal ladies of Europe,
however, do not seem to have coveted the position: “If I had two heads,
one should be at the King of England’s disposal,” is said to have been
the caustic comment of a suggested bride. Neither Francis nor Charles
would be inveigled. On the contrary, they patched up a peace in the
summer of 1538, and Henry’s policy of keeping them at odds with each
other, while dangling an English alliance before both, broke down, as
Cromwell’s previous attempt to join decisively with Charles had been
frustrated. Cromwell fell back on the line which in his heart he would
probably have preferred throughout, of alliance with the Lutherans: and
at last he hoped--by finding a Lutheran bride for Henry--to attach his
master decisively to that policy. Henry gave a half-hearted assent; the
minister made his final throw. In the moment of seeming victory, his
knell was sounded. Before we come to this, the last act in Cromwell’s
drama, we may revert to his relations with the religious movement in
England.

In the whole of his record, so far as we have at present reviewed
it, there is not a scintilla of evidence to suggest that Henry’s
Vicar-General ever cared a straw about any properly religious question
at all. We can be tolerably sure, no doubt, as to some of the things
he did _not_ believe in. He did not believe that the Pope was the
holder of the keys to heaven. He did not believe that the clergy
were the divinely appointed channel through whom alone salvation
must be obtained. He did not believe in the effectual sanctity of
relics. Such beliefs would at least have been impossible to reconcile
with his anti-Papal and anti-clerical campaigns. But it would be
exceedingly difficult to find any positive dogma to which it would be
possible to point as an article of faith with him. On the other hand,
every circumstance of his life before 1529, known or surmised, was
calculated to produce and to foster scepticism on the intellectual and
carelessness on the emotional side of religion, generating a hardened
materialism. The resulting attitude towards men who were actuated by
strong religious convictions would be regulated entirely by policy.

Obviously, then, doctrines which weakened the hold of the Papacy,
the priesthood, and the monks, on the popular imagination, would
recommend themselves to his mind--not as particularly credible or
true, but as deserving encouragement, weakening the spell of the
great organisation whose power he desired, for reasons of policy, to
reduce to the uttermost. Hence, it would be his wish to be at least
on friendly terms with the reformers who were defying the Pope and
setting ecclesiastical conventions at naught. More particularly, he
would find the most dangerous opponents of his political design in
that school of English Churchmen, headed by the Bishop of Winchester,
who were determined to employ every instrument of intrigue to retain
as much power as possible for the clergy, and he would seek as natural
allies the men like Cranmer who were unqualified advocates of the
Royal Supremacy. Further, he foresaw the ultimate necessity of a
political understanding, if not the actual alliance which he would
have preferred, with Continental Protestantism. On the other hand, he
was thoroughly aware that the king plumed himself on his theological
learning and orthodoxy; and it was no part of his scheme to run counter
to the king. Hence, it became his business so far as he could to
influence Henry in favour of the respectable reformers--not, of course,
those who were tainted with Anabaptism or the suspicion thereof. But
there is no hint anywhere in his conduct that he thought of the actual
tenets of any reformers as in themselves worth any sacrifice. The king
took a keen interest in theological controversies on their merits; his
minister did not.

This view of his attitude, or of what we should have expected his
attitude to be, tallies precisely with what we know of his actions.
When called upon to intervene in clerical controversies, he habitually
backed up Cranmer as against Gardiner, working in concert with him,
except when he perceived that Cranmer wanted to go farther than Henry
was willing to accompany him. Cranmer was a useful ally, who never lost
his place in the royal favour: and the archbishop’s greatest enemy was
his own also. But when the Six Articles Act was introduced, and he knew
the king’s mind on the subject, he promptly left his ally in the lurch;
though no doubt his influence was exerted, when it had been passed, to
check its active enforcement. The passing of the Act--the crack of the
“whip with six strings”--sufficiently served Henry’s immediate purpose,
which was to make a display of rigid orthodoxy for the benefit of the
emperor and King Francis. Cromwell, who had just committed himself to
the Lutherans too deeply to retract, must have viewed the Act itself
with painful feelings; but he could not afford to resist. Compliance
offered the one chance of bringing his master round.


VII

CROMWELL’S FALL

The Act of the Six Articles, the Royal Proclamations Act, and that
for the final suppression of the monasteries, were all passed in the
early summer--May or June--of 1539, when Cromwell was already fully
involved in his scheme for creating a matrimonial bond between Henry
and the German Protestants. In 1538, when peace between Charles and
Francis seemed imminent, he had succeeded in persuading Henry to
invite a visit from the Lutherans with a view to arriving at a mutual
understanding on the theological questions: but even the reconciliation
of the French king and the emperor failed to make the English king at
all cordial, and the envoys went back to Germany in the autumn with
nothing accomplished. As the year drew to a close, however, there were
ominous signs of a league being formed to threaten England--which
perhaps was one of Cromwell’s incentives to the destruction of Exeter
and the Poles, by way of a hint to the Continental Powers that the
government was far too strong to be endangered by any domestic
discontents. The warnings from abroad had their effect on Henry, who
began to think that a counter-alliance might be really necessary. Thus,
immediately after the New Year, Cromwell opened negotiations with the
intention of obtaining Anne of Cleves, sister of the young duke, as a
bride for King Henry. Yet even this concession to his policy was only,
so to speak, a half-loaf: since Cleves was not actually in the League
of Schmalkald, or irrevocably bound to Lutheranism, though the duke
happened to have his own quarrel with the emperor.

In April, another embassy from the League was in England; but so also
was an ambassador from France, bent on placating Henry--and about the
same time, intelligence arrived that the emperor and the League had
come to terms. So very cold water was poured on the Lutheran envoys,
to whom the Six Articles Act was virtually a direct snub: as it was to
Cromwell, whose policy it signified that Henry meant to desert.

Yet once more the prospect seemed to right itself for the minister.
It appeared that the king had been deluded by the diplomatists, and
that after all the chance of a coalition against England was by no
means dissolved. Before the summer was fairly over, the politest of
overtures were passing between Francis and Charles; while the Duke of
Cleves, who had been to some degree holding off, again became urgent
for the marriage, being, like Henry, threatened with danger from the
restoration of amity between the two great rivals. Henry was beguiled
into believing that the lady of his minister’s choice would make him a
charming and attractive spouse; negotiations were pushed forward apace,
and in the last days of December, Anne of Cleves landed in England. On
January 6 the marriage was celebrated.

But fate was against Cromwell. In the first place, the king took a
violent antipathy to his bride: and though, for an adequate political
end, he would have accepted the situation, his soul was wroth with
the man who had brought him into it. Moreover, so far as concerned
domestic affairs, the minister had done all that Henry needed of
him. He had so handled the Church that she lay defenceless under the
king’s hand. He had brought to the block every one who could be made
a figure-head for insurrection, and had made organised rebellion an
impossibility. He had done all that there was to be done in the way of
despoiling the king’s subjects for the king’s benefit. Finally, he had
just placed in the king’s hand the last administrative instrument of
despotism in the Royal Proclamations Act, as he had before provided
an irresistible weapon in the Treasons Act. He was not required for
any further religious reforms, since his master had already gone as
far as he meant to travel in that direction. There was left only one
reason why the royal anger should be restrained--a demonstration that
his foreign policy was right; that he was needed as foreign minister.
And ere many weeks were passed, conclusive reasons appeared for judging
that the theory to which Henry had endeavoured to cling was right after
all, that a lasting coalition between Francis and Charles was a mere
bugbear, that there had never been any need for the Cleves marriage.
Moreover, the demonstration was effected by one of Cromwell’s two
most determined rivals, the Duke of Norfolk, who at any rate got the
credit for bringing about the open rupture which promptly succeeded
the fraternal embraces of the emperor and the French king. At last the
game was in the hands of Gardiner and Norfolk. On June 10 the bolt
fell. Absolutely without warning, Cromwell was arrested for treason
at the Council, and sent forthwith to the Tower. His own weapons
were turned against him, his own interpretation of treason, his own
favourite process of attainder. Like Wolsey, he had served his master
only too well; and his master rewarded him as pitilessly as he had
rewarded the Cardinal. The only man in England who dared to plead on
his behalf was--Cranmer. On July 28, Cromwell’s head was hacked from
his shoulders. With what measure he meted, it had been measured to him
again.



HENRY VIII


I

APPRECIATIONS

Of both More and Cromwell it has been observed that historians do not
greatly vary in their estimates, when a reasonable allowance is made
for Protestant and anti-Protestant bias. That remark does not hold good
of King Henry. The popular idea of him is more intimately associated
with that of Bluebeard than of any other hero of fiction or history.
Mr. Froude has created a legend of his own, wherein the only doubt
seems to be whether Henry quite passed the dividing line between the
mere hero and the demi-god. Most commonly, he appears as a brutal
tyrant. Among the best informed living authorities in England on the
sixteenth century, one distinguishes him as the most remarkable man
who ever sat on the English throne, and another has characterised him
as a weak-willed bully, always depending for support on some stronger
will than his own; yet neither the one nor the other shows signs of
having been led to his conclusion by any marked bias. The data for his
reign, in the form of documents calendared with exceptional skill,
are peculiarly ample; but the opportunities for drawing divergent
inferences therefrom are extensive. It would be too much to call them
unique, in a century which gave birth also to Elizabeth and to Mary
Queen of Scots.

[Illustration: _HENRY VIII._

_From a Portrait by_ JOST VAN CLEEF _in the Royal Collection at Hampton
Court Palace_]

About the fourth year of Henry’s reign, Thomas Wolsey came to the front
and remained there for sixteen years. For another ten years, Thomas
Cromwell was in the king’s service. During this period of something
exceeding a quarter of a century, did Henry or his ministers control
policy? Great events happened. Did he, in dealing with them, show
himself a great statesman? Or did he merely play the part of a selfish
and greedy libertine? One can only express a personal opinion. The
view which seems most consonant with the facts may be broadly stated
thus. Like his daughter Elizabeth, he had a keen eye for character and
ability; he could appreciate statesmanship in a servant, and he knew
how to get the utmost value out of the men he chose to trust. In the
main, he let them carry out their designs in their own way; but he
remained watchful, and saw to it that if he happened to want anything
not included in their programme, the programme should be altered. He
did not initiate, but he did adopt and make his own, the principles
of Wolsey’s foreign and Cromwell’s domestic policy. A time came when
he wanted from Wolsey something which his minister’s genius was not
adapted to provide; and Wolsey vanished. By slow degrees Cromwell
emerged. A time came when Cromwell had given him all that he could
give, and was seeking to draw his master into paths he did not choose
to tread. Cromwell went to the scaffold. In his remaining years,
the king showed no power of striking out for himself a strong policy
for good or for evil; he had no minister whom he trusted to pilot
the ship; his own pilotage proved crude, and left to the succeeding
government a crop of difficulties with which it was quite incompetent
to cope. His father’s policy had been his own creation; his ministers
had never been much more than clerks. The eighth Henry chose ministers
to create and carry out a policy for him, but always under his own
control. The peculiarity of the Tudor genius, which he shared with his
father and his daughter, lay in the unfailing skill with which they
judged men, and their intuitive appreciation of popular feeling, which
kept them from passing the bounds of acquiescence. Hence, whatever
we may think of their policy itself or of particular acts, whether
our moral judgment condemns or applauds, whether we account their
measures far-sighted or short-sighted, they stand out as great rulers,
accomplishing what they meant to accomplish, and displaying their
activities on a great scale.


II

THE CARDINAL RULES

Henry was his father’s second son. Tradition says that his sire,
ever thoughtful of economy, destined him for the Archbishopric of
Canterbury, and had him educated accordingly. As the boy, however,
became, through his elder brother’s death, heir apparent to the
throne at the age of eleven, the remarkable theological erudition
which he displayed in later years can hardly be attributed to his
early school-room studies--even if the tradition had any more basis
of fact than that it was at least _ben trovato_. Whatever career was
anticipated for him, the utmost pains were bestowed on his education,
and he learnt to take a keen interest in intellectual pursuits. Erasmus
gives an agreeable picture of him at the age of nine, and remarks
on the extraordinary intelligence of his letters a little later--an
intelligence which made the learned man believe that the boy’s tutor
wrote or revised them, till ocular demonstration convinced him of the
contrary. Intellectual pursuits, however, did not absorb the Prince of
Wales. His father was not endowed with any very striking physique, but
the boy rather took after his grandfather Edward IV., being decidedly
handsome, of very athletic frame, and excelling in the sports of
vigorous and healthy youth.

Two months before Henry completed his eighteenth year, his father’s
death placed him on the throne of England--successor to a king whose
later years had been conspicuously sordid and gloomy. Spring with its
pulsing, generous life, followed the sapless dreariness of winter. So
men dreamed, and so probably Henry reckoned, himself. Ugly things like
Empson and Dudley were to vanish into limbo; the king would celebrate
his marriage royally--and follow that up by some splendid martial
achievement. It was still permitted to dream mediæval dreams; might
not the Crescent be once more rolled back before the advancing Cross?
Still, at eighteen there was no great hurry about that, and meanwhile
life might be very much enjoyed. Kings have servants about them to take
the dull drudgery of politics off their hands.

A most excellent state of things, in the eyes of the veterans Ferdinand
and Maximilian. The old king’s martial ardour had resolved itself
into occasional campaigns on which no money was wasted, and in which
no blood was shed, but which somehow had a trick of resulting in the
transfer of hard cash from somebody’s pocket to that of the English
monarch. But surely this open-hearted boy could be persuaded that Henry
V. set a more attractive precedent than Henry VII., and that France
was a good deal nearer than Constantinople. To simplify matters he had
beside him a comely and capable wife, devoted to the Spanish interest,
and all the more likely to influence him, at his age, for being a
few years the elder: and no young prince could have an adviser half
so shrewd as his quite disinterested father-in-law of Aragon. So the
unsophisticated Henry was carefully manœuvred into war with France.
From which he learned two lessons: one that there was frequently a
very marked difference between the words of kings and their deeds; the
other, that military glory or political success cannot be achieved
without close attention to detail. Incidentally, the young king
made another discovery; namely that the comparatively insignificant
ecclesiastic whom old Bishop Fox had introduced into the Council was
as sharp-witted as Ferdinand himself, could do the work of ten ordinary
men, and always knew what he was about.

Before the end of 1514, Ferdinand and Maximilian were made painfully
aware that Henry was not going to be anybody’s tool, by the unexpected
alliance of England and France. The diplomatist who had beaten them
with their own weapons had won the English king’s entire confidence,
and there was only one possible rival to him, in the person of Henry’s
brother-in-arms, Charles Brandon, newly created Duke of Suffolk; nor
was it long before it became patent that the brother-in-arms, having
made himself brother-in-law into the bargain by marrying the princess
Mary, might remain the favourite companion in the hunting field, and
the favourite antagonist in the tournament, but would have very little
to say to the king’s politics. Wolsey had not only thoroughly impressed
his master by his immense administrative ability, his capacity for hard
work, and his astuteness; he had also succeeded in giving a new turn
to the king’s ambitions, making them political rather than martial.
The campaigns of 1513 had restored the prestige of English soldiers
at least in a respectable degree; the outwitting of the craftiest
prince in Europe next year showed that there was a worthy successor to
Henry VII.; that monarch was reputed to have left in the royal coffers
wealth so enormous as to be almost inexhaustible; Scotland had suffered
such a blow at Flodden that she could not, for the time at least,
hamper English action. Henry therefore could now hold the balance
between the potentates of Europe, and become the controlling factor in
international affairs. Such a position was much better worth working
for than reconquests of French soil, or even the recovery of the French
crown, which Henry V. had won but had not lived long enough to wear. As
for crusades, Henry was old enough now to know that in the eyes of a
practical politician they were out of date.

Schemes for dominating Europe were much affected by the fact that in
1514 many important changes in the personality of the rulers were
obviously impending. Henry, twenty-three years old, was the only young
man among them. But on the next New Year’s Day, France was to pass
from Louis XII. to young Francis of Angoulême, aged twenty. In 1516,
Ferdinand was to be succeeded by his grandson Charles, aged sixteen. In
1519, Maximilian was to disappear; and, inasmuch as the Empire was not
technically hereditary, much would depend on the Imperial election, in
which, however, the chances were that Ferdinand’s heir would prove to
be Maximilian’s heir also.

From 1514, the figure of Wolsey--very shortly to become a
Cardinal--completely dominated English politics. The king resigned
himself wholly to his guidance, and for many years there was no more
talk of Henry leading victorious armies over the Continent. The rival
ambitions of Francis, Maximilian, and others, chiefly concerned with
the annexation of Italian States by one potentate or another, the
playing off of rivals, the paying and withholding of subsidies, were
the main business in hand till the demise of the emperor, early in
1519, opened the great question, who was to wear the Imperial crown?

Young Charles was already king of all Spain, and lord of the Burgundian
heritage. He was also heir to the Austrian and other German possessions
of Maximilian, who, like Ferdinand, had been his grandfather. For some
time, Habsburg had followed Habsburg as emperor. There was no other of
the princes of Germany strong enough territorially to bear the weight
of empire, and Frederic of Saxony, _capax imperii_, had no mind for the
undertaking. If Charles were elected he would wield enormous powers.
The French king, ambitious, and dreading the further aggrandisement
of a rival whose dominions were already so great, came forward as a
candidate: his success would mean an accession of power to France even
more dangerous to the European balance than that of Charles. Under
these circumstances, it is not incredible that Henry really meant
business in taking steps with a view to obtaining the Imperial crown
for himself. At twenty-eight, he was quite young enough to believe
that the thing was really practicable: and if practicable, it would
be a magnificent fulfilment of his ambitions along the very lines on
which Wolsey had directed them. It is not, however, credible that the
Cardinal should have taken that view; whether the king was or was not
merely playing with the idea, his minister must have known that it was
chimerical. The agent, Richard Pace, very soon made it quite clear
that it would be sheer waste of energy and money for Henry to enter
seriously for the stakes, and Cuthbert Tunstal was careful to point
out that in burdening himself with the responsibilities of the Empire,
he would be losing for the sake of a shadow the solid substance of his
power as King of England. Henry’s candidature was withdrawn, and no one
was any the worse.

The episode, however, suggests certain conclusions. It is almost
impossible to doubt that the idea of the candidature was Henry’s own;
it is difficult to doubt that he did contemplate it seriously. It was
consistent--in intention--with the conception of political predominance
as a more substantial object of ambition than military laurels. It
was of a grandiosity which appealed to the imagination, but not to
the practical judgment of a far-sighted statesman. That Henry should
have taken it up is entirely consistent with his character as we have
conceived it. On the other hand, if he had been merely a monarch who
allowed himself to be habitually managed, but broke out in occasional
fits of obstinacy--as weak men do--he would have struggled to the last
for that election. In fact, he did interfere with Wolsey the moment he
thought he could better the minister’s plans, but when he saw he had
made a mistake, but could retire without loss of dignity, he did so
without losing his temper. Later in life he might have made himself
unpleasant to somebody, under like conditions. That would have depended
very much on how far he had set his heart on the particular object he
found himself called upon to surrender. In the present case, Wolsey
had ostensibly done everything possible to make the scheme succeed.
He may never have attempted dissuasion, relying on the inherent
impracticability of the whole thing to prevent any really awkward
consequences. At any rate, Henry’s confidence was in no way diminished.

There was indeed little enough reason to be dissatisfied. Western
Europe was in the hands of three young men, of whom the eldest, Henry,
was twenty-eight, and the youngest, Charles, was not twenty. If Charles
had the widest dominion, his task was also the most complicated. He
could only pass to his Teutonic from his Spanish territories by sea;
French territory was continuous. If Charles and Francis quarrelled,
each would want the friendship of England: for her enmity to Charles
would mean immense injury to the trade of Flanders, and her enmity to
France would mean serious military embarrassments in the direction
of Picardy. So for some time to come both were eagerly seeking an
English alliance, while Wolsey’s skill was sufficiently tasked, but
not _over_-tasked, to keep the pair of them in play; and to keep them
at peace, since if they once went to war it might prove exceedingly
difficult to avoid embroiling England.

In 1520 the competition between emperor and king for English
favour--which both took to mean the Cardinal’s favour--was particularly
lively, with the result that the great meeting at the Field of the
Cloth of Gold took place, designed to signalise the enthusiastic
amity of Henry and Francis. Wolsey, however, had manœuvred a less
magnificent meeting in England, only just before, between Henry and
the emperor; and no one could say that either of the rivals had really
won a lead over the other. But it became increasingly difficult to
prevent a collision between them, and a year later, when Wolsey was
ostensibly making a great effort at the Conference of Calais to effect
a reconciliation, he was in reality coming privately to terms with
Charles. If England was to be dragged into a war, she would be on the
Imperial side.


III

WAR

Why did England go to war with France, instead of resolutely holding
aloof? The Cardinal cannot have seriously thought of the war as a means
to the recovery of the French crown: nor can he have held it good for
England that France should be crippled, and the Emperor magnified. If
he went into the war of his own free will, if he urged it on Henry,
it can only have been with the purely personal object of so binding
Charles to him as to ensure his own election to the Papacy at the
next vacancy. Yet at the time of the Calais Conference there was no
immediate likelihood of the reigning Pope’s death; Wolsey was surely
the last man to count on the gratitude of princes for past favours
as an effective motive, and Charles had already shown a thorough
appreciation of the doctrine that promises are made to be evaded.
Moreover, so shrewd a man as the Cardinal would presumably have
felt extremely doubtful whether the Papacy--with Charles master of
Europe--would be much worth having. The only remaining suggestion is,
that Wolsey foresaw great domestic troubles, and took the time-honoured
course of trying to divert attention by plunging the country in war.
The obvious objection to that is that there were no pressing signs of
disturbance at all.

The mere fact that the war was a regular reversal of the methods
Wolsey had hitherto followed, points to its having been undertaken
against his judgment. But is it unreasonable to suppose that it was not
against the king’s judgment? That Henry for the second time indicated
the course which his minister was to follow, and the minister obeyed
rather than resign? In those days, ministers did not resign, unless
they were exceptional people with consciences, like Thomas More: and
for Wolsey--whose political existence, if not his life, depended
entirely on the king’s favour--to resign would have meant virtual
suicide. On the other hand, there were influences which would affect
Henry in favour of the war, intelligibly enough. To him, the conquest
of France with the help of Charles may not have seemed absurd, and he
was not ashamed to avow it as his object to Parliament, when asking
for money. Apart from that, there was always a military party headed
by men who felt themselves much more likely to achieve honour and fame
on the battlefield than in the Cardinal’s ante-room: and if there was
to be war at all, there was a sort of standing sentiment in favour
of fighting the French. Lastly, the king was still on good terms with
his wife, and his wife was a most determined advocate of her nephew’s
interests. Henry was even now only just thirty, and the glamour of
military achievement might still tempt him. It certainly seems the most
reasonable conclusion that it was not Wolsey who dragged the king into
war, but the king who forced war on Wolsey.

As a matter of fact, events proved that there was very little to be
made out of the war. After eight years, Wolsey found himself compelled
to call a Parliament again, in order to get money--whereas it had been
his consistent policy to dispense with Parliament altogether. The war
was at any rate not sufficiently unpopular to prevent the voting of a
substantial subsidy; but as time passed, such favour as it had found
with the public faded; the Cardinal did not venture, when more money
was needed, to ask Parliament for it again, and when he tried to raise
what was called an Amicable loan, the response was cold. The disaster
of Francis at Pavia, though it suggested more talk about recovering
the Crown of France, offered no opportunity for material advantage
to Henry, and it very soon became evident that Charles was so much
the master of Europe that his career would only be held in check by
an Anglo-French alliance, which it became the Cardinal’s business to
contract in 1527.


IV

THE “DIVORCE”

This was precisely the time at which there is no doubt that the
question of divorcing Katharine of Aragon was very much on the minds
both of king and Cardinal. In discussing that subject in the preceding
study of Wolsey, nothing was said of the theory most adverse to
Wolsey--that the idea originated with him, and that he suggested it
with the specific intention of breaking the alliance with Charles and
substituting a French marriage, a French alliance being now his object.
On this theory it is argued that the king’s intention of using the
divorce to marry Anne Boleyn was sprung on the Cardinal as something
quite new, on his return from the French embassy; his absence having
been turned to account by his enemies, with the simple object of
wrecking his policy and ruining him. The fact that Henry afterwards
publicly acquitted Wolsey of having instigated the divorce may not
count for much as evidence of his innocence; but there is another grave
objection to the theory. If Henry told him that the divorce must be
managed somehow, he would doubtless have considered that the least
injurious result would be a French marriage; but it is not easy to
imagine that he would himself have sought to bring about a step which
would have made so permanent a breach between Henry and Charles. His
own policy was to keep it always in the power of England to shift
from one side to the other--to trim the balance between Charles and
Francis. The theory is put forward to square with a particular view
of Henry’s character--that he was managed by any one who could get at
him. But it makes the Cardinal himself somewhat unintelligible--or
unintelligent.

The view advanced in these pages is, that for the third time the king
laid down a policy of his own for the Cardinal to carry out. In the
first place he had two personal reasons for wanting the divorce--a
superstitious impression that the failure of Katharine to supply him
with a male heir was Heaven’s punishment for a marriage which the Pope
ought never to have sanctioned; and a passion for Anne Boleyn. In the
second place, the policy of alliance with Charles against Francis
had worked out badly, and a rupture with Charles must come in any
case. Wolsey should manage it, or should help: and if he began with
a belief that a French marriage might be the outcome, there would be
no harm done. The policy, as before, was a deviation from Wolsey’s,
but did not seem superficially to run counter to the broad principle
on which it was based, that England was to prove her effective
predominance by throwing her weight into the French or the Imperial
scale as circumstances might demand. But, as before, the method
was short-sighted. On the other hand, we find Wolsey behaving also
precisely as he did before. If the king did elect to lay down a policy,
he must be the instrument through which it should be carried out.
He could not prevent it; he must make the best of it, and as far as
possible neutralise the bad effects by skilful handling. He made his
attempt, failed, and fell. It would have been better for his credit if
he had fallen in open instead of in covert opposition.

It remains in any case impossible to dogmatise; the whole thing is
a tangle, and there are difficulties in the way of accepting each
solution. To the theory that the divorce was primarily a plan of
Wolsey’s in order to facilitate a French alliance, there is a further
objection that a negotiation was already on foot for marrying the
Princess Mary to Henry of Orleans, the French king’s second son, who
afterwards became Henry II. The substitution of the marriage of the
king himself to a French princess would have hardly been in itself
a closer bond; yet we should be compelled to believe that Wolsey
deliberately, with no greater advantage in view, sought to make this
change at the cost of a probably irreparable breach with the emperor.
The political motive is inadequate. Whereas, for the king, who had a
powerful non-political motive thrown in, the plan becomes intelligible
enough. The divorce should be so managed that Mary’s legitimacy should
still be secured, the marriage with Orleans could go forward, and he
himself would get the wife he wanted. That in 1527 his passion for Anne
was a very powerful motive is not to be disputed--the love-letters,
uncertain as their dates are, cannot be attributed to a still later
time.

It is also tolerably clear that the king meant to have the divorce in
any case, whether it upset foreign relations or not. Moreover, if the
plan was Wolsey’s, he would have been satisfied to leave the Cardinal
to work it out, which he was not. From the beginning he appears to have
suspected--if there was not more than a suspicion--that his minister
disliked the whole idea, and would be only too pleased if it were
shelved; and he employed other agents to get the thing done, behind
Wolsey’s back. Wolsey was very much in the position of a lawyer whose
client, with whom he cannot afford to quarrel, insists on his adopting
a certain course in defiance of his own judgment. He devised ingenious
expedients; he tried to make his case as safe as possible; he gave
nothing away to the other side; but he was reluctant throughout, while
the king was invincibly obstinate.

Assuming then that it was Henry, not Wolsey, who from the commencement
sought the divorce, the Cardinal’s consistency is restored. So far
also the consistency of Henry’s character is maintained. He never laid
out a great political scheme, calculating for the future; but when
Wolsey formulated a large design, he readily recognised its merits,
and recognised Wolsey himself as the man to carry it through. But
three times he was moved with a desire to obtain a particular end,
without realising that to do so would overturn the main scheme; on
each occasion the minister formally and officially obeyed his master’s
behest. Over the divorce, however, Henry’s behaviour presents an
interesting psychological study.

There have been many statesmen, successful in varying degree, who have
quite deliberately ignored moral considerations in their policy. They
have not admitted that unrighteous action as such carries any penalty
attached to it. Crime which shocks public sentiment violently they may
avoid; not because it is criminal, but because public sentiment cannot
be ignored. The mere fact that a particular course of action involves
injustice or cruelty, or otherwise over-rides the moral law, is not
permitted to weigh at all in judging of its expediency. Such a one was
Thomas Cromwell. There have been others who would never allow any claim
of mere expediency to countervail against the dictates of conscience.
Such a one was Thomas More.

The average man is content to compromise: not drawing the line very
high, but still drawing it somewhere. Henry belonged to the class
who would never violate conscience; but, when any particular course
presented itself to his mind as expedient or desirable, he had a quite
unique power of convincing himself not only that the thing would not be
wrong, but that conscience positively clamoured that it must be done:
nothing was so monstrous that he could not solemnly persuade himself
that it was a sad duty. There are men who are made that way. They will
rob the widow and swindle the orphan, but they must and do first trick
themselves into an amazing belief that in so doing they are serving
heaven or society. Henry was much more dangerous than a commonplace
hypocrite who assumes a mask to deceive the world, since he had to
begin by making the deception convincing to himself.

Thus it was in the matter of the divorce. It was of real urgent
importance that he should have a male heir, and there was no hope of
his wife giving him one; he wanted very much to marry Anne, and he
could not do so while his wife was living; but with what conscience
could he get rid of that wife? Henry’s conscience gave him the answer
he wanted, pat: it always did. Conscience pointed out that the children
of the marriage, except one girl, all came to grief--were still-born,
or died in a few weeks. Surely, here was Heaven’s judgment on a
sinful union. True, the contracting parties had sinned with a Pope’s
benediction, and thinking there was nothing wrong. But clearly the
Pope must have erred. Conscience therefore did not merely excuse, it
demanded, the dissolution of the unholy bond. Conscience permitted
Henry to declare fervently that nothing would please him so much as
to find that his scruples were groundless; but nothing would ever
have persuaded him that they were so except perhaps the death of Anne
Boleyn. Having once thoroughly satisfied himself that the divorce was a
duty, whatever any one might say to the contrary, it followed that some
legal method of accomplishing it must exist. If the Pope did not see
the thing in the same light, there must be something defective in the
Papal authority after all. The scruple of conscience gradually assumed
an axiomatic character to Henry; and the repudiation of Clement, who
regarded it as an extremely questionable postulate, followed logically.

Until Clement revoked the cause to Rome--a practical demonstration that
he would not sanction a verdict objectionable to the emperor--nothing
demanding revolutionary measures had occurred. That event, however,
changed the situation. There would have to be a fight with the Papacy,
which could not be conducted under the Cardinal’s captaincy. The
Cardinal had failed badly; his behaviour had been suspicious. It did
not take the conscientious monarch long to discover that advantage had
been taken of his own generous trustfulness, that he had been warming
a viper in his bosom. Wolsey was thrown to the wolves. It is curiously
characteristic of Henry that the instrument by which he shattered
Wolsey was the charge of a breach of _Præmunire_ in accepting and
exercising the legatine authority. The mere fact that this had been
done with the king’s own licence, almost at his instigation, would have
checked any other monarch. Henry found in it an additional cause of
offence. The Cardinal had not only broken the law--he, whose business
it was to see that the king did not accidentally transgress, had
actually inveigled the king into transgression. A just man, tricked
by his own familiar friend into committing an act of injustice, feels
righteous indignation against the friend. Such was the indignation of
the king against the Cardinal, as of Adam against Eve.


V

THE NEW POLICY

The fall of Wolsey marks, as the beginning of the divorce proceedings
really commences, the second stage of Henry’s career. Had he died
before 1529, the Bluebeard legend would never have been applied to
him, and his connexion with the Reformation would have been in effect
limited to a controversial pamphlet in favour of the extreme Papal
claims, directed against Luther. This was all that the uprising of the
great Reformer had evoked from the prince who was expected to be the
royal champion of the Intellectuals. No one would have called him a
tyrant. It is true that Edmund de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk, had been
put to death at the beginning of the reign--as tradition says, in
fulfilment of the advice of Henry VII. It is true also that Buckingham
had been executed, not so much because he had committed any treason as
because he was thought dangerous; but the world would have been content
to leave that as one of the charges against Wolsey. Henry would have
passed with posterity as a pleasure-loving monarch with a great taste
for extravagance, who cheerfully left the government of the country
to an able and unscrupulous minister, and did absolutely nothing
personally in the twenty years of his reign to justify the high hopes
with which his accession was hailed. The reign would have been recorded
as the reign of the Cardinal, and our ideas of the king himself would
have been conveyed mainly in the anecdotes of his personal vanity
and love of pageantry and popularity. It is the forcefulness, energy,
and resolution--or the violence, fickleness, and obstinacy--displayed
in the second period which make us revise our judgment of the
first, and set us seeking therein for some appearance of these same
characteristics, and discovering in them the explanation of some
puzzles in the Cardinal’s policy.

The new stage of Henry’s career presents us with a problem at the
outset. Hitherto, he had followed Wolsey’s counsels; very shortly,
the Machiavellian maxims of Cromwell guided his course; but there is
no one to bridge the gap between Wolsey and Cromwell. Sir Thomas More
succeeded the Cardinal as Chancellor, but not as first minister--he
never made any secret, to the king, of his conviction that the marriage
with Katharine could not and should not be invalidated. Nothing
points to Norfolk or Suffolk as guiding policy. The newly discovered
Cranmer had suggested a principle for dealing with the divorce, but
his appearance is merely in the character of a University doctor, not
of a statesman. Precisely at this moment, before he knew anything of
Cromwell, with Wolsey, so to speak, hanging on the very verge of the
precipice, a Parliament is called suddenly, which remains undissolved
until its seventh year. Since 1515 there had been only one Parliament,
that of 1523-1524. Between 1500 and 1515 Parliaments had been rare.
Henry VII., when he no longer felt the need of constant Parliamentary
sanction, and Wolsey after him, had gone steadily on the rule of
accustoming the country to have the government carried on almost
without Parliaments, and of establishing absolutism on those lines.
From this moment that attitude towards Parliament disappears. For
the rest of the reign, there is no prolonged interval without one;
Parliament itself is converted into the instrument and the buttress of
despotism.

In the preceding study of Thomas Cromwell the view was adopted that
he was the real author of what was one comprehensive design for
establishing the royal power high over everything else, including
therein the repudiation of Papal rivalry, and the subordination of the
clerical organisation; while the method, of deliberately choosing to
make Parliament share the responsibility, was his also. Yet the calling
of this Parliament in 1529, and its initial measures of ecclesiastical
reform, cannot be attributed to him. Henry did it out of his own head.
It will be found, however, that the apparent contradictions are easily
reconcilable.

Henry found, in 1529, that his determination to have a divorce would
involve either a fight with the Papacy or a struggle to secure Papal
support in despite of the emperor. Also he felt that the Cardinal was
not to be depended on as the manager of that struggle. He had no one
ready to take the Cardinal’s place, though Stephen Gardiner might have
done so had he been a layman. He had formulated no plan of campaign
beyond that of sending the Earl of Wiltshire, Anne Boleyn’s father,
with Cranmer in his train, on an embassy to Bologna. But he might
find himself impelled to do more or less questionable things; the
precedent of his father’s first years suggested that in that case it
would be useful to be able to say that he had acted with the sanction
of Parliament; and he had the Tudor instinct of appreciating the value
of conciliating popular sentiment. Nothing would conciliate popular
sentiment so much as inducing his subjects to believe that it was
their interests and their opinions he was consulting. So he summoned
Parliament.

Thus, Henry called the Parliament: Henry authorised clerical reform:
Henry meditated a possible quarrel with the Pope. But it was Cromwell
who co-ordinated Henry’s ideas--clever enough as far as they went, but
not going far--into a single far-reaching scheme, wherein the things
his master had thought of were nicely adjusted, gaps were filled
in, consequences calculated, and a systematic evolution arranged in
which every step should seem the corollary of what had already been
accomplished. How far individual steps were invented by Henry, and how
far by Cromwell, it is not possible to gauge. Cromwell never assumed
the pose of Wolsey--the pose which the Cardinal did indubitably adopt,
although it was erroneously inferred from the famous if legendary
phrase, _Ego et rex meus_. He was always ostensibly the king’s
instrument. In Wolsey’s time a question had once arisen whether in
sending certain official despatches the full information should be
sent to him, and only general remarks to the king, or _vice versa_.
That would not have happened with Thomas Cromwell. The full official
despatch would have gone to the king as a matter of course--but
Cromwell might have had a private unofficial commentary. Henry,
during the Cromwell _régime_, was in constant evidence as the ruler
of the country. During Wolsey’s _régime_, he ostentatiously left the
management in Wolsey’s hands. But during both periods we can at any
rate form a shrewd guess at the points on which king and minister were
in harmony, and those where the minister had to yield to the king.

Beyond minor reforms of abuses, and the movement for taking the opinion
of the Universities on the divorce, there was no immediate sign, after
the Cardinal’s fall, of a definitely anti-clerical or anti-Papal
policy. The first blow--the demand for a ransom from the clergy under
the _Præmunire_--would have been entirely characteristic of either
the king or Cromwell: the idea was after all merely a very much more
audacious application of the method adopted towards Wolsey. Whoever hit
upon the notion, it was made the first step in the systematic grinding
down of the clergy between the upper and the nether millstones of
financial spoliation and political subjection. The Supplication against
the Ordinaries in Parliament, the Submission of the Clergy, forced upon
Convocation as the clause of the “Supreme Head” had been, appear to
be more decisively Cromwell’s handiwork. There is no adequate reason
to suppose that Parliament had these measures thrust down its throat:
anti-clericalism was not a new idea, and was usually popular; and if
the Supplication included matters about which the general public cared
very little, such as the right of ecclesiastical legislation exercised
by Convocation, it also carefully embodied popular grievances, though
they may not have been as flagrant as was represented. But on the
other hand, if the Supplication emanated from any one but Cromwell, it
implies an elaboration of organised action among private members which
there is nothing to corroborate. It must have been what may be called
a Government measure, which on the whole had the support--possibly the
enthusiastic support--of the House. The Annates Act, opposed by the
bishops, was not enthusiastically adopted by the Commons--not so much
because they objected to depriving the Pope of the impost as because
they saw no reason why the clergy should be relieved of it. They did
not realise that the king and Cromwell had no intention of allowing it
to become an effective measure of relief at all.


VI

DIVERGENCES BETWEEN HENRY AND CROMWELL

In short, down to the pronouncement of the divorce, Henry and Cromwell
are clearly working in perfect accord--whether minister or king
devised the programme: Convocation is being steadily compelled, very
much against its will, to endorse the propositions of the Crown,
and Parliament is at any rate acquiescent. We may, however, suspect
that Henry, up to this point at least if not for nearly a year
more, inclined to hope that the Pope might yet give way; whereas in
the overtures to the Lutheran Princes in 1533 we may see Cromwell
working to make doubly sure the assurance of complete severance from
Rome. The Lutheran alliance was unquestionably a favourite scheme of
Cromwell’s, but the king never did more than dally with it. In his pet
character of theologian he could never bring himself to accept the
Augsburg Confession, or any compromise which would have satisfied the
Protestants.

Cromwell was always possessed with the belief that a combination of
Powers favourable to the Papacy would be formed sooner or later for
the destruction of England and the Protestants on the Continent: the
coalition of Charles and Francis was his bugbear. On the other hand, he
saw no hope of an effective union between England and France; while he
fancied that, if the bar between Henry and Charles, irremovable while
Katharine lived, were once annulled by her death, the emperor--whose
troops had sacked Rome in 1527, and who had in many respects evinced
very little real regard for the Pope’s authority--might be brought
over to the anti-Papal side. Therefore, whenever he thought there was
a prospect of effecting an Imperial alliance, he let the idea of the
Protestant alliance go; whenever the Imperial alliance seemed hopeless,
the Protestant alliance re-appeared on his programme.

Henry, however, was not at one with Cromwell. He looked askance at the
idea of a Protestant alliance because he did not consider himself a
Protestant; on the contrary, he accounted Lutheranism as heresy, and
himself as a pattern of orthodoxy. From his point of view, the only
quarrel with Rome lay in the Pope’s assertion of usurped claims to
jurisdiction, which either Charles or Francis might find themselves
ready to repudiate in their own dominion at any convenient moment.
He remembered Wolsey’s doctrine. Francis and Charles had so many
antagonistic interests that they could never co-operate for long. The
business of England was to make each desire her alliance; to avoid
the mistake of committing herself too deeply to either. For a short
time--in 1539--he began to think that Cromwell might be right about the
danger of a coalition, and accepted the plan of the Cleves marriage as
a defensive measure. The marriage was hardly accomplished when a fresh
breach between the rival princes showed that his own view of the danger
had been right. There never was, either in his own time or later, a
Catholic coalition against England. At the same time it is at least a
tenable view that a Protestant union, steadily maintained, might have
had great results; on which it is not uninteresting to speculate, but
the speculation is too much guesswork to be profitable.

Henry’s views, then, on foreign policy, differed from his minister’s,
and it was Henry’s views that prevailed, except in the episode of the
Cleves marriage; and in that particular case, there was so startling an
appearance of a real _rapprochement_ between Francis and Charles that
the king’s deviation along Cromwell’s lines can hardly be attributed
to weakness. And even so he took careful precautions, as long as the
thing was possible, to preserve a loop-hole for his own withdrawal,
however deeply his minister might be committed.

In the ecclesiastical policy also, as it emerges after the definite
breach with Rome, Cromwell was evidently more inclined to encourage
the advanced school than his master. Henry made Cranmer Archbishop,
wanting in that post a man who accepted whole-heartedly the theory
of Royal Supremacy. As long as the reforms proposed were restricted
to dealing with notorious abuses of the kind which Colet had freely
denounced, and to the introduction of an English Bible--which the
Conservatives might regard as dangerous, but could not denounce as
in itself heretical--Henry was prepared to give his sanction; but
whenever doctrines were in question as to which the followers of the
“Old Learning” were in solid agreement, Henry consistently held with
them. Cromwell, on the other hand--not from religious sentiment, but
on purely political grounds--had Lutheran proclivities, owing to his
desire to conciliate Continental Protestantism. He did not, as Cranmer
did, urge the acceptance of views to which Henry objected; but his
influence was always in favour of “advanced” appointments, and of a lax
application of the laws which pressed hardly upon that school. Henry’s
personal affection for Cranmer, a liking for Latimer, and an absence
of any such feeling towards Gardiner and Gardiner’s colleagues, kept
him from active interference in this respect. But he saw to it that
what the law laid down should be unimpeachably orthodox, and every
attempt of Cromwell’s to draw nearer to the Lutherans was countered by
affirmations of a rigid adherence to the Old Faith and denunciation
of innovations: culminating in the Act of the Six Articles. The
differences in the formularies of faith issued from 1536 to 1540 are
all in the direction of increasing definiteness, of leaving fewer
questions open; and the definiteness is always in favour of the old
school. Although the minister officially supported the Six Articles,
while the Archbishop made all the fight possible against it, the Act
was the king’s deliberate work, and the forcing of it through was
without any possible doubt a direct set-back for Cromwell. At the same
time, however, Henry took occasion to impress on his Court, with his
usual vigour, that it would be extremely injudicious for any one to
act on the hypothesis that it involved any diminution of the personal
favour in which Cranmer was held.

In the rest of the domestic policy--Treason Acts, Supremacy Acts, Acts
of Succession, Dissolution of Monasteries, Attainders--there is no
opposition between king and minister. The edifice of absolutism with
the sanction of Parliament is steadily reared, on the ruins of the
ecclesiastical fabric and of the last families round whom any sort of
Yorkist tradition can centre. When at last it had culminated in the
Royal Proclamations Act, Cromwell ceased to be necessary; being no
longer necessary, he offended his master; and, offending him, fell as
Wolsey fell before him.


VII

HENRY’S CLOSING YEARS

Down to this point, then, from 1513 to 1540, we may believe that Henry
was the puppet first of Wolsey and then of Cromwell; or that both were
no more than the instruments of his supreme genius; or that, having
with a light heart delegated all his duties and cares to the Cardinal,
he resolved to rule himself, upset the Cardinal, and used Cromwell as
a tool and scapegoat. Or we may judge that the creative, designing
brains were his ministers’; but that he deliberately made their policy
his own, except when he had a fancy for diverging from it, trusting to
their pilotage just so long as it suited him--that they, not he, were
the pilots, but he was emphatically the captain. We may even believe
that the ministers were responsible only for the mistakes in execution,
the king for the great designs. But when Cromwell is gone no one takes
the vacant place. Gardiner and Norfolk are at the head of the Council,
which becomes a hotbed of intrigues; but it is quite impossible to
attribute the royal policy either to any individual or to any clique.
Hence, in the king’s conduct of affairs during the remaining six and a
half years of his life, we ought to find clues to the nature and extent
of the control he really exercised during the thirty years preceding.

The view here put forward has been, that Wolsey diverted him from his
first merely boyish dreams of martial achievements, to take hold of the
conception of making England stand as the secure arbiter between the
great Powers of the Continent, wooed by all--or both, when only two
were left--and able always to turn the scale if one or other threatened
to preponderate. His brain, however, being somewhat more liable to
inflation than the Cardinal’s, he compelled the latter, in pursuit of
this policy, to diverge from the right path and commit the country to
the French war--possibly, though not on the whole probably, with the
notion that the old grandiose idea of conquering France might become
practicable. Then, just as the blunder was in course of being remedied,
he became obsessed with the determination to divorce Katharine; a
proceeding which could hardly fail to make friendly relations with the
emperor so impossible as to destroy the basis of the balancing scheme,
which demanded that the two European rivals should both be anxious to
court English support. Then Cromwell showed him how to use the divorce
as a piece of the machinery by which the power of the Crown might be
made at least as absolute as any known in European history. He adopted
Cromwell’s plan, but not what Cromwell regarded as its corollary,
the acceptance of the position, and the alliance of the continental
Protestants: endeavouring to hold himself aloof from alliances, and,
after Katharine’s death, to regain the position of balance-holder.

Now it has been argued that the policy of 1522 was Wolsey’s own, not
the king’s policy forced on him, because it was only when Wolsey was
minister that a “spirited foreign policy” was acted upon. It is
therefore to be noted that when Henry was left to himself with neither
Wolsey nor Cromwell to give counsel, he did quite evidently take up
the almost defunct Plantagenet notion of imposing the sovereignty of
England on Scotland--which experience had shown to be no more feasible
than the conquest of France: and he did again find himself drawn into
an Imperial alliance, and actually at war with the French. These facts
do not amount to a proof, but they do afford a presumption that the
talk about recovering the French crown had not been altogether wind,
and that the first fighting alliance with Charles was, like the second,
the doing of the king. Probably Henry’s main motive in going into this
later French war was to compel Francis to withdraw his support from
the Scots. He ought, however, to have known by this time, first, that
France could not afford to stand by while Scotland was robbed of the
independence which was always a practical and valuable asset for France
when she was at war with England: and, secondly, that Charles would
play for his own hand, and would find some excuse for leaving his ally
isolated the moment his own needs were satisfied.

The Scots affair, by the way, supplies another interesting example
of the peculiarities of Henry’s conscience. The head and front of
the party in Scotland who were most bitterly hostile to England was
Cardinal Beton: who was in close alliance with Mary of Guise, the
queen-mother. Henry was ingenious enough to discover that Beton was a
rebel, who had secured himself above the reach of the law, and that
consequently his assassination would be rather commendable. It is not
surprising that the Cardinal was murdered in due course, and that the
murderers looked to England for support.

The history of these later years, in short, lends colour to the view
that the political errors--in foreign affairs--committed in Wolsey’s
days were forced on him by the king: and also that the king himself
did not formulate large political conceptions on his own account.
More than that, it shows him capable of such serious blunders as the
proposal to re-assert the old fable of English suzerainty in Scotland,
and--what was in its own way hardly less short-sighted--the wholesale
debasement of the coinage. It was not till he was left to manage things
with no strong counsellor to aid him that he gave way completely to
this most evil propensity of his last years. The thing did incalculable
mischief, ruining credit, driving up prices, robbing creditors for the
benefit of debtors, and, of course, driving all the sound coins out of
circulation. It is to the credit of Somerset in the next reign that,
in spite of the depleted treasury, he did not carry that disastrous
experiment further: it was left for Northumberland to degrade the
currency even more than Henry had done. And it was Henry who had done
it, not Wolsey or Cromwell or Gardiner. These things would seem to
mean that, left to himself, it was his tendency to resort to paltry
and short-sighted tricks and devices of a kind incompatible with the
higher statesmanship; tricks which seem at the moment to effect their
purpose, but are a mere evasion of the difficulties with which they
pretend to deal. In these years, Henry’s statesmanship makes a poor
display. We may plead on his behalf that physical disease weakened his
intellectual powers, that practically unchecked despotism produced
moral degeneration, that we cannot judge the qualities of a man whose
rule had been--for whatever reason--undeniably powerful for a quarter
of a century, by the mismanagement of the years when he was wearing
into his grave. There is truth in the plea. Yet from the degeneration
we can infer the inherent defects. The man who muddled his Scottish
policy, and left the arrangements for carrying on the government at
his death in a state of chaos, was not he who planned, organised, and
carried out the defiance of the Papal power and the subjection of the
Church; but he may have been perfectly capable of appreciating that
vast scheme, and of playing a formidable part in the execution of it.
On the other hand, had he been merely a vain tyrannical bully, there
was more than one man in his _entourage_ after Cromwell’s fall, who
would have had the wit to make a puppet of him--which no one certainly
succeeded in doing.


VIII

HENRY’S MARRIAGES

A study of Henry’s character, however brief, would be incomplete if it
omitted to touch on his widely varied marital relations. The Blue Beard
legend may by this time be fairly looked upon as exploded. He did not
marry one wife after another to gratify capricious passions, and, when
he was weary of the new toy, cut her head off and get himself another.
Except in the case of Anne Boleyn, and possibly Jane Seymour, passion
can have had very little to say to his various ventures. His Court was
licentious; but the king himself does not appear to have been worse
than his neighbours, even if he was no better. Political intriguers
tried to obtain influence through mistresses; there was certainly
an attempt to supplant Anne Boleyn by this means, and the Earl of
Surrey--who was probably innocent enough of real treason but otherwise
deserves very little of the pity that has been wasted on him--tried
to persuade his own sister to establish herself at the king’s ear in
the same way. There is hardly a shadow of doubt that Anne Boleyn’s
elder sister Mary was Henry’s mistress before he turned his eyes upon
Anne. Rumour declared, though the statement is not substantiated, that
Sir John Perrot, who did good work in Ireland in Elizabeth’s day,
was really Henry’s son. It is probable, however, that there were no
children of his born out of wedlock except the son of Elizabeth Blount,
whom he made Duke of Richmond and was credited with intending to get
legitimised, when there was no likelihood of a legitimate male heir
appearing. The state of the Court was such that Chapuys declined to
believe in the otherwise unimpeached virtue of Jane Seymour, merely
on the general principle that no woman could be supposed virtuous
under the conditions there prevalent--but Chapuys was writing at a
moment when he was feeling particularly hot against the whole Court.
An item in the royal accounts has been supposed to indicate that Henry
kept a sort of harem, but that is based on what is almost certainly a
misinterpretation of the term “mistress.” Henry was licentious enough,
but there is no reason to imagine him as a satyr, or as on the same
plane with Francis I. The kings of the sixteenth century, bad or good,
were not often clean livers. The way to Henry’s favour was never
through the good graces of the favourite of the hour; and except in the
case of Anne Boleyn it never appears that he allowed any passion to
interfere with his politics.

At eighteen, as soon as he ascended the throne, Henry married the
wife secured for him by the diplomacy of Henry VII. and Ferdinand and
the complaisance of the Pope. Katharine was four years the elder,
sufficiently good-looking, capable, and fit to be a queen. She had
already been the bride of the young king’s elder brother, who had died
very shortly after the nuptials: but the Pope had duly provided a
dispensation to permit the second marriage. She and her husband got on
satisfactorily enough for a time. In 1513, when he was displaying his
martial prowess in Picardy, she was occupied in organising the Flodden
campaign and wrote to him in a tone implying that they were excellent
friends: yet it is possible to recognise a certain want of tact, in
the absence of that adroit flattery which Henry’s vain soul loved,
when she dwells on her own achievements instead of praising those of
her lord. Henry soon grew cool--there is no reason to suppose that
he was ever her ardent lover--and already, when babies died or were
still-born, he seems to have turned his mind to a divorce, though he
dropped the idea again. When the princess Mary was born and did _not_
die, the big jovial monarch made a great pet of the child; and though
he was unfaithful to his wife, and had no compunction about it, the
conventional friendliness was maintained. There is no doubt that the
queen exercised active influence to secure England’s favour for her
nephew Charles V.; and critics have found, in the desire of Henry and
Wolsey, a few years later, to break with Charles and form an alliance
with France, one of the leading motives which recommended the divorce
to them.

About 1522, Anne Boleyn came to Court; and from this time, favours
began to flow in the direction of the Boleyn family. The probabilities
are, however, that as yet they were due rather to the complaisance of
the elder sister Mary than to the attractions of the younger. Four
years later, it is clear that Anne had become the object of the king’s
pursuit; but, whether because she was more virtuous or more ambitious
than Mary, Anne would not surrender herself. The king became the
victim of an absorbing passion, which made him determined to procure
the divorce from Katharine at any cost--whether or no it was primarily
responsible for reviving the idea. Once embarked on it, Henry was far
too obstinate to allow anything to divert him. Towards the end of
1532--as soon as Warham was dead--he saw his way. Before the year was
out, Anne had become his mistress or his wife; a marriage ceremony
was performed in January--possibly in November. It is not easy to
believe--though the evidence points that way--that Anne, after holding
out till the prize was actually in reach, would have risked everything
by yielding without insisting on the ceremony first taking place.

The marriage was extremely unpopular; the new queen was spiteful,
flighty, undignified, if nothing worse. In a very short time, Cranmer
was the only friend she had left; she lost her charm for her husband,
and she annoyed him by the same failure to fulfil his expectations
as Katharine. The old idea cropped up again, that on this as on the
previous union the blessing of heaven did not rest. The king found
himself attracted by the somewhat inconspicuous charms and persistent
virtue of Jane Seymour. Charges were brought against Anne, which may
or may not have been true; admissions were made to Cranmer, the nature
of which we can only guess at; on the strength of the former, she was
condemned to death for treason, and on the strength of the latter the
marriage was declared void _ab initio_. The unhappy woman was beheaded;
next day, according to Chapuys, the king married Jane Seymour
privately. The official marriage was ten days later.

Jane appears to have been a pleasing, colourless, irreproachable
person; who, when she had given birth to the much-desired son,
departed to another world without having suffered any estrangement
from her husband. He, however, was wife-hunting again before long--not
because he was attracted by any one, but for purely political ends.
Unfortunately he was not satisfied by the possession of purely
political qualifications on the part of the ladies, but offended their
susceptibilities by wishing to inspect them. At last Cromwell beguiled
him into approving the Cleves marriage; but when Anne came over, and
retreat seemed impossible, he first found that she was not at all to
his taste, and then that the political reasons for wedding her had been
quite inadequate. So the ecclesiastical lawyers set to work again to
discover an excuse for annulling that marriage; and in the meantime the
Duke of Norfolk produced a young niece of his own, Katharine Howard,
who took the king’s more than middle-aged fancy. Being quit of Anne,
he married the girl, who successfully cajoled him for about a year:
after which, the faction opposed to Norfolk discovered and laid before
the unfortunate husband evidence of undoubted immorality before and
probable immorality after her marriage. So Katharine Howard followed
Anne Boleyn to the block. The affair seems to have been a really
complete and very painful surprise to Henry.

By this time, the jibe attributed to the Duchess of Milan when Henry
was thinking of marrying her--“Had I two heads, one should be at his
majesty’s disposal”--would have been quite excusable. Even the ladies
of his own Court were not covetous of the queenly throne. Chapuys, ever
cynical, hinted that an Act passed at this time would quite account
for reluctance on their part: if the king should propose to marry a
subject, she must confess any improprieties of which she had been
guilty; otherwise, if they were subsequently discovered, she would be
held guilty of treason. Still Henry discovered one more lady who was
willing to take the risks--a lady of much conjugal experience, now a
widow for the second time. This was Katharine Parr, whose last husband
had been Lord Latimer. Her virtue, however, was as much above suspicion
as Jane Seymour’s had been; she was sensible, careful, and extremely
tactful; and when an attempt was made to set her husband against her as
a heretic, she satisfied him very easily, and her accuser had to submit
to one of Henry’s ratings. She survived him, and married Admiral Thomas
Seymour.

The marriages with Katharine of Aragon and Anne of Cleves were both
avowedly and professedly political. That with Anne Boleyn was one of
passion; that with Katharine Parr one of inclination. It is extremely
doubtful whether either was effectively promoted by political intrigue.
It is hardly at all doubtful that in the two remaining cases it was
political intrigue which brought both Jane Seymour and Katharine Howard
under the king’s notice; nevertheless, it is not likely that either
of these marriages affected the king’s policy, though the disastrous
termination of the second did so.


IX

HENRY’S CHARACTER

The end of Henry’s life was quite characteristic. For some time
beforehand every one knew that he could not last long; and intrigues
were rife to secure power when he was gone. The Earl of Hertford, Jane
Seymour’s brother, was at the head of that one of the two main factions
whose leading ecclesiastic was Cranmer; they were balanced by Gardiner,
with the old Duke of Norfolk and his son Henry Earl of Surrey. A false
move on Surrey’s part gave a handle to the enemy; Surrey was executed;
Norfolk was attainted and his life saved only by Henry’s own death;
Gardiner’s name was excluded from the council of “executors,” which is
supposed to have been intended by the king to balance the two parties.
Henry, left to himself, did not display wisdom in his government, but
he always at the worst held the reins in a fast grip and sat firm in
the saddle. His arrangements for carrying on the government after him
were short-sighted, and his successor in the saddle, Hertford, was
as much his inferior in practical mastery as he was superior in his
ethical aims. The results are discussed in another chapter. Henry was
almost _in articulo mortis_ before any one ventured to tell him that
his hours were numbered. At last he allowed Cranmer to be summoned.
When he arrived, the king was speechless; but being besought to give
some sign that he put his trust in Christ, wrung the Archbishop’s hand.
An hour afterwards, he was dead.

Henry’s career leaves a pretty wide option for forming a judgment of
his character. After making every possible allowance for flattery, we
know that he was exceptionally accomplished, cultured, athletic; he
could hold his own with any one, in an argument or in the tilt-yard.
His physical courage has been impugned, principally because in respect
of infectious diseases he was notoriously a coward. As a young
man, if he was unfaithful to his wife he at any rate observed the
expected courtesies; it is not surprising to find that as the divorce
proceedings went on his manner deteriorated, till his treatment of
Katharine, of his daughter Mary, of Anne Boleyn when she lost her
hold on him, can only be described as blackguardly. No one, perhaps,
would venture to ascribe to him a fervent zeal for religion; but he
was intensely satisfied with the rigidity of his own orthodoxy. It is
one of the many ironies of his career that his religiousness has been
praised exclusively by people whom he would have sent to the stake as
heretics without a moment’s hesitation. If he let Cranmer have his way
about an English Bible, it was not from an enthusiastic admiration of
the Scriptures, but because he knew that some of the clergy thought it
would weaken their influence. The nature of his own creed is conveyed
in the Act of the Six Articles. Of his “morality,” in the restricted
sense of that term, enough has already been said; it was that of his
age and his rank. For his conception of honour, his applications of
the Statute of _Præmunire_, and the return he rendered to Wolsey and
Cromwell and More for their services, are sufficient witness. In the
case of More, by the way, it was characteristic of him that when the
report of the ex-Chancellor’s execution was brought to him, he turned
on Anne Boleyn and told her it was all her doing. For a high-minded
man, his approval of the schemes for getting James Beton kidnapped
when under a safe-conduct, and for the murder of David Beton, seems a
little peculiar; yet in those times, it cannot be denied that similar
schemes found sanction in most unexpected quarters. As far as politics
were concerned, he kept his promises, on the whole, a shade more
loyally than Charles and Francis and their successors. Ferdinand and
Maximilian, of course, had never begun to think that promises could be
looked upon as binding.

As a statesman: we must reject the theory that he was merely a _Roi
Fainéant_ who liked to fancy that he was running the machine while he
was merely dancing to the tune called by cleverer men than himself:
we reject also the theory that the policy followed throughout was his
own creation, and that Wolsey and Cromwell stood in the same relation
to him as Morton and Fox to his father. He was not a far-seeing man
himself, but he knew a far-seeing man when he found one, having an
unfailing instinct for judging other men’s capacities and limitations,
intellectual and moral. He was ready to recognise their insight and
foresight, their organising and administrative powers, to lay the
burden--and the reproach--on their shoulders; but if they did not
convince his judgment, they had to obey his behests, not he theirs. And
yet there is one field wherein credit, and very high credit, attaches
to Henry--credit, moreover, which appears to be entirely his own. As
Wolsey had his hobby, education, so Henry had his hobby, the navy. A
Royal Navy, a fleet whose business was fighting, was practically his
creation. It may very well be that he was much wiser than he knew
himself in this matter--that his ships were to him something of a toy.
But what he did went far to making the glories of his daughter’s reign
possible, as the army of Frederick I. of Prussia made the army of
Frederick II. possible.

Finally; although we have denied him personally the greatest qualities
of statesmanship displayed by his ministers, he did possess in a
very high degree certain essential qualities of a successful ruler.
No mere blustering tyrant would have held England in his grip for
thirty-seven years; the annals of princes of that type may be
terrible, but they are brief. The masses may be held in subjection
by a powerful upper class for an indefinite period; the continued
power of an individual tyrant--of an active and resolutely aggressive
autocratic ruler--depends on his preserving the loyalty of the active
part of his subjects. That loyalty Henry retained; he never had the
smallest difficulty in stamping out every attempt at resistance. Mere
ruthlessness will not account for it; ruthlessness by itself rouses
new enemies: a reign of sheer terror is brief. To the instinct for
gauging men he added the instinct of gauging popular sentiment--a
perception of the line which must not be over-stepped; a knack of
gracious and timely withdrawal if ever he seemed to have passed the
danger-point. Withal, he recognised that the surest method of getting
his own way was to make his subjects believe that it was their way too.
His figure is very, very far from being god-like; it is quite remote
from the heroic; it might, however, have fairly been called Titanic, if
that term did not imply ultimate failure--for he did not fail. Neither
his intellectual nor his moral qualities permit us to love him, to
praise him, or to honour him; and yet, if we have read him aright, it
is impossible not to admire.



PROTECTOR SOMERSET


I

MISCONCEPTIONS

Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, was Protector and the most prominent
personality in English politics for a period only just exceeding two
years and a half. As Earl of Hertford, he grasped the reins of power
when Henry VIII. died; but since the fall of Thomas Cromwell, Henry had
reigned without allowing any of his servants to occupy a pre-eminent
position, and the Earl of Hertford had certainly not been an exception.
After his overthrow in the autumn of 1549, his political influence
was never strong enough to affect the measures of his successor: it
sufficed merely to bring about his own execution as a preventive
measure. The whole reign of Edward VI. is, in fact, quite sharply
divided into the two periods of the Seymour ascendency and the Dudley
ascendency; but the distinction somehow seems to be very commonly
overlooked, and Somerset is not only credited with his own doings or
misdoings, but with a goodly share of those for which Northumberland
was responsible, and with which Somerset was entirely out of sympathy.

It would appear, however, that it would be difficult to find two men
whose ideas were more thoroughly antagonistic than those of Somerset
and Northumberland: a view not very easily reconcilable with the
popular verdict, which seems to regard Somerset as being a weaker if
rather more amiable edition of his rival. It is certainly well that
the latest detailed study of the Protector’s career should have at
least sufficed to make the old method of treating him inexcusable
for the future. Without accepting all Mr. Pollard’s inferences as to
his subject’s abilities and character, it must be recognised that
the portrait presented in his _England under Protector Somerset_, if
somewhat “flattered,” will have to be seriously reckoned with by all
future historians of the period.

[Illustration: _PROTECTOR SOMERSET_

_From a Painting by_ HOLBEIN]

Nevertheless, it may be doubted whether the impression left by that
volume is quite what the author intended to convey. The suggestion
certainly is that the Protector was really a great man who only failed
because he was too much in advance of his age. But in fact, while he
possessed certain qualities essential to the great statesman though
by no means requisite for a successful politician, he lacked others
which are necessary to either character. Some of the projects for
which he laboured most strenuously were wrecked, not because they
were out of reach, but because of his own inherent incapacity for
adapting means to ends; and the general effect of his efforts was not
to bring the objects he had in view within nearer reach, but to make
them more difficult of attainment than they were before. Failure is no
condemnation. Wiclif failed, and Huss failed; but they made the
Reformation possible. Somerset failed, and there was hardly one of his
aims which had been advanced a single step by his action. A statesman,
to deserve the title in its full sense, must be an idealist in his
aims, but practical in his methods. The unpractical statesman may
deserve our sympathy and our admiration; but we may not therefore give
him the full meed of applause which belongs to the benefactors of the
race or nation. The unpractical idealist may be invaluable when he is a
voice only. When the control of public affairs falls into his hands, he
is a public danger.


II

THE PROTECTOR AND HIS PROBLEMS

Edward Seymour was born about 1505: of good family, but not of high
rank, though there was a strain of Plantagenet blood on the mother’s
side. At any rate, the Seymours were connected with the Court, and the
future Protector was still a boy when he was holding offices associated
with Royalties. When Henry VIII. tired of Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour was
the new spouse on whom his choice fell. The marriage naturally brought
advancement to her brother; and though she did not long survive the
birth of her son, Seymour, who had by this time been appointed to the
Privy Council and raised to the earldom of Hertford, continued to enjoy
favours as a man of undoubted talents and attractive personality--and
uncle of the heir apparent. Favours, however, meant very little in
the way of power. He discharged various functions and took part in
sundry military operations in France and Scotland; but apart from one
smart action near Boulogne, very little real credit attaches to his
performances, which consisted for the most part in sacking the city of
Edinburgh, and laying waste the Scottish border with rather more than
usual in the way of burning and devastation.

Such as they were, however, these achievements sufficed to bring
him some prestige as a commander. If there was nothing particularly
brilliant about them, the same comment applies generally to those of
his fellows and rivals. There was no one marked out by his talents
to take up the reins of government when the king should die and be
succeeded by a nine-year-old son. But it was fairly obvious that either
the Howards, or Hertford in virtue of his relationship to the young
Edward, must occupy the leading position. Intrigues and the folly of
Surrey turned the scale against the Howards; Surrey and his father were
both attainted; the former was executed and the latter escaped only
through Henry’s death. Hertford was inevitably the man of the hour.

There was no manner of doubt about the succession. Henry left only
one son, and that son’s legitimacy was unchallenged. But by a wholly
unique measure, Henry had been empowered to fix by will not only the
course of succession after his son but the method of carrying on the
government during Edward’s minority. The will, when produced, was
found to vest the control in a council of executors, giving priority to
none, but remarkable as excluding Bishop Gardiner from the list. The
genuineness of the document has been disputed, but probably without
sufficient reason. At any rate, as it stood, its provisions were very
far from satisfying Hertford’s ambitions, and it is hard to see how
any one could have had a personal interest in giving it such a shape.
Certainly he had none, and his immediate efforts were directed to
inducing the new Council to alter its own constitution fundamentally.
For two days the king’s death was kept secret, while Hertford laid
his plans in conjunction with Paget, who had possession of the will.
When the Council was summoned and the will produced, a proposal was
immediately sanctioned appointing Hertford Lord Protector of the realm
and of the king’s person. The assent of the king and the peers was
formally obtained, and a few weeks later the appointment was confirmed
by the king’s authority under the Great Seal. In the interval there had
been a general distribution of honours, Hertford himself being made
Duke of Somerset. Also the one member of the Council from whom serious
opposition was to be feared, Wriothesley the Lord Chancellor (now
made Earl of Southampton), justified his own removal by transgressing
his powers. Somerset’s position was thus for the time at least made
impregnable.

Henry VIII. himself and his second great minister Cromwell had
conducted the government of the country on autocratic lines under
colour of parliamentary forms, until Parliament itself assigned, not
to the Crown as such, but to Henry personally, what amounted to the
power of legislation by Royal Proclamation. Somerset, though without
this statutory power, continued to make a free use of proclamations,
such being in effect the system to which the country had become
accustomed. He did not appreciate the change which had taken place. For
the successful exercise of those powers a personality was needed which
commanded unquestioning obedience, coupled with an unerring sense of
the limits of endurance in the subjects. In neither respect was the
Protector endowed with the necessary qualities.

There were problems enough to be dealt with to have daunted a master
of statecraft. Over the Channel, there was France, aggrieved because
England was just now holding Boulogne in pawn. The veteran Francis I.
followed his English contemporary and rival to the grave in a very
few weeks, and the son who succeeded him was by no means friendly to
England. Across the northern border there was Scotland, with a baby
queen, a queen-mother who was one of the Guise family who were in
the ascendant in France, and a dominant party which in its national
sympathies was French, and, in the religious point of view, regarded
Henry as a schismatic and all advocates of the Reformation as heretics.
At home, it was quite certain that the removal of Henry’s heavy hand
would be followed by a renewal of the strife in the Church between
the followers of the “Old Learning,” headed by Gardiner, Bonner and
Tunstal, and those of the New, whose chief was Archbishop Cranmer. In
addition, there was a grave social problem.

For a full half century a steady process had been at work throughout
rural England of extending sheep-farming at the expense of cultivation.
It was a process which paid the land-owners, owing to the large demands
from abroad for English wool. But it was not equally satisfactory to
the agricultural labourer, who was deprived of his customary employment
(since sheep-farming required far fewer hands) and found no adequate
compensation as yet in the industrial growth of towns. The evil was
aggravated by the iniquitous manner in which landholders systematically
seized every opportunity of appropriating common lands. In the main,
this was the outcome of natural economic tendencies, which repeated
attempts at legislative interference entirely failed to hold in check.
But these troubles had been directly intensified by the action of
Henry’s government for more than ten years past. The dissolution of
the monasteries had deprived the peasantry of an easy-going and on
the whole kindly group of landlords, and replaced these by another
group who were generally greedy and rapacious. Moreover, the wholesale
and monstrous debasement of the coinage, an expedient to which Henry
had been driven by the depletion of the exchequer caused by his
extravagance, had brought about a corresponding drop in effective
wages, besides shaking financial stability and commercial confidence,
with the unfailing disastrous results. From all of which, wide-spread
misery and want were prevalent, more particularly in the rural
districts.

These problems, we have said, might well have daunted even a master of
statecraft. But for each of them the sanguine duke had his solution.
It was with no mere paltry self-seeking designs that he had grasped
at power. He had elected himself to the office of saviour of society:
to the great disgust of some of those members of the Council who had
connived at his elevation, in the confident belief that his interests
and their own were identical, and would be the first objects at which
his government would aim.


III

SOMERSET AND SCOTLAND

At the outset, it was to Scotland that the Protector gave his attention.

Two hundred years before the first Tudor ascended the throne of
England, one of the ablest rulers this country has known realised
that the union of England and Scotland as a single nation was an
eminently desirable object. He sought to achieve that object by force
of arms. He conquered Scotland, and Scotland rebelled. Every time he
reconquered her, she rebelled again. His last attempt at invasion was
foiled by his own death, and during the reign of his incompetent son,
Scotland finally and decisively threw off the yoke he had attempted to
impose. Every subsequent attempt to reimpose that yoke was foiled.
Scottish barons might and did take pay from English kings, but in
general terms it is safe to say that the expectation of an attempt at
the armed conquest of the northern country was the one thing which
could effectively, if only temporarily, induce the factions of the
Scottish nobility to lay aside their personal and family feuds, and
unite in resistance to the Southron. Another method of reconciliation
had attracted the astute Henry VII., who married his eldest daughter
to the Scots king--not indeed with the definite expectation that a
union of the two crowns would result, but still with the _arrière
pensée_ that such a result was not impossible. From the fatal day of
Flodden till the death of Henry VIII., Scotland had been alternately
the prey of rival factions, and the English king had found that the
simplest way of keeping his northern neighbours from becoming dangerous
was to foster those rivalries. He had gone out of his way to prevent
his elder sister’s offspring from inheriting the English throne, by
postponing their claims in his will to those of her younger sister’s
descendants. But he had on the one hand been favourably disposed to the
idea that his own boy should marry the infant queen of Scots when the
two were old enough; and he had more than once implicitly, if not quite
explicitly, asserted the old claim of English suzerainty, with a view
to the ultimate subjection of the Scottish to the English crown if it
should prove convenient to try enforcing it.

Now at the moment of Henry’s death there was a party in Scotland which
depended for its chance of success very largely on English aid. This
was the Protestant section, which had just recently accomplished the
murder of Cardinal Beton. The Catholics looked to France and the
queen-mother’s Guise kinsfolk for support. Various important persons
were as usual quite ready to take either side, as opportunity might
render convenient. But the assassins of the Cardinal were still in
possession of the Castle of St. Andrews. It seemed clear that if
England gave active support to this section and prevented the arrival
of reinforcements to the other party from France, English influence
would predominate. If St. Andrews fell, the French party would acquire
complete ascendency.

Somerset had no lack of political imagination. The idea of the union
with Scotland appealed to him very strongly indeed. A less enthusiastic
advocate of that policy might very well have been content to let things
drift, reckoning that at worst Scotland would be no more willing
to submit to a French than to an English domination, and that the
moment of the almost inevitable anti-French reaction would be the
time for a _rapprochement_. Scotland might after all be postponed
to matters that were more immediately pressing. But there was an
obvious alternative--to espouse the cause of the Protestant leaders
in Scotland, confirm them as a heartily Anglophil party thoroughly
committed at least to the English alliance, and establish them in a
secure ascendency.

Neither of these courses, however, would achieve the solution on
which the Protector was bent--the union of the two countries under a
single Crown. It was true that there were plenty of Scots who in the
abstract regarded such a union as desirable, and had expressed approval
of the particular means proposed to that end--the marriage of Edward
and Mary. If the sexes of the children had been reversed, the scheme
might have run smoothly enough. But the Scottish idea of a union meant
a union on equal terms, and anything which pointed to a danger of the
smaller country being subordinated to the larger was apt to kindle a
fierce flame of opposition. It would require a great deal of diplomatic
tact to convince the Scottish nation at large that the contemplated
marriage would not be turned to account so as to subordinate Scotland.
If England now took up the cause of the Protestants, it was more than
probable that when they were in power they would find sufficient
reasons for evading the marriage. The Scots lords who had expressed
approval were already making it clear that they did not intend to be
bound by their past declarations.

Somerset desired the union by assent. But if the Scots would not
assent, he meant to enforce it. The object in view was excellent, the
method was ruinous. He saw nothing for it but invasion. The castle
of St. Andrews fell, and the party friendly to England lost ground.
Somerset dropped hints about the old claim of suzerainty, and Scottish
indignation grew. His own previous record in Scotland did not encourage
confidence in his good intentions. Early in September, Somerset crossed
the border at the head of a large army. It availed nothing that the
Scots army was completely shattered at Pinkie Cleugh--a defeat due to
the same blunder which had given Surrey the victory at Flodden and was
to give Cromwell the victory at Dunbar, as well as to the superiority
in artillery of the smaller English army--and that Edinburgh was again
sacked. Somerset’s plans had not extended to preparing an army of
occupation. The principal effect of the invasion, in strict accordance
with unvarying precedent, was to set the whole of Scotland in fierce
opposition to the union, with the result that shortly afterwards little
Queen Mary was embarked on French ships and carried off to France,
to be placed under the care of her Guise uncles and betrothed to the
French Dauphin, while the Guise ascendency in Scotland was confirmed.

Had the Protector been actuated mainly by a desire to achieve
popularity, the Pinkie campaign would have been a brilliant success.
But his aims were far higher. His conception of a union with Scotland
was so far in advance of his times that it was not even realised by the
union of the crowns in 1603, or until the Treaty of Union in 1707, more
than 150 years later. That in itself is sufficient to demonstrate that
his statesmanship had its quite admirable side. On the other hand, the
means by which he endeavoured to secure those aims were absolutely the
worst that could have been devised. The Pinkie campaign placed them
more completely and hopelessly out of reach than any inaction or any
other measures he could possibly have contrived. That is sufficient
to explain why his government was on the whole so disastrous. He had
thrown Scotland into the arms of France, and made France herself more
instead of less hostile to England.


IV

SOMERSET’S RELIGIOUS POLICY

The Protector’s praiseworthy desire for a union with Scotland was in
part at least subsidiary to his enthusiasm for the Reformation. The
desire to see Scotland Protestant as well as England was one of his
motives, and a strong one. And for his efforts in the cause of the New
Learning in England he deserves more praise and less censure than is
usually accorded to him. The historians with what may be called the
anti-Protestant bias rarely distinguish between what was done under his
rule and what was done under that of his successor in power. Those with
a Protestant bias are apt to condemn him as lukewarm. Very rarely is
it realised that under his government a degree of toleration prevailed
such as was never contemplated by other Protestant rulers of his times,
still less by Catholic princes. Yet here as in all else his work was
marred by his lack of judgment, and still more--unhappily--by personal
defects in his character.

The religious problem was obviously the most prominent of those which
demanded solution on the death of Henry VIII. That monarch had broken
with the Papacy, revolutionised the relations of the State and the
ecclesiastical organisation in England, dissolved the monasteries,
appropriated their revenues, condemned a few superstitious practices,
and authorised a version of the Scriptures in the vernacular. There
he had stopped. No dogmatic innovations had been admitted, and a
large number of practices which moderate as well as extreme reformers
desired to see altered had been retained. Obedience had been enforced
by stringent legislation, and the Six Articles Act was a standing
menace to innovators. Still, if in his later years Henry refused to go
forward, he also declined to go backward. The party of reaction, when
they attempted to subvert Cranmer’s position in the royal favour, only
got a sharp reprimand for their pains. Yet the Reformation had reached
a stage at which standing still had become impossible.

In framing the list of his executors, it seems as though the king’s
intention had been to preserve a balance, with a slight leaning towards
the forward school; a leaning which would almost have been reversed if
Gardiner had been included. Cranmer was balanced by Tunstal, Hertford
by Wriothesley. Dudley, Herbert, and Russell, were avowedly on the
Protestant side. Others were pronounced supporters of the old order,
and others again like Paget would be guided by circumstances. The
moment, however, that Hertford’s ascendency was assured, it was quite
certain that the forward movement would be set on foot. Cranmer took in
the pulpit the earliest opportunity of likening the boy-king to Josiah,
thereby very definitely fore-shadowing a war against “images.”

Nevertheless, there was nothing in the way of a violent revolution
instituted. Broadly speaking, measures of which Cranmer had openly
avowed himself in favour during the late king’s reign were resorted to
perhaps more hastily than was wise. The Archbishop’s Book of Homilies
received the sanction which Henry had refused to it. Injunctions based
on those of Thomas Cromwell were issued, chiefly directed against
“abused images,” and a visitation by Royal Commission was presently set
on foot. While Somerset was still in Scotland, Gardiner and Bonner, the
bishops of Winchester and London, offered some opposition on the ground
that these measures were inconsistent with the later ecclesiastical
legislation of Henry; and both were placed under easy confinement in
the Fleet. So far, however, there was nothing which could be called
innovation; there was merely a renewal of Cromwell’s activity on the
same lines--accompanied in practice by very much the same irreverence
and violence.

When Convocation and Parliament met for the winter, there was no
appearance of any violence being done to ecclesiastical consciences.
All the bishops were Henry’s bishops, not Somerset’s; and though
they did not prove unanimous in Parliament, a majority of them were
favourable to the reforming measures introduced--with the exception
of the Chantries Act, which was in itself quite obviously nothing
but the completion of an approved policy. Acts for the suppression
of irreverent language about the Sacrament, and enjoining the
administration of the Communion in both kinds, were passed actually at
the instance of the clergy themselves, while the clerical demand for
permission to marry was ignored. The Six Articles Act was repealed,
but that was nothing more than an abolition of penalties, like the
accompanying repeal of the statutes _de heretico comburendo_. During
1548, there were proclamations enjoining the Lenten fast, for the
sake of the fisheries; an Order of service for Communion was issued,
which, however, only gave effect to the recent Act; there was a fresh
Injunction against Images; preaching was restricted to the Homilies,
except for licensed preachers--a custom frequently enforced in the last
reign. In form, there was still no innovation.

In the winter of 1548-9 came the First Prayer Book of Edward VI., and
the Act of Uniformity. The Prayer Book was a compromise, which admitted
of such divergent interpretation that the most and the least advanced
of the bishops could use it without straining their consciences: and
the Act of Uniformity, while it penalised disobedience on the part of
the clergy, laid no burden whatever upon laymen.

Now we have here reviewed summarily the whole of the ecclesiastical
legislation for which Somerset was responsible. On the face of it,
the changes he introduced were by no means revolutionary. Even the
new Prayer Book in effect required no one to accept any new doctrine.
The repeal of penal acts practically permitted but assuredly did not
enforce the teaching of the doctrines against which they had been
directed. Not a single victim was sent to the stake; not a single
bishop was deprived of his See. During Somerset’s absence in Scotland,
Gardiner and Bonner were placed in confinement for disobeying the
Injunctions. Both were released after some three months. Again, the
next year, Gardiner adopted a critical attitude which led to his being
imprisoned again in what was no doubt a high-handed fashion; and
almost at the moment of the Protector’s fall, Bonner was again sent to
prison for disobeying the Act of Uniformity. There is only one other
act of persecution charged to Somerset which even calls for comment,
the condemnation of Joan Bocher; and that is only to remark that as a
matter of fact it was after his fall that her execution was sanctioned.
It was not till he had been ousted from power by Dudley that the
zealots dominated the reforming party.

Nevertheless, in this field also the Protector failed, and brought
discredit both on his measures and his motives. On his measures,
because those which were in themselves the most questionable and the
most unpopular were, so to express it, not statutory but proclamatory:
exercises of a power which was of extremely doubtful legality,
arbitrary in their nature. On his motives, because he made large
personal profits out of the spoils of the Church (though a far larger
proportion of these was appropriated to education than in the preceding
reign), and set an evil example of sacrilege by laying hands upon
sacred edifices and pulling them down for the building of a palace for
himself. In his policy, which was moderate and most unusually tolerant,
he worked hand-in-hand with the Archbishop, so that it is difficult
to say which of the two was the guiding spirit; yet its effect was in
great part--though not, as in the case of Scotland, totally--destroyed
by the mistaken methods he chose to adopt for enforcing it.


V

SOMERSET AND THE SOCIAL PROBLEM

We have studied the Protector in his character as prophet of the union
with Scotland, and as apostle of religious tolerance. We have now to
observe him in his third _rôle_ as friend of the people; wherein again
he was equally honest in his pursuit of an ideal, equally satisfied of
his own competence to deal with the problem, and equally misguided in
his methods.

No man, whatever his office, can be reproached for having failed to
solve the eternal problems of poverty and unemployment. The enormous
discrepancies in the distribution of wealth may appeal to the wealthy
as evidence of divine justice; by the poor they are more apt to be
attributed to human injustice. Yet it is not always apparent on the
face of things that the rich man has become rich or the poor man poor
through any misdoings. Natural forces operate without any regard to
abstract equity. There are always, however, those who, passionately
alive to the unfairness of the inequalities around them, are convinced
that there is nothing to prevent the realisation of a Utopian
rectification except the selfish greed of the propertied classes, and
imagine that an adequate remedy can be found in the imposition of paper
rules and regulations. Selfish greed is always one of the factors in
the problem, of varying magnitude, and regulations which effectively
protect the weak instead of strengthening the strong may have most
beneficial results; but they must have a power behind them which is
capable of enforcing them, and they must be in themselves capable of
being enforced.

The social disorganisation at this period was exceptionally acute.
For the agricultural depression, we have already noted as the most
vital cause the conversion of arable land into pasture--the growing
substitution of a highly remunerative industry demanding little labour
for a less remunerative industry requiring more labour. Next to this
was the disappearance of small holdings, owing to their accumulation
into single large estates--the substitution in effect of large farms
worked by farm servants for petty cultivation by peasant households.
Third stands the enclosing and appropriation of common lands by large
landholders. The demand for labour sinking from these causes out of
all proportion to the supply, cheapened labour excessively. There was
an army of men who could find no employment, and those who obtained
employment were miserably paid. Of the three causes named, only the
third can be attributed to the moral obliquities of the wealthy. The
other two were natural economic developments which would in the course
of time find their natural remedy in the growth of new industries
which would absorb the displaced labour. That, however, did not make
the existing distress less painful, since the new industries had not
yet come into being. Moreover, whereas in the old days the monasteries
had at least played some part in the immediate relief of distress,
though they had not mitigated its causes, their destruction had
abolished this source of relief. We have in our own day an analogous
movement in the industrial world, public companies and trusts absorbing
the business of the small traders, while the channels into which
capital flows are decided by considerations not of philanthropy but of
dividends.

The true remedy was to be found--and was found in the course of
Elizabeth’s reign--in the development of new industries; and the
condition of developing new industries was the restoration of public
credit: to be achieved primarily by steady government, establishing
general confidence, and by ending one grave cause of the existing
lack of credit for which the recent government had been directly
responsible, namely, the debasement of the coinage. It was also not
impracticable, though exceedingly difficult, to deal with the thievery
of common lands. Incidentally, it was necessary to find a substitute
which should discharge the charitable functions of the monasteries,
as well as to hold in check the vagabondage which, owing to the great
number of the unemployed, was a daily increasing danger.

There were, then, certain practical steps to be taken which would
not indeed cure the existing evils, but would serve directly to
mitigate them and to restore the body politic to a condition in which
the only effective remedy could be applied. But in the sixteenth
century, even the most scientific thinkers believed that human nature
could be “expelled with a fork” by statute: and it is small blame to
Somerset that he sought to stay the economic tide and to forbid the
inevitable. The attempt was very much more than anything else the
cause of his ruin; and as usual it was dictated by the most excellent
motives. But it is very much to be lamented that while he attempted the
impracticable, he left what was practicable alone, or mismanaged it so
far as he did try it. He could not provide the country with a steady
government: he did not restore the currency: public credit sank. He
pinned his faith on legislation which was either flatly rejected or
became a dead letter the moment it was passed. He made an attempt to
deal with vagabondage by converting vagabonds into slaves, which was
merely grotesque. Dissatisfied--quite properly--with the courts which
dealt with the land questions, he established a “Court of Requests”
in his own house, and proposed on his own responsibility to overrule
their decisions. As for the enclosure business, the Council was not
merely unsympathetic; half its members were more or less flagrant
enclosers themselves. For Somerset to make a direct frontal attack on
the system on which they were battening was creditable to his courage,
but it was not politics. When they found that the Protector was not
merely playing at being a popular ruler, but was taking himself very
seriously indeed, and that he evinced anything but the proper desire to
pulverise the Commons when they rose in arms either in the western or
the eastern counties, they were not long in deciding that the Protector
himself must go. They were only following immemorial custom when they
put forward the theory that he was seeking his own advancement by
practising the arts of the demagogue, and that the rural unrest was the
creation of his machinations.


VI

THE LORD ADMIRAL

The same characteristics of the Protector present themselves in other
fields. His motives were quite other than those which actuated the
government which succeeded his, and on an altogether higher plane. We
have already noted in passing that his scheme for religion included
the repeal of the Act of the Six Articles and the old penal statutes
_de heretico comburendo_; that is, his policy abolished the methods
of persecution, at least in any stringent form. In precisely the same
spirit, he dealt with the Treason Laws invented under Henry VIII. and
used by that monarch with such terrible effect. Those laws were a very
potent weapon in the hands of an arbitrary ruler; an instrument by
which virtually the king--or, if the king so chose, his minister--could
absolutely secure the condemnation for high treason of any person
who in any way proved obnoxious to his government. To that end it was
practically sufficient to procure an information that the proposed
victim had used expressions which might be construed as implying a
possibility of treasonous intent, or of complicity in treasonous
intent--treasonous intent being interpreted in the widest conceivable
sense--and the victim’s doom was sealed, whether he were a Buckingham,
a More, or a Surrey. This weapon lay ready to the Protector’s hand for
the destruction of rivals and the establishment of his own authority.
He not only declined to use it; he broke it to pieces himself. It is
particularly noteworthy that it was in Somerset’s Act of 1547 that a
provision was first introduced requiring that any charge of treason
should be supported by two witnesses--a provision repeated in the
later Treasons Act of Northumberland. The Protector deliberately and
of set purpose deprived himself of those means to tyranny which Thomas
Cromwell had so carefully fabricated.

Again, we find during his rule that there was no coercing of
Parliament, no interference with freedom of debate, no danger attending
on the most outspoken opposition to the personal wishes of the
Protector.

Yet here, again, he gave occasion to the enemy. If he had maintained
the Cromwellian system of ruthlessness in the pursuit of each object
he set before himself, his condemnation as a tyrant would have been
tempered by praise of his masterfulness. The policy of blood and iron
always has its advocates, and sometimes merits advocacy. But it was not
Somerset’s policy, and therefore the one occasion on which he deserted
his practice attracts criticism. On that one occasion there is very
little doubt that he had an irresistible case. It is scarcely necessary
to add that he did the thing the wrong way.

His brother William, created Lord Seymour of Sudely under the new
administration, was also Lord High Admiral. But, as the king’s uncle,
he was by no means satisfied with the honours which fell to his share,
and was extremely jealous of his brother’s absorption of dignities
and power. He plunged in a series of intrigues to get the young king
under his own personal influence, and to bring the two younger girls,
Elizabeth and Lady Jane Grey, who might come into the succession,
under his own control. He began by secretly marrying Katharine Parr,
the king’s widow, for whose hand he had been a suitor before Henry had
chosen her for his sixth matrimonial venture: so that his wife had
precedence over Somerset’s Duchess. Elizabeth, being under her charge,
was thus brought into the Admiral’s household. He bribed Dorset,
whose wife under Henry’s will stood next in succession to Henry’s own
offspring, to place their daughter Jane under his tutelage also. He
put forward a claim that, as the king’s uncle, he was entitled to be
governor of the king’s person instead of his brother, who was Protector
of the realm--a claim in which he was unsupported. He consistently set
himself in opposition to his brother, doing everything in his power to
thwart him, and refusing to command the fleet which accompanied the
invasion of Scotland. Katharine Parr died within eighteen months of
her marriage, and no sooner was she in her grave than he attempted to
obtain the hand of Elizabeth, now a girl of barely fifteen years: to
whom his behaviour had already been so objectionable that Katharine had
found it necessary to remove her out of his reach. As Admiral, instead
of repressing the pirates who infested the Channel, he made private
league with them for their support--and for shares in their booty.
He kept something like a small army of bravoes in his pay, and had a
private cannon-foundry of his own; and he found the means for the heavy
expenditure entailed through a pact with Sharrington, the master of the
mint at Bristol, who was pocketing enormous and iniquitous profits out
of the clipping and debasing of the coins he issued.

With Henry on the throne, or a Thomas Cromwell at the head of the
State, the Lord Admiral would have been in the Tower in two months.
Under the Protectorate, he was allowed to carry on his intrigues
and malpractices for two years, with nothing more serious than
remonstrances. The discovery, however, of Sharrington’s frauds and
Seymour’s implication therein brought matters to a head. The evidence,
not only of an abuse of his office which amounted to treason, but
of an ulterior intention of subverting the Government, was ample
enough, though the only prominent men who were in any sense attached
to him were Dorset and Northampton (the latter being Katharine Parr’s
brother). There is hardly a question that, in open trial, under the
most favourable conditions, the Admiral would have been sentenced and
executed. Unfortunately for his own credit, Somerset assented to
the view of the Council that the process should be by attainder in
Parliament instead. Seymour stood on his right to an open hearing, and
refused to answer the interrogatories of committees of the Council or
of the Peers; and therefore he was condemned, by the almost unanimous
verdict of both houses, unheard. The natural result was that men said
at the time, and have continued to say since, that the Protector,
fearing that his brother might become a dangerous rival, fabricated
charges against him, and in effect contrived one more of the political
murders of the type so familiar in the annals of Henry VIII. The
Admiral was executed in March. His death was undoubtedly a shock to
popular sentiment, and weakened Somerset’s position, so that his fall
followed the more easily after the rural risings which turned the
majority of the Council decisively against him.


VII

THE EX-PROTECTOR

The Council’s _coup d’état_ cost very little trouble. The moment was
seized, when the unsuspecting Somerset was at Hampton Court, Cranmer
and Paget being absent; while Russell and Herbert were returning
with victorious laurels and most of the available army from the
suppression of the Western rising. Both of them had strong feelings
as to Somerset’s Enclosures policy. After a futile appeal to the
people, there was nothing to do but surrender. But the Duke was at
any rate a popular favourite; a good many of those who were in the
plot against him liked him well enough personally though his policy
annoyed them; he was not of the stuff of which successful political
plotters are made; there was no plausible excuse for treating anything
that he had done as proving anything worse than incompetence; and the
Council were satisfied by his being turned out of office, subjected to
a brief imprisonment, and deprived of no great amount of his lands.
Six months after his fall he was even readmitted to the Privy Council,
as Southampton had been three years before. There was, in short, no
display of animosity; but the Warwick faction meant to grasp the
management of public affairs, and to conduct them with more profit to
themselves than the Protector’s _régime_ permitted.

Warwick and his friends--the Earl did not get himself created Duke of
Northumberland till two years later--took over the control in October
1549. They retained it for a little less than four years. During that
time their foreign and Scottish policy showed no improvement upon
that of Somerset. In matters of religion, they progressed from the
Prayer-book of 1548-49 to that of 1552: which would have been of a
more pronounced Calvinistic flavour than it was but for the moderating
influence of Ridley and Cranmer. Bonner and Gardiner were both deprived
of their sees at the beginning of the _régime_, and later Tunstal,
Day, and Heath were also imprisoned and deprived. The new appointments
were all advanced Reformers. Before Somerset’s fall the Princess Mary
had been attacked for persisting in the use of the Mass in private,
after the Act of Uniformity, but the Protector granted her a licence
to continue. The Warwick government was not similarly complaisant. And
when a second Act of Uniformity was passed, of a much narrower type
than the first, laymen as well as clergy were penalised for failure
to conform. In dealing with the rural troubles Somerset’s policy was
reversed, legislation being directed to the coercive repression of
discontent and the relaxation of such safeguards as existed against the
rapacity of landlords. To this must be added their new treason law,
which not only extended the same protection to all Privy Councillors as
to the king himself, but also made assemblies “for altering the laws”
high treason, while renewing the requirement of two witnesses as well
as of a time-limit which Somerset had introduced.

Yet there are historians who say that there is no need to differentiate
between the policy of Somerset and his successor--associating them in
the same condemnation.

Somerset, restored to liberty and formally reconciled to Warwick,
consistently endeavoured to use his influence in mitigation of the
rigours of the new Government, whose chief began to fear, not without
reason, that the moderate men might draw together and reinstate his
rival. Paget, whose abilities made him dangerous, was removed from
the Council, and imprisoned on an inadequate pretext in the autumn of
1551, to simplify the carrying out of Warwick’s plot; evidence of
an alleged conspiracy was carefully concocted, Somerset and several
of his friends were arrested, and the torture--never employed by the
Protector--was resorted to for the extraction of confessions from
some of the prisoners. A mythical assassination plot was dropped out
of the indictment. Finding that even the concocted evidence was quite
inadequate for a conviction of treason, Northumberland magnanimously
declined to press personal charges, and Somerset was found guilty of
felony--apparently on the ground that he had incited the citizens of
London to rebellion--by a carefully packed court.

Having been acquitted of treason, but--with equal satisfaction to
Northumberland, since the penalty was the same--condemned for felony,
the axe borne by Somerset’s gaolers was reversed when he was taken
from the judgment-hall. The crowds which had gathered to await the
verdict were thus misled into the belief that the trial had gone in
his favour, and broke into a clamour of rejoicing. It was a fond
illusion. Even when his doom was made known the populace refused to
believe that it would be carried out. The Duke himself knew better.
As he stood on the scaffold, having already pronounced his moving and
dignified dying speech, a messenger was seen approaching, and a wild
cry arose--a delighted shout that he was carrying a pardon. Somerset
hushed the people, warning them it was no such thing, and bidding them
pray with him for the King’s Majesty. Then, with the words “Lord Jesus,
save me,” he laid his head on the block to receive the fatal stroke:
and the spectators hastened to dip their kerchiefs in his blood, to be
preserved as memorials of one who, with all his faults, had won the
heart’s love of the common folk.

Somerset’s personal faults were shared by the majority of the prominent
men of his time; it was only the greatness of his position which
made them a shade more conspicuous in him. As a statesman, he was a
melancholy failure; _capax imperii_ he was not in any possible sense;
and his incapacity was only the more conclusively proved by the fact
that he never suspected it himself. The shrewdest of men would have
found it difficult enough to realise his aims, and of shrewdness he
had not a particle. His failure was due not less to his complete lack
of judgment than to the difficulties inherent in the problems which
with easy confidence he set himself to solve. It was an ill thing for
England that he was not a wiser man. But it had been well for England
if wiser men than he had possessed more of those moral qualities of his
to which he himself so woefully failed to give effect.



ARCHBISHOP CRANMER


I

INTRODUCTORY

The Protector Somerset accounted himself a statesman. Of his own
choice, he grasped at power; and being unfitted for it, he broke
down disastrously. Thomas Cranmer affords a striking contrast.
He was dragged into the turmoil of public affairs, in the vortex
of the Reformation; against his will, he was compelled to
accept ecclesiastical responsibilities which were in themselves
semi-political, and to play a part also in affairs which were political
exclusively. In the second capacity, he never assumed the direction,
but was merely called upon to assent to the actions of others; but
as archbishop he was compelled willy nilly to be a protagonist in
the religious revolution--a term covering not only changes in the
authorised doctrines of the Church and the authorised practices of the
clergy, but in the relations of the clerical organisation in England
both to the clerical organisation of Christendom and the secular powers
at home.

[Illustration: _THOMAS CRANMER_

_From a Painting by_ G. FLICCIUS _in the National Portrait Gallery_]

In the eyes of an earnest school of ecclesiastical critics, he proved
himself a traitor to the sacred trust which was imposed on him; a
time-serving tool of lay usurpers; who, if he had convictions, lacked
the courage of them, disowning all that he had most strongly avowed
to save himself from the stake; and only at the last in some measure
redeeming himself by a belated and almost incomprehensible courage in
the hour of his doom. Ardent Protestants endorse half the charges,
and condemn him as at best a Laodicean, though one who found grace
at the eleventh hour. And historians who display no marked bias on
the ecclesiastical questions are apt almost to pass him by, with
contemptuous reference to his weakness and subserviency. Still there
are not a few who have studied his career with care and sympathy; and
their verdict is by no means the one conventionally accepted. It would,
indeed, be strange and sad if such a verdict gave a true account of
the man who did more than any other individual, on the one hand, to
preserve the continuity of the Church, while, on the other hand, he
strove to make her comprehensive and national. To no one, indeed, can
he assume the proportions of a master-spirit; but the more closely
we study him, the more readily we recognise in him a pre-eminently
gentle and charitable soul, simple and sincere, striving to do his duty
through good and evil report, in a task which he would fain have left
to men who were not--as he was--born to be students, not fighters; and
actually accomplishing what men of far greater practical ability would
have deemed it vain to attempt. If it was better for England that the
Church should be what it became than that it should have taken the
shape into which either a Gardiner or a Knox would have moulded
it, it was well for England that for twenty years Cranmer was her
foremost ecclesiastic.


II

CRANMER AT CAMBRIDGE

Thomas Cranmer was born not two years before Henry VIII., in 1489;
the son of a country gentleman of no great estate. An elder son
was to carry on the family; Thomas and his younger brother were
destined to the Church. The younger sons of a country gentleman of
straitened means had no very encouraging prospects, and the career
chosen for the boy was, no doubt, dictated merely by convenience,
though it was well enough suited to his talents and temperament.
Somewhat lacking, perhaps, in that cheerful heedlessness of danger
and physical pain which is the happy heritage of the normal English
boy--the outcome often of rude health and imperturbable nerves rather
than of any properly moral endowment--a certain timidity and want of
self-confidence in him were evidently fostered by the unsympathetic
severity of a pedagogue whose theory of education was, a stick with a
master at one end and a boy at the other. In due course he went up to
the recent foundation of Jesus College, Cambridge, and was elected to a
fellowship on taking his degree. Till his fortieth year he continued in
these academic shades, and would have remained there peacefully enough
to his life’s end if an accident had not brought him under the notice
of Henry VIII.

Colet and others, some years earlier, had introduced the new criticism
into Oxford; while Cranmer was an undergraduate, Cambridge was still
lagging behind. In 1511, however, the placid, not to say stagnant,
waters were moved by the appointment of Erasmus to the Greek Chair.
There is no record of any personal intercourse between Cranmer and
the great scholar; but it was precisely at this time that the former
withdrew his attention from the scholastic philosophy and theology
which had hitherto absorbed him, and devoted himself to studying the
Scriptures. In the University he seems to have been regarded as an
undoubtedly learned scholar; for Wolsey, who as an educationist chose
his men with judgment, offered him a canonry at his new “Cardinal
College” at Oxford; but he was not looked upon as one who would seek
preferment or be selected for it unsought, or as in any sense an
intellectual leader. The only incident worth noting is that at the
outset, being still a layman, he lost his fellowship by marrying
a respectable young “gentlewoman,” a connexion of the landlord of
a Cambridge hostelry. On her death, however, a year later, he was
re-elected to his fellowship--apparently a unique instance in those
times of such recognition--proceeding afterwards to take Holy Orders.

Now, in those early days, the intelligence and ability, not only of
laymen, but of the greatest ecclesiastics were all on the side of the
intellectual emancipation of which Erasmus was the apostle. Archbishop
Warham was the scholar’s patron, Fox of Winchester was his warm
admirer, Fisher of Rochester had given him his Cambridge appointment.
From his disciples Wolsey chose the men for the great college which
was his favourite scheme outside of pure politics. Colet, Dean of St.
Paul’s, and Thomas More, were among his closest friends. No one of any
account thought of receiving with anything but the warmest welcome his
edition of the Greek Testament and the _Utopia_ of More, which appeared
about the same time. Then a somewhat startling event occurred. The Pope
wanted money; he sent out commissioners to obtain it by the sale of
indulgences; and a monk at Wittenberg rose up and publicly denounced
the whole scheme. At first, the meaning of the portent was not fully
appreciated; but before long the denunciation of indulgences developed
into a challenge of the entire Papal system, of the pretensions of the
Popes, and of sundry accepted dogmas. Reformation by the influence of
sweetness and light was by no means the same thing as this volcanic
revolution. The men who had done so much to make the new movement
possible became eager to repress it. The English king plunged into
theological controversy, triumphantly vindicating the Papacy and
pulverising the monk of Wittenberg.

Before many years had passed, however, Henry found reason to modify
his views, as More had warned him he might do. Papal pretensions
stood in the way of royal designs, and that fact brought it home to
him that those pretensions were not based upon a rock. The Bishop of
Rome was also a European potentate subject to political pressure from
other potentates--a political factor with a spiritual sanction. If the
spiritual sanction were challenged, the political situation would be
simplified. The king’s authority in his own dominions would no longer
be trammeled by the claims of a foreign authority to over-ride it. When
a collision between the royal and the Papal authority became imminent,
it was time to be rid of the Papacy for good and all. That, of course,
was quite a different thing from admitting heretical dogmas or denials
of dogma.

The occasion was the divorce[C] of Katharine of Aragon. If the Pope
had been amenable in that matter, Henry would in all likelihood have
left the Papal authority where he found it. But Clement, terrorised
by the Emperor, was not amenable--despite the efforts of Wolsey. The
collapse of the legatine trial ruined Wolsey and decided the king on a
campaign with the object of establishing the Crown as the sole head of
the Spirituality; involving the withdrawal or repudiation of the Papal
claims and the formal subjection of the clergy in England.

      [C] This customary term for the proceedings has been used
          throughout. But it may be necessary to note that a
          “decree of nullity”--the thing sought--is not properly
          speaking a “divorce” at all. Nullity means that no
          marriage had in fact been contracted; divorce, that a
          marriage which had been contracted is dissolved.

The trial had just collapsed. Henry in dudgeon retired to Waltham.
Two of his suite, his almoner Fox and his secretary Stephen Gardiner,
took up their quarters with a Mr. Cressy, in whose house Dr. Cranmer
happened to be residing, as the son’s tutor. Gardiner and Fox, being
also respectively Provost and Master of King’s and Trinity Hall, were
acquainted with Cranmer; and together they naturally discussed what was
known as “the king’s affair.” In the course of conversation Cranmer
expressed himself to the effect that Henry could do without the Papal
decision. He could obtain from the universities of Europe the opinion
of the qualified divines on the question whether a Papal dispensation
for a marriage with a deceased brother’s widow was _ultra vires_; and
take corresponding action on his own responsibility when he learnt the
result. The English courts, in short, were competent to pronounce the
marriage null or valid, but the position would be made impregnable if
they had the expert opinion of Europe to go upon. The conversation was
reported to Henry, who caught at the scheme and summoned its deviser to
talk to him. Their interview terminated Cranmer’s hitherto undisturbed
prospect of passing his days in peaceful and learned seclusion; such
an instrument as this was not to be wasted. Unscrupulous loyalty
Henry knew by experience he could command; servants of the type which
provided it could be used till the last ounce of service had been
extracted from them, and then cast aside. But Henry wanted a man of
undeniable learning, unblemished character, a tender conscience, a
convenient theory of Church and State, and a certain impressibility.
The combination was not easily found--but he had found it.


III

RISE TO THE ARCHBISHOPRIC

The common animosity towards Cranmer of those who hold “high” doctrines
on the function of the priesthood is entirely intelligible. For them,
the divine revelation is entrusted to the Church, and the voice of
the Church is the voice of her priesthood. Its authority is absolute,
and secular powers seeking to control it are laying profane hands on
the Ark of the Covenant. That laymen should not humbly recognise that
august claim is deplorable; still, for laymen some excuse may be found.
But that a priest should not merely disavow it in words, but emphasise
the disavowal by his acts, aiding and abetting the desecration as
well as justifying it, is intolerable. When, moreover, that priest is
himself, as it were, the shepherd of the whole flock, whose position
demands that he above all others should be the guardian and champion of
the Church’s rights, he becomes a double-dyed traitor. Palpably guilty
of so heinous a crime, the presumption in favour of the truth of any
minor charges against him is so strong that it is hardly necessary to
examine them: they may almost be taken for granted.

If, indeed, it be unpardonable to believe that the State is supreme,
there can be no pardon for Cranmer. But if once it be admitted that a
man is not of necessity a moral reprobate for holding that view, and
that it is possible, even for a priest, to maintain it with entire
honesty and sincerity, the whole fabric of Cranmer’s condemnation
collapses. To Cranmer, the State meant the king, and in the king he
found an authority more divine--more definitely, that is, of divine
sanction--than in any other of the powers that be. When in Queen Mary’s
reign he found the royal authority in flat opposition to what he held
to be truth, no doubt a very painful and puzzling dilemma presented
itself; but the same dilemma is presented to every individual who,
having recognised some external authority as final, suddenly discovers
that the dictates of that authority and those of his own conscience are
in flat contradiction.

Cranmer, in short, was as complete and convinced an Erastian as any
layman could possibly have been. It was the clear perception of that
fact which primarily made Henry select him as Archbishop Warham’s
successor. A frankly Erastian archbishop was an anomaly, but it is not
necessary _ipso facto_ to condemn him as a criminal and a hypocrite, or
even as a time-server.

Cranmer, like a good many other people, was thoroughly convinced that,
though the marriage with Katharine had been effected in perfect good
faith, it was invalid in the nature of things, and could not be made
valid by any sort of ecclesiastical sanction, Papal or other. The king
set him to work to formulate a plea for nullity, and placed him under
the immediate influence of the Boleyn household, where the simple man
very readily learnt to form the highest opinion of the lady whom the
king had determined to make a queen. Then he was sent with Anne’s
father on a futile embassy to Bologna; and not long after his return
he was again despatched as an enemy to Germany, where he made many
friends but did not succeed in gaining many converts to his view on the
divorce question. There also he took the extremely uncanonical step of
marrying; but it must be remembered that while such marriages among the
secular clergy were not recognised by the law, they were not regarded
as offences against morality, and were by no means infrequent; while
in Germany itself they had become, or were becoming, the rule rather
than the exception. Cranmer was still in Germany when he received the
unexpected and most unwelcome summons to return to England and take
upon himself the ungrateful honour of the archbishopric.

In the meantime Henry’s “Reformation” parliament had been at work;
the campaign against the Pope and the clerical organisation was in
full swing: and Convocation, under the aged Warham, had been compelled
to affirm the royal supremacy. The “submission of the clergy” had
become an accomplished fact in Cranmer’s absence, and before he held
any position of high authority. The most stubborn of the bishops were
unable to resist the pressure of the Crown. They bowed to the logic
of facts, under protest and against their convictions, without being
condemned as subservient. Cranmer is called subservient mainly because
his convictions were on the king’s side.

It was always more agreeable to Henry to employ on any job he had
in hand men to whom that particular job was not distasteful. Thus,
knowing Sir Thomas More’s sentiments as to the divorce, he had given
the new Chancellor no business in connexion with it. It is not likely
that any of the bishops at this time, with the exception of Fisher,
would have felt strongly as to a breach with Rome--Gardiner and
Stokesly were both advocates of the divorce. But it was more convenient
to have an archbishop as to whose sentiments there was no manner of
doubt. It is not impossible that Gardiner, not Cranmer, would have
been chosen, if his attitude in regard to the “Supplication against
the Ordinaries” and the “Submission” of Convocation had not made Henry
scent in him a possible Becket. The Bishop of Winchester’s services had
been of considerable value; and if Cranmer’s appointment stirred his
jealousy, he can hardly be blamed. But it is scarcely to be doubted
that a personal antagonism to the rival, for whose first preferment
to Henry’s notice he had himself been in part responsible and by whom
he now found himself superseded, exercised a marked influence on
Gardiner’s attitude from this time.

Cranmer, summoned home, delayed on the way as much as he dared--in the
hope, it is said, that the king might be persuaded to change his mind
and make another selection. However, he arrived in January; Henry--for
his own ends--put pressure on the Pope to hasten the necessary bulls,
and the new Archbishop was consecrated on March 30 (1533). An oath of
obedience to the Pope was a necessary part of the ceremony. Such oaths
are commonly regarded as mere formalities, binding precisely so long
as it is convenient to recognise them. Cranmer, however, being very
well aware that whosoever became archbishop would very soon find it
necessary to ignore the oath or else to defy the king, was at pains to
announce beforehand that he only intended to respect the oath so far
as it consorted with obedience to the king--a declaration which has
been rather oddly condemned as hypocritical. Oaths and promises[D] made
purely _pro forma_ are a not very excusable institution, but the open
profession that they are made _pro forma_ only makes such hypocrisy as
is involved less, not greater.

      [D] How many godparents or brides, for instance, regard
          the formal promises they make in the face of the
          congregation as imposing a real and literal obligation?


IV

HENRY’S PRIMATE

The first business before Cranmer was to finish off the affair of
the divorce. Henry had already--whether in the previous November or
January--been privately married to Anne Boleyn. On the theory that
the marriage with Katharine was void _ab initio_, there was never any
bar to another marriage, though it was hardly possible to announce
one until the nullity had been formally declared: so that any further
delay was certain to cause a public scandal--since it was now April,
and Elizabeth was born in the following September. Convocation had
already pronounced in favour of Henry’s view; and if Cranmer was
somewhat anxious to evade possible obstructions, it was only because
the decision of the court was by this time a foregone conclusion.

For the destruction of More and Fisher (1534-1535) Cranmer was in
no sort of way responsible. He was on the Commission which had to
administer the Oath of Supremacy, which the two recalcitrants declined,
but it was not he who prescribed the form of the oath, nor had he
anything to say to the penalties. All he did do was to urge the king to
accept as sufficient a form of the oath to which Fisher and More were
both prepared to subscribe.

Something more is usually made of the Archbishop’s conduct at the
time of Anne Boleyn’s fall, as an instance of the subserviency which
is imputed to him. It is argued that officially at Henry’s bidding
he condemned the unhappy lady, while personally convinced of her
innocence. The whole story is enveloped in an obscurity which makes
that impression a natural one; nevertheless, the most probable
explanation of the circumstances is one which fairly exonerates the
Archbishop.

Henry had sought to have the nullity of the marriage with Katharine
established ostensibly for two main reasons. The first was the fruit of
conscience, that the union, though sanctioned by the Pope, was against
the moral law. The second was a reason of State, that a male heir to
the throne with an indisputable title was a necessity, and therefore
the king must be provided with another wife than Katharine. The other
wife he had chosen was Anne Boleyn, but she had failed to do what was
expected of her. Like her predecessor, she had borne a daughter, and
had two miscarriages Henry was tired of her, and was attracted to
another lady whose virtue was impregnable; therefore he wanted to be
rid of her in turn. Charges of treason on the ground of post-nuptial
immorality were brought against her, and on these she was condemned by
a court of peers composed in great part of those who would have been
readiest to welcome her acquittal. Here, we have nothing to do with
the truth or falsehood of the allegations; Cranmer was not one of the
judges, and had nothing whatever to do with the trial. But Anne had
from the first shown him the best side of her character, and he had a
perfect conviction that she was a good woman. He could not influence
the court; he had nothing which could be called evidence in her favour
to bring forward. The king’s wishes were obvious. Yet Cranmer took the
somewhat bold step of addressing the king, pleading earnestly and even
passionately on her behalf--though vainly.

But, for reasons best known to himself, Henry was not satisfied with a
condemnation for treason: he also required a divorce--or, to express
it more correctly, a declaration that the marriage, like that with
Katharine, had been void from the beginning. How could Cranmer, who
had officially declared it valid, now make any such pronouncement?
The answer is, that the technical ground on which it was voided had
not previously been taken into account. The story of a pre-contract
with Northumberland need not count for much, though for the avoidance
of scandal it was put in the forefront. The charges on which Anne was
condemned to death, while effective for proper divorce proceedings,
were irrelevant to the question of nullity. The real ground was that at
an earlier stage Henry had illicit relations with Anne’s elder sister,
Mary, thereby technically creating affinity with Anne, and rendering
the marriage with her void by canon law. How far Cranmer knew or
suspected this unofficially, when he declared the marriage valid, is
a matter of doubt--which is not set at rest by his pamphlet in favour
of the divorce. But, being now officially informed of it, he could not
maintain the technical validity of the marriage any longer. His view
of the importance of merely canonical prohibitions is illustrated by
his own uncanonical marriage. Even if he knew of the “affinity” he
would probably have accounted it no moral bar to a union. But, knowing
it, he could not deny that it made the marriage technically invalid.
It is, perhaps, worth noting that his plea for Anne’s life contains
a reference to Henry’s own morals, which may very well have been a
reminder that it was the king’s sin, not Anne’s, which had placed her
in a false position. As for her actual guilt or innocence under the
other accusations, the Primate could not protest against the king or
the judges being persuaded by the evidence, but he could, and did,
declare that, not having the evidence before him, he could not bring
himself to believe that the charges were true: but that did not touch
the question of nullity. Whoever deserved blame over the affair,
Cranmer did not.

Some years later Thomas Cromwell was struck down by his master. His
government had been in many respects a reign of terror. The populace
had no affection for him; the nobles hated him: the new men, even
those he had made, feared him; the king’s wrath was kindled against
him. The downfall of Wolsey had not been more universally acceptable.
But there was one man who lifted up his voice to plead for the fallen
minister--Thomas Cranmer, the time-server. As in the case of Anne
Boleyn, it was impossible for him to take up the cudgels in defence
of the man who had been less dangerous, perhaps, to him than to most
others--dangerous he was to every one, for he spared neither friend
nor foe--but who else would have dared, or ever did dare, to appeal to
Henry in the day of his wrath?

It was not Cranmer who directed the course of the Reformation under
Henry. The breach with Rome in all its completeness was devised and
carried out without aid from him, unless the suggestion of taking the
opinion of the Universities on the divorce is to be counted as aid.
Before the king had ever heard of Cranmer, Gardiner had told Clement
in plain terms that if he refused to entertain the English king’s
wishes England would repudiate his jurisdiction altogether. The great
majority of the bishops were no friends to the Papal claims, though
some of them would have taken a different line if they had not been
too late in discovering that the king meant to impose his own yoke
instead of the Pope’s: and the same thing might be said of Convocation
generally. Gardiner and Stokesley, the most persistent of Cranmer’s
antagonists, had been foremost in supporting the king against the
Pope. The clergy had writhed and resisted when the attack was turned
against themselves by the “Supplication against the Ordinaries,” but
they had been forced to surrender and make their “Submission” while
Warham was still Archbishop and Cranmer was engaged in other matters.
Even after he became Primate Cranmer had no actual hand or voice in
the great despoiling measures which accompanied the dissolution of the
monasteries; while the downfall of the monastic system in itself was
probably not unwelcome to the bulk of the secular clergy, between whom
and the regulars there was constant friction and jealousy.

In this connexion, however, while Cranmer, like Gardiner and the rest,
neither aided nor hindered Cromwell’s work, it ought to stand to his
eternal credit that he was almost alone in protesting, not against the
spoliation itself--practically no one seems to have ventured to do
that--but against the misuse of the wealth which thus changed hands. He
wrote to Cromwell emphatically expressing his grief and disappointment
that those funds were not appropriated to education--still accounted
one of the primary functions of the Church. Had the course which he
urged been followed there would have been little possibility of saying
that the Church was robbed. But Cromwell and his master had other
uses for the spoils. It is remarkable, too, that when educational
establishments were endowed Cranmer made a vigorous stand on behalf of
humble scholars against those who would have confined their benefits to
the sons of the well-to-do.

So far, however, as concerned matters of doctrine and practice the
Archbishop exercised some influence. His sojourn in Germany had not
made him a Lutheran, but it had inclined him to give favourable
consideration to the opinions of sober reformers on the Continent.
Viewing the Papacy as the enemy, he was always sanguine of the
possibility that a common standard of doctrine might be formulated in
consultation with the Protestant leaders; and such an agreement was a
pet project of his, the theological counterpart of Cromwell’s political
league with the Lutherans. Henry, however, looked askance on both
schemes, and the Archbishop’s efforts were doomed to disappointment.

Anxious as Cranmer was for a union of the opponents of Papacy,
there were many disputable points on which his own judgment had not
crystallised. In the matter, however, on which he really laid most
stress he got his way. An English Bible which all men might read was
the desire of his heart, and that was the one innovation of first-rate
importance to which Henry acceded. The first Convocation over which he
presided petitioned for a commission to prepare such a volume, and the
petition was granted. The Commission itself was ineffective enough;
some of the members, like Stokesley, desired only to obstruct the
work as far as in them lay. But the principle was conceded, and the
Commission was made superfluous by the appearance of Coverdale’s and
“Matthew’s” versions. There is no doubt at all that the main credit is
due to Cranmer, though his efforts would have been vain enough without
the powerful support of Cromwell. A kindred concession to Cranmer’s
enthusiasm for the English language was the authorisation, in Henry’s
later years, of an English Litany.

When John Frith affirmed the proposition that a correct belief on the
subject of the Eucharist could not be essential to salvation, there
were few, if any, of his contemporaries who did not regard him as
an anarchist in religion. But the subject of the Eucharist was only
one among many as to which men were in a state of great uncertainty
concerning the belief which should be regarded as correct. A standard
was wanted; it might be rigid, or it might be elastic. Given a standard
fixed by authority, no one was prepared as yet to admit that the
individual was at liberty to set up a different standard for himself:
no one doubted that the lack of an authoritative standard was an
evil. Hence arose the efforts in Henry’s reign to evolve acceptable
formularies, which should define what must be acknowledged as true
doctrines.

In the devising of these Cranmer, as well as many others, had his
share. They did not express the views of any one man--unless it were
the king--or any one party. They were three in number: first, the “Ten
Articles” for “establishing Christian quietness”; then the “Institution
of a Christian Man,” commonly called the _Bishop’s Book_; and some
years later the “Necessary Doctrine and Erudition of a Christian Man,”
known as the _King’s Book_. Between the first and the last there is no
definite change of doctrinal attitude. None of the three breaks away
from received opinion; they differ mainly in the precision with which
certain points are insisted upon. Thus, in the first, the doctrine
of the Real Presence is affirmed, but not explicitly in the form of
Transubstantiation. The movement is rather towards rigidity. Cranmer
and some of his colleagues made tentative suggestions in favour of
admitting more advanced views, which were not approved, and in the case
of the King’s Book, it is clear that the opposing party hoped to get
something of a much more decisively reactionary character.

Cranmer was a long way from being an Anselm, a Becket, or a Langton.
But on the whole, taking together the history of those three
formularies, and adding that of the Six Articles Act, which intervened,
the surprising thing about him is not his subserviency, but the
persistency with which he defended his own views. The “Whip with Six
Strings” was a tightening of the bonds which came upon the advanced
party with a startling shock. Cranmer fought the Bill in Parliament,
and he fought some of its positions in convocation after the king’s
mind was very well known. By the king’s desire, he put his argument
down in black-and-white for the royal perusal after the Act had become
law--a manifestly dangerous step. When the “King’s Book” was in hand,
he again fought, though unsuccessfully, for the admission of views
which the Act condemned; and he told Henry with perfect candour that,
although he obeyed the law as in duty bound, his opinion remained
unaltered. Throughout all the discussions he criticised the royal
suggestions and comments with an admirable frankness which none of his
colleagues ventured to display.

The curious thing is that Cranmer was the one man who could say what he
would to the king without arousing his anger, as Cromwell remarked to
him with not unkindly envy: but he could not deflect the monarch from
the path he chose by a single hair’s breadth. Twice after Cromwell’s
fall the reactionaries fancied that they had the Archbishop fairly
in the toils; both times they were brought up with a round turn by
their master and his. The combination of ruthless force with great
intellectual power in both Cromwell and Henry found by contrast a
strange attraction in the Primate’s guilelessness. “Oh, Lord God,”
exclaimed Henry on one occasion, “what fond simplicity have you, so
to permit yourself to be imprisoned that every enemy of yours may
take vantage against you.” They both chose to protect him against
the enemies who certainly were not guileless; and bestowed on him
an affection which was half-admiring and half-pitying; an affection
returned by that which is often felt by a tender and pliant nature for
a rugged and imperious one. When Cranmer felt impelled to remonstrate
with their proceedings, he did so with trepidation; they ignored the
remonstrances, but liked him none the worse. It might be said that he
was the only man or woman of whom, being brought in frequent contact,
Henry never fell foul. There was always warm respect in Henry’s
fondness for him; and Henry was by no means the man to feel respect for
a time-server.


V

CRANMER AND SOMERSET

The death of Henry was the beginning of a new era. Hitherto his
personality had completely dominated the situation; effectively, he had
become the most uncontrolled autocrat in Europe, in spite of a very
careful preservation of traditional forms. But his successor on the
throne was a nine-year-old boy, and there was no dominating personality
to take the dead king’s place. If Henry’s scheme for the continuation
of the government had been framed with a view to the maintenance of the
_status quo_, it was a very complete failure.

Superficially, that would seem to have been the idea. The Council
of Executors in whom power was vested by Henry’s will was a body in
which the progressive and stationary or reactionary parties were both
represented. The strength of the latter, however, suffered serious
detriment in the closing weeks of Henry’s reign by the downfall of the
Howards: while their ecclesiastical leader, Gardiner, was excluded from
the Council, on which their principal representative among Churchmen
was Tunstal of Durham, a man as mild as Cranmer himself. Within a
week, the Earl of Hertford, now become Duke of Somerset, had secured
the Protectorate in his own hands, and it became immediately and
abundantly clear that the whole effective power was in the hands of the
progressive party.

Now at this stage there were not many points of doctrine on which
the leaders of the progressive party were committed to opinions
fundamentally opposed to those received. Cranmer’s chief allies had not
openly rejected even the doctrine of Transubstantiation, and certainly
did not dispute the Real Presence: but they definitely favoured the
administration of the cup to the laity; they held that it was lawful
for priests to marry; and that auricular confession was not enjoined by
Scripture. Cranmer had defended each of these views at the time of the
Six Articles and of the King’s Book. They had been unsatisfied by the
removal of “abused images” in the last reign, and desired an extension
thereof. Cranmer’s own exposition of what he considered orthodox
doctrine was contained in the Book of Homilies which he had prepared
but had failed to persuade Henry to authorise: while the idea of a new
uniform Book of Services had long been familiar and vaguely in favour.
The men of the “Old Learning” did not fear the specific innovations
as particularly dangerous _per se_; what they did fear was that the
innovators would go a great deal further.

We remark, then, first, that under the _régime_ of Somerset, the
changes in religion were almost precisely what the Archbishop had
advocated under Henry VIII. The Homilies were authorised; the
destruction of “abused images” was renewed; the administration of
the cup to the laity in the sacrament was enjoined, and the marriage
of priests permitted--both on the petition of convocation; and the
promulgation of a new Order of Service was almost of necessity
attended by an “Act of Uniformity” compelling the clergy to adopt it.
Equally as a matter of course, the Six Articles Act, against which
Cranmer had fought at the outset, was repealed. The present writer has
in the past been severely rebuked for attributing the form the Reformed
Church in England took to Cranmer more than to any other single man.
“He ought to know,” said the critics, “that Somerset was the man.”
Yet repentance lags. Somerset was the politician who, up to a certain
point, carried the Reformation through: at that point his influence
on it ceased abruptly, and the business passed into Warwick’s hands.
The point where this change took place coincided accurately with the
completion of the series of reforms of which the Archbishop had for
some years past avowedly been in favour. The inference that Somerset
was guided by Cranmer is sufficiently obvious, though no doubt the hand
was the Protector’s hand. The further advance after Somerset’s fall was
mainly, or largely, the work of men of extreme views, whose zeal the
Archbishop succeeded, to some extent, in restraining; his influence was
still at work--no longer, however, as that of the artificer, but as
that of the moderator.

Apparently, Cranmer and the Protector worked in complete harmony,
save in the one matter of the chantries; but there is no sign at all
that he took his cue from the Protector. The principles of Somerset’s
reformation were his. Those principles, moreover, do not appear to have
gone beyond what the most anti-Protestant of modern Anglicans accept.
The statutory changes, however, were accompanied by proceedings of a
regrettable character. In the attack on images, individuals were guilty
of violence and irreverence, not to say sacrilege. Extravagant and
inflammatory language was used in the pulpits. The treatment of the
leaders of the Opposition was not altogether free from vindictiveness.
For the first group, Cranmer was in no way responsible; Somerset was,
because in some respects he set a bad example himself. For the second,
the two were jointly responsible, since preaching was restricted to
licensed persons, and the licences were issued only by the Protector
and the Archbishop. For the third, Somerset was guiltless. The attacks
on Gardiner and Bonner were made in his absence and supported by his
colleague. But the mildest of men do not often view opportunities of
retaliation with entire indifference. Gardiner had certainly done
his best to ruin Cranmer under Henry; and by comparison at least the
measures taken against him were mild enough.

Some consideration, however, must be given to the argument that the
Protector’s government forced Protestantism hastily and prematurely
on a reluctant nation. Whether the religion formulated in the first
Prayer Book of Edward VI. can be legitimately called Protestantism
at all may be left to the controversialists; but there is no manner
of doubt that the methods attending the introduction of the Service
Book were ill-judged and vexatious. On the other hand, the evidence
that there was any strong opposition to the change itself lies mainly
in the fact that the Western rising which immediately followed was
professedly directed against it. Nevertheless, the mere fact that there
was an almost simultaneous rising in the Eastern counties, which beyond
all question was exclusively agrarian in character, suggests forcibly
that the real moving force of the Western revolt also was agrarian.
Ket’s supporters, significantly enough, held daily services, using the
new Service Book: while one of the demands of the Cornishmen was for
the restoration of the monastic lands--that is, of the monasteries as
landlords in place of their rapacious supplanters. Clerical agitators
would have found little difficulty in making the Westland rustics
believe that half their troubles were due to the attacks on the Church
in the past reign; and the identification of greedy landlords with the
cause of ecclesiastical reform was at the worst colourable. Cranmer
might condemn and Latimer might lash the landlords from the pulpit,
Somerset might set up his Court of Requests; these things did not reach
the remote districts. But there, men did see the spoilers of the Church
enclosing commons, changing tillage into sheep-runs, and evicting small
tenants. And they drew their conclusions. The Reformation would have
had to wait half a century if it had been delayed till that argument
was deprived of all force. But it may certainly be granted that the
changes which preceded Somerset’s fall went quite as far as the country
at large was prepared for.

It is rather curious to observe that Cranmer fairly lost his temper
over the Cornish rebellion, and scolded the insurgents somewhat after
the model set by Henry VIII. when he rated the Lincolnshire men a
dozen years earlier.


VI

THE FLOWING TIDE OF PROTESTANTISM

Cranmer had no hand at all in the intrigue which overthrew the
Protector. For a brief interval there was even some uncertainty whether
the group who had captured the Government might not make terms with the
Opposition, release Gardiner, and possibly take him into partnership.
If Warwick ever had such an idea in his mind, he was far too acute to
entertain it for long. Gardiner as a colleague would have been a very
dangerous rival. The alternative was to assume the lead of the advanced
wing of the progressive party. Warwick, who died professing himself a
devout Catholic, had no difficulty in assimilating the jargon of the
zealots, and convincing their honest enthusiasm that they might look
upon him as a Joshua, while he doubled the part with that of Achan.
To him, religion was not among the things that mattered; but religion
might be made to serve its turn in forwarding his own ambitions.

Hitherto the Reformation in England had moved a good deal more
closely along the lines laid down a hundred and fifty years before
by Wiclif than on those of Luther or of Calvin; approximating more
nearly to the Zurich school, though by no means identical with them.
Zurich had proved more attractive to English refugees also. But now
the abolition of the penal laws in England, and the dissatisfaction
caused by the Augsburg Interim in Germany, brought into the country
a number of foreigners, Lutheran and Calvinist as well as Zwinglian,
including on the one hand Bucer and on the other John Knox--besides
returning English refugees. Not a few of these foreign visitors were
inspired with a lively missionary zeal, and the freedom of discussion
permitted naturally caused debate and controversy to wax fast and
furious. If the country in general found the concessions already made
to the new learning somewhat larger than was quite to its taste,
the followers of the new learning were very far from satisfied with
them. And they were vocal exceedingly, if not precisely harmonious.
It was very soon evident that the comprehensive ambiguity of the new
Book of Common Prayer was in the eyes of the Reformers too liberal
to the old Catholics and not sufficiently advanced for the new
Protestants--controversy raging chiefly over two subjects, the first
being the Eucharist, and the second Forms and Ceremonies.

Without attempting to examine the actual views on the former subject
held at this time by Cranmer--as to which critics appear able to form
very positive but very contradictory conclusions--it may be quite
safely asserted that he had quite definitely given up all belief in
Transubstantiation, but had not accepted the view most remote from
it, that the service was purely commemorative. The varied range of
intermediate views might be associated with either of these in a
common Form of Service, but these extremes were evidently incompatible.
One or other must be excluded. Cranmer, his right-hand man Ridley, and
their associates, were all travelling towards the Zwinglian position,
whether they ultimately reached it or not. If there was to be any more
defining, it was the followers of the old learning who would be shut
out thereby.

It was much the same with forms and ceremonies. The extreme men,
whether they looked to Zurich or Geneva for guidance, regarded nearly
everything in the way of vestments and ceremonial as the trappings
of the Scarlet Woman. The Archbishop did not. Where these things
did not directly imply the truth of specific doctrines definitely
discarded--the sacrifice of the Mass, the worship of images, and the
like--their preservation, in his view, tended to decency and reverence.
Here, again, it was evident that any changes must tend to the exclusion
of the rigid Catholics. They and the Calvinists could not travel in the
same boat.

The result is to be seen in the second Prayer Book of Edward VI.,
in the new Ordinal, and in the Forty-two Articles which, with
slight modification, became the Thirty-nine of Queen Elizabeth.
Warwick--otherwise Northumberland--was with the extremists, who were
vigorous and loud-voiced, and altogether exercised an amount of
forcing-power quite disproportionate to the number of their adherents
among the general public. If they had had their way, the re-modelling
would have been on lines satisfactory to John Knox. Northumberland’s
government would not have stood in the way. The Lutheranism of Germany
and the Augsburg Confession was uncongenial. It was Cranmer, Ridley,
and their adherents who succeeded in retaining for the Church of
England a form to which she could mould herself, after the Marian
_régime_, without returning to the Roman obedience or adopting the
Scottish model. If that was a praiseworthy achievement, it is to
Cranmer primarily that the praise is rightfully due.

That is what Cranmer did. From Somerset’s record, it may reasonably be
inferred that it is very much what he would have endeavoured to do if
he had remained in power. But he did not have the opportunity, because
he was not in power, and Warwick cut his head off.

What Cranmer would have liked to do, beyond what he did, is another
matter, and may be gathered from his proposed _Reformatio Legum
Ecclesiasticarum_--a document which shows that, Erastian though he
was, he desired the clergy to have much ampler powers of jurisdiction
than there was the faintest chance of the State delegating to them.
It was an essay in constitution-making of a decidedly academic order:
the machinery would never have worked. It does not reveal unsuspected
qualities of constructive statesmanship; but it does not detract from
the credit due to the manner in which the Archbishop managed to steer
the ship through very stormy waters with a mutinous crew on board.
The performance was not, perhaps, masterly; but it is not extravagant
praise to call it meritorious.


VII

DE PROFUNDIS

Northumberland’s methods did not make him popular; but they made
him powerful, and it was his primary object to place on the throne
in succession to Edward some one who should be his own puppet. To
this end he devoted himself in the last months of the young king’s
life. By Henry VIII.’s will, the succession was fixed first on Mary,
then on Elizabeth, then on the Greys--not Suffolk himself, but his
wife Frances Brandon and their children. The accession of Mary could
only mean destruction for Northumberland. He could not be sure of
Elizabeth, who was now in her twentieth year. But he thought he
could make quite sure of Lady Jane Grey, who was hardly more than a
child and had been brought up under pronounced Protestant tutelage.
His plan was to marry her to one of his own sons, induce Edward to
assume the authority formally granted to his father and name her his
heir--ostensibly, of course, on the ground that both his sisters
had been declared illegitimate and those judgments had not been
revoked--and trust to intrigue and force to secure her on the throne.
Having won the king over, he succeeded in entangling several of the
Council in the conspiracy; the rest were then worked upon individually
to give their adherence. One after another did so, reluctantly, till
all were drawn in save Hales--Cranmer being the last, and assenting
only on the positive assurance that the Crown lawyers had guaranteed
the constitutional validity of the instrument he was called upon to
sign, and under direct personal pressure from the king. Northumberland,
however, had completely miscalculated the forces at work. He knew that
the very signatories of the document could not be relied on when out
of his reach; but having them under his grip, he thought himself safe.
But the country rallied to Mary; the troops deserted to her standard;
the plot failed, ignominiously and utterly. Mary was hailed Queen; the
arch-traitor was sent to the block; for the rest, only a few of those
most conspicuously compromised were sent to the Tower.

It was, of course, obvious at the outset that Mary’s rule must mean
the return to power of the party which had been in opposition under
Somerset and more actively repressed under his successor. The daughter
of Katharine of Aragon was a convinced adherent of the entire Roman
position. That she would go so far as to restore the Roman obedience
might have been a matter of doubt; but, short of that, she was not
likely to allow limits to reaction. Gardiner and Bonner, Tunstal and
Day and Heath, had all been imprisoned and deprived of their sees
during the last four years; it was not likely that the advanced bishops
would be allowed to retain their functions. And, beyond theological
differences, some of them had been driven by the religious motive into
open and vigorous support of Lady Jane Grey’s succession. Of Cranmer
himself the most that could be said was that he was an assenting party;
but Ridley, Bishop of London, had committed himself to the cause in
somewhat inflammatory language.

Nevertheless, Mary was in no haste to strike. Every one who feared
for his own skin was given time and opportunity to retire from the
country--whereof not a few made haste to take advantage. Ridley was
arrested; but Cranmer, Latimer, and others who stood their ground
manfully, might have gone if they would. After all, no Catholics
during the last reign had suffered anything worse than imprisonment,
and Mary’s leniency towards the participators in the rebellion may
well have given an impression that retaliation would not go beyond the
infliction of corresponding penalties.

Cranmer, then, remained at large for a time. But a report was
circulated that he was about to make submission, and had himself set
up the Mass again. Had it not been for this, he might have hoped to
be allowed to retire into obscurity; but the rumour stirred him to an
indignant and uncompromising denial, which was promptly followed by
his arrest for complicity in Northumberland’s plot. The Archbishop
was by nature a sanguine man, but he can hardly have imagined that
this protest of his would be allowed to pass; for it was practically
a challenge to all and sundry who desired the Mass to be restored. No
government of the time would have dreamed of ignoring the action of its
author.

Even when he was safely in the Tower along with Ridley, the hopefulness
of Cranmer’s temperament displayed itself. He had an incurable
conviction that any one who listened to him was bound to recognise the
entire reasonableness of his views; and from prison he petitioned Mary
for leave to “open his mind” to her. That accomplished, he felt that
he would have discharged his conscience and could retire from further
controversy without reproach, even though he might fail to persuade
his sovereign. The duty of conformity, in conduct at least, to the
sovereign’s decrees, was, as already remarked, a cardinal belief with
him.

The petition was not granted. Moreover, the reign of clemency was
destined to very brief duration. Wyatt’s rebellion hardened the Queen,
whose determination to marry Philip of Spain strengthened _pari passu_
with her determination to be reconciled with Rome and to discharge her
duty as a daughter of the Church by bringing her subjects back to the
fold. Throughout 1554 signs accumulated, ominous of the coming storm.
Whatever Mary’s original intent may have been, mercy to Cranmer must
have ceased to be a part of it at an early stage; though, if she had
definitely resolved on his destruction, it is difficult to find an
adequate explanation of the extreme prolongation of his imprisonment.

In April 1554, the three who were most obnoxious to Mary and the
reactionaries, Cranmer, Ridley, and Latimer, were removed to Oxford,
to play their part in a great disputation. All three held their
ground stoutly. It was pronounced, of course, that all three had been
completely refuted, and were manifest heretics; but being thereupon
invited to recant, they all refused. Cranmer had been treated with
considerable rudeness in the course of the debates; but the mildness
and dignity of his bearing throughout were such that one of his chief
antagonists, the Prolocutor, Dean Weston, thanked him openly for his
admirable behaviour.

This condemnation, however, was of no practical account, since, in
1554, the penal laws against heresy were not yet re-enacted. On the
other hand, to punish Cranmer for treason would be a palpable piece of
pure vindictiveness. His treason, such as it was, had been shared by
several of the men who were now on the Council. But the arrival of Pole
and the formal reconciliation with Rome at the close of the year were
accompanied by the revival of the statute _de heretico comburendo_, and
the great persecution opened in February with the burning of Rogers.
A twelvemonth more passed before the end came for Cranmer himself. It
is perhaps, after all, a sufficient explanation of the delay that the
Primate of England could only be condemned for heresy by the Pope.
Other cases fell within the jurisdiction of the legatine or national
ecclesiastical courts; his did not.

In September 1555, a Papal Commission sat in Oxford to examine the case
of the Archbishop and report to Rome for the Pope to pass judgment.
Cranmer refused to recognise the jurisdiction, but made a declaration
in answer to the questions put to him as coming from the Queen’s
Proctors, who were on the Commission. He maintained his views on the
Sacrament, and on the Royal Supremacy, and on the usurpations of
Rome; and justified his actions on all points in respect of which it
had been impugned. The trial over, he followed up his defence by a
vigorous address to the Queen, asserting the utter incompatibility of
any sovereign authority with the Papal claims. On November 25 the Pope
pronounced his excommunication. In the meantime Ridley and Latimer had
been condemned by a court under the authority of the Legate, Cardinal
Pole, on October 1, and on the 16th they suffered martyrdom--Cranmer,
it is said, witnessing the scene from the roof of his prison.

Cranmer remained in prison, cut off from every sympathiser. It is easy
to forget, but it should not be difficult to realise, the tremendous
strain on a nature like his--sensitive, diffident, imaginative. All his
life he had been surrounded and supported by the personal affection
of friends. Now, every conceivable incentive to doubt whether he had
been in the right after all was set to work on him simultaneously. Yet
month followed month, and he remained steadfast--unless his expression
of a desire to confer with Tunstal or Pole was a sign of weakening.
Before he could be handed over to the secular arm, his ecclesiastical
degradation was necessary. The sentence was carried out with every
circumstance of public ignominy--Bonner, the principal performer,
excelling himself in his coarse brutality. For a man with highstrung
nerves, the thing must have been simply shattering.

At the ceremony (February 14) he had drawn from his sleeve an appeal
from the Pope to a general council; and about this time he signed
in close succession what are called four recantations. Two of them
probably preceded the degradation; the other two Bonner extracted from
him on February 15. None of them are recantations at all. They are
submissions to the authority of the sovereign, to whom he had always
taught that submission is due. He had obeyed his own conscience in
contravention of his own theory hitherto; now, he returned to the
theory, and owned that if the secular sovereign willed to establish
Papal authority, obedience was still due. As to doctrine he recanted
nothing. But this was not nearly enough for Mary and Pole, who were
bent on extracting something which should altogether discredit the
cause of the Reformation.

Within ten days the writ for his burning was issued. Then, before three
more weeks had passed Cranmer broke down under the strain, writing
first a full and complete recantation of every impugned doctrine, and
then one more--dictated to him (March 18). No man ever repudiated his
whole past in terms more ignominious. His enemies had what they wanted;
if they had stopped there and pardoned him, the force of the blow would
have been incalculable. But their thirst for his blood gave him the
chance of salvation, changing their victory to hopeless rout. They did
not pardon. They demanded from the victim the public confirmation from
his own lips of the recantations he had written and signed. That one
disastrous moment of weakness was to be gloriously redeemed.

Three days after his fall, on a morning of foul March weather, Cranmer
was conveyed from his prison to listen himself to his own funeral
discourse and then to play his own allotted part. No suspicion seems
to have crossed the mind of his gaolers that there was anything
for them to fear. The oration over--he had listened with frequent
tears--he was bidden to make public avowal of his recantation. He
arose; he confessed the grievousness of his sin, entreating pardon
before the Throne of Omnipotence. And then he declared the nature of
his sin. Before those about him could realise what was happening, he
had recanted his recantation, declaring the truth of all he had before
upheld, and proclaiming, “As my hand offended in writing contrary to
my heart, therefore my hand shall first be punished. For if I may come
to the fire, it shall first be burned.” Hastily he was silenced, and
hurried to the stake; but of his own will he moved so swiftly that the
confessors could scarce keep pace with him. And when, indeed, he “came
to the fire” he fulfilled his words. Men saw him thrust the offending
right hand into the flame, and hold it there till it was consumed.

       *       *       *       *       *

So tragically, so triumphantly, closed the drama of Cranmer’s
life--surely a close fitted for “purging the passions through pity and
fear.” A vase of fine porcelain whirled into the eddies in company with
pots of brass and stoneware; a scholar, dragged from academic cloisters
to control a revolution; a man with a receptive mind, when receptivity
was about as dangerous a quality, for himself, as he could possess.
A man whom men have ventured to call craven, yet who alone of his
contemporaries dared to remonstrate with Cromwell in his policy and
with the eighth Henry in the day of his wrath, and that not once, nor
twice. A man who endured till the eleventh hour, and then--fell.

But a man who, ere the twelfth hour had struck, rose up the Victor.



WILLIAM CECIL, LORD BURGHLEY


I

THE MINISTERS OF QUEEN ELIZABETH

William Cecil was born in 1520. He lived to the age of seventy-eight,
dying in the same year as Philip II. of Spain, who was five years his
junior. His political connexion began before Henry VIII. was in his
grave; and for more than fifty years it continued, except for his
retirement from the public eye during the complete period of the Marian
persecution. Even in his old age, when his son Robert was already
becoming, in his own crafty fashion, the most important person in
Queen Elizabeth’s Council, the father was still the adviser on whom
she leaned in the last resort. For forty years he was, in fact, the
mainstay of her Government. For twenty of those years--roughly from
1569 to 1589--a man of even higher ability, in some respects, than
himself, Francis Walsingham, was his loyal colleague. They served the
cleverest, the most successful, and the most exasperating princess
who ever sat upon a throne. Both of them--especially Walsingham--told
her home-truths on occasion; both of them--especially Walsingham--she
on occasion abused like a Billingsgate fish-wife. But all three were
unfailingly loyal to each other; and among them they raised England to
the forefront of the nations of Christendom.

[Illustration: _WILLIAM CECIL (LORD BURGHLEY)_

_From a Portrait by_ MARC GHEERAEDTS (?) _in the National Portrait
Gallery_]

To establish orderly government at home, to settle a religious _modus
vivendi_, to avoid war, and to prevent the succession of Mary Stewart
or any pronounced Catholic--these were the main aims on which Elizabeth
and her two great ministers were united. Of the three, Walsingham--a
Puritan--was the least devoted to the Peace policy, Elizabeth the
most determined on that policy; yet it was Elizabeth who habitually
endangered it. The Queen’s tortuous methods, pursued in defiance
of her counsellors, more than once seemed to have brought her to a
point where war was inevitable; yet time after time her ingenuity,
or her lucky star, or a return just in time to Cecil’s guidance,
saved the situation. Never has a sovereign been better served; never
has there been a reign in which rulers and ruled worked in more
essential concord. Idealism and common sense were united in the
conduct of affairs with a completeness which has rarely, if ever, been
paralleled--never have the toils of the men of counsel and the men
of action been more effectively combined. And England was peculiarly
fortunate in this--that the great antagonist whom finally she fought
and overthrew could be thoroughly relied on always to miss the
opportunity for which he was always waiting, always to move only when
the moment had passed irrevocably. So England was the victor in the
great duel; and the Stewarts found her might established on a basis so
firm that even they were unable to pull it down.

That result was not due to any one mind--to any single guide.
Elizabeth, her ministers, her seamen, and her people, all contributed
their share; and the work was crowned by the glory of her poets.
Burghley may not have been personally a statesman of the highest rank,
though if he is not included in that category it is a little difficult
to name any Englishman who is entitled to that honour. There is a
certain commonplace, _bourgeois_ touch about him; he stands for the
common sense, not the idealist, side, in the combination which made
England great. His virtues were those of the successful pursuers of the
_via media_. He did not organise revolution: he did not dream of an
empire on which the sun should never set. But he played the political
game with unfailing loyalty to his sovereign and his country, with
level-headed shrewdness, with imperturbable resolution. There are few
men to whom England owes so much; and if there be those to whom she
owes more, their deeds but for him would yet have been impossible.


II

CECIL UNDER EDWARD VI. AND MARY

In the reign of Henry VII., Richard Sitsilt, affirmed by tradition
to be of an ancient Welsh family long established among the gentry
of the Marches, owned broad acres in the counties of Monmouth and
Herefordshire. One of his sons, David, who elected to modify his name
into Cecil, transferred himself to Lincolnshire, where he prospered
greatly. He and his son Richard became very large landed proprietors,
and held a variety of offices connected with the Court under Henry
VIII. So it would appear that the present Marquess of Salisbury is not
unconnected by descent with the “Celtic fringe.” It must be admitted,
however, that the notable qualities of his great ancestor are not those
usually associated with what is supposed to be the Celtic temperament.
Still in that connexion a rather curious point may be touched on. A
critic has recently remarked that there is a type of statesmanship
which we are in the habit of regarding as peculiarly English (_à
propos_ of l’Hôpital), naming in a brief list both Burghley and
Cromwell--Oliver, apparently, not Thomas. Now Oliver was descended from
the sister of Thomas, whose husband was a Welshman, and whose son chose
to adopt the maternal patronymic instead of his father’s name, which
was Williams. So Wales has some title to claim the Tudors, the Cecils,
and the great Oliver among her contributions to “English” celebrities.

William Cecil was born in 1520, and when in due course he went to
Cambridge, he became a member of a distinguished group of scholars
which included Roger Ascham, afterwards tutor of Lady Jane Grey and
of Elizabeth; John Cheke, who became the tutor of Edward VI., and
whose sister was Cecil’s first wife; and Nicholas Bacon, who married
the sister of Cecil’s second wife. William Cecil married Mary Cheke
in 1541: she died in less than two years, after bearing him one son,
Thomas, afterwards Lord Exeter. Nearly three years later he married
Mildred, daughter of Sir Anthony Cooke, the “governor” of Prince
Edward--a young lady of portentous learning, whose name Roger Ascham
coupled with that of Jane Grey. Thus Cecil himself was not only well
versed in the most progressive learning of his time, but his chosen
associates, including both the first and the second wife, were all
distinguished for erudition--and all, it may be remarked, tinged with
the “New Learning” in the specific ecclesiastical sense of the term.

Before the death of Henry VIII. the young man was already the recipient
of Court favour, and in the good graces of the Earl of Hertford,
to whose personal service we find him definitely attached in the
early days of the Protectorship. He accompanied the Protector on his
Scottish invasion, was present at Pinkie, and was made Somerset’s
secretary about a year later. His assiduity and his immense capacity
for mastering laborious detail must have been of infinite value to his
chief, whose woeful lack of practicality must, on the other hand, have
intensified his secretary’s inborn tendency to rate common sense in
method a long way higher than visionary idealism of aim. All his life
long, nothing ever induced Cecil to deviate from safe precedent and
respectable courses--bold enough, when his foresight satisfied him that
boldness was the better part of prudence, but never rash. Every step
was always carefully calculated, and a path for retreat kept open if
there was the remotest risk of retreat being necessary. In the service
of the most impulsive and sentimental of statesmen, he learnt--if he
needed to learn--never to act upon sentiment or impulse.

When Somerset fell in 1549 Cecil was still some way short of thirty;
but he had an old head on his young shoulders--and he had every
intention of keeping it there. He had no personal devotion to Somerset
or to his policy, and had carefully avoided quarrelling with anybody.
When he perceived that the ship was scuttled, he had no compunction
about making sure of leaving it in a decent and orderly manner before
it sank. He did not quite desert; he remained with the Protector in the
discharge of his duties, while very nearly every one else was making a
parade of sympathy with the cabal who obviously held the winning cards;
but he remained there in careful obscurity--the personal secretary,
not the partisan. He did not escape a brief imprisonment in the Tower;
no doubt he had counted on that. But Warwick was perfectly aware of
his power of making himself useful, and saw no possible reason why he
should not avail himself thereof--nor did Cecil. Competent officials
were few, and of these some had already put themselves out of court,
in Warwick’s eyes, either by having supported Somerset too boldly or
by displaying doubtful religious leanings. The former secretary of
Somerset had not made himself obnoxious in any quarter; and in the
following September (1550) he emerged again into public life in a more
responsible position than before, as Secretary of State.

The political waters were, to say the least, unquiet; there was no
telling when squalls might be coming. Personal intrigues were rife.
Cecil had no ambition to grasp the tiller under these conditions. He
was ready to give advice to the best of his ability; he was ready to
carry out instructions, whether they accorded with his advice or not;
but he was not disposed to give orders on his own account--his ambition
was not of the vaulting sort. His business was to keep his own footing,
whether others did so or no; he would take no risks unless his own
life were endangered by refusing them--every man must take care of
himself. If Warwick chose to insist on a policy which the secretary
disapproved--alliance with France abroad, or debasement of coinage at
home--that was Warwick’s business, not the secretary’s: what he had
to do was to carry out the policy imposed on him, with the maximum of
efficiency and the minimum of friction, without allowing himself to be
identified with the policy or with antagonism to it.

So when Warwick made up his mind that Somerset must be finally removed,
it was Cecil’s cue to avoid, so far as he could, taking an active
part in so ungracious a business as his old patron’s destruction--but
certainly not to invite destruction for himself by injudicious
partisanship. He did not scruple even to give Warwick information
injurious to Somerset; though it was probably only because he knew it
would reach that cunning schemer’s ears sooner or later--and when it
came to a choice between profiting or suffering by the inevitable,
he had no qualms about profiting. Still, he managed to be too much
occupied with foreign negotiations to have much to do with the
Somerset affair. As for the foreign negotiations themselves, he did
not make any attempt to counteract the policy which, against his own
judgment, he was called upon to carry out, but he was very seriously
and not unsuccessfully engaged in minimising the untoward consequences
which he foresaw.

As the young king’s death drew manifestly near, the intrigues of
Northumberland, as Warwick had now become, thickened. Sir William--he
had been knighted at the end of 1551--did not like intrigues; but in
spite of seasonable illness, which may have been genuine, he could not
altogether avoid being dragged in, and was obliged--like all the rest
of the Council--to append his signature to the document nominating Lady
Jane Grey heir to the throne. He averred afterwards that he signed
only as a witness--a statement more ingenious than ingenuous. Still,
he took care that there should be evidence from unofficial quarters
that he would have avoided signing if he could, and that so far as he
was formally a participator in Northumberland’s plot it was with no
goodwill to its success--which, indeed, was the attitude of several
other signatories, who did their best to upset the scheme the moment
they felt safe in doing so. Cranmer, however, the most reluctant of any
of them, had no such double-dealing in his mind, and made no attempt
to evade the responsibility when he had once assumed it, though he had
been tricked into acquiescence by a lie.

It is only fair, in judging Cecil’s conduct through these years, to
remember that he was only in his twenty-seventh year when Somerset
became Protector, and in his thirty-third year when Queen Mary
succeeded. Warwick made him Secretary of State eight days before his
thirtieth birthday. Of course, if the errors he committed had been
errors of youth, he would have won easy forgiveness; yet in some
respects his excessive caution may reasonably be attributed to his
youth. He had every excuse for arguing that a real control must be
out of his reach for many years, and that till it came within his
reach he was not called upon to insist on his own views. In those days
the servants of the State did not resign--the remark has been made
before--they carried out the policy imposed on them from above. He was
content, therefore, to bide his time, and for the present to do the
political drudgery for Somerset or Northumberland, while he avoided
committing himself personally to anybody or anything. This course was
not one which permitted the exercise of generosity or magnanimity; it
completely eschewed the idea of self-sacrifice; but it was a course
which he could and did pursue without ever fairly laying himself open
to the charge of treachery, or incurring the faintest suspicion of what
is called corruption. If he was guided by considerations of personal
advantage, it was not in the sense that any one could bid successfully
for his support.

So when Northumberland’s plot collapsed ignominiously, Cecil, although
a Protestant and officially opposed to Gardiner, had no difficulty in
making his peace with the new Government. Only, the political seas
being stormier than ever, he had no inclination either to head an
Opposition or to take a prominent place among the queen’s ministers.
He was too much of a Protestant for that, though not too much so to
conform and “bow himself in the House of Rimmon.” In short, he courted
an obscurity from which the Government had no desire to extract
him--though it is probable that if he had chosen to offer himself as
an instrument for Mary’s use, she would have availed herself of him
readily enough. But it was one thing to pass from Somerset’s employ
to Warwick’s, and another to pass from Northumberland’s to Mary’s.
Besides, by keeping in the background now he could quietly establish
himself in the confidence of the probable successor to the throne,
the Princess Elizabeth. Being a member of the Parliament of 1556, he
therein openly opposed sundry Government measures which were hotly
resisted by the House of Commons, but even then he behaved with
circumspection and did not suffer for his conduct. His real business
was with Elizabeth; and when the crisis came, and Mary died, the
members of the Council who hastened to Hatfield found Cecil already
installed as her Prime Minister elect, with the scheme for carrying on
the Government completely organised.


III

FOREIGN AFFAIRS AT ELIZABETH’S ACCESSION

Sir William had bided his time, and that time had arrived. On the
throne was a young woman of five-and-twenty, who had already shown a
skill akin to Cecil’s own in the avoidance of fatally compromising
words or acts under circumstances when the utmost wariness had been
the constant condition of safety. She had maintained her Protestantism
in precisely the same way and in very much the same degree as he had
done; moreover, she was bound for her own sake to maintain it, since
her personal claim to legitimate birth was bound up with the rejection
of Papal authority. Cecil had received her confidence, it may be, in
part, because she was aware that she could afford to indulge her own
waywardness more freely while she had so eminently safe a counsellor as
a stand-by. He, for his part, was doubtless fully satisfied that she
had intelligence enough to recognise that he was indispensable to her,
and that in the main their views of policy would harmonise. The young
man had held aloof from intrigues and had declined all temptations to
grasp at dangerous power, not from lack of ambition or of patriotism,
but because the power would have been too dearly bought and its
foundations too unstable. Now, while he was still in the prime of life,
yet of ripe experience, power lay ready for him to grasp--power to
guide England in the courses which he believed would serve her best
interests; power to cure the evils from which she had been suffering
for many a year past; power to avert those which menaced her in the
future; power which, once achieved, he was not likely to lose unless
by his own blundering. He knew his own capacity. To refuse power under
such conditions would have been not caution but pusillanimity.

It may be that the account of Cecil’s public life during the reigns of
Edward and Mary gives an impression merely that he was an exceedingly
astute young man with no principles to speak of. If so, that view must
be corrected. He valued himself on his own complete integrity, and
would have done nothing which he recognised as inconsistent therewith.
He had principles, but not enthusiasms. In politics, as in religion,
he had his own opinions, but in both he admitted a very large body
of _adiaphora_, things which were not questions of principle, though
regarded as such by persons afflicted with enthusiasms. On all such
matters, passive or even active conformity to the policy of _de
facto_ rulers was permissible. He was ready to go to Mass, but not to
take a part in the suppression of Protestantism. He would assent to
Northumberland’s plot, but he would not further it. His integrity drew
a line--lower than a person of finer moral susceptibilities would have
drawn it, but with sufficient firmness and decision, and higher than
most of his more prominent contemporaries. He did not feel called upon
to swim against a stream which would overwhelm him if he did so; but
he made for a backwater. It is often difficult to judge when and where
courage becomes rashness, and prudence cowardice. On the whole, he was
more inclined to be too prudent than too bold; but it was not because
he lacked courage. His conduct might on occasion, though rarely, be
charged as disloyal; it could never fairly be called treacherous. He
was convinced that as a general rule honesty is the best policy, and
justice is the best policy; but in the exceptional cases where he
thought they were not, he chose--the best policy. The principles of
his mistress were the same; but she deviated from the mean of resolute
caution more markedly and more erratically than her minister; she was
more readily rash and more easily frightened; her criterion of justice
was lax, and her sense of honesty very nearly non-existent.

There was this very important difference between the state of affairs
on Queen Elizabeth’s accession and their position between 1546 and
1558. Hitherto a statesman, even if perfectly secure of power, would
still have had a difficult course to steer; but security being wanting,
the lack of it was the gravest of all the difficulties. The course of
safety now was not less intricate; but, in spite of appearances, there
was no longer the same risk of incalculable irregular forces wrecking
the ship. To retain a useful illustration or analogy; it was one thing
to be responsible for bringing the ship home “through billows and
through gales,” and another to carry her through a narrow and devious
channel infested with reefs and sandbanks, in fair weather. The pilot
who judged that he knew every inch of the reefs and sandbanks might
feel that the business was an anxious one; to the less discerning
passenger, he would often seem to be heading his vessel straight for
the rocks; but the pilot himself would not feel any fear of finding
himself helpless. As long as he made no mistakes he would be safe; and
if he made mistakes, it would be his own fault.

After the event, when the developments of a particular situation have
taken place, it is always difficult to realise the aspect the situation
itself presented to the statesman who had to deal with it. Still, the
attempt has to be made.

Almost from time immemorial until the reign of Henry VIII. antagonism
between England and France was traditional; through great part of
that period, alliance between England and the House of Burgundy had
also been traditional, being largely based on the immense importance
of the commercial intercourse between the Low Countries and England.
During Henry VIII.’s reign, Wolsey and the king had broken away from
the theory of animosity to France, but neither of them had held the
Burgundian friendship cheap, and popular sentiment had lost very
little of its anti-Gallic flavour. Further, we are apt not to bear in
mind that, for forty years past, Spain, Burgundy, and the Empire had
been combined under one head; the importance of Burgundy as a factor
in the relations with Charles escapes our attention. More or less
unconsciously, we think almost exclusively of France and the Empire; as
in the coming period we think almost exclusively of France and Spain.

Now in 1558 the dominions of Charles V. were divided between his
brother who became Emperor and his son who was lord of Spain and
Burgundy. Philip, not the Emperor, is the rival of the French monarchy.
The old grounds for seeking friendship with Philip as lord of
Burgundy remain. The new reasons for hostility to Philip as King of
Spain have not yet developed. The reigning Pope had been elected by
French influence. The Council of Trent had not yet defined permanently
the line of cleavage between so-called Catholics and Protestants;
Philip had not assumed the position of the Church’s champion and the
scourge of heretics; his influence in England was understood to have
been exerted, so far as it was exercised at all, in mitigation of
persecution.

On the other hand, antagonism between French and English interests
was acute. England, drawn into a French war in Mary’s reign, had just
lost her last foothold on French soil--Calais, which she had held
for three hundred years; and though the loss might not be of great
political or strategical consequence, its importance was magnified
by popular sentiment. But apart from this: the young Queen of Scots
had married the French Dauphin, only in this same year; and as a mere
question of legitimacy, there was no possible doubt that her title to
the throne of England was very much better than that of Elizabeth, who
had been declared illegitimate by the English Courts of Justice, which
judgment had never been formally reversed. The natural outcome of this
marriage would be to bind France and Scotland together in all and more
than all the intimacy of that ancient alliance between them which for
three centuries had been a thorn in the side of English kings. Beyond
that, the future Queen of France and Scotland would have a very much
more tenable claim to the throne of England than ever an English
king had had to the throne of France. Moreover, there was a special
danger threatening under the existing circumstances. Mary was half a
Guise by birth; her Guise mother was now Regent in Scotland; she was
almost wholly Guise by breeding. The presumption was enormous that the
ascendency of that powerful and ambitious family in France and their
influence in Scotland would become more dominant than ever; the Guises
were strongly anti-English, and it was the head of that house who
had just achieved the galling triumph at Calais; while the fanatical
Catholics looked to them as their leaders. A more active animosity,
therefore, towards Protestantism was to be anticipated from France than
from Spain.

The Spanish Minister in England, naturally enough under these
conditions, took it for granted that the countenance of Philip was what
the new Government would most urgently need--that he would merely have
to speak and his instructions would be humbly obeyed. To his extreme
astonishment, he discovered that nothing was further from Cecil’s mind.
Cecil and his mistress signified quite clearly that they would judge
for themselves whether they would take his advice or not. At any rate,
they were going to do a good many things entirely regardless of their
being in flat opposition to his wishes. The Spaniard declared to his
master that Queen and Minister were rushing headlong to destruction;
but they were doing nothing of the kind. What Cecil saw was that
Philip could not at any price afford to withdraw his countenance from
Elizabeth; because the only alternative to Elizabeth was Mary Stewart,
and in that case Mary would unite the crowns of France, England, and
Scotland. If France moved against England to the danger of Elizabeth’s
throne, Philip would have no choice but to interfere on behalf of the
Queen--she need not buy support which he could not afford to withhold.
He might call the tune, but she need not dance to it unless it suited
her.

Within a short period, the French King, Henry II., was mortally injured
in a tournament. The Dauphin succeeded, and his wife became Queen of
France, as well as of Scotland. Then the situation was modified by the
death of Francis and the accession of Charles IX. to the throne, and to
power of the Queen-Mother, Catherine de Medici, and the middle party
who came to be known by the title of the “Politiques.” With them the
Guises were out of favour, and could no longer count on wielding the
power of France to advance Mary’s interests; yet their popularity and
strength in the country were still sufficient to keep the chance of
their recovering their ascendency as a menace which Philip could not
disregard. The change, in short, cut both ways: it was not quite so
imperative for Philip that he should support Elizabeth, but then it was
not so necessary for Elizabeth to have his support.

Thus throughout the first decade of the reign Cecil calculated with
perfect accuracy that Philip would not attack Elizabeth, whatever she
might do, because he could not risk the accession of Mary Stewart in
her place; and that France would not make a direct attack, because that
would compel the intervention of Philip. Hence he could go his own way
safely in dealing both with domestic affairs and with the everlasting
problem of Scotland. There was another matter, that of the Queen’s
marriage, in which Cecil might judge and advise as he thought fit, but
the Queen herself never had the slightest intention of following any
but her own counsel, or of revealing even to her most trusted minister
what that counsel might really be.


IV

DOMESTIC AND SCOTTISH POLICY

Now, as concerned domestic affairs, two matters were of first-rate
importance. One was religion; the other finance.

It was evidently quite necessary that a definite religious settlement
should be arrived at, and that it must be one in which there was a
reasonable prospect of the majority of Englishmen concurring. There
were fervent adherents of the Papacy as restored by Mary; these were
not very numerous. There were fervent adherents of extreme Swiss
doctrines, Calvinistic or Zwinglian; these were also few. There were
many who, like Gardiner in early days, had no love for the Papacy, but
clung to traditional doctrines and ritual; there were not quite so
many who might be called perhaps moderately evangelical; there were a
very great many more who troubled their heads very little one way or
another, and were what we should describe as High or Low, pretty much
according to their environment. The extreme reformers had very nearly
but not quite succeeded in carrying the day during Northumberland’s
ascendency; the extreme Catholics had just had their turn under Mary.
The extremists on both sides were intolerant, and it was quite obvious
that the triumph of either would drive many moderates into joining
the other extreme, and would keep the country in a state of violent
unrest, or, at the best, of sullen submission. The experiment of
trying to maintain traditional doctrine and ritual with the minimum
of modification, while repudiating the Roman authority, had been
tried under Henry; and it was fairly clear that a simple return to
Henry’s standards was impracticable. The course which Cecil laid down
was to adopt a compromise in which the great majority could at any
rate acquiesce; a compromise which, while insisting on conformity,
allowed of a very considerable latitude of interpretation; which would
still pass, in many quarters where it did not satisfy; which was in
short politically adequate. Cecil himself would probably have had no
quite insuperable objection either to attending Mass or to sitting at
Communion; but a compromise which allowed of either course would also
probably have found a less general acceptance than one which excluded
both.

Hardly less important was the restoration of financial stability.
Twelve years before, King Henry had left matters in sufficiently
ill-plight. The Government could not, perhaps, be held responsible
for the existence of severe agricultural depression; but, for its
aggravation, the newly developed class of landlords was largely to
blame, while no one but Somerset had attempted to hold them in check.
In the general ferment, commercial honesty had been on the downgrade.
Among financial officials, corruption had been rampant; and Henry set
the example of one of the grossest forms of dishonesty by debasing
the coinage, paying his debts, when he did pay them, in the debased
coin. Hence in commercial circles credit was bad, while abroad the
national credit was exceedingly low; and the national exchequer was
almost empty. Through the last two reigns, matters had gone from bad
to worse. Cecil took the finances in hand with solid systematic common
sense. A rigid supervision of expenditure and stoppage of waste took
the place of the prevailing laxity. Men of probity were employed by
the Government as its financial agents. The debased coins were called
in, and the new currency issued was of a standard which had never been
surpassed. Loans were repaid with punctuality, and debts discharged.
Almost at once, it followed that fresh loans could be raised at
reasonable rates of interest, instead of at the ruinous charges which
Edward and Mary had to pay; before long, it was hardly necessary to
seek for them abroad--the merchants at home were ready and willing to
come forward. Confidence was restored under a steady Government.

Cecil’s economy may have verged on parsimony, and his mistress was as
sharp in money matters as her grandfather; hard things are always said
of a Government which takes Peace and Retrenchment for its motto. But
peace and retrenchment were a stern necessity, and in many respects
the parsimony has been exaggerated; at any rate, the expenditure
was thoroughly well directed. Later in the reign it would probably
have been sound policy to spend more, particularly in Ireland, where
efficiency was sacrificed to economy; but outside of Ireland the nation
got good value for every penny of outlay. In finance, as in other
matters, Cecil habitually followed the maxims of caution. Consistently
with this attitude, we do not find him striking out new economic
theories. He believed, as nearly every one believed three hundred years
ago, that new industries had very little chance of being established
without the artificial stimulus of monopolies and patents to prevent
competition--a system which always appeals most convincingly to the
monopolist, but less convincingly to the consumer and the would-be
competitor, as Elizabeth found before the end of the reign. Whatever
we may think of the methods adopted to foster and encourage trade
and the development of new industries, Cecil is at least entitled to
full credit for recognising that this was the direction in which the
compensation and the remedy for agricultural depression were to be
sought.

The subject of the secretary’s financial reforms has carried us on to
a general account of principles which were only gradually illustrated
in the progress of the reign. The third question which engaged his
immediate activities on Elizabeth’s accession was the policy to be
followed in dealing with Scotland.

Traditionally, Scotland was the friend of France and the enemy of
England; from which it followed in a general way that Scottish
malcontents habitually looked to England for open or secret
countenance, and very commonly got it. To foster divisions in Scotland
was one way of preventing her from becoming too actively dangerous a
neighbour, and the plan had been very sedulously followed, especially
throughout the reign of Henry VIII. The Scottish clerics since the
days of Bruce had always been strongly anti-English, a term which was
almost equivalent to Nationalist. Both James and David Beton had been
especially hostile; while, during the progress of the Reformation, the
Cardinal was a rigorous and cruel persecutor of heresy. Henry, with
all his pride of orthodoxy, had no objection to heresy in the northern
kingdom, where Protestant and mal-content were nearly synonymous. Had
England devoted her attention simply to giving the Protestants such
support as would have secured them a predominance conditional on the
support being maintained, diplomacy might have achieved the union of
the crowns by the marriage of King Edward to his cousin of Scotland;
but Henry and Somerset between them, by the re-assertion of English
sovereignty and by the appeal to arms, had roused in Protestants as
well as Catholics the nationalist sentiment which would not endure
subjection to England at any price. The child-queen had been carried
off to France and betrothed to the Dauphin; and in the years that
passed before the actual marriage the Catholics had held the mastery;
Mary of Guise was regent, and her power was maintained by French
support and French troops. Thus the Scots began to realise that there
was a danger, when their own Queen should be Queen of France also, that
Scotland might become an appendage of France. Scotland was no more
willing to be subject to France than to be subject to England.

Thus it was again open to Cecil to adopt the policy, not of exercising
a direct English domination, but of establishing a Protestant
domination, which would in the nature of things be favourable to
England and unfavourable to France--a policy which fitted in precisely
with that of establishing a comprehensive Protestantism in England,
to which he was committed on other counts. He could rely, as we have
already noted, on the fact that Philip, however reluctant, would be
compelled to check aggressive interference on the part of France, if
carried beyond the limit at which England could cope with it unaided.
This, therefore, was the keynote of his Scottish policy--to avoid the
blunder of seeming to threaten Scotland’s independence, to maintain
friendly relations with the Scottish Protestants, and to help them to a
predominance which should yet depend for its security on the goodwill
of England.

It was not till December 1560, that the death of Francis deprived
Mary of the French crown. During these first two years of Elizabeth’s
reign, Philip was kept in play partly by a pretence of negotiations
for the Queen’s marriage to his kinsman the Austrian Archduke Charles;
while the Scottish Protestants, or Lords of the Congregation, as their
chiefs were called, were flattered by the idea of her marriage with
James Hamilton, Earl of Arran, who then stood next in succession to the
Scottish throne--a scheme of which the real motive was the possibility
of dethroning Mary in his favour. But the real business was to get
the French out of Scotland. Cecil at last manœuvred his mistress
into sending armed assistance to the Lords of the Congregation; the
French garrison was cooped up in Leith; in May 1560, Sir William went
to Scotland himself to negotiate; in June Mary of Guise died, and in
the beginning of July the Treaty of Edinburgh secured the Protestant
ascendency in Scotland, and removed the French garrison for ever.
Although Queen Mary refused to ratify the instrument, consistently
declining formally to withdraw her claim to the throne of England
unless she were equally formally recognised as heir presumptive,
Cecil’s great object was achieved, in spite of Elizabeth’s vacillations.

Thirteen months later, Mary, an eighteen-year-old widow, landed in
Scotland. During the seven troublous years she passed in that country,
Cecil’s policy remained the same--to support Scottish Protestantism, to
prevent Mary from making a marriage that would be dangerous to England.
It is hardly necessary to say that the methods were never qualified
by any touch of magnanimity--that the interests of England solely were
considered, those of Scotland disregarded. How much of what went on, on
the part of England, was Cecil’s doing and how much Elizabeth’s, cannot
well be decided. They may or may not have intended the Darnley marriage
to take place. They did encourage Moray’s revolt on that occasion, and
then repudiate responsibility for it. They knew something--how much is
uncertain--about the Rizzio murder, before it took place. Generally,
we can be tolerably confident that Cecil, unfettered, would have given
Moray a more stable support throughout than it pleased his mistress to
permit. It was Elizabeth’s standing rule to object vehemently to being
considered as having committed herself to anything by any words or acts
in which she might have indulged.


V

CECIL AND PROTESTANTISM

Cecil had been successful in turning the French out of Scotland.
He held steadily, and the queen held unsteadily, to the conviction
that Spain would not move against England for two reasons--one, that
the triumph of the Scots queen would be too advantageous to France;
the other, that the existing commercial war with the Low Countries,
while bad enough for English trade, was threatening to ruin Flanders,
and could hardly fail to do so if any further burden were added.
France, on the other hand, was not likely to be actively dangerous
independently, so long as neither Catholics nor Huguenots could lay
the opposing party prostrate. Nevertheless, Cecil had to be constantly
on guard against the risk of a Catholic combination. If Mary placed
herself under the ægis of Philip, and the Guises and their following
got his active support in France--if he played to the French Catholics
the part which England was playing to the Scottish Protestants--he
might reckon himself free of the fear of French advancement. The thing
was not a probability, but it was a chance against which England had
to be on the watch. Every time, however, that a crisis of this kind
threatened, or that a Spanish ambassador hinted that his master would
feel himself driven into active antagonism, the Secretary refused to
be frightened; direct threats always stiffened his mistress; and his
calculation turned out correct.

At the bottom of Cecil’s whole system of foreign policy was the theory
that Philip as Lord of Burgundy could not, for commercial reasons,
afford to quarrel with England, and as King of Spain was tied by the
danger of strengthening France. Spain, then, was not to be feared, but
France might be; this, however, would be conditional on the Huguenots
being decisively crushed--a consummation not desired by Catherine
and the _Politiques_; but this, in turn, required that the French
Huguenots should have enough support from England to maintain their
power of resistance, if not their domination. As time went on, and
the Protestant Netherlands found themselves in open armed resistance
to Philip, it was in just the same way necessary for England to keep
them from being crushed. Cecil saw the necessity of thus abetting
the Protestants in Scotland, France, and the Netherlands; and, being
a genuine Protestant if not an over-ardent one, did not dislike it.
Elizabeth saw the necessity also, but as in each case the Protestants
were subjects acting in opposition to the Government, she did
dislike it, and lost no opportunity of making the support she gave
as ungracious, as niggardly, and as precarious as she dared, while
she perpetually kept up a sort of pretence to herself as well as to
others that she was not really helping those whom she called rebels.
Yet without the help that was wrung from her, it is doubtful whether
in France, in the Netherlands, or even in Scotland, the issue of the
struggles during her reign would not have been materially different.

Now Cecil’s ideal was one of sober and opulent respectability; he was
not troubled with any notion that the Pope was the Scarlet Woman;
he held generally to the view that subjects ought to conform to the
religion prescribed by Government. But where the views which he himself
held were not prescribed but proscribed, decency compelled sympathy
with the sufferers. Besides, the suppression of Protestantism outside
of England would inevitably mean its suppression in England also, in
course of time. He was thoroughly satisfied that Protestantism was best
for England, and thus, although he had no abstract interest in what
might be good for other countries, for England’s sake he was satisfied
that Protestantism must not be suppressed elsewhere. This was the mark
up to which he had to keep the Queen--who, for her part, was quite
aware that the security of her throne depended on her sustaining the
part laid down for her. But Cecil’s minimum was her maximum, whereas
his maximum--with which she would have nothing to do--was the minimum
that would have satisfied her other great minister, Walsingham.

Elizabeth, we may put it, felt that Protestantism was a political
necessity for her personal government. She did not feel strongly
that it would still be a necessity for England when she should be in
her grave. Cecil did; while for Walsingham it was a necessity _per
se_. Therefore, to Elizabeth the settlement of the succession was a
political counter of which she did not choose to be deprived; while
to her ministers the delay of it was a perpetual nightmare, because
it meant a constant fear of the accession of Mary Stewart--a prospect
even more threatening after she had left Scotland than while she was a
reigning queen. Herein is to be found one of the reasons why Elizabeth
was not anxious to get rid of a prisoner round whom--dangerous though
Mary might be--she could weave intrigues and negotiations as well as
her opponents; whereas Cecil and Walsingham would always have been
pleased to find any decent excuse for eliminating the Scots Queen from
the situation. In the same way, the ministers wanted their own Queen
to make a suitable marriage, whereas she herself used matrimonial
negotiations merely as tricks for circumventing crises, and probably
never at any time really intended to wed any one among the numerous
suitors, of whom the last did not finally disappear till she was in her
fiftieth year. There is no practical doubt that at one time, early in
the reign, Cecil was himself so much perturbed on the question of the
succession as to have made a move in co-operation with Nicholas Bacon
to get Katharine Grey--sister of Lady Jane, and now married to Lord
Hertford--recognised officially as heir presumptive in accordance with
the terms of the will of Henry VIII.; for which he very nearly got into
serious trouble. Also, it was many years before the Secretary really
felt thoroughly free from the fear, which Elizabeth enjoyed holding in
suspense over his head, that she might some day throw policy to the
winds and court ruin by marrying Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester.


VI

ELIZABETH’S SECOND PERIOD

The year 1568 and those immediately following had a very material
effect on the general situation. In the first place, the Queen of Scots
delivered herself into Elizabeth’s hands, having already forfeited some
of her chances of foreign support by her marriage with Bothwell. In the
second place, the disaffected provinces of the Netherlands were driven
into open revolt. Broadly speaking, it may be said that from this time
forward Philip always wished to crush Elizabeth, while he would not
involve himself in war with England until he could reckon on crushing
her decisively. There was always the possibility of an Anglo-French
combination, involving Huguenot predominance in France; and in that
event the fleets of the two Powers would command his only line of
communication with the Netherlands. So that on the one hand Spaniards
are found, throughout Mary’s captivity, engaged in plot after plot for
her liberation and enthronement in England; while on the other, Philip
is obliged to swallow one affront after another, and to vary threats
of utter destruction with elaborate efforts to placate the Queen of
England. Cecil--Lord Burghley, as he became in 1571--was no less
anxious to avoid war, but was also determined to go as far as might be,
short of war, in support of the insurgent provinces; while steadily
accumulating the evidence of Spanish complicity in Marian plots, to
be produced as an effective answer to any complaints that England was
abetting treason in the Netherlands, or her seamen committing acts of
war in the Spanish Main or the West Indian Islands.

The Protestantism of the Government stiffened inevitably with the
development of Catholic plots centring on Mary, the atrocities
perpetrated by Alva in the Netherlands, the cruelties practised by the
Spanish Inquisition on English sailors who fell into its hands, and the
blundering Papal Bull of deposition--which, in fact, embarrassed Philip
a good deal more than it injured the Queen of England. This singularly
impolitic act of the Roman Pontiff, emphasising the direct antagonism,
not to say the irreconcilability, of loyalty to the Throne and loyalty
to the Church, sufficed in itself to bring all Catholics under
suspicion of being at heart traitors--in the technical sense; pledged
by their faith to desire, if not actively to compass, the overthrow of
the reigning queen. Preceded, as it was, by the insurrection of the
northern Catholic Earls in Mary’s favour, and followed by the Ridolfi
conspiracy, it is difficult to perceive how the Queen’s government
could have done otherwise than assume that to be a Catholic was to be
disaffected. Nor is it possible to imagine that, after the appalling
St. Bartholomew massacres of 1572, anti-Catholic sentiment in the
country was not intensified to a white heat.

The people of England had a further grievance against Spain, inasmuch
as she had taken possession of the wealth of the New World, and
meant to keep it for herself--whereas the English desired a share.
Throughout the later sixties and the seventies, English adventurers
were engaged in making good their claims, in spite of nominal peace
and law, by force of arms, raiding Spanish settlements or compelling
local authorities to allow them to trade in defiance of all injunctions
from headquarters. Technically, at least, these proceedings amounted
to piracy, and if the Spaniards had been content to treat their
perpetrators as pirates, it would have been extremely difficult to
protest. Having an almost incontrovertible case, the Spaniards elected
to put themselves in the wrong by punishing their prisoners--when they
caught them--not as pirates but as heretics, gratuitously introducing
the religious factor. Even in 1568 English sailors, under such captains
as John Hawkins, had learnt to feel that ship for ship they were very
much more than a match for Spanish galleons. Thus the most adventurous
and most irrepressible class in the community was athirst to measure
its strength with the Spaniard, and found no difficulty in convincing
itself that to do so was a religious duty. The spirit of rivalry,
greed of wealth, and sheer love of adventure, formed a sufficiently
strong combination of motives; zeal against the persecutors of true
religion gave them a colour which satisfied any but the most fastidious
consciences.

Now, it will be easy to see from the foregoing paragraphs that already
in 1568 enough had occurred to inflame popular feeling against
Spain. There were the doings of the Spanish Inquisition in respect
of English sailors. There was, amongst other grievances, the attack
on John Hawkins at San Juan d’Ulloa. There was Alva’s tyranny in
the Netherlands. In France, no one could tell whether Huguenots or
Catholics were going to get the upper hand; but Philip was fully
committed to the suppression of heresy within his own dominions, and
outside them as well so far as it might lie in his power. During the
next four years, every event of importance went to intensify the
sentiment against Spain, to which, and not to France, the Ridolfi plot
pointed as Mary’s ally. On the other hand, it was evident at once,
when Elizabeth was able to detain in her own ports for her own use
the treasure which was on its way up channel to help Alva, that for
the time Philip was too heavily hampered to be able to turn his full
strength against England; and as time went on it became increasingly
clear that Spain could not, with the Netherlands revolt on her hands,
contemplate an English war with equanimity. Even Saint Bartholomew did
not divert the hostile sentiment in the direction of France, since
still after the massacre it was difficult to say whether the French
nation should be identified with the party of the perpetrators rather
than with that of the victims.

At the lowest estimate, then, there was a mass of feeling in the
country which could very easily have been fanned into a blaze of
indignation, imperatively demanding open defiance of Spain, vigorous
support of the Netherlands and of the Huguenots--in short, immediate
war instead of the chance of war in the future. But the Queen and
Burghley were determined to avoid war; and for nearly twenty years they
succeeded. Burghley’s own primary conviction was that amity between
Burgundy and England was of such enormous importance to both that
considerations of policy would prevent Philip, as they had prevented
his father, from being dragged into war by considerations of religious
zeal. Protestantism--so much of it, at least, as was necessary--could
be saved, probably without adopting heroic courses; and in any case,
if a duel should ultimately prove inevitable, every year that it was
deferred would tell in favour of England, which was daily growing in
wealth, in stability, and in efficiency; and against Spain, which
was constantly subjected to the exhausting strain of war in the Low
Countries and war with the Turk.

Ultimate friendship with Spain, on the basis of immunity for
unaggressive Protestantism, mutual toleration, and unfettered trade,
was broadly the ideal for which Burghley worked; to achieve it, he was
ready to bring to bear any amount of pressure which would not actually
precipitate war. But it was part of the policy always to make sure that
there was, at any rate, technical justification for everything done
by the English Government. This technical correctness is particularly
characteristic of the man. While Elizabeth herself and nearly every man
in her court, were all shareholders, or in some degree interested, in
the privateering expeditions of Drake and other captains, Burghley held
himself rigidly aloof from them, and never made a penny of personal
profit in that way. He had no moral qualms about seizing the Genoese
treasure in 1568--that was merely an arrangement by which the bankers
lent to England money which they had intended to lend to Spain; if it
inconvenienced Spain, Spain should not have seized the English ships
in her harbours. But when Drake came home after sailing round the
world, with vast quantities of captured treasure in the _Golden Hind_,
Burghley stigmatised the whole proceedings as piratical, declined any
share of the spoil, and would have had it restored to Spain.

In this connection, the Lord Treasurer’s[E] aversion to these raiding
expeditions was so strong that when Drake’s great voyage was in
contemplation the utmost pains were taken to keep the matter out of his
knowledge. But there were very few things that Burghley did not succeed
in being aware of; and one of the gentleman-adventurers who sailed in
that expedition, Thomas Doughty, was in personal communication with
him before it started. This man was executed by Drake at Port St.
Julian, in Patagonia--one of the grounds on which he was held guilty
of treason towards the “General,” Drake, being that he had admittedly
revealed as much as he knew to Burghley. The fact that inquiry into
that execution was carefully shirked, while the recorded evidence is
somewhat contradictory and inconclusive, has led to the formation of
various surmises to the disfavour of Drake, of Burghley, of Doughty,
or of the witnesses, according to the point of view of the critic. The
most natural interpretation would seem to be that in the first place
Drake and the sailors in general suspected gentleman-adventurers at
large of being an objectionably insubordinate and troublesome element;
and the General may very possibly have been injudicially ready to
condemn one of them on insufficient evidence--evidence which satisfied
him but did not amount to legal proof--and fancied that collusion with
the antagonistic Lord Treasurer implied certainly ill-will and probably
treachery to the commander. Applying those current rules of evidence
which repeatedly sufficed to condemn men for treason at home, the
case for executing Doughty was quite strong enough to act on, though
exceedingly awkward to make public. It would show, of course, that the
sailor was very suspicious of the designs of the statesman from whom
the Queen wanted to have the thing concealed; it also suggests that
Elizabeth liked to do behind the minister’s back, if she could manage
it, the things which she knew he would disapprove. But it does not
involve anything outrageous on Drake’s part, or any real discredit to
the Lord Treasurer.

      [E] Burghley was made Lord High Treasurer in 1572.

In fact, for a dozen years after Saint Bartholomew, while Burghley
and the Queen had the same main object in view, though others of the
Council were urgent in favour of her presenting herself openly as
the champion of Protestantism, Burghley’s difficulties were mainly
of Elizabeth’s creating. To all appearance, she was in a state of
ceaseless vacillation--now on the verge of a shameful betrayal of
Orange, now on the brink of a French marriage, now on the point of
announcing her readiness to head a League of Protestants, now of
allowing them to take their chance with the preposterous Alençon
as their figure-head, while she stood aside, and anon dangling her
matrimonial bait before that luckless and incapable prince as a
preferable alternative. Burghley, Walsingham, all her advisers, were
repeatedly driven almost to despair by her vagaries; none knew what her
next twist would be--yet every twist that seemed to produce a fresh
entanglement was followed by another which evaded it; and always as an
open breach with Spain or a flagrant rupture with France seemed really
a thing immediately inevitable, some happy accident appeared to save
the situation once more.


VII

THE WAR WITH SPAIN

It would seem, however, that the discovery of the Throgmorton
conspiracy led Burghley in the beginning of 1584 to the conclusion that
a bolder support should be given to the Netherlands, more especially
as the Alençon farce was finished. In 1585, Elizabeth committed
herself to the Hollanders, Drake went off on the Cartagena raid, and
in 1586 Leicester was in the Low Countries in command of the English
troops. Then came the Babington plot, the execution of the Queen of
Scots after the New Year, the certainty of Philip’s preparations for
the Armada, and the “singeing of the King of Spain’s beard” by Drake,
which deferred the great invasion for a twelvemonth; finally the
week-long battle with the Armada itself, ending in its destruction
off Gravelines, and subsequent annihilation by the tempests. To the
very last Elizabeth went on playing at negotiations with Parma, on
lines involving the basest treachery to the Hollanders; to the entire
satisfaction of Sir James Crofts whom she employed in the business, and
who is known to have been in Philip’s pay. This, however, was merely
one of her regular pieces of diplomatic play-acting; while Burghley
kept his own counsel. The war-party lived on thorns; they did not know
what to make of the trickery, whether it was genuine or a sham. Howard
of Effingham, in fiery wrath, wrote--quoting an old byword--of the
“long grey beard with a white head witless that to all the world would
prove England heart-less,” _i.e._, cowardly. Still, though it would
have been natural enough for them to suspect that the peace-loving
Burghley was abetting the Queen, the probabilities are that Effingham
was referring not to him but to Crofts. Retreat without dishonour was
impossible; he certainly would not have advocated it seriously; and
the elaborate farce which Elizabeth deliberately played was merely a
piece of that eternally baffling and exasperating diplomacy of which
she might be called the inventor and patentee--methods which Burghley
always condemned, though probably his long experience of them had by
this time taught him to see through them. From 1584 he recognised that
events had forced his own peace-loving policy out of court, and that it
could not be revived till the issue between England and Spain had been
fought out. The completeness of England’s triumph when the combatants
did crash together in mortal fray went far, at any rate, to justify the
theory on which he had systematically acted that, if the fight must
come, the longer it could be staved off the more decisively it would
favour his own country.

The wild outburst of enthusiasm following on the defeat of the Armada
very nearly delivered the future of England into the hands of the
Protestant war-party, whose desire was to break the power of Spain
to pieces; and through the winter Drake and Norreys were preparing
for the Lisbon expedition which, as they planned it, would have
been another very crushing blow to Philip. But the great victory
had brought Burghley’s ideal back into the sphere of practical
politics. That is, if English and Spaniards could be brought to see
reason, or to act as if they saw reason, an _entente_ might now be
established securing religious toleration and the recognition of the
old Constitution in the Netherlands, the old Burgundian alliance with
its corollary of commercial privileges and legitimate trading with
Spanish settlements all over the world, and the immunity of English
sailors from the Inquisition. With Spain as an allied Power, whatever
might come of the party strife in France, England would have nothing
to fear. The aggressive sentiment in England was, indeed, too strong
to be repressed; but though the present continuation of the war was
inevitable, it might be so manipulated as to bring it home to the
obstinate mind of Philip that peace on Burghley’s terms would be a very
good bargain for him, without making a total wreck of the power of
Spain.

Elizabeth, as usual, was at one with Burghley on the point, and with
Burghley’s son Robert Cecil, who was now drawing to the front and
making it possible for his father to transfer to him much of the
burden of active work for which he was becoming unfitted by age. The
main method by which the policy was given effect was by placing the
conduct of the war as far as possible in the hands of that section of
the war-party, headed by John Hawkins among the seamen and by Essex
at Court, which thought more of booty than of Empire--which did not
realise, with Drake and Raleigh, that the despoiling of treasure-fleets
and the sacking of ports would accomplish very much less than the
annihilation of fighting fleets and the establishment in the New World
of rival English settlements. Thus, by the time Drake started for
Lisbon, he found his hands so tied by restrictions as to what he was to
do and what he was not to do that the expedition failed of its purpose.
Drake was discredited in consequence, and for some years the war became
a mere series of raids; conducted in force, indeed, and openly avowed
and authorised by the Queen, but not in essence differing from the
semi-piratical performances of the Drakes and Hawkinses when Spain
and England were nominally at peace. Hence, in 1598, when Burghley
and Philip both died within a few weeks of each other, Spain had been
invariably defeated in every successive attempt to strike a blow at her
rival; she had suffered a serious disaster at Cadiz; her treasure-ships
had been repeatedly raided; her enemy, Henry of Navarre, had carried
the day in France: but her hold on the New World remained, she was
still an effective Power in Europe, and the fear of her was not yet
dead, though England still held, and more than held, the priority she
had won ten years before.


VIII

AN APPRECIATION

In foreign policy we have seen that, at any rate in the broader
aspects of it, Burghley and Elizabeth were at one--that is, the Queen
never departed so far from the path he laid down but that she could
regain her footing thereon the moment a crisis arrived. That policy
may be summed up as aiming at one issue--friendship with Spain on an
equality--while preparing for the alternative, a fight for the mastery.
The policy failed to achieve the preferable issue, but in its secondary
aspect was completely successful. Burghley’s own methods were not of
the heroic type; there was no glamour of chivalry and knight-errantry
about them; they were untouched by magnanimity, generosity, moral
enthusiasm; they were ruled by a devotion to law and order, to
propriety, to sober respectability; they were entirely practical,
unsympathetic; but they were essentially marked at least with the
intention of strict justice and reasonableness.

The same characteristics present themselves in his domestic policy. In
the religious settlement and in finance the course taken throughout
the reign is along the broad lines laid down by him; the Queen permits
herself to indulge in personal outbreaks, and sets the general scheme
at naught in individual instances, but, if she flies off at a tangent,
still manages to return before it is too late, before any general
deflection has been brought about. And again the desire of essential
practical justice is the predominating feature. Zeal for particular
religious views, however sincere, must not be permitted to disturb
public order; the decencies must be observed, but the decencies would
allow of as much latitude as reasonable men could desire. If zeal
went the length of harbouring and fostering persons whose doctrines
might be interpreted as impugning the right of the Queen to sit on
the throne of England, justice required that such zeal should be
penalised; if, further, zeal propagated such doctrines actively, zeal
became treason. So, when Parsons and Campion came over with their
propaganda, the Catholic persecution which followed had Burghley’s
entire approval; nonconformity, aggressive and abusive, he was quite
ready to punish with severity, but when Archbishop Whitgift and his
Court of High Commission set about hunting for nonconformity, Burghley
was for restraining them though the Queen sympathised not with him
but with them. A more sensitive and sympathetic imagination would
often have been alive to the existence of real injustice where the
Lord Treasurer failed to perceive it; but where he did perceive it he
always endeavoured to moderate it, even though he might not set his
face stubbornly against it. His gorge rose at the stories of atrocities
perpetrated in Ireland which almost every one else seems to have taken
as a matter of course. If the use of the rack met with his approval it
was only in cases where he honestly believed that the ends of justice
were thereby furthered; and though the practice had not been common in
England, its prevalence elsewhere was so general that its increased
employment involved no shock to the moral sense of contemporaries.

Burghley’s principles of political action, then, were quite remote
from those of Machiavelli and Thomas Cromwell, according to which
the slightest claim of political expediency outweighed the entire
moral code, and ethical considerations were reduced at the best to a
sentiment which under certain circumstances it might be expedient to
humour. His principles were equally remote from those of Somerset,
which ignored the fact that no ends, however noble, can be achieved
by disregarding hard facts. He insisted on upholding a moral standard
in policy, and maintained a moral standard in his personal political
relations. Admitting the principle _salus populi suprema lex_, he
allowed that supreme necessity might over-ride the moral law, but there
were few of his contemporaries who were not very much readier than he
to recognise such an exigency on slight provocation. On the other hand,
while his personal standard was so high that even his bitterest foes
among the Spanish ambassadors acknowledged it with abusive candour,
his normal political standard was that of his times. We may, perhaps,
express it by saying that he had an almost abnormally strong sense of
political proprieties but a complete absence of moral fervour.

Intellectually, he lacked imagination, while no statesman was
ever endowed with a more imperturbably shrewd common sense, which
served as perpetual ballast to counteract the flightiness of his
mistress. He worked as assiduously as Philip of Spain himself, but,
unlike Philip, he knew when to trust other men, never misplacing his
confidence--whereas Philip never trusted any other man an inch further
than he could help. Burghley’s extreme caution was due, not to lack
of courage or of self-confidence, but to a thorough distrust of all
emotional impulses. He weighed, deliberated, decided on the merits of
each case as it arose, with careful and safe judgment; but had none of
those flashes of intuitive perception which have characterised the most
triumphant types of political genius. He ruled, not by magnetism, but
by tact. Among statesmen he was of the order of Walpole and Peel, not
of Oliver Cromwell and Chatham. He was lacking in creative imagination;
but he was, perhaps, the most thoroughly level-headed minister who
has ever guided the destinies of England. He cannot be elevated into
an object of hero-worship. But he was precisely the type of man of
whom his country had most need at the helm in the second half of the
sixteenth century; and he served her as perhaps no other man could
have done, with unswerving patriotism, sturdy resolution, and infinite
devotion to duty.



SIR FRANCIS WALSINGHAM


I

WALSINGHAM’S CHARACTER

Of the many Englishmen, who, by loyal service to the nation in the
reign of the Virgin Queen, deserved well of the State, there is perhaps
not one whose claim stands higher than that of Walsingham. For twenty
years, or near it, Elizabeth trusted him more completely than any of
her council, except Burghley, relied on his ability and his fidelity
to carry out every task of exceptional difficulty, profited by his
devotion, his penetration, and his resourcefulness, rejected his
advice on the cardinal question of policy till she was compelled by
circumstances in some measure to adopt it, suffered him to ruin his
fortunes in her service, and finally permitted him to die the poorest
of all her Ministers. It was said, in the study of Burghley, that she
was loyal to him; she was so, in the sense that nothing would induce
her to part from him. Unlike many other princes, when she found a good
servant, she never let him go from personal pique, or on account of
differences; her loyalty was the loyalty of a very acute woman, but one
wholly devoid of generosity. His loyalty she left to be its own reward.

Walsingham won his position by sheer force of ability and character;
qualities in him which were probably discovered by the penetration
of William Cecil, with whom he was always on the most cordial terms,
although himself the advocate of a much bolder policy than was favoured
by the cautious Lord Treasurer. None could say of Walsingham, as his
enemies have said of Cecil, that he was in any degree a time-server;
he was not only as incorruptible, but it could never be hinted that in
affairs of State his line of action was deflected by a hair’s-breadth
by any considerations of personal advantage or advancement. He indulged
in none of those arts of courtiership which not only a Leicester, a
Hatton, or an Essex, but even a Raleigh, took no shame in employing to
extravagance. Not Knollys nor Hunsdon, her own outspoken kinsmen, could
be more blunt and outspoken to their royal mistress than he. It would
be difficult to find in the long roll of English statesmen one more
resolutely disinterested, or one whose services, being admittedly so
great, were rewarded so meagrely.

[Illustration: _SIR FRANCIS WALSINGHAM_

_From an Engraving by_ G. VERTUE, _after the picture by Holbein, in the
British Museum_]

There are diversities of conscientiousness. Henry VIII. referred most
questions to his conscience, after he had made up his mind about the
answer; and his conscience always endorsed his judgment. Cromwell
ignored conscience altogether; with More, it overruled every other
consideration. Burghley’s was tolerably active, but perhaps somewhat
obtuse. Walsingham, if we read him aright, was as rigidly conscientious
as More himself; but his moral standard requires to be understood
before it can be appreciated. It was derived, not from the New
Testament, but from the Old. It assumed that the Protestants were in
the position of the ancient Hebrews; that they were the Chosen People,
and their enemies, the enemies of the Lord of Sabaoth. It justified the
spoiling of the Egyptians. It was sufficiently tempered to disapprove
the extermination of the Canaanite, but it hardly condemned Ehud and
Jael. Broadly speaking it applied different moral codes in dealing with
the foes of the Faith and in other relations. Identifying the foes
of the Faith with the enemies of the State, it authorised the use,
in self-defence, of every weapon and every artifice employed on the
other side. It was not with him as with those to whom the law serves
for conscience; who will do with a light heart anything that the law
permits, and shrink in horror from anything that it condemns. Nor did
he act on the principle that the right must give way to the expedient.
With him, conscience positively approved in one group of relations the
adoption of practices which in other relations it would have sternly
denounced. That type of conscience is absolutely genuine and sincere;
but it permits actions which are, to say the least, censurable from a
more enlightened point of view.


II

WALSINGHAM’S RISE

The records of Walsingham’s early years are somewhat scanty. An uncle
was Lieutenant of the Tower during the latter part of the reign of
Henry VIII.; of whom it is reported that when Anne Askew was on
the rack, he refused to strain the torture to the point desired
by Wriothesly. His father was a considerable landed proprietor at
Chiselhurst, and filled sundry minor legal offices. He died in 1533,
leaving several daughters and one son, Francis, an infant, born not
earlier than 1530, and so ten years younger than William Cecil. Young
Walsingham was up at King’s College, Cambridge, from 1548 to 1550, and
entered Gray’s Inn in 1552.

Being of the advanced Reformation party, young Walsingham quitted the
country on Mary’s accession, remained abroad during the five years of
her rule, and returned when Elizabeth succeeded, to take his place in
the House of Commons. His sojourn abroad emphasised his Protestantism;
he utilised it also to acquire a very extensive knowledge of foreign
affairs, though he omitted to make himself a master of the Spanish
tongue. He does not appear to have taken prominent part in the
affairs of Parliament when he came back to England; but he attracted
Cecil’s notice, and was employed by the Secretary in procuring secret
intelligence, of which the earliest definite record is a report of
August 1568, giving a “descriptive list of suspicious persons arriving
in Italy during the space of three months,” obtained from “Franchiotto
the Italian.” On November 20 of the same year, he writes to Cecil to
say that, if the evidence of Mary’s complicity in Darnley’s murder
is insufficient, “my friend is able to discover certain that should
have been employed in the said murder, who are here to be produced.”
Incidentally, it may be remarked that this, of course, means no more
than that Walsingham knew where to lay his hand on some one who
professed to have information; which Mr. Froude renders by a phrase
implying that he actually had information, known to be valuable, ready
to be brought forward. What it really shows is, that Walsingham was
engaged in looking out for anything which offered a chance of being
turned to account.

In the autumn of the following year, just before the rising of the
northern earls, when it was practically certain that some kind of
Catholic plot was afoot and that the Spanish ambassador, Don Guerau
de Espes was mixed up in it, circumstances brought the Florentine
banker Ridolfi under suspicion. The position to which Walsingham
was now attaining is shown by the Italian being assigned to his
surveillance--with the result that Ridolfi’s house and papers were
thoroughly searched without his knowledge, but also without the
discovery of anything incriminating. Whether honestly or with the
object of deceiving him, Ridolfi was thereupon treated as if no
vestige of suspicion attached to him. In the modern phrase, it was
an integral part of Walsingham’s system in dealing with persons on
whom he expected to pounce when his own time came, to give them every
inch of rope he could afford: but a year later Walsingham wrote about
the man to Cecil in terms which imply that the belief in his honesty
was genuine. When the whole of the Ridolfi plot was revealed in 1571,
Walsingham was in France. The secret service was Cecil’s creation,
not Walsingham’s, though doubtless the latter had a considerable
share in organising it, and a little later became mainly responsible
for controlling it. Valuable as he was already rendering himself, he
only emerges definitely into the front rank on his appointment as a
special envoy to the French Court in August 1570; followed immediately
thereafter by his selection for the post of Ambassador Resident.

The situation at this time was exceedingly critical. At home, the
northern insurrection had just been suppressed, Norfolk and others of
the peers were very much subjects of suspicion, and the Papal Bull
of deposition had increased the sense of nervousness. The Spanish
representative in England was the hot-headed and intriguing Don Guerau
de Espes; in the Netherlands, Alva had made the world in general
believe--though he knew better himself--that the revolt was crushed.
In France the Huguenots, despite defeat in the field, had just shown
themselves strong enough to obtain, through the balancing party of the
Politiques, terms which placed them fairly on a level with the Guise
faction; but a marriage was being planned between Henry of Anjou, the
king’s next brother and heir presumptive, and the imprisoned Queen of
Scots. In Scotland itself, the assassination of Moray had revived the
confusion which the sombre regent had been struggling to allay. Thus,
there was danger to Elizabeth’s throne from her own Catholic subjects;
danger from France, since Anjou was regarded as of the Guise party; and
danger, imagined at least, from Spain, where that surprising charlatan,
Stukely, had almost, if not quite, persuaded Philip that at his
call--with some armed assistance--all Ireland would rise, fling off the
English yoke, and offer itself to Spain. As a matter of fact, Philip
was much too heavily hampered to take openly aggressive action against
England at the time--but that was known to very few people besides
himself and Alva.

These difficulties of Philip’s were the first redeeming feature in
the situation. The second was that on which Cecil always relied, that
the national interests of France and Spain were too antagonistic to
permit of any cordial alliance between them. Mary Stewart on the
English throne as Philip’s _protégée_ would not suit France; as Anjou’s
wife she would not suit Philip. France might at any time see her own
interest in fostering the revolt in the Netherlands and intriguing for
their Protectorate. The third point was that in France itself, the
Politiques were at one with the Huguenots in wishing to avoid the union
of Anjou with Mary, which would be a great victory for the Guises; so
that the balance of forces in France would turn definitely in favour of
England if she could offer anything in the way of a make-weight.

Such were the conditions under which Walsingham was sent to France as a
special envoy in August 1570--to congratulate the French Government on
the pacification just concluded; to urge the necessity of maintaining
it loyally; and to dissuade the Court from espousing the cause of the
Scots Queen. Within a month, he received official intimation that the
resident Ambassador, Sir Henry Norris, was about to be recalled, and he
was himself to succeed to the post; which arrangement took effect in
January.


III

AMBASSADOR AT PARIS

In the interval, an ingenious solution of several problems had
suggested itself to the Huguenot leaders, and found favour with the
Queen-Mother. This was that Anjou should drop the idea of marrying
Mary and should instead marry Elizabeth herself. He was her junior
by seventeen years, but that was a small matter. If he wedded the
Protestant Queen, he would be definitely detached from the Guises,
toleration for both religions would be assured both in England and
France, and the two countries could join in the liberation of the
Netherlands. The problem would be to arrange the marriage on terms
which would give the parties who were favourably disposed to it
security for the carrying out of those parts of the programme which
were from their several points of view essential.

_Prima facie_ the plan was acceptable to the Huguenots, to the
Politiques, to the English Council, and to Walsingham himself. To the
Guises, it was very much the reverse, and they tried, with a degree
of success, to frighten the Duke with the old scandals about the
Virgin Queen and Leicester. The Spaniards were much perturbed. Their
Ambassador first tried to draw the French into engagements with them
against Orange; and, failing in that attempt, began making overtures
to Walsingham which he appreciated at their true value. He knew all
about the overtures to France--to which, as the Englishman wrote drily
to Cecil, “the answers falling not out to his contentment, maketh
him, as I suppose, to think that the friendship of England is worth
the having.” The same letter notes information that the Pope has a
“practice in hand for England, which would not be long before it brake
forth”--no doubt in connexion with the Ridolfi plot, which was now
maturing.

Side by side with the business of the Anjou marriage, Walsingham was
much engaged in gathering information as to the suspected Spanish
expedition to Ireland; in respect of which he held much diplomatic
conversation with the ex-Archbishop of Cashel and heard many tales of
Stukely’s doings and sayings. Walsingham suspected his good faith,
and remarked significantly to Cecil--who had just been “ordered to
write William Burleigh” instead of William Cecil, but had still some
difficulty in remembering the new signature--“I have placed some
especially about him, to whom he repaireth, as also who repairs unto
him.” The suspicions were not dissipated as time went on.

The Ambassador’s situation was one of singular difficulty. For a dozen
years past, Elizabeth had played fast and loose with so many suitors
that any lack of straightforwardness on her part was certain to be
construed as meaning that she intended to play with Anjou in the same
way; while she was absolutely incapable of being straightforward. As
a matter of fact, she was probably merely playing her usual game. So
long as the match was on the _tapis_, but only on the _tapis_, Philip
would be afraid to move lest he should precipitate it. Meantime, Orange
was making ready to renew the struggle in the Netherlands, and she
might presently find that she could afford to manœuvre herself out
of the marriage, and would have skill enough to make the rupture of
negotiations come from the other side. Burghley and Leicester both
wanted the match--the former being satisfied that it would result in
the Burgundian dominions being separated from Spain without being
absorbed by France, while Protestantism would be generally much
strengthened. But in his private correspondence with Walsingham, he
warned the Ambassador very plainly that neither he nor Leicester knew
what the Queen meant to do--it was as likely as not that she wished in
the long run to get the match broken off by Anjou on the score of the
English stipulations for his conforming to the English law in matters
of religion. Walsingham, who was a Protestant with his heart and soul
as well as his head, and believed that the Protestant cause was the
national cause much more uncompromisingly than Burghley, was more
zealous on behalf of the marriage than the Secretary himself, being
convinced that it would bring about the victory of Protestantism, in
alliance with England, both in France and the Netherlands.

It was not Burghley nor Walsingham, but Elizabeth, who controlled the
situation; and however strongly the ministers might express their
private feelings to each other, they had to do as she told them. Her
trickery met with its usual success. In due course, Henry of Anjou
found that he could not accede to the demand for conformity, and in
spite of his mother’s entreaties withdrew his suit; yet the business
was so successfully managed that the French court, instead of being
offended, very soon began to hint that the French king had yet another
brother, the Duke of Alençon, whose hand and heart were not yet
disposed of. So the play began again.

Meantime the complete revelation of the Ridolfi conspiracy brought
conclusive proofs of the real hostility of Spain to Elizabeth. In the
following spring (1572) the Netherlands were set ablaze once more by
La Marck’s capture of Brille, and Alva found his hands full; a timely
occurrence, since the crushing defeat of the Turks at Lepanto by Don
John in October had greatly strengthened the hands of Philip. In the
summer of 1572 Walsingham was more than ever convinced that a French
marriage, and support on the most liberal scale to Orange, composed
the policy which it was imperative for England to adopt. Everything
was pointing to a Huguenot ascendency in France; Marguerite of Valois
was on the point of marrying young Henry of Navarre, head of the
Bourbons, and next in succession to the throne after the reigning
king’s brothers. To play fast and loose with the Alençon marriage would
alienate France; to play fast and loose with Orange would be to throw
him into the arms of France alienated from England. That Philip, seeing
England thus isolated, would cheerfully forgive and forget all that he
had suffered, for the sake of an unstable union with her, was almost
unthinkable. Yet the months went by, and the Ambassador could get no
guidance even from the sympathetic Burghley, who was as much in the
dark as ever as to Elizabeth’s real intentions.

But there was a factor in the situation of which on one had taken
full account; not Walsingham, nor Burghley, nor Elizabeth; not the
Huguenots; not Philip nor Alva. This was Catherine de Medici’s
overwhelming lust of personal power, and the passion of jealousy
accompanying it. She saw her ascendency over her son Charles IX.
slipping away and passing into the hands of Coligny and his associates.
For victory and vengeance, she prepared to commit, perhaps, the most
appalling crime in the annals of Christian Europe. Paris was crowded
with Huguenots gathered to celebrate the pact of amity, to be sealed
by the wedding of the Béarnais and the sister of the king. Stealthily
and swiftly the plans were laid, the plot organised, the preparations
completed. The wedding took place on August 18: three days later, an
unsuccessful attempt was made to murder Coligny. It may be that if the
assassin had killed the Admiral, the huge tragedy which followed would
have been averted; as it was, hours before the sun of St. Bartholomew’s
day (August 24) had risen, the floodgates had been opened, and the
streets of Paris were running red with rivers of Huguenot blood.
During the following days, like scenes were being enacted through the
provinces.

For a moment Europe stood breathless, aghast. Whatever this appalling
thing meant, it seemed at least an assured portent of developments
undreamed of; probably a vast, all-embracing, Catholic conspiracy.
England sprang to arms, ready to stand at bay against the united forces
of France and Spain. If there was to be a life-and-death struggle
between the religions, she would fight to the last gasp. The Englishmen
in the French capital had been safeguarded on the night of the
massacre, but it was some little time before they could be sure that
their turn was not still to come. Yet Walsingham in Paris bore himself
with the same lofty sternness that the English Queen and her Council
displayed to the French Ambassador in London. It soon became evident
that Catherine was frightened at what she had done; that her one desire
was to minimise it, to declare that matters had never been intended
to go so far, to shelter behind the plea that the victims had been on
the verge of effecting a bloody _coup d’état_ and the counter-stroke
had only been dealt in self-defence. Walsingham’s reply was in terms
of courteous but scathing incredulity. The Queen-Mother tried to
win him over by declaring that Coligny had warned Anjou against the
machinations of England; he answered that the Admiral had acted therein
as a loyal Frenchman.

The diplomatic fabric had collapsed, but at least there was no question
of France holding Elizabeth to blame for the rupture; nor was there any
question of Catherine turning to a junction with Spain. The Huguenots
now were at bay; there would be work enough before they were either
crushed or pacified; while the slaughter of their leaders had made
the Guises more dangerous than ever. On the other hand, there could
be no joint action on behalf of Orange. France had ruled herself out.
Walsingham would still have stood boldly for “the Religion,” but
the Queen and Burghley were not equally ready to fling themselves
single-handed into the struggle on behalf of the Netherlands. The
Spaniards deemed the opportunity a good one for seeking reconciliation
with England. A more politic and less bloodthirsty Governor was
dispatched to the Low Countries to take the place of Alva, who by his
own desire was recalled. Walsingham went back to England, and for some
time to come Philip and Elizabeth were engaged in an elaborate if
insincere ostentation of amicable intentions.


IV

ENTANGLEMENTS

Burghley as Secretary had been so heavily worked that he was in
danger of breaking down; to prevent such a catastrophe, he was made
Lord Treasurer, Walsingham on his return to England being appointed
joint Secretary of State with Sir Thomas Smith. Leicester continued
to be Burghley’s chief rival with Elizabeth on the Council, owing to
his personal favour with her; and his political line was the same as
Walsingham’s, though the Secretary supplied the brains. Walsingham was
neither the rival nor the follower of either; it was never in his mind
to supplant Burghley either himself or by Leicester; but his counsels
and those of the Lord Treasurer were often in disagreement in so far as
his Protestantism was more energetic, and as he had no sympathy with
the idea of amity with Spain, being thoroughly convinced of Philip’s
fundamental hostility to England as a Protestant Power.

For some years the Protestant policy was out of court so far as Spain
and the Netherlands were concerned; the comparative moderation of the
new Governor, Requesens, giving plausibility to the hope that a _modus
vivendi_ might be arrived at--that Philip’s maximum of concession
and Orange’s minimum of demand might prove capable of adjustment.
In Scotland, however, Walsingham and Burghley both recognised the
necessity of maintaining friendly relations with the capable but
sinister Regent, the Earl of Morton. It was impossible to ignore
the danger of a reconstruction of parties there, which might again
result in French intervention being invited; a consummation equally
abhorrent to the Treasurer and the Secretary. Elizabeth’s parsimony
here proved too strong for her policy. Burghley and Walsingham both
believed that liberal but judicious expenditure would prove economical
in the long run. But the Queen would not relax the purse-strings; the
unrest of Scotland continued to be a thorn in her side, and to be also
a perpetual strain on the anxiety of her ministers and a drain on her
Exchequer.

Requesens died in 1576; before his successor, Don John, arrived, the
Spanish soldiery--whose pay was in arrear--got completely out of
hand; and the autumn saw the hideous butchery in Antwerp known as
the “Spanish Fury.” The whole of the provinces--Catholic as well as
Protestant--were united thereby in a solid demand for the restoration
of their old constitutional privileges, and the withdrawal of Spanish
troops; and in a flat refusal to admit the new Governor or recognise
his government, until their main demands were conceded. Don John made
provisional terms and was admitted in the spring following; but he
was known to be harbouring audacious designs against England, the
Hollanders suspected his good faith, and the old state of serious
tension was renewed. Drake was planning his great voyage, to the entire
satisfaction of the anti-Spanish party--but with an obvious certainty
of giving extreme offence to Philip, which caused them to make a vain
attempt to keep the thing secret from Burghley; while Elizabeth--who
liked playing with fire and was also greedy for money--made her own
bargain with the adventurer. Thus, in 1578 a curious state of affairs
arose. Philip, jealous of his half-brother, and still extremely anxious
to avoid a rupture with England, once more accredited an ambassador
to the English Court, Bernardino de Mendoza, whose business was to be
conciliation; Elizabeth’s Council swayed to the views of Walsingham and
Leicester, while Burghley seemed to be outweighted. The Queen started
on one of her most exasperating pieces of political jugglery, snubbing
Orange on the one hand, and on the other reviving the Alençon marriage
project; while Alençon himself was now posing as a would-be figure-head
for the Huguenots, and at odds with his brother Henry III., who had
succeeded Charles IX. two years after St. Bartholomew.

To his own intense disgust, Walsingham was despatched to the
Netherlands on the most thoroughly uncongenial task that could be
conceived: one, moreover, which it would have been quite impossible
for him to accomplish even if his heart had been in it. He was to urge
the Protestant States to accept the Spanish terms, which would have
deprived them of the exercise of their religion; he was to refuse
the promised issue of the bonds on which they were relying for the
sinews of war; in effect, he was to represent England in what he
himself looked upon as an act of betrayal. Of course, the mission
was a failure. Betrayed or not, Orange and his party would never
accept the Spanish terms; they would rather take the risk of a French
Protectorate, or die fighting. Walsingham loathed the job, and wrote
home in very bitter terms of the shame the whole of the proceedings
were bringing on the name of England. The only glimmer of satisfaction
he extracted from it was in the retraction of the monstrous breach of
faith about the bonds. It was bad enough that Elizabeth’s name should
be made a by-word for falsehood; it was only less bad that France,
instead of England, should become for her own ends the friend and
protector of the Low Countries; it was sickening that he, of all men,
should be made the agent of such perfidy, held personally responsible
for it abroad, and rewarded by his mistress with abuse because it
failed. “It is given out,” he wrote, “that we shall be hanged on our
return, so ill have we behaved ourselves here: I hope we shall enjoy
our ordinary trial--my Lord Cobham [his colleague] to be tried by his
peers, and myself by a jury of Middlesex.... If I may conveniently, I
mean, with the leave of God, to convey myself off from the stage and to
become a looker-on.”

Elizabeth, however, was far too keenly alive to his value to allow him
to become a looker-on; nor could Burghley have spared him, however
their views might differ on some points. The Queen might ignore his
advice, but she relied on his penetration and his loyalty, and was more
afraid of his righteous indignation than of the Lord Treasurer’s sober
disapprobation. Neither minister would countenance what they accounted
perfidy, and in act she never in the long run degraded her honour as
much as she repeatedly threatened to do. Both of them spoke their
minds. She knew they were in the right; she resisted, abused, flouted,
defied them; but she always yielded enough, and in time, to save some
shreds of credit.

The death of Don John about the end of September was followed by the
appointment of Alexander of Parma, a statesman and soldier of the
first rank, as his successor; who at the outset skilfully severed the
union between the northern or Protestant and the southern or Catholic
provinces. If Burghley could have had his own way untrammelled, he
would have dealt straightforwardly with Orange, giving him support
enough to keep him from calling in France, and still hoping to bring
about an accommodation with Parma possible of acceptance by both
parties. Neither he nor Walsingham now had any belief in joint action
with France, in which their confidence had been permanently blotted
out by the Paris massacre. Neither of them, therefore, saw good in the
Alençon marriage as a genuine project, while both saw infinite danger
in merely playing with it. They differed, as it would seem, only as to
the length they were prepared to go in helping Orange, Burghley drawing
the line at the point where he thought Philip might be driven into a
declaration of open war, while the Secretary would have taken bigger
risks, accepting open war if Philip chose. The Queen’s object was the
same as Burghley’s, but she elected, according to her habit, to seek
it not by straightforward, but by crooked, courses. She would give
Orange the minimum of help, but she would, by playing with Alençon,
either keep France out of it, or else embroil France and Spain, keeping
herself out of it till she could strike in as arbiter. To do which, she
had to induce every one to believe that she probably meant marrying,
while trusting to her own ingenuity and the chapter of accidents to
effect, if the worst came to the worst, an escape not too ruinously
ignominious. If she really did know what she wanted, it was more than
any of her Council did, and she drove them almost to despair.

So the juggling went on; the Queen blew hot and cold with Alençon,
and tried to inveigle France into a league without a marriage; the
French tried to get the marriage secured as preliminary to a league.
Drake came home, his ship loaded with spoils; but the remonstrances
of Mendoza were met by complaints of the assistance given by Spain
to the Desmond rebellion in Ireland. Walsingham was flatly opposing
the marriage, and the Puritan element in the country at least was
with him to a man. Parsons and Campion, and the Jesuit propaganda,
had set Puritans and Catholics alike in a ferment. In the summer of
1581 Alençon was still dangling, France was still waiting to have
the marriage question settled, Philip had just annexed Portugal, and
Burghley himself was despairing of a peaceful outcome.

Under these circumstances, Elizabeth again chose to despatch Walsingham
on an embassy to Paris. He was to get the Queen out of the marriage
without upsetting the French. He was to get France to espouse the
cause of Orange, while England was only to render secret pecuniary
aid. Whether, in the last resort, the Queen would accede to the
marriage for the sake of a secret league, or would accede to an open
league to escape the marriage, or would positively on no condition
have either marriage or open league, or would still keep the marriage
unaccomplished but unrejected if she could, Walsingham did not know;
for whatever instructions he received were liable to be contradicted
in twenty-four hours. He was to extract his mistress from the tangle
in which she had involved herself, and might understand that whatever
means he found for doing so would be angrily condemned.

Naturally, he found the situation almost impossible. The King and the
Queen-Mother would make an open league and let the marriage go; of
that, he felt satisfied. But they would not have an undeclared league,
nor commit themselves at any price to any war in the Low Countries,
if there were any possible loophole for Elizabeth to back out of
supporting them. She must be so committed that she could not back out.
The suspicion that she was only dallying both with the marriage and the
league could only be got rid of by the most straightforward dealing,
and if she would not listen to advice there was the gravest danger
that she would find France, Spain, and Scotland all united against
her. He wrote in very plain terms that if she would not make up her
mind to a liberal expenditure, and convince her neighbours that she
had done so, ruin threatened. The instructions from England continued
to be evasive, non-committal. The personal correspondence between
Burghley and Walsingham is particularly interesting, as showing the
complete confidence between them, the loyalty with which the Treasurer
fought the Secretary’s battles with the Queen, though in vain, and
Walsingham’s entire frankness to him.

“Sorry I am,” he writes, “to see her Majesty so apt to take offence
against me, which falleth not out contrary to my expectation, and
therefore I did protest unto her, after it had pleased her to make
choice of me to employ me this way, that I should repute it a greater
favour to be committed to the Tower, unless her Majesty may grow more
certain in her resolutions there.” Twelve days later he fairly exploded
in a letter to the Queen herself. He told her point-blank that she
had already lost Scotland, and was like enough to lose England too,
by her parsimony, and finished up--“If this sparing and improvident
course be held still, the mischiefs approaching being so apparent as
they are, I conclude therefore ... that no one that serveth in place
of a Counciller, that either weigheth his own credit, or carrieth that
sound affection to your Majestie as he ought to do, that would not wish
himself in the farthest part of Ethiopia, rather than enjoy the fairest
palace in England. The Lord God therefore direct your Majestie’s heart
to take that way of councel that may be most for your honour and
safety.”

Nothing came of the embassy; not even the ruin foretold by Walsingham.
The wonderful Queen managed somehow to keep Alençon dangling; and while
he dangled there would be no decisive breach with France. In November
he was in England again. She promised to marry him, kissed him, and a
few weeks later told Burghley that she would not marry the man on any
terms. The ministers, of course, could see nothing possible but an
irreconcilable quarrel with France over the affair sooner or later;
and again Burghley’s efforts were directed to pacifying Mendoza, and
Walsingham’s to forcing Elizabeth into openly supporting Orange. In the
Council Burghley was practically alone; yet Walsingham could not effect
his object. The impending avalanche did not fall--and then Alençon in
effect committed suicide by trying to play the traitor and failing
ignominiously to carry out his plot; thereby making himself obviously
and hopelessly impossible. The rupture with France on that score was
averted. His death a year later, in 1584, made Henry of Navarre actual
heir presumptive to the crown of France; and then the question of
the succession became, and remained, so critical that all parties in
France were too hotly engaged in their own contests to take effective
part in quarrels beyond their borders. Orange was assassinated; the
Throgmorton plot had convinced Burghley himself that the duel with
Spain was inevitable; and in 1585 Parma’s skill brought affairs in the
Netherlands to a point at which nothing but the armed intervention
of England could apparently save the revolted provinces from utter
destruction. Before the end of the year Elizabeth was in open league
with them. At last, circumstances had compelled her officially to
commit herself to Walsingham’s policy, though even now she could not
bring herself to resign either her systematic penuriousness or her
systematic vacillation.


V

DETECTIVE METHODS

Walsingham has hitherto appeared in the character of a foreign minister
or ambassador with two main functions--to gauge the intentions
of foreign courts, and to carry out a policy with which he was
dissatisfied by methods which he abominated: the ally of Leicester in
the policy he advocated, the ally of Burghley in his moral attitude
towards the Queen. She and Burghley were at one in the knowledge that
she must preserve Continental Protestantism from sheer destruction, and
in the determination to limit their help, so long as it was possible to
do so, in such wise as to avoid war with Spain. Since 1577 Walsingham
had been opposed to that limitation; in 1584 Burghley himself was
relinquishing it with reluctance, and with the persistent hope that a
reconciliation might again become possible.

As a diplomatist, Sir Francis appears to have possessed in a high
degree the quality of impenetrability, the precision of veracity which
has the effect of _suppressio veri_ or of _suggestio falsi_, misleading
of set purpose but without deviation from formal truth. The ethics of
the twentieth century have not yet learnt to condemn skilful deception
in this kind, at any rate where it is not directed to personal ends.
But the means which, in other capacities than that of an ambassador,
Walsingham employed for obtaining information, were not always such
as would be ventured on to-day by a politician who was unwilling to
be called unscrupulous. Yet they were means which--so far as they can
with certainty be attributed to him--would have been unhesitatingly
sanctioned by almost every contemporary.

It has to be borne in mind, in the first place, that throughout the
Elizabethan period every country in Europe was thick with plots, with
the political intention of a violent _coup d’état_, or the religious
intention of removing an obnoxious personality. While Elizabeth was on
the throne the list of successful assassinations included those of two
Dukes of Guise, a King of France, the Prince of Orange, Darnley, Moray,
and the victims of St. Bartholomew. Attempts which only just failed
were made on Orange and Coligny. There were at least three plots--those
known by the names of Ridolfi, Throgmorton, and Babington--in favour
of Mary Stewart, and involving the assassination of Elizabeth, in
which Philip, or some of his ministers, or the Guises, or the Pope, or
Cardinal Allen, were implicated, besides minor ones. Rizzio’s murder
was political; and Burghley’s life was the object of a conspiracy.
These are merely a few conspicuous instances out of a very long roll.
The ingenuity of zealots, on either side, who honestly believed that
in slaying a leader of heretics or of persecutors they were rendering
acceptable service to the Almighty, was backed by the unscrupulousness
of politicians, who might not, indeed, themselves be prepared to stab
or poison, but were quite ready to make use of those who would do
so. In England especially there were vast interests involved in the
removal of Elizabeth, whose legitimate heir was, beyond all question,
the Catholic Queen of Scots. Plots merely directed against the Queen’s
person were serious enough; but they might be combined with schemes for
invasion or concerted insurrection, like the revolt of the northern
Earls. The plotters were perfectly unscrupulous. Nothing could be more
certain than that, so long as the Queen of Scots was alive and in
captivity, there would be a series of conspiracies, with or without
her connivance, having it as their object to place her on the throne
of England. And we must remember, further, that, to intensify the
situation, a Papal Bull had declared that while it was not incumbent
upon Catholics in England actively to hatch treason against the Queen
of England, it was incumbent on them to countenance, and meritorious to
take part in it.

With the tremendous issues at stake, both national and religious, with
the forces engaged in setting conspiracy in motion or in encouraging
it, with the untrammelled character of its operations, the nature
of the fight was obviously very different from anything with which
modern statesmen have to deal. Yet where active secret societies
are in existence, the police methods of modern Governments are the
police methods of Walsingham. The spy, the paid informer, the _agent
provocateur_, play the same part now as in the sixteenth century. It
was in the risks for a Spanish ambassador or agent that his secretary,
or some other person standing to him in a confidential relation, might
be in the pay of the English Secretary of State. Any influential person
suspected of Catholic leanings might wake up one morning to find that
a tolerably complete copy of his correspondence was in Walsingham’s
hands. A plot, big or small, might progress merrily while the plotters
hugged themselves on their skill and secrecy--till the psychological
moment arrived for dropping the mask, and they found that they had
merely been drawn into a carefully prepared trap.

Walsingham had no qualms about employing liars, perjurers, the basest
kind of scoundrels in this business. When he had caught his culprits
he quite deliberately applied the rack and other forms of torture to
extract evidence. He would have argued that the Queen’s enemies had
chosen their own method of fighting, and it was legitimate to meet them
with their own weapons--as Clive argued in the case of Omichund; that,
in fact, it was only by the use of their own weapons that he could make
sure of defeating them. Also he did not originate the system--espionage
and the rack were in full play when his foot was only on the lowest
rung of the ladder. Also, these methods were not employed vindictively,
but with the single object of obtaining true information by which
treasonous designs might be frustrated. Also, in acting as he did, he
did not violate the public conscience--or his own, with its rigid Old
Testament limitations.

But there is one case in which he is charged with having gone farther.

It would be difficult to find any even approximate parallel to the
position of Mary Stewart in England. Whatever her own attitude might
be, she was the inevitable centre of Catholic plots of the most
far-reaching order. While she lived, the throne of Elizabeth and the
triumph of the Reformation in England could never be secure. She was
held captive on no legitimate ground, but solely because her title to
the English throne was so strong that the Queen could not afford to
set her at liberty. In plain terms, the national security required
her death, but unless she could be convicted of plotting against the
life of Elizabeth, there was no legitimate ground for putting her to
death. The eighth Henry would have made short work with her; there
was no European sovereign who would not have made short work with any
dangerous pretender to his crown who lay completely in his power. Yet
even the Throgmorton conspiracy was not turned to her destruction;
Elizabeth had her own reasons for preferring to keep her captive alive.
But the Throgmorton revelations, with the assassination of Orange, the
death of Alençon, the approach of the Spanish crisis, and the growing
certainty that Mary’s son would not take her place as the figure-head
for Catholic conspiracies, went far to cancel Elizabeth’s reasons. To
Walsingham, alike as patriot and protestant, the death of Mary had long
been about the most desirable event that could occur; and now he saw
his way to compass it--to inveigle her within reach of the law.

He reckoned it as a certainty that if she found herself able to
communicate with her partisans undetected, she would soon enough get
involved in some plot of a character which would justify her doom
in the eyes of the world. A supposed adherent of hers, a Jesuit,
devised means of communicating with her and of passing her secret
correspondence in and out of Chartley Manor. She fell into the trap:
the supposed adherent was Walsingham’s agent. Every letter was opened
and copied. A plot was soon on foot for her liberation, an invasion,
and the deposition of Elizabeth, whose assassination by Anthony
Babington was part of the scheme. From Walsingham’s point of view, the
vital point was to get her definitely implicated in Babington’s part of
the conspiracy. At last, Philips, the decipherer of the correspondence,
produced a letter which was decisive. Then Walsingham struck. The
bubble burst; Mary was tried and condemned.

Now an issue appears between Walsingham and Mary. The Scots Queen
admitted participation in the plot up to a certain point: she denied
_in toto_ knowledge of the intended assassination. Apart from certain
phrases in one letter, it cannot be conclusively shown that she was
lying. The conditions made it possible that she never wrote those
incriminating phrases; that they were forged. Did Walsingham fabricate
that evidence in order that Mary might be prevented from escaping what
he regarded as her just and necessary doom, on a technical plea? Did
Philips forge it and persuade him that it was genuine? Or was it in
fact genuine? Mendoza believed that Mary was in the secret, but Mendoza
may have been under a misapprehension. No one will ever be able to
answer that riddle decisively. But the form of Walsingham’s denial,
when the imputation of forgery was made in court, is worth noting. “As
a private person, I have done nothing unbecoming an honest man, nor,
as I bear the place of a public person have I done anything unworthy
my place.” If Walsingham did fabricate the evidence, he did it with
a clear conscience; that is, with an honest conviction that he was
discharging a duty; that he was “doing nothing unworthy his place.” The
thing is perfectly conceivable. No one will deny that John Knox was a
conscientious man; but John Knox justified assassination. Walsingham
himself thought it permissible in certain circumstances. But the case
is not proved one way or the other. The twist in his rigid conscience
may not have been crooked enough for that. Yet the whole business of
deliberately making arrangements to facilitate plotting on his victim’s
part is hardly on a different plane. The point of interest lies in the
fact that under sixteenth-century conditions such acts were committed
and were sanctioned without compunction not only by men without
conscience, or of careless conscience, or of conventional or adaptable
conscience, but by the very men who held hardest to moral ideals: men
whose serious purpose was to do all to the glory of God.


VI

THE END

For all her confidence in and dependence on Walsingham, the Secretary
was never _persona grata_ with Elizabeth. She abused him more roundly
and more frequently than any other member of her Council. If an
opportunity offered of setting him a task which was utterly against
the grain, she would not let it go; and she liked him none the better
for his share in making her responsible for the death of Queen Mary.
In that, as in passing from covert to overt war with Spain, she was
compelled to follow his policy; but she did not increase her favour
to him and his allies, and she followed the policy with marked
ill-will. Nothing could avert a desperate conflict, yet she continued
to the last to drive the war-party half-frantic by parsimony, by
issuing impracticable orders, by imposing paralysing restrictions, by
temporising with Parma and threatening to betray her allies. And when
the great Armada was triumphantly shattered by English seamen, and
thereafter overwhelmed by the winds and the waves, and Drake would have
delivered a still more fatal blow by rending Portugal from Philip, she
carefully tied the Admiral up with instructions which doomed the Lisbon
expedition to fruitlessness and its great organiser to discredit and
practical retirement.

If Walsingham lived to see England freed from the nightmare of Mary
Stewart, and on a palpable equality with Spain, the accession of the
leader of “the Religion” in France to the throne, if not as yet to
the rulership, of that country, and the rise of a worthy successor to
William the Silent in the person of Maurice of Nassau, yet his last
years were full enough of bitterness. He had striven devotedly with
a single eye to the welfare of his country, so loyally and with such
absence of self-seeking that he had beggared himself in the process.
His services--invaluable yet unwelcome--were requited by chill
disfavour; the assistance to which gratitude and justice should have
entitled him was denied, since lavish bounty to Walter Raleigh suited
the Queen’s humour better at the time; and the statesman who with
Burghley had done most, for twenty years, for the honour and the safety
of England, died so poor that he was buried quietly and privately--at
his own desire--that his heirs might be spared the charges of a costly
funeral. Whether he was in alliance with Burghley, or in occasional
antagonism to the policy of his great colleague, the personal
friendship and fidelity of the two to each other remained unbroken
to the end. That is almost the only pleasing reflection to which his
closing years give rise. For the rest, he passed from the world, one
more example of the ingratitude of princes.



SIR WALTER RALEIGH


I

CHARACTER

In his virtues and in his faults, in his brilliance and in his
limitations, in his greatness and in his defects, Walter Raleigh is
the very type of Elizabeth’s England. Like Robert Cecil, Spenser,
and Sidney, he was a child when the great queen ascended the throne;
like Shakespeare and Bacon, he had not passed the full vigour of
manhood when she died. He was a year older than Henry of Navarre, whom
he outlived by eight years. Walsingham was a grown man and William
Cecil a Secretary of State before any one of this younger group was
born. All of them were young men still when the crisis of Elizabeth’s
reign was reached and the Armada was dispersed. The older generation
raised England from weakness to strength; the younger saw her strength
made patent to the world. The older generation maintained her on the
defensive; it was the part of the younger to assert her primacy in
every field of endeavour.

Of this younger generation, Raleigh stands out as the typical
representative. In an age of men of action, he was one of the greatest
of the men of action. In one of the two greatest ages of English
poetry he was acclaimed as one of their peers by the poets. In the age
which saw the creation of English prose, he was one of the masters
of prose. The military world and the naval world were developing new
theories of strategy and tactics; in both fields he was a first-rate
authority and a brilliant performer. The expansion of Spain and
Portugal had brought new political conceptions into being; we owe
the conception of Greater Britain and all the first stubborn efforts
to realise it to the genius of Sir Walter. In a day of brilliant
courtiers, none was more brilliant than he; and in the day when Bacon
was formulating anew the principles of scientific inquiry, Raleigh was
incidentally an ardent experimentalist. In every field his versatility
was exercised, and in every field his place was in the front rank.

[Illustration: _SIR WALTER RALEIGH_

_From the Painting by_ FEDERIGO ZUCCARO _in the National Portrait
Gallery_]

And yet perhaps--save in one thing--never quite in the first rank.
His literary achievement does not set him beside Shakespeare and
Spenser. Drake was a greater commander and John Davis a greater
seaman. By land he was never tested in a great command. His scientific
pursuits were merely a parergon. As a statesman he never achieved the
control of England’s destinies; wily Robert Cecil was the craftier
politician. But two things he did: he taught Englishmen that the might
of England lay in her fleets--not as the accident of a moment but as a
permanent principle; and he created the idea of a Britain beyond the
seas, struggled for it almost alone year after year with persistent
tenacity, through good report and evil report and failure--finally
died for it. He it was that sowed the seed; ours is the tree that
sprang from it.


II

RALEIGH’S RISE

Walter Raleigh was born in 1552, a year before Mary Tudor ascended
the English throne. He was of a Devon house; himself, one of a large
and composite family, for his mother, Katharine Champernoun, was his
father’s third wife, and was herself a widow with several children
when she married him. It must have counted for something for a small
boy to have had two such big half-brothers as Humphrey and Adrian
Gilbert, both dreamers and idealists, and one of them a by-no-means
contemptible man of action to boot. The child was six years old when
the great persecution was ended by Elizabeth’s accession, and for the
next ten years he had endless opportunities of listening with all his
ears to mariners’ tales of Eldorado and of the Spanish Inquisition,
and learning at least watermanship if not seamanship. In 1568 he went
up to Oxford, at the moment when Alva was goading the Netherlands into
open rebellion and France was on the verge of a fresh outbreak of the
Huguenot wars. Raleigh’s career as an undergraduate was interrupted.
He went off to France as a volunteer, to get his baptism of blood at
Jarnac in March, and to be present at Montcontour later in the year.

After that, his career for some while is not easy to trace. It looks
as if he had returned to Oxford, for his name was still on the list of
undergraduates at Oriel in 1572; but it is also said that he remained
in France for five years, and even that he was in Paris at the time of
the massacre. In 1575 he entered--_pro forma_--at the Middle Temple;
and two or three years later appears to have been in the field again,
fighting in the Low Countries under Sir John Norreys. The chances are
that he had had some further military practice in the interval between
1569 and 1578, in France or the Netherlands or both, especially as his
brother Humphrey Gilbert was in command of the English contingent at
Flushing and elsewhere for some while. In 1578 Gilbert sailed on his
first colonising venture, and young Walter was one of his captains;
but the expedition, after a collision with some Spaniards, was driven
back to Plymouth by weather. In 1580, Raleigh emerges definitely as a
captain in the army employed for the suppression of Desmond’s rebellion
in Ireland--in which capacity he was present at the capture of
Smerwick, and had the unsavoury business of superintending the massacre
of the garrison.

Raleigh remained in Ireland on duty for something over a year, till
the end of 1581. While there he accomplished sundry feats of arms
of a brilliant character, all being of the kind in which personal
daring and skill, and resourcefulness in emergency, are the leading
characteristics--deeds in which he was acting with only some very small
escort. It was very much in the nature--_mutatis mutandis_--of police
work among hostile frontier tribes in India to-day. The young soldier’s
ideas of Irish government were derived from Humphrey Gilbert, who, in
all other relations of life, was a noble-hearted generous Christian
gentleman, but in this particular relation was as perfectly ruthless as
Alva himself might have been. It is one of the puzzles of the period
that men who upheld elsewhere the highest standards of chivalry and
honour--men such as Sussex, Henry Sidney, Walter Devereux--adopted
towards the native Irish the attitude of the primitive Hebrew towards
the Canaanites, seeming to account the human population as if they were
an irredeemably pernicious species of wild beasts; and Raleigh was no
exception to the rule.

Immediately on his return to England he sprang into high favour with
Elizabeth, partly through his brilliant abilities, partly through the
personal fascination which no one could exercise better when he chose.
But this charm was accompanied by an insatiable ambition, pridefulness,
and fiery temper, which effectually prevented him from making any
attempt to conciliate rivalry or hostility, cut him off from his
natural alliance with the court section of the war-party, and rather
associated him with Burghley. Favourite as he was, and in some ways
influential with the Queen, he was never admitted by her into the Privy
Council, though he was knighted so early as 1584, and received numerous
and exceedingly substantial marks of the royal goodwill.

In fact, it would seem that his imagination carried his mind away from
the current problems of administration and policy to another field.
He was less occupied with the question how war with Spain might be
precipitated or deferred than with that of setting up a rival empire.
If, as is most probable, the conception was primarily that of his
brother Humphrey Gilbert, the younger man made it his own; and in these
years the attempt to establish a colony in North America absorbed his
best energies and enthusiasms. For Burghley, Spain was primarily the
European Power which--however interests might clash--was a necessary
counterpoise to France; for Walsingham, she was the aggressive enemy
of Protestantism; for Raleigh, she was the claimant to the New World,
whose rights might be and ought to be successfully challenged by
England. Thus, the first desired to avert conflict; the second was at
least ready to join issue at once, lest it should be too late; whereas,
from Raleigh’s point of view, the time when Spain and England should
grapple was a matter of comparative indifference, provided that when
it arrived England should be ready. But there was probably no man
in England--not Drake himself--in whose political creed fundamental
hostility to Spain was a more essential article.

There is, however, a curious story that in 1586 Raleigh was engaged
in Spanish negotiations on his own account, which negotiations had
as their object that he should take measures to hamper the English
preparations for war, himself selling a couple of ships to Spain; and
it appears to be implied that he was one of those young gentlemen
about the Queen’s person who were going to put through Babington’s
plot for her assassination. We may therefore recall the fact that in
the Ridolfi days John Hawkins had figured as an enemy of his Queen,
only thirsting to betray the fleet to Philip. Hawkins, of course, was
really working in collusion with Burghley, and the whole thing was a
trick. It need not surprise any one, therefore, if Raleigh played the
same game at this time, though on a smaller scale. It would be a matter
of course, then, that pains would be taken to give the Spaniards--and
their informants in England--the impression that Sir Walter was really
disaffected. As for Ballard and Babington, they were so completely in
the toils of Walsingham from the outset that Raleigh may very well have
actually been the Secretary’s accomplice in tricking them. Patriotism,
principle, and consistency apart, no one has ever accused him of
lacking intelligence, of which he would stand hopelessly convicted
if the suggested allegations were true. Moreover, a man with so many
enemies would not have escaped without being incriminated. The only
definitely known facts are that he was at this time in communication
with Spain, and that the Spaniards had an idea that he was
well-affected towards them. The only inference we can quite confidently
draw is that he was hoodwinking them, though nothing definite seems to
have resulted.

When the Armada was expected, Raleigh was Vice-Admiral of the West, and
was also one of the special Defence Commission. It was on the great
ship which he had himself designed, the _Ark Raleigh_, that Admiral
Howard hoisted his flag; but Raleigh was not one of the commanders in
the fleet. He had been largely occupied in organising the defences in
the West Country, and had been urgent in pressing the true strategical
policy of fighting and beating the Spaniard on the sea--of an offensive
naval war as the only true defensive war. But it is not quite certain
whether he even had any personal part in the Armada engagements at all;
though, on the whole, there is not sufficient ground for discarding
the common report that he joined the fleet as a volunteer after the
engagement off Portland. At that stage, all fears had passed that the
Spaniard might effect a landing in the western division of the channel,
where Raleigh was responsible for the arrangements for meeting the
invader. Until then, he had been bound to remain at his post on shore.
But now, not only did the English fleet know that it was a match for
the enemy, but, if chance should enable them to attempt a landing,
it would certainly not be in Raleigh’s district. So there is an _a
priori_ probability that, being free to join the ships, he would not
have missed the opportunity if it offered. There is no doubt, in any
case, that he fully understood and appreciated the tactics adopted--a
complete innovation in the methods of naval warfare--whether he did or
did not take actual part, as a gentleman-volunteer, in the manœuvres.

The great _débâcle_ initiated a new phase in the relations of Spain
to England and to Europe generally. The defeat, of course, was not
of itself a death-blow, though if victory had gone the other way--if
the English fleet had been in effect annihilated--an invasion under
Parma would have followed; and Parma was the best general living,
while the whole number of Englishmen who had any real experience of
military service was small. But hitherto, wherever the Spaniards went,
afloat or ashore, they had the prestige of success; now at a single
blow the prestige passed from Spain to England--the theory of Spanish
invincibility was shattered. The change had no less effect on Spain’s
enemies on the Continent than in England, where for years past the
seamen at least had been in the habit of taking for granted that they
understood the art of fighting on the sea infinitely better than their
antagonists. Now, however, the landsmen and the men of peace had had
ocular demonstration of what the sailors had long been affirming as the
conclusion from their own practical experience. England, hitherto on
the defensive, was converted into the attacking power, and was filled
with the spirit of aggression.


III

VIRGINIA

Between his seventeenth and his thirtieth years, Raleigh was completing
his education as a soldier by his experiences in varied fields from
Jarnac to Munster--sandwiching in, as it would appear, some residence
at Oxford, and some in London as a nominal student of the law; not
actually becoming a courtier but making his first _entrée_ among
the associates of the court. In his thirtieth year he returned
from Ireland to London, with a reputation as a dashing officer, and
immediately made his way into the good graces of the Maiden Queen
who, already verging on fifty, was demanding with increased instead
of diminished avidity the amorous adulation of those who would find
favour in her eyes. Raleigh made love to her on the recognised lines;
with distinguished success, also on the recognised lines; to his own
profit, and the extreme annoyance of the Leicesters and Hattons. The
famous story of the cloak may or may not be true--it rests only on
the authority of that chronicler whom every self-respecting author
is obliged to refer to as “old Fuller”--but it is one of those
traditions which, like King Alfred’s cakes and George Washington’s
little hatchet, can never be surrendered. In these years there are
tales of Hatton’s jealousy; records of appeals to the favourite to
intervene now on behalf of Burghley, now of Leicester, to mitigate
the royal displeasure; rumours, such as may have been concocted by
spite, of not over-scrupulous methods employed in the pursuit of
personal aggrandisement. Beside these stories of court-gossip and
intrigue are those of his association with Bohemian literary circles,
of his originating the meetings at the Mermaid, of his friendship with
Marlowe, and his reputed “atheism”--a quite incredible, if by no means
surprising, charge against a man whose speculations were probably
as bold and unconventional in the field of religion as in those of
political, naval, and military theory. But assuredly the author of the
“History of the World” was no atheist.

But during these years, between 1582 and 1588, he was something more
than the brilliant courtier, keen-witted humanist, and active member of
the Defence Commission--he was the pioneer of colonial expansion.

Humphrey Gilbert was thirteen years older than his half-brother, whose
hero he would seem to have been, not undeservedly, in Raleigh’s younger
days. Of brilliant attainments, the bravest of the brave, intensely
religious, an idealist and dreamer, he was a kind of incarnation of
Arthurian knighthood; for the very mercilessness he displayed in
Ireland was by no means the outcome of inhumanity but of a fixed belief
that the Irish ought to be accounted not as human beings but as beasts
of prey. Raleigh himself was hardly more than a boy when his brother
was already fixing his thoughts on the colonisation of North America
and the discovery of the North West Passage. It cannot therefore be
claimed for Sir Walter that he actually originated the Colonial idea,
which was Gilbert’s; but he entered into it from the first and made it
his own; while Gilbert lived, they worked for it together; and when the
Atlantic billows swallowed up Sir Humphrey, it was to Raleigh that his
mantle passed undisputed.

About the time that the young man was entered at the Temple, Sir
Humphrey was at work on the treatise “to prove a passage by the North
West to Cathay and the East Indies,” which was published in 1576 by
Gascoign. In 1578 he obtained a charter authorising what he had already
been petitioning for four years earlier, an expedition to discover
and take possession of unknown lands--the charter extending over six
years. We have already noted Raleigh’s participation in the first
expedition, which put to sea late in 1579 but was obliged to return
to port with nothing accomplished. In 1583 the second expedition
sailed; but this time Raleigh, though he had embarked everything he
could in the venture, was at the last moment peremptorily forbidden
to accompany it in person by his exigent mistress. Quite definitely,
the purpose of the expedition was not to hunt for precious metals but
to establish a permanent agricultural settlement. Incidentally, it is
to be noted that Walsingham was active in furthering the project. The
expedition took formal possession of Newfoundland, but this was not its
actual destination. Disasters overtook it, and Gilbert finding himself
compelled for the time to abandon the design, sailed for England.
On the course of the voyage, the little _Squirrel_, in which he was
sailing, went down in a storm with all hands on board. Raleigh was
left to struggle single-handed for the carrying out of his brother’s
conception.

Now begins the story of Raleigh’s persistent effort at the colonisation
of Virginia.

A fresh patent was issued to Sir Walter, who had just been knighted,
in March 1584--just two years after his first entry into Elizabeth’s
court. The first step was taken immediately--an exploring expedition,
which found its way to the island of Roanoak on the coast of what is
now Carolina, opened friendly intercourse with the natives, took formal
possession, and returned to report.

Raleigh was largely interested in the series of Arctic voyages
undertaken by John Davis during the three ensuing years: exploration
and discovery pure and simple had an attraction for him only less
powerful than colonisation; but it was to this that he devoted his
keenest energies, and on this that he poured out the wealth he was
acquiring. In the spring of 1585 his fleet sailed for Virginia, as the
new settlement was called, under the command of his kinsman, Richard
Grenville. Raleigh himself the Queen, of course, could not spare. The
open breach with Spain and the open alliance with Orange were now
approaching rapidly, and Grenville’s voyage seems to have been, in his
own eyes, directed more against Spaniards than with a single eye to the
colony. In due course, however, Roanoak was reached, and the settlement
established with Ralph Lane as governor; and Grenville came home.
Unluckily, the original friendly relations with the natives were upset;
the quarrel led the colonists into “making an example” of an Indian
village; and the Indians resolved to retaliate. Till their opportunity
should come, they merely made things as difficult as they could for the
Englishman. A relief-expedition had been promised for the following
Easter. It did not appear; but Drake did, with the fleet which had just
been employed in sacking Cartagena. The settlers resolved to throw up
their attempt, and returned to England with Drake. A few days after
they had sailed, the delayed relief party under Grenville arrived to
find the settlement abandoned. Fifteen volunteers were now left behind,
to keep the place in occupation; but when a new band of settlers with
a new governor arrived in the following spring (1587), they found
that the little garrison had been massacred. The party set about
establishing a settlement once more; but under the existing conditions
they induced John White, the governor, to return himself to England to
bring fresh supplies and reinforcements.

This was the year in which the Armada ought to have sailed against
England; but Drake’s successful raid on the harbour of Cadiz deferred
the invasion for a year. In the meantime, however, it was a matter
of extreme difficulty to get permission for any ship to leave an
English port. The demands of the coming duel were paramount. A couple
of relief vessels with White were hardly allowed to sail; and these
returned without reaching the colony. Again, the next year there was
an expedition, but it found Roanoak deserted, and learned that the
settlers had taken up fresh quarters. But neither did it discover them,
nor did any one of the search expeditions which Raleigh subsequently
despatched one after another.

He had spent £40,000--the equivalent of something like five times that
sum at the present day. For a dozen years his ships sailed--sometimes
with fresh settlers, sometimes with stores only; to meet only with
disappointment--often with nothing but reports that the bones of the
last party left behind were bleaching in some undiscovered spot.
Half of the pioneers themselves were ready to turn back, abandoning
the adventure, as soon as they realised that their business was not
going to be picking up gold and silver. Men of Grenville’s type
enjoyed themselves thoroughly when they were boarding Spanish galleons
against immense odds, or engaged in any other form of dare-devilry; a
different type was required to settle down to a stubborn fight with
Nature, and found rural or commercial communities. The necessary type
was forthcoming in course of time, but it had not yet realised the
field that was open to it. As yet there were none to experiment, save
adventurers who wanted something quite other than North America had to
give. At last Raleigh felt that for a time, but only for a time, he
was beaten; that to obtain support he must have prospects to suggest,
at least, of gold mines and silver mines; and his next great venture
was in another region where the golden city of Manoa was fabled to
be hidden. But he never lost faith in his own ideal, or recanted his
prophecy that the northern Continent would yet be possessed and peopled
by men of his own race, that he would live to see Virginia an English
nation. His own experiment failed; yet he lived to see the beginnings
of fulfilment under other auspices, when again a colony of Virginia
received a charter in 1606--this time to establish and maintain herself
as the mother of the American people.


IV

AFTER THE ARMADA

The spirit of aggression engendered by the Armada was too strong for
Burghley and his mistress to oppose directly. Their object was to give
it such an outlet as would satisfy popular sentiment without ruining
Spain; and popular sentiment, as they saw, would find satisfaction in
a mere extension of the old raiding warfare upon Spanish commerce. The
danger, in their eyes, was that the control of operations might fall
into the hands of men who not only desired to annihilate Spain but
knew how to do it. Drake and Raleigh recognised in Spain the one Power
which stood in the way of a complete English dominion of the seas,
with everything that would mean: that dominion was already almost won,
and could be made good. But if Drake were discredited, Raleigh would
be unable to give their policy effect. This was duly brought about by
the manipulation from headquarters of the Lisbon expedition, which
caused it to fail of accomplishing its immediate object. Thereafter the
policy was indeed anti-Spanish, but on the lines advocated by Hawkins
and Essex (who may now be said to have taken the place occupied by
Leicester till his death in 1588), not by Raleigh and Drake.

The distinction between Raleigh’s political conceptions and those of
his contemporaries marks the transition of which he was conscious
and they were not. Their eyes were fixed upon Europe. Burghley’s
calculations were always directed to the preservation of a balance
of power on the Continent; he was afraid of France, and knew the
commercial value of the Burgundian alliance. The New World did not
appeal to him at all--a rivalry there would hardly have seemed to him
desirable. The ordinary Englishman, on the other hand, felt that Spain
had proved herself the enemy of his country and his creed, and in the
moment of victory his views were roughly summed up in two phrases--_vae
victis_; and, _the spoils for the victors_. He had no very definite
ideas as to the further results, though he might have the triumph of
“the Religion” over Popery in his mind. If he thought of the New World,
it was not as a land where he might make himself a new home, but as a
Tom Tiddler’s ground for bold adventurers. Raleigh saw the vision of
the boundless empire occupied by the men of his own race. There are
indications that if Walsingham had lived Raleigh would have stood less
alone; but Walsingham died, poor and in disfavour, in 1590.

Roughly speaking, then, for some years after the Armada the war party
at large predominated; maintaining the system of persistent warfare
on Spanish commerce, varied at intervals with more effective blows
such as the attack on the Bretagne forts held by the Spaniards (in
league with the Guises), and the great Cadiz expedition. In these moves
Raleigh’s voice and hand were heard and felt; but they were isolated
moves, not followed up--largely owing to the clever management of
the Cecils, in whom the Queen really placed her reliance. The war
party itself was ruled in effect by the young Earl of Essex, whose
personality was particularly obnoxious to the Cecils, while his policy
was comparatively acceptable to them. Essex, being desperately jealous
of Raleigh’s general favour with the Queen, Sir Walter was generally on
friendly terms with the Cecils; whereas anything but a very temporary
show of amity between the two Court rivals was entirely out of the
question. And whenever Essex had access to the Queen he had the better
of the contest. These controlling conditions make Raleigh’s career at
this time intelligible.

Both Raleigh and Essex accompanied the Lisbon expedition in 1589.
Raleigh was with Drake; Essex, who had joined in defiance of orders,
with the land force. The fleet was in no way responsible for the
failure, though the blame was carefully laid on Drake; Raleigh,
ostensibly at any rate, rather gained in favour with the Queen, who was
extremely angry with Essex. The Earl, however, recovered his ascendency
while his rival was in Ireland in this same year. Then came another
period of Raleigh’s ascendency. Essex married Philip Sidney’s widow,
thereby infuriating his mistress; and, when he had been forgiven, was
not kept at Court, but sent to command the English contingent in France
in support of the king, Henry IV.--who was warring for his throne
against the Guises, backed by Philip. Still, the raiding policy held
the field, and the naval operations of 1590 were conducted by Hawkins
and Frobisher. The Treasure fleet, against which it was directed, had
warning and did not sail into the trap, so that the expedition was
practically a failure. A similar expedition was planned for the next
year, in which Raleigh was to have sailed as Vice-Admiral, Lord Thomas
Howard being in command; but, Essex being in France, Elizabeth would
not spare him, and Grenville went instead, to meet his death in the
last famous fight of the _Revenge_. The next year, Raleigh and the Earl
of Cumberland had a great enterprise on hand; but, again, Raleigh was
ordered to turn back and resign his command to Frobisher.

At this time Sir Walter fell into complete disgrace at Court, partly
because he did not at first obey the Queen’s orders, partly because
of the discovery of his _liaison_ with Elizabeth Throgmorton, who
became his wife--whether he was already secretly married to her is a
matter of some doubt. He was placed in confinement, and wrote the most
outrageous letters to Robert Cecil anent the misery of being deprived
of the sunshine of the Royal presence; in the then conventional
form of adulation for Gloriana. He was more or less forgiven when
the ships under the command of his lieutenant, Borough, returned,
with a very rich prize, of the value whereof Elizabeth took one-half
for herself. Incidentally, the whole story of this enterprise shows
that Raleigh could make himself as popular with sailors as unpopular
elsewhere; for the crews nearly mutinied when they found he was to be
displaced by Frobisher; and after they landed, Robert Cecil was quite
perturbed at the discovery of their devotion to him, their wrath at his
imprisonment, and his influence over them when he was sent down to the
port to keep matters straight.

Raleigh was released, but he no longer basked in the sunshine of the
Virgin Queen’s favour, and lived away from the Court, spending much of
his time at his newly acquired estate of Sherborne. About this time
his rival, returned from France, was admitted to the Privy Council,
from which he himself was still excluded; but he became active in
Parliament, in private matters relating to his various estates, and in
planning his great expedition for the “discovery of Guiana”; while he
was also an energetic advocate of the policy of expelling the Spaniards
from Brittany, relying--in full accord with the school of Drake--on the
navy as England’s instrument for fighting her great foe. The persuasive
eloquence of his tongue would seem to have equalled the picturesque
force of his pen, which had been displayed in more than one pamphlet,
notably in his extremely vivid account of the great fight in which
his kinsman Grenville lost his life--where his narrative powers are
associated with a singularly telling rhetorical invective directed
against the Spaniards.

For a dozen years past, however, Raleigh had hardly put to sea in his
own person, or seen much fighting. In 1595 he reappears as emphatically
a man of action.


V

FAVOUR AND FALL

The Virginia project was for the time abandoned, since it had become
clear that no serviceable co-operation could be expected from any
quarter. If the establishment of a working colony in North America
was out of his power, Raleigh came to the conclusion that territorial
acquisitions on the southern continent might prove more attractive.
Rumour declared that the Peruvian Incas had set up in the interior
a new empire, known as Guiana, whose capital was the golden city of
Manoa; Spanish attempts to penetrate inland had failed. If England
established her sovereignty in the heart of South America, taking
possession of what was believed to be the richest country in the
world, the most short-sighted could see what a prospect was offered of
dominating her rival, in the field to which that rival laid exclusive
claim; and the most avaricious might anticipate opportunities of
accumulating enormous wealth.

So Raleigh organised his expedition for the exploration of the Orinoco
in 1595, taking command of it in person. The record of it we have
from his own pen. As a matter of course, he had sundry collisions
with the Spaniards, very much of his own seeking, capturing Berreo,
the Governor of Trinidad, from whom he extracted a certain amount of
information. Then he made his way some distance up the great river,
enduring many hardships, seeing many strange sights, and gathering
still more astonishing reports; collecting also samples of ore which
suggested the auriferous character of the district. It seems, however,
a somewhat curious omission on his part that he had sailed without
proper means either for mining or assaying. In all other respects he
proved himself an extremely competent explorer, in especial recognising
the necessity of cultivating--in contrast to the Spaniards--the
confidence and friendliness of the natives; carrying out his scheme,
not on the hypothesis of bringing home the maximum of loot, but of
preparing the way for the systematic entry of England into a great
inheritance. He was again doomed to disappointment. The Cecils at
this period were cooperating with him cautiously, but he could still
get no other support; the Queen was minded to participate royally in
profits, but she preferred to leave all the risks to others--and the
others preferred the immediate return from raids to any systematic and
laborious methods, however paying in the long run. Moreover, the credit
which Sir Walter gave to apparently authentic but fabulous tales of
Amazons and men whose heads do grow beneath their shoulders, brought
undeserved discredit on the explorer’s account of what he had actually
seen. In short, the result of his adventure seemed very likely to be,
that adventurers with very different methods would visit Guiana in
search of Eldorado; but the beginnings of an English Empire in America
were brought no nearer.

By this time Elizabeth was awaking to the fact that Spain’s power of
aggression on the seas had by no means disappeared; and Drake had once
more been called into counsel. In the winter of 1595, the great seaman
and his old colleague and rival John Hawkins were in joint command of
a new Panama expedition, in the course of which both of them died.
The Cadiz expedition next year was the fruit of the more efficient
policy which was being forced to the front by circumstances. General
reconciliation was the order of the day in England; the Cecils, the
Howards, Raleigh, and Essex were all on formal terms of alliance.
Philip was making great naval preparations, when an English force
appeared off Cadiz; Essex was the General, Effingham the Admiral; his
cousin, Lord Thomas Howard and Raleigh, were both on the War Council.
Effingham wished to land the soldiers and attack the town; Raleigh,
who had been absent from the Council of War, appeared in time to get
a hearing; the decision arrived at was reversed, and Raleigh in his
vessel headed the squadron as it sailed into Cadiz harbour. There is
no doubt that Sir Walter was the hero of the occasion, setting the
example of doing the right thing in the right way. The result was that
thirteen of Philip’s best warships were sunk or captured, a great fleet
of forty sail packed full of riches was taken or burnt, and Cadiz
itself was sacked completely and thoroughly, while the persons of the
inhabitants were protected and cared for with a most unaccustomed
generosity. Raleigh’s own narrative--he was badly wounded during the
engagement--gives the fullest account of the proceedings, but is in
the main substantiated by other evidence; and if he had no qualms about
asserting the merits of his own performance, he was also at pains
to emphasise with generous frankness the frank generosity displayed
towards him by his personal rival. In all the relations between him and
Essex, this is the pleasantest--one might almost say the only really
pleasing--episode.

At last Raleigh was restored to Court favour; but for a time a
superficial friendliness with Essex was maintained, and the pair were
again united with Lord Thomas Howard in the following year in what
was known as the Islands voyage: a futile performance, in which the
English fleet had the worst of luck in respect of weather, and Essex,
who was in supreme command, showed grave incompetence--which was
hardly unnatural, since he was quite inexperienced in naval warfare
and knew nothing whatever of naval strategy. At one stage Raleigh,
awaiting Essex off Fayal (in the Azores), with orders not to attack
till the whole force was assembled, found sufficient reason, after
some days’ delay, for effecting the capture of the place on his own
responsibility--to the extreme annoyance of Essex. The action was
executed with brilliant courage and success; but the Earl’s anger was
with difficulty appeased, and the old animosity between the rivals was
to a great extent revived by the incident.

For a time, however, Raleigh was not much at Court. But Essex, who was
popular with the mob, as the other was not, was jealous of every one,
and nearly every one was jealous of Essex. Old Lord Burghley died, and
a considerable part of the story of the Queen’s last years is really
the story of the crafty intriguing by which Robert Cecil first urged
Essex to the ruin on which he was ready enough to rush, and then laid
his mines for the destruction of Raleigh--while carefully avoiding the
odium in both cases. Essex, when in Ireland, acquired a fixed idea that
Sir Walter was the principal person whose machinations were compassing
his downfall; but there is little enough reason to suppose that he
had any one but himself to thank. The only effective machinations
were those of the people who covertly encouraged his own arrogance
and misconduct. Nevertheless, it is matter of regret that when Essex
fell, Raleigh--who had recently received insults from him--did take a
vindictive line, while Cecil was posing as the advocate of magnanimity.

A sketch such as this does not permit of an examination of the
intricate plottings that surrounded the old Queen as she was wearing
rapidly to her grave. Roughly speaking, the English Catholics outside
the country were zealous for the quite impossible succession of Philip
III. of Spain--a plan which did not appeal to the Catholics in England.
There were schemes for the succession of that monarch’s sister, which
found supporters only on the basis of her uniting the crowns of the
Netherlands and England, in independence of Spain. There were ideas of
marrying Arabella Stewart and Lord Beauchamp--each of whom had some
sort of title--with the object of preventing the accession of James
VI., whose claim on purely legitimist grounds was quite indisputable.
Cecil, satisfied that James was the winning candidate, made it his
business to convince that prince that his peaceful accession would be
entirely due to Cecil’s own masterly management, and that Raleigh in
particular was extremely antagonistic; while Raleigh himself was at no
pains to curry favour with the Scots king.

Scarcely was Elizabeth dead and James on the throne when a plot for
his removal and the substitution of Arabella was brought to light,
and Raleigh was charged with having sold himself to Spain and being a
principal agent in the conspiracy, which involved the introduction of
Spanish troops. The conduct of the trial was a monstrous perversion
of justice, and Raleigh was condemned as a traitor. Apart from the
inadequacy of the evidence and the palpable fact that it was full of
contradictions and of perjury, it remains incredible that Raleigh
should ever have seriously intended to support a Spanish domination.
It would not only have been a flat contradiction of his whole career,
a merely amazing folly in the man who in all England was the most
absolutely convinced of the rottenness of the power of Spain; there
was also no man alive who more thoroughly appreciated the historical
truth, that he who sells his own country to her enemies purchases
for himself not power and confidence but suspicion and contempt. The
part of Themistocles would not have attracted him. He might have been
capable of playing a selfish game; he was certainly not likely to play
a consciously unpatriotic one; but the game attributed to him by his
enemies would have been in his own eyes not only unpatriotic, but, from
the selfish point of view, egregiously stupid.


VI

CAPTIVE AND VICTIM

Raleigh was condemned to die as a traitor; but the sentence was not
carried out. Instead, he was relegated to the Tower, and was there
held a prisoner for twelve years--mainly occupied in scientific and
literary pursuits, varied by petitions for release. His chemical
experiments may be accounted as a hobby; but his writings would have
assured his fame had he possessed no other claim to recognition. They
range over the whole field of what the Greeks included under the term
“politics”--economics, the art of war, the art of government, political
institutions, as well as other subjects. The incidental discourses on
such matters, illustrated from the events _quorum pars magna fuerat_,
with his comments thereon, give the main permanent interest to his
“History of the World”--in itself a monument of such historical
learning as was available in his day. On every subject he touched he
wrote with a knowledge of facts and a penetrating perception of causes
which distinguish him as a political thinker of a high order; alive,
like Thomas More, to truths which had hardly won general recognition
two centuries after he was in his grave. He who in the great days had
been the intimate of Edmund Spenser was in the days of his captivity
on terms of friendship with Ben Jonson. He, too, wrote poetry, but
this was for him rather in the nature of an intellectual exercise or
accomplishment than of a creative order; little that can with certainty
be attributed to him has been handed down, though that little includes
lines (like “The Lie” and the sonnet to Spenser) which are immortal,
assuring him his place on the English Helicon. But his _magnum opus_
was that “History of the World” which King James condemned because it
spoke too “saucily” of the doings of princes, but which was ranked by
Oliver Cromwell next to his Bible.

Raleigh’s condemnation produced a curious effect. Hitherto, he had been
able to win the devotion of the few chosen intimates whom he accounted
his intellectual peers, and of the mariners who sailed under his
command, who adored him in much the same way and for the same reasons
as they adored Francis Drake. Among courtiers his open and aggressive
consciousness of intellectual superiority and his scornful attitude
made him intensely unpopular; and he was the pet aversion of the mob,
who had made a hero of Essex and regarded him as the Earl’s principal
enemy. Yet the sense that he was a victim of gross injustice, the
dignity and eloquence he displayed at his trial, the contrast between
this typical Elizabethan and the minions of the new Stewart Court,
brought about a revulsion of sentiment, and Raleigh in the Tower became
an object of admiration, and to Henry Prince of Wales of hero-worship.

A curious psychological study is afforded by Sir Walter’s letters when
he was lying under sentence of death. He condescended to appeal to the
king for mercy in terms which can only be called abject; yet the ink
was scarcely dry when he was writing to his wife with tender affection
and beautiful dignity. The conclusion afforded by a comparison of
the documents is that his personal attitude towards death was that
expressed in the letter to his wife, but that for the sake of his
family he felt bound to appeal for life, and the only form of appeal
from which anything might be hoped must be couched in that style of
pitiful self-abasement and fulsome flattery which he adopted--and by
which he felt himself degraded.

While Robert Cecil lived there was never much hope of liberty for Sir
Walter, who yet seems never to have realised that his old friend and
colleague was, under the surface, his most determined enemy. But the
prisoner, though now advanced in years--he was already fifty-one at the
time of the trial--never ceased to dream of Eldorado, and to petition
for liberty in order to make one more expedition to Guiana. Cecil died;
the rising favourite, Villiers, was a person whose influence could
be secured--at a price; and at last, after more than twelve years of
captivity, Raleigh was released, to prepare for his last voyage. But
the attitude of England to Spain had changed since Elizabeth’s death:
the ambassador Gondomar could twist King James round his little finger.
Raleigh meant to win his golden empire, and incidentally to teach the
old lesson of Spanish incapacity over again; Gondomar intended to use
that expedition for Raleigh’s destruction. Sir Walter played the game
on the old familiar theory of twenty--thirty--forty years before: that
success would excuse proceedings unauthorised, and even forbidden.
Every soul, from the king down, knew perfectly well that if the
adventurer did not set Spain at defiance, the adventure itself would be
a stupid farce.

So the greatest living Englishman was sent forth to his carefully
prepared destruction, to entangle himself in the toils laid by, and
at the bidding of, the minister of England’s old foe. Of course,
under the conditions the expedition was a disastrous failure. Raleigh
returned from it with a perfect knowledge that he was coming back to
irretrievable ruin and disgrace. It would have been easy enough for him
to find refuge in a French port; that he deliberately faced his fate
is sufficient proof that the charge of his having already sold himself
to France was a base slander. Raleigh’s enemies were everlastingly
accusing him of selling himself; they never produced a scintilla of
proof, and the sales were singularly unremunerative to a man who was as
careful of his own interests as any one when he did drive a bargain. He
had hardly landed in Plymouth when he was placed under arrest. Even now
he had an opportunity of escaping to France, but he refused to avail
himself of it. His doom was a foregone conclusion; the death sentence
passed on him in 1603 had never been cancelled.

He bore himself worthily; with the fortitude and dignity which were
almost a commonplace with Englishmen of the Tudor tradition. The king
of England, Elizabeth’s successor, struck off the head of the last of
the Elizabethan heroes, at the orders of the king of Spain. But the
degradation was only for a time. Spain had laid her enemy low; but the
lesson he had spent his life to teach his countrymen was bearing its
fruit even in the hour of his doom; to the men of Raleigh’s race was
destined the Empire of the seas, and of the new worlds which Spain had
arrogantly claimed.



INDEX


  A

  Agrarian distress, 20-21, 90-91, 95, 211, 223-224, 262

  Alençon, Duke of, 335-336, 341, 343-344, 347

  Alva, Duke of, 308, 330, 331, 335, 338

  Annates Act, 132, 135, 182

  Armada, 315-316, 367-369

  Arthur, Prince, 26, 30

  Ascham, Roger, 282, 283

  Askew, Anne, 328

  Assassinations, 349-350


  B

  Babington plot, 315, 353, 366-367

  Bacon, Nicholas, 282, 307

  Beauchamp, Lord, 385

  Benevolences, 51

  Beton, Cardinal, 189-190, 200, 214, 300

  Bible, vernacular version of, 185, 199, 218, 254

  Blount, Elizabeth, 192

  Bocher, Joan, 221

  Boleyn, Anne, Henry’s passion for, 57, 171-172, 175, 192, 194-195;
    marriage, 55, 56, 104, 136, 170, 195, 248;
    Act of Succession for issue of, 104;
    Henry’s treatment of, 199;
    fall of, 249-251;
    Cranmer’s attitude towards, 192, 194-195;
    execution of, 148, 195

  Boleyn, Mary, 192, 194, 251

  Bonner, Bishop, 210, 219, 221, 231, 261, 268, 272

  Buckingham, Duke of, 46, 50, 177

  Bucer, 264

  Burghley, Lord (William Cecil), family and early years of, 281-282;
    first marriage, 282;
    relations with Somerset, 283-284;
    second marriage, 283;
    relations with Warwick, 284;
    retirement, 288;
    ecclesiastical policy, 297;
    financial policy, 298-299;
    Scottish policy, 301-303;
    foreign policy, 303-306, 308, 311-312, 319;
    relations with Queen Elizabeth, 279-280, 289;
    views on privateering, 312-314;
    made Lord High Treasurer, 312 _note_, 339;
    war with Spain, 316;
    contrasted with Cromwell, Somerset, and Philip of Spain, 321;
    relations with Walsingham, 326, 346, 356-357;
    secret service created by, 330;
    death of, 318;
    characteristics of, 319-322

  Burgundy, 292, 304, 317, 334, 377

  Burning of heretics, 101, 271;
    repeal of statutes, 220, 226


  C

  Cabot, 19

  Calais Conference, 167

  Catherine de Medici, 295, 304, 332, 336-338

  Catherine of Aragon, &c. _See_ Katharine of Aragon

  Cecil, David, 281-282

  Cecil, Robert, 317, 362, 379, 385, 386, 387, 389

  Cecil, William. _See_ Burghley

  Chantries Act, 219

  Chapuys _cited_, 127, 132, 193, 195, 197

  Charles V., Emperor, candidature of, for the Empire, 45, 164;
    relations with France, 46-47, 146-147, 152-154, 166, 169, 184;
    on More, 111;
    Katharine’s policy as to, 194;
    Cromwell’s attitude towards, 183;
    Henry VIII.’s alliance with, 189

  Church:
    Act in Restraint of Appeals, 135, 137
    Act of Uniformity, 220-221;
      second Act of Uniformity, 232
    Annates Act, 132, 135, 182
    Burning of heretics. _See_ that title
    Cranmer’s views as to, 244-245
    Formularies, need for, 255
    Henry VIII.’s anti-clerical campaign, 102-103, 130-134, 246;
      Henry proclaimed Supreme Head, 181
    Indulgences, 241
    Litany, vernacular, 255
    Marriage of Secular clergy, 246, 259
    Monasteries, suppression of, 141-142, 145, 211, 224, 253
    Oath of Obedience to Pope, 247-248 _and note_
    Parties in, under Elizabeth, 296-297
    Prayer Books of Edward VI. (1549), 220, 261-262;
      (1552), 231, 265
    Reformation. _See_ that title
    Six Articles Act. _See_ that title
    Submission of the clergy, 134, 181, 246, 247
    Unpopularity of ecclesiastics, 64

  Clarke, John, 282

  Clement VII., Pope, 127, 133-135, 175, 241, 242

  Cleves, Anne of, 196;
    marriage with Henry VIII., 152-153, 184, 196-197

  Coinage,
    debasement of, 190, 229, 298;
    new issue under Elizabeth, 298

  Colet, Dean, 38, 63, 65, 78-81, 83, 85, 185, 240, 241

  Coligny, Admiral, 336-337

  Columbus, Christopher, 19

  Commercial and industrial policy, 16-18

  Conscience, 174-175, 326-327, 354-355

  Conservatism and Liberalism, 75-76

  Cranmer, Archbishop, family and early years of, 239;
    at Cambridge, 239-240;
    marriage, 240;
    on the divorce question, 135, 178, 242-243, 245;
    embassy to Bologna, 179, 245;
    second marriage, 246;
    appointed archbishop, 134, 185, 246-247;
    Erastianism, 150, 244-245;
    relations with Henry, 185-186, 218, 257;
    attitude towards Anne Boleyn, 195, 249-251;
    efforts for education, 253;
    pleads for Cromwell, 154, 252;
    at Henry’s death, 199;
    relations with Somerset, 222, 260;
    on the Lady Jane Grey succession, 267-268, 286;
    Book of Homilies by, 219, 259;
    moderating influence of, 231, 260, 266;
    views on the Eucharist, 264-265;
    on forms and ceremonies, 265;
    arrest and imprisonment, 269-270;
    disputation at Oxford, 270-271;
    Papal commission on, 271;
    excommunication, 272;
    recantations, 272-273;
    martyrdom, 273-275;
    estimates of, 237-239, 274-275;
    otherwise mentioned, 126, 198, 211, 230

  Crofts, Sir James, 315-316

  Cromwell, Thomas, family and early years of, 117-118, 121-122;
    in Parliament, 118-119, 122-123;
    relations with Wolsey, 120;
    Machiavellian principles of, 123-125;
    conduct on Wolsey’s fall, 125-126;
    rise in royal favour, 126-129;
    anti-clerical campaign, 130-131, 133, 135, 141-145, 181-182, 253;
    crushes More and Fisher, 137-140;
    Treasons Act, 139-140;
    Royal proclamations Act (1539), 141, 145;
    appointed Vicar-General, 141;
    campaign against the monasteries, 141-145;
    Statute of Uses, 143;
    the Exeter Conspiracy, 144-145;
    packing of parliaments, 145;
    attitude towards Protestantism, 146-147, 149-150;
    foreign policy of, 146-147, 183, 185, 188;
    Lutheran marriage scheme, 148, 152;
    position with the king, 179-181;
    differences, 183-186;
    relations with Cranmer, 150-151, 154, 252, 257;
    fall and execution, 153-154, 158, 186, 251-252;
    compared with Wolsey, 115-116;
    with More, 124;
    with Burghley, 321;
    characteristics of, 115-116, 174;
    estimate of, 115-117

  Cromwell, Walter, 117-118, 121


  D

  Darnley, 303, 329

  Davis, John, 373

  Day, Bishop, 231, 268

  Dorset, Marquess of, 38, 39, 228, 229

  Doughty, 313-314

  Drake, Admiral, 312-315, 340, 344, 373, 374, 383;
    the Lisbon expedition, 316, 318, 356, 378

  Dudley, Edmund, 22, 23, 29, 39, 83, 160

  Dudley, John (Northumberland).
    _See_ Northumberland

  Dudley, Robert.
    _See_ Leicester


  E

  Eastern rising (1549), 262

  Edward VI., King, accession of, 208;
    Scottish marriage project, 213, 215;
    first Prayer Book of (1549), 220, 261-262;
    second Prayer Book of (1552), 231, 265;
    names Lady Jane Grey his heir, 267-268

  Effingham, Lord Howard of, 316, 379, 383, 384

  Elizabeth of York, 7-8, 31-32

  Elizabeth, Queen, birth of, 248;
    Lord Seymour’s schemes regarding, 228-229;
    caution during Mary’s reign, 289;
    accession, 288;
    financial policy, 298-299;
    attitude towards Protestantism, 306;
    position in Continental politics, 47-48;
    Papal Bull deposing, 308-309, 350;
    sends Walsingham to the Netherlands, 341-342;
    encourages privateering, 312, 314, 341;
    policy of vacillation, 314;
    relations with Walsingham, 325-326, 342-343, 345, 355;
    Anjou marriage project, 334-335;
    Alençon marriage project, 335-336, 341, 343-344, 347;
    _rapprochement_ with Philip, 338;
    relations with Raleigh, 356, 365;
    in league with the Netherlands (1585), 315-316, 348;
    characteristics of, 15, 279-280, 291, 333-334, 348;
    estimate of, 325

  Empson, 22-23, 29, 39, 83, 160

  Erasmus, 79-80, 83, 97, 240

  Essex, Earl of, 376, 378-380, 383, 384, 385

  Exeter, Marquis of (1538), 144

  Exeter, Lord (Thomas Cecil), 282-283


  F

  Ferdinand of Aragon, 19, 24, 25-27, 39-41, 44-45, 161-162, 200

  Field of the Cloth of Gold, 49, 166

  Fisher, Bishop, 104-105, 137, 241, 249

  Fleet, English, 19, 201, 362

  Fox, Bishop, 40, 65, 161, 241, 242

  France:
    Antagonism with, before Henry VIII., 292
    Charles V.’s relations with, 146-147, 152-154, 184
    Guise party in, 294, 333, 338
    Henry VII.’s relations with, 25-26, 40-41
    Huguenot position in (1571), 330-333
    Philip II.’s relations with, 295-296, 304
    _Politique_ party in, 295, 304, 330, 331
    St. Bartholomew massacres, 309, 336-337
    Scotland allied with, 42, 189, 216, 293, 300
    War with (1522), 46-47, 51, 167-169; 188, 189;
      (1558), 293

  Francis I., King, accession of, 40;
    relations with Spain, 46-47, 152-154, 184;
    relations with England, 146-147;
    Pavia, 169;
    death of, 210;
    contrasted with Henry VIII., 193

  Frith, John, 255

  Frobisher, 378, 379

  Froude, J. A., _cited_, 53, 59, 329


  G

  Gardiner, Bishop, introduces Cranmer to Henry VIII., 242;
    Henry’s attitude towards, 185;
    on the divorce, 127, 247, 252;
    excluded from Council of Executors, 198, 209, 218, 258;
    imprisoned, 219, 221;
    deprived of his see, 231, 268;
    attitude towards Cranmer, 247, 261;
    otherwise mentioned, 150, 154, 179, 187, 210, 263

  Germany, Cromwell’s relations with, 146-148, 152-154;
    Peasants’ war, 97-98

  Gilbert, Humphrey, 363-365, 371-372

  Gondomar (Spanish Ambassador), 389, 390

  Greater Britain, 362

  Greek, study of, 78

  Grenville, Richard, 373, 375, 339, 380

  Grey, Lady Jane, 228, 267, 282, 283, 286

  Grey, Katharine, 307

  Grocyn, 79, 81

  Gueran de Espes, Don (Spanish Ambassador), 294, 329, 330, 333


  H

  Hales, 267

  Hatton, 370

  Hawkins, Captain John, 310, 317, 367, 378, 383

  Heath, Bishop, 231, 268

  Henry VII., King, early years of, 5-7;
    position as king, 7-9;
    moderation, 9, 28;
    fines and confiscations, 10-11, 13;
    financial policy, 14, 16, 22-23;
    commercial policy, 16-18;
    maritime policy, 18-20;
    judicial policy, 21;
    foreign policy, 16, 25-27;
    dispenses with Parliament, 178;
    Wolsey appointed chaplain to, 38;
    characteristics of, 27-32;
    prestige of, 43;
    Bacon’s estimate of, 3;
    general attitude towards, 4

  Henry VIII., King, education and youth of, 159-160;
    accession, 39, 160;
    place in European politics, 162-163;
    Wolsey’s position with, 8, 41-42, 163, 165, 169-173, 176;
    candidature for the Empire, 164-165;
    war with France (1522), 168-169, 188;
    attitude towards Parliament, 52, 179-180;
    rise of More, 84, 96;
    _apologia_ for the Papacy, 97, 177, 241;
    relations with Katharine of Aragon, 193-194, 199;
    the divorce, 53-61, 96, 103-104, 127, 134-135, 170-175, 178, 179,
        188, 242-243, 245, 249;
    makes Cranmer archbishop, 134, 185, 246-247;
    anti-clerical campaign, 102-103, 181, 246;
    crushes Wolsey, 102, 158, 176;
    marriage with Anne Boleyn, 55-56, 104, 136, 170, 195, 248;
    Cranmer’s relations with, 185-186, 218, 257;
    marriage with Jane Seymour, 195;
    Cromwell’s rise in favour, 126-129;
    proclaimed Supreme Head of the Church, 131, 181;
    breach with the Papacy (1533), 135-136;
    Acts of Succession, 105, 138-139;
    Oath of Supremacy, 105, 138-139, 249;
    Treasons Act, 139-140;
    crushes More, 105-106, 137-139, 200;
    Cromwell’s position with, 179-181;
    differences with Cromwell, 183-186;
    Six Articles Act, 151, 152, 186, 199, 218;
    death of Jane Seymour, 148;
    marriage with Anne of Cleves, 153, 184, 196-197;
    fall of Cromwell, 153-154, 158, 186;
    marriage with Katharine Howard, 196;
    marriage with Katharine Parr, 197;
    debasement of the coinage, 190, 298;
    later war with France, 189;
    naval policy, 19, 201;
    Scottish policy, 189-190, 213, 300;
    theological views, 150, 183-184, 199;
    closing years, 191;
    death, 198-199;
    will and executors, 198, 208-209, 218, 267;
    characteristics, 15, 83, 174-175, 178, 193, 199-202;
    estimates, 157-159

  Henry of Anjou, 330-333

  Henry of Navarre, 318, 336, 347, 356, 378

  Herbert, 218, 230

  Hertford, Earl of. _See_ Somerset

  Howard, Katharine, 196

  Howard, Lord Thomas, 316, 379, 383, 384

  Howard, Charles (Effingham). _See_ Effingham


  I

  Ideals, 86-87

  Imagination, illusions of, 88

  Ireland under Elizabeth, 299, 320, 331, 344, 364-365

  Italy, religious condition of, 121


  J

  James I., King, 385-386, 388

  John, Don, 335, 340, 343

  Judicature, 21-23


  K

  Katharine de Medici. _See_ Catherine

  Katharine Howard, 196

  Katharine of Aragon, betrothal of, to Prince Arthur, 26;
    Henry VII.’s plans regarding, 29;
    policy of, 169, 194;
    relations with Henry VIII., 193-194, 199;
    the divorce question, 52-61, 96, 103-104, 127, 134-135, 170-175,
        178, 179, 188, 242-243, 245, 249;
    death of, 147

  Katharine Parr, 197, 228-229

  Ket’s rebellion, 262

  Kildare, Earl of, 10

  Knox, John, 264, 265, 354


  L

  Latimer, Bishop, 185, 269, 270, 272

  Leicester, Earl of (Robert Dudley), 307, 333, 339, 376

  Liberalism and Conservatism, 75-76

  Louis XI., King of France, 7, 23

  Louis XII., King of France, 25, 40, 43

  Luther, Martin, 95, 96-98, 177, 241


  M

  Machiavelli, 120, 123-125

  Margaret, Dowager Duchess of Burgundy, 8

  Mary of Guise, Queen, 189, 210, 294, 301, 302

  Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, projected marriage of, with Edward, 213,
      215;
    taken to France, 216, 301;
    marriage with the Dauphin, 293;
    Queen of France, 295;
    returns to Scotland a widow, 302;
    Elizabeth’s policy towards, 303;
    marriage with Bothwell, 307;
    projected marriage with Anjou, 330-332;
    Spanish plots, 308-310, 329-330, 333, 335, 349-350, 352, 366-367;
    trial and condemnation, 353-355;
    execution, 315

  Mary Tudor, Queen, 172;
    birth of, 194;
    Henry’s later treatment of, 199; granted licence for the Mass, 232;
    accession, 268;
    early moderation, 269;
    imprisonment of Cranmer, 269-270;
    vindictive persecution of Cranmer, 273

  Maximilian, Emperor, 24-26, 39-41, 200

  Mendoza, Bernardino de, 341, 344, 347, 354

  Monasteries, suppression of, 141-145, 211, 224, 253

  Moray, Earl of, 303, 331

  More, John, 77-78

  More, Sir Thomas, family and youth of, 77-78;
    law studies, 78, 81;
    friendship with Erasmus, 79-80, 241;
    in Parliament, 29, 81;
    marriage, 82;
    appointed Under-Sheriff in the City, 83;
    on the Netherlands embassy, 84;
    at Court, 84;
    second marriage, 84;
    the “Utopia,” 85-94, 98-99, 241;
    as Privy Councillor, 94;
    knighted, 95;
    as Speaker, 95;
    views on the royal divorce, 96, 178, 247;
    attitude towards the Papacy, 63, 97;
    towards heresy, 99-101, 106;
    as Lord Chancellor, 101-102;
    resignation of office, 102, 108, 134, 168;
    crushed by Henry, 105, 137-139, 249;
    in the Tower, 109;
    executed, 106, 110-111, 200;
    characteristics, 80, 106-108, 174;
    estimates, 76-77

  Morton, Cardinal, 4, 14

  Morton, Earl of, 331, 339-340


  N

  Navigation Acts, 18-19

  Navy, 19, 201, 362

  Netherlands, revolt of, against Spain, 304-305, 307-308, 311, 330,
      335, 338, 347;
    the “Spanish Fury,” 340;
    Walsingham’s mission, 341-342

  Nobles, 13, 50

  Norfolk, Duke of, 108-109, 128, 143, 154, 187, 196, 198, 208

  Norreys, Sir John, 317, 364

  Norris, Sir Henry, 332

  Northampton, Earl of, 229

  Northumberland, Earl of, 250-251

  Northumberland, Duke of (Dudley-Warwick), deposes Somerset, 221, 231,
      285;
    crushes him, 233, 266;
    relations with Burghley, 284-285;
    ecclesiastical policy, 218, 263, 265;
    debasing of coinage, 190;
    scheme for the succession, 267, 286;
    execution, 268;
    contrasted with Somerset, 205-206

  Nun of Kent, 104, 139


  O

  Oaths, nature of, 247-248 and _note_

  Orderly element of society, 12-13

  Orange, Prince of, 333-336, 339, 341, 343-345, 347

  Oxford, Earl of, 14-15


  P

  Pace, Richard, 44, 164

  Paget, 209, 218, 230, 232

  Parliament:
    Cromwell’s description of, 119
    Henry VII.’s attitude towards, 178
    Henry VIII.’s attitude towards, 52, 179-180
    Somerset’s attitude towards, 227
    Wolsey’s treatment of, 51, 95

  Parma, Duke of, 315, 343, 347

  Parr, Katharine, 197, 228-229

  Peasants’ War in Germany, 97-98

  Perrot, Sir John, 192

  Philip II., King of Spain, policy of, 295, 304;
    embarrassments, 331;
    _rapprochement_ with Elizabeth, 338;
    annexation of Portugal, 344;
    death, 318

  Pilgrimage of Grace, 143

  Pinkie Cleugh, 215-216

  Pole, Cardinal, 120, 144, 271-273

  Pollard, A. F., _cited_, 206

  Proclamation, government by, 210


  R

  Raleigh, Sir Walter, family and early years of, 363-364;
    voyage with Humphrey Gilbert, 364;
    in Ireland, 364-365;
    at Court, 365, 370, 378;
    Elizabeth’s relations with, 356;
    anti-Spanish policy, 366, 377, 386;
    Spanish negotiations story, 366-367;
    1568-1581, 369;
    knighted, 372;
    expeditions to Virginia, 372-375;
    the Lisbon expedition, 378;
    disgrace and imprisonment, 379;
    marriage with Elizabeth Throgmorton, 379;
    expedition to the Orinoco, 381-382;
    Cadiz expedition, 383;
    restored to favour at Court, 384;
    the Islands voyage, 384;
    tried for treason under James, 386;
    appeal for life, 389;
    twelve years’ imprisonment, 387;
    writings, 362, 387, 388;
    release and last voyage, 389-390;
    return and execution, 390-391;
    estimate, 361-363

  Reformation:
    Act in Restraint of Appeals, 135, 137
    Annates Act, 132, 135, 182
    Aspects of, political and religious, 62-63
    Cranmer’s influence on, 238-239, 260, 266
    Eucharist, question of, 264-265
    Forms and ceremonies, question of, 265
    Monasteries, suppression of, 141-145, 211, 224, 253
    Organisation of, by Cromwell, 127-129
    Pilgrimage of Grace, 143
    Scholars’ attitude towards, in early days, 240-241
    Scottish attitude towards, 210
    Somerset’s attitude towards, 217
    Tendencies and development of, 263-266
    Thirty-nine Articles, 265

  Requesens, 339, 340

  Religious repression, 99-100

  Richmond, Duke of, 192-193

  Ridley, Bishop, 231, 265, 266, 269, 270, 272

  Ridolfi plot, 309, 310, 329-330, 333, 335

  Rizzio, 303

  Rogers, 271

  Roper, Margaret, 106, 108-110

  Roper, William, _cited_, 81, 82 _note_, 96, 106, 108, 139

  Royal Proclamations Act (1539), 141, 145

  Russell, 218, 230


  S

  Scotland:
    Burghley’s policy, as to, 301-303
    Elizabeth’s policy as to, 339-340
    England menaced by, 42
    English supremacy impossible in, 212-213
    French alliance with, 189, 216, 293, 300
    Henry VII.’s policy as to, 213
    Henry VIII.’s policy as to, 189-190, 213, 300
    Military operations against, 208;
      condition during Somerset’s Protectorates, 210;
      his policy, 214-217, 300
    Moray’s assassination, 331
    Protestantism in, 301-302
    Reformation, attitude towards, 210
    Treaty of Edinburgh, 302

  Seymour, Admiral Lord, 197, 228-230

  Seymour, Edward. _See_ Somerset

  Seymour, Jane, 148, 193, 195-197

  Sharington, 229

  Sheep-farming, 20, 211, 223, 262

  Simnel, Lambert, 8, 9

  Sitsilt, Richard, 281

  Six Articles Act (1539), 151, 152, 186, 199, 218, 256;
    repeal of, 220, 260

  Somerset, Duke of (Earl of Hertford), family and rise of, 207-208;
    position on Henry’s death, 198, 208, 258;
    appointed Lord Protector, 209;
    aims, 212;
    Scottish policy, 214-217, 300;
    religious views, 217;
    religious policy, 101, 219-222, 226, 232, 261;
    social policy, 225-226;
    Court of Requests, 225, 262;
    Cranmer’s relations with, 221, 260;
    Cecil’s relations with, 283;
    Treason Act, 227;
    proceedings against Lord Seymour, 228-230;
    deposed, 226, 230-231, 285;
    arrested and executed, 205, 233-234, 266;
    characteristics, 234, 283;
    contrasted with Northumberland, 206;
    with Burghley, 321;
    estimates, 205-207

  Spain:
    Armada, 315-316, 367-369
    Cadiz expedition, 383-384
    English attitude towards, under Elizabeth, 310-314;
      war, 316-318
    Henry VII.’s relations with, 25-27
    Inquisition, 308-310
    Philip’s policy. _See_ Philip
    Raleigh’s attitude towards, 366-367, 377, 386

  Star Chamber, 21-22

  Stokesley, Bishop, 247, 252, 254

  Stuart, Arabella, 385-386

  Stuart, Mary. _See_ Mary Stuart

  Stukely, 331, 333

  Suffolk, Duchess of (Frances Brandon), 267

  Suffolk, Duke of (Charles Brandon), 143, 162

  Suffolk, Earl of (Edmund de la Pole), 29, 177

  Surrey, Thomas and Earl of, 10, 40

  Surrey, Henry Earl of, 192, 198, 208


  T

  Taunton, Father, _cited_, 57-59

  Throgmorton, Elizabeth, 379

  Throgmorton conspiracy, 315, 347, 352

  Toleration, 101, 220-221, 226, 232

  Torture, 233, 320-321, 351

  Treasons Acts of Henry VIII., 139-140, 226;
    of Somerset, 227;
    of Northumberland, 227, 232

  Tudor absolutism, 12

  Tunstal, Bishop, 84, 164-165, 211, 218, 231, 258, 268


  U

  “Utopia,” 85-94, 98-99, 241


  V

  Villiers, George, 389

  Virginia, 372-375


  W

  Walsingham, Sir Francis, family and early years of, 328;
    residence abroad, 328;
    employed on secret service, 328-330;
    Ambassador in France, 330, 332-334, 337-338;
    appointed Secretary of State, 339;
    Netherlands mission, 341-342;
    Protestant sympathies, 280, 306, 343, 348;
    relations with Queen Elizabeth, 279-280, 342-343;
    relations with Burghley, 326, 346, 356;
    on colonial expansion, 372;
    mission to Paris, 344-347;
    measures against the Queen of Scots, 353-355;
    closing years and death, 356-357, 377;
    characteristics, 325-327;
    estimate, 326-327

  Warbeck, Perkin, 9, 11, 18

  Warham, Archbishop, 134, 241, 246

  Warwick (Dudley). _See_ Northumberland

  Warwick, Richard Earl of, 4, 5, 7-9

  Welsh ancestry, 282

  Western rising (1549), 230, 261-262

  Weston, Dean, 271

  Whitgift, Archbishop, 320

  Wiltshire, Earl of, 179, 245

  Wriothesly, Lord Chancellor, 209, 218, 328

  Wolsey, Cardinal, family and early years of, 38;
    rise, 40;
    aims, 24, 36, 49;
    foreign policy, 41-45, 166-170;
    relations with Henry VIII., 41-42, 163, 165, 169-173, 176;
    The French War, 46-47, 167-169, 188;
    domestic policy, 49-52;
    relations with nobility, 50-51, 69;
    attempts to overawe Parliament, 51, 95;
    the divorce question, 55-61, 170-173, 176, 179;
    the Reformation, 63-66;
    educational foundations, 65, 240-241;
    relations with More, 96;
    relations with Cromwell, 120, 125-126;
    fall, 52-53, 67-68, 102, 125-126, 158;
    at York, 68, 69;
    characteristics, 64;
    estimates, 35-37, 64, 70-71

  Wyatt’s rebellion, 270


  Y

  Yorkists, 5-6, 8


Printed by BALLANTYNE & CO. LIMITED

Tavistock Street, London



Transcriber’s Notes


Punctuation, hyphenation, and spelling were made consistent when a
predominant preference was found in this book; otherwise they were not
changed.

Simple typographical errors were corrected; occasional unbalanced
quotation marks retained.

Ambiguous hyphens at the ends of lines were retained.

Index not checked for proper alphabetization or correct page references.

Page 246: “he was again despatched as an enemy to Germany” was printed
that way; perhaps “emissary” was intended.





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