Ferdinand and Isabel, and drove out the Moors. The House of Burgundy, with its rich inheritance in the Netherlands, was a dangerous neighbour to France and a natural ally of England; but, ending in a female, it became joined with the House of Austria which had already attained to the Empire, and was striving to secure it as a dynastic inheritance. The spirit of the times moved even the Papacy, whose territorial claims in Italy Julius II advanced by a warfare much more earthly than spiritual.
The spirit of the times in political matters had been appreciated by Sir Thomas More whose Utopia is described elsewhere in this volume as a classic product of an age of discovery. Such it was in its most striking aspect; but none the less was it in some parts a most faithful transcript of the Machiavellian politics pursued by the princes of Europe, and not least by the King of England. In More's ideal island inhabited by intelligent pagans we find precisely those arts practised which were practised in the Courts of Christian Europe. While kingdoms were advancing, and domestic peace and security should have found a firmer basis, the rulers of Christendom were cheating each other, engaging in unjust wars, or, like England, paying Swiss mercenaries to fight without declaring themselves belligerents. Henry VII had watched continental politics without allowing himself to be drawn into continental wars. It was otherwise with Henry VIII. Young and popular, and seated on a throne as secure as his father's was unstable, to him the glories of war had their attractions, and the practices of the Utopians in the conduct of it were not abhorrent. Such things were merely in the way of statesmanship, and when the King was satisfied there was no one to call him to account.
Yet it was a highly polished age. Many ideas of former days, no doubt, had lost their hold. Chivalry had decayed; the talk of crusades against the Turk had become a mockery; the Eastern Empire had passed away, and the pretensions of the Western Empire had become more unreal than ever. But civilisation had recovered from the disorders of papal schisms, internecine wars, and socialistic insurrections. There was marked progress in art and letters, first in Italy, then over the continent of Europe; and if in England there was little art and the young vernacular literature seemed to have languished since Chaucer's day, yet this country was scarcely behind other nations in cherishing the revived study of the classics. Long before the close of the £fteenth century English monks, like Prior Sellyng of Canterbury, had brought Greek scholarship home from Italian universities; and Erasmus himself, who first came to England in 1497 or 1498, and was set to teach Greek at Cambridge in 1510, found the country a special abode of scholarship. More, Colet, Grocyn and Linacre were the men in whom this culture was most conspicuous; and Archbishop Warham and Bishop Fisher were the leading patrons of learning.