The Divorce of Catherine of Aragon/Chapter 11

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Proposals for the reunion of Christendom—Warning addressed to the Pope—Address of the English nobles to Queen Catherine—Advances of Clement to Henry—Embarrassments of the Pope and the Emperor—Unwillingness of the Pope to decide against the King—Business in Parliament—Reform of the English Church—Death of Archbishop Warham—Bishop Fisher and Chapuys—Question of annates—Papal Briefs—The Pope urged to excommunicate Henry—The Pope refuses—Anger of Queen Catherine's Agent.

The unity of Christendom was not to be broken in pieces without an effort to preserve it. Charles V. was attempting impossibilities in his own dominions, labouring for terms on which the Lutheran States might return to the Church. He had brought the Pope to consent to the "communion in both kinds," and to the "marriage of priests"—a vast concession, which had been extorted by Micer Mai in the intervals of the discussions on the divorce. Efforts which fail are forgotten, but they represent endeavours at least honourable. Catherine was absorbed in her own grievances. Charles gave them as much attention as he could spare, but had other things to think of. As long as he could prevent Clement from taking any fatal step, he supposed that he had done enough. He had at least done all that he could, and he had evidently allowed Chapuys to persuade him that Henry's course would be arrested at the last extremity by his own subjects. He left Mai to watch the Pope, and Ortiz to urge for sentence; but when the pressure of his own hand relaxed his agents could effect but little. The English Parliament was to open again in January. The King's Commissioners at Rome informed the Consistory that if it was decided finally to try the cause at Rome they were to take their leave, and the King would thenceforward regard the Pope as his public enemy.[1] The threat "produced a great impression." The Pope had no wish to be Henry's enemy in order to please the Emperor. Mai and Ortiz told him that the English menaces were but words; he had but to speak and England would submit. The Pope did not believe it, and became again "lax and procrastinating."[2]

The English nobles made a last effort to move Catherine. Lord Sussex, Sir William Fitzwilliam, and Lee, Archbishop of York, who had been her warm supporter, waited on her at Moor Park to urge her, if she would not allow the case to be tried at Cambray, to permit it to be settled by a commission of bishops and lawyers. The Pope confessedly was not free to give his own opinion, and English causes could not be ruled by the Emperor. If Catherine had consented, it is by no means certain that Anne Boleyn would have been any more heard of. A love which had waited for five years could not have been unconquerable; and it was possible and even probable in the existing state of opinion that some other arrangement might have been made for the succession. The difficulty rose from Catherine's determination to force the King before a tribunal where the national pride would not permit him to plead. The independence of England was threatened, and those who might have been her friends were disarmed of their power to help her. Unfortunately for herself, perhaps fortunately for the English race which was yet to be born, she remained still inflexible. "The King's plea of conscience," she said, "was not honest. He was acting on passion, pure and simple; and English judges would say black was white." Sussex and Fitzwilliam knelt to entreat her to reconsider her answer. She too knelt and prayed them for God's honour and glory to persuade the King to return to her, as she was his lawful wife. All present were in tears, but there was no remedy. Chapuys said that the coldness and indifference with which the affair was treated at Rome was paralysing her defenders. The question could not stand in debate for ever, and, unless the Pope acted promptly and resolutely, he feared that some strong act was not far distant.[3]

She was destroying her own chance. She persisted in relying on a defence which was itself fatal to her.

"God knows what I suffer from these people," she wrote to the Emperor, "enough to kill ten men, much more a shattered woman who has done no harm. I can do nothing but appeal to God and your Majesty, on whom alone my remedy depends. For the love of God procure a final sentence from his Holiness as soon as possible. The utmost diligence is required. May God forgive him for the many delays which he has granted and which alone are the cause of my extremity. I am the King's lawful wife, and while I live I will say no other. The Pope's tardiness makes many on my side waver, and those who would say the truth dare not. Speak out yourself, that my friends may not think I am abandoned by all the world."[4]

Well might Catherine despair of Clement. While she was expecting him to excommunicate her husband, he was instructing his Nuncio to treat that husband as his most trusted friend. He invited Henry to assist in the Turkish war; he consulted him about the protection of Savoy from the Swiss Protestants; he apologised to him for the language which he was obliged to use on the great matter. Henry, contemptuous and cool, "not showing the passion which he had shown at other times," replied that the Pope must be jesting in inviting him, far off as he was, to go to war with the Turk. If Christendom was in danger he would bear his part with the other Princes. As to Savoy, the Duke had disregarded the wishes of France and must take the consequences. For the rest, the message which he had sent through his Ambassador at Rome was no more than the truth. "If," said he to the Nuncio, "I ask a thing which I think right, the answer is 'The law forbids.' If the Emperor ask a thing, law and rules are changed to please him. The Pope has greatly wronged me. I have no particular animosity against him. After all, he does not bear me much ill will. The fear of the Emperor makes him do things which he would not otherwise do. Proceedings may be taken against me at Rome. I care not. If sentence is given against me, I know what to do."[5]

The Pope never meant to give sentence if he could help it. Every day brought Parliament nearer and he drove Mai distracted with his evasions. "I have said all that I could to his Holiness and the Cardinals without offending them," he reported to Charles. "Your Majesty may believe me when I say that these devils are to a man against us. Some take side openly, being of the French or English faction; others will be easily corrupted, for every day I hear the English Ambassador receives bills for thousands of ducats, which are said to go in bribery."[6]

Promises were given in plenty, but no action followed, and Ortiz had the same story to tell Catherine. "Your Ambassador at Rome," she wrote to her nephew, "thinks the Pope as cold and indifferent as when the suit began. I am amazed at his Holiness. How can he allow a suit so scandalous to remain so long undecided? His conduct cuts me to the soul. You know who has caused all this mischief. Were the King once free from the snare in which he has been caught he would confess that God had restored his reason. His misleaders goad him on like a bull in the arena. Pity that a man so good and virtuous should be thus deceived. God enlighten his mind!"[7]

To the Emperor himself, perhaps, the problem was growing more difficult than he expected. He himself at last pressed for sentence, but sentence was nothing unless followed by excommunication if it was disobeyed, and the Pope did not choose to use his thunder if there was to be no thunderbolt to accompany it. The Cardinal Legate in Spain assured him that the Emperor would employ all his force in the execution of the censures. The Pope said that he prized that promise as "a word from Heaven." But though Charles might think the English King was doing what was wrong and unjust, was it so wrong and so unjust that fire and sword were to be let loose through Christendom? Chapuys and Catherine were convinced that there would be no need of such fierce remedies. They might be right, but how if they were not right? How if England supported the King? The Emperor could not be certain that even his own subjects would approve of a war for such an object. Three years later, when the moment for action had arrived, if action was to be taken at all, it will be seen that the Spanish Council of State took precisely this view of the matter, and saw no reason for breaking the peace of Europe for what, after all, was but "a family quarrel." The Pope was cautious. He knew better than his passionate advisers how matters really stood. "The Pope may promise," Mai said, "but as long as the world remains in its troubled state, these people will be glad of any excuse to prolong the settlement." January came, when the English Parliament was to meet, and the note was still the same. "The Pope says," wrote Mai, "that we must not press the English too hard. I have exhausted all that I could say without a rupture. I told him he was discrediting the Queen's case and your Majesty's authority. I made him understand that I should be obliged to apply elsewhere for the justice that was denied me at Rome. He owns that I am right, but Consistory follows Consistory and more delays are allowed. We can but press on as we have always done, and urge your Majesty's displeasure."[8]

If a sentence could not be had, Ortiz insisted on the issue of another minatory brief. Anne Boleyn must be sent from the court. The King must be made to confess his errors. The Pope assented; said loudly that he would do justice; though England and France should revolt from the Holy See in consequence, a brief should go, and, if it was disobeyed, he would proceed to excommunicate: "the Kings of England and France were so bound together that if he lost one he lost both, but he would venture notwithstanding." But like the Cardinals who condemned Giordano Bruno, Clement was more afraid of passing judgment than Henry of hearing it passed. The brief was written and was sent, but it contained nothing but mild expostulation.[9] All the distractions of the world were laid at the door of the well-meaning, uncertain, wavering Clement. La Pommeraye, the French Ambassador in London, said (Chapuys vouches for the words) that "nothing could have been so easy as to bring all Christian Princes to agree had not that devil of a Pope embroiled and sown dissension through Christendom."[10]

In England alone was to be found clear purpose and steadiness of action. The divorce in England was an important feature in the quarrel with the Papacy, but it was but a single element in the great stream of Reformation, and the main anxiety of King and people was not fixed on Catherine, but on the mighty changes which were rushing forward. When a Parliament was first summoned, on the fall of Wolsey, the Queen had assumed that it was called for nothing else but to empower the King to separate from her. So she thought at the beginning, so she continued to think. Yet session had followed session, and the Legislature had found other work to deal with. They had manacled the wrists of her friends, the clergy; but that was all, and she was to have yet another year of respite. The "blind passion" which is supposed to have governed Henry's conduct was singularly deliberate. Seven years had passed since he had ceased cohabitation with Catherine, and five since he had fallen under the fascination of the impatient Anne; yet he went on as composedly with public business as if Anne had never smiled on him, and he was still content to wait for this particular satisfaction. As long as hope remained of saving the unity of Christendom without degrading England into a vassal State of the Empire, Henry did not mean to break it. He had occupied himself, in concert with the Parliament, with reforming the internal disorders and checking the audacious usurpations of the National Church. He had, so far, been enthusiastically supported by the immense majority of the laity, and was about to make a further advance in the same direction.

The third Session opened on 13th of January, Peers, Prelates, and Commons being present in full number. By this time a small but active opposition had been formed in the Lower House to resist measures too violently anti-clerical. They met occasionally to concert operations at the Queen's Head by Temple Bar. The Bishops, who had been stunned by the Præmunire, were recovering heart and intending to show fight. Tunstal of Durham, who had been reflecting on the Royal Supremacy during the recess, repented of his consent, and had written his misgivings to the King. The King used the opportunity to make a remarkable reply.

"People conceive," he said, "that we are minded to separate our Church of England from the Church of Rome, and you think the consequences ought to be considered. My Lord, as touching schism, we are informed by virtuous and learned men that, considering what the Church of Rome is, it is no schism to separate from her, and adhere to the Word of God. The lives of Christ and the Pope are very opposite, and therefore to follow the Pope is to forsake Christ. It is to be trusted the Papacy will shortly vanish away, if it be not reformed; but, God willing, we shall never separate from the Universal body of Christian men."[11]

Archbishop Warham also had failed to realise the meaning of his consent to the Royal Supremacy. He had consecrated the Bishop of St. Asaph on the receipt of a nomination from Rome before the Bulls had been presented to the King. He learnt that he was again under a Præmunire. The aged Primate, fallen on evil times, drew the heads of a defence which he intended to make, but never did make, in the House of Lords. Archbishops, he said, were not bound to enquire whether Bishops had exhibited their Bulls or not. It had not been the custom. If the Archbishop could not give the spiritualities to one who was pronounced a bishop at Rome till the King had granted him his temporalities, the spiritual powers of the Archbishops would depend on the temporal power of the Prince, and would be of little or no effect, which was against God's law. In consecrating the Bishop of St. Asaph he had acted as the Pope's Commissary. The act itself was the Pope's act. The point for which the King contended was one of the Articles which Henry II. sought to extort at Clarendon, and which he was afterwards compelled to abandon. The liberties of the Church were guaranteed by Magna Charta, and the Sovereigns who had violated them, Henry II., Edward III., Richard II., had come to an ill end. The lay Peers had threatened that they would defend the matter with their swords. The lay Peers should remember what befell the knights who slew St. Thomas. The Archbishop said he would rather be hewn in pieces than confess this Article, for which St. Thomas died, to be a Præmunire.[12]

Warham was to learn that the spirit of Henry II. was alive again in the present Henry, and that the Constitutions of Clarendon, then premature, were to become the law of the land.

Fisher of Rochester had received no summons to attend the present Parliament; but he sent word to the Imperial Ambassador that he would be in his place, whether called up or not, that he might defend Catherine should any measure be introduced which affected her. He begged Chapuys not to mention his name in his despatches, except in cipher. If they met in public Chapuys must not speak to him or appear to know him. He on his part would pass Chapuys without notice till the present tyranny was overpast. Bishop Fisher was entering upon dangerous courses, which were to lead him into traitorous efforts to introduce an invading army into England and to bring his own head to the block. History has only pity for these unfortunate old men, and does not care to remember that, if they could have had their way, a bloodier persecution than the Marian would have made a swift end of the Reformation.

I need not repeat what I have written elsewhere on the acts of this Session.[13] A few details only deserve further notice. The privilege of the clergy to commit felony without punishment was at last abolished. Felonious clerks were thenceforward to suffer like secular criminals. An accident provided an illustrative example. A priest was executed in London for chipping the coin, having been first drawn through the streets in the usual way. Thirty women sued in vain for his pardon. He was hanged in his habit, without being degraded, against the protest of the Bishop—"a thing never done before since the Island was Christian."[14] The Constitutions of Clarendon were to be enforced at last. The Arches court and the Bishops' courts were reformed on similar lines, their methods and their charges being brought within reasonable limits. Priests were no longer allowed to evade the Mortmain Acts by working on death-bed terrors. The exactions for mortuaries, legacy duties, and probate duties, long a pleasant source of revenue, were abolished or cut down. The clergy in their synods had passed what laws they pleased and enforced them with spiritual terrors. The clergy were informed that they would no longer be allowed to meet in synod without royal licence, and that their laws would be revised by laymen. Chapuys wittily observed that the clergy were thus being made of less account than cordwainers, who could at least enact their own statutes.

A purpose of larger moment was announced by Henry for future execution. More's chancellorship had been distinguished by heresy-prosecutions. The stake in those three years had been more often lighted than under all the administration of Wolsey. It was as if the Bishops had vented on those poor victims their irritation at the rude treatment of their privileges. The King said that the clergy's province was with souls, not with bodies. They were not in future to arrest men on suspicion, imprison, examine, and punish at their mere pleasure. There was an outcry, in which the Chancellor joined. The King suspended his resolution for the moment, but did not abandon it. He was specially displeased with More, from whom he had expected better things. He intended to persist. "May God," exclaimed the orthodox and shocked Chapuys, "send such a remedy as the intensity of the evil requires."[15] None of Henry's misdeeds shocked Chapuys so deeply as the tolerating heresy.

The Royal Supremacy had been accepted by Convocation. It was not yet confirmed by Parliament. Norfolk felt the pulses of the Peers. He called a meeting at Norfolk House. He described the Pope's conduct. He insisted on the usual topics—that matrimonial causes were of temporal jurisdiction, not spiritual; that the King was sovereign in his own dominions, etc., etc., and he invited the Peers' opinions. The Peers were cold. Lord Darcy had spoken freely against the Pope in his indictment of Wolsey. It seemed his ardour was abating. He said the King and Council must manage matters without letting loose a cat among the legs of the rest of them.[16] The meeting generally agreed with Darcy, and was not pressed further. Papal privilege came before Parliament in a more welcome form when a bill was introduced to withdraw annates or first fruits of benefices which had been claimed and paid as a tribute to the Holy See. The imposition was a grievance. There were no annates in Spain. The Papal collectors were detested. The House of Commons made no difficulty. The Nuncio complained to the King. The King told him that it was not he who brought forward these measures. They were moved by the people, who hated the Pope marvellously.[17] In the Upper House the Bishops stood by their spiritual chief this time unanimously. Among the mitred Abbots there was division of opinion. The abbeys had been the chief sufferers from annates, and had complained of the exaction for centuries. All the lay Peers, except Lord Arundel, supported the Government. The bill was passed, but passed conditionally, leaving power to the Crown to arrange a compromise if the Pope would agree to treat. For the next year the annates were paid in full, as usual, to give time for his Holiness to consider himself.[18]

Thus steadily the Parliament moved on. Archbishop Warham, who was dying broken-hearted, dictated a feeble protest from his bed against all which had been done by it in derogation of the Pope or in limitation of the privileges of the Church. More had fought through the session, but, finding resistance useless, resigned the chancellorship. He saw what was coming. He could not prevent it. If he retained his office he found that he must either go against his conscience or increase the displeasure of the King.[19] He preferred to retire.

In this way, at least in England, the situation was clearing, and parties and individuals were drifting into definite positions. Montfalconet,[20] writing to Charles in May, said that he had been in England and had seen Queen Catherine, who was still clamouring for the Pope's sentence. "Every one," he continued, speaking for the Catholic party, whom alone he had seen, "was angry with the Pope, and angry with the Emperor for not pressing him further. Peers, clergy, laity, all loved the Queen. She was patient. She thought that if she could but see the King all might yet be well. Were the sentence once delivered she was satisfied that he would submit."[21] The French Ambassador in London, on the other hand, recommended Francis to force the Pope to hold his hand. He told Chapuys that "France must and would take Henry's part if a rupture came. The Emperor had no right to throw Europe into confusion for the sake of a woman. If the King of England wished to marry again, he should do as Louis XII. had done under the same circumstances—take the woman that he liked and waste no more time and money."[22]

At Rome the Pope had been fingering his briefs with hesitating heart. The first, which he had issued under Charles's eye at Bologna, had been comparatively firm. He had there ordered Henry to take Catherine back under penalty of excommunication. The last, though so hardly extracted from him, was meagre and insignificant. The King, when it was presented, merely laughed at it. "The Pope," he said, "complains that I have sent the Queen away. If his Holiness considers her as my wife, the right of punishing her for the rudeness of her behaviour belongs to me and not to him."[23]

Ortiz, finding it hopeless to expect a decision on the marriage itself from the Pope, demanded excommunication on the plea of disobedience to the Bologna brief. He had succeeded, or thought he had succeeded, in bringing the Pope to the point. The excommunication was drawn up, "but when it was to be engrossed and sealed the enemy of mankind prevented its completion in a manner only known to God." Ortiz continued to urge. The document could be sent secretly to the Emperor, to be used at his discretion. "If the Emperor thought fit to issue it, bearing, as it did, God's authority, God in such cases would infallibly send his terrors upon earth and provide that no ill should come of it."[24] The Pope was less certain that God would act as Ortiz undertook for him, and continued to offend the Lord by delay. In vain Catherine's representative railed at him, in vain told him that he would commit a great sin and offence against God if he did not excommunicate a King who was, in mortal sin, keeping a mistress at his Court. The Pope rationally answered that there was no evidence of mortal sin. "It was the custom in England for Princes to converse intimately with ladies. He could not prove that, in the present case, there was anything worse, and the King might allege his conscience as a reason for not treating the Queen as a husband."[25] Ortiz insisted that the devil had got hold of the King in the shape of that woman, and unless the Pope obliged him to put her away, the Pope would be damned. But it was an absurdity to excommunicate the King and declare him to have forfeited his crown when the original cause of the quarrel was still undecided. The King might prove after all to be right, as modern law and custom has in fact declared him to have been.

Charles himself felt that such a position could not be maintained. Henry was evidently not frightened. There was no sign that the English people were turning against him. If a bull of excommunication was issued, Charles himself would be called on to execute it, and it was necessary to be sure of his ground.

Ortiz raged on. "I told his Holiness," he wrote, "that if he did not excommunicate the King I would stand up at the day of judgment and accuse him before God."[26] Charles was obliged to tell Ortiz that he must be more moderate. A further difficulty had risen in Rome itself. If the cause was tried at Rome, was it to be tried before the Cardinals in consistory or before the court of the Rota? The Cardinals were men of the world. Micer Mai's opinion was that from the Rota only a judgment could be with certainty expected in the Queen's favour.[27] "The winds are against us," he wrote to Secretary Covos; "what is done one day is undone the next. The Cardinals will not stir, but quietly pocket the ducats which come from the Emperor, and the larger sums which come from the English, who are lavish in spending. The Pope will not break with France. He says he has so many ties with the Kings of France and England that he must pretend goodwill to the latter for fear they both break off from the Church, as they have threatened to do."[28]

  1. Mai to Covos, Oct. 24, 1531.—Spanish Calendar, vol. iv. part 2, p. 276.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Chapuys to Charles V., Oct. 16, 1531.—Spanish Calendar, vol. iv. part 2, p. 263.
  4. Catherine to Charles V., Nov. 6, 1531.—Ib. p. 270. I must remind the reader that I have to compress the substance both of this and many other letters.
  5. Chapuys to Charles V., Dec. 4, 1531.—Spanish Calendar, vol. iv. part 2, p. 320.
  6. Mai to Charles V., Dec. 12.—Spanish Calendar, vol. iv. part 1, p. 328.
  7. Catherine to Charles V., Dec. 15, 1531,-Ib. p. 331.
  8. Mai to the Emperor, Jan. 15, 1532.—Spanish Calendar, vol. iv. part 1, p. 360.
  9. Clement VII. to Henry VIII., Jan. 25, 1532.—Calendar, Foreign and Domestic, vol. v. p. 358.
  10. Spanish Calendar, vol. iv. part 1, p. 368.
  11. Henry VIII. to the Bishop of Durham, Feb. 24, 1532. Compressed.—Calendar, Foreign and Domestic, vol. v. p. 387.
  12. Archbishop Warham, 1532,—Calendar, Foreign and Domestic, vol. v. p. 541.
  13. History of England, vol. i. p. 322, etc.
  14. Carlo Capello to the Signory, July 10, 1532.—Venetian Calendar, vol. iv. p. 342.
  15. Chapuys to Charles V., May 13, 1532.—Spanish Calendar, vol. iv. part 1, p. 446.
  16. "Le Roy et son Conseil sçavoient bien qu'il y en avoient à faire sans vouloir mestre le chat entre les jambes dautres." Chapuys to the Emperor, Feb. 14, 1532.—Spanish Calendar, vol. iv. part 1, p. 384; Calendar, Foreign and Domestic, vol. v. p. 381.
  17. Chapuys to Charles V., Feb. 28, 1532.—Calendar, Foreign and Domestic, vol. v. p. 392.
  18. An address purporting to have been presented by Convocation on this occasion, not only complaining of the annates, but inviting a conaplete separation from the See of Rome, was perhaps no more than a draft submitted to the already sorely humiliated body, and not accepted by it.—History of England, vol. i. p. 332–3. The French Ambassador says distinctly that the clergy agreed to nothing, but their refusal was treated as of no consequence.
  19. Chapuys to Charles V., May 22, 1532.—Calendar, Foreign and Domestic, vol. v. p. 476.
  20. Maître d'hotel to the Emperor, and Governor of Brescia.
  21. Montfalconet to Charles V., May, 1532.—Calendar, Foreign and Domestic, vol. v. p. 479.
  22. Chapuys to the Emperor, April 16, 1532.—Spanish Calendar, vol. iv. part 1, p. 425. In 1499 Louis XII. repudiated his first wife, Jeanne de France, and married Anne of Brittany, widow of Charles VIII.
  23. Spanish Calendar, vol. iv. part 1, p. 447.
  24. Ortiz to Charles V., May, 1532.—Ibid. p. 438.
  25. Calendar, Foreign and Domestic, vol. v. p. 539.
  26. Ortiz to Charles V., July 28, 1532,—Spanish Calendar, vol. iv. part 1, p. 486.
  27. Ortiz to Charles V., July 28, 1532.—Spanish Calendar, vol. iv. part 1, p. 414.
  28. Ortiz to Charles V., July 28, 1532.—Spanish Calendar, vol. iv. part 1, p. 469.