The Divorce of Catherine of Aragon/Chapter 14

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Interview between the Pope and Francis at Marseilles—Proposed compromise—The divorce case to be heard at Cambray—The Emperor consents—Catherine refuses—The story of the Nun of Kent—Bishop Fisher in the Tower—Imminent breach with the Papacy—Catherine and the Princess Mary—Separation of the Princess from her mother—Catherine at Kimbolton—Appeals to the Emperor—Encouragement of Lutheranism—Last efforts of Rome—Final sentence delivered by the Pope—The Pope's authority abolished in England.

The Pope's last brief had been sufficiently definite to enable the Emperor to act upon it if Henry still disobeyed. English scruples, however, required a judgment on the divorce itself before force was openly tried. Clement went, as he had intended, to France in October, and met the French King at Marseilles. Norfolk, as has been said, was not allowed to be present; but Gardiner and Bonner attended as inferior agents to watch the proceedings. Cifuentes followed the Papal Court for Charles, and the English Nuncio, who had been at last recalled, was present also. The main result of the interview was the marriage of the Duke of Orleans to the Pope's niece, Catherine de' Medici, a guarantee that Francis was not to follow England into schism but was to remain Catholic. The engagements with which he had tempted Henry into committing himself were thus abandoned, and the honour which had been saved at Pavia was touched, if it was not lost. It had strength enough, however, to lead him still to exert himself to bring Clement to reason. The bribe of Calais was not tried upon him, having been emphatically negatived by the Emperor. The Chancellor of France presented in Henry's name a formal complaint of the Pope's conduct. It was insisted that when he commissioned Campeggio to go to England, he had formally promised not to revoke the cause to Rome, and this promise he had violated. The Pope's answer was curious. He admitted the promise, but he said it was conditional on Queen Catherine's consent, though this clause was not inserted in the commission lest it might suggest to her to complain.[1] The answer was allowed to pass. Other objections were similarly set aside, and then the Cardinal de Tarbes, professing to speak in Henry's name, proposed that the Pope should appoint another commission to hear the cause at Cambray, himself nominating the judges. If the Pope would comply he was authorised to say that the King would obey, and, pending the trial, would separate from Anne and recall Catherine to the court. Cifuentes had again urged the Pope to declare Henry deprived. The Pope had refused on the ground that, unless the Emperor would bind himself to execute the sentence in arms, the Holy See would lose reputation.[2] He had, therefore, a fair excuse for listening to the French suggestion. The Cardinals deliberated, and thought it ought to be accepted. If the King would really part with Anne the cause might be even heard in England itself, and no better course could be thought of. The proposal was referred, through the Papal Nuncio, to the Emperor, and the Emperor wrote on the margin of the Nuncio's despatch to him that he could give no answer till he had communicated with Catherine, but that he would write and recommend her to follow the course pointed out by his Holiness.[3]

The Spanish party suspected a trick. They thought that there might be an appearance of compliance with the Pope's brief. Catherine might be allowed a room in the Palace till the cause was removed from Rome. It was all but gained in the Rota; if referred back in the manner proposed, it would be delayed by appeals and other expedients till it became interminable. Their alternative was instant excommunication. But the Pope had the same answer. How could he do that? He did not know that the Emperor would take up arms. Were he to issue the censures, and were no effect to follow, the Apostolic See would be discredited. De Tarbes was asked to produce his commission from Henry to make suggestions in his name. It was found when examined to be insufficient. Henry himself, when he learnt what had been done, "changed colour, crushed the letter in his hands, and exclaimed that the King of France had betrayed him."[4] But he had certainly made some concession or other. The time allowed in the last brief had run out. The French Cardinals did not relinquish their efforts. They demanded a suspension of six months, till Henry and Francis could meet again and arrange something which the Pope could accept. The Pope, false himself, suspected every one to be as false as he was. He suspected that a private arrangement was being made between Henry and the Emperor, and Cifuentes himself could not or would not relieve his misgivings. In the midst of the uncertainty a courier came in from England with an appeal ad futurum Concilium—when a council could be held that was above suspicion. The word "council" always drove Clement distracted. He complained to Francis, and Francis, provoked at finding his efforts paralysed, said angrily that, were it not for his present need of the King of England's friendship lest others should forestall him there, he would play him a trick that he should remember. The suspension of the censures for an indefinite time was granted, however, after a debate in the Consistory. The English Council, when the proposal for the hearing of the cause at Cambray was submitted to them, hesitated over their answer. They told Chapuys that such a compromise as the Pope offered might once have been entertained, but nothing now would induce the King to sacrifice the interests of his new-born daughter; "all the Ambassadors in the world would not move him, nor even the Pope himself, if he came to visit him."[5]

Nevertheless, so anxious were all parties now at the last moment to find some conditions or other to prevent the division of Christendom that the Cardinal de Tarbes's proposition, or something like it, might have been accepted. The Emperor, however, had made his consent contingent on Catherine's acquiescence, and Catherine herself refused—refused resolutely, absolutely, and finally. Charles had written to her as he had promised. Chapuys sent her down the letter with a draft of the terms proposed, and he himself strongly exhorted her to agree. He asked for a distinct "Yes" or "No," and Catherine answered "No." Her cause should be heard in Rome, she said, and nowhere but in Rome; the removal to Cambray meant only delay, and from delay she had suffered long enough; should Anne Boleyn have a son meanwhile, the King would be more obstinate than ever. The Pope must be required to end the cause himself and to end it quickly. The Emperor knew her determination and might have spared his application.[6] She wrote to Chapuys "that, sentence once pronounced, the King, for all his bravado and obstinacy, would listen to reason, and war would be unnecessary." "On that point," the Ambassador said, "she would not find a single person to agree with her."[7]

Catherine had pictured to herself a final triumph, and she could not part with the single hope which had cheered her through her long trial. If any chance of accommodation remained after her peremptory answer, it was dispelled by the discovery of the treason connected with the Nun of Kent. The story of Elizabeth Barton has been told by me elsewhere. Here it is enough to say that from the beginning of the divorce suit a hysterical woman, professing to have received Divine revelations, had denounced the King's conduct in private and public, and had influenced the judgment of peers, bishops, statesmen, and privy councillors. She had been treated at first as a foolish enthusiast, but her prophecies had been circulated by an organisation of itinerant friars, and had been made use of to feed the disaffection which had shown itself in the overtures to Chapuys. The effect which she had produced had been recently discovered. She had been arrested, had made a large confession, and had implicated several of the greatest names in the realm. She had written more than once to the Pope. She had influenced Warham. She had affected the failing intellect of Wolsey. The Bishop of Rochester, the Marquis and Marchioness of Exeter, had admitted her to intimate confidence. Even Sir Thomas More had at one time half believed that she was inspired. Catherine, providentially, as Chapuys thought, had declined to see her, but was acquainted with all that passed between her and the Exeters.

When brought before the Council she was treated comme une grosse dame—as a person of consideration. The occasion was of peculiar solemnity, and great persons were in attendance from all parts of the realm. The Chancellor, in the Nun's presence, gave a history of her proceedings. He spoke of the loyalty and fidelity which had been generally shown by the nation during the trying controversy. The King had married a second wife to secure the succession and provide for the tranquillity of the realm. The woman before them had instigated the Pope to censure him, and had endeavoured to bring about a rebellion to deprive him of his throne. The audience, who had listened quietly so far, at the word "rebellion" broke out into cries of "To the stake! to the stake!" The Nun showed no alarm, but admitted quietly that what the Chancellor said was true. She had acknowledged much, but more lay behind, and Chapuys confessed himself alarmed at what she might still reveal. Cromwell observed to him that "God must have directed the sense and wit of the Queen to keep clear of the woman." But Catherine's confessor had been among the most intimate of her confederates; and to be aware of treason and not reveal it was an act of treason in itself. Sir Thomas More cleared himself. Fisher, the guiltiest of all, was sent to the Tower for misprision.

The Pope's final sentence was now a certainty. Francis had cleared his conscience by advocating the compromise. Nothing more could be done, he said, unless Cranmer's judgment was revoked. He chose to forget that the compromise had been rejected by Catherine herself. He complained that as fast as he studied to gain the Pope the English studied to lose him. He had devised a plan, and the English spoilt it. He regretted that he had ever meddled in the matter. The Pope could not help himself; but nmst now excommunicate the King and call on Christendom to support him.[8]

Henry could no longer doubt that he was in serious danger. To the risk of invasion from abroad, disaffection at home had to be added. How far it extended he did not yet know. All along, however, he had been preparing for what the future might bring. The fleet was in high order; the fortifications at Dover and Calais had been repaired; if the worst came he meant to be ready for it; the stoppage of trade might be serious; it was to this that Catherine looked as her most effective weapon; but English commerce was as important to Spain and Flanders as the Flemish woollens to the London citizens, and the leading merchants on both sides came to an understanding that an Interdict would be disregarded. The Lutherans had the courage of their opinions and could be depended on to fight. The laws against heretics were allowed to sleep. Their numbers increased, and the French Ambassador observed to Chapuys that they would not easily be eradicated. Many who were orthodox in the faith were bitter against Rome and Romanism. The Duke of Norfolk was the loudest of them all. Flanders could not live, he said, to a deputation of alarmed citizens, without the English trade; and as to the Pope, the Pope was a wretch and a bastard, a liar and a bad man; he would stake wife and children and his own person to be revenged on him.[9] An order of Council came out that the Pope henceforward was to be styled only Bishop of Rome. Chapuys could not understand it. The Duke, he thought, was strangely changed; he had once professed to be a staunch Catholic. Norfolk had not changed. The peculiar Anglican theory was beginning to show itself that a Church might still be Catholic though it ceased to be Papal.

Irritated though he was at his last failure, Francis did not wholly abandon his efforts. A successful invasion of England by the Emperor would be dangerous or even fatal to France. He wrote to Anne. He sent his letter by the hands of her old friend, Du Bellay, and she was so pleased that she kissed him when he presented it. Du Bellay sought out Chapuys. "Could nothing be done," he asked, "to prevent England from breaking with the Papacy? Better England, France, and the Empire had spent a hundred thousand crowns than allow a rupture. The Emperor had done his duty in supporting his aunt; might he not now yield a little to avoid worse?" Chapuys could give him no hope. The treatment of Catherine alone would force the Emperor to take further measures.

That Catherine, so far, had no personal ill-usage to complain of had been admitted by the Spanish Council, and alleged as an argument against interference by force in her favour. Chapuys conceived, and probably hoped, that this objection was being removed.

What to do with her was not the least of the perplexities in which Henry had involved himself. By the public law of Christendom, a marriage with a brother's widow was illegal. By the law as it has stood ever since in England, the Pope of Rome neither has, nor ever had, a right to dispense in such cases. She was not, therefore, Henry's queen. She deserved the most indulgent consideration; her anger and her resistance were legitimate and natural; but the fact remained. She had refused all compromise. She had insisted on a decision, and an English Court had given judgment against her. If she was queen, Elizabeth was a bastard, and her insistance upon her title was an invitation to civil war. She was not standing alone. The Princess Mary, on her father's marriage with Anne, had written him a letter, which he had praised as greatly to her credit; but either Anne's insolence or her mother's persuasion had taken her back to Catherine's side. Her conduct may and does deserve the highest moral admiration; but the fidelity of the child to her mother was the assertion of a right to be next in succession to the crown. There was no longer a doubt that a dangerous movement was on foot for an insurrection, supported from abroad. If Catherine escaped with Mary to the Continent, war would instantly follow. If there was a rebellion at home, their friends intended to release them, and to use their names in the field. It was found necessary again to part them. The danger would be diminished if they were separated; together they confirmed each other's resolution. Catherine was sent to Kimbolton with a reduced household—her confessor, her doctor, her own personal servants and attendants—who had orders to call her Princess, but obeyed as little as they pleased. Mary was attached to the establishment of her baby sister Elizabeth under charge of Anne Boleyn's aunt, Mrs. Shelton.

History with a universal voice condemns the King's conduct as cruel and unnatural. It was not cruel in the sense of being wanton; it was not unnatural in the sense that he had no feeling. He was in a dilemma, through his own actions, from which he could not otherwise extricate himself. Catherine was not his wife, and he knew it; he had been misled by Wolsey into the expectation that the Pope would relieve him; he had been trifled with and played upon; he was now threatened with excommunication and deposition. Half his subjects, and those the boldest and most determined, had rallied to his side; his cause had become the occasion of a great and beneficent revolution, and incidental difficulties had to be dealt with as they rose. Catherine he had long ceased to love, if love had ever existed between them, but he respected her character and admired her indomitable courage. For his daughter he had a real affection, as appeared in a slight incident which occurred shortly after her removal. Elizabeth was at Hatfield, and Mary, whose pride Anne had threatened to humble, was with her. Mrs. Shelton's orders were to box Mary's ears if she presumed to call herself Princess. The King knew nothing of these instructions. He had found his daughter always dutiful except when under her mother's influence, and one day he rode down to Hatfield to see her. The Lady Anne, finding that he had gone without her knowledge, "considering the King's easiness and lightness, if anyone dared to call it so," and afraid of the effect which a meeting with his daughter might have upon him, sent some one in pursuit to prevent him from seeing or speaking with her. The King submitted to his imperious mistress, saw Anne's child, but did not see Mary. She had heard of his arrival, and as he was mounting his horse to ride back she showed herself on the leads, kneeling as if to ask his blessing. The King saw her, bowed, lifted his bonnet, and silently went his way.[10]

The French Ambassador met him afterwards in London. The King said he had not spoken to his daughter on account of her Spanish obstinacy. The Ambassador saying something in her favour, "tears rushed into the King's eyes, and he praised her many virtues and accomplishments." "The Lady," said Chapuys, "is aware of the King's affection for his daughter, and therefore never ceases to plot against her." The Earl of Northumberland, once Anne's lover, told him that she meant to poison the Princess. Chapuys had thought it might be better if she avoided irritating her father; he advised her to protect herself by a secret protest, and to let her title drop on condition that she might live with her mother. Lady Anne, however, it was thought, would only be more malicious, and a show of yielding would discourage her friends. Another plan was to carry her off abroad;; but war would then be inevitable, and Chapuys could not venture to recommend such an attempt without the Emperor's express consent.[11]

Catherine also was, or professed to be, in fear of foul play. Kimbolton was a small but not inconvenient residence. It was represented as a prison. The King was supposed to be eager for her death; and in the animosity of the time he, or at least his mistress, was thought capable of any atrocity. The Queen was out of health in reality, having shown signs of dropsy, and the physicians thought her life uncertain. She would eat nothing which her new servants provided; the little food she took was prepared by her chamberwoman, and her own room was used as a kitchen.[12] Charles had intimated that, if she was ill-used, he might be driven to interfere; and every evil rumour that was current was treasured up to exasperate him into action. No words, Chapuys said in a letter to the Emperor, could describe the grief which the King's conduct to the Queen and Princess was creating in the English people. They complained bitterly of the Emperor's inaction. They waited only for the arrival of a single ship of war to rise en masse; and, if they had but a leader to take command, they said, they would do the work themselves. They reminded him of Warwick, who dethroned the King's grandfather, and Henry VII., who dethroned Richard. Some even said the Emperor's right to the throne was better than the present King's; for Edward's children were illegitimate, and the Emperor was descended from the House of Lancaster. If the Emperor would not move, at least he might stop the Flanders trade, and rebellion would then be certain. There was not the least hope that the King would submit. The accursed Anne had so bewitched him that he dared not oppose her. The longer the Emperor delayed, the worse things would grow from the rapid spread of Lutheranism.[13]

Wise sovereigns, under the strongest provocation, are slow to encourage mutiny in neighbouring kingdoms. Charles had to check the overzeal of his Ambassador, and to tell him that "the present was no time for vigorous action or movement of any kind." Chapuys promised for the future "to persuade the Queen to patience, and to do nothing which might lead to the inconvenience" which the Emperor pointed out.[14] His impatient English friends whom he called "the people" were still obliged to submit in patience, while the King went on upon his way in the great business of the realm, amidst the "impress of shipwrights," the "daily cast of cannon," and foreign mart of implements for war. An embassy was sent to Germany to treat for an alliance with the Smalcaldic League. A book was issued, with the authority of the Privy Council, on the authority of kings and priests, showing that bishops and priests were equal, and that princes must rule them both. The Scotch Ambassador told Chapuys that if such a book had been published in his country the author of it would have been burnt.[15] Parliament met to pass the Bill, of which Henry had introduced a draft in the previous session, to restrict the Bishops' powers of punishing heretics. Dr. Nixe, the old bishop of Norwich, had lately burnt Thomas Bilney on his own authority, without waiting for the King's writ. Henry had the Bishop arrested, tried him before a lay judge, confiscated his property, and imprisoned him in the Tower. Parliament made such exploits as that of Dr. Nixe impossible for the future.

Act followed Act on the same lines. The Pope's Bulls were dispensed with on appointments to vacant sees. The King's nomination was to suffice. The tributes to Rome, which had been levied hitherto in infinite variety of form, were to be swept finally away, and with them an Act was introduced of final separation from the Papacy. Were it only in defiance of the Pope, Chapuys said, such measures impending would matter little, for the motive was understood; but the Preachers were teaching Lutheranism in the pulpits, drawing crowds to hear them, and, unless the root could be torn out, the realm would be lost.

Before the closing stroke was dealt in England the last scene of the tragi-comedy had to be played out in Rome itself. On the Pope's return from Marseilles the thunderbolt was expected to fall. The faithful Du Bellay rushed off to arrest the uplifted arm. He found Clement wrangling as before with Cifuentes, and Cifuentes, in despair, considering that, if justice would not move the Pope, other means would have to be found. The English Acts of Parliament were not frightening Clement. To them he had become used. But he knew by this time for certain that, if he deprived Henry, the Emperor would do nothing. Why, said he, in quiet irony, to the Emperor's Minister, does not your master proceed on the Brief de Attentatis? It would be as useful to him as the sentence which he asks for. By that the King has forfeited his throne. Cifuentes had to tell him, what he himself was equally aware of, that it was not so held in England. Until the main cause had been decided it was uncertain whether the marriage with Anne Boleyn might not be lawful after all.[16] In one of his varying moods the Pope had said at Marseilles that, if Henry had sent a proctor to plead for him at Rome, sentence would have been given in his favour.[17] It was doubtful whether even the Emperor was really determined, so ambiguous had been his answers when he was asked if he would execute the Bull. Du Bellay arrived in the midst of the suspense. He had brought an earnest message from Francis, praying that judgment might be stayed. As this was the last effort to prevent the separation of England the particulars have a certain interest.

In an interview with the Pope Du Bellay said that when he left London he believed that the rupture was inevitable. His own sovereign, however, had sent him to represent to the Holy See that the King of England was on the eve of forming a treaty with the Lutheran Princes. The King of France did not pretend to an opinion on the right or wrong of his brother of England's case; but he wished to warn his Holiness that means ought to be found to prevent such an injury to the Church.

The Pope answered that he had thought long and painfully on what he ought to do, and had delayed sentence as long as he was able. The Queen was angry and accused him of having been the cause of all that had happened. If the King of France had any further proposal to offer he was ready to hear it. If not, the sentence must be pronounced.

Cifuentes, finding Clement again hesitating, pointed out to him the violent acts which were being done in England, the encouragement of heresy, the cruel treatment of the Queen and Princess, and the risk to the Queen's life if nothing was done to help her. Clement sent for Du Bellay again and inquired more particularly if he had brought no practical suggestion with him. Du Bellay could only say that he had himself brought none; but he trusted that the Pope might devise something, as, without it, not England only but other countries would be irretrievably lost to the Holy See. The Pope said he could think of nothing; and in his account of what had passed to Cifuentes he declared that he had told Du Bellay that he meant to proceed.

Cifuentes was not satisfied. He saw that the Pope was still reluctant. He knew that there were intrigues among the Cardinals. He said that Henry was only making use of France to intimidate him. He asserted, with the deluding confidence which blinded the whole Catholic party, that the revolt of England was the act of the King and not of the people. He was certain, he said, that, although the Bishop pretended that he had no expedient to propose, he had one which he dared not disclose. He could not bring the Pope to a resolution. A further delay of six weeks was granted. Messengers were despatched to England, and English Commissioners were sent in answer. They had no concessions to offer, nor were any concessions expected of them. They lingered on the way. The six weeks expired and they had not arrived. The Spanish party in the Consistory were peremptory. They satisfied the Pope's last scruples by assuring him, vaguely, that he might rely upon the Emperor, and on March 23, with an outburst of general enthusiasm, the Bull was issued which declared valid the marriage of Henry and Catherine, the King to be excommunicated if he disobeyed, and to have forfeited the allegiance of his subjects.

The secular arm was not yet called in, and, before Charles could be required to move, one more step would still be needed. But essentially, and on the main cause of the trouble, the Pope had at last spoken, and spoken finally.[18] The passionate and devout Ortiz poured out on the occasion the emotions of grateful Catholicity. "The Emperor," he wrote, "had won the greatest of his victories—a victory over Hell. There had been difficulties even to the last. Campeggio had opposed, but at last had yielded to the truth. The Pope repented of his delay, but now feared he had committed a great sin in hesitating so long. The holy martyr, the Queen of England, had been saved. The Cardinals in past years had been bribed by the French King; by the influence of the Holy Spirit they had all decided in the Queen's favour. Their conscience told them they could not vote against her."[19]

In England the news of the decision had not been waited for. Two days after the issue of the Bull, the Act abolishing the Pope's authority was read the last time in the House of Lords, to the regret, said Chapuys, of a minority of good men, who could not carry the House along with them.

  1. Cifuentes to Charles V., Oct. 23, 1533.—Calendar, Foreign and Domestic, vol. vi. p. 534.
  2. Ibid.
  3. The Papal Nuncio to Charles V., Oct. 22.—Spanish Calendar, vol, iv. part 2, p. 830.
  4. Chapuys to Charles V., Nov. 3, 1533.—Ibid. pp. 839–41.
  5. Chapuys to Charles V., Dec. 6, 1533.—Spanish Calendar, vol. iv. part 2, p. 871,
  6. Chapuys to Charles V., Nov. 20, 1533.—Spanish Calendar, vol. iv. part 2, p. 859. Catherine to Charles V., Nov. 21.—Calendar, Foreign and Domestic, vol. vi. p. 578.
  7. Chapuys to Charles V., Nov. 24, 1533.—Spanish Calendar, vol. iv. part 2, p. 864.
  8. Gardiner to Henry VIII., Nov. 1533.—Calendar, Foreign and Domestic, vol. vi. p. 571.
  9. Chapuys to Charles, Dec, 9, 1533.—Spanish Calendar, vol. iv. part, p. 875.
  10. Chapuys to Charles, Jan. 17, 1534.—Calendar, Foreign and Domestic, vol. vii. p. 31.
  11. Chapuys to Charles V., Feb. 11, 1534.—Spanish Calendar, vol. v, p. 31.
  12. Chapuys to Charles V., Jan. 17, 1534.—Calendar, Foreign and Domestic, vol. vii. pp. 31–38.
  13. Chapuys to Charles V., Dec. 16, 1533.—Spanish Calendar, vol. iv, part 2, p. 883.
  14. Spanish Calendar, vol. v. p. 32.
  15. Chapuys to Charles V., Jan, 3, 1534,—Spanish Calendar, vol, v. p. 1.
  16. Cifuentes to Charles V., Jan. 23, 1534.—Spanish Calendar, vol. v. p. 17.
  17. Chapuys to Charles V., Jan. 28, 1534.—Spanish Calendar, vol. v, p. 24.
  18. Cifuentes to Charles V., March 24.—Spanish Calendar, vol. v. p. 84.
  19. Ortiz to Charles V., March 24, 1534.—Ibid. vol. v. p. 89.