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reply to these foolish charges, and others “more foolish still.”l And the archbishop, therefore, without hearing any reply, indignantly rejected them.
What the charges "more foolish still” may have been Erasmus does not record. But Tyndale mentions as a well-known fact that “the Bishop of London would have made Dean Colet of Paules an heretic for translating the Paternoster in English had not the [Arch]bishop of Canterbury helped the Dean."2
Colet's English translation or paraphrase of the Paternoster still remains to show that he was open to the charge. But for once,
, at least, the persecutor was robbed of his prey !
For a while, indeed, Colet's voice had been silenced; but now Erasmus was able to congratulate his friend on his return to his post of duty at St. Paul's.
“I was delighted to hear from you she wrote from Cambridge), and have to congratulate you that you have returned to your most sacred and useful work of preaching. I fancy even this little interruption will be overruled for good, for your people will listen to your voice all the more eagerly for having been deprived of it for a while. Vay Jesus, Optimus Maximus, keep you in safety.""
3. COLET PREACHES AGAINST THE CONTINENTAL WARS (1512-13).
If thus Colet returned to his pulpit after a narrow escape of being burned for heresy, it was to continue to do his duty, and not to preach in future only such sermons as might escape the censure of his bishop. His honesty and boldness were soon again put to the test.
It was in the summer of 1512, that Henry VIII. for the first time mingled the blood of English soldiers in those continental wars which now for some years became the absorbing object of attention.
European rulers had not yet accepted the modern notion of territorial sovereignty. Instead of looking upon themselves as the rulers of nations, living within the settled boundaries of their respective countries, they still thirsted for war and conquest, and dreamed of universal dominion. To how great an extent this was so, a glance at the ambitious schemes of the chief rulers of Europe at this period will show.
How Pope Julius II. was striving to add temporal to spiritual sovereignty, and desired to be the lord and master of the game of the world, has been already noticed in mentioning how it called forth
(1) Eras. to Justus Jonus, Eras. op. ii., p. 460. D and E.
(2) Also quoted in Knight's Life of Colet, p. 93, from works of Tyndal, &c., fol., London, 1573, p. 318.
(3) “ The Seven Peticyons of the Paternoster," by Joan Colet, Deane of Pauleş. Knight's Life of Colet, App., No. xii., p. 450.
(4) Eras. Epist. cvii. Brewer, No. 3495, under date 1st Nov. 1512.
the satire of Erasmus in his “ Praise of Folly.” This warlike Pope was still fighting in his old age. Side by side with Pope Julius was Cæsar Maximilian, Archduke of Austria, King of the Romans, Emperor of Germany, &c., fit representative of the ambitious house of Hapsburg! Not contented with all these titles and dominions, Maximilian was intriguing to secure by marriages the restoration of Hungary and Bohemia, and the annexation of the Netherlands, Franche-Compte, and Artois, as well as of Castile and Arragon, to the titles and possessions of his Royal house. And what he could not secure by marriages he was trying to secure by arms. Had his success equalled his lust of dominion, east and west would have been united in the one “ Holy Empire” of which he dreamed, independent eren of Papal interference, and hereditary for ever in the house of Hapsburg. Then there was Louis XII., the “most Christian" King of France, laying claim to a great part of Italy, pushing his influence and power so far as to strike terror into the minds of other princes; assuming to himself the rank of the first prince in Christendom; his chief minister aspiring to succeed Julius II. in the Papal chair; his son Francis ready to become a candidate for the empire on the death of Maximilian. And, lastly, there was Henry VIII. of England, eager to win his spurs, and to achieve military renown at the first opportunity; reviving old obsolete claims on the crown of France; offering himself as a candidate for the empire when it became vacant; plotting to secure the election of Wolsey to the Papal chair! Throw all these rival claims and objects of ambition into a wild medley, consider to what plots and counter-plots, leagues and breaches of them, all this vast entanglement of interests and ambitions must give rise, and some faint idea may be gained of the state of European politics.
Already in December, 1511, a Holy Alliance had been formed between Pope Julius, Maximilian, Ferdinand, and Henry VIII., to arrest the conquests and humble the ambition of Louis XII. In the summer of 1512 the first English expedition sailed. Ferdinand persuaded Henry VIII, to aid him in attacking Guienne, and all unused to the stratagems of war, he fell into the snare. While his father-in-law was playing his selfish game, and reducing the kingdom of Navarre, Henry's fleet and soldiers were left to play their part alone. The whole expedition, owing to delays and gross mismanagement, wofully miscarried. There were symptoms of mutiny and desertion ; and at length the English army returned home utterly demoralised, and in the teeth of their commands. The English flag was disgraced in the eyes of Europe. French wits wrote biting satires, “De Anglorum è Galliis Fuga,
"I and in bitter disappointment Henry VIII., to avoid further disgrace, was obliged to
(1) Philomorus, 71.
the affair, allowing the disbanded soldiers to return to their homes without further inquiry. It was in vain that More replied to the French wits with epigram for epigram, correcting their exaggerated satire, and turning the tables upon their own nation. He laid the foundation of a controversy by which he was annoyed in after years, and did little at the time to remove the general feeling of national disgrace which resulted from this first trial of Henry VIII. at the game
of war. Meanwhile Colet, ever prone to speak out plainly what he thought, had publicly from his pulpit expressed his own strong condemnation of the war. And the old Bishop of London, ever lying in wait, like the persecuting Pharisees of old, to find an occasion of evil against him, eagerly made use of this pretext to renew the attempt to get him into trouble. He had failed to bring down upon the Dean the terrors of ecclesiastical authority, but it would answer his purpose as well if he could provoke against him royal displeasure. He therefore informed the king, now eagerly bent upon his continental wars, that Colet had condemned them; that he had publicly preached in a sermon “that an unjust peace was to be preferred before the justest war.” While the bishop was thus whispering evil against him in the royal ear, others of his party were zealously preaching up the war, and launching out ignorant invectives against Colet and “the poets," as they designated those who were suspected of preferring classical Latin and Greek to the “blotterature,” as Colet called it, of the monks. By these means they appear to have hoped to bring Colet into disgrace and themselves into favour with the king.
But it would seem that they watched and waited in vain for any visible sign of success. The king appeared strangely indifferent alike to the treasonable preaching of the Dean, and to their own effervescent loyalty.
Unknown to them, the king sent for Colet, and privately encouraged him to go on boldly reforming by his teaching the corrupt morals of the age, and by no means to hide his light in times so dark. He knew full: well, he said, what those bishops were plotting against him, and how much good service he had done to the British nation both by example and teaching. And he ended by saying that he would put such a check upon the attempts of those men as would make it clear to others that if any one chose to meddle with Colet it would not be with impunity!
Upon this Colet thanked the king for his kind intentions, but as to what he proposed further, beseeched him to forbear. “He had no wish,” he said, “ that any one should be the worse on his account; he had rather resign his preferment than it should come to that."
(1) Eras., Justo Jono, op. iii. pt. 1, 460, 461.
4. COLET PROTESTS AGAIN. SECOND CAMPAIGN (1513). The spring of 1513 was spent by Henry VIII. in energetic preparations for another campaign, in which he hoped to retrieve the lost credit of his arms. The young king, in spite of his regard for better counsellors, was intent upon warlike achievements. His first failure had made him the more eager to rush into the combat again. Wolsey, the only man amongst the war party whose energy and tact were equal to the emergency, found in this turn of affairs the stepping-stone to his own ambitious fortune. The preparations for the next campaign were entrusted to his hands.
Rumours were heard that the French would be likely to invade England, if Henry VIII. long delayed his invasion of France. To meet this contingency, the sheriffs of Somerset and Dorset had been already ordered to issue proclamations that every man between sixty and sixteen should be ready in arms ? to defend his country.
1 Ever and anon came tidings that the French navy was moving restlessly about on the opposite shore,” in readiness for some unknown enterprise. Diplomatists were meanwhile weaving their wily webs of diplomacy, deceiving and being deceived. Even between the parties to the league there were constant breaches of confidence and double dealing. The entangled meshes of international policy were thrown into still greater confusion in February, by the death of Julius, the head-centre of the Holy Alliance. The new Pope might be a Frenchman, instead of the leader of the league against France, for anything men knew. The moment was auspicious for the attempt to bring about a peace. But Henry VIII. was bent upon war." He urged on the equipment of the fleet, and was impatient of delay. On the 17th of March he conferred upon Sir Edward Howard the high-sounding title of “Admiral of England, Wales, Ireland, Normandy, Gascony, and Aquitaine.” 3 On Saturday, the 21st, he went down to Plymouth to inspect the fleet in person, and left orders to the admiral to put to sea. He had set his heart upon his fleet, and in parting from Howard commanded him to send him word “how every ship did sail.” 4 With his royal head thus full of his ships and sailors, and eagerly waiting for tidings of the result of their first trial trip in the Channel, Henry VIII. entered upon the solemnities of Holy Week.
On Good Friday, the 27th, he attended Divine service in the Royal Chapel. Dean Colet was the preacher for the day, and as when called to preach before Convocation he had chosen his text expressly for the bishops, so now in the royal presence he preached his sermon to the king.
(1) Brewer, i., 3723.
(2) Brewer, i., 3752, 3821. (3) Brewer, i., 3809. (4) Brewer, i., xlvii., and No. 3820.
"He preached wonderfully" (says Erasmus)" on the victory of Christ, exhorting all Christians to fight and conquer under the banner of their king. He showed that when wicked men, out of hatred and ambition, fought with and destroyed one another, they fought under the banner, not of Christ, but of the Devil. He showed further how hard a thing it is to die a Christian death (on the field of battle); how few undertake a war except from hatred or wicked ambition ; how hardly possible it is for those who really have that brotherly love, without which no one can see the Lord,' to thrust their sword into their brother's blood; and he urged, in conclusion, that instead of imitating the example of Cæsars and Alexanders, the Christian ought rather to follow the example of Christ, his Prince."!
So earnestly had Colet preached, and with such telling and pointed allusion to the events of the day, that the king was not a little afraid that the sermon might damp the zeal of his newly enlisted soldiers. Thereupon, like birds of evil omen, the enemies of Colet hovered round him as though he were an owl, hoping that at length the royal anger might be stirred against him. The king sent for Colet. He came at the royal command. He dined at the Franciscan monastery adjoining the palace at Greenwich. When the king knew he was there, he went out into the monastery garden to meet him, dismissing all his attendants. And when they two were quite alone, he bade Colet to cover his head and be at ease with him. “I did not call
you here, Dean,” he said to him, “ to interrupt your holy labours, for of these I altogether approve, but to unburden my conscience of some scruples, that by your advice I may be able more fully to do my duty.” They talked together nearly an hour and a half; Colet's enemies meanwhile impatiently waiting in the court, scarcely able to contain their fury, chuckling over the jeopardy in which they thought Colet at last stood with the king. As it was, the king approved and agreed with Colet in everything he said. But he was glad to find that Colet had not intended to declare absolutely that there could be no just war, no doubt persuading himself that his own was one of the very few just ones. The conversation ended in his expressing a wish that Colet would some time or other explain himself more clearly, lest the raw soldiers should go away with a mistaken notion, and think that he had really said that no war is lawful to Christians. “And thus (continues Erasmus) Colet, by his singular discretion and moderation, not only satisfied the mind of the king, but even rose in his favour.” When he returned to the palace at parting, the king graciously drank to his health, embracing him most warmly, and, promising all the favours which it was in the power of a most loving prince to grant, dismissed him. Colet was no sooner gone than the courtiers flocked again round the king to know the result of his conference in the convent garden. Whereupon the king replied in the hearing of all: “Let every one have his own doctor, and let every one favour his own; this man is the doctor for me.” Upon this the hungry wolves departed without
(1) Eras. op. iii. p. 461.