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THE EMPEROR CHARLES V.
Wolsey, who was then in the ascendant, had been won by fair promises to Charles's cause.
In 1521, the Duke of Buckingham, who was descended from Edward III., was beheaded for having listened with a too credulous ear to the predictions of a pretended prophet, who had foretold his accession to the throne. The duke had committed no treasonable act, but the fear of a disputed succession, and of another war of the Roses, is the excuse made for this deed, as for many other unjust and cruel acts committed in this reign.
As Francis had again taken Milan, and re-established French ascendency in Italy, an alliance, under Wolsey's auspices, was concluded between Henry VIII. and Charles v. (1522). Henry sent an invading army into France under the command of the Earl of Surrey, which, though it caused much waste and havoc, achieved nothing substantial. Francis retaliated by stirring up his Scotch allies to cross the borders. A second time Francis lost Milan through the incapacity of his general; and in an endeavour to recover it from the imperialists, he was made prisoner at the battle of Pavia (1525), and carried off captive to Madrid. The eyes of Henry and Wolsey were now opened to what Francis had long seen, namely, that Charles, who was sole master of Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, Naples, the New World, and now also arbiter of the destinies of France and Italy, threatened the independence of Europe. Accordingly, Henry hastened to conclude a treaty with Francis' mother, who had been named Regent during her son's captivity. In 1527, Charles's troops, under the command of the French traitor the Duke of Bourbon, besieged, took, and pillaged Rome, and shut up the Pope, Clement VII., in the Castle of St. Angelo. Although Roman Catholic Europe felt horror at what they regarded as a sacrilege, Charles persisted in his course, and succeeded in establishing the ascendency of the house of Austria in Italy, an ascendency which still continues unshaken.
The great event of Henry's reign was the Reformation-the establishment of the Protestant religion. The title of Protestant originated with the German Lutherans in 1529, when they pro
tested against the decree of the diet of Spires, which condemned as unlawful all changes in the Roman doctrine and discipline. Martin Luther, an Augustine monk, and professor of the university of Wittemberg, had visited Rome in 1510. It seemed to him more like a Pagan city than the capital of Christendom. Before Luther's time, many attempts had been made to reform the corrupt practices and false doctrines that had become grafted on the Christian religion. Wycliffe, who died in 1384, had, as we have read in an earlier part of this history, made a noble effort in England, and had been followed in Germany by John Huss and Jerome of Prague, students of his writings, both of whom were burned by decree of the Council of Constance in 1415. In Henry's reign the time was ripe for the Reformation. It began in Germany, where the struggle between the old and the new faith was long and fierce. Many of the independent German princes adopted Lutheranism, pre-eminent amongst whom was Luther's zealous friend and protector, the Elector of Saxony. The menacing attitude and encroachments of the Turks under the ablest and greatest of their sultans, Solyman the Magnificent, kept Charles v. constantly occupied, and allowed the Reformation to take root and spread in Germany. During many years of his reign, Henry continued to be a faithful son of the Church, and indeed wrote a book against Lutheranism, which procured for him the title of Defender of the Faith, conferred by the Pope. But the new doctrines had silently and secretly permeated the thinking minds of England, and when the occasion offered that was destined to give the final blow to the connexion of the English Church with the See of Rome, the country opposed but little resistance.
We ought not to omit to mention here the great service rendered to the cause of the Reformation in England by the publication of the New Testament in the vernacular tongue (1525), by William Tyndale. In order to accomplish his purpose of translating the Scriptures, he was compelled to betake himself to the Continent, whence, in a few years, he sent over numerous copies from different ports to this country. Scarcely were they received
DIVORCE OF CATHERINE.
and circulated, though in as quiet a manner as possible, than great excitement prevailed. A secret search was instituted simultaneously at London, Oxford, and Cambridge, and large quantities were burnt at St. Paul's Cross before the eyes of the Cardinal. The people, notwithstanding, read with avidity the copies which they had procured, or got others to read to them, and thus the Reformation received a powerful impulse.
The occasion seized for rejecting and throwing off for ever the papal jurisdiction, was the refusal of Pope Clement VII. to annul the marriage of Henry and Catherine of Arragon. Henry had been eighteen years married to Catherine, who had borne him many children, all of whom died in infancy, except the weak and sickly Mary. Henry, brooding over this affliction, expressed his persuasion that it was sent as a punishment for his having married his brother's wife. The long and terrible Wars of the Roses, caused by a disputed succession to the throne, was still fresh in the memory of the country. It was improbable that Catherine would have more children, and as the king and country desired the perpetuation of the Tudor dynasty, and as, moreover, the king had fallen in love with the beautiful Anne Boleyn, the Duke of Norfolk's niece, a separation from Catherine was proposed. Wolsey advised Henry to demand from Clement a dispensation permitting him to marry Anne Boleyn. Clement was an amiable, but weak, timid man, and when the proposal was first made to him, he was under the influence of the terror occasioned by the pillage and massacre of Rome by the army of Charles v., and was himself a captive in the Castle of St. Angelo (1527). Wolsey hoped that the Pope's dispensation would, when granted, bind Henry closer than ever to the Papacy. But Charles V., in spite of appearances, was a zealous champion of the Roman Church, and being Catherine's nephew, was bound also to be her champion. Clement, being in his hands, would listen to no reasoning: no argument could prevail over his dread of Charles's displeasure. Besides, he feared that without the Emperor's support all Germany would become Protestant, and accordingly refused the dispensation.
To mask his purposes and to gain time, the Pope sent Campeggio as his legate to hear the case in England. But Catherine, feeling she had no chance of a fair trial here, appealed to Rome. By way of compromise, Cranmer, afterwards archbishop of Canterbury, proposed that the opinions of the learned men and universities of Europe should be collected on the question, "Whether Pope Julius II. had not exceeded his power in permitting Henry to marry Catherine, his brother's widow?" The verdict was what Henry wished it to be.
Wolsey's disgrace and fall soon followed- -a fall mainly due to the influence of Anne Boleyn, whose proposed marriage with the king he had opposed. But many causes combined to hasten his ruin. His grand intellect and nature had eclipsed the old nobility. He had many enemies and but one friend-Thomas Cromwellwho, in his hour of danger and disgrace, had the courage to speak in his defence. Being stripped of his offices, he retired to his archbishopric of York, but was soon summoned to London on a charge of high treason. Happily for him he died on his way, at Leicester Abbey (1530). Had he attained the Papal throne—the great object of his ambition-his wise, moderate, and sagacious mind, would no doubt have endeavoured to find a solution for religious differences, which might possibly have restored purity of faith and worship, and thus have preserved the unity of Christendom. He was an enlightened and munificent patron of learning, as Christ College, Oxford, bears witness. Hampton Court and Whitehall remain monuments of his magnificent taste. Our great dramatist has given such noble expression to the thoughts of Wolsey, when he found himself divested of all his offices, and deserted by his friends, that we must pause to introduce the well-known scene:-
How does your Grace?
Never so truly happy, my good Cromwell.
I know myself now; and I feel within me
A peace above all earthly dignities,
A still and quiet conscience. The king has cured me,
I humbly thank his Grace; and from these shoulders,
A load would sink a navy, too much honour:
Oh, 'tis a burden, Cromwell, 'tis a burden,
Too heavy for a man that hopes for heaven.
Cromwell. I am glad your Grace has made that right use of it.
(Out of a fortitude of soul I feel),
To endure more miseries, and greater far,
Than my weak-hearted enemies dare offer.
The heaviest, and the worst,
God bless him!
Is your displeasure with the king.
Cromwell. The next is, that Sir Thomas More is chosen
Lord Chancellor in your place.
That's somewhat sudden :
But he's a learned man. May he continue
Long in his highness' favour, and do justice
For truth's sake, and his conscience; that his bones,
May have a tomb of orphans' tears wept on 'em!
Cromwell. That Cranmer is return'd with welcome,
Wolsey. That's news indeed.
Last, that the Lady Anne,
Whom the king hath in secrecy long married,
Going to chapel; and the voice is now
Only about her coronation.
Wolsey. There was the weight that pull'd me down, O Cromwell,
The king has gone beyond me, all my glories
In that one woman I have lost for ever:
No sun shall ever usher forth mine honours,
Or gild again the noble troops, that waited
Upon my smiles. Go, get thee from me, Cromwell;
I am a poor fallen man, unworthy now
To be thy lord and master: Seek the king;