« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
ready to swallow them up for their ill life," and professing their conviction of the wickedness of their lives, and the falsehood of their pretended religion. Some, however, but only a few, had the temerity to speak a good word in favour of their house, at which "the King's highness was displeased," and said that they had been bribed to speak so; others stoutly resisted the commissioners, and were imprisoned or executed to terrify their brethren. The monks of the Charter House, London, were confined in Newgate, and there perished through hunger, disease, and neglect; and the abbots of Colchester, Reading, and Glastonbury (three of the greatest), Whalley, Jerveaux, and Sawley, together with the priors of Woburn and Burlington, and many others, were executed as felons or traitors, some within sight of their own monasteries.
which confiscated the monasteries
At length the system of confiscation was closed and sealed by a statute, in 1539, which provided that "all monasteries or The' act other religious houses, dissolved, suppressed, surrendered, renounced, relinquished, forfeited, or by any means come to his highness, shall be vested in him, his heirs and successors for ever. (31 Henry VIII., c. 13.)
When an abbey surrendered, the commissioners first broke its seal, and assigned pensions to its members. These Mode by varied according to rank; the monks of the greater abbey surmonasteries received from £266 to £6 a year; priors of rendered, cells £13: a few whose services had merited the distinction, obtained £20. To the other monks, pensions of £6, £4, or £2 were allotted, with a small sum to each at his departure, to provide for his immediate wants. The pensions to nuns averaged about £4.* These sums were worth ten times their present value, so that the monks were not turned adrift upon the world without fair means of support, for the pensions are said to have been faithfully paid, though they were no more than voluntary gifts on the part of the crown.†
After settling these payments, the visitors next disposed of the contents of the religious houses; they reserved the plate and jewels for the King, and sold the furniture and goods, sending the proceeds to the Augmentation Office. The abbot's lodgings and offices were left standing, but the church, cloisters, and monks' apartments were stripped of their lead, and every saleable article, and then left to fall in ruins. The lands and estates were escheated to the crown. The torrent of wealth which was thus in an instant poured upon the crown has seldom been equalled in any country by the confiscations following a subdued rebellion. * Lingard, VI., 263, note. + Hallam's Const. Hist., I., 73.
A writer who is partial to the monasteries says, that they held not more than one-fifth of the lands of the kingdom, though these abbey by granting leases they did not enjoy more than onelands. tenth.* These possessions were divided unequally among 400 or 500 monasteries; the abbots of Glastonbury, Reading, and Battle lived in princely splendour, the first having an income of £3,500, the second of £2,100, while the third was the richest in the kingdom. Others, on the other hand, had just sufficient for their wants.
Dr. Lingard rates the whole annual income of the suppressed houses at £142,914. 12s. 91d. Burnet makes it nearly ten times as much. The moveables of the smaller houses alone, says Hallam,† were reckoned at £100,000, and as the rents of these were less than a fourth of the whole, we may calculate the aggregate value of moveable wealth in the same proportion.
What became of them after
The greatest portion of this enormous wealth was gradually distributed amongst Henry's courtiers, either by grant or sale. It was at first intended to appropriate a large confiscation. portion to the advancement of religion, and an act of parliament was passed authorising the King to establish new bishoprics, deaneries, and colleges, and endow them with the lands of the suppressed monasteries. But out of eighteen new sees originally intended, only six were established, viz., Westminster, Bristol, Oxford, Chester, Peterborough, Gloucester. Fourteen abbeys and priories were at the same time converted into cathedral and collegiate churches, viz., Canterbury, Winchester, Worcester, Carlisle, Peterborough, Rochester, Bristol, Chester, Durham, Ely, Westminster, Gloucester, Burton-uponTrent, Thornton; a dean and prebendaries being allotted to each, and an obligation imposed on them to give annually a certain sum amongst the poor, and another for the repair of the King's highways.
IV. POLITICAL EXECUTIONS.
61. Execution of Pole's relatives and his mother, the Countess of Salisbury. The King now took a dreadful revenge for Cardinal Pole's opposition to his measures. After the execution of Fisher and More, Pope Paul III. who had succeeded Clement VII. ten months before, immediately drew up a bull of excommunication and interdict against Henry and his kingdom. But when Paul cast his eyes over Europe, and reflected that Charles and Francis,
* Harmer, quoted in Hallam's Const. Hist., I., 69. † Ibid, 76.
the only two princes who could attempt to carry the bull into execution, were, from their rivalry of each other, more eager to court the friendship than to risk the enmity of the King of England, he determined not to publish the bull for the present. Four years afterwards (June 18th, 1538), however, he prevailed upon the rivals to agree to a ten years' truce at Nice, and then obtained from them a promise, that if he published the bull they would publicly protest against Henry's schism, and cut off all their communications with him and his subjects. Pole conducted these negotiations, and thus provoked Henry to his revenge. Lord Montague, the cardinal's elder brother; his mother, the Countess of Salisbury; Henry Courtenay, Marquis of Exeter, with many other relatives and friends of the family, were arrested; and Montague, Exeter, and others were arraigned and charged with the very improbable offence of conspiring to place Reginald Pole on the throne, whose title was not even so good as Exeter's. They were all found guilty and executed, with the exception of Geoffrey Pole, the cardinal's younger brother, who saved his life by revealing the secrets of his companions (March, 1539).
These severities did not deter Pole from still actively exciting foreign powers against England, and Henry, therefore, caused his mother, together with the son of Lord Montague, the Marchioness of Exeter and others, to be attainted of treason, and condemned to death, without their having been tried or heard in their own defence. The marchioness was pardoned after six months' imprisonment; what became of the young Montague is unknown; the old countess was kept in the Tower for two years, and then executed, May 27th, 1541.
62. The Disgrace and Execution of Cromwell. During these prosecutions Cromwell suddenly fell from his power and greatness. The two religious parties had lately changed somewhat in their political standing, and the statute of the Six Articles had been passed (31 Hen. VIII., c. 14), which filled the Reformers with terror and dismay. But Cromwell still retained his influence, because his services were still wanted to complete the dissolution of the monasteries, and he was found to be of such great service to the King in his transactions with the parliament. Yet he had abundant cause for alarm. He had identified himself with the Reformers, and had gone to such great lengths against the Romanists, that reconciliation with them was impossible. He therefore saw with concern the growing influence of Norfolk and Suffolk, and Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, and to check their progress he laboured hard to persuade Henry to marry a
Protestant princess, and ally himself with the German Reformers. In an evil hour, he prevailed upon the King to seek in marriage the Princess Anne, sister of the Duke of Cleves, a considerable prince on the lower Rhine, who had lately established Lutheranism in his principality. Hans Holbein, the court painter, was sent over to take the lady's portrait; he executed such a flattering likeness that Henry, believing it faithful, readily agreed upon the marriage, and he rode to Dover to meet his bride when she landed (December 31st, 1539). But he immediately betrayed his disappointment; and though the marriage was solemnized, Cromwell being unable to devise any expedient by which it might be put off, the King determined to have a divorce as soon as possible. After six months, the ministers consulted parliament on the matter; the latter referred it to the convocation, which eagerly declared the marriage to be null and void by Anne's consent, and an act was immediately passed to this effect (July, 1540). Anne was endowed with an income of £3,000 a year, and she lived for sixteen years in England. In the meantime, Cromwell had been arrested and attainted of high treason. His fall was hastened by a theological dispute between Dr. Barnes, one of his secretaries, and Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester. In a sermon at St. Paul's Cross, the latter had severely censured the Lutheran doctrine of justification by faith. A fortnight afterwards, Dr. Barnes, in the same place, defended it; on which he was summoned before the King, prevailed upon to recant, and ordered to preach again in the same place, on the same subject. When the day came he read his recantation, and then maintained the Lutheran doctrine in stronger terms than before (April, 1540).
On the 10th of June following, Cromwell was arrested at the council board; on the 17th, the day on which he first took his place among the peers as Earl of Essex and Vicegerent of the King, the bill attainting him of high treason was read a first time, and two days afterwards (19th) was read a second and a third time, passed unanimously, and sent down to the House of Commons. On the 29th it came back from the Commons, and was once more passed by the Lords without a dissentient voice.
The offences with which he was charged were
(1) As minister he had received bribes, released many prisoners accusations confined for misprision of treason, and performed several acts of royal brought authority without the King's sanction.
(2) As Vicar-general he had betrayed his duty by favouring heretical preachers, patronising their works, and discouraging informations against them. (3) And he had declared that he would fight in defence of his own religious opinions against the King himself.*
* Mackintosh, II., 227; Froude, III., 493.
These charges "were so ungrounded, that had Cromwell been permitted to refute them, his condemnation, though not less certain, might perhaps have caused more shame."* But he was
not heard in his own defence, a violation of justice which he himself had first sanctioned, and of which it seemed an appropriate retribution of Providence, that he should be its earliest example. During the prosecution of the family of Cardinal Pole, he had, at Henry's command, inquired of the judges whether, if parliament should condemn a man of treason without hearing him, the attainder could be disputed? The judges replied, after long hesitation and many threatenings, that parliament, being the highest court in the land, none of its decisions could be reversed in a court of law. He was executed on the 28th of July, and though his execution was an act of flagrant injustice, it was for a time popular; for being an upstart he was hated by the nobility, and his suppression of the monasteries had made his name infamous amongst the people generally.
63. Execution of Queen Catherine Howard. The fall of Cromwell made way for the Roman Catholic party to resume their ascendancy, and the King married Catherine Howard, Triumph niece of the Duke of Norfolk, the leader of this party Romanists. (August, 1540). But in November of the following year, while Henry was vainly waiting at York to have an interview with his nephew, the King of Scotland, such information was received of Catherine's dissolute life before her marriage, as immediately caused a rigid inquiry into her behaviour. The first who accused the Queen was a domestic servant of the old Duchess of Norfolk, who had brought Catherine up; she gave the information to Lascelles, Catherine's brother, and he communicated it to Cranmer.
The facts, which are too gross to be stated, are contained in a despatch from the privy council to the ambassador at Paris, dated 12th of November, 1541, and they are related with a circumstantial exactness which forms a remarkable contrast to the vagueness of all former proceedings of a similar nature. The confessions of Catherine and of her companion, the infamous Lady Rochford, upon which they were attainted in parliament, and executed in the Tower (14th of February, 1542), do not appear to have ever been questioned; but these confessions related to Catherine's vices before marriage, and could not therefore legally criminate her. To bring the charge, therefore, within the Statute of Treasons, some acts of infidelity after the marriage were recited, but not proved; and to give a kind of legal sanction to the execution, Hallam's Const. Hist., I., 30.