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a breach of their duty as Catholic priests, the horrible sentence of the law was executed in all its particulars. They were cut down alive, had their bowels torn out, and were then beheaded and dismembered. They suffered on account of the oath of supremacy ; but between the executions there was an atrocious interlude of a more doctrinal nature. On the 25th of May there were examined in St. Paul's nineteen men and five women, natives of Holland, who had openly professed the doctrines of the Anabaptists, and denied the real presence of the body and blood of Christ in the bread and wine of the sacrament. Fourteen of them were condemned to the flames : two, a man and a woman, suffered in Smithfield ; the remaining twelve were sent to other towns, there to be burnt for example's sake, and for the vivid manifestation of the king's orthodoxy.
But greater victims were now stricken ; for, casting aside all feelings except those of vengeance, Henry had resolved to shed the blood of Fisher and of More. These illustrious men had both been close prisoners in the Tower ever since the passing of the act of supremacy. The aged bishop was put upon his trial for having maliciously and traitorously said that the king, in spiritual matters, could not be the head of the church. And he was sentenced in the usual manner to die the death of a traitor. While he lay in the Tower, in respect for his sufferings in the cause of the church, his great age, learning, and unquestionable virtue, a cardinal's hat was sent to him from Rome. “Ha!” cried the savage Henry, “ Paul may send him the hat; I will take care that he have never a head to wear it on." Accordingly, on the 22nd day of June, of this same year of blood, the old prelate was dragged out of the Tower and beheaded. His grey head was stuck upon London bridge, turned towards the Kentish hills, among which he had passed so many happy and respected years. His body, by the king's orders, was exposed naked to the gaze of the populace, and then thrown into a humble grave in Barking church-yard, without coffin or shroud. Such was the end of Henry's oldest friend, -of an amiable and most accomplished man,-of one of the most indefatigable restorers of ancient learning. Without losing time, the royal monster proceeded against Sir Thomas More. Archbishop Cranmer, Cromwell, and others had waited upon him several times in the Tower, with the object of winning him over, or inducing him to take the oath of supremacy, in order to save his life : but More, though he had sometimes shown a timidity of disposition, had now fully made up his mind to die rather than to act contrary to his conscience. It is stated on good authority that certain underhand manævres, which nad also been employed against his friend Fisher, were resorted to with the view of entrapping him into treasonable declarations. But the examinations which rest on still better authority are the following. On the fourteenth of June four interrogatories were ministered to him in the Tower
by Mr. Bedle, Dr. Aldridge, Dr. Layton, and Dr. Carwen, in the presence of Pelstede, Whally, and Rice.
1. He was asked whether he had had any communication, reasoning, or consultation with any man or person, since he came to the Tower, touching the acts of succession, the act of supreme head, or the act wherein the speaking of certain words against the king's highness is made treason? He replied in the negative.
2. Item, whether he had received any letters of any man, or written any letters to other men, since he came to the Tower, touching the said acts, or any of them, or any other business or affairs concerning the king's highness, his succession, or this his realm? To this he answered that he had written divers scrolls or letters to his fellow-prisoner Fisher, and received from him some others in return, “ whereof the most part contained nothing else but comfort and words from either to other, and declaration of the state that they were in in their bodies, and giving of thanks for such meat or drink that the one had sent to the other.” But he admitted that
he had once written to Dr. Fisher, telling him how he had refused to take the oath, and of his determination never to show to the council the cause for which he did so refuse ; and that Fisher had replied, telling him how he had answered the council, and reminding him that he had not refused to swear to the succession. After this he said that there passed no other letters between them that anything touched the king's business, till the council went to the Tower to examine him (More) upon the act of supreme head, upon which his fellow-captive wrote to inquire what answer he had made ; and thereupon he wrote, “My lord, I am determined to meddle of nothing, but only to give my mind upon God; and the sum of my whole study shall be to think upon the passion of Christ, and my passage ou of this world, with the dependencies thereupon ;” or words to that effect. And, he added, that within a short while after he received another letter from the said Dr. Fisher, stating that he was informed that there was a word in the statute, maliciously; and, if it were so, that he thought thereby that a man speaking nothing of malice did not offend the statute, and desired the respondent to show him whether he saw any otherwise in it:” to all which he (More) merely replied “ that the understanding or interpretation of the said statute should neither be taken after his mind nor after his friend's mind ; and therefore it was not good for any man to trust unto any such things.” He also admitted that he had warned Fisher not to speak the same words to the council as he (More) had written unto him lest he should give grounds for a suspicion that there was some confederacy between them. What next follows makes the tears rush to the eyes, “ Also,” he said, “ that he, considering how it should come to his dear daughter's ear Mr. Roper's wife) that the council had been with him, and how she should hear things abroad of him that might put her to a sudden flight: and fearing lest she, being with child, should take some alarm, and minding therefore to prepare her beforehand to take well-a-worth whatsoever things should betide him, better or worse : he did send unto her, both after the first examination and also after the last, letters to signify how that the council had been to examine him touching the king's statutes, and that he had answered them that he would not meddle with nothing, but would serve God, and what the end thereof should be he could not tell ; but whatsoerer it were, better or worse, he desired her to take it patiently, and take no thought therefore, but only pray for him. And he said that she had written unto him before divers letters, to exhort him and advertise him to accommodate himself to the king's pleasure ; and specially, in the last letter, she used great vehemence and observation to persuade him to incline to the king's desire.
* * * And he said that George, the lieutenant's servant, did carry the said letters to and fro."
3. He was asked whether the same letters which he had written in the Tower were forthcoming or not? To this he answered, that he would have had George keep the letters, but that George always said that there was no better keeper than the fire, and so burned them all. He added, that being free from everything secret or treasonable, he had even requested the poor man, for safety sake, to show them to some trusty friend of his that could read, and had told him to lay them before the king's council, if any suspicious matter were found in them ; but George feared so his master the lieutenant that he kept the letters to himself, and would needs burn them.
4. The last interrogatory was, whether any man of this realm, or without this realm, did send unto him any letters or message counselling or exhorting him to continue and persist in the opinion that he was in ? To which he answered, “Nay.” He was further asked with what intent he sent the said letters to Dr. Fisher ? His answer was, “ that, considering they were both in one prison, and for one cause, he was glad to send unto him, and to hear from him again."
But to all this there was a supplement. He was asked whether he would obey the king's highness as supreme head on earth, immediately under Christ, of the church of England, and him so repute, take, accept, and recognise according to the statute. To this he said that he could make no answer. He was next asked whether he would consent and approve the king's highness's marriage with the most poble queen Anne to be good and lawful, and affirm that the marriage with the lady Catherine, Princess Dowager, was, and is, unjust and unlawful.
He replied, that he did never speak for meddle against the same, but that he would make no further answer. Finally, they demanded whether he, being one of the king's subjects, was not bound to recognise the supremacy as all other subjects were bound thereto by the statute. Ile replied again that he could make no answer.
Before this he had said, in an affecting letter, “I am the king's true faithful subject and daily beadsman. I pray for his highness, and all his, and all the realm. I do nothing harm; I say no harm ; I think none harm; and wish everybody good; and if this be not enough to keep a man alive, in good faith I long not to live. I am dying already ; and, since I came here, have been divers times in the case that I thought to die within one hour. And, I thank our Lord, I was never sorry for it, but rather sorry when I saw the pang past ; and, therefore, my poor body is at the king's pleasure. Would to God my death might do him good !” But this mixture of an almost heavenly meekness with an heroic firmness made no impression on the king, who was now drunk and mad with the heady spirit of absolutism. By his orders they had deprived that glorious wit and scholar of the sweet solace of his books—Rich, the king's solicitor, having been sent to the Tower to take them all from him. Nay, they had even deprived him of pen, and ink, and paper. Some commiserating soul, however,—probably poor George-put some scraps of paper in his way ; and on such materials, and with a piece of charcoal, he wrote his last letter to his beloved child. At length, after a year's most trying imprisonment, he was brought out of the Tower, led on foot through the crowded streets to Westminster Hall
, and there arraigned of high treason. He appeared in that court where he had once presided as an upright judge, in a coarse woollen gown, bearing about him frightful evidences of a rigorous confinement. His hair had become white, his face was pallid and emaciated, and he was obliged to support himself on a staff. But the mind was much less bowed and bent, and some of his old wit and vivacity soon lighted up his sunken eye ; and his vile judges— the slavish instruments of a despot-dreaded his eloquence, and the sympathy which the mere sight of him excited. They attempted to overpower and confound him with the length and wordiness of the indictment. But after declining an offer of pardon, upon condition of doing the king's will, he entered upon a clear and eloquent defence, stripping the clauses of their false coverings, and exposing them in their nakedness and nothingness. He maintained that neither by word nor deed had he done any thing against the king's marriage with Anne Boleyn : he had, indeed, disapproved of that business, but he had never expressed this disapprobation to any other person than the king, who had commanded him, on his allegiance, to give his real opinion. As to his having sought to deprive the king of his new title of supreme head of the church, he said that all that he had done was to be silent thereon, and th silence was not treason. But his doom was fixed by those who had put themselves above all law or scruples of conscience. The infamous Rich, the solicitor-general, who was afterwards created Lord Rich, deposed that, in a private conversation he had had with the prisoner in the Tower, More said, "the parliament cannot make the king the head of the church, because it is a civil tri. bunal without authority in spiritual matters.” More denied that he had spoken these words; and he remarked upon the character which Rich had borne in the
world, and which was so bad as to render even his oath unworthy of belief. Two witnesses were produced to support the charge made by Rich; but, in their case, conscience got the better of authority, and they declared that, though they were in the room, they did not pay attention to what was said. The judges, who were assisted by the duke of Norfolk, and other great men appointed by the king, laid it down as a law that silence was treason, and the jury without any hesitation, returped a verdict of guilty. When sentence had been pronounced More rose to address the court : he was coarsely interrupted. He tried again, and was again interrupted ; but on a third attempt he was allowed to proceed. He told them that what he had hitherto concealed he would now openly declare, and he boldly proclaimed that the oath of supremacy was utterly unlawful. He regretted to differ from the noble lords whom he saw on the bench, but his conscience would not permit him to do otherwise. He declared that he had no animosity against them, and that he hoped that, even as St. Paul was present and consented to the death of Stephen, and yet was afterwards a companion saint in heaven, so they and he should all meet together hereafter.“ And so,” he concluded, “may God preserve you all
, and especially my lord the king, and send him good counsel !" As he moved from the bar his son rushed through the hall, fell upon his knees, and begged his blessing. With the axe turned towards him he walked back to the Tower, amid the great wonderment and commiseration of the citizens. On reaching the Tower-wharf his dear daughter, Margaret Roper, forced her way through the officers and halberdiers that surrounded him, clasped him round the neck, and sobbed aloud. Sir Thomas consoled her, and she collected sufficient power to bid him farewell for ever ; but, as her father mored on, she again rushed through the crowd and threw herself upon his neck. Here the weakness of nature overcame him, and he wept as he repeated his blessing and his Christian consolation. The people wept too ; and his guards were so much affected that they could hardly summon up resolution to separate the father and daughter. After this trial the anguish of death was past. The old man's wit flashed brightly in his last moments. When told that the king had mercifully commuted the hanging, drawing, and quartering unto simple decapitation, he said, "God preserve all my friends from such royal favours !” This happy vein accompanied him to the very scaffold. The frame-work was weak, and some fears were expressed lest the scaffold might break down. “Mr. Lieutenant," said More, “ see me safe up, and for my coming down let me shift for myself.” The executioner, as usual, asked forgiveness. “Friend," said More, “thou wilt render me to-day the greatest service in the power of man; but my neck is very short ; take heed, therefore, that thou strike not awry, for the sake of the credit of thy profession." He was not permitted to address the spectators, but he ventured to declare that he died a faithful subject and a true Catholic. After prayers said, he placed his head upon the block, but he bade the headsman hold his hand until he removed his beard, saying, with a smile, “my beard has never committed any treason.” Then the blow fell, and the neck was severed at once. His head was picked up, and fixed upon London Bridge.
More was executed on the 6th of July, the eve of St. Thomas, in the year 1535, fourteen days after the death of his friend Fisher. These detestable murders spread a panic through the nation ; and the expression of the popular opinion, however timid and meek, went, with the workings of his own conscience, to increase the tyrant's jealousy and apprehension. In the month of August, Erasmus wrote to a friend that the English were now living in such a state of terror, that they durst not write to foreigners or receive letters from them. In fact, in all foreign countries where civilization had made progress, the fate of Fisher, and still more of that admirable wit and scholar, the author of the 'Utopia,' excited universal execration ;
and there, at least, men could speak their minds loudly. The lofty eloquence of Cardinal Pole, and the classical point of Erasmus, recorded the crime, and their striking accounts were afterwards circulated throughout Europe, awakening everywhere a hatred of its brutal author. It is reported of the emperor Charles, that, on being informed of the execution, he sent for sir Thomas Eliott, the English ambassador, and thus addressed him :-"My lord ambassador, we understand that your master has put to death his faithful servant, and grave and wise counsellor, sir Thomas More." Eliott replied that he had heard nothing of it. “Well,” said the emperor, “it is but too true; and this will we say, that if we had been master of such a servant, of whose abilities ourself have had these many years no small experience, we would rather have lost the best city in our dominions than so worthy a counsellor.” Nor did Charles's rival, the French king, feel a less lively emotion. He spoke of the executions in severe terms, and ventured to tell the English ambassador at his court, that his master should banish such offenders, rather than put to death. At this Henry was greatly incensed, and he impudently gave Francis to understand that they had suffered by due course of law—that they were well worthy to have suffered ten times a more terrible death and execution—that if they had a thousand lives they were all forfeited.
161.-SUPPRESSION OF THE MONASTERIES
HUME. There was only one particular in which Henry was quite decisive ; because he was there impelled by his avarice, or, more properly speaking, his rapacity, the consequence of his profusion : this measure was, the entire destruction of the monasteries ; the present opportunity seemed favourable for that great enterprise, while the suppression of the late rebellion fortified and encreased the royal authority; and as some of the abbots were suspected of having encouraged the insurrection, and of corresponding with the rebels, the king's resentment was farther incited by that motive. A new visitation was appointed of all the monasteries in England; and a pretence only being wanted for their suppression, it was easy for a prince, possessed of such unlimited power, and seconding the present humour of a great part of the nation, to find or feign one. The abbots and monks knew the danger to which they were exposed; and having learned, by the example of the lesser monasteries, that nothing could withstand the king's will, they were most of them induced, in expectation of better treatment, to make a voluntary resignation of their houses. Where promises failed of effect, menaces, and even extreme violence, were employed ; and as several of the abbots since the breach with Rome had been named by the court with a view to this event, the king's intentions were the more easily effected. Some also, having secretly embraced the doctrine of the reformation, were glad to be freed from their vows; and on the whole, the design was conducted with such success, that in less than two years the king had got possession of all the monastic revenues.
In several places, particularly in the county of Oxford, great interest was made to preserve some convents of women, who, as they lived in the most irreproachable manner, justly merited, it was thought, that their houses should be saved from the general destruction. There appeared also great difference between the case of nuns and that of friars; and the one institution might be laudable, while the other was exposed to much blame. The males of all ranks, if endowed with industry, might be of service to the public; and none of them could want employment suited to his station and capacity. But a woman of family who failed of a settlement in the