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marriage state, an accident to which such persons were more liable than women of lower station, had really no rank which she properly filled ; and a convent was a retreat both honourable and agreeable, from the inutility and often want which attended her situation. But the king was determined to abolish monasteries of every denomination ; and probably thought that these ancient establishments would be the sooner forgotten, if no remains of them of any kind were allowed to subsist in the kingdom.
The better to reconcile the people to this great innovation, stories were propagated of the detestable lives of the friars in many of the convents; and great care was taken to defame those whom the court had determined to ruin. The reliques also, and other superstitions, which had so long been the object of the people's veneration, were exposed to their ridicule ; and the religious spirit, now less bent on exterior observances and sensible objects, was encouraged in this new direction. It is needless to be prolix in an enumeration of particulars : protestant historians mention on this occasion, with great triumph, the sacred repositories of convents; the pairings of St. Edmond's toes; some of the coals that roasted St. Laurence; the girdle of the Virgin shewn in eleven several places ; two or three heads of St. Ursula ; the felt of St. Thomas of Lancaster, an infallible cure for the head-ach ; part of St. Thomas of Canterbury's shirt; some reliques, an excellent preventive against rain ; others, a remedy to weeds in corn. But such fooleries, as they are to be found in all ages and nations, and even took place during the most refined periods of antiquity, form no particular or violent reproach to the catholic religion.
There were also discovered, or said to be discovered, in the monasteries, some impostures of a more artificial nature. At Hales in the county of Gloucester there had been shown, during several ages, the blood of Christ brought from Jerusalem ; and it is easy to imagine the veneration with which such a relique was regarded. A miraculous circumstance also attended this miraculous relique; the sacred blood was not visible to any one in mortal sin, even when set before him ; and till he had performed good works sufficient for his absolution, it would not deign to discover itself to him. At the dissolution of the monastery the whole contrivance was detected. Two of the monks who were let into the secret had taken the blood of a duck, which they renewed every week : they put it in a phial, one side of which consisted of thin and transparent chrystal, the other of thick and opaque. When any rich pilgrim arrived, they were sure to shew him the dark side of the phial, till masses and offerings had expiated his offences ; and then finding his money, or patience, or faith, nearly exhausted, they made him happy by turning the phial.
A miraculous crucifix had been kept at Boxley in Kent, and bore the appellation of the Rood of Grace. The lips, and eyes, and head of the image moved on the approach of its votaries. Hilsey bishop of Rochester broke the crucifix at St. Paul's cross, and shewed to the whole people the springs and wheels by which it had been secretly moved. A great wooden idol revered in Wales, called Darvel Gatherin, was brought to London, and cut in pieces : and by a cruel refinement in vengeance it was employed as fuel to burn friar Forest, who was punished for denying the supremacy, and for some pretended heresies. A finger of St. Andrew, covered with a thin plate of silver, had been pawned by a convent for a debt of forty pounds; but as the king's commissioners refused to pay the debt, people made themselves merry with the poor creditor on account of the pledge.
But of all the instruments of ancient superstition no one was so zealously destroyed as the shrine of Thomas à Becket, commonly called St. Thomas of Canterbury. This saint owed his canonization to the zealous defence which he had made for clerical privileges : and on that account also the monks had extremely encou
raged the devotion of pilgrimages towards his tomb; and numberless were the miracles which they pretended his reliques wrought in favour of his devout votaries. They raised his body once a year; and the day on which this ceremony was performed, which was called the day of his translation, was a general holiday. Every fiftieth year there was celebrated a jubilee to his honour, which lasted fifteen days; plenary indulgences were then granted to all that visited his torb, and a hundred thousand pilgrims have been registered at a time in Canterbury. The devotion towards him had quite effaced in that place the adoration of the Deity ; nay, even that of the Virgin. At God's altar, for instance, there were offered in one year three pounds two shillings and sixpence; at the Virgin's, sixty-three pounds five shillings and sixpence; at St. Thomas's, eight hundred and thirty-two pounds twelve shillings and three pence. But next year the disproportion was still greater. There was not a penny offered at God's altar ; the Virgin’s gained only four pounds one shilling and eightpence; but St. Thomas had got, for his share, nine hundred and fifty-four pounds six shillings and threepence. Lewis VII. of France had made a pilgrimage to this miraculous tomb, and had bestowed on the shrine a jewel, esteemed the richest in Christendom. It is evident how obnoxious to Henry a saint of this character must appear, and how contrary to all his projects for degrading the authority of the court of Rome. He not only pillaged the rich shrine dedicated to St. Thomas, he made the saint himself be cited to appear in court, and be tried and condemned as a traitor ; he ordered his name to be struck out of the calendar, the office for his festival to be expunged from all breviaries, his bones to be burned, and the ashes to be thrown in the air.
On the whole, the king at different times suppressed six hundred and forty-five monasteries, of which twenty-eight had abbots that enjoyed a seat in parliament. Ninety colleges were demolished in several counties; two thousand three hundred and seventy-four chantries and free chapels ; a hundred and ten hospitals. The whole revenue of these establishments amounted to one hundred and sixty one thousand one hundred pounds. It is worthy of observation, that all the lands and possessions and revenue of England had a little before this period been rated at four million a year ; so that the revenues of the monks, even comprehending the lesser monasteries, did not exceed the twentieth part of the national income, a sum vastly inferior to what is commonly apprehended. The lands belonging to the convents were usually let at very low rent; and the farmers, who regarded themselves as a species of proprietors, took always care to renew their leases before they expired.
Great murmurs were every where excited on account of these violences; and men much questioned whether priors and monks, who were only trustees or tenants for life, could, by any deed, however voluntary, transfer to the king the entire property of their estates. In order to reconcile the people to such mighty innovations, they were told that the king would never thenceforth have occasion to levy taxes, but would be able, from the abbey lands alone, to bear during war as well as peace the whole charges of government. While such topics were employed to appease the populace, Henry took an effectual method of interesting the nobility and gentry in the success of his measures : he either made a gift of the revenues of convents to his favourites and courtiers, or sold them at low prices, or exchanged them for other lands on very disadvantageous terms. He was so profuse in these liberalities, that he is said to have given a woman the whole revenue of a convent, as a reward for making a pudding which happened to gratify his palate. He also settled pensions on the abbots and priors, proportioned to their former revenues or to their merits ; and gave each monk a yearly pension of eight marks. He erected six new bishoprics, Westminster, Oxford, Peterborow, Bristol, Chester, and Gloucester ; of
which five subsist at this day: and by all these means of expence and dissipation the profit which the king reaped by the seizure of church lands fell much short of vulgar opinion. As the ruin of convents had been foreseen some years before it happened, the monks had taken care to secrete most of their stock, furniture, and plate ; so that the spoils of the great monasteries bore not in these respects any proportion to those of the lesser.
Beside the lands possessed by the monasteries, the regular clergy enjoyed a considerable part of the benefices of England, and of the tythes annexed to them; and these were also at this time transferred to the crown, and by that means passed into the hands of laymen : an abuse which many zealous churchmen regarded as the most criminal sacrilege. The monks were formerly much at their ease in England, and enjoyed revenues which exceeded the regular and stated expence of the house. We read of the abbey of Chertsey in Surrey, which possessed 744 pounds a year, though it contained only fourteen monks. That of Furnese in the county of Lincoln was valued at 960 pounds a year, and contained about thirty. In order to dissipate their revenues, and support popularity, the monks lived in a hospitable manner; and besides the poor maintained from their offals, there were many decayed gentlemen, who passed their lives in travelling from convent to convent, and were entirely subsisted at the tables of the friars. By this hospitality, as much as by their own inactivity, did the convents prove nurseries of idleness; but the king, not to give offence by too sudden an innovation, bound the new proprietors of abbey lands to support the ancient hospitality. But this engagement was fulfilled in very few places, and for a very short time.
162.-THE FALL OF CROMWELL.
HUNE. In 1540, a session of parliament was held ; and none of the abbots were now allowed a place in the house of peers. The king, by the mouth of the chancellor, complained to the parliament of the great diversity of religions which still prevailed among his subjects : a grievance, he affirmed, which ought the less to be endured, because the scriptures were now published in English, and ought universally to be the standard of belief to all mankind. But he had appointed, he said, some bishops and divines to draw up a list of tenets to which the people were to assent; and he was determined that Christ, the doctrine of Christ, and the truth, should have the victory. The king seems to have expected more effect in ascertaining truth, from this new book of his doctors, than had ensued from the publication of the scriptures. Cromwell, as vicar-general, made also, in the king's name, a speech to the upper house ; and the peers in return bestowed great flattery on him, and in particular said, that he was worthy, by his desert, to be vicar-general of the universe. That minister seemed to be no less in his master's good graces : he received soon after the sitting of the parliament, the title of earl of Essex, and was installed knight of the garter.
There remained only one religious order in England; the knights of St. John of Jerusalem, or the knights of Malta, as they are commonly called. This order, partly ecclesiastical, partly military, had by their valour done great service to Christendom; and had very much retarded at Jerusalem, Rhodes, and Malta, the rapid progress of the barbarians. During the general surrender of the religious houses in England, they had exerted their spirit, and had obstinately refused to yield up their revenues to the king ; and Henry, who would endure no society that professed obedience to the pope was obliged to have recourse to parliament for the dissolu
tion of this order. Their revenues were large, and formed an addition nowise contemptible to the many acquisitions which the king had already made. But he had very ill husbanded the great revenue acquired by the plunder of the church. His profuse generosity dissipated faster than his rapacity could supply; and the parliament was surprised this session to find a demand made upon them of fourtenths, and a subsidy of one shilling in the pound during two years ; so ill were the public expectations answered, that the crown was never more to require any supply from the people. The commons, though lavish of their liberty, and of the blood of their fellow-subjects, were extremely frugal of their money ; and it was not without difficulty so small a grant could be obtained by this absolute and dreaded monarch. The convocation gave the king four shillings in the pound, to be levied in two years. The pretext for these grants was, the great expence which Henry had undergone for the defence of the realm, in building forts along the sea coast, and in equipping a navy. As he had at present no ally on the continent in whom he reposed much confidence, he relied only on his domestic strength, and was on that account obliged to be more expensive in his preparations against the danger of an invasion.
The king's favour to Cromwell, and his acquiescence in the marriage with Anne of Cleves, were both of them deceitful appearances. His aversion to the queen secretly increased every day; and having at last broken all restraint, it prompted him at once to seek the dissolution of a marriage so odious to him, and to involve his minister in ruin, who had been the innocent author of it. The fall of Cromwell was hastened by other causes. All the nobility hated a man who, being of such low extraction, had not only mounted above them by his station of vicar-general, but had ingrossed many of the other considerable offices of the crown. Besides enjoying that commission which gave him a high and almost absolute authority over the clergy, and even over the laity, he was privy seal, chamberlain, and master of the wards. He had also obtained the order of the garter, a dignity which had ever been conferred only on men of illustrious families, and which seemed to be profaned by its being communicated to so mean a person. The people were averse to him, as the supposed author of the violence on the monasteries ; establishments which were still revered and beloved by the commonalty. The catholics regarded him as the concealed enemy of their religion. The protestants observing his exterior concurrence with all the prosecutions exercised against them, were inclined to bear him as little favour; and reproached him with the timidity, if not treachery, of his conduct. And the king, who found that great clamours had on all hands arisen against the administration, was not displeased to throw on Cromwell, the load of public batred ; and he hoped by making so easy a sacrifice to regain the affections of his subjects.
But there was another cause which suddenly set all these motives in action, and brought about an unexpected revolution in the ministry. The king had fixed his affection on Catherine Howard, piece to the duke of Norfolk ; and being determined to gratify this new passion, he could find no expedient but by procuring a divorce from his present consort, to raise Catherine to his bed and throne. The duke, who had long been engaged in enmity with Cromwell, made the same use of her insinuations to ruin this minister, that he had formerly done of Anne Boleyn's against Wolsey : and when all engines were prepared, he obtained a commission from the king to arrest Cromwell at the council table, on an accusation of high treason, and to commit him to the Tower. Immediately after, a bill of attainder was framed against him ; and the house of peers thought proper, without trial, examination, or evidence, to condemn to death a man, whom a few days before they had denlared worthy to be vicar-general of the universe, The house of commons
passed the bill, though not without some opposition. Cromwell was accused of heresy and treason ; but the proofs of his treasonable practices are utterly improbable, and even absolutely ridiculous. The only circumstance of his conduct by which he seems to have merited this fate was his being the instrument of the king's tyranny, in conducting like iniquitous bills in the preceding session, against the countess of Salisbury and others.
Cromwell endeavoured to soften the king by the most humble supplications ; but all to no purpose. It was not the practice of that prince to ruin his ministers and favourites by halves; and though the unhappy prisoner once wrote to him in so moving a strain as even to draw tears from his eyes, he hardened himself against all movements of pity, and refused his pardon. The conclusion of Cromwell's letter ran in these words :-"I, a most woful prisoner, am ready to submit to death when it shall please God and your majesty ; and yet the frail flesh incites me to call to your grace for mercy and pardon of mine offences. Written at the Tower with the heavy heart and trembling hand of your highness's most miserable prisoner, and poor slave, Thomas Cromwell.” And a little below, "Most gracious prince, I cry for mercy, mercy, mercy." When brought to the place of execution, he avoided all earnest protestations of his innocence, and all complaints against the sentence pronounced upon him. He knew that Henry would resent on his son those symptoms of opposition to his will, and that his death alone would not terminate that monarch's vengeance. He was a man of prudence, industry, and abilities; worthy of a better master and of a better fate. Though raised to the summit of power from a low origin, he betrayed no insolence or contempt towards his inferiors; and was careful to remember all the obligations which, during his more humble fortune, he had owed to any one. He had served as a private sentinel in the Italian wars ; when he received some good offices from a Lucquese merchant, who had entirely forgotten his person, as well as the service which he had rendered him. Cromwell in his grandeur happened at London to cast his eye on his benefactor, now reduced to poverty by misfortunes. He immediately sent for him, reminded him of their ancient friendship, and by his grateful assistance reinstated him in his former prosperity and opulence.
263.-THE LAST DAYS OF HENRY VIII.
HOME The king, now freed from all foreign wars, had leisure to give his attention to domestic affairs ; particularly to the establishment of uniformity in opinion, on which he was so intent. Though he allowed an English translation of the Bible, he had hitherto been very careful to keep the mass in Latin ; but he was at last prevailed on to permit that the litany, a considerable part of the service, should be celebrated in the vulgar tongue ; and, by this innovation, he excited anew the hopes of the reformers, who had been somewhat discouraged by the severe law of the six articles. One petition of the new litany was a prayer to save us from the tyranny of the bishop of Rome, and from all his detestable enormities
. Cranmer employed his credit to draw Henry into farther innovations; and he took advantage of Gardiner's absence, who was sent on an embassy to the emperor ; but Gardiner having written to the king, that if he carried his opposition against the catholic religion to greater extremities, Charles threatened to break off all commerce with him, the success of Cranmer's projects was for some time retarded. Cranmer lost this year the most sincere and powerful friend that he possessed at court, Charles Brandon duke of Suffolk: the queen-dowager of France, consort to Suffolk, had died some years