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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

The decisive sitting was on the 3rd December 1555


had remained in the country

resumed the dress of their Order; the Queen made no secret of her wish to restore the monastery of Westminster in particular. Another side of church life was affected by the fact that, owing to the suppression of the great abbeys, a number of benefices, which were dependent on them, had lost their incomes and had fallen into decay. That Henry VIII should have appropriated to the crown the tenths and first-fruits, which belonged to the church, seemed to Queen Mary unjustifiable; she felt herself straitened in her conscience by retaining these revenues, and was prepared to give them back, whatever might be the loss to the crown. But she could not by herself repeal what had been done under authority of Parliament: in November 1555 she attempted to gain over that assembly to her view. A number of influential members were summoned to the palace, where first Cardinal Pole explained to them that the receipt of the first-fruits was connected with the State's claim of supremacy over the church, but that, after obedience was restored, it had no longer any real justification. He put forward some further reasons, and then the Queen herself took up the word. She laid the greatest stress on her personal wish. She asked the Parliament, after having shown obedience to her in so many ways, to prove to her that the peace of her soul lay near their hearts, and to take this burden from her. But the conception of the crown and its property had in England already ceased to be so merely personal. The
most universally intelligible motive in the whole church-movement was the feeling, that the resources of the nation ought to be devoted to national purposes, and every one felt that the diminution of the royal revenues would have to be made up by Parliamentary grants. In addition to this, it appeared to be only the first step to such an universal restitution, as Pope Paul IV clearly contemplated and directed. Was there not much more to be said for the recovery of the church revenues from private hands than for their withdrawal from the crown which used them for public purposes?--A member of the Lower House wished to answer the Queen at once after her address: but, as he was not the Speaker, he was not allowed to do so.

When the proposal came under discussion in the Lower House, it met with lively opposition. A commission was then appointed, to which the Upper House sent two earls, two barons, and two bishops, and to which some lawyers were added; by these the proposed articles were revised and then laid before them again. The decisive sitting was on the 3rd December 1555. The doors were closed: no stranger was allowed to enter nor any member to leave the House. After they had sat in hot debate from early morning till three in the afternoon--just one of those debates, of which we have to regret that no detailed account has survived--the proposal was, it is true, accepted, but against such a large minority as was hitherto unheard of in the English Parliament, 120 votes to 183. Queen and cardinal regarded it as a great victory, for they had carried their view: but the tone of the country was still against them. However strong the stress which the cardinal laid on the statement that the concession of the crown was not to react in any way on private men's ownership of church property, the apprehension was nevertheless universal,[175] that with the Queen's zeal for the monasteries, and a consistent carrying out of the Pope's principles, things would yet come to this. But the interests which would be thus injured were very widespread. It was calculated that there were 40,000 families which in one way or another owned part of the church property: they would neither relinquish it nor allow their title to be called in question. Powerful lords were heard to exclaim that they would keep the abbey-lands as long as they had a sword by their side. The popular disposition was reflected in the widespread rumour, which gained credence, that Edward VI was still alive and would soon come back.


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