free ebooks

A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

Through no one more than through Cardinal Wolsey


But

these tendencies were more deeply rooted among the English than was remembered at Rome. They went back as far as the Articles of Clarendon, the projects of King John, the antipapal agitation under Edward III; the present question which involved an exceptionable and personal motive, exposed to public disapprobation, nevertheless touched on the deepest interests of the country. The wish to make the succession safe was perfectly justifiable. According to Clement VII's own declarations, the English were convinced that he was only hindered by regard for the Emperor from coming to a decision which was essential to them. His vacillation is very intelligible, very natural: but it did not correspond to the idea of the dignity with which he was clothed. There was to be an independent supreme Pontiff for this very reason, that right might be done in the quarrels of princes, without respect of persons, according to the state of the case. It clashed with the idea of the Papacy that alterations of political relations exercised such a decisive influence as they did in this matter. There was indeed something degrading for the English in their being made to feel the reaction of the Emperor's Italian victory, and his preponderance, in their weightiest affairs.

Henry VIII had now made up his mind to throw off that ecclesiastical subjection, which was politically so disadvantageous; the circumstances were very favourable. It was the time at which some German principalities,

and the kingdoms of the North, had given themselves a constitution which rested on the exclusion of the hierarchic influences of Rome: the King could reckon on many allies in his enterprise. Moreover he had no dangerous hostilities to fear, as long as the jealousy lasted between the Emperor and King Francis. Between them Henry VIII needed only to revert to his natural policy of neutrality.

And the accomplishment of the affair was already prepared in the country itself, through no one more than through Cardinal Wolsey.

The dignity of legate, which was granted him by Pope Leo, and then prolonged for five, for ten years, and at last for life, gave him a comprehensive spiritual authority. He obtained by it the right of visiting and reforming all ecclesiastical persons and institutions, even those which possessed a legal exemption of their own. Some orders of monks, which contended against it, were reduced to obedience by new bulls. But from the visitation of the monasteries Wolsey proceeded to their suppression: he united old convents (such as that one which has brought down to recent times the name of an Anglo-Saxon king's daughter, Frideswitha, from the eighth century) with the splendid colleges which he endowed so richly, for the advancement of learning and the renown of his name, at Oxford and at Ipswich. His courts included all branches of the ecclesiastical and mixed jurisdiction, and the King had no scruple in arming him with all the powers of the crown which were necessary for the government of the Church. What aspirations then arose are shewn by the compact which Wolsey made with King Francis I to counteract the influence which the Emperor might exert over the captive Pope. When it was settled in this, that whatever the cardinal and the English prelates should enact with the King's consent should have the force of law, does not this imply at least a temporary schism?

When Clement became free, he named Wolsey his Vicar-General for the English Church: his position was again to be what it had been from the beginning, the expression of the unity between the Pope and the Crown. But now how if this were dissolved? The victorious Emperor exercised a still greater influence over the Pope when free than he had ever done over him when captive. Under these circumstances Wolsey submitted to the supreme spiritual power, the King resolved to withstand it: it was exactly on this point that open discord broke out between them. For a time the cardinal seemed still to maintain his courage; but when on St. Luke's day--the phrase ran that the evangelist had disevangelised him--the great seal was taken from him, he lost all self-reliance. Wolsey was not a Ximenes or a Richelieu. He had no other support than the King's favour; without this he fell back into his nothingness. He was heard to wail like a child: the King comforted him by a token of favour, probably however less out of personal sympathy than because he could not be yet quite dispensed with.[104] The High Treasurer, Norfolk, who generally acted as first minister, received the seals, and held them till some time afterwards Thomas More was named Chancellor. While these administered affairs in London, Suffolk, as President of the Privy Council, was to accompany the King in person. The chief direction of the administration passed over to the two leading lay lords.


eBook Search
Social Sharing
Share Button
About us

freefictionbooks.org is a collection of free ebooks that can be read online. Ebooks are split into pages for easier reading and better bookmarking.

We have more than 35,000 free books in our collection and are adding new books daily.

We invite you to link to us, so as many people as possible can enjoy this wonderful free website.

© 2010-2013 freefictionbooks.org - All Rights Reserved.

Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Contact Us