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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

The King and the laity took it up


It

is clear that they would thus sever themselves from the great union under one spiritual Head, from the constitution of the Latin Church. Whoever it was that introduced the word 'Head,' no doubt had this in view. The King and the laity took it up, they wished only to induce the clergy themselves to come to a resolution in this sense.

The chief motive which was to serve this purpose is connected with the lordship which the Popes possessed in England in the thirteenth century, or rather with the reaction against it which went on throughout the fourteenth. This is most distinctly expressed in the statutes of 1393, which threatened with the severest penalties all participation in any attempt, to the injury of the King's supremacy, to obtain a church-benefice from Rome; and this too even where the King had given his consent to it. Clergy and laity were thus allied against the encroachments of the Roman Curia. Wolsey was now accused of having transgressed this statute:[108] he had in virtue of his legatine power given away benefices, and established a jurisdiction by which that of the King was encroached on; he was found guilty of this in regular form. He anticipated the full effect of this sentence by submitting without any defence and surrendering all his property to the King. It was then that York House in Westminster, with its gardens and the land adjoining, the Whitehall of later times, passed into the possession of the crown.[109] He still kept

his archbishopric; we find him soon after at Caywood, the palace belonging to it, and in fact even busied once more with his buildings. At times the King again thought of his old counsellor, and to many it quite seemed as though he might yet recover power. In those days the general belief was, that Anne Boleyn had exerted her whole influence against it. But most of the other persons of distinction in court and state were also opposed to Wolsey. Did he then really, as was imputed to him, try to gain a party among the clergy, and move the Pope to pronounce excommunication against the King?[110] A pretext at any rate was found for arresting him as a traitor: but as he was being brought to the Tower, he died on the way. He wished, so far as we know, to starve himself to death; it was at that time supposed that in his wish to die he was aided by help from others.

Neither for his mental nor for his moral qualities can Wolsey be reckoned among men of the first rank; yet his position and the ability which he showed in it, his ambition and his political plans, what he did and what he suffered, his success and his fall, have won him an imperishable name in English history. His attempt to link the royal power with the Papacy by the closest ties rent them asunder for ever. No sooner was he dead than the clergy became subject to the Crown--a subjection which could forebode nothing less than this final rupture.

The whole clergy was so far involved in Wolsey's guilt that it had supported his Legatine Powers, and so had shared in the violation of the statutes. It shows the English spirit


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