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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

First the Upper House of Convocation


of keeping to the strict letter

of the law, that the King, though he had for years given his consent and help in all this, now came forward to avenge the violation of the law. To avert his displeasure the Convocation of Canterbury was forced to vote him a very considerable sum of money, yet even this did not satisfy him. Rather it seemed to him the fitting and decisive moment for forcing the clergy, conformably with the Address of the Commons, to accept the Anglican point of view. He demanded from Convocation the express acknowledgment that they recognised him as _the Protector and the Supreme Head of the Church and Clergy of England_; he commanded the judges not to issue the Act of Pardon unless this acknowledgment were at once incorporated with the bill for the money payment. It is not hard to see what made him choose this exact moment for so acting; it was the serious turn which the affair of his Divorce had taken at Rome. He had once more made application to the Curia to let it be decided in England; the Cardinals discussed the point in their Consistory, Dec. 22, 1530, but resolved that the question must come of right before the Assessors of the Rota, who should afterwards report on it to the Sacred College.[111] What their sentence would be was the less doubtful, since the Curia was now linked closer than ever with the Emperor, who had just closed the Diet of Augsburg in the way they wished, and was now about to carry out its decrees. The traces of a new alliance with Rome, which was imputed to Wolsey as
an act of treason, must have contributed to the same result. The King wished to break off this connexion by a Declaration, which would serve him as a standing-ground later on, and show the Court of Rome that he had nothing to fear from it. On Feb. 7, 1531, the King's demand was laid before both Houses of Convocation. Who could avoid seeing its decisive significance for the age? The clergy, which had without much trouble agreed to the money-vote, nevertheless strove long against a Declaration which altered their whole position. But a hard necessity lay on them. In default of the Pardon, which, as the judges repeatedly assured them, depended on this Declaration, they would have found themselves out of the protection of the King and the Law. They sent two bishops, to get the King's demand softened by a personal appeal; Henry VIII refused to hear them. They proposed that some members of both Houses should confer with the Privy Council and the judges; the answer was that the King wished for no discussion, he wanted a clear answer. Thus much however they ascertained, that the King would be content with a mode of statement in which he was unconditionally recognised as the protector and sovereign of the Church and clergy of England, but as its supreme head only so far as religion allows. This was comprehended in the formula _in so far as is permitted by the law of Christ_, an expression which men might assent to on opposite grounds. Some might accept it from seeing in it only the limitation which is set to all power by the laws of God; others from thinking that it excluded generally the influence of the secular power on what were properly spiritual matters. When the clause was laid before them, at the morning sitting of Feb. 11, it was received with an ambiguous silence; but on closer consideration, it was so evidently their only possible resource, that in the afternoon, first the Upper House of Convocation, and then the Lower, gave their consent. Then the King accepted the money-bill, and granted them in return the Act of Pardon.[112]


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