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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

He declared to be an offence to the Kingly Majesty


The several powers of the realm united to throw off the foreign authority which had hitherto influenced them, and which limited the national independence, as being itself a higher power.

As the oaths taken by the bishops were altered to suit these statutes, the King set himself to modify his coronation oath also in the same sense. He would not swear any longer to uphold the rights of the Church in general, but only those guaranteed to the Church of England, and not derogatory to his own dignity and jurisdiction; he did not pledge himself to maintain the peace of the Church absolutely, but only the concord between the clergy and his lay subjects according to his conscience; not, unconditionally, to maintain the laws and customs of the land, but only those that did not conflict with his crown and imperial duties. He promised favour only for the cases in which favour ought to find a place.[115]

How predominant is the strong feeling of aggrandisement, of personal right, and of kingly independence!

Henry VIII too regarded himself as a successor of Constantine the Great, who had given laws to the Church. True, said he, kings are sons of the Church, but not the less are they supreme over Christian men. Of the doctrines which came from Germany none found greater acceptance with him than this--that every man must be obedient to the higher powers. We possess Tyndale's book in which these principles are set forth; by Anne Boleyn's means it came into Henry's hands. That Pope Clement summoned him formally before his judgment-seat, he declared to be an offence to the Kingly Majesty. Was a Prince, he exclaims, to submit himself to a creature whom God had made subject to him; to humble himself before a man who, in opposition to God and Right, wished to oppress him? It would be a reversal of the ordinance of God.[116]

Whilst we follow the questions which here come into discussion--on the relations of Church and State, the rights of nations and kings--questions of infinite importance for this as for all other states, we almost lose sight of the affair of the Divorce, which had been the original cause of quarrel, and which had meanwhile moved on in the direction given it once for all. Pope Clement restrained himself as much as possible, he still more than once made advances to the King and offered him conciliatory terms; but the King had already gone too far in his separation from Rome to be able to accept them. At the beginning of 1533 he celebrated his marriage with Anne Boleyn privately. He had once, when he was still waiting for the Pope's decision, tried to influence it by favourable opinions of learned theologians.[117] With this view he had applied to the most distinguished universities in Italy and Germany, in France and in England itself; and managed to obtain a large number of decisions, by which the Pope's right of dispensation was denied; and this in spite of the constant efforts in various ways of the Imperial agents; even the two mother-universities, Bologna and Paris, had declared in his favour. He protested that he had been thereby enabled in his conscience to free himself from the yoke of an unlawful union, bordering on incest, and to proceed to another marriage. But all the more urgent was it that the legality of this marriage should be recognised according to the forms at that time lawfully valid. He no longer wished for a recognition from the Pope; he laid the question before the two Convocations of the English Church-provinces. For the general course of Church history we must admit it to be an event of the highest significance, that they dared to pronounce the dispensation of Pope Julius II invalid according to God's law. The authority hitherto regarded as the expression of God's will on earth was found guilty, by the representatives of the Church of one particular country, of transgressing that will. It now followed that the King's marriage, concluded on the strength of that dispensation, was declared by the Archbishop's court at Canterbury null and void, and invalid from the beginning. Catharine was henceforth to be treated no longer as Queen but only as still Princess-dowager.


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