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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

Would continue loyal to the idea of the common weal


Henry reckons it as honourable to himself that he had not yielded to the offer of the Roman Court, made to him indirectly, to decide in his favour, but had set himself against its usurped jurisdiction, without being influenced by the proposal,[122] not for himself alone but in the interest of all kings. Yet once more had he laid the question before learned ecclesiastics, whether the Pope of Rome had any authority in England by divine right; as the University of Oxford declares, their theologians had searched for this through the books of Holy Scripture and its most approved interpreters; they had compared the places, conferred with each other on them and come at last to the conclusion, to answer the King's question unreservedly in the negative. The Cambridge scholars and both Convocations declared themselves in the same sense. On this the Parliament had no scruple in abrogating piece by piece the hierarchic-Romish order of things; it was nothing but a revocable right which they had hitherto borne with. The Annates were transferred to the crown; never more was an English bishop to receive his pallium from Rome. It was made penal to apply for dispensing faculties; with their abolition the fees usually paid for them also ceased. The oldest token of the devotion of the Anglo-Saxon race to the Roman See, the Peter's penny, was definitely abolished. Care was taken that for the appeal in the last resort, hitherto made to the Roman courts, there should be a similar court at home. On the
other hand the King granted a greater freedom in the election of bishops, at least in its outward forms. The existing laws against heretics were confirmed, though those independent proceedings of the bishops which had been usual in the times of the Lancasters received some limitation. For the episcopal constitution and the old doctrine were to be retained: the wish was to establish an Anglo-Catholic Church under the supremacy of the crown. The King added to his titles the designation of 'Supreme Head on earth of the Church of England immediately under God.' The Parliament awarded him the right of Visitation over the Church in reference to abuses and even to errors, as well as the right of reforming them. For the exercise moreover of the Papal authority, which so far passed over to him, he had an example before him which he had only to follow. Wolsey for a series of years, as Legate of the Pope and then as his Vicar General, had administered the English Church by means of English courts: the unity of the English common-weal had been represented in his twofold power as legate and first minister; practically it was no violent change when the King himself now appointed a Vicar General who, empowered by him, exercised this authority without any reference to the Pope. It was an assistant of Wolsey, Thomas Cromwell, who was at the same time Keeper of the Great Seal, who regulated the management of these affairs in a way not altogether new to him. From this point of view Wolsey represents exactly the man of the transition, who occupied the intermediate position in nationalising the English Church.

Though Henry VIII did not always follow in his father's footsteps, he was yet his genuine successor in the work he began. What the first Tudor achieved in the temporal domain, viz. the exclusion of foreign influence, that the second extended to spiritual affairs. The great question now was, whether the conflicting elements, in themselves independent but ceaselessly agitated by their connexion with the rest of Europe, would continue loyal to the idea of the common-weal; then even their opposition might become a new impulse and help to perfect the power of the State and the Constitution.

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