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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

The opposing tendencies within the schismatic state

style="text-align: justify;"> CHAPTER V.


Among the results of these transactions in England that which most directly concerned the higher interests of the nation was the abolition, by a formal decision of Parliament, on religious grounds, of the hereditary title of the King's daughter by his Spanish Queen, and the recognition of the succession of Queen Anne's issue to the throne, even in the case of her having only the one daughter who had been meanwhile born. This does not depend so much on the actual measures taken as on the fact, that now, according to Wolsey's plan, the government had broken with the political system which had prevailed hitherto, and indeed in a sense that went far beyond his views. Not merely was a French alliance avoided; the separation from the Church of Rome was to become the basis of the whole dynastic settlement of England.

At home men felt most the harshness and violence of basing a political rule on Church ideas. The statute contains threats of the sharpest punishments against all who should do or write or even say anything against it: a commission was appointed, in which we find the Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk, which could require every one to take an oath of conformity to it. It was to be carried out with the full weight of English adherence to the law.


was to this very statute that Bishop Fisher of Rochester and Sir Thomas More fell victims. They did not refuse to acknowledge the order of succession itself thus enacted, for this was within the competence of Parliament, but they would not confirm with their oath the reason laid down in the statute, that Henry's marriage with Catharine was against Scripture and invalid from the beginning. More ranks among the original minds of this great century: he is the first who learnt how to write English prose; but in the great currents of the literary movement he shrank back from the foremost place: after he had aided them by writings in the style of Erasmus, he set himself as Lord Chancellor of England to oppose their onward sweep with much rigour: he would not have the Church community itself touched. Of the last statute he said, it killed either the body if one opposed it, or the soul if one obeyed: he preferred to save his soul. He met his death with so lively a realisation of the future life, in which the troubles of this life would cease, that he looked on his departure out of it with all the irony which was in general characteristic of him. The fact that the Pope at this moment had named Bishop Fisher cardinal of the Roman Church seems to have still more hastened his execution. They both died as martyrs to the ideas by which England had been hitherto linked to the Church community of the West and to the authority of the Papacy.

If we turn our eyes abroad, the succession statute above all must have made a most disagreeable impression on the Emperor Charles V. He saw in it a political loss, an injury to his house, and indeed to all sovereign families, and a danger to the Church. With a view to opposing it, he formed the plan of drawing the King of France into an enterprise against England. He proposed to him the marriage of his third son, the Duke of Angouleme, with the Princess Mary, who was recognised as the only lawful heiress of England by the Apostolic See, and whose claims would then accrue to this prince.[123] And they would not be difficult, so he said, to establish, as a great part of the English abhorred the King's proceedings, his second marriage, and his divergence from the Church. At the same time the Emperor proposed the closest dynastic union of the two houses by a double marriage of his two children with a son and a daughter of Francis I. What in the whole world would he not have attained, if he had won over France to himself! His combination embraced as usual West and East, Church and State, Italian German and Northern affairs.

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