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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

Together with their authors and abettors


Cromwell was also engaged in another enterprise, not less hostile and injurious to the Papacy.

As many of the great men in State and Church thought, so thought also the pious members of the monasteries and cloistered convents; they opposed the Supremacy, not as they said from inclination to disobedience, but because Holy Mother Church ordered otherwise than King and Parliament ordained.[129] The apology merely served to condemn them. In the rules they followed, in the Orders to which they belonged, the intercommunion of Latin Christianity had its most living expression; but it was exactly this which King and Parliament wished to sever. Wolsey had already, as we know, and with the help of Cromwell himself, taken in hand to suppress many of them: but in the new order of things there was absolutely no more place for the monastic system; it was necessarily sacrificed to the unity of the country, and at the same time to the greed of the great men.

But it cannot be imagined that innovations which struck so deep could be carried through without opposition. After all the efforts of the old kings to establish Christianity in agreement with Rome, after the victories of the Papacy when the kings quarrelled with it, and the violent suppression of all dissent, it was inevitable that the belief of the hierarchic ages, which is besides so peculiarly adapted to this end, had in England as elsewhere sunk deep into men's minds,

and in great measure still swayed them. Was what had been always held for heresy no longer to merit this name because it was avowed by the ruling powers? In the northern counties neither the clergy nor the people would hear of the King's supremacy; they continued to pray for the Pope; Cromwell's injunctions were disregarded. It may be that horrible abuses and vices were prevalent in the cloisters, but all did not labour under such reproaches; many were objects of reverence in their own districts, and centres of hospitality and charity. It would have been wonderful if their violent destruction had not excited popular discontent. And this temper was shared by those who enjoyed the chief consideration in the provinces. Among the nobles there were still men like Lord Darcy of Templehurst, who had borne arms against the Moors in the service of Isabella and Ferdinand: how offensive to them must innovations be which ran counter to all their reminiscences! The lords in these provinces were believed to have pledged their word to each other to suppress the heresies, as they called the Protestant opinions, together with their authors and abettors. The country people, who apprehended yet further encroachments, were easily stirred up to commotion; collections of money were made from house to house, and the strongest men of each parish provided with the necessary weapons: in the autumn of 1536 open revolt broke out. A lawyer, Robert Aske, placed himself at its head; he set before the people all the damage that the suppression of the monasteries did to the country around, by diverting their revenues and abstracting their treasures. In a short time he had gained over the whole of the North. The city of York joined him; Darcy admitted him into the strong castle of Pomfret: in that broad county only one single castle still held out in its obedience to the government: then the neighbouring districts also were carried away by the movement: Aske saw an army of thirty thousand men around him. He took the road to London to, as he said, drive base-born men out of the King's council, and restore the Christian church in England: he called his march a 'Pilgrimage of Grace.' But when he came into contact with royal troops at Doncaster he paused; for it was not a war, which would cost the country too dear, but only a great armed remonstrance in favour of the old system that he contemplated. He contented himself with presenting his demands--suppression of heresies, restitution of the supreme charge of souls to the Pope, restoration of the monasteries, and in particular the punishment of Cromwell with his abettors, and the calling of a Parliament.[130]

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