ok it quietly, and was very glad
when his Queen gave birth to a daughter,
who was christened Elizabeth, and declared
Princess of Wales as her sister Mary had
One of the most atrocious features of
the reign was that Henry VIII was always
trimming between the reformed religion with the Pope, the more of his own subjects he roasted alive for not holding the Popes opinions. Thus, an unfortunate student named John Frith, and a poor simple tailor named Andrew Hewet who loved him very much, and said that whatever John Frith believed he believed, were burnt in Smithfield - to show what a capital Christian the King was.
But these were speedily followed by two much greater victims, Sir Thomas More, and John Fisher , the Bishop of Rochester. The latter, who was a good and amiable old man, had committed no greater offence then believing in Elizabeth Barton, called the Maid of Kent - another of those ridiculous women who pretended to be inspired, and to make all sorts of heavenly revelations, though they indeed uttered nothing but evil nonsen-se. For this offence - as it was pretended, but really for denying the king to be the supreme Head of the Church - he got into trouble, and was put in prison. Even then he might have died naturally, but the Pope, to spite the King, resolved to make him a cardinal. So the King decided that Fisher should have no head on which to wear a red Cardinals hat. He was tried with all unfairnence and injustice, and sentenced to death. He died like a noble and virtuous old man, and left a worthy name behind him.
The King supposed that Sir Thomas More would be frightened by this example. But, as he was not to be easily terrified, and, thoroughly believed in the Pope, had made up his mind that the King was not rightful Head of the Church, he positively refused to say that he was. For this cri-me he too was tried and sentenced, after having been in prison a whole year.
When he was doomed to death, and came away from his trial with the edge of executioners axe turned towards him - as was always done in those times when a state prisoner came to that hopeless pass - he bore it quite serenely, and gave his blessing to his son, who pressed through the crowd in Westminster Hall and kneeled down to recieve it.
But, when he got to the Tower Wharf on his way back to his prison, and his favourite daughter, Margaret Roper, a very good woman, rushed through the guards to kiss him and to weep upon his neck, he has over-come at last. He soon recovered and never more showed any feeling but courage. When he had laid his head upon the block, he asked jokingly the executioner to let him put his beard out of the way because for that thing, at least, had never committed any treason. Then his head was strucked off at a blow.
These two executions were worthy of King Henry VIII. Sir Thomas More was one of the most virtuous men in his dominions, and the Bishop was one of his eldest and truest friends.
When the news of these two murders got to Rome, the Pope was enra-ged and prepared a Bull, ordering his subjects to take arms against the King of England and dethrone him. The King took all possible precautions to keep that document out of his dominions, and set to work in return to suppress a great number of English monasteries and abbeys.
This destruction was begun by a body of commissioners, of whom Tho-mas Cromwell was the head. It was carried on through to some few years to its entire completion. There is no doubt that many of these religious es-tablishments imposed upon the people in every possible way; that they had images moved by wires, which they pretended were miraculously mo-ved by Heaven; that they had bits of coal which they said had fried Saint Lawrense, and bits of toe-nails which they said belonged to other famous saints, etc.; and that all these bits of rubbish were called Relics, and adored by the ignorant people. But, on the other hand, there is no doubt either, that the Kings men punished the good monks with the bad; did great injustice; demolished many beautiful things and many valuable libra-ries; destroyed numbers of paintings, stained glass windows, fine pave-ments, and carvings; and that the whole court were ravenously greedy and rapacious for the division of this great spoil among them. The King seems to have grown almost mad in the ardour of this pursuit, for he declared Thomas a Becket a traitor, though he had been dead for many years, and had his body dug up out of his grave. The gold and jewels on his shrine filled two great chests, and 8 men were needed to carry them away.
These things caused great discontent among the people. The monks who were driven out of their homes and wandered about encouraged their discontent, and there were, consequently, great risings in Licincolnshire and Yorkshire. These were put down by terrific executions, from which the monks themselves did not escape.
The unfortunate Queen Catherine was by
this time dead, and the King was by this ti-
me as tired of his second Queen as he had
been of his first. As he had fallen in love
with Anne when she was in the service of
Catherine, so he now fell in love with ano-
ther lady in the service of Anne.
The King resolved to have Anne Boleyns
head to marry Lady Jane Seymour. So, he
brought a number of charges against Anne,
accusing her of dreadful crimes which she
had never committed, and implicating in
them her own brother and certain gentlemen in her service. As the lords and councillors were afraid of the King, they brought in Anne Boleyn guilty, and the other unfortunate persons accused with her, guilty too.
They were all sentenced to death. Anne Boleyn tried to soften her hus-band by touching letters, but as he wanted her to be executed, she was soon beheaded.
There is a story that the King sat in his palace listening very anxiously for the sound of the cannon which was to announce this new murder; and that, when he heard it, he rose up in great spirits and ordered out his dogs to go a-hunting. He married Jane Seymour the very next day.
Jane Seymour lived just long enough to give birth to a son who was christened Edward, and then to die of a fever.
Cranmer had done what he could to save some of the Church property for purposes of religion and education. But the great families had been so hungry to get hold of it, that very little could be rescued for such objects. Even Miles Coverdale, who did the people the inestimable service of translating the Bible into English (which the unreformed religion never permitted to be done), was left in poverty while the great families clutched the Church lands and money. The people had been told that when the Crown came into possession of these funds, it would not be necessary to tax them. But they were taxed afresh directly afterwards.
One of the most active writers on a Churchs side against the King was a member of his own family - a sort of distant cousin, Reginald Pole by name - who attacked him in the most violent manner (though he recieved a pension from him all the time), and fought for the Church for his pen, day and night. He was beyong the Kings reach, in Italy.
The Pope made Reginald Pole a cardinal; but, so much against his will, that it is thought he had hopes of marrying the Princess Mary. His being made a high priest, however, put an end to that. His mother, the Countess of Salisbury - who was unfortunately for herself, within the tyrants reach -was the last of his relatives on whom his wrath fell. When she was told to lay her grey head upon the block, she answered the executioner that her head had never committed treason, and if he wanted her head, he should seize that. So, she ran round and round the scaffold with the executioner striking at her, and her grey hair bedabbled with blood. And even when they held her down upon the block she moved her head about to the last, resolved to be no party to her own barbarous murder. All this the people bore, as they had borne everything else.
Indeed they bore much more; for the slow fires of Smithfield were continually burning, and people were constantly being roasted to death - still to show what a good Christian the King was. He defied the Pope and his Bull, which was now issued, and had come into England; but he bur-ned innumerable people whose only offence was that they differed from the Popes religios opinions.
All this the people bore, and more than all this yet. The national spirit seems to have been banished from the kingdom from this time. The people who were executed for treason, the wives and friends of the "bluff" King, spoke of him on the scafford as a good and gentle man.
The Parliament were as bad as the rest, and gave the King whatever he wanted. They gave him new powers of murdering, at his will and pleasure, anyone whom he might choose to call a traitor. But the worst measure they passed was an Act of Six Articles*********, commonly called at the time "the whip with six strings", which punished offences against the Popes opinions, without mercy, and enforced the very worst parts of the monkish religion.
Cranmer would have modified it, if he could; but he had not the power, being overborne by the Romish party. As one of the articles declared that priests should not marry, and as he was married himself, he sent his wife and children into Germany, and began to tremble at his danger. This whip of six