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History of the Catholic Church

by 'Rev. James Maccaffrey'

Book 2 — History of the Catholic Church

Chapter 3 — Catholic Reaction in the Reign of Queen Mary (1553-1558)

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See bibliography, chap. i., ii., State Papers (Home, Foreign, Venetian). The Diary of Henry Machyn, etc., from 1550 to 1563 (ed. by J. G. Nichols, 1854). Lingard, History of England (vol. v.). Gairdner, Lollardy and the Reformation, vol. iv. 1913. Innes, England under the Tudors, 1905. Zimmermann, Maria die Katholische, 1896. Stone, Mary I., Queen of England, 1901. Haile, Life of Reginald Pole, 1910. Zimmermann, Kardinal Pole, sein Leben, und seine Schriften, 1893. Lee, Reginald Pole, Cardinal Archbishop of Canterbury. Cambridge Modern History, vol. ii., chap. xv.

Lady Jane Grey might be proclaimed queen, but until Mary had been lodged safely in the Tower the triumph of the conspiracy was not assured. Efforts had been made to induce her to come to London, but warned by secret messages dispatched by her London friends, she fled from her residence in Hundon to a castle in Suffolk, from which she addressed letters to the council and to the prominent noblemen of England asserting her rights to the throne. From all parts of the country thousands flocked to join her standard, while the frantic appeals of Northumberland and his colleagues failed to awaken any genuine response even in London itself. Northumberland, much against his will, consented to lead the army against Mary, who was advancing towards the capital, but after his departure, the members of the council, convinced that their cause was hopeless, deserted their leader, and permitted Mary to be proclaimed (19th July). Northumberland surrendered himself to the mercy of the new queen, and was committed to the Tower together with his principal adherents. On the 3rd August Mary made her formal entrance into London where she received an enthusiastic welcome from the citizens. Her first care was to liberate some of those who had been arrested during the previous reign, Bishops Gardiner, Bonner, Heath, and Day, the Duke of Norfolk, and Lord Courtenay, the latter of whom had been in confinement for fifteen years. As a fervent Catholic, who had upheld the Mass in the days of Edward VI. even at the risk of her life, there could be no doubt about the new queen's religious views, and in many of the churches in London and throughout the country the English service gave place immediately to the Mass. In an interview with the lord mayor of London, and afterwards in the public proclamation addressed to all her subjects, she announced that, though it was her intention to follow the Catholic religion, she had no desire of resorting to compulsion to force it on her people against their will, and she exhorted them to live together in Christian harmony, avoiding the "new found devilish terms of papist and heretic." As a sign that vengeance and cruelty were no part of her programme she exercised great mercy towards those who had conspired to deprive her of the throne, only a few of whom, including the Earl of Northumberland, were put to death. Possibly in the hope of playing upon the feelings of the queen and of securing a pardon Northumberland announced publicly his return to the old faith and his acceptance of the Catholic doctrine on the Eucharist.

Charles V., on whose counsel Mary relied, advised her to proceed cautiously with the restoration of religion in England. Many of the younger generation had been taught to regard papal supremacy as an unwarrantable interference with English independence, while those who had been enriched by the plunder of the Church had every reason for upholding the Edwardine settlement. For their part in promoting the conspiracy against the queen as well as for various other offences laid to their charge Cranmer, Ridley, Hooper, Latimer, and Coverdale were committed to prison; Bishop Ponet went into hiding, and Barlow made his escape from the country. Later on all these were deprived of their Sees. Gardiner was restored to his See of Winchester, and appointed Lord Chancellor, Tunstall to Durham, Heath to Worcester, Day to Chichester, and Voysey to Exeter. Foreign scholars like Peter Martyr, John Lasco and their friends, whom Cranmer had brought over to teach the English people the new religion, were granted passports and permitted to leave the kingdom. Their example was followed by John Knox, and by many others of the married clergy.

In her heart Mary detested the title supreme head of the Church, and was most anxious to bring about a reconciliation with Rome. When the news of her accession reached Rome it brought joy to the heart of Julius III. He determined at once to send a legate to England, and he selected for this office the great English Cardinal, whose devotion to his country was equalled only by his loyalty to the Church. Cardinal Pole was appointed legate with full powers, and was entrusted also with the work of effecting a reconciliation between the Emperor and Henry II. of France. Charles V. had no desire to see Pole in England installed as Queen Mary's chief adviser. He had planned a marriage between Mary and his eldest son, afterwards Philip II. of Spain, and fully conscious that Pole might oppose such an alliance as dangerous both for England and for religion, he was determined to delay the arrival of the legate until the negotiations for the marriage had been completed.

In October 1553 Mary was crowned solemnly by Bishop Gardiner at Westminster Abbey. She bound herself by oath to preserve the liberties of her kingdom, and to maintain the rights of the Holy See. Four days later she attended the Mass of the Holy Ghost at the opening of Parliament, and listened to the address in which her Lord Chancellor exhorted the members to show their repentance for and detestation of the heresy and schism of which he and they had been guilty, by returning to the unity of the Catholic Church. All the new treasons, felonies, and praemunire penalties of the previous reigns were abolished on the ground, it was declared, that Mary hoped to win the obedience of

her subjects through love rather than through fear. The marriage of Henry VIII. with Catharine of Aragon was declared valid, and consequently Mary was acknowledged as the lawful successor to the throne. The Edwardine religious settlement, including the Acts of Uniformity, the Book of Common Prayer, the Ordinal, the Forty-two Articles and the permission for clergymen to marry, was swept away, and an Act was passed against disturbing religious services or exhibiting irreverence towards the Eucharist. All this legislation was in perfect conformity with the wishes of Convocation, which had met shortly after the meeting of Parliament, and which with only a few dissentients condemned the Book of Common Prayer, and re-affirmed the belief of the English clergy in the doctrine of Transubstantiation. Though the queen announced her dissatisfaction with the title of supreme head, and granted full freedom of discussion regarding it, Parliament showed itself decidedly unwilling to restore the jurisdiction of the Pope. It was not that the members had any real objection to the change from the doctrinal point of view, but, fearing that a return to Roman obedience might involve a restoration of the ecclesiastical property seized or alienated during the previous reign, they wished to secure their property before they made their submission to the Pope.

For so far Mary had acted with considerable mildness and prudence in carrying out her religious programme, against which as yet no serious opposition had been manifested. The question of her marriage, however, was destined to create dissension between herself and her subjects. The Emperor and the imperial ambassador urged her to accept the hand of Philip, on the ground that by such a marriage internal jealousies and dissensions might be avoided, and the triumph of Catholicism might be assured. Many of the members of the council and the vast majority of the English people were opposed to such a union. They feared that were a foreign ruler to become the husband of their queen he must have of necessity the chief voice in English affairs. They believed, therefore, that England would be involved in all the wars of Spain, and that were an heir to be born of such a union, England, instead of being an independent nation, might become a mere Spanish province. The enemies of Mary's religious programme thought they saw in the Spanish marriage an opportunity of overturning her government, and of re-establishing Protestantism in the country. Taking advantage of the unpopularity of this proposal they appealed to the patriotism and love of independence of the English people, and succeeded in winning to their side many who were at least neutral in regard to her religious proposals. It was planned by some to bring about a marriage between the Princess Elizabeth and Edward Courtenay, both of whom had claims to the throne, and to set them up as rivals to Queen Mary. The French ambassador, alarmed at the prospect of Mary's marriage with the hereditary enemy of France, encouraged the conspirators with promises of assistance, not, indeed, because France desired the accession of Elizabeth, but in the hope that during the confusion that would ensue it might be possible to assert the claims of Mary Queen of Scotland, the prospective wife of the Dauphin of France.

Notwithstanding the petition presented against the Spanish marriage by Parliament, Mary persisted in the policy suggested to her by the Emperor. Flemish envoys arrived on New Year's Day 1554 to arrange the preliminaries. The marriage treaty was signed and two days later it was announced to the mayor and the chief citizens of London. This was the signal for the conspirators, who had been working secretly for months, to bring their designs to a head. News soon arrived in London that Sir Peter Carew had risen in Devon and had captured Exeter, that Sir Thomas Wyatt was rousing the men of Kent, and that Sir James Crofts had gone to Wales and the Duke of Suffolk to the midlands to rally the forces of disloyalty. But the great body of the English people were too deeply attached to their sovereign to respond to the appeal of the rebel leaders. Wyatt's movement alone threatened to be dangerous. As his forces advanced to the gates of London, Mary, who had shown the greatest courage throughout the crisis, went in person to the Guildhall to call upon the citizens of London to defend their sovereign. Her invitation was responded to with enthusiasm, and when Wyatt had succeeded in forcing his way as far as Ludgate Circus, he was obliged to retire and to surrender himself a prisoner to the queen's forces. Mary, who for so far had followed a policy of extreme mildness, felt that she could do so no longer, and that she must make it clear to her subjects that to declare war on the throne was a serious crime. Wyatt, the Duke of Suffolk, father of Lady Jane Grey, and several of the leaders were tried and put to death. Already in November Lady Jane Grey, her husband and Cranmer had been condemned to death as traitors. The sentence was not, however, carried out, nor was it likely to have been, had not the rebellion shown that Mary's enemies might utilise such dangerous claimants to the throne for stirring up new disaffection. Lady Jane Grey [1] and her husband were put to death on Tower Hill (Feb. 1554); several of the other conspirators were punished only by imprisonment, and a general pardon was published for the great body of the insurgents. Mary's treatment of the offenders, however the execution of Lady Jane Grey may be regarded, was in striking contrast to what might have been expected to have taken place in similar circumstances had the throne been occupied by her father or even by her sister Elizabeth. From the confessions of some of the rebels as well as from the correspondence of the French ambassador serious evidence was furnished to show

that Elizabeth was implicated in the rebellion. She was summoned to London to answer the charges brought against her, and though she protested her innocence she was committed to the Tower. Many members of the council were convinced of her guilt, but Mary, refusing to believe that her sister was privy to the designs of the conspirators, ordered her release.

The terms of the marriage treaty having been confirmed by Parliament (April 1554) Philip arrived in England, and on the 25th July the marriage was celebrated in Westminster Abbey. Philip and Mary were proclaimed "by the grace of God King and Queen of England, France, Naples, Jerusalem, and Ireland, Defenders of the Faith, Princes of Spain and Sicily, Arch-Dukes of Austria, Dukes of Milan, Burgundy and Brabant, Counts of Habsburg, Flanders, and Tyrol." The Emperor had at last carried his point, and, as the presence of Cardinal Pole in England could no longer prove a danger to his designs, the latter was now free to come to England. During the early portions of the year steps had been taken to prepare England for the worthy reception of the papal legate. In March four of the reforming bishops were deprived of their Sees on the ground that they were married, and three others who held their appointments only by letters patent of Edward VI. were removed. On the 1st April six new bishops were consecrated by Gardiner to fill the vacant Sees. Cranmer, Latimer, and Ridley were sent down to Oxford to defend their views in a public discussion, arranged undoubtedly with the object of forwarding the national reconciliation with Rome. There were still, however, difficulties that must be removed before Cardinal Pole could be allowed to land on English soil. The real objection to the return of England to the Roman obedience was the ownership of the Church lands, and from what had happened in the two previous sessions it was perfectly clear that those who had benefited by the plunder of the Church lands were determined to refuse to make restoration. After prolonged negotiations Pole agreed that, while the Pope could not approve of what had been done, he would not insist on the restoration of ecclesiastical property.

When everything had been arranged Parliament was summoned to meet in November 1554. The sheriffs were instructed to see that men "of the wise, grave and Catholic sort" should be returned. An Act was passed immediately reversing the sentence of Attainder against Cardinal Pole. The legate hastened on his way to London where he was welcomed by the King and Queen and Parliament. A supplication was adopted unanimously in the House of Lords, and with but one dissentient in the House of Commons, requesting the King and Queen to procure from the legate absolution from heresy and schism for the English people and a reconciliation of the nation with the Pope. Cardinal Pole attended Parliament on the 30th to pronounce the sentence of absolution, which was received by the King, Queen, Lords, and Commons on bended knees. This happy event was celebrated by a procession through the streets of London in which the clergymen, aldermen, and citizens took part. Parliament petitioned that the old jurisdiction of the clergy should be restored, that the liberty granted to the Church by the Magna Charta should be confirmed, and that the English religious service- books of the previous reign should be delivered to the flames. Once it was made clear that the owners of ecclesiastical property should not be disturbed there was no difficulty in procuring a complete reversal of all the laws that had been passed against the apostolic See of Rome since the twentieth year of Henry VIII. (3rd January 1555). [2]

The close connexion of the leaders of the Reformers with the late rebellion, the ugly pamphlets that made their way into England from Frankfurt and Geneva, the fact that prayers were offered in secret for the speedy death of the queen, that a shot had been fired at one of the royal preachers while he was in the pulpit, and that a violent commotion was being stirred up, that led later on to a priest being struck down at the altar by one who is designated by Foxe as "a faithful servant of God," [3] made it necessary for the safety of the crown and the advancement of religion to deal harshly with those who themselves had relied on persecution for the promotion of their designs. Mary herself, Philip, and Cardinal Pole did not favour a recourse to violent measures, but they were overruled by the judgment of those who should have known best the character of the opponents with whom they had to deal. An Act was passed renewing the legislation that had been made in the reigns of Richard II., Henry IV., and Henry V. for the suppression of the Lollard heresy.

Parliament was dissolved in January 1555, and several of the political prisoners were released from the Tower. The heretical leaders, who though under arrest had been treated with great mildness and allowed such liberty that they were able to meet together and to publish writings and challenges against Mary's religious policy, [4] were brought to trial before a commission presided over by Gardiner. A few consented to sign a formula of recantation, but the majority, persisting in their opposition, were degraded and handed over for punishment to the civil authorities. On the 4th February the long series of burnings began. John Rogers was committed to the flames in Smithfield, Bishop Hooper in Gloucester, Taylor in Suffolk, Saunders in Coventry, and before the year had elapsed about seventy prisoners had met a similar fate. In September 1555 a commission was sent down to Oxford to examine Latimer and Ridley. Both refused to admit Transubstantiation, the sacrificial character of the Mass, or Roman supremacy. They

were condemned, and it must be said of them that they met their fate like men. Judges were appointed by the Pope to take evidence against Cranmer. He was charged with perjury because he had broken his oath to the Pope, with heresy on account of his teaching against the Eucharist, and with adultery. The minutes of the trial were forwarded to Rome for the final decision, and after careful consideration the Pope deposed him from the Archbishopric of Canterbury, and excommunicated him. Meanwhile Cranmer's theological views had been undergoing another revision. On the question of prayers for the dead, Purgatory, and the Mass, he was willing to admit that he might have been mistaken, and even on the question of papal supremacy he professed himself ready to listen to argument. In his eagerness to escape punishment he signed recantation after recantation, each of them more comprehensive and more submissive than its predecessor, acknowledging his guilt as a persecutor of the Church and a disturber of the faith of the English nation, and praying for pardon from the sovereigns, the Pope, and God. But in the end, when he realised that his recantations could not save him and that he was face to face with death, he deceived his chaplains at the last moment as he had deceived many others, by withdrawing his previous admissions and announcing that he still clung to his heretical views [5] (21st March 1556).

An embassy had been sent to Rome to inform the Pope that England had returned to the Holy See. The envoys reported, too, that though Mary had failed to secure a restoration of the ecclesiastical lands, she had at least set a good example to the lay usurpers by returning the possessions of the Church still held by the crown. The synod summoned by Cardinal Pole to restore the discipline of the Church in England, met in November 1555. It was agreed in the synod that the 30th November should be kept as a national holiday in memory of the reconciliation of England to the Church, that the decrees binding in England before the troubles began under Henry VIII. should be enforced, that the clergy should be mindful of their duties of residence and preaching, that seminaries should be set up in each diocese for the education of the clergy, that bishops should hold frequent visitations, that a set of homilies should be compiled for the guidance of preachers, and that an English version of the Scriptures should be published without delay. [6] This new code of constitutions issued under the title Reformatio Angliae ex decretis Reginaldi Pole is in itself a testimony to the ability, moderation, and prudence of the papal legate. Some months later he was consecrated bishop and took possession of the See of Canterbury to which he had been appointed on the deposition of Cranmer. In pursuance of her plans for the complete re-establishment of the Catholic religion the queen took steps to ensure that the monastic institutions, which had been suppressed during the previous reigns, should begin to make their appearance once more in England. The Carthusians returned to London, the Grey Friars occupied a house at Greenwich, the Dominicans took possession of St. Bartholomew's, and the Benedictines were installed in Westminster (1556).

The queen, who two years before had been full of courage and hope, began to lose confidence in the success of her work. The Spanish marriage was the beginning of her misfortunes, and the apparent dependence of Catholicism on Spanish help proved to be the undoing of the Catholic religion in England. Disappointed in the birth of an heir, deserted by her husband who found enough to engage his attention in Spain and the Netherlands, confronted with conspiracies promoted by heretics and encouraged for its own selfish purpose by France, doubtful of the real sentiments of Elizabeth, and with hardly any friends upon whose advice she could rely with confidence, it is not to be wondered at that Mary felt inclined to despair. She was determined, however, to continue the work she had begun, and to see that at least during her life heresy should be put down with a heavy hand. Unfortunately for the success of her projects she was involved in difficulties with Rome. Paul IV. (1555-59) was a man of stern, unbending character, firmly resolved to maintain the rights and liberties of the Holy See. Annoyed at the domineering policy of Charles V., and of his son Philip II., he was anxious to put an end to Spanish rule in Naples. The relations became so embittered that a Spanish force under the command of the Duke of Alva crossed the frontiers of the Papal States, and Paul IV. recalled his agents from Philip's territories (1557). France decided to support the Pope, and soon active hostilities began. Philip, for whose return to England Mary had so often appealed in vain, came back early in 1557, but only to request that England should join with him in a war with France.

Mary's position was a particularly cruel one. She could not well resist the demands of her husband, particularly as France had lent its patronage and assistance to the conspiracies plotted for her overthrow. The position of Cardinal Pole was even more cruel. He had done all that man could do to prevent the outbreak of war, and when all his efforts proved unavailing, he retired from court lest he, a legate of the Holy See, should be obliged to meet Philip who was at war with the Pope. By the papal order (1557) recalling all his agents from the Spanish territories the Cardinal found himself deprived of the office of legate, to the astonishment of his friends and the grief of the queen. Agents were dispatched to Rome to induce Paul IV. to cancel the legate's recall. The Pope, however, having taken some

time for consideration refused to accede to the request, but agreed to send a new legate in the person of the Observant, Friar William Peto (14 June 1557), who had preached so manfully against Henry's divorce, and who was now created cardinal to prepare him for his new position. The messenger dispatched to announce these tidings was refused admission into England, although Pole who had learned of what had taken place in Rome refused to act any longer as legate, and addressed a strong but respectful letter of remonstrance to the Pope. Both from the point of view of religion and of politics the French war, in which Mary's husband had succeeded in involving England, proved disastrous. It led to the loss of Calais and Guisnes (1558) the last of the English possessions in France, to increased taxation, and to a strong feeling against Mary and all her counsellors. Distrust of the Spanish alliance led to distrust of the religion of which Philip had constituted himself the champion, and helped to forward the schemes of those who sought to identify patriotism with Protestantism. Though the great body of the people had accepted the Catholic religion, and though to all appearances its restoration was complete, Mary's last days were embittered by the thought that under the reign of her successor the religious settlement that had been effected might be overturned. Already courtiers and diplomatists were abandoning her presence to win favour with Elizabeth, who professed to be a sincere Catholic, but on whose professions too much reliance could not be placed. On November 17th 1558 Mary passed away, and a few hours later her great counsellor and friend Cardinal Pole was called to his reward.


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