corner graphic   Hi,    
Finding the new version too difficult to understand? Go to

The History of Protestantism

by 'James Aitken Wylie'

Book 23 — Protestantism in England From the Times of Henry VIII

Chapter 13 — Restoration of the Pope's authority in england

Resource Toolbox

 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19  20  21  22  23  24

 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19  20

Execution of Lady Jane Grey, etc.—Accession of Mary—Her Character—Conceals her projected Policy—Her Message to the Pope— Unhappiness of the Times—Gardiner and Bonner—Cardinal Pole made Legate—The Pope's Letter to Mary—The Queen begins to Persecute— Cranmer Committed to the Tower—Protestant Ministers Imprisoned— Protestant Bishops and Clergy Deprived—Exodus—Coronation of the Queen—Cranmer Condemned for Treason—The Laws in favor of the Reformation Repealed—A Parliament—The Queen's Marriage with Philip of Spain—Disputation on the Mass at Oxford—Appearance of Latimer, etc.—Restoration of Popish Laws, Customs, etc.—Arrival of Cardinal Pole—Terms of England's Reconciliation to RomeŠThe Legate solemnly Absolves the Parliament and Convocation—England Reconciled to the Pope

The project of Northumberland, devised professedly for the protection of the Protestant religion, but in reality for the aggrandizement of his own family, involved in calamity all who took part in it. Lady Jane Grey, after a reign of ten days, was committed to the Tower, thence to pass, after a brief interval, to the block. The duke expiated his ambition on the scaffold, returning in his last hours to the communion of the Church of Rome, after many years passed in the profession of a zealous Protestantism. The Princess Mary was proclaimed queen on the 17th of July, 1553, and her accession was hailed by the great body of the nation with satisfaction, if not with enthusiasm. There was a prevalent conviction that the crown was rightfully hers; for although one Parliament had annulled her right of succession, as well as that of her sister Elizabeth, on the ground of the unlawfulness of the marriage of Henry VIII with Catherine of Aragon, another Parliament had restored it to her; and in the last will of her father she had been ranked next after Edward, Prince of Wales, heir of the crown.

The vast unpopularity of the Duke of Northumberland, whose tyrannical character had caused him to be detested, acted as a foil to the new sovereign; and although the people were not without fears of a change of policy in the matter of religion, they were far indeed from anticipating the vast revolution that was near, and the terrible calamities that were to overspread the kingdom as soon as Mary had seated herself on the throne.

Mary was in her thirty-seventh year when she began to reign. Her person was homely, her temper morose, her understanding narrow, and her disposition gloomy and suspicious. She displayed the Spanish gravity of her mother, in union with the obstinacy of her father, but these evil qualities were not relieved by the graces of Catherine and the talents of Henry. Her training, instead of refining her character and widening her views, tended only to strengthen the unhappy conditions with which nature had endowed her. Her education had been conducted mainly by her mother, who had taught her little besides a strong attachment to the Roman Catholic faith. Thus, though living in England, she had breathed from her youth the air of Spain; and not only was the creed of that country congenial to a disposition naturally melancholy, and rendered still more so by the adverse circumstances of her early years, but her pride engaged her to uphold a religion for which her mother had lived a martyr. No sooner had she mounted the throne than she dispatched a messenger to announce her accession to the Pope. This was on the matter to say, "I am your faithful daughter, and England has returned to the Roman obedience."

Knowing how welcome these tidings would be in the Eternal City, the messenger was bid not to loiter on the road, and he used such expedition that he accomplished in nine days a journey on which an ordinary traveler then usually spent thrice that length of time, and in which Campeggio, when he came to pronounce the divorce, had consumed three months.

But Mary, knowing that the tiding which caused joy in Rome would awaken just the opposite feelings in England, kept her subjects as yet in the dark touching the policy she had determined on pursuing. The Reformers of Suffolk, before espousing her cause, begged to know whether she was willing to permit the religious settlement under Edward VI to continue. She bade them put their minds at ease; that no man would be molested on the ground of religion; and that she would be perfectly content if allowed to practice in peace her own form of worship. When she entered London, she sent for the Lord Mayor, and assured him that she "meant graciously not to compel or strain other people's consciences, otherwise than God shall, as she trusted, put in their hearts a persuasion of the truth." [1] These soft words opened her way to the throne. No sooner was she seated upon it than she changed her speech; and throwing off all disguise, she left no one in doubt that her settled purpose was the suppression of the Protestant faith.

Without losing a day, she proceeded to undo all that had been effected during the reigns of her father and brother. What Cranmer had found to be hindrances in the work of constructing, Mary found to be helps in the business of overthrowing the Protestant edifice. Vast numbers of the population were still attached to the ancient beliefs; there had been no sufficient time for the light to penetrate the darkness; a full half of the clergy, although conforming outwardly to the Reformed worship, remained Popish at heart. They had been monks and friars: their work, as such, was to chant the Litany and to say mass; and, ignorant of all besides, they made but sorry instructors of the people; and they would have been pensioned off, but for the wretched avarice of the present possessors of the abbey lands, who grudged the stipends they should have to pay to better men. The times were frightfully disordered the grossest immoralities were common, the wildest opinions were afloat, and a spirit of skepticism has ever been found to favor rather

than retard the return of superstition. Thus Mary found her work as easy as Cranmer had found his to be difficult, and she pursued it with an ardor that seemed to grudge every hour that passed and left it incomplete.

Her first care was to gather round her fitting instruments to aid her. Gardiner and Bonner were liberated from prison. They had been kept in the Tower during the former reign, not because they were inimical to Protestantism, but because their intrigues made it dangerous to the public peace to leave them at large. These two men were not less intent on the destruction of the Reformed Church, and the restoration of the ancient glories of the Popedom in England, than Mary, but their greater patience and deeper craft taught them to moderate the dangerous precipitancy of the queen. Gardiner was made Bishop of Winchester and Lord Chancellor of England; and Bonner, Bishop of London, in the room of Ridley. A third assistant did Mary summon to her aid, a man of lofty intellect, pure character, and great learning, infinitely superior to the other two with whom he was to be mated. Reginald Pole, a scion of the House of York, had attained the Roman purple, and was at this hour living on the shores of Lake Garda, in Italy, the favorite retreat of the poet Lucullus. The queen requested the Pope to send Cardinal Pole to England, with full powers to receive the kingdom into the Roman pale. Julius III at once named Pole his legate, and dispatched him to England on the august errand of receiving back the repentant nation. [2] The legate was the bearer of a letter from the Pope to the queen, in which he said, "That since she carried the name of the Blessed Virgin, he called on her to say the Magnificat, applying it to the late providence of God toward herself."

The impatience of Pole to complete the task which had been put into his hands was as great as that of Mary herself. But Gardiner and Bonner, more cautious though not less in earnest, and fearing that the great project was being pushed on too rapidly, wrote to Charles V to delay Pole on his way through the Low Countries, till they had prepared the way for his arrival. Pole, much against his will, and not a little to his surprise and chagrin, was detained in Belgium. Meanwhile his coadjutors in England were taking such steps as they thought necessary to accomplish the great end they had in view.

All men throughout England, who held any post of influence and were known to be favorable to the Reformation, were now displaced. The last time that Archbishop Cranmer officiated publicly was on the 8th of August, when he read the Protestant burial service at the obsequies of his late master, Edward VI. After this he was ordered to confine himself to his house at Lambeth. A report was spread abroad that he had recanted and said mass in his cathedral. This drew from him what probably his enemies wished, a written declaration of his continued adherence to the Protestant faith, and on this he was summoned before the Council and committed to the Tower. [3] The archbishop was charged with treason in having subscribed the deed of Edward VI transferring the succession to Lady Jane Grey, and also with heresy, as contained in the paper given in to the Council. But his great offense, and that which his enemies could not pardon, was the divorce of Henry VIII, of which forgetful of the proud cardinal lying without epitaph in the Abbey of Leicester—they held Cranmer to be the chief promoter. Ridley, Bishop of London, deprived of his see, had preceded the archbishop to prison, as had also Rogers, for preaching the Protestant sermon at St. Paul's. Latimer, the most eloquent preacher in all England; Hooper of Gloucester, who preached three or four times every day to his parishioners; Coverdale, Bradford, Saunders, and others were deprived of their liberty during the months of August and September.

A commission was issued to the new Bishops of Winchester, London, Chichester, and Durham—who, in addition to their detestation of Protestantism, were soured in their tempers by what had befallen them in the past reign—empowering them to deprive the Protestant bishops and ministers of their offices, on pretense either of treason, or of heresy, or of marriage. They did their work with zeal and expedition. All the Protestant bishops were deprived, as also numbers of the clergy, and in particular those who were married. Some were deprived who were never cited before the commission; others were cited who were locked up in prison, and deprived because they did not appear; others were extruded on promise of a pension that was never paid; and others were refused their stipend because they were dismissed a day or two before the expiry of the term at which it was payable—"so speedy, so hasty, so without warning," says one, "were the deprivations." "Yea, some noblemen and gentlemen were deprived of those lands which the king had given them, without tarrying for any law. Many churches were changed, many altars set up, many masses said, many dirges sung, before the law was repealed. All was done ill post-haste." [4]

The members of the foreign Protestant congregations established in various parts of England had passports given them, with orders to leave the country. About 1,000 Englishmen, in various disguises, accompanied them in their flight. Cranmer, who had foreseen the bursting of the storm, counseled those whom he deemed in danger to provide for their safety by seeking a foreign asylum. Many acted on his advice, and some 800 exiles were distributed among the cities of Germany and Switzerland.

Providence, as the historian Burner remarks, made the storm abate on the Continent when it began to rage in England, and as England had offered sanctuary to the exiles of Germany in

their day of trouble, so now the persecuted of England found refuge in Strasburg and Antwerp, in Zurich and Geneva. But the archbishop himself refused to flee, though urged to do so by his friends. He had been too deeply concerned, he said, in the changes of religion under the last reign not to remain and own them. As things stood, this was a voluntary surrender of himself on the altar. [5]

On the 1st of October the queen was crowned at the Abbey of Westminster. The usual pardon was proclaimed, but while the ordinary criminals were set free, the prisoners in the Tower and Fleet—that is, the professors of the Gospel, including Grafton and Whitchurch, the printers of the Bible—were exempt from the deed of grace. A few days thereafter, the queen issued a proclamation, saying that she meant to live and die in the religion of her youth, and willed that all her loving subjectors should embrace the same. [6] All who were in favor of the old religion deemed this a sufficient warrant publicly to restore the mass, even before the law had made it legal. Nor had they long to wait for a formal authorization. This same month, a Parliament was assembled, the elections being so managed that only those should sit in it who would subserviently do the work for which they had been summoned. The first Act of this Parliament was to declare Henry VIII's marriage with Queen Catherine lawful, and to lay the blame of the divorce at the door of Cranmer, oblivious of the fact that Gardiner, the chief inspirer of these measures, had been active in promoting the divorce before Cranmer's name was even known to the king.

This was followed in November by the indictment at Guildhall of the archbishop for high treason. He was found guilty, and condemned. The queen, whose life he had saved in her youth, pardoned him his treason Š a kindness which snatched him from the axe, but reserved him for the fire. By another Act of the Parliament all the laws made respecting religion in the reign of Edward VI were repealed. A Convocation was at the same time held; but so careful had been the selection of those who were to compose it, that only six had courage to own themselves the friends of the Reformation accomplished in the previous reign.

The opening sermon was preached by Bonner's chaplain from the text, "Feed the flock." Among other travesties of Scripture that diversified the oration was the application to the queen of the words of Deborah, "Religion ceased in England until Mary aroseŠa virgin arose in England." Meanwhile it was whispered that another serious step was contemplated by the queen. This was a marriage with the emperor's son, Philip of Spain.

The news startled the nation, for they saw a foreign despotism coming along with a foreign faith. Even the Parliament begged the queen "not to marry a stranger," and the queen, not liking to be crossed in her matrimonial projects, deemed the request impertinent, and dismissed the members to their homes. Gardiner, however, hit on means for facilitating the match between Mary and Philip. Having learned that a galleon, freighted with gold from South America, had just arrived in Spain, he wrote to the emperor, saying that he knew not how he could so well bestow a few millions of this wealth as in securing the votes of influential men in England in favor of the match, and thus rescue a nation from heresy, and at the same time add another to the many kingdoms already under the scepter of Spain. The counsel of the Bishop of Winchester was followed, and the match went prosperously forward.

To give an air of seriousness and deliberation to the changes which were being hurried on with so much determination and levity, it was thought good to have a disputation on the mass at Oxford. The three venerable confessors now in the Tower—Cranmer, Ridley, and Latimer—were brought out, and carried down to Oxford, there to be "baited," as one has said, by the members of both universities, for Cambridge was also summoned to bear its part in defense of the "the Sacrament of the altar."

The opening services—which were of more than usual splendor—being ended, the commissioners, to the number of thirty-three, took their seats before the altar, and then in a little while Cranmer was brought in, guarded by bill-men" He. gave them," says Strype, "great reverence, and stood with his staff in his hand. They offered him a stool to sit, but he refused."

Weston, the prolocutor, said that the commission had no desire save that of reclaiming the archbishop from his heresy, and handing him a copy of the articles to be debated, requested his opinion upon them. The archbishop, having read them, briefly characterized them as opposed to the truth of Scripture, but promised to give his opinion in writing next day. "His behavior all this while," says Strype, "was so grave and modest that many Masters of Art who were not of his mind could not forbear weeping." The archbishop having been removed, Ridley was brought in. The same articles having been presented to him, he condemned them as false, but desired a copy of them, that he might answer them in writing.

PICTURE Omitted: Facsimile of the Medal struck to celebrate the Return of England to Roman Catholicism [7]

Last of all, Latimer was brought in. Having looked at the articles, he said that in the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper there was a certain presence, but not such a presence as they affirmed. He could not publicly dispute, he said, by reason of his age and the weakness of his memory; but he would give his opinion on the questions in writing, and begged a copy of them for that

purpose. "I cannot here omit," says Strype, "old Father Latimer's habit at his first appearance before the commissioners, which was also his habit while he remained a prisoner in Oxford. He held his hat in his hand; he had a kerchief on his head, and upon it a night-cap or two, and a great cap such as townsmen used, with two broad flaps to button under his chin, an old thread-bare Bristow frieze gown, girded to his body with a penny leather girdle, at which hanged, by a long string of leather, his Testament, and his spectacles without case hanging about his neck upon his breast." [8] Latimer was then in his eighty-fourth year.

It were useless to narrate the disputation that followed. It was a mock debate, and was intended only as a blind to the nation; and we notice it here for this reason—that it shows us the Fathers of the English Reformation bearing their dying testimony against the doctrine of the bodily presence of Christ in the Eucharist, a tenet around which all the other doctrines of Rome cluster and on which so many of them are built.

The face of England was every day becoming more Popish. All the Protestant preachers had been silenced, and a crowd of ignorant priests rushed in to fill their places. These men abstained from marriage which God has ordained, but not from the uncleanness which God has forbidden. Mass was restored in every parish. Holidays were ordered to be kept. Auricular confession, in Bonners's diocese, was made obligatory on all above twelve years of age. Worship was performed in an unknown tongue. The Popish symbols were restored in the churches, the streets, and the highways. The higher clergy dazzled the spectators by magnificent processions; the lower clergy quarreled with their parishioners for candles, eggs on Good Friday, dirge-groats, and fees for saying mass for souls in purgatory. The youth were compelled to attend school, where they were carefully instructed in the Popish faith.

In April, 1554, a new Parliament assembled, and the Spanish gold having done its work, the measures necessary for completing the nation's subjection to the Pope's authority were rapidly proceeded with. On the 20th of July, the queen was married to Philip, who henceforward became her chief adviser; and thus the sword of Spain was added to the yoke of Rome. On the 21st of November, Cardinal Pole arrived in England, and immediately entered on his work of reconciling the nation to Rome. He came with powers to give absolution to all heretics who sought it penitently; to pardon all repentant clergymen their irregularities; to soften, by a wise use of the dispensing power, the yoke of ceremonies and fasts to those who had now been for some time unaccustomed to it; and as regarded the abbey lands, which it had been foreseen would be the great difficulty, the legate was instructed to arrange this matter on wonderfully liberal terms. Where he saw fit, he was empowered to permit these lands to be detained by their present holders, that "the recovery of the nation and the salvation of souls" might not be obstructed by worldly interests. These terms being deemed satisfactory on the whole by the Parliament, it proceeded to restore in full dominancy the Papal power. An Act was passed, repealing all the laws made against the supremacy of the Pope in the reign of Henry VIII; the power of punishing heretics with death was given back to the bishops; and the work of reconciling the realm to Rome was consummated by the legate's summoning before him the Parliament and the two Houses of Convocation, to receive on their bended knees his solemn absolution of their heresy and schism. [9] The civil and ecclesiastical estates bowed themselves down at the feet of the Pope's representative. Their own infamy and their country's disgrace being now complete, they ordered bonfires to be lighted, and a Te Deum to be sung, in token of their joy at beholding the Pontificial tiara rising in proud supremacy above the crown of England.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 27th, 2020
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30
Search Historical Writings
Enter query in the box below
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology