By 1517 Thomas Wolsey, Cardinal of York, was a papal legate and supervised the government of England as chancellor. In July the Hapsburg Charles, who had recently become King of Castile, came to London and signed a friendship treaty with Henry VIII. They attended a 20-course banquet that went on for seven hours. That month an epidemic of the “sweating sickness” broke out, and 400 people died in Oxford in one week. Henry moved to the country and hardly ever saw Wolsey. England had trouble holding Tournai for five years, and citizens rebelled against the taxes. Welsh units in the garrison complained about their pay and mutinied. After hanging a few ringleaders, the rest were pardoned with great publicity.
In May 1518 Pope Leo X made Wolsey legate a latere for life. Wolsey’s own secretary Richard Pace had become King Henry VIII’s secretary, and Treasurer Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, was aging. Charles wanted Tournai, but during the summer Henry sold it to France for 600,000 écus of gold, adding to the pension the French had already agreed to pay Henry in previous treaties. Thomas More accused Wolsey of conducting the peace negotiations of 1518 without informing the King. On October 2 Henry VIII promised François I that his 2-year-old daughter Mary would marry the infant dauphin. In London on the same day representatives of Henry, François, Charles, Emperor Maximilian, and Pope Leo X formed the Holy League to be at peace with each other and to fight the Turks. Festivities continued, and one night Admiral Bonnivet tried to seduce François’ sister, Duchess Marguerite of Alençon, in her bedroom but departed with his face scratched. Years later she described such an incident in her Heptameron. In a tournament Henry broke eight lances while jousting, and the festivities cost him £5,000 including £1,000 in gambling losses.
Erasmus, Thomas More, and other humanists encouraged the peace efforts of 1517 and especially the Treaty of Universal Peace signed on October 2, 1518. In March 1517 Richard Foxe, Bishop of Winchester, founded Corpus Christi College at Oxford, and Cardinal Wolsey gave Oxford six readerships. John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, was chancellor of Cambridge University and founded a new college to encouraged the humanistic study of Latin, Greek, and Hebrew literature, especially after Henry VIII ordered Cambridge to disband it canon law faculty and scholasticism. Erasmus published his Complaint of Peace in July 1517, and it had ten editions by 1518 and 24 by 1529 as well as translations into French, German, and Spanish. He showed that war is madness and does not pay. In his preface in November Erasmus criticized the biography of Alexander by Quintus Curtius for promoting a false and corrupt heroism of the “world-robber.” On March 5, 1518 Erasmus wrote to More about the current comedy of diplomacy and included a copy of Luther’s theses. He exposed Pope Leo X’s pretext of a war against the Turks as a pretext to expel the Spaniards from Naples. He urged examples of a truly Christian life as the way to convert others.
After Maximilian died in January 1519, Henry VIII made a belated effort to be elected emperor; but Charles and François paid much more in bribes, and Charles had the connections in Germany to get elected. The young Emperor Charles V and François struggled for control of Italy. Charles met with Wolsey at Dover on May 26, 1520 and gave him a pension of 7,000 ducats, and the next day he met his aunt Catherine of Aragon for the first time. On June 7 Henry with an escort of 3,997 people and Catherine with 1,175 persons attended the Field of Cloth and Gold on the Picardy plain of France that lasted seventeen days. Henry and François with three knights each met challengers in the tournaments.
Henry VIII and his wife Catherine met with Charles V and his aunt Margaret on July 10 at Gravelines, and four days later they promised not to make an alliance with France for two years and to work together in a congress at Calais. Erasmus talked with Charles and urged Henry to restrain Pope Leo X’s anger at the Lutherans. Leo had asked all the kings to oppose Luther and have his books burned and to persecute Lutherans as heretics. The Hapsburg Charles also controlled the Netherlands which had strong commercial relations with England. Henry’s mistress Elizabeth Blount bore his son Henry Fitzroy that summer.
In January 1521 Henry and Wolsey managed to get the Scots to ask for an extension of the truce. Edward Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, was descended from Edward IV and was suspected of wanting to be king. He was invited to court in April and in London was arrested for treason. He was tried by the Court of the Lord High Steward with Norfolk and other peers presiding. The court unanimously found him guilty, and he was beheaded on May 17, five days after Wolsey met with 30,000 people in an anti-Lutheran demonstration which burned Luther’s writings. Bishop John Fisher preached a sermon against the new heresies. George Neville, Baron of Abergavenny, and Henry Pole, Baron of Montagu, granted some of their lands to Henry and Wolsey and were then pardoned. Henry wrote The Assertion of the Seven Sacraments in Latin and sent it to Pope Leo who proclaimed him “Defender of the Faith” in October. Henry wondered how Luther could deny that marriage is a sacrament, and he denounced the German reformer for fostering sedition. He declined to plead his cause as a king, but he agreed with the Church’s holding men superior to women.
Wolsey went to Bruges and on August 25 promised that the child Mary would marry Charles V in 1528 with a dowry of 400,000 gold crowns plus 50,000 a year, and Henry and Charles became allies against France. They agreed to invade France at the same time and divide up the kingdom between them. Wolsey attended the congress at Calais, but ratification on November 24 did not include the marriage agreement. Scotland was ordered to expel the Duke of Albany who was allied with France, and Norfolk’s son Admiral Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey, was ordered to mobilize the fleet and reinforce Calais.
Charles V visited London, and on June 19, 1522 he agreed to wed Mary and invade France with the English and not make a separate peace with François. Henry sent a herald to give François his declaration of war. Thirty English ships sailed with him from Southampton on July 6, and they raided the coasts of France. Surrey’s forces burned Morlaix and plundered the coasts of Brittany later that month. Then he went to Calais, and on August 30 his army of 15,000 with 300 Spaniards and 400 unpaid volunteers raided France, burning and pillaging, but they lacked the artillery to take Hesdin. The army suffered disease and returned to Calais on October 14 with captured livestock. Albany sailed from Scotland on October 25 to return to France, and Henry VIII extended his truce with Scotland in November for three months; but in 1523 English forces raided Scotland. Wolsey detained Venetian galleys in English ports until Venice agreed in July to renounce their alliance with France for that of Charles and Henry. Surrey led an army of 20,000 from Calais in September, but Charles persuaded Wolsey to send them to southern France where they had to abandon their cannons at Valenciennes.
Duke Charles de Bourbon was Constable of France, but he defected to Charles. Henry was concerned that he favored Charles more than himself, but Bourbon agreed to recognize Henry as King of France. Charles promised to invade Guienne from Spain in August, but he did not do so. When Bourbon was betrayed to François, he fled to northern Italy. Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, led an invasion of France while Surrey raided Scotland. Albany led a Scottish army to retaliate against England, but they were soon driven back. More wrote his Answer to Luther in Latin and published it in London under the pseudonym William Rosse in December 1523. Pope Adrian VI had died in September. Wolsey wanted to be pope, but Charles V made sure that Giulio de’ Medici became Clement VII.
When the Crown’s annual revenue was only about £100,000 and the entire kingdom’s £150,000, Wolsey’s wealth was estimated at £35,000 a year. He conducted an expensive foreign policy, and the English people resisted the taxes. The Cardinal controlled the finances the way King Henry VII had. In 1522-23 he raised £352,231 by forced loans and summoned the Parliament in April 1523. They elected More their speaker and objected to Wolsey’s demand for four shillings per pound from every man’s lands and goods. Thomas Cromwell wrote a speech saying that Thérouanne had cost the King more than twenty times what it was worth. However, More persuaded them to appropriate funds, and Henry VIII rewarded him with a gift of £200.
On October 12, 1524 Cuthbert Tunstall, Bishop of London, summoned booksellers to his palace and warned them against selling banned books. They must submit the titles of all recently imported books to Wolsey, Archbishop William Warham, Fisher, or himself for approval. Fisher published his Assertionis Lutheranae confutatio in 1523 and his book against Luther’s Babylonian Captivity in 1525.
Henry VIII’s first wife Catherine of Aragon had been married to his late brother Arthur, and she was six years older than Henry. She bore him four sons and three daughters, but only Mary reached adulthood. Anne Boleyn was maid of honor to Queen Claude of France; but when the French war began in 1522, she came to the English court. By 1524 Henry doubted that 39-year-old Catherine would give him a son and heir, and he fell in love with Anne Boleyn. His illegitimate son of Elizabeth Blount named Henry Fitzroy had been born on June 15, 1519 and was made lord high admiral, warden of the Marches, and lieutenant of Ireland; but Henry wanted a legitimate son, and he hoped the Pope would annul his marriage to Catherine. On June 16, 1525 the King publicly made his son Henry the Earl of Nottingham and then Duke of Richmond and Somerset. François said that Mary Boleyn had been one of the most promiscuous women at his court, and later Henry VIII had a secret affair with her. When Henry fell in love with her sister Anne Boleyn, she refused to give in to him for some time.
Parliament finally appropriated a subsidy of £150,000 in four installments for the war. This so-called “Amicable Grant” of 1525 demanded one-sixth of incomes and movable property from the laity and twice that from the clergy. Resistance spread with the news from London, and an insurgent in Norfolk said their leaders were “Poverty and Necessity.” Henry canceled the imposition and punished only a few ringleaders in the star chamber. Wolsey became very unpopular, though Henry still trusted him.
In February 1525 More intercepted a diplomatic message sent by the Flemish ambassador Praet in London by courier to Charles V. The letter criticized Wolsey who had Praet arrested. That month François was defeated at Pavia and taken prisoner. Henry hoped to be declared King of France, but Charles declined to attack the kingdom of his prisoner. Henry and Wolsey stopped loaning money to Emperor Charles, and his betrothal to Mary Tudor was canceled. Wolsey negotiated with François’ mother Louise who secretly gave him 100,000 crowns, and on August 30 1525 he made peace with France increasing the cost of the pensions.
When Pope Clement VII, France, Florence, Venice, and Sforza of Milan formed the League of Cognac, England was made protector of the confederation. Henry VIII sent 30,000 ducats to the Pope in early 1527 and money to the supporters of François fighting Charles and Bourbon in Italy. England and France agreed to perpetual peace on April 30 and allied against Charles V who refused to pay Henry VIII the 800,000 crowns owed him even after François paid Charles 1,200,000 crowns. Charles blamed Wolsey for the war. The English refused to stop their trade with the Netherlands in March 1528, and in June they agreed with regent Margaret of Austria to continue commercial relations. That month at Hampton court Henry and Wolsey persuaded François and Charles to agree to a truce north of the Alps for eight months while the war went on in Italy.
A bad harvest in 1527 caused the price of wheat to go up in 1528, and the war with the Emperor caused fears that the Netherlands would ban the import of English wool. This caused clothiers to dismiss workers. Villagers petitioned Archbishop Warham that the money people loaned for war in the Amicable Grant be paid back. Another plot intended to seize Wolsey; but it was discovered, and the leaders were condemned for treason. The sweating sickness broke out again in June 1528; but Henry’s secretary Brian Tuke argued that it was caused by fear as rumors of it spread. In London 40,000 people caught the disease, but only 2,000 died.
Henry VIII, Cardinal Wolsey, and William Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury, conferred with five lawyers in May 1527 and decided to consult bishops and apply to the Pope for a divorce. On May 31 Henry told Catherine they must separate. On June 8, 1528 Pope Clement VII authorized cardinals Campeggio and Wolsey to try the case and make a decision. Clement feared an attack by her nephew Charles V and told Campeggio to try to reconcile Catherine with Henry. Campeggio also delayed the case. Catherine said her marriage to Arthur had not been consummated, but she had been married to Henry for nineteen years. Henry announced that he needed the divorce so that he could produce a male heir and avoid a future civil war. On May 31, 1529 the divorce proceedings began at Blackfriars church; but legates appealed to Rome, and Campeggio adjourned the court. On July 6 Pope Clement broke his promise and decided to advoke Henry’s divorce case back to Rome. His decision reached them on July 22, and the next day the Duke of Suffolk spoke out against cardinals in the court.
On August 2 the Cambridge theologian Thomas Cranmer suggested that the case should not be decided in an ecclesiastical court but by university theologians. François and Charles V made a treaty at Cambrai, and François promised to pay the Emperor’s debt to Henry. On October 9 the Attorney General found Chancellor Wolsey presiding over the Court of Chancery and charged him with praemunire for serving the Pope as legate while in England. Wolsey did not want to be judged by Parliament and asked the King’s bench to take his case. Henry dismissed him as chancellor and deprived him of the Great Seal on October 22. Wolsey pleaded guilty four days later. He was sentenced to prison, and all his property was forfeited to the King. Henry took Wolsey under his protection in November and allowed him to retire to Esher.
Henry summoned the Parliament to meet on November 3, and the new Chancellor Thomas More opened the session by denouncing Wolsey. The House of Lords petitioned the King to punish Wolsey for 44 offenses. Henry ordered Wolsey to go to his diocese in York which he had never visited in his sixteen years as archbishop. On February 22, 1530 Tunstall replaced Wolsey as Bishop of Durham. That month Warham and Fisher condemned and burned Thomas Hitton for heresy because he had smuggled Tyndale’s New Testament into England. The King changed the name of Cardinal’s College at Oxford to King Henry VIII’s College, and it was reorganized in 1546 as Christ’s Church College. Ipswich College was dismantled. In the summer of 1530 the government charged eight bishops and seven divines with praemunire for being paid to aid Wolsey. Norfolk informed Henry that Wolsey was plotting against him with François and Pope Clement VII. On November 4 the Earl of Northumberland arrested Wolsey at Cawood on the charge of high treason. Wolsey was very ill and died at Leicester Abbey on November 29, 1530.
William Tyndale earned his B. A. at Oxford, and studying at the University of Wittenberg in 1524 he became a Lutheran. In March 1526 he published at Worms his English translation of the New Testament based on the Greek text edited by Erasmus, and copies soon began arriving in England. Luther wrote a letter to Henry VIII in September 1525 and offered to make a recantation of his book if Henry requested it. Henry did not write back for almost a year and then denounced Luther. Wolsey was exploiting 22 monasteries to fund his new colleges at Oxford and Ipswich.
On Christmas Eve in Cambridge the Augustinian prior Robert Barnes preached a sermon that criticized celebrating holy days and suggested the bishops and cardinals should spend their money to help the poor rather than on luxurious displays. In January 1526 he refused to recant and appealed to the university. Cardinal Wolsey in February had Barnes and other reformers arrested. Forced to choose between being burned or abjuring, Barnes chose the latter and for penance had to kneel during Fisher’s sermon. In August he became a house prisoner of Augustinian friars in London. Transferred and learning he was going to be burned, Barnes escaped and went to Antwerp where his Supplication was printed in November 1531. More accused him of raising money in England to pay for his book. Barnes returned to London and approved the temporal power and wealth of the Church if it was honestly obtained. In 1535 he became royal chaplain and helped Henry negotiate with Protestant princes in Germany. However, he opposed the Six Articles pushed through by Stephen Gardiner and was burned on July 30, 1540.
In 1528 Tyndale using a pseudonym published his Parable of the Wicked Mammon in Antwerp. He suggested that Lutheranism is religiously revolutionary but socially stable. Then in October he published The Obedience of a Christian Man, arguing that God can be experienced by reading scripture. He criticized the Church for disobeying God by teaching ecclesiastical law rather than the scripture, and he urged the English to read the Bible in their own language and to reform their society in accordance with Biblical law. Tyndale believed that Christians should obey magistrates and kings; but when they command evil, one must disobey. He exposed how the common people have been abused by the Church. He was the first to suggest that the king should be the head of a nation’s Church instead of the Pope. Yet during the divorce case he criticized King Henry VIII, refusing to support him unless he became a Lutheran. In 1529 John Frith helped Tyndale by publishing Antithesis, wherein are compared together Christ’s acts and our holy father the pope’s.
Tyndale translated the Pentateuch (Torah) from the Hebrew in 1530, and after that he began emphasizing the law more than Luther’s justification by faith alone. Tyndale believed the covenant is a contract between God and man. He worked on a Lives of the Popes, and in The Practice of Prelates he criticized Henry VIII whom he believed was misled by Wolsey. In 1531 Tyndale published his Answer to More’s Dialogue Concerning Heresies, and his translation of the Handbook of a Christian Knight by Erasmus was printed in 1533. Tyndale was betrayed to the Inquisition by Henry Philips and arrested in Antwerp in 1535. He was imprisoned in the castle of Vilvoorde near Brussels until he was tried and condemned by the Emperor’s decree in 1536. He was tied to a stake and strangled before his body was burned; but he survived the strangling and died stoically in the flames. He cried out, “Lord! Open the king of England’s eyes.”1
Meanwhile Simon Fish published Supplication of the Beggars in Germany, and it was smuggled into England in 1529. The poor complained they suffered hunger because holy beggars such as bishops, abbots, priests, monks, and friars had taken over a third of the kingdom. In 1529 More first published his Dialogue Concerning Heresies, condemning any deviation from the Church as a crime against God. More answers questions on religion from a university scholar and persuades him to believe in the Church. More made sure that heretical books were banned by the Crown and the Church, and he aggressively prosecuted dissenters. He quickly replied to Tyndale’s answer to his dialogue in 1531 by writing his Confutation of Tyndale’s Answer. While he was chancellor, six men were burned at the stake for heresy. Bishop Fisher in June wrote his defense of Catholicism.
The House of Commons petitioned Henry VIII to reform the Church. However, in May 1530 he met with Warham, More, and others, and they decided to suppress the writings and disciples of Luther. Books banned included Fish’s pamphlet and Tyndale’s English New Testament. When the latter was burned at Paul’s Cross, reformers considered it blasphemy to burn the Bible. On December 1, 1530 Hugh Latimer wrote a letter to Henry VIII, pleading with him to allow the English Bible. Also in 1530 Archbishop Warham and an assembly of bishops and theologians convened by Henry VIII condemned the Anabaptist book, The Sum of Scripture, because it asserted that true Christianity does not persecute people. In 1531 John Frith published his Disputation of Purgatory at Antwerp in response to Thomas More’s Supplication of Souls. When Frith returned to England in 1532, More issued a warrant for his arrest. Frith tried to leave for Antwerp, but he was arrested in October. While in the Tower he wrote Bulwark and Know Thyself. He believed he was free before God to believe or disbelieve dogmas. At his trial in June 1533 Frith refused to believe in purgatory and transubstantiation because neither was proved by holy scriptures. For this he was condemned and burned at the stake on July 4.
Majorities at Cambridge and Oxford were persuaded to support Henry’s divorce. François supported Henry to keep him against Charles. However, the theologian Budé supported Catherine. After François threatened to arrest him, the Sorbonne faculty favored the divorce as did the universities in Orléans, Angers, Bourges, and Toulouse. Cranmer and his friends managed to bribe the universities of Padua, Ferrara, Pavia, and Bologna to favor Henry also. In July the House of Lords petitioned Pope Clement VII to grant Henry a divorce, though More refused to sign it.
The jurist Christopher St. Germain had published Dialogus de fundamentis legum et de conscientia in 1523, and by 1531 he translated this from Latin into English and included it with another dialog in the vernacular referred to as Doctor and Student. These emphasized the need for parliamentary approval in English lawmaking. In 1532 he published his Division between the Spirituality and Temporality which advocated giving Parliament the power to distribute temporal things among the people while the Church should be restricted to spiritual concerns. More argued against these ideas in his Apology. In 1533 St. Germain responded with his Dialogue betwixt Salem and Bizance, and More wrote Debellacyon of Salem and Bizance, swearing he never supported any reformation, spiritual or temporal. The fugitive friar Jerome Barlow wrote the Burial of the Mass to criticize the religious ritual, and he exposed the private life of Cardinal Wolsey. The Supper of the Lord, an answer to More, was written by Tyndale or his friend George Joye, who also translated the Psalms in 1530 and other books from the Old Testament from the Latin translations of Zwingli.
During the “Reformation Parliament” from 1529 to 1536 Henry VIII was able to fill thirteen sees with his choices, and around 1533 he nominated many new abbots. Parliament was dismissed on December 17, 1529. After Regent Margaret in the Netherlands died on December 1, 1530, Charles V replaced her with his sister Mary of Hungary. A dispute arose between Henry and merchants at the Staple of Calais, and Henry closed the Staple for a while and banned the export of wool from England to Calais. Also in December Henry’s attorney charged the English clergy with breaching praemunire because they had recognized Wolsey as legate. Parliament met again on January 16, 1531. Eight days later at the convocation the clergy of Canterbury agreed to pay the King £100,000, and those in York promised £18,840. Henry allowed them to pay it over five years. In February they decided to consider the king as Supreme Lord and Head. After Wolsey’s fall Thomas Cromwell became increasingly useful to the King. In January 1531 he became a privy councilor, and in the next two years he became Master of the King’s jewels, clerk of the Hanaper, and Chancellor of the Exchequer. Gardiner had become chief Secretary in the royal Council after the fall of Wolsey, and Henry in November with the approval of Pope Clement appointed Gardiner bishop of Winchester, previously held by Wolsey.
In February two people in Fisher’s house and several beggars died from drinking a broth that Fisher did not consume. His cook confessed he used powder to cause digestive trouble, and he was convicted of murder. A rumor spread that the Boleyns paid him to poison Fisher so that he would not oppose the King’s divorce. The cook was put to death in boiling water, and Henry persuaded the Parliament to enact punishment for poisoners. They also passed a law banning beggars and vagabonds “called Egyptians” (gypsies).
On March 18 the commons presented a petition to King Henry criticizing clerical jurisdiction as partial and denouncing specific abuses. They complained that the clergy in convocation legislated without the consent of the king and laity. Gardiner wrote a reply for the clergy proposing that these laws should not be implemented without a royal license. Henry rejected the compromise and withdrew his favor from Gardiner who had been his secretary. On May 11 Henry summoned the Speaker and a dozen leaders of the Parliament and commanded them to read the oath prelates made to the pope when they are consecrated. Four days later the convocation submitted by agreeing not to make any constitutions, canons, or ordinances without the royal license. Any law approved by their committee of 32 must have the royal assent to be valid. The next day Chancellor More resigned, and the Seal was entrusted to the layman Thomas Audley who became chancellor in January 1532. Henry had succeeded in transferring clerical legislation, not to Parliament, but to the Crown. In the spring Parliament abolished the Pope’s right to receive annates (profits from a benefice), and heretics were only to be tried by commissioners appointed by the King.
Next Henry VIII began attacking the privileges of Rome by limiting to 5% payments to Rome from any benefice revenues. Warham died on August 22, 1532, and Henry passed over Gardiner and appointed Thomas Cranmer to be Archbishop of Canterbury. Cranmer had gone to Germany in early 1532 to gain support for Henry’s divorce, and he married Margaret, niece of theologian Osiander of Nuremberg. Cranmer was traveling in Italy with Charles V and was not consecrated until March 30, 1533. He insisted his oath be modified to make sure he was not bound to anything contrary to God or the King, realm, laws, and prerogatives of England. That month Cromwell was acknowledged as Henry’s chief minister and got the Act in Restraint of Appeals passed declaring England a sovereign state with a King who need not submit to any other person because he was invested with plenary power to decide on justice in all causes. The Dispensations Act stopped all payments to Rome with dispensations from canon law to be issued by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
In late January 1533 Anne Boleyn realized she was pregnant, and Henry married her secretly about the 24th before a few witnesses. Parliament quickly passed an act giving the English primate the right to decide the “great matter” without consulting the Pope. The act declared that England was ruled by one supreme head and king, and the spiritual and temporal powers owed him obedience. Clergy at a convocation meeting with Archbishop Cranmer presiding decided that Henry’s marriage to Catherine had violated divine law. Only Bishop Fisher protested. Cranmer in April asked Henry to let him try the cause, and his court opened at the priory of Dunstable on May 10. Catherine declined to appear, and the King won the case. On May 23 Cranmer announced that Henry’s marriage to Catherine was unlawful, and five days later he decided that Henry’s marriage to Anne was valid. On June 1 she was proclaimed queen. Henry confirmed that act on July 9. Pope Clement VII prepared a sentence of greater excommunication that became effective in September. Anne gave birth to Elizabeth on September 7. Henry offered his daughter Mary the title of Princess Dowager, but she and her mother refused to accept that Catherine’s marriage was unlawful. Henry then refused to let Mary see her mother.
In the spring of 1534 the Parliament enacted the submission of the clergy. The King was to name persons to be elected as bishops and abbots. Two-thirds of Church profits were appropriated by the King and his officers, and the Crown was allowed to visit monasteries exempt from episcopal inspection. The act of succession confirmed Henry’s marriage with Anne and the rights of their issue. Anyone opposing the marriage could be punished by the King who could exact any oath to maintain the act under pain of prosecution for treason. An oath was formulated on the last day of the session and was taken by members of Parliament, ministers, and others. Parliament passed a second act of succession in November. Before completing their session on December 18 they passed the supremacy act making the English King the supreme head of the Church of England, giving him ecclesiastical as well as temporal jurisdiction. The second act gave him a tenth of annual revenue from clerical income, and the third act secured his royal title. Cromwell and Audeley augmented the treason laws making diverse offenses high treason. The government was given the authority to enforce the oath of succession with the death penalty. These laws were not popular as many of the English believed that Catherine was his rightful wife and queen.
Elizabeth Barton was called the “Holy Maid of Kent,” and in her epileptic trances she made prophecies. She said an angel told her to pray for a contrary wind so that two heretic monks could not sail to the Netherlands to see Tyndale, and their ship could not leave the harbor. She was accepted into the convent of St. Sepulchre at Canterbury. Her fits stopped recurring naturally, but she reproduced them to improvise oracles. The Archbishop of Canterbury assigned the monks Doctor Bocking and Dan William Hadley to observe her, and Bocking instructed her in the legends of St. Bridget and St. Caterina of Siena, making her more proficient. Her oracles were published in a book which Archbishop Warham showed to the King who sent it to More. She predicted that if Henry put away Catherine and married another that he would die within a month and that within six months a plague would strike England. Two months later she and some supporters were arrested, and on November 23, 1533 she and six accomplices confessed at St. Paul’s Cross. Elizabeth and four others were hanged at Tyburn on April 20, 1534.
At Easter that year Henry ordered all preaching licenses in Canterbury, Winchester, London, and Lincoln canceled and forbade anyone to preach unless he granted a new license. In May he extended this to every diocese in England. In June he prohibited anyone preaching in the next year from defending or criticizing purgatory, honoring of saints, pilgrimages, miracles, justification by faith, and the marriage of priests.
On February 21, 1534 a bill of attainder in the House of Lords included the names of Fisher and Thomas More, though the members voted to remove More’s name. In March the Parliament enacted the taking of an oath of allegiance to the King and his marriage with Anne and to no one else. Fisher was found guilty of treason and was fined £300. On March 23 Pope Clement VII decided in favor of Catherine. More was summoned to Lambeth on April 13, and Cranmer urged him to take the oath to save his life. More supported the succession but declined to take the oath because of its preamble. He was imprisoned in the Tower where he wrote his Dialogue of Comfort and a Treatise on the Passion. The dialogue is set in 1528 when Suleiman the Magnificent was threatening to attack Eastern Europe again, and it attempts to bring comfort to the Hungarians suffering under the Turks. More’s last work in prison was writing The Sadness of Christ. Cromwell tried to get More to take the oath because his example was causing three Carthusian priors to refuse to swear to the King’s supremacy. More replied that he was not doing harm to anyone, but he seemed to have forgotten those put to death because of his prosecutions for heresy.
On August 2, 1534 Henry’s diplomats signed a treaty with Lübeck. The Lübeckers promised to support Henry against Emperor Charles V and to agree with him on religious issues and by not reconciling with the Bishop of Rome.
Thomas Cromwell (1485-1540) learned several languages, worked with merchants, traveled, and became a lawyer. He worked for Cardinal Wolsey and was elected to Parliament in 1523. Henry VIII hired him as an advisor in 1530. By April 1534 Cromwell had become Henry VIII’s principal secretary and chief minister, perhaps the most powerful minister in England’s history. In 1534 he loaned £20 to William Marshall to publish the first English translation of Marsilio of Padua’s Defender of Peace. Before dissolving in 1536 the Parliament of the Reformation had enacted 37 reforms of criminal and civil law and about seventy social and economic statutes.
In May 1535 Pope Paul III made Bishop John Fisher a cardinal. At his trial on June 17 the judges decided that the word “maliciously” had no effect, and Fisher was beheaded on June 22 as was More on July 6. Henry had commuted the sentence of hanging to decapitation. He ordered people to surrender copies of Fisher’s books within forty days. Three Carthusians and two other heads of houses had also been executed two months earlier. Now three more Carthusians were put to death. Fourteen Dutch Anabaptists who refused to recant were burned to death. Gardiner in the fall of 1535 had supported obedience to the King in his De Vera Obedientia, and Henry sent him as ambassador to France to form an alliance with François.
Henry VIII and Cromwell were intent on raising revenue to pay for the £25,000 they had spent on the northern border in 1533, £38,000 for the recent Irish rebellion, and would spend £50,000 to suppress the Pilgrimage of Grace in the north. They also needed money for fortifications at Dover and Calais and for the palaces the King was building. France was no longer paying pensions, and the customs revenues from exported wool were declining. On January 30, 1535 Chancellor Thomas Audley appointed agents to ascertain the value of every benefice so that they could calculate what deductions they could take. Their findings were published in the Valor Ecclesiasticus report in September. They estimated that the total income of the Church after deduction was about £300,000, and the tenths they took in the next four years averaged £29,500. The first fruits brought in £16,500 a year. These increased the annual revenue which had been about £100,000 annually.
England at this time had 563 religious houses and about 7,000 religious men, 2,000 nuns, and 35,000 laymen. In recent generations the monastic ideals had been fading. Only eight new houses had been founded since 1400, and the older monasteries had declining numbers. Printing had removed the burden of copying manuscripts. Alms-giving was limited mostly to holidays and for a few people, reducing the monastic income spent on charity to 5%. In 1534 the order of Friars Observant had been dispersed as the Crown acquired their seven houses. In January 1535 Cromwell was given a commission to hold a general visitation which he used for suppression more than for reform. The general visitation began in July, and Cromwell’s agents used 86 articles of inquiry and 25 injunctions to find evils they could censure. They found many monks had whores, and some were homosexuals. About six houses surrendered voluntarily, and many others had bad reports.
The Act for First Fruits and Tenths sent the first fruits of bishoprics to the Crown and for all spiritual benefices, and a tenth of net incomes was fixed as the annual tax starting at Christmas 1535. Queen Catherine died on January 7, 1536. The Spanish ambassador Eustace Chapuys spread the rumor that she had been poisoned. Nine days later Henry VIII by ordinance became the Supreme Head of the Church in England, and his vicar-general Cromwell began exercising personal power greater than Wolsey had. On January 24 Henry was injured jousting in a tournament and apparently suffered a concussion.
Queen Anne had a miscarriage on January 29, 1536. Henry VIII appointed a commission with the Chancellor and noblemen to inquire whether she had committed treason. She was sent to the Tower on May 2, and the next week a grand jury indicted her for treason alleging she had committed adultery with six men including her brother, Lord Rochford and three from the Privy Chamber. On May 15 her uncle Norfolk presided over the tribunal she faced where she claimed her innocence. No witness was heard, but she was condemned unanimously. Of her alleged lovers only the musician Mark Smeaton had confessed any guilt, and he had been tortured and told he would probably be pardoned. The others pleaded not guilty; but the jury convicted all of them, and they were all sentenced to be hanged. While Anne was in the Tower, Henry attended parties every night. When Anne took her last sacrament, she declared that she had never been unfaithful to the King. Cranmer, who heard her last confession, later indicated he believed her. Henry commuted the sentences to decapitation except Smeaton was hanged. Anne’s sentence was postponed for two days while Henry had their marriage annulled, making their daughter Elizabeth illegitimate. Anne was beheaded by a skillful swordsman in the Tower on May 19.
As soon as Henry received the news, he went to Jane Seymour to celebrate. The next day they made a secret marriage contract, and a private wedding was held on May 30. She had a kind disposition and tried to reconcile Henry with his daughter Mary and so won goodwill from Catholics. Her brother Edward was made Viscount Beauchamp. Henry demanded that his daughter Mary take the oath, but she refused. He warned her that she could be prosecuted for treason and executed. He would not tolerate a pro-Mary faction at court. Cromwell drafted a letter of submission that she signed on June 15. Henry allowed her a household with 42 servants, but Elizabeth’s household was cut back to 32.
In the first 25 years of Henry VIII’s reign only two people were attainted, but 122 were between 1534 and his death in 1547. More than 300 people were executed for treason in England between 1532 and 1540. Robbery and theft were felonies with the death penalty, and the historian Holinshed estimated that during Henry’s reign about 72,000 thieves and vagabonds were hanged in England.
On March 11, 1536 Henry VIII had asked the Parliament to authorize converting the 372 religious houses with less than £200 a year, transferring their lands and properties to the Crown. Abbots and priors were given pensions; those with religious vocations moved to other houses, and the rest became secular clergy. Most were sold as only 2.5% of the 1,593 grants made under Henry VIII were gifts. Bishops had to sign a renunciation of power declaring that the papacy was not ordained by God but by men.
The Treason Act of 1536 authorized the penalty for treason on any official who refused an oath renouncing the jurisdiction of Rome. In July the Parliament enacted a law authorizing Henry VIII to make proclamations with the same force of law as acts of Parliament, and he was the only English king ever to have this power.
The illegitimate Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond, died on July 23, and Parliament was summoned again. Despite efforts by Barnes and Edward Fox in Germany, Henry VIII refused to accept the Augsburg Confession procured by the Protestants. He disagreed with the Lutherans about marriage and was determined to assert the spiritual independence of the English Church. On July 11 the King approved a book of Ten Articles which Fox had written. The only sacraments mentioned were baptism, penance, and the eucharist. The entire Bible and three creeds were to be taught to the people while the use of images and prayers for the dead along with abuses connected to the pope’s alleged power to free souls from purgatory were condemned. Parish priests were required to announce the Ten Articles aloud without preaching. Preaching resumed two months later; but if they made any comment on the Ten Articles, they could be arrested. They were encouraged to give sermons against the usurped power of Rome. The Ten Articles were a compromise that allowed confession, images, prayers to saints, and purgatory. Children were to be taught the Lord’s prayer, the creed, and the ten commandments in English. Bibles in Latin and in English were to be put in the chancel of parish churches by August 1, 1537.
In July 1537 the English bishops replaced the Ten Articles with the Institution of the Christian Man which became known as the “Bishop’s Book,” and the King began circulating it in September. Marriage, orders, confirmation, and extreme unction were recognized as minor sacraments, and royal supremacy over the English Church was emphasized. The King was subject only to God and was considered above the laws. On October 12 Queen Jane gave birth to Edward, but she died twelve days later.
In July 1538 shoemakers in Cambridgeshire formed a trade union and demanded higher wages, and Cromwell sent Norfolk to punish them. Viceregent Cromwell on October 1 ordered Archbishop Cranmer and the bishops to search for Anabaptists. Germans had urged Henry to oppose the Anabaptists, and they were banished from England on November 22. The proclamation banned importing or selling books in English without a license. Married priests lost their benefices. On that day after a trial Lambert was cruelly burned at Smithfield for denying the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. A week later a man and a woman were also burned as heretics, and the next day her husband was burned at Colchester. Cromwell promoted an attack on images which increased superstition, and removing them from churches helped Henry acquire gold, silver, and jewels.
Cardinal Reginald Pole tried to revive Catholicism from Venice and in December 1536 had been made a cardinal in Rome. Pope Paul III sent him as his legate to François I and Mary of Hungary. Henry VIII ordered Gardiner in Paris to demand Pole’s extradition as a traitor, but the French King merely expelled him. Pole’s relatives Montague, the Marquess and Lady Marquess of Exeter, and Edward Neville were executed in December 1538.
Cromwell arranged for Henry VIII to marry Anna of Cleves, and they signed a contract on October 4, 1538. On December 17 Pope Paul III ordered the bull of excommunication against Henry VIII created in 1535 put into effect. Cromwell ordered the English Bible set up in every parish church, and the edition published by Miles Coverdale with Tyndale’s New Testament became most popular. Henry ordered all men over the age of 17 to report for military service. Parliament met in April 1539 with only 17 of the previous 28 abbots, and three more abbots were hanged in the autumn. In March 1540 the houses of Christchurch, Canterbury, and Rochester were dissolved, and the last one at Waltham Abbey surrendered. The monasteries were gone, and that year 43 commanderies and preceptories of the Order of St. John were confiscated. Some abbots and priors became bishops, and others received large pensions. Henry sent John Leland to retrieve the best books, and of the 400 books that survived in the Royal collection 250 had come from medieval libraries.
By the end of 1540 all three hundred monasteries and nunneries in England, Wales, and Ireland except one founded by Henry had been suppressed, most of them voluntarily. He established new bishoprics in Westminster, Peterborough, Oxford, Gloucester, Bristol, and Chester. A campaign against shrines destroyed fraudulent relics, but closing Becket’s shrine and digging up and burning the bones of Saint Thomas aroused protests. Henry often offered to exchange properties with bishops, and they had no choice to but accept his unfair deals. Between 1536 and 1542 Archbishop Cranmer had to grant seven of his eleven palaces in Canterbury to the King. Between 1539 and his death in 1547 Henry VIII sold land for nearly £750,000 to peers, courtiers, and other officers.
In 1539 the Six Articles Act made the King in Parliament the sole authority for imposing doctrine, and heresy was made a felony. The act authorized private masses, only one kind of communion, confession, vows of celibacy for monks and nuns, and prohibited the marriage of priests. The act was followed by a conservative proclamation that Protestants did not like. By 1538 the Bible had become an important feature in English life. Cranmer had to put away his wife, and in 1539 the bishops Latimer and Nicholas Shaxton resigned. About five hundred dissenters in London were arrested, but King Henry pardoned them. The proclamations act gave the King’s proclamations made with the advice of Parliament the force of law, but this was repealed after Henry’s death.
On January 1, 1540 Henry VIII met Anna of Cleves for the first time at Rochester. Though he did not like her much, he married her five days later. They both stated that the marriage was never consummated, and on July 9 they agreed on an annulment which Parliament enacted three days later.
On April 12 Cromwell made his final speech expressing his desire to establish a religion based on the Bible. Six days later he was made the Earl of Essex, and the next day he became chamberlain. However, on June 10 the hated Cromwell was arrested for treason, heresy, corruption, and plotting to wed Mary Tudor, and his goods were confiscated that day. The bill of attainder passed the House of Lords on the 29th. Cromwell was condemned without a trial and was beheaded on July 28. On that day Henry privately married Norfolk’s niece Katherine Howard. On July 30 Cromwell’s Protestant protégés Barnes, William Jerome, and Thomas Garrard were burned as heretics at Smithfield while papists Thomas Abel, Edward Powell, and Richard Featherstone were hanged as traitors. On August 8 Katherine was recognized as Queen.
In 1525 Henry VIII appointed his son, the Duke of Richmond, lieutenant general north of the Trent with a council of administrators. In December 1527 Henry Percy, the 6th Earl of Northumberland, became warden of the East and Middle Marches, and the following year Lord Dacre was appointed warden of the West March. Henry recalled his son in 1531, and Percy replaced him in 1533. In November 1532 about 3,000 Scots had invaded Northumberland, burning villages. On December 12 Dacre led 2,000 soldiers into Scotland and burned Douglas and twelve villages, capturing 2,000 cattle and even more sheep. James V prepared his army, but François persuaded him to accept a truce. In May 1533 England concluded a truce with Scotland where Henry’s nephew James V ruled.
In 1535 unthrifty Henry Percy disinherited his brother Thomas Percy and gave his lands to Henry VIII for £1,000 a year. Northerners were suffering and complained about enclosures and increasing rents and fines. Suppressing the popular monasteries provoked a revolt. Lincolnshire and Yorkshire were to lose more than forty houses each. By 1536 three commissions were harassing Lincolnshire. When two tax collectors arrived at Louth on October 1, a riot erupted. The uprising spread quickly in a few days, and 30,000 rebels marched on Lincoln. The shoemaker Nicholas Melton led the attack on the commissioners, and their demands spread to stop suppressing abbeys, for no more taxes, to surrender Cromwell, and to dismiss heretical bishops. They forced some of the gentry to back them, and rumor indicated they had mustered 40,000 men. They drew up definite articles at Horncastle and Ancaster, demanding repeal of the statute of uses and a pardon for all as they refused to pay the first fruits and tenths.
After hearing the King’s answer on October 12, the gentry helped Suffolk’s 900 men put down the rebellion. However, the next day Yorkshire was joined by most of the north at Wighton Hill. They called themselves “pilgrims” and occupied York three days later. Percy was ill; Tunstall fled to Norham; and the elderly Darcy surrendered Pontefract on October 21. Three days later 30,000 men gathered at Doncaster with most of them well armed on horses. The lawyer Robert Aske became their leader, and Lancashire revolted. Henry VIII raised an army of 40,000 in six days and sent 7,000 men to George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury. Norfolk recruited men under the white lion, and the pilgrims sent him their demands in five articles. Norfolk promised to take them to King Henry with two pilgrims, knowing many of his men believed they were right and would not fight. He promised the King would pardon them, and they withdrew.
A messenger invited 300 pilgrims to meet Norfolk at Doncaster on November 17, but this was postponed to December 5. They demanded restoration of the clergy and their old liberties while accepting royal supremacy. Parliament was to be reformed, and Mary was to be declared legitimate by statute while the king’s authority to declare his successor was to be repealed. Parliament would grant a full pardon and would meet at Nottingham or York. Aske agreed that the articles would be submitted to Parliament, and the pilgrims dispersed on December 8. Henry promised everyone living north of Doncaster pardon for any act committed before December 7, 1536. He invited Aske to spend Christmas with him at Greenwich. Henry promised to visit Yorkshire in the summer and to convene a Parliament in York.
On January 16, 1537 Sir Francis Bigod led a revolt in East Riding, but three days later most of his men were captured during an assault on Kingston upon Hull. Bigod was captured on February 10 and was later hanged. In February people followed “Captain Poverty” in Cumberland and Westmorland. Norfolk moved to Carlisle and imposed martial law. He had eight men hanged in York, and summary executions were carried out throughout northern England. In Lincolnshire 36 prisoners were condemned in March. During Bigod’s revolt Aske, Darcy, and Constable warned people not to join but stay home. Yet they were considered traitors for not joining the King’s forces. Chancellor Audley presided over their trial with Cromwell and the King’s councilors attending. The jurors selected were loyal to Henry. Hussey and Darcy were beheaded, and Aske was hanged in chains at York in July. Thomas Percy, Bigod, John Bulmer, two abbots, and a prior were hanged at Tyburn. According to records 216 people were put to death, and others died in prison.
To show his faith Henry VIII founded a nunnery at Stixwold in Lincolnshire and granted it an income of £152 a year. Royal authority was restored in the north, and Norfolk returned to London in September. The King did not visit York, and no parliament was held there. He ruled through a council that met at York on October 15 with jurisdiction over the five northern counties. They were ordered to protect the poor as well as the rich and redress grievances related to enclosures and excessive fines. In addition to the council in the north Henry created the court of augmentations and the court of first fruits and tenths.
Criminals thrived in Tynedale and Redesdale, and they robbed neighbors in Northumberland. Henry VIII began acting as Warden of the Marches himself and appointed the robbers William Evers and John Widdington as deputies. Thomas Clifford was the bastard son of the Earl of Cumberland, and he led border robbers to Kirkby Stephen in Westmorland to arrest two rebels. The people there attacked borderers. Clifford ordered his troops to burn their houses and slaughter people. Norfolk persuaded about 6,000 rebels in Cumberland to surrender and had 74 of them hanged in chains. Henry wanted more hanged. Norfolk went to Durham, where there had been no uprising yet, and got a jury to convict 21 people who were then hanged. The earls of Sussex and Derby hanged rebels in Lancashire, including the abbots of Sawley and Whalley and several monks. A failed conspiracy in the north resulted in the execution of Lady Salisbury on May 27, 1541.
In Wales in 1525 Rhys ap Thomas was succeeded by his grandson Rhys ap Gruffydd; but most of his offices went to Walter Devereux, steward of Mary Tudor’s household. They quarreled in 1529, and Rhys was suspected of plotting with James V of Scotland to make himself ruler of Wales. Wolsey considered Rhys partial and unjust, and he was executed on December 4, 1531. His land was given to Devereux and was passed down the earls of Essex in western Wales.
The Act of Appeals in 1533 declared that the realm of England is an empire. In 1534 Rowland Lee, Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry, became president of the Council in the Marches. That year the English Parliament passed five new laws to establish better order in Wales and to reduce violence, but many considered it a reign of terror. Appeals were allowed from courts of the lords marchers, to royal commissioners or the President and the Council of the Marches. The marcher lordships were replaced by five new counties or were annexed to the other eight counties. Some old Welsh customs were abolished. Welshmen were prohibited from congregating anywhere in Wales unless they had a license from chief officers or ministers of the seigniory. The borders of Wales were established and became permanent. A Court of Great Sessions was created for Wales. A sheriff and other officers were appointed, including nine justices of the peace in each county. The gentry did not like other citizens being made equal to them. Welshmen could be punished for attacking the inhabitants of Shropshire, Herefordshire, and Gloucestershire. According to chronicler Elis Gruffydd in six years Bishop Lee had 5,000 men hanged. By 1538 he claimed that order prevailed in even the wildest parts of Wales.
In February 1536 Henry VIII and an act of Parliament began reorganizing the government of Wales by dividing it into shires to prevent criminals from escaping from shires into lordships. Wales was granted 26 seats in Parliament with one more added in 1543. They were not summoned to Parliament until 1542. The Welsh language was no longer allowed to be used in official business, and all court proceedings had to be in English. A law increased the penalties for vagabonds with hanging for a third offense. Most of the 27 monasteries in Wales were dissolved, leaving only three. Royal agents visited Margam during the summer of 1536, and the lead in the roof was melted down. The smaller monasteries were closed in 1536, the friaries in 1538, and the larger monasteries in 1539.
Improvements in Wales were codified in the comprehensive act of January 1543, giving sheriffs, constables, and coroners the authority of English officials. English common law was applied to land tenure, and primogeniture replaced partible succession. John Prys of Brecon became interested in Luther’s ideas about 1530, and in 1546 he translated the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments and published the first book in the Welsh language.
In early 1540 Henry VIII sent his Secretary of State Ralph Sadler to James V of Scotland advising him that he could benefit from confiscating Church lands, but David Beaton, Archbishop of St. Andrews, who favored Catholic and French interests, was more influential. In the fall a plague in London was killing 300 people a week, and Henry traveled and then spent the winter at Windsor. His ailing leg was painful, and his health was declining. He still went outside but got less exercise and continued to eat much, gaining weight. In 1540 Parliament required subjects to pay one shilling for each pound of revenue from land, exempting the first £20, and sixpence per pound on personal goods. This raised nearly £100,000 in two years. In January 1541 Henry commissioned Edmund Bonner, the Bishop of London, and Mayor Richard Gresham to prosecute sacramentaries under the Six Articles Act.
On June 19, 1541 the Irish Parliament unanimously proclaimed Henry VIII King of Ireland. He replaced Leonard Grey in the Lord Deputy’s Council with Anthony St. Leger. He invaded O’Neill’s lands in October and raided them until O’Neill submitted by Christmas. Sadler returned to Scotland in 1541 and arranged a meeting between James and Henry at York in September. That summer Henry went north with Queen Katherine, Princess Mary, counselors, secretaries, and 5,000 attendants, servants, and soldiers. He entered York on September 18, but James did not show up. Henry had Norfolk mobilize the north.
Archbishop Cranmer found evidence that Queen Katherine (Howard) had three lovers before she married Henry, and she was accused of being unfaithful. Her alleged lovers Francis Derham and Thomas Culpepper were convicted and executed on December 1, 1541. Parliament met on January 16, 1542, and on February 7 they passed a bill of attainder on Katherine and Lady Rochford for treason; six days later they were beheaded. Eleven people were also prosecuted for knowing about her past indiscretions and not revealing them. One was acquitted, and the other ten pleaded guilty and spent six months in prison.
On June 29, 1542 Henry VIII and Charles V made a secret agreement that they would not make a treaty with anyone else before October. On July 12 François declared war on Charles and sent French armies to invade the Netherlands. Henry ordered mustering in northern England. Scotland’s James V wanted peace and sent envoys to London. Robert Bowes with Archibald Douglas, Earl of Angus, led the invasion on August 24 that raided Teviotdale, but they were defeated by 2,000 Scots at Haddon Rig. Henry blamed the Scots and suzerainty, and he ordered Norfolk to gather his army at Newcastle. He agreed the envoys should meet at York on September 18; but they did not accept Henry’s terms, and on October 22 they invaded and burned Eccles, Kelso, and twenty villages. James retaliated by sending his army of 15,000 men against 3,000 English at Solway Mass, but they got bogged down in marshy ground. The Scots fled as only seven English were killed along with 20 Scots; but the English captured 1,200 men, 3,000 horses, and many weapons. After Henry’s herald returned from Edinburgh, Bowes and other English prisoners were released. James pardoned Angus and his brother George Douglas, and they returned to Scotland.
That summer French warships and privateers robbed and captured English fishermen in the Channel. The English became angry and imprisoned and abused fifteen French sailors at Dover. On February 11, 1543 Henry and Charles V formed an alliance and agreed to invade France within two years and not make peace with France unless Charles got Burgundy and Henry was given Ponthieu, Boulogne, Montreuil, Thérouanne, and Ardres. They agreed to extradite the other’s rebels. To stop heresy Charles banned printing books in English in his empire, and Henry prohibited publishing German books in England.
Henry tried to balance the Anglican Church between the Catholics and Protestants. He wrote The Necessary Doctrine and Erudition of any Christian Man which was called the “King’s Book” and was published on May 29, 1543. He emphasized the Creed with twelve articles of faith, the ten commandments, and the Lord’s prayer. Henry did not like people arguing over the scripture, and in April the Parliament had prohibited women, laborers, and yeomen from reading the Bible. Eight printers were imprisoned for publishing banned books after the Council investigated Portuguese immigrants suspected of Judaism.
Henry negotiated with Scotland, and on July 1, 1543 at Greenwich they agreed to two treaties, one to end the war and the other to betroth 6-month-old Mary of Scotland to 6-year-old Edward, Prince of Wales. The treaties were ratified on August 25; but in December the Parliament revoked them because Henry had broken the peace and renewed his alliance with France. The Scots also refused to accept the treaty.
Katherine Parr (1512-48) had been married to the elderly Lord Brough, who died in 1533, and then to John Neville, Baron Latimer, who died on March 2, 1543; but she had no children. Henry VIII wed Katherine Parr on July 12. She was a Protestant and was kind to his three children, and the King seemed to like her. A week later Testwood and Filmer were arrested and then tried for heresy. Henry pardoned two others, but these two were burned on July 28.
Charles V attacked Cleves in August, and Henry sent him 5,600 English soldiers and 20,000 crowns to pay his mercenaries. The English raided Scotland on various nights from October to March 1544, burning 124 villages, killing 35 Scots while taking 408 prisoners, and stealing 8,000 oxen, sheep, and goats.
The subsidy act in the spring of 1544 claimed English suzerainty in Scotland again, and the Parliament released the King from his debts. Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford, was sent to invade Scotland with an army of 16,000 men. His forces landed on May 4 and burned Edinburgh, Holyroodhouse, Leith, and the surrounding country. Donald, Lord of the Isles and Earl of Ross, hated Scotland and raided Inverness in the fall.
Henry followed the English force of 35,000 infantry and 7,000 cavalry and crossed over to Calais on July 14. Queen Katherine (Parr) served as regent while Henry was in France from July to September 1544, though he made the major decisions by letters. Norfolk and Admiral John Russell, Earl of Bedford, guarded Montreuil while Suffolk’s army of 16,000 men besieged Boulogne. After the English bombarded it for six weeks with 100,000 cannonballs, the garrison surrendered on September 14. Henry entered the city four days later, but on that day Charles V and François were signing a treaty at Crepy. The Dauphin then led 36,000 French forces to Montreuil. The plague spread at Calais and Boulogne and infected the English navy. The Dauphin retreated for the winter. Henry stopped Flemish ships from leaving the port of London, and Charles retaliated by holding English ships at Antwerp. Henry released the Flemish ships; but Charles demanded compensation for perished herrings, and Henry gave in.
Bad harvests in 1543 and 1544 caused a food shortage in England and Europe. To get money for the war Henry suppressed prayer chantries, colleges, hospitals, and mental asylums. As a result medical care for the poor was reduced for generations. Henry had to borrow from Fuggers and other bankers in Antwerp and pay 13.5% interest. In May 1544 he devalued the currency, and by the end of 1545 prices had doubled. To finance the war against France and Scotland the Parliament passed a subsidy tax that provided £76,600 in 1544, £57,400 in 1545, and £55,000 in 1546.
After Henry’s sixth and last marriage the succession act of 1544 planned to pass the Crown to Edward or the other heirs Mary and then Elizabeth. Chancellor Audley died on April 30, 1544 and was replaced by Thomas Wriothesley. In the summer of 1545 Cranmer was permitted to publish the King’s Primer in English. The Catholics in his Council tried to get Henry to arrest Cranmer, but Henry let him go. Cranmer was willing to prove his innocence, but Henry told him false knaves could get him convicted, admitting he knew people were executed based on perjury. Chancellor Wriothesley went after Protestant heretics, and he and Richard Rich tortured Anne Askew in the Tower in March 1545. She was tried with five others; two recanted, but she and the other two were burned at Smithfield on July 16. Wriothesley even arrested Queen Katherine, but Henry saved her. In 1545 Parliament passed an act to help pay for the war against France which declared that all chantries (religious institutions, guilds, and fraternities) belonged to Henry VIII until his death. Then under Edward VI the Dissolution Act of 1547 suppressed 2,374 chantries and guild chapels, enabling the Crown to sell chantries to private citizens.
On January 3, 1545 François announced that the French would invade England in the summer to force Henry to surrender Boulogne and to free people from Henry’s tyranny. Norfolk, Suffolk, and Russell gathered an army of 90,000 men against the feared invasions by the French and the Scots. Henry ordered raids into Scotland, and the Scots united against the English. Archibald Douglas, Earl of Angus, went over to the Scots, and they defeated the English near Jedburgh on February 27. Later in the year a French army led by Lorges de Montgomerie arrived to support the Scots. Henry went to Portsmouth in July, and eighty English warships fought the French in the Channel. The English navy failed at Brest but defeated the French at Alderney. After another battle by Portsmouth on July 19, England’s Mary Rose sank with 500 men. Hertford’s army, which included Spanish mercenaries, invaded Scotland in September and destroyed several abbeys. They burned seven monasteries and five market towns among the 287 places they destroyed.
Donald supplied 8,000 men for a campaign led by Matthew Steward, Earl of Lennox, in west Scotland, and Henry raised 2,400 Irishmen. Their attack on Dumbarton in November 1545 failed, and Lennox sailed back to England. Archbishop Beaton had the Protestant George Wishart burned for heresy at St. Andrews on March 1, 1546, but a Protestant got revenge by murdering Beaton in his castle on May 29. The English fleet helped them hold the castle for a time. These conflicts weakened the English party in Scotland.
Henry refused to give up Boulogne, and 20,000 French attacked the town in the summer of 1545. An English fleet of 160 ships led by John Dudley, Viscount of Lisle, nearly reached the Seine in June but was met by 200 French vessels, and weather forced the English back to Portsmouth. That month the Spanish ambassador Chapuys noted that every intelligent man in England opposed the war. The English defended the Isle of Wight well, but the French burned Brighton on the Sussex coast. Lisle’s forces burned villages in Normandy in the fall while Marshal Oudart du Biez from Montreuil attacked Calais. On January 7, 1546 about 4,000 French troops from Montreuil defeated 2,000 English from Boulogne at St. Etienne, killing 205 English. Finally a peace treaty was made near Ardres on June 7, 1546. The French agreed to pay England a pension of 94,736 crowns per year in Henry’s lifetime and 50,000 crowns forever. If France paid the £2,000,000 owed to England by Michaelmas (September 29) 1554, then they could keep Boulogne; if not, then it would belong to England.
The wealth from lands Henry VIII acquired from the suppression of monasteries helped him finance the war against Scotland and France 1542-46 which cost almost £2,200,000. During Henry VIII’s last seven years Parliament granted six fifteenths and tenths and three subsidies. The former brought in £29,000 a year, but the latter yielded a total of £650,000. Henry sold about two-thirds of monastic property for £800,000. Following Europeans, he also debased the currency, causing inflation. The King raised £363,000 by coining his plate and bullion.
The year 1546 was also a year of persecution with burnings at Paul’s Cross. On December 12 Norfolk and his son Surrey were arrested. The Duke of Surrey was convicted of treason on January 12, 1547 and was beheaded one week later. Parliament attainted his father, the Earl of Norfolk, on January 27; but Henry VIII died early the next day, and Norfolk’s life was spared, though he was kept in the tower for six years until Mary became Queen. Henry’s will appointed a Regency Council of sixteen men.
Thomas Elyot (c. 1490-1546) was the son of the judge Richard Elyot who joined the circle of Thomas More where they met the outstanding Greek scholar Thomas Linacre who tutored young Elyot in Greek and Latin. Thomas Elyot studied the classical works of Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Quintilian, and Plutarch as well as books by the Italians Matteo Palmieri, Francesco Patrizi, Aeneas Silvius (Pope Pius II), Machiavelli, and Guicciardini. He paid special attention to the books on education by Erasmus.Richard got his son a position as Clerk to the Justices of Assize 1511-26. Elyot probably got a B. A. and a degree in civil law from Oxford. Cardinal Wolsey appointed Thomas Elyot clerk to the Privy Council, and he was knighted in 1530. After being dismissed with Wolsey, Elyot wrote The Governor in 1531 before leaving on a diplomatic mission to the Imperial Court. The Governor was dedicated to Henry VIII and was reprinted at least seven times by 1580. Elyot went with Cromwell on his first visitation to the religious houses. In 1534 he wrote The Defense of Good Women recommending their humanistic education. His Castle of Health is a hygienic manual. Elyot compiled the first comprehensive Latin-English Dictionary which was published in 1538.
In The Governor Elyot began by discussing the public weal (well-being) which needs to be governed by the rule of moderation and reason for a just order. He believed in one sovereign based on the Bible and his study of history. Yet kings need the help of governors and magistrates who must be properly educated. Elyot believed that God does not give every man the same gifts of nature, and people excel at different things. Elyot observed that nobles of his time were not as learned as the ancient Greeks and Romans because of pride, avarice, and the neglect of their parents.
In the first stage of education the nurse is most important, and he allowed no men in the nursery except the physician. He believed that young children learn by imitation, and her moral fitness is essential. Elyot advised beginning to teach children Latin and Greek before the age of seven. He agreed with Quintilian that education should not be forced but rather made alluring so that children would find it pleasing. He followed the plan of Erasmus in his De Pueris which called for attention to clear and refined speech, using methods of play for the first stages of teaching, and using the conversational method to learn Latin. In the next stage the child is to be withdrawn from all women and be assigned a tutor of moral excellence.
Elyot suggested a moderate amount of music and fine art. Reading Greek literature should begin with Aesop’s Fables, then the comedy of Lucian and Aristophanes. Next comes Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, then Vergil and Ovid in Latin. To learn rhetoric one can read orations by Cicero, Isocrates, and Demosthenes as well as Quintilian’s book. Elyot advised learning geography in relation to history. He does not mention Herodotus and Thucydides but suggests Plutarch, Livy, Xenophon, the life of Alexander by Quintus Curtius, and Tacitus. After the second stage of literary education the pupil moves into the third stage of philosophy which includes the Ethics of Aristotle, Cicero’s De Officiis, and Plato. The Old Testament can also be read for its histories, Proverbs, and the Prophets. Elyot also recommended the Institution of the Christian Prince by Erasmus. After reaching the age of 21 the student can begin studying the laws of his realm. Physical exercises can be prescribed after the age of 14 and may include archery and dancing. Elyot also believed that women are fit for letters, and education can prepare them for marriage.
The second and third books of The Governor discuss the virtues needed by those in the ruling class. Dancing can stimulate prudence. This first virtue includes honor, maturity, providence, industry, circumspection, election, experience, and modesty. Knowledge leads to virtue, and the ultimate flowering of education is in sapience (wisdom). Gentleness is affable, placable (tolerant), and merciful, and humanity involves benevolence, beneficence, and liberality. Friendship is also a virtue, Elyot illustrates it by recounting the story of Titus and Gisippus from Boccaccio’s Decameron.
The worst vice is ingratitude or unkindness, and the most excellent virtue is justice. For Elyot justice either distributes honor, money, benefit, and other things, or it is a fair exchange. Good counsel is reasonable, social, and knowledgeable. Fraud and deceit violate justice. One ought to treat even one’s enemies with justice and honesty. The basis of justice is faith or trust. Covenants mean keeping one’s promises. The virtue of courage is a mean between the extreme vices of audacity and cowardice. Patience is a fair virtue and is an inner governance which vanquishes injuries and defends against passions. Patience comes from a “direct and upright conscience” and a true estimate of goodness. The patient suffer valiantly rather than seek revenge. If one is repulsed or hindered from promotion, one needs patience.
Elyot liked Aristotle’s virtue of magnanimity which he identified with honor. This virtue helps one avoid the vices of obstinacy and ambition. Abstinence and continence help one overcome the vices of avarice and lechery. Temperance is another classical virtue which governs wrath and desire for vengeance with moderation. One’s diet should be sober in order to avoid sickness and diseases. Wisdom is the science of divine and human things. In regard to the public well-being one should consider the general and universal more than any specific commodity. The benefit or damage to one’s own country takes precedent over other regions.
Edward VI was born on October 12, 1537 and was raised among women until he was six years old. Then he was tutored by two male humanists from Cambridge, Richard Cox and John Cheke. Elizabeth’s Greek and Latin tutor John Ascham also taught Edward, and William Thomas was his tutor for politics and Italian. Thomas compiled an Italian/English dictionary and wrote a history of Italy in English. Edward learned English, Latin, Greek, French, Spanish, and Italian. His father Henry VIII died on January 28, 1547, and Edward VI was crowned king on February 20. Henry VIII had Protestants teach his son, and his Council was controlled by them. His last wife Katherine Parr favored the reformers. In September 1546 Archbishop Cranmer believed that Henry was going to replace the Mass with communion, and he was the last to hold Henry’s hand before he died. Henry’s will used Catholic terms, though it did exclude Gardiner from the Regency Council. A Brief and Plain Declaration argued that Jesus taught a way of peace and therefore Christians must use only spiritual weapons.
Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford, kept the death of Henry VIII secret while he arranged for Edward to be escorted from Hertford castle to the Tower in London. Thirteen of Henry’s executors met there on January 31, 1547, swore to uphold his will, and then modified it by electing Hertford protector of the realm. On March 1 they formed a new Council of 26. Five days later they ejected the Chancellor Thomas Wriothesley who was Catholic even though Henry’s will had made him Earl of Southampton. The Council took an oath to the new king and formed a commission that ratified on March 21 what Hertford as Lord Protector had done and gave him power and authority until Edward reached the age of 18. Hertford became Duke of Somerset and succeeded the imprisoned Norfolk as Treasurer and Marshal. John Dudley, Viscount of Lisle, replaced Somerset as Chamberlain and became Earl of Warwick. He gave up his position of high admiral which went to Somerset’s brother Thomas Seymour. William Paulet was given the Great Seal and acted as president of the Council. In the spring Thomas Seymour married Katherine Parr. Protector Edward Seymour helped the poor by establishing a court of requests in his own house, but he alienated the rich and powerful.
Late in July 1547 the English government published Cranmer’s Homilies under royal authority, the Paraphrases of Erasmus translated by Nicholas Udall, and Injunctions to be enforced by a general visitation. On August 11 Somerset became lieutenant and captain-general of all the wars and mustered an army of about 18,000 men with many heavy cavalry supported by thirty warships led by Lord Clinton. They crossed the border into Scotland on September 4. Somerset proclaimed that they came to assure the marriage covenant between Edward and Mary of Scotland. A large army of about 30,000 Scots led by Regent Angus crossed the Esk River and attacked the English on the 10th. Supported by their artillery, the English rallied and routed the Scots, killing about 10,000 and taking 2,000 prisoners while about 400 English died. The English spared Edinburgh and occupied strong points before Somerset withdrew.
Not until October 1547 did Richard Rich become the new chancellor. Somerset summoned the Parliament which met on November 4, and on the first day the Protector’s commission was announced. On December 24, the session’s last day, letters-patent recognized Somerset as Protector and Captain-general and made him the principal councilor in the Privy Council. They granted a general pardon for all previous offenses and forfeitures. They abrogated the laws against heresy and repealed some of the sweeping treason laws created by Henry VIII including the Six Articles, and they removed all restrictions from printing, reading, or teaching the scriptures. In the years 1548 and 1550 more than 250 books were published in England. Then production fell below 200 a year until 1555. The Vagrancy Act ordered any adult refusing to work to be branded with a “V” and forced into servitude for two years; but it was found to be so repressive that it was repealed two years later. In September 1548 Archbishop Cranmer led a committee that created the Book of Common Prayer, presented it to Parliament in December, and published it the next year. Somerset’s physician William Turner suggested in A New Dialogue that Christians should not persecute heretics, and so heretics should be banished rather than burned. Also in 1548 Bishop Hugh Latimer began preaching again.
On January 8, 1548 Gardiner was released under the pardon. Ten days later the Protector and Council banned carrying candles, taking ashes, bearing palms, creeping to the cross, and other rituals. Guided by John Hales and Somerset’s secretary Thomas Smith, on June 1 the Protector proclaimed that enclosures were illegal. In March the Parliament passed the Subsidy Act of 1548 which put a new tax on sheep to discourage those who took farmland away from the poor to use as pasture. Hales advised a tax on cloth, and also in June he persuaded a commission studying the enclosure movement to extend it beyond the seven Midland counties. The London short-cloth trade fell from 132,000 in 1550 to 112,000 in 1551 and to 85,000 in 1552, and this slowed the spread of enclosures. In 1551 Warwick helped Thomas Gresham become royal agent for English merchants in Antwerp. The Protestant convert Peter Martyr Vermigli was appointed professor of divinity at Oxford in March. Gardiner preached a sermon on June 29, and after questioning by the Council he was returned to the Tower.
In the spring of 1548 the English erected a modern earthwork at Haddington 18 miles from Edinburgh. About 6,000 French soldiers led by the sieur d’Esse arrived at the end of May, and 5,000 Scots led by Arran joined them in a siege of Haddington. On July 7 a small parliament meeting in the abbey of Haddington decided to send little Mary of Scotland on a French ship to the Dauphin for a future marriage. Somerset claimed suzerainty in Scotland. The seigneur de Termes arrived with 1,300 men and replaced d’Esse in June; but the English managed to hold on to Haddington until they evacuated it in September 1549.
After Katherine Parr died following childbirth on September 5, 1548, Thomas Seymour courted Princess Elizabeth and became friends with King Edward, agreeing that the King should marry Lady Jane Grey. As Admiral he declined to suppress pirates and took illicit profits of the Bristol mint from William Sharington, who exposed his dishonesty in January 1549. Thomas was put in the Tower and refused to answer charges before the Council unless he got an open trial. Parliament attainted him, and he was beheaded on March 20.
When Parliament met again from November 24, 1548 to March 14, 1549, they allowed the marriage of clergy. They levied a personal tax and taxes on sheep and wool. The direct taxation brought in only about £300,000 during Edward’s reign while military spending during his five years was almost £,1,400,000. William Cecil tried to get them to pay off the foreign debt.
Trouble began in Cornwall on April 5, 1548 when a crowd murdered the government official William Body at Helston for trying to impose religious reforms. In two days the crowd increased to 3,000 people. The gentry levied an army from nearby Devon, and the rebels dispersed. On May 17 the Protector issued a general pardon except for 28 leaders who were sentenced to death; ten were eventually executed.
The next uprising broke out in the villages of Northaw and Cheshunt in Hertfordshire in early May. Commissioner William Cavendish reported that 700 armed rioters destroyed his rabbit warrens and besieged his house. On May 23 an armed mob threatened the enclosure commissioners on Northaw common. On June 1 the enclosure commission was issued by Somerset’s agent John Hales for Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire, Warwickshire, and Leicestershire. The people welcomed this, but the Earl of Warwick opposed the commissions and warned of trouble.
In June 1549 people in the West Country rebelled against using the Book of Common Prayer and other religious innovations. Exeter was besieged for six weeks until it was relieved by John Russell on August 6. These rebels scattered, and an uprising in Oxfordshire was suppressed by Henry Grey.
On May 5, 1549 about 200 weavers, tinkers, and artisans destroyed enclosures at Frome in Somerset. On May 19 a few men broke down enclosures on Bristol’s commons, and leaders were arrested four days later. On May 22 Protector Somerset had denounced enclosures, but he warned that those taking the law into their own hands would be punished. On June 6 rioting erupted in Cornwall around Bodmin with a thousand men involved. In July the Protector offered a pardon to those who had pulled down enclosures if they would submit. The southwest revolted, and people rose up in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire. On July 7 William Paget wrote a letter urging Somerset to organize the nobility and gentry to crush the rebellion and hang the leaders, and the next day the Protector ordered the disorder quelled. On the same day the commons of East Anglia began insurrections. Thomas Smith wrote his Discourse of the Common Weal of this Realm of England to show how land taken for pastures hurts poor farmers and tenants. Many of the poor moved into towns.
Also on July 7 people gathered at Wymondham for a performance of the play, The Life of St. Thomas Becket. They met and chose as their leader the tanner and landowner Robert Kett who had torn down fences of his hated neighbor Flowerdew. William Parr, Marquis of Northampton, arrived at Norwich with 1,500 men on July 31 and occupied the marketplace; but they were driven out by 12,000 people from Norfolk and Suffolk who gathered at a camp and controlled Norwich.
Rebels from Kent advanced to Greenwich, and London authorities declared martial law on July 18. One week later in the north about 3,000 rebels rose up in East Riding. Yorkshire rebels planned to join with those in Devon and Cornwall. They had fifteen executed at Wakefield and eight at Seamer, but most accepted the pardon on August 21.
On July 27 the Council sent Lord John Russell to handle the siege of Exeter, and his forces attacked the rebels at Clyst Heath on August 5, killing 2,000. On the 16th rebels were also defeated at Sampford Courtenay, killing another 600 or so. By now Russell had about 9,000 men. Warwick reached Norwich on August 24 with 8,500 men, but most were untrained. The next day 1,100 German mercenaries arrived. On the 28th Kett moved the camp to nearby Dussingdale where the government killed about 3,000 southwestern rebels while losing as many men. After being condemned for treason, Robert Kett and his brother William were hanged on December 7.
France’s King Henri II declared war against England on August 8, 1549, and that month his army seized Ambleteuse and captured some of Boulogne’s defenses. In October the Protector Somerset was deposed and put in the Tower by a cabal that included Wriothesley and Henry Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel. Somerset was interrogated and confessed to 29 charges on October 24. The Council did not like his liberal policies, and Warwick wanted a more authoritarian government. Somerset signed 31 articles of submission on December 13.
On December 4 Cambridge University appointed Martin Bucer professor of divinity. Parliament sat from November 4 to February 1, 1550 and rejected the restoration of episcopal authority. Images and superstitious books were to be removed. On February 2 Arundel and Wriothesley were removed from the Council. Four days later Somerset was released from the Tower but was kept under house arrest. King Edward pardoned him, and Somerset was restored to the Council on April 10.
Joan Bocher was burned in May for having denied the humanity of Christ, and in April 1551 George van Parris got the same punishment for having rejected Christ’s divinity. Catholics persecuted in 1550 and 1551 included Princess Mary’s chaplains. Several Catholic bishops were deprived of their sees. In November 1550 all altars were to be removed from churches and could be replaced with tables.
The English defended the Boulogne fortress against attacks for months. Peace talks began in January 1550, and the treaty of Boulogne was signed on March 29. Warwick gave up Boulogne for 400,000 crowns and withdrew from Scotland. In April he issued licenses to 2,340 retainers for all members of the Privy Council and many from the Privy Chamber. Anne Seymour married John Dudley in June. In 1550 and 1551 Warwick used domestic disturbances as a justification to create a standing army. In 1551 the population of England was estimated to have reached three million.
On July 19, 1551 Edward VI was betrothed to Elizabeth of France, and the next month Warwick brought Edward into the Council where the young King designed five committees to improve its working. Warwick became the Duke of Northumberland on October 11, and Henry Grey, Marquis of Dorset, became the Duke of Suffolk. Northumberland’s relatives were knighted, and on October 16 Somerset was arrested for conspiracy. Chancellor Richard Rich resigned and was replaced by Thomas Goodrich, Bishop of Ely. Somerset was condemned on December 1 and was executed on January 22, 1552. Then on February 26 his alleged accomplices Michael Stanhope and Thomas Arundel were beheaded while Ralph Vane and Miles Partridge were hanged.
The Council had been debasing the currency since January 1547, and the next four years the government made £537,000 from the mint. In 1551 the Council used debasement to bring in another £114,500; but this policy was so unpopular that in September they ordered a return to good currency. Despite an outbreak of the sweating sickness, capitalists were prospering. On April 14, 1552 Parliament passed the Second Act of Uniformity which became effective in November. That summer Edward went on a successful procession in the southern counties, but by then the treasuries were empty. Dissatisfied landlords raised rents and tried to enclose land. Manufacturing was declining; prices were high; and wages were insufficient. William Cecil served as Edward’s private secretary 1550-53. He promoted granting a patent of monopoly for a period of time, and the first one in 1552 protected the glass industry. Increasing the consumer market made commodities available to more than just the rich. In October the English reduced their garrisons in Ireland, Berwick, and Guisnes. An audit of the English government was attempted in December, and the Parliament of 1553 passed two acts to start the reorganization of the finances.
In early February 1553 Edward VI got a cold with a fever, and on March 1 he had to open Parliament in Whitehall instead of Westminster. On March 31 Northumberland dissolved the Parliament. London capitalists provided £6,000 to finance an expedition with three ships led by Hugh Willoughby and Richard Chancellor to search for a northeast passage. They lost two ships, but Chancellor reached Archangel and Moscow to begin trade relations. He returned in 1555 and founded a business that became known as the Russian Company which was given a monopoly of Russian trade.
Near the end of his life Cranmer was converted to the Zwinglian view of the eucharist and wrote,
They teach, that Christ is in the bread and wine,
but we say, according to the truth, that he is in them
that worthily eat and drink the bread and wine.
They say, that Christ is received in the mouth,
and entereth in with the bread and wine.
We say that he is received in the heart,
and entereth in by faith.2
On May 21, 1553 Northumberland’s son Guildford Dudley married Jane Grey, daughter of the Duke of Suffolk. The health of Edward VI was declining, and in June he was persuaded to approve the crowning of his 17-year-old cousin Jane Grey. Northumberland got more than a hundred councilors, peers, bishops, and sheriffs to sign this document. Jane’s sister became engaged to Pembroke’s son. Northumberland’s brother Andrew was to marry Margaret Clifford, and his daughter was betrothed to Lord Hastings.
Four days after Edward VI died on July 6, Lady Jane Grey was proclaimed Queen of England. She resided in the Tower and refused to recognize her husband Dudley as king, suggesting he be Duke of Clarence. Mary Tudor escaped to East Anglia where she gathered supporters, and the Duke of Northumberland pursued her with 3,000 cavalry. News spread that Mary was proclaimed in Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Middlesex, and Oxfordshire. Those on the ships sent to capture her went over to her side in Yarmouth. By the time Northumberland approached Bury St. Edmund on July 17, his dwindling force learned that an army of 30,000 men was ready to fight for Mary. The duke returned to Cambridge on July 19.
The Privy Council led by William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, and Henry Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel, summoned the mayor of London and proclaimed Mary queen. Jane was imprisoned in the Tower. Northumberland accepted Mary, but the next day Arundel had him arrested. Queen Mary entered London in triumph on August 3, and her half sister Elizabeth rode out to greet her. The long-held prisoners Norfolk, Edward Courtenay, Anne Stanhope, Duchess of Somerset, and Bishop Gardiner were released and supported Mary. On August 18 the new Queen announced that she would remain a Catholic and hoped her subjects would accept the religion, but she would not force anyone to do so. She borrowed £10,000 from the city of London and paid it back within a month. Condemned on the 18th, the Duke of Northumberland was executed four days later along with his oldest son Warwick and his associate Northampton.
John Knox published his Faithful Admonition to the Professors of God’s Truth in England. On August 13 an attempted assassination of Dr. Gilbert Browne while he was preaching at Paul’s Cross provoked a riot, and arrests were made. The Catholic Mass was celebrated at a dozen churches in London on St. Bartholomew’s Day (August 24). Five days later Gardiner was authorized to license preachers. Many prominent Protestants fled; but Latimer refused and was put in the Tower for preaching on September 13. Latimer had led the Protestant group called the “Commonwealth Men” who criticized greedy landlords and demanded that the common men get more equitable deals.
Also in August 1553 several prominent Catholic bishops were restored to their sees. In September the Parliament declared Mary the rightful queen and denounced Jane as a usurper. She and her husband Guildford Dudley along with two of his brothers and Archbishop Cranmer were tried for treason on November 13. They were found guilty and condemned to death.
Queen Mary I was crowned in Westminster Abbey on October 1, and her sister Elizabeth was the first to take the oath of allegiance. Parliament assembled on October 5, and they declared valid the marriage of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, making their daughter Mary legitimate. Then they repealed the religious laws passed during the reign of Edward VI including those on the Book of Common Prayer, married priests, and the sacraments. All treason laws from the era of Henry VIII and Edward VI were repealed. They made disrespect for preachers or for the Mass against the law. Starting on December 20 religious worship was to be conducted according to the practice under Henry VIII in his last year. Queen Mary used the title of head of the Church.
On October 10 the Spanish ambassador Renard offered Queen Mary the hand of Prince Felipe of Spain in marriage, and she accepted on October 29. He was to be called king and could assist with governing; but Mary alone was to choose all the officers of Church and state, and they were all to be English. They promised not to go to war against France, and the laws and customs of England were not to change. She was given a property settlement, and she and her children were not be taken out of the country without her consent. Felipe was not to inherit anything in England if childless, and their children could inherit Burgundy, the Low Countries, and England.
Mary’s decision to marry Felipe was unpopular, and on November 16 a deputation of twenty members of the Commons tried to change her mind. Thomas Wyatt, son of the poet by that name, led a revolt planned for March 18, 1554. The terms of the marriage treaty were proclaimed on January 14. Four days later Renard warned Mary that the French fleet was off the coast of Normandy. She ordered troops mustered and made every member of her household take a loyalty oath. On January 21 Edward Courtenay betrayed the conspirators to Chancellor Gardiner.
Wyatt raised his standard with 3,000 men at Maidstone on the 25th, saying the realm was in danger and asking men to join them. He sent 4,000 soldiers from London commanded by Thomas Howard, the 80-year-old Duke of Norfolk, to meet him at Southwark. On February 1 Mary appealed to the citizens, and that night it was reported that 500 peasants deserted Wyatt. He reached Southwark two days later and used two cannons to besiege London Bridge for three days. During fighting in London he had 38 men killed compared to two of the Queen’s soldiers. On February 6 Wyatt retreated and surrendered. The young Henry Hastings, Earl of Huntington, defeated Wyatt’s brother and Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk. About 750 men were indicted for the rebellion, and half of them were tried and convicted with about 100 executed.
On February 11, 1554 Wyatt was hanged, and Gardiner persuaded the court that Mary had been too merciful and must cut off the commonwealth’s “hurtful members.” The next day Lady Jane and her husband were beheaded after she had converted to Catholicism. The rebel leaders were executed along with 46 commoners in London on one day. On March 8 the Council ordered the religious prisoners Cranmer, Bishop Nicholas Ridley, and Bishop Hugh Latimer moved to Bocardo prison in Oxford. Seven other Protestant bishops were deprived of their sees. About one-fifth of the 8,000 priests who had married were removed from the clergy.
In March the imperial ambassador Renard met with William Paget and former Secretary of State William Petre, and the latter two formed an inner council with Gardiner, Arundel, Bishop Thomas Thirlby of Westminster, and the new Comptroller of the Household Robert Rochester. Although Elizabeth had attended her first Mass the previous summer, on March 17 she was imprisoned in the Tower for two months. Then she was allowed to live in Woodstock under house arrest for eleven months. Parliament met from April 2 to May 5. They did not oppose the treaty with Spain and refused to revive the heresy laws, though Mary was recognized as having the same power as England’s kings.
Prince Felipe, who did not speak English, arrived in England on July 10, 1554 with twenty cartloads of gold. The Earl of Arundel presented him with the Order of the Garter, and he had prepared 350 household servants for Felipe who had brought his own. On July 25 Chancellor Gardiner conducted his wedding with Queen Mary at Winchester Cathedral. Regent Juan Figueroa of Naples handed Gardiner two documents showing that Charles V had conferred the kingdom of Naples and the duchy of Milan on his son Felipe, and Gardiner made the announcement.
Mary stopped menstruating in September 1554, and in October it was reported that she was pregnant. On November 3 the Council agreed to let Cardinal Reginald Pole into the realm of England. On the 20th he arrived as papal legate, and he planned visitations to churches and universities. Parliament reversed his bill of attainder the next day, and three days later he met with Queen Mary. On the 28th the legate preached to the lords and commons at Whitehall, and the next day Parliament approved a petition to be received back into the Church. Then on St. Andrew’s Day (November 30) the kneeling King, Queen, and members of both houses were absolved for the schism as they rejoined the mother Church. Treason laws were passed to punish anyone who criticized the title of Mary or her husband. They revived old heresy laws and repealed all statutes against papal authority passed since 1528. Laws were enacted to protected abbey lands and tithes. The English followed the Queen on religion but protected their land. In January 1555 the Henrician Acts were repealed, and papal jurisdiction was restored.
After the Parliament’s session Bishop Gardiner met in his house on January 16 with eighty imprisoned priests, but only two recanted. Those who had signed a manifesto in May 1554 were brought to trial on January 28, 1555 before Gardiner, and London’s Bishop Edmund Bonner degraded them on February 4, the day John Rogers, the canon of St. Paul’s, was burned. Five days later the former bishop John Hooper was burned for denying papal supremacy over the Church. Others who did not recant were burned in the next two months along with five laymen from Bonner’s diocese. Pembroke had to use troops to keep order in London in June. Mary realized she was not pregnant in July. Felipe left England in September and went to the Netherlands where he was given the regency in October.
On March 8, 1554 the Privy Council had ordered Cranmer, Ridley, and Latimer transferred to Bocardo prison in Oxford to be tried for heresy again. Cranmer was held in isolation until his trial under Roman authority on September 12, 1555. The trials of Ridley and Latimer began on September 30, and they were burned at the stake on October 16. Parliament met six days later but voted only one subsidy for Mary. On November 12 Chancellor Gardiner died. Cardinal Pole presided over a legatine synod on December 2, and they produced a series of decrees to restrain corruption. The synod adjourned in February 1556 but never met again. They planned to publish a new book of homilies with a catechism and an English translation of the New Testament. In 1555 a revised version of the King’s Book called A Profitable and Necessary Doctrine brought it into line with the Catholic Church and printed more than 10,000 copies in at least five printings.
On November 25, 1555 Pope Paul IV excommunicated Cranmer, and on December 4 he deprived him of his archbishopric and turned him over to secular authority; but his burning was postponed. Bishop Bonner and Thirlby degraded Cranmer from holy orders on February 14, 1556. He recanted six times, but on March 21 he was supposed to make his seventh recantation, but instead he declared that his hand had offended him by writing what was contrary to his heart. When he said that the Pope with his false doctrine was the enemy of Christ, he was quickly taken to the stake where he held his “unworthy hand” in the flames before they reached the rest of his body.
The next day Cardinal Pole was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury. During Mary’s reign 285 Protestants including 60 women were burned to death, and another 30 died in prison. She had little military power with only a force of 200 men and the Yeoman of the Guard which was increased to 440. Her husband Felipe had a hundred Englishmen guarding him with an equal number of Spaniards, Germans, and Swiss.
On January 16, 1556 the Emperor Charles V abdicated as King of Aragon and Castile and was succeeded by his son Felipe II. Henry Dudley conspired in March with the French ambassador Antoine de Noailles to break up the Spanish alliance with England by replacing Mary with Elizabeth. However, the Exchequer official Thomas White informed Cardinal Pole, and the Council had the conspirators arrested on March 18. Dudley and the others were declared traitors on April 4. Ten men were executed, but Dudley escaped to France. Elizabeth was accused of being involved in this conspiracy; but Felipe was concerned that her death might make Queen Mary of Scotland heir to the English throne, and she was betrothed to the dauphin of France. So he sent Francesco Piamontese to London to prevent any investigation of Elizabeth. Mary had her sister put in the custody of the Catholic Thomas Pope. Felipe wanted Elizabeth to marry Prince Emmanuel Philibert of Piedmont, but she rejected him.
Heavy rains in 1555 and 1556 had caused poor crops, and influenza epidemics broke out in 1557 and 1558, killing 100,000 or more. After the Russian Company was founded in 1555, Ivan IV sent an ambassador who made a commercial treaty. In 1556 John Field and Robert Tomson explored Mexico and discovered a Scotsman already living there. Pope Paul IV suspected Cardinal Pole of heresy and in June 1557 summoned him to Rome.
Felipe came back to England on March 20, 1557, hoping England would support his war against France. On the night of January 5 French soldiers had attacked Douai on the Flemish frontier, breaking the treaty of Vaucelles. The Council authorized raising 6,000 infantry and 600 cavalry to fulfill their treaty with Felipe to defend the Netherlands if it were attacked. France supported Thomas Stafford’s attack on Scarborough on April 23, and they took the castle. The Earl of Westmoreland led English forces who regained the castle, and the capture of Stafford was proclaimed in London on April 30. He was found guilty of treason and was executed a month later. Queen Mary tried to restore religious houses, but by 1557 only six houses had about a hundred religious persons out of the 1,500 still living.
On June 7 England declared war on France. Pembroke led a force of 7,000 men who in July helped Felipe II besiege St. Quentin, and on August 10 they defeated the reinforcing army led by Montmorency. On January 1, 1558 a French force of 27,000 men attacked Calais. After several attacks the English garrisons ran out of food and ammunition and surrendered on January 21. The English had held Calais for 220 years. Parliament met on January 20 until March 7, but they voted for only one subsidy and one fifteenth. A forced loan was levied on towns and shires, and duties on exported beer and imported wines were raised. A few ships were commissioned so they could send soldiers to the Low Countries.
Mary believed she was pregnant again and notified Felipe after six months in January 1558, but her false pregnancies represented illness. She made her will on March 30, asking that her husband Felipe be appointed guardian and regent. Parliament was recalled on November 5. Queen Mary died on November 17, 1558, and Cardinal Pole died twelve hours later. She left behind an empty treasury and much foreign debt even though she had tried to limit wasteful administration and to balance spending with revenue. She had raised the pay of soldiers from 6d. to 8d. a day. Her will provided a house in London to help the poor, powerless, and aging soldiers. Nine of 26 bishoprics were vacant and had not yet been filled.
Allegorical morality plays represent the culmination of the medieval theater. John Skelton (c. 1460-1529) tutored Prince Henry before he became Henry VIII and made him poet laureate. His play Magnificence was written about 1517 and was probably performed at court. This morality play is an allegory with abstract principles representing people who have those characteristics. Magnificence represents the royal virtue of magnanimity and the King himself. The fools use racy language, and proverbs express moral ideas. In this way Skelton satirized the vices and instructed the King.
The play Magnificence begins with Felicity describing how reason influences humans, and the use of wealth tests human wisdom. This depends on Sad Circumspection. Liberty does not like restraint, but Measure argues that he must control Felicity and Liberty. Magnificence comes in and agrees that this leads to prosperity. Fancy pretends he is generous and truly noble, and he brings a letter of support from Sad Circumspection. Counterfeit Countenance says that Fancy’s trick has worked, and he is supported by Crafty Conveyance, Cloaked Collusion, and others. Fancy advises Lusty Pleasure, and these vices free Liberty from Measure’s control. Folly arrives and exchanges purses and pets with Fancy. Magnificence releases Liberty, and Lusty Pleasure takes control of Felicity. Magnificence boasts and compares himself to past rulers, defying Fortune. Magnificence gives way to Lechery and Anger, making Will and Lust important. Cloaked Collusion gets him to dismiss Measure in anger. Appetite asserts himself, and finally Folly reveals that Adversity has arrived. He is sent from God to correct the falsely secure. Magnificence loses his wealth as Poverty appears. Liberty explains that he has misused will by depending on Folly and Fancy. Despair and Mischief urge Magnificence to commit suicide, but he is saved by Good Hope who cures him with the grace of God. Redress gives him new clothes. Sad Circumspection returns and says that Fancy’s letter is a forgery. Redress explains that nobility should be liberal but not prodigal. Magnificence should not rely on Fortune because the only remedy is Wisdom.
John Heywood (c. 1497-1578) was a life-long Catholic and married Thomas More’s niece Joan Rastell about 1522. Her brother William Rastell began publishing Heywood’s farces in 1533. Heywood supported John More and the Catholics’ attempt to arrest Cranmer, and he was found guilty on February 15, 1544. Heywood on July 6 dressed in a penitential gown and publicly recanted at St. Paul’s Cross, and he managed to escape hanging because of his mirth. Heywood wrote poetry and hundreds of epigrams. To praise Queen Mary he revised his allegorical poem, The Spider and the Fly. William Rastell and his family went into exile in 1563 to avoid persecution, and Heywood and his wife left England on July 20, 1564, settling in Brabant. Heywood and his son Ellis both fled from the violence of the Orange party in 1578 to Louvain where they both died.
Heywood’s early comedy Witty and Witless survived from a reprinting of his plays about 1544 and is a disputation on the Erasmian theme of folly. John, James, and Jerome debate whether it is better to be witty or witless. At first James and John agree that the witless man has more pleasure, but Jerome comes in and persuades them that wit leads to wisdom which is necessary for humans.
Heywood’s comedy Johan Johan was published on February 12, 1533 and was based on French farces. Johan suspects that his wife Tyb has been straying with a priest and threatens to beat her, and they consult the priest at his house. Tyb says she got a pie which the gossip Margery cooked up with her neighbor Anne and the priest. While she is cooking it for dinner, she gets her husband Johan to do numerous chores. She and the priest enjoy drink and the pie while Johan is working. When he comes back, the pie is all gone. Johan complains, gets angry, and fights with Tyb, driving her and the priest from the house. Fearing they will cuckold him in revenge, he runs after them.
John Heywood’s disputation comedy The Pardoner and the Friar was published on April 5, 1533 and was based on characters from Chaucer’s Pardoner’s Prologue and Summoner’s Tale. While the poor Friar is praying, the Pardoner displays his relics and describes their powers. He shows the Pope’s bull of indulgence and makes his sales pitch as the Friar begins his sermon on avarice and coveting, suggesting he can bring people to heaven by teaching them the Word of God. The Pardoner curses the Friar and declares that the Pope has excommunicated him. They quarrel, but both try to collect alms from people. The Pardoner reproaches the Friar for breaking his vow of poverty, and they end up fighting each other physically. The Curate tries to stop the fight and is helped by Neighbor Pratt who carries the Pardoner off to the stocks. The Pardoner and Friar fight back, and finally the Curate and Pratt let the rascals go.
The interlude The Four PP by Heywood is a longer comedy and is an expansion of The Pardoner and the Friar and was also printed about 1533. A Palmer, Pardoner, and Potecary (apothecary) meet on a road and discuss their professions. The Palmer speaks in fine poetry about his pilgrimages to the great Christian shrines. The Pardoner argues that wandering is useless when one can find salvation at home by investing money in pardons. The Potecary describes how his medicines can help people. A humble Peddler joins them and offers to settle their disputes by judging a contest to see who can tell the biggest lie. The Palmer objects; but the Pardoner describes his miraculous relics, and the Potecary describes his cures. The Peddler gets each to tell a story. The Potecary tells how a woman used a tampion (gun protector) that exploded. The Pardoner’s story is about a shrew who died without sacraments and was in Purgatory and Hell until his influence released her. The Palmer doubts this and says he never saw a woman “out of patience.” The others admit this is the greatest lie of all, but he absolves them from the penalty of having to serve him.
In Heywood’s The Play of Love, printed in 1534, the Lover Not Loved represents Petrarcan love; but the lady Loved Not Loving belittles his suffering, and they hope to find a judge to settle the dispute. The Lover Loved says love is the highest pleasure, but No Lover Nor Loved mocks him. The latter is also called Vice and is left alone on stage recalling his affair with an experienced woman. The Lover Loved brings back the first pair, and they argue with each other. The other two judges do not agree, and then Lover Not Loved and Loved Not Loving become the judges. Lover Loved believes that love is good, but Vice offers proof that it is evil. However, he is considered insensitive and leaves. Lover Loved rejoices, but Vice comes back shooting fireworks from his hat and shouting, “Fire!” and asks for judgment. Lover loved returns and says Vice cannot feel. Finally all four agree to follow Christ’s commandment to love their neighbors.
The Play of the Weather by John Heywood has ten characters and was printed in late 1533. Because of complaints about the weather the parliament of the gods has centralized the bureaucracy by putting Jupiter in charge alone. He promises to give everyone relief. Merry Report is appointed crier of the court and promises to be the advocate for each complainer. The Gentleman who hunts asks for dry and clear weather. The Merchant wants moderate winds which do not blow in the same direction too long. The Ranger makes money cleaning up fallen trees and likes raging wind. Two Millers argue because one uses water in the mill and the other wind. A young Gentlewoman wants to stay beautiful and asks for fair weather. The Laundress demands hot weather to dry the clothes. Finally a Small Boy comes in who likes to play with snowballs. Merry Report is confused, but Jupiter announces that each person will get what they want at the proper time. No weather is suitable for all, and they praise his prudence and thank him. This allegory supported the powerful monarchy of Henry VIII.
John Bale was born on November 21, 1495 and studied philosophy at Jesus College in Cambridge. In 1533 he became Prior of the Ipswich Carmelite house, and he wrote a history of the Carmelites. Influenced by Tyndale’s Obedience of a Christian Man, Bale supported the reforms and gave up his vows in order to marry about 1536; he was imprisoned until 1537. Patronized by Cromwell, Bale wrote religious plays. His Comedy Concerning Three Laws presented Father God, the Law of Nature, the Law of Moses, and the Law of Christ. Idolatry is dressed as an old witch, Sodomy as a monk, Ambition as a bishop, Covetousness as a spiritual lawyer, False Doctrine as a Popish doctor, and Hypocrisy as a grey friar.
Bale’s tragic interlude God’s Promises presents the Celestial Father, the first man Adam, just Noah, faithful Abraham, saintly Moses, the pious King David, the prophet Isaiah, and John the Baptist. He also wrote the comic interludes, John Baptist’s Preaching in the Wilderness, which concludes with his baptism of Jesus, and The Temptation of Our Lord with Jesus, the tempter Satan, and two Angels.
After the fall of Cromwell in 1540, Bale took his family to the continent for eight years. He returned to England and in 1552 was appointed Bishop of Ossory in Ireland. Under Queen Mary he went into exile again and returned after Elizabeth’s accession. He was appointed Canon at Canterbury and died in 1565.
Bale’s longest play King John was performed at Canterbury in September 1538 and January 1539. England is symbolized as a widow who is oppressed by the Church, and she complains to King John. Sedition explains that the Church is governed by the Pope through auricular confession. The Clergy are dominating the Nobility and Civil Order. Dissimulation uses the religious orders to support Private Wealth and Usurped Power for the sake of Rome. Usurped Power becomes Pope and Private Wealth a cardinal. King John is compared to Moses because he is defending God’s people. Stephen Langton leads the Clergy and the Civil Order against the King, and the Cardinal releases people from their allegiance to King John who challenges Papal authority and the Clergy with scripture. The common people are distressed in poverty and cannot support John who breaks with Rome and faces an international league, but he is powerless without the three estates. John submits to his enemies, and the Cardinal extorts money from him. John prays for help, but his enemies plot to kill him. Simon of Swynsen arrives to poison the King and is pardoned in advance. John is poisoned, but Sedition survives. Veritas arrives to correct the Clergy, and Dissimulation is hanged at Smithfield. Sedition confesses and is condemned. Finally Imperial Majesty reunites the three estates, though John has been sacrificed.
Nicholas Udall (1505-56) studied at Oxford and earned his M.A. in 1534, the year he became headmaster at Eton College. He had published translations from Terence in 1533. After confessing misconduct in 1541, he was dismissed because of the 1533 Buggery Act against sodomy. He translated some of the Apothegms of Erasmus in 1542, and he wrote controversial works on religion. His Ralph Roister Doister, written in the early 1550s, is considered the first English play modeled on classical comedy and the first English comedy of the Renaissance. The characters are English with a British merchant instead of a Roman soldier and an English lady rather than a Roman courtesan.
Dame Christian Custance is a wealthy and sober widow known for her honesty, and she is engaged to the merchant Gawyn Goodluck who has been away on a voyage. The vainglorious Ralph Roister Doister is a “brainsick fool” but believes he can win her as he has many other women. He directs his champion Matthew Merrygreek to hire musicians to serenade her. Roister Doister uses flattery, boasting, promises, and kisses to woo her. He even courts her servants to help his suit. Old Madge takes his love letter to her mistress who refuses to open it. The servant Dobinet Doughty asks her other servants to deliver a ring and love token from his master, and he tells Tom Truepenny that he serves her fiancé. The lady tells her servants not to accept any messages or gifts from strangers. Merrygreek takes Roister Doister’s love letter; but after she spurns his marriage proposal, the master says he will die. Merrygreek mocks a funeral, and they go to woo her together. She reluctantly allows Merrygreek to read the love letter to her; but he pauses in the wrong places resulting in contrary meaning with insults instead of praising and good intentions.
Goodluck returns home and sends Sym Suresby to call on Dame Christian; but he finds the two men wooing her and tells his master. She dismisses them, and Roister Doister threatens to burn her house down. Her servants convert Merrygreek into an ally, and in a fracas instead of the lady he hits Roister Doister who retreats. Goodluck is reconciled with the lady, and he invites his friends and adversaries to a supper.
Gammer Gurton’s Needle is by “Mr. S., Master of Art,” who has been identified as William Stevenson. He earned his M.A. in 1553 at Christ’s College in Cambridge where the play was performed by then while he was a student. Gammer is slang for a grandmother or older woman, and the comedy is set in a rural English village. Diccon is a beggar from Bedlam, a mental asylum. He finds Gammer Gurton’s house in confusion and steals some bacon. The ditcher Hodge has torn breeches. The maid Tyb tells him that Gammer was mending them when the cat stole some milk, causing the needle to be lost. In an alehouse across the street Diccon drinks, and Hodge complains he lost his supper and has bad pants. Diccon conjures the Devil to help find the needle, and he tells Dame Chat that Gammer’s cock has been stolen and that she was accused. Diccon tells Hodge that either the cat ate the needle, the curate Dr. Rat found it, or Dame Chat stole it; but he tells Gammer that Chat took it. Hodge urges Gammon to fight, and she and Chat quarrel. Chat knocks Gammer down and escapes. Gammer sends her boy Cock to find Dr. Rat while Tyb reports the cat seems to have something caught in its throat.
Gammer, Hodge, and Diccon tell Dr. Rat their versions of how the needle was lost. Then Diccon warns Chat that Hodge plans to steal her hen-roost, and he tells Dr. Rat that he saw Chat sewing with Gammer’s needle. He gets Rat to creep through a hole in the wall, and he gets his head broken and sends for the bailiff. Master Bailey listens to their complaints, and they send for suspected Hodge. Gammer accuses Chat. They send for Diccon, and he confesses. Bailey makes him take an oath with peculiar promises. Then Diccon whacks Hodge on the buttocks, and he screams and discovers the lost needle in his pants. They all rejoice and go to the alehouse for a drink.
1. Fox’s Book of Martyrs ed. William Byron Forbush, p. 184.
2. Quoted in The Early Tudors 1485-1558 by J. D. Mackie, p. 509 from A Defence of the True and Catholic Doctrine of the Sacrament of the Body and Blood (ed. 1907), p. vii.