When Henry realised that marriage with Anne Boleyn meant defiance of Rome he was inclined to hesitate. Both from the point of view of religion and of public policy separation from the Holy See was decidedly objectionable. While he was in this frame of mind, a prey to passion and anxiety, it was suggested to him, probably by Thomas Cromwell, the former disciple of the fallen cardinal, that he should seize this opportunity to strengthen the royal power in England by challenging the authority of the Pope, and by taking into his own hands the control of the wealth and patronage of the Church. The prospect thus held out to him was so enticing that Henry determined to follow the advice, not indeed as yet with the intention of involving his kingdom in open schism, but in the hope that the Pope might be forced to yield to his demands. In December 1530 he addressed a strong letter to Clement VII. He demanded once more that the validity of his marriage should be submitted to an English tribunal, and warned the Pope to abstain from interfering with the rights of the king, if he wished that the prerogatives of the Holy See should be respected in England.
This letter of Henry VIII. was clearly an ultimatum, non-compliance with which meant open war. At the beginning of 1531 steps were taken to prepare the way for royal supremacy. For exercising legatine powers in England Cardinal Wolsey had been indicted and found guilty of the violation of the stature of Praemunire, and as the clergy had submitted to his legatine authority they were charged as a body with being participators in his guilt. The attorney-general filed an information against them to the court of King's Bench, but when Convocation met it was intimated to the clergy that they might procure pardon for the offence by granting a large contribution to the royal treasury and by due submission to the king. The Convocation of Canterbury offered a sum of ￡100,000, but the offer was refused unless the clergy were prepared to recognise the king as the sole protector and supreme head of the church and clergy in England. To such a novel proposal Convocation showed itself decidedly hostile, but at last after many consultations had been held Warham, the aged Archbishop of Canterbury, proposed that they should acknowledge the king as "their singular protector only, and supreme lord, and as far as the law of Christ allows even supreme head." "Whoever is silent," said the archbishop, "may be taken to consent," and in this way by the silence of the assembly the new formula was passed. At the Convocation of York, Bishop Tunstall of Durham, while agreeing to a money payment, made a spirited protest against the new title, to which protest Henry found it necessary to forward a reassuring reply. Parliament then ratified the pardon for which the clergy had paid so dearly, and to set at rest the fears of the laity a free pardon was issued to all those who had been involved in the guilt of the papal legate.
Clement VII. issued a brief in January 1531, forbidding Henry to marry again and warning the universities and the law courts against giving a decision in a case that had been reserved for the decision of the Holy See. When the case was opened at the Rota in the same month an excusator appeared to plead, but as he had no formal authority from the king he was not admitted. The case, however, was postponed from time to time in the hope that Henry might relent. In the meantime at the king's suggestion several deputations waited upon Catharine to induce her to recall her appeal to Rome. Annoyed by her obstinacy Henry sent her away from court, and separated from her her daughter. After November 1531, the king and queen never met again. Popular feeling in London and throughout England was running high against the divorce, and against any breach with the Emperor, who might close the Flemish markets to the English merchants. The clergy, who were indignant that their representatives should have paid such an immense sum to secure pardon for an offence of which they had not been more guilty than the king himself, remonstrated warmly against the taxation that had been levied on their revenues. Unmindful of the popular commotion, Henry proceeded to usurp the power of the Pope and of the bishops, and though he was outwardly stern in the repression of heresy, the friends of the Lutheran movement in England boasted publicly that the king was on their side.
When Parliament met again (Jan. 1532), the attacks on the clergy were renewed. A petition against the bishops, drawn up by Thomas Cromwell at the suggestion of Henry, was presented in the name of the House of Commons to the king. In this petition the members were made to complain that the clergy enacted laws and statutes in Convocation without consulting the king or the Commons, that suitors were treated harshly before the ecclesiastical courts, that in regard to probates the people were worried by excessive fees and unnecessary delays, and that the number of holidays was injurious to trade and agriculture. This complaint was forwarded to Convocation for a reply. The bishops, while vindicating for the clergy the right to make their own laws and statutes, showed themselves not unwilling to accept a compromise, but Parliament at the instigation of Henry refused to accept their proposals. The king, who was determined to crush the power of the clergy, insisted that Convocation should abandon its right to make constitutions or ordinances without royal permission, and that the ordinances passed already should be submitted to a mixed commission appointed by the authority of the crown. Such proposals, so contrary to the customs of the realm and so destructive of the independence of the Church, could not fail to be extremely disagreeable to the bishops; but in face of the uncompromising attitude of the king they were forced to give way, and in a document known as the /Submission of the Clergy/ they sacrificed the legislative rights of Convocation (May 1532). They agreed to enact no new canons, constitutions or ordinances without the king's consent, that those already passed should be submitted to a committee consisting of clergy and laymen nominated by the king, and that the laws adopted by this committee and approved by the king should continue in full force. Sir Thomas More, who had worked hard in defence of the Church, promptly resigned his office of Lord Chancellor that he might have a freer hand in the crisis that had arisen.鈥淭
In March 1532 another step was taken to overawe the Roman court and force the Pope to yield to Henry's demands. An Act was passed abolishing the Annats or First Fruits paid to Rome by all bishops on their appointment to vacant Sees. If the Pope should refuse to appoint without such payments, it was enacted that the consecration should be carried out by the archbishop of the province without further recourse to Rome. Such a measure, tending so directly towards schism, met with strong opposition in the House of Lords from the bishops, abbots, and many of the lay lords, as it did also in the House of Commons. In the end, it was passed only on the understanding that it should not take effect for a year, and that in the meantime if an agreement could be arrived at with the Pope, the king might by letters patent repeal it. Henry instructed his ambassador at Rome to inform Clement VII. that this legislation against Annats was entirely the work of the Parliament, and that if the Pope wished for its withdrawal he must show a more conciliatory spirit towards the king and people of England.鈥淭
The Pope, however, refused to yield to such intimidation. When news arrived at Rome that Henry had sent away Catharine from court, the question of excommunication was considered, but as the excommunication of a king was likely to be fraught with such serious consequences for the English Church, Clement VII. hesitated to publish it in the hope that Henry might see the error of his ways. The trial was delayed from time to time until at last in November 1532 the Pope addressed a strong letter to the king, warning him under threat of excommunication to put away Anne Boleyn, and not to attempt to divorce Catharine or to marry another until a decision had been given in Rome. By this time the king had given up all hope of securing the approval of Rome for the step he contemplated. Even in England the divorce from Catharine found much opposition from both clergy and laity. Sir Thomas More and many of the nobles were on the side of Catharine, as were also Bishop Fisher of Rochester and Bishop Tunstall of Durham. Even Reginald Pole, the king's own cousin, who had been educated at Henry's expense, and for whom the Archbishopric of York had been kept vacant, refused the tempting offers that were made to him on condition that he would espouse the cause of separation. He preferred instead to leave England rather than act against his conscience by supporting Catherine's divorce. Fortunately for Henry at this moment Warham, the aged Archbishop of Canterbury, who was a stout defender of the Holy See, passed away (Aug. 1532). The king determined to secure the appointment of an archbishop upon whom he could rely for the accomplishment of his designs, and accordingly Thomas Cranmer was selected and presented to Rome. After much hesitation, and merely as the lesser of two evils, his appointment was confirmed.鈥淭
Thomas Cranmer was born in Nottingham, and educated in Cambridge. He married early in life, but his wife having died within a few months, he determined to take holy orders. His suggestion to submit the validity of Henry's marriage to the judgment of the universities, coming as it did at a time when Henry was at his wits' end, showed him to be a man of resource whose services should be secured by the court. He was appointed accordingly chaplain to Anne Boleyn's father, and was one of those sent on the embassy to meet the Pope and Charles V. at Bologna. During his wanderings in Germany he was brought into close relationship with many of the leading Reformers, and following their teaching and example he took to himself a wife in the person of the well-known Lutheran divine, Osiander. Such a step, so highly objectionable to the Church authorities and likely to be displeasing to Henry, who in spite of his own weakness insisted on clerical celibacy, was kept a secret, though it is not at all improbable that the secret had reached the ears of the king. At the time when the latter had made up his mind to set Rome at defiance, he knew how important it was for him to sacrifice his own personal predilections, for the sake of having a man of Cranmer's pliability as Archbishop of Canterbury, and head of the clergy in England. On the 30th March, 1533, Cranmer was consecrated archbishop, and took the usual oath of obedience and loyalty to the Pope; but immediately before the ceremony, he registered a formal protest that he considered the oath a mere form, and that he wished to hold himself free to provide for the reformation of the Church in England. Such a step indicates clearly enough the character of the first archbishop of the Reformation in England.鈥淭
To prepare the way for the sentence that might be published at any moment by the Pope a bill was introduced forbidding appeals to Rome under penalty of Praemunire, and declaring that all matrimonial suits should be decided in England, and that the clergy should continue their ministrations in spite of any censures or interdicts that might be promulgated by the Pope. The bill was accepted by the House of Lords, but met with serious opposition in the Commons. An offer was made to raise ￡200,000 for the king's use if only he would refer the whole question to a General Council, but in the end, partly by threats and partly by deception regarding the attitude of the Pope and the Emperor, the opposition was induced to give way and the bill became law. By this Act it was declared that the realm of England should be governed by one supreme head and king, to whom both spirituality and temporality were bound to yield, "next to God a natural and humble obedience," that the English Church was competent to manage its own affairs without the interference of foreigners, and that all spiritual cases should be heard and determined by the king's jurisdiction and authority. The question of the divorce was brought before the Convocation in March 1533, and though Fisher spoke out boldly in defence of Catharine's marriage, his brethren failed to support him, and Convocation declared against the legitimacy of the marriage.鈥淭
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