But if Cromwell had received a check on the question of dogma, he determined to curry favour with the king and at the same time to advance the cause he had at heart, by securing the suppression of the remaining monasteries. An Act was passed through all its stages in one day vesting in the king the property of all monasteries that had been suppressed or that were to be suppressed. This was done under the pretence that the monks, being ungodly and slothful, should be deprived of their wealth, which if handed over to the king could be devoted to the relief of poverty, the education of youth, the improvement of roads, and the erection of new bishoprics. Under threat of penalties nearly all the great monasteries surrendered their titles and lands except the abbots of Glastonbury, Reading, and Colchester, all of whom were arrested and put to death (1539). This punishment struck terror into the hearts of the others, and by the surrender of Waltham Abbey (March 1540) the last of the great English monasteries disappeared. Finally, to show the state of complete subserviency to which the English Parliament was reduced, it passed an Act giving to the royal proclamation with certain ill-defined limits the force of law (1539).
It was evident to all that the position of Cromwell at court had become very insecure. While England was threatened with an European coalition he had suggested an alliance with the Protestant princes of Germany, and as Henry's third wife Jane Seymour had died (1537), after
having given birth to a son (later on Edward VI.), he determined to cement the bond of friendship by a new matrimonial alliance. The Duke of Cleves was brother-in-law to the Elector of Saxony and one of the guiding spirits of the Schmalkaldic League, and as he had given mortal offence to the Emperor by his acceptance of the Duchy of Guelders, Cromwell decided that a marriage between the Duke's sister, Anne, and Henry VIII. would secure for England both the alliance of the League of Schmalkald and at least the neutrality of France. Though Henry detested the Elector of Saxony and his friends as heretics, and though the Six Articles aroused considerable resentment in the Lutheran camp, the close union between Charles V. and Francis I. and the uncertainty of what steps they might take made it imperative to push forward Henry's marriage. The marriage treaty was signed in October 1539, and in December Anne of Cleves landed at Deal. Henry, who had been led to believe that Anne was both accomplished and moderately beautiful, could not conceal his disappointment when he met his prospective bride; but, as his trusted counsellors could devise no plan of escape, he consented with bad grace to go through the ceremony of marriage (6th Jan., 1540). Henry was displeased and made no secret of his displeasure. Cromwell, whom he blamed specially for this matrimonial misfortune, felt himself in considerable danger, though at the same time he resolved not to yield without a struggle. The contest between Cranmer, backed by the Lutheran party in the council, and Gardiner, the Duke of Norfolk, and the conservatives was sharp though by no means decisive. The king appeared at one time to favour one side, at another the other side, unwilling to commit himself definitely to either, especially as Cromwell was still reaping a rich harvest from the suppression of the Knights of St. John and from the taxes imposed on the clergy.
Parliament met again in April 1540. To the surprise of many Cromwell was created Earl of Essex (17th April), while a little later Bishop Sampson was arrested as a supporter of the Pope. The hopes of Cromwell and of the reforming party rose rapidly, and they believed that victory was within their grasp. The committee of bishops was at work considering the sacraments, but as both the old and the new clung tenaciously to their opinions no progress could be made. Suddenly on the 10th June an officer appeared in the council chamber and placed Cromwell under arrest. The long struggle was at last ended, and the men who had followed Gardiner had won the day. The war clouds, that had driven Henry to negotiate with the heretical princes of Germany, had blown over, and Cromwell, who had taken a leading part in the German negotiations, must be sacrificed to satisfy his enemies at home and Catholic opinion on the Continent. He was committed to the Tower to await the sentence of death which he knew to be inevitable, but, before handing him over to the executioner, Henry insisted that he should perform for him one last service. As Cromwell had involved him in an undesirable marriage with Anne of Cleves, he should provide evidence that might set his master free to seek for a more congenial partner. At the command of the king Cromwell wrote a long letter, in which he showed that Henry never really consented to the marriage with Anne, against which marriage the existence of a pre-nuptial contract was also adduced. On the strength of this, Parliament demanded an investigation, and a commission was issued empowering the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and others of the clergy to examine into the validity of the marriage. Convocation decided that it was null and void (July 1540), a decision with which Anne expressed her complete satisfaction. She was assigned a residence and a pension of ￡4,000 a year. On the 28th July, 1540, Cromwell was led to execution at Tyburn, where he expressed publicly his adherence to the ancient faith, for the destruction of which in England he had contributed more than any single individual with the exception possibly of the king. A few days later Henry was married to Catharine Howard, a niece of the Duke of Norfolk, the recognised lay head of the conservative party in England.
The penalties prescribed in the Statute of the Six Articles were enforced with great vigour, and at the same time those who maintained papal supremacy were treated with equal severity. While the men who denied Transubstantiation were burned as heretics at Smithfield, their opponents, who dared to express views derogatory to royal supremacy, were hanged, drawn, and quartered as traitors. Latimer retired into private life; Cranmer showed no signs of open opposition to the king's religious policy, and, practically speaking, all traces of the new teachings that had disturbed England for years disappeared. The aged Countess of Salisbury, mother of Cardinal Pole, was put to death in 1541, two years after sentence of attainder had been passed against her by Parliament, as were, also, a large number of priests and laymen suspected of having been implicated in an attempt to bring about another rebellion in the north. In consequence of this plot Henry determined to undertake a journey to York (1541) with the hope of strengthening his hold upon the people, and possibly also of securing the friendship of his nephew, James V. of Scotland, who had remained loyal to Rome and to France. The Archbishop of York made his submission on bended knees, presenting the king with a gift of ￡600 as a sign of the repentance of the people for their recent disobedience, an example that was followed in many of the cities and towns; but James V., unwilling to trust his life and liberty to the king, refused to cross the English border.
Henry returned to London only to find that serious charges of immorality were being brought against his wife, Catharine Howard. She was arrested and put to death with her chief accomplices (1542). Though the king could not conceal his joy at finding himself free once more, he hesitated for some time before choosing another wife; but at last in 1543, his choice fell upon Catharine Parr, a young widow twenty years his junior, who was believed to favour royal supremacy, though she had been married previously to one of the leaders of the Pilgrimage of Grace. It is said that once at least she stood in serious risk because she ventured to disagree with her husband's theological views, but, however that may be, it is certain that she had the good fortune to survive the king.
The struggle between the old principles and the new continued, notwithstanding all Henry's attempts to secure unanimity. As early as 1540 a set of questions had been circulated amongst the bishops, and as a result of the replies received and of the discussions that took place in Convocation a book was issued, entitled /A Necessary Doctrine and an Erudition for any Christian Man/ (1543). It was issued by order of the king, and for this reason is known as the /King's Book/ in contradistinction to the /Bishop's Book/, published with his permission but not by his authorisation. Just as the /Bishop's Book/ represented a revision of the Ten Articles, so the /King's Book/ was an extension or completion of the /Bishop's Book/, in many respects even more Catholic in its tone than the original. The king was now nearing his end rapidly, and both parties in the royal council strove hard for mastery. Gardiner and Bonner, Bishop of London, stood firm in defence of Catholic doctrine, and once or twice it seemed as if they were about to succeed in displacing Cranmer from the favour of the king; but the danger of an attack from the united forces of France and the Emperor, especially after the peace of Crépy had been concluded (1544), made it necessary for Henry not to close the door against an alliance with the Protestant princes of Germany by an attack on Cranmer, who was regarded by them as an active sympathiser. Once indeed Henry ordered that the archbishop should be arrested, but a sudden change of mind took place, and the order for the arrest was cancelled.
A new Parliament met in 1545. The royal exchequer had been emptied by the war with France and Scotland, and to replenish it an Act was passed empowering the king to dissolve chantries, hospitals, and free chapels, and to appropriate their revenues for his own use. Henry addressed the Parliament on Christmas Eve 1545 in a speech in which he deplored the religious differences that divided his people, differences which were due, he said, partly to the obstinacy of the clergy, some of whom wished to cling to all the old ways, while others of them would be content with nothing less than a complete renewal; partly to the fault of the people who spoke scandalously of their clergy, and abused the Scriptures they had been permitted to read. In itself this speech was a sad commentary on Henry's religious campaign, containing as it did a confession that despite all his violence and persecution, religious formularies imposed by royal authority were not sufficient to preserve religious unity. During the year 1546, though many persons were still sent to the stake for denying Transubstantiation, the power of Cranmer and his party was on the increase. The Earl of Hertford, uncle of the young Prince Edward and Cranmer secured the upper hand in the council, and the Duke of Norfolk, together with his son the Earl of Surrey, was imprisoned in the Tower (Dec. 1546). Surrey was tried and executed, and a similar fate was in store for the Duke, were it not that before the death- sentence could be carried out, Henry himself had been summoned before the judgment-seat of God (28th Jan. 1547). For some weeks before his death the condition of the king had been serious, but the Earl of Hertford and his party kept the sickness and even the death a secret until all their plans had been matured. On the 31st January Edward VI. was proclaimed king, and the triumph of the Lutheran party seemed assured.
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