Against this and as a concession to the reforming party in England Henry was pleased to approve of a translation of the Bible presented to him by Cranmer, and to order copies of it to be provided for the use of the faithful in every parish church (1537-38). William Tyndale, who had fled from England to Wittenberg, set himself to complete a translation of the Bible, which translation was published and smuggled into England in 1526. The translation was in itself bristling with errors, and the marginal notes were stupidly offensive. The bishops made desperate attempts to secure its suppression, but despite their efforts the obnoxious translation and even many of the more objectionable works written by the same author continued to find their way into England. The king, though nominally supporting the bishops, was not sorry that such works should be spread amongst the people, as a warning to the Pope of the consequences of a refusal to comply with the royal wishes. In 1530, however, he took counsel with the bishops and learned men to see what might be done to procure a good English translation of the Bible. They agreed that the reading of an English version of the Bible was not necessary for salvation, that, though the Scriptures in the vulgar tongue might be useful in certain circumstances and for certain people, they were more likely to be harmful at a time when erroneous books and heretical books were being propagated. Furthermore they advised that a proper correct translation should be made and placed in the king's hands, so that he might order its publication whenever he thought that a favourable moment had arrived for such a work.
Cromwell was, however, determined to push forward the new religious teachings. He was in close correspondence with an apostate Augustinian friar named Coverdale, who had been obliged to leave the country on account of his heretical opinions. At Cromwell's instigation Coverdale set himself to prepare a new translation of the Bible, and it was completed and published about 1535. Unlike that of Tyndale, who had gone to the Greek and Hebrew originals, Coverdale's Bible was made from the Vulgate with the aid of the German Lutheran translation. It was if anything even more objectionable than Tyndale's, but Cromwell intended to force it upon the clergy in the /Injunctions/ drawn up for their guidance in 1536, though apparently on further consideration he doubted the prudence of such a step, and the clause regarding the English Bible was omitted. In 1537 Cranmer presented the English Bible to Cromwell for approval. It was supposed to contain "the Old and New Testament, truly and purely translated into English by Thomas Matthew," but in reality it was only a compilation of the works of Tyndale and Coverdale made by one John Rogers. Though very objectionable from the point of view of Catholic doctrine it was approved by Cromwell as vicar-general, and copies were ordered to be placed in every church (1538). Nearly two years later Coverdale's "Great Bible" with a preface by Cranmer was published.
The results of the free use of such translations were soon apparent in the religious discussions that took place in many parts of England. Henry began to fear that he had acted unwisely in allowing the people to make their religion for themselves, and besides, as Cromwell had fallen, the conservative bishops like Gardiner of Winchester were in the ascendant. In the Convocation of 1542 grave objections were raised against these various translations, and with the approval of the king it was resolved to undertake a revision of them; but while the committee appointed for this revision was at work, a messenger arrived from the king forbidding Convocation to proceed further, as His Majesty had decided to take the matter out of the hands of the bishops and submit it to the universities. The bishops protested against this order, but their protests were unheeded, and an English Bible, that had been condemned by Convocation, was forced on the clergy and people against the advice of the ecclesiastical authorities. In 1543, however, an Act was passed in Parliament at the request of the king forbidding private individuals to take it upon themselves to interpret the Bible in any public assembly; noblemen, gentlemen householders, and even merchants might retain the English translation and read it, but this favour was denied to the lower classes "unless the king perceiving their lives to be amended by the doctrines he had set forth thought fit to give them liberty to read it."
Early in 1536 Queen Catharine died. Her heart had been broken by the conduct of the king and by separation from her daughter the Princess Mary. Time and again she had been commanded under threat of the severest punishment to accept the sentence of Cranmer's court, but both herself and the Princess refused steadfastly to subscribe to such a dishonourable verdict. After Catharine's death and merely to save her life Mary signed a document agreeing to the abolition of papal supremacy and the invalidity of her mother's marriage, though nobody attached any importance to a submission that was obtained in such circumstances. The death of Catharine was a great relief to Henry and Anne, more especially to the latter, who had some reason for believing that she herself had lost her hold on the affections of the king. Henry had already grown weary of the woman for whose sake he had put his lawful wife away and separated his kingdom from the Catholic Church, and the disappointment of his hopes for the birth of an heir to the throne confirmed his intention of ridding himself of a partner, who was regarded by his own subjects and the nations of Europe only as his concubine. She was arrested on a charge of misconduct with her brother and other gentlemen of the court, was tried before a body of the peers, and was put to death at Tyburn (17th May, 1536). Cranmer, who in his heart was convinced of her innocence, promptly held a court and pronounced her marriage with Henry null and void. On the very day of her execution he issued a license for the king to marry Jane Seymour, one of Anne's maids of honour, and before the end of the month the marriage was celebrated. In June Parliament confirmed Cranmer's sentence by declaring the invalidity of Henry's previous marriages, and the illegitimacy of Mary and Elizabeth, and by fixing the succession on the heirs of the king and Jane Seymour. Furthermore, in case there might be no children it empowered the king to determine by his will who should succeed. The object of this was to enable him to appoint as his heir his bastard son, the Duke of Richmond, but this intention was frustrated by the death of the Duke (July 1537).
While Parliament was in session Convocation assembled once more. Cromwell, as the king's vicar-general in spirituals, claimed the right to preside either in person or by proxy. Many of the new bishops who had been appointed since 1533 were distinctly Lutheran in their ideas and tendencies. Latimer of Worcester, who was well known to favour German theology, was supported by five others, Shaxton, Goodrich, Edward Foxe, Hilsey, and Barlow. Though Latimer on a former occasion had been censured by Convocation he was selected to deliver the opening sermon, in which he inveighed against Purgatory, images, altars, relics, pilgrimages, the carelessness of the clergy, and the abuses of the spiritual courts. Convocation having approved of Cranmer's verdict regarding Henry's marriage with Anne Boleyn, a petition was sent up from the lower house to the bishops complaining of the erroneous views propagated by various preachers in the province of Canterbury. The vast body of the older bishops were determined to condemn these heretical views, which were little less than the renewal of the Lollard teaching with a slight admixture of Lutheran theology, but Cranmer, Latimer, and Foxe were equally determined to prevent such a condemnation. The dispute promised to be both warm and protracted. Cromwell, however, appeared in the assembly with a book of /Ten Articles/ drawn up by the king for securing religious unanimity, and insisted that the prelates should accept them. The Articles were moderate in tone, and generally were not in opposition to the old theology. They approved of Transubstantiation, emphasised the importance and necessity of Baptism, Penance, and the Eucharist without affirming that these were the only three Sacraments, declared that good works were necessary for justification, that prayers might be offered for those who were dead, that the use of the word Purgatory was not to be recommended, that reverence should be shown to images and pictures, and that the older ceremonies should be retained. The great objection to these Articles was not the doctrine they set forth, but the fact that they were issued by the king's authority. That the King of England could revise the beliefs and ceremonies of the Catholic Church was in itself a revolution, and should have opened the eyes of the Catholic-minded bishops to the full meaning of royal supremacy. Furthermore, Convocation declared that the Bishop of Rome could not convene a General Council without the permission and co-operation of the Christian princes. A few weeks later Cromwell issued a set of /Injunctions/ to be observed by the clergy charged with the care of souls. They were to set forth the Articles drawn up by the king, to discourage pilgrimages and the observation of holidays that had not been abrogated, not to lay too much stress upon images and relics, and to warn the people to teach their children in English the Our Father, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments; they were to give one-fortieth of their incomes to the poor, one-fifth to the repair of the churches, and those who held the richer benefices were commanded to spend their surplus revenue in maintaining a student or students at Oxford and Cambridge.
In the autumn of 1536 three sets of royal commissioners were at work, one superintending the suppression of the lesser monasteries, a second charged with communicating Cromwell's instructions to the clergy, and removing those priests who were unwilling to accept them, and a third entrusted with the collection of royal taxation on ecclesiastical benefices. By these commissions the entire face of the country was changed. The monastic institutions were suppressed and the servants and labourers in their employment were turned adrift, the relief to the poor and the wayfarer was discontinued, and the tenants awaited with nervousness the arrival of the new grandees. The possessions of the religious houses, instead of being spent on the development of education and the relief of the taxes, found their way for the most part into the royal treasury, or into the pockets of the officials charged with the work of suppression. Oxford and Cambridge were reduced to sullen submission, and obliged to accept a new set of statutes, to abolish the study of canon law in favour of civil law, to confine the divinity courses to lectures on the Scriptures, and to place in the hands of the students the classical authors together with the Humanist commentaries thereon, instead of the tomes of Duns Scotus or St. Thomas. Such changes, as has been shown, led to rebellion in different parts of the country, but especially in the north, where loyalty to Rome was still regarded as compatible with loyalty to the king.
After the suppression of the rebellions in the north and the failure of Cardinal Pole to bring about an European coalition against Henry, the war against the greater monasteries was begun (1537). Those situated in the northern counties were charged with having been implicated in the rebellion. Many of the abbots were put to death or imprisoned, and the goods of the communities were confiscated. Several others in order to escape punishment were induced to surrender their property to the king's commissioners. In some cases the abbots were bribed by promises of special favours for themselves, in others they were forced to yield up their titles to avoid charges of treason on account of documents supposed to have been discovered in their houses or evidence that had been extracted from some of their monks or retainers. During the years 1538 and 1539 the monasteries fell one by one, while during the same period war was carried on against shrines and pilgrimages. The images of Our Lady of Ipswich and of Our Lady of Walsingham were destroyed; the tomb of St. Thomas à Becket was rifled of its precious treasures, and the bones and relics of the saint were treated with the greatest dishonour. Everywhere throughout the country preachers inspired by Cromwell and Cranmer, the latter of whom aimed at nothing less than a Lutheran revolution in England, were at work denouncing images, pilgrimages, invocation of saints, and Purgatory. So long as money poured into the royal treasury from the sale of surrendered monastical property and of the ecclesiastical goods, or so long as a blow could be struck at the Papacy by desecrating the tomb of a saint who had died as a martyr in defence of the Holy See, Henry looked on with indifference if not with pleasure.
But the news of such outrages could not fail to horrify the Catholic world, and to prove to Paul III. that there was little hope of any favourable change in Henry's religious policy. It was determined to give effect to the Bull of excommunication that had been prepared for years, and to call upon the Catholic powers of Europe to put it into execution either by a joint declaration of war, or by an interruption of commercial relations with England. The time seemed specially favourable for the publication of such a sentence. After years of active or smouldering hostility the two great rivals Charles V. and Francis I. had arranged a ten years truce (June 1538), and Cardinal Pole was sent as legate to Spain and France to induce the Emperor and Francis I. to take common action. James V. of Scotland promised his assistance, and a papal envoy was dispatched to Scotland to bear the cardinal's hat to Archbishop Beaton, and to encourage the king to co-operate with the Catholic rulers of the Continent.
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