The accession of Henry VIII. (1509-47) was hailed with joy by all classes in England. Young, handsome, well-developed both in mind and body, fond of outdoor games and amusements, affable and generous with whomsoever he came into contact, he was to all appearances qualified perfectly for the high office to which he had succeeded. With the exception of Empson and Dudley, who were sacrificed for their share in the execution of his father, most of the old advisers were retained at the royal court; but the chief confidants on whose advice he relied principally were his Chancellor Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Chancellor of England, Richard Fox, Bishop of Winchester and Lord Privy Seal, and Thomas Howard, afterwards Duke of Norfolk, Lord Treasurer of the kingdom. Soon, however, these trusted and loyal advisers were obliged to make way for a young and rising ecclesiastical courtier, Thomas Wolsey (1471-1530), who for close on twenty years retained the first place in the affections of his sovereign and the chief voice in the direction of English affairs. As a youth, Wolsey's marvellous abilities astonished his teachers at Magdalen College, where the boy bachelor, as he was called because he obtained the B.A. degree at the age of fifteen, was regarded as a prodigy. As a young man he was pushed forward by his patrons, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Winchester, and won favour at court by the successful accomplishment of a delicate mission entrusted to him by Henry VII., till at last in 1511 he was honoured by a seat in the privy council. New dignities were heaped upon him by Pope and sovereign in turn. He was appointed Bishop of Lincoln and Archbishop of York (1514), was created a cardinal of the Roman Church (1515), and in a short time he accepted the offices of Lord Chancellor and papal legate for England. If he did not succeed in reaching the papal throne, a dignity to which he was induced to aspire by the promise of Charles V., his position as legate made him at least virtual head of the English Church. Instead of being annoyed, Henry VIII. was delighted at the honours showered upon his Lord Chancellor by the Roman court. With Wolsey as his obedient minister and at the same time an ecclesiastical dictator, he felt that he had more authority in ecclesiastical affairs than was granted to Francis I. by the Concordat of 1516, and, though possibly at the time he did not advert to it, he was thus preparing the way for exercising in his own name the control that he had exercised for years through his chief minister in the name of the Pope.
The dream of reconquering the English possessions in France induced Henry VIII., during the early years of his reign, to side with the Emperor Maximilian and Ferdinand of Spain against Louis XII.; but the comparative failure of the expeditions undertaken against France, the resentment of the people who were burdened with taxation, and the advice of Cardinal Wolsey, led him to forego his schemes of conquest for a time in favour of a policy of neutrality. The election of Charles V. in 1519 changed the whole aspect of affairs on the Continent, and raised new hopes both in the minds of Henry VIII. and of his faithful minister. An alliance with Charles V. might mean for England the complete subjugation of France, and for Cardinal Wolsey the votes of the cardinals at the approaching conclave. While pretending to act the part of mediator between the rival sovereigns, Henry concluded a secret alliance with the Emperor in 1521, and prepared to make war on France. The failure of the forces dispatched under the Earl of Surrey, the disappointment of Wolsey when he found himself deceived by Charles V. at the conclaves of 1521 and 1523, and the outcry raised in Parliament and throughout the country against the French war, induced Henry VIII. to reconsider his foreign policy. The defeat and capture of Francis I. at Pavia (1525) placed France at the mercy of the Emperor, and made it necessary for Henry to come to the relief of his old enemy unless he wished to see England sink to the level of an imperial province. Overtures for peace were made to France, and in April 1527 Grammont, Bishop of Tarbes, arrived in England to discuss the terms of an alliance. The position of Cardinal Wolsey, which had been rendered critical by the hatred of the nobles, who resented his rule as the rule of an upstart, and by the enmity of the people, who regarded him as the author of the French war and of the increased taxation, was now threatened seriously by the public discussion of difficulties that had arisen in the mind of the king regarding the validity of his marriage.
The Lutheran movement that broke out in Germany two years after Cardinal Wolsey's acceptance of the twofold office of papal legate and royal chancellor, found little favour in England. Here and there, at Oxford, at Cambridge, and in London, individuals were found to subscribe to portion of Luther's programme; but the great body of the people remained unmoved by the tirades of the German reformers against Rome. Henry VIII., whose attention to religion was noted as one of his characteristics by the observant Ambassador of Venice, did not hesitate to take the field against the enemies of the Holy See and more especially against Luther himself. In a work entitled /Assertio Septem Sacramentorum/ (Defence of the Seven Sacraments) published against Luther in 1521, he defended in no uncertain terms the rights and privileges of the Holy See, and in return for the very valuable services that he rendered to religion he was honoured by Leo X. with the title /Fidei Defensor/ (Defender of the Faith, 1521). The example of the king, and the activity of Cardinal Wolsey and of the bishops, made it impossible for the few individuals who favoured the German movement to spread their views.
Were it not for Henry's eagerness to secure a separation from his wife, Catharine of Aragon, it is highly improbable that the anti-Roman agitation would have made any considerable progress in England. In 1499 Henry's wife, Catharine of Aragon, had been betrothed by proxy to his brother Prince Arthur, heir-apparent to the English throne. She arrived in England two years later, and the marriage was solemnised at St. Paul's on the 14th November, 1501. Prince Arthur was then only a boy of fifteen years of age, and of so delicate a constitution that fears were entertained by many that his wife must soon don the widow's weeds. Unfortunately these fears were speedily justified. In April 1502 the Prince fell a victim to a pestilence that raged in the district round Ludlow Castle to which he and his wife had retired. To prevent quarrels between Ferdinand and Henry VII. regarding Catharine's dowry, a marriage was arranged between Catharine and Prince Henry. The necessary dispensation for a marriage with a deceased brother's wife was granted by Julius II. (December 1503), and according to the agreement between the courts of England and of Spain, the marriage should have taken place as soon as Henry reached the age of puberty; but owing to certain political changes in Spain, and the prospect of securing a better match for the heir presumptive to the English throne, Henry VII. arranged that Prince Henry should appear before Fox, Bishop of Winchester, and lodge a formal protest against a marriage agreement that had been concluded during his minority and which he now declared to be null and void (17th June, 1505). This protest was kept secret, but for years Catharine was treated with neglect and left in doubt regarding her ultimate fate. As soon, however, as Henry was free to act for himself on the death of his father, the marriage between himself and Catharine was solemnised publicly (1509), and on the 24th June of the same year the king and queen were crowned at Westminster Abbey.
For years Henry and Catharine lived happily together as man and wife. Several children were born to them, all of whom unfortunately died in their infancy except the Princess Mary, afterwards Queen Mary of England. Even before there was any question of separation from his wife, Henry's relations with some of the ladies at court were not above suspicion. By one, Elizabeth Blount, he had a son whom he created Duke of Richmond and to whom at one time he thought of bequeathing the crown of England. In a short time Mary, the eldest sister of Anne Boleyn, succeeded to Elizabeth in the affections of the king. The fact that Catharine was some years older than her husband, that infirmity and sorrow for the death of her children had dimmed her charms, and that there could be no longer any hope for the birth of an heir to the throne, preyed on Henry's mind and made him not unwilling to rid himself of a wife, whom, however, he could not but admire even though she had forfeited his love. Were he to die there was no one to succeed him but the Princess Mary, and her right to the throne might be contested. Even though she succeeded, her marriage must inevitably create great difficulties. Were she to marry a foreign prince, he feared that England might become a province; were she to accept the hand of an English nobleman, a disputed succession ending in civil war was far from being improbable. His gloomy anticipations were shared in by many of his advisers; and Wolsey, who had set his heart on uniting the forces of England and France against the Emperor, was not unwilling to set a seal on the new French anti-imperial alliance by repudiating Henry's marriage with the Emperor's aunt, if such a dissolution could be brought about without infringing the laws of God.
Though it would seem that doubts had long since arisen in Henry's mind regarding the lawfulness of his marriage to his deceased brother's wife, and that questions of policy may have influenced the attitude of his advisers towards the projected separation, yet it is certain that it was the charms of the young and accomplished Anne Boleyn, that brought matters to a crisis. With her experience of the gay and corrupt court of France, she was not likely to be mistaken about the influence of her charms or the violence of the king's passion. She would be the king's wife if he wished; but she would not be, like her sister, the king's mistress. Overcome by the force of his desires, he determined to rid himself of a wife of whom he was tired, in favour of her young and more attractive rival. The fact that Catharine had been married to his brother Arthur was seized upon by him to furnish a decent pretext for the projected separation. His conscience, he averred, reproached him for such an incestuous alliance, and for his own peace of mind it was necessary, he maintained, to submit the validity of his marriage to the decision of the Church.
There is no convincing evidence that the idea of a separation from Catharine originated with Cardinal Wolsey, though the latter, longing for a matrimonial alliance of his king with a French princess, and not aware of Henry's intention with regard to Anne, was probably not sorry when he learned of Henry's scruples; and it is not true to say that the first doubts regarding the illegitimacy of the Princess Mary were raised by the French Ambassador in 1527. The whole story of the negotiations with France regarding Mary's marriage at the time, makes it perfectly clear that her legitimacy was assumed. The divorce proceedings originated in Henry's own mind, and the plan of marrying Anne Boleyn was kept a secret from Wolsey and from most of the royal advisers. When exactly the question of a separation from Catharine was first mooted is uncertain; but there can be no doubt that early in 1527 active steps were taken to secure a condemnation of the marriage. Wolsey entered warmly into the project, but most of the bishops whom he consulted were not anxious to assist him; and what was still more serious Fisher, the learned and saintly Bishop of Rochester, declared himself from the beginning a determined opponent. The capture of Rome by imperial troops (1527) made it imperative that the terms of the French alliance should be completed at once, and Cardinal Wolsey set out for Paris as the representative of England. While Wolsey was absent in France arranging the terms of the alliance, Anne Boleyn took occasion to warn Henry that his great minister was unreliable, that in his heart he was opposed to the separation, and that without his knowledge or consent negotiations should be opened directly with the Roman court. An agent was dispatched to Rome and succeeded in securing an interview with Clement VII., after the latter had made his escape from Rome to Orvieto (December 1527). It was contended on behalf of the king that the dispensation granted by Julius II. was null and void. In proof of this it was contended: that in the Bull it had been stated that Henry desired to marry Catharine, and that the marriage was necessary for preserving peace between England and Spain, both of which statements, it was alleged, were false; that at the time the disposition was granted Henry was only twelve years of age and therefore incapable of accepting it; that several persons mentioned in the Bull, as for example, Queen Isabella and Henry VII., had died before the marriage took place; and lastly that when Henry reached the age of puberty he had protested against the marriage, thereby renouncing for himself the favours granted in the Bull of dispensation. Later on it was contended, by those who favoured the separation, that the dispensation was issued by the Pope on the supposition that the marriage between Arthur and Catharine had not been consummated, and that therefore, since this condition was not verified, the dispensation was invalid. But here they were faced with the difficulty that the great weight of evidence favoured the view that the marriage had not been consummated; that in any case the dispensation was ample enough to cover both the impediment of affinity and public honesty; and that, whatever might be said against the Bull of dispensation, no such objection could be urged against the brief said to have been forwarded by the Pope to the court of Spain. As the English agents had been instructed to seek not merely the appointment of a commission to declare the invalidity of the dispensation, and consequently of the marriage, but also for a dispensation which would permit the king to marry a woman related to him in the first degree of affinity, whether the affinity had been contracted by a lawful or unlawful connexion, it was thought prudent not to lay stress on the argument that marriage with the deceased brother's wife was prohibited by the divine law, and that, therefore, the Pope could not grant a dispensation such as had been issued by Julius II. At a later date great stress was laid upon this argument.
Clement VII., while not unwilling to grant the dispensation requested, did not think it consistent with his own honour or that of the king, to grant the commission according to the terms drawn up for him in England. A new embassy, consisting of Edward Foxe, and Dr. Stephen Gardiner, Wolsey's secretary, was dispatched, and arrived at Orvieto in March 1528. The victorious progress of the French armies in Italy (1527-28), by relieving Clement VII. from the pressure of the imperial party, favoured the petition of Henry VIII. Arguments drawn from canon law and from theology were driven home by Gardiner with a fluency and wealth of knowledge that astonished the papal advisers, and when arguments failed, recourse was had to threats of an appeal to a general council, and of the complete separation of England from the Holy See. The decretal commission demanded by the English ambassadors was, however, refused; but, in its place, a decree was issued empowering Cardinal Wolsey and Cardinal Campeggio to try the case in England and to pronounce a verdict in accordance with the evidence submitted to them. As this fell very far short of what had been demanded by the English envoys, new demands were made for a more ample authority for the commission, and in view of the danger that threatened the Catholic Church in England, Clement VII. yielded so far as to promise that he would not revoke the jurisdiction of those whom he had entrusted with the trial of the case (July 1528).
Source of this article：http://anbjd.sflxhy.com/news/658b698928.html
Copyright statement: The content of this article was voluntarily contributed by internet users, and the views expressed in this article only represent the author themselves. This website only provides information storage space services and does not hold any ownership or legal responsibility. If you find any suspected plagiarism, infringement, or illegal content on this website, please send an email to report it. Once verified, this website will be immediately deleted.