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This strange union, which was to strengthen and enrich the kingdom, to bind England and Spain indissolubly together, and both kingdoms to the popedom, proved the first link in that mysterious and wonderful chain of circumstances which finally shook England to her centre, incurred the bitter enmity of Spain, cost the English government millions of gold, and finally razed to its foundation the mighty superstructure of Romanism in England.
It was about eighteen years after he had taken his first step, that Henry took his second in the direction of the Reformation; or rather, before his movements began to appear publicly. So mysteriously slow, at times, are the ways of Providence.
During the first eighteen years of Henry's reign, nothing seemed more unlikely than that he should prove the great scourge of Romanism.
and the papal agent was directed to inform the Emperor Ferdinand
who seems to have been as anxious for the match as Henry VII. at first was that a marriage which was at variance with law and good morals, (a jure et laudabilibus moribus) could not be permitted unless on very mature consideration, and for the very best of rea
- nisi maturo concilio et necessitatis causâ. Hist. Eng. 1. 115. “His father, Henry VII., who, prompted by his predominant passion, avarice, had formed the scheme, and promoted the contract of that uncommon marriage, was afterwards convinced of its legality, and endeavored to prevent its accomplishment. With this view he persuaded his son to protest against the contract of his marriage, on the very day he was fourteen years of age, and on his death-bed he charged him with great earnestness never to celebrate that marriage." - Morison's Apomaxis, p. 13, in Henry's Hist. Eng., vol. xi. bk. vi. ch. 1, pt. 1, sect. 2, p. 204.
His cruel persecutions of the poor Lollards,* his bitter hatred of Lutheranism, and his bigoted attachment to the old religion, caused him to be regarded as the most important and reliable defender of popery in Europe, and secured for him the title of Defender of the Faith," and the complimentary present of the “ Golden Rose," a token of the special love of his holiness of Rome for his renowned son in Christ, Henry VIII.
After eighteen years of married life, Henry began to disclose to his confessor and to his confidential advisers his doubts of the lawfulness of his connection with his brother's widow. It has been common to attribute these scruples entirely to his desire to be rid of his old and unattractive wife, that he might marry the young and beautiful Anne Boleyn. But it is certainly more charitable, and quite as reasonable, taking all the circumstances of the case into consideration, to suppose that he really had conscientious scruples on the subject of his marriage; and that these scruples were quickened into principles of action by the continued loss of his children. Passionately desirous of offspring, particularly of male children, to whom the crown might be left without the terrible apprehension of a renewal of those civil wars which had been the bane and curse of England for so many years previous to his father's reign, Henry yet saw his offspring, one after another, either stillborn or sinking into premature graves, with a single insignificant exception, the sickly “ Lady Mary.” It was not unnatural, therefore, for him to look on these events as frowns of Providence on an unlawful, incestuous marriage.*
* See vol. 1. pp. 546-62, of this work. Fox gives the details of these persecutions. Vol. 11. pp. 4–182. See also Burnet, vol. 1. pt. 1. bk. I. pp. 27-30, and Fox, II. 209–69, for details of persecutions between 1527 and 1533.
ţ Burnet, vol. I. pt. I. bk. I. pp. 18, 19; and pt. II. Records, bk. I. No. 2.
Whatever may have induced the king to agitate this question of the lawfulness of his marriage, he found his scruples strengthened by a study of the schoolmen, particularly by his favorite, Thomas Aquinas, and also by the opinions of his councillors and others, learned canonists and divines. And after all, it is quite possible that his conscientious scruples may have had an additional strength given to them by the appearance at court, about this time, of a beautiful young lady, whom he soon selected as the successor of the discarded queen.
* This is Froude's view of the matter. Hist. Eng., 1. 115–18. Henry, the historian, seems to incline to the same view. Vol. xi. bk. vi. ch. 1, p. 204. Froude has collected, from different sources, intimations, or direct assertions, which justify the belief that between June 30, 1509, and May, 1518, Henry lost, in rapid succession, at least six children ; three of whom were known to be sons; one of whom lived less than two months, one died immediately after birth, and one was stillborn. Henry himself says: “All such issue, male, as I have received of the queen, died incontinent [immediately] after they were born ; so that I doubt the punishment of God in that behalf.” The punishment to which he refers is doubtless that alluded to in Leviticus 20: 21. “If a man shall take his brother's wife, it is an unclean thing : * * * they shall be childless."
The first movement of the king for a divorce, beyond his confessional and privy-council room, appears to have been made in the year 1527, when we find Wolsey travelling about the kingdom, consulting trustworthy dignitaries in Church and State on what he calls “the king's private matier.” In the fall of 1527 agents were despatched to Rome to prepare the pope for an application for a divorce, and to decide on " the fittest tools to work by." And on the 5th of December, 1527, Wolsey sent the first despatch to the English ambassador at Rome, Cassali, to proceed in this business “very vigorously and with great diligence”; and laid out for him a plan of operations. The grand end to be sought was, to induce the pope, without consulting any one, to grant a commission to Cardinal Wolsey, with the assistance of such as his holiness should choose, to proceed forthwith in the examination of the cause; and if the pope would grant this, and such dispensations and bulls as might be necessary to carry out Henry's wishes, the king was ready to promise anything that the holy father might ask.
* It is difficult to deny that the element of love for Anne Boleyn had something to do with the quickened activity of Henry's conscience just at this time. Cavendish gives a long and circumstantial account of the effort of Wolsey, by the king's command, to break up the engagement between Anne Boleyn and Lord Percy, one of the cardinal's attendants. Though the date of this effort is not given by Cavendish, yet there is good reason to believe that it must have been as early as 1527, possibly even a year earlier. Compare Cavendish's Life of Wolsey, pp. 118–34, with pp. 29, 30. See also Herbert's Life of Hen. VIII., 284–87; Soames's Hist. Reformation, 1. 181-90.
“There is not the least evidence " that Anne Boleyn came to England earlier than February, 1527; and in another place: “We cannot now determine the precise date of Henry's regard for this interesting young woman; but there is no evidence that it preceded the spring of 1527.” — Hist. Hen. VIII., vol. II. pp. 185, 195. The twenty-first chapter is devoted to Anne Boleyn.
The pope, when first approached, expressed his readiness to accede to the king's wishes. But a Spanish agent, probably suspecting what was going on, interfered, and secured the pope's promise, that nothing should be granted to the king, to the prejudice of the queen, without first communicating with the imperialists. And now began a series of manœuvres and counter-manæuvres, promises and breaches of promise, pretences and deceptions, by which the decision of the question was deferred, and the king flattered with hopes, and deceived by his flatterers, promised relief which never came, kept in expectancy only to be cheated, his case neither decided for nor against him; until his patience was exhausted, and all confidence in “the holy father” at Rome and his equally holy consistory was utterly destroyed; and Henry resolved to do for himself what neither patient waiting, free expenditure of money, nor any amount
* Burnet, vol. 1. pt. 1. bk. 1. pp. 90-94; and pt. 11. Records, bk. 11. No. 3, pp. 12–21. See also other despatches for the same general topic - Nos. 4 and 5.