History of England, Part II From the Accession of Henry VIII to the Revolution of 1689

Tout, T. F. --Powell, F. York

1898

CHAPTER III. Edward VI. and the Establishment of Protestantism. 1547-1553.

 

1. . was not ten years old when he became king. He was a sickly boy, with a consumptive taint, short for his age, with fair skin, high forehead, weak [1]  eyes, and some tendency to deafness. He was grave and precocious, and his schooling was forced on so early that he cared little for his play, and delighted to hide away in some remote chamber with his books, in which he showed a wonderful proficiency when still a mere baby. He had few friends, and lived a solitary and melancholy life, busying himself from the beginning

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with high problems of theology and politics, and showing little natural affection for his kinsfolk. He was very religious. No study delighted him more than that of the Scriptures, of which he read ten chapters daily; and he took pleasure in listening to sermons, and in taking notes of them. He specially loved the shrewd honest preaching of Hugh Latimer, who exercised an excellent influence over him. Edward early became an ardent reformer, and keenly sympathised with the religious policy of those who ruled England for him. When still a boy he eagerly followed the course of politics, noting down in the journal, which he kept from his accession, the chief occurrences of the time. The "godly disposition" of the "English Josiah" was extravagantly lauded by the reforming party; but as he grew up he showed traces of his father's self-confidence, harshness, and want of feeling, as well as of his firm will and splendid dignity of bearing. But everything was against him, and his faults should not be too harshly remembered.

2. The triumph of Hertford over Norfolk and Surrey, while the old king lay dying, secured for the reforming [3]  party the possession of the power for which they had been striving so long. .s plan for a carefully balanced council of regency was put aside, and Hertford was made Lord Protector with something of royal authority, having power to act with or without the Council, and "to do anything which a governor of the king's person and protector of the realm ought to do." He assumed the title of Duke of Somerset, and scattered peerages among his friends, his brother Thomas becoming Lord Seymour of Sudeley and Lord High Admiral, and Lisle being made Earl of Warwick. Gardiner and the other leaders of the old learning were excluded from the Council.

Somerset was an ardent reformer, who really believed in his principles, and who now strove to do everything in a hurry to make up for the weary years of waiting while his brother-in-law had lived. He was more honest than most of the statesmen of the time, though he was greedy beyond measure in appropriating Church property for himself. His soft words and gracious manner, his real sympathy for the poor and the suffering, and his bravery and skill as a soldier, combined to give him popularity, but he soon showed obstinacy where pliancy was needed, and weakness where he should have manifested strength. He had little practical

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wisdom, no power of compromise, and small insight into public opinion. He failed in his foreign policy, when he sought to carry out the ideas of ., but he was equally unsuccessful at home when he strove to repudiate all that Henry had striven for. After less than three years he fell utterly from power.

3. England was at peace with and when the new reign began, and a prudent ruler would have steered clear of foreign complications during the troubles of a minority. But [4]  Somerset, though his hands were full with the reforming of the English Church, was unpractical enough to think the moment come when he could carry out .'s old plan of uniting England and by the marriage of the little king and queen. Religion also moved him in the same direction, for lie hoped for the support of the Scots reformers, whose stronghold at St. Andrews had recently been captured by the French auxiliaries of the Scots government. Though there was an opening for prudence and diplomacy, the means taken by Somerset to unite the kingdoms made union impossible for another two generations. He talked of reviving .'s claims of overlordship over , and on 4th September crossed the Borders at the head of a great army, a large proportion of which was cavalry, to carry out his policy by sheer superiority of strength. All united to oppose foreign invasion, and a numerous Scots army took up a strong position on the left bank of the Esk, over against Musselburgh, hoping to protect Edinburgh, which had previously suffered so severely from Somerset's hands. On 8th September Somerset occupied the heights on the right bank of the river, while the English fleet, anchored close ashore in the Forth, threatened the left flank of the Scots. For two days the armies watched each other, but, early on [5]  the 10th, the Scots in their eagerness to attack Somerset, abandoned their strong position, crossed. the Esk over Musselburgh bridge, and marched against the English posted on the high ground beyond. This led to the decisive battle of Musselburgh or Pinkie Cleugh. The English moved down to meet the enemy, and the Scots pikemen, standing in dense array, after the ancient fashion, valiantly withstood the shock of Lord Grey's cavalry, which charged them downhill. The English horse broke and fled, but the pikemen were powerless to pursue them uphill, and halted in a dangerous position; where their columns were soon broken up by the merciless fire of the English from their higher quarters. The military skill of Warwick, who led the middle portion of the English army, now changed the fortunes of the day. He poured fresh masses of English cavalry down the hill, and this time the pikemen were at their mercy. The Scots army fled in disorder, and the English, with insignificant losses to themselves, utterly destroyed it. Leith was burned, and again ruthlessly plundered. But the military triumph of the Protector was more than outbalanced by his political failure. Indignant at the armed wooing of the English king, the Scots renewed their treaty with, where Henry II. had just succeeded his father, Francis I., as king. In the little queen was sent

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beyond sea to be educated as a Frenchwoman and a Catholic, and the destined bride of the future French king, Henry's son Francis. Her mother, Mary of Guise, henceforth ruled in the French and Catholic interest, and for more than ten years the cause of the Reformation seemed utterly eclipsed. French troops were sent to , and effectually prevented a renewal of the policy of invasion. In revenge for the attack on , the French assailed Boulogne, and after a long struggle won it back. After Somerset's fall peace was made with both countries on conditions that reversed all the successes of . ().

 

4. Somerset threw himself heartily into the work of reforming the Church, and giving up Henry's idea of a

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middle way, strove to make England Protestant after the German fashion. Cranmer entirely agreed with him, having long been secretly influenced by the [7]  German Lutherans, though he soon went beyond their teaching. The archbishop was a wretched politician, his weakness of character and deference to the great making him the tool of all factions in succession, but he was a man of some learning and much refinement of feeling, possessing a singular power of writing good English, a power he was now able to employ to the great advantage of the Church. His delicate scholarship and timidity combined to make him a lover of ancient forms, even when he was fast departing from their spirit, and did something to prevent him from utterly deserting the ways of . Too weak to withstand the greedy courtiers, who soon outvied Somerset in their pretended zeal for reformation, he was still able to go on working quietly to establish the new system on sound lines. It is largely due to the influence of Cranmer that, amidst the fierce passions and fiercer self-seeking of the reign of ., some solid results remained, that permanently affected for good the course of religion in England.

Immediately after the young king's accession, the bishops were compelled to take out new appointments by letters patent, in order to emphasise the fact that they were mere officials of state, with no independent power or divine right. Then a general royal visitation of the whole country was held to enforce the Royal Supremacy, and remove images and other "superstitious" emblems from the churches. The bishops of the old school, headed by Gardiner and Bonner, struggled in vain against the visitors. A book of English Homilies was next set up, as a sort of authorised sermons, which the clergy were to read to their flocks. Parliament ordered that the Holy Communion should be administered in both kinds, repealed the Six Articles, and the other Acts of Henry creating new treasons and heresies. A new Act was passed granting to the king such colleges, chantries, and free chapels as had escaped confiscation under ., and the councillors made haste to make themselves rich with the spoils. A mere fraction of the proceeds was kept for national purposes. Some schools and hospitals which the ancient ecclesiastical colleges had maintained, were " refounded," and perhaps a few new ones set up. These measures have given . a very undeserved reputation as a

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founder of grammar schools and patron of learning. This credit is not much better merited than the cheap fame won in the same way by . In other ways the Church was impoverished. Somerset himself pulled down churches and bishops' houses, to build himself a palace in the Strand. Cranmer was little more than a reed in his hands, and powerless to protect the Church. The clergy obtained a grudging permission to marry, and had their tithes secured to them. But they shared in the growing demoralisation, and many sought to make a little harvest on their own account. A few strenuous preachers of the new faith strove to kindle the sluggish zeal of a people who had grown careless of the old order, without any real enthusiasm for the new. Conspicuous among these was Hugh Latimer, who, refusing another bishopric, preferred to work as a simple preacher. He lamented that things were worse than in the "old days of Popery," and in plain homely language sought to make men ashamed of their greed and selfishness

5. The most important change now brought about was the abolition of the Latin services, and the setting up of a [9]  new English Prayer Book. Some steps in this direction had been already taken under ., and, since , Cranmer's committee had been hard at work. In , when Communion in both kinds was ordered, an English form of receiving that Sacrament was drawn up. At last, in , the Act of Uniformity was passed, enjoining the reading in all English churches of the form of service known as the First Prayer Book of . It was a very careful and reverent translation of the medieval Latin services into the vulgar tongue, with a few omissions and additions, and the putting together of the numerous short forms of service of the ancient Church into the order for Morning and Evening Prayer, but with great care shown not to wound the feelings of lovers of old ways. This was especially seen in the Communion Service, which taught the Real Presence and the Eucharistic Sacrifice, and carefully kept most of the ancient ceremonies. Such a little way did it go that the ardent reformers were dissatisfied with it, and those who hated the changes, like Bonner, could still try to carry on the new services in the old spirit, and with the old ceremonies. Accordingly, another royal visitation was held to enforce the new service book. Bonner was deprived of his bishopric, and imprisoned for the rest of the reign.

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6. Besides the religious revolution, the social and economic changes that had caused so much misery under Henrv VIII. were still far from having run their course. The only remedy that Council and Parliament could find for poverty was a severe law that any "vagabond" might be seized and kept as a slave for two years, being forced to work on bread and water and liable to be beaten at his master's pleasure, while if he escaped, he became a slave for life.

Somerset had let loose powers that he was not strong enough to control, and the quarrels of the councillors further distracted the realm and weakened the government. Pirates plundered the coasts, and the government could only pay its way by coining bad money, and forcing people to receive it as good. Somerset's brother, Lord Seymour of Sudeley, "a man of much wit and very little judgment," strove to rise into power as the mouthpiece of the prevailing discontent. He married .'s widow, and on her death sought to marry the Lady . He used his position as Admiral to make friends with the pirates whom he was sent to put down, and supplied himself with funds by obtaining the control of the Bristol mint. [10]  But he was too headstrong and rash to play his part properly. In March he was executed as a traitor, being condemned by Act of Attainder. But his brother's death gave Somerset only a short respite.

7. Disgust at the Prayer Book led to a new Pilgrimage of Grace in the south-west, where the first reading of the English service on Whitsunday was followed [11]  by a riot that soon grew into a widespread popular insurrection of the conservative western counties. The rebels denounced the new Prayer Book as "like a Christmas game," and demanded the restoration of the Mass and the Six Articles, and the recall of Cardinal Pole.

While the Devonshire men rose to uphold the ancient order, bad government and social grievances led the men of Norfolk, where the reforming spirit was strongest, to take up arms against the Protectorate. The eastern counties had suffered terribly from the enclosure of commons, which had deprived the poor man of his rights of pasture, and by the turning of plough-lands into sheep-walks, against which More had long ago lifted up his voice. While the poor found it harder to get work, a few rich men made unhallowed gains at their expense. The new

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landlords, who had succeeded the monks, looked upon landholding as a business, and rackrented their tenants to get a high interest from their investments. The atrocious law against vagabonds shows how bad the feeling between class and class had become. A local dispute now set the countryside ablaze. Robert Ket, lord of the manor of Wymondham, had a quarrel with a neighbouring landlord, and put himself at the head of a mob which was pulling down fences and denouncing enclosures. Before long a great army had collected on Mousehold Hill, outside Norwich, where Ket held a sort of court under an oak-tree, which he called the Tree of Reformation. Very moderate demands were sent up to the Council, praying that enclosures should be restrained and that "all bondmen may be made free, since God made all free with His precious blood-shedding." Getting no answer, Ket captured Norwich and defeated the royal troops.

Somerset sympathised with the eastern rebels, but was too weak to remedy their grievances. The revolts had to [13]  be put down, and he was pushed aside by stronger men. As Englishmen declined to were employed who had no scruples. In August John Russell, soon afterwards made Earl of Bedford, put down the western revolt, while Warwick defeated the Norfolkmen with terrible slaughter at Dussendale. The Council now sought to get rid of Somerset altogether. In despair he strove to rally the people on his side. Early in October he was degraded from the Protectorate and confined to the Tower. With unwonted leniency, he was soon released from prison, and even restored to the Council. But his power was at an end. Henceforth the Council resolved to keep the government in its own hands.

8. It was hard for a weak man like Somerset to wield the authority of . It was impossible for a little [14]  knot of greedy and quarrelsome councillors even to affect to carry on the strong rule, which alone could save Tudor England from anarchy. The councillors scrambled eagerly for wealth and place, and Warwick, the strongest of them, was a coarse, self-seeking soldier, who hid his ambition under a popular and magnificent manner. Without religious feeling himself, he now professed a great zeal for purifying the Church, since each fresh step of religious reformation

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meant a fresh confiscation of Church property. Circumstances favoured his policy. It was a dark time for Protestantism on the Continent. Luther was dead, and ., freed from his long rivalry with Francis, was resolutely bent on stamping out the Reformation in . A swarm of Protestant exiles now sought refuge in England. Among them were Martin Bucer, the learned and judicious Strassburg reformer, and Peter Martyr, an Italian, who were made professors of theology at Cambridge and Oxford. Disciples of the foreign schools gradually made their way to the front, conspicuous among them being the accomplished and courteous Nicholas Ridley, Cranmer's old chaplain, who became Bishop of London on Bonner's deprivation, and was conspicuous for his zeal in breaking down [15]  altars, and for his influence on the mind of the archbishop. A less temperate enthusiast was John Hooper who, on being made bishop of Gloucester in , refused to wear the "popish vestments" necessary for his consecration, and only yielded after a long imprisonment. Both of these were disciples of the Zwinglian school, and Cranmer himself was now drifting in their direction, having abandoned the doctrine of the Real Presence. Most of the bishops of the old school were deposed, Gardiner losing Winchester in , and being, like Bonner, imprisoned for the rest of the reign. The Council strove to prevent the Lady Mary, who hated the religious changes, from continuing to have the Latin Mass celebrated before her. After a long struggle they were forced to yield before the steadfastness of Mary and the threat of the Emperor to go to war if they per sisted. With all their violence, the Reformers were less sanguinary than . The only victims were a few upholders of extreme opinions, of whom the chief was the brave Anabaptist fanatic, Joan Bocher, burnt in for denying the Incarnation. Even Zwinglians held that such heresy as hers must be punished.

The scramble for Church property went on, and the government grew worse and worse. Bishops were forced to surrender their lands and received back a merely nominal equivalent. Statesmen appointed themselves to high ecclesiastical dignities, pocketed the revenues and neglected the duties that they were, as laymen, not qualified to perform. Bishoprics were suppressed, including several of Henry's new sees. was absorbed in London,

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and Gloucester, Hooper's diocese, was again united to Worcester. The wealthy see of Durham was similarly suppressed. It was plain that little Church property would soon be left. The revenues of the universities and their colleges were threatened, and scholars almost ceased to attend them, or proper candidates to offer themselves for the ministry. There was much discontent, but few dared to give it tongue. In Hugh Latimer, who had spoken too plainly to please the Council, was ordered to preach no more before the king. In their despair people looked to the discredited Somerset as a possible deliverer from the misrule of the Council. But the king coldly upheld Warwick against his uncle, and Somerset was arrested, convicted of felony, and beheaded on 22nd January , amidst the hearty sorrow of the people, who still looked on him as their friend. Warwick, now fully triumphant, was made Duke of Northumberland. He had the ear of the young king, and could carry everything as he would.

The forms of the earlier years of Edward's reign seemed to the disciples of the Swiss reformers, who now directed the [17]  policy of the Church, to be wanting in primitive simplicity. Accordingly the Prayer Book was recast, and superseded by the Second Prayer Book of ., enjoined by the Act of Uniformity of . This compilation marked a very great advance of the Zwinglian spirit. The changes in the Communion Service bring this out plainly. The words used in distributing the Bread in had clearly suggested the Real Presence. In new words were brought in which seemed to point in the direction of the Zwinglian doctrine that the Eucharist was nothing but a memorial Supper. But even these changes did not go far enough for many. Some objected to elaborate forms of prayer at all; many complained of the obligation of the communicants to receive the Sacrament on their knees. To satisfy them a rubric, called the Black Rubric by the foes of the advanced reformers, was added explaining that nothing idolatrous was implied in the custom. But great as were the changes in spirit, the real sympathy that Cranmer still showed for the ancient forms, and his rare command of dignified and appropriate language raised the Prayer Book of above the fierce passions of the hour, and made it one of the most permanent and precious results of the reign. Substantially it is the same as the present Prayer Book of the English Church.

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A new form of doctrine was now drafted in the Forty-Two Articles of , largely based on the Lutheran confession of faith, and the basis of 's Thirty-Nine Articles. Even more than the Prayer Book, they show how completely the English Church had abandoned the doctrines of . and adopted those of the Reformers. A code of Protestant ecclesiastical law, called the Reformatio Legum Ecclesiasticarum, was also drawn up, but there was no time to have it made law.

9. Change succeeded change, until the misrule of the ruling faction produced murmurs even from the subservient Commons, who, in passing a new Treasons [18]  Act, insisted on adding a clause that no one should be convicted of treason except by the evidence of two witnesses at least. Nevertheless Northumberland, secure of the support both of the courtiers and the advanced reformers, seemed firmly established in power. Unluckily for him the king's health began to break up, and it was soon clear that the sickly and overwrought boy had not long to live. By .'s will, the Lady Mary was the next heir, and she was an uncompromising friend of the Mass. The dying king was much concerned at the light of the Gospel being put out by his death, and Northumberland easily made him the instrument of an audacious plan to change the succession. He persuaded Edward that he had the same power to determine who should be the next sovereign as . had exercised, though Henry had an Act of Parliament at his back, and Edward had not. He further induced the king to exclude from the succession not only Mary, but , who was not unfriendly to the new system. In their stead Edward bequeathed the throne to the Lady Jane Grey, the eldest child ofs, Duchess of Suffolk, the daughter of Mary, .'s sister, by her second husband, Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk. The innocent victim of Northumberland's ambition was a young girl of sixteen, of sweet temper, strong will, and great devotion to the reformed doctrines. She was so fond of her books that she stayed at home to read Plato, when all her family went out hunting. She was now married against her will to Northumberland's son Lord Guildford Dudley. Thus Northumberland hoped to reign through his daughter-in-law.

Edward loved Lady Jane, and gladly fell in with Northumberland's advice. There was more difficulty in forcing the scheme on the Council, but, like Northumberland

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[19] 
, the councillors were afraid of Mary, and were too deeply pledged to draw back. Cranmer was loath to agree, but finally yielded with characteristic weakness. On 6th July Edward died.

1O. For two days the king's death was kept secret, and [20]  when further delay was impossible, Jane was proclaimed queen in London on 10th July, amidst a significant silence. Ridley preached in her favour to little purpose, and outside the capital no one thought of obeying her. Mary fled to the eastern counties, where the gentry of the most Protestant part of England flocked to her with every sign of enthusiasm. Northumberland hurried against her, but he had only reached Cambridge, when his troops mutinied, and he gave up the struggle. On 19th July, Suffolk told his daughter that her reign was over, and himself proclaimed Mary at the Tower gates, and the news was welcomed amid " bell ringing, blazes, and shouts of applause." The conspirators and their victims were cast into prison. On 3rd August the new queen made her solemn entry into London. The Protestant misrule was over, and the daughter of . had come to restore her father's house against the self-seeking duke, who had played for high stakes and lost.

 
 
Footnotes:

[1] Character of Edward VI.

[2] [1547--1547.]

[3] Protectorate of Somerset,1547-1549.

[4] Foreign Politics,1547-1550.

[5] Battle of Pinki Cleugh, 10th Sept1547.

[6] [1547--1550.]

[7] The Reformation under Somerset,1547-1549;

[8] [1549--1549.]

[9] The First Prayer Book of Edward VI.1549

[10] Execution of Lord Seymour of Sudeley, 1549.

[11] The risings of 1549.

[12] [1549--1550.]

[13] The end of the Protectorate,1549.

[14] The misrule of Warwick and the council, 1549-1553.

[15] Progress of the Reformation,1549-1553.

[16] [1550.1553.]

[17] The Prayer Book of 1552.

[18] Northumberland's plan for the Succession, 1553.

[19] [1553--1554.]

[20] Queen Jane and Queen Mary,10-19 July1553.