Imágenes de páginas

bonour only to be clearly disparaged. And I am in such a perplexity, that my mind is clean amazed. For I never had better opinion in woman than I had in her, which maketh me think that she should not be culpable. And again I think that your Highness would not have gone so far, except she had been surely culpable. Now I think that your Grace best knoweth, that next unto your Grace I was most bound unto her of all creatures living. Wherefore I most humbly beseech your Grace to suffer me in that, which both God’s Law, nature, and also her kindness bindeth me unto; that is, that I may, with your Grace's favour, wish and pray for her, that she may declare herself inculpable and innocent. And if she be found culpable, considering your Grace's goodness towards her, and from what condition your Grace of your only mere goodness took her and set the crown upon her head; I repute him not your Grace's faithful servant and subject, nor true unto the realm, that would not desire the offence without mercy to be punished to the example of all others. And as I loved her not a little for the love which I judged her to bear towards God and His Bospel; so, if she be proved culpable, there is not one that loveth God and His Gospel that ever will favour her, but must hate her above all other; and the more they favour the Gospel, the more they will hate her; for then there was never creature in our time that so much slandered the Gospel. And God hath sent her this punishment, for that she feignedly hath professed His Gospel in her mouth, and not in heart and deed. And though she have offended so that she hath deserved never to be reconciled unto your Grace's favour, yet Almighty God hath manifestly declared His goodness towards your Grace, and never offended you. ... But your Grace, I am sure, [acknowledgeth that you have offended him.”’—vol. i. pp. 155, 156.

The postscript of this letter, which is dated 3d May, 1536, is, however, like postscripts in general, the real expounder of Cranmer's resolution.

‘‘‘After I had written this letter unto your Grace, my lord chancellor, my lord of Oxford, my lord of Sussex, and my lord chamberlain of your Grace's house, sent for me to come unto the Star-Chamber; and there declared unto me such things as your Grace's pleasure was they should make me privy to: for the which I am most bounden unto your Grace. And what communication we had together, I doubt not but they will make the true report thereof unto your Grace. I am exceedingly sorry, that such faults can be proved by the queen, as I heard of * their relation. But I am, and ever shall be, your faithful subject.”’—vol. i. p. 157.

We shall not add a word of commentary of our own: that duty we shall leave for the present in the hands of Mr. Todd.

“The trial and condemnation of the queen almost immediately followed. Not content with this result, the king resolved on further vengeance; and after two days more the afflicted archbishop was obliged judicially to declare her marriage invalid, and her offspring illegitimate. But the direct ground, on which his sentence was formed, was never publicly declared. Her confession of a precontract with Percy, earl of Northumberland, which however he solemnly denied, has been supposed to have been made by

* “But upon no other evidence.' Note of Mr. Todd.


her, and to have been accepted by Cranmer, not without some hope of reversing the doom of death. But of this there is no proof. Certain it is, that “in the sentence of divorce,” as Fuller long since observed, “no particular cause is specified: there is no dashing on the credit of the lady, nor any the least insinuations of inchastity in it.” Thus the Act which now passed, referring to the Acts that were made at the time of her marriage, only generally mentions, that “certain impediments were brought to light which were unknown at the making of the said Acts, and since that time confessed by the lady Anne before the archbishop of Canterbury sitting judicially for the same.” It has been urged, that her admission of Henry having been criminally connected with her sister Mary before her own marriage, (one of the charges virulently brought against the sovereign

only by Cardinal Pole,) was obtained as the warrant for this proceeding.

But even if the charge had been true, of which there is no evidence, Henry would hardly have resorted to such an acknowledgment of his own superlative baseness. “In short, we know not what was her confession, nor the precise points on which she was convicted.”—vol. i. pp. 157–159.

Mr. Todd very freely and very truly talks of the superlative baseness of the king. Were there no words in the English language, in which he could describe the comparative baseness of the mitred instrument of the king 2 Is he silent upon this part of the subject from want of words, or from want of feeling 2 The death of Anne Boleyn, he coolly adds, in the page last quoted, ‘in no respect diminished the influence of Cranmer with the king.” We might have judged as much, without being expressly informed of the fact by this sage biographer, since we here find the king and the primate partners in a judicial murder, as they had hitherto been in acts of hypocrisy and tyranny, such as have no parallel in the annals of England.

It would require an ample volume to point out all the inconsis. tencies, errors, crimes, and follies, in the life of Cranmer, by which this foul and bloody judgment against Anne Boleyn was followed. There are, however, a few passages which we cannot altogether omit, as they place in a very striking point of view, the great blessings which the reformation brought upon this country. A clergyman of the name of Nicholson, who afterwards took the name of Lambert, was accused of denying the Catholic doctrine of the Real Presence in the Eucharist. Lambert was summoned before the archbishop, when the following scene took place.

“Cranmer accordingly cited the learned heretic to answer for his conduct, who appealed from the metropolitan to the regal authority. Henry readily agreed to be his judge, and Westminster Hall was the scene of the proceedings. Addressed by his sovereign, not with the condescension that endears to every man the character of royalty, the prisoner faltered. “Why standest thou still?” said the unfeeling monarch to him: “Answer, as touching the sacrament of the altar, whether dost thou say that it is the body of Christ, or wilt deny it?”—“I answer with St. Augustine,” said Lambert, “that it is the body of Christ after a certain manner.”—“Answer me,” replied the king, “neither out of St. Augustine, nor by the authority of any other; but tell me plainly, whether thou sayest it is the body of Christ, or no.”—“Then I deny it,” Lambert firmly answered, “to be the body of Christ.”—The monarch then merely telling him that he should be condemned by Christ's own words, This is my body, commanded the archbishop, who with other prelates attended at the trial, formally to refute the assertion.”—vol. i. pp. 258, 259.

Cranmer of course obeyed the command of the king, and entered into a long argument in order to convince Lambert of his errors. But the heretic, as he was called by the new spiritual governors of England, was not to be easily put down.

‘The night was now approaching the disputation. Overpowered by the taunts, not by the arguments, of the prelates, Lambert perceived that there was no hope of being fairly heard, and he was silent. The king then asked him, whether he chose to live or die? He replied, that he looked to the royal mercy. That was, however, denied, with the ungracious reflection, “I will not be a patron of heretics.” To Cromwell the direction was then given by the sovereign to read the sentence of condemnation. The unhappy schoolmaster was soon afterwards consigned to the flames,'— vol. i. p. 261.

The reader will hardly believe, that at this very period it is doubtful whether Cranmer himself held the doctrine, for the denial of which he sentenced Lambert to the flames At all events it is certain that he very soon after abandoned it, as well as indeed most of the articles of faith in which, down to that period, he had professed his belief, and that he returned to that doctrine and to those articles once more at the bidding of the king. In short, no weathercock could be more obedient to the wind, than the voice of Cranmer was, upon every occasion, great as well as small, to the dictates of Henry. Upon the death of Jane Seymour it became an important question who was to be her successor. Anne of Cleves, it is hardly necessary to inform the reader, was selected for that purpose, as a valuable accession to the “reformed party,” on account of her connexion, by her sister's marriage, with the Elector of Saxony. That we may not be accused of exaggerating any thing against Cranmer, we shall simply extract Mr. Todd's account of the sequel of this affair.

‘On the first of January (1540) the lady arrived at Rochester, where the king was impatiently waiting in disguise to admire the beauty that had been promised to him, like Calidore beholding the Graces,

———“yet of them unespied.”

But he did not, like the Elfin warrior, “see what pleased much his sight.” The person, as well as the manners, of the lady, excited in him immediate aversion instead of admiration. He was astonished that his agents as “wise men,” and that Holbein as an excellent limner, should have described her as attractive. Even the “goodly stature” by which she was distinguished, and which he had before suggested would be desirable, had now no charms for him. Before his courtiers he bestowed a coarse expression upon her; and to them he confessed that he would gladly avoid, if yet it might be so, the nuptial contract. But the contract was verbally fulfilled, and the lady became a nominal wife; of which empty distinction, after six months more had passed, she was deprived by the formality of a divorce. A precontract was the first of the frivolous pretences assigned as a ground of this proceeding. Depositions by Cranmer and other peers were tendered to this purpose. But it was on the sovereign's own reprehensible plea that he had not inwardly consented to the marriage, and that he was unable to subdue his antipathy to the lady, that both lords and commons, and afterwards the convocation, principally formed their determination to try the validity of the marriage. Before the convocation agreed to pronounce it void, Gardiner expatiated in favour of Henry's view, and examined witmesses to the purpose. The sentence of invalidity was then confirmed by the seal of Cranmer. I wish I could have said, that the primate had not concurred in this unworthy measure. Burnet admits that Cranmer had not now “courage enough to swim against the stream;” which is imputed to the fear, that his refusal to sanction the plea would have caused him to share the fate of Cromwell, whose execution, he knew, would immediately follow the divorce.”—vol. i. pp. 288–290.


Cranmer's gross ingratitude to Cromwell, when adversity came at length to convince that minister of the “uncertainty of human affairs,” is another of the many blots, which combine to render his memory detestable in the eyes of every man of right feeling. Abundant matter for censure might be found in the conduct of Crammer during the reign of Edward VI., and the short usurpation of the Lady Jane Grey, whom the archbishop supported until he saw that her cause became desperate. He then endeavoured to palliate his treason in the best manner he could, saying, that he had been over-persuaded to do this, and constrained to do that, according to his usual habits of servility and mean dissimulation. All his efforts, however, could not save him from the Tower, to which he was committed, for his having, with Ridley and Latimer, preached in favour of the sovereignty of the Lady Jane. From the Tower they were removed to Oxford, where they were allowed to take a part in a public disputation which was held upon several of the most controverted points of faith. They were all three adjudged by the two universities to be obstinate heretics, Cranmer having been already attainted of high treason; and the abominable system of persecution for religious opinions, which Cranmer particularly had established, while his star was in the ascendant, was now, by a retributive justice, turned against himself and his abettors.

Let it not be supposed, however, that we commend such state retaliations as these, by one party, upon its accession to power, against that which had previously fought against it: very far from it. We willingly subscribe to the censure which has been passed upon Mary, for her sanguinary proceedings against persons who differed from her in religion—proceedings which were altogether at variance with that religion, and can fairly be considered only as the result of the excited feelings, which prevailed in those days upon every question connected with the altar and the throne. After going through what we must call the mockery of a trial— but not less a mockery than those judicial farces which he had himself enacted upon similar occasions—Cranmer was condemned, as his companions had been, to be burnt. Ridley and Latimer having undergone their sentence, almost in sight of Cranmer, his heart already began to fail him. We would willingly draw a veil over these last scenes of his weakness. We feel for the man, and wish to do no more than barely to touch the outlines of that miserable series of shifts and vacillations, upon which a set of fools have conferred the title of martyrdom. Having been degraded from his archiepiscopal rank with all the ceremonies that could render such a proceeding most painful to his mind, Cranmer made no fewer than six, if not seven, different recantations, each succeeding one stronger and more comprehensive than that by which it was preceded, of the doctrines which he had at any time held, that were in any respect at variance with those of the Roman Catholic church. He solemnly declared his belief in the spiritual supremacy of the Pope, and “in all articles and points of the Christian religion and Catholic faith, as the Catholic church doth believe, and hath ever believed from the beginning.” The sixth of these recantations contains an avowal of the true origin of the reformation ; and for that reason chiefly we shall here transcribe it:

“I, Thomas Cranmer, late archbishop of Canterbury, confess, and grieve from my heart, that I have most grievously sinned against heaven and the English realm; yea, against the Universal Church of Christ, which I have more cruelly persecuted than Paul did of old, who have been a blasphemer, a persecutor, and contumelious. And I wish that I, who have exceeded Saul in malice and wickedness, might with Paul make amends for the honour which I have detracted from Christ, and the benefit of which I have deprived the Church. But yet that thief in the Gospel comforts my mind. For then at last he repented from his heart, then it irked him of his theft, when he might steal no more. And I who, abusing my office and authority, purloined Christ of his honour, and the realm of faith and religion, now by the great mercy of God returned to myself, acknowledge myself the greatest of all sinners, and to every one as well as I can, to God first, then to the Church and its supreme head, and to the king and queen, and lastly to the realm of England, to render worthy satisfaction. But as that happy thief, when he was not able to pay the money and wealth which he had taken away, when neither his feet nor his hands fastened to the cross could do their office; by heart only and tongue, which were not bound, he testified what the rest of his members would do, if they enjoyed the same liberty that his tongue did. By that he confessed Christ to be innocent; by that he reproved the impudence of his fellow; by that he detested his former life, and obtained the pardon of his sins, and as it were by a kind of key opened the gates of paradise. By the example of this man I do conceive no small hopes of Christ's mercy; that he will pardon my sins. I want hands and feet, by which I might build up

« AnteriorContinuar »