213. WICKED DEEDS OF BISHOP GARDINER
The pestiferous purpose of this bishop, and of such-like bloody adversaries practising thus against the queen, and proceedings of God's gospel, (as ye have heard,) putteth me in remembrance of another like story of his wicked working in like manner, a little before; but much more pernicious and pestilent to the public church of Jesus Christ, than this was dangerous to the private estate of the queen: which story, likewise, I thought here, as in convenient place, to be adjoined and notified, to be known to all posterity, according as I have it faithfully recorded and storied by him who heard it of the archbishop Cranmer's own mouth declared, in order and form as followeth.
A discourse touching a certain policy used by Stephen Gardiner, bishop of Winchester, in staying King Henry the Eighth from redressing of certain abuses of ceremonies in the church; being ambassador beyond the seas: also the communication of King Henry the Eighth, had with the ambassador of France at Hampton Court, concerning the reformation of religion, as well in France as in England, A.D. 1546, in the month of August.T chanced in the time of King Henry the Eighth, when his Highness did lastly (not many years before his death) conclude a league between the emperor, the French king, and himself, that the bishop of Winchester, Stephen Gardiner by name, was sent in embassage beyond the seas for that purpose; in whose absence the archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, attending upon the king's court, sought occasion somewhat to further the reformation of the corrupt religion, not yet fully restored unto perfection. For, like as the said archbishop was always diligent and forward to prefer and advance the sincere doctrine of the gospel, so was that other bishop a contrary instrument, continually spurning against the same, in whatsoever coast of the world he remained. For, even now, he, being beyond the seas, in the temporal affairs of the realm, forgat not, but found the means, as a most valiant champion of the bishop of Rome, to stop and hinder, as well the good diligence of the said archbishop, as the godly disposition of the king's Majesty in that behalf, which thus chanced:
Whilst the said bishop of Winchester was now remaining beyond the seas about the affairs aforesaid, the king's Majesty and the said archbishop having conference together for the reformation of some superstitions enormities in the church, amongst other things the king determined forthwith to pull down the roods in every church, and to suppress the accustomed ringing on Allhallow-night, with a few such-like vain ceremonies; and therefore, when the said archbishop took his leave of the king to go into Kent, his diocese, his Highness willed him to remember that he should cause two letters to be devised: "By me," quoth the king, "to be signed; the one to be directed unto you, my Lord, and the other unto the archbishop of York, wherein I will command you both, to send forth your precepts unto all other bishops within your provinces, to see those enormities and ceremonies reformed undelayedly, that we have communed of."
So upon this, the king's pleasure known, when the archbishop of Canterbury was then come into Kent, he caused his secretary to conceive and write these letters according to the king's mind; and, being made in a readiness, sent them to the court to Sir Anthony Denny, for him to get them signed by the king. When Master Denny had moved the king thereunto, the king made this answer:
"I am now otherways resolved, for you shall send my Lord of Canterbury word, that since I spake with him about these matters, I have received letters from my Lord of Winchester, now being on the other side of the sea, about the conclusion of a league between us, the emperor, and the French king, and he writeth plainly unto us, that the league will not prosper nor go forward, if we make any other innovation, change, or alteration, either in religion or ceremonies, than heretofore hath been already commenced and done. Wherefore, my Lord of Canterbury must take patience herein, and forbear until we may espy a more apt and convenient time for that purpose."
Which matter of reformation began to be revived again, at what time the great ambassador from the French king came to the king's Majesty at Hampton Court, not long before his death; where then no gentleman was permitted to wait upon his lord and master, without a velvet coat, and a chain of gold. And, for that entertainment of the ambassador, were builded in the park there three very notable, great, and sumptuous banqueting-houses; at the which it was purposed, that the said ambassador should have been, three sundry nights, very richly banqueted. But, as it chanced, the French king's great affairs were then suddenly such, that this ambassador was sent for home in post-haste, before he had received half the noble entertainment that was prepared for him, so that he had but the fruition of the first banqueting-house.
Now, what prince-like order was there used, in the furniture of the banquet, as well in placing of the noble estates, namely, the king's Majesty, and the French ambassador, with the noble men both of England and France on the one part, and of the queen's Highness and the Lady Anne of Cleves, with other noble women and ladies on the other part, as also touching the great and sumptuous preparation of both costly and fine dishes there out of number spent, it is not our purpose here presently to treat thereof, but only to consider and note the conference and communication had the first night after the said banquet was finished, between the king's Majesty, the said ambassador, and the archbishop of Canterbury, (the king's Highness standing openly in the banqueting-house, in the open face of all the people, and leaning one arm upon the shoulder of the archbishop of Canterbury, and the other arm upon the shoulder of the ambassador,) touching the establishing of godly religion between those two princes in both their realms: as, by the report of the said archbishop unto his secretary, upon occasion of his service to be done in King Edward's visitation, then being registrar in the same visitation, relation was made on that behalf in this sort:
When the said visitation was put in a readiness, before the commissioners should proceed in their voyage, the said archbishop sent for the said registrar, his man, unto Hampton Court, and willed him in any wise to make notes of certain things in the said visitation; whereof he gave unto him instruction: having then further talk with him touching the good effect and success of the said visitation. Upon which occasion the registrar said thus unto his master the archbishop.
Registrar:--"I do remember, that you, not long ago, caused me to conceive and write letters, which King Henry the Eighth should have signed, and have directed unto your Grace and the archbishop of York, for the reformation of certain enormities in the churches, as taking down of the roods, and forbidding of ringing on Allhallow-night, and such-like vain ceremonies: which letters your Grace sent to the court to be signed by the king's Majesty, but as yet I think that there was never any thing done therein."
"Why," quoth the archbishop again, "never heard you how those letters were suppressed and stopped?" Whereunto the archbishop's servant answering again: "As it was," said he, "my duty to write those letters, so was it not my part to be inquisitive what became thereupon." "Marry:" quoth the archbishop, "my Lord of Winchester then being beyond the seas, about the conclusion of a league between the emperor, the French king, and the king our master, and fearing that some reformation should here pass in the realm touching religion, in his absence, against his appetite, wrote to the king's Majesty, bearing him in hand that the league then towards, would not prosper nor go forwards on his Majesty's behalf, if he made any other innovation or alteration in religion, or in the ceremonies in the church. than was already done; which his advertisement herein caused the king to stay the signing of those letters, as Sir Anthony Denny wrote to me by the king's commandment."
Then said his servant again unto him, "Forasmuch as the king's good intent took no place then, now your Grace may go forward in those matters, the opportunity of the time much better serving thereunto than in King Henry's days."
"Not so," quoth the archbishop. "It was better to attempt such reformation in King Henry the Eighth's days than at this time; the king being in his infancy. For, if the king's father had set forth any thing for the reformation of abuses, who was he that durst gainsay it? Marry! we are now in doubt how men will take the change, or alteration of abuses, in the church; and, therefore, the council hath forborne especially to speak thereof, and of other things which gladly they would have reformed in this visitation, referring all those and such-like matters unto the discretions of the visitors. But, if King Henry the Eighth had lived unto this day with the French king, it had been past my Lord of Winchester's power to have visored the king's Highness, as he did when he was about the same league."
"I am sure you were at Hampton Court," quoth the archbishop, "when the French king's ambassador was entertained there at those solemn banqueting-houses, not long before the king's death; namely, when, after the banquet was done the first night, the king leaning upon the ambassador and upon me: if I should tell what a communication between the king's Highness and the said ambassador was had concerning the establishing of sincere religion then, a man would hardly have believed it: nor had I myself thought the king's Highness had been so forward in those matters as then appeared. I may tell you, it passed the pulling down of roods, and suppressing the ringing of bells. I take it that few in England would have believed, that the king's Majesty and the French king had been at this point, not only, within half a year after, to have changed the mass in both the realms into a communion, (as we now use it,) but also utterly to have extirped and banished the bishop of Rome, and his usurped power, out of both their realms and dominions. Yea, they were so thoroughly and firmly resolved in that behalf, that they meant also to exhort the emperor to do the like in Flanders and other his countries and seigniories; or else they would break off from him. And herein the king's Highness willed me," quoth the archbishop, "to pen a form thereof to be sent to the French king, to consider of. But the deep and most secret providence of Almighty God, owing to this realm a sharp scourge for our iniquities, prevented for a time this their most godly device and intent, by taking to his mercy both these princes."
A brief narration of the trouble of Sir George Blage.
Here would also something be said of Sir George Blage, one of the king's privy chamber, who, being falsely accused by Sir Hugh Caverley, knight, and Master Littleton, was sent for by Wriothesley, lord chancellor, the Sunday before Anne Askew suffered, and the next day was carried to Newgate, and from thence to Guildhall, where he was condemned the same day, and appointed to be burned the Wednesday following. The words which his accusers laid unto him were these: "What if a mouse should eat the bread? then, by my consent, they should hang up the mouse:" whereas, indeed, these words he never spake, as to his life's end he protested. But the truth (as he said) was this, that they, craftily to undermine him, walking with him in Paula church after a sermon of Dr. Crome, asked if he were at the sermon. He said, "Yea." "I heard say," saith Master Littleton, "that he said in his sermon, that the mass profiteth neither for the quick, nor for the dead." "No," saith Master Blage. "Wherefore then?" "Belike for a gentleman when he rideth a hunting, to keep his horse from stumbling." And so they departing, immediately after he was apprehended, (as showed,) and condemned to be burned. When this was heard among them of the privy chamber, the king, hearing them whispering together, (which he could never abide,) commanded them to tell him the matter. Whereupon the matter being opened, and suit made to the king, especially by the good earl of Bedford, then lord privy seal, the king, being sore offended with their doings, that they would come so near him, and even into his privy chamber, without his knowledge, sent for Wriothesley, commanding eftsoons to draw out his pardon himself, and so was he set at liberty: who, coming after to the king's presence, "Ah! my pig" (saith the king to him, for so he was wont to call him). "Yea," said he, "if your Majesty had not been better to me than your bishops were, your pig had been roasted ere this time."
But to let this matter of Sir George Blage pass, we will now reduce our story again to Anne Askew and her fellow martyrs, who, the same week, were burned, and could find no pardon.