Foxe's Book of Martyrs -- 225. THE DEATH OF KING HENRY THE EIGHTH

225. THE DEATH OF KING HENRY THE EIGHTH

nd thus closing up this eighth book with the death of King Henry the Eighth, I will now (the Lord Christ assisting me with his grace) proceed next to the time and reign of King Edward his son, after that first I shall intermit a few words touching the death of the said King Henry his father, and the manner of the same; who, after long languishing, infirmity growing more and more upon him, lay from St. Stephen's day (as is above mentioned) to the latter end of January. His physicians at length perceiving that he would away, and yet not daring to discourage him with death, for fear of the act passed before in parliament, that none should speak any thing of the king's death, (the act being made only for soothsayers, and talkers of prophecies,) moved them that were about the king to put him in remembrance of his mortal state and fatal infirmity; which when the rest were in dread to do, Master Denny, who was specially attendant upon him, boldly coming to the king, told him what case he was in, to man's judgment not like to live; and therefore exhorted him to prepare himself to death, calling himself to remembrance of his former life, and to call upon God in Christ betimes for grace and mercy, as becometh every good Christian man to do.

            Although the king was loth to hear any mention of death, yet perceiving the same to rise upon the judgment of the physicians, and feeling his own weakness, he disposed himself more quietly to hearken to the words of his exhortation, and to consider his life past; which although he much accused, "yet," said he, "is the mercy of Christ able to pardon me all my sins, though they were greater than they be." Master Denny, being glad to hear him thus to speak, required to know his pleasure, whether he would have any learned man sent for to confer withal, and to open his mind unto. To whom the king answered again, that if he had any, he would have Dr. Cranmer, who was then lying at Croydon. And therefore Master Denny, asking the king whether he would have him sent for, "I will first," said the king, "take a little sleep; and then, as I feel myself, I will advise upon the matter."

After an hour or two the king, awaking, and feeling feebleness to increase upon him, commanded Dr. Cranmer to be sent for; but before he could come, the king was speechless, and almost senseless. Notwithstanding, perceiving Dr. Cranmer to be come, he, reaching his hand to Dr. Cranmer, did hold him fast, but could utter no word unto him, and scarce was able to make any sign. Then the archbishop, exhorting him to put his trust in Christ, and to call upon his mercy, desired him, though he could not speak, yet to give some token with his eyes or with his hand, that he trusted in the Lord. Then the king, holding him with his hand, did wring his hand in his as hard as he could; and so, shortly after, departed, after he had reigned in this land the term of thirty-seven years and nine months, leaving behind him three children, Edward, Mary, and Elizabeth.

            Moreover, forasmuch as mention is inserted in this place of the good inclination of King Henry, in his latter days, to the reformation of religion, by the occasion hereof it cometh to mind also, somewhat likewise to add, by way of appendix, touching the talk between the archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, the Duke of Suffolk, and Charles Brandon, as concerning the king's purpose and intent conceived against the bishop of Winchester, Stephen Gardiner, in that he could never allow any reformation in religion in this realm, and especially being offended with this, that men should use in their talk, "the Lord," as well as "our Lord." The said duke said unto the said archbishop, "We of the council had him once at a good lift, and should well have despatched him from his authority, - if the king's Majesty our master had stayed himself from admitting him to his presence; as then his Highness was content that we should thoroughly have sifted and tried him. "It was, my Lord," quoth the duke to the archbishop, "at that time when Gardiner's secretary was attached and suffered for defending the pope's authority. For then I, and certain of the council, having conference with the king's Majesty for that matter, his Highness was fully persuaded, that the bishop's secretary, being in such special favour with his master, would never stand so stiff in defence of the bishop of Rome's usurped power and authority without his said master's both advice, knowledge, and persuasion. 'For already, (quoth the king,) he played but a homely part with me, when he was ambassador to the pope concerning my cause of divorce. And therefore, (quoth the king to me,) send for him, my Lord, incontinently; and, by assistance of two or three more of the council, whom you think good, let him be committed to the Tower, to answer to such things as may be objected against him.'

            "This communication was in the evening, so that we purposed to have executed the king's pleasure and commandment the next morning. Howbeit our talk was not so secret, but that some of his friends of the privy chamber, (where he had many friends then,) suspecting the matter, sent him word thereof; who incontinently repaired to the king's presence, and finding some matter to minister unto the king, his Highness said to the bishop, 'We do marvel that your secretary hath thus notoriously offended against us and our laws. It is surely thought that you are not all clear in this offence, but that you are of the same opinion with him; and, therefore, my Lord, be plain with me, and let me know if you be that way infected or no. If you will tell me the truth, I will rather pardon the fault; but if you halt or dissemble with me, look for no favour at my hand.'

            "With this monition Winchester fell down upon his knees, and besought his Majesty for mercy and pardon, manifestly confessing that he had long time been of that opinion with his said secretary; and there bewailing himself, promised from that day forward to reform his opinion, and become a new man. 'Well, (quoth the king,) this way you have of me that which otherwise you should never have obtained. I am content to remit all things past, and pardon you upon your amendment.'

            "The next morning I had word how the matter was handled; whereupon I came to his Highness and said, 'Your Majesty hath prevented our commission, which I and others had from your Grace, concerning my Lord of Winchester's committing to the Tower.' 'Wot you what (quoth the king); he hath confessed himself as guilty in this matter as his man, and hath, with much sorrow and pensiveness, sued for my pardon; and you know what my nature and custom hath been in such matters, evermore to pardon them that will not dissemble, but confess their fault."

            "Thus wilily and politicly Gardiner got himself out of our hands. But, if I had suspected this, I would have had him in the Tower over-night, and have stopped his journey to the court."

            "Well," said my Lord of Canterbury, "he was evermore too good for you all."

            Moreover, as touching this aforesaid bishop of Winchester, forasmuch as he, in King Edward's time, bragged so much of his old master of famous memory, King Henry the Eighth, to the intent that the glorious vanity of this bishop, and of all others like unto him, may appear more notoriously to all men, here is to be noted by the testification as well of Master Denny, as also of Sir Henry Nevil, who were there present witnesses of the matter, whose record was this: that King Henry, before the time of his sickness, taking his horse upon the terrace at Windsor to ride out on hawking, saw standing before him the Lord Wriothesley, lord chancellor, with divers other councillors; and, amongst them, the bishop of Winchester. Whereupon he called the lord chancellor, and said, "Did not I command you he should come no more amongst you?" (meaning the bishop.) Whereupon the lord chancellor answered, that his coming was to bring his Majesty word of a benevolence given unto him by the clergy: whereat the king said, "Ah! let him come hither;" and so he did his message, and the king went straight away.

            Item, another time the king, immediately after his repair to London, fell sick, and caused divers times his whole council to come unto him about his will, and other his grave affairs. At that time the bishop also would come up with them into the outer privy chamber, and there remain until the council came from the king, and then go down with them again, to the end (as then was thought) to blind the world withal.

            Furthermore, as the king grew more in sickness, he, considering upon his will and testament made before, at his going over to Boulogne, willed the same to be drawn out again, with leaving out and excluding the bishop of Winchester by name from amongst his executors: which being to him no small slight, and a cutting off all their purposes, a way was found, that Sir Anthony Brown, a principal pillar of Winchester's side, pretending unto the king, as though by the negligence of the writer the bishop's name had been left out of the king's will, kneeled down to the king's Majesty, lying in his bed, and said, "My Lord of Winchester, I think, by negligence is left out of your Majesty's will; who hath done your Highness most painful, long, and notable service, and one without whom the rest shall not be able to overcome your great and weighty affairs committed unto them."

            "Hold your peace," quoth the king, "I remembered him well enough, and of good purpose have left him out: for surely, if he were in my testament, and one of you, he would cumber you all, and you should never rule him, he is of so troublesome a nature. Marry," quoth the king, "I myself could use him, and rule him to all manner of purposes, as seemed good unto me; but so shall you never do; and therefore talk no more of him to me in this behalf." Sir Anthony Brown, perceiving the king somewhat stiff herein, gave place to the king's words at that time: howbeit, seeking further occasion upon more persuasions put into his head, he took in hand once again to move the king to have the bishop one of his executors. When the king perceived that this instant suit would not cease, "Have you not yet done," quoth the king, "to molest me in this matter? If you will not yet cease to trouble me, by the faith I owe unto God, I will surely despatch thee out of my will also; and therefore let us hear no more of this matter." All this Sir Anthony Denny was heard to report to the archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, by the said archbishop's secretary, who is yet alive, and witness unto the same.

            And thus much touching the end of King Henry, who, if he had continued a few months longer, (all those obits and masses, which appear in his will made before he went to Boulogne, notwithstanding,) most certain it is, and to be signified to all posterity, that his full purpose was to have repurged the estate of the church, and to have gone through with the same, so that he would not have left one mass in all England. For the more certain intelligence whereof, two things I have to lead me: the one is, the assured report and testimony of Thomas Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury, hearing the king declare the same out of his own mouth, both to himself and to Monsieur d'Annebault, lord admiral of the French, ambassador, in the month of August, a little before his death, as above may appear more at large. The other cause which leadeth me thereunto is also of equal credit, grounded upon the declaration of the king's own mouth after that time, more near unto his death, unto Bruno, ambassador of John Frederic, duke of Saxony: unto the which ambassador of Saxony the king gave this answer openly, that if the quarrel of the duke of Saxony were nothing else against the emperor, but for religion, he should stand to it strongly, and he would take his part, willing him not to doubt or fear. And so with this answer he dismissed the ambassador unto the duke, openly in the hearing of these four sufficient witnesses, as the Lord Seymour, earl of Hereford, Lord Lisle, then admiral, the earl of Bedford, lord privy seal, the Lord Paget. But the secret working of God's holy providence, who disposeth all things after his own wisdom and purpose, thought it good rather, by taking the king away, to reserve the accomplishment of this reformation of his church to the peaceable time of his son Edward and Elizabeth his daughter, whose hands were yet undefiled with any blood, and life unspotted with any violence or cruelty.

            And thus, to finish this book, I thought here to close up King Henry's reign: but because a little vacant space of empty paper remaineth behind needful to be filled up, to employ therefore and to replenish the same with some matter or other, I thought to annex hereunto one story which happened in this King Henry's reign; which albeit it serveth not to the purpose of this our matter now in hand, yet, nevertheless, to supply the room it may stand in some place, either to refresh the travailed mind of the reader, wearied with other stories, or else, to disclose the detestable impiety of these counterfeit sects of monks and friars, who, under the hypocritical visor of pretended religion, have so long seduced and deceived the world. Although the deceitful parts and practices of these fantastical orders be so many, and in all places so notorious, that they are not able to be expressed; yet, amongst many, one you shall hear that chanced in this king's days, in the city of Orleans in France, by the Grey Friars, about A. D. 1534. The story is this:

            "The mayor's wife of the city of Orleans provided in her will, to be buried without any pomp or solemnity. For when any departeth there, in some places the bellmen are hired to go about the city, and in places most frequented to assemble the people with the sound of the bell, and there to declare the names and the titles of those parties deceased; also where and when they shall be buried; exhorting the people to pray for them. And when the corpse is carried forth, the most part of the Begging Friars go withal to the church, with many torches and tapers carried before them; and the more pomp and solemnity is used, the more is the concourse of people. But this woman, as I said, would have none of all this gear done for her: wherefore her husband, who loved her well, followed her mind herein, and gave unto these greedy cormorants the friars, who waited for their prey, (in whose church she was buried besides her father and her grandfather,) six crowns for a reward, whereas they gaped for a great deal more. And afterwards, when he cut down a wood, and sold it, the friars, craving to have part thereof freely and without money, he denied them. This took they wonderful grievously, and whereas they loved him not before, they devised now a way to be revenged, saying, that his wife was damned everlastingly.

            "The workers of this tragedy were Colyman and Stephen of Arras, both doctors of divinity; and the first indeed was a conjurer, and had all his trinkets and his furniture concerning such matters in readiness; and they used the matter thus:

            "They set a young man who was a novice, above, over the vault of the church, and when they came to mumble up their matins at midnight, after their accustomed manner, he made a wonderful noise and shrieking aloft. Then went this Colyman to crossing and conjuring, but the other above would not speak. Being charged to make a sign to declare if he were a dumb spirit, he rustled and made a noise again, and that was the sign and token.

            "When they had laid this foundation, they went to certain of the chiefest in all the city, and such as favoured them most, and told them what a heavy case was chanced; yet did they not utter what it was, but entreated them to take the pains to come to their service at night. When they were come, and the service was begun, he that was aloft made a great noise. Being demanded what he would, and what he was, he signified that he might not speak. Then was he commanded to answer to their interrogatories by signs and tokens. Now there was a hole made for the purpose, whereby, laying to his ear, he might hear and understand what the conjurer said unto them. There was also a table at hand, and when any question was asked, he struck and beat upon the table, so that he might be heard beneath. Then first the conjurer demanded whether he were any of them that had been buried there. After that, reckoning up many of their names in order, whose bodies had been buried there, at the last he named the mayor's wife. Here he made a sign that he was the spirit of that woman. Then he asked whether she were damned, and for what desert or offence: whether it were for covetousness, pride, or lechery, or not doing the works of charity, or else for this new sprung up heresy and Lutheranism. Moreover, what was the cause that he made such a noise, and was so unquiet: whether it were that the body being buried within holy ground should be digged up again, and carried to some other place. To all these things he answered by signs in like case as he was commanded; whereby he affirmed, or denied every thing, striking twice or thrice upon the table.

            "When he had thus signified that Luther's heresy was the cause of her damnation, and that her body must he taken up, the friars desired the citizens that were there present, to bear witness of such things as they had seen and heard, and set their hands to it in writing. But they, taking advisement lest they should both offend the mayor, and bring themselves into trouble, refused to subscribe. Notwithstanding, the friars took the pix with the host and the Lord's body, (as they call it,) and all their saints' relics, and carried them to another place, and there they said their masses; which they are wont to do by the pope's law, when a church is suspended and must be hallowed again. And when the bishop's official heard of this, he came thither to understand the matter better, and associating to him certain honest men, he commanded the friar to conjure in his presence; and would have appointed certain to go up to the vault, to see if any spirit did there appear. But Stephen of Arras was sore against it, and exhorted them earnestly that they should not so do, saying, that the spirit ought not to be molested. And albeit the official did earnestly urge them to conjure before him, yet could he not bring them to it. In the mean time the mayor, making his friends privy what he would do, went to the king, and informed him of the whole matter. And because the friars, trusting to their immunities and privileges, refused to come in judgment, the king chose certain out of the court of parliament at Paris, to examine the matter, and gave them full authority so to do: whereupon they were carried to Paris, and constrained to make answer; but they would confess nothing.

            "Then they were sent again to prison, and kept apart one from another; and the novice was kept in the house of Fremeus, a senator; and being oftentimes examined, he would confess nothing, fearing lest he should afterwards be murdered of them, for slandering their order. But, when the judges promised him that he should have no harm, and should come no more in the friars' hands, he declared to them the whole matter in order; and being brought before the others, he avouched the same. But they, albeit they were convicted, and in manner taken in the deed, yet refused they their judges, and bragged of their privileges: but it was altogether in vain, for they were condemned in open judgment, that they should be carried again to Orleans, and committed to prison, and afterwards brought openly to the cathedral church, and so to the place of punishment where malefactors are executed; and there should make open confession of their wickedness.

            "But even at the same time chanced a persecution against the Lutherans, which was the cause that this sentence, albeit it was too gentle for so great offence, was not put in execution. For because the name of the Lutherans was most odious, they feared lest the punishment of these men should not have been so much thought to be due for their offence, as done in reproach of the order; and many thought that whatsoever should be done to them, it would be to the Lutherans a pleasant spectacle, and cause them much to rejoice.

            "This order of the Franciscans was esteemed of the common people very holy; so that what time they were carried out of Paris, certain women, moved with pity, followed them unto the gate of the university, with many tears and sighs.

            "After they came to Orleans, and were bestowed in several prisons, they began to boast again of their liberties and privileges; and at length, after long imprisonment, they were discharged and set at liberty without any further punishment. Had not these persecutions before mentioned letted the matter, the king had determined, as it was certainly reported, to pluck down their house, and make it even with the ground."

            But to leave the memory of this idolatrous generation, not worthy any further to be named, let us occupy the time with some better matter.

            Amongst other injunctions and letters of King Henry the Eighth, written and set forth for reformation of religion, he wrote one letter to Thomas Cranmer, for abolishing of images, pilgrimages, shrines, and other monuments of idolatry; which letter being before expressed, we should also have annexed to the same the letter or mandate of Bonner, directed in Latin to Richard Cloney his sumner, appertaining to the due execution thereof: which letter because we have omitted before, the defect thereof I thought here, in this vacant space, to supply. The letter written to Cloney is this:

 

Bonner's letter to Clancy, keeper of the Coalhouse: for the abolishing of images.

            "Forasmuch as the thirteenth day of this present month, we have received the letters of our sovereign lord, by the grace of God king of England, &c., to us directed, and containing in them the commandment of his Majesty, by us to be executed in tenor of words which here I send unto you. We therefore will and desire, according as our duty bindeth us, to put the same in execution with all diligence possible, according to the effect and tenor hereof, in the king's behalf, and for the fidelity which we have in you assuredly approved, that you, incontinent upon the receipt hereof, do effectually warn all and singular parsons and vicars of this city of London, and of all our diocese, that they, immediately upon the sight and intimation of these present articles and interrogatories hereunder written, do cause diligent and effectual inquisition thereof to be made: to wit,

            "Whether there be used and continued any superstition, hypocrisy, or abuse within any their parishes or cures, contrary to any ordinance, injunction, or commandment given and set forth by the king's Majesty, or by his authority.

            "Item, Whether they have in their churches, or within their parishes, any shrines, covering of shrines, tables of feigned miracles, pilgrimages, images, and hones, resorted and offered unto, and other monuments and things wherewith the people have been illuded, or any offering or setting up of lights or candles, other than be permitted by the king's Majesty's injunctions; or whether the said injunctions he duly observed and kept in their parishes or cures, or else transgressed and broken; and in what part.

            "And further, after the said inquisition thus by them and every of them respectively being made, that you do certify us, or our vicar-general, what is done in the premises, upon the eve of Simon and Jude, or thereabouts, under the peril thereof following.

            "Dated the 14th day of October, A. D. 1541, and the second of our translation."

 

Previous Next