Foxe's Book of Martyrs -- 324. THE DEATH AND END OF STEPHEN GARDINER, BISHOP OF WINCHESTER, THE ENEMY OF GOD'S WORD.

324. THE DEATH AND END OF STEPHEN GARDINER, BISHOP OF WINCHESTER, THE ENEMY OF GOD'S WORD.

 

HE next month after the burning of Dr. Ridley and Master Latimer, which was the month of November, Stephen Gardiner, bishop and chancellor, a man hated of God and all good men, ended his wretched life: concerning the qualities, nature, and disposition of which man, forasmuch as somewhat hath been declared before in the story of King Edward's reign, I shall need therefore the less now to stand greatly upon the same. First, this viper's bird, crept out of the town of Bury in Suffolk, was brought up most part of his youth in Cambridge; his wit, capacity, memory, and other endowments of nature were not to be complained of, if he had well used and rightly applied the same; wherein there was no great want of God's part in him, if he had not rather himself wanted to the goodness of his gifts. Through this promptness, activity, and towardness of his, he profited not a little in such studies as he gave his head unto, as first in the civil Iaw, then in languages and such other like, especially in those arts and faculties which had any prospect to dignity and preferment to be hoped for. Besides other ornaments or helps of nature, memory chiefly seemed in him very beneficial, rather than diligence of study.

            To these gifts and qualities were joined again as great or greater vices, which not so much followed him, as overtook him; not so much burdened him, as made him burdenous to the whole realm. He was of a proud stomach, and high-minded, in his own opinion and conceit flattering himself too much; in wit, crafty and subtle; towards his superiors flattering and fair spoken; to his inferiors fierce; against his equal stout and envious, namely, if in judgment and sentence he any thing withstood him, as appeared between the good Lord Cromwell and him in the reign of King Henry, being of like haughtiness of stomach as the poets write of Pelides, cedere nescius: who, although he would give no place to men, yet notwithstanding I wish he would have given place to truth, according as he seemed not altogether ignorant of that truth. What his knowledge was therein, it is evidently partly to understand as well by his book De Vera Obedientia; as also by his sermon before King Edward. Also by his answers to the council the same time, and moreover by his own words it may he gathered in sundry places, as more plainly may appear by that which hereafter followeth.

            Upon his estimation and fame he stood too much, more than was meet for a man of his coat and calling, whose profession was to be crucified unto the world, which thing made him so stiff in maintaining that he had once begun to take upon him. I will not here speak of that which hath been constantly reported to me touching the monstrous making and mishaped fashion of his feet and toes, the nails whereof were said not to be like to other men's, but to crook downward, and to be sharp like the claws of ravening beasts. What his learning was in the civil and canon law I have not to say. What it was in other liberal sciences and arts, this I suppose, that neither his continuance in study nor diligence of reading was such (by reason of his too much intermeddling in princes' matters) as could truly well merit unto him the title of a deep learned man. But what learning or cunning soever it was he had, so it fared in him, as it doth in butchers, which use to blow up their flesh: even so he with boldness and stoutness, and specially with authority, made those gifts that he had to appear much greater than they were in very deed. Whereunto, peradventure, use also, and experience abroad, brought no little helps, rather than either quickness of wit, or happiness of education.

            And as touching divinity, he was so variable, wavering with time, that no constant censure can be given what to make of him. If his doings and writings were according to his conscience, no man can rightly say whether he was a right protestant or papist. If he wrote otherwise than he thought, for fear, or to bear with time, then was he a double deep dissembler before God and man, to say and unsay, to write and unwrite, to swear and forswear, so as he did. For first in the beginning of Queen Anne's time, who was so forward or so busy in the matter of the king's divorce as Stephen Gardiner, who was first sent to Rome, and then to the emperor with Edward Foxe, as chief agent in the behalf of the Lady Anne? by whom also he was preferred to the bishopric of Winchester, as Edward Bonner was preferred to the bishopric of London. Again, at the abolishing of the pope, who so ready to swear or so vehement to write against the pope as he, as not only by his sermons, but also hy his book De Obedientia may appear? in which book De Obedientia, lest any should think him drawn thereunto otherwise than by his own consent, he plainly declareth how, not rashly nor upon a sudden, but upon a long deliberation and advertisement in himself about the matter, he at length uttered his judgment; whereof read before. And moreover, so he uttered his judgment in writing against the usurped supremacy of the pope, that, coming to Louvain afterward, he was there accounted for a person excommunicate and a schismatic, insomuch that he was not permitted in their church to say mass; and moreover, in their public sermons they openly cried out against him. Whereof read hereafter following.

            And thus long continued he firm and forward, so that who but Winchester, during all the time and reign of Queen Anne? After her decease that time by little and little carried him away, till at length the emulation of Cromwell's estate, and especially (as it seemeth) for his so much favouring of Bonner, whom Winchester at that time in no case could abide, made him an utter enemy both against him, and also his religion: till again, in King Edward's days, he began a little to rebate from certain points of popery, and somewhat to smell of the gospel, as both by his sermon before King Edward, as also by his subscribing to certain articles, may appear. And this was a half turn of Stephen Gardiner from popery again to the gospel, and, no doubt, he would have further turned, had not the unlucky decay of the duke of Somerset clean turned him away from true divinity, to plain popery; wherein he continued a cruel persecutor to his dying day.

            And thus much concerning the trade and profession of Stephen Gardiner's popish divinity. In which his popish trade, whether he followed more true judgment, or else time, or rather the spirit of ambition and vain-glory, it is doubtful to say; and so much the more doubtful, because in his doings and writings a man may see him not only contrary to himself, but also in some points contrary to other papists. And furthermore, where he agreeth with them, he seemeth therein not so much to follow his own sense, as the mind and meaning of Pereseus; out of whose book the greatest part of Winchester's divinity seemeth to be borrowed.

            And therefore as in the true knowledge of God's holy word and Scripture he appeareth nobody; so in his pen and style of writing no less far is he from commendation, than he is from all plainness and perspicuity: in whose obscure and perplex kind of writing, although peradventure some sense may be found with some searching, yet shall no reader find any sweetness in his reading.

            What moved him to be so sturdy against Master Cheke, and Sir Thomas Smith, for the Greek pronunciation, others may think what they please: I speak but what I think, that so he did, for that he saw it a thing rather newly begun, than truly impugned. Such was the disposition of that man, as it seemeth, that of purpose he ever affected to seem to he a patron of old customs, though they were never so rotten with age. Amongst other matters, this one thing I cannot but smile at in my mind, when I see how proudly he braggeth, and vainly vaunteth himself, (as well in his letters to the lord protector, and others of King Edward's council, as also in his long matter articulated and exhibited by him unto the archbishop of Canterbury, and other the king's commissioners,) of the high favour he had of the noble king of famous memory, King Henry the Eighth, when indeed nothing was less true; neither did the king less favour any of his council than him, affirming very often, that he greatly suspected the said bishop to be a secret maintainer of the bishop of Rome's usurped authority, and a stout disturber and hinderer of his proceedings in reformation of religion. And therefore he did so much dislike him, that he did not only mind (if the Lord had sent his Highness longer life) to have used the extremity of law against him, upon very sore and just matter of old committed by him, and yet not taken away by any pardon, commanding thereupon often the Lord Paget, then his secretary, to keep safe certain writings which he had against him; but also commanded that he should be put clean out of his last will and testament, not suffering him either to be any of his executors, or else in any case of his son's council, (no, although he were earnestly entreated to the contrary by sundry of the lords and others of his Highness's council,) saying, he was a wilful, troublesome, and headstrong man, and not meet to be about his son, or to have any thing to do by his will.

            Now amongst other causes that moved the king thus to suspect his fidelity towards his godly proceedings in religion, I find this to be one. It pleased his Majesty, after his abolishing of the bishop of Rome's usurped authority, (amongst other embassages to foreign princes,) to send the said bishop of Winchester, and Sir Henry Knivet, knight, as joint ambassadors to the emperor, being then at a diet or council at Ratisbon, appointing also Sir John Barkley, Sir William Blunt, knights, and Master Andrew Beynton, esquire, (his Highness's servants,) to give their attendance upon the said Sir Henry Knivet, for the more honouring of his embassage. It happened also at that time, that Sir Henry Knivet entertained into his service, as steward of his household, one William Wolfe, who had in the same place and room before served Sir Thomas Wyat, knight, the king's former ambassador there, and by that means had good acquaintance in those parts, as well in the emperor's court, as elsewhere. This Wolfe, towards the latter end of the diet or council, happened to walk (as often he did) towards the emperor's palace to hear some news, where he met with one Ludovico, an Italian merchant, a banker, one of his old acquaintance; who, supposing the said Wolfe to have attended upon the bishop of Winchester, (not knowing of any other joint ambassador,) required Wolfe for old acquaintance to do him a pleasure; whereunto he willingly granted. Whereupon Ludovico showed him that the pope's legate or ambassador to the emperor, (which was Cardinal Contarini,) departing the day before towards Rome, and having no leisure to end his business himself, had put the said Ludovico in trust for the accomplishing of it; and amongst all other things he had especially charged him, that he should repair to the ambassador of England, and require of him an answer of the pope's letters, which the legate did of late send unto him, addressed to him from Rome; and that upon the receipt thereof he should send them after with all speed; and therefore, if his lord ambassador would write by that courier, he prayed Wolfe to tell him that it was time to write, for the courier went away within a day or two. At this tale Wolfe being abashed, and yet partly guessing which ambassador he meant, thought it not meet to tell him whose servant he was, but by other soothing talk perceived that he meant the bishop of Winchester. And to the end that Ludovico should suspect nothing, he answered him, that he, being not the ambassador's secretary, could say little therein; howbeit he would not miss to put his secretary in remembrance of it (which thing Ludovico also desired him to do, for that he had no other acquaintance with the ambassador); and so for that time they departed. This matter seeming to Wolfe of some importance, he did straightways reveal it to Sir Henry Knivet his master; who, weighing also the greatness of the case, and what disadvantage it were upon one man's so bare report to attempt aught, in a place and time, whereby such a person was to be touched, charged Wolfe well to advise himself, that no affect of hate, displeasure, or other passion, did move him to disclose this, but truth only. Wolfe replied, that he weighed well the weightiness of the cause, meet, as to his own respect, to be passed over in silence, for avoiding of his private displeasure, if duty of allegiance bound him not otherwise. "But sir," quoth he, "if you think not my hearing thereof, one to one, to be sufficient, I warrant you to devise means, that some other of your servants shall hear the like words at Ludovico's own mouth, as well as I." Upon which talk Sir Henry Knivet devised which of his servants he might use to that purpose, and at last rested upon Master Thomas Chaloner his secretary, because he had the Italian tongue: not yet making him privy of any matter, but willed Wolfe to take him abroad with him as of his own private motion, for they were very familiar friends. Whereupon the next morning, being Sunday, Wolfe came to Chaloner's chamber, and prayed him familiarly to go walk with him abroad to the piazza, or market-stead, which he, gladly granting, so did; not knowing of any special cause why. When they came to the piazza, over against the emperor's palace, (near whereunto also the pope's legate had lodged,) and had there walked a while together, there came thither the said Ludovico, and, espying Wolfe, saluted him very friendly, and entered into talk about the Exchange, and sundry other matters, Chaloner being still with them. At last, upon occasion, they entered into talk about the former letters that the ambassador of England had received from Rome by the pope's legate, of which Ludovico had in charge to receive an answer, affirming, that the post did depart the next day, and therefore prayed Wolfe to put the ambassador's secretary in remembrance of them. Whereunto Wolfe answered, that he would willingly do it: but he did not well know which ambassador he meant, for that there were two, one the bishop of Winchester, and the other, a gentleman of the king's privy chamber. To whom Ludovico replied, that he meant not the gentleman of the privy chamber, but the bishop. By which talk, and more such-like, (as upon the former day,) Master Chaloner, being moved, (and not knowing yet of his master's and Wolfe's purpose,) after the departure of Ludovico from them said unto Wolfe, that Ludovico had had but homely talk with him, not to be passed over lightly, and therefore he would tell his master of it. To whom Wolfe answered, "Do as you will, if you think any matter therein." And therefore at his return home, he told Sir Henry Knivet what speech he had heard at Ludovico's mouth. Sir Henry Knivet, being thus further ascertained of the matter, opened the whole to Sir John Barkley, Sir William Blunt, and to Master Beynton, who all agreed yet to make a further trial thereof, and therefore devised that Wolfe should procure Ludovico to bring certain velvet, and other silks, unto Sir Henry Knivet's lodging, as well for himself, as for the other gentlemen; which that afternoon he did accomplish, and brought Ludovico unto Sir Henry, where also were the other gentlemen. After they had awhile viewed the silks, and had had some talk about the prices, Wolfe took occasion again to ask Ludovico, if Sir Henry were the ambassador of whom he was to demand an answer of the letters sent by the pope's legate? To whom the merchant answered, "No, it was not his seigniory, but it was a bishop," terming him reverendissimo, whereby they easily perceived whom he meant. Sir Henry Knivet hereupon, somewhat dissembling the matter, entered into further talk thereabout, whereby Ludovico opened as much in effect to them, as he had done before to Wolfe: but yet at last, perceiving that as well Sir Henry, as also the other gentlemen, did behold him somewhat fixedly, he brake off his talk; wherewith Sir Henry Knivet, making as though he had noted nothing, did lovingly dismiss him, praying him that when he had received the bishop's letters, he would also repair to him for a packet to an English gentleman of his acquaintance at Milan; which he promised to do, and so departed again. When Sir Henry had thus made sufficient trial of this matter, he forthwith wrote his letters unto the king's Majesty, signifying unto him the whole at large, as he had learned. In the mean while Ludovico the next morning repaired unto the bishop of Winchester's lodging, to demand an answer of those letters the legate had sent unto him: but how he used himself, or whether he uttered the talk he had with Sir Henry Knivet and with Wolfe, whom he supposed at the first to be the bishop's man, it is not certainly known. But the bishop, (perceiving that by mistaking one for another, and in supposing Wolfe to be the bishop's servant, Ludovico had uttered all his message from the legate unto Wolfe, and that thereby his practices would come to light,) in great hasty rage, caused Ludovico to be stayed in his own house, while in the mean time himself went to Granuella, one of the emperor's council, and so practised with him, that Ludovico was secretly committed unto prison, in the custody of one of the emperor's marshals, so as he could be no more talked withal, all the time of their abode there. And then, sending in great haste to Sir Henry Knivet to come and speak with him, (which he did,) he fell into very hot speech with him, saying, that he had poison in his dish, and that a knave was suborned to be his destruction; with many such-like words. Sir Henry told him again, how he understood it; and prayed him that Ludovico might be brought face to face, to be examined in both their presences; which the bishop would in no case agree unto, affirming that he had so declared the case to Granuella, being indifferent (as he thought) to them both, that he would not meddle with Ludovico, nor speak with him; but that the emperor's council should examine him, and try what he was, for him. To whom Sir Henry Knivet again very earnestly objected, that he marvelled that the bishop, in matter touching the king's Majesty, their master, would use the aid or means of Granuella, a foreign prince's minister, to make him privy of their question. But say and do what he could, he would never come to the speech of Ludovico any more ever after. Whereupon there rose great and long controversies between them, (both writing letters unto the king about that matter,) until at last the king's Majesty, perceiving his affairs otherwise to slack thereby, wrote unto them both, that they should lay all those things under foot, and join together in his service as before; which they did accordingly. But howsoever this matter was afterward salved here with the king's Majesty, as either by the death of Sir Henry Knivet, (which I think was not long after,) or hy other friends the bishop had here at home, I know not: yet Wolfe, who within two months after died of a long cough of the lungs, upon his death-bed did again affirm the premises to be most true; and therefore, in the presence of Sir Henry Knivet, and divers other of his servants, he protested, that he had not invented, sought, or procured this at Ludovico's hands, for any malice or displeasure borne to the bishop, but only for discharge of his faith and duty unto the king's Majesty, desiring that the same his protestation might be inserted in the end of his last will and testament, which was then presently done; and thereunto he set his hand.

            Now, whether this was the matter that the king moved so often Master Secretary Paget (being after lord-keeper) to keep safe as sore matter against the bishop, I know not; but yet it appears by some depositions of the nobility, and others, in the process against him had in King Edward's days, that the king's Majesty, Henry the Eighth, had this matter ever in his mind; for in every general pardon that he granted by parliament after this practice, he did still except all treasons committed beyond the seas: meaning thereby, as it was supposed, that the bishop should not take any benefit hy any general pardon, if at any time his Majesty would call him to account. And therefore, all things well weighed, he had small cause to vaunt of his great favour he had with King Henry his master. Howbeit, it seemeth he was brought into this fool's paradise by the Lord Paget; who, (as he himself reporteth in his depositions,) in his messages from the king to the said bishop, deluded him, telling him much otherwise than the king had spoken, and concealing always the king's hard speeches against him, which thing puffed up this vain-glorious Thraso not a little. All which premises appear more at large by the depositions of the nobles and others, examined in the long process against him in King Edward's reign, as appears in our first edition of Acts and Monuments, in that book at large mentioned.

            But whatsoever he was, seeing he is now gone, I refer him to his Judge, to whom he shall stand or fall. As concerning his death, and manner thereof, I would they which were present thereat would testify to us what they saw. This we have all to think, that his death happened so opportunely, that England hath a mighty cause to give thanks to the Lord there-for: not so much for the great hurt he had done in times past in perverting his princes, in bringing in the Six Articles, in murdering God's saints, in defacing Christ's sincere religion, &c., also as, especially, for that he had thought to have brought to pass, in murdering also our noble queen that now is. For whatsoever danger it was of death that she was in, it did, no doubt, proceed from that bloody bishop, who was the cause thereof. And if it be certain which we have heard, that her Highness being in the Tower, a writ came down from certain of the council for her execution, it is out of controversy, that wily Winchester was the only Dædalus and framer of that engine, who (no doubt) in that one day had brought this whole realm into woeful ruin, had not the Lord's most gracious counsel, through Master Bridges, then the lieutenant, coming in haste to the queen, certified her of the matter, and prevented Achitophel's bloody devices; for the which, thanks be to the same our Lord and Saviour, in the congregation of all English churches. Amen.

            Of things uncertain I must speak uncertainly, for lack of fuller information, or else peradventure they be in the realm that can say more than here Ihave expressed. For as Bonner, Story, Thornton, Harpsfield, Dunning, with others, were occupied in putting the poor branches of God's saints to death; so this bishop, for his part, bent all his devices, and had spent all his powder, in assailing the root, and in casting such a platform (as he himself in words at his death is said to confess) to build his popery upon, as he thought should have stood for ever and a day. But, as I said before, of things uncertain I can speak but uncertainly. Wherefore as touching the manner and order of his death, how rich he died, what words he spake, what little repentance he showed; whether he died with his tongue swollen and out of his mouth, as did Thomas Arundel, archbishop of Canterbury, or whether he stank before he died, as Cardinal Wolsey did; or whether he died in despair, as Latomus and others did, &c.: all this I refer either to their reports of whom I heard it, or leave it to the knowledge of them which know it better.

            Notwithstanding, here by the way, touching the death of this foresaid bishop, I thought not to overpass a certain hearsay, which not long since came to me by information of a certain worthy and credible gentlewoman, and another gentleman of the same name and kindred, which Mrs. Munday, being the wife of one Master Munday, secretary some time to the old Lord Thomas, duke of Norfolk, a present witness of this that is testified, thus openly reported in the house of a worshipful citizen, bearing yet office in this city, in words and effect as followeth:

            The same day, when Bishop Ridley and Master Latimer suffered at Oxford, (being about the nineteenth day of October,) there came into the house of Stephen Gardiner the old duke of Norfolk, with the foresaid Master Munday his secretary above named, reporter hereof. The old aged duke, there waiting and tarrying for his dinner, the bishop, being not yet disposed to dine, deferred the time to three or four of the clock at afternoon. At length, about four of the clock, cometh his servant, posting in all possible speed from Oxford, bringing intelligence to the bishop what he had heard and seen: of whom the said bishop diligently inquiring the truth of the matter, and hearing by his man, that fire most certainly was set unto them, cometh out rejoicing to the duke, "Now," saith he, "let us go to dinner." Whereupon, they being set down, meat immediately was brought, and the bishop began merrily to eat. But what followed? The bloody tyrant had not eaten a few bits, but the sudden stroke of God's terrible hand fell upon him in such sort, as immediately he was taken from the table, and so brought to his bed; where he continued the space of fifteen days in such intolerable anguish and torments, that all that mean while, during those fifteen days, he could not avoid, by urine or otherwise, any thing that he received: whereby his body being miserably inflamed within, (who had inflamed so many good martyrs before,) was brought to a wretched end.

Illustration -- Stephen Gardiner taken ill at table

            And thereof, no doubt, as most like it is, came the thrusting out of his tongue from his mouth so swollen and black, with the inflammation of his body. A spectacle worthy to be noted and heholden of all such bloody burning persecutors.

            But to proceed farther in the sequel of our story: I could name the man, (but I abstain from names,) who, being then present, and a great doer about the said Winchester, reported to us concerning the said bishop, that when Dr. Day, bishop of Chichester, came to him, and began to comfort him with words of God's promise, and with the free justification in the blood of Christ our Saviour, repeating the Scriptures to him, Winchester hearing that, "What, my Lord," quoth he, "will you open that gap now? then farewell altogether. To me, and such others in my case, you may speak it; but open this window to the people, then farewell altogether!"

            Moreover, what Dr. Bonner then saw in him, or what he heard of him, and what words passed between them about the time of his extremity;-- betwixt Gardiner and him be it. If Bonner did there behold any thing which might turn to his good example, I exhort him to take it, and to beware in time, as I pray God he may. Here I could bring in the frivolous epitaph which was made of his death, devised of a papist for a popish bishop, but I pretermit it, and instead thereof I have here inferred certain gatherings out of his sermons, words, and writings; wherein may appear first, what an earnest and vehement enemy he was to the pope, if he would have been constant in himself; then how inconstantly he varied from himself; and thirdly, how he, standing upon a singularity of his own wit, varied also from other papists in certain points. In the gathering whereof although there he some pains, and tediousness also in reading; yet I thought not to pretermit the same, upon certain considerations, namely, for that so many yet to this day there be, which stick so much to Gardiner's wit, learning, and religion, taking him for such a doughty pillar of the pope's church. To the intent therefore, that such as hitherto have been deceived by him, may not longer be abused therein, if they will either credit his own works, words, sermons, writings, disputations; or else will be judged by his own witnesses of his own party produced, we have manifest probations, which may notoriously declare how effectually first he withstood the pope's supremacy; and likewise afterwards may declare manifest contrariety and repugnancy of the said Gardiner, first with other writers, and lastly with himself: as in his sermon preached before King Edward, the sum and effect of which sermon has been briefly collected by Master Udall; and we have comprised the chief purpose of his sermon, with other such matter above storied, wherein may appear the double-faced doings of this bishop in matters of religion. In all which foresaid allegations it remains notorious and famous to all men, how, in what points, and how far, the said bishop of Winchester agreed with the reformation of religion received, not only in King Henry's but also in King Edward's days.

            And this now being sufficient for Gardiner's story, to leave him to his Judge, and to let him go, we shall return and proceed, (by the grace and leave of the Lord,) as the course of these doleful days shall lead us, to prosecute the residue of Christ's martyrs, as now in order followeth.

 

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