Ex-Classics Home Page

Foxe's Book of Martyrs -- 208. KING HENRY'S ACTS AND PROCLAMATIONS, 1545-46


            This year also it was ordained and decreed, and solemnly given out in proclamation, by the king's name and authority, and his council, that the English procession should be used throughout all England, according as it was set forth by his said council, and none other to be used throughout the whole realm.

            About the latter end of this year, 1545, in the month of November, when the king had subdued the Scots, and afterwards, joining together with the emperor, had invaded France, and had got from them the town of Boulogne, he summoned his high court of parliament. In the which was granted unto him, besides other subsidies of money, all colleges, chantries, free chapels, hospitals, fraternities, brotherhoods, guilds, and perpetuities of stipendiary priests, to be disposed of at his will and pleasure. Whereupon, in the month of December following, the king, after the wonted custom, came into the parliament-house to give his royal assent to such acts as were there passed; where, after an eloquent oration made to him by the speaker, he, answering again unto the same, not by the lord chancellor, (as the manner was,) but by himself, uttered forth this oration, word for word, as it is reported and left in story.

            In the contents of which oration, first, eloquently and lovingly he declared his grateful heart to his loving subjects for their grants and subventions, offered unto him. In the second part, with no less vehemency he exhorteth them to concord, peace, and unity. Whereunto if he had also joined the third part, that is, as in words he exhorted to unity, so he had begun indeed first himself to take away the occasion of division, disobedience, and disturbance from his subjects; that is, had removed the stumbling-block of the six articles out of the people's way, which set brother against brother, neighbour against neighbour, the superior against the subject, and the wolves to devour the poor flock of Christ: then, had he not only spoken, but also done, like a worthy prince. But of this, more shall be said in the sequel hereof, God willing.


The King's oration in the parliament-house.

            "Although my chancellor for the time being hath, before this time, used very eloquently and substantially to make answer to such orations as have been set forth in this high court of parliament, yet is he not so able to open and set forth my mind and meaning, and the secrets of my heart, in so plain and ample manner as I myself am, and can do. Wherefore I, taking upon. me to answer your eloquent oration, Master Speaker! say, that whereas you, in the name of our well-beloved commons, have both praised and extolled me for the notable qualities that you have conceived to be in me, I most heartily thank you all that you put me in remembrance of my duty, which is, to endeavour myself to obtain and get such excellent qualities, and necessary virtues, as a prince or governor should or ought to have; of which gifts I recognise myself both bare and barren.

            "But for such small qualities as God hath endued me withal, I render to his goodness my most humble thanks, intending, with all my wit and diligence, to get and acquire to me, such notable virtues and princely qualities, as you have alleged to be incorporate in my person.

            "These thanks for your loving admonition and good counsel first remembered, I eftsoons thank you again,. that you, considering our great charges, (not for our pleasure, but for your defence; not for our gain, but to our great cost,) whioh we have lately sustained, as well in defence against our and your enemies, as for the conquest of that fortress, which was to this realm most displeasant and noisome, and shall be, by God's grace, hereafter to our nation most profitable and pleasant, have freely, of your own mind, granted to us a certain subsidy here in an act specified; which, verily, we take in good part, regarding more your kindness than the profit thereof, as he that setteth more by your loving hearts, than by your substance. Besides this hearty kindness, I cannot a little rejoice, when I consider the perfect trust and sure confidence which you have put in me, as men having undoubted hope, and unfeigned belief, in my good doings and just proceedings; for that you, without my desire or request, have committed to mine order and disposition all chantries, colleges, hospitals, and other places specified in a certain act, firmly trusting that I will order them to the glory of God, and the profit of our commonwealth. Surely if I, contrary to your expectation, should suffer the ministers of the church to decay; or learning, which is so great a jewel, to be minished; or poor and miserable people to be unrelieved; you might say that I, being put in so special a trust as I am in this case, were no trusty friend to you, nor charitable man to mine even christened, neither a lover of the public wealth, nor yet one that feared God, to whom account must be rendered of all our doings. Doubt not, I pray you, but your expectation shall be served more godly and goodly than you will wish or desire, as hereafter you shall plainly perceive.

            "Now, since I find such kindness on your part towards me, I cannot choose but love and favour you, affirming that no prince in the world more favoured his subjects than I do you, nor any subjects or commons more love and obey their sovereign lord, than I perceive you do me, for whose defence my treasure shall not be hidden, nor, if necessity require, shall my person be unadventured. Yet, although I with you, and you with me, be in this perfect love and concord, this friendly amity cannot continue, except you, my lords temporal, and you, my lords spiritual, and you, my loving subjects, study and take pains to amend one thing, which is surely amiss and far out of order, to the which I most heartily require you; which is, that charity and concord is not among you, but discord and dissension beareth rule in every place. St. Paul saith to the Corinthians, in the thirteenth chapter, Charity is gentle, charity is not envious, charity is not proud, and so forth, in the said chapter. Behold then what love and charity is amongst you, when the one calleth the other heretic, and Anabaptist; and he calleth him again papist, hypocrite, and Pharisee. Be these tokens of charity amongst you? Are these the signs of fraternal love between you? No, no, I assure that this lack of charity amongst yourselves will be the hinderance and assuaging of the fervent love between us, as I said before, except this wound be salved and clearly made whole. I must needs judge the fault and occasion of this discord to be partly by the negligence of you, the fathers and preachers of the spiritualty. For if I know a man which liveth in adultery, I must judge him a lecherous and carnal person. If I see a man boast and brag himself, I cannot but deem him a proud man. I see and hear daily, that you of the clergy preach one against another, teach one contrary to another, inveigh one against another, without charity or discretion. Some be too stiff in their old mumpsimus, others be too busy and curious in their new sumpsimus.

            "Thus all men almost be in variety and discord, and few or none do preach truly and sincerely the word of God, according as they ought to do. Shall I now judge you charitable persons doing this? No, no, I cannot so do. Alas! how can the poor souls live in concord, when you preachers sow amongst them, in your sermons, debate and discord? Of you they look for light, and you bring them to darkness. Amend these crimes, I exhort you, and set forth God's word, both by true preaching and good example-giving; or else I, whom God hath appointed his vicar and high minister here, will see these divisions extinct, and these enormities corrected, according to my very duty; or else I am an unprofitable servant, and an untrue officer.

            "Although (as I say) the spiritual men be in some fault, that charity is not kept amongst you, yet you of the temporalty be not clean and unspotted of malice and envy; for you rail on bishops, speak slanderously of priests, and rebuke and taunt preachers, both contrary to good order and Christian fraternity. If you know surely that a bishop or preacher erreth, or teacheth perverse doctrine, come and declare it to some of our council, or to us, to whom is committed by God, the authority to reform and order such causes and behaviours; and be not judges yourselves of your own fantastical opinions and vain expositions, for in such high causes ye may lightly err. And although you be permitted to read Holy Scripture, and to have the word of God in your mother tongue, you must understand that it is licensed you so to do, only to inform your own conscience, and to instruct your children and family; and not to dispute and make Scripture a railing and a taunting-stock against priests and preachers, as many light persons do. I am very sorry to know and hear how unreverently that most precious jewel, the word of God, is disputed, rhymed, sung, and jangled in every alehouse and tavern, contrary to the true meaning and doctrine of the same: and yet I am even as much sorry that the readers of the same follow it, in doing, so faintly and coldly. For of this I am sure, that charity was never so faint amongst you, and virtuous and godly living was never less used, nor was God himself amongst Christians ever less reverenced, honoured, or served. Therefore (as I said before) be in charity one with another like brother and brother: love, dread, and fear God (to the which I, as your supreme head and sovereign lord, exhort and require you): and then, I doubt not but that that love and league which I spake of in the beginning, shall never be dissolved or broken between us. And as touching the laws which be now made and concluded, I exhort you, the makers, to be as diligent in putting them in execution, as you were in making and furthering the same; or else your labour shall be in vain, and your commonwealth nothing relieved."


Notes upon the aforesaid exhortation.

            Princes who exhort to concord and charity do well; but princes who seek out the causes of discord, and reform the same, do much better. The papist and protestant, heretic and Pharisee, the old mumpsimus and the new sumpsimus, be terms of variance and dissension, and be, I grant, symptoms of a sore wound in the commonwealth. But he that will amend this wound must first begin to search out the causes, and to purge the occasion thereof: otherwise, to cure the sore outwardly, which inwardly doth fester and rankle still, it is but vain.

            The root and ground of all this grievance riseth hence: from the prelates and clergy of Rome, seeking, as it seemeth, altogether after riches, pomp, and honour of this world; who, to maintain the same under pretence of religion, do in very deed subvert religion. Under that title of the church, they bring into the church manifest errors and absurdities intolerable, who, pretending to be fathers of the church, if they transgressed but in manners and lightness of life, or negligence of government, they might be borne withal, for peace and concord's sake; and here modesty, civility, quietness, unity, and charity, might have place amongst modest natures. But now, they obscure the glory of the Son of God, which in no case ought to be suffered; they extinguish the light and grace of the gospel; they clog men's consciences; they set up idolatry, and maintain idols; they bring in false invocation, and restrain lawful matrimony, whereby groweth filthy pollution, adultery, and whoredom in the church unspeakable; they corrupt the sacraments; they wrest the Scripture to worldly purposes; they kill and persecute God's people: briefly, their doctrine is damnable, their laws be impious, their doings are detestable. And yet, after all this, they creep craftily into the hearts of princes, under the title of the church, and colour of concord; making kings and princes believe that all be heretics and schismatics, who will not be subject to their ordinary power. Now Almighty God, who is a jealous God, and not suffering the glory of his Son to be defaced, nor his truth to be trodden under foot, stirreth up again the hearts of his people to understand his truth, and to defend his cause. Whereupon, of these two parts, as two mighty flints thus smiting together, cometh out the sparkle of this division, which can in no wise be quenched, but that one part must needs yield and give over. There is no neutrality, nor mediation of peace, nor exhortation to agreement, that will serve between these two contrary doctrines, but either the pope's errors must give place to God's word, or else the verity of God must give place unto them.

            Wherefore, as the good intent, and plausible oration of the king, in this behalf, was to be not discommended, in exhorting his subjects to charity, so had he much more deserved commendation, if he had sought the right way to work charity, and to help innocency amongst his subjects, by taking away the impious law of the six articles, the mother of all division and manslaughter. For what is this to the purpose, to exhort in words ever so much to charity, and indeed to give a knife to the murderer's hand, to run upon his naked brother, which never in conscience can leave his cause, nor yet hath power to defend himself? as by experience here followeth to be seen, what charity ensued after this exhortation of the king to charity, by the racking and burning of good Anne Askew, with three other poor subjects of the king, within half a year after; whereof shortly you shall hear more declared.

            When these chantries and colleges thus, by act of parliament, were given into the king's hands as is above remembered, (which was about the month of December, A.D. 1545,) the next Lent following, Dr. Crome, preaching in the Mercer's chapel, among other reasons and persuasions to rouse the people from the vain opinion of purgatory, inferred this (grounding upon the said act of parliament): that if trentals and chantry masses could avail the souls in purgatory, then did the parliament not well in giving away monasteries, colleges, and chantries, which served principally to that purpose. But, if the parliament did well (as no man could deny) in dissolving them, and bestowing the same upon the king, then is it a plain case, that such chantries and private masses do nothing to confer and relieve them in purgatory. This dilemma of Dr. Crome, no doubt, was insoluble. But, notwithstanding, the charitable prelates, for all the king's late exhortation unto charity, were so charitable unto him, that on Easter next they brought him coram nobis, where they so handled him, that they made him to recant. And if he had not, they would have dissolved him and his argument in burning fire, so burning hot was their charity, according as they burned Anne Askew and her fellows in the month of July the year following: whose tragical story and cruel handling now, consequently, the Lord willing, you shall hear.


Previous Next