THE NINTH BOOK,
THE ACTS AND THINGS DONE IN THE REIGN OF KING EDWARD THE SIXTH.
226. CHARACTER OF EDWARD VI.
Illustration: Portrait of Edward VI
NEXT after the death of King Henry, succeeded King Edward his son, being of the age of nine years. He began his reign the twenty-eighth day of January, A. D. 1547; and reigned six years, five months, and nine days; and deceased A. D. 1553, the sixth day of July.
Of the excellent virtues and singular graces of King Edward, wrought in him by the gift of God, although nothing can be said enough to his commendation, yet, because the renowned fame of such a worthy prince shall not utterly pass our story without some grateful remembrance, I thought, in few words, to touch some little portion of his praise, taken out of the great heaps of matter which might be inferred. For to stand upon all that might be said of him, it would be too long; and yet to say nothing, it were too much unkind. If kings and princes, who have wisely and virtuously governed, have found in all ages writers to solemnize and celebrate their acts and memory, such as never knew them, nor were subject unto them, how much then are we Englishmen bound not to forget our duty to King Edward: a prince, although but tender in years, yet for his sage and mature ripeness in wit and all princely ornaments, as I see but few to whom he may not be equal, so, again, I see not many to whom he may not justly be preferred.
And here, to use the example of Plutarch, in comparing kings and rulers, the Latins with the Greeks together, if I should seek with whom to match this noble Edward, I find not with whom to make my match more aptly, than with good Josias: for, as the one began his reign at eight years of his age, so the other began at nine. Neither were their acts and zealous proceedings in God's cause much discrepant: for as mild Josias plucked down the hill altars, cut down the groves, and destroyed all monuments of idolatry in the temple, the like corruptions, dross, and deformities of popish idolatry, (crept into the church of Christ of long time,) this evangelical Josias, King Edward, removed and purged out of the true temple of the Lord. Josias restored the true worship and service of God in Jerusalem, and destroyed the idolatrous priests! King Edward likewise, in England, abolishing idolatrous masses and false invocation, reduced again religion to a right sincerity; and more would have brought to perfection, if life and time had answered to his godly purpose. And though he killed not, as Josias did, the idolatrous sacrificers, yet he put them to silence, and removed them out of their places.
Moreover, in King Josias's days the Holy Scripture and book of God's word was utterly neglected and cast aside, which he most graciously repaired and restored again. And did not King Edward the like, with the selfsame book of God's blessed word, and with other wholesome books of Christian doctrine, which before were decayed and extinguished in his father's days, by sharp laws and severe punishments, here in England? Briefly, in all points and respects, between him and this our godly king no odds are to be found, but only in length of time and reign; who, if he might have reached (by the sufferance of God) to the continuance of Josias's reign, proceeding in those beginnings which in his youth appeared, no doubt but of his acts and doings some great perfection would have ensued to his church and realm. But the manifold iniquities of Englishmen deserved another plague, as after fell amongst us; as in sequel of the story hereafter (God willing) shall be declared.
In the mean time, to proceed in the excellent virtues of this Christian young Josias, (as we have begun,) although neither do we know, nor will leisure serve us to stand upon a full description of, all his acts; yet will we (God willing) give a little taste of the noble nature and princely qualities of this king, whereby the reader may esteem with himself, what is to be thought of the rest of his doings, though they be not here all expressed.
And first, to begin with that which is the chiefest property of all other extern things in a prince to be considered, that is, to be loved of his subjects: such were the hearts of all English people toward this king inclined, and so toward him still continued, as never came prince in this realm more highly esteemed, more amply magnified, or more dearly and tenderly beloved of all his subjects; but especially of the good and the learned sort: and yet not so much beloved, as also admirable, by reason of his rare towardness and hope both of virtue and learning, which in him appeared above the capacity of his years. And as he was entirely of his subjects beloved, so with no less good-will he loved them again; of nature and disposition meek, and much inclined to clemency. He always spared and favoured the life of man; as once appeared in a certain dissertation of his had with Master Cheek, in favouring the life of heretics; insomuch that when Joan Butcher should be burned, all the council could not move him to put to his hand, but were fain to get Dr. Cranmer to persuade with him, and yet neither could he, with much labour, induce the king so to do; saying, "What, my Lord? will ye have me to send her quick to the devil in her error?" So that Dr. Cranmer himself confessed, that he had never so much to do in all his life, as to cause the king to put to his hand, saying that he would lay all the charge thereof upon Cranmer before God. There wanted in him no promptness of wit, gravity of sentence, ripeness of judgment. Favour and love of religion was in him from his childhood. Such an organ, given of God to the church of England, he was, as England had never better. Over and besides these notable excellencies and other great virtues in him, add, moreover, skill and knowledge of tongues, and other sciences, whereunto he seemed rather born, than brought up.
Moreover, there wanted not in him, to this felicity of wit and dexterity of nature, like happiness of institution of good instructors; neither did there lack again in him any diligence to receive that which they would teach him; insomuch that in the midst of all his play and recreation, he would always observe and keep his hour appointed to his study, using the same with much attention, till time called him again from his book to pastime. In this his study and keeping of his hours, he did so profit, that Dr. Cranmer, the archbishop then of Canterbury, beholding his towardness, his readiness in both tongues, in translating from Greek to Latin,from Latin to Greek again; in declaiming with his school-fellows without help of his teachers, and that extempore; would weep for joy, declaring to Dr. Cox, his schoolmaster, that he would never have thought that to have been in him, except he had seen it himself.
To recite here his witty sentences, his grave reasons, which many times did proceed from him, and how he would sometimes, in a matter discoursed by his council, add thereunto, of his own, more reasons and causes, touching the said matter,than they themselves had or could devise, it was almost incredible in that age to see, and tedious here to prosecute.
This in him may seem notorious and admirable, that he, in these immature years, could tell and recite all the ports, havens, and creeks, not within his own realm only, but also in Scotland, and likewise in France; what coming in there was; how the tide served in every haven or creek; moreover, what burden, and what wind, served the coming into the haven.
Also, of all his justices, magistrates, gentlemen that bare any authority within his realm, he knew their names, their housekeeping, their religion, and conversation, what it was. Few sermons, or none, in his court, especially in the lord protector's time, but he would be at them. Again, never was he present at any commonly, but he would excerp them, or note them with his own hand.
Besides and above all other notes and examples of his commendation, as touching the chiefest point which ought most to touch all men, for the maintaining, promoting, preferring, embracing, zealing, and defending the true cause and quarrel of Christ's holy gospel, what was his study, his zealous fervency, his admirable constancy therein, by this one example following, amongst many others, may notably appear.
In the days of this King Edward the Sixth, Charles the emperor made request to the said king and his council, to permit Lady Mary (who after succeeded in the crown) to have mass in her house without prejudice of the law. And the council, on a time, sitting upon matters of policy, having that in question, sent Cranmer, then archbishop of Canterbury, and Ridley, then bishop of London, to entreat the king for the same; who, coming to his Grace, alleged their reasons, and persuasions for the accomplishing thereof. So the king, hearing what they could say, replied his answer again out of the Scriptures so groundedly, gravely, and fully, that they were enforced to give place to his replication, and grant the same to be true. Then they, after long debating in this manner with his Majesty, laboured politicly in another sort, and alleged what dangers the denying thereof might bring to his Grace; what breach of amity on the emperor's part; what troubles, what unkindness, and what occasions sundry ways it would enforce, &c. Unto whom the king answered, willing them to content themselves; for he would (he said) spend his life, and all he had, rather than agree and grant to what he knew certainly to be against the truth: the which when the bishops heard, notwithstanding, they urged him still to grant, and would by no means have his nay. Then the good king, seeing their importunate suit, that needs they would have his Majesty to consent thereto, in the end, his tender heart bursting out into hitter weeping and sobbing, he desired them to be content; whereat the bishops themselves, seeing the king's zeal and constancy, wept as fast as he, and took their leave of his Grace. And coming from him, the archbishop took Master Cheek, his schoolmaster, by the hand, and said, "All! Master Cheek, you may be glad all the days of your life, that you have such a scholar, for he hath more divinity in his little finger, than all we have in all our bodies." Thus the Lady Mary's mass, for that time, was stayed.
Over and besides these heavenly graces and virtues, most chiefly to be required in all faithful and Christian magistrates which have governance of Christ's flock, neither was he also unprovided with such outwards gifts and knowledge as appertain to the governance of his realm politic; insomuch that he was neither inexpert nor ignorant of the exchange, and all the circumstances of the same touching doings beyond the sea: but was as skilful in the practices, and could say as much thereof, as the chiefest doers in his affairs. Likewise, in the entertaining of ambassadors; to whom he would give answer, and that to every part of their oration, to the great wonder of them that heard him, doing that in his tender years by himself, which many princes, at their mature age, seldom are wont to do but by others. And as he was a great notes of things that pertained to princely affairs, so had he a chest severally to himself, for every year, for the keeping of such records and matters as passed, and were concluded by the council; of whom also he would require a reason and cause of every thing that should pass their judgments: and of this chest he would evermore keep the key about him. His notes also he ciphered in Greek letters, to the end that those that waited upon him should not read nor know what he had written.
He had, moreover, great respect to justice, and to the despatch of poor men's suits, and would appoint hours and times with Master Cox, then master of his requests, how, and by what order, they might be sped in their causes without long delays and attendance; and so also debate with him, that their matters might be heard and judged with equity accordingly.
What Jerome Cardan saith of him, concerning his knowledge in liberal sciences, I thought here to express in his own words, so much the rather, because he speaketh of his own experiment, and upon the present talk which he had with the king himself.
"There was in him a towardly disposition and pregnancy, apt to all human literature; as who, being yet a child, had the knowledge of divers tongues, first of the English, his own natural tongue, of the Latin also, and of the French; neither was he ignorant (as I hear) of the Greek, Italian, and Spanish tongues, and of other languages, peradventure, more in his own, in the French, and in the Latin tongue, singularly perfect, and with the like facility apt to receive all others. Neither was he ignorant in logic, in the principles of natural philosophy, or in music. There was in him lacking neither humanity, (the image of our mortality,) a princely gravity and majesty, nor any kind of towardness beseeming a noble king. Briefly, it might seem a miracle of nature, to behold the excellent wit and forwardness that appeared in him, being yet but a child. This I speak not rhetorically, to amplify things, or to make them more than truth is; yea, the truth is more than I do utter.
"Being yet but fifteen years of age, he asked of me, in Latin, (in which tongue he uttered his mind no less readily and eloquently than I could do myself,) what my books which I had dedicated unto him, De Verietate Rerum, did contain. I said, that in the first chapter was showed the cause of comets, or blazing stars, which hath been long sought for, and yet hitherto scarce fully found.' 'What cause,' said he, is that? 'The concourse or meeting,' said I, 'of the light of the wandering planets and stars.' To this the king thus replied again: 'Forasmuch,' said he, 'as the motion of the stars keepeth not one course, but is divers and variable, by continued alteration, how is it, then, that the cause of these comets either doth not quickly evade and vanish, or that the comet doth not keep one certain and uniform course and motion with the said stars and planets?' Whereunto I answered, that the comet hath his course and moving, but much more swift than they, because of the diversity of aspect; as we see in crystal, and in the sun, when the form of the rainbow reboundeth on the wall: for a little mutation maketh a great difference of place. Then said the king, 'And how can that be, having no subject; for of the rainbow the wall is the subject?' 'Like,' said I, 'as in lactea via, or in reflection of lights; as, where many candles be lighted and set near together, in the middle they cause a certain bright and white lightsomeness to appear,' &c.
"And so, by this little trial, a great guess may be given, what was in this king: in whom, no doubt, was a great hope and expectation amongst all good and learned men, both for the ingenuous forwardness, and amiable sweetness, which in his conditions appeared. First, he began to love and favour liberal arts and sciences, before he knew them, and to know them before he could use them; whose mortal condition and sudden decease and decay, in those tender and unripe years, not only England, but all the world, hath cause to lament. Oh how truly is it said of the poet,
'Things that be exceeding excellent,
Be not commonly long permanent.'
"A show or sight only of excellency he could give us: example he could not give. Where a kingly majesty required gravity, there you should have seen him a sage and an old man; and yet gentle and pleasant also, according as the condition of his age then required. He played well upon the lute; he had, also, to do in handling of weighty affairs of the realm. He was liberal and bountiful in heart; and therein he imitated his father," &c.
Thus, after the godly disposition and properties of this king briefly in this wise declared, now, God willing, we will intermeddle something to describe the order and proceedings which he followed in his administration and government of both the states, as well politic, as especially ecclesiastic; who, after the decease of his father coming unto the crown, because he was of young and tender age, he was committed to sixteen governors. Amongst them, especially the Lord Edward Seymour, duke of Somerset, his uncle, was assigned and joined to him, as protector and overseer of him and of the commonwealth; a man not so highly advanced for his consanguinity, as also for his noble virtues; and, especially for his favour to God's word, worthy of his vocation and calling. Through the endeavour and industry of this man, first that monstrous hydra with six heads, (the six articles, I mean,) which devoured up so many men before, was abolished and taken away: by reason whereof the counsels and proceedings of Winchester began to decay, who, storming at the same matter, wrote to the lord protector in the cause thereof, as by his letters is to be seen.
The Holy Scriptures he restored to the mother tongue. Masses he extinguished and abolished. Furthermore, after softer beginnings, by little and little, greater things followed in the reformation of the churches. Then such as before were in banishment for the danger of the truth, were again received to their country. To be short, a new face of things began now to appear, as it were in a stage, new players coming in, the old being thrust out; for the most part the bishops of churches and dioceses were changed: such as had been dumb prelates before, were then compelled to give place to others that would preach and take pains.
Besides others also, out of foreign countries, men of learning and notable knowledge were sent for and received, among whom was Peter Martyr, Martin Bucer, and Paulus Phagius; of whom the first taught at Oxford, the other two professed at Cambridge, and that with no small commendation of the whole university. Of the old bishops some were committed to one ward, some to another. Bonner, bishop of London, was committed to the Marshalsea, and eftsoons, for his contempt and misdemeanour, deposed from his bishopric, as in further process followeth to be seen. Gardiner, bishop of Winchester, with Tonstal, bishop of Durham, was cast into the Tower for his disobedience, where he kept his Christmas five years together; more worthy of some other place without the Tower, if it had not otherwise pleased God to have meant a further plague to this realm, by that man.
But these meek and gentle times of King Edward, under the government of this noble protector, have this one commendation proper unto them, for that amongst the whole number of the popish sort, of whom some privily did steal out of the realm, many were crafty dissemblers, some were open and manifest adversaries; yet, of all that multitude, there was not one man that lost his life. In sum, during the whole time of the six years of this king, much tranquillity, and, as it were, a breathing-time, was granted to the whole church of England: so that the rage of persecution ceasing, and the sword taken out of the adversaries' hand, there was now no danger to the godly, unless it were only by wealth and prosperity, which many times bringeth more damage in corrupting men's minds, than any time of persecution or affliction.
Briefly, during all this time, neither in Smithfield nor any other quarter of this realm, were any heard to suffer for any matter of religion,, either papist or protestant, either for one opinion or another, except only two, one an Englishwoman, called Joan of Kent, and the other a Dutchman, named George, who died for certain articles not much necessary here to be rehearsed.
Besides these two, there was none else in all King Edward's reign, that died in any manner or cause of religion, but one Thomas Dobbe, who, in the beginning of this king's reign, was apprehended and imprisoned for speaking against the idolatry of the mass, and in the same prison died; as in the story here ensueth to be seen.
This Thomas Dobbe, being a student and a master of arts in Cambridge, was brought up in the college called St. John's College, and fellow of the same; where he increased in the study of good letters, among his equals very forward, of nature and disposition simple and modest, of zeal toward God fervent, patient in injuries, injurious to no man; of much like sort and condition as in doves, which, without all bitterness of gall, are more apt to receive injury than to work wrong to any. At length this godly man, intending with himself and addicting his mind to the Christian state of matrimony, resorted to a certain maiden not far off where he dwelt: for the which cause he was greatly molested, and wickedly abused, by three of that college, whose names were Hutchinson, Pindare, and Tayler, who with their malicious handling, scornful dealing, opprobries, rebukes, and contumelies, so much vexed the virtuous simplicity of the man, that they never left him, till at length they wearied him out of the college: who there having no rest or quietness, by reason of the unreasonable and virulent handling of his adversaries, was compelled to seek some other place, wherein to settle himself. Upon the occasion whereof coming up unto London, it chanced him to pass through Paul's church, where it happened that at the south side of the church, at the same time, there was a priest at mass, (more busy than well occupied,) being at the elevation as he passed by. The young man, replete with godly zeal, pitying the ignorance and idolatry of the people, in honouring that so devoutly which the priest lifted up, was not able to forbear, but, opening his mouth, and turning to the people, he exhorted them not to honour the visible bread as God, which neither was God, nor yet ordained of God to be honoured, &c.; with such other words more of Christian information. For which cause, straightway, he was apprehended by the mayor, and afterwards accused to the archbishop of Canterbury, and committed to the Compter, then in Bread Street, where he not long continued, but, falling into a sickness, how or whereupon I cannot tell, shortly upon the same changed this mortal life: whose pardon, notwithstanding, was obtained of the lord protector, and should have been brought him, if he had continued. And thus much concerning Thomas Dobbe and others.
Over and besides, I find that in the first year of the reign of King Edward, which was A. D. 1547, there was one John Hume, servant to Master Lewnax, of Wressel, apprehended, accused, and sent up to the archbishop of Canterbury, by the said Master Lewnax, his master, and Margaret Lewnax, his mistress, for these articles.
"I. First, for denying the sacrament (as it was then called) of the altar, to be the real flesh and blood of Christ.
"II. For saying that he would never veil his bonnet unto it, to be burned there-for.
"III. For saying that if he should hear mass, he should be damned."
For this was he sent up by his master and mistress aforesaid, with special letters unto the archbishop, requiring him severely to be punished by the law for the same. But, because I find no execution following thereupon, I therefore pass over this story of him.