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It is not our present purpose to show how unfit a man Wolsey was, both in other respects, and more particularly as a monopoliser of church preferments,* to become the instrument of carrying out any extensive system of Church Reform, even in the particular points comprehended in the scheme ascribed to him by Mr. Blunt.t Our object in bringing that scheme before the notice of our readers is to show, (1) how entirely, on Mr. Blunt's own evidence, Wolsey was either indifferent, or opposed, to the real progress of the Reformation; and (2) how utterly disqualified Mr. Blunt must be for the adequate conception and the faithful delineation of the nature and ends of that great work of which he regards a worldly-minded and ambitious statesman as the “real leader.”
Sufficient evidence, it may be thought, has already been adduced, if indeed any evidence were required, to expose the extreme absurdity of Mr. Blunt's representation of Wolsey in this capacity. It so happens, however, that Mr. Blunt has himself furnished materials for the refutation of his own assertion, not only by his admission of the unlawfulness of Wolsey's policy, but also by the doubt which he has expressed as to the purity of Wolsey's motives. The best apology which Mr. Blant is able to make for Wolsey's efforts to obtain "an authority which he had no just right to wield” (p. 100), consists in the assertion, that “he sought power with great ends in view” (p. 97), thus sanctioning the essentially false and fatal maxim, that the end sanctions the means. Not content, however, with an admission of the unlawfulness of the means by which Wolsey attempted to accomplish his ends, Mr. Blunt has pronounced upon his hero this yet more severe sentence of condemnation, “ There is some reason to believe that he saw the better way, but chose the worse.” (p. 99.) We pause only to add, to what has been already advanced upon this subject, our unfeigned astonishment, that any writer, however strong his prejudices, and however hasty his conclusions, should yet venture to represent “as the most honest, the noblest, and the wisest of our Church Reformers," one whose actions he is constrained to condemn, and whose motives he is unable to defend.
The protracted negotiations, and the complicated train of difficulties, which arose out of the celebrated “Divorce" case of Henry VIII., necessarily engage the attention of every historian of the English Reformation; whilst the conflicting motives and interests which influenced the chief actors in that
* See Lingard's Hist. iv. p. 47.
+ Dean Hook says, that it was not until the Convocation of 1541 “ that any decided measures were adopted in favour of the Reformation of the Church."-“ Lives of the Archbishops,” ii. p. 143. Vol. 68.-No. 377.
It is perplexing vices, and toate his motives, et from the credits
business increase very greatly the difficulty of forming and recording an impartial judgment upon the course which they severally adopted. Our readers will not be surprised at finding Mr. Blunt again acting in the character of a partisan rather than in that of an impartial historian. Throughout the whole of this portion of his narrative, we meet with repeated indications of his anxiety to exculpate Wolsey in the adoption of a policy which it is impossible for any one of unbiassed judg. ment to defend, and of his eagerness to detract from the credit due to Cranmer; to calumniate his motives, to disparage the value of his services, and to represent his whole conduct, in this perplexing business, in the most unfavourable light. It is far removed from our design to attempt the vindication, throughout his arduous and chequered career, of one who, being naturally of a gentle and retiring disposition, and whose spirit had been cowed by the severity with which he had been treated in early life, was forced against his will into a post of peculiar difficulty and danger; who had been nurtured in a system preeminently adapted to throw obstacles in the way of the pursuit of truth, and to encourage the spirit of compromise and evasion; who continued, throughout the greater portion of his life, not only in appearance, but in heart, a conscientious member of the Romish Church, and who cannot, therefore, without the greatest possible amount of injustice, be tried and condemned by a standard to which he was a stranger, and by principles which he had not yet learned to recognise. Our assertion is, that, when compared with Wolsey, or with any of his contemporaries who were placed in similar circumstances, and exposed to similar temptations, the character and conduct of Cranmer not only appear to manifest advantage, but were such as justly to entitle him to the gratitude and admiration of posterity.
It is a matter of comparatively little importance, as affecting our judgment of the actors, whether the doubts and scruples which Henry professed to entertain regarding the validity of his marriage with Queen Catherine, had their origin in his own breast, or were suggested to him by Ann Boleyn, or by his Confessor, or by Wolsey. Neither is it a question of any importance as affecting our estimate of the character and conduct of Cranmer, whether the account commonly received of his interview with Gardiner and Fox at Waltham, as related by Morice and by Foxe the Martyrologist, be or be not substantially correct. It is an instructive illustration, however, of the marvellous influence of preconceived prejudice in blinding the eyes to the force of evidence, when we find Mr. Blunt rejecting, on the one side, as due exclusively to the “prejudices which were entertained by so many against Wolsey” (p. 115), state
ments supported by the contemporaneous authority of Cardinal Pole* and others, and confirmed by Dr. Lingard's circumstantial appeal to Wolsey's communications with the French Ambassador,t and, on the other side, an account which involves some small measure of credit as due to the discernment of Cranmer, though stamped, even in its minute details, with the visible impress of truth, because a different suggestion on the same subject had been made two years earlier by Wakefield, and because Morice, in this, as in a multitude of similar cases, does not say, as he does in some one or two other instances, that he received the account from the lips of the Archbishop himself. I
It appears to us clear beyond all reasonable doubt, that Wolsey, whether the original mover in the question or not, was willing and anxious to promote the Divorce to the utmost of his ability, so long as he entertained any hope of gaining his own ends by it; and on this point the evidence unintentionally adduced by Mr. Blunt is of itself decisive. The key to the explanation of Wolsey's conduct is, we think, to be found in the remark of Dean Hook, that “ Wolsey brought the mind not of a lawyer or of a divine, but of a statesman, to bear upon ecclesiastical affairs. He looked to the end, but disregarded the means. In defiance of the constitution and of the law, he had introduced the legatine courts, and this proved to be the cause of his fall, by perplexing the whole subject of the Divorce.”'s
“To the lucid and legal mind of Cranmer,” on the other
* See Hook's Lives of the Arch. bishops, N. S., i. 355.
# Dr. Lingard says, that Wolsey “ denied it in presence of the King in the Legatine Court, and repeatedly boasted of it to the French Ambassa. dor.”—“Hist. of England," iv. p. 122, 4to, 1820. “Wolsey," says Dean Hook, “with that disregard to private feelings which is characteristic of statesmen when the interests of the public are concerned, suggested that there was just enough of doubt about the legality of Henry's marriage with Katherine to enable the marriage to be set aside by some one or other of those count. less subterfuges by whicb Popes were accustomed to override the law, and to accede to the will of princes, when princes were prepared to defer to the decisions of a Pope.”—(Lives of the Archbishops, N. S., i. pp. 355-6.) To these testimonies we may add the fol. lowing:-“ On auroit évité les longues et amères contestations que la dif. férence des opinions, sur cette matière a occasionées, si on avoit été assez
désintéressé de part et d'autre pour
I “ Cranmer's clear and sagacious mind perceived where the difficulty lay, and he suggested the remedy. The Church of England was a national church, and was not, as Wolsey regarded it, a mere dependency upon Rome.”--(Hook's Lives of the Archbishops, i. p. 370.)
& Ibid. p. 369.
hand, who, as the same writer has observed, “had no private ends to answer, and who at that time (i.e. when the subject of the Divorce was first brought before him), cared neither for King nor Pope, the rights of the case were so clear, as to seem to him to be self-evident.”* That Cranmer would best have consulted his own reputation (as he would, unquestionably, have consulted his inclination) by resolutely refusing, at all risks, a post for which, notwithstanding his learning and ability, he felt that he was unsuited, we are willing, to the fullest extent, to concede. It is probably impossible, at this interval of time, to ascertain with certainty the motives by which Cranmer was swayed in yielding to the King's desire. Two things, however, it is important that we should bear in mind : (1) that it was neither easy nor safe to resist the commands of an imperious and despotic sovereign; and (2), that the absolute illegality of a marriage contracted with a deceased brother's wife, being apparent to Cranmer, and also the inability of the Pope to dispense with the obligation of a Divine precept, the case was divested, in his judgment, of a very considerable amount of the difficulty which it presented to the minds of others. It is important, moreover, to observe, that Cranmer did not presume to give sentence in this cause until he had previously obtained the concurrence of a large majority of the Members of Convocation on the two following points, viz., (1) that marriage with a deceased brother's wife, being prohibited by the Levitical law, could not be legalized by a Papal dispensation; and (2), that the marriage between Arthur and Catherine was not, as it was asserted, a mere precontract, but, in the fullest sense of the words, a real and valid marriage.
These two questions having been previously determined, the sentence delivered by the Archbishop at Dunstable was not, in the ordinary acceptation of the term, a sentence of divorce, but rather a sentence declaring the marriage between Henry and Catherine absolutely null and void.t It appears to us a matter of very secondary importance, whether, in a case so unprecedented in all its circumstances, the proceedings of Cranmer were or were not characterized by too great eagerness to bring the matter to a speedy issue. A formal appeal to Rome, on the part of the Queen, under then existing circumstances, could not, by possibility, have been productive of any beneficial result, and would probably have involved in ruin
* Hook's Lives of the Archbishops, i. p. 438.
+ The following is an extract from Cranmer's Definitive Sentence and Final Decree, as contained in Rymer's “ Fodera," vol. xiv. p. 468: - "Plene
et evidenter invenimus et comperimus dictum matrimonium inter... nullum et omnino invalidum fuisse et esse, ao Divino jure prohibente, contractum et consummatum extitisse."
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those who might have been concerned in it. Few, we apprehend, will be found in the present day, who will be disposed, on the one hand, to attach much weight to the alleged scruples of the King, or, on the other hand, to withhold their sympathy from the unfortunate Catherine, or their admiration of the dignified manner in which she sustained what she believed to be her rightful position as a wife and mother. We are unable, however, to concur in the condemnation pronounced upon Cranmer by Dean Hook, when he affirms that “he was simulating the character of a just judge, when he had deliberately come to deliver an iniquitous judgment ;'* and we cannot refrain from the expression of our strongest reprobation of the language adopted on this occasion by Mr. Blunt, who, when unable to substantiate any charge of perversion of justice against Cranmer, gives vent to his animosity in these words of self-condemning inconsistency :-“It is more likely that his conscience and his subserviency (disgusting as the latter now seems) were really in agreement with each other.”+
There are two other occasions on which the conduct of Cranmer has incurred the severe and, as we think, unjust or inconsiderate censure of his opponents. We refer to the protest made by the Archbishop on occasion of his taking the customary oaths at his consecration, and to the repeated recantations which he subscribed, subsequently to his public trial at Oxford, and immediately before his final testimony to the faith in which he died. Mr. Blunt makes no allusion to these events. The termination of his History of the Reformation with the year 1547, sufficiently accounts for the omission of any reference to the closing scenes of Cranmer's life; whilst Dean Hook's complete refutation of the charges preferred against the Archbishop, as though guilty of some unparalleled act of perfidy, accounts, we may presume, for Mr. Blunt's silence with regard to the oaths taken by Cranmer at his consecration. A short allasion, however, to Cranmer's conduct on both of these occasions, may not be unacceptable to our readers. With regard to the two oaths taken by Cranmer at his consecration, the one in which he swore to defend the regality of St. Peter with all the rights, honours, and privileges of the Church of Rome, and the other, in which he acknowledged that he held his bishopric of the King, and of the King only, and that he renounced such words as he had made, or should make, to the Pope's holiness in behalf of the said bishopric, we confess ourselves unable to justify, by our standard of right, the course adopted by those who com. mitted themselves to both.