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CROMWELL FALLS INTO DISGRACE.
time-serving then as he was afterwards bloody-minded), and which are all meant to play up to the known tastes or prejudices of his patron, it is plain enough that Gardiner was disliked and distrusted by Cromwell, whom he in his turn was as studious to affront by the insults which he heaped upon this his mean-spirited vassal, and the savage ill-humour with which he resigned to him his office. He returned, however, to England; and as a man changes his latitude, but not his temper, who crosses the seas, Gardiner still continued to be a thorn in Cromwell's side; and on a comparison of dates, it will be seen that he had scarcely set foot in England before a change began to manifest itself in the counsels of the king, and Cromwell's influence, even long before he was attainted, to decline. What, indeed, could induce the latter to be instrumental to his recal from France (as Fox implies he was), and thereby to put his enemy in a situation where he could do him more mischief, it is vain at this time of day to inquire; but it seem propable that Gardiner was thought to be playing a game of his own in his master's service; and to be accommodating the foreign relations of his country to a policy that suited himself, or at least the cause which he had at heart.* But in truth it must have been a very difficult matter for a minister of those times to have found the right place for the bishop of Winchester, whose talents where such, that it was alike unsafe to use or to refuse them. The character
of this double-edged tool the king had learned to appreciate when it was too late; and on making a fresh will shortly before his death, showed no disposition to meddle with it more, by excluding Gardiner from the number of his executors (for in a former will, which was now cancelled, his name was found amongst them), and on being reminded of
* Fox's Acts and Mon. ii. 380.
the omission by Sir Anthony Browne, he replied, that he had acted advisedly, seeing that "if he were in his testament he would cumber them all."*
Gardiner, however, once dominant, maintained the ascendency of the Romish party and principles to the last of Henry's reign. He had, indeed, powerful coadjutors. The Howards were devoted to the same cause; and the natural influence of that distinguished house was then accidentally increased by the alliance which the king was about to form with one of its members. Then, again, he strengthened If he found him making any
himself by the king's fears. demonstrations of a nearer approach to the Reformers, he could threaten him with the displeasure of the emperor, and picture to him the jealousy with which he was already regarded by the European powers, as the royal ringleader of heresy. The expectation too of a general council shortly to be held for the settlement of religious differences, and which finally fixed itself at Trent, threw its weight into the same scale. Henry might think it his policy not to commit himself farther with the faithful sons of the church till the storm was overpast. Not was it a slight matter in favour of Gardiner, that the king, in a rash hour, had become an author; that his sentiments on the leading doctrines of the Reformers were put upon irrevocable record; and that now to flinch from his positions would be to resign the laurels which his reputed scholarship had won for him; and, what was still less to his taste, would be to pronouncce that in matters of opinion even he himself was not infallible. No man was better qualified to take advantage of these or any other incidents which might make for his object than Gardiner, the most astute politician of his time; while Cranmer, on the other hand, had nothing to oppose to him but the
* Fox, ii. 647.
ASCENDANCY OF GARDINER.
spirit of an Israelite indeed, alike unfit for contriving plots himself, or for discovering them in another; for of him it might have been said; as it was said of one of his most conspicuous successors in the see of Canterbury (though a character upon the whole very different from his), that "too secure in a good conscience, and most sincere worthy intention, with which no man was ever more plentifully replenished, he thought he could manage and discharge the place and office of the greatest minister in the court, without any other friendship or support than what the splendour of a pious life and his accomplished integrity would reconcile to him; which was an unskilful measure," adds the great historian, whose experience it is presumptuous to question, yet whose conclusion it is painful to admit, "in a licentious age, and may deceive a good man in the best of times that shall succeed; which exposed him to such a torrent of adversity and misery, as we shall have too natural an occasion to lament in the following discourse, in which it will be more reasonable to enlarge of his singular abilities and immense virtue."* Soon had Cranmer reason to exclaim of those now admitted into the king's counsels, "Ye are too hard for me!" for now is past the act of the Six Articles (the whip with six strings as it was called), the death-warrant of so many innocent men, whereby, 1. the doctrine of transubstantiation was established by law; 2. the communion in both kinds excluded; 3. the marriage of priests forbidden; 4. vows of celibacy declared obligatory; 5. private masses for souls in purgatory upheld; and 6. auricular confession pronounced expedient, and necessary to be retained. The penalties annexed to the breach of these decrees being for the first, to be burnt as a heretic, for the others to be hanged as a felon, and in all cases to forfeit lands and goods
* Clarendon's Hist. of the Rebellion, i. 102.
to the king as a traitor. Against these sanguinary articles Cranmer lifted up his voice in parliament for three days together in vain. He, on that occasion, was acknowledged by his opponents to have played a noble part; and the king, whose redeeming virtue it was to deal kindly with this singlehearted man, expressed his sense of the zeal, the honesty, and the learning with which he had withstood court and parliament to the face; by commanding the chief lords to dine with the archbishop at Lambeth after the bill was passed, and to "signify unto him that it was the king's pleasure that all should in his Highness' behalf cherish, comfort, and animate him."* The king, who understood the beauty of his character, was faithful to his pledge, however faithless were some of his messengers; and within two years after, when two several attempts were made-the one by the clergy, the other by the council, and both probably by Gardiner to bring the archbishop under the operation of this cruel act, and so to run him down, Henry generously interposed, and casting his sceptre before the pack that was open-mouthed to tear this noble quarry in pieces, called them off, and rescued the victim.† It is singular, and characteristic of the man, and of his unsuspicious temperament, that in both instances his sovereign was the first person to apprise him of his danger; in the one case calling him into his barge, as he passed by Lambeth Bridge, and addressing him—“O my chaplain, now I know who is the greatest heretic in Kent," and thereupon putting him in possession of the charges of his accusers, and giving him directions for vindicating his own innocence, and bringing his enemies to shame; in the other case sending for him out of bed at midnight, and acquainting him that the council had demanded his commitment to the Tower, as being one who sowed
* Fox, ii. 508.
Strype's Cranmer, pp. 114. 118.
HENRY'S KINDNESS TO CRANMER.
heresy and sedition throughout the realm, and that the next day the deed was to be done. What follows is a scene of very touching beauty, whether as given by Fox or Strype; and as the incident is full of dramatic effect, it is happy that Shakspeare has set upon it his own mark, and thereby rescued it from the clownish hand of any ordinary playwright. At the same time it may be remarked, that his characters have their parts allotted to them without any very strict attention to historical fidelity, and sometimes in violation of it. Whether our poet like those of Italy, both ancient and modern, had his own favourites amongst the great of the country, and so doled out his measures of immortality or infamy accordingly—whether the popularity of the reigning queen did not influence the estimation in which the memory of her father's courtiers was held; or whether, which is the most probable, Shakspeare, with his usual indifference to the minuter matters of his drama, did not put words into the mouths of his speakers somewhat at random, and without much concern as to their being strictly the property of the individual bishop, earl, or duke, who was made to utter them-suffice it to say, in the language of our martyrologists, that when the king had spoke his mind, the archbishop kneeled down and said, "I am content, if it please your Grace, with all my heart to go thither at your Highness's commandment; and I most humbly thank your Majesty that I may come to my trial; for there be that have in many ways slandered me, and now this way I hope to try myself not worthy of such report." The king, per
ceiving the man's uprightness, joined with such simplicity, said, "Oh Lord! what a man be you! what simplicity is in you! I had thought that you would rather have sued to us to have taken the pains to have heard you and your accusers together for your trial, without any such endurance. Do you know what state you be in with the whole world and