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- England Under the Tudors - 40/90 -
In the meantime the progressive Reformers, increasingly guided by Swiss rather than Lutheran ideas, were already hurrying forward with their schemes, acting upon Royal proclamations under the authority of the Council. Injunctions were issued for the destruction of "abused" images which term was liberally interpreted so as to cover stained glass, paintings, and carvings which might conceivably be regarded as objects of idolatry--that is to say, become in themselves objects of worship instead of being recognised as mere symbols: a process which unless conducted with the most studied moderation and caution was absolutely certain to give the rein not only to passionate zealotry but to wanton irreverence. Cranmer obtained an order for the reading in churches of the "Book of Homilies," for the most part in lieu of all other preaching. The _Paraphrase_ of Erasmus, done into English, was ordered to be set up in the churches. A commission was issued for a Royal Visitation, superseding the authority of the bishops, though some months elapsed before this was fairly at work. Paget, having the instincts of statesmanship, endeavoured to warn Somerset against keeping too many irons in the fire; but Paget was guided solely by political expediency, not by principle. The one man who did boldly take up his stand on principle was Gardiner. His remonstrances were open. He urged that the intentions of the dead King should be carried out; that no revolutionary changes should be introduced during Edward's minority; that arbitrary proclamations by the Council had no sanction of law; that the personal powers bestowed upon Henry remained in abeyance until the young King should be of age; that aggressive measures in Scotland ought to be similarly deferred. The introduction of the Homilies, he argued, to which authorisation had been refused in the last reign, was in itself unjustifiable in the circumstances; the more so as--mainly by their omissions--they were inconsistent with the doctrinal attitude affirmed by Henry's legislation. Gardiner's remonstrances, supported by Bonner, bishop of London, were of no effect. Matters came to a head when the two bishops refused to submit without qualification to the injunctions. Both were imprisoned in the Fleet, while Somerset was in Scotland.
[Sidenote: Nov. Repeal of more stringent laws; Social legislation]
In November, Parliament met, and began its career of benign legislation. Since Cromwell's day, the land had lain under the grip of ruthless laws. Of these the sternest were repealed as no longer necessary. The Treasons Act disappeared; so did the old Acts against the Lollards; so did the Act of the Six Articles. A curious attempt was made to deal with the problem of vagrancy, the outcome of prevalent economic conditions, which the penalties of flogging and hanging had failed to repress. The vagrant was to be brought before the magistrates, branded, and handed over to some honest person as a "slave" for two years. If he attempted to escape from servitude, he was to be branded again and made a slave for life; if still refractory he could be sentenced as a felon. The intention of the Act was merciful, its effect probably more degrading than that of the superseded statutes. At any rate, it failed entirely of its purpose and was repealed after two years.
[Sidenote: Ecclesiastical legislation]
In matters ecclesiastical, Parliament on its own account abolished the form of the _congé d'élire_, giving the appointments directly into the King's hands. Also the chantries and other foundations which had been conferred on Henry, but had not been suppressed by him, were now--despite the strong opposition of Cranmer, Tunstal, and a few of the bishops-- formally subjected to the Council and for the most part abolished. It is to be noted however that of the Church property acquired by the crown in this reign a comparatively respectable though still niggardly proportion was re-appropriated to educational purposes. [Footnote: In most cases, only in the way of restoring pre-existing endowments.]
Convocation, sitting concurrently with Parliament, presented petitions for representation of the clergy in parliament, for the administration of the Communion in both kinds to the laity, for the suppression of irreverent language about the Sacrament, and for sanctioning the marriage of the clergy. The first was ignored; the two next were embodied in Acts of Parliament; the last was deferred for a year. The session was rounded off in January by a general pardon, except for the graver offences; with the result that the imprisoned bishops were for a time released.
[Sidenote: Progress of Reformation]
Between this and the next session of Parliament, in November, the arbitrary method of proceeding by proclamations was in full force. The Reformers did not as yet press advanced doctrinal views. There was a proclamation for the observance of the Lenten Fast--expressly for the sake of the fisheries. Another enforced a new Communion Office, pending the completion of a new Prayer-book; but in this the service of the Mass remained unaltered and in Latin: no doctrinal change was implied, though the Communion in both kinds was ordered to be administered to the laity, in accordance with the recent Act and the recommendation of Convocation. More significant was a further proclamation for the destruction of "images," in which the distinction between "abused" images and others, previously laid down, was cancelled. In the meantime no unauthorised innovations were to be permitted. Cranmer was still striving vainly after his ideal of a conference between leading continental and English reformers, who should come to an agreement upon a common body of doctrine. It was _prima facie_ reasonable that while awaiting the new authoritative formularies, now avowedly in course of preparation by a commission on which the Catholic party was not unrepresented, partisan preaching should be discouraged, and all but licensed preachers be confined to the Homilies; it was however unfortunate that the licences for preaching should have been systematically granted both by Somerset and Cranmer--to whom the power was restricted--only to keen and sometimes extravagant partisans of the "New Learning"; a term at that time appropriated to the advocates of Protestantism at large. It is not surprising that Gardiner so far placed himself in opposition as to be called upon to express publicly his approval of these proceedings, nor that he should have found himself unable to do so in terms satisfactory to the Council. Before the summer was over the Bishop of Winchester was relegated to the Tower. More unfortunate still was the encouragement to sacrilegious irreverence given by the personal conduct of the Protector, who pulled down one chapel and began to lay hands on another in order to build himself a new palace.
[Sidenote: Somerset's ideas]
Nor were Somerset's activities confined to the campaign against "idolatry," a term conveniently used to include any observances which, in the eyes of the Swiss school, savoured of superstition. With no sense of the limitations of his own intelligence, no suspicion of the subtle skill in adjustment needed at all times to impose ideals on a materially minded community, unable to realise that though his object might be excellent the methods adopted in achieving it might be fruitful of unexpected evils, he conceived in his arrogant self-confidence that he had but to say the word and difficulties would vanish. He resolved to appear as the Poor Man's Friend, establishing a Court of Requests in his own house so that appeal might be made personally to him from the normal processes of the Law; also, he appointed a commission to investigate and deal with that evasion of the agricultural statutes which he imagined to be the actual cause of the prevailing distress. The end in view was admirable, the method high-handed and unconstitutional: the policy won him popularity for the time among the depressed classes, but roused the enmity of nobility and gentry without achieving useful results.
[Sidenote: The French in Scotland]
Meanwhile, affairs in Scotland were aggravating the tension with France, where the proposal to marry the Scots Queen to the French Dauphin was approved. English troops harried the borders, and in the course of the spring captured and garrisoned Haddington. French troops were landed in Scotland, and the marriage proposal was formally ratified; in spite of a belated offer from the Protector to leave Scotland alone and postpone his own marriage scheme till Edward and Mary were old enough to have views of their own, provided that Scotland would hold aloof from France. French ships, evading the English by sailing round the Orkneys, took Mary on board on the west coast and carried her off in safety to France. A diplomatist would have seized the chance of reviving an English party, when it was found that a violent animosity was growing up between the Scots and the French troops; but the opportunity was allowed to pass, and the animosities were reconciled by some minor successes of Scots and French together against the English: while privateering operations--in other words, authorised piracy--were going on in and near the Channel, which amounted to something not far removed from a state of war between France and England.
[Sidenote: The Augsburg Interim]
It was fortunate that affairs in Germany continued to preclude that union of the Catholic Powers against England which the Pope desired; since neither Charles nor Paul would bend to the other. Charles, with no one to fear since Mühlberg had witnessed the destruction of the League of Schmalkald, was preparing future disaster by his high-handed attitude within the Empire. Deeming his position absolutely secure, his tone to the Pope was peremptory and dictatorial. The French King encouraged Paul to be equally peremptory. In May 1548, Charles, repudiating the authority of the Council, or section of the Council, sitting at Bologna, took the law in his own hands and imposed the "Interim of Augsburg" on the Germans. It was one of those compromises which satisfies no one; schismatical in the eyes of the Catholics, in the eyes of the Protestants an insignificant concession. Many of the latter, including the moderate and conciliatory Bucer, withdrew to England rather than accept it. The Protector however was secured against any present danger of a coalition between Henry II. and Charles; while the incursion of foreign Protestants of extreme views, especially those of the Swiss school, had a marked influence on the ecclesiastical movement in England.
[Sidenote: Nov. Parliament]
At the end of November, Parliament again met--to reject a first, a second, and a third Enclosures Bill, based on the report of the Agricultural Commission; for the labouring classes were unrepresented in the House. Making the rough places smooth proved not so simple a process as the Protector had imagined. The petition of the clergy for the legalisation of their marriages, deferred from the last session, was given effect, and fasting was again enjoined on economic grounds. The real business of the session, however, was the discussion of the new Prayer-book and the first Act of Uniformity.
[Sidenote: 1549 A New Liturgy]
Hitherto, there had been no uniform Order of Service: a variety of "Uses" being sanctioned. The idea however was by no means new, and had in fact long been theoretically approved, though never pressed with sufficient fervour to pass the stage of theoretical approbation. Cranmer had expended an infinity of learning and labour on the work now to be issued, and to him we owe chiefly the solemn harmonies, the gracious tenderness, of its language. To him too in chief, but partly also to the composite character of the "Windsor Commission" under whose auspices [Footnote: _Cf._ Moore, 183.] it was prepared, is due that conscious ambiguity of phraseology which enables persons of opinions so diverse on points so numerous to find in it a sufficiently satisfactory expression or recognition of their own views. It was possible alike for Day and for Ridley, even for Tunstal and for Hooper, to conform to it. Whether it was actually submitted to Convocation is a moot question, [Footnote: Moore, 186,187.] as to which the evidence is inconclusive, but informally, if not formally, it is clear that it received the _imprimatur_ of general clerical opinion. In the discussions, the Archbishop--generally regarded by
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