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Research paper example essay prompt: Suppression Of The English Monasteries During The Reign Of King Henry The Eighth - 5066 words

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SUPPRESSION OF THE ENGLISH MONASTERIES DURING THE REIGN OF KING HENRY THE EIGHTH An Essay Submitted to the Department of History of the University of Notre Dame in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Bachelor of Arts by Guy Fairweather --------------------------------------------- Director Department of History University of Notre Dame May 11, 1974 TABLE OF CONTENTS Chapter 1 . . . . . .

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. . . . 73 Chapter 1 INTRODUCTION TO IMPORTANT PERSONAGES AND PREVALENT SOCIAL CONDITIONS IN THE 1520's AND 1530's In the years 1536 and 1539 A.

D. there occurred two events in England that were destined to alter its whole religious character. In these two years the King of England, Henry VIII, forced through the English Parliament two acts that sealed the fate of the Catholic Church in England. They were the "Act for the Dissolution of the Smaller Monasteries" and the "Act for the Dissolution of the Greater Monasteries", respectively. In this paper I will explore the events and the reasons behind these events, which led to this complete and total break with a religion that had been embraced by England for centuries.

Naturally, the most important of the people involved in these suppressions was King Henry VIII for it was during his reign that the monasteries were suppressed. When Henry's father died in 1509 Henry ascended a throne which his father had made remarkably secure, he inherited a fortune which probably no English king had ever been bequeathed, he came to a kingdom which was the best governed and most obedient in Christendom. 1 Upon taking the throne Henry married his brother's widow, Catherine of Aragon, who was destined to be a main character in a religious controversy which shook all of Europe. After ascending to the throne it soon became apparent that Henry was not as frugal as his father. Perhaps he was expending all the energy stored up while his father was alive for he was at that time watched so closely that he might have been a girl. He could go out only through a private door, and then he was under the supervision of specially-appointed people. No one could speak to him.

He spent most of his time in his room which could only be entered via the king's chamber. He never spoke in public unless it was to answer a question from his father.2 One reason for this over abundance of protection may have been that the king, having seen his oldest son Arthur die shortly after marrying Catherine, feared for the safety of his only remaining male heir. But, whatever the reason, the result of this forced confinement was that Henry began engaging in activities, many of them costly, to expend his energy. He held many jousting tournaments, went hunting and sightseeing and even decided on the most "kingly" of activities, war. Within weeks of taking the throne, Henry decided to go to war with France.

One of the reasons causing Henry to arrive at this costly decision was whatever else an English king may have been--and he was much else--he was still a leader in war. He must still 'venture' himself in battle, to use an old formula, and blood himself.3 Henry went to war with France in 1513 and during this campaign a man appeared on stage who was destined to play a part in the events to follow. Thomas Wolsey had been King Henry VII's chaplain and had carried out some minor diplomatic duties which resulted in his being named Dean of Lincoln and made Royal Almoner.4 When Henry came to power Thomas Wolsey was "firm in the Council and Ascendent in the Church"5 but he craved still more power. The war with France gave him his opportunity. It was Wolsey's work which made the campaign of 1513 successful.

He provided Henry with a well-fed, well-equipped, healthy and disciplined army. Wolsey rode with Henry throughout the campaign, seeing that the troops built good shelters against the winter. The war enabled Wolsey to show Henry his organizational abilities. "Thus in a year he had been raised--at royal instance--from a mere dean to archbishop, legatus natus and primate of England."6 "For the next fifteen years England's foreign policy was Wolsey's, . . .".7 But, as is always the case, the mighty must fall, and when Wolsey was unable to obtain Henry's desired divorce from Catherine, he fell into disfavor and in November of 1530 he was arrested for treason and died shortly afterwards.

The vacuum left by Wolsey's demise was filled by Thomas Cromwell who was the king's chief minister by 1533. It was this man who carried out the suppression of the monasteries. He oversaw the breach with Rome and the establishment of the Royal Supremacy. He directed the immense operation of the dissolution of the monasteries. He was either the direct or posthumous founder of the two Courts (we would say ministries) of Augmentations and First Fruits, which handled the new income from the dissolved religious houses and the secular Church, and the two courts of Wards and Surveyors, which were designed to exploit more efficiently the crown's feudal rights and lands.8 According to Thomas Starkey, who became chaplain to Henry in 1535, England was a land of social crisis.

England was under populated at this time as a result of the black plague of 1348-1349 and repeated outbreaks of the deadly disease since. Yf you loke to the cytes and townys throughout thys reame [realm], you schal fynd that in tyme past they haue byn much bettur inhabytd, and much more replenyschyd with pepul then they be now; . . .9. This assertion of a notable lack of people is supported by Francis Gasquet who says although a hundred and fifty years had elapsed before Henry VIII mounted the throne, so great had been the ravages of the scourge, and so unsettled had been the interval, that the nation was still suffering from the effects of the great sickness.

It could hardly have been otherwise, when in one year, 1348-1349, about half of the entire population was swept away.10 As a result of this drop in population there were fewer people to feed. Thus, there was a "fall in the price of many, though not all, agricultural products".11 This lack of able-bodied men allowed the hired hand to demand higher wages. As prices and rents fell and wages rose, many landlords were forced to go into sheep-raising because it required fewer hands and there was a big demand for wool on the continent. As a result, the practice of enclosure12 came into common usage with disastrous results for the small farmer. The peasants were forced off their holdings and into the cities where, for the most part, they had to choose between begging and stealing in order to live. The result was that many towns fell into decay as the people were forced to move.

Ther yn no man but he seth the grate enclosyng in euery parte of herebul land; and where as was corne and fruteful tyllage, now no thyng ys but pasturys and playnys, by the reson wherof many vyllagus and townys are in few days ruynate and dekeyd.13 This statement is supported by Thomas More who said the cause of this decay is generally attributed to sheep-farming and the enclosure of lands. Wherever the finest wool was grown, there noblemen and Abbots enclosed all the land for pasture. They leveled houses and towns, and left nothing standing except the church, which they converted into a sheep house. They turned all dwelling places and all glebelands into a wilderness.14 Just as the common man was having financial troubles, so was the king, the main reason being war and inflation. The manner in which war could inflate expenditures can be seen from this run of figures: 1509, L65,097; 1510, L26,735; 1511, L64,157; 1512, L269,564 (Guienne); 1513, L699,714 (Flanders); 1514, L155,757; 1515, L74,006; and Wolsey's foreign adventures proved even more expensive, the expenditures of 1522-3 costing almost L400,000.15 The economic changes in Europe were also depleting Henry's resources.

Henry's need of money was due to something that lay deeper than his own extravagance and rapacity. The whole of Europe was undergoing great economic changes, in consequence of the discovery of new trade routes and the importation of gold and silver from America, which depreciated the value of the coinage. Prices rose and the spending power of any fixed sum of money diminished. As the royal revenues were almost entirely customary and therefore fixed, it followed that the King was growing poorer while the expenses of government were constantly increasing as the nation emerged from feudal into modern life.16 Obviously, Henry had to find new sources of income and it was to Wolsey that this responsibility fell. In 1514 Wolsey introduced a "levy on wages, personal property, and rents, which grew to be a regular part of the system of direct taxation, though it lost its flexibility and eventually became merely a conventional expression for a parliamentary grant of about L80,000 to L100,000".17 "In 1522 the cardinal imposed a forced loan on the rich, which brought in L200,000.

In the next year Parliament was summoned and was asked for a tax of four shillings in the pound but the members were recalcitrant and eventually granted only two shillings."18 So, in 1524 Wolsey was forced to attempt another forced loan but this time he was met with resistance. Even "priests denounced the loan openly and preached against it and stood for the rights and liberties of the people".19 The reason for the resistance seems to be that the "loan" did not go through parliament and therefore was not legally binding. The result was that Henry had to cancel his plans for another French invasion but he did learn a valuable lesson: for the rest of his reign all of his actions would be perfectly "legal". Wolsey also tried to alleviate some of the problems caused by the practice of enclosure by sponsoring various anti-enclosure bills but they met with little success. "In 1518 a Chancery order was issued that enclosures made since 1485 were to be demolished unless it could be shown that they were for the good of the country.

Further orders followed in 1520, 1526, and 1528, but they remained largely dead letters."20 Undoubtedly the black plague, which had devastated the general populous of England in the mid-fourteenth century, also had an equally disastrous effect on the monasteries. It was inevitable that the clergy who tried to help the suffering would themselves become infected with the deadly disease. Furthermore, it seems logical to assume that the ones to survive would, for the most part be those who would not get involved but, rather, flee to the countryside. The result was the survivors were the worst of the lot. This hypothesis is supported by various historians. Francis Gasquet says that in the County of Norfolk, out of 799 priests 527 died of the plague; and William Bateman, the bishop, applied for and obtained from Pope Clement VII, a bull allowing him to dispense with sixty clerks, who were only twenty-one years of age, 'though only shavelings,' and to allow them to hold rectories, as one thousand livings had been rendered vacant by death, as otherwise service would cease altogether.21 Here we see the beginning of future troubles as unqualified people were given positions of responsibility.

Philip Hughes says that in many respects the monasteries in England never regained what they now lost [from the plague]. Very few indeed of them--comparatively speaking--were, henceforward, sufficiently staffed even to carry out their primary function of choral prayer in the way this needs to be done.22 This last assertion is supported by P. J. Helm who says "there were altogether about 825 religious houses of all types and the average number of persons in the smaller houses was not more than seven or eight".23 The future of the monasteries seemed so bleak to some that they felt their end was in sight. When Bishop Fox of Winchester proposed to build a college at Oxford for young monks of his cathedral priory, his friend Bishop Oldham of Exeter advised him to abandon the plan and in its place to fund a college for secular priests. 'Shall we build houses and provide livelihoods for a company of bussing monks, whose end and fall we may live to see? No, no; it is more meet a great deal that we should have to care and provide for such who by their learning shall do good in the Church and commonwealth.' Oldham's advice was not ignored, for in 1516 Bishop Fox and he founded Corpus Christi college, Oxford.24 Thomas Wolsey did not think things were as bad as Bishop Oldham implied but he did recognize that some of the monasteries were not able to do their jobs.

So, in 1524 he appealed to Pope Clement VII "for authority to dissolve a number of 'certain exile'25 and small monasteries, and to appropriate their revenues and properties"26 for "founding Cardinal college at Oxford together with a preparatory or nursery college in his native place, Ipswich".27 Obviously, Pope Clement VII thought Wolsey's request legitimate for he allowed Wolsey to suppress twenty-eight houses in which the "number of inmates had dwindled to single figures. In only five was there a community of eight or more, and the net income in all but six was less than L200 a year. The total revenue of all the doomed houses amounted to about L2,300."28 The man entrusted with all aspects of the legal business of these suppressions was Thomas Cromwell. Although the king received complaints about the conduct of Cromwell and the other agents assigned to the suppression, Wolsey assured him that the complaints were unjustified.29 It has been said by many that it was Wolsey who planted in the king's head the idea of increasing revenues by suppressing the monasteries. He suppressed certain small monasteries and took their revenue and lands.

Thereby he trained the men, he set the example, he inaugurated the policy which ended in a prodigious economic Revolution: the greatest England has ever known. The dissolution of all monasteries after his death, and the distribution of their lands among the new adventurers. . .30. It might also be remembered that Wolsey's high-handed actions as legate a latere31 "rode papal jurisdiction in England to its death. .

. . Wolsey provided for the king and for his civil administration a hint of the manner in which secular and religious controls, vested in the hands of one man, might be used to destroy catholic and feudal liberties and, after victory, to create a national state-church."32 But, there was one thing the king and Cromwell failed to give proper attention to and it would almost cost Henry his throne in 1536. They forgot that the commons were greatly displeased with these suppressions of Wolsey and in some areas reacted violently. Although "there seems to have been little opposition to Wolsey's measures by the inmates of the houses marked for suppression"33 (there were attempts to bribe Wolsey) "there were here and there signs of dissatisfaction amongst the townsfolk and people of the countryside, when it became known that a monastery in the neighborhood was to be surrendered to Wolsey".34 "At Tonbridge the townsmen petitioned for a continuance of the priory which they preferred to the promise of a school with scholarships at Cardinal College, . . ."35 but it was all to no avail. At Bayham in Sussex the resistance took the form of violence. You have heard before how the Cardinal suppressed many monasteries, of the which one called Bayham in Sussex, the which was very commodious to the country, but so befell the cause that a riotous company, disguised and unknown with painted faces and visors, came to the same monastery and brought with them the canons, and put them in their place again; and promised them that whensoever they rang the bell, that they would come again with a great power and defend them.

This doing came to the ear of the King's counsel, which caused the canons to be taken, and they confessed the captains, which were imprisoned and sore punished.36 Chapter 2 THE REFORMATION PARLIAMENT The end of 1530 saw Henry launch the claim to a national immunity against Rome's sovereignty; it saw him announce a personal claim to imperial status which could neither acknowledge nor allow any superior on earth. It also saw the first attempt to manhandle the clerical estate within his realm.1 Although all responsibility for the following events must fall upon Henry's shoulders, it seems safe to say that the inspiration for these actions was Thomas Cromwell. Throughout his political career Cromwell, unlike Wolsey, recognized the value of working through the House of Commons, and it was during his eight year period of ministry, 1532-1540, that the majority of the Henrican Reforms were carried out. By contrast, outside these eight years, the reign of Henry VIII has scarcely a single creative or revolutionary achievement to its credit. The King's will-power, his courage, his decisiveness, his immense capacity to inspire adulation, these preserved the integrity of the kingdom and paved the way for the long Elizabethan peace which Englishmen were to enjoy amid a chaotic Europe.

But otherwise his personal touch proved sterile; he was too egotistical, too emotional, too interested in kingly pleasures, too conservative to initiate new techniques of government, new paths of progress for English society. Yet between the years 1532 and 1540 all is different. Creation, destruction and change are visible on all sides; . . .2 . Henry opened his assault upon the clergy on September 29, 1530.

This put them on the defense which was the position they remained in for the rest of Henry's reign. "In Michaelmas, 1530, fifteen clerics were cited to the King's Bench on praemunire charges, charges, that is, of lesser treason, punishable with loss of goods and imprisonment."3 But these charges were dropped, it seems, by the design of Cromwell. "The prelates shall not appear in the praemunire, . . .

There is another way devised."4 That "other way" was much more audacious. A few days after the death of Thomas Wolsey [November 30, 1530], the attorney general filed an injunction in the king's bench charging the clergy with a breach of the statutes of Praemunire and Provisors. These were statutes of 1351 and 1353 under which a citation could be brought against anyone who sought satisfaction in Rome or elsewhere in cases which fell under royal jurisdiction. It was charged that the whole English clergy was guilty in the submission that it had made to Cardinal Wolsey during his legatine administration. It was irrelevant that Henry had accepted this authority and had supported Wolsey in his exercise of it.

The law was clear. The law was higher than the king.5 The clergy quickly called a Convocation both in Canterbury and York. The Southern Convocation [in Canterbury] hoped to bribe the king with L40,000 but soon learned that Henry expected much more. Therefore, on January 24, 1531 they voted to pay the king L100,000 "as a grant to the king in acknowledgment of his defense of the faith against heresy".6 This obvious attempt to bribe the king without admitting their guilt failed when on February 7 Henry sent the grant back ordering the "clergy to confess their guilt and acknowledge him as 'the Protector and Supreme Head of the Church in England' having, moreover, in his dominions a cure of souls".7 The bishops wanted to add the phrase "so far as Canon Law allows" but Henry rejected this with a counterproposal of "after God". Finally, on February 11, 1531, the clergy and the king agreed upon the title "the Protector and Supreme Head of the Church and Clergy of England, whose especial Protector, single and Supreme Lord, and as far as the law of Christ allows, even Supreme Head". The obvious ambiguity of this phrase was questioned by the presiding bishop of the Northern Convocation, Cuthbert Tunstall.

Bishop Tunstall wanted the phrase "only and Supreme Lord after Christ in temporal matters" inserted but Henry, in his reply, said that "you [Bishop Tunstall] first define the Church as the Body of Christ, and then propose I shall be the head of it in temporal matters, but the church so defined has no temporal matters".8 Bishop Tunstall backed down and the Northern Convocation bought their pardon for L18,840, 0s. 10d. Bishop Tunstall's reservations about Henry's intentions were proven justified early in 1532 when Parliament went into session. "Two acts of this session had a permanent effect, and are vital forces to this day in English life: the act about first-fruits, and the submission of the clergy. The first is directly anti-papal, the other anti-clerical. .

.".9 The first-fruits act, otherwise known as the Conditional Restraints of Annates, was supposedly designed to prevent the outflow of money from England to Rome but it was actually intended to put pressure on the pope to concede to Henry's wishes. Since the Tudors came in, forty-seven years before [1485], more than L160,000 in specie had found its way out of the realm to the pope, through the payments bishops were obliged to make on their appointment--payment, in each case, of a sum equal to a third of the see's annual revenue [other sources say a years profits]. . .".10 The interesting aspect of this bill was that Henry had a year to enact it. Obviously it was being used as a Damoclean sword to force the pope to approve of Henry's divorce.

The resistance Henry met in passing this bill demonstrates that, although the Parliament usually went along with Henry, it was not a rubber stamp organization. Henry had to make three appearances before Parliament before the bill was passed. One might ask why the Parliament was so hesitant to prevent this outflow of money. The reason was that Parliament was not as ready as Henry was for such drastic ecclesiastical changes. This annates bill provided for too many contingencies for the Parliaments taste. Such as if the court of Rome endeavored to wield excommunication, interdict, or process compulsory, then all manner of sacraments and divine service should continue to be administered, and the interdict, etc. should not by any prelate or minister be executed or divulged.11 From the above it is obvious that the majority of Parliament was not yet ready for a complete frontal attack on the clergy but, they were getting there.

On March 18, 1532 the Petitions of the Commons was presented to the king. This document made twelve basic charges against the clergy of England. They are: 1) The clergy in convocation make canons which may contravene the laws of the realm and be prejudicial to the royal authority. They are written in an unknown tongue, so that simple people do not understand them. 2) The Courts of Arches and Audience have too few proctors and hence the law's delays.

The King is asked to appoint more proctors. 3) Summoners and Apparitors are constantly citing people to appear in court on frivolous charges. 4) Fees are generally excessive. 5) Priests take money for celebrating the sacraments. 6) Executors find it difficult to obtain probate of wills and have to make long journeys.

7) Prelates make pacts before instituting men to benefices and such pacts are simoniacal. 8) Bishops and Ordinaries present relations, being minors, to benefices and during their minority enjoy the revenues. 9) The number of holy days is excessive, especially in harvest, and are the occasion of idle and wanton sports. 10) Innocent people are subject to vexatious examination, and kept in prison without redress. 11) It is impossible to recover damages for wrongful accusations. 12) Innocent people defamed as heretics are trapped by subtle interrogations about the high mysteries of the Faith, and any two witnesses, however unworthy of credence, suffice for condemnation. The Commons concluded by imploring the intervention of the King, 'in whom and by whom the only and sole redress, reformation and remedy herein absolutely rests and remains'.12 Critics of Henry's methods and motives are quick to point out that this petition did not originate within the commons but rather was written by Thomas Cromwell.

The Petition really emanated from the Court, as is proved by the fact that there are, amongst the State Papers, four corrected drafts of it, the corrections in these being generally in the handwriting of Thomas Cromwell. . . .13 But, it should be pointed out that it was common procedure for the royal court to write up these bills, and it seems likely that the commons agreed with the charges for they supported the Petition. Henry asked the bishops to make a reply to these charges and on April 28, 1532 this was done. In it [the reply] the clergy asserted their immemorial right, derived from Scripture and the determination of the Church, to manage their own affairs, and emphasized the fact that it was their duty to decree what was true in faith and morals. They denied that their canons were contrary to the laws of the realm or infringed the royal prerogative.14 They concluded their defense with "an appeal to the King as protector of the English Church.

. . ".15 We therefore, your most humble bedesmen and orators, beseech your grace's highness--upon the tender zeal and entire love which your grace doth bear to Christ's faith and to the laws of His Church, specially in this your grace's own realm--of your accustomed and incomparable goodness unto us your said bedesmen, to continue our chief protector, defender, and aider in and for the execution of our office and duty, specially touching repression of heresy, reformation of sin, and due behaviour and order in the premises of all your grace's subjects, spiritual and temporal, which (no doubt thereof) shall be much to the pleasure of God, great comfort to many's souls, quietness and unity of all your whole realm, and, as we think verily, most principally to the great comfort of your grace's majesty, which we beseech lowly upon our knees, so entirely as we can, to be the author of unity, charity, and concord as above, for whose preservation we do and shall continually pray to Almighty God long to reign and prosper in most honourable estate to His pleasure.16 "The clergy were soon to discover that they had to buy his protection with something more tangible than fair words."17 On April 30, 1532 Henry sent the Ordinaries' reply to the commons stating, "we think their answer will smally please you, for it seemeth to us very slender. You be a great sort of wise men; I doubt not but you will look circumspectly on the matter, and we will be indifferent between you."18 On May 10 Henry followed this statement to the commons with demands of his own. Henry demanded that the Convocation promise that they would not make and publish any new canons unless licensed by the king to do so and unless these canons had received the royal assent, and, secondly, they offered the whole existing body of the canon law for the consideration and judgment of a commission to be named by the king.

This commission was to be made up of eight lay lords, eight members of the House of Commons and sixteen of the clergy, and only those parts of the canon law were to stand which the commission approved.19 The next day Henry continued his assault by addressing the Speaker and a deputation of the House: "Well-beloved subjects, we thought that the clergy of our realm had been our subjects wholly, but now we have well perceived that they be but half our subjects; yea, and scarce our subjects; for all the prelates at their consecration make an oath to the Pope clean contrary to the oath that they make to us, so that they seem to be his subjects, and not ours'.20 The clergy saw the handwriting on the wall and on May 15, with only Bishop John Clerk dissenting, they acceded to the king's wishes. "The die was cast. Henry's campaign had shown beyond all possibility of doubt in what sense he took himself to be 'Supreme Head of the English Church and clergy as far as the law of Christ allows.'"21 When the clergy finally surrendered to Henry he proved to be less anticlerical than his subjects, and in the last resort he honoured his promise to stand between the laity and clergy. Having used the Commons as a bugbear to frighten Convocation into handing him its legislative power, he then showed no enthusiasm concerning the rest of the lay demands and refrained from that radical overhaul or abolition of ecclesiastical jurisdiction to which the Commons aspired. Henry VIII was in fact the manipulator, not the creator, of anticlerical sentiment.22 This is not to say that Henry's attacks on the Church were over, but he never did allow anticlerical sentiment to destroy "the legal functions of the Church in society".23 In August, 1532, Archbishop Warham of Canterbury died, and Henry appointed Thomas Cranmer as his successor. Cranmer returned the favor by granting Henry his long sought divorce on May 23, 1533. "Also in 1533 [February] Cromwell produced his most critical piece of legislation--the Act in Restraint of Appeals.

. .".24 The opening preamble of this bill is very interesting for it defines how Henry viewed England and his position of power. Where by divers sundry old authentic histories and chronicles, it is manifestly declared and expressed, that this realm of England is an empire, and so hath be accepted in the world, governed by one supreme head and king, the same, unto whom a body politic, compact of all sorts and degrees of people divided in terms and by names of spirituality and temporality, be bounden and ought to bear, next to God, a natural and humble obedience, he being also institute and furnished, by the goodness and sufferance of Almighty God, with plenary, whole, and entire power, preeminence, authority, prerogative, and jurisdiction, to render and yield justice, and final determination to all manner of folk, residents, or subjects within this his realm, in all causes, matters, debates, and contentions, happening to occur, insurge, or begin within the limits thereof, without restraint, or provocation to any foreign princes or potentates of the world; the body spiritual whereof having power, when any cause of the law divine happened to come in question, or of spiritual learning, then it was declared, interpreted, and showed by that part of the said body politic, called the English Church, which always hath been reputed, and also found of that sort, that both for knowledge, integrity, and sufficiency of number, it hath been always thought, and is also at this hour, sufficient and meet of itself, without the intermeddling of any exterior person or persons, to declare and determine as such doubts, and to administer a ...

Related: eighth, english church, english king, english parliament, henry viii, king henry, king henry viii

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