England under Henry VIII — страница 5

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Thus, an unfortunate student named John Frith, and a poor simple tailor named Andrew Hewet who loved him very much, and said that whatever John Frith believed he believed, were burnt in Smithfield - to show what a capital Christian the King was. But these were speedily followed by two much greater victims, Sir Thomas More, and John Fisher , the Bishop of Rochester. The latter, who was a good and amiable old man, had committed no greater offence then believing in Elizabeth Barton, called the Maid of Kent - another of those ridiculous women who pretended to be inspired, and to make all sorts of heavenly revelations, though they indeed uttered nothing but evil nonsen-se. For this offence - as it was pretended, but really for denying the king to be the supreme Head of the Church - he

got into trouble, and was put in prison. Even then he might have died naturally, but the Pope, to spite the King, resolved to make him a cardinal. So the King decided that Fisher should have no head on which to wear a red Cardinal's hat. He was tried with all unfairnence and injustice, and sentenced to death. He died like a noble and virtuous old man, and left a worthy name behind him. The King supposed that Sir Thomas More would be frightened by this example. But, as he was not to be easily terrified, and, thoroughly believed in the Pope, had made up his mind that the King was not rightful Head of the Church, he positively refused to say that he was. For this cri-me he too was tried and sentenced, after having been in prison a whole year. When he was doomed to death, and came

away from his trial with the edge of executioner's axe turned towards him - as was always done in those times when a state prisoner came to that hopeless pass - he bore it quite serenely, and gave his blessing to his son, who pressed through the crowd in Westminster Hall and kneeled down to recieve it. But, when he got to the Tower Wharf on his way back to his prison, and his favourite daughter, Margaret Roper, a very good woman, rushed through the guards to kiss him and to weep upon his neck, he has over-come at last. He soon recovered and never more showed any feeling but courage. When he had laid his head upon the block, he asked jokingly the executioner to let him put his beard out of the way because for that thing, at least, had never committed any treason. Then his head was

strucked off at a blow. These two executions were worthy of King Henry VIII. Sir Thomas More was one of the most virtuous men in his dominions, and the Bishop was one of his eldest and truest friends. *** When the news of these two murders got to Rome, the Pope was enra-ged and prepared a Bull, ordering his subjects to take arms against the King of England and dethrone him. The King took all possible precautions to keep that document out of his dominions, and set to work in return to suppress a great number of English monasteries and abbeys. This destruction was begun by a body of commissioners, of whom Tho-mas Cromwell was the head. It was carried on through to some few years to its entire completion. There is no doubt that many of these religious es-tablishments imposed upon

the people in every possible way; that they had images moved by wires, which they pretended were miraculously mo-ved by Heaven; that they had bits of coal which they said had fried Saint Lawrense, and bits of toe-nails which they said belonged to other famous saints, etc.; and that all these bits of rubbish were called Relics, and adored by the ignorant people. But, on the other hand, there is no doubt either, that the King's men punished the good monks with the bad; did great injustice; demolished many beautiful things and many valuable libra-ries; destroyed numbers of paintings, stained glass windows, fine pave-ments, and carvings; and that the whole court were ravenously greedy and rapacious for the division of this great spoil among them. The King seems to have grown almost

mad in the ardour of this pursuit, for he declared Thomas a Becket a traitor, though he had been dead for many years, and had his body dug up out of his grave. The gold and jewels on his shrine filled two great chests, and 8 men were needed to carry them away. These things caused great discontent among the people. The monks who were driven out of their homes and wandered about encouraged their discontent, and there were, consequently, great risings in Licincolnshire and Yorkshire. These were put down by terrific executions, from which the monks themselves did not escape. *** The unfortunate Queen Catherine was by this time dead, and the King was by this ti- me as tired of his second Queen as he had been of his first. As he had fallen in love with Anne when she was in the service