Henry VIII,the Reign
The Opening of the Reformation Parliament in 1529
Wolsey, the late fallen castrated ram
According to the summons the king of England began his high court of parliament, the third day of November. On which day he came by water to his place of Bridewell, and there he and his nobles put on their robes of parliament, and so came to the Blackfriars church, where a Masse of the holy ghost was solemnly sung by the King’s Chapel, and after the Masse, the king with all the Lords of the parliament, and Commons which were summoned to appear at that day came into the parliament chamber.
The king sat in his Throne or seat royal, and Sir Thomas More his Chancellor standing on the right hand of the king behind the bar made an eloquent Oration
He declared that like as a good shepherd which not alonely kepeth and attends well his sheep, but all so foresees and provides for all things, which either may be hurtful or annoy some to his flock, or may preserve and defend the same against all perils that may chance to come.
So the king which was the shepherd, ruler and governor of his realm, vigilantly foreseeing things to come considered how divers laws before this time were made now by long continuance of time and mutation of things, very insufficient, and imperfect, and also by the frail condition of man, divers new enormities were sprung amongst the people, for the which no law was yet made to reform the same, which was the very cause why at that time the king had summoned his high court of parliament.
He resembled the king to a shepherd, or heard man for this cause, for if a prince be compared to his riches, he is but a rich man, if a prince be compared to his honour, he is but an honourable man : but compare him to the multitude of his people and the number of his flock, then he is a ruler, a governor of might and puissaunce, [great power, influence, or prowess] so that his people make him a prince, as of the multitude of sheep, comes the name of a shepherd : and as you see that amongst a great flock of sheep some be rotten and faulty which the good shepherd sends from the good sheep, so the great wether [castrated ram] which is of late fallen as you all know, so craftily, so scabedly,[ Middle English (as a noun): from Old Norse skabb ; related to dialect shab (compare with shabby). The sense ‘contemptible person’ (dating from the late 16th century) was probably influenced by Middle Dutch schabbe ‘slut’.] yea and so untruly juggled with the king, that all men must needs guess and think that he thought in himself, that he had no wit to perceive his crafty doing, or else that he presumed that the king would not see nor know his fraudulent juggling and attempts : but he was deceived, for his graces sight was so quick and penetrable, that he saw him, yea and saw through him, both within and without, so that all thing to him was open, and according to his desert he hath had a gentle correction, which small punishment the king will not to be an example to other offenders, but clearly declares that whosoever here after shall make like attempt to commit like offence, shall not escape with like punishment: and because you of the common house be a gross multitude, and cannot speak all at one time: Therefore the king’s pleasure is, that you shall resort to the nether house, and there among yourselves according to the old and ancient custom to choose an able person to be your common mouth and speaker, and after your election so made to advertise his grace thereof, which will declare to you his pleasure what day he will have him present in this place.
After this done, the commons resorted to the nether house, and they chose for there speaker Thomas Audley Esquire and attorney of the Duchy of Lancaster, and the same day was the parliament adjourned to Westminster. On the sixth day of the same month the king came in to the parliament chamber and all the Lords in there robes, and their the commons of the nether house presented there speaker, which there made an eloquent Oration which consisted in two points, the first point was that he much praised the king for his equity and Justice, mixed with mercy and pity, so that none offence was forgotten and left unpunished nor in the punishment the extremity nor the rigor of the law not cruelly extended, which should be a cause to bridle all men from doing like offences, and also a comfort to offenders to confessed there crime and offence, and an occasion of amendment and reconciliation.
The second point was, that he disabled himself, both for lack of wit learning and discretion to so high an office, beseeching the king to cause his commons to resort eftsones [soon] to their common house, and there to choose another speaker for that parliament.
To this the king (by the mouth of the Lord Chancellor) answered that where he disabled himself in wit and learning, his own ornate oration there made testified the contrary, and as touching his discretion and other qualities, the king himself had well known him and his doings, since he was in his service, to be both wise and discrete, and so for an able man he accepted him, and for the speaker he him admitted.
When the commons were assembled in the nether house, they began to common of their griefs wherewith the spiritualty had before time grievously oppressed them, both contrary to the law of the realm, and contrary to all right, and in especial they were sore moved with six greater causes.
The first for the excessive fines, which the ordinaries took for probate of Testaments, in so much that sir henry Guilford knight of the garter and comptroller of the king’s house, declared in the open Parliament on his fidelity that he and other binge executors to Sir William Compton knight paid for the probate of his will to the Cardinal and the Archbishop of Canterbury a thousand Marke sterling: after this declaration were shewed so many extortions done by ordinaries for probates of wills, that it were to much to rehearse.
The second cause was the great polling and extreme exaction, which the spiritual men used in taking of corps presents or mortuaries, for the children of the defunct should all die for hunger and go a begging rather than they would of charity give to them the sely kow which the dead man ought if he had but only one, such was the charity then.
The third cause was, that priests being surveyors, stewards and officers to Bishops, Abbots, and other spiritual heads, had and occupied Farms, Granges, and grazing in every country, so that the pore husbandmen could have nothing but of them, and yet for that they should pay dearly.
The fourth cause was that Abbots, Priors and spiritual men kept Tan houses, and bought and sold wool, clothe and all manner of merchandise as other temporal merchants did.
The fifth cause, was because the spiritual persons promoted to greater benefices and having there living of their flock, were liyng in the court in lord’s houses, and took all of the parishioners, and nothing spent on them at all, so that for lack of residence both the pore of the parish lackd refreshing, and universally all the parishioners lacked preaching, and true instruction of Gods word, to the greater peril of there souls.
The sixth cause was to see one priest being little learned to have ten or twelve benefices and to be resident on none, and to know many well learned scholars in the universities which were able to preach and teach to have nether benefice nor exhibition.
These things before this time might in nowise be touched nor yet talked of by no man except he would be made a heretic, or lese al that he had, for the bishops were chancellors, and had all the rule about the king, so that no man durst once presume to attempt anything contrary to their profit, or commodity.
But now when God had illumined the eies of the king, and that their subtle doings was once espied, then men began charitably to desire a reformation, and so at this Parliament men began to show their grudges.
Where upon the Burgesses of the Parliament, appointed such as were learned in the law being of the common house, to drawer one bill of the probates of Testaments, another for Mortuaries, and the third for none residence, pluralities, and taking of Farms by spiritual men.
The learned men took much pain, and first set further the bill of Mortuaries, which passed the common house, and was sent up to the Lords.
To this bill, the spiritual Lords made a fayre face, saying that surely priests and curates took more than they should, and therefore it were well done to take some reasonable order, thus they spoke because it touched them little.
But within two days after was sent up the bill concerning probates of Testaments, at the which the Archbishop of Canterbury in especial, and all other bishops in general both frowned and grunted, for that touched their profits, in so much as Doctor John Fisher bishop of Rochester, said openly in the Parliament chamber these words, my Lords, you see daily what bills come hither from the common house and all is to the destruction of the church, for God’s sake see what a Realm the kingdom of Bohemia was, and when the Churches went down, then fell the glory of the kingdom, now with the Commons is nothing but down with the Church, and all this me seems is for lack of faith only.
When these words were reported to the Commons of the nether house, that the bishop should say that all their doings were for lack of faith, they took the matter grievously, for they Imagined that the bishop esteemed them as Heretics, and so by his slanderous words would have persuaded the temporal Lords to have restrained their consent from the said two bills, which they before had passed, as you have heard before.
Wherefore the Commons after long debate, determined to send the speaker of the Parliament to the kings highness, with a grievous complaint, against the bishop of Rochester, and so on a day when the king was at layser, Thomas Audley the speaker for the commons and thirty of the chief of the common house, came to the kings presence in his palace at Westminster, which before was called York place and there very eloquently declared what a dishonour to the king and the realm it was to say that they which were elected for the wisest men of all the Shires, Cities, and boroughs within the realm of England should be declared in so noble and open presence to lack faith, which was equivalent to say, that they were Infidels and no Christians, as ill as Turks or Saracens, so that what pain or studie so ever they took for the common wealth, or what acts or laws so ever they made or stablished, should be taken as laws made by Panyms and heathen people, and not worthy to be kept by Christian men : wherefore he most humbly besought the kings highness, to call the said bishop before him and to cause him to speak more discreetly of such a number as was in the common house.
The king was not well contented with the saying of the bishop, yet he gently answered the speaker, that he would send for the bishop and send them word what answer he made, and so they departed again. After this the king sent for the archbishop of Canterbury and six other bishops, and for the bishop of Rochester also, and there declared to him the grudge of the commons, to the which the bishop answered that he meant the doings of the Bohemians was for lack of faith, and not the doings of them that were in the common house, which saying was confirmed by the bishops being present, which had him in greater reputation, and so by that only saying the king accepted his excuse and therefore sent word to the commons by sir William Fitzwilliam knight treasurer of his house- houlde, which blind excuse pleased the commons nothing at all.
After this divers assemblies were kept between certain of the lords and certain of the commons, for the bills of probates of Testaments, and the mortuaries : the temporality laid to the spiritualty their own laws and constitutions, and the spiritualty sore defended them by prescription and usage, to whom an answer was made by a gentleman of Greys Inn : the usage hath ever been of thieves to rob on shooters hill, ergo is it lawful? with this answer the spiritual men were sore offended, because there doings were called robberies, but the temporal men stood still by there sayings, in so much the said gentleman said to the Archbishop of Canterbury, that both the exaction of probates of Testaments, and the taking of Mortuaries, as they were used were open robbery and theft: after long disputation, the temporal lords began to lean to the commons, but for all that, the bills remained unconcluded a while.
In the mean season, there was a bill assented by the Lords, and sent down to the commons, the effect whereof was, that the whole realm by the said act, did release to the king, all such sums of money as he had borrowed of them at the loan, in the fifteen year of his reign (as you have hard before) this bill was sore argued in the common house but the most part of the commons were the king’s servants, and the other were so laboured to by other, that the bill was assented to.
When this release of the loan was known to the commons of the Realm, Lorde so they grudged, and spoke ill of the hole Parliament, for almost every man counted it his debt, and reckoned surely of the payment of the same, and therefore some made there wills of the same, and some other did set it over to other for debt, and so many men had loss by it, which caused them sore to murmur, but there was no remedy. The King like a good and a discrete Prince, saying that his commons in the Parliament house had released the loan, entendyng somewhat to requite the same, granted to them a general Pardon, of all offences., certain greater offences and debts only except : also he aided them for the redresses of their griefs against the spiritualty, and caused two new bills to be made indifferently, both for the probate of Testaments and mortuaries, which bills were so reasonable that the spiritual Lords assented to them all though they were sore against there minds, and in especial the probate of Testaments
Sore displeased the Bishops, and the mortuaries sore displeased the persons and Vicars.
After these Acts, thus agreed, the Commons made another Act for pluralities of benefices, none residence, buying and selling and taking of farms by spiritual persons, which act so displeased the spiritualty that the priests railed on the commons of the common house, and called them heretics and schismatics, for the which diverse priests were punished.
This act was sore debated above in the parliament chamber, and the Lords spiritual would in nowise consent. Wherefore the King perceiving the grudge of his commons, caused eight lords and eight of his commons to mete in the star chamber at an after none, and there was sore debating of the cause, in so much that the temporal Lords of the upper house, which were there, took part with the Commons, against the spiritual Lords and by force of reason caused them to assent to the bill with a little qualifying, which bill the next day was wholly agreed to in the lords house, to the great rejoicing of the lay people, and to the greater displeasure of the spiritual persons.
During this Parliament was brought down to the commons, the boke of articles which the Lords had put to the King against the Cardinal, the chief articles were these.
First that he without the king’s assent had procured to be a Legate, by reason whereof he took away the right of all bishops and spiritual persons.
Item, in all writings which he wrote to Rome or any other foreign Prince, he wrote Ego & Rex metis, I and my King, as who would say that the King were his servant.
Item, that he hath slandered the church of England in the court of Rome, for his suggestion to be legate was to reform the church of England, which as he wrote was Facta in reprobum censum.
Item, he without the king’s assent, carried the Kings great Seale, with him into Flanders when he was sent Ambassador to the Emperor.
Item, he without the king’s assent, sent a commission to Sir Gregory de Cassado, knight, to conclude a league between the King and the Duke of Farrar, without the king’s knowledge.
Item, that he having the French pockes presumed to come and breathe on the k
Item, that he caused the Cardinal’s hat to be put on the Kings coin.
Item, that he would not suffer the kings darke of the market, to sit at Saint Albans.
Item, that he had sent innumerable substaunce to Rome, for the obtaining of his dignities to the greater impoverish meant of the realm.
These Articles with many more, read in the common house, and signed with the Cardinal’s hand, was confessed by him, and also there was shewed a writing sealed with his Seale, by the which he gave to the king all his movables and unmovables.
On the day of the conception of our Lady, the king at York place at Westminster, in the parliament time created the viscount Rochford Earle of Wilshire, and the Viscount Fitzwater, was created Earle of Sussex, and the Lorde Hastynges, was created Earle of Huntington.
When all things were concluded in the Parliament house, the king came to the Parliament chamber the seventeen day of December, and there put his royal assent, to all things done by the Lords and commons, and so prorogued his court of Parliament, till the next year.
After the Parliament was thus ended, the king removed to Greenwich and their kept his Christmas with the queen in great triumph: with great plenty of viaundes, and diverse disguising’s and Interludes, to the greater rejoicing of his people.