Henry VIII, the Reign
Henry needed help with this new way of doing things. He lacked the confidence to involve himself in the discussions and was not sure himself what his own new Henrican creed actually stood for. With Gardiner sidelined in France by Cromwell, he called the conservative Bishop of Durham, Cuthbert Tunstall, south from his duties as president of the Council of the North to join him on the royal progress.
During the summer of 1538, the king lodged at more than thirty houses. With no reliable means of communication between the roving head of the church, along the south coast, and the divines in London debating the reform of his religion, any agreement on a new doctrine was quite impossible.
The Germans were frustrated, tired and anxious as they lingered in a plague-ridden London as Henry hunted and took the sea air.
The Germans wanted to go home.
Having laboured for weeks over the twenty-eight articles of faith (the theses) detailed in the Augsburg Confession, the delegates turned to the abuses (the antitheses), but they were no longer prepared to sit about and discuss them with the English mediators without the opinion of, indeed without any contribution from, Henry.
The Germans put their proposals in a letter to the meandering king and posted it to wherever the courier might find him. They also wrote to Cromwell, to let him know they would be leaving for Germany in a fortnight on a ship to Hamburg.
Henry was with Tunstall when he received the letter. Tunstall was well versed in Greek Orthodox doctrine and he set to work explaining to Henry where he saw problems with the German proposals.
The fortnight’s notice the Germans had given passed. The king was still on his progress, matters were no further forward and the exasperated Germans packed their bags ready for the journey home.
An anxious Cranmer, on behalf of an uneasy Cromwell, pleaded with them to stay and speak to Henry face to face when he returned; that way they would have a better chance of persuading him to accept their religious interpretations over and above the Orthodox Greek creed that Tunstall had Henry warming to.
But still the king was not expected back for about a month and the Germans loathed to wait. Cranmer communicated to Cromwell that he had told them ‘their tarrying should now grow unto some good success concerning the points of their commission, which I much put them in hope of on your behalf’, and in case that were not persuasion enough for them to remain in England the ship on which they were due to sail home was impounded.
Henry eventually arrived back on 24 September 1538. It seems that, although the theologians were granted a farewell audience, there is no record of what else was discussed; however, they were given a letter from Henry to Philip and John Fredrick along the lines that they should come back in the future to continue the discussions and conclude an agreement. But most of all Henry wanted to speak with Philip Melanchthon.
On 26 September 1538, just after the king returned from the royal progress, Stephen Gardiner arrived back in England after spending three years as ambassador in France.
In those three years, of course, much had happened. Catherine had died, Princess Mary had acknowledged the royal supremacy, Anne de Boulogne had been executed, Jane Seymour had become queen and then given birth to the future Edward VI and died, the dissolution of the monasteries had begun and continued apace, the Pilgrimage of Grace had been crushed, the Ten Articles has been passed by convocation, a royal proclamation had called for an English Bible to be published, the destruction of images and relics had begun, sermons had been preached against idolatry and feigned miracles, and Thomas Becket’s shrine had been desecrated. During his absence, Gardiner had been asked, from England, for his advice on some of these matters, and on others he had given it anyway. As far as the German alliance was concerned, Gardiner’s view was that Henry would only succeed in transferring the old papal subordination to Germany and becoming subservient to the continental evangelicals instead of the pope.
Gardiner and Cromwell’s views were polarised, and the Bishop of Winchester was back in England bent on using every gasp of breath for the accomplishment of Cromwell’s overthrow. The sentiment was mutual, and Cromwell wanted rid of the bishop, his clerical opinions and his influence over the king. The outcome was inevitable – one or other of them would meet the executioner.
The exiled Reginald Pole continued to work against the reforms in England. He was at Nice and with Francis and Charles, helping to make a peace between them. In November, Cromwell in savage fashion arrested most of the Pole family in England. In December 1538 Henry Courtney (Marquis of Exeter) and Henry Pole, both staunch traditionalists, were executed along with Sir Edward Neville. Margaret Pole, the Blessed, Countess of Salisbury, daughter of George, Duke of Clarence, niece of King Edward IV and King Richard III, was also arrested, but she was spared execution until 1541.
Notes and Links Part 34