First of Larger Monasteries Dissolved – Henry Invites Lutherans to London but Is Largely Absent from Discussions – Cromwell’s Injunctions Issued – Evangelists in Ascendance
On 16 November 1537, the first of the larger monasteries, Lewes Priory, surrendered to the crown, and on 16 February 1538 the monastery was granted to Thomas Cromwell. He employed military engineer Giovanni Portinari to supervise the demolition.
On New Year’s Day 1538, a small court was gathered at Greenwich and among those present were Cromwell and Edward Seymour.
During the festive season they acquainted Henry with the secret efforts of Foxe and the comings and goings to Germany. Henry was persuaded, in a letter dated 2 January 1538, to invite John Fredrick and Philip to receive an embassy from England. In a gesture of reciprocation, it was also proposed that later in the year a German delegation would be received in England, with ‘sufficient power and authority’ to conclude an alliance between the parties.
The person Henry claimed that he most wanted to meet was Martin Luther’s principal collaborator Philip Melanchthon.
Meanwhile, an ecumenical council was postponed until Easter 1539.
Christopher Mont led the English delegation to Germany in February 1538 and later in the spring, by way of that reciprocation, the Germans did set out for London. From Hesse, Philip sent nobleman Georg von Boineburg, an experienced diplomat, to head his delegation. The ambassadors from Saxony were led by Franz Burchard. Accompanying him were Bernhard Mila, John Fredrick’s vice chancellor. Friedrich Mykonius a theologian was sent instead of Philip Melanchthon, which annoyed Henry. Mila went home after about three weeks. As the ambassadors were on their way, traveling to England, however, the reformers suffered the untimely loss of forty-two-year-old leading advocate Bishop Foxe, who died on 8 May 1538.
The Germans arrived in England on 27 May and met with Henry on 10 June.
An alliance of the German states and England was a serious concern for Francis and Charles. If the English navy exercised control of the Strait of Dover, Charles’s domains in the Netherlands, some of which were sympathetic to the Schmalkaldic League’s quest for autonomy, would be cut off and vulnerable to invasion from both German land forces and a naval assault from England.
In addition, from Francis’s point of view, hundreds of miles of his eastern borders were vulnerable to hostile German forces, and in the west a seaborne attack from England might come anywhere from Calais to Biarritz.
Most of northern Christendom was hostile to the Roman Catholic Church and the pope appealed to both Francis and Charles to stop warring with each other and concentrate on their common enemy, the evangelists. In a hitherto unlikely, and as it turned out short-lived, reconciliation facilitated by the pope and applauded by Cardinal Reginal Pole, Pope Paul III, Francis and Charles gathered with their entourages in Nice and somewhat begrudgingly signed a peace pact on 18 June 1538, known as the Truce of Nice.
Peace in Nice, 18 June 1538, Urged by the pope, Charles and Francis unified against Protestantism Cardinal Reginald Pole is in attendance
If the German ambassadors who had arrived in London hoped for earnest discussions with the king himself, they were soon disappointed.
Henry VIII was of course supreme head of the church in England but had not affirmed his understanding of the Bishops’ Book, which had been written specifically to expound the Creed, Sacraments, Decalogue, Lord’s Prayer, and Hail Mary, and to deal with various questions disputed between Henry’s new church and the Roman creed. His presence was surely essential if any progress were to be made. That task, however, was delegated to a committee of divines. Henry was off on his summer jaunt. It was time for the annual royal progress; he wanted to take his sports and inspect the ports along the south coast. Left behind, the two sides first met on 14 June 1538 and thereafter two or three time a week until sometime into the summer.