Wolsey’s Deathbed Speech – Collectanea satis copiosa – Threat of Excommunication to King and Kingdom – Supreme Head of Church – Second Session of the Reformation Parliament – Praemunire and Pardon of the Clergy –Third Parliament
Wolsey died at Leicester Abbey while returning to London from his diocese in York to answer charges of treason. George Cavendish, his trusty servant and subsequently his biographer, was with him as usual but the cardinal was in the custody of Sir William Kingston.
Sir William, who hailed from Painswick in Gloucestershire, seems to have lurked in the shadows of Henrician history. He was for a long time Constable of the Tower of London and reserved his appearances into the spotlight only for the most momentous events, of which Wolsey’s death was one.
Kingston listened to Wolsey’s last words, and Cavendish recorded them for later publication. On the last day of his life, Wolsey’s worries were over the Lutheran threat, and he wanted to warn the king:
‘And say furthermore, that I require his grace, in God’s name, that he have a vigilant eye to depress the new pernicious sect of the Lutherans that it do not increase within his dominions through his negligence, in such a sort that he shall be fain at length to put harness upon his back and subdue them as the King of Bohemia did who had good game to see his rude commons( then infected with Wycliffe’s heresies) to spoil and murder the spiritual men and religious persons of his realm.’ A short while later Wolsey died, and Kingston, himself one of those very Lutherans, returned to the shadows, but only for the time being,
Parliament had been scheduled to sit again in April 1530, but this was postponed in the first instance to 22 June 1530. Henry was still waiting for decisions from the universities, in particular, Paris University, about the validity of his grounds for divorce.
Following the Treaty of Cambrai, Charles V was crowned Holy Roman Emperor, in Bologna, by the pope on 24 February 1530. He wielded his new Holy Lance at Henry and, under the emperor’s direction, on 7 March 1530, from Bologna, Pope Clement issued a bull that read:
Bull, notifying that on the appeal of queen Katharine from the judgment of the Legates, who had declared her contumacious for refusing their jurisdiction as being not impartial, the Pope had committed the cause, at her request, to Master Paul Capisucio, the Pope’s chaplain, and auditor of the Apostolic palace, with power to cite the King and others; that the said Auditor, ascertaining that access was not safe, caused the said citation, with an inhibition under censures, and a penalty of 10,000 ducats, to be posted on the doors of the churches in Rome, at Bruges, Tournay, and Dunkirk, and the towns of the diocese of Terouenne (Morinensis). The Queen, however, having complained that the King had boasted, notwithstanding the inhibition and mandate against him, that he would proceed to a second marriage, the Pope issues this inhibition, to be fixed on the doors of the churches as before, under the penalty of the greater excommunication, and interdict to be laid upon the kingdom.
Bologna, 7 March 1530, 7 Clement VII.
To the anti-clericalists in England, this was history repeating itself. Had not King John surrendered the entire kingdom to the pope under such a threat in the times of their forefathers? The response was to send a petition to the pope signed by eighty-three English dignitaries requesting that he grant the divorce.
In the summer of 1530, Henry was presented with the culmination of Cranmer’s work, a manuscript compilation of what in later years became known as the Collectanea satis copiosa (Sufficiently Abundant Collections). It was an offering of proof that the King of England had both secular imperium and spiritual supremacy in England. Henry seemed to be impressed with it, as evidenced by annotations in his own handwritten across his copy, which is now held in the British Library. The plague visited again. There was another postponement of Parliament, this time until 1 October, but the pestilence continued, and so, in the end, Parliament did not sit at all in 1530.
To keep matters simmering, however, on 25 September 1530 Anne’s father (Thomas Boleyn) and Charles Brandon told the papal nuncio that England cared nothing for popes, even if St Peter should come back to life since the king’s absolute power made him both emperor and pope within his realm.
Following on from its success against Wolsey, the law of praemunire was used again, and fifteen clerics were summoned to answer charges during the Michaelmas term. Among those included were Bishops Clerk, Fisher, Standish and West. The second session of the Reformation Parliament began in January 1531 and the wisest men elected of all the shires’ cities and boroughs assembled again at Westminster. As was customary, the clergy came together in convocation.
The induvial charges of praemunire, however, were dropped and instead charges were brought against all the clergy of the realm, not just fifteen of them because they had all accepted the pope’s authority in the Kingdom of England. The king, however, offered a pardon on condition of a single payment by the church of one hundred thousand pounds and acceptance by the clergy that he, not the pope, was supreme head of the English Church, which he declared himself on 7 February 1531.
The offer was accepted with the caveat ‘as far as the law of Christ allows’, and the clergy submitted royal authority. Thus, this event is known as the Pardon of the Clergy, although it was not written into law until the fifth session of the Reformation Parliament (15 January to 30 March 1534), which did not include the caveat.
Cranmer, through the Collectanea satis copiosa and now Parliament, had given Henry the tools he needed to break with Rome. He could have set a course to void his marriage to Catherine, but he lacked the determination and courage to see it through.
Or was Henry more sophisticated than that?
Was this a deliberate, considered campaign to force Clement to admit the rights of the English king and his kingdom, to confess the papal usurpation, to disallow Catherine’s appeal and to hand back Henry’s case forever to where, in equity and law, he was told it belonged?
The Reformation Parliament sat for a third session in 1532 and passed the Act in Conditional Restraint of Annates.
Then came the Supplication against the Ordinaries, a petition against the ordained men of the church, the chief complaint of which objected to the legislative power of the clergy to make laws without the consent of the king.
The men of the church responded, and at the heart of their defence was Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester. On the main question, they declared that their authority for making laws for the maintenance of faith and virtue was grounded on the scripture of God and the determination of the Holy Church. The clergy, they argued, dare not submit to the king’s assent in the execution of a duty certainly prescribed by God.
This was not the reply the Commons wanted, and Henry was not happy with the ‘slender’ answer. Much of Gardiner’s defence against the Supplication against the Ordinaries, however, relied on Henry’s own writings in Assertio septem sacramentorum, which had won him the title Defender of the Faith back in 1521. Perhaps, in the meantime, Henry had found some yet unrealised proof to the contrary, or maybe he had simply not read, never mind written the book that claimed his authorship. It seems king and bishop had shot each other in the foot, but anyway, it was all in vain; the argument was futile, and the clergy abdicated the right to legislate without royal approval. The event is known to history as the Submission of the Clergy
Two days after Parliament was prorogued, the Lord Chancellor, Sir Thomas More, resigned. He loathed the new legislation and could not continue. He was replaced by Thomas Audley, who was knighted on the same day and took his oath on 5 June 1532. All this reining in of the clergy, however, was doing nothing towards Anne de Boulogne and Henry becoming husband and wife. The wise elected men of the shires, cities and boroughs sitting in the Parliament House had carved out an agenda against the over-mighty ecclesiastical lords, and the clerics were in retreat, but this was not endearing the pope to Anne and Henry’s cause to have the marriage to the Holy Roman Emperor’s aunt annulled.
Anne was becoming frustrated. Henry had two children, male and female, both with potential claims to the throne. Henry either could not or would not risk the birth of an illegitimate child with Anne and so, exasperated by the king’s procrastination, Anne reverted to her patrons in France.
Supplement to Part 25 - Wolsey’s Death Bed Speech at Leicester Abbey
In the accounts of the Treasurer of the Chamber for November 1529, there is an entry which reads as follows.
To Sir Wm. Kingiston,[Kingston] captain of the King's Guard, sent to the earl of Shrewsbury with divers of the Guard, for the conveyance of the cardinal of York to the Tower, 40/.
Financed accordingly, Sir William arrived at Sheffield Manor in Yorkshire on 22 November 1529 and relieved the Earl of Shrewsbury of his prisoner by taking Wolsey into his own custody.
On his way, south from York to London, Wolsey had spent the previous sixteen days with the earl and was, or became unwell. In spite of his plight however on 24 November, under guard, he arrived at Hardwick Hall in Nottinghamshire (not to be confused with the hall of the same name in Derbyshire built between 1590 and 1597).
The next day he was at Nottingham and on Saturday 26 November he arrived at Leicester Abbey.
His health continued to deteriorate, and in the early hours of 29 November his gentleman usher, George Cavendish, who was with him, memorised and later wrote down an account of Wolsey’s last hours and dying fear of the Lutherans.
George Cavendish’s Account
My Lord being very weak, and about four of the clock next morning I asked him how he did.
' Well,' quoth he, ' if I had any meat. I pray you give me some.'
' Sir,' quoth I, ' there is none ready.'
Then he said:
' You are much to blame ; you should always have meat for me in readiness, whensoever that my stomach serves me. I pray you get some ready for me, for I mean to make myself strong to-day, to the intent I may go to confession and make me ready for God.'
Quoth I, ' I will call up the cooks to prepare some meat, and also I will call Mr. Palmes, that he may discourse with you till your meat be ready.'
'With a good will,' quoth he.
And so I called Master Palmes, who rose and came to my Lord. Then I went and acquainted Master Kingston that my Lord was very sick, and not like to live.
'In good faith !' quoth Master Kingston, ' you are much to blame to make him believe he is sicker than he is.' 'Well, sir,' quoth I, 'you cannot but say I gave you warning, as I am bound to do.'
Upon which words he arose and came unto him ; but before he came my Lord Cardinal had eaten a spoonful or two of cullis made of chicken, and after that he was at his confession the space of an hour. And then Master Kingston came to him and bid him good morrow, and asked him how he did.
' Sir,' quoth he, ' I watch but God's pleasure to render up my poor soul to Him. I pray you have me heartily commended unto his royal Majesty, and beseech him on my behalf to call to his princely remembrance all matters that have been between us from the beginning, and the progress, and especially between good Queen Katherine and him, and then shall His Grace's conscience know whether I have offended him or not. He is a Prince of a most royal carriage, and hath a princely heart, and rather than he will miss or want any part of his will he will endanger the one-half of his kingdom.
' I do assure you I have often knelt before him, sometimes three hours together, to persuade him from his will and appetite, and could not prevail. And, Master Kingston, had I but served God as diligently as I have served the King, He would not have given me over in my gray hairs. But this is the just reward that I must receive for my diligent pains and study, not regarding my service to God, but only to my Prince. Therefore, let me advise you, if you be one of the Privy Council, as by your wisdom you are fit, take heed what you put in the King's head, for you can never put it out again.
'And I desire you further to request His Grace in God's name that he have a vigilant eye to suppress the hellish Lutherans, that they increase not through his great negligence, in such a sort as he be compelled to take up arms to subdue them, as the King of Bohemia was, whose commons being infected with Wickliff’s heresies, the King was forced to take that course.
' Let him consider the story of King Richard II., the second son of his progenitor, who lived in the time of Wickliff's seditions and heresies. Did not the commons, I pray you, in his time rise against the nobility and chief governors of this realm, and at the last some of them were put to death without justice or mercy; and under pretence of having all things in common, did they not fall to spoiling and robbing, and at last took the King's person and carried him about the city, making him obedient to their proclamations ?
'Did not also the traitorous heretic Sir John Oldcastle, Lord Cobham, pitch a field with heretics against Henry IV., where the King was in person, and fought against them, to whom God gave the victory.
'Alas ! if these be not plain precedents and sufficient persuasions to admonish a prince, then God will take away from us our prudent rulers, and leave us to the hands of our enemies. And then will ensue mischief, inconveniences, barrenness, and scarcity, for want of good orders in the Commonwealth, from which God of His tender mercy defend us!
'Master Kingston, farewell! I wish all things may have good success. My time draws on; I may not tarry with you. I pray you remember my words.'
Now the time began to draw near, and his tongue began to fail him ; his eyes were perfectly set in his head, and his sight failed him. Then we began to put him in mind of Christ's Passion, and caused the Yeomen of the Guard to stand by privately, to see him die, and bear witness of his words and his departure, who heard all his communications. And then presently the clock struck eight, at which time he gave up the ghost, and thus departed he this life, each of us looking on one another, supposing he prophesied of his departure.
We sent for the Abbot of the house to anoint him, who speedily came as he was ending his life, who said certain prayers before that the life was out of his body.
The Cardinal being departed, Master Kingston sent post to London one of the Guard. Then was Master Kingston and the Abbot in consultation about the funeral, which was solemnized the day after, for Master Kingston would not stay the return of the post.