Young Folks' History of England HTML version

27. Henry VIII And His Wives, A.D. 1528—1547
When Henry VIII. had so ungratefully treated Cardinal Wolsey, there was no
one to keep him in order. He would have no more to do with the pope, but
said he was head of the Church of England himself, and could settle matters
his own way. He really was a very learned man, and had written a book to
uphold the doctrines of the Church, which had caused the people to call him
the Defender of the Faith. After the king's or queen's name on an English coin
you may see F. D.—Fidei Defensor. This stands for that name in Latin. But
Henry used his learning now against the pope. He declared that his marriage
with Katharine was good for nothing, and sent her away to a house in
Huntingdonshire, where, in three years' time, she pined away and died. In the
meantime, he had married Anne Boleyn, taken Crumwell for his chief adviser,
and had made Thomas Cranmer archbishop of Canterbury. Then, calling
himself the head of the Church, he insisted that all his people should own him
as such; but the good ones knew that our Lord Jesus Christ is the only real
Head of the Church, and they had learnt to believe that the pope is the father
bishop of the west, though he had sometimes taken more power than he
ought, and no king could ever be the same as a patriarch or father bishop. So
they refused, and Henry cut off the heads of two of the best—Bishop Fisher
and Sir Thomas More— though they had been his great friends. Sir Thomas
More's good daughter Margaret, came and kissed him on his way to be
executed; and afterwards, when his head was placed on a spike on London
Bridge, she came by night in a boat and took it home in her arms.
There were many people, however, who were glad to break with the pope,
because so much had gone amiss in the Church, and they wanted to set it to
rights. There was so much more reading, now that printing had been
invented, that many could read who had never learnt Latin, and so a
translation of the Bible was to be made for them, and there was a great
desire that the Church Services—many of which had also been in Latin—
should likewise be put into English, and the litany was first translated, but no
more at present. The king and Crumwell had taken it upon them to go on
with what had been begun in Wolsey's time—the looking into the state of all
the monasteries. Some were found going on badly, and the messengers took
care to make the worst of everything. So all the worst houses were broken
up, and the monks sent to their homes, with a small payment to maintain
them for the rest of their lives.
As to the lands that good men of old had given to keep up the convents, that
God might be praised there, Henry made gifts of them to the lords about
Court. Whoever chose to ask for an abbey could get it, from the king's good
nature; and, as they wanted more and more, Henry went on breaking up the
monasteries, till the whole of them were gone. A good deal of their riches he
kept for himself, and two new bishoprics were endowed from their spoils, but
most of them were bestowed on the courtiers. The king, however, did not at