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V. Transcript of an original Manuscript, containing a Memorial from George Constantyne to Thomas Lord Cromwell. Communicated by Thomas Amyot, Esq. F.R.S., Treasurer, in a Letter addressed to Henry Ellis, Esq. F.R.S., Secretary

  • Thomas Amyot

By the kindness of my friend Mr. John Payne Collier, I am enabled to transmit to you an original MS. belonging to him, of the time of Henry the Eighth, which, as it relates to contemporaneous events of much historical importance, you will perhaps deem sufficiently interesting to be laid before the Society. Though it bears the title of “Instructions to my Lord Privy Seal,” it was evidently intended by the writer, George Constantyne, to serve as his defence against misrepresentations which had been made to Thomas Lord Cromwell, concerning certain verbal communications in which he had recently been engaged with John Barlow, Dean of Westbury, and Thomas Barlow, a Prebendary of that Collegiate Church.

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page 51 note a Tunstall was probably the Bishop of London here alluded to, as he had purchased the first edition of Tindall's translation, by means of a negociation with Augustine Packington, of which an amusing account is given by Hall. He had, however, been translated to Durham just before More's promotion to the Seals, and had been succeeded by Stokesley, who was equally zealous in the suppression of English Bibles.

page 51 note b Life of Sir Thomas More, by an unknown author, edited by Dr. Wordsworth, from a MS. in the Lambeth Library. See Ecclesiastical Biography, vol. ii. p. 93.

page 51 note c Acts and Monuments, vol.ii, p. 287, edit. 1641.

page 51 note d More says, “George Constauntine, ere he escaped, was redy to have, in worde at the least wise, abjured al the holy doctrine. What his heart was, God and he knew, and peradventure the Devill to, if he entended otherwise.” He adds, that “he semed verye penitent of his misseusing of hymself in falling to Tyndalle's heresies agayne, for which he knoledged hymselfe worthy to be hanged that he hadde so falsely abused the kynge's gracious remission and pardon geven hym before.” Sir T. More's Works, p. 346. May it not be conjectured that Constantyne's disclosures, as well as his penitence, were fictitious, and were meant to deceive More, and to pave the way for his escape?

page 52 note e Acts and Monuments, vol. iii. p. 217.

page 52 note f MS. Harl. 416, fol. 170.

page 53 note g See Wood's Ath. Oxon. and Godwin de Praesul. Ang. Young, indeed, after his promotion was accused of rapacity, of which an amusing anecdote is related by Sir John Harington, in his satirical Supplement to Godwin's Catalogue.

page 53 note h. Le Neve's Fasti Eccles. p. 300.

page 53 note i Browne Willis supposes the Archdeacon of Carmarthen to have been afterwards Dean of Worcester, and to have been son or kinsman to the Bishop. Survey of St. David's, p. 174. That he was the Bishop's son is rendered improbable by dates.

page 55 note k Hist. Ref. vol. iii. p. 171.

page 55 note l Church Hist, book v. p. 168.

page 55 note m Hallam's Constitutional Hist. vol. i. p. 80, note. Since the above Letter was written, I have been favoured by Mr. Bruce with an elaborate summary of the evidence on this interesting question, which will be found appended as a note to the passage of Constan-tyne's Memorial in which the doubt has been raised. See page 67.

page 56 note a Shaxton and Latimer. The rumour here noticed of pensions being granted to them appears to be inconsistent with the long imprisonment which they subsequently suffered for speaking against the Six Articles. Shaxton afterwards recanted.

page 56 note b Clarke, who was sent on the mission to Cleves in the following year, and died on his return.

page 58 note c William Barlow, a distinguished writer on the Protestant side. He was afterwards Bishop of Bath and Wells, of which See he was deprived by Queen Mary, but was appointed by Elizabeth to that of Chichester, which he retained till his death.

page 58 note d Heath, afterwards Archbishop of York, deprived by Elizabeth.

page 59 note e The admission here made by a zealous Reformer, of the unpopularity of the doctrines of the Reformation, both with the priests and the common people, establishes a curious and striking fact.

page 59 note f Bell, who succeeded Latimer. He abdicated his See in 1543, for a cause of which Bishop Godwin professes to be ignorant.

page 60 note g Wotton's Letter to the King, describiag the person and accomplishments of Anne of cleves, will be found in the first series of Mr. Ellis's “Original Letters,” vol. i. p. 121, and the concluding sentence of it, with Wotton's signature, has been engraved in Mr. John Gough Nichols's interesting Collection of Autographs, plate xv.

page 61 note h Erasmus Sarcerius was chaplain to William of Nassau. In the Appendix to Strype's Memorials, No. cv, will be found a letter addressed by him to Henry the Eighth, in March 1539.

page 62 note i The Dean's opinion of the gallant, witty, and accomplished Surrey cannot fail to amuse readers of the present day, who have been taught to consider him as the Admirable Crichton of his age. He was at this time about twenty-two years old.

page 63 note k Tunstall's character appears here to be well contrasted with Gardiner's, and their temporary alliance with Cromwell is shrewdly, though indirectly, suggested to that nobleman by Constantyne as the probable forerunner of his downfall, which occurred a few months after.

page 64 note l Sir William Fitzwilliam, Treasurer of the Household, who was created Earl of Southampton in 1537, the year after Anne's execution. In the absence of all documentary evidence relating to the examinations, the Letters of Sir William Kyngston and Edward Baynton (all of them unfortunately mutilated), will not fail to be interesting. See Ellis's Original Letters, first series, vol. ii. p. 52, et seq.

page 67 note m Some brief observations on this question will be found towards the end of the preceding introductory Letter, to which I have now the satisfaction to add the substance of a communication obligingly made to me by my friend John Bruce, Esq. and which has been since read at a Meeting of the Society, containing a Summary of the Evidence which his researches have enabled him to collect on this question.

Mr. Bruce says, “There is very little evidence upon which the authorship of this volume can be assigned to any particular person; but what there is I will endeavour so to arrange that the strength or weakness of each particular point may more clearly appear.

“On the part of those who maintain the King's proper authorship, there are—

“The book itself, and the King's reply to Luther's letter to him, in both which the whole merit is assumed by the King. The book itself is, however, subject to objections, which I shall state hereafter, and the assertion in the reply is of little value, since the King could not be expected to nullify his title to the reward which the book had then obtained for him. Mr. Hallam (Const. Hist, vol. i. p. 80, note †, second edit.) seems to place greater reliance upon the declaration of authorship in the reply than it deserves. Having once taken the book upon himself, Henry could not but abide by it at whatever cost.

“On this side of the question may also be produced the authority of Polydore Vergil (Angl. Hist. p. 664, edit. 1570); Speed (Hist. p. 759, edit. 1611); Fisher, who published a defence of the work, and attributes it to the King of England ‘not less famous in arms than in letters’ (Defensio Reg. Ass., dedicat.); Herbert (Life of Henry VIII. p. 94, edit. 1672); Holinshed, who, however strangely he talks of the book, does not seem to impeach Henry's authorship (vol. ii. p. 872, edit. 1587); Strype (Eccles. Mem. vol. i. p. S3.), and many other authors who treat the ‘Assertio’ as the work of him whose name it bears, without even mentioning any rumour of a doubt upon the subject.

‘The circumstances under which the book was vyritten ought also to be considered, and will be found to support Henry's claim to the authorship. In relating these circumstances I shall rely upon the authority of some documents in a volume of correspondence, preserved amongst the MSS. in the Cotton Library, and marked Vitellius, B. iv. These documents give a very minute account of the transaction, and, as some passages in them are curious, and have not, I believe, appeared in print, I shall state their contents rather fully. Pallavicino in his ‘Vera Concilii Tridentini Historia,’ lib. 2, cap. 1. confirms their account, but his statement is of course far more general.

“Pace, in a letter addressed to Wolsey, (Cott. MSS. Vitellius, B. iv. No. 59,) dated the 15th April without any year, but evidently written in 1521, and which letter has been printed in the second series of Mr. Ellis's Collection of Letters, vol. i. p. 286, gives an account of an interview he had that day had with the King. Pace found his Majesty ‘lokynge upon a book of Luther's, and upon such dispraise as his Grace did give unto the said book,’ Pace took occasion to deliver a Bull which he had lately brought from Rome, and which, from the context, I imagine to have been the one in condemnation of certain doctrines in Luther's works, which was published at Paul's Cross, on the 12th day of May 1521 (vide Cott.MSS. Vitell. B. iv. No. 66. p. 111.)

“The King remarked, ‘that it was joyouse to have this tidings from the Pope's Holiness at such time as he had taken upon him the defence of Christ's Church, with his penne, afore the receipt of the said tidings,’ and in consequence of Pace's information, and a letter from the Pope urging expedition in the condemnation of Luther's heresies, the King promised ‘to take more pain to make an end’ of his book within a specified time. The precise time within which the book was to be finished cannot now be ascertained, as the part of the letter in which this passage occurred was destroyed in the fire of 1731, which mutilated so many of the Cotton MSS. It is evident, however, from this letter that the composition of the book was well advanced in April 1521, and the whole tenour of the letter seems quite inconsistent with the idea that this book, which the King promised to take pains to finish, was not actually written by his Majesty. Shortly after the date of Pace's letter an event occurred, which does not seem to have been connected with the ‘Assertio’ in the first instance, but which ultimately secured for it the slight notice which has been accorded to it by posterity. The pride of Henry and his love of personal display and of high sounding titles were wounded by the consideration, that amongst the great Sovereigns of Europe he was the only one undistinguished by any title connected with the prevailing religion. Wolsey, therefore, applied to the College of Cardinals to grant his master some title equivalent to those of the French and Spanish monarchs. This application was made through Cardinal Campeius in June 1521, (vide Cott. MSS. Vitel. B. iv. p. 116). It appears that a division of opinion arose in the Consistory upon the subject. Some Cardinals contended that no reason existed for conferring a new title; others were desirous that the title of ‘Most Christian King,’ of which Pope Julius II. was said in a fit of anger to have deprived the French King, should be transferred to Henry; and others proposed various new titles, as ‘The Apostolic,’ ‘The Protector of the Faith,’ ‘The Orthodox,’ ‘The Faithful,’ and ‘The Angelic,’ alluding to the name Anglicus, which last, properly remarks Pallavicino, had more the air of a joke than an honour. Nothing was at that time determined; but the Pope wrote to several of the Cardinals upon the subject, and a communication was made to Wolsey, by Cardinal Campeius, to ascertain which of the proposed titles best pleased his master. The letter from Campeius to Wolsey is in existence, although a good deal damaged, (Cotton MSS. Vitellius, B. iv. p. 116). The book, in the composition of which Henry had been previously engaged, was now seized upon, and made a means of procuring that title which the Consistory appeared unwilling to bestow. Accordingly I find by a letter from Wolsey to Dr. John Clerk, then the English resident at Rome, dated from Bruges, August 25, 1521, that the Cardinal, after referring to some former letters in which he had explained to Clerk ‘the King's Catholique mind for repressing and extincting the diabolical opinions and detestable heresies of Martin Luther,’ and also, ‘what pain, labour, and studie his Highnes hath taken in devising and making a book for the confutation of his said erroneous opinions,’ he proceeds to inform Clerk that, ‘the said booke is by his Highnes perfected,’ and gives very minute directions as to the course he should adopt in presenting to the Pope a copy of the book, written and covered with cloth of gold, and also in obtaining a Bull of approbation to be annexed to certain copies of the book, which were then sent to Clerk in order to be forwarded to ‘the Christian Princes, universities, and other places,’ mentioned in a list inclosed. He also says that, ‘inasmoche as the King's Highnes has this [way]* declared hymself as the veray defender of the Catholique faith [of] Crist's Churche as well wt his preysence as w his lernyng, [and hath] deserved by his condigne merits to have a peculiar name [granted] unto him by the See apos-tolique, for a ppetual memory thereof;’ that ‘The King's grace, by th advice of his counsaill, hath made a rnemoriall of such titles as he thought moste convenient,’ which was enclosed in this letter, ‘with speciall annotacons of such as be moste acceptable, “and concludes with directing Clerk to procure ‘Bullys thereupon to be made’ (vide Cott. MSS. Vitellius, B. iv. No. 70).

“Clerk in his answer to Wolsey dated 14th September 1521, informs him that, immediately upon the receipt of the books and his letter, he had waited upon the Pope, and ‘delyvered his Holines ij bokys, [one] of them coverd with clothe of gold, the other with b †and his Holynes †and with a very amyabill †the said bokys of me, and beholding the porteur, fashion, and pryme deckyng of the said bokis (whiche he semydto lyke veray well) openyd the boke coverd with clothe of gold, and begynnyng the prohem redde thereof successively v lefes without interruption.’ ‘His Holynes in redyng, at such placeis as he lykyed (and that seemyd to be att every second lyne), made ever some demonstration, vel nutu vel verbo.’ ‘And when his Holynes had redd a great season, I assur your Grace he gaff the boke a great commendacion, and sayd ther was therein moche wytt and clerkly convayance, and how that ther were many great clerkis that had wryten in the matter, but thys boke should seem to pass all thers.’ After some other conversation, Pace took up the book, in which the King had written two dedicatory linos, ‘and by cause the King's Grace,’ he says, ‘had wryten the sayd versis with a very small peune, and by cause I knew the Pope to be of a very dull sight, I wold have redde unto his Holynes the said versis a[loud; but] his Holyness, quada’ aviditate legendi, toke the boke from me and redd the sayd versis iij tymes very promptly, to my great merval, and comendyng them singlarly.’ The letter proceeds to detail much more conversation about the mode of public presentation and the granting of the title, the Pope still looking ‘upon the bokys, now in the on, now in the other; now shett, now open; hear on chapitre, and ther another; as men that be lothe to depart, do often take ther leff,’ praising ‘the Kynge's witt, learning, and wisdome, and also your Grace, whom his Holynes reputyth to have been a deligent comfortar and sterrar, that the Kyng's Grace shold thus employ his tyme, and who is also penne and counsail, his Holynes supposed, ded now and then in the said boke joyne with the Kyng's Grace is.’ A Consistory for the public presentation of the volume was not called immediately, because many of the Cardinals were at that time absent from Rome on account of the excessive heat; but on the 15th October we find Clerk again writing to Wolsey to inform him that a Consistory had been held, and the book presented (vide Cott. MSS. Vitel. B. iv. No. 92, p. 185). This letter is curious, as presenting an exact account of the humiliating ceremonies to which the ambassador of one of the greatest European nations was compelled to submit, in his interview with this ‘Servus servorum Dei.’ The Consistory consisted merely of Prelates, and was not public, as had been proposed. For this departure from the previous arrangement, the Pope assigned as a reason that, ‘the matters of Luther’ being then forgotten, ‘the lesse steryng that should be made [therein the better], meny amongst the rude and comyn people beying somewhat forwardly disposed all redye.’ The members of the Consistory having assembled, Clerk proceeds thus, ‘The Master off the Ceremonyes came unto me and informyd me somewhat of the ceremonyes, and amongst all other, that I shold kneel upon my knees all the tyme of myn oracion, whereat [I] was somewhat abashed, for my thought I shold not [have] my harte ne my spirittis so moche at my libertye, [and I] fearyd greatly lest they shold nott serve me so well kneeling as they wold standyng; howbeit there was no remedy; nedys I most do as the master of the ceremonyes [directed] me. And so folowyng him I entered the place of th[e Con-sistory] wher the Popis Holines sat in his majestie upon a [throne] iij. steppis from the grownd, under neth a clothe [of estate]; a for hym, in a large quadrant upon stolys, sat the [Cardinals] in their consistoriall habtits to the number of xx, [one stool being left] voyd directly before the Popis Holynes, whiche the Master of the Ceremonyes reraovyd, and brought me through the Cardynals with iij. obeysances to the Pope's Holynes, and causyd me to kysse his foott, and at myn uprising, when I was tournyng to my place again, his Holynes toke me by the sholders, and caused me to kysse first the on cheke then the other; that don, after a lowe obeysance I went to the voyd place of the quadrant, where as I come in amongst the Cardynals, and ther havyng the stoole before me, knelyng upon my knees I mad myn oracion.’ ‘After myn oracion I rose upo, and with iij. obeysanceis went unto the Pope and deliveryd hym the King is booke, and immedi-diatly retornyd unto my place agayne, wher unto me knelyng his Holynes spake this wordis.’ After the Pope had finished his reply, Clerk made another obeisance, and then departed. Clerk, by Wolsey's direction, endeavoured to have the volume sanctioned by a Consistorial decree, but in this he was unsuccessful; the Pope refused it as unusual, but promised that, ‘the See shold do as much for the confirmation of this booke as ever was done for the workys of St. Augustine or St. Jerome.’ In the next Consistory the King's title was granted without further difficulty; and in the same volume of MSS. Vitellius, B. iv. No. 92, is a letter from Leo to Henry in praise of his book, and addressed him as ‘defensor fidei’ and No. 96, a letter from Campeius to Wolsey, also praising the book, and informing him that the title had been granted; the bull for the title, although signed during the life-time of Leo, was not transmitted until after his death, having been delayed in order to procure certain verses which the Pope caused to be written upon the occasion (vide Cott. MSS. Vitellius, B. iv. No. 102.) Probably the verses alluded to are those by Vida, printed in Roscoe's Leo X. vol. iv. Appendix, p. 32, 4to edition. A letter from Cardinal de' Medici to Henry, inclosing the Bull and announcing the death of Leo, is preserved, Vitellius, B. iv. No. 101, and has been printed in Roscoe's Leo X. Appendix to vol. iv, p. 73, 4to edition. I have been thus minute in relating the circumstances under which this volume was written and published, partly because the particulars are a little curious and illustrative of manners, and have not hitherto, I believe, been made public; and partly, also, that it may clearly appear that the work was at any event commenced before the application for the title, and may therefore fairly be presumed to have been the offspring of the royal zeal against Luther, and not a mere political trick—a book got up for the occasion, and in order to earn a title, in the way of obtaining which a difficulty had arisen.

“The intellectual attainments of Henry, his capacity for such a literary exertion, ought also to be taken into the account. To the evidence which Mr. Sharon Turner has collected upon this point may be added the alterations made by Henry himself in his coronation oath, as shown in Mr. Ellis's Letters, second series; the alterations pointed out by Burnet as made by Henry in various documents, and particularly in a Latin definition of the Catholic Church, printed in Burnet with the King's amendments (Hist, of Keform. vol. i. Appendix, p. 368); and a letter of Erasmus, quoted in Jortin's Life, vol. i. p. 486, which would have answered Mr. Turner's purpose, but which I do not find he has referred to. la this letter, Erasmus states that Henry, amongst a multitude of other qualifications, was given to theological disputation, and that he prepared himself for argument by the study of scholastic authors, Thomas, or Scotus, or Gabriel. Erasmus, also, in the same letter gives a specimen of the excellence of his Majesty's style of Latin composition. All these things show (in the words of Mr. Hallam,) that ‘Henry had acquired a fair portion of theological learning,’ and was not disqualified by want of ability from being the author of the work in question—a view of the subject adopted by Horace Walpole (Roy. Authors), who, with a striking want of acuteness, depreciates the merit of the book, and yet argues that Henry was incompetent to write it.

“As evidence calculated to throw suspicion over Henry's concern in the composition of the book, it may be pointed out that the author appears to have anticipated that doubts would arise as to the justice of the King's claim, and therefore, in a very suspicious manner, grapples with them beforehand. In the dedicatory letter to the Pope, Henry is made to suppose that it would be a matter of wonder to his Holiness that a Prince, whose youth had been spent in wars and in the business of the State, should have taken upon him a task better suited to a man whose whole life had been spent in study. He therefore professes that, although his learning be so trifling as scarcely worthy to be at all accounted, he took up the pen in full reliance that the grace of God would so co-operate with him that what he was unable to perform, the Deity, in his goodness and by his almighty power, would accomplish for him. He says also, that having observed that in tha administration of public affairs religion had always the most influence, and was accounted of the greatest moment, as soon as he attained to maturer years he devoted himself to the study of its doctrines with considerable attention, and, although sensible that he had made little progress therein, he trusts that his knowledge is sufficient to overthrow the subtleties of the Lutheran heresies. In the Preface to the reader, he also disclaims eloquence and learning, but enlarges upon his duty to defend the Church of Christ. It may be remarked upon these prefaces, that their proud humility, and the avowals of want of learning which they contain, are quite inconsistent with the language ordinarily made use of by Henry's flatterers, and would scarcely have been ventured by any other person than himself; but at the same time the volunteering most unsatisfactory answers to anticipated objections, seems t o show how fully sensible the writer was that the publication was of a suspicious character.

“The suspicions which the writer of the book anticipated, soon arose. Luther in his reply to the King, dated 1st September 1525, says he had been credibly informed that the book which passed under his Majesty's name, was not the composition of the King of England, as the artful sophists who had abused his Majesty's name desired it should be thought; and again, in his reply to Henry's answer to the above letter, Luther tells him that it was certain and beyond all doubt that the King himself did not write the work in question. Erasmus also states that the King's authorship was doubted by many, (vide letter quoted in Jortin's Erasmus, p. 486, vol. i.) and Godwin, in his Annals, has a forcible passage in which he describes the book, “adeo provectioris astatis et exercitato aliquo Theologo dignior quam adolescente Rege—ut alii Thomae Mori, alii Fisherii Roffensisi plurimi vero alterius alicujus summi viri opus id fuisse haud sine causa suspicarentur.” p. 21,—edit. 1611. It appears, therefore, that shortly after its publication the book was generally attributed to others. No one, however, seems to have taken much trouble to astertain its real author.

“Sir Thomas More was amongst the various persons to whom it was attributed, and when he refused to take the Oath of the King's Supremacy, he was reproached with having procured and provoked the King to set forth a book by which he had put a sword into the Pope's hands to fight against him. Sir Thomas More's answer is very important to our inquiry. ‘His Highnes right well knoweth that I was never procurer nor counseller of his Majesty thereunto. But after it was finished, by his Grace's appointment and consent of the makers of the same, I was onlie a sorter out and placer of the principal matters therein contained. Whearin when I fownde the Pope's authority highlie advanced, and with strong arguments mightily defended, I said unto his Grace, I must put your Highnes in remembrance of one thing, and that is this: The Pope, as your Grace knoweth, is a Prince, as you are, and in league with all other Christian Princes: yt may soe hereafter fall out that your Grace and he may varie uppon some points of leagues, whearuppon may growe breache of amitie, and warre between you bothe. I think it best therefore that that place be amended, and his authoritie more slenderlie touched.’ ‘Nay,’ quothe his Grace, ‘that it shall not: we are soe much bounden to the Sea of Rome that we cannot doe too much honour to it.’ Then did I put him in mind of the Statute of Premunire, whearby a good part of the Pope's pastorall cure heare was pared awaie. To that answered his Highnes, ‘Whatsoever impediment be to the contrary we will set forth that authority to the uttermost, for we receive from that Sea our Crown Imperiall,’ ‘which,’ adds More, slily, ‘I never heard of before till his Grace towld. it me with his owne mouthe.’ (Roper's Life of More, p. 77, edit. 1731.) Here then we find the King as superintendant, certain persons designated ‘makers,’ and Sir T. More as ‘sorter.’ Burnet seems to have mistaken the nature of Sir Thomas's occupation, which he says ‘seems to relate to digesting the book into method and order.’ (Hist. Reform, vol. iii. p. 171.) The words appear to me to describe very accurately the compilation of the table of contents of the principal matters, which is prefixed to the book, and which we may conclude to have been the work of Sir Thomas More.

“The inquiry then resolves itself into—who were the ‘makers’ of More ? the ‘doli sophistic’ of Luther?

“Gardiner has been suggested by Fuller, (Ch. Hist. edit. 1655, p. 168. Cent. 16.), but apparently more for the sake of the pun which his name afforded, than for any real reason— ‘Some other Gardiner gathered the flowers, though the King had the honour to wear the posie.’

“An edition of the several letters which passed between Henry and Luther was edited by Cochlseus, and published at Cologne, 1527. The editor added critical notes in the margin of Luther's letters, and against a passage which alludes to the authorship of Henry's book, Cochlaeus notes, ‘Irao certu’ est errare Luther ‘q’ aliu nescit proferre authore ‘q’ Rege ipm. In the copy of this book in the British Museum, the following words are written under this note, in a hand which I imagine is not much less antient than the publication itself, ‘Gardineru’ Winton. By whom this was written I have no knowledge, but, together with Fuller's pun, it furnishes, I believe, all the evidence affecting Gardiner. In answer, it may be sufficient to point out, that Gardiner is related not to have been admitted into the King's familiarity and confidence until 1525, upon the occasion of the treaty with France after the battle of Pavia. This was four years after the composition of the ‘Assertio.’ (vide Biog. Brit, voce Gardiner, and Strype's Eccles. Mem. vol. iii. p, 273, edit. 1721.)

“Scckendorff (Comment, de Lutheranismo, p. 187) says, that Luther attributed the King's work to Edward Lee, afterwards Archbishop of York; but from a passage in the next page it would appear that Luther merely ‘suspected’ that prelate, and the grounds of his suspicion are not stated. The only English authority that I am aware of, that has suggested Lee, is Roper's Life of More: in a marginal note to which (p. 77, edit. 1731,) the ‘makers’ arc said to be ‘Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, and Lee, after Archbishop of York, as the report was.’ Lee appears to have been an obsequious servant to the King, and to have regarded the doctrines advanced in the ‘Assertio’ as little as Henry himself. It might be expected that, if merely to purchase silence, Henry would have distinguished the authors by valuable and immediate preferment; but that reasoning does not seem to apply very forcibly to Lee. In November 1523, two years after the publication, he was appointed Archdeacon of Colchester, and during the agitation of the divorce he was Ambassador to the Emperor, jointly with the Bishop of Worcester; but it was ten years after the publication before he was raised to the Archbishopric of York, which was his first bishopric. There does not appear to be any thing like contemporary evidence to support the rumour as to Lee.

“Bishop Fisher is the other person stated in the note to Roper to have been singled out by report, and as it appears to me with considerable probability. His intimacy with Henry, and the respect in which he was held by that monarch, are undoubted. His zeal against the Lutheran doctrines it is well-known brought him early into the field of controversy against them. His constancy equalled his ardour, and with honorable consistency he fought against the German innovations, step by step. The authority which appears to be principally relied upon for assigning to Bishop Fisher a share in Henry's book, is a life of the Prelate written by Dr. Richard Hall, of Christ's College, Cambridge, a zealous Catholic. This life was made much use of by Fuller, who possessed it in MS. and is the chief authority for the life of Fisher in the Biog. Brit. It was published Lond. 16mo. 1655, under the name of Thomas Bailey. The author of this work merely says, that the book in question was o supposed by divers to be written by my Lord Rochester. These words have been strained by subsequent writers to a far more extensive signification than they deserve. It is evident that at the very furthest they furnish nothing more than evidence of the prevailing rumour. Neither Bishop Fisher's capacity for the work, nor his willingness to assist in any task which might be thought likely to stay the growing; heresy can be doubted. Some may consider it a circumstance of suspicion, that, very shortly after Luther's reply, Fisher published a volume in defence of the King's book, in which he treats the German with as much contumely as if his scornful answer had been directed against himself; but does not notice Luther's assertion that the book was not written by the King. If it were objected that Fisher does not appear to have received any benefit from the publication—the answer is ready. He was offerred several better bishoprics than Rochester, but refused in the well-known answer, that his church was his wife, and he would not desert her because she happened to be poor.

“Wolsey is another upon whom suspicion has been thrown. His zeal, profession, ability, and constant attendance upon the King, are sufficient grounds for believing that the book was written not merely with his knowledge and approbation, but that he was well acquainted with its contents. Burnet has printed a letter which shows Wolsey to have had the direction of the binding and writing of the copy sent to the Pope, and also that the dedicatory lines to Leo, such as they are, were probably obtained by his means (Hist. Reform, vol. iii. Appendix, p. 7.) It also appears from one of Clerk's letters, quoted above, that the Pope attributed the book to Wolsey's pen and counsel, jointly with those of the King. Further than this I know of no evidence which implicates him.

“Upon the whole, then, all that seems known respecting the authorship of this volume may be summed up in few words. It was begun to be written before the 15th April 1521, and was finished before the 25th August in the same year. There can be no doubt that the King received assistance from the learned men about him, and in all probability many arguments and passages were altogether the work of others; but still there seems reason to believe that, in the first instance, at any event, the book proceeded from the King's own pen, and that throughout it was subject to his superintendence and controul. We know that he was consulted upon one suggested alteration which he refused to allow. By whom he was assisted is unknown. Rumour has singled out Lee, Fisher, and Wolsey; amongst whom probability seems to me to suggest Fisher as the most likely to have been active in the work, the others, or at any event Wolsey, contributing perhaps occasional suggestions. The dedicatory lines were furnished through Wolsey's means, but by whom they were written does not appear. The table of contents were compiled by Sir Thomas More.”

page 69 note * The words within [ ] are conjectural additions to supply defects in the MS.

page 69 note † I am unable to supply these defects with any certainty.

page 77 note n Caermarthen.

page 78 note o The effect produced by the above Memorial does not appear. The fall of Cromwell, and his death on the scaffold, followed shortlj after.

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The Antiquaries Journal
  • ISSN: 0261-3409
  • EISSN: 2051-3186
  • URL: /core/journals/antiquaries-journal
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