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as an ad
ordinary administration of justice. But the supervision and control of the entire judicial system was subject to the dictatorial and irresistible will of the king in council, to which the
judicial constitution could impose no efficient barriers. “In star cham- some instances the king transferred to the star chamber cases ber over
on which the courts were about to pronounce a decision. ordinary tribunals;
When this was done, it wanted but one more step for the king, as the phrase went, 'to take the matter into his own hands,' and, if he chose, pardon the offence, generally after the receipt of a large sum of money.” 2 This same kind of interference
was also extended to civil suits, and as the records of the counthe council cil show, it was for a time successful. It was, however, rather ministra
as an administrative body than as a law court that the council tive body; afforded to the great statesmen of the Tudor age the widest
field for their abilities. Under their guidance the despotic yet vigorous and efficient conciliar system not only brought peace and order out of anarchy at the close of the civil war, but it also guided the country safely through the great social and ecclesiastical crisis incident to the Reformation. From the accession of Henry VII. to the Revolution of 1640, the history of the council is the history of the monarchy. During that period of a century and a half not only the law courts, but the
parliament, crouched at the feet of its paramount authority. strength
The strength of the system lay in the power of the crown to and weakness of the pry into all matters, great and small, and to crush any indisystem vidual, however great, who might dare to oppose a royal man(absence of a military date; its weakness lay in the absence of a standing military force);
force, in its powerlessness in the presence of an armed people. More than once during the reign of Henry VII. this weakness had revealed itself when, under the pressure of general taxation, large bodies of men had risen in organized rebellion.4 Against this danger, however, the princes of the house of Tudor seemed
1 “As in the fourteenth century it is 2 Dicey, The Privy Council, p. 112.
4 See above, p. 29.
to have been guarded by an intuitive insight into the national character. They never failed to yield at the opportune mo- Tudors ment to the serious and menacing demands of a people who, to yield at stirred by the spirit of the New Learning, and absorbed by the the opporhope of sudden wealth which the discovery of a new world ment; and a growing commerce had excited, were less eager for political agitation than for the security and peace which in that age they seemed willing to enjoy even under the shadow of despotic authority. Such was the strength and such the weakness of the political system which Henry VII. carefully matured, and transmitted intact to his youthful and gifted successor. Under such a system, in which the royal will was the the royal central and driving force, the personal characteristics of the
driving sovereign often became upon critical occasions vitally impor- force of the tant links in the chain of causation through which momentous system. political changes were brought about. In that way, and only in that way, does the constitutional history of England become involved, during a critical period, with the characteristics and vicissitudes of Henry VIII.
2. While Henry VII. was laying deep the foundations of Marriage the house of Tudor, he was not unmindful of the support to ranged by be drawn from judicious marriage alliances. “Lest the spec
Henry tre of indefeasible right should stand once more in arms upon the tomb of the House of York,"1 he had reluctantly wedded the heiress Elizabeth. In order to seal with peace the immemorial strife which for nearly two centuries had been going on with the restless kingdom upon his northern border, he arranged in 1503, after a protracted negotiation, the marriage marriage of of his eldest daughter Margaret with James IV. of Scotland, 2 James iv. -a marriage which ultimately placed the house of Stuart upon with Mar
garet, 1503; the throne of England. The nature of the union between the two kingdoms which was destined to grow out of this alli1 Hallam, Const. Hist., vol. i. p. 9. 2 Lel. Coll., iv. 265-300; Hall, 56.
8 Henry VII. 1. James IV., King of Scots = Margaret=2. Douglas, Earl of Angus.
James V.=Mary of Guise.
Margaret Douglas = Matthew Stuart,
Earl of Lennox. Mary Queen of Scots=Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley.
ance, Henry clearly foresaw at the time it was contracted. When one of his council expressed the fear that in failure of the male line, the English crown might some day become an appendage to that of Scotland, he replied, “No, Scotland will become an appendage to the English ; for the smaller must
follow the larger kingdom.” marriage of Some years before the celebration of the Scottish marriage, Arthur with Cath- Henry had betrothed his eldest son, Arthur, Prince of Wales, erine of
to Catherine, the fourth daughter of Ferdinand, king of Castile Aragon, 1501; and Aragon, with whom he was desirous for political reasons
of entering into closer relations. When Arthur arrived at the age of fourteen, the canonical age of puberty, his marriage with Catherine was celebrated with great pomp at St. Paul's
in the fall of 1501. The hopes built upon this union were Arthur's suddenly blasted, however, by the death of Arthur, who seems death and
to have been a weakling, in the fifth month after his marriage. the betrothal of
But as a pending contest with France for the possession of his widow to his southern Italy made the alliance with England more precious brother Henry;
than ever to Ferdinand, he was quick to propose the transfer
of the youthful widow to Arthur's brother, Henry, who was six canonical years her junior. A serious obstacle to such a union arose out difficulties; of the biblical prohibition of marriage with a brother's widow,
an obstacle which many theologians contended could not be removed even by a papal dispensation. On the other hand, it was claimed that the law containing the prohibition was a positive and not a natural law, and as such subject to exception by dispensation ; 3 and further, that as the first marriage had
never been actually consummated,4 a dispensation was clearly the dispen- permissible. After delay and hesitation Julius the Second sation;
reluctantly granted the dispensation, which was as reluctantly
1 As to the treaties on this subject contained in Lev. xviii. 16, xx. 21. The made in 1492 and 1496, see Fædera, xii. queen's party, on the other hand, relied 658-666.
upon Deut. xxv. 5, to prove that the 2 At the door of the cathedral Ar- rule was subject to exceptions when thur endowed the bride with one third the first marriage had been unproducof his property. Fædera, xii. 780. tive of issue.
3 A very clear abstract of the bibli- 4 Such was always Catherine's concal argument as developed afterwards tention. Polyd., 619. in the divorce proceedings may be 5 “ It was for some time delayed ; found in Lingard, Hist. Eng., vol. iv. and the papal agent was instructed to p. 5, and Note B. at the end of the inform Ferdinand that a marriage volume. The king's party, who claimed which was at variance a jure et laudathat the dispensation granted was null, bilibus moribus could not be permitted rested their argument upon the prohibi- nisi maturo consilio et necessitatis causa. tion against marrying a brother's widow Minute of a brief of Julius the Second,
accepted by a portion of the English council. Under these circumstances Henry, who was at the time no more than twelve years old, was contracted to Catherine ;1 and on the day before he completed his fourteenth year, the time fixed for the the secret celebration of the marriage, he was required to enter a secret protest. protest against the legal validity of what had been done in his name during his nonage. Ferdinand was then given to understand that the marriage would in due time take place. In that anomalous and trying position Catherine was detained at the English court, as a queen upon the chess-board of European politics, until the death of her father-in-law in April, 1509
3. The accession of the bold and vigorous youth, who as- Accession sumed in his eighteenth year the royal authority which a fortu- and early nate adventurer had seized and consolidated, was hailed as the Henry beginning of a new era. The popular affection which the cold and suspicious father had alienated years before his death instinctively returned to the son, who at the beginning of his reign united with manly beauty and skill in arms a generosity of temper and a nobleness of political aims from which, as his bitterest enemy admitted in later years, "all excellent things might have been hoped.” 3. In the mental and moral make-up of the new king seemed to be epitomized all of the characteristic traits of the vigorous versatile age that had just begun. Thoroughly imbued with the spirit of the New Learning, he his charachad manifested even as a boy a capacity for scholarship which teristics ; had excited the wonder of Erasmus ; 4 in theology his reading was wide and profound ; as a writer of letters and state papers he became the rival of his greatest ministers; of the art of shipbuilding he acquired a thoroughly practical understanddated March 13, 1504, Rolls House omnia sperari possent. — Apologia Reg. MS." – Froude, Hist. Eng., vol. i. p. Poli., P:
86. 117, note i.
4 "He loved the purity of the Latin i Fædera, xiii. 81, 83, 89, 114. tongue, which made him be so kind to
Henry's protestation, and the dis- Erasmus, that was the great restorer of pensation for his marriage with Cath- it, and to Polydore Virgil.” — Burnet, erine, may both be found in Burnet's Hist. Reformation, vol. i. p. 8. Hist. Reformation, vol. ii. (Collectanea, 6 The correspondence of Henry VIII. vi.). The bull for Henry's marriage as published (1830–52) by the Record with Catherine admits that she had Commissioners fills eleven quarto volbeen legally married to Prince Arthur, umes. By the publication of state paand that carnali copula forsan consum- pers much new light has been shed mavissetis.
upon Henry's merits as an adminis3 Such was the testimony of Cardi. trator. nal Pole ... “indoles, ex qua præclara
ing; while in the wrestling match and tourney the mightiest went down before him. In obedience to that impulse which never failed to make him seek the love of his people, Henry's
first act was to bring to justice Empson and Dudley, the finanpunishment cial ministers of his father, who had been the instruments of a and Dud." policy of extortion which had enriched the crown by the mer
ciless enforcement of its dormant claims through the revival of the expiring system of feudal fines and forfeitures. In order to exclude these objects of popular hatred from the general pardon which followed the accession, they were cited before the privy council, where articles were presented against them in which they were charged with the financial oppressions of which they were really guilty. Shortly afterwards they were indicted upon an unsupported and improbable charge of high treason, upon which they were convicted and
executed.2 marriage of The next grave business upon which the council, still comCatherine, posed of the dead king's trusted advisers, was called upon to June, 1509; act grew out of the promise made by Henry to the Spanish
ambassador to submit the question of his marriage with Catherine to their immediate consideration. The time had now come for England to enter the arena of continental politics; the cautious policy of isolation which Henry VII. had been so careful to maintain was no longer possible; the rising greatness of France had now become an unanswerable argument in
favor of a Spanish alliance. When the old objection to the objections king's marriage with Catherine was revived, the answer was to the mar- renewed that the union with Arthur had never been consumriage revived ; mated, that the papal dispensation was therefore of undoubted
validity. Catherine, who always contended that she came to Henry's bed a virgin, dressed in white and wore her hair loose, after the manner of a maiden,4 at the nuptials which were celebrated in June. In his first parliament, which met in the following January, the king was granted tonnage and poundage
1 Bacon (Hist. Henry VII., p. 217) in 1510, but the heirs of both were tells us how they “ turned law and jus- restored in blood in 1512. tice into wormwood and rapine.” A 3 Apologia Reg. Poli., pp. 83, 84. fine epitome of the expedients which 4 Sanford, 480. As to the evidence they employed to extort money may be of Catherine's virginity upon which the found in Lingard, Hist. Eng., vol. iii. validity of the dispensation for her mar.
riage with Henry was supposed to They both suffered on Tower-hill largely depend, see Lingard, Hist. Eng.,
vol. iii. p. 343, note 2, 5th ed.